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413 posts from April 2009

April 21, 2009

Nelson tweet, a state of disbelief

Sen. Bill Nelson used his Twitter account today to register disbelief at a state proposal to allow drilling within 10 miles of the state’s beaches.

 In two tweets, Nelson wrote, “I can’t believe some Florida lawmakers might actually be serious about allowing oil drilling within ten miles offshore.” And, he wrote,  “They even want to ‘expedite’ permits for refineries in coastal communities.” 

Nelson's office says his tweeted came as oil industry representatives were appearing before a state House committee in support of a new proposal to allow rigs just offshore and to speed up permitting for oil refineries in coastal communities.

Nelson -- and much of the state's congressional delegation -- has long opposed drilling off Florida's coast. Nelson says "there's not enough oil there to justify the risk of ruining the state’s $65-billion tourism-driven economy or to make a dent in the price of energy."

Ann Herberger don't come cheap

Of the $40,000 spent by Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio in the past three months, $30,000 went to Ann Herberger, a veteran fundraiser for the Bush family.

Rubio's fundraising report, due to the Federal Elections Commission last week, shows two $5,000 donations from political actions committees, one from the GEO Group security company and the other from ophthalmologists He also received large donations from Cesar Alvarez, CEO of the Greenberg Traurig law firm, and Stanley Tate, chairman of the Florida Pre-Paid College Tuition program.

Rubio, who calls his campaign account "exploratory,'' says he will announce whether he's in the race for real by the end of the week.

Failed sheriff candidate sued by pollster

Scott Israel, the Democrat who lost his race against Broward Republican Sheriff Al Lamberti in November, has been sued by The Kitchens Group.

Jim Kitchens said he tried to talk to Israel about paying him back the $13,400, but to no avail.

"Very early on he was blaming other people for his campaign loss, the way it was run and he was going to hire an attorney to handle campaign matters so I figured I better do the same,'' said Kitchens, who said this is only the second time in 30 years he's had to sue over an unpaid polling bill.

Israel wouldn't comment on the lawsuit filed last week and said he is meeting with an attorney today.

"The bill definitely wasn't paid. We won't dispute the bill wasn't paid,'' Israel said. "It was just why it wasn't paid.''

Israel said he thought that someone else was handling paying the bill -- more specifically, he told www.browardbeat.com he thought that was campaign manager Judy Stern's responsibility.

"Oh please,'' Stern said. "Good try. Go talk to the Kitchens Group.''

Having a spat with one of Broward's most powerful campaign managers and a pollster isn't the way to lay the groundwork for a future campaign. Israel said he hasn't ruled out running for sheriff or another office in the future. He recently opened an agency that handles private investigations, expert testimony and government consulting. Two of Israel's most notable coworkers are former Hollywood Police Chief James Scarberry and Rick Lemack who lost the Democratic sheriff's primary to Israel.

Failed mayoral candidate offers $1k reward for budget cutting ideas

Need $1,000?

Earl Rynerson, a Fort Lauderdale mayoral candidate who lost the election in February, says he'll give a $1,000 reward to the person who suggests a budget cut and works to get the city to approve it. Contestants must submit documentation to show that they advocated for the cut and the person who submits the approved suggestion that saves the city the most will win.

To read the other rules, go to Rynerson's website at www.abetterfortlauderdale.com

"So now is the time to get more involved with your City Government, work to reduce your property taxes and put some money in your pocket!'' wrote Rynerson who lost his race to Jack Seiler.

Brother Miguel files to replace DLP

 Miguel Diaz de la Portilla Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a former Miami-Dade County commissioner and now a lawyer/lobbyist for the , has filed to run for the District 36 state Senate seat now held by his brother, Alex Diaz de la Portilla.

He joins the list of candidates that includes state Rep. Julio Robaina of Miami and former Miami Beach Rep.Gus Barreiro.

Cig tax, budget deal looking likelier

Both for attribution and on background, House leaders sound warmer and warmer about accepting a cigarette tax increase. If they do, a budget deal is in the offing. So pay no attention to the myriad bottom-line differences between the two chambers ($547m).

Well, actually, do pay attention to the bottom-line differences.There's still a whole lot of politics to play out and potentially queer the deal. In play: Seminole gaming, transportation trust fund raids, higher education budget cuts, state-worker pay cuts.

House Speaker Pro Tempore Ron Reagan said that he "personally" opposes a cigarette tax (or "surcharge" as the Senate calls it). "But collectively, if it's for the good of the state, I probably will support it."

Reagan points out the empty cigtax bill the House passed last week was a sign: "we want to get this thing done. And we're willing to look at all avenues. I hoped we didn't get to fees and taxes on tobacco unless we have to. But we might have to."

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April 20, 2009

Ray Sansom's budget fallout

A grand jury didn't just indict Destin Republican Rep. Ray Sansom and Northwest Florida State College President Bob Richburg on Friday. It blasted the secrecy of the budget process and the big money that washes through the Capitol

In addition to staining the Florida House's reputation and throwing it into confusion at times (e.g., the delay of his resignation as House Speaker), Sansom left another head-scratching legacy: A two-person budget chief system in what's usually a one-wo/man show. Ostensibly, the two-man front doubly fulfilled a promise to Miami-Dade Republicans. The county scored a budget chair. In return, the influential delegation led by former House Speaker Marco Rubio helped make him speaker. 

By appointing Marcelo Llorente and David Rivera to hold the budget post, Sansom appeased two at-times warring factions in the Legislature. Llorente and Rivera are running against each other and Rep. Anitere Flores for a state Senate seat. 

The division of the budget chairmanship, also helped strengthen the office of the speaker. Then fell Sansom. Sansom (still collecting lawmaker pay and free healthcare benefits) hasn't been available for comment since Friday, when he was in the clink pushing his fingers into the jailer's ink pad. Otherwise, he would have likely been on the House floor, fingers pushing the green "YES" button to vote on the budget he knows so well.

And now there are two state reps (rather than one) who are answering questions about the man who chose them to run the very budget process that led to his indictment. 

Cannon unveils plan Tuesday for oil and gas drilling

Rep. Dean Cannon, the Orlando Republican who is slated to become House leader in 2010, will unveil legislation Tuesday that could open the door to the first oil and gas drilling off Florida's coast in decades.

He will ask the House Policy Council on Tuesday to pass a bill that lifts Florida's ban on oil drilling off state waters. The measure would replace the ban with a plan to allow the governor and Florida Cabinet to charge $1 million per application to explore state-controlled waters that stretch between 3 and 10 miles offshore.

But after years of resisting oil and gas drilling off Florida shores, the state's fiscal straits have made it politically practical for Cannon to pursue the change. But environmentalists are already blasting the idea.

Read more here.

Meek: Obama shows "We are the superpower of the world"

Kendrick Meek, who accompanied President Barack Obama on his trip to Trinidad, defended the president for hobnobbing with Hugo Chavez, telling MSNBC, "it makes us look as though we are the
superpower of the world."

(Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich earlier today suggested talking to the Venezuelan president makes the U.S. look weak.) 

"We have a leader that has been elected to lead this country, " Meek said. "Our leader should not be running around the room trying to avoid one person of 30-some odd leaders throughout South America."

Meek last week said he disagreed with Obama's decision to lift entirely the cap on remittances sent to Cuba, saying on MSNBC "that unlimited transmittance may very well be used to help the Castro government..."

Full transcript after the jump:

Continue reading "Meek: Obama shows "We are the superpower of the world"" »

Sunrail moves along, but just barely

As expected, a Senate appropriations committee on Monday approved the Sunrail commuter rail venture on a nip and tuck 4 to 3 vote, sending it to Senate Ways and Means and, beyond that, a big fight on the Senate floor. 

But the Senate sought to link passage of the Sunrail commuter train to one of the major differences with the House on next year's budget: a raid on the transportation fund. The House's budget proposal diverts about $420-million in cash from the DOT fund to avoid larger spending cuts in programs such as schools and health care.

In the Senate, a state transportation official said the House's trust fund raid would force Sunrail to be delayed. "The project would need to be deferred -- as well as many other projects," DOT's Kevin Thibault told senators, in response to questions by the panel's chairman, Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey. Fasano is one of the strongest protectors in the Legislature of the transportation trust fund. 

Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, voted for the bill after it was added to include money for Tri-Rail in his district, said: "This is still a very ugly bill ... It's not a bill that has to be killed dead today."

-- Steve Bousquet