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169 posts from December 2010

December 27, 2010

Ex-Plantation council member takes over Broward GOP director job

Rico Petrocelli, who lost his re-election bid to the Plantation City Council in 2009 to Pete Tingom and has agreed to a $1,500 state ethics fine, will now serve as the executive director of the Broward Republican Executive Committee.

The director manages the day to day tasks of the GOP's main political group in Broward. BREC has suffered from high turnover in the director position and sluggish fundraising. Petrocelli, who also owns the Plantation Journal online commmunity newspaper, wouldn't reveal how much money he will be paid by BREC. Chair Richard DeNapoli announced Petrocelli's appointment today.

While the GOP is in a strong position statewide after the November sweep, the Broward GOP has its work cut out for them: the party has had scattered, sporadic success at winning local offices and the party is on track to become the third party in Broward -- voters who don't identify with either major party only lag behind registered Republicans by about two dozen.

Petrocelli agreed to a $1,500 ethics fine from the Florida Commission on Ethics earlier this year. That fine stems from Petrocelli seeking donations from entities with interests in the city for a holiday party for the Plantation Athletic League that were deemed to be for his own political benefit. He is awaiting the order from the governor before paying the fine -- standard procedure.

In a press release, Petrocelli emphasized the goals of increasing GOP voter registration, reaching out to the business community and uniting toward "the common goal of electing Republicans." He also serves as a commissioner of the Broward County Housing Authority.


Alex Sink on her loss, Rick Scott's agenda, the media, and Florida's future

Here's a few notebook excerpts from our year-end interviews with Democrat Alex Sink. She is retiring Jan. 4 as chief financial officer after losing the governror's race to Republican Rick Scott. Here's the story.

On the representation of business interests in Tallahassee:

Small business is Florida's "economic engine" and it's biggest challenge is access to credit, primarily through the community banks and regional banks which are limited as to where they can get credit since "the TARP funds and federal stimulus money went primarily to the large financial institutions.

"But yet when I did my endorsement interview with the Florida Chamber, for example, they weren’t asking me anything about the issues that businesses were telling me were there challenges. There’s a big disconnect there. I’m interested in seeing a stronger economy and figuring out whether there’s a place for my voice and my passion to be more representative for the real issues that small businesses are facing when it comes to policy.

"The large corporations are the one’s that fund the Florida Chamber, so they earn their way onto the PAC board. That was a big aha for me."

On coming 62,000 votes short of winning:

Continue reading "Alex Sink on her loss, Rick Scott's agenda, the media, and Florida's future" »

Scott urged to move cautiously with long list of suggested reforms

Governor-elect Rick Scott promises it won't be business as usual when he takes the reins of the state's highest office on Jan. 4, and if he adopts the giant to-do list from the six groups on his transition team, there may be no doubt he has kept his promise.

The wide-ranging list of recommendations cover everything from considering the sale of Jackson Memorial Hospital to giving universal vouchers to all parents to send their children to private schools.

The ideas contemplate merging more than a dozen state agencies into two or three departments, raising residential electricity rates in exchange for lower commercial rates, privatizing the state's mental health facilities, punishing the unemployed for spending too little time hunting for jobs and even identifying a private-sector employee to run the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Continue reading "Scott urged to move cautiously with long list of suggested reforms" »

December 26, 2010

Alex Sink seeks new role as moderate voice and party builder

Stung by a narrow defeat in a governor's race she says she never expected to lose, Alex Sink is retiring from public office, but not from public view.

The departure of the chief financial officer and Democrat, who lost to Republican Rick Scott by 62,000 votes, leaves Tallahassee with no Democratic statewide officeholder left standing. Dozens of Sink's employees must either leave government or seek work with Republicans, who control the Legislature and all three Cabinet posts.

To fill a void, and continue the policy work begun by her campaign, Sink told The Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times that she wants to establish a nonprofit, nonpartisan, Brookings Institution-style think tank to advance the policies she focused on during her campaign and to keep herself in play for her next political move.

``I'm not closing any doors,'' said Sink, 62. ``I'm at the stage of my life when I've learned never to say never.'' Story here.

Crist sums up term: 'it was a difficult time to govern'

He rode a wave of optimism into office four years ago, but Gov. Charlie Crist leaves behind a very different Florida when his term expires next week.

Crist himself has changed, too. Long stripped of his once-sky high popularity and no longer a Republican, he departs as a failed United States Senate candidate with his political career finished for now, his future uncertain.

As Florida's 44th governor, Crist goes down in history as the first who could have sought reelection and didn't, an option since 1968 when the constitution was amended to allow a second term.

He chose instead to pursue ambition over a long-term policy agenda, with devastating personal consequences. As a result, his record has an unfinished feel. Read story here.

-- Steve Bousquet


December 23, 2010

Gary Siplin introduces "Merry Christmas" legislation

Just in time for the holidays, state Sen. Gary Siplin, a Democrat from Orlando, filed legislation yesterday that would make "Merry Christmas" Florida's official greeting on Dec. 25. Of course, as it's just a resolution, there are no penalties associated with using "Happy holidays and seasons greetings," as CFO Alex Sink did in a holiday message she tweeted and e-mailed today. Senate President Mike Haridopolos and Gov.-elect Rick Scott, both Republicans, went with Merry Christmas in their messages, indicating there may be bipartisan support for Siplin's proposal during the session.

Here's the complete text of Sipln's resolution:

WHEREAS, Christmas, a holiday of great significance to most Americans and many other cultures and nationalities, is celebrated annually by Christians throughout the United States and the world, and
WHEREAS, on December 25 of each calendar year, American Christians observe Christmas, the holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, and
WHEREAS, popular modern customs of the holiday include gift-giving, music, the exchange of greeting cards, a special meal, church celebrations, and the display of Christmas trees, lights, and nativity scenes, and
WHEREAS, many Christians and non-Christians throughout the United States and the rest of the world celebrate Christmas as a time to cherish and serve others, NOW, THEREFORE,
Be It Resolved by the Senate of the State of Florida:
That “Merry Christmas” is recognized as the State of Florida’s official greeting for December 25.

AG-elect Bondi taps Muniz as second in command

Attorney General-Elect Pam Bondi today announced that Carlos Muñiz will serve as her Deputy Attorney General and Chief of Staff. Muñiz is currently a shareholder in the Tallahassee office of the law firm GrayRobinson.  He presviously worked as deputy general counsel to now-Chief Justice Charles Canady. And he also worked as a staff attorney for former House Speaker Marco Rubio and was instrumental in preparing the lawsuit against Gov. Charlie Crist's compact with the Seminole Tribe. Muñiz is a graduate of the University of Virginia and of Yale Law School, where he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

December 22, 2010

Scott's economic development report wants Scott to expand marketing. lower taxes

The conclusions of the Economic Development transition team were embedded in a 109-page report, comprised of Power Point slides, and one simple mission statement for Florida under Gov.-elect Rick Scott: “Creating the most prosperous state in the nation.”

To get there, the report recommends consolidating Florida's diverse, economic development organizations because the current structure is decentralized, "without strong leadership...not properly focused on job creation...and leads to unnecessary intra-state competition.”

Taxes on businesses should get the ax, the advisors said. Unemployment compensation taxes should be cut, impact fees paid by developers should be eliminated for two years, capital investment tax credits should be expanded -- to companies that spend only $2 million and create 20 jobs -- and payroll taxes should be lowered for companies who pay 200 percent of state wages.

Continue reading "Scott's economic development report wants Scott to expand marketing. lower taxes" »

UPDATED: FPL official gives his company special treatment in Scott transition report

After reading hundreds of pages of reports from the transition teams to Gov.-elect Rick Scott, one section stood out today, authored by Sam Forrest, Florida Power & Light's vice president of Energy Marketing & Trading.
Although the report from the Economic Development Transition Team makes no mention of the fact that Forrest works for FPL, he authored the section on "Strategic Investments into the State of Florida/Renewable Energy." The section devotes two of the seven slides to FPL's argument -- that Floridians are willing to pay more on their electric bills to build 700 megawatts of solar energy.
FPL is hoping to get legislative approval again this year for exactly that -- 700 megawatts of solar power for which it wants the authority to raise customer bills to pay for it. There is no mention of other approaches to achieving a broader market for solar power, such as allowing homeowners or companies to generate their solar energy and sell it back to power companies, and no mention of allowing competitors to FPL and other electricity giants into the marketplace.

Continue reading "UPDATED: FPL official gives his company special treatment in Scott transition report" »

Florida TaxWatch, Southern Poverty Law Center applaud Scott's transition team recs on juvenile justice

Florida TaxWatch CEO Dominic Calabro says implementing some of the recommendations made by Rick Scott's transition team on juvenile justice will save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. Specifically, Calabro's organization and the Southern Poverty Law Center want Florida legislators to agree to the suggestion not to incarcerate juveniles guilty of misdemeanors, saying it could save $30 million annually. But what about lawmakers who want to make sure voters see them as "tough on crime?" The SPL's Vanessa Carroll says this: "The research shows that when you put those children into residential facilities they're going to be more likely to reoffend. So that's actually not helping public safety." As it is now, 70 percent of the juveniles behind bars are there for nonviolent crimes, and 44 percent are there for misdemeanors and probation violation.

Calabro, whose organization was represented on Scott's law and order transition team group, said that given the state's budget crisis, he expects lawmakers this session will be more open to ideas for saving money in the criminal justice system.

As to the transition team's proposal to merge the departments of Juvenile Justice and Children and Families, one of many organizational mergers contemplated by Scott, Calabro gives that a thumbs up, even though he acknowledges the logistics of such consolidations can be problematic. “Historically, the juice has not been worth the squeeze. You usually end up with more costs. But in this case, because of the nature of this governor, because of his orientation, because of his commitment, I think you will see substantial cost reductions. I actually applaud him for thinking like that," he said.