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8 posts from February 21, 2014

February 21, 2014

Gov. Scott in D.C. for meetings of RGA, NGA

Gov. Rick Scott headed to Washington for the annual meeting of the Republican Governors Association. The RGA, chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, is a group that does extensive campaign fund-raising activity and will help Scott fend off a Democratic challenge next fall. A spokesman for Scott's campaign said he spoke on a panel on the subject of higher education.

Scott also plans to be in Washington for meetings of the National Governors Association, a non-partisan policy organization. Two years ago, Scott dropped Florida's membership in the NGA.

Gaetz: Immigrant tuition will "very likely" be debated in Senate

Senate President Don Gaetz opposes a bill that would extend in-state tuition rates to undocumented students. 

But that doesn't mean it won't get a hearing in the Senate, he said in an interview with the Herald/Times this week.

“The issue will be very likely debated in the Senate," Gaetz said. "Where I goes, I don’t know.”

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, is expected to file a bill next week that would allow some undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates.

Gaetz said the upper chamber is divided on the proposal. He said a proponent had conducted an informal poll, and determined that 18 senators support the measure.

The president's vote is "no," he said. 

That's partly because his district in northwest Florida includes several military bases. And children of military families cannot access in-state tuition at Florida colleges and universities if they are residents of other states, even if their parents are stationed in Florida.

“I don’t know how I explain to them that... we will subsidize families who didn’t play by the rules," Gaetz said.

The bill has the support of House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

Gaetz, who has been singing a lot of Kumbaya with the speaker these days, joked that it might be the only proposal on which he and Weatherford disagree.

UPDATE: For third time, Bill Nelson asks feds to investigate DEO


If one goes by the daily updates by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the problems plaguing CONNECT, Florida's $63 million unemployment benefits website, are mostly solved. The agency is reporting that it has fewer than 10,000 6,000 cases where claimaints have waited longer than a week, a drastic reduction from a caseload of more than 60,000 last month.

Of course, how much of that is due to repairs with CONNECT? Remember, the DEO hired 250 extra staffers to review these cases, at a cost of $165,000 a week, plus another $300,000 to lease space for the additional personnel. The DEO can't say because it can't rely on the accuracy of indicators from Deloitte about CONNECT's performance. 

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, who has twice already asked federal officials to intervene, remains unconvinced progress has been made. On Friday, he asked the U.S. Department of Labor's Inspector General to investigate for "possible waste, fraud or abuse stemming from the launch of a system that reportedly would result in unemployment insurance claims not being processed in a manner consistent with provisions in federal law requiring prompt payment to eligible individuals."

Here's the release: 


Continue reading "UPDATE: For third time, Bill Nelson asks feds to investigate DEO" »

The Adam Hollingsworth Effect, railroad edition


Busted for lying about his college degree, unable to get Gov. Rick Scott's poll numbers up significantly despite a mission to do so, the governor's chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth is now the subject of a new controversy as reported by the Associated Press:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Gov. Rick Scott's push to spend more than $200 million in state money on improvements to Orlando's airport will wind up helping the company that once employed his current chief-of-staff.

Scott on Monday publicly endorsed the project which will help create a train depot at the airport. One of the rail lines that would use the depot is All Aboard Florida, which plans to build a line connecting Orlando and South Florida.

Before becoming Scott's chief-of-staff Adam Hollingsworth worked for a company owned by the same company developing the rail line. Text messages show that while working for Parallel Infrastructure Hollingsworth discussed the project with a top aide in the Scott administration.

A spokeswoman for Scott said Hollingsworth has not discussed the Orlando airport project with the governor.

Al Cardenas leaves namesake law firm


High-powered GOP insider Al Cardenas is leaving the boutique Brickell Avenue law firm Tew Cardenas to join massive Squire Sanders, with offices in Miami, Washington, D.C. and other major cities.

Cardenas, former chairman of the Florida Republican Party during Gov. Jeb Bush’s era, will continue to do lobbying and governmental affairs work at Squire Sanders.

At Tew Cardenas, Cardenas developed that niche while his late law partner, Tom Tew, oversaw the firm’s civil litigation practice. Tew died of cancer in late January.

Cardenas is the founder of Cardenas Partners DC, a federal consulting and lobbying firm, and The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners, a Tallahassee- and Tampa-based lobbying practice.


Miami-Dade court sets trial date for accused development swindler


Disgraced developer Dennis Stackhouse, accused in 2009 of looting nearly $1 million from a development aimed at revitalizing Liberty City, finally has a trial date: May 5.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Monica Gordo set the date after chiding his defense attorney, Larry Handfield, for having taken only one witness deposition in the past year.

“Do not think for one second we have been sitting around clapping our hands doing nothing,” Handfield insisted.

The issue of delays in court arose Thursday after Miami-Dade’s lead public corruption prosecutor, Tim VanderGiesen, complained about the inertia. “The state has a right to a trial,” he said. “This case is over four years old.”

In 2003, Stackhouse pitched his development project as a $118 million retail and office complex that would create up to 3,500 jobs. Nothing was ever built. A 2007 Miami Herald investigative series titled “Poverty Peddlers” spurred a criminal investigation.

Prosecutors said he stole through an intricate scheme of double billing and fake invoices submitted for work that was never completed.

Some of the money was also used to curry favor to politicians who could benefit the project, records showed. He famously paid $40,000 in consulting fees to former U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek. Her son, then-U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, sought to secure federal funds for the development.

Separately, Stackhouse was charged with making illegal campaign contributions. He served seven months’ probation.


Florida Democrats to Ted Cruz: run, Ted, run!


Nothing unites the tea party and the political left in Florida like Ted Cruz.

Both want the Texas senator, who's on a two-day Florida tour, to run for president in 2016.

The conservatives want a man who represents their principles, and jabs a rhetorical finger in the eye of the Washington establishment. Democrats want Cruz because they believe he’s a sure loser in Florida, the nation’s largest swing state that Republicans generally need to win the White House.

And polls indicate Democrats are right. In Florida, it’s tough to find a Republican candidate who fares worse against the Democrats’ likely nominee, Hillary Clinton. She bests Cruz by as much as 20 percentage points.

So it’s little wonder that Democrats are gleeful that Cruz headlined a Sarasota Republican event Thursday, and was proclaimed "Statesman of the Year." Tonight, he keynotes a Palm Beach Lincoln Day Dinner, where newly minted Lieutenant Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera will speak as well. 

For Democrats and the progressive community, the stark contrast between Hillary and someone like Cruz -- who wants gridlock and divisiveness -- would be a dream match,” said Christian Ulvert, the Florida Democratic Party's political director. "Ted Cruz alienates everyone except the tea party."

Continue reading "Florida Democrats to Ted Cruz: run, Ted, run!" »

Jackson hospital board approves employee pay bonus


Employees of Jackson Health System are closer to getting a 2 percent performance bonus after the trustees who oversee Miami-Dade’s public hospital network approved on Thursday a new deal with the labor unions.

Members of the Public Health Trust that runs Jackson met in special session and voted 4-1 for the agreement, which will require final approval from Miami-Dade commissioners, who meet next on March 4.

Trustees approved the pay bonus for Jackson’s nearly 10,000 employees following an hour-long, spirited debate over the hospital system’s still-precarious financial condition, the best use of public dollars and the most effective way to inspire employee morale and trust in management.

In total, the pay bonus, called a “gain-sharing’’ payment because Jackson CEO Carlos Migoya said he promised employees a “share” of any profit or budget surplus, will amount to about $10.8 million, or 1.67 percent of payroll for the year that ended Sept. 30.

More here.