November 19, 2014

Top lawmakers tout new parenting program


At their first joint press conference since becoming the state's top lawmakers, Republican Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli touted a new parenting program that started in Brevard County.

The program, It's Time to be a Parent Again, puts on seminars meant to help parents discipline their children. Featured speakers at the seminars include prison inmates and the state attorney, who leads a discussion on parental rights.

"The sheriff or the chief of police shouldn't be the chief law enforcement officer in your child's life," Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey said.

The purpose of the news conference, Ivey said, was to announce that the program would soon be expanding into Polk, Osceloa and Seminole counties. It has already served more than 2,000 parents in Brevard, he added.

Gardiner and Crisafulli, who both represent parts of Brevard County, said virtually nothing during the press conference.

"An opportunity to empower parents is important," Crisafulli told reporters after the event.

But one thing was made clear: Central Florida, and Brevard County in particular, is going to get a lot of legislative love over the next two years.

HHS secretary: Florida will be crucial to 2015 health care enrollment

Florida will play a crucial role in national efforts to sign people up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said Monday during an appearance at Florida International University.

“Florida actually has a very large uninsured population and so it’s a place where many of the people we're trying to reach are. In addition, though, Florida led the nation in terms of those enrolling in the federal marketplace last year,” Burwell said during a panel discussion with local healthcare advocates and nonprofit groups at FIU’s College of Law in West Miami-Dade.

Nearly a million Floridians signed up for coverage in 2014. Enrollment for 2015 coverage began Saturday.

HHS is planning radio and TV ads in South Florida and around the country to raise awareness about enrollment, especially among Hispanics, Burwell added.

More than 100,000 people submitted an application using or on the first day of enrollment, according to HHS. Figures were not available for Florida alone.

More here from Nicholas Nehamas. 

South Florida Dems to Obama: Venezuelans should be part of executive action on immigration


Two South Florida Democratic members of Congress have penned a letter to President Obama asking him to specifically include Venezuelans in his planned executive action on immigration.

U.S. Reps. Joe Garcia of Miami and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, wrote in the letter Tuesday that Obama should provide "administrative relief protections for thousands of Venezuelans who have fled Venezuela and are fearful of returning."

"Political and economic conditions in Venezuela have been declining for years, but now the Venezuelan people are facing a government that would rather repress and demonize its own citizens than engage in dialogue to address the serious problems facing the country," they said.

Any action could apply to Venezuelans who arrived in the U.S. before December 2011, the cutoff date for the Senate immigration-reform bill yet to be taken up by the House of Representatives, the letter says. Or Obama could authorize "delayed enforced departure," a protection similar to the one granted to people with Temporary Protected Status, or TPS.

"Their inclusion in administrative relief falls in line with the purpose of such action which should be to provide relief from deportation to those who have established lives and families in the U.S. and whose deportations would rip apart communities."

South Florida is home to the largest number of Venezuelans outside of the South American country -- including a large contingent in Wasserman Schultz's hometown, which is known as Westonzuela. Garcia, who lost reelection earlier this month to Republican Carlos Curbelo, has filed legislation to give Venezuelans special immigration status, but it has gone nowhere.

November 18, 2014

Advertising error means budget redo for Miami-Dade


Miami-Dade County government thought it had finished with its 2015 budget in September, after two months of rewriting, six town-hall style meetings and two public hearings that culminated with votes from county commissioners.

Not so fast.

A state agency is forcing the county to adopt its property-tax rate and budget again, nearly two months after the start of the Oct. 1 fiscal year.

The reason: Miami-Dade messed up a single number in a newspaper advertisement in mid-September detailing its proposed taxes. As a result, the county is making plans to hold a new budget vote — public hearing and all — in the next few weeks, perhaps on Dec. 4.

The numbers commissioners relied on to vote were correct, according to the county. So were the notices mailed to taxpayers about their 2015 bills, so they won’t be sent again.

But the Florida Department of Revenue, which polices local government tax notices, found that Miami-Dade incorrectly advertised the total amount of property-tax revenue it expects to collect in 2015. That inaccuracy misled the public, according to the state, so the county must rectify its actions within 15 days. Otherwise, Florida could withold tax revenues from Miami-Dade.

“Your taxing authority must correct these errors immediately,” the revenue department wrote Monday in a letter to the county.

More here.

Bainter wants court to stop release of docs so he can appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

Gainesville political consultant Pat Bainter is asking the Florida Supreme Court to halt its decision to force him to release of 538 pages of redistricting documents and trial transcripts so that he can have time to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a rare unanimous ruling from the state court, the justices ordered that the documents be unsealed by Nov. 20 because Bainter waited too long to argue that releasing them was a violation of his First Amendment rights. But Bainter told the court in a motion on  Tuesday that he wants to appeal the ruling to the nation's high court.

"Disclosure of the documents and sealed materials before the 90 day deadline expires would deprive the Non-Parties of the time needed to formulate the precise question(s) for a petition for writ of certiorari, and to then draft and file the petition,'' Bainter's attorneys wrote in a motion filed on Tuesday.  Download Filed_11-18-2014_Motion_for_Stay

He argued that the court should apply a heightened standard when concluding that someone has "waived" their federal rights. 

The Florida court ruled that “in accordance with the overriding public interest in openness to judicial proceedings and records, we direct that the sealed portions of the trial transcript, as well as the sealed documents themselves, should be and hereby are ordered unsealed.”

Meet Rick Scott's EOG brain trust

From an email:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Governor Rick Scott today announced the appointments of Frank Collins, Kim McDougal, Brad Piepenbrink, Karl Rasmussen and Jeff Woodburn to key positions in the Executive Office of the Governor. Frank Collins will serve as Deputy Chief of Staff; Kim McDougal will serve as Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Affairs Director; Brad Piepenbrink will serve as Deputy Chief of Staff and External Affairs Director; Karl Rasmussen will serve as Deputy Chief of Staff; and Jeff Woodburn will serve as the Governor’s Policy Director. All positions are effective on December 1st.

Continue reading "Meet Rick Scott's EOG brain trust" »

As Washington prepares immigration battle, report details growth in Florida's undocumented population


A new report puts Florida’s undocumented immigrants at 925,000, and the state was one of seven in the country to see that population jump in recent years.

The report out Tuesday from the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project estimated the undocumented immigrant population in 2012, using U.S. Census Bureau data. It also tracked the population over time, finding the national undocumented population basically unchanged in recent years but some state-level numbers changing significantly.

For its analysis, the Pew report estimated the number of foreign-born non-citizens residing in the country who are not legal immigrants.

The report comes as the White House and Congress prepare for a showdown on immigration policy. President Barack Obama is expected to soon issue an executive order that could shield as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. Republicans who will control both sides of Congress in January are outraged at the coming action, saying the president should not act unilaterally and should wait for the House and Senate to weigh in.

The overall undocumented immigration population was flat from 2009 to 2012, standing a bit over 11 million. The undocumented immigration population grew dramatically from 1990 to 2007 but has since trended down.

In Florida, however, the number of undocumented immigrants rose about 6 percent, or 55,000 people, to an estimated 925,000. Six other states also saw increases: Idaho, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The number fell in 14 states, and in all other states there was no change.

Continue reading "As Washington prepares immigration battle, report details growth in Florida's undocumented population" »

Gwen Graham ran well ahead of Crist in North Fla.

A closer look at U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham's victory in North Florida's sprawling 2nd Congressional District shows that she ran stronger than Charlie Crist in all 12 counties that are whollly contained in the district.

Graham ran an impressive ground game and campaigned as a centrist problem-solver candidate to appeal to independents, Republicans and conservative Democrats. But the results show that from Perry to Chipley, people voted for Graham who couldn't bring themselves to vote for Crist. Across the district, Graham got about 7,000 more votes than Crist.

Graham got 4,000 more votes than Crist in heavily-Republican Bay County and 3,000 more votes in heavily-Democratic Leon -- the two biggest counties in the district. The vote totals were smaller elsewhere but the pattern was the same, as Graham got nearly 250 more votes than Crist in Gulf County and 200 more in Franklin.

The other counties in the district are Calhoun, Gadsden, Jackson, Jefferson, Liberty, Taylor, Wakulla and Washington along with small parts of Holmes and Madison counties.

To view these numbers another way, consider this: Had Graham gotten the same share of the vote in the district that Crist did, she would have lost by a wide margin.

"She campaigned in it. That's part of it. She was here. This is her area and she didn't leave anything to chance," said Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant. Crist rarely campaigned in North Florida. He did spend part of the Saturday before Election Day in Tallahassee at the Florida A&M University homecoming festivities.

Only in Gadsden, the state's only majority black county, did Crist run close to neck-and-neck with Graham, as her vote total exceeded his by 324 out of about 25,000 votes cast. 

House elects Crisafulli as Speaker for 2015-16 sessions

The Florida House on Tuesday elected Rep. Steve Crisafulli as its next speaker, who vowed that he will deliver a conservative agenda for small government.

“Across this nation, voters rejected failed big government policies that overpromise and

underdeliver,” Crisafulli said. “They told us they want leaders who understand what it takes to

get our economy going again. They expect competency from their government. They expect us

to get the job done.”

Crisafulli, 43, is from a storied Central Florida ranching and citrus family that includes former Gov. Doyle Carlton and former Supreme Court Justice Vassar Carlton. Since joining the Legislature in 2008, he’s been comfortable in the background, keeping a low profile.

Presiding over a chamber where Republicans will have an 81-39, Crisafulli finds himself now oon center stage. He said he will use his new position, one of the most powerful in Florida politics, to push for small government.

“The debate over the role of government has been fiercely contested from time immemorial,” Crisafulli said. “In my judgment, it is often the case that the complex problems facing our society are often compounded by government interference. There is a legitimate role for the government to play in our lives. But, make no mistake - that role must be limited.”

He won’t find much resistance from Democrats in the House. Procedurely, they can’t overcome the two-thirds votes that will relegate them to the sidelines of most debates.

Crisafulli hasn’t made it clear yet what specfically he’ll push for, but has underlined what his areas of interest are.

“Water is my no. 1 issue because of my personal history and my understanding of it and also knowing that we need a clean and abundant water source for our future, not just for agriculture and tourism but for the future of the growth of our state,” he told reporters Tuesday. “It’s our job, our responsibility to protect that.”

Miami TV station interviews Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s transgender son


In 2010, the Miami Herald first reported that U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s daughter Amanda was living openly as Rodrigo, a transgender man and LGBT rights activist.

CBS4 News on Monday aired an interview with Ros-Lehtinen; her husband, former acting U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen; and Rodrigo, now donor services coordinator for GLAAD.

From CBS4 reporter Jim DeFede:

Rodrigo Lehtinen grew up in a household grounded in Republican politics.

His mother, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, was the first Cuban-American elected to Congress and has served in the House for the last 25 years. His father, Dexter Lehtinen, is the former US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida who oversaw the indictment of Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega. His grandfather, Enrique Ros, was an old-time Cuban-American hardliner and author who railed against Castro until his death last year at the age of 89.

“I came from a family where politics was very much talked about openly, calmly with respect on a regular basis,” he said. “So engaging that type of conversation about political issues or things that might be controversial is not foreign in my family.”

Click here to watch the video.