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11 posts from December 6, 2012

December 06, 2012

NYT: George Zimmerman sues NBC for defamation

From The New York Times.

George Zimmerman, accused of second-degree murder in the shooting of Trayvon Martin earlier this year, filed suit against NBCUniversal on Thursday, alleging that the company’s editing of his voice on a 911 tape constituted defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The suit, filed in circuit court in Seminole County, Fla., asked for a jury trial. A spokeswoman for NBCUniversal said in response to the suit, “We strongly disagree with the accusations made in the complaint. There was no intent to portray Mr. Zimmerman unfairly. We intend to vigorously defend our position in court.”

The suit charges that journalists at NBC News intentionally edited Mr. Zimmerman’s statements to make him appear to be a “racist, predatory villain.”

The edits of a 911 audio recording — which removed an intervening question from the operator directly asking Mr. Zimmerman what race Mr. Martin was — occurred three times on NBC’s “Today” show, first on March 20 in a story by Lilia Luciano; on March 22 in another story by Ms. Luciano; and again on March 27 in a story by Ron Allen.

Read more here.

Gov. Rick Scott meeting with legislators, labels Colombia trip a success

 We caught up with Gov. Rick Scott as he walked between meetings in the Capitol with various legislative leaders. "Make sure they vote on all my stuff," is how Scott described his mission today.

His public schedule lists meetings with Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, Senate President Pro Tempore Garrett Richter, House Speaker Pro Tempore Marti Coley and Rep. Richard Corcoran, who lead's the House's healthcare budget committee as well as the committee studying the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Scott gave a glowing review of his trade mission to Colombia, which ended Wednesday.

"We had a great trip to Colombia. I really enjoyed meeting President (Juan Manuel) Santos," the governor said. "They're generating a lot of jobs. And so now all the relationships that got built, we have to make sure everybody follows up on those relationships. Because it's a country where they like foreign investment and they like their companies to come here and so it should be a big opportunity for all our companies."

Change in political climate: Patrick Murphy talks global warming

One measure of the changing political climate in Florida and Washington: Democratic U.S. Rep Patrick Murphy, a political novice who ousted Republican Allen West in a tight race, made an impromptu stop at a four-county climate change conference in Jupiter on Monday to pledge his support for legislation addressing the issue.

Murphy said he would be a "passionate advocate" for Everglades and other environmental issues in Washington, subjects largely dismissed by West, perhaps best known for fiery rhetoric that had made him a Tea Party favorite. Murphy, an avid angler who grew up in the Florida Keys, said he had no doubts about the risks posed by rising sea levels.

"Unfortunately we have far too many politicians who continue to bury their heads in the sand and pretend its not happening," Murphy said in brief remarks to at fourth annual Southeast Florida regional climate leadership summit, which was attended by political leaders, planners and others from seven counties.

After a three-week legal challenge and a partial recount, West conceded the race for Florida House District 18, which covers northeastern Palm Beach County and Martin and St. Lucie counties.

--- by Curtis Morgan

Marco Rubio PAC helps consultants more than candidates

From erstwhile Miami Herald political reporter Beth Reinhard in National Journal

Like most ambitious members of Congress, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida controls what’s called a leadership PAC outside his re-election campaign. Reclaim America’s goal is “electing conservatives to the United States Senate,” according to its website.

But of the more than $1.5 million the PAC spent between July 2011 and mid-October, only $68,427 went to candidates, Federal Election Commission records show. The biggest chunk, $447,360, went to consultants, including several who have advised Rubio for years.

Those figures mean the committee gave less than $1 to candidates out of every $20 it spent, a 4.5 percent rate and one of the lowest of the nearly 500 leadership PACs that spent money in the 2012 election, according to a National Journal analysis.

More here

Interim education commissioner Stewart defends new teacher evaluation system

 The state Department of Education is still in the process of updating the results of a teacher evaluation survey after a draft report released Wednesday contained duplications. Today, Interim Education Commissioner Pam Stewart found herself fielding questions from members of the Senate's Education Appropriations Subcommittee about the new evaluation system and whether the fault data indicates the system is unreliable.

“I think this is a painful year," Stewart said. I think anytime you implement something this large for the first time, there are growing pains.”

She said the report published Wednesday was a summary of the data submitted by each district, which were part of a larger survey on teachers and salaries. Because some teachers are paid out of multiple funding sources, some teachers' evaluation results were also listed two or three times.

"Obviously for teacher evaluation they should be reported once," Stewart said. "So some districts made the realization that they should report a teacher only one time for purposes of teacher evaluations. That’s the reason that it was pulled down and a re-evaluation done and we are validating those numbers.”

The department is still in the process of reissuing the report with more accurate data. But Stewart said it would be wrong to say the evaluations were erroneous.

Continue reading "Interim education commissioner Stewart defends new teacher evaluation system" »

Three's a crowd in '14 House Democratic leader race

A third Democrat in the Florida House has declared his candidacy for the post of minority leader for the 2014-2016 cycle.

Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, entered the fray Thursday, joining Reps. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg and Mia Jones of Jacksonville. All three are in the running to succeed Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, after the 2014 election.

The choice will be made by a secret ballot by the 44 members of the House Democratic Caucus, more than half of whom (24) are freshmen who were just elected to the Legislature and barely know the candidates seeking to lead their caucus.

Williams, 37, has an M.B.A. from Florida A&M University and is a marketing consultant. He was first elected to the House in 2008.

-- Steve Bousquet

New Broward GOP chair says he won't get paid

The Broward Republican Executive Committee chose Rico Petrocelli, who had served as the paid executive director, to serve as chairman Monday night. Petrocelli had recently floated the possibility of making the chair position paid but he has ditched that idea.

"None of the [Broward] chairman have  gotten paid," said the former Planation city council member in an interview Thursday.  "I am not getting paid."

Petrocelli said he has no immediate plans to hire a new executive director. He says his goals for 2013 include outreach to minorities and young voters, growing clubs and assisting local candidates. He faces the challenge of energizing GOP activists in an overwhelmingly Democratic county after an election in which Republicans suffered notable local losses including Sheriff Al Lamberti who was ousted by Democrat Scott Israel.

Petrocelli ended up without a challenge after Karen Harrington, who lost two landslide races in a row to U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston), pulled out. BREC banned the media from the internal election -- two years ago a close divisive chair contest featured some shouting from the floor. The group will also continue the policy of not allowing the media or others to videotape the meetings (sometimes BREC posts their own videos of a portion of the meeting -- and so do candidates.)

Petrocelli replaces Richard DeNapoli who decided not to run again due to job opportunities outside of Broward.



Tea party leaders apologize for outbursts at Affordable Care Act committee meeting

Tea party leaders across Florida are distancing themselves from the individuals who shouted over senators during Monday's meeting of the Senate Select Committee on Patient Protect and Affordable Care Act.

The letter to Committee Chairman Joe Negron is signed by 17 tea party leaders from across the state who collectively identify themselves as the Florida Alliance. In it, they apologize for outbursts at Monday's meeting when people shouted to insist that a speaker receive more time during public comment then boo'd Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith when responded to the testimony. 

"Tea Party leaders in Florida as represented by The Florida Alliance have long rejected organized and planned tactics by groups like Code Pink, MoveOn.org and Occupy Wall Street to shout people down in meetings," the Alliance wrote in the letter, which has today's date on it. "Our compatriots were responding from an over-abundance of passion for freedom. They were spontaneously trying to participate in a process that has been frustrating and opaque for years and their response was not pre-meditated and not intended to interfere in your process. However, speaking over a sitting Senator who is using his allotted time to represent his constituents is unacceptable."

In the letter, the tea party leaders also encourage Negron to resist implementing health exchanges and other aspects of the Affordable Care Act.

Continue reading "Tea party leaders apologize for outbursts at Affordable Care Act committee meeting" »

Genting announces it will back off of a casino amendment

In a major shift in strategy, the Malaysian-based casino giant, the Genting Group, told legislative leaders this week that it will stop efforts to pursue a petition drive to get a casino amendment on the 2014 ballot and will instead wait until lawmakers complete a comprehensive review of where to go with future gambling in the state.

“We are not going forward with a petition drive effort and there have not been any petitions gathered,’’ said Brian Ballard, a lobbyist for Genting, after meeting with legislative leaders. “The approach the Legislature is taking with this – a thoughtful analysis – we think makes absolute sense and we want to be a constructive player in it.”

Genting led the failed effort earlier last session to bring destination resort-style casino gambling to Florida. The measure never made it out of a House committee and was loaded down with complicating provisions in the Senate before it was declared dead.

During the past election cycle, Genting created a political committee — New Jobs and Revenue For Florida — and spent more than $905,000 on voter petition consultants, constitutional scholars and pollsters in an effort to set the stage for a constitutional amendment to make casinos legal that would go before voters in 2014.

Continue reading "Genting announces it will back off of a casino amendment" »

Scott shifts lawyer to jobs agency, hires Antonacci

Three days after his top economic adviser resigned, Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday named his general counsel, Jesse Panuccio, to head the state's Department of Economic Opportunity. Panuccio, a Harvard Law School graduate, has been Scott's key legal adviser, arguing some of the cases involving Scott's administration and playing a key role in the review and selection of trial court judges.

Panuccio will assume the reins at DEO on Jan. 7, 2013, replacing Hunting Deutsch, who resigned Monday following news media disclosures that he collected state unemployment benefits at a time when he was unemployed and traveling in Europe.

Replacing Panuccio in the general counsel's office is Peter Antonacci, a long-time Tallahassee hand who for many years was a deputy attorney general under Bob Butterworth. Scott appointed Antonacci as an acting state attorney in Palm Beach County earlier this year.

-- Steve Bousquet