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8 posts from November 16, 2012

November 16, 2012

Rep. David Rivera: Late chief of staff was 'family man and committed public servant'

Congressman David Rivera issued a statement Thursday on his chief of staff, Steve Vermillion, who died Thursday night after a four-year battle with leukemia.

"For nearly twenty five years, I have known Steve as a friend, family man and committed public servant," Rivera said. "My service in Congress has been greatly enhanced by Steve's invaluable advice and knowledge regarding all aspects of the legislative process. As a 17 year veteran of Capitol Hill, Steve will be dearly missed by the Capitol family for his warmth and his sense of service to this institution and our nation."

Vermillion was the longtime chief of staff of former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart. And he had ties to Miami: Vermillion, who spoke fluent Spanish, attended graduate school at the University of Miami and once worked as director of congressional affairs for the Cuban American National Foundation.

On Twitter, Diaz-Balart wrote, "I will always remember him with deep affection and admiration."

Jaime Suchliki, director of UM's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, also mourned Vermillion's death.

"Steve was devoted to the defense of human rights, particularly in Castro's Cuba," Suchliki wrote. "He was a jovial, kind, and intelligent human being and a loyal friend."

Read the full statements after the jump.


Continue reading "Rep. David Rivera: Late chief of staff was 'family man and committed public servant'" »

Dems to Scott: Stop meddling

Democrats charged Friday that Gov. Rick Scott is meddling in the U.S. Congressional race between Patrick Murphy and Republican Allen West.

 A judge denied a demand by West, the tea party-based incumbent, for a recount of early voting ballots in St. Lucie County, which makes up the 19th Congressional District along with parts of Palm Beach and Martin counties. Murphy led West by 1,907 votes. Earlier in the week, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner sent a three-member team to audit the results, according to news reports.

That prompted Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, to issue a statement.

“In a clear effort to overturn an election result after having lost at the ballot box, Allen West has now run to Governor Rick Scott to needlessly interfere with and politicize a non-partisan election process.

"All votes in this election were counted fairly and accurately, and Allen West has lost beyond the mandatory recount range. Having Governor Scott intervene is outrageous and inappropriate. After disenfranchising Florida voters by cutting down early voting days and creating extraordinarily long lines at the polls, Governor Scott is now trying to blatantly overturn an election result he disagreed with and undermine Gertrude Walker, a three-decade veteran of the St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections office. Governor Scott needs to remove himself from this process immediately."

That led Chris Cate, the spokesman for Detzner, to issue a response.

Claims that there is any interference by the state in this election are wholly inaccurate and unhelpful to the voters who need to know their votes have been counted accurately. We have a responsibility to ensure Florida’s election laws are interpreted and enforced properly, and our involvement in St. Lucie County has only been observational with the purpose of protecting the voice of the voters and ensuring fair elections were conducted in all of the St. Lucie County races, not just the highest profile contests.


With softened stance, Scott asks feds to meet on health exchange

Continuing his newly softened stance on state-based health exchanges, Gov. Rick Scott sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Friday. The letter is non-committal but conciliatory, asking top health officials to meet and discuss how to move forward in addressing the increasing cost of health care. 

Scott was previously a staunch opponent of the exchanges, which require states to set up an online marketplace for the uninsured to buy private insurance. Scott's rhetoric became more flexible shortly after President Barack Obama was reelected, winning Florida.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, requires states to set up the exchanges or else the federal government will do it for them. The federal government has extended the deadline--which was supposed to have been today-- for the state's to say whether they will lead their own programs.

Florida's Legislature sent a letter to Sebelius Thursday asking for more information before the state moves forward.

The letter is below.

Continue reading "With softened stance, Scott asks feds to meet on health exchange" »

Rep. David Rivera's chief of staff, who used to work for Lincoln Diaz-Balart, dies of leukemia

From Roll Call: 

Stephen Vermillion, a beloved Capitol Hill veteran whose courage and commitment to public service inspired friends, family and colleagues, died early Friday morning after losing a four-year-long battle with leukemia. He was 52.

A competitive rower and devoted public servant, Vermillion was diagnosed with leukemia on Nov. 15, 2008. After undergoing rigorous chemotherapy treatments, Vermillion was able to recover and return to Capitol Hill in January 2011 to serve as chief of staff to Rep. David Rivera, R-Fla.

However, Vermillion’s illness returned this summer, and when it became apparent that he would not survive, he vowed to fight it out until at least Nov. 15, which would be the four-year anniversary of his diagnosis. Vermillion completed that goal, which friends and colleagues say is indicative of his indefatigable will to live.

More here. (UPDATE: Rivera's office says Vermillion died Thursday night, not Friday morning.)

VIDEO: Scott talks health care exchange, openness in DC

Gov. Rick Scott spoke to the Federalist Society today in Washington, D.C. Afterward, he took reporters' questions about the state's posture on the federal health care law. "Gov. Romney did not win the election," he said.


--Alex Leary

VIDEO: Scott talks health care exchange, openess in DC

Gov. Rick Scott spoke to the Federalist Society today in Washington, D.C. Afterward, he took reporters' questions about the state's posture on the federal health care law. "Gov. Romney did not win the election," he said.


--Alex Leary

Miami-Dade reinstates aide fired by county commissioner over police report

A dispute over a traffic circle in Horse Country during a meet-and-greet held by Miami-Dade Commissioner Javier Souto resulted in a police report and the firing of Souto’s longtime aide for not backing him.

After 19 years of service, Margarita Gonzalez was terminated after refusing to support the account Souto gave police when he called them to report a constituent who he felt was verbally abusive at the event.

The constituent denies the claim.

Capping all the drama, the county has been forced to reach a legal settlement with Gonzalez, finding her a new job — at a public library — until she retires next year.

Souto, who has long been known for his impetuousness from the dais, has been left with the smallest staff among the county’s 13 commissioners. He has two employees.

The commissioner, who represents a wide swath of unincorporated West Miami-Dade, walked away from a Miami Herald reporter this week when asked about the 2-month-old incident with his former aide.

“It’s an internal matter,” Souto said, adding that he had nothing more to say. “I don’t talk about family matters — do you?”

Florida puts new license plates up to a web vote

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has designed four new license tags, with sleek, smooth surfaces, better readability, and seven characters instead of the traditional six.

As for the plates' additional details, state officials want you to decide.

Florida is setting up a website — Vote4FloridaTag.com — so drivers can pick which plate they prefer. The website will go live for voting Nov. 26 to Dec. 14.

"We've found out people are really passionate about their license plates," said Kirsten Olsen-Doolan, spokeswoman for the department. "We've gotten phone calls and letters, both to our agency and the Governor's Office. We wanted to give people an opportunity to weigh in."

Read more here.