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13 posts from November 7, 2013

November 07, 2013

Lawmakers defeat bill to repeal Stand Your Ground

@kmcgrory @mikevansickler

A panel of state lawmakers on Thursday soundly rejected a proposal to repeal the Stand Your Ground self-defense law, but enthusiastically approved a pitch to expand Stand Your Ground immunity to people who fire a warning shot.

The votes took place at a highly anticipated hearing that lasted five hours before the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. Nearly 300 people attended, and scores signed up to give their opinion on the controversial law.

Rep. Alan Williams, a Tallahassee Democrat, said his push to repeal Stand Your Ground had “everything to do with making sure we keep our streets and our communities and our neighborhoods safe.”

“We have had a number of cases that have shown us over and over that the law as adopted in 2005 isn’t working,” Williams said.

But a half-dozen lawmakers, some of whom weren’t on the subcommittee, came to the defense of Stand Your Ground.

“Today, our state is a safer place and has the lowest crime rate in 42 years,” said Rep. Marti Coley, a Marianna Republican. “Florida’s Stand Your Ground law is solid. It’s good and should not be changed.”

Said Democratic Rep. Katie Edwards, of Plantation: “The people I represent, the people we represent, need not be required, or have imposed upon them, a duty to retreat… I won’t turn my back on responsible self-defense laws.”

The committee shot down the repeal bill in a 2-11 vote.

Read more here

Decoding Diaz-Balart and immigration reform's struggle in the House


It’s all but guaranteed: Immigration reform is dead for 2013.

The Republican-controlled House has refused to take up the bipartisan Democratic-controlled Senate bill that passed earlier this year. And now time has essentially run out.

“I don’t see the math. There are only 16 days, legislative days, for the floor,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a leading Republican immigration-reformer in the House.

“Unless someone has some magic potion," he said. "I don’t see how there’s time to go through the committee process and through the floor with what could ultimately be six or nine bills.”

Continue reading "Decoding Diaz-Balart and immigration reform's struggle in the House" »

Rick Perry calls Scott 'passionate dude,' blasts Crist

Texas Gov. Rick Perry came to the defense Thursday of his friend, Gov. Rick Scott, as the Republican Governors Association joined the chorus of GOP voices criticizing Charlie Crist's Democratic candidacy for governor and his record as a Republican governor from 2007-2011.

Perry called Scott "one passionate dude" in his pursuit of new jobs for Florida. In a conference call with Florida reporters while Scott was on an overseas trade mission in Japan, Perry praised Scott as a fiscal conservative and drew on familiar GOP talking points, saying Scott has grown jobs, reduced debt, increased reserves and "cleaned up the mess that Charlie Crist created," including a steep increase in unemployment and "loss of 832,000 jobs."

Crist has said repeatedly that the state's economic woes were the result of a global economic meltdown and that Florida would have been in far worse shape if he didn't accept billions in federal stimulus money that Scott opposed.

"I know Rick Scott, and I know Charlie Crist, and I know the difference. Rick Scott is a clear leader. He's a job creator who has been a great competitor ... He compels me to be a more competitive governor," Perry said. "Charlie Crist dug Florida into a pretty deep hole and Rick Scott's been digging the Sunshine State out of it ever since."

Perry and Scott are good friends who have sparred good-naturedly over their states' job-creation efforts, and they took part in a fishing competition off Destin last year. Scott has several ties to Texas: He attended law school at SMU and later practiced law in Dallas and his younger daughter Jordan now lives in the state.

When Crist ran successfully for governor as a Republican in 2006, the RGA pumped $1 million into his campaign, a sum that prompted Democrats to file election law complaints. Then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney presented the check to Crist in an event at the Tallahassee airport. Perry joined other Republican governors in praising Crist, who hosted an RGA event in Miami in November 2008 where Sarah Palin dominated the spotlight.

-- Steve Bousquet

Former state Rep. Carl Ogden dies

Carl OgdenFormer state Rep. Carl Ogden, who represented Jacksonville in the House for 20 years, died Tuesday in Tallahassee. He was 84.

Ogden was dean of the House when he left the Legislature in 1988 and worked for former Gov. Lawton Chiles as director of the State Employees Insurance Division for three years. Ogden and his wife, Gage, moved to a 226-acre farm near Monticello, just east of Tallahassee, where they raised horses. Ogden also spent his years in semi-retirement lobbying for the PGA Tour, Ladies Professional Golf Association and Bert Rodgers Schools of Real Estate.

Ogden attempted a return to the legislature in 2000, when he unsuccessfully ran for the sprawling rural North Florida district then held by Rep. Janegale Boyd, who was running for the Senate. He lost in the primary.

A memorial service is set for Tuesday, Nov. 12, from 5-7 p.m. at Culley’s Memorial Funeral Home in Tallahassee. 

Photo: Florida Memory Project

The fate of the Stand Your Ground repeal proposal

All eyes will be on the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee this afternoon as it takes up a pair of bills related to the controversial Stand You Ground law.

The first, HB 4009, is a repealer bill sponsored by Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee.

The proposal has five co-sponsors, all of whom are Democrats: Reps. Cynthia Stafford, Mia Jones, Mark Pafford, Hazelle Rogers and Clovis Watson. But House Minority Leader Perry Thurston has indicated that he doesn't support the bill. At a Wednedsay press conference, Thurston said he would prefer a bipartisan proposal to reform the self-defense law along the lines of SB 130.

Without the support of House Democrats, Williams's bill has even less of a shot at moving through the Republican-dominated Legislature.

Will Williams pull the proposal? Will it die in committee?  

Either way, it looks good for Criminal Justice Subcommittee Chair Matt Gaetz. Gaetz, who famously said he would not support changing "one damn comma" of the law, wins points for not dismissing the proposal outright. 

Feds awards state $8.3 million to expand access to the uninsured


More than a dozen Florida community health centers — including seven in Miami-Dade County — were awarded $8.3 million in grants Thursday to expand their practices and hire more physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists and other providers in an effort to increase Americans’ access to healthcare under the Affordable Care Act, federal officials announced.

The grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are part of a national effort by the federal government, which awarded about $150 million to 236 health centers in 43 states, including 16 centers in Florida.

Seven centers in Miami-Dade will share more than $3.9 million, with the largest single amounts awarded to Borinquen Health Care Center in Miami and the Center for Family and Child Enrichment in Miami Gardens. Each received grants of $775,000.

Continue reading "Feds awards state $8.3 million to expand access to the uninsured" »

Bense admitted to Atlanta medical center in battle against nervous system condition

AllanbenseFormer Florida House Speaker Allan Bense has been admitted to Shepherd Center in Atlanta this week to undergo rehabilitation for neurological impairments related to Guillain Barré syndrome, according to a statement released by the hospital on Thursday.

According to a description by the Mayo Clinic, Guillain-Barré (ghee-YA-buh-RAY) syndrome is a disorder in which your body's immune system attacks your nerves. Weakness and tingling in your extremities are usually the first symptoms. These sensations can quickly spread, eventually paralyzing your whole body. In its most severe form, Guillain-Barre syndrome is a medical emergency requiring hospitalization.

According to a Shepherd Center spokeswoman, Jane Sanders, Bense said his goal is to recover after months of rehabilitation under the guidance of a treatment team.

Shepherd Center specializes in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury and neuromuscular disorders such as Guillain Barré syndrome. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center, a private, not-for-profit hospital, is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation.

Sanders said the Bense family is appreciative for the outpouring of support from friends and supporters in Panama City, Tallahassee and elsewhere in Florida. For updates on his progress and to post messages that cheer him on toward recovery, visit Mr. Bense’s CaringBridge website at www.caringbridge.org/visit/allanbense.

Bense was admitted to Shands Hospital in Gainesville in mid-September for the rare nervous system condition in mid-September. According to the family's online journal, Bense went to the ER on Sept. 8 after experiencing what felt like a heart attack.

Continue reading "Bense admitted to Atlanta medical center in battle against nervous system condition" »

Three fundraisers, one metropolis: More details of Obama's Miami trip surface


President Obama isn't merely coming to Miami Friday for a fundraiser. He's coming for three, one hosted by the Democratic National Committee and two for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. And, of course, the president is expected to play golf but that's not yet confirmed.

There are no public events scheduled as of yet. So most if not all details about the fundraisers will come from the White House. So far it looks like the fundraisers are being held by:

Leslie Miller Saiontz (DSCC), a philanthropist/real-estate and building businesswoman who contributed $57,300 in 2012 to various candidates and committees.

Jorge Mas Santos (DSCC), a Cuban American National Foundation leader and CEO of MasTec who contributed $5,000 last year to Rep. Joe Garcia.

Ralph G. Patino (DNC), a top personal-injury attorney who contributed $88,800 last year to various committees and candidates.

Patino's Coral Gables fundraiser sounds a little different from your standard fundraiser. Patino says it'll be more of a roundtable with about 30 donors-business leaders to talk about the topic of the day and year. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz will attend (Sen. Bill Nelson is expected at the DSCC events).

"It's an open forum," Patino said. "There's not one particular goal."

Patino emerged last year as a key fundraiser in the Hispanic community for the Obama campaign's Futuro Fund. The money (along with the Obama campaign's know-how) helped the president win the Hispanic vote in Florida and the nation. Obama also came close to winning the Cuban-American vote, once solidly Republican.

Patino said he recently started up a 501c4 called ACT, an abbreviation for "Americano Como Tú" ("American Like You") to improve Hispanic political participation. While unabashedly progressive, Patino said Republicans could receive ACT's support as well for supporting things like immigration reform or farmworker rights.

LIBRE Initiative targets Rep. Joe Garcia in first TV ad over Obamacare. But will it work?


The LIBRE Initiative, a conservative Hispanic-outreach group, has announced it's going after Democratic Congressman Joe Garcia over his support for Obamacare.

The big question: Does this line of attack actually work? And will it work in 2014 when Garcia is likely to face Republican Carlos Curbelo?

The fact that Garcia is being targeted is a sign that District 26 is in play. It's a newly drawn swing district, so it can't be taken for granted by either party. Garcia is raising money like a demon and incumbents are tough to beat, but then Democrats tend to underperform in mid-term elections.

As for the policy and politics of Obamacare: Yes, the rollout has been a public-relations disaster. And some people will wind up paying more for insurance. Others, however, will wind up paying less. We still don't know the winner-loser breakdown because the law's not fully implemented yet and the broken sign-up website has made things worse.

Florida and national Democrats are also ready to blame rate increases and insurance problems on Republicans by pointing out the GOP-led Legislature exempted Obamacare insurance plans from rate review for two years and refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Beyond that, the effectiveness of attacking the Affordable Care Act is a matter of hot political dispute.

Continue reading "LIBRE Initiative targets Rep. Joe Garcia in first TV ad over Obamacare. But will it work?" »

Brandes wants legislation to increase private flood insurance options

The bandwagon to increase the options for private flood insurance keeps growing. Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, is the latest. From a press release:

St. Petersburg, FL- Today Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) announced that he is drafting comprehensive legislation that will allow private insurers to offer alternatives to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in Florida. Citing a recent congressional proposal to delay the implementation of the Biggert-Waters Act by four years, the Brandes legislation will allow insurers to utilize that delay to establish additional, more affordable choices for consumers. 

Continue reading "Brandes wants legislation to increase private flood insurance options" »