December 15, 2009

Crist commutes sentence in Tampa manslaughter

From the Times' Meg Laughlin: Jennifer Martin, who was convicted of manslaughter in a 1998 car crash that killed a passenger, had her sentenced cut in half Tuesday by Gov. Charlie Crist. She will be released Wednesday from prison.

Martin, 30, was sentenced in 2000 to 16 years in prison for her role in the Interstate 4 crash that killed Josh Nicola, 23, and severely injured Scott Schutt, 23.

Crist's decision followed a clemency hearing last week at which Martin's former prosecutor had sought mercy. Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink had championed Martin's clemency bid after reading a story in the St. Petersburg Times.

The other two members of the state's clemency board, Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson and State Attorney General Bill McCollum, also voted to commute Martin's sentence.

December 10, 2009

Cabinent signs order rescinding rights

Gov. Charlie Crist and his fellow Cabinet members quietly signed an order Wednesday to revoke the civil rights mistakenly restored to 11 felons.

State auditors conducted a review of the Parole Commission that found a 6 percent error rate in sample of 203, meaning that 13 felons were granted the rights without authorization. Two felons are still incarcerated and no action was necessary to rescind their rights.

"There's human error involved in a lot of things that happen," Crist said. "These people are trying to do the best that they can and sometimes mistakes occur. When they do, you try to rectify it and that's the best that you can do."

An opinion piece in the St. Petersburg Times today, written by Mark Schlakman, suggests more work needs to be done.

December 09, 2009

EPA limits on water pollution get political

The EPA's decision to set water pollution limits in Florida is quickly becoming a political issue -- and given the potential effect on big business and big agriculture, one that is attracting a litany of special interests.

Michael Sole, the state's Department of Environmental Protection secretary, briefed the Cabinet on Tuesday. All members, in particular Attorney General Bill McCollum who called the EPA's actions "outrageous," appear ready to go to court to challenge the federal government if they don't like the number set in January.

Already one legislative committee heard from DEP about the issue and a second group of lawmakers will get briefed this afternoon.

The forces aligned against the EPA -- led by Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, who expressed skepticism in global warming yesterday -- are making presentations with heightened rhetoric about a standard that the federal government hasn't even set yet. Likewise, the environmental groups that settled the lawsuit with the EPA continue to parade the same series of enlarged algae bloom photos to prove their point.

But in an interview, Sole clarified a few points that should quiet the crowd's draconian predictions -- if they listen.

Continue reading "EPA limits on water pollution get political" »

November 23, 2009

Maddox on offshore drilling: 'Where's the moral outrage?'

Agriculture Commissioner candidate Scott Maddox, a Democrat, made his position on offshore oil drilling perfectly clear at a press conference Monday: "an absolute no."

The former state party leader and Tallahassee mayor stood next to an enlarged photo of an oil rig on fire and declared that offshore oil drilling (in any form) would hurt the the state's tourism economy and environment without providing much cost-savings at the gas pump or new jobs for the state. He thinks every candidate for the cabinet (which could approved exploratory drilling under a state legislative proposal) should take a stand on the issue.

"It's like we've been asked to sell our favorite daughter," he said, referring to the quality of the state's beaches. "Where's the moral outrage?"

November 16, 2009

Federal judge allows EPA to set pollution limits

TALLAHASSEE -- A federal judge on Monday authorized the Environmental Protection Agency to set limits on the flow of pollution into Florida's waterways, rejecting a challenge from Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Bronson and a coalition of major agricultural, business and utility groups.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle approved the settlement between the EPA and environmental groups, which filed a lawsuit in 2008 asking the federal government to intervene because the state wasn't enforcing clean water laws.

The judge was critical of the state Department of Environmental Protection's 11-year delays in setting water quality standards, asking repeatedly, "How much more time do you need?" He also was openly skeptical of the main arguments articulated by attorneys for the state and business groups, including most points made in a recent press conference.

"What you want me to do (is say that) even if Florida's regulation is inadequate, let it go, not do what the act requires because economic times are hard and (water quality) is worse somewhere else?" the judge asked. "That would be a lawless decision."

The EPA is expected to announce its first set of standards in January 2010, despite protests that the limits will cost businesses too much money. Opponents are expected to continue to fight those limits in the future.

November 12, 2009

October 31, 2009

Scott Maddox stayin' aliiiive in politics

Lights flashing, bass pumping, Democratic candidate Scott Maddox pumped up the party from the deejay's perch behind the dance floor.

"I want to see everyone on the dance floor because I got a feeling!'' he urged party activists who came to his reception at the Florida Democratic Party's recent conference in Orlando. Supporters line-danced to the "Cupid Shuffle" and shimmied to The Bee Gees' "Stayin Alive.''

Ah ah ah ah, stayin' alive, stayin' alive. Ah ah ah ah, stayin' aliiiive.

Who knew a campaign to be Florida's agriculture commissioner could be so much fun? More here.

And check out Maddox's dance video below. Inspired by the Black Eyed Peas, he's "got a feeling" he can pull this campaign off.

August 17, 2009

Eric Draper out as Agriculture Commissioner

Eric Draper has dropped out of the race for agriculture commissioner, saying he can't balance running for office with the demands of his day job with Audubon of Florida. Still in the race for the Dems: former Tallahassee mayor and state Democratic Party chairman Scott Maddox. The Republican candidates include Rep. Adam Putnam and state Sen. Carey Baker.

Draper's letter to supporters after the jump.

Continue reading "Eric Draper out as Agriculture Commissioner " »

June 13, 2009

Welcome to Miami, Mr. McCollum

Tonight's Miami-Dade Republican Party dinner is a key opportunity for statewide candidates from outside South Florida to show their face in the state's largest county. Lobbyist and political consultant Richard Pinsky said about 30 percent of the voters in a GOP primary come from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

"Bill McCollum has got to spend a considerable amount of time down here,'' Pinsky said of the attorney general and GOP frontrunner for governor in 2010. "Even though he's a statewide officeholder, there's a big disconnect between politics down here and Tallahassee."

U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam of Bartow, who is running for agriculture commissioner, is also making the rounds at the Miami Airport Hilton. "I wouldn't miss it. Had to be here,'' he said.

Putnam is here with his campaign manager, Trey McCarley, who ran Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson's campaign.

May 24, 2009

Top of GOP ticket in 2010 could be all-male, all-white

At a time when the Florida electorate is growing increasingly diverse, the Republican party is gearing up to field an all-male, all-white slate in 2010.

In contrast, the Democratic front-runners for the top of the ticket are U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, a 42-year-old African American running for the U.S. Senate, and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink for governor, who would be the state's first female chief executive. A handful of Hispanic and Jewish Democrats are potentially in the mix for attorney general and chief financial officer.

''It's something I see as an advantage for Florida voters, that the Democratic ticket could end up looking like it represents Florida's population,'' said Ana Cruz, a top Meek advisor.

The Republican front-runners for statewide office include Gov. Charlie Crist for Senate, Attorney General Bill McCollum for governor, Senate President Jeff Atwater for chief financial officer and U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam for agriculture commissioner. Putnam is the only one of the GOP candidates under 50 years old.

"We are the party of recruiting the best candidates based on qualifications not on race. That explains our success over the years,'' said Carlos Curbelo, chairman of the state party's Hispanic Leadership Council."And still, we have elected a Hispanic U.S. senator, three members of Congress, and dozens of state legislators to public office. Compare that to the Democrats' record, and there is no comparison."

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