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11 posts from January 10, 2013

January 10, 2013

Politico: Republicans to meet privately in Miami to talk about the future of Hispanic vote and GOP

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has repeatedly scolded fellow Republicans for their treatment of Hispanic voters, is among a group of GOP'ers meeting privately in Miami on Friday to talk about the party's poor standing with the nation’s biggest minority group, according to Politico.

The Washington-based political web site reported Thursday night that Bush and others, including former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Fred Malek, the finance chairman of the Republican Governors Association, are among a team of national prominent Republicans who are gathering in Miami to “begin mapping out GOP outreach to Hispanics for the 2014 cycle.”

Politico reported that the meeting is being organized by the Hispanic Leadership Network. Launched in 2011, the HLN has sought to steer Hispanics to the Republican party.

Republicans have been distressed over their poor showing among Hispanic voters last November. Exit polls show Mitt Romney garnered just 27 percent of Hispanic voters compared to President Barack Obama's 71 percent. In 2004, former President George W. Bush got a whopping 44 percent in his successful campaign against Democrat John Kerry (53 percent). 

Read the Politico story here

No doubt they will all chomp on last month’s grim post-election survey of Hispanic voters, which was authored by HLN and Resurgent Republic, a group whose board of directors includes former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Mary Matalin, former assistant to President George W. Bush.

The authors of the survey of 400 Hispanic voters in each of four key states – Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Florida – blasted the failure of the GOP to connect with Hispanic voters.

"The results make clear the size of the hole Republicans have dug among Hispanic voters over the past eight years," the survey's authors bluntly stated.

They found that the Republican party had unfavorable ratings among Hispanics in each of the four states and that Hispanics mostly favored Democrats to deal with traditional GOP issues – like like deficit reduction, the economy, and helping small businesses.

And it found that most Hispanics view Republicans as “anti-immigrant.”

“Republicans face some major challenges among Hispanic Americans, problems that will not be resolved just by passing immigration reform legislation. Years of harsh rhetoric and punitive policies will not be undone overnight. Fixing a broken immigration system is necessary but not sufficient to make Republicans competitive in the Hispanic community,” the authors of the report wrote.

They added: "If Republicans achieve 40 percent or more of Hispanics nationally, they can elect conservative Republicans to national office. Settling for a quarter or less of the Hispanic vote nationally will relegate Republicans to a regional party with few national prospects."

Read the full HLN/Resurgent Republic survey/memo here

ACLU touts court victories while state GOP attacks group

As the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida touted its courtroom victories against Gov. Rick Scott's administration Thursday, the Republican Party of Florida made a scathing rebuttal.

The party accused the civil rights group of ignoring the will of voters, inflating its successes and filing frivolous lawsuits that cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

"The ACLU has largely failed Florida taxpayers, who voted for and support many of the initiatives that the ACLU opposes," wrote Republican Party spokesman Brian Burgess, in response to a report released by the group Thursday.

The public skirmish is only the latest between the state GOP and the civil rights group since a Republican supermajority swept into the Legislature and Scott took office in 2011.

Read more here. 

Scott names five to state universities' governing board

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday chose five new members to the State University System Board of Governors, the 17-member committee that sets policy for the university system.

Scott's choices are all Republicans. Three live in his hometown of Naples and two reside in Palm Beach County. They are:

*Harry Wayne Huizenga Jr. of Delray Beach, a marine industry executive and son of the former Miami Dolphins owner.

* Ned Lautenbach, a Naples investor who served for 30 years as a senior IBM executive. 

* Alan Levine, a Naples health care executive and former Pasco County hospital official.

* Wendy Sartory Link, a West Palm Beach attorney.

* Edward Morton, a Naples health care executive.

Scott had six spots to fill on the 14-member BOG. Left unresolved Thursday was board member Norman Tripp of Fort Lauderdale, whose term expired last week. He was the only one of four members whose terms had expired to seek a new seven-year term.

-- Steve Bousquet

Bondi outlines plans for $60 million in housing aid

Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Florida Legislature have announced the first plans for spending the state’s portion of a multi-billion dollar mortgage settlement with major banks.

At a Legislative Budget Commission meeting next week, Bondi will present plans to spend $60 million of the $334 million settlement on a wide range of housing aid programs.

If approved by the LBC, the cash will go to the following programs:

  • --$35 million for Down Payment Assistance (Florida Housing Finance Corporation)
  • --$10 million for Foreclosure Counseling (Florida Housing Finance Corporation)
  • --$5 million for Reducing the Foreclosure Backlog  (State Courts System)
  • --$5 million for Legal Aid (Various providers)
  • --$5 million for Attorney General’s Legal Fees (Attorney General’s Office)

Florida has come under criticism for being the last state in the country to decide how to spend the state portion of last year's settlement. For several months last year, the money sat in escrow while Bondi and leaders in the Legislature debated who had the authority to spend it.

Continue reading "Bondi outlines plans for $60 million in housing aid" »

Slammed for 'warehousing' children in nursing homes, state pitches changes

Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration has launched an “enhanced care” program in response to scathing criticism about the treatment of hundreds of disabled children who are kept in nursing homes.

The “Enhanced Care Coordination” program will enlist at least 28 nurse care coordinators throughout the state to work with families of disabled children and the nursing homes where they are being treated.

“The program is designed to help empower parents, to help them and to educate them and to help them personalize the experience that they have,” said AHCA director Liz Dudek on Thursday, adding that the nurse care coordinators will be able to help some families bring disabled children home from nursing homes.

But even with the new measures, the agency and the state of Florida continue to be locked in a heated battle with the federal government, which released a damning report last year accusing the state of warehousing disabled children in nursing homes with isolated and unhealthy conditions.

Dudek said she visited the six facilities where children are being treated this week and found a very different scene than the one painted in the grim federal report, which documented isolated children spending years in nursing homes with very little education or social stimulation.

According to the federal report and records obtained by the Miami Herald, children in nursing facilities can suffer grievous neglect and isolated conditions even as parents object to removing the children from their family homes.

Continue reading "Slammed for 'warehousing' children in nursing homes, state pitches changes" »

Election supervisors want up to 14 early voting days

Florida's county election supervisors will be asking the Legislature for a handful of voting-law changes as a result of the turmoil that surrounded the 2012 election.

In a concise, one-page summary of their legislative priorities, the supervisors "strongly urge" the Legislature to do three things:

* Require that the Legislature comply with the 75-word ballot summary requirement that is required for citizen-led ballot initiatives (Lawmakers exempted themselves from that requirement years ago, and ordered the full text of several amendments to be on the November ballot, a leading contributor to long lines at polling places).

* Require eight days of early voting in primary and general elections "with the option for supervisors to provide additional days not to exceed 14 days." (The Republican-led Legislature voted in 2011, with Democrats opposed, to reduce early voting from 14 days to eight).

* Give election supervisors the leeway to select more early voting sites (the Legislature limits them to election offices, city halls and libraries).

Next week, 10 supervisors of election will testify before legislative committees. The Senate Ethics & Elections Committee, chaired by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, has scheduled a five-hour hearing Monday with no other hearings at the same time, to give all senators the chance to attend.

-- Steve Bousquet

Gov. Scott is a no-show on call with other govs and president over guns

Vice President Joe Biden, heading up White House talks on gun control, held a conference call with the nation's governors yesterday, including some who have been sharply critical of the president. Gov. Rick Scott, who was traveling the state Wednesday, did not participate.

"During the calls, the vice president listened to the unique perspectives of all the participants and solicited their ideas and input on how to curb gun violence in this country," the White House said. "The vice president reiterated the administration’s commitment to this urgent issue, and stressed that the problem requires immediate action."

Scott's office today confirmed he was invited but pointed to his busy schedule, which took him to Jacksonville for a Vistakon-Johnson and Johnson Vision Care news conference then a Parametric Solutions jobs announcement in Jupiter.

Though all governors were invited, Scott was not the only no-show. A list of participants below.

Scott has generally dodged questions on the gun debate following the Connecticut school shootings. Tweeted AP reporter Gary Fineout yesterday: "During Jax TV spot @FLGovScott ducks questions on whether to ban assault weapons. Says there will be 'conversation' about guns in 13 session."

Continue reading "Gov. Scott is a no-show on call with other govs and president over guns" »

MTV in the Clear on Voting Fraud

TALLAHASSEE -- If there were any questions that those running MTV's Rock the Vote were perpetuating fraud in registering voters, they were answered Thursday.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced that it had found no evidence of criminal activity from the Rock the Vote website. It had been alerted to the potential of fraud on Oct. 8 by the Florida Department of State's Division of Elections.

But upon interviewing those involved in 20 registration cases the state had flagged as suspicious, the FDLE determined that the information on the Rock the Vote web site was accurate and the people shown as registering on it had initiated the activity.

More prominent cases of potential fraud await, however. Still outstanding, FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger says, are five separate cases against Strategic Allied Consulting, the private firm based in Arizona that had been hired by the Republican Party of Florida. Also open is the case of the mysterious letters with a Seattle, Wash. post mark that were sent to voters telling them that their registration status was in doubt.

Continue reading "MTV in the Clear on Voting Fraud" »

He's baaack: former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo appointed Doral city manager

In a move that sent shockwaves through political corridors, Doral Mayor Luigi Boria’s nomination of former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo as the new city manager Wednesday night was unanimously accepted by the five-member council, with brief discussion.

Carollo, a political lightning rod who has not held office since a failed reelection bid in 2001, replaces Merrett Stierheim, who resigned abruptly only a few hours before the announcement. Stierheim was hired as the city’s interim manager last month after Yvonne Soler-McKinley resigned.

Stierheim’s mission: To lead the search for a full-time manager, and help in the transition.

In his resignation letter, Stierheim said he “played no role whatsoever” in the selection process, “nor was I aware of it.” Reached later he called the appointment of the quick-tempered and often bombastic former public servant “a terrible decision.”

Boria’s announcing of Carollo’s nomination came shortly after the 6 p.m. city council meeting began. Most of the 200 or so in attendance sat quietly and listened intently. A brief discussion ensued in which Vice Mayor Sandra Ruiz questioned the wisdom of hiring a new manager without a search, but in the end the five-member council voted together for the Carollo appointment.

Carollo, who is expected to sign a contract and begin work Thursday will earn $144,000 a year in salary, plus benefits. He will oversee a staff of 277 workers.

More from Paradise Afshar and Charles Rabin here.

Ex of Charlie Crist's wife to former gov in cupcake confrontation: "You have no balls! You're a lowlife!"

Fascinating scene-setter in this longform New Times scorcher roasting former (and soon-to-be?) Gov. Charlie Crist:

"You're a piece of garbage!" a broad, wavy-haired New Yorker recalls bellowing at Crist and his wife. They were in Manhattan, weeks after the governor had left Tallahassee in 2011. Todd Rome, Carole Crist's ex-husband and a millionaire travel baron, remembers departing an Upper East Side bakery, clutching a box of cupcakes for his daughter's birthday, when he spotted them.

Rome, CEO of Blue Star Jets in New York, lost it. Carole, he explains, had moved to Florida, married Crist, and abandoned their teenage daughters, Jessica and Skylar. She hadn't returned any of their letters, texts, phone calls — nothing, he says. She simply dissolved into the Florida ether with Crist.

For a moment, in front of that cupcake shop on 57th Street, they all looked at each other, unsure. Then, Rome says, the couple immediately fled in separate directions. So Rome threw down his cupcakes and bolted after the former governor, yelling, "You have no balls! You're a lowlife! Why won't you stop and confront me?"

Crist, Rome says, evaded the confrontation by disappearing into a subway tunnel. "He's a piece of shit," says Rome, who has since remarried. "My kids were in the way of their lifestyle, and Charlie has never had a child, so he doesn't want them. He married a woman with two children and then walked away. A people person? He's a piece of shit."

Crist's political mentor, his father, comes in for some pretty harsh treatment for his segregationist past as well. If you despise Crist, you'll love this piece.

More here