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121 posts from January 2007

January 31, 2007

Crist reappoints two Bush picks

Gov. Charlie Crist on Wednesday reappointed Debbie Sembler, co-chairman of his inaugural committee and the wife of Brent Sembler, Crist's finance chairman, to the University of South Florida board of trustees. Crist also reappointed Miami lobbyist Rodney Barreto to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

While the two were allies of Crist, both Sembler and Barreto were among the nearly 300 appointees by Gov. Jeb Bush that Crist recalled in January. At the time Barreto was surprised by the move, but said it was Crist's perogative. In reappointing him, Crist said Wednesday that Barreto "shares my commitment to Florida's environment."

Crist caves on stem cell research

During his campaign for governor, Charlie Crist made news when he said he disagreed with President Bush's decision to veto federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research. Many scientists believe the research may find cures for Parkinson's, diabetes and other chronic illnesses.

But at a seminar sponsored by the Associated Press today, Crist said he would recommend $20 million for research on existing stem cell lines, not on new ones cultivated from human embryos. He made it clear that he had received strong signals that the Republican-led Legislature, particularly the more conservative House, would not accept anything else.

"I'm pragmatic,'' he said. "I want to be respectful of concerns that (lawmakers) might have, but I also want to make progress."

Crist's decision flies in the face of polls that show that most Floridians support embryonic stem cell research. Crist will officially announce his stem cell plans later today at the University of South Florida's Center for Aging and Brain Repair in Tampa.

January 30, 2007

Crist to recommend replacing vote machines for paper trail

Gov. Charlie Crist has is prepared to end the argument over whether Florida voters should be entitled to a paper trail of their votes. He will recommend on Thursday that the state pay to have 15 counties replace their touchscreen voting machines with optical scan machines now used by the remaining 32 counties. The cost: an estimated $30 million to $32 million across the state. More here.

Crist's Miami peeps sign with McCain

U.S. Sen. John McCain has tapped Gov. Charlie Crist's campaign coordinators in South Florida to lay the groundwork for his presidential campaign in the state.

Carlos Curbelo and Danny Lopez are the managing partners of a Coral Gables-based political consulting firm shrewdly named Capitol Gains. They helped Crist gain Florida's capitol; now they are going to help McCain take the nation's. The two also have also worked for U.S. Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart.

Curbelo and Lopez, who are both Cuban-American, will be working with Spanish-language media, introducing McCain to local political leaders, and organizing campaign events.

"Sen. McCain's vast experience on foreign policy matters, his commitment to fiscal responsibility, and his conservative record making him the strongest candidate for president of the United States,'' Lopez said.

January 29, 2007

Florida in the same breath as Iowa

The Florida Legislature won't convene for another five weeks to consider a bill moving up the state's presidential primary, but Republican contender Sam Brownback is already calling Florida an "early primary state."

Browback, a U.S. senator from Kansas, is traveling the well-traveled presidential routes this week to Iowa and South Carolina. But he is also going to Michigan and Florida, which are among a handful of large states considering earlier primaries. A bill filed last week would move Florida's vote from the second Tuesday in March to the last Tuesday in January.

Brownback will be in Naples on Saturday.

Crist gives peek at budget highlights

Gov. Charlie Crist unveiled two of his spending priorities on Monday, and guess what, they were items that he had advocated on the campaign trail. He wants lawmakers in the coming year to spend $21.8 million to implement the so-called "Anti-Murder Act" and $3.7 million to increase cyber crime investigations and prevent Internet crimes against children. "As the people's governor, it is my job to keep Floridians safe,'' said Crist while discussing the spending requests at stops in Jacksonville and Orlando.

Crist's "Anti-Murder Act" is a proposal that would require judges to keep criminals in prison if they violate the terms of their probation. While the proposal is only $21 million for the 2007-08 budget year, the measure is expected to cost in excess of $160 million over the next three years since it  will require housing nearly 1,400 more criminals. Crist had promised last year it would be the "first bill" he would sign if he were elected governor _ but that honor went to the insurance overhaul approved earlier this month by legislators. Crist said the crisis in insurance rates was too important to ignore and that's why he was willing to forgo that campaign promise.

Crist is expected to unveil his complete budget on Friday.

"Lizard brains" and stun guns

In cleaning out the ole digital recordings from last week, we came across this gem from Sen. Mandy Dawson, D-Fort Lauderdale, who said during a Criminal Justice Committee debate about using stun guns on kids that it was a mistake:

"To not address the fact that these are children, little children, still, with a lizard brain. You know that... little children," she smiled as her fellow senators smiled with her, "with a lizard brain..."

Despite the herpetological plea Wednesday, the rest of the committee decided to hold off on any more regulations and to let a stun gun-related law, passed last year, take full effect.

The legislative interest grew after police in 2004 shocked a 6-year-old boy with a 50,000-volt stun gun allegedly to keep him from hurting himself with a piece of glass he was waving around in a school office. Download Taser.doc

Ron Klein is sworn, and he swears to tout national cat fund

U.S. Rep. Ron Klein,  who represents Broward and Palm Beach but none of Miami-Dade, nevertheless attended today's local swearing-in ceremony in downtown MIami.

Between ceremonies in Washington and in the two counties he represents, it was his fourth time taking the oath of office.

"I feel sworn,'' joked Klein, who said he was invited by U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen because he is a member of the South Florida delegation.

Klein, a former state senator, said he was disappointed that the insurance legislation signed in Tallahassee last week did not go far enough in forcing companies to justify rate increase or stopping them from cherrypicking customers.

"The Legislature put its big toe in the water, but we've got a ways to go,'' Klein said.

Klein and other members of the Florida delegation are pushing a national catastrophic insurance fund, an idea that has wielded about as much appeal in Washington as a blizzard on inauguration day.

"The only real, long-term solution is for the government to step in,'' said U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.

Dave Barry: Tancredo = "clueless tourist dork"

Colorado Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo ticked off former Gov. Jeb Bush, Miami's mayor and most of its congressional delegation when he likened Miami to a Third World country.

Now he's rankled Herald humorist Dave Barry, who in a column likens the anti-illegal immigration lawmaker to a toilet, among other insults....

Read here: http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/living/columnists/dave_barry/16563709.htm

Obama garners Florida support

With Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry forgoing a bid for the Democratic nomination for president, one of his key Florida fundraisers has pledged his support to Sen. Barack Obama.

Kirk Wagar, a Coconut Grove attorney, sent an email over the weekend to his Kerry e-mail list, spelling out why he's backing the Illinois senator.

"Not only is he the first person from my generation to seriously make a run at the White House or the first legitimate candidate of color, but rather he has the right measure of humility, depth and refreshing candor to lead this nation at such a critical time," Wagar wrote. "He is the embodiment of the American dream and having Barack as our face to the world will literally transform our image to the world before a word is spoken.

Wagar said Obama's Florida finance director Teddy Johnston will soon set up statewide and regional finance committees.

Wagar acknowledged "deep affection and affinity" for Sen. Hillary Clinton, but said he doesn't believe the country "is going to go Bush – Clinton – Bush – Clinton as our Presidential sequence.

"Campaigns are about the future, not the past and fairly or unfairly, should she be the nominee we will be reliving both the good AND bad of the Clinton presidency," he wrote.

Wagar in 2004 served as Kerry's deputy finance chairman and later Florida finance chairman for the Democratic National Committee.