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5 posts from May 23, 2014

May 23, 2014

GOP official doesn't know how his maps made it into public plan, final proposal

Frank Terraferma Redistricting trialA Republican Party of Florida official testified Friday that maps he drew and gave to a GOP redistricting consultant were identical to a map submitted by a member of the public, significant parts of which were used by lawmakers in the final congressional map.

The testimony of Frank Terraferma, director of House campaigns for RPOF, came as lawyers for the League of Women Voters and a coalition of voters are trying to show in circuit court that “legislators and staffers collaborated” with political operatives to conduct a "shadow" redistricting process "that was not only apart from the public process — but actually perverted the public process itself.”

The groups are challenging the state’s congressional map and accusing legislators of violating the 2010 constitutional amendment requiring them to draw districts that do not protect incumbents or members of a party. The trial is in its fifth day.

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After North Miami mayor's arrest, new motion filed in lawsuit challenging her residency

@LDixon_3

As fallout continues from North Miami Mayor Lucie Tondreau’s indictment and suspension from office, former rival Kevin Burns is again asking a judge to expedite ruling in a complaint he filed last June over Tondreau’s residency.

He also said he would consider running for mayor in the special election that the city charter requires, but he hopes the court takes action before then.

“I am positively considering running, but we need to have this issue with the case resolved,” Burns said.

Burns’s lawyers filed a motion Wednesday asking for a judgment and opinion in the case. Burns alleged that Tondreau did not live in the city for a year, as required.

The motion also argues that the special election is void because, although Tondreau was suspended by Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday, the office is not actually vacant.

“The council should not call for a special election because the office of mayor is not vacant and the entitlement to the office is also in dispute,” the motion reads.

A judge dismissed the lawsuit last September, but Burns appealed and no action has been taken since December.

The City Council is expected to make a final decision on the election process at its next meeting, but Burns said that the process will be a waste if a judge rules in his favor.

“If that current mayor was never supposed to be there, then what happens?” Burns said.

If the court rules that Tondreau was ineligible, the motion requests that Burns be awarded the mayorship. Burns is also open to a runoff against Smith Joseph, who finished third in the election.

“You’ve heard the case you’ve had it in front of you, it’s imperative that you make a decision,” Burns said.

--LANCE DIXON

Florida TaxWatch flags $120 million in "turkeys"

Florida TaxWatch released its annual list of budget “turkeys” on Friday, flagging $120 million in spending the group says was included by lawmakers without the proper public vetting, including large projects in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Miami-Dade and Pasco counties.

Leading Florida, Hillsborough County had 12 projects flagged: $12 million on the Port of Tampa Bay’s Gantry Crane; $5 million on the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine; $3 million for the Florida Conservation and Technology Center in Apollo Beach; and $2.5 million for the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI).

Miami-Dade had 11 projects on the list, including $2 million for SkyRise Miami; $3.4 million for the Ludlam Trail Corridor, $5 million for a gymnasium at Miami-Dade College; and $1 million for Munroe Marine Stadium in Miami.

Pinellas had eight projects identified, including $2.5 million for a dredging and wharf stabilization project in Tarpon Springs; $500,000 for a Tarpon Springs performing arts center; and $500,000 for Mahaffey Theater improvements in St. Petersburg.

Pasco only had one project on the list, but it was a big one: $10 million the construction of a performing arts center at Pasco- Hernando State College.

Overall, the self-appointed watchdog identified 107 projects in next year’s $77.1 billion budget that account for a miniscule portion of overall state spending -- about one-quarter of 1 percent. That doesn’t diminish the importance of what the group has identified, said Robert Weissert, chief research officer and general counsel.

“We’re talking about a significant amount of money,” Weissert told reporters. “It’s a case of government reaching into people’s pockets and taking out that money, and public budgeting is a trust and it’s a process that must not only be transparent and accountable but held to the highest standards.”

As it does every year, the group timed the release of the report to the governor’s review of the budget, which was passed by lawmakers on May 3. On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott was sent the budget, and has until June 4 to veto line items.

“The governor has the constitutional authority and responsibility of the line item veto, so this (report) is intended as that part of the process,” Weissert said.

Last year, Scott vetoed 71 of the 107 projects the group identified, nixing $71.1 million in spending. In 2012, he vetoed 97 of the group’s 159 so-called turkeys, which eliminated $63 million. In his first year in office, 2011, Scott vetoed 83 percent of the group’s turkeys, which totaled about $181 milllion.

In theory, Florida TaxWatch is a non-profit, non-partisan “research institute” founded in 1979 by a group of former Florida lawmakers and business owners who wanted to better control government spending.

Anti-Amendment 2 group says teenagers will have access to medical pot

Family Feud time! Today’s question: Name something most teenagers cannot do.

Vote? Ding! See R-rated movies alone? Ding! Buy beer? Ding!

Score some weed without a hitch under Florida’s proposed medical marijuana amendment? BUZZZZ!

An anti-marijuana coalition operating the website DontLetFloridaGoToPot.com has claimed as much. Among the talking points was the assertion, "The amendment allows a teenager to get a recommendation for medical marijuana without the consent of a parent."

There’s already plenty of debate over the legalities of Amendment 2, which is on the November ballot. But can teens easily score a nickel bag solo should it pass? We’ll have to take our own survey and see what it says.

Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the full story.

Redistricting challengers ask Supreme Court for emergency ruling in secret docs

A coalition of voters challenging Florida's congressional maps filed an emergency petition in the Florida Supreme Court Friday, asking the court to allow documents from political operatives who advised legislators to become part of the ongoing redistricting trial.

The court has given respondents until 3:30 p.m. to reply.  Download SC14-987

The First District Court of Appeal ruled Thursday that 538 pages of maps, emails and memos are confidential “trade secrets” that may not be entered as evidence in the trial that is now in its fifth day in circuit court in Leon County. As a result, portions of the appeal and the attachments will remain under seal, attorneys said.

The ruling was a setback to League of Women Voters and seven Florida voters who are suing the state for violating the law that prohibits legislators from protecting political parties and incumbents when redistricting the state’s congressional boundaries. Download Motion to expedite briefing (00087321)

The plaintiffs have spent the first four days of the trial arguing that “legislators and staffers collaborated” with political operative Pat Bainter, of Data Targeting, and other partisan operatives “to conduct a separate redistricting process that was not only apart from the public process — but actually perverted the public process itself.”

They said in their motion that they want the Supreme Court to act quickly because "if the Court does not grant interim relief, it will lose the ability to grant the Plaintiffs the primary remedy they seek in this litigation—the redrawing of congressional districts before the 2014 election."

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