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15 posts from October 9, 2013

October 09, 2013

Bondi opinion means competition for Broward Sheriff's Office

Update added to include comments from BSO:

An opinion issued by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi Tuesday states that cities can contract with neighboring cities for police service. This means that the Broward Sheriff's Office could face some competition as some cities consider looking to other departments for police protection.

The town of Southwest Ranches sought the opinion. Ranches recently extended its contract with BSO for two months through the end of November and has contemplated entering a contract instead with nearby town of Davie. 

"It is my opinion that the town of Southwest Ranches may enter into an interlocal agreement for the provision of law enforcement services with an adjoining municipality within the same county...." states  Bondi's opinion.

The decision "spawns competition in the marketplace and basically let’s BSO know they are no longer the only game in town,” said Ranches attorney Keith Poliakoff.

But BSO general counsel Ron Gunzburger said that Bondi's opinion means that police services can be contracted in the same way as fire/rescue services have for years.

"We already successfully handle the fire/rescue needs today of municipalities, even though they each have three options (operating their own municipal service; contracting with BSO; or contracting with an adjoining municipality).  Likewise, we will continue to be equally effective and competitive on the law enforcement side.  BSO does a great job with providing law enforcement services throughout Broward County, and the residents of BSO contract cities highly praise our work."

BSO has police contracts with 14 cities and fire/rescue contracts with 8 cities.




School districts, unions still negotiating teacher pay raises

What's the latest on the pay raises that were promised to teachers?

So far, only 13 districts have negotiated the increases with their unions, the state Department of Education said Wednesday.

In those districts, the average teacher raise ranges from $1,500 to $2,900.

The Orange County school system was unable to reach an agreement with its unions, and declared an impasse last month. Talks in the other 53 districts are ongoing.

The Florida Legislature has set aside $480 million for teacher raises. Guidance counselors, school psychologists, social workers, media specialists, principals and assistant principals are also eligible for increases.

Already, educators in some districts stand to fall short of the $2,500 raise Gov. Rick Scott wanted all Florida teachers to receive.

That's partly because school systems had the flexibility to develop their own merit-pay plans, and had to bargain with their unions. But it is also because the $480 million allocation was initially intended to cover only teachers. The amount was never expanded when lawmakers extended the raises to other school personnel. 

School districts have taken different approaches to the increases, state education officials said.

Citrus, Manatee, Okaloosa, Taylor and Wakulla counties doled out their increases based either partly or entirely on performance.

But four counties (Calhoun, Gulf, Leon and Holmes) awarded across-the-board raises. Baker, Hendry, Jackson and Union counties used their share of the money to give teachers "step increases," which differ based on years of service.

State Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, said she was disappointed.

"I’m disappointed that we did not have more school districts, at least at first blush, award these increases based on performance and performance alone," she said. "To me that was a very important element of what we did. It troubles me that we have school boards and superintendents who ignored that from the Legislature." 

House Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Erik Fresen, R, Miami, said he expected the larger school districts to act differently.

"I would imagine that the pressure to utilize some element of performance will probably increase in the larger districts," he said.


Why Marco Rubio hitched his wagon to a Texas star, Ted Cruz

From the New York Times:

During the federal government shutdown, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has appeared guided by one goal: sticking as close as possible to Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Eager to regain favor with conservatives as he considers running for president, Mr. Rubio has fully embraced Mr. Cruz’s effort to block financing for the new health care law, standing with him at news conferences and through procedural maneuvers to that led to the shutdown.

Even more tellingly, on the evening of Sept. 24, Mr. Rubio made sure to join Mr. Cruz for his marathon speech against the health care law and was late to a previous commitment: an elegant Capitol Hill fund-raiser for Gov. Terry E. Branstad of Iowa, attended by Republican establishment figures like the lobbyist Ron Kaufman, former Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi and the former White House counsel C. Boyden Gray.

“I want to thank the senator for his efforts here today, and in the weeks that have led us here,” Mr. Rubio said as Mr. Cruz gladly yielded the floor. At 6 the next morning, Mr. Rubio returned to the Senate floor and rejoined Mr. Cruz.

More here

State regulators say they're developing 'simple guidelines' to lure flood insurers to Florida

Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said Wednesday that his office in the process of developing a “set of simple guidelines” for insurance companies to request approval to write primary flood insurance in Florida as an alternative to the Federal Floods Insurance Program. 

“The guidelines will not only provide a framework for the approval of rates and forms for flood coverage, but will also address financial requirements that must be met for insurers to write this new coverage,’’ McCarty said in a statement. 

The  Florida Office of Insurance Regulation was barraged with questions Wednesday after McCarty’s deputy, Rebecca Matthews, told the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on Tuesday that OIR was  working with companies to help them write primary flood coverage in the state to given them an alternative to paying the massive price increases expected as a result of federal reforms.

The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 attempted to phase in a series of rate increases in the National Flood Insurance Program as a way to close the program’s $24 billion deficit. But estimated 268,000 Floridians with older homes in high risk flood zones will lose their subsidized rates when they sell their homes, hitting buyers with triple digit increases in their flood insurance premiums in many cases.

Gov. Rick Scott and Florida's congressional delegation have appealed to Congressional leaders to pass a delay in the rate hikes but, with Washington at a standstill, nothing has happened. Meanwhile, real estate experts say the rate shock on buyers could freeze Florida's slowly-thawing real estate market. They are urging state leaders to come up with an alternative for the nearly 2 million homeowners who now have NFIP policies.

A handful of companies are currently writing primary flood coverage in Florida, but they are generally specialty companies write flood coverage only for high value homes, said OIR spokeswoman Amy Bogner.  Insurers can either write the flood policy as a stand-alone flood policy or as an endorsement onto a homeowners policy, she said.

Some of the companies current writing flood insurance include: Chubb (Federal Insurance Company); AIG (Chartis Property Casualty Company);  Wright National Flood Insurance Company; Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal Exchange; Firemans Fund Insurance Company; ASI (American Strategic Insurance Corporation); Markel American Insurance Company.

Scott was asked on Wednesday whether he would support policies to make it easier for insurers to provide alternative insurance in Florida but the governor refused to answer and instead blamed President Barack Obama. 

"The president signed the bill. He could have an impact by stopping it,'' Scott told reporters. "He needs to put a pause on that bill."

Motor vehicle fee cut on fast track, could bolster Scott in election year

Session doesn’t start for another five months, but there’s a pretty good candidate for most popular bill.

It could be SB 156, sponsored by Senate Appropriations Chair Joe Negron, R-Stuart. It reduces certain annual fees to register a motor vehicle, costing state coffers about $233 million a year.

It passed the Senate’s Transportation Committee on Wednesday by a 9-0 vote that bespeaks its bipartisan support.

“This is true tax reform for the people we represent,” said Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, who is also a co-sponsor of the bill.

Remember, next year is an election year. So lawmakers like any bill that suggests they are looking out for middle class voters.

Better yet, the bill could be used to burnish Gov. Rick Scott’s image, especially when his opponent is likely going to be former Gov. Charlie Crist.

Crist was governor in 2009 when, faced with a tanking economy, lawmakers were hunting for new revenue. They found it by increasing motor vehicle fees. In his first year in office, Scott asked lawmakers to roll back those fee increases, but lawmakers declined. If the bill sails through the Legislature, the bill gives Scott an easy photo op that will cast him, and not Crist, as the governor of the people.

So far, Scott has only stated he wants $500 million in cuts in taxes and fees. He has yet to identify a specific cut or fee.


Continue reading "Motor vehicle fee cut on fast track, could bolster Scott in election year " »

Gov. Rick Scott's office shaken by a sudden death

TimmoultonIt has been an especially tough week for Gov. Rick Scott and his staff as they support one of their own whose husband died unexpectedly.

Many people know Diane Moulton as the quiet but friendly woman who sits just outside the door to Scott's office. She is the governor's executive assistant, keeping track of his appointments and those of other senior employees.

Her husband of 27 years, William Timothy "Tim" Moulton, collapsed Monday and died later that day. Many members of Scott's staff rushed to be with her at a Tallahassee hospital after hearing of the news.

Mr. Moulton, 55, was a Tallahassee native and owned his own small engine repair business. He performed community service as a Shriner and was a former volunteer with the Leon County Sheriff's Office reserve unit.

"Tim Moulton was one of the most honest and interesting people I have had the pleasure of knowing," Scott said via a statement. "He was a wonderful husband and family man and made countless contributions to the Tallahassee community.  Ann and I will dearly miss him."

Continue reading "Gov. Rick Scott's office shaken by a sudden death" »

"Yoho'd:" The newest contribution to the political lexicon and FL's cast of congressional characters


Oh, Florida, land of Allen West, Alan Grayson, Katherine Harris, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Marco Rubio and so many more. Thank you for our latest news-making member of Congress, Ted Yoho.

The Gainesville Republican and political newcomer has jokingly called Obamacare's tanning tax "racist," said he put his face on bumper stickers so no one thought he was Japanese, flirted with birtherism, and suggested his opposition to the Affordable Care Act was akin to the struggles of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.

And that's in less than a year's time.

The left has worked itself up in a lather, with Esquire dubbing him a "wing nut congresscritter."

Then came Yoho's latest in the Washington Post, where Yoho put himself in the vanguard of conservatives who suggest that not increasing the debt ceiling might be a good thing. The left has a name for them "debt denialists," which incidentally is what the right calls the left when it comes to government spending.

Continue reading ""Yoho'd:" The newest contribution to the political lexicon and FL's cast of congressional characters" »

Detzner: "I accept responsibility" for non-citizen voter search woes

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner concluded his statewide "Project Integrity" tour today to chat with county elections officials about revamped procedures for the next round of the search for non-citizen voters.

Detzner would provide no ballpark timeline -- he wouldn't say whether he'll start the process this year. The biggest pushback he faced today was from Palm Beach County Supervisor Susan Bucher, a Democrat elected to a nonpartisan office. She peppered him with questions about the federal SAVE database the state will use this time (and gained access to late in the process last time.)

“Where does that data come from, how often is it updated: every 10 years or every 10 minutes? ... I have a lot of concern that the people we got the database from are saying this is not comprehensive and definitive,” Bucher said.  

Detzner responded that state agencies currently use federal SAVE data to verify that Floridians are eligible for millions of dollars in entitlements.

“This is the best database we have to deal with,” he said.

At one point Detzner tried to cut Bucher off: “you are interrupting and going to take time away from public questions.”

Here's a partial transcript from some questions during the press gaggle with Detzner:

Q: Do you think you might start a month, two months, next year?

Detzner: The process begins with comment from the public and from the supervisors so we are engaging that process already.

Q: When would we actually see you send files to Broward: a month, three months...

Detzner: There are some issues regarding data exchanges with Department Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. We have to get memorandums of agreement with each of the supervisors and homeland security if those supervisors that want to have access for a final check through homeland security and then the process will begin. So I don’t want to give you a specific date because...

Q: Give me a ballpark. That’s the main question everyone wants to know. Before the end of this year?

Detzner: I don’t want to give you a date because it would be unfair for Maria (Matthews, division director) for me to put that kind of pressure on her and the supervisors.

Q: Remember how it came up last time... months before the election

Detzner: Actually no the process had started more than 18 months before that. While the list may not have been public yet we had been trying to get access to Homeland Security for 18 months before I began my term as secretary and we were denied that by Homeland Security. Now with access to it we have a great working relationship with the Obama Administration’s Homeland Security. They have been very forthcoming. They have helped us. They have educated us and I look forward to them participating if invited to the supervisors’ annual winter conference so they could answer some of the questions that came up here.

Q: Couldn’t you run into the same criticism you faced last year supervisors were so busy dealing with the election and now it’s July, August, September, October. Are you going to stop at a certain point?

Detzner: You have to remember that the felon process continues right straight through election time. That process is ongoing. My goal is to begin the process when all the players are ready, when we are able to provide supervisors with credible and reliable information.  

Q: So it will continue right up to election day?

Detzner: It very well could. The law does not limit us in any way to continuing the process through the election.

Q: What will you do if there are county supervisors who say ‘I’m not comfortable. I’m not participating.’

Detzner: I am optimistic that everyone will have confidence in the process, that we would earn their respect and that they will follow the law.


Scott won't answer if he supports or opposes federal partial shutdown


Gov. Rick Scott refused to answer whether he supports or rejects the government shutdown that has crippled Washington, deflecting the question by blaming President Barack Obama.

“What I agree with is the fact that the buck stops with the president,'' Scott told reporters at a media availability this moring. "It's disappointing he doesn’t know how to compromise and negotiate. I’ve done it for three sessions."

Won't the shutdown have an impact on the state? 

 “We’re looking at all of our agencies to see what impat it’s going tohave on our state,'' he said.

The governor was also asked whether he supports  , to develop an alternative flood insurance market in Florida for homeowners trapped in enormous rate increases in the federal program. Congress passed the bill in 2012 with an overwhelming majority and Obama signed it and the bill's supports are urging Congress to pass a delay to stop the unintended consequences.

Scott again refused to answer what his position is and again blamed Obama, a strategy he has consistently employed of late as part of a campaign strategy.  

"The president signed the bill. He could have an impact by stopping it,'' he said. "He needs to put a pause on that bill."

Video: News Service of Florida

U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young to retire, won't seek re-election in 2014

Miami Herald news partner Tampa Bay Times reports ....


WASHINGTON U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, Florida’s most influential and longest-serving member of Congress, told the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday that he has decided to retire when his term ends in 2014.

Young, 82, said there are several factors in why he won’t run for re-election including his health and his desire to spend more time with his family.