September 06, 2014

Florida congressional delegation mixed on decision by White House to delay immigration changes


Florida’s congressional delegation began to weigh in Saturday on news from the White House that President Barack Obama will postpone any executive actions on immigration until after the midterm election.

With immigration of vital interest to South Florida, the state’s lawmakers have taken leadership roles in hashing the issue out in Congress. As the McClatchy Washington Bureau reported Saturday, White House was under pressure from vulnerable Senate Democrats who feared a change in immigration law “would energize Republican voters and hurt them at the ballot box in November.”

From Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat: "Correct decision by the president. There's no way anybody was going to listen to an informed debate on immigration while House Republicans are scared of tea party members before the election."

And from Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican from Miami who earlier this summer criticized House Republicans for delaying action on the issue: "The Obama administration has once again misled the Hispanic community. When running for election, President Obama said he would have immigration reform done by the end of his first term, yet we saw no movement from the White House on it throughout those years. As recent as two months ago, President Obama said he would have an executive order by the end of the summer. Today, we learn that nothing will happen until after the midterm elections. It is evident that Democrats only bring up immigration reform when it is politically expedient for them, yet when it could hurt them, they run from it."

Scott leads Crist in new Mason-Dixon poll


A newly released Mason-Dixon poll conducted on behalf of Telemundo (conducting the first gubernatorial debate Oct. 10) and Leadership Florida/Florida Press Association (conducting a debate Oct. 15) shows Rick Scott leading Charlie Crist 43 percent to 41 percent, within the magin of error of plus or minus 4 percent. Libertarian Adrian Wylie receives 4 percent.

The survey of 625 likely voters was conducted Sept. 2-4, and Mason-Dixon cautioned that its sample reflected current voter registration in Florida (41 percent Democrat, 37 percent Republican, 21 percent other), and "does not assume a higher or lower turnout by either political party." Considering the Republican turnout is consistently at least 4 percentae points higher than Democrats in off-year elections, it's reasonable to assume Scott would have a higher lead if the sample reflected the likely electorate.

From Mason-Dixon's Brad Coker:

Republican incumbent Rick Scott and Democratic challenger Charlie Crist remain locked in a tight race for governor, with Scott holding a narrow 43%-41% lead statewide among likely Florida voters. Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie draws 4%, while other candidates on the ballot get 1% and 11% remain undecided. The race was tied at 42%-42% in April.
Scott runs strong in North Florida (54%-32%) and Southwest Florida (52%-32%) and has a smaller lead in Central Florida (44%-38%). Crist has a wide lead in Southeast Florida (50%-35%) and a smaller one in his home Tampa Bay region (45%-38%).
Other results show that Scott continues to run stronger with Republicans, men, whites and voters over the age of 65. Crist leads among Democrats, women, blacks and voters under 35.
Voters between the ages of 35 and 64 are about evenly divided. Hispanics (44%-39%) and Independents (40%-37%) lean slightly to Crist. The number of undecided voters in these groups is high.

Contract to Cheat: Florida's construction industry rip-off, a special report

Contract to CheatAcross the country, roughly 10 million construction workers spend each day in a dangerous and fickle industry. They hang drywall, lay carpet, shingle roofs. Yet in the eyes of their bosses, they aren't employees due the benefits the government requires.

Employers treat many of these laborers as independent contractors. It's a tactic that costs taxpayers billions of dollars each year. Yet when it comes to public projects, government regulators have done nearly nothing about it, even when the proof is easy to get.

The workers don't have protections. The companies don't withhold taxes. The regulators don't seem to care.

McClatchy reporters in eight newsrooms spanning seven states spent a year unraveling the scheme, using little-noticed payroll records that show how widespread the practice has become and what it costs us all. More on the Miami Herald/McClatchy special report here.

In Florida, the construction industry is home to a version of this illegal scheme, as companies develop complicated hiring practices to avoid paying workers’ comp premiums. The fraud even has its own name: “the Florida Plan,” according to law enforcement and union sources.

“This is a widespread, highly organized form of fraud,” said Maj. Geoffrey Branch, who ran the state’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Fraud between 2009 and 2013.

Florida’s chief financial officer, Jeff Atwater, has estimated that workers’ comp fraud diverts “nearly $1 billion from Florida’s economy annually and is putting honest small businesses and employees at risk.” Story here. 


State officials demote prison whistleblower, then back off

John Ulm, Corrections

A Department of Corrections senior inspector, one of four who exposed staff misconduct in the fatal gassing of an inmate at Franklin Correctional Institution — was demoted Thursday, then reinstated some five hours after the Miami Herald inquired about the move

John Ulm was told in an email Thursday morning he was being transferred to another post 40 miles away and would get a 5 percent pay cut.

The Herald sent an email to corrections officials at about 4 p.m. asking about his demotion. The action came four days after the Herald published an article about how Ulm and a group of other veteran investigators had uncovered possible criminal wrongdoing — and a cover-up — in the death of Randall Jordan-Aparo. The 27-year-old prisoner was found dead after being repeatedly gassed by guards in an isolation cell in 2010.

Prison system spokeswoman Jessica Cary said in an email Thursday afternoon that “it was not true” that Ulm had been demoted.

A few hours later, she called to say it was true, but the action wasn’t “approved” by the administration and simply had not “taken effect.”

Meanwhile, Ulm had already packed all his case files into three boxes, along with his computer, and put them at the door to his office. He went home Thursday evening worried about his job and how the pay cut would affect his retirement, his attorney, Steven R. Andrews, said Thursday. More from Julie K. Brown here. 

Photo: John Ulm, 23-year veteran law enforcement officer


In boosting Charlie Crist, Bill Clinton frets about low Democratic turnout


Bill Clinton sounded worried.

“Typically in nonpresidential years, Republicans vote better than Democrats do,” the former president said Friday night at a Miami campaign rally for Charlie Crist. “And we’re not going to let that happen, are we?”

The crowd of several hundred shouted back a loud no.

Clinton’s concern cropped up time and again in his 25-minute speech designed to vouch for the Democratic bonafides of Crist and fire up the faithful so that Florida Democrats can win their first governor’s race since 1994.

This year, Democrats are trying in the most-unorthodox of ways — with a former Republican governor who was an independent before becoming a Democrat. Crist faces the weakest incumbent in years, Gov. Rick Scott, whose poll numbers have been poor since the political newcomer barely won office in 2010.

More here

Judge orders governor to stop fighting records probe

A Tallahassee judge this week ordered Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi to stop fighting attempts to allow Google to turn over basic information about the private email accounts used by the governor and his staff to conduct state business.

Circuit Court Judge Charles A. Francis last month ordered the company to disclose when the email accounts held by the governor and his staff were established and by whom. The action is part of a pending public records lawsuit filed against Scott and Bondi by Tallahassee attorney Steven R. Andrews.

But the Jacksonville attorney hired by the governor to fight the effort refused to agree on the language of the subpoena, delaying it for weeks. Andrews then asked the judge to intervene and Francis overruled Scott’s attorney, Thomas Bishop, on Thursday.

The two-page order allows Andrews to seek subscriber information for the Gmail accounts used by the governor and two of his former staff members, Sarah Hansford and Brad Pipenbrink. Story here.

Continue reading "Judge orders governor to stop fighting records probe" »

September 05, 2014

New GOP ad misstates when Crist became gov


<p>The Republican Party of Florida for reasons we can't understand has decided not to release anything about many of their TV ads on behalf of Charlie Crist,or even announce new ads. Here's the latest that's running in every market except Miami. The spot focuses on how the economy cratered after Charlie Crist became governor in 2006, though he actually did not become governor until 2007. "The only job Charlie Crist cares about is his own," says the narrator, suggesting Crist is running because he needs a job.</p>
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Thrasher makes first cut for FSU prez, but not without debate


Florida State University moved forward with its search for a new president by selecting 11 semifinalists to bring to campus for interviews next week, including state Sen. John Thrasher.

Interim President Garnett Stokes, who came to FSU to serve as provost under former President Eric Barron, is also among the semifinalists. Barron left in April to take the reins at Pennsylvania State University.

Thrasher was the only non-traditional candidate to make the cut. Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston and state Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda were never considered.

The semifinalists include a former university president, two provosts, three deans and a university system chancellor.

The FSU Board of Trustees is expected to make a final selection of the school's next president on Sept. 23.

Read more here.

Sorry, Rick Scott, Florida's economy is tied to the nation’s…


Florida’s economy, like that of many other states, is closely tied to the nation’s economy. 

But when it comes to Gov. Rick Scott’s effort to identify his office with the improved economy, there’s a good chance that the effort is a lot like his campaign slogan: “It’s working.”

A Tampa Bay Times poll this week indicated about 7 in 10 voters said the governor can do “a lot” about jobs in this state. The numbers of jobs are growing -- as are the numbers of Scott ads and his polling percentages over Democrat Charlie Crist.

Has Scott made jobs a priority? Definitely -- and certainly on the campaign trail. But there's only so much a governor can really do. And so WSVN-7’s Blake Burman asked Scott yesterday about how much credit he could rightfully take.

Burman: "There are some who would say the stock market is at an all time high, the unemployment rate nationally is dropping just like Florida. Isn’t just Florida following, basically, what’s been going on nationally?"

Continue reading "Sorry, Rick Scott, Florida's economy is tied to the nation’s…" »

Wasserman Schultz: 'I shouldn't have used the words' about Scott Walker


Add one more person to the list of people who think DNC Chair and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz went too far in bashing Scott Walker: Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Her statement:

 "I shouldn’t have used the words I used.  But that shouldn't detract from the broader point that I was making that Scott Walker’s policies have been bad for Wisconsin women, whether it's mandating ultrasounds, repealing an equal pay law, or rejecting federal funding for preventative health care, Walker's record speaks for itself.  As for the issue of domestic violence, it's unacceptable that a majority of Congressional Republicans opposed this critical legislation, of which I was a proud cosponsor, after blocking its reauthorization for more than a year.”

Blog note: Normally, we'd add her statement to the prior-posted blog but, considering the interest and outrage (phony and otherwise), it merited its own space.