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9 posts from June 7, 2013

June 07, 2013

FDLE busts Opa-Locka cop for kidnapping man who wanted to complain about police brutality

Here's a good way for police to temporarily stop people from complaining against them -- only to wind up in jail. The press release:

MIAMI - Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Miami Regional Operations Center, arrested of German Bosque, 49, on charges of kidnapping, a first degree felony, a violation of section 787.01 Florida Statues, and tampering with witness/victim/informant, a third degree felony, section 914.22 (2) (f) Florida Statues and battery, a first degree misdemeanor, section 784.03 Florida Statutes.

Investigators allege that on Aug. 3, 2011, Bosque illegally handcuffed and detained the victim at the Opa-Locka Police Station after he tried to file a complaint. Earlier the same day, Bosque allegedly punched the victim while responding to a domestic call.

When the victim tried to file a complaint against Bosque, investigators believe Bosque forcefully escorted him from the lobby, handcuffed him and placed him into a holding area.  The investigation shows the victim was held against his will for a short time and was never given the opportunity to file a complaint.

FDLE began its investigation in Feb. 2012 after a complaint to the State Attorney’s Office was forwarded to FDLE.

Bosque turned himself in today around 5 p.m. at FDLE Miami Regional Operations Center and was booked into the Miami Dade Main Jail.  He is being held without bond.  Bosque was terminated from Opa-Locka PD in October 2012.

The State Attorney’s Office, 11th Judicial Circuit will prosecute this case. 

Nelson to Scott on sequester: power is in your hands to keep guard on duty

UPDAte: U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Friday turned the tables on Gov. Rick Scott's criticism of the federal budget cuts and said the governor should be putting pressure on Republican congressmen who sought the sequester that has forced full-time employees of the Florida National Guard into furloughs during hurricane season.

Nelson, a Democrat, also quoted FEMA's legal staff and noted that, as governor, Scott has the power to call the guard into duty during hurricane season and thereby circumvent the budget cuts and the furloughs. 

"If you as Governor activate the National Guard in anticipation of a federal disaster, the state’s costs, including the costs to recall any furloughed Guardsmen, will be fully reimbursable by FEMA,'' Nelson wrote. 

Nelson also urged the governor to put pressure on his Republican colleagues in Washington, especially those in the Republican-controlled House which agreed to the sequester in 2011 as a way to resolve an impass on the debt ceiling.

"You could be enormously helpful by urging some of the Florida Republican members of Congress to get rid of the sequester by exploring with us more sensible and strategic ways to reduce the budget for the next fiscal year, starting Oct. 1,'' Nelson wrote in his letter to Scott.

Melissa Sellers, the governor's spokeswoman, turned the blame to Nelson in a statement late Friday.

"It's unfortunate that Senator Nelson refuses to take any action in 2013 to fix the National Guard furloughs, which pose the same public safety risk as the FAA furloughs he asked the Obama Administration to stop a few weeks ago,'' she said. 

Scott had penned a letter to Nelson and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on Thursday urging them to exempt the National Guard from the forced budget cuts. Beginning July 1, through the end of the federal budget year on Sept. 30, 993 members of the Florida National Guard will go to a four-day work week as a result of the across-the-board budget cuts. Nelson and Rubio have both said that with the federal budget ending in September there is little time to change direction.

Here's Nelson's letter:

Continue reading "Nelson to Scott on sequester: power is in your hands to keep guard on duty" »

FSU, UF vote to increase tuition over Scott's objection

With Gov. Rick Scott giving university leaders the full-court press on tuition, each school's board of trustees has some decisions to make. They can side with Scott and reject the 1.7 percent tuition hike tied to inflation. But many are worried they could alienate the Legislature and turn down much-needed funding in the process.

Today, the University of Florida and Florida State University boards voted to accept the tuition increase, worth $1.4 million and $1.3 million respectively.

“No one likes to raise tuition, but I think the essence for us as a governing board is to make sure we use these dollars wisely, make sure that we deliver value,” said FSU trustee Ed Burr.

Scott has been meeting with university presidents and trustees and making phone calls to press his case. He wants universities to reject the 1.7 percent increase or offset it by reducing last year's tuition increases approved by the Board of Governors by a similar amount.

"Year after year, tuition increases are just not sustainable for our families," Scott said Tuesday. "We just can't keep doing this."

So far, universities have been reluctant to side with Scott. Most say they can't reject the tuition increase because it's required by state law, and they don't want to offset it elsewhere because they have plans for the money.

The final picture will become clearer when each university present its 2013-2014 work plan to the state Board of Governors later this month. Most have the tuition increase and other fee hikes in their preliminary budgets.

Continue reading "FSU, UF vote to increase tuition over Scott's objection" »

British firm could get early victory in legal fight with Monroe County if Scott signs property tax bill

A bill on Gov. Rick Scott’s desk could save a British company millions of dollars, while stymieing the Monroe County Property Appraiser’s office and setting a new precedent for calculating property taxes at privatize military housing. 

SB 354, which passed the Legislature with bipartisan support last month, clarifies key provisions in Florida’s tax code, determining who is--and who isn't--eligible for property tax exemptions. 

Those provisions are at the heart of a pending lawsuit between the Monroe County Property Appraiser and Southeast Housing, the subsidiary of UK-based Balfour Beatty Communities. 

Monroe County sent Southeast Housing a bill for more than $11 million in back property taxes last year, after discovering that the company was renting units to civilians instead of exclusively to the military. Southeast took ownership of 890 Key West housing units from the U.S. Navy in 2007, under a deal inked through the U.S. Military Housing Privatization Initiative. 

Southeast had been operating free of property taxes for several years, before Monroe County said the exemption was not appropriate. The property appraiser says Southeast should not get a government exemption since it is operating units for civilians.

Continue reading "British firm could get early victory in legal fight with Monroe County if Scott signs property tax bill" »

Bracy defends need for Dreamer law, says highway safety policy is inadequate

The House sponsor of HB 235, which was vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott this week, defended the bill as necessary to expedite the ability of children of illegal immigrants to obtain drivers licenses under the law, despite allegations to the contrary by the Florida Department of Highway Safety.

Rep. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando, said he sponsored the bill -- which passed the House and Senate with only two no votes -- to make it easier for children who qualify to get drivers licenses without having to wait for their federal documents, which often can take months. Scott vetoed the bill at the request of his Tea Party following, saying it relied on an administrative policy that hadn't been approved by Congress. 

"As a result of Governor Scott’s veto, some people may have to wait a year before they can drive,'' Bracy wrote in a letter to Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles director Julie Jones. "A year can mean lost wages because of no transportation.  A year could mean a wasted opportunity of a year of learning. That may not seem like a long time, but to the people of the immigrant community who have been waiting for this opportunity their entire life, this wait could be an eternity!"

Here's Bracy's letter:

Continue reading "Bracy defends need for Dreamer law, says highway safety policy is inadequate" »

Simpson avoids conflict of interest by relying on shaky ethics law

UPDATED WITH A CORRECTIONSenate general counsel George Levesque in an email Saturday said he didn't say that he relied on a 1985 Florida Commission on Ethics opinion before giving advice to Simpson. He said he spoke generically and was referencing other opinions. He did say that he relies on Florida Commission on Ethics advisory opinions to provide the interpretation of the law

When is a conflict not a conflict for a Florida lawmaker?

For Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, it’s after he gets cleared by Senate legal counsel that no such conflict exists, even if it still, in all practical terms, remains.

Simpson, who reported his $15.6 million net worth last week, makes his money from an array of sources: an egg farm, Florida Traditions Bank and an environmental abatement company, which also employs House Speaker Will Weatherford as a $36,000-a-year consultant.

That company, Simpson Environmental Services, owns a 60 percent stake in SFB Turnpike Joint Venture, a trust that Simpson formed with two other contractors so they could compete for Florida Department of Transportation contracts.

In April 2011, SFB Turnpike Joint Venture won a contract with the DOT’s Turnpike Enterprises to provide asbestos removal, demolition, the capping of wells and underground utility work. Basically, it’s the joint venture’s job to knock down buildings and put up fences as the Turnpike and various other state toll roads expand. It’s for three years with a two-year renewal option. It’s lucrative, too, paying out about $1 million so far, Simpson said.

When the contract was signed, Simpson wasn’t an elected official. But three months before the contract was finalized, Simpson filed to run for the state senate. In 2012, he was “elected” to the District 18 seat after no one opposed him.

This posed a problem for him and the DOT contract.

Continue reading "Simpson avoids conflict of interest by relying on shaky ethics law" »

Gov. Scott's efforts to raid out-of-state jobs ticks off other governors

Gov. Rick Scott's latest tactic to attract jobs is to brag about Florida as much as possible while criticizing other states — whose governors don't appreciate it one bit.

What Scott considers savvy salesmanship, other governors see as a crass publicity stunt, one with partisan overtones.

Scott's "One-Way Ticket to Florida" letter-writing campaign is targeting corporate executives in five Democratic states with high concentrations of high-paying manufacturing jobs, along with carefully cut-and-pasted comparisons that show Florida in a favorable light.

Read the story here.

Cat Fund fight could have huge impact on condo insurance rates

Rep. Mike Fasano and Dr. Jack Nicholson, who runs the state-backed reinsurance organization (the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund), are in a bit of a back-and-forth over what should and shouldn’t constitute a “residential property” for insurance purposes.

It’s a bit wonky, but Fasano says Nicholson’s interpretation of Florida’s statutes could cost condo associations thousands of dollars in rate hikes, if the Cat Fund stops covering their buildings.

According to Fasano (R-New Port Richey), a change to the Cat Fund’s coverage policy would disqualify condominium buildings where units are being rented for more than six months of the year from receiving state-backed reinsurance. 

He said the change could force some condo associations to see their insurance rates double, as private insurers and state-run Citizens Insurance rely on the Cat Fund for low priced back-up insurance. 

Fasano believes Nicholson and the Cat Fund have gone beyond the scope of the Florida Statutes by implementing the restriction on condos that have units rented out for more than half the year.

“Distinguishing between policies for condominium structures and condominium units based on rental criteria also seems to be contrary to Section 718.1256, Florida Statutes,” he wrote in a letter to Nicholson, outlining statutory language that states condos should be classified as residential property. The Cat Fund is required to provide coverage for residential properties.

Nicholson responded Friday, arguing that he was complying with the law because the rented condo units are “transient rental property,” and therefore not considered “residential property” eligible for Cat Fund coverage.

“An exclusion of transient rentals from the term ‘residential property’ is consistent with other statutory provisions,” wrote Nicholson.

Continue reading "Cat Fund fight could have huge impact on condo insurance rates" »

Gov and GOP leaders use hurricane season start to blast DC over sequester cuts

As the first tropical storm of the season bore down on Florida Thursday, Republican state officials seized the moment to blast Washington and warn that the required budget cuts to federal programs could impede the state’s ability to respond to hurricanes or floods.

Gov. Rick Scott had just mentioned Tropical Storm Andrea at his briefing with reporters Thursday morning when he launched into a critique of the federal budget storm that is causing the Florida National Guard to order 993 of its full-time staff to go to a four-day work week beginning July 1.

Known as sequestration, the across-the-board cuts were agreed to between President Obama and the Republican-controlled Congress in 2011 to resolve the debt ceiling standoff. Now, Scott, Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford have written to Congress and the Department of Defense asking them to exempt National Guard staff from the mandatory cuts because of Florida’s hurricane season.

“It doesn’t make any sense why they’re doing it this way,’’ Scott said, adding that the defense department could have excluded the National Guard from the budget cuts. “I’m very concerned about our preparedness. … It will take more days to be up to speed.” More here.