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167 posts from December 2012

December 21, 2012

Fasano asks Scott to put resource officers in schools

State Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, is urging Gov. Rick Scott to provide funding for school resource officers his budget in light of the Connecticut school massacre a week ago. 

Scott will release his proposed budget in the New Year and, in an interview on NewsMax on Thursday, he said he is open to allowing teachers to carry weapons.  Download Fasano letter on resource officers

"Although there are no guarantees, it is quite possible that the mere presence of a law enforcement officer on campus may be enough of a deterrent to curb or totally prevent school-based violence,'' Fasano wrote. "While this no doubt will be an expensive proposition, no price tag can be placed on the lives of the precious children our public schools are entrusted with each and every day of the school year."

Fasano's request comes after a parade of similar requests from across the state. David Golt, chief of Broward School's Special Investigative Unit, has called for funding for more resource officers. 

Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell and the county superintendent of schools made a similar request of the governor, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. Earlier in the week, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs proposed adding armed deputies at Central Florida elementary schools.

Others are calling for arming teachers with weaponry. Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said teachers and principals should be allowed to carry guns. Baxley, an ardent guns rights advocate, is one of the authors of the state's controversial Stand Your Ground law. 

Meanwhile, Scott has urged all local school officials to review their security plans but he has been reluctant to outline details or suggest additional funding for the effort. 

Scott spokesman John Tupps said Friday the governor remains open to all ideas.

"Gov. Scott agrees that school safety is an important issue for Florida families,'' Tupps said in a statement. "As he finalizes his budget recommendations, he looks forward to working with legislators and others on their ideas.


UPDATED Former U.S. Marine from Miami to be released from Mexican prison

Jon Hammar, the Marine veteran from South Florida detained for months in a Mexican border prison for bringing his great-grandfather’s shotgun into the country, is expected to be released Friday in what his mother calls a “Christmas miracle.’’

His mother, Olivia, said she and her husband were awoken with a 2:30 a.m. phone call from Hammar’s defense attorney sharing the good news. Hammar’s father, Jon, quickly found a flight to Texas.

“We made it from our house in Palmetto Bay to the airport in 11 minutes,” she told The Miami Herald. “This is our Christmas miracle.”

The elder Hammar will wait for his son, who has been held since August in a prison in Matamoros, Mexico, across the border in Brownsville, Texas. They will likely remain there for a few days, Olivia Hammar said, because her son is interested in getting back the 1972 Winnebago motor home — and some nine surfboards he was transporting — from Mexican authorities.

“It will be closure for him,” she said.

Hammar was arrested Aug. 13 when he and a fellow Marine veteran, who were headed to Costa Rica to surf, tried to cross into Mexico. Hammar had been told by U.S. authorities he could declare a six-decades-old .410 bore Sears & Roebuck shotgun at the border. The firearm is suitable for shooting rabbits and birds.

But Mexican authorities dismissed Hammar’s U.S. registration papers for the disassembled relic. Prosecutors charged him with a serious crime: possession of a weapon restricted for use to Mexico’s armed forces.

More here.

December 20, 2012

Legislature wants budget transparency but exempts itself from the rules

Florida's lawmakers say they want to make the state's $70 billion budget process more transparent but when it comes to handling contracts and disclosing state salaries, neither Senate President Don Gaetz nor House Speaker Will Weatherford is quite ready to require the legislature be held to the same standards that it imposes on state agencies.

State law imposes strict rules for no-bid and sole source contracts in state government, requiring any contract over $250,000 be put out to bid and any sole source vendor to meet strict requirements. But the legislature has exempted itself from those rules.

There are nearly 33,400 contracts listed on the Chief Financial Officer's website with data on who gets paid for them and how much each vendor collects from taxpayers. The legislature does not list any of its contracts on the public site.

Anyone working for state government in an agency or state university has his salary posted for all to see on Gov. Rick Scott's FloridaHasARighttoKnow.com website. But there is no salary information for the legislature and its 1,530 employees.

Gaetz, R-Niceville, and Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who each became presiding officers in November, make it available only upon request. This doesn't please Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, himself a former Republican Senate president from North Palm Beach.

"I don't think the legislature should be exempting itself from the laws it is placing on other agencies,'' Atwater said last week. Story here.

PolitiFact examines Lenny Curry tweet about Charlie Crist and Todd Akin

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s evolution from Republican to independent to Democrat has prompted speculation that he will take on Republican Gov. Rick Scott -- and led to sharp criticism from Florida Republicans.

After CNN's Soledad O’Brien interviewed Crist on Dec. 12, 2012, RPOF chairman Lenny Curry took to Twitter to keep up the attacks on Crist. He tweeted: "Crist has a record of being rigid on guns, gays, marriage and abortion. He is making an indecent proposal to Dems."

Curry also tried to link Crist with U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, a Republican from Missouri famous for his comment during his 2012 U.S. Senate bid that "legitimate rape" rarely results in pregnancy. Akin apologized for his comment and lost the election. Akin was a longtime supporter of bills that were backed by abortion opponents. He's now so famous that he is a point of reference for abortion rights.

Curry tweeted about Crist:  "BTW, he holds the same position as Akin on abortion."

He later tweeted: "Answer: Todd Akin & @charliecristfl hold same abortion views. No exception except the life of the mother. Google it. Its all there."

Democratic consultant Kevin Cate tweeted "I’ll let @politifact sort it out...."

Okay, we will.

Former Sen. Mike Bennett flip-flops on early voting as he prepares for new elections role

From the Bradenton Herald:

Manatee (County)'s newly elected supervisor of elections Wednesday called for more early voting days and more flexibility in setting up early voting sites.

Republican Mike Bennett, who will be sworn in Jan. 6 as the county's new supervisor of elections, echoed remarks made to CNN by Florida Gov. Rick Scott on how to fix the state's embarrassing election day meltdown.

During the Nov. 6 general election, Manatee voters waited up to two hours at the county's sole early voting site; in some counties, the wait was up to six hours.

In 2011, as the president pro tempore of the Florida Senate, Bennett voted to cut back on the number of early voting days. "I don't have a problem making it harder (to vote)," he was quoted as saying. "I want people in Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who walks 200 miles across the desert. This should not be easy."

But now that he's about to take over as the county's elections supervisor, Bennett said Wednesday he would like to see the number of early voting days restored from eight to 14, and more flexibility given to local officials in choosing early voting sites.

Bennett also advocated new voter registration cards with photo ID's for all Florida residents, paid for by the state.

Read more here.

Miami-Dade grand jury: Florida should reinstate absentee voting witness requirement

Florida should reinstate a requirement that someone witness an absentee voter’s ballot signature, and Miami-Dade County should work closely with assisted-living facilities in order to prevent voter fraud, according to a report issued this week by a Miami-Dade grand jury.

The grand jury, convened to examine problems with absentee-ballot voting, made 23 recommendations — 10 to Florida lawmakers, 13 to the county elections department — designed to tighten regulations for voting by mail and make it easier for law enforcement to punish violators.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle asked the 21-member grand jury to take on absentee voting following the August primary election, in which two Hialeah ballot brokers known asboleteros were arrested and charged with voter fraud and with violating a county ordinance that prohibits the possession of multiple absentee ballots.

“The headlines of the breaking news coverage revealed gaping holes in the absentee ballot voting process in our community,” says the report, released Wednesday. “As we discovered, each of those holes represented an opportunity for someone to commit fraud — undetected and in the shadows.”

Among the grand jury’s recommendations to the state:

• Reinstate a state requirement that a witness 18 years old or older witness an absentee voter fill out his or her ballot and sign it.

• Require that people who provide absentee voters with assistance fill out declarations similar to the ones required from people who help voters at the polls.

• Make it a third-degree felony for anyone to possess more than two absentee ballots, other than those belonging to the voter and an immediate family member.

• Exempt information on voters who have requested absentee ballots from political parties, candidates and political committees.

NRA: Charlie Crist a hunter? Maybe for political office, not deer

Picture 13As he postures to run against Republican Gov. Rick Scott, newly minted Democrat and former Gov. Charlie Crist no longer wholeheartedly backs the NRA's agenda.

So Crist will no longer get the backing of the NRA.

Asked about Crist's gun flip flop yesterday, the NRA's Florida lobbyist and chief Marion Hammer took rhetorical aim.

"Are you surprised?" she said in an email to The Herald. "I'm not surprised that Charlie Crist is now joining the gun ban chant of anti-gun Democrats. Recently, Charlie Crist has been systematically turning his back on many things in which he has claimed to believe. He currently claims to be a deer hunter. I suspect that the only thing he has actually ever hunted is political office."

Crist was quite good at that, winning three statewide posts and only losing two statewide Senate races: a longshot 1998 bid against incumbent Bob Graham and the once-surprising 2010 loss to Marco Rubio.

The NRA backed Crist over Rubio.

But other events, the economy and the highly conservative electorate that year, overtook the governor. But for the events leading up to the Rubio loss, Crist had a sixth sense for perfectly positioning himself. So, in that regard, his shifted tone on guns is little surprise as he tries to boost his Democratic bonafides. Chances are, most gun voters are conservative and wouldn't have voted for the Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat Crist. 

Crist needs to appeal to liberals now, and reversing course on guns is just another star turn as he prepares to challenge Scott, who's now an easy pick for the NRA. Hammer said she doesn't regret backing Crist.

"At the time, he was steadfast in his support of the rights of law-abiding gun owners. We remain loyal to our supporters," she said. "If our supporters abandon the Second Amendment for political posturing or political gain, it's a whole new day."

Until now, Crist had a sterling NRA rating on guns while he was governor. But his actual firearm aim isn't so good. At least it wasn't in 2009, when Crist took a trip to the Tallahassee-area Beau Turner Youth Conservation Center with the namesake and his dad, media mogul Ted Turner (picture left). Crist was better with a bow and arrow than a 20-gauge shotgun. Like many people unfamiliar with target shooting clay pigeons, Crist didn't follow through on his shot.

In other Florida gun news, the state sometime yesterday issued its 1 millionth active concealed-weapon permit. We probably would have heard far more about the permits had the recent shooting taken place in Florida than Connecticut, which has far more restrictive laws than the Gunshine State (more about that here).

Voters don't like Scott's ideas on higher ed, won't legalize pot, but shift on marriage

Gov. Rick Scott can't seem to read the Florida electorate right these days. His latest suggestions for treating different colleges and students differently on education reform are unpopular, even more unpopular than he is, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll of Florida voters. Also unpopular are the Board of Education ideas to give students of different races different achievement goals.

Here's the release:

    Florida voters are dead-set against a series of recommendations made by state officials regarding education, with the largest opposition, 71 – 7 percent, against a plan to set different achievement goals for students of different races, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

    Registered voters also strongly oppose, 66 – 26 percent, charging lower tuition to college students who major in subjects such as math, science, engineering and computers that lead to higher-paying jobs, and higher tuition for liberal arts majors, considered less employable, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds.

    Voters also oppose, 73 – 16 percent, the idea of allowing some public universities dubbed as “preeminent” to charge higher tuition that other state colleges.

    Turning to public employee pensions, voters say 53 – 34 percent that it’s a good idea to make new state employees participate in a 401-k type retirement plan rather than the defined-benefit plan offered to current state workers.

    Opposition to race-based education goals is 73 – 7 percent among white voters, 63 – 11 percent among black voters and 67 – 7 percent among Hispanic voters.   Voters with children in public schools oppose the measure 69 – 10 percent.

    “Voters, with little difference along political, racial or gender lines, find setting different goals for different races to be distasteful,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. 

    “The data from this survey finds that voters like the idea of treating all students and colleges the same.”

    Florida voters also oppose 62 – 27 percent charging lower tuition rates for freshmen and sophomores than for juniors and seniors.

    They are also quite skeptical of Gov. Rick Scott’s challenge to the state’s colleges and universities to offer some four-year degrees for a total of $10,000.  Only 29 percent think it is very or somewhat likely to occur, while 66 percent say it is not very likely or not likely at all to materialize.

Continue reading "Voters don't like Scott's ideas on higher ed, won't legalize pot, but shift on marriage" »

December 19, 2012

Bill Nelson, DWS pick to lead FL Dems lobbied for firm tied to notorious 2000 voter purge

This could be a bombshell from The Political Hurricane blog:

Allison Tant, the insider's pick to be Democratic Party chair, was a lobbyist in 2000 for ChoicePoint, the parent company of a database firm hired by the state of Florida to purge its voter rolls of felons, many of whom happened to be Democrats and minorities.

Reached by phone, Tant tells us she didn't actually lobby for the subsidiary involved in the felon-purge work, called DBT. Instead, she said, she lobbied for ChoicePoint, a data-mining company. The company sought to ensure that the financial-services industry had adequate identity-theft protections in place so that the personal data was misused, she said.

Even though she didn't work for DBT (another lobbyist handled that line of work, she said) the mere association with the company can be politically toxic in some liberal circles.

Thousands, if not tens of thousands, of lawful voters might have been unfairly removed and blocked from voting in an election that George W. Bush won by just 537 votes. The voter purge has been part of Democratic lore ever since.

"Allison Tant was lobbyist for firm that purged African-Americans from voter rolls before, during and after 2000 recount," says The Political Hurricane blog headline.


The felon purge is still fresh in the mind of Florida Sen. Bill Nelson as well. He mentioned it during testimony at the Senate's Judiciary Committee on Wednesday as an example of how Republicans allegedly game the election system. Turns out, Nelson also is the driving force behind Tant, who's also backed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chair.

ChoicePoint was recently hired by the Obama administration to conduct criminal background checks on possible hires. So it might not be that anathema any longer.

Tant withdrew from representing ChoicePoint in late January of 2001 -- about two months after the famed recount was halted by the Supreme Court in the Bush v. Gore decision.

One of Bush's lawyers: Barry Richard, a Democrat and longtime Obama supporter, who's married to Tant.

Tant's opponent, Alan Clendenin, and his backers have long noted the Richard tie. And they've resented the way party leaders have thrown their weight behind one candidate -- especially after Clendenin spent the last eight months collecting votes for the job. His supporters say he still has enough grassroots votes to pull it off.

The story by the Political Hurricane, which backs Clendenin, probably doesn't hurt his chances.

Flop-flop alert: Charlie Crist reverses course on gun control, now backs it

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who throughout his long political career has been staunchly pro-gun rights, said Wednesday that after the Connecticut school slayings, he now backs controls.

He expressed support for a renewed assault weapons ban, a size limit on ammunition clips and tougher background checks.

“We need to have some restrictions, that’s pretty obvious to most people,” Crist told the Tampa Bay Times prior to testifying before a Senate panel on voting laws. “What do you need a 30-clip magazine for?

“Not to go hunting deer. I can tell you that because I hunt deer.”

Crist recently became a Democrat and is considering a challenge to Gov. Rick Scott, who long has favored gun rights. Scott has refused to comment on gun measures after the Connecticut shootings, saying it is too early to debate.

More here