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214 posts from September 2007

September 30, 2007

Sembler helps bankroll Freedom's Watch

St. Petersburg developer and Republican party donor Mel Sembler is helping raise money for a conservative advocacy group that sees itself as the antidote to MoveOn.org. It calls itself Freedom's Watch.

"A bunch of us activists kept watching MoveOn and its attacks on the war, and it just got to be obnoxious," Sembler told The New York Times. “We decided we needed to do something about this, because the conservative side was not responding.”

The full story is here.

Undocumented immigrants to boost Florida political power?

A new study finds that the population of undocumented immigrants could boost the number of Congressional seats in the Southern border states - Florida, Arizona and Florida - at the expense of Northern and Midwestern states like Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio and New York.

That's because neither the U.S. Constitution nor the Census Bureau differentiates between citizens and non-citizens for the population count used to draw congressional maps.

The report by the Connecticut State Data Center at the University of Connecticut suggests that Florida stands to gain 3 congressional seats in 2010 - the next time congressional districts are redrawn - if the undocumented are counted. New York and Ohio would each lose 2 seats. The study, though, shows Florida picking up 2 new seats, even if the undocumented were excluded.

"Large undocumented (non-voting) populations have the net impact of both shifting seats to immigrant destination states and providing citizens in those states more voting power than citizens in non-destination states," says the study authored by demographer Orlando Rodriguez. "These twin influences raise conflicting questions on the foundation of political representation versus the inclusivenss of American society."

September 29, 2007

Fla Dem primary saga, chapter XXXVIII

The major presidential candidates may be able to attend a January debate hosted by Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton despite a self-imposed ban on campaigning in Florida.

In a conference call with about 60 activists, the state party's executive director, Leonard Joseph, said the nationally televised debate may fall under an exception in party rules that allow only four smaller states to vote before Feb. 5. A new state law moved up the primary to Jan. 29.

Joseph added that one of the lesser-known candidates, Mike Gravel, is planning to attend a "peace rally'' in Orlando on Oct. 27 and to talk about it at the state party's convention that day. The major candidates are not expected to attend.

"Each of the candidates will have to create their own standards as to what this pledge allows them to do,'' Joseph said.

The four states seeking to protect their position at the front of the calendar pressured the candidates to sign a "pledge''  not to campaign in Florida, except to raise money. Democratic candidate John Edwards is collecting checks in Boca Raton tomorrow but will not make any public appearances.

Steve Geller of Hallandale Beach, who serves as the Democratic leader in the Florida Senate, accused the four early states states of "conspiring together, making up the rules.''

The telecommunications huddle came as a Democratic National Committee deadline loomed. As of 5 p.m., Florida will be officially excluded from the 2008 convention. That means candidates cannot earn any Florida delegates toward securing the nomination, even if they win the most votes.

Nevertheless, Florida Democratic Party Chairman Karen Thurman maintained that the results in the fourth largest state will influence the race.

"I believe this is not a beauty contest or a straw poll,'' Thurman said. "By having maximum participation, calling this anything other than an election is being disrespectful and misleading.''

Some activists had urged the party to organize an alternative election that complied with DNC rules, but Thurman has said most voters would be unlikely to participate in anything other than the state-run primary on Jan. 29.

Mel Martinez to call it quits as RNC chief?

So says columnist Robert Novak.

He writes that the Florida senator, who was named general chairman of the Republican Party "only nine months ago, has advised associates that he will leave the post as soon as somebody clinches the party's presidential nomination. That probably will come after the Feb. 5 primary elections next year.

When Martinez took the party post Jan. 19, it was expected he would stay on through the 2008 elections as the GOP's principal national spokesman. Many Republicans now grumble that Martinez has been ineffective in that role, partly because he has been drowned out by the many presidential hopefuls.

Kentucky lawyer Mike Duncan, who came on board with Martinez as chairman of the Republican National Committee, is expected to remain running day-to-day operations at national party headquarters for the balance of his two-year term."

Nelson finds his left foot

No one who has followed Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's career was surprised when he joined GOP colleagues to condemn the inflammatory anti-war ad that attacked Gen. David Petraeus.

Nelson usually plays it safe. He's against oil drilling and for restoring the Everglades. He's currently touting legislation that aims to protect children from being run over in driveways, a worthy goal but hardly a firebrand crusade.

But in the past month, Nelson has found a cause celebre worthy of the Democratic base: standing up for Florida votes in the Jan. 29 presidential primary.

Read the rest of Beth Reinhard's column here.

September 28, 2007

Florida has quietly paid off millions and millions to end lawsuits

Florida has spent nearly $200 million over the past 10 years to quietly settle lawsuits for everything from employment discrimination to sexual harassment to state employees turning a blind eye to child abuse.

The biggest payouts have come on behalf of Florida's child-welfare agency, the Department of Children & Families, to compensate children who have been beaten, abused and sexually assaulted while in state custody. While one of the largest payouts involves a Gainesville woman now serving 60 years in prison for child abuse, a review of records shows that DCF has agreed to $73 million worth of settlements in the last 10 years.

These settlements have come outside of the claims bill process or specific appropriations set aside by the Florida Legislature.While top lawmakers get official notice of large settlements, it appears that legislators have not noticed the overall amount of settlements that have been agreed to.

Recent settlements include $1.3 million to resolve a lawsuit involving the Department of Corrections, $300,000 to the parents of a boy who disappeared while in state custody, and $1.2 million to five children who were adopted by a foster parent who sexually assaulted them. More here.

Compact delayed, meeting set for Monday

In spite of their self-imposed deadline of Sept. 30, Gov. Charlie Crist and Seminole Tribe of Florida negotiators have scheduled a meeting to work out final details of their gambling compact for Monday.

The latest draft of their draft agreement sets the Sept. 30 deadline for the parties to sign the deal, and gives the legislature until Oct. 31 to approve it. But with the House continuing to resist any expansion of gambling into banked card games, sources say the governor has slowed down the talks, hoping to find some middle ground. 

Senate president: More prudent to focus on budget only

Senate President Ken Pruitt says that despite a deal on no-fault insurance reached between Sen. Bill Posey and Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff that this not the time to deal with PIP and that lawmakers should focus on cutting the budget only during next week's special session.

"Senator Posey has done a masterful job to forge an agreement with Representative Bogdanoff on PIP, and the Senate thanks him for his leadership on the issue. It is in my judgment, given the current budget shortfalls and the serious fiscal challenges in the forecast, that the most prudent action on the part of this Senate would be to focus on our constitutional duty to have a balanced budget."

(Oh and does anyone remember the days when Bogdanoff was working hand-in-hand with Pruitt as the head of his non-profit organization....)

Florida to host another debate

Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton has been selected to host two nationally televised presidential debates on Jan. 23 and 25, organizers announced today.

Leadership Florida, the Florida Press Association and the Florida Public Broadcasting Service is producing the debates, which will air live on MSNBC.

"We at FAU are thrilled by the opportunity to host debates of such compelling national significance," said FAU President Frank Brogan, who served as lieutenant governor under Jeb Bush. "In addition to fulfilling our educational mission to inform Florida’s electorate, we look forward to also educating millions of others as we roll out the red carpet and welcome these presidential candidates -- and the national spotlight that accompanies them -- to our campus.”

Now comes the hard part -- getting candidates already besieged by debate requests to commit. The leading Republican candidates have been picky, turning down a Sept. 16 proposal from Univision, a Sept. 17 "Value Voters" forum in Fort Lauderdale and this week, a nationally televised debate aimed at black voters. Meanwhile, the Democrats have pledged not to campaign in Florida because the state's early primary broke national party rules.

Today's story about Univision giving the Republican candidates another chance on Dec. 9 is here.

Rubio calls on Crist to help with property taxes and PIP

House Speaker Marco Rubio has asked Gov. Charlie Crist to use his power to add two items to the official agenda for next week's special session: Fixing the Jan. 29th amendment on property taxes and keeping intact Florida's no-fault auto insurance requirement.

Here's a copy of the letter: Download rubio_letter.pdf

In the letter Rubio said both issues cannot be resolved without the "leadership" of Crist.

"We are keenly aware of, and appreciate, your respect and deference to the legislative process,'' wrote Rubio. "However, with regard to these two issues, we have reached a point where without your leadership, the urgent needs of Floridians will not be addressed."