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11 posts from March 20, 2014

March 20, 2014

Obama's lament at Democratic fundraiser: 'in midterms, we get clobbered'


At the Pinecrest home of Alonzo Mourning, the basketball star’s wife, Tracy Mourning, introduced President Obama during a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser on Thursday night. But she first told a story of how her mother, a cleaning woman, struggled to make sure she felt she had everything she needed.

“When those damned Republicans are in office, I’m struggling,” Tracy Mourning said her mother would tell her.

Obama spoke shortly after 8:30 p.m. and told the wealthy donors that they need to give back to the party and the community.

Obama said he and others succeeded because of their parents. But society helped as well.

Continue reading "Obama's lament at Democratic fundraiser: 'in midterms, we get clobbered'" »

House approves in-state tuition for some undocumented students

In what Republicans hailed as a historic moment, the Florida House on Thursday voted 81-33 to allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates at Florida colleges and universities.

But challenges remain ahead.

The Senate version of the proposal (SB 1400) was nearly defeated in its first committee stop. It must now be heard by the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

The chair of that subcommittee, Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, opposes the measure, and said he hasn’t yet decided whether to take up the bill. Without a hearing, its chances of becoming law will drop considerably.

There’s another question mark: Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott has said he supports the Senate bill, which also prohibits universities from raising tuition above the rate set by the Legislature. The House bill allows universities to hike tuition 6 percent above that rate. That’s less than the 15 percent that’s currently allowed, but still not enough for Scott or the Senate.

Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, the Miami Republican sponsoring the bill in the House, says she is confident the three sides will reach a compromise.

“There’s still a lot of time left in the session,” she said.

Read more here.

House approves Pop-Tart, warning shot bills

A pair of high-profile, NRA-supported guns bills won the support of the Florida House on Thursday.

One proposal seeks to extend Stand Your Ground immunity to people who fire a warning shot or threaten to use other deadly force in cases of self defense.

The second bill would prevent children from facing severe punishments for playing with simulated weapons in schools. It specifically permits the use of pastries as pretend pistols.

Read more here.

SYG exposes split in Florida Dems (again)


No issue shows how divided Florida Democrats can be more than the state's "stand your ground" law.

The law passed with solid Democratic support in 2005. They hardly rallied to revist it last year, either.

On Thursday, the House Minority Leader, Perry Thurston, proposed an amendment to repeal the 2005 law, forcing Democrats to put how they feel "up on the board" for all to see.

Twelve Democrats voted against their leader. They are:

Continue reading "SYG exposes split in Florida Dems (again)" »

Senator pulls controversial voucher bill

The Senate sponsor of the controversial school voucher bill withdrew his proposal Thursday, significantly weakening its chances of becoming law this year.

Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said he pulled the bill because there wasn't enough time to develop accountability provisions that everybody could agree on.

"I thought it would be better if we took time and vetted it out," Galvano said.

The House and Senate had clashed over requiring voucher recipients to take the state tests. Senate leaders, including Senate President Don Gaetz, were unwilling to pass a bill that did not include a testing requirement. But the House refused to add the language. 

There is still a slim chance that the Senate could take up the House bill.

"You can never say that the Senate won't take up a House bill or that the House won't take up a Senate bill," Gaetz said Thursday. "But when the sponsor of a bill asks to have the bill withdrawn from any further consideration by the Senate, that's an indication that the sponsor has changed his mind about the prospects of the bill."

Gaetz, a former schools superintendent, said he was disappointed in the outcome.

"I had hoped that we would be able to do two things at the same time: expand the opportunity for low-income families to have more choice in education and at the same time bring financial and academic accountability to this program, the tax credit scholarship program," he said. "Apparently we're not going to be able to do that this session, but hope springs eternal."

The president of the company that manages the tax credit scholarship program said was not surprised. 

"We knew that there was no agreement on the assessment piece," Doug Tuthill said.

But Tuthill isn't convinced the bill is dead, he said.

"There is still bill moving in the House," he said. "[House Speaker] Will Weatherford hasn't thrown in the towel yet."

Scott's Mostly True claim about VPK access

In a photo any candidate for re-election would crave, Gov. Rick Scott is seated alongside a couple of cute pre-kindergarten kids at a science museum as a girl chews on her fingers and a boy reaches in a container for a crayon.

Scott was at the the Science and Discovery Center of Northwest Florida in Panama City on March 12, 2014, to tout funding for the state’s voluntary pre-kindergarten program, known as VPK.

A few days later, he boasted about VPK in a tweet: "Florida ranks first in the nation for access to free prekindergarten. We need to keep it that way."

Scott, a Republican, is expected to face former Gov. Charlie Crist, now a Democrat, in November. Education has become a hot topic in the race and PolitiFact Florida has previously fact-checked claims about K-12 and higher education. Here we decided to explore Scott’s claim about the state’s ranking on access to VPK. Read PolitiFact for our findings.

House budget committee unanimously passed medical pot bill, with reservations

After vigorous questioning about the potential misuse of non-regulated marijuana, the House Appropriations Committee unanimously voted to let a non-euphoric strain of pot be developed and sold legally in Florida.

The committee also sanctioned a $1 million one-time appropriation to pay for university-based research into the long-term effects of the substance on children with intractable epilepsy.

The bill opens the door to allowing growers in Colorado to license their technology to Florida growers and give people in possession of the cannabis immunity from prosecution if they can meet certain conditions.

Among the conditions: show that they have medical condition and a doctor has proscribed the use of the marijuana strain, the strain can be shown to contain no more than .05 percent of the euphoric component known as THC but high in the therapeutic properties known as CBD.

Law enforcement would have the ability to take representative samples from growers six times a year.

Peyton Moseley, whose 11-year-old daughter ReyAnn has intractable epilepsy, told the committee his daughter and wife had planned to travel from their home in Pensacola to attend the hearing Thursday. But, after ReyAnn spent all of Wednesday having seizures, his wife dropped him off in Tallahassee and rushed to ShandsHospital in Gainesville.

Continue reading "House budget committee unanimously passed medical pot bill, with reservations" »


BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

Broward LGBT activists held a fundraiser March 19 at the home of Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Dean Trantalis for Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist.

2014-03-19 Charlie Crist fundraiser in Fort Lauderdale 020After his five-minute speech, which you can watch here, Crist stated why electing him governor would be good for LGBT people in Florida:

"One of the most important things we can do is get a law on the books in Florida that recognizes the kind of things that President Obama is talking about. And that simply is why not have marriage equality throughout our country," Crist said.

"Certainly, we ought to have it in Florida and I believe that we win this election Nov. 4, we get some other progressives elected in the Florida House and Florida Senate, we’re going to have a great opportunity to get that done, and I look forward to the day we do."

Attendees included South Florida Gay News publisher Norm Kent; Florida Agenda publisher Bobby Blair; Ken Keechl, who's seeking to regain his Broward County Commission seat; former Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti; and Lauderdale Lakes Commissioner Commissioner Levoyd L. Williams, a state House candidate.

Crist’s Democratic rival is former state Sen. Nan Rich of Weston, a longtime LGBT rights advocate.

To view a photo gallery from the fundraiser, visit Steve Rothaus' Gay South Florida blog.

Hammer: Media has no right to report SYG cases involving dropped charges


Although she says she didn’t push a bill that is expected to pass the Florida House today, and which would extend “stand your ground protection” to people who fire a warning shot, NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer said she supports it.

That  includes an amendment by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, that was adopted by the House Wednesday night that would severely limit access to court records in the self-defense cases.

Gaetz said the intent of the amendment was to restore privacy for people who appropriately use the state’s “stand your ground” law in self-defense. Hammer said she had no hand in writing the amendment, but agrees with Gaetz that it is necessary.

“If you didn’t do anything wrong, why should you have a record that you did?” Hammer said Thursday. “Why would the public need to know that? A person’s right under the Constitution is to be free of persecution, so it’s not right that you could be persecuted because of something that is inaccurate, for something that you didn’t do.”

Continue reading "Hammer: Media has no right to report SYG cases involving dropped charges" »

Univision personality to host DNC fundraiser with Obama at Miami home


Another sign of the close ties between Spanish-language Univision and Democrats: Tonight's Democratic National Committee fundraiser at the Miami home Liliana Estefan, the host of the popular "El Gordo y la Flaca" show.

Estefan is quite a political catch. She's a star. She's the niece of music stars Emilio and Gloria Estefan. And the Cuban-American, along with husband Lorenzo Luaces, is a registered Republican.

The president also has a DCCC fundraiser later at the home of Alonzo Mourning.

The Estefan fundraiser underscores the affinity between Univision and the Democratic Party these days. The network is partnering with Obama's former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in an outreach effort. Univision owner Haim Saban is a major Democratic donor who said he'd back Clinton with "full might."

From Saban to a network news honcho's assistant, some at Univision have also made sure to train their fire on Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a likely 2016 White House candidate.

A spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, Izzy Santa, took to Twitter and criticized the ties: "Univision should explain to their viewers their conflict of interest. First, HRC partnership and now fundraising for the DNC."

Univision's spokeswoman Monica Talan issued this response on Twitter: "Lili hosts an entertainment gossip show. Who or what our employees support on their own time is independent from the Company."

Where the DCCC fundraiser is open to a print pool, media access at the DNC event is closed. Don't expect Univision to report on it in depth anyway. And don't expect the national media to do the same regarding Univision.