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16 posts from March 14, 2013

March 14, 2013

Ex-Davie mayor says Brow GOP meeting should be open to media

When the Broward Republican Executive Committee meets Monday night to elect a new chair, media won't be allowed to attend. Interim chair Christine Butler says she plans to continue the rule in recent years of banning media at the election and the rule banning recording of meetings (except BREC sometimes makes an official recording of a speaker.) She says that allows for a full exchange of ideas.

But one of Butler's main opponents for the internal election, former Davie Town Mayor Tom Truex, disagrees with those policies.

"People think you have something to hide when you don't conduct business in an open manner," Truex said. "We are the minority party in this county so everywhere we go we should expect we will be open to scrutiny. We do not do anybody any favor when we try to hide the goings on in our meetings."

Other candidates include activists Bob Sutton and Jim Gleason.

Miami-Dade mayor vetoes MIA baggage-wrap contract awarded by commissioners


In a surprise move, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Thursday vetoed county commissioners’ decision to award a controversial contract to wrap baggage at Miami International Airport.

Last week, a veto-proof majority of the commission rejected Gimenez’s recommendation to hire TrueStar USA, the county-owned airport’s current vendor, and instead chose Safe Wrap, the second-place bidder that held the coveted concession for nine years until 2010.

Nine of 11 commissioners present at the March 5 meeting voted to reject TrueStar — more than the two-thirds majority required to override a mayoral veto. The board then voted unanimously to hire Safe Wrap.

But Gimenez vetoed both votes anyway — a move that will force commissioners to reconsider their decisions at their next meeting in April. Sustaining the vetoes would likely require a couple of commissioners to change their votes, depending on how many commissioners, and which ones, are present.

On Wednesday, TrueStar sued the county, asking the Miami-Dade Circuit Court to prohibit Gimenez’s administration from entering into a contract with Safe Wrap. The lawsuit argues that commissioners’ votes last week violated the county’s procurement process.

More on this developing story here.

African-American firsts in the Fla. Legislature, and Jennifer Carroll

Your faithful Naked Politics contributor dropped a word while editing our story today on Jennifer Carroll's resignation. Carroll was not the first African-American Republican member of the Florida Legislature when she was elected in 2003. She was the first female African-American Republican member.

Several African-American Republicans, of course, were elected to the Legislature during the Reconstruction Era. We've updated our story to account for the change.

But, we wondered: Was Carroll the first African-American GOP lawmaker post-Reconstruction, or Reconstruction Era?

No, it turns out.

John Plummer, a Miami African-American Republican, served one term in the Florida House from 1980-82. Interestingly, Plummer’s election appears to be a fluke. According to the Florida Handbook, Plummer avoided photographs and interviews during his campaign and there was voter confusion with another Plummer, who was a white Democrat and member of the House.

Florida shenanigans ...

Lawmakers consider bills to shrink Cat Fund, increase insurance rates

Property insurance rates could inch up faster under two proposals that were discussed this week in the Florida Legislature.

The proposals, HB 1107 and SB 1262, would shrink the state’s Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, a tax-exempt fund that provides low-cost backup insurance for property insurers.

Shrinking the $17 billion “Cat Fund” to $14 billion over three years would likely increase insurance premium by an average of nearly 7 percent over that period, according to initial estimates by the Insurance Consumer Advocate. That would come on top of other annual rate increases that are often in the double digits.

Supporters of shrinking the Cat Fund say it’s a fiscally prudent move, since the fund would have to borrow money after a massive hurricane and doing so might be difficult under certain circumstances. That could lead to financial turmoil for the state, with many insurance companies going belly up. Such a scenario is very unlikely, since the bond markets could provide billions of dollars to cover a disaster but proponents are using it to push the urgency of the perennial Cat Fund bill.

“Without a firm foundation, no industry will be able to stand and without proper financial background, and the Cat Fund will not be able to pay the claims,” Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, who is backing the bill, said Thursday.

The committee took the Cat Fund provision out of a larger, comprehensive insurance bill last month, because of fear over the “rate shock” it could cause. But Hays resisted and filed his own bill to shrink the Cat Fund. A similar bill, sponsored by Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, was workshopped in the House on Wednesday.

“The reality is that Florida is one storm away from major fiscal devastation,” Hager said in a statement. “I’m pleased that we were able to begin the dialogue today in the Florida House and look forward to this bill being heard by all of my fellow legislators.”

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Five Things To Know for Thursday's Legislative Session

TALLAHASSEE The legislative cogs keep turning but tensions will remain high on the day the Capitol was rocked by the sudden resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll. Here are five things to watch on Thursday:

· Gov. Rick Scott begins his day at a breakfast for the annual Broward Days event in the Capitol.

· The House Appropriations Committee takes up HB 7065, which would put into law the settlement between the state and federal government over Everglades clean-up and cap the sugar companies’ share of the cost at an estimated $880 million.

· As a rift appears to be emerging between the House and Senate over whether or not to close the Florida Retirement System to new employees, police, firefighters and other first responders hold a press conference to voice their objections. Meanwhile, the House State Affairs Committee takes up its plan (HB 7011) to close the plan. The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee hears SB 1392 that would give new employees a choice of a 401k-style plan or the traditional pension account.

· A bill to require local governments to give red light runners a little more breathing room when they are caught on camera gets a hearing in the House Economic Affairs Committee. The measure, by Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, is a middle ground between another proposal that would repeal the cameras.

· A bill to give Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater greater oversight over the state’s contracting process gets its first hearing in the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Commission. The measure would give the CFO the ability to review contracts before they’re executed to make sure it’s the best deal for the state.
- Mary Ellen Klas, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

Scott, Weatherford, Rubio celebrate "non-partisan" James Madison Institute

If Ayn Rand were alive and living in Florida, she would have paid $125 for a ticket and attended The James Madison Institute’s 25th anniversary gala Wednesday night.

Most of the state’s conservative heavyweights were there: Gov. Rick Scott, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, House Speaker Will Weatherford. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio delivered a televised greeting to the institute. Attorney General Pam Bondi was scheduled to show but had to cancel for a funeral. 

They were there to celebrate property rights, free markets, states rights and deregulation and other causes that JMI, founded in 1987, has championed. As JMI’s influence as a “non-partisan” think tank has grown, so too has the Republican grip on power in Tallahassee.

In telling closing remarks, former House Speaker Allan Bense, who is chairman of JMI and Weatherford’s father-in-law, explained why the think tank matters so much for conservatives.

“There are so many times when there are tough bills you have to vote for,” said Bense. “A tort bill, whatever it may be, where the press is just pounding you on the other side, the Tampa Bay Times, the Miami Herald, the Palm Beach Post, whatever, they’re just killing you, and what James Madison was able to do was present to members the other side. Here are the facts. So you could debate those facts on the floor, and JMI didn’t go lobby members, it was, ‘here’s the other side of the coin.’ And I can’t tell you how important that is if you’re a member of the Florida House or the Florida Senate or Cabinet member, to hear an objective, bipartisan, we’re a little conservative, agreed, but here’s our side.”

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