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240 posts from January 2011

January 28, 2011

Scott will talk high speed rail and ports with U.S. DOT head in D.C. today

Gov. Rick Scott will spend this weekend in Washington, D.C., (he says he'll be going to church there on Sunday), making the first of what he says will be frequent trips to the nation's capital. He has meetings scheduled this afternoon with U.S. education head Arne Duncan and transportation chief Ray LaHood

While speaking to reporters today on his way to St. Petersburg where he will attend the funerals for slain police officers, Scott said he expects he and LaHood will talk about high speed rail. The talk comes after President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech, where he emphasized the importance of a national bullet train network.  "They're clearly focused on making sure high speed rail happens," Scott said. "My focus is making sure that I understand what the costs are going to be and if the private sector is willing to step up.”

Top on Scott's agenda for that meeting: Florida's ports, which need dredging to facilitate additional international trade when widening of the Panama Canal is completed.

Scott also reitereated his education goals, saying he wants to make sure Florida keeps the best teachers and that parents have as much choice as possible in selecting where their children go to school.

He said he's not concerned about backlash to the teacher pay concept that prompted former Gov. Charlie Crist to veto the legislation last year.  “Great teachers are going to be very supportive of what I propose," he said, noting that one of his daughters is a teacher and she believes in measuring performance.

"The teachers that I talk to, they believe in measurement," he said. "They want the best teachers around. They know that if they’re really good they ought to get paid better.”

In memoriam: Amanda Ros, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's mother

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's mother and family matriarch, Amanda Ros, died early Friday from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. Ros-Lehtinen had missed the State of the Union and a committee meeting this week to stay in Miami with her mom.

"My mother made a friend of everyone she met," Ros-Lehtinen said. "She had a wonderfully positive personality and lived life to the fullest. She was the glue that held our family together. My brother and I had a special bond with her because she made us the center of her universe.

 "My greatest aspiration has not been to be a Member of Congress or the Chairman of an important Committee but to be the type of loving mother to my children that she was to me. She was my father's soul mate and they had a beautiful marriage of 65 years. When she married my Dad at 19, some thought the marriage would not last because she was Jewish and my father was Catholic. She converted to Catholicism but taught me to be proud of my Jewish roots.

 "My mother always had a clever Cuban saying for every situation and I was astounded that she could remember so many at the appropriate time. My mom worked hard for a free Cuba and it saddens me deeply that she never got the opportunity to see her native homeland bathed in liberty and democracy."

Continue reading "In memoriam: Amanda Ros, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's mother" »

George LeMieux: Nelson shouldn't have "given up" Armed Services

The former Florida senator -- who is looking to challenge Bill Nelson in 2012 to return to DC -- is Tweeting this morning about Nelson's loss of a seat on the powerful Armed Services committee.

"Florida's loss of seat on Armed Services is bad for Florida," the Republican tweeted. "Sen. Nelson should not have given it up."

A spokesman for Nelson called LeMieux's tweet "grossly inaccurate," saying Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asked Nelson to give up his seat on the committee because the Florida senator was already on more than three major committees.

"So the suggestion by George LeMieux that Sen. Nelson gave up something is outlandish and a sign he'd say or do anything for political purposes," said Dan McLaughlin

With more Republicans elected last fall, there were fewer Democratic committee seats and Democrats had to give up coveted committee seats, including Broward Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who lost a seat on the appropriations committee. 

Marco Rubio names DC insider -- former Dick Cheney advisor -- as chief of staff

From Rubio's shop: "Florida Sen. Marco Rubio announced today that veteran policy advisor Cesar Conda will serve as Chief of Staff in his Senate office. Conda previously worked with Senator Rubio as a policy advisor on his 2010 Senate campaign and his Senate Transition.

"After a long and exhaustive search, I am pleased to announce that Cesar Conda has agreed to come on board as my Chief of Staff. During the campaign, Cesar was a valued policy advisor and as we transitioned into the Senate, his counsel was fundamental in putting together our staff and ensuring that our offices in Washington and throughout Florida were open on Day One. Cesar brings a wealth of policy, legislative, political and management experience that will greatly aid our office’s mission of serving the people of Florida," said Senator Rubio.

"Conda brings over 25 years of experience to Senator Rubio’s office. He has previously worked in the White House as Assistant to the Vice President for Domestic Policy and as a senior staffer on Capitol Hill in the 1980s and 1990s. In the Senate, Conda served as Senator Spencer Abraham’s (R-MI) Legislative Director and as Minority Staff Director of the Senate Small Business Committee under Senator Robert Kasten (R-WI). He has advised several presidential campaigns including the 1996 Dole-Kemp presidential campaign and the 2008 Mitt Romney for President campaign. He was also an economic analyst at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Continue reading "Marco Rubio names DC insider -- former Dick Cheney advisor -- as chief of staff " »

January 27, 2011

Scott holds second private dinner with lawmakers at the mansion

Three Republican leaders, two of them designated to be House speakers, dined on mesquite grilled swordfish, corn macque choux, and Florida strawberry shortcake at a two-hour private dinner at the mansion with Gov. Rick Scott Thursday.

The meeting "really was a social visit,'' said House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami, who joined Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who is designated to become House speaker in 2012 and Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, who is scheduled to take over in 2014.

Although the governor was not required by law to open the meeting to the public, the legislators were on their honor to refrain from discussing any pending legislation or they would violate Florida government in the sunshine laws. The governor did not include the meeting on his public schedule.

"It was a very light discussion about how he's going to deliver his budget but, just generalities -- the timing and logistics of it,'' Lopez Cantera said.

Continue reading "Scott holds second private dinner with lawmakers at the mansion" »

From the Miami Herald to the White House

There's always a Florida connection. The new White House press secretary, Jay Carney, began his journalism career at the Miami Herald.

Bios note that Carney -- who replaces Robert Gibbs -- started his journalism career at the newspaper in 1987. He worked in the Key West bureau and left in 1988 to become Miami bureau chief for Time magazine. He most recently was vice president Joe Biden's communications director.

Not many journalists get chosen for the top communications post.

Adam Putnam's daughter bakes a $10,000 cake

Fertilizer giant Mosaic Co., paid $10,000 on Tuesday for a chocolate hazelnut cake baked by the 9-year-old daughter of ag commissioner Adam Putnam. Young Abigail had baked the cake for the annual Youth Fair Auction, and Mosaic plopped down the cash for the confection, the Lakeland Ledger reported this week.

Fair officials said it was an unprecedented sum, with most cakes going for $200 to $500. Adam Putnam told the Ledger the situation was "awkward," and his daughter pomptly contributed $9,000 of her winnings to the Youth Fair.

"Even my 9-year-old knows a cake isn't worth $10,000," he told the paper.

Mosaic spokesman Russell Schweiss said the company is looking into the matter.

"This situation is embarassing for Mosaic and our employees and is not characteristic of how the company represents itself," he said. "We've initiated an aggressive investigation to understand exactly what happened at the fair so that we may take swift and appropriate actions."

Bill Nelson asks Justice for help thwarting cop-killing fugitives

In the wake of the deaths of four Florida law enforcement officers, Bill Nelson is asking the U.S. Justice Department to consider giving hand-held radar or heat-detecting devices that can penetrate walls to deputized federal agents when they have warrants and are on dangerous manhunts. 

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Nelson asked whether such new technologies - including so-called "sense-through-the-wall" devices, developed for use by the U.S. military - should be among the tools provided to agents of federal task forces when they have warrants to apprehend felons considered armed and dangerous. 

Nelson says he’d be willing to sponsor legislation to create a pilot program. New technologies "could greatly shift the odds in favor of the good guys, before they have to enter a building where a fugitive is hiding out," Nelson wrote.

Nelson’s request come after the shooting deaths of two police officers in Miami, and two in St. Petersburg. All were killed while trying to arrest fugitives.

Marco Rubio gets committee assignments: foreign relations, intelligence; Nelson loses Armed Services post

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio today landed perches on several key committees: Commerce, Science and Transportation, Foreign Relations, the Select Committee on Intelligence, and Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

With fewer Democrats in the Senate as a result of Republican wins in November, there were fewer seats for Democrats and Florida Sen. Bill Nelson lost his coveted spot on the Armed Services committee. He will serve with Rubio on Commerce and the intelligence panel, and is also on the Finance Committee.

Rubio said: "I’m honored to be a member of these important committees that address some of our nation’s and state’s most important issues. This committee portfolio will enable me to work directly on policies to promote private sector job creation, keep Americans safe and maintain our strong standing in the world.

"In addition to continuing my work with small business entrepreneurs I’ve met throughout Florida, I am especially encouraged by the fact that these assignments will allow me to work on many issues of great interest to Floridians, including NASA, free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama, our missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and relations with key allies in our hemisphere and across the world."

(That makes Rubio the 5th Floridian on a foreign relations committee: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen chairs the House panel and David Rivera, Frederica Wilson and Connie Mack are on the committee.)

Gov. Rick Scott hints at $5 billion budget cut

Gov. Rick Scott's refusal to talk about any details in his upcoming budget proposal has increased anticipation and raised expectations for the Feb. 7 release.

But the normally tight-lipped Scott might have let a detail slip today...

In playful banter with Scott after a press gaggle, a reporter offered to lose a certain amount of weight based on the difference between Scott's budget proposal and the state's current $70.4 billion budget.

Scott, a health nut with a predilection for brokering deals, made the reporter a counter offer and crafted it in a way that suggested his budget proposal would be $5 billion less than the state's current spending plan.