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11 posts from May 2, 2012

May 02, 2012

Gov. Rick Scott, under pressure, retreats from statement calling anti-Cuba law unenforceable

Gov. Rick Scott has started retreating from a controversial statement that a Cuba-crackdown bill he signed the day before was unenforceable.

In a written statement, Scott now acknowledges that the law will go into effect. And he reiterated his support for it — even though he thinks it might not survive a legal challenge.

“Constitutional lawyers have told me that this legislation will be challenged in court. I signed the bill regardless of that fact, and it will become a state law on July 1, 2012,” he wrote. “As Governor, it is my sworn duty to uphold the laws of the state and I will meet any challenge to this law in court as necessary.”

Scott’s move was a peace offering of sorts to Miami’s Cuban-American lawmakers, who were incensed Tuesday when he signed the bill into law at the Freedom Tower — only to issue a letter afterward that suggested the law is unconstitutional.

The law would prohibit state and local governments from hiring companies — notably Odebrecht, a Brazilian engineering and construction firm that works extensively in South Florida — whose parent companies or affiliates also do business in Cuba or Syria. Because the state law could affect foreign commerce, Scott said in his Tuesday letter, it needed the approval of Congress and the president.

Scott’s letter blindsided the members of Congress and the state Legislature — all Republicans — who were never told he would espouse that position. They said the state law was fine and that Scott’s letter potentially undermined it because it armed opponents with a potent legal argument if and when they sue.

“It’s unfortunate this very ill-conceived statement muddies the waters,” U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said earlier Wednesday, before Scott’s latest statement came out.

Story here.

Marco Rubio or Gulf Coast oil spill deal? George LeMieux chooses the crude cash

U.S. Sen. candidate George LeMieux has been campaigning more and more as the Tea Party candidate these days. But then he appeared on 1620 AM radio yesterday in Pensacola.

LeMieux, a former interim U.S. senator, was asked if he would have voted for the so-called "Restore Act," which would have allocated BP oil-spill money to the Gulf Coast. Or would he have voted against it like Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, the only Gulf Coast senator to oppose the act because it allowed for oil-spill money to be spent in unaffected states?

LeMieux chose the act.

"I would have voted for it, in all due respect to Marco," LeMieux explained. He noted that, when he was in the Senate, he helped ensure that the money would be directed to Gulf Coast states.

LeMieux's answer is probably good for a general election. But for a Republican primary, it might be toxic. Conventional wisdom says a conservative candidate needs to say two words over and over again to win the GOP race: "Marco Rubio." LeMieux's stance, even though it might be well-intentioned, could be held against him because the Senate's Restore Act was a product of Washington deal-making. And that's something Rubio decried today during a speech Tuesday at the Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce, where he was asked about his nay vote for a bill that he initially sponsored.

Rubio said the bill became an out of hand "free for all" as Senators began loading it up with goodies for their home states.

“The minute I started supporting that kinds of stuff is the minute I become like them," Rubio said. “That money should not be diverted to other parts of the country. That had nothing to do with the oil spill I know that’s how they cut deals in Washington, but that’s not what I went to Washington to do.”

Rep. Connie Mack, the frontrunner in the GOP primary, had the luxury of voting on a more conservative House plan before it went to the Senate, where it was approved 74-22. The bill needs to be reconciled in conference. But before that happens, expect more politics.


Daycares hire Bogdanoff to run trade organization

State Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff has a new job title today: the de facto executive director of the statewide organization representing child care and early learning facilities.

Bogdanoff said the ink has barely dried on her contract with the Florida Association for Child Care Management. The organization hired her consulting company, Enterprising Business Strategies, to help grow its membership and increase the level of services it provides, such as accreditation and continuing education. The Florida Association for Child Care Management also represents its members in Tallahassee, tracking bills and pushing for early education reforms and state funding.

Bogdanoff, at Ft. Lauderdale Republican, said she will not be lobbying legislators or members of the executive branch as part of her new role. The organization uses the Smith, Bryan & Myers firm to handle those tasks.

“I’m just going to basically manage the operations,” she said.

Continue reading "Daycares hire Bogdanoff to run trade organization" »

Feds to Miami-Dade: Fix aging sewer system

Miami-Dade County’s 7,500 miles of sewage lines are in such decrepit shape and rupture so frequently — sometimes spilling raw waste into waterways and Biscayne Bay — that federal environmental regulators are demanding repairs and upgrades that could cost upwards of a billion dollars.

Authorities from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Justice and Florida Department of Environmental Protection met Wednesday morning with leaders at County Hall to begin what figures to be a lengthy and expensive negotiation for Miami-Dade.

John Renfrow, director of Miami-Dade’s Water and Sewer Department, acknowledged the string of major ruptures that have plagued the county’s sewage system in recent years, saying the aging network is “being held together by chewing gum.” He added he has sought more money to fix the leaks for a long time.

The price tag, though still uncertain, will easily reach the hundreds of millions and could top $1 billion based on past repair projects. The massive overhaul almost certainly will mean rate hikes for hundreds of thousands of residents who have historically paid some of the lowest fees in the state.

“We would like to think there’s state and federal assistance,” said Doug Yoder, Water and Sewer deputy director for regional compliance. “But this is ultimately going to come back to rates. It will require our rates go up, either to generate cash or to pay bonds back.”

More from Charles Rabin and Curtis Morgan here.

Rene Garcia asks Mike Haridopolos to 'examine' Gov. Rick Scott's signing statement on anti-Cuba law

Sen. Rene Garcia sent Senate President Mike Haridopolos a letter Wednesday asking him to "examine" Gov. Rick Scott's signing statement in which he called a new anti-Cuba law essentially unenforceable.

Garcia, a Hialeah Republican, sponsored the legislation cracking down on awarding government contracts to companies with business ties to Cuba and Syria. Scott signed the bill in a ceremony at Miami's Freedom Tower on Tuesday -- and then issued a signing statement saying federal authorization would be required to enforce the bill's restrictions, "effectively nullifying the legislation," as Garcia wrote to Haridopolos.

That did not sit well with Miami-Dade's Cuban-American Republicans, who felt blindsided by the governor. U.S. Rep. David Rivera of Miami went as far as suggesting he may sue the governor.

"By this letter, I am requesting that your office examine the constitutionality of Governor Scott’s actions as to the execution of this bill or lack thereof," Garcia wrote in the letter. Read the letter here.

Jill Biden hits South Florida

Vice President Joe Biden's wife Jill Biden will travel to South Florida this week to deliver the commencement address Friday afternoon at Broward College. Biden, an educator for more than 30 years, has taught English in community colleges for the past 18 years and continues to teach at a community college in Northern Virginia. 

Biden on Thursday will visit Coast Guard Base Miami Beach for a discussion with spouses of Coast Guard members.  Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama have a major initiative to engage with military families -- they just celebrated the one-year anniversary of Joining Forces, their effort to honor, recognize and serve veterans, service members and military families.

Sen. Rene Garcia calls for ALF workgroup

Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, called on Gov. Rick Scott Wednesday to address abuse and neglect in assisted living facilities in the face of this year's failed legislation.

Garcia's suggestion: Another Agency for Healthcare Administration workgroup similar to that established last year after the Miami Herald's Neglected to Death series unveiled gross mismanagement at the state's 2,850 assisted living facilities, resulting in nearly one death per month.

Continue reading "Sen. Rene Garcia calls for ALF workgroup" »

Dennis Baxley, Crist critic and Stand Your Ground author, endorses George LeMieux

Forget about Herman Cain's endorsement of Republican Senate candidate George LeMieux. Ocala Rep. Dennis Baxley's probably is more significant. Baxley is a former Florida Christian Coalition head and he sponsored the controversial 2005 Stand Your Ground law. Baxley also carried the Republican legislation cracking down on voter-registration -- a piece of legislation the Democrats say amounts to "voter suppression."

In short: Baxley is a real-deal heartland conservative. Perhaps most significantly, Baxley was a critic of former Gov. Charlie Crist, whose top advisor was LeMieux. Crist's decision to bolt the GOP in his 2010 failed Senate race against Marco Rubio made him one of the most-reviled politicians in the GOP. So, with Baxley's endorsement, maybe (just maybe) LeMieux is shedding the Crist baggage.

Still, he's short on money and name ID when compared to Republican Connie Mack.

The press release:

Continue reading "Dennis Baxley, Crist critic and Stand Your Ground author, endorses George LeMieux" »

Tough times for Florida economy, despite high ranking by CEOs

Florida now ranks as the 2nd-best state for business, according to a survey conducted by Chief Executive magazine. Chief executives gave Florida high standards for its business-friendly tax policies, regulatory structure and workforce quality. Texas ranked No. 1.

Unfortunately, Florida does not come anywhere near 2nd-best in several categories that actually track real economic progress statistically.

The Florida Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research released an updated report this week titled Florida: An Economic Overview. The report used real economic data, often ranking Florida with other states, usually near the bottom of the pack. Here are some takeaways:

Continue reading "Tough times for Florida economy, despite high ranking by CEOs" »

Polytech's fiercest opponent to speak at commencement

When Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, pushed to break off the University of South Florida's Lakeland branch to create the state's 12th university, Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, was the fiercest critic.

Now Dockery will be guest speaker at the branch's Monday commencement ceremony.

The topic: Integrity in leadership.

"I'm hoping to deliver a message that doing the right thing doesn't always lead to success," she said. "But that doesn't mean doing the right thing is not the path you should take."

Continue reading "Polytech's fiercest opponent to speak at commencement" »