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Florida Picks a Primary Date

September 30th, 2011 by flanews

Florida finally has a date for its presidential primary. The state will vote January 31st, five weeks before national party rules allow. As Whitney Ray tells us, voting early could cost the Florida GOP half its delegates, but supporters of the early date say it will make Florida matter.

Florida sent a message to these GOP candidates Friday; to be the Republican nominee, pay closer attention to Florida.

Friday the committee selected to pick a date for Floridas presidential primary broke Democrat and Republican Party rules selecting January 31st for the primary. Thats five weeks early. Two Democrats on the committee objected.

I want Florida to have a prominent place too, but I want us to be prominent and follow the rules and I want us to do whats right, said Representative Cynthia Stafford.

Breaking the rules carries a penalty of half of both parties nominating delegations, but state Democrats objected to the early date. Their party is cutting them slack.

We wont lose any of our delegates for the Democrats. So thats great. When we attend our convention well have a full slate of delegates, said Scott Arceneaux.

As of now Florida Republicans, may still be chastised by the national party. They dont seem to care. Whle breaking the rules may mean fewer Republican delegates at the national convention, it may mean more money in the states economy as politicians pump more of their campaign cash into Florida.

Former Republican Governor Bob Martinez says Florida is open for business for any GOP candidate serious about winning.

For those candidates on the bubble, theyve got to win Florida, said Martinez.

With Floridas date set, other states are expected to move their primaries forward. Party rules say only four states, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina can vote before March 6th. After todays announcement, the voting schedule could look something like this with Iowa going first on January 16th, followed by New Hampshire on the 24th. Nevada and South Carolina could both vote on the 28th, followed by Florida going fifth on the 31st.

Proposed Primaries and Caucuses
Jan 16th Iowa
Jan 24th New Hampshire
Jan 28th Nevada and South Carolina
Jan 31st Florida

Posted in Elections, Politics | No Comments »

Prison Plans Privatization

September 30th, 2011 by flanews

Plans to privatize 18 state prisons are on hold.

Friday a circuit judge ruled methods the state legislature used to pass the privatization plans are unconstitutional. The plans were put in to the state budget, so it wasnt vetted through the normal committee process. The Police Benevolent Association sued the state legislature over the plans. PBA General Counsel Hal Johnson says the judge got it right.

We were extremely pleased with the victory, but I think we are more pleased for the correctional officers down in South Florida and actually this is a victory for the citizens, said Johnson.

The PBA fears, if lawmakers are allowed to make major changes to state government using spending bills, then it will be harder for the public to be involved in the process. The state is expected to file an appeal.

Posted in Legislature, State News | 2 Comments »

Claude Kirk: a Study in Contrasts

September 30th, 2011 by Mike Vasilinda

Former Governor Claude Kirk was remembered today as the first Republican Governor of Florida since reconstruction. Kirk died Wednesday at age 85. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, Kirk was both forward thinking and considered a maverick.

Governor Claude Kirk, Claudius Maximus as he was sometimes called, returned to the Historic Capitol where he served from 1967 to 1971.

On the January day he was inaugurated, Claude Kirk surprised Floridas political leadership with this announcement.

[I am]…calling for a Special Session of the Legislature,” he said.

Kirk didn’t bother telling anyone what he was doing. He was often just as unpredictable over the next four years.

He signed legislation that paved the way for Disney World. He tangled with lawmakers over salaries. And Kirk hated sharing power with the elected State cabinet, referring to them as the dwarfs.

In 1968, Kirk instigated the nations first teachers strike when he vetoed pay raises in the state budget. He also spent much of that year actively campaigning for Republican Presidential candidates, hoping to be the Vice-President.

Eight years after losing to Rubin Askew, Kirk was back running for Governor again, this time as a Democrat..

“Im going to prove we are going to be Governor,” Kirk said.

He picked an African-American to be his running mate; he first African-American to run statewide.

When someone asked me who was going to be Lt. Governor, I said it would knock your eyeballs out,” he said. “I produced that!

Floridas 36th governor was full of life at Rick Scotts inauguration in January.

What did you think of the speech? someone asked.

Outstanding! Kirk replied.

Kirk died Wednesday at home in West Palm Beach.

After lying in state this afternoon, Kirks remains were driven to the Governors Mansion for a last visit. He will be buried at a private service in West Palm Beach on Monday.

Posted in State News | 1 Comment »

Scott Steps Back from Jobs Pledge

September 29th, 2011 by flanews

Governor Rick Scott is backing away from a campaign pledge that helped him squeak out a win last November. Scott promised to create 700-thousand jobs in seven years. He said the jobs would be on top of the million created by the natural rebound of the economy. That means, by 2018, Florida would have 1.7 million more jobs. The governor now says the number is 700-thousand even with help from the economic recovery and as Whitney Ray tells us, Scott doesnt consider changing the math as breaking a campaign promise.

In 2010, this campaign pledge help Rick Scott win Floridas governors race.

Our plan is seven steps to 700-thousand jobs and that plan is on top of what normal growth would be, said Scott in a gubernatorial debate in October of 2010.

Normal growth for that time period is expected to create a million new jobs. So for Scott to fulfill his campaign promise, Florida would have to add 1.7 million jobs by the time the governor finished a second term. But economists say thats nearly impossible.

First of all there are only about a million people on the states unemployment rolls. So to find 1.7 million workers, Floridas population would have to grow. Still theres another problem; determining which jobs Scott created and which are part of the recovery? In August Scott admitted you cant tell the difference.

Reporter: How do you determine which ones are on top of the natural economic growth?
Scott: you cant, you cant.

The state has seen a net gain of about 70-thousand jobs since Scott took office. He is taking credit for all of them. We asked if hes backing off of his original plan.

Reporter: Is this plan different from your campaign promise?
Scott: Absolutely not.

Company executives from several businesses adding jobs in Florida have given Scott credit for their decisions. By the next election it may not matter to voters how the jobs were created, just whether or not they can get one.

Backing away from the promise makes it easier for the governor to keep score. Now Scott takes credit for every job added since he took office, even if the company coming to Florida began its plans before he was elected.

Posted in Economy, Rick Scott | 17 Comments »

Former Governor Claude Kirk Died at 85

September 28th, 2011 by flanews

Former Governor Claude Kirk died today in his Palm Beach Home at the age of 85.

Kirk was the states first Republican governor since reconstruction. Elected in 1966. He served one term before he was defeated by Democrat Rubin Askew. Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry says Askew was a GOP trailblazer.

Hes the first Republican governor since reconstruction and really started what we have now, what the Republican Party in Florida has ultimately become; with majorities in the House and the Senate, the Cabinet and the governors mansion, said Curry.

Kirk reportedly died in his sleep. After hearing the news Governor Rick Scott issued this statement.

Ann and I are saddened to learn of the passing of Governor Kirk. He will be remembered as Florida’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction and a strong, outspoken and capable leader for our state during an era of immense change in our country. Along with all Floridians, we send our condolences to his wife Erika and their entire family. Our prayers are with them during this challenging time,

Statement from Governor Rick Scott on passing of Claude Kirk

Posted in State News | 5 Comments »

Health Care goes to Supreme Court

September 28th, 2011 by flanews

Florida is joining 25 other states in asking the US Supreme Court to hear its case against the US Affordable Care Act.

Attorney General Pam Bondi made it official today filing in the nations highest court. This comes after President Barack Obama announced he wouldnt seek an appeal of a lower courts decision against the insurance mandate provision in the law. Bondi says if the insurance mandate is unconstitutional then the entire law should be thrown out.

If the mandate is unconstitutional then we firmly believe that the entire health care act is unconstitutional, said Bondi.

Both President Obama and the Attorneys General are in agreement in forgoing an appeal, which means this case could be over before the country picks its next president.

Posted in Health, State News | 1 Comment »

Parole Commission Delay

September 28th, 2011 by flanews

The Florida Parole Commission has again delayed action, regarding the parole of Clarence Frederick. Frederick was convicted of 2nd degree murder in the deaths of Mary Bernice Ward and two others in 1981.

He was granted parole earlier this summer, after nearly 30 years behind bars. Once the family of Ward found out, they pleaded with the parole commission to rescind their decision, and keep Frederick locked up. Wednesday, the 3-person parole panel deadlocked over what to do, for the second time. Mary Wards sister, Carol Broihahn says the parole system doesnt seem to be working right.

It seems like the bureaucracy of the justice system has run into a little SNAFU. They say Whos on First, Whats on Second I think they need to get their little ducks in a row, said Broihahn.

The case will come up again before the parole commission at their next scheduled meeting in two weeks. They say they will make a decision on what to do then. However, they said the same thing two weeks ago, about today.

Posted in Criminal Justice, State News | 3 Comments »

Florida Primary Likely to Be January 31

September 28th, 2011 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida Republicans will likely go to the polls on January 31st to pick their Presidential nominee. The date wont be official until Friday, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, Floridas powerful House Speaker telegraphed the intent earlier today.

January 31st is the fifth Tuesday of the new year.

By sending a message that the 31st is Floridas intended day, it telegraphs to the four authorized early states, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, that they need to pick one of the first four Tuesdays in the new year. House Speaker Dean Cannon has been adamant about where Florida belongs in the pecking order.

Florida should go no later than fifth, and that we should have our own date,” Cannon said.

The Florida GOP says it can live with the early date.

We respect that the committee members are taking seriously the idea that Florida deserves a prominent date,” Florida Republican Party Spokesman Brian Hughes said.

Governor Rick Scott, who had an execution on his mind, did not stop for reporters when he flew into the Capital City. Attorney General Pam Bondi says she is staying neutral in the race but she says an early date could be good for Florida.

I think being early gives Florida a chance to really come out front and play a major role in the presidenc,” Bondi said.

Republicans could lose half their delegates by going early. Democrats have little to lose but say the GOP is breaking the agreed upon rules.

Which were meant to give voters, election officials the certainty that they need to hold these elections,” Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arceneaux said.

Four years ago, Florida jumped to January 29th, costing Democrats half their delegates in a hotly contested primary battle, a battle that could have ended differently had all of Floridas delegates counted.

Posted in Elections, Legislature, Rick Scott, State News, Voting | 1 Comment »

Trails for Sale, Again

September 27th, 2011 by flanews

Legislation to allow companies to buy ad space at state parks has been filed in Tallahassee. The idea is just one of many recent plans to generate money for Florida parks. As Whitney Ray tells us, so far all the plans have failed.

Underground at this Florida state park is a time capsule not to be unearthed until 2035. But what state parks look like by then or if they’ll even exist may depend on how the legislature decides to fund them. A bill to sell advertising on trail signs to help the underfunded parks has been filed for next years legislative session.

Frank and Susan Lowe don’t like the plan. They traveled 4-thousand miles from England to visit the state’s parks.

“Its like the wilderness isnt it? The wilderness part of it, thats what weve come for, said Susan.

The Lowes say more Brits would visit Florida parks if they were advertised better. But If there were enough money to promote Florida parks our lawmakers might not be looking at selling ad space on trails.

Legislation to allow advertising in parks failed last year because it was tied to plans to sell ads on interstate road signs. By the time road ads were removed from the bill it was too late. But for these tourists from across the pond ads are a better fit for roads not trails.

“When you come up the interstate its all advertising and you just want to get away from that, said Susan.

The trails for sale bill is just one of several ideas to save the parks. A plan to open RV lots and golf courses on the state lands failed earlier this year after public outcry. There are no official studies on the amount of money selling ad space on trails would generate, but supporters say its 10s of millions of dollars.

Posted in Legislature, State News | 2 Comments »

Solar Story Follow-Up

September 27th, 2011 by flanews

Yesterday we told you about plans to build the biggest solar farm in the southeast here in Florida. That project is expected to create more than 400 jobs.

Now the Governor Rick Scott wasnt there for the announcement, but the Company building the solar farm, National Solar of Melbourne Florida, theyre giving some credit to Scott for making sure the farm was built instate. Company CEO James Scrivener says the governor promised to do everything in his power to keep the project in Florida.

He expressed interest, wanted to support us moving forward and said hey, let me know what I can do to help. Gave us an agreement and a handshake that he would help us get expedited permitting from the DEP, said Scrivener.

We called the governors office to find out if these jobs would count toward the governors goal of creating 700-thousand jobs in seven years. They referred us to the private public relations company that organized the solar announcement.

Posted in Economy, Rick Scott, State News | No Comments »

Then and Now

September 27th, 2011 by Mike Vasilinda

Manuel Valle is scheduled to die at four on Wednesday afternoon. By the time his sentence has been pronounced, it is estimated the state will have spent $50,000,000 (50 Million Dollars) to execute the convicted murdered. The Department of Corrections today released the mug shot from 1981.

Had Valle been sentenced to life in prison, estimated costs to date: $16,000 per year times 30 years, equals $480,000 or nine tenths of one percent of the cost spent on the execution.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Straw Poll Throws Republicans For a Loop

September 26th, 2011 by Mike Vasilinda

Republican Party voters threw their slate of Presidential candidates a curve Saturday, picking unknown Herman Cain in a straw poll in Orlando. Predicted front runners Rick Perry and Mitt Romney finished a distant second and third. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, Saturdays vote suggests GOP insiders are unhappy with their choices.

Straw poll winner Herman Cain is placing a lot of credence in Saturdays piercing vote against Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. The second and third place finishers are already saying the vote doesnt mean much. FSU eminent scholar Carol Weissert agrees.

Straw polls dont tell you anything, except what the preferences are of the people who are there, Weissert said. In this case, it was the preference of the activists in the Republican party, but it in no way is going to predict the primary or certainly not the general election.

Saturdays vote clearly threw a likely curve in the prediction that the winner would be the partys eventual nominee. Even Democrats dont think Cain has the juice to win.

Herman Cain is not going to win the primary, Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith said. Hes not going to be the nominee. Hes not going to win a state.

So how did Cain win? Hard work.

A number of Republican insiders believe it came down to retail politics. Herman Cain gave a great speech, then stayed and worked the room, while all the other big players left.

The messages sent by GOP faithful were many. Sally Bradshaw was a delegate but didnt vote.

Theyre uncertain about Governor Romney because of his perceived position on some issues as a flip-flopper and they werent ready to embrace Governor Perry given his debate performance, Bradshaw said. It really opened things up.

Prior to Saturday, the last three Florida straw poll winners did go on to win the nomination. If that happens this time, it would be the biggest political surprise of the decade.

Posted in Elections, Politics, State News, Voting | No Comments »

Solar Farm Coming to Sunshine State

September 26th, 2011 by flanews

More jobs and renewable energy are coming to the Sunshine State. A Florida company announced today its building the biggest solar farm in the Southeast just 25 miles west of the state capital. As Whitney Ray tells us, the news comes as a solar company in California that received a half a billion dollars in government subsidies closes its doors.

The sun was in full force on the capitol lawn Monday as lawmakers and entrepreneurs put on their shades and announced a bright future for solar power in Florida.

National Solar, a Melbourne company, is building a 400 acre solar farm 25 miles west of the state capital. The plan is to put solar panels on 20, 20 acre plots of land and once thats completed collectively theyll be the biggest solar farm in the Southeast.

Construction on the project will begin early next year. Its expected to create 400 jobs. National Solar CEO James Scrivener says there is a dire need for renewables.

When its hottest, when the sun is shining the most, we are producing the most power, its also when every ones air-conditioning is working the hardest, said Scrivener.

The announcement comes, as a California solar company boosted by half a billion dollars in government subsidies closes. The California company failed because it was trying to develop new solar technology. The Florida farm will use existing methods.

We are not investing in technology. To us the technology is effectively a black box. Were focused on the business model and the economics associated with these projects, said Scrivener.

So far there is no government money behind the Florida project. In an effort to keep the project in Florida Governor Rick Scott promised to speed up the permitting process for the new farm. The company will make money by selling the energy it captures to utility companies. So far its secured a contract with Progress Energy.

Posted in Economy, Environment, State News | 1 Comment »

Still No Primary Date for Florida

September 23rd, 2011 by flanews

As Republican candidates for president battle it out in Orlando, the clock is ticking for Florida to pick a primary date. The National Democrat and Republican Parties are telling the state they cant vote until March 6th, but as Whitney Ray tells us, state leaders selected to pick a primary date are likely to thumb their noses at the parties.

Florida is a kingmaker in presidential elections, but how effective the state will be in helping to select a Republican nominee, depends on the members of this committee.

The Primary Date Selection Committee met Friday, but ended without scheduling a voting day.

I think that Florida really wants to have relevance and the way that you do that is to make sure those traditional states Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina are given their place, said Secretary of State and committee chairman Kurt Browning.

The national parties want Florida to vote after March 5th. By then seven other states may have voted and the nominee could be apparent. Former state senator and committee member Al Lawson says Florida is too importation to vote that late.

Theres going to be more resources that is put into Florida. There is more emphasis on the 29 delegates that we have here compared to some of the other ones, said Lawson.

Many members of the nine person committee want to vote right after South Carolina. Its primary is set for February 28th. The parties rule of after March 5th wasnt even discussed.

Whats at stake is the number of delegates Florida will have at the Democrat and Republican conventions. If the state doesnt play by the rules, the number of delegates will be cut in half.

Florida maybe willing to gamble because by the time the conventions are held the voting delegations will likely be a formality, because traditionally all the trailing candidates conceded to the front runner before the convention.

The committee has until Oct 1st to pick a date, and a vote is expected next Friday. Procrastinating maybe the best option, because several other states are expected to have set their date before then, giving Florida an opportunity to move ahead of them.

Primaries and Caucuses
January 3rd Iowa
January 5th Wyoming (Republican only)
January 8th New Hampshire
January 19th Nevada
February 7th Missouri
February 28th South Carolina
February 28th Arizona

Posted in Politics, State News | No Comments »

Better Principals

September 23rd, 2011 by flanews

A lot of attention has been given to improving public education by improving teachers. Today the focus shifted to principals. Florida TaxWatch is teaming with the Council for Educational Change to highlight ways to improve schools by improving principals. TaxWatch President Dominic Calabro says good teachers cant thrive under bad management.

If you have a wonderful set of teachers, really proficient inspiring teachers who are really on top of things, but you have a bad or mediocre principal, she or he will destroy that school. The key is to get the best leadership combined with good management, so that that school hums, said Calabro.

TaxWatch and the Council held a summit in Tallahassee today, bringing together business people, educators and principals to discuss the pitfalls school administrators face. The groups say the first step is identifying what good principals do well and sharing it with schools throughout the state.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

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