Bipartisan Florida team to revive Everglades Caucus in U.S. House

For all the partisan bickering that cripples Congress these days, there is one thing Florida lawmakers have generally been able to agree on: the need to restore the Everglades.

With a new congressional class coming in, two South Florida representatives — Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart and Miramar Democrat Alcee Hastings — announced they are reintroducing the "Everglades Caucus" in the U.S. House. The goal is educate members and staffers about the Everglades and, of course, foster support for the projects and money still needed to complete the $12.4 billion restoration effort.

In a joint announcement, Diaz-Balart and Hastings said they would co-chair the caucus.

"The Everglades is one of the true ecological wonders of the world, and we must do everything we can to keep it thriving and healthy," Diaz-Balart said. "We will work together with other members of Congress to support restoration efforts of this unique ecosystem."

Hastings called the Everglades "a national treasure that provides Floridians with clean drinking water."

Rubio looks at Hagel's stance

President Barack Obama nominated former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., for defense secretary, starting what could be a difficult confirmation process. Hagel has already been attacked with TV ads over perceived weak support toward Israel and has had to apologize for anti-gay remarks.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has another concern: Hagel's position on Cuba. Hagel once called U.S. sanctions against the communist country "outdated, unrealistic, irrelevant policy."

Said Rubio spokesman Alex Conant: "We have a process for nominations, and Senator Rubio won't prejudge these nominees. Senator Rubio hopes he will be able to meet with Senator Hagel prior to his confirmation vote. We'll have questions about some of Senator Hagel's past positions, including sanctions on Iran and promoting democracy in Latin America, since that's long been a priority for Senator Rubio."

Inaugural ball's donors

Members of Florida's congressional delegation will attend the "Sunshine and Stars" inaugural ball Jan. 19 in Washington. The event has some powerful corporate sponsors, including CSX, Florida Blue, Florida Sugar Cane League and TECO Energy, according to an invitation posted by the Sunlight Foundation.

Election and wedding year

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster might need to break his piggy bank this year.

Besides needing cash for a re-election campaign, his daughter, Christine Foster, 22, just got engaged to her longtime boyfriend, Daniel Carvin. He was hired last year as a St. Petersburg police officer.

A wedding date hasn't been set, but the mayor is certain about one thing: "She asked if she could look at venues in Tampa," Foster said, laughing. "I said no. Daddy's paying for it."

A move to cap Citizens rates

State Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, has filed a bill to put a limit on the rate-hiking power of Citizens insurance's Board of Governors.

Flores expressed outrage last year when the board said it would consider removing the traditional 10 percent cap on rate increases for new policies.

Flores — who called the idea "immoral" and vowed to block any attempt by the board to raise rates on new policies by more than 10 percent — filed a bill this month that would clarify that the cap on rate increases applies to both existing and new policies.

Flores' SB 96 is the first bill filed to make changes to Citizens Property Insurance for the 2013 session, which could be a pivotal one for property insurance.

Times/Herald staff writers Toluse Olorunnipa and Mark Puente contributed to the Buzz.

Bipartisan Florida team to revive Everglades Caucus in U.S. House 01/08/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 8:19pm]

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