Wednesday, April 27, 2011

See President Obama's birth certificate here and then vote in our poll

Whether it will resolve the "controversy" over where President Obama was born remains to be seen, but the White House on Wednesday released a copy of his birth certificate.

Watch Obama talk about his birth certificate here.

What do you think?

(Click on image to enlarge)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Group's ad defends Buchanan for Medicare vote

The 60 Plus Association, a conservative group, said it will spend $800,000 on radio ads and other advertising to express support for Republican members of Congress, including Rep. Vern Buchanan, who voted for a budget that would overall Medicare.

"Rep. Vern Buchanan proved he is different from many in Washington," said Jim Martin, Chairman of the 60 Plus Association. "Rep. Buchanan did what he promised he would do: protect Medicare for Florida's seniors. He voted for the House budget proposal, which strengthens and preserves Medicare, and in doing so, helped ensure the program would be available for current and future seniors."

The one-minute radio ad was set to start running today. To listen to the radio ad, visit
Earlier this week, Democrats said they would target with ads Buchanan and other congressmen for exactly the same reason.

Determined to have the final word, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee responded in a news release to the 60 Plus Association's support of Buchanan.

“Last week Representative Vern Buchanan votes to end Medicare, this week Buchanan gets rewarded with false ads from a shady money group that supports ending Medicare and privatizing Social Security,” said Jesse Ferguson of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Representative Vern Buchanan and his shady money group friends have an agenda – end Medicare, reduce health care benefits and increase costs that seniors have earned in order to pay for Big Oil taxpayer giveaways and the ultra rich’s tax breaks.  That’s not right”

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Manatee Tea Party organizing Tallahassee trip to lobby on immigration

The Manatee Tea Party is organizing a trip to Tallahassee to lobby state lawmakers on immigration-related issues.

The trip is set for April 25-27, and may be extended to the 28th, according to a news release.

Specifically, Tea Party members are being asked to lobby lawmakers to support an Senate Bill 2040, which  would require employers to electronically verify the immigration status of employees.

"Illegal immigration is costing you $1,117 per head of household in taxes, plus an unknown amount for unemployment benefits," the release states.

The agenda for those who go is simple and to the point: "We will ask for their vote and keep a tally of who will support the taxpayers of Florida and who will not."

Floridians for Immigration Enforcement (FLIMEN) will pick up the hotel bill, according to the release.

Those interested in making the trip can e-mail Julie Hood at

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ads target Buchanan for voting in favor of Medicare overhaul

National Democrats plan to launch radio and web ads targeting Republicans for backing a 2012 budget proposal that would overhaul Medicare. All but 4 House Republicans voted for the measure Friday.

The targets include Rep. Vern Buchanan. The campaign includes radio ads, web ads (complete with a senior stripper) automated and live phone calls, and sending "action alert" e-mails beginning today in 25 targeted districts, including Buchanan’s.

Politico notes that the GOP group, American Crossroads "snarked" at the amount of money Dems are putting up for the ads. In Buchanan's case? $220.

"Did you know Congressman Vern Buchanan voted to end Medicare forcing seniors to pay $12,500 for private health insurance, without guaranteed coverage?" the ad says. "Tell Buchanan to keep his hands off our Medicare."

Republicans seek to change Medicare, the health insurance program for seniors and some disabled, so that people retiring after 2021 get federal payments to help them buy coverage. Democrats want to preserve the current system but find ways to cut costs.

-- Lesley Clark, Herald Washington Bureau.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Reports: Buchanan has more than $1.3 million in campaign cash in the bank

Fresh off an easy re-election win in November, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan is well on his way to building a huge financial advantage over any prospective rivals for a 2012 race.

Buchanan, R-Sarasota, filed campaign finance reports showing that he raised $524,757.24 in contributions during the first three months of the year. That brought his total take for the 2012 election cycle to $558,486.87.

The donations boosted Buchanan's cash-on-hand in his campaign account from almost $957,000 on Jan. 1 to  $1.362,234.81, as of March 31, according to the report filed with the Federal Elections Commission. Buchanan's campaign spent more than $119,000 in the first three months of this year.

Of the amount raised in the first three months of this year, $137,600 was received from individual donors; more than $129,000 came from political action committees; and more than $255,000 transferred from the American Victory Fund Committee, a political fund-raising group affiliated with Buchanan's campaign.

Buchanan also reported his campaign was carrying more than $656,000 in debts.

To review Buchanan's most recent campaign finance report, go here.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spat with Sen. Mike Bennett of Bradenton shows how not to lobby lawmakers

The Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau's Marc Caputo reports on how a lobbyist's disagreement with Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, illustrates how not to lobby for your cause at the Florida Legislature:
There's no official book on how to lobby, but most paid advocates know instinctively that you don't want to suggest in writing that you'll exact political retribution on a state Senator.
Fred Dudley didn't get the memo.
But Sen. Mike Bennett got a hold of an email from Dudley in which the Senator-turned-lobbyist suggested he couldn't wait until the Bradenton Republican ran for Congress. And now Dudley says he feels sorry.
It all started last week when Bennett, in the April 5 Health Regulation Committee, blasted the Florida Medical Association for being "greedy" in protecting its turf. The gaggle of FMA lobbyists and doctors were none too pleased. They began emailing each other, providing a glimpse of how one of the most powerful Capitol special interests shapes its hardball tactics.
Dr. David McKalip (made somewhat infamous by his Obama witchdoctor pic emailing) suggested treading carefully. "However if it spins out of control," McKalip wrote at 8:29 am, "we could ask this question:
"Senator Bennett achieves great financial benefit from special interest groups and collects their donations regularly. He should know that patients value doctors who are there for them far more than politicians who take check after check from special interests." (True, it's not a question and the FMA is one of the most powerful special interests, but whatever).
Rafael Miguel responded with a lighter suggestion, pointing out the policy benefits of ensuring that doctors in Florida continue to write prescriptions instead of "lesser educated and trained individuals" (e.g., nurses, optometrists).
Then the conversation turned to the next election.
"Miguel good answer, we should use that, then we should make sure he does not get re-elected!" someone named wrote, referring to Bennett 
Steve West pointed out a problem with that idea: "I think this is his last term. May however run for Congress depending on redistricting."
That's when Dudley chimed in: "Steve: Hi; you are exactly correct, so let's hope the 2012 elections get here quickly and he runs for Congress."
The email chain was then forwarded to Bennett by a source who wrote "Ur gonna love this one."
Bennett hit the roof. He could believe that his comments would provoke the FMA. But why would a pro like Dudley be so sloppy?
"A former Senator wants to target a sitting Senator over some comments and he puts it in writing? It's so unbelievably stupid," Bennett said.
What's more: Dudley is a lobbyist for Verizon, which was keenly interested in SB960, which concerns petroleum storage requirements for powering remote cell phone towers. Bennett is the sponsor.
When the matter was brought to Dudley's attention, he initially played dumb but then realized the emails had leaked out.
"I certainly intend to apologize to Senator Bennett for my unfortunate comment that was made in the heat of his battle with FMA. I'm the reason he ran for the legislature, and I'm proud to consider him one of the most effective members and a friend," Dudley said in an email yesterday.
All of it might not mean much. Bennett's bill to allow optometrists to take over some ophthalmologist practices was killed Tuesday in Health Regulation (paging Dr. Mendelsohn....) And the FMA's newest medical malpractice bill looks like it's on cruise control.

Local Florida Legislature candidates jump out to fund-raising leads

Voters won't go to the polls until next year, but that didn't stop local candidates for the Florida Legislature -- currently, all of them incumbents except for former Rep. Bill Galvano -- from raising money in the first three months of this year.

All of the candidates so far are running unopposed in their respective races.

According to campaign finance reports filed with the Florida Division of Elections:
  • Senate District 21 candidate Galvano raised $10,250 in the first quarter, bringing his total take since he filed in July 2009 to more than $227,000. Galvano, of Bradenton, is running for the seat now held by Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, who cannot run for re-election because of term limits. Galvano so far has spent more than $80,000 campaigning for the position.
  • Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, in Senate District 23, raised $19,900 in the first quarter for her re-election effort. Detert has raised a total of $24,900 and spent more than $2,400, since Jan. 1, 2009.
  • Freshman Rep. Greg Steube, R-Bradenton, in  House District 67, raised $15,400 in the first quarter for his re-election campaign, and spent more than $1,100. Steube was first elected this past November, and during his rookie campaign proved his fund-raising prowess.
  • Freshman Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, in House District 68, raised $11,000 and spent more than $1,100 in the first quarter. He, too, was first elected in November, running unopposed in both the primary and general election.
  • Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, in House District 55, raised $6,800 in the first quarter, and spent just under $900.
  • Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, in House District 69, raised $5,000 in the first quarter, and spent $112.48.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Manatee Sheriff Steube raises more than $53,000 for re-election campaign

Although there is no challenger in sight, Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube is taking no chances, raising more than $53,000 for his 2012 re-election campaign during the first three months of this year.

A finance report filed with the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office shows that Steube, who ran unopposed in 2008, raised a total of $53,376.32 in cash and in-contributions from 232 individuals, businesses and other donors during the first quarter of 2011. The list of contributors included retired law enforcement officers -- including Steube's predecessor Charlie Wells -- and several local law firms.

Between Jan. 1 and March 31, Steube spent more than $3,600 on his re-election effort, mostly for printing and postage and for design of a campaign website.

Other county candidates who have filed to run next year have raised far less, according to campaign finance reports.

County commissioners Larry Bustle and Donna Hayes -- both of whom are so far unopposed --  raised $550 and $1,700, respectively, for their re-election efforts. (Unlike Steube, however, they don't have to run countywide, only in their respective districts.)

Bustle, who donated $50 to his campaign, did not report any expenses during the first quarter.  Hayes, who donated $500 to her own campaign, spent $553.60, according to reports.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hey, Charlie Crist, rock and roll never forgets (UPDATED)

Watch Charlie Crist's apology below.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist and Talking Heads frontman David Byrne have reached a settlement in a lawsuit Byrne brought against Crist after the governor used the Talking Heads hit, "Road to Nowhere," in a commercial for his Senate campaign last year.

The Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau reports:
Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has quietly settled a lawsuit filed by Talking Heads musician David Byrne who accused the one-time Republican candidate of misappropriating a song in an attack ad.

The details of the settlement, which was tentatively reached last week in Tampa, are confidential. During the talks, some observed that Crist and Byrne palled around and seemed like old friends.

“It was kind of like that,” Crist said with a laugh. “He’s a wonderful guy. A very kind man. I really have great respect for him. He’s an incredible artist. We had a good interaction last week and a nice settlement. And I’m very pleased.”

Crist was represented by his new employer, trial attorney John Morgan, in mediation.

Byrne had sued for $1 million after Crist’s U.S. Senate campaign released a January 2010 YouTube web video that attacked Marco Rubio and featured the 1985 Talking Heads’ hit “Road to Nowhere.”

Crist’s campaign did not seek permission from Byrne, other members of the Talking Heads or Warner Brothers.

Byrne found out about it and quickly demanded that Crist’s campaign pull the ad off the web, which it did. But Byrne didn’t stop there. He pressed ahead with a suit alleging copyright infringement.

“I was pretty upset," Byrne told last year. The suit, he told “is not about politics...It’s about copyright and about the fact that it does imply that I would have licensed it and endorsed him and whatever he stands for."
We don't want to risk Byrne's wrath by posting the campaign video.

But here is the original.

Charlie Crist's apology:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Fla. House's top Democrat: Pension changes would be same as an income tax

The Florida Constitution prohibits it, but the Legislature is getting close to adopting a state income tax.

House Democratic leader Ron Saunders made the argument Thursday during debate over proposed changes in the state pension system that -- depending on which version you're considering -- would require public employees to contribute part of their pay to their pensions.

That sounds like an income tax, Saunders, D-Key West, argues.

Here is the news release his office issued:
During debate today on House Bill 1405, House Democratic Leader Ron Saunders (D-Key West) alerted state representatives that the public employee pension bill is an income tax, which is prohibited by Florida’s constitution.

Leader Saunders made the following remarks, including raising a “point of order” under House Rule 5.4 (c):

“Members, on behalf of the teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees who are members of the state retirement system, I want to quote from a song by the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, who said, `You better think - think about what you’re trying to do to me.’

“So what does this bill do to our public servants? It imposes an income tax on them for the first time in our state’s history! “But you may say, Rep. Saunders, we have been told that this is not an income tax. A simple way to determine whether the “contribution” in this bill is an income tax is to look at the definition of income tax.

“An income tax is defined as `A mandatory payment imposed on residents of a prorated portion of their income as a contribution towards the cost of government services.’ “So is the “contribution” in this bill an income tax? First, Is the contribution a “mandatory payment?” Yes - it is required to be paid as a condition of employment. Second, is the “contribution” imposed as “a prorated portion of their income?” Yes - the contribution is based solely on a percentage of income. Third, is the “contribution” directed “towards the cost of government services?” Yes, pension benefits have been considered a cost that our state government has paid.

“Let me close with two things. First, as Aretha said, `Think.’ Think before you vote for a bill that for the rest of your political career will be considered by many to be a state income tax. Second - Mr. Speaker, I raise a point of order on this bill.”


House Rule 5.4 (c) states in part:
“Bills that propose to amend existing provisions of law shall contain the full text of the section, subsection, or paragraph to be amended. Joint resolutions that propose to amend the Florida Constitution shall contain the full text of the section to be amended. As to those portions of general bills and joint resolutions that propose to amend existing provisions of the Florida Statutes or the Florida Constitution, words to be added shall be inserted in the text underlined and words to be deleted shall be lined through with hyphens.”

HB 1405 currently under consideration by the Florida House of Representatives is presented as a general bill that proposes to amend existing provisions of Florida Statutes, including imposing a mandatory contribution from members of the Florida Retirement System based on a percentage of their income.

Article VII. Section 5 (a) of the Florida Constitution states:

“(a) NATURAL PERSONS. No tax upon estates or inheritances or upon the income of natural persons who are residents or citizens of the state shall be levied by the state, or under its authority, in excess of the aggregate of amounts which may be allowed to be credited upon or deducted from any similar tax levied by the United States or any state.”

Although the mandatory contribution from members of the Florida Retirement System set forth in HB 1405 is based on a percentage of their income, it is referred to as a contribution to their retirement fund rather than as an income tax.

The prohibition on a personal income tax contained in Article VII of the Florida Constitution does not provide for any exceptions to the prohibition based on the terminology used or the fund to which the revenues generated are directed. HB 1405 is styled as a general bill which proposes to amend the Florida Statutes. However it should be presented as a joint resolution since it proposes to amend the Florida Constitution. HB 1405 therefore violates House Rule 5.4(c).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rick Scott 'Nada Bucks' passed out at disability protest

Rick Scott "Nada Bucks" was the currency of choice at a rally in Tallahassee this morning to protest an announcement last week that the governor was drastically cutting reimbursement rates to people who care for the developmentally disabled.

The Times/Tallahassee Bureau report:
Gov. Rick Scott's announcement last week that he was drastically cutting reimbursement rates to people who care for the developmentally disabled has sparked yet another protest at the state Capitol. Hundreds have gathered for a rally in opposition to the reductions, which range from 15 percent to 40 percent.

Gov. Rick Scott's announcement last week that he was drastically cutting reimbursement rates to people who care for the developmentally disabled has sparked yet another protest at the state Capitol. Hundreds have gathered for a rally in opposition to the reductions, which range from 15 percent to 40 percent.

Scott says the rate cut is the only way to get the Agency for Persons With Disabilities under control. It is on pace to exceed its budget by $174 million by the end of the budget year, June 30. Scott has refused to use savings money or raise taxes to fill the deficit.

Advocates, parents and providers say the rate cuts are too deep too fast. They say vital services will be cut. Some people, known as "support coordinators" will have their money cut so deeply that they'll essentially be working for less than minimum wage to care for people with autism, cerebral palsy and Down Syndrome.

At the protest this morning, protestors handed out Rick Scott emblazoned currency called "Nada Bucks" that say "In Solantic We Trust" -- a reference to the chain of clinics founded by Scott that could profit by changes to Medicaid he supports.

On the back of the buck is a "Don't Hold Your Breath" Voucher that asks protestors to request Rick Scott perform the services for people who could go without.
 For more about the planned reimbursement cuts, read the story from Monday's Bradenton Herald.

Election Day '12 is more than a year off, but in Manatee some are already running

The filing deadlines for the 2012 elections are more than a year away, and Election Day isn't until Nov. 6, 2012.

But already some local candidates -- all incumbents -- are positioning themselves for the next campaign

Freshman state Reps. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, Greg Steube, R-Bradenton, and Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota -- who are barely halfway through their first legislative session -- have already filed for re-election. So have state Rep. Daryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and state Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, according to the Florida Division of Elections.

They were all beaten to the punch by Bill Galvano, who on June 12, 2009 -- when he was still a state representative -- filed to run for the Florida Senate seat now held by Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, who cannot run for re-election because of term limits.

Between when he filed and Dec. 31, 2010, Galvano raised more than $216,000 in campaign contributions, and spent more than $72,000 -- giving him a big head start on any prospective rivals, according to the Division of Elections.

At the county level, Manatee commissioners Larry Bustle and Donna Hayes have filed for re-election to their respective seats. And so has Sheriff Brad Steube and Clerk of Courts R.B. "Chips" Shore, according to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office.

Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie, whose seat also is up for election next year, has not yet filed.

But still has plenty of time.

The qualifying period for state and county-level positions isn't until June 18-22, 2012.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Buchanan pushes for his 'pill legislation' on House floor

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan took to the floor of the U.S. House on Tuesday morning to advocate for legislation he is sponsoring that would beef up punishment for illegal "pill mills" and fund databases that track the prescribing and dispensing of certain medications.

Here is his speech:

The saggy pants debate in Florida: There's a song for that

The Florida Legislature's consideration of a bill that would set standards for how people wear their pants may need a theme song.

Here's one possibility:

Impeach Rick Scott? Good luck with that

There are an online petition and several Facebook pages calling for it, but impeachment likely won't be the way to rid Florida of Gov. Rick Scott.

The Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau reports:
Impeach Gov. Rick Scott?

Several hundred Floridians are calling for just that only three months after Scott took office, signing an online petition letter on the social networking site The petition cites Scott's rejection of federal rail money, his opposition to seeking federal approval of two voter-approved fair-redistricting measures and support for drug-testing welfare recipients.

"It is time to investigate and impeach this self-promoting man. Florida can do better!" the petition states.
But given state law, impeachment of Scott is very unlikely.

Only the state House has the power to impeach a governor — by a two-thirds vote — and more than two-thirds of House members are Republicans like Scott. If he were impeached, he would be tried by the Senate, where 28 of the 40 members are Republicans.

"Absolutely not," said Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, when asked if Scott deserved to be thrown out of office. He had received at least 67 petition letters as of Monday.

"It's silly," said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who also received several dozen letters. "I totally disagree with that."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Fla. lawmakers poised for lively second half

As Mary Ellen Klas of our Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau reported in the Herald this morning,  Florida legislators are halfway through the 2011 session -- and in the next 30 days, they;re poised to make it easier for insurance companies to raise rates, make it more difficult for women to receive an abortion and hand over control of prisons to private companies.

Here's what Bradenton's Republican Sen. Mike Bennett had to say: “You’ve got a very conservative governor, president and speaker, so they’ve gone down some roads that people have kind of been afraid to go down before.’’