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256 posts from August 2009

August 27, 2009

UF will use $10 mil in stim dollars for new faculty

The University of Florida has seen its faculty ranks shrink by about seven dozen professors during the past year thanks to tens of millions in budget cuts, but President Bernie Machen is about to announce he will use $10 million in federal stimulus dollars to fill that hole.

UF will hire 100 new professors during the year ahead, Machen is telling the faculty Senate during a meeting in Gainesville. The stimulus money will serve as a “bridge” until higher undergraduate tuition rates that went into effect this week for Florida residents generate enough revenue to cover the new professors’ salaries. Other Florida colleges including Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida International University are using stimulus money to hire new faculty, but none on so large a scale as UF.

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Clay Shaw calls yacht club link 'bunch of hooey'

Shaw Former U.S. Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr. of Fort Lauderdale said Thursday he thought he listed his membership in the Lauderdale Yacht Club on the U.S. Senate questionnaire he sent to Gov. Charlie Crist (he didn't). The 70-year-old Shaw, who served 26 years in Congress before a loss in 2006, dismissed as a non-issue the club's history of being slow to admit women and Jews as members. (The angle is being pushed on reporters by supporters of another Senate candidate amid talk that Crist has decided Shaw is a finalist to replace Mel Martinez). 

"I think that's a bunch of hooey," Shaw said. "We've got Jewish members over there. I don't think there's ever been anything in the bylaws of the organization that prohibits any race or religion in there." He agreed the club also was slow to admit women, but said women are now allowed in the club, too.

Shaw said he personally sponsored three Jews as club members: nursing home owner Ralph Marrinson and Karen Unger, a political activist and former aide to Gov. Jeb Bush, and her husband Jason, a lawyer. (Incidentally, Shaw's rivals in his last two congressional races, the victorious Ron Klein and the narrowly-unsuccessful Elaine Bloom, are Jewish, yet Shaw's yacht club ties were not an issue in those campaigns).

Club manager Darren Betz said he has been at the club for seven years and is not aware of any discriminatory policies. "We're a nice club with good people," Betz said, referring questions about possible past discrimination to the club's attorney, Bruce Weihe, who could not be reached. 

Why didn't Shaw list the LYC connection in answer to a question about membership in clubs with restrictive policies? "I thought I did," he said. "Maybe not." He said he had one day to complete the lengthy questionnaire.    

Shaw, 70, vacationing with his wife Emilie at their home in Cashiers, N.C., said he planned to return to South Florida this weekend. He said he has heard nothing since his interview with Crist last Monday. "What's the governor going to do?" Shaw asked, repeating the most oft-heard question in Florida politics over the past few weeks.

-- Steve Bousquet

Alex Sink camp: Slide in the polls not a problem.

What do Democratic CFO Alex Sink's campaign for governor and Republican Marco Rubio's Senate campaign have in common? They find some good boasting material in polls showing that they're losing.

First, Rubio staff saw some bright spots in a 22-point deficit to Gov. Charlie Crist (more here on that) and now Sink's campaign has sent out a memo to supporters that takes a sunshine-y view of the fact that a Quinnipiac University poll shows she's narrowly down (34-38) to Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum.

No mention of the fact that the numbers have flip-flopped in favor of McCollum, who had been trailing by the same margin (albeit, that prior Q poll was an outlier). Our stuff on the Q poll here. Anyway, the Q poll numbers are much better news for Sink than for Rubio, and the race is essentially dead even.

Here's the text of the email to supporters:

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Jeb turns to a Dem appointee to tout Excellence in Education

Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education has asked District of Columbia schools chancellor Michelle Rhee to be keynote speaker at its second annual national summit on education reform.

Rhee, an appointee of DC Mayor, Adrian Fenty, will join summit host Bush and policymakers from around the nation at the October summit in DC.

"From pay raises to pink slips, Chancellor Rhee is shaking up the status quo to turnaround a school system that has failed students for too long," Bush said. "We are tremendously pleased Chancellor Rhee will join Excellence in Action attendees to share her bold reform strategies for raising student achievement and improving the quality of education."

Rhee has earned mixed grades from teachers and students: The Washington Post recently editorialized that despite rising test scores, it was "hard to celebrate when more than half of the system's students still aren't proficient in the basic skills." Still, it noted, "the evidence suggests that the schools are headed in the right direction."

Ron Klein: Lukewarm on a federally-run health insurance option

Boca Raton Democrat Ron Klein is among the Democrats giving activists who want a federal health care option fits.

During a tele-town hall Wednesday night with constituents, Klein made it clear he's not embraced the call for a federally-run health insurance program -- though he suggested it could have benefits.

He told listeners on the call he's "not yet committed'' to a public option but said it could be a way to bring down costs.

"Until I'm satisfied I'm not going to support the bill and I can't say I'm there yet,'' Klein said.

Republican critics had accused Klein of looking to duck his constituents by holding the meeting via telephone -- and forgoing any chance of face-to-face encounters, but Klein's office said he was able to talk to more than 6,400 people on the call.

Callers ran the gamut from the fans of a federal health insurance plan to a "Don Russo" who said President Barack Obama has surrounded himself with "firm Marxists and Socialists." There were also worries that "all these illegals" will get health care coverage.

Klein explained the bills exclude illegal immigrants. And he said, for the record, he's not a Socialist.

August 26, 2009

Seminoles edge closer to gambling deal

The Seminole Tribe of Florida is inching closer to completing a gambling deal with the state that would allow it to keep the slot machines and card games at its Hard Rock casinos in return for $150 million in annual payments to the state.

Lawyers for the tribe and the governor's office presented a proposed compact to House and Senate negotiators Wednesday in Tallahassee. Rep. Bill Galvano, and the Senate president's chief of staff Bud Kneip, responded by explaining which provisions lawmakers wanted modified.

The tribe will present the options to its tribal counsel for approval by the end of the
week, just days before by a Monday deadline imposed by the Legislature.

"We'll take it under review and get back to them," said Max Osceola, Seminole councilman. He said negotiations this week had brought them closer.

Galvano, a Bradenton Republican and the House's lead negotiator, called the proposal ‘‘a reasonable approach'' that he thinks legislators will support. But, he added, if the tribe comes back with a revised plan that "deviates significantly from where we intended to go as a Legislature," it may be time for the federal government to take over the talks.

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Clay Shaw surging for Senate?

Tallahassee's latest parlor game/game show Who Wants to Be a Senator is now featuring former U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw among the chattering classes as the likely Chosen One. A few days ago, the buzz was all about former U.S. Atty Bobby Martinez. Now, some folks think Shaw now has the best shot, and as evidence of that, there are whispers like:

1) Shaw belonged to a club that once excluded Jews and 2) The NRA strongly opposes him as "anti-gun." Well, number 1 looks false. Number 2 is true.

First off, Shaw acknowledged he belonged to the Lauderdale Yacht Club for years. But, to his knowledge, it wasn't anti-Semitic. When asked about the alleged "no-Jews" policy, he almost laughed.

"There was nothing ever in its bylaws that excluded members that I ever knew of. I co-sponsored members of the Jewish faith. For a period of time I was an honorary member, I just know there was never an exclusionary clause," Shaw said. The Jewish man he sponsored, Ralph Marrinson, said he's not the only one of his faith to be a member. Why such a rumor? Well, in the early 1990s, the state cracked down on yacht clubs that had discrimination policies, but the club that was the target was located in Palm Beach (not Broward) County.

2) Shaw voted for the so-called "assault-weapons ban" in 1994. And for that, there is no forgiveness from the likes of Marion Hammer, chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. When Hammer heard that Shaw was being interviewed, she left a voice-mail message on Gov. Charlie Crist's cell phone.

"The governor's not a gun-banner," Hammer said. "And Clay Shaw, through his votes, is... Florida has more than 6 million gun owners, and 6 million gun owners don't support those who ban guns."

Why would Crist pick Shaw? He knows Washington and, if the governor doesn't pick his former close advisor, George LeMieux, he might feel about as comfortable with Shaw, whose former staffer, Eric Eikenberg, is Crist's staff chief.

For DCF chief, Sen. Kennedy was friend, former boss

DCF Secretary George Sheldon interned for Sen. Kennedy during his freshman year at American University in 1965.

“It was a big deal. You know, I grew up a Republican. Then I saw John Kennedy's inaugural address and I had this conversion. I legitimately worried that he was going to solve all the world's problems before I grew up, and there would be nothing left to do. Sen. Kennedy carried that on."

"If you look at the period of the last half century, Sen. Kennedy was involved in nearly every initiative that occurred," Sheldon said Wednesday. "Even though politically he was somewhat polarizing, if you talk to members of the other party, there was a huge level of respect for his intellect. He is one of those rare individuals that can have an impact on an entire century.”

In 1980, Sheldon chaired Sen. Kennedy's failed presidential campaign in Florida. They remained friends over the years, and Sheldon became good friends with Bobby Kennedy Jr.

“I had an amazing, warm affection for Sen. Kennedy and for the family. I‘ve never known a family that was that close," Sheldon said. "And I found that if they kind of accepted you into the realm, there was an undying loyalty.”

When Sheldon lost his run for Congress in 1982, his phone rang the next morning. It was Sen. Kennedy, calling to say he watched the numbers all night and wished they had gone the other way.

Second House rep calls for McCarty to come explain

So House Speaker Larry Cretul announced earlier this week he was taking Rep. Scott Plakon off the chamber's insurance committee, That was soon after Plakon sent a letter to committee chairman Rep. Pat Patterson, asking for Insurance Commisioner Kevin McCarty to be called to the committee to explain his '$4-billion in new capital' statements of late.

Well, Cretul didn't take Rep. John Wood off the committee, and Wood wants to hear from McCarty, too. He wrote Patterson a letter recently in which he says he supports Plakon's request.

"Commissioner McCarty's input will assist us in determining how to proceed with necessary legislation to improve Florida's property insurance market," Wood wrote.

Read it here: Download JohnWoodMcCartyletter

Racial flyer prompts Republican condemnation

The head of the Republican Party of Florida, Jim Greer, issued a condemnation of a race-baiting flyer in the election to replace Sen. Jim King. The flyer, depicting Black Panthers, President Obama and ACORN members asks Jacksonville Republicans to request absentee ballots because they could face intimidation at the polls. The four-way Republican race has one African-American, Art Graham. The other candidates: former House Speaker John Thrasher, former Rep. Stan Jordan and St. John's County Republican Dan Quiggle. Lots of handwringing over trial lawyers, etc.

The flyer is the work of an attack group, the Conservative Voters’ Coalition, which was established by a Leon County Democrat, Erin Di Cesare. Legal work was done by lobbyist/lawyer/electioneering honcho David Ramba. We couldn't reach Di Cesare, who has worked at FSU as an adjunct professor and has twice voted on Election Day as a Democrat, so why she's repping Republican absentee ballot pushes is anyone's guess.

The Florida Democratic Party already told the Orlando Sentinel that it condemned the flyer and called on others to do so.

In a letter to Di Cesare, Greer tells Di Cesare that the mailer strongly implies a connection to the state party and that it shouldn't use its symbols, namely an elephant.

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