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230 posts from July 2011

July 29, 2011

Adam Hasner the Tallahassee insider rebranded as outsider

Adam Hasner is branding himself in Florida’s Republican U.S. Senate primary as the perfect trifecta: an anti-establishment, principled conservative who was among the first to confront Charlie Crist’s moderate ways.

Yet a review of Hasner’s record as a state legislator reveals a more nuanced record than the staunch conservative who now urges “no compromise” in Washington over the debt talks.

Hasner was the consummate Republican insider — down to his red white and blue boots made from elephant skin —who served eight years in the House, four as majority leader.

While he has criticized better-funded Senate rivals of raking in special interest money, Hasner raised $2.7 million himself for his House campaigns and three separate fundraising committees he controlled. About a fifth of the money came from Tallahassee, where lobbyists and consultants seek to influence state lawmakers.

Once called the “most partisan Republican in Tallahassee,” by Marco Rubio, Hasner waged battles against labor unions and led the charge in 2009 to reject $444 million in federal stimulus money for unemployment compensation, saying it hurt businesses and created new entitlements.

But Hasner also supported a watered-down climate-change law that the Legislature now wants to repeal. And he voted for a budget with $2.2 billion in tax and fee increases and billions more in federal stimulus money. He also favored high-speed rail and SunRail, which tea party activists came to abhor.

Story here

A default would be bad, Florida mayors tell Congress

The White House, eager to show the worry outside Washington over the debt issue, released a letter signed by 37 mayors in Florida.

"As the Mayors of cities in Florida, we represent a large number of Americans who will be adversely affected by a downgrade of the United States’ credit rating or a default on the national debt. Economists agree that a failure to increase the debt ceiling will have a disastrous impact on our cities and will lead to another economic downturn," it reads.

"To protect our citizens from further financial hardship, we urge you to support a balanced approach to raising the debt ceiling. Reasonable cuts to domestic spending, combined with the elimination of some tax loopholes for the wealthiest Americans and largest corporations, is the most responsible way to preserve our economic security and promote future growth."

Read the letter here.


CFO Jeff Atwater won't pay for funeral for teen who died in detention

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is refusing to pay the funeral expenses for a teenager who died in state custody after unsuccessfully seeking medical attention for several hours.

Juvenile justice administrators had offered to pay up to $5,000 in funeral costs to bury 18-year-old Eric Perez, who died at the West Palm Beach detention center on July 10. But after cutting a check to the Tillman Funeral Home, Florida’s chief financial officer ordered that the check be destroyed, records show.

Perez, who was detained at the Palm Beach County Juvenile Detention Center on a marijuana possession charge, would not have been the first child whose funeral expenses were borne by the state.

In November 2008, the Department of Juvenile Justice paid for the funeral of a Tampa Bay-area youth, said agency spokesman C.J. Drake. In January 2009, the agency helped bury a Highlands County youth.

“The Department of Juvenile Justice has a policy dating from 2008 authorizing the payment of funeral expenses when a youth dies in our custody,” Drake told The Miami Herald.

“The chief financial officer printed the check, and sent it over to us,” Drake said, referring to the agency’s offer to pay for Eric’s funeral. “Then they said, ‘Whoa, don’t send it.’ ” The funeral home, Drake said, has received no payment from the state.

Atwater's office said in a statement: "The CFO wants to have resolution on this claim and in a timely manner for the family. The Department of Juvenile Justice was advised that they did not have statutory authority to pay for funeral expenses.  DJJ was also advised that a more appropriate venue to address this claim is the Division of Risk Management."

 In a July 26 email to DJJ, Mark Merry from the chief financial office said DJJ “does not have statutory authority to make the payment.” An agency spokesman is looking into why the department stopped payment of the check.

Drake said leaders of the two state agencies still are discussing the funeral expenses. “I’m confident that we can work out an agreement so that the expenses are paid,” he said Friday afternoon.” And Secretary Walters is committed to paying the expenses.”


Gov. Scott to hold pro-life bill signing celebration at mansion

The bills have been effect for a month, but pro-life advocates will gather at the governor's mansion on Saturday to celebrate the passage and signing by Gov. Rick Scott of four bills intended to limit access to abortion.

Lawmakers passed five such bills in the 2011 session. The governor signed four of them. One requires women to receive an ultrasound before undergoing an abortion and be offered the opportunity to have it described to her. Another tightens requiremens for parental notification when a minor seeks an abortion. A third prohibits insurance policies created through the federal health care law from covering abortions, and the fourth redirects proceeds from Choose Life license plates from counties to Choose Life, Inc., which counsels pregnant women. Lawmakers also passed a bill proposing a Constitutional amendment, which doesn't require the governor's signature, that would prohibit using tax dollars to pay for abortions.

John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, is traveling from Orlando for the event, which starts at 1:30 p.m.
"We are thrilled that the governor is taking a moment to publicly recognize the pro-life community and the accomplishments of the Legislature, which are historic," Stemberger said. "In 15 years, there were four pieces of prolife legislation passed. And in one year, we had five major reforms passed. I think that puts it in historic category."

Democratic Party spox Eric Jotkoff leaving his job

After three years and 26 days on the job, Democratic Party spokesman and prolific, acerbic tweeter Eric Jotkoff is moving on to other ventures. His last day is sometime in the next two weeks he said, "Or whenever they kick me out the door." 

Jotkoff said he is laying the groundwork for another job, but wouldn't reveal what it is. In an e-mail sent out Friday, Jotkoff wrote:

I'm proud of the work we did helping President Obama carry Florida in 2008 and highlighting the dirty deeds of disgraced Speaker Ray Sansom and indicted Republican Chairman Jim Greer.  We worked to expose the many skeletons in Senator Marco Rubio’s past, responded to the latest craziness coming from Governor Rick Scott and accomplished so much more. It is my sincere hope the Party’s role as a watchdog in Tallahassee has helped improve the governance of the Sunshine State by helping keep those in power honest.

Over the next few weeks, I will be taking some time off to relax and recharge before announcing my future plans. I look forward to spending several weeks without having my Blackberry basically surgically attached to my hand because I won’t need to respond to the scandal de jour.

Barack Obama's popularity tanking to all-time low

We said earlier this week that President Barack Obama was winning the p.r. battle over the debt ceiling, but it losing the war.

Here's more proof: Gallup Poll finds he's at an all-time low. This comes after Pew found his lead in the presidential race has vanished.

Speculation here: Obama was elected on a "hope and change" platform that hasn't delivered. He said he would change the tone in Washington, but things seem more toxic. This is not to say it's his fault. But when you overpromise and under-deliver in a time of high unemployment, it's bad news for you and good news for your political foes.

Perhaps the only silver line for Obama-ites here is that, if he's playing the low-expectations game, he's perfectly positioned.

From Gallup:

President Obama's job approval rating is at a new low, averaging 40% in July 26-28 Gallup Daily tracking. His prior low rating of 41% occurred several times, the last of which was in April. As recently as June 7, Obama had 50% job approval.

Obama's approval rating averaged 46% in June and was near that level for most of July; however, it has stumbled in the past few days, coinciding with intensification of the debt ceiling/budget battle in Washington.

Obama's 40% overall approval rating nearly matches the recent 41% approval Americans gave him for handling the debt ceiling negotiations. Though Americans rate Obama poorly for his handling of the situation, they are less approving of how House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are handling it. Gallup does not include ratings of Congress or congressional leaders in its Daily tracking, and thus, there is no overall job approval rating of Boehner, Reid, or Congress directly comparable to Obama's current 40% overall job approval rating. 


Newspaper Lobby Wants to Take Over State's Lobbyist Registration Office

   A group that lobbies on behalf of newspapers around Florida wants to take over the office that keeps track of the state's registered lobbyists.

The Florida Press Association represents papers like the Miami Herald, whose reporters often cover the work of lobbyists.

WLRN Miami Herald reporter Gina Jordan tells us the Florida Legislature has plans to outsource the Office of Lobbyist Registration.


Florida Dems chair Rod Smith lays into Tim Pawlenty

With GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty set to fundraise in Florida next, Democratic Party Chair Rod Smith trashed the former Minnesota governor for raising taxes in that state and signing the "Cut, Cap and Balance" pledge.

"This legislation preserves tax cuts for the rich, subsidies for oil companies and special tax deals for items like corporate jets," Smith said.

He also criticized the proposal for holding "America’s debt hostage to the Republican’s fiscal agenda by requiring both houses of Congress pass a balanced budget amendment before the debt limit can be raised."

"We don’t need to amend the Constitution of the United States to take care of getting our fiscal house in order. We simply need to have leadership willing to compromise," Smith said.

Smith reiterated the characterization of the proposal as "The Ryan plan on steroids," and criticized it for cuts to energy, education, health care, seniors and people with disabilities. 

When Pawlenty was governor, Smith said, taxes increased for the bottom 90 percent of Minnesota residents while taxes for the upper 10 percent went down.

"When he had a chance to lead he placed the burden on middle class families," smith said. "Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty has proven he didn’t work for Minnesota's working families, and he won't work for America's working families."

Rick Scott: Make PIP insurance coverage optional

Drivers should be able to choose whether they want personal injury protection as part of their auto insurance, Gov. Rick Scott told a Miami Spanish-language radio station Friday morning.

“We’ve got to pass a law that allows citizens the choice of what type of automobile insurance coverage they want,” Scott said on En Caliente (In the Heat), the popular morning show on WAQI-AM (710).

His response came to a question from co-host Ninoska Pérez-Castellón about what the state can do to lower auto insurance fraud, namely staged car accidents. Fraud would go down if drivers weren’t required to purchase policies with medical claims coverage, Scott said.

The state  requires drivers to carry $10,000 worth of insurance so accident injuries are covered regardless of which driver causes the accident.

"If we allow the person who's going to buy the insurance to decide whether they want that insurance or not, then people won't buy it because that's too expensive and they don't need it," Scott said.


PolitiFact unveils Promise Meter for Dade mayor

Newly elected Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez promised during the campaign to slash his own paycheck, post his schedule on the internet and add term limits for county commissioners (we're curious to see how he convinces the commissioners to agree to shorten their own political futures.)

Today, PolitiFact Florida unveils a Carlos-O-Meter to track Gimenez's promises. Just like our promise meter for Gov. Rick Scott, we'll be keeping a close eye on the new mayor and rating him on his progress toward delivering the goods to county voters.