413 posts from April 2009
April 20, 2009
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi raised an estimated $250,000 yesterday for the congressional arm of the Democratic party and another $80,000-plus for a political action committee headed by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston. The fundraisers were held at the homes of Duty Free Americas Chairman Simon Faric and Lennar CEO Stuart Miller.
Today, at a Hollywood press conference touting the federal stimulus plan, the two political power brokers sung each other's praises. Pelosi commended Wasserman Schultz for talking publicly about her own treatment for breast cancer and pushing legislation to raise awareness among young women.
"She has been a leader intellectually and politically in the Congress, and now personally,'' Pelosi said. "By sharing her story about her own health challenges, she is going to saves lives, the lives of young women.''
The Democratic national party is already treating Gov. Charlie Crist as a candidate for the U.S. Senate even though he hasn't officially announced his plans to run. Today the party's Senate arm circulated a South Florida Sun-Sentinel report chronicling Crist's less-than-packed schedule.
"As Floridians struggle with job reductions, home foreclosures and dwindling bank accounts, Crist has enjoyed a jet-setting lifestyle, mixing with celebrities, attending charity balls, staying at grand hotels and relaxing in his new wife's $4 million condo on Miami's Fisher Island,'' quoted the press release from the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.
Remember how Crist hammered his Democratic opponent in 2006, former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, for missing votes in Congress with an widely run commercial featuring an empty chair? It looks like the Democratic party plans to give "Empty Chair Charlie'' a taste of his own medicine.
Sources say the GOP is trying to clear the field so that Crist can have an easy Republican primary in 2010.
Gov. Charlie Crist says the Ray Sansom indictment raises a valid point about the secrecy of the state budget process and urged lawmakers to "learn from it."
"I think what we ought to do is try to find away to create greater openness in the budgetary process. So that, if what has been written about is accurate, sort of maneuver can’t happen anymore," Crist said, referring to the $6 million the grand jury said Sansom inserted in the budget to benefit a friend's private jet business.
"Isn’t that obvious?" Crist asked. "It seems to me that just because it’s been done that way for a long time, or that’s how things work, doesn’t mean that’s the way it should work. It’s important to strive to find a way to open it up more, to be more inclusive, particularly at this time in the legislative session."
Crist suggested he would have vetoed the project -- dubbed a budget "turkey" by TaxWatch in 2007 because it was added during conference -- had he known more. "Hindsight is always 20/20," he said, adding that greater transparency could prevent things from slipping through in the future.
Gov. Charlie Crist would not use the word -- "I don' t like to use the V word," he said -- but made it clear he does not support a fast-moving elections overhaul bill that has drawn sharp criticism, including an editorial in Sunday's New York Times. (background here)
"What is it we’re trying to cure?" Crist asked in an interview with the Times/Herald. "The more opportunity you give people to vote, the better it is for democracy. So that aspect of it concerns me."
"It always seems to me that when there may be legislation that attempts to sort of make it harder for people to do something – the people that we work for – generally that’s not good. I don’t look on that in a favorable light and that is true of this particularly particular part of this legislation."
Would you veto the bill if it hits your desk? "Let’s see if it does first. I don’t like to use the V word … but I’m not fond of that provision. It concerns me."
Rep. Alan Hays, no fan of regulation, wants the Office of Insurance Regulation to cut 26 positions -- 23 of them currently filled. He says he's just trying to be financially prudent. OIR officials say the cuts would be "crippling" to the office, which has seen its staffing levels remain basically stagnant since 2003, even while the insurance entities operating in Florida rose fom 3,300 to 3,900.
"I want them to take a look at what's necessary and unnecessary and delete what's unnecessary," he told the Times/Herald this afternoon. "It's to save money and cut out unnecessary paperwork for the state and for the companies."
Four hours into the House Finance and Tax Committee, chairman Ellyn Bogdanoff looked around and noticed that several committee members had left. "What happened to my members?'' she asked. She wondered if they had disappeared to Andrews, the restaurant across the street.
"These are important bills,'' she said. "If anyone is watching this on TV, could you please come back?''
PSC Commissioner Lisa Edgar, the subject of a recently filed ethics complaint, got through one of two Senate reconfirmation hearings scheduled for this week -- but only after a lengthy series of questions from Tampa Bay Sen. Mike Fasano, who called her votes to raise customer utility rates above staff recommendations "mind boggling" and "not consumer friendly."
The vote by Sen. Jim King's energy and utilities committee was 7-1, with only Fasano opposed. Tuesday, the Senate ethics and elections committee votes on the second term for Edgar, recommended for another term by Governor Charlie Crist.
The PSC considers issues including the rates customers pay to the state’s electric, water and telecommunications utilities companies.
"I'm very pleased by the vote today," Edgar told reporters before hurrying off and declining to answer reporters' questions. "Now I'm going to go back to work."
In a bi-partisan voice vote, the House Finance and Tax Committee rejected an attempt to make the sales tax holidays for hurricane supplies and back-to-school needs permanent. The amendment, by Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, a Sarasota Democrat, would have kept the sales tax holiday offered in the committee bill for June and August 2009 return in future years.
"If we can afford a bill that helps out struggling families in tough economic times then we probably can afford this going into the future,'' he said.
Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, said that was a bad idea. "I don’t think it’s a good idea to make this permanent,'' she said. "Each year we come forward based on the economic times...This is premature expecially in thisee economic times. I wold encourage everyone to vote against it."
The bill originally intended to eliminate several sales tax exemptions to finance the sales tax holiday, but a series of amendments have whittled those exemptions down and have added new ones. The end result is that the bill will cost the state more than it will producet in new revenue.
Top officials in Attorney General Bill McCollum's CyberCrime unit will appear on Oprah this afternoon. Maureen Horkan, director of the unit, and Chuck McMullen, chief of law enforcement, will talk about the program.