September 05, 2014

Louisiana’s Landrieu fires back at criticism over Venezuelan sanctions bill


U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana, fired back at Marco Rubio and Bill Cassidy over the claim that she essentially became a conduit for a recent attempt by the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro “to influence our legislative process.”

The issue is a sanctions bill now in Congress that would target the individuals in Venezuela responsible for the often-violent crackdown this year on political protest. Rubio, a Republican senator from Florida, is pushing the legislation; Cassidy, a Republican House member from Louisiana, is challenging Landrieu in a tight Senate race.

Just this week, Rubio – in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada – said the Maduro regime had worked its way into the U.S. political process: “Even though the legislation would have targeted individuals only and posed no threat to American jobs or Venezuelan firms, a Venezuelan government-controlled oil company with operations in the U.S. succeeded in convincing a member of the Senate’s Democratic majority to block the bill’s passage.”

In a recent opinion article in a Louisiana newspaper, Rubio and Cassidy singled out Landrieu by name for stopping the sanctions, saying Maduro’s regime succeeded in finding a senator to block them: Mary Landrieu.”

Not so fast, says the Louisiana senator in her own article: “For 70 years, thousands of Louisianians have gone to work at the nation’s sixth largest oil refinery in Lake Charles, owned by Citgo, a Venezuelan company with a strong and respected reputation in Louisiana… In July, a sanctions bill to punish the Venezuelan government for human rights violations was being fast tracked toward passage in the Senate, and I stopped it. I believe that the legislation as written was too vague and would jeopardize 2,000-plus jobs in this region and put the Lake Charles Citgo refinery at risk.”

She went on to take a shot at Cassidy’s leadership and to say that while she supports “the goals of clamping down on human rights violations, I believe that it doesn't have to be done at the expense of this strong economic engine. That’s why I stopped the resolution and will continue to oppose it unless the language of this resolution makes crystal clear that there will be no threat to the refinery.”

Taxpayers may foot former Miami official's legal bills in nepotism case


Taxpayers will likely have to foot the bill for the legal defense of a retired city of Miami parks director who beat nepotism charges this summer.

Juan Pascual was cleared of unethical behavior in May by the Miami-Dade ethics commission, which investigated his hiring of the half-brother and sister-in-law of then-assistant city manager Luis Cabrera. The commission found the hires "suspicious" but said the city's parks director had the appropriate discretion to make the hires. Cabrera was also cleared.

To defend himself, Pascual -- who'd already retired -- hired private attorney Vivian Reyes. On Thursday, commissioners will consider Pascual's request to pay his $3,500 legal defense. The city attorney has told commissioners they don't really have a choice in the matter as the case was related to Pascual's job as a city employee.

FL Supreme Court: Won't hear gay marriage case until after appellate court rules


Florida's Supreme Court on Friday said it would not hear a lesbian divorce case in Tampa until after a state appeals court makes a ruling.

"We decline at this time to accept jurisdiction of the appeal," said the Supreme Court, in response to a recent request from the Florida Second District Court of Appeal,

Last month, the Second DCA in Central Florida asked the Florida Supreme Court to hear the case of Mariama Monique Changamire Shaw and Keiba Lynn Shaw, a lesbian couple married in Massachusetts in 2010, who are now seeking a divorce in Tampa.

Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Laurel Lee refused to grant the couple a divorce because state law bans same-sex marriages. The Shaws' lawyers appealed the case to the second DCA.

The appeals court agreed 10-3 to “pass through” the case to the Supreme Court, in hopes it would decide the fate of Florida's gay marriage ban once and for all.

Click here to read the Supreme Court decision.


Scott urges feds to let Florida's education policies stand

As he promised to do at an Aug. 27 press conference, Gov. Rick Scott on Friday sent a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan saying Florida should be allowed to keep its policies on students for whom English is a second language.

The federal government requires all students to be counted equally in education accountability measures. But Florida allows students who are still learning English to spend two years in a U.S. school before their test scores are factored into school grades.

The U.S. Department of Education is threatening to punish Florida if the state does not conform.

Scott, a Republican who is running for reelection, has made the issue an attack on the Obama administration and federal overreach in education.

"Today, we're putting the bureaucrats in Washington on notice: reverse course on our English Learner waiver, or we’ll begin reviewing every legal avenue that's available to us," he said in a statement. "Our districts have done an incredible job in providing our children with a quality education, and this federal overreach will punish Florida schools for their diversity."

Read the letter from Scott below.

Download Duncan-Letter

Marco Rubio commits no news in secret Koch-fundraiser speech


It seems someone's always recording conservatives in exclusive meetings and those records wind up in the hands of the liberal Nation.

But unlike Mitt Romney's infamous "47 percent" riff that damaged him in the 2012 presidential race, the not-so-good audio recording of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's June speech to a group assembled by the conservative Koch brothers is revealing only in how boring it is.

It's a variant of the same speech he has given since and before he left as Florida House speaker in 2008. A sample:

The American Dream is not about becoming wealthy, although that may be part of your dream. The American Dream is not about becoming famous or powerful. For millions and millions of people, the American Dream is much simpler, yet more profound. It’s about the ability to acquire a job that fulfills you, but also allows you to provide for your family; the freedom to speak openly and worship as you please; to provide a safe and stable home for your children; to one day be able to retire with dignity and to leave your children better off than yourself.

That is the real American Dream. And if you ask me what the single greatest challenge before our country today is, it is that there are now millions of people in this country that believe that dream is not our dream for people like them. And that is not just a threat to our economy. That is a direct threat to our identity. This erosion of the American Dream threatens to rob us of what makes us special and what makes us different.


Drink a cortadito before reading the transcript here


With Bill Clinton coming to help Charlie Crist, remember the last time he tried? 2010 Senate race


This from Tampa Bay Times Washington Bureau Chief Alex Leary:

When Bill Clinton strides onto the stage this evening in Miami to campaign alongside Charlie Crist, he’ll bring with him unmatched starpower. But as he helps Democrats rally around their nominee for governor, Clinton’s presence is a reminder of one of the rawest episodes in modern Florida political history.

How long it seems ago that Clinton was a lead protagonist in an effort to force Kendrick Meek out of the 2010 U.S. Senate race, a desperate gambit to lift Crist, who was running as a newly minted independent, forced to leave the GOP due to a surging Marco Rubio.

(Crist, had he beaten Rubio fair and square as a Republican in 2010, would probably be enjoying his own presidential buzz at this moment instead of seeking a return to the office his ambition forced him to flee.)

Read more after the jump

Continue reading "With Bill Clinton coming to help Charlie Crist, remember the last time he tried? 2010 Senate race" »

September 04, 2014

Charlie Crist rips Rick Scott on property insurance

Amid all the murky charges and countercharges Rick Scott and Charlie Crist are hurling at each other on TV, Crist is intent on informing voters about something clear and undisputable:

The property insurance industry much prefers Scott in the governor's office over Crist, and Floridians paid lower property insurance bills when Crist was governor.

"The choice could not be more clear," Crist said in a telephone press conference Thursday. "A governor who took on the insurance industry and lowered rates so families had more in their checking accounts and at the end of the month? Or a governor who let insurance companies raise rates — over 25 percent so the companies and his campaign have more in the bank?"

The former Republican governor noted that his first act in the office was to call a special legislative session to deal with property insurance bills that were skyrocketing after eight hurricanes in 2004 and 2005.

State leaders early in 2007 froze rates and expanded government-run Citizens Insurance to keep rates down --- something the Scott campaign blasted Thursday even though Scott's lieutenant governor, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, supported it along with the state House led at the time by Marco Rubio.

"Florida taxpayers were left on the hook for billions and homeowners were left with fewer options to protect their property," said Matt Moon, Scott's campaign spokesman. "Under Gov. Scott, Florida has done the exact opposite, reforming and shrinking Citizens Insurance while giving consumers more choice and competition to protect their home."

More here

New law drastically reduces cost of Florida Prepaid College Plans


A new law that drastically limits tuition increases at state universities will result in $900 million in savings for families enrolled in Florida Prepaid College Plans.

About 18,000 families will receive $197 million in refunds because their paid-in-full accounts now exceed expected tuition costs. Another 22,000 families will see their bills reduced by more than $700 million over the remainder of their contracts.

There are 7,265 families in the Tampa Bay area, and 14,009 families in the Miami area that will receive refunds or price reductions.

These savings are the result of House Bill 851, approved during the 2014 session. The bill got the most attention for a provision allowing undocumented immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition, but it also froze tuition at current rates and repealed a state law that allowed public universities to ask the Board of Governors to increase tuition up to a maximum of 15 percent.

Read more here.

Governor orders flags at half staff for Steven Sotloff

Steven Sotloff

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday ordered all state and U.S. flags in Florida to be flown at half-staff in memory of murdered journalist Steven Sotloff. 

Here's the governor's statement:

Steven Sotloff, a former University of Central Florida journalism student from Pinecrest, was brutally murdered by ISIS in a barbaric video displayed worldwide. Ann and I join all Floridians, and Americans, in grieving with the Sotloff family today. Those who murdered Steven are evil, and evil must be confronted and destroyed. 

In honor and in memory of Steven Sotloff, I hereby direct the flags of the United States and the State of Florida to be flown at half-staff at all local and state buildings, installations, and grounds throughout the State of Florida on Friday, September 5, 2014

Meanwhile, friends told the Miami Herald that Sotloff successfully kept his Jewish identity secret from his captors until his death. His story here. 



NAACP joins Mayor Gimenez in fight with police union over cameras


Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced Thursday the NAACP endorsed his high-profile push to mandate body cameras for the county's police officers. 

"Let us not wait until another incident, like the one in Ferguson, occurs to act," said Adora Obi Nweze, president of the Miami-Dade branch of the civil-rights group. "This initiative would help to protect our community members and police officers alike."

Gimenez's $1 million camera plan was in the proposed budget weeks before the Aug. 9 shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo. But he has made it a centerpiece of his agenda after the shooting, saying the surveillance cameras could help calm passions after a similar incident since the circumstances would  be easier to discern. 

Miami-Dade's police union filed a grievance over the proposal, and emerged as the main critic of the Gimenez initiative. Union leaders cite the potential distraction from having to activate the cameras.

The opposition is part of a larger fight with Gimenez over his budget, which initially  called for hundreds of cuts to police jobs. He's also pushing the police union to start negotiations over a new contract and his proposed changes to employees' health-care plans.

The bitterness of the stand-off was apparent in the union's latest newsletter. The September issue of the Dade Police Benevolent Association's Heat newsletter featured a photo of Gimenez on the cover with a dunce cap on his head. Inside, a note from union president John Rivera likened the mayor to a sexually transmitted  disease.

"We are not giving in to his tyrannical behavior," Rivera wrote to members. "Gimenez is like herpes -- the 'gift' that keeps giving."

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