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7 posts from May 16, 2014

May 16, 2014

Appeals court agrees to stay the release of secret docs in redistricting trial

Now the appeals court wants to see the 538 secret documents.

On the eve of the redistricting trial scheduled to begin on Monday, the  First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee agreed to a last-minute stay to stop the release of 538 pages of emails, maps and planning documents held by the political consultants to the Republican legislators. 

Lawyers for the political consulting firm Data Targeting and its owner Pat Bainter argued that the documents are “trade secrets” and the courtroom should be closed if they are introduced in court as part of the redistricting challenge to the 2012 congressional maps.

Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis rejected that request and ordered the documents released if and when they are introduced as part fo the record in the two-week trial. Bainter's lawyers appealed the ruling on Thursday.

In an order issued at 4:45 p.m. on Friday, the First District Court of Appeal agreed to conduct an expedited review of Lewis' ruling, stayed the decision, ordered transcripts and briefs filed by 5 p.m. Monday -- and required that Bainter and his lawyers provide the court with copies of all 538 documents.  Download First DCA stay 516

"We may have to rearrange our witnesses,'' said Mark Herron, a lawyer for a coalition of citizens groups challenging the congressional redistricting maps. "The trial is not stayed, only the effect of those orders."



Rubio: Feds should end Bright Futures probe

Sen. Marco Rubio is asking the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights to end its probe into Florida's Bright Futures scholarship program.

The office is investigating claims that the eligibility criteria have the effect of discriminating against black and Hispanic students.

But Rubio, in a letter to Assistant Secretary Catherine Lhamon Friday, said the federal government had "no legitimate legal basis for investigating such a program."

"Further, forcing bureaucratic changes in the parameters of eligibility for this scholarship would not only degrade the fundamental purpose of this scholarship, but also render the program financially unstable," Rubio said.

The education department was reviewing the letter, Press Secretary Dorie Nolt said.

Most Bright Futures scholarships are valued at about $2,300 a year for a full-time student. Top students can receive about $3,100.

The program has long shouldered criticism for awarding an outsized share of scholarships to white and affluent students. The allegations prompted the federal investigation more than a decade ago.

The probe appeared to be dormant — until state lawmakers raised the eligibility criteria for winning a scholarship during the 2011 legislative session.

The University of South Florida responded with an analysis showing that the new Bright Futures standards would benefit half as many students. They predicted the number of Hispanic scholarship recipients would drop by 60 percent, while the number of black scholarship recipients would drop by more than 75 percent.

Democratic lawmakers floated proposals to maintain the old standards in 2013 and 2014. Both efforts failed.

In his letter, Rubio implored the education department not to change the eligibility criteria. He noted that the Bright Futures program was designed "to assist Florida's most promising students based solely on merit."

"To the credit of the students of Florida, the standards and achievement levels have risen across the entire state, and the number of students eligible for the program has also increased," Rubio said. "While I am proud of the strides Florida's students have made, the logical conclusion is that the standards of the program must rise with the achievements of our students."

Rubio also said changing the eligibility requirements would make the program financially insolvent.

Rubio is not the only Miami-Dade lawmaker who feels that way.

State Rep. Erik Fresen, a Miami Republican who chairs the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee, also opposes changing the standards in order to serve more minority students.

"Bright Futures, from its inception, has always been race, gender and creed blind," he said in March.

Florida lawmakers remain skeptical about Jackson hospital funding, board told


Jackson Health System overcame an “anti-public hospital mindset” among state legislators in Tallahassee this legislative session, said Nathan Ray, Jackson’s government relations point man.

But Jackson and public hospitals like it across Florida will continue to face scrutiny from legislators skeptical about taxpayer-supported healthcare facilities.

Ray delivered his report this week to the Public Health Trust that runs Jackson, and noted that the hospital fared better than expected given a number of proposals to redistribute funds for hospitals that treat large numbers of uninsured and Medicaid patients.

Florida Rep. Michael Bileca, a Miami Republican and member of Jackson’s board, noted that the county’s legislative delegation remains unified in its support for the busiest public hospital in the state.

But Bileca said legislators from other parts of Florida question the validity of a publicly-funded hospital system.

“They see it as outdated and inefficient,” he said. “Couldn’t the indigent just be taken care of in a much better way and in a different? They ask those kinds of questions.”


U.S. Senate approves Fort Lauderdale judge's nomination to federal appeals court


The U.S. Senate may have problems with many of President Barack Obama’s judicial appointments — but not Fort Lauderdale’s Robin Rosenbaum.

In a 91-0 vote, the Senate this week approved her nomination to serve on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. The court reviews appeals from federal district courts in Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

Rosenbaum, a federal district court judge whom the Senate confirmed in 2012, will fill a vacancy created by the retirement of Rosemary Barkett. Barkett had also served on the Florida Supreme Court during her distinguished legal career.

Rosenbaum, 47, has been on a fast track since she was elevated from the ranks of the U.S. attorney’s office to serve as a federal magistrate judge seven years ago.

She began her legal career with the Department of Justice in 1991 after graduating from the University of Miami School of Law and Cornell University.

She also had the good fortune of clerking for 11th U.S.Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stanley Marcus, an influential jurist who has helped guide her career.


Bogdanoff may decide next week about Sachs re-match

Ellyn Bogdanoff, a Fort Lauderdale Republican, says she will probably decide next week whether to seek a re-match with state Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach.

Such a race would set up one of the most expensive and fierece legislative battles in the Broward/Palm Beach area.

The district has about an 8-point Democratic edge, but if Bogdanoff gets in the race she is banking on stronger Republican turnout during a non-presidential year.

“I am a risk taker,” she said in an interview Friday. “I’m not a kamikaze pilot. If there is a real opportunity to win the seat I will be in the race.”

Bogdanoff and Sachs were both in the Legislature when due to redistricting they ended up in the same district and squared off in 2012. Sachs won by about 6 percentage points. The majority of District 34 is in Palm Beach County.

Last year a Republican voter filed an ethics complaint accusing Sachs of leasing a Fort Lauderdale apartment from longtime friend, political consultant Judy Stern, to comply with residency requirements. The Commission however does not have jurisdiction over residency requirements in election laws. This past session state lawmakers unanimously passed a new rule that they say will require them to actually live in the districts they represent.

Broward GOP goes silent on twitter. In an election year.

The Broward GOP wants to help re-elect Gov. Rick Scott and hang on to a few other local seats this fall, but it has opted out of one method of communication: twitter.

Some other county political committees in South Florida routinely use twitter to announce upcoming speakers, boast about their own candidates and bash politicians on the other side.

But the last tweet from the Broward Republican Executive Committee was Nov. 15.

“I asked about it this past Monday and the fellow that was working on that said he is going to be working on that,” said Tom Truex, chair of BREC. “Apparently nothing has been posted.”\

Broward has about 234,000 registered GOP voters, one of the largest contingents in the state.  The county has about 538,000 registered Democrats and 276,000 voters who registered with neither major party.

The group’s next meeting is at 7 p.m. May 19 at the Sheraton Suites Fort Lauderdale at Cypress Creek. State Rep. George Moraitis, R-Fort Lauderdale, will speak.

Another week, a new Rick Scott ad: Grandpa


Gov. Rick Scott's campaign is out with a new positive spot, this one featuring him playing around with his grandchild, Auguste.

Scott is on pace to spend about $8.5 million on TV ads in over two months, a record sum this early for a campaign that intends to spend a total of $100 million (a fifth of which has already been spent). This might be his seventh ad (two of which are in Spanish).

Assuming the business poll we reported earlier is accurate, Scott spent $8 million unanswered in about two months and was able to move the polling needle a net 3 percentage points against former Gov. Charlie Crist, now a Democrat and his likely opponent.

Though this spot is positive, Scott gets in a subtle negative dig against what he sees as another opponent: "the news media." The ad opens up with the governor in his backyard reading a newspaper, which is interesting for two reasons: 1) Scott once said he doesn't read the papers and 2) the paper looks real, though previous ads of his have featured phony newspaper headlines to fit his political message.

Here's the text, followed by the ad:

GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT: You might’ve noticed the news media is not always my friend. But they aren’t the critics I worry about. This guy is. I spend every day worrying about what my grandson will think of me. I’m focused on the Florida we leave for his generation. That means more jobs and more opportunity. We’ve made a good start, but we have a lot more work to do. What do you say?

AUGUSTE: Let’s get to work, Grandpa.

GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT: That’s my line. Let’s get to work.