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19 posts from March 22, 2013

March 22, 2013

DWS: Obama’s Israel trip puts lie to “utter fabrication of Republican Jews”


Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Broward congresswoman, was at President Obama’s side during his trip to Israel and sounded ready to do a victory lap.

The president’s Israel trip brought enthusiastic crowds and positive coverage. And he’s the first sitting president to be awarded the nation’s top civilian honor, the Medal of Distinction.

So what happened to all the talk about tensions between Israel and Obama?

Wasserman Schultz: "Those criticisms were always nothing more than utter fabrications by Republican Jews in America who never supported Barack Obama and did everything they could to defeat him. And they were unsuccessful because the Jewish community in America overwhelmingly supports the ideals and values of the Democratic Party and strongly supports Barack Obama….”

“It would be hard for me to overemphasize the enthusiasm and warmth in which President Obama was received here – and also just in observing the interaction between him and Prime Minister Netanyahu, their back and forth, their interactions. Last night at the state dinner I sat two feet from them. They were engaged the whole evening speaking to each other – it was such a shot in the arm for our relationship and the friendship between our two countries.”

Continue reading "DWS: Obama’s Israel trip puts lie to “utter fabrication of Republican Jews”" »

Scott: Citizens' raises, claims of underpaid execs, 'simply ridiculous'

Gov. Rick Scott has more tough words for Citizens Property Insurance, after the company continued to make the argument that their executives and employees are underpaid and deserving of huge raises paid out last year.

Here’s the latest statement from Scott, released Friday:

“Citizens’ claims that they need to pay their executives more because of their history of controversy is simply ridiculous. A few weeks ago, I asked Citizens to give back outrageous pay raises they doled out to their executives last year. I also said that Citizens needs to have per diems that match other state employees and they should not be reimbursed for alcohol. Citizens needs immediate reform and that is why I called for the creation of an Inspector General. They must be responsible stewards of the taxpayer funds that back them.”

The board at Citizens met Friday and some board members were none-too-happy with new austerity measures put into place after Scott’s Inspector General questioned how employees were spending money on luxurious business travel and gourmet meals. Board members said calls for lower spending and salaries were driven by political interests and media coverage.

The board did not move to reverse the salary hikes, as Scott requested, and complained about new caps on spending for meals that bring Citizens in line with state law governing state workers.

Our blog post on that meeting is below:

Continue reading "Scott: Citizens' raises, claims of underpaid execs, 'simply ridiculous'" »

Rick Scott emerges as critic of House campaign finance bill

TALLAHASSEE — A year after redistricting made legislative districts more competitive, the Florida House on Friday passed a campaign finance bill that raises contribution limits and appears to give incumbents a political advantage.

The 75-39 vote was mostly along party lines. Democrats say the measure — which raises the cap on political contributions and lets incumbents roll-over $20,000 toward the next election — gives Republicans more fundraising leverage because they control the Legislature.

"I can't support this blatant, brazen incumbent-protection plan," said Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg. "It ensures a small group of people will run for office."

Gov. Rick Scott's office criticized raising the cap on Friday, which put him at odds again with House Speaker Will Weatherford, who supports the bill. Earlier this week, the two clashed on supporting Scott's request for a $2,500-across-the-board teacher pay increase.

"Every time I've met with him, he's told me that he supports our bill, so that's news to me," Weatherford told reporters. "I think when he sees the wisdom of what we're trying to accomplish, he'll come around."

Read story here.

House passes Everglades bill that pleases Governor, sugar, environmentalists

The Florida House voted unanimously on a bill aimed at protecting the Everglades on Friday.

Apparently, Gov. Rick Scott, an environmental group and the sugar industry are all happy with the bill, which deals with what has been a highly contentious issue.

Here is an early roundup of reaction from stakeholders:

Statement from Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, Regarding Action on HB 7065 & SB 768

Tallahassee, Fla. – The following statement was released today by Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, regarding action taken on House Bill 7065 and Senate Bill 768:

“The Everglades Foundation is pleased by today’s passage of HB 7065 by the full House, which will ensure continued revenue for protecting America’s Everglades, while also protecting the 1993 Statement of Principles that guide Florida’s restoration efforts.  We also thank members of the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee for their support earlier this week of CS/SB 768, which mirrors HB 7065.

“HB 7065 and SB 768 protect water quality standards, provide a reliable source of funding for implementing the state’s Water Quality Plan and bring together all the stakeholders involved in the future of the Everglades.  Protection and restoration of the Everglades has historically been based on compromise and many parties working together, and I believe this legislation is further proof of that.

“We now look forward to working together with the Florida Senate to usher CS/SB 768 to the Senate floor for full approval, and also working with both chambers to ensure that needed funding is secured to implement the necessary projects and initiatives to continue to restore and protect America’s Everglades.”

Continue reading "House passes Everglades bill that pleases Governor, sugar, environmentalists" »

President Obama's Miami-bound March 29 to talk economy


President Obama is hitting the non-campaign-season campaign-like trail to stump on the economy in Miami, according to White House officials. He's scheduled to appear March 29. Further details (times, locations) will be posted as soon as they're available.

Who got what from Allied Veterans and their affiliates

@Mary Ellen Klas @Marc Caputo

Allied Veterans of the World and its affiliates gave more than $1.4 million to local, state and federal candidates and their related political committees between 2008 and 2012. The state Republican and state Democratic parties got the bulk of contributions, but so did plenty of lawmakers.

In all, Allied Vets showered 175 political committees and political candidates with contributions. The totals reflect a combination of funds collected by candidates in their individual or main political committees, known as Committees of Continuous Existence. Allied Vets and its affiliates face state and federal racketeering, illegal gambling and money laundering charges. Here's the Herald/Times list

Sources: Operation Reveal the Deal Master Affidavit, Operation Reveal the Deal exhibits, Florida Division of Elections, Federal Elections Commission. 

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Weatherford's pension bill passes House, but path in Senate unclear

TALLAHASSEE — House Republicans on Friday voted to close Florida's pension system to new state and local government workers, forcing them instead into 401(k)-style investment plans that would shift the financial risk away from taxpayers.

The proposal, a priority of House Speaker Will Weatherford, passed along party lines 73-43 after nearly four hours of debate Thursday and Friday. It now moves to Senate, where members have yet to fully embrace the dramatic change.

The legislation, HB 7011, would prohibit government employees, police and firefighters and teachers across the state hired after Jan. 1, 2014, from enrolling in the state's pension fund.

It does not affect the Florida Retirement System's current 1 million members.

Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said changes are necessary to prevent the $132 billion pension fund from going bankrupt.

"If we do nothing then the state of Florida will continue to spend money that should be going to education and health care, and it's got to be spent on things like a broken pension system," said Weatherford, who posted a message on his Twitter account saying that pensions have gone the way of Betamax, a defunct video cassette format.

Read more here.


Politicos sweat through Capitol bootcamp

While most folks were fast asleep or starting to hit their snooze buttons, a small group of politicos were getting sweaty as they ran up and down the steps of the Old Capitol.

They had a Tampa Republican to blame. Rep. Dana Young asked Shannon Colavecchio to relocate one of her regular bootcamps to the Capitol complex during this year's legislative session. Colavecchio works in public relations by day, but on nights, early mornings and weekends she is chief butt-kicker at Badass Fitness.

The Capitol Badass Bootcamp held Wednesdays at 6 a.m. has been growing every week. Sixteen people, including this Times/Herald reporter, attended this week's workout.

Young and her session roommate, Rep. Jeanette Nunez, R-Miami, are regulars. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater attended once. Rep. Shevrin Jones, a freshman Democrat from West Park, has promised to attend next week.

"I'm hoping we might get the speaker out one morning," Young said.

Most of the attendees work in politics, either as lawmakers, aides, flaks or lobbyists. But there's not much discussion going on, just panting and push-ups.

Continue reading "Politicos sweat through Capitol bootcamp" »

Citizens Insurance board bucks Scott on salary increases

After Gov. Rick Scott blasted Citizens Property Insurance Corp. for handing out huge raises to top employees, the company’s board responded Friday by highlighting how underpaid the company’s execs are compared to their counterparts at private insurance companies.

Scott said last month that the raises—which were as large as $31,000 and went to some of the same executives who had abused the company credit card last year—were “ridiculous” should be paid back.

Citizens—the government-run insurer of 1.3 million—thinks differently.

The company said its low compensation—and negative press about executive overspending, corporate misconduct, poor contracting and unpopular rate hikes for homeowners—have made it difficult to keep and hire talent.

For example, Citizens was recently looking to hire a new vice president of underwriting—a position that has seen two resignations in the last three years, including one that followed allegations of drunken sexual harassment at a company event (the charges were not substantiated). One candidate decided against joining Citizens because of the cloud of controversy surrounding the company.

“I was aware that Citizens had some challenges this past year, however; I did not realize the extent of those challenges and the scrutiny of which its leadership has come under,” the candidate told Citizens in February. “While I appreciate a challenge this does not seem to be a good fit for me.”

Continue reading "Citizens Insurance board bucks Scott on salary increases" »

Dolphins: We're 'willing and interested' in paying for stadium vote

Via Adam Beasley

The Miami Dolphins are “willing and interested” in reiumbursing Miami-Dade County for any costs incurred by the stadium referendum, planned tentatively for early May, team CEO Mike Dee exclusively told The Miami Herald.

“If the opportunity presents itself to reimburse the county for any and all costs for the special election, we are supportive and want to do that,” Dee said. “It’s been our position since Day 1.”

On Thursday, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez asked the Florida Division of Elections to opine on whether the Dolphins could pay for the potential referendum, which the county elections department estimates would cost $3 million to $5 million.

Read more here