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.

Continue reading "MacNamara draws ethics complaint; rumor mill says Hollingsworth to replace him" »

February 16, 2012

Gov appoints FPL chief Olivera to Miami Dade College board

Armando Olivera, the president and chief executive officer of Florida Power & Light who is retiring in May, was appointed Thursday to a four-year term on the board of trustess for Miami Dade College. Olivera announced in December that he is retiring from FPL, where he has worked since 1972.

From the press release:

Olivera, 62, of Coral Gables, has been the chief executive officer of Florida Power and Light Company since 2003. An employee with the company since 1972, he was a senior vice president from 1999 to 2003. Olivera has been on the Cornell University Board of Trustees since 2009 and a member of the Florida Reliability Coordinating Council since 2001, serving as a past-chair.

As a business leader, he has been a member of the Florida Council of 100 since 2007 and served on the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors from 2004 through 2011. Olivera received a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Miami. He succeeds Robert Fernandez and is appointed for a term beginning February 16, 2012, and ending May 31, 2015.

February 14, 2012

Harassment suit falters against Alcee Hastings

A federal court on Tuesday dealt a setback to a woman who claims U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings subjected her to sexual harassment and retaliation when he was co-chairman of an independent U.S. agency.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein dismissed the claim, saying Winsome Packer would have to direct her lawsuit toward the commission that employs her, not Hastings himself.

"It doesn't in any way address the validity of our client's claims against Representative Hastings," said Jim Peterson, the Judicial Watch attorney who filed the suit on Packer's behalf. "And it doesn't any way end the lawsuit. What happened today is the court decided what track upon which the case will proceed."

"Our client will still get her day in court to prove the unlawfulness of his conduct," he added. "It's in no way a defeat."

The lawsuit alleges that Packer, who worked for a House commission that Hastings led, was subjected to a "never-ending barrage of unwanted sexual advances" and was threatened and intimidated when she tried to report Hastings' behavior.

Hastings, a Democrat from Miramar, has called the assertions "ludicrous" and said he'd "never sexually harassed anyone." A former federal judge himself, Hastings on Tuesday said he appreciated the court’s ruling.  

Continue reading "Harassment suit falters against Alcee Hastings" »

January 24, 2012

SOTU reaction from South Florida's congressional delegation

Reaction to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address is rolling in from South Florida's congressional delegation:

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. "I'm actually very disturbed by the speech tonight. The President is on the verge of committing economic malpractice. How does raising taxes create jobs? How does raising my boss’s taxes help me keep my job? Why is he advocating policies that will punish people that are investing in American businesses that are creating middle class jobs? It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s the kind of policies that have taken a bad economy over the last four years and made everything worse."

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.: "I'm really looking forward to working with a lot of my colleagues in a bipartisan way and in a civil way on some of the more specific proposals that the President outlined tonight, like creating manufacturing jobs right here and bringing them back from overseas. It's about time we start seeing more things designed and produced by American workers - and stamped 'Made in the USA.' And there was also a very special moment tonight in honor of Gabby Giffords. She has showed all of us what it means through suffering to have courage, and ultimately victory."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami: "Unfortunately, President Obama’s State of the Union is yet another example of lofty rhetoric and empty promises. Hispanic-Americans, like all communities, are looking for clarity and leadership," she said. "Our economy will not improve if we continue the failed policies of deficit spending and over-regulation. With national unemployment and unemployment in my home state of Florida so alarmingly high, it is time to put partisanship aside and unleash the power of the American entrepreneur."

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar: "I am acutely aware of the need to create jobs and a skilled workforce, and I am dedicated to doing just that. To this end, I agree with the President that the United States must recommit itself to manufacturing. We can’t make it in America if we don’t have anything that is made in America," he said. " believe it is time to shelve the political games and rhetoric that have divided our country over the past several years.  We must come together, as one nation, and make America great again."

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami: "The American people need decisive actions from leaders during these difficult times, rather than more empty rhetoric. We need actions that will move our country forward, so our economy can flourish and create jobs. House Republicans have passed more than 27 bills to reduce spending, protect entitlements, and encourage new job creation; I encourage the President and his Democrat allies to join us in these efforts. The American people can't wait any longer to get back to work."

Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami: "While Florida residents continue to struggle to improve their own economic situation, President Obama gives his third State of the Union address. During the last three years our nation’s economy has worsened. The unemployment rate is higher than when President Obama was inaugurated and our national debt has grown to more than $15 trillion," he said. "If the President is going to speak on the importance of being hardworking and responsible, he has to lead by example."


January 18, 2012

Though outmatched in Florida, Rick Santorum's Broward-bound after SC primary

Rick Santorum trails Mitt Romney in money, organization and buzz right now. But the former Pennsylvania Senator is suggesting he'll still fight for Florida, where he's outgunned by the Republican frontrunner who could win South Carolina.

If Romney wins there, even Newt Gingrich says the election's probably over. Santorum's not willing to concede the point. He plans to stump in Coral Springs a the Wings Plus at 2 p.m. Jan. 22, the day after the South Carolina.

The last Republican candidate at Wings Plus: Herman Cain.

January 11, 2012

Senate committee signs off on its redistricting maps

After a bitter debate over a last-minute map produced and withdrawn by Democrats, the Senate Reapportionment Committee on Wednesday voted out its proposals to redraw the political lines for the Senate and Congress for the next 10 years.

The proposals will create a new Hispanic congressional seat in Central Florida, leave intact all of the African-American minority seats in Congress and the state Senate, and retain the Republican majority in both the Senate and congressional delegations. 
If adopted by the full Senate next week, as expected, the bills will move to the House where legislative leaders hope they will get final resolution by the end of the month. The legislative maps will then be sent to the Florida Supreme Court, as required, and the congressional map will go to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature.

Continue reading "Senate committee signs off on its redistricting maps" »

December 13, 2011

No surprise -- South Florida House members go party line on payroll tax cut extension

The House just passed a GOP version of the payroll tax cut extension 294-193, largely along party lines. 

It's got some toxic provisions for most Democrats, including a measure that would speed up construction of the Keystone pipeline from Canada. 

Miami GOP Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and David Rivera voted for it, as did Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation.

Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, and Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, voted against it. 

The White House panned the House vote: "This is not a time for Washington Republicans to score political points against the President."