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15 posts from February 12, 2014

February 12, 2014

Rick Scott: record-holding killer of killers among modern-day FL governor 1st termers


When Juan Carlos Chavez was put to death at 8:17 p.m. Wednesday, his execution marked the 13th on Florida Gov. Rick Scott's watch -- a record among first term Florida governors since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Since then, 83 have been executed.

Charlie Crist (2007-2011) oversaw the fewest executions, 5, in his single term. (Crist, now a Democrat, is running against Scott).

Jeb Bush (1999-2007) was the prior first-term record holder with 11 executions in modern times. He still holds the all-time record: 21.

Lawton Chiles (1991-1998) executed eight people in his first term and 10 more in his second.

Bob Martinez (1987-1991) executed nine.

Bob Graham (1979-1987) executed two in his first term and 14 in his second.

For who was executed and when, here's the link

There's a chance another governor, prior to 1976, executed more in his first term or overall. The link to those executions is here.


Florida Democrats: Scott shouldn't use official state photos, Florida seal on campaign website

Gov. Rick Scott may wear the state seal on his cowboy boots, but it shouldn’t be popping up on his campaign website, say Florida Democratic Party officials, who argue that Scott isn’t following state laws prohibiting the use of the seal in public campaigns.

The official state seal appears when visitors to the campaign website click on a few videos, including a Feb. 3rd announcement of $80 million in cancer research and another on education funding. According to Florida statutes, “in no event shall approval be given for the use of the Great Seal for the following: (a) Political or campaign purposes.”

Florida Democratic Party’s communications director Joshua Karp says the law is well-known to both parties, but charges that Scott and his team “feel comfortable cutting corners.”

The campaign site, which launched Feb. 8, shows the seal only as part of videos made by the governor’s office “that are publicly available online and they can be used by anyone,” counters Scott’s new deputy communications director, Greg Blair.

Blair said the same goes for another criticism by the Democrats -- that the Scott campaign is using material -- pictures by staff photographers and press releases written by state workers -- paid for with taxpayer dollars on its campaign site. “Taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook” for those, Karp said.

Continue reading "Florida Democrats: Scott shouldn't use official state photos, Florida seal on campaign website" »

Search continues for missing legislative intern

Tallahassee Police gave this update Wednesday on missing legislative intern Ryan Uhre:

The Tallahassee Police Department is continuing to follow all leads in the case of missing person, Ryan Uhre. While TPD has not ruled out Mr. Uhre being in the South Florida area, our investigators have been able to determine the "tip" regarding the use of a cell phone in the Pompano Beach area is false. The tip was thoroughly vetted by TPD’s investigators, who worked closely with Verizon staff members and found the information to be an anomaly. TPD has also determined the "tip" regarding Mr. Uhre being seen in the South Florida bar "Rosie’s" was in fact another person.

TPD continues to search for Mr. Uhre, following up on all leads and interviewing anyone who may have had contact with him on the night he was last seen. At this time, there is no information to suggest foul play was involved in his case. TPD is working around the clock to reunite Mr. Uhre with his family members and will not stop until he has been found.

As updates are available, they will be posted at www.talgov.com.

Urhe is a Weston native and 2013 graduate of Florida State University. He had just started an internship in the office of state Rep. Richard Stark, D-Weston, when he went missing from downtown Tallahassee on Feb. 2.

Anyone with information about Uhre's whereabouts can call 850-606-5800. 

Obama nominates Miami-Dade Democratic Party chairwoman to board of foreign assistance agency


President Obama on Wednesday nominated Annette Taddeo-Goldstein, the chairwoman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, to the board of a federal agency.

Obama wants Taddeo-Goldstein to serve on the board of directors of the Inter-American Foundation, a foreign assistance agency focused on Latin America and the Caribbean.

"I am grateful that these talented and dedicated individuals have agreed to take on these important roles and devote their talents to serving the American people," Obama said in a news release. "I look forward to working with them in the coming months and years."

Johnson keeps Port Miami clear of soccer debate


Bill Johnson, the port director with a key role in Miami's soccer debate, played it pretty safe Wednesday in his big State of the Port address. He didn't have nice things to say about bringing a soccer stadium to Port Miami, but he didn't have bad things to say, either.

From Wednesday's Herald story...

Miami-Dade’s port director kept a respectful distance from the soccer debate Wednesday, saying his staff would help “properly vet” a proposal to bring a professional soccer stadium to the world’s busiest cruiseship center.

Bill Johnson, arguably the most high-profile of Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s department heads, emerged from his annual State of the Port address without having inserted himself into the middle of the debate over whether to let David Beckham build a 25,000-seat soccer stadium at the county-owned port.

“We at Port Miami are committed to working with Major League Soccer... to ensure we are doing the right thing to properly vet this proposal,” he said. “To be sure we do the right thing for Miami-Dade County and PortMiami.”


Read more about Johnson saying less by clicking here

Joe Biden takes Miami, the Obamacare edition


Vice President Biden boarded a black GMC Yukon with Washington, DC plates and left Miami International Airport in a Wednesday motorcade that led to a drugstore diner on Bird Road in Miami.

On the way, all traffic was temporarily stopped -- including a Florida East Coast cargo train, which was detained while police officers manually held up the crossing gate so the motorcade could pass.

Some motorists and pedestrians snapped photos of the motorcade. Three women standing on Bird Road and about Southwest 64 Ave held up two poster boards with handwritten messages: "Stop Deportation Now" and "Immigration Reform".

Continue reading "Joe Biden takes Miami, the Obamacare edition" »

Projections show FAU, UWF and New College would lose money under performance funding model


State university system Chancellor Marshall Criser III is making the rounds at the Capitol this week, including a presentation at today’s Senate Education Committee meeting to talk about performance funding.

The 12-university system has asked the Legislature to allocation $50 million in new money to reward schools for meeting various goals, although Gov. Rick Scott’s budget proposal only included $40 million

Whatever the final amount, it will be divided among the universities using 10 different criteria worth a maximum of 50 points. Universities must earn at least 26 points to get any new funding. Those that earn 25 point or less risk losing 1 percent of their 2014-2015 base funding; That money would then be redistributed to the other high-scoring schools.

We have received a copy of the projections, and the three schools expected to lose money are Florida Atlantic University, University of West Florida and New College of Florida. New College President Donal O'Shea said previously that he is one Pell grant recipient away from getting the extra point needed to avoid a penalty.

The highest-scoring and highest-earning school, according to the projections, is the University of Florida, which would receive $11.7 million for its 42 points. Second place is the University of South Florida, which stands to receive $8.9 million for 37 points.

The three low-performing schools would all lose varying amounts of money, based on calculating 1 percent of their normal allocation from the state. FAU would be docked $1.4 million, UWF would lose $675,595 and New College would be $172,720 poorer.

Continue reading "Projections show FAU, UWF and New College would lose money under performance funding model" »

With major website woes over, Obamacare enrollment surges to 3.3m, nearly 300k in FL


Nearly 300,000 Floridians have signed up for Affordable Care Act plans, an 88 percent increase in a month that reflects an enrollment surge coinciding with the end of Obamacare's major website woes.

Florida’s total enrollment, the second-highest in the nation behind California, accounts for almost 9 percent of the nation’s total 3.3 million enrollees, according to figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

But though federal officials praised the increases nationwide – a 53 percent uptick of nearly 1.15 million Americans in a month – fewer people will likely sign up for Affordable Care Act plans than initially anticipated.

Enrollment ends March 31.

Also, the proportion of young adult enrollees stands at 25 percent nationwide, 23 percent in Florida. That's below initial estimates.

Continue reading "With major website woes over, Obamacare enrollment surges to 3.3m, nearly 300k in FL" »

Don't bet on MLS stadium funding bills to advance as written in Tallahassee


The legislation filed in Tallahassee that would give new soccer stadiums a state subsidy? It's probably not going anywhere -- at least, not the way it's written now.

And that means it's likely there could be more hoops for new Major League Soccer franchises, including one proposed in Miami, to jump through to ask for funds.

A pair of bills -- one in the Florida House of Representatives, one in the Senate -- would allow MLS franchises looking to build new facilities to qualify for a tax break given in the past to other professional sports teams. A new Orlando franchise and the potential Miami one, owned by David Beckham and his investors, are looking for stadium funding.

But the odds of either of those proposals to advance in this year's legislative session are slim, said state Rep. Erik Fresen, a Miami Republican sponsoring the House version of the legislation.

"Those stand-alone bills don't mean anything," he said.

That's Tallahassee-speak. What it means is that while a particular piece of legislation -- in this case, Fresen's HB 887 and its Senate companion, SB 618 -- likely won't advance, another still un-filed proposal might.

In this case, the alternative is expected to be legislation creating a competitive process for sports teams to apply for the state sales-tax subsidy. The Senate passed such a plan last year, but it went nowhere in the House.

Continue reading "Don't bet on MLS stadium funding bills to advance as written in Tallahassee" »

Putnam builds support for business sales tax cut

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is building support for a plan that would cut some sales taxes paid by businesses and pump money into public school construction.

He outlined his proposal in a press conference Wednesday.

Putnam wants to cut the 7 percent sales tax on energy paid by businesses by half, saving Florida businesses more than $225 million, he said. The remaining revenue would be funnelled into school maintenance and construction. 

In addition, consumers wishing to purchase energy-efficient appliances would be able to take advantage of a weekend-long sales tax holiday in September.

"There is an opportunity here to support Florida's businesses, Florida’s families and consumers, and Florida’s public education system," Putnam said.

Public school systems and state universities used to receive maintenance and construction money through the Public Education Capital Outlay fund. But the money has been dwindling, since PECO dollars are generated from a state tax on cable TV, electricity and land-line telephone bills. 

"It’s a tax on technologies that are not being used as much," said Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, who will sponsor the bill in the Senate.

Putnam said $225 million in new construction funding would let school systems "catch up" on deferred maintenance. 

Added Flores: "Our public education institutions won't have to be coming up to Tallahassee and fighting among themselves for construction funding."

Putnam's office later released statements from education and business leaders supporting the move.

"I commend Commissioner Putnam for his willingness to respond to one of education's most critical needs..." Florida International University President Mark Rosenberg said. "We cannot allow a lack of facilities funding to limit the access and service we provide to Florida's students."

Said Florida Charter School Alliance Chairman Jim Horne: “We stand in support of this great proposal that will dramatically increase funding for education facilities. Every student deserves a learning environment that is both safe and secure but also equipped with best technology that gives Florida students real opportunity to compete in an increasingly global marketplace."