Sunshine State News Blogs
According to a tweet posted from Lauren Mayk, a reporter with WFLA news in the Tampa Bay area, Crist told her Thursday that he would support an amendment legalizing medical marijuana.
Mayk's revelation is hardly surprising, as Crist's own boss, John Morgan, is spearheading the movement to get medical marijuana on the ballot for next year. Morgan has already pumped lots of his own money into the campaign -- close to $1 million -- and has been heard on radio waves across the state urging voters to sign the petition to get the amendment on the ballot for next year.
The petition requires over 683,000 signatures to make it on the ballot next November, but People United For Medical Marijuana seems to be in trouble with gathering enough signatures by the Feb. 1 deadline.
United for Care, a campaign run by People united, said it had collected about 500,000 petitions as of last week, but the Florida Division of Elections listed less than half -- 140,933 -- as verified.
St. Leo University is now running polls and its first look at the 2014 Florida gubernatorial race shows former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite for the Democratic nomination, with a solid lead over Gov. Rick Scott. Crist beats out Scott 46 percent to 34 percent. Most other recent polls show Crist with a smaller lead. The St. Leo poll is of Florida adults, not likely or even registered voters. The poll used online sampling which remains very controversial with polling experts.
“Crist has strong support among Democrats,” said Frank Orlando, an instructor of political science at St. Leo. “This is remarkable because Democrats in Florida are giving him a chance, despite his past association with the Republican Party. It will be interesting if this party-switching honeymoon effect will last over the course of the gubernatorial primary.”
The poll shows almost a fifth of Republicans -- 17 percent -- backing Crist over Scott.
The online poll of 400 Florida adults was taken from Dec. 1-8 and had a margin of error of +/- 5 percent.
On Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott called for cutting $400 million in taxes and fees as he looks to roll back a motor vehicle registration fee enacted in 2009 by then-Gov. Charlie Crist. Despite being a Democrat for only a year, Crist is the favorite for his new party’s nomination to challenge Scott in 2014 even though he spent most of his political career with the Republicans.
“I have one message today for every Florida family,” Scott said. “We are going to undo the 54 percent tax increase you saw in 2009 to register your motor vehicles. This means around $400 million annually will be given back to Florida families. This has never been government’s money – it’s your money – and I look forward to working with the Florida legislature to return it back to you. We want to create an opportunity economy in Florida, and letting people keep more of the money they make means families have more money to invest in their future. We want to create an economy that supports job creation for generations to come.”
Scott’s team estimates this increase moved car registration from $46.80 to $71.85 each year. They estimate the fees will return to around $46 if enacted.
Sounds like U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., will vote against the federal budget deal crafted by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. DeSantis posted his problems with the agreement on Facebook on Thursday:
1. The deal increases spending over the next two years by $64 billion. This is over and above the spending limits previously agreed upon in the 2011 Budget Control Act. Current law mandates discretionary spending levels at $967 billion and $995 billion for fiscal year 14 and fisclal year respectively; Ryan-Murray overrides these provisions of law and authorizes spending of $1.012 trillion (fiscal year 14) and $1.014 trillion (fiscal year 15).
2. Because of these spending increases, the deal increases the deficit by $56 billion over the next two years.
3. The deal targets 55 percent of the spending reductions for fiscal years 2022 and 2023. In other words, it trades increased spending today for promises of future spending reductions – but future Congresses will not be bound by those caps, just as this Congress is overriding the spending caps from the 2011 BCA.
4. The deal includes an increase in the airline ticket security surcharge fee. The purpose seems to be to generate revenue to defray the additional spending authorized; it does not seem like it will be used to reduce the deficit.
5. The deal contains a host of needed but modest spending reforms, including recovering overpayments for unemployment insurance, limiting Medicaid third-party liability, reducing fraudulent tax refunds, and stemming improper payments to prison inmates. This is all good, but these are things that could be done as standalone bills; by incorporating them into this budget deal, they can be used to mask some of the increases in spending.
6. The deal requires federal employees hired starting in 2014 to contribute 4.4 percent of their pay towards their retirement plan, with the taxpayers funding the other 8.3 percent of the cost of the program. This is still much more generous than the typical private sector employee, but is substantially more than .8 percent of pay that federal employees hired prior to 2013 are required to pay. This does not affect any current or retired federal civilian employee.
7. The deal lowers by 1 percent the cost-of-living increases provided to all military retirees under the age of 62. So veterans who have served 20 or more years but who have not reached the age of 62 will be affected by this provision. To me, it is unfair to military retirees to change their benefits while not touching the benefits of any federal civilian worker, active or retired.
8. The deal makes a procedural change that will allow the Senate to pass tax increases more easily. This is very much in the weeds, but it eliminates the ability for a senator to raise a point of order when there is an attempt to “pay for” increased spending with increased taxes. This basically means that the threshold for using to tax increases to fuel higher spending is 50 votes, not 60 votes.
Democrat William Rankin's campaign for chief financial officer has all the excitement of a dud firecracker.
In the whole of November Rankin brought in $151. Which at least is six times more than his October harvest of 25 bucks. As much as Democrats are looking for a worthy challenger to take on CFO Jeff Atwater, their donors are probably discovering Rankin -- whose claims about himself are off the charts -- isn't the one.
But maybe all's not lost. There's always John Morgan. He has two more sons besides Mike, the son with attorney general dreams. Maybe one of those boys would like to be CFO?
Former U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., announced on Thursday that he would head out to Arkansas in the new year to help campaign for U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who is running against U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.
“A poll released this week shows Tom leading liberal Democrat Mark Pryor, 48 percent to 41 percent, in the U.S. Senate race in Arkansas,” West informed supporters on Thursday. “This poll also shows Tom leading among Independents by 21 points and women by 4 points.
“This is tremendous news not only for Tom, but for America as a whole,” West insisted. “Winning this seat is key to taking back the U.S. Senate next fall and if
Tom continues to have the support of conservatives nationwide, we will prevail.”
Despite President Barack Obama shaking the hand of communist tyrant Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela’s funeral, a new poll shows Americans are not expecting relations with Cuba to improve over the next year.
Rasmussen Reports released a poll on Thursday which finds that a majority of likely voters -- 54 percent -- do not expect relations between the two nations to change much in the next year. While 10 percent think things will worsen, 17 percent believe relations will improve in 2014. Almost a fifth of those surveyed -- 18 percent -- are undecided.
The poll of 1,000 likely voters was taken from Dec. 10-11 and had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.
"The Choice is Right", according to David Jolly's campaign, and anyone who's watched "The Price Is Right" will recognize David Jolly's latest celebrity supporter as former host of the show, Bob Barker, who will be appearing in a 30-second campaign ad that will run on local station WTSP Thursday during "The Price is Right."
During the ad, Barker says:
"Folks, when you get to be as young as I am, you call it like you see it. That's why I'm supporting David Jolly for Congress. I admired David as he worked alongside my good friend Bill Young helping wounded veterans, protecting our seniors and children, and by standing up for Pinellas with character and honor. "
Barker later says: "Because with Jolly the choice is right."
Jolly is one of three Republicans running to take over Congressman C.W. Bill Young's seat. Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, and Mark Bircher are also running for the nomination. Whichever Republican wins will then face off against Democrat Alex Sink and Libertarian Lucas Overby in the general election, which will take place on March 11.
Watch the ad here:
A new documentary called "Building the Machine" is slated to be released in February. The three-minute preview of the 30-minute film paints a picture of a secretive process of developing the standards in which contributors were asked not to discuss what took place in the meeting to create Common Core.
"You don't pass the most significant reform in decades without breaking a few laws in the process," says the preview, after President Barack Obama says the standards were developed by governors, both Democrats and Republicans, not by Washington.
Watch the full preview here:
From his perch on the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., ripped the decision of President Barack Obama to shake Cuban Communist dictator Raul Castro’s hand at the funeral of Nelson Mandela.
“The excitement exhibited in some liberal quarters regarding the embrace of Raul Castro by President Obama ignores the millions of victims of the totalitarian Castro regime,” said DeSantis on Wednesday. “I urge the president to secure the release of American Alan Gross from Castro’s prisons. The Cuban people have been denied liberty for more than 50 years and U.S. policy must be geared toward the establishment of a free and democratic Cuba.”
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., continues to showcase his opposition to the federal budget deal crafted by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
Rubio appeared on Megyn Kelly’s show on Fox News on Wednesday and slammed the deal, saying it will only increase federal spending.
“Unfortunately the budget, what it does is it increases spending by about $60 billion over the next two years,” Rubio told Kelly. “Going above this cap, that by the way Congress imposed on itself, meaning these caps now that they passed in Washington, are meaningless because they come back a year later and go over them. But here’s the problem: It raises it by $60 billion, the spending, but it pays it over 10 years. Well, you know how that works. Over the next couple of years they’ll forget it, and they will keep borrowing more. The fundamental problem that we have here is that we have a government that continues to spend more money than it takes in. It’s doing so at an alarming pace and our children are going to have to pay for this. Not just our children, many of the people that are around today are going to have to pay. We are going to have a debt crisis in this country. It is going to continue to destroy jobs. It’s going to disrupt the function of our government. It’s going to threaten our national security. When are we going to get serious about dealing with this once and for all?”
Rubio also penned an op-ed over at Breitbart’s explaining his opposition to the budget deal.
The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) has been focusing on attacking former Gov. Charlie Crist -- the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Rick Scott next year despite spending most of his political career as a Republican -- on President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law. Thursday proved no different as Lenny Curry, the chairman of the RPOF, hit Crist on Obamacare.
“While Obamacare's chief administrator says the rollout of Obamacare was 'flawed, failed and frustrating,' Charlie Crist continues to defend it,” Curry said on Thursday. “New numbers show that very few Floridians are benefiting from the law, while at least 300,000 will lose their insurance plans. If Charlie Crist can't see what even Kathleen Sebelius admits -- that Obamacare has been a disaster -- how can Floridians trust him to lead the state of Florida?"
U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., said on Wednesday he would support the budget agreement reached by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, Wis. Crenshaw, the chairman of the House Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, said the agreement would help reduce the deficit.
“Congress faces tough challenges on the road to providing economic peace of mind for hard-working Americans,” Crenshaw said on Wednesday. “This agreement stops the process of lurching from crisis to crisis and lends some certainty to funding government operations. The Appropriations Committee, which has already cut $200 billion in spending, can now move forward with creating fiscally-responsible appropriations bills to fund government operations: that’s our duty.
“I welcome a process that moves the nation toward deficit reduction without tax hikes or relying on devastating cuts of sequestration,” Crenshaw added. “All agencies of the federal government have a role to play in wiping out Washington’s habit of big-government spending, but my commitment to national security stands unwavering.”
Ed Moore, the president of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF), was named to the Irish Education 100, a group that honors Irish-American educators. Moore will be recognized at an event in New York City next week.
“I am extremely honored to be included among the top education leaders nominated for the 2013 Irish Education 100,” said Moore on Wednesday. “This distinction pays tribute to both my Irish heritage and my unwavering passion for working toward success for students in Florida’s independent institutions of higher learning.”
On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott said Department of Children and Families (DCF) Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo will stay at her post until at least the end of the 2014 legislative session.
“Esther has been an incredible leader, and she will be an invaluable resource for legislators on children and family issues during the upcoming legislative session,” Scott said. “Our state has already benefited from the on-the-ground experience Esther brings to DCF, and we will continue to work with child services stakeholders to ensure we have the best leadership at the agency to protect Florida children.”
“When Governor Scott asked if I would stay through the legislative session, I jumped at the opportunity,” Jacobo said. “I am eager to lead our team through session because I believe in the work we are doing. I cannot thank Governor Scott enough for the honor of serving as secretary of DCF, and I look forward to continuing to work on significant changes that will have a positive impact on our state’s most vulnerable children and families.”
The U.S. House voted on Tuesday to pass a bill consolidating federal Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility leases, including in Pasco County. The bill won the support of U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., the vice chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
“Today’s vote is a win for all veterans, especially those living in and around the Tampa Bay area,” said Bilirakis. “This legislation will not only increase veterans’ access to quality care, but also make it more convenient for veterans to receive the care they need. In Pasco County alone, this bill will enable the five existing clinics that are strained and spread out across the Tampa Bay area to consolidate into a convenient, one-stop facility that will serve all veterans’ medical needs. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to take swift action in passing HR 3521 and for the president to sign this legislation into law, so the VA can continue to provide quality care to our veterans.”
Pope Francis was named Time Magazine’s "Person of the Year” on Wednesday and a new poll finds Americans have a good opinion of him.
Rasmussen Reports released a poll on Tuesday which finds 61 percent of American adults see the pope as favorable while only 12 percent see him as unfavorable. While only 3 percent see Pope Francis as very unfavorable, more than a quarter of those surveyed -- 29 percent -- see him as very favorable. Only 9 percent have never heard of Pope Francis while 17 percent are undecided on how they see him.
The poll of 1,000 American adults was taken from Dec. 5-6 and had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.
Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, continues to push her bill to create a poet laureate for Florida. On Wednesday, Hukill’s bill unanimously passed the Government Oversight and Accountability Committee.
“These types of creative outlets allow students to strengthen their public speaking, grow their knowledge of words, while sharing their passion with others,” said Hukill about the volunteer position she is proposing. “The state poet laureate position is an important role. If just one student discovers a love of words and writing, they have done their job.”
Hukill’s bill now heads for the Education Committee.
According to campaign finance records, the family's construction company donated a whopping $18,000 to Crist's campaign. Murphy's parents, Tom and Leslie Murphy, capped off the donation with $3,000 apiece.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is backing the federal budget deal crafted by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., but he is offering some words of concern. The deal was announced late on Tuesday.
“We now have what amounts to be a major bipartisan budget deal, considering the gridlock that has gripped Congress in recent years,” Nelson said. “No one will love everything in this agreement. But we all should be able to compromise to get something done for the good of the country.”
Missionary Waters, a nonprofit organization just west of Stuart in Palm City, is preparing to send 3,000 portable water filtration kits to the Philippines to aid in the production of safe drinking water for the remote areas and islands hit by Typhoon Haiyan.
It is seeking donations to do even more.
According to the organization, the kits are light in weight, easy to assemble and can produce up to 18 gallons per hour of clean water in the most remote places, providing pathogen-free and contaminant-free drinking water from any freshwater source. They will last for more than six years without replacement parts, the organization claims, reducing the labor and cost of conventional water supplies.
“Together, right now, we can impact over 500,000 people” said Allen Korson, CEO and founder. “Help us to help the people of the Philippines. A simple donation of $59 will send a complete kit and save over 170 lives from parasites and bacteria in their drinking and personal use water.”
The RW2 water filtration kits can be purchased through donation at the organizational website www.missionarywaters.com or contact 772-286-9995.
“When Renewed Waters came to the BDBMC looking for a location, we immediately jumped into action and found appropriate space within 48 hours”, said Tim Dougher, executive director of the Business Development Board of Martin County. “With so many people affected by water quality issues around the world, it’s nice to see a Martin County-targeted company offer this kind of assistance,” Dougher said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testified before the U.S. House on Tuesday and drew heat from Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, after President Barack Obama shook the hand of communist Cuban tyrant Raul Castro.
“Mr. Secretary, sometimes a handshake is just a handshake,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “But when the leader of the free world shakes the bloody hand of a ruthless dictator like Raul Castro, it becomes a propaganda coup for the tyrant.
“Raul Castro uses that hand to sign the orders to repress and jail democracy advocates. In fact, right now, as we speak, Cuban opposition leaders are being detained and they’re beaten while trying to commemorate today, which is International Human Rights Day,” Ros-Lehtinen added. “They will feel disheartened when they see these photos.
“Could you please tell the Cuban people living under that repressive regime that, a handshake notwithstanding, the U.S. policy toward the cruel and sadistic Cuban dictatorship has not weakened?” she asked in conclusion.
John Phillip Sousa IV, great-grandson and namesake of the famed patriotic composer, continues to pitch Dr. Ben Carson as a possible presidential candidate in 2016. Sousa, the national chairman of the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee, made the case for why conservatives should back his candidate.
Insisting Carson is a “stalwart conservative,” Sousa maintained he has the right beliefs.
“Ben Carson is a student of the founders, a man who believes in limited government, low taxes, and traditional moral standards,” Sousa insisted. “Ben Carson believes in the United States Constitution as the document that must be respected and followed as intended by the founders. Ben Carson is not a politician like those in Washington, Democrat and Republican, who created the mess we are in.”
Sousa pointed to Carson’s opposition to Obamacare, support of the Second Amendment, the free market and limited government.
“Dr. Ben Carson is the right man in the right place at the right time,” Sousa insisted.
In the meantime, Sousa plans to ramp up efforts in the early 2016 primary and caucus states. Sousa vowed his group will “continue its organizational efforts in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and North Carolina -- the first four states that Dr. Carson must win to get him on the road to the White House in 2016.”
Conservatives are starting to stand against the federal budget deal crafted by Senate Democrats led by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and House Republicans led by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Late Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., like Ryan a possible Republican presidential hopeful in 2016, said he opposed the deal.
“We need a government with less debt and an economy with more good-paying jobs, and this budget fails to accomplish both goals, making it harder for more Americans to achieve the American dream,” Rubio said. “Instead, this budget continues Washington’s irresponsible budgeting decisions by spending more money than the government takes in and placing additional financial burdens on everyday Americans.
“In the short run, this budget also cancels earlier spending reductions, instead of making some tough decisions about how to tackle our long-term fiscal challenges caused by runaway Washington spending,” Rubio added. “I voted against sequestration because of its effect on key programs, including the defense budget, but higher spending and more revenue are not the appropriate ways to address that problem.
“The American people should not be asked to choose between a strong military and responsible budgets that encourage job creation and reduce debt,” Rubio said in conclusion. “They deserve better than this.”
The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) continues to pile onto former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2014 despite spending most of his career in the GOP, by linking him to President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law.
“As Florida's Obamacare defender-in-chief, Charlie Crist wants voters to forget about this law's many problems,” said RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry on Wednesday morning. “Obamacare's chief administrator, Kathleen Sebelius, has yet to be held accountable for the law's disastrous rollout, and Obamacare's chief architect admits that the law will cause patients to pay more for their doctors. Charlie Crist's dismissal of these problems proves that Floridians can't afford to have him back in the governor's mansion."
On Tuesday, Scott opened his official campaign account and turned in paperwork to seek a second term in office.
Scott's intentions to run for a second term haven't been secretive, but he hadn't officially filed to run before Tuesday. For the past two years, however, Scott has been raising millions and millions of dollars for a political organization called Let's Get to Work.
Neraly 30 other candidates have also filed paperwork to run for governor. The two most prominent candidates are Democrats -- former Gov. Charlie Crist, who jumped in the race in November, and former state Sen. Nan Rich, who has been in the race for over a year.
On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott cheered the news that Office Depot and OfficeMax, which are murging, will base their operations in Boca Ration.
“We worked hard to win this new headquarters for Florida – and today’s victory will no doubt be a game changer for Florida and Boca Raton,” Scott insisted. “With the assets of OfficeMax and Office Depot, this newly formed Fortune 300 company will add more jobs and capital investment, retain 2,000 existing jobs, and create new opportunities for Florida families.
“Today’s win builds on this year’s news that Hertz – another Fortune 300 company – is relocating their headquarters to Southwest Florida,” Scott added. “Our success in landing the headquarters of two Fortune 300 companies in one year is remarkable. It’s the result of our work to create an opportunity economy with low taxes that allows innovators and job creators to succeed.
“While this is a huge victory for Florida, our work isn’t done,” Scott said in conclusion. “We’ll continue working hard to create an opportunity economy that creates more opportunities for families to succeed for generations to come.”
In a tweet, John Morgan said: "My son @MikeMorganESQ is thinking of running for FL Attorney General. What do you think?" Morgan's tweet was met with some supportive responses, while others bashed the younger Morgan, saying: "Nothing says 'person of the common man' than Democrat lawyers with 'ESQ' in their twitter handle." If true, Morgan would face off against Pam Bondi in the race. Mike Morgan received his law degree from the University of Florida in 2008.
Former U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., came out swinging against President Barack Obama on Tuesday, encouraging conservatives to vote for the president’s biggest flub in 2013.
“We're getting to that time of year again,” West explained on Tuesday. “Everyone and their brother will be releasing their lists of 2013's best and worst songs, influential leaders, and most impactful moments and events. But one top 10 list the left-wing media won't be releasing is Barack Obama's Biggest Flubs. So naturally, the Allen West Guardian Fund is stepping in to fill the void.
“We've compiled a list of shocking missteps by the president and his administration in the past 12 months – and we need your vote to determine the absolute worst,” West added. "No one is talking about the truly appalling excuses, miscalculations, and lies President Obama and his administration have cooked up. It's a double standard we've grown far too used to, and the sad reality is: in Obama's case, his flubs are actually dangerous. In fact, many of them have undermined America's strength and authority abroad, jeopardizing our security here at home. But of course the left-wing media would never criticize their liberal darling!”
While West is not running for anything in 2014, he has opened the door to a political comeback in 2016.
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) clearly thinks that former state CFO Alex Sink, the Democratic candidate in the special election for the congressional seat left vacant by the death of longtime U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., is vulnerable when it comes to Obamacare. On Tuesday, the NRCC unleashed its latest attack on Sink on the issue. The NRCC also tried to link Sink to U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
“It’s troubling that while Pinellas County families are losing their health care coverage, Alex Sink won’t get off the train wreck that is Obamacare,” said Katie Prill, a spokeswoman for the NRCC, on Tuesday. “Sink’s loyal support of Nancy Pelosi and Obamacare proves that she’s a risk we can’t afford in Congress.”