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.

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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.

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Environmentalists ask Florida Cabinet to delay vote on Everglades deal

Environmentalists are trying to stop a proposed contract with growers who want a no-strings-attached deal to continue using land in the Everglades.

The Miami Herald's Naked Politics blog reports:

In a letter today to Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet, the Florida Wildlife Federation, 1000 Friends of Florida and the Everglades Law Center are asking them to delay action on a controversial item before them today that would grant no-bid contracts for 30-year leases to farm on Everglades land to give the state time to negotiate shorter terms. 
"We question the wisdom and prudence of locking up state-owned land with new 30-year leases that make these lands unavailable for future environmental restoration projects,'' wrote Manley Fuller, Charles Pattison and Lisa Interlandi. 
They also questioned a provision in the proposal that would allow Florida Crystals to lease the land under the condition that the leases could be terminated early on 2,200 acres of it if the state needed it for Everglades clean-up. The group said that offer has no guarantees. 
"Upon reviewing the language presented to us yesterday, it appears it will take multiple years to invoke these provisions, some of which are so complex and onerous that it is questionable that they could ever be invoked,'' their letter said. 
The decision could be a difficult one for Gov. Rick Scott as he faces re-election. His decision to enter into a settlement with sugar growers and the federal government last year is seen by environmentalists as an admirable achievement on an otherwise rocky environmental record.The writers concluded with this sentence: "We believe the short delay would evidence your serious commitment to the stewardship of public lands."  Download Ltr-Scott-final-EAA_leases-012313
Read the original story about the deal, here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

$306 million spent on Florida political campaigns

From the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau:

Florida's sputtering economy did not stop interest groups and donors from spending $306 million this election cycle on state political campaigns, according to final election year tallies released Friday. 
The number is lower than the $550 million reported in the 2010 election cycle and does not include the massive amount of federal cash spent in the presidential race. But it points to a new trend: more dollars are going to campaign committees rather than individual candidates. 
Three out of every four dollars were unlimited checks to political committees, while the rest went into the campaign accounts of individuals, which are capped at $500 a check. 
The shift is a sign that Florida's $500 limit is outdated and dysfunctional — and ripe for reform, said Dan Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida, which did the analysis of the campaign finance data released by the Florida Division of Elections.
Read the whole thing here.

The story also lists the Florida Senate and House candidates who spent the most on their respective campaigns. No Manatee County candidates made the list, but here's what they spent through Nov. 1, the most recent information available:

Senate candidates
Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, won, $460,861.21
Paula House, D-Lake Placid, defeated, $16,728.06

(The biggest-spending Senate candidate was former Sen. Chris Dorworth, R-Orlando, who was defeated for re-elected after spending $604,587.)

House candidates
Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, won, $183,178.19
Greg Steube, R-Bradenton, won, $87,629.12
Adam Tebrugge, D-Bradenton, defeated, $49,975.70
Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, won, $20,975.94
Bob McCann, NPA-Bradenton, defeated, $19,760.93. (through Dec. 29)

(The biggest-spending House candidate was former Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, D-Fort Lauderdale, who was defeated after spending $1,185,030.)

Source: Florida Division of Elections

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Gov. Scott is a no-show on call with other govs and president over guns

From the Miami Herald:

Vice President Joe Biden, heading up White House talks on gun control, held a conference call with the nation's governors yesterday, including some who have been sharply critical of the president. Gov. Rick Scott, who was traveling the state Wednesday, did not participate.
"During the calls, the vice president listened to the unique perspectives of all the participants and solicited their ideas and input on how to curb gun violence in this country," the White House said. "The vice president reiterated the administration’s commitment to this urgent issue, and stressed that the problem requires immediate action."
Scott's office today confirmed he was invited but pointed to his busy schedule, which took him to Jacksonville for a Vistakon-Johnson and Johnson Vision Care news conference then a Parametric Solutions jobs announcement in Jupiter.
Though all governors were invited, Scott was not the only no-show. A list of participants below.
Scott has generally dodged questions on the gun debate following the Connecticut school shootings. Tweeted AP reporter Gary Fineout yesterday: "During Jax TV spot @FLGovScott ducks questions on whether to ban assault weapons. Says there will be 'conversation' about guns in 13 session."
 ·         Governor Jan Brewer (R-Arizona)
·         Governor Phil Bryant (R-Mississippi)
·         Governor Lincoln Chafee (I-Rhode Island)
·         Governor Mark Dayton (D-Minnesota)
·         Governor Gary Herbert (R-Utah)
·         Governor John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado)
·         Governor John Kasich (R-Ohio)
·         Governor Dannel Malloy (D-Connecticut)
·         Governor Jack Markell (D-Delaware)
·         Governor Jay Nixon (D-Missouri)
·         Governor Martin O’Malley (D-Maryland)
·         Governor Sean Parnell (R-Alaska)
·         Governor Peter Shumlin (D-Vermont)
·         Governor Rick Snyder (R-Michigan)
·         Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin)

Read more here: