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415 posts from April 2015

April 30, 2015

California judge orders Google to turn over data on Gov. Scott's G-mail account

Rick Scott 2014In a major defeat for Gov. Rick Scott, a California judge on Thursday ordered Google to turn over the computer IP addresses for all correspondence to and form the governor’s private G-mail account since Jan. 15, 2011, and the accounts of two of his staff. 

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Mary E. Arand ruled that the governor’s attempt to quash a request by Tallahassee lawyer Steven R. Andrews to Google to withhold the information was not valid.

"The subscriber information and IP addresses will assist Andrews in determining whether a public official created the accounts, which, in turn, could establish that official agency business may have been transacted from those accounts,'' Arand wrote in a four-page ruling filed on the court's website. 

Andrews wants the computer company to give him the subscriber identities and IP addresses to help him prove his claim that the governor attempted to use the [email protected] account to shield his communications from the state’s public records laws. When the governor refused to turn over the information about the accounts last year, Andrews persuaded a Tallahassee court to approve a subpoena to seek the information from Google. Circuit Court Judge Charles A. Francis also ordered the governor to stop fighting the request.

Continue reading "California judge orders Google to turn over data on Gov. Scott's G-mail account" »

Matt Gaetz incites Twitter war with Joyner, Bullard tweet

Updated at 10:45 p.m.

Speaker Steve Crisafulli rose to Rep. Matt Gaetz' defense after a tweet with racial undertones drew ire through the evening.



After Senate Democrats requested an emergency ruling from the state Supreme Court to force the House to reconvene in Tallahassee, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, ignited a social media fight, presumably related to misspellings in the document filed with the court.

In a tweet this afternoon, Gaetz singled out Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner and Sen. Dwight Bullard, both of whom are black.


Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, quickly rose to his fellow senators’ defense:


And Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, rose to his own:


Bill McCollum is, in fact, considering a U.S. Senate run

via @adamsmithtimes

Republican former Attorney General Bill McCollum confirms that he's been calling prominent Republicans about possibly running for U.S. Senate.

"I certainly have an interest, but I'm just considering it," said McCollum, 70, who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate against Bill Nelson in 2000 and in 2010 lost the Republican gubernatorial primary to a wealthy newcomer named Rick Scott.

McCollum said his phone started ringing with people encouraging him after Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater surprised most of the Florida's political world by announcing he would not run, and then even more when a mid-April Mason-Dixon poll showed him easily beating other potential candidates (pulling 20 percent support among Republican voters, compared to the next strongest Republican, U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Pinellas who had 8 percent support).

McCollum was by far the most recognized of seven names polled, with 29 percent of Republicans saying they had a favorable opinion of him, 7 percent unfavorable, 29 percent saying they recognized the name and had a neutral opinion, and 25 percent not recognizing him.

"I'm being told by other people in the party that there are concerns that the other potential candidates are not well known as we need to hold the seat," McCollum said of the potential field of Republicans that includes Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, and U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis and Jeff Miller.

McCollum is in no rush to decide anything, saying he would likely make a firm decision "sometime this summer."

"Maybe someone else will emerge in the meantime," said McCollum, a longtime former congressman from the Orlando area who works at the Denton law firm focusing on state attorney general issues.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

Sen. Tom Lee says Senate planned to ask court to weigh on House exit 'for future'

Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, said Thursday that the Senate did not expect the House to respond to their call to return to finish the session but plans to ask the Florida Supreme Court to declare the Florida House's actions unconstitutional to assist future legislatures and the "playbook that is developed by pundits."

“I don’t think anybody had any great expectation the house is going to rush back into session but there has been an historical precedential impact of what has taken place here this year,'' he said, in an interview Thursday on The Florida Channel. "As we know, there is a playbook that is developed by all the pundits that watch this process and there will be a time where someone will fantasize about doing this again and we want to make sure that future leaders know the constitutional impact to that.”

Lee suggested that "over the summer" the Senate request a “declaratory statement from the Florida Supreme Court. Not to say who is right or who’s wrong but to send a message to the Legislature about how the Constitution applies in these situations.”

The Senate Democratic caucus may have done the job for him. They filed an emergency order with the court Thursday afternoon and, by the end of the day, the high court had ordered the Florida House to come up with a response by 10 a.m. Friday, which would have been the scheduled end of the regular session. 

Senate President Andy Gardiner, also in an interview on The Florida Channel, also said that the Senate was considering filing a petition to get the court to weigh in on the question. "For future presiding officers, there really needs to be some clarity,'' he said.

He said that if ending early "becomes kind of the new norm that is really bad for the process,'' he said. "Whether you agree with the process or not, because it really just says to one chamber you either do what we do or nothing gets done."

He added: "I’m very proud of the senate that we didn’t take that bait."

Supreme Court gives the Florida House until 10 a.m. to respond to early exit lawsuit

The Florida Supreme Court has ordered the Florida House to submit a response by 10 a.m. Friday, May 1, to the lawsuit filed today by the Senate Democratic Caucus, accusing the House of violating the constitution. 

The Senate Democrats will then have a mere 2.5 hours to reply. Here's the order.

The court's order came just hours after Senate Democrats marched to the Florida Supreme Court with an emergency petition that asks justices to rule on whether the House violated the state Constitution by adjourning Tuesday afternoon. Senators say it’s unconstitutional for one chamber to shut down for more than 72 hours without the other’s consent.

“The same men who make the laws should be compelled to obey them,” said Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa.

Earlier on Thursday, Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, requested a three-week session starting June 1 to complete work on a budget.

Senate Democrats to Supreme Court: Bring the House back into session


Senate Democrats filed an emergency motion in the Supreme Court on Thursday seeking to have the Florida House ordered back into session.

Most state representatives returned to their districts Tuesday after House Speaker Steve Crisafulli adjourned the session three days early.

But Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner, of Tampa, said the House had violated the state Constitution by calling it quits before the clock ran out.

"It's not OK with us," Joyner. "The same men who make the laws should be compelled to obey them."

Joyner said she was hopeful the court would rule quickly -- and hold state representatives in contempt if they refused to return Friday afternoon.

Democrats weren't alone in their belief that the House had violated the Constitution.

Republican Senate President Andy Gardiner expressed similar concerns Wednesday and said he would ask the Supreme Court for an advisory opinion on the matter.

Continue reading "Senate Democrats to Supreme Court: Bring the House back into session" »

Steve Crisafulli's claim about forcing 257,000 into Medicaid

Even before the Florida House adjourned early, Speaker Steve Crisafulli laid blame for the session’s budget impasse clearly on Medicaid expansion.

In an essay printed by the Tampa Bay Times, Crisafulli wrote the Senate had "partnered with the Obama administration" to demand the expansion. But the House believed the move would drag people into a costly system that didn’t work.

"Under federal law, other low-income Floridians have access to health care subsidies to buy private insurance for less than the average cost of a wireless phone bill," said Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island. "In fact, if we choose Obamacare expansion, 600,000 will lose eligibility for their subsidies, of which 257,000 would be forced into Medicaid. "

Estimates say the expansion would cover more than 800,000 people, many of whom are currently uninsured. We wondered where Crisafulli was getting his numbers. Turn to Joshua Gillin's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida and see our story about other fact-checks about Medicaid expansion.

Gardiner proposes special budget session June 1 - 20, Senate Dems sue

Andy GardinerSenate President Andy Gardiner conceded Thursday that the House will not be returning to complete the work of the regular session and offered to reconvene in a special budget session June 1 to 20 to focus exclusively on the budget and all "similar bills" that were left incomplete this week when the House abruptly left town.

Gardiner noted that "while the Senate maintains its belief that the House’s adjournment sine die clearly violates both the spirit and letter of our constitutional principles, the House has clearly indicated it has no intention of reconvening."

His proposed agenda for the special session would include only the budget, starting with the Senate's appropriations bill that includes the Florida Health Insurance Exchange program as a replacement for the phasing out of the Low Income Pool.  

In an interview early Thursday, Gardiner also said he hoped that House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and he could agree to the dates and scope of the special session, rather than having Gov. Rick Scott call them in before they have reached agreement. 

“I do think it would be helpful and productive for the speaker and me to be on the same page,'' Gardiner told The Florida Channel. "There’s nothing worse than the governor to call us back and the chambers come in and there’s still no agreement on the big picture of the budget.

“What would not be productive is a rush to judgment and say we’re coming back immediately, because it doesn’t resolve anything. You still don’t have answers on CMS. You still don’t have answers on how we resolve this issue on the uninsured.” 

Meanwhile, despite Gardiner's concession that the session was over, Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, and 12 other members of the Senate Democratic Caucus used the day off to walk to the Florida Supreme Court to file a Writ of Mandamus, asking the court to deliver an expedited ruling on whether the House violated the state Constitution when it unilaterally adjourned.

Gardiner told The Florida Channel that while the Senate had no plans to sue this week it wanted to ask the court to weigh in because "for future presiding officers, there really needs to be some clarity...once that becomes the new norm that is really bad for the process."

Gardiner's letter to Crisafulli said the budget call should include:

That the Legislature is convened for the sole and exclusive purpose of considering the following:

a. Legislation similar to Senate Bill 2500, the General Appropriations bill filed during the 2015 Regular Session, including any House amendments thereon;

b. Legislation similar to Senate Bill 2502, the Appropriations Implementing bill filed during the 2015 Regular Session, including any House amendments thereon;

c. Legislation similar to any bill filed during the 2015 Regular Session upon which a Conference Committee had been requested by either chamber and such request had been acceded to by the other house on or before May 1, 2015.

Here's the text of the letter:

Continue reading "Gardiner proposes special budget session June 1 - 20, Senate Dems sue" »

Jeb Bush would like to bring Teddy Roosevelt - or Pitbull! - to a baseball game


TMZ, asking the questions the people really want to know the answers to, caught up with likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush in Washington D.C. to find out which famous person he'd bring to a baseball game.

Bush, who was walking down the street and then signing an autograph, Teddy Roosevelt, to have a conversation with him.

"The reason you like baseball is you can have a conversation with people," Bush said. "You might want to have Pitbull, too."

Pitbull, of course, is a Cuban-American Miamian whom GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio has called a "friend."

Here's what Bush's spokesman had to say about the TMZ encounter:


Higher-Ed Hustle: For-profit colleges flex political muscle in Tallahassee

via @MrMikeVasquez

For more than a decade, “accountability” has been the education buzzword in Florida.

Schools are assigned A-to-F letter grades, teachers are evaluated using a complicated mathematical formula and third-graders can be held back if they don’t pass a standardized reading test.

The rules are different at for-profit colleges. The Herald found that, despite fraud lawsuits and government investigations around the country, Florida’s Legislature continues to encourage the growth of the industry, which says it provides opportunities to disadvantaged students. Lawmakers have increased funding sources and reduced quality standards and oversight. The attorney general in Florida, meanwhile, has been less aggressive than those in some other states in pursuing schools when they skirt laws involving the hundreds of millions they receive in state and federal money.

In Homestead, a school owner gained enormous influence with the local government, working through the mayor, whose wife was secretly hired by the college owner as a $5,000-a-month consultant. Miami-Dade prosecutors looked into the connection but decided it was no crime.

“In other areas of our education system, we promote accountability,” said State Rep. José Javier Rodríguez, a Miami Democrat. “Why wouldn’t we do the same here?”

Rodríguez filed a bill this session that would rescind state grant funding and suspend the licenses of for-profit colleges where loan defaults exceed 40 percent — or 30 percent in back-to-back years. A legislative staff analysis predicted a “very small number” of schools would be at risk.

The bill struggled to gain traction, particularly in the Florida House, where it didn’t get a single hearing.

“The groups with the largest checkbooks tend to set the agenda,” Rodríguez said. “I don’t know if that’s what’s going on here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were.”

A Herald examination of campaign records since 2008 found that for-profit colleges have contributed more than $1.2 million to state lawmakers and political parties. The Legislature, in turn, passed 15 laws benefiting the industry.

More here.