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22 posts from March 5, 2013

March 05, 2013

Jeb Bush immigration stance "undercuts" reform effort, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham says

Huffington Post:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of the members crafting an immigration bill in the upper chamber, said Tuesday that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's opposition to a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants could damage their effort.

"He has been a great voice on immigration, he has been a good governor, understands the Hispanic community," Graham told reporters. "I just think this proposal caught me off guard, and it undercuts what we're trying to do."

More here

For South Florida Venezuelans, celebrations and fear after Hugo Chávez's death


In the South Florida enclaves crowded with Venezuelans who fled President Hugo Chávez’s regime, Chávez’s death Tuesday afternoon prompted spontaneous gatherings in familiar places. Local politicians weighed in offering predictions. And television and radio stations ramped up their news coverage, in what could be a preview of how Miami reacts to the eventual death of Fidel Castro.

News crews broadcast live from Doral, home to scores of Venezuelans and a Venezuelan-born mayor. A celebratory mood spread at El Arepazo 2, a popular Venezuelan family restaurant, where more than 300 people gathered.

They waved Venezuelan flags and cheered “Venezuela presente” — Venezuela is present. Some men sat outside playing dominoes. Others danced joropo, a traditional Venezuelan dance. No one seemed to mind to wait an hour for an arepa.

It was a far different gathering than the one five months ago, when somber crowds filled with supporters of opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski watched presidential election returns showing a victorious Chávez.

“We are not celebrating someone’s death,” Mary LaBarca, whose grandmother was dancing outside the restaurant, said in Spanish. “We are celebrating freedom.” 

More here.

South Florida politicians react to Hugo Chávez's death


Politicians responded swiftly to the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Here's a sampling, with a focus on South Florida officials. Nothing from U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, who sits on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Rubio has now issued a statement.

Take a read after the jump.

Continue reading "South Florida politicians react to Hugo Chávez's death" »

Awake the State rally a sign of frustrated voters

While House representatives were voting on the Florida Election Code late Tuesday afternoon, a crowd of protestors rallied on the steps outside the old Capital building blasting a flawed 2012 election, with songs, signs and plenty of speeches.

The Tallahassee event was part of Awake the State -- Free the Vote grassroots rallies in 23 Florida communities, with appearances by four Democratic senators: Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale, Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth, Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens and Dwight Bullard of Miami. Other speakers included Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho, students and representatives of the Dream Defenders, Florida NOW, the AFL-CIO and other groups.

  "The point is to send a clear message to the Legislature that we want to see meaningful election reform during the legislative session," said Damien Filer, of Progress Florida, organizers of Awake the State. 

Continue reading "Awake the State rally a sign of frustrated voters" »

Gaetz: With House opposition, Medicaid expansion could be non-starter

With House Speaker Will Weatherford doubling down on opposing Medicaid expansion today, it's sending a clear message to the Senate that the House may not budge on the issue, President Don Gaetz said today.

He pointed out that both the House and the Senate must approve legislation in order for it to go to the governor for approval. Gaetz said the House's hard line doesn't bode well even if the Senate is poised to support accepting federal dollars to expand Medicaid.

With Gov. Rick Scott re-iterating his support of Medicaid expansion during today's State of the State address, that is two out of three "yes"es needed to get something done. But two out of three means no deal, Gaetz said.

"It sounds to me, from what I heard today stated in the Florida House, that the House of Representatives and the speaker are inclining toward 'no,' and if that's the case then nobody else gets to bat, the lights get turned off and we all go home on that issue," he said.

Instead, Senators have also begun looking at how other states are chosing to provide health care to poor, uninsured citizens outside of Medicaid. Lawmakers in both chambers seem especially intrigued by Arkansas, which received federal permission to use Medicaid expansion dollars to pay for people to purchase private insurance via health exchanges.

Gov. Rick Scott shows love to the 305 in State of the State Address

What did Tuesday's State of the State Address have in common with a Pitbull concert?

Gov. Rick Scott, momentarily channeling Mr. 305, gave shout-outs to several prominent Miamians in attendance.

The mentions included Goya Foods of Florida President Frank Unanue.

Unanue, who welcomed Scott to a recent “work day” at Goya Foods in Miami, said he was honored that the governor invited him to attend the Legislature's opening ceremonies -- and mentioned his name in Tuesday's speech.

“I think the state has turned around,” Unanue said in an interview after leaving Scott's office. “We’ve been growing. And I see it around in the community as well… You see people going out and moving, going out to clubs and restaurants. You see the economy moving again.”

Also mentioned: PortMiami Director Bill Johnston.

Continue reading "Gov. Rick Scott shows love to the 305 in State of the State Address" »

Scott puts a spotlight on sex trafficking victims in address

In his State of the State Address, Gov. Rick Scott highlighted human trafficking, saying his Florida Families First budget invests $1.5 million of his $74.2 billion budget to provide safe houses for victims.  

In his speech Tuesday morning, Scott referred to Allison Good, who in a YouTube video describes how she was used for sexual favors and drugged when she was just five years old.

Continue reading "Scott puts a spotlight on sex trafficking victims in address" »

Dolphins bill now has amendment requiring referendum

When the so-called ‘Dolphins stadium’ bill goes before the Senate Finance & Tax committee on Wednesday, it will include an amendment allowing Miami-Dade voters to have the final say on whether or not taxpayers will chip in to renovate the Fins’ Miami Gardens Stadium.

An amendment, filed Tuesday, confirmed what bill sponsor Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, told the Herald last month. According to the amendment, the Miami Dolphins would only be able to receive taxpayer assistance for the stadium renovation if taxpayers themselves vote to allow it.

The amendment allows the referendum to take place before the bill is enacted. That could potentially allow Miami-Dade to set a referendum vote for sometime this Spring, ahead of the National Football League’s decision of where Super Bowl 50 will take place. South Florida is being considered, and the Dolphins say a newly renovated stadium could help give the region a leg up.

The Dolphins are asking for the mainland hotel tax to increase from 6 percent to 7 percent, as well as up to $90 million in sales tax rebates, paid out over 30 years. The $3 million annual tax break would be in addition to $2 million in annual payments SunLife is already receiving. Altogether, taxpayer money would help fund about half of the costs for the $400 million renovation. Miami-Dade legislators opted against making the stadium bill one of their legislative priorities this year.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross initially opposed the referendum, saying there would not be time.

Ross traveled to Tallahassee yesterday, apparently at the request of Gov. Rick Scott for an event not related to the stadium bill. 


Insider emails show FL Democrats wanted to gerrymander redistricting just like GOP


Florida Democrats plotted with top leaders and consultants to redraw congressional districts to benefit their party, according to new court records that show they were just as interested in gerrymandering as Republicans.

Democratic-leaning groups are challenging the new congressional maps in court, saying Republicans broke a state constitutional amendment by drawing districts that favored or disfavored political parties and incumbents.

Earlier this month, Democrats unearthed emails showing how Republican consultants analyzed and suggested maps that benefitted the GOP during “brainstorming meetings.”

Turns out, Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arcenaux was doing the same thing for his party, the new emails show. They also indicate the plans Democrats drew were shopped to Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Weston congresswoman, Boca Raton U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, Miramar U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, state Senate Democratic leader Nan Rich and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Continue reading "Insider emails show FL Democrats wanted to gerrymander redistricting just like GOP" »

Senate passes its ethics bill in swift fashion

In less than 20 minutes, the Senate passed its high profile ethics bills that is designed to restore faith in the Florida Legislature.

The measure passed unanimously on the first day of the Legislature's 60-day session, but only after the Senate removed a loophole it had previously carved into the bill, which would have delayed the effect of a ban on lawmakers lobbying the executive branch until 2016. The ban now takes effect upon the bill becoming law.

The bill will force lawmakers to disclose conflicts, report finances, and give the state's ethics watchdog some dentures. If the bill had been in place before now, former House Speaker Ray Sansom, R-Destin, may not have gotten a job with Northwest State University that led to his resignation. Former Sen. JD Alexander, R-Frostproof, would have had to disclose more of his family's commercial interests. Former House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Orlando, and former Senate President Mike Haridopolos. R-Merritt Island, wouldn't be lobbyists this year, and voters would have an online source to get financial documents on lawmakers.

What the bill leaves out, however, is any move to revive the budget transparency program the Senate spent $5 million developing it.  

"It's too bad to have to do a bill like this,'' said Sen. Jack Latavala, R-St. Petersburg, sponsor of the bill. "A lot of this wouldn't be necessary if we all conducted ourselves...in office just using a little common sense -- just remembering why we're in office, just remembering we're there to serve the public, not ourselves. We all recognize that public confidence in government is at an all-time low."

He called it the most "comprehensive ethics reform package since 1976" when voters passed the Sunshine Amendment opening records and meetings in Florida. 

"That's really the last time anybody put a whole package together,'' he said. 

The measure moves immediately to the House, which is scheduled to pass its elections revision bill at 4 p.m. today and send that to the Senate.