October 08, 2014

Florida's hangup: High cell phone fees and taxes

If you think you're forking over too much of your paycheck to pay your cell phone bill, you're not imagining things.

Florida has the fourth highest average state-local cell phone tax and fee rate in the country at 16.55 percent, according to a study by the Washington-D.C.-based Tax Foundation.

"If you add in the 5.82% federal rate, Floridians are actually paying 22.38% of their wireless bill in taxes fees on average. The U.S. average combined federal, state, and local rate is 17.05%," according to the group's press release.

 Gov. Rick Scott is now promising that he will give Florida voters a $120 million annual reduction in the communications services tax, which collects revenue from a variety of sources, including cell phones. Lowering cell phone fees has been a state budgetary consideration in the past, but the effort hasn't gone anywhere. 

The Tax Foundation reports the following highlights of its study:

* The five states with the highest state-local rates are: Washington State (18.6 percent), Nebraska (18.48 percent), New York (17.74 percent), Florida (16.55 percent), and Illinois (15.81 percent).

* The five states with the lowest state-local rates are: Oregon (1.76 percent), Nevada (1.86 percent), Idaho (2.62 percent), Montana (6.00 percent), and West Virginia (6.15 percent).

Continue reading "Florida's hangup: High cell phone fees and taxes" »

March 20, 2014

 

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

Broward LGBT activists held a fundraiser March 19 at the home of Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Dean Trantalis for Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist.

2014-03-19 Charlie Crist fundraiser in Fort Lauderdale 020After his five-minute speech, which you can watch here, Crist stated why electing him governor would be good for LGBT people in Florida:

"One of the most important things we can do is get a law on the books in Florida that recognizes the kind of things that President Obama is talking about. And that simply is why not have marriage equality throughout our country," Crist said.

"Certainly, we ought to have it in Florida and I believe that we win this election Nov. 4, we get some other progressives elected in the Florida House and Florida Senate, we’re going to have a great opportunity to get that done, and I look forward to the day we do."

Attendees included South Florida Gay News publisher Norm Kent; Florida Agenda publisher Bobby Blair; Ken Keechl, who's seeking to regain his Broward County Commission seat; former Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti; and Lauderdale Lakes Commissioner Commissioner Levoyd L. Williams, a state House candidate.

Crist’s Democratic rival is former state Sen. Nan Rich of Weston, a longtime LGBT rights advocate.

To view a photo gallery from the fundraiser, visit Steve Rothaus' Gay South Florida blog.

March 01, 2014

Gov. Scott uses private plane to shield his travel and schedule from public

By using his personal jet for public business, Florida Gov. Rick Scott can shield his itinerary from websites that track flights, and when his plane lands, he uses a public records exemption to tighten the cloak of secrecy.

Wherever Scott goes, he is shadowed by Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents. In citing a records exemption that protects FDLE “surveillance techniques” from publication, he withholds the members of his traveling party, restaurants and homes he visits, and people at meetings — all in the name of security.

To a much greater degree than the past three governors, Scott, former chief executive of the nation’s largest private hospital chain, conceals information from the public about his travel.

Governors Charlie Crist, Jeb Bush and Lawton Chiles routinely released those details. Even Scott did until last year when he regularly began using the surveillance exemption. Story here.

 

November 01, 2013

GOP file ethics complaint against Charlie Crist

A top Republican Party of Florida strategist filed a complaint Friday with the Florida Elections Commission alleging that Charlie Crist has violated state campaign law by accepting contributions before officially becoming a candidate.

In a seven-page complaint, Tim Saler attached screen shots of Crist’s campaign logo and website, charliecrist.com. They were dated Thursday, Oct. 31. Crist didn't file to run until Friday. Crist named Sanford Horwitz, a Coral Gables CPA as his campaign treasurer. 

“It would seem impossible that the candidate logo and website were created without Mr. Crist making an expenditure (or accepting a contribution) to do so,” Saler said in the complaint. “If someone other than Mr. Crist created the candidate logo and website, something of value has been created that should be treated as a contribution to Mr. Crist’s campaign for Governor.”

Saler said Crist was in violation of Florida Statute 106.021

Serious complaint or a political stunt? 

Read it for yourself: Download Cristcomplaint

September 19, 2013

Nan Rich's claim about ed funding gets a Half True from PolitiFact

@amysherman1

As he faces re-election next year, Republican Gov. Rick Scott says he wants to put money back in taxpayers’ pockets. He touts aproperty tax cut he got in 2011 (in reality, a smidgen), a pay hike for teachers in 2013 and now his proposal to cut $500 million in taxes or fees.

Scott hasn’t released specifics on his next tax cuts, but his overall message is clear: He wants voters to see him as the guy in their corner saving them money.

Former Democratic state Sen. Nan Rich who is running against Scott, calls his idea a re-election gimmick in light of Florida’s pressing needs -- including education.

"We need to be taking a long hard look at funding the critical needs of the state," she said Sept. 11. "We’re 48th in K-12 funding and 50th in higher education." Rich said more funding for education would be a better way to help the middle class.

Florida has often gotten a bad rap for education spending -- but just how bottom of the barrel are we?

PolitiFact Florida examined the state’s K-12 education funding ranking in 2010, but we wanted to see if the numbers had changed and if Rich had done her homework. Read more from PolitiFact.

August 08, 2013

Dream Defenders to launch massive voter registration drive

The Dream Defenders, who are marking Day 24 of their Capitol sit-in outside Gov. Rick Scott's office, announced they are launching a massive drive to register 61,550 voters by 2014 -- the margin Scott won by in the 2010 election. 

"We intend to register the people that are forgotten - the black, the brown, the indigent, the poor, the LGBT community and we will meet them where they are, in the classrooms, in the mall, at the club, on the corner, at the bus stop" said the Dream Defenders Executive Director Philip Agnew at a press conference Thursday.

He said the effort, which would enlist students on Florida campuses, would be geared toward issues, not candidates. "At the end of the day, we are not blue or red."

There's a need to "build power," Agnew said, so that "when the time comes again for us to move on issues like the school-to-prison pipeline, like racial profiling, like Stand Your Ground, we don't have to sit on the floor again."

Continue reading "Dream Defenders to launch massive voter registration drive" »

July 15, 2013

Movers & Shakers

Ferre appointed to Metropolitan Planning Organization in Miami-Dade

 Former Miami Mayor Maurice  Ferre, a Democrat who supported Rick Scott in the 2010 gubernatorial race after losing his own bid for the U.S. Senate, has been appointed by the governor to the Metropolitan Planning Organization of Miami-Dade County.

Ferré, 78, succeeds Maritza Gutierrez.

Miami attorney named Bondi's associate deputy for legal policy

Nilda R. Pedrosa has been appointed by Attorney General Pam Bondi to serve as associate deputy attorney general for legal policy, based in Miami. Pedrosa’s previous positions include chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart; a senior policy advisor to former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez; and assistant dean at Florida International University College of Law. Attorney Pedrosa is a Miami native and graduate of FIU and New England Law.

New appointments to Children’s Trust board in Miami-Dade 

Scott made three appointments to the Children's Trust governing board in Miami-Dade County.

Marissa Leichter, 36, of Surfside, the senior program attorney with the Guardian Ad Litem Program, succeeds Benjamin F. Gilbert Jr.

Trudy Novicki, 62, of Miami, the executive director of Krisiti House, Inc., succeeds Pamela Lillard.

Kadie Black, 30, of Miami, the external affairs director for Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe, Inc., succeeds Jose Gregoire.

Continue reading "Movers & Shakers" »

June 16, 2013

Amid governor's-race controversy, FL Dems boast they'll still whip Rick Scott

@MarcACaputo

              Florida Democrats’ best candidate for governor right now isn’t a candidate and wasn’t always one of them.

And party leaders caused a stir by snubbing a longtime candidate and party stalwart.

But when the elites of the Florida Democratic Party met Saturday for their annual fund-raising gala, they suggested none of that was really a big problem for one big reason: Rick Scott.

The unpopular Republican governor looks like an easy target for an incumbent.

“Whoever the Democratic nominee is will beat Rick Scott,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “We will win the governor’s mansion next November. There’s not any question.”

Even before the Jefferson-Jackson dinner began, Florida Democratic Party leaders said it was a success, bringing in a record $850,000.

More here

May 19, 2013

Nan Rich questions Will Weatherford's manhood

@MarcACaputo

Bearing the subject line "Is there a man in the House?" here's a press release from former state Senate Democratic leader Nan Rich, a candidate for governor:

Two weeks have passed since ceremonial handkerchiefs signaled the end of the legislative session.  But not one signal yet that the Governor will call a special session to pressure House Speaker Weatherford into passing Medicaid expansion.

Meanwhile, more than 1 million Floridians are left without healthcare coverage.

Clearly there’s no urgency on the part of the Speaker or the Governor to take action.  Maybe, just maybe, that’s because both of them are covered by great health insurance plans – plans that are heavily subsidized by the taxpayers.

In fact, Speaker Weatherford and members of the House only have to pay $8.34 a month for their personal coverage and a piddling $30 a month to cover their entire family.

What’s really outrageous is that the plan Speaker Weatherford supported in lieu of Medicaid expansion would have required the poorest Floridians to pay 3 times as much for less healthcare coverage than he pays for his healthcare coverage!

Florida is 50th (worst in the nation) in the ranking of uninsured adults and 48th in the ranking of uninsured children. That’s unconscionable.

And now, as a result of the stubbornness and shortsightedness of Speaker Weatherford and the lack of leadership of Governor Scott, Florida may lose $51 billion of Federal funds (our tax dollars) that are available for the expansion of Medicaid.

Mr. Weatherford, it’s time for you to “man up” and do the right thing!  Put your Tea-Party politics aside long enough to serve the needs of over 1 million uninsured Floridians.  Pass Medicaid expansion – as it is meant to be – according to the Affordable Care Act – the law of the land.

As Governor, I would immediately call the legislature back into Special Session and keep them there until they passed a bill that adequately addressed Medicaid expansion.

Click here to support Nan’s campaign

We can do better.  We must do better.

Nan

April 28, 2013

More on that Bill Nelson v. Rick Scott rumor here

Bill Nelson looked like the heavy favorite for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination to unseat vulnerable Republican Gov. Bob Martinez in April 1990. But as Martinez continued to beef up his reelection campaign account and then-U.S. Rep. Nelson remained little known to much of Florida, Democrats fretted over Nelson’s prospects.

Soon former Sen. Lawton Chiles confirmed the bombshell rumor: Yes, he would run for governor. Nelson gamely continued campaigning, but it was hopeless against the popular elder statesman. “Walkin’ Lawton” went on to crush Nelson by more than 30 percentage points and then Martinez by 13 points.

More than two decades later, U.S. Sen. Nelson is the elder statesman of Florida’s Democratic Party, and the buzz is growing about him stepping into the governor’s race to take on unpopular incumbent Gov. Rick Scott. With many Democratic leaders worried about the baggage of former Gov. Charlie Crist, Nelson has emerged as the potential savior of Florida Democrats.

The latest noise came Thursday when Roll Call, a Washington, D.C.-based newspaper, reported on its web site that Nelson was mulling over a possible run.

“I’d say that’s true, that he’s considering it,” Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin told the newspaper. “An awful lot of people have contacted him and asked him to do so. But — and as he’s said a number of times — he presently doesn’t have any intention of running. He’s got a job to do as a senator.” More here from Tampa Bay Times' Adam Smith.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/27/3355862/will-it-be-senator-bill-nelson.html#storylink=cpy