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.

May 27, 2010

McCollum changes tone on federal oil cleanup

Attorney General Bill McCollum issued a blistering condemnation of President Barack Obama's response to the disastrous oil spill, calling it "unacceptable." But it doesn't jibe with his previous response just two days prior.

From his office's statement Thursday: "President Obama’s press conference today only reinforced what Floridians have known for weeks – the federal government is not doing everything it can to prevent further damage from the Deepwater Horizon spill."

But asked Tuesday if the federal government needed to takeover the cleanup effort from BP -- as CFO Alex Sink suggested and Gov. Charlie Crist embraced -- McCollum's office struck a different cord: "The Attorney General believes that more federal oversight on the oil spill response would certainly be welcome."

McCollum's earlier statement also suggested the onus falls to BP, more than the federal government, for cleanup and claims. "Federal law already makes BP the responsible party, and we will continue applying as much pressure as possible on behalf of Floridians and Florida businesses to BP as it manages the claims process," it continued.

May 24, 2010

Sink calls for feds to takeover oil cleanup

With the oil still gushing unabated, CFO Alex Sink is asking President Barack Obama to take control of the Gulf cleanup efforts. "Floridians want to know: Where is the Federal government’s leadership?" she wrote in a letter to the White House. "Why must a small business owner looking for assistance through this crisis have to work through BP – why isn’t the Federal government handling claims of lost income and revenue, and interfacing with BP on behalf of Florida’s citizens?

Sink, a Democrat, asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar or Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to brief the Cabinet tomorrow. (Or a future meeting, given the less-than-24-hour notice.)

Meanwhile, her potential Democratic gubernatorial rival Bud Chiles is demanding the state cut the involvement of a private firm, WRSCompass, who is helping counties makes oil disaster plans. “The very idea that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has delegated one of its most basic responsibilities to a private company with questionable credentials should be appalling to our citizens," he said in a statement through a PR agency. "The fact that this firm numbers oil companies among its clients raises serious questions about whether it can be trusted to work in the public interest."

May 12, 2010

Voters undecided in statewide 2010 races

A new Ron Sachs/Mason-Dixon poll shows wide open races for statewide offices with few voters confident about which candidate to elect. (Here are the findings.)

Take the race for Attorney General: voters are 73 percent undecided in the Democratic primary (feature Sen. Dan Gelber verse Sen. Dave Aronberg) and 72 percent undecided in the three-way Republican primary (which pits Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp against prosecutor Pam Bondi and former agency head Holly Benson).

The most intriguing figures come in the Agriculture Commissioner election where the poll tested a the match-up between Republican U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam and former Tallahassee mayor Scott Maddox, a Democrat. It's a deadlock with Maddox at 31 percent, Putnam at 30 percent and undecideds at 39 percent. (The margin of error is 4 percent for this question.)

"The huge number of undecided voters is really where this election rests," said PR guru Ron Sachs, whose firm isn't representing any candidates.

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March 17, 2010

State lawmaker wants investigation of insurance companies

State Rep. Alan Hays on Wednesday called for the Legislature to investigate property insurance companies in Florida, citing the millions executives made in bonuses and other perks as the companies threatened to leave Florida and begged the state for higher rates to make them profitable.

"We certainly need to have answers as to whether the practices were appropriate," said Hays, R-Umatilla, a member of the House Insurance, Business & Financial Affairs Policy Committee.

Citing a year-long investigation conducted by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune -- "How insurers make millions on the side" -- Hays said he wants to hold hearings to sort out the truth much like they do in Congress. The committee's chairman Republican Pat Patterson, a senior account agent at Allstate, dodged discussion of the issue. (The lawmakers, including Hays, then approved a measure to give insurance companies the ability to offer unregulated rates.)

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March 09, 2010

Crist says 'back waxing' is a 'trust' issue'

Thanks to Gov. Charlie Crist, a new term -- back waxing -- entered the lexicon of the U.S. Senate Republican primary with Marco Rubio. But actually, Crist said, the thanks (or not) belongs to us.

Asked where this back waxing issue came from, Crist said, "I think I read it in Adam Smith's column." In the Buzz column, Smith suggested that for a $135 at the salon would buy "not just a deluxe cut ($25), but also a pedicure, and back and eyebrow waxing."

In his remarks after the Cabinet meeting, Crist appeared animated and excited to talk about the topic. For him, it is a fissure in Rubio's image as a fiscal conservative and straight-talker.

"I don't know what's going on there," Crist said of Rubio's various explanations of the $135 charge. "It's a new answer every day. It's frustrating to you all and to me, this guy can't get his story straight."

So the campaign for U.S. Senate is reduced to this?

"The issue is trust," Crist said. "It puts a fine point on the issue. The issue is whether or not people can trust the speaker to spend their money wisely, I mean, clearly they can't."

February 09, 2010

Sink gets feisty at Cabinet meeting

CFO Alex Sink lambasted the state's top financial regulator at the Cabinet meeting Tuesday for not aggressively pursing litigation against Bank of America -- her former employer -- for its deal with Merrill Lynch.

"I'm not really impressed with the comments you made," Sink started. "The last commissioner lost his job because he hid behind not having the powers or not having the resources. ... My main frustration  ... is the sense of do nothingness and inaction in the face of all sorts of scams in our state."

The public scolding of Thomas Cardwell, the commissioner of the Office of Financial regulation, stood out for two reasons: 1. It deviated from the normally cordial decorum at Cabinet meeting and 2. Cardwell was Sink's pick for the job.

Also because Cardwell fought back. "This is not an excuse," he said, preceding it with the standard "with all due respect."

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