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22 posts from March 19, 2013

March 19, 2013

Struggling in the polls, Scott releases campaign-style video highlighting jobs record

Is it 2014 yet?

On the same day that a Public Policy Polling poll came out showing that Gov. Rick Scott is still underwater with voters and trails potential candidates like his predecessor Charlie Crist, the governor’s office offered up a new campaign-style video touting his accomplishments.

The video shows news clips of economic doom and gloom during the last years of Crist’s tenure, with news achors highlighting record high unemployment and troubling economic indicators.

Halfway through the 2-minute spot, Scott appears, talking about how the state has turned around under his leadership.

“It’s the first time in five years that our unemployment rate has been below the national average,” Scott says on the video at a campaign-style event that took place Monday in Orlando. “Our unemployment rate is now down to 7.8 percent for January of this year."

The Department of Economic Opportunity highlighted the spot during a Cabinet meeting Tuesday.

Monica Russell, DEO's communications director, called it "our idea of how to jazz up the Cabinet meeting."

Reporters asked if Scott would be using the video as a campaign ad.

"Oh, no," she said. 

See the video here.

Times reporter Steve Bousquet contributed to this report.



PPP: Charlie Crist trouncing Rick Scott by 12 points


From Public Policy Polling, a firm that typically surveys for Democrats (Note: the poll differs from one completed last month by Democratic pollster Dave Beattie, who found Crist and Scott tied; Quinnipiac releases a survey tomorrow):

Rick Scott's approval numbers have seen no improvement over the last two months, even after his decision to allow Medicaid expansion in Florida. 33% of voters continue to approve of the job he's doing to 57% who disapprove. Although his overall numbers are the same he has seen a slight improvement with Democrats (from 21/71 to 23/69) and a slight downgrade with Republicans (from 49/38 to 46/42).

Continue reading "PPP: Charlie Crist trouncing Rick Scott by 12 points" »

PolitiFact Florida: Rep. Doug Holder's texting-while-driving stat is too high

Rep. Doug Holder, R-Venice, rattled off grim statistics in effort to persuade fellow lawmakers to approve his bill (HB 13) that would penalize texting while driving.

"Nearly 25 percent of all automobile accidents are caused by texting while driving," he said at a meeting last week.

That seemed like a lot of crashes, so PolitiFact Florida checked it out. We found this figure overestimates the number of collisions caused by texting.

Holder told us he was so focused on making eye contact with members of the committee that he took his eyes off of his notes and misquoted the stat.

Read on for our story and Truth-O-Meter rating.

Gov. Scott chides Weatherford on teacher pay raise issue

Gov. Rick Scott's top priority in the current legislative session is a  $2,500 across the board pay raise for teachers, and on Tuesday he took the gloves off and pointedly called out a fellow Republican, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, for not embracing the idea.

"In  the House, here's what I find interesting. My understanding is the speaker's against the pay raise for classroom teachers," Scott told reporters in a news conference in his office. "But in contrast, he does
across the board pay raises for state workers. Now, look, state workers deserve to be paid fairly. That's why, in my budget, I said they  should get a bonus because of unemployment coming down."

Just in  case anybody missed the point that he was putting heat on Weatherford, Scott repeated the point. "I find it interesting that the speaker's against the pay raise for classroom teachers, but he's okay with an
across the board pay raise for state workers and no performance funding
for universities," he said.

Scott and Weatherford also are at odds over Medicaid expansion, which the governor supports and the
speaker opposes. Weatherford was a featured speaker Tuesday at a Capitol  rally by Americans for Prosperity, which has criticized Scott for supporting Medicaid expansion.

-- Steve Bousquet

After series of scandals, Citizens Insurance president defends company before Cabinet

Citizens Property Insurance President Barry Gilway went before the Florida Cabinet on Tuesday to praise his team for steering the state-run company in the right direction.

The company—which has come under fire from Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers for management troubles  and lavish spending after a series of Herald/Times articles—is hoping to repair its public image.

Gilway praised the company for beginning to shrink in size and reducing the level of risk. He also batted down criticism about the level of expenses and spending at Citizens, saying that the company’s expenditures are lower than most competitors.

Still, after criticism from Scott and others about corporate expenses on everything from alcohol to strippers, Gilway acknowledged that changes were going to be made.

Some Cabinet members were clearly disturbed by the history of scandal at Citizens:

“This isn’t a fraternity, these are professionals,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi. “What part of reasonable and appropriate (spending) did they not understand?”

Bondi wanted to know what Gilway was doing to discipline the employees who had abused the corporate card.

“I can only focus on what is going forward,” said Gilway, who joined the company last June.

The questions continued.

Scott: “How many people have corporate cards? Why do you have them?”

Bondi: “Many of these employees (with troubled spending histories) are current employees, correct?”

Gilway said they are conducting a study and looking at potentially making changes for the corporate cards (nearly one in five Citizens employees have them). He told Bondi that he didn’t think it was appropriate to discipline employees for what they had done before strict guidelines were in place.

Continue reading "After series of scandals, Citizens Insurance president defends company before Cabinet" »

Doral replaces vice mayor in tense meeting

Growing tensions between Doral Mayor Luigi Boria and Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz came to a boiling point during a Monday council meeting.

A call for the removal of Ruiz from her vice mayor position was the topic that led the pot to boil over.

“In December of last year, when I nominated Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz to be vice mayor, I did it in the spirit of trying to work together with her in the hope that the past infighting that she had with the prior mayor and manager could be put to rest,” Boria said Monday night, “and that this new administration could begin fresh with a spirit of cooperation.”

It was during a March 6 special meeting that the mayor called for Ruiz’s removal by saying he no longer felt comfortable with her filling that role, and in the days following that meeting, he told The Miami Herald that Ruiz was divisive and conflictive.

All of this made for the perfect recipe for one of the most chaotic meetings Doral has seen under the Boria administration.

More from Paradise Afshar here.

Senate recognizes Larcenia Bullard in a moment of silence

Larcenia BullardThe Florida Senate honored the late Sen. Larcenia Bullard on Tuesday with a moment of silence. Bullard, 65, a Miami Democrat who retired because of term limits last year, died on Saturday.

“She’s a woman that never met a stranger,’’ said Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale. "“I guarantee you we will have key lime pie (the pie Bullard had designated the state pie.)"

Her son, Dwight, who replaced his mother in the Senate, said the moment of silence was the "toughest moment" he could ever request. 

"Sen. Larcenia Bullard for many of us was a friend and a colleague. For me she was so much more a teacher, a preacher …my number one cheerleader,’’ he said with tears. “She loved to serve. Many of us discovered service. My mother was born into it. Whether as a civil rights activist, early childhood administrator, first grade teacher, community servant and legislator.

Continue reading "Senate recognizes Larcenia Bullard in a moment of silence" »

North Miami mayor pays $8,000 elections fine

North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre has settled a case with the Florida Elections Commission for improperly reporting information on his 2011 campaign finance reports.

Carol Keys, who ran unsuccessfully against Pierre in 2011, filed a complaint with the commission alleging, among other things, that he understated the value of bus bench ads and a billboard she said he received for less than market value. She also alleged, in at least one instance, he received more than the $500 campaign contribution limit from a single donor. Keys is a vocal critic of Pierre.

The commission found portions of the complaint were credible.

Pierre “falsely reported or deliberately failed to report information” required by Florida statutes 14 times, he certified that three of his finance reports were accurate when they were not, and he accepted a contribution in excess of the $500 limit, according to the commission’s findings. The commission did not specify the source of the donation.

Pierre paid the commission $8,000 in civil penalties to settle the case.

More from Nadege Green here.

Parent-trigger bill passes second House committee

Nothing packs an education committee meeting quite like the so-called parent-trigger bill.

There was standing room only in Morris Hall on Tuesday when the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee met to discuss the proposal. The hot-button bill would enable parents to petition for dramatic changes at a failing public school, including having a charter-school company become the school's managers.

Rep. Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican and the bill's sponsor, faced tough questions from the Democrats on the subcommittee. Trujillo also faced a packed house of parents, educators and union representatives, nearly all of whom spoke out against the bill.

Their beef: the bill would enable private-education companies to take over traditional public schools.

"This legislation is not being called for from parents in Florida," said Jeff Wright, who oversees public policy advocacy for the Florida Education Association. "The fact is every credible parent group, including the Florida PTA, the NAACP and LULAC Florida, are opposed to this bill."

Three speakers stood in support: a parent; a representative from former Gov. Jeb Bush's education non-profit, the Foundation for Florida's Future; and a representatives from former D.C. Schools Chief Michelle Rhee's group, Students First.

After an hour of public testimony, the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee passed the bill on a party lines vote.

The House seems all but certain to pass the legislation. The true test will come in the Senate, where the bill died during a dramatic last-day-of-session showdown last year. The new Senate proposal, filed by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, hasn't started moving.

Gwen Margolis named Senate's Dean

Gwen MargolisSen. Gwen Margolis, a Miami Democrat and the first woman Senate president in Florida and the U.S., was recognized in a Senate ceremony today and awarded the recognition "Dean of the Senate." 

The award is given to the longest-serving Senator in the chamber. Margolis, who was Senate president from 1990-92 and is on her third stint in the Senate. She first served from 1980-92, from 2002-2008 and was re-elected again in 2010.

"When I look up at the galleries and I see women...what it said to the young women of today is you can do it. You can be whatever you want to be,'' Margolis said to applause.