Members of the Florida Council of 100 were greeted with this political-style handout from the governor's office as they sat down to dinner at a Clearwater Beach resort.
Dining with Gov. Rick Scott? Before chowing down, he asks that you please review his accomplishments for Florida families.
Members of the Florida Council of 100 and Scott gathered for a Thursday meeting at the Sandpearl resort in Clearwater Beach. Included in their place settings was a souvenir of sorts: a fact sheet touting Scott's almost two and a half years in office. The campaign-style flier comes from the governor's office and does not have a political disclaimer.
Today, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., withdrew his amendment to move the date to April 17, 2013 -- when the bill was introduced -- from Dec. 31, 2011. He explained why in a message to the Tampa Bay Times:
"We are seeking to preserve as much unity as possible in support of the compromise S.744 draft bill. There was the very serious danger that asking for a vote would have split the coalition that we have behind the bill and endangered the bill as whole. I am considering offering the possible amendment on the floor and we’ll make decision probably in next week or so whether to proceed, depending on how much support there is for it."
He was guaranteed none of the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee would have gone along and put Democratic members of the Gang of 8 in a tough spot. Prospects of changing the date on the floor are equally remote. But advocates say the date as proposed would leave hundreds of thousands -- probably more -- out of a process designed to fix the nation's broken immigration system. …
TAMPA — Members of Tampa 912 and other tea party activists plan to protest from noon to 1 p.m. today in front of the Tampa office of the Internal Revenue Service at 3848 W Columbus Drive.
Karen Jaroch, who co-founded the Tampa chapter of Glenn Beck's 9–12 group, last week told the Tampa Bay Times that when the group applied for tax-exempt status in 2010, it not only had to complete a 17-page application but was later asked for copies of its educational literature, a breakdown of how members would spend their time and the names of political candidates the group would support.
"They wanted to know information that was clearly none of their business, had nothing to do with what our activities were," Tampa 912 chairman Tim Curtis told WFLA-AM 970. "We're being asked to suspend disbelief that this wasn't a targeted activity. Either they're dumb or they think we're dumb." …
A large group of conservative and tea party figures, including former Florida Rep. Allen West, have sent a letter to Congress opposing the Senate immigration bill.
"We write to express our serious concerns regarding the Gang of Eight's immigration bill, S. 744. We oppose this bill and urge you to vote against it when it comes to the Senate floor," it reads. "No matter how well-intentioned, the Schumer-Rubio bill suffers from fundamental design flaws that make it unsalvageable. Many of us support various parts of the legislation, but the overall package is so unsatisfactory that the Senate would do better to start over from scratch."
The letter comes as the Senate Judiciary Committee looks to wrap up its work on the bill this week. West was joined by Erick Erickson, Phyllis Schlafly, T. Willard Fair, of the Urban League of Greater Miami, radio hosts Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham, and scores of tea party groups and activists, including Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots.
The Senate Judiciary Committee resumed work today on the immigration bill and adopted several amendments that Sen. Marco Rubio said are critical in gaining support.
"There’s no doubt that the bill is heading in the right direction. Probably not fast enough for some people but certainly it’s better than the day we started," Rubio said in an interview, singling out an amendment that would require fingerprint systems at major airports to track visa holders.
"Do not underestimate how important that biometric measure is,” he said. “Eventually 30 of the largest international airports in the country would be covered. We’re told over 90 percent of the international travelers who enter the U.S. would go through that system.”
Despite his optimism Rubio, who does not sit in the Judiciary Committee, said border security remains the biggest outstanding issue. "We’ve got both Democrats and Republicans saying they can’t support the bill unless they have comfort that border measures we put in the bill are stronger. We’re going to have to work on that to get their votes. …
Lawmakers, lobbyists and lookers-on chimed in Monday after Gov. Rick Scott signed the state’s $74.1 billion spending plan for the coming year. Some applauded the governor for making historic investments in education, ports and business development. Others, smarting after Scott vetoed $368 million in spending projects endorsed by the Legislature, were none too happy.
Here’s a roundup of some of the comments:
--Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, said he and the Senate Democrats were “extremely disappointed” by Scott’s budget vetoes. He referred to Scott as a “newcomer” who “misses a critical understanding” about the Legislature’s role in crafting a spending plan.
Smith summed up his feelings in a tweet: “Gov. Scott fought hard to give 400 million tax break to manufacturers while cutting critical road and water projects for cities. SMH.”
--Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, kept a cordial tone, despite the fact that some of the major projects in his district were slashed by Scott’s veto pen. …
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Rich is campaigning in Pinellas County today, where she caught up with The Buzz at the Safety Harbor Library. It's time Democrats nominate a south Floridian for governor, she said, and whether Bill Nelson or Charlie Crist runs, she's staying in the race.
The former Florida Senate Democratic Leader also suggested that Democratic senators this year misplayed their hand on Medicaid expansion. Rather than immediately embracing the Senate GOP's proposed alternative to Medicaid expansion, Rich said, Democratic senator may have been better off calling for straight Medicaid Expansion. That could have helped persuade the Florida House to view the Senate Medicaid alternative as a more palatable compromise.
Sen. Marco Rubio issued a statement on a report that that Justice Department spied on a Fox News reporter in an attempt to find out a leak dealing with North Korea. The Washington Post story came after revelations that DOJ had tracking phone calls by The Associated Press.
“I am very concerned by reports the Obama Administration targeted a FOX News reporter for possible criminal prosecution for doing what appears to be normal news-gathering protected by the First Amendment," Rubio said. "The sort of reporting by James Rosen detailed in the report is the same sort of reporting that helped Mr. Rosen aggressively pursue questions about the Administration’s handling of Benghazi. National security leaks are criminal and put American lives on the line, and federal prosecutors should, of course, vigorously investigate. …
Lincoln Gabriel Diaz-Balart, son and namesake of a former congressman and nephew of a current U.S. representative, died Sunday at the age of 29.
The family has asked for privacy and time to grieve.
The Diaz-Balart family is, perhaps, the most-politically powerful in Miami's Cuban-exile community.
U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is a sitting Republican representative. His brother, Lincoln Diaz-Balart retired from congress after the 2010 elections. Another brother, Jose Diaz-Balart is a Telemundo host. A cousin of theirs is son and namesake of Fidel Castro, a prior uncle by marriage. A longtime family friend and virtual sister, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, expressed her sorrow this morning in a radio interview during which she spoke of the toll of depression and suicide.
The family's statement:
It is with infinite sadness that we announce the passing, on May 19, 2013, of our beloved son and brother, Lincoln Gabriel Diaz-Balart.
For many years, Lincoln Gabriel struggled with depression.
Lincoln Gabriel was a kind and loving human being. His love and compassion touched many lives during his 29 years.
We will remember him with profound love and devotion for the rest of our lives. …
Gov. Rick Scott vetoed more than $368 million in spending from the state’s budget, using his line-item authority to strike out scores of projects ranging from a $50 million coast-to-coast bike trail to tens of millions in college and university tuition.
Scott’s extensive veto list is more than twice as large as his list last year, and his largest since his first year in office. It slashed state spending from $74.5 billion to $74.1 billion.
Even with the vetoes, the 2013-2014 budget is still the largest on record, and includes $480 million for teacher pay raises, $8.5 billion for transportation projects, $151.8 million for Everglades restoration and $273 million for ports.
“The Florida Families First budget helps families pursue their dreams by getting a great job and accessing a quality education,” Scott said in an emailed statement. “Teachers will get a pay raise and funds for their classroom supplies so they don’t have to pay out-of-pocket.”
This is Scott’s largest veto effort since his first year in office, when he slashed more than $615 million from the budget. Half of that came from a single-item: spending authority for the Florida Forever land conservation program. …
Winner of the week: Florida House members. Wouldn't it be grand to have taxpayers subsidize your health insurance so you only have to pay $8 a month for your insurance or $30 for your entire family? Even as the GOP majority thundered against $51 billion in federal money to insure more than 1 million low-income Floridians, no one suggested trimming the cushy plan that comes with their part-time jobs.
Loser of the week: Miami Dolphins. Florida legislators scuttled the team's hopes to renovate Sun Life Stadium, forcing the cancelation of a county referendum. But even with cooperation from state leaders, the idea may have been doomed. Among the more than 60,000 people who voted early before the referendum was canceled, 57 percent opposed the $350 million plan, the Miami Herald reported last week.
In his letter explaining the tuition veto, Scott will say Florida's low tuition is a point of pride and he doesn't want to saddle students and families with more debt, the AP said.
Scott has hinted all along that he would veto the tuition increase, which the House insisted on including in the budget. He never wavered from his standard response -- "I do not believe in any tuition increase" -- when asked about the possibility of striking it from the budget.
Universities never planned on receiving the additional tuition revenue in the budget, worth about $18 million. According to state law, tuition will now automatically rise 1.7 percent to keep in line with inflation, or about $10 million.
WASHINGTON — Huber David Hernandez got a surprising phone call from a friend a few months ago. Congress is working on immigration reform, she said, and it would benefit both of us.
"It was great news," said Hernandez, who is from Colombia and arrived in Orlando in May 2012 on a three-month travel visa and never left, eager "to secure a better future, to achieve what they call the American Dream."
Then his friend called back. "She told me she had heard that only those who entered through 2011 would be covered. It's incredible that just because of one year we're not covered."
A wide-ranging immigration bill being debated in the Senate provides a pathway to citizenship for some 11 million undocumented immigrants but excludes people who arrived in the United States illegally after Dec. 31, 2011.
Sympathy for late arrivals such as Hernandez, 45, is scarce on Capitol Hill, but immigrant advocates and some lawmakers are working to move the cutoff date, saying it undermines the objective of wiping the slate clean by legalizing millions of undocumented residents and fixing a broken immigration system. …
For Florida political news today, the Buzz is your can't-miss-it source. Tampa Bay Times writers offer the latest in Florida politics, the Florida Legislature and the Rick Scott administration. Keep in mind: This is a public forum sponsored and maintained by the Tampa Bay Times. When you post comments here, what you say becomes public and could appear in the newspaper. You are not engaging in private communication with candidates or Times staffers.