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6 posts from October 14, 2013

October 14, 2013

Sally Bradshaw resigns from state education board

Sally Bradshaw resigned from the state Board of Education on Sunday, two months before her term was scheduled to end.

Her resignation is effective immediately.

Bradshaw, a one-time chief of staff to former Gov. Jeb Bush, had served on the education board since September 2011. In a letter to Gov. Rick Scott dated Oct. 13, she wrote that "family obligations through year's end" would prevent her from fully completing her term.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said she was "sad to see Ms. Bradshaw go."

"She was a great asset and I consider her a friend," Stewart added. "But I commend her for making the decision she made, choosing family over volunteer work. It was the right decision to make."

Scott did not say when he planned to name a replacement.

"We are grateful for Sally's service and commitment to ensuring the highest quality in our education system," he wrote in a statement. "She has worked hard to continue the legacy of high standards that began under the great leadership of Gov. Jeb Bush."

Scott has already named a replacement for outgoing board member Kathleen Shanahan, whose term also ends in December.

His pick: Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, the former executive director of Teach for America Miami-Dade.

Barbara Feingold's term on the education board ends in December, too.

The board meets in Tampa at 9 a.m. Tuesday to discuss which exams will accompany the new Common Core State Standards (and replace the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests). They will also finalize the state's decision to reject the Common Core State Standards appendices, sample performance tasks and student writing samples.

Later, members of the public are invited to share their thoughts on the standards at Hillsborough Community College. The Department of Education has more information on the 5 p.m. meeting here.

"This is another opportunity for people to come out and talk about the standards, and what they see as the strengths and what they believe needs to change," Stewart said.

Stewart said she also hopes to clear up misconceptions that the Common Core standards are a national curriculum. "None of us want the national government determining our curriculum," she said. "Those are decisions that should be made on a local level."

Bill Clinton swoops into Miami Beach, endorses Philip Levine for mayor

@MarcACaputo

Most endorsements don't mean anything.

But the backing of one of America's most-popular political figures, former President Clinton, might just be a real vote-getter for Philip Levine, running for mayor in Democrat-heavy Miami Beach.

Clinton, visiting Miami Beach today, said he was backing a pal.

"I would be for Philip if we weren't friends, because he puts a premium on cooperation across party lines," Clinton said as he stood next to Levine, according to a press release of his hush-hush visit today.

Clinton's line about cross-party "cooperation" was a subtle push-back against a political group backing one of Levine's opponents, City Commissioner Michael Gongora, that sent out a mailer hitting Levine for giving Republican Sen. Marco Rubio a campaign donation in his 2010 race against then-Gov. Charlie Crist, in the GOP primary.

Levine's camp says he was backing the hometown candidate; but opponents wanted to tar him as a Republican in Democrat-heavy Miami Beach.

Clinton's visit and involvement coincides with the likely decision of his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to run for president in 2016. And it never hurts to shore up support in one of the most-crucial counties of one of the most-crucial swing states.

Press release after photo:

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Citizens report: South Florida lawyers are responsible for rising litigation costs

Citizen's Property Insurance spent $100 million in the last two years in legal defense fees and attributes the increase in their legal bills to a handful of South Florida law firms – most of which are in Miami Dade County – that have targeted the insurance giant with water claims in a hurricane-free year.

A report released Monday by the company serves as a counterpoint to the allegations by legislators and law firms that have accused the company of using delay tactics as its principle legal strategy in an effort to make the state-run insurer appear to be more profitable. The result, the lawyers say, is that routine claims cost Florida policyholders millions more than if the company had paid the claims without waiting for a lawsuit.  

According to the report, Citizens spent $64 million in defense fees in 2012 and has already spent $46 million this year. A public records request of the legal fees paid out to lawyers for policyholders who won their cases found that the company paid out $16 million between January 2011 and June 2013.  Download Corrected Citizens Litigation Analysis - FINAL - Oct 11 2013

The 44-page litigation analysis does not evaluate how much the company could have saved had it paid its claim rather than waited until it was sued. It does not analyze how many lawsuits are pending and what the potential cost of those claims, plus legal costs, might be.

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Strange bedfellows: FL Dems and Tea Party Miami agree, call Steve Ross ads 'slanderous"

@MarcACaputo

Politics make for strange bedfellows, as the saying goes. And it's particularly true when it comes to billionaire Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross, who is seeking taxpayer money to retrofit a stadium he could pay for out of his own pocket.

Ross has managed to unwittingly unite TEA Party Miami and the Florida Democratic Party.

But first, some background:

Unable to get the Legislature to sign off, Ross founded Florida Jobs First to target/support un/friendly lawmakers and candidates. So the political group is funding ads in a special election in Pasco County that bash the Democrat.

But TEA Party Miami doesn't much like the "billionaire welfare" of Ross who, the group says, is trying to buy lawmakers. So the conservative group blasted out an email today taking Ross to task and calling the Pasco ads against Amanda Murphy "slanderous."

The Florida Democratic Party couldn't agree more and sent out an email noting the statement. FDP also called into question the seriousness of Florida Jobs First, which receives political advice from a New York (not FL) political consultant, Michael McKeon.

"What kind of advice is Steve Ross getting from his New York City team of spin doctors, spending big in a district 300 miles away from Miami?" FDP asked. It's a question Republicans are asking as well.

We reached out to McKeon by email. He refused to comment.

Another quirk: Florida Jobs spokesman Eric Jotkoff used to be the FDP's spokesman.

TEA Party Miami on Steve Ross: a "NY pig" seeking "welfare" for Dolphins stadium

@MarcACaputo

RossBillionaire Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross's foray into seeking taxpayer funding for a stadium retrofit failed in the Legislature and was likely to fail at the ballot box anyway.

And the Republican money-man's decision to blast GOP lawmakers from Miami has rallied local tea party activists who called him a "pig" in an email.

In an unexpected twist, the tea party group is calling Ross-funded mailers in a Pasco County seat "slanderous" even though they help the conservative Republican candidate. The group says Ross just wants to "buy" the Legislature so taxpayers can then finance what he should pay for out of his own pocket.

Said Ross' spokesman Eric Jotkoff: "We are not going to respond to name calling, especially when aimed at a man who has investment heavily in South Florida to create jobs and opportunities for countless families. That is just sad and unfortunate. Rather we will continue to focus on our mission."

Here's the press release's text:

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From Key West to Miami, Rep. Garcia and district at center of Cuba clashes, changes

@MarcACaputo

San carlosCongressman Joe Garcia had to choose between two worlds.

At one end of Garcia’s district, an ally persuaded fellow Key West city commissioners to unanimously pass a resolution inviting Cuban diplomats to the San Carlos Institute — a Duval Street landmark steeped in Cuban history, as well as tensions between exiles and the Castro regime.

The Key West resolution was met with outrage by some near the northern end of Garcia’s district, in Miami-Dade. His two Miami Cuban-American colleagues and another House member penned a letter that urged the U.S. State Department to block the diplomats’ Sunday visit from Washington.

Garcia didn’t sign.

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