Wednesday, July 22, 2009

U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek Endorsed for U.S. Senate by Former U.S. Senator and Florida Governor Bob Graham

“Senator Graham is the role model U.S. Senator and throughout my lifetime, I have witnessed firsthand how Senator Graham was able to better the lives of the people he represented,” said U.S. Congressman Kendrick Meek. “He worked for Floridians, but also with Floridians by joining us in our everyday lives. Senator Graham understood the challenges our teachers face or the responsibilities our police officers undertake because his primary concern was the well-being of people. I will continue to seek out the guidance and counsel of Senator Graham throughout this campaign and beyond. I am honored to accept his endorsement.”

“Kendrick is a son of Florida who has lived a life of public service,” said Senator Bob Graham. “As a Trooper, he patrolled the highways and byways of our state keeping Floridians safe. When he was elected to the state legislature, Kendrick made education the centerpiece of his agenda, and now in Congress, he is giving Floridians a much needed voice at the legislative table as the public policy issues affecting the nation for generations to come are debated. He has always put the needs of our state first and during these trying times, it is people of deep substance like Kendrick Meek who will help guide our economy from recession to recovery. Endorsing Kendrick is an honor and I look forward to spending time with him and the Meek family on the campaign trail.”

Congressman Meek has received endorsements from Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Congressman Ron Klein, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, Broward County Mayor Stacy Ritter, West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel, Tallahassee Mayor John Marks and Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan.

He has also received endorsements from SEIU, United Teachers of Dade, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, AFSCME, and Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Scott Arceneaux Named Florida Democratic Party Executive Director

Florida Democratic Party Chair Karen Thurman today announced the appointment of Scott Arceneaux as Executive Director for the 2010 election cycle. Additionally, Arceneaux will handle the duties of the Party's Political Director.

"Scott's proven record of success and strong leadership will help Florida Democrats end the status quo and move our state forward. I am excited to work with Chair Karen Thurman and her team to bring change to Florida," said CFO Alex Sink.

"The Florida Democratic Party is in the best shape it has been in years," said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. "We won't miss a beat with Scott."

"As we work to bring change to Florida in 2010, Scott's leadership and experience will be key to our efforts. With Scott's help, the Florida Democratic Party will continue our momentum and seize our historic opportunity to change Tallahassee by electing Alex Sink as our next Governor, electing a strong Democrat to serve with Sen. Bill Nelson in the U.S. Senate, and electing more Democrats to the U.S. Congress, the Cabinet, and Florida's Legislature," said Chair Thurman.

"I am excited to join Chair Thurman and the Florida Democratic Party, as we fight to bring change to Florida and support President Obama's efforts implementing his vision of change. Florida Democrats are organized and energized going into the 2010 campaign. I look forward to helping build upon the party's successes by electing Democrats across Florida," said Arceneaux.

Arceneaux brings to the Florida Democratic Party his extensive experience managing Democratic campaigns across the nation. Most recently, Arceneaux helped State Sen. Creigh Deeds in his stunning Virginia Democratic Primary victory in June. He served as the National Political Director for Chris Dodd's Presidential Campaign. Additionally, Arceneaux was the Executive Director for the Louisiana Democratic Party from 2001 to 2004, where he helped re-elect Sen. Mary Landrieu and elect a Democratic Governor.

FDP Executive Director Leonard Joseph To Join Obama Administration

The Florida Democratic Party today announced that Leonard Joseph, Executive Director since 2006, has been appointed by President Barack Obama to be the Chief of Staff to the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Policy.

"Over the past several years, the Florida Democratic Party has made great strides helping elect strong Democratic leaders who fight to move Florida to a better future. On behalf of the Florida Democratic Party, I would like to thank Leonard for his hard work and tireless commitment over the past several years. While Leonard will be missed, we wish him luck as he moves on," said Chair Karen Thurman.

"It's been an honor to work with the thousands of Floridians who helped in our efforts to bring change to Florida by electing Democrats. For Florida Democrats, the best days are ahead. I look forward to seeing Florida Democrats continue the momentum we have built by making gains at all levels of government in the years to come," said Joseph. "I would like to thank Chair Thurman and the Florida Democratic Party staff for their leadership and friendship."

In his role as Executive Director and prior to that as Political Director, Joseph oversaw the implementation of Chair Thurman's efforts to build a Democratic infrastructure, empower grassroots activists, upgrade technology, and modernize strategies leading to the largest for gains Democrats in a generation.

Since 2005, when Joseph joined the Florida Democratic Party, Democrats have won statewide three times by winning Florida for Barack Obama, re-electing Senator Bill Nelson, and winning our first Cabinet race since 1998 by electing Alex Sink as CFO. Additionally, Democrats have gained 3 Congressional Seats, 10 State House seats, and many county and local offices.

As Chief of Staff, Joseph will work with Assistant Secretary for Policy David Heyman, overseeing the Office of Policy, which strengthens homeland security by developing and integrating Department-wide policies, planning, and programs in order to better coordinate the Department's prevention, protection, response and recovery missions.

Senator Aronberg Continues Prove Into Private Contractors' Salary Hikes

From the Senate Dems:

State Senator Dave Aronberg (D-Greenacres) on Wednesday put a second state agency on notice that he is seeking documentation related to the growing controversy involving taxpayer financed salary raises for the state’s private contractors.

The records are being sought under Florida’s public records laws.

“I am aware of at least two contracts that appear to include automatic salary increases for private vendors doing state work,” wrote the Greenacres Democrat to Michael Sole, Secretary of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection. “These contracts, accounting for hundreds of millions of state dollars annually, appear to include these routine raises as a standard contracting procedure. If this is accurate, it is troubling that state agencies have routinely increased the salaries of private contractors…[while] rank and file state employees – from highway patrol officers to nurses in our state hospitals – have become targets for pay cuts to offset state revenue losses.”

The move by Aronberg follows a similar public records request he sent earlier this week to the state Department of Transportation. Aronberg began his investigation less than two months after legislative attempts by Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee) to halt the little-known practice were unsuccessful during the last days of the 2009 Legislative Session.

Aronberg, an ardent watchdog on privatization and consumer issues, said he was concerned that as Florida’s economic crisis has deepened, the salary hikes to the privately contracted employees appear to be continuing without public scrutiny or legislative oversight. For example, salary hikes for one private contractor went into effect just weeks before the Legislature convened in January for a special session to cut the budget.

“Without disclosure of these private contractors’ spending arrangements, there is no feasible way for legislators to fulfill our proper legislative oversight obligation,” Aronberg wrote. “As a result, untold amounts of tax dollars that could have been used to stave off cuts to law enforcement or other critical public service personnel are being transferred from the State’s coffers into the pockets of private contractors.”

To that end, the Senator filed a request under Florida’s public records laws seeking, among other things, a listing of all private consultant contracts that include the so-called “escalation clauses” approved by DEP from fiscal year 2006 until present, the total amount paid to each of these contractors in escalation clauses, and the amount already committed for the next fiscal year.

Senator Aronberg said he expects to file similar requests with additional state agencies.

“Our struggling taxpayers are getting hit on both ends,” Aronberg said. “Not only are they losing critical programs and services due to budget cuts and layoffs, but they’re simultaneously subsidizing financial bonuses state agencies dole out to private contractors. It’s like ‘Robin Hood gone bad.’ We’re robbing from the poor to give to the rich. And no one is stopping the holdups.”

Friday, July 17, 2009

Meek Hails Historic House Committee Vote to Provide Quality, Affordable Health Care for All Americans

The House Committee on Ways and Means took a historic step today towards providing quality, affordable health care for all Americans by passing its version of the America's Affordable Health Choices Act. The legislation matches President Obama's principles for fixing our health care system by reducing skyrocketing costs, promoting competition among insurance plans to increase choices for patients, and increasing access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

"This time has come for Congress to act. The skyrocketing cost of health care is bankrupting our nation. Guaranteeing all Americans quality, affordable health care is not only the right thing to do for American families, but also an economic imperative that will put our country on a long-term path towards economic recovery and fiscal stability."

"At the same time, I recognize that the bill could still be strengthened. I have already successfully worked with the committee to incorporate provisions that will redistribute unused residency slots around the country to high-need states such as Florida and promote quality and cost-saving alternatives to hospital-based care, including Ambulatory Surgical Centers (ASC), nursing homes, and home health centers. As a representative of Florida, with over 3.1 million Medicare beneficiaries and the largest senior and retiree population in the country, I will continue to work with House leadership to ensure that this legislation meets our state's unique health care needs," said Meek.

"In Florida, over 3,500 people lose their health insurance each week, according to a report issued by the non-profit consumer group Families USA. Simply put, the status quo is unacceptable. I am proud to support comprehensive health care reforms that control costs, preserve choices, and increase access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans."

The bill includes many important provisions, including the creation of a health care exchange where consumers can select their preferred insurance option, including the choice of a new public health insurance plan; an end to denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions; and increased incentives that focus on cost-saving preventive and wellness care.

Herald/Times video: Charlie Crist's fundraising double talk

Charlie Crist won't do what he said he'd do (as usual).


Monday, July 13, 2009

Meek Applauds Florida Higher Education Partnerships with VA to Increase Financial Aid for Veterans

Congressman Kendrick B. Meek today applauded a series of Yellow Ribbon Program agreements between sixty-two colleges and universities across Florida and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to improve financial aid for veterans participating in the Post-9/11 GI Bill Program. The Yellow Ribbon Program, a provision of the new Post-9/11 GI Bill, funds tuition expenses for military veterans that exceed the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition rate. Under the terms of the provision, higher education institutions may contribute up to 50 percent of those expenses and receive matching funding from the VA for eligible students.

"The Post-9/11 GI Bill stands as one of the greatest achievements of the 110th Congress. The bill goes a long way towards ensuring that post-9/11 veterans have the educational benefits they need to make the most of their lives and provide for their families after returning home," Meek said. "Putting this legislation into action by bringing on board over sixty colleges and universities across Florida is a major step forward for our state's veterans and their families."

The Yellow Ribbon Program is reserved for Veterans eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill at the 100 percent benefit level. This includes those who served at least 36 months on active duty or at least 30 continuous days and were discharged due to a service-related injury.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill, passed by the 110th Congress last year, is the most extensive educational assistance program authorized since the original GI Bill was signed into law in 1944.

A list of Florida schools participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program can be found here:

Saturday, July 11, 2009

POF Has Worst 2nd Q Since Before 1996 (When Records Are Online)

RPOF 2009 Q2 is just 38% of their historical Q2 average

From the Division of Elections:

Q2 1996 - $ 2,046,331.95
Q2 1997 - $ 1,722,995.53
Q2 1998 - $ 4,022,598.08
Q2 1999 - $ 1,841,914.33
Q2 2000 - $ 2,889,420.82
Q2 2001 - $ 2,936,279.11
Q2 2002 - $ 7,484,176.57
Q2 2003 - $ 2,549,887.54
Q2 2004 - $ 2,513,537.36
Q2 2005 - $ 1,239,507.27
Q2 2006 - $ 3,085,129.52
Q2 2007 - $ 2,211,818.73
Q2 2008 - $ 7,115,093.98
Q2 2009 - $ 1,160,064.08
RPOF Average Q2: $3,058,482.49

FDP Raises More Than RPOF in 2nd Quarter For First Time

For the first time since before records are available online, the Florida Democratic Party raised more than the Republican Party of Florida in the Second Quarter, according to newly released campaign finance reports by the Florida Division of Elections. 1996 is the earliest finance reports available online.

Florida Democrats raised $1,196,529.89 from 1,740 donations in the second fundraising quarter of 2009, confirming the momentum Florida Democrats have been building for change.

"As part of our commitment to building the grassroots movement to bring change to Florida in 2010, we are thrilled that over 1,700 Floridians contributed to the Florida Democratic Party over the past several months. The outpouring of support from grassroots donors once again shows that Democrats are organized and energized to elect proven leaders such as Alex Sink as our next Governor, as well as electing Democrats up and down the ticket," said Chair Karen Thurman.

By the Numbers:
(Source: Florida Division of Elections)

Florida Democratic Party
Raised: 1,196,529.89
Spent: 1,302,059.34
1,251 Online Donors, of which 1,013 were new donors to the Florida Democratic Party
1740 Donations
Donations under $100: 1,371

Republican Party Of Florida
Raised: 1,160,064.0
Spent: 1,612,571.32
224 Donations
Donations under $100: 71

President's Weekly Address: Recovery and the Jobs of the Future

Heather Beaven enters Seventh District Race

On Tuesday night, Heather Beaven had her announcement event at Flagler County Airport for the Seventh District House seat. The unfulfilled threat of rain moved the venue from the steps of the Flagler Courthouse to a bar on the edge of the airport. About a score of supporters showed up, sprinkled with seven staffers and volunteers. The candidate’s husband introduced the first speaker, the chairman of Beaven’s thesis committee, Henry Thomas.

Dr. Thomas praised Ms. Beaven’s intelligence, tenacity and integrity, then Mrs. Beaven spoke. She has an unusual style of combining soft Midwestern tones with chopped, two-step cadences. Her speech was a mixture of folksy idealism and polished rhetoric. She is an appealing person, coming off as relaxed and warm among the small cluster of supporters and friends. It’ll be interesting to see if more challenging circumstances bring out her harder side.

Speech over, the serious business of the evening commenced. Beaven’s campaign manager, Lisa Walker, hit up her supporters for contributions. Her supporters accepted the contribution envelopes noncommittally. Mario Piscatella, a between-jobs politico described by Beaven as “not really” staff and “not exactly” a volunteer seemed to be more-or-less running the event’s set-up, but after the speech focused on networking, eager to speak with a potential seeker for state-wide office. Beaven’s Stetson interns were there in force.

Beaven’s campaign is strong by recent standards in the Seventh. Ms. Walker has kept her Stetson crew in place while recruiting other young politically active people like Mr. Piscatella and Frank Karbassis. Beaven definitely has the beginnings of a campaign here. If she begins to raise money aggressively, she could do the impossible and send John Mica to K Street where he belongs. The evening, while not earth-shattering by any means, was very different from the stealth campaigns of Silva and Armitage and the strange ego trip of Stephen Bacon.

U.S. Rep. Kendrick B. Meek (D-FL) Announces Monumental Increase in Support for our Military and Veterans

Today, Congressman Kendrick B. Meek (D-FL) voted to support our troops and honor our nation's veterans by increasing funding for critical veteran health care benefits and services and the construction of new troop housing, as part of the fiscal year 2010 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill, which today passed in the U.S. House of Representatives by a bipartisan vote of 415-3:

"This Appropriations Bill fulfills our most solemn pledge as a nation – to care for our troops, their families, and our veterans by providing them the support and care they need. There is no full way to repay our servicemen and women for the sacrifices they've made, but we can do our part to ensure that their families receive the help and resources they need at home. With passage of this bipartisan legislation, Congress will uphold its commitment to improving critical health care services for veterans, constructing new troop housing, and funding mental health initiatives," Meek said.

"As our servicemen and women fight two wars, it is critical that Congress do its part, too. Our military and veterans deserve nothing less. Since 2007, Congress has increased veteran health care and benefits funding by 58%. This demonstrates a historic commitment to our military families in their time of need."

Specifically, the legislation adds 30 community based outpatient clinics, 28 Vet Centers, and 6,992 staff for the Veterans Health Administration. These resources will improve access to rural veteran health care services and access for middle and lower income Priority 8 veterans. In all, the bill provides $77.9 billion in discretionary funding for the 2010 fiscal year, including $2.8 billion for new military hospitals, $1 billion for new child care centers servicing 20,000 military children, $4.6 billion for VA mental health initiatives treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and $570 million for the construction of new Army troop barracks.

U.S. Rep. Kendrick B. Meek Regarding Health and Human Services Announcement that Florida is Eligible to Receive $20 million for Flu Prevention

U.S. Rep. Kendrick B. Meek (D-FL) released the following statement regarding the announcement by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that Florida is eligible to receive $20,823,635 in grants to help Florida prepare for the 2009 H1N1 flu virus and the fall flu season.

Florida is eligible to receive $15,474,914 in Public Health Emergency Response grants and $5,348,721 in Hospital Preparedness grants. A total of $260 million in Public Health Emergency Response Grants and $90 million in Hospital Preparedness grants will be distributed nationwide.

“By taking preventative steps now, this administration is helping Florida prepare in advance for a flu season that will soon be around the corner,” said Congressman Kendrick Meek. “These grants will serve as a vital resource for Florida and preparation and prevention are critical elements to ensure the health of our communities.”

The Obama Administration has launched a new public service announcement competition. Any American can record and submit his or her own public service announcement regarding H1N1 flu preparedness by visiting The entries will be judged by experts and the winner will receive a $2,500 prize and the opportunity to have his or her announcement aired on television across the country.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Few New Laws That Take Effect July 1

From the House Dems:

Some of you have asked for information on new laws that take effect July 1. The following is not a complete list. Rather, it’s a few laws (and corresponding bill numbers) that may be of interst. I hope this is helpful.

SB360 – Growth Management: The legislation removes some state government tools to manage growth, require road improvements and prevent overdevelopment. According to some reports, the state may no longer mandate that most local governments require developers to pay for road improvements needed to handle traffic their projects generate. And among other changes, very large developments may no longer be subjected to broad studies of their effect on neighboring communities.

SB344 – Seat Belts: The Dori Slosberg and Katie Marchetti Safety Belt Law will allow police officers to pull drivers over for not wearing their seat belts and is predicted to save hundreds of Floridians’ lives. The new law makes it a primary charge not to be using a seat belt while driving. Previously, a motorist could only be issued a ticket for that offense if they had been stopped for a separate moving violation. A ticket will be $93. Child restraint fines now start at $143.

SB762 – University Tuition and Fees: The bill authorizes all 11state universities to charge a tuition differential, subject to approval by the Board of Governors.

Seventy percent of the tuition differential must be used to enhance undergraduate education and 30 percent, or the equivalent amount from private sources, must be used to provide financial aid to undergraduate students with financial need. The bill allows for an increase in tuition each year until Florida's fees reach the national average. The bill is designed to help Florida's higher education system counteract cuts that have reduced course offerings, increased class sizes and resulted in more classes taught by graduate assistants instead of professors.

Florida's undergraduate tuition is among the lowest in the country. Nevertheless, the higher cost will not be covered by Bright Futures Scholarships. Opponents to the bill said this is not the time to raise tuition because of the strain students and families already face due to the national recession. Furthermore, many opponents say this change will make college unaffordable for many middle-class and poor people. Supporters of the legislation said it is impossible to maintain a quality higher education system with budget cuts strangling programs and chasing away faculty.

SB2108 – Court Fees: Among the bevy of fee increases the Legislature approved this year to fill budget gaps are increases in court filing fees. Over the past two years, the Florida court system budget has been cut by about 10 percent and had nearly 300 jobs eliminated. The budget for the past year was $433 million, compared to $491 million the prior year. The court fee changes approved include a $505 increase in graduated filing fees for civil and family cases involving sums between $50,000 and $250,000. It will increase by $1,505 for sums in excess of $250,000. There also is a $115 increase in probate filing fees, and a $100 increase in filing fees for non-family civil cases.

SB 462: Prescription Drugs: The bill authorizes the creation of a prescription drug monitoring system in the Florida Department of Health. Representative Kelly Skidmore, D-Boca Raton, a sponsor of the legislation, said, “It will help end the prescription drug abuse epidemic that has devastated many Florida families and given our state a reputation as the nation’s pill mill.”

SB1840 – Tobacco Surcharge: After a three-year effort by Representative Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, and others, the Legislature agreed to raise the fee on cigarettes by $1 per pack. Florida presently spends over $1.25 billion on tobacco related illnesses. This fee will raise nearly one billion dollars in new revenue, which will be matched by $2 billion from the federal government and will be used for Medicaid programs. Statistics show that for every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes there are an estimated 7 percent fewer youth who will begin smoking. Less youth smoking may mean lower Medicaid costs due to a decrease in tobacco related illnesses in the future.

U.S. Rep. Kendrick B. Meek Regarding Bernie Madoff Sentenced to 150 Years in Prison

“Bernie Madoff preyed upon elderly Floridians who spent a lifetime working, saving and investing for their retirement. The future these seniors had planned on was wiped away because of one man’s greed, and instead of enjoying their retirement years, these Floridians are returning to work to eek out a living once more. Retirement communities throughout South Florida are experiencing a bittersweet moment today – but the news does not erase the pain these families will experience for a lifetime and for generations to come.

“In Congress, I have introduced legislation to provide some tax relief to investors taken advantage of by Ponzi Schemes. The legislation will enable these defrauded investors to receive some degree of relief on taxes paid on perceived income, which was indeed non-existent income. While their initial investment cannot be saved, the taxes paid on that income can. "

AG McCollum Attempts to Hide Schedule, Proves He's a Transparency Hypocrite

From FDP:

Although Attorney General McCollum is the elected official charged with enforcing Florida's open government laws, multiple news reports show that McCollum has attempted to hide his own public schedule by charging hundreds of dollars to view this public information.

The Palm Beach Post and the Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times Tallahassee Bureau reported over the weekend that AG McCollum refused to release his public schedule without charging reporters $770 and claiming that "secret information" would have to be purged, taking at least a week. (Palm Beach Post, 6/26/09; Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times, 6/27/09)

"It is clear that Bill McCollum is trying to hide from the taxpayers of Florida by charging ridiculous fees just to view his public schedule," said Eric Jotkoff, spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party. "Sadly, instead of enforcing the sunshine laws, 32-year politician Bill McCollum is breaking them, denying Floridians the open, transparent government we deserve."

Florence Snyder, a lawyer with Florida's First Amendment Foundation called McCollum's claim "transparent nonsense" in the Palm Beach Post. Snyder said: "That sort of speaks to itself to the seriousness in which Gen. McCollum's staff takes transparency."

Proving that he thinks he's above the rules, in a December 2008 release, transparency hypocrite Bill McCollum called on local governments, sheriffs and school districts to enhance access to information, stating "Open government is not only good government; it is the right of the tax-paying public."

McCollum's disdain for the Sunshine Laws was made clear several months ago, when McCollum attempted to hide some documents related to his ad campaign that did more to promote himself than public safety. McCollum only released the documents after repeated demands by the Florida Democratic Party, and after it was made clear to the Attorney General that we were prepared to file a complaint with the State Attorney.

Democrats Demand Glorioso's Recusal For Ties To Sansom/Odom Web Of Republican Corruption

From the FDP:

With Rep. Rich Glorioso's ties to the Sansom/Odom web of Republican corruption, the Florida Democratic Party today demanded he step down from the ethics panel that will judge disgraced Speaker Ray Sansom.

"The Republican culture of corruption in Tallahassee knows no bounds. With Rich Glorioso's ties to the Sansom/Odom web of Republican corruption, Glorioso needs to immediately recuse himself or risk the integrity the investigation and further damage the reputation of the Florida House," said Eric Jotkoff, spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party.

As the Palm Beach Post reported today:

"Questions were immediately raised about Cretul's committee, which includes Rep. Rich Glorioso, a Plant City Republican among 35 sitting lawmakers who received campaign contributions from Jay Odom or one of his companies."

And the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau reported on just how deep Glorioso's ties to the web of corruption are, writing:

"Glorioso said he's pretty sure that Sansom himself brought him the check from Odom's company (at the time, Sansom was running for speaker for the 2008-10 cycle against Rep, Bill Galvano of Bradenton, who will chair the Select Committee. 'I think it was Ray," Glorioso said. "He gave me a handful of checks. I'm sure that's where the check came from. Ray was going around to all of the candidates offering campaign contributions.'"