"Facing criticism over the forced resignations of two attorneys leading foreclosure fraud investigations, Attorney General Pam Bondi said Tuesday she will appoint an [as yet unidentified] independent inspector general to examine the dismissals."
At issue are the departures of lawyers June Clarkson and Theresa Edwards, who led foreclosure fraud investigations under Attorney General Bill McCollum."Bondi to launch inquiry over dismissal of two state attorneys". See also "Bondi calls for outside review of dismissals" and "Bondi seeks independent review of attorney dismissals".
Clarkson and Edwards were forced to resign in late March by top staff in Bondi's office. The pair had received positive job evaluations from McCollum.
The move prompted state Rep. Darren Soto, a Democrat from Orlando, to demand all records from the Republican attorney general relating to the resignations. Soto said the "terminations present an overwhelming public concern" in a state ravaged by foreclosure fraud.
"Six in the morning"
Travis Pillow's "Six in the morning: A six-pack of infobits you might have missed".
"Son of Reform"
"Florida formally asks the federal government to approve an overhaul of the state's $22 billion Medicaid program. The state is asking for a federal government for a combination 1915 waiver for long term care and for amendments to two 1115 waivers to make the new Medicaid managed care program a reality."
Florida CHAIN--a grassroots health care advocacy organization--already has branded the new program Florida CHAIN--a grassroots health care advocacy organization--already has branded the new program “Son of Reform," a dig at the controversial Medicaid pilot program already underway in five counties. Policy Director Greg Melowe said the new program is the same as the old “with a few bells and whistles added on.” a dig at the controversial Medicaid pilot program already underway in five counties. Policy Director Greg Melowe said the new program is the same as the old "with a few bells and whistles added on.""State agency releases details of sweeping Medicaid waiver request".
"Best business practices" nonprofit sued
The Florida Economic Development Council, "an economic development nonprofit that teaches 'best business practices' to economic organizations around Florida recently had its own business problems: It couldn't pay a $30,000 bill to a Tampa hotel, which slapped it with a lawsuit."
In May 2010, the Florida Economic Development Council — which according to its website educates members on how to "enhance professionalism" — had a three-day conference at the Intercontinental Hotel. Between morning sessions on "Attracting Foreign Investment" and "Terminating Tension on the Team," conferees representing economic development groups and corporations from around the state were treated to Bloody Marys and mimosas. Bar tab: about $1,800."Economic development group sued over its unpaid bill".
Early evening cocktails and Mediterranean hors d'oeuvres ran close to $11,000. A dinner of filet mignon with crab and shrimp for 230 cost about $80 a person, washed down with 59 bottles of premium wines like Santa Margherita pinot grigio at $53 a bottle.
All told, the food and liquor bill with service and tax ran more than $70,000 — about $30,000 of which was still not paid 14 months later. So, in July the Intercontinental sued the FEDC to get its money.
Like flies to sh**
"Conservative legal foundation creates property rights institute to beef up Florida presence".
"Florida given another chance after years of delay"
"Florida is restarting efforts to develop tougher water pollution regulations to avoid an impending federal takeover of that responsibility. ... The federal Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to give Florida another chance after years of delay. The EPA, though, remains set to implement its own standards if it finds the new state rules unacceptable." "Fla. restarting effort to regulate water pollution".
"A crucial battleground state"
"Florida's U.S. senators parted ways on the debt ceiling Tuesday, a split that serves as an indicator of just how hard fought the 2012 election cycle is likely to be in a crucial battleground state."
Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who faces re-election next year, voted in favor of the debt package, and he made it clear that he'll be championing a tax overhaul as a way to help close the budget gap."Florida, key 2012 battleground, shows split on debt ceiling".
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who was elected in 2010 with a push from the tea party, voted no, and he pledged to fight any effort to increase taxes.
Vern stayin' put
"Despite the rumors, Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, won’t be jumping into the GOP Senate primary any time soon"> "Times: Buchanan not jumping into Senate race any time soon".
"Round-up of media coverage of redistricting for 8/3". See also "Redistricting battle lines drawn in Florida".
"Florida Religious groups still not pleased"
"Religious groups in Florida are still not pleased with the federal government’s decision requiring health insurers to cover birth control as a preventative service. Their objections come despite a provision that 'allows religious institutions that offer insurance to their employees the choice of whether or not to cover contraception services.'" "Florida Catholic Conference: Religious exemption for birth control mandate ‘too limited’". See also "Florida medical leaders at odds with some religious groups over new women's preventive health rules".
Central Florida's workforce-development board in another jam
"Central Florida's workforce-development board, an agency facing two government investigations, has been ordered to repay more than $739,000 that state and federal officials say was improperly used to settle a 2-year-old lawsuit. Workforce Central Florida, which is funded almost exclusively by federal tax money, was told last month that it was not permitted to use federal job-training money to pay a 2009 settlement with SunTrust over a broken lease agreement." "FIRST ON ORLANDOSENTINEL.COM State orders Workforce Central Florida to repay $739,000".
Will the RPOF underwrite the cost?
"Most Palm Beach County cities and towns may have to shift their election dates to coincide with a potential shift in Florida's 2012 presidential primary, Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher is warning." "Proposed shift in Florida primary may force change in city election dates".
Bill Cotterell: "A Leon County Democratic Party activist Tuesday announced a reception set for Aug. 24 at the home of attorney Barry Richard and his wife, Allison Tant. The suggested donation is $100 per person. ... [Barry] Richard, a former Democratic state representative and assistant state attorney general, is a prominent downtown lawyer and lobbyist for the Florida Bar. He is probably best known for the 2000 “Bush vs. Gore” case, in which he represented the Republican presidential nominee in the 36-day legal dispute over vote recounts in Florida." "Attorney who represented Bush in 2000 'Bush vs. Gore' case to hold fundraising reception for Obama campaign" ("The guest of honor will be U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz").
"Grady and Scott neighbors and good friends"
"Former state Rep. Tom Grady of Naples is the choice of Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet to become the next commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation. Grady, a Republican who served in the Florida House for one term from 2008-2010, succeeds Tom Cardwell, an Orlando attorney named to the post in 2009. The Office of Financial Regulation is charged with overseeing the state's banking, securities and financial laws. ... Grady and Scott have been neighbors and good friends since the governor moved to Naples several years ago." "Grady named to oversee state's financial dealings". See also "Tom Grady to Take Banking Reins".
As "Rubio carped"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board takes on the "deal-killers who were ready to risk wrecking the economy rather than compromise."
In Florida, this crew included seven House members and one senator. Meet Florida's Gang of Eight: Republican Reps. Bill Posey, Dennis Ross, Cliff Stearns, Connie Mack and Steve Southerland; [and for the sake of "balance"] Democratic Reps. Corrine Brown and Alcee Hastings; and GOP Sen. Marco Rubio. They shunned the middle ground for positions on the fringes of their parties. ..."Florida senators' debt votes reflect Washington divide". Related: "Stearns and Brown vote against debt-ceiling bill" and "Florida delegation votes to pass debt deal in House, 18-7".
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress that a default would be a "recovery-ending event."
In the face of such dire warnings, deal opponents such as Posey, a Rockledge Republican, flogged the House's "cut, cap and balance" bill, though it had already died in the Senate. Rubio carped that the deal protected "Obamacare," as if it were realistic to expect that the White House would've abandoned its signature law. This is political posturing, not leadership.
Vern strikes back
Jeremy Wallace: "U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan has launched an aggressive campaign to undermine the credibility of a once-trusted business partner who has accused the congressman of pressuring his employees to give illegal campaign contributions."
Buchanan has a history of playing hardball in business and politics. One of the wealthiest members of Congress, he has sometimes used his deep pockets to entangle his adversaries in courtrooms."Buchanan counterattacks former business partner in FEC case".
"Business as usual in police room 619"
"The fate of a man [Manuel Valle] scheduled to be executed for shooting and killing a Coral Gables police officer 33 years ago rests on the answer to one question: Is the new use of a drug in Florida's lethal injections effective and safe?"
The prosecution's expert, Dr. Mark Dershwitz of the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center, countered that the state's lethal-injection dose of pentobarbital — five grams — is so large that it would cause the inmate's breathing to become erratic, blood pressure to slow dramatically and brain activity to diminish."Death Row inmate's fate rests on legal challenge of new lethal injection drug".
"This dose is far in excess of any dose that would be used on a human that I can think of," he said, testifying via video conference.
Would the dose be lethal? asked Ken Nunnelley, a senior assistant attorney general.
"Definitely," Dershwitz said.
Earlier in the case, lawyers for Valle had brought up the June 16 Alabama execution of Eddie Duval Powell. A lawyer for Powell testified last week that he saw Powell jerk up, clench his jaw and look confused for about a minute before passing out and later dying.
On Tuesday, Waisel, the defense's anesthesiologist, mentioned the June 23 Georgia execution of Roy Blankenship.
Waisel was not present at the execution, but concluded from interviewing a witness and reviewing other witnesses' sworn statements — some of whom said Blankenship grimaced, jerked up and mouthed words for up to three minutes after the injection was administered — that the pentobarbital had not worked as intended.
"Mr. Blankenship suffered extremely during the execution," Waisel said.
"To soften the hit"
"Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said Tuesday that he is prepared to phase in the massive rate increase for sinkhole insurance to soften the hit imposed by Citizens Property Insurance last week." "Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty wants to phase in Citizens sinkhole rate hike". The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Slow the surge in sinkhole rates".
See you in Havana
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "The Obama White House has relaxed rules that were tightened by the former administration in 2003. Under the change, academic groups, church organizations, journalists and selected others can visit Cuba if they travel on licensed tours, on approved flights and for authorized reasons."
Cuban-Americans who obtain the proper visas are also allowed to travel to visit family."To Cuba and beyond".
Now on a typical evening at Tampa International, you hear announcements of flights arriving from Zurich, London, San Juan and Montreal. We believe to hear Havana among them every day would be a change worth trying. But that won't soon happen.
The very limited liberalization that allows a few more charter flights is being fought by some Cuban-Americans who favor a policy of stricter isolation of the communist government there. The Cold War mentality is understandable, but in 50 years it has not sparked the intended democratic coup. Meager reforms in the one-party state have come despite the embargo, not because of it.
Allowing restricted groups of ordinary citizens to visit is itself a compromise whose logic is hard to explain.
You can travel to visit museums and historic sites but not to the beach. You are supposed to stay busy doing organized "purposeful" activities and not just wander around Cuba on your own. You may eat in restaurants and spend a limited amount of money but cannot bring home a souvenir.
It is surprising that we freedom-loving Americans would tolerate such arbitrary, bureaucratic rules. The flights would undoubtedly build support for further relaxing of the embargo.
"Something curious is happening in Florida"
"The vast majority of Floridians couldn't pick Tim Pawlenty out of a lineup. He barely registers in the polls. And there's a decent chance he'll have to quit the presidential race soon if he continues to show little momentum in Iowa."
And yet something curious is happening in Florida: Influential Republican leaders continue to line up behind the former Minnesota governor, even with little evidence he's a viable contender."Underdog Tim Pawlenty drawing strong Republican support in Florida".
Teabaggers head south
"The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is set to make its debut outside of the Beltway in Orlando on Sept. 23 -- and it’s bringing a host of Republican presidential candidates and conservative leaders to the Sunshine State." "GOP 2012 Hopefuls, Conservative Stars Heading to Florida for CPAC".
"Governor undergoing an extreme makeover"
"So the governor is currently undergoing an extreme makeover. Rick Scott who seemed tone deaf as he signed into law bills like the one that makes it harder for people to vote now seems to be flashing the citizenry his sincerest smile." "Kinder, gentler, savvier".
Are these the "jobs" Ricky's talking about bring to Florida? "Scott donned plastic gloves and began packing strawberry sprinkle doughnuts in a box early Wednesday morning. The visit at Nicola's Donuts and Bakery is one of the first of Scott's so-called 'workdays,' in which he will spend time working jobs with regular Floridians." "Gov. Scott logs a 'workday' in Tampa doughnut shop". See also "Rick Scott gets to work in a Tampa Donut shop".