« April 21, 2014 | Main | April 23, 2014 »

11 posts from April 22, 2014

April 22, 2014

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson: Miami Beach ground zero for sea-level rise


Miami Beach became ground zero for climate change Tuesday when U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson convened a rare field hearing to draw national attention to the dangers posed by rising seas.

“For those who deny sea level rise and climate change, here is the proof,” Nelson said halfway through the two-hour hearing at Miami Beach City Hall, and one of several times he pointedly called out colleagues in Congress who deny that climate change is occurring.

A half dozen witnesses, including a NASA scientist, a mayor and a county commissioner, forecast a dire future with a three-foot rise in seas by the beginning of the next century. At that rate, large swaths of Florida’s coast would be inundated, with billions of dollars in damage, even as climate change fuels more severe hurricanes. But the panel also offered hope, saying there’s still plenty of time to plan.

“It’s a slow, steady, persistent creep. But the fact that it’s slow means there’s time,” said Fred Bloetscher, an associate civil engineering professor at Florida Atlantic University who testified about potential fixes for South Florida.

More here.

Democrats troll Carlos Curbelo over petitions for Miami congressional race


Democrats took to Twitter on Tuesday to note that Carlos Curbelo, a Republican candidate seeking to challenge Miami Congressman Joe Garcia, did not qualify for the ballot by filing petition signatures.

"@CarlosLCurbelo, who declared he would qualify to run for Congress by petition, just paid the filing fee," Rachel Johnson (@RayJohnRondo) of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party tweeted. She cc'ed the party's Juan Cuba and Miami Herald political writer Marc Caputo.

Then Cuba picked up the jab.

"@carloslcurbelo I can get my uncle and maybe my aunt to sign a petition. How many more do u need?"

Submitting petitions helps candidates save money -- in this case, a $10,440 qualifying fee.

Curbelo, a Miami-Dade School Board member, had emailed supporters asking them to sign the petitions. But he never gave formal notice that he intended to qualify that way, the Republican said Tuesday afternoon.

His campaign had enough signed forms to qualify but its vendor made a mistake on voters' birth dates, Curbelo said. Many petitions would have been challenged, he said, so the campaign decided not to submit them (though the information on them still makes for a useful voter database).
"The Democrats should be more worried about the FBI's investigation of Joe Garcia' straw candidate than about my qualifying strategy," Curbelo said in a text message.
He was referring to a federal investigation into Garcia's former campaign adviser and chief of staff, Jeffrey Garcia, no relation. The U.S. attorney's office in Miami has been investigating Jeffrey Garcia's ties to Jose Rolando "Roly" Arrojo, who ran for Congress in 2010 as a purported tea-party candidate but was suspected of being a ringer. Congressman Garcia has denied any connection.

House approves charities reforms, Senate version passes final committee


Agriculture Commisioner Adam Putnam's massive overhaul of state laws governing charities is speeding ahead.

The House overwhelmingly approved its version of the proposal, House Bill 629, today. The Senate version, SB 638, is ready for a floor vote, too, after gaining approval from the Appropriations Committee today. 

Putnam introduced the proposal, called the most extensive rewrite of state charities laws, after reading an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting called "America's Worst Charities.'' It increases the financial reporting and state oversight of charities and is intended to help consumers identify non-profits who rely heavily on paid solicitors or spend relatively small portions of their income on actual public service.

Early on, there were concerns that small, legitimate philanthropies might be burdened by some of the new rules. But that apparently isn't why Rep. John Tobia, R-Melbourne Beach, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, were the sole dissenters as the House approved the measure 116-2.

Neither man could be reached after session adjourned. But a Gaetz tweet indicated they were troubled by the new level of government scrutiny  -- or they might call it bureacracy -- that the proposal creates.

"The FL House just voted to add three new state employees to impose regulations on charities," Gaetz wrote."The liberty caucus (population 2) was opposed."

Bipartisan House vote restores local control of e-cigarette regulations


Over the objection of Republican leaders, a bi-partisan coalition in the House approved changes to an e-cigarettes regulation bill to addresses concerns from anti-smoking groups.

No one ever questioned the intent of the proposal itself, which is to restrict the sale of electronic cigarettes and other non-tobacco products to minors. But anti-smoking groups -- the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and American Cancer Society -- and local governments disliked three lines of the House version, HB 169, that also prohibited cities and counties from passing their own, stricter ordinances in the future.

As the House tacked on its language to the Senate version, SB 224, bill sponsor Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, relaxed the languaged to allow local governments to pass ordinances about nicotine products, but not e-cigarettes, after the law takes effect July 1.

That wasn't enough for Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, who introduced an amendment that removed the controversial pre-emption language all together. 

"Freezing the rules in place in statute … is unsufficient to deal with the future," Hager said, arguing that local governments needed flexibility to change their laws as new products and chemicals emerge down the road.

Continue reading "Bipartisan House vote restores local control of e-cigarette regulations" »

Former Lt. Gov. Carroll admits to receiving Allied Veterans cash

From the Associated Press:

Newly released records show that former Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll changed her income tax filings after investigators asked about money she received from a purported veterans charity accused of running an illegal gambling operation.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press show that Carroll was paid nearly $100,000 by Allied Veterans of the World in 2009 and 2010 but she didn't report the total on her financial disclosure forms or to the Internal Revenue Service.

Carroll called the omissions an "oversight." She also said she returned "overpayments" to Allied.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement concluded that Carroll did not commit a crime but forwarded the case to the state's ethics commission to review.

She resigned in 2013 when the charity investigation became public.

Read more here.

Senate's final committee clears medical pot bill as governor remains noncommittal

Despite concerns from the governor’s surgeon general, a bill to legalize a limited strain of marijuana extract to help children with intractable epilepsy cleared its final Senate committee on Tuesday.

The bill, SB 1030, was amended to now be closer to a House version, HB 843, which was adopted on a 15-3 vote by a House committee on Monday. Both bills now require that for a patient to be eligible to receive a legalized form of marijuana extract be placed on a Compassionate Use Registry by his or her treating physician. Both bills head to the floor next for a vote.

Under both proposals, the bill create a distribution system for marijuana extract that could serve as the framework for the regulation of medical marijuana in the future. Voters will be asked in November to approve Amendment 2, the constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana for debilitating medical conditions, and legislation that passes this session could limit its effect.

The Senate adopted an amendment to bring the Senate bill closer to the House bill but, unlike the House, the Senate does not expand the applicable use of the marijuana extract to other ailments.

The House expands the bill to go beyond helping children with epilepsy to cover patients with Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimers, post traumatic stress disorder and cancer.

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, one of the Senate sponsors of the bill said the Senate is not supportive of adding the other illnesses. 

“The Senate is pretty clear we’re not interested in expanding beyond the very limited scope,’’ Bradley told the Herald/Times.

The Senate requires that a physician who is treating a patient must have a relationship with the patient for at least two months before the doctor can recommend someone be added to the compassionate use registry.

Surgeon General John Armstrong testified before the House committee Tuesday that the proposal may have unintended consequences if the marijuana is not sufficiently regulated and its purity controlled.

Bradley said he is working with Armstrong and has included provisions in the bill that provides for quality control through inspections, record-keeping and inspection from law enforcement agencies.

“I still think it’s a work in progress,’’ Bradley said.

Gov. Rick Scott, who has refrained from committing to the bill, would not say Tuesday whether he would veto the bill in its current form but he told the Herald/Times that he is supportive of efforts to “help families deal with debilitating diseases.”

Rubio calls Snowden scandal 'most damaging' espionage case in U.S. History. Is it?

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio makes it clear where he stands on Edward Snowden’s exposure of the National Security Agency’s spying programs: The situation couldn’t be more dire.

"The single most damaging revelation of American secrets in our history," Rubio said when asked about the matter after a foreign policy speech at the University of Texas on April 15.

"I can say to you unequivocally that there are Americans whose lives are at risk because of those disclosures," Rubio said, adding, "It’s been this massive revelation of all sorts of information about the way we operate to keep Americans safe delivered to potential adversaries, both the Russians and potentially the Chinese, done in the most damaging way possible and sprinkled with a bunch of lies."

There’s little question that the revelations are nearly unprecedented in the history of American espionage.

Snowden, a former CIA employee, gave a small group of reporters thousands of classified documents he found with his security clearance as a contractor for the NSA. The information detailed surveillance programs and data mining operations against world leaders and American and European citizens. Facing espionage charges, he is now living in an undisclosed location in Russia.

Rubio’s comments did make us wonder whether there were other instances of espionage that would qualify as more wide-reaching than Snowden’s case. (Rubio’s office pointed us to an article in The Hillthat argued Snowden’s actions no doubt helped terrorists.) We can’t fact-check Rubio’s opinion on the situation, but we did survey a raft of historians and experts to see if they felt the senator was making a reasonable point.

The verdict: Reasonable, perhaps, but not definitive.

The many experts we spoke with had different opinions on the matter, and a lot depends on how you define "damaging." Read more from PolitiFact.

-- Joshua Gillin

Dane Eagle arrested for DUI


Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, was arrested Monday morning and charged with DUI by Tallahassee police, according to the Tallahassee police.

Download arrest/probable cause affidavit: Dane Eagle 

Eagle, 30, was driving a black SUV at about 1:50 a.m. after leaving a Taco Bell on W. Tennessee Street. A Tallahassee police officer noticed that the SUV turned left, striking a raised median, and turned back. It crossed into the intersection of Caliark Street and Tennessee, past the stop bar and waited at a red light.

When the light turned green, the officer watched as the SUV made a U-turn and almost struck the curb near the Papa John's Pizza at the intersection of Stadium and W. Tennessee St. near the Florida State University campus. Traveling at about 45 mph in a 35 mph zone, the SUV then veered right and struck a raised curb. After it didn't brake and passed through the Dewey Street and Tennessee at a red light, the officer turned his lights on pulled it over.

As the SUV pulled over, it struck the concrete curve.

"Before I made contact with the driver, I could smell the strong odor of alcoholic beverage coming from the passenger compartment," the report states. "When (Eagle) spoke, I could smell the strong odor of alcoholic beverage coming from his breath. The defendant's eyes were bloodshot, watery and glassy. The defendant denied consuming any alcoholic beverages."

When the officer asked him to step out of the vehicle, Eagle "stumbled to his left and fell against the rear passenger door of his vehicle."

Denying again that he consumed alcohol, Eagle told the officer he had been with friends in his vehicle earlier and they were at a bar. He declined to do a field sobriety test.

The officer arrested him for DUI. He then refused a breath test.



House and Senate settle on $47 million in new money for child welfare

With breakneck speed, House and Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations conference committees met Tuesday morning and agreed to $47 million in new money for child welfare services, far below what child advocates had hoped for but more money for treatment services than either chamber had originally sought.

The proposal also gives the governor only about $21 million of the $40 million he sought to expand child protection services -- $31 million of which the governor wanted to be controlled by the Department of Children and Families.

The budget conference is an annual ritual in which legislators meet in public to agree on what has been hammered out behind the scenes as they try to reach accord on differences between the differing budgets drafted by the House and Senate.

In this case, Senate HHS Appropriations Chairwoman Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, made the first offer early Tuesday. The group adjourned for five minutes to "confer" and, with zero comment, discussion, questions or elaboration, the House HHS Appropriations Chairman Matt Hudson, R-Naples, agreed to it.

Here are the details as presented by Grimsley:

* $13 million to hire 191 child protective investigators, as requested by the governor -- far short of the $32 million he initially sought,

* $5 million for expansion of the Healthy Families program,

* $8 million for select sheriff's departments that handle investigations of child abuse, the same amount requested by the governor.

* $10 million to the Community-Based-Care organizations; this is a net increase of $4.6 million because their initial budgets were reduced by $5.4 million,

* $3 million for human trafficking,

* $5 million to target at-risk families with young children who need subtance abuse treatment.

The final item is a major shift in funding from where the House and Senate started and a reflection of the pleas by child advocates to shift more money into services that could make the most diference in changing family behavior. Child advocates also asked for $25.4 million to allow the privately-run local agencies that manage the cases of at-risk kids to hire more case workers as additional children are brought into the system by the new child protection investigators.

The budget proposal also is a bit of a rebuke to Gov. Rick Scott, who initially asked for $31 million to hire more child protective investigators. The governor reached that number in January and never modified that request to seek additional money for treatment services, even after the Miami Herald Innocents Lost series in March demonstrated that 80 percent of the 477 children who died of abuse and neglect in the last six years were to families whose parents were suffering from mental health and substance abuse problems.

Child advocates warned that the governor's plan would do a better job of keeping a tally of the at-risk kids but would do little to get at the root causes that led to the abuse in the dysfuncational families.


Rick Scott's team outlines "most robust 'Hispanic Outreach' seen yet"


Gov. Rick Scott's earlier-than-usual Spanish-language TV ad (background here) is just the start of what his team promises is the "most robust 'Hispanic Outreach' seen yet." Here's the memo:

TO: Campaign Team
FROM: Jaime Florez, Hispanic Communications Director
DATE: April 21, 2014
RE: Enlace Hispano

This week, Let’s Get to Work will be launching Oportunidad, its first Spanish language TV and digital ad. I cannot recall a previous gubernatorial campaign in Florida where Spanish paid media started this early. The initial $500,000 Spanish media buy, which launches Wednesday, is only the first of many to come that will share with Spanish-speaking Floridians Governor Rick Scott’s record and vision for our state. Still, paid advertisements are just one component of a comprehensive effort in engaging Hispanic voters throughout our state at every level, especially at the grassroots, with a sustained volunteer-to-voter contact.

Continue reading "Rick Scott's team outlines "most robust 'Hispanic Outreach' seen yet"" »