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).