July 25, 2015

Super-lobbyist Ron Book bashes Miami commissioner for 'despicable' behavior on homeless issue (W/AUDIO)


The fierce debate over Miami’s sleeping-mat program for the homeless turned personal on Friday, as Miami-Dade Homeless Trust chairman Ron Book lashed out at city leaders — singling out one commissioner in particular.

Book took aim at Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who spearheaded the mat program. The two men have feuded over whether the county homeless agency should help fund 115 outdoor mats, which are part of a covered pavilion at the Camillus House shelter. Sarnoff says it’s only right that the county chip in; Book says outdoor mats encourage the homeless to stay on the street rather than seek social services, and his agency won’t fund something that’s counterproductive.

The mat program, started last year, runs out of money on Aug. 1.

On Friday, Book said Sarnoff has jumped into the homelessness issue without truly understanding it. And the city of Miami, he said, can’t be trusted.

“They’re never OK, they’re never satisfied, because Marc Sarnoff wants to be nothing but right, and he’s wrong about this, he’s wrong about it,” said Book, who in addition to leading the Homeless Trust is also one of Florida’s most powerful lobbyists.

Book’s angry comments, with his arm repeatedly banging on the table, came during a sit-down meeting with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. The meeting, which was open to the public, was an attempt by Gimenez to broker a deal on the outdoor mat issue.

As Book ripped into Sarnoff — who wasn’t in attendance — Gimenez tried to calm him.

“He thinks he’s right, you think you’re right,” the mayor said.

“He’s no expert!” responded Book, his voice raised. “He parachutes in, he hasn’t done any research, he hasn’t gone to conferences, he doesn’t care, ’cause he wants to be right. ... His behavior is despicable.”

Ron Book speaks with county mayor

More here.

January 07, 2015

The curious case of Dan Webster, a 'plodder, not a prophet'

Via @learyreports

U.S. Rep. Dan Webster of Florida is a "plodder" — his words — and he's maintained that style since arriving in Washington four years ago. But on Tuesday the Republican became the lead protagonist of an attempted coup against House Speaker John Boehner.

"No regrets," Webster said in an interview Wednesday as he and his staff were still consumed by the whirlwind of attention.

Webster did not get enough votes to oust Boehner, but the attempt illustrated rank-and-file dissatisfaction with Republican leadership.

"I felt like I had a message to give and an opportunity to do it, that is I want to have a more member-driven process where every member gets an opportunity to play. Take a pyramid of power where a few people make the decisions, push it down, spread it out," Webster said. "We have a lot of talented people in this Congress and we can avoid a lot of unintended consequences if we just included them."

More here

December 09, 2014

Movers & Shakers

While three secretaries of a major state agency have recently resigned, Gov. Rick Scott has announced the reappointment or promotion of three other administrators this week.

 Elizabeth Dudek will continue to serve as the Secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. Barbara Palmer has been reappointed as director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. And Mike Carroll has been appointed the permanent secretary of the Department of Children and Families after serving as the interim head for nearly eight months.

Dudek has held the AHCA secretary post since March 2011, facing such controversial issues as moving Medicaid into a managed-care program, Obamacare and troubled assisted living facilities.

Continue reading "Movers & Shakers" »

December 01, 2014

Richardson the first openly gay representative to hold House leadership post

State Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, has been selected as the Democratic Floor Leader by House Democratic leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, and Democratic Leader pro tempore, Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville. Richardson will be the first openly gay representative in Florida history to serve in a leadership position in the Florida legislature, according to House Democrats. 

Here's the Democrats' press statement:

Richardson, D-Miami Beach, was the first openly gay member ever elected to the Florida Legislature when he was elected on August 14, 2012. Richardson has been a licensed CPA in Florida for 30 years and began his career as a Pentagon auditor identifying fraud, waste and abuse in government contracts. He was re-elected earlier this year to represent House District 113 for his second two-year term and is the only openly gay member of the Florida Legislature. Richardson joins the leadership team that will guide policy and action for House Democrats. As Floor Leader, he will serve as the chief liaison between the Democratic Leader and the Office of the Speaker. Richardson will also serve as ranking member on the House Rules, Calendar & Ethics Committee. In that role, Richardson will work on daily schedules of action for the House. Richardson will also manage, in conjunction with Republican leaders, floor debate on bills and amendments.

Continue reading "Richardson the first openly gay representative to hold House leadership post" »

November 12, 2014

Half of Florida 'barely getting by' poverty report shows


Almost half the residents of Florida, including much of the state’s glitzy southern half, are barely getting by, living below the federal poverty level or struggling to pay for food, housing, childcare and other basic needs, according to a United Way study released Tuesday.

Dubbed the ALICE report, the study looks closely at the working poor — those people squeezed between the nation’s poorest and its middle class, often overlooked and living paycheck-to-paycheck. Statewide, about 2.1 million households fall into the category, the report found. In Miami-Dade County, the rate is even higher: 21 percent of households live below the federal poverty level and an additional 29 percent can’t afford a “survival budget.”

In Broward and Monroe counties, the numbers are almost as bleak, with 47 and 48 percent living below the poverty level or scrambling to cover basic needs, according to the report. Story here.  

Key excerpts:

They attribute the swelling ranks of the poor to a variety of reasons.

More than half of the jobs in Florida pay less than $15 an hour, with the greatest growth in the job market projected for low-paying retail and service industry jobs. Almost half of households — 48 percent — don’t have enough savings or liquid assets to survive three months without a paycheck. And the state’s aging population means even more residents are likely to slip into poverty.

The state’s demographics don’t offer much hope: Only 27 percent of residents older than 25 hold a bachelor’s or advanced degree.

November 10, 2014

Movers & Shakers

Dominguez takes over as regional director of external affairs in Miami

Alex Dominguez has been named the new regional director of external affairs for the city of Miami and South Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Domingues previously served as the director of the Miami-Dade County Legislative Delegation. 

He has also had roles as the director of fundraising and membership development for the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, the South Florida political coordinator for the Florida Association of Realtors and he was a Florida House Legislative Fellow.

In his position, Dominguez will handle legislative and community affairs initiatives. He will also assist with new technology deployment and infrastructure investment.

On the bench

Judge Rodolfo Ruiz II and Jason Bloch have been appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to Miami-Dade County's Eleventh Judicial Circuit.

Continue reading "Movers & Shakers" »

Simmons named new Senate Rules Committee chair

Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamone Springs, has been named by Senate President-Designate Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, as the new chair of the Senate Committee on Rules. 

"David is a loyal advisor, a trusted confidante and good friend," Gardiner said in a press release. "With over three decades of experience practicing law and ten years of service in the state legislature, he is well-qualified to assume this critical leadership position. Throughout his years of public service, David has exhibited sound judgment and a fair-minded, reasonable and thoughtful approach to decision making that, I am confident, will be a great benefit to the Senate over the next two years."

Simmons represents State Senate District 10, which includes all of Seminole County and portions of Volusia County. He served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2000-2008 and was elected to the Senate in 2010 and re-elected subsequently. Simmons, who earned his law degree at Vanderbilt University, practiced law in Florida for more than 30 years.


November 04, 2014

Ken Detzner: So far, no hitches at the polls on Election Day


Voting is going "very smoothly" this morning, with all polls opening on time in the state's 6,222 precincts, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said at an elections briefing in Tallahassee.

While millions are expected to vote today, the number of early votes cast could be a record, he said. As of last night, 1.7 million Floridians voted by absentee ballot and 1.3 million voted in-person at the polls. By party, 655,020 Democrats and 791,324 Republicans voted by absentee ballot and 555,473 Democrats and 518,476 Republicans voted early in-person at the polls.

"Voters are very pleased to get out early and vote absentee," he said. "I think we might actually see some records in regards to the number of absentee ballots that were mailed and that we're seeing returned.

"By the time the polls close this evening, we should have a sizeable number of votes already counted because of legislative changes made in 2013," Detzner said, referring to fixes restoring more early voting after Florida's flawed 2012 election process.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division is monitoring polling locations in four Florida counties -- Duval, Hillsborough, Lee and Orange -- to ensure federal voting laws are followed. Detzner said these "observers" are present in 17 states, but stressed his confidence that the voting process has improved.

Given a governor's race too tight to predict, the state is ready for a recount, Detzner said. But the contest between Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Cristisn't the only challenge supervisors face this evening.

Several other tight races could require a recount, including the 2nd Congressional District race between Republican Steve Southerland and Democrat Gwen Grahamand the District 26 race where Miami Democrat Joe Garcia is battling Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo.

Continue reading "Ken Detzner: So far, no hitches at the polls on Election Day" »

October 27, 2014

Report: Florida leads nation in disenfranchising offenders released from prison

The Sentencing Project has released a report showing that Florida has the highest felony disenfranchisement rate in the country, another issue dividing Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist.

In 2011, Scott and the Cabinet imposed strict new barriers on felons who want to regain the right to vote, tossing out a streamlined policy adopted in 2007 by Crist and a different Cabinet. The discarded policy allowed tens of thousands of nonviolent offenders to regain their civil rights without a time-consuming application and hearing process. Murders and sex offenders were not eligible for faster review under the system approved by Crist and the Cabinet in 2007.

The current policy requires felons to wait at least five years after completing their sentences before applying for civil rights and during that wait they can't have been arrested. Certain classes of violent felons will have to wait seven years to apply.

In the four years under Crist's reforms, 154,000 people had their rights restored, The Tampa Bay Times reported. In the three years under the Scott-era changes, that number has slid to under 1,000 as of mid January.

Here's the Sentencing Project's report:

Washington, DC - As the 2014 midterm elections approach, an estimated 5.85 million Americans will be unable to exercise their voting rights due to a felony conviction. Overall, 75% of disenfranchised individuals are no longer incarcerated. Of this population, 2.6 million have completed their sentences, yet remain disenfranchised in the 12 states with the most restrictive policies.

This year, disenfranchisement policies may affect the outcomes of U.S. elections, with a disproportionate impact on communities of color. One in every 13 black adults will be left without a voice in this year's electoral process. Black Americans of voting age are four times more likely to lose their voting rights than the rest of the adult population. More than one in five black adults is disenfranchised in Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia.

The following 10 states hold the highest disenfranchisement rates in the United States:

Florida - 10.4%

Mississippi - 8.3%

Kentucky - 7.4%

Virginia - 7.3%

Alabama - 7.2%

Tennessee - 7.1%

Wyoming - 6.0%

Nevada - 4.2%

Arizona - 4.2%

Georgia 3.8%


September 20, 2014

NYT exposes the source in the Gary Hart affair

In a bit of trivia that will fascinate historians of presidential politics, journalism and tawdry sex scandals, the New York Times has named a South Florida woman it says was the source of a Miami Herald story 27 years ago that wrecked the candidacy of Democrat Gary Hart.

Hart, a U.S. senator from Colorado, was the frontrunner for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination when the Herald published a story detailing his dalliance with a sleek Miami model and bit actress named Donna Rice.

The story sent Hart’s campaign into a tailspin that ended with his withdrawal a week later. It also began a new era of political journalism in which politicians’ private lives, which had been mostly exempt from media scrutiny, were now considered measurements of “character” and thus fair game for reporters.

The Herald’s report was triggered by an anonymous source who had seen the married Hart partying with Rice aboard a yacht (named, with unspeakable irony, the Monkey Business) anchored at Turnberry Isle. The Herald has never identified her. More from Glenn Garvin here.