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243 posts from November 2009

November 30, 2009

Crist removes official who made $70k in phone calls

Gotta love West Miami Mayor Cesar Carasa. He allegedly made more than $70,000 worth of personal calls from his city-owned cell phone. Most of the calls were to the Dominican Republican, even during a trip to China. Talk about roaming charges.

Gov. Charlie Crist suspended him.

The document is here. Download 2009.11.30 Executive Order 09-2681

Leaders issue proclamation for special session

Senate President Jeff Atwater and House Speaker Larry Cretul jointly issued a statement Monday evening calling for a special legislative session on commuter and high-speed rail to begin at 9 a.m. Thursday Dec. 3 and ending at noon Friday, Dec. 11. Read the proclamation here.

-- Steve Bousquet

Obama Florida supporter is nominated for ambassador to Portugal

Tallahassee's Allan J. Katz has been nominated ambassador to the Portuguese Republic (that's the official name for Portugal)

Katz, a major Obama fundraiser and member of his national finance committee, is a former city commissioner in Tallahassee.

President Barack Obama also nominated Bisa Williams -- whose recent trip to Cuba made headlines -- as ambassador to Niger. 

SInk: I was right, McCollum wrong, on SBA expansion

UPDATE: Here is McCollum's retort

CFO Alex Sink issued a legal opinion today that amounts to an "I told you so" to Attorney General Bill McCollum, who questioned the constitutionality of her proposal in September to expand the SBA that oversees Florida's $110-billion pension fund.

Sink's press office released the legal analysis from former Florida Supreme Court Justice Major Harding, who confirmed that her proposal to strengthen SBA oversight through a number of measures including expanding the trustees board can be done through legislation. During the September Cabinet meeting, McCollum had suggested such a change would require a constitutional amendment.

Harding disagrees, and Sink of course sent a letter to the Governor and McCollum with Justice Harding’s analysis.  She also copied the members of the Investment Advisory Council, who she will speak to about her reforms on Thursday.


Here's the letter: Download Harding Letter 112409


Atwater to Sens: Be here for rail special 9 am Thursday


Senate President Jeff Atwater just sent senators a memo telling them to be in Tallahassee by 9 a.m. Thursday for a special session on commuter rail in South and Central Florida, though the official call is still being drafted.

The special session will extend into next week, when lawmakers already are scheduled to be in the state capital for committee meetings.

The call for a special session comes in spite of opposition from the Florida AFL-CIO, whose union workers say the current proposal does not include protections for railroad workers' rights. The Central Florida SunRail proposal died last year in the Florida Senate because of concerns about the cost and liability, and its passage or failure is likely to once again hinge on a tight vote in that chamber. A crucial vote will be that of Jacksonville Sen. Tony Hill, a longtime longshoreman and Democrat.

Here's a summary of the proposal lawmakers will be considering: Download Summary of Proposed Statewide Rail Transit

Keep reading for Atwater's memo:

Continue reading "Atwater to Sens: Be here for rail special 9 am Thursday" »

Sorry, Charlie, no corruption probe

Gov. Charlie Crist's request for a statewide grand-jury to probe potential corruption in Florida (more here) was denied Monday by the Florida Supreme Court. Only Justice Charles Canady dissented. Here's what the court said:

THE COURT, having considered the Petition of the Honorable Charles J. Crist, Jr., Governor of Florida, for an order to impanel a statewide grand jury, and being fully advised of the relevant matters, hereby finds that the petition does not meet the minimal allegations required by section 905.33, Florida Statutes. See § 905.33, Fla. Stat. (2009) ("The petition shall state the general crimes or wrongs to be inquired into and shall state that said crimes or wrongs are of a multicircuit nature.").

WHEREFORE, because pursuant to the provisions of Sections 905.31 through 905.40, Florida Statutes, "Statewide Grand Jury Act," the minimum requirements to impanel a statewide grand jury have not been established, the Petition is denied. The denial is without prejudice for Petitioner to refile a sufficient petition. See In re Advisory Opinion to the Governor, 290 So. 2d 473, 474-475 (Fla. 1974) (discussing the minimal requirements, under the act, for a petition for impanelment); Statewide Grand Jury #18, Case No. SC07-1128 (June 20, 2007) (issuing an order impaneling a statewide grand jury, based on a petition that met the minimal requirements of § 905.33, Florida Statutes).

Jones to start at County Hall but where is he living?

Gov. Charlie Crist's new pick for Broward County Commission -- Republican Al Jones -- starts today and will be sworn in by Broward Judge Elijah Williams at the 10 a.m. meeting Tuesday.

When Crist announced the appointment last Monday, Jones vowed transparency and that he would move to the district soon -- but he wasn't specific before he dashed away from reporters and into his car.

He could not be reached several times since then to answer questions about when he will move to the district. Jones currently lives in Dania Beach, and the county attorney has said he must live in District 9 which spans several cities from Fort Lauderdale to Pompano Beach.

Jones plans to run in the overwhelmingly Democratic district next year.

PSC appoints former senator, Curt Kiser, to be its new staff counsel

The Florida Public Service Commission picked former state senator and Tallahassee lobbyist Curt Kiser to serve as the agency's general counsel Monday, vowing to make a "clean break'' and bring a fresh start to the embattled agency.

Kiser, who served in the legislature from 1972 to 1994 and most recently represented the Florida Press Association and the American Cancer Society as a legislative lobbyist. He served for 17 years on the Public Service Nominating Council, was author of several pieces of utility-related legislation including the bill to create the state public advocate before the utility board, the Office of Public Counsel.

Commission Chairman Matthew Carter nominated Kiser because, he said, he could help improve the agency's image, help with its public records problems after staff members were caught giving Blackberry codes to lobbyists, and work with the legislature to usher in practical reforms.

"People think we suck," Carter said. "In that context, we need to mke a clean break from the past and move forward. He has the necessary legal acumen and management skills."

Continue reading "PSC appoints former senator, Curt Kiser, to be its new staff counsel" »

The next best thing to being in the NYT crossword

Is being an answer to a question in the renowned Herald Hunt! Among the opening questions yesterday was this gem: In August, Sen. Mel Martinez resigned as one of Florida's U.S. Senators. Whom did Gov. Charlie Crist appoint to replace him?

Images D. Gloria Estefan

G. A live, six-foot nurse shark    

H. Some lackey

Fl lawmakers down on entitlements -- except for themselves

Top Florida lawmakers are balking at Congress' plans to help more poor people get health care, though they've protected an entitlement of their own for years: free insurance premiums.

Taxpayers have been stuck with covering the premiums  at an annual cost of about $45 million -- even while lawmakers pledged to scrimp and save as they grappled with three straight years of budget shortfalls.

Florida doesn't limit the subsidies to statewide officeholders like Gov. Charlie Crist and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, or to legislators like Senate President Jeff Atwater and House Speaker Larry Cretul. About 27,479 state employees -- many of them high-level bureaucrats and political appointees -- also get the break. So do their families.

" I think it's appropriate. I think it's part of the compensation package for a public servant,'' Crist said. "It's a policy that has been supported by the Legislature and I'm comfortable with it.''

The governor plans to add his wife of nearly one year, wealthy businesswoman and philanthropist Carole Crist, as well as her two daughters from a previous marriage to his health plan on Jan. 1. The girls attend an all-girls private school in New York and live with their father, who owns a jet-rental company.

"There is not a residency requirement for coverage,'' explained Crist spokesman Sterling Ivey.

Full story here.