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237 posts from December 2009

December 24, 2009

Bill Nelson hails the passage of the health care bill -- and his "Gator Aid"

The Senate's version of the health care bill passed this morning with Florida's two senators casting divergent votes.

Bill Nelson voted in favor: "During these many months of debate over health-care reform, my goal has been to pass legislation to make coverage affordable and available to everyone. Regardless of where we stand on specifics, I think most can agree the system is broken and needs to be fixed. While the Senate bill I voted for isn't perfect, it has many good elements. It will prevent insurers from dropping the sick and stop them from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. It also will reduce the deficit. And it includes one of my amendments to protect 800,000 seniors in Medicare HMOs all over Florida. Congress still has to merge this bill with the House version. And I’ve told negotiators I want them to close the "donut hole" gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage."

Nelson's amendment to grandfather Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in Florida has drawn criticism as one of the goodies ladled out by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to get the legislation passed. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote that Capitol Hill critics have dubbed it "Gator Aid."

But Politicfact notes that Florida seniors wouldn't be the only ones covered.

Continue reading "Bill Nelson hails the passage of the health care bill -- and his "Gator Aid"" »

December 23, 2009

Quite the post-Xmas sale at the Rothstein auction

You want a piece of Scott Rothstein?

You can buy it at a Jan. 23 auction. The full inventory of what was left behind at Scott Rothstein's law firm is now posted in bankruptcy court.

There are several signed photos of politicians including Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti, Gov. Charlie Crist, Attorney General Bill McCollum and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (plus a limited edition knife signed by that governor.)

Photos of other political figures linclude U.S. Sen. John McCain, Sen. Joe Lieberman, former Gov. Jeb Bush, former U.S. Senatoror Mel Martinez, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Also listed: lots of sports memorabiliia including shoes signed by Shaq and signed Dolphins footballs. There are plenty of other fancy goodies including binoculars, a humidor, cuff links and a crystal ice bucket.

Update: PSC staff recommends FPL gets a fraction of its rate request

   State regulators should allow Florida Power & Light to raise its base rates $357 million starting next year, less than two-thirds lof what the company said it needed to operate without layoffs, the staff of the Public Service Commission recommended Wednesday.

   In a 518-page report, the staff of the regulatory agency disagreed with the company's argument that it needs the $1.3 billion in cash to pay for operations and invest in new plants. Instead, it said the company should tap $314 million in surplus and make dozens of other modifications to its operating budget.

    The staff proposal will be one of several factors the PSC takes into consideration when it votes on the rate case, scheduled for Jan. 13. The commission conducted more than two weeks of hearings, heard dozens of witnesses and collected thousands of pages of documents from FPL and the consumer advocates and business groups who opposed the rate increase.

Continue reading "Update: PSC staff recommends FPL gets a fraction of its rate request" »

Charlie Crist on passing over Diaz-Balart's judicial pick

Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart said yesterday that Gov. Charlie Crist knows the reason why he and brother Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart rescinded their endorsements of his Senate bid. "The governor knows why we withdrew and he left us with no choice," he said.

The reason, sources familiar with the situation say, is that Crist overlooked a candidate for a North Florida judgeship who is friendly with Lincoln's son. But as Crist loses ground to Cuban-American rival Marco Rubio in the Senate race, the last thing he needs is to get into a war of words with two Hispanic members of congress. Asked today if they withdrew their support because of the judicial appointment, Crist said: "No comment. The whole situation saddens me."

Diaz-Balart would not say yesterday whether the judicial pick was the reason, but he did restate his support for his preferred candidate, Frank Allman, who met his law student son when he interned at the Gadsden County State Attorney's Office.

In an obvious screw-up by Crist's staff, a spokesman for the governor says he never saw the letter from Diaz-Balart. The Gadsden County judge Crist appointed over Allman, Kathy Garner, is the first African-American and first woman to serve on the bench of the predominantly black county. "I believed her to be the best qualified,'' Crist said today.

One person in the whole saga who isn't holding a grudge is Allman, a prosecutor and former police officer. He wrote a gracious concession letter congratulating Garner that ran in the Nov. 15 edition of the Tallahassee Democrat.

On Monday Kathy Garner will take office as a Gadsden County Judge, appointed by the governor to
replace the Honorable Stewart Parsons, who is retiring. Along with five other attorneys, I applied for the position of county court judge. I applied because I love this county and wanted to serve its people, about whom I care so much. The application and vetting process is complicated and intense. During the more than 13 years I have lived and worked in Gadsden County I have been privileged to meet and get to know so many wonderful people who live here. I was truly humbled by all of the support I received. Thank you all so very, very much. You are the reason my wife and I choose to live in and raise our children here in beautiful Gadsden County.However, the appointment process is now over, and we have a new county judge. Kathy Garner deserves our respect and our support in her new position. I ask all the people of Gadsden County to welcome Judge Garner as she takes the bench and wish her the best.

December 22, 2009

How Bob Graham could have changed Al Gore's life

Thumb Syndicated columnist Mark Shields writes: Based only on a strong hunch, I'm willing to bet that if Al Gore could change one decision in his public life, it would be that, as the 2000 Democratic presidential nominee, he would have asked then-U.S. Sen. Bob Graham of Florida -- not Joe Lieberman of Connecticut -- to be his vice presidential running-mate.Think about it: Gore lost the White House because, by the "official" count, he lost Florida by 537 votes out of nearly 6 million cast. Graham, who never lost a Florida election and was twice elected the state's governor and three times U.S. senator (and who had the sense and strength in 2002 to oppose the U.S. going to war against Iraq), would undoubtedly have guaranteed Gore's winning the Sunshine State's 25 electoral votes and the White House. A Gore-Graham 2000 ticket would have meant, simply, that there would never have been either a President George W. Bush or a Vice President Dick Cheney.

This is not a new theory, of course, but I bet some Democrats think it bears repeating. Shields' full column -- which is mostly about Lieberman and his role in the current healthcare debate -- is here.

George LeMieux on the Diaz-Balart's reversal? You'll have to ask them

A week ago, Miami Republican Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart, were lauding Gov. Charlie Crist's pick for a vacated Senate seat, saying George LeMieux "has already become a force to be reckoned with in Western Hemispheric affairs.''

Now they've turned their backs on Crist, but LeMieux -- a close Crist associate -- declined Tuesday to provide any backstory.

"I think the best thing to do is really to ask them," LeMieux said. He noted he had been working with the brothers on his efforts to block the nomination of Tom Shannon, the incoming US ambassador to Brazil, until the State Department agreed to some concessions.

"We've been working very closely on a lot of foreign policy issues," LeMieux said. "I've had private conversations with them about politics, but I really think the best thing is for you to speak to them."

The real story behind the Diaz-Balarts' pulled endorsement?

Images In September, U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Miami took an interest in a judicial vacancy all the way in Gadsden County in north Florida. He wrote a letter -- read it here Download SKMBT_C35309122216360 -- urging Gov. Charlie Crist to appoint Frank Allman Jr., an assistant state attorney. Allman says he's a friend of Diaz-Balart's son, a student at Florida State University, but didn't want to comment further on their relationship.

But in October, Crist chose Kathy Garner and made history. She's the first woman and the first African-American judge in the predominantly black county. Crist put her appointment on hold after staff learned of "financial issues." Garner said the delay was because she had been late in paying property taxes on several commercial properties.

About two weeks later, Crist removed the hold and Garner was sworn in. Could this be the reason Diaz-Balart and his brother, Mario Diaz-Balart have pulled their early endorsement of Crist for U.S. Senate?

The Diaz-Balarts withdraw Charlie Crist endorsement

Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart have pulled their endorsement of Gov. Charlie Crist for the U.S. Senate.

Lincoln offered few details as to why, just that Crist had "left us no alternative and he knows why."

From Crist spokeswoman Andrea Saul: "Gov. Crist is enthused by the support he continues to receive across the state for next year's primary. He looks forward to working with the Diaz-Balart's and the entire congressional delegation to better the lives of Floridians as Florida's next U.S. senator."

The move is a significant blow to the governor's campaign, which has struggled in recent weeks with sliding poll numbers. Diaz-Balart said the withdrawal has nothing to do with Crist's recent political performance, and in fact, said the the decision was made weeks ago. But their names were only recently pulled off Crist's webpage. He said the two Miami Republicans are unlikely to endorse anyone else in the race -- including former House Speaker Marco Rubio.

The pair doesn't take endorsements lightly -- backing Bill McCollum in the Senate Republican primary in 2004 against the eventual winner, Mel Martinez.

"We take our endorsements seriously, but the governor knows why we withdrew and he left us with no alternative,' Lincoln Diaz-Balart said.

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December 21, 2009

Video: Alex Sink and the art of question dodging

Sometimes it's the silent treatment. Other times it comes with a cheery "Merry Christmas." Either way, Florida's Chief Financial Officer knows how to dodge questions.

Jim Greer has not yet begun to fight

In response to the daily calls for him to resign, Republican Party of Florida state chairman Jim Greer has this to say: ain't happenin'

In a letter to state committee members, Greer writes: "It is treason that for the sake of personal ambition that members of this party are airing dirty laundry."

He also notes several key stats for Florida's GOP: A 26-14 lead in the state Senate, a 76-44 lead in the House and a 15-10 lead in U.S. House seats. On the personal front, he reminds readers that he received a 25-2 vote of confidence at the December party board meeting.

At the end of the letter, Greer offers this warning: "I would tell them that a person’s reputation is precious, and that I will use every resource in my command to actively protect mine."

Full text below:

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