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156 posts from December 2007

December 21, 2007

Crist and Sink urge Milligan to hire "outside counsel" to look at state board

Gov. Charlie Crist and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink have released a somewhat cryptic joint statement that says that they have suggested that Bob Milligan, interim director of the State Board of Administration, to hire "outside counsel" to assist the SBA.

The joint statement says: "It is essential that we examine recent events with the Local Government Investment Pool.  In the interest of our government investors and to restore confidence, all investments sold to the state of Florida must be reviewed."

Sink has already pushed for auditors to review what happened at the Local Government Investment Pool - which nearly collapsed when investors rushed to take out billions they had in the account run by the SBA.

What's not said on the release: No mention of Attorney General Bill McCollum, who is the third trustee that oversees the state board.

The release comes on the heels of an annoucement earlier today that the SBA has secured a AAAm rating from Standard and Poor's for the good assets left in Fund A of the Local Government Investment Pool.

Long shot ballot initiative to run radio ads

Holiday shoppers caught in mall traffic will hear a new message on their car radios next week: cap property taxes forever by joining the 1.35 initiative.

The radio ad will run in Orlando, Tampa, Ft. Myers, and Miami/Ft. Lauderdale and is paid for by the group, Floridians for Property Tax Reform. The ad not only urges people to sign the ballot initiative -- to cap property tax assessments at 1.35 percent of market value -- but it urges voters to approve Amendment 1 as well.

Promoters say they want the 1.35 percent initiative on the November ballot but they need 611,000 validated signatures by the end of January and, according to the Division of Elections, zero have been approved.

"There is no time like the holidays to begin reminding Floridians that the best present that they can give themselves this year is a property tax cut on January 29th," said Jose Cancela, a co-chair for Floridians for Property Tax Reform. "However, Amendment 1 is not comprehensive and will not fully secure and re-vitalize Florida's economy; therefore, we are also urging voters to help us cap property taxes forever by signing the 1.35% petition."

No mention of either Gov. Charlie Crist or House Speaker Marco Rubio in the 30-second ad. Read text here: Download RADIOScript1.pdf The political committee raised $155,000 as of mid-September but it hasn't had to submit a report since. It's largest backers were: Wellcare, an HMO company, insurance companies and developers and Tallahassee lobbyists.   

Court slaps down Crist and Legislature for money-saving measure

Judge Kevin Davey on Thursday week struck down as unconstitutional a new system of public defenders to handle conflict cases that can't be handled by elected public defenders. The GOP-controlled Legislature during the 2007 session created a system of regional conflict counsels as a way to cut down on the costs of hiring private outside attorneys.

But the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers sued and Davey ruled that the Legislature exceeded its authority by requiring the new offices and that Gov. Charlie Crist exceeded his by appointing the five special public defenders. The court also quashed the appointments of the five attorneys who were tasked with setting up law offices.

Davey wrote that the Legislature had attempted to amend the constitution ``by legislative fiat.''

"From the beginning of this process our primary concern has been to ensure that Florida citizens accused of committing crimes received a vigorous defense from competent lawyers armed with the necessary resources to protect their constitutional rights,'' said association president A. Russell Smith.

The office of Attorney General Bill McCollum on Friday filed a notice of appeal with the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Romney: Tancredo's wrong, "Miami's diversity is its greatest strength"

Anti-illegal immigration crusader Tom Tancredo dropped his presidential bid and endorsed Mitt Romney, but the former Massachusetts governor distanced himself from some of Tancredo's most incendiary remarks, including his likening Miami to a Third World Country.

But Tancredo says Romney's most likely to carry out his agenda, namely seeing that US tightens it borders.

Read more here

Campaign ads deck the halls in 2007

Coming Christmas 2007: re-runs of the classic It's a Wonderful Life, followed by attack ads on illegal immigration?

Not if Santa can help it. Tis the season to be nice -- even for hyper-competitive presidential candidates.

The earliest primary season in history is here, a product of the stampede of limelight-seeking states --including Florida -- that moved up their elections. Determined to preserve their first-in-the-nation traditions, Iowa leapfrogged to Jan. 3, and New Hampshire took Jan. 8.

So much for decking the halls. Candidates seeking an edge in a wide-open race can't afford a Christmas break. They also can't afford to offend eggnog-intoxicated voters turning on the TV in hopes of catching a glimpse of Miracle on 34th Street.

Regardless of your family's Christmas traditions, it's unlikely that negative campaign ads on TV are one of them,'' said Todd Harris, a spokesman for former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson.

The full story is here.

December 20, 2007

Gulfstream adds its case to pile-up of gambling lawsuits

Gulfstream Park Racing Association, which owns the horsetrack in Broward County, filed suit against the Department of the Interior and Gov. Charlie Crist in federal district court in Tallahassee on Thursday, mirroring some of the same arguments made by Bill McCollum in a similar lawsuit filed earlier in the day.

Gulfstream is asking the court to stop the feds from allowing the compact to take effect, and to declare it invalid, arguing that Crist doesn't have the authority to bind the state to a gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida without legislative approval and the court should not let the federal agency enact an "invalidly enacted compact.''

Attorney General Bill McCollum filed his suit in federal district court in Washington, D.C. Thursday as well, asking the court to withhold the Department of Interior's decision on the compact. The agency has until the Dec. 29 to approve, reject or let the compact become law without action.

"We have in this situation a very questionable act on the part of the governor that the state Supreme Court is well within its power to review,'' McCollum said Thursday. "The governor took it upon himself not to seek approval of the Legislature. We have criminal laws in our state -- laws that prohibit some of the gaming activity that this compact would allow'' but the governor did not seek to change those laws.

Download gulfstreamcomplaint1.pdf                      Download mccollum_complaint.pdf 

Dems echo ghosts of Crist's past

In a sign of just how strangely bi-partisan and twisted-up politics have become under Gov. Charlie Crist, the Florida Democratic Party sent out an appeal today inspired by a civil rights case that the moderate Republican investigated himself as attorney general.

The e-mail from Democratic state Rep. Joyce Cusack tells the story of Harry T. Moore, who led the Florida State Conference of the NAACP. He and his wife were murdered on Christmas Day, 1951 -- their 25th wedding anniversary -- when a bomb went off in their home.

"Now 56 years later, the Moores' bravery still resonates,'' Cusack writes. "I hope that you'll take time to remember them this holiday season and that this reflection will inspire you to get involved in the 2008 election. No matter how small it may seem, our individual efforts can make a powerful difference.''

Crist supporters would say he did just that. A two-year investigation by his office fingered four dead Ku Klux Klansman. Moore's daughter agreed to talk about the case in a campaign commercial during the 2006 governor's race.

But after the Miami Herald reported that two scholars said Crist failed to uncover new evidence, he pulled the ad, saying he didn't want to politicize the case.

State asks federal court to lift injunction against voting law

The Secretary of State's office late Thursday afternoon requested a federal court to lift the injunction slapped against Florida by U.S. Judge Stephan Mickle. Mickle ordered Florida election officials on Tuesday to stop enforcing a two-year-old voting law that requires a match between voter applications and state and federal databases.

But so far state officials have not yet complied with the federal order - and now they have asked that the injunction be lifted while the state pursues its appeal. The request to lift the injunction warns that complying with the order will create "disruption" during a time when election supervisors are about to close down registration books for the Jan. 29th presidential primary.

"The preliminary injunction unquestionably alters the status quo," argues the filing written by lawyers from GrayRobinson, including Pete Antonacci. "The state's and Supervisors' focus on altering procedures to comply with the court's order will necessarily detract from their other critical election tasks in connection with the upcoming Presidential Preference Primary." Click here to read the filing: Download request_for_stay.pdf

Tancredo's out of the running; backs Romney

GOP prez contender Tom Tancredo is abandoning his bid for the presidency and throwing his support behind former rival Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney.

The anti-illegal immigration crusader said he realized the odds of his becoming president were "enormous," but he said he believes his quest brought immigration to the forefront.

"I am estatic about the fact that we can say we have made remarkable progress along those lines," he said from his campaign headquarters in Des Moines.

"Just last week Newsweek declared that 'Anti-immigrant zealot [that would be me] had already won,' " Tancredo said in a letter posted on his website. " 'Now even Dems dance to his no mas salsa tune.'  This month alone The Economist, the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal and a score of other newspapers have written similar assessments, grudgingly crediting our campaign with forcing the issue of immigration to the center of the national stage and, more importantly, with forcing every presidential candidate to commit themselves to an immigration plan that calls for securing the borders, opposing amnesty and enforcing the law."

State attorneys use their own dime to protest budget cuts

Florida's 20 state attorneys are spending their own personal money to buy advertising on the Sayfie Review  to warn about the potential for budget cuts in the coming year as lawmakers grapple with a $2.5 billion shortfall spread out over the next 18 months.

The ad, which features a warning "Don't Put Criminals Back on the Street," links to a website maintained by the state attorneys that warns that "every dollar taken away from criminals compromises public safety."