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6 posts from April 20, 2013

April 20, 2013

Crist works a crowd of North Florida Democrats

He says he's not a candidate for governor -- not yet anyway. But Charlie Crist sure looked like one Friday.

"I'm seriously considering it," Crist said. "I just think Florida needs to be on a better track, and I think she will be."

In  his quest to discover how receptive grass-roots Democrats are to him, the former governor worked a crowd of several hundred Democrats in Tallahassee, one of the state's most reliably liberal areas. The occasion was a wild game dinner hosted by Jackie Pons, the elected Leon County school superintendent and long-time friend of Crist's.

Pons, a popular former high school basketball coach, had organized a rally on the day Crist infuriated many Republicans in 2010 by vetoing a controversial bill that would have tied teacher pay to student test
scores. Crist also was a featured speaker at a well-attended 2011 Pons fund-raiser in the superintendent's last race.

Crist brushed off a reporter's query about being a target-rich candidate who will be hammered with hard-hitting ads over his past flip-flops, his evolution from Republican to independent to Democrat, and his record as governor. "You're way ahead of me," Crist said. At a photographer's prompting, he gleefully took out his wallet and displayed a Democratic voter registration card. "Here it is," he said. "I'm very proud of that."

The consummate retail politician, Crist thoroughly worked a room filled with educators and posed for dozens of pictures. Among the faces in the crowd: former Sen. Al Lawson, former Rep. Curtis Richardson, lobbyists Fred Dickinson, Ron Meyer, Juhan Mixon and Steve Uhlfelder, businessman David Rancourt, lawyer Mark Logan. Most who were there were showing support for Pons, who led a successful campaign to renew a half-penny sales tax for schools last fall; Crist's appearance caught many by surprise.

Accompanying Crist in the role of travel aide was his friend Greg Truax of Tampa. It was Crist's third recent appearance at Democratic grass-roots events; the others were in Bradenton and Fort Myers.

"You have no idea how comfortable it is to be a Democrat," Crist said.

-- Steve Bousquet

Crist's coming-out party with North Florida Democrats

He says he's not a candidate for governor -- not yet anyway. But Charlie Crist sure looked like one Friday.

"I'm seriously considering it," Crist said. "I just think Florida needs to be on a better track, and I think she will be."

In  his quest to discover how receptive grass-roots Democrats are to him, the former governor worked a crowd of several hundred Democrats in Tallahassee, one of the state's most reliably liberal areas. The occasion was a wild game dinner hosted by Jackie Pons, the elected Leon County school superintendent and long-time friend of Crist's.

Pons, a popular former high school basketball coach, had organized a rally on the day Crist infuriated many Republicans in 2010 by vetoing a controversial bill that would have tied teacher pay to student test
scores. Crist also was a featured speaker at a well-attended 2011 Pons fund-raiser in the superintendent's last race.

Crist brushed off a reporter's query about being a target-rich candidate who will be hammered with hard-hitting ads over his past flip-flops, his evolution from Republican to independent to Democrat, and his record as governor. "You're way ahead of me," Crist said. At a photographer's prompting, he gleefully took out his wallet and displayed a Democratic voter registration card. "Here it is," he said. "I'm very proud of that."

The consummate retail politician, Crist thoroughly worked a room filled with educators and posed for dozens of pictures. Among the faces in the crowd: former Sen. Al Lawson, former Rep. Curtis Richardson, lobbyists Fred Dickinson, Ron Meyer, Juhan Mixon and Steve Uhlfelder, businessman David Rancourt, lawyer Mark Logan. Most who were there were showing support for Pons, who led a successful campaign to renew a half-penny sales tax for schools last fall; Crist's appearance caught many by surprise.

Accompanying Crist in the role of travel aide was his friend Greg Truax of Tampa. It was Crist's third recent appearance at Democratic grass-roots events; the others were in Bradenton and Fort Myers.

"You have no idea how comfortable it is to be a Democrat," Crist said.

-- Steve Bousquet

Moderate Republicans, Hispanics could swing House position on Medicaid expansion

An excerpt from a story published in Sunday's paper on the House's refusal to accept federal dollars for Medicaid expansion and how Republicans from moderate districts and Hispanics could swing the vote:

TV ads produced by SEIU Florida, a labor union, accuse Rep. Kathleen Peters of "putting politics ahead of working families" in opposing Medicaid expansion.

Peters is among a half-dozen GOP lawmakers being targeted in ads in Democratic-leaning districts, said SEIU Florida President Monica Russo. Russo said they were chosen because they are Republicans who should be most willing to accept federal money.

Peters' district supported President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink in the 2010.

The problem is, Peters said, she hasn't made up her mind how she'll vote.

"To be just filling the airwaves with tabloid sensationalism when we haven't even taken a vote on that issue to me is shameful," she said.

Other targets include Reps. Manny Diaz Jr. and Erik Fresen in South Florida, Bill Hager and Gayle Harrell on the east coast of the state and Ross Spano in Hillsborough County.

Along with House lawmakers in moderate districts, supporters of expanding Florida's health care system are targeting Hispanic lawmakers who could be swayed.

Continue reading "Moderate Republicans, Hispanics could swing House position on Medicaid expansion" »

Atwater raises questions about House's transparency position

House leaders returned on Saturday without budging on their proposed budget conforming bill that will exempt Cabinet agencies from the state transparency web site managed by Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. It immediately raised questions about whether there is another agenda at work.

Atwater's office has already uploaded 38,000 contracts for the public to view, including hundreds from each of the Cabinet agencies, on his transparency website,  known as the Florida Accountability Contract Tracking System. He told the Herald/Times Saturday "there have been no complaints. They are all pleasantly participating. I'm not sure why we take a step backwards."

Rep. Clay Ingram, R-Pensacola, chairman of the House Government Operations and Appropriations Subcommitee, said Friday that he wanted to only upload data from the governor's office to the site as a first step.

Atwater, however, said he considers it "a step backwards" since the Cabinet agencies are already participating. Under the House plan, all contracts handled by the Department of Financial Services, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Attorney General and the judicial branch would be exempt from disclosure.

Continue reading "Atwater raises questions about House's transparency position" »

Medical-pot Obama-donor John Morgan to hold 4/20 call at 4:20 about 420

@MarcACaputo

John Morgan, the super-Democratic donor and trial lawyer who's heading a medical marijuana ballot initiative in Florida is hosting a conference call today about the issue at 4:20 p.m.

Normally, that's not worthy of a blog. But you get points for being clever.

One marijuana nickname: 420. Today's 4/20. And the call is, guess what time.....um....I forgot.....

Now I'm hungry.

Oh, yeah, the conference call number: 1-800-954-1053

Higher ed budget takes shape, but House and Senate disagree on tuition

The House and Senate are reaching a consensus on many higher education funding issues. But neither side is yet budging on tuition: the House wants an increase and the Senate does not.

Both chambers have agreed on allocating $65 million for state university performance funding. They also would send $15 million each to Florida State University and the University of Florida for being top-ranked, "pre-eminent" universities. Another $15 million will go to UF to create an institute that improves online education.

Initially, the Senate had not budgeted the online education money or as much in performance funding. House education budget Chairman Erik Fresen, R-Miami, called the Senate's offer "significant" and said the two sides were nearing an overall agreement.

Despite some early hand-wringing, $22 million for Florida Polytechnic University is in the budget. Senate education budget chief Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, initially put Polytechnic funding "below the line" because he didn't receive satisfactory answers on how the money would be used.

The one big area of disagreement that remains is tuition increases. Galvano said the upper chamber was "holding the line" that tuition should not be increased.

Continue reading "Higher ed budget takes shape, but House and Senate disagree on tuition" »