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325 posts from May 2011

May 28, 2011

Rick Scott's hometown elections chief won't yet abide voting law he signed

The elections supervisor in Rick Scott’s home county refuses to recognize a new law the governor signed out of concerns that the U.S. Department of Justice hasn’t decided whether it violates a law protecting minority voters.

In a letter to the state’s elections division, Collier County Elections Supervisor Jennifer Edwards pointed out that her county is one of five in Florida that needs Justice Department pre-approval “or pre-clearance” under the 1965 Voting Rights Act before it makes any voting changes.

“Since assuming office in 2000, it has been my practice to meticulously comply with the requirements,” she wrote last Friday. “The purpose of this letter is to inform you that due to our ‘covered’ status, I will not implement any changes resulting from the Governor’s signing of CS/CS/HB 1355 until we receive notification that the bill has beenprecleared by the U.S. Department of Justice.”

Supervisors from the other four Florida counties — Hillsborough, Monroe, Hendry and Hardee — joined Edwards in her opposition. At the same time, the state was planning to inform the five counties that they wouldn’t have to comply until the Justice Department gives its tentative “preclearance” approval, said Chris Cate, a Florida Division of Elections spokesman.

“We suggested the counties requiring preclearance wait to implement the new elections law until the DOJ has given their approval,” Cate said.

More here


May 27, 2011

Arrival of Genting gives Malaysian casino group a foothold on coveted Miami

The arrival of Malaysian developer Genting into Miami on Friday provided the strongest signal yet that the latest attempt to bring full Las Vegas-style casinos to the Magic City is serious.

"Miami’s the crown jewel for this market-- everybody knows that,’’ said Nick Iarossi, lobbyist for Las Vegas Sands Corp., which worked last legislative session with lobbyists for Genting and other casino developers to persuade lawmakers to bring resort casinos to Florida. "Everybody is posturing and planning and hoping the Legislature will make a decision to make destination resorts a reality” and Genting’s deal just “upped the ante,’’ he said.

For the past two years, since the Seminole Tribe won its right to offer not only slot machines but black jack, baccarat and chemin de fer, the world’s casino giants have set their sights on expanding to their posh resorts to Miami. Unlike previous casino campaigns, the new resorts feature both full-fledged casinos, opulent hotels and convention space as well as family-focused entertainment centers.

Continue reading "Arrival of Genting gives Malaysian casino group a foothold on coveted Miami" »

Rick Scott's staff tries the ole Jedi mind trick on the media after booting Dems

Sorry to get all Star Wars, but sometimes relations with Rick Scott's shop can get galactically strange -- like when the gov's folks say something didn't happen even though it all unfolded right in front of reporters. They tried their latest Jedi mind trick today by saying the gov's office wasn't involved in booting Democrats from Scott's bill signing.


Here's the report from Aaron Sharockman on the Buzz blog. (Video of a Jedi mind trick here and tight flow from R.A. the Rugged Man in this Jedi Mind Tricks track):

A spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott today told Politic365 today that the governor's office did not order anyone removed from Thursday's budget signing at The Villages, and that the event was meant to be public. Only, that's not true.

First, here's what Scott spokesman Lane Wright said, according to the political website. "Governor Scott did not have these individuals removed. This was a public event. It was brought to our attention that the local authorities had removed some. We don't know first-hand who was removed or why.

"We are only seeing what you're seeing in the news reports," Wright added. "It's disappointing to know that anyone who made the effort to be at such an important event wasn't allowed in."

Here's what actually happened -- the Buzz saw all of it firsthand. Sumter County sheriff's deputies were summoned by Scott staffers wearing suits and black earpieces. They told the deputies that the budget signing was a private event and that a group of Democrats standing or sitting in the last two rows had to leave.

Deputies went to tell the group -- more than a dozen people -- to leave. The deputies said the town square had been leased and that the organizers wanted the group of Democrats to leave. The group of Democrats said it was unfair.

"You all are preaching to the choir," a deputy told them. "I'm doing what I'm told."

The deputies were getting their orders from Russ Abrams, a $60,000 a year special assistant to Scott. Seeing this, the Buzz approached Abrams. He told us the budget signing was "a private event." When asked more questions, Abrams said: "I don't need to talk to the press," and then, "I don't have anything to say."

Abrams and other men wearing black earpieces then attempted to identify other people with anti-Scott intentions. They alerted deputies, who told them they had to leave the town square.

We've asked Wright if he wanted to clarify his comments, and are waiting to hear back.

UPDATE: Wright just told us he wasn't at the event, so he couldn't address what the Buzz saw or heard. He said decisions should have been made by the property owner.

Rick Scott's robo-calls backfiring (and spoofing, too?)

As we first tweeted this morning, the Republican Party of Florida is robo-calling voters to drum up support for Gov. Rick Scott, who might be America's most-disliked governor, with a 29 percent approval rating. Now that a full day of calls are in, it appears that's just making some fellow Republicans upset.

The automatic, pre-recorded calls feature Scott's voice derided the hometown projects he vetoed from the budgets as "special interest waste." Not the kind of message that fellow Republicans, who crafted the budget, wanted to hear. Especially when those special interests included hungry and needy seniors, homeless veterans, paralysis victims, etc.

 Former Republican State Rep. J.C. Planas of Miami said he was called and was infuriated that needy projects were being described as waste. What's more, he said, the incoming number on his cell phone caller ID showed that it was his own number phoning in -- a process of disguising calls known as "spoofing."

"It's bad enough that he's hurting my community with these vetoes and misrepresenting the purpose of them," Planas said. "But then he's spoofing my phone? Why?"

Continue reading "Rick Scott's robo-calls backfiring (and spoofing, too?)" »

Did Scott's veto message signal encouragement for resort casinos in Fla?

Florida Gov. Rick Scott's 30-page veto letter included several interesting tidbits, including this one -- offering his first public encouragement for the Legislature to consider expanded gaming. Scott vetoed the $400,000 for a comprehensive gaming study of the "revenues derived, the expenses incurred, and the potential benefits to Florida from destination resorts and horse racing" but the governor wasn't totally against the idea. On page 20 of the letter, he wrote:

“I am vetoing $400,000 for a gambling study. While I encourage the Legislature to make a comprehensive review of additional gaming, I believe it is important to have a full consideration of the positive economic impact, the costs that may result from this policy, and the impact on current gaming in our state. However, such a study at this time is an expense Florida taxpayers should not incur."

The Senate considered a bill to create a panel to accept bids from five regions of the state for resort-style casino gambling and, while the measure didn't pass, it got farther than it did the year before when it was just a concept.

Sheldon Adelson, the owner of the Las Vegas-based Sands Resort empire, started the ball rolling when he commissioned a study in 2010 for legislators to show how much revenue could be made by bringing a resort casino and convention center to Florida. Adelson has said he would be willing to invest as much as $3 billion on a casino resort in Miami.

As we reported in January, Scott met with Adelson at the casino executive's Las Vegas office before he was inaugurated and, since the two-hour meeting, we are told they have kept in touch.

In addition to Sands, Wynn Resorts, also of Las Vegas, as well as Genting hired a stable of lobbyists to push the bill. All they got was the study, which Scott vetoed. (He also veted $537,000 for gambling addiction education and compulsive gambling treatment.)

Coincidentally or not, a day after Scott's encouraging words in his veto message, Asia’s third largest casino company announced it is paying $236 million for the 14 acres of waterfront land surrounding The Miami Herald.

Genting Malaysia Berhad said they plan only to build a resort, since casinos are not authorized yet, but indicated its interest in continuing a push for a full-fledged casino.

"Miami’s the crown jewel for this market-- everybody knows that,'' said Nick Iarossi, lobbyist for Sands. "Everybody is posturing and planning and hoping the legislature will make a decision to make destination resorts a reality.''

He said Sands is encouraged by Scott's veto message and welcomes the investment of Genting. "It's great for the effort,'' Iarossi said. "We welcome competition. The ultimate winner is Florida. The more competitive, the more spectacular the projects, the more revenues for the state. It shows that we’re all serious about this. They’ve definitely upped the ante and hopefully the legislature and the governor will take the effort seriously."

President of free world ain't so free to see in Miami June 13

President Barack Obama is coming to Miami June 13. For $250, you can get general seating (advanced purchase, limited time only). Front row is $2,500. More here

More Miami fallout over Rick Scott's vetoes

A sampling of the conversation Friday morning on influential Spanish-language radio in Miami, regarding Gov. Rick Scott's budget vetoes to meals programs for seniors in Little Havana and Allapattah:

"This man has vetoed -- Gov. Rick Scott -- has vetoed 600-plus million dollars on top of what had already been cut," said an outraged Oscar Haza, a host on WQBA-AM (1140). "It's to respond to rural areas and to the tea party and to his ideology."

"We are a donor county," Miami Commissioner Frank Carollo said. "We give a lot more of our taxes than we receive."

"This is a failure of lobbyists, and this is a failure of legislators," Haza added. "For not fighting."

"This doesn't just take away food from the elderly, but it hurts a lot of businesses that provide to these programs," Commissioner Wifredo "Willy" Gort said. "We have to work 24 hours a day to see how we can substitute that missing money...A lot of these people only have one meal a day, which they receive at the senior center."

"How did this happen and they didn't tell us anything ahead of time?" Carollo asked, saying he wants to meet with the city's lobbyists. (On Thursday, Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, the Miami Republican who placed the hot meals programs on the budget, said he didn't get a heads up from the governor, either.)

"They've turned their backs on them, on the same people who voted for the governor," Carollo added.

"What we have to do is throw out the governor like we threw out the others down here," one caller suggested.

Scott budget vetoes dominate Florida front pages

A sampling of front page headlines in Florida today:

St. Petersburg Times: $615,000,000; The governor knifes a record sum out of the budget.

Miami Herald: Scott vetoes a record $615M; Rick Scott vetoed a record amount of spending at a campaign-style event that some Democrats were forbidden from attending.

Orlando Sentinel: Governor's vetoes rile legislators; Line-item cuts total $615.3M

Palm Beach Post: Scott's vetoes total record $615M; The governor's signature eliminates money for FAU, PBSC, Belle Glade.

Naples Daily News: Scott lightens budget by $615M; Governor vetoes spending on homeless veterans, education and health care.

Florida Today: $615M in vetoes a first for Florida; Scott signs $69B budget in name of education.

Tallahassee Democrat: Scott slashes $615M before signing budget

Tampa Tribune: Scott vetoes $615M; Line-item paring includes USF, TBARTA, Tampa PBS

TBT: Whack Job; Scott spending vetoes set record; USF, WMNF, WUSF, among losers

The Villages Daily Sun: Scott inks budget here

Herald announces sale of its Biscayne Bay property to casino magnate

The owners of the Miami Herald today announced the sale of its historic building on Biscayne Bay to the Malaysian company, Genting Malaysia Berhad, operator of resort casinos and entertainment centers across the globe. Genting, along with Sands Inc. and Wynn resorts of Las Vegas, have been behind efforts in the last two legislative sessions to open a resort casino in Miami.

From the McClatchy Company press release:

The McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI) announced today that it has sold 14.0 acres of Miami land, including the building housing its subsidiary The Miami Herald Media Company and an adjacent parking lot, for a purchase price of $236 million to Bayfront 2011 Property LLC, a subsidiary of Genting Malaysia Berhad (Genting). The transaction closed today.

The Miami Herald Media Company is the publisher of The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, related websites and other media businesses. Genting and its affiliates are leading developers and operators of destination resorts around the world, including the United States, Malaysia, Manila, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

The Miami Herald Media Company will continue to operate from its existing location for up to two years rent free while McClatchy pursues other sites for its media operations. Approximately 9.4 acres of the land was previously under contract to be sold, but that agreement expired in January 2011.
Gary Pruitt, McClatchy’s chairman and chief executive, said, “We are pleased to complete this transaction. The Genting team has been great to work with and has been true to its word throughout our negotiations.

“This property, located on Biscayne Bay, has been home to The Miami Herald for many years. While locating newspaper operations on the bay may have made sense in the past, it no longer is the best fit.
“Importantly, the sale of this real estate has no impact on the mission of The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald,” Pruitt said.

“The Miami Herald is the premier provider of news and information in South Florida, winning 20 Pulitzer Prizes and numerous other awards over a long and distinguished history of community service. El Nuevo Herald is among the finest Spanish language newspapers in the United States and is dedicated to serving the Hispanic community in South Florida and surrounding areas.

May 26, 2011

Xavier Suarez wins Miami-Dade commission race

He had to wait two extra days, but former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez was declared the winner of a Miami-Dade County Commission race Thursday, after an appeals court ruled in dramatic fashion that the suppressed results from Tuesday’s election should be made public.

Suarez defeated Julio Robaina, a former state lawmaker and South Miami mayor, 53 percent to 47 percent, according to unofficial numbers posted by the county elections department.

“Wow,” a breathless Suarez said Thursday evening. “I’m still a little numb…This was a rollercoaster.”

The Third District Court of Appeal held an emergency hearing Thursday afternoon to decide the case of a would-be candidate who said the county had not set aside enough time for hopefuls to jump in the District 7 race.

Full story here.