Thursday, December 30, 2010

New appointment, new office

TALLAHASSEE — In the waning days of his term, Gov. Charlie Crist Thursday announced 14 appointments or reappointments for the Judicial Nominating Commission.

Among them is Patrick K. Neal, 61, of Bradenton, owner of Neal Communities. Neal was named to the Twelfth Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission, succeeding Marsha Nippert.

Neal was appointed for a term beginning Dec. 30, 2010, and ending July 1, 2014.

Also this week, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Sarasota) announced  that he has moved his office in Sarasota to better serve his constituents. The new Sarasota office is located at 111 South Orange Ave, Floor 2R, Suite 202W.

“The new office is easy to find, accessible, and centrally located with more parking,” said Buchanan, who encouraged residents of Florida’s 13th Congressional District to visit or call to express their views or to request his assistance with a federal agency.

In addition to Sarasota, Buchanan has a district office in Bradenton at 2424 Manatee Ave. W., Suite 104. The phone numbers for the two offices: Bradenton - (941) 747-9081; Sarasota - (941) 951-6643.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Florida picks up two House seats, equals NY

Our Washington bureau reporter Lesley Clark filed this report today:

WASHINGTON … Florida just picked up two new seats in the U.S. House, making it the biggest swing prize in the race for the White House.

The new seats -- announced by the U.S. Census Bureau -- give Florida equal standing with New York -- and only California and Texas will have more electoral college votes -- though neither state is considered up for grabs like Florida.

The boost is expected to help Republicans -- who already control 2/3 of the seats in the state -- but some say privately the party could have a tough time carving out two new seats without jeopardizing incumbents.

The bureau in February will release population and race breakdowns down to the neighborhood level for states to begin redrawing the congressional boundaries. Florida's redistricting will be complicated this time around by two voter-approved state constitutional amendments that create strict rules for how politicians can draw district maps.

The addition of two seats brings the state's total number in the U.S. House of Representatives to 27 and boosts its Electoral College votes to 29 (the state's two senators are included in that math).

The boost in Florida's population comes as part of a broad population migration … and power shift … with Sun Belt states like Florida, Georgia, Arizona and Texas picking up seats that are being lost in declining Northern states, including Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Texas was the biggest winner in the census, picking up four new seats; Ohio and New York each lost two.

Monday, December 20, 2010

FEC sues car dealer over contributions to Buchanan

The Federal Elections Commission has filed a lawsuit against a Jacksonville car dealership that the government alleges illegally reimbursed employees and others for contributions they made to U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan's election campaigns.

The FEC alleges in the suit, filed Friday in Jacksonville, that Sam Kazran, the owner of Hyundai of North Jacksonville, reimbursed employees and others almost $68,000 for money they donated to Buchanan for his first election bid in 2006 and his re-election effort in 2008.

"Beginning in 2005, Kazran arranged for HNJ employees and others to contribute to (Buchanan's campaign) and for such contributions to be reimbursed with HNJ funds," the complaint states, allowing Kazran to exceed federal limits on the size of contributions.

Buchanan formerly owned the dealership, selling a partial interest to Kazran in 2004 and his remaining interest in 2008.

The complaint does not allege Buchanan committed any wrongdoing.

In a statement released Monday, his campaign staff said, "The congressman's campaign brought this matter to the FEC's attention more than two years ago. Since neither Congressman Buchanan nor his campaign are parties to the litigation, we cannot comment any further."

The FEC is asking for a federal court to fine Kazran and to enjoin him from future violations.

To read the complaint, go here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Manatee Legislative Delegation to meet

BRADENTON — The Manatee County Legislative Delegation meeting is scheduled 8 a.m.-noon Jan. 18  at the Manatee County Commission Chambers, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

The delegation is now setting the agenda for the hearing, according to a press release from Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton.

 Anyone interested in making a presentation to the delegation should call Bennett’s office at (941) 727-6349. Anyone who intends to propose local legislation, is required to submit certain forms with their presentation. Information can be found at:

Given the state’s budget challenges, the delegation will not be receiving or hearing requests for appropriations.

According to the rules of the Manatee County Legislative Delegation, presentation materials in their entirety must be made available to members of the delegation at least 48 hours prior to the meeting. This is to provide members with time to review the material and prepare any questions.

 In order to meet this deadline, Bennett asked that complete presentation materials be received at his office at 3653 Cortez Road, Suite 90, Bradenton, FL 34210, no later than 5 p.m. Jan. 11. Any materials received after this deadline will not be included in the delegation notebooks.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Buchanan to appear on 'Morning Joe' on Tuesday

MANATEE — U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, will appear at 7 a.m. Tuesday at 7on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to discuss the tax debate in Congress, his office announced today.

Buchanan was recently named to the House Ways and Means Committee, considered the most influential committee because of its broad jurisdiction over tax policy.

"Morning Joe," a daily political talk and news program, is hosted by former U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough, who formerly represented the Florida Panhandle in Congress.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Manatee Democrats plan candlelight vigil for 'Dream Act'

Manatee County Democrats on Tuesday evening will gather at the Manatee County courthouse in support of the proposed "Dream Act."

Here's a release from the local party:
Responding to a call from the National Council of La Raza for nationwide candle light vigils in support of President Obama’s “Dream Act,” the local Manatee County Democratic Party announces a candlelight vigil Tuesday, December 7th from 5 to 7 p.m. at the old Courthouse at 1115 Manatee Avenue West, Bradenton, Florida 34205.

The “Dream Act” gives a legal path to citizenship for children brought to the U.S. from infancy to their early teens. These children, through no fault of their own, committing no crime, grow up American in everything but name only. After high school these children may not legally attend college or seek work and are often deported to countries where they have no family, connection or recollection. This legislation will be part of the total picture of humane immigration reform.

Several groups will be in attendance in support of the legislation including the Florida Immigration Coalition, the Sarasota-Manatee Farmworkers Supporters, and the Just Faith Ministries. Bring signs and candles. Members of the media are welcome.

2 Manatee businessmen named to Scott's 'good government' panel

Two prominent Manatee businessmen have been named to one of Gov.-elect Rick Scott's transition committees.

Steve Knopik, president of Beall's; and former state senator Pat Neal, president of Neal Communities Inc., are two of the 12 members of Scott's "Good Government" Transition Committee.

Scott has asked the group "to undertake a ‘fact-finding mission’ to identify innovative ideas from the private sector, success stories from other states, cost-saving opportunities and legislative priorities that can assist the Governor-elect as he takes office in January," states a news release on Scott's transition website.

Specifically, the committee, according to Scott, will:
  • Identify opportunities to reduce the size of government.
  • Improve management and operating processes.
  • Increase levels of service.
Scott has named numerous such advisory groups to assist with his transition, but four weeks after he has elected, he has yet to name anyone to his administrative team.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bennett files Arizona-style immigration bill (UPDATED)

As he promised last summer, State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, has filed an Arizona-style immigration bill that would give Florida law enforcement the authority to ask suspected illegal immigrants about their status.

“I just want to make sure we handle this problem with a very even hand," Bennett told the Bradenton Herald's Beth Burger. "I know there’s a lot of people that say, 'Throw them all out.' ... I have a lot questions myself. The only way I can control this and get discussions going is to have a bill."

Senate Bill 136, filed last week, "is intended to discourage and deter the unlawful entry and presence of aliens in this state and the economic activity by persons unlawfully present in this state," the proposed legislation reads.

“If the sheriff arrests somebody and they are here illegally," said Bennett, "we should be able to call (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and get them out of our lives."

The measure, as currently drafted, explicitly prohibits the use of racial or other type of profiling to determine whom is ask to prove that they are legally in the United States. Officers would have to have a "reasonable suspicion" that someone is in the country illegally before asking about their status.

"A law enforcement officer of this state or a political subdivision of this state may not consider race, color, or national origin when implementing the requirements of this subsection, except to the extent permitted by the United States constitution or the state constitution," the proposal reads.

The bill is based on a new Arizona law requiring police investigating another incident or crime to ask people about their immigration status if there’s a “reasonable suspicion” they’re in the country illegally.

Bennett's measure would require local law enforcement to contact federal immigration officials of people who cannot prove they are in the country legally. Also, anyone found to not be carrying proof of their immigration status could be fined up to $100 and sentenced to up to 20 days in jail.

To read Senate Bill 136, go here.