« January 2012 | Main | March 2012 »

373 posts from February 2012

February 29, 2012

Greer lawsuits will be heard in Tallahassee, judge rules

Sanford -- Former Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer must take his lawsuit against the Republican Party of Florida to Tallahassee. That’s the decision made Wednesday by Circuit Judge Alan A. Dickey. Noting that many of the witnesses live in and around Tallahassee, the judge overruled efforts by Greer’s lawyer to keep the case in Seminole County where he lives.

Greer filed suit against the party and Senate President Mike Haridopolos and former party chairman Sen. John Thrasher, R-St Augustine, last year after the party refused to honor a 2009 agreement to pay Greer $124,000 severance to leave.

Greer has since been indicted by a statewide grand jury on multiple counts of fraud related to the creation of Victory Strategies, a corporation that was paid more than $300,000 by the party. He is accused of secretly funneling money to the firm with the help of Delmar Johnson, former executive director of the party. Johnson has become a witness against Greer and is helping prosecutors in return for immunity from prosecution.
 
Tallahassee lawyer Steve Dobson urged the judge to transfer the case to the state Capital where party offices and many witnesses are located.

Lake Mary lawyer Damon Chase objected, saying Greer was entitled to keep the case in home county.
 
“I’m making the ruling to save everyone time,’’ the judge said.

A new judge will take over the case once lawyers for the state party pay the necessary filing fees in Leon County.

Lucy Morgan, Times Senior Correspondent

On wage theft bill, Dade delegation splits along party lines

On a wage theft bill that involves a top legislative priority for Miami-Dade County, the Dade delegation of lawmakers broke up along party lines.

Democrats from Miami-Dade County were outspoken against the bill, HB 609, which would kill the county’s wage theft prevention program. The county commission has lobbied to save the program it created in 2010.

Most of the county’s 10 Republican representatives were silent during the hour of floor debate that took place on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Continue reading "On wage theft bill, Dade delegation splits along party lines" »

First-ever openly gay FL legislator? LGBT community could gain from new maps, Steinberg resignation

Miami Beach’s gay community is buzzing with talk that, for the first time in Florida history, an openly gay state legislator could win office and sit in the state House.

The promise of a first-ever gay lawmaker became a real possibility last week Rep. Richard Steinberg resigned Friday amid a scandal involving inappropriate sex-text messages he sent to a female federal prosecutor.

At the same time, the Legislature has signed off on new legislative maps that rejigger the boundaries of Steinberg’s District 106, which has all of the gay “mecca” of Miami Beach, said CJ Ortuno, executive director of Save Dade.

The new district is among the most liberal and Democratic in the state.

“We have never had the opportunity that this new district presents for the LGBT community,” said Ortuno, using the shorthand for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. “We are going to be contacting people in the community,” he said, “planting the seed and watch for a reaction.”

Continue reading "First-ever openly gay FL legislator? LGBT community could gain from new maps, Steinberg resignation" »

Supreme Court gets quickly to the point: how far should it go on redistricting

The public benches in the ornate chambers of the Florida Supreme Court are packed this morning as lawyers for Republicans and Democrats line up to argue fate of the Legislature's two redistricting maps. Our advance story is here.

Right off the bat, the court's focus went to how it should handle its required review under the new constitutional standards approved by voters. Minutes into the oral arguments, Chief Justice Charles Canady asked the House's lawyer George Meros "what is the standards of review."

Meros repeated the House and Senate argument that the court's review must be extremely limited with the court leaving disputes over interpretations of the new constitutional standards to be settled by a trial court, where evidence and witnesses could be cross examined.

Justice Barbara Pariente, who is among three justices who served on the court through the last redistricting review in 2002, clearly disagreed. She began by commending the House and its map and the way it applied the standards established in the new constitutional amendments but said nothing about the Senate map:'

Continue reading "Supreme Court gets quickly to the point: how far should it go on redistricting" »

Daily Digest for Wednesday, 2/29

Daily Digest for 2/29 [Listen or Download]

[iTunes link]

 

It's Leap Day and FAMU day in the Capitol, so look out for orange and green. Today is also seersucker day, so expect to see some stylish and summery suits.

 

Five Stories To Think About Today

 * The House will take up a proposal from Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, to outlaw Internet cafes, which often operate video slot machines. Attorney General Pam Bondi is backing the proposal, but opponents say it would lead to the loss of 13,000 jobs statewide.

* The lower chamber will also consider a bill that would allow parents to make sweeping changes at low-performing schools. In some cases, parents could even opt to have the school converted into a charter school. The bill, known as the Parent Empowerment Act, has the support of former Gov. Jeb Bush and nationally known school reformer Michelle Rhee. But it has met opposition from Florida parent groups, including the statewide Parent Teacher Association.

Continue reading "Daily Digest for Wednesday, 2/29" »

February 28, 2012

Mitt Romney pulls out win in home state MI, cruises in AZ

Mitt Romney's low-performing Republican US Tour continues now that he barely won Michigan, a state he grew up in and carried handily in 2008. Romney also won Arizona more easily.**

But a win's a win.

"We didn't win by a lot, but we won by enough," Romney said. "That's all that counts."

The victory changes the narrative in Romney's favor. He can triumph in the close elections --albeit, he's doing it by just going negative. And, as former Romney adviser/current friend Alex Castellanos said on CNN tonight: Romney needs to do more than that. A candidate has to give people something to vote for, not just something to vote against.

Castellanos and other Republicans broke down some of Romney's problems in our print story today.

On the other hand, a Romney supporter notes: "UAW ran ads against Romney. Obama ran ads against Romney. He even spoke to the UAW today. Santorum ran ads against Romney. Democrats actively organized in Michigan against Romney. He overcame them all.  Also, he campaigned in Michigan and doubled-down on his opposition to the auto-bailout, and Big Labor. Santorum chose to pander on both. Romney won."

**Posted was updated. There's a chance Romney could win by 3 points (when I first updated it was 4-6 points). If so, the original headline "Low-performing Mitt Romney ekes out win in home state MI, cruises in AZ" was a little too strong, hence the changes. Still, as the quotes show, Romney didn't think it was a commanding win. But, again, a win's a win.

Video: JD Alexander And Mike Haridopolos Discuss Budget Negotiations

Senate Budget Chairman JD Alexander and Senate President Mike Haridopolos talk about the temporary stall and progress today on Senate-House budget negotiations.


Redistricting is creating rifts in the state's high court

As the Florida Supreme Court opens redistricting arguments Wednesday over the Legislature’s proposed maps, recent deliberations of the normally subdued court have signaled an internal feud over how to handle the issue.

Two of the court’s conservative justices, Charles Canady and Ricky Polston, appear to want to limit the court's review while the court’s two liberals, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince, appear to want them to dig deeper. In the middle are the swing votes, moderates Justices Fred Lewis, Jorge Labarga and James E.C. Perry.

In the last two weeks, Pariente and Quince have teamed up with two of the moderate judges to demand that legislators turn over their addresses as the non-partisan court is weighing into the once-a-decade partisan battle. Meanwhile, Canady and Polston have also aligned themselves with moderates to block a request from a coalition of voters groups who asked to submit a new version of their proposed map and stopped the Florida Democratic Party from admitting testimony from an expert witness.

"We’re in uncharted waters,’’ said Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, the chairman of the House’s redistricting committee. The new amendments, he said, are "giving the court the opportunity to look at it in a different way.”

The court will hear oral arguments in the case on Wednesday and, if the last two weeks are any indication, the panel could be prepared with some feisty questions. Story here.

Video: Funeral Protest Ban Bill Passed in House, Close To Vote In Senate

A bill to ban funeral protests passed in the House a few days ago, and is close to a potential vote in the Senate. The Senate version narrows the ban on protests to funerals only for military personnel, EMT, minors and elected officials.


Legislators pay less for health insurance and vote to keep it that way

Members of the Senate’s Budget Committee rejected an amendment that would have increased their health insurance premiums six-fold to match the rates most rank-and-file state workers already pay.

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, tried to tack the health insurance issue onto SB 2084, legislation relating to the state’s Department of Management Services. Under Negron’s amendment, legislators’ health insurance premiums would rise from $30 to $180 a month for families on the standard plan and from $15 to $50 for individuals.

“I can see no rationale whatsoever why we as legislators get treated five to six times better than 27,000 of our coworkers,” Negron said during debate.

Continue reading "Legislators pay less for health insurance and vote to keep it that way" »