April 24, 2014

News Service Poll: Rick Scott, Charlie Crist tied at 42%

@MarcACaputo

If you didn't like the Rasmussen Reports poll today showing Charlie Crist up 6 percentage points over Rick Scott, you'll love the poll paid for by the News Service of Florida, which shows a dead heat in the governor's race:

By Dara Kam and Brandon Larrabee

A new poll finds Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic challenger Charlie Crist in a dead heat and, with more than 10 percent of voters undecided, sets the stage for an already-brutal campaign expected to get uglier over the next seven months.

Continue reading "News Service Poll: Rick Scott, Charlie Crist tied at 42%" »

Senate approves bill to let court admit noncitizen to the Florida bar

 A closely-divided Florida Senate on Thursday championed the landmark case of Jose Godinez-Samperio, of Largo, who can’t practice law in Florida because he’s not a U.S. citizen.

On a voice vote — hours after senators rejected the idea on a 19-18 vote — a narrow majority of 14 Democrats and seven Republicans agreed to an amendment that allows the Florida Supreme Court to admit Godinez-Samperio to the Bar after he passes admission hurdles.

“We’re going to right an injustice,” said Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs. “He was not responsible for being here.”

The unrecorded voice vote added the provision to a routine courts bill (HB 755), and still requires House passage and Gov. Rick Scott’s approval. Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has said he would like to find a way to help the would-be lawyer, a graduate of Florida State University law school.

Scott said in a statement that “this case demonstrates how broken our federal immigration laws are,” but did not say whether he would sign the bill.

Godinez-Samperio, 27, was born in Mexico and came to the United States with his parents when he was 9. He was valedictorian at Armwood High in Tampa, an Eagle Scout and honors student. He has a work permit, a Social Security card and a Florida driver’s license. He is here legally, though temporarily, under President Barack Obama’s 2012 deferred action program. And he has passed the bar exam and its moral character test.

But last month, the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that he can’t practice law unless the Legislature intervenes and makes a special exception. Story here. 

 

 

Miami judges slams DCF for keeping children in home where battered toddler died

A Miami judge lashed out at child welfare administrators this week after they asked her to leave three small children in a South-Dade home in which their 3-year-old cousin had just died — his body marked by bruises, welts and a human bite mark.

Gerardo Perez arrived unresponsive at Homestead Hospital over the weekend with bruises to his elbow, back and legs, and telltale bite marks on his upper back. He also had a mouth full of severely rotten teeth. On Monday, he was dead.

Child welfare authorities surveyed the toddler’s injuries and considered removing his first cousins from the home Gerardo shared with them, saying nothing less could “keep the children safe” as police tried to determine who hurt the boy.

But later, the Department of Children & Families changed course: The agency asked a Miami-Dade judge to leave the three youngsters — ages 3, 2 and 1 — with their father, Gerardo’s uncle, on his written pledge to keep their mother and Gerardo’s mother, considered abuse suspects by police, out of the house.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Rosa Figarola, who called DCF’s handling of the case “troubling,” refused the request Tuesday, instead ordering the children into foster care. The next day, Figarola shot off a blistering email to agency administrators, accusing them of seeking to leave three small chidlren in harm’s way.

“The handling of this case illustrates that the same systematic failures that have plagued the Department and given rise to the devastation we recently observed are still being executed,” Figarola wrote. Story here. 


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/04/24/4078934/judge-lashes-dcf-over-effort-to.html#storylink=cpy

 

Legislators push plan to shift policies from Citizens to unregulated insurers

In their zeal to shed policies in the state-run Citizens Property Insurance, the Florida Senate is poised to approve a bill that gives homeowners a low-cost, but unregulated, insurance alternative.

Opponents say the new policy -- to allow Citizens customers to select a surplus lines carrier when their policy is up for renewal -- is a wolf in sheep's clothing that could mislead homeowners into thinking they are getting the same insurance for less. Proponents say the plan is a free-market alternative that is a simple case of buyer beware.

"This is something that is provided as an option to a consumer,’’ said Sen. David Simmons, R-Altemonte Springs. "Should we as a legislature prohibit them after having the opportunity?’’

Under the bill, SB 1672, unregulated insurance sold by surplus lines carriers would be included in the list of options homeowners can choose from in the state-run clearinghouse when their policy is up for renewal. These companies would have to offer the same coverage Citizens offers and rates must be 15 percent and include a disclaimer that surplus lines are not regulated, but there is no assurance the rates won’t change.

"This is a classic bait and switch,’’ said Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, who is opposing a similar bill, HB 1109, awaiting a vote in the House. "People decide with their wallets and if they are given a choice between an admitted carrier (traditional insurance) and surplus lines, many people are not going to read their policies and realize they’re not apples and oranges."

Unlike traditional insurance companies, surplus lines were created as insurers of last resort for specialty risks that couldn’t obtain coverage in traditional insurance markets.

Florida Legislators have been trying to reduce the number of policies in the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. because if a damaging hurricane were to hit the state and the company ran out of money to pay its claims, anyone who carriers an insurance an auto or property insurance policy in the state would be assessed a fee to cover the deficit.

Last year, legislators passed a requirement that homeowners cannot renew a Citizens insurance policy if a licensed insurance company offers comparable insurance at a price that’s less or comparable to what Citizens offers. Citiznes is allowed to raise it rates 10 percent each year. Story here. 

Pop-Tart bill wins Senate support

The 'Pop-Tart' gun bill is headed to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott. 

Florida senators approved the NRA-supported proposal in a 32-6 vote Thursday.

There was virtually no debate, besides Sen. Jack Latvala asking what exactly HB 7029 would do.

The Senate sponsor, Sen. Greg Evers, had a simple reply: It would prevent situations "where you chew a Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun and you are expelled" from school.

The situation actually happened in Maryland. It inspired the bill in Florida.

More broadly, the proposal would prevent schools from disciplining students who play with simulated weapons. It passed in the House by a 98-17 vote last month.

The Senate discussed the proposal some on Wednesday.

Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, asked how many incidents had been reported in Florida.

Evers said it had happened in his North Florida district within the last three months.

"Two kids were sitting down reading a book and there was a picture of a Wild Wild West show and one person has a gun," he said. "One student tells another student that he's got a cap gun at home that's the same as the one in the picture. The teacher sent him to the principal and he was expelled."

Sobel voted against the proposal Thursday. She was joined by Democratic Sens. Audrey Gibson, Arthenia Joyner, Gwen Margolis, Maria Lorts Sachs and Chris Smith.

House stadium funding bill now includes language about Cuban baseball players

State representatives on Thursday tweaked a bill that would allow professional sports franchises to compete for $12 million in annual sales tax subsidies for facilities projects.

Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, added language that would prohibit professional baseball teams from winning the money -- unless Major League Baseball changes its rules about Cuban baseball players.

Under the current MLB rules, players from Cuba must establish residency in another country in order to become free agents. Cuban players who come directly to the United States go into the amateur draft.

The proposal comes on the heels of recent media reports detailing outfielder Yasiel Puig's dangerous journey from Cuba to California. Puig, who now plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers and was the runner-up for National League Rookie of the Year in 2013, was held hostage by smugglers in Mexico.

Gaetz said the current restrictions "drive exceptional Cuban athletes into the arms of human traffickers."

Said Diaz: "We're not going to give away our taxpayer dollars until this ill is corrected."

The new language would also require Major League Baseball to inform the state attorney general about any instances of potential smuggling.

Lawmakers will vote on the stadium funding bill (HB 7095) Friday.

Lawmakers won't eliminate Public Health Trust provision from healthcare bill

State lawmakers on Thursday pitched 14 amendments to HB 7113, the omnibus healthcare bill moving through the Florida House.

The amendments included an effort by Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, R-Hialeah, to remove a controversial provision that would give the Miami-Dade Public Health Trust total control over contract negotiations between Jackson Health System and its labor unions. Under current law, the Miami-Dade County Commission has the final say.

Jackson, Miami-Dade County, the Public Health Trust and the healthcare workers union all supported Gonzalez's amendment.

"All this does is allow for the elected officials of Miami-Dade County to vote on union contracts if they go to impasse," Gonzalez said.

But Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, pointed out that a grand jury in 2010 had concluded that the Miami-Dade Commission exercises too much authority over the Public Health Trust.

"We have a Public Health Trust in place that is non-partisan and that is ultimately accountable for the financial well-being of that hospital," Trujillo said. "We have put these people in a position of power... but they are powerless in all labor negotiations [because] all impasses and negotiations will be sent to a county commission."

Rep. John Wood, the Winter Haven Republican who added the language to the bill, agreed.

"We believe public health trusts do not need the interference of the county commission to exercise their authority to manage the business," Wood said.

Gonzalez's amendment failed in a 53-62 vote.

Rep. Michael Bileca, a Miami Republican who sits on the Public Health Trust, voted against the amendment. Other Miami-Dade lawmakers who voted against the amendment included Trujillo and Republican Reps. Frank Artiles, José Félix Díaz, Jeanette Núñez and José Oliva.

The Public Health Trust language is not included in a Senate bill.

Weatherford and Gaetz in standoff -- but not just over in-state tuition

@mikevansickler

It’s not just subsidized higher education for undocumented students that is pitting Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford against Senate President Don Gaetz.

It’s also two separate line items buried deep in the dueling higher education budget proposals from the two chambers.

The Senate is proposing to spend $10 million for the University of West Florida’s Office of Economic Development and Engagement. Gaetz, R-Niceville, is requesting the money for the Pensacola-based university, which happens to be in his district.

“This is for the Industry Recruitment, Retention & Expansion Fund (IRREF) Grant Program, which is administered by the University of West Florida,” said Katie Betta, Gaetz’s spokeswoman, in an email. “Senator Gaetz was one of the authors (of the law), of which the Oil Spill Recovery Act was an important component. The Oil Spill Recovery Act allots $10 million per year for three years to eight Northwest Florida Counties for the purposes of research and development, commercialization of research, economic diversification and job creation.”

That may be so, but the Florida House won’t budge, and has refused to match the request. (How much of this is posturing? We'll see how far this goes, but consider that Judy Bense is the president of UWF. She's the aunt of Weatherford's wife, Courtney, the sister of his father-in-law, Allan Bense, a former House speaker himself.)

Meanwhile, the House is requesting $7 million for Jacksonville University, an 80-year-old private college that Weatherford attended on a football scholarship between 1998 and 2002. Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, is one of a dozen lawmakers, mostly from Jacksonville, to have met with school officials.

While UWF belongs to the state’s university system, JU is a private college that has never received money via the Legislature, according to a college spokeswoman, Misty Jackson Skipper. And while it’s not unprecedented that a private college would get such a large sum, it’s not typical, either.

The Legislature has given large amounts to Nova Southeastern University, various historic black private colleges, the University of Miami’s medical school, but $7 million would rank high as a one-time payment.

That might be one reason why the Senate, so far, is only offering $1 million.

 

Continue reading "Weatherford and Gaetz in standoff -- but not just over in-state tuition " »

Performance funding for state universities among unresolved budget issues

UPDATE: A spokesman for House Speaker Will Weatherford said the House proposal for performance funding found in HB 5105 is effectively dead after failing to pass its final committee. The House will not waive rules to resurrect the proposal, even though it started out on solid ground as a bill introduced by the Higher Education and Workforce Subcommittee.

Instead, the House inserted language in its version of the budget that is very similar to the Senate proposal and embraces the Board of Governors' performance funding criteria.

As it stands, the main disagreement between the two chambers is how much the lowest-performance schools would lose. The House would only require a 1 percent cut in base formula. The Senate wants a 3.7 percent reduction.

The two chambers agree to put $200 million into performance funding, including $100 million in new funding that would be divided by the top-performing schools. There is also an additional $5 million each for the two pre-eminent institutions: Florida State University and University of Florida.

ORIGINAL POST: Efforts to finalize the education portion of the state budget stalled Wednesday night when House negotiators rejected a pivotal Senate deal. Sen. Bill Galvano, the Senate’s education budget chief, responded by putting negotiations essentially back at square one and negating almost 48-hours of work.

But even before that meltdown occurred, there were key disagreements on several higher education spending issues.

Continue reading "Performance funding for state universities among unresolved budget issues" »

Senate backs non-citizen's petition to practice law

A closely-divided Florida Senate Thursday championed the unprecedented case of Jose Godinez-Samperio of Largo, a law school graduate who has been denied a law license because he's not a citizen. Hours after senators rejected the idea on a 19-18 vote, they clearly approved it on a voice vote, but a final vote was delayed.

Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, changed his vote from no to yes and said in an interview he was distracted and voted the wrong way by mistake. "I think the kid deserves it. I think he's worked hard," Thrasher said. "I don't think we ought to punish kids who were brought here by their parents."

That's the same argument proponents are using to give discounted in-state college tuition to undocumented immigrant students living in Florida. But opponents said helping Godinez-Samperio was a serious mistake.

Likening Godinez-Samperio to a "lawbreaker," Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, asked: "Does being an American matter any more? ... We are making an illegal citizen an officer of the court."

"If they're here illegally, they need to get in line and do it the right way," said Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla.

All 14 Democrats and seven Republicans debated in favor of Godinez-Samperio or voted yes the first time, enough to pass the bill in the 40-member Senate.

The Senate will send the bill (HB 755) back to the House, where Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has said he would like to find a way to help the would-be lawyer, a graduate of Florida State University law school.

Gov. Rick Scott issued a statement that said "this case demonstrates how broken our federal immigration laws are," but he did not say whether he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk.   

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in March that it cannot admit Godinez-Samperio unless directed by the Legislature, and it called on lawmakers to "remedy the inequities" in the case. Godinez-Samperio's effort to gain Bar admission and become a Tampa Bay immigration lawyer was before the state's high court for more than two years and drew the interest -- and opposition -- of the Obama White House. His volunteer attorney is one of Florida's most prominent lawyers, Talbot (Sandy) D'Alemberte, a former FSU president and American Bar Association president who served as a Democratic legislator in the 1960s, along with his wife and co-counsel, Patsy Palmer.

D'Alemberte has noted that Florida routinely licenses doctors and many other professionals who are not U.S. citizens. He has questioned why lawyers are treated differently, and said he expected to receive strong support in the House.

Godinez-Samperio, 27, is in the U.S. legally but temporarily as a "dreamer" under the 2012 presidential directive known as DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which enabled him to get a Social Security number, work permit and Florida driver's license.

The Senate amendment was sponsored by Sens. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, and David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs. It reads: "Upon certification by the Florida Board of Bar Examiners that an applicant who is an unauthorized immigrant who was brought to this state as a minor and who has been a resident of this state for more than 10 years and has fulfilled all requirements for admission to practice law in this state, the Supreme Court of Florida may admit that applicant as an attorney at law authorized to practice in this state and may direct an order be entered upon the court's records to that effect." The phrase "unauthorized immigrant" was lifted from the Supreme Court's opinion.

Rick Scott's new ad has old claims dissected by PolitiFact

Gov. Rick Scott’s new TV ad attacking rival Charlie Crist includes claims that are quite similar to those evaluated in the past by PolitiFact Florida.

“The numbers tell the story. Florida's unemployment tripled. 800,0000 jobs gone,” the narrator says as “832,000 jobs lost” appears on print on screen. Property values down. Bankruptcies up. More foreclosures than any state. Government went deep in debt. State borrowing at an all time high. Which governor took Florida to the bottom? charlie Crist.....”

In 2012, we fact-checked this claim by Scott: “The four years before I became governor, the state had lost 825,000 jobs. Unemployment had gone from 3.5 percent to 11.1 percent.”  We rated that claim Half True. Scott got the numbers right but he missed the mark for implying the state’s recession was the result of a poor handling by Crist. Florida’s economy tanked largely as a result of the housing market crisis, a tornado of issues over which Crist had little to no control.

Here is PolitiFact’s analysis of a previous claim by Scott about debt under Crist compared to his own tenure.

Miami: land of the ignorant

@MarcACaputo

Idea for immigration reform: A pop quiz to remove the citizenship status of those who can't pass a U.S. citizenship test.

The Immigrant Archive Project, dedicated to telling the story of immigrants, has helpfully identified a few candidates for us. And (surprise, surprise) they just happen to walk the streets of Miami-Dade County. All of us, including every immigrant struggling for citizenship, should be appalled.

How do you not know who the vice president is?

After testing glitch, teachers' union calls for policy changes

Days after a computer glitch forced more than two dozen school districts to suspend online testing, Florida Education Association President Andy Ford asked elected officials to slow down the transition to new accountability measures.

"This may be a vendor fiasco, but the real failure is the high-stakes policy attached to this known problem," Ford wrote in a letter to Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford on Thursday.

Ford noted that the statewide teachers' union -- along with the school boards association, superintendents group and PTA -– had called for a pause as the state deploys new education standards, assessments and accountability systems.

"Lawmakers are discussing modest revisions to Florida’s rupturing accountability system," Ford wrote. "But their legislative fix leaves some elements untouched."

Ford called on the elected officials to provide school systems with the necessary technology. He also demanded the state perform a rigorous independent review of its new assessments, and make a pencil-and-paper option available to all students.

What's more, Ford said, the state should hold off on its new merit-pay system for teachers.

"I hope you will not let the session close without strong action on more than just a vendor failure," he wrote.

What Rick Scott’s 2-month $6.5m ad buy tells us

@MarcACaputo

Gov. Rick Scott released his sixth ad of the campaign today, a negative spot calling attention to how Democrat Charlie Crist “ran away” from Florida by trying to run for Senate when the state’s economy cratered while he served as governor.

The self-described “jobs” governor wants the credit for the good economy and he wants Crist to bear the blame for the bad times. It’s bread-and-butter messaging for Scott (fact check to follow.

Trailing in the polls, Scott has already run two negative ads that bash Crist over Obamacare. Scott has released three positive spots, one of which was in Spanish.

The TV ads’ contents aren’t the only message.

The size of the spend tells us something: more than $5 million since March 12 and at least $6.5 million by May 15. That’s more than any other incumbent governor at this point. It's probably about as much or more than each Cabinet officer spent statewide, on average, on TV. And it’s still April.

The location of the spend also sends a message: the I-4 corridor is of crucial importance to Scott. It’s the swing-area of the swing state.

Exactly 50 percent of the ad buy is reserved in Tampa Bay and the Orlando area.

Tampa Bay has the most Scott money reserved: 29 percent, or $1.9 million. Tampa Bay is Crist country.

Continue reading "What Rick Scott’s 2-month $6.5m ad buy tells us" »

Rasmussen poll: Charlie Crist 45%, Rick Scott 39%.

@MarcACaputo

I keep blogging polls and noting, more often than not, that Gov. Rick Scott will eventually close the gap with Democrat Charlie Crist, in part because of the Republican's mammoth ad buys.

But the polls, except for two outliers, remain stubbornly similar (last post on last batch of polls is here). 

And the latest Rasmussen Reports poll is no different. It shows Crist getting 45% of the likely vote and Scott getting 39%. Libertarian Adrian Wyllie wasn't polled (instead, "some other candidate" was). **UPDATE: Of course, a News Service of Florida poll shows a tie **

The poll's results are surprising for two reasons: 

1) Scott has spent more than $5 million on TV ads since March 12 (And he has reserved more ad time through mid-May, which would total $6.5 million in two months). That should have moved the needle more in Scott's direction.

2) This is Rasmussen, whose results tend to lean more conservative than some other polls. In part, that's the result of technology. Rasmussen uses so-called robo-polling technology that relies on landline voters, who tend to be older and whiter and therefore more Republican or conservative than cell-phone owning voters who tend to be younger and more minority and therefore more Democratic or liberal.

Important note: The poll likely oversampled Democrats and independents (37, 30 percent respectively) and therefore undersampled Republicans (33 percent). If the results were adjusted based on a likely midterm turnout model, where Republicans often match or out-perform Democrats, the topline of the poll would be much closer.

Still, Republicans have been nervous for some time about Scott's "awful" poll numbers. Yes, it's still early. Scott wants to spend $100 million. These poll numbers indicate he'll need to, and this survey is sure to give conservatives, and donors, little comfort.

Here's the write-up from Rasmussen:

Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist leads incumbent GOP Governor Rick Scott by six points in Rasmussen Reports' first look at Florida’s 2014 gubernatorial race.

The latest statewide telephone survey of Likely Florida Voters shows Crist, who served as governor from 2007 to 2011, picking up 45% of the vote to Scott’s 39%. Six percent (6%) prefer some other candidate, while 10% are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

The survey of 750 Likely Voters in Florida was conducted on April 21-22, 2014 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Gov. Rick Scott will sign legislation making killing fetuses a crime

@tbtia

Harming a fetus while committing a crime, no matter how small the embryo, would carry stiffer penalties under a proposed law now awaiting Florida Gov. Rick Scott's signature.

The legislation approved Wednesday by the Senate is modeled after a federal law used to bring charges against John Andrew Welden, the Tampa man who tricked ex-girlfriend Remee Jo Lee into taking an abortion drug that caused her to miscarry a 7-week-old embryo.

Florida would join 23 states that allow offenders to be charged separately for causing the death of a fetus at any stage of development. Under current Florida law, charges can only be brought in the death of fetuses that could have survived outside of the womb and only in cases of vehicular homicide, DUI manslaughter and killing by injury to the mother.

The governor will sign off on HB 59 once it lands on his desk, a spokesman said Wednesday.

"Gov. Scott is pro-life and believes that the lives of unborn children must be protected," John Tupps said. "He looks forward to signing this legislation."

Lee cried after legislators passed the legislation.

Read more here.

Will lack of academic credentials keep Sen. John Thrasher from becoming FSU prez?

Sen. John Thrasher's name may not be mentioned, but he's clearly on the minds of Florida State University stakeholders as the presidential search unfolds.  Several people made comments during Wednesday's search committee meeting that indicated they would not want a politician like Thrasher as the university's next president. However, the firm hired to screen candidates has insisted that a wide net be cast and no potential candidates be discouraged from applying.

Here is more from the FSView and Florida Flambeau:

Despite strong calls from university faculty, students and administrators to choose an academic as Florida State University’s next president, the search firm tasked with recruiting candidates for the position will not limit the pool of presidential hopefuls to those with backgrounds in higher education, the firm’s president told the university’s Presidential Search Committee Wednesday.

In his report to the committee on Wednesday, Bill Funk, the president of the search firm R. William Funk & Associates, said many university leaders expressed a keen interest in hiring an academic as FSU’s next president. But Funk expressed caution in limiting the pool of possible candidates to leaders with academic backgrounds, saying he wants the committee to consider all its options. 

“We didn’t want to prescribe anything in the document that would eliminate anyone from consideration,” Funk said. “We think this search committee should have the opportunity to consider leaders from all walks of life and certainly you can apply your criteria to these candidates once we develop the pool of candidates.”

But prior to Funk’s report, several faculty members commented on the presidential search, all with a common message: The next president should have background in higher education. 

Michael Buchler, an associate professor in FSU’s College of Music, warned against hiring a politician for the presidency, saying that possible political differences could hinder communication with state legislators, a major responsibility of a university president. 

Read more here.

Crist argues he has been consistent on abortion. Really?

As Charlie Crist has been attacked for flip-flopping on an array of issues, he argued during an April 20 TV interview that one topic he has been consistent on is abortion.

While Crist enthusiastically admitted he changed his view on gay marriage and now supports it, he argued with interviewer Michael Williams of WPTV about whether he changed his views on abortion.

Williams: "In the heat of the campaign you were once quoted ‘listen I’m pro-life, I’m pro-gun,’ on and on and on. You changed your view on abortion as well."

Crist: "That’s not true. No. I am pro-life -- by my definition."

Williams: "But you changed your mind on abortion restrictions in the state of Florida. That’s a matter of record...."

Crist: "I am pro-life. And what I mean by that is I am for life. I think most of us are for life. And I think that’s very important to state because even though I am pro-life, which I mean for life, (it) doesn’t mean that I want to tell a woman what to do with her body, and I never have. Even as a Republican governor I vetoed the ultrasound bill on women ... "

Williams: "The ultrasound bill, yes, but on the larger issue in the prior incarnation politically of Charlie Crist, you supported abortion restrictions outside of the ultrasound bill. That's a matter of record. You have changed the nuance or your view there."

Crist: "No, I haven’t. That’s not true."

Turn to PolitiFact for the full story.

April 23, 2014

Former Hialeah mayor's wife testifies couple didn't cheat IRS, blames accountant for 'mistakes'

@jayhweaver

The wife of former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina stood by her man Wednesday, taking the witness stand in the couple’s federal tax-evasion trial to say they did not cheat on their tax returns by hiding $2 million in income from the U.S. government.

Raiza Robaina, 40, said she was responsible for her family’s household finances and tax returns, including interacting with a certified public accountant who did their joint taxes. She said that she and her husband relied on their accountant, Pelayo Vigil, for filing correct and accurate returns between 2005 and 2010 — the period covered in the couple’s conspiracy indictment.

The Robainas’ defense attorney, David Garvin, asked her if there were mistakes on the couple’s tax returns.

“Yes, but they were just that — mistakes,” she testified.

Who made the mistakes? Garvin asked.

“The accountant that we trusted to give us the correct information,” she responded.

She then blurted out that the whole ordeal has been “upsetting” because when others make mistakes, nothing happens. “But when we make mistakes, we get indicted.”

More here.

Joe Biden to speak at Miami Dade College commencement

@MrMikeVasquez

Miami Dade College has announced its upcoming 2014 commencement speakers — a list that includes U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden will speak at the May 3 graduation ceremony for MDC’s InterAmerican and Homestead campuses. Because of MDC’s massive student body, the college will hold five separate commencement ceremonies on that day. Nearly 15,000 MDC students will be graduating in total.

Speakers at the other commencement ceremonies will include Duke University Richard Brodhead (Kendall campus commencement) and New York University President John Sexton (North and West campuses commencement).

--MICHAEL VASQUEZ