« July 2007 | Main | September 2007 »

187 posts from August 2007

August 28, 2007

Plan to put Allen next to Planas is just a "draft."

Jill Chamberlin, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Marco Rubio, said that a new House seating chart that was being handed out in the House documents office is just a "draft" and that in fact new seating arrangements have not yet been finalized.

The chart that was being handed out showed that Rep. Bob Allen, a Merritt Island Republican who was arrested this summer for solicitation, would be seated between Rep. J.C. Planas, a Miami Republican and Rep. Darren Soto on the fourth row of the east side of the House chamber. Planas sits on the west side, while Allen is on the second row.

"It is a draft and it is no longer valid,'' said Chamberlin, who said that a new seating chart will be finalized sometime in September and will reflect new House members and new assignments for veteran lawmakers.

Giuliani's firewall in Florida

Hold on Florida voters. Don't pick out drapes and wallpaper for that Rudy Giuliani  "firewall'' just yet.

According to the Washington Post political blog, The Fix, the Giuliani campaign made a Powerpoint presentation to Florida volunteers that pronounced: "Florida is the firewall," suggesting that the state's Jan. 29 primary is crucial to his pursuit of the nomination.

But The Fix quotes Tony Carbonetti, a senior adviser to the campaign, dismissing that idea. "‘Florida's the firewall, New Jersey's the firewall, Connecticut's the firewall, New York's the firewall," said Carbonetti. He added that the presentation was to "motivate our volunteers."

His quote sounds like what Democrat Barack Obama's campaign said about e-mails suggesting that his trip to Florida last week would be one of his last. The campaign said the email was aimed at motivating people to go.

Apparently, we're all just a bunch of homers to these campaigns.

The Giuliani blog is here.

New Rubio comes into the world

House Speaker Marco Rubio is a daddy for the fourth time. His wife, Jeanette, gave birth to a boy shortly after 2 p.m. today. A spokeswoman for Rubio said the baby weighed 7 pounds, 11 ounces.

Crist hopeful that state worker perk remains

Gov. Charlie Crist, who has the power to use his line-item veto to nix any budget cut he doesn't like, on Tuesday shared his lack of enthusiasm for some of the ideas being bandied about to close Florida's budget gap.

Crist said he wasn't in favor of raising tuition during the January special session, as some lawmakers are now proposing, and he didn't like one of the ideas offered up by the Department of Corrections to release some prisoners early.

Crist also was disappointed to hear that Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink has recommended eliminating the office in the basement of the state Capitol that cashes checks for state workers. "I use it occasionally. Hopefully it will get spared,'' he said.

Florida reps won't budge on Jan. 29

Florida’s Democratic congressional delegation is digging in their heels in support of the state's early presidential primary despite Saturday's decision by the national party to dismiss the results at the 2008 convention.

Florida's Jan. 29 primary violates Democratic National Committee rules that allow only four smaller states to vote before Feb. 5. The national party has urged Florida Democrats organize another vote after that date.

"We cannot go along with anything but the state-run primary set for next January," the 10 members of Congress said in a joint statement issued by Sen. Bill Nelson's office. "We strongly encourage all Democrats to vote for their preferred nominee in that primary, regardless of whatever penalties the DNC might enact. The vote is going to matter -- period.''

Allen is Planas' new bench buddy

The new seating chart for the House of Representatives is out, and it shows troubled Merritt Island Rep. Bob Allen has been moved two rows back and now sits in the fourth row next to Rep. J.C. Planas of Miami.

Allen, stripped of his committee post recently, is fighting charges that he allegedly solicited an undercover cop for oral sex at a Titusville public restroom.

Atwater now member of an exclusive club

Sen. Jeff Atwater has not yet been officially designated to follow Senate President Ken Pruitt in 2008, but he has finally gotten one piece of confirmation that he's next in line: His own Republican Party of Florida credit card.

The North Palm Beach Republican confirms that he received his own RPOF credit card about "35 or 45 days ago." Atwater is now one of at least four elected officials who have their own piece of Republican plastic. The others are Pruitt, House Speaker Marco Rubio and Rep. Ray Sansom. The party consistently refuses to say who has the right to have their travel and other expenses related to fundraising to be paid by the party. But the privilege appears to be limited to legislators: Gov. Charlie Crist, Attorney General Bill McCollum and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson say they don't have a RPOF card.

Atwater of course put himself in line to succeed Pruitt courtesy of a messy internal Senate Republican battle that saw top Republicans such as Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla help orchestrate a plan to convince senators to drop their support of Sen. Alex Villalobos and instead back Atwater.

When asked if his acceptance of the card was proof that the leadership struggle was over, Atwater shrugged it off: "I look at it as a sharing of duties." Those duties have already apparently started with reports filtering in that Atwater in recent weeks has met with lobbyists at RPOF headquarters to ask them to pony up money for the 2008 elections.

August 27, 2007

Democrats defend privatization

Another sign how things have changed in the last year in Tallahassee: The two Democratic state senators sitting on the Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee expressed deep misgivings Monday about a proposal from a Republican administration to hire 651 more state workers to take over duties now performed by private vendors.

Agency for Persons with Disabilities Director Jane Johnson, who was appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist, went before the committee to explain how her agency would handle potential budget cuts. Included on that list is to replace support coordinators with coordinators that work for the state. Johnson said that currently her agency has little control over what services are approved and ultimately billed to the state.

But Sen. Nan Rich, a Weston Democrat, said that support coordinators were unfairly being labeled "scapegoats" for ongoing budget problems for APD _ which was in the red this past year _ and she was harshly critical of reports from the APD inspector general's office about switching to state workers.

"I'm very uncomfortable at us looking at it without a fair study,'' fumed Rich, who accused the inspector general of writing a report to support the agency's budget request, saying it wasn't "fair and balanced."

Rich's concerns were shared by Sen. Frederica Wilson, a Miami Democrat and brought this observation from fellow Sen. Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican: "The world has turned upside down."

Wasserman Schultz and Klein: Good riddance!

South Florida Democrats shed no tears over AG Gonzales' departure today.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, called his resignation "long overdue.

"We need an Attorney General who will act as a lawyer for the American people rather than a lawyer for President Bush- that is why he has a White House Counsel," said Wasserman Schultz, a member of the House Judiciary Committee. "Attorney General Gonzales was the antithesis of the blindfolded Lady of Justice; rather than providing a blind, balanced justice, he tipped the scales to the right. The President must now appoint an Attorney General who will serve as the nation's chief law enforcement officer and as defender of our constitution independent of political influence."

And Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, said he was "relieved'' that Gonzales resigned.

"The Attorney General is one of the most critical positions in our government as he or she is tasked with overseeing the enforcement of our laws, and the prosecution of suspected criminals and terrorists. Thus, it's essential that the Attorney General is a person that maintains our sense of justice and keeps Americans safe," Klein said. "Unfortunately, the retention of Alberto Gonzales is another example of President Bush favoring loyalty over competence and integrity. Strong, honest, independent leadership must be restored to the Office of Attorney General or else the American people's faith in our justice system will continue to be comprised. I strongly urge President Bush to appoint a person that meets these high thresholds of character and integrity when searching for a replacement to Mr. Gonzales."

No word from any South Florida Republican offices yet.

Obama's lunch with Bob Graham

Organizers of Barack Obama's two-day swing through Florida last week didn't advertise it, but the Democratic presidential candidate lunched with perhaps the most important potential endorsement in the state: former Sen. Bob Graham.

Hillary Clinton has a strong lead in the Florida polls and much of the state's political establishment locked up,  making Graham's seal of approval even more valuable to Obama. Unlike Clinton, both Obama and Graham opposed the war in Iraq from the start.

Graham wouldn't say whether an endorsement was forthcoming. "I gave him advice, as I have given Sen. Clinton as well,'' he said. "I'm for nominating the person who has the best chance of getting elected.''

Graham, who has advocated a system of regional presidential primaries, was also asked about the sentence handed to Florida Democrats on Saturday by the Democratic National Committee: get behind the Jan. 29 primary and lose all delegates to the national convention or hold a post Feb. 5 caucus and allow party activists to chose the winner.

"Having 20 states vote on Feb. 5, which is legal under the party rules, is much more disruptive than having one state vote on Jan. 29,'' said Graham, who ran for president in 2004. "I think Florida has become a lightning rod for the larger problem."

"The primary is currently a matter of state law, and the state is going to organize and pay for it,'' he added. "There's not frankly a lot Democrats can do to change that... Whether or not we have a full slate of delegates, it's the fourth largest state in the country and the most competitive, and when it throws its weight behind a candidate, that's what is important."

Graham will appear in a National Geographic documentary, "Road to War: Iraq," that will air at 9 p.m. tonight. Read about his interview here.