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272 posts from October 2011

October 26, 2011

CNN Florida poll shows Mitt Romney's the man to beat

From an Oct. 20-25 Time/CNN poll of registered Republicans in Fla (MoE +/- 5 percent:

1.         If the Republican presidential primary were held today, please tell me which of the following people you would be most likely to support. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, businessman Herman Cain, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, or former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum  (RANDOM ORDER)
      Romney                                      30%
      Cain                                            18%
      Gingrich                                       9%
      Perry                                           9%
      Paul                                             6%
      Bachmann                                    4%
      Huntsman                                     1%
      Santorum                                     1%
      Someone else (vol.)                      1%
      None/ No one (vol.)                     7%
      No opinion                                  14%



Posted by Adam C. Smith


Judges tells state that cuts to state worker benefits broke contract

The decision to cut state and local government workers pay 3 percent and shift the money to the state’s pension fund broke the state’s contract with employees, a Leon County circuit judge told lawyers for Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature on Wednesday.

But was the move illegal? That’s the question Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford left undecided as she ended the day-long hearing on the lawsuit brought by the Florida Education Association and other state and local government unions.

The unions sued the state for changing the rules of the game on pensions for current employees when it cut worker salaries 3 percent, eliminated cost of living adjustments, or COLAs, for retirement benefits, and shifted the money into the Florida Retirement System to save the state $1 billion during the last legislative session.

The state argues that it was entitled to make the changes, which it called “modifications,” under its budgetary authority and denies it violated the collective bargaining rights of state workers when it made the changes without renegotiating employee contracts.

Fulford wasn’t buying it. “The more you work, the longer there is a reduction in the COLA,’’ she said. Read more here.

Machen tells Scott he's open to 'fine-tuning' the higher education system

Just before Gov. Rick Scott earned headlines for his curious derision of anthropology majors, University of Florida President Bernie Machen offered a three-page memo on the state of higher education as it related to Gator Nation.

"We are, and we intend to remain, the state's most capable partner in higher education to promote the state's goals and interest," Machen writes. "We look forward to fine-tuning this understanding in the future."

Machen opens his memo, obtained in a Times-Herald public records request, by noting the Texas plan that has caught Scott's attention is largely being implemented in Florida. He questions part of the Texas proposal that would use student evaluations to determine merit pay and tenure.

"UF has a robust system of post-tenure review to ensure that faculty members remain productive throughout their careers," Machen writes in the Sept. 22 memo. "Students control their destiny through the ability to take their state-funded Bright Futures scholarships wherever they choose to matriculate. Student satisfaction is further measured by retention rates, graduation rates and applicant demand for admission."

It's difficult to remember after the press Scott has received for mocking anthropology, posting university salaries, pushing for more science-related degrees and handing out copies of the Lone Star State's "7 Breakthrough Solutions for Higher Education," that the governor has yet to put out a policy proposal for the higher education system.

Continue reading "Machen tells Scott he's open to 'fine-tuning' the higher education system" »

PolitiFact Florida checks Sen. Bill Nelson's role wrangling oil spill data from BP

It's been a year and a half since oil suddenly gushed from the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig into the Gulf of Mexico. 

In the early days, rig operator BP estimated about 1,000 barrels a day might be escaping into the gulf. The true number? More like 50,000 to 60,000 barrels — or more than 2 million gallons — every day, for three months.

How did we learn it was so high?

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., says it wasn't until he and a Senate colleague were able to "wrangle the actual streaming video" from BP that scientists were able to calculate the flow.

Nelson spoke about the spill Oct. 11 on the Senate floor, where he urged his colleagues to find a way to fund gulf research. Was the senior senator from Florida responsible for lifting the veil on a disaster unfolding 5,000 feet underwater?

PolitiFact Florida checked it out.

Broward Democrat sets sights on school board

With less than a year left until term limits force him out of state office, state Rep. Franklin Sands, a Weston Democrat, is setting his sights on the Broward County School Board.

Sands, a former State House Democratic Leader, announced on Wednesday his bid for one of two countywide at-large seats on the nine-member body.

The seat is currently held by Republican Katie Leach, an autism educator who was tapped by Gov. Rick Scott to fill the seat in September, following the abrupt resignation of former board member Jennifer Gottlieb. Leach, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, has said she plans on running next year for the District 4 seat currently held by Maureen Dinnen.

Sands, 71, who has six-grandchildren attending Broward public schools, said he decided to run because he believes his legislative experience will bring new "skill sets" to a board that has had to navigate through $171 million in budget cuts this school year.

"There's funding issues that are tremendously important," Sands said in a phone interview.  This year the state Legislature gutted education funding by $1 billion.

"We've got to readjust our thinking, and realize problems must be solved as part of a collaborative effort," Sands said. "No one person has all the answers."

So far, with election season a year away no one else has signed up to run for the at-large seat according to the Broward Supervisor of Elections website, but seven others have signed up to run for three district seats up for grabs.

In Rubio-gate, liberal group finds numerous cases where he let errors slide about parents fleeing Cuba

When we examined the extent to which the Washington Post may have embellished the story of Marco Rubio embellishing the story of his parents' exile, we noted that "to a degree, Rubio could be guilty of failing to correct something in the news media that inured to his gain (he and his people are quick to to criticize inaccuracies they don't like almost the second they hit the internet)."

The Democratic group American Bridge 21st Century did a little digging and found about 20 cases where Rubio's folks apparently didn't correct the record when the news media incorrectly reported his parents fled Castro's Cuba (they fled Batista's Cuba).

Note: one of the cases flagged by American Bridge concerns an article I wrote where I said his parents fled "just before" Castro came to power in 1959 (It's the only one that says "before" rather than "after.") That was based on Rubio saying his parents fled sometime between '57 and '59. So is the word "just" wrong? Also, Rubio's group insists that Castro still denied his family access to their homeland once Cuba devolved into a dictatorship. And what's more, he apparently wasn't sure of the date himself until very recently (when this birther-line of inquiry began).

Here's today's story about some of the discrepancies in Rubio's recounting, and here's the email:

Continue reading "In Rubio-gate, liberal group finds numerous cases where he let errors slide about parents fleeing Cuba" »

Jim Greer: George LeMieux must be 'kidding' when he says he did minority outreach

A few days ago, we noted that Republican Senate candidate George LeMieux and former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer were at odds over a $150,000 contract LeMieux had with the RPOF. Greer said in April it was to advise former Gov. Charlie Crist, who appointed LeMieux to an interim U.S. Senate post that Crist ultimately lost to Marco Rubio.

LeMieux told the St. Petersburg Times/Bay News 9 that the contract was for "minority outreach," and he took a swipe at Greer, who is charged with ripping off RPOF in a fundraising scheme. Greer is fighting the charges and says they're politically motivated by a party that didn't want to pay him severance.

So we asked Greer about the contract, and here's what he said:

"Minority outreach -- is he kidding?

"Here are the facts: I was instructed to give George a $10,000 month contract which was common practice . He provided no service whatsoever regarding minority outreach or any thing else of value that I was aware of."

"He later informed me the contract was  for him not receiving the full amount of an agreed upon bonus for Gov Crist winning the election. He only stopped receiving the payments in April or March of '09 after I advised him of media interest. And it was he who discontinued the arrangements and payments due to his concern over the contract."

Here's what LeMieux's campaign said: “It's sad Jim Greer is worried about his impending criminal trial and he’s clearly under a great deal of stress. However, that doesn’t change the fact that George LeMieux provided advice to the Republican Party of Florida in 2008 and early 2009 on a wide variety of topics, including minority outreach.” 

Greer wouldn't quite say who "instructed" him, but he suggested it was Crist and added that "Due to George's relationship with the governor and as the former chief of staff, his requests were adhered to many times without my knowledge."

"George seems to have memory loss about this and other matters, which he may need to be reminded of.

"I and my family have put up with enough lies and betrayal and pain.... Please know I liked George. But the damage that has been done to me, my wife and children requires the truth and facts on this and many other matters."

Bloomberg News adds Tallahassee office, expands capital press corps

floridapresscenter.jpgHere's something different: The capital press corps is expanding. (And we know who owns the company...)

Bloomberg News has opened an office in the Press Center building a few blocks away from the Capitol where the Times/Herald and several other statehouse bureaus can be found.

The building has lost a number of reporters in recent years as newspapers downsize or completely shutter their Tallahassee operations . Additions in recent years include the News Service of Florida, an online subscription service owned by a group of Boston journalists who operate StatehouseNews.com in Massachusetts, and Sunshine State News, a website whose owners have refused to identify themselves.

Bloomberg News, a division of Bloomberg L.P., has stationed its Miami reporter, Simone Baribeau, in the bureau for now and Buzz is that they're looking to add another.

From a company spokesman: "Bloomberg News is opening a bureau in Tallahassee as part of our ongoing expansion of state and local government news coverage in the U.S.  Reporting from our Tallahassee bureau will appear across all of our global platforms including Bloomberg Businessweek, Bloomberg Markets magazine, Bloomberg Television, Bloomberg Radio, Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg Government, Bloomberg Law and the Bloomberg Professional service.  Tallahassee joins a growing roster of new statehouse bureaus we opened in the past year in Austin, Columbus, Denver, Harrisburg, Lansing and Phoenix."

Teamsters ethics complaint against Gov. Rick Scott thrown out

The Florida Ethics Commission has dismissed a Teamsters Union complain that Gov. Rick Scott had a conflict of interest pushing a state plan to privatize prison operations in 18 South Florida counties.

The commission decided the complaint had no legal basis and "fails to indicate, in a substantive, factual manner, a possible violation."

Read the commission's ruling here. Background on the issue here.

Ethics Commission clears Miami Rep. Erik Fresen of alleged voting conflict

4461The Commission on Ethics announced Tuesday it found no probable cause for a complaint accusing Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, of violating state voting conflict law.

A Tallahassee woman filed the complaint in April after Fresen, 35, voted for a charter schools reform bill. Fresen's sister and brother-in-law work for Academica, which operates 12 charter schools in Florida. Trish Thompson, whose three children attend Leon County public schools, said Fresen should have disclosed a voting conflict on the proposal, HB 7195.

A probable cause hearing was held Friday and closed to the public. But Fresen's response, via his attorney, is now public record. Read Thompson's complaint, a response from Fresen's lawyer, and the commission's report.

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