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207 posts from July 2009

July 31, 2009

Chiari to take on Evan Jenne

Democrats were waiting to see if Chris Chiari would make a third attempt at District 91 now that Ellyn Bogdanoff is out of the way running for a senate seat, but instead he set his sights on another race: challenging Rep. Evan Jenne.

Chiari declined to comment in detail today but criticized Jenne for the company he keeps.

"Look at the contributions he has received. Let's ask ourselves how many doors Evan Jenne has ever knocked on? Let's ask ourselves if Evan has earned the place he has?''

 In 2008, "I was one of his donors,'' said Chiari. "Our of 341 contributions I was one of 11 that didn't have "p.a'' or ''esquire'' or ''associate'' after my name.''

Chiari said he sent his paperwork to the state to open his campaign last night although it hadn't appeared on the state's website as of this morning.

Chiari,  a business consultant, said he has put his Fort Lauderdale home on the market and is renting in Davie. He plans to spend about four months of the year in a Philadephia suburb caring for his 92-year-old grandma.

Says Jenne, the minority whip, in response: "He's got no gripes over my votes or stances? I don't know what to say.''

Freda Sherman Stevens, who lost to Jenne last year, had planned on running against him but filed to run in District 91 instead. Jenne was recently listed as a ''special guest'' for one of her campaign events but he said he isn't endorsing her and didn't talk her out of running against him.

Last year, the Florida Elections Commission fined Jenne $2,500 for taking too long to return checks to supporters who had already given the maximum.

Florida earmarks -- Wasserman Schultz, Castor -- draw scrutiny

 A military project backed by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was one of more than 550 earmarks targeted this week by a longtime critic who took aim at lawmakers' funding requests for private companies.

The Broward Democrat secured $4.5 million for General Dynamics for a high-tech military radio system that has drawn criticism from government investigators for cost overruns. Wasserman Schultz, who has received $9,000 in campaign contributions from the company's employees' political action committee, defended the request, with a spokesman noting that the Virginia-based company has created jobs in South Florida.

And theWashington Post reports that "members of the House ethics committee, who are investigating a pattern of lawmakers steering federal funds to generous defense contractors, have just had their own pet military projects approved by the same committee whose activities they are probing."

Among them: Rep. Kathy Castor, whose $3.25 million in earmarks appeared near the bottom of a chart of committee members.

July 30, 2009

DOT stops salary bonuses for contractors

Sen. Dave Aronberg hit pay dirt today when his public records request of the Department of Transportation yielded a change in policy that DOT calculations show it could save at least $10 million. Download Senator aronberg 07 28 09

Aronberg, a Greenacres Democrat who is running for attorney general, asked DOT on July 13 for a list of all contracts with private companies that allowed for automatic salary increases for workers that are handling DOT proejcts. Aronberg argued that because of the state's deep budget woes awarding automatic pay hikes to private contractors "was unfair to state workers and unfair to taxpayers."

Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos supplied the list on Thursday and said that she has since changed state policy and is "eliminating any salary modification terms from new contracts and new amendments to existing contracts."

Update: Kopelousos' spokesman Dick Kane said Friday the agency began reviewing contracts after the January special session when lawmakers urged state officials to try to reduce the cost of their private contracts, not as a result of Aronberg's request. 

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Score one for Jim Greer

Jim Greer, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, beat two more conservative candidates to be elected chairman of the powerful Rules Committee of the national party today.

The vote was Greer - 27, Jim Ash of Arizona - 20 and Curly Hoaglund of North Dakota - 4. Greer was backed by RNC Chairman Michael Steele and has been the target of sharp criticism from one of the chairman's former rivals.

"Parties are judged by wins and losses, and under Jim Greer's leadership, Florida turned blue," South Carolina Chairman Katon Dawson told The Hill in an e-mail before the party vote. "[Former] Gov. Jeb Bush governed as a conservative and the Republican Party flourished under his leadership. But Jim Greer has chosen to abandon our party's core conservative principles and the results speak for themselves."

Greer is facing some troubles back home, with scattered local activists continuing to question his spending practices -- wining and dining, traveling with an entourage on donors' dimes, et al -- and heavy handed approach to the 2010 contests. Some critics are predicting fireworks at the party's Aug. 21-22 meeting in Orlando, but an outright coup is highly unlikely.

Greer's leadership of the Rules Committee strengthens his hand in several ways. It raises his national stature, making it harder for critics at home to take him down. And more importantly, Greer's new post puts Florida Republicans in a better position to defend their early presidential primary that defied the national party's rules in 2008 and cost the state half of its delegates to the convention.

Sparks fly at Hometown Democracy debate

The already heated debate over Amendment 4, known as Hometown Democracy, got hotter than a summer day in Tallahassee Thursday at Capital Tiger Bay, as presenters on each side offered a window into the issue that has polarized growth advocates and reform activists across the state.

Leslie Blackner, the Palm Beach County attorney and one of the authors of the ballot initiative that will ask voters to require that changes to a county's comprehensive growth management plan get voter approval, called the measure "a very simple thing.'' It gives voters veto power and "only affects comprehensive plans."'

On the opposing side was Ryan Houck, director for the Chamber of Commerce-supported group called Floridians for Smarter Growth. He summed up the issue as "a great problem, wrong solution,'' because "everything will be voted on."

"It’s like taking a two by four to a fruit fly,'' he said "You’re probably going to miss the fly and do a lot of damage in the process."

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Humane Society: Snake bill needs sharper fangs

The Humane Society of the United States is thanking the House Judiciary Committee for passing a bill to prohibit the importation and transport of Burmese pythons and African rock pythons -- but it says the proposal -- introduced by Rep. Kendrick Meek -- has been weakened and "more needs to be done." The society notes the original bill would have banned additional species of deadly snakes -- not just two.

It says interests supporting the commercial pet trade worked with lawmakers to "weaken the bill and dramatically gut important provisions." 

 “The Humane Society of the United States commends Chairman Conyers and the Judiciary Committee for addressing the urgent need to stop the trade in large constrictor snakes as pets,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “As the bill moves forward we hope the Congress will take a more comprehensive approach and prohibit the trade in other species that pose similar threats. By prohibiting only two species, Congress would be addressing only a portion of the problem.”

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President Obama names FIU assistant dean as Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient

President Obama today named 16 recipients of the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom, including Florida International University's Pedro José Greer. He's in august company with Stephen Hawking, the late Jack Kemp, Sen. Ted Kennedy, Desmond Tutu and former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

The White House says the award -- America’s highest civilian honor -- goes to "individuals who make an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors." And it says awardees were chosen for their work as agents of change. "Among their many accomplishments in fields ranging from sports and art to science and medicine to politics and public policy, these men and women have changed the world for the better. They have blazed trails and broken down barriers. They have discovered new theories, launched new initiatives, and opened minds to new possibilities."

Said Obama: "These outstanding men and women represent an incredible diversity of backgrounds.  Their tremendous accomplishments span fields from science to sports, from fine arts to foreign affairs.  Yet they share one overarching trait: Each has been an agent of change. Each saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way. Their relentless devotion to breaking down barriers and lifting up their fellow citizens sets a standard to which we all should strive. It is my great honor to award them the Medal of Freedom.”

He'll present the awards at a ceremony Aug. 12. Greer, a physician, is an assistant Dean of Academic Affairs at the Florida International University School of Medicine, where he also serves as chair of the
Department of Humanities, Health and Society. He's the founder of Camillus Health Concern, an agency that provides medical care to over 10,000 homeless patients a year in Miami. He's also the founder and medical director of the St. John Bosco Clinic which provides basic primary medical care to disadvantaged children and adults in Little Havana and has been recognized by Presidents Clinton, Bush, Sr., and
Carter for his work with Miami's poor .He is also the recipient of three Papal Medals as well as the prestigious MacArthur "genius grant". He currently has a joint private practice with his father, Pedro Greer, Sr.

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Fl Channel devotes Tuesday to Sen. King coverage

For anyone who can't make it to the Tuesday afternoon Capitol memorial service for the late Sen. Jim King, just turn on your television or computer.

Beth Switzer of the Florida Channel said the hours leading up to the 2 p.m. service in House chambers will be devoted to footage of past King interviews and floor speeches, as well as remembrances from other state officials and dignitaries. The Florida Channel also will air the service live, and stream it on the station's Web site.

Switzer said the station is likely to re-broadcast the service later Tuesday afternoon as well.

King's family also is holding a memorial service Saturday at 11 a.m. in Jacksonville at St. John's Episcopal Cathedral. After Tuesday's service in Tallahassee, King's cremains will be interred on FSU's campus during a private ceremony. With him for eternity will be his beloved dogs.

at the St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral in Jacksonville

Hastings on MSNBC: White House says "time is not right" for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" fight

Rep. Alcee Hastings tells MSNBC's Rachel Maddow why he withdrew his amendment to stop spending money on enforcing the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that boots gays from serving in the Armed Forces.

He says he never spoke to President Barack Obama about it, but that White House officials made it clear to him they wanted him to yank the provision and "the time is not right." 

"My view is the time is now to eliminate this bigoted law," he said, adding that he hasn't heard what Obama plans to do about provision -- which he's said he opposed.

July 29, 2009

'Greer is the single most disliked guy on the RNC'

So says Katon Dawson, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, in an article in today's Washington Times about the race to head the the national party's rules committee. Dawson lost the party's chairmanship to Michael Steele, who has backed Greer's bid to lead the rules committee.

It sounds like inside baseball, but the results of tomorrow's party election could weaken or strengthen the hands of the moderate Steele-Greer wing of the party and ultimately influence the 2012 presidential nominating process.

Story here.