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8 posts from June 10, 2013

June 10, 2013

HuffPo finds signs of Marco Rubio double-dealing on immigration reform

Huffington Post story on Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's behind-the-scenes moves:

Rubio had privately urged fellow Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) to remain quiet about her support for immigration reform, in hopes that Senate negotiators would amend the bill's border security measures to win her vote, according to three sources, including one Republican Senate aide. Ayotte, a moderate-leaning New Hampshire Republican, decided nevertheless to announce her support for the measure on Sunday, becoming the first Republican outside of the group to back the reform legislation.

Rubio "has not been telling them to vote no," said one Senate Democratic aide familiar with negotiations. "He has been apparently holding people back from declaring support for the bill, while at the same time saying the bill needs changes in order to garner support. My understanding is he told Sen. Ayotte's office to hold back, but she didn't care."

A Republican Senate source confirmed Rubio's lobbying of Ayotte, saying it was "not the first time" Rubio had done something not aligned with the gang of eight’s interests.

More here

House District 2 special election ballots stolen

A special election is currently underway in House  District 2, and Republican candidate Mike Hill of Pensacola is expected to coast into office. But now there is a fresh mystery to add a bit of intrigue to the race.

Two safes containing early-voting and absentee ballots are missing, the Pensacola News-Journal reported today. Santa Rosa County officials say the safes containing 35 ballots were stolen.

Here is more from the News-Journal:

Two safes containing early-voting and absentee ballots for the House District 2 special election were stolen over the weekend from the South Santa Rosa Service Center, authorities said.

Santa Rosa Supervisor of Elections Tappie Villane said two absentee ballots and 33 early-voting ballots that were cast on Friday and Saturday at the U.S. 98 office in Midway are missing. An employee discovered that the safes were missing when they went in this morning to pick up the ballots for early voting, which ended on Saturday, Villane said.

A glass side door was pried open, and the burglars also cut a fiber-optic cable for the building’s communication lines.

No arrests have been made, officials said, though investigators have security camera surveillance footage that they are reviewing.

Read more here.

Movers & Shakers

Former Romney spokesman new press secretary for the Republican Party of Florida

 Susan Hepworth, who served as director of the national traveling press for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign, is the new press secretary and deputy communications director for the Republican Party of Florida.

The Kansas City native traveled full time with former Gov. Romney and the press corp during his race for president.

During the 2010 election cycle, she directed the day-to-day political operations at the RNC. Prior to that she was at Majority Strategies, a mail firm in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Hepworth began her political career in 2007 in Iowa on Romney’s first presidential bid right after graduating from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism.

“I graduated on a Sunday, drove to Des Moines on Monday and I started working on the campaign on Tuesday,” said Hepworth, who started her new job June 7. “And that’s been my life.”

Winsor new state solicitor general

Allen Winsor succeeds Timothy Osterhaus as Florida’s solicitor general,  the state government’s top appellate lawyer. Osterhaus was appointed to the 1st District Court of Appeal May 20th.

Winsor, 36,  has been the principal deputy solicitor general since January. Prior to that, he was a member of the Tallahassee office of GrayRobinson, most recently as a shareholder. He’s a 2002 graduate of the University Of Florida College Of Law, where he was editor-in-chief of the Florida Law Review.

The Florida solicitor general represents the state throughout Florida's appellate courts and in the U.S. Supreme Court. The solicitor general also serves as the Richard W. Ervin Eminent Scholar Chair and a visiting professor of law at Florida State University College of Law.

Continue reading "Movers & Shakers" »

Scott's campaign against university tuition increase crosses line, some say

Gov. Rick Scott is meeting with universities one by one, asking leaders to reject an automatic 1.7 percent tuition increase. Not only are schools declining his request, but some higher education observers are once again accusing Scott of crossing the line. Here is an excerpt from the story in Tuesday's paper:

Seeking to offset an automatic 1.7 percent tuition increase, Gov. Rick Scott is meeting with university leaders one by one and lobbying them to cut tuition rates by an equal amount next year.

It's not working.

The University of Florida and Florida State University boards of trustees voted Friday to reject the governor's offer. Other university leaders have signalled they could do the same this week. And some, like the University of South Florida, want guidance from the state Board of Governors before making a decision.

It's a big loss for Scott, who had all-but-promised no tuition increases next year and who directly or indirectly appoints a majority of university trustees. But university officials, supported by House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, say they need additional revenues to begin to compensate for the losses generated by the downturn in the economy and state budget cuts.

"No one likes to raise tuition, but I think the essence for us as a governing board is to make sure we use these dollars wisely, make sure that we deliver value," said FSU trustee Ed Burr.

Scott has called raising tuition a tax increase — even though he approved an 8 percent tuition increase in 2011 — and has been making his case to anyone who will listen. University of West Florida President Judy Bense said she didn't feel pressured during a meeting with Scott last week, though she didn't make any promises.

Continue reading "Scott's campaign against university tuition increase crosses line, some say" »

Bill to preempt local control of 'sick time' reaches governor

A bill that may serve as a litmus test on Gov. Rick Scott's view of government reached his desk today, giving the governor 15 days to decide whether to sign or reject HB 655, which preempts local control over issues such as "sick time" and wages and replaces it with regulation from Tallahassee.

The Florida Legislature passed the measure largely along party lines as Democrats opposed and the Republican-controlled leadership of the House and Senate embraced the view of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and other business-backed groups. They argued that leaving living wage regulation to local governments was bad for business.

Since then, a bi-partisan stream of opposition has reached the governor's desk, particularly from Miami where Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado joined with other local government officials and labor union reps to urge the governor to veto the measure. 

It's also a classic test of political consistency. When it comes to Washington v. Tallahassee, many of the advocates of the bill say they prefer government closest to the people. But when it's Tallahassee v. local government, the argument changes -- usually depending on the business lobby. 


Fasano threatens emergency meeting of board over condo insurance charges

Rep. Mike Fasano is threatening legislative action if the director of the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund doesn't back down from a ruling that Fasano says could cost condomium owners throughout the state thousands of dollars in rate hikes.

Fasano is challenging an interpretation of a law by Jack Nicholson, executive director of the CAT fund, and on Monday asked Nicholson to bring the issue before the governor and Cabinet or he will ask legislative leaders to let him call a special meeting of the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee, which Fasano chairs.

Nicholson has said that he believes the CAT fund must disqualify from its coverage any condominium buildings in which units are being rented for more than six months of the year. The state-run reinsurer offers lower cost coverage for residential property than is often available on the free market but, Nicholson believes, state law doesn't consider rental units that are rented for more than six months of the year as residential coverage. 

Fasano, R-New Port Richey, disagreed. In a back and forth last week, Fasano challenged Nicholson and Nicholson responded on Friday. Unsatisfied with the answer, Fasano sent another letter Monday threatening more extreme action. Download Fasano June 10

Continue reading "Fasano threatens emergency meeting of board over condo insurance charges" »

Fired trooper who 'cut breaks' to lawmakers gets break of his own: Hearing officer says he should get his job back

A state hearing officer on Monday ruled that the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles should not have fired Trooper Charles Swindle for his actions in citing two state legislators for non-existing violations. Hearing officer Gregg Morton said that by pulling over two lawmakers, Swindle "was in a no-win situation," and concluded that the patrolman should serve a three-week unpaid suspension and be reinstated to his full-time position with back pay as a member of the Florida Highway Patrol.

In his 22-page decision, Morton agreed with the state that Swindle violated two agency rules in the stops involving state Reps. Charles McBurney and Mike Clelland on Interstate 10 in Madison last November. But the officer concluded that Swindle made snap decisions and that he was guided by a long-standing unofficial policy of leniency toward legislators at the FHP.

"Swindle's particular actions in this case were heavily influenced by the Agency's unwritten policy toward traffic stops involving legislators," Morton wrote. "Under these circumstances, the Agency bears some responsibility for Swindle's actions and, thereore, I regard his violations as less severe than they might otherwise be viewed."

Morton wrote: "I believe Trooper Swindle was in a no-win situation having pulled over two legislators for speeding. In attempting to make a quick decision to resolve the situation, he made a mistake in his method of showing leniency in accordance with the Agency's unwritten policy." The hearing officer also noted that Swindle's personnel file is mostly glowing, and called him "an accomplished and otherwise admiral employee."

The decision is a significant defeat for the highway safety agency, which is under the direction of Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet. Last week, highway safety agency director Julie Jones denied knowledge of any such unwritten policy at the patrol.

Swindle was fired March 15 after six-and-a-half years as a trooper after an internal investigation concluded that he had opted not to cite McBurney or Clelland for speeding, but instead gave both lawmakers less expensive citations. McBurney was cited for no proof of insurance and Clelland for no proof of insurance and no registration.

Technically, the hearing officer's recommendation must still be approved by the three members of the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC), but in most cases commissioners ratify the findings of the officer who actually heard the testimony. Coicidentally, one of the three PERC commissioners, Mike Hogan, is a former Republican legislator from Jacksonville.

-- Steve Bousquet 

Rick Scott's certificate of campaigning: school-kid attaboy letters


Scott certificateDear [First Name],

Congratulations! I am so proud of the hard work you have done this year. Through your outstanding efforts and the outstanding work of your teachers, you achieved a perfect score on:

Bearing the name and signature of Gov. Rick Scott, form letters like this are soon to arrive by express mail at each of Florida’s 67 school districts. School workers are to fill in the blanks and personalize certificates, which are to be sent out with report cards to students who did well on standardized assessment tests.

Just in time for Scott’s reelection efforts.

There’s no shortage of eye-rolling and grumbling among educators.

None can recall Florida’s self-styled education governor, Jeb Bush, launching a campaign like this, even though the Republican made student achievement a hallmark of his campaigns, his eight-year term and his ongoing concern to this day.

Bush didn’t need to send out letters and certificates like this.

Scott does.

Scott’s high-profile interest in education stands in inverse proportion to his cellar-dwelling polling numbers.

Column here