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Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, lawmakers disagree over foreclosure settlement funds

Attorney General Pam Bondi clarified Tuesday that she was not feuding with the Legislature over how to spend $300 million in cash earmarked for Florida as part of a $25 billion national foreclosure settlement.

But it's abundantly clear that Bondi's office and the Legislature have two very different views on what the law says about how the money should be processed.

The Associated Press reported Monday that Bondi has not been able move forward on the funds because the Legislature wants to have a say in how the money is spent.

An official in the Florida House said Bondi has two options for how to appropriate the money, and both options involve getting approval from state lawmakers (which might not happen until next spring).

Asked on Tuesday if she believed she had to get legislative approval to spend the cash, Bondi said: "My opinion? No. I have the authority to distribute it."

Florida's Constitution gives the Legislature authority to make spending decisions, but because this is a legal settlement, there is some gray area in the law.

Bondi repeated seven times in less four minutes that she was mainly concerned with making sure the money went to help homeowners, an indication that this might be a sticking point with the Legislature.

"The reason it's taking so long is I want to be sure it goes to where it should," Bondi said.

Rick Scott sticking by Carroll

It has been a rough few weeks for Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll. But Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday that she handled recent controversies appropriately and is focused on the right things.

The governor also indicated that he plans to keep Carroll as his running mate when he campaigns for re-election in 2014.

"She's done a great job, why wouldn't I?" he said.

Last month, Carroll apologized to the gay and lesbian community after making remarks to a TV station that were labeled as antigay. She said the comments while defending herself against former aide Carletha Cole's allegations that she caught Carroll in a "compromising position" with another female staffer.

Scott said he didn't talk to Carroll about the statement she made to the TV crew — "usually black women that look like me don't engage in relationships like that," she said — but he believes she responded correctly.

"She apologized, and she did the right thing," the governor said.

Big grass roots game in Florida

One thing Barack Obama did not have to contend with in Florida four years ago was a robust grass roots campaign fueled by eager volunteers. This year the Mitt Romney campaign and Republican National Committee are touting an energized base and a formidable ground operation in must-win Florida.

They have more than 40 "Victory" offices open across Florida with more opening soon. On "Super Saturday" last weekend, Republicans say volunteers made more than a quarter-million voter contacts in Florida by phone and knocked on more than 30,000 doors.

Another thing Obama did not have to contend with was a well-funded rival. In July alone, the Romney campaign reports raising more than $101 million. That included $6.8 million from more than 46,000 Florida donors — in a month when Romney did not visit the state, but Obama, Michele Obama and Joe Biden made multiple appearances.

So what's the Obama campaign up to? Plenty. Thousands of volunteers are spreading the word that the Obama administration has cut $3,600 in taxes for typical families, working out of 39 offices across the state. And a bunch more Obama field offices are poised to open this week, including in New Port Richey and Pinellas Park.

Times staff writers Tia Mitchell and Adam C. Smith contributed to this report.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, lawmakers disagree over foreclosure settlement funds 08/07/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 7, 2012 6:16pm]
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