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485 posts from January 2012

January 31, 2012

Siding with newspapers, House kills moving foreclosure notices to web

A House panel on Tuesday voted down a Republican-backed push to move legal notices of foreclosures from newspapers to the web.

In lengthy debate on HB 149/SB 230, a majority of lawmakers ultimately sided with opponents that include former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, representing Keep the Public Noticed Coalition, and the Florida Press Association, a trade group whose members include the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald. The vote was 9-5.

Supporters of the idea praised it as foward-thinking as newspaper readership declines. But a few members explained their no vote by citing elderly populations back home who may not be comfortable using the Internet or computers.

"In Tampa we have a very sizeable elderly Latin population who I'm quite certain don't have access to computers like many of us do, and they rely on some of our smaller papers to get all of their information," said Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Temple Terrace. "And I think this being the last bastion of protection for some of those populations, I just can't support it in good conscience. I just don't think we're there yet."

"We should be aiming to cast the widest net possible," said Kottkamp, who added newspapers put the information online for free.

Continue reading "Siding with newspapers, House kills moving foreclosure notices to web " »

Prison privatization opponents take fight to Miami's Spanish-language radio airwaves

The controversial push by the Florida Legislature to privatize two dozen South Florida prisons has made it to the influential Spanish-language radio airwaves, where political interests often turn to in order to sway public opinion among reliable, Republican Hispanic voters. (See video of opponents in Tallahassee, including the Teamsters union, here.)

Below is our translation of a radio spot that says it was paid for by a group called Fight for Florida, though no political committee with that name appears (as of yet) registered with the Florida Division of Elections:

Some legislators in Tallahassee again want to give our jails to enormous private companies that would leave more than 1,000 families in our community without jobs. They want to snatch the prisons from officers of the law so their friends can profit. Call your legislator and tell them their function is to protect our families and not benefit created interests. Say no to the privatization of our jails. Political advertisement paid for by Fight for Florida, Inc., 135 South Monroe St., Tallahassee, 32301.

Florida election update: voters thinking economy as they cast ballots. Romney likely ahead

Election Day has arrived in South Florida, and Republican voters are headed to the polls with two issues weighing heavily on their minds: the economy, and who has the greatest chance to defeat Barack Obama in the November presidential elections.

Candidates Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are on the Republican primary ballot, though the election in Florida is expected to be a two-man race between Romney and Gingrich, with Romney ahead due to a weeks-long push for absentee and early votes.

Before the first Election Day ballot was cast, Mitt Romney already had a likely lead, perhaps 60,000 or higher thanks to early voting, as we discussed in this story here.

This morning, Public Policy Polling found Romney well ahead and leading early votes 45-32 over Gingrich. American Research Group found similar results, but a 51-29 Romney edge in early votes.

Still, people are still heading to the polls in Miami.

At the Belen Jesuit campus in West Miami-Dade, a Republican stronghold with about three times more registered Republicans than Democrats, Roger Cardenas, 41, voted for Romney.

“I don’t know if he can do everything he says he’ll do but he’s the only guy who can run against Obama,” said Cardenas, an electrician who came to South Florida from Cuba.

Rene Viera, a 64-year-old Westchester Realtor, said he voted for Gingrich because of the economy.

“The economy will be the hot topic,” he said. “The second issue will be, where is this country headed? The Obama administration wants to take us down the path to socialism and I think people will want off that bus.”

More here

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/01/31/2616747/election-day-is-here-may-head.html#storylink=cpy

Data shows 40 percent of Bright Futures students qualify for need-based aid

There's a long-held belief among many Floridians that students who receive the Bright Futures Scholarship Award, which pays for almost all students' tuition costs depending on their grades and test scores, are rich. Some call it the "Mercedes Benz" scholarship, implying that recipients' parents use the saved tuition money to buy their kids fancy cars. That's not exactly the case, according to newly released data.

It turns out that 41 percent of students who qualify for the merit-based award are also eligible for need-based federal aid, including Pell Grants. And 24 percent are eligible for need-based aid from state or university sources. That data was gleaned from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid applications that students are now required to fill out before getting Bright Futures awards -- presented to the Florida Senate's higher education appropriations committee Tuesday morning.

"This has shown us that the Bright Futures is reaching out to all students who excel at their academics," said committee Chair Sen. Evelyn Lynn. "It's not just that you're very, very rich or your very poor. It's a total mix of students." 

Lynn said is important that lawmakers fully understand the popular scholarship program -- and who is getting it -- before they even talk about making major changes. Funded by the lottery, money for the program has been drying up in recent years. Meanwhile, award amounts have been capped, and some standards have been tightened. 

The FAFSA requirement, which went into effect last year, caused a stir among parents and students. Some complained they didn't know about it and nearly missed the deadline, or that the online form was a hassle. Others were nervous about disclosing parents' tax and income information.

Still, it seems many benefited from the new rule. In the 2010-2011 academic year, 70 percent of students filled out FAFSA and of those only 37 found out they qualified for federal aid  -- compared to the 41 percent this year.

-- Kim Wilmath


In last pitches to Hispanics, Mitt Romney's 'conviction' and Newt Gingrich's 'iron fist'

In a final bid to court Hispanic voters, the Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney campaigns dominated the Spanish-language talk show airwaves Tuesday morning during drive time. Their messages were similar: Vote for the candidate most likely to beat President Barack Obama.

Some of the ads were attacks -- Romney mocking Gingrich for the ties to former President Ronald Reagan that Gingrich plays up, a super PAC backing Gingrich saying Romney is not really pro-life. But some of the ads were positive, too. For a taste, click after the jump.

Continue reading "In last pitches to Hispanics, Mitt Romney's 'conviction' and Newt Gingrich's 'iron fist'" »

House panel advances pair of antiabortion measures

House members continued their push to further regulate abortion procedures with party-line approval of two bills Tuesday.

One proposal, HB 839, sponsored by Rep. Daniel Davis, R-Jacksonville, would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks -- with exception for saving the life of the mother -- in effort to prevent fetal pain.

"It's clearly evident that these are not pieces of tissue in their momma’s belly," Davis said. "It is a baby."

The scientific community lacks consensus on when a fetus has the capacity to feel and understand pain.

Haley Gentile, a senior at Florida State, called the proposal a "poorly masked upon a woman's right to the procedure.

"I think the most appalling of all provisions is that there are no exceptions for a pregnancy that is a result of rape or incest," Gentile said. "As an advocate for victims of rape, this is completely reprehensible."

Continue reading "House panel advances pair of antiabortion measures" »

Gov. Rick Scott's choice for president still secret

Gov. Rick Scott cast his presidential primary ballot Tuesday morning at a community center on Tallahassee's west side, but wouldn't say how he voted.

"It's a secret ballot, fortunately," Scott told reporters afterward. "He had less than 10 letters in the last name. I was trying to think of some way where everybody would be in." The conventional media wisdom is that Scott is a Mitt Romney voter, but he wouldn't say. He has a day featuring more than a dozen live radio and TV interviews, where he can expect to be asked that question again and again.

The cat-and-mouse game persisted when a reporter asked Scott if his candidate of choice has fewer than eight letters. Said Scott: "I'm not telling you how I voted." He said his daughter Alison and her husband "split their vote" -- so whoever the Scotts prefer, it isn't unanimous.

Inside the Lincoln Neighborhood Center, Scott made small talk with Cedric Thomas, a pollworker who like Scott is a U.S. Navy veteran. But they swapped small talk over their military service, and Thomas said Scott didn't tell him how he voted either.

-- Steve Bousquet

Daily Digest for Tuesday, 1/31

Daily Digest for 1/31 [Listen or Download]

[iTunes link]


There is a full day of committee meetings at the Capitol, but the big news is what will be happening around the state.


Five Stories To Think About Today

* It’s the GOP's presidential primary day. The latest polls show Mitt Romney pulling ahead of Newt Gingrich with nearly 600,000 voting early or absentee, but it ain’t over until polls close at 7 p.m.

* In Gadsden and Washington counties, voters will also decide whether to allow slot machines at racing facilities. Other counties have scheduled similar referendums for later this year, so the results -- and ensuing court battles -- will be closely watched.

* A controversial proposal to privatize 30 prison facilities will be discussed on the Senate floor this afternoon, setting up a likely vote on Wednesday. Opponents will be out in full force and have scheduled a press conference outside Senate chambers right before the session begins.

* The full Senate also is expected to discuss a measure that would allow prayer and other types of inspiration messages during public school events.

* On the House side, two abortion bills get another hearing: one that bans procedures after 20 weeks and another that prohibits a provider from performing a procedure based on a child's sex or race.


Three Issues You Missed Yesterday

* Gov. Rick Scott ordered an investigation into the weekend's fatal I-75 crashes near Gainesville.

* More and more voters want the decision of whether to allow Vegas-style casinos in state left up to them, according to a new poll.

* Both Republicans and Democrats alike said they were opposed to banning soda, cakes, and candy bars under the food stamp program, and that government should not be telling people what types of food they can eat.


Who To Watch Today/Quotable Quotes

* "It's my understanding that teenagers use fake IDs for things other than voting, as I seem to remember. Not that I ever used them, but I've read a lot of books. And as I was looking at your driver's license, Senator, when you were flashing it, I was going to ask you why it was that Steve Bousquet's picture was on it. But then when you said that it had to do with points on your license and infractions and violations, then I understood, so my question was answered." -Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) at the Senate Rules Committee meeting Monday, joking about an amendment to CS/SB 159 that narrowly failed 6-6.

January 30, 2012

8 counties to watch in Florida's Republican presidential primary

FloridaGeography(1)Miami-Dade County: The most populous and most-Hispanic county in the state, where 72 percent of the GOP voters are Hispanic. Already, 54,000 people have voted here. If the population votes en masse for a candidate, it can account for half of his winning margin statewide.

Lee County: This is Mitt Romney country. He won it in the 08’ primary and he used it to showcase Florida’s mortgage crisis this month. 1:330 properties is in the foreclosure process

Orange County: It’s the state’s third-most populous Hispanic Republican county, home to a large Puerto Rican community where Mitt Romney showcased the endorsement of the island’s governor. It’s also home to a Mormon temple.

Pinellas County: A Republican county that has been trending Democratic in recent elections, Mitt Romney lost it badly in 2008 to John McCain, who lost it to President Obama. Its voters love to cast ballots by mail – 52,000, which could be 40 percent of the total.

Brevard County: Newt Gingrich was mocked for giving a lunar-colony speech here last week. Filled with rocket-scientists and evangelical voters, it’s a solid Republican county.

Pasco County: Midwestern in sentiment, Mitt Romney lost this conservative bellwether county in ‘08 to John McCain.

Bay County: A conservative tea-party stronghold, Mitt Romney won it in ’08. But, like much of the Panhandle, it could lean toward Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich.

Duval County: Southern in its sensibilities with a large military community, this is a center of Republican powerbrokers and financiers in Florida. Romney carried Duval by his biggest margin in 2008.


Early Florida vote could doom Newt Gingrich by... 60,000? 40,000? More? Less?

Whether it’s 5, 7, 11 or 14 percentage points, all the major polls agree: Newt Gingrich should lose Election Day in Florida.

But Florida doesn’t have just one Election Day. It has a month’s worth of them because voters can cast absentee ballots by mail or go to special early-voting precincts for a 10-day stretch that ended Saturday.

At least 632,000 Republicans have already cast ballots.

So Gingrich could be losing by as many as 60,000 votes before the polls even open Tuesday, according to an analysis of early-voter surveys and the averages of all the major statewide polls applied to the pool of already cast ballots.

“I think Gingrich could be losing more to Mitt Romney — like 75,000ish,” said Randy Nielsen, a top Florida political consultant for the Republican Party of Florida who’s not affiliated with any presidential candidate.

“This election isn’t going to be pretty for Newt Gingrich,” Nielsen said. “He didn’t have a program to get early and absentee votes, and Gingrich is losing to Mitt Romney in every region except for North Florida. But he’s not winning there enough to make up the difference.”

The actual number of early ballots won by the candidates won't become known until after Election Day.

And Gingrich could be doing much better if his campaign somehow managed to get voters to flock to early-voting precincts and cast absentee ballots in numbers that well exceed the average estimates of nearly 30 scientific surveys that have a 4 percent error margin. Factor that in, and Gingrich could trail Romney by about 42,000 votes.

When absentee-ballot voting began at the beginning of the year, only Romney aggressively courted early voters. For more than a month, his campaign has called and mailed voters and reached them on Spanish- and English-language television and radio.

Gingrich was late in contacting voters, advertising in Florida and campaigning here, relative to Romney.

Still, the advertising has been so heavy on Miami’s Spanish-language airwaves that a WQBA-AM (1140) host apologized to readers that some shows had been cut short to accommodate all the political spots. Up to 2 million Republicans could vote in this election.

Full story here