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: