Jan 26 2011

‘Numbers game’ goes to Corcoran

Reps. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, and Matt Gaetz, R- Fort Walton Beach, are dropping out of the race to be speaker for the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions, they told the News Service separately Tuesday.

Both candidates threw their support behind Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity, after members of the Miami area delegation decided to support Corcoran in a bloc vote.

“These things are always a numbers game,” Albritton said.

Albritton spent most of the day finding his supporters to tell them in person that he was going to drop out to support Corcoran. “Now we’ve put this behind us and we can focus exclusively on solutions,” he said.

Corcoran is a lawyer who previously served as the chief of staff for former House Speaker Marco Rubio, now a U.S. senator.

                                                                                             —Kathleen Haughney

Read full story: http://www.newsserviceflorida.com

The News Service of Florida

Jan 26 2011

Canady: Forget Taj Mahal, Don’t Cut Court System

Florida courts should be spared another round of budget-cutting, since judges continue to struggle with a system strained by dockets swollen by home and business foreclosures, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady told a Senate panel Tuesday.

Courts have absorbed a roughly 10 percent reduction in support staff since the recession began even as the economic collapse has made foreclosures a "crushing burden on the court system," Canady said. He asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to shield Florida courts from further reductions as lawmakers seek to close a $3.6 billion budget shortfall.

"We are a lean system," Canady said. "Any additional cuts of any significance will really hamper our ability to meet the needs of the people who come to the court system…seeking justice." The court system is largely financed by a $370 million trust fund – which, in turn, is drawing the bulk of its dollars from fees paid in foreclosure cases.

But even as they drive dollars into the system, foreclosures are crowding courts with delays and legal complexities.

Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, said lawmakers could consider restructuring foreclosure fees to include penalties for delays. Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, also proposed to Canady that legislation could be enacted to delay judges' retirement ages – from the current age 70 to as much as age 77, in an effort to save state money.

Canady drew no questions from committee members about the controversy surrounding the $49 million First District Court of Appeal building in Tallahassee, derided by many critics as an example of lavish spending. But he later acknowledged the courthouse may hurt claims of frugality.

"We have taken steps to assure that similar problems don't occur in the future," Canady said. "I think it's really a separate issue than the funding of the judicial system."

                                                                                                  — John Kennedy

For more: http://www.newsserviceflorida.com

The News Service of Florida

Jan 24 2011

Ethics Commish Ready To Drop $300K in Fines

Gov. Rick Scott and Florida lawmakers are struggling to find dollars to close a $3.6 billion budget shortfall, but a state agency is considering walking away from more than $300,000 in fines owed by almost 300 former public officials.

The Florida Commission on Ethics has been urged by its executive director, Philip Claypool, to abandon efforts to collect penalties of as much as $1,500 each on elected and appointed officials who failed to file their state-required financial disclosure forms when they were due.

Most of the 280 officials cited formerly served on professional boards, soil and water districts, fire and rescue districts, and similar citizen boards which make up the low-minor leagues of state politics.

But at least one scofflaw, Joe Celestin, is a former North Miami mayor who unsuccessfully ran for the state Legislature and – last year – for Miami-Dade County Commission. Celestin, who could not be reached Monday, owed $1,500 on fines that accumulated in 2006.

Some of the fines stretch back nine years. But most were accumulated about five years ago – making them impossible to collect since the commission considers itself bound by a four-year limit on "an action for a statutory penalty or forfeiture," Claypool said in a memo to commissioners, who will take up the matter at the commission's Feb. 4 meeting.

"I recommend that the commission enter an order declaring these financial disclosure fines uncollectible," Claypool wrote.

                       — John Kennedy

Read full story: http://www.newsserviceflorida.com

The News Service of Florida

Jan 24 2011

So You Want To Tweet, Governor?

Fresh off his widely-acclaimed series of tweets to stranded residents during last month's northeastern blizzard, New Jersey Mayor @CoryBooker gave a Florida Democratic political consultant some advice he would give to @FLGovScott on how best to use the social media phenomenon as an elected official.

Booker told former Alex Sink and Loranne Ausley aide Kevin Cate, who now runs his own Tallahassee PR shop Cate Communications, that Gov. Rick Scott may have been onto something when he sat down last week to personally answer questions from Twitter users last week. 

“You get more control when you surrender control," Booker told Cate, according to the Florida consultant's latest blog. "Social media allows you to shape media. Give yourself over to authentic communication and traditional media doesn’t shape your words as much as you shape traditional media’s ability to shape them. (Be) proactive, transparent, authentic. We are just now exploring this world but it is opening up a deeper way to connect, serve and express ideas/ideals.”

The message from Booker to Cate came via a direct message on Twitter, of course. But no one in the conversation said Let's Get to Tweeting, however.

The full blog can be read here: http://www.catecomm.com/?p=442.


The News Service of Florida

Jan 24 2011

Tax cutting, immigration may not be slam dunks

With House Speaker Dean Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos saying this past week that it's difficult to see how you cut taxes while closing a $3.5 billion-plus budget gap, the stage is set for Gov. Rick Scott's first battle with the Republicans in charge of the Legislature. Scott said last week that he's pressing forward on tax cuts – he's proposed corporate income tax and property tax cuts – and that when he releases his budget on Feb. 4, he'll propose to cut taxes. There's also beginning to be some Republican hesitation on immigration – the Senate holds its second special committee hearing on the issue today. Scott campaigned saying it was a simple idea to have an Arizona-style immigration law, but with quiet pushback, even from some Republicans, that's shaping up as a possible first term fight as well.

News Service of Florida Editor David Royse discusses those two issues on the Florida Cable Television Association's capitaldatelineonline.com today with Steve Wilkerson.


The News Service of Florida

Jan 20 2011

Nelson, Haridopolos Share Stage For First Time

Appearing at the same event for the first time since both acknowledged they are running for the U.S. Senate in 2012, Sen. Bill Nelson and Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos each said Wednesday that they hoped to be judged in that race by their records in office now.

Nelson, the lone elected statewide Democrat, confirmed that he is definitely a candidate in 2012 to return to his seat for a third term and is confident he will win, despite the tough times experienced by fellow Democrats in 2010. Following an election that saw Democrats nationally and in Florida get wiped out in 2010, Nelson has emerged as a top Republican target.

He used his speech to the annual Associated Press Florida Legislative Planning Session to tout his record in the Senate.

"In the Senate, I have had the privilege of accepting the mantle from Bob Graham to help restore one of the state's great treasures….the Florida Everglades," he said. "After decades of delay, we have now gotten the first meaningful chunk of federal money and it is happening as we speak. And then as many of you have reported, we've been able to get more than $2.4 billion on the table for a high speed rail system."

Haridopolos, the first declared candidate to challenge Nelson in what figures to be a hotly-contested election, similarly spoke highly of his own work in the Florida Senate.

"I think when people look at my track record and how we've transformed the Florida Senate, and I think they'd like us to go that way in the United States Senate," he said. "As you know, I'm a candidate, but the way I'm going to be judged is not how much money I raise, it's how I perform as Senate president, and that's why I'm keeping my focus on the Senate presidency."

For more see: http://www.newsserviceflorida.com

                                                                                    — Keith Laing

The News Service of Florida

Jan 20 2011

Cannon: no preconceived notions on amendment reform

House Speaker Dean Cannon said Thursday that he has no preconceived notions about how the Legislature might change the process by which lawmakers can get issues on the ballot, but that lawmakers will consider it. Legislators have been stymied at trying to get proposed constitutional amendments onto the ballot, with the courts having rejected legislatively proposed ballot language 70 percent of the time in the last couple of decades. Notably, the court threw out three legislatively proposed amendments last year, leading Cannon to say that the courts had overstepped their bounds. Amendment reform was included as part of a House staff background briefing for reporters on Thursday, with House staffer Don Rubottom running through some history of the Legislature’s efforts to get proposed constitutional amendments onto the ballot – and suggesting some “possible remedies.” House staff was careful to say that the remedies put forth Thursday weren’t necessarily an indication of what the House might do. But among the “possible remedies” were easing the requirements for getting language on the ballot, allowing someone other than the Legislature,l such as the attorney general, to amend proposed ballot language when a court has ruled it misleading or insufficient. The ultimate goal, Rubottom’s presentation said, was to “trust the voters to decide for themselves.” Cannon clarified in a short availability with reporters later that he doesn’t have a definite plan yet. But, he said, “I just think that’s something we ought to look at out of fairness to the legislative branch.”

The News Service of Florida

Jan 20 2011

NSF video of Rick Scott’s speech Weds

Here's video of Florida Gov. Rick Scott's speech to reporters at The Associated Press annual legislative planning day Wednesday at the Capitol. It's in four parts:

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYvJtudxCEs

Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S941d8iqL_w

Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwv4IoOSAqQ

Part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9p8XaPkB3Q


The News Service of Florida

Jan 19 2011

Scott shrugs off pushback, guarantees tax breaks

Despite getting steady pushback from top lawmakers, Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday he expects his budget blueprint to sail through the Legislature, promising that it will include deep program cuts and more than $2 billion in tax reductions.

 Speaking to the Associated Press annual legislative planning session at the Capitol, Scott derided the state’s current $70-billion spending plan as “bloated.” He promised that the proposal he plans to roll out Feb. 4 will include sharp spending reductions aimed at covering a $3.6 billion shortfall caused by the end of federal stimulus dollars flowing to Florida and also a three-year decline in tax collections caused by the feeble economy.

 But Scott still promises to make good on his campaign pledge to phase-out the state’s corporate income tax and cut property taxes.

 “I’m going through every line item in the budget,” Scott said. “But I don’t think we should be spending this much money. I don’t think we do a good enough job of how we buy things.”

                                                                                                      — John Kennedy


Read more: http://www.newsserviceflorida.com

The News Service of Florida

Jan 19 2011

Scott: I’ll be accessible

Gov. Rick Scott acknowledged recent public complaints from the Tallahassee press corps that his new administration has been difficult to get information out of by promising “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I’m as accessible as possible.” In an Associated Press story on Tuesday, members of the Capital press corps, including News Service of Florida editor David Royse, were quoted as saying that access has been less under Scott than in previous administrations. Speaking to a group of newspaper editors and several reporters Wednesday at the Capitol, Scott said he will speak to reporters regularly, doing availabilities at the airport when he travels. Scott also said he would speak publicly “as much as I can,” but joked that his wife Ann thinks he talks to the press more than he talks to her. Scott also said his administration would “try to make sure that we comply with all the Sunshine laws.”


The News Service of Florida