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275 posts from February 2011

February 24, 2011

Read Mike Haridopolos' apology to the state Senate in ethics case

Last year, I was contacted by the Ethics Commission after they received a complaint regarding the Financial Disclosure forms that we all are required to fill out each year. I was alerted by the Commission to errors that had resulted from me filling out the forms incorrectly in the same way each year between 2004 and 2008. I believed that I had filled out these forms accurately, and as soon as these errors were brought to my attention I filed amended forms to be sure that the correct information was listed.

When the Ethics Commission met on October 22, 2010 the investigator’s report on the case was released, and probable cause was found that I had made these errors. After that report was released, I accepted full responsibility for these mistakes in a proposed stipulation agreement. The Commission voted to accept this agreement at their meeting on December 3, 2010.

Throughouy the process, I answered all questions from the Commission completely and supplied them
with all of the documentation they requested. None of these mistakes were intentional or meant to hide any personal information. To be clear, all of my income over this period was reported on the original forms. Nonetheless, I did not adequately follow the instructions on the forms that were filed and relied on forms from previous years for consistency. All documents now on file with the Ethics Commission are accurate and complete.

While these errors on my forms have been easily corrected, I take this situation very seriously and will embrace whatever is deemed to be the appropriate penalty. I accept responsibility for these errors and
apologize to the members of the Florida Senate. I have learned from this process and have gained a
greater respect for the need for elected officials to remain diligent in their efforts to be transparent with the public.


Mike Haridopolos

Download Haridopolos_letter_rules

Mike Haridopolos admonished in ethics case. Read the consent decree here.

Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos was formally admonished by his own Rules Committee on Thursday for failing to accurately disclose his finances on state ethics forms.

 The committee’s decision was instantly bashed by Democrats as a “whitewash” because the Republican leader, a candidate for U.S. Senate, wasn’t fined for failing to properly detail his investments, a $400,000 home and a consulting job that earned him $120,000 from 2004 through 2008.

  But the committee -- whose members were all tapped by Haridopolos – said he didn’t deserve a fine because the errors weren’t intentional and he owned up to the mistakes when the Florida Commission on Ethics brought the matter to his attention.

 “In view of the inadvertent nature of these violations, Senator Haridopolos’ admission of error and his subsequent submission of required corrections, the Rules Committee recommends to the Senate that a letter of admonishment from the Rules Chair is an appropriate level of penalty,” read the consent decree, which was unanimously approved Thursday by the Rules Committee.

 The committee chairman, Sen. John Thrasher, said the committee’s decision to admonish Haridopolos was based on two similar cases from 2000 involving two Florida House members who improperly filled out their financial disclosure forms.

Continue reading "Mike Haridopolos admonished in ethics case. Read the consent decree here." »

Marco Rubio rounds out the office

Sen. Marco Rubio announced his legislative staff hires today, headed by Sally Canfield who was named the Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy/Legislative Director.

Bios after the jump.

Continue reading "Marco Rubio rounds out the office" »

Will a Republican senator sue to stop Rick Scott from killing bullet train?

The high-speed rail drama is showing little sign of abating. Now, it could become more than just a tale of flip-floppery by some pols, or an intense debate over Florida's future transportation and its financial health.

Word in the halls of the Legislature is that some Republican lawmakers are thinking of filing a court action to stop Gov. Rick Scott from killing the bullet train. Just what the action would be is unclear. The man at the center of the talk: Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, who's known as the "legal brains" of the Senate.

So what does Simmons say? Nothing. When asked if he were considering a lawsuit, here was his response: "I think it’s premature to talk about that. I really can’t talk right now. I really appreciate you calling."

But you realize that if you say no comment, it suggests you're considering a suit?

"Well, I'm not saying that," Simmons said. "But I can't comment."

A majority of the Florida Senate has already penned a letter to the USDOT asking it to sidestep Scott's order. Some members are being pressured to strip their names from the letter.

The fact that a Republican senator wouldn't pour cold water on the idea of suing a Republican governor speaks volumes about Scott's relationship with the Legislature. Add to that Sen. J.D. Alexander's displeasure over Scott's handling the sale of the state plane, and it's going to be quite a lawmaking session.


Black and Hispanic Dems to sue over redistricting lawsuit.

As if the once-a-decade process of redistricting wasn’t complicated enough, there’s a new wrinkle: At least five black and Hispanic Democrats from Tampa Bay and South Florida are filing a court motion soon to ensure that the voter-approved “Fair Districts” amendment becomes law.

The constitutional amendment concerning standards for drawing congressional districts was approved by 63 percent of voters on Election Day. But less than 24 hours later, U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz Balart, R-Miami, and Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, sued to block the law. They said the new redistricting standards would hurt minority representation.

Then, House Speaker Dean Cannon, who unsuccessfully tried to scuttle the redistricting amendments in the courts and at the ballot box, intervened on behalf of Diaz Balart and Brown. Cannon’s court action says the redistricting standards (designed to prevent political gerrymandering) violated the U.S. Constitution.

Cannon’s motion officially made the House against the amendments. But now the House will be divided against thanks to the intervention of four Democratic representatives Perry Thurston, Joe Gibbons, Luis Garcia and Janet Cruz. Sen. Arthenia Joyner of Tampa might intervene as well. So far, the Senate has stayed out of the fray.

“We are filing as members of the Legislature to make sure the districts are drawn fairly,” said Gibbons. “We had 63 percent of voters approve this and the law should be followed.”

Said Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff: “As Chairman Rod Smith announced on the day he was elected to lead he Florida Democratic party, we will be seeking to intervene in the lawsuit to protect the rights of the voters of Florida and what 63 percent of people approved last fall, which were the fundamental standards of fairness.”

-- Janet Zink

New report: US Cuba policy puts Florida at risk when it comes to oil drilling in Cuba

A new report says U.S.-Cuba policy puts the U.S. -- and particularly Florida -- at risk if planned oil drilling in Cuba hits a snag.

The report by the Center for Democracy in the Americas -- which backs increased engagement with Cuba -- says the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba "prevents Cuba from having adequate access to the range of tools needed to drill safely or respond to emergencies should one develop.

"The embargo restricts Cuba’s access to knowledge and associations that would help it plan for or react to a spill," the report says. "The embargo prevents meaningful participation by U.S. private sector firms in planning for reaction, containment, or remediation efforts."

The pro-embargo US Cuba Democracy PAC's Mauricio Claver-Carone called it "ironic and unlikely a coincidence" that the report was released the same week it was announced that the "infamous rig" Cuba plans on using "has been delayed for the umpteenth time.

"Bottom line is that there are no rigs drilling offshore in Cuba for it remains commercially unfeasible as long as US sanctions are in place," he said. 

Continue reading "New report: US Cuba policy puts Florida at risk when it comes to oil drilling in Cuba" »

Attorney General Pam Bondi opposes automatic restoration of civil rights

Attorney General Pam Bondi just completed her first Clemency Board meeting by announcing she opposes the automatic restoration of civil rights and will move to immediately change the process. A statement just released:

“I fundamentally and philosophically oppose the concept of the automatic restoration of civil rights.  I believe that every convicted felon must actively apply for the restoration of his or her civil rights and that there should be a mandatory waiting period before applying. The restoration of civil rights for any felon must be earned, it is not an entitlement.

“When the Florida Board of Executive Clemency reconvenes for a special meeting in two weeks, it is my hope that the board enacts revised rules that protect Floridians while creating a fair process to restore deserving felons’ rights.  The burden of restoring civil rights should not fall on the shoulders of government, but rather it should rest on the individual whose actions resulted in those rights being taken in the first place.”

J.D. Alexander demands Scott turn over public records on state planes sale

Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander sent Gov. Rick Scott a formal public records request Thursday asking for all information relating to the sale of two state planes. Download Alexanderletter_022411

The request is comprehensive: "I request copies of all written materials (hardcopy or digital) including letters, memoranda, notes, phone logs, office appointment calendars, legal memorandum or opinions, emails, agreements and contracts in the Governor's Office or the Department of Management Services related to the sale of the two state aircraft which are the subject of my previous two letters to you dated February 17 and 22, 2011," he wrote.

Alexander wants the information, likely created since Nov. 2, in hard copy and data disk. "Also, since my office, like yours, is located in the Capitol, the requested documents may be delivered to the Senate Budget Office Committee office in room 201, the Capitol."

Alexander had sent two letters to Scott questioning his decision to sell the state planes. The first letter commended the governor for selling the planes but criticized him for not seeking the approval of the Legislature first. His second letter demanded the governor cite his “legal authority” for selling the planes and the names of advisers who told him to do it.

The governor stood by the sale Friday, saying, “I reviewed that project step by step with our general counsel, and we did the right thing.”

Rick Scott pollster survey: 50 percent want to recall Miami-Dade's mayor

A survey conducted by Gov. Rick Scott’s political pollster shows that exactly half of the electorate wants to recall Miami-Dade's Mayor Carlos Alvarez. Only 32 percent would vote to keep him in office. The rest are undecided.

Also, far more voters have an unfavorable opinion (46 percent) than a favorable opinion (24 percent) of Alvarez – a situation known as being “upside-down.”

Sounds like bad news? Actually not, said Republican consultant Roger Stone, a Miami-Dade resident who’s not affiliated with Alvarez or his opponents.

“It’s good news. He’s right at 50 percent. His recall is not a foregone conclusion,” Stone said. “Sure, his unfavorables are at 46, and it’s not great. But it’s under 50. He’s not nearly as polarizing as people would have you believe.”

Still, Alvarez is deeply unpopular. No economic or demographic group favors him more than disfavors him. And he’s unpopular in every Dade congressional district, the poll shows. If he’s unseated in the March 15 vote, the favorite to replace him would be Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina, who would garner 13 percent of the vote in a crowded field, the poll shows.

Continue reading "Rick Scott pollster survey: 50 percent want to recall Miami-Dade's mayor " »

Budget protests spreading?

Following reports of arrests of abortion protestors outside House Speaker John Boehner's office, the U.S. Capitol Police are raising the alert over the "possibility of demonstration activities at Congressional District Offices" starting today and continuing through the end of the week.

"It is believed that the intention of these demonstrations is to raise awareness of budget issues," Sgt. at Arms Wilson Livingood wrote to members of Congress and their staff. "Consistent with past guidance, district office Law Enforcement Coordinators (LEC)are encouraged to contact their respective local law enforcement authorities if they observe any suspicious activity or have safety concerns. It is important to note that there is no indication of violence in connection with these demonstration activities."

Several anti-abortion protestors were arrested Wednesday outside Boehner's Capitol office. Activist Randall Terry said he wants to make sure that Boehner remains firm on GOP efforts to erase funding for Planned Parenthood.