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157 posts from May 2007

May 25, 2007

McCain to give immigration speech in Miami

John McCain is expected to announce during a conference call with Florida reporters today that he will expound on his immigration policy in - where else? - Miami on June 4.

The Arizona senator's support for a bill that would allow illegal immigrants to earn citizenship is a point of contention with his leading rivals, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Romney dismisses the plan as "amnesty." Giuliani calls it a "hodgepodge." McCain apparently sees a ticket to winning immigrant-rich Florida, the nation's first big-state primary.

May 24, 2007

Crist vetoes HMO increase bill and landlords bill

Gov. Charlie Crist late tonight announced that he has vetoed four bills, including a controversial measure that gave a rate increase to Medicaid HMOs and repealed a state law that mandated how much Medicaid plans must spend on providing mental health services to Medicaid patients.

Crist also vetoed a bill dealing with cosmetology, a bill that changes how much landlords can charge tenants who break leases, and a measure that would have raised boat vessel registration fees $2 in order to pay for derelict vessel removal.

The bill dealing with Medicaid HMOs, SB 1116, was one of the so-called conforming bills that accompanied the $71.5 billion budget that Crist signed into law today. But this bill was changed behind closed doors in the waning hours of the session to give Medicaid HMOs a $5 million rate increase starting in January. Crist also faulted the bill for ending a current requirement that Medicaid health plans provide at least 80 percent of money they receive for mental health care on direct services to patients.

"Even more disturbing is that many of these provider driven provisions were not discussed in an open forum,'' Crist wrote in his veto message.

Crist, who still rents an apartment in St. Petersburg, said he vetoed the bill dealing with landlords because the "impact" on those who can least afford it would be too great. The bill, HB 1277, would have allowed landlords to charge additional fees to tenants who want to break their leases early.

To read the veto message on the Medicaid bill: Download VETOSB1116.pdf

To read the veto message on the landlords bill: Download VETOHB1277.pdf

To read the veto message on the cosmetology bill: Download VETOSB920.pdf

To read the veto message on vessel registration:Download VETOSB1104.pdf

Gelber wants prop tax results; Rubio says they're coming

Frustrated by the lack of progress at last Monday's meeting on property taxes, House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber dispatched a sternly-worded letter Thursday to House and Senate Republican leaders. Download gelber_letter.htm

In it, he called for legislators to buckle down and promise to address eight crucial issues he considers pivotal to the tax debate when they meet next -- June 4. That is the one and only meeting legislators have scheduled before the June 12 special session begins.

Gelber also urged legislative leaders to look before they leap and hire an outside group to run econometric models of their proposals. The models could tell lawmakers what impact their proposed structural changes to the tax code could have on economies and markets throughout the state.

House Speaker Marco Rubio told the Herald Thursday that he has staff "working round the clock" to come up with those answers and there's no need to go outside for them. "Some folks will start attacking the process in order to slow down the results,'' he said.

Gelber disagrees. "Almost everyday there's a new plan. That's terrific, except it's really important to get it right. We don't get a glitch bill with a constitutional amendment. I'm worried we're not looking at the interlocking pieces sufficiently.''

Crist's new girlfriend

Gov. Charlie Crist dodged yet another question this afternoon about his relationship with former South Carolina beauty queen and Hottest Mom in America contestant Kelly Heyniger with the help of one South Florida senator.

"She's a wonderful friend, and a dear person," said Crist, when a South Florida television reporter asked him about Heyniger after a bill signing in Hollywood.

"I'm your girlfriend!" state Sen. Larcenia Bullard interjected.

"Larcenia's my girlfriend," agreed Crist, throwing his left arm around the Miami Democrat for the rest of the interview.

Crist signs $8.5-settlement for Minouche Noel

The wait is over.

Nearly two decades after state-contracted doctors paralyzed Minouche Noel in a botched back surgery, Gov. Charlie Crist put his signature on an $8.5-million settlement for the 19-year-old and her parents.

"No amount of money can repay them for what they have suffered," Crist said. "But what we have done today is just. And it is right."

A group of South Florida lawmakers, including bill sponsors state Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, and state Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, joined the governor at the YMCA of South Broward to watch him sign the multimillion-dollar claim as Noel looked on.

Also in the group, former state Rep. Chris Smith, who sponsored the bill last year and watched it die in the last hours of his final term.

"Governor, this is a long time coming," Smith said.

Arza admits to witness tampering

Former state Republican Rep. Ralph Arza of Hialeah just pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of tampering with a witness and was sentenced to 18 months probation.

He was also prohibited from running for office for those 18 months, barring him until the 2010 election cycle.

Arza was arrested last year on charges he called fellow state representative Gus Barreiro and left expletive-laced messages on his voicemail after Barreiro filed a complaint alleging Arza repeatedly used the "N" word to describe Miami-Dade's black schools chief, Rudy Crew.

Latin-American Voters League takes on Romney

Three Hispanic leaders in South Florida are condemning Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for his attacks on the proposal being weighed in Congress that would allow illegal immigrants to obtain legal status.

Sergio Massa, Nora Sandigo and Jose Lagos of the non-partisan Latin American Voters League all issued written statements.

"As Mitt Romney tours our diverse and great state of Florida he should know better that his efforts to reinvent his position on immigration reform will definitely hurt his chances of reaching out to a significant voter bloc in our state," said Massa, the league's president.

Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, has been accused of retreating from previous statements in which he seemed to support allowing illegal immigrants to earn citizenship. He told the Lowell Sun in 2006 that "those that are here paying taxes and not taking government benefits should begin a process towards application for citizenship, as they would from their home country."

Romney is hosting an "Ask Mitt Anything'' forum today in Jacksonville, which has a small Hispanic population. He is also speaking to the Polk County GOP in Lakeland.

Sandigo, the league's director, noted that Romney's stance is at odds with some of Florida's most prominent Republicans, who support allowing illegal immigrants to earn citizenship. She said: "Whether it has been the successful elections of (former) Gov. Jeb Bush, Gov. Charlie Crist or President George W. Bush, our state has consistently proven that we support leaders who will approach this issue in a creative, reasonable, realistic and compassionate manner, and Mitt Romney's position is unfortunately inconsistent."

The Miami Herald reports today that the former governor said he was "disappointed'' in Romney's position. Bush told the St. Petersburg times that's not true. The Herald stands by its story.

Mahoney draws fire

Rep. Tim Mahoney, who told The Hill newspaper that Congress "isn't the greatest job" he's had, is the target of a one-week radio buy ad launched by the National Republican Congressional Committee to target Democrats in 12 districts across the country.

The Palm Beach Gardens Democrat, who narrowly won the race to succeed disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley, is considered one of the party's most endangered members.

The ads seek to draw a "direct connection between so-called moderate members and their liberal speaker, Nancy Pelosi," according to the NRCC.

The ads, airing on news and talk radio, seek to drive traffic to the group's website, www.TheRealDemocratStory.com.

The Palm Beach area district leans Republican and Mahoney has sought to portray himself as a moderate, joining the House's fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition.

Dems want Crist to add auto insurance to June session

House Democrats don't want to see the state's no-fault insurance protection for drivers expire and are now appealing to Gov. Charlie Crist to add it to the special session agenda. Full story here.

Here's a copy of the Democratic Leader Dan Gelber's letter to the governor: Download crist_letter_re_pip_special_session.doc 

Gelber worried about "very vague" tax-cut plans

House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber of Miami Beach just sent a letter to the top Republicans in the property-tax debate in which he expressed concerns about the pace of negotiations. Here it is: Download Gelber.htm