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10 posts from October 2, 2013

October 02, 2013

The Adam Hollingsworth effect: Rick Scott's still-bad poll numbers, gator-hunt fail


The speeches from Adam Hollingsworth were a sports-laden call to put points on the board.

As the newly tapped chief of staff for Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Hollingsworth was deeply troubled by his new boss' persistently bad poll numbers in the summer of 2012. In two years' time, Scott would be up for re-election. And the polls indicated the governor would lose.

"If it's halftime in a football game and we're in the locker room, do you think we'd be winning or not?"  Hollingsworth asked rhetorically, according to two staffers who heard the same speech at two separate meetings.

"If I was the coach and we had these numbers, I wouldn't be patting people on the back," Hollingsworth reportedly said. "I'd be throwing my chair against the damn wall."

Well, Coach Hollingsworth, it's the third quarter.

Continue reading "The Adam Hollingsworth effect: Rick Scott's still-bad poll numbers, gator-hunt fail" »

Detzner on next voter purge: "We won't make the same mistakes."

Over the next week, Secretary of State Ken Detzner will visit five Florida cities to discuss a second attempt to purge non-citizens from voter rolls without repeating the mistakes from the first try.

“I accept responsibility for that effort,” Detzner said. “It could have been better. It should have been better. We learned from the mistakes that we made. We won’t make the same mistakes.”

Starting with a round table Thursday in Panama City, Detzner will try to convince Florida’s supervisors of elections that this time, the Division of Elections will get it right. An attempt made last year before the elections was marred by errors and led to lawsuits by civil rights groups that said the purge disproportionately targeted Hispanics, Haitians and other minority groups.

“It was sloppy, it was slapdash, and it was inaccurate,” said Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards.

In June, on the day when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Voting Rights Act, Gov. Rick Scott suggested another purge would resume. But until now, Scott and Detzner haven’t revealed many details about how it will unfold. Detzner said the five-day road tour this week and next will change that.

After Panama City, Detzner and Division of Elections officials will meet in Jacksonville on Friday, Orlando on Tuesday, Sarasota on Wednesday and Fort Lauderdale on Thursday.

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Mario Diaz-Balart on his House CR no-vote, and Obama's wavering "red lines"


Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart was always in favor of defunding, delaying and degrading Obamacare.

But on Monday night, he joined 11 other Republicans to oppose the budget plan targeting Obamacare for a simple reason: It wasn’t going to work, and the government was about to go into partial shutdown.

“I’ve voted against Obamacare 42 times,” Diaz-Balart said.

“When they brought the idea of defunding Obamacare, House Republicans were told we could get Democratic votes. So I voted for it. But it didn’t happen,” he said. “Then we tried again. And it didn’t work. The third time, it was like: Look, this isn’t working. Let’s try something else.”

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Rick Scott's budget chief says $500 million tax cut could work


Gov. Rick Scott's budget chief has outlined a path to accomplish the governor's proposed $500 million tax cut while still bolstering the state's emergency savings fund.

Budget chief Jerry McDaniel said there are three ways to reach the magic number, but stopped short of advocating a particular plan or determining whether a $500 million tax cut was a good policy decision. The savings can be reached by further reductions in state spending, growth in general revenue due to a rebounding economy, moving funds from special accounts to the general revenue budget, or any combination of the three, McDaniel wrote.

So far, budget estimates predict an $846 million increase in general revenue, even after accounting for the state's existing budget needs, "clearly leaving sufficient funds to provide broad tax cuts for Florida families and increased reserves," according to the memo. 

Scott has not identified which taxes or fees he would like to reduce, saying he wants to hear ideas from Florida taxpayers and business owners. Others have suggested he prioritize cuts in fees for services paid by individuals as opposed to boosting tax breaks for businesses. And some Democrats have expressed an interest in boosting funding for education as opposed to Scott's idea.

The House's budget chief says he agrees with the tax cut proposal but is not sure $500 million is the number.

"I share the Governor's passion for tax cuts and fully expect a significant tax cut package in next year's budget," Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, said. "But it's too early to commit to a specific dollar figure."

Continue reading "Rick Scott's budget chief says $500 million tax cut could work" »

Rep. Joe Garcia is latest Miami face in long-odds immigration-reform push


Rep. Joe Garcia became the third Miami congressman this year to play a major role in the nation’s immigration debate when he joined House Democrats on Wednesday to unveil a bipartisan plan that includes a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

But unlike Miami U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Garcia isn’t a Republican.

And the bill Garcia and fellow Democrats are pushing has so little chance of passing right now that, coupled with the all-Democrat cast that unveiled the proposal, the legislation is perceived on Capitol Hill to be more of a political play to pressure stalling House Republicans.

The Democrats' legislation combines a Senate bill, passed with Rubio’s help, as well as a Republican border-security measure that passed a House committee.

“We put them both together,” Garcia said. “We’re not introducing the perfect bill. We’re introducing a comprehensive reform bill that provides that space for compromise.”

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Two broken promises and an 'In the Works' for Scott from PolitiFact


PolitiFact Florida has been busy writing updates about promises made by Gov. Rick Scott. 

We gave Scott an "In the Works" for his promise to reform Citizens to "ensure that Citizens consistently operates on actuarially sound rates." More Citizens policyholders have been pushed into the private market through the company's efforts to entice private companies to take out policies. And Scott signed a 2013 law that will result in a "clearinghouse" for Citizens that will work to redirect policyholders to comparable private coverage starting January 2014.

We gave Scott a Promise Broken for exploring expansion of drilling in a safe, environmentally sound way and to ban embryonic stem cell research

For those keeping score on Scott's 57 promises, check out our Scott-O-Meter.

Ros-Lehtinen calls shutdown 'political posturing' with 'terrible consequences'

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Miami, has little sympathy for her colleagues who are trying to make an ideological point with the goverrnment shutdown.

"While financial and budget issues are often the cause of much noise from Washington, this year’s ultimate failure is a reminder that political posturing can quickly lead to terrible consequences for the everyday lives of American families, businesses, and their futures,'' said the statement released by Ros-Lehtinen's office this morning.

"The American people send us to Washington to work together for the betterment of our great nation; not for ourselves,'' Ros-Lehtinen was quoted as saying. "It’s way past time for all parties to work together in a genuine, bipartisan and adult manner to end this unnecessary government shutdown. This is not some abstract exercise. It has real consequences for our communities and our families. It’s high time to end the political showmanship, and together, create a solution." 

Her statement called the federal shutdown "an alarming event" caused by federal leaders who "were unable, or unwilling, to reach an agreement on how to fund its operations." 

Commission on Ethics to investigate Rep. Jamie Grant's business venture

The Florida Commission on Ethics is investigating what happened to millions in grant money awarded a start-up created by Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa.

Senior ethics investigator Robert Malone notified Grant and Henry Kuhlman, a Hardee County resident who filed the complaint against Grant, that the investigation had begun.

The “complaint has been found sufficient for investigation and has been forwarded to the Investigative Section of the Commission on Ethics,” Malone told Kuhlman in a letter dated Sept. 24.

Until the investigation is complete, the Commission on Ethics can’t comment on the case or provide documents relating to it. The only ones with access to the records are the ones charged in the complaint and the person who filed it, which in this case is Kuhlman.

For the past two years, Kuhlman has spearheaded an effort to account for more than $2.5 million that Grant began receiving in 2011 after Hardee County commissioners awarded his yet-unnamed company the money.

The money is from $42 million the phosphate giant Mosaic is paying the county over 10 years for mining rights to 11,000 acres. Hoping to kick-start a depressed Third World economy in Hardee, county officials are doling out the money to businesses in hopes they produce jobs.

Grant promised he would through a company he would later call LifeSync, along with $26 million in sales by 2014. The product he would create he called Blue Water. Users would access sensitive personal information via a smartphone and carry a blue card that could be swiped to manage data or provide information to medical professionals.

In 2012, Grant sold the rights to Blue Water and the remainder of the grant to another company called Continuum Labs, which is owned by Travis Bond — who was also listed on LifeSync's management team. He’s still getting paid $70,000.

Kuhlman says there is no product and that Grant and his successor in the project, Continuum Labs, have failed to produce any jobs.

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Dolphins consider hiring former Miami-Dade mayor


The Miami Dolphins are in talks to hire former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas to head up outreach efforts as owner Stephen Ross plots another try at a tax-funded stadium deal.

Several sources familiar with the Penelas talks said the deal has not been finalized. They describe a senior position that would put the former Miami-Dade County mayor at the center of political, government and community matters facing the NFL franchise. One source said the stadium push would be just one part of Penelas’ portfolio, which would focus on the team’s overall strategy when it comes to government relations and public outreach.

The Dolphins and Penelas declined to comment on Tuesday. But a league source said Penelas has had at least one promising meeting with new Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel. “Tom has met with him, enjoyed that meeting and is developing a relationship with him,” the source said.

The potential hiring offers the latest sign that Ross still sees a stadium deal in his future, and indicates how the New York-based billionaire might handle the politics and public relations this time. Last year’s failed effort featured then-CEO Mike Dee, a relative newcomer to South Florida, as the public face of the campaign. Penelas was hired as a consultant for that effort, but did not have a large public role.

Dee left in July after failing to win approval of state and local subsidies for a $350 million renovation. The plan died in the Florida House. Ross is pumping campaign dollars to unseat three Miami Republicans who led the fight against the Dolphins’ plan in Tallahassee: Jose Felix Diaz, Carlos Trujillo and Michael Bileca.

More here.

Miami Beach debate ends with taunts of 'pendejo'


A Miami Beach mayoral debate on Tuesday devolved into accusations of racism and angry name-calling by the candidates’ supporters.

The whole thing was caught on camera by MTV, which is making a documentary out of the campaign of one of the candidates.

The setting was a conference room in the Shore Club South Beach hotel on Collins Avenue. A standing-room-only crowd came out for the debate among entertainer Steve Berke (the subject of the documentary), businessman Philip Levine and current Commissioner Michael Góngora. It was organized by Miami Beach’s Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club and the Miami Beach Taxpayers Association.

The issue of race has come up before in the Miami Beach elections: Levine has been accused of running on a slate with commission candidates Joy Malakoff and Michael Grieco. The candidates Levine’s perceived slate is running against are all Hispanic. Levine, Malakoff and Grieco said they are not running coordinated campaigns. Grieco took it a step further, saying it appears their opponents are working in concert, which Góngora denies.

Tuesday’s fracas began with an innocent question from a resident about how city employees treat renters in the city.

Levine responded, in part, by saying that he would change the culture in City Hall “from one of being mañana, lazy, pushing things forward, kicking the can down the road.”

In Spanish, mañana means “tomorrow.”

Resident Carla Probus stood up to say she found the comment “kind of racist.”

More here.