February 14, 2011

Poll: Floridians unhappy, impatient and pessimistic about state's economy

A majority of Floridians are increasingly pessimistic about the future of the state, agree with Gov. Rick Scott that state government is wasteful, disagree with him that tax cuts and immigration reform are the solution, and believe that the state's business and elected leaders rarely have the state's best interest at heart, according to a new poll commissioned by Leadership Florida.

According to the survey of 1,220 Floridians between Jan. 3 and 16 by The Nielsen Company, 45 percent of respondents say the state is in worse shape than five  ago or is getting worse. No surprise there since five years ago Florida was at the peak of its real estate bubble and the economy hadn't tanked. What is surprising is the response they have to years of job creation efforts by everyone from local officials to the state Legislature and Cabinet: 55 percent say the state is doing a poor job creating jobs.

That's either going to be music to the ears of the "Let's Get to Work" governor, or a warning that Floridians are terribly impatient, said John Streitmatter, chairman of Leadership Florida, the non-profit leadership training organization.

“Because Gov. Rick Scott has identified job creation as his top priority and Floridians say it is their top priority as well, these survey results would seem to indicate an opportunity for him,” Streitmatter said in a statement. “At the same time, Floridians have told us they are also very impatient with all levels of government right now, which means that today’s challenge could very quickly turn into tomorrow’s disappointment for the governor and the people.”

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January 19, 2011

December 07, 2010

Jim Morrison pardon: Crist and Bronson, yeah; Sink and McCollum, maybe

The vote for a posthumous pardon of rock 'n' roll icon Jim Morrison now stands at two yes and two maybes.

Gov. Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson said Tuesday that they each would support exonerating the lead singer for The Doors for his 1969 indency conviction when it comes up on the agenda of the final Clemency Board meeting on Thursday. But Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Attorney General Bill McCollum, who each said two weeks ago that they would consider the pardon, now say they are still pondering their response. All four of them leave office in January.

"I have not thought about much of the pardons that are going on,or commutations, or any of that sort of thing,'' McCollum said after a marathon final Cabinet meeting of the year on Tuesday. "I will reserve judgment on all of those until then."

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November 09, 2010

Bronson, Putnam discuss Ag transition

Agriculture Commissioner-elect Adam Putnam spoke with reporters today alongside sitting commissioner Charles Bronson about the upcoming transition in the Agriculture Department. Putnam, a five-term congressman from Bartow, has set up a office in the Capitol and is now reviewing applications and ideas for the department along with his transition team. 104_0228

Putnam pledged to work on food safety, water policy and consumer protection. He added that Bronson's legacy is his work on his "farm to fuel" initiative that encourages farmers to produce energy from biomass. "Before any other elected official was talking about it, this department was leading the way with farm to fuel discussions and summits and innovation that is leading to real capital investment in Florida," he said.

Putnam noted that two longtime Department of Agriculture staffers have left (he called it a loss for the department and a gain for the Senate) and speculated that there will be other employees who choose to move to other opportunities.

September 24, 2010

Poll: GOP up in Cabinet races, Amend 8 DOA, Hometown Dem might pass

The Republican candidates in the three races for Florida Cabinet are gaining traction with independent voters and slightly leading their Democratic rivals, according to a new poll that suggests 2010 is shaping up to be a good year for conservatives.

But it’s not a cakewalk.

The leads of Pam Bondi for attorney general, Adam Putnam for agriculture commissioner and Jeff Atwater for chief financial officer are well within the 4-percentage point error-margin of the Mason-Dixon Research & Associates survey of likely Florida voters.

The poll shows far clearer results when it comes to the Legislature’s plan to scale back a constitutional limit on classroom sizes. It appears headed for certain defeat at the Nov. 2 polls. Another proposed Constitutional Amendment, which would give citizens a vote in growth management plans, has a fair chance of passing.

While the Cabinet races are far tougher to predict, the poll indicates Republicans are enjoyed the support of voters with no party affiliation – the crucial swing vote in Florida.

“It’s a subtle sign that this is looking like a Republican year,’’ said Brad Coker, Mason-Dixon pollster. “I don’t think there’s a Democratic pollster out there who isn’t seeing this and who isn’t worried about it.”

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August 26, 2010

McCollum: 'I still have serious questions' about Scott

Bill McCollum called Rick Scott Wednesday to congratulate him on his victory in the GOP primary -- but he refused to endorse him in the race.

"I still have serious questions ... about issues with his character, his integrity, his honestly, things that go back to Columbia/HCA and I have not had the occasion to really actually even get acquainted with him," McCollum said after the Cabinet meeting. "As other voters will do I will judge him throughout this campaign."

So much for GOP unity ...

McCollum said he also spoke to Democrat Alex Sink and independent candidate Bud Chiles. He declined to go into detail about any of the conversations.

August 18, 2010

A.G. hopeful Pam Bondi wins Palin's support

67654_00043e With six days to go until Florida Republicans pick a nominee for attorney general, former Hillsborough prosecutor Pam Bondi scored a significant endorsement Wednesday from Sarah Palin.

(The picture shows the two women together in May at a Susan B. Anthony event in Washington.)

On her Facebook page, Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP nominee for vice-president, announced she was supporting a series of women candidates in conjunction with the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote. Palin described Bondi (and AG candidate Brenna Findley in Iowa) as "bold, sharp, selfless women ... who won’t kowtow to the Obama administration’s big government overreach into our states."

Bondi faces Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and former state Rep. and agency head Holly Benson next Tuesday. Palin is a prospective 2012 Republican presidential candidate who's interested in expanding her nationwide network of influential supporters. 

-- Steve Bousquet

July 29, 2010

Police exams to cost $50 more because legislators raided account

Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson had no patience Thursday for the decision of the Florida legislature to strip the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's police training trust fund of $2.7 million to fill its budget hole.

The agency asked the Cabinet to approve a $50 increase in the examination fee given to law enforcement candidates to make up at least $450,000 of the lost money. The fee increase must go through one final hurdle -- a rulemaking process to formalize it.

 "There's no trust in the trust funds,'' Bronson said, adding that he hopes to have a word about it with House and Senate leaders. "I realize the problems the legislature is having, trying to make things work and having to move money...but it's like saying 'let's throw our money down a rat hole and maybe this time it won't go to the bottom.''

Attorney General Bill McCollum agreed. "It's a very, very bad scene when we go out and raid these trust funds,'' he said. He also noted that the Cabinet can't be called out for enacting a new fee since the legislature authorized it.

FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey said he had no choice but to ask for the increase, although he conceded: "It's going to be tough to ask them for another $50 to take a test'' after they've already paid between $1,500 to $3,500 for training.

Gov. Charlie Crist was the lone vote against the fee hike. "On behalf of the 9000 people who have to pay 50 bucks more,” he said.

Cabinet rejects Sink's appeal for diversity and names veteran on parole board

Tena Pate Gov. Charlie Crist and the Cabinet rejected an appeal by CFO Alex Sink Thursday to increase the diversity of the Florida's Parole Commission and reappointed Tena Pate (left) to the three-person commission, also making her chairman of the board and agency for the next two years.

Sink urged the group to instead appoint Cassandra Jenkins, a law enforcement officer, juvenile justice consultant and criminal justice instructor at Florida State University, because "there has been no diversity on our parole board for more than eight years."

She said "we know we have many, many African American victims of crime, a large percentage of people coming before the parole board that are African Americans and yet, for eight years, we do not have a parole board that reflects the diversity of our population."

Pate, who was originally appointed to the commission by former Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003, "has been serving very, very capably,'' Sink said, and urged the future governor and Cabinet to appoint her when another opening emerges in January.

Later, Sink sent her colleagues a letter urging them to replace the retiring chairman of the commission before January, when a new administration and Cabinet take office. Download Governor and Cabinet 7-29-10

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June 03, 2010

Bobby Bowden appears before Cabinet for former player

Former Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden made an appearance at the clemency hearing today.

Outside the meeting Bowden said he appeared to support Sammie Lee Smith, a former FSU standout running back arrested for cocaine possession in 1995.

Smith is seeking the restoration of his civil rights, but the parole commission gave him an unfavorable recommendation.

Bowden said he would on Smith's behalf if asked. Smith, who lives in Orlando, was drafted in first round of the 1989 NFL draft (9th overall) by the Miami Dolphins. He played three years for the Dolphins and the Denver Broncos.