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195 posts from November 2010

November 18, 2010

Experts: Court ruling could complicate future land deals for Everglades

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday upheld -- with one pointed and potentially critical exception -- state water managers' plans to bankroll a $536 million purchase of a big chunk of the U.S. Sugar Corp. empire with bonds.

The justices did reverse part of a Palm Beach County circuit court decision issued last year, cutting out $50 million the agriculture giant had demanded for granting the South Florida Water Managment District a three-year ``option'' to buy an even larger swath in the future. The ruling also prohibited water managers from using the bond money to buy other parcels.

The long-awaited decision came too late to have any direct or immediate effect on a sugar deal Gov. Charlie Crist and environmentalists championed as a key to Everglades restoration. The district's governing board, slammed by plummeting property tax revenues, dropped the bonding plan as too expensive and instead opted for a radically downsized cash buy: $197 million for 26,800 acres of citrus groves and cane fields between the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee.

``I view this as a victory after the fact,'' said Eric Buermann, a Miami attorney who chairs the district's governing board. But he acknowledged that the court's take on the land option could complicate any effort to acquire more land in the future. Read more:

-- Curtis Morgan

Rick Scott inauguration includes 'candle light dinner' for donors

Team Scott just launched the inaugural web site we told you about Wednesday. For your convenience, below is the schedule of events on January 3-4. The run-up to the inauguration will also include a series of events around the state that will be announced in the coming weeks. 

Continue reading "Rick Scott inauguration includes 'candle light dinner' for donors" »

Marco Rubio pushes for a delay in START treaty; President Obama calls it a "national security imperative"

Florida's Sen.-elect Marco Rubio is joining nine other incoming Republican senators in asking for a delay in signing a U.S.-Russia nuclear arms treaty until they get in office.

The letter comes as President Barack Obama declared ratification of the arms treaty "a national security imperative" Thursday, saying the Senate must act before Congress goes home for the year.

But the 10 Republican senators are backing Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl's call for a delay, noting that no arms pacts with Russia has been ratified under a lame duck Congress. In a statement, they said the nuclear pact "would dramatically reduce the U.S. nuclear deterrent.''

The White House is mounting an all-out push for ratification of the treaty, which Obama has made a top foreign policy priority.

Senate vice chairs: 16 D slots, 11 R

Senate President Mike Haridopolos just announced who would serve as the vice chairperson of each committee, after announcing his chairmen earlier this week. Here's a few notes, with the full list below.

The list includes 16 slots for Democrats and 11 slots for Republicans. (You'll remember that two Democrats are chairmen.) Under former President Jeff Atwater, each committee paired a Republican and Democrat as chair/vice chair. This term, there are 11 committees with Republicans in both slots. (Including major committees such as Budget and Rules.) Both Democratic-led committees actually have Democrats also as the vice chairperson. Also, Sen. Paula Dockery finally got a committee leadership post, as vice chairwoman of Commerce and Tourism.

Continue reading "Senate vice chairs: 16 D slots, 11 R" »

Florida Supreme Court upholds only part of purchase of sugar land for Eglades

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday upheld part of the U.S. Sugar deal that allows the South Florida Water Management District to buy 73,000 acres of land from the sugar giant to improve water quality and restore the Everglades. But the court overturned a lower court ruling and prohibited the district from using the same payment method to buy an additional 107,000 acres over three years without additional review.

The most interesting read, however, is the fiesty opinion from Justice Fred Lewis who concurs with the result of the opinion but blasts his colleagues for the way they arrive at it. He accuses the court majority of perpetuating previous flawed rulings that allow local government -- and now the SFWMD -- to issue long-term debt without the constitutionally required voter approval. 

This "perpetuates and expands a distortion of our fundamental organic law, leads us beyond our prior precedent, and denies the voters of this State their constitutional right to determine whether their local governments should issue long-term debt that is ―payable from ad valorem taxation," Lewis writes.

Continue reading "Florida Supreme Court upholds only part of purchase of sugar land for Eglades" »

On the Dream Act, Florida senators diverge; Sen-elect Marco Rubio is against it

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, is a co-sponsor of the legislation that would give college students and military service members in the country illegally a chance to stay -- while Republican George LeMieux is a no vote.

And from the St. Petersburg Times Buzz blog, Alex Leary notes that incoming Sen.-elect Marco Rubio also opposes it.

"As I've said before, obviously there are children who are brought here by their parents when they were very young, illegally, but who are high academic achievers or want to serve in the Armed Forces and we should figure out a way to accommodate children in that specific situation," Rubio said in an interview.

"But the DREAM Act, as I have read it, goes well beyond that. It's much broader and is not the right approach to that issue. In fact, it makes having a legal immigration system that works harder to accomplish. I have the same position I had during the campaign."

LeMieux in September voted against a measure to take up the bill, saying "while I am sympathetic to the students impacted by current law, I cannot support consideration of the DREAM Act until we have taken substantial and effective measures to secure our borders."

Senate President Harry Reid has promised a vote on the Dream Act during Congress' lame duck session -- figuring that its chances for passage are better now than when Democratic numbers dwindle in January in the new Congress.

Miami Republican Rep.-elect David Rivera told NP earlier this week that he's not so sure about the measure -- which puts him and Rubio at odds with their fellow Miami Republicans -- in the House, the DREAM Act is being championed by Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who earlier this week pressed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring the matter up for a vote.

Rick Scott to address Florida business leaders in private

How important is Gov.-elect Rick Scott's speech tonight to the bi-annual meeting of the Florida Council of 100?

Important enough to fly to Orlando from San Diego, where he's attending the Republican Governor's Association meeting. He'll then fly back to the West Coast after the speech, which is scheduled to start during the group's dinner at 7:30 p.m.

Scott's No. 1 priority is to cut taxes and regulations for Florida businesses with the goal that those businesses will use the savings to hire more workers. Scott's first speech since winning the election is to the businesses that presumably will benefit from his policies and create those 700,000 extra jobs he promised on the campaign trail.

But apparently the speech is not important enough to let in any press. 

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The tax legislators passed this week -- a squeeze on orange growers

Fresh off promising that the Florida legislature won't raise a dime in taxes, lawmakers on Tuesday enacted a law that allows citrus growers to triple the one-cent per box tax on oranges and grapefruits to pay for disease research.

The measure, tucked into HB 981, an agriculture bill overridden on Tuesday, won't raise much money in revenue terms -- between $3.5 million to $4.5 million a year. It's a tax the industry asked to have imposed on itself, so that it can use the proceeds to fight the citrus greening disease and, growers say, they'll likely eat the cost.

But for tea party activists who trooped up to the Capitol Tuesday to remind legislators that they are watching, the measure doesn't pass the purity test. To them, it is proof that lawmakers have difficulty matching rhetoric with reality.

``This isn't what they told us about this bill,'' said Everett Wilkinson, head of the South Florida tea party group who came to the Capitol. ``It's obvious they have a hard time following through on their word.'' More here.

November 17, 2010

Citing terrorism threat, Kottkamp seeks FHP escort for b-day trip to Italy

To celebrate his 50th birthday, Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp took a two-week trip to Italy at his own expense, but he sought help from taxpayers.

Kottkamp wanted the state to pay for 24-hour security from his full-time escort and driver, a captain in the Florida Highway Patrol, which would have cost thousands of dollars.

No way, said the director of the agency that runs the state police.

``This expenditure is not a wise use of the state's resources,'' said Julie Jones, executive director of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles in a letter denying Kottkamp's request. More here.


Cufflinks, golf balls and VIP treatment from Rick Scott in return for $25k donation to inaugural ball

Gov.-elect Rick Scott is asking Republican Party of Florida donors of give up to $25,000 to help pay for his inauguration celebration in January.

If you aren't suffering from unemployment, foreclosure or any other indicators of the state's economic meltdown that Scott often cited from the campaign trail and can afford that kind of gift, here's what you'll get:

• 10 VIP tickets to the prayer breakfast
• 10 VIP tickets to the swearing in ceremony
• Four VIP tickets to the parade viewing stand with Gov. and Mrs. Scott
• Four tickets to the VIP reception prior to the inaugural ball with a commemorative VIP photo with Gov. and Mrs Scott.
• 10 VIP tickets to the inaugural ball
• Listing in all inaugural materials
• One set of commemorative cufflinks
• Commemorative Vineyard Vines tote bag
• One pair of commemorative winter scarves
• Sleeve of commemorative golf balls

Continue reading "Cufflinks, golf balls and VIP treatment from Rick Scott in return for $25k donation to inaugural ball" »