January 30, 2013

House Democratic leader blasts decade of GOP governance, pushes for Medicaid expansion

Rep. Perry Thurston, the House Democratic leader, said voters in Florida are not impressed with Republican-led governance, and said even GOP leaders are beginning to feel the same way.

In a 30-minute talk that covered issues ranging from Florida’s elections debacle to implementing federal healthcare to investing in education, Thurston blamed his Republican counterparts for problems facing the state. He said reform efforts currently being pushed by Republican officials—election reform, ethics reform, education financing, healthcare implementation—all seek to deal with problems caused by the GOP-led Legislature.

Thurston said the ruling party had been “foot dragging” when it comes to implementing the federal healthcare reform. He pointed to a letter from former House Speaker Dean Cannon in 2010 that effectively kept state agencies from planning for reform. The state is now trying to figure out how to conform to the law and facing several deadlines. The decision about whether or not to expand Medicaid is a critical one for the state, and Thurston supports the expansion.

 “We’re going to save lives.  We’re not talking about turning down money fro a rail system; we’re talking about saving lives,” said Thurston. “Not to do this would be morally reprehensible.”

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June 06, 2012

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi won't rule out suing feds over stonewalling noncitizen voter hunt

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's office won't rule out suing the Department of Homeland Security for refusing to share its citizenship database with Florida's elections division in its hunt for noncitizen voters.

"It's disappointing that the Obama Administration has been unwilling to help the Department of State ensure that we have accurate voter rolls," Bondi's office told The Miami Herald in response to an inquiry. "We still hope that the Department of State will be able to obtain the Obama Administration's cooperation without resorting to litigation, but we're monitoring the situation and believe Florida needs to keep all of its options open."

Bondi, a Republican, has already been a lead in suing the Obama Administration over ObamaCare. The noncitizen voter purge is highly popular with Republicans (and perhaps independents and many Democrats as well). So it wouldn't be a surprise if she took the feds to court over this.

Federal law (8 USC; 1373 to be exact), says the "Immigration and Naturalization Service shall respond to an inquiry by a Federal, State, or local government agency, seeking to verify or ascertain the citizenship or immigration status of any individual within the jurisdiction of the agency for any purpose authorized by law, by providing the requested verification or status information."

Is DHS breaking the law? It won't say. It won't comment. Perhaps there's an out: INS technically no longer exists.

Former Justice lawyer and GOP appointee Hans von Spakovsky said the state should sue. More here on that

May 26, 2012

April 24, 2012

Task force for drug-addicted babies convenes

Attorney General Pam Bondi and health leaders from around the state met in Tallahassee today to address the flood of babies born to drug-addicted mothers.

The task force was created by legislation passed this year to examine the problem of prescription drug abuse by expectant mothers, the costs associated with caring for babies suffering from neonatal withdrawal syndrome, the long-term effects of the syndrome, and prevention strategies.

The meeting mostly consisted of reviewing the harm caused to drug-addicted babies and organizing research duties.

Continue reading "Task force for drug-addicted babies convenes" »

Before Supreme Court hearings, ACLU of Florida slams Bondi support of Arizona immigration law

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida slammed Attorney General Pam Bondi Tuesday for supporting an Arizona law the group says unfairly targets immigrants and encourages racial profiling.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments tomorrow on the law, which among other things, requires police officers to verify the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being undocumented.

"As Florida’s principal legal officer, the attorney general should know that racial profiling is bad policing, and that it drives an unnecessary wedge between law enforcement and the communities it protects," said ACLU of Florida director Howard Simon in a prepared statement.

Bondi, alongside 15 attorneys general from other states, signed a legal brief in support of the law in February.

Continue reading "Before Supreme Court hearings, ACLU of Florida slams Bondi support of Arizona immigration law" »

April 23, 2012

Florida Senate-race drama exposes GOP jitters

Jeff Atwater’s just-ended flirtation with a U.S. Senate bid speaks volumes about the nervousness of Florida Republicans these days.

The GOP’s best hope, Congressman Connie Mack, hasn’t been running the type of campaign many Republicans want to unseat a beatable Democratic incumbent, Bill Nelson. Some wanted Atwater, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, to run. Others approached House Speaker Dean Cannon, who declined as did a wealthy no-name.

But the drama is about more than just Mack or the Senate race.

It’s about a Republican Party grappling with ebbing fortunes compared to the red-wave of an election year in 2010. It’s about a movement nagged by a sense of perpetual disappointment that stretches to the top of the ticket.

And it’s about the potentially colliding political agendas of Atwater, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Column here

February 10, 2012

Florida gets $8.4 billion chunk of $25 billion mortgage settlement

A landmark mortgage settlement over the mishandling of millions of foreclosures nationwide could bring in billions of dollars in new housing aid for Florida homeowners, but critics of the long-awaited deal say the money isn’t nearly enough to help the millions of homeowners in hard-hit markets like South Florida.

“We’re looking at over 1 million [troubled] properties in Florida, and how many of them are going to be saved with these principal write-downs?” said Jack McCabe, CEO of McCabe Research and Consulting in Deerfield Beach, shortly after the national deal was announced Thursday. “I think that’s a precious few, maybe 20 percent.”

The $25 billion agreement was reached following 16 months of complex negotiations between 50 attorneys general and five major banks amid allegations of robo-signing and other abuses during the foreclosure crisis. Florida’s share: $8.4 billion, second only behind California.

Under terms of the settlement, Floridians who have lost their homes or have fallen underwater on their loans could receive a $2,000 check, a $20,000 mortgage reduction or a lower interest rate.

Read the rest of the story here.


September 02, 2011

Federal court delays Manuel Valle execution

A federal court has delayed the execution of Manuel Valle, who shot and killed Coral Gables Police Officer Louis Pena after a routine traffic stop in 1978.

Valle’s execution was scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta temporarily stayed the execution until at least 7 p.m. Thursday.

In that time, the appeals court asked Valle’s lawyers and the Florida attorney general’s office to submit written arguments regarding Valle’s claim that he was improperly denied a clemency hearing.

This is the second delay in Valle’s execution since Gov. Rick Scott signed a death warrant earlier this summer. The first time, the execution was pushed back for a month while the courts examined if the new use of a drug in Florida’s lethal injections is safe and effective.

The Florida Supreme Court signed off on using the drug, pentobarbital. The governor rescheduled the execution — originally set for Aug. 2 — for Tuesday.

Valle’s lawyers filed at least two separate appeals in federal court and another with the U.S. Supreme Court. One of those appeals resulted in the second stay of execution. The others are pending.

June 11, 2011

Kriseman urges Bondi to prosecute travel companies based on new documents

Armed with fresh documents (links below) that show online travel companies may have conspired to avoid paying more than $440 million in taxes in Florida, a state legislator is urging Attorney General Pam Bondi to force the travel giants to pay up.

The issue has been the focus of legal and political fights for years as counties and hotel companies have fought the online companies that sell unused hotel rooms to travelers looking for deals. Counties argue that the companies should pay tourist development taxes on the total cost of the room charged to customers. The online travel companies say they should only pay taxes on the negotiated rate they pay the hotels — not on what they keep in profit.

Former Attorney General Bill McCollum sued Expedia and Orbitz in 2009 for unfair trade practices. But Bondi, who succeeded him in January, put the lawsuit on hold during the legislative session as lawmakers attempted to exempt the travel companies from paying the additional taxes, said Bondi spokeswoman Jennifer Krell Davis.

The bill died, but Bondi has neither revived the stalled lawsuit nor started her own investigation.Download Fla+Atty+General+Bill+McCollum+lawsuit+vs+dot+coms[2]

In a May 17 letter to Bondi, Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, urged her to prosecute the companies based on newly-discovered company documents. The documents show that lawyers for the companies advised their clients since 2003 to “make it as difficult as possible for any state to require us to collect occupancy tax” until they could change the laws to exempt them from paying it. Download Kriseman_letter_to_Atty_Gen_Bondi_-_online_travel_resellers[1] 

Full story here.

Internal company documents and special masters reports here: Download 2003 01 28 Memo to USA Interactive; Download 2003 01 31 Memo to Expedia[1]; Download 2003 07 28 MSB Occupancy Tax Analysis; Download 2006 03 30 Pennsylvania DOR response to John Allan; Download 2008 10 02 Georgia DOR letter; Download 2008 12 03 Columbus GA (Orbitz) Report of Special Master crime fraud order; Download 2009 08 21 EXPEDIA - Report of Special Master.

January 18, 2011

Six more states join Florida's health care lawsuit

Six more states joined Florida's lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care legislation on Tuesday, bringing the total number of states suing over the statute to 26. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a motion in federal court in Pensacola adding Iowa, Ohio, Kansas, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Maine to the list of plaintiffs.

"It sends a strong message that more than half of the states consider the health care law unconstitutional and are willing to fight it in court," Bondi said in a prepared statement. "I look forward to continuing to defend Florida's families and businesses against this unconstitutional law and upholding the Constitution."

Carol S.Weissert, a political science professor at Florida State University and editor of a scholarly journal on federalism and intergovernmental relations, called the lawsuit one of the most significant instances of states fighting the federal government since Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, the landmark case that deemed it unconstitutional for states to segregate schools.

"Certainly in the last few decades, this case is the most important one in terms of federalism," he said. "It has such strong state support and we’ve been trying to deal with national health insurance for half a century. And then it really has some potential in terms of the federal/state balance."