« May 20, 2013 | Main | May 22, 2013 »

6 posts from May 21, 2013

May 21, 2013

Good taxpayer deal or 'get-rich quick funding scheme' for $110k Rick Scott donor?


TALLAHASSEE -- Two months after contributing $110,000 to Gov. Rick Scott’s reelection campaign, an upstart property insurance company is likely to reap a $52 million windfall, paid from the coffers of Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

Sitting on a record cash surplus of $6.4 billion, Citizens is hoping to ink a special deal Wednesday with Heritage Property and Casualty Insurance Company, a St. Petersburg firm that opened for business nine months ago and made significant political contributions.

Heritage has donated more than $140,000 to Scott and the Republican Party of Florida in recent months, and spent tens of thousands more lobbying the Legislature. Now it’s in line to get special treatment from Florida’s state-run insurance firm in the form of an unusual and lucrative “reinsurance quota share” agreement.

If the Citizens board of governors approves on Wednesday, the state-run insurer will pay Heritage up to $52 million to take over 60,000 policies, about $866 a piece.

“It’s an opportunity to get this deal done prior to the next hurricane season,” said Citizens CFO Sharon Binnun, defending the multimillion-dollar payment. “It’s an opportunity for Citizens to get another 50,000 policies off the books before another hurricane season.”

The proposal is the latest effort in Citizens’ controversial and aggressive campaign to reduce risk and revive the private insurance market.

Proponents say the push to shrink Citizens will pay off when the next hurricane hits, saving consumers from having to bail out the state-run insurer. Critics see the campaign cash and lobbying by Heritage as evidence that Citizens and Scott are tapping the insurer’s $6.4 billion surplus for special giveaways to politically-connected companies.

“Citizens’ board continues to fall prey to Tallahassee lobbyists who cook up these get rich funding schemes,” said Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami.

More here

Marco Rubio files amendment to punish IRS agents who leak taxpayer docs

From a press release:

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today filed an amendment to the 2013 Farm Bill that would punish Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials who abuse their power by violating the First Amendment rights of the American people. The amendment is based on similar legislation, the “Taxpayer Nondiscrimination & Protection Act of 2013”, introduced by Rubio last week in the Senate and by Congressman Mike Turner (R-OH) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The amendment provides for mandatory termination and criminal liability for IRS employees who knowingly violate the constitutional rights of a taxpayer. The need for the legislation is demonstrated by current reports of the IRS deliberately targeting conservative organizations, and the amendment expressly states that political speech and political expression are protected rights.

“This IRS scandal has destroyed the American people’s confidence in this government institution and exposed the dangers of a large, unaccountable government operating under a President and administration that routinely intimidate and harass their political opponents,” said Rubio. “With every new twist and turn in this IRS scandal, one can’t help but think that this is the type of thing that only occurs in third world countries, not in the United States of America.

“Those responsible for this political targeting at the IRS should face all appropriate punishment available under current law, and all organizations and individuals who engage in political speech and expression should be protected against this kind of discriminatory behavior in the future,” added Rubio.

To view the amendment, click here.

Bill Nelson questions "social welfare" designation of nonprofit political groups


The IRS' tea party-targeting scandal got its second congressional hearing today, this time in the Senate Finance Committee, where top Democrats like Florida Sen. Bill Nelson felt as if the tax agency was letting too many political groups wrongly hide behind nonprofit status for "social welfare" groups.

Of course, the IRS tried to stop it but wound up profiling some conservative groups. And that runs afoul of the agency's efforts to remain nonpolitical.

Republicans and conservatives smell a political cover-up.

The IRS worker at the center of the case, Lois Lerner, is going to plead the Fifth Amendment.

The American Spectator notes that President Obama met with an IRS union chief the day before the agency began targeting nonprofit groups for review.

Obama, incidentally, said he knew nothing of the incident until it was publicized. And the Treasure Department, so far, said it was only advised of what happened once an Inspector General began examining the case.

During today's hearing, Nelson wanted to know why the IRS didn't do more.

"How could you all in the IRS allow the tax breaks funded basically by the taxpayer [spent] on these political campaign expenditures?" Nelson asked. "Can you all shed some light, please?"

"What we've seen in the course of the last two campaign cycles is enormous money running through through these c4 organizations...I understand the king’s English, and it says the promotion of social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns. Now, how you interpret that to say that that does allow some intervention in political campaigns is beyond me.”

Gov signs elections law fix, reversing GOP changes and ending early primary

Gov. Rick Scott has finished the fix of the flawed election law that relegated Florida to a late-night joke in 2012 by signing an elections clean-up bill passed on the final day of the legislative session.

The measure, signed by Scott late Monday before he left for a trade mission to Chile, reverses several provisions implemented in 2011 by GOP lawmakers in anticipation of the 2012 presidential election.

Those changes, criticized by Democrats as an attempt to suppress votes for President Barack Obama, limited the early voting that the president’s campaign capitalized on in 2008. The 2011 law also prevented early voting on the Sunday before Election Day and prohibited voters, particularly students, from changing their voting address at the polls.

League of Women Voters of Florida President Deirdre Macnab hailed the reforms, saying “it will go a long way in repairing the damage done by the 2011 voter suppression bill.”

Continue reading "Gov signs elections law fix, reversing GOP changes and ending early primary" »

After Dolphins lose Super Bowl bids, Weatherford defends Legislature's non-deal on stadium

After the Miami Dolphins lost their bid to host Super Bowl 50 or 51, House Speaker Will Weatherford took to his blog to defend the Legislature's decision not to pass a bill providing up to $389 million in taxpayer support for an upgraded stadium.

Weatherford said the Dolphins stadium deal had "three strikes against it" and that it didn't stand a chance. 

"Even with the millions of dollars being spent, the referendum was going down," he wrote. "The voters spoke…and so did the Legislature."

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross put out a blistering statement after the legislative session ended earlier this year, blasting Weatherford for not hearing the bill. The Dolphins believed that an upgraded stadium would have helped the team win a bid to host Super Bowl 50 or 51.

Here's Weatherford's blog:    

Not to mix sports analogies, but the Dolphins Stadium deal had three strikes against it:

  • First, it failed to pass the House Appropriations Committee, which was its last committee of reference. House Appropriations Chair Seth McKeel said on April 17th that he had no plans to hear the Dolphins bill.
  • Secondly, the bill didn’t have support from the local delegation.  According to Representative Carlos Trujillo, “I like the Dolphins, I like the football team, but I don’t think it’s the best use of our public funds.”
  • Finally, the local referendum was rejected by Miami-Dade voters with 57 percent of the vote.

Even with the millions of dollars being spent, the referendum was going down.  The voters spoke…and so did the Legislature. The Dolphins are a great Florida team, and I hope the leadership will focus their energy on constructive and collaborative solutions. Now, let’s all support our Dolphins getting to the Super Bowl this year.

Miami-Dade commissioner upset over release of Dolphins stadium referendum vote tally


Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz was under the impression that the incomplete results of the short-lived referendum regarding the Miami Dolphins' stadium would be kept secret.

So when he voted in the Sweetwater city election, he said he left blank the question asking voters to fund part of $350 million renovation to Sun Life Stadium. Miami-Dade canceled the referendum due to legislative inaction in Tallahassee -- after the ballots had been printed and absentee and early voting had begun.

But the day after the May 14 election, the county released a vote tally showing the referendum had been failing at the polls. The elections department was complying with public records requests. Vote counts can only be suppressed by a court order.

But Diaz was still upset.

"I feel like a disenfranchised voter for the first time in my life," he said at a commission meeting Tuesday. "We had our rights taken away by not being allowed to vote."

The vote tally, despite being a partial count of an incomplete election, was "broadcasted," said Diaz, who supported the Dolphins' effort to raise the mainland county hotel-tax rate to finance some of the stadium upgrades.

He acknowledged that there was nothing he could do but vented to his colleagues and county staff anyway.

"There's not supposed to be an outcome," Diaz said.