March 26, 2010

Did Bill McCollum break state law with health care bill lawsuit?

When she bashed Attorney General Bill McCollum's health care lawsuit today, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chief Democratic whip in the House, let slip an interesting charge: That McCollum failed to go through the proper legal channels before filing his suit.

"State law requires a study and to consult with the congressional delegation," she said.

She's right. Kind of. Statute 16.52 says as much (text at bottom).

But the attorney general's office struck back with a May 5, 1999 memo from then Attorney General Bob Butterworth (a Democrat) who said the office can initiate federal constitutional challenges under its common-law powers. In an interview, Butterworth said he didn't remember the memo or the statute cited by Wasserman Schultz, but he said he believed McCollum could file the suit without consulting Wasserman Schultz, et al. Download Butterworth

What's he think of the ObamaCare suit? Said Butterworth: "I haven't read it."

Spoken like a true AG.

The statute language:

"In order to provide for independent action and cooperative participation by the state in a program of concerted action among the states, and independent procedure to oppose any existing or proposed federal legislative encroachments upon constitutional state powers, it is hereby made a duty of the Department of Legal Affairs to make a study of federal legislation - existing and proposed - to determine whether such legislation has resulted, or may result, in objectionable or harmful encroachments upon the constitutional integrity of state governments, and with due regard to this state's full contribution to the national war effort, in cooperation with the attorneys general of other states, or alone, to pursue that course best calculated to preserve and safeguard the constitutional state powers of the government of this state. It shall furnish to each of the several representatives in the Congress from this state, a written statement giving the reasons for any action being considered, or about to be taken hereunder at the time; and if possible, shall procure the assistance of such representatives therein and therefor." 

March 25, 2010

Dems: Audit Bill McCollum's office over health lawsuit

Senate and House Democratic leaders are striking back at Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum for his lawsuit to stop ObamaCare. They want Senate President Jeff Atwater and House Speaker Larry Cretul (Republicans) to call on the Auditor General to examine McCollum's office to determine just what the office is up to, how it picks its targets, etc.

Looks like Cretul's office is ready to say no, and Atwater might follow suit.

The open question: Who wins?

Maybe Sen. Dan Gelber, at least in his his primary bid v. Sen. Dave Aronberg. Gelber's aggressively campaigning against McCollum, even though the Republican is running for gov. McCollum is a conservative that liberals love to hate (cf. his role in the impeachment of President Clinton), so Gelber's striking Democratic primary gold.

In the governor's race, it all comes down to the independents in the polls. If they look like they hate the healthcare reform law, then McCollum will be a darling and his Democratic opponent for gov, CFO Alex Sink, could have a tough time seizing the spotlight. So far, she has avoided the health bill like it's the flu incarnate. But independents also profess to dislike partisanship, and legislative Dems appear to be doing their best to make McCollum out to be a partisan animal.

Anyway, here's the letter:

Continue reading "Dems: Audit Bill McCollum's office over health lawsuit" »

On Gelber's 'silly political antics'...

Republican Bill McCollum's campaign for governor is none too pleased with Democratic Sen. Dan Gelber's broadside against his lawsuit over ObamaCare. More here for the background.

Said McCollum's campaign in a written statement: "Silly political antics by Attorney General candidates on the chamber floor aside, a vote for Dan Gelber’s amendment was a vote to support Washington’s unconstitutional health care plan that will raise taxes, kill jobs and cut Medicare."

Bill McCollum's 'political frolic' continues...

Is it an election year, or what?

First Attorney General Bill McCollum holds a slew of press conferences leading up to his lawsuit aimed at stopping ObamaCare. He and other attorneys general hired an outside lawyer that, they say, will cost each state about $20 an hour. At the same time, McCollum's pushing legislation to cap the fees of outside attorneys.

Enter Sen. Dan Gelber, a Democrat seeking to succeed the Republican attorney general. He sponsored an amendment to the McCollum's fee-cap legislation (first reported here) aimed at stopping the lawsuit. The amendment failed 12-24 on a party-line vote. But not before Gelber pulled out the rhetorical stops.

“Why is our Attorney General spending all the resources of his office almost on a daily basis for this political frolic to get headlines?" Gelber said, grabbing a headline of his own. He called McCollum's effort a "circus" and an "ideological escapade," and said that McCollum is siding with big insurance companies against kids while ignoring child predators, pill mills and gang violence -- all are issues that McCollum, however, has made priorities.

Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, gave Gelber a mild there-you-go-again chiding.

"My good friend Sen. Gelber. You're at it again," Thrasher said.

“What we’ve gotten into unfortunately is a political debate over legislation passed in Washington D.C.”
“Defend us from a mandate that has never before in the history of this country has never been done: where we have to purchase insurance.”

After the amendment died, the other Democratic Sen. running for Attorney General, Dave Aronberg, bashed the fee caps as a "polluters protection act." Aronberg said the bill would unfairly "tie the hands of future attorneys general" in big tort cases like an oil spill or a massive prescription drug case.

Thrasher also swiped at Aronberg, thanking him and Gelber for trading blows against his bill.

"It's good to see you all dividing your time," Thrasher said. The bill passed 27-11 and now heads to the governor for his signature.

March 24, 2010

Dan Gelber amend: repeal Bill McCollum's healthcare challenge

Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum wants to limit big contracts with outside law firms by capping their fees, and he has hired his old law firm, Baker & Hostetler, to press a Constitutional challengel to President Obama's health-reform plan.

Now Democrat Sen. Dan Gelber, who hopes to succeed McCollum, is striking back at both efforts. Gelber has filed an amendment to the lawyer fee-cap bill to cancel the contract McCollum inked with Baker & Hostetler.

The amendment has zero chance of passing (less than McCollum's chance of prevailing in court). It reads:

Notwithstanding any other provision of this section or any other law, the Attorney General may not enter into a contingency fee contract with a private attorney, or any other contract with a private attorney, if the purpose of such contract is to provide legal representation in, or legal support for, litigation challenging the constitutionality of federal health care reform legislation providing qualifying health care coverage for individuals. The Attorney General must rescind,within the terms of the contract, any current contract executed on or before July 1, 2010, for the purposes proscribed by this subsection.

March 19, 2010

Access to Bright Futures gets a little more dim

The Senate's committee for the higher education budget just OK'd a bill that would impose tougher standards for getting the bright futures scholarship.  Only State Sen. Dan Gelber, a Democrat from Miami Beach, opposed.

Amongst other things, the proposed overhaul of the program included raising the SAT requirements by up to 80 points, reducing the time a student has to use the money and restricting funding only to classes the student needs to graduate.

"If we don't take these steps there is no way we will have the money in the more challenging years the next two years ahead," said state Sen. Evelyn Lynn, a Republican from Ormond Beach who heads the committee.

Representatives from Florida A & M University and the State College system, among others, all spoke in favor of the bill.

"We know our students and our students will be impacted,'' said Tom Furlong, interim president of St. Petersburg College and a representative of the State College system. "But the time has come for tough decisions and we support your efforts."

Gelber said he voted against the bill as a matter of principle. He said he didn't think enough money was allocated on the budget for higher education, given the number of people who are trying to earn higher degrees in light of a down economy.

March 18, 2010

Gelber: Florida amendment opposing health care reform called 'ideological frolic'

State Sen. Carey Baker read a Tea Party manifesto, citing founding father Dr. Benjamin Rush, against national health care reform as he pitched a Florida Constitutional amendment that ensures that state residents are not compelled to participate in any health care system.

The rhetoric seemed pointless to Sen. Dan Gelber, a Miami Democrat. He said the ballot amendment wouldn't hold water if Congress approves health care legislation because of the federal supremacy clause.

"I do wish we would quit these ideological frolics," Gelber said, saying lawmakers need to focus on providing health care to the uninsured. (His quip impressed Chairman Joe Negron, who predicted it would get posted in 15 minutes. We apologize it took 10 minutes longer, our computer froze.)

March 03, 2010

February 26, 2010

Wasserman-Schultz, Klein make endorsements in AG race

UPDATED 11:15 a.m.: Not to be outdone by Dan Gelber's endorsement announcement below, his rival Dave Aronberg added Congressman Ron Klein to his camp. "His legislative record embodies the commitment to public safety and consumer advocacy that we must demand of Florida’s next attorney general," Klein said.

Miami State Sen. Dan Gelber hauled in the biggest endorsement so far in the competitive Democratic primary for Attorney General as Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced Friday her support for his campaign.

In a letter to Gelber's supporters, the Weston Democrat and DNC vice-chairwoman said he "has the experience the job demands."

"I know you want Florida to finally obtain the change that has eluded it," Wasserman Schultz's fundraising letter states. "Dan's experience, passion and integrity is precisely what we need."

Gelber and his primary opponent, state Sen. Dave Aronberg of Greenacres, have touted the endorsements of various county sheriff's in recent weeks, but few high-ranking Democrats are taking sides in the race.Gelber and Wasserman Schultz, however, go back to their days in the Florida House together.

To read the full memo, check below.

Continue reading "Wasserman-Schultz, Klein make endorsements in AG race" »

February 11, 2010

Dem AG candidates: Investigate RPOF credit cards

From a letter sent by Sens. Dave Aronberg and Dan Gelber to Attorney General Bill McCollum:

"As you know over the past several weeks, the allegations of possible criminal activities have rocked the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) and questions about the role elected officials had in these activities have arisen.

As Florida's chief law enforcement officer, it is incumbent on you to formally request an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into the possible criminal activity and public corruption surrounding the RPOF's secret contracts and credit cards.
To date you have neglected to call for any such investigation. We hope you will reconsider your duty in this matter where it is clear that Floridians deserve to know the truth." (Full letter here: Download Aronberg-Gelber Letter to McCollum )