Charlie Crist has been spending so much time in South Florida -- from where most of the big Democratic campaign money comes -- that he and wife Carole Crist have rented a place on tony Fisher Island near Miami's South Beach. Mrs. Crist used to own condos there but sold them after marrying the former governor.
Crist, who has never owned a home, continues to rent a condo in downtown St Petersburg's Bayfront Tower.
“I’d never leave the ’Burg. Ever,” Crist told Buzz on Saturday night.Full Story
Floridians will have three opportunities next week to pay final respects to former Gov. Reubin Askew, who died Thursday at age 85.
Escorted by a military honor guard, Askew will lie in state at the Old Capitol in Tallahassee from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday. It was in that historic building where Askew served 12 years as a legislator and for most of his eight years as governor (during Askew's second term, the state opened the "new" 22-story Capitol).
The last state official to lie in state at the Old Capitol was former Gov. Claude Kirk, who died in 2011.
A memorial service for Askew will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Faith Presbyterian Church, 2200 North Meridian Rd., Tallahassee. Gov. Rick Scott will attend and some if not all of the six living former governors are also expected. A spokesman for the Askew family, Jon Peck, said the list of eulogists at the service has not yet been finalized. The church has seating for about 750 people.
On Friday, a public graveyard service with full military honors will be held at 11 a.m. Central Time at Bayview Memorial Park, 3351 Scenic Highway (US 90 East) in Pensacola, where Askew grew up. …Full Story
For years, former Gov. Reubin Askew had a regular invitation to the annual meeting of the Leadership Florida class in Tallahassee where he was asked to speak with Joseph Hatchett, the former federal judge whom Askew appointed the state's first black Supreme Court justice.
It was affectionately known as the "Joe and Rube show." Here's a summary of their dialogue on Jan. 19, 2012. (We hope to post the podcast later):
Askew introduced Hatchett as "a man with a good heart" and noted how Florida is "blessed" because of his willingness to take the job.
Hatchett, who as a young law student was banned from staying in the hotel where the bar exam was being held, went on to become the chief judge on the federal bench for the Southeast region.
"We're making progress,'' Askew told the crowd at the Governor's Club. "In my opinion, not enough progress but we're making progress."
He recalled how someone once said to him, "You were forever a risk taker, and I said that's the only way I wanted the job. You just do it and take your chances."
Among his chances was his stand on integration: "I really was so tired over the hypocrisy of the busing situation because it never became a controversial issue until we started busing white children."
After he stood up in favor of integrating schools, the Democratic Party took a poll and his numbers rose. "A lot of people who opposed busing, they weren't racists but there were enough other racists to make up for it."Full Story
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor appears Sunday on Political Connections on Bay News 9 in Tampa Bay. The full interview airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m., but here's a clip:
It’s the end of the second week of the legislative session and Tallahassee is splitsville. No lawmakers are left in town. Even the governor and attorney general have headed south. Although legislators face a funding ban during session, the governor and members of the Cabinet do not. Here are five things to watch for:
Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford released proposed allocations for spending next year, and the plan is clearly boosted by revised forecasts giving lawmakers $150 million more general revenue to spend next year.
The biggest headline is that Weatherford’s proposed $10.8 billion in pre-K-12 education is $165 million more than what Gov. Rick Scott’s proposing in his proposed budget and $335 million more than this year. In higher education, Weatherford is hoping to spend $3.6 billion, or about $500 million more than Scott.
The Senate still has to release its allocations, which are expected soon. The two chambers must then settle on spending in a budget to be voted on in May.
Here’s Weatherford’s letter to House members: …Full Story
With their bill to suspend Florida's new education benchmarks stalled in the Legislature, opponents of the Common Core State Standards are pursuing a new strategy.
They are turning the heat up on Gov. Rick Scott.
Last Sunday, about 80 members of the group Florida Parents Against Common Core protested outside a private fundraiser for Scott on Jupiter Island. Members of another group, Stop Common Core Florida, traveled to Tallahassee on Thursday to meet with Scott's top education adviser, they said.
What's more, the Republican Party of Florida's Legislative Affairs Committee issued a formal resolution last month, urging Scott to take executive action against the standards.
"It's time for Rick Scott to listen to the people," said Chris Quackenbush, a grandmother and businesswoman who drove from Fort Myers to Tallahassee on Thursday to make her point."How does he expect to win reelection without his base?"
Indeed, the continuing controversy over the standards puts Scott in a political pickle.
Read more here.Full Story
State lawmakers passed bills on Thursday that increased proposed reductions in auto registration fees to better match the size of the cuts proposed by Gov. Rick Scott.
The Florida House Finance & Tax appropriations committee voted 18-0 on a bill that would reduce taxes and fees on motor vehicle licenses by $25.05 for heavy weight vehicles, $21.55 for middle weight vehicles, and $18.55 for light weight vehicle.
The cuts would cost the budget about $309 million in general revenue between July 1 and June 30, 2015 and an estimated $395 million in subsequent years. The Senate’s Appropriations Committee voted 18-0 on a bill sponsored by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, that was amended to match the House bill. Initially, Negron had suggested cuts that would have reduced fees by an average of $12 a vehicle and cost the budget only about $185 million next year. But state economists revised the revenue forecast Wednesday, giving lawmakers another $150 million to spend. …Full Story
He’s a crucial swing vote that could tip the Florida Senate in favor of House Speaker Will Weatherford’s long-sought pension reform, but Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, said such an overhaul is even less likely than last year.
“If it passes, it’ll be snowing in Miami,” Evers said during a Thursday news conference with the Florida State Fraternal Order of Police, which represents 20,000 sworn officers who are currently enrolled in the state’s $135 billion pension system that pays for the retirement of 1 million current employees, including teachers, and county and state agency workers.
Weatherford tried and failed to last year to prohibit new employees from enrolling in the state pension plan, which provides a guaranteed return, and steer them into private 401(k)-style plans, that are subject to the swings of the market. …Full Story
Will Democrat Jessica Ehrlich run for Congress in the Pinellas County district where Republican David Jolly just won?
“I have not given any thought to it at all,” she said Thursday. “I thought Alex was going to win.”
Democrat Alex Sink lost narrowly to Jolly in the special election this week that was held to fill the remainder of the term of longtime Republican U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, who died in October.
Sink told the Tampa Bay Times today she is "keeping an open mind" about running against Jolly later this year, in the regularly scheduled election. Ehrlich said she was disappointed Sink lost.
Ehrlich, an attorney and former congressional aide from St. Petersburg, ran against Young in 2012 and was running against him again last year. But after Young died and Sink jumped in the race, Ehrlich bowed out.
Since then, Ehrlich has appeared as a Democratic analyst on some national television shows, and was interviewed this week on Fox News on The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson.
She said she also has been working with other Democratic candidates around the state.Full Story
The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a proposal that would allow some undocumented immigrants (as well as the children of military personnel stationed on Florida bases) to pay in-state tuition rates at colleges and universities.
The 19-7 vote was closer than some observers expected.
Voting in favor of the measure: Republican Reps. Dennis Baxley; Marti Coley; Steve Crisafulli; Erik Fresen; Eddy Gonzalez; Ed Hooper; Seth McKeel; Marlene O'Toole; Jimmy Patronis; and Dana Young; and Democratic Reps. Joe Gibbons; Janet Cruz; Reggie Fullwood; Mia Jones; Mark Pafford; Hazel Rogers; Darryl Rouson; Cynthia Stafford; and Alan Williams.
Voting against: Republican Reps. Ben Albritton; Richard Corcoran; Jamie Grant; Matt Hudson; Clay Ingram; Charles McBurney and Greg Steube.
The bill had changed considerably from its last committee stop.
On Thursday, Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, R-Miami, added language that would prevent colleges and universities from raising their tuition rates more than six percent above the rate set by the Florida Legislature. It would also eliminate the automatic tuition increase meant to account for inflation. …Full Story
Alex Sink said today she is "keeping an open mind" about running against David Jolly again in November.Full Story
Two days after her narrow loss to Jolly in the special election for Congressional District 13, Sink said she has no timetable for making a decision but is in no rush to decide.
She had not returned calls and messages after the election so we stopped by her rented condo in Feather Sound. Sink, a longtime Hillsborough resident Jolly had called a carpet bagger, chuckled at hearing I expected her to be back in Thonotosassa.
"Why wouldn't I be here? My lease runs until November."
Sink said she all along it would be a tough race and took nothing for granted.
"It's a 50-50 district but it still leans right because of gerrymandering," Sink said. "But I still think Washington is broken and needs better people."
From the News Service of Florida:
The behind-the-scenes filtering continues on a $378.8 million measure aimed at restoring and protecting Florida's natural springs.
Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, temporarily postponed the proposal (SB 1576) from making its first appearance of the legislative session Thursday in the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee. Influential business groups have opposed the measure.
"We had hoped today we would have our bill coming out in a more finalized version," said Dean, chairman of the committee. "But as of the last week or 10 days of working in this area, we still feel that there are improvements that need to be made, and we have not tied the last of the issues together."
The wide-ranging proposal, which Dean and a group of senators have been working on for months, was introduced Feb. 28. Gov. Rick Scott has requested $55 million in the 2014-15 state budget for springs protection, up from $10 million in the current year. …Full Story
The Senate Thursday fine-tuned a high-priority ethics bill with a new lobbying restriction that observers say is aimed directly at former Senate President Ken Pruitt, who works as a Tallahassee lobbyist while also serving as St. Lucie County's elected property appraiser.
Pruitt was a well-liked Senate president from 2006 to 2008, but his high-profile lobbying practice in Tallahassee (15 clients, including Florida Crystals Corp. and the Palm Beach County sheriff's office) doesn't sit well with senators.
The amendment, by another former Senate president, Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, won a unanimous vote in the 19-member Senate Appropriations Committee. Lee's amendment would prohibit constitutional officers such as sheriffs, state attorneys and property appraisers from lobbying for compensation. The restriction would take effect after the next election.
"If I had my druthers, you'd have to pick which side of this equation you want to be on," Lee said. "You either want to be an elected official and represent the people or you want to be a lobbyist and represent special interests." …Full Story
WASHINGTON — David Jolly was sworn in Thursday as the newest member of the U.S. House of Representatives, capping an intensely fought election to replace his former boss, the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young.
Jolly took the oath on the House floor at 2:07 p.m., using a family Bible.
"We have had a nationally watched race, that race is now over," Jolly told his new colleagues. "And now it is time for me as a member of Congress and this body to join with each of you to follow in the footsteps that you have made in serving your community as I begin to serve mine."
Longtime Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, led him to the corner where Young would sit. "I broke down crying," Jolly told the Tampa Bay Times. "We all know the spirit he left in that chamber."
The 41-year-old Republican, who became a Capitol Hill lobbyist after working for Young, won a tight race Tuesday against Democrat Alex Sink that captured the nation's eye and saw more than $12 million in spending, mostly from outside groups.
Full story here.