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6 posts from May 21, 2014

May 21, 2014

Gov. Rick Scott's Half True claim about 40 tax cuts

It seems like just yesterday we were analyzing Gov. Rick Scott’s claim that he had cut taxes for Floridians 24 times. But on May 13, Scott’s campaign raised the count to 40.

"Governor Scott Cut Taxes 40 Times For Florida Families," Scott for Floridaannounced on Twitter. "40 tax cuts in 4 years. #letskeepworking."

Scott and the Legislature don’t have the budget shortfalls of years past, so tax cuts were the name of the game in Tallahassee in 2014, especially with Scott up for re-election. What were these new cuts he was touting? We hit the lawbooks to find out.

Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the answer.

Gaetz is grilled about Senate maps, secret meetings -- and what the Senate didn't do

Gaetz redistricting trial

Florida’s precedent-setting redistricting trial is on its third day with Senate President Don Gaetz under oath, being grilled in detail about the deal he reached in secret with the House and Senate on the congressional map.

Gaetz, R-Niceville, who was in charge of the Senate redistricting effort in 2011-12, told the court there were two meetings between him and his counterpart in the House, current House Speaker Will Weatherford, in which they agreed to settle on the Senate’s map design for the final joint congressional map. The proposal boosted the number of black voters in the meandering congressional district that stretches from Jacksonville to Orlando and is the subject a lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters and a coalition of voters.

The groups contend that the congressional seats violate the "Fair Districts" standards added to the state constitution by voters in 2010 which says that says districts cannot be drawn in a way to favor incumbents or members of a political party. 

Weatherford acknowledged during testimony on Tuesday that the map was the subject of an amendment introduced with no discussion by Rep. Steve Precourt, R-Orlando, chairman of the House’s congressional redistricting committee after Gaetz and Weatherford had reached the deal.

Gaetz told the court that there was no requirement for them to notify the public of the meeting but claims "the door was open" and anyone could have walked in. Under cross examination, he said the map received bi-partisan support of the committee 21-5.

Continue reading "Gaetz is grilled about Senate maps, secret meetings -- and what the Senate didn't do" »

Scott to skip joint appearance with Crist in Gables

Gov. Rick Scott will skip a joint appearance with Democratic opponent Charlie Crist at a statewide convention of news editors and publishers in July.

The Florida Press Association and Florida Society of News Editors invited Scott and Crist to make back-to-back appearances on July 10 at The Biltmore in Coral Gables. Crist accepted, and Scott's campaign said no Wednesday.

In an email to the Times-Herald, Scott's campaign manager, Melissa Sellers, said: "The governor will debate the Democratic nominee in the fall. Charlie Crist should stop playing games and stop hiding from Nan Rich. What is he scared of?"

Crist has consistently said he will not debate Rich, a former state Senate minority leader from Weston who is also seeking the Democratic nomination in the primary, scheduled for Aug. 26. The news groups invited Rich to speak the next day, July 11, but they wanted Scott and Crist to speak in direct proximity to each other on the afternoon of July 10.

Florida Press Association President Dean Ridings said he hoped Scott would reconsider. "We hope that he will consider appearing before our group and meeting with reporters and editors and publishers at our meeting," Ridings said.

FSU faculty union: We've lost confidence in presidential search process

Let the backlash begin.

One day after Florida State President Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte nominated Sen. John Thrasher to be the university's next president, the Florida State chapter of the United Faculty of Florida said it had "lost confidence" in the search.

"We now believe that there is ample evidence indicating that this process is not being conducted fairly, is not open and transparent, and is ignoring the needs of the faculty, students and taxpayers," the UFF said in a press release.

The group called on the university to add more faculty members to the search committee and change search firms.

The current firm "has exhibited a serious lack of regard for the opinions and input of our faculty and appears to be pursuing an agenda different than that of an open and honest search for the best candidates," the UFF said.

Earlier Wednesday, a coalition of student activists spoke out against Thrasher's nomination.

"Students are upset with the lack of transparency that this search process has undergone," the Tallahassee Dream Defenders, Tallahassee Students for a Democratic Society, Florida State University Progress Coalition and Graduate Assistants United said in a statement.

The groups also expressed concern that the 30-member student search committee has only four members of color. And they pointed out that Thrasher had recently proposed splitting the FAMU-FSU engineering school -- a move they say would treat FAMU students "like second-class citizens."

"Florida State students and community members want a president who cares about the education of black and brown people, no matter what campus," the groups said. "FSU students demand a president who is ethically responsible."

Florida media calls blind trust law 'barrier to access'

NEWS UPDATE: The Florida Supreme Court has transferred the case to Leon County Circuit Court.

A legal brief filed with the state Supreme Court by more than a dozen news outlets argues that a law allowing elected officials to place assets in blind trusts should be struck down as an "unconstitutional barrier to access."

As a result, the news outlets argue, they "have been unable to fully inform the public of the financial interests and possible conflicts of interests of Florida's elected officials." The legal brief says that because the blind trust law "limits the disclosure requirements of office holders and candidates for public office, that statute is unconstitutional and it is this Court's solemn duty to declare it void."

The news organizations are siding with Jim Apthorp, a former top aide to the late Democratic Gov. Reubin Askew, in arguing that the 2013 blind trust law is a violation of the financial disclosure law Askew championed, known as the Sunshine Amendment. Gov. Rick Scott is the only current elected official in Florida who has a blind trust, which he said he formed in 2011 to safeguard against conflicts of interest.

Scott's administration and the Legislature have filed briefs defending the blind trust law, saying it enhances public confidence in ethical government.

The news media's brief was filed by Holland & Knight on behalf of the First Amendment Foundation, the Florida Times Union, Florida Press Association, The Associated Press, The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, Bradenton Herald, Orlando Sentinel, South Florida Sun Sentinel, Florida Society of News Editors, The News-Press of Fort Myers, Pensacola News Journal, Florida Today, Tallahassee Democrat, First Coast News and WTSP-Channel 10 Tampa.

Apthorp has noted that newspaper editorial support of the Sunshine Amendment was critical to the passage of the referendum, and that some newspapers reprinted the petition form that voters needed to submit for the issue to get onto the 1976 ballot.

Miami Dade College may have burned some bridges in the Florida Legislature

@mrmikevasquez @kmcgrory

Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padrón began this year’s legislative session with the goal of fixing the college’s outdated classrooms and decaying roofs.

Those renovations — and a whole lot more — would be the prize if the college could secure lawmakers’ support of its long-desired half-penny sales-tax increase.

The session ended with the sales-tax bill dying once again in the Legislature and Padrón scrambling to repair something besides buildings: a suddenly-tattered relationship with state lawmakers.

By publicly calling out four local lawmakers as “bullies” — and also attacking the future House speaker in harshly personal terms — Padrón doomed the sales-tax bill, which had been intended to raise $1 billion for the school. He also offended those who will hold the college’s purse strings in the future.

The damage may linger for years.

“They are in real trouble,” veteran Tallahassee lobbyist Ron Book said of MDC. “If they don’t figure this out, they will suffer when they don’t even know it. You cannot disrespect the Florida House of Representatives the way Eduardo Padrón did and expect it to go away on [the last day] of the legislative session.”

Read more here.