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157 posts from May 2007

May 31, 2007

Crist to urge other governors to divest Iran holdings

Gov. Charlie Crist said from Israel today that he will send letters to the nation's 49 other governors and urge them to follow Florida's lead and divest their holdings in companies that do business in Iran and Sudan. When Crist returns from Israel next week, he plans to sign a bill passed during the 2007 session that requires Florida to divest its holdings.

"Florida will not stand idly by and allow businesses that operate in Iran and the Sudan to foster terror,'' Crist wrote in his letter. (Full text is available in comments section.)

Crist also said he will discuss the divestiture issue with his fellow governors during a July meeting of the National Governors Association that will be held in Michigan.

Sen. Wilson: I told you so on FCAT

Longtime FCAT critic and Miami Sen. Frederica Wilson, a Democrat who feels vindicated in light of the mis-scoring scandal, just sent out this letter that kind of raps Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, for his refusal to have statewide hearings on the high-stakes test earlier this year:

"For several years I have heard from parents and students at town hall meetings and public hearings about the many problems that are involved with the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) and score usage.  For years I have asked for an investigation into the FCAT.

"I wrote to Senator Don Gaetz, Chair of the Senate Pre-K-12 Education Committee on January 26, 2007, requesting that he have the committee go around the state to hear from the people.  This request was refused.  A copy of that letter is attached.

"I was pleased to read in the May 26th Miami Herald that Senator Gaetz realizes that there are valid concerns and that he wants the committee to investigate FCAT problems.  I have also attached a copy of the article for your convenience."

Former Jeb Bush aide lands White House appointment

President Bush has named Justin Sayfie, a former spokesman for Gov. Jeb Bush - and orginator of the Florida political site, Sayfie Review, to the President's Commission on White House Fellowships.

According to the White House, the commission "which is composed of approximately thirty outstanding citizens who represent a broad range of backgrounds, interests, and professions, selects a class of White House Fellows."

The fellows, according to the White House, "work hand-in-hand with leaders at the highest levels of government. They enjoy informal, off-the-record meetings with leading representatives from the worlds of business, the arts, science and technology, media and politics. White House Fellows travel abroad to explore issues of global significance. They travel at home to see U.S. policy in action. And Fellows forge life-long friendships with the other remarkable men and women who share this unparalleled experience."

Former fellows include former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas.

Graham, Meek, Wasserman Schultz, Sink and Wexler - the "Endorsement Elite"

Washington Post.com lists the five Democrats as "endorsement elites" as part of a series that looks at the "five most important endorsements in the states set to hold primaries and caucuses shortly after the traditional lead-off troika of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina."

The five getting the nod in Florida are former Sen. Bob Graham, Reps. Kendrick Meek, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Robert Wexler, along with chief financial officer Alex Sink, whom the column notes is "the lone statewide elected Democrat in the state after Sen. Bill Nelson, and as such is the titular head of the party."

Wonder how Nelson feels about being left off the list?

The piece notes that Wasserman Schultz is in Sen. Hillary Clinton's camp; Wexler is for Sen. Barack Obama.

Read more about the coveted five here

Holly Benson: Gimme real grouper

Holly Benson, the secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, announced this morning that her agency will be doubling the minumum fine from $250 to $500 for restaurants caught fooling diners about what kind of fish they are serving.

Benson's action follows investigations into whether restaurants were charging diners for grouper and actually serving some other kind of fish. The state probes were kindled by stories in the St. Petersburg Times that questioned if Tampa Bay area restaurants were engaged in fish-swapping.

"I love grouper, so when I order grouper, I expect to eat grouper,'' said Benson in a statement.

Dueling stem cell amendments approved by court

The Florida Supreme Court this morning has given a green light to two rival amendments dealing with stem-cell research. One amendment would ask voters to approve spending $200 million over the next 10 years for embryonic stem cell research. A second amendment would ban the state from spending any money on anything that involves the "destruction of a live human embryo."

The court concluded that the two amendments do not violate the constitution's requirement that the amendment is confined to a single-subject and that the ballot title and summary are clear and understandable. The court's approval does not guarantee placement on the 2008 ballot. Supporters of the two measures need to collect more than 611,000 signatures. So far organizers for embryonic stem cell research have officially collected more than 68,000 signatures, while organizers for the amendment that would ban state spending on embryonic stem cell research have collected more than 86,000 signatures.

Jeb: Immigration bill is not 'amnesty'

Jeb Bush is using his conservative cachet and experience as the former governor of a big, immigrant-rich state to bolster his president brother's campaign for new immigration reforms.

In an article he co-wrote with former national GOP chairman Ken Mehlman in today's Wall Street Journal, he takes issue with critics who dismiss the plan to allow millions of illegal immigrants to earn citizenship as "amnesty."

Those critics include presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who by surrounding himself with former Bush supporters, has fueled the perception that the popular former governor supports him. Bush has said he is neutral in the race, but he told at least one friend that he was "disappointed" in Romney's position on immigration.

Bush says the bill is not just good policy; it will help the GOP win over Hispanic voters. He argues in the article that a 1994 anti-immigrant bill in California has helped tilt the state toward Democratic candidates.

You can bet that when Romney rival John McCain defends his support for the bill on Monday in Miami, he will cite Bush's position. Immigration could become one of the definining issues of the campaign in Florida, poised to play a big role in helping to choose the nominees in its earliest-ever primary on Jan. 29.

Read the Wall Street Journal Op-Ed here.

May 30, 2007

Day Two in Israel: Times calls Crist Christ; pols cut deal, get caught in politics

In a cutline in Wednesday's Jerusalem Times, Florida's Gov. Charlie Crist was glorified even beyond what he's used to from his entourage. The paper announced: "Christ visits Jerusalem." House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber, who supplied us with this photo, suggests the headline Img_0056_2"perhaps overstated the importance of our trip, but it might explain Governor Crist's 72 percent approval rating."

Gelber reports that the delegation made progress in its goal to enable closer business ties between the two countries. They met with Eli Yishal, Israel’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, and "discussed the final details of a Memorandum of Understanding between Florida and Israel." The agreement, Gelber said, was worked out by Yishal’s Deputy and Crist’s Chief of Staff George Lemieux and "will provide that both Israel and Florida will make $10 million available to promote collaborative efforts for research and development in the Life Sciences and Aerospace industries. Congressman Wexler called it a 'homerun.' ”

Gelber says the delegation spent the morning touring the Old City and the Western Wall, and then headed to the Knesset for a series of meetings with high ranking Israeli officials. Then, surprise, the politicians got snagged by politics. Here's Gelber's account:

"By accident, we seemed to find ourselves in the midst of Israeli electioneering. Our first meeting was with Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres who just minutes before he met with us, announced his candidacy for President of Israel. 

"One of Israel’s elder statesman, Peres spoke about the threat posed by Iran and of the need for economic development in the Jordanian border. Next we met with Benyamin Netanyahu, the opposition leader of the Likud Party and a former Prime Minister himself. Coincidentally, he had an impromptu press conference in the midst of our meeting where he made his case for a change from the current government.

"Governor Crist was polite as an aggressive Israeli media corps (apparently Netanyahu gives few press conferences) peppered Netanyahu with questions in Hebrew."

Debates could feature a limiited number of candidates

A partnership between Leadership Florida, the Florida Press Association and the Florida Public Broadcasting Service announced today that it would hold presidential debates on Jan. 23 and Jan. 24. in advance of Florida's Jan. 29th presidential primary. The Republican debate would come on Jan. 23, followed by the Democrats on Jan. 24th. The debates will be held on the campus of a university or college, but a location has not been finalized.

The number of candidates, however, who show up could be limited. Not only does the candidate have to show up on the primary ballot, they must have at least 10 percent support among likely voters polled by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research. That 10 percent margin can include the margin of error. The poll used will be the one selected by organizers. This is avoid a last-minute entry ala Max Linn, who sued to get added to one of last fall's debates between Charlie Crist and Jim Davis. Linn commissioned his own poll and used the numbers to convince a judge to add him to the debate.

Debate organizers say invitations have been extended to six candidates who look like they will meet this criteria: Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and John McCain on the GOP side and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards on the Democratic side.

And speaking of Democrats, organizers are confident that the Democrats will work something out regarding the Jan. 29th primary. National officials have threatened to sanction any candidate that actively campaigns in Florida in advance of the primary because the date violates party rules.

Graham cameo in new Clinton book

Former U.S. Bob Graham of Florida has an I-told-you-so moment in an excerpt from a controversial new book on Hillary Clinton.

The New York Times' excerpt from "Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton," by Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr., focuses on Clinton's vote to authorize military action in Iraq.

The authors note that the National Intelligence Estimate, the most comprehensive report from the intelligence community about weapons of mass destruction, was available to all 100 senators. But apparently only six senators personally read the report.

"The question of whether Clinton took the time to read the N.I.E. report is critically important,'' the article says. "Indeed, one of Clinton’s Democratic colleagues, Bob Graham, the Florida senator who was then the chairman of the intelligence committee, said he voted against the resolution on the war, in part, because he had read the complete N.I.E. report. Graham said he found that it did not persuade him that Iraq possessed W.M.D. As a result, he listened to Bush’s claims more skeptically.

“I was able to apply caveat emptor,” Graham, who has since left the Senate, observed in 2005. He added regretfully, “Most of my colleagues could not."

Click here to read the full article.