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237 posts from November 2011

November 29, 2011

Senate's offers House redistricting olive branch: we'll take your map

Senate Redistricting Chairman Don Gaetz said Tuesday that the Senate will not be releasing a map redrawing the political boundaries for the House but instead will accept the House's plan in a one-for-one trade.

"I hope the House will take the Senate map and we in return ought to give deference to the House map,'' Gaetz told the Herald/Times. 

The Republican from Niceville, who has been designated the next Senate president, said the negotiations should be over the Congressional maps. "The congressional map we've drawn is not going to be the last word,'' he said.

Rep. Will Weatherford, the Wesley Chapel Republican who has been designated his chamber's next speaker, said the House, however, still plans to release one or more Senate maps next Tuesday. The House redistricting committees will release multiple maps for House, Senate and Congress and discuss them in workshops next week, he said.

"We will take into consideration the Senate map,'' said Weatherford, who is also the House's redistricting chairman. "It's still early in the process. We're only in the second or third inning of a nine inning game."


Marco Rubio to oppose State Department official charged with U.S.-Cuba relations

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said he will oppose the nomination of Roberta Jacobson to be the assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Jacobson's responsibilites include the U.S. relationship with Cuba. 

Rubio also said he'd oppose the confirmation of Mari Carmen Aponte as ambassador to El Salvador and Adam Namm as ambassador to Ecuador.

Rubio didn't say he'd outright block their nominations -- but did say that he reserves the right to do so. Under the rules of the Senate, a single senator has the ability to block votes on nominees or legislation by placing a so-called "hold" on it. 

"I will oppose these nominees in the Foreign Relations Committee, and reserve my right to block or vote against any other future Western Hemisphere nominees until the Administration takes meaningful action to change its policies," Rubio said. 

Rubio described the Obama administration's policy towards Latin America as one that's been "defined by appeasement, weakness and the alienation of our allies."

"Earlier this year, I encouraged the Administration to seize these nominations as an opportunity to outline a plan to steer U.S. policy in the Western Hemisphere towards renewing America’s commitment to promoting democracy and free markets," he said.

Jacobson during her confirmation hearing defended the Obama administration’s policies toward the communist island nation, including policies that allow Cuban-Americans to send more money there.

Jacobson, who appeared earlier this month before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for her confirmation hearing, also told senators that the administration would do whatever it could through diplomatic channels to secure the unconditional release of U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who has been imprisoned in Cuba for nearly two years.

Rule #1 for reporters interviewing Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart: Don't laugh

Miami has some of the most interesting politicians in the nation, some of whom are sharp as razors when it comes to tussling with the press.

Consider this exchange with Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, who took a chuckle as a sign of "advocacy" against his statements about President Obama's foreign policy as it relates to Libya and the killing of Osama bin Laden. The laugh was more an expression of surprise Diaz-Balart wasn't giving any credit to Obama without strings attached.

The fun starts at 3:28 or so, Diaz-Balart says:"I applaud President Obama for doing two things: for keeping the policies of the Bush administration...."

At that point, I chuckle.

Diaz-Balart: "You laugh. Are you a reporter or a debater?"

Game on. Listen to the rest. And welcome to covering politics in Miami. (Note: This cuts off before a relatively dull discussion about reapportionment and retrogression. Also, though we've occasionally spoken by phone, Diaz-Balart hasn't physically seen me since 2002 when I barely covered him in the Legislature for the Palm Beach Post).

Download DiazBalart


Dream Act supporters endorse Mitt Romney, who's mum on immigration in Miami

Mitt Romney traveled to the Florida county with the largest number of immigrants and touted the endorsements of three Cuban-American Republicans who crossed party lines to support the pro-immigrant Dream Act.

But not one word was specifically said about immigration — one of the most high-profile issue in Repubulican politics — at the endorsement event featuring U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz Balart and former Congressman Lincoln Diaz Balart.

In the Cuban-American community, few politicians carry such weight as “the three amigos,” as Ros-Lehtinen calls them. Lincoln Diaz-Balart is also popular with Nicaraguans and Haitians, who received amnesty under two bills he pushed through Congress in the late 1990s.

Nowadays “amnesty” is a bad word in Republican primary politics. Romney says he’s against the Dream Act, which provides a pathway to citizenship to some immigrants, and has inveighed against other “magnets” that lead people to illegally enter or stay in the United States.

After the event, all three Hispanic leaders acknowledged they disagree with Romney on immigration. But they said he is the best candidate in the crowded field — though former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is a friend who has more consistently backed their immigration approach.

“When you analyze in depth all of the candidates’ positions, there’s not the difference that some of you in the media are pointing to,” said Lincoln Diaz-Balart. “I differ with Gov. Romney on his approach and priorities with regard to immigration.”

More here

Gov. Scott: The 'unfair' online tax loophole should remain in law

From Gov. Rick Scott's editorial board meeting Monday with the Daytona Beach News-Journal:

Q: Today is Cyber Monday and thousands, if not millions, of Floridians will go online to make holiday purchases without paying the sales taxes they face in downtown shops. Bricks-and-mortar retailers not only provide jobs in our communities, but they pay property taxes that help fund services and education. What should the Legislature do to level the economic playing field?

It's not fair. You shouldn't be treated differently, whether you're selling online or in bricks-and-mortar. That's not fair. But, at the same time, my focus is not to do it where we raise taxes. I don't want to take money out of the private sector.

Is it raising taxes to have a mechanism that helps Florida collect the sales taxes we're already supposed to pay?

If it's out of your pocket, that's a tax.

11 lawmakers get subpoenas in elections case

Eleven state legislators -- six senators and five House members -- have been issued subpoenas in the ongoing lawsuit over federal review of controversial sections of a new election law. The subpoenas were issued by a Washington, D.C. law firm that represents the League of Women Voters of Florida and the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic voter advocacy group.

The two organizations intervened in the case of State of Florida vs. United States of America and Eric H. Holder Jr., the U.S. attorney general. The state-initated lawsuit asks a three-judge panel to "pre-clear" or approve four specific sections of the new election law to ensure that they do not violate the civil rights of minority voters in five counties: Hillsborough, Collier, Hardee, Hendry and Monroe. 

Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who sponsored the legislation (HB 1355), said he received a copy of the subpoena electronically while he was talking with a reporter Tuesday. "What we'll do is look to the House counsel for guidance and conduct ourselves accordingly," Baxley said. A fifth House subpoena was issued to the State Affairs Committee, which approved the bill following a heated committee debate last spring. 

Among many other demands, the subpoena tells Baxley and the others to produce "all documents concerning your, or any other legislator's, reasons, justifications, rationales, interests and/or purposes in enacting any of the four sets of voting changes." The law firm's representative declined to discuss why specific legislators were issued subpoenas. 

The other House members whose records were demanded are Reps. Keith Perry, R-Ocala; Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach; Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City; and Trudy Williams, R-Fort Myers. Senators who were subpoenaed include Sens. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton; Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale; Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami; Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland; Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey; and John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine. (Dockery and Fasano were the only Senate Republicans who voted against the bill; all of the others voted for it). 

-- Steve Bousquet

Connie Mack to focus on "lockstep liberals" of D.C. in his Senate campaign

Forget his Republican primary opponents. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, brushed them aside while talking to reporters Tuesday about his decision to run for U.S. Senate. His target, Mack said, is incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.  

"The idea that Washington will solve all of our problems is a failed model," Mack said. "Senator Nelson has stood side by side with President Obama...and I don't think I can say it any more clear than that."

Mack said he intends to focus on Nelson's record of supporting the policies of President Barack Obama's administration. He pointed specifically to health care legislation, the stimulus package, support for raising the  debt ceiling and close relations to labor unions.

"The people of the state of Florida? What they're telling me is they've had enough," Mack said. "They've had enough of the lockstep liberals in Washington fighting for more government control of their lives."

Nelson's campaign had this statement: "There’s a dozen candidates on the Republican side and the primary isn’t until late next summer. In other words, it’s a little early to be talking about the election.  Bill’s really just focused on doing his job in the Senate. He’s always felt that if you just do your job the politics will take care of itself." 

Continue reading "Connie Mack to focus on "lockstep liberals" of D.C. in his Senate campaign" »

Mitt Romney to Dems: "bring it on," flip-flop attacks "quite a compliment."

Republican Mitt Romney responded to the Democratic National Committee's decision to bash him for his flip flops by saying that he essentially likes it.

"Bring it on," Romney told reporters as he slipped away from them in a scrum this morning Conchita Foods, a Hialeah-area warehouse.

"I think it’s quite a compliment that they tried to throw the primary to anybody but me. But you know what I’m in a great position to take on the president. He does not want to face me. He does not want to face someone who can talk about the economy, who can talk about the failure of his record and who can create jobs for America like I can."

Romney chose Conchita Foods as the site to trumpet the endorsements of Representatives Ileana Ros Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and his brother, former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

Romney said the family-owned company exemplified the American dream. Founded in Cuba by the Ferro family, it was moved to the United States after the 1959 Cuban revolution.

“Fidel Castro monstrously took over the country and took over the company,” Romney said.

Romney noted that his grandfather was from Mexico and moved to the United States when his father, George W. Romney, was a boy. A lath-and-plaster carpenter, George Romney went on to head American Motors Corp. in Michigan, where he later became governor and unsuccessfully ran for president.

One word Romney never mentioned: Immigration.

The three congressional leaders all hold liberal-to-moderate positions on immigration and have favored the pro-immigrant Dream Act, which Mitt Romney has bashed as amnesty. Democrats have attacked Romney in two web ads for changing his positions on immigration, as well as gay rights, abortion and a host of other issues.

All the Hispanic politicians said they disagreed with Romney on immigration, but they backed him because he’ll turn the economy around.

“There is no perfect candidate,” Ros Lehtinen said. “We have some disagreements about some things. But what’s important is jobs.”

Marco Rubio and CPAC. Together again.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is heading back to the Conservative Political Action Conference, which helped make the rising Republican star burn brighter last year. Here's the press release:

ALEXANDRIA, VA – The American Conservative Union (ACU) today announced U.S. Senator Marco Rubio will be a featured speaker at CPAC 2012 – the 39th annual Conservative Political Action Conference. America’s largest gathering of conservative leaders and activists will be held Thursday, February 9 – Saturday, February 11, 2012, in Washington, DC. Online registration is now open at www.cpac.org.

 “In a short period of time, Marco Rubio has proven himself a courageous force in the U.S. Senate and a rising star of the national conservative movement,” said ACU Chairman Al Cardenas. “The American Conservative Union is proud to announce Senator Rubio’s return to CPAC, and proud to host the nation’s premier venue to highlight conservative leaders, principles and policies in 2012.”

 Every year, the ACU brings thousands of grassroots conservatives and conservative leaders together in Washington, DC for three days of blockbuster speeches, policy discussions and networking opportunities – all celebrating the shared principles of smaller government, a strong national defense and traditional values. Based on this year’s theme, “We STILL Hold These Truths”, CPAC 2012 will feature grassroots training and strategizing to strengthen the conservative movement and ensure conservatives have the resources and tools necessary to defeat the Obama agenda in 2012. 

 The American Conservative Union is America’s oldest and largest grassroots conservative organization and was founded in 1964. The ACU has hosted CPAC in the Nation’s Capital since 1973.  To register for CPAC 2012, receive more information on this exciting event or learn more about the American Conservative Union, visitwww.conservative.org.    

Here's his address in February 2010 

November 28, 2011

Who is in and who is out in the Senate redistricting maps

To protect or not protect? That is the question before legislators as they craft the new legislative and congressional districts without running afoul of the new Fair Districts amendments which prohibit them from drawing political lines to protect incumbent politician or a political party. Here is our story on the first proposals.

But when it comes to incumbency protection, House and Senate staff have been prohibited from including the home addresses of any legislator or congressman. So the Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times performed our own analysis and discovered: of the 27 Congressional seats, five include no incumbent and of the 40 state Senate seats, 12 were drawn without an incumbent. Meanwhile, 27 district include an incumbent but not necessarily representing the same group of constituents he or she has represented before.

Sound convincing? Not for Democratic political consultant Steve Schale. He said it's usually not an issue for the Washington, D.C.-based pols to pick up and move. "For better or for worse, residency hasn't been an issue in congressional districting,'' he said.

Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich offered: "We're not supposed to be talking about political parties and incumbents, but with this map somebody must have been thinking about political parties and incumbents."

Here's a look at where the shifting seats stand: 

Continue reading "Who is in and who is out in the Senate redistricting maps" »