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240 posts from January 2011

January 28, 2011

David Rivera's other problem?

U.S. Rep. David Rivera may have another worry aside from state and local criminal investigations into his finances: His longtime opponents and rivals in Miami-Dade Republican circles.

Rivera has acquired a lot of them over the years, starting with former colleague and state Rep. J.C. Planas, a Westchester Republican who squabbled often with the sharp-tongued and crafty Rivera over the years. Planas said unnamed supporters and Republicans have asked him to run. And he might.

"We need representation from someone who doesn't have a cloud over his head," said Planas.

A big name and one-time political opponent in 2010, state Sen. Anitere Flores, isn't dampening speculation about a bid: "No comment on Congress," she said in a text message. "Right now, I'm focused on serving my constituents from the state senate." A good number of those constituents in Senate District 38 (which Rivera and Flores were both vying for before he ran for Congress last yeat) just happen to live in Congressional District 25. The battle between the two was shaping up to be a slug-fest. Maybe it was postponed till 2012.

Continue reading "David Rivera's other problem?" »

Gov. Scott wants to scrutinize SunRail, other contracts

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has slammed the brakes on Central Florida's $1.2 billion SunRail project, putting a hold on $235 million in contracts for the project. Those contracts, flagged as "urgent" by the Florida Department of Transportation, include $168 million to design and build the first phase of the line and $39 million to buy cars, according to documents released late Friday by the governor's office.

An executive order issued by Scott immedately after taking the oath of office froze 900 regulations working their way towards approval and hundreds of contracts worth more than $1 million each until he could give them his ok. Scott has pledged to eliminate "job-killing" regulations. So far, he hasn't rejected any regulations, but has only approved about two dozen.

The SunRail contracts are among the first targeted by the governor for further scrutiny. He also wants to take a closer look at 26 contracts including $1.2 million for a wastewater project in Columbia County, $18 million for outpatient diagnostic imaging services, $1.2 million to add energy-savings features to an FDLE building, $1.3 million to put solar panels on state buildings, and $4.5 million for pharmaceutical devices used for birth control.

DEP closing 53 state parks?

The Department of Environmental Protection has proposed closing 53 of its 160 state parks, among other cutbacks in services, should the agency be required to slash 15 percent of its budget this year.

DEP's proposal, which would save about $47 million, was presented at Wednesday's House Agriculture and Natural Resources Approproations Subcommittee (look at pages 37-40). The proposals have become a common exercise for agencies amid the state's recent lean years.

Closing state parks with the lowest attendance and no camping facilities would save a quick $6.5 million, DEP said, but that would also mean the end of recurring revenues from those spaces. Here's a list of the parks, which includes Tampa's Ybor City Museum State Park and Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park in Islamorada.

Naturally, Audobon of Florida is not a fan. “These may be the least-visited state parks, but they are often a substantial contributor to Florida’s smallest and most rural communities,” wrote Julie Wraithmell, the group's wildlife conservation director, in a Friday news release. "Florida state parks also provide an outstanding, affordable recreational opportunity to Florida’s families—all the more important in the current economy.” 

Fortunately for Audobon, neither is Rep. Trudi Williams, the subcommittee's Republican chairwoman from Fort Myers. Here's the chairwoman's e-mail to Naked Politics:

“With a 4 billion dollar budget shortfall, times are tough in the state of Florida. While I applaud DEP for their willingness to explore all avenues as a means to decrease our spending, I think that it is far too premature to conclude that 53 state parks will be closed in an effort retain an estimated 6.5 million dollars. When you consider the income that these parks bring in to the state and the quality of life that they afford our citizens, I would hope that there are other means in which we can responsibly cut back.  It should be noted that this proposal was made by agency staff and before Secretary Vinyard was appointed, and therefore the priorities of Secretary Vinyard may not be reflec

Rep. Rich Glorioso, eight others to interview for top state transportation job

The Florida Transportation Commission today selected nine applicants to interview replacements for state Transportation Department Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos. Kopelousos is leaving for a job as Clay County manager.

Gov. Rick Scott wanted Washington DC transportation consultant Tyler Duvall for the job. But he was not among the 4 who applied.

Instead, the commission will interview these nine applicants on Feb. 11 in Orlando:

Richard Anderson, Georgia Regional Transportation Authority; Thomas Conrecode of Collier Enterprises, Florida; Jorge Figueredo, Figuredo Solutions, Florida; state Rep. Rick Glorioso, R-Sarasota; Gordon Goodin, Bayside Development Co., Florida; Janet Kavinoky, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Bernie Seel, Seel Jackson Consulting of Indiana; Thomas Sorel, Minnesota DOT; and Anath Prasad, Florida DOT.

How the deadly police shootings embolden gun-rights lawmakers

Johnny Simms wasn't supposed to have a gun. Neither was Hydra Lacy.

Both men were felons. Each man murdered two police officers in separate cities, Miami and St. Petersburg.

The explosion of gun violence hasn't gone unnoticed in the state Capitol, where lawmakers in the pro-gun Florida Legislature say the tragedies underscore the need to loosen the regulation of guns -- rather than restrict them.

``What these cases show is that gun regulation doesn't keep guns away from criminals,'' Sen. Greg Evers said. ``It's time we get more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens so they can protect themselves. You don't bring a knife to a gun fight.''

Evers, R-Baker, is sponsoring two controversial gun bills this legislative session. One would restrict physicians from asking patients about the presence of firearms in the home. The other bill would allow holders of concealed weapon permits to wear their guns in the open -- including on college campuses. About 780,000 Floridians have such permits.

A third bill would ensure that local governments in Florida can't pass gun-control laws.

Full story here (sorry folks, forgot to blog full story from the other day)

Previous gun story here

How the deadly police shootings embolden gun-rights lawmakers

Johnny Simms wasn't supposed to have a gun. Neither was Hydra Lacy.

Both men were felons. Each man murdered two police officers in separate cities, Miami and St. Petersburg.

The explosion of gun violence hasn't gone unnoticed in the state Capitol, where lawmakers in the pro-gun Florida Legislature say the tragedies underscore the need to loosen the regulation of guns -- rather than restrict them.

``What these cases show is that gun regulation doesn't keep guns away from criminals,'' Sen. Greg Evers said. ``It's time we get more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens so they can protect themselves. You don't bring a knife to a gun fight.''

Evers, R-Baker, is sponsoring two controversial gun bills this legislative session. One would restrict physicians from asking patients about the presence of firearms in the home. The other bill would allow holders of concealed weapon permits to wear their guns in the open -- including on college campuses. About 780,000 Floridians have such permits.

A third bill would ensure that local governments in Florida can't pass gun-control laws.

Full story here (sorry folks, forgot to blog full story from the other day)

AP: David Rivera failed to explain expenses

This just in from the Associated Press (we added the boldface and link):

Freshman U.S. Rep. David Rivera, who is facing a state criminal investigation of his finances, paid himself nearly $60,000 in unexplained campaign reimbursements over the eight years he served in the state legislature, an Associated Press examination of his records shows.

Serving as his own campaign treasurer, the Miami Republican didn't report any details for more than a third of the roughly $160,000 in expenses for which he reimbursed himself, other than simply calling them campaign expenses, according to the records.

The AP review also shows his total reimbursements far exceeded those claimed by 12 other top Florida state legislators who served with him. Those lawmakers - both Democrats and Republicans - usually gave at least some explanation of how the money had been spent, as required by Florida law. Rivera denies wrongdoing.

The AP story comes after House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told reporters earlier this week that he is monitoring the probe into Rivera's finances.

Hillary Clinton to head to Haiti

With the country still convulsing from a chaotic election in November and no new president yet determined, the State Department says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to Haiti Sunday "to consult with members of civil society, political actors, Haiti’s president and international partners on the ongoing electoral situation as well as reconstruction efforts. "

The U.S. is trying to get Haiti to accept the results of a survey by the Organization of American States and drop the government-backed candidate as it proceeds to a second round of voting.

State says that in addition to meeting with Haitian President Rene Preval, Clinton will also meet with leaders of civil society and electoral candidates, the Special Representative of the United Nations and visit a cholera treatment clinic. 

"The United States and Haiti share the mutual commitment to building Haiti anew after the devastating earthquake one year ago, and to ensure a strong future for Haiti’s people and its democracy," the State Department said.

Updated: Adam Putnam's daughter turns down $10,000 fertilizer check, takes iPods instead

Agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam's daughter, Abigail, caused a stir when fertilizer giant Mosaic paid $10,000 this week for a chocolate hazelnut cake she entered into a Youth Fair Auction in Polk County. Fair officials said it was an unprecedented sum for an auction cake.

Speaking at a Capital Tiger Bay Club meeting on Friday, Putnam said the incident created two crises.

First, his 8-year-old daughter, Libby, who also entered contest, lost to her older sister. Then came news of the $10,000 award. Abigail wanted to give the county fair $9,000, her 4-H Club $500 and keep $500 for herself, the usual going rate for auction cakes. But the award would have violated the state's gift ban.

And so, Putnam negotiated with his daughter, offering to buy her an iPod instead. She countered that she wanted three iPods, so her sisters, including 7-year-old Emma, could have them as well. 

"It's been extremely awkward and embarrassing," Putnam said. "And it's gone viral."  

Some club members wanted a copy of the recipe, but Putnam said he just wants it all to go away.

Mosaic officials expressed embarrassment yesterday over the incident, saying they had  "initiated an aggressive investigation" into the matter. Putnam said he was told the woman who made the bid had not told her supervisors that she was making the offer on the cake.

Scott wants to take Enterprise Florida in a 'different direction', owes former president $132k

Florida Gov. Rick Scott was beaming after his first meeting Thursday with Enterprise Florida, a public-private partnership development arm of the state.

He received a standing ovation from his colleagues in the business world after promising to make at least one foriegn trade mission in the next four months and continuing his drum beat for more tax cuts and fewer regulations.

But shortly after the two-hour meeting, Scott sent a hand-delivered letter to fire Enterprise Florida President John A. Adams Jr. In the letter (read it here), Scott says he is "determined to move in a different direction."

Adams is likely owned at least $132,000, his annual base salary. His contract (also here) stipulates that he will be paid a full year's salary upon termination.

Here's what Scott said about his decision this morning:

"I'm putting together a team of people that I believe are going to move our state forward. I've got to make sure that the things I'm focused on, turning the economy around, 700,000 jobs, reducing regulations, filling jobs, making sure we hold government accountable, all those things.

I'm going to surround myself with people I believe will help me get there. I believe I'll find someone who will help me get there."