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240 posts from January 2011

January 25, 2011

Bill Nelson praises Obama's emphasis on civility

Here's Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson's reaction to President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday night:

"He talked about bringing us out of recession with jobs, helping small business, helping seniors with retirement security, getting government spending under control. Then he talked about civility. How do we treat each other?  That’s going to matter a lot."

In State of the Union response, GOP bashes deficit, healthcare reform

Highlights from the Republican response to the State of the Union, delivered by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin:

After speaking about Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, Ryan said President Barack Obama was right to focus much of his attention on the economy: "Some of his words were reassuring," he said. "We want to work with the president to restrain federal spending."

He characterized the deficit as "a crushing level of debt" -- "Frankly, it's one of my greatest concerns as a parent," said Ryan, who has three kids ages 6, 7 and 8 -- and bashed the stimulus "spending spree."

Ryan also touted the House Republicans' largely symbolic vote to repeal healthcare reform, but acknowledged that voters are wary of both Democrats and the GOP.

"Americans are skeptical of both political parties and that skepticism is justified," he said. "So hold all of us accountable."

He warned that without swift action on the deficit, the U.S. could end up like European countries -- Greece, Ireland -- imposing austerity measures and increasing taxes.

"We still have time," Ryan said. "But not much time. If we continue down our current path, we know what our future will be...Their day of reckoning has arrived. Ours is around the corner. That is why we have to act now."

Marco Rubio criticizes 'more government spending' in State of the Union

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio released this statement after President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday night:

"Tonight, I had hoped to hear the President outline real solutions to fundamentally tackle our national debt crisis and help clear the way for urgently needed job creation.  Instead, we heard him talk about more ‘investment,’ which is what most Floridians I know would simply call more government spending.  Instead of fruitlessly turning to government to create jobs, we should be working to cut spending, promote free enterprise initiatives and give job creators the certainty they need to hire more workers.

"While I was encouraged by the President’s support for an earmark ban and will work with him towards that goal, his call for a mere budget freeze does not go far enough in tackling our record debt.  At the very least, we should freeze non-defense and non-veterans discretionary spending to what it was before Washington began its unprecedented, record-setting spending binge two years ago.  But most importantly, we need to finally begin fundamentally reforming the way our government spends the American people’s money.

"In 2011, both parties have a golden opportunity for true cooperation on complex issues of great consequence.  If we take care of business, our children and grandchildren will one day thank us for giving them the chance to inherit the greatest society in human history.  For President Obama and Congressional Democrats, it’s a chance to prove they heard the American people’s call for fiscal discipline in November.  For Republicans, it’s a chance to practice what we’ve preached by being responsible stewards of the American people’s tax dollars.  As Florida’s senator, I will work with anyone else who believes 2011 has to be the year when we stop postponing the tough decisions."

Scott criticizes Obama speech as 'decades-old history lesson'

Minutes after President Obama finished his state of the union speech, Gov. Rick Scott released this statement:


 Tallahassee, Fla. – Tonight, we heard President Obama describe this moment in America as a “Sputnik moment.”   But to face the challenges of our day, we don’t need decades-old history lessons, we need leadership. We need elected officials who will take on special interests, make tough choices and focus on the right priorities.  We need fiscal conservatives who recognize the solution to every problem is not a new government program. We need to take less money out of the pockets of Americans, and we need to get government out of the way of those who create jobs. Innovation comes from creating an environment where Americans want to build new companies. Government seldom does a good job of selecting successful innovators. 

“In the next few weeks, I will unveil a budget for the state of Florida that reflects leadership and demonstrates the will to make tough choices.  It will reduce the tax burden on Floridians and champion a less-burdensome government.  Florida will be the place for innovators, not because the State of Florida knows which individuals will succeed, but because we are the place where innovators want to live, raise their families, and build their companies.

“In the months ahead, this budget and the reforms I propose for Florida will reflect my belief that Florida's best days are ahead of us, not trapped in the memory of days gone by. All that is required to get there is the courage to lead.”


Live blogging the State of the Union

Odds and ends as we watch the State of the Union:

--U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Miami Gardens Democrat, got an aisle seat and kiss from President Barack Obama as he made his way to the podium.

--The TV cameras got a shot of Florida's two senators, Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson, sitting side-by-side as part of a congressional effort -- on this night, at least -- to embrace civility.

--The DREAM Act, which would grant legal status to some children of undocumented immigrants who came to the country illegally, got a presidential shout-out, though Obama didn't mention the law by name: "I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration," he said.

--Obama mentioned pursuing trade agreements with Panama and Colombia. Miami's Republican members of Congress have strongly pushed in particular for the pact with Colombia.

--Obama announced that he will travel in March to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador.

Continue reading "Live blogging the State of the Union" »

Senate hears casino pitch as players staff up

Two of Las Vegas’ largest casino operators made their case Tuesday for why Florida should consider “destination casino resorts” as the next best hope for jobs and economic development.

Andy Abboud of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., and Michael Britt of Wynn Casinos, presented a glossy slideshow of their properties to members of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee. While Tom McPherson of Boyd Gaming Corp., which owns Dania Jai Alai, urged the committee to keep an open mind and not pick and choose who can compete to build the resort casinos.

“We’re very anxious to get to market,’’ Abboud said. “If you were able to pass legislation this year, we could be up and running in maybe four-and-a-half years,’’ he said.

The Las Vegas Sands has been on a two-year crusade to bring their resort-style casinos and convention space to Florida and they are particularly interested in Miami.

Continue reading "Senate hears casino pitch as players staff up" »

How Richard Corcoran won the speaker's race

Rep. Richard Corcoran wasn't the typical freshman lawmaker in a Florida House where about a third of the 120 members are new lawmakers. Corcoran, R-Trinity, had never served (though he had run repeatedly), but he worked in a position that was almost as powerful: Chief of Staff to former House Speaker Marco Rubio.

"It became clear to the freshmen members that when Richard Corcoran makes a promise he has the institutional knowledge to make good on it," said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Destin, who was running for speaker as well but conceeded Tuesday.

Corcoran had another insider card: His brother, Mike Corcoran, is a prominent lobbyist in the Capitol.

Aside from Corcoran's knowledge of the process -- how to pass legislation, work the budget, get votes, etc -- Gaetz said Corcoran had two huge geographical advantages: The Tampa Bay legislative delegation and the Miami-Dade delegation, which is the largest and therefore most influential. Initially, Miami-Dade's delegation planned to remain neutral, but Corcoran's Miami roots won out.

One Miami lawmaker instrumental in helping persuade his fellow Miamians, Jose Felix Diaz, said he didn't want to comment about the "rumors." 

In the end, Gaetz (who had Panhandle support) and Rep. Ben Albritton (a scion of a citrus fortune with strong ties to Florida's rural areas) just couldn't muster the votes.

Corcoran, who garnered a little bad press for his wielding of a Republican Party of Florida credit card, played humble when asked how he won.

"This is such a tremendous honor," he said. "Anyone in this class could have been House Speaker. But now comes the tough part. Now I have to lead."

Technically, Corcoran won't be House Speaker until he's officially designated, which will likely be in 2016 for his two-year term that will stretch from 2017-2018. House Speakers are rarely, if ever, deposed after they're tapped. So it's pretty much a lock that Corcoran will succeed Chris Dorworth who will follow Will Weatherford who's scheduled to succeed the current House Speaker, Dean Cannon.


Shawn Harrison files corporate tax cut bills

Freshman Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, has filed two bills addressing corporate taxes. One would phase out corporate income taxes entirely over the next six years beginning Jan. 1, 2012. Harrison offered no suggestions on how to off-set what he said would cost the state $300 million in revenue in its first year. But he said he, Gov. Rick Scott, and other Republicans pledged to reduce corporate income taxes and it's important to follow through on that. "We need to start the dialogue," he said.

Harrison also filed a bill called "School to Work," which would offer businesses a 5 percent tax break for providing an unpaid internship to a college student, who could earn college credit for the work. Each business could offer two internships each year and earn a tax credit of up to 10 percent. Harrison said the bill fulfills several missions: It gives students experience and makes them more qualified to join the workforce after graduation, and it allows businesses to save on staff recruiting costs by given potential employees a trial run. "This is how we do it in the legal world," said Harrison, an attorney who pointed out that law firms hire clerks that often end up joining the firms they clerked for.

Richard Corcoran looks like he'll be Florida House Speaker in 17-18

We're hearing from a top Miami Republican lawmaker that Miami-Dade's Republican delegation, the biggest in the state, voted as a bloc to make Rep. Richard Corcoran House Speaker in 2017-18. Though he's a Suncoast guy, Corcoran had big Miami bonafides: He was the chief of staff to Miami's only House Speaker, Marco Rubio, the current U.S. senator and Republican star.

Corcoran's biggest opponent in the race, Rep. Ben Albritton, is calling fellow Republican House members to tell them he's out of the race and that Corcoran's the guy.

Earlier today, Rep. Matt Gaetz was taking detailed notes in committee in what looked like a vote sheet count (we didn't ask).  So he's still probably in the race. But he was number-three behind Albritton (number 2) and Corcoran (who had the most votes). Technically, the race ain't over till it's over (insert lifetime-in-politics cliche here). You're technically not House Speaker until the delegation chooses you.

But from what the lawmakers and consultocracy are telling us, Corcoran is well on his way to succeeded Chris Dorworth who will succeed Will Weatherford who will succeed current House Speaker Dean Cannon.


Fasano: Why debate sinkhole coverage if no one will provide it anymore?

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee debated GOP Sen. Garrett Richter's sweeping insurance bill for two hours on Tuesday and didn't even make it through all of the amendments filed to the legislation. Most of the discussion focused on provisions relating to sinkhole coverage. At one point, Sen. Mike Fasano, a Republican from New Port Richey, deemed the discussion a waste of time, saying that because the bill drops the requirement that companies offer comprehensive sinkhole coverage, no one will offer it. If the bill passes, it will only require catastrophic coverage. That will help very few people, Fasano said.

"Do you really believe there will be an insurance company in the state of Florida that will offer sinkhole coverage?"  he asked.

Richter said yes, companies will determine what type of coverage will give them the best return. "The marketplace will fill the gap," he said.

That theme was repeated several times during the debate, as Fasano tried and failed repeatedly to fight amendments that, among other things, would shorten the nonrenewal notice requirements and require policy holders to share the cost of tests for sinkhole damage.

"The ratepayer wil only benefit if the free market returns," said Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff. "We have the most regulation and we have some of the highest premiums. What we're doing is not working."

Fasano said this bill won't help: "The suggestion thrown out there that we're going to have all of this capital coming, all of these insurance companies coming back, you're fooling yourselves." 

After the meeting, Fasano said changes need to be made to stop fraudulent and frivolous sinkhole claims. But this bill, he said, is deadly to consumers. A bill like this, he said, would never have come forward under governors Jeb Bush or Charlie Crist, but with uber-business friendly Rick Scott leading the state, legislators are feeling emboldened with a bill that is overly generous to the insurance industry. "It's scary," he said.