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137 posts from December 2008

December 18, 2008

Christian groups bash gambling deal

The Christian Coalition of Florida, Florida Baptist Convention and the Florida Family Policy Council just finished a press conference urging Floridians and state legislators to reject Gov. Charlie Crist's agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida that expands taxable forms of gambling.

Crist's argument: The compact would earn the state about $100m a year and actually limit gambling to just a few extra sites beyond South Florida's parimutuels.

The Christian groups response: "While we would like to believe gambling dollars are largely discretionary entertainment dollars, closer analysis shows us these are in a large part gambling-addiction dollars being spent at great expense to the family by those who can least afford it and result in a heavy tax on the poorest families," said Dennis Baxley, Christian Coalition executive director

Prison population hits 100,000 mark

This surely is not the kind of news budget-weary Florida legislators want to hear: On Thursday, the Department of Corrections' inmate population hit the 100,000 mark for the first time in the state's history. Inmate No. 100,000 entered the system at 8:17 a.m., spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said. The population is likely to fluctuate throughout the day as it always does as inmates are released. But it's likely to exceed 100,000 permanently in the coming days.

Among the possible budget-cutting maneuvers under consideration by Gov. Charlie Crist's administration is borrowing an estimated $300-million for new prison bed construction, rather than paying with cash. One of every 145 adults in Florida is under the supervision of the penal system, either as an inmate, parolee or some form of community supervision.

-- Steve Bousquet

Elian Gonzalez could play a confirmation hearing role

Elián González could play a role in next month's confirmation hearings for Barack Obama's nominee for attorney general.

Last week, eight Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee fired off letters to the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock, Ark., and Attorney General Michael Mukasey seeking any documents prepared by Eric Holder or his staff on a variety of Clinton-era controversies, including "the April 22, 2000, raid in Miami, Florida, by Border Patrol agents to take Elián Gonzalez into custody.''

Read more here.

Controverial finalist headed to Crist

Thumb_jimenez Naked Politics hears that after meeting in secret, the Judicial Nominating Commission added outgoing U.S. Navy general counsel Frank Jimenez to the list of finalists sent to Gov. Charlie Crist. Jimenez, 44, served as Gov. Jeb Bush's general counsel. He famously sent an email in 1999 suggesting the creation of shadow JNCs to recruit those ideologically similar to Bush, which earned him some enemies scattered throughout the Florida Bar. Edith Osman, a former Florida Bar president, was on the strange conference call/public meeting, earlier this evening, during which JNC members debated reconvening to consider more finalists. "I'm concerned about the process and how it worked. And now you have another name out there who wasn't a first choice," said Edith Osman, a former Florida Bar president. "The call was troubling." Osman said she's also concerned that the JNC panelists didn't consider the female finalist, Judge Gill Freeman, as a diverse choice, nor why they didn't talk about adding more female finialists in general.

December 17, 2008

Ag Commish stare down at Gov's Club

Florida Congressman Adam Putnam was in Tallahassee this evening to stir up a buzz about his potential bid for state agriculture commissioner. He dropped by the Governor's Club but soon had company: Sen. Carey Baker, R-Eustis, who is officially running for the job.

Just before Baker arrived, Putnam's putative successor, Rep. Seth McKeel of Lakeland, stopped by with Publix lobbyist Randy Roberts. Asked about the rumor he would try to replace Putnam if the congressman runs for AG commissioner, McKeel just smiled.

Inside the Club, Putnam and Baker made the rounds with lobbyists, lining up potential donors for but seeking for something more immediate, too. "It's all about stirring up gossip," remarked one lobbyist.

As if the Tallahassee orbit could not get smaller, current Commissioner Charlie Bronson was inside as well. Putnam and Baker both kissed the ring. Walking back to the Capitol, Bronson was asked if Putnam was in. "It sure looks like he's running," he said.

-- Marc Caputo and Alex Leary

Supreme Court JNC meeting gets ugly

The Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission has spent the last 45 minutes trying to decide whether to reconvene and consider submitting more finalists to Gov. Charlie Crist.

This debate breaks down pretty much along the same lines as the JNC's composition does. Gov. Charlie Crist gets to appoint five of the nine JNC members. And the other four are nominated by the Florida Bar.

So you guessed, the four nominated by the Florida Bar are arguing forcefully that they shouldn't reconvene. And most of the other five, many of whom are Gov. Charlie Crist supporters, are arguing they should reconvene and coughh up more names.

Continue reading "Supreme Court JNC meeting gets ugly" »

Meek in Haiti

Looking to boost support in Congress for aid to Haiti, Kendrick Meek is on the island this week, touring health and water projects with Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin and New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman.

"While hurricane season has passed, Haiti is still in a critical state," said Meek, who was last in Haiti in September after 4 hurricanes struck the island. "Haiti continues to look to the United States for leadership and we as congressional leaders will be working closely with president-elect Obama to ensure that Haiti can continue to rebuild."

The island's conditions aren't new to Durbin who traveled there with Meek in 2003.

New Obama transportation secretary: Let's travel to Cuba

Several news agencies are reporting that Illinois Republican Rep. Ray LaHood is likely to be named Barack Obama's transportation secretary.

The Herald reported earlier this week that among the potential contenders for the job was Miami-Dade Aviation Director José Abreu. Two people with knowledge about the White House transition said Abreu has been discussed as a potential highway or transit administrator, and even as secretary. Stay tuned...

LaHood, as it happens, is a champion of lifting travel restrictions to Cuba. He testified at a hearing in September that current US-Cuba policy "makes no sense today when Cuba poses no significant national security threat, and many Cold War travel restrictions to other parts of the world have already been abolished."

Hollywood surprises congresswoman with "Debbie Wasserman Schultz Day," key to city

Hollywood commissioners told U.S. Rep Debbie Wasserman Schultz that she was coming to Wednesday's meeting to give the city a routine legislative update, but shortly after she began speaking Mayor Peter Bober interrupted the congresswoman.

"I want to thank you for coming to update us," Bober said. "Unfortunately, that's not the real reason you're here."

Bober then read a proclamation declaring Dec. 17 "Debbie Wasserman Schultz Day" and presented Wasserman Schultz with a key to the city.

"I'm not an easy person to surprise, Mr. Mayor, and I can tell you, this is definitely a surprise," Wasserman Schultz said. "And I can tell you, I'm rarely speechless..."

New Deerfield Beach mayor stands by arrested colleagues

Some folks in Deerfield Beach are calling for ethics reform or criticizing former Mayor Al Capellini and Commissioner Steve Gonot who were arrested last week on separate corruption probes by the Broward State Attorney's Office.

But Sylvia Poitier, who was promoted from vice mayor to mayor after Gov. Charlie Crist suspended Capellini Monday, is standing by both of her arrested colleagues. Gonot resigned last week.

"The Al Capellini that I know, the Steve Gonot that I know, it doesn't sound like them,'' she said.

Poitier says Capellini will get her vote for mayor in the March election. She questions whether prosecutors can prove their case.

"Do they really have their facts straight or will he be exonerated by election time?'' she said. "The Al Capellini I know is an honest man.''

Capellini was charged with unlawful compensation for voting in favor of a development that personally benefitted him, according to prosecutors. Gonot was charged with felonies related to alleged misuse of campaign funds.

Both Capellini and Gonot have denied wrongdoing through their attorneys.

Poitier says she is open to Commissioner Pam Militello's suggestion to create a city ethics code, but she says they already have to follow a state code. The new mayor says she isn't ethically perfect herself.

"I can't pretend or purport to have listed all the gifts i have accepted,'' she said. "Sometimes I forget I get them because I give them away so fast.''

Poitier, who is running for re-election for her commission seat, has been the subject of newspaper articles in the past about unpaid property taxes and incomplete financial disclosure.