« May 2, 2013 | Main | May 4, 2013 »

27 posts from May 3, 2013

May 03, 2013

Was Broward one of three counties in nation 'pivotal' to Obama? Not really

Broward County Democrats like to think they are special. And they have some proof to back that up: Broward has more registered Democratic voters than any other county in Florida. Broward is home to Democratic National Committee chair U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. And President Barack Obama campaigned in Hollywood the final weekend before Election Day in 2012.

We’ll be hearing more about the importance of Broward Democrats as the statewide party aims to take out Republican Gov. Rick Scott next year. In 2010, Broward’s abysmal 41 percent turnout was one factor in Scott’s defeat of Democrat Alex Sink.

But exactly how important are those Broward Democrats?

The Broward Democratic Executive Committee sent an email to the media April 11 celebrating that his party had achieved a new milestone: more than 600,000 registered voters. The email then continued: "A recent news article indicated that three counties in the nation were pivotal to an Obama victory. Broward was the only location in Florida."

Broward Supervisor of Elections records showed that the Dems surpassed 600,000 registered voters in April; however, due to the regular list maintenance, which includes placing some voters in an inactive status, the number later dropped down to about 589,000. (Republicans have about 256,000, and independents have about 300,000.)

But the part that caught our eye was the claim about Broward’s national significance. Was Broward one of three counties in the nation pivotal to Obama’s 2012 victory? Read more from PolitiFact Florida.

Dolphins stadium bill sponsor: 'It's looking bleak'

 

Braynon (1)
(Scott Keeler/Times Photo) Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, sits in Florida Senate Friday.


 

The prime sponsor of the Miami Dolphins’ stadium renovation effort said a proposal in Tallahassee is “looking bleak,” with just hours to go in the Florida Legislature’s session.

Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, met with House Speaker Will Weatherford on Friday, on the floor of the House, where the stadium effort has stalled for weeks. 

“It’s looking bleak,” he said after the impromptu meeting with Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel. “It’s looking bleak.”

In a last-minute twist Thursday, the Florida Senate amended a mundane “tax administration” bill by adding language related to the Dolphins’ tax plan. Senators then sent the bill to the House, where the Dolphins’ efforts have been stalled.

But it’s not clear if the bill will even come up for a vote. Braynon gave it a 10 to 15 percent chance.

Braynon has called on Weatherford to bring the bill up for a vote in the House, but Weatherford hasn't committed to do so.

Weatherford said Thursday that the Dolphins faced an "uphill battle."

 More details on the last-minute stadium effort here.

 

Gov's tax break may be in limbo but there may be no takers on a legal challenge

Did Florida legislators pull a fast one on Gov. Rick Scott when they passed a manufacturing tax break late Wednesday but left it in legal limbo?

The proposal, HB-7007, which gives every manufacturer a sales tax exemption on all industrial machines and equipment purchases for three years, was one of only two priorities of the governor. Estimated to save manufacturers about $121 million a year, it passed the House and minutes later the governor responded by signing into law two of the legislature’s top two priorities: an ethics bill and another to revise the state’s campaign finance laws.

But Democrats say the well-choreographed trade-off didn’t get the required two-thirds vote to be constitutional. If the governor signs it as expected, it could draw a lawsuit and be thrown out. It passed on a 68-48 vote, 12 votes short of two-thirds in the 120-member chamber.

“It looks like it’ll be challenged with all due speed,’’ said Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, the House Democratic leader.

Continue reading "Gov's tax break may be in limbo but there may be no takers on a legal challenge" »

Updated: Taxpayers could see half-cent tax used on stadium renovations; Dolphins say doesn't apply to Sun Life

UPDATED: The Miami Dolphins say the clause in question does not apply to them because they are not a 'municipality or county.' The story has been updated to reflect the Dolphins' statement.

A 25-word clause in a bill pending in the Florida Legislature could force local communities to face an unexpected tax for the upgrade of their sports stadiums.

The bill allows sports teams to apply for up to $3 million per year in sales tax breaks from the state of Florida. 

But the $3 million sales tax break comes with strings attached. Any sports team getting that $3 million must prove that sales have increased by $50 million after the stadium renovations. 

If the team is not able to increase sales—and by extension sales taxes—by the allotted amount, it would be forced to reimburse the state. 

But the reimbursement money wouldn’t necessarily have to come out of the pockets of the sports team. It could come instead from taxpayers in local municipality.

The Dolphins say the language does not apply to them because they own and operate the facility, not the local county.

A clause tucked deep in the bill allows a sports stadium that falls short of the increased sales target to use money from a local government’s  “half-penny” sales tax to repay the state.

The half-cent sales taxes are usually approved for specific purposes—things like education, infrastructure, healthcare, etc. Voters in cities and counties often agree to pay an extra local tax on top of the state’s 6 percent sales tax in order to provide additional resources for local initiatives. The tax rate in parts of Miami-Dade, for example, is 7 percent. 

Continue reading "Updated: Taxpayers could see half-cent tax used on stadium renovations; Dolphins say doesn't apply to Sun Life" »

Five things to look for in Friday's legislative session

 The end is near. Florida's 2013 legislative session ends Friday, and here are five things to watch:
 
* The House returns to square one to vote on an elections bill, just as it did on the session's first day. The bill (HB 7013) expands early voting sites and mandates eight days of early voting, and allows counties to expand early voting to as much as 14 days and 12 hours each day.
 
* The House will decide whether to follow the Senate's lead and pass a bill that creates a mechanism for tax-supported improvements to Sun Life Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins. The bill has been one of th emost heavily-lobbied of the 2013 session.
 
* The Senate, obviously sending signals to Gov. Rick Scott, is stringing out confirmations of more than 200 Scott appointees to boards, commissions and agencies. Most will be confirmed before the session ends, but one who won't be is Dr. John Armstrong, the state health director and surgeon general -- a minor embarrassment that will force Scott to reappoint him. "There were some issues with some members of the Legislature and the way he interacted with them," said Senate Ethics & Elections Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. "It's a little behavior management."
 
* The session is expected to end as it began, with the Senate and House far apart, unwilling and unable to find common ground on how to expand the Medicaid program to more uninsured Floridians. 
 
* The session will likely conclude with the traditional dropping of handkerchiefs by the sergeants-at-arms of both chambers, to be followed by self-congratulatory speeches by key lawmakers in the Capitol's fourth-floor rotunda.  
Steve Bousquet, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

Bill to keep foreign laws out of family court cases stalls in Senate

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 cases related to marriage, divorce and child custody cases in cases that violate state statutes or a person's constitutional rights. Opponents say the measure is based on anti-Sharia legislation. With one day left of the session, it's unlikely the bill can be salvaged this session.

 

 

Bill to keep foreign laws out of family court cases stalls in Senate

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 cases related to marriage, divorce and child custody cases in cases that violate state statutes or a person's constitutional rights. Opponents say the measure is based on anti-Sharia legislation. With one day left of the session, it's unlikely the bill can be salvaged this session.