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285 posts from August 2012

August 31, 2012

More than 1,200 public officials fail to file financial disclosure forms on time

The clock is ticking for more than 1,200 elected officials and government employees who have not yet filed their financial disclosure reports for 2011.

Though the deadline to file the reports was July 1, late-filers have until Tuesday to submit their paperwork before fines start accruing, according to Integrity Florida, a watchdog group.

“These 1,240 late filers (as of August 29) will begin facing fines of $25 per late day (up to a $1,500 cap) if they fail to send their required financial disclosure forms to the Florida Commission on Ethics with a postmark on or before September 4, 2012,” said Dan Krassner, director of Integrity Florida, in a statement.

The financial disclosure reports are a requirement for tens of thousands of officials, from state Representatives to school principals and local mayors. The reports allow members of the public to know the financial assets and liabilities of elected officials, and can highlight any potential conflicts of interest.

For example, a recent report by Integrity Florida found that at least 12 lawmakers  worked for firms that lobbied the state government.

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Rep. Julien to challenge razor-thin election in court today

Rep. John Patrick Julien said he would challenge the results of the District 107 primary race for the Florida House, which Rep. Barbara Watson won by 13 votes in a recount.

Julien, D-North Miami, was planning to file a court challenge to the results on Friday afternoon. 

"I fully expect that we will be filing our official contest today," he said Friday afternoon, adding that the filing would be made within hours.

Julien alleged that absentee ballot fraud and voting irregularities tainted his race, potentially skewing the results in favor of Watson, D-Miami Gardens. 

Julien said he did not want to disclose the full details of the challenge before it was filed in court. On Twitter he has said he would try to get at least 14 absentee ballot votes thrown out as fraudulent. His attorney, Juan-Carlos Planas, is also involved in challenging a close Democratic primary Senate race between Reps. Mack Bernard of West Palm Beach and Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth. That race was decided by only 17 votes, and there were potential absentee ballot issues there as well.

Planas is a former Republican legislator from Miami.


Florida surgeon general: Jacksonville TB outbreak not a public threat

Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong said the state’s Department of Health is still identifying and screening Jacksonville resident who may have come into contact with people infected with tuberculosis. But he also wanted to assure people who may live in or visit the area that they are not in harm’s way.

“The people of Jacksonville and of Duval county remain safe,” he told members of media during a conference call Friday morning.

The Jacksonville outbreak is among the worst the nation has seen in many years, and over a dozen people have died. However, the strain causing the infections is both treatable and traceable, Armstrong said.

Efforts continue to identify and screen people who may have come in contact with people with active infections.

So far, the state has tested 93 percent of “named contacts,” people with can be identified by name as people who TB patients had direct contact with. However, the state has only tested 53 percent of 2,100 “location contacts,” people who were in the same building as someone who had TB.

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Sen. Fasano calls for hearing into 'shameless' spending by Citizens Insurance execs

Sen. Mike Fasano, the most outspoken legislator when it comes to property insurance issues, is calling on the Florida Cabinet to hold a hearing into the “lavish” spending by Citizens Property Insurance executives.

On Sunday, the Herald/Times reported on the growing travel and meals expenses by Citizens executives, who regularly stay in five-star hotels across the globe while publicly complaining that company finances are in trouble, and asking for rate increases.

On Friday, Fasano sent letters to Cabinet members—Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam—asking them to call the high-spending execs to the carpet for  their expenditures.

“Citizens’ top executives and board members have been shameless in the way they lavishly spend tax dollars on travel and related expenses,” Fasano, R-New Port Richey, said in a statement.  “While crying poor mouth they stay in posh hotels, eat expensive meals, and engage in international travel.  While so many of their customers are struggling to cut their personal budgets so they can pay their ever increasing premiums, Citizens’ higher-ups are living high on the hog on the public dime.”

Fasano signed each of the letters personally, writing “Something must be done!”

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August 30, 2012

Rick Scott makes it to convention on final night

Gov. Rick Scott made it. The host-state governor of the Republican National Convention in Tampa arrived for Thursday night's celebration of Mitt Romney as the GOP nominee and prime-time speeches by three Floridians. The governor entered the Tampa Bay Times Forum shortly before the 7:30 p.m. start of the session. Republican alternate delegates chanted "Rick! Rick! Rick!" when they saw him make his way through the crowd.

He spent most of the evening on the floor. His box is in the nose bleed seats with almost no sight line -- another apparent punishment of the early primary agreed to by the governor and legislative leaders.

Scott had scrapped a convention speech and appearances at several private convention events last weekend because of the approaching Tropical Storm Isaac, and he spent recent days visiting areas hit by the storm and speaking with emergency managers across the state. He spent most of Thursday in Pensacola, visiting historic attractions and meeting with tourist industry leaders. 

-- Steve Bousquet and Mary Ellen Klas

Bush appeals for new dedication to equal education, wants Obama to stop blaming his brother

TAMPA _ Former Florida governor Jeb Bush used his prime time spotlight at the Republican National Convention Thursday to pass a symbolic torch to his party’s nominees, defend his brother, and urge the nation to rededicate its promise of an equal education. 

 “If we want to continue to be the greatest nation on the planet, we must give our kids what we promise them: An equal opportunity,’’ he said, opening the third night of the GOP’s three-day pep rally. “That starts in the classroom. It starts in our communities. It starts where you live.” 

Bush spent most of his 15-minute speech focused on the need to reform education, an issue he has devoted himself to since he retired as governor in 2007. Working through the Foundation for Excellence in Education, he has pushed for expanding school choice and classroom accountability.

But before he began his prepared remarks, he said he had to get something off his chest – the defense of his brother, former President George W. Bush.

“He is a man of integrity, courage and honor and during incredibly challenging times, he kept us safe,’’ he said to loud applause. “So Mr. President [Obama], Mr. President, it is about time to stop blaming your predecessor for your failed economic policies .. In the fourth year of your presidency, a real leader would accept responsibility for his actions and you haven’t done it.”

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Two more defeated candidates -- one legislative, one judicial -- contest Miami-Dade election results

Two more candidates defeated in Miami-Dade County races earlier this month have sued to contest the results, citing a Hialeah absentee-ballot fraud investigation. The lawsuits bring the total number of complaints stemming from the probe to four.

Paul Crespo, who lost a Republican primary against state Rep. Carlos Trujillo, and Alex Jimenez Labora, who came up short in a judicial race against Maria de Jesus Santovenia, filed separate lawsuits Tuesday asking the court to discard absentee ballots cast in the contests.

In the race for an open circuit judge seat, Santovenia, an assistant North Miami Beach city attorney, defeated Labora, a traffic magistrate, 52 percent to 48 percent. Without the absentee vote, according to his lawsuit, Labora would have won, 51 percent to 49 percent.

“My early voting was almost 50-50, and the day of the election I was ahead, and in absentee ballots I was way off,” Labora said. “It didn’t quite make sense.”

Santovenia declined to comment, saying she was unaware the lawsuit had been filed. Candidates had until Tuesday to challenge the Aug. 14 election results.

In the Republican primary for Florida House District 105, Trujillo garnered 56 percent of the vote, compared to Crespo’s 44 percent. Trujillo noted he would win the election even if the absentee ballots were not counted.

“He still loses,” Trujillo said of Crespo. “I’m not sure what he wants.”

Crespo said that without the Miami-Dade absentee vote, he would lose by only 39 votes. “That’s within the margin of a recount,” he said.

More here.

Dept. of leaks: Did Marco Rubio gets snagged in Romney World (again) by leaking speech?

For the third time, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has been on the receiving end of an anonymous leaker connected to Mitt Romney's presidential bid.

This time, Rubio's much-anticipated speech introducing Romney was leaked in its entirety hours before the show to the Weekly Standard. It's the only leak of its kind during the Republican National Convention.

Last week, Romney's campaign had planned to bounce Rubio from the spot, but the plan was scuttled seemingly at the last minute (and after the Weekly Standard first reported about the move [good for the WS, by the way]). And, last month, anonymous Romney sources told national media outlets that Rubio wasn't even on the vice-presidential shortlist --a leak timed to coincidet with the launch of Rubio's book tour to plug his autobiography, "An American Son."

This might not be a leak from the Romney campaign. Republicans say the version the Weekly Standard received was sent to convention staffers -- not Romney's campaign. Still, it sounds fishy.

This isn't that damaging a leak. After all, it's Rubio's speech. But it does take the sizzle out of it. Remember when Jon Stewart on Tuesday mused that Romney's campaign would say "hey, charisma boy, dude, take it down a notch?"

Looks like we have the answer.

Here's the speech, typos and all, as sent by Rubio earlier today:


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Does Obama want to 'nationalize curriculum'?

Who should decide how to teach children to write a sentence or multiply numbers -- local leaders or the feds?

Rick Santorum, who dropped out of the GOP presidential primary, touched on that theme in his Aug. 28 speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa:

"A solid education should be the second rung on the ladder to success, but the system is failing. President Obama's solution has been to deny parents choice, attack private schools and nationalize curriculum and student loans. Mitt Romney believes that parents and the local community must be put in charge -- not the Department of Education."

Has Obama tried to "nationalize curriculum"? We could not track down Santorum to ask him to explain his statement, but Education Week wrote that his statement was "an apparent dig at the Common Core State Standards, which are not an initiative of the federal government, but have been embraced by the federal Department of Education." PolitiFact rates Santorum's claim Mostly False.

PolitiFact reviews the Marco Rubio file

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has the critical role of introducing Mitt Romney at the Republican National Convention in Tampa on Aug. 30.

A former state legislator from West Miami elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, Rubio’s star has quickly soared as a young, charismatic Hispanic politician who was considered a vice presidential contender. Republicans are hoping that Rubio’s speech will win over coveted Hispanic voters, and it will give Rubio his most prominent national spotlight of his career.

PolitiFact has fact-checked several of Rubio’s statements; review his complete record on the Truth-O-MeterHere, we will review some of the topics Rubio often touches on: the economy, immigration -- plus some hard-charging criticism of President Barack Obama and the Democrats.