Sunshine State News Blogs
Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford laid out the Florida House agenda for the 2013 legislative session that began Tuesday. Among the priorities of the Florida Work Plan are restoring trust in government, education reform and protecting the state’s fiscal future.
In his remarks during the first session of the House Tuesday morning, the Republican of Wesley Chapel said the Legislature will make Florida a “pocket of personal and economic freedom,” since the federal government has not tackled the nation’s debt crisis nor has it passed a budget in years.
The speaker laid out an agenda to reach that goal that includes reform of the state’s pension system and not expanding Medicaid in the state. Weatherford said this year, the state will pay $500 million of general revenue to shore up the state's pension fund. He said a plan would be passed that is fair and would not require raising taxes down the line to keep the pension fund afloat.
He also vowed to pass an annual budget and show lawmakers in D.C. how it's done.
The House reconvenes at 11 a.m. in a joint session with the Florida Senate.
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"A government that grows too big grows too intrusive and threatens our liberty and democracy."
"The federal government is trying to buy states off one by one. I'm not buying it. Florida shouldn't buy it."
"Will we earn the people's trust, or will we confirm their worst fears about us?"
"If we accomplish nothing else this session, we should be able to look ourselves in the mirror and know we have made that ladder up (for Floridians) easier ..."
Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, also made it clear Tuesday morning that he stands behind an initiative to move new public employees, including state workers, school employees and county workers, in the Florida Retirement System — the state’s main pension fund — into 401(k)-type plans beginning in January 2014.
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Florida Gov. Rick Scott has appointed Tommy Bronson and Bryan Beswick to fill two vacant seats on the Southwest Florida Water Management District governing board, for a term through March 1, 2016.
Bronson is a retired chief executive officer of Meridian Aggregates. The 76-year-old is also a former member of the Pithlachascotee River Basin board and the Withlacoochee Regional Planning Council.
Beswick is grove manager for Blue Goose Growers LLC and a sales associate with Blue Goose Realty. The 45-year-old previously served on the Southwest Florida Water Management District and Peace River Basin board.
The board oversees a roughly $170 million budget. A bill that would have decreased the SWFWMD governing board from 13 to nine members has already been shelved from the 2013 legislative session that begins Tuesday.
Both appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
The "Florida House" app announced by House Speaker Will Weatherford last week is now available on iTunes. With Florida's legislative session beginning Tuesday, the app arrives right on time.
The app allows users to learn about Florida House members and committees, view the House calendar, look up bills, watch live streaming video of meetings and access Florida House’s public guides. Additionally, users can track bills by subscribing to notifications on all bill actions.
“The Florida House of Representatives is proud to provide Floridians with new and exciting ways to access information about our chamber by launching the ‘FL House’ app for iOS and Android devices," Weatherford said when he announced the new platform.
Karl Rove's American Crossroads released an infomercial Monday lampooning President Barack Obama, in what the organization deems is his newly created nonprofit group: "Organizing for Acce$$."
The spoof plays off of recent accounts that Organizing for Action, Obama's new campaign arm, will grant access to the president for a mere $500,000.
Florida Rep. Bill Hager did his civic duty Monday, warning of sharks in the water.
No, he didn’t mean the political variety… he meant actual sharks!
The Republican, of Delray Beach, raised a purple flag (beach warning for danger) on Twitter. “If you decide to brave the cold & go swimming near Singer Island be sure to stay vigilant & observe your surroundings,” he tweeted.
For those non-East Coasters, it’s shark migration season – an impressive sight for anyone who’s never witnessed it. Massive schools of different varieties of sharks have been spotted off the coast of South Florida, with many seen inside breaking waves.
The sharks are expected to hang around until April, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush sat down with "Today" show's Matt Lauer Monday to talk about issues ranging from immigration reform to CPAC to sequester ... oh yeah, and possibly a 2016 White House bid.
First, on the sequester, Bush was critical of how the president handled the crisis, saying there was a lot of "crying wolf” by President Barack Obama, who he claims “led the charge to say widows and orphans are going to be out on the street” and when that did not occur, the president had to walk back those comments Friday, he said.
Bush also admitted to being a little surprised that Gov. Chris Christie, of New Jersey, did not get an invite to speak at the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), where Bush is heading to next week.
When asked the question everyone wants answered, Bush stopped just short of saying yes to a White House run in 2016, saying, “I won’t [rule it out] but I’m not going to declare today either …”
Jeb Bush said it straight out: He's not out of the presidential picture.
Speaking on NBC's "Today" show Monday morning, when asked if he plans to throw his hat into the 2016 ring for the White House, the former Florida governor said, "That's way off into the future. I won't [rule it out] but I won't declare today either."
Bush was on the show to promote his book, “Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution." Naturally the interview quickly turned to Republican presidential speculation.
Bush didn't talk about Sen. Marco Rubio's chances, but he did confess great affection for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. "I love the man," he said of Christie.
Having emerged from the shadows of a major 2011 hiring scandal and subequent agency shakeup, the South Florida Water Management District has thrown itself right back into the soup with another high-level hiring faux pas.
The board hired as its $135,000-a-year chief of staff one of its own former members, Daniel DeLisi, five days after DeLisi resigned. He was hired over 53 others who applied for his job. As one SFWMD oberserver told Sunshine State News, even if DeLisi is qualified for the job, "This smells yukky."
District spokesman Randy Smith told the Palm Beach Post, “Like most other public agencies and private businesses, the executive director or CEO has the authority and discretion to select their own management team by either appointment or the recruitment process.”
SFWMD Executive Director Melissa L. Meeker was not available Saturday for comment.
In 2011, then-executive director Carol Wehle resigned in a swirl of scandal involving employment of her boyfriend, Bob Howard, to serve as one of the district's watchdogs.
The Navy’s famous air show, the Blue Angels, plans to cancel nearly 30 events, including one in Florida, now that the budget sequester has been enacted.
Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, lamented the loss of the air show, which was scheduled for MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., April 6-7.
“If someone you don’t know gets furloughed from a job at a military base, that’s something you read about in the newspaper. But if the Blue Angels are grounded, that’s a highly visible symbol of government dysfunction,” Gaetz said Friday.
“As important as they are and as symbolic as they are," he said, "[the Blue Angels] aren’t as important as making sure that someone in a nursing home gets care or someone in aerospace gets a paycheck. But, obviously, sometimes it’s the symbols that resonate with people and bring the issue home.”
President Barack Obama signed an order to begin automatic federal spending cuts Friday, as the deadline arrived and Congress headed home for the weekend without reaching a deal to avoid sequestration.
Obama decried the cuts during a half-hour press conference at the White House. Federal defense and services spending will be cut by $85 billion over the remainder of the year. As one of the largest defense-centric states, Florida is bracing to be hit with the consequences.
The next fiscal challenge on lawmakers' radar is to avoid a federal government shutdown. Both parties, The New York Times reports, have agreed not to carry the deadlock into negotiations to fund the government through Sept. 30.
With a March 27 deadline to pass the funding bill, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the House will take up a measure next week to do so.-The speaker's office also released a statement Friday saying solutions to the forced cuts would also continued to be discussed.
A nationwide survey of 1,000 likely voters this week by pollster Scott Rasmussen shows voters don’t put a lot of trust in the news reported by the media.
Only 6 percent of respondents rated the news media as "very trustworthy." The number drops lower among Republicans at 4 percent. But, even the Democrats seem to cast a critical eye, with only 10 percent saying the media are very trustworthy.
Most of those surveyed have all but given up on print newspapers, with only 10 percent saying they still get inky fingers.
The survey was conducted Feb. 26-27. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points.
Could the pain of looming sequestration get any worse?
Never mind the 2 percent cuts to Medicare if sequestration takes place tonight. Or the $902 million in reductions to loan guarantees to small businesses. Or the 766,000 health care-related jobs that could be eliminated because of those Medicare cuts.
Matt Dixon of the Jacksonville Times-Union's PolitiJax warns us -- gasp! -- fans could lose flyovers at the Jaguars' games this fall.
My heart, my heart.
“We’ve only heard rumors and haven’t received any confirmation, but the flyovers have been an important part of the Jaguars games and a way to honor and celebrate our military,’’ said a woeful Jaguars' president, Mark Lamping.
Some $85 billion in federal budget cuts set to take effect at the end of the day, and what? They can't take a little from education, health and human services, maybe cut off a few national parks? They've gotta take the Jags' flyovers? These folks need to work on their sense of priority.
Analysis of elections bills filed in the Florida House and Senate for the upcoming legislative session that begins March 5 signals that Florida lawmakers are poised to increase campaign-contribution limits for statewide candidates.
Both HB 569 and SB 1382 raise the current $500 Chiles-era limits. The House version raises the limit for gubernatorial candidates and for those running for Florida Cabinet positions to $10,000. The Senate bill -- spearheaded by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater -- sets a more modest limit of $3,000.
A new poll Friday reveals Americans are more worried about Obamacare than the automatic federal spending cuts that are due to begin today.
This from pollster Scott Rasmussen:
“Despite the inside-the-Beltway warnings about the economic impact [of] the sequester spending cuts, voters are more worried about what President Obama’s new health-care law will do to the economy.
Forty-eight percent (48%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the health-care law is more likely to hurt the economy than cutting government spending. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 29 percent (29%) believe spending cuts will hurt the economy more. Fifteen percent (15%) think neither will hurt economically.”
The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on Feb. 24-25 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points.
Who needs newspapers for the goings-on of the Florida House? Not you, if you've got a smart phone or tablet.
House speaker Will Weatherford announced Thursday the advent of a new mobile app that will allow you to read bills, contact your state lawmaker or watch committee meetings -- all on instruments you can hold in your hand.
The House-only app will have about 80 different features to keep House business not only transparent and convenient, but live.
"FL House" will be available the first week of the 2013 legislative session, according to the speaker's office.
“The Florida House of Representatives is proud to provide Floridians with new and exciting ways to access information about our chamber by launching the ‘FL House’ app for iOS and Android devices."
Senate action via app will not be available for a while yet.
-- Contact members of the House by accessing his or her email address, phone number and office location under the Members tab
-- Browse House committees to find bills
-- View House calendars, including the Chamber Calendar, Committee Calendar and Events Calendar and plan to attend House of Representative public events when visiting the Florida Capitol
-- Watch the Florida House live by accessing streaming live video (only available during interim committee weeks and the regular legislative session)
-- View member picture galleries, updated throughout the regular legislative session
-- Look up bills and track them by subscribing to push notifications on all bill actions
-- Access House publications including the House telephone directory, Clerk’s manual, leadership directory, administrative directory and committee directory
-- Read the House rules
-- Access Florida lobbyist registration
-- Read the Florida House Guide to Government.
The app is home grown, developed by Echo, an Orlando-based mobile app development company. Echo was chosen from a field of 12 companies that applied for the job.
Get more information or receive updates on "FL House" by visiting MyFloridaHouse.gov.
Want to meet Sen. Marco Rubio at CPAC?
Thursday is the last day to enter the sweepstakes to meet the Republican senator of Florida at the conservative convention. Rubio’s Reclaim America PAC is also accepting donations, if you feel so inclined. But, donations are not necessary to win VIP access with the senator at the March 14-16 event in Washington, D.C.
“CPAC is a great event and I’m looking forward to speaking in front of thousands of fellow conservatives who believe in the same values as you and I,” said Rubio.
On the eve of automatic federal spending cuts, the U.S. Senate Thursday voted down a bill by Republicans, then a bill by Democrats, that would have put an end to sequestration.
First, senators rejected legislation put forward by Republican leadership that would have placed discretion (and blame) in the hands of President Barack Obama to implement spending cuts for the remainder of 2013. The bill was voted down 38-to-62, according to Politico. It failed to get Democratic support due to its lack of tax increases as part of deficit reduction.
A vote then failed, 51-49 on Democrats’ measure, which included tax increases.
Failure of the partisan bills means Congress is now preparing to leave the capital for the weekend, with no agreement on avoiding across-the-board sequestration cuts.
Florida's defense and tourism industries must now brace for the automatic cuts. Miami will experience the worst of the tourism effects, because 97 percent of overnight visitors to the city arrive by air and sequestration limits the amount of customs, TSA and FAA officials, resulting in higher delays, according to Florida TaxWatch.
Florida is also one of the leading states for the defense industry, with three unified combatant commands, 20 major Air Force and Navy installations, and annually contributes more than $73.4 billion to the economy. The state also is home to more than 750,000 defense-industry jobs.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott had urged Obama and Congress this week to come up with common-sense reductions that would not put so many jobs and the economy at risk.
Florida will become the 43rd state to join Mega Millions in response to consumer demand, the Florida lottery announced Thursday.
Floridians will be able to press their luck with the multistate game of chance, which awarded the world’s largest jackpot ($656 million) last year, starting May 15. Florida could be a prime state for Mega Millions, as it is already the top-selling state in the Powerball game.
"The Florida lottery prides itself on being responsive to our players and retailers and the addition of Mega Millions to our product mix is something they have requested for many years," said Florida lottery Secretary Cynthia O’Connell. "The additional revenue Mega Millions will generate for education makes this a winning decision."
Mega Millions was created in 2002 when Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Virginia joined together.
Business, consumer and conservation groups around Florida, including Associated Industries of Florida and Florida Chamber, have joined together to push for reform of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund.
The 14-member coalition, Stronger Safer Florida, announced Thursday that they have broad support for revisions to the state-run insurance entities, which the group says are needed in order to protect consumers, businesses, charitable organizations, religious institutions and local government entities as well as shielding environmentally sensitive areas throughout the state.
Other members of Stronger Safer Florida include Florida Consumer Action Network, Florida TaxWatch, the R Street Institute, 1,000 Friends of Florida, Audubon of Florida, CERES, Florida Coastal and Oceans Coalition, Florida Wildlife Federation, Sea Turtle Conservancy, Surfrider Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and James Madison Institute.
On Wednesday, AIF released its 2013 legislative priorities with Citizens Insurance reform at the top of the list. The business lobby group also released an online tool earlier this week to show the disproportionate amount of Floridians who are not insured by Citizens, yet could be affected by its fallout.
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The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched a new attack on the Koch brothers Thursday, using scare tactics to elicit donations.
In an email titled, “We might lose it all,” the DCCC states, “After spending hundreds of millions trying to win the White House, the Koch Brothers are shifting their fortune toward destroying President Obama’s progressive agenda.”
Businessmen David Koch, a Palm Beach resident, and Charles Koch have become the go-to Democratic punching bags, especially during and after the last election cycle. In an attempt to squeeze a few dollars from “pending members,” the fundraising email goes on to say, “Let’s make sure the Kochs know that there’s a whole movement standing between them and President Obama’s agenda.”
Because the Koch brothers believe in limited government and the power of free markets, they are somehow destroying America? With the reams of copy and endless hours of cable chatter devoted to demonizing the principals of Koch Industries, you’d never believe David Koch, for example, has given more than $200 million to find a cure for cancer.
Alabama state Sen. Shadrack McGill is attempting to pass a bill to allow students who are home schooled to play sports at public schools.
The Republican is pushing the “Tim Tebow Act," which has failed in years past due to opposition from the High School Athletic Association.
The bill is named after former University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who was home schooled but played football at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach. Florida passed legislation in 1996 that allows home-schooled students to participate in athletics at the public school in their assigned district.
McGill says 29 other states allow home-schooled students to participate in sports at public schools and argues it is only fair since their parents pay the same taxes. South Carolina passed the “Tim Tebow Law” last year.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has chosen Judge James. B. Sanderlin, Margarita Romo, Harry T. Moore and Harriet Moore to be inducted to the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame.
“As Florida marks its 500-year anniversary, we want to honor individuals who have stood for equality in our state’s history, even in the face of adversity,” said Scott. “These champions of freedom have paved the way for equal rights among all Floridians.”
The inductees were chosen from a list of 10 candidates prepared by the Florida Commission on Human Relations.
Judge James B. Sanderlin (1929-1990), of St. Petersburg, dedicated his life to fighting injustice and discrimination in St. Petersburg and Pinellas County. In 1964, Sanderlin was the lead attorney representing six families in civil rights cases over classroom segregation. His efforts against the Pinellas County School Board led to desegregation in Hillsborough and Sarasota counties. Sanderlin also led a group of sanitation workers in a four-month strike for better pay for African-American sanitation workers in the city. As the lead attorney for a group of 12 black police officers known as the “Courageous Twelve,” Sanderlin won a lawsuit to end discriminatory assignments in segregated neighborhoods. He also worked with the NAACP Legal Defense Funding to fight discrimination. He was the first African-American Pinellas County judge.
Margarita Romo (1938-present) is currently the executive director of Farmworkers Self-Help Inc., assisting seasonal and migrant farm workers. Romo is an advocate for local migrant farmworkers in Pasco and Hernando counties, advocating and lobbying for improvements to Tommytown, a poor farm worker community on the north end of Dade City. Romo also established Agricultural Women Involved in New Goals (AWING), a self-help program designed to help women create better lives for themselves through education. In 2010, Romo was named Hispanic Woman of the Year by the Tampa Hispanic Heritage.
Harry T. Moore and Harriet Moore (1905-1951) both served as civil rights pioneers in the state. They advocated for civil rights in equal pay, investigation of lynching, all-white primaries and voter registration. Harry Moore founded the first branch of the NAACP in Brevard County and served as the statewide executive secretary. He also organized the Florida State Conference NAACP.
The Moores are considered by many to be the first martyrs of the civil rights movement. On Christmas 1951, a bomb exploded under the floor of the Moores' home in Sanford, fatally wounding the couple who were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. Though the FBI was called in, no suspects were ever indicted for the murder.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott gave President Barack Obama advice Wednesday on how to properly manage a budget.
Scott sent a letter to the president urging him to avoid the “meat cleaver” of budget cuts, known as sequestration, that are set to begin Friday. The governor advised Obama to follow his lead on how to deal with fiscal issues.
“It is imperative that your administration lead the country to a position of economic strength by reducing spending and borrowing, and paying down debt,” Scott wrote. “We have done that here in Florida. Over the last two years, we have cut taxes, right-sized our budget and paid down state debt for two years in a row.”
The letter comes two days after Scott accused the president and Congress of playing an “elementary school game of ‘chicken'" with the automatic federal budget cuts.
The governor warned the president of the thousands of jobs that could be lost in Florida if a deal is not made, as well as reminding him of the nearly $73.4 billion economic impact the defense industry is responsible for in the state.
Reform of Florida’s Citizens Property Insurance Corp. sits atop Associated Industries of Florida’s (AIF) legislative priorities list that was distributed Wednesday to all legislative offices and Cabinet members.
AIF, Florida’s powerful business lobby group, says it will advocate for the return of Citizens to “an insurer of last resort” and will work to limit the possibility of what could amount to “hurricane taxes” on the three-quarters of Floridians who do not hold policies with Citizens.
On Tuesday, AIF launched a new online tool aimed at showing that a majority of homeowners in Florida Senate and House districts do not hold policies with Citizens.
AIF also plans to push for legislation that will “right-size” the Cat Fund deficits.
Other items on the group’s agenda include health care, education, manufacturing and environmental issues related to water.
Miami will bear the brunt of the fallout of the automatic budget cuts that are set to begin on Friday due to the share of its tourism dollars that come internationally, according to a Florida TaxWatch report released Tuesday.
The sequestration cuts will have an immediate impact on the airline industry and customs officials, as agencies like U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration will be affected, thereby elongating wait times and reducing security at Florida's ports of entry.
Miami will experience the worst of the effects, because 97 percent of overnight visitors to the city arrive by air. Miami has the highest percentage of foreign visitors of any U.S. city, according to TaxWatch.
The budget sequestration immediately cuts $85 billion and the Congressional Budget Office has reported that spending will be cut back by $44 billion by the end of September. The effect on Florida will be higher than on other states due to its large ports of entry.
“The longer Congress waits to resolve this situation, the more uncertainty and volatility will be introduced into the market, and the more likely our economy will experience another recession, ultimately costing Florida jobs, making it more difficult for Florida’s companies and impacting Florida’s budget,” the TaxWatch report states.
In the fourth quarter of 2012, Florida received 21.4 million visitors with 54 percent of the total arriving by air, according to Visit Florida, the tourism marketing arm of the state.
More than 1 million people are employed by Florida’s tourism industry.
It’s Oscar week. So why shouldn't conservative columnist and Fox News regular Cal Thomas use the Academy Award-winning film, "Forrest Gump," to thump Florida Gov. Rick Scott?
Taking Scott to task over his latest decision to embrace the expansion of Medicaid coverage, Thomas runs through a growing list of concerns conservative activists have with Scott’s recent moves.
In a line that can’t be sweet for tea party activists, Thomas then invokes “Life is like a box of chocolates” from the beloved 1994 film starring Tom Hanks.
New Jersey legislators gave the final thumbs-up Tuesday to a bill legalizing gambling over the Internet. They already sent the bill to Gov. Chris Christie.
Christie, all for the bill, has vowed to sign it quickly.
The state Assembly and Senate passed an updated version that Christie vetoed on Feb. 7, making the changes he asked for. It includes setting a 10-year trial period for online betting, and raising the taxes on the Atlantic City casinos' online winnings.
Meanwhile, Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Pembroke Pines, speaking at the Florida Gaming Congress, said the Legislature will not take up Internet gambling either in its study of the gaming industry or in the Legislature when the subject is fair game again. "We've got enough to focus on," Gibbons said.
When Christie signs, it will make New Jersey the third state in the nation to legalize gambling over the Internet and will represent the largest expansion of legalized gambling in the Garden State since the first casino began operating in Atlantic City in 1978.
For a while it was a race to see who could be first. Nevada and Delaware edged New Jersey out. All three states have passed laws legalizing Internet betting. All the while the practice goes on offshore, untaxed and unregulated.
Detainees have been released by federal immigration officials from several facilities around the country, including one in Broward County, Fla., The New York Times reports.
The releases are occurring in the final days before the sequestration cuts are set to kick in. The Times reports that the Obama administration has released hundreds of illegal immigrants from detention centers around the nation in an effort to save dollars. The detainees will continue to be on supervised release while their cases move through court.
House Republicans are calling the releases a political move that only serves to hinder ongoing negotiations for a comprehensive immigration reform package.
It is unknown how many detainees have been released from the centers in Florida, New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana, Arizona, Alabama, Georgia and New York.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, fresh off his CPAC snub, is rumored to announce Tuesday afternoon that he is going to accept the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, less than one week after Florida Gov. Rick Scott made the same move.
The New Jersey Star Ledger reported Tuesday that Christie, widely thought to be a Republican contender in 2016, will make the announcement during his New Jersey budget speech.
The report would be music to the ears of Scott, who has been lambasted since his announcement last week. For Scott, Christie is not bad company to keep, with his approval ratings in the 70's … in a blue state.