October 14, 2013

Strange bedfellows: FL Dems and Tea Party Miami agree, call Steve Ross ads 'slanderous"


Politics make for strange bedfellows, as the saying goes. And it's particularly true when it comes to billionaire Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross, who is seeking taxpayer money to retrofit a stadium he could pay for out of his own pocket.

Ross has managed to unwittingly unite TEA Party Miami and the Florida Democratic Party.

But first, some background:

Unable to get the Legislature to sign off, Ross founded Florida Jobs First to target/support un/friendly lawmakers and candidates. So the political group is funding ads in a special election in Pasco County that bash the Democrat.

But TEA Party Miami doesn't much like the "billionaire welfare" of Ross who, the group says, is trying to buy lawmakers. So the conservative group blasted out an email today taking Ross to task and calling the Pasco ads against Amanda Murphy "slanderous."

The Florida Democratic Party couldn't agree more and sent out an email noting the statement. FDP also called into question the seriousness of Florida Jobs First, which receives political advice from a New York (not FL) political consultant, Michael McKeon.

"What kind of advice is Steve Ross getting from his New York City team of spin doctors, spending big in a district 300 miles away from Miami?" FDP asked. It's a question Republicans are asking as well.

We reached out to McKeon by email. He refused to comment.

Another quirk: Florida Jobs spokesman Eric Jotkoff used to be the FDP's spokesman.

TEA Party Miami on Steve Ross: a "NY pig" seeking "welfare" for Dolphins stadium


RossBillionaire Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross's foray into seeking taxpayer funding for a stadium retrofit failed in the Legislature and was likely to fail at the ballot box anyway.

And the Republican money-man's decision to blast GOP lawmakers from Miami has rallied local tea party activists who called him a "pig" in an email.

In an unexpected twist, the tea party group is calling Ross-funded mailers in a Pasco County seat "slanderous" even though they help the conservative Republican candidate. The group says Ross just wants to "buy" the Legislature so taxpayers can then finance what he should pay for out of his own pocket.

Said Ross' spokesman Eric Jotkoff: "We are not going to respond to name calling, especially when aimed at a man who has investment heavily in South Florida to create jobs and opportunities for countless families. That is just sad and unfortunate. Rather we will continue to focus on our mission."

Here's the press release's text:

Continue reading "TEA Party Miami on Steve Ross: a "NY pig" seeking "welfare" for Dolphins stadium" »

October 11, 2013

Florida House challengers boost campaign war chests

The money came rolling in last quarter for candidates in two competitive Florida House races.

Daisy Baez, a Democrat who is challenging Republican state Rep. Erik Fresen, raised $53,110 in campaign cash and in-kind contributions, according to state Division of Elections records.

Fresen pulled in $8,150, bringing his total campaign war chest to $59,000.

A third candidate, Amory Bodin, hasn't raised any money, records show.

The three are battling to represent House District 114, which includes parts of Coral Gables, South Miami, Pinecrest and Palmetto Bay.

Baez, an Army veteran and health care administrator, said her campaign had exceeded its fund raising expectations.

“I am honored by the overwhelming support our campaign has received from the community in such a short time frame," she wrote in a statement. "Our campaign is focusing on a positive message, not politics as usual, and a direct conversation with the constituents of District 114."

Fresen is serving his third term in the Florida House. He chairs the Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

The candidates competing to represent House District 112 have also been busy.

Rep. José Javier Rodríguez, a Democrat serving his first term, increased his campaign war chest by $10,405 to a total of about $41,000, records show.

His Republican challenger, attorney Daniel Diaz Leyva, raised $65,530.

The contest between Rodriguez and Diaz Leyva is expected to be among the most competitive in Miami-Dade. Both candidates are young attorneys who are considered rising stars in their respective parties.

District 112 includes Brickell, the Roads, Coconut Grove and parts of Coral Gables and Little Havana.

October 01, 2013

Legislators hear plea to fix troubled child welfare agency

Speaker after speaker told Miami-Dade’s legislative delegation Monday that fixing Florida’s broken child welfare system requires more resources and better training for those on the frontlines. They asked lawmakers to do something.

In a two-hour meeting headed by Rep. Jose F. Diaz, vice chairman of the delegation, legislators were told more money is needed to create a stronger safety net for children facing risks — even if it means tapping the state’s budget surplus.

“I would like to put this back on you — this is about funding,’’ said Walter Lambert, the chief doctor of Miami’s Child Protection Team, who made a similar plea at a meeting in Broward last month.

The Department of Children & Families has had at least 20 children die while on its radar since the spring — a number that has placed the agency under intense public scrutiny. More here.


September 27, 2013

Former North Miami Beach lawmaker dies

@CTeproff @NadegeGreen

John Patrick Julien, a former North Miami Beach council member and one-term state house representative, was an independent thinker and fiscal conservative. A registered Democrat, critics often accused him of being a Republican at heart.

He died Friday from cancer. He was 50.

Julien, who was first elected to the North Miami Beach council in 2005 and served in the House of Representatives from 2010-2012, was in hospice care in Hollywood with his family and friends by his side when he died.

“He fought a hell of a battle,” said his best friend, former North Miami Beach council member Robert Taylor.

Julien started having stomach pains and by early September it was unbearable, said Taylor. He spent Labor Day weekend in the hospital and doctors found he had tumors in his stomach and liver.

As a North Miami Beach councilman, Julien wasn’t afraid to shoot down ideas he thought didn’t make fiscal sense, even if it meant sounding like a Grinch.

More from Carli Teproff and Nadege Green here.

September 18, 2013

Ethics commission dismisses charges against four local legislators

The Florida Ethics Commission has dismissed a series of ethics complaints against two local senators and two state representatives for failing to include financial information on their annual financial disclosure forms.

Meeting in a closed-door meeting last week, the commission dismissed a complaint against Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, for failing to include a $278,000 home she owns in The Villages on financial disclosure forms she filed between 2006 and 2011. The commission had dismissed a previous complaint that she failed to properly report her ownership of a Tallahassee condo as well.

The commission also dropped claims that Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, filed an incomplete financial disclosure form in 2011, concluding that “the public interest would not be served by further proceedings because the addresses of properties were readily discoverable through public sources.”

The commission found probable cause that while Rep. Jose Raul Oliva, R-Miami, failed to properly identify an asset on his 2011 disclosure form, it will take no action.

And the commission voted to close its file and dismiss a complaint filed against Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, because the complainant “denied filing the complaint, and was unresponsive to a written request for clarification.” The commission said the allegations contained in the complaint are the same as matters already pending final action by the board.

In December, the Ethics Commission found probable cause that Fresen failed to properly disclose his annual net worth, assets, and liabilities from 2008 to 2011 after a lender filed a foreclosure suit against him. Fresen is fighting the ethics charges, calling the allegation a “baseless” political attack by a political opponent.

Here's the link to the commission's release. 

August 08, 2013

Reps Bileca & Trujillo bash Miami Dolphins' owner for 'dishonest political attack'


A Miami Herald op-ed from Miami State Representatives Carlos Trujillo and Michael Bileca, who have been targeted by the Miami Dolphins for opposing the team's publicly financed stadium plans:

Since the early days of football, the sport and politics have been intertwined in our national identity.

There are even superstitions established around professional teams like the Washington Redskins and the outcome of presidential elections.

The popularity of football and the competitive drive demonstrated by players and teams is something we can all relate to. It does not, however, mean that our tax dollars should support a billion-dollar industry when Florida’s families are struggling to make ends meet.

Continue reading "Reps Bileca & Trujillo bash Miami Dolphins' owner for 'dishonest political attack'" »

June 20, 2013

NRA launches email campaign to support bill banning firearms sale to mentally ill

Gun rights Marion Hammer, who for decades has fought laws that restrict firearms in Florida, is mounting a campaign to urge Gov. Rick Scott to sign a bill that will ban gun purchases –- for the mentally ill

Hammer, the powerful lobbyist for the National Rifle Association and United Sportsmen of Florida, has started an email “alert” to about 200,000 of the group’s members  urging them to “Please email Governor Scott right away and urge him to sign HB-1355.”

The blitz is necessary, she said, to “counter the barrage of emails” loaded with “patently false” information filling Scott's “Sunburst” email inbox.

Since the bill’s passage, the governor’s office has received at least 17,008 emails and 2,711 calls in opposition to the bill (as of June 19). Many of the emails are identical, except for names of  the senders. In contrast, Scott has received a dozen calls and one email in support of the bill.

Continue reading "NRA launches email campaign to support bill banning firearms sale to mentally ill" »

June 05, 2013

Looks like Hialeah state Rep. Eddy Gonzalez doesn't live in his district

From Political Cortadito:

Once again, some lucky constituents have two, not one, elected fighting their battles in Tallahassee — while some unlucky schmucks have none.

State Rep. Eddy Gonzalez (R-Hialeah), senior member and chair of the Miami-Dade Legislative Delegation, is still living in his old home, which was drawn into his colleague buddy’s district, even though Gonzalez was elected in a new number to which he said he was moving.

After redistricting last year put his home in another incumbent’s district, Gonzalez, who is termed out in 2014, “volunteered” to move out of his home at 7625 W 14th Ct. — where he represented District 102 in West Hialeah for the last six years — and into a relative’s East Hialeah house in District 111.

Well, he sorta had to volunteer — either that or run against his ally and campaign cigar supplier, State Rep. Jose “Cigar Czar” Oliva (R-Miami Lakes), after his property was included in the newly-redrawn District 110, which would have been uncomfortable, especially seeing as how everyone is pushing to make Oliva a future House Speaker.

May 15, 2013

Will Weatherford on failed Dolphins stadium vote: Told ya so


Last night's crushing defeat of the Miami Dolphins stadium effort was a matter of some vindication for House Speaker Will Weatherford, who has taken a measure of heat from the club and a few fans for refusing to resurrect a bill that would have fully authorized a referendum.

As a result, we only have partial results. But it's a big part: nearly 61,000 counted ballots and a 43-57 percent rejection.

So the Dolphins looked headed for defeat had the Legislature voted on the bill that stalled in the House.

"As I said all along, public financing of the SunLife Stadium had significant challenges. The referendum result was just one more example," Weatherford, a Wesley Chapel Republican said. "The Dolphins are a great Florida team, and I hope the leadership will focus their energy on constructive and collaborative solutions."

Keep hoping, Mr. Speaker.

Dolphins owner and billionaire Steve Ross threw a tantrum when he didn't get his way, hurled a veiled threat at Weatherford and others and paid no attention to his own complicity in his own failures.

Indeed, this deal had problems from the start. An early poll showed how troubled the initial stadium deal was with Miami-Dade voters. The Dolphins ignored the results and attacked the pollster. Ross said he didn't want a public vote. There's a reason for that.

Since the May 3 session ended, the Dolphins have shown anything but a desire to be constructive, at least regarding public dialogue about what happened to its bill in the Florida House. And the portion of its fans or the general public who are utterly clueless about how the Legislature works are all stirred up by the Dolphins-spread myth that Weatherford killed the bill.

That's an exaggeration. The Dolphins bill stalled in the House.

First: it never was put on the agenda in the House budget committee by Chairman Seth McKeel. The budget committee was its last committee stop. Technically, under legislative process, that's a major killer.

Second: a similar measure that passed the Senate cleared that chamber too late in the session to make it easy to take up in the last week in the House without a two-thirds vote. I said as much in this column and repeatedly indicated in blog posts and on Twitter that the Dolphins' had problems. I was ignored. Had the bill arrived in time (on Monday before about 5 p.m. in this case) the House Rules Committee could have put it on the agenda to be voted on. It didn't. The rules committee, chaired by Rep. Rob Schenck could have made a special effort to agenda the bill "if received" by the Senate. But it didn't. So blame Schenck, too, as well as Dolphins-opposing members of his committee like future speakers Richard Corcoran and Jose Oliva.

Third: Oliva is a good example of the real nexus of opposition: Miami-Dade's Republican delegation in the House. A majority opposed the Dolphins bill. Why? Perhaps because, under the structure of representative government, they held the office most-close to constituents in the Legislature and realized that the people of Miami-Dade didn't want this (cf. the results last night). And they were stirring up opposition among other Republicans of the Florida House, where the GOP has a majority. The ring leaders: Carlos Trujillo, Michael Bileca and Jose Javier Rodriguez (who's a Democrat).

Now there's a good chance that, had the bill hit the House floor, it would have passed by a simple majority vote of the 120 members if nearly all the Democrats stuck together and about 20 Republicans had gone their way.

But to get the bill there, Weatherford would have had to go out of his way to resurrect the bill. That's not so much as killing as refusing to render aid. And it happens with hundreds of bills every lawmaking session. It's the process. It's can be ugly sausage-making. It sucks for advocates. But it is what it is. What made the Dolphins so special is that a rich guy lost and then attacked a fellow Republican.

So let's review: McKeel, Schenck, Corcoran, Oliva, Bileca and Rodriguez all played a role. They have a four major things in common:

1) They're members of the House.

2) They opposed the Dolphins deal and worked to kill it

3) None is named Will Weatherford.

4) All can say: I told ya so

As I said all along, public financing of the SunLife Stadium had significant challenges. The referendum result was just one more example. The Dolphins are a great Florida team, and I hope the leadership will focus their energy on constructive and collaborative solutions.