April 15, 2014

Rick Scott: Charlie Crist's debate challenge is "laughable"

@MarcACaputo

“Give me Scott.”

Democrat Charlie Crist issued that implicit debate challenge to Gov. Rick Scott during an impromptu caught-on-video meeting with Lieutenant Governor Carlos-Lopez Cantera.

But Scott said Tuesday that he’s not ready to take up the challenge, noting that Crist has refused to debate his fellow Democrat, former Sen. Nan Rich.

“That’s laughable. Think about it. He has a primary,” Scott said.

“I’m sure it’s going to be enjoyable watching his debates with Nan Rich,” he said.

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SurveyUSA poll: Crist leads by 5% as Scott spends $5 million on TV ads

@MarcACaputo

A new SurveyUSA poll shows Democrat Charlie Crist leading Gov. Rick Scott by about 5 percentage points --and despite $5.2 million in ad buys from the Republican.

The likely voter poll, conducted for Tampa's WFLA station, jibes with about a dozen other recent public surveys except two:

1) An early April poll by Voter Survey Service, which often works for Republicans and was hired by conservative Sunshine State News. It showed Scott with an inside-the-error margin lead of 45-44 percent over Crist, the only survey showing Scott out front.

2) A mid-March poll by University of North Florida (which until the Voter Survey Service was the outlier) that showed Crist with the narrowest of inside-the-error-margin leads, 34-33 percent.  No recent survey has found both candidates pulling less than 40 percent of the vote.

In between those two surveys, St. Leo University released a poll in late March that Crist led Scott 43-39 percent.

And the day after the Voter Survey poll, liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling released its own numbers showing Crist ahead of Scott 49-42 percent.

Considering all those polls, SurveyUSA's numbers of Crist leading Scott 46-41 percent is no shocker.

Bottom line: Crist probably leads by 3-5 percentage points.

Continue reading "SurveyUSA poll: Crist leads by 5% as Scott spends $5 million on TV ads" »

Judge signs off on $1.6 billion Miami-Dade sewer-repairs mandate

@PatriciaMazzei

Years in the making, a legal agreement is finally in place requiring Miami-Dade County to make $1.6 billion in repairs over the next 15 years to its decaying sewer system.

A Miami federal judge has signed the consent decree between the county, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which was in the works for more than two years, though federal and state complaints date further back. The regulators accused Miami-Dade of violating pollution laws, including the Clean Water Act, by letting untreated sewage spill from its rupturing pipes and crumbling pump stations.

As part of the agreement, the county will be required to meet deadlines for a slew of capital-improvement projects — some of which have already begun construction — or face fines.

For now, U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno, who entered the decree into the record last Wednesday, did not appoint a special master to oversee the agreement, as he had suggested and environmental activists who challenged the agreement had hoped.

More here.

Scott calls out Senate for low-balling child protection but defends gaps in his plan

Scott opa lockaGov. Rick Scott visited a Department of Children and Families service center in Opa-locka on Tuesday to tout additional funding and staffing for the troubled agency’s child protection system.

Surrounding by child abuse investigators and supervisors, Scott pledged again — as he did earlier this year — to commit about $39 million in new dollars to hire more staff and lower caseloads. He then chastised the Florida Senate for not including the money in its budget but defended gaps in his own child welfare proposal that advocates say leaves holes in the state's safety net.

“I am asking the Senate to do right by our children,” Scott said, after praising the work of local investigators.

The Senate has allocated $33.5 million in new money for child welfare programming but has not identified where the money will be used. The House has set aside more than the governor -- $44.5 million, enough to hire additional child protection investigators and provide $4.5 million in new money for support services. Both sides will meet next week to work out their differences. 

The budget increases have come in the wake of a Miami Herald investigation, Innocents Lost, that chronicled the deaths of 477 children over six years whose families had a history with DCF. The Herald review of the state budget over that six-year period also found that as the state budget grew by $10 billion, the resources devoted to child welfare dropped by $80 million.

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Charlie Crist is 'behind the eight ball," says Rick Scott's internal ground-game memo

@MarcACaputo

Remember yesterday's column about how Democrats' voter-registration edge isn't all it's cracked up to be? Well, neither is the party's ground game, according to the following memo from Gov. Rick Scott's Deputy Campaign Manager Tim Saler. Here it is:

FROM: Tim Saler, Deputy Campaign Manager
TO: Interested Parties
SUBJECT: First Stages of the 2014 Ground Game

As you may have seen, Charlie Crist’s campaign announced that they will be opening their Broward County office this week. While the details seem to change by the minute – a third personal residence for Crist in Fort Lauderdale became a field office opening Tuesday, which then turned into a South Florida headquarters opening Saturday – I thought this would be a good opportunity to update you on the early stages of our campaign’s ground game activities.

Continue reading "Charlie Crist is 'behind the eight ball," says Rick Scott's internal ground-game memo" »

Scott, Jindal and Perry pen letter to Obama on Medicare Advantage 'cuts'

@MarcACaputo

The Obama Administration's announced last week that it was reversing Medicare Advantage cuts used to help fund Obamacare, but three Republican governors say the privately run alternative to traditional Medicare is still getting dinged.

Is it true?

We've asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and gotten no response. Until then, we've put "cuts" in quotes.

Democrat Charlie Crist has weighed in with a statement trashing one of the signatories, Republican Gov. Rick Scott: "Rick Scott writing a letter asking the President to take action on Medicare Advantage after he already took action on Medicare Advantage is like him declaring that the Gators will win the National Championship in basketball. As much as I wanted it to be the truth, it's not."

"It would be nice if he focused on governing here in Florida and not spending all day, every day taking discredited pot shots at President Obama."

Here's the April 15 letter:

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RGA features Rick Scott in "American Comeback" web spot

From an email:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Republican Governors Association today launched the next video of the American Comeback project, a national advertising effort designed to tell the success stories and accomplishments of Republican governors.

The newest video of the American Comeback project features Florida Governor Rick Scott. As governor, Scott readily calls upon the struggles his family experienced throughout his childhood as a driving force behind his resolve to create more jobs, more opportunity and more prosperity for the people of Florida.

View Governor Scott’s video here: http://www.rga.org/americancomeback/rick-scott/

“I don’t know my natural father. My mom got remarried a year or so after I was born. My adoptive father had a sixth-grade education. They struggled for money. I grew up in public housing,” said Governor Scott. “But I lived in America, and I had every opportunity there was.”

“I want our state to be number one:  the number one place for your family to get a job, the number one place for your children to get a great education,” added Governor Scott. “We’re going to have the jobs. We’re going to have the most growth.

“My mom and my dad wanted something better for me, and I want people to have the same shot I had,” said Governor Scott. “Republican governors are driving America’s comeback.”

The American Comeback project will grow to include more videos focused on individual Republican governors, their personal journeys and the progress they’ve made toward bringing prosperity to their states.

You can view previously released American Comeback videos featuring Republican governors here:  http://www.rga.org/americancomeback/the-american-comeback/.

"Give me Scott," Crist says after awkward handshake with Lopez-Cantera

@MarcACaputo

CristCLCCharlie Crist can’t resist small talk, a few cameras and a campaign stunt.

His one-time ally and current opponent, Lieutenant Governor Lopez-Cantera, found that out that hard way on Monday when he was assigned to shadow Crist at a Palm Beach County event and give Gov. Rick Scott’s response.

Crist stepped all over Lopez-Cantera’s message, however, as made plain in a 30-second Palm Beach Post video of an awkward exchange between the two. The Democrat interrupted the lieutenant governor’s press gaggle, shook his hand and then basically declared Lopez-Cantera not good enough to debate.

“Give me Scott,” Crist said as he walked away.

Basically, Crist disrupted the disruptor.

Here’s the breakdown, from the beginning:

Continue reading ""Give me Scott," Crist says after awkward handshake with Lopez-Cantera" »

April 14, 2014

WCTV: We take 'full responsibility,' apologize to Crist, Morgan for ad error that led to RPOF complaint

@MarcACaputo

A Tallahassee CBS affiliate issued a public apology to Democrat Charlie Crist and his employer, Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, for mistakenly running an ad that led to a Republican Party complaint because the spot violated campaign rules.

"WCTV wants to apologize to both Mr. Morgan and Mr. Crist for inadvertently airing a commercial that we were not instructed to air," the station said in an unsigned letter issued by General Manager Heather Peeples.

"The station receives many commercials from Morgan & Morgan and accidently typed in the wrong commercial code, causing the error," the letter said. "WCTV accepts full responsibility for this human error. Per the request of Morgan & Morgan, all commercials have been removed from WCTV’s air until further notice."

Barring any further evidence, then, it appears the RPOF complaint is moot. And a previous complaint about Morgan & Morgan's billboard ads appears to be going nowhere as well.

Miami Dade College board backs Padron

@NewsbySmiley

The Miami Dade College District Board of Trustees on Monday made clear their "unequivocal support" of college president Eduardo Padron following his public, personal spat with several powerful local lawmakers.

Padron set off a firestorm last week when he criticized four Republican politicians he said were trying to kill a bill that would infuse the college's starved coffers with as much as $1 billion. The bill would allow Miami-Dade voters to cast ballots on a half-cent sales tax over five years, which would mostly fund college construction projects.

Padron said four Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Jose Oliva, were actively fighting a bill that would help their hometown. He labeled them "bullies"and "ideologues" and at one point ripped Oliva - slated to become House Speaker in four years - as a college dropout.

In response, 11 members of the Miami-dade delegation penned a letter demanding an apology and condemning Padron's "uncivilized discourse."They said Padron had done more damage than good for the college's funding hopes.

Padron followed with his own letter, in which he apologized for getting too personal with his comments, though not to any one lawmaker. Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, the Hialeah Republican who chairs the Miami-Dade delegation, said the apology didn't go far enough and should have been addressed to individuals.

On Monday, Miami Dade College's seven-member board of trustees took a vote and reaffirmed their unanimous support of Padron, and of the bill the college is pushing for a sales tax referendum.

"The Board fully supports the College's efforts to ensure that MDC secures the necessary resources to effectively serve the students and the larger community of Miami-Dade County,"the board's members said in their statement. "In addition, the Board reaffirmed unequivocal support for MDC President Dr. Eduardo J. Padron and his leadership of the institution."

Board chairwoman Helen Aguirre Ferre said late Monday that the board regretted Padron's comments and wanted to move past the trouble they'd caused. But she said his standing with the board of trustees was never in jeopardy.

"That's never been the case," she said. "I've not heard one board member even suggest that."

Rather, she said the board remains focused on finding more money to support the college and its 175,000 students, and trustees wanted to show that Padron remains a "strong leader."

"The board just wants to make that clear," she said, "in case there was any doubt."

This post was updated with Ferre's comments.

Hall-of-famer Brooks Robinson's lawsuit against tribe exposes flaws in compact

Brooks Robinson nowRenowned baseball hall-of-famer Brooks Robinson plunged six feet from an unsecured stage during a charity event at the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood two years ago and is now suing the Seminole Tribe for nearly $10 million for his permanent injuries.

But whether the 76-year-old Baltimore Orioles superstar will collect enough to even cover his medical bills is an open question, said his Miami attorney, Jack Hickey, because under state law the tribe’s liability is limited.

Robinson still experiences bleeding on the brain, cracks in his spine, and has lost five inches in height as a result of the injuries, Hickey said. He requires constant care and “has aged ten years since the fall.”

Under the state’s legal agreement with the tribe, if someone is injured at a tribal casino and wants to sue, the tribe’s payment is capped at $200,000 per person and $300,000 per incident, the same limits enjoyed by the state when it is sued for negligence.

A victim suffering from serious injury “can blow through that pretty quickly,” Hickey said. But, unlike the state, victims who sue the tribe can’t appeal to the Legislature for more money when a jury awards more than the liability limits. Story here. 

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Cruise line leads alliance against David Beckham soccer stadium at PortMiami

@PatriciaMazzei

Royal Caribbean Cruises and its allies have formed an organization to oppose a Major League Soccer stadium at PortMiami, marking the first coordinated resistance to David Beckham’s waterfront dream.

The Miami Seaport Alliance took out a full-page advertisement in Monday’s Miami Herald, titled “Here We Go Again,” to launch its campaign against the 25,000-seat, open-air stadium Beckham and his representatives have proposed on the port’s shallow southwest corner.

“The Alliance wholeheartedly supports a soccer franchise in Miami and believes there are other sites that would benefit greatly from a stadium,” the ad said. “However, PortMiami is not one of them, due to the risks a port stadium would pose to jobs, cruise and cargo operations, security, and the port’s promising future.”

A Coral Gables public-relations firm, Kreps DeMaria, registered the alliance’s website last week, records show, on the same day several Miami-Dade County commissioners — who voted unanimously in December for Mayor Carlos Gimenez to begin negotiations with Beckham’s team — cautioned that they might no be on board with a port stadium.

“People are responding to speculation,” John Alschuler, Beckham’s real-estate adviser, said Monday. “I’ve got confidence that commissioners, when presented with a formal recommendation by the mayor — and a full, factual briefing — will respond to the facts.”

More here.

In GOP-dominated Legislature, black lawmakers caucus struggles

@tbtia

An excerpt from the story in Sunday's paper about Florida's legislative black caucus and its affiliated caucus foundation:

But records of past years' fundraising and interviews with caucus leaders indicate that less than 10 cents of every dollar raised actually go to college scholarships for the students whose names were projected on large screens at the gala.

Legislators are prohibited from accepting contributions from lobbyists during regular sessions. But they can solicit lobbyists' money for a charity: the black caucus foundation led by former legislators.

Records the caucus provided at the Times/Herald's request indicate that the caucus foundation raised nearly $800,000 over the past three years. The caucus wouldn't specify how much went to scholarships.

Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, the caucus chairman, told the Times/Herald that each student likely received $500. With 117 recipients in the past three years, that means 7 percent of the foundation's money went for scholarships.

Read more here.

Ad 'error' leads to election complaint against Charlie Crist over Morgan & Morgan spot

@MarcACaputo

UPDATE: WCTV took "full responsibility" for the error.

Perhaps the only things not in dispute regarding Charlie Crist's Morgan & Morgan trial lawyer ads are that they ran recently in Tallahassee, they appear to violate campaign contribution rules and they're a headache for the Democratic candidate for governor now that the Republican Party of Florida filed an elections complaint over one of the TV spots.

Crist's employer, John Morgan, says the ads should have been pulled down long ago. And his firm has produced buy sheets from three months afo to show that WCTV, a Tallahassee CBS affiliate that aired the spots recently, was informed of such.

"If it ran it was an error by the TV station. All ads featuring Charlie were taken down the day he announced," said Morgan, a major state and national Democratic donor.

We've asked for comment from WCTV and await their response.  As noted above, WCTV took responsibility for the error.

It's the second complaint Crist has faced over his employment with Morgan. The last one concerned billboards and, as with this TV spot, Morgan in that case said he had asked that the signs be removed before the complaint was filed.

The ads are a sign that Crist, who for more than a year had intended to run against Scott, effectively leveraged his post at the law firm to boost his already high name ID. This TV ad had little to do with the practice of law ostensibly and thanked two key constituencies, firefighters and police officers.

Now Crist has to deal with the fallout. 

"It appears as though trial lawyer Charlie Crist continues to receive unreported help from his trial lawyer partners at Morgan & Morgan, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Like the Morgan & Morgan billboards featuring Charlie, these TV ads are a clear violation of the law because as a declared candidate they qualify as a reportable contribution. Failing to report the TV ads is a clear breach of the law and a promise to work 'for the people," Republican Party of Florida Executive Director Juston Johnson said in a written statement.

Said Crist spokesman Eric Conrad: “Typical Rick Scott – attacking others -- in this case a small business for making an honest mistake, while he is allowed to plead the 5th 75 times. He is the last person who should be lecturing someone else for a mistake – especially one that was thanking law enforcement officers and firefighters for their work.”

Democrats try to raise Florida’s minimum wage, but the conversation goes nowhere

They held protests and press conferences. Several even spent the week living on $7.93 an hour.

But try as they might, Democratic lawmakers could not spark a discussion about increasing the state minimum wage.

"It’s a debate that’s being had everywhere but Florida," said Sen. Dwight Bullard, the Miami-Dade Democrat leading the charge. "Republicans are blocking it."

The GOP had its reasons for not engaging on the issue, some members said, including a belief that increasing the minimum wage would slow job growth.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said he was not surprised to see Democrats turn to the media.

"This is the magical time in session when people who cannot pass their bills resort to political stunts," Weatherford said. "It’s a sad but unfortunately predictable pastime for the last three weeks of session."

The actions taken in Florida last week were part of a broader campaign by Democrats nationwide.

Read more here.

Democrats' voter-registration edge ain't all it's cracked up to be

@MarcACaputo

In a state where a presidential election was famously decided by 537 ballots, Florida Democrats’ edge of 485,907 active voters over registered Republicans looks impressive at a glance.

But it isn’t.

In historical terms, it’s a bad sign for Democrats and Charlie Crist. And it’s great news for Republicans and Gov. Rick Scott.

The Democrats’ registration advantage hasn’t been this small since 2007. Perhaps more significantly, the gap is even smaller than it was in 2010 (591,809), when Republicans whipped Democrats at the ballot box.

You wouldn’t know the Democrats’ precarious position by looking at the public-opinion polls right now or by listening to Crist.

“I think we're gonna do it,” Crist told state House Democrats in Tallahassee on Thursday. “And I think they know it."

By “they,” Crist means Republicans. He used to be one of them (before becoming an independent and then a Democrat).

“They” don’t think they’re going to lose at all. There’s a reason for the Republican confidence: history.

Column here

Joe Garcia reports $460k raised last quarter, $2.2m raised overall

Sounds like another good fundraising quarter for U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia (although we don't know cash on hand figures yet). The press release:

MIAMI, FL -- Representative Joe Garcia's campaign announced today that it raised more than $460,000 in the first quarter of 2014, bringing the incumbent’s total to more than $2.2 million raised to date.

“I am proud that the vast majority of these contributions were from individual Floridians who share my commitment to fighting for South Florida values like strengthening Medicare, supporting businesses that create jobs and reforming our broken immigration system," said Representative Joe Garcia. " Our campaigns's fundraising strength is a clear sign that our message is resonating, and I look forward to continue doing all I can to serve as a champion for South Florida residents, working across party lines to get Congress focused on tackling the challenges that truly matter to our community."

 Additional information contained in the report includes:

* Nearly 70% of all donations were Florida based
* 90% of donations were from individual supporters
* Over 40% of all donations were $100 or under

April 13, 2014

All Aboard Florida's Miami to Orlando train hits a costly patch

New downtown passenger train service that would speed users from Orlando to South Florida and back may sound like a tourism dream come true, but there’s a potentially unexpected cost to local residents.

Local governments face increased costs to maintain the areas where their roads cross the tracks and some fear the closing of smaller crossings to vehicular traffic to save money.

Elizabeth Fulford lives west of Broward General Hospital and believes if crossings are closed, “it may turn into a life or death issue.”

“I am very concerned about the road closures. What happens if I need an ambulance and trains are blocking the tracks?” she asked. “If they close the smaller crossings, how will this affect the police and fire” in their ability to quickly get to the scene? More here. 

 

April 12, 2014

With compact, governor has the power to dictate future of gaming in Florida

Gov. Rick Scott, who made a career out of negotiating hospital mergers, is now applying his negotiating skills to a deal with the Seminole Tribe that could singlehandedly dictate the future of gaming in Florida.

The legal agreement, known as a compact, could open the door to swanky resort casinos in Miami Dade and Broward, or force them to remain off limits indefinitely. It could allow for dog racing to be replaced by arcade-style games, or close loopholes in state gambling law. It could allow for lower tax rates at the state’s horse and dog tracks and jai alai frontons, or force them to remain at a competitive disadvantage with the tribe.

Or it could do nothing, leaving in place the status quo.

Like any good negotiator, Scott is keeping his cards close to the vest and neither he nor the tribe is talking.

Records show the governor’s general counsel, Pete Antonacci, hired two Minnesota law firms in December that specialize in tribal law to “provide advice and assistance on tribal-state compact negotiations.” Antonacci, traveled to Fort Lauderdale recently, to meet with the tribe’s top lawyers.

And the most potent sign that the governor is talking: his office asked legislators to stop discussions of its gambling bills to avoid losing his leverage in the deal. That prompted House Speaker Will Weatherford last week to officially declare “lights are out” on gambling legislation for the session.

“The compact truly has become the cornerstone of gaming policy in the state of Florida,’’ said Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who helped negotiate the current compact but has not been invited to be part of this year’s discussion. More here.

 

 

Gambling may be dead for the session but its short life was lucrative

The debate over gambling may be dead in the Florida Legislature for this session, but it's short life was very lucrative for legislative campaign coffers. 

The Republican Party of Florida raised nearly three times as much as the Florida Democratic Party from gambling interests, as is usually the case, but to get there you have to exclude the $375,000 contribution to the Democrats from a global gaming company, Delaware North Corporation, that wanted to influence a local election.

Gambling interests gave the Republican Party of Florida $832,000 between Jan. 1 and March 30 and, not including the Delaware North money, gave Democrats $347,000. That includes $150,000 in checks to each of the parties from the Seminole Tribe -- which also gave Gov. Rick Scott's political committee $500,000.

Gaming companies gave thousands to the political committees of legislative leaders as well, as new laws opened the door to unlimited contributions but greater transparency.

On the other side of the gambling scale is Disney, which vigorously opposes allowing so-called destination resorts into Florida to compete with its convention business. The company gave close to $550,000 to state level campaigns in the last quarter, including $323,000 to the Republican Party and $71,640 to the Democratic Party.

The company's affiliates also gave a $250,000 check to the Florida Chamber political action fund, the Florida Jobs PAC. and $25,000 each to Sen. Bill Galvano and Rep. Richard Corcoran.

The biggest contributors among the gambling interests were represented by the lobbying firm of Ballard Partners, headed by Brian Ballard.

Continue reading "Gambling may be dead for the session but its short life was lucrative" »