Sunshine State News Blogs
But today the mayor, who's garnered a reputation for being something of a fiscal conservative, came out swinging against Gov. Rick Scott for one of this morning's budgetary line-item vetoes:
“I am very disappointed by this veto of [the Learn2Earn program in Jacksonville]. The Governor and his team have once again let down hundreds of Jacksonville children and families.
“We have worked very hard to educate Governor Scott and his team about this critical program. We provided them with ample information about how it benefits at-risk Jacksonville high school students who dream of going to college. We were pleased to see that Florida TaxWatch recognized the value of this program and did not recommend a veto of this appropriation. The Governor pledged to give us a final chance to make our case before a decision was made, but that chance never happened.
“Despite the Governor’s action today, my team and I will find a way to move forward with this summer’s program. We aren’t going to turn our backs on these kids and their families being able to participate in the Learn2Earn experience.”
To which Republican Party of Florida Chair Lenny Curry has replied:
"Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown's attack on Governor Rick Scott is over the top. How can an additional $1 billion of funding into K-12 schools be considered a 'failure to support youths'? How can giving teachers well-deserved pay raises be considered 'letting down hundreds of Jacksonville children and families'? The Governor and our GOP-led Legislature have achieved the largest state-based contribution to total education funding in Florida's history. Governor Scott wants to make sure that all educational programs that receive taxpayer funding can show how they will measure success."
Brown deserves one more correction: His statement that "Florida TaxWatch recognized the value of [the Learn2Earn] program" is flat-out wrong. As TaxWatch itself has repeatedly emphasized, exclusion of an item from the annual "Turkey Watch Report" does not constitute an endorsement of the appropriation much less a "recognition of its value." Whether an item is labeled a "turkey" depends solely on whether it was placed in the budget after receiving what TaxWatch believes is an appropriate amount of procedural scrutiny.
“We want to make clear that the turkey label does not mean that we are condemning the worthiness of the project or even making a judgment on that project,” as Kurt Wenner, TaxWatch's vice president for tax research, told reporters on Friday. “The Turkey Report focuses on the budget [process], to make sure everything receives the scrutiny that it should.”
Among the vetoes was a 3 percent tuition increase for state colleges and universities. The following is the letter Scott sent to Secretary of State Ken Detzner:
Dear Secretary Detzner:
By the authority vested in me as Governor of Florida, under the provisions of Article III, Section 8, of the Constitution of Florida, I do hereby withhold my approval of portions of Senate Bill 1500, enacted during the 45th Session of the Legislature convened under the Constitution of 1968, and entitled:
An act making appropriations; providing monies for the annual period beginning July 1, 2013, and ending June 30, 2014, to pay salaries, and other expenses, capital outlay - buildings, and other improvements, and for other specified purposes of the various agencies of State government; providing an effective date.
We first recommended the Florida Families First budget for Fiscal Year 2013-2014 to make strategic investments in support of continued economic growth and job creation. This final budget, as passed by the Florida Legislature and signed into law today, does in fact put Florida Families First by investing in economic development initiatives and making a record investment in our K-12 schools, including the $480 million we requested to give Florida teachers a well-deserved pay raise.
We made strategic investments in this budget, while holding the line on spending that does not give Florida taxpayers a positive return on investment. In order to ensure all taxpayer funds are well spent, I have vetoed special legislative projects totaling $368 million. Therefore, the Florida Families First budget now totals $74.1 billion.
The Florida Families First budget includes $1.2 billion in taxpayer savings. This budget also reflects the smallest state government workforce per 1,000 residents in Florida in this century. The Florida Families First budget is one of our state’s smallest budgets this century, when adjusted for population growth and inflation.
We are also holding the line on tuition by vetoing the Legislature’s recommended 3 percent tuition increase on our college and university students. Higher education is one of the best ways we can prepare Floridians to get a great job. It is also one of the best ways we can provide every family the opportunity to pursue their dreams, regardless of where they start in life. I believe that I would not have had the opportunity to start a business, or even serve this great state, if I had not had the benefit of a higher education experience. Therefore, I believe it is incumbent upon state leaders to ensure the cost of higher education remains accessible to as many Floridians as possible. Florida should be proud that we have one of the most affordable high-quality college and university systems in the country – now also offering $10,000 baccalaureate degree programs. Just as we are proud to be one of only a few states without a state income tax, and one of only a few states that have cut taxes and paid down state debt, even in tough budget years, we should also be proud to keep tuition low in Florida.
The Florida Families First budget is about helping the majority of Florida families, most of which are making $50,000 or less a year, struggling to make ends meet, and working hard to achieve their version of the American dream. We know that investing in economic development and our K-12 education system is working to create more jobs and opportunity in our state. Our unemployment rate has now dropped to 7.2 percent – well below the national average, and we are already almost half way to our 2010 goal of creating 700,000 new jobs in seven years.
Are you a conservative or libertarian activist who tried to incorporate your organization as a 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4), and as a result were bombarded with all sorts of post-application queries that had nothing whatsoever to do with your organization's finances? Were you perhaps later targeted for a suspicious audit?
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Although Mike Hill still faces Democrat Jeremy Lau in the June 11 general election, Capitol pundits are already speculating whether the Panhandle Republican is the next “red shirt freshman” in line to become speaker of the Florida House.
Hill cruised to victory in yesterday’s House District 2 special election against five other Republicans, receiving 42 percent of the vote. If he pulls off the feat, Hill would join a fairly illustrious group. Both current U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and future Speaker Jose Oliva won special elections that gave them a session or two head start in their races to become speaker. Rubio won his special election in January 2000 and Oliva did the same in June 2011.
According to the Florida Division of Elections, Hill received 42 percent of the votes, followed by Ed Gray at 34 percent. The remaining candidates trailed far behind, with Mark Taylor at 9 percent, Jack Nobles at 8 percent, Scott Miller at 5 percent, and David Radcliffe at 2 percent.
Sunshine State News was the first to report that Hill was leading the race by a wide margin.
The district includes parts of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.
Now he's being accused of an ethics violation. And there seems to be something to it.
Attached to this blog post, readers can see for themselves an ethics complaint filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics. The charge? Gray, who sat on the Santa Rosa County School Board until 2010, failed to file a mandatory final financial disclosure form -- Form 6F -- with the Commission after he left that office.
Sunshine State News contacted the Commission, and while they could not speak to the complaint itself, they were able to confirm that they have no Form 6F on file for Gray.
That does not necessarily mean that Gray is guilty of the violation. Investigators could, for example, find that Gray had mitigating excuses for not doing so. But a spokesperson for the Ethics Commission, speaking strictly hypothetically, told SSN that someone found guilty of not filing the form could receive a civil penalty of up to $10,000.
The House District 2 Republican primary election is on Tuesday, May 14. Early voting ends Saturday, May 11.
"He's a very conservative man, a family man, he has been involved with the tea party. ... He's an outstanding person," Sharon Gloss, "public awareness coordinator" of the conservative grassroots organization (which does not have a formal "president") tells SSN. "I do believe that he is the real thing, not just somebody who's putting [a label] on the back of his name. ... If I could mark that ballot, I would mark it for Mike Hill."
Though HD 2 includes parts of Santa Rosa County, Gloss herself does not reside in the district. She emphasizes that her endorsement is a personal one, and not one made on behalf of her organization, which is nonpartisan and counts Republicans, Democrats, and independents among its members.
Hill is president of the Northwest Florida Tea Party; Gloss's endorsement is the latest in a series from prominent local and statewide conservative stalwarts, including Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala (the legislative father of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law and former head of the Christian Coalition of Florida); Bill Herrle, Florida executive director of National Federation of Independent Business, and Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan.
The practice was allegedly instituted by "low-level workers" in Cincinnati.
Avila, 28, an English Professor at Miami-Dade College, beat financial manager Manny Roman (a grassroots libertarian activist and GOP newcomer) by a vote of 61 to 49.
The race was seen in some quarters as a proxy battle for the future direction of the Miami-Dade GOP, which is one of the Republican Party of Florida's largest county affiliates.
Read the full story now.
Braman tells SSN:
"I like Manny Roman, and I'm happy to support him. I'm very impressed with him; hes a quality young man. He does good work, he's responsible, he believes in our free enterprise system, and I know he doesn't agree with corporate welfare.
"[Roman's] a fresh breeze in stale air. He's up-and-coming. ... [He] gives me a wonderful feeling as far as the future is concerned. Roman is a successful business person and he would be a great asset as vice chair of the party."
GOP neophyte Roman, 27 -- who successfully spearheaded the effort to get the Miami-Dade County Republican Executive Committee to condemn the ultimately-failed attempt by some South Florida GOP lawmakers to secure taxpayer funding for Sun Life Stadium renovation, and nearly succeeded last December in orchestrating a takeover of the local party by libertarian-leaning Ron Paul supporters -- is running against lifelong Republican Bryan Avila, 28, for the vice chairmanship. The election will be held Thursday evening.
Braman's comments are the latest in a string of endorsements for the young activist. Roman's candidacy is also being supported by J. Marc Lewis, founder of Tea-by-the-Sea, one of South Florida's most active tea party groups, and by the College Republican chapters of the University of Miami, Florida International University, and Barry University.
For his part, Avila, an English professor at Miami-Dade College who sits on the Planning & Zoning and Scholarship boards of the city of Hialeah, tells SSN the only endorsement that matters to him is that of the Republican voters of his Hialeah district, who elected him to one of the region's two REC seats last August. (Roman,manager of financial planning and analysis for the Burger King Corp., was elected by fellow REC members to the second seat when it subsequently became vacant.)
The Miami-Dade REC is one of the Republican Party of Florida's largest county affiliates.
More to come ...
The top three complaints received by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' hotline in April revolved around the Do Not Call list, charitable solicitations, and motor vehicle repair, according to a Monday announcement by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
The calls were made to the agency's 1-800-HELP-FLA.
A statement released by Putnam's office reports his agency received 4,038 written complaints last month. That's in addition to 21,136 calls and 718 emails requesting consumer assistance and other information.
During the month of April, Putna,'s agency:
- registered 6,182 businesses,
- started 162 investigations,
- made four arrests,
- recovered $463,815 on behalf of Floridians, and
- added 24,625 telephone numbers to the state's Do Not Call list. The list currently contains about 500,000 numbers.
HB 7013 ("Florida Election Code") will substantially increase the the hours and days allowed for early voting, impose word limits on ballot summaries for Legislature-proposed constitutional amendments, and allow voters to correct absentee ballots that contain missing signatures. Earlier today, the House rejected a Senate amendment that would have given the Department of State authority to discipline noncompliant elections supervisors.
HB 7013 ("Florida Election Code") would substantially increase the the hours and days allowed for early voting, impose word limits on ballot summaries for Legislature-proposed constitutional amendments, and allow voters to correct absentee ballots that contain missing signatures.
The bill opens the teaching of high school virtual education courses to out-of-state, even international, providers, beginning in the 2015/2016 school year, but requires the Department of Education to perform a study to determine how these providers would receive Florida accreditation, how the department would ensure that students themselves are completing the online material, and what other impacts this expansions would have on Florida's educational system.
The study will have to be completed by Dec. 31, 2014.
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) had argued the law was an unconstitutional delegation by the Legislature of its powers to an administrative body.
More to come . . .
SSN contacted Scott's office hours before our story went up yesterday afternoon, revealing information from sources close to the issue that the governor lobbied several senators to persuade them not to support Parent Empowerment. The reason? He didn't want the bill before him: signing it would have ticked off the liberals, vetoing it would further alienate his already-unnerved conservative base.
Hours after our story went up, here's the response, in its entirety, that we received from Melissa Sellers, Scott’s communications director:
“We certainly believe in the role parents play in the process of advocating for and improving the education of children. However, we had some concerns with the bill the Senate considered today.”
Doesn't sound like a denial. Perhaps on Wednesday the governor's office will elaborate on Scott's specific "concerns."
The bill seeks to facilitate service members’ transition from active duty to the civilian workforce and to reduce the veterans’ unemployment rate. A companion bill was also recently introduced by Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., in the U.S. Senate.
“One of the challenges our service members face is how to match their professional military skills and technical training with civilian jobs,” Bilirakis said in a statement announcing his co-sponsorship Tuesday. “As our veterans make the transition from the battlefield to civilian life, we must continue to make them a top priority and ensuring they are able to compete in today’s technologically evolving economy is paramount.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for recent Iraq and Afghanistan veterans was 9.2 percent in March 2013, higher than the 7.6 percent national average. The number of veterans receiving unemployment benefits has also doubled since 2002.
The Troop Talent Act of 2013 seeks to improve the alignment of specialty skills acquired in the military with civilian certifications or licenses, to expand existing efforts to meet current workforce demands, and to implement quality assurance measures to ensure credentials translate into the private sector.
What did Tim Tebow do to earn the scorn of a no-class outfit like the New York Jets? Yahoo's Les Carpenter asks a good question in a story on the 'net Monday.
The Jets dumped Tebow all right. But they did it on the first Monday after the NFL draft, knowing that other teams' rosters would be filled -- and that lessens significantly his chances of catching on with another NFL team this season.
Why do they hate this University of Florida icon? Was he late to practice? Lazy? In bad shape? Bad attitude? Did he fall out with his teammates? None of the above. Coach Rex Ryan put him in games for a total of 77 snaps. That's it.
Why did the New York Jets want Tebow in the first place? Read Carpenter's story. You might see, as he does, it's easier to like an inspirational quarterback than it is to like the people Carpenter calls "the perpetually dysfunctional half of East Rutherford's two football franchises."
"While this news is promising, Florida families and businesses are still experiencing delays, and Florida tourism is still being put at risk each day," Scott said in a statement Thursday. "I continue to call on the White House to expedite the issue and work with Congress on a solution, so we can continue our momentum in growing jobs, and let the FAA, airlines, airports and travelers, get back to doing their jobs."
The statement is the latest in a series Scott has leveled against the administration. In a Wednesday appearance on Fox News' "Your World with Neil Cavuto," the governor suggested the President was purposefully and needlessly defunding the nation's air traffic controllers in order to make Republicans look bad and the sequester seem more severe than it actually is.
“What I have been told is [the Obama administration] had over $2 billion of other cuts they could have made that would not have impacted air controllers," Scott told Cavuto. "This appears to be for some political move. I just think it’s ridiculous because it’s going to impact jobs. Our families want jobs.”
Earlier in the broadcast, Scott had explained just how Florida's economy has been especially hit hard by the furloughs:
"Look, we're a tourism state. About a million jobs in our state are tied to tourism. We have four major hubs in our state. We’re clearly the gateway to Latin America. On Monday our Fort Lauderdale airport and Orlando, almost 50% of their flights were delayed. It’s going to impact jobs in our state, right when we're having dramatic a turnaround in our economy."
Check out the video.
That's according to a new poll published by Gallup on Wednesday, which shows the former House speaker enjoys a 48 percent unfavorable rating, with only 31 percent of respondents reporting a favorable opinion. That net -17 image score compares with -11 for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., -10 for Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and -8 for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Only 11 percent of those surveyed had never heard of Pelosi, making her the best known among the four. Twenty-one percent had never heard of Reid, while Boehner and McConnell were unknown to 14 percent and 22 percent, respectively.
"Two years after Boehner replaced Pelosi as U.S. House speaker, Pelosi continues to be better known by Americans and maintains much of the high negatives she acquired during her stint in the job," according to Gallup. "Boehner isn't too far behind in either regard; however, given the incremental shifts seen to date in his ratings as speaker, it's unlikely that he will overtake her in recognition or unpopularity anytime soon. ...
"The implication for the 2014 elections is that neither congressional caucus has a strong front man or woman to lead its party's midterm campaign."
The Boston bombings have garnered public support for surveillance cameras.
Following law enforcement's successful use of security cameras to identify the marathon bombers, Americans strongly support their use in public areas and feel they help curb crime.
GOP pollster Scott Rasmussen's latest poll finds 70 percent of American adults approve of the use of cameras. Less than 20 percent (18) oppose the eyes of Big Brother. Eleven percent aren't sure what to think.
When it comes to safety, 55 percent of voters surveyed believe public areas are safer when surveillance and security cameras are implemented. Twenty-seven percent disagree and 18 percent are undecided. Similarly, 52 percent of respondents said they believe surveillance and security cameras reduce crime. Not so fast say 28 percent, while 20 percent aren't sure.
A whopping 87 percent of Americans think surveillance cameras are at least somewhat important to aid law enforcement officials in solving crimes, including 58 percent who think they are very important.
The national survey of 1,000 American adults was conducted April 22-23.
Florida lawmakers want to give residents a tax break for a few days this summer.
They are proposing another back-to-school tax holiday in August. The legislation eliminates state and local sales taxes on such items as clothes, shoes and school supplies.
This year’s version of the bill also wipes out sales taxes on certain electronics, including laptops and tablet computers costing up to $750.
To qualify, the computers must be bought for personal use. Some accessories are also eligible, including keyboards, monitors and modems.
Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, said, “This is really the one opportunity that the state of Florida has to give back to Floridians to say, ‘We know the time that you’re going for back-to-school shopping can be very stressful, can be very expensive, so here’s a small thank you gift of being able to give some of those hard-earned tax dollars back to Floridians.'”
This year’s sales tax holiday will run from August 2 - 4. Estimates indicate it will save shoppers about $30 million.
- Dave Heller
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., wants Americans to know the new immigration bill, long in the works, has finally been revealed and introduced to members.
The Cuban-American senator has also released a video he hopes will go viral. In an email he urges people to share with friends, saying, "I want you to know why we need to pursue immigration reform the way we’ve proposed it. Leaving it the way it is is simply unacceptable."
Brevard Community College Trustees have fired a professor who urged students to vote for President Barack Obama.
Associate Professor Sharon Sweet was dismissed after a 3-month investigation into complaints that the algebra instructor, a registered Democrat, urged students and, in some cases, forced them to sign pledge cards that they would vote for Obama, reports Florida Today.
Complaints also alleged the teacher distributed partisan political materials in her classes. The college’s code of conduct bars professors from soliciting political support for candidates.
The board voted 3-1 for termination Wednesday. The lone dissenter felt that firing her was too harsh a punishment.
Thomas Brooks, an attorney for Sweet, said there was not enough evidence for dismissal and complained the investigation was not thorough. He also said that the teacher thought the cards were for a voting drive and did not realize they were pledges.
After the vote, Brooks said the decision will be appealed, which could go straight to trustee or through a grievance filed by the union.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has named four Florida counties as primary natural disaster areas due to damages inflicted by the drought.
Alachua, Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties will qualify for natural disaster assistance, the USDA announced Wednesday.
“President Obama and I are committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy by sustaining the successes of America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities through these difficult times," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We’re also telling Florida producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood.”
Farmers and ranchers in contiguous counties also qualify for the assistance. Farmers included are those in Bradford, Duval, Marion, Clay, Gilchrist, Union, Columbia, Levy and Volusia.
All qualified farm operators in the designated areas are eligible for low interest emergency (EM) loans from the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). Farmers have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses.
Adam Putnam-for-Governor hopefuls probably should wrap it up for this cycle. The popular Republican secretary of agriculture and consumer services quietly filed for reelection on Monday.
Putnam already has attracted Democratic opposition -- Thad Hamilton, who served on the Broward Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors.
Hamilton was a military man, having served in the Army and retired a lieutenant colonel. He grew up on a farm and studied agriculture at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. He worked for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 36 years, some of that time in New Mexico and Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Allison McCoy, senior vice president of marketing for Spectrum Gaming Group, described her company's mission at the Florida Gaming Congress in February. She told Sunshine State News, "Our job is to tell people not what they want to hear but what they need to know."
Now Spectrum will be telling Florida what it needs to know about its gaming future -- officially.
The Florida House and Senate announced Tuesday the joint selection of Spectrum Gaming Group to complete a two-part study of gaming in Florida to assist the Legislature in better understanding the economic, fiscal, and social impacts of possible changes in Florida’s gaming environment.
House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said, “Spectrum has extensive experience in providing independent studies of gaming in a variety of jurisdictions, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Ohio. I look forward to reviewing their report as we take a holistic view of the role gaming plays in Florida's economy.”
According to the Legislature's press release, the study will provide a comprehensive analysis of gaming market information, to include an assessment of the Florida gaming industry and its economic and social effects; an assessment of various potential changes in the gaming industry and their potential economic and social effects (including effects on other areas of the economy); and a statistical analysis of relationships between gaming and economic variables for communities.
Read the full story in Sunshine State News.
Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, one of the Sunshine State's most staunchly conservative legislators, has endorsed Northwest Florida Tea Party president Mike Hill for state representative in the District 2 Special Election.
"Mike Hill has the core convictions needed to meet the moral imperative we have to protect faith, family, freedom, and opportunity for the next generation," Baxley said in a statement Tuesday announcing his endorsement. "We need him in the Florida House."
Baxley, a former executive director of the Christian Coalition of Florida, served as House speaker pro tempore under Marco Rubio and is the father of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law.
"It's an honor to have Representative Baxley stand with our campaign," Hill responded to the endorsement. "Representative Baxley has been a true champion of conservative principles in the Florida House and embodies the same commitment to good public policy that I will take with me to Tallahassee."
Hill, an insurance agent, is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and served 10 years on active duty in the Air Force. He sits on the executive council of the Florida chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business.
Adam Johnson, son-in-law of Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Port St. Lucie, has been awarded the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, for "The Orphan Master's Son," a novel about North Korea.
Harrell bubbled after the announcement. "What an honor," she said. "We are so proud of him and Stephanie."
Calling Johnson's book an "exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart," the members of the Pulitzer panel announced the big news on Monday.
Johnson, 46, and his wife Stephanie -- daughter of Gayle and husband James -- both got their Ph.Ds at Florida State University. ("It was hard for this Gator to accept!" Rep. Harrell admitted)
He is a former Wallace Stegner Fellow who teaches at Stanford University. His fiction has appeared in Esquire, Harper's, and The Paris Review. He is the author of "Emporium," a short story collection and the novel, "Parasites Like Us," which won the California Book Award. "The Orphan Master's Son" is his third novel.
Adam and Stephanie Johnson have three children and live in California.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued a statement Monday following the marathon finish-line bombings in Boston:
"Our hearts and prayers go out to the people of Boston. I've asked the Florida Division of Emergency Management to be on standby to provide any assistance needed to help first responders on the ground in Boston. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement also stands ready to provide any support services needed."
On a personal note, Scott added, "As a husband, father and grandfather, today’s events remind us all of how fragile life is and how important it is for us to keep our communities safe. Tonight, our state stands in support of all those impacted by the Boston bombings. We hope those responsible are swiftly brought to justice -- and peace and safety is quickly restored.”