« December 2006 | Main | February 2007 »

121 posts from January 2007

January 23, 2007

Washington watchdog urges scrutiny for the investigators

A watchdog group that blew the whistle on former Rep. Mark Foley, only to see the FBI decline to investigate, is asking House Judiciary chairman Rep. John Conyers to hold a hearing on the agency's practice of investigating potential child sex predators.

The request by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, comes a day after an inspector general's report chided the FBI for failing to do more to alert the House about Foley's trangressions.

The former Lake Worth Republican resigned in late September after sexually-explicit instant messages he had exchanged with underage House pages surfaced. CREW in July had supplied the FBI with less explicit, but troubling e-mail messages between Foley and a teen page. But the agency declined to take up the case, saying it didn't rise to the level of criminal activity.

The IG report scolded the agency for reaching that conclusion, saying it should have alerted House leadership to the e-mails or told CREW that it was not going to investigate.

In a press release Tuesday, CREW's excecutive director Melanie Sloan said the report raises "serious questions on how the FBI conducts its investigations into potential child predators."

CREW is asking Conyers hold a hearing on the agency's practices "as soon as possible, in order to help prevent other children from being victimized."

Mel hits the ground running

Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, elected Friday as the national Republican party chairman, is asking the GOP faithful for ideas on how to restore the party to majority status.

In an e-mail titled, We Start Today (Martinez is the honorary chair, RNC employee Mike Duncan was elected as chairman of the Republican National Committee) Martinez acknowledges November was a "challenging election."

But he notes the next election is a mere 651 days away.

"Everything is at stake - control of Congress and the presidency," he and Duncan write in the e-mail. "2008 could be the year we win everything - or it could be the year we lose everything."

E-mail receipients are invited to share their ideas on how to make the party "stronger now and in 2008."

January 22, 2007

Phil Handy is movin' on up

Phil Handy, whose nomination to the Florida Board of Education was recently withdrawn by Gov. Charlie Crist, has found a higher calling: crafting education policy for Republican presidential frontrunner John McCain.

Handy was among 283 nominations by former Gov. Jeb Bush who were junked by Crist earlier this month. Handy served as chairman or co-chairman of Bush's three campaigns for governor and as chairman of the state board of education. He was recently appointed by President Bush to the National Board of Education Sciences for a three-year term.

"Phil is one of the finest education minds in the country,'' Sen. McCain said in a written statement announcing Handy's appointment as chairman of his education policy committee. "There are few people that understand the impact a quality education can have on a child's life as much as he does.''

Or if you ask the teachers' union, the impact of the much-maligned FCAT.

Graham wants kids to remember his name

Bob Graham, the Democratic former U.S. senator, governor and presidential candidate, says civics education in Florida is in a "tattered state."

He met with Gov. Charlie Crist and legislative leaders today, and tomorrow, he and former U.S. Rep. Lou Frey of Orlando will announce proposed reforms at an 11:30 a.m. press conference in Tallahassee.

Graham says the decline in civic ed began during the 1960s and 1970s, when the Vietnam War and Watergate prompted people to begin questioning the curriculum. And then came the FCAT.

"The advent of high-stakes testing - which does not include civics - was an additional blow,'' Graham said. "If it's not tested, they don't teach it."

Graham is asking for money to add a civics portion to the FCAT writing test, better training for civics teachers and more interesting textbooks. He says the books in most classrooms are "frankly, too dull. They teach students to be spectators rather than participants...I want kids to know they can fight city hall and be instruments for change."

Graham's first "workday" as an elected official was teaching - you guessed it - civics at Carol City High School as a young state legislator in 1974. He took on 400 different jobs during three decades in office.

Christine Jennings to attend SOTU

Democrat Christine Jennings, who is challenging her narrow loss to Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan amid 18,000 missing votes in Sarasota County, will attend the State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Jennings will be the guest of Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., who said she was inviting Jennings to "highlight the gross injustice of election problems" in the district.

"I have invited Christine to attend the State of the Union because she should have a seat in Congress. Period," Tauscher said in a press release. "The Democratic Party, the people of Florida's 13th congressional district, and everyone who cares about our democracy should not and will not rest until we can ensure that every vote cast in every election in this country is actually counted."

Buchanan was sworn into office earlier this month by the Democratic-controlled Congress, but not without notice that his election was being contested.

Jennings is suing to examine the source code used in the county's voting machines. More than 18,000 voters in the county failed to cast a ballot in the congressional race and Buchanan won by less than 400 votes. Some chalk it up to a particularly nasty race, others to a bad ballot design. But Jennings contends the machines malfunctioned and cost her the election.

Morales resigns from Miami-Dade DEC...again

The chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, Jimmy Morales, is expected to resign tonight at the end of the monthly meeting.

Yes, this is the same Jimmy Morales who announced last month that he was stepping down, pending the election of a new leader.

But sticklers for the party bylaws said the lawyer and former county commissioner had to give a date. And so tonight, he will.

If you're a glutton for this kind of internal bickering, the meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the American Legion, 6445 N.E. 7th Ave., Miami.

In addition to the usual suspects, Joe Garcia of the New Democratic Network is planning to attend. Garcia, a Democratic strategist who specializes in Hispanic outreach, is thinking about running for chairman.

Crist threatens to veto insurance bill

Gov. Charlie Crist this morning threatened to veto the insurance reform bill crafted this weekend because of a provision that would have required Citizens customers to switch to private carriers as long as their rates were not 25 percent higher than what Citizens charged. According to those involved, Crist termed the provision a "deal breaker."

House Speaker Marco Rubio confirmed that House and Senate leaders decided this morning to retool the conference report on the insurance bills to accomodate Crist's concerns. But that decision has delayed the final printing on the conference report and now means a final vote on the bill won't come until later this afternoon.

Regulator gives parting shot, thanks to Crist

Isilio Arriaga, the utility regulator strong-armed from office by the Senate to benefit Gov. Charlie Crist, just issued his final goodbye that has this nugget:

“While I am disappointed by the Governor’s unprecedented decision and the manner in which it was carried out, I fully respect his desire to accept ultimate responsibility for the difficult decisions the PSC must often make. It is very encouraging that the Governor has taken an earnest interest in the issues before the PSC, and it is my sincere hope that interest will result in a more profound understanding of the complex issues that face our State.”

And this: "As a faithful Republican, I sought to advance the principles of my party of choice, trying to stay consistent to Governor Bush’s philosophy and his vision for Florida, as so many others have pledged to do."

Hmmm. Is Crist not "consistent" with that "philosophy?"

Letter here: Download Arriaga.doc

Jebite to Crist: I'd rather be with McCain

Phil Handy, one of former Gov. Jeb Bush's 283 government-board nominees cancelled by Gov. Charlie Crist, said he's no longer interested in serving on the Board of Education. Handy said he's too busy serving on an education board established by Ariz. Sen. John McCain, a 2008 presidential hopeful.

Letter here: Download Handy.pdf

January 20, 2007

Bipartisan mood souring a bit

The tug-of-war over insurance during this week's special session has largely pitted the House against the Senate, with Republicans and Democrats in both chambers working hand in hand. But the spirit of bipartisan cooperation may be wearing a bit thin as lawmakers struggle to reach an agreement.

For example, after Sen. Steve Geller, the Hallandale Beach Democrat held a afternoon press conference to complain that the House has refused so far to consider his super hurricane catastrophe fund idea, Rep. David Rivera, a Miami Republican, ripped Geller and said the House wants no part of his plan, saying it will lead to an eventual tax increase.

Moments after Rep. Dan Gelber, the Miami Beach Democrat and House Minority Leader, was finished talking to the press, Rivera asked if any reporters wanted to hear what the "Republican majority that actually runs the House" had to say.

When asked about Rivera's criticisms about his plan, Geller had a blunt response: "I think they are starting to be more partisan.''