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.  

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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.

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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."

November 28, 2011

House Ethics Committee extends Alcee Hastings probe

The House Ethics Committee said it will take another 45 days to look into allegations that U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, subjected a former employee to sexual harassment and retaliation when he was co-chairman of an independent U.S. agency.

Hastings has asked a court to throw out claims that he subjected a former employee to sexual harassment and retaliation when he was co-chairman of an independent U.S. agency. The Office of Congressional Ethics this summer contacted the staffer, Winsome Packer.

Judicial Watch in March filed a lawsuit against Hastings on Packer's behalf. The lawsuit alleges that Packer, a staffer on 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 in March called the assertions "ludicrous" and said he'd "never sexually harassed anyone." His attorney, Tonya Robinson, said the lawmaker was "deeply disturbed" by the allegations in the lawsuit "and, in the strongest terms, denies the charges. Mr. Hastings has stated unequivocally that the plaintiff's claims are untruthful and without merit."

Packer says Hastings asked several times to stay at her apartment or to get her to visit his hotel room in Vienna, Austria, when she worked as staff representative and he was co-chairman of the Helsinki Commission. She also said Hastings asked her what kind of underwear she was wearing and alleged that much of the harassment occurred when he was in Europe on business for the commission, which advises on U.S. policy about security, human rights and other issues in Europe.

The committee said in a statement that the "mere fact of a referral or an extension, and the mandatory disclosure of such an extension and the name of the subject of the matter, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the committee." The committee said it will announce its course of action on or before Jan. 11.

November 18, 2011

U.S. House fails to pass a balanced budget amendment

The U.S. House of Representatives turned down a balanced budget amendment Friday afternoon, with Florida's congressional delegation largely voting along party lines. Although the proposal had 261 votes, 165 members voted against it and it was 29 short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage. Just four Republicans voted against the bill; 25 Democrats voted for it. 

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

Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, voted against it. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, did not vote. 

August 22, 2011

Beware the tea party, Jesse Jackson, Frederica Wilson and black Democrats say at jobs meeting

Democratic members of the Congressional Black Caucus are in Miami Tuesday to host a jobs fair, part of their five-city tour to draw attention to high unemployment, particularly in the black community.

But at a town-hall style meeting the members held Monday night, some of the most heated talk centered not on jobs but on the tea party.

"The real enemy is the tea party –- let's remember that," said Rep. Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens, host of the meeting and jobs fair. "The tea party holds Congress hostage…They have one goal in mind, and that's to make President Obama a one-term president."

She got energetic applause from the crowd of hundreds at Mt. Hermon AME Church in Miami Gardens. So did Rep. Maxine Waters of California, who recently said the tea party should "Go straight to hell."

"I'm in church. I'm not going to repeat that," Waters said Monday.

She also said: "We have to stand up and fight. It's fight time...We're not afraid of the tea party…In this struggle, we have to define who we are, what the president is doing and not let our voices be overshadowed by the tea party."

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June 24, 2011

Republicans, Democrats rebuke President Obama on Libya, but stop short of cutting off funding

The House of Representatives Friday sent President Barack Obama a strong, bipartisan message that it's growing frustrated and impatient with the U.S. military mission in Libya.

The House shot down an effort to give congressional consent for the three-month-old effort, a clear rebuke to Obama. Just 8 Republicans -- including Miami's David Rivera -- and 115 Democrats -- voted to give Obama approval.

Rivera said he voted "to send a clear message that I support our troops as they carry out this mission.  Irrespective of where we stand in the debate on the overall Libya effort or the War Powers Act, I am not willing to support any action that may demoralize or undermine our troops while they are in harms way.  Nor am I willing to provide encouragement to a ruthless and murderous dictator."

The House didn't take the extra step of denying funding for the mission. A bid led by Palm Beach Republican Rep. Tom Rooney to cut off money for all but search and rescue, intelligence, aerial refueling and non-combat operations got bipartisan support, but lost on a 238 to 180 vote.

The three-month campaign in Libya has created a strange bedfellows coalition of liberal anti-war Democrats and some Republicans upset about the administration's lack of notice to Congress and the war's cost. On the other side are Democrats reluctant to vote against Obama and some Republicans who fear that such votes could undermine the U.S. mission. (They include Sen. Marco Rubio who editorialized in the Wall Street Journal against restricting the military campaign against Libya.

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., the chief sponsor of a measure to authorize the mission for a year, argued that his plan gave Congress an important voice in the debate.

"If I had my way, we wouldn’t be in Libya at all. But I don’t have my way, and here we are, and the solution now is not to cut off all funding and suddenly walk out," he said. "We have a responsibility to our allies."