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9 posts from July 29, 2013

July 29, 2013

More pressure for special session on SYG, this time from black Hillsborough politicos

Six black Hillsborough County elected officials are asking Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford for a special session to repeal or change the 2005 “stand your ground” law they blame for a looming economic crisis caused by a boycott of Florida.

“Since the outcome of the Zimmerman verdict in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, Florida has become a lightning rod for criticism over our state’s ‘stand your ground’ law,” states the July 29 letter. “Now, in the weeks since the ‘not guilty’ verdict was rendered, the cries for boycotting Florida from some of the most prominent names in the entertainment industry and those organizing upcoming conventions and other major gatherings are growing because nothing has been done to fix the problems that remain in the law.”

The letter was signed by Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa; Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa; Les Miller, Hillsborough County Commissioner; Plant City Mayor Mary Mathis; Tampa City Council member Frank Reddick and Doretha Edgecomb, a Hillsborough County School Board member.

Continue reading "More pressure for special session on SYG, this time from black Hillsborough politicos" »

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross' political group attacks Miami lawmakers -- again


FJF-02-105_print-2The billionaire owner of the Miami Dolphins has unleashed his second round of attacks against three Miami lawmakers he blames for standing in the way of a proposed $350 million renovation to Sun Life Stadium.

Stephen Ross, through his Florida Jobs First political group, launched new fliers Monday, the Miami Herald learned, targeting state Reps. Michael Bileca, Jose Felix Diaz and Carlos Trujillo, accusing the three Republicans of blocking jobs for South Florida residents.

The group mailed its first batch of fliers last month, shortly after Ross formed it, making good on his pledge to take an active role in Tallahassee politics following the football club's failure to get legislation passed to ask Miami-Dade voters to raise the hotel-tax rate to fund some of the stadium improvements.

The ballots received during the special election before it was called off showed the proposal failing among early voters. Mike Dee, the team's former CEO who left for the San Diego Padres earlier this month, said in May that the Dolphins do not intend to pay for any upgrades on their own.

Ross' campaign prompted a rebuke from leaders of the Florida Legislature, who blasted the real-estate developer and part-time Palm Beach County resident for going after the trio of Miami Republicans.

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Askew offers reflections in ceremony at Old Capitol

Former Gov. Reubin Askew was honored Monday for his positive influences on politics and education at an event held at his old stomping grounds: the restored Senate chamber in the historic Old Capitol in Tallahassee.

"I spent a little time in this room," said Askew, who was a senator from 1962 to 1970, when voters elected him governor. He was the first governor in the state's history to serve two terms, and was a leader in tax reform, openness in government, race relations and strengthening the judiciary.

Askew, a Democrat, later served as President Jimmy Carter's trade representative, ran unsuccessfully for president in 1984 and has spent the past two decades teaching about government in the university system. Next month he'll begin his final year of teaching, and he turns 85 in September.

A group of graduate students in applied American politics and policy at Askew's alma mater, Florida State University, honored him for his contributions, and the former governor touched on a variety of topics in a long and sometimes rambling speech.

* On the role of government in society: "No one ever said government had all the answers. I never felt that, even when I was there. What government has is the responsibility to bring people together who do know what they are talking about."

* On his long-shot bid for the presidency: "I was 'Reubin who?' and when I got done two years later, you know what they called me? Reubin Who."

* On the state's newest university, Florida Polytech in Lakeland: "Nor have I been to Polk County Polytechnical. I'm not sure, Mr. President (Gaetz), what that is now."

* On the influence of lobbyists: "You have many very vocal people in government, and they themselves want their way. When you drive around Tallahassee, who owns the most beautiful homes? Not me. I'm out at Westminster Oaks (an assisted-living facility)."

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, gave a solid speech that summarized Askew's career and joked about "the rumor" that Askew may run for governor again.

"We have a plan for Alex Sink, Charlie Crist, Nan Rich and Bill Nelson, and the cards are on the table," Gaetz said. "But we wouldn't stand a chance if Reubin Askew ran for governor again. So, please, sir, don't get any ideas."

-- Steve Bousquet

Col. 'Bud' Day never received a 'Great Floridian' award

Col. George "Bud" Day of Shalimar, who died on Saturday at the age of 88, fought in three wars and was one of America's most decorated war heroes. He received the Medal of Honor after having endured years of brutality at the hands of his North Vietnamese captors without giving the enemy any classified information.

You would think that might have qualified Day for one of those "Great Floridian" awards -- but no. On the official state roster of award winners, Day's name is nowhere to be found. Steve Spurrier made the list, as did Tim Tebow, Bobby Bowden, the founder of Publix supermarkets and the University of Florida researcher who invented Gatorade.

This poses an obvious question: Exactly what are the criteria for handing out those awards -- and should they be re-evaluated? (Gov. Rick Scott has handed out 23 awards this year alone).

Day, who lived for decades in the Florida Panhandle, served as a vice commander of a flight wing at Eglin Air Force Base and practiced law in Fort Walton Beach after retiring from the Air Force in 1977. Captured after his plane was shot down, he escaped only to be recaptured a few days later. He spent five years in the notorious "Hanoi Hilton," a North Vietnam prisoner of war camp, where his fellow POWs were Sen. John McCain of Arizona and James Stockdale,  Ross Perot's running mate in the 1992 presidential election.

-- Steve Bousquet


Gaetz: No need for a special session

Senate President Don Gaetz doesn't see the need for a special session on the state's Stand Your Ground law, he told reporters Monday.

"I stand with Gov. [Rick] Scott on this and I stand with Speaker [Will] Weatherford," he said.

Gaetz said he sympathized with the young protesters known as the Dream Defenders, who have spent the past two weeks protesting at the Capitol. The group is demanding Scott convene a special session to address Stand Your Ground, racial profiling and the school-to-prison pipeline.

"I understand their frustration... and that frustration has to pour out some way," Gaetz said.  

But a special session, the Senate president said, would be pointless.

"You don't call a special session to bring 160 politicians into town to turn them lose and hope it works out," he said. "To my knowledge, there have been no bills filed."

Gaetz also responded to comments from singer and activist Harry Belafonte that Florida would become "ungovernable" if lawmakers refused to listen to the protesters.

Gaetz said the entertainer had "dropped into Florida" and then flown out.

"With all due respect, he was a better singer than public policy prophet," Gaetz said.

Rubio's Pants on Fire claim about Obamacare

From @beckybowers at PolitiFact:

Sen. Marco Rubio says it’s not too late to stop Obamacare.

In fact, he says, Congress should refuse to pass a spending bill that funds it, even at the risk of shutting down government. That’s because he sees "mounting evidence of how Obamacare creates more problems than it solves, particularly for small business owners and the people who work for them."

One of those pieces of evidence: the number of small business who "say they are going to be forced to either fire workers or cut their hours."

According to his FoxNews.com op-ed on July 25, 2013, that number is a jaw-dropping 75 percent.(He repeated the claim in a July 29 piece for RedState.com, "Shut Down Obamacare, Not Government.")

Rubio blames the health care law’s now-delayed employer mandate, which requires businesses with the equivalent of 50 or more full-time employees to offer affordable, comprehensive health coverage or potentially face penalties of $2,000 or more per full-time worker after the first 30.

That creates a disastrous disincentive, he argues:

"If you are a small business with about 47, 48 or 49 employees and you want to hire more people, Obamacare encourages you to hold back on hiring new workers or cut the hours of existing ones so that you don’t reach 50 employees. That is why 75 percent of small businesses now say they are going to be forced to either fire workers or cut their hours."

Do three in four American small businesses say the health care law will drive them to fire workers or cut their hours? Read more from PolitiFact.

Trayvon's mom: Stand Your Ground helped Zimmerman 'get away with murder'


The mother of Trayvon Martin said Monday that she believed Florida’s Stand Your Ground law played a role in son’s shooting death, but she wasn’t ready to back a boycott of the state for not changing the self-defense law.

“The thing about this law is I just think it assisted the person who killed my son to get away with murder,” Sybrina Fulton, the mother of the 17-year-old from Miami Gardens said at a National Bar Association event in Miami Beach.

“I think we have to change these laws so people don’t get away with murder,” she said, adding that her son was unarmed and peacefully walking back to his dad’s place when he was pursued initially by George Zimmerman.

Zimmerman successfully pleaded self defense in the killing when a jury acquitted him July 13 in Sanford.

But the exact role of Stand Your Ground in the case isn’t clear. Only two jurors have spoken up to CNN and ABC, and just one referenced the law, which allows a person to more easily use deadly force without having to first retreat in a confrontation.

Zimmerman’s legal team didn’t focus on mounting a Stand Your Ground defense, however, saying that a common self-defense justification was all the 29-year-old man needed because he reasonably feared that Trayvon, who jumped him, was going to gravely injure him during a fistfight.

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Protesters' second weekend in the Capitol is a busy one

The Dream Defenders had an eventful second weekend in the Florida Capitol.

On Saturday, the group had a visitor: former state Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston.

Despite a policy prohibiting any non-employees from entering the building after 5 p.m. Friday, Rich "was allowed into the Capitol by a Senate staff member with key card access," according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Rich, who is running for governor, spent the early afternoon chatting with the student activists. The group is trying to pressure Gov. Rick Scott to hold a special session addressing Stand Your Ground, racial profiling and the school-to-prison pipeline.

Later in the day, there was some confusion surrounding an attempted food delivery.

Dream Defenders Director Phillip Agnew told The Herald/Times that a Capitol staffer had tried to enter the building with sandwich meat for the protesters, but that Capitol police had turned away the delivery. The young activists took to Twitter to announce that they were being denied food and water, capturing the attention of music producer Russell Simmons, who retweeted the posts.

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More Florida parents using state scholarships to send children to private schools

Zobeyda Morales felt helpless when her daughter Kyra struggled in kindergarten.

“She wasn’t reading,” said Morales, a single mother of four. “I wanted something better for her, but I couldn’t afford a private school.”

That was until Morales learned about Florida’s scholarship program for children from low-income families. The scholarships are funded by corporate donors, which receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for their contributions.

Morales applied and was accepted. She enrolled her kids in La Progresiva Presbyterian School in Little Havana.

She wasn’t alone. The number of students attending private schools on tax-credit scholarships jumped 27 percent last year, reaching a record high of 51,075 kids, according to the state Department of Education. The dramatic spike was the result of 2012 legislation increasing the amount of tax credits available. The bill prompted corporations to donate more money.  

Will the spike in enrollment prompt new legislation? Story here.