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8 posts from May 6, 2013

May 06, 2013

Weatherford hit "right" tone in first session as House Speaker

TALLAHASSEE — Few Florida politicians were known for being more likable and reasonable than House Speaker Will Weatherford.

But that was before the 2013 legislative session thrust the 33-year-old Wesley Chapel Republican to the forefront of the state's most contentious issues.

By last week, Weatherford was better known for being the roadblock to accepting $51 billion in federal aid to expand Medicaid. Or to government workers, the man who pushed hardest to dissolve the state's pension system. Or to public school teachers, the champion of a proposal that would allow parents to demand that some public schools be transformed into charter schools.

Story here.

Movers & Shakers

 It's been a busy session for movers and shakers.

Capitol TV reporter becomes new DCF press secretary

Whitney Ray, a reporter for the Capitol News Service, has been named the new press secretary for the Department of Children and Families. Ray, a graduate of the University of Arkansas, has had 12 years experience in the TV news business. He's replaced by Matt Horn, previously with KSNW-TV in Wichita, Kansas.

And there's lots more shuffling in Capitol communications.

Alexis Lambert, who was the communications director for Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, is the new DCF Communications Director, replacing Joe Follick, a former reporter who left the DCF job in April to take the top communications job at the Florida Department of Education.

Follick, who had been with DCF since October 2009, replaced Cynthia Sucher, who has become communications director for the Florida Office of Early Learning. Laura Woodard, who previously held the job, is now president of a Tampa marketing and communications firm.

Continue reading "Movers & Shakers" »

Will the lone R on Broward Commission face a rematch?

Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca, the lone Republican on the nine-member board, could face a rematch against Democrat Ken Keechl in 2014.

LaMarca filed for re-election Friday in District 4 which spans parts of multiple cities in northeast Broward including Fort Lauderdale, Oakland Park, Pompano Beach and Deerfield Beach. 

Keechl told the Miami Herald in an email Monday "I'm seriously considering running for my old seat. A lot of people are encouraging me to run for Broward County Commission District 4 or House seat 93 [held by State. Rep. George Moraitis (R-Fort Lauderdale)]. I'll decide before the summer is over."

The redistricted seat is ripe for a Democratic challenger because it leans about seven points Democratic, up from five. This has been the one swing district on the commission in recent years: Keechl beat Republican and former state legislator Jim Scott in 2006 and became the county's first openly gay commissioner.

While the Democratic wave helped Keechl in 2006, LaMarca benefitted from a Republican wave in 2010 that also elected U.S. Rep. Allen West whose district included northeast Broward. 

LaMarca's grassroots campaign was one of those rare Broward races where the underfunded candidate wins: he raised about one-quarter of Keechl's $600,000 warchest. But Keechl's big bucks were part of his undoing: he was criticized for lavish campaign spending. 

Last year, Keechl lost a bid to return to the commission in another district. He moved into a house that he and his partner own in District 7. Keechl said if he decides to challenge LaMarca he will move back to District 4. According to the county charter, a commissioner "must be a resident of the particular district upon election."

LaMarca, a former Broward GOP chair, will have to emphasize non-partisan issues to win the race. He says he will focus on the county budget and topics such as maintaining libraries and beach renourishment. 

"We saved two beach libraries and actually improved them when they were in danger of being removed," he said, referring to Galt Ocean mile branch and a library in Pompano Beach. 

The big unknown for both LaMarca and Keechl is whether Broward voters will get excited about any of the statewide candidates on the ballot to lead to better turnout than the dismal 41 percent from 2010.


Federal appeals court upholds ruling striking down Florida law banning hiring of firms with Cuba ties


A federal appeals court on Monday upheld a ruling that struck down a Florida law prohibiting the state and local governments from hiring companies with business ties to Cuba. The ruling continues to block the 2012 law from taking effect.

The law “conflicts directly with the extensive and highly calibrated federal regime of sanctions against Cuba promulgated by the legislative and executive branches over almost fifty years,” 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stanley Marcus wrote on behalf of a three-judge panel in the unanimous opinion.

The judges ruled in favor of Odebrecht USA, the Coral Gables firm that had challenged the law approved by a near-unanimous majority of state legislators and signed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott. The Florida Department of Transportation had appealed the preliminary injunction issued last year by U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore, who opined the legislation interfered with the federal government’s power to set foreign policy.

The appeals court, Marcus wrote, had “little difficulty” in affirming Moore’s ruling. Signaling their eventual position, the three clearly skeptical appeals judges pointedly questioned FDOT’s lawyer at a hearing in March.

Odebrecht USA, a subsidiary of the Brazilian engineering and construction giant, sued over the law, which would prohibit any Florida or local government agencies from awarding contracts worth at least $1 million to U.S. firms whose foreign-owned parent companies or subsidiaries work in Cuba or Syria. An affiliate of Odebrecht USA’s Brazilian parent company is significantly expanding the Cuban Port of Mariel.

More here.

Democrats urge Medicaid special session, Weatherford says it 'doesn't make sense'

Pressure is mounting on Gov. Rick Scott to call a special session to end the Legislature's impasse on Medicaid expansion. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and the 14 Democratic members of the Florida Senate sent separate letters today making that very request, but Scott isn't likely to oblige them if he doesn't think Republican lawmakers are ready to deal.

At stake is $51 billion in federal funding to providing insurance coverage to 1 million low-income Floridians. House Republicans blocked that from happening during the regular session, which ended Friday.

Neither Scott nor Senate President Don Gaetz  have said they would support reconvening the Legislature to address the issue. House Speaker Will Weatherford was cool to the idea when the Times/Herald spoke to him today.

"I don't know what it would achieve," Weatherford said. "Unless there was an agreement of what the session would do, calling one doesn't make sense. We would have to have some agreement on policy, other than drawing down on federal funds."

Weather would not say what type of alternative plan he thinks would make a special session a good idea.

Scott may not be keen on calling a special session if he's not assured the Legislature is fully on board and ready to compromise. In 2010, the Florida House famously adjourned a special session convened by then Gov. Charlie Crist after only 49 minutes of work, rejecting his proposal to initiate a ballot referendum on offshore drilling.

Continue reading "Democrats urge Medicaid special session, Weatherford says it 'doesn't make sense'" »

Thousands of gun owners email Gov. Scott seeking veto of NRA-backed gun law

More than 4,000 people emailed Gov. Rick Scott on Friday, telling him to veto the only gun bill that passed through the Florida Legislature this year.

The bill, HB 1355, aims to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, and received the blessing of the National Rifle Association. It passed the Senate unanimously and passed the House on a 117-1 vote.

 Gun owners--who have sent Scott more than 20,000 emails in the last two weeks opposing any new gun legislation—are urging Scott to use his veto pen on HB 1355.

“I am opposed to any expansion of gun control, of any kind,” wrote Douglas Elliot, of Polk County. “Mayor (Michael) Bloomberg is bent on disarming every American in this country. I am an American citizen and am a responsible owner.”

The bill would close a loophole in Florida law that allows people who voluntarily commit themselves to a mental institution to buy a gun once they leave. People who are involuntarily committed under the state’s “Baker Act” laws are currently prohibited from buying firearms.

Most people who are committed into mental institutions in Florida do so voluntarily. Officials from the National Rifle Association worked with a Miami Gardens Democrat, Rep. Barbara Watson, to try and close the loophole.

Watson’s bill was one of more than a dozen gun control laws proposed by Florida Democrats this year, the first session after the mass shooting of 20 children and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut. Other than HB 1355, none of the bills received a hearing in Florida’s firearm-friendly Legislature.

 However, for the first time in several years, the Legislature did not pass any controversial bills to expand gun rights—perhaps a side effect of the national firestorm over gun crime.

Continue reading "Thousands of gun owners email Gov. Scott seeking veto of NRA-backed gun law" »

Wife of ex-lawmaker who resigned in 'sexxxy mama' text scandal to run for Miami Beach commission

via @cveiga 

Real estate agent Micky Steinberg filed to run for Miami Beach City Commission on Monday. 

Despite her qualifications -- Steinberg is a board member of the Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority, and has served on the Public Policy Committee of Jewish Community Services and other boards -- she may be best known for her husband’s deeds.

She’s married to Richard Steinberg, the former Miami Beach state representative who stepped down early last year amid a U.S. Secret Service investigation into inappropriate text messages he sent to a female federal prosecutor.

No charges were filed against him. 

"My husband did the right thing by immediately resigning from office and focusing all his attention to his family," Steinberg told The Miami Herald. "And in terms of my campaign, I'm running for city commission, not my husband."

She said she is running because Miami Beach is at a crossroads and needs a fresh voice at City Hall.

The Steinbergs have two kids under the age of 4, and live in North Beach.

Richard Steinberg, an attorney, practices in Miami Beach with his dad, Paul, who is also a former state lawmaker.


This post has been updated with Steinberg's comments.

The "Rubio Amnesty" ripped in National Review


Mark Krikorian, perhaps the most-eloquent and thoughtful immigration hardliner, breaks down the Senate immigration bill and Sen. Marco Rubio's involvement in it in the National Review:

With its Obamacare-style expanse and complexity, the bill contains much more than what is sketched above. Democrats packed it with as many loopholes and immigration-lawyer schemes as they thought they could get away with. Rubio’s staff, like most GOP Senate staff, are relative amateurs on immigration, while Schumer’s people are pros. This is how Ted Kennedy dominated immigration policy for so long. (The House GOP committee staff on immigration, on the other hand, are professionals with long experience.)

Opposition to the bill should be the obvious position for conservatives who care about immigration enforcement and don’t want to open the spigots even wider to low-skilled immigration. Whatever the discrepancies between Rubio’s assurances and the reality of the bill, though, he has now lashed himself to it. His convoluted justifications for various provisions suggest that he’s decided to do what he must to sell it. He’s made the laughable argument that the bill doesn’t give anything new to illegal immigrants because they can already return home and apply to come here legally. (This sounds a lot like what Mitt Romney called “self-deportation.”) He’s claimed that amnesty must precede enforcement because the enforcement measures would throw millions of illegals out of work, creating a humanitarian crisis. In fact, the three security triggers, if enacted on their own, would have only a gradual impact on the existing illegal population.

In the months leading up to the introduction of S.744, conservatives looked hopefully to Rubio as their representative on the Gang of Eight, someone who would make sure its plan didn’t turn out to be a call for de facto open borders. Early on, Rubio may well have seen that as his role. But he is now much less the conservative ambassador to the Gang of Eight than the Gang’s ambassador to conservatives.