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Senate to House on health expansion: Let’s Make a Deal

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013 by John Kennedy

A Senate budget panel Wednesday approved Sen. Joe Negron’s plan to draw billions of dollars in federal money to expand health coverage to 1.1 million low-income Floridians.

But Negron also offered an olive branch to fellow Republicans in the House — who so far have shunned the federal dollars. Negron, R-Stuart, said he wants lawmakers to not only approve his sweeping Healthy Florida plan, but also the scaled-back approach favored by Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes.

“I think there may be a way we could move forward with something that accomplishes both of our goals,” Negron told the House Health and Human Services budget subcommittee.

The panel OK’d Negron’s legislation (SB 1816) 13-0, with lawmakers from both parties praising the bill — and the dealmaking strategy with a scheduled less than three weeks remaining in the legislative session.

Negron said he envisions lawmakers approving both his proposal and the dramatically smaller House Health Choices Plus plan that covers 115,000 parents, children and disabled Floridians — but not childless adults. As Negron pitched it to the Senate committee, Floridians would have a choice to take his plan or the House program.

A Senate plan by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, which incorporates much of the House approach, also was approved by the committee on a narrower, 6-4 vote. Senate Republicans said it was important to have all options available as the session hurtles toward the finish line.

Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, questioned that stance.

“It’s like trying to take two dates to the prom,” Montford said. “You don’t do that where I’m from.”

Montford also cautioned that twin plans — big and little — would give House members the impression the Senate was willing to settle for less.

The House didn’t immediately react. But senators from both parties Wednesday did their best to sell Negron’s plan.

“It’s not about politics. It’s not about Democrats or Republicans,” said Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Miami. “It’s about the health care of Floridians.”

Negron’s Healthy Florida plan would build on Healthy Kids, a program created under late-Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles that serves 250,000 children, aged 5-18.

Parents pay $15-$20 monthly for health coverage for their children and can choose from at least a couple of private health plans available in each of Florida’s 67 counties.

Negron would reposition Healthy Kids to also allow the adults who could be eligible under the health care law option that provides more money to states expanding Medicaid to families with income up to 138 percent of the poverty level. That would add about 1.1 million adults and children in Florida.

Florida stands to draw $51 billion in federal funding over the next 10 years through an expansion, while state taxpayers would pay $3.5 billion.  The federal government would fully finance the first three years, if Negron’s plan wins approval from the Obama administration.

By contrast, the House proposal would cost Florida taxpayers $237 million annually. But since it doesn’t draw any federal dollars, it could be enacted without review by Washington — although Negron’s deal might change even that.

The House plan would cost low-income Floridians $25-a-month, letting them choose from a variety of insurance options supplemented by $2,000 annually in taxpayer contributions. Negron, however, indicated that financing was likely not enough — and that maybe federal dollars could be added to the program.

UPDATE: Scott ‘welcomes’ Obama to Miami by blasting feds for skipping out on ports funding

Thursday, March 28th, 2013 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: President Obama reacted to Gov. Rick Scott’s demands that the federal government reimburse Florida more than $100 million for two port projects.

“The President believes that the Port of Miami can enhance the competitiveness of workers and businesses throughout the region and in the nation as a whole. That’s why the Administration has taken a number of steps to fund and facilitate improvements at the Port, including a $340 million TIFIA loan to help finance the Port of Miami tunnel project and a $23 million TIGER grant to restore freight rail service between the Port and the Florida East Coast Railway, as well as completing the permitting for the Port’s dredging project on an expedited timeline last August as part of the Administration’s push to cut red tape around infrastructure construction,” White House spokeswoman Joanna Rosholm said in an e-mail.

Gov. Rick Scott used President Obama’s visit Friday to the Port of Miami to tout his own jobs record and demand that president “step up to the plate” and pledge to reimburse the feds’ share of ports funding.

“We’re certainly glad President Obama’s coming to the Port of Miami tomorrow but he’s late to the party on Florida port investments,” Scott said in a conference call with reporters this morning.

Florida’s spent $425 million on ports since Scott took office, including fronting the federal share of $75 million for the Port of Miami and $36 million for the Port of Jacksonville, according to Scott.

“We could not wait for the federal government to come to the table with their share of the project,” Scott, who is running for reelection, said.

Obama is visiting the Miami port and will speak about the economy, according to a White House press release.

Sounding like someone on the campaign trail, Scott repeated his recent mantra of comparing Florida’s current economic and jobs state of affairs compared to “the four years before I became governor” without naming his predecessor Charlie Crist. Crist, who switched parties and is now a Democrat, is mulling another run for governor next year.

And he took a swipe at Obama and Congress while saying he “welcomed” the president.

“The federal government, they keep raising regulations. Permitting time takes longer, raising taxes, spending all these things. We’ve done way better than they have,” Scott said. Obama expedited federal infrastructure reviews last year for both the Miami and Jacksonville ports. Right now, they ought to reimburse us the money we’re spending on our ports…so we can create more jobs.”

Scott no-show as governors talk Medicaid, sequestration in DC

Monday, February 25th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Florida Gov. Rick Scott was again a no-show at the National Governors Association annual meeting this year as the states’ chief execs met with President Obama and White House staff to discuss looming budget cuts that will impact virtually every sector of their economies.

Scott dropped Florida’s membership in the non-partisan group last year, saying the $200,000 annual fee could be better spent. Scott is a member of the Republican Governors Association, the political group that helps elect GOP governors.

The governors met with President Obama, who also hosted a gala dinner for the group last night, today at the White House.

In addition to meetings with White House staff and the president on the sequestration budget cuts slated to go into effect on Friday, the governors are also discussing Medicaid costs that consume huge chunks of their state budgets.

Scott, who launched his political career fighting what later became the Affordable Care Act, last week made national news when he announced Florida would expand its Medicaid program, a linchpin of the federal law. The expansion requires the support of the state Legislature, however, and GOP House and Senate leaders have not said whether they would endorse Scott’s plan.

When asked why Scott skipped this year’s meeting, spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said in an e-mail the governor had other things on his agenda today and over the weekend.

When pressed, Schutz said :Florida is not a member of the NGA – Florida’s membership would be nearly $200,000.”

Scott had no events on Saturday and attended the Daytona 500 on Sunday. He spent this morning in Apalachicola and the rest of the day in Tallahassee.

NRA blasts Obama’s call for gun control

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 by Dara Kam

President Obama’s call for gun control will lead to “government confiscation of legal firearms,” and worse, according to the National Rifle Association.
The NRA posted a response to Obama’s State of the Union address on YouTube, citing Justice Department memos that said an assault weapons ban won’t work without mandatory buyback programs.


In the video, NRA Executive Director Chris Cox urges gun owners to call Congress and tell them to block the president’s gun control plan.
Cox also cites government documents that say universal background checks would work best with gun registration, something he calls a “unprecedented” breach of promise.
Obama received resounding applause last night during his speech as victims of gun violence looked on while the president repeatedly demanded that “they deserve a vote” on gun control.

Rubio votes against Violence Against Women Act hours before delivering GOP SOTU response

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Rubio practicing for his GOP response to the SOTU Tuesday

Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio voted against the Violence Against Women Act, just hours before delivering the GOP response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech tonight.

The Senate easily passed the reauthorization of the 1994 law which expired in 2011, authorizing $659 million over five years in spending for domestic violence programs that include shelters, legal assistance and training for law enforcement officers.

Rubio objected to some portions of the act, which expanded services for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender victims and includes a controversial provision allowing tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians accused of domestic violence on reservations.

Read Rubio’s statement on his “no” vote Tuesday after the jump.
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Nelson backing federal elections proposal capping voting waits at one hour

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Reacting to Floridians who stood in line for up to eight hours before casting their ballots last year, Florida U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is pushing a measure that would set a national goal of a maximum of a one-hour wait at any polling place during federal elections.

Nelson is co-sponsoring U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s “LINE, or Lines Interfere with National Elections act, filed by the California Democrat last year in reaction to long lines in Florida, Virginia and Ohio.

In Palm Beach County, some voters waited more than seven hours at the Lantana Road Branch Library on the last day of early voting.

“In the interest of fairness and to avoid undermining the credibility of our elections, we should be making voting more convenient, not more difficult,” Nelson said in a press release today. “People should not have to stand in line for hours to exercise a basic right, not in a Democracy like ours.”

President Obama is expected to highlight the need to address voting problems in his State of the Union address tonight, where a 102-year-old Florida woman who waited more than three hours to vote will be a guest of the First Lady.

In his inaugural address, the president said: “Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.”

The Boxer bill would require the U.S. attorney general to issue new national standards by Jan. 1, 2014 regarding the minimum number of voting machines, election workers and other election resources necessary to hold federal elections. And it would require that minimum standards take into account the number of eligible voters, recent voter turnout, the number of new voter registrations, Census data for each polling place and the socio-economic makeup of the voting population.

In 2011, the GOP-dominated legislature shortened the early voting period from 14 to eight days despite long lines in 2008 that prompted then-Gov. Charlie Crist to extend the number of early voting hours. Former GOP officials, including Crist (who is now a Democrat) said the law was intentionally designed to inhibit Democratic turnout in 2012.

102-year-old Florida woman who waited hours to vote to join Michelle Obama for State of the Union

Monday, February 11th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Desiline Victor (Photo courtesy of Advancement Project)

A 102-year-old Florida woman who waited more than three hours to vote before casting her ballot in North Miami will join First Lady Michelle Obama at President Obama’s state of the union address tomorrow night, highlighting his pledge to do something about the problems last fall that again cast an unwelcome spotlight on Florida elections.

Desiline Victor, a Haitian-born U.S. citizen and former Belle Glade farm worker, waited three hours to vote on Oct. 28 at a public library.

According to Advancement Project, the civil rights group that has worked with Victor and is bringing her to Washington, Victor waited in line for three hours at a Miami-Dade County public library on Oct. 28. After others standing in line with the elderly woman complained to Miami-Dade County election staff, she was told to come back later in the day when there wouldn’t be as long to wait and more Creole language assistance would be available. She cast her ballot later on her return trip to the early voting site.

“We know that thousands of American citizens were kept from casting their ballots because of long lines and other unacceptable barriers. In a democracy, we have a responsibility to keep voting free, fair and accessible with equal access to the ballot for all. These problems could be fixed with federal voting standards that include early voting, modernized registration and other measures that protect our right to vote. Currently, we have 13,000 different jurisdictions who run elections 13000 different ways,” said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of Advancement Project.

Florida’s GOP-controlled legislature in 2011 shortened the state’s early voting period from 14 to eight days despite long lines in 2008 that prompted then-Gov. Charlie Crist to extend early voting hours. Gov. Rick Scott, who signed the bill (HB 1355) into law, now supports a flexible eight-to-14 day early voting period and leaving it up to the local supervisors to choose the number of days.

President Obama calls for gun regulation

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 by Dara Kam

President Barack Obama outlined his plan for gun regulation in the wake of the massacre of 20 first graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Friday. Authorities say gunman Adam Lanza used a military-style Bushman rifle to kill the children, ages six and seven, as well as his mother and himself.

Obama called on Congress to “reduce the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country every single day” by reinstating the federal assault on semi-automatic weapons, limiting the number of bullets in ammunition clips and requiring background checks before anyone can purchase a gun.

Here’s Obama’s prepared remarks at a news conference in Washington this morning. After the jump, read how he responded to reporters’ questions about gun control.

Good morning, everybody. It’s now been five days since the heartbreaking tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut; three days since we gathered as a nation to pray for the victims. And today, a few more of the 20 small children and six educators who were taken from us will be laid to rest.

We may never know all the reasons why this tragedy happened. We do know that every day since, more Americans have died of gun violence. We know such violence has terrible consequences for our society. And if there is even one thing that we can do to prevent any of these events, we have a deep obligation — all of us — to try.

Over these past five days, a discussion has reemerged as to what we might do not only to deter mass shootings in the future, but to reduce the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country every single day. And it’s encouraging that people of all different backgrounds and beliefs and political persuasions have been willing to challenge some old assumptions and change longstanding positions.

That conversation has to continue. But this time, the words need to lead to action.

We know this is a complex issue that stirs deeply held passions and political divides. And as I said on Sunday night, there’s no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. We’re going to need to work on making access to mental health care at least as easy as access to a gun. We’re going to need to look more closely at a culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence. And any actions we must take must begin inside the home and inside our hearts.

But the fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing. The fact that we can’t prevent every act of violence doesn’t mean we can’t steadily reduce the violence, and prevent the very worst violence.

That’s why I’ve asked the Vice President to lead an effort that includes members of my Cabinet and outside organizations to come up with a set of concrete proposals no later than January — proposals that I then intend to push without delay. This is not some Washington commission. This is not something where folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside. This is a team that has a very specific task, to pull together real reforms right now. I asked Joe to lead this effort in part because he wrote the 1994 Crime Bill that helped law enforcement bring down the rate of violent crime in this country. That plan — that bill also included the assault weapons ban that was publicly supported at the time by former Presidents including Ronald Reagan.

The good news is there’s already a growing consensus for us to build from. A majority of Americans support banning the sale of military-style assault weapons. A majority of Americans support banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips. A majority of Americans support laws requiring background checks before all gun purchases, so that criminals can’t take advantage of legal loopholes to buy a gun from somebody who won’t take the responsibility of doing a background check at all.

I urge the new Congress to hold votes on these measures next year in a timely manner. And considering Congress hasn’t confirmed a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in six years — the agency that works most closely with state and local law enforcement to keep illegal guns out of the hands of criminals — I’d suggest that they make this a priority early in the year.

Look, like the majority of Americans, I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. This country has a strong tradition of gun ownership that’s been handed down from generation to generation. Obviously across the country there are regional differences. There are differences between how people feel in urban areas and rural areas. And the fact is the vast majority of gun owners in America are responsible — they buy their guns legally and they use them safely, whether for hunting or sport shooting, collection or protection.

But you know what, I am also betting that the majority — the vast majority — of responsible, law-abiding gun owners would be some of the first to say that we should be able to keep an irresponsible, law-breaking few from buying a weapon of war. I’m willing to bet that they don’t think that using a gun and using common sense are incompatible ideas — that an unbalanced man shouldn’t be able to get his hands on a military-style assault rifle so easily; that in this age of technology, we should be able to check someone’s criminal records before he or she can check out at a gun show; that if we work harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one in Newtown — or any of the lesser-known tragedies that visit small towns and big cities all across America every day.

Since Friday morning, a police officer was gunned down in Memphis, leaving four children without their mother. Two officers were killed outside a grocery store in Topeka. A woman was shot and killed inside a Las Vegas casino. Three people were shot inside an Alabama hospital. A four-year-old was caught in a drive-by in Missouri, and taken off life support just yesterday. Each one of these Americans was a victim of the everyday gun violence that takes the lives of more than 10,000 Americans every year — violence that we cannot accept as routine.

So I will use all the powers of this office to help advance efforts aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. We won’t prevent them all — but that can’t be an excuse not to try. It won’t be easy — but that can’t be an excuse not to try.

And I’m not going to be able to do it by myself. Ultimately if this effort is to succeed it’s going to require the help of the American people — it’s going to require all of you. If we’re going to change things, it’s going to take a wave of Americans — mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, pastors, law enforcement, mental health professionals — and, yes, gun owners — standing up and saying “enough” on behalf of our kids.

It will take commitment and compromise, and most of all, it will take courage. But if those of us who were sent here to serve the public trust can summon even one tiny iota of the courage those teachers, that principal in Newtown summoned on Friday — if cooperation and common sense prevail — then I’m convinced we can make a sensible, intelligent way to make the United States of America a safer, stronger place for our children to learn and to grow.

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Feds propose voting changes

Monday, November 19th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The Justice Department is eyeing changes to the country’s voting processes to address a myriad of problems including long lines and other voting woes that again shined a spotlight on Florida.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, who oversees the agency’s civil rights division, some proposed fixes during a speech at a George Washington Law School symposium last week.

While he didn’t single out Florida by name, many of Perez’s observations reflected problems encountered by voters, including those in Palm Beach County, during early voting and on Election Day. The Justice Department monitored elections in 23 states, including Florida, this year.

Perez said DOJ is still reviewing the federal monitors’ observations.

“But there is at least one obvious takeaway, which the country has spent much of the last week discussing: there were widespread breakdowns in election administration in state after state, which forced voters in many states to wait in line for hours at a time – in some states and counties, up to six hours or more,” Perez said.

Among the changes proposed by Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, who oversees DOJ’s civil rights division, are:
- Automatic registration of all eligible citizens;
- Same-day registration;
- Allowing voters who move to cast regular ballots, instead of provisional ballots that have a greater chance of being discarded, on Election Day.

But Perez went even farther, saying reform is needed regarding “deceptive election practices,” which he called “dishonest efforts to prevent certain voters from casting their ballots.

Florida was one of more than a dozen states that passed elections laws critics say were aimed at making it harder for Democrats and minorities, who helped boost Obama into the White House in 2008, to cast their ballots.

“Over the years, we’ve seen all sorts of attempts to gain partisan advantage by keeping people away from the polls – from literacy tests and poll taxes, to misinformation campaigns telling people that Election Day has been moved, or that only one adult per household can cast a ballot,” Perez said.

Perez also addressed the issue of voter fraud, which GOP sponsors and supporters of Florida’s election law (HB 1355) said was the reason behind the changes.

“Let’s work to prevent fraud, but let’s not erect new, unnecessary requirements that have a discriminatory impact. Let’s have a debate on the merits without trying to make it harder for our perceived opponents to vote,” he said.

Provisional ballots are also a concern, Perez said. DOJ is considering whether Congress should impose national standards for counting provisional ballots in federal elections, he said.

And Perez also targeted what he called “partisan mischief” in state and local elections administration.

“We risk leaving our election processes open to partisan mischief – or to the perception of such mischief. We should have a serious conversation about solutions to this risk, including developing an entirely professionalized and non-partisan system for administering our elections,” he said.

UPDATE: Bill Clinton back in FL for five-city sweep including Palm Beach County tomorrow

Thursday, November 1st, 2012 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: President Bill Clinton, arguably the country’s most popular living president, will kick off a five-city Florida campaign blitz for President Obama tomorrow morning in Lake Worth. Clinton will appear at the Duncan Theater at Palm Beach State College’s Lake Worth. Doors open at 8 a.m., and Clinton is expected to speak around 9. Tickets aren’t required, but supporters can go online to sign up in advance here.

President Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama’s chief surrogate, will be back in Palm Beach County tomorrow as part of a five-city Florida sweep just days after his last visit to Orlando on Monday.

Clinton will hold rallies in Ft. Myers, Palm Bay, St. Petersburg, somewhere in Palm Beach County and Tallahassee in the crucial swing state where polls show Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney neck-and-neck.

With early voting underway, both campaigns have pulled out the stops in Florida in an effort to get voters to the polls before Tuesday’s election.

Campaigning today in Florida, Michelle Obama is stumping in Jacksonville, where she’ll be joined by R&B icon Stevie Wonder this afternoon, Daytona Beach and Miami. Clinton visited West Palm Beach in mid-September.

Obama was scheduled to join Clinton on Monday but instead took a several day campaign hiatus in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Yesterday, he toured the devastated New Jersey shoreline with Gov. Chris Cristie, one of Romney’s chief supporters and who delivered the keynote address at the RNC in Tampa this summer.

The president, back on the campaign trail today, will be back in Florida with a visit to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday.

Romney was joined by Gov. Jeb Bush at rallies in Tampa and Coral Gables yesterday and will return to Florida before Tuesday’s election.

Obama team bullish with eight days to go

Monday, October 29th, 2012 by Dara Kam

President Obama’s campaign team held a bullish conference call with reporters shortly after President Clinton addressed an Orlando crowd Monday morning.

“We’re winning this race. And I say that not on the basis of some mystical faith in a wave that’s going to come or some hidden vote,” said Obama campaign senior strategist David Axelrod.

Axelrod said the Obama team’s confidence was based on “cold, hard, data-based” facts on early voting and swing state polls.

“You’re going to get spun and spun and spun in the next week,” he said. “In just eight days we’ll know who’s bluffing and who was not.”

In Florida, Axelrod and campaign manager Jim Messina said record-breaking early voting in some areas, including Jacksonville, overcame a GOP advantage in absentee ballots.

“That is a really strong, incredible sign of strength,” Messina said.

Some voters waited as long as six hours before casting their ballots, he said. “That’s what enthusiasm looks like.”

The Obama camp’s enthusiasm comes a day after Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker declared Romney the winner of Florida. Coker said Mitt Romney has nailed down the I-4 corridor crucial to a statewide sweep. In a poll of the region from Tampa Bay to Daytona Beach conducted for The Tampa Bay Times and its media partners, Romney held a 51-45 percent edge over Obama with 4 percent undecided.

“Romney has pretty much nailed down Florida,” said Coker told the Times. “Unless something dramatically changes — an October surprise, a major gaffe — Romney’s going to win Florida.”

Obama dropped by an Orlando campaign office Sunday night before bailing on the Central Florida event with President Bill Clinton (who showed up with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson) and instead returning to the White House to monitor Hurricane Sandy threaten much of the Northeast.

“The president…has real responsibilities. Those responsibilities come first,” Axelrod said. “We’re obviously going to lose a bunch of campaign time but that’s as it has to be. We’ll try to make it up on the back end. It’s not a matter of optics. It’s a matter of responsibility.”

Obama’s aides pointed to polls showing the president leading in key swing states, including Iowa, Nevada and Virginia.

“As is befitting the Halloween season, Gov. Romney is running around the nation posing as an agent of change,” Axelrod said, adding that Romney’s economic plan would cost “middle class” $5 trillion in tax cuts “skewed to the wealthy” and a $2 trillion boost in defense spending the Pentagon is not seeking.

Romney’s plan is “an echo of the failed policies of the past,” he said.

“We’re going to be pounding that message everywhere in the final days of this campaign,” Axelrod said.

The Obama camp’s swagger drew sneers from the other side. Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski sent out the following e-mail shortly after the call.

“All – a couple things stuck out to us while we were listening to Axelrod and Messina on their call – they are extremely defensive about Pennsylvania acknowledging OFA and Restore Our Future are going up with ads, Bill Clinton will be headed to at least four states that were not on Messina’s map as of April 2012 and they are spending time reaffirming their confidence about Wisconsin – a state they won by 14 points in 2008. Oh, and Axelrod made it two days in a row that the campaign has attacked the Des Moines Register. You’re right Axe, 8 days and we’ll see who is bluffing.”

An exclusive Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 poll of likely voters along the Interstate 4 corridor finds Romney leading Obama 51 percent to 45 percent, with 4 percent undecided.
“Romney has pretty much nailed down Florida,” said Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, which conducted the poll for the Times and its media partners. “Unless something dramatically changes — an October surprise, a major gaffe — Romney’s going to win Florida.”

Obama: ‘Reckless and wrong or steady and strong”

Thursday, October 25th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Two days before early voting begins in Florida, President Obama wooed an overflow crowd in Ybor City, echoing his recent campaign themes of GOP presidential foe Mitt Romney as “reckless and wrong” for the country.

Obama hammered Romney on women’s issues, accusing the former Massachusetts governor of wanting to “turn back the clock 50 years” on women’s reproductive rights and stressing his administration’s support for women’s health care in the federal health care policy.

“Women should be making their own health care decisions,” Obama said to a cheering crowd of more than 8,500 attendees. “That’s where it belongs and that’s where it will stay as long as I’m president.”

Under pressure from Romney’s campaign for a lack of details regarding his plan for a second term, Obama urged supporters to visit his website to check out his five-point plan.

But the president made a slight gaffe when reaching for a copy of the plan that had slipped off the podium.

“Where’s my plan?” he joked.

Brandon resident Sharon Troupe said she plans to cast her ballot for Obama on Saturday, the first day of early voting.

“He’s doing the best and we are improving. Mitt Romney just wants to take us back and we can’t have that,” she said.

Overflow crowd at Ybor park near Obama HQ for prez visit

Thursday, October 25th, 2012 by Dara Kam

A crowd appears to be spilling outside a city park blocks away from President Obama’s Florida campaign headquarters in anticipation of the Democrat’s appearance here shortly.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist, who’s been stumping with the president, spoke briefly at 8:30 this morning at Centennial Park. The crowd greeted Crist, a Republican-turned-independent who lives in nearby St. Petersburg, with a huge cheer.

The one-time U.S. Senate candidate reminded Obama supporters of the president’s aid to the state during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the awarding of $2.4 billion for a high-speed rail project in Central Florida. Gov. Rick Scott rejected the federal funds.

“He had our back. Florida, it’s time for us to have his back,” Crist said, echoing a line he’s frequently used promoting the president,” Crist said.

Obama, back in swing-state Florida after campaigning in Delray Beach Tuesday morning following Monday night’s final presidential debate Monday night, is expected to speak at 9 a.m.

Media descends on Boca ahead of Lynn presidential debate

Monday, October 22nd, 2012 by Jeff Greer

BOCA RATON — More than 3,000 media members are expected to arrive in Palm Beach County for tonight’s foreign-policy-themed presidential debate at Lynn University. But the morning before the debate remained relatively calm as media slowly trickled onto the small Boca school’s campus.

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Romney holds fundraisers in Palm Beach County on Thursday

Friday, September 14th, 2012 by Dara Kam

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney will hold two fundraisers in Palm Beach County on Thursday, the same day President Obama campaigns in Tampa and Miami.

Romney will be at the North Palm Beach home of Chris Cline for a VIP reception. The ask for a photo op with the former Massachusetts governor is $10,000 or a pledge to raise $25,000.

Later in the evening, Romney will attend a dinner hosted by Al and Dawn Hoffman in North Palm Beach. Al Hoffman, a developer, is a former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee and a former ambassador to Portugal.

President Obama and First Lady to campaign in Florida next week

Thursday, September 13th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The First Couple will campaign in Florida next week.

President Obama will make stops in Tampa and Miami, his campaign announced in a press release today. No details are available yet about the events so not sure if there are any hugs on the agenda. The president just completed a two-day tour of Florida this weekend, including an event in West Palm Beach.

And Michelle Obama be in college towns Gainesville and Tallahassee on Monday. She’s attending a rally at the University of Florida first and then will meet with supporters at the Tallahassee Civic Center in the late afternoon.

On the GOP side, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan will appear in Oldsmar on Saturday.

West Palm Obama volunteers call senior citizens to discuss Medicare, Social Security

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012 by Andrew Abramson

Days after Paul Ryan was named Mitt Romney’s GOP running mate, West Palm Beach senior citizen Obama supporters took to the phones today to call fellow elderly residents and criticize the economic plans of the Romney/Ryan campaign. The Obama campaign turned the phone calls into a media event, inviting reporters to listen in.

If an Obama supporter answered the phone, the volunteers thanked them and said: “President Obama is working to preserve and protect a secure and healthy retirement for us today and in the future. The President strongly opposes turning essential programs like Medicare and Social Security — which we have been paying for our entire lives — into vouchers, or leaving them up to the stock market, as the Romney-Ryan plan proposes.”

If an undecided vote on Romney supporter answered the phone, they basically got the same pitch with an added: “After a lifetime of hard work and responsibility, America’s seniors deserve the very best, and President Obama is committed to making sure we hold up our end of the bargain.”

The volunteers were also given various talking points, praising Obama for reducing health care fraud and lowering Medicare premiums.

Bob Schieffer to moderate presidential debate at Lynn University

Monday, August 13th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Veteran newsman Bob Schieffer will moderate the Oct. 22 debate between President Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney at Lynn University in Boca Raton, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates website.

The Lynn University debate, the finale of three presidential show-downs, will focus on foreign affairs.

Schieffer is CBS’s chief Washington correspondent and the moderator of the Sunday morning news show Face the Nation.

The commission also announced moderators for the other two debates and a vice presidential debate today as well.

On Oct. 3, Jim Lehrer, executive editor of the PBS Newshour, will moderate the first debate between the presidential candidates at the University of Denver. CNN’s chief political correspondent Candy Crowley will be the moderator for a town hall-style meeting on Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. Martha Raddatz, senior foreign affairs correspondent for ABC News, will moderate a debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan on Oct. 11 at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.

Scott joins chorus of GOP governors demanding gridlocked Congress avert defense cuts

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott joined a chorus of fellow GOP governors in a contentious partisan squabble over federal lawmakers’ failure to avert $110 billion in mandatory spending cuts to defense and domestic programs set to kick in in January.

Scott sent a letter today to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., asking them to thwart an estimated $500 billion 10-year reduction in defense spending. The automatic cuts, known as the “sequester,” are part of last year’s deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. Unless a special congressional deficit reduction supercommittee came up with a way to cut the deficit by $1.2 trillion, the budget would face an automatic cut of that amount over a decade, split evenly between defense and domestic programs. (more…)

DOJ joins lawsuit against Florida over voter purge

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 by Dara Kam

The U.S. Department of Justice is asking a federal three-judge panel to stop Gov. Rick Scott’s controversial voter purge as Florida is working with another of President Obama’s administration to revamp the process.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner had asked the Tampa-based judges to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that he stopped the flawed voter purge process in April. But on Friday, the two civil rights group that filed the lawsuit amended their complaint, making Detzner’s request moot. The state department is expected to revise its request for a dismissal.

The Department of Justice on Friday joined the two civil rights groups in the lawsuit, filing a “statement of interest” and asking the judges to refuse to dismiss the case filed by the ACLU of Florida and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in federal court in Tampa on behalf of two Hispanic voters and Mi Familia Vota.

The DOJ is fighting its own lawsuit against Scott over the controversial voter purge in a separate federal case in Tallahassee. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle handed Scott a victory late last month in that case, refusing to grant an emergency injunction halting the purge – already on hold – and noting that the scrubbing of the voter rolls, although problematic, did not appear to break the law. Hinkle, however, let the Tallahassee case proceed.

Detzner’s office technically halted the voter purge after an initial list of potential non-citizens flagged by matching driver license and voting records proved problematic. The list of about 2,600 potential non-citizens distributed to county supervisors wrongfully flagged voters who were naturalized citizens and even some U.S.-born voters.

After months of getting nowhere, Detzner finally got the Department of Homeland Security to grant access to the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or “SAVE,” database, and is again moving forward with the purge.

But the state hasn’t received the federal “preclearance” required for voting changes in five counties – Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe – covered under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act, the DOJ and the groups challenging the purge argued. The preclearance is required for some jurisdictions that have a history of discrimination against minorities.

“The State of Florida has adopted a new database matching program that results in registered voters being removed from the voter rolls,” Deputy Attorney General Eric Perez wrote in the statement of interest. “This new practice has not been submitted for administrative or judicial preclearance pursuant to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), and despite a lack of preclearance, the change has been implemented in Florida’s covered counties subject to Section 5.”

The state needs to get preclearance for the five covered counties for the new database matching process before the purge can move forward, Perez wrote.

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