« March 2007 | Main | May 2007 »

159 posts from April 2007

April 27, 2007

Congressional fans get Bush to speak at MDC

Sen. Mel Martinez, who spoke last year at Miami Dade College, put in a good word for the school with President Bush and the result will be a presidential commencement address tomorrow at the commuter college.

Some protests are expected, but Rep.Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, an MDC graduate who sports an MDC license plate holder on her car, said it's an honor.

"It's phenomenal to have the president of the U.S. acknowledge the growth of MDC and the opportunities that it offers a diverse student body," she said.

She said she asked Bush at a White House meeting who convinced him to accept the invitation. Bush, she said told her it will depend on the reception to his speech. Should it go over well, she said Bush told her she could take all the credit.

Should it bomb, she said, " 'He said "Just blame Jeb' " - a reference to former Gov. Jeb Bush, a frequent target of the president's humor.

You can read the full story on Bush's visit here

April 26, 2007

Obama says he erred on Schiavo

Asked to name a mistake, Sen. Barack Obama cited his position toward one of the most polarizing figures in recent Florida politics: Terri Schiavo.

During the first televised debate with his Democratic rivals for president, Obama said he regretted not fighting Republican-led efforts in March 2005 to reconnect the brain-damaged woman's feeding tube.

"A lot of us, including me, left the Senate with a bill that allowed Congress to intrude where it shouldn't have,'' he said on MSNBC. "I think I should have stayed in the Senate and fought more for making sure that families make those decisions, and not bureaucrats and politicians.''

The former constitutional law professor went on vacation for the congressional Easter recess and did not return to the Capitol, where a mostly empty Senate approved a House measure allowing Schiavo's parents to go back to court.

Most voters opposed government intervention in the case. Obama has publicly expressed misgivings before, but never in such a high-profile setting.

Senate unanimously approves Posey's giant snake bill

A bill that would regulate giant constricting snakes and slap owners with a $100 annual fee for owning them passed the Senate in a 38-0 vote Thursday.

Sponsored by Sen. Bill Posey, a Rockledge Republican, the legislation is intended to crack down on impulse buying of snakes.

On the bill's second reading on Wednesday, he said irresponsible owners are freeing their pets once they're too big to handle.

"In no time at all they're starting to eyeball the children," Posey said, adding that they're contributing to the breeding population of Burmese pythons in the Everglades, where the snakes are feeding on native wildlife. "They will eventually kill every other living thing edible in the Everglades," Posey said.

Senate rejects resign to run law change

The Florida Senate this afternoon overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to alter Florida's resign-to-run law that would have allowed anyone in elected office to run for president and vice president without giving up their current post.

Sen. Lee Constantine drew up the proposal at the request of House Republicans and had planned to attach it to a comprehensive elections bill that includes nearly $28 million to buy new voting machines for the 15 counties that also use touchscreen machines.

But his fellow senators were skeptical about the proposal and without a lot of debate shot it down on a voice vote.

Senators also shot down a proposal by Sen. Steve Geller to move back the date of Florida's presidential primary to February. The legislation now calls for the primary to be held on Jan. 29th. Geller said he asked for the date change in order to tell national party leaders that he "tried" to stop the change. Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean has threatened to take away delegates from Florida if the primary is moved up before Feb. 5.

"We really really want this,'' said Geller sarcastically, right before it was scuttled.

Racking up the legal bills

Former Rep. Mark Foley isn't the only member of the Florida delegation - past and present - to spend campaign cash on legal fees.

The Washington Post noted this morning that Republican Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, whose 2004 race for the U.S. Senate has raised flags with the Federal Election Commission, reported in his latest campaign filing that he's paid attorneys at DC-based Patton Boggs "a little more than $4,800" this year and has $5,149 in unpaid bills.

And Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Oviedo, who says he's "voluntarily cooperating" with the FBI as it looks into a 2003 golfing trip he took with former super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, reported paying spending $23,121 at Patton Boggs.

Foley, who is being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, reported paying more than $200,000 in legal fees between November and January. His campaign committee, Friends of Mark Foley, has more than $1.72 million in the bank. The former West Palm Beach Republican resigned in September after sexually explicit instant messages between himself and teenage pages surfaced.

None of the members of Congress gave details on the costs, but noted the money went to legal services or expenses.

Fat chance for Marlins, Geller says

Just as a bill to help finance a stadium for the Florida Marlins made it out of the House on an 86-24 vote on Thursday, senators just down the hall predicted it's death.

Those who control whether or not the Marlins bill gets heard on the Senate floor - Steve Geller, the Democratic Leader from Hallandale Beach, and Dan Webster, a Winter Garden Republican - said they don't plan to agenda the bill once it gets to them.

Of course, that can change. In the end, the cards lie with House Speaker Marco Rubio and Senate President Ken Pruitt. How bad does Rubio want it? What does Pruitt want in exchange?

State Rep. Carlos Lopez Cantera, the Miami Republican who sponsored the House bill, said it's clear what Rubio wants because the bill is on its way to the Senate. "The Senate has to do the job."

Lying no longer ok with the Florida Senate

Lying to the Legislature is about to get a lot tougher thanks to a law approved this morning by the Florida Senate.

Sen. Alex Villalobos' "Truth in Government Act" requires lobbyists and legislative staffers to go under oath when they testify to Legislative committees.

Miami Republican Marcelo Llorente is sponsoring a similar bill in the House, but the bill hasn't been placed on the calendar.

Originally, the proposal would have applied only to people testifying in front of legislators.

But in an act of fairness, Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla had the bill amened yesterday to apply to lawmakers as well. The new proposal was approved on a 36-3 vote today.

"We're not above the law," said Villalobos, a Miami Republican.

But the change applying the bill to lawmakers idea didn't go over so well, sparking 30 minutes of debate.

"I can tell you as a lawyer I'm going to go to committees and I'm going to be very quiet," said Sen. Burt Saunders, R-Naples.

But, Villalobos said, only one group of people should really be afraid of the proposal: liars.

"As long as you tell the truth, the truth will set you free," Villalobos said.

Gore tops Obama, Edwards in Florida poll

Guess who comes in second place in a new Quinnipiac University poll of Democratic presidential candidates? Non-candidate Al Gore, with 15 percent of the vote.

Hillary Clinton still leads the Democratic field with 36 percent, followed by Gore, Barack Obama and John Edwards. Among Republican candidates, Rudy Giuliani remains ahead with 38 percent, followed by John McCain and Mitt Romney.

The survey comes as about 20 Gore supporters are planning a gathering in Washington next month, increasing speculation about a late entry into the race, according to the New York Times. Fort Lauderdale attorney Mitchell Berger, who is supporting Edwards, is going.

"It's something that's been planned for a long time and has nothing to do with presidential politics,'' he said.

The Florida poll of 987 voters included 388 Republicans and 371 Democrats, with a margin of error in the primary contests of 5 points.

Don’t take your kid to the House day

Nothing like talking about prostitution, adult entertainment and, yes, “anal sex” on the family-values Florida House of Representatives floor today during “Take your Kid to Work Day.”

In the waning days of session, the debate in the House over one of Speaker Marco Rubio’s “100 Ideas” initiatives to crack down on prostitution lasted for a full (and somewhat dirty) hour. Though it burned time and ears in the House, the Senate instead debated a bill banning lying to lawmakers. The Senate also has zero interest in the prostitution bill.

Lawmaker apologizes for Martin Lee Anderson comment

In the middle of an intense debate over a bill that would allow pharmacists to give flu shots, Rep. Alan Hays, a Umatilla Republican, said that no one at the Panama City boot camp knew that Martin Lee Anderson had sickle cell anemia (actually sickle cell trait.) Hays used the example to explain why pharmacists needed closer supervision by doctors.

But Hays comments caused an uproar. That's because while one medical examiner ruled that Anderson died because of sickle cell trait, a second medical examiner ruled that Anderson suffocated after guards struck him and kept stuffing ammonia capsules up his nose.

Hays quickly took back the microphone to apologize: "I want to apologize to everyone. My previous remarks related to this showed passion for this issue perhaps insenstively.''