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241 posts from January 2009

January 31, 2009

Hansen likely being replaced as chief of staff

Acting House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, will need time to settle into the job and its many responsibilities. But he's already planning at least one staffing change - removing Mike Hansen as chief of staff.

Why? There could be a few possible reasons. Cretul could want a fresh start. Hansen could also be questioned in a grand jury investigation into money Ray Sansom helped get for his hometown college. That certainly doesn't mean Hansen would be targeted, only that he, too, could be distracted during the session.

The veteran Hansen is expected to get another job in the House. The word is Cretul's choice is going to be "out of the box."

Meek raises 300K for Senate run

Former President Bill Clinton flew to Miami all the way from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland for U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek's first fundraiser for his U.S. Senate campaign. Chris Korge, who hosted the event at his home in Pinecrest, said Clinton helped bring in $300,000.  

"He rarely gets involved in (Democratic) primaries,''  said Korge, who has hosted the Clintons many times. "He has really gotten to know Kendrick personally, and he thinks he would be a great senator.''

Korge added that Meek is hoping to post a big fundraising number for the first three months of the year.

"If Kendrick can raise seven figures the first quarter when the economy is in shambles -- that would be a huge feat in this economy,'' Korge said. "Having Bill Clinton willing to do these things for him is going to make it possible for Kendrick to raise significant money outside of Florida."

Ad: Rogers=Naugle

Is the endorsement of controversial Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle a pro or a con?

We'll find out in the Feb. 10 primary and the March 10 general election. Commission candidate Coleman Prewitt sent a campaign brochure that says "Same ol' Same ol''' with an unflattering mug shot of opponent Romney Rogers and a mug of Naugle.

Naugle has endorsed Rogers and given his support to mayoral candidate Jack Seiler. Rogers, a longtime Fort Lauderdale resident, has a much bigger warchest and likely broader name recognition than Prewitt. But the question is whether linking Rogers and Naugle will help or hurt Rogers. Naugle was popular among residents for constituent services despite his comments that infuriated the gay community such as suggesting the city buy a six-figure individual-sized robotic toilet for the beach to cut down on gay sex in park bathrooms.

And Prewitt's campaign brochure omits that he is openly gay and has been active in the community -- raising the question about whether he wants to appeal to conservative voters or if he merely wants to avoid being labeled as only having support in one community.

Rogers has defended Naugle but in a recent interview also vowed to get along with everybody.

"I think (Naugle's comment) was taken a little out of context at times. He was talking about an issue that does on occur on occasion in terms of our public parks, not just gay sex -- just inappropriate conduct in the bathrooms. ...  I would be the commissioner for everybody -- I wouldn't draw any lines or make any distinctions.''

Democrats question Sansom's recusal

Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, is questioning the ability of Ray Sansom to temporarily recuse himself as speaker. In a letter sent today to Rules Chairman Bill Galvano, he writes:

"Based upon my reading of our rules, it is not permitted and his action should be deemed either a nullity or a resignation necessitating an election for a replacement Speaker.

Rule 1.1(a)(1) requires the house to “ choose a permanent presiding officer designated Speaker ”.  Rule 2.5 states that:  ‘ The Speaker pro tempore shall exercise the duties, powers, and prerogatives of the Speaker in the event of the Speaker’s death, illness, removal, or inability to act, until the speaker’s successor is elected . ”

These two rules together mean that the pro tempore only exercises the Speaker’s duties temporarily, until a new Speaker is elected. Since there is no time limit specified, it should be inferred that it would be for a reasonable time.  However, the Speaker pro tempore only assumes this role upon the Speaker’s death, illness, removal, or inability to act.

The first three requirements clearly do not apply. It might be argued that the Speaker has an inability to act, but I would argue that that is not the case. Instead, he might not believe he can be effective or he might want to devote more time to other endeavors, but he certainly has the ability.  As used in the rule, the term “ inability to act ” appears to imply mental incapacity and the parallel of physical illness.

If it were the case that there was an inability to act, we might have interpretation issues regarding who decides whether the inability exists and who decides when the ability returns. The rule contemplates an election of a successor in any event and it clearly contemplates a permanent replacement. Further, since it says “in the event of” and not “during” such inability, this would mean that it would be unclear as to whether the substitution of power could even be temporary.

Regardless, these questions are moot because we do not have not have a case where Speaker Sansom has an inability to act. Perhaps our rules should allow the Speaker to suspend his or her duties for other reasons, but they do not. 

Respectfully, I am asking for your opinion as Rules Chair as I believe the integrity of the Florida House of Representatives demands that we follow our rules.   

Very truly yours,

Jim Waldman

State Representative, District 95

Flashback: Sansom's proudest moment

Ray Sansom strode past the Choctaw High cheerleaders and his noisy admirers, a humble hometown hero glowing amid all the accolades.

It was Nov. 13 — five days before Sansom would become speaker of the Florida House, and the Okaloosa County Fairgrounds was packed with 500 people. They wore "Congratulations Ray!" stickers and waved flags. They ate barbecue and banana pudding.

"I hope that after these two years — these tough two years — that you will still welcome me back," Sansom said to laughter, before giving thanks to the "rock" and "foundation" of the close-knit Panhandle.

The scene, captured in a Northwest Florida Daily News video, conveys deep warmth and great expectations. Rep. Ray Sansom was, in every sense, a man in full.

But the celebration contained elements of his undoing. (story here)

House lawyer: Sansom says recusal is legal. So it is.

In response to questions first raised by Miami Republican Rep. J.C. Planas, House General Counsel Karen Camechis issued this memo that ultimately concludes House Speaker Ray Sansom is in charge of interpreting House rules, so his temporary relinquishment of power is legal:

Continue reading "House lawyer: Sansom says recusal is legal. So it is." »

January 30, 2009

Cretul: We will do the people's work

At 4:45 p.m. today in the speaker's conference room, Rep. Larry Cretul called together the senior staff of the house and talked about the situation.

"He gave a very eloquent speech, said it was a very difficult decision because Ray is a very dear friend and this is painful for all of us. He said he is convinced this is the right thing for the House, the citizens of Florida and Ray's family," recounted House spokeswoman Jill Chamberlin.

Cretul said he believes Ray will be exonerated but in the meantime, the House will do the people's work. "Notwithstanding the events of today and the last few months, the challenge to balance the state budget is huge and the House will focus all of its energy on that," Chamberlin said.

-- Lucy Morgan

Broward's Sharon Day wins plum post

Florida’s National Committeewoman Sharon Day was elected Secretary of the Republican National Committee. 

The tributes from Florida party chief Jim Greer: "I have known Sharon to be a dedicated servant of the Republican Party who is committed to the Party’s long held values of less taxing, less spending, less government and more freedom. Additionally, Sharon is dedicated to furthering women’s causes and outreach. She is an example of a strong Republican woman who stands up for her beliefs and leads the way for other Republican girls and young women. I am confident she will be an excellent leader of our party in this expanded capacity.”

Greer's guy wins RNC chair

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer picked a winner. Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele has been elected chairman of the Republican National Committee,

Steele will be the first black GOP chairman. Greer has been campaigning for him for weeks.

"We need a national chairman who can have a credible discussion with the American voter, excite and motivate the grassroots volunteers, promote diversity within our party and look to the future, not to the past,'' Greer said when he seconded Steele's nomination.

In the House, a call for a GOP caucus

As House members, staffers, lobbyists and others digest the news of Speaker Ray Sansom's decision to step aside, there are early rumblings among members about a need for a formal gathering of the House Republican caucus. Such a meeting could only be called by the leadership, and it could open the door for another candidate to challenge Sansom's pro-tem, Rep. Larry Cretul of Ocala, for the top position.

The GOP majority caucus is formally known as the House Republican Conference.

"I would think a conference should be called so that everybody has the ability to either voice their support or their concern for the issues that have transpired," said Rep. Sandy Adams, R-Oviedo. "It would make a lot of the members feel a little bit more comfortable if they had the ability to conference. Don't get me wrong. Larry Cretul is a good man. I trust him. But I still believe there's a need for a conference."

"This has all just come out," Adams said. "People are looking at the (House) rules and saying, 'Where does this put us?'^" The House updated its website home page photo gallery on Friday afternoon to highlight an archive photo of Cretul standing at the podium.

Sansom appears to have used House Rule 2.5, "Appointment of a Temporary Presiding Officer," in naming Cretul acting speaker "in the event of the Speaker's death, illness, removal or inability to act, until the Speaker's successor is elected."

-- Steve Bousquet