February 04, 2016

Capitol Buzz: Five things to watch today in Tallahassee

Legislative committees continue meeting in Tallahassee, while the state's top officials go to the fair. Here's what we're watching:

* They won't have an official cabinet meeting, but Republican Gov. Rick Scott, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi will still be at the Florida State Fair in Tampa to help kick off the festivities. The governor will host a luncheon there at noon.

* At 9 a.m., the House Judiciary Committee will again take up the proposed "Pastor Protection Act," which allows clergy to turn away gay couples seeking to marry. The committee's vote was postponed last week.

* The House State Affairs Committee could vote to send to the House floor a proposal that changes the legal language of Florida's absentee voting to "vote-by-mail." That panel also meets at 9 a.m.

* The Senate Transportation Committee, also gathering at 9 a.m., will give a first hearing to a bill by Republican Sens. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, and Anitere Flores of Miami, which aims to outlaw the use of red-light camera devices in Florida.

* A bill dealing with cremation fees that counties charge is set for its final committee hearing in the House. The Regulatory Affairs Committee meets at 1 p.m.

December 29, 2015

Oranges vs. apples: Florida AG Pam Bondi bets Gators beat Wolverines

@ByKristenMClark

The attorneys general of Florida and Michigan have made a friendly wager on the outcome of this year's Citrus Bowl.

The high stakes: Fresh fruit.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says she's betting Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette a crate of -- what else? -- Florida oranges that the Florida Gators will beat the Michigan Wolverines in the New Year's Day college football game.

In turn, Schuette has wagered a bushel of Michigan apples that the Wolverines will leave Orlando 'victor'-ious on Friday.

“Beating the Michigan Wolverines will be as easy as apple pie, which I plan to enjoy after watching my Florida Gators win the Citrus Bowl,” Bondi -- a Florida alumna -- taunted Schuette in a statement.

Schuette teased back: “The University of Michigan will certainly prove to be victors over the Gators. I’m looking forward to having freshly squeezed orange juice on the table in Midland, (Mich.) next week.”

If the Gators win, Schuette will send the apples to Bondi's office, and if the Wolverines win, Bondi will send the orange's to Schuette's.

Kick-off for the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl is at 1 p.m. Friday.

December 08, 2015

AG Pam Bondi reacts to Seminole gaming compact proposal

@MaryEllenKlas @ByKristenMClark

Attorney General Pam Bondi, whose office has authority over the enforcement of the state's gaming laws, said she hadn't yet read the proposed compact between Gov. Rick Scott and the Seminole Tribe and couldn't say whether the tribe is currently violating the law.

"I want to read the compact and see what the expansion is," Bondi told reporters Tuesday. "My goal is for Florida not to become Atlantic City; I've always said that. I don't want a casino on Longboat Key, where I grew up, and all of our beaches in the Panhandle. That's been my greatest concern, obviously. But I'd like to look at the compact and see how extensive it is."

As the tribe continues to operate black jack and other banked card games at its Hard Rock casinos and three other of its properties despite the fact that the provision authorizing those games expired in July, Bondi couldn't say if the operation of those games is illegal.

"I need to look at the compact and see what it says,'' she said. "We tried to download it this morning so I could look at it and couldn't, because obviously this happened late last night. I'm not dodging your question; I just haven't looked at it."

November 16, 2015

Lawmakers want to ban Florida from implementing EPA clean air rule

@ByKristenMClark

Two Republican state lawmakers are joining Florida's Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi to fight what they view as an over-reaching plan by President Barack Obama's administration to combat the effects of climate change and reduce the nation's carbon footprint.

State Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, and Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, have introduced legislation that would prohibit state agencies from implementing a proposed rule from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency dubbed the "Clean Power Plan."

The rule requires Florida to cut its carbon dioxide emissions 26 percent by 2030 -- a mandate that Diaz says could harm the state's economy and threaten Floridians' jobs.

Diaz said in a statement today that he views it as his job as a lawmaker "to ensure that over burdensome regulations do not hurt Florida’s most financially vulnerable citizens" and "to push back against a regulation that was adopted by unelected bureaucrats who do not understand what the cost to Floridians will actually be."

House Bill 639 and Senate Bill 838, both filed last week, state that "the Legislature must establish and direct the state's energy policy to best protect the standard of living of its citizens." The bills would prohibit state agencies from limiting -- or even planning to limit -- carbon dioxide emissions unless Congress enacts legislation directing it or a federal court upholds the EPA rule.

Last month, Bondi joined 23 other states in a lawsuit challenging the EPA over the "Clean Power Plan," calling it both an economic and states' rights issue. Her participation in the lawsuit made her the target of a recent attack ad launched by the political committee run by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

November 06, 2015

Bloomberg airs TV ads blasting Pam Bondi for 'siding with polluters' against Clean Power Plan

 

Attorney General Pam Bondi is the subject of a new attack ad from the political committee run by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg over her decision to join with 23 other states in a lawsuit attempting to stop new federal regulations on carbon emissions from power plants.

"Attorney General Pam Bondi is siding with polluters,'' the 30-second ad claims. "She's siding to block limits on power plants. Bondi's siding with big polluters. Her lawsuit would let them make millions in profits while they pollute our air and water. Pam Bondi, putting polluters and their profits ahead of protecting Florida families." 

Bondi responded by calling Bloomberg a bully.

"Florida has a great and conscientious track record of improving its air quality and protecting its environment,'' she said in a statement. "Now a billionaire bully is attacking Florida, and 26 other states, for having the audacity of defending their citizens against the EPA’s heavy-handed and unlawful regulations. This bully wants to defend the federal government; we want to protect the people we serve."

The ad is one of four being aired across the country targeting three Republican governors and one Democrat by Independence USA PAC, the political committee funded by Bloomberg, the billionaire businessman. The New York Times reported that the ads will cost more than $10 million and is the latest effort in his campaign to limit the number of coal-burning power plants in the country. 

Last week, Bondi joined 23 other states in suing the federal government to black the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule, called the Clean Power Plan, which sets limits on carbon pollution from existing fossil fuel power plants. This plan is the first time national limits have been imposed on power plant emissions, which is estimated to account for almost 38 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S.

The plan was announced by President Barack Obama in August, essentially bypassing Congress which tried and failed for years to create a national carbon dioxide emissions standard. 

In her announcement about the lawsuit, Bondi said the EPA rule lays out an "unrealistic" timeframe to cut carbon emissions by 2030 and would "require the use of costly and unproven technologies." (Here are the goals for Florida, according to the EPA.)

Bloomberg has been a primary benefactor to the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, which is attempting to retire half the nation's coal fleet. He has long argued that the coal industry is naturally dying, as it's image and economics have declined.

"The lawsuits filed last week against the Clean Power Plan will not stop the decline of coal, given its unpopularity and increasingly unattractive economics," Bloomberg said in a statement on the ads. "But when Attorneys General put the coal industry's financial interests ahead of their constituents' right to breathe clean air, we want their constituents to know about it – and these ads will help make sure they do."

October 23, 2015

Florida among 24 states suing over EPA carbon emissions rule

Obama-Power Plants

@ByKristenMClark

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has joined 23 other states to fight an initiative from President Barack Obama that's intended to combat greenhouse gases and the effects of climate change.

A federal lawsuit challenging a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule, called the Clean Power Plan, was filed in D.C. this week. The initiative, announced by Obama in August, aims to reduce carbon emissions nationwide by imposing limits on power plants.

In her announcement about the lawsuit today, Bondi said the EPA rule lays out an "unrealistic" timeframe to cut carbon emissions by 2030 and would "require the use of costly and unproven technologies." (Here are the goals for Florida, according to the EPA.)

She said the initiative "would result in dramatically higher electricity bills and significantly less reliable service for families, businesses, hospitals and schools across the country."

“We will not stand by and allow these unlawful and heavy-handed utility regulations to trample our states’ rights and drastically increase electricity prices in Florida,” Bondi said in the statement. “We have seen how President Obama’s overreach has created unease in markets, eliminated competition and increased costs for millions of Americans. This new federal rule promulgated by the EPA will have a similar effect on energy production, access and price in Florida and across the country.”

This isn't the first time Bondi has fought the Obama administration in court. She also unsuccessfully sued over the Affordable Care Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately upheld.

Those joining Florida in challenging the EPA rule are: West Virginia, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming, the Arizona Corporation Commission, and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

Photo Credit: AP

September 16, 2015

Democrats go after attorney general on minimum wage enforcement

@MichaelAuslen

The odds are slim that Democratic lawmakers’ push for a higher minimum wage in Florida will be successful this legislative session — they haven’t been in the past.

But two members of the minority party said on Wednesday that Attorney General Pam Bondi ought to do more to ensure minimum wage earners at least earn as much as they’ve been promised.

“The attorney general’s office is simply not enforcing the minimum wage in the way that other states do,” said Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami. “We essentially have it in the constitution, we have it on the books, but as far as enforcement, that’s it.”

The problem arises when employers pay people for few hours than they actually worked or pay out a daily or weekly salary that equates to less than the minimum wage. That can be a huge deal for a family with low earnings, said Rodriguez and Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay.

Bondi says her office fights to ensure people do get paid a fair wage, although it's rarely through litigation. Often, they fix the problem by reaching out to employers and ensuring they pay what they're supposed to.

Continue reading "Democrats go after attorney general on minimum wage enforcement" »

September 09, 2015

AG Bondi issues concern over untested rape kits in Florida

@JeremySWallace

Florida has potentially thousands of rape kits in evidence rooms that have never been analyzed, preventing law enforcement from collecting valuable DNA that can help them solve and prevent future sexual assaults and other crimes.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, speaking at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay on Wednesday, said many law enforcement agencies don’t send in rape kits, partly because a suspect will plead guilty before the kits need to be analyzed.

But Bondi said if they can collect that DNA, they can use it to see if it becomes a match for other sexual assaults or other crimes where DNA evidence has been left behind. That Bondi said could solve cold cases and identify serial rapists.

“Hidden in the estimated thousands of untested kits is the potential to solve cold cases, lock up sexual predators and make Florida a safer place to live and raise a family,” Bondi said.

Bondi said she’s going to advocate more funding for processing sexual assault kits in the next state budget. Already the state has committed over $300,000 to study how many kits are not being tested around the state and what it will cost to get though the backlog of evidence. 

July 16, 2015

Pam Bondi takes sides in Florida Senate primary, backs Carlos Lopez-Cantera

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Gov. Rick Scott may be staying out of the 2016 Republican primary for U.S. Senate in his state. But that doesn't mean other statewide elected officials are.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, who is part of Scott's Cabinet, has endorsed Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, according to a statement released Thursday by Lopez-Cantera's fledgling campaign. He made his candidacy official Tuesday.

In the statement, Bondi called Lopez-Cantera a "friend and fellow conservative."

"Carlos has a proven record of success on behalf of Floridians who seek less taxes, less government and more job creation and I have full confidence that if given the opportunity, he will continue this work as a critical voice in the U.S. Senate," she said.

"I know Pam's help in this campaign will make a real difference in getting our message out to the voters of Florida," Lopez-Cantera said.

July 15, 2015

Adam Putnam fundraising numbers add to 2018 governor race speculation

@JeremySWallace

Florida Agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam has ramped up his fundraising activities, amassing nearly $2 million for a political committee he controls just since March.

Putnam, frequently mentioned as a likely candidate for governor in 2018, reported raising more than $460,000 just in June alone. He now has raised $1.8 million total for a political action committee called Florida Grown.

His biggest donors since March have included Jupiter beer distributor J.J. Taylor Companies, Manatee County insurance company FCCI and Little River Plantation Holdings, a company with ties to Mike Fernandez, a major GOP fundraiser in Florida. Each gave Florida Grown $100,000 each since April. Another $100,000 combined came on the last day in May from U.S. Sugar Corporation and South Central Florida Express Inc, a rail line owned by U.S. Sugar.

Putnam’s largest contribution came from another political action committee he previously ran called the Sunshine State Leadership Project. That fund transferred nearly $400,000 to Putnam’s new committee on April 30.

Continue reading "Adam Putnam fundraising numbers add to 2018 governor race speculation" »