Attacks on Gov. Rick Scott’s Medicaid move mask Adam Putnam’s big-spending record

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s headline-grabbing criticism of fellow Republican Rick Scott over expanding Medicaid highlighted just how much the governor flip-flopped on government spending and entitlement programs.

But Putnam has a more extensive record of supporting expensive entitlements and big-government spending.

As a member of Congress from 2001-2011, Putnam voted for budget-busting legislation — including the massive Medicare prescription-drug entitlement program estimated to cost nearly $1 trillion over a decade. Putnam also stuffed the federal budget with hometown-spending and helped override vetoes by President Bush on what the White House called a “fiscally irresponsible” Medicare bill and a $300 billion farm bill.

Years later, Putnam called Scott’s call to expand Medicaid as irresponsible, costly and “naive.”

“Throughout my career as a public servant, I have fought for issues important to Floridians based on my belief in conservative values and smaller government,” Putnam said in a written statement.

“I have a strong record of supporting economic growth and ensuring taxpayer dollars are used to support valuable public programs and services,” he said, implicitly drawing a distinction between the Medicare program he voted to expand in 2003 and Scott’s request to expand Medicaid under President Obama’s health plan, which Putnam opposed in Congress in 2009.

The fallout between Scott and Putnam stoked speculation that Putnam might challenge Scott in a GOP primary next year. Putnam’s office downplayed the talk.

The GOP discord —as well as the tensions between each man’s rhetoric and record — is also emblematic of Obama-era Republican struggles. Many Republicans spent big under Bush then became deficit hawks under Obama. They railed against Obama policies, only to tacitly support some of them in the end.

Putnam said his opposition to Obamacare has been consistent.

Scott’s hasn’t.

Scott’s Feb. 20 call to expand Medicaid was an abrupt about-face for a man who campaigned against Obamacare — first as a private citizen, then as a candidate for governor. With low and stagnant polls numbers, Scott’s move was widely seen in Tallahassee political circles as a political move to the center.

Putnam, voicing widespread GOP concerns over Scott, struck quickly in a speech, press interviews, web postings and even a Republican Party of Florida email.

“I think we all have an obligation to look beyond the window of our own time in public life and think about the long-term impact of these policies in Florida,” Putnam told The Tampa Bay Times days after Scott’s Medicaid announcement.

The criticisms — about thinking long-term and leaving politics behind — were said years ago, in 2003, by conservative leaders who practically begged Capitol Hill Republicans like Putnam not to expand Medicare under Bush for political gain.

The measure barely passed in the GOP-controlled House. Years later, when Republicans lost the House, the measure was held up as a defining moment when the party lost its way.

Many conservatives haven’t forgotten, though they’ve forgiven.

“A lot of politicians and the political class think there was a reset with Obama,” said Mark Cross, an early tea party leader in Central Florida. “But voters remember your record.”

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Modern Family Stars Get Stuck in Crowded Elevator

No good deed goes unpunished.

PICS: Candid Celeb Sightings

While on their way to a fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kansas City on Friday night, three stars of ABC's hit sitcom Modern Family were trapped in a crowded elevator for almost an hour, ABC News reports.

Julie Bowen, Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson took pictures together during the ordeal, which Ferguson posted to his Twitter account.

"This is us right now. 45 minutes stuck in this elevator," Ferguson wrote, captioning the snapshot from the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel's third floor.

The actors were an hour late to the event after the Kansas City Fire Department rescued them, but they maintained a good sense of humor about their plight, reportedly joking about the ordeal on stage.

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House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in NJ may be moved due to flooding


The Bachman-Wilson house, designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright, in Millstone, NJ

MILLSTONE, NJ — Some say it's a work of art — one of the many gems of the Garden State.

Designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1950s, the house, which sits along the Millstone River in Somerset County, features the legendary architect's floor-to-ceiling windows that let in all the nature surrounding it.

But for the owners of the Bachman-Wilson house in Millstone Borough, there's been a little too much Mother Nature coming in.

Any significant rain event causes the Millstone River to rise, flooding the historic home.

Hurricane Irene in 2012 was the final straw for the owners, Sharon and Lawrence Tarantino, who have decided to sell the home, but with one stipulation — the new owners must move the house, piece by piece.

The couple is looking to move the house to another part of New Jersey. If that's not possible, they're considering Upstate New York, the Midwest or even Italy.

If the house is moved out of New Jersey, it would leave the state with just three original Frank Lloyd Wright buildings.

"The (current) site is not sustainable," Sharon Tarantino told The Star-Ledger of Newark. "We've been here for 25 years, and for 20 years we've dealt with flooding. It came to a point after Hurricane Irene and we determined the only way to save the house is to relocate it and build it on another site."

Tarantino said she and her husband love their Wright house with its large windows, gleaming wood floors and remodeled kitchen. As a designer and an architect respectively, the couple has done extensive renovations to maintain Wright's original vision for the structure. And after several floods and several renovations, the Tarantinos say they not only want to maintain that vision, but they want to keep it safe.

"This is sort of an organic happening in a way, that the house is transforming through nature," Tarantino said. "I think (Wright) would welcome it — I think he would be really thrilled that we're making the effort to do this to save a house, that isn't grand in scale but grand in its spirit and design and it's jewel that should be saved."

Not everyone is sold on the idea of the house moving out of New Jersey.

"It's a part of New Jersey's heritage and it would be a great loss to our state," said Stephanie Cherry-Farmer, senior director of programs at Preservation New Jersey, an advocacy group that placed the Bachman-Wilson home on their list of endangered historic sites in 2011. "Hopefully, they will be able to find a solution that allows the house to exist but keeps it part of New Jersey's heritage."

The Tarantinos are trying to do just that.

So far they've looked at two sites in New Jersey — one in Princeton and another in northern New Jersey, without being specific. Sharon Tarantino said the couple's top requirement is that the site have some kind of Wright connection, and they're also looking for a place that's similar to where the house stands now.

"It might be a site in New Jersey, but it might not be appropriate it for the house," she said. "So what if it's New Jersey."

The Tarantinos, who own Tarantino Architecture, are asking for $950,000 for house and its contents — which includes all Frank Lloyd Wright furniture — and $550,000 to deconstruct and move the house. And they plan to work closely with the new owner to reconstruct the house.

Over a dozen Frank Lloyd Wright houses are for sale across the nation, according to a Wright building conservancy group. And a few have relocated from their original location, but one expert says those moves are rarer.

"You do lose a lot when you move a Frank Lloyd Wright house from an original site to another one," said Victor Sidy, dean of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture in Arizona. "He designed each one of his house in relation to the building site the views the sun angle, the neighbors; each house was a solved problem, and the problem was living within the constraints of the site."

This problem, though, has gotten out of hand, the owners say.

"We feel like it's something that has to be done because of the environment," Sharon Tarantino said. "We have to save the house. We cannot go through another flood."

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How to create a winning business plan

If you are creating a short business plan to enter in the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge or to send to an investor, how do you make your plan stand out from the pack?

With the March 11 deadline for the Challenge looming, our judges, all very experienced in business planning and capital-raising, have some advice for you on writing a plan, whether you are starting your very first business or are a serial entrepreneur. “You have a short space, we get a stack of these, you have to grab our attention from the start,” Melissa Krinzman told the audience Tuesday night at our Business Plan Bootcamp at Miami Dade College. So let’s get started.

Krinzman, a veteran Challenge judge and managing director of Venture Architects, which helps companies with business planning and the capital-raising process, moderated a panel that included Richard Ginsburg, a former CEO of electronic security companies and co-founder of G3 Capital Partners, a mid-market and early stage investment company; Steven McKean, founder and CEO of Acceller, a 13-year-old Miami-based tech company in the business of customer acquisition for phone, cable and satellite companies, and a Challenge judge; and Mike Tomas, CEO of Miami-based Bioheart, president of ASTRI Group, an early-stage private equity investment group in the healthcare space, and a Challenge judge in the FIU Track.

According to the panel, a short business plan should always include:

•  A strong opening statement: “We want to know what it is you actually do. If we have to keep guessing we don’t want to keep reading. Action verbs are important: Do you manufacture, do you sell, do you create. Be specific,” said Krinzman.

•  The problem you are solving in the marketplace: Also include how your solution is better than the competition. And don’t say you don’t have any competition; directly or indirectly, there is always competition.

•  How you plan to make money: This may seem obvious but it is surprising how many entries expend all their space on explaining their product or service and its awesome features and forget to include this. Are you a subscription-based model, are you selling a product nationally or locally. Tell us.

•  Sales and marketing: If you are already on the market, briefly tell us your marketing strategy and your customers. If you don’t have customers yet, who do you think they will be and how will you market to them?

•  Team: No need for long bios here — include relevant experience for you and members of your team.

“Include why you have the right management team and why we should bet on you,” said Tomas. What particularly impresses an investor, he said: relevant industry experience, if you’re a serial entrepreneur and been there before and if you have people around you that are stronger than you are.

The panelists also talked about their vast capital-raising experiences, as both entrepreneurs and investors. “I have been raising money my entire life, you never stop,” said Tomas. “To me the most important component is networking — go to as many events as you can and get to know folks… Some of the best leads I got for raising funds were from folks who have never written a check.”

All mentioned looking for investors that can offer more than a check — expertise in your industry, connections, management experience. There’s value even if the answer is no.

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Near-record warm winter for South Florida

Winter won’t officially be over for a few weeks but it’s already been a near-record warm one in South Florida – not including the cold front rolling through this weekend.

From December through February, Miami recorded the third warmest winter on record, the National Weather Service’s Miami office reported Friday. The average temperature of 72.3 degrees was 2.7 degrees warmer than normal.

Fort Lauderdale and Naples recorded the fifth warmest winters and West Palm Beach the ninth.

In Miami and Fort Lauderdale, November 2012 actually wound up colder than any of the three following winter months, the Weather Service said – something that has happened only twice since 1910.

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'Skyfall' Jameson Empire Awards Nominations

Daniel Craig's third outing as 007, Skyfall, has grown to become the most successful James Bond film ever and the biggest-ever U.K. box-office hit – and after winning two Academy Awards it now leads the pack for the 18th Jameson Empire Awards with six nominations. Read on for details and to vote for your favorite films and stars!

CLICK HERE TO VOTE for the Jameson Empire Awards 2013.

Pics: The 12 Most Amazing Movies of '12

Skyfall is up for Best Thriller, Best British Film, Best Director, Jameson Best Actor (Daniel Craig), Best Actress presented by Citro├źn (Dame Judi Dench), and Best Film presented by Sky Movies. Nipping at Bond's heels are The Avengers and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, going head-to-head in five categories: Best Science-Fiction/Fantasy (with strong competition from Looper, Prometheus and Dredd 3D), The Art Of 3D presented by RealD (up against Life of Pi, Dredd 3D and Prometheus), Best Director and Best Film. Those films' stars, Robert Downey Jr. and Martin Freeman, will face off in the Jameson Best Actor category against Daniel Craig and Oscar-winners Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) and Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained).

Among the other categories, Entertainment Tonight is presenting Best Male Newcomer, with Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi), Domhnall Gleeson (Anna Karenina), Rafe Spall (Life of Pi), Steve Oram (Sightseers) and Tom Holland (The Impossible) in the running.

For the full list of nominees, CLICK HERE.

Video: Craig on Showing 'Skyfall' Skin: 'It's a Living'

Pitched as an antidote to more formal, industry-voted awards, the Jameson Empire Awards are voted for entirely by the cinema-going public, who can now vote on the final short list of nominees comprised of many names and titles that may have missed out at other awards ceremonies.

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NTSB says pilot error caused fatal 2011 East River helicopter crash

Pilot error caused an October 2011 East River helicopter crash that killed three overseas visitors, the National Transportation Safety Board said today.

Probers found that the Bell Ranger chopper was as much as 261 pounds too heavy when it lifted off from the East 34th Street Heliport, and say pilot Paul Dudley underestimated his passengers’ weights.

Dudley’s miscalculations led to a phenomenon called “loss of tail rotor effectiveness,” which caused the chopper to spin out of control and crash.

Dudley, the manager of Linden Airport in New Jersey, disputes the NTSB findings.

“We strongly disagree with the conclusions in the report, which are based on conjecture and estimates and that lead to questionable conclusions,” he said.

“You don’t go 30 years of flying without an accident by being careless.”

In 2006, Dudley made an emergency landing of a Cessna 172 in Calvert Vaux Park in Brooklyn.

The chopper crash victims were Helen Tamaki, 43 and her partner Sonia Marra, 40, both of Sydney, Australia, and Marra’s mother, Harriet Nicholson, 60, a British national who lived in Portugal.

Nicholson’s husband Paul and Dudley both survived without serious injury.

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Florida class-action case takes aim at Citizens’ reinspection program

Thousands of Florida homeowners buffeted by higher windstorm premiums have sued state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. to recover potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in “back-door” rate increases driven by “arbitrary” reinspections of their residences.

The proposed class-action lawsuit, filed in Broward Circuit Wednesday, aims to halt Citizens’ reinspection program, claiming it has illegally stripped discounts from homeowners who had earned them under a 2007 inspection program approved by the Florida Legislature. Their original inspections were supposed to be valid for five years.

But in 2010, Citizens violated the due-process rights of homeowners, who had submitted official inspection forms, by arbitrarily reinspecting their properties to boost lost revenue that the agency could not generate lawfully through premium hikes, the suit said.

Lawyers who filed the suit, whose class representative is a Broward homeowner, said Citizens violated the due-process rights of its policyholders, costing each higher premiums averaging upwards of $1,000 — and possibly more — a year.

The collective cost to homeowners throughout Florida exceeds more than $100 million, said attorney Todd Stabinksi, whose Miami law firm, Stabinksi & Funt, filed the suit with Farmer, Jaffe of Fort Lauderdale and Kula & Samson of Aventura. They gathered Thursday for a press conference outside the West Broward County Courthouse in Plantation.

“Citizens got the benefit of lowering their risks, but Citizens’ policyholders did not get the benefit of lower premiums,” Stabinski said. “It should have been a mutually beneficial bargain.”

Consumer advocates have accused Citizens of using the reinspection program to impose “massive” rate hikes on homeowners. Citizens has denied the charge, saying that it is simply trying to get accurate information about the homes it insures.

“Since at least 2010, Citizens has used a wind mitigation reinspection program to systemtically deprive policy holders of legitimate wind mitigation credits,” said a nonprofit group, Florida Association for Insurance Reform, which praised the legal action.

A spokesperson for Citizens said the company has been operating under the law, and that the reinspections came after regulators changed the mitigation criteria. “Our position is Citizens’ reinspections were conducted under statutory authority afforded any insurer to verify, at the insurer’s expense, the accuracy of inspection reports submitted for a mitigation discount,” said spokesman Michael Peltier.

Discontent has been widespread among Citizens’ policyholders, who spent large sums of money on roof, window and other upgrades to earn windstorm mitigation discounts while protecting their homes against potential hurricane damage. In response, Citizens unveiled major changes to its home reinspection program last August, after consumers expressed outrage over media reports about a staggering $137 million in premium increases generated by the unpopular program.

Under its new plans, homeowners who lose insurance discounts because of a reinspection can receive a second inspection free of charge. They will have new tools to dispute the findings of the first reinspection. That decision could impact more than 200,000 property owners, who have already seen their premiums go up by an average of about $800 after the initial reinspection.

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Knights Arts Challenge seeking grant applicants

Miami-Dade County Schools students diagnosed with physical, developmental and intellectual disabilities learned a new dance last year and performed it for their peers.

Florida Grand Opera sopranos and tenors performed in new locations.

And artists who worked with clay at The Ceramic League of Miami received new kilns and other studio tools.

These were some of the 31 winners of the 2011 Knight Arts Challenge, which distributed about $2.9 million in grants to artistic organizations in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties.

Five years ago, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation initiated the Knights Arts Challenge to help fund programs and makes the arts more accessible.

“The Knight Foundation’s mission is informed and engaged communities,” said Dennis Scholl, the Knight Foundation’s vice president for arts. “We also want to make art in Miami so everyone sees and hears cultural activities.”

In the last five years, about 6,600 organizations and individuals entered the challenge, Scholl said. About 140 of those entries were rewarded with a grant. Since 2008, the Knight Arts Challenge has distributed about $20 million to arts organizations in South Florida.

The foundation set up the program initially for five years. It has since extended it for another three years. About $3 million will be awarded each year for the next three years, Scholl said.

Karen Peterson and Dancers, a South Florida nonprofit for dancers with and without disabilities, received a $10,000 grant in 2011. Thanks to the grant, the organization was able to place a dance teacher in 23 schools, reaching 375 students, instead of the usual 200, said Karen Peterson, the organization’s founder and artistic director.

The nonprofit embarked on the in-school residencies in 2005. As a result of the grant, the group extended the teachers’ time in the schools from 15 to 20 weeks.

“A lot of the inner-city schools have had such programs canceled because of budget cuts,” said Peterson. “This might be the children’s only artistic, creative one hour per week. We as dance artists are encouraging them to be physically expressive, physically free. Those elements are not what Miami-Dade teachers do because they have to worry about the FCAT.”

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Dillion Casey Nikita Season Three Interview 2013

From losing hands to losing power, every character on Nikita has had to come to terms with the loss of something major this season. But perhaps no one has given up more than Sean Pierce, who in the last episode was forced to fake his own death after Amanda framed him for multiple murders.

But as Dillon Casey tells ETonline, his character's funeral frustrations are directed at someone else in the coming weeks. That was just one of the intriguing tidbits he brought up during our interview today!

ETonline: What was your reaction when you found out Sean would have to fake his own death and join Division full-time?

Dillon Casey: I was excited about it. Sean had been kind of floating along the surface for a while, trying to figure out how he could work with these people -- he didn't like that Alex was a part of Division, but he kept coming back because he loves her and wanted to make sure she was safe. If it was up to him, Division would be destroyed so forcing him to be a part of it, especially in this way, was an amazing turning point for the character.

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ETonline: We saw him struggling with his decision after the fact last week. Will that continue or does he come to accept it?

Casey: I think that as a SEAL, he's very good at accepting a situation and moving forward. He's obviously torn up about the fact his life was turned upside down and he died a traitor and a murderer, but he know that's something he can't change. All he can do is accept that he's a part of Division now and needs to make the best of it. I think that a part of him thinks if he keeps working hard, he can figure out a way to get his life back, but all he can do right now is take things one day at a time.

ETonline: Does this have a positive or negative effect on Sean's relationship with Alex?

Casey: It changes their relationship. They had the added benefit of not spending every waking hour with each other, that's going to turn out to have been a good thing. Now, they're kind of stuck in prison together and a serious tension arises from that because Alex feels guilty for Sean's situation. Whether he likes it or not, Sean does feel a bit of resentment to all of them. He was given this choice to change his life, and he's not sure it was the best choice to make [plus,] he resents having to make the choice at all. There's this resentment that Sean feels, and now he can't even go into the field and back Alex up like he wants to because he’s injured. So Alex get partnered with Owen and it's a whole new set of problems they have to deal with.

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ETonline: What does Sean think of Owen?

Casey: Owen and Alex share this dark history; this violent past, and that kind of gives you some insight into the butterfly tattoo on Alex's back. Owen has a lot of tattoos as well and they can bond over what that represents, while Sean doesn't have that dark past to bond with Alex over. The fact that Owen is taking Sean's place in the field and has this shared past to bond over with Alex kind of leads to a lot of jealousy from Sean.

ETonline: What's it like for Sean to be trapped in Division while Alex is in the field?

Casey: He's going stir crazy and kind of taking it out on Alex. He's trying to find a way to be useful, but tactical work is not what he really wants to be doing. He's very versatile; there's an upcoming episode where Michael has to go out into the field and Sean is the only person left at Division, and he takes over seamlessly.

ETonline: Ryan made a speech about how Division can be used for good, depending on the people running it. Do you agree?

Casey: Personally, I don't think Division should exist. I think it's awful and should be disbanded. I agree that it's only as good or bad as the people running it, but my problem is that there are no checks and balances. There's nobody to keep them in line. It's kind of a strange way of working. So I don't think Division is a good place, I don't think it should exist any longer than it takes to get rid of it.

ETonline: What are you excited for Nikita fans to see in the coming weeks?

Casey: I'm really excited for them to see Owen and Sean in the field together. That's a really interesting episode because they have to rely on each other but they don't like each other. As a SEAL, Sean's training tells him that the life of his partner in the field is more important than his own, so for that person to be Owen is difficult for Sean. I don't know what Owen’s like. I think he's a bit of a loose cannon [because] his loyalty is to Nikita, and he'd do anything for her.

airs Fridays at 8 p.m. on The CW.

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