"The FBI has asked U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney for information about his dealings with Jack Abramoff as part of its ongoing investigation into the lobbyist convicted of defrauding clients."
FBI agent Kevin Luebke refused to say whether Feeney, a Republican from the Orlando area, is under federal investigation."FBI asks Feeney about Abramoff". "Last week, an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation contacted an Orlando Sentinel reporter, seeking information about ties that Feeney and a former member of his staff had with Abramoff."
Federal agents also have asked the St. Petersburg Times for an e-mail sent to the newspaper by Feeney's office describing a golfing trip the congressman took with Abramoff to Scotland in 2003.
Feeney deflected most questions about his dealings with federal authorities, noting that his attorneys have advised him not to go into much detail."Feeney link to lobbyist faces more scrutiny".
The former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives would not say how recently Justice officials contacted him or what they asked.
Scott Maxwell explains that "he agent wasn't crystal clear about what he wanted ... though he did refer to a May 2005 column I wrote where Feeney's former chief of staff, Jason Roe, blamed the whole Abramoff hubbub on 'media hysteria' and claimed the public didn't even care." "When the FBI called".
It is a national problem for GOPers: "Raids, resignations put Republicans on edge". Meanwhile, Mel looks at the world through rose colored glasses: "Mel Martinez: GOP leadership job is on track". Speaking of Mel, remember this?
Martinez has said he can't recall the meeting."Ney Admits to Lobbying Florida Senator".
But here's Martinez's problem. He's said that he never met wtih Abramoff while heading HUD; but clearly Ney was acting as a kind of lobbyist for Abramoff, who was trying to win HUD funds for his Indian clients.
And he got plenty. According to The Miami Herald, Abramoff's client The Saginaw Chippewa, for whom Abramoff was working hard to win HUD money, was awarded about $4 million from 2002 to 2004.
Martinez was richly rewarded. Just two months after he left HUD in order to make a run for the Senate in early 2004, his campaign netted $250,000 from a fundraiser co-chaired by Abramoff.
So it seems that it's time for another round of denials from Martinez that he gave Abramoff any special treatment.
Argenziano Gets PSC Gig
"State Sen. Nancy Argenziano, a sometimes maverick Republican who has squared off against utility companies in her legislative career, will be able to watch over them full time after being named to the state Public Service Commission." "Senator appointed to fill PSC vacancy". See also "Governor names Argenziano to commission" and "Longtime PSC watchdog named a member" ("Argenziano once declared 'war' on the commission that regulates rates for Florida's electricity, gas and phone.")
"Legislature: Day 30 at a glance". See also "The day in Tallahassee, Monday, April 23, 2007".
Dems Poised to Pick Up Seat in HD 49 Special Election Today
There HD 49 special election is today, and the Orlando Sentinel editors think, Dem Darren "Soto a good fit".
House Draws "Line in the Sand"
"Lawmakers engaged in lots of posturing -- but agreed on little -- in their first day of property-tax negotiations." "Property tax wrangle goes nowhere". See also "Property tax plans $73 billion apart" and "Tax negotiations at impasse". On the possible increase to the sales tax, see "State lawmakers see sales tax as a ready source of quick cash".
"Twelve hundred dollars."
That's the absolute minimum on average that House Republicans said primary homeowners should save in property taxes next year, as they kicked off property-tax negotiations Monday with the Senate with a numerical line in the sand."House pushes Senate to make deeper tax cuts". One man's opinion: "Cut taxes, and spending will save the day".
Second-home owners and rental-property owners should save at least $750, and commercial-property owners should save at least $3,300, they added.
Those figures mirror the savings that would be produced if the Senate agreed to most of the House's plan to impose deep cuts on local governments and swap lower property taxes for a higher sales tax.
But that's an idea the Senate has flatly rejected so far.
Aaron Deslatte thinks "Crist can turn this debate on its head with one well-choreographed press conference. The only question is whether lawmakers want to walk out of session looking like heroes. Crist will be more than happy to don the cape." More: "Gov. Crist: Gimme Five, Lower Taxes". See also "The Official 2007 Charlie Crist Tax Tour".
"I Choose Not to Vote"
"Maybe a congressional race was so nasty that a large number of voters simply didn't want to check the box next to either candidate. That's what state Sen. Mike Bennett believes happened in the now-infamous District 13 congressional race. Hoping to prevent a repeat, he persuaded the Senate Ethics and Elections committee to approve a bill (SB 494) Monday that would require ballots to have the additional option of 'I choose not to vote.'" ""I choose not to vote" may become ballot option in Florida". See also "Plan gives voters option to not vote for any candidate".
"Jeb!" Appointment "On the Take"
The Jeb appointed former head of the Florida Department of Corrections, Secretary James "Crosby, and his friend and protege, Allen Clark, had a nasty secret. Despite their generous state salaries, they were on the take. They admitted last July that they received $130,000 in kickbacks from a company that supplied potato chips, soft drinks and other snacks to weekend prison visitors. Both are scheduled to be sentenced this week - Crosby on Tuesday, Clark on Wednesday - and will probably receive federal prison time. Federal officials have said Crosby could receive up to eight years in prison." "Ex-state prisons chief to be sentenced for taking kickbacks".
Romney Strikes Out
"Mutual Admiration Society, But No Endorsement, As Crist And Romney Meet". See also "Romney: I am a conservative", "Governor gets to know Romneys" and "Romney wants taste of Crist's popularity".
On supposes this is Better than nothing: "Bronson Backs Romney". See generally: "Romney Latest GOP Contender at Capitol", "Mitt, for a change" ("About 30 lawmakers joined former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for lunch Monday at the Governor's Club in Tallahassee") and "Romney betting on early Florida primary".
Charlie's Citizen Plan Faltering
"With critics pointing to huge financial risks, Florida House members backed away Monday from a plan to freeze Citizens Property Insurance Corp. rates until 2009 and allow Citizens to compete more with private insurers." "Citizens plan slips in house". See also "Panel nixes plan to keep Citizens rates frozen", "Property tax negotiators don't move much", "Committee undoes Crist's Citizens efforts" and "Bill to strengthen Citizens moves forward in House".
From the "Values" Crowd
"Inmates put to death by lethal injection are supposed to die quickly and painlessly, but they actually might suffocate aware and in agony, a team of researchers concluded in a study released Monday. " "Study: Lethal injection flawed". See also "Study: Lethal injection method flawed" ("The drugs used to execute prisoners in the United States sometimes fail to work as planned, causing slow and painful deaths that probably violate constitutional bans on cruel and unusual punishment, a new medical review of dozens of executions concludes.")
Crime Victim Compensation Program Changes
"On Monday, a bill that would allow money [from the state's Crime Victim Compensation Program] to flow to the families of Florida residents who are killed in violent crimes in other countries passed through committees in the House and the Senate." "State may help family of those killed abroad".
"The policies of the last six years may not have been explicitly anti-poor. But they've been disproportionately pro-rich. For the swelling number of those living in poverty, it amounts to the same thing. They count less -- literally and politically." The News-Journal editors explain:
If the poverty line was adjusted to reflect statistical and contemporary realities, there wouldn't be 37 million poor Americans, as there was in 2005 (the last year for which data is available). The number would be closer to 41 million. The proportion of Americans living in poverty wouldn't be 12.6 percent, but 14.1 percent. The formula would be based on after-tax income (the working poor don't pay federal income taxes, but they still pay payroll taxes, which take a disproportionate share of their income), but would also add in such cash-value aid as food stamps. It would take housing, child care, clothing, out-of-pocket medical expenses and transportation into account. Only then would the number come closer to reality."Count out the poor stat by outdated stat".
"CSX Transportation charges local governments millions to fix and maintain railroad crossings on public roads. Yet there is no accounting of how those tax dollars are spent and there is considerable evidence its charges are excessive." "CSX's Pricing Process Runs Over Taxpayers, Accountability".
How non-partisan of them: "Fred Thompson—lawyer, actor, senator and possible candidate for president—will wear two of his many hats in Tampa May 10 when he speaks to the Hillsborough County Bar Foundation’s Law and Liberty Dinner." "Fred Thompson To Address Local Bar".
"Crist came out Monday in support of the state's embattled insurance commissioner, defending Kevin McCarty from what he says are industry attacks." Recall that "CFO Alex Sink, one of four Cabinet members to whom McCarty reports, rebuked the commissioner for creating an atmosphere of 'arm-twisting and payback.'". "Crist defends insurance commissioner". See also "Insurers for McCarty" ("lobbyist Mark Delegal says State Farm, at least, stands by the
Big of 'Em
"Florida lawmakers [and in particular state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey] may have put an end to a contract that allowed a single vendor [National Safety Commission, a Ponte Vedra Beach company owned by one Kenneth Underwood] to print the state's driver license handbooks that included pages of advertisements for the vendor's own business. The House-Senate committee negotiating the state budget on Monday put $750,000 into the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles' budget to print the handbooks as long as it doesn't include any advertisements." "State may use $750,000 for no-ad drivers guide".
Underwood's contract was the subject of a state audit last year that said the public should have known that the lobbyist representing Underwood's company, Sherry Dickinson, was the wife of the then-agency head, Fred Dickinson."Lawmaker singles out traffic school's contract".
In addition, Underwood's competitors for traffic school business have aggressively lobbied legislators to short-circuit his deal.
Fasano's former legislative aide, Shawn Foster, used to lobby for a traffic school that is one of Underwood's rivals. The senator discounted that as a factor in his actions.
"As House and Senate negotiators work out compromises on higher education funding in Tallahassee, student leaders are going before legislators seeking a special technology fee. The fee would be voluntary, according to leaders of the Florida Students Association, and each campus would put any proposed fee up for a student vote. Given that Florida's universities are technologically behind many other states, the fee is critical to offering students a quality education in a global economy." "Tech fee would help universities".
"What began as a consumer-friendly proposal tacked to the cable-video franchising bill to keep basic local phone rates from rising could ultimately end up sinking the legislation." "On the line/a>". See also "Cable proposals still need tuning".
"The historic 'pay as you go' growth management law passed two years ago may be sabotaged in the Florida House."
Bills to fix some minor glitches in that law are in both the House and Senate this year."House Undermines Growth Management".
But the House bill, rather than simply making the minor staff-requested changes, establishes a series of exemptions from state oversight.
Significantly, it would allow the most densely populated counties, including Pinellas, to make changes in their comprehensive plans without being reviewed by the state Department of Community Affairs.
Expect Wingnut Influx Into GAL Programs
"Legislation that makes it harder for pregnant girls to avoid telling their parents before they get an abortion now heads to the Senate floor. The Senate judiciary committee on Monday voted 7-4 in favor of a bill (SB 1602) that requires a judge to consider additional factors before deciding whether a minor is mature enough to decide to have an abortion, including whether the girl was intimidated or pressured to have the procedure. ... Sen. Steven Geller, D-Hallandale Beach, unsuccessfully tried to remove the guardian ad litem requirement from Storms' bill. He said it was excluded from previous legislation because of concerns that guardian ad litems who are anti-abortion would not be able to separate their beliefs from their job, possibly affecting their ability to counsel girls." "Abortion bill adds guardian ad litems".
Renters Take It In The Shorts
"Florida renters could soon face thousands of dollars in new penalties for breaking leases under revamped rental laws that consumer advocates say would be tipped in favor of landlords." "Legislators may let landlords charge 2 months' rent for breaking a lease".
Early Primary Talk Working?
"If the goal in moving the primary up to as soon as late January was to make Florida more relevant in picking party nominees, the early attention from candidates proves it's working, said University of South Florida political science professor Darryl Paulson. Over the past two decades, when presidential candidates visited Florida in the early stages of the campaign, it was to raise money. Now, it is also to court voters." "Florida pulling in the candidates".
Keller in Trouble?
Scott Maxwell reports that "U.S. Rep. Ric Keller is off to his worst fundraising start since he was first elected in 2000."
The Orlando Republican says the slow start is all part of his strategy and that he'll soon be flush with cash. But his critics -- both Democrats and a Republican who is trying to unseat him and actually out-raised Keller this quarter -- say the numbers show Keller is more vulnerable than ever."So far, Keller's fundraising yields no avalanche of cash".
"People are looking for a big change," said upstart Republican candidate Todd Long, who reported raising $3,000 more than Keller. "And he's not going to be able to raise as much money from Central Floridians this time."
Added Florida Democratic Party spokesman Mark Bubriski: "When a relative unknown challenger in your own party gets that close in fundraising, you have to be worried about your party's confidence in you. Keller seems oblivious to the fact that he's extremely vulnerable."
Jeremy Wallace asks "Will death affect Dist. 13 task force?"
The investigation into what happened in the 13th Congressional District election was already crawling along at a slow pace in Congress.Wallace writes that "House officials said today they don’t expect the leadership shuffle to impact the progress of the 13th District task force."
Now comes the unexpected death of Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, D-Calif.
On Sunday, the chairwoman of the House Administration Committee died at age 68 of cancer. Millender-McDonald, as the chairwoman of that committee, created the 13th District task force to look into Democrat Christine Jenning’s assertion that a voting machine error caused the abnormally high 18,000 undervotes.
"There are reasonable and responsible ways to address the burgeoning costs associated with providing for the needs of Florida's developmentally disabled. A blanket cutoff of services is not one of them." "Spend wisely on disabled care".
Hill's "Misogynistic" Florida Cash
Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King thinks Sen. Hillary Clinton tshould "give it back -- 'it' being the reported $800,000 that's sitting in her presidential campaign coffers thanks to a fundraiser hosted in her honor March 31 in the Pinecrest, Fla., home of a huge Clinton fan who refers to himself as Timbaland." He explains why in "From Clinton, Hip-Hop Hypocrisy" (via The Buzz, "Should Hillary return Florida money?").
Stay Outa My "Quasi-Public" Place
"The measure would deprive citizens of the opportunity to exercise their right to petition government in 'quasi-public' places such as malls. It is also discriminatory, they said, because businesses could still allow petition drives they favor." "Hey, you kids, get off my parking lot!".
To Replace Argenziano
"Outgoing Sen. Nancy Argenziano said she’s going to leave office the day before the end of the legislative session to ensure Senate confirmation this year of her appointment to the Public Service Commission – but she’s not staying out of politics or coming anywhere close to endorsing Richard Corcoran, a 'political insider' who resigned as House Speaker Marco Rubio’s top aide to run for her office."
Corcoran ran a nasty campaign against her in 1998, and she’s not forgetting it. Meantime, Senate Republicans are still hashing out whom they’ll back in the race pitting Corcoran against Republican Reps. Dennis Baxley of Ocala and Charlie Dean of Inverness. Corcoran is close to Sen. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey and Senate Majority Leader Dan Webster.And get this:
Argenziano said she’s backing Dean, who’s the best-known candidate, and that Baxley is too religiously "extreme" for her moderate 13-county district that stretches from Citrus to Leon counties.
polls show an un-named Democrat could beat an un-named Republican, but Argenziano said no worthy Democrat has entered the race."In leaving, Argenziano makes it clear: No Corcoran, Baxley".
"Florida House Republicans offered their first glimpse at how they want to rewrite the state's mandatory automobile insurance laws by pushing a bill through a committee that doesn't normally deal with policy." "House committee passes new auto insurance plan".
No Florida Subsidiaries
"Proposal would prevent new Fla.-only home insurance subsidiaries".
"The Palm Beach County School District has told 344 teachers and assistant principals that they must repay $900,000 they received because of a faulty payroll system." "Palm Beach County educators must pay back $900,000 after payroll blunder".
Touch-Screens for Sale
"How much confidence do state Senators have in the touch-screen voting machines they are trying to replace? So much that during a discussion of a bill today that would do away with most touch-screens, Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, suggested putting the machines on eBay." "Touch Screen Machines on eBay?".
"A Senate panel on Monday refused to confirm Dr. A.K. Desai , a St. Petersburg doctor[a "top Tampa Bay GOP fundraiser"] and owner of a Medicare HMO that has come under scrutiny by state regulators, to the State Board of Education. Desai was appointed earlier this year to the important board by Gov. Charlie Crist. Sen. J.D. Alexander, a Lake Wales Republican, made the move to delay confirmation of Desai, saying the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee needed more time to investigate press reports surrounding Universal Health Care." "Senate refuses to confirm Crist appointee". For more on Universal Health Care see "State fires back at Universal Health Care" ("Attorneys for the state Office of Insurance Regulation fired back at Universal Health Care, calling it 'absurd' that the agency conspired against the Medicare insurer and asking a judge to clear the way for liquidating the company's 'Any, Any, Any' plan.")