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325 posts from May 2011

May 31, 2011

**Update ** Video: Rick Scott's stimulus flip flop

Gov. Rick Scott is against Obama's stimulus program. But he allowed $370m of the federal money to stay in the state budget. And he doesn't really explain why.

Florida is the 'Southern sanctuary state' for illegal immigration, says Palm Beach GOP chairman

Palm Beach County Republican Chairman Sid Dinerstein gives the GOP majority in the Legislature an A+ for session, but says more could have been done. From his June newsletter:

(W)hen you’re sitting with a Tea Party Governor, an all Republican cabinet, two thirds majorities in both houses (Lizbeth put us over the top) and President Obama’s radical Left cronies in Washington, the pent up demand for a “transformational” Florida year is real and understandable. Here’s what we didn’t get: E-Verify, for starters. Ten Republican State Senators went all in for the Illegals. Now that the legislators in Georgia and South Carolina read the Constitution that our legislators ignored, Florida is the de facto “Southern Sanctuary State.”

A similar idea was presented to Gov. Rick Scott during a radio interview this month when a conservative host asked if Florida would become a "job magnet" for illegal immigrants without an E-Verify law.

Rick Scott bashes Obama's stimulus -- but allows c. $370m to stay in state budget

Gov. Rick Scott campaigned against President Obama’s “failed stimulus” program – yet the freshman politician kept almost $370 million of the federal cash in the Florida budget he signed last week.

Scott’s decision to keep the stimulus money stands out in a year when the governor touted record budget vetoes of up to $615 million. He emphasized the vetoes of “wasteful” spending at a Thursday event that featured a campaign-style “Promises Made, Promises Kept” banner.

But as he ran for office last summer, Scott said he “would fight all the stimulus money.” He also told reporters “I would have figured out how to balance the budget without it.”

When asked Tuesday why he appeared to reverse himself by keeping stimulus money, Scott didn’t specifically answer.

“I think the stimulus was not good for our state, made us more dependent on the federal government,” he said, echoing a budget-signing letter he issued last week. “I think that we’ve got to watch how we spend money. As you know, in the budget, I focused very much on how we spend our money, stopping the growth of debt in our state and making our state less dependent on the federal government.”

The stimulus money Scott and Republican legislators approved touch every corner of the state: $290 million to improve electronic medical records, $4.2 million to aid disadvantaged children, $3.2 million for fighting wildfires, $12.5 million for drug courts, $8.6 million for county health departments, $1 million to fight infectious diseases, and $4.4 million to help public defenders and prosecutors.

More here 

Video of Democrats getting booted from Gov. Rick Scott's budget event

Couple interesting things to watch for in this video:

The sheriff's deputy explains at the start that you can have signs at the event, but the signs have to be in "support." The deputy says he's there on official duty and just doing what he's told, but never says who his orders came from. (The Sumter County Sheriff's Office did not return a pair of calls today.)

The second video is a copy of Gov. Rick Scott's controversial robo-call trying to gin up support for his budget vetoes. (Background here)


Feds clear Fair Districts changes

The U.S. Department of Justice sent word today that it saw no problems with the so-called Fair Districts constitutional amendments, which reduce lawmakers' power to draw voting districts.

The ruling doesn't stop a lawsuit aimed at blocking the state from implementing the voter-approved amendment. But it does cut the legs out of a Republican talking point that the changes, Amendments 5 and 6 on the 2010 ballot, could be harmful to minority districts: That's an issue the DOJ is required to consider because of a history of racial discrimination in the state.

Read the DOJ letter here.

Scott keeps his promise on state pensions, PolitiFact Florida finds

Rick Scott didn't get all of the pension reforms he wanted for state employees during the 2011 legislative session.

But he got a lot.

For the first time in decades, state employees will be required to redirect part of their salaries to pay for part of their retirement benefits. Beginning July 1, 2011, all state employees will be required to put 3 percent of their salaries toward retirement.

That's a Promise Kept for Scott on PolitiFact Florida's Scott-O-Meter. Read why.

Scott signs bill forcing drug tests on welfare recipients

Floridians will have to submit urine, blood or hair samples for drug testing before receiving cash benefits from the state, under a bill Gov. Rick Scott signed into law today.

"The goal of this is to make sure we don't waste taxpayers' money," Scott said. "And hopefully more people will focus on not using illegal drugs."

Taxpayers will reimburse welfare applicants for negative drug tests. Positive tests will carry an immediate ban on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families for six months. A second positive test will result in a three-year ban on state assistance.

Other details in the new law:

• The Department of Children and Families must inform applicants that they can avoid a drug test if they do not apply for benefits.

• The state must assure each applicant "a reasonable degree of dignity while producing and submitting a sample."

• Parents who fail drug tests can get benefits for their children by naming a state-approved designee to collect the money. That designee must also pass a drug test.

ACLU Florida has suggested they might sue the state over the new law. A statement from the group's state director today did not mention legal action, but said they would have an announcement tomorrow about Scott's executive order forcing drug tests on state employees.

"Once again, this governor has demonstrated his dismissal of both the law and the right of Floridians to personal privacy by signing into law a bill that treats those who have lost their jobs like suspected criminals," Howard Simon said in his statement. "This wasteful program created by this law subjects Floridians who are impacted by the economic downturn, as well as their families, to a humiliating search of their urine and body fluids without cause or even suspicion of drug use."

About 233,000 Floridians applied for cash assistance in 2009-10, including 114,000 families, according to DCF statistics. This month, 93,170 Floridians received cash assistance, a drop of 8.3 percent from a year ago.

Scott today also signed a bill, HB 1039, banning fake ban salts. The legislation was pushed by Attorney General Pam Bondi and Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen.

Governor Scott Changes Position on Education Funding

Governor Rick Scott last week cut $615-million in state spending. In a reversal of his previous position, the governor is now encouraging the Legislature to put some of that money back into education. Scott signed the state budget in a Central Florida retirement community under the banner "Less Government Waste, More Educational Opportunities." He was surrounded by students from a charter school bused to the event from an hour away. WLRN Miami Herald Reporter Gina Jordan has more.


May 30, 2011

Cop shootout, race issues & garbage sully Miami Beach Memorial Day

For years, Miami Beach residents have not-so-silently resented the Memorial Day crowds that crowd the city and it's tough not to notice that many of the visitors are African-American -- or "urban," hence the politically correct nickname "Urban Weekend."

But the racial scab has been ripped off amid the garbage-lined streets that formed the backdrop of two shootings, one of which led to a dead suspect, three injured cops and four more wounded bystanders

Gay activist Herb Sosa penned a letter calling for an end to the mayhem of Urban Weekend. "This is not a race, economic or ethnic issue, it is an issue of visitors who have a total lack of respect for our community, its property & citizens." The fact he said "race" and criticized Urban Weekend is an indication that race is an issue, considering he threw in this context: "If this was PRIDE weekend, The Boat Show, Fashion Week or Art Deco Weekend - would we allow this to go on each year."

This is the type of issue that could explode politically and become an issue in the tight Miami-Dade mayor's race.


May 29, 2011

Mystery robocall about Hialeah prompts backlash

Days before last week’s Miami-Dade mayoral election, some county voters answered the phone and heard a woman’s recorded voice sneering about the county’s most Cuban enclave: Hialeah.

Five times she said it. Hialeah.

To outsiders, it was meant to set off not-in-my-backyard alarm bells. To proud Hialeahns, it felt like a slap in the face.

“Irresponsible development, traffic congestion and noise, backroom deals and illegal gambling — is that what we want in our neighborhood? Of course not,” the unidentified voice said. “We aren’t Hialeah. Nor do we want to be.

“Let’s stop Hialeah’s Robaina from importing his brand of shady politics to our neighborhood.”

Nobody’s taking responsibility for the mysterious robocall, which ignited a firestorm of criticism on Spanish-language media and prompted mayoral candidate Julio Robaina the former mayor of Hialeah, to demand an apology from his opponent, Carlos Gimenez.

Gimenez flatly denied having any knowledge of the call, which was ostensibly paid for by the Committee for Honest Reform, a third-party political group. But the head of the committee said Friday he had nothing to do with the call and that it was put out without his authorization.

It’s a risky move, picking on Hialeah. Full story here.