Political news

Florida Grade for Public Access to Information is a D

Mar 31, 2012

Florida ranks as a C-minus for its susceptibility to corruption, according to a new study by the Center for Public Integrity, Public Radio International and WLRN in Miami. WLRN reporter Kenny Malone reports on why Florida's Public Access to Information is a D.

A few months back,  Senator Mike Fasano (R) who represents parts of Central Florida's counties,  had a pretty simple public records request about some investments that were made by the state board of administration.

The state Ethics Commission today sent state Sen. Jim Norman's financial disclosure case to the Florida Senate - where his lawyer said he will argue against any penalites. The Tampa Republican faces charges that he failed to disclose a half-a-million-dollar gift to his wife when he ran for the Senate in 2010.

Norman’s lawyer says a Hillsborough County attorney advised Norman, who was a county
commissioner at the time, that he didn’t have to disclose that the money was used to renovate a lakefront home in Arkansas.

Florida ranks as a C- for its susceptibility to corruption, according to a new study by the Center for Public Integrity, Public Radio International and WLRN in Miami. The state did much better in its sub-grade for redistricting. But as WLRN reporter Rick Stone reports, some question how that can be possible.

When Republican Senator Paula Dockery got her first look at her newly redrawn Polk County district, she was horrified.

"You could tell some areas  that looked very squirrelly," she said.

The unemployment rate for both Tampa Bay and Florida fell to 9.4 percent in February, the lowest level in three years.

That's down from 9.6 percent for all of Florida in January.

The good news for Tampa Bay: our region is creating more jobs than other regions of Florida -- up 20,000 in the last year, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Hillsborough and Pinellas counties have even lower unemployment rates, a 9 percent.

Florida ranks as a C-minus for its susceptibility to corruption, according to a new study by the Center for Public Integrity, Public Radio International and WLRN in Miami. WLRN reporter Kenny Malone reports on a loophole in Florida's lobbyist gift ban.

Florida has one of the strictest rules in the country for lobbyist gift-giving: an absolute ban. And the state has one of toughest laws for campaign contributions: a $500 limit.

With the ongoing Occupy movement, you can bet that thousands of protestors will show up in Tampa for the  Republican National Convention in August.

And now, they may find it a little bit harder to protest anywhere close to the action.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is proposing a "Clean Zone" in a large area surrounding the convention center and Tampa Bay Times Forum.

What, you ask, is a Clean Zone? It seems to have several components:

- Parks will close at 3 a.m. No overnight camping allowed.

The Florida Senate's 'Mapquest' Continues

Mar 27, 2012

The  Florida Legislature is sending a revised Senate redistricting map back to the state Supreme Court. The House on Tuesday gave the map final approval on a 61-47 vote that went largely along party lines.

The Florida Supreme court rejected the first Senate map, saying it "was rife with objective indicators of improper intent" that violated the new Fair Districts standards approved by voters.

Just in time for the fall election, Sen. Marco Rubio and other Republicans are reportedly working on their own version of the DREAM Act.

Polls show Republicans are having trouble getting Hispanic votes, largely because of rhetoric coming from the Republican primary race.

A circus atmosphere pervades the space outside of the U.S. Supreme Court today, where justices started hearing a record six hours of testimony as they weigh in on The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the centerpiece of the Obama Administration. 

But what does this mean for Florida, which has lead the way in challenging the constitutionality of the law?

The police chief of Sanford has "temporarily resigned," pending an investigation into his department's handing of the slaying of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Bill Lee offered to step down this afternoon in a press conference outside Sanford City Hall.

Activists Want Zimmerman to Hand Over His Gun

Mar 21, 2012
Photo Courtesy of Bay News 9

Activists were to gather Wednesday at the Florida Division of Licensing to ask for the suspension of George Zimmerman's concealed weapons permit.

After hearing Zimmerman's phone calls to authorities about a suspicious black man in his neighborhood, protestors are calling him a "threat to society."

Zimmerman was legally carrying his registered gun the night he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman is claiming "stand-your-ground" self-defense.

Bobbie O'Brien

On Florida Matters this week, WUSF brings you exclusive interview with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. Host Carson Cooper traveled to Tampa City Hall to talk with the first-term mayor.

1- On Being the ‘Pool Guy’

Mayor Buckhorn has often said he won’t be the “boyfriend” who breaks up the marriage between the Tampa Bay Rays and the City of St. Petersburg. He told WUSF, “I may be the pool guy though.”

2- Knowing Tampa’s ‘Options’ with the Rays

Tampa City Council voted unanimously Thursday to establish a Domestic Partners Registry. Whether same sex or heterosexual, domestic partners living in Tampa will soon be protected and treated like family when it comes to things like hospital visitations and medical decisions.

There's a rising discussion on whether Tampa Bay residents should stay in the region or head out on vacation the last week of August when the area hosts the Republican National Convention that could attract as many as 50,000 people.

Members of the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee equate hosting the political convention as second only to hosting the Olympics when it comes to gaining national and international exposure with long-lasting economic impact.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF 89.7 News

In just over five months, organizers expect about 15,000 members of the news media to descend on the Tampa Bay region to cover the Republican National Convention. Their goal will be to cover who wins the GOP nomination.

However, Tampa Bay officials have a different aim during the four day convention scheduled August 27-30 in downtown Tampa.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the “eyes of the world will be watching” so, he plans to use that opportunity to show off Tampa and hopefully do some business.

Legislative Session 2012: A Tale of Two Chambers

Mar 9, 2012

This legislative session, the House has been quiet, disciplined and relatively civil. The Senate has had more of a civil war, with moderate Republicans and Democrats joining forces to oppose the conservative leadership.

So, you could call the regular session of the Florida Legislature, "A Tale of Two Chambers. "

Even the Florida Supreme Court sided with the House, unanimously approving the House redistricting plan while rejecting the Senate's plan.

A bill that would have allowed parents to replace the leadership at failing schools has failed on a 20-20 vote in the Florida Senate.

It's the latest in a string of failures for Senate President Mike Haridopolos and his conservative allies, including:

Imagine you’re driving home from work, and you’re hit by a reckless driver. You’d want to sue, right?

But if the person that injured you is a government employee in Florida, forget going to court. You’ll have to petition the Florida Legislature for help.

That’s what William Dillon did.  Dillon spent 27 years in prison for a murder in Brevard County. He was set free in 2008 after DNA testing showed he wasn’t the killer.

It took more than three and a half years for the Legislature to pass a bill compensating Dillon.

You may have been received a call lately asking you to "tell your state Senator" to oppose the parent trigger bill.

If you have, you probably live in the district of a handful of mostly moderate Republicans who are still undecided about the bill.

It's a top priority of former Governor Jeb Bush and conservative leaders in the Legislature. It's become enemy number one to unions.

The bill would allow parents in failing schools to be able to vote for change - such as turning the facility into a charter school.

Last week, WUSF quizzed former Senator George LeMieux about his "Two-and-a-Half Macks" ad.

It went after rival Rep. Connie Mack IV for several run-ins with the law and financial difficulties.

Now, PolitiFact Florida is weighing in on one specific claim: that Connie Mack IV's "only real job in the world" was "events coordinator at Hooters."

"Hello, I'm with the Florida Department of Financial Restitution, and I'm working with Attorney General Pam Bondi's office to help Floridians recover unclaimed property..."  

For a $600 fee?

You guessed it -- it's a scam.  Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater says there is no such department, and he wants Floridians to be on alert.

"These scam artists are trying to defraud consumers out of their hard-earned dollars by using deceitful practices and peddling a service that my department offers free of charge,” says Atwater.

House photo by Mark Foley

The Chairman of the Florida House Justice Appropriations subcommittee, Rep. Rich Glorioso, says Senate Budget Chairman JD Alexander personally removed funding for the Hillsborough Correctional Institution.

That’s the women’s faith-and-character based prison both the house and senate had previously agreed to fund.

The Plant City Republican who is finishing his final term in the house talked with WUSF’s Bobbie O’Brien about HCI.

Today's ruling by Leon County Circuit Court Judge Jackie Fulford throws a huge wrench into the state budget process that was supposed to be decided this week.

If you're a state worker, it could mean a refund of the three percent most of you saw taken from your salary on July 1.

But don't start spending your refund checks yet -- the state is bound to appeal, and this whole thing will end up in the Florida Supreme Court.

When USF President Judy Genshaft calls the budget deal "very, very, very good," you know it must be for the university.

Leaders in the Florida House and Senate have agreed on a budget that largely spares the University of South Florida from the disproportionate budget cuts proposed by the state Senate.

The price: agreeing to grant independence to USF Polytechnic, which will become Florida Polytechnic, the state's 12th university.

For a brief time last week, it appeared Hillsborough Correctional Institution (HCI), the women’s faith-and-character based prison set for closure, would receive a reprieve. But reports surfaced over the weekend, HCI is back on the chopping block.

Inmates, staff and volunteers at HCI successfully kept the Department of Corrections from closing down the 35-year-old facility last year. And, it appeared they would do it again this budget year when both the House and Senate set aside $2 million for needed repairs.

It may have been a slow session at the Florida Legislature this year, but that hasn’t stopped drama from breaking out in the state Senate.

An attempted coup over who would be the future state Senate president. The failure of prison privatization. And a continuing fight over the parent trigger bill.

It reveals the split between moderates and conservatives in the state Senate, according to Peter Schorsch. He’s a political consultant and the man behind award-winning

Florida Independent

It was a working weekend for state lawmakers, and they'll likely be even busier this week.  The House and Senate are still trying to hammer together a single balanced budget before the legislative session ends Friday.

Among the issues still unresolved -- funding cuts to state universities and the creation of the state's 12th university, Florida Polytechnic in Lakeland.

Lawmakers must agree on the budget numbers by Tuesday evening to allow for a constitutionally-required three-day cooling off period before a final vote.  The session is scheduled to end this Friday

It looks like Senate budget chairman JD Alexander of Lake Wales might win his battle for an independent Florida Polytechnic in Polk County.

Now, Martin Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times has a story that implies Alexander might be getting another big project for his home county: funding for a new expressway.

It's $35 million, and although faithful readers of the Polk County papers might have known it was in the budget,  this story came as a surprise to many folks.

Tampa City Council is to decide today on spending around $4 million to equip police with additional safety equipment aimed at controlling crowds at the upcoming Republican National Convention.

In an interview with WUSF, former Sen. George LeMieux is standing behind his decision to attack Rep. Connie Mack as the Charlie Sheen of Florida politics.

The Republican Senate primary campaign in Florida has heated up fast, after information about Connie Mack IV's legal troubles -- including fistfights and financial woes -- was published in the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald.

Now, LeMieux's campiagn is using that information in "Two and a Half Macks" -- an animated ad on the internet.