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467 posts from March 2011

March 22, 2011

Bovo to wait until election is set to announce resignation date

Esteban Bovo Rep. Esteban Bovo, the Hialeah Republican who has filed to run for the Miami Dade County Commission, said Tuesday he will wait until the county sets the special election date and qualifying period for the election before he decides when to resign from the Legislature. Bovo wants to represent the Hialeah-Miami Lakes district vacated by former Commissioner Natacha Seijas, who was ousted by voters in a recall election.

 “I’m basically at their mercy and I’m looking to see what they have to say on Thursday,’’ he said. He said it is a personal decision, based on whether he wants to travel back and forth between Tallahassese and his district since he has an eight-month-old, and four other children at home.

“It’s really a call from my community on an issue that I believe I should be a participant in and that is reform county government,” he said. "People are screaming for cultural change in the way the county operates and this is a unique opportunity to make a difference."


'Paycheck protection' bill isn't about saving money, PolitiFact Florida finds

The "paycheck protection" bill, SB 830 and HB 1021, might give individual union members more power over how their dues money is spent, but it won't save taxpayer dollars or resources as Senate sponsor John Thrasher recently claimed. PolitiFact Florida explains why here.

After trying Twitter, Rick Scott turns to Facebook for 'town hall'

Gov. Rick Scott will answer questions Tuesday night via Facebook, his office just announced.

For half an hour, the governor "will answer as many questions as possible," according to the news advisory. The virtual event begins at 7:15 p.m. at www.flgov.com by clicking on the "Facebook Townhall" link.

In January, Scott held a "town hall" via Twitter.

Dan Marino vocational college gets first nod

Football great Dan Marino didn’t make it to the Senate Higher Education Committee meeting this morning. His plane was unable to land due to fog.

But his foundation’s proposal to create a residential vocational college for students with disabilities didn’t need the former Miami Dolphin’s star power: It sailed through the committee, anyway.

SB 1616, sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, would establish the Dan Marino Foundation Vocational College in Broward County. The school would offer educational programs, work skills and support services to students ages 18 to 26 who have developmental disabilities.

A state report last year found that those students have limited options beyond high school. Most are not eligible to enroll in college credit programs because they do not have a standard high school diploma. Some school districts offer basic transition services but only three entities – University of North Florida, Indian River State College in Vero Beach and Brewster Technical Center in Tampa – offer vocation certificates for students with developmental disabilities.

The school’s set-up would be similar to that of the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind.

It’s unclear how much state funds the school would require at this point. A legislative analysis put construction costs at $36 million and operational costs at anywhere from $1.2 million to $40 million.

Former state representative Susan Goldstein, who now lobbies for the foundation, said those numbers were way off because the foundation has already bought a three-story building for the facility and is donating $4 million toward the project.

Goldstein, who has a 19-year-old daughter with disabilities, said the new school would fill a need she’d seen firsthand.

“The people that can afford to pay for their children to be self-sufficient don’t have an option,” she said.

Sen. Maria Sachs, a Delray Democrat, told the committee that she, too, had a special needs child and knew how hard it is to find a place that can help teach independent living.

“It’s a problem to find a place to teach them skills,” she said. “They really do want to work, and get a bus ticket and ride around and have fun.”


Committee unleashes greyhound racing from track gambling

Florida's greyhound track owners won another round in their quest to phase out the unprofitable elements of their greyhound racing operations. A bill to end the state requirement that they operate 100 live races a year in order to offer existing card games and slot machines passed the House House Business and Consumer Affairs Committee Tuesday. It had passed its first Senate committee last week.

Rep. Dana Young, the Tampa Repubilcan sponsoring the bill, said that since 1990 the amount of taxes the collected by state for greyhound racing has declined 96 percent. "We are reaching a point where it may cost more for [the Department of Business and Professional Regulation] to regulate this industry than the state collects in taxes from these industries,'' she said. "These numbers make it abundantly clear the public interest is waning…For us to create a false market for the dog breeding product at the expense of taxpayers simply makes no sense."

Although Young said that the bill "does not eliminate a single job" but instead allows the free market to decide, the lobbyist for the Greyhound Racing Association in Florida argued that the will effectively eliminate 3000 jobs. For example, he said, that includes 250 jobs in Hialeah; 275 in Palm Beach, 275 jobs in Tampa and St. Petersburg, 150 jobs in Brevard and 250 jobs in Jacksonville.

Continue reading "Committee unleashes greyhound racing from track gambling " »

House schools budget gets a (little) boost

The doom-and-gloom education budget a Florida House panel unveiled last week saw a slight improvement Tuesday after chamber leaders set aside a little more money than expected for schools funding next year.

It's not a huge boost: The House went from a 7.7 percent to a 6.96 percent cut to per-student funding. That brings the House closer to the Senate, which on Monday downgraded its original budget proposal to show a 6.5 percent cut.

"It has been a tough week -- I think we can all agree on that," said Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, chairwoman of the House Pre-K-12 appropriations subcommittee. "But our allocation was a little better than we all anticipated -- just marginally."

The uptick would mean a 5 percent cut to voluntary pre-kindergarten, instead of the 8.93 percent first proposed. Half of funding would be restored to Miami's New World School of the Arts, whose entire piece of the budget pie was eliminated in the original plan.

Continue reading "House schools budget gets a (little) boost" »

Hialeah lawmaker files for Miami-Dade run

State Rep. Esteban Bovo, a Hialeah Republican, has submitted paperwork to run for the Miami-Dade County Commission.

He will be seeking to represent the Hialeah-Miami Lakes district left vacant by former Commissioner Natacha Seijas, who was ousted in stunning fashion in a recall last week that also threw Mayor Carlos Alvarez out of office. Bovo is the first person to launch a bid for the seat, though others have been rumored to be mulling over campaigns.

Bovo will likely have to resign from office, creating a legislative vacancy that has already drawn at least three candidates.

We are attempting to reach Bovo for comment.

More on Rick Scott's healthcare team

Better late than never. Three months into his first term, Gov. Rick Scott finally named two leaders to head the state's Department of Health and Agency for Health Care Administration. The press release:

Continue reading "More on Rick Scott's healthcare team" »

March 21, 2011

Third candidate seeking Hialeah legislative seat

Frank Lago, the Sweetwater mayor's chief of staff, said late Monday he, too, will be running for state Rep. Esteban Bovo's Florida House seat if Bovo jumps into the race to replace ousted Miami-Dade County Commissioner Natacha Seijas.

A first-time candidate, Lago said he is not daunted by a possible special election that would require candidates to raise money and get their name out quickly.

Lago, who said he lives just outside Bovo's Hialeah district, added that he has his boss' blessing to run for office. Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroño became one of Gov. Rick Scott's earliest supporters last year. The election pushed Lago to pursue his own political aspirations, he said.

"We helped out Rick Scott last year," Lago said. "He really inspired me."

Arcade lobbyist boasts of marking up Rep. Plakon's gaming bill

Adult arcade lobbyist Frank Mirabella sent out an email to lobbyists and consultants in which he boasted of how he performed a "mark up" of Rep. Scott Plakon's anti-sweepstakes gaming bill, HB 217. Opponents forwarded us the email, laughing that Mirabella used the anti-gaming lawmaker to help one gaming outfit fight another. The bill is up for a vote in the House Business & Consumer Affairs Subcommittee.

_0321132530_001_Page_1 Mirabella's big mark up came on page 6 of 23 in which he struck out Plakon's language that more strictly regulates games of skill. The language was problematic for the arcade industry because "skill" games are what separate them from the sweepstakes guys.

Sweepstakes cafes sell phone cards or internet-time cards that just happen to carry with them the chance of a cash prize. Arcades are Chuck E Cheese-like parlors that offer players games of "skill" with names like "Monkey Land."

That's right. Mirabella has helped Plakon fight on the side of Monkey Land. Could there be a better title for the goings on in the Capitol? Let's get to work? Nah. Let the games continue.