« May 2011 | Main | July 2011 »

239 posts from June 2011

June 27, 2011

Low Turnout Expected Tuesday in Miami-Dade Mayor's Race

    Voters will head to the polls Tuesday to elect a mayor for Miami-Dade County.  May’s election narrowed the field of eleven candidates down to Carlos Gimenez and Julio Robaina. Each campaigned on rolling back the property tax increase that led voters to recall Mayor Carlos Alvarez in March. Political reporter Patricia Mazzei with the Miami Herald talks about the candidates with WLRN Miami Herald reporter Gina Jordan.



Gov. Scott vetoes three bills, including one on assisted living facilities

Propelled by a Miami Herald investigation that revealed stories of neglect at assisted living facilities, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a bill that would have eased some reporting requirements for those facilities.

One element of HB 4045 would have relieved the Agency for Health Care Administration of creating an annual report for some state agencies detailing a list of all assisted living facilities sanctioned or fined for violations, the numbers and class of violations, the penalties imposed and the current status of the case, according to a bill analysis. It would have also repealed a requirement that the facilities submit monthly reports to AHCA disclosing any liability claims made against them.

"Until a more deliberate examination of the regulation and oversight of assisted living facilities is conducted, I do not believe it is prudent to relax any reporting requirements for assisted living facilities," he wrote.

Scott said he will form a task force to examine statutes relating to ALFs and suggest ways to "improve the state's ability to monitor quality and safety."

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, passed the Senate unanimously and earned all but three lawmakers' favorable votes in the House. It was one of three Scott vetoed Monday.

He vetoed HB 689, sponsored by Rep. Lori Berman, D-Delray Beach, because it conflicted with SB 2160, which offered more comprehensive requirements for offering online testing for learner's driver's license applicants, Scott wrote. The bill would have also required lessons on the dangers of using handheld communications devices at the wheel be included in driver's improvement curricula.

The last veto fell on HB 767, sponsored by Rep. Patrick Rooney, R-West Palm Beach. The bill would have granted boards of county commissioners to negotiate the lease of county real property for a period not more than five years, thereby avoiding a competitive bidding process.

"This bill has no fiscal impact to the state and should have a positive impact on counties," the bill analysis states.

In his message, Scott wrote that the state's current laws served the taxpayers well. "Competitive bidding is fundamental for protecting the taxpayers' money," he wrote.

Scott signed the following five bills into law:

HB 479 Medical Malpractice

HB 1463 Crisis Stabilization Units

HB 7005 Unemployment Compensation

SB 926 Liability/Employers of Developmentally Disabled

SB 1546 Charter Schools

Movers and Shakers: Ballard Partners expands to Miami, Nan Rich hires a staff director

Theresa Frederick is the new staff director of the Senate Democratic Office, Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, announced last week. Frederick has held a variety of roles throughout her 29-year tenure in state government, including chief of staff to then-House Speaker T.K. Wetherell. She started her new job Friday. A Florida State University alumna, Frederick most recently served as the senior legisaltive analyst for the Senate Subcommittee on General Government Appropriations.


Ballard Partners -- no longer Smith & Ballard, as you may recall -- opened an office in Miami on Monday, bringing the firm's total locations to four. President Brian Ballard hired Sylvester "Syl" Lukis to manage the new Miami office. Before taking this job, Lukis ran a state and local government lobbying firm he started for industries such as cruise, health, corrections, communications and IT industries. He also lobbied for Miami-Dade County and the cities of Miami and Miami Beach at the federal level. Before that, he served on the U.S. State Department's Cuban Haitian Task Force and as an assistant to the general counsel of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Ballard Partners also announced a new hire in its Tallahassee office: John Johnston, who will lead the firm's transportation initiatives after about 20 years of working for the Florida Legislature. Johnston is a former staff director of the House Transportation Committee.


Slade O'Brien is the new state director of Americans for Prosperity-Florida, the free-market activism group announced Monday. O'Brien's previous jobs include president of Florida Strategies Group, executive director of Florida Stop Lawsuit Abuse, and Florida director of Citizens of a Sound Economy.


Lindsay Potvin has joined the Florida Democratic Party as its new media director, tasked with expanding the party's social media outreach and web presence. She had worked as communications manager for FSU's College of Business and public relations firm Salter Mitchell, the News Service of Florida reported.

Send personnel news to ksanders [at] sptimes [dot] com or via Twitter @KatieLSanders.

The Dept. of Told ya So: Mack endorses Haridopolos

Confirmation of yesterday's report re: Connie Mack endorsing Mike Haridopolos. Here's the statement:

"For too long Bill Nelson’s liberal record has been at odds with Floridians.  From his support of ObamaCare, his opposition to tax cuts and his recent attempt to further bankrupt our state and federal government with his support of an unnecessary rail line, Bill Nelson can no longer be trusted with our tax dollars.  Mike Haridopolos has confronted the challenges of our day with a steadfast commitment to freedom, limited government, and fiscal responsibility and I am proud to stand with him to put Florida and our country back on a path of economic and job growth," said Rep. Mack. "I remember fondly Mike’s participation in the Freedom Caucus in Tallahassee and his watchful eye on the state budget as President of the Senate.  I ask all Florida Republicans today to join me in my support of Mike Haridopolos for the U.S. Senate," Rep. Mack concluded.

 "I'm proud to have earned the endorsement of Congressman Mack, as I greatly admire his dedication to being a strong champion for limited government and freedom, here and abroad," Haridopolos said. "He has been a leader in reforming government and promoting fiscal discipline both in Florida and Washington, D.C. I look forward to having Connie with me on the campaign trail."


Mike Haridopolos earns Brevard CC $488 on $152,000 book deal

After Senate President Mike Haridopolos recently said his unusual book deal with Brevard Community College would earn the school some money, the liberal group Progress Florida took that as a challenge. It asked Brevard how much revenue has been produced by Florida Legislative History and Processes. Grand total: $487.90.

That leaves about $151,512 left before Haridopolos book pays off.

The book deal has been a major headache for Haridopolos, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. Colleges seldom, if ever, pay teachers to write books. The deal is even rarer for community colleges. Critics said Haridopolos, who was a college teacher before becoming a pol, was cashing in on his political position at the same time he bashed big-government spending.

When Haridopolos finally produced the book, it wasn't quite the "scholarly work" that it had been billed as, reading less like a history and more like a how-to advice manual. Democrats mocked it as a coloring book, although Haridopolos handled the hit like a pro. And Haridopolos doesn't always take his own advice when it comes to running for office and running the Senate

Progress Florida has dogged Haridopolos for months and launched a website, Dirty Hari, to chronicle ever slip and hit.

Here's the email:

From: Eskicirak, Pinar [mailto:eskicirakp@brevardcc.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 7:43 AM
To: Jon Bleyer, Progress Florida
Cc: Junco, Kate
Subject: RE: Information request re "Florida Legislative History and Processes"
Hi Jon,
The total number of books sold as of today is 70 and the total royalties awarded to Brevard Community College is $487.90. We receive 70 percent of the sale price through Amazon Kindle after a $0.03 delivery cost per book is deducted.
Thank you,
Pinar Eskicirak

Budget Coordinator/Office Manager
Marketing and Media Relations
Brevard Community College
3865 North Wickham Road
Melbourne, FL 32935
Phone: (321) 433-7092

June 26, 2011

Rick Scott faces tough decision on costly SunRail project

Roused by his tea party base, Gov. Rick Scott early this year halted a decades-in-the-works bullet train linking Tampa and Orlando — citing concerns about possible costs to Florida taxpayers. Yet a different fate awaits SunRail, a commuter rail line in Central Florida that would cost state taxpayers even more. Why is SunRail likely to go forward when high-speed rail did not? A mix of politics, legal concerns and an opportunity to more quickly move commercial cargo, opponents and proponents of the project say. Read the story here.

Connie Mack to endorse Mike Haridopolos?

We're getting word that U.S. Rep. Connie Mack intends to endorse his old friend, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, in the crowded Republican primary race for U.S. Senate. Mack had toyed with running for the seat, but opted to stay put in his Lee County-based congressional district, which will be redrawn this winter by a Legislature partly controlled by Haridopolos.

Haridopolos' spokesman, Tim Baker, said he couldn't confirm or deny the potential endorsement.

So far, Mack is 0-1 in endorsements in Republican races for U.S. Senate. Remember, he stuck by former Gov. Charlie Crist in the 2010 race that Marco Rubio ultimately won (after chasing Crist out of the Republican primary all together).

One Haridopolos rival, former state House Republican leader Adam Hasner, is hoping to repeat Rubio's performance by hitting the tea-party and Republican straw-poll circuit while his rival concentrates more on sucking up hella cash in Tallahassee. One difference between Hasner and Haridopolos: Hasner would have voted for the Ryan Medicare plan and Haridopolos would've voted against it (background here). Note: Mack agreed in an interview that Haridopolos' position was a "mistake." But apparently it's not enough of an error to cost Haridopolos an endorsement.

The other Republicans running in the Senate race, George LeMieux and Mike McCallister, both say they would've voted for the Ryan plan if they had no other choice. As Haridopolos soaks in the Tallahassee money, LeMieux, a former Crist aide who was appointed briefly to the Senate seat Rubio ultimately won, is counting on some Washington coin. Hasner is hoping to win the movement conservative support and money.

McCallister, a former gubernatorial candidate and college teacher, is running as the most outsider of the contenders. His campaign calls the other three candidates the "Tallahassee triplets." 


Absentee ballots key in Miami-Dade mayor's race

The act of voting has long been protected by safeguards aimed to ensure it is done in privacy—usually in the sanctity of a curtained polling booth, free of intrusion or coercion.

No longer. For more and more people in Greater Miami, voting is very different. It doesn’t take place in a polling booth, and it’s not done in private. In fact, the votes may be cast in the presence of campaign field workers armed with lists of names, who arrive on doorsteps to urge voters to fill out ballots for specific candidates, and who may even insist on mailing the ballots themselves to the Elections Department.

This is a reality of absentee voting today. Once a marginal factor in elections, absentee voting has metastasized into a pivotal force. In special elections that bring low turnout, absentee votes sometimes outnumber Election Day ballots. In the 2008 special election for Miami-Dade County property appraiser, a staggering 67 percent of votes were absentees.

Absentee votes are certain to be a decisive factor in the election Tuesday for Miami-Dade County mayor, in which Julio Robaina faces off against Carlos Gimenez. Full story by Matthew Haggman, Martha Brannigan and Laura Isensee here.

Gimenez, Robaina and the perks of public office

The two candidates vying to become the next mayor of Miami-Dade have promised to deliver reform at County Hall, long plagued with generous salaries and excessive benefits for officials. Yet both Carlos Gimenez and Julio Robaina have themselves reaped the perks of public office.

Former county commissioner Gimenez had a car allowance. Former Hialeah mayor Robaina received a generous salary. And both will have the benefit of robust pensions of more than $100,000 a year.

Outside political groups — and the rivals themselves — have pointed the finger at each other over public benefits, trying to connect them to ousted mayor Carlos Alvarez, who angered voters with his $300,000-plus in salary and benefits and taxpayer-financed BMW.

While Robaina supporters have gone after Gimenez for his pension, Robaina, 46, is slated to have one of his own.

In 2020, when he turns 55, Robaina can receive $110,000 a year for his nearly 14 years of service — eight years as a part-time councilman and nearly six years as a mayor and top administrator.

“Unlike Gimenez, who to date has collected $1.3 million and will continue to collect for life, and is eligible for additional pensions in the coming years, I will not receive a pension until age 55,” Robaina said through his spokeswoman, Ana Carbonell. Full story by Laura Isensee and Matthew Haggman here.

In Miami-Dade, the I'm-not-Carlos-Alvarez election

Julio Robaina and Carlos Gimenez would like voters to believe that they have sharply opposed views on how to be the one thing the public clearly wants: a take-charge mayor who will hold the line on taxes and make a dysfunctional County Hall work.

But in reality, the candidates’ messages in the waning days of the campaign are hard to tell apart.

In advertisements, campaign appearances and robocalls, they both hit the highlights:

Seasoned leadership — check.

Roll back taxes — check.

Reform — check.

Over the past week, the two hopefuls staged made-for-media events to push ideas that are not really new and not particularly specific — just repackaged enough to ensure the rivals would remain on the television airwaves and in voters’ minds leading up to an election Tuesday expected to draw low turnout.

The last-minute push to promote their vision for the county appears to have done little to catch the eye of undecided voters who expressed dwindling enthusiasm toward the race.

“At this point, the choices are so bad that I don’t know what to do,” said Lourdes Riera, a 67-year-old retiree from Little Gables who characterized the choice as picking between the lesser of two evils. “The more I think of it, the worse it gets.” Full story here.