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8 posts from November 14, 2013

November 14, 2013

Miami-Dade commissioner didn't disclose family links to fence legislation


In February, Lynda Bell persuaded her Miami-Dade County Commission colleagues to lift a decade-old ban on unsightly chain-link fences in front yards of homes in unincorporated neighborhoods. She pitched it as common-sense legislation to help residents of her South Miami-Dade district.

What she didn’t mention: Her daughter and son-in-law own a fencing company.

They established the business, Fence Assured, in March 2012, eight months before Bell filed her proposal — raising the question of whether the ordinance was intended to benefit the commissioner’s immediate family.

Absolutely not, Bell told the Miami Herald on Thursday.

“There’s zero personal gain for me and zero personal gain for my son-in-law,” she said. “It’s a 100 percent gain for the people of Miami-Dade County who want to put up a chain-link fence.”

Bell said any suggestion of wrongdoing stemming from the family connection, first reported by the Eye on Miami blog, was “ridiculous.” She would have kept the ban had she wanted to help her relatives, Bell argued, because chain-link fences are cheaper and less profitable for her daughter and son-in-law’s business.

But Robert Jarvis, a legal ethics professor at Nova Southeastern University, said Bell’s failure to disclose her family’s business ties could make the public wonder if she was hiding something.

“At the very least, it creates an appearance of impropriety,” he said.

More here.

The accusation of the day: Kicking

Gov. Rick Scott sounded off Thursday about President Obama's decision to allow existing health insurance plans for one more year.

“The patchwork changes President Obama announced to his healthcare law today amount to nothing more than kicking the can down the road for 300,000 Florida families who are losing the insurance plans the President told them they could keep," Scott wrote in a statement. "What happens to these families in a year? Will these families still see their insurance costs go up? President Obama’s changes to his own law will likely be the first of many. It is a bad law.”

It wasn't long before Florida House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston fired back, saying "the notion of listening and responding to the needs of constituents" must be "a foreign concept" to Scott.

Said Thurston: “The Republican governor might want to take caution when accusing others of kicking cans down the road. It could be argued by many working Florida families that it’s been Gov. Scott who has been kicking the middle class in the gut by sitting on the sidelines instead of delivering affordable health care to Floridians."

Poll shows immigration haunting Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart

More than 6 in 10 voters in Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s district say he needs to be more aggressive pushing immigration reform this year, according to a new poll showing that a higher number of them favor a comprehensive bill that he hasn’t yet backed.
The 605-voter survey, conducted by Public Policy Polling for the liberal-leaning Florida New Majority, is a sign of the troubles Diaz-Balart has faced while trying to get a bipartisan bill passed in the U.S. House, where GOP leaders have kept the issue from a vote.
For months, the Miami representative and others have met in secret and tried to hammer out a bill that a majority of the Republican House caucus would back.
But with no bill yet as the year ends, the meetings have started to haunt Diaz-Balart because advocates and voters in District 25 want to see more results.
“This is what happens when you’re legislating and not grandstanding,” said Diaz-Balart, who represents a majority Hispanic House seat that runs from Miami-Dade through Broward, Collier and Hendry counties.

State rep "encouraged" by Obamacare enrollment figures

Republicans blasted the Obama Administration on Wednesday for what they called abysmally low enrollment in the new health insurance marketplace. (In Florida, about 3,500 people had selected a plan.)

But on Thursday, state Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, called the figures “encouraging.”

The numbers “[demonstrated] that people across the country, and in Florida specifically, are hungry for the opportunity to have affordable, comprehensive coverage,” Jones said on a conference call hosted by the pro-Obamacare group Americans United for Change.

Jones said she had spoken with Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, about the enrollment figures, as well as the number of Floridians who tried to enroll and were deemed eligible for Medicaid. But she wasn’t hopeful that Medicaid expansion would be put back on the table after being blocked by House Republicans earlier this year.

“Speaker Weatherford still believes he made the right decision in not [expanding Medicaid],” Jones said. “That’s what he spoke about yesterday. The Senate president went on to say that he thinks that maybe the speaker was correct.”

Still, Jones said she would continue to push the issue during the 2014 session.

“I’m committed to carrying this to the end, and my hope is that the end will be Floridians getting comment,” she said.

Jones was joined on the call by Daniel McNaughton, a college student from Orlando who had signed up for a Florida Blue plan on Oct. 2.

“From start to finish, it took me a little over an hour to sign up for an account, go through all of the questions and chose a plan,” McNaughton said, adding that he had more than 100 options to choose from.

McNaughton said he chose a comprehensive plan that costs $70 per month. His previous plan covered only medical catastrophes, but cost the same amount.

“It was so easy," he said.

Detzner claims one of "main functions" of SAVE is to check voter registration. But that's not what DHS data shows.

by @amysherman1 and @PolitiFactFL

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner has been on a public relations mission to defend his plan to use federal Homeland Security data to search for noncitizens on the voting rolls.

The key to the revamped process is using a federal resource of data, called the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or SAVE.

Detzner defended the use of SAVE for voter registration purposes during a Nov. 4 hearing before the Senate committee on ethics and elections. He said using SAVE to check voter registration is one of its primary uses.

"In fact, Homeland Security’s ‘benefit categories’ lists checking voter registration citizenship status as one of its main functions. The federal government allows SAVE to be used and check legal status as part of an ensuring the eligibility of registered voters."

Detzner said SAVE is used nationwide to verify citizenship for entitlement programs (such as Medicaid), so he argued that the state should be confident that it will provide credible information for elections officials.

"SAVE has really been a game-changer when it comes to (voter) list maintenance," he said.

We wanted to check this part of Detzner’s claim: Does Homeland Security list checking voter registration citizenship status as one of its main functions? Read PolitiFact for our full report on Detzner's claim and a round-up of many of our other checks on the noncitizen voter purge.

Chancellor pick Marshall Criser III: Keep Florida's Common Core standards

Marshall Criser III, the man expected to be approved next week as the next state university system chancellor, publicly backed Common Core standards in an opinion piece published in at least two newspapers. Some excerpts:

Early in October, I was in Davie to attend one of the public hearings on education standards for Florida’s K-12 students. It was an energized room, and I was honored to speak as a citizen, parent and business leader in favor of staying the course on the Florida Standards. As a strong supporter of education in the Sunshine State, I believe that these standards are a powerful tool to make sure our young people are ready for the world and workplace that await them.

... The Florida Standards, our version of the Common Core State Standards as adopted by our state and 44 others a few years ago, give our schools an ambitious but reachable target to help close this gap. They focus on the key areas of mathematics and English language arts and help ensure that our high school graduates are prepared to go to college or enter the workforce and compete in the global marketplace.

Read the full article here.

Conservative poll: Crist beats Scott 46-36%; Clinton tops Rubio 49%-45% in FL


It's been some time, but finally we have a new Florida poll of the governor's race done by Gravis Marketing for the conservative Human Events publication. Gravis is relatively new to Florida and skewed heavily conservative in 2012 (showing Connie Mack within striking distance of Bill Nelson).

Still, this poll looks a lot like the other ones: Charlie Crist is beating Rick Scott by 10 points.

Here's Human Events:

"There is bad news for Republican Florida Gov. Richard L. Scott in a Nov. 9 Human Events/Gravis poll of registered voters in Sunshine State with respondents preferring former governor Charles J. Crist Jr., 46 percent to 36 percent one year before the election.

"The poll also questioned voters about gay marriage, medical marijuana, Obamacare and gun rights, as well as about Sen. Marco A. Rubio (R.-Fla.) and former first lady and senator Hillary R. Clinton. The poll was a random sample of 932 registered voters in the state.

"Doug Kaplan, the founder and president of Gravis Marketing, said Scott’s key problems are his weakness among Independents and his high unfavorables.

"Among Independents Crist beats Scott 51 percent to 30 percent with 19 percent undecided, he said.

Like Obama, Obamacare starts collapsing in Gallup poll: 40% approve, 55% disapprove


Public approval of President Obama's signature healthcare law reached an all-time low since his reelection, with 40 percent of Americans approving Obamacare and 55 percent disapproving in Gallup's latest survey.

That's an index of -15 and a shift against the law of 11 percentage points since mid October, when Gallup found public opinion almost tied. Then, 44 percent approved and 47 percent disapproved.

Just after Oct. 1, when the individual-market plans of Obamacare were starting to come online, the Affordable Care Act seemed oddly insulated from the drumbeat of negative publicity about its botched rollout. Then came the wave of millions of current-policy cancellation notices from insurance companies that disproved the president's falsehood that those who like their insurance plans can keep them.

Yet Obamacare's numbers held essentially steady.

Until, perhaps, now.

Foreshadowing the drop, the president's poll numbers started to bottom out first. In early November, Gallup's daily tracking poll found the president matched his all-time low job-approval rating, 39 percent.

Quinnipiac's poll earlier this week found that more voters, 52 percent, found Obama to be not honest and trustworthy compared to those who found him reliable, 44 percent. Quinnipiac found Obama's job approval was 39-54, a -15 index that at the time compared with Gallup's daily tracking index of -14.

Also nearly matching Quinnipiac's results, Gallup reported yesterday that American perceptions of Obama's trustworthiness have taken a dive. Exactly half find him honest, 47 percent don't. (Note: one difference between Gallup and Quinnipiac is the former had polled residents, the latter surveyed voters).

As has been said in this space before: it ain't the topline, it's the trend. And Obama is spiraling downward.

Other surveys are showing similar results regarding the president's favorability ratings. And considering the anemic Obamacare enrollment numbers released yesterday and running-scared Democrats, there's a good chance Obama and Obamacare's numbers will continue dropping.

Democrats are quick to point out that Congress' approval ratings are in the single digits, and that Republicans were badly damaged for precipitating the government shutdown. But the Quinnipiac poll indicated that voters were as or more likely to trust congressional Republicans on a variety of issues (including immigration) when compared to Obama.

Obama has lost the middle of the country. Survey after survey shows that independents are turning away from him in droves, essentially siding with Republicans (but not in the same proportions).

That doesn't just spell trouble for Obama and his healthcare law. It's a warning to Democrats in the mid-term elections. Mid-terms are often referendums on a president, and the mid-terms of a president's second term are often bloodbaths for the party that controls the White House.

Look what happened to George Bush.

A year after his reelection, and months after his administration's botched response to Hurricane Katrina, Bush's approval fell to 39 percent in Pew Research's poll, which last week reported that Obama's ratings were at 41 percent and were on a parallel downward track.

There's another parallel between Bush and Obama: both seemed to be far more-effective at campaigning than governing.

Blame history, perhaps.

But, from the failures of the Obamacare website to the false hopes he raised and phony statements he made, blame Obama as well.