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311 posts from April 2008

April 30, 2008

In the middle of the night, Robaina's phantom move

In the middle of the night Rep. Julio Robaina, a Miami Republican, got his fellow colleagues on the House floor to amend a lengthy elections bill that would lessen the penalties against someone who does not disclose if they paid for a campaign ad.

Shortly before midnight, Robaina said that what he wanted to do was merely eliminate penalties against people who fail to follow a provision of the election code. Robaina said it was wrong to subject those people to a misdemeanor, as opposed to just a fine from the elections commission. (Of course, it is worth noting that last year lawmakers changed the law so that a person can't file a complaint against the elections commission without "personal knowledge" of the violation.)

But the penalty that Robaina was discussing was drawn to a section of the law that requires an individual who decides to pay for an independent expenditure, which could be an ad for or against a candidate, to place a disclaimer on the ad saying exactly who paid for it.

April 29, 2008

Austere $66.2 billion budget doesn't kill off turkeys

The $66.2 billion budget placed on lawmakers desks on Monday night isn't as bleak for everyone as it may first appear.

It turns out that a few hometown projects, aka in Tallahassee as "turkeys," got stuffed into the budget.

Take for example, the $12 million - split in two different places - that will be used on a connector road that would serve the controversial new Panama City airport that has been pushed by powerful land development company St. Joe.

Then there's the $1 million that Rep. David Rivera and Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla got for a "graywater irrigation system" to serve a park in the city of Doral in Miami-Dade County. Want more? Despite a veto by Crist last year, legislators also set aside $840,000 for the Latin American cultural festival known as Exponica International.

There's also $700,000 to study whether or not to build a rail line, known as the "Sugar Train," that would connect western Miami-Dade County with the city of South Bay. And there's $1.2 million to bury electric lines and bicycle and sidewalks alongside a state road in Orange County.-$1 million for an artificial reef program in the Florida Keys. How about $1 million for a trail along Lake Okeechobee, $250,000 for a Miami Springs emergency shelter, and $500,000 for a "post disaster relief control center" in Homestead.

A surprise for Charlie courtesy of lawmakers

Among the dozens of conforming bills that lawmakers will approve alongside the $66.2 billion budget is one aimed squarely at Gov. Charlie Crist.

The measure, the conference report for SB 1892, would strip from Crist the power to decide who should be the head of the Agency for Enterprise Information Technology. Right now the person is hired by the governor and Cabinet but the governor has to vote yes. This conference bill would make that decision subject to a simple majority vote.

This move follows vain efforts by Attorney General Bill McCollum and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink in recent months to get Crist to spent at least $150,000 on a person to head the agency that oversees technology expenses for the state. The bill would also add additional qualifications to the person that eventually gets the job.

MI Dems suggest Clinton and Obama split the difference

From The New York Times: "Yet another proposal to resolve the mess arising from Michigans too-early primary has been floated, this time by a group of prominent Democrats. This latest plan would split
the difference between the positions of Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

"Mrs. Clinton insists that the states 128 pledged delegates be seated according to the result of the Jan. 15 primary, which she won although the national Democratic Party declared the contest illegal in advance and Mr. Obama's name was not on the ballot. That would give her a 73 to 55 advantage in delegates. Mr. Obama, saying the primary was illegitimate and should have no bearing on the Michigan delegation, said he would accept a 64-64 split.

"Various plans to untangle the debacle  including holding a new primary or seating just half the delegation  have been rejected by one or more of the various parties. Now Michigans so-called Gang of Four: Senator Carl Levin; Representative Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick; Ron Gettelfinger, the United Auto Workers president; and Debbie Dingell, a Democratic National Committee member  are proposing that the delegation be split 69-59, reducing Mrs. Clinton's 18-delegate advantage to 10 delegates.

"No dice, the Obama campaign said. The Michigan primary, the campaign said in a statement Tuesday, 'where Senator Obama's name did not appear on the ballot and the candidates did not campaign,
should not be the basis for how the Michigan delegation is seated.' The Clinton campaign was noncommittal. 'The bottom line is that Michigan's votes must be counted so that they have a voice in selecting our nominee,' said Isaac Baker, a spokesman."

How to win votes and influence Miami legislators

The third attempt at re-writing the controversial CSX  bill includes a new little nugget designed to help the City of Miami and its city beautification project. The language, which creates a pilot program to include "the boundaries of the City of Miami' will allow the city and county to regulate mural-sized advertising which have been proliferating on high-rise buildings around the city.

The amendment was tucked into the House version of the CSX bill by sponsor Rep. Dean Cannon, who wants the bill to help bring Orlando the long-awaited commuter rail. The proposal sets aside $450 million in DOT cash to pay CSX for its rail line, gives the company soverign immunity and allows the new rail line to avoid using union labor. The trouble is, several Miami-Dade legislators hadn't seen much in the controversial measure for them. Perhaps, until now?

It worked. The House approved to CSX bill 77-39.

Meghan McCain: "I wish I was as tan as Charlie Crist"

John McCain's daughter, Meghan, blogs her trip to Florida on her popular McCainBloggette.com, musing over the wonders of Cuban food, which she says is now "running a close second to Mexican, my #1 favorite food)."

There's lots of pictures from a fundraiser at the Biltmore, featuring Willy Chirino. Crist and Florida Republican Sen. Mel Martinez are among those pictured and sharp-eyed viewers will also pick out Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen making the rounds.

Dawson's Senate goodbye not one to miss

Senators resumed their floor farewells with one for Democratic Sen. Mandy Dawson, of Fort Lauderdale, praising her for warm personality and her commitment to health care and children's safety issues.

In the past, Dawson has been criticized frequently for her spotty legislative attendance record -- missing one third of her committee meetings last session and the majority of the floor votes in the second-to-last week of this year's lawmaking session. She cites ongoing health problems for her absences.

But Dawson, who came to the Legislature in 1992 and leaves this year because of term limits, was on the Senate floor for her formal goodbye. And her fellow Senators praised her for fighting through health problems to battle for health care reform and for children's safety issues, as she did last year when she passed a law increasing penalties for people who leave their children in cars unattended.

"Inside an outer shell that has endured a great deal of physical pain, there lies a great heart," Senate President Ken Pruitt said.

"Mandy has had her health issues, but she has fought through them...just to continue to represent the people she has fought for for so long," agreed Democratic Sen. Gary Siplin, of Orlando, whose nickname for Dawson is "Sister Girl."

Dawson then took the microphone herself. And after a few jokes about how she got her large 4th floor Senate office ("I asked Sen. [Jim] King who I needed to sleep with in order to get that office."), she credited her fellow Senators and her family for her accomplishments.

"My parents were simple people," she said. "But they taught me to be honorable in everything that I do. They also taught me that there is good and everything. My three daughters taught me that no one has power to decide who you are...I have stood to make my parents proud and to make my little girls proud."

Lawmakers bid farewell to former Senate Prez Margolis

In a touching goodbye, Senators said their formal farewells to Sen. Gwen Margolis, who retires this year after 34 years in the Legislature.

During her time in Tallahassee, Margolis, D-Sunny Isles Beach, has gone from serving as Florida's first female Senate President to serving in the Senate's 14-member minority.

And as they said good-bye, Senators cited Margolis' efforts in Sunshine Law legislation, education funding and affordable house reform.

"If we were to recount your accomplishments we could probably fill up every minute of the last days of this session," Senate President Ken Pruitt said.

Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, also hailed Margolis' long history fighting for women's rights, including pushing for a women's bathroom behind the Senate chamber. The Capitol did not have one there until she became Senate President -- in 1990.

"It has been the experience of a lifetime, something I will never forget," Margolis said. "I love you all. I respect you all. And thank you."

Rubio's new book '60 Days'

Hoping to have better distribution than his last publishing effort, House Speaker Marco Rubio handed out a yearbook of sorts for members.

"I have a new book for you. The name of the book is "60 Days...to commemorate our time together,'' Rubio said. It was the idea of House Parlimentarian Len Collins and he said that every member is in it twice.

Bikers be advised: pop a wheelie pay a fine

Wheeliepopping Bikers beware: Pop a wheelie pay a fine.

A measure banning wheelies and increasing speeding fines for bikers and motorists alike  is on its way to Gov. Charlie Crist's desk for final approval. Sonsored by Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a Miami Republican, and Sen. Rudy Garcia, a Hialeah Republican the measure passed the House Friday morning, and passed the Senate Tuesday morning.

So contentious was the issue that Capitol Police launched an investigation into a death threat against Lopez-Cantera.

"Clearly I must now kill and eat Carlos Lopez-Cantera," wrote a blogger known as thebullfrog on the jalopnik.com website.

Read more about the bill and thebullfrog here.