Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Romney picks former state Rep. Mark Flanagan to run his campaign in Manatee

A day after Newt Gingrich named Bradenton City Council member Patrick Roff to chair his campaign in Manatee County, Mitt Romney announced Wednesday that former state Rep. Mark Flanagan of Bradenton would be heading his campaign here.

Flanagan, who was first elected in November 1994, served eight years in the Florida House.

Bradenton City Council member Patrick Roff leads Gingrich campaign in Manatee

Bradenton City Council member Patrick Roff has been named chairman of Newt Gingrich's campaign in Manatee County, according to The Buzz.

Gingrich's campaign made the announcement as part of the rollout of its organization in Florida in advance of the Jan. 31 presidential primary.

Gingrich's apparent chief rival for the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney, unveiled his Florida organization earlier this year. One of his statewide co-chairs is former state Sen. Pat Neal, one of the largest real estate developers in Manatee.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sen. Marco Rubio won't be taking Manatee chamber's 'people-to-people' trip to Cuba

Not that he was invited, but consider it a zero chance that U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio would join the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce on its "people-to-people" visit next spring to Cuba.

Rubio, R-Fla., on Thursday laid into such trips and the Obama administration policies that make them possible.

“When I look at this stuff, you know what I want to say? Come on, man. This is about promoting democracy and freedom in Cuba?" Rubio said in a speech on the Senate floor. "This is not about promoting democracy and freedom in Cuba. This is nothing more than tourism. This is tourism for Americans that, at best, are curious about Cuba and, at worst, sympathize with the Cuban regime."

Meanwhile, another Florida lawmaker, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, was pleased that her colleagues removed from a spending bill a measure that would have re-instituted limits on how often Cuban Americans can visit family members on the island and how much they can send them. Castor had argued that the limits would have hurt Cuban American families and economically hurt Tampa International Airport, which recently began hosting charter flights to the island.

“Cuban-American families can breathe a sigh of relief that their ability to visit family on the island nation will not be curtailed, especially during the holiday season, by last-minute political maneuvers," Castor said in a news release. Convenient, new airline flights such as those from Tampa International Airport will continue to serve our neighbors and boost our economy. I expect to see even more demand for these flights in the coming months and years.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Castor calls for Congress to reject limits on Cuban Americans' trips to Cuba

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, on Wednesday called on Congress to reject a proposed measure that would roll back Obama Administration rules allowing Cuban Americans unlimited travel to visit family in Cuba.

The legislation, which is wrapped into a larger appropriations bill to keep the government running, would limit such trips to once every three years, as it was implemented under the George W. Bush administration.

Limiting the trips would have "harsh" humanitarian effect on Cuban Americans and their families, and would be an economic blow to the Tampa area, Castor said in a news release. Direct flights from Tampa to Havana were recently launched, in conjunction with the relaxed travel rules.

“The Republican-imposed travel restrictions would deal a devastating blow to Cuban-American families who have embraced the freedom to travel to Cuba more regularly to visit their loved ones. New jobs and charter airline flights would be eliminated under the Republican bill as well,” Castor said. “Tampa International Airport alone has added four weekly flights to Cuba and generated new economic activity in Tampa. The Republican proposal would hurt our neighbors and our economy.”

Advocates of tighter restrictions on travel to Cuba, like Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, argue that unlimited trips help finance the Castro regime in Havana. Diaz-Balarat's measure would also tighten the definition of "family" and limit to $1,200 per year how much money in remittances Cuban Americans can send to relatives on the island.

The Miami Herald reported that Diaz-Balart's measure would have no effect on "people-to-people" trips like the one the Manatee Chamber of Commerce is organizing for next spring. Those trips are covered by a different set of sanctions on Cuba.

Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance makes endorsements

The Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance recently announced endorsements in several Manatee County elections next year.

They are:
Manatee Sheriff: Brad Steube, the Republican incumbent.
12th District State Attorney: Ed Brodsky, Republican.
12th District Public Defender: Larry Eger, Republican incumbent.
Manatee County Commission: Vanessa Baugh, Republican.
"The Business Alliance Governmental Affairs Committee will continue its interview and endorsement process in the upcoming year with candidates on the local and state level," the group said on its website. "The Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance has a diverse membership that encompasses varied political views and parties. The common thread is that the organization promotes the business interests of entrepreneurs in Sarasota and Manatee counties"

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rep. Jim Boyd's bill would mean a mandatory 10 years in prison for felons caught with guns

Florida Rep. Jim Boyd on Thursday filed House Bill 947, which would slap a mandatory minimum prison sentence on convicted felon if they care caught carrying a gun or using it in commission of a crime.

The measure would be an amendment to Florida's current "10-20-Life" law which sets mandatory minimums for anyone convicted of a gun-related crime. Boyd said the proposal has already been endorsed by the Florida Sheriffs Association and other law enforcement groups.

“This amendment to the 10-20-Life Law will give violent felons pause before arming themselves because they will be facing a 10-year minimum mandatory prison sentence. If they make the choice to carry a firearm and are apprehended, our society will be safer knowing they are behind bars for a long time” said Greg Stout, president of Tampa Police Benevolent Association Inc., in a news release issued by Boyd's office.

Boyd said Stout has been a friend for more than 20 years and said they met earlier this year to "brainstorm" ideas on how to toughen gun laws after the shooting deaths of police officers in Miami and St. Petersburg and other violent crimes.

“This bill will protect not only law enforcement but also the citizens of this great state by
keeping violent felons off the street," Boyd said in the statement.

In an interview, Boyd acknowledged that there might be an added expense for the state by locking up offenders for lengthy minimum prison terms. But it's worth it, he said.

"Personally, the cost of a life is more important than if they are on the outside," he said.

Read the proposed bill here.

Rep. Vern Buchanan calls for probe of reporting dumping of soldiers' bodies in landfill

Calling it a "national disgrace," U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan on Thursday called for a full investigation into the reported dumping of soldiers' bodies in a landfill.

The Washington Post reported that Air Force personnel dumped the remains of at least 274 U.S. troops in a garbage dump.

“This is a national disgrace,” said Buchanan, who represents more than 90,000 veterans in southwest Florida. “Members of the United States Armed Forces who make the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country deserve to be treated honorably, both in life and death. This is an outrage and those responsible should be immediately fired.”

More from Buchanan:
Records indicate that 976 fragments from 274 service members were incinerated and discarded in a Virginia landfill between 2004 and 2008. The Washington Post article today said the number of bodies involved was far more than initially acknowledged. 
According to reports, the landfill disposals were never officially authorized under military policies or regulations. Family members were also never notified of this horrendous practice.

Earlier this year, the Air Force disciplined three senior officials related to the incidents, but they were allowed to keep their jobs. 
“A slap on the wrist is unacceptable,” said Buchanan. “Those involved must be fired today and a congressional investigation should leave no stone unturned in finding out how this happened, who was responsible and how it can be prevented in the future.“ 
“The men and women who bravely serve this country deserve all the care and respect a grateful nation can offer,” said Buchanan.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Proposed maps offer possibility of big changes, but Florida redistricting process far from over

That Florida lawmakers remain very early in redistricting process was belied by the fact that the Florida House on Tuesday released seven possible ways to redraw boundaries for Congressional districts and five possible remaps for their own House districts. There's no easier way to avoid making a decision than to leave all options --- whether likely choices or not -- open.

But a cursory look at the House's maps does reveal some common themes, at least in how they might affect Manatee County and our current lawmakers.

For the Florida House districts, each of the five maps would place incumbent state Rep. Greg Steube, R-Bradenton, in a renumbered District 73 generally comprised  of East Manatee, Parrish and Lakewood Ranch, that would be not dissimilar from the district he now represents.

Greater changes would be in store for Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton. The proposed maps would place him in a renumbered District 71 that covers most of Bradenton and west Manatee County but also extend south into Sarasota County -- the maps vary on how far south that would be.

All the proposed maps would keep several neighborhoods in Palmetto and Bradenton in a renumbered District 70 that would extend south from Pinellas County, as they are now.

As for the proposed Congressional remaps, all would place incumbent Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, in a renumbered 16th Congressional District that would remain primarily a Manatee-Sarasota district with one notable change: All of Manatee County, including neighborhoods in Palmetto and Bradenton now included in a Tampa-based district, would be in one district, meeting one of the goals of new constitutional requirements that districts be as geographically compact as possible.

That differs from the proposed remap offered last week by the Florida Senate, which kept Manatee divided into two districts -- suggesting that this and just about everything else related to redistricting is up for negotiation and, probably, litigation.

So who can blame the House, with all its possible maps, for not making a decision.

You can review all the maps and Census data used to draw them, here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pat Neal says he won't run against Bill Galvano for Florida Senate

It was puzzling to read this morning that former state Sen. Pat Neal was the "expected opponent" for former state Rep. Bill Galvano in the race for Bradenton's seat in the Florida Senate. As one of the area's most prominent developers, Neal probably has the name ID and financial heft to go toe to- oe with Galvano, who has been running for the seat for more than a year, but nothing to this point had suggested that the Senate race would be a venue for clash of two of the area's political titans.

Today, Neal all but completely disabused the notion he was preparing for a re-entry into electoral politics as a candidate.

The Herald's Jim Jones reports:
Based on the way Florida Senate District 21 has been redrawn, developer and former state senator Pat Neal says he won’t be a candidate to replace the term-limited Mike Bennett of Bradenton. 
To date, former state representative Bill Galvano, a Republican from Bradenton, is the only declared candidate for the District 21 seat. 
“It’s not my intent to run against Bill Galvano, He’s been my friend for 30 years. I don’t ever contemplate running against Bill,” Neal said Tuesday.
For his part, Galvano says he is happy to run in the District 21, as proposed by the Senate's redistricting committee.