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Counting The Early Votes

October 31st, 2014 by flanews

With only a few days left to vote early, the picture for what will be needed on election day is starting to take shape. Matt Galka shows us the last minute push by both parties to get people out to the polls.

The phone lines are busy sun up to sundown at the Republican Party of Florida headquarters.Volunteers are checking on members of their party to make sure they’re making it to the polls.

“We do have a lead over the democrats in absentee voting which is a really great thing, but the most important thing is getting every single absentee ballot turned in and that’s what all these phone callers are working on,” said RPOF Press Secretary Susan Hepworth.

Nearly 2.6 million Floridians had already voted as of Friday morning. It already surpasses the early voting totals from four years ago.

While Republicans maintain an early voting lead, the margin is much less this time around than it was in 2010.

The GOP had a substantial 12 percentage point lead heading into election day in 2010, but Governor Rick Scott won by about one percent of the vote.  This year, the Democrats are trailing by about 5 percentage points, and they’re optimistic.

“I think there are a lot of moderate Republicans who are frustrated with this Governor, frustrated with this Attorney General, we’re getting a lot of crossover support,” said Democratic Attorney General candidate George Sheldon.

Both parties will continue to spin the numbers their way. The Republicans are hoping that the early Democratic turnout is made up of voters who were going to show up on Tuesday anyway.

Every Florida county will continue early voting through tomorrow, and some counties will have early voting available on Sunday.

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Amendment One; Even Opponents Say it Will Pass

October 30th, 2014 by Mike Vasilinda

You haven’t seen a negative ad on Amendment one this year. It is one of the least controversial measures on the ballot this year, setting aside a tax already being collected for land conservation, and as Mike Vasilinda tells us, even its few opponents say it will pass.

One every sale of every property, the state collects what is known as a documentary stamp tax. Beginning in 1990, A portion of the money…three hundred million a year, has been used to buy conservation land under the Florida Forever Program. Until the bottom fell out.

Environmentalists collected more than a million petitions to let voters decide if the funding should be restored.

The amendment was born out of frustration. Money for land buying and conservation has dropped more than 90% over the last five years.”  Will Abberger from Yes on One

Says the amendment is needed to create green spaces as teh state grows. “This is an existing funding source. It has been used for decades for water and land conservation. It was diverted. And what we are doing is restoring it back to its original purpose” says Abberger.

The Amendment has token opposition. The Florida Chamber doesn’t want the funding written into the constitution, but even its polling shows the amendment a slam dunk. Chamber Vice President David Hart says even environmentalists should vote against it.

“It appears to be hovering in the mid 70’s of support so it will likely pass, but that doesn’t mean its the right thing to do” says Hart.

Without big bucks for TV, the campaign has been mostly by mail. But environmentalists did enlist the help of Jim Fowler. He’s the former host of one of TV’s longest running animal programs. “The number of tourists that come into Florida because of you open space, wildlife, and wilderness, is probably one of the greatest revenue producers of anything” says Fowler.

In its first year, the amendment is expected to allocate more 600 million to land and water conservation.

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Florida Chamber Poll Outside Margin of Error

October 30th, 2014 by Mike Vasilinda

A new poll by the Florida Chamber, conducted Monday and Tuesday among 500 likely voters show Rick Scott beating Charlie Crist 44-39. With a margin or error of four percent, it is one of the first polls to predict a Scott lead outside the margin of error.  The  Chamber is a Scott Supporter. Vice President Dave Hart says a lot can still happen before Tuesday night.

“For Governor Scott supporters who view this poll as encouraging news, The work can’t let up. We believe Florida Chamber members and other Scott supporters around the state need to keep pushing hard to the finish line” says Hart.

The poll also shows Libertarian Adrian Wyllie at four percent. The first poll to show the Libertarian below 7 percent.

In 2006, Frustrated voters also ordered lawmakers to resume funding for anti tobacco programs, using money from the states settlement with Big Tobacco. It was the first any only time voters have restricted spending, although


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Star Power

October 30th, 2014 by flanews

The silly season of election time is almost over, and as Matt Galka tells us, candidates are bringing out the big guns, and big names, in a last second effort to drive voters to the polls.

They were wasting away in Tallahassee-ville Wednesday night. The premiere Parrothead, Jimmy Buffett, stumped for Democratic Congressional Candidate Gwen Graham.  Her campaign against incumbent Steve Southerland is one of the most watched in the country.

“It’s pretty simple: enemy of the ocean, or Gwen Graham? Oh, duh!” said Buffett before launching into song.

Southerland used star power of his own last week. He campaigned with Florida Senator, and possible future presidential candidate Marco Rubio.

“I came here to do two things, Number one is to give testimony to what a great Congressman Steve Southerland has been,” said Rubio.

The two frontrunners for Governor are hoping some big names push their campaigns over the top, too. Former president Bill Clinton is trying to give Charlie Crist a boost in the days before the election. The Governor is countering with Jeb Bush. Both political figures have cut ads for their candidates.

Experts say all this star power adds up to…not much. Voter enthusiasm might increase but there’s nothing to indicate numbers are swayed. The recent celebrity rallies were meant to remind people to participate in early voting which ends this weekend.

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Amendment Three is About Your Rights

October 29th, 2014 by Mike Vasilinda

Whether you are for or against abortion, gay marriage, or voters rights, Mike Vasilinda tells us you should be concerned about Amendment three on this years ballot.

Whether or not  a fetus has rights will soon be a question before the courts. High profile decision like pulling the feeding tube from Terri Shiavo make news, but decisions made here affect your taxes, voting rights, even whether your insurance company has to pay you.

And who sits in judgement here, liberal or conservative, activist or not, depends on who is Governor.

Fast forward four years. Three judges leave the bench on the same day a new governor takes office in 2019.  But lawmakers want you to decide this year, via amendment three, who will appoint those judges. State Senator Tom Lee of Brandon sponsored the legislation and says  “This is a crisis in waiting”.

The amendment seeks to let the Governor elected next week make the appointments on his way out the door, instead of who’s  is elected in 2018. The idea rubs former Governor Bob Graham the wrong way. “Whoever gets elected in 2018 should be the person, with the immediate support of the people of Florida, to make that decision.”

And retired Justice Harry Lee Anstead is suspicious of the motives.  “That this is sort of a gamble that Governor Scott will get reelected, and then that he’ll get to make these three important appointments and then leave” says the retired Justice.

A conflict over who appoints has only happened once…in 1998 when Jeb Bush and Lawton Chiles decided not to fight…but to choose the same person.

Ironically one the the three justices leaving in 2019 is Peggy Quince…who was the joint choice of Governors Chiles and Bush.

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Ebola Answers?

October 28th, 2014 by flanews

Following an executive order requiring monitoring for people coming back to Florida from Ebola stricken countries, the State’s Senate President wanted some answers.  As Matt Galka tells us, the Governor continues to press the issue on Ebola, but the state’s Department of Health remains silent.

Florida’s Governor remained confident the state could handle a case of Ebola if it came to that. A conference call briefing allowed Rick Scott to continue taking charge on the health scare.

While the Governor has put his face on Ebola preparedness for the state, we haven’t heard from the state’s top doctor.

“During the Governor’s briefing, there will be a telephone number that will be emailed to each of our Senate and House representatives,” said Senate President Don Gaetz. The media did not receive the number to talk to the Surgeon General.

We have been asking the Department of Health about Ebola since August. We again asked for an interview on Tuesday. Again we were told the Surgeon General wasn’t available.

State Representative Alan Williams says Floridians aren’t hearing enough from health officials.

“I haven’t heard a lot from the Department of Health. I’ve been communicating with them but, obviously, the Governor’s running for re-election. So any chance you get to look like a leader, you take it,” said Williams (D-Tallahassee).

Williams is hosting an Ebola town hall Tuesday night to address his constituent’s concerns. Legislators from around the state were encouraged to pass on information from the conference call to Floridians in their parts of the state.

There are no confirmed cases of Ebola in the state and no one considered to be at high risk of contracting the virus.

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The Second Most Watched Race in Florida

October 28th, 2014 by Mike Vasilinda

Polling suggests the campaign to legalize medical marijuana will get more than half of all votes cast…but will it meet the sixty percent needed to be in the constitution?  As Mike Vasilinda tells us win lose or draw, medical marijuana is likely to be an issue for state lawmakers next spring.

Medical marijuana is now legal in 23 states and Washington DC. The most recent poll released Monday in Florida shows marijuana at 50-42 with 8 percent undecided. Six of every ten votes cast are needed for approval. Sponsor United for Care says it’s internal polling shows it close, but with Marijuana getting above 60 percent.

“It’s nuts, no prescription” Chimes a No on 2 spokesperson on a web ad that has been effective. They campaign has seen a decline in support from over 80 percent after millions have been pumped in by a casino billionaire.

“Any other medical condition” was a phrase Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford uses frequently.  Rutherford is on the stump for Florida Sheriffs, trying to sway undecided voters.

“It’s for anything a doctor want to give it to someone for, and that is the fraud in this thing” says the Sheriff.

Both sides say the plain language should determine your vote. Supporter Jim Eaton says there are no loopholes. “It’s only for a debilitating medical condition. You have to get a licensed Florida doctor to certify that you have that condition. So, I think it’s fairly clear.”

One school of thought is that if amendment two comes close, but doesn’t hit the 60 percent mark, lawmakers will still have to take it up.

Lawmakers have in the past made changes in law after a constitutional amendment got close to the 60 percent threshold.

And if they don’t take action, another ballot initiative is almost a certainty.

This past year, lawmakers approved Charlotte’s web, allow THC form of marijuana. If Amendment two doesn’t get to sixty percent, some are suggesting the Charlotte’s web law could be expanded to treat more diseases. Any ballot campaign would have to wait until at least 2016.




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Travelers Could Be Quarantined

October 27th, 2014 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida has become the fourth state to require monitoring and potential quarantine of people traveling from Ebola infected nations. As Mike Vasilinda tells us,several travelers are currently being monitored.

The executive order requires anyone who has traveled from an Ebola Impacted nation to have their temperature taken by state health officials twice a day. Travelers who were in contact with an infected person will be quarantined for 21 days.

The Governor’s office says there are currently Four people in Florida  who have traveled from Ebola Infected nations.

At the Department of Health, no one was talking about the order. We began asking for interviews at 7:30 Monday morning. A confirmation email was sent at 9:17.  The Surgeon General’s parking place was occupied at the Department but we were told he would not be available.

At 1:17 DOH said no one would be talking about the order but referenced the Governor speaking out it on campaign stops across the state. A 1:42 email from the agency called the four being monitored “low risk”. One of the questions we couldn’t ask is where those patients are located.

Late this  afternoon, the Department of Health increased the number of people being monitored from four to six and told us information about the location of  those individuals is not available.


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The Rush is on…to Win Your Vote

October 24th, 2014 by Mike Vasilinda

As of this morning, more than 1 point 4 million voters have already cast a ballot, and  If you haven’t already voted, expect more mail and phone calls from both major parties between now and election day.

More than a quarter million mail pieces like this one are showing up across the state. It contrasts your voting record over the last four cycles with your precinct. Sponsored by organized labor,Rich Templin of the AFLCIO says the message has been proven to boost turnout. “With just a little bit of social pressure, that nudges people, you know, into I should vote to I am voting.”

Winning November 4th is all about turnout. More mail is on the way.

“Hi, this is Kaitlin, and I’m calling on behalf of the Republican Party of Florida” is how one call to an absentee voter started out. At State Republican headquarters, spokeswoman Susan Hepworth saysthe chase is on for absentee ballots that have yet to be returned. “We have offices like this all across the state, obviously full of volunteers, all day every day. Making those phone calls, getting those absentee ballots returned and knocking on doors.”

By the end of the week, more than 1.5 million ballots will have been cast.”

Early and absentee voting is expected to surpass the 2.3 million votes cast before the 2010 election. Republicans hold a ten percent lead in party registration for votes already cast this year. Secretary of State Ken Detzner expects early and absentee voting to surpass election day turnout. “Yesterday I saw some numbers for South Florida, and the turnout rate for early voting was higher than it was in 2010. In one county by 40 percent. So, there’s a lot of people engaged in this election” says Detzner.

Elections officials are being told to expect the unexpected, That includes the potential for a governor’s race so close it triggers a recount.

Recounts are required when the vote totals are less than half a percentage point apart. If five million people vote, a recount would occur if the candidates were within 25 thousand votes of each other.


Yourvoteflorida.com is the official state web site for answering questions about when, where and how to vote as well as dozens of other voting topics.


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Scott Deposition

October 24th, 2014 by flanews

A battle over the Governor’s private email accounts and whether or not they were being used to conduct state business had a new twist today.  As Matt Galka tells us, the Governor skipped out on a deposition.

Attorney Steven Andrews attempted to depose the Governor Friday but all he got was an empty chair.

Andrews wanted to question the Governor under oath in relation to a lawsuit Rick Scott filed in California.  Private email accounts have allegedly been used to conduct state business, but were not available when public records requests were made.  Scott’s lawsuit is trying to block information from being released.

“I can understand his reticence to appear, but on the other hand, he is the Governor, and he did pick this fight with me,” said Andrews.

The Governor has admitted to having at least one private email, but the violation occurs if those emails aren’t being turned over.

A hearing on the case isn’t scheduled until late November, and the Governor’s people say that’s why Scott didn’t have to show up.

Andrews has been accused of having a personal vendetta against the Governor. He said he only met him once in the 80’s and he has no vendetta.

Former legislator and Scott appointee for Pasco county Tax Collector Mike Fasano called for an investigation in the email accounts at a press event in Tampa.

“He is simply not being honest and straightforward with the citizens of the state of Florida,’ said Fasano.

Instead of attending the deposition, Scott went to campaign events, and a big money fundraiser.

The Governor could be held in contempt of court for missing the deposition, but that will be up to the judge overseeing the case.  We reached out to Governor Scott’s lawyers but they have yet to return our messages.

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Not Dropping the Suit

October 23rd, 2014 by flanews

The state’s biggest teacher’s union has refilled their lawsuit against the state saying that an expanded voucher program is unconstitutional. As Matt Galka tells us, a campaign asking the union to drop the suit has revved up the last couple of weeks.

The Florida Education Association hasn’t wavered on their stance against a school choice expansion bill passed earlier this year.

“We believe the Florida legislature has overstepped their bounds, stepped on the constitution, and somebody has to hold them accountable,” said FEA Vice President Joanne McCall.

The FEA filed a lawsuit over the summer challenging a bill that expanded vouchers.  Social Studies teacher Tom Fassee was named as a plaintiff. But that case was tossed because a judge said he couldn’t prove he was harmed by the legislation. The FEA has refiled the case with parents as plaintiffs.

School choice advocates are putting the pressure on using social media, and released a television ad slamming the lawsuit.

A commercial with the line “#dropthesuit” aired during the Governor’s debate.  Powerful Florida legislators and school choice supporters have been using it on twitter.

Voucher advocate Lane Wright says the FEA should let it go.

“Union bosses are clearly trying to do anything they can to dismantle this law that they just don’t like, and frankly it hurts kids,” said Wright.

McCall says the ad, which was funded by D.C. based Black Alliance for Educational Options, and the campaign only means one thing.

“If they thought that we were absolutely wrong, why would you spend all this money on a big media campaign to try and pressure the FEA to drop our suit?” she said.

The voucher program serves nearly 70,000 low income students by giving taxes to businesses who fund scholarships. The teacher’s union has another lawsuit pending against the entire voucher program, not just the way it was expanded. A hearing in that case is scheduled for early December.

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Ebola Questions Partially Answered

October 23rd, 2014 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Rick Scott says state government is prepared if an Ebola patient presents them self in Florida, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, the state has been short on details and reluctant to talk about the disease.

The first question in this weeks Gubernatorial debate was about Ebola preparations…a sure sign of what’s on people’s minds. “Are you completely confidential hospitals in this state can treat that patient without health care workers getting sick” asked CNN moderator Jake Tapper.

“Here’s what we’ve done so far” responded Governor Rick Scott.

But getting answers has been like pulling teeth. We first began asking about Ebola in August. What followed were several phone calls assuring us hospitals were on the lookout.

Two week ago, a multi agency press office, know as the joint information center, was established. Requests for interviews were again turned down. The office has  made sure copies of newspaper editorials praising the Governor’s Ebola efforts are sent out.

After getting no where, we headed across the Capital city with a camera in tow. As a courtesy, we gave the Governor’s Director of Communications a heads up.

We got voice mail. Frank, Mike Vasilinda. I wanted to let you know so you’re not blindsided that we are about two minutes away from walking into the EOC with a camera.”

With camera rolling we went into the building housing the Joint Information Center, After a ten minute wait, Brian Koon, the state’s Emergency manager appeared.

Someone shows up at Jackson Memorial,  what happens?”“Well, I’ll let the Department of Health work through all of the specifics on that piece of it, but there are very clear screening guidance from the CDC and the State of Florida to insure that we understand what the actual potential this person has; Ebola as you know is very difficult to get ebola.”

Emergency Director Brian Koon was courteous, answered our questions, and deferred when he didn’t have an answer. Those answers lie at the Department of Health and we still haven’t been able to talk to state health official about preparedness.

Earlier this week, the emergency mangers from most of Florida’s counties participated in a day long ebola response training. The National Guard has turned down our request to video and report on the training of two 16 member ebola response teams.

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Quinnipiac Poll Shows Governor’s Race (Roll the Drums)…..Tied!

October 22nd, 2014 by Mike Vasilinda

The latest Quinnipiac poll of likely voters shows the race between Rick Scott and Charlie Crist tied at 42 percent. Independent Adrian Wyllie is at 7 percent. The poll is the first to question voters who have already case a ballot.

Rick Scott remains ahead with men, Charlie Crist with women voters. More men then women are voting for the Libertarian. Pollster Peter Brown says the race is a dead heat.

“A Republican who can break even with women will win the election. A Democrat who can break even among men will win the election.Neither one of that is going to happen in this race, and that’s why it’s so close.”

Nearly one million absentee votes have already been cast. This is the first poll to survey those who have voted. The poll was conducted before early voting began, and there is a surprise. Charlie Crist leads Rick Scott by four points among absentee ballots cast.

The lead, while still in the margin of error, is important because Republicans traditionally outpace Democrats by up to a two to one margin in mail in ballots. Pollster Brown has no explanation.

“A dead heat is a dead heat” says Brown

90 percent of Scott or Crist voters say their mind is made up. But one in four voting for Libertarian Adrian Wyllie say they may change their vote. Over three polls Wyllie’s  support has dropped from 9 to 8 to 7 percent. Pollster Brown says Wyllie voter defections could be the difference. “If it gets down to five or four percent for Mr. Wyllie, that’s going to be another point or two that someone else, either Crist of Scott’s is gonna get. And in a race this close, that could be the difference.”

One constant in the poll…neither Scott or Crist is well liked…which means voters will be choosing whom they believe to be the lesser of two evils.

The poll was conducted before a disagreement over the presence of a fan at the second debate..which has become known as Fangate. The candidates held their third debate last night.

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One Florida, Two States

October 22nd, 2014 by flanews

City commissioners in South Miami want to break up the state into two separate Florida’s. As Matt Galka tells us, their proposal isn’t as crazy as it sounds because it centers around the highly debated issue of climate change.

South Miami is hot about North Florida. So much so, that they want the two Florida’s to break up.

“The real issue for separation is the absolute reality of climate change.  Global warming, rising sea levels, this is no longer political,” said South Miami Vice Mayor Walter Harris at the commission’s October 7th meeting.

Environmental concerns led to the city commission to pass a resolution in favor of a split by a vote of 3 to 2.

“We can’t wait any longer, it won’t be easy but the alternative will be even more difficult,” said Harris.

South Florida, the proposed 51st state, would consist of about 24 counties.

The South Florida counties contain a majority of the population and a majority of revenue contributors.  Susan Glickman with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy says this should send a message to lawmakers who have yet to act.

“This should be a wake up call to lawmakers to say that we need to take a look at this serious issue, we need to start now because energy decisions made now are going to impact us into the future,” Glickman.

Climate solutions have been a surprising issue dogging Florida’s Governor leading up to November’s election.  Rick Scott has met with scientists after claiming he wasn’t one.  More than 90,000 signatures were delivered to his office earlier this week from parents and kids pressing for environmental answers.

“Just this year, we’ve experienced six of the seven hottest months in the history of temperature,” said Susan Mcleod, a Florida grandmother who dropped off the petitions.

The split would need statewide approval and then ultimately the approval of Congress.

The proposed boarder of North and South Florida would be Pinellas, Hillsborough, Polk, Orange, and Brevard Counties. City officials say the idea of a split has been tossed around for 60 years.

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Not the Only Flip-Flopper

October 21st, 2014 by flanews

Two weeks to go and there’s no clear cut front runner in the Florida Governor’s race. As Matt Galka tells us, one candidate could be on the verge of dipping into his own pocket for re-election.

Rick Scott was very confident two years ago when asked if he would be self funding a re election campaign.

“I won’t have to,” said the Governor in 2012.

Scott does have plenty of money rolling in. His campaign and the Republican Party have spent more than $56 million dollars on mostly negative ads. Democratic opponent Charlie Crist has spent around $26 million on the same.

But polls won’t tell you who is out front with just two weeks to go. A virtual dead heat between the two has led to speculation that Scott will be writing a check for $20 million bucks to his own campaign.  He spent more than $75 million of his own money to win in 2010.

Political Scientist Carol Weissert says all the negativity can lead to burnout, not turnout.

“We do know that’s one of the things negative ads do.  People get turned off totally,” said Weissert.

A neck and neck race probably isn’t what Scott was planning on.

“I don’t know what it will cost but we’ll have the money to win,” said Scott two years ago.

Both the Scott campaign and the Republican Party of Florida had no comment when we asked if the Governor would be self-funding. We’ll know if each candidate donated their own money when the campaign finance reports are due on October 31st, just four days before the election.

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