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THE BUZZ: FLORIDA POLITICS

PSC spokes Cynthia Muir uses force to muzzle reporters

So some TV reporters want to ask a public official (PSC Chairman Matthew Carter) about cozy ties between his agency and Florida Power & Light. What if you're spokeswoman Cynthia Muir and you're among those who shared hard-track BlackBerry PINs with an FPL lobbyist?

What's a PSC spokeswoman to do?

Well, you physically grab the reporter to prevent him from using his microphone. And then either you or a security guard knock a camerawoman so she can't get the shot.

In the video below, reporter Whitney Ray tells Muir: ''Get your hands off me. That is assault."

Said Muir: "It's a judicial hearing room. They're acting as judges."

Muir, who wouldn't explain why she physically tried to restrain Ray, didn't return our calls or an email.

So let's recap: Private conversations with FPL lobbyist = good. On-the-record discussions with reporters=bad.

--Marc Caputo

Posted by Times Editor at 05:57:17 PM on September 10, 2009

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Sen. LeMieux criticizes federal offshore drilling plan

In his first news conference, Sen. George LeMieux criticized a federal plan that would undercut a 2006 law his predecessor, former Sen. Mel Martinez, and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson worked on to protect Florida's coastline. LeMieux said he has concerns about drilling closer to Florida's coast.

The bill, S 1517, was sponsored by Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski and Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu. It seeks to significantly reduce a current no-drill zone and expand leases in the Destin Dome area.

The proposal mirrors an amendment offered recently by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-North Dakota. A 2006 law keeps oil rigs 230 miles off Tampa Bay and 125 miles off the Florida Panhandle. The new bill and Dorgan's amendment would bring Panhandle rigs within 45 miles of shore.

LeMieux also said he had concerns about President Barack Obama's health care proposal, while saying some ideas are good. That and other issues in the video.

Posted by Alex Leary at 04:11:03 PM on September 10, 2009

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George LeMieux vs. Bill Nelson in 2012?

"I'm not focused on running for any political positon in 2010 or 2012," LeMieux said. "I have no plan to run for political office at this time. I'm focused on this position. I've got a lot to learn and do in 16 months. I'm not worried about the next job, I'm focused on this job."

Alex Leary, Times staff writer

Posted by Adam Smith at 03:55:20 PM on September 10, 2009

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Sen. Dan Gelber, Rep. Keith Fitzgerald: Alter budget process to stop Sansom-like deals

In the aftermath of a lawmaker's indictment and a scathing grand jury report into the Legislature's budget process, a pair of legislators want voters to amend Florida's Constitution to require more Sunshine in the state Capitol.

The proposed constitutional amendment by Miami Sen. Dan Gelber and Sarasota Rep. Keith Fitzgerald would require higher standards for open meetings, budget writing and public records.

Gelber, who first started pushing for more open meetings two years ago, said a Tallahassee grand jury's indictment of Destin representative and former House Speaker Ray Sansom over his handling of the budget underscored the need for a change. The grand jury also bashed the Legislature for too much secretiveness.

"It doesn't take a grand jury report and the indictment of a House speaker to know that Tallahassee needs to reform the way it does its business," Gelber said.

Marc Caputo, Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau

Posted by Mary Ellen Klas at 03:31:54 PM on September 10, 2009

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Sen. George LeMieux is sworn in

U.S. Sen. George LeMieux just took the oath of office, capping a remarkable rise to prominence for the mild-mannered native son of Broward County and close adviser to Gov. Charlie Crist.

With dozens of friends looking on, LeMieux placed his hand on a Bible and took the oath of office from Vice President Joe Biden at 2:55 p.m.

Posted by Alex Leary at 02:55:36 PM on September 10, 2009

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Atwater: October special session unlikely, too many gambling concerns (oil, too!)

Senate President Jeff Atwater, who is concerned about "questions" raised by his review of the gambling compact the governor recently signed, now calls an October special session to ratify the compact "highly unlikely."

In a memo sent today to senators, Atwater says gambling is "a complex issue and conducting a thorough analysis will take time. We have a responsibility to exercise due diligence to ensure we understand the long-term ramifications of the proposed Compact."

During the final days of compact negotiations, a provision was added to make it easier for the Palm Beach Kennel Club get slot machine gaming in Atwater's home county. The measure had not been in the original proposal adopted by the Legislature but was added by House negotiator Rep. Bill Galvano who said it was approved by Atwater and his gambling negotiator, chief of staff Budd Kneip. The provision was rejected by the tribe and the governor and it is among several provisions sought by lawmakers that are not part of the compact they signed.

Atwater's memo also suggests oil drilling isn't going to be debated on the chamber floors any time too soon. Offshore drilling involves policy decisions "that are not well served by undue haste," he writes. "If, or when, the Senate takes up this issue it will be in a manner that allows for sufficient time to debate the facts and the merits of such policy."

Read for yourselves here:

TO:

All Senators

FROM:

President Jeff Atwater

SUBJECT:

Gaming Compact

DATE:

September 10, 2009

I want to provide you an update on where we are with regard to the proposed Gaming Compact signed by Governor Crist and the Seminole Tribe. I appreciate your phone calls and input. An initial review has raised questions regarding some of the terms of the Compact. I have directed Senate staff to work with the Governor's office to receive additional clarification. Attached is a letter I have sent to Governor Crist today, apprising him of our request.

At this time an October special session is highly unlikely. This is a complex issue and conducting a thorough analysis will take time. We have a responsibility to exercise due diligence to ensure we understand the long-term ramifications of the proposed Compact. I will continue to keep you updated. I know we all remain committed to working in a deliberative manner towards a resolution that benefits all Floridians.

Additionally, there have been some recent news reports regarding expanding a special session to include offshore drilling. As you all are aware, this issue involves a series of complex conversations with a variety of interests and impacts throughout our State. There are policy decisions to be considered that are not well served by undue haste. If, or when, the Senate takes up this issue it will be in a manner that allows for sufficient time to debate the facts and the merits of such policy. The citizens of Florida deserve a thoughtful and deliberative process that establishes a factual baseline for our conversations.

Thank you for your hard work on behalf of the people of Florida.

Posted by Shannon Colavecchio at 11:49:29 AM on September 10, 2009

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Herald/Times Video: Rep. J.C. Planas blasts House Speaker Larry Cretul

Comparing House Speaker Larry Cretul to a dictator, a Miami state representative Wednesday filed a formal complaint alleging that his fellow Republican broke House rules by reshuffling committees without a vote of the full chamber.

Rep. J.C. Planas acknowledges that his complaint is rare, ultra-wonky and unpopular with some fellow Republicans. But he said someone needed to stand up and stop current and future leaders of the House from acting like strongmen.

"The fact that Hugo Chávez in Venezuela reshuffles the legislative deck so he can get his items passed is something that's bad enough,'' Planas said. ``But the fact that the members of a committee can be shuffled this way in Tallahassee, Florida, should be completely unacceptable.''

Cretul's spokeswoman, Jill Chamberlin, said the speaker had no comment on Planas' allegations nor his complaint. Complaint here:Download PlanasComplaint (http://miamiherald.typepad.com/files/planascomplaint-1.doc). Story here (http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics/florida/story/1225967.html).

Posted by Times Editor at 07:52:54 AM on September 10, 2009

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Organizing for America's Let's Get it Done bus tour hits Interstate 4

Organizing for America's national "Let's Get It Done" bus tour rallying for health care reform hits Orlando at 10 .m. Saturday and Tampa at 4 p.m. Also a Tallahassee news conference is planned. Details to come.

Posted by Adam Smith at 07:29:45 AM on September 10, 2009

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PSC bans texting as records questions mount

As Public Service Commission chairman Matthew Carter Wednesday ordered his agency to disable all text messaging on state-issued BlackBerrys, questions continued about whether PSC staff used the devices to skirt public records laws. Download Carter 09.09.09 e-mail (http://miamiherald.typepad.com/files/chairman-carter-09.09.09-e-mail.doc) More here (http://www.miamiherald.com/486/story/1225968.html).

Three staff members who have been asked to resign or have been placed on administrative leave for exchanging private messaging codes with an FPL attorney were allowed to continue using their BlackBerrys -- which public records experts say will make it difficult to recover the instant messages, if there are any.

"This is extremely troublesome to me,'' said Barbara Petersen, executive director of the Florida First Amendment Foundation, who said the messages remain on the internal memory of BlackBerry phones.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Nathan Skop asked the PSC's inspector general to take additional measures to squelch such communication, including banning all handheld electronic communications devices from the PSC hearing room and purchasing software to allow the commission to more carefully monitor BlackBerry use. Download Steven Stolting 09.09.09 e-mail (http://miamiherald.typepad.com/files/steven-stolting-09.09.09-e-mail.doc)

And Commissioner Lisa Edgar asked for an internal policy review because "they have not kept up with the rapidly evolving" world of communications devices. Download PR_ITrequest (http://miamiherald.typepad.com/files/pr_itrequest.pdf)

Posted by Mary Ellen Klas at 07:25:02 AM on September 10, 2009

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