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7 posts from January 30, 2014

January 30, 2014

Miami-Dade delays drawing new precincts again, despite long lines in 2012


Miami-Dade voters endured lines up to seven hours long during the last presidential election in part because the county delayed a key once-a-decade decision to evenly divide voters among precincts.

Now, with a looming gubernatorial election in November, the county plans to delay the decision once again.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez and his appointed elections supervisor, Penelope Townsley, said Thursday they have decided to push back “re-precincting” until early 2015.

The reason: The county thinks the reshuffle would be too much to handle in the same year that Miami-Dade plans to install new electronic sign-in books at every polling place.

“We’re trying to cram in too much at one time,” Gimenez told his elections advisory group Thursday. “We don’t want to create that confusion.”

That’s the same reason Gimenez and Townsley, after consulting with county commissioners, decided against the new precincts in early 2012. The uneven distribution contributed to the long lines, as did the 10- to 12-page ballot and fewer early-voting days.

The numbers were so unbalanced that some precincts, such as one at Jefferson Reaves Sr. Park in Brownsville, had 193. The largest, at South Kendall Community Church in Country Walk, had 8,303.

More here.

U.S. Senate passes flood insurance protection plan but House raises hurdle

From Associated Press:

Hundreds of thousands of homeowners in coastal and flood-prone areas would win protection from sharply higher federal flood insurance premiums under legislation muscled through the Senate on Thursday after angry constituents inundated Capitol Hill with complaints.

The 67-32 vote reflects widespread alarm about changes enacted two years ago to shore up the program's finances. In many cases the changes produced unexpected, sky-high insurance rates that are unaffordable for many homeowners in flood-prone areas whose insurance has historically been subsidized by the government and other policyholders.

"Something is just terribly wrong when homeowners are more worried about raging flood premiums than they are about raging floods," said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.

The bill would delay for up to four years huge premium increases that are supposed to phase in next year and beyond under new and updated government flood maps. It also would allow homeowners to pass below-cost policies on to people who buy their homes. People who have recently bought homes and face sharp, immediate jumps in their premiums would see those increases rolled back. More here. 


Florida Supreme Court's next chief justice is Jorge Labarga, first Cuban-American to hold post

From our friends at the Associated Press:

Justice Jorge Labarga will be the Florida Supreme Court's next leader.

The seven-member court on Wednesday elected 61-year-old Labarga to a two-year term beginning July 1. He will succeed Chief Justice Ricky Polstonwho will remain on the bench.

Labarga becomes the first Cuban-American to hold the post. The chief justice serves as the chief administrative officer for the state courts system.

His election followed a tradition of electing the next senior justice who hasn't yet held the position.

Labarga was first appointed to the high court in 2009 by former Gov. Charlie Crist. He will become the court's 56th chief.

Labarga is from West Palm Beach and he served as a trial court judge and then briefly as an appeals judge before he was appointed to the Supreme Court. 

Who's Omar Khan?


This is not officially confirmed yet, but we hear that Charlie Crist is poised to hire veteran political operative Omar Khan as campaign manager for his Democratic campaign for Florida governor, Who?, some of you may ask.

Khan is not an A-list campaign campaign manager that one might expect for a marquee race like Florida's gubernatorial campaign. Not sure he's ever run a campaign, for that matter.

But he certainly knows Florida. Buzz has known Khan at least since he helped Pinellas state Rep. Charlie Jusice win a highly competitive state senate race and since has run into him in state after state covering the Obama campaign in 2008 and 2012. We've heard nothing but lavish praise for his political skills and people skills..

Still, this could be his toughest gig yet: Managing a candidate who prefers to call his own shots, answer mainly to his own gut, and take advice from a vast array of advisers.

Khan currently works at EPA as Director of Public Engagement, and we don't know when he formally starts with Crist. Previously he was director of Congressional and Intergovermental relations for Obama's Hurricane Sandy Task Force.

Taxicab concessions: Miami-Dade County will now require cabs to take cash and credit


A passenger stepping into a taxicab in Miami-Dade County will soon be able to track the route electronically, whiz down expressways without stopping for tolls and, at the end of the trip, pay with a credit card.

OK, cutting-edge it is not. But the technological gadgetry, approved Wednesday, will mark the first extensive reforms in years to Miami-Dade County’s highly regulated taxicab industry.

County commissioners, fed up with complaints from tourism and business leaders about Miami-Dade’s lackluster taxicab service, signed off on a slew of measures intended to improve passengers’ experience.

“Changes are coming to this county,” Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa said.

For the first time, the county will require all cabs, within two years, to accept credit cards and, within six months, to install SunPass transponders. Passengers will get a discount if they pay cash.

For the privilege of picking up passengers at the airport and seaport, drivers will have to apply for a special decal and wear collared shirts, long pants and closed-toed shoes.

The changes don’t go as far as some industry critics had hoped for when the reform effort began months ago.

More here.

Light rail service to Miami Beach under consideration, again


Transportation planners have unveiled potential routes for a light rail link between Miami and Miami Beach with one line crossing Biscayne Bay over the MacArthur Causeway and another via the Julia Tuttle Causeway.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said they prefer the rail go over the MacArthur Causeway, but Miami Beach transportation director José González said his city has not yet settled on a route.

“This is a vital project for Miami-Dade County as congestion between the mainland and Miami Beach grows worse,” Gimenez said. “We don’t want to talk about this for the next 20 years. We want to get this done.”

It was the first time that potential route options for the light rail project were publicly discussed. The discussion came during a meeting of the Beach Corridor Transit Connection Study project executive committee. Gimenez chaired the meeting as head of one of the local governments and state agencies funding the $325,000 project study.

More here.

Q-Poll: Charlie Crist up by 8 over Rick Scott; 54% say gov shouldn't be reelected


So much for Scott-mentum.

Gov. Rick Scott appears to no longer be narrowing the gap with Democratic rival Charlie Crist who leads the Republican 46-38 percent, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll that shows the challenger's 8-point margin is essentially unchanged since the firm's last survey in late November.

Two months ago, Crist led Scott by 7 points. Before then, Crist led Scott by 10 in June and by 16 in March.

Still, expect the numbers to change and the race to tighten. If past elections are any gauge, this race will likely be decided by a point or two.

 Perhaps most-troubling for Scott: Only 38 percent of respondents said he should be re-elected; a clear majority of 54 percent said the Republican shouldn't get another term.

And Scott only leads Democrat Nan Rich 41-37 percent, even though 86 percent said they don't know enough about her. Also expect Libertarian backers of candidate Adrian Wyllie to complain his name wasn't included in the survey (although it did give people a "someone else" option if they didn't want to pick Scott or Crist).

Expect the aerial bombardment of Crist to begin soon from the Scott juggernaut, which has the money and the know-how to move poll numbers, especially by way of negative ads.

Meantime, this Quinnipiac poll shows Scott earns his worst job-approval rating in a year, 41-49 percent. 

Almost as troubling for the Republican: Crist narrowly edges Scott on the question of who would handle the economy best; 47 percent say Crist and 42 percent say Scott. Remember that Scott and the state Republican Party have long been raising awareness of the fact that Crist took office with a 3.5 percent unemployment rate and left with an 11.1 percent rate in December 2010. Scott then took over and now the unemployment rate has fallen back to 6.2 percent.

Many voters, like economists, are likely to cut Crist some slack for what happened on his watch, considering the national and global financial meltdown. There's only so much a governor might be blamed, or credited, for the state's economy. But time, and campaigning, will tell.

What hasn't changed: Scott still isn't well liked. Only 38 percent view him favorably, 45 percent view him favorably. That's a negative index of -7. Crist's index is a positive +9 (44-35 percent). 

Other polls show different results. PPP had Crist up just 43-41, with Scott narrowing the gap by 10 points since September. But another poll from a Democratic-leaning firm, Hamilton Campaigns, showed Crist up 49-44 over Scott, an increase of about 5 for Crist. An internal Rick Scott poll late last year of likely voters showed Crist up 49-45 over Scott (Note: PPP uses robo-polling technology, Quinnipiac, Hamilton and Fabrizio, McLaughlin don't.)

Here's the Q poll and crosstabs:  Download JanQPoll