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256 posts from August 2009

August 31, 2009

Crist goes on another fundraising spree

Tomorrow is September, which means there are only 30 days left in the fundraising quarter, which means Gov. Charlie Crist is going to be really busy.

No one expects him to match his record-busting haul of $4.3 million between April and June, but if anyone can raise money in the dog days of summer, it's Crist.

Upcoming events in South Florida include:
*Sept. 2 at at Por Fin restaurant in Coral Gables (Hosts Ernesto and Sylvia Perez, Ernesto and Mirta Perez, David Knobel, Wayne Slater, Norman Morris, Mario Delgado and Tony Mazzorana).
*Sept. 9 at the Coral Gables home of Raul J. Valdes-Fauli (Co-hosts Raul G. Valdes-Fauli, Mike Valdes-Fauli and Manny Kadre)
*Sept. 15 at Gotham Steak at the Fountainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach (Chairs Al Cardenas and Joseph L. Caruncho, Hosts Carlos Alfonso, Slater Bayliss, Bob Haag, Jon Kislak and Todd Legon)
*Sept. 16 at the Greenspoon Marder law firm in Fort Lauderdale (Hosts Gerald Greenspoon, Scott Brenner, Geoff Hammond, Gary Press, Michael Marder, Peter Brockway, Michael Moran, Kristen Marie Nuss-Smith, William Berger, Howard Dvorkin, J.P. Ottino III, and Garry Davis Smith, Jr.)

Gambling deal includes 'red flags' Galvano says

Download Compact final 831   Gov. Charlie Crist and the Seminole Tribe on Monday signed a new gambling agreement to allow the tribe to keep its slot machines and black jack games at the tribe's Florida casinos in exchange for $150 million a year in payments to the state.

   The deal came down to the wire on the final day of the legislatively-imposed deadline as Crist and the tribe's chief officials signed the proposed 20-year compact behind close doors.

   The governor is expected to call a special session for October to ask legislator to sign off on the pact. But because it fails to meet many of the conditions sought by lawmakers to protect the state's parimutuel industry, it could be rejected and the governor would have to start over again.

   "There are some concerns," said Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, the House's lead negotiator in the gambling negotiations.

Continue reading "Gambling deal includes 'red flags' Galvano says" »

Meek to brave real, live town hall crowd

While some of his colleagues in Congress (Democrats Ron Klein, Debbie Wasserman Schultz) have recently preferred to interact with constituents over the phone, and others (Republican Mel Martinez) are organizing forums with handpicked audiences, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek is hosting a real-live, open-to-the-public town hall meeting on healthcare Thursday.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Lehman Theatre at Miami-Dade College's north campus, which seats 500 people. First come, first served.

Wasserman Schultz and Klein said tele-town hall meetings allow more constituents to participate. Wasserman Schultz's office said 3,528 people were on the call with the congresswoman last night, and Klein's office said he addressed 6,350 over the phone last week.

Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings, who joined Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler at a ticket-only town hall in Delray Beach a couple of weeks ago, is slated to face the public again from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday at the Palm Beach Government Center. Basically, the Palm Beach Republican Party dared Hastings to appear at a forum with two Republican congressional candidates and lo and behold, he agreed.

For resolution on gambling compact, expect to wait a bit longer

Today is the legislatively-imposed deadline for completion of the gambling compact between Gov. Charlie Crist and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Crist has cleared his schedule this morning and is stationed in South Florida where a final agreement has still not been completed. Legislators have still heard nothing.

The governor is scheduled to travel to Panama City at 4:15 eastern time, for an event there, followed by a fundraiser in Tallahassee this evening.

The Seminole's Tribal Council held its meeting Friday and agreed to approve a compact that appeared to be headed for rejection, because it failed to include some of the provisions sought by the legislature's lead negotiator, Rep. Bill Galvano. The governor's staff worked over the weekend and all eyes are now on them.

The tribe has told all of its spokespeople to hold off on any further comment until the governor makes his announcement. Stay tuned.

McCain, McConnell in Miami to talk healthcare, raise money

Union leaders are planning a protest Tuesday of a Republican-led healthcare forum at a Hialeah hospital that has not yet been publicly announced.

An e-mail from Fred Frost, president of the South Florida AFL-CIO, to union members urged them to go Tuesday afternoon to Palmetto General to protest an event that Frost said will be led by Senators John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate, and Mitch McConnell, the party's leader in the Senate. A hospital spokeswoman said she would have no comment before Monday afternoon.

The union e-mail, however, claimed to know details: ``Both senators will be talking about healthcare reform with a hand-picked audience of doctors and health insurance executives. We need a huge turnout for this event!''

McConnell's office did not immediately respond Monday morning to a Herald request for comment, but he and McCain are scheduled to appear Tuesday evening at a fundraiser at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral  Gables.Called a "Summer Senate Salute" and sponsored by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the event has a ``suggested contribution'' of $2,500 a person or $5,000 a couple.Download 9.1.09 Miami Invite

Earlier this month, The Miami Herald learned that a McCain-McConnell forum was being organized by Sen. Mel Martinez's office for South Miami Hospital. That event was not to be open to the public, but journalists were going to be invited to join an audience of 75 to 100 elected officials and leaders of the healthcare industry. The South Miami event was canceled.


August 30, 2009

The oilmen are back with pipeline of cash to push for oil in Florida waters

Between the start of April and the end of July, Florida Energy Associates spent as much as $234,000 on legal work and lobbying to push a bill through the Legislature last session to open Florida waters to oil exploration and end the 20-year drilling moratorium. The measure passed the House, 70-43, but died in the Senate.

The group has returned, ready to renew the effort, and supporters say defeat won't happen again.

"I predict we'll pass the bill and the governor will sign it," boasted Barney Bishop, president of Associated Industries of Florida, which is backing the measure. Read more here. 

Staff salary raises handed out by Mayor Alvarez counter cost-cutting claims

Under fire for delivering double-digit raises to his closest advisors during a budget crisis, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez has defended himself by saying the perks were part of a broader staff reorganization that eliminated jobs and saved money.

But many of the executives whose jobs disappeared are still working for the county, in some cases at higher salaries -- raising questions about how much the cutbacks have saved taxpayers.

For example, the mayor said the 54 percent raise he gave in 2008 to his $125,000 per year director of communications, Victoria Mallette, was a bargain because she replaced two other executives.

``The truth is, if you look at the situation as it really played out, I saved the county, I don't know, more than $100,000,'' Alvarez told WQBA radio host Oscar Haza on Tuesday, two days after a Miami Herald report detailed raises to his top aides. Read more here.


August 29, 2009

Shortcut to U.S. Senate runs through Broward

 Eight years ago, the young chairman of the Broward Republican Party appealed to his cohorts to stay out of a divisive petition drive to overturn the county's gay rights law. "GOP UNITY'' read the banner he unfurled as he walked through a hushed crowd, arguing that the petition would distract from the party's true goal -- electing Republicans.

The young party leader was George LeMieux, tapped by Gov. Charlie Crist on Friday to fill Mel Martinez's unfinished Senate term until the governor can win the post himself in the 2010 election.

The shortcut for a Republican who never won elected office to America's most exclusive political club began in the state's Democratic stronghold. The anti-gay petition drive failed, while LeMieux mobilized a turnout befitting a presidential candidate for Gov. Jeb Bush's reelection. Like Crist, he learned a politically calculated lesson that winning -- not ideology -- is what matters.

Full column here.

Herald/Times Video: Crist, LeMieux and maestro's three sons

Everything you wanted to know about Florida's next U.S. Senator is in this story here. Here's the video of the announcement, Friday Aug. 28, 2009, at the Old Capitol in Tallahassee:

August 28, 2009

Seminoles reject House changes, agree to Crist's gambling plan

The Seminole Tribe of Florida voted to approve a gambling compact with the governor Friday at a closed-door meeting of its tribal council in Hollywood, sources close to the negotiations told the Herald/Times.

But in what may be a deal-breaker for lawmakers who must ratify the agreement, the council refused to accept some provisions sought by legislative leaders, the sources said.

Gov. Charlie Crist and the tribe have until Monday to meet the legislatively-set deadline to complete an agreement to authorize slot machines, black jack and banked card games at its tribal casinos.

If Crist signs the agreement, he is expected to call a special session in October to have lawmakers sign-off on the deal, as required by law. Watching closely are the state's horse and dog tracks and jai alai frontons which were given unlimited poker games and lower tax rates on slot machines if the gambling compact with the tribe is signed.

Continue reading "Seminoles reject House changes, agree to Crist's gambling plan" »