"Democratic state legislators appear to have committed more than 200 election-law violations, nearly all of them stemming from accepting campaign contributions above legal limits, according to the Florida Elections Commission."
The commission said that Florida House Victory, a fundraising committee set up by House Democrats in 2003, may have committed 209 violations of election law. The charges could trigger at least $200,000 in fines against those who ran the committee, which has since been shut down.Here are the details:
The commission decided against making the same charges against a similar Senate Democratic organization, saying most of the potential violations committed by Florida Senate Victory were too old to prosecute, falling outside a two-year statute of limitations on election-law violations.
Commissioners also concluded that the Florida Democratic Party itself did nothing wrong when it received nearly $739,000 from Florida House Victory.
House and Senate Democrats initially broke their fundraising efforts away from the state party in 2003 but did not register with the state as political committees until July 2004. Maddox himself warned the House and Senate fundraising committees in an August 2004 letter that both groups ''should be closed immediately'' because of potential violations of law."Democratic lawmakers risk fine for donations".
State law caps contributions to candidates, and political committees that support candidates, at $500 from each individual donor. But Florida House Victory accepted donations far in excess of that amount, in one case taking a $50,000 check from the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association.
Between July 2004 and December 2005, Florida House Victory accepted more than 200 contributions over the limit, including $10,000 from Florida Power & Light, $25,000 from Miccosukee Indian Gaming and $10,000 from Disney Worldwide Services as well as checks from insurance companies, unions, phone companies and other utilities.
Florida's Crumbling Infrastructure
"Bridges Need Millions For Maintenance". Perhaps Florida can get other states - via federal grants - to subsidize Florida's fiscal irresponsibility?
Circular Firing Squad
"Five Florida Democrats in Congress are threatening to have their own party investigated for possible voting-rights violations if the state is stripped of delegates to the Democratic National Convention next year. The lawmakers, including Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa, sent out the warning in a letter this week to Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. ... Along with Nelson and Castor, the letter was signed by Reps. Kendrick Meek of Miami, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, and Alcee Hastings of Miramar." "Primary Sanction Plan Voids Rights, State Democrats Say". See also "Fla. Democrats warn of voting rights probe if state sanctioned", "Primary dispute heads for showdown" and "Florida jostles for position in race for the White House".
"Although most older voters in both parties remain undecided about whom they want in the White House, Hillary Clinton gets the highest marks among Democrats on core senior issues, according to a survey released Thursday by AARP in Florida." "State's seniors lean toward Clinton, Giuliani, survey says".
"Crist wants legislators to vote on a gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe, but faces even odds of getting it passed." "Crist is gambling on Seminole deal".
The Judge lifted a gag order in what has been
Two men, one a Coral Gables businessman, the other a farmer from central Cuba, squared off publicly for the first time Thursday to make their case why each should be the one to raise a 4-year-old girl."2 fathers speak out in child custody case".
On one side: Joe Cubas, 46, a nationally known sports agent, investor and real estate developer who is the girl's foster father.
On the other: Rafael Izquierdo, 32, a malanga and plantain farmer and sometime fisherman who is the girl's birth father. ...
''You'll see when he's allowed to go on Spanish- and English-language radio and enflame this community -- and we have seen it before,'' Kurzban told the judge. "There is a potential for this to turn into another Elián González case.''
Bushco Hood Ornament Speaks
"In a likely preview of the Republican response to the upcoming report on Iraq by Gen. David Petraeus, Rep. Adam Putnam of Bartow contends that the just-released National Intelligence Estimate report supports GOP arguments against withdrawal of U.S. forces. The report, released Wednesday, is being used as ammunition by both sides of the argument on whether it is time for U.S. forces to get out. It suggests that the fragile Iraqi government has made measurable progress, but that it still cannot function without outside help. It also concludes that Iraq’s sectarian groups have not reconciled their differences and al Qaeda in Iraq remains deadly. " "Putnam: NIE Supports Remaining In Iraq".
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Broward County tourism officials couldn't possibly have anticipated that their worst nightmare in 2007 would be Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle. The mayor seems determined to alienate every gay and lesbian potential visitor to Broward with his contemptible anti-gay campaign."
Now a group of narrow-minded clerics and medical professionals has latched onto the mayor's cause. They held a press conference Tuesday to rail against public and promiscuous sex. We can all agree that such activities are to be discouraged, but this sanction applies equally to heterosexuals. Mr. Naugle and his clerical backers are specifically targeting gays and lesbians with their unwarranted criticism and, often as not, half-informed comments. The mayor apparently enjoys playing the provocateur. He refuses to let it die, as it should."A biased crusader".
"System of grading schools is flawed"
The Tampa Trib editors write that "evidence is mounting that Florida's system of grading schools is flawed, and state officials need to scrutinize how FCAT scores are used to determine the letter grade each school receives once a year." "Florida's School Grading System Needs A Turn In The Spotlight".
"Crist listens to public's ideas suggestions".
"A plan for one of the biggest overhauls of the property tax system in Florida history is faltering even before it reaches voters. Three months after approving the tax reform plan, a growing number of Florida legislators, including the second-highest-ranking member of the Senate, are withdrawing support. Sen. Lisa Carlton, R-Osprey, on Thursday told a Sarasota audience that she is "leaning no" on the Jan. 29 constitutional amendment, concerned the proposal does not go far enough to fix Florida's property tax problems. And she is not alone." "Local lawmakers desert tax plan even before vote".
"The Orlando Sentinel has confirmed that one of three men found dead in an east Orange County home in an apparent double murder-suicide is a prominent political consultant. Ralph Gonzalez was found dead at his home at 2420 Hickory Oak Blvd., his father Rafael Gonzalez, 69, confirmed. Gonzalez is the former head of the Republican party in Georgia and the president of Strategum Group, an Orlando political consulting firm that represents Republican candidates, including many in Central Florida such as state Rep. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando." "Prominent Republican party consultant one of three men found dead".
Other clients include: state Rep.Dean Cannon, Tom Feeney, Sheri McInvale, John Quiñones, Dave Weldon, and Tom Lee.
"Florida State University has long been the leader in granting tuition waivers to state employees in classes not otherwise filled by regular tuition- paying undergraduates. It's a natural, given FSU's location as the hometown of many thousands of the 138,571 men and women statewide who carry out and enforce all state programs, services and responsibilities. But this excellent educational bonus and significant employee benefit has been deleted for undergraduates, effective immediately and through the spring of 2008. Abolishing the tuition waivers is part of FSU's answer to the recent gubernatorial dictate to all 11 public universities to cut back their budgets from 4 percent to 10 percent - exact figure pending."
The temporary abolition of this program is a low blow to state employees."Waivers good-bye".
They have already suffered the indignities of the Legislature's idea of appreciation to the people who perform the work lawmakers dictate as essential: a $1,000 bonus that, after taxes, translated to $673 and doesn't even increase their base pay. State employees are getting no annual pay raise whatever this year, adding insult to injury in a state that's infamous as being dead last in the nation in a per-capita ranking of government salaries.
"In April this year, someone using a computer owned by the Legislature removed an entry on the page for Sen. Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs. Anyone who drops by the page now will not learn that Constantine was arrested on a DUI charge in 2004. 'I don't even know what Wikipedia is,' Constantine said Thursday. 'I'm surprised I can even pronounce it.' He said no one in his office told him about deleting negative information on the Internet. 'I can't hide it and I don't try to hide it.'" "Wikipedia work on taxpayers' dime?".
Both Ends Burning
"The sugar industry, long a lightning rod for environmental lawsuits, is threatening to go to court itself in a move that could result in growers arguing both sides of a complicated federal pollution case."
Growers, along with the South Florida Water Management District, already are appealing a federal court ruling ordering water managers to obtain federal permits for the controversial practice of pumping polluted farm runoff into Lake Okeechobee to boost water supplies."Big Sugar might argue both sides of case".
But in a filing Thursday, the Florida Sugar Cane League warned that if the appeal fails, growers intend to turn around and sue their current legal partners. The goal: Forcing the district to pull federal permits not just for the three huge lake pumps but for every water-control structure -- hundreds of gates and pumps in 16 counties.
Take the "Time to Read It"
"What's the rush? Lawmakers could easily buy themselves the time they need to do a good job of addressing PIP reform -- including fraud -- by extending the current system a few months or a year. Drivers, insurance companies and regulators could continue under the current system while a new one is devised -- and make ready for an orderly transition instead of hastily adjusting to a new law before they've really had time to read it." "Personal Injury Protection reform can wait; renew law". See also "Don't dump PIP".
"The 41-year-old Republican is the youngest current [Palm Beach] county commissioner by a decade. He grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and has lived much of his life in a political climate. During law school at the University of Maryland at Baltimore, Kanjian worked for a government consulting firm run by Adm. Daniel Morgan, who was chief of staff during Vice President George H.W. Bush's term. Gov. Charlie Crist sought Kanjian out as a candidate to replace former Commissioner Warren Newell, who faces up to five years in prison." "No room for cuts in mental-health services". See also "Newell's ex-partner resigns from company".
GOPers Divert Tobacco Money
The Palm Beach Post editors reminds us that "the state almost ruined what Gov. Chiles won. Republicans, who have dominated state government since 1999, diverted the tobacco money and cut the anti-smoking program from $70 million to $1 million. The sharp decline in teen smoking stalled." "Getting what Chiles won".
All About Iowa
"Sorry, all you political junkies in Florida, New York, California, Michigan and any other state maneuvering to have more say in picking the presidential nominees." "All eyes still on No. 1, Iowa says".
No "Sexually Explicit Photos" So Far
"A House review of some e-mails former U.S Rep. Mark Foley sent and received through his congressional account [by the House Office of the Chief Administrative Officer] revealed no sexually explicit photos, but the investigation continues into his lurid Internet communications with male teenage pages, The Associated Press learned Thursday. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said this week its investigation into whether Foley tried to seduce underage boys has been hindered because neither Foley nor the House will let its investigators examine his congressional computers." "No graphic photos found in Foley e-mails".
State Senators Jeremy Ring, D-Parkland and Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton think its time for Dems to act like Dems in the state Senate. Ring observed at a meeting of the Broward Democratic Party, that
"last year was a nice year. It was kind of Kumbaya. We worked kind of well together," Ring said. "No more. We've got to stand up now. We've got to stop being this Kumbaya." ..."2 Democrats looking to shake up Fla. Senate".
Ring and Deutch are both freshmen, elected to the Legislature last year without holding any other elected offices. Both are in Democratic districts -- Ring in Broward and Deutch in Broward and Palm Beach counties -- unlikely to see serious Republican challengers in future elections.
SW Florida Takes a Hit
"The last year of suffering in the real estate market has slowly percolated to nearly every industry in the region. Welfare caseloads are creeping up. Pawnbrokers have been so inundated with used construction equipment sold to pay the bills that many have stopped buying. "Help Wanted" signs, once commonplace, are disappearing from store windows. And for the first time since most anyone can remember, Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties -- bastions of the 2-plus-percent unemployment rate -- are seeing a measure of joblessness rivaling the state average." "Many kinds of pain as housing woes hit all sectors".
"Miami-Dade County commissioners targeted cash reserves and administrative costs for budget-cutting." "Fight to stave off cuts begins".
"Twice the Demand ... Half the Money"
"Social workers, probation officers and juvenile judges all recognize the pipeline from dependency on the state as a parent to delinquency. The Florida Department of Children and Families too often feeds Florida's Department of Juvenile Justice."
Of the five largest states, Florida has twice the demand for child welfare services but spends half the money. "We see more children in Florida on a monthly basis," Mr. Zychowski said, "than any other state.""Put the 'welfare' in 'child welfare'".
Pinellas County Property Appraiser Jim Smith
"With a grand jury meeting today to continue its probe of the indefensible private land deal between Pinellas County Property Appraiser Jim Smith and the county government, the evidence only mounts that Smith used his elected position for personal gain and that county officials responded to the pressure by improperly giving him preferential treatment at taxpayers' expense." "Time for Smith to go".