Crist protests: It ain't me ...
"Crist blames economy (and that now-famous photo) for hurting him with conservatives".
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "The Hollywood image of the nuclear family -- with Mom vacuuming in pearls, Dad presiding over the grill and a marriage certificate lovingly tucked into a brocaded album -- is inviting. But real relationships can be more complicated. Some couples -- particularly retirees -- have been together for years but shun marriage because one or both partners would lose pension or other benefits. And Florida, like most states, specifically denies marital status to same-sex couples."
Despite that legal provision, an increasing number of Florida counties and municipalities have created domestic-partner registries, giving couples the opportunity to legally declare a contractual obligation to one another. The registries have been instrumental in helping unmarried partners obtain insurance benefits and visit each other in hospitals or correctional facilities. And when challenged in court, the registries have been upheld -- as long as they didn't attempt to create any marital relationship or rights."Registry is right".
Crist's buddy Rothstein cowering in "undisclosed location"
"Fort Lauderdale lawyer Scott Rothstein, who returned from a trip to Morocco last week to face a federal fraud investigation, said he was in good spirits Sunday."
Rothstein, who is cooperating with investigators, is under federal surveillance at an undisclosed South Florida location."Attorney Bill Scherer said he would file a motion Monday to intervene on behalf of investors who claim Rothstein bilked them of at least $98 million by selling them fabricated employment-discrimination settlements and then stealing their money."
Authorities could arrest him with evidence collected so far, the sources said, but they are trying to build a conspiracy case around Rothstein and possibly others who participated in his alleged investment scam under the mantle of his law firm. ...
Meanwhile, a receiver appointed last week by a judge to examine the law firm's finances will be back in court Monday for an update.
On Friday, Broward Circuit Judge Jeffrey Streitfeld gave Toronto Dominion Bank -- where Rothstein kept dozens of his investors' accounts -- until noon Monday to turn over financial records related to him and his law firm. Streitfeld will hold a hearing one hour later with the receiver, retired Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Herbert Stettin.
These allegations ought to sicken real employment discrimination lawyers, not to mention Thurgood Marshall, who no doubt is rolling over in his grave.
Those investors [in Rothstein's allegedly fabricated employment-discrimination settlements] will assert they are creditors and should be allowed to block Rothstein's law firm from collecting any recovered money -- including its donations to charities and political candidates. ..."Rothstein: 'I'm doing good'". More: "Read the order to surrender bank records", "Detailed list of items removed from the law firm", "gallery," "gallery" and these pieces from yesterday: "Rothstein's vast empire" and Fred Grimm's "Rothstein story far too familiar".
The life of the high-profile lawyer who donated lavishly to charitable causes and politicians including Gov. Charlie Crist began to unravel in late October, when investors did not receive expected payouts and contacted federal officials.
How much political fallout will there be for the RPOFers?: After all, Rothstein "co-chaired fundraisers for President George W. Bush and several U.S. senators, including John McCain and Mel Martinez. ... Rothstein describes himself on his website as a 'close friend and advisor' to the governor, who appointed him to his Chairman's Council, a group of 25 business leaders. Last week, Crist also called Rothstein a 'friend.'" "Lawyer Scott Rothstein drained pals to live life of high roller". Related: "Rothstein roundup: Domino at ease, Tallahassee on edge, law firm on defensive".
"People in Crist's world were livid last week when Attorney General McCollum called on Sink to return all campaign contributions connected to Scott Rothstein. Why? Because Rothstein had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Crist and the state GOP. Don't think for a second that the McCollum campaign failed to appreciate that the shot at Sink would also hit Greer and Crist." "McCollum counts on Rothstein fallout".
Carl Hiaasen yesterday: "This year Rothstein and his circle already raised roughly $80,000 for Crist's Senate campaign. The governor said he'll return only $9,600 given directly by Rothstein and his wife. Crist says he has no special relationship with the lawyer, yet he attended Rothstein's wedding reception. Try donating $50 and see if Charlie shows up at yours." "The best politicians money can buy".
Entrepreneurs in action ... with Billy's help
Jim Stratton: "The news release from April 2008 issued a steely warning to rogue and abusive debt collectors. The state, it announced, had just won a $1.3 million verdict against a Jacksonville company that harassed people and lied to them while trying to collect."
"This case," said Attorney General Bill McCollum "should put similar operations on notice" authorities will not tolerate unscrupulous individuals who victimize our citizens in potentially difficult financial situations.""Complaints rising over rogue debt collectors". Related: "State rarely punishes rogue debt collectors".
But the numbers suggest that's not always true.
McCollum's office has received thousands of complaints about debt collectors this year, but it has not opened a single case. Saying it has little authority over collectors, the office has referred every complaint about questionable and abusive practices to other agencies.
Stealing "our right to good government"?
Bill Cotterell: "The notion that honor should be prized above worldly wealth is a lofty ideal for government. Now, state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, wants to make it a law."
A former federal prosecutor running for attorney general as a reformer, Gelber has a bill that values the good name of government service in ways that could prove problematic."Honest service? There oughta be a law".
His bill (SB 444) would broaden Florida's fraud statutes to include "theft or deprivation of honest services." That means taxpayers have a right to the best work of public employees and, if workers deliver anything less, they're stealing not only their hourly pay but our right to good government.
We're not talking about error or routine failure here. The nursing home inspector, Highway Patrol trooper or food safety worker who makes a mistake is, nonetheless, exercising his or her best judgment under the circumstances. Screwing up should get you fired, not prosecuted.
But the child protective services worker who falsifies home visit reports, or the office worker who wiles away hours on Facebook and YouTube, would be committing a felony under Gelber's bill. That could include private vendors or contractors supplying shoddy goods and services, too.
"You might call it pleading the 10th."
Northeast Florida lawmakers, alarmed at the increase in the size and power of the federal government, have joined a movement aimed at asserting states' rights based on the 10th Amendment."First Coast lawmakers warn federal government about states' rights".
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people," says the amendment, the last one adopted as part of the Bill Rights.
Drawing on that language - which has been a flashpoint in conflicts between the federal and state governments almost since its adoption - the resolutions being proposed would serve as "a notice and a demand to the Federal Government, as our agent, to cease and desist, effective immediately, from issuing mandates that are beyond the scope of these constitutionally delegated powers," in the words of a resolution in the Florida House.
"It's basically saying to the federal government, 'You've overreached your bounds; you've gone too far and its time for you to obey the Constitution,' " said Rep. Lake Ray, R-Jacksonville and one of the main sponsors of the House measure.
The resolution would be nonbinding, meaning it would have no practical legal effect. Supporters, though, say it's important to send the message.
"It certainly wakes the Congress up that the fourth-largest state in the Union is concerned about their overreaching arm," said Rep. Jennifer Carroll, R-Fleming Island.
Pasco County's annual GOP Reagan Day dinner,
held just before the annual National Rifle Association dinner, comes five months after Pasco's Republican Executive Committee held a straw poll that went almost unanimously for Rubio over Crist."Many in Pasco GOP want to jilt Crist for Rubio".
Republican leaders in other counties have held informal polls with similar results, an indication that Crist could have his work cut out for him.
Pasco Republicans attending Rubio's fundraiser said Crist failed to get homeowners insurance under control, appointed a liberal judge to the state Supreme Court and endorsed a federal stimulus package that they believe is a failure.
In short? They said the country is headed in the wrong direction — and they consider the governor part of the problem.
"Lawyers for two Florida men who were sentenced to life without parole as juveniles will argue to the U.S. Supreme Court Monday that the penalty is cruel and unusual." "U.S. Supreme Court to review Florida juvenile 'lifers'".
"Choo-choo train to nowhere"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Twice, the Legislature has rejected a commuter rail system for metro Orlando, saying its benefits for the local population don't justify its cost to the entire state."
Now, however, the Legislature's close to acknowledging the state can't afford to do without it because its benefits reach beyond Central Florida."Too compelling to refuse".
And more of its members are appreciating that a failure to embrace it could imperil some of their political futures.
Take Al Lawson, the Senate's Democratic leader, who hails from Tallahassee. Mr. Lawson previously ridiculed the 61-mile SunRail project, calling it "a choo-choo train to nowhere."
Because he didn't wish to offend the Democrats' organized labor constituency, which fears losing some union rail jobs should SunRail get approved, Mr. Lawson went so far as to say that SunRail's "not going to generate any money."
But listen to him now. Last week he said he shares a "sense of urgency on this matter. Florida leads the nation in the number of residents unemployed. ...
Fortunately, some South Florida Democrats who wish to funnel more resources to Tri-Rail — but who, like Mr. Lawson, opposed SunRail because of their ties to unions — are sounding like they want to reach an accord.
Lawmakers like Ted Deutch. And Dave Aronberg and Dan Gelber, who also happen to be running for state attorney general. ...
SunRail's leading saboteur, Sen. Paula Dockery, who now also is running for governor, keeps attacking it. But others running for statewide office see that it's far more beneficial to the state — and their candidacies — to get behind it. That's why Gov. Charlie Crist, who's running for Senate; Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Attorney General Bill McCollum, who're running for governor; and Senate President Jeff Atwater, who's running for chief financial officer, all are working to pass it.
The last chance for that probably will come next next month in a special session. Its supporters mustn't fumble it.
In their drooling anti-unionism, the Orlando Sentinel editors, their uninformed writers and union hating friends (including one Mark Wylie), have ignore organized labor's concerns with SunRail; as explained by Mike Williams, the newly elected president of the Florida AFL-CIO, labor is merely asking:
Why does this deal include hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses for CSX to improve its own freight facilities, facilities that have nothing to do with the proposed commuter-rail line and its operation? These bonuses to the CSX company have needlessly inflated the cost of this deal."Anti-union rant clouds facts".
Why does the CSX company insist on forcing all liability for accidents onto the backs of taxpayers — even if it is found to be at fault for gross negligence? Will local governments really be able to pick up the high price tag for operation when the state turns it over to them? We want commuter rail, but we also want schools that are adequately funded, critical services for our seniors and a state budget that is fair to the taxpayers.
Wylie also asserts that the Florida AFL-CIO's goal "appears to be the forced unionization of all of the workers on the new SunRail." He knows, as do most Floridians, that union membership is always voluntary in our state.
The Florida AFL-CIO has supported rail projects in Florida for decades and has the record to prove it. We want the people of Central Florida to have a rail line, but we want to make sure it is funded in a way that is responsible and affords its workers the same basic federal protections that rail workers have enjoyed for generations. Wylie's attempt to use this issue as a platform for another anti-union rant that creates false divisions between union and non-union workers is disingenuous at best and yet another attempt to cloud the facts on this important issue.
"Bad debt continues to pile up at most Southwest Florida banks, even as failures, mergers and acquisitions reshape the banking landscape." "SW Fla. banks hit hard by bad debt".
"Study ranks Orlando worst in nation for pedestrians".
Toll booth safety
The Miami Herald editorial board: "People on the go in Miami-Dade use the SunPass to avoid stopping at toll booths and paying more. It's working, too, more than eight in 10 toll-road drivers use SunPass to zip by while other drivers' cars stack up in line to pay at the toll booth. The convenience and cheaper tolls with the SunPass transponder that drivers attach to windshields is wildly popular."
There's another paramount reason to get rid of all cash toll booths: safety."Get ready for new toll system".
Deadly crashes at narrow toll plazas can be prevented as cars and trucks can keeping moving on the toll road with the overhead electronic scanner debiting their SunPass account. The removal of toll plazas at six turnpike locations has reduced the crash rate by 58 percent.