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18 posts from March 13, 2013

March 13, 2013

Allen West's Foundation flubs historical fact about Florida black Reps

The Allen West Foundation says in 2010 West "became the first black representative from Florida to serve in the United House Representatives since Reconstruction."

Whoops....he left out a key word here: first Republican U.S. Representative since Reconstruction. West himself may not have crafted the wording on the website -- we've heard him accurately cite his role in history including the night of his victory party in November 2010 when he ousted Democrat Ron Klein in Broward/Palm Beach Congressional District 22. 

Two years later due to redistricting, West moved to a Treasure Coast district and lost to Democrat Patrick Murphy.

For you history buffs, here is an interesting history of African-American members of Congress written by the Congressional Research Service. Florida has had seven African-American members starting with Republican Josiah T. Walls in 1871. A few black Democrats were elected in Florida in 1993:  Corrine Brown, Alcee  Hastings and Carrie Meek. In 2003,  Meek's son Kendrick was elected and Frederica Wilson won along with West in 2010.

West speaks tomorrow at CPAC.

VIDEO: Gov. Rick Scott on LG Carroll's resignation

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Rick Scott talked about the sudden resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, the associated racketeering investigation of an Internet cafe company and the politics of it all. 

More on this story here

See the video below: 


Simulator puts a 'distracted' Detert and grandkids behind the wheel in Capital

Sen. Nancy Detert wanted to demonstrate the dangers of texting while driving on Wednesday and wound up killing two deer. Virtual deer, that is. Detert, along with her two 15-year-old grandchildren, who recently got their learner's permits, were among the first to try out a simulator set up by AAA in the first floor Capital rotunda to show the perils of distracted driving; the simulator is used as an educational tool in schools around the state. Detert, R-Venice, has spent four years trying to pass a bill to restrict texting while driving.

The simulator allows  "drivers" to put on earphones, operate a steering wheel while looking at a screen, much like a video game, and drive while coping with everyday audio and visual distractions like a friend talking, soccer balls rolling across the road and approaching cars while attempting to send a text.

  The distractions alone caused Detert to hit the deer before she attempted to text. Her grandson Matt Detert, a sophomore at Northport High School, crashed into the back of a car, and his cousin, Stephanie Detert, a freshman at Venice High School, ran a stop sign when they tried texting. (This reporter tried the simulator and hit a police car while attempting to text.)

Continue reading " Simulator puts a 'distracted' Detert and grandkids behind the wheel in Capital" »

Jennifer Carroll says she resigned to avoid being a distraction

Former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who abruptly resigned today, said she left office to prevent the investigation into a company she once represented from undermining the work of Gov. Rick Scott. Allied Veterans of the World, a registered non-profit that operated a chain of internet cafes, is currently at the center of a national racketeering investigation.

Carroll did public relations for Allied Veterans during 2009 and 2010, the same time she was serving in the Florida House. Law enforcement questioned her about involvements with the company on Tuesday, shortly before submitting a two-sentence resignation letter.

"Having learned that Allied Veterans is now the subject of an investigation by federal and state agencies, I have and will continue to fully cooperate with any investigation," Carroll said in a 400-word statement emailed to the news media Wednesday. "Although I do not believe I or my company are targets of the investigation, I could not allow my company's former affiliation with Allied Veterans to distract from the administration's important work for the families of Florida."

The statement goes on to list Carroll's professional accomplishments, especially when it comes to veteran affairs. She says it was "an honor and a privilege" to serve her fellow Floridians.

"Although I have made a decision to leave public office, I will not withdraw from public life," Carroll wrote. "I look forward to continuing to make Florida a better place for all, especially our men and women in uniform."

Download Jennifer Carroll statement on resignation

Brodeur mum on expose of Grant's company

The non-denial denials continue on a WTSP-Ch. 10 report on a $2.6-million grant awarded in Hardee County to a company owned by Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa.

We won’t rehash the details. For that, go here.

Grant has said he is reviewing his options about what to do, but said so far he hasn’t demanded a correction, usually the first-step taken in a defamation suit.

The other lawmaker involved in the project was Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, who was paid between $48,000 and $65,000 for his work as a health consultant.

When asked Tuesday about the story, Brodeur declined comment.

“I’d prefer not to say anything because there may be pending litigation,” he said.

Is it a dodge or a sign that Grant and Brodeur will sue?

Time will tell....

Landlords, car dealers get wins with House votes. Dems say consumers lose

Consumers who get in disputes with their car dealer or landlord could end up facing a tougher task after two pro-industry bills passed the Florida House on Wednesday.

HB 55, sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz, would require some car buyers who have a dispute with their car dealer to send a demand letter prior to filing a lawsuit.

Car buyers who believe their car sellers have acted deceptively or fraudulently will have to send a detailed demand letter including the amount of damages being claimed, and give the dealer 30 days to address the problem before suing.

Gaetz said the bill would help consumers and car dealers avoid expensive litigation, and the demand letter proposal would allow parties to “more efficiently and effectively solve disputes.”

The bill passed 83-29, with opposition from Democrats who said the demand letter put too much of a burden on consumers, especially those who are not savvy about the legal process.

“The bill that we have before us is very troubling from the perspective of consumers,” said Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, who blamed supporters of the bill for “cutting off access to redress for those consumers” who have car problems after buying a vehicle.

“We shouldn’t be legislating something honestly that is this anti-consumer, when there are probably solutions before us that are more narrow,” he said.

Said Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood: “There are a lot of things about this that don’t smell so good,” adding that car dealers are notorious for “trying to con someone.”

“This bill eviscerates… those rights that consumers have under the current law,” said Rep. Dwight Dudley, R-St. Petersburg. 

Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, defended the bill from those Democratic attacks, saying that it’s a simple way to avoid costly litigation.

Continue reading "Landlords, car dealers get wins with House votes. Dems say consumers lose" »

Law enforcement probe provokes Senate to take up bill to ban Internet cafes

In the wake of the sweeping federal and state investigation and numerous allegations of illicit gambling, Senate President Don Gaetz and Gaming Committee Chairman Garrett Richter have announced they will introduce legislation on Monday to ban Internet cafes. 

"What's happened in the next couple of days is it's expedited the thinking going forward,'' Richter told the Herald/Times, noting that they can no longer wait until next year to take up a ban. "I don't think this comes as a surprise to anybody. The only thing suprising is the timing." 

Here's Gaetz's statement:

“The Senate Gaming Committee will meet on Monday, March 18, for the purpose of considering legislation to ban Internet cafes in Florida. I fully support such a ban as a precursor to additional legislation that may result from the comprehensive gaming review the Senate Gaming Committee has initiated.

“Beginning in November of 2011, I began challenging claims from those who encouraged me to support Internet cafes on the grounds that they contribute to charitable organizations.  Despite my questioning, I never received any credible information from any Internet cafe proponent indicating that these facilities were providing any meaningful contributions to charitable or veterans causes.  For that reason and others, I have consistently opposed Internet cafes, including co-introducing Senate Bill 428, the Simulated Gambling Prohibition and Community Protection Act during the 2012 Legislative Session.  

“During the 2012 election cycle, when I headed Senate Campaigns, I declined to meet with Allied Veterans and refused campaign contributions from the organization.  I have a practice of not accepting contributions to my own campaigns from gaming entities, and I did not knowingly accept campaign contributions from any Internet cafes for my own campaign or on behalf of the Republican Senate Majority.  However, in light of recent allegations that the Allied Veterans organization was operating with upwards of 40 subsidiary entities and under different and perhaps misleading names, I have asked for a top to bottom review of my own campaign contributions as well as funds raised by the Republican Senate Majority for the Republican Party of Florida during the 2012 cycle for which I had leadership responsibility.”

Senate moves away from Weatherford pension overhaul

One of Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford’s top priorities appears to be troubled two weeks into session.

Weatherford wants to close the Florida Retirement System’s pension plan to new employees after Jan. 1, 2014. He wants to steer employees away from the guaranteed benefit system, which he says will require a major taxpayer bailout in the future, and toward 401(k)-style plans instead.

But the Florida Senate, at least so far, is going in another direction. SB 1392, sponsored by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-New Port Richey, would make such a shift to 401(k)s voluntary for most new employees.

Only the highest paid employees such as senior managers and department heads would be forced to enroll. But other employees, from teachers to bus drivers to police and secretaries, could remain in the system as long as they choose to stay (it does include a new default to the 401(k)-plans). The bill provides for an enticement: all employees in the investment plan will contribute 2 percent of their salary towards retirement. Employees participating in the pension plan will continue to pay 3 percent.

Continue reading "Senate moves away from Weatherford pension overhaul" »

FDLE announces widespread probe into internet gambling -- Allied only 'first wave'

Owners of dozens of Internet gambling centers in Florida were arrested Wednesday as part of a three-year investigation into Jacksonville-based Allied Veterans of the World, a purported charity group that, authorities say, collected millions of dollars for itself and little money for veterans.

The probe led to the arrest of 55 individuals in Florida and five other states and prompted the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll. Two suspects remained at large Wednesday.

It is the “first wave” of Operation Reveal the Deal, which targets illicit slot machine operators who exploited a loophole in the state’s sweepstakes laws, Gerald Bailey, commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said at a news conference in Orlando.

Targeted in the crackdown were owners and operators of 49 gambling centers affiliated with Allied Veterans of the World, an organization registered as a charity but which gave only 2 percent of its profits over three years to charitable causes. None were in Broward or Miami-Dade counties; three were in Monroe. Carroll’s consulting company had represented Allied Veterans until she became lieutenant governor in 2011. Police would not say whether Carroll received payments from the group while serving lieutenant governor.

“Their premise of charity is a lie — a lie to our citizens and a lie to our veterans,” Bailey said. “Our investigators believe that the reality is that each gambling center is operated by the owners of for-profit agencies that funnel the bulk of the money back to themselves.”

He said charges would be forthcoming next week against those in custody on suspicion of illegal gambling, racketeering and money laundering. He emphasized that there would be additional probes into other Internet cafes not affiliated with Allied Veterans. More here.


Rick Scott on the 'disappointing' news of investigation into, resignation of LG Carroll

In his first statement since Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll's resignation, Gov. Rick Scott called it "very disappointing" and said "everything is on the table" concerning new restrictions on Internet cafes. He said any Allied Veterans campaign contributions to his campaign would be donated to charity.

"It's very disappointing to have to bring this news to you," Scott said. Asked whether all Internet cafes should be closed down, Scott said, "Look, with this news, everything is on the table. I look forward to working with the House and the Senate to review this, but that issue's on the table." He did not specifically say he supported a statewide ban on the cafes.

Scott met a horde of reporters and cameramen in a corner of the patio on the west side of the state Capitol in Tallahassee, and answered questions for about three minutes. He said he would not discuss details of the criminal investigation, and would not speculate on possible replacements for Carroll, saying he would not choose a new lieutenant governor until after the legislative session ends in May.

Carroll did consulting work in 2009 and 2010 for Allied Veterans, a non-profit that operated a string of Internet cafes and is at the center of a major criminal racketeering case.