November 18, 2014

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.

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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.

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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.


Miami-Dade mayor hires new press secretary


Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has hired a local Spanish-language television reporter to join his communications office.

Stephanie Severino, who works as a weather anchor and reporter for WLTV-Univision 23, will become Gimenez's press secretary as of Dec. 1, according to the county. She will report to Communications Director Mike Hernández.

"We are excited to have Stephanie join the Miami-Dade County communications team," Hernandez said. "Her professionalism and experience made her a good fit to fill the position. I look forward to working with her to strengthen our countywide communications efforts to better serve our residents, businesses and visitors."

Despite the press secretary title, the job is unlike, say, President Obama's press secretary, who mostly handles questions from reporters. In the past, the Miami-Dade press secretary has been in charge of crafting the mayor's speeches. Severino will replace Ignacio Ortiz, who is leaving County Hall's 29th floor for the communications office at the county-owned Miami International Airport. The position was not publicly advertised.

Severino will make about $85,000 a year -- an increase from Ortiz's about $75,000 a year. The wiggle room for the extra money is a product of Gimenez's having yet to replace former policy director Inson Kim, who made about $105,000. It appears her successor will have to make less than that to balance Gimenez's office budget.

At the airport, Ortiz will replace Maria Levrant, who is going to work for incoming County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava. As media and public relations officer, Ortiz will maintain the same salary he had working for the mayor, according to MIA.

Florida Senate elects Orlando businessman Andy Gardiner as its 86th president

Gardiner swearing inThe Florida Senate returned Tuesday with all but one of the same members as two years ago and elected Orlando Sen. Andy Gardiner as its new leader, adding a younger face to the chamber controlled by conservative, white Republican men.

Gardiner, 45, takes over from Sen. Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican, as head of the 40-member chamber that includes 26 Republicans. A graduate of Stetson University and the father of three, Gardiner is the vice-president of external affairs and community relations at Orlando Health. He was first elected to the Florida House in 2002. He was elected to the Senate in 2008. 

Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Miami, who helped Gardiner beat back a challenge to his presidency two years ago organized by Gaetz and outgoing Sen. John Thrasher, told the chamber: "I will take a bullet for this man." 

Thrasher has resigned to become president of Florida State University and a special election will be held for his replacement -- who will be the only newcomer to the chamber in two years. 

Garcia introduced a biographical video of Gardiner that included interviews of his sixth grade teacher, his former baseball coach and two long-time friends. 

"The State of Florida is in incredible hands because Sen. Gardiner will put families first before politics,'' Garcia said.  

Gardiner called it a "humbling moment" and noted that his wife, Camille, asked him that morning if he was nervous. "I said, 'No. I'm not nervous,'" but he later realized he forgot to shave. 

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Florida House rejects elections returns for District 64

Residents of Carrollwood, Citrus Park, Oldsmar and Safety Harbor won't have a representative in the Florida House -- for now, at least.

State lawmakers voted Tuesday to throw out the results of the House District 64 election, creating a vacancy in that district.  

Gov. Rick Scott is expected to call a special election.

State Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa, had already raised questions about the integrity of the Nov. 4 contest, which he won comfortably. Earlier this month, he pointed out that an appellate judge deemed the election unconstitutional.

"You can't send a candidate to Tallahassee to office on the back of an election that was deemed unconstitutional," he told the Herald/Times.

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Gov. Scott's official margin of victory: 64,145 votes

Gov. Rick Scott received not one but two sustained standing ovations Tuesday in the Florida House as part of the one-day organizational session celebrating the installation of a new speaker and Senate president and the elections of new members.

The sustained applause reflected the gratitude of Scott's fellow Republicans -- and a sense of relief -- that he will be around for four more years.

"It's good to see you back," outgoing House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, told Scott.

Earlier, Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said "I can't tell you how glad I was" to see Scott sitting at the front of the Senate chamber.

The state Elections Canvassing Commission certified the official final results from tthe 2014 election on Tuesday. Scott received 2,865,343 votes or 48.14 percent, and Democrat Charlie Crist received 2,801,198 or 47.07 percent. Scott's victory margin was 64,145 votes.