Sunshine State News Blogs
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., is calling on President Barack Obama to have an “overarching strategey" again Islamic State (IS) terrorist forces.
“Now is the time for the president to articulate an overarching strategy to defeat IS and explain how he intends to build a greater international effort that does not rely on American combat troops,” Buchanan said on Tuesday. “The leadership vacuum in the White House must be replaced by a clear and coherent vision."
Buchanan pointed to reports showing IS gaining in Syria and Northern Africa as well as UN reports on their execution methods and called for a coalition of Middle Eastern nations to be the front line forces against IS.
"That coalition should include other Arab nations that have much to lose if IS continues its murderous rampage in pursuit of an Islamic Caliphate," Buchanan said.
As Sunshine State News nears its 5-year birthday in March, expect some major changes as we continue to cover a side to the issues and stories that is absent in the news landscape.
Sunshine State News will expand in new directions in the weeks to come, taking our common-sense core message to even more Floridians. Keep an eye on Sunshine State News on Wednesday morning for a major announcement concerning the first step toward these efforts.
Sunshine State News is about to hit the radio airwaves.
Your humble blogger will be on all two hours of the Ed Dean Radio Show on Wednesday instead of my normal half hour spot. We’ll be broadcasting at the 1300 WMEL studio in Cocoa.
Listen in at www.1300wmel.com.
The poll found most voters prefer to cut spending and don't see the need for higher taxes. Only 16 percent say they're in favor of a budget that increases spending while over half -- 54 percent -- prefer a budget that cuts spending. Only 21 percent think spending levels should remain about the same.
When it comes to increasing taxes, more than half -- 57 percent -- say additional tax hikes are needed to fund the federal government while only 26 percent say additional tax hikes are necessary.
When Congress was unable to reach a long-term budget agreement in 2013, it agreed to automatic across-the-board annual budget cuts. Obama says he wants to end the sequestration cuts. Thirty-five percent of likely voters favor ending these cuts and raising federal spending while a slightly higher number (40 percent) are opposed.
The poll of 800 likely voters was conducted Jan. 31-Feb. 1 by Rasmussen Reports.
Former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., announced to supporters on Friday that he will not seek the Republican presidential nomination for a third time. Romney was the Republican presidential candidate in 2012 who lost to President Barack Obama.
Conservative pundit and radio show host Hugh Hewitt received a copy of what Romney told supporters on Friday. Romney insisted that he could win the nomination but decided against a third bid.
“After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee," Romney said.
The National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) jabbed freshman U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Fla., on Wednesday, accusing her of backing President Barack Obama’s call to tax 529 saving accounts that Americans use to save for their children’s college education. After drawing heavy fire from the Republicans on the proposal, Obama has spiked it for the moment.
“Gwen Graham’s first big initiative in Congress was supporting Barack Obama’s plan to tax college savings accounts – a proposal so absurd that even the president has already abandoned it,” said Chris Pack, a spokesman for the NRCC, on Wednesday. “Hopefully Graham now realizes that she should study up on the president’s proposals to see how they would impact her constituents before she blindly supports them.”
But a spokesman for Graham has said she has never backed the president's plan or raising taxes on 529s
Graham's camp noted that, in her response to Obama's State of the Union, the new congresswoman said, "I disagree with some of the president’s proposals, like raising taxes while our economy is still recovering."
Graham's team also noted that her father -- former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Bob Graham, D-Fla. -- introduced 529s with now-U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
"Hubris appears to be the organizing principle of our executive branch," she said.
"These last few weeks have been a miserable lesson in bad government and the citizens whom I've had the opportunity to speak with -- many of whom have written letters to the editor in your newspapers -- have stated ... what is going on and why can't we get the truth out of the firing of Commissioner Bailey, a gentleman with an esteemed record of service in this state and law enforcement whose own statement contradicts that of the governor's office," Joyner continued.
Joyner also called for an investigation of the firing.
The special Republican primary battle for former Rep. Doc Renuart’s open House seat, representing the northern parts of St. Johns County, proved close on Tuesday night.
St. Johns County Commissioner Cyndi Stevenson beat St. Augustine businessman Mike Davis, who challenged Renuart in the primary back in 2012, by 300 votes on Tuesday night. With all votes in, Stevenson had 5,173 votes (42 percent) while Davis took 4,870 votes (39 percent). Jack Capra stood in distant third with 2,379 votes (19 percent).
Stevenson will face Judy Stevens, who is running with no party affiliation, and write-in candidate Mary Anne Boczek in the April 7 special election.
Former Rep. Travis Hutson won the special Republican primary for an open Florida Senate seat on Tuesday night, decisively beating former Rep. Doc Renuart by 17 percent. Hutson will face Democrat David Cox in the special election on April 7.
With all votes in from Flagler, Putnam and Volusia counties and more than 90 percent of precincts reported in St. Johns County, Hutson had 52 percent of the vote while Renuart trailed with 35 percent. Dennis McDonald was in distant third with 13 percent.
The seat became vacant when former Sen. John Thrasher accepted the presidency of Florida State University. Republicans have a clear advantage in the district.
Paul Renner is one step closer to heading to Tallahassee after a big primary win on Tuesday night.
Renner, an attorney and Navy veteran, lost by the skin of his teeth in a Republican primary to banker Jay Fant for an open Florida House seat in Duval County. But, on Tuesday, Renner bounced back easily, crushing former St. Johns County Commissioner Ron Sanchez and conservative activist Danielle Anderson in the special Republican primary for the House seat vacated by former Rep. Travis Hutson.
Renner will be a heavy favorite over Democrat Adam Morley in the special election in April to represent this solidly Republican district which represents all of Flagler County and parts of St. Johns and Volusia counties.
U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Fla., announced on Monday she was named to the U.S. House Agriculture Committee. Graham defeated U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., back in November in a rare bright spot for Democrats in the Sunshine State in last year’s election cycle.
“Farmers and rural communities are the backbone of North Florida,” Graham said on Monday. "Our economy depends on their hard work. Our families depend on them to provide food.
“On the Agriculture Committee, I will be a voice our farmers can depend on to represent their interests,” Graham added.
Graham helped overcome a Republican tide by pushing the “North Florida way” instead of the “Washington way” on the campaign trail and stressing bipartisanship. She continued along those lines on Monday.
“Florida’s farmers expect us to rise above partisanship and politics,” Graham said. “I look forward to working with Republicans and Democrats to benefit North Florida agriculture.”
Florida Farm Bureau President John Hoblick said he was glad Graham has her new assignment.
“I want to congratulate Rep. Gwen Graham upon her appointment to the House Agriculture Committee,” Hoblick said. “Florida’s farm families look forward to working with her on a variety of federal issues that affect their livelihoods. They will be knowledgeable resources for Rep. Graham in both the development of new legislation and the application of existing policies.”
Graham is not the only representative from North Florida on the Agriculture Committee. U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., also sits on it.
U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., announced on Monday he was a co-sponsor of U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson’s, R-S.C., “Local Control of Education Act” which would stop the Obama administration from making states “adopt a specific curriculum, and would void any previous federal requirements established for states that have already adopted Common Core.”
Rooney explained why he was backing the bill on Monday.
“The federal government has no constitutional business setting the curriculum for a teacher in a Florida classroom,” Rooney said. “If states, of their own volition, want to adopt a certain set of standards, then that’s their prerogative. I believe in states’ rights. However, the federal government should not be using carrots and sticks to coerce states into adopting Common Core or any other curriculum passed down from on high in Washington.
“I believe Florida’s teachers, principals and parents know our students and their needs better than any bureaucrat in Washington does, and decisions about education and curriculum need to be made as close to the student and teacher as possible,” Rooney added. “Our bill restores local control over education by prohibiting the federal government from using grants or waivers to coerce, mandate or incentivize states into adopting Common Core or other similar standards.”
Rooney said the Obama administration has used waivers from No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top funds to push states into embracing Common Core.
Conservative group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) came out swinging at proposals to use public funds and incentives to lure the entertainment industry to Florida on Tuesday. AFP’s Florida chapter showcased an infographic on the matter on Tuesday, insisting film incentives don’t help the economy.
"Because some lawmakers were misled by Hollywood lobbyists promising massive economic growth, illustrious films and shows like 'Spring Breakers,' 'Magic Mike,' 'What would Ryan Lochte Do?,' and even a Victoria’s Secret commercial were approved to receive millions in corporate welfare,” said Chris Hudson of AFP Florida. “These are just a few of the examples of questionable entertainment that were subsidized by Florida taxpayers – all in the name of nonexisting economic growth. While Hollywood executives made big promises about job creation and economic growth, our state’s own economists did the research and gave a critical review: two thumbs down for Hollywood handouts. They found that the tax incentive program fails to live up to its hype, providing a pathetic return on investment of only 43 cents for every taxpayer dollar invested. It’s time to end Hollywood’s B-rated cronyism drama in Tallahassee. No more handouts for special interests.”
Gov. Rick Scott called for $7.4 million for three new state homes for veterans. One of the homes will be in St. Lucie County while the Cabinet needs to decide on the location for the other two.
“Florida is the most military-friendly state in the nation and as a Navy veteran, it is incredibly important that we do all we can to help our veterans and their families,” Scott said. “My father was a member of the 82nd Airborne and we will never forget the selfless sacrifice all of our veterans have made to ensure we have the opportunity to live the American dream. I am proud that we are going to continue to support our heroes by adding new nursing homes and we will keep working each day to ensure all of our veterans have a great quality of life in Florida.”
Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, the first Democrat to win a mayoral race in that city since Ed Austin in 1991, is in serious trouble according to a poll of likely voters released on Monday.
The poll finds, for the first round in March, Brown ahead with 38 percent followed by Curry with 31 percent. City Councilman Bill Bishop stands in distant third with 9 percent.
But with the runoff of the top two candidates in May, if nobody gathers 50 percent Curry takes the lead in a head-to-head match-up. In that scenario, Curry takes 45 percent and Brown 42 percent.
The poll of 1,247 likely Jacksonville voters was taken between Jan. 23-25 and had a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percent.
Longtime Alachua County educator Hershel Lyons was named as K-12 public schools chancellor by Education Commissioner Pam Stewart on Monday.
“Hershel has dedicated his life to educating our students and I am confident he will do an outstanding job as chancellor,” Gov. Rick Scott said on Monday. “Providing Florida students with a world-class education is vital to our goal of making Florida the No. 1 state for job creation, and I’m certain that Hershel will help us on that mission. I look forward to continuing to work with Commissioner Stewart and Hershel as we work to provide historic investments in our K-12 education system and make Florida the best state in the nation to raise a family and get a great education.”
“Florida’s K-12 students and teachers rank among the best in the nation for achievement,” Stewart said before turning to Scott’s record. “Under Gov. Scott's leadership, we have implemented student-centered policies and made significant investments in education, which has enabled Florida students to thrive. We must build on this success, and the K-12 public schools chancellor is integral to continued student achievement. With nearly three decades of in-school experience and a track record of applying innovative approaches to improve outcomes, Hershel is ideal to lead Florida’s public schools.”
"I have been honored to work with Florida students throughout my career because I believe that, with the right guidance, every child has boundless potential,” Lyons said. “I am humbled by Commissioner Stewart's appointment, and I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Florida in this new role."
School Choice Week starts in Monday with more than 1,400 events across Florida, part of almost 11,100 events across the nation.
Jacksonville leads the Sunshine State with 227 events followed by Miami with 174 and Orlando with 90.
“When it comes to providing parents with a diverse array of K-12 education options for their children, Florida is a national leader,” said Andrew Campanella, president of National School Choice Week. “Parents in Florida have more educational choices for their children than in many other states.”
The Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists (FAPL) announced in a press statement Sunday the results of its election of officers for 2015-2016.
Officers elected are as follows:
- Chairman, David R. Mica, CAE, DPL, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Institute;
- Vice chairman, Mike Hightower, senior policy adviser with the Holland & Knight law firm;
- Secretary-treasurer, Lori Killinger, Esq., DPL, shareholder with Lewis, Longman & Walker, one of Florida’s pre-eminent law firms where she chairs the Legislative, Lobbying and Governmental Affairs Practice Group.
Appointed to the executive committee by Chairman Mica, with the board's concurrence, were Jose Gonzalez, DPL, state affairs director with Anheuser-Busch; and Michael Carlson, Esq., DPL, executive director of the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida.
Continuing their service as directors are Mike Brawer, M.S.Ed, DPL, executive director, Association of Florida Colleges; Eric Eikenberg, DPL, executive director, Everglades Foundation; Candice Ericks, DPL, partner, Adams Street Advocates; former state Rep. Susan Goldstein, DPL, founder, Susan Goldstein Consulting; Jennifer Green, CAE, DPL, president and founder, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee; Fred Leonhardt, Esq., DPL, shareholder, Gray Robinson, PA; Andrea B. Reilly, Esq., DPL, Smith, Bryan & Myers; John Wayne Smith, DPL, partner, Peebles-Smith Consulting; and Doug Wheeler, DPL, president, Florida Ports Council.
FAPL represents government affairs professionals regulated and registered with the state of Florida.
According to the association, its mission focuses on education and ethical conduct. Each member must complete an initial course in lobbying regulation and ethics and then participate in periodic continuing education.
The association's code of ethics sets out explicit standards of conduct in dealing with public officials, clients, and with one another that are based on "principles of honesty, candor, integrity, and respect for the process."
Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., announced that the state unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent in December as the state added 11,500 jobs. When Scott took office at the start of 2011, the state unemployment rate stood at 11.1 percent.
“Today we are excited to announce that Florida businesses added 11,500 private-sector jobs in December, for a total of 728,500 private-sector jobs created in only four years, and we look forward to seeing even more businesses grow and create jobs for families across the state,” Scott said on Friday. “As we prepare to release our 2015-2016 'Keep Florida Working’ budget recommendations, we will stay laser-focused on our goal of making Florida the global destination for business and job creation.”
This marks the lowest state unemployment rate since April 2008.
From his perch as chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., is calling to give the secretary of Veterans Affairs more power to discipline incompetent senior executive service (SES) employees. Miller introduced a bill giving the VA secretary more flexibility in disciplining underperfoming SES employees, including reducing pensions, reducing time on forced paid administrative leave, reforming appraisals for bonus and adding more transparency.
Miller left no room for doubt that his bill was the result of reports of last year on how the VA dealt with altered waiting lists at medical facilities across the country.
“More than nine months after the VA scandal, Americans are asking ‘where is the accountability?’ Unfortunately, VA doesn’t have a good answer to this question,” Miller said. "That’s why our focus remains on giving the VA secretary more tools to ensure corrupt and incompetent executives face serious consequences for mismanagement and malfeasance that harms veterans. Right now, the task at hand for VA leaders is replacing the department’s culture of complacency with a climate of accountability, and we are going to give them everything they need to do get the job done.”
U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., the chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, doubled down on his support of the FairTax proposal on Thursday.
“Across Northeast Florida and the nation, citizens are spending billions of dollars and hours navigating a complex tax code – time and money that could be better spent growing our economy and creating jobs,” Crenhaw said on Thursday. “Putting a FairTax in place solves that issue and deserves immediate consideration by Congress.
“The easy-to-understand FairTax would wipe out thousands of pages of regulations and loopholes and leave in place a transparent national sales tax on goods and services administered primarily by the state,” Crenshaw added. “Federal income taxes and the FICA payroll tax would be eliminated, and the IRS would no longer be needed. The poor are protected and everyone is treated equally: no exemptions, no exclusions, no advantages. Americans would be allowed to keep their entire paycheck and spend hard-earned dollars on ways that best suit them. On the business side, labor costs are lowered by eliminating payroll taxes, allowing companies to hire more workers.
“Americans know best how to spend their money and deserve to keep more of their paycheck in their wallets and bank accounts,” Crenshaw concluded. “They don’t need to be finding more dollars to send to Washington to fund big and costly government programs.”
Crenshaw is one of more than 60 co-sponsors to the FairTax proposal authored by U.S. Rob Woodall, R-Ga.
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., one of the senior members sitting on the U.S. House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, wrote President Barack Obama on Thursday, vowing to work with the White House on free trade agreements. Buchanan supports the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership
"In your State of the Union address you expressed a willingness to work with Congress on expanding international trade opportunities that will help grow the U.S. economy and create American jobs. Offer accepted,” Buchanan wrote.
“As a senior member of the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, I understand that increasing access to foreign markets is critical to restoring America’s rightful standing as the world’s global leader,” Buchanan continued. “In your words ‘China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region.' We cannot allow this to happen.
“A pending free-trade deal between the U.S. and 11 other countries, including Japan, offers us a prime opportunity to turbo-charge our economy by eliminating tariffs and expanding American exports. The countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) account for 40 percent of global economic output and nearly a third of all world trade,” Buchanan added. “However, the best way to ensure an open and transparent process where American jobs and companies are protected is by passing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation. Also known as ‘fast-track’ authority, TPA allows expedited consideration of trade agreements – provided that certain congressionally-dictated safeguards are met. TPA offers the ability to obtain an up-or-down vote on a trade agreement, which is critical to ensure that the U.S. maintains leverage in complex multination negotiations.”
But Buchanan pointed out to Obama that most of the opposition to TPA is coming from the left.
“Special interests and members of your own party have expressed opposition to TPA,” Buchanan wrote. “I would encourage you to personally reach out to these factions so we can build support for this critical legislation. A recent poll by the Business Round-table revealed the vast majority – more than 80 percent of Americans – support the U.S. negotiating trade agreements to expand market access for goods and services around the globe. I believe that increasing global demand for American products will lead to greater growth here at home.
“Bipartisan trade agreements could serve as an excellent example of what Washington can accomplish when both parties come together to help create jobs and increase America’s competitiveness in the global marketplace,” Buchanan concluded. “Let’s get to work.”
No, sorry ... cool your jets, Charlie isn't standing trial.
But the former Republican governor-turned-independent-turned-Democratic governor-candidate showed up at the Pinellas County Justice Center this morning for jury duty.
According to a brief item in the Tampa Bay Times today, Charlie Crist, resident of St. Petersburg, was hanging out in a jury assembly room with dozens of other prospective jurors, waiting to see if he would be selected for a case.
No major cases were on the docket Wednesday, the Times story said.
Court documents filed this week said Lolita Grayson had been complaining of chest pain and went to the emergency room where they broke the news she'd have to go through emergency surgery to remove her leaking breast implants.
The court date was originally scheduled for Thursday but has now been moved to March. Grayson's surgery was scheduled for Monday.
Rep. Grayson claims their marriage was never valid because Lolita Grayson was married to another man at the time, but she says she was divorced.
Government watchdog group Integrity Florida today called on federal authorities to investigate potential violations of the civil rights conspiracy statute by state government officials in Florida.
In a prepared statement, the organization pointed to a recent Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald report that former Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Commissioner Gerald Bailey alleged Gov. Rick Scott and his top advisers conspired to falsely name Colleen Reilly, then acting clerk of court in Orange County, as the target of a criminal inquiry.
Integrity Florida requested a federal investigation in a letter sent Wednesday to Michelle Klimt, special agent in charge for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Jacksonville and Pamela March, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida.
"The allegations made by former Commissioner Bailey are troubling," said Dan Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida in the statement. "While the public should not rush to judgment, this is a serious matter that merits a federal investigation."
"A political agenda should never interfere with the authority and responsibility of FDLE to protect and serve the public trust," said Krassner. "Floridians deserve answers about whether Gov. Scott and his top aides attempted to abuse the authority of FDLE. Integrity Florida is encouraged by the bipartisan concerns raised by top state officials about the questionable removal of Commissioner Bailey. In addition to the need for a federal investigation, alleged violations of state laws should also be reviewed by the appropriate oversight agencies and legislative committees."
But Tim Cerio, Scott's general counsel, responded categorically, “These allegations are false.”
Communications director for the Republican Party of Florida, Susan Hepworth, and Andrew Abdel-Malik, RPOF digital director, both resigned from their respective posts effective immediately, according to Matt Dixon of the Naples Daily News.
The two resignations follow another high-profile party staffer leaving his post: RPOF Executive Director Justin Johnson resigned a few hours after Ingoglia was elected.
The American Federation for Children, which calls itself the nation’s voice for educational choice, released the following statement from executive counsel Kevin P. Chavous in response to President Obama's State of the Union address:
"President Obama’s remarks on education were a great disappointment to those of us working to help kids struggling in failing schools across America. The president has long expressed interest in helping children attend Pre-K and today he wants to help more kids go to college -- all of which is laudable. But the obvious question is: What about the millions of kids in between?
“There is only one immediate answer to helping parents with children in failing schools -- an issue supported by increasing numbers of Democrats and Republicans alike -- and that is educational choice.
“As a former elected official who saw the benefits of school choice in D.C., I find it heartbreaking that the president remains stubbornly in-line with those who oppose any meaningful reforms to an antiquated education system. By ignoring the needs of children between K-12 who are stuck in schools that do not meet their needs, the president runs the risk of being on the wrong side of the most important civil rights issue of this generation.”
The problem is, however, that the $500 tax credit won't go very far.
White House administration officials have said the tax credit will benefit families earning up to $210,000, a number four times as much as the typical middle class income of $52,000.
The tax credit wouldn't amount to much -- as reported by the Washington Examiner, child care can cost up to $279 per week, meaning Obama's tax-credit wouldn't even cover two weeks' worth of day care.
The credit wouldn't amount to much for an Obama dining experience, either -- the $500 tax credit also couldn't cover dinner for two at Honolulu's Vintage Cave restaurant, where the Obamas dined on New Year's Day. Per person, the tab runs $295 -- and that's before drinks are calculated into the bill.
Gov. Rick Scott will be present at the meeting, which is set to include a legislative and economic development outlook as well as an update on the Team Florida Partnership, a statewide campaign to promote Florida businesses. During the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the partnership raised $1.4 million to support the campaign’s efforts, "helping to reach site consultants and business decision-makers worldwide."
Gray Swoope, who will be departing from EFI next month, will give a question and answer session at the meeting.
The Florida Channel will broadcast the meeting live.