« April 23, 2013 | Main | April 25, 2013 »

20 posts from April 24, 2013

April 24, 2013

Dubya says brother Jeb should make White House run in 2016, but Barbara Bush rejects idea

Former President George W. Bush tells ABC News on Wednesday night that his brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, should enter the 2016 presidential race.

On Thursday morning, speaking on NBC's Today Show, former First Lady Barbara Bush said just the opposite.

“There are other people out there that are very qualified and we’ve had enough Bushes,” she told TODAY’s Matt Lauer on Thursday from inside her son's presidential library.

When asked whether she expects Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, to make a presidential run, Mrs. Bush said there are many worthy candidates.

“It’s a great country. There are a lot of great families and it’s not just four families,” she said.

“He’s the most qualified, but I don’t think he’ll run.”

Click for Barbara Bush's remarks/video here

On Wednesday night, George W., said his younger brother, Jeb, would “be a marvelous candidate if he chooses to do so," in an ABC's “World News with Diane Sawyer.

"He doesn’t need my counsel ’cause he knows what it is, which is ‘run,’ ” the elder Bush brother said. “But whether he does or not, it’s a very personal decision.”

Bush then made a 2016 prediction: Hillary vs. Jeb.

Click here for ABC News clip featuring more of the interview with George W. Bush

 

High school sports bill gets a Hail Mary in the Florida House

The body that oversees high school sports in Florida is preparing its fourth-quarter defense.

On Wednesday, the Florida House passed a proposal that strips power away from the Florida High School Athletic Association. It also eases the rules that prevent students from playing sports at schools they don’t attend.

The bill, HB 1279, appeared to be dead last week. But the proposal got new life Monday, when the Senate Education Committee gave a first nod to its Senate companion. The House bill is now eligible to be heard on the Senate floor.

FHSAA Executive Director Roger Dearing maintains the proposal would open the door to free agency for high school athletes and transform schools into “recruiting-frenzied sports giants.”

“It’s far fetched and it’s egregious,” Dearing said. “We’re going to keep rallying the troops [in opposition].”

Read more here.

Details of subsidized tutoring deal remain elusive

Florida lawmakers told reporters Tuesday that they will free school districts from requirements to pay for subsidized tutoring programs.

After quietly tackling the issue in budget conferences, House and Senate leaders said they were on the brink of a deal to make the program optional for school districts. The move would give districts control over tens of millions of dollars in federal education funding.

But as of Wednesday evening, the details of the agreement still weren't settled.

A House spokesman said the lower chamber had yet to see the final language being proposed by the Senate.

A Senate spokeswoman said it was "still a work in progress."

Tutoring had been a sticking point in the budget negotiations, Senate Education Budget Chair Bill Galvano said.

The House had been pushing to repeal a law that funnels federal dollars for low-income children into the tutoring programs. The Senate wanted keep some sort of tutoring requirement in place, but create safeguards to ensure the programs were cost efficient effective..

The Senate ultimately "ceded to the House position," said Galvano, R-Bradenton.

Galvano said the two chambers had also agreed to new accountability measures, but he didn't have the exact language.

"We're just working on some verbiage to give directions to school districts so they know there is an opportunity to interact with private providers," he said.

The process is being watched anxiously by schools superintendents and for-profit tutoring providers alike. The former want more control over their budgets. The latter want to hang on to their share of what's now a $50 million industry in Florida.

The debate over subsidized tutoring was sparked by a Tampa Bay Times investigation. Published in February, the stories showed that criminals were earning tax dollars running tutoring companies for poor kids; lax regulators weren't cracking down on companies for overbilling or gaming the system; and the program was rife with conflicts of interest.

-- Michael LaForgia and Kathleen McGrory

Yellow Dot program to help crash victims gets second nod in House

An effort to help first responders get crucial information about car crash victims has won the approval of the House -- twice. The House passed the program, added as an amendment to a highway safety bill, on Wednesday. On April 17th, the Yellow Dot program proposed in House Bill 1005, passed the full House by a vote of 117-0. The idea is to give the program the best shot of passing in the Senate.

The bill's backer, Rep. Irv Slosberg, said the Yellow Dot program "saves lives and raises money" for counties.

Continue reading "Yellow Dot program to help crash victims gets second nod in House" »

Legislators send campaign finance and ethics bills to governor

Shamed by a series of ethics and campaign finance abuses, Florida lawmakers sent to the governor on Wednesday a bill that eliminates political slush funds and imposes new ethics rules for elected officials across the state.

The bills, which were swiftly moved through both the House and Senate after leaders reached an agreement behind closed doors earlier in the week, now puts the pressure on Gov. Rick Scott to sign or veto the bill before session ends May 3.

The governor has been reluctant to embrace increases in campaign contribution limits while his session priorities remain in peril. Legislators have rejected his call for across-the-board teacher pay raises in the $74 billion state budget and his proposal to increase tax breaks for manufacturers is also stalled.

The campaign finance bill, HB 569, raises campaign contribution limits from the $500 now allowed in current law to $3,000 for statewide candidates and $1,000 for everyone else, thereby giving the governor and any potential opponent an easier way to raise campaign cash. The House voted for the measure 79-34 and the Senate voted for it 37-0.

Continue reading "Legislators send campaign finance and ethics bills to governor" »

Weatherford on Medicaid expansion: 'I have not had to twist a single arm'

House Speaker Will Weatherford said that the high-level attention given to House Republican freshmen does not involve using strong-arm tactics, as he and his deputies try to hold the Republican caucus position to reject federal dollars on Medicaid reform. 

"There's not been a single member of the freshman class that has come to me and told me they did not want to vote for the our plan,'' he told reporters Wednesday. "I have not had to twist a single arm. We've simply supplied them with the facts and I think the facts support that the House plan helps the most vulnerable of our state and also creates sustainability for the state of Florida."

Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, disagrees that Weatherford and Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity, would have the votes if they weren't demanding that Republican vote in a block. He said he has talked to enough Republicans to persuade him they have the votes to support the Negron plan, that would accepte the federal funds.

"If he were to let his members vote, the votes are there,'' Waldman said of Weatherford.

Weatherford is not backing down from his argument that taking federal money to insure the poor in Florida is a bad bet for the state. He said he read today that U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan said that one of the first things to go when they balance the budget in Washington "is going to be this idea that they fund this match at 90 or 100 percent. I agree with Congressman Ryan on that." 

So does the House leave  any room for compromise?

"We never say that our way is the only way,'' he said. "If a compromise is taking $7 billion of federal funds that is unsustainable to give health care to everybody without creating the right criteria, without taking the targeted approach that the House has taken, we don't think that's compromise."

 

Senate passes bill to use term "intellectual disabilities" instead of "R word"

A bill to replace the terms "mentally retarded" with the terms "intellectual disability" or "intellectually disabled," an effort known as "End the R Word," easily passed the Senate floor by a 32-0 vote on Wednesday.

It's the third year that Sen. Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, sponsor of SB 142 has been trying to change the language in criminal law, court rules and other official matters.  The change would not affect the content or effect of any laws.

“It’s positive because our people have really been the ones who pushed for this,” said Michele Poole, president of The Arc of Florida, after the bill passed. “They get bullied and we all know how words can hurt.”

House Bill 1119, sponsored by  Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, is ready to be heard in the House.

President Barack Obama signed a law in 2010 striking use of the term in federal policy. At least 39 states have taken similar action.


Senate passes bill to use term "intellectual disabilities" instead of "R word"

A bill to replace the terms "mentally retarded" with the terms "intellectual disability" or "intellectually disabled," an effort known as "End the R Word," easily passed the Senate floor by a 32-0 vote on Wednesday.

It's the third year that Sen. Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, sponsor of SB 142 has been trying to change the language in criminal law, court rules and other official matters.  The change would not affect the content or effect of any laws.

“It’s positive because our people have really been the ones who pushed for this,” said Michele Poole, president of The Arc of Florida, after the bill passed. “They get bullied and we all know how words can hurt.”

House Bill 1119, sponsored by  Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, is ready to be heard in the House.

President Barack Obama signed a law in 2010 striking use of the term in federal policy. At least 39 states have taken similar action.


Divided Senate approves voting-law changes along party lines

A divided Florida Senate approved a set of changes to election laws Wednesday on a 26 to 13 party-line vote, with every Republican present voting yes and every Democrat present voting no.

The bill expands early voting sites in future elections and gives absentee voters a second chance to correct their ballots if they forgot to put a signature on the ballot envelope. But it mandates only eight days of early voting for eight hours each day, as requested by the elected county supervisors of election. Supervisors have the option to extend early voting to 14 days for 12 hours each day.

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, withdrew a highly controversial provision that would have limited the assistance people can get at the polls, such as non-English speaking voters.

"I believe we've improved the situation," Latvala told senators. "I'm sorry that some of our colleagues here don't think we have."

Democrats remained strongly opposed to the bill because it did not mandate 14 days of early voting, including on the Sunday just before Election Day. They said Republicans missed a golden opportunity to fix all that went wrong in Florida in 2012 that made the state a nationwide laughingstock on late-night comedy shows.

"The problem we have is, we don't mandate Sunday voting," said Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale. To the argument that 14 days of early voting is a financial hardship in small rural counties with few voters, Smith said: "Constitutional rights should not be subject to economic analysis."

-- Steve Bousquet 

What was said at GOP House dinner? Depends who you ask

Future House speakers Jose Oliva and Richard Corcoran dined with a group of freshmen Republicans Tuesday to talk about the House's Medicaid expansion alternative.

That much we’re sure of.

But what happened around the dinner table depends on whom you ask.

One version: Oliva and Corcoran attended a casual dinner meeting to answer questions and provide insight into the House plan, so members could better understand the options ahead of them.

Another version: Oliva and Corcoran threatened freshmen Republicans -- some of whom have been targeted by TV ads in their districts by supporters of a more inclusive Senate plan -- to hold the House GOP line.

Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, said Wednesday he isn't forcing anyone to vote in favor of the House plan, but he is angry that groups are trying to sway moderate and Hispanic Republicans to vote against his plan. SEIU Florida workers union is behind the ads, and the Florida Hospital Association has also been a vocal opponent of the House plan.

He denied that House Republican leaders have used similar tactics. He went to the meeting Tuesday night to help freshman understand HB 7169 and answer any of their questions, he said. As long as they make an informed decision and stand firm on their beliefs, Corcoran said, he won't criticize anybody's vote.

Continue reading "What was said at GOP House dinner? Depends who you ask" »