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Business lobbies launch dueling gambling ads

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Split business groups have upped the ante in the fight over a proposed gambling bill that would allow three mega-casinos in Florida.

The competing lobbies launched a pair of dueling television ads lauding and condemning the measure (SB 710), which cleared its first hurdle in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee yesterday.

Associated Industries of Florida, which favors the measure, unleashed an ad featuring pundit Ben Stein touting the casinos as a job creator and economic panacea.

On the other side, the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s “Bad Bet for Florida” condemned the proposal, which its leaders say would harm the state’s existing businesses and chase tourists away.

Under pressure, GOP lawmakers drop two bills from special session

Monday, November 15th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Senate President-designate Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon dropped two suddenly contentious bills from their veto override list after objections from Gov.-elect Rick Scott and GOP donors.

One of the measures (HB 5611) would have taken power away from the governor by removing the Department of Management Services from the executive branch and putting the agency under the governor and Cabinet.

Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the bill this summer saying it was an encroachment of executive powers. Lawmakers gave the bill received near-unanimous consent this spring.

Cannon and Haridopolos said as late as last week that it was not a power-grab by the legislature, but Haridopolos said Scott asked him this weekend to drop the override.

The other measure would have imposed new restrictions on doctors’ repackaging of prescriptions and would have lowered workers’ comp costs for the state and private companies.

But Automated Healthcare Solutions, a Miramar company headed by two South Florida doctors, supported the veto and spent $1 million on political committees headed by Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, and Cannon, R-Orlando, this summer.

Associated Industries of Florida, which supported the override and is also a major contributor to GOP campaigns, was one of the many business groups opposed to the legislation.

PSC won’t investigate Commish Argenziano

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009 by Dara Kam

The Public Service Commission’s inspector general won’t investigate Commissioner Nancy Argenziano, turning down a request from a business group backing Florida Power & Light Co.’s proposed $1.3 billion rate hike.

PSC Inspector General Steven Stolting told Associated Industries of Florida lawyer Tamela Perdue in a letter that he won’t investigate allegations of impropriety and impartiality revealed in BlackBerry PIN messages exchanged between Argenziano and former aide Larry Harris.

AIF should file an ethics complaint instead, Stolting advised.

Stolting’s office is restricted to “conduct oversight activities within the Commission,” he wrote.

Argenziano called AIF’s accusations “baseless” and “stupid.”

Read here about FPL’s connection to AIF’s press release demanding the investigation.

$1.3 billion FPL rate hike hearing goes on and on and on…

Monday, October 19th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Utility regulators have added an extra day to hear testimony in the $1.3 billion Florida Power & Light Co. rate hike case.

The base rate case is already into overtime and is running long past the original two weeks scheduled for early August, including several back-to-back 12-plus hour days of testimony.

The Public Service Commission was slated to finish the hearings on Wednesday and Thursday but this morning added Friday to the schedule.

Only four commissioners remain on the regulatory panel – former Commissioner Katrina McMurrian walked off the $133,000 a year job recently after Gov. Charlie Crist effectively fired her and Chairman Matthew Carter and appointed two new members who will take over on Jan. 1.

The Juno Beach-based utility’s rate case and Progress Energy Florida’s proposed $500 million base rate increase is shining an unwelcome spotlight on the agency that heretofore operated with little public interest.
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Utility reg chairman Carter: “Just leave us alone.”

Friday, October 16th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Public Service Commission Chairman Matthew Carter wants everyone to leave him and his colleagues alone so they can get on with their jobs and has no plans to ask for an internal investigation into charges of possible conflicts of interest or bias against Commissioner Nancy Argenziano, he said today.

“Right now I plan on getting through this hearing,” Carter told reporters during a break in a nuclear cost recovery meeting now ongoing.

The panel is scheduled to vote later today on requests from Florida Power & Light Co. to charge customers $63 million for what the utility’s expenses on nuclear power plant construction and a similar $236 million request from Progress Energy Florida.

Yesterday, Associated Industries of Florida President Barney Bishop asked that PSC’s inspector general look into thousands of BlackBerry messages exchanged between Argenziano and her aide Larry Williams over the past two years. Bishop accused Argenziano of potentially breaking laws barring ex parte communications between regulators and the utilities and of breaking her oath of office in unflattering comments aimed at her colleagues.

Read about FPL’s link with AIF’s press release here.

AIF’s demand is yet another distraction for the panel also poised to vote on about $2 billion in base rate increases – $1.3 billion sought by FPL and $500 million by Progress.

Ten days ago, the panel turned down a $1.6 billion request from FPL to build a natural gas pipeline through 14 counties.

State Attorney Willie Meggs said recently that his investigators have found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing at the agency. And several internal investigations resulted in similar findings.
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Argenziano: AIF accusations “baseless” and “stupid”

Thursday, October 15th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Public Service Commissioner Nancy Argenziano dismissed a business-backed group’s demand for an investigation into her BlackBerry messages with her former aide as ridiculous and an attempt to intimidate her.

“It’s highly suspicious and rather stinky at this point,” Argenziano said.

Associated Industries of Florida President Barney Bishop today asked for a PSC inspector general investigation into thousands of messages exchanged between Argenziano and Larry Williams, a former aide whom Argenziano fired for giving his secret BlackBerry personal identification number to a Florida Power & Light Co. attorney.

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Lopez-Cantera joins AIF demand for utility reg investigation

Thursday, October 15th, 2009 by Dara Kam

State Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera joined the call for an internal investigation into BlackBerry messages sent by utility regulators.

Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami, serves on the Public Service Commission Nominating Council that selects who gets to serve on the regulatory panel. The governor makes the final picks.

“The PIN messages sent and received by Commissioner Nancy Argenziano and released by the PSC, coupled with their discussion of private emails so far unreleased and sent to non-public accounts in an attempt to evade public scrutiny, raise serious questions about Commissioner Argenziano’s impartiality and her ability to give a fair hearing to those appearing before her,” Lopez-Cantera wrote in a statement distributed to the media.

Earlier today, Associated Industries of Florida President Barney Bishop demanded the PSC’s inspector general check out Commissioner Nancy Argenziano’s BlackBerry PIN messages.

Bishop said Argenziano may have broken rules restricting communications between the regulators and the utilities and may have acted in a manner unbecoming a commissioner, a violation of her oath of office.

It’s no surprise that Lopez-Cantera has jumped on the Argeziano attack wagon.
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AIF takes attack against utility regulator to the Internet

Thursday, October 15th, 2009 by Dara Kam

AIF President Barney Bishop

AIF President Barney Bishop

Associated Industries of Florida president Barney Bishop took media matters into his own hands this morning after being fed up with a lack of attention to a utility regulator’s BlackBerry messages.

Bishop is demanding that the Public Service Commission inspector general conduct an investigation into messages exchanged by Commissioner Nancy Argenziano and her former aide Larry Williams that he said raises questions about her impartiality on an impending $1.3 billion Florida Power & Light Co. rate hike request.

AIF is supporting FPL, one of its business association members, in the rate case.

Bishop has put the thousands of messages – made available through public records requests by news agencies – on AIF’s website, but singled out Argenziano’s in a press conference this morning.

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