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10 posts from June 6, 2013

June 06, 2013

"Promise broken:" another immigration hardline group bashes Marco Rubio in FL TV ads


And the conservative TV hits keep coming.

Already waffling over his immigration bill (he was kind of for it before he was kind of against it), Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is getting whacked in a new TV ad that Federation for American Immigration Reform announced. It follows Florida ads from Californians for Population Stabilization and a billboard from Floridians for Immigration Enforcement.

The new ads from FAIR (called a "hate group" by immigration advocates) come as the head of its Center for Immigration Studies leader, Mark Krikorian, has excoriated Rubio in the conservative press (e.g., "The Rubio Amnesty" in National Review Online).

Here's the text, replete with an anvil-clang to punctuate "Promise broken."

Remember the broken promises of the 1986 illegal alien amnesty?

Sen. Marco Rubio is making the same promises, like real border security. Promise broken.

No more amnesties for illegal aliens. Promise broken.

Reducing legal immigration so Americans get first crack at jobs. Promise broken.

Ending chain migration and immigrant welfare: Promise broken.

Shouldn't politicians make good on old promises before they make new ones?


Rubio says Gov. Scott's veto an 'argument for immigration reform'

From the Times' Alex Leary:

Reacting to Gov. Rick Scott's controversial veto of a bill that would have helped children of illegal immigrants in Florida obtain temporary driver’s licenses, Sen. Marco Rubio said today "it's an argument for immigration reform."

"These are the kinds of issues we're going to continue to face around the country," if immigration is not addressed, Rubio told Florida reporters in Washington this afternoon. He said he had not read Scott's veto message but is aware that Scott contends the legal status conferred on young "Dreamers" by the Obama administration is not legal.

"Quite frankly I too am troubled by the way the president did what he did," Rubio said. "But at the end of the day, the big picture to take away from it is this is one of the reasons why we need to pass immigration reform. So that issues like this, that continue pop up at the state level, will no longer to pop up."

But was it the right thing to do? The bill was supported by all but two lawmakers. "I wasn't part of the debate. I don't know what the counter arguments are to it. It sounded like it had broad bi-partisan appeal. I know the governor is concerned about the way at which the president went about justifying doing what he did. I share those concerns and I expressed them at the time."

Asked bluntly if he was backing away from the immigration bill, the Florida Republican reaffirmed that border security needs to be improved. But he said: "I won't abandon this issue until it gets done."

Bondi says Bank of America breaking rules in national mortgage settlement, floats lawsuit

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi criticized Bank of America on Thursday for failing to follow the rules of a national mortgage settlement reached last year over the practice of robo-signing during the height of the foreclosure crisis.

In a letter to Bank of America's lawyer,  she accuses the banking giant of "troubling" practices, including sending state officials "litigation letters" and failing to modify mortgages in an efficient manner. She floats a future lawsuit against Bank of America or any of the other banks in the settlement as a possibility.

Bondi's letter comes a month after New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman threatened to sue Bank of America and Wells Fargo over alleged noncompliance with the $25 billion settlement inked between the five largest banks and 49 attorneys general. 

Earlier this week, Bondi said she was talking to the banks to address the concerns.

"Eric Schneiderman can say he'll sue all day long, but there's a process that you go through first," she said after Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation related to the settlement on Wednesday. "There are stringent provisions under this settlement process, and we're doing everything to hold the banks accountable."

Bondi's letter claims that Bank of America could be violating several provisions of last year's settlement, including promises not to process foreclosures and loan modifications simultaneously on the same homeowner, and a requirement to provide a "single point of contact" for homeowners navigating the foreclosure prevention system. Several homeowners have complained of misinformation and lost documentation from banks as they tried to avoid foreclosures.

Bank of America said it has been one of the most successful banks at helping homeowners receive mortgage assistance, and will work to address any problems.

“Bank of America has extended more relief under the National Mortgage Settlement to customers in need of assistance than all other servicers combined, representing nearly 60% of relief across the program," a spokesperson said in a statement. 'We take seriously and work quickly to address any problems brought to our attention.”

Bondi's letter also outlines several individual cases where the attorney general's office has stepped in to help individual homeowners going through foreclosure with Bank of America.

"But for the intervention of my office, it is likely these borrowers would have lost their homes to foreclosure, despite their concerted efforts to obtain a loan modification or otherwise mitigate their losses by obtaining relief for which they were qualified," she wrote.

Bondi said she was "prepared to pursue" litigation if Bank of America does not adequately address the problems within the terms outlined by the settlement. Florida homeowners have received more than $8.4 billion in mortgage relief under the settlement, according to the national monitor.

Read Bondi's 5-page letter here



Sen. President Gaetz joins long list of Republicans questioning $52M deal for Scott contributor

Senate President Don Gaetz is calling for special hearings on the $52 million special deal between Citizens Property Insurance and a politically connected upstart insurance company, the latest sign of legislative angst with the state-run insurer.

Last month, Citizens agreed to transfer $52 million to Heritage Property and Casualty, a nine-month old insurance company that has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying and political donations to top Republicans, including Gov. Rick Scott.

“The Florida Senate believes the facts and circumstances surrounding the Heritage transaction need thorough investigation so the people of Florida are assured that it and transactions like it are in the best interest of Floridians,” Gaetz, R-Niceville, said in a statement. “As such, as soon as Committee meetings begin this fall, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will conduct hearings to investigate and propose ]solutions to the concerns raised by this transaction and any others that might result from Citizens’ attempts to reduce its liabilities.”

Gaetz joins a long list of top Republican lawmakers questioning the $52 million cash transfer from Citizens to a private insurer. House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said he was “highly concerned” about the deal and would call on a House committee to provide more oversight for Citizens. Gov. Rick Scott’s chief of staff called the board at Citizens “tone-deaf” when it comes to earning public confidence (Heritage donated $100,000 to Scott’s reelection in March, as the $52 million deal was being crafted, but Scott’s office denies pay-to-play). Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater also criticized the hastily approved 3-2 vote by the Citizens board to support the unique deal. Scott refused to answer questions this week about whether he supported the deal for his political contributor or not. 

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, has called the deal “corporate welfare” and Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, called it a “get rich” funding scheme. Critics say the deal allows Heritage to retroactively cherry pick policies that have made no claims, thus privatizing profits and socializing losses. They also pointed to a long list of insurance violations at companies run by Heritage's president, Richard Widdicombe

Continue reading "Sen. President Gaetz joins long list of Republicans questioning $52M deal for Scott contributor" »

Tropical Storm Andrea brings tornadoes, storm surges

Residents should be wary of tornadoes, flooding and storm surges as fast-moving Tropical Storm Andrea passes through Florida but the most severe weather should be over by midnight, Gov. Rick Scott said during a press conference Thursday at the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

"We've talked to all the local emergency management teams and they're ready," Scott said. "The biggest ssue we have is we're under tornado warnings. We had eight tornadoes so far in the state." He said there have not been any reports of deaths or property damage caused by the storm.

FDEM Director Bryan W. Koon said that "tornadoes are popping up all over the place basically so it depends where they go." If the tornadoes hit a populated area, "this whole thing could be completely different," he said. So far tornadoes have been reparted in Hillsborough, Manatee, Broward, Palm Beach and Pinellas counties, Koon said.

The storm will bring "quite a bit of rain," Scott said, but "fortunately it's not going to be the same rain we had with Debby last year because it's a fast-moving storm," moving about 15 miles per hour. Florida's west coast is expected to experience three to five feet of storm surges moving toward Cedar Key.

As of 2 p.m., Andrea was about 35 miles west-southwest of Cedar Key, according to the National Weather Service, moving toward the Northeast about 17 miles per hour. Winds are reported at 60 miles per hour.

While the governor urged caution for the public, telling residents to get three days of water and food, he had brighter news for tourists. "Keep your travel plans, This is going to pass very quickly through our state.

Scott also used the press conference to take a shot at "President Obama's sequestration efforts."

Continue reading "Tropical Storm Andrea brings tornadoes, storm surges" »

Florida Dems announce big-data hire from Obama 2012 campaign


Florida Democrats have long faced a conundrum: They greatly outnumber Republicans (522,267 by the most recent count of active registered voters), but the state Legislature, governor's mansion and Cabinet are controlled by the GOP. Only one Democrat, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, holds a statewide elected office.

One reason for the disparity between registration and results: the Republican Party of Florida has had an organizational edge for years.  But President Obama's data-driven campaign helped counteract that for two presidential elections in Florida. The Florida Democratic Party wants to tap that savvy and know-how and, today, announced the hire of one of Obama's get-out-the-vote hands.

Continue reading "Florida Dems announce big-data hire from Obama 2012 campaign" »

GOP poll: Rep. Joe Garcia had trouble in district even before election scandal


Even before an election scandal engulfed his campaign, Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia already had a tough re-election campaign ahead of him, according to a poll released Thursday by a Republican group.

A slight plurality of voters in the district, 42 percent, said they'd prefer someone new compared to the 37 percent of those who said Garcia deserves reelection, according to the survey of 450 district voters taken by Harper Polling for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Though taken by a Republican-tied firm, the NRCC poll wasn't all bad news for Garcia. It indicated more people approve of the job he's doing, 38, compared to 35 percent who disapprove.

The tidbits from the NRCC poll -- released with a national memo characterizing Democratic "struggling" from Florida to California" -- was taken in late May.

So the results don't include details, first reported Friday by The Miami Herald, that Garcia's 2012 campaign is being investigated for requesting fraudulent absentee ballots during the Aug. 14 Democratic primary. Garcia has denied wrongdoing or knowledge of the alleged scheme.

The NRCC didn't share all of its results and critics are sure to question the poll's provenance and whether any survey questions gave it an anti-Democratic bias (that is, whether it message-tested). The poll does sample a few more Republicans (44%) than Democrats (38%). (Note: the last NRCC poll in this district, taken by another firm, accurately showed Garcia winning before the 2012 election).

Still, Garcia acknowledged the scandal will become a central campaign issue. And his supporters note that he's tough to beat, having raised about $550,000 in his first full quarter of fundraising as a freshman congressman.

Garcia also carried the district by about 11 percentage points in his race against a scandal-plagued Republican Rep. David Rivera. President Obama carried the district by about 7 percentage points. Registered Democrats slightly outnumber Republicans, 37-34 percent, making the Key West to Miami-Dade Congressional District 26 one of the most-competitive in the state.

But the poll indicated that 48 percent said they preferred a Republican candidate compared to 40 percent who said they preferred a Democrat

According to the poll, exactly half of the district said they'd prefer a congressman who provides a "Republican check and balance" to 43 percent who said they wanted a "Democratic ally of Obama."

Continue reading "GOP poll: Rep. Joe Garcia had trouble in district even before election scandal" »

'Outraged' Miami-Dade politicians tell Scott to veto 'unconscionable' sick-time bill

More than a dozen local politicians from Miami-Dade County—including Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado—say they are “outraged” that the Florida Legislature wants to pass down another mandate on local governments.

In a letter to Gov. Rick Scott, Regalado and other local mayors, commissioners and council members, say HB 655—a ban on local “sick time” ordinances—is a “Tallahassee power grab.”

“Preempting local governments from exerting local control is bad public policy,” the letter states, before telling Scott to veto the bill. It also says: “It is unconscionable that legislators would pass a bill that diminishes the quality of life for our residents.”

HB 655 bans local governments from mandating that private employers provide sick-time leave and other benefits to their workers. If Scott signs it, it would stop Orange County from moving ahead with a ballot initiative that would mandate businesses to provide sick time benefits.

Initially, the bill would have also struck down “living wage” ordinances currently on the books in places like Miami-Dade County and Miami Beach. Those ordinances require companies that contract with the local government to pay wages that are higher than the state’s minimum wage. During the legislative process, lawmakers stripped out the language that would have affected the Miami-Dade ordinance. It passed the House 76-41 on a partyline vote, with the support of Miami-Dade’s Republican House members.

Continue reading "'Outraged' Miami-Dade politicians tell Scott to veto 'unconscionable' sick-time bill" »

Miami-Dade Dems bash Rick Scott over DREAMer driver-license veto


With all the talk of the crucial Hispanic vote in states like Florida, it's a surprise to some that Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a bill that gave temporary driver-license eligibility to so-called DREAMers (those higher ed-bound undocumented immigrants who are eligible to stay in the U.S. under President Obama's deferred-action decree).

Will the veto help, hurt or not make a difference to the 2014 reelection campaign of Scott (who's pinning his hopes on Florida's improving economy)?

Democrats are obviously trying to inflict some pain. Today at 11 a.m., Miami-Dade Democrats are holding a press conference to keep the issue alive. Some Miami-Dade Republicans (the party is overwhelmingly --72% -- Hispanic) have privately told us they're baffled by the veto of the bill that passed the GOP-controlled Legislature nearly unanimously.

Here's the Dems press release for the event featuring state Sen. Dwight Bullard and Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez.

Continue reading "Miami-Dade Dems bash Rick Scott over DREAMer driver-license veto" »

With FL unemployment-rate falling, RPOF touts "Scott Surge vs. Dem Drag."


ScottPut aside the debate about how much a governor or president affects the unemployment rate and know this: It doesn't always matter when it comes to elections.

If times are good, the guy at the top of the ticket benefits. If times are bad, he pays.

Times in Florida are mixed, with an estimated 680,426 Floridians unemployed (the peak appears to be Feb. 2010: 1,040,578).

But the unemployment rate is dropping fast in Florida, the second-fastest in the nation (a 3.9% reduction between December 2010 and April 2013), as the Republican Party of Florida points out in a new graphic that seeks to credit Gov. Rick Scott, who's up for reeleciton next year. The one-page info-graphic that not only touts the gains under Scott, it also suggests that Democratic states just aren't as good at managing their economies.

Unemployment-rate drops aren't the whole picture, of course. In April, for instance, Nevada posted the biggest drop but still had the highest unemployment rate in the nation (9.6%).

Democrats are sure to point out that the unemployment rates in the solidly blue states of Vermont (4%) or Massachusetts (6.4%) is actually lower than in Florida (7.2%). But Republicans will point out that the unemployment rates in the solidly red states of Nebraska (3.7%) and North Dakota (3.3%) are the lowest in the nation. Yes, those unemployment rates are tied to the shale-oil boom.

And then there's the debate about how much credit or blame President Obama gets for the general nationwide drop.

So on it goes...