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10 posts from December 17, 2013

December 17, 2013

Miami-Dade mayor gets OK for soccer stadium talks


Giddy Miami-Dade County commissioners boosted international celebrity David Beckham’s bid Tuesday to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to Miami.

In a unanimous vote after heaping praise on soccer as a sport and Beckham as an investor, commissioners gave the go-ahead for Mayor Carlos Gimenez to begin negotiations on a new privately funded soccer stadium.

“It gives a signal to Major League Soccer that we’re very interested in their coming here,” Gimenez said after the vote.

Or, as Commissioner Juan C. Zapata put it from the dais: “Go, soccer! Go, MLS!”

His colleagues — who knew so many loved soccer? — were equally bubbly. But some raised concerns about the behind-the-scenes proposal backed by Beckham’s investment group to build a stadium on county-owned land at PortMiami.

The group has identified the site, on the southwest corner of the seaport across from Bayside Marketplace, as its top choice. It is focusing on downtown Miami locations, citing MLS’ success in other cities drawing spectators to stadiums in urban centers near mass transit.

“We greatly appreciate the support shown by the Miami-Dade County Commission and look forward to continuing to work with Mayor Gimenez, the Commission and David Beckham on finalizing a plan for a new MLS stadium in Miami,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement.

More here.

By one vote, Miami-Dade commissioners fail to override mayor's veto on union workers' pay


Most Miami-Dade County workers may have thought two weeks ago that the odds were good they would soon be taking more money home in their paychecks.

It took a single person to change that Tuesday.

The County Commission came one vote shy of overturning Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s decision to veto restoring union workers’ pay.

As a result, most county and Jackson Health System employees will continue to contribute 5 percent of their base pay toward group healthcare costs for now, instead of getting that money back as of Jan. 1.

But the impasse with labor unions is not over yet.

Gimenez’s administration must go back to brainstorming how to resolve the contract dispute with 11 bargaining units. Commissioners urged the mayor to find a way to give workers at least some relief, perhaps by shrinking the size of the healthcare contribution.

“Something’s gotta give,” Commissioner Dennis Moss said. “We can’t continue to go through this process.”

More here.

DCCC on Obamacare offense: paid web ads for "The Cost of Carlos Curbelo's Repeal"


If Democrats are running away from Obamacare, they have a strange way of showing it.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee today said they're touting Obamacare in this paid web ad targeting Republican Carlos Curbelo, who's running against incumbent Rep. Joe Garcia. The ads should pop up on the computer screens of those who surf the web in District 26.

The gist of the ad: Curbelo is like all other Republicans and supports repealing Obamacare. But it's not clear if Curbelo really does (we're waiting comment). So the ad could be inaccurate. At the least, though, it seeks to smoke out Curbelo's position.

Curbelo, in an email, suggested the ad is misleading because he doesn't want full repeal: "I support substituting Obamacare with legislation that genuinely makes healthcare affordable for all - including those with pre-existing conditions - and that does not punish low income earners and those that employ them"

Anyway, here's the DCCC press release:

“For every statistic, there are millions of seniors who are saving thousands on prescription drugs, countless Americans who won't face bankruptcy because of health care, and millions of sick kids who are guaranteed coverage – and those are the people who Candidate Curbelo is hurting with his obsessive repeal efforts,” said Emily Bittner of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Not only would Candidate Curbelo’s repeal hurt millions of middle class Americans, his leaders refuse to put forward an agenda to solve these problems. The costs of Candidate Curbelo’s repeal are simply too high – and these are the faces of those who will hurt the most.”

And the web ad:

Broward voters to get new precinct cards in January


Now that Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes has finished her reorganization of precincts, all voters will get new voter registration cards in the mail in January even if their precincts didn’t change.

One of the goals was to reduce bottlenecks at larger precincts and Snipes’ office had previously set a goal of having no precincts larger than 5,000. But under the new plan, the largest precinct will be 6,660 at Rick Case Honda in Davie. The smallest precinct will have 217 registered voters.

In the past, about 40 to 45 percent of voters have voted by absentee ballot or early voting “so we’d never see 5,000 voters showing up on election day at the polling place,” Snipes’ spokeswoman Mary Cooney said. Also, Broward purchased more equipment to speed up voting during early voting and election day.

The true test of the reorganization won’t be clear until the 2016 presidential election because Broward’s turnout in non-presidential years has been sluggish in the recent past. In 2010 when Republican Rick Scott won the governor’s race, only 41 percent of Broward voters showed up.


PolitiFact Florida checks claims by Dan Gelber on Crist's record on ex-felons' voting rights and Pam Bondi on pot laws

@amysherman1 and @jpgillin

The Lie of the Year isn't the only thing that's been keeping us busy at PolitiFact. Here's a summary of our latest fact-checks:

Former state legislator Dan Gelber said that when Charlie Crist was governor he "sought for and got approved the automatic restoration of felon rights for nonviolent offenders for the first time in Florida history (since reversed by Governor Scott)." Gov. Reubin Askew made it easier for ex-felons to vote in 1975. We alerted Gelber to our research and he re-worded his claim on Crist's campaign website to reflect Askew's role. We rated Gelber's claim False.

We also fact-checked two claims in a legal brief by Attorney General Pam Bondi's office about medical marijuana amendment:

"The proposal hides the fact that the Amendment would make Florida one of the most lenient medical-marijuana states, allowing use for limitless ‘other conditions’ specified by any physician." We rated that claim Mostly True. The brief also stated "whether the Amendment passes or not, the medical use of marijuana is a federal criminal offense" -- we rated that claim True.

Spot a claim about voters' rights or medical pot worthy of a fact-check? Get in touch: #politifactthis or truthometer@politifact.com


Rick Scott poll: Governor trailing Charlie Crist by 4


Politico got its hands on an internal poll from Gov. Rick Scott's campaign that showed he trails former Gov. Charlie Crist 49-45 percent.

But didn't Quinnipiac University just find Crist ahead by 7, so isn't Scott narrowing the gap?

Well, we don't know. These are two different polls with two different respondent types.

Quinnipiac polled registered voters. Fabrizio Mclaughlin, which polls for the governor, surveyed likely voters (whether they're self-identified voters or voters called from a likely voter list is unclear). Likely voter polls will tend to lean more Republican because Republican voters often proportionally outperform Democrats when it comes election time.

Also, it should be noted that the poll was taken at the most-favorable time for a Republican this year: late November, at the height (or depths?) of President Obama's unpopularity and Democratic woes.

More from Politico:

Scott’s job approval rating is 46 percent, with 48 percent disapproving. Crist has a mixed, albeit slightly positive image: 47 percent view him favorably, compared to 43 percent who view him unfavorably.

The incumbent governor has the advantage on six: controlling state spending (+14), reducing taxes (+12), balancing the state budget (+9), turning Florida’s economy around (+5), standing up to Tallahassee insiders (+3) and creating jobs (+2). Crist has a single-digit advantage on four measures: cares about people like me (+8), is the most honest and ethical (+4), “someone I trust to be governor” (+3) and “shares my beliefs and values” (+2).

PSC agrees to postpone FPL request for $822 million project to fix polluting plants

The Florida Public Service Commission on Tuesday approved without comment a request by Florida Power & Light to dismiss its $822 million request to rebuild 48 gas turbine plants at locations in Broward and Lee counties while it conducts environmental tests.

But FPL got a sense of the intensity of the opposition to the plan when two attorneys, representing the public and the state's largest utility users, sent a warning shot with a rare statement on the record.

FPL is proposing the project because it believes it must replace 48 small 1970s-era power plants to comply with new federal air emission standards. More here. 

But FPL wants to pay for the new plants in an unconventional way: as a fee tacked onto customer bills under the environmental cost recovery clause, intended for costs associated with complying with environmental laws.

Charles Rehwinkel, lawyer with the Office of Public Counsel, which represents the public in utility cases, said his office vigorously opposes using the environmental fee to charge customers for new power plants. He argued the issue is better addressed in a full rate case.

Rehwinkel quoted from the records from 1994 legislative session, when the sponsor of the amendment who passed the law to create the environmental clause said it “was to be interpretted in the most restrictive fashion by the Public Service Commission” and was “not to authorize recovery of new power plant construction costs.”

The provision passed 106-0 in the House and was sent to the Senate and became law that year.

John Butler, attorney for FPL, said Rehwinkel's reading of legislative history "is selective" and "if we proceed down a similar path we will be asking for ECRC recovery."

Jon Moyle, attorney for the Florida Industrial Power Users Group, who represents some of the largest eleectricity users in the state, said if the PSC allows FPL to bring the issue back it should be considered a separate rate increase and undergo the scrutiny of a rate request, instead of the lower level of scrutiny allowed when it is attached to an environmental clause.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/12/16/3822519/fpl-proposes-charging-customers.html#storylink=cpy

Alexis Yarbrough, wife of Shane Strum, may apply for Brow school bd

Alexis Yarbrough, wife of former Gov. Charlie Crist’s chief of staff Shane Strum, told Naked Politics today that she is considering applying for an appointment to the Broward School Board.

“I’ve been encouraged by several people to do it,” she said. “It’s a big commitment.” (When we asked if Yarbrough was encouraged to run by anyone in Scott’s office she would only said she was encouraged by people in Tallahassee and Broward.)

Yarbrough was hired as general counsel to the state Department of Transportation in 2007 under Crist’s administration and stayed through the transition when Gov. Rick Scott took over in 2011. Yarbrough, a registered Republican, said she hasn’t met Scott personally but does know Crist. Before Strum worked as chief of staff to Crist he served as the chair of the Broward Republican Executive Committee.

Yarbrough, the mother of a three year old daughter, said she is now a stay at home mom.

"Obviously she will be enrolled in the public school system in a couple of years so I care about it," she said.

School board member Katie Leach, one of two Republicans on the board, announced in late October that she was leaving Dec. 21 due to her husband getting a job in California. Other applicants include Bayview elementary PTA president Heather Brinkworth, retired principal Wanda Ross (wife of Judge Dale Ross) and surgeon Harry Moon, past chair in the business group the Broward Workshop. 

Scott's office has not announced any timeline for interviews or appointing a replacement to the nine-member board.

Brandes and Ahern file bill to open market for private flood insurance

By Stephen Nohlgren, Tampa Bay Times

CLEARWATER — A bill to alleviate skyrocketing flood insurance premiums was filed Tuesday in the Florida Senate — an attempt to find a state solution to what has so far been largely a federal issue.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would encourage private companies to begin writing flood insurance policies in Florida to compete with the national flood insurance program and hopefully lower premiums, Brandes announced at a news conference.

The bill would streamline the state's regulatory procedures for flood insurance, add more state employees to vet insurance products and give home owners more flexibility about how much they insure, he said.

"We hope to have this bill to the governor's desk early in the session,'' Brandes said. "It is designed to go into effect immediately,'' he said, unlike most new laws which take effect in July.

Many mortgages written in Florida require homeowners to carry flood insurance, almost all of it provided by the National Flood Insurance Program. Congressionally mandated premium increases that began taking effect last year have caused some people's payments to rise so high that they cost more than the mortgage itself.

Continue reading "Brandes and Ahern file bill to open market for private flood insurance" »

A warm and fuzzy surprise for one FSU grad from Miami


From FSU:

Graduating senior Elizabeth Golightly, 23, got a big surprise when her sister, Navy Lt. Heather Golightly, 30, fresh off a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan, made an unexpected appearance at Florida State University's fall 2013 commencement ceremony on Saturday.

Elizabeth received a bachelor's degree in social sciences from Florida State's College of Social Sciences and Public Policy. Heather, an FSU grad, had led Elizabeth to believe that she would not be returning home until February. The girls are both graduates of Miami Palmetto Senior High School in Palmetto Bay.

To get Elizabeth onto the platform during the ceremony so the reunion would take place at center stage, Florida State administrators told her that she had been picked at random to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. Just before the pledge, Florida State President Eric J. Barron stood to introduce Heather to the crowd as she was escorted onto the platform right behind Elizabeth.