February 05, 2015

Alcee Hastings calls Texas 'crazy.' Jon Stewart weighs in.


"We're run by children," comedian Jon Stewart concluded Wednesday night when he gave The Daily Show treatment to a now-infamous exchange starring U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Miramar Democrat.

In case you weren't glued to C-SPAN's Monday night coverage of the House Rules Committee, the fireworks started when Texas Republican Rep. Michael Burgess said President Obama's administration "hid the ball" on the Affordable Care Act. The debate was over states like Texas and Florida choosing not to create their own insurance exchanges under Obamacare.

"Had the administration worked with the governors! Had the governors worked with the administration, we might not be in this position," Hastings responded. "I don't know about in your state, which I think is a crazy state to begin with -– and I mean that just as I said it."

("You're from Florida and you're calling Texas crazy?" Stewart said.)

Hastings was interrupted by the committee chairwoman's gavel. Burgess was insulted.

"The gentleman made a very defamatory statement about my state, and I will not stand here and listen to it," he said.

"Well, fine. Then you don't have to listen," Hastings fired back. "You can leave if you choose. I told you what I think about Texas. I wouldn't live there for all the tea in China. And that's how I feel."

He continued. But then Burgess got the floor back.

Burgess: "I'm used to attacks, invective being tossed my way. That's part and parcel of the territory. But there is no reason at all to impugn the people, the governor, of a state of this country, and I will await the gentleman's apology."

Hastings: "You will wait until hell freezes over for me to say anything in an apology. I would apologize to you if I was directing my comments to you..."

By Tuesday, all 25 members of Texas' congressional delegation had demanded an apology, and issued this statement, according to the Houston Chronicle: "Don't mess with Texas."

The relevant portion in the video below starts at about 4:35.

January 24, 2013

Will botched transparency contract spawn reforms of how legislators govern themselves?

A botched $5.5 million state contract for a transparency web site, signed in secret by the chief of staff of a former Senate president, may have an unintended consequence: forcing legislators to follow the rules they require of everyone else.

Members of the Senate Government Operations and Accountability Committee declared the Transparency 2.0 web site an unlikely survivor as the committee moves to merge nine transparency web sites. The Senate let the contract lapse Dec. 31 and the committee is working to find a replacement. But the committee said the secretly-signed contract could force the Legislature to change its ways.

“We need to go a step further and make sure this doesn’t happen again,’’ said Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, referring to the no-bid contract signed in 2011 between Spider Data Systems and Steve MacNamara, the former general counsel and chief of staff for former Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

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January 04, 2013

South Florida lawmakers bring back congressional 'Everglades Caucus'

For all the partisan bickering that cripples Congress these days, there is one thing that Florida lawmakers have generally been able to agree on: the need to restore the Everglades.

With a new congressional class coming in, two South Florida representatives — Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart and Miramar Democrat Alcee Hastings — announced they are reintroducing the “Everglades Caucus” in the U.S. House. The goal is educate members and staffers about the Everglades and, of course, foster support for the projects and money still needed to complete the $12.4 billion restoration effort.

In a joint announcement, Diaz-Balart and Hastings said they would co-chair the caucus.

“The Everglades is one of the true ecological wonders of the world, and we must do everything we can to keep it thriving and healthy,” Diaz-Balart said. “We will work together with other members of Congress to support restoration efforts of this unique ecosystem.”

Hastings called the Everglades “a national treasure that provides Floridians with clean drinking water, and is home to many endangered and unique species. It makes up a large portion of my Congressional district, and therefore I am acutely aware of the vital need for its restoration.”


December 03, 2012

PolitiFact checks claim by Broward GOP about League of Women Voters guide

It’s not easy being a Republican in Broward County -- home to the largest number of Democratic voters in Florida and a county where registered GOP voters are outnumbered two to one by Democrats.  

Beyond the numbers, Broward’s liberalism often makes amusing headlines -- from a 2002 gay mayoral candidate in Wilton Manors who said he was attacked for not being "gay enough," to a county commissioner in 2007 who questioned airing emergency warnings on the station that ran Rush Limbaugh’s radio show.

It wasn’t a surprise that Democrats swept Broward and helped re-elect President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. But the Broward GOP also suffered the loss of two of their most prominent local Republicans: state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale who lost after redistricting, and Sheriff Al Lamberti, who lost to Democrat Scott Israel. (They also had the blow of Fox News favorite U.S. Rep. Allen West moving out of Broward to the Treasure Coast and then losing.)

Richard DeNapoli, chairman of the Broward Republican Executive Committee, or BREC, wrote amemo to the group listing accomplishments of the past year. Most of those accomplishments were nothing surprising, such as lining up volunteers and distributing thousands of Romney bumper stickers. But one accomplishment caught our eye:

"We had the liberal League of Women Voters Guide removed from the Broward Supervisor of Election's website."

We wanted to know, did the Broward GOP get the Broward Supervisor of Elections to remove a League of Women Voters guide from its website? And was that guide or is the League itself "liberal"?

PolitiFact puts the claim to the Truth-O-Meter.


June 28, 2012

South Florida Democrats support walk out on Holder contempt vote


Members of the Congressional Black Caucus were joined by many fellow Democrats Thursday in walking out on a House Republican-led vote to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress over the Fast and Furious controversy.

Among those supporting the walk out from South Florida: Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston; Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar; and Frederica Wilson, D-Miami. Here are their statements:

Wasserman Schultz: "Today I opposed the latest act of overt political theater staged by House Republican lawmakers who have made it clear that they would rather cast votes aimed at damaging the president instead of helping the American people. I joined my colleagues in walking off the House Floor to strongly oppose Republican lawmakers’ outrageous attempt to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. This is just the latest effort to distract and delay from the task at hand - creating jobs and strengthening the middle class.
"The Republican leadership has acknowledged that there is no evidence to suggest the Attorney General authorized, condoned, or knew about gun walking or engaged in a cover-up and as such, today’s vote was both unwarranted and unprecedented.
"Despite Democratic efforts to hold a real investigation, Chairman Darrell Issa has refused 10 separate Democratic requests for a hearing with Ken Melson, the former director of the agency in charge, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). He has also refused to grant a single Democratic witness request during the entire 16-month investigation. This flawed investigation is yet another example of political theater and prevents concrete action to create jobs and build an economy built to last."

Hastings: “It is contemptuous that Republicans decided to cast a stain on this institution by finding the United States Attorney General in contempt of Congress.  No Cabinet official in the history of this country has ever been held in contempt.  I warned yesterday that if we did this, history will judge us harshly.  And it will.

“Brian Terry, a U.S. law enforcement agent, was killed. That is a terrible tragedy for his family and our country. I am eternally grateful to those law enforcement officials who put their lives on the line to protect the nation. However, this vote today was not about what happened to Agent Terry.  It was political, plain and simple. 

“We need to address the doubling of student loan interest rates in this country, and yet, Republicans have made it their priority to pass a measure that does nothing to help struggling Americans. Our nation’s transportation infrastructure is in serious need of repair, and yet, we have not passed a long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill.   Americans need jobs to pay their bills, provide for their families, and keep their homes.  And yet, House Republicans believe that our time is better spent playing politics with this contempt vote, rather than actually creating jobs for the millions of Americans who are out of work. 

“Today’s vote was nothing more than a partisan political circus and House Republicans should be ashamed of themselves."

June 21, 2012

Romney slams Obama's immigration record but softens tone on illegals

Speaking before an influential Hispanic group Thursday, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said President Barack Obama has failed to enact immigration reform and offered his own plan, calling for permanent residency for highly skilled college graduates and members of the military and a “high-tech fence to enhance border security.”

But Romney did not address the biggest and most vexing immigration issue: What to do with the 11 million undocumented residents already living in the United States. And he was vague on how to deal with the children of illegal immigrants that a growing number of Republicans say should get some protection.

Overall, however, his tone and proposals marked a dramatic departure from the GOP primary, when he took hard-line immigration positions and attacked his rivals for being soft.

“Some people have asked if I will let stand the president’s executive action,” he said referring to Obama’s announcement last week that he would block deportation of young illegal immigrants. “The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president’s temporary measure. As president, I won’t settle for a stop-gap measure.”

His speech before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, was met with tepid applause but signaled his broadest remarks on immigration, which leapt back into focus with Obama’s announcement last Friday.

Story by Alex Leary and Adam Smith here.

June 07, 2012

PolitiFact Florida examines whether voter purge is a "backdoor poll tax"

Democratic U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings recently appeared at a news conference bashing Gov. Rick Scott's noncitizen voter purge with Bill Internicola, a Brooklyn-born World War II vet who appeared on a list of potential noncitizens.

Before it started, Hastings asked Internicola if the Broward Supervisor of Elections had mailed him a stamped envelope to send back his proof of citizenship.

Internicola, who had voted for decades and is a Democrat from Davie, answered no.

Hastings responded, "There is also a backdoor poll tax. In the letter that he (Internicola) received I asked him a moment ago he did not have a prepaid envelope to send it back meaning he had to buy a stamp. Don’t tell me how little it is -- that stamp is a cost. And the state should not be about the business of emaciating voter rights. They should be in the business of causing people to participate."

Was Hastings correct to compare the requests from elections officials to Internicola and others on the list to a "backdoor poll tax"?

Read PolitiFact Florida's fact-check.

May 29, 2012

World War II vet in Broward on list of potential "noncitizen" voters

Bill Internicola has lived in the United States 91 years and fought for his country in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, but according to the state of Florida he may not be a citizen.

Internicola received a letter in May from the Broward Supervisor of Elections stating that it received "information from the State of Florida that you are not a United States citizen; however you are registered to vote."

"I went crazy," Internicola said today in an interview near his Davie home. "I couldn't believe it. I called [the Supervisor of Elections office] and said what are you crazy? I've been voting since I was 18 years old."

Internicola shared his story today at a press conference with two Democratic members of Congress who represent portions of Broward: Ted Deutch and Alcee Hastings.

Internicola sent Broward a copy of his Army discharge papers. He is one of six voters on the list who have provided paperwork to prove they are citizens, said Mary Cooney, a spokeswoman for the supervisor.

Broward was following the direction of the state Division of Elections after it forwarded the names of more than 2,600 registered voters to check for their citizenship status. Miami-Dade had the largest contingent while Broward had about 259. Voters have 30 days from the date they receive the letter to provide proof of citizenship or they will be removed from the rolls.

Deutch called the state-led effort a "great injustice".

"Bill Internicola is the face of Gov. Scott's request to purge our voter rolls," he said.

Hastings said the state was engaging in "voter suppression" and by not sending a pre-stamped envelope to these voters to mail back their proof of citizenship the state was using a "back-door poll tax."

In an interview, Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes said she is complying with the state's direction but does not believe that the bulk of the voters who have yet to respond to her letter are non-citizens. She called for the state to stop the process and vet the list more carefully. 




Florida's congressional Democrats hold their own Medicare meeting, no Republicans allowed

Democratic Reps. Alcee L. Hastings, Corrine Brown, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch, and Frederica Wilson are scheduled to meet this week to talk about Medicare -- but they're not inviting the Republicans in the Florida delegation. 

Hastings, the Democratic chairman of the delegation, says he'll host the meeting Thursday morning "to highlight the importance of Medicare to Florida, and the impact of Medicare changes on Florida's beneficiaries."

We've reached out to Democrats and Republicans in the Florida congressional delegation, but no word yet on why GOP Reps. Sandy Adams, Gus Bilarakis, Vern Buchanan, Ander Crenshaw, Mario Diaz-Balart, Connie Mack, John Mica, Jeff Miller, Rich Nugent, Bill Posey, David Rivera, Tom Rooney, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Dennis Ross, Steve Southerland, Cliff Stearns, Daniel Webster, Alan West or Bill Young weren't invited.

May 11, 2012

MacNamara draws ethics complaint; rumor mill says Hollingsworth to replace him

A state ethics complaint filed this week against Gov. Rick Scott's chief of staff Steve MacNamara alleges he used state employees to help him seek a college president's job in Montana.

The complaint comes at a time when MacNamara has drawn media scrutiny for steering contracts to friends or associates and getting involved in personnel matters. He and Scott are scheduled to meet over the weekend to talk about MacNamara's future.

"We'll see what happens,'' said MacNamara."I'm going to do what the governor wants me to do."

Scott hired MacNamara in July 2011 to the $189,000-a-year job after a blistering first six months of low poll ratings and icy relationships with lawmakers. MacNamara had planned to stay on the job at least a year but this week said the media attention could hasten his departure.

The governor's supporters have discussed a replacement for MacNamara for some time. On Friday, Jacksonville political consultant Adam Hollingsworth's name surfaced as a likely replacement. He was an early supporter of Scott's and a one-time chief of staff of former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton. He writes an enthusiastic blog, DadsonDefense, about being the father of two small children and he is close to Scott's former campaign manager Susie Wiles.

The Florida Commission on Ethics received the complaint Thursday from Trent Barrett, of Clearwater. He included copies of a series of emails -- all from October 2011 -- that were sent from MacNamara's state email account to a woman heading up the presidential search for Carroll College in Montana.

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