We told you it was going to happen, and here is the official procedural special session call. Read it here It starts at 11 a.m. next Monday, Jan. 5 and ends (gulp) at midnight on Jan. 16th. Read the memo that accompanied the letter on the jump.
This isn't the biggest surprise, but Rep. David Rivera filed today to run for Senate District 38, the seat now occupied by Sen. Alex Villalobos. The Herald-Times also hears that Rep. Marcelo Llorente and Rep. Anitere Flores are also considering running for that seat.
House Democratic leader Franklin Sands sent a memo to House members Monday calling for hearings on the budget at the start of next week's two-week special session. The Legislature is faced with having to make yet another round of cuts to help close a $2.3-billion budget deficit.
"We urge Republican leaders to hold public hearings at the outset of the special session to discuss how spending reductions or new revenues, if any, should be allocated across the various policy areas of the budget," Sands' statement said. "While it may be convenient for lawmakers to simply agree in advance to a privately crafted budget proposal, we think it is more appropriate that the public be allowed to participate in a frank conversation involving all budget options." Read Sands' memo here.
The Republican majorities in the House and Senate have the burden of finding where to make the cuts in the budget. If recent history is any guide, Democrats likely will oppose the cuts, arguing that Republicans are harming public education and shredding the safety net for Florida's most vulnerable residents.
-- Steve Bousquet
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's disbelief that Barack Obama was calling her -- she twice hung up on the president-elect -- gets top billing in the Associated Press's annual recounting of the wackiest Florida stories.
"The past year in Florida saw deputies Taser an emu, iguanas fall from trees and a Christmas tree used as a weapon," the AP writes. "What else would you expect in a state where a longtime congresswoman hung up on President-elect Barack Obama not once, but twice?
"In a year full of weird events, Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen thought she was being 'punked' when Obama called her a few weeks after the election. She told him he was a better Obama impersonator than the guy on Saturday Night Live and hung up. Obama called back, and she hung up again. She finally took the call after a House colleague called and convinced her it was the real Obama."
Former Wilton Manors Mayor Jim Stork was on vacation in Mexico on Christmas when the Miami Herald wrote about his $30,000 election fine related to his 2004 Congressional race.
The Federal Election Commission concluded that Stork's ads about pie and coffee at his bakeries were essentially campaign ads paid for with corporate dollars -- a big no-no for candidates.
Stork emailed us a colorful response to the article. Here are some highlights:
"I guess it is a compliment that the federal government believes that the quality of my Stork's food can somehow influence voter decisions,'' he wrote. He added that rather than spend more money to fight the charge he decided to contribute money to those in need instead.
Stork, a Democrat, had mysteriously dropped out of his race against Republican Clay Shaw in 2004, claiming an unspecific heart ailment. He now says it was bacterial endocarditus and that he ''poorly handled communication.'' Shaw easily won the race against a replacement candidate though he lost to Ron Klein two years later.
This past year, Stork was involved in the Florida Red and Blue campaign, which failed to defeat Amendment 2 which banned gay marriage in the Constitution. About this issue he says:
"I have no more tolerance for those who voted for Amendment 2 or those who want to take my rights away ... which includes dumb rednecks, bible thumping white folks, bible thumping Hispanics, self-centered educated people who are so self absorbed that they don't bother to look into an issue, lazy gay people who don't get involved or are too weak to come out of the closet, and am now most disappointed in African Americans who should be the least likely group of folks to judge others, but are the ones who judge others the most ... all of these folks can kiss my a--.''
And for those folks who miss eating apple pie and lemon blueberry biscuits at Stork's on Las Olas which closed a few months ago, Stork says the future of the spot is ''pending, but it will not be called storks.'' The Wilton Manors location, which Stork sold to his baker, remains open.
Florida GOP chair Jim Greer is hailing the Republican National Committee chairman candidates who have denounced candidate Chip Saltsman for distributing what Greer called a "racially-insulting song" -- a ditty titled, "Barack the Magic Negro."
"As the GOP Chairman in one of our nation’s most ethnically and culturally diverse states, I am especially disappointed by the inappropriate words and actions we’ve seen over the past few days," said Greer, who once said to be in the running in the post. "I am proud of those party leaders who have stood up in firm opposition to this type of behavior.
A Pinellas County man has filed a state ethics complaint against House Speaker Ray Sansom, asserting he used his position to secure a high-paying job at his local college after steering millions to the school.
David A. Plyer, a Democrat who lives in Clearwater, filed the complaint with the Commission on Ethics this month and notified the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau Sunday afternoon.
He cites a Florida Statute, Chapter 112.313 (6) that says no public officer shall “corruptly use or attempt to use his or her official position … to secure a special privilege, benefit or exemption for himself, herself or others.”
"The Sansom issue is an outrage," Plyer wrote in an e-mail. "A person applies for the job of legislator. We, the people, hire him and pay him. His job: To protect our rights and serve the best interests of all of us. In return, we expect accountability. If we question a decision, we expect an answer. It appears that Sansom used his current position and public money to land a second job. You don't look for another job on company time with company funds! Ray, what were you thinking? We deserve answers."
To close a $2.3 billion budget hole, Gov. Charlie Crist asked lawmakers Tuesday to gamble a bit: Raid savings accounts and trust funds, avoid permanent spending cuts for now and hope for better times to come.
Lawmakers reacted coolly to Crist's proposal heading into the Legislature's Jan. 5 special session to balance the $66.3 billion budget.
For many legislators, Crist's proposal to spend savings and borrow money is risky because it could create a bigger hole for the next budget year. It already has a projected deficit of at least $4 billion. Crist emphasized the positive aspects of his proposal Tuesday, and held out hope for a federal stimulus package to help the state.
Miami Democratic Sen. Dan Gelber said the cuts Crist wants lawmakers to approve have started to cause visible harm to classrooms. Echoing Republicans who would only talk off record, Gelber said the governor's plan was troubling.
''It's not just a gamble. It's a faith-based fix,'' Gelber said. ``But it's not even a fix. It's denial. We're not filling holes. We're creating holes.''
Gov. Charlie Crist started to quiet criticism over a Cuban-American lawyer's nomination for a Supreme Court seat by saying Tuesday that he'll consider another candidate, Judge Jorge Labarga, for the seat as well.
Labarga appeared out of the running for the high court after Crist earlier this month selected him for a seat on the Fourth District Court of Appeal. Crist then asked the Judicial Nominating Commission to send him a list with more ''diversity'' for the Supreme Court.''
Crist's request triggered suspicion that he wanted politically connected lawyer Frank Jimenez for the seat. After a contentious nominating meeting where some members questioned Crist's motives, Jimenez made the list.
Then, on Monday, a group of 17 high-powered lawyers sent a letter to the Judicial Nominating Commission protesting its meeting. The lawyers accused the commission of running ''afoul of the letter and spirit'' of the law. It changed its rules on a 5-4 vote and cast voice votes.
Asked if the lawyers' complaint had merit, Crist, a lawyer as well, said ``I don't think so. I'll leave that to the judicial branch.''
Crist said Tuesday that he considered Labarga a contender for the high court. His interview is scheduled tentatively for Wednesday.