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237 posts from November 2011

November 23, 2011

Fla. justices to rule on school funding lawsuit

A sharply divided appellate court has blocked efforts by Florida legislative and education leaders to halt a lawsuit over state school funding.

The 1st District Court of appeal on Wednesday also passed the issue on to the Florida Supreme Court as a question of "great public importance."

More here.

Governor takes a Scott-cation

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is in the midst of his first vacation since spending a week at his Montana hideway this summer.

Scott is spending the week at his Naples home with family, which now includes his week-old grandson, August. Scott told us he'll be spending part of his Thanksgiving Day serving dinner at the St. Matthew's House homeless center.

Scott, who prides himself on long hours and seven-day weeks, does have some meetings scheduled, spokeswoman Amy Graham said. Call it a Scott-cation.

"A little time off for him is only working a half day," she said.

More pulls in JD Alexander's tug-of-war over USF's polytechnic dispute

The St. Petersburg Times' Kim Wilmath continues to chronicle the growing tensions between Sen JD Alexander and University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft over the simmering dispute about whether to separate Alexander's legacy project, a polytechnic university in his hometown, from USF. Time is running out for Alexander to use his position as Senate budget chief as leverage against the university -- he's term limited out of office next year.

In a story today, Genshaft said she isn't rattled by Alexander's pressures or the tug-of-war emerging as UF president Bernie Machen joined in to side with Alexander.

Earlier this month, the Florida Board of Governors voted to require the University of South Florida Polytechnic to meet strict benchmarks before gaining independence, a move that freezes the Lakeland school's efforts to break away from the USF system. The vote came at the end of a four-hour debate, with impassioned arguments coming from power players on both sides.

A week later, Alexander stood to the side of the room as Genshaft spoke to faculty at her embattled Lakeland campus. Just a day earlier, Alexander had publicly lashed out at Genshaft's leadership in a scathing letter to the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state university system. Now he was making a surprise visit to a meeting Genshaft called with USF Polytechnic faculty.

Those there said Alexander remained silent the whole time — his presence speaking volumes.

Continue reading "More pulls in JD Alexander's tug-of-war over USF's polytechnic dispute" »

No Casinos offers its suggestions for why casino promoters are thankful

We are a push over for cleverness, especially when it's wrapped in holiday twist. So we offer you this from John Sowinski, head of the Disney-backed No Casinos:

With Thanksgiving upon us, we’re asking the question:
What are the Top 10 things casino promoters are thankful for this year?

NUMBER 10:  Genting is thankful that the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms was not at last weeks’ Committee meeting when Genting President Colin Au etched his name in Florida history by becoming the first person to use the word “bull$#!*” , not once, but twice in formal testimony.

Continue reading "No Casinos offers its suggestions for why casino promoters are thankful" »

Can Rick Scott's jobs czar bring business to Florida?


The latest from our occasional series profiling Gov. Rick Scott's inner circle:

Gray Swoope pulls his hands from his pockets long enough to hold open each door he crosses in the state Capitol for anyone who might want to pass through first.

It's a fitting image.

As Gov. Rick Scott's jobs czar, Swoope (rhymes with "hope") must open the door to more business in Florida, finding a better calculus than his predecessors to lure new companies across the state line while keeping existing employers from escaping.

More here.

November 22, 2011

After endorsing Julio Robaina, Jeb Bush will be special guest at fundraiser for Carlos Gimenez

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has officially won over the local political establishment.

The mayor, who is seeking reelection next year, will be feted at a fundraising reception in a few weeks that will feature a who's who of Miami-Dade political players -- including several who backed Gimenez's opponent, former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina, in a special election a few short months ago. (Could the fundraiser be a sign that Robaina does not intend to run for the office again in 2012?)

In June, Republican fundraiser Jorge Arrizurieta stumped passionately for Robaina, appearing on Spanish-language radio and contributing money to Robaina's campaign.

On Dec. 9, Arrizurieta will co-host the fundraiser for Gimenez at the Biltmore Hotel. The special guest: former Gov. Jeb Bush, who gave Robaina his endorsement early on in the mayoral race.

"I recognize the strong leadership that Mayor Gimenez has shown out of the gate since his election," Arrizurieta wrote in an e-mail inviting friends to the $500-a-head luncheon. "He has simply done what he said he would do...Governor Jeb Bush also recognizes the exemplary leadership displayed by Mayor Gimenez."

Several other past Robaina supporters are also part of the event, including former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Boca Raton builder Art Falcone, the developer of the Miami World Center property, a site eyed for a possible casino. One of Falcone's partners, Nitin Motwani, is also on the fundraiser invite.

Jim Greer suing Mike Haridopolos

Former Republican Party Chair Jim Greer expanded his lawsuit against the state party Tuesday to include Senate President Mike Haridopolos just days after taking a sworn statement from Haridopolos.

The original lawsuit named the party and former Chairman John Thrasher in a bid to collect $5-million in damages. Greer claims the party cheated him out of $123,000 in severance pay after he resigned in January 2010.

On his way out, party leaders signed a secret severance agreement pledging to pay Greer, but denied there was an agreement after he actually resigned. Greer says the party later sent political consultants Pat Bainter and Marc Reichelderfer to offer him $200,000 in “hush money’’  if he would forgo making a claim against the party.

Damon Chase, the Orlando lawyer who represents Greer, said Haridopolos was added after he testified that he did nothing to enforce the severance agreement despite a clause that required it.

Haridopolos could not be reached for comment. Spokeswoman Lindsey Cruley said, ''The president is aware that he has been added to this civil suit, but beyond that has no additional details at this point. ''

Greer has also been charged with money laundering and fraud by the Statewide Grand Jury and awaits trial sometime next year. The criminal charges involve Victory Strategies, a company Greer set up to handle fundraising for the party.  Thrasher, Haridopolos and other party leaders say they were unaware of Greer’s personal involvement in the company but Greer insists party leaders knew about the company.

Greer says the party’s actions against  leave him unable to find a job and care for his family. He says party leaders went after him because he supported then Gov. Charlie Crist in a race for the U.S. Senate. Crist left the GOP to run as an independent and lost to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in 2010.

The civil suit is pending in Seminole County but lawyers for the party have asked the presiding judge to transfer the case to Tallahassee where the party is headquartered.

Lucy Morgan, Times Senior Correspondent

CFO Jeff Atwater raising money for Karen Harrington, Wasserman Schultz's opponent

HarringtonFundraising machine/Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is lending his support to Republican Congressional candidate Karen Harrington in her bid to unseat Broward Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a rather well-liked incumbent and chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Joining Atwater: future House Speaker Chris Dorworth and state Reps. Jeanette Nuñez, Scott Plakon and Dennis Baxley.


Public Service Commission decides on new chairman: Ronald Brisé

The Public Service Commission opened its Tuesday meeting by naming a replacement for its chairman, Art Graham.

The five-member commission agreed his successor should be Ronald Brisé, 37, a Charlie Crist appointee and former state representative from North Miami.

Brisé, a Democrat, resigned his House seat in July 2010 to join the commission. Gov. Rick Scott reappointed him for a term through January 2014. His chairmanship begins Jan. 2 and lasts through 2013.

"I think Commissioner Brisé is, the best word I can say for it is 'the rock.' He is the rock that's up here. He is a stable guy, he is the one who you look for for strength, for support," Graham said. "I can't think of a better person to hand this off to. This agency's gone through quite a bit of turmoil over the past two to three years, and I think it's stable now. I think it's time to move forward."

The commission is expected to decide today whether to allow Progress Energy to raise utilities rates for electricity the utility purchases while its broken Crystal River nuclear plant sits offline.

Herman Cain's Florida debate-watch parties

Love Herman Cain but can't make it to tonight's CNN/Heritage Foundation/American Enterprise Institute debate tonight at 8p.m.?

Here's a list of spots you can go in Florida.

Coral Gables Miami-Dade County Debate Watch Party Angelique Euro Cafe 117 Miracle Mile St.

St. Petersburg Pinellas County Debate Watch Party Harvey's 4th Street Grill 3121 4TH St N.

Tampa Northwest Hillsborough County Debate Watch Party Tampa Ale House 14803 N Dale Mabry Hwy.

Brandon Southeast Hillsborough County Debate Watch Party O'Briens Irish Pub and Restaurant 701 W. Lumsden Rd.