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11 posts from November 5, 2013

November 05, 2013

Detzner continues to push voter purge by a different name


The Secretary of State doesn't call his plan to remove ineligible voters from the rolls a "purge" or "scrub." "List management" is Ken Detzner's preferred terminology.

But the plan is still raising the ire of Democrats, and supervisors of elections continue to express concerns. Many Democrats believe that Detzner is trying to solve an issue that doesn't exist while ignoring more pressing elections and voting issues.

"Has there been a clamoring from supervisors?" Rep. Mike Clelland, D-Lake Mary, asked during Tuesday's House Ethics and Elections Subcommittee hearing.

State elections officials plan to use a federal immigration database to help identify Florida residents who registered to vote illegally. Although there hasn't been a widespread campaign from supervisors of elections to scrub voter rolls or any evidence of widespread fraud, the effort is needed, said Maria Matthews, director of the state's Division of Elections.

"This was not prompted by voter fraud, this was prompted by doing list maintenance," Matthews said, "making sure that the rolls are current and accurate."

Continue reading "Detzner continues to push voter purge by a different name" »

An early estimate on Crist's first fundraiser: $500,000

by @amysherman1

Charlie Crist’s first fundraiser tonight raised in the “half-million range,” estimated former state Sen. Steve Geller, one of the organizers.

That includes hard and soft money and some donors who showed up and said that they had already paid by credit card. (The actual amount won’t be publicly available until campaign finance reports are posted.)

The event was held at lawyer Mitchell Berger’s Fort Lauderdale home. Geller estimated that 75 to 100 people attended.

Is CONNECT Rick Scott's Obamacare?

During a second day of legislative hearings into the technical problems plaguing the launch of the state’s new $63 million CONNECT unemployment website, the chorus of Democratic lawmakers seeking answers grew louder.

“I can’t think of a more critical issue for us to demand action on,” said Sen. Darren Soto of Orlando during a Tuesday Senate Democratic caucus meeting. “When you think of a single mom who is waiting for that check and who can’t buy groceries, you think of an elderly person who is too old to be in the workforce, they may fall through the cracks and god knows what will happen to them.”

Since the Oct. 15 launch of CONNECT, which processes unemployment claims for 230,000 recipients, the offices of Gov. Rick Scott, state lawmakers and DEO officials have been besieged with thousands of emails and phone calls complaining about crashes, delays and glitches that are making it difficult for many to collect the money they need to pay rent, bills and groceries.

Because of a requirement passed during the 2011 legislative session, those receiving unemployment benefits must register online to get them. Earlier this year, federal officials found that Florida violated the civil rights of unemployed individuals by requiring them to apply online and take an “assessment” before they receive any unemployment check.

Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale said he will write a letter outlining his concerns as well as request a meeting with DEO staff to discuss CONNECT next week. He joins two other Democratic lawmakers, state Rep. Irv Slosberg, of Boca Raton, and U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, who have both asked for investigations into the system.

Meanwhile, the director of the agency that oversees the system said it is working close to normal and was already processing and paying about as many claims as the system it replaced.

Still, he had to deliver some bad news to lawmakers that further undermined his message that CONNECT is working properly.

“We had a server go down for about a half hour that caused some technical issues,” Jesse Panuccio, the executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, told the House Appropriations committee on transportation and economic development Tuesday morning. “It is now back up, but those are the type of issues that can cause problems.”

Continue reading "Is CONNECT Rick Scott's Obamacare?" »

State legislators push for gay rights in the workplace

Florida House Reps. Joe Saunders and Holly Raschein are once again pushing a bill that bans discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender Floridians in the workplace.Their efforts this year jive with a move in the U.S. Senate to pass a similar law, which state supporters called "fortuitous."

Also fortuitous: In his first tweet since declaring his candidacy for governor, Democrat Charlie Crist took advantage of the opportunity to support gay rights -- “Thanks to GOP @HollyRaschein & Dem @RepJoeSaunders for their bipartisan bill to end LGBT discrimination in workforce. I’ll sign it!”

This is the second time that Saunders, D-Orlando, and Raschein, R-Key Largo, have filed an anti-discrimination measure (HB 239), with Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-West Palm Beach, sponsoring the Senate counterpart.

State legislation, Saunders said at a press conference at the capital Tuesday, would end the patchwork of gay rights ordinances in 26 municipalities, including the cities of Miami Beach and North Miami Beach and Broward, Pinellas and Monroe counties.

“Imagine living in a community where you’re protected from discrimination until you cross the county border and work in a community where you are not,” Saunders said. “Countless employees still work where placing a picture of their family on their desk can lead to legalized harassment, the denial of promotion or the unemployment line.”

Raschein said that "From the GOP perspective, our main focus is the economy and jobs. And this is what we’re talking about. People’s jobs, people’s livelihoods.”

Continue reading "State legislators push for gay rights in the workplace" »

Committee seeks changes aimed at preventing future child deaths

The question before the Senate committee was simple: Why did Florida’s child welfare system fail to protect the more than 40 children who are known to have died under its care between January and July?

Six experts, including the secretary of the Department of Children and Families, had theories, but no answers, at the three-hour hearing of the Senate Children and Families Committee.

Child protective investigators and caseworkers are ill-equipped and over-worked, was a common conclusion. The family safety plans -- programs designed by the department to keep children safe -- are inadequate, ineffective or unused, others said. And all concluded that Florida does little to break the recurring cycle of abused kids becoming abusive parents.

The goal of the committee is to convert those theories into legislation “to create a culture of safety for our most vulnerable children,” said Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, the committee chair.

The experts made recommendations: from hiring skilled social workers, curbing turnover, drastically reducing worker caseloads, restoring budget cuts to providing more resources for mental health and substance abuse programs. 

“There are no silver bullets,'' Sobel concluded. "But I really believe there might be a silver lining if we all work together.”

Christina Spudeas, executive director of the non-profit advocacy group Florida Children’s First, chastised the DCF for reducing its quality assurance staff by 72 percent and allowing agencies to contract with each other to provide the required third party review.

“In order for us as a community to put in place the proper system is to No. 1, have an awareness that these things are happening,” Spudeas said. “This recent rash of chld deaths is alarming but how do we know this is unusual. If it weren’t for the Miami Herald and that series of reports, I don’t know that we would be here today.”

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Miami Dolphins bullying issue makes it to the White House press briefing room

@lesleyclark @MarcACaputo

After repeating and repeating the same types of questions concerning President Obama's misleading statements about Obamacare, a reporter in the White House press briefing room today had enough.

Time to talk football.

Specifically: The Miami Dolphins bullying imbroglio involving Jonathan Martin who claimed fellow lineman Richie Incognito caused extreme mental abuse, including the use of the term "half-n---r."

White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked if President Obama was aware of it, considering the president hosted a 2011 bullying prevention conference at the White House.

"It's important to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage," Obama said at the time.

The president still "strongly believes that" as does the first lady and the vice president and Dr. Biden, Carney said.

But he said, he hadn't talked with Obama about the Dolphins, so couldn't say what he thought about it.

"I'm confident he's aware of it, but I just don't have a response from the president on it," Carney said.

MostreadA few ways to look at this: Why on earth waste the time of the president's spokesman on something like this? But then, why not? Carney has been ducking and dodging questions of substance for some time, so it makes sense that a bored reporter would change the subject to something that, while it might seem frivolous from a policy perspective, would elicit an actual answer. And let's face it: People are talking about this. Four of the top five most-read stories in The Herald today are about the Martin-Incognito situation (number 5 is a horrid story about a teen's gang rape, and my Charlie Crist story didn't make the cut). 


President Obama's Miami-bound --- to raise more money for Democrats

From a press release:

WASHINGTON, DC – On Friday, November 8th, the President will travel to Miami, Florida to participate in DNC and DSCC events.  The arrival and departure of Air Force One are open to pre-credentialed media, but are closed to the public.

Obama leaves the following morning, Saturday Nov. 9 

Independent report blasts state for bungling child deaths

By Carol Marbin Miller

Two years ago, Desene Simmons grabbed a pillow and held it over the face of her son, Antwan Hope, in an apparent attempt to smother him. Antwan screamed. Simmons’ mother barged in. Tragedy was averted.

The Department of Children & Families took no action, explaining later that Antwan never bothered to tell them what his mother tried to do.

Antwan was 2.

That story, and others, emerged Tuesday in a scathing report on DCF’s systemic failure to protect children in dangerously dysfunctional households. The child welfare agency commissioned the report, by the respected Casey Family Programs, after the Herald revealed that at least 20 children from families with DCF histories had died in Florida over the spring and summer.

The report, released to a Florida Senate committee in Tallahassee, paints a particularly bleak picture of DCF’s child protection system. More here.   Download FL Fatality Report Final Draft 10 30 13

Among the report's findings:

Continue reading "Independent report blasts state for bungling child deaths" »

What do Rick Scott and Ken Jenne have in common? Biz partnership

By Dan Christensen, Broward Bulldog

Kimberly Kisslan’s sudden resignation from Broward Health’s governing board two weeks ago followed news of her immunized testimony in the 2007 corruption case that brought down Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne.

Since then, Gov. Rick Scott, who appointed Kisslan in July, has refused to answer questions about the matter or explain why a state background check failed to uncover Kisslan’s involvement in Jenne’s criminal scheme. Kisslan was BSO legal counsel under Sheriff Jenne.

Scott, however, has a little-known reason for not wanting to talk about Jenne. The governor and the convicted felon are old friends and business associates.

“I’ve just known (Scott) for years and years and years,” Jenne told this reporter in 2005.

Scott was a wealthy private investor in April 2003 when he funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars Sheriff Jenne’s way by recommending him for a lucrative seat on the board of directors of CyberGuard, a Deerfield Beach computer security company. At the time, Scott owned nearly 40 percent of CyberGuard’s stock.

Less than three years later, California-based Secure Computing bought CyberGuard for $295 million in stock and cash. Cyberguard’s annual report made public a few weeks after the announcement listed Jenne as the beneficial owner of 42,555 CyberGuard shares valued at $375,000 under the terms of the deal. More here. 



Crist's first fundraiser will be in Fort Lauderdale

Former Gov. Charlie Crist will turn to Broward tonight for his first campaign fundraiser at the home of Fort Lauderdale attorney Mitchell Berger.

Other well-known Democrats expected to attend: former Attorney General Bob Butterworth, former state legislators Steve Geller and Dan Gelber and Skip Campbell, County Commissioner Stacy Ritter and lobbyist husband Russ Klenet, Florida Democratic finance chair Andrew Weinstein, attorneys Thomas Panza and Mike Moskowitz and Broward Democratic chairman Mitch Ceasar.  

Berger is a former national Al Gore finance chair and is viewed as one of the most prominent Democratic fundraisers in South Florida.

The suggested donation is the $3,000 maximum.

“It's all being thrown together rather rapidly,” Berger said.

Broward’s sluggish 41 percent turnout in 2010 contributed to Alex Sink’s loss to Gov. Rick Scott and helped other Republicans win including U.S. Rep. Allen West and Sen. Marco Rubio.

“South Florida is always key to getting a Democratic victory in Florida from 1992 forward whether in a presidential election, Senate election or gubernatorial election," Berger said. "A large turnout in Broward, Palm Beach and Dade counties is very important for any Democratic candidate.”