The long saga involving former Broward County Supervisor of Elections Miriam Oliphant is finally coming to an end. The Florida Elections Commission today voted to go along with a recommendation to drop all charges against Oliphant, who was suspended by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003. In 2004 the commission had voted to hit Oliphant with 55 charges that she had "willfully'' neglected to perform the duties of her job during the botched 2002 primary. More here.
Attorney General Charlie Crist, who made a lot of spending promises while on the campaign trail for governor, will have a little less money to spend when he draws up his first ever proposed budget early next year.
The state's revenue estimating conference wrapped up its work late Tuesday and concluded that there will be roughly $31.6 billion in general revenue available in the fiscal year that starts July 2007. That's about $2.3 billion more than what was spent in the current 2006-07 budget. General revenue is the main building block of the state budget and is the money that must be spent on such items as class size reduction, paying for additional prison beds, or paying for the state's share of Medicaid, the federal-state program that provides health care for the poor.
State economists scaled back how much money Crist and the Legislature will have to spend next year due to forecasts that show the amount of money made from documentary stamp taxes _ which is a tax on real-estate transactions _ will not grow as big as once projected. Higher interest rates and increasing housing costs are pushing down the real estate market state economists concluded.
When asked about the political implications of hiring computer expert Alec Yasinsac to work on the Sarasota County recount, Gov. Jeb Bush this morning said his administration didn't find the card-carrying Republican. The maverick Leon County elections supervisor, Ion Sancho, did.
“This is the same person that Ion Sancho referred to the Department of State as an expert,” Bush said.
Not quite, said Sancho.
"It's not a complete lie," Sancho said. "But I really didn't 'refer' anybody."
Sancho said last year he approached Yasinsac's computer department at Florida State University when he felt the need to explore whether a new voting system he wanted to buy had adequate computer codes. Sancho said the the Division of Elections probably read Yasinsac's name off his application.
"There's a difference between having someone look at computer codes and conducting a forensic audit of voting machines," Sancho said.
Alec Yasinsac, an FSU computer science professor leading the state's audit of Sarasota County's voting machines, is no stranger to recounts. In 2000, he protested Democratic recount tactics and pledged "I'll never be a passive political participant again."
Now Democrat Christine Jennings congressional campaign is concerned with his strong GOP ties. Yasinsac said he'll be fair. More here.
Florida Sen. Mel Martinez as agreed to serve as the next chairman of the Republican National Committee when Ken Mehlman steps down at the end of his two-year term in January.
Martinez will continue in his first-term post as Florida's junior senator, GOP officials said Monday. More here.
Incoming Senate President Ken Pruitt sent an olive branch to the Senate's warring factions Monday with the appointment of Orlando Sen. Dan Webster as the Senate's majority leader, a political role for the low-key non-partisan Webster. He also selected the popular Sen. Lisa Carlton, R-Sarasota, to be his chief deputy as pro tempore, a choice that many believe will send a signal that he wants the infighting to stop.
"We heard Floridians loud and clear on Election Day - we got the message that they want their elected leaders to pull together and to solve problems,'' Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, said in a statement. "My goal is to lead a responsive proactive Senate - one that will do the work of the people."
Pruitt said he has asked Carlton and Webster to recommend people to committees based on talent and experience, rather than desire for power.
"I am confident in Sen. Carlton and Sen. Webster's abilities because these are two seasoned leaders who have both institutional knowledge and great working relationship with all members of the Senate."
Less certain, however, is what Pruitt will do with the more politically-obsessed members of the the Senate, some of which have been rumored to be seeking a replacement for Pruitt. The Senate faced a near civil war this year when several Pruitt supporters worked to oust Sen. Alex Villalobos from being designated incoming Senate president in 2008. They also backed Villalobos' unsuccessful campaign opponent, Frank Bolanos.
Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher made it clear Monday that his Sept. 5 loss to Charlie Crist in the GOP primary for governor was the end of his political career. Gallagher emphatically said he would never seek office again. Gallagher has spent more than three decades in Florida politics and won elections as legislator, Treasurer, Education Commissioner and Chief Financial Officer but he was unable to take the top prize of governor.
"I'm not going to be on the ballot again.....Ever,'' said Gallagher. "I'm retired."
This morning the Florida Elections Canvassing Commission _ made up of Gov. Jeb Bush, Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher and State Sen. Daniel Webster _ officially ordered a machine recount to begin in the 13th Congressional district race between Christine Jennings and Vern Buchanan. Buchanan leads Jennings by 373 votes. All five counties that make up the district have until Wednesday at 3 p.m. to do the machine recount and turn in a new set of unofficial results.
But the commission also voted to start an immediate manual recount of undervotes and overvotes if those results fall within the margin needed to trigger the second recount. State law allows a manual recount if the difference is one quarter of one percent or less. Right now a 373-vote difference would trigger that second recount.
Neither Bush or Webster attended this morning's canvassing commission meeting in person. Gallagher was and called the fact that more than 18,000 voters in Sarasota County appeared to skip the congressional race "extraordinary." Gallagher was unsure about whether a paper trail is needed but said he could believe that the nasty tone of the congressional race could have prompted thousands of voters to skip the race or "undervote" it on the touchscreen machines used by Sarasota County.
Voice of America's Greek Service posted the following story highlighting Gov.-elect Charlie Crist and his family as part of a piece on the newly-elected crop of lawmakers of Greek heritage. Crist joins newcomers to Congress: Gus Bilirakis, John Sarbanes and Zack Space. Maine's U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe was re-elected.