January 29, 2014

Bondi says she'll intervene in gay marriage lawsuit, if asked

Attorney General Pam Bondi said Wednesday that she is prepared to enter into one of the most divisive issues of the election year by joining in opposing a lawsuit that is asking a judge to throw out the state's ban on gay marriage. 

"If I am asked, yes (she will intervene) because it is my obligation as attorney general,'' she told reporters at the annual Associated Press Legislative Planning Summit in Tallahassee. "This is a constitutional amendment that voters passed by 60-something percent. My job is to defend that."

Six same-sex couples last week sued the Miami Dade County clerk of court seeking the right to marry, saying the 2008 ban violates their right to equal rights under the law. Voters amended the state Constitution by a vote of 62 percent to ban gay marriage and reject the recognition of legal same-sex marriages performed in other states. 

She compared it to opposing the proposed constitutional amendment on medical marijuana. If it were to become law, she said, "I have said I'll not vote for it but I'll defend it as attorney general,'' she said. 

Although Bondi campaigned on the promise that she would "vigorously defend Florida’s law banning gay adoption in our state,'' she did not revive the issue after she was elected since the state had lost its lawsuit attempting to stop gay couples from adopting children. The policy had been vigorously fought by her predecessor Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum and the time period on appeal expired before Bondi took office, her office said.

"Gay adoption is fully legal in Florida,'' she said. 

If Bondi joins the lawsuit, she would enter into one of the most polarizing issues of this election season. A March 2013 survey by Public Policy Polling found 75 percent of Florida voters favor allowing gay people either to marry (38 percent) or to have civil unions (37 percent).

Gov. Rick Scott has indicated he supports the gay-marriage ban. Democratic challenger and former state Sen. Nan Rich repeated her support for gay marriage at the reporters forum on Wednesday.

And Democrat Charlie Crist — who as the Republican governor in 2008 supported the ban — now sides with Rich and wants the constitutional amendment repealed.

"No one would want to be told they can’t marry the person they love. It’s an issue of fairness and I’m proud to support it," Crist said in a statement issued after the suit was announced.

 

January 08, 2014

Scott brushes off Castor, defends DEO, and laments flood insurance

Gov. Rick Scott visited Brandon Honda on East Adamo Drive on Wednesday to talk about his plan to cut auto registration fees by $401 million

He's planning to cut a total of $500 million in next year's budget, but he told reporters that he doesn't quite know where he'll find that additional $100 million. 

"My budget comes out at the end of the month," Scott said. "We'll have it done in the next few weeks."

Scott gave reporters some spirited answers to their subsequent questions, including an icy retort to U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor. When asked by Creative Loafing's Mitch Perry about what he thought about Castor calling Florida's new $63-million website a "disaster" and a "debacle", Scott said Castor should be focused on her job in Washington.

"Well, first thing I think is that I think Kathy Castor should focus on some of the federal issues that they have," Scott said. "Let’s think about some of them. They raised the flood insurance on so many of our Florida families, we’ve got the 300,000 families who were told they were going to lose their insurance at the end of last year, so maybe she could focus on some of those issues."

 

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December 16, 2013

Movers & Shakers

Longtime legislative analyst retiring from Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee

Carol Preston will be retiring after a long career with the legislature at the end of the year. Preston, the chief legislative analyst for the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs, served for five years in the Senate and 14 years in the House.

Praising Preston at a Dec. 10th meeting of the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs, Sen. Nancy Detert, said the analyst “personally wrote most of the laws that we’re dealing with and fixed the ones that needed fixing.

“I know I couldn’t do my work on this committee without Carol Preston,” said Detert, R-Venice. "Just want her to know how grateful I am for her and always will be for her wonderful work. I think what people want to know at the end of their work career is ‘Did your life matter?’ And Carol Preston’s life certainly mattered to all of us.”

The committee also announced the addition of two new staffers. Peggy Sanford, who was an attorney with the Department of Children & Families, will be replacing Preston as the new chief legislative analyst. Barbara Crosier, an attorney who was the director of the Division of State Group Health Insurance at the Department of Management Services, is replacing Ashley Daniell as chief attorney. Daniell left the Senate for the private sector.

New communications director for Sen. Bean

Meghan Tarsitano is the new communications director for Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach. Tarsitano previously worked for U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw's re-election campaign.

Governor appointees

Elena Spottswood, a Key West community activist, has been appointed by Attorney General Pam Bondi to the Florida Commission on the Status of Women.

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December 10, 2013

Bondi widens gap in fundraising as Thurston and Sheldon duke it out

Florida House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, filed his first campaign finance report Tuesday for Attorney General and the message is clear.

He's not dropping out any time soon.

Thurston raised $21,500 in November, even though he didn't hold a fundraiser. His first one is Friday in Tamarac. He still trails George Sheldon, the former secretary for the Florida Department of Children and Families, who raised $46,379 in November to raise his total to $52,310. Sheldon got into the race Oct. 21, five days before Thurston. 

"He got in the race before me," Thurston said, explaining Sheldon's fundraising edge. "But that's ok. It is for real. We assume there will be a primary and it's going to be a pretty good primary."

Awaiting the Democratic victor will be current Attorney General Pam Bondi, who raised a total of $316,823 in November from two committees and her own campaign, including paid expenses for consulting, sponsorships and media play. Since announcing her reelection bid this summer, Bondi has raised a total of $1.9 million.

Thurston's debut finance report shows he received $6,000 from omnipresent Tallahassee lobbyist Ron Book. During the last session, Book pushed lawmakers to approve state financing for a $350 million rehab of Sun Life Stadium, the home of the Miami Dolphins. Thurston supported that measure, which died in the House.

"Over the course of the last five years, you'll see I've been helpful in a number of (Book's) ventures, but there are some other ventures of his that I didn't support," Thurston said. 

Sheldon raised much of his money from a batch of contacts he's collected since coming to Tallahassee in 1969 as a legislative aide. He calls the money he's raised so far "seed money" that will provide his campaign with the necessary infrastructure to raise the serious money he says he needs to compete against Bondi.

"I'm not an expert at raising money," Sheldon said. "You start with your contacts and who've you known over the years and move on from there. It's going to be January before we really get going."

He said Thurston's initial filing shows that he plans to hang in the race and force a primary. He said he hasn't been following Bondi's financing efforts of late.

"I'm starting with the premise that she'll have sufficient dollars," Sheldon said. 

Indeed, Bondi's campaign opened a second fundraising committee in November. Called "Justice for All", it's a political committee that resembles "And Justice for All" which was created for Bondi in September.

The older committee, which is an electioneering communications organization, raised $47,500, capping a three month total at $941,582. November's haul included $25,000 from the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Also dubbed a 527 committee for the section of federal code it's named after, ECOs can coordinate with candidates and advocate for them and smear opponents as long as they stay away from certain words in campaign material, like "vote for" or "vote against." 

The newer committee, "Justice for All" raised $102,250 in November, including $25,000 from wine and beer distributors. It's a political committee that has similar powers to an ECO. One major difference, however, is this type of political committee can transfer its money to another candidate if need be.

The money these two committees raised is in addition to the $167,000 her own campaign raised last month. But much of those contibutions -- more than $70,000 -- are from the Republican Party of Florida.

The party wants to make sure Bondi doesn't become the first AG since James Kynes in 1964 to lose.

 

 

 

 

 

December 09, 2013

AG Pam Bondi's political committees report $149k cash haul in November

From an email:

Two committees affiliated with Attorney General Pam Bondi have reported raising collectively more than $140,000 in the month of November. And Justice for All, ECO raised $47,500, bringing its total raised to more than $941,500. In its first month of fundraising Justice for All, PC reported raising $102,250.

The total raised collectively by the two committees since being established in July of this year totals $1,043,832.

For clarification, these committees and the total amounts listed here are separate from and do not include funds raised into the re-election campaign account of Attorney General Pam Bondi.

And Justice for All is registered with the Florida Division of Elections as an Electioneering Communications Organization. Justice for All is registered with the Florida Division of Elections as Political Committee.

More details on these committees can be found at:

And Justice for All, ECO: http://andjusticeforallfl.com/

Justice for All, PC: http://justiceforallflorida.com/

November 18, 2013

Movers & Shakers

New member appointed to board overseeing oil spill disaster funds

Attorney General Pam Bondi has appointed Dr. Pamela J. Dana to the board of directors for Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc., which is now charged with creating and administering the recovery fund for disproportionately affected counties impacted by the Deepwater Horizon Disaster.

Eight counties that were most affected by the disaster are slated to receive the biggest amount from civil fines resulting from the oil spill, though 23 counties will receive a portion of the money.

Dana is senior strategic advisor for the Institute for Human & Machine Cognition, a Florida-based robotics research institute and she owns a charter sport fishing business in Destin. She served as the executive director of the Governor’s Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development during Gov. Jeb Bush’s administration.

Judicial appointments

Gov. Rick Scott has appointed Giuseppina Miranda, of Fort Lauderdale, to the Broward County Court.

Miranda, 51, has been a general magistrate with the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court since 2007. Previously, she was a lawyer in private practice, and from 1999-2004, she served as an assistant state attorney in the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit.

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November 12, 2013

In race for money in AG race, Bondi holds huge lead over split Dems

Bad news for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi: In October, her opponents started to raise money.

Good news for Bondi: It’s not much.

October campaign finance reports in the Attorney General race were released Tuesday, showing her campaign raised $76,578 in October, for a grand total of $481,479. In addition, an Electioneering Communications Organization named “And Justice for All” that’s dedicated to her reelection raised $84,100. That committee has raised a total of $894,082.

That gives Bondi, a former state prosecutor who was first elected attorney general in 2010, more than $1.3 million to spend against two Democratic challengers who entered the AG race near the end of October.

Because of that late entry, Florida House Minority Leader Perry Thurston and George Sheldon, the former secretary of the Department of Children and Families, had little time to scrape up enough money for a splashy debut of their campaigns’ finances.

Thurston, who announced on Oct. 26 that he was running, but didn’t file to run until Nov. 1. So he couldn’t raise any money until this month.

Sheldon raised $5,931 in October contributions after announcing he was running on Oct. 21.

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Scott and Bondi: We support Mississippi's attempt to sue FEMA over flood insurance

Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi don't like the rising flood insurance rates threatening nearly 300,000 Florida homeowners so they're filing an amicus brief supporting Mississippi's lawsuit against the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program’s rate hike.

Scott and Bondi, however, have stopped short of putting Florida's muscle into the melee and have chosen not to join the lawsuit or file a companion challenge of their own.

“We are supporting Mississippi in their lawsuit against FEMA because the NFIP rate hike will not only hurt Florida families but will devastate our real estate market,'' Scott said in a statement.

Bondi said: "Floridians are facing outrageous, unaffordable flood insurance premiums, and we support all efforts to protect policyholders from these devastating insurance rates.” Here's the brief:  Download Amici-Brief-Filed-as-Exhibit

Feds approve American-USAirways merger; Bondi is on board

UPDATE: The Justice Department has reached an agreement to allow American Airlines and US Airways to merge, creating the world's biggest airline.

The agreement requires the airlines to scale back the size of the merger at Washington's Reagan National Airport and in other big cities, including Miami.

In August, the government sued to block the merger, saying it would restrict competition and drive up prices for consumers on hundreds of routes around the country. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and attorneys general from five other states joined to stop the sale. On Nov. 1, Bondi met with American Airlines CEO Tom Horton and later described the meeting as productive.

On Tuesday, Bondi said she was "thrilled" with the agreement which requires the airlines to divest slots at Reagan National in Washington D.C., LaGuardia in New York City as well as gates at Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Love Field, Los Angeles International and Miami.

Slots are required for take offs and landings at Reagan National and LaGuardia because of congestion and the divestitures will enable new carriers to enter the Washington, D.C. and New York markets. The same will happen as the result of gate divestitures, she said in a statement.

“I am thrilled that we have reached an agreement that will not only keep jobs in Florida, but also will lead to additional jobs in our great state,” Bondi said.  “The agreement also ensures that air travelers have ample options before them."

The airlines have said their deal would increase competition by creating another big competitor to United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, which grew through recent mergers.

The settlement reached Tuesday would require approval by a federal judge in Washington. It would require American and US Airways to give up takeoff and landing rights or slots at Reagan National and New York's LaGuardia Airport and gates at airports in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas and Miami to low-cost carriers to offset the impact of the merger. More here. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

November 04, 2013

Panel: Economic impact of marijuana "cannot be determined"

Legalizing medical marijuana could cost the state in excess of $1.1 million to operate each year, but any other financial or tax impact of offering the drug to the seriously ill is still unclear, according to a state economic panel.

The Office of Economic and Demographic Research’s Financial Impact Estimating Conference finished its analysis of the medical marijuana ballot initiative on Monday and concluded that “increased costs from this amendment to state and local governments cannot be determined.”

Aside from the Department of Health, which estimated that it would cost an estimated $1.1 million yearly to regulate the medical marijuana industry, most agencies said the cost would not be significant or did not yet have any hard numbers.

The report stated the health department’s costs “will likely be offset through fees charged to the medical marijuana industry and users."

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the Police Chiefs Association and the Sheriff's Association stated there will be increased costs based on the experience of other states, but did not offer any numbers.

The report estimates that about 417,000 to 452,000 will use medical marijuana based on figures from other states. It was also estimated that about 17,178 to 41,271 snowbirds may apply for ID cards to use medical marijuana.

The campaign to put a medical marijuana amendment on the ballot was launched by United for Care, spearheaded by high-profile, Orlando trial attorney John Morgan, whose law firm employs Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist.

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