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241 posts from January 2009

January 30, 2009

Planas: Sansom's "temporary recusal" isn't legal

After being the first House Republican to publicly call on House Speaker Ray Sansom to step aside, Miami Republican Rep. J.C. Planas is now raising a new concern: Sansom's temporary recusal isn't permitted.

Sansom cited an inability to act as his reasons for his "recusal" The "inability" language is pulled straight from House rule 2.5 titled "Appointment of a Temporary Presiding Officer," which says 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."

But Planas said there's "nothing in the House rules that allow a speaker to have a temporary inability. There's nothing about a recusal, either." But then, nothing prohibits a temporary inability or recusal, either.

Planas also points to the first sentence of rule 2.5, which says the "Speaker may appoint any member to perform the duties of presiding officer for a temporary period of time not to extend beyond a single legislative day." But then, that likely applies to those presiding over floor votes, not the day-to-day running of the House.

So, Planas said, Sansom will have to re-appoint Speaker Pro Tem Larry Cretul every day. Planas said he has a better idea.

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View from the 305: "Vultures" are circling the House

Miami Republican Rep. Juan Zapata said he supports House Speaker Ray Sansom's decision to temporarily step aside amid a criminal probe. He said, however, that there shouldn't be any doubt that Ocala Rep. Larry Cretul is now in charge.

But, he said, he's catching wind of other lawmakers manuevering to take advantage of the situation. He wouldn't say who.

"I've been taken aback by the intrigue and drama and rumors about people jockeying and trying to throw other people under the bus," Zapata said. "I find that to be vulture-like behavior.''

"It's the speaker decision and I support that decision," Zapata said. "For him to resign outright would be more disruptive than not. If he basically steps down, it puts the speakership in play and it happens when the florida legislature faces the toughest legislative session it ever has."

Gaetz: Sansom 'apologized for any pain'

State Sen. Don Gaetz, the Niceville Republican who got into local politics with the help of Ray Sansom and has acted as strong ally ever since, spokeby telephone with his crestfallen friend this afternoon.

"He told me he apologized for any pain that this controversy has caused me or our community," Gaetz told the Times/Herald. "Our community is confused and hurt today. Ray Sansom was the Boy Scout of Northwest Florida, the decent, humble guy from next door who rose to the top of Florida politics in all the right ways, for all the right reasons. It hurts to see someone who you've known and cared for and voted for, as this community has time and time again, now be the first presiding officer in anyone's modern history to have to step aside. This is our friend.

"I would not have taken the job. I grew up in my father's house (a North Dakota mayor) being taught that public service was a private sacrifice. It seems to me this job sent the wrong message. My faith teaches me to hate the sin and love the sinner. Whether he is Speaker Sansom, Rep. Sansom or just Ray, he will always be my friend."

Sansom: I will be cleared

House Speaker Ray Sansom just announced:

"Effective immediately, I have decided to recuse myself from the exercise of my duties as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Ongoing legal proceedings have temporarily created an inability for me to carry out my responsibilities as Speaker.  Under the House rules, during this temporary inability, Speaker pro tempore Larry Cretul will exercise all the duties, powers and prerogatives of Speaker.

I know Larry will manage the House with distinction and it will be an honor for me to serve under him at this time, until any legal proceedings I face are resolved. The allegations and reports associated with these proceedings have caused my family grave pain and this has prompted my decision. I expect positive outcomes and am confident that when the facts are known, my honesty and integrity will be confirmed."

Sansom expected to step down

Besieged by criticism and facing several investigations into his dealings with a state college, House Speaker Ray Sansom is expected to resign his post today. A statement is expected soon and Rep. Larry Cretul, the speaker pro tem, will take over temporarily.

Top House Republicans have been talking with Sansom to arrange for him to step down, as he faces a grand jury probe and ethics investigations after taking an unadvertised $110,000 job at Northwest Florida State College on the same day be became speaker two months ago.

Sansom helped the college get millions in extra construction money but has strenuously defended his actions, saying the money was available and that the budget was open for all to scrutinize before it was voted on.

Most seriously, perhaps, is a $6-million airport building Sansom got money for in 2007.

The college said it will use the money to build a emergency training and response facility, though questions have been raised by the Times/Herald about whether a developer and Sansom ally, Jay Odom, planned to use it for his private jet operation.

Sansom, R-Destin, would at least temporarily be replaced by Cretul, R-Ocala, according to the negotiated deal. That could set off a scramble among other Republicans to replace Sansom and take over for the next two years.

But is also likely that Sansom will step down only until the investigations are complete.

Rep. J.C. Planas, R-Miami, was among those calling for Sansom to resign. "I don't think Ray had criminal intent," he said. "That's not Ray Sansom. He' a good man. And he's a good leader. But this isn't the time for him to lead."

Planas: Sansom should step down as Speaker

Miami Republican Rep. J.C. Planas is calling on House Speaker Ray Sansom to resign his leadership post because the Destin Republican's legal troubles have become too much of a "distraction." Sansom is under criminal investigation in connection with a hometown developer and a job he accepted at Northwest Florida College to which he steered $30 million in public funds. Sansom has since resigned the job.

Planas said he has called and emailed Sansom, asking him to quit the top job. He has not heard back from him.

The transcript: Planas: "Ray needs to step down. It's nothing personal. It's professional. His situation has become a distraction - for Republicans, for the House and for the state. There are businesses in Florida about to go under. I mean, these are serious times. And what we did in the special session with all these cuts was a warm-up. Things are going to get worse. We have a crisis on our hands and we need to focus on that. We need to keep the courts open, protect schools and healthcare. In the interest of making sure we debate those ideas fully and not get sidetracked by all this, it's not the time for him to be speaker."

Q: Do you think Sansom broke the law?

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Crist: Obama's plan "could be (of) help to Florida

Asked about whether he was with his fellow Republicans -- who all voted against the federal stimulus package this week, Gov. Charlie Crist told MSNBC today: "in some ways.

"You know, as the governor of Florida, I'm concerned about what infrastructure projects can be supported by this plan, how we can help education, how we can help with health care for the most vulnerable in our society," Crist said. "We have a deficit in our budget that we're facing in our session coming up in March, and it looks like this could be help to Florida if done right."

January 29, 2009

OIR subpoenas State Farm

And so it's war. Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty has subpoenaed State Farm Florida as a part of an investigation, the office reported. Read the subpoena here. The request is in response to OIR's review of State Farm's withdrawal plan. They're looking for names, addresses, policy types, policy limits and premium information for each of State Farm’s Florida policyholders. “We need to fully understand all the potential risks, so that we can properly evaluate State Farm’s withdrawal plan,” said Commissioner McCarty. “As we told State Farm officials Tuesday, we intend to do everything we can to help facilitate a smooth transition of their policyholders, if their withdrawal plan is approved. Understanding how the company’s statewide risk is spread will help us in working to find other companies that might be willing to write policies for current State Farm customers.”

Obama: Go Steelers

Asked about the game Sunday in Tampa, President Obama says he's rooting for the Steelers.

"I have to say, you know, I wish the Cardinals the best," Obama told reporters after a briefing about presumably more important matters. "Kurt Warner is a great story and he's closer to my age than anybody else on the field, but I am a long-time Steelers fan. Mr. Rooney, the owner, was just an extraordinary supporter during the course of the campaign. Franco Harris was campaigning for me in Pittsburgh.  So..."

"Coach signed up with you, too," vice president Joe Biden offered.

"Right, Coach Tomlin was a supporter," Obama said. "So I -- you know, I wish the best to the Cardinals.  They've been long-suffering; it's a great Cinderella story.  But other than the Bears, the Steelers are probably the team that's closest to my heart."

Ethics Commission: Hutchinson's postage-gate not a problem

Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Cindi Hutchinson is in the clear after using $4.32 of city postage and supplies for a campaign mailer for her since defunct mayoral race.

The Florida Ethics Commission found no probable cause to believe that she corruptly misused city resources for her campaign, according to findings the commission released this week.

Hutchinson withdrew from the mayor's race in September saying after nine years on the commission she planned to look for a career outside of city politics. Hutchinson said she has a job lined up that she will start when her commission job ends in March. She won't reveal what it is but says it is not with any entity that has business before the commission.

Last summer, the Broward state attorney's office announced it would not prosecute Hutchinson for using a city envelope, label and $4.32 in postage.

"I am very relieved that they too saw it was just a mistake,'' she said.