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9 posts from August 2, 2013

August 02, 2013

Marco Rubio disses Jesse's "apartheid" comment, stays mum on King's DREAMers-drug-mules line


Immigration? What immigration? Steve King who, what? Cantaloupes?

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who saw great press turn sour in his push for immigration reform, has been avoiding the issue ever since his outreach to the far right didn't pay the dividends that his backers hoped. Rubio also shies away from immigration these days because he spoke about the topic at great length, doesn't want to seem uni-dimensional and wants to give the House room to work.

He's all about fighting Obamacare all the time.


Rubio is re-earning his post as a darling to the conservative elite amid a series of Obamacare-centric softball interviews by the likes FOX personalities like Sean Hannity and Neil Cavuto, neither of whom asked about Florida's abysmally high rate of the uninsured (the nation's third worst) during Rubio's stint as Florida House speaker.

But Cavuto made sure to ask Rubio about the outrageous comments by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who compared Florida to an "apartheid" state and said the fight to repeal the Stand Your Ground law was the "Selma of our time."

Rubio was happy to go off-topic:

“I think Jesse Jackson unfortunately has a long history of making outrageous comments and the only thing sadder than those comments is the fact that people still pay attention to some of them.. I think…people that live in Florida or have visited Florida know how outrageous those comments are.”

Hmmm, speaking of outrageous comments, there's one by someone who works a little closer to Rubio in Washington, Iowa U.S. Rep. Steve King, who said something pretty inflammatory about a topic closer to Rubio's neighbors in Miami-Dade, illegal immigrant kids who want to further their education.

"For everyone who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert," King said recently.

Along with House Speaker John Boehner and the GOP leadership, the Republican House members from Miami, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (whose campaign Rubio first worked on as a young man), denounced the comments. So did Miami Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia (more here).

So what's Rubio think?


It’s August. Again. Time for anonymous Dems to attack Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Again.


Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Broward Congresswoman, is a political animal. And some of her fellow Democrats don’t like it. Obama World is apparently displeased.

Sound familiar?

It’s not just a major theme of a Politico piece today about the Broward Congresswoman’s future fundraising and political aspirations, the narrative first appeared in a Politico e-book almost exactly 12 months ago in a separate case:

Continue reading "It’s August. Again. Time for anonymous Dems to attack Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Again." »

Police: Autistic man held in dungeon-like room



Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/08/02/3538774/police-autistic-man-held-in-dungeon.html#storylink=cpy

The man with autism taken Thursday night from a Sweetwater trailer home where his mother allegedly kept him in squalid conditions is George Portugal, according to a source close to the case.

His mother, Gladys Jaramillo, 56, of 11250 NW Third St., in the Li’l Abner Mobile Home Park, admitted keeping her emaciated son locked in a small, sweltering room that police called “dungeon-like.’’

She was charged with aggravated abuse and neglect of a mentally disabled adult, and false imprisonment."

Continue reading "Police: Autistic man held in dungeon-like room" »

Americans for Prosperity protest outside Blue Cross and Blue Shield

The Florida director of Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group founded by the conservative Koch brothers, protested today in front of the state headquarters of Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Jacksonville to rebuke the company for having a "key role" in the nonprofit Enroll America.

AFP State Director Slade O'Brien said about 15 others joined him for the hour protest outside the headquarters because the company is "using a nonprofit 501C3 to market their product.

"You're not allowed to contribute or work with a nonprofit where you're going to receive financial benefits for doing so ... that's a big no-no," O'Brien said.

The AFP has been a vehement opponent of the Affordable Care Act.

In a prepared statement, Blue Cross Blue Shield spokesman Paul C. Kluding said "Florida Blue has long supported health care reform that increases access to care, improves overall quality, and reduces the cost burden for all people in Florida, consistent with our mission. The Affordable Care Act is complex and Florida Blue supports efforts to inform the people in Florida about it so they can make good health care choices for themselves and their families."

Continue reading "Americans for Prosperity protest outside Blue Cross and Blue Shield" »

Governor apparently has had enough 'Let's Get to Work Days'

Best we can tell, Gov. Rick Scott hasn't had a "Let's Get to Work Day" since January. Back in 2011, the governor announced that he was mimicking Gov. Bob Graham's work days as a way to travel the state, meet people, learn what they do and -- this is us talking -- get some easy, noncontroversial publicity.

But those work days seem to have stopped after his January visit to Goya Foods, Scott's 15th work day.

Graham reportedly totaled 408 work days.

Weatherford taps Gaetz to hold hearings on SYG

In an op-ed published Friday, Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford agreed to hold hearings this fall on the state’s “stand your ground” law.

“Our evaluation of its effectiveness should be guided by objective information, not by political expediency,” Weatherford said. “Does the law keep the innocent safer? Is it being applied fairly? Are there ways we can make this law clearer and more understandable.”

Although the announcement falls short of holding a special legislative session that could repeal or change the stand your ground law, it’s the biggest commitment to date by Republican leaders to review the controversial law that's been blamed by some in the Trayvon Martin case. Gov. Rick Scott has refused to ask for a special session, as have Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz. Meanwhile, Democrats are writing letters to the Secretary of State to trigger a poll of the Legislature on whether to hold the special session. It’s considered a longshot with 96 lawmakers needed to ask for the session.

But Weatherford’s announcement of a hearing accomplishes a top goal by the Dream Defenders, a group of activists who are entering their fourth week in holding a sit-in at the Capitol. Members of the group welcomed the news Friday of hearings because they said it will continue to shine a national spotlight on their cause.

“It’s a critical first step,” said Phillip Agnew, executive director of the Dream Defenders. “We’ve been here for three weeks. We know Democracy takes time. Progress takes time. It’s a really critical first step on our journey to get racial profiling, school to prison pipeline and stand your ground handled and for our lawmakers to do the right thing.”


Continue reading "Weatherford taps Gaetz to hold hearings on SYG" »

Trooper, fired over stopping lawmakers, wins his job back

Former Florida Highway Patrol trooper Charles Swindle, who was fired in March over his handling of traffic stops involving two state legislators, officially won reinstatement to his job Friday. He's entitled to back pay, too, with interest, as a state board concluded that Swindle was following a tradition of cutting breaks for politicians who exceed the speed limit.

The Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) issued a final order upholding a hearing officer's conclusion that Swindle's firing was too harsh a penalty for his actions. Instead, Swindle got a three-week suspension and he can petition the FHP for back pay, which so far totals more than $12,000 before taxes.

"The agency is ordered to reinstate to his former position or a position having the same degree of responsibility as his former position," PERC's order said.

Swindle was fired over his conduct on I-10 in Madison one day last November, when, in rapid succession, he pulled over two House members who he said were speeding. But Reps. Mike Clelland, D-Lake Mary, and Charles McBurney, got away with slaps on the wrist in the form of no proof of insurance and no proof of registration. The problem was, both lawmakers had the proof -- Swindle never requested to see it. McBurney wrote a letter to FHP Col. David Brierton complaining about Swindle's conduct, which launched an investigation that led to his dismissal.

"We recognize, as did the hearing officer, that the agency's longstanding unwritten policy of leniency toward legislators contributed to Swindle's actions showing leniency to McBurney and Clelland," PERC concluded. One of the three PERC commissioners who sided with Swindle, Mike Hogan of Jacksonville, is himself a former legislator.

The patrol now must re-hire a trooper it does not want, but the result is not a total disaster for the state: PERC denied Swindle's request that the state be forced to pay his attorney's fees.

-- Steve Bousquet

State education board names Stewart interim commissioner

Pam Stewart is Florida's interim education commissioner. Again.

Stewart, who had been working as K-12 chancellor, won the unanimous support of the state Board of Education during an emergency conference call Friday. 

Her appointment comes on the heels of Tony Bennett's resignation from the post. Bennett stepped down Thursday amid a grade-fixing flap in Indiana, where he previously served as state superintendent of education.

During the conference call Friday, board member Kathleen Shanahan called for the creation of a "select committee" of lawmakers, superintendents and other stakeholders to examine Florida's education accountability system.  

"While I think Pam is a great interim option for us, we as state board members are responsible for the execution of the accountability system in the state of Florida and it’s a mess," Shanahan said. "But a mess provides an opportunity."

Stewart has been Florida's interim education once before. She held the position for four months after former Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson resigned last August. She did not, however, apply for the permanent gig, which was later given to Bennett.

Read Stewart's bio here. 

Two lawmakers call for state education commissioner to be elected position

One day after Tony Bennett resigned as state education commissioner, two Democratic lawmakers called for the state's top education job to be an elected position.

Bennett, who stepped down amid a school-grade controversy, had been appointed to the post by the seven-member state Board of Education. He was the latest in a revolving door of appointed state education leaders. During Gov. Rick Scott's 31 months in office, there here have been three permanent education commissioners and two interim ones. 

"Maybe it's time that Florida consider returning back to an elected commissioner of education," said Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami.

Florida had an elected education commissioner until early 2003, when a Constitutional amendment kicked in reducing the number of elected cabinet officials from six to three.

The last education commissioner to be voted into office: former Gov. Charlie Crist.

Republican state Sens. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, and Greg Evers, R-Baker, suggested the position be elected last year, but the idea got little traction.

On Friday, Bullard said Floridians had "become tired of individuals who are picked by kingmakers who have been in the educational process for a number of years, political appointees and politically driven commissioners who really don't understand the meat and potatoes of Florida education."

"What we are in essence dealing with is a lack of trust among Floridians of those who are putting these people in place," Bullard said.

State Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, said having an elected commissioner would lend stability to the state education department

"For us, it really comes down to accountability at the highest levels of education," Rodriguez said. "If you are going to have elected statewide cabinet officers as we do, why not a statewide education commissioner?"

As we noted yesterday, the state Board of Education might have a hard time filling the job.