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214 posts from September 2007

September 28, 2007

Bogdanoff: Senate to blame for end of PIP

In an e-mail to House members that she just sent out, Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff blames the Senate for no-fault insurance not being included in the official call for next week's special session. Bogdanoff said even though she and Sen. Bill Posey reached an agreement on keeping alive Personal Injury Protection beyond Oct. 1 that Senate leaders refused to consider the bill. She also said she hopes that Gov. Charlie Crist will add PIP to the call and she said that the House still intends to workshop its bill next week.

Bogdanoff in her e-mail states: "Maintaining a no-fault system is imperative to reduce the number of lawsuits that will occur due to accidents. As many of you know, I do not give up easily and will work with you until the end of the special session to see this issue through. However, strong forces are working against PIP, and as it stands today, PIP will sunset, and due to the Senate's hardline position, there is little hope for re-enactment."

Legislature releases "call'' with no PIP

In a sign that the distance between the House and Senate is still too great on restoring no-fault auto insurance (PIP) and property taxes, House and Senate leaders have released their official agenda for the special session that begins Oct. 3 and it doesn't include those issues. Download special_session_call_9_28_07.pdf

Richardson in Florida, and it's not for the sunshine

He won't be talking to Florida voters unless they have a check in hand, but Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson is in the state today.

Richardson was the first candidate to declare that he would honor the calendar set by the Democratic National Committee that allows only four smaller states to vote before Feb. 5. Those states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada -- pressured all of the major candidates into signing a pledge that they would not campaign in Florida. Except to raise money.

This evening, Richardson is expected at a reception hosted by former U.S. Rep. Larry Smith of Hollywood and his son, Grant Smith, at the Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm in Fort Lauderdale. A check made out for at least $500 is your ticket in.

RIchardson supporters know him to be a charming, intelligent man, but that charisma hasn't come across in televised debates.  At the Sept. 9 debate at the University of Miami, Richardson attacked the Univision network for prohibiting him from answering questions in Spanish. He came across as combative again in Wednesday's debate on MSNBC when asked about immigration. "You asked me because I'm the Hispanic here, but I'll answer," Richardson said.

In both of these instances, a sense of humor would have gone a lot farther than indignation.


Geller talks with gov on prop taxes and gambling

Democratic Senate Leader Steve Geller's meeting with Gov. Charlie Crist this morning on gambling, inevitably morphed into a discussion on property taxes. The governor is clearly interested in getting the issue revived in special session, after a Leon County court judge knocked the property tax amendment off the ballot because of misleading language.

The governor asked Geller: "Could you just fix the title?''  Geller responded: "I dont think the Senate has the votes to pass this any longer.''

Geller also wonders "what happens if the appeal wins?" If the legislature puts a new version of the ballot measure on the ballot as well, "does that mean you have two on the ballot?''

Meanwhile, on gambling, Geller wanted to make his case one more time before the governor finishes negotiations with the Seminole Tribe on the gaming compact. Geller, whose district includes three parimutuel casinos as well as the Seminole's Hard Rock Casino, urged Crist to consider this approach: allow the parimutuels and the Seminoles to have card games and slots in Broward and, in the future, Dade while the Seminoles have it exclusively everywhere else. Other parts of the state would be allowed to hold a referendum to get either of those options.

Geller admits he doesn't know how likely it is for his approach to win approval in the anti-gambling House. "Would they be prepared to authorize Class 3 gambling in other parts of the state with a local referendum? I don't know."

Court steps in to protect past bonds

The Florida Supreme Court just reissued its opinion in the Escambia County property tax case that has given cities, counties and school districts fits since it was first released earlier this month. In the revised opinion, the court now makes it clear that its ruling _ which states that voter approval is needed prior to obligating property taxes to pay back bonds _ does not apply to any bonds that predate the ruling.

Attorney General Bill McCollum asked for a clarification on that very point, saying that millions and millions of previous bonds were at risk because the initial ruling said that only bonds that were "validated" were protected. Here's a copy of the ruling: Download revised_opinion.pdf

Florida law to go national?

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, who championed a swimming pool safety act as a Florida legislator, is on track to take it nationally.

Her "Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act" cleared a House committee this week and is headed to the House floor, where she expects it to pass.

The bill would provide money to states that pass swimming pool safety legislation to help prevent childhood drowning - the second leading cause of accidental death among children one to 14.

The national bill uses as its model a Florida law that Wasserman Schultz got passed in 2000, after years of trying.

"Enacting national comprehensive pool and spa safety has been one of my top priorities since my days as a state legislator," Wasserman Schultz said.

Rubio impatient on tax talk but Pruitt has what he wants?

House Speaker Marco Rubio made it clear Thursday night in his televised interview for the Florida Channel: he supports Senate President Ken Pruitt's decision to appeal the property tax ruling but it's not enough.

''There's no guarantee the appeal process is going to deliver us the relief people are going to expect,'' Rubio said in the public television interview, adding it could be February before the court rules. "The people can’t sit back and wait for some courts to determine if they’re going to get a property tax cut or not.” Read more here.

September 27, 2007

What's a little lobbying between friends?

The Miami-Dade County Commission is ready to make it official: Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman and former Republican Party Chairman Al Cardenas are lobbying together on the county's behalf in Washington.

The Miami Herald reported in July that Cardenas was paying $3,500 a month to the former member of Congress to help him lobby the new Democratic leadership. The commission is expected to approve the deal at its Tuesday meeting.

"I call it survival,'' quipped Commissioner Joe Martinez when asked about the bi-partisan partnership. He added that Thurman's involvement needed to be disclosed to the county in case of any conflicts of interest.

Thurman, who earns $100,000 as chairwoman, has said the arrangement does not affect her work on behalf of the party. But it sure is strange to read a letter from Cardenas, a top advisor to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, praising the woman determined to turn Florida from red to blue in 2008.

"During her time in Congress, Karen worked tirelessly on issues related to health care, taxes and the economy,'' the letter says. It also notes her "ability to work productively with members of both parties.''

Santiago says temple visit was not a date with gov

Jennifer Santiago, the CBS-4 reporter who attended temple services with Gov. Charlie Crist on Friday, says it was not a "date." Santiago called The Herald today to complain about the use of the word in the headline on a Sunday blog item about her accepting the governor's invitation to Yom Kippur services at Temple Shalom, where he was a guest of Rep. Dan Gelber. Santiago says the word "date'' implies intimacy.

"I am not dating the governor," she said. She said she is engaged to someone else. Her meeting with the governor on Friday "was celebrating a personal victory," she said.

Santiago said that she and the governor are friends and he invited her to temple after they had spoken about the decision by the governor and clemency board on Thursday to pardon Richard Paey, an accident victim with chronic pain convicted on drug trafficking charges. Santiago had reported extensively on Paey's conviction and "gave the story to the governor," she said.

Five percent tuition hike ordered by board

Setting up a possible confrontation with Gov. Charlie Crist, the Florida Board of Governors stood by their summer vote and this afternoon unanimously ordered a 5-percent tuition hike for the spring 2008 semester. Crist has been reluctant to hike tuition and he vetoed a previously approved tuition hike.

But that veto came before the board decided to assert its powers _ and to join a lawsuit in court that says the board, not the Legislature has the power to set tuition.

Most university presidents said today that they will follow the edict of the board, regardless of whether the Legislature or Crist sign off on a spring tuition hike in the upcoming special session. The tuition hike will cost full-time students who are Florida residents $55 more on their spring tuition bill.

So far the Florida Legislature appears ready to bless the tuition hike but it's unclear whether Crist will support it or oppose it.