September 18, 2014

NextGen builds an ark and says Gov. Rick Scott is picking the passengers

 And now for the latest gimmick: NextGen Climate has built an ark, and the Democrat-leaning enviro group is trucking it around Florida using a pretty low-efficiency vehicle to bring home the point that Gov. Rick Scott won't talk about, yes, climate change. 

The ark made its first stop in Tallahassee on Thursday and is headed to Tampa on Friday. The high-profile visual comes a day after 42 scientists from universities around the state asked the governor and other state leaders to call a Climate & Solutions Summit to bring the issue front and center. Scott met with five scientists last month but wouldn't say whether he has changed his mind from denying that human-induced pollution has caused climate change. He did say he likes solutions. 

In Tallahassee on Thursday, Dr. Ron Saff, an alergy and asthma specialist and a member of the Physicians for Social Responsibility, warned that the time for talk has already passed as Florida is feeling the effects of human-induced global warming with increased cases of mosquito-borne illnesses such as enchephalitis and dengue fever. 

"The medical implications of global climate change are catastropic,'' he said. "Parts of Miami are regularly flooding and climate change isn't a thing we have to worry about in the future. It's already here."

Jillian Mushman, a junior at Florida State University, told the small crowd at the Tallahassee park that "two by two, Rick Scott’s special interest campaign contributors'' -- such as sugar lobbyists, oil drillers, and the Koch brothers who recently spent $25,000 -- will get a "ticket on Scott’s Ark."

"Florida families may not have the campaign cash to get a ticket on the ark but what we do have is the choice in November,'' she said. 

South Florida advocate pushes Congress for action in assisting poor, ailing Holocaust survivors


Citing “tragic and unacceptable” poverty numbers among Holocaust survivors in the U.S., a leading advocate from South Florida told a congressional panel Thursday that Congress should do more to help such survivors get the care and resources they need.

Jack Rubin

While emphasizing that survivors are not seeking additional funds from American taxpayers, Jack Rubin said Holocaust survivors were looking for Congress to help secure the funds from the German government and businesses that profited from the Holocaust.

“Unfortunately, the existing system has fallen tragically short of what survivors need and deserve,” Jack Rubin said in his prepared testimony. “The current funding and care delivery system is difficult for survivors to access, and also severely underfunded.”

Rubin is from Boynton Beach, Fla. He was born in the former Czechoslovakia and survived several Nazi concentration camps and death camps.

He spoke before a joint subcommittee hearing of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, which was exploring the difficulties in recovering assets for Holocaust survivors.

Driving Rubin’s effort is the fact that about 55,000 Holocaust survivors in the U.S. today live near or below the official federal poverty level, and that they need help with basic medical and dental care, as well as food, rent, utilities and transportation, he said.

He testified about the effort in January as well, before a Senate committee.

On example he cited in his Thursday testimony concerned dental care – or the lack of it.

“Most survivors have extensive dental needs because during the Holocaust, we had no opportunity to care for our teeth, suffered extreme malnutrition, as well as beatings and other horrible deprivations,” he testified. “Unfortunately, dental services are paid for from the same emergency funds that are limited to $2,500 per year. And the dental work that many survivors need costs thousands and thousands of dollars… This is a very, very big problem. The lack of proper dental care harms survivors’ dignity, and also puts them at risk for bad nutrition and cardiac problems.”

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Miami Republican who chairs one of the subcommittees, said “more can and must be done.”

“With the average age of Holocaust survivors estimated at 82, time is truly running out for us to bring them some form of justice, some kind of closure so that they can live out the rest of their days in dignity and comfort,” she said in her prepared statement.

Rubin’s testimony, as well as that of other witnesses, is available at the committee Web site.

In battle over Politico article, DNC offers defense of Wasserman Schultz


U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from Weston who doubles as the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, was blasted in a lengthy article in Politico that documented her rocky relationship with the Obama White House and indicated her tenure might be limited.

As Miami Herald colleague Marc Caputo has already recounted, such assessments -- driven in large part by unnamed sources – have become something of a seasonal staple.

The take by Politico, a Washington-based news organization: The congresswoman is “in a behind-the-scenes struggle with the White House, congressional Democrats and Washington insiders who have lost confidence in her as both a unifying leader and reliable party spokesperson at a time when they need her most.”

Her spokesman said she was traveling and unavailable for comment (although the Politico article quoted her at length).

As for the Democratic National Committee, press secretary Michael Czin offered the committee’s defense, in a statement:

“The chair has worked tirelessly for President Obama and Democrats up and down the ballot in her three and a half years at the helm of the DNC. That’s why President Obama reappointed her following his own reelection.

“The chair’s record and accomplishments at the DNC speaks for themselves. Just this cycle she has traveled to 99 cities and 37 states to participate in hundreds of events in support of Democrats up and down the ticket. This cycle the DNC has raised more than $120 million, retired more than $20 million in debt that helped us win in 2012, built a groundbreaking program to expand access to the ballot box while providing campaigns of all size the same data and technology platforms that the Obama campaign pioneered. That’s a record anyone would be proud of.”

Naked Politics changes commenting requirements

Attention Naked Politics blog readers/commenters:

Starting this week, to comment on this blog you’ll need to log in with a Facebook account.

The Miami Herald wants to encourage lively discussion on the blog, but we also believe that respect and civility must be part of a good debate.  

This change brings commenting on blogs in line with our policy on the rest of our website. We made that change in February 2013.

Your blog posts will carry the name on your Facebook account; you will have the choice of whether your post also appears on your own Facebook page.
Thank you.

Crist supporters want Scott to take down controversial ad


Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano and former Department of Corrections Secretary Walt McNeil on Thursday called on Republican Gov. Rick Scott to take down a controversial attack ad.

The ad, which has run about 4,000 times in Florida, features an unidentified man saying he was “swindled" by both Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein and Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist.

The Miami Herald later idenfitied the man as Fort Lauderdale investor Dean Kretschmar — and found that he "never made that allegation [about Crist] in his successful lawsuit to recover millions of dollars in Rothstein-related losses."

Fasano, a longtime Republican and former state senator, called the ad "nothing but a lie."

Continue reading "Crist supporters want Scott to take down controversial ad" »

Gov. Scott appoints Jimmy Patronis and Julie Brown to utility board

Jimmy_Patronis (1)

Four years after the state Senate rejected two of former Gov. Charlie Crist's appointees to the Public Service Commission because they had no industry experience, Gov. Rick Scott has appointed state Rep. Jimmy Patronis to the same board, even though he has had no industry experience.

The difference: Patronis is a Panama City Republican who announced last year  he will step aside as a candidate in 2016 for the state Senate seat held by Senate President Don Gaetz, making room for Gaetz's son, Matt Gaetz, to be the heir apparent. Patronis was also an early support of Scott's against former Attorney General Bill McCollum. 

Scott also reappointed, as expected, Tampa lawyer Julie Brown based on a list of six candidates, sent to him by the legislatively-controlled PSC Nominating Council.

Patronis, who is term-limited out of office this year, fills a seat now held by Eduardo Balbis on the board that has the power to approval utility rates in Florida. Balbis surprised observers in May when he announced he would not seek a second term after being appointed to the post by Crist.

Balbis got the job after legislators sided with electric companies in 2010 to oust Crist appointees David Klement and Benjamin “Steve” Stevens who rejected controversial rate increases sought by Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy, now known as Duke Energy Florida.

On Thursday, Scott also announced the reappointment of Tampa lawyer Julie Brown, 39, from a list of six candidates sent to him by the legislatively-controlled PSC Nominating Council. She has been on the commission since 2011.

Commissioners are paid an annual salary of $131,036 and the appointments are subject to Senate approval.

Patronis is the vice president of Captain Anderson’s Restaurant in Panama City Beach and listed no utility experience on his application for the job. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and was an early and avid supporter of Scott's first campaign for governor in 2010.

Scott held a rally last Friday at Patronis’ Panhandle restaurant with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Patronis is also a member of the panel evaluating the finalists for the FSU presidency.

Brown, 39, of Tampa, has been a PSC member since 2011 and is a University of Florida graduate. The two four-year terms begin Jan. 2, 2015, and end Jan. 1, 2019.

Among the candidates Scott rejected was former state Rep. Dave Murzin, R-Pensacola, and Patrick Sheehan, director of the Office of Energy in the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Scott's appointment of Patronis shows how far he has shifted from the outsider in 2010 who said in his Republican primary victory speech that "the deal-makers are crying in their cocktails." The Patronis pick is an obvious reward for an early and loyal Scott supporter. Patronis' wife Katie has donated $500 to Scott's re-election.

“Representative Patronis has faithfully served Florida families during his years of service in the Florida House of Representatives,’’ Scott said in a statement. “I am confident that Jimmy will make an excellent addition to the Public Service Commission as he continues to put Florida families first.”
Here's the press release today from the governor's office:

Continue reading "Gov. Scott appoints Jimmy Patronis and Julie Brown to utility board" »

Gov. Scott names close ally, Rep. Patronis, to PSC

Gov. Rick Scott chose Republican state Rep. Jimmy Patronis Thursday for one of two openings on the Public Service Commission, the five-member panel that regulates public utilities in the state. Scott also reappointed Commissioner Julie Brown to a second four-year term on the PSC.

Patronis, 42, is a Panama City restaurateur who's term-limited after eight years in the Florida House. He was an early and avid supporter of Scott's first campaign for governor in 2010 and has been a loyal Panhandle supporter. Patronis is vice-president of Captain Anderson's, a seafood restaurant and banquet hall in Panama City Beach where Scott held a campaign rally last Friday. Patronis is also a member of the panel evaluating the finalists for the presidency of Florida State University. He replaces Eduardo Balbis on the PSC.

Brown, 39, of Tampa, has been a PSC member since 2011 and is a University of Florida graduate. A seat on the PSC is a full-time position based in Tallahassee that pays about $131,000 a year. Both appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Lois Frankel says Rick Scott closed 30 women's healthcare centers. PolitiFact Florida says: Pants on Fire!

Democrats have been counting on a gender gap to win races in 2014, and Democrat Charlie Crist is part of that trend, lobbying hard for the women’svote in his battle against Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Crist has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood PAC (despite his own mixed record on abortion in the past), has vowed to push for equal pay for women and now is attacking Scott’s record on funding rape crisis centers.

Crist has also enlisted endorsements from Democratic women, such as U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach. Frankel recently penned a campaign fundraising email attacking Scott that was emailed out by the Crist campaign.

"If Rick Scott wins, the next four years are going to be rough for Floridians," Frankel said in an email on Sept. 12, adding, "Recently he closed 30 women's health care centers across the state."

This claim warranted a thorough check-up from the Truth-O-Meter -- and we quickly diagnosed the heart of the problem in Frankel’s words. Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the full fact-check and to see Frankel's full report card which includes some attacks about a toilet and a helicopter ride.

NRA endorses Rick Scott

From a press release:

Fairfax, Va. – On behalf of our five million members across the country, the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) is proud to endorse Rick Scott for reelection as Governor of Florida.

Based on his leadership on Second Amendment issues, Governor Scott has earned an “A+” rating from the NRA-PVF in the 2014 general election. An “A+” is the highest possible rating and is reserved for elected officials with an excellent public record on critical NRA issues who have also made a vigorous effort to promote and defend the Second Amendment.

“Rick Scott has an unmatched record of support for the Second Amendment in Florida,” said Chris W. Cox, chairman of the NRA-PVF. “Rick has signed more pro-gun bills into law in one term than any other governor in Florida history. Law-abiding gun owners in Florida have a true friend in Rick Scott.”

In addition to the many bills Governor Scott personally signed into law, he also supports Florida’s “Castle Doctrine” law and the hard-fought parking lot law. He respects and supports Florida’s unique hunting heritage and recognizes it is a valuable tool for wildlife management and conservation. Governor Scott rejects expanded licensing and registration schemes, and so-called “universal background checks.”

“We can continue to count on Rick Scott to stand up for our constitutional freedoms in Florida,” added Cox. “On behalf of the NRA’s five million members, I want to thank Rick for his steadfast support of the Second Amendment and urge all NRA members, gun owners and sportsmen in Florida to vote Rick Scott for Governor on November 4.”


Fla Insider poll favors Rick Scott


The race between Rick Scott and Charlie Crist for Florida governor has long been seen as a toss-up, and recent polls bolster that perception of a campaign that could go either way.

But conventional wisdom among Florida's political elite has shifted decidedly in Gov. Scott's favor, the latest Tampa Bay Times Florida Insider Poll shows.

When we surveyed more than 130 of Florida's savviest political hands seven weeks ago, a slight majority predicted Scott would beat Crist. This week, two thirds of our Florida Insiders - including 38 percent of the Democrats participating - said they expect Scott to beat former Gov. Crist.

"With (absentee ballots) dropping in about two weeks, Crist's opportunities to change the dynamics of the race are limited. The clock is ticking and unfortunately that does not bode well for Crist," said one Democrat.

""The Governors race will be closer than some might predict but the GOP off year turnout advantage will be difficult to overcome," another Democrat said. "Up until the last 45 days there has been little effort to create the ground game needed to turn out a base vote. Had the (state Democratic party) and/or Crist started four months ago things may have looked more promising. That said, this is Florida, anything can and may happen to dramatically shift the tide left or right."

The Florida Insider poll is an entirely unscientific survey of people closely involved in the political process, including campaign consultants, fundraisers, lobbyists, academics and activists. This Insider Poll included 77 Republicans, 53 Democrats, and 10 men and women registered to neither major party.

"Thankfully, Scott's ads are (finally) hitting Charlie, but they're still all over the place on message (get it?). The Scott team spent too much time congratulating themselves on being political geniuses to realize this one will close late, close ugly, and they'd better be right that the Dem voter and field operation isn't real," said one Republican. "Too much "we're winning!" talk risks the GOP base not staying alert to the danger of Charlie, and that borders on political malpractice."

The last four public polls point to a neck and neck race, variously showing Scott ahead by up to 5 percentage points and Crist ahead by up to 3.

Other findings:
***59 percent predicted that the medical marijuana initiative will pass.
"Med Marijuana should pass but just don't see a very organized campaign on the pro side of this amendment -- and seems like they may not have the $$ to close strong unless something changes ....going to be close but I would call for the upset here and say it just barely goes down," ventured one Republican. 

***55 percent predicted Crist, the former Republican governor-turned independent Senate candidate-turned Democratic guberatorial candidate,  would run for office again if he loses in November.
"Asking if we expect Charlie Crist will run for office ever again is like asking if we think it will ever rain again in Tallahassee," one Republican quipped.

***Only 19 percent predicted former businessman Scott will run for another office after leaving the governor's office.

NOTE: Coming tomorrow, our Insiders look at future candidates for governor and U.S. Senate.

This months Florida Insiders included:

Ben Pollara, Eric Jotkoff, Tre Evers, Bernie Campbell, Jeff Wright, Bob Poe, Michael Albetta, Husein Cumber, Sarah Bascom, Andy Ford, Karl Koch, Don Hinkle, Jim Rimes, Hayden Dempsey, James Harris, Mac Stipanovich, Paul Bradshaw, David Johnson, Sam Bell, Nancy Watkins, Allan Bense, Christina Johnson, Ryan Tyson, Dan Smith, Tim Baker, Rockie Pennington, Susannah Randolph, Rich Heffley, Ron Greenstein, Mark Ferrulo, Roger Stone, Mike Hanna, Ryan Duffy, Scott Barnhart, Jill Chamberlin, David Custin, Kevin Cate, Greg Turbeville, John Dowless, Marion Hammer, Towson Fraser,  Kirk Pepper, Rick Wilson, Brian Hughes, John Morgan, Scott Peelen, Sarah Rumpf, Chris Kise, Alex Burgos, Jamie Miller, Kirk Fordham, Meredith Orourke, Alex Patton, Robert Wexler, Alia Faraj, John French, Aubrey Jewett, Bridget Nocco, Steve Geller, Kathy Mears, Shephen Shiver, Paul Senft, Alan Clendenin, David Bishop, Ashley Walker, Ana Navarro, Barry Edwards, Screven Watson, Jason Fischer, Cory Tilley, Marc Reichelderfer, Jamie Wilson, Joe Perry, Andrew Gillum, Dave Aronberg, Eric Eikenberg, Jeff Johnson, Richard Swann, Roly Marante, Kelly Cohen, Bud Shorstein, Stephen Bittel, Steve Yerrid, Lucy Morgan, Ann Herberger, Bob Graham, Darryl Paulson, Brian Crowley, Justin Day, Monica Russo, Gus Corbella, Ron Sachs, Mike Hamby, John Wehrung, Paul Mitchell, Brian Burgess, Tom Gaitens, Mike Hightower, Stafford Jones, Derrick McGhee, Frank Tsamoutales, Richard Gentry, Cindy Graves, Sally Bradshaw, Seth McKee, Tom Tillison, Alex Sink, Nancy McGowan, Dan Krassner, Dan Mclaughlin, Brett Doster, Mark Zubaly, Brian Ballard, Cynthia Henderson, Fred Karlinsky, Damien Filer, Fred Piccolo, John Stemberger, Jon Johnson, Marty Fiorentino, Greg Truax, Stephanie Kunkel, Pablo Diaz, Larry Cretul, Nels Kingston, Slater Bayliss, Andrew Weinstein, Steve Schale, Shannon Gravitte, David Rancourt, Jon Mills, Ron Bilbao