"Florida Congressman Vern Buchanan is no stranger to controversy, but Sam Kazran, a former business partner now currently enmeshed in a campaign finance controversy with the lawmaker, is. A recent interview with Kazran, along with a 2009 sworn deposition he made to the Federal Election Commission that he gave to The Florida Independent offer much greater detail about allegations of financial violations during Buchanan’s 2006 and 2008 campaigns." "Deposition by Buchanan’s former business partner shines light on campaign finance allegations".
Sink staffer gets sum' Ricky-love
"Scott named former Alex Sink staffer Doug Darling as the head of the new Department of Economic Opportunity, his office announced Thursday." "Scott names director for new jobs department". Related: "Rick Scott Fingers Old Hands to Run State Agencies".
Mica union-hate "has crippled FAA"
Mark K. Matthews*, writing for the less-than-union-friendly Orlando Sentinel does his best to paper over John Mica's embarrassing behavior in this "story" today: "It's known as 'the other stalemate' on Capitol Hill: a feud between two congressional lions [sic], Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica and Democratic U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, that has turned surprisingly personal and forced a partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration since July 22."
Two legislators, each with decades of experience and reputations for pragmatism, have been sucked into the same vitriolic partisan sniping that has permeated the Capitol during the months-long fight over the debt ceiling. ..."Capitol Hill feud involving Mica has crippled FAA".
At issue is an operating plan for the FAA that Congress has been unable to agree on since 2007. Instead, Congress has kept the agency in business — it spends about $16 billion a year, much of it on airport construction projects — by passing nearly two dozen extensions. (The agency's air-traffic-control operations are funded separately.)
But when the time came for the latest extension, Mica, of Winter Park, inserted the last-minute elimination of subsidies to airlines that fly into three rural airports, including one in Nevada, home of Majority Leader Harry Reid. (Agreed-on language had already eliminated subsidies for 10 other small airports.) ...
Rockefeller and other Democrats said the subsidy dispute is serving as a proxy issue for a deeper conflict over what they call an anti-union provision supported by Delta Air Lines, a largely nonunion carrier seeking to strengthen its ability to fight labor unions.
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*To Mathews' credit, it is unusual to see anything other than hyperventilated praise for Mica in the Orlando Sentinel.
Press lobbyists to handle lobbyist reporting?
Outsourcing madness: "The Legislature's latest privatization effort is drawing attention from lobbyists and the news media, and for very different reasons."
In a little-noticed action, lawmakers rewrote their rules last session and added a provision to outsource the Office of Lobbyist Registration."Press group in talks to take over state lobbyist registration". See also "Outsourcing lobbyist registration draws controversy".
But months earlier, e-mails show, a private, for-profit group, the Florida Press Association, was in informal talks with a key legislative staffer on the subject. The group lobbies on behalf of newspapers, whose reporters are among the most intense lobbyist-watchers in the state.
The lobbyist registration office has only three workers, but its output is monitored closely by everyone who follows state government because it records registrations of thousands of lobbyists and their clients, as well as compensation reports lobbyists have been required to file since 2006.
The mountain of data is stored in an aging mainframe computer that legislative technical experts say costs $2 million a year to maintain. The idea is to shut off the computer and hire a private firm that can modernize the lobbyist website for less money while turning a profit.
Privatizing lobbyist reporting was in part the brainchild of Steve MacNamara, who at the time was chief of staff to Senate President Mike Haridopolos. MacNamara is now Gov. Rick Scott's chief of staff.
Perhaps more employees need to be hired?
The Sarasota Herald Tribune editors wonders "just because revenue for overtime isn't budgeted doesn't mean the costs won't be incurred. The question should be answered: Why have those costs been so high?" "Editorial: Over budget on overtime".
The last refuge of scoundrels ... a "task force"
"Following months of controversy over the state's watchdog program for long-term care, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has ordered the creation of a task force charged with improving patient safety and monitoring in assisted-living facilities."
The move this week comes after a yearlong investigation by The Miami Herald exposed lax enforcement of facilities in which residents were neglected, beaten and left in filthy and dangerous conditions. The paper cited the deaths of 70 residents from abuse or neglect since 2002."Scott creates task force to improve assisted-living facilities".
This and that
"Haridopolos comments on Senate race, Bachmann joins CPAC FL, Tracking campaign donations from developer Catalfumo". See also "Keck to leave Department of Citrus, Rep Bullard hosts agriculture roundtable, Group fights citrus greening".
"Florida a state where harmful policies enacted"
"A policy research group has included Florida in a list of states that made unnecessarily austere budget cuts this past year."
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities writes that out of the "47 states with newly enacted budgets, 38 or more states are making deep, identifiable cuts in K-12 education, higher education, health care, or other key areas in their budgets for fiscal year 2012." Florida was used many times as an example of state where harmful policies were recently enacted.Much more: "Policy research group: Florida made ‘unnecessarily harmful’ budget cuts".
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a "policy organization working at the federal and state levels on fiscal policy and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income families and individuals."
According to their research, the services hardest hit by state cuts have been education and health care.
"The group writes:"This level of budget-cutting is unnecessary and results, in part, from state and federal actions and failures to act. To be sure, with tax collections in most states still well below pre-recession levels and lagging far behind the growing cost of maintaining services, additional cuts at some level were inevitable for 2012. But the cutbacks in services that many states are now imposing are larger than necessary.
Florida was listed several times for its cuts to K-12 and higher education, as well as deep cuts to health services.
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "If legislators hoped their hearings on redistricting in Orlando Wednesday would convince Central Floridians that lawmakers intend to honor them by drawing fair districts, those hopes were largely dashed. And no wonder." "Redistricting hearings engender little trust among the public".
"Round-up of redistricting coverage for 7/29" See also "Here's a primer on congressional and legislative redistricting" and "How to draw minority seats is crux of redistricting controversy".
Scott Maxwell: "When Florida legislators swung through town this week, hundreds of Central Floridians poured into the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre to demand that politicians treat them, their money and democracy with more respect. So I'm here to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what went down — everything from the best zingers to the legislator [State Rep. Chris Dorworth] who seemed more interested in his Facebook account than in what his constituents were saying." "What not to 'Like' during hearing | Video".
"Friendless in Tally"
"In 2008, Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Legislature established the Office of the Small Business Advocate, a four-member agency that reviewed hundreds of proposed regulations and worked with an advisory board of business owners and lobbyists to determine how to respond to new regulations. All that ended when Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $500,000 that lawmakers had set aside to run the operation. Besides, the governor's new initiative to block regulations had jumped to a quick start by going after some of the 20,000 state rules Gov. Scott found offensive."
The big problem is Gov. Scott's new office lacks the transparency needed to show it's truly effective in going after burdensome rules, particularly those that may impact small businesses. The new Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform can tackle regulations that may offend big corporate interests or conservative political ideology, but not necessarily bother a small business."Gov. Scott's small business advocate alternative".
Insurance industry whines
"Sharply higher claims payouts are driving up Florida homeowner and auto insurance premiums, even though the state hasn't been hit by a hurricane in more than five years, a new industry study shows." "Soaring Claims Drive Florida Insurance Rates Higher".
Teabaggers turn to Florida
"Having entered the Republican presidential race last month, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a favorite of the tea party movement, is riding high in the polls and turning her attention to delegate-rich Florida."
The American Conservative Union (ACU) announced Thursday that Bachmann will address its Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Florida event which will be in Orlando on Friday, Sept. 23. The CPAC FL meeting will be held at the same time as the Republican Party of Florida’s (RPOF) Presidency 5 meeting. The RPOF event will feature a debate by the field of Republican candidates and a straw poll. While the Bachmann camp has not committed to the straw poll, it has left the door open to participating. ..."Michele Bachmann Starts to Shine in the Sunshine State". See also "Florida Family Policy Council to host Bachmann at annual policy awards dinner".
A poll from the American Research Group released earlier in the week revealed a close contest in Florida between the Republican presidential candidates. While Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has yet to officially enter the race, topped the poll with 16 percent, Bachmann was right behind him, tied with Romney for second, with 15 percent.
Nothing better to do, Florida Republicans fight "Backdoor amnesty"
"HALT, an immigration-enforcement bill, is necessary because President Obama is seeking 'backdoor amnesty' for millions of undocumented immigrants, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said Tuesday during a House Judiciary committee hearing." "Bill cosponsored by Buchanan, Nugent, Young said to fight ‘backdoor amnesty’".
They're 'jus birds
"Commission OKs windmill rules, but environmentalists fear for birds".
"Atavistic and repugnant"
"A federal judge has declared Florida's drug statute unconstitutional on grounds that it does not require criminal intent be proven by prosecutors. If upheld on appeal, the decision has the potential to place in jeopardy hundreds, and possibly thousands, of drug convictions."
U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven of Orlando noted in an order issued Wednesday, that Florida is the only state to eliminate criminal intent as an element of the crime in its Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. Legislators excised it in 2002."Federal judge rules Florida's drug law unconstitutional".
Scriven cited the example of a student who hides his cocaine in a friend's backpack without telling him. The friend, having no idea it is there, is guilty of possession even if he had no intent to possess it or didn't know it was there.
Elimination of the intent element is "atavistic and repugnant to the common law," Scriven wrote.
Steak-preneur is just one of us
Craig Miller, "the businessman and Republican candidate from Winter Park is striving to gain name recognition and distinguish himself from the party's front-runners, former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux and former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, for the chance to take on incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson in 2012." "U.S. Senate candidate Craig Miller seeks 'Main Street' image".
Batista crowd upsetting a "growing numbers of Cuban-Americans"
"Sonia Rodriguez whipped up milk-and-espresso drinks at the Latin American Grill as talk turned to a new push in Congress to tighten restrictions on travel to Cuba. Like growing numbers of Cuban-Americans, she's worried about the U.S. reinstating strict limits on how often she can visit relatives and even how much money can be sent to loved ones on the island."
Soon after taking office, President Barack Obama eased the family travel restrictions to pre-Bush administration levels. He has also issued regulations encouraging travel opportunities for religious, cultural and educational groups. Pure tourist travel is still prohibited under the U.S. trade embargo imposed on Cuba decades ago."Cuban-Americans fret over travel restrictions home".
But two Republican Cuban-American congressmen from Miami-area districts are sponsoring measures to roll back the Obama changes, highlighting the division between those who left Cuba long ago and those who arrived more recently and still have ties to the Caribbean nation.
Last week, the Republican-led House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a sweeping bill targeting a Cuba travel and remittances. Republicans and Democrats on the panel backed the move pushed by Rep. David Rivera, R-Fla.
Rivera says the Bush limits were enacted because of abuses to the system, and that a visit once every three years was a reasonable compromise. There is currently no limit on the number of trips Cuban-Americans can make to visit family in Cuba.
Although the full House likely will approve the bill this fall, its prospects are bleak in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart has pushed for a narrower measure targeting only Cuban-Americans. His measure is part of a must-pass financial spending bill, although Senate Democrats could oppose the provision on Cuba. All but certain is opposition from the Obama administration.
Diaz-Balart said too many people were taking advantage of eased travel to Cuba to act as merchandise couriers, propping up the island's faltering economy, and in turn its government.
Ricky shill puts him in military "Hall of Fame"
Lloyd Dunkelberger: "Scott’s office sought to distance itself Thursday from the embarrassment of a list of prospective inductees to the new Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame that originally included six former members of the Confederate army, a former governor convicted of intimidating black citizens and Scott himself."
the list included Scott, who served 29 months in the U.S. Navy as a radar technician ...."Controversial vets Hall of Fame list withdrawn from consideration next week". See also "Report: State's list of veterans to honor sparks outrage". See also "Joyner to Scott: Reject 'Good Old Boy List' for Vets Hall".
Haridopolos questions Hasner's Teabag Cred, Pines for "Jeb!"
"Haridopolos questioned Hasner's credentials as a conservative – a shot at the heart of his campaign, because the primary is rapidly turning into a race to the right. The two leading candidates, Hasner and George LeMieux, are fighting to be perceived as the true conservative in the race, and each says the other isn't."
Haridopolos also said he's still hoping for "a principled and trusted conservative" to get in the race, such as former Gov. Jeb Bush."Haridopolos knocks remaining GOP Senate candidates".
"Power play by an arrogant lawmaker"
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "We should have seen this coming. Months after securing $35 million for University of South Florida Polytechnic’s new campus in Lakeland, state Sen. J.D. Alexander wants the campus to sever its ties with USF and become an independent school. It’s another power play by an arrogant lawmaker who respects no authority other than himself." "Power play threatens USF vision".