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5 posts from January 19, 2014

January 19, 2014

Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants to talk NJ bridge scandal, not Iran issue splitting Dems


Debbie Wasserman Schultz trashed New Jersey’s “scandal plagued” governor for hiding out from the press as he fundraised for Gov. Rick Scott in Florida.

“Chris Christie,” the Democratic National Committee chairwoman said Saturday, “doesn’t want to be answering any uncomfortable questions.”

The same, however, is true for Wasserman Schultz.

The Weston congresswoman doesn’t want to respond to any uncomfortable questions about a Democratic revolt over President Obama’s nuclear-disarmament talks with Iran.

Continue reading "Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants to talk NJ bridge scandal, not Iran issue splitting Dems" »

Gov. Rick Scott's 'big week' revs up campaign machine


By his own account, it has been a great week for Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

After months without a second-in-command, he announced a pick who was well received, and on Friday he unveiled his re-election team. He's criss-crossed the state to tout populist initiatives, like a proposed 10-day, back-to-school sales tax holiday. This weekend, Scott and his campaign committee are expected to rake in the cash through a series of fundraisers headlined by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Like other incumbent governors before him, Scott is finding that you don't need a formal launch to begin revving up the campaign machine.

"This has been a big week," Scott told the audience at the Florida Chamber of Commerce's annual insurance summit Friday. "On Tuesday, I announced that we are going to be able to put more money into (the Department of Children and Families) to hire more investigators and also got to announce the next lieutenant governor of Florida, Carlos Lopez-Cantera. He's going to do a great job."

Republican officials say Scott will have the most expansive campaign in Florida history. He has raised more than $28 million through his "Let's Get to Work" political committee.]

Read more here.

Renaming ‘Common Core’ standards does little to end education debate

The state education department tried to distance itself from the controversial Common Core State Standards last week by recommending changes to the benchmarks and giving them a new name.

“The proposed standards are truly our own,” Deputy Chancellor Mary Jane Tappen said during a Tuesday workshop on the freshly named “Florida Standards.”

But is Florida really moving away from the national benchmarks, which have drawn Tea Party ire in recent months? Or are the suggested revisions a matter of semantics?

“At their heart, the standards in Florida are still Common Core standards,” said Anne Hyslop, a policy analyst with New America Foundation’s Education Policy Program, noting that many of the proposed changes are minor.

Hyslop added: “The rebranding and messaging is largely political.”

Read more here.

Florida Legislature may back in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants

Driven by her dream of becoming a doctor, Mariana Castro won a coveted spot in the neurobiological sciences program at the University of Florida.

But one thing still stands in her way.

A native of Peru who came to the United States illegally as a child, Castro doesn't quality for in-state tuition. It doesn't matter that she has lived in Florida since she was 10, or that she has temporary legal standing under a federal program for young immigrants. She must still pay the $28,548 in tuition and fees charged to out-of-state students, more than four times the amount charged to Florida residents.

“If this continues, I will have to consider dropping out,” she said.

Castro is taking her case to Tallahassee. She and other UF students are lobbying for proposals that would extend in-state tuition rates to undocumented students.

While the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature has rejected similar bills for the past decade, there is reason to believe this year might be different: Republican House Speaker Will Weatherford has pledged his support.

“I know this issue brings strong opinions, particularly in my party,” Weatherford told the Herald/Times. “But I think it’s right. It’s got my support.”

Read more here

Rick Scott's new LG, Lopez-Cantera, is a deal-making loyalist, Marco Rubio pal

@PatriciaMazzei @MarcACaputo

In the final frenzied days of the state’s legislative session, the Florida House speaker had a problem that only Carlos Lopez-Cantera could help fix.

Lopez-Cantera, the House Republican leader at the time, was one of the few lawmakers Speaker Dean Cannon trusted to defeat a worker’s compensation pharmaceutical measure pushed by the state Senate and powerful special interests.

“Carlos could have taken it easy and done the easy thing to curry favor with the Senate and others because I was about to leave office and so was he,” Cannon said.

“But Carlos didn’t do that. He helped get the votes we needed,” he said. “Carlos is a fiercely loyal guy.”

The anecdote about Lopez-Cantera’s help back in 2011 has particular relevance these days: Cannon shared it with Rick Scott when the governor phoned him to vet Lopez-Cantera to be Florida’s new lieutenant governor.

On Tuesday, Scott formally announced he would appoint Lopez-Cantera — currently Miami-Dade County’s property appraiser — to the No. 2 slot. He replaces Jennifer Carroll, who resigned last March amid a scandal involving an illegal gambling operation. Carroll, never accused, was later cleared of wrongdoing by investigators.

Lopez-Cantera refused to comment for this article, obeying the wishes of Scott’s political team, which has forbidden him from talking to the press until he assumes office Feb. 3.

For Cannon and others who know him, Lopez-Cantera, who turned 40 last month, was a no-brainer of a pick.

Though a former House Republican leader, Lopez-Cantera was well-liked by Democrats in the Legislature. Though conservative, he’s not rigidly ideological.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who served as state House speaker in 2007 and 2008 when Lopez-Cantera was a representative, said his close friend builds strong relationships with genuine affability and a keen appreciation for people, politics and how to make a deal.

“He understands someone who’s really with you and someone’s who’s ‘with’ you — that is, someone who may not be there in the end,” Rubio said.

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Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/01/18/3879444/floridas-next-lieutenant-governor.html#storylink=cpy