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223 posts from December 2011

December 30, 2011

Senate Reapportionment Committee releases new maps

The Senate Reapportionment Committee just updated its proposals to redraw the boundary lines of Congressional and State Senate districts. These are the panel's first revisions since it submitted  initial proposals on Nov. 28.

The newly updated Congressional map tweaks the lines of the 3rd District, a minority access seat that includes parts of Jacksonville and Orlando and is currently held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown. The revised map also swaps some land between the 12th and 13th Congressional districts in Manatee, Charlotte and Sarasota counties.

The biggest change to the Senate map is that all but a few districts have been renumbered. There are also some adjustments to boundary lines in Lake County, impacting what were Districts 9 & 20 on the old map (Districts 10 & 11 on the new one).

The panel will discuss its Proposed Committee Substitutes to Senate Bills 1174 and 1176 on Jan. 11.

Continue reading "Senate Reapportionment Committee releases new maps" »

Rick Scott pollster: Bring on Charlie

What better way to help ring in 2012 than a little speculation about Florida's 2014 election cycle. This little nugget from our interview with Gov. Rick Scott's pollster, Tony Fabrizio:

"I would relish the opportunity to run against Charlie Crist," Fabrizio said. "But is the guy who presided over Florida's economy going into the tank really going to run a campaign when Florida's economy is springing back? How do you work that? Promise to do better this time?"

Happy New Year everyone!

Bondi to appeal court ruling that shields attorneys from foreclosure fraud investigations

Plagued by accusations that she hasn't done enough to combat foreclosure fraud, Attorney General Pam Bondi's office announced today that she will fight a court decision that prohibits her from going after attorneys.

In April, the state's 4th District Court of Appeals ruled that Bondi does not have the authority to investigate a law firm for alleged fraud under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act because attorneys' work on behalf of lenders did not constitute trade or commerce. The attorney general chose not to appeal.

Two weeks ago, that same court issued a similar opinion in a second case, this time involving the now-defunct Law Offices of David Stern, P.A. Bondi filed a motion today that will allow her to appeal that decision to the state Supreme Court.

In the months between the two rulings, Bondi faced a heap of criticism concerning her office's approach to foreclosure fraud.

Continue reading "Bondi to appeal court ruling that shields attorneys from foreclosure fraud investigations" »

December 29, 2011

Amid fundraising binge, Republican intrigue in FL Senate President race continues

It's almost session. Do you know who your Florida Senate president will be in two years?

Neither do Sen. Andy Gardiner and Sen. Jack Latvala. The two are still running neck and neck to replace Sen. Don Gaetz, who's to leave the post after the 2014 legislative session.

Advantage: Gardiner. He's current Senate President Mike Haridopolos' Republican leader and his biggest ally is the master of the Capitol game, former House Speaker-turned-uberlobbyist-turned Sen. John Thrasher, a former Republican Party of Florida chairman to boot. Also, Gardiner's raising more money than Latvala, and Gardiner's donors tend to be more on the conservative side of the spectrum (e.g., the Florida Chamber of Commerce), while Latvala is raising money from trial lawyers and unions who tend to be more Democratically aligned.

Even Latvala acknowledges Gardiner has the edge in collecting pledges from the fellow Republicans who dominate the chamber and ultimately decide who the Senate leader will be.

"I'm behind -- but maybe by just one or two votes," Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, said.

And that's bad news for Gardiner. Despite all his advantages, he can't yet seal the deal. He isn't as deft a political operator as Latvala. And there's a good amount of discontent with Haridopolos team among Republican senators, who felt they got punked by the House last session when they were forced to cast a final vote to end session after 3:30 in the morning last session. A rather angry Latvala, who gave Haridopolos an earful in private, made a speech on the floor in which he essentially promised to restore the independence of the Senate.

Today, there are persistent rumors that Thrasher will replace Gardiner in the race. But Gardiner says he's still running. And Thrasher said he's not undermining his friend from Orlando. 

"I'm 100 percent behind Andy Gardiner," Thrasher says. What if Gardiner leaves the race? "He isn't," Thrasher said. But what if?

Continue reading "Amid fundraising binge, Republican intrigue in FL Senate President race continues" »

Scott names new public records director, replaces external affairs chief

Bonnie Hazelton, director of the Office of the Ombudsman and Public Services, will take over as director of Gov. Rick Scott's Office of Open Government, Scott's office announced today. Current director, Carolyn Timmann, is leaving to run for clerk of Martin County Court.

The move is one of several announced today, including replacing Karen Giorno as head of external affairs with Mike Dew, who is also Scott's director of public affairs.

Here's the release from Scott's office:

Continue reading "Scott names new public records director, replaces external affairs chief" »

Panel echoes governor's call to overhaul Medicaid reimbursement system

A panel created by Gov. Rick Scott to analyze the state's taxpayer-funded hospital districts is echoing the governor's call for changes to how hospitals are reimbursed through Medicaid.

In his 2012-2013 budget recommendation, Scott asked legislators to impose new caps on how much the state pays to treat patients covered by the Medicaid program. He argued that there was too much variation in the cost of delivering the same services at different hospitals, and he advocated for a new flat-rate system. However, hospitals have long complained that Medicaid reimbursement rates are already too low and don't fully cover actual costs.

In its 30-page draft report approved today, the Florida Commission on Review of Taxpayer Funded Hospital Districts said the state should develop a new system that makes reimbursement rates more uniform.

Continue reading "Panel echoes governor's call to overhaul Medicaid reimbursement system" »

Florida Republicans staff up media shop

The Republican Party of Florida today announced Kristen McDonald, a former Gov. Rick Scott intern, and Dan Dawson, a former staffer for CFO Jeff Atwater, will join the party's communications team.

Here's the release:

Continue reading "Florida Republicans staff up media shop" »

Video: Barack Obama re-elect chief calls 'Bullsh*t' on $1b campaign; says FL 'the easiest way' to win

Jim Messina President Obama's re-election chief, shares 5 of 40 paths to victory in this video. Florida, with 29 of 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House, plays a key role. 

"We can’t just have a Florida strategy but Florida is the easiest way to 270 electoral votes. We have a big operation on the ground in Florida. We are working hard to carry Florida,” he says.

Messina says he wants to put as many of the campaign's map scenarios in play. And the campaign wants to register more voters -- even in Republican-red Arizona. "The good news is we have a lot of options," he says. But it takes money -- just not the sum Republicans say Obama plans to raise.

"People have speculated this is a billion dollar campaign. That's bullsh*t," he says, the swear bleeped out.

Gallup: Voters see Barack Obama, Michele Bachmann as outside the mainstream

From Gallup:

Americans perceive Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul as closest to themselves ideologically, and Michele Bachmann and Barack Obama as furthest away.

A USA Today/Gallup poll asked Americans to rate their own ideology -- and the ideology of the eight major presidential candidates -- on a 5-point scale with 1 being very liberal and 5 being very conservative. Americans' mean score on this scale is 3.3, meaning the average American is slightly to the right of center ideologically. Huntsman's score matches that at 3.3, but that mean rating excludes the 45% of Americans who did not have an opinion of Huntsman. Of the better known candidates, Romney's and Paul's 3.5 scores are closest to the average American's ideology.


'They pick corn in Iowa. They pick presidents in New Hampshire'

From AP:

WASHINGTON -- Former U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman is defending his refusal to compete in the leadoff Iowa Republican precinct caucuses, focusing instead on New Hampshire.Huntsman tells CBS's "The Early Show" the formula, so far as he is concerned, is quite elementary.

Says Huntsman: "They pick corn in Iowa. They pick presidents in New Hampshire."

The former Utah governor has made little effort to win in Iowa, focusing mostly on New Hampshire in the early going. He has remained in the lower tier of candidates as others, including Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum - and at one time, Herman Cain - soared in the polls. He was ambassador to China for President Barack Obama, but says that shouldn't be used against him as he seeks the Republican presidential nomination.