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12 posts from October 3, 2013

October 03, 2013

As storm nears, Scott declares emergency in 18 counties

Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive director Thursday declaring a state of emergency in 18 North Florida counties, from Madison on the east to Escambia on the west, in anticipation of Tropical Storm Karen. The other counties are Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Holmes, Washington, Bay, Gulf, Calhoun, Jackson, Franklin, Liberty, Gadsden, Wakulla, Leon, Jefferson and Taylor. Karen is churning in the Gulf of Mexico and could strengthen into a hurricane before making landfall. Current tracks have the storm making landfall from Panama City, Fla., to Grand Isle, La.

-- Steve Bousquet

Florida's 20-year-old Bo Johnson saga gets Massachusetts investigator into hot water

From the Boston Globe:

A former Bally casino executive helping to investigate gambling applicants in Massachusetts, to weed out anyone of questionable character, was himself named in an investigation by New Jersey regulators and accused of making “evasive, equivocal, and incomplete” statements in connection with official inquiries into payments Bally made to a Florida politician.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement accused retired FBI agent Bernard Murphy, who became chief compliance officer at the former Bally Entertainment Corp., in 1999 of misleading investigators in a probe of Bally’s payments to Bolley “Bo” Johnson, a former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. Bally paid Johnson about $240,000 during a mid-1990s push to expand gambling in Florida, according to New Jersey’s investigative report.

Murphy, who was not accused of a crime, worked for Massachusetts as an agent of Michael & Carroll, a consulting firm hired by the state Gaming Commission in 2012.

Continue reading "Florida's 20-year-old Bo Johnson saga gets Massachusetts investigator into hot water" »

Education department schedules Common Core hearings

The state Department of Education has scheduled three public meetings on the controversial Common Core State Standards.

“Florida’s families deserve rigorous, clear standards that will prepare our students for success in college and career,” state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart wrote in a statement. “We look forward to the public’s input, especially from teachers, students and their parents who are currently using these standards in their classrooms, to ensure that they meet our state’s high expectations.”

The schedule is below.

Continue reading "Education department schedules Common Core hearings" »

Marco Rubio to Obama: don't get tricked by 'evil liars' of Iran


Transcript from today's Foreign Relations Committee where Sen. Marco Rubio expressed concerns about negotiating with Iran

"Senator Rubio: I think in any negotiation the first thing we have to understand is:  Who are you dealing with? Because I think that tells you a lot about the parameters of a negotiation and where it can head. So here’s who I think we’re dealing with. First, I think we’re dealing with a country run by a bunch of liars, because this is a country that’s gone around saying their program is peaceful and they will never develop nuclear weapons. And yet there are reams of open-sourced reporting in the media about the fact that multiple times in the past they have had an aggressive nuclear program. I don’t think anyone in the world now looks at what they’re doing and concludes that they’re not trying to build a capacity for weaponized nuclear capability.

Continue reading "Marco Rubio to Obama: don't get tricked by 'evil liars' of Iran" »

Stewart: "Money course" could cost as little as $139K

Days after a coalition of bankers and economists called on Florida lawmakers to mandate a one-semester course in financial literacy, state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart issued a report saying the course could cost as little as $138,944 over five years.

To keep costs low, school systems would have to use free online software.

Districts could also opt to buy textbooks for each student enrolled in the course. But that would bump the price tag up to $12.9 million over five years, according to the report.

Mike Bell, executive director of the Florida Council for Economic Education, said the analysis proves that a so-called "money course" would be cost effective.

"This is going to be the best money the state will ever spend preparing students for the real world," Bell wrote in a statement. "We have the data -- students graduating with a required money course under their belt have less debt, more money to take healthy risks, and contribute more back into the economy."

Earlier this year, Florida lawmakers opted to integrate financial literacy principles into the state education standards. They asked Stewart to explore the costs creating of separate, one-half credit course dedicated entirely to the topic.

Experts got together to discuss the idea in August.
In the report, Stewart notes that 14 states, including New York and New Jersey, already require a stand-alone course in financial literacy.

Republican governor's 'comeback' effort snubs Rick Scott in first round


As Washington continues to sink deeper into the mire of partisan dysfunction, the Republican Governor's Association on Wednesday launched a television ad campaign aimed at promoting five governors they tout as "driving the American comeback."

The first round of the RGA-funded ads focus on Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. Absent from the list: Gov. Rick Scott, whose claim is that Florida has outpaced the nation in job growth.

Gail Gitcho, RGA communications director, said the fact that Scott was not included in the initial list of governors is because they haven't had time to interview him yet to shoot the ad and there are 30 Republican governors.

"We are looking forward to highlighting him,'' Gitcho said. "He is one of the best governors that we have in the entire country. We haven't been able to schedule a shoot yet. You're reading too much. It's not a snub at all. Gov. Scott is one of the best governors we have in the country. What he has done for Florida is incredible and we will highlight his successes."  

Continue reading "Republican governor's 'comeback' effort snubs Rick Scott in first round" »

Contingent of Floridians plead to Congress to help troubled Lake O region


Florida’s top environmental regulator joined a contingent of state legislators and local officials on Thursday to demand that the  federal government turn over the money for Everglades clean-up, and release the reins on Lake Okeechobee to let Florida fix the polluted system that is destroying ecosystems.

At a four-hour hearing on the issue -- completed before the shots were fired in DC -- Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard urged Congress to send Florida a check for the clean-up efforts in the form of a block grant and turn over management to the local water management districts.

“Fortunately, the water management district doesn’t have 200 years of regulations piled up on top of one another so they’re able to move a little faster,’’ Vinyard said at a hearing hosted by by freshmen Reps. Trey Radel, R-Fort Myers and Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter.

Continue reading "Contingent of Floridians plead to Congress to help troubled Lake O region" »

Group releases ad critical of Scott's voter purge

Just in time for the launching of a five-day road tour to explain how a purge of non-citizens will be conducted, the Democratic-allied American Bridge PAC released a video to undermine the whole effort.

Dems say Scott's latest voter purge driven by politics

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant said it was pure politics that was driving Gov. Rick Scott to push for a second purge of non-citizens from voter rolls.

“What I say to Rick Scott is if your victory depends on a voter purge, then you’re not fit to govern and you don’t deserve a second term,” Wasserman Schultz said.

“This is all about suppressing minority voters and shows how out of touch he is,” Tant said.

The comments were made during a Thursday morning conference call with reporters about two hours before Scott’s Secretary of State, Ken Detzner, held the first of five public meetings with supervisors of elections and voters from around the state to discuss how the next purge will be conducted.

A first attempt to remove non-citizens last year was impaired by faulty data that disqualified some eligible voters while identifying few actual non-citizens. The state’s list of suspected non-citizens shrank from 182,000 to 198 before supervisors suspended their searches, blaming shoddy data.

Voters misidentified in that initial purge were sent letters informing them: "You are not a United States citizen, however you are registered to vote."

On Wednesday, Detzner took the blame for the initial purge, saying the state used flawed data from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. The second purge, he said, will rely on more accurate data, this time from SAVE, which is short for Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements. Although maintained by the Department of Homeland Security, SAVE is a database used by numerous other agencies to determine the immigration status of benefit applicants so only those eligible receive them.

He also said each of the state’s 67 supervisor of elections will oversee the process of notifying any voters identified as non-citizens and giving them time to prove they are eligible.

Even if the instances of non-citizens are rare, Detzner said it’s imperative, and his job, to conduct a purge to ensure that it doesn’t ever happen.

“I don’t measure things to see if they are a big problem or a small problem,” Detzner said. “I’m just required by law to do this. The Legislature and the governor told me that non-citizens are ineligible. I have to make sure, to the best of my ability, that they don’t vote.”

But Wasserman Schultz said this was a solution in search of a problem.

“There is not a problem of non-citizens voting,” she told reporters. “This is not something that resources of the state should be dedicated to. It’s designed to intimidate real citizens from voting.”

But Scott is not alone among Florida governors in pushing for a purge. The presumptive Democratic challenger to Scott, Charlie Crist, pushed a “no match, no vote” purge aimed at removing voters from rolls if their driver’s licenses or social security numbers didn’t match the state’s data when he was still a Republican. In 2008, that purge was heavily criticized by the NAACP and the League of Women Voters.

When reminded about Crist and asked if there is ever a need to remove non-citizens, Wasserman Schultz said she supports a scan of the rolls for non-citizens if there was an adequate way to do so. But she said Scott’s previous attempt did more harm than good and proved the real intent behind his second attempt.

“There’s no evidence that Rick Scott’s administration is using non-flawed data,” Wasserman Schultz said.

Tant said Detzner’s road show was an attempt to disguise the purge as a sincere outreach effort.

“This is a waste of taxpayer dollars to send Ken Detzner out to do this,” Tant said. “This is complete and total voter suppression.”


National Republicans have bullseye on Rep. Joe Garcia and Rep. Patrick Murphy

Rep. Joe Garcia, who angered Republicans with his "Taliban" comment earlier this week, is one of 10 Republicans seen as vulnerable in 2014. The other lawmaker, Rep. Patrick Murphy, is just up the road, reports Washington-based The Hill.

"National Republicans are hitting back at 10 of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents with radio ads characterizing them as proponents of shutting down the government"

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/house-races/326035-nrcc-hits-10-vulnerable-dems-with-radio-ads-on-shutdown#ixzz2gf8OUo9y