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21 posts from May 2, 2013

May 02, 2013

Miami bankers Sergio Pino & Rodney Barreto go to email war over Dolphin stadium deal


One-time buddies and not-so-friendly fellow bankers Sergio Pino and Rodney Barreto sure aren’t friendly any more. Barreto is backing the Miami Dolphins (endangered) bid to get tax money to build a new stadium and Pino thinks it’s a bad deal for taxpayers.

It erupted into an email battle Thursday when Pino sent out a copy of a Miami Herald anti-stadium-deal letter to the editor. Barreto fired back. A few Miami-Dade insiders were cc’d and sat back in their (stadium?) seats.

One interesting revelation: The Dolphins owners apparently are in talks to buy U.S. Century Bank.

That’s right.

The team that wants taxpayer money is about to buy a bank – a place that stores money and makes loans.

“The potential buyers of US Century Bank own the Dolphins. Bravo on a boneheaded move to send this out countywide. I hope it doesn't jeopardizes [sic] our potential bank deal,” wrote Barreto, who confirmed the email exchange but declined comment.

Pino shot back at Barreto, calling him “the lobbyist.”

Here’s the exchange (oldest to newest, with Pino’s emails in italics):

Continue reading "Miami bankers Sergio Pino & Rodney Barreto go to email war over Dolphin stadium deal" »

Forget the drama, House Democrats won't boycott budget

Despite all the drama from the past couple of days, don’t expect a big clash on the state’s $74.5 billion budget on Friday.

Florida House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, said Thursday the Democrats won’t be voting along any prescribed party line when the budget come up for a vote.

“There will be some who will voting for the budget, and they’ll have legitimate reasons to vote for it, which I think are legitimate reasons,” Thurston said Thursday.

Thurston said he will be among those Democrats voting against the proposed budget as a protest for the House’s refusal to expand Medicaid and a disputed vote Wednesday that gave a tax break for manufacturing equipment.

But he said other Democratic lawmakers, like Rep. Alan Williams, had every right to endorse the budget with a “yay” vote because of issues that help state workers and teachers. Williams’ district is in Leon County, which has about 20,000 state workers. State workers are getting automatic raises between $1,000 and $1,400, plus bonuses up to $600.

“It’s time that they should be compensated, so if Alan Williams, who has been fighting on this issue, wants to vote for it, he should vote for it,” Thurston said. “He has every right to, he’s the catalyst who has done the right thing. He can tell his constituents, ‘That’s why he voted for it.’”

Williams said he still opposes the House’s stance on Medicaid, but he won’t let it stand in the way of his support of the budget.

“I can’t in good conscience not support the individuals who sent me here,” Williams said. “My job, along with Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, was to get a pay raise for state employees. You can’t let perfect get in the way of what’s possible.”

Some Democrats had previously opposed certain things about the budget, but many are now on board. Millions in pet projects help. But for Rep. Mark Danish, D-Tampa, the teacher raises have dramatically improved.

The state is spending $480 million on the raises, but in earlier drafts, teachers had to wait until June 1, 2014 to get their raises and they were tied directly to merit. But that language has since been amended, allowing the raises to be issued earlier and leaving it up to school districts and unions to determine how to distribute the raises.

“Most of the budget looks good,” said Danish, who is a teacher himself. “Some of the worst problems have been taken out of it. There are still things in the budget I don’t like, but overall, it’s the best we can hope for.”

Chances fade for bill to block foreign law in Florida courts

A controversial bill that aims to keep foreign law from being used over Florida law in family courts is “effectively dead,” Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, chairman of the Senate’s Rules Committee, said after that body's meeting Thursday.

Democrats blocked an effort by the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, to get the House bill through in the Senate by a 25-14 vote. Hays needed a two-thirds vote, or 27 votes, to substitute the House version (HB 351), which passed April 18 by a vote of 79-39.

Hays said the bill aims to make sure that American law trumps foreign law in marital law cases, but opponents have said the measure is rooted in anti-Shariah legislation and could also impact residents from Israel and other countries, and there haven't been any indications of problems with foreign law in Florida courts.

Will Miami Dade College bill get heard?

With just one day left in the Legislative session, South Florida political observers are wondering what will happen with a bill that would benefit Miami Dade College.

HB 1295 would enable Miami-Dade County to levy a voter-approved sales tax to support building and maintenance projects at the college. A small percentage of the revenue would go to Florida International University.

The measure passed 37-1 in the Senate, with Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, casting the lone vote in opposition. But it seems to be tied up in messages.

Rep. Erik Fresen, who carried the bill along with Sen. Anitere Flores, said he was doing everything possible to get the bill heard on Friday. Passing the proposal, he said, would require a little bit of luck and a two-thirds vote.

"But for what happened Tuesday with the Democrats reading every bill, this would have been heard already," Fresen said. "This could be a potential victim of those actions."

Still, Fresen said, he is "fully committed" to the proposal.

Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padrón has said the additional dollars are sorely needed.

"You have buildings that are getting very old," Padrón said. "Roofs that are having problems, you have elevators that have stopped working ... a well-documented set of needs."

Will Weatherford refutes Dan Marino: "It's an uphill battle for the Dolphins"


Former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino told us early today that House Speaker Will Weatherford told him that a measure to subsidize Sun Life stadium's renovations with tax money has "a good chance" of passing the Legislature.

Asked about that, Weatherford had an entirely different recollection. In fact, it might not even get a floor vote in the Florida House. And if it does, there's a strong chance the measure would take a two-thirds vote to pass (a high bar).

Here's Weatherford:

"It was interesting. When he was there, he was talking about autism and autism awareness. He didn't bring up the Dolphins bill. Somebody in the office said something about Dolphins. He said, 'Oh, yeah. By the way. I'm supposed to tell you that I'm in favor of that bill.' And we had a good chuckle about it.

"No. I didn't say whether the bill would pass or die. I said the bill's still alive. Everything's alive until Day 60. But whether or not it passes the Florida House has yet to be seen."

Procedurally, isn't there a high bar for this to come over?

"I would say it's an uphill battle for the Dolphins," Weatherford said.


House Speaker Will Weatherford on what he said to Dan Marino re: Dolphins stadium bill: "I didn't say whether the bill would pass or die."

"It's an uphill battle for the Dolphins,

Miami-Dade's election chief might be only one targeted in future for "non-compliance."


***Update: Full story is here

The bipartisan election bill passed the Florida House on the first day of the legislative session has yet to pass the Florida Legislature on the last day -- in great part due to a dispute over a plan to punish some election supervisors deemed "non-compliant."

The Senate inserted the language at the urging of Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a critic of the way Miami-Dade election supervisor Penelope Townsley handled her job last fall.

The provision allows a Secretary of State to impose penalties, including a partial loss of pay, for failing to follow election rules or competently manage an election. After three years of being deemed "noncompliant" an election supervisor can be recommended for removal from office by the governor.

But the House, and the state's election supervisors, don't like the language in part because the state can punish incompetent election supervisors now and nearly all election supervisors are elected and accountable to the voters.

So the House plans to strip out the measure Friday. But they might give the Senate a compromise proposal that would punish appointed election supervisors. There's only one of the 67 in the state: Townsley.

"We think it’s a little bit punitive. It’s one thing if you’re an appointed election supervisor. I think you may see some language in the House that reflects that," said House Speaker Will Weatherford.

"But as far as an elected supervisor and having the ability to punish them from the Secretary of State’s Office, I don’t think the Florida House likes that position," he said. "I would imagine that would probably come out of the bill."

Meantime, Diaz de la Portilla said he's working on proposing a Miami-Dade county charter change to make the post an elected position.

Weatherford's feeling about the language is shared by Senate President Don Gaetz. He predicted the bill would probably pass. So did Weatherford.

"On the very first day of session, we passed out a bipartisan elections bill," Weatherford said. "Our hope is that on the last day of session, we are able to pass out a bipartisan elections bill."

Texting-while-driving ban headed to Gov. Rick Scott

After two days of drama and four years of trying, a texting-while-driving ban is headed to Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s desk for consideration.

The Senate on Thursday accepted a House-amended version of SB 52/HB 13 and voted 39-1 to approve the ban. Supporters concede it’s not the ideal bill they want, but called it a “first step” in a path filled with road blocks, even to the 11th hour.

The drama came Tuesday when the House took a bill unanimously approved by the Senate weeks ago and approved an amendment by Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, that allows cellphone records to be used as evidence only in the “event of a crash resulting in death or personal injury.”

That meant the bill had to go back to the Senate for reapproval in the final days of session. And it put Senate sponsor Nancy Detert, R-Venice, in the position of accepting an amendment that could weaken the bill or of conceding defeat for another year

Detert said the bill “is still a good bill. It still will allow parents today to say to their kids 'Don’t text while driving,’ it’s against the law. ... It really will save lives.”

More here.

Senate strikes Miami Children's maternity ward, gives Gaetzes their trauma center

Miami Children's Hospital argued that having a 10-bed labor and delivery unit on its grounds would save babies’ lives.

But the Florida Senate sided with Jackson Memorial and other Miami-area hospitals who argued that pregnant mothers would receive better care in their facilities and the current system of transporting babies born with serious complications to Miami Children's after birth is working. Senators struck language that had been added to HB 1159 to allow Miami Children’s to build its maternity unit.

The Senate is expected to approve the now-amended bill Friday and send it back to the House for final approval. Although time is running out, all may not be lost, said Rep. Eduardo Gonzalez.

The Hialeah Republican championed Miami Children’s effort in the House and indicated Thursday evening he is not ready to give up on the maternity unit. “The language is very important to me, and it’s important to a lot of members in this chamber,” he said.

A baby born who died recently at the hospital after enduring a lengthy trip from the Keys might have fared better if the labor and delivery unit were an option, Gonzalez said.

The amendment approved by the Senate also created rules to allow trauma centers to be built in a handful of rural counties in the Panhandle and Central Florida. That was a priority of Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, who complained the current process prevented a hospital in his district from gaining approval.

Continue reading "Senate strikes Miami Children's maternity ward, gives Gaetzes their trauma center" »

Dolphins bring Cristiano Ronaldo's star power to appeal to fútbol fans in stadium renovation ads


Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo is lending his superstar power to the Miami Dolphins in their quest for a subsidized renovation to Sun Life Stadium.

On Thursday, the Dolphins' campaign arm, a political action committee named Friends of Miami First, said it is rolling out Spanish-language television and radio advertisements and automated phone calls to voters featuring Ronaldo, one of the world's best soccer players. Ronaldo is getting paid for his efforts, campaign spokesman Eric Jotkoff said.

If Florida lawmakers sign off on Dolphins-backed legislation in Tallahassee and Miami-Dade voters approve a May 14 referendum supporting a hotel-tax rate hike to fund part of the $350 million renovation, the Dolphins have agreed to host at least 20 internationally televised soccer games at Sun Life over the next 30 years. Failing to host those games or other major sporting events, such as at least four Super Bowls, would result in up to $120 million in penalties for the team.

In trying to appeal to Miami-Dade's majority Hispanic voters, the Dolphins have played up the soccer games in Spanish-language ads. One radio spot says the team is "committed" to hosting a World Cup -- soccer's biggest tournament -- even though Sun Life in practice has little say over whether the U.S. would get to host the event at all. The team has said the stadium improvements are necessary to bring Sun Life up to standards set by FIFA, international soccer's ruling body, to host games other than friendlies.

"Hi, I'm Cristiano Ronaldo," Ronaldo, who is Portuguese, says in Spanish in the TV ad. "Me and many professional soccer players love Miami. We know that Miami has many fans. The modernization of Sun Life Stadium in Miami will establish the center of professional football in North America.

"Please vote yes to modernize Sun Life Stadium on May 14 in Miami so I can come back every year to Miami to play."


Listen to the radio spot and robocall below.

Ronaldo Radio

Ronaldo Phone


Senate approves bill to ratify Everglades deal

The Florida Senate put the legislative stamp of approval on the landmark settlement between Gov. Rick Scott, the federal government and the sugar industry Thursday passed a bill to dedicate state money and establish criteria for restoring water quality to the Everglades.

The bill, HB 7065, which had earned the rare support of most environmentalists and sugar companies, will be accompanied by a $70 million investment in the clean-up efforts which are included in the proposed $74.5 billion budget. The Senate approved the measure 39-0 after the House approved it last month 114-0. Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign it. 

The passage comes a day after the governor signed two legislative priority bills on campaign finance and ethics. The Senate had put on hold a vote on the Everglades bill as well as the confirmation of the governor's top agency heads. 

Scott entered into the settlement with the Obama administration last year and quietly considered it a priority to have the legislature ratify the language and create a framework for funding the restoration projects.

"The unanimous, bipartisan support in both the House, and now the Senate, to move Everglades legislation and restoration forward proves the success of true compromise and what we hope will be a lasting collaboration between legislators, farmers and environmental groups," said Robert Coker, vice president of U.S. Sugar in a statement.  

"We've been working on these issues for more than 20 years and remain committed to striking the balance that allows farmers to grow food, contribute to a strong economy and also continue to serve as partners in the state's restoration plans," he said.