« May 16, 2013 | Main | May 18, 2013 »

5 posts from May 17, 2013

May 17, 2013

Pension vote puts some House Republicans in awkward position

Florida House Republicans tried to close the state's pension system to new employees this year, saying it's a ticking time bomb that could cripple the state's budget for years to come.

But many of those same GOP lawmakers are members of the state pension system themselves, according to aTimes/Herald review.

In fact, more than half of House Republicans could see the perks of the pension when they retire, forgoing the riskier 401(k)-style plans they wanted to force upon new state employees.

Several of those same Republicans debated in favor of closing the pension system when it came up for a vote in March. Most of them did not respond to interview requests Friday.

Of the three who did, two said they weren't aware that they were in the pension. A third, Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, said he notified the state this month that he wanted to switch to the 401(k)-style "investment plan."

Spano said Friday that Florida cannot afford to continue adding new employees to the pension.

"The necessity to fund the plan with $500 million from general revenue this year is an example of why we can't continue down this road," he said via email. "We have a responsibility to think and plan ahead on behalf of all of the current and future citizens of the state of Florida."

Read more here.

Scott pushes university presidents to reject 3% tuition increase

Gov. Rick Scott has all but guaranteed a veto of the three-percent tuition increase in the state budget and he recently reached out to an unlikely group to aid his cause.

All 12 state university presidents were asked to sign a letter initiated by the governor’s office that says they do not want more tuition revenue. In the process, they would have rejected an automatic 1.7 percent increase to cover the cost of inflation.

“As a result of this [year’s] historical support for state universities, we are pleased to report that we will not be seeking any tuition increases for the upcoming school year and intend to maintain tuition at current levels,” reads a draft of the letter, which is signed “INSERT PRESIDENT SIGNATURE” and addressed to Scott.

Scott’s office did not respond to a request for comment about the origin of the letter. University system Chancellor Frank Brogan and several school presidents also declined interview requests.

University presidents participated in a hastily organized private conference call Friday afternoon to discuss the letter. Their reactions ranged from concern to outrage, according to those familiar with the conference call discussion

Read more here


AARP cancels FL sweepstakes for granny and grampa, says new gambling law to blame


Sorry, grandma and grandpa.

The AARP is blocking Florida residents from participating in its Perfect Path to Retirement $50,000 Giveaway and its forthcoming Grandparents Day Photo Contest because, the group says, of a new state law cracking down on gambling.

The law was quickly passed last month after the arrests of 57 people and the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll in connection with St. Augustine-based Allied Veterans of the World, which operated a chain of strip-mall mini casinos so-called “Internet cafes.”

To close what they said was a loophole exploited by some café companies, lawmakers made sure to eliminate an exception for nonprofit groups that conduct sweepstakes.

But that word change, along with a few others, put AARP’s contests potentially in jeopardy.

“AARP Florida was surprised by the consequences of this new law,” Jeff Johnson, AARP Florida state director, said in a written statement furnished to The Miami Herald.

“While we are disappointed for those of our members who won’t be able to participate in AARP’s contests or sweepstakes,” he said, “we are more concerned for how this could impact other non-profit organizations across the state.”

Johnson said the situation was an “unintended consequence,” but only Florida – a retiree-heavy state with the second-largest number of AARP members – won’t be participating in its cash-reward contests.

Continue reading "AARP cancels FL sweepstakes for granny and grampa, says new gambling law to blame" »

Scott ready to give green light to texting bill?

A signing ceremony for the texting while driving bill (SB 52) has been set for 2-3 p.m. May 28th in Miami, according to an email listed on Project Sunburst, a website that displays executive staff emails in the Governor’s office, but Jackie Schutz, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott, wouldn't confirm the information.

She said the governor hasn’t yet received the bill and he is still "reviewing the legislation.

"There’s nothing to announce,” Schutz said.

Other emails on Sunburst noted signings for a few other bills, including HB 705 relating to economic development on June 3 in West Palm Beach and HB 1129, requiring care of infants born alive during a failed abortion, on June 5th somewhere in the Panhandle.

The texting bill, which was passed by the Senate May 2, would make texting while driving a secondary offense, which means a motorist would have to commit another offense, such as careless driving or speeding, in order to be pulled over. Once stopped, a driver could receive two tickets, one for the first infraction and one for texting. The penalty would be $30 for a first-time texting offense, a nonmoving violation. A driver would pay a $60 fine and be assessed three points if caught texting while driving again within five years, with more points added if the violation is in a school zone or another serious offense.

Allen West joins Fox News

Former U.S. Rep. Allen West, made famous by his comments such as calling 80 Democrats in Congress commies and calling U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz ''not a lady'', will now share his views as a contributor to Fox News.

West will offer political commentary during various daytime and primetime programs.

“Representative West’s congressional and military experience along with his fearless approach to voicing key issues will provide a valuable point of view to the FOX News lineup," said Fox news vice president in the announcement released on Business Wire. “Representative West’s congressional and military experience along with his fearless approach to voicing key issues will provide a valuable point of view to the FOX News lineup.”

West, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, ousted U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, in 2010 in their second match-up. But in 2012 he was defeated by Democrat and businessman Patrick Murphy in a newly drawn Broward-Palm Beach district 22.  

West was known for his outspoken views -- see our round-up of his claims at PolitiFact Florida.