« December 2008 | Main | February 2009 »

241 posts from January 2009

January 28, 2009

Ginny Brown-Waite denounces "massive pork-laden spending bill"

Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite will miss voting on today's economic stimulus bill because of a family emergency. But that hasn't stopped the Brooksville Republican from issuing a scathing release on the proposal.

“There is no doubt that our economy needs a kickstart to put us back on the path to prosperity,” she said. "What we do not need, however, is yet another pork ridden bailout that produces few jobs, sends billions of your money to corrupt organizations like ACORN, and does nothing to put money back in the hands of American taxpayers."

Continue reading "Ginny Brown-Waite denounces "massive pork-laden spending bill"" »

Greer cutting spending at RPOF

Newly re-elected RPOF chairman Jim Greer says he's doing what families are doing across the state: Cutting back.

Greer is taking away party credit cards from people who don't need them. He is cutting travel budgets. He is eliminating about five jobs. He closed the RPOF office in Tampa. Fundraisers will be held at less expensive venues when possible. Jets are out. Prop planes are in.

"In these challenging economic times, it's important that we constantly be looking at spending practices just like every other Floridian," Greer said. "It's a prudent business practice."

He would not say who is losing a credit card and whether that includes the presiding officers of the Legislature. Privately, some Republicans have been grumbling about spending by Speaker Ray Sansom, R-Destin, who oversaw House races (and by all accounts did a good job beating back the Democratic wave seen nationally.) "Persons I believe have a legitimate purpose in possessing a card will do so," Greer said.

Guns in parks up for review?

So says new Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. In one of his first press briefings, the Obama Cabinet member said the Bush administration regulation that permits pistol toting in parks is "one of those  issues that's being put on the list of issues we will take a look at."

He wouldn't commit to supporting a congressional bid to renew the ban on offshore oil drilling, or identify places along the Outer Continental Shelf where the new administration might oppose drilling.

"It will be a number of months before we're talking specifics about where it's appropriate and where it's not," he said.

He said he's not yet sure if long-neglected Everglades restoration projects will get a boost in the federal economic stimulus package -- but said he's hoping for more money for national parks.

Mel Martinez: Mavericky?

So says the UK's Guardian newspaper. A column about the perils of bi-partisanship for President Barack Obama suggests that Martinez might be among the "sensible Republicans" interested in compromise.

"Believe it or not, senator and former presidential candidate John McCain, motivated not to have his lasting legacy be a below-the-belt campaign, might also come along for the ride on some issues, and where he goes, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina usually follows quite eagerly," the Guardian writes. "Other sometimes 'mavericky' Republican senators, such as Mel Martinez of Florida, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire have their moments. Even Orrin Hatch of Utah can be surprisingly reasonable every so often."

Miami legislators want law to 'Pay teachers first'

Republican Sen. Alex Villalobos and Democratic Rep. Luis Garcia, of Miami and Miami Beach, today announced they'll be sponsoring legislation next session to force school districts to spare teacher salaries when they balance the budget and remember them first when they get new money.

The slogan is: "Pay teachers first baby,'' Villalobos said at a Miami news conference. "The legislation will make sure in these tough times, when everybody is making tough decisions, if they are going to make any increases they should start with teachers. Teachers are the backbone of the education system"

Added Garcia, "Just remember folks, you got no teachers, you got no schools.''

The proposed legislation, something the teachers union has sought for years, would force school district administrators to steer any additional new money they receive first to teacher salaries before they pay administrators. And when it come to additional cuts, teachers salaries would be spared.

The measure would also impose new restrictions on administrator salaries: they wouldn't get a salary increase until teachers received a commensurate increase and the salary scale of administrators could not be more than twice the average teacher salary for the academic year. The measure also imposes some new rules on districts: a super majority of the school board can reject a superintendent's salary scale, school board members could be recalled if a percentage of the members' district petition for it.

Villalobos said this was not intended as a hostile move against school boards but instead a move to increase accountability.

"You need to pay teachers what you've promised,'' said United Teachers of Dade President Karen Aronowitz. She said teachers were tired of "being the piggybank" for school districts.

"The public would be surprised to learn when the district does its budgeting process it has left out teachers salaires,'' she said. "There are going to be hard decisions to make...But when you start a budget you start with what's essential and our teachers are essential."

Mel Martinez: Let's reinstate ban on abortion funds

Mel Martinez is taking to the Senate floor to push an amendment that would reinstate the "Mexico City Policy" -- which bans federal funds for international groups that perform abortions or provide information on them.

UPDATE: His effort failed by a 60 to 37 vote. Among those voting against it, Martinez's fellow Florida senator, Bill Nelson.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order last week lifting the ban. It's been reinstated and then reversed by Republican and Democratic presidents since Ronald Reagan established it in 1984. Bill Clinton scrapped it in 1993, George W. Bush re-instituted it in 2001 as one of his first acts in office.

Martinez is proposing an amendment to a bill that looks to expand health care to poor children. "It is necessary if we want to continue fostering a culture of life," he said on the Senate floor.

Ritter on "penis enlarger," media coverage, lobbying

Broward County Mayor Stacy Ritter has largely been avoiding newspaper reporters' requests for interviews about the fact that while a state representative she voted for legislation sought by a company represented by her lobbyist husband Russ Klenet.

When she spoke with the Miami Herald Monday, she slipped in a few jabs at the media.

About the Broward-Palm Beach New Times: "it's only good for wrapping fish in" or looking for a "penis enlarger or a male escort."

About journalists in general: "Russ doesn't lobby me. I know you all think we sit at home and craft some kind of agenda."

Ritter will give an interview today to Miami Herald's radio news partner WLRN at 1 p.m. A spokesperson for Broward County told WLRN that Ritter might balk if the Herald's county government reporter Dan Christensen participated, so he's been disinvited.

The fallout from Crist's budget vetoes

While it's no secret that less money=more friction (especially between two branches of government), there seems to be a rising sense of resentment among some Florida Republicans over Crist's $364m in budget vetoes.

Crist spared politically popular programs, and in doing so made legislative Republicans look a tad tin-eared/heartless in the eyes of some. The Florida Forever veto looks like it might have inflamed the Senate, where some think the Guv broke a promise (which he denies).

Sen. Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican, said he had mixed feelings about the vetoes. He said he supported helping the developmentally disabled and restoring economic development money. But he felt the governor’s veto of the Florida Forever cut could have a lasting effect.

“When an arrangement is made, the working relationship depends on the good faith and value of a person’s word and his handshake,” Gaetz said. “It might be difficult to have these conversations going forward.”

Sen. Mike Fasano, a New Port Richey Republican, was one of the few Republican members who seemed overtly supportive, saying he has the “greatest respect for the governor.”

Story here

Obama v. Clinton redux?

The fledgling Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate in Florida could be mistaken for Barack Obama vs. Hillary Clinton, part deux.

State Sen. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach, who launched his campaign Tuesday, was an ardent Obama supporter. He has hired Obama's Florida director (Steve Schale) and landed at least two of his top fundraisers (Miami real estate consultant Max Holtzman and Tallahassee attorney Allen Katz).

U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami, who started running for Senate two weeks ago, was a leading Clinton ally. He has tapped Clinton's deputy finance director in Florida (Jon Adrabi) and will hold his first fundraiser Friday with former President Bill Clinton at the Pinecrest home of Clinton buddy Chris Korge.

But Meek has also secured support from some Obama donors (Miami attorney Jeremy Alters is a co-chair for the Clinton reception), and Gelber supporters say he'll be reaching out to the Clinton crowd.

Read the full story here.

January 27, 2009

FDLE analyzing Barreiro's state computer

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is analyzing the computer hard drive of a state-owned laptop used by Gus Barreiro, a former high-ranking official in the Department of Juvenile Justice who was fired on Jan. 16. FDLE spokeswoman Kristen Perezluha said the laptop arrived at the agency's offices Monday and is being reviewed by computer experts.

"We are examining any files on the hard drive and providing that information to DJJ," she said, adding that Barreiro is not the subject of a criminal investigation.

DJJ spokesman Frank Penela characterized the FDLE review as routine in cases where an employee is dismissed for misuse of computer equipment.

Barreiro, a former four-term state representative from Miami Beach, worked for DJJ for about 10 months. He earned about $72,000 a year as an operational support administrator. The agency has declined to specify the circumstances that led to Barreiro's firing, citing an ongoing internal investigation by DJJ's inspector general, Mary Eubanks.

-- Steve Bousquet