"He's been in office for just three days, but the honeymoon may already be over for Gov. Charlie Crist."
On Thursday, the most powerful business lobbying group in Florida challenged Crist's inaugural pledge to roll back soaring property insurance rates."Insurance Rate Showdown". See also "Property insurance standoff brewing", "Big business lobby: don’t force lower rates" and "Insurance lobby vows to oppose rate reductions".
"We believe that rates have been suppressed. And we believe that rates are going to have to rise," said Barney Bishop, Associated Industries of Florida chief executive officer.
That sets up a showdown between the normally pro-business Crist and a sector that contributed tens of millions to his election campaign. Crist received $19.6 million in direct campaign contributions, along with estimates of $20 million to $25 million in additional soft money contributions that the state Republican Party used to help support his campaign.
"Before Sarasota Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan took the oath of office Tuesday, he was reminded to not get too comfortable -- his victory is still being contested"
As newly elected Speaker Nancy Pelosi prepared to swear into office the 434 members of the House, Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., an advocate for paper ballots, stood amid a chorus of boos from Republicans to formally note that Buchanan's Democratic opponent, Christine Jennings, is contesting the election and has asked Congress to intervene.And check out the response by Polk County's favorite son:
"The House remains the judge of the elections of its members," Pelosi replied from the rostrum, her tenure as speaker just minutes old. "The seating of this member-elect is entirely without prejudice to the contest over the final right to that seat . . ."
Republicans have warned Democrats not to pursue the contested election further, and Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Bartow, rose in response, noting that Buchanan had been certified as the winner by the Florida secretary of state."Fla. lawmaker sworn in -- but not quietly".
Whoopee: a GOPer has "been certified as the winner by the Florida secretary of state". We have heard that before haven't we?
More: "Dems put freshman lawmaker on notice" and "Outcome of House race still in question".
On a related note, check out this dKos diary: "His Own WIFE: The Height of Audacity in FL-13". Believe it or not, there apparently is a Buchanan campaign memo noting that Buchaman's wife had problems with the voting machines: "she had to hit the button more than once, I think she said three times – to record her vote for Mr. Buchanan." A related diary here: "Watchdog groups report "excessive" problems in 06 election".
Florida's Draft Obama Chapter
"The national movement to draft Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination for president now has a Florida chapter, or at least the beginnings of one." "“Draft Obama” Gets A Start In Florida". They "have started DraftObama.org At the website you will find a new 60-second commercial about the potential Democratic presidential candidate." "A Florida Draft?" See also "Run Obama Run!"
"Minutes after she was sworn in Thursday, Kathy Castor, the new Democratic member from Tampa of the U.S. House of Representatives, was summoned back to the chamber to give her first speech. Usually freshmen members must wait a long time for such an event. But the Democratic leadership wanted to emphasize the fresh faces in their majority - and their promise to reform House ethics." "Tampa Bay Delegation Joins Congress".
Poor Tom. The Orlando Sentinel editorial board:
U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney's privately financed golfing junket to Scotland in 2003 with corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff should add an exclamation point to calls to limit congressional travel."Lessons from a junket". Florida Democratic Party spokesman Mark Bubriski:
Mr. Feeney, a three-term Republican from Oviedo, ran up a tab of $5,643 in just four days. The House ethics committee concluded that the trip violated House rules, which bar members from taking trips that are bankrolled by lobbyists or "substantially recreational."
Mr. Feeney persuaded the notoriously lenient committee to close its investigation by agreeing to reimburse the U.S. Treasury for the cost of the trip.
"Congressman Feeney, oft cited as one of the most corrupt members of Congress, violated the code of ethics of the U.S. House of Representatives, on at least one occasion, by egregiously accepting a high-priced golfing vacation from a now-convicted felon. However, Congressman Feeney owes more than just a check to the U.S. Treasury. He owes the people of Florida an explanation for why he violated their trust.""Democrats respond to Feeney's trip"Edwards Moves South
"Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is scheduled to visit South Florida Jan. 17 to raise money for his fledgling campaign. Edwards will attend a reception organized by attorneys Mitchell Berger, Mel Maguire and Todd Stone at the Fort Lauderdale office of Sheldon Schlesinger. He is also planning a fundraiser at the Palm Beach County home of attorney Bob Montgomery." "Edwards coming to South Florida".
"Crist is Facing the First Challenge to His Leadership"
Just the other day, Catole Jean Jordan told The Buzz "that she's not running" for RPOF chair. "Carole Jean: I'm not seeking another term". That seems to have changed,
Jordan has distributed a letter extolling her own accomplishments -- and failing to mention Greer's name. A few of her supporters are sending out e-mail missives tearing Greer down."Crist challenged on party post".
Though Jordan's letter does not explicitly say she is running for reelection, it notes that the governor's choice to lead the party is only a consideration, not a mandate.
Party leaders are not pleased.
"I have always known Chairman Jordan to be a loyal Republican, and I cannot imagine her doing anything but supporting Gov. Crist's decision," said state Rep. David Rivera of Miami.
"Hundreds of slot machines were rolling last week in Broward County, where crowds thronged a new "racino" at the former Hollywood Greyhound Track, newly dubbed the Mardi Gras Racetrack and Gaming Center. At nearby Gulfstream Park, slots were introduced in mid-November and more than $77 million has already flowed through its machines." "Casino-style gamble".
"Allstate Floridian Insurance Co. announced Thursday that more than 100,000 additional property insurance customers will be shifted into another company as part of its effort to pare back its exposure in Florida." "More than 100,000 Allstate customers to be shifted to new company".
Romney's Florida Money
"Boca Raton developer Mark Guzzetta - who raised millions for the campaigns of George W. Bush and Jeb Bush - is now a national fiance co-chair for Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romey’s nascent presidential campaign. Guzzetta is teamed with Tampa developer Mel Sembler, a former U.S. Ambassdor, who was also named a finance co-chair." "Guzzetta Joins Romney".
The Other Challenges
The AP noted the other day that, in addition to Jennings, "Three other Democrats -- Clint Curtis, who lost to U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney of Oviedo; John Russell, who lost to Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite of Brooksville; and Frank Gonzalez, who lost to Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Miami -- also have challenged results in their races." More on the Russell challenge:
Russell, who lost a bid to unseat the Spring Hill Republican by more than 50,000 votes, has filed a lawsuit asking a judge to order a new election in the sprawling 5th Congressional District.The Local GOPers are mad:
He also has filed an official election contest in Congress, which convened in Washington on Thursday with Democrats in control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate for the first time in 12 years.
In the lawsuit, filed in the 2nd Judicial Circuit in Tallahassee, Russell's lawyer, Mark A. Adams, alleges that the electronic voting machines were unreliable.
"It's total rubbish," said Bill Bunting, chairman of the Pasco County Republican Executive Committee. "There's nothing to this, at all.""Russell Contests Brown-Waite's Election Victory".
Bunting suggested that Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman could be the driving force behind Russell's legal challenge.
"She's never been able to get over that she was unseated," he said.
Lethal Injection Panel
"U.S. prisons chief on panel".
"Sen. Gary Siplin of Orlando, who's keeping his seat while appealing a felony conviction, has filed a bill that would allow a person to seek civil damages if a conviction is based on fabricated evidence. Siplin's one-page bill (SB 456) would create a cause of action for anyone 'whose conviction was based on evidence that was fabricated or deceptively manipulated by any law enforcement agency or state attorney's office.'" "Senator's evidence bill may affect his own case".
"Crist stays in town for DJJ leader". See also "Tallahassee police chief chosen to lead juvenile justice", "Juvenile Justice gets a chief" and "Police chief to take over DJJ". The Tallahassee Democrat likes it: "DJJ's new chief".
Out In The Fields ...
"A North Carolina judge has recommended the dismissal of most violations and fines levied against the Florida firm Ag-Mart for alleged misuse of pesticides, but agriculture officials in that state say they do not agree and will continue to press their case against the produce company. ... Leo Bottary, spokesman for Ag-Mart, said that North Carolina and Florida are using the same documents to prosecute Ag-Mart and both are wrong. He said the fact that workers were on duty at the same time fields were sprayed did not mean that workers were in those fields." "N.C. judge sides with Ag-Mart".
No Blind Trusts?
"Only two of the four members of Florida's Cabinet are following the advice of the state Ethics Commission and putting their personal financial assets in a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest. Gov. Charlie Crist and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink are setting up trusts, which will manage their money while they handle statewide matters that often directly affect the financial well-being of private companies and landowners. But Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson doesn't plan to use a trust, and Attorney General Bill McCollum remains undecided." "Fla. leaders don't all use blind trusts".
Perhaps He Will Pay Them Decently As Well?
"Corrections Secretary Jim McDonough thinks he might have found a new way to trim fat in government. The head of Florida's prison system wants his agency's 19,000 employees to get into shape by 2009 when they'll be asked to prove they're fit in order to keep their jobs." "Corrections chief to staff: Shape up".
Fidel Beats Dubya
A Gallup poll released last month found that 47 percent of the 1,000 people surveyed in Havana and Santiago approve of their leaders' job performance; 40 percent disapprove. Gallup researchers described the results as a "fascinating portrayal of a populace living with the paradoxes of a communist regime." Not the least of the paradoxes is that Fidel Castro's approval rating is higher than President Bush's."New reasons for Cuba opening wash ashore".
"Mahoney focused his first few hours on the job on ethics reform, taking the forefront in the first item on the Democrats' agenda." "U.S. Rep. Tim Mahoney is asked to lead ethics debate". See also "Mr. Klein and Mr. Mahoney Go To Washington" and "South Florida freshmen take their seats".
Backing The Wrong Horse
In, "Buchanan's first vote", he "voted for Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) to be the Speaker of the House".
A Tampa Thing
"Standing at city hall plaza, former Fire Chief Aria Green announced Thursday that he is running for mayor. ... Green will face Mayor Pam Iorio and Tampa police Capt. Marion Serious Lewis." "Ex-Fire Chief Enters Mayor Race".
Charlie and the Media Factory
In "Gust of openness refreshes capital", Lucy Morgan thinks Charlie might be a special guy:
t's far too early to tell what we have on our hands these days, but it would appear our new governor has at least learned from the mistakes of his predecessor.Goodness gracious, why wouldn't Charlie "LIKE having reporters see what he is doing"; if the press gives Charlie the same level of scrutiny they gave Jebbie, he'll be thrilled.
Could we actually have a governor who intends to do things in public?
Could he actually LIKE having reporters see what he is doing?
Ah yes ... the entreprenural spirit:
The manager of a FEMA-funded counseling program in South Florida inappropriately partnered with a private roofing company soliciting business in the area, a state investigation has found."FEMA-funded project's business affiliation criticized".
"Translation: Good job, governor." "Governor steps up to slay slang".
"The city and its community redevelopment agency will face scrutiny by a Florida legislative committee to determine whether an investigation is needed in light of a scathing state audit of city finances, the committee's chairman said Thursday." "Legislators may open probe of Riviera finances".
Not So Ethical
Charlie's new "code of ethics",
which replaces the one adopted by Gov. Jeb Bush in 1999, has a handful of significant differences. Bush, for example, strictly prohibited all employees in his office and top agency officials from moonlighting and getting paid by someone from outside of state government. Crist's code instead says that senior employees can't moonlight "without prior approval" from the governor's general counsel.And, in an effort to bring Democrats into the fold,
Bush's code of ethics also "strongly encouraged" lobbyists to bring their clients if they wanted a face-to-face meeting with the governor or lieutenant governor. That wording has been stricken from Crist's code of ethics.
Another big change: Crist will allow senior employees who earn frequent flyer miles while traveling on state business to use that perk for their own personal use. Bush in 1999 banned the practice, saying instead that frequent flyer miles should be used to cut future travel costs for the state. Crist's code, however, states that senior employees deserve the perk because the state does not always reimburse them for all the out-of-pocket costs they incur while traveling.
Crist's code of personal responsibility made a substantial change in the drug testing policy for all new employees. Bush required that all new hires to senior positions in his office and in state agencies submit to a drug test. Crist's new policy states that drug testing "may" be required before an applicant is hired."Crist's ethics code drops some of Bush's restrictions".
The Orlando Sentinel, always looking for an opportunity to bash unions (see "Send in the scabs", "Picking scabs, part two", and "Scab 30"), gives us this headline today: "Union executive surrenders in child-molestation case".
The "union" in question, however, is the "Florida Police Benevolent Association", which has never been part of the AFL-CIO or the "labor movement" as that term is commonly understood. As Bill Cotterell wrote a while back, "The PBA, which is not part of the heavily Democratic labor federation, endorsed Gov. Jeb Bush as far back as 1994 and has always flaunted its political friendships with presiding officers and appropriations bosses of the GOP-run Legislature." Some say that the PBA is in effect a wholly owned subsidiary of the RPOF.
Heck, the Republican Legislature has gone so far as to pass legislation creating a PBA state license plate.
A more appropriate headline: "PBA chief arrested on child-sex charges".
Naked Politics reports that
Crist's code of personal responsibility made a substantial change in the drug testing policy for all new employees. Bush required that all new hires to senior positions in his office and in state agencies submit to a drug test. Crist's new policy states that drug testing "may" be required before an applicant is hired.Crist is apparently serious about bringing Democrats into his administration.