« November 18, 2013 | Main | November 20, 2013 »

15 posts from November 19, 2013

November 19, 2013

Husband of Katherine Harris, of FL recount fame, found dead in apparent suicide


The husband of former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris died in what police say is an apparent suicide at the couple's Sarasota home.

Harris and a family spokesperson told local press and police Tuesday that Anders Ebbeson, 69, was ill and suffering before he took his own life.

Pastor William Hild of Sarasota First Baptist Church asked the press and public to respect the family's privacy.

“Anders has been suffering health conditions that he'd been attempting to deal with, which had been increasingly part of his life,” Hild said, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Harris, a Republican, retired from public life after losing a U.S. Senate race to incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson in 2006. At the time, Harris served in the House of Representatives, a post she won in 2002.

Harris, when she was Florida Secretary of State, attained worldwide fame and notoriety as the face of the disputed 2000 Florida recount that ultimately allowed George W. Bush to become president.

Throughout, Ebbeson was quietly married to the outspoken Harris, a citrus-fortune heiress and descendant of Ben Hill Griffin, whose name graces the University of Florida's football stadium in Gainesville.

A dozen years older than Harris, Ebbeson was independently wealthy, enjoyed racing cars and had wed Harris in two ceremonies in Port Charlotte and then Paris in 1996 when she was still a state legislator.

Board of Education says goodbye to Kathleen Shanahan, Lynn Abbott

The state Board of Education on Tuesday said goodbye to two of its own: outgoing board member Kathleen Shanahan and retiring agency clerk Lynn Abbott.

A Tampa businesswoman and one-time chief of staff to former Gov. Jeb Bush, Shanahan had been a board member since 2006. She was chair in 2011 and 2012.

Board members cannot serve more than eight consecutive years.

With her term winding down, Shanahan had become a vocal critic of Gov. Rick Scott. She blasted Scott for not attending the education summit he convened in August, and for issuing an executive order on education without consulting the board. Shanahan also raised questions about the validity of the state's school grading system. 

“What I’ve learned is that education policy is a contact sport in Florida,” she said at Tuesday's meeting in Gainesville.

Shanahan urged her fellow board members to be independent voices.

“Remember, you are here for all of the students,” she said. “You are not here for a segment of the students, or a different agenda. You are here to be an advocate for all of Florida’s kids. It’s as simple and clear as that.”

Board member Barbara Feingold said Shanahan’s data-driven approach to education had kept Florida “on the forefront of reform.”

Feingold also had kind words for Abbott, who is retiring after a 36-year career with the state. Abbott had been with the education department for 27 years, most recently as agency clerk and director of the Office of Executive Management and State Board of Education.

Said Feingold: “She is a guiding light. She is a mentor. She is highly respected and regarded. She has kept us on task. She has helped each one of us to learn the system, to understand all of the moving pieces.”

Sally Bradshaw resigned from the board last month. She did not attend Tuesday's meeting.

Later in the meeting, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart gave an update on the controversial Common Core State Standards. She noted that the department had received about 19,000 comments on the national benchmarks, and had hired a research firm to categorize and summarize the feedback. 

Stewart hopes to have a report ready for the January meeting, she said.

The next step will be to have K-12 and higher education experts review the suggestions. Stewart said any proposed changes to the standards would come before the public and the state Board of Education. That could happen as early as February.

Stewart also noted that the department had begun the process of soliciting proposals from testing companies interested in developing Florida's next generation of student assessments. The state was planning to use tests being developed by a national consortium known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. But Scott directed the state to consider other tests, too. 

Applications are due Dec. 12, Stewart said.

“We have determined a team of evaluators who are not discussing anything with one another,” Stewart said.

Chairman Gary Chartrand plugged Stewart's efforts.

“I want everyone to know how hard she is working right now,” Chartrand said. “She is traveling around the state. Her schedule is daunting. I know she is working as hard as she can to do the best job she can as commissioner.”

Jury convicts teen who killed father, a South Miami city commissioner


After five days of testimony chronicling Jason Beckman’s boiling hatred of his father, a South Miami commissioner, jurors spent just two hours to reach their conclusion.

It was no accident. Beckman murdered his father with a close-range shotgun blast to the face in April 2009.

Jurors on Monday night convicted Beckman, 21, of first-degree murder with a firearm. Prosecutors said they will seek a life sentence.

Beckman grimaced when the clerk read the verdict. As the 12-person jury filed out of the courtroom, the gangly young man glared at the ground, stuffed his hands in his pocket and muttered to himself as corrections officers handcuffed him.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Rodney Smith on Tuesday will set a future sentencing date.

Monday’s verdict followed an afternoon of dramatic closing arguments and more than four years of legal wrangling.

More here.

What is sex? Florida Supreme Court to weigh in


In Florida, and almost three dozen other states, it is a crime to have intercourse without disclosing a sexually transmitted disease.

So prosecutors thought they had a solid case when they charged a Manatee County woman who failed to tell her female partner that she was HIV-positive. A Tampa appeals court, however, threw out the case, ruling that “sexual intercourse” could take place only with a penis and a vagina — in other words, between a man and a woman.

But last month, a South Florida appeals court issued a conflicting opinion, upholding charges against a Key West man whom police had accused of lying about being HIV-positive to his male partner. The ruling more broadly defined intercourse, finding that it did not require opposite genders or specific body parts.

The Florida Supreme Court is likely to end up resolving the clashing opinions, which are being closely monitored by gay-rights advocates.

More here.

Charlie Crist loves Obamacare; and Republican Party of FL loves that


Despite some chatter Charlie Crist would run from Obamacare as it flounders, he's fully embracing it as he runs for governor as a Democrat.

Beyond the matter of belief, there's some political necessity here for Crist. He's running in a Democratic primary, there are doubts about the Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat's trustworthiness in his new party.

So Crist is taking that head on by, in the words of the Republican Party of Florida, "hugging Obamacare."

It's good for Crist (in the short term); and it's good for the RPOF, which thinks the Affordable Care Act will be a millstone in a general election.

Whodathunk Obamacare would be such a uniter. Here's the copy of today's email from RPOF (pardon the cut-and-paste job and any coding problems, not much time to strip it all away and clean it up):


Continue reading "Charlie Crist loves Obamacare; and Republican Party of FL loves that" »