October 09, 2014

Public records made available, but at a whopping $132,348

 State agencies often charge for public records, but one news organization encountered sticker shock when it received the bill for its request. Florida's 17th judicial circuit court charged the Center for Public Integrity $132,348 for records regarding the procedures and policies surrounding foreclosure cases last summer

A story from the investigative news organization states that Alexandra Rieman, general counsel for the circuit that includes Fort Lauderdale and Broward County, said the public records request would require staff to sort through 149,000 emails. That, in turn, would require 2,500 staff member hours at rates of either $45 or $53 an hour, which added up to the $132,348 figure.

And whatever records the court system did provide would cost another 15 cents a page, Rieman added, without including estimates of staffer hours and hourly rates.

The Center for Public Integrity refused to pay that amount, calling the fees excessive.

Here's the story from the Center:

Charging high fees for access to public information can undermine public records laws and serve as a back-door way for government agencies to avoid releasing information they want kept private. Florida's laws and the state courts' rules allow, but don't require, the courts to charge for such records searches.

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Florida senators ask U.S. to oppose Venezuela's UN Security Council bid

@PatriciaMazzei

As members of the House of Representatives did before them, a group of senators on Thursday wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry requesting formal U.S. opposition to awarding Venezuela a rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Both Florida senators -- Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson -- signed the letter, as did four of their colleagues, two from each political party.

"In addition to President [Nicolás] Maduro's vocal disdain for the United Nations, his government's actions, at the U.N. and at home, run counter to the founding principles and norms of the U.N. Charter, namely the pursuit of international peace and security and the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all people," the senators wrote.

"Venezuela's membership on the U.N. Security Council would constitute a serious blow for the United States and United Nations at a time when we must collaborate to address the world's most pressing challenges."

Analysts have noted, however, that Venezuela faces no serious competition for the seat and is likely to be a shoo-in when a vote takes place later this month.

National Journal: Miami congressional race among most likely to change party hands

@PatriciaMazzei

National Journal has released a list of the 30 U.S. House seats most likely to switch parties in the Nov. 4 election. The Washington D.C.-based publication ranked Florida's 26th congressional district, which extends from Westchester to Key West, as number 16:

16. FL-26: Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia running for reelection. Garcia also faces a prized Republican recruit in Miami-Dade County School Board member Carlos Curbelo. The National Republican Congressional Committee has run repeated ads on Garcia's ethics issues—his former campaign manager pleaded guilty to absentee-ballot fraud. But Curbelo has suffered from some bad press, too: He was recently captured on camera calling Social Security a "Ponzi scheme" while talking to a group of College Republicans. An early September internal poll for Curbelo showed him with a 4-point lead. The next couple weeks will show us whether Curbelo's poll was on the money or optimistic—and whether his comments have affected the race.

Another contested Florida race, for the 2nd congressional district in the Panhandle, ranked 10.

New poll suggests some Miami-Dade voters can be persuaded to back new-courthouse referendum

@PatriciaMazzei

Proponents of a local ballot question that would issue $393 million in new Miami-Dade County government debt to build a civil courthouse released a new poll Thursday.

The public-opinion survey shows less opposition than polls conducted by the campaign before they started airing television and Spanish-language radio advertisements in the past week, backers say.

According to the poll, 37 percent of respondents favor bonds for the new courthouse, compared to 33 percent who oppose it and 31 percent who are undecided. However, respondents were not read the actual ballot question, which includes the $393 million figure -- a key consideration for voters.

Instead, the poll asked, "In the upcoming Nov. 4th election, will you vote for or against funding emergency repairs to the 1928 courthouse and the acquisition and construction of new court facilities by issuing general obligation bonds?"

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Libertarian Adrian Wyllie sues to get into Florida Press Association debate

@MarcACaputo

Shut out of televised debates, Libertarian candidate for governor Adrian Wyllie filed a federal lawsuit Thursday that seeks to force the Florida Press Association and Leadership Florida to allow him onstage with Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist next week.

Wyllie’s suit, arguing his free-speech and equal-protection rights are being infringed, largely revolves around the debate organizers’ candidate-participation criteria, which says candidates who earn 15 percent support in a “reputable independent poll” by Sept. 30 can join the debate. 

The criteria, Wyllie claims, were changed on him as he picked up support heading into the Oct. 15 debate at Broward College, which is named in the suit along with the nonprofit Leadership Florida and press association, media industry trade and lobby group.

However, as early as Aug. 20 2013, the 15 percent-polling rule was set by the press association. It was specifically reported by the News Service of Florida on that day. Dean Ridings, president and CEO of the press association, said the criteria about polling thresholds predate 2013 and have been around since 2010.

“We want to be fair and consistent,” Ridings said. “There are 10 candidates for governor and why would it be fair to them to change our criteria?”

Wyllie is planning a protest at another televised debate to be held Friday at Telemundo in Miramar, where Crist and Scott will face off for the first time. The debate will be broadcast at 7 p.m. that night.

The third and final debate between the two major candidates takes place Oct. 21 in Jacksonville.

Crist wanted more debates, but Scott would only agree to three. Scott's running mate, Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera, has also ignored calls from Crist's running mate, Annette Taddeo, to debate on television.

Download Wyllie complaint

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UNF poll: Charlie Crist leads Rick Scott 43-38 percent, Wyllie at 10 percent

@MarcACaputo

A University of North Florida poll of statewide likely voters shows Charlie Crist leading Gov. Rick Scott 43-38 percent -- marking the fourth survey this week that has the Democrat pulling slightly ahead.

Crist's advatnage (as with polls from 0ptimusPublic Policy Polling and SurveyUSA) is within the poll's error margin. So the race could be called a tie. But Crist's lead is almost outside that margin.

And, as stated before: it ain't the topline, it's the trend.

The trend is with Crist right now, as first noted last week. And, as noted yesterday, polling in a swing state House seat also shows Crist doing well.

It's particularly advantageous for Crist because voters are now returning absentee ballots in Florida. People are voting. And they're trending Crist.

Still, the race is still close. Republicans tend to over-perform and Democrats tend to under-perform in mid-term elections. Polling is one thing. Performance is another. Any one of the major candidates can lose, especially as their campaigns devolve into more negative pettiness, which is likely benefitting Libertarian Adrian Wyllie, who pulls 10 percent support now.

"No one knows who he is. But people are heading his way for a reason," said UNF pollster Michael Binder.

Download Press Release #1 Fall Statewide 2014

 

 

National Journal: Sen. Marco Rubio, conservatives seek lame duck fight over Affordable Care Act

From the National Journal:

A cadre of Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Marco Rubio, is urging House Speaker John Boehner to deny the Obama administration the requisite funding to compensate insurers via the risk-corridors provision of the health care law.

October 08, 2014

What the polling in a Pasco state House seat says about FL Gov's race

Via @adamsmithtimes

First a confession: For most of the past year, my gut has told me that Rick Scott would likely win a second term and that there was a reasonable likelihood it wouldn't even be close. Around the start of October, as Charlie Crist was not only still standing but actually neck and neck or ahead of the incumbent governor, it became clear this race is a coin toss and Crist might actually pull it off.
Now I'm thinking Crist may have become the clear frontrunner.

I have just seen an internal poll of likely voters in Florida House 36, the west Pasco County district currently represented by Democrat Amanda Murphy and formerly represented by Republican Mike Fasano. District 36, loaded with working class Floridians and retirees may be the single best bellwether state House district in Florida. Barack Obama narrowly won it in 2008 and 2012, and Rick Scott narrowly won it in 2010.

The telephone poll was taken Monday and Tuesday by the Democratic firm SEA Polling & Strategic Design (which nailed it on Murphy's special election win in 2013) and found 45 percent planning to vote for Crist, 37 percent for Scott, and 14 percent for Libertarian Adrian Wyllie. In August, the firm showed Scott leading by five points, with 43 percent support to 38 percent for Crist and 10 percent for Wyllie.

Look inside the numbers and it's still worse for the Republican governor:
***Crist leads among voters 65 and over by 8 percentage points.

***Crist is winning nearly one in four Republicans in the district, while Scott is winning 13 percent of Democrats.

***Crist leads among women by a whopping 19 percentage points.

More here 

Joe Garcia, Carlos Curbelo disagree on expanding Cuba travel, future of Cuban Adjustment Act

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia and Republican opponent Carlos Curbelo disagree on whether more Americans should be allowed to travel to Cuba and send more money to relatives on the island.

But that significant policy difference didn’t get much attention until this week, when a pro-Cuba-travel television advertisement began airing in Miami.

The TV spot, launched Monday by the Miami-based liberal-leaning Cuba Now nonprofit, sticks out because of what it isn’t: a slick, highly produced piece bashing Curbelo or Garcia, like most of the others funded by well-heeled outside political groups in the close contest for Florida’s 26th congressional district.

Instead, the ad has a throwback, low-budget feel. Unidentified people speak directly into the camera in Spanish and urge voters to back candidates who support more Cuba travel. Their words are subtitled in English.

It’s a straight so-called “issue” ad. Most ads funded by outside groups technically fall under that category as well, but usually they make clear which candidate they’re supposed to benefit. This one makes no mention of Garcia or Curbelo.

Yet after the two candidates debated in Marathon on Monday evening and were asked about U.S.-Cuba policy, Cuba Now released a statement criticizing Curbelo, who said at the forum that he could not “support any unilateral concessions to an enemy of the United States — in this case, the Cuban government.” The congressional district stretches from Westchester to Key West.

More here.

 

Candidate’s financial disclosure raises questions about consulting company

State Rep. Erik Fresen’s most recent financial disclosure includes tens of thousands of dollars in income from a company he started called Neighborhood Strategies.

But the company was dissolved — and effectively put out of business — by the state in 2009.

The Miami Republican explained that he still has a few contracts with clients who have been with the company since its dissolution.

"If, in fact, I do have to go back to the [state Division of Corporations] and re-register, I will," he said, adding that all of the business has been publicly disclosed.

Florida law prohibits companies that have been administratively dissolved from carrying out any business, except that which is needed to "wind up and liquidate [their] affairs."

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