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Archive for January, 2013

Raided Democratic donor doc ‘acted appropriately at all times,’ lawyer says

Thursday, January 31st, 2013 by George Bennett

An attorney representing eye doctor and Democratic donor Salomon Melgen says Melgen doesn’t know why FBI agents and federal Health and Human Services agents raided his office in West Palm Beach Tuesday night and Wednesday.

“The government has not informed Dr. Melgen what concerns it may have. We are confident that Dr. Melgen has acted appropriately at all times,” attorney Lawrence Duffy said today via e-mail.

Melgen and family members have given more than $450,000 to federal and state political candidates and committees over the past 20 years, with the bulk of the money going to Democrats. The Center for Responsive Politics has summarized Melgen’s federal contributions here.

Melgen’s links to one politician — New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — have drawn particular attention. The conservative Daily Caller website has published articles that include allegations that Menendez had sex with underage prostitutes after flying to the Dominican Republican on Melgen’s private plane and visiting Melgen’s Casa de Campo home there.

Menendez has emphatically denied the prostitution claims.

It was not clear whether the raid on Melgen’s office had anything to do with Menendez. The presence of agents from HHS could indicate questions about Medicare billing.

House, Senate leaders cautious about Scott’s $1.2 billion promise for schools

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott’s pitch Wednesday for $1.2 billion more for public schools didn’t draw resounding support from his fellow Republican leaders in the Legislature.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said they still want to see how Scott finds the extra cash in the state budget, before they said much about its prospects.

“We do have more revenue, but our budget surplus is breathing room,” Weatherford said. “It’s not enough to put your feet up on the couch.”

Gaetz also sounded cautious, as the two leaders follwed Scott at the Associated Press’ annual planning meeting at the state Capitol.

“We’ve come out of the locust years,” Gaetz said, relying on a biblical reference to frame the budget balancing facing lawmakers. “But I’m not sure we’re in the land of milk and honey.”

State economists say the improving economy has yielded an $828.5 million budget surplus — making this year the first since 2007 that lawmakers won’t face a shortfall during this spring’s session. But the extra cash can easily disappear, both Weatherford and Gaetz warned.

Weatherford said he’s eager to hear Scott’s full budget presentation Thursday.

“We’ll see tomorrow how he does that,” the speaker said.

Scott to propose a $1.2 billion boost for schools

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday that he is proposing a $1.2 billion increase for Florida’s public schools, a boost that would hike per-pupil spending by about $400.

Scott’s proposal will be unveiled Thursday as part of his 2013-14 budget recommendation to the Legislature. More policy details also will be revealed then, showing more about how Scott found the cash for schools in a year that marks his first where he’s not staring at a budget shortfall.

“My top two priorities are jobs and education, and they are directly connected,” Scott said at the Associated Press’ annual planning meeting at the Florida Capitol.

Education under Scott has rollercoastered the past two years. Within months of his swearing in, Scott signed a budget that slashed public school spending by $1.3 billion — but last year he approved a $1 billion increase.

Scott said he is “doubling down” on the schools investment this year. His overall schools plan will include $480 million that will allow for $2,500 pay raises for Florida teachers and covers the 26,746 additional students who will fill Florida’s classrooms next
year at a cost of $172.9 million.

Scott’s proposal also would outstrip the $70-per-student increase sought by the state’s Board of Education. Scott said his per-pupil funding level will reach $6,800 — edging closer to the state’s record, $7,126 reached during the pre-recession 2006-07 school year.

“Investing in our teachers and our education system is our key to economic growth,” Scott said.

Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale, also speaking at the AP session, said he would welcome the boost for schools. But he mocked Scott for having an “epiphany” on education that was driven largely by concern over his re-election campaign next year.

Smith said Scott’s action showed he was effectively saying, “I was wrong to starve education and starve government so much.”

Senate committee to workshop Clemens’s elections bills on Tuesday

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 by Dara Kam

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee will workshop two voting-related bills sponsored by Lake Worth Democrat Jeff Clemens on Tuesday.

One of Clemens’s proposals would automatically register voters when they get a driver’s license or state ID card (they could opt out if they choose). The second would restrict legislators to putting three constitutional amendments on the ballot at any one time.

They’ll be the first official pieces of legislation heard by the committee, tasked by Senate President Don Gaetz to figure out what went wrong with the 2012 election and propose legislative fixes.

Elections supervisors told the committee earlier this month that the number one problem – even in areas that didn’t have six hour waits like Palm Beach County – was the length of the ballot.

The GOP-controlled legislature placed 11 lengthy, and according to the supervisors confusing, constitutional questions on the 2012 ballot. Three of them passed, and the rest did not even get a majority approval from voters. Constitutional amendments require 60 percent approval by voters to pass.

Limiting the number of constitutional questions lawmakers can place on the ballot requires a change to the constitution, which means Clemens’s proposal would have to go before voters.

“The irony of this is yes, I filed a constitutional amendment to limit constitutitonal amendments,” Clemens said. “That’s the only way to accomplish it. I think it’s a legitimate constitutional issue as opposed to many of the items placed on the ballot in November which were purely political.”

Burgess heads to exit as Florida GOP spox

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 by John Kennedy

When Rick Scott’s longtime communications chief, Brian Burgess, left his office for the Florida Republican Party last fall, it looked like a prelude to the launch of  the governor’s re-election campaign.

Not so fast.

Burgess announced Tuesday that he’s leaving the state party to join another former Scott spokesman, Brian Hughes, in his government consulting firm, Meteoric Media Strategies. Burgess’ replacement at the state GOP has not been named.

“Overwhelmed with all the kind notes of support from everyone!  Thank you,” Burgess said over his Twitter account Tuesday.

Among Hughes’ clients are the Florida Sugar Cane League. Burgess starts Feb. 15.  Neither spokesman immediately returned calls from the Post about the move and its meaning.

“Since last year, I have been trying to recruit Brian to join me in my business,” Hughes said on the company’s website.  ”I am excited that Meteoric Media is growing and that Brian is ready to help me with that expansion.”

Scott and Burgess go way back — working together on Conservatives for Patients Rights, the political committee the governor set up as a private citizen to work unsuccessfully on derailing the Affordable Care Act.  Burgess was by Scott’s side as the former health care executive became a longshot candidate for governor in Florida in 2010.

After Scott spent $72 million of his own money pursuing his first elected office, Burgess emerged as prime spokesman for the governor.

Burgess’ move to the party last September had been talked of for months. In the end, it will have last five months.



Clemens files resolution that would create full-time legislature

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 by Dara Kam

For many Capitol insiders, the 60-day legislative sessions are more than long enough.

But state Sen. Jeff Clemens, a freshman who won a bitter primary against former state Rep. Mack Bernard, filed a resolution that would make the sessions last two years.

Under Clemens’s proposed constitutional amendment (SJR 512), the session would begin two weeks after the general election and last two years.

Clemens said lawmakers don’t have enough time to fully vet issues during the two-month session.

“The compressed nature of the legislature as we have it right now forces us to rush bills through without thinking them through and doesn’t allow enough time for us to delve into the budgetary process,” the Lake Worth Democrat said. “I think the voters suffer because of that.”

And the 160 members of the House and Senate, whose annual legislative salaries is around $30,000, have full-time, outside jobs that may create conflicts when voting on legislation, Clemens said.

“It’s really a case of not being able to serve two masters at once,” he said. “The idea of a full-time legislature is really rooted in allowing legislators to make decisions based on what they think is best for the state and not have to have their individual employment or individual financial situations compromised by that.”

No word yet on what Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, thinks of Clemens’s proposal. But, after the GOP-controlled legislature was blamed for long voting lines during the 2012 presidential election because they put 11 lengthy constitutional questions on the ballot, Gaetz has said instructed his members to use restraint regarding constitutional changes.

“If you have a proposed constitutional amendment, it’d better solve a constitutional problem, not an issue du jour,” Gaetz said in November.

Scott gets all of Florida’s four-year colleges to embrace $10K challenge

Monday, January 28th, 2013 by John Kennedy

After catching heat from even a member of the state’s Board of Education, Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday that all 23 of Florida’s colleges that offer bachelor’s degrees have embraced his call for making available a $10,000 degree program.

Scott has been pushing to make higher education more affordable, ridiculing Florida’s universities for moving forward with tuition increases. The state college system, however, has ben more willing to follow Scott’s lead — and the governor Monday went to Miami Dade College’s north campus to announce a clean sweep of the four-year degree schools.

“Our goal should be that students do not have to go into debt in order to obtain a degree,” Scott said.

The cut-rate programs, like the four-year degrees at colleges, will be limited. Palm Beach State’s four-year degrees, are currently available only in business supervision and management, information technology and nursing.  Normally, they cost $13,200 over four years, roughly the state average .

Board of Education vice-chairman Roberto Martinez dismissed Scott’s proposal last fall as a “gimmick.” But Martinez’s two-terms on the board ended Dec. 31.

While the State College System was given the go-ahead by the Legislature to increase tuition 5 percent this year, colleges have largely escaped Scott’s scorn. In part, it may be because many of their programs are viewed as providing skills for current work force needs.

Randy Hanna, chancellor of the Florida College System, said last fall that he expected most individual colleges to go along with offering at least one job-oriented degree program at the lower rate to get students out into the local work force.

Scott’s idea isn’t original. Texas Gov. Rick Perry aired a similar challenge in that state in 2012. Since then, 10 universities have offered $10,000 degrees.

Critics have warned the initiative could lead to states sacrificing some level of quality education by deploying adjunct professors and teaching assistants to reduce costs to meet the $10,000 standard. Others also have said publicly financed scholarships may have to be beefed-up to reduce the cost to students.

Triple swear-in Monday for Reps. Deutch, Frankel, Murphy in West Palm Beach

Sunday, January 27th, 2013 by George Bennett

Three members of Palm Beach County’s congressional delegation — Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, and newly elected Reps. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, and Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter — will take ceremonial oaths of office on Monday in West Palm Beach.

Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente will administer the oaths.

The event is scheduled for 5 p.m. in the West Palm Beach City Commission chambers at City Center at 401 Clematis Street.

Members of Congress officially took office Jan. 3.

Allison Tant elected chairwoman of Florida Democratic Party in contentious vote

Saturday, January 26th, 2013 by George Bennett

LAKE MARY — Florida Democrats elected Tallahassee fundraiser Allison Tant as party chairman this morning, capping the most contentious leadership race the party has seen in decades.

Tant won on a 587-to-448 vote over Hillsborough County Committeeman Alan Clendenin.

Tant, 51, has raised money for President Barack Obama and other Democrats. She was elected chairwoman of the Leon County Democratic Party in December, but does not have a long history with grass-roots activists around the state. She was backed by Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and most of the state’s Democratic congressional delegation.

Her supporters stressed her fundraising prowess, noting Florida Democrats’ traditional financial disadvantage against Republicans.

“One number should worry you – 70 million. That is how much Rick Scott spent in 2010. We need to be prepared and have the resources and grass-roots movement to match this,” said Miami-Dade Democratic Chairwoman Annette Taddeo in nominating Tant.

Clendenin, 53, is a retired air traffic controller and labor activist who appealed to the grass-roots activists who control most of the votes under the state party’s weighted voting system.

“Does our party belong to a group of Tallahassee insiders, consultants and lobbyists — or does it belong to us?” Clendenin said in his speech to voters this morning.

Palm Beach County, which controlled 82 votes in the race, supplied considerable drama. State Committeeman John Ramos joined other South Florida committeemen and committeewomen in pledging support for Clendenin this month. But a few days later, Ramos announced he was backing Tant. He wavered over the last two weeks, but today said he cast his 41 votes for Tant.

Wasserman Schultz at Forum Club lays out progressive agenda for Obama second term

Friday, January 25th, 2013 by Andrew Abramson

Fresh off President Barack Obama’s second inaugural speech, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Friday echoed Obama’s themes of gun control, equality for gays and lesbians, immigration reform and climate change prevention at The Forum Club.

“In every corner of America, from Boca to Milwaukee, Seattle to Cincinnati, millions of people rallied around this shared vision for our country,” said U.S. Rep Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, speaking in front of 600 at The Palm Beach County Convention Center.

As the debate over gun control heats up in Congress, Wasserman Schultz recalled the story of the assassination attempt of her close friend, former U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords, and then spoke about the recent mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.

“When 20 six-year-olds lose their lives senselessly and needlessly because at the end of the day, no matter how deranged the individual was, he had access to weapons and high capacity magazines he had no business having access to,” she said. “There is no need for someone not in the military to have those (weapons) or else those little kids wouldn’t be dead.”


No details yet on how bulk of $334 million foreclosure settlement will be spent

Thursday, January 24th, 2013 by Dara Kam

GOP legislative leaders vowed that $200 million from a mortgage foreclosure settlement will be spent on helping homeowners but said they do not know yet how they will divvy up the money.

“We’re not going to be spending this money on members’ favorite projects that have nothing to do with the crisis. The idea is to focus the resources on helping the people who are in the greatest needs,” House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said at a press conference Thursday with Attorney General Pam Bondi and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.

Weatherford pledged to work with Bondi, who wrangled with the legislative leaders for months over control of Florida’s $334 million settlement made in March as part of a national agreement between attorneys general and the nation’s five largest banks.

“You’ll be hearing from us,” Bondi, standing beside Weatherford, promised.

A legislative committee last week finalized Bondi’s request for $60 million of the settlement. More than half of the money will go to first-time homebuyers for down no-interest payment assistance. The rest is earmarked for housing counseling, legal aid and the courts to help a backlog of foreclosure cases.

Bondi and lawmakers struck a deal in November that handed her control of the $60 million and put the legislature in charge of the bulk of the funds – $200 million – to be spent on “housing-related programs.” They won’t finalize their spending plan until the end of the legislative session in May, more than a year after the settlement was reached.

Bondi, praised by both legislative leaders for her office’s work in reaching the settlement with the banks, said she’d like to see the money spent on:
_ Foreclosure prevention;
_ Neighborhood revitalization;
_ Affordable housing;
_ Home buyer or renter assistance;
_ Additional legal assistance;
_ Counseling.

Flanked by Bondi, Weatherford told reporters on Thursday that the money will not be used to replace funding already spent on housing-related items.

“There’s no intention to do a bait-and-switch on this,” Weatherford said, adding that the leaders and Bondi had developed a trust “to use these funds to help the people who were actually harmed.”

Deutch tells Clinton he hopes she returns to public service, extends welcome to Florida

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013 by George Bennett

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, told Hillary Clinton this afternoon that he hopes her final hearing as Secretary of State doesn’t mark the end of her career in public service.

Clinton appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee this afternoon after testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the morning about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three others.

Clinton faced criticism from Republicans and friendly questioning from Democrats on both panels.

“I’d like to thank you for the truly remarkable job that you’ve done as Secretary of State,” Deutch told Clinton at the beginning of his questioning. “You have represented the interests of this nation magnificently and I for one hope that after a bit of rest you will consider a return to public service and should that return bring you to Florida I will look forward to welcoming you there.”

Deutch was a major supporter of Clinton during the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries.

Murphy makes first speech, gets amendment voted down in debt-ceiling debate

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013 by George Bennett

Freshman U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, made his first speech on the floor of the House and offered an amendment that was voted down today during the debate over extending the federal government’s debt limit.

The Republican-led House voted 285-to-144 to extend the government’s borrowing authority until mid-May. Republicans retreated, at least temporarily, on demands that spending cuts be tied to any increase in borrowing authority. But the GOP succeeded in including language that says members of Congress won’t get paid if their chamber fails to pass a budget by April 15. The Democrat-controlled Senate hasn’t passed a budget for three years.

Before the final vote, the House rejected a Murphy amendment that would have shielded seniors, veterans and active members of the military from any spending cuts. The Murphy amendment failed 277-to-151 vote. All four members of Palm Beach County’s congressional delegation — Democratic Reps. Murphy, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach and Alcee Hastings of Miramar — voted for the failed amendment.

On the final vote to raise the debt ceiling, Murphy and Deutch joined 84 other Democrats and 199 Republicans in the majority. Frankel and Hastings were opposed. Hastings told the measure is unconstitutional because Congress cannot change its pay until the start of a new session.

Scott: Spend $480 million on teacher pay raises

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott, who has signed state budgets that whipsawed classroom spending the past two years, is traveling to Central Florida this afternoon where he plans to call for an across-the-board pay hike for teachers.

Scott said he would set aside $480 million for the extra pay.

“Right now, what I’m focused on is the fact that our teachers have done a great job,” Scott said Wednesday at the Capitol. “Look at the quality of our education system, look at how hard they’re working, look at the test scores. They’re doing a very good job.

“I believe in merit pay, I believe in measurement. I believe in accountability. We’re going to continue to work on that,” Scott added. “But right now, the right thing to do is an across-the-board pay raise for all fulltime teachers.”

Scott plans to release his budget proposal next week. But it’s up to the Legislature to craft the annual spending plan. Local school boards, in turn, make the final decisions on pay raises.

Still, Scott’s pledge is expected to carry some weight. The size of the pay-raise package also suggests he may recommend well over the $1 billion boost to education approved last year, which only partially covered a $1.3 billion cut to classroom cash a year earlier.

2016 presidential preview? Video of Rubio, Clinton facing off over Benghazi

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013 by George Bennett

While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the Sept. 11 terrorist attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three others, Sen. Marco Rubio‘s office has already posted video of the Florida Republican’s questioning of Clinton from earlier this morning.

GOP donor Odom indicted on federal campaign finance charges

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013 by George Bennett

Republican donor Jay Odom, a Panhandle developer who was a key figure in the downfall of former Florida House Speaker Ray Sansom, has been indicted on charges of violating federal campaign finance laws.

The federal indictment unsealed today alleges that Odom, 56, evaded campaign finance limits by using more than $10,000 in personal money to reimburse donors who contributed to a presidential candidate in 2007. A release from the Department of Justice doesn’t name the candidate. Odom contributed to Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee in 2007.

Odom and Sansom were co-defendants in a corruption case before charges were dropped in 2011. Prosecutors accused Sansom of putting $6 million into the state budget to build an airport hangar for Odom. But attorneys for Sansom and Odom said the $6 million was for a new hurricane-proof emergency operations center for the city of Destin.

While the charges were ultimately dropped, the matter led Sansom to resign as speaker in 2009.

Rubio, Frankel, Hastings weigh in on 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013 by George Bennett

Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio issued a statement marking the “tragic anniversary” of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision while freshman Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, hailed the landmark ruling in her maiden House floor speech.

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, also issued a statement affirming the ruling that struck down most restrictions on abortion in the U.S.

Read their statements after the jump…


Crist headed to Obama inaugural as White House guest; says no timetable on 2014 decision

Friday, January 18th, 2013 by George Bennett

Obama, Crist as members of opposing parties in 2009

Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democratic former Gov. Charlie Crist will be in Washington for President Barack Obama‘s second inaugural.

Crist, a high-profile supporter of Obama in Florida last year, says he and wife Carole got tickets for Monday’s oath-taking ceremonies from the White House and also accepted a “gracious” invitation to attend a reception at the White House on Monday night.

Crist said he has attended several other presidential inaugurations, going back to Ronald Reagan‘s in 1981. He attended Obama’s 2009 inaugural, representing Florida as the Sunshine State’s Republican governor.

“Now I get to go as a Democrat,” said Crist, who left the GOP in 2010 and became a Democrat in December. “It feels wonderful. I feel very comfortable and very welcome. Carole and I appreciate it very much.”

A survey by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling this week showed Crist leading Republican Gov. Rick Scott by a 53-to-39 margin in a hypothetical 2014 match-up. The poll also found Crist the top pick among Florida Democrats to run for governor.

Crist has said he’s considering a run for his old job, but hasn’t set a timetable for making a decision.

“Those numbers are very humbling and it’s very nice to be thought of in that way. I just haven’t reached a decision yet and I think there’s plenty of time,” Crist said. “We’ve come through a pretty strenuous political season and I think people need a break.”

Lake Worth freshman Democrat sponsors first bill passed by committee in 2013 session

Thursday, January 17th, 2013 by Dara Kam

State Rep. Dave Kerner, a Democrat in a GOP-controlled legislature, was spared the typical freshman hazing and instead tapped to sponsor a bill aimed at cracking down on human trafficking, one of Attorney General Pam Bondi’s top priorities.

Kerner’s measure (PCB CRJS13-01) would bar massage parlors from operating between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and prohibit them from being used as a principle domicile, with some exceptions. Law enforcement officials have targeted massage parlors in some regions because they say some unscrupulous operators are using the storefronts as a cover for human trafficking or other illegal acts.

The House Criminal Justice Committee gave the measure a unanimous thumbs-up and forewent the typical freshman drubbing of first voting against the bill and then taking it back up for reconsideration and passing it. It’s the first bill passed by a legislative committee so far this year.

“It’s very, very personal to me,” Kerner said. A native of Lake Worth, Kerner said that more than 50 percent of the residents of District 87 which he represents are Hispanic and many of them are in the country illegally.

“They don’t vote. They don’t speak the language. It’s fertile ground for the human trafficking trade. They don’t reach out to law enforcement. They don’t have any contacts here. This is a big issue in my district. They ought to be protected by the state and it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I ma passionate about it. Because it goes on right her ein my district.”

Kerner, a Lake Worth lawyer and one-time Alachua police officer, said he was approached about sponsoring the bill by committee chairman Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, and also personally got the blessing of House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel. It’s unusual for a freshman Democrat to have the opportunity to sponsor a high-profile measure, Kerner quickly learned.

“The Speaker was more than willing to have that bipartisan effort. And I think that’s awesome,” Kerner said.

Scott backs flexible early voting period, ‘Souls to the Polls’

Thursday, January 17th, 2013 by Dara Kam

After signing into law a bill shrinking the number of early voting days from 14 to eight and scrapping early voting on the Sunday before Election Day, Gov. Rick Scott has reversed himself and is now backing a proposal floated by the state’s elections supervisors.

Scott’s plan, released in a statement today, would:
- Give supervisors the flexibility to hold between eight and 14 days of early voting, including the Sunday before Election Day, from six to 12 hours per day.
- Expand the types of early voting locations, now restricted to public libraries, city halls and elections offices open more than a year. Lawmakers have repeatedly ignored supervisors’ request for a wider array of early voting sites.
- Limit the length of the ballot. Lawmakers put the full text of 11 proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot this year. Unlike citizens’ initiatives, lawmakers are not restricted to the 15-word title and 75-word summary for their questions. Scott’s press release did not include any details about what limits he wants lawmakers to impose on themselves, but said he wants to “reduce the length of the ballot, including the description of proposed constitutional amendments.” Supervisors said the long ballot was the number one reason for lengthy delays in some areas, including Palm Beach County where some voters waited more than seven hours to vote.

Former GOP officials, including onetime Republican and now Democrat Gov. Charlie Crist, contend that the shortened early voting period and the elimination of the Sunday before Election Day were aimed at curbing Democratic turnout. In 2008, many black churches organized “Souls to the Polls” drives in which voters cast their ballots after attending services.

Scott released his statement after meeting with Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who formed the recommendations after visiting a variety of county supervisors he deemed “under-performing,” including Palm Beach’s Susan Bucher and St. Lucie County elections supervisor Gertrude Walker.

“I believe all these reforms are strongly supported by the input and experiences of local election supervisors and others that the department met with for ideas on improving our current system – a system clearly in need of improvement,” Scott said in the statement.

Scott’s proposal drew kudos from the League of Women Voters of Florida but ridicule from Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith.

“Governor Rick Scott continues to lead from behind, breaking our elections system in 2011 and making our state a national embarrassment in 2012. Heading into an election year, Scott is attempting to distance himself from his actions which have hurt Florida voters and underscored that he simply can’t be trusted. Floridians will see through this election year lip service,” Smith said in a statement.

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