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214 posts from September 2007

September 27, 2007

National Right to Life salutes Terri Schiavo's parents, siblings

The National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund will hold its 14th annual Proudly Pro-Life Awards dinner in DC next week, honoring Terri Schiavo's parents, and her brother and sister.

The organization notes that the family came to international prominence in 2005 as they sought to keep the brain-damaged woman alive in a Florida hospice.

Schiavo died March 31, 2005, almost two weeks after a feeding tube was removed under a court order.

The bitter struggle between Schiavo's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, and her husband over whether she would have wanted to be kept alive with the feeding tube riveted Americans, sparked an international debate about end-of-life issues and prompted Congress to intervene.

Among the speakers at the Oct. 2 dinner, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who championed congressional efforts to keep Schiavo alive.

Since Schiavo's death, her family has created a foundation to help others like her.

Florida high court rejects slots appeal

After just a week reviewing the case, the Florida Supreme Court issued its swift ruling today unanimously agreeing to reject the challenge to the amendment on slot machines. Slot machine opponents alleged that fraud occurred in the petition drive leading up to the slots amendment and it should be removed from the constitution. The court rejected jurisdiction and said the facts of the court should have been developed at the trial court level. See it here: Download level_playing_field_ruling.pdf

Writing for the court, Justice Barbara Pariente cited the answer brief of Attorney General Bill McCollum, saying it was a sound argument the court agreed with:

"The long-standing principle that an election cures irregularities in the process and thereby promotes finality and administrative efficiency is a weighty one; similarly, the ability of citizens to amend the state constitution through the initiative process without fraud is extremely important.

"This Court should avoid making rulings affecting the application of these principles until the specific allegations of fraud are adjudicated. A fully-developed record with a proven set of facts will allow this Court to carefully consider and balance the competing legal principles; that cannot properly be done based on speculative, unproven factual allegations."

During the arguments last week, the justices asked lawyers on both sides to address whether they should hear the case at all or return it to the lower court for trial.

Charges of "snow job" launched against UCF and FIU

A discussion of the 2008 budget sparked an angry exchange between Board of Governors member Dr. Zach Zachariah and University of Central Florida President John Hitt. Zachariah, who has voiced concerns in the past about opening new medical schools at UCF and Florida International University, contended that university leaders, and their consultants hired to pitch new med schools, should have anticipated that the start-up costs for the schools would rise. In August the two schools reported new standards would require them to have an $110 million more in their first decade of operations.

"There's absolutely no defense, or excuse,'' said Zachariah, a cardiologist who is also a high-powered GOP donor. "All they are trying to do is a snow job."

Hitt lashed back at having his "integrity" attacked. "I think we need to start looking at facts and not listen to unsupported allegations,'' said Hitt, adding that both schools have already started spending millions to bring the med schools to fruition. "This is not a project you can turn a tap on or off for. I can hardly imagine any good purpose that can be served by further bickering."

NYT op-ed blasts DNC for "dark side" decision in Florida

New York Times columnist Gail Collins asks today "What were they thinking" when the DNC cued the "Democratic Dark Star" with its primary treatment of Florida. Read here.

House releases PIP compromise

House leaders release proposed compromise with the Senate to restore no-fault coverage in Florida after it expires next week. Here's the draft: Download pip_draft_2_92707.pdf  Here's the letter from House lead on the issue, Rep, Ellyn Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale: Download bogdanoff_92707.doc

This bill extends the requirement for drivers to buy $10,000 of personal injury protection, also known as PIP. It contains some anti-fraud measures.

Crist's budget plan has "serious mistake" for universities

Kicking off what is expected to be a long day dedicated to talking about how the state university system is underfunded, members of the Board of Governors this morning expressed dismay that Gov. Charlie Crist targeted construction grants for budget cuts. Crist in his budget cut recommendations to lawmakers suggested slashing $37.8 million in a program that matches private donations with state dollars for construction projects.

Members of the Board of Governors facilities committee said it made no sense to cut money for construction projects when Crist himself has said he wants to jumpstart Florida's economy by spending money now on other school and road construction projects.

"I think it's a serious mistake that has been proposed,'' said BOG member and former Florida State University president Stanley Marshall.

The Board of Governors is meeting on the same day that legislators begin deliberations for next week's scheduled, but not yet officially declared, special session to cut the state's $71 billion budget. (Translation: We still don't have an official call for the session.)

Later this morning the BOG is expected to vote on a proposal to raise tuition for the spring semester, which could set up a constitutional clash with the Legislature and Crist. Crist continues to be opposed to raising tuition anytime this year, although the House is considering a budget proposal to raise tuition as well.

Where's Adam?

State Democrats are questioning whether Rep. Adam Putnam - the state's highest ranking House Republican - is ready to break ranks with the Bush adminstration.

The Florida Democratic Party pointed out that the Bartow Republican missed a committee vote on a Florida-backed bill aimed at cutting homeowner's insurance rates.

The bill cleared a key House committee and is headed to the floor - despite staunch opposition from the White House.

A spokesman for Putnam said the congressman missed the vote because of leadership duties, but supports the bill. He noted Putnam did attend the previous meeting on the bill and "worked hard for it."

September 26, 2007

"Policing political ads"

Five Florida Democrats were among 79 House Dems voting against a Republican-backed measure to condemn MoveOn.org's ad that referred to Gen. David Petraeus as "General Betray Us."

"Congress should not be in the business of policing political ads," said Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton, who voted against the bill, which passed 341 to 79. "The priorities of Congress are ridiculously misplaced when we condemn an organization for a pun that some people found offensive, while previously failing to condemn vicious campaign ads against decorated veterans like Senator John Kerry and Senator Max Cleland."

He was joined by fellow Democratic Reps. Kendrick Meek of Miami, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, Alcee Hastings of Miramar and Corrine Brown of Jacksonville.

Republicans have been agitating against the ad for weeks; Wexler said it's an attempt to take the focus off the "reality in Iraq."

The Senate took a similar vote last week and both Florida senators, Republican Mel Martinez and Democrat Bill Nelson, voted to condemn the ad.

Looking at 2010? Gelber slams Martinez

Which Senate is Dan Gelber running for?

The House Minority Leader - and state Senate candidate - sent an open letter to Sen. Mel Martinez today, slamming the Florida Republican for siding with President Bush and opposing a Democratic-led children's health insurance bill.

"As chairman of the Republican National Committee, I recognize your role and responsibility to defend and endorse President Bush's legislative agenda..." the Miami Beach state representative wrote. "However, the rhetoric of "entitlements" and "socialized medicine" seems designed to fire up the president's political base rather than honestly helping your colleagues figure out how to fix a system that has left more than nine million American children without health care."

Party insiders have talked about Gelber as a potential challenger to Martinez who is up for re-election in 2010. Gelber said it would be "presumptuous" to talk about a U.S. Senate bid while he's running for state Senate, but added, "you don't have to be running for office to see that Sen. Martinez's unthinking allegiance to President Bush does a disservice to Floridians."

Martinez said he supports extending the childrens' health program - but not as Democrats propose.

"I support the program with the original mission of covering low income children who do not have health insurance," Martinez said today on the Senate floor. "This bill is not that program... It isn’t even close."

"It is bad policy to take a program designed to help poor children and create a new entitlement for families making $80 thousand dollars a year," Martinez said. "By expanding coverage further up the income scale and to new populations, this bill takes away needed resources for those most vulnerable, low income children."

Democrats suggest the GOP is shooting itself in the foot by opposing the childrens' program and say it will be an 08 campaign issue. And 2010?

Martinez: GOP'ers not snubbing blacks, Hispanics

The GOP presidential contenders have been hammered for skipping forums aimed at Hispanic and black voters, but national GOP chief and Florida Sen. Mel Martinez suggests it's a question of scheduling.

"We need to work out a time when they can be there," Martinez, who doubles as the general chair of the national Republican party said during an appearance on MSNBC. "I think there'll be no question before this campaign season ends that the Republican nominee is going to speak to these issues and is going to speak to these communities."

Martinez, who earlier this year criticized two of the leading candidates for hammering the Senate immigration legislation, said he wasn't going to "run their calendars.

"I can assure you the Republican nominee is going to identify themselves with these communities, is going to speak to the issues that matter to them," he said.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has said the GOP'ers were making a mistake by skipping tomorrow's forum in Baltimore, to be moderated by talk show host Tavis Smiley.

"I'm puzzled by their decision, I can't speak for them. I think it's a mistake," Gingrich said on ABC's Good Morning America.

The Democratic candidates earlier this month participated in the first Spanish debate at the University of Miami. A GOP debate has been "postponed" because only Sen. John McCain agreed to take part.