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7 posts from May 22, 2014

May 22, 2014

Charlie Crist stresses veterans care

Likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist today called on Veteraqns Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign amid the scandal over VA problems and seized on a Pew analysis that tens of thousands of veterans in Florida are being denied health coverage because state leaders have declined to accept federal funding for Medicaid expansion:

I appreciate Secretary Eric Shinseki's service to his country, and while we don't know precisely what happened here, we do know that there must be accountability and confidence in leadership in order to get to the truth and provide veterans the medical care they've earned and deserve. That confidence is gone. I think it would be best if the Secretary stepped down and allowed others to get the VA fixed once and for all.

Moreover, if I were Governor, rather than using this moment as a political tool, I would take immediate action to employ any and all resources needed to make sure that our veterans here in Florida get the care that they need and deserve. I'd start by calling the legislature back in a special session to expand coverage to the more than 41,000 Florida veterans who fall into the health care gap and are not currently insured due to Rick Scott and the legislature's failure.

This isn't an issue of left versus right -- it's a crisis that requires leadership.

Rick Scott's unwillingness to lead on health care means that more than one million Floridians will not receive the health care they deserve and paid for — including more than 41,000 veterans. If he fought half as hard for health care for working Floridians as he does his corporate contributors, not only would 41,000 veterans have health care, Floridians would benefit from the creation of 100,000 new jobs.

The Florida GOP noted that the Crist campaign sent out a fundraising email on the matter:

“Charlie Crist’s attempt to raise campaign cash off of the VA tragedy is a new low for him and his campaign. Governor Scott has worked hard to hold the VA accountable, while Crist has sat on the sidelines as the evidence piled up that the men and women who served our country have been treated with neglect," said state GOP spokeswoman Susan Hepworth. "Crist is exploiting veterans to raise a few bucks while Governor Scott is leading the charge against the VA’s unacceptable actions. That’s called leadership – something Charlie Crist wouldn’t recognize if it hit him in the face."

Gimenez gets a stern memo, about a memo


Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez shot off another scathing memo to Mayor Carlos Gimenez this week. This topic: Gimenez's proposed rewrite and extension of the Miami Heat's current arena agreement. 

(Read the memo here: Download Suarez memo.) 

Last week, Gimenez proposed giving the Heat an additional five years in the county-owned AmericanAirlines Arena, which would keep the team in downtown Miami at least through 2035. In exchange, the Heat would donate $1 million a year to the county's parks department, and the arena's current $6.4 million subsidy from Miami-Dade would increase to $8.5 million between 2031 and 2035.

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DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters will retire in June

From the News Service of Florida:

Gov. Rick Scott's juvenile justice secretary, Wansley Walters, will retire June 30, she confirmed Thursday.

Walters has led the department since Scott appointed her in January 2011. She is responsible for a number of innovations, including civil citations as an arrest alternative for juveniles who commit misdemeanors, and her strategies have been credited with helping to reduce the juvenile-crime rate statewide and the number of youths in detention.

"She switched its focus to investment and prevention services, and we’ve already seen the results of her vision and her work with record low crime rates for juveniles," said Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island.

Walters said she does not have plans to accept another position. She and her husband, Cliff, plan to settle in Tallahassee. "I'd just like to spend a little time with my family," she said.

Walters, who formerly headed Miami-Dade's juvenile justice system, has taken the approach that detention should be used only for young people who represent a threat to public safety. At the same time, she increased prevention and treatment services to keep kids out of the system.

Between fiscal year 2010-11 and fiscal year 2012-13, juvenile arrests declined 23 percent and felony juvenile arrests declined 17 percent, while transfers to adult court declined 36 percent, according to the department. The number of beds in the deep end of the juvenile-justice system dropped 42 percent from January 2011 and January 2014.

Appeals court rules that secret documents may not be made public in redistricting trial

The First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee sided Thursday with Republican political consultants and ordered that 538 pages of their documents may be considered confidential “trade secrets” and should not be entered as evidence in the pending trial over the state's congressional districts.

The ruling came on the fourth day of the 12-day trial g in Circuit Court in Leon County and reverses a ruling by Judge Terry Lewis who had ordered that the documents of GOP consulting company, Data Targeting, and its owner Pat Bainter could be made public if entered as evidence.

The League of Women Voters and seven Florida voters are suing the state for violating the state law that prohibits legislators from protecting political parties and incumbents when redistricting the state.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs had planned to use the documents to argue that Bainter and his staff partners, Matt Mitchell and Michael Sheehan, “surreptitiously participated in the process of preparing the 2012 Congressional Plan,” which they contend unfairly benefits incumbents. 

"The orders of the lower tribunal entered May 2, 2014, and May 15, 2014, are REVERSED to the extent the orders permit any degree of disclosure or use at trial of the constitutionally-protected contents of the privileged and confidential documents that are the subject of those orders," a three-judge panel in its one-page ruling. An opinion will be forthcoming. 

The three judges that signed the ruling, Joseph Lewis, Simone Marstiller and Scott Makar, were each appointed by Republican governors (Bush, Crist and Scott.) Here's the ruling:   Download DCA ruling 52214

Plaintiffs attorney Mark Herron told the Herald/Times on Thursday that have not decided whether or not to appeal the decision to the Florida Supreme Court. The plaintiffs said they have already been hamstrung by a ruling earlier this week that ordered them not to discuss the confidential documents. 

"We are considering and assessing all our options and it may take us a day or two to decide,'' Herron said. He added that the plaintiffs were prepared to go to trial with or without the documents.

During a break in the trial late Thursday, lawyers for the House and Senate were beaming with smiles after the DCA ruling, but repeated their comment that they have no position on the issue.  

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The former Rick Scott, FL GOP vendor that went to Cuba '...and can't wait to go back.'


After Democrat Charlie Crist said he wanted to go to Cuba, Gov. Rick Scott condemned the move.

“When spends money there, he’s helping the Castro regime,” Scott said recently in Miami.

But more people, business leaders and politicians are heading to Cuba these days – including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a consulting company that, over the past decade, has done $368,000 worth of web services for Scott, top Republican lawmakers and the Republican Party of Florida over the past decade. 

“It was the trip of a lifetime, and we can’t wait to go back,” Sandi Poreda, senior public relations specialist at Taproot Creative wrote on its blog May 8, the day after Scott criticized his opponent's Cuba-travel plans.

Continue reading "The former Rick Scott, FL GOP vendor that went to Cuba '...and can't wait to go back.'" »

Marco Rubio to U.S. Chamber: Your Cuba trip is 'misguided,' propaganda for Castro regime

Text of letter from Republican Sen. Marco Rubio to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

Dear Mr. Donohue:

I understand that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will be leading a business delegation to Cuba next week. As you know, I have a strong interest in the freedom and well-being of the Cuban people. And because I have great respect for much of the U.S. Chamber’s work, I want to share my perspective about why I believe the Chamber’s trip is misguided and fraught with peril of becoming a propaganda coup for the Castro regime – to the detriment of America’s strategic interest in protecting human rights around the world, as well as the Cuban people.

As you attempt “to develop a better understanding of the country’s economic environment and the state of its private sector,” keep in mind that whatever new opportunities the regime claims to have made available to some Cubans, those opportunities are systematically denied to those who criticize and oppose the regime. Also consider the reality that no supposed economic change can be real or lasting since it can be unilaterally taken away at the regime’s discretion – without any independent judicial system to appeal to, and no way to seek meaningful policy changes through the political process, since free and fair elections are nonexistent in Cuba.

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Day Three of redistricting: Window into reality and the defense of secret deals as 'entirely proper'

Senate President Don Gaetz testified under oath Wednesday that it was “entirely proper” for him to meet in secret with House Speaker Will Weatherford to reach a deal over a congressional map as part of the Legislature’s once-a-decade redistricting process.

Gaetz, R-Niceville, who along with Weatherford was chairman of his chamber’s redistricting maps in 2011-12, told the court that he and Weatherford met twice and agreed to settle on the Senate’s map design for the final joint congressional map. It included a provision that boosted the number of black voters in the meandering congressional District 5, a Democrat-majority district that slices through dozens of towns to collect black voters from Jacksonville to Orlando.

“It was entirely proper, it was entirely ordinary that we would meet as two committee chairs to work out differences,’’ Gaetz said during more than three hours of testimony.

The entire congressional map, particularly District 5, is being challenged as unconstitutional by a coalition of voters led by the League of Women Voters. They contend the redrawn map violates the “Fair Districts” standards added to the state Constitution by voters in 2010. It requires that districts may not be drawn to protect incumbents and or political parties.

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