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7 posts from June 25, 2014

June 25, 2014

Scott and Crist trade tax barbs along A1A

Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic opponent Charlie Crist were within about 20 miles of each other Wednesday on Florida's Gold Coast, lobbing bombs at each other over transparency and tax returns.

As Scott headed into the Eden Roc Hotel on Miami Beach to address a Florida broadcasters' convention, he feigned alarm: "Charlie Crist cloearly doesn't believe in transparency. I'm shocked that he doesn't believe in transparency ... What's he hiding?"

Scott was amplifying the theme of his campaign's latest TV ad that criticizes Crist for refusing to release his or his wife's tax returns. (Past candidates Alex Sink and Bill McBride, who were married, released each others' returns, and Jeb Bush released his wife's returns).

Crist released his returns for the past three years Wednesday, but not his wife Carole's.

At a fundraiser at the W Hotel on Fort Lauderdale beach, The Miami Herald's Amy Sherman asked Crist why he won't release his wife's tax returns to end the controversy. "There is no controversy. She's not the candidate," Crist said.

He said he will release every annual tax return going back to 1991, and will challenge Scott to do the same.

At Crist's event were Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, County Commissioner Stacy Ritter, Pompano Beach Mayor Lamar Fisher, Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Dean Trantalis and former Sen. Steve Geller.

No Casinos poll: Voters want final say in any expansion

Any discussion of expanded gambling, or limited gambling, may be on hold until after the election but a new poll out by No Casinos says legislators should keep voters in mind before making any commitments.  Download Florida-Gambling-Survey-June-2014-Handouts

Here's the press release:

Florida voters don’t want elected officials who represent them to support more gambling in the state, and they heavily favor a Constitutional Amendment that would require voters statewide to have the final say on whether or not a form of gambling is legal in Florida. The poll of 604 likely voters was conducted by Hill Research Consultants, and is part of a candidate pledge package being sent by NoCasinos.org to all candidates running for the Florida Legislature.

“It is good public policy and smart politics to be against the expansion of gambling in Florida,” said NoCasinos.org President John Sowinski. “Floridians don’t want their elected officials to legalize more gambling, and Florida voters want to have the final say on this issue through a statewide vote of the people.” The poll consistently showed strong bi-partisan consensus on these issues.

The highlights of the polling are as follows:

Continue reading "No Casinos poll: Voters want final say in any expansion" »

In wake of child deaths and new law, DCF launches new child welfare web site

Two days after Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a measure that requires greater openness from state child welfare administrators, the Department of Children & Families unveiled a new website designed to make a host of new information available to ordinary Floridians.

The website went live Wednesday morning, a week before the major provisions of a child welfare overhaul are expected to be implemented broadly. It also rolled out one day after a Miami-Dade grand jury blasted DCF for “intentionally and deliberately” undercounting the very child deaths that are reported at the site.

“This website will serve as an important tool to maximize transparency and to raise public awareness of the tragedies our department is committed to ending,” Interim DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said in a statement. “We know this data will be useful to communities statewide and will allow the department and our partners to improve child welfare practice and better protect children and assist at-risk families.”

The Senate bill Scott signed Monday overhauled Florida’s long-troubled child welfare system in the wake of a Miami Herald series, Innocents Lost, that detailed the abuse and neglect deaths of 477 children — most of them infants and toddlers — whose families had a history with the state. The measure requires far greater transparency from DCF, which has often been accused of using state confidentiality laws to shield accountability. More from Carol Marbin Miller here. 


Citizens board agrees to lower rates for most, raises for condo owners and coast

For the first time in four years, Citizens Property Insurance wants to lower rates for nearly 70 percent of its customers while everyone else – mostly South Florida condominium owners and homeowners in coastal areas -- will see another year of increases.

The rate changes were recommended Wednesday at the quarterly meeting of Citizens’ Board of Governors and now must go before the Office of Insurance Regulation for final approval.

Base rates vary greatly from policy to policy but, in Miami-Dade County, Citizens is proposing average rate cuts of about 4.3 percent for homeowners with multi-peril policies. Similar policies in Broward will see rates drop an average of 7.3 percent and homeowners in Monroe County will see rates rise 2.6 percent.

For condominium owners in South Florida, however, the rate hikes will continue with average increases of 6.4 percent in Miami Dade, 3.2 percent in Broward and 1.4 percent in Monroe County.  Download 2015 RATES county by county

Continue reading "Citizens board agrees to lower rates for most, raises for condo owners and coast" »

Human rights group asks federal government to intervene in probe of prisoner's death

Several human rights groups on Wednesday asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Florida Department of Corrections for the death of a mentally-ill inmate at the Dade County Correctional Institute last year who, other inmates allege,  was placed in a locked, scalding hot shower and left there as punishment. 

Darren Rainey, 50, died June 23, 2012, at Dade Correctional but the death was never investigated by either DOC or Miami-Dade police. The inmate assigned to clean up the shower after his death, told the Miami Herald on Tuesday that he found a blue canvas sneaker and 

Mark Joiner, a 46-year-old convicted killer, reported that he could hear Rainey screaming as hot steam filled the unit that night. He also heard the guards taunting Rainey, before he died, saying “How do you like your shower?’’

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Amnesty International, the Florida Council of Churches and a host of other human rights organizations wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Holder Wednesday urging the justice department to intervene. More here by Julie K. Brown. 

Grand jury rips DCF for systematically covering up child deaths

A Miami-Dade grand jury accused state child welfare administrators Tuesday of “intentionally and deliberately” manipulating the investigation of child deaths because of abuse and neglect — making it appear that fewer children were dying across the state.

In a 30-page report that explores whether the Department of Children & Families has improved since the shocking 2011 death of 10-year-old Nubia Barahona, grand jurors found much that pleased them. But they also scolded the agency for what they described as a systematic attempt to conceal the true number of children whose lives are cut short by abuse or neglect.

“I thank the members of the grand jury for their comprehensive look at Florida’s child welfare system,” said Mike Carroll, the agency’s interim secretary. “It is clear from their thoughtful recommendations that they understand the challenges in the work we do, and it’s also clear they recognize our commitment to continuing to improve so we can better protect Florida’s children.”

The grand jury presentment, handed up to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Gisela Cardonne Ely Tuesday afternoon, comes on the heels of a series of stories in the Miami Herald, called Innocents Lost. Details of the series are discussed in the report. In particular, grand jurors confirmed the Herald’s findings that DCF had revised its definition of “neglect,” resulting in an artificial reduction in the number of children reported to have died the past four years.

More from Carol Marbin Miller and Audra Burch here.

Scott hits Crist over taxes; Crist releases returns

Gov. Rick Scott's political committee, Let's Get to Work, launched a new TV spot Wednesday that criticizes Democrat Charlie Crist for not releasing his federal income tax returns. But in the ensuing back-and-forth between the two campaigns, the tone took a decidedly more nasty turn.

"What's he hiding?" Scott's spot asks. Three hours after the Times/Herald posted an item about the commercial, Crist's campaign released his tax returns for 2011, 2012 and 2013. 

The Republican Party of Florida would not disclose the size of the ad buy or say which TV markets are showing it. Scott and his wife Ann released their joint tax returns for 2010, 2011 and 2012 when he filed his candidate qualifying papers last week, and Crist has said he'll release more years of tax returns. (Scott has not released his latest tax return, for 2013, because he and his wife requested an extension from the IRS).

"He's going to out-transparent me?" Crist said. Crist was adamant that he wouldn't release his wife Carole's taxes: "She's not running for office," Crist said. The campaign accused Scott of a "shameful new low" in Florida politics by trying to make a candidate's wife a campaign issue (Crist and his wife file separately).

Crist spokesman Kevin Cate posted on Twitter: "In one week, we've had Rick Scott's backers and campaign race-bait on radio and attack Charlie's spouse. And it's June."

Scott's TV ad shows a fleeting glimpse of Carole Crist, and the ad also notes that in 2010, Democrat Alex Sink released her tax returns along with those of her husband, the late Bill McBride.

In past years, Crist has routinely released his tax returns, as he did in March 2010 in his last campaign, an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate, when he released his first and challenged his Republican rival, Marco Rubio, to do the same.