Thursday, October 24, 2013

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Rivera’s gal pal surfaces, negotiating deal with feds

"Ana Alliegro, a central player in a federal elections investigation of former Congressman David Rivera, returned from self-imposed exile in Nicaragua and is talking with authorities, the Miami Herald has learned."

A gal pal of Rivera’s, Alliegro and the former Miami Republican representative have been under FBI scrutiny ever since she helped run the law-breaking campaign of Democrat Justin Lamar Sternad in 2012.

Sternad pleaded guilty this year to federal charges of accepting $81,486 in illegal campaign contributions, conspiracy and making a false statement.

Some of that illegal money — allegedly handled in cash by Alliegro — was used by Sternad to bash a rival of Rivera’s, Joe Garcia. He went on to beat Sternad in the primary and then the Republican in the general election.

Alliegro has denied wrongdoing repeatedly, but fled the country about a year ago amid the investigation into Sternad, whose campaign came under FBI scrutiny in response to multiple Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald reports.

Multiple sources say Alliegro voluntarily arrived in Miami this weekend. Her passport was taken by federal agents and she spoke with investigators Monday. She is negotiating a deal to avoid prison time.

“The deal is simple: cooperate,” said a source familiar with the case. “They want Rivera.”

"Mystery woman in probe of former Rep. Rivera returns from exile". Meanwhile, "Jeffrey Garcia, ex-aide to Rep. Joe Garcia, pleads guilty, will serve 90 days in jail".

"The hometown girl from Tampa was on her way"

"George Sheldon, who served as secretary for the Florida Department of Children and Families under Gov. Charlie Crist, said Monday he will seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi."

Sheldon, 66, resigned Friday from his $179,000 job as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families. To catch up to Bondi’s $1.2 million in campaign contributions, Sheldon said he started calling donors Saturday.

Sheldon’s announcement comes ahead of this weekend’s Democratic Party state conference in Orlando, giving him a head start on other contenders, which could include Florida House Minority Leader Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale. If Sheldon wins the nomination, the race would pit Bondi, the state’s most vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act, against Sheldon, who is leaving the agency implementing it.

"Bondi draws rival for 2014 Florida attorney general race".

The right wing ain't impressed: "Is George Sheldon vs. Pam Bondi His Last Hurrah?"

The Tampa Trib's Joe Henderson has a different take, noting that "the hometown girl from Tampa was on her way."

But that was before her ethically challenged move of asking for an execution to be postponed so she could attend a fund-raiser.

She apologized, but the evening did net close to $140,000 in Bondi bucks.

The Tampa Bay Times then reported there are also questions about her campaign’s relationship with Donald Trump. The Donald is under fire from the New York state attorney general for his association with “get-rich-quick” seminars and “sham” for-profit colleges. Some of the allegations have connections in Florida, and Bondi said she was reviewing the case.

Well, others are reviewing the $25,000 one of Trump’s foundations made to And Justice For All, a political committee with Bondi’s re-election in mind.

An attorney general, of all people, can’t afford even the hint of impropriety. That doesn’t mean her campaign is doomed, though.

"Bondi opens the door for election challenge". See also "AG Bondi moves to appeal judge's order on Tallahassee law office purchase" ("Andrews called that reversal political payback for him calling Gov. Rick Scott 'the corporate spawn of Satan' during the 2010 election.")

"South Florida’s housing market posted strong gains in September"

"Juiced by foreign buyers and investors, South Florida’s housing market posted strong gains in September." "South Florida home, condo prices keep rising".

Florida's anti-gambling lobby

Nancy Smith: "Let's call a spade a spade, shall we? Florida's anti-gambling lobby has no more interest in doing what's good for Florida than any street-corner car salesman has."

I'm sorry if that sounds harsh. I just don't see a pure motive in it. With the anti-gambling crowd, it's all about turf protection, hogging market share and strangling a free-market economy. It's about money. Carol Dover's commentary, "Casinos in Florida would harm local businesses," reproduced in Monday's Sun-Sentinel newspaper, was a spectacular reminder of that fact.
"The Hypocrisy of Florida's Gambling Foes". Meanwhile, "Legislators get an earful urging them to protect area’s gambling".

The Tampa Trib editorial board: "State-sanctioned gambling nothing but a tax".

Miami-Dade Republican Party official quits campaign after ballot fraud allegations

"A man accused of absentee-ballot fraud last week in Homestead has resigned from Mark Bell’s mayoral campaign."

James Brady [the corresponding secretary for the Miami-Dade Republican Party] resigned from his job as a campaign worker late Friday, a few hours after Bell learned that a family of four had accused Brady and another man of filling out their ballots with the names of candidates they didn’t want.
"Bell campaign worker resigns amid scandal".

Background: "Homestead family: We were victims of ballot fraud".

After Young

"Republican Congressman Bill Young's death will accelerate the race for one of the more competitive seats in the country, even as it remains unclear when a special election will be held and which candidates will be involved." "Special Election Could Reshape Race for Bill Young's Seat".

"If the hood fits, wear it"

"Republicans say a fundraising email sent out by Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida that shows a burning cross in the words 'Tea Party' is 'unacceptable and deplorable.'"

Grayson said in a statement released Wednesday that tea party members have a record of making racist remarks.

Grayson says “if the hood fits, wear it.”

"GOP scolds Florida lawmaker for KKK, tea party comparison".

And the hood does fit:

In quick succession in one week's time, a protestor waves a sign "bye bye black sheep" and a small chorus chimes in and puts it to the popular song ditty of "Bye, Bye, Blackbird" in front of Desert Vista High School in Phoenix where President Obama spoke about housing finance reform. Hundreds of attendees at a Missouri state fair roared with laughter and applause at a rodeo clown's mocking Obama. In Orlando, a knot of protestors wave racially insulting signs including "Kenyan Go Home" at Obama's motorcade. And a GOP congressman hints that there's sentiment among House Republicans for an Obama impeachment drive over questions about his American citizenship.

These despicable and outrageous displays of racism should be condemned. But at least they're honest in that the upfront bigots shredded the carefully honed script that has been the template for the racially sneaky and insidious attacks on Obama. The script reads like this: Whenever an elected official, Tea Party figure, or even leader, or gobs of protestors wave their racially loaded signs, posters, and shout racially derogatory barbs at Obama, Tea Party and GOP leaders chalk it up to variously a fringe few, or crank, and then wail that it's blatantly unfair to, as well as politically conniving, to tar the Tea Party, let alone, the GOP as racist for the acts of a kooky few. They'd have a legitimate grip except for one, actually two, small points.

"Method to Racist Madness in Fresh Racial Attacks on President Obama".

See also "Too much tea party racism", "Tea Party Leader Makes Racist Joke", "Racist Signs at Tea Parties", "Tea Party Protests: 'Ni**er,' 'Faggot' Shouted At Members Of Congress", "Tea Party Event On Racial Tolerance Devolves Into Complete Chaos At CPAC", "That Awkward Moment When The Tea Party Rally Gets Overtly Racist" and "The Tea Party’s Legacy of Racism".

More: "Study shows that the movement's supporters are more likely to be racially resentful."

Obama haters run wild, misrepresenting "cancellation" of substandard Florida insurance policies

"Conservatives at the state and national level are pointing to Florida Blue cancelling the policies of 300,000 Floridians due to President Barack Obama’s health care law as proof that it’s failing, while supporters of the federal program plan to hit the Sunshine State this weekend to encourage people to enroll in it."

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., called for a full repeal of the law on Wednesday and mentioned Florida Blue cutting off coverage across the Sunshine State. . . .

Appearing on the “O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News on Tuesday night to promote his proposal to delay financial penalties on Americans who do not have health insurance, due to the continued technical problems on the federal program’s website, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also noted the Florida Blue cancellations.

"Conservatives Bash Obamacare as Florida Blue Cancels Insurance for 300,000".

Of course, the Obama haters like Rubio and Rooney neglect to mention that, as a top Florida Blue official explained Wednesday, using small easily understood words, that "the cancellation of 300,000 individual health insurance policies does not mean affected customers will lose coverage. Rather, it's part of a 'transition' to the Affordable Care Act."

Those customers, though, will receive notice by mail that their existing policy is no longer available and they should reach out to the Jacksonville-based company for guidance.

The canceled policies are those that don’t offer coverage broad enough to be considered as "qualified health plans" under the Affordable Care Act. Qualified plans must include coverage for things like maternity and newborn care, mental health, substance abuse services and emergency services, among other things.

“Essentially, we have to put them into plans that are filed an approved as qualified health plans,” said Jon Urbanek, one of the company’s senior vice presidents.

"Florida Blue: policy cancellations part of a 'transition,' not dropping coverage".

Related: Marc Caputo writes that the "GOP ‘lost ground’ in Obamacare war".

Libertarian Proto-whine

"Adrian Wyllie, libertarian candidate for Florida governor in 2014, could be a crucial factor in the outcome of the race, even if he doesn't win. But he could be shut out of televised debates, just as the libertarian candidate for governor in Virginia has been." "Virginia libertarian candidate shut out of debate: Could it happen here?"

"Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio Differ"

"How Should GOP Address Obamacare, Shutdown? Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio Differ".

Court reinstates no-fault law

"The 1st District Court of Appeal overturned a temporary injunction against the 2012 law capping non-emergency care from personal injury protection claims at $2,500 and preventing acupuncturists and massage therapists from receiving PIP claims." "Appellate court ruling reinstates no-fault law for now".

Fiscal impact of a proposed medical marijuana bill

"Before the EDR can determine the fiscal impact of a proposed medical marijuana constitutional amendment, it has to decide whether cannabis is exempt from taxes as an over-the-counter drug. Two more workshops are scheduled to try to calculate whether voter approval of a medical marijuana initiative would add or subject from government's bottom line." "Economists perusing medical marijuana numbers".

Deep thinker

"Marco Rubio's Bill to Save Americans from Penalties".

Raw sewage

"The engineering firm conducting a $5.1-million study of septic tank alternative technologies is asking for a one-year extension, which could further delay implementation of septic tank regulations across the state."

HB 1263 in 2012 prohibited local governments from requiring advanced septic tank systems until the study is completed. Cities and counties with regulations that existed prior to Jan. 31, 2012 were exempted.

The Legislature required the study beginning in the 2008-09 budget and prohibited the Florida Department of Health from proceeding with nitrogen-reduction activities until the study was completed. As a result of the budget language, the department delayed implementing a rule requiring advanced septic systems in the Wekiva River area north of Orlando.

Home-builders supported the requirement for the study, saying the advanced septic tank systems being required in Wakulla County and some other areas were too expensive to buy and operate.

A representative of the Hazen and Sawyer engineering firm told the DOH Research Review Advisory Committee on Tuesday that progress toward completing the study had been delayed by inconsistent funding by the Legislature.

But Anthony Gaudio, a former member of the advisory committee from Tallahassee, said Tuesday the study seemed intended all along to delay water quality improvements and that it won't produce any meaningful results.

"Firm asks to delay septic tanks study that has blocked local regulations statewide".

"Dumb as rocks"

Nancy Smith writes that the "folks in blue who churn out fundraising emails now swamping inboxes must think their fellow Democrats are dumb as rocks." "Why Do Democrats Treat Their Donors Like Idiots?"

Tuition bills pile up

"At least three proposals have been filed to grant in-state tuition to U.S.-born citizens who graduated from Florida high schools but whose parents are undocumented immigrants. A federal Firm asks to delay septic tanks study that has blocked local regulations statewideruled Florida's in-state tuition regulations unconstitutional a year ago but lawmakers have been unable to agree to bring Florida law into compliance with the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution." "Tuition bills are piling up".

Atwater gets Dem challenger

"William D. Rankin, a 53-year-old Deerfield Beach businessman, U.S. Army veteran and 'normal, middle-of-the-road kind of guy,' says he is prepared to take on Republican Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and his well-funded re-election effort." "Deerfield Beach businessman seeks CFO job".

Simple is . . .

"In a 'white paper' released this week on his proposed $500 million tax cut plan, Florida Gov. Rick Scott used an analogy often employed by politicians: Comparing the state’s budget to a family’s finances."

As Martin Eichenbaum, an economics professor at Northwestern University, recently told Bloomberg Businessweek: “Repeat after me: What is true about your family or your business is not true about the economy.”
"Economists debate validity of Scott’s ‘kitchen table’ budget".

Glitch bills

"HB 189 attempts to fix a glitch dealing with citizen referendums caused by a series of glitch bills." "It's a case of the glitches dealing with growth management".