April 14, 2014

Hall-of-famer Brooks Robinson's lawsuit against tribe exposes flaws in compact

Brooks Robinson nowRenowned baseball hall-of-famer Brooks Robinson plunged six feet from an unsecured stage during a charity event at the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood two years ago and is now suing the Seminole Tribe for nearly $10 million for his permanent injuries.

But whether the 76-year-old Baltimore Orioles superstar will collect enough to even cover his medical bills is an open question, said his Miami attorney, Jack Hickey, because under state law the tribe’s liability is limited.

Robinson still experiences bleeding on the brain, cracks in his spine, and has lost five inches in height as a result of the injuries, Hickey said. He requires constant care and “has aged ten years since the fall.”

Under the state’s legal agreement with the tribe, if someone is injured at a tribal casino and wants to sue, the tribe’s payment is capped at $200,000 per person and $300,000 per incident, the same limits enjoyed by the state when it is sued for negligence.

A victim suffering from serious injury “can blow through that pretty quickly,” Hickey said. But, unlike the state, victims who sue the tribe can’t appeal to the Legislature for more money when a jury awards more than the liability limits. Story here. 

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Cruise line leads alliance against David Beckham soccer stadium at PortMiami

@PatriciaMazzei

Royal Caribbean Cruises and its allies have formed an organization to oppose a Major League Soccer stadium at PortMiami, marking the first coordinated resistance to David Beckham’s waterfront dream.

The Miami Seaport Alliance took out a full-page advertisement in Monday’s Miami Herald, titled “Here We Go Again,” to launch its campaign against the 25,000-seat, open-air stadium Beckham and his representatives have proposed on the port’s shallow southwest corner.

“The Alliance wholeheartedly supports a soccer franchise in Miami and believes there are other sites that would benefit greatly from a stadium,” the ad said. “However, PortMiami is not one of them, due to the risks a port stadium would pose to jobs, cruise and cargo operations, security, and the port’s promising future.”

A Coral Gables public-relations firm, Kreps DeMaria, registered the alliance’s website last week, records show, on the same day several Miami-Dade County commissioners — who voted unanimously in December for Mayor Carlos Gimenez to begin negotiations with Beckham’s team — cautioned that they might no be on board with a port stadium.

“People are responding to speculation,” John Alschuler, Beckham’s real-estate adviser, said Monday. “I’ve got confidence that commissioners, when presented with a formal recommendation by the mayor — and a full, factual briefing — will respond to the facts.”

More here.

In GOP-dominated Legislature, black lawmakers caucus struggles

@tbtia

An excerpt from the story in Sunday's paper about Florida's legislative black caucus and its affiliated caucus foundation:

But records of past years' fundraising and interviews with caucus leaders indicate that less than 10 cents of every dollar raised actually go to college scholarships for the students whose names were projected on large screens at the gala.

Legislators are prohibited from accepting contributions from lobbyists during regular sessions. But they can solicit lobbyists' money for a charity: the black caucus foundation led by former legislators.

Records the caucus provided at the Times/Herald's request indicate that the caucus foundation raised nearly $800,000 over the past three years. The caucus wouldn't specify how much went to scholarships.

Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, the caucus chairman, told the Times/Herald that each student likely received $500. With 117 recipients in the past three years, that means 7 percent of the foundation's money went for scholarships.

Read more here.

Ad 'error' leads to election complaint against Charlie Crist over Morgan & Morgan spot

@MarcACaputo

UPDATE: WCTV took "full responsibility" for the error.

Perhaps the only things not in dispute regarding Charlie Crist's Morgan & Morgan trial lawyer ads are that they ran recently in Tallahassee, they appear to violate campaign contribution rules and they're a headache for the Democratic candidate for governor now that the Republican Party of Florida filed an elections complaint over one of the TV spots.

Crist's employer, John Morgan, says the ads should have been pulled down long ago. And his firm has produced buy sheets from three months afo to show that WCTV, a Tallahassee CBS affiliate that aired the spots recently, was informed of such.

"If it ran it was an error by the TV station. All ads featuring Charlie were taken down the day he announced," said Morgan, a major state and national Democratic donor.

We've asked for comment from WCTV and await their response.  As noted above, WCTV took responsibility for the error.

It's the second complaint Crist has faced over his employment with Morgan. The last one concerned billboards and, as with this TV spot, Morgan in that case said he had asked that the signs be removed before the complaint was filed.

The ads are a sign that Crist, who for more than a year had intended to run against Scott, effectively leveraged his post at the law firm to boost his already high name ID. This TV ad had little to do with the practice of law ostensibly and thanked two key constituencies, firefighters and police officers.

Now Crist has to deal with the fallout. 

"It appears as though trial lawyer Charlie Crist continues to receive unreported help from his trial lawyer partners at Morgan & Morgan, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Like the Morgan & Morgan billboards featuring Charlie, these TV ads are a clear violation of the law because as a declared candidate they qualify as a reportable contribution. Failing to report the TV ads is a clear breach of the law and a promise to work 'for the people," Republican Party of Florida Executive Director Juston Johnson said in a written statement.

Said Crist spokesman Eric Conrad: “Typical Rick Scott – attacking others -- in this case a small business for making an honest mistake, while he is allowed to plead the 5th 75 times. He is the last person who should be lecturing someone else for a mistake – especially one that was thanking law enforcement officers and firefighters for their work.”

Democrats try to raise Florida’s minimum wage, but the conversation goes nowhere

They held protests and press conferences. Several even spent the week living on $7.93 an hour.

But try as they might, Democratic lawmakers could not spark a discussion about increasing the state minimum wage.

"It’s a debate that’s being had everywhere but Florida," said Sen. Dwight Bullard, the Miami-Dade Democrat leading the charge. "Republicans are blocking it."

The GOP had its reasons for not engaging on the issue, some members said, including a belief that increasing the minimum wage would slow job growth.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said he was not surprised to see Democrats turn to the media.

"This is the magical time in session when people who cannot pass their bills resort to political stunts," Weatherford said. "It’s a sad but unfortunately predictable pastime for the last three weeks of session."

The actions taken in Florida last week were part of a broader campaign by Democrats nationwide.

Read more here.

Democrats' voter-registration edge ain't all it's cracked up to be

@MarcACaputo

In a state where a presidential election was famously decided by 537 ballots, Florida Democrats’ edge of 485,907 active voters over registered Republicans looks impressive at a glance.

But it isn’t.

In historical terms, it’s a bad sign for Democrats and Charlie Crist. And it’s great news for Republicans and Gov. Rick Scott.

The Democrats’ registration advantage hasn’t been this small since 2007. Perhaps more significantly, the gap is even smaller than it was in 2010 (591,809), when Republicans whipped Democrats at the ballot box.

You wouldn’t know the Democrats’ precarious position by looking at the public-opinion polls right now or by listening to Crist.

“I think we're gonna do it,” Crist told state House Democrats in Tallahassee on Thursday. “And I think they know it."

By “they,” Crist means Republicans. He used to be one of them (before becoming an independent and then a Democrat).

“They” don’t think they’re going to lose at all. There’s a reason for the Republican confidence: history.

Column here

Joe Garcia reports $460k raised last quarter, $2.2m raised overall

Sounds like another good fundraising quarter for U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia (although we don't know cash on hand figures yet). The press release:

MIAMI, FL -- Representative Joe Garcia's campaign announced today that it raised more than $460,000 in the first quarter of 2014, bringing the incumbent’s total to more than $2.2 million raised to date.

“I am proud that the vast majority of these contributions were from individual Floridians who share my commitment to fighting for South Florida values like strengthening Medicare, supporting businesses that create jobs and reforming our broken immigration system," said Representative Joe Garcia. " Our campaigns's fundraising strength is a clear sign that our message is resonating, and I look forward to continue doing all I can to serve as a champion for South Florida residents, working across party lines to get Congress focused on tackling the challenges that truly matter to our community."

 Additional information contained in the report includes:

* Nearly 70% of all donations were Florida based
* 90% of donations were from individual supporters
* Over 40% of all donations were $100 or under

April 13, 2014

All Aboard Florida's Miami to Orlando train hits a costly patch

New downtown passenger train service that would speed users from Orlando to South Florida and back may sound like a tourism dream come true, but there’s a potentially unexpected cost to local residents.

Local governments face increased costs to maintain the areas where their roads cross the tracks and some fear the closing of smaller crossings to vehicular traffic to save money.

Elizabeth Fulford lives west of Broward General Hospital and believes if crossings are closed, “it may turn into a life or death issue.”

“I am very concerned about the road closures. What happens if I need an ambulance and trains are blocking the tracks?” she asked. “If they close the smaller crossings, how will this affect the police and fire” in their ability to quickly get to the scene? More here. 

 

April 12, 2014

With compact, governor has the power to dictate future of gaming in Florida

Gov. Rick Scott, who made a career out of negotiating hospital mergers, is now applying his negotiating skills to a deal with the Seminole Tribe that could singlehandedly dictate the future of gaming in Florida.

The legal agreement, known as a compact, could open the door to swanky resort casinos in Miami Dade and Broward, or force them to remain off limits indefinitely. It could allow for dog racing to be replaced by arcade-style games, or close loopholes in state gambling law. It could allow for lower tax rates at the state’s horse and dog tracks and jai alai frontons, or force them to remain at a competitive disadvantage with the tribe.

Or it could do nothing, leaving in place the status quo.

Like any good negotiator, Scott is keeping his cards close to the vest and neither he nor the tribe is talking.

Records show the governor’s general counsel, Pete Antonacci, hired two Minnesota law firms in December that specialize in tribal law to “provide advice and assistance on tribal-state compact negotiations.” Antonacci, traveled to Fort Lauderdale recently, to meet with the tribe’s top lawyers.

And the most potent sign that the governor is talking: his office asked legislators to stop discussions of its gambling bills to avoid losing his leverage in the deal. That prompted House Speaker Will Weatherford last week to officially declare “lights are out” on gambling legislation for the session.

“The compact truly has become the cornerstone of gaming policy in the state of Florida,’’ said Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who helped negotiate the current compact but has not been invited to be part of this year’s discussion. More here.

 

 

Gambling may be dead for the session but its short life was lucrative

The debate over gambling may be dead in the Florida Legislature for this session, but it's short life was very lucrative for legislative campaign coffers. 

The Republican Party of Florida raised nearly three times as much as the Florida Democratic Party from gambling interests, as is usually the case, but to get there you have to exclude the $375,000 contribution to the Democrats from a global gaming company, Delaware North Corporation, that wanted to influence a local election.

Gambling interests gave the Republican Party of Florida $832,000 between Jan. 1 and March 30 and, not including the Delaware North money, gave Democrats $347,000. That includes $150,000 in checks to each of the parties from the Seminole Tribe -- which also gave Gov. Rick Scott's political committee $500,000.

Gaming companies gave thousands to the political committees of legislative leaders as well, as new laws opened the door to unlimited contributions but greater transparency.

On the other side of the gambling scale is Disney, which vigorously opposes allowing so-called destination resorts into Florida to compete with its convention business. The company gave close to $550,000 to state level campaigns in the last quarter, including $323,000 to the Republican Party and $71,640 to the Democratic Party.

The company's affiliates also gave a $250,000 check to the Florida Chamber political action fund, the Florida Jobs PAC. and $25,000 each to Sen. Bill Galvano and Rep. Richard Corcoran.

The biggest contributors among the gambling interests were represented by the lobbying firm of Ballard Partners, headed by Brian Ballard.

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