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166 posts from June 2007

June 28, 2007

How many Florida fundraisers can Hillary do in one day?

The answer: five -- plus a speech to 1,000 Hispanic elected officials.

Saturday is the last day of the three-month fundraising period for presidential candidates, who have to disclose their totals two weeks later. The homestretch tests the mettle of even the most energetic contenders.

Frontrunning Democrat Hillary Clinton has a whirlwind Saturday planned: She starts off the day at a "women's breakfast" fundraiser at Parrot Jungle Island. Then she heads to Orlando to attend another reception and give a speech to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials. Then she jets back to South Florida for three more fundraisers before midnight at the homes of attorney Stuart Ratzan, businessman F.J. Pollak and developer Jorge Perez.

Top aide to Crist stepping down

Vivian Myrtetus, the communications director for Gov. Charlie Crist, is leaving the governor's office and will be replaced by press secretary Erin Isaac. Myrtetus, who also served as the main spokeswoman for Crist's campaign, is leaving to spend more time with her family. In mid-July she will go to work for CoreMessage, the public relations firm started by Cory Tilley, the communications director for former Gov. Jeb Bush. Her last day on the job is Friday.

This is the second top aide in the Crist administration to leave. Jim Rimes, the deputy chief of staff, left the governor's office to become executive director of the Republican Party of Florida.

Myrtetus was able to work hand in hand with Crist despite her allegiance to the University of Miami, the nemesis of Crist's alma mater, Florida State University.

Gov vetoes 5 more bills relating to nursing homes, court fees, English teachers and Coral Springs

Gov. Charlie Crist continues on his veto streak, rejecting five more bills today, mostly to protect consumers from higher costs. Here are his reasons:

* SB 682 -- because it limits nursing home inspection visits to one per year rather than one per quarter and because "facilities responsible for providing care to our most vulnerable citizens must remain under strict scrutiny."Download sb_682_veto.pdf

* SB 2512 -- because it reduces the professional development from 300 hours to 60 hours for reading teachers who teach students who speak English as a second language. "I am concerned that this reduction may impede these students' academic, social, and cultural progress,'' Crist said.Download sb_2512_veto.pdf

* HB 1395 -- because it alters the election procedures for the Coral Spring Improvement District, raise pay for board members and allows less competition when purchasing contracted services. Download hb_1395_veto.pdf 

* SB 1030 -- because it raises fees too high for non-criminal offenses to pay for police training programs. "While I support providing as many tools as possible for our police officers, I do not support doing it on the backs of Floridians who have committed non-criminal violations,'' Crist said. Download sb_1030_veto.pdf

* HB 7087 -- because it allows banks to raise late fees on credit card accounts from $10 to $25. "The citizens of Florida are already feeling the combined weight of an immense property tax burden, an escalation in insurance premiums and a sharp rise in energy costs,'' Crist wrote. "I do not support an additional burden on our citizens who are struggling financially." Download hb_7087_veto.pdf

Rubio doesn't play when it comes to slots

House Speaker Marco Rubio lamented a new law that paves the way for more slot machines in Broward and said he opposed a potential referendum bringing them to Miami-Dade.

The new law went on the books yesterday when Gov. Charlie Crist -- who has said he opposes the expansion of gambling -- failed to veto it. Bills can become laws without his signature.

"People are being sold (gambling) as a panacea to budget problems, and it has its own costs associated with it,'' Rubio said. "This kind of gaming largely depends on locals, and it's a tax on the poor."

The Miami-Dade County Commission is slated to vote in two weeks whether to ask voters -- for the second time -- whether to let racetracks and jai-alai frontons operate slots. One of Rubio's closest allies, state Rep. David Rivera of Miami, may help run the pro-slots campaign.

"My friends are allowed to have different opinions than I do,'' Rubio said. "I disagree with him, and I hope it fails."

Deadline boost tribe's already lucrative gaming empire

Federal regulators gave Florida a until mid-August to come to an agreement with the Seminole Indians but their gaming empire is already strong, according to a new report on Indian gaming released Wednesday.

The Seminoles and the Miccosukees, who have a casino in Miami-Dade County, have had a 21.5 percent increase statewide in Indian gambling revenue last year, a jump that pushed Florida to the No. 5 spot in the nation. More here.

Billion dollar shortfall could lead to budget cuts

Less than two months after state lawmakers passed a new budget, Gov. Charlie Crist, and maybe even the Legislature may be forced to cut it. Tax collections have consistently fallen beneath projections with analysts now predicting the shortfall for this fiscal year _ which ends on Saturday _ and next fiscal year will be $1.2 billion.

Crist's office and legislative leaders have already discussed the prospect of ordering state agencies to trim spending in the new $71 billion budget that takes effect on Sunday. More here.

Hastings: Poor people should serve, too

Rep. Alcee Hastings is defending pay raises for members of Congress - a politically touchy subject - saying Congress shouldn't be a reserve for the wealthy.

CQToday reports that the Miramar Democrat brandished a notice of a $90-per-month rent increase during floor debate Wednesday. Hastings argued that his rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Washington is several hundred dollars more a month than the mortgage on his three-bedroom house in Florida.

"Hastings warned against Congress choosing not to raise its pay because of the political perils," CQ said. " 'What they will wind up with is an elitist Congress, and that is wrong,' " Hastings said. " 'Poor people have a right to be here, too.' "

Members of Congress make $165,200 but point out that they maintain two residences - including one in DC.

Pay raises are automatic unless blocked by a vote. CQ notes that Democrats last year ran an ad campaign accusing Republicans of voting to raise their own pay while ignoring the needs of constituents. The campaign, the GOP said, broke a longstanding pledge to keep pay raises out of political campaigns.

Immigration debate takes a threatening turn

Sen. Mel Martinez, bashed for his support of the Senate immigration plan, is turning one particularly threatening letter over to the Capitol police, the New York Times reports.

The Florida Republican wouldn't elaborate on the nature of the threat. The letter was sent to his home.

Martinez isn't the only one, the newspaper reports. Sen. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, said his office received a telephone call that "made a threat about knowing where I lived."

And Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, another champion of the legislation, said he's received threats by telephone and letters to his office. He told the newspaper that several other senators had told him privately that they also received similar messages.

Nelson's son found guilty

Sen. Bill Nelson's son, Charles William Nelson, was found guilty of battery on a law-enforcement officer Wednesday, a charge stemming from a post-election night party last November in Orlando.

He'll be sentenced July 31, and the Orlando Sentinel notes, as a felon could lose his right to vote.

Details here

June 27, 2007

Crist lets Broward slots bill become law

Gov. Charlie Crist on Wednesday signed 36 bills into law and allowed a bill that helps out Broward pari-mutuels become law without his signature. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Jack Seiler, a Wilton Manors Democrat, allows the four pari-mutuels in Broward to add an additional 500 slot machines and expand their number of hours.

Crist, who said he was opposed to the expansion of gambling while campaigning for governor, also signed into law a measure on instant bingo that Gov. Jeb Bush had previously vetoed. The legislation allows bingo halls to sell instant tickets, which are very similar to instant tickets sold by the Florida Lottery.

Crist also signed into law a measure sponsored by Sen. Steve Geller, a Hallandale Beach Democrat, that allows condominium terminations without approval of 100 percent of condo owners. Crist also vetoed a bill that would have placed a moratorium on the creation of off-site emergency departments until 2009.

Other measures approved by Crist on Wednesday: A bill that lets the owners of grocery stores and malls to bar petition signature gatherers from coming on their property. Crist said that while he was "sympathetic" to those who want be where citizens gather, he said the solution "cannot be to force all  grocers, shopkeepers and restaurateurs to acquiesce to potentially disruptive politically activity at their commercial establishments."

Crist also signed SB 2092, which will set school board member salaries by a state formula instead of forcing board members to adopt their salaries at a public meeting.