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12 posts from February 24, 2014

February 24, 2014

Venezuela's violence. The 'farce' of Cuba. And Marco Rubio's best speech

@MarcACaputo

RubioMarco Rubio couldn’t stand it.

The U.S. Senator from Florida had listened patiently to Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa speak favorably about his recent trip to Cuba, all the while omitting any real references to the oppression of the totalitarian government there.

To Rubio, like many Cuban exiles and their descendants, it was too much to bear.

“Let me tell you what the Cubans are really good at,” Rubio said Monday when he took to the Senate floor. “What they are really good at is repression…They have exported repression in real time, in our hemisphere, right now.”

This wasn’t some Cold War-era fulmination about Castro’s regime.

Rubio’s speech was about current events: the protests in Venezuela, the Maduro government and the ties it has with the Castros, who repress their own people and helped inspire the suppression in Caracas. 

Venezuela is becoming the new Cuba. 

Continue reading "Venezuela's violence. The 'farce' of Cuba. And Marco Rubio's best speech" »

Miami Congressman Joe Garcia asks President Obama to let more Venezuelans stay in U.S.

@PatriciaMazzei

With anti-government protests persisting in Venezuela, Miami Congressman Joe Garcia has asked President Barack Obama to grant more political asylum applications from and cease deportations to the South American country.

In a letter to Obama sent Monday, Garcia said the latest unrest, which Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has blamed in part on the United States, makes Venezuelans who have lived in the U.S. a target if they return home.

“These people not only have a legitimate fear of persecution” if they return to Venezuela, Garcia told the Miami Herald. “They’ve also become a part of our community.”

Garcia, a Democrat whose district extends from Kendall to Key West, asked the president to use his executive power to “employ all possible actions” to assist Venezuelans, including authorizing a special immigration designation that would allow them to legally live and work in the U.S. That designation, known as Deferred Enforced Departure, has been granted to Liberians who fled armed conflict.

More here.

Richter: Senate gaming bill 'has no surprises'

Senate Gaming Chairman Garrett Richter told the Herald/Times on Monday that the sweeping rewrite of the state's gaming laws proposed by the Senate "should come as no surprise to anybody" -- including the broad expansion of gambling.

The proposal the Senate unveiled on Monday would bring casino resorts to Miami Dade and Broward counties and subject the the gaming industry to new regulation with the creation of a Gaming Control Commission. 

Under the Senate proposal, Miami-Dade and Broward would each get a new resort casino, dog tracks could race fewer dogs, greyhound injuries would be reported — and all this could happen without voter approval. (It's uncertain whether slot machines would be allowed at the Palm Beach Kennel Club and the five other tracks in countries that have approved gaming.) 

Continue reading "Richter: Senate gaming bill 'has no surprises'" »

Budget battles scar Miami-Dade mayor's past year

@PatriciaMazzei

Fresh off a European vacation, Carlos Gimenez settled into his first full term as Miami-Dade County mayor in a relaxed mood last summer, his two years of frenzied political campaigning behind him.

Then he stumbled.

With little input from advisers, Gimenez broke an unwritten rule of recent County Hall politics: He called for a property-tax rate hike in his proposed budget. His phone began to ring. And ring. There was outrage.

Six days later, on July 16, Gimenez reversed himself by canceling the tax-rate hike proposal.

“I may make a misstep or two but will always get back on track,” he pledged at the time.

Ever since then, the mayor has had to fight a series of skirmishes at County Hall.

Gimenez will have an opportunity to reflect on the tumultuous year — and look forward to future challenges — on Wednesday in Hialeah, when he delivers his annual state of the county speech.

More here.

Venezuelan president: Florida Senator Marco Rubio is "craziest of the crazies"

@PatriciaMazzei

Two weeks ago, Florida Senator Marco Rubio condemned the crackdown on anti-government protesters by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro "and his thugs."

Looks like word got to Maduro.

The same day Rubio issued his statement, Maduro publicly called Rubio "el loco de los locos" -- the craziest of the crazies -- as first reported by the Daily Caller.

"Havanas puppet @NicolasMaduro can attack me but world sees what he is doing to people of #Venezuela #ResistenciaVzla," Rubio tweeted Sunday night, linking to the Daily Caller's post.

Maduro also referred to Rubio as one of the "corrupt bandits" who supports Luis Posada Carriles, the Cuban exile militant who fled terrorism charges in Venezuela, and of following a "script" from the Venezuelan opposition.

"They don't know the world," Maduro said, apparently referring to U.S. senators like Rubio (who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee). "They just get scripts passed along to them."

View the Maduro clip below, or watch his full speech here, with the Rubio comments beginning at the 1:14 mark. Both are in Spanish.

 

Rick Scott's admin. called out by GOP lawmakers on pension-reform delay. (An Adam Hollingsworth Effect?)

@MarcACaputo

Despite outward signs of support, Gov. Rick Scott's administration quietly endangered a top priority of fellow Republicans in the Legislature by delaying a financial analysis needed to help justify a public-worker pension-reform plan.

The issue boiled over late last week when state House Speaker Will Weatherford had to personally call Scott and his newly minted lieutenant governor, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, and complained that the governor's staff stopped a state agency from conducting the analysis.

“There is no question the Governor’s staff directed DMS to stop working with the House,” the state House budget chairman, Seth McKeel, said in a written statement furnished to the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times.

“The law requires the department to conduct actuary studies on all pension bills, and the hold-up would have resulted in killing pension reform without a single vote of elected officials,” McKeel, R-Lakeland, said. “Thankfully Lt. Governor Lopez-Cantera and Gov. Scott stepped in to correct the problem.”

Such direct finger-pointing from legislative leaders to the staff of a governor of the same party is unusual. The surprising tension threatens to complicate Scott's ability to steer a limited election-year agenda through the Republican Legislature heading into the lawmaking session that begins next week.

Complicating matters: Scott on Monday denied McKeel’s claims about his agency’s foot-dragging over the study, which would analyze the costs of changing pensions for most state workers who are hired in the future.

The delay has fueled speculation from Republicans that Scott’s administration wanted to kill the controversial pension-reform plan to spare the governor an election-year headache —one that would fire up left-leaning unions. However, since pension reform is a top issue for conservatives, the administration’s delay could outrage some of Scott’s Republican base.....

This could be another manifestation of the Adam Hollingsworth Effect, but it's unclear

The full story is here

Senate proposes gaming control board, constitutional amendment, destination resorts

The long-awaited Senate gambling proposal was released today with a package of three bills creating a Department of Gaming Control while authorizing the governor to do what he is required by federal law to do -- negotiate a gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, creating new records exemptions for gaming entities, and a new constutitional amendment requiring that any additional gambling expansion receive voter approval.

This appears to put the ball in the governor's court, as we have been writing for the last month, requiring him to use the power of the compact to negotiate any changes in gaming expansion.

Destination resort casinos, as expected, are authorized -- one in Miami Dade and one in Broward -- to provide "additional entertainment choices for the residents of and visitors to this state, to promote tourism, and to provide additional state revenues by authorizing the playing of certain games."

Here are the bills:

* Gaming control -- SPB 7052 the authorization of destination resort casinos, to be chosen and regulated by a Gaming Control Board; transferring the Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to the Gaming Control Board within the Department of Gaming Control by type two transfer; transferring the Pari-mutuel Wagering Trust Fund within the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to the Department of Gaming Control by type two transfer, etc.

* Constitutional amendment -- SPB 7050

* Public records exemption for gaming control -- SPB 7054

Here is the letter to committee staff by Sen. Garrett Richter:

Dear Senators:

The attached PDF document includes not only Senator Richter’s memorandum, but also tracing tables for SPB 7052.

Sincerely,

John Guthrie

(850) 487-5811

 

 

 

THE FLORIDA SENATE

COMMITTEE ON GAMING

Senator Garrett Richter, Chair

Senator Maria Sachs, Vice Chair

Senate’s Website:  www.flsenate.gov

 

To:

Members of the Senate Committee on Gaming

From:

Senator Garrett Richter, Chair

Subject:

Proposed committee bills posted online and listed on the March 3 meeting agenda

Date:

February 24, 2014

 

Senate Gaming Committee staff published three separate proposed committee bills today:

  • SPB 7050: Gambling—A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the State Constitution that any additional gambling authorized by law will not take effect until a public ballot measure is approved by a majority of voters statewide;
  • SPB 7052: Gaming—A comprehensive act relating to gaming;
  • SPB 7054: Public Records/Gaming Control—Providing an exemption for proprietary confidential business information in specified applications.

 

The bills are posted online (http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bills) and are included in the notice for the Senate Gaming Committee meeting on Monday, March 3, 2014 (1:30 until 3:30 PM).

 

The committee will not vote to introduce any of the bills at the March 3 meeting. Rather, I will present the bills and answer questions. Then, over a series of several meetings, we will take time to answer your questions, consider amendments, and finally introduce bills that are well crafted and thoroughly vetted. The committee will decide whether the number of meetings required is two, three, or more.

 

SPB 7052, relating to gaming, is 453 pages. As was previewed at our committee meetings on February 3 and February 10, it:

  • Creates a Joint Legislative Gaming Control Oversight Committee with jurisdiction over gaming control and the state lottery;
  • Creates a new Department of Gaming Control, headed by a 5-member board appointed by the Governor (transfers the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering from DBPR);
  • Authorizes the Governor to negotiate amendments to the Seminole Gaming Compact, subject to ratification by the Legislature;
  • Substantially expands ch. 551, Fla. Stat. to include not only slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities, but also:
    • Pari-mutuel wagering (transferred from ch. 550);
    • Cardrooms (transferred from s. 849.086);
    • Destination casino resorts;
    • Authorized games (e.g., charitable bingo, commercial sweepstakes, amusement arcades, bowling tournaments, and penny-ante games; transferred from ch. 849);
  • Authorizes the Gaming Control Board to issue “invitations to negotiate” for awarding one destination casino resort in Miami-Dade County and one destination casino resort in Broward County, subject in each county to approval in a countywide referendum;
  • Updates specifications and prize limits for amusement games or machines;
  • Provides for injury reporting at greyhound tracks or kennels; and
  • Requires a greyhound racing facility operating a cardroom to conduct a full schedule of live races (instead of 90 percent of the number of races in the prior year).

 

My instructions to professional staff were to reform the current patchwork of laws into an orderly structure and to avoid making substantive changes other than in the few areas described above. The proposed committee bill organizes regulatory, tax, and purse provisions by industry, making requirements and exceptions much easier to comprehend. It also repeals some provisions that our professional staff determined to be obsolete.

 

Staff is aware of many other provisions that would be good candidates for rewrite or repeal, but those changes were not made in the initial draft. The committee will have ample opportunity in the weeks ahead to consider such changes as amendments. That way, any proposed substantive changes will be transparent, and committee members will have ample opportunities to debate policy implications.

 

The attached table links provisions in SPB 7052 with source provisions in current law. It will be a helpful companion for decoding how the provisions of current law were rearranged and rewritten.

Senate proposes gaming control board, constitutional amendment, but stops there

The long-awaited Senate gambling proposal was released today with a package of three bills creating a Department of Gaming Control; authorizing the governor to do what he is required by federal law to do -- negotiate a gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida -- and a new constutitional amendment requiring that any additional gambling expansion receive voter approval.

Absent from the proposals -- so far -- is the list of expanded games. This appears to put the ball in the governor's court, as we have been writing for the last month, requiring him to use the power of the compact to negotiate any changes in gaming expansion.

Here are the bills:

* Gaming control -- SPB 7052 creating the Gaming Control Board; transferring the Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to the Gaming Control Board within the Department of Gaming Control by type two transfer; transferring the Pari-mutuel Wagering Trust Fund within the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to the Department of Gaming Control by type two transfer, etc.

* Constitutional amendment -- SPB 7050

* Public records exemption for gaming control -- SPB 7054

Autopsy: Intern's death appears to be accidental

Ryan Uhre, the legislative intern from Weston whose body was discovered in an abandoned Tallahassee building last week, likely died from a fall, according the preliminary results of an autopsy released Monday.

His death appears to be an accident, Tallahassee Police said.

Investigators believe Uhre, 23, fell into the building through a second-story window. Because there was no second level, he plunged to the ground floor.

“At this time, it is believed Mr. Uhre was alone when this terrible accident occurred, but the final report will not be complete until all data is reviewed, including toxicology reports,” police wrote in a news release.

That could take another six to eight weeks.

A recent graduate of Florida State University, Uhre had stayed in Tallahassee for an internship in the office of state Rep. Richard Stark, D-Weston.

He went missing on Super Bowl Sunday.

His body was discovered several blocks away from Andrew’s Bar and Grill, the watering hole where he was last seen.

Rick Scott to Obama: Stop Medicare Advantage cuts

From a press release

WASHINGTON, DC– Today, Governor Rick Scott met with President Obama and urged him to use his pen and his phone this year to stop raiding Medicare to pay for Obamacare and undo the devastating National Florida Insurance Program rate hikes on Florida families. Governor Scott also called on President Obama to stand with the people Venezuela by considering sanctions against Venezuela as long as they limit free speech.

“President Obama said he wants to use his pen and his phone this year so I brought three issues to him that are important to Florida families. First, if the President cares about our seniors he needs to fix Obamacare immediately. We learned last week that Medicare is being raided to pay for Obamacare which is hurting our seniors who could lose access to the doctors they liked and were told they could keep. We need to give our seniors a voice and ask the President directly to not pay for Obamacare by raiding Medicare. He has stopped and delayed other broken parts of the healthcare law. He should do the same with this.

“We are also asking the President to stand with the people of Venezuela who are striving for freedom and liberty against the forces of tyranny. President Obama should immediately announce that the US is considering sanctions against Venezuela as long as they keep limiting free speech. He should put sanctions on the table like freezing the banks accounts of Maduro and his gang and revoking the US visas of anyone involved in attacking peaceful demonstrators. The President must show that the US will stand up against oppression and support those yearning to be free. That is our duty and our calling as Americans.

“Finally, President Obama needs to undo the devastating National Flood Insurance Program rate hikes on Florida families. For too long, Florida has been a donor state to the National Flood Insurance Program by contributing $16 billion over the last three decades, which is nearly four times the amount Florida homeowners have received back in claims. Families are being hurt by outrageous increases in their flood insurance rate, all because of a bad bill the President signed into law. He can have FEMA undo these for Florida until fair rates can be established. All the President needs is a pen and a phone to get it done.”