Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Manatee lawmakers score high with National Rifle Association

Lawmakers in Washington and in Tallahassee representing Manatee County, who may find themselves in the midst of a new gun control debate in the wake of the Newtown massacre, have scored high marks with the National Rifle Association.

The NRA's Political Victory Fund most recently gave U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan a 92 percent rating based on his votes and positions on issues of interest to the NRA. By comparison, Buchanan's opponent in the Nov. 6 election, Keith Fitzgerald, received a 17 percent ranking, according to information compiled by Project Vote Smart.

But Buchanan's positions on issues important to the NRA and other gun rights activists did not translate into a financial boon for his campaign.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Buchanan most recently received a total of $1,000 in contributions from the "gun rights industry," not enough to crack the Top 50 industries supporting Buchanan. (No. 1 was the "health professionals" industry, with almost $251,000 for his campaign committee or his political action committee.)

A caveat: The data does not capture how much of the more than $2.5 million in contributions to Buchanan or his PAC he received from members of the NRA or other gun rights organizations.

At least in Florida, support from the NRA has not automatically translated into political success.

In 2012, Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., who also scored a 92 percent ranking from the NRA, received a total of $38,351 from the gun rights industry -- the most among Florida congressional candidates. But he lost his bid for re-election.

On the state level, Manatee's three representatives also scored high marks from the NRA.

Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton; Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton; and Rep. Greg Steube, R-Parrish, each received 92 percent rankings from the NRA in 2012, according to Project Vote Smart. Their respective opponents were not included in the listing.

A review of their campaign finance reports did not reveal support from any political action committees or individuals associated with the gun industry. The reports, which are filed with the Florida Division of Elections, also do not reveal whether individual donors are members of the NRA or other gun rights organization.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Rep. Vern Buchanan introduces bill to suspend aid to Egypt

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan on Tuesday upped his campaign to hold the Egyptian government accountable for recent actions by introducing legislation to suspend aid to the country.

Here's the press release:

Congressman Vern Buchanan, R-FL, today introduced legislation to immediately suspend U.S. aid to Egypt saying, “American tax dollars must not be used to aid and abet any dictatorial regime that stands with terrorists.” 
The Suspend Aid to Egypt Act comes in response to Egypt’s public support of the terrorist group Hamas and Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi’s recent decree granting himself absolute power over his country’s Judiciary. 
“Sending billions of hard-earned American dollars to a country that supports Hamas is immoral and irresponsible,” said Buchanan. 
“America is drowning in a sea of debt.  We should not attempt to buy friends across the world that do not have our best interests in mind.  Egypt has proven unworthy of our tax dollars and until they do I am calling for the immediate suspension of U.S. aid to that country.” 
Specifically, Buchanan’s bill immediately and indefinitely suspends all military and foreign assistance to Egypt.  Despite turmoil in the region, the Obama Administration is moving ahead with billions of dollars in aid to Egypt. 
Since 1979, Egypt has been the second largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance, receiving an average of $2 billion annually. 
Last year, following the uprisings that forced out President Mubarak, the White House agreed to provide Egypt with $1 billion in debt relief in the hope of advancing a democratic transition. 
Earlier this month, in an unprecedented power grab, President Morsi issued a decree granting himself absolute authority over his country’s judiciary.  Morsi has since rescinded the decree but has refused to cancel a referendum, scheduled for Saturday, on a controversial draft constitution. 
On September 11, 2012, protestors climbed the walls of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, and desecrated the American flag in the absence of adequate protection from the Egyptian government.

State Rep. Darryl Rouson's leadership bid ruffles Democratic feathers

State Rep. Darryl Rouson's bid to be leader of Florida House Democrats in 2014-16 isn't sitting well with some Democrats. And it may be costing the lawmaker, who represents part of Manatee County influence on election reform, which he sees as one of his signature issues in next year's session.

The Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau reports:
For Democrats, it's a strategically important choice. Having picked up five seats in the House in November for a total of 44, they need a dynamic leader who can raise money, recruit candidates and keep the momentum going heading into 2014. 
Rouson, 58, a lawyer, is one of the most skilled debaters in the House, works hard and is viewed as less overtly partisan than some fellow Democrats. His inspiring life story of recovery from drug addiction is one he's proud to tell. 
But Democrats are muttering in the Capitol corridors that Rouson's pursuit of the leader's post is over the top and that he sought signed pledges of support two weekends ago at a casual caucus retreat in Fort Lauderdale. 
"I feel they are being pressured to make a decision way too early," said Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach. 
Rouson, who loves a good fight, said he "caught them all flat-footed" by lining up pledges.
"The only speed I know is go," he said. "I got in this race conceivably a little late."
Jones has the title of minority leader pro tem, placing her within the inner circle of Rep. Perry Thurston, the current Democratic leader. Jones, 44, a Jacksonville native, is a special assistant to Mayor Alvin Brown and refuses to solicit pledges from lawmakers. 
She calls Rouson's pledge-seeking efforts "shenanigans," because the eventual vote by caucus members (likely before March) will be by secret ballot. She says Rouson "badgers" members to take sides before seeing the contenders do their jobs as legislators. 
"I have been working on making them understand who I am," Jones said. 
She would be the first woman to lead the House Democratic caucus since 2000, when Lois Frankel held the post. (Frankel just earned a seat in Congress.) 
Rouson wants a big role in shaping elections reform. He has filed a bill to address problems with last month's vote, and in October he held a press conference with former Gov. Charlie Crist alongside. 
But Thurston, as minority leader, appoints ranking members in each area, and in elections, he chose Rep. Janet Cruz of Tampa. 
In case nobody but Rouson got the message, Thurston held a news conference last week to introduce Cruz as the Democrats' leader on elections matters. Rouson was nowhere in sight.
If Rouson wants to work on elections issues, Thurston said, "He will work through Rep. Cruz."

Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2012/12/11/4312351/in-democratic-leadership-battle.html#storylink=misearch#storylink=cpy

Friday, December 7, 2012

Rep. Vern Buchanan: No room for 'posturing' on 'fiscal cliff'

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan on Friday spoke about the ongoing "fiscal cliff" during an appearance on national television Friday morning. Erika Bolstad of the Herald's Washington Bureau reports:
Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, told a national television audience Friday morning that the President and Congress must "get out of the business of political posturing" to prevent pending tax increases and spending cuts. 
"We’re going bankrupt if we don’t figure out how to do this in a big way," Buchanan said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. "I know how this works after being in business for over thirty years. At the end of the day, you get in the room and don’t leave until it’s done."
For more on the ongoing "posturing," negotiations or whatever, read more at Bradenton.com/fiscal-cliff.

Manatee Democrats elect new chairwoman

In December, The Manatee County Democratic Executive Committee elected new officers. Patty Benson, who is front and center, is the new chairwoman of the Manatee Democratic Party. She is surrounded, from left to right by Mitch Mallett, state committeeman; treasurer Carole Grayson; vice chairman Tom Finnerty; precinct development chair Petra Fuhrmans; and treasurer Jeff Stevens. Susie Copeland, state committeewoman and secretary Tom Ryan are not in the photo. PROVIDED PHOTO.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Magazine: Florida has the 6th worst state legislature

In ranking the nation's 50 state legislatures, a writer for Mother Jones magazine concludes that the bodies offered the best possible argument for gridlock. After all, sometimes getting things done can be a lot worse than the alternative."

Florida's was rated the sixth worst legislature, better than only statehouses in Tennessee (the worst), Oklahoma, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Georgia.

Here's the case, according to Mother Jones, against the Florida Legislature:
GOP State Sen. Joe Negron, chair of the Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Appropriations, proposed slashing $76 million from the state's mental health budget,arguing that the mentally ill were simply weak-willed and should learn to fend for themselves. 
"I would argue that the majority of things that people do that cause negative things to happen to [them] and the people they care about are not a result of the lack of information, they're a result of a lack of willpower, a lack of discipline, a lack of character." 
Under committee bill 7170 "information relating to the outsourcing or privatization of an agency function" would remain non-public until after said contract had already been agreed to. Because why would you want to know about the state's private prison contracts? 
On the plus side, state legislators have abandoned their push to legalize dwarf-tossing.