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Crist Oil-Painting to Be Sold on eBay

April 30th, 2010 by Mike Vasilinda

The eyes of the nation are once again on a Florida election. Governor Charlie Crists decision to run as an independent will focus almost as much attention on the November election as did the aftermath of the 2000 election. And as Mike Vasilinda tells us, Republicans are wasting no time moving on.

An oil-painting of Charlie Crist has been removed from state Republican headquarters. The painting used to hang on the wall overlooking Marco Rubios bumper stickers.

Literature with Crist proclaiming to be a proud Republican has been put away.

The next stop for this GOP-owned oil-painting of the governor is eBay.

The GOP paid 75-hundred dollars for the painting and another of former party chairman Jim Greer. The new chairman says it makes sense to try and recover some of the expense.

I dont need the picture and it was paid for by party money,” Chairman John Thrasher said. “Hes no longer a Republican, so its logical to me that we try to see if we can get some money for it.

Reporter: how much do you think its worth?

Thrasher: I dont know. I wouldnt speculate on that.

Crist staff filed his loyalty oath listing him as an independent, and he wrote a 6900 dollar check to qualify.

Most of the staff resigned and calls to the campaign office went unanswered. Long time observers believe the Governors biggest problem besides raising money will be finding experienced staff.

When I was trained, we organized down to the grassroots,” former state Senator Ken Plante said. “Today, the campaign managers count on the party to do that stuff and they just raise money and spend it.

And at noon qualifying for Federal offices ended, beginning what will be the most watched campaign in the nation.

Crists appointee to the US Senate, George LeMieux and Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp, both say they will support the Republican Nominee, not Crist.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Elections, Politics, State News | 2 Comments »

Film Incentives

April 30th, 2010 by Mike Vasilinda

Lights, Camera, Action was the message state lawmakers sent to the film industry today. Lawmakers approved more than two hundred million in tax credit incentives for film and digital media over the next five years. Dave Casera of Film Florida says the incentives will once again make Florida competitive.

Ten years ago, we were ranked number three in the country,” Casera said. “We disappeared, we went off of the charts and now were beginning to get calls from some major production companies, major folks from across the country who are saying we want to be in Florida and now we have a reason. So I think folks are seeing that. I cant even tell you the impact that its going to have on hotels and stores like Wal-Mart and folks like Publix.

Thousands of jobs have been lost in recent years because other states offered more attractive packages. A University of West Florida study show the state will receive a dollar-forty-four in tax revenue for ever dollar of incentives.

Posted in Business, Legislature, State News | 1 Comment »

GOP Executive Committee

April 30th, 2010 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Charlie Crists ten appointments to the Republican Party of Floridas Executive Committee are in limbo, now that Crist has decided to run as an independent. Party Chairman John Thrasher says the matter is under discussion.

Ive got the staff looking at that,” Thrasher said. “I think, technically theyre still OK. He is the governor; he made the appointments when he was Republican. You know, I dont what the rule on that is. Well look at it. I dont want to be punitive to anybody. Certainly dont want to do that. Theyre all good people. As long as theyre still qualified and willing to serve, I certainly dont have any problem with them serving.

Crist has not actually left the Republican Party. He remains a registered republican voter but is running as an independent.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Politics | 1 Comment »

Lawmakers Near Final Budget Vote

April 30th, 2010 by flanews

The legislature is poised to pass a 70 billion dollar state spending plan that protects state workers, creates jobs, and increases funding for higher education. But its not all good and, as Whitney Ray tells us, theres no guarantee the governor will sign it.

To fill a three billion dollars budget deficit lawmakers were considering laying off state workers, axing a prenatal program, and eliminating state funds for libraries.

Bookworms convinced lawmakers to cough up 21 million dollars.

In a tough year, to still come through for us libraries, we appreciate it, said Paul Clark, a librarian who lobbied all session to restore funding.

State workers dodged layoffs and pay cuts.

Our members would have been extremely upset if the three percent pay cut when through, said Doug Martin, with AFSCME

And needy mothers will still get the free care and counseling they need to give birth to health babies. But saving workers, libraries, and babies comes at a price. Lawmaker are taking money from health care, child abuse programs and roads.

House Democrat Ron Saunders says the 160 million dollar raid on the transportation trust fund will slow job growth.

We need to create jobs, not cause job loss, said Saunders.

24 million dollars and thousands of inmates are being taken from state prisons and pumped into a private prison.

This is an unnecessary facility. We are not at capacity, said PBA Spokesman Matt Puckett.

And tuition is being raised and Bright Futures wont cover the extra cost. Still college students, road workers, and correctional officers are holding out hope that the governor will hear their cries for a veto, some Democrats support the idea.

If I think the budget can be made better, I want the governor to veto and lets get back up here and do it right, said Aronberg.

Crist could veto the whole budget or just line items. Hes vetoed at least parts of the budget every year since he became governor. If Governor Charlie Crist vetoes the budget, lawmakers would likely be back in Tallahassee in June, because the state constitution requires the legislature and the governor to agree on a spending plan before July first.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Children, Criminal Justice, Health, Highways, Legislature, State Budget, State News, Transportation | 1 Comment »

Abortion Legislation Heading to Governors Desk

April 30th, 2010 by flanews

Legislation requiring women in their first trimester of a pregnancy to get an ultrasound before they have an abortion is headed to the governors desk. The measure was slipped into a nursing home bill just days ago and didnt go through the normal legislative process. Stephanie Konkel, a spokeswoman for the Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, was outraged at the public wasnt given a chance to voice their concerns with the bill.

The message that the Florida House and Senate has sent by passing HB 1143 is that women can not be trusted to make personal decisions about their own bodies, said Konkel.

The legislation is now headed to the governors desk where, whatever decision he makes, will cost him voters in his independent bid for US Senate.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Children, Health, Legislature, State News | 2 Comments »

House Ignores Sexting Bill

April 30th, 2010 by flanews

With the House spending more than two hours debating the abortion legislation, dozens of bills that passed the senate are being ignored. A bill that would lessen penalties for teens caught emailing or texting nude pictures of themselves or their peers, an offense known as sexting, is one of those bills. Bill Sponsor Dave Aronberg is upset that the House is delaying the measure.

If they didnt take up these controversial social issues on the last few days we could get through all these good bills, but instead they have to make political points by bring up abortion, meanwhile good bills are dying. This is an important issue, said Aronberg.

If a teen is caught sexting now, he or she can be charged with a felony and be forced to register as a sex offender for their rest of their lives.

Posted in Legislature, State News | No Comments »

Charlie Crist at Odds with GOP Since Becoming Governor

April 29th, 2010 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Charlie Crists decision to seek a US Senate Seat as an Independent has been a long time coming. Mike Vasilinda traces his fall from grace with the GOP faithful back to the day he took office.

Since the moment he said So help Me God Charlie Crist began undoing much of what Jeb Bush had done the 8 years before. His first action was to issue an open-records decree. Then four months later, he undid a century-old ban on reformed felons voting.

Next he threw out the electronic voting machines in favor of paper. And when long lines swelled in 2008 at early voting sites, Crist extended poll hours…A move the GOP believes helped Obama win Florida.

He came to town as the anti-Jeb and he never stopped being the anti-Jeb,” Rep. Evan Jenne (D-Broward). ‘I think there was always within our chamber, I know our chamber especially, there was some anti-Charlie Crist sentiments since day one.

Then came the man hug.

I think the Obama hug really ignited a lot of people,” Van Poole, former GOP Chairman said.

In August last year, he made what many consider his most serious mistake. He appointed George LeMieux to the US Senate seat that he is seeking. He not only lost his closest advisor, but he lost the chance to reward longtime party loyalists.

On Thursday, bumper stickers touting his demise appeared on the Legislative floors of the State Capitol.

What the governor gives up is significant. There will be no polling, there will be no staff, there will be no mailings from the Republican party.

Theres also criticism for appointing liberal judges. And the most recent nails in the coffin, the vetoes of the legislative leadership funds and the teacher tenure bill.

State law does not require Crist to return campaign contributions, but he has returned some after being requested to do so.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Elections, Politics, State News | 1 Comment »

Abortion Bill Battle

April 29th, 2010 by flanews

Theres a fight in Tallahassee tonight to keep abortion legislation off the governors desk. The bill would make getting an abortion more expensive and require pregnant women in their first trimester to have an ultrasound before going through with the procedure. As Whitney Ray tells us, it may also force the hand of Governor Charlie Crist with a damned if you do damned dont scenario.

Pro-Life Senators are pulling strings in a last ditch effort to curb the number of abortions in Florida.

Wednesday a health care bill was amended to require pregnant women seeking an abortion in their first trimester to pay for an ultrasound. They would then have the choice of viewing the image.

Senate Democrats railed against the amendment.

I think this is being done to try and compel women to come to a judgment on a choice that should be a personal one, said Senator Dan Gelber.

Thursday, House Democrats brought the chamber to a halt when they refused to allow leadership to waive rules to bring the senate bill to the floor.

At this point its a standoff and well wait and see what happens, said Representative Jim Waldman.

Despite efforts to stop the legislation the plan is still alive. And if the bill ends up on the Governors desk, there are political implications. Whether he signs it or vetoes it, one thing is for sure; it will cost him votes.

Bill Sponsor Andy Gardiner doesnt know what Crist might do with the legislation.

In the end it will be the governors decisions, but hes made it very clear he is pro-life and I think these are pro-life issues, said Senator Andy Gardiner.

There is also an amendment to the bill barring any insurance company that receives a state or federal tax credit from paying for an abortion.

Three southern states have adopted similar legislation. Twelve other states allow individual clinics to choose if a patient in her first trimester has to have an ultrasound. Its already common practice for women further along in their pregnancies to have an ultrasound so abortion doctors have more information before they begin the procedure.

Posted in Health, Legislature, State News | No Comments »

Widow Fights for Firefighter’s Families

April 29th, 2010 by flanews

If a Florida firefighter dies in training, instead of during an emergency, benefits are cut to their families. Kristen Currys husband died during training in Volusia County in 2007. Shortly after his death she and her six year-old son Owen lost their health insurance. Kristen is asking lawmakers to close the loophole.

I didnt even realize what had happened until probably a couple of months later because obviously we were in a very emotional state, but when we found out it was devastating and I though that maybe our county would step up and take care of us but unfortunately they didnt, said Kristen.

Thats what brought Kristen to the state capitol. Legislation to close the loophole passed the Senate, but House leadership has refused to take it up. Theres still one more day for the House to act.

Posted in Health, Insurance, Legislature, State News | No Comments »

Constitution Candidate Qualifies for Ballot

April 29th, 2010 by flanews

There will be at least five candidates on the ballot for US Senate in November. Crists departure from the primary makes three. A libertarian candidate Alex Snitker announced last week he would run. Today Bernie DeCastro filed his federal qualifying paperwork. DeCastro is running as Constitutional Party candidate. He says hes more conservative than Republican Marco Rubio.

May the best man win and I believe I have the most conservative message out there and I believe when people see it and they connect to it and if theyll open the debates on and if theyll let me into the debates then it will be on then, said DeCastro.

The Constitution Party was founded in 1992, but didnt get its name until 1999. The party has similar believes as the Libertarian Party, but is more conservative.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Elections, Politics, State News | 1 Comment »

The Politics of Drilling Are Changing

April 28th, 2010 by flanews

As a few flip-flopping Florida politicians backpedal to shed their pro-drilling labels, exploration in the Gulf of Mexico continues. Last weeks oil spill 30 miles off the coast of Louisiana has killed state efforts to drill off Floridas coastline in the immediate future, but as Whitney Ray tells us, the industry isnt going to lie down and die.

With more than 11-hundred miles of coastline helping to bring in billions of tourist dollars, the thought of oil drilling near Florida has historically been considered political suicide.

Then in the summer of 2008, gas hit four dollars a gallon. Politicians began to flip-flop on drilling. Governor Charlie Crist had the most notable change in position.

When you are paying over four dollars a gallon for gas you have to wonder if there might be additional resources you could utilize to bring that price down, said Crist in June of 2008.

Oil lobbyists touted the industrys newest technology as safe. Then last week, an explosion on one of BPs newest rigs killed 11 and continues to pump thousands of gallons of oil into the gulf near Louisiana. Crist toured the destruction Tuesday.

It was disturbing, I mean it was horrific, Crist said Wednesday.

It will likely be months before the source of the accident is revealed, but David Mica with the Florida Petroleum Council says efforts for drilling near Florida will still move forward.

We think that that importance of replacing and continuing to supply products to consumers is important and Florida has a role to play in that, said Mica.

But Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink says no way. Sink held her ground, as dozens of politicians jumped on the drilling bandwagon.

We need the kind of leaders who are able to stand up and be principled and understand that its important to get all the facts before drinking the Kool-Aid of the special interest, said Sink.

Sinks likely Republican opponent, Attorney General Bill McCollum, is also against the idea. In a Tuesday news release McCollum threatened to veto any drilling legislation if hes elected governor.

Legislation lifting the ban on drilling in state waters, or three to ten miles off the coast, passed the state House in 2009, but the Senate refused to take it up. A similar plan this year was postponed just two weeks before the spill.

Posted in Oil Drilling, State News | No Comments »

Crist Senate Announcement Coming Soon

April 28th, 2010 by flanews

Several news outlets are reporting Governor Charlie Crist will drop out of the US Senate Republican Primary and run as a No Party Affiliation candidate.

Crist is scheduled to make an official announcement tomorrow at five oclock in his hometown of St. Petersburg. Today Crist was asked if hes worried about losing endorsements by dropping out of the primary against the partys wishes. Crist doesnt seem to mind.

The endorsement of my wife and my mom and dad matter a lot, so I think that endorsements are nice, but I dont think they are critical, said Crist.

By switching to a No Party Affiliation candidate and not changing races Crist is allowed to keep the seven million dollars he raised as a Republican, although many major party donors are already asking for a refund.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Politics, State News | No Comments »

Race to the Top, Again

April 28th, 2010 by flanews

State leaders are back at the drawing board to figure out how to secure millions of federal dollar for education.

Florida lost the first round of the Race to the Top competition earlier this year. Race to the Top is a federal program awarding states that adopt standards like merit pay in an effort to improve the countrys education system. Florida lost out earlier this year, after the US Department of Education said the states education reform plan lacked teacher input. Crist told the Race to the Top Board this morning, educators will get more of a say in the process this go round.

Now we move forward together to do whats right for the children first and when we do that we cant lose. We cant lose, said Crist.

The main piece education reform legislation that lack teacher input was Senate Bill Six. Crist vetoed the bill and outrages high ranking Florida Republicans. Now the state has six weeks to submit its education reform plan to put Florida in contention for the remaining 3.4 billion federal dollars.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Education, Legislature, State Budget, State News | No Comments »

Crists Appointees Rejected

April 28th, 2010 by flanews

Four months after two new Public Service Commissioners helped defeat a billion and a half dollars in electric bill increases, the state senate has voted down their confirmations.

Governor Charlie Crist appointed the new commissioners to the PSC late last year, after news broke of secret dealings between commissioners and utility executives. The new commissioners were able to service until the Senate voted. Governor Charlie Crist is defending his appointees.

I was very disappointed. I think these were two very good men, men of great integrity. I think it was unfortunate that they werent selected to stay on. I think it was ironic as well. I chose from a panel the legislature gave me. Then, the legislature decided they werent qualified after they qualified them for me, said Crist.

Denying the confirmations could be legislative payback for Crists veto of several Republican lead bills this session or for his anticipated departure from the US Senate Republican Primary. Supporters of the two appointees say they got voted off the PSC because they stood up to the rate hikes this winter and electric companies are a powerful lobby group in Tallahassee.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Legislature, State News | No Comments »

Lou Gehrigs Awareness Campaign

April 28th, 2010 by flanews

People living with ALS, also know as Lou Gehrigs Disease, were at the state capitol Tuesday to raise awareness and research dollars.

The ALS Association covered the capitol courtyard with mannequins bearing the names of Floridians who have had the neuromuscular disease. Researchers still havent found a cure for ALS and people with the disease generally die within five years of diagnoses. Steve Franks was diagnosed with ALS in 2003. Franks still has hope that a cure could be found in time to save his life.
I doubt that it will happen in time to help me, but theres hope. Were taking baby steps, said Franks.

There are 1,200 Floridians living with ALS.

Posted in Health, State Budget, State News | 11 Comments »

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