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15 posts from November 14, 2012

November 14, 2012

Scott not taking lead in elections reforms

 TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Rick Scott heralded a meeting Wednesday between his Secretary of State and supervisors of elections as a game changer in getting to the bottom of Florida’s voting problems.

“Florida’s elections supervisors are experts in their fields and many of them demonstrated tremendous expertise in running their elections,” said a news release from his office. “We want to hear their ideas. Sec. (Ken) Detzner will meet today with the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections to get their feedback and insight.”

Scott has much to answer for in the days following Tuesday’s election. His state was last in getting called for Pres. Barack Obama, long lines plagued polling sites in Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange and Lee counties, Palm Beach County was still counting absentees on Saturday, and now St. Lucie County’s elections supervisor has admitted to double counting votes that could muddy the outcome in the U.S. congressional race between Democrat Patrick Murphy and GOP Rep. Allen West.

But aside from finally acknowledging that there were major problems, Scott has offered few solutions or insights, essentially ceding the bully pulpit to potential rivals (hello Charlie CristPam Iorio) and Democratic leaning groups like the AFL-CIO, all of whom are pushing for major reforms.

Wednesday’s meeting between the supervisors and Detzner didn’t clarify what, if any, solutions Scott will provide.

Detzner met for 90 minutes in the law office of Ron Labasky, the lobbyist for the association. Other attendees were the association’s executive board members, who represent Clay, Escambia, Polk, Duval and Martin counties – all of which are rural are suburban counties with Republican majorities that lack the dense urban precincts of counties like Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange, Palm Beach, Hillsborough and Pinellas.

Labasky said the group recommended two fixes: limiting the size of the ballot, so it doesn’t take as long for voters to fill out and consider, and giving supervisors greater flexibility in picking early voting sites. Right now, they are limited to confining early voting to governmental buildings.

The group didn’t recommend expanding the early voting period, Labasky said, which other groups have been pushing.

“We as an association don’t have any consensus on that issue,” Labasky said.

But even the two recommendations that were made Wednesday to Detzner are hardly news. The association has been pushing for greater leeway in choosing early voting sites for years. Many also complained about the length of the ballot. Democrats tried to amend a voting law passed last year by reflecting those concerns, but that was rejected by Republicans.

So what came of the meeting?

“I hope there’s progress in that we’re having this dialogue about early voting sites,” Labasky said. “But (Detzner’s) not indicating that he has his arms around it so that he has any ideas for us or a position that they may follow.”

After the meeting, which was closed to the public, Detzner was even more non-committal.

“It’s a little premature for me to say what we’re going to address,” Detzner said. “It’s important to step back and go into a fact finding mode and make the right kind of recommendations.”

He said he didn’t know when he would make those recommendations, which he added would be vetted by his boss, Scott.

“At the right time, I’ll share it with you and everyone else,” he said. 

Advocacy group petitions Bondi to end ban on medicinal marijuana

From the Florida Current:

An organization advocating medicinal use of marijuana asked Attorney General Pam Bondito take pot off the blacklist of totally banned drugs with no medicinal value Tuesday, so the Legislature can set rules for its therapeutic use by patients with painful or crippling afflictions.

"This is a life and death situation for me, and I do have a right to life," Catherine Jordan, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, said from her wheelchair at a news conference in the Florida Press Center. Jordan, president of the Florida Cannabis Action Network, said marijuana has kept her alive more than 20 years -- so long that the Social Security Administration once declared she had outlived her eligibility for benefits, and made her come to an office to prove she was still alive.

She said doctors have attested to the drug's value for her, but that she still can't get it legally in Florida.

"My goal has always been not to be a criminal," she said. "Florida has a medical necessity defense but I had to be arrested to use it."

Jodi James, executive director of the Melbourne-based network, displayed a metal canister she said the federal government uses to send medically approved marijuana to Irvin Rosenfeld, a Broward County man with a rare bone tumor disorder. Next week, he will mark his 30th year receiving pot under a prescription for smoking 10 to 12 joints per day.

Read more here.

House Democrats make leadership moves

The Democratic Caucus in the Florida House has announced its leadership team for the upcoming legislative session. 

Incoming Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, made the announcement Wednesday, shortly after Speaker Designate Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, made leadership announcements.

Leading the House Democratic Caucus will be:

  • Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, as Floor Leader
  • Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Peterburg, as Democratic Policy Advisor
  • Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, as Democratic Policy Chair
  • Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, as Leader pro tempore
  • Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, as Democatic Whip

Democrats are looking to capitalize from their increased numbers in the House, where they picked up a handful of seats, and the olive branch laid out by Weatherford, who said he wants to be an "inclusive reformer."

To that end, Thurston has made a number of recommendations asking Weatherford to include certain Democrats in high-ranking committee positions. Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach, and Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, were offered up as potential ranking members for the Budget Committee and the Ethics and Elections Subcommittee, respectively.




Key West man's death linked to Obama's re-election

A Key West man who told his partner that "if Barack gets re-elected, I'm not going to be around" was found dead on Nov. 8, with the words "F--- Obama!" scrawled on his will and two empty prescription bottles nearby.

Henry Hamilton, 64, owner of Tropical Tan off Duval Street, was "very upset about the election results," his partner Michael Cossey told Police Officer Anna Dykes.

Police spokeswoman Alyson Crean said a cause of death is awaiting autopsy results from the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office but said, "There's absolutely no evidence of foul play."

According to Dykes' report, Cossey returned to the South Roosevelt Boulevard condo he shared with Hamilton after a late night of playing cards with friends and fell asleep on the couch around 6 a.m.

More here

Colombian-American from Pinecrest to run for Florida Democratic Party chairwoman

Annette Taddeo, who served as a Hispanic surrogate for President Barack Obama's reelection campaign, plans to run to head the Florida Democratic Party.

Taddeo will vie to succeed party Chairman Rod Smith, whose term ends in January. He is not seeking reelection. At least one other candidate, Alan Clendenin of Hillsborough County, has already jumped in the race.

In order to be eligible, Taddeo will first have to be elected for another post: chairwoman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party. Taddeo had been planning to seek that seat for months. The local party election to replace outgoing chairman Richard Lydecker will take place next month.

"I'm still very much committed to Miami-Dade County, and to building a bench" of candidates, Taddeo said Wednesday. But other party insiders have urged her to set her sights on the state level. "During the Obama campaign, I had quite a few people reach out to me," she added. "The calls continued after the campaign."

Former state Rep. Scott Randolph of Orlando was the leading candidate to take over the state party reins, Taddeo said, but he got elected Orange County tax collector on Election Day in a last-minute bid after the incumbent candidate died.

Taddeo, a Colombian-American who owns a translation business, has waged two unsuccessful campaigns for public office: against U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in 2008 and for an open Miami-Dade County Commission seat in 2010. She has been involved in national political groups, particularly advocating for female and Hispanic candidates.

Board of Education may tweak tenure rules for state college professors

The State Board of Education is in the process of updating its rules regarding cotinuing contracts, a type of tenure awarded to community and state college professors. Among other things, the rule would allow full-time faculty to be hired without them being eligible for a continuing contract, and it also requires reviews of all continuing contracts every three years.

That concerns the United Faculty of Florida, which says the state is trying to fix a system that isn't broken.

"As I see this rule, it’s unnecessary," said Ed Mitchell, executive director of the union representing higher education faculty. "The local boards of trustee for 50 years have been deciding the criteria and whom to award a continuing contract to. And again it's not broken.” 

Randy Hanna, chancellor of state Department of Education's Division of Florida Colleges, said state college presidents have been working on updating the continuing contract rules for nearly a year.

Republican members of the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott have talked about changing or even ending tenure for college and university professors, but have not been successful in getting a bill passed. By contrast, in 2011 they passed a law that ended tenure for K-12 teachers.

Continue reading "Board of Education may tweak tenure rules for state college professors" »

A city-by-city elections analysis of how Obama and Romney did in Miami-Dade and Broward

What do Hialeah and Lighthouse Point have in common? Both went big for Mitt Romney.

The working class enclave in Miami-Dade and the well-heeled waterfront village in Broward each claimed the title of their county’s top Romney cities in last week’s election. The GOP nominee won Hialeah by about 5,100 votes and Lighthouse Point by a margin of 2,275 votes.

The Republican didn’t come close to carrying either county, of course, so South Florida’s “red” cities were very much in the minority for this presidential cycle. President Barack Obama’s top city in Miami-Dade was Miami, which he won by 122,000 votes. His best in Broward: Miramar, with a margin of about 30,000 votes.

Take a look at the tables and analysis by Douglas Hanks here.

Legislature leadership taking shape: Richter, Precourt, Young move up

The leadership roster of 2013 Florida Legislature is starting to take shape.

After incoming Republican House Majority leader Chris Dorworth was ousted from office in an upset, Speaker Will Weatherford announced that Rep. Steve Precourt, R-Orlando, will take his place. Precourt was elected in 2006 and served as the Finance and Tax Committee chair last year. Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa was named Majority Whip.

Precourt and Young join incoming Rules chairman Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, speaker pro-tempore Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, and budget chair Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland,  in Weatherford's leadership team.

In the Senate, President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, is beginning to announce his team of lieutenants.

He has appointed Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, as president pro tempore.

Richter, who was elected in 2008, served as the Chair of the Banking and Insurance Committee last year. Gaetz has not yet announced the appointment of his Budget Chair and other leadership posts.



Gov. Rick Scott announces funeral arrangements for his mother, Esther

Gov. Rick Scott's mother, Esther Scott, will be buried Saturday in Kansas City, Mo. She died Tuesday at age 84 after a monthlong illness.

"My mom taught me that there is no limit to what you can accomplish if you put a lot of hard work behind your dreams," Scott said via a news release. "She was gracious and kind, and later in life, she was always up for another adventure."

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to VITAS Hospice Care (Research Medical Center) or Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, both in Kansas City.

Continue reading "Gov. Rick Scott announces funeral arrangements for his mother, Esther" »

Broward sheriff election leads to apparent staff switcheroo

Ron Gunzburger, a key force behind the victory of Democrat Sheriff Scott Israel's defeat of Republican Al Lamberti, has quit his job as attorney for Broward County Property Appraiser Lori Parrish effective January 6. Parrish said her deputy, Jerrod Mathias, will be co-deputy, with Mila Schwartzreich, currently a BSO attorney.

Gunzburger, son of Broward County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger, appears to be under consideration for a job at the Broward Sheriff's Office -- chief of staff? attorney? Ron Gunzburger isn't saying.