Monday, March 30, 2009

Republican Culture of Corruption

It's not just a fact any more, it's a logo. Well, three logos designed by Sarah Coleman...

Upcoming State Democratic Party Events

Here's the tentative upcoming FDP schedule:

April 6 and May 31, 2009 – Qualifying period for the FDP State Conference

May 30 – FDP Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, Fountainbleu Hilton, Miami Beach, Florida

May 31 – FDP Central Committee and FDP Executive Committee meetings, Fountainbleu Hilton Miami Beach, Florida

October 9-11 - 2009 FDP State Conference, Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Florida

Senator Deutch and Senator Altman announce “Protecting Florida’s Health” legislation

Senator Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton) and Senator Thad Altman (R-Viera) today announced sweeping legislation aimed at reducing the burden on Florida’s Medicaid program caused by tobacco use by targeting all tobacco products sold in the Sunshine State.

Sponsored by Senator Deutch, Senate Bill 1840, now named “Protecting Florida’s Health,” is a multi-pronged approach to tobacco use: not only is it intended to deter new tobacco users, but also to increase the amount of revenue available to cover associated health care costs by levying an increased surcharge on all tobacco products, such as cigars and snuff.

The legislation is backed by the Florida Chapter of the American Cancer Society, which joined the lawmakers in supporting the broadening of the original bill. Other lawmakers in attendance included Senator Nan Rich (D-Weston) and Senator Durrell Peaden (R-Crestview).

“This bipartisan legislation is about protecting health and promoting responsibility,” said Senator Altman, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance and Tax. “Our committee has conducted several workshops aimed at identifying policies that impede tax fairness. I believe this legislation is an excellent first step. It brings accountability and fairness to our system by reducing the burden currently borne by non-tobacco users.”

Medical studies clearly show the impact of tobacco use on the body. But while cigarette smokers have traditionally been the primary focus, research clearly shows a direct link between those using other tobacco products such as cigars and chewing tobacco and higher risks of certain cancers and other illnesses.

For example, tobacco products taken orally contain 28 cancer-causing agents and increase the risk of developing cancer of the mouth and pancreas. The health care costs associated with treating these tobacco-related illnesses are largely covered through the state’s Medicaid system.

“Tobacco use is a personal choice,” said Senator Deutch. “Yet that choice impacts non-smokers in the form of increased health care costs, which are currently borne by all Floridians. We are able to recoup these otherwise unrecovered Medicaid costs by holding users responsible for their actions. This legislation will also help to prevent young people from taking up smoking, and ultimately lead to a healthier future for our state.”

The additional revenue the state collects will be directed not only to Medicaid costs associated with tobacco use, but to other areas of critical need within Florida’s health care budget.

Record Number Sponsor Florida Gay Rights Bills

Palm Beach County Human Rights Council:

Forty Florida legislators are working to enact a statewide law to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in employment, housing and public accommodations.

At the request of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, state senator Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton) and state representative Kelly Skidmore (D-Boca Raton) have introduced legislation (SB 2012/HB 397) to expand the protected classes in both the Florida Civil Rights Act and Florida's Fair Housing Act.

The Council is a non-profit organization that has been in the forefront of Florida's gay rights movement since 1988.

"For the first time in history, 25 percent of our state lawmakers are on record supporting legislation to ensure that gay, lesbian and transgender individuals have the same rights as all other Floridians," said Council president Rand Hoch.

Earlier this year, Deutch enlisted seven of his colleagues in the Florida Senate to co-sponsor his bill. He is also working closely with Senate President Jeff Atwater ( R-North Palm Beach), who has pleaded to help move the Senate bill forward this session. The bill is assigned to the Commerce Committee, which last year overwhelmingly supported the Deutch bill by a vote of 7-1.

"Hardworking Floridians should not be fired from their jobs just because they are gay," said Deutch.

In the Florida House of Representatives, Skidmore has secured the co-sponsorships of 31 lawmakers for her bill (HB 397).

"All Floridians should have the opportunity to earn a living and provide for their families without fear of being unfairly fired or denied housing for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance or their ability to maintain their homes," said Skidmore."The time has come for Florida to join the twenty other states which protect gay and lesbian employees from being unfairly fired."

The Skidmore bill has yet to be assigned to committee by the House leadership.

"Unlike Senator Atwater, Speaker of the House Larry Cretul (R-Ocala) does not yet understand the urgency of this legislation," said Hoch.

Republican Governor Charlie Crist, a strong advocate for civil rights, has not indicated whether he would sign the bill when it gets to his desk.

Since 1990, seven counties and ten cities in Florida have amended their fair employment and housing laws to cover sexual orientation, and/or gender identity or expression. Such laws are in effect in Broward, Leon, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Orange, Palm Beach and Pinellas counties, as well as in the cities of Gulfport, Gainesville, Key West, Lake Worth, Miami Beach, Orlando, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Tampa and West Palm Beach.

"We need a statewide law," said Hoch. "Well over half of all Floridians who face this type of discrimination have no legal recourse. Where you live and work in Florida should not determine your civil rights."

Twenty states and the District of Columbia have enacted fair employment and housing laws covering sexual orientation. The most recent thirteen of these states to enact such laws and the District of Columbia also have included gender identity or expression.

As a result of these laws, 52% of the U.S. population now lives in
jurisdictions protecting gay men and lesbians from discrimination. Thirty-nine percent of the U.S. population now lives in jurisdictions that also protect individuals based on their gender identity and/or expression.

All seven states whose civil rights laws include only sexual orientation are considering legislation this year to add gender identity or expression.

In addition to Florida, fifteen other state legislatures are considering bills to add both sexual orientation and gender identity and/or expression to their civil rights laws.

Polling data for the past thirty years has consistently shown that
Americans believe gays and lesbians should have equal rights in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

In May 2008, a poll was conducted of more than 1,000 voters across the state. When asked whether homosexuals should have the same rights as everyone else to housing, job opportunities and public accommodations, 89% responded "yes."

Political party identification had little statistical impact on the results. Eighty-seven percent of Republicans, 90% of Democrats and 93% of Independents all support equal rights for gay and lesbian Floridians.

Age and gender also have no impact on support of equal rights. 88% of Florida voters 55 and over support equal rights for gay men and lesbians, as do 90% under age 55. Similarly, 90% of women and 88% of men are supportive.

Floridians' sense of fairness is mirrored across America. According to nationwide polls conducted annually for the past quarter-century by the Gallup Organization, 89% of all Americans 18 years or older believe that gay men and lesbians should have equal employment rights. This percentage has been constant since 2004.

More than 90% of the Fortune 500 companies have written policies prohibiting workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and a quarter of them also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

Joining Deutch as co-sponsors of the civil rights bill are state senators Dan Gelber (D-Miami Beach), Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa), Charlie Justice (D-St. Petersbeurg), Nan Rich (D-Weston), Jeremy Ring (D-Margate), Chris Smith (D-Fort Lauderdale) and Eleanor Sobel (D-Hallandale Beach).

The thirty co-sponsors of Skidmore's bill include Representatives Joseph Abruzzo (D-Wellington), Mary Brandenburg (D-West Palm Beach), Ronald Brisé (D-North Miami), Dwight Bullard (D-Miami), Chuck Chestnut (D-Gainesville), Gwyn Clarke-Reed (D-Deerfield Beach), Keith Fitzgerald (D-Sarasota), Luis Garcia (D-Miami Beach), Joe Gibbons (D-Hallandale Beach), Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville), Bill Heller (D-St. Petersburg) Evan Jenne (D-Dania Beach), Marty Kiar (D-Davie), Rick Kriseman (D-St. Petersburg), Janet Long (D-Seminole), Mark Pafford (D-West Palm Beach), Ari Porth (D-Coral Springs), Kevin Rader (D-Delray Beach), Scott Randolph (D-Orlando), Betty Reed (D-Tampa), Michelle Rehnwinkel Vasilinda (D-Tallahassee), Yolly Roberson (D-Miami), Maria Sachs (D-Delray Beach), Franklin Sands (D-Weston), Ron Saunders (D-Key West), Elaine Schwartz (D-Hollywood), Darren Soto (D-Orlando), Richard Steinberg (D-Miami Beach), Priscilla Taylor (D-West Palm Beach) and Jim Waldman (D-Coconut Creek).

House Republicans Vote to Increase Class Sizes

Martin Kiar:

“House Republicans and their public relations’ operatives proved with great fanfare today that they don’t fully grasp their own members’ legislation.

“Representative Anitere Flores should be allowed to have a meeting with Representative Will Weatherford, the sponsor of House Joint Resolution 919, so that she can better understand his proposal.

“What Representative Weatherford should explain to Representative Flores is that under HJR 919, Republicans voted in lock-step today to increase class sizes from 18 to 21 for kindergarten through third grade, from 22 to 27 for fourth through eighth grade, and from 25 to 30 for high school.

“House Democrats proposed major changes to the misguided Republican plan that would have required the state to complete the last---and most crucial---step toward phasing in the Class Size Amendment in 2010.

“Democrats sought to give school districts greater flexibility while also continuing the effort to ease crowding in public school classrooms and provide needed funding to our children’s education.

“In contrast, the Republican plan could hinder the goals of the voter-approved Class Size Amendment. The Republican plan would increase class sizes, potentially kill future funding for improving the teaching environment, and stall student learning gains.”

Legislation by Sen. Rich Garners Seniors and Children Greater Safety Net

Foster care children and seniors in Florida came a step closer to improved protections with the passage on Wednesday of a series of bills sponsored by Senator Nan Rich (D-Weston).

The legislation, passed unanimously by the Senate Children & Families, would do the following:

· SB 1128 ensures that children with disabilities receiving an education while in DCF custody have a surrogate parent appointed to act in the place of a parent in making educational decisions and safeguarding the child’s educational rights.

· SB 2240 authorizes and directs the Governor to execute an updated Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) on behalf of Florida. The ICPC provides a uniform set of regulations meant to ensure that children placed across state lines for purposes of adoption or foster care are placed with individuals who are safe, suitable, and able to provide proper care.

· SB 666 authorizes counties to create by ordinance an independent special district to provide senior services countywide. In order to levy ad valorem taxes to fund the independent special district, the county governing body must obtain approval from the majority of electors in the county voting. These provisions are modeled on similar statutory provisions Children’s Services Districts.

“Where society is weakest we’ve tightened the safety net,” said Rich, a passionate advocate for children and the elderly. “These bills improve the future for our children and the present for our seniors. We owe them both our full legislative support.”

SB 1128 and SB 2240 will now head to the Senate Judiciary Committee. SB 666 next heads to the Senate Finance and Tax Committee.

Thurman: Obama's Budget Is A Critical Element of Broader Economic Recovery


As the debate over President Obama's budget continues in Congress, Florida Democratic Party Chair Karen Thurman issued the following statement to reiterate her support for President Obama's budget plan:

"Residents across Florida are struggling. With unemployment continuing to rise, people are tightening their belts and making adjustments large and small in their own fight to get by.

"As we heard again from the President this week, his budget proposal is centered around four core principles: making healthcare affordable for all Americans, investing in clean energy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, investing in education so American students are competitive in the global marketplace and cutting the budget deficit in half by the end of his first term.

"The President understands that it took us a long time to fall as far as we have, and that it will take patience and persistence to get us back to where we want to be. President Obama's budget makes strong, sustainable investments in America's future to ensure that the foundation on which we build this economic recovery is solid, and that it provides the real growth Americans need in the long term.

"We are already seeing indications that President Obama's plans are beginning to work -credit is beginning to flow again to families and small businesses, and we're seeing signs of increased home sales for the first time in a long time.

"There's no denying that this is a difficult time. But President Obama has made it clear he's willing to make the tough choices and do the hard work with Congress and leaders here in Florida to get our country back on track. That is why as Floridians, we must support President Obama's budget that invests in America's future, grows our economy and puts us back on the road to prosperity."

New Report: Obama Budget Proposes Direct College Aid for 14,370 More Students In Florida

Campaign for America's Future:

An additional 14,370 students in Florida would receive Pell Grants if excessive lender subsidies are cut, according to a new report released today by the Campaign for America’s Future. Today’s report shows that this simple change would provide an average Pell Grant of $3,276 to about 299,160 students across the state.

With the average cost of tuition at a public college in Florida increasing by 4 percent between 2000 and 2007, President Obama’s budget calls for a cut in lender subsidies to make the financial aid system more efficient.

Campaign for America’s Future co-director Robert Borosage said the president’s budget proposals would make major changes to the federal financial aid system so more families can pay for college.

“Family incomes and college grants haven’t kept pace with soaring tuition costs,” said Borosage. “No student should be priced out of the college they need to succeed in the modern economy. With more and more high school graduates putting off higher education because they can’t afford it, the president’s budget would help provide the change students and families need.”

The college affordability proposals in the president’s budget would increase and expand Pell Grants and Perkins loans, make the American Opportunity Tax Credit permanent, broaden the U.S. Department of Education Direct Loan program, phase out bank loan subsidies and create state and federal partnerships to help students complete their college education.

Hothead Hasner Gets Heated; Plays Partisan Politics With Florida's Paychecks


epublican House Leader Adam Hasner, once again showing that he puts partisan politics above the people of Florida, is ready to reject $1.1 billion in federal recovery aid to help Floridians that have fallen on hard times during this economic slump.

As the Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times Tallahassee Bureau reported today, "Florida is on the verge of forfeiting more than $1 billion in federal stimulus funds that could help 250,000 Floridians whose unemployment benefits are running out."

"Adam Hasner doesn't get it. With the Florida Agency for Workforce Investment reporting that our state's unemployment is at 8.6 percent, Florida's families are struggling to pay the bills. Rather than working to ease the pain of Floridians, who have lost their jobs in this economic crisis, Hasner is pushing his extremist agenda, gambling with Florida's economy and hurting families across the Sunshine State. Instead of playing partisan politics with Floridians' paychecks, hotheaded Hasner and his House Republicans need to immediately stop their posturing and join the bi-partisan efforts to help over 250,000 Floridians whose unemployment benefits are running out," said Eric Jotkoff, Florida Democratic Party spokesman.

House Dems Call For Stimulus to Help the Unemployed

From the House Dems:

Dear Speaker Cretul:

On behalf of the Florida House Democratic Caucus, I write to express our strong interest in joining House Republicans to develop compassionate legislation to ensure that Florida receives the maximum available federal economic stimulus funds for unemployment compensation.

As you know, Florida is eligible to receive up to $1.1 billion in federal aid for jobless Floridians, including $444 million that could be used for the payment of benefits and/or to support the administration of unemployment or reemployment services – both of which are critical to re-energize our state’s economy.

These vital funds will help the 250,000 or more Floridians whose unemployment benefits are running out. If implemented in Florida, the stimulus program could provide up to 20 additional weeks of unemployment benefits to residents who would otherwise lose their benefits this year if they continue to have trouble finding a new job.

The unemployment crisis of our state is horrific---and may get worse. There are estimates that more than 100,000 more people could become eligible for unemployment benefits between now and June 30, 2010.

Florida House Democrats support passing any necessary legislation, including giving state spending authority, for Florida to use every available dollar of federal economic stimulus to benefit our citizenry.

The current economic crisis demands action. As Governor Charlie Crist has recently noted, any consequences to the state budget or Florida employers that would take effect after federal stimulus dollars are spent can be revisited later by the Florida Legislature and other state officials. Those consequences, however, pale in comparison to the tragedies facing many Florida families who are battling unemployment and the looming threat of joblessness.

Additionally, I suggest that it makes economic sense for Florida to take advantage of all the available federal economic recovery money. It has been stated that every dollar spent in unemployment compensation is returned to the economy more than two-fold. Unemployment benefits work as direct economic stimulus for Florida employers. We are recommending action that would be good for Florida businesses and the overall economy.

Our state’s unemployment rate for January exceeded 8 percent and it is expected to rise. Now is the time for the Florida Legislature to make a bipartisan statement on behalf of working men and women and those who are struggling because of recent layoffs.

Florida is reportedly one of 14 high-unemployment states that have yet to act in order to receive their federal injection of extended benefits. This is unfortunate, and we need to urgently take actions to help our people.

I sincerely appreciate your help in bringing Democrats and Republicans in the Florida Legislature together on this vital issue of our day.

Franklin Sands
House Democratic Leader

McCollum's Spin Fails to Make Up For Wasting Millions On Ads


Reacting to Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum's continued defense of his self-promoting no-bid contract for his partisan consultant to run millions of dollars in ads that does more to help McCollum's political campaign than children across the Sunshine State, Florida Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff released the following statement Friday afternoon:

"There's not enough make-up in the world to cover up wasting millions of tax dollars on a no-bid campaign consultant contract during such tough economic times - and Bill McCollum should know.

"While McCollum tries to conceal the fact that his campaign-style ads do more to promote himself than protect Florida's children, people struggling to get by in these hard economic times would blush if caught spending $550 on make-up.

"Not even the prettiest perfume could cover up the stench coming of McCollum's running ads to promote himself while cutting the budget for cybercrimes investigations that put predators behind bars.

"McCollum's waste compounds the Republican Party's problem of rampant waste, fraud, and abuse in Tallahassee.

"The Legislature should prevent elected officials from spending our tax dollars on make-up by creating a lipstick limit to stop McCollum from having any more Mary Kay moments.

"Rather than pointing fingers, polishing over the fact that these ads do more to promote the Republican Attorney General than protect public safety, McCollum should scrap the self-promoting no-bid contract for his partisan consultant.

"Instead, so we can build a foundation of knowledge for Florida's children, McCollum should have a competitive bidding process to create a genuine public education effort to keep our kids safe from cyber predators."

Sands: "The Time Is Right To Use Federal Stimulus Dollars"

Florida House Democratic Leader Franklin Sands issued the following statement today regarding the announcement that Florida’s unemployment rate reached 9.4 percent in February:

“Florida’s economy is in dire straits and the economic downturn is getting worse for Florida’s families,” said Leader Sands. “It is essential that our state and federal governments act on several fronts to stabilize the economy.

“The recovery package passed by Congress is a good first step, and those monies are beginning to flow. But we must do our part in the Florida Legislature. We should approve House Bill 1333, an unemployment compensation measure by Representative Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach, and take other necessary actions to maximize the available federal stimulus dollars for unemployment compensation.

“House Bill 1333 deserves a fair hearing. It provides a pathway for Florida to get up to $1.1 billion in federal aid for jobless Floridians, including $444 million that could be used for the payment of benefits and/or to support the administration of unemployment or reemployment services.”

“It’s time for House Republican leaders to end their hesitation and political posturing. We ask them to join House Democrats in taking bold steps to ease the struggle for the burgeoning numbers of jobless Floridians.

“Florida House Democrats understand that our citizens want solutions and not vague or indefensible explanations about why we shouldn’t use Florida’s full and fair share of economic stimulus dollars.

“This is not a time for fear. Rather, we believe this is a time for courage and hope. Difficult times like these require historic levels of cooperation---bipartisan cooperation. Thus, Republican legislators can work with us in developing the necessary statutory changes to maximize Florida’s full and fair share of federal economic stimulus for unemployment compensation.”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Anti-Union Lies From Florida Republicans

Instead of dealing with actual problems, here's how our legislators are wasting their times:



ANSWER: The right to cast a secret ballot in federal, state and local elections is already guaranteed and protected in the Florida Constitution.

THE CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA, ARTICLE VI, SECTION 1. Regulation of elections. All elections by the people shall be by direct and secret vote.

· Under Article VI, Section 1, the right to cast a secret ballot in federal, state and local elections is already guaranteed and protected.

· House Republican Leader Adam Hasner’s House Joint Resolution 1013 is not about the protection of secret ballots at the voting booth.

· Floridians cherish their right to cast their vote in secret. That’s why the Constitution preserves and protects Floridians privacy to cast their vote by a secret ballot.

· HJR 1013 distracts from the Legislature’s biggest task: improving the state’s economy, protecting school children and teachers from funding cares, and ensuring better health care for more Floridians.

Bill by Senator Justice to Stop the Frivolous Use of Public Funds Passes Unanimously Through First Committee‏

Local governments’ inappropriate spending of public funds to advocate for or against an issue will be prohibited under a measure passed unanimously on Wednesday by the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee.

Sponsored by Senator Charlie Justice (D- St. Petersburg), Senate Bill 216 won approval after lobbyists for the cities and counties failed to defend the practice of using taxpayers’ money to campaign on referendum initiatives.

“It is philosophically wrong to use voters’ money to tell them how to vote,” Senator Justice said. “We owe it to our constituents to reign in this wasteful practice.”

Municipalities all over the state have waged countless campaigns fighting for and against various initiatives, often spending massive amounts of money to advocate a certain position. One instance in Volusia County pitted the cities against a county initiative to consolidate services. Ten cities poured more than $160,000 into a campaign to convince voters to defeat the initiative.

“In this rough economic time, public funds should be spent on services, education and infrastructure. Not political advertisements,” Senator Justice concluded.

Senate Bill 216 is up next in the Community Affairs committee. Representative Janet Long (D- St. Petersburg) is sponsoring the bill in the House.

The Florida House Republican Anti-Worker Secret Ballot Plan: It’s a Trojan Horse.

House Joint Resolution 1013 is the Florida House Republican’s newest Trojan Horse. Like the Trojan Horse of Greek legend, HJR 1013 seeks to catch people off guard by creating a distraction from the Legislature’s top priorities.

When will House Republicans focus on the priorities that concern Floridians, like how to resolve Florida’s budget crisis, improve the economy, grow new jobs, and improve schools and health care for all Floridians?

Maybe It Should Have Been Maybelline; AG McCollum Wastes Hundred of Taxpayer Dollars on Makeup

Included in the thousands of documents that Republican Attorney Bill McCollum handed over yesterday to the Florida Democratic Party, the production budget shows that McCollum spent $550 of taxpayer's money on his makeup.

The budget also shows that the Attorney General spent nearly $1000 to fly in his long-time Republican political consultant to Florida to produce the ads, rather than saving taxpayers money and boosting our economy by using a Florida based firm.

"The Attorney General has a solemn duty to protect Florida's children from predators. Unfortunately, Bill McCollum chose to run nearly $2 million in TV ads promoting his political career instead of public safety. The fact that McCollum spent $550 of the public's money to get his make up done, in an attempt to make himself look good on TV, is especially telling as he desperately tries to defend his ads made by his long-time political consultant who was awarded the no-bid contract. During this severe economic crisis, Bill McCollum's incredible lack of judgment and vanity should shock Florida's taxpayers. Florida Democrats will continue to hold McCollum and his Republican Party accountable for their waste, fraud, and abuse of tax-payer's hard earned dollars."

A Family Doctor for Every Florida Family

Despite having one of the most advanced health care systems in the world, the U.S. consistently shows some of the poorest health outcomes. Although the U.S. spends twice per capita what other major industrialized countries spend on health care, 46 million Americans and nearly 4 million Floridians do not have health insurance.

To change that, State Senator Dave Aronberg (D-Greenacres) on Thursday joined members of the Florida House of Representatives in sponsoring a joint resolution imploring Congress to pass a universal health care measure to lower health care costs for everyone.

“Every family should have a family doctor,” said Sen. Aronberg. “People who work for a living should be able to take their children to the doctor.”

The costs of health care continue to rise faster than income. “Fixing the health care crisis is a critical part of addressing our country’s financial health,” said Sen. Aronberg. “Close to 54% of bankruptcies are a result of medical bills.”

Sen. Aronberg added, “one of every five dollars a family earns goes towards health care. In Florida, we spend $5,500 per person every year for health care, but the doors to doctors’ offices remain closed for many working people,” said Sen. Aronberg. “We need to rethink the way we are providing access to health care. Floridians deserve a better return on this investment.”

Sen. Aronberg points to a troubling trend, further proving that the U.S. health system is on the wrong track. The Common Wealth Foundation has reported that in recent years access to health care has significantly declined. Over the past four years, the number of uninsured or underinsured has increased from 35% to 42%.

“If we kept pace with other industrialized countries, we could prevent up to 101,000 premature deaths in this country due to inadequate or no medical care,” said Sen. Aronberg. “How does the most powerful nation on earth explain to the rest of the world that the health of our people is not a top priority?”

The measure, SM 2642, encourages Congress to pass legislation ensuring every American has access to a doctor. The companion, House Memorial 1061, is sponsored by Representative Joseph Abruzzo (D-Wellington).

U.S. Rep. Kendrick B. Meek Strongly Backs Passage of Executive Bonus Legislation

Today U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek voted to pass bipartisan legislation to tax bonuses given by companies such as AIG that received government rescue funds.

“Congress should not be required to legislate commonsense, but today, we did exactly that,” said Congressman Kendrick Meek. “On a week where the stock market began showing signs of renewed life and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke predicted that the economic downturn would level off in 2009, this scandal has forced us to take our eyes off the ultimate economic prize – the restoration of credibility and integrity to our financial system. Recipient of TARP funds must understand through legislation, public outcry and basic commonsense that bailout dollars are not multicolored Monopoly bills – they are hard earned taxpayer money and the future of our economy rests in the careful stewardship of those financial resources.”

The legislation will tax bonuses from companies that received $5 billion or more in TARP funds at 90% for individuals who earn over $250,000 per year. Currently, the IRS withholds 25 percent from bonuses less than $1 million and 35 percent for bonuses more than $1 million dollars.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Alan Grayson Going Off On CEO Exec. Liddy

More of this, please:

Don’t backtrack on commitment to reduce class size

Guest column by Representative Martin Kiar, D-Parkland, Florida House Democratic Ranking Member of K-12 Education Issues.

More than six years ago, Floridians approved the constitutional Class Size Reduction Amendment, which demands that the Legislature provide our children with smaller class sizes and better learning environments.

In the current lawmaking session, a proposed joint resolution would place on the 2010 ballot a new amendment that significantly alters class-size requirements for public schools.

I have concerns about putting another joint resolution on the ballot. It is my belief that the current class-size requirements should be made more flexible through statute rather than another constitutional amendment. A statutory fix by the Legislature would be the best and most efficient way to provide relief to our school districts. Such a move would provide needed flexibility.

The existing amendment requires every classroom to meet certain caps: 18 students in kindergarten through 3rd grades; 22 students in 4th through 8th grades; and 25 students in 9th through 12th grades.

The proposed resolution maintains those standards but changes the current hard classroom caps to merely requiring a school to maintain an average student-teacher ratio. The practical effect would be an increase of three-to-five additional students in core curriculum classrooms, such as reading, math and science. Schools would be able to fall below the school-wide average by having fewer children in specialty classes, such as art and music.

Eroding the existing class size amendment doesn’t make sense. Our state ranks among the worst in per-capita funding of our education system. But thanks at least to the Class Size Amendment, the Legislature has been forced to put more than $18 billion into overcrowded schools that would have gone unfunded.

Our state has attracted high quality teachers, in part, because the current Class Size Amendment has provided crucial funding for teacher salaries and has fostered a better teaching environment.

Further, student improvement shown in test scores has proven the value of the current Class Size Amendment. I fear that student learning gains will erode if the proposed joint resolution passes in its current form.

It is my hope that the Legislature can work in a bipartisan manner and make the class-size reduction amendment more flexible through statutory changes within the parameters of the current constitutional amendment.

Sen. Lawson on the Florida Economy

“We have received repeated assurances from the Senate President, the most recent during January’s special session, that everything is going to be on the table. We hope that he honors those promises.

“We vowed then, and we repeat that vow today, that we cannot allow additional cuts to education, health care, or any of the multitude of programs our citizens depend on for their well being. Not when foreclosures are still rising, unemployment is in the double digits, food stamp rolls are swelling, and local counties and towns are being forced to increasingly shoulder the financial burden the state continues to spurn. Especially when a select group of well healed special interests continue their free ride on the backs of the middle class and the poor in our state.

“Ten years of Republican leadership have led us to the despair we see today. If there are any doubts that the people of Florida are tired of this road to nowhere, the leadership need look no further than the election outcome last November.

“We continue to urge the Senate to take the lead, and the House and governor to follow, and stick to the promises made. Close the special interest tax loopholes we’ve targeted. Higher fees, deeper cuts and probation officer layoffs are not the answer. Responsible tax fairness is.

“It’s the kind of change the people seek. And it’s long overdue.”

Alan Grayson on Vieques

Meek Endorsed by the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, AFL-CIO

U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL) was endorsed for his U.S. Senate campaign today by the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, AFL-CIO.

Congressman Meek received the endorsement from IUPAT General President James A. Williams and IUPAT District Council 78 Business Manager/Secretary Treasurer Tim Maitland.

“The members of International Union of Painters and Allied Trades help make up the backbone of the American economy. They work with their hands everyday on the frontlines of our workforce and their membership represents the diverse faces of the American worker. This labor organization knows before anyone else when our economy is failing and when it is succeeding – they are the truest barometer of our recovery,” said Congressman Meek. “IUPAT members are some of the hardest working and most dedicated campaigners in Florida who know how to activate the grassroots and mobilize voters. I am honored to have their support.”

“Now more than ever, Florida needs a leader like Kendrick Meek in the U.S. Senate who has the proven record, determination and ability to make certain working families in this state have every opportunity to live the life they’ve worked so hard for,” said IUPAT General President James A. Williams. “The men and women of the Painters and Allied Trades stand ready to begin their campaign to put this leader for the working class in the United States Senate.”

The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades represents more than 160,000 active and retired construction workers in the crafts of painting, drywall finishing, glass work and floor covering, among others.

Alan Grayson on the Budget and Bailouts

This one is very high on the snark:

Florida's Republicans Holding Education Funding Hostage

Federal economic recovery funds approved by Congress and authorized by President Barack Obama on February 17 will bolster Florida’s schools, provide workforce training and meet other educational needs.

Florida House Democrats believe that these funds can help ease the blow of our state’s financial crisis, bolster our economy and improve Florida’s schools. But when will Florida House Republicans accept Florida’s full and fair share of federal economic recovery funds?

Consider the facts:

· Education Week recently ranked Florida 41st among states in per-capita funding for education.

· Without federal economic stimulus funds, Florida is poised to fall to 2005 levels of classroom funding.

· Florida Per-Student funding (Source: Florida Education Finance Program:

2008-09: $6,860
2007-08: $7,143
2006-07: $6,847
2005-06: $6,154

· Florida’s State University System has suffered at least 10 years of declines in state funding adjusted for inflation (Source: The Miami Herald).

· State funding per university student is at a 20-year low, when adjusted for inflation, according to the Florida Board of Governors (Source: The Miami Herald).

· Florida ranks 49th in education spending for every $1,000 of personal income, according to the U.S. Bureau of Census (Source: Palm Beach Post).

Sen. Deutch Solving Budget Problems the Right Way

Senator Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton) responded to this weekend’s prediction by the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference that his cigarette tax legislation, SB 1840, would raise nearly $900 million in the upcoming fiscal year, noting that in the wake of Friday’s dire prognosis of Florida’s overall budget picture it is more important than ever to expedite consideration of his bill. Deutch pointed out that in addition to potentially plugging certain holes in Florida’s crisis-ridden healthcare budget, including the provision of a recurring source of funding for the perennially-threatened Medically Needy and Medicaid Aged and Disabled programs, his proposal also includes a significant stimulus component with thousands of clean, high-wage jobs in the research and biotech sectors that would help prime the pump of the state’s economic recovery when it is needed most.

“We immediately need to fix our state’s recurring fiscal problems, and assessing cigarettes in a more sensible manner relative to their actual impact on our budget is a great place to start,” said Senator Deutch. He added, “Moving forward, we also should do it in such a way that revenues generated by our tax and fee policies are invested in a healthier, long-term future for Florida. My bill balances that need responsibly.”

Deutch repeated his assertion, shown to be accurate by the state’s own economists, that a dollar increase in the state’s cigarette tax, the 6th lowest in the nation at a mere 33.9-cents per pack, would significantly narrow the gap in what the state collects annually from tobacco users ($430 million) versus what Florida spends on tobacco-related illnesses through the Medicaid program ($1.3 billion). He also lamented the fact that all Florida households, including the roughly 80 percent without a single tobacco user, are saddled with an annual tax burden of $586 to cover the state’s smoking-related Medicaid tab, an increasingly tough pill to swallow in an economy in which many families are struggling just to put food on the table.

“Everyone is looking for an acceptable recipe to address our budget crisis,” Deutch commented. “My bill is equal parts common sense and fairness, and more than 70 percent of Floridians consistently say they want this issue on the table.”

As this weekend’s official revenue estimate was attached to his bill, Deutch urged his colleagues to take up SB 1840, which sits in the Senate Finance and Tax Committee, this coming week. While doing so, the Boca Raton senator also braced for an exceptionally vigorous fight from the opposition, especially given the fact that the stakes are so high in Florida, which realizes more yearly cigarette pack sales than any state in the nation at 1.3 billion, as well as the country’s leading level of tobacco industry marketing expenditures at $930 million.

“I welcome a debate on the question of further lining the pockets of Big Tobacco versus helping to stabilize our budget, save lives, and prevent kids from taking up a deadly habit,” Deutch stated. “There are many tough choices we need to make in Tallahassee, but this isn’t one of them.”

Lastly, Deutch noted that all but four other states, with leadership on both sides of the aisle, have logically increased their cigarette taxes, many on multiple occasions, since Florida last did so way back in 1990. The majority, he noted, have done so in the last five years. Meanwhile, the sunshine state’s budget deficits have exploded, while tobacco companies have flourished.

“This has got to stop,” Deutch stated. “The time has come to put the interests of Florida and its kids first for a change.”

The Republican Civil War

Over the past few weeks there has been a Republican civil war raging in Tallahassee, splitting Florida's GOP into two factions: the Crist "Out-Of-Touch" Republicans and the "Arrogant-Elitist" Republicans.

The Crist Republicans are known for their tone-deaf optimism and out-of-touch, mindless approach to everything. Their governing strategy, which is very similar to George W. Bush's style as President, depends on their belief that policies don't matter as long as you poll everything that you do and every word out of your mouth is straight off the polling. As Steve Bousquet of the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau recently wrote about Crist:

"Most people require the assistance of controlled substances to achieve the level of euphoria expressed by Gov. Charlie Crist. But the tanned man from St. Petersburg has a way of sugarcoating reality so that everything seems right. Are things not as bad as they seem? Or is Crist living in an alternate reality?"

Then there is the other Republican faction, which includes House Republican Majority Leader Adam Hasner and his minions at the Republican Party of Florida. Defined by their elitism and arrogance, they continue to show us that Republicans have no respect for Florida's voters.

They clearly must understand that after a decade of Republicans ruling Tallahassee, their policies have led Florida off a cliff. Now they are acting as if they are the minority party trying to saddle all of Florida's problems on the Democrats. Their entire strategy depends on people across the Sunshine State not understanding that while Democrats have brought change to Washington, Republicans are still ruling Tallahassee. The arrogant-elitist Republicans hope that their devious schemes for Florida's public education system have failed Florida's children so badly that people don't understand the basic structure of our federalist system of government.

While the Out-of-Touch Republicans and the Arrogant-Elitist GOPers are at war with each other, both sides of this Republican rift just keep offering more of the same failed polices that got us into this mess.

Democrats have faith in Floridians. We know that people across the Sunshine State understand that Republican failed economic polices have left Florida in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, Republican corruption is festering across Florida, and Republican fiscal mismanagement has left our state with the worst fiscal crisis in the Florida's history.

That is why as Florida Democrats we are fighting for change. Led by CFO Alex Sink, Democrats are fighting against politics as usual in Tallahassee and demanding accountability.

Democrats are organized and energized for the 2010 elections so we can elect more Democrats to bring change to Florida. Democrats want to change Tallahassee so we can jumpstart Florida's economy and create jobs. Democrats will change Florida to clean up the rampant Republican corruption festering across our state. Democrats are working for change so we can end the Republican waste, fraud and abuse in government and balance the budget without hurting Florida's working families.

By bringing change to Florida, Democrats will build a true partnership with President Obama, so we can ensure that Floridians are safe, that Florida's children can visit a doctor when they are sick, and that our schools can prepare students for the challenges of tomorrow.

Brandenburg Sponsor's Legislation to End Gay Adoption Ban

“There are over 3,000 children in Florida awaiting adoption right now, according to the Department of Children and Families. That is unacceptable. Every child should be able to live in a permanent, loving home,” said Representative Mary Brandenburg (D-Lake Worth). “That is why I filed a bill that that allows judges to approve adoptions based solely on what is best for the child.”

Child psychologists agree with what parents instinctively know: children thrive as family members. Even non-traditional families, such as those headed by a single parent, by grandparents, or by same-sex couples can raise their children successfully. On the other hand, children who languish in foster homes are much more likely to drop out of school, become teen-age parents, and get into trouble with the law.

Right now, Florida allows families headed by gay and lesbian couples to serve as short- and long-term foster parents, but does not allow them to permanently adopt the children they are caring for. “That just doesn’t make sense,” said Rep. Brandenburg. “Why are the standards different for foster parents and permanent parents? Why does the State of Florida continue to deny foster kids the opportunity of living in a forever family? That isn’t fair to the 3,000+ children hoping to escape foster care for a permanent home.” A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University in January, 2009, found that most Floridians believe gay and lesbian people should be permitted to adopt.

Florida is the only state with a statutory ban against same-sex individuals or couples adopting. A Miami judge threw out this law last year, but that decision is under appeal. Rep. Brandenburg’s bill would eliminate the need for lengthy appeals. Rep. Brandenburg’s House Bill 413 would allow a judge to determine, on an individual basis, whether adoption into a specific family would be in the best interest of the child. Senator Nan Rich (D-Sunrise) has filed identical legislation in the Florida Senate.

Aronberg's Legislation to Protect Children on Horses Moves Forward

Senator Dave Aronberg’s (D-Greenacres) legislation to strengthen safety protections for children on horseback passed unanimously in the Senate Agriculture Committee today. “We require children riding bikes to wear helmets. Why shouldn’t we provide these same protections to children riding horses?” Senator Aronberg asked.

Named for Nicole Hornstein, who was killed two years ago after falling from her horse while taking riding lessons, the legislation would require children under 16 to wear helmets when riding horses on public lands. The Wellington teen was not wearing a helmet when she fell.

Since then, the Greenacres Democrat has been actively pushing for passage of the Nicole Hornstein Act, but over the past two years has been unable to win the Legislature’s endorsement of the safety protections. The Senator said he is confident his measure will finally win passage in the 2009 Legislative Session.

“We’ve had to do a lot of educating in Tallahassee,” said Sen. Aronberg. “Fortunately, Nicole’s devoted parents and other loving family members have been dogged in their determination to make sure no family has to suffer such preventable devastation. As support continues to grow, I’m confident that common sense will prevail and we’ll get the legislation passed.”

The measure is sponsored in the House of Representatives by Representative Joseph Abruzzo (D-West Palm Beach).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Good Meek

U.S. Rep. Kendrick B. Meek (D-FL) introduced legislation amending the Internal Revenue Code to provide tax relief to individuals harmed by Ponzi schemes who have paid taxes on “phantom” earned income.

The legislation, H.R. 1159, was referred to the Ways and Means Committee. Congressman Meek serves as the lone Democratic Floridian on that committee.

Individuals who invested in these now exposed Ponzi schemes earned yearly income from these investments and paid taxes to the Department of Treasury on that income. While the principle investment made by these individuals is lost, the Meek bill would provide some measure of relief to individuals and allow them to recoup taxes paid on their perceived income, which was in fact nonexistent income.

Already in 2009, the Securities and Exchange Commission has exposed Ponzi schemes involving Bernie Madoff, Allen Stanford and George Theodule, a South Florida businessman who preyed upon Haitian-American investors.

“When it comes to Ponzi schemes, this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Congressman Meek.

According to a newspaper analysis, in the Ponzi scheme orchestrated by Bernie Madoff alone, of the 11,374 investors affected by the fraudulent investment, nearly one in five, or 2,070 investors are from Florida, second behind New York. Nationally, over 200 non-profits were also affected by the Madoff Ponzi scheme.

“Many innocent victims spent a lifetime working hard, saving wisely and investing conservatively with trusted financial advisors who promised to serve as cautious caretakers of their financial future,” said Congressman Meek. “These investors, many who are older Floridians from retirement communities living on a fixed income, were defrauded and now face an uncertain future. They are liquidating assets, selling real estate, and returning to work in the midst of an economic recession. This legislation provides some degree of relief to harmed investors, allowing them to recoup taxes paid on phantom income. While their initial investment cannot be saved, the taxes paid on that income can.”

Under current law, the carryback period for theft losses arising from a Ponzi scheme is limited to three years, which restricts the ability of older investors to adequately recoup their losses, including taxes previously paid on their phantom income. The Meek legislation would extend the carryback period up to 10 years, which helps older investors who lost retirement savings meet their future needs on their own terms.

The bill also allows individual donors to educational institutions and other charities to replenish their lost gifts, but existing limitations in current law would limit their ability to further fund these organizations.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

South Florida Democrats Seek Help for Haiti

U.S. Rep. Kendrick B. Meek (D-FL) released the following statement after convening today’s meeting with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and South Florida lawmakers concerning granting Temporary Protected Status to Haitians residing in the United States:

“Today’s meeting with Secretary Napolitano and members of South Florida’s congressional delegation, as well as my telephone conversation with the Secretary last week, was productive.

“For eight years congressional leaders who strongly advocated on behalf of Haiti and Haitians were at best, given empty lip service and at worst, ignored. Our repeated requests for meetings were denied and our letters of appeal were left unanswered. There were no glimmers of hope in this ongoing battle we lawmakers and the American people have waged demanding that our government grant Haitians temporary protected status.

“In less than two months since becoming Secretary of Homeland Security, former Governor Janet Napolitano has responded to our urgent calls to conscience swiftly and compassionately. This administration is hearing loudly and clearly the message on TPS that I and so many of my congressional colleagues are raising.

“Our request of the Obama Administration is simple, straightforward and bipartisan: Grant Haitians Temporary Protected Status.”

5 Questions for Karen Thurman

Bad Klein

Ron Klein has bailed out on the EFCA, apparently because he's running for a competitive re-election race (and not for the Senate). Shame on him.

Deutch Cuts Through the Tobacco BS

Senator Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton) immediately responded today to what he labeled wild and irresponsible assertions of dramatically increased smuggling and bootlegging of cigarettes should the state’s excise tax on this leading killer finally be raised after nearly two decades of inaction by the Florida Legislature. The Boca Raton Democrat, whose legislation, SB 1840, would raise by a dollar the nation’s 6th lowest cigarette tax of 33.9-cents per pack, was particularly rankled by overt suggestions by front groups for the tobacco industry that highly organized and even violent criminal activity would arise merely from having a cigarette excise tax in the neighborhood of the national average.

“It’s one thing to grossly exaggerate the impact of cross-border sales, which common sense dictates would be as minimal here as any state given our geography and population centers,” Deutch remarked. “But it’s absolutely reckless to employ scare tactics on Floridians by inventing an infusion of violent crime in a desperate attempt to fight, of all things, a measure everyone knows will save lives rather than endanger them.”

Senator Deutch acknowledged that, as with any product involving an excise tax, collection is never 100 percent effective. He strongly refuted, however, any claims that tax avoidance measures would negate the expected net revenue gains from an increased levy, as experience in virtually every state raising its cigarette tax has proven these allegations to be patently false. He scoffed at the use of the lone known instance of a state, New Jersey, actually losing revenue, albeit only slightly, from a cigarette tax increase, pointing out that the Garden State already had one of the highest levies in the land when it upped its tax to $2.58 per pack.

“Naysayers here can invoke Sopranos-like images all they want,” Deutch observed, “But it can’t change the fact that Florida has one of the very lowest cigarette taxes to begin with. It also belittles the strong commitment of Florida’s highly capable state and local law enforcement apparatus.”

Deutch indicated that noticeably absent from today’s statements by his bill’s detractors was acknowledgement of a concurrent effort in Georgia to up its existing cigarette tax of 37-cents by a dollar, as well as the significantly increased resources included in SB 1840 to combat wrongdoing. His legislation contemplates an increase of approximately $1.5 million per year for enforcement through the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. That money, he noted, in addition to being used to shore up any allegedly ‘tobacco porous’ borders and ports, could be relegated to continually upgrading Florida’s cigarette tax stamps to state-of-the-art technology, as well as to enforcement of laws banning tobacco sales to minors. Given that 90 percent of smokers start in their teens or even earlier, a heavy focus should be directed towards keeping cigarettes out of the hands of kids, Senator Deutch maintained.

“Merchant groups seem overly concerned about lower cigarette pack sales due to higher cigarette prices when those same customers that will kick the habit are just as likely to spend their money on less life-endangering products in the very same retail outlets” Deutch said. “More milk in the fridge and more bread on the table is surely a win-win for both the state’s merchants and Florida’s families.”

Lastly, Deutch expressed grave doubts concerning the tobacco industry front groups’ assertions of a projected loss of 2,400 jobs merely due to an increase in Florida’s excise tax on tobacco, calling it a bogus attempt to prey upon the fears of Floridians during troubled economic times, while also noting that passage of his legislation would result in tens of thousands of clean, significantly higher-wage jobs in the research, bio-tech, and health sectors. Even more importantly, he stated, tens of thousands of Floridians would not lose their lives.

“More lives saved, as well as more and better jobs in this economy, in exchange for a higher tax on a deadly product is a trade the vast majority of Floridians are willing to accept,” Senator Deutch concluded.

Sands Applauds President Obama's Reversal of Restrictions on Stem Cell Research‏

Florida House Democratic Leader Franklin Sands today endorsed President Barack Obama’s expected signing of an executive order reversing restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

President Obama’s executive order is expected to be signed on Monday.

Long a strong proponent of stem cell research, Sands (D-Weston) has proposed creating a fund for Florida to invest in embryonic stem cell research. He has fervently argued that such a fund would deliver an economic boost to Florida and allow nationally-recognized research firms to draw investment capital as well as National Institutes of Health monies.

Legislation sponsored by Representative Sands in 2005 would have made possible embryonic stem cell research and other forms of stem cell research.

“I applaud President Obama’s initiative and understanding of this most critical research need,” Representative Sands said. “We have always maintained hope that this would happen and we are never going to give up this fight because we believe it’s the right thing to do.

“President Obama’s executive order reversing these arbitrary restrictions on federal funding of this research will improve the quality of life for many Floridians and finally open the door to the United States being able to lead the world in conducting such important research.”

Lawson Calls Crist to Task on Stimulus

Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee) on Tuesday called on the Chairman of the powerful Senate Policy and Steering Committee on Ways and Means to bypass a lengthy appropriations process and move instead to authorize immediate approval of stimulus funds for shovel ready transportation projects.

He also sharply criticized the apparent paralysis of the governor to create a federally-mandated website outlining the projects for both job seekers and job bidders, and the inability of the state transportation agency to move the proposed road projects from the draft stage to a final product.

“It has come to my attention that the federal stimulus money may be in jeopardy of speedily reaching those Floridians desperately in need of an economic life raft,” wrote Lawson in a letter to Chairman J. D. Alexander. “There appear to be three impediments to jumpstarting our economy via the stimulus package.”

According to Lawson, the first obstacle is the governor’s office, which has not followed the lead of Georgia or Alabama or any of the 26 states which have their websites up and running. “How are potential job seekers or potential job bidders supposed to know what’s available without the transparency the governor once promised? His office’s assertion that the website “is coming soon” is little consolation to those floundering in cyber silence,” Lawson noted.

The second is the perceived foot-dragging by the Florida Department of Transportation which, according to its own website, has not moved any of the proposed projects from the draft stage first outlined in early December. “Has nothing changed since then?” Lawson asked. “Is the agency prepared to explain why nothing more concrete has emerged to put tens of thousands of unemployed Floridians back to work?”

Lawson noted that while the Legislature may be unable to control the speed with which the governor and his agency move the stimulus plans forward, it does have the power to expedite approval of the road projects. It also has the power to remove potential political pitfalls.

“I don’t believe it is necessary to detail for you the concerns I have about legislative meddling in something so crucial to Florida’s recovery and her families’ survival. You and I are far too familiar with the political posturing and machinations that can occur when billions of dollars are at stake and individual lawmakers are deciding where that money is to go. Manipulation of those funds for political purposes is much too tempting, and I fear for the little guy when the big guys are calling the shots,” Lawson wrote.

“I respectfully request that rather than through a special spending bill, we authorize the Legislative Budget Commission, once the DOT submits a project request, to immediately release the necessary funds in order to get them moving.

“I think you will agree that with unemployment close to 9 percent, the last thing our job seekers want to hear is government bureaucracy impeding their ability to earn a living. AWI’s assertion that they’re ‘hoping it will be this year’ just doesn’t cut it.

“Floridians lining up for jobs are more than ready to don the shovels and get back to work. The power is in our hands to help them get there more quickly.”

Not A High Priority, But A Good Idea

The Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Committee in the Florida House approved today the Nicole Hornstein Act (House Bill 169).

“This bill requires children 16 and under to wear a helmet while riding horseback on public roads and during lessons,” said Representative Joseph Abruzzo (D-Wellington.) “This bill is dedicated to Nicole Hornstein, a 13-year-old child in my district who died in 2006 after being thrown from a horse without wearing a helmet.”

Nicole Hornstein’s family attended the committee meeting. Gary Hornstein, Nicole’s father, testified before the committee and urged members to support the bill. “This bill is a step forward in protecting children and grandchildren who have a passion for riding horses. We look forward to seeing this bill become law,” said Gary Hornstein.

“This bill is an important bill that will ultimately save the lives of many children who are passionate about horseback riding, and it is an honor to sponsor this piece of legislation,” said Abruzzo.

Senator Dave Aronberg (D-Greenacres) is sponsoring the bill in the Florida Senate.

Good Justice

Legislation to enhance the notification requirements for sites contaminated with harmful toxins passed unanimously through the Senate Environmental Committee today. The bill, sponsored by Senator Charlie Justice (D - St. Petersburg), is a direct result of a toxic plume affecting residents of Pinellas County. The plume was discovered in 1991, but residents were not made aware of the contamination until 2008, seventeen years later. During that time, the dangerous chemicals have migrated off site affecting two apartment complexes, three neighborhoods, community parks and schools.

“If we had the kind of notification standards I propose in this bill, the situation in St. Petersburg would not have grown to the level of putting people’s health, property value and trust at risk.” Senator Justice said.

Presently, the Department of Environmental Protection only notifies the county administrator and any residents that have contamination on their property. Senator Justice’s bill will require notification to also be sent to residents living within 1000 feet of the contaminated area, elected officials and community leaders.

“People have the right to know if there are dangerous chemicals potentially affecting their family,” Senator Justice stated. “I am proud to work on this good legislation and ensure that we put a stop to situations like this from happening in the future.”

Senate Bill 114 now goes to the Senate Education Pre-K through 12 committee.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Alan Grayson Is the Man

Seriously, this is awesome:

“I’m sorry Limbaugh called for harsh sentences for drug addicts while he was a drug addict. I’m also sorry that he’s bent on seeing America fail. And I’m sorry that Limbaugh is one sorry excuse for a human being.”

More, please. Meaning more like this from Alan and more Democrats like this.

Ron Saunders Bio

Representative Saunders served in the House of Representatives from 1986 to 1994. He was elected again to the House in 2006 and 2008. He served as House appropriations chairman from 1990 to 1992. He presently is the Democratic Ranking Member on the House Full Appropriations Council on Education & Economic Development.

Representative Saunders, 54, is an attorney and 1976 graduate of the University of Florida. He is a fifth-generation Key Wester. In 1991 and again in 1992, he was voted “Most Effective House Member” by The Miami Herald Poll and has also been the recipient of such awards as the Secretary of State's Legislative Arts Recognition Award and the Florida Jaycees Outstanding Young Floridian.

Representative Saunders is married to Melodie Saunders and is father to their son Ryan. His father, Jack A. Saunders, served in the House of Representatives from Monroe County from 1960 to 1964.

Karen Thurman Remarks on Ron Saunders

Florida Democratic Party Chair Karen Thurman today released the following statement congratulating Rep. Ron Saunders (D-Key West) on being elected Democratic Speaker-designate for the 2010-2012 legislative term:

"Democrats are energized and organized as we work to bring change to Florida. I congratulate Democratic Speaker-designate Ron Saunders and look forward to working with him as we focus on continuing to pick up seats in the Legislature between now and the 2010 elections.

"Having worked closely with Ron, I know that he will be strong and unifying figure as he leads our House Democratic Caucus."

Monday, March 2, 2009

Franklin Sands' Remarks on Speaker-Designate Dean Cannon

“On behalf of the House Democratic Caucus, I offer warm congratulations to Representative Cannon. We look forward to serious discussions with him and his colleagues about the people’s business and how the Legislature should combat the economic challenges facing Floridians.

“As Representative Cannon and his Republican colleagues surely know, Florida is in a serious economic crisis. Our people are deeply worried about their jobs, their financial future, and their children’s education. Today should be a day to begin the healing in a bipartisan manner.

“Like Governor Charlie Crist, Florida House Democrats believe it is vital to use the federal economic recovery funds to resolve our current state budget crisis. We are hopeful that the governor’s wisdom on this matter reaches Representative Cannon and his colleagues in the House Republican Conference.

“It wasn’t ‘borrowing and rampant spending by the private sector’ that created this crisis. Rather, Florida is suffering significantly because of many factors, including the significant tax giveaways under Republican Jeb Bush’s administration.

“The impact of the Bush-era tax cuts is costing the state an estimated $3-billion or more annually. Failure to close loopholes that favor the very rich and special interests are the real culprits. These are the issues that we hope Representative Cannon and his colleagues show the courage to address in the upcoming legislative session.”

Clearly, there are two ways to balance a budget -- cutting spending and raising taxes. We've tried cutting things. It doesn't work and it has many other negative effects. It's time to raise taxes on those who use more government resources than anyone else -- the rich.

FL-Sen: Dan Gelber is the Man

The following post reflects the opinions of Kenneth Quinnell solely, and is not necessarily endorsed by other members of the Florida Progressive Coalition.

Florida currently is in the early stages of a U.S. Senate race to replace congressional waste of space Mel Martinez. Provided that Governor Charlie Crist doesn't jump in the race, the seat should be a solid pick-up opportunity for the Democrats. But we certainly don't want just any Democrat replacing Martinez, we want a progressive Democrat who will fight for our values and will work his or her ass off to make America a better place. That's why I'm personally endorsing Dan Gelber and will do what I can to help him win the primary.

Why Gelber? The reasons are many, but let's start with a big first one -- he's as progressive as legislators come. Dan is a thoughtful man who actually takes the time to understand the issues and how government actions affect people in the real world. And he's a big fan of things like logic, reason and evidence. Combining these things, he comes down on the right side of the issues about as often as anyone I can think of, particularly in the Florida legislature. Take a look at his voting record and you'll be pleased to see such a principled, liberal record from a member of the Florida legislature. And when people hit him with the same old, tired conservative Rush Limbaugh-style attacking points, he's prepared for them and can counter them as good, if not better, than the best pundits and bloggers out there.

We know how Dan thinks and feels on the issues because he doesn't shy away from taking a stand and he comes right to the people and tells us what he's doing and why. A simple look at his blog ( will show you that he's not afraid to take his case to the people. And that use of the blog is another big reason why I support Gelber -- he's on the cutting edge of online technology. As I mentioned, he's a blogger, but he's not just any blogger. Take a look at the average blog from a politician and you'll quickly be asleep. Most of them tend to be boring -- lacking in any passion or anything that might give us some insight into what the politician is thinking or feeling. There isn't anything dangerous on the average politician's blog -- nothing that could get them in trouble. Gelber, on the other hand, is a real blogger. He writes like a blogger who happens to be a politician, not the other way around. We know what he thinks and he doesn't hold back when he goes after the other side. And he does it with a personal touch -- we actually get to know Dan. The Netroots activists of Florida recognized the quality of his blog last year at our statewide awards ceremony by voting him the winner in four categories in our Annual Netroots Awards. That made him the top winner. Bloggers and online activists recognized him as one of us.

With the legislative session that starts today, Gelber is going even further with the use of new media, by livetweeting the Florida legislative session that will meet over the next 60 days. This isn't unprecedented at the national level and I some legislators in other states have done similar things, but Dan is breaking new ground here in Florida. And with the decline of our state and local media, we'll actually know more about what's going on in the capitol by reading Gelber's tweets than we will from reading our newspapers or watching the local news. Gelber has also been a repeat guest on our Florida Progressive Radio show on BlogTalkRadio and has made public appearances at our Netroots events. The point is he's a big supporter of the Netroots and shows that by participating in the things we do even more than many of our bloggers.

Maybe the biggest reason I want Dan Gelber representing me in Washington, though, is that he is a fighter. I've alluded to this a couple of times in terms of his blogging and things like that, but he doesn't just sit behind a computer and throw darts at the opposition, he gets out in the real world and mixes it up with Republicans as often as he can. He knows the legislative rules better than they do and despite being in a steep minority in the House, he was able to slow down Republican activity with procedural moves when they decided to ignore even basic rules of decorum and professionalism and prevent Democrats from even exercising their rights to free speech on the legislative floor. Gelber outmaneuvered Republican "star" Marco Rubio and forced the Republicans to back down and do the right thing. And he has a long track record of fighting the excesses of Florida Republicans, something that will serve him well when fighting Washington Republicans, who are mild compared to the subspecies we face here in Tallahassee. And it isn't just on the floor of the legislature, either, when election time comes around, we know which side Gelber is on and we don't have to worry about him using his position to help Republicans get elected.

None of this is to say that I would have any problem working to make sure that Kendrick Meek or Kevin Burns (or a number of other Democrats if they jumped into the race) won in the general election. Meek has a great voting record and it would be great to have more African-Americans in the Senate. Similarly, Burns would be the first openly-gay member of the Senate and that would be a significant step forward for America. I do question Meek's priorities, though, and I'm unconvinced that Burns could win the general election at this point. I want a proven fighter representing me. I want someone who is on the right side of the issues, knows how the system works and who believes in expanding the tools we use to change our country. I think that candidate is Dan Gelber.