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159 posts from April 2007

April 30, 2007

Crist says state should look at gun loophole

The glitch in Florida law that could allow someone being treated for mental illness to buy guns and ammunition like the shooter in the Virginia Tech tragedy should be reviewed, Gov. Charlie Crist said Monday.

"Sounds like something we should look at,'' the governor said, in response to a Miami Herald which explores the loophole in Florida's law.

Like the Virginia law, Florida's law attempts to prevent people treated for mental illness from being able to buy guns in stores. But, like the Virginia law, Florida's statute fails to include people who have been ordered into outpatient treatment. More here.

Crist gift in elections bill

The comprehensive elections bill that contains money for optical scan voting machines and moves up Florida's presidential primary also has another little surprise: A provision that gives the governor more control over the executive committee of their own political party.

Deep within an amendment sponsored by Sen. Lee Constantine on HB 537 is a clause that says that the governor gets to appoint 10 registered voters to serve on the state executive committee of his own party. This move comes just a few months after Jim Greer was selected as new chairman of the Republican Party of Florida by a slim 102-89 vote of the executive committee. Gov. Charlie Crist tapped Greer to replace Carole Jean Jordan but there were many members of the executive committee who were opposed to the choice.

Crist creates task force on campus security

After meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, Gov. Charlie Crist signed an executive order creating a 7-member group to study security issues at university campuses.

"I want to listen to ideas in Florida," Crist said. "I think it's prudent. I think it's smart."

Leavitt, along with Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, is conducting a listening tour to gather suggestions and report back to President Bush in late May.

Crist said the task force should finish its work before then.

Slots for Marlins?

Senate Democratic Leader Steve Geller said in each of the series of meetings he's had with House and Senate leadership two things have popped up: Marlins and Slots.

House leadership - mostly Rep. David Rivera of Miami - wants money to help build the Florida Marlins a stadium. Senate leadership won't even hear the proposed bill. Geller could make that happen.

Senate leadership - primarily Geller - wants gaming expansion that would allow so-called video lottery terminals at 25 parimutuels in the state. House hasn't been keen on it. Rivera could change that.

Could there be a trade? Possibly.

Geller said this morning that it sure would make the Marlins bill - a $2 million a year hit to the state's budget -  "easier to stomach" if the state stands to make $1 billion extra from gaming.

"It's certainly possible you might see Marlins. It's certainly possibly you might see a VLTs," Geller said, only half denying there's "specific" trading going on.

Last week, after the Marlins bill passed the House floor, Geller was asked the whether he would trade Marlins for VLTs. He responded: "It's possible."

Rivera says he would be "appreciative" of Geller pushing the Marlins, if the House helps push his VLTs, adding that House Speaker Marco Rubio would never agree to a "trade."

April 29, 2007

Hastings: Clinton convinced me to drop out

Rep. Alcee Hastings, who bowed out of the running for House intelligence committee chair, tells CQ that he made the decision after a lengthy telephone call from former President Bill Clinton who told the Miramar Democrat that he would "force a rift in the party" if he held out for the position.

Hastings told CQ there would have been "blood all over the floor" had he pursued the prestigious seat.

"Had I had chosen that path, I could have demogogued on a whole set of persons," Hastings told in the interview.

Word that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was considering Hastings for the sensitive post sparked controversy last fall because the former federal judge was impeached by the House in the late 1980s and some questioned his suitability for the job.

Hastings blamed the dustup on "party functionaries" but said Clinton wanted to resolve the party dispute and called Hastings.

"We talked to close to an hour and forty minutes," Hastings told CQ. "And he was saying, among other things, that, you know, I would force a rift in the party if I was to force the issue. And that sometimes you come out better ...if you could find a way to say, ‘Fine, pass over me, choose someone else,’ then I would come across better, and be thought better of by Democratic functionaries."

Read the entire interview here - including how Hastings is erasing $2 million in debt.

April 28, 2007

No-pick Quinn befuddles Rubio

For once, Marco Rubio, the speaker of the House, sat speechless. Not a word. Not a peep. Nada.

He simply buried his face in his hands, raising it to stare bewilderedly at the flat screen pinned to his office wall. Sitting near him was Gov. Charlie Crist, who didn't say much more.

No, they weren't talk property taxes. Or insurance. Or, for that matter, anything but football, as they watched the 2007 NFL Draft.

What stunned them? To the amazement of Rubio, the quarterback-needy, or better said quarterback-desperate Miami Dolphins had just passed on Notre Dame's hot-shot Brady Quinn.

A ninth pick in the first round. A shot at a quarterback. A given. So it seemed that Quinn looked surprised when the Dolphins passed. They instead chose Ohio State's Ted Ginn, a wide receiver.

Minutes earlier, Rubio had proclaimed it "the Brady Quinn era in Miami" and joked that "if we can get a quarterback and tax cuts this week, that's great." Now, he said nothing. There was nothing to say except "I can't believe it." So Crist, just moments after, hugged him and said goodbye.

As he walked away, Rubio said: "You can't do anything without the ball. Who's going to get him the ball?"

April 27, 2007

Reps up the ante on House slots debate

After weeks of praising the millions brought in by Broward's new Vegas-style slots, House members actually asked the question strangely missing from most of the gambling debates this session: Should the state be expanding gambling?

Representatives spent half an hour debating a proposal by Rep. Jack Seiler, a Wilton Manors Democrat, that would add 500 machines per facility, expand casino hours and permit ATMs and check cashing in the parimutuels as long as it remains off the actual casino floor.

The Senate approved a similar bill by Sen. Steve Geller, D-Cooper City, in a 29-9 vote earlier today.

But the changes didn't go over as well in the House, where representatives questioned the ATM and check cashing provisions, saying the change encouraged compulsive gambling.

Supporters say it's a safety issue. With parimutuels running shuttles to off-site ATMs, visitors become likely targets for robbers.

"If they're going to gamble, we can't stop them," said Rep. Joyce Cusack, a Deland Democrat. "We may slow down the issue but we can't stop them."

The proposal should be up for a final vote next week.

Feeney keeps partying

The Washington Post reports that Rep. Tom Feeney - whose trip to Scotland in 2003 with superlobbyist Jack Abramoff has raised the interest of the FBI - is going forward with his "Feeney Spring Break Bash" fundraiser tonight at the American Legion Hall in Washington.

Feeney spokeswoman Pepper Pennington told the Post's The Sleuth, "It's going to be the fourth annual year of the event. ... We're all looking forward to having a great time."

Feeney's office earlier this week acknowledged that the FBI has asked Feeney for more information about the golf trip. Three Florida newspapers have also been contacted by the FBI.

Feeney has said he didn't know the lobbyist was picking up the tab for the trip and has reimbursed the federal government more than $5,000 for the trip. But court documents this week put the pricetag of the trip at about $20,000 per person.

The FBI won't say whether Feeney's under investigation, his office says he's happy to cooperate with the probe.

Read the Post column here

Senate passes Martin Lee Anderson claim after tense debate

The Florida Senate approved $4.8 million for the family of Martin Lee Anderson, a 14-year-old who died last January at a state-run boot camp, after a heated debate that revealed senators viewed the case very differently.

Lawmakers approved Sen. Mike Bennett's amendment, which stripped the bill of findings, including that the boot camp guards were directly responsible for the boy's death, because they said it convicted the guards and violated their right to due process.

"I believe this young man was murdered," said Sen. Alex Villalobos, a Miami Republican. "You can vote against this if you want, if you don't believe it happened."
"I believe it did."

Sen. Bill Posey, a Rockledge Republican, brought up drug charges against Anderson's mother and questioned the money going to the family. He responded to senators who had argued the boy's potential was that of Bill Gates or Senate President Ken Pruitt by saying he was a "shoplifter" and a "car thief."

"I don't think the boy was murdered. I don't think anybody intended to kill him," Posey said. "There’s about a half dozen reasons I would vote against this bill."

Posey did vote for the bill, along with 28 other senators, though apparently by mistake. Five senators voted against it. They were Carey Baker, Mike Bennett, Lisa Carlton, Alex Diaz de la Portilla, and Dan Webster, all Republicans.

Vaporized voters used to push paper trail

A coalition of groups pushing for paper ballots have launched a new website, www.countallvotes.com, that includes a video that shows voters getting vaporized when they use a touchscreen voting machines. The website also features a way for voters in Florida to say they support Gov. Charlie Crist and his recommendation that the touchscreen machines be junked. The Senate passed the paper trail bill earlier today.