Friday, December 13, 2013

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

"Ex-Sarasota County GOP chief guilty in illegal donation scheme"

The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board:

Robert Waechter accepted legal responsibility yesterday for conducting a sophomoric scheme that demonstrated contempt for fair, open and honest local elections.

Yet Waechter will retain his right to vote under the terms of an agreement negotiated by Waechter's attorney and the state attorney's office.

Waechter, a former chairman of Sarasota County's Republican Party and officeholder, was charged last year with violating Florida election law and identity fraud.

As Assistant State Attorney Brian Iten said in court yesterday, Waechter used a pre-paid debit card to make donations to three Democratic candidates in 2012 -- in the name of Lourdes Ramirez, a Siesta Key Republican who is running for the Sarasota County Commission next year.

The Sarasota Sheriff's Office, to its credit, thoroughly investigated the allegations against Waechter, who has been a fund-raiser in innumerable local campaigns and, until his arrest, was a member of the Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority, Sarasota County's Tourism Development Council and the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Detectives traced the illegal transactions to Waecther's computer and discovered a surveillance video that showed him purchasing the debit card.

This not-so-well-disguised ruse was intended to embarrass Ramirez; the Herald-Tribune has reported that Waechter tried to recruit candidates to run against her. Apparently, Waechter thought the fake donations would make Ramirez fail a political purity test in the Republican primary.

"Waechter got off easy". More: "Ex-GOP chief Waechter pleads guilty in illegal donation scheme".

Pension games

"The legislation (SB 246), which won unanimous approval from the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, comes as cities say their pensions are dangerously underfunded and after the Department of Management Services has issued letters to several cities reinterpreting a key section of the law." "Senate tries again on local pensions".

Bilirakis grills Sebelius

"At a meeting of the U.S. Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., turned up the heat on U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law."

Bilirakis grilled Sebelius on the law and the risk corridors program to support carriers after the Obama administration allowed individuals and small businesses to continue health coverage not in line with the new law through the next year. Asking Sebelius how much taxpayers would have to pay for the risk corridors, Bilirakis could not get her to provide an answer. Sebelius insisted the costs would only be known once there were more Americans enrolled in the law.
"Gus Bilirakis Grills Kathleen Sebelius on Obamacare Costs".

Meanwhile, "Sebelius is set to visit Miami Friday for the third time since September to tout the federal insurance exchange." "Sebelius to visit Miami Friday to promote ACA".

Good work, if you're a friend of Rick's

"The Citizens Property Insurance board will consider paying an attorney more than $1 million for each of the next three years to coordinate its claims litigation." "Citizens Property Insurance to consider $1 million legal coordinator".

Car fee games

"Gov. Rick Scott announced in Tampa on Thursday he will call on lawmakers to pass more than $400 million in cuts to vehicle registration fees next year. If implemented, vehicle registration and license fees would fall by an average of $25. 'I think citizens need to have their taxes reduced,' Scott told reporters in Tallahassee before leaving for Tampa."

"The issue is already becoming political fodder for Gov. Rick Scott, who is likely to face former Gov. Charlie Crist in the gubernatorial race next year. Crist signed vehicle fee increases passed by a GOP Legislature into law as a Republican in 2009. If passed, the fee cut could crowd out other tax cut ideas despite a projected $1 billion budget surplus." "Scott to push for $400 million cut in vehicle fees". See also "Car registration fees could drop by $25 next year" and "Gov. Rick Scott to ask lawmakers to cut auto registration fee enacted under Crist".

Gaetz to pass the buck

"Senate President Don Gaetz said Thursday voters should probably weigh in on whether the state opens the door to Las Vegas-style casinos, posing another hurdle for out-of-state operators eager to start doing business in South Florida." "Don Gaetz Backs Statewide Vote on Casinos".

"Self-serving, tone-deaf, money-wasting, power-hungry, hyper-partisan dolts"

Scott Maxwell hopes, Andy Gardiner, the officially designated next president of the Florida senate, doesn't "quickly morph into self-serving, tone-deaf, money-wasting, power-hungry, hyper-partisan dolt."

Here's Maxwell's advice:

Don't try to cash in on your public service by opening up a lobbying shop. (Dean Cannon.)

Don't try to score a $152,000 book deal at a publicly funded college while you're helping fund public colleges. (Mike Haridopolos)

Don't try to overturn votes taken by millions of Florida voters. (Dean Cannon)

Don't get indicted. (Ray Sansom)

Don't try to blow up the Florida Supreme Court. (Dean Cannon)

And don't use special-interest money to help pay off credit-card bills for things like travel and dinners. (Marco Rubio, Ray Sansom … and Dean Cannon.)

"Good luck, Andy Gardiner. In Tallahassee, you'll need it".

Medical marijuana flopping?

"While Florida Supreme Court justices ponder medical marijuana's legal language, supporters of the petition campaign to legalize the herb's medicinal use plan a nine-city 'day of action' this weekend to meet a looming deadline for getting on the 2014 Florida ballot." "Crunch time for medical marijuana campaign".

"Short-Memory Ricky"

Nancy Smith: "Interesting to see Charlie Crist pin one of his own moves -- a vehicle-registration fee increase -- on Rick Scott."

Interesting to see Charlie Crist pin one of his own moves -- a vehicle-registration fee increase -- on Rick Scott.

"When these fees were passed by Rick Scott's colleagues and signed into law, they were never meant to be permanent," the former Republican governor running for Democratic governor said in a statement Thursday.

Let's see. What was Scott doing in 2009? Busy trying to establish Solantic as a national brand of medical clinics, as far as I can tell [or was he also pleading the fifth 75 times in a single deposition . . . oops that was in 2000]. I don't think he had a single "colleague" in the Florida Legislature in 2009 -- let alone any interest in a bill jacking up Florida's vehicle-registration fees.

Charlie, on the other hand ... I do believe he was the guy in the governor's office in 2009. The guy whose "colleagues" presented him with the fee-hike bill he readily signed?

"Short-Memory Charlie Should Learn Not to Point".

Nancy might reconsider picking on "Short-Memory Charlie" and his less than stellar memory when there are videos like this of Scott (under oath no less) floating around.

"Republicans are having a conniption"

Rhonda Swan: "Some Republicans are having a conniption over President Barack Obama shaking the hand of Cuban leader Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela’s funeral on Tuesday. . . . There is no point. It was a two-second handshake at the funeral of a world leader that critics are turning into a political statement. The White House defended the gesture, noting the handshake wasn’t pre-planned. Why is such a statement even necessary? - See more at:" "Obama-Castro handshake: Much ado about nothing".

Meanwhile, "White House Defends Obama Decision to Shake Raul Castro's Hand".