June 18, 2013

Ex-Sen. Dockery: Florida GOP 'scared of Charlie Crist'

Former Republican state Sen. Paula Dockery of Lakeland says it was "kind of silly" and "dumb" that the Republican Party of Florida mounted a campaign urging that Democratic candidate for governor Nan Rich be given speaking time at last weekend's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Hollywood.

Dockery said that by promoting Nan Rich, Republicans showed their true colors.

"It looks like they're scared of Charlie Crist," Dockery said on the weekly public affairs program Florida This Week on WEDU-Channel 3 in Tampa. "They want to pump up Nan Rich, who was not getting much traction on her own ... I think it just sends the message that they're worried about Charlie Crist and it was kind of a dumb thing."

Puzzled by a Republican effort in support of a little-known Democratic candidate, Dockery said she fired off an email to party headquarters in Tallahassee, asking: "Who's your audience on this?"

-- Steve Bousquet

May 30, 2012

Attorney General Pam Bondi's Cayman trip looked like a wedding; many wonder why it wasn't

It looked like a wedding.

Sixty or 70 guests at a luxury Caribbean resort, including the governor and a former Tampa mayor. A beaming bride in a white dress with a flower in her hair. A photographer flown in to take pictures of the smiling couple with aqua water behind them.

But Attorney General Pam Bondi says no ceremony took place at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman on Saturday. And many questions remain about when and why Bondi made the last-minute decision not to get married.

Did Bondi bow to conservative critics who felt her jaunt across seas was politically tone deaf? The 46-year-old now says she will be wed in a small, private ceremony at a Tampa-area Baptist church.

Did leaks on gossip blogs and social media sites cause the couple to shy from the publicity? A photo of Bondi serving cocktails during the plane ride to the Cayman Islands quickly made the rounds online.

Or is something more personal and heartbreaking involved? Bondi and her fiance, 62-year-old ophthalmologist Greg Henderson, spent the weekend entertaining family and friends and are still on vacation together. But that hasn't stopped people from wondering whether one of the two got cold feet or if there was a prenuptial disagreement.

Continue reading "Attorney General Pam Bondi's Cayman trip looked like a wedding; many wonder why it wasn't" »

May 02, 2011

Sen. Dockery to Rick Scott: listen to the people, not just lobbyists, on SunRail

Sen. Paula Dockery is still taking aim at what she says is the boondoggle of Central Florida commuter rail, SunRail and she's prevailing on Gov. Rick Scott to get in touch with the grassroots to kill the deal. Her letter:

Dear Governor Scott,

Some individuals from Central Florida have launched a well-funded  lobbying campaign aimed at pushing forward the SunRail Freight/Commuter Rail project. I’m aware that you’ve held meetings with the proponents of this Freight/Commuter project that will be heavily funded by Florida’s taxpayers.

As you know, I was an ardent supporter of the High Speed Rail (HSR) project. I know that during that decision making process you met with the opponents of that project, and you ultimately decided to end HSR in Florida. The three reasons you gave were:

First – capital cost overruns;

Second – ridership and revenue projections are historically overly-optimistic and would likely result in ongoing subsidies that state taxpayers would have to incur; and

Finally – if the project becomes too costly for taxpayers and is shut down, the taxpayers will have to repay federal money.

As we move forward, and in an effort to make future strategic transportation decisions, I respectfully request that you agree to a meeting with local government officials and constituents from Central Florida who are opposed to the SunRail project. I know that they share my grave concerns regarding this project. Among those concerns:

*the exorbitant cost which will result in increased taxes at the local level;

*no guarantee of the federal money, which is a very small percentage of the overall project cost;
the low ridership projections for trains that will not go to the airport, Disney World, University of Central Florida, or International Drive;

*and the egregious liability provisions that will put the taxpayers of the State of Florida on the hook for the negligence of a for-profit corporation in the event of an incident involving freight/commuter trains, even if the freight operator is negligent.

These taxpayers deserve an opportunity to express their concerns to you, even though they do not have the money to pay for an ad campaign or employ an army of lobbyists. They have been unable to get an audience with you. I am asking that you hear the other side of the issue as all Floridians will be better served if you have the facts prior to taking any action.

 Thank you for your consideration of this request. I look forward to hearing from you.

 Warm regards,


February 25, 2011

Sen. Dockery wants Rick Scott's rail guy to cough up his bullet-train emails

The last time Sen. Paula Dockery requested passenger rail-related emails from the Florida Department of Transportation it led to a bizarro investigation involving breakfast-food-name-emails that were sent and received by DOT official Kevin Thibault. (The probe, concerning whether public records were hidden, determined there was no wrongdoing).

Now Dockery's back. And again she wants documents about rail from Thibault, who despite his high position as DOT's rail guru couldn't tell us last week about basic ridership numbers for Central Florida's proposed commuter rail line and high-speed rail.

Here's the records request:

Continue reading "Sen. Dockery wants Rick Scott's rail guy to cough up his bullet-train emails" »

February 21, 2011

Sen. Evers revokes bullet-train letter signature. Wants SunRail killed

Another day, another rail flip flop. This one comes courtesy of Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, who joined 25 other senators in signing a letter of protest after Gov. Rick Scott said he'd refuse $2.4 billion in high-speed rail money. (More here on that letter)

Evers pointed out he voted against the original legislation in 2009 that allowed for high-speed rail. So Evers has flipped back on his flop. Not so Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who's now saying that he didn't think the bill he voted for was a bullet-train bill, but was more of a SunRail bill for commuter rail in Central Florida.

Well, Evers thinks that's a "boondoggle," too.

Here's a side-by-side of the two. You be the judge. Download Sun&HSR

Anyway, here's the text of the letters to Scott and Ray Lahood of UDOT.

Dear Secretary LaHood,
As a representative of the people of Florida Senate District 2, I do hereby remove my signature on the letter you received on Thursday, February 17, 2011, regarding funding for High Speed Rail. I appreciate the voices of concern that have been raised and I am resolved to reduce the size of government in every arena possible.

Let me be very clear. I do not want to spend one dime on High Speed Rail and I absolutely support Governor Scott sending the money back. I regret signing the letter as I believe it misconstrued my position on High Speed Rail. I was trying to send a message to Governor Scott to bring to the forefront my firm belief that we should not fund any rail projects with state or federal money.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


 Attached please find a copy of a letter sent today to Secretary Ray LaHood revoking my signature from the letter sent to him last week.

I like you and so many conservatives in our state, strongly oppose High Speed Rail. In fact, I was one of a small minority of members who voted against it when it was up for the original vote in the 2009 Special Session. However, I am also against another project I think is just as much, if not more of a boondoggle, SunRail.

I fully support your decision to send back the money earmarked for High Speed Rail and implore you to revisit your budget proposal as it pertains to SunRail. We should not fund any rail projects with Florida taxpayer dollars. Thank you for your time and consideration.

February 17, 2011

26 Florida Senators rebuke Rick Scott over bullet train

A veto-proof majority of the Florida Senate rebuked Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday in a letter that urged the federal government to give the state $2.4 billion in high-speed rail money that Scott wants to reject.

“Politics should have no place in the future of Florida’s transportation, as evidenced by this letter of bipartisan support,” said the letter, signed by 26 members of the Republican-controlled Florida Senate.

“This project would create real jobs, cleaner and smarter transportation and true economic development for Floridians,” said the letter written to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The letter was partly authored by one of Scott’s first senate backers, Republican Paula Dockery of Lakeland, who argued that the newly created Florida Rail Enterprise could act independently of Scott because the state’s share of the rail money -- $300 million – was already approved last year by a previous governor, Charlie Crist.

Scott shocked legislators by unexpectedly announcing he would reject the money and then doubled-down Thursday by calling bullet train a “boondoggle.” He cited findings from the Libertarian Reason Foundation that questioned the ridership projections for the Tampa-Orlando rail line.

Dockery said the study was “inaccurate.” Echoing other Senators, Dockery said the state would be foolish to turn down the federal money to create a “premier” rail line.

“This was going to be a model for the nation,” Dockery said.

Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos didn’t sign the letter, which is the first sign that the new governor has met the limits of his authority.

“I was never a big supporter of high-speed rail,” said Haridopolos, who nevertheless voted for the rail-legislation package in December 2009.

One of Haridopolos' top lieutenants did sign Dockery’s letter: Senate Republican leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, who pushed the rail legislation more than a year ago.

“We’re just saying slow this down, don’t give away this money just yet,” Gardiner said. He also noted that the executive and legislative branches of government clash from time to time, pointing out that former Senate President Toni Jennings once sued former Gov. Jeb Bush over the budget. Bush later tapped her to become his lieutenant governor.

Gardiner referred questions about the legality of Scott’s rejection of federal money to Sen. David Simmons, whom he described as the “brains” of the senate. Simmons helped write the letter along with Dockery and Sen. Thad Altman.

“The bottom line is that he can’t reject this money: It was already approved by another Legislature and another governor,” said Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs. “It’s like trying to veto a bill after it becomes law. It’s too late.”

Simmons said it also made no sense to allow other states to get what he says is the state’s fair share of federal money.

“This is like holding a gun to our heads and telling the federal government: Don’t give us this money or we’ll blow our brains out,” Simmons said.

The number of senators, 26, is a significant number in that it sends Scott a subtle message: The Florida Senate could over-ride a future veto of rail money.

Other senators said they also didn't like the fact that Scott decided to reverse a decision of the Legislature without giving lawmakers a heads up.

"This is a sign: Talk to us first," said Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker.

One senator, who didn't want to be identified, was more blunt about Scott: "Is he f**#!ng crazy?"

Download 2-17-11 Letter to LaHood from Florida Senators

August 30, 2010

Dockery not interested in No. 2 slot

State Sen. Paula Dockery, widely seen as a strong contender to be Rick Scott's lieutenant governor, said she told Scott over dinner in Tampa last night that she's not interested. Her husband Doc Dockery, she said, has no interest in moving to Tallahassee (governor was different), and he's her top priority.

"I will have a pivotal role in his adminstration, but not as lieutenant governor," she said of Scott.


August 19, 2010

Dockery: I told you Amtrak would derail C$X deal

In a letter to legislators Thursday, Sen. Paula Dockery sent her colleagues a great big "I told you so,'' about their rush to approve the CSX/Sunrail deal. They failed to first clear up issues Amtrak had with the Florida Department of Transportation last fall, and that's led to the delay. 

"Now, ten months later, at the end of August 2010, the $641 million taxpayer-funded purchase of 61.5 miles of track from CSX has not been completed because the concerns that were brought to FDOT’s attention last November have still not been resolved,'' Dockery wrote in her scolding letter. She lambasted local Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and other officials who wrote off the Amtrak concerns as "no big deal." Download Amtrak November 2009 letter

"I’d say that Amtrak’s concern was a “big deal” and that the tens of thousands of dollars spent on the Special Session is just another example of government waste, as this issue could have been dealt with during the regular 2010 Session, at no additional cost to the citizens of the State of Florida,'' she wrote. Download Amtrak Letter 2-22-10

The Orlando Sentinel wrote about the Amtrak-prompted delay on Thursday and quoted Orlando Sen. Andy Gardiner as saying the Legislature may have to step in to resolve the stand off that is stalling the first phase of the project. More fodder for another Dockery "told you so."

Here's Dockery's letter to lawmakers:

Continue reading "Dockery: I told you Amtrak would derail C$X deal" »

August 02, 2010

Sen. Dockery's almost-endorsement of Rick Scott

Sen. Paula Dockery, who briefly ran for the Republican gov. nomination, sounds awfully close to endorsing Rick Scott, the newcomer opponent of Attorney General Bill McCollum in the GOP primary. Sounds like Dockery could be rising on the short list as a Scott running mate, judging by some excerpts in this lengthy Facebook post on Scott:

He does not possess an ego-driven "it's my turn" or "I'm entitled to win" attitude. He knows it takes hard work to campaign and hard work to govern well. He's obviously a hard worker and a very driven individual. It's my belief he has run a picture perfect campaign in his first attempt at running for office, which shows a tremendous amount of planning, preparation and assembling a talented team.

While some may view his self-financing as a negative, I have a much different view after watching the legislative process at work. Because he is self-financed, he is beholden to no one and can govern in a manner that puts the best interests of the people of Florida at the forefront.

While I'd like to change his views on a few issues, and will try, for the most part I am very comfortable with him and think he is in tune with the voters and their desire to rein in our out-of-control and out-of-touch government.

** Next post: The difference between self-funded independent campaigns and special interest funded insider campaigns." or "How the process is corrupted by special interest funded insider campaigns"

July 26, 2010

Dockery: No talk of Scott's LG pick

Speculation is hot and heavy that Sen. Paula Dockery, the Lakeland Republican who had a brief run for governor, could be an outside pick for Rick Scott. A legislative maverick who isn't afraid to clash with party leaders, Dockery could burnish Scott's "outsider" creds, while also giving him someone who knows the legislative process.

She attended his statewide bus tour for a few days, fueling the rumors even more. So we asked her, is she being considered?

Here's her statement: "Rick Scott and I have discussed numerous issues and our shared desire to clean up the culture of corruption in Tallahassee. Neither of us have mentioned the LG position during those conversations. I'm focused on helping good candidates with their races for the Florida Senate. I have offered advice and background info to Rick when he has requested it. As an experienced legislator, I am always truly happy to help people who have a new perspective to offer Floridians."