Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Jeb Bush endorses Gov. Rick Scott for re-election

Here's the news release from the Florida Republican Party:
TALLAHASSEE, FL - Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush today released the following statement regarding the 2014 Florida gubernatorial race, endorsing Governor Rick Scott: 
"I'm pleased to endorse Governor Scott for re-election and look forward to supporting his campaign during the coming year. "It's simple why I'm supporting Rick Scott. He campaigned on a platform of getting Florida's economy back on track, and has delivered on that promise. 
"Governor Scott pledged to reinstate a business-friendly climate that fosters growth and job creation. Since taking office, Florida's unemployment rate has fallen 4.1 percent, more than 365,000 jobs have been created and taxes have been cut for families and businesses. 
"While President Obama and Democrats in Congress are fixated on penalizing success, Governor Scott is pursuing policies to restore prosperity for more Floridians while prioritizing core state responsibilities, including increasing the state's investment in education. 
"Rick Scott demonstrated leadership when Florida needed it most, and he is the best candidate to lead our state for four more years." 
Governor Rick Scott said, "I am grateful to have the support and friendship of Governor Jeb Bush. His time as Governor built a strong foundation for Florida's future by making our education system more accountable and our state's economy more attractive to job creators. His positive vision for Florida continues to inspire us today as we work to cut taxes and get our economy back on track." 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Tea Party group targets Rep. Vern Buchanan, other GOP 'traitors'

Upset with how they voted to end the federal government shutdown, a Tea Party-affiliated group is targeting Rep. Vern Buchanan and other Republican "traitors" for defeat in next year's elections.

The group hopes to recruit someone to challenge Buchanan, R-Sarasota, in next year's Republican primary. So far, only Democrat Mitch Mallett of Bradenton has filed to run against Buchanan.

"Help us fund primaries to oust those who caved. Join the Primaries for Traitors Fund and help us fire the showboat RINOS ("Republicans In Name Only") for good!" the Tea Party Leadership Fund said on its website.

Buchanan and the other lawmakers raised the Tea Party's ire last month when they voted to end the federal government shutdown and to raise the nation's debt limit.

For more, watch this video from Tea Party Leadership Fund:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Rep. Vern Buchanan co-sponsors bill to add oversight to National Security Agency

U.S. Vern Buchanan on Thursday signed on as a co-sponsor of the USA Freedom Act, legislation that he says would end the National Security Agency's "indiscriminate collection" of Americans' personal information.

"The National Security Agency needs to stop invading the privacy of ordinary, everyday Americans," Buchanan, a member of the Congressional Privacy Caucus, said in a news release. "Our strength as a nation flows from the values and freedoms laid out in the Constitution, including the right against unreasonable searches and seizures. The USA Freedom Act institutes the proper reforms to protect the privacy and liberties of the American people."

Buchanan, R-Sarasota, said the legislation, which was introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., includes the following reforms:
  • End the bulk collection of Americans' communications records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
  • Reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by creating new and more robust reporting requirements to ensure Congress is aware of actions by the FISC and intelligence community as a whole.
  • Increase transparency by requiring the government to make annual or semiannual public reports estimating the total number of individuals and U.S. persons that were subject to FISA orders authorizing electronic surveillance, pen/trap devices and access to business records.
In the release, Buchanan citied examples of what he called the NSA's "unprecedented invasion into the personal lives of American citizens," including the collection of hundreds of millions of Americans' telephone records, even though they are not under suspicion or investigation; and the extraction of personal information from Google, Facebook and other Internet companies.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Buchanan heading into re-election campaign with a big fund-raising advantage

Democratic candidate Mitch Mallett of Bradenton promises a hearty challenge of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan in next year's election, presuming he wins his party's nomination.

But already, he faces a daunting challenger: Buchanan's ability to raise campaign money, a prowess reinforced by his position on the House Ways & Means Committee, which among other things oversee's the nation's tax policies.

The latest campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission show that as of Sept. 30, the end of the most recent reporting period, Buchanan had almost $543,000 cash on hand, a measure of a candidate's viability.

Mallett, who just filed his paperwork, has not reported any financial activity for his campaign.

Buchanan built up his campaign account by taking in $167,225 in contributions between July 1 and Sept. 30, including $89,340 from individuals and $77,885 from political action and other committees.

So far this election cycle, Buchanan has raised a total $984,410 -- more than $623,000 from individuals and almost $362,000 from political committees.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Disturbed by reports of 'government overreach,' Rep. Vern Buchanan calls for reform of National Security Agency

Here is the news release:
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-FL, today called on congressional leaders to take immediate action to reform the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance programs following reports of “thousands of violations” of Americans’ privacy. 
Last week, an internal NSA audit obtained by the Washington Post cited 2,776 incidents where the spy agency engaged in the “unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications.” 
“These latest revelations of government overreach are extremely disturbing,” said Buchanan, a member of the Congressional Privacy Caucus. “Our strength as a nation flows from the values and freedoms laid out in the Constitution, including the right against unreasonable searches and seizures. It’s imperative the both parties work together and institute reforms to protect the privacy and liberties of the American people.” 
Last month, Buchanan voted for an amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, offered by Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan, to prevent the NSA from collecting the phone records of Americans who are not under investigation. 
The chief author of the Patriot Act, Congressman James Sensenbrenner, also supported the amendment which was narrowly defeated 205-217. The U.S. House is expected to consider the intelligence reauthorization bill this Fall, legislation Buchanan says is the appropriate vehicle for broader NSA reforms. 
“It is a slippery slope if we allow our basic freedoms to be eroded in the name of security,” said Buchanan.  “The time has come for Congress to address these issues in a transparent, public manner.”

Monday, August 19, 2013

Democrat withdraws from Florida CFO race after news of his bankruptcies

Via the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau:
Democrat Allie Braswell, a political unknown and Urban League official, dropped out of the race against Republican Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater on Monday, after a weekend of news reports about his three personal bankruptcies. 
The stories were first reported by the Jacksonville Times Union. 
Here's the press release from the Democratic Party: 

Tallahassee, FL — Today, CFO candidate Allie Braswell made the following statement: 
Against all odds, a boy who played on dirt roads in Oviedo grew up to serve this great nation as a US Marine, and work as an senior leader at one of America's most admired companies. That is what has always inspired me to serve, to ensure that today's boys and girls can live the American Dream. 
At the Urban League, I work every day with people who are struggling to make it. As I have experienced struggles in my life, so many people are struggling, and that is what inspired me to run for Florida's Chief Financial Officer -- to be a champion, standing up for the poor and middle class. 
Before I started this campaign I talked with supporters and friends and family. This weekend, I have again discussed this campaign with those I love, and have reached a decision. Today, I am withdrawing from the race for Florida's Chief Financial Officer. 
I have, at times, faced challenges in life that have not met with the outcomes I have desired. I take full responsibility for my actions, and apologize to my supporters. 
The bright spotlight of a statewide campaign has cast the ups and downs of my life into harsh relief, and I now know that this campaign is not the way I was meant to serve my community. 
Running statewide is a daunting challenge for any candidate; as a political outsider, I have now learned that I underestimated how my campaign would affect those I care about most.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Rep. Vern Buchanan to hold 'listening session' in Lakewood Ranch

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, will hold a "listening session" on jobs, spending and the economy in Lakewood Ranch on Saturday.

The event is scheduled for 11 a.m. at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall, 8175 Lakewood Ranch Blvd.

To RSVP, call 941-951-6643.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Gov. Rick Scott says 'No' to changing Florida's 'stand your ground' law

From Bay News 9, the governor today in Tampa:

Charles Schelle of the Bradenton Herald filed this after Scott appeared at a business roundtable at Mixon Fruit Farm in Bradenton:
Before any reporters could ask Scott, Ernie Withers, general manager of Mercedes-Benz of Sarasota asked what many in this country has on its mind: Will the Florida governor repeal the Stand Your Ground law? 
Scott didn't answer the question, and instead retold his history of involvement with the case, but said that the "process was right." 
"We have a jury system that is a sacred part of our country, and these six women put their lives on hold, and it had to be a tough, emotional case. They did their job," Scott said. "I can’t imagine losing a 17-year-old. I got daughters 28 and 30, and I have a grandson and two more on the way. I would not lose one of them, and I’m sure that family, their lives has changed. We should mourn with them."

Gov. Rick Scott to visit Bradenton on Thursday

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday will hold a business roundtable with business leaders from Manatee and Sarasota counties at Mixon Fruit Farms.

About 60-70 people representing the counties' chambers of commerce and tourist bureaus are expected for the event, which is scheduled for 3:30 to 5 p.m. at Mixon, 2525 27th St. E., Bradenton.

"We're excited," said Janet Mixon.

Mixon said the meeting will take place in the deli section of the company's store. The store closes at 3 p.m., meaning tourists and other customers won't be able to listen in.

"They wanted it to be at a business," she said. "They didn't just want a meeting room."

Mixon said the roundtable was organized during the past couple of days.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Who paid to defeat health care sales tax in Manatee County

Follow the money, and you just might figure out who paid for the campaign that last month helped defeat a proposed sales tax increase to pay for health care programs in Manatee County.

The answers don't come easily, and they are not all entirely clear.

Most of the anti-tax fliers and automatic telephone calls received by voters before the June 18 election were organized by two groups, Manatee Against Taxation and Common Cents for Manatee, both run by Eric Robinson of Venice.

Manatee Against Taxation

In finance reports filed recently with the Florida Division of Election, Manatee Against Taxation, reported no expenses but $115,000 in contributions -- $50,000 from Robinson's accounting firm and $65,000 from another political committee chaired by Robinson, Committee to Protect Florida's Seniors.

A separate filing by Committee to Protect Florida's Seniors shows that between April 1 and June 30, it received $66,000 in contributions from Veterans for Conservative Principles, a committee based in Tallahassee. The committee also paid Robinson's firm $250 for accounting services, according to records.

During the same period, Veterans for Conservative Principles received $66,000 in contributions from Greenpoint Investors LLC, with a mailing address in downtown Sarasota.

That's where the trail leading back to Manatee Against Taxation stops.  Information about Greenpoint Investors LLC was not available on a Florida Department of State website.

Past contributors to Veterans for Conservative Principles include the Mosaic Co. and companies linked to Bradenton developer Carlos Beruff, but there is no indication that their contributions were spent on the anti-tax campaign.

Common Cents for Manatee

Common Cents for Manatee reported only a single $5,000 contribution from another committee, Floridians for Ethics and Truth in Politics, based in Tallahassee. That group has been active since at least 2010, but the donation to Common Cents was the only one it made from April 1 to June 30 of this year.

Past donors to Floridians for Ethics and Truth in Politics include another committee, Citizens for Florida Prosperity, whose treasurer is Robinson.

Healthy Manatee

The campaign in favor of the health care surtax may have actually out-raised the opponents.

New filings with the Manatee elections office show that Healthy Manatee, the committee organized to support the sales tax proposal, spent $181,100 on its campaign, much of it on its own fliers and automated telephone calls.

As previously reported, the group's biggest donors included local hospitals and others in the health care industry. UHS of Delaware, which owns Manatee Memorial and Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, and HCA, which owns Blake Medical Center, donated $75,000 each, according to records.

Committee for Community Leadership

In the past, companies with ties to local hospitals have contributed to the Palmetto-based Committee for Community Leadership, whose name was mentioned on automatic telephone calls you might have received before the June 18 election.

In the first three months of the year, Blake Medical Center donated a total of $7,000. But during the next three months, contributions and spending by CCL were minimal, according to records filed with the state.

The only expense was $2,813 paid to a North Carolina telecommunications company.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Rep. Vern Buchanan introduce anti-shark finning legislation

From a news release:
WASHINGTON  U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-FL, announced today that he has introduced bipartisan legislation condemning the grisly practice of shark finning.  Buchanan’s resolution, H. Res. 285, has been endorsed by the Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, Humane Society and 31 bipartisan members of Congress. Shark finning is the controversial practice of removing a shark’s fins, a delicacy in Asia, and discarding the live animal back into the ocean to either drown or be eaten alive by other fish.  “The Shark fin trade promotes inhumane practices and is devastating shark populations and valuable fisheries worldwide,” said Buchanan, who serves on the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade. "My resolution brings awareness to a cruel practice that, if not stopped, will have irreparable environmental and economic consequences.” Shark finning is the single greatest contributor to the decline in shark populations, accounting for 60 percent of shark mortality.  One third of our ocean’s sharks are threatened with extinction.  The journalScience recently published a study in which 11 shark species in the Atlantic declined by at least 87 percent since 1970.  Some species of sharks in the Gulf of Mexico have seen population declines of well over 90 percent.  While finning is illegal in the United States, it is widely practiced worldwide to satisfy a large Asian market.  Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida reports that up to 73 million sharks are killed annually for their fins.  While shark fins only account for 5 percent of a shark’s body weight, they are the most valuable part of the shark – selling for $500 per kilogram.  Finning is perpetuated by the world demand for shark fin soup, where a bowl typically sells for $120.  Buchanan’s resolution calls for the United States to end the importation of shark fins from foreign fisheries that practice shark finning.  The resolution also highlights the danger that shark finning poses to world shark populations, our oceans and to U.S. fisheries. As apex predators, sharks help maintain the balance of marine life populations. The collapse of shark populations have serious ecological and economic consequences.  A study from the journal Sciencefound that when 11 shark species in the Atlantic became nearly extinct due to overharvesting, the ecosystem was thrown out of balance.  With fewer sharks, the species they prey upon, like cownose rays, dramatically increased in numbers.  As the cownose ray population grew out of control, the rays destroyed the population of North Carolina bay scallops. The scallop industry in North Carolina had been thriving for over 100 years, yet after the increase in rays, the scallop industry was virtually wiped out and the scallop harvest dropped to only 13% of its highest recorded point. Buchanan’s efforts are supported by nearly two dozen marine and wildlife conservation organizations including Mote Marine Laboratory located in the Congressman’s district. “Mote Marine Laboratory supports the conservation of sharks and the sustainable management of U.S. and foreign shark fisheries,” said Dr. Robert Hueter, Director of the National Center for Shark Research at Sarasota based Mote Marine Laboratory.  “We condemn finning and over fishing of sharks and support Congressman Buchanan’s efforts to draw public attention to the need to address and end these detrimental practices.” “The Humane Society of the United States applauds Congressman Buchanan’s outstanding efforts and leadership in introducing a resolution calling for an end to this cruel practice and promoting a healthy future for our oceans,” said Michael Markarian, chief program and policy officer at the Humane Society.  “Sharks are apex predators who play an essential role in marine ecosystems. The cruel and ecologically devastating practice of shark finning endangers their survival—and that of the species that rely on them.” “We truly appreciate the leadership displayed by Congressman Buchanan to protect sharks from the cruel and wasteful practice of finning,” said Susan Millward, Executive Director of the Animal Welfare Institute.  “As top predators, sharks are key components of the marine ecosystem and with over 73 million killed for their fins yearly, they clearly need our protection.” With the passage of the Shark Finning Prohibition Act of 2000, the United States banned finning in U.S. waters by U.S. registered vessels. To further strengthen the law and to close loopholes, President Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act in 2011 to prohibit any boat to carry shark fins without the corresponding number and weight of carcasses. Organizations endorsing the “End All Shark Finning Resolution” include: Sierra Club; League of Conservation Voters; US Humane Society; Animal Welfare Institute; Monterey Bay Aquarium; Humane Society International; Oceana; International Animal Rescue; Ocean Geographic Society; Shark Research Institute; Shark Conservation Society; Animal Legal Defense Fund; Shark Attack Survivors; Shark Savers; Sharkprotect; Shark Whisperers; WildAid; British Divers Marine Life Rescue; Lobby for Animals; and SandyHook SeaLife Foundation.
 Original co-sponsors to the “End All Shark Finning Resolution” include: Jared Huffman (D-CA); Sam Farr (D-CA); Linda T. S├ínchez (D-CA); Alan Lowenthal (D-CA); Tony Cardenas (D-CA); Jackie Speier (D-CA); Julia Brownely (D-CA); Zoe Lofgren (D-CA); George Miller (D-CA); Scott Peters (D-CA); Lois Capps (D-CA); Michael Grimm (R-NY); Carolyn Maloney (D-NY); Jerrold Nadler (D-NY); Grace Meng (D-NY); Alcee Hastings (D-FL); Ander Crenshaw (R-FL); Bill Young (R-FL); Patrick Murphy (D-FL); Frederica Wilson (D-FL); Jeff Miller (R-FL); Kathy Castor (D-FL); Ted Deutch (D-FL); Jim Moran (D-VA); Betty McCollum (D-MN); Dina Titus (D-NV); Peter DeFazio (D-OR); David Cicilline (D-RI); Raul Grijalva (D-AZ); and Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam).

Friday, June 14, 2013

Keeping track of who's running campaigns in June 18 special election

A variety of political committees have taken the lead in promoting their respective messages about two referendum questions on the June 18 special election ballot in Manatee County.

Here's a rundown of who they are:

Healthy Manatee

Healthy Manatee, chaired by former county commissioner Pat Glass, has taken the lead in the campaign to win voter approval for a half-cent increase in the sales tax to fund health care programs, including services for the indigent.

Despite the group's name, the main thrust of its campaign is the prospect of a higher sales tax meaning a corresponding drop in the property tax rate for county residents. County Administrator Ed Hunzeker has made such a switch part of his proposed 2013-14 county budget, but property tax relief is not part of the ballot question.

As of May 24, Healthy Manatee had raised almost $170,000 in contribution -- mainly from local hospitals and others in the health care industry -- and spent almost $106,000 on its campaign, according to finance reports filed with the county elections office.

A bulk of the spending had gone to The Nolan Group, a Bradenton political consulting firm, to pay for mailers and other materials.

Committee for Community Leadership

You may have received a automated telephone call from Committee for Community Leadership promoting the sales tax proposal.

Since 2012, when the Palmetto-based "electioneering communications organization" was formed, CCL has collected 11 individual donations totaling more than $95,000, according to finance reports filed with the Florida Division of Elections. It has spent an almost equal amount.

The donors include UHS of Delaware Inc., the parent company of Manatee Memorial Hospital and Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, $2,000; and Blake Medical Center, two donations totaling $7,000.

Also donating $5,000 each were Schroeder Manatee Ranch, developer of Lakewood Ranch; and Benderson Development, which owns several shopping centers in the region.

More than $46,000 in donations came from Peter S. Rummell, a Jacksonville real estate investor and chairman of the Urban Land Institute; and another $20,000 came from the Jacksonville Civic Council, whose "mission is to create a clear vision for the city of Jacksonville.," according to its website.

Manatee Against Taxation / Common Cents for Manatee

Manatee Against Taxation -- which lists its base as Venice, in Sarasota County --  has taken the lead in opposing the sales tax hike, largely with fliers that have flooded local mailboxes in recent weeks.

The group registered May 30 as a "political action committee," and as yet has not filed financial disclosure reports with the Florida Division of Elections, according to the agency's website.

The group's treasurer is Eric Robinson, who also is listed in documents as the registered agent for Common Cents for Manatee, which also opposes the sales tax hike.

Common Cents, which is registered with the state as an "electioneering communications organization," also has not filed reports detailing contributions and expenditures.

Committee for New Jobs Now

Committee for New Jobs Now is promoting approval of a second ballot measure that would allow the county to provide property tax breaks for new and existing businesses that create new jobs in the county.

Between Jan. 1 and May 24, the Lakewood Ranch-based group had raised more than $78,000 in contributions, and spent more than $46,000. The group's treasurer is Neil Spirtas, an executive with the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce.

Of the money raised, $75,000 had come from the Bradenton Area Economic Development Council, according to a finance report filed with the county elections office.

Citizens for Good Government

On June 7, Citizens for Good Government registered with the county elections office to oppose the "sales tax referendum and economic development ad valorem tax exemption."

The chairman of the group is Steve Vernon, who also president of Tea Party Manatee.

The group has not filed any reports detailing contributions and expenditures.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Manatee County Democrats endorse sales tax hike to pay for health care (UPDATED)

Update below.

The Manatee County Democratic Party is endorsing the proposed increase in the sales tax rate to pay for county government's health care programs, including spending for the indigent. Manatee voters will decide on the proposal in a June 18 special election.

Here is the party's news release, issued late Wednesday:
Inspired primarily by state Republicans’ rejection of federal Medicaid funds, the Democratic Party of Manatee County has officially endorsed the half-penny sales tax to fund health care for the working poor. 
Voters will decide June 18, in a special referendum, whether to approve the half-penny. 
 “It’s a moral issue,” said Patricia Benson, chairperson of the Democratic Party of Manatee County. “We are the ‘caring’ party, and we need to care for those who cannot take care of themselves. We need to care for those who do not have the resources or support of family that would enable them to have health insurance.” 
Benson said the Executive Committee voted this weekend to formalize its support for the half-penny after watching the Republican-controlled Florida State Legislature reject Medicaid from the federal government under the Affordable Care Act. The Legislature’s decision leaves an estimated 1 million Florida residents uninsured who would have received coverage through the extension of Medicaid. 
“Our question is, who will take care of the indigent and working poor in Manatee County?” she said. “As for those who say the half-penny will hit the poor the hardest, that’s just not true. For the most part, the tourists and others who can afford to spend lots of money will be paying this extra half-cent. Food and medicine will not be taxed.” 
The half-penny will raise $23 million annually to fund health care for Manatee County’s working poor. County officials plan to use the proceeds to replace property tax revenue as the main source of funding for indigent health care. The half-penny would enable property owners to receive a projected property tax reduction of 13 to 25 percent.

UPDATED, 4 p.m. EDT -

The Healthy Manatee political committee, which is leading the campaign for the sales tax hike, says the Democratic Party is the latest important endorsement for the measure.

Other endorsements touted in a news release issued Thursday include those from resort owner David Teitelbaum; downtown Bradenton booster Jaymie Carter; the Manatee County Medical Society; and the Holmes Beach City Commission.

Carter said the surtax will allow the county to lower its property tax rate -- something County Administrator Ed Hunzeker has offered as part of his proposed 2013-14 budget. (The county commission will have the final say.

 Teitelbaum said the surtax would represent "good fiscal planning" and give the county a way to head off what would be a "major deficit" in health care funding.

“People are starting to recognize the broad based issues that are involved here,” said former Manatee County commissioner Pat Glass, the chair of Healthy Manatee. “They realize the half-penny provides an important economic benefit in addition to a health care benefit. It’s about making our community a healthier environment all the way around.”

Friday, May 24, 2013

NAACP endorses health care sales tax increase proposal

The Manatee County NAACP is endorsing a proposed increase in the sales tax to pay for indigent health, complete with an invocation of Jesus' name.

Here's the press release, issued late Thursday:

(For) several months residents of Manatee County have been inundated with facts and falsehoods regarding approval or disapproval of the one-half cent sales tax referendum.  While politics has entered the fray of these discussions, the Manatee County Branch NAACP believes the basic civil rights of every citizen of Manatee County is to have access to health care regardless of their socio-economic status.  The membership of the NAACP supports the one-half cent increase and encourage voters to vote “YES” for the one-half cent sales tax increase on June 18, 2013, or during early voting hours June 8th through June 15th at the Supervisor of Elections Office. The office is located at 600 301 Blvd West, Suite 118 (across from DeSoto Square Mall). The hours are Monday through Friday from 7:00 am to 6:00 PM and Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 am to 5:00 PM. 
Since the sale of Manatee Memorial Hospital in 1984, the County expanded medical payments to other healthcare providers in Manatee County along with the reduction of interest rates, etc., which caused an increased financial burden, obligation to cover the cost of indigent health care.  While the sale of Manatee Memorial Hospital produced a fund dedicated to providing health care for poor people, officials want the sales tax increase before funds run out in 2015.  Some have questioned why the increase now instead of during the 2012 election cycle, which would have been more cost effective.  Here again, politics played a role in postponing due to possible ramifications of  election or re-election with a proposed tax increase.  One could also argue that this sales tax increase would not be required if the Florida Legislators and Governor Scott would have accepted the federal funds ($51M) to expand medicaid. Citizens cannot allow the politics of the situation to determine the need or responsibility to provide health care coverage to indigent, underinsured or uninsured residents in Manatee County.  The NAACP has been assured that the funds collected from the one-half cent sales tax will go into a special fund to cover health care costs ONLY. 
Please join the Manatee County NAACP and its members by voting “YES” on this critical issue. “..Jesus said when you do for the least of these, you’ve done it unto me....” 
Susie Copeland, President
Manatee County NAACP

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

With new legislation, Rep. Vern Buchanan targets scams against seniors

Here's the news release from his office:

U.S. Rep Vern Buchanan, R-FL, joined forces today with Democratic colleagues Ted Deutch and Peter Welch by introducing the“Seniors Fraud Prevention Act” -- legislation to crack down on scams and financial schemes targeting older Americans.  Florida is a hotbed for these types of crimes, topping all states in the percentage of seniors 60 and over.

"Seniors spend their entire lives working hard and saving so that they can retire with peace of mind," said Buchanan. "Unfortunately, an increasing number of criminals are targeting Americans over 65, the fastest growing population in our country.  With nearly 200,000 seniors living in our area of Southwest Florida, I understand that these fraud schemes threaten more than retirement accounts – they threaten the independence and trust of an already vulnerable community.  The Seniors Fraud Prevention Act is a critical step to combating fraud, protecting seniors and bringing those responsible for these unthinkable crimes to justice."
Specifically, this bipartisan legislation is designed to combat financial schemes that target our nation’s seniors, such as sweepstakes and charity scams, as well as fraudulent investment plans and Internet fraud.  The Seniors Fraud Prevention Act would also establish an advisory office within the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Affairs tasked with alerting consumers of new scams and establishing an effective complaint system to ensure that reports of fraud are quickly forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

“While financial fraud can hit anyone, in Florida we know all too well how seniors who have worked hard their entire lives to retire securely make high value targets for scam artists,” said Congressman Deutch (D-FL). “As the Baby Boomers retire and a growing number of Americans become vulnerable to schemes designed to go after their assets, the federal government must proactively alert the public of the latest threats and work closely with law enforcement to protect our seniors’ financial security.”

“Every day across this country, vulnerable seniors are being ripped off by scam artists,” said Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT).  “It’s not uncommon for their victims to lose their life’s savings.  Our bill would put a federal cop on the beat to alert seniors of fraudulent schemes and help stop these criminals in their tracks.”

According to recent estimates from the Investor Protection Trust, a nonprofit education organization, one in five Americans over 65 have been a victim of financial fraud.  A study by the Metlife Mature Market Institute estimates the financial loss to senior victims to total nearly $ 3 billion annually. 

Democratic candidate for governor expresses support for Manatee parents, students at rally

Former state Sen. Nan Rich, so far the only major Democrat running for governor, on Monday took to Twitter to express her support for parents, children and others rallying at Manatee County School District headquarters in support of teachers.

Specifically, Rich re-tweeted one of my tweets from the rally that included a photo of the demonstrators:

Rich opened her Twitter account on Monday. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Rep. Vern Buchanan: 'I don't think we got all the answers' on IRS scandal (UPDATED)

For update, see below.

The House Ways and Means Committee, according to U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, will continue to pursue what went wrong at IRS.

"I don't think we got all the answers that we wanted," Buchanan told the Bradenton Herald on Friday, after the committee held the first of what promise to be many hearings after it was revealed the Internal Revenue Service had targeted various conservative political organizations for special scrutiny.

The chief witness Friday was Steven Miller, the acting IRS commissioner fired by President Barack Obama earlier this week. Miller apologized for what IRS employees did but denied that they had "targeted" tea parties and other organizations opposed to Obama administration policies.

Buchanan, the only representative from Florida on Ways and Means, was not convinced.

"I was kind of really upset with the idea with him referring to the idea of targeting Americans as 'bad customer service,' Buchanan said.

"If you listen to him, he likes to think it was bad customer service or incompetence," Buchanan said. "That doesn't pass the smell test."

Friday's hearing was charged with partisanship from both sides of the aisles, but Buchanan said he is only trying to do right by the American people by uncovering what went wrong at the tax-collecting agency.

"You can't have an organization like the IRS, with 90,000 employees, not playing by the rules," Buchanan said. "They clearly stepped over the bounds."

As investigations continue, Buchanan said he wants to see the firing of anyone else responsible for the scandal, and for a new IRS commissioner to have the leadership skills needed to instill the right culture at the agency.

"I think there is a lot more that needs to be done," he said.

UPDATED, 5:05 p.m. EDT -- Citing prior investigations of Buchanan's political and business practices, including by the IRS, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called on Buchanan to excuse himself from the investigation of the of the IRS scandal.

"(I)t is impossible for Congressman Buchanan to conduct the type of impartial and rigorous investigation that both Republicans and Democrats have demanded,” said David Bergstein of the DCCC. “We cannot trust the robber to guard the bank – and we certainly can’t trust him to investigate it."

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Buchanan: 'More heads need to roll' at IRS

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, who this week has used his position on the House Ways & Means Committee to turn up the heat on the Internal Revenue Service, is not satisfied by the firing of the agency's interim director.

“The resignation of acting-IRS commissioner Steven Miller is a necessary first step but more heads need to roll,” said Buchanan in a statement issued Wednesday after President Barack Obama announced the resignation.

Buchanan added that Lois Lerner, the senior IRS official who oversaw the program that targeted conservative groups for scrutiny, “needs to be fired next.”

“We need to know who else had their hands in this disgraceful scheme to illegally target and intimidate American taxpayers," Buchanan said.

Buchanan will be able to pursue that inquiry on Friday when the Ways & Means Committee holds a hearing on the scandal.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Itching for the chance to take on IRS, Rep. ,Vern Buchanan says agency's excuses 'don't pass the smell test'

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, obviously is looking forward to the congressional hearing Friday on the brewing Internal Revenue Service scandal, as he continued his verbal offensive on the agency in the wake of revelations it had targeted conservative organizations for special attention.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-FL, today slammed IRS officials for continuing to plead ignorance to political targeting, calling their excuses “offensive and insulting to the American people.”

“The IRS is arrogantly defending the indefensible…plain and simple,” said Buchanan, Florida’s only member of the Ways & Means Committee which oversees the IRS.  “Their excuses do not pass the smell test.  Five days later and not a single IRS official has been fired for this blatant betrayal of the public trust.”

Joseph Grant, the acting commissioner for the tax exempt division of the IRS, defended the agency’s gross abuse of power, saying they “acted out of a desire for efficiency and not out of any political or partisan viewpoint.”  However, the Inspector General’s report clearly reveals that every application with "tea party," "patriot" or "9/12" in its name was flagged for a special review.

The USA TODAY reports that over a 27-month span not one Tea Party/conservative group was approved for tax-exempt status at the same time dozens of liberal and progressive groups were approved.  These groups included:
  •  Progress Florida, granted tax-exempt status in January 2011, is lobbying the Florida Legislature to expand Medicaid under a provision of the Affordable Care Act, one of President Obama's signature accomplishments. The group did not return phone calls. "We're busy fighting to build a more progressive Florida and cannot take your call right now," the group's voice mail said. 
  • Bus for Progress, a New Jersey non-profit that uses a red, white and blue bus to "drive the progressive change." According to its website, its mission includes "support (for) progressive politicians with the courage to serve the people's interests and make tough choices." It got an IRS approval as a social welfare group in April 2011. 
  • Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment says it fights against corporate welfare and for increasing the minimum wage. "It would be fair to say we're on the progressive end of the spectrum," said executive director Jeff Ordower. He said the group got tax-exempt status in September 2011 in just nine months after "a pretty simple, straightforward process."
On Tuesday, Buchanan called for the immediate firing of Lois Lerner, the senior IRS official who oversaw the intentional targeting of individuals because of their politics and criticism of the government.  Despite her recent claims of ignorance, POLITICO has revealed that Ms. Lerner sent a March 2012 letter to the Ohio-based American Patriots Against Government Excess demanding additional information.

The Ways & Means Committee will hold its first hearing on Friday to further investigate the matter.

Sarasota woman eyes run for governor

The Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau reports on possible Republican challengers to Gov. Rick Scott, who is up for re-election next year:

Sarasota businesswoman Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder has filed fund-raising papers to seek the Republican Party nomination for governor against Rick Scott in 2014. Cuevas-Neunder, 59, is president of the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of Florida. 
Two other Republicans, Timothy Devine of Kissimmee and Joe Smith of Wellington, filed fund-raising papers in recent months as well with the state Division of Elections in Tallahassee.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rep. Vern Buchanan: 'Heads need to roll today' at IRS

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan on Tuesday doubled-down on his criticism of the Internal Revenue Service and called for the firing of a top official in the wake of revelations that the agency had targeted political opponents of the Obama administration for extra scrutiny.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-FL, today called on acting-IRS commissioner Steven Miller to immediately fire Lois Lerner, the senior IRS official who oversaw the intentional targeting of individuals because of their politics and criticism of the government.

“Heads need to roll today,” said Buchanan, Florida’s only member of the Ways & Means Committee which oversees the IRS.  “Ms. Lois Lerner knew about this gross abuse of power as early as 2011 but continues to plead ignorance to this day.  We don’t want apologies we want answers and accountability -- and we can start by firing the person responsible for this gross abuse of power.”

On Friday, Lerner told reporters that she first learned of the IRS targeting of political groups from media reports.  However, a draft report by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration confirms that Ms. Lerner was made aware that such political targeting had occurred on June 29, 2011.  Ms. Lerner also tried to pin the blame on low-level workers.  The Inspector General’s report confirms that senior IRS officials in Washington were made aware of the misconduct as early as August 2011.

“Our founding fathers would be rolling in their graves if they knew their government was targeting individuals based on their political beliefs and criticism of the government,” said Buchanan.  “The American people need to know they can be critical of their government without fear of retribution.”

Buchanan issued a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Monday demanding a full accounting from top to bottom of those responsible for the IRS’s gross abuse of power and what action is being taken to restore the public trust.  The Ways & Means Committee will hold its first hearing on Friday to further investigate the matter.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Rep. Vern Buchanan demands IRS account for 'gross abuse of power'

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, is demanding answers from Treasury Secretary Jack Lew about who is responsible for the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of organizations "whose politics are at odds with the administration."

"The American people demand and deserve a full-accounting from top to bottom of those responsible for this gross abuse of power and what action is being taken to restore the public trust," Buchanan wrote in the letter, dated Monday.

Buchanan continues, in part:
On March 22, 2012, as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee which oversees the IRS, we heard then-Commissioner Douglas Shulman clearly state that the IRS did not engage in the practices of which it is now accused saying "there is absolutely no targeting."  Yet, less than a year earlier, Commissioner Shulman's own deputy, Lois Lerner, was made aware that such malpractice had indeed occurred.  It became evident that groups with "tea party" or "patriot" in their names were extremely vulnerable to auditing harassment.  Even nonprofit organizations that sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution were unfairly singled out for scrutiny. 
The nation's trust in government was betrayed by this unconscionable behavior.
On behalf of my constituents, your immediate response is not only warranted but essential to clearing up a matter that would have our founding fathers rolling in their graves. 
Buchanan's criticisms should carry a little extra weight, as he is a member of the House Ways & Means Committee, which has oversight of the IRS.

Read the entire letter here.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Buchanan to hold town hall in Holmes Beach

Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, will conduct a town hall "listening session" from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday  in the Holmes Beach City Hall council chambers, 5801 Marina Drive.
Buchanan said in a news release that he hopes to hear input about jobs, spending and the economy.

To RSVP, call Buchanan's office at 941-747-9081.

Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2013/05/10/4519732/buchanan-to-hold-town-hall-in.html#storylink=cpy

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio to hold fundraiser in Sarasota

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on March 15 will be in Sarasota for a fund-raising reception and dinner for his political action committee, which Rubio uses to support conservative political candidates.

For $500 a person or $1,000 a couple, you can attend a reception at the penthouse home of Jesse and Katie Biter, For $5,000 a person or $10,000 a couple, you get a private dinner with the senator at Louie's Modern, a restaurant in downtown Sarasota.

To RSVP and for more information, contact Esther Nuhfer at (786) 402-4822 or Esther@commsol.biz or Zach Burr at (239) 250-2601 or zach@marcorubio.com

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Group: 'Middle class champions' in Florida Legislature will vote right on these issues

The liberal-leaning Progress Florida organization on Wednesday delivered a warning shot to members of the Florida Legislature:

If at the end of the session that starts next week you want to be designated by the group as a "Champion of Florida's Middle Class," vote the right way on these 10 issues:
  • Guaranteeing Free, Quality Public Education – We must ensure Floridians’ constitutionally protected right to a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools” by rejecting efforts to revive the so-called “parent trigger” bill and curtailing the use of private school vouchers, both of which slash public education funding while privatizing public education for corporate gain. Charter schools should not be funded by taxpayers at the expense of public schools. We cannot continue the practice of cutting K-12 and higher education funding and threaten our state’s Bright Futures Scholarship program.
  • Creating and Protecting Quality Middle Class Jobs – Florida’s Defined Benefit retirement plan is one of the strongest in the nation and should be strengthened and preserved, rather than phased out in favor of risky 401(k) type plans. Florida’s low-income earners should be protected from corporate extremists aiming to preempt local laws designed to prevent wage theft or provide benefits such as earned sick time. Public employees should not face the threat of job loss due to corporate privatization schemes like the prison plan that narrowly failed last year. The legislature should not be placing large corporations over small businesses and middle class working families. Florida should be putting our main street, family owned small businesses first.
  • Ensuring Effective, Efficient Government – Corporations must pay their fair share in taxes. We cannot continue the practice of increasing billion dollar corporate tax breaks and subsidies and pushing for further reductions or the elimination of the corporate income tax altogether while slashing funding for education and neglecting the needs of the state's small businesses.  Large corporations must pay their fair share and corporate tax loopholes should be closed once and for all.  Inefficient government practices, like taxpayer subsidies for nuclear power plants and other handouts to big business that don’t help create jobs, should be stopped. Cutting corporate taxes simply rewards big business and the wealthy and does nothing to aid job creation.
  • Promoting a Stronger Democracy and Protecting Voting Rights – To avoid a repeat of last year’s election fiasco, when voters endured unforgivable wait times of up to eight hours (the longest in the nation), we need to return to a minimum of at least 14 days and 12 hours per day of early voting for all Florida voters. Voters should have the same access to the ballot regardless of what county they reside in. The legislature should be held to the same 75-word maximum for constitutional amendments that citizen-led constitutional amendments are.
  • Ending Corporate Welfare and Protecting Small Businesses – Attracting new businesses and industries to Florida should be a top priority this legislative session, but that goal cannot be achieved without creating a balanced approach to the state's budget problems, making smart investments in education and infrastructure, ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and making sure corporations pay their fair share so that small businesses have a competitive opportunity against large corporations.
  • Reforming Tallahassee’s Culture of Corruption – In order to reach optimal government effectiveness we must clean up the culture of corruption in Tallahassee and push for real ethics reform. These reforms would prohibit the use of Committees of Continuous Existence (CCEs) except to engage in political activities related to the election or re-election of candidates; provide teeth for the Commission on Ethics to go after those current and past elected officials who have been found to have violated ethics and elections laws; eliminate the revolving door of legislators and their staff leaving public service to lobby their former colleagues; and keep contribution limits to candidates low while increasing disclosure and transparency.
  • Providing Access to Affordable Health Care – We must address Florida’s high rate of uninsured residents by extending Medicaid to pay for health care coverage for nearly a million Florida families in dire need. Florida must take advantage of provisions under the Affordable Care Act to set up a state health insurance marketplace in 2014 that will allow millions more Floridians to have access to affordable health care coverage.
  • Protecting Our Land and Water – The successful Florida Forever conservation and recreational land buying program should be restored. Attempts by corporate polluters to influence policy when it comes to protecting our water should be rejected. Any efforts to expand the dirty and dangerous practice of oil drilling on state owned land should also be rejected.
  • Advancing Women’s Rights and Equality – Lawmakers should stop putting politics in the exam room by introducing bills that restrict access to health care services, and instead make it easier for more women to access health care. Florida lawmakers should also support ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing and public accommodations.
  • Protecting Homeowners – Homeowners should be protected from predatory practices that have contributed to the state’s sky-high foreclosure rate. Homeowners should be allowed every opportunity to save their homes and should be afforded their day in court.
    Last year, 27 lawmakers -- 26 Democrats and one Republican -- were named "middle class champions." (None were legislators who represented Manatee County.)

Monday, February 25, 2013

White House: Sequester would cut aid for Florida children, senior, environmental protection

The White House on Sunday released state-by-state breakdowns of what it described as the "devastating impact" of budget sequestration if it goes into effect Friday.

According to the White House, Florida this year would lose:
  • $54.5 million for primary and secondary education, putting at risk 750 teacher and aide jobs.
  • $31.1 million for education of children with disabilities, putting at risk 380 teaching and other jobs.
  • Head Start and Early Head Start services for 2,700 children.
  • About $5.2 million in "environmental funding to ensure clean air and clean water."
  • About 31,000 civilian Defense Department employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by more than $183 million.
  • About $970,000 in grants for law enforcement, courts, corrections and other criminal justice programs.
  • Child care for 1,600 "disadvantaged and vulnerable children."
  • About $509,000 for vaccinations, meaning 7,450 children would not get needed shots.
  • About $3.8 million to provide meals for children.
Read the whole White House list here.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/02/24/184023/white-house-releases-new-state.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Charlie Crist to keynote Manatee Democrats' annual dinner

This just in:

Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist will be the keynote speaker at the Manatee County Democrats annual awards dinner and dance on March 15 at the Fete Ballroom of the Polo Grill in Lakewood Ranch.

Crist was a Republican governor of Florida from 2006 through 2010 who ran in 2010 for the U.S. Senate as an Independent.  He campaigned for President Barack Obama in 2012 and late last year changed his party registration to Democrat.

Manatee Party Chair Patty Benson notes that Democrats are eager to hear the message of someone who has a history of working across the aisle, but also one who brings a track record of supporting  issues which are important to local Democrats and many Floridians.

"Charlie cares about kids, he cares about education and about less fortunate Floridians," Benson said in announcing his appearance.  "His mother was an educator and his father was a doctor, so he comes from the sort of roots that are inherent to the experiences of middle class families, and it shows."

Event organizers have put together an evening of cocktails, dinner, auction and raffle activity, and dancing to music by The Ciceron Brothers.  Auction items include rounds of golf, fine art, restaurant gift certificates and a three night stay at a Bermuda beach resort.

The event begins at 6 PM and the cost is $75.00 per person. Checks may be mailed to Manatee County Democratic Party, PO Box 10605, Bradenton, FL 34282.

Lucy Lapides is Chair of the Dinner-Dance committee. She can be contacted at 941-704-5971 or lucylap@yahoo.com

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Voting changes sponsored by Rep. Jim Boyd win bipartisan support

From the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau:

Democrats joined with Republicans Wednesday in a bipartisan vote in support of four changes to Florida's voting laws prompted by the chaos and long lines last fall. The House Ethics & Elections Subcommittee passed the bill on a 12-0 vote. 
Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, the sponsor, called the bill a "collaborative effort to address the difficult experiences by many voters in the 2012 election." 
The changes, broadly supported by voters, election supervisors, Gov.Rick Scott and the state elections division, would undo two of the most controversial changes in a Republican-backed rewrite of the election laws two years ago. The bill would require early voting on a minimum of eight days and a maximum of 14 days with optional early voting on the Sunday before Election Day. It also would expand early voting locations to include county courthouses, fairgrounds, convention centers and civic centers. 
Under the bill, a county could offer as little as 48 hours of early voting (six hours for eight days) but no Democrat on the panel raised an objection to the provision. The maximum early voting hours would increase from the current 96 to 168 hours, or 12 hours a day over a 14-day period. 
The bill (PCB EES 13-01) also would limit ballot summaries to 75 words for constitutional amendments proposed by the Legislature. 
Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, the ranking minority member on the panel, said more work is needed to prevent voters from being disenfranchised. "There's a firm realization that Florida needs more voting days. We need more polling locations and they need to be properly staffed and properly equipped," Cruz said. "I really hope we can work toward a better solution." 
Among those voting for the bill was Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, sponsor of the 2011 changes that triggered a flurry of lawsuits and Democratic complaints of voter suppression that are now viewed with disfavor even by Republicans. "I don't think any of us would want to inhibit a person from being able to participate," Baxley said. 
In a deal cut between the two parties to promote a spirit of bipartisan cooperation, Democrats withdrew nine amendments, including allowing early voting at community colleges, making Election Day a paid holiday and requiring early voting on the Sunday before Election Day. The amendment sponsors, Reps. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation and Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, said they would propose them later when the bill gets to the House floor during the regular spring session.

Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2013/02/voting-changes-win-bipartisan-support-in-house-panel.html#storylink=cpy

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Jim Boyd-led committee OKs raising campaign contribution limits

The Florida House Ethics and Elections Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, on Monday gave the first approval to a measure that would raise to $10,000 the limit on contribution to Florida election candidates and abolish controversial political slush funds.

However, the final version of the legislation -- and the prognosis for adoption -- are far from certain.

The Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau reports:

A House plan to eliminate controversial political slush funds and raise campaign contribution limits to $10,000 passed its first committee stop on a bipartisan vote Monday. 
But the top priority of House Speaker Will Weatherford faces a fight. Senate critics and ethics watchdogs warn that the bill will create new loopholes, allowing political parties to control big checks with little accountability, concentrate power in the hands of incumbents and make the system less democratic. 
Those criticisms did not dissuade the House Ethics and Elections Subcommittee on Monday, however, which passed HB 569 on a 10-2 vote. Democratic Reps. Katie Edwards of Plantation and Mike Clelland of Lake Mary joined Republicans who predicted the bill will result in "dramatic change." Clelland defeated Rep. Chris Dorworth, a Republican designated to become House speaker in 2014, after Dorworth's used his political committee for personal expenses. 
"The bill is simple. It takes Florida's election process and makes it one of the most transparent in the nation, and it does so by protecting everyone's free speech,'' said Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, the sponsor of the measure. 
The bill eliminates the controversial Committees of Continuous Existence, the political committees that can collect unlimited funds but can't spend on campaigns. They have become the method of choice for legislators to pay for meals, travel and entertainment to get around the legislature's strict gift ban. 
The House proposal also raises limits on campaign contributions to $10,000 from the current $500, a level Weatherford has called "archaic." The measure also allows the party to contribute as much as $10,000 to a candidate's committee, up from the current $500, and allows candidates to keep as much as $100,000 in unspent money for the next campaign for the same office. 
In exchange for the higher finance limits, candidates for state offices would be required to file weekly campaign finance reports after they qualify for office and, during the last 10 days of the general election cycle, would be required to provide 24-hour reporting.
Read the rest here

And read the proposed legislation approved by Boyd's committee, here..

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Vern Buchanan to Barack Obama: It's wrong to 'execute' Americans without due process

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, has joined the chorus on both the right and left in criticizing the Obama administration after it was revealed the Justice Department had devised a legal rationale for the killing  overseas of Americans suspected -- but never tried and convicted -- of being terrorists.

Here's the letter Buchanan sent to the White House on Wednesday:

Dear Mr. President, 
I am writing to express grave concern over your administration’s policy permitting the execution of American citizens suspected of affiliation with terrorist organizations. 
This appears to represent a disturbing violation of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution which guarantees all American citizens due process under the law and protects individuals against government overreach. 
Your policy, which was conducted secretly until exposed by the media, also represents an outrageous circumvention of congressional oversight.  According to press reports, the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy, and some of his Senate colleagues have been denied information about this policy when they requested details on 12 separate occasions. 
The secrecy behind this policy contradicts the remarks you made in a 2009 speech when you stated, “Whenever we cannot release certain information to the public for valid national security reasons, I will insist that there is oversight of my actions — by Congress or by the courts.” 
Although national security is one of the most fundamental responsibilities of government, it should never come at the expense of the freedoms specifically enumerated in the Constitution.  The U.S. Supreme Court, in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, said, "A state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens." 
Our country was founded on a system of checks and balances to protect the American people, yet your policy as put forth by the Attorney General sets a dangerous precedent. 
No individual – not the president, attorney general or a CIA operative – should preside as judge, jury and executioner over the life of another American citizen.  Even the Magna Carta written 800 years ago established the concept of due process, stating that no free man could be punished except through the law of the land. 
It is imperative that you explain to the American people why you believe the assassination of American citizens by their own government without due process is legally and constitutionally acceptable. 
Vern Buchanan 
Member of Congress

Monday, February 4, 2013

Reports: Buchanan outspent Fitzgerald by almost 5-to-2

U.S. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, outspent his Democratic challenger Keith Fitzgerald by an almost 5-to-2 margin in last year's election, according to new financial disclosure forms filed with the Federal Elections Commission.

Through Dec. 31, Buchanan spent $3.56 million on his re-election campaign, compared to almost $1.45 million spent by Fitzgerald.

In the Nov. 6 election, Buchanan was re-elected to a fourth term in Congress, receiving 53.6 percent of the vote, compared to 46.4 percent for Fitzgerald.

The fund-raising gap between the two candidates was smaller than the spending gap, in part because of Fitzgerald's fund-raising prowess and in part because Buchanan started the campaign with cash raised in prior years and because he loaned his campaign $500,000.

Buchanan collected more than $2.7 million in contributions, and Fitzgerald raised almost $1.45 million. At the end of the year, Buchanan's campaign finished with $125,627 in cash on hand, and $250,000 in debt, according to the FEC filings.

The filings reveal that Fitzgerald raised more than Buchanan from individual donors. Fitzgerald collected $1,112,288 from individuals, while Buchanan raised $1,082,753.

Buchanan made up the difference, and then some, with almost $1.09 million in donations from political action and other committees. Fitzgerald reported more than $335,000 in contributions from PACs and other committees.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Insurance agents to speak about 'Obamacare' at Manatee GOP meeting

State Rep. Jim Boyd and two agents from his insurance business will address the Republican Party of Manatee County during its monthly meeting Monday.

Boyd, R-Bradenton, will deliver a pre-Legislative Session update, while Nicholas Zec and David Grantham will discuss the "personal and professional ramifications of the Affordable Care Act, the new health care law."

"This legislation will impact everyone, and people need to be able to make informed decisions," said Kathleen King, chairwoman of the Manatee GOP. "More people do not even know what is in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the Bradenton Women's Club, 1705 Manatee Ave. W.

For more information, call the Manatee Republican Party at 941-714-0600.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Will raises buy Gov. Rick Scott the support of teachers?

Gov. Rick Scott today will formally propose taking some of the state's expected budget surplus next year to grant Florida teachers a pay raise.

In recent years, as the state and local school districts struggled with tax revenue declines, the odds of a pay raise for teachers were about the same as the odds that teachers would not be held accountable for the test scores of students they never had contact with. In recent years, many teachers, like here in Manatee County, saw their pay cut in order for districts to balance their books.

The result is the skepticism that greeted word Tuesday that the governor would be proposing pay raises for teachers.

The Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau reports:
With Florida expecting its first budget surplus in six years, Gov. Rick Scott wants to spend a chunk of it on higher pay for teachers — a proposal some see as more of Scott’s newfound support for public schools. 
Scott will unveil his proposal Wednesday, including his recommended amount of the raises, when he visits Ocoee Middle School near Orlando in the hub of the Interstate 4 corridor, which is pivotal in statewide elections. 
“It’s good for teachers, it’s good for students, and it’s good for the state,” Scott said Tuesday.
But skeptics see a governor hobbled by low popularity numbers in campaign mode, trying to prove he’s an ally of public education. 
“Tell him to send the money, but no one is fooled by this,” said Karen Aronowitz, president of the 22,000-member United Teachers of Dade in Miami. “He’s just restoring money that was already stolen from teachers. He can campaign all he wants.” 
Average teacher salaries in Florida are among the lowest in the country, at about $46,000 a year, lagging about $10,000 behind the national average. 
While the money may be welcome, teachers might not be as quick to embrace Scott. Many teachers remain angry at him for cutting $1.3 billion to schools from his first budget, for signing a teacher-evaluation law that he now says must be reworked, for backing a merit pay system tied to students’ standardized test scores, and for requiring teachers to contribute 3 percent of their pay to their pensions — a requirement upheld last week by the Florida Supreme Court.
Scott in recent months has gone on a listening tour at schools, proposed more professional teacher training and declared emphatically in interviews that “I like teachers.”
Read the whole story, here.

Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2013/01/23/4362466/florida-gov-rick-scott-calls-for.html#storylink=cpy

Florida taxpayers subsidize gun, video game industries

You, the Florida taxpayer, make it that much more affordable for the makers of guns and violent video games to do business at the same time the state has cut money for the mental health care for those Floridians who might be unduly influenced by the products made by companies benefiting from public subsidies.

The Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau explains:
What do violent video games, gory movies and high-powered assault weapons have in common? 
They have all been blamed for tragic mass shootings, including last month’s at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. — and are all subsidized by Florida taxpayers. 
With Florida’s tax code more business-friendly in recent years, economic incentives and tax breaks have flowed to companies and industries currently under fire for their roles in America’s gun violence. 
Meanwhile, the state has cut funding for mental healthcare and school safety programs, two areas at the forefront of the national gun-control debate. 
While it has become more difficult and expensive to access mental healthcare in Florida, it is getting easier and cheaper to obtain high-powered weapons. Last year, the Legislature cut the cost of obtaining a weapons license by $5, and a string of gun-friendly measures has boosted the number of concealed firearms carriers past one million. 
As the White House, Congress and states across the country look at new measures for curbing gun violence, Florida’s tax code and budgeting measures could be having the opposite effect. 
“I think the state of Florida has a role to play in preventing gun violence and in gun regulation,” said Sunrise Mayor Mike Ryan, who has pushed for gun control but acknowledged that the companies receiving tax breaks are all helping to create jobs in the state. “When you get to the issue of assault weapons, you get to a thornier issue.” 
Nationally, Florida ranks 49th in mental health funding, and first in gun ownership. The state has been a trailblazer in providing lucrative tax incentives to a smorgasbord of companies in return for promises to create jobs.
Read the whole thing, here.

Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2013/01/23/4362465/gun-makers-feast-on-florida-tax.html#storylink=cpy