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11 posts from December 17, 2012

December 17, 2012

A tale of two FL Sens: GOP's Rubio mourns death of Senate Dem, and Dem Bill Nelson?

Two notable reactions from Florida's Senators concerning the death of Hawaii U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye:

Marco Rubio quickly issued a touching two-paragraph statement that encapsulated the spirit and history of the man. In these partisan-hack times, the Republican's press release hit gracious notes about his now-former Democratic colleague, a "Greatest Generation" war hero. Rubio's website features a link as well to his statement.

And Florida's senior senator?  Nothing yet. UPDATE: Nelson gave a touching eulogy the following day on the Senate floor. He was travelling Monday and didn't have the time to write the right words, a staffer said.

Normally one to sprint to the TV cameras or blast out a press release on the topic of the day, Nelson's office has yet to send anything out. Nor does the Democrat have anything posted on his website, which does feature a video of him talking about the "fiscal cliff," a statement about an ex-Marine locked up in Mexico, and a grip-and-grin pic with Alonzo Mourning.

  Rubio

  Nelson

Politics of guns in Florida are complex

Underscoring the politics in the debate following the Connecticut school massacre, Florida officials offered divergent views Monday, from stricter gun laws to arming teachers to focusing instead on mental health.

Others, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott, said it was too early to react or remained mute against rising calls for action.

"We cannot tolerate this any longer. Congress has within its ability to bring up common sense gun regulation very quickly," said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa, echoing growing Democratic support for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.

She blamed paralysis on gun control across the political spectrum, including President Barack Obama, who signaled in a speech Sunday in Newtown, Conn., that he would take up the issue after four years of avoiding it.

"The president should have been stronger," Castor said. "But from what I heard in his voice and saw in his eyes last night, he is determined."

Getting there is not easy. Support for new gun laws has not risen after other mass shootings and the National Rifle Association spent more than 10 times as much on lobbying as gun control groups in 2011 and the first three quarters of 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Story by Alex Leary and Michael Van Sickler here.

Online-only university among Florida's options for more distance education

Florida's 12th university became a reality earlier this year, and there is already discussion about whether the state needs a 13th.

House Speaker Will Weatherford challenged the board governing state universities to look into creating an online-only school in order to increase access to distance education. And Monday, the Board of Governors received the results of an independent study on the topic and discussed next steps.

Conducted by The Parthenon Group, the report outlines four options for Florida's universities and colleges, both public and private.

The first allows each school to continue operating its own distance education program, represented the status quo, and it got the least amount of support from the Board of Governors' Strategic Planning Committee.

The second and third options — systemwide collaboration or allowing one or more institutions to serve as the lead drivers of new programs — got a more positive response. The committee asked staff to research a hybrid of these two choices ahead of next month's full board meeting.

Board of Governors Chairman Dean Colson said he would like to have the state colleges and universities submit proposals to serve as lead institutions in order to create a sense of innovation and competition.

Continue reading "Online-only university among Florida's options for more distance education" »

Sen. Marco Rubio praises, mourns Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye

From a press release:

 “My wife Jeanette and I send our condolences to the Inouye family and to the people of Hawaii.  When I was elected to the Senate, Daniel Inouye was easily the most recognizable name and face to me, as I remember watching him in action as a teenager following politics.  When I arrived in Washington, he was one of the first senators I sought out to introduce myself to in the first days after being sworn in.  I always admired his story and how he was the last of the Greatest Generation of Americans that served this country in World War II and then in peace in the U.S. Senate. 

 “From running down to Pearl Harbor to help others as a medic when our country was attacked, to volunteering to serve in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Senator Inouye exemplified the Greatest Generation. He was a war hero and his bravery earned him our highest military distinction, the Medal of Honor.  I have always lamented that I got to the Senate too late to meet Senators Edward Kennedy and Robert Byrd. But I will proudly tell my grandchildren that, at least for a brief time, I served with the great Daniel Inouye.”

Five years after Great Recession, a sense of non-recovery recovery lingers

Five years ago this month, the Great Recession began. Which leads to this question: How much longer until South Florida can erase the damage?

Officially, the recession ended in June 2009. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the national economy began contracting in December 2007 and did not grow again for 19 months. Using taxable sales figures, it’s probably safe to say South Florida experienced a longer downturn. Overall spending contracted for the first time in South Florida in March 2007 and didn’t post a year-over-year gain until February 2010.

“Miami was at the forefront of the housing boom and bust,’’ said Karl Kuykendall, an economist who follows South Florida for IHS Global Insight. “It’s no surprise Miami was early into the recession and somewhat late coming out.”

But whatever the actual duration of the downturn, it doesn’t take much math to realize the economy still feels shaky. South Florida lost its first net job in more than two years in October, when a tiny decline of 300 payroll slots interrupted 26 months of consistent expansion. The upcoming November report out Friday will show whether the losing streak continues.

And while unemployment is off near-record highs set in April 2010, more than 180,000 South Floridians were listed as officially out of work in the last count. That’s almost 90 percent more than the 98,000 people listed as out of work in the first month of the recession.

More here

Delegates cast official votes for Obama

The votes that really count have been cast. 

Florida delegates, with their sought-after 29 electoral college votes, submitted their ballots for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden during a ceremony in Tallahassee's Senate chamber Monday.

State law doesn't require delegates to cast their ballots in accordance with the popular vote. But the delegates had sworn allegiance to the Democratic Party, and Obama and Biden were the only names on the ballot.

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Gov. Rick Scott says Newtown families need support, not time to discuss policy

We had some time to meet with Gov. Rick Scott today, so we asked him about the event that seems to be on everyone's minds: the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., that resulted in the deaths of 6 educators and 20 young students. We asked Scott, whose daughter is a teacher, if he thinks Florida should begin a conversation about strengthening gun laws or improving mental health treatment. 

Here is the full transcript:

Times: We're going to segue to the Newtown shooting.

Scott: “Your heart goes out to all those families.”

You have a daughter who’s a teacher right?

“Yeah.”

We know these events are recent and there are a lot of unanswered questions. But, do you have any thoughts about whether Florida should be doing anything when it comes to gun control or addressing mental illness among adults?

"I called friends this weekend that live up there. And I talked to one this morning who lives about 15 miles away from Newtown. And she’s got young kids. So what you think about is, you think about when those things happen, you know how it -- you worry about your family. The friend I was taking to this morning used to work with me; we were talking about 9/11. Because I was in New York City that day and knew where I was that day.

It’s the same thing about -- you just worry so much about your loved ones and your family when anything like this happens. And you personalize it because like in her case she’s got kids that age. I think Grace is 6, 5 or 6. Grace is 5; her other daughter is 10 or 11. And you think about that, and I think about my daughter as a teacher that I don’t want this to happen. I always want to make sure she taught at a safe place.

And so what you think about is the impact on families. It’s no different than anything where you -- You know the things that had an impact on me: going to the funerals of the law enforcement officers. I’ve gone to all those. Or I tell people the hardest day I have in this job is clemency (hearings) because you have people from all walks of life come in, and as a Christian you are supposed to be forgiving. At the same time I’m responsible to take care of the 19 million people in the state, and I want to keep them safe.

So you put all these -- All of them it always comes down to how it impacts the family. Because these families’ lives will change forever.”

Any task Florida should start working on in this regard?

“I think the first thing you always do is you stop and say to yourself, 'Why do these things happen? What is the logical thing to do?' But I think right now the biggest thing is to be caring about all these families.”

U.S. Rep.-elect Patrick Murphy hires Eric Johnson as chief of staff

Patrick Murphy, the Democrat who beat U.S. Rep. Allen West in the Treasure Coast's District 18, has hired his campaign consultant Eric Johnson as chief of staff. Erin Moffet,  who also worked on Murphy's campaign and has worked for U.S.  Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Miramar), will serve as Murphy's spokesperson.

In FL Dem chair race, Tant racks up major Orlando support from Scott, Susannah Randolph

Scott Randolph, a former state representative and current Orange County Democratic Party Chair and Tax Collector-Elect Scott Randolph, said he's backing Allison Tant for chair of the state party.

It's a big-deal endorsement, further evidence Tant will likely win the post. Randolph was rumored to be a chair contender at one point and his wife, Susannah, is a hard-hitting Democratic operative and grassroots organizer.

Yesterday, Miami-Dade Democratic Chairwoman Annette Taddeo-Goldstein dropped out of the chair race and backed Tant. Hillsborough's Alan Clendenin is still nominally in the race, but for how much longer?

Continue reading "In FL Dem chair race, Tant racks up major Orlando support from Scott, Susannah Randolph" »

Update: FAMU and the SACS probation

Clarification: The University of South Florida St. Petersburg was placed on SACS probation in 2008. We left them out of our original report.

ORIGINAL POST: When it comes to the regional accrediting body for colleges and universities, most of Florida's public universities have steered clear of major issues.

Florida A&M University is the only one of 11 existing state universities to have ever been placed on Southern Association of Colleges and Schools probation, the Board of Governor's told the Herald/Times. And now, FAMU is facing its second probation in five years.

Florida State University did have additional SACS attention in 2006-2007 following a cheating scandal among athletes. The accrediting organization asked FSU to provide additional paperwork to show the problems had been fixed, but there were no sanctions, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

There is one Florida state college that under sanctions similar to FAMU. Edison State College in Ft. Myers is on probation for one year, stemming from issues raised about the school's academic standards and requirements. 

In addition, private Florida Christian College in Kissimmee is facing revocation of its SACS accreditation, although the school says it will appeal.

Continue reading "Update: FAMU and the SACS probation" »