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Crossroads GPS launches $6.5 million anti-Obama ads in Florida

Friday, July 6th, 2012 by Dara Kam

A political group founded by Karl Rove is spending $6.5 million to flood Florida airwaves with a TV ad blasting President Obama over the national debt.

Crossroads GPS, started by Rove and other former advisors to President George W. Bush, will launch the commercial, titled “Excuses,” in Florida on July 10, the group announced today. The ads will also run in Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia, and are part of a $25 million national blitz between now and August.

Confusion as Scott cedes control of health exchanges to feds

Friday, July 6th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott’s insistence that he will not implement the state health insurance exchanges mandated under the federal health care law doesn’t mean Florida won’t have one.

Instead, it most likely means the federal government will have control over Florida’s exchanges, including how they will operate, what benefits insurers will have to offer and who gets to sell the policies.

While Scott has spent much of the last week on national television and radio attacking the federal health-care program recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, Florida Senate leaders have been working on a plan to not only implement the exchanges but to expand Medicaid, which Scott also said the state will refuse to do.

It all adds up to confusion over what Florida will do and, at least for now, points to likely federal control.

Scott, who says the government can’t run anything better or cheaper than private businesses do, cut his political teeth fighting President Obama’s health care law before it was even passed by Congress in 2010.

And he stepped up his campaign against the law on national television in the days since the high court issued its ruling last week.

“What has the government ever provided cheaper?” Scott asked Fox News host Greta Van Susteren last week. “They don’t. They always overpromise and underdeliver.”

Scott’s distrust of the federal government makes his decision to cede the state’s power to the White House – regardless of who’s occupying it – all the more curious.

Read the full story here.

U.S. Supreme Court strikes down key portions of Arizona immigration law

Monday, June 25th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The Supreme Court struck down key portions of Arizona’s controversial illegal immigration law, handing a partial victory to President Obama’s administration.

The majority ruled that that giving state or local law enforcement the power to detain and question people could result in “unnecessary harassment.”

The Arizona law (SB 1070) would have given law enforcement the power to detain and question the immigration status of someone they believed was in the country illegally. The court ruled that immigration matters are strictly a federal function. The Arizona law would have required police to check the immigration status of anyone who is arrested.

“Under state law, officers who believe an alien is removable by reason of some ‘public offense’ would have the power to conduct an arrest on that basis regardless of whether a federal warrant has issued or the alien is likely to escape,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the 5-3 opinion.

“This would allow the State to achieve its own immigration policy. The result could be unnecessary harassment of some aliens (for instance, a veteran, college student, or someone assisting with a criminal investigation) whom federal officials determine should not be removed,” the ruling reads. “This is not the system Congress created.”

The court did uphold one of the most controversial portions of the law, that requires local law enforcement officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws if there is “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the country illegally.

The justices also said that provision, however, could be subject to additional legal challenges. Civil liberties groups are challenging that portion of the law in Arizona courts, arguing that it could lead to racial profiling.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined Kennedy and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor in the majority. Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito concurred in part and dissented in part. Justice Elena Kagan, who served as Obama’s solicitor general, had recused herself from the Arizona case.

Hispanic voter battle: Moveon.org launches TV ad telling Romney to condemn the purge

Friday, June 22nd, 2012 by Dara Kam

Moveon.org is launching a television ad in Florida urging Latino voters to tell presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to “condemn the racist voter purge” now being defended by Gov. Rick Scott in federal court.

The TV ad, scheduled to air in Tallahassee next week, is part of a national effort to drum up support from Hispanic voters for President Obama in the November election.

Yesterday, a plane towing a banner reading “ROMNEY: CONDENA LA PURGA DE VOTANTES LATINOS” (Translation: “Romney: Condemn the Latino voter purge”) flew over Orlando where Romney addressed the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials annual conference.

Hispanics comprise the majority of a list of 2,700 potential non-citizen voters sent to elections supervisors by Secretary of State Ken Detzner in April. The controversial voter purge is the subject of three federal lawsuits challenging Scott and another by Scott against the Obama administration for failing to grant access to a federal database. The flagged voters turned out to include many were naturalized citizens and one decorated World War II veteran who said he was born in Brooklyn.

Dueling lawsuits in voter purge: DOJ to sue Gov. Rick Scott admin

Monday, June 11th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The Department of Justice will sue Gov. Rick Scott’s administration over a controversial non-citizen voter purge, the federal agency told Scott’s administration the same day the governor filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez ordered Secretary of State Ken Detzner to “immediately cease this unlawful conduct,” blaming Scott’s administration for the problematic purge.

“Because the State has indicated its unwillingness to comply with these requirements, I have authorized the initiation of an enforcement action against Florida in federal court.”

Perez’s 0611 DOJTODETZNERfive-page letter came in response to a missive from Detzner last week accusing President Obama’s administration of conspiring to keep Florida from cleansing its voter rolls. Perez flatly denied it.

“In short, your claim that the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security have worked in concert to deny Florida access to the SAVE Program is simply wrong,” he wrote.

The SAVE database won’t work by simply matching the names and dates of birth of potential non-citizens. That’s what the Florida Department of State did with driver license and voter registration records to create a list of more than 180,000 voter flagged as potentially inelgible to cast their ballots. Many of those on the error-riddled list turned out to be naturalized citizens, and others were born in the U.S.

Scott used the purge to pump up tea party supporters at a rally in Tallahassee yesterday.

Scott has repeatedly blamed the problematic list on DHS, which failed to give Florida permission to access the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or “SAVE,” program that has more complete immigration data.

But Perez blamed Scott’s administration for the scrub flub.

“By your own admission, Florida has been on notice for at least eight months that the SAVE Program can verify naturalized and derived United States citizens only if Florida provided the appropriate numeric identifiers, and where necessary, the underlying documentation. But Florida has failed to either to provide the necessary information to DHS, or to confirm that the necessary information would be available for verification purposes under the SAVE Program,” Perez wrote. “As a result, the significant problems you are encountering in administering this new program are of your own creation.”

Scott pumps up tea partiers, digs in over voter purge

Sunday, June 10th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott pumped up a conservative crowd at a Tea Party Express event in the Capitol city Sunday afternoon, urging the activists to help him gain support for a controversial non-citizen voter purge now in federal court.

Wearing khakis, a blue button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up and his signature custom-made cowboy boots, Scott defended the purge and enlisted their aid getting President Obama’s administration to cooperate by granting access to a federal immigration database.

“Okay so the latest is who should get to vote in our state and in our country. People that are citizens of our country. It’s very simple, right? Who comes up with the idea that you get to vote if you’re not a citizen?” Scott asked near the end of a 15-minute speech at the Tallahassee Antique Car Museum.

Scott explained that his administration unsuccessfully tried to get Homeland Security to give Florida access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or “SAVE,” database the states are supposed to be allowed to use to check voter IDs, among other things.

“That database is obligated to be given to us and it says it’s for voter registration. Go look at it. It’s the SAVE database from Homeland Security. It’s our right to get that data. For whatever reason, they decided not to give it to us. Can you imagine why?” Scott said. “So we have to, you have to, demand that Homeland Security does their job. I’m going to continue to stand up for your right. I do not want one person’s vote in this state diluted by somebody that doesn’t have the right to vote.”

Scott’s office on Friday released a document showing that 86 individuals were removed from the voter rolls since Secretary of State Ken Detzner sent a list of about 2,600 potential non-citizen voters to elections supervisors in April. The error-riddled list turned out to include the names of Floridians who were naturalized citizens and one decorated World War II veteran. The state department contends that 46 of those people – about one-third of one percent – voted in previous elections. But a Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times review found that only six of those had cast ballots.

The purge has created a national firestorm and partisan split.

Scott remained steadfastly committed to the purge on Sunday.

“Here’s what we know. We know that people are on our voter rolls that don’t have a right to vote. We know that. We know that people have voted that don’t have a right to vote. We know that. How many races should be decided by somebody that doesn’t have the right to vote. Not one. Not one. Not one person should have the right to vote that doesn’t have the right to vote. That is wrong and it is a crime,” he said.

U.S Attorney General Eric Holder’s office last month told Scott to stop the scrub, saying it appeared to violate two federal laws. The federal “motor voter” law prohibits states from doing purges 90 days before an election. That deadline passed May 16 for Florida’s Aug. 14 primary. And Friday the ACLU and others sued Scott’s administration over the purge, asking a federal court to put a stop to it until the Justice Department weighs in.

But a defiant Scott instructed the tea partiers to contact “everybody that’s involved” and demand that the state get access to SAVE, adding that he’s not backing down. The ACLU and others sued Scott’s administration on Friday, asking a federal court to stop the purge until the Justice Department weighs in.

“It’s not going to be easy. I need your support. You need to go out there and let everybody know that this is wrong.”

Scott said later he is considering suing the Obama administration over its refusal to grant permission to use the database.

“I’ll decide over the next few days what we’re going to do. But I’m going to defend our right to vote. I care about every individual’s right to vote. I don’t want it diluted by somebody else’s vote,” he told reporters after the event.

During his speech, Scott repeatedly urged the tea partiers to put their grassroots activism to use over the purge.

“Your job is to make sure those individuals do their job. Call them. Do what you’ve done to me. I think last week I got 5,000 e-mails. E-mail me. Call. And call everybody else…I’m going to do my job. I’m going to make sure that happens,” he said.

In her introduction of Scott, Tea Party Express co-founder Amy Kremer also riled up the anti-Obama administration crowd over the purge, calling it part of an effort by Democrats to “steal” elections.

“If the Democrats cannot win it fair and square, they will steal it. They have done it before. We cannot let them take this away from us,” she said.

The battle over the voter vetting is on hold in Florida as the state’s 67 elections supervisors have said they will not continue the process until the issue is straightened out between Scott and the Obama administration or the courts. The elections supervisors are the only ones who have the ability to actually remove voters from the rolls.

Scott said he’s confident the supervisors will do the right thing.

“They got elected. They know their job. They have an obligation. My job is to enforce the law that I’m responsible for. They have an obligation to enforce their laws. They’re not supposed to allow anybody to vote that doesn’t have a right to vote,” he said Sunday. “They’re going to do the right thing. They’re doing the right thing. Not one person has been kicked off a voter roll that has a right to vote. But we do know people have voted. We do know people are on the voter rolls that don’t have a right to vote.”

Scott, whose popularity among Florida voters remains lackluster, told reporters he appeared at the event to help get voters primed for the November elections.

“Just to energize the vote. Get people out. Let people know this election’s important. Every election’s important. You always hear that this election’s the most important one. But elections are important. They have an impact. If you want to change the direction of the state, the country, you’ve got to show up,” he said.

AG Holder insists Scott administration breaking the law with voter purge

Thursday, June 7th, 2012 by Dara Kam

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch used a Congressional hearing today as a platform for Attorney General Eric Holder to defend his intervention in a controversial non-citizen voter purge launched by Gov. Rick Scott last year.

Holder’s remarks come in the midst of a back-and-forth between the Justice Department and Scott’s administration over who is breaking the law.

Deutch, D-Boca Raton, asked Holder to respond to U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney‘s attack yesterday in which Rooney, R-Tequesta, accused Holder of playing partisan politics by trying to stop a controversial non-citizen voter purge in Florida.

A fired-up Deutch blasted Scott for the problematic purge that flagged more than 182,000 potentially ineligible voters by matching driver’s license and voter registration records. A preliminary list of 2,600 voters given by Secretary of State Ken Detzner to elections supervisors found that many of those targeted had were naturalized citizens and others who had been born in the U.S. About 40,000 legitimately-registered voters could lose their abilities to case ballots in November, Deutch said, if the purge were to continue.

Republicans’ assertions that the purge is needed to combat voter fraud “preposterous and offensive” because only 16 cases of voter fraud were found out of more than 8 million votes cast in the last presidential election in Florida, Deutch said.

“And it’s condescending because voter fraud would be a totally ineffective way to rig an election. It’s rare because it’s a felony that risks prison time and huge fines and it’s a totally illogical way to sway elections. You know what is an effective way to sway elections? Scrubbing thousands of legitimate voters off the rolls. Eradicating voter registration drives. Reducing early voting and disenfranchising millions of seniors and impoverished Americans who lack government ID’s. That’s the tactic that Gov. Scott and his ilk are using not just in Florida but around the country,” said Deutch, who weeks ago had asked Holder to look into the purge.

“But maybe I’m wrong. Is my Republican colleague right? Have I missed some grand conspiracy here?” he asked, setting the stage for Holder to respond to Rooney and Scott, who yesterday accused President Obama’s administration of breaking the law by denying access to a Homeland Security database with more complete citizenship records.

“That is not what motivated our action or will continue to motivate the action that we may have to take,” Holder said. “But I will assure you that we will make sure that the federal law is enforced. And that voter purges happen in a way that is consistent with the law.”

Last week, Holder’s voting rights division asked Scott to stop the purge because it appeared to be a violation of a federal law that bars state voter registration purges 90 days before an election. That window passed on May 16 in Florida for the Aug. 14 primary. Yesterday, Detzner said he “respectfully disagrees” with the Justice Department and that their interpretation of the law would give Floridians the right to sue the federal government to ensure their votes are not diluted.

Holder denied that he is engaged in a “political ploy” and told Deutch he is simply enforcing the law.

“I share your view that we do not want to have people inappropriately voting. We do not want to have voter rolls who contain people who should not have the right to vote. At the same time, we should be engaged in a process that does not put off the rolls people who have served their country, veterans, people who want to exercise their fundamental American rights. The notion that this is somehow a political ploy is inconsistent. One only has to look at the law which is clear. Ninety days. It is very, very clear. Ninety days,” Holder said.

Elections supervisors have abandoned the non-citizen scrub until Scott and the feds – or a court – sort things out.

Spokeswoman for group pushing ‘parent trigger’ going to work for Obama campaign in California

Friday, April 20th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The spokeswoman of the California-based Parent Revolution group that pushed a controversial “parent trigger” bill in Florida is going to work for President Obama’s reelection campaign as the state spokeswoman.

Linda Serrato sent an e-mail saying she’ll start for Obama’s California campaign next week.

Serrato’s going to work for the Democratic incumbent after Florida Democrats – and some moderate Senate Republicans – excoriated the measure, also backed by former Gov. Jeb Bush. The parent trigger measure quickly evolved into a contentious battle over letting parents take over failing schools, with Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich taking the lead in fighting against it.

The measure died on a tie vote on the final day of the legislative session in March (not a single Senate Democrat voted in favor of the measure and just two Dems gave it a thumbs up in the House) but not before fiery messaging from Parent Revolution and opponents of the bill, including a coalition of Florida parent groups, the PTA among them.

“I feel honored to have worked with this dedicated, energetic and scrappy team. I have been proud to be a part of Parent Revolution’s work empowering parents to organize their communities,” Serrato wrote in an e-mail message announcing her departure.

Black Dems trying to change Sunday pre-election voting restriction

Friday, March 2nd, 2012 by Dara Kam

Sen. Chris Smith will try to change Florida’s election law to re-open early voting on the Sunday before Election Day, one of the controversial provisions included in the state’s disputed election law passed last year.

Smith and other black lawmakers interrupts a “souls to the polls” movement instituted a decade ago when Florida began early voting. As many of 30 percent of black voters in some communities cast their ballots after attending church on Sunday, Smith, R-Fort Lauderdale, said.

“Last year’s law forbid us from doing that,” Smith told reporters, including a CNN crew, Friday morning. He said he plans to introduce an amendment that would allow but not require elections supervisors to hold the Sunday voting again on the floor this morning but has not heard from Senate GOP leaders whether they will sign off on the change to the elections bill (SB 1596).

The sweeping election reform passed last year – now being challenged in court – was aimed at reducing election fraud, Republican lawmakers insist.

But Smith said that does not explain the ban on Sunday voting.

“If fraud is going to happen, it is not suddenly going to happen on that Sunday,” he said.

Sen. Arthenia Joyner, a lawyer and civil rights activist, said she believes the law was intentionally designed to make it harder for blacks to vote in the general election this year to keep President Obama from being reelected after minority voters and college students helped sweep Obama into the White House four years ago. Florida is one of more than a dozen states that passed restrictive elections laws last year.

“It’s my feeling it was done deliberately, a premeditated design, to suppress the vote of African Americans in this country because it’s playing out all over the nation in every state. It was intentional,” Joyner, D-Tampa, said.

A Tallahassee federal judge this week held a hearing in a lawsuit filed against the state by voting rights groups challenging the state’s new laws regarding third-party voter registration. The new law caused the League of Women Voters to stop registering voters for the first time in decades.

Bondi joins other AGs in lawsuit against Obama administration over birth control

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012 by Dara Kam

Attorney General Pam Bondi today joined six other GOP attorneys general in a lawsuit against President Obama’s administration over a controversial mandate requiring employers to offer health insurance offering free birth control.

Bondi and Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas are accusing the White House of violating freedom of religion with the requirement, a hot-button issue in the GOP presidential primary.

The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Nebraska, mirrors one filed this week by Ave Maria University, a small Catholic college near Naples, claiming its religious liberties are being violated by the administration’s order that its employees receive health insurance with no-cost contraceptive coverage.

“Government has no business forcing religious institutions and individuals to violate their sincerely held beliefs. This lawsuit is about protecting religious liberty and the rights of conscience, our most basic freedoms as Americans,” Bondi said in a press release.

Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include a Catholic High School, Catholic Social Services and a nun.

Obama raising money in Miami later this month

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Supporters of President Barack Obama can rub elbows with the candidate at two fundraisers in Coral Gables later this month.

Obama will be at a luncheon at 1 p.m. at the swank Biltmore Hotel on Feb. 23, and Democratic money-man Chris Korge will host a dinner reception at 4 p.m. at his home later that night. Korge, a prominent lawyer and real estate developer, was an early Obama supporter four years ago.

“There are a limited number of tickets available. Please do not wait to purchase these tickets as they are expected to sell out quickly,” the e-mailed invitation reads.

Dems target Romney in TV ad as ‘two men trapped in one body’

Monday, November 28th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Democrats unleashed an attack ad – “Trapped” – targeting Mitt Romney in his bid to unseat President Barack Obama. The movie trailer-style TV ad portrays Romney’s political career as “the story of two men trapped in one body” and directs viewers to a longer, online ad entitled “Mitt v. Mitt”

The ads characterize the former Massachusetts governor “for what he truly is: a flip-flopper, a candidate without core beliefs, and someone who’s simply without conviction,” Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz told reporters on a conference call this morning.

“The American people appreciate that there are many different points of view in our diverse nation. That is something that people expect. They just don’t expect one candidate to espouse all of them,” Wasserman Schultz, a Congresswoman from Weston, said.

Democrats are feverishly portraying Romney, in Florida on fundraising sweep tonight and tomorrow, as inconsistent in an effort to peel off support from conservative GOP voters with six weeks until Republicans begin choosing their nominee. They’re targeting Romney although recent polls show Newt Gingrich at the top of the GOP pack.

The DNC ad, showing contradictory clips of Romney on health care and abortion, is running in Albuquerque, N.M., Raleigh, N.C., Columbus, Ohio, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Washington.

“From the creator of `I’m running for office for Pete’s sake,’ comes the story of two men trapped in one body,” the ad says.

The four-minute video, entitled “Mitt versus Mitt,” also includes clips of Romney reversing his positions on issues.

Bondi, 25 other states appeal to U.S. Supremes on federal health care law

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Without waiting for President Obama’s administration to appeal lower court rulings, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and 25 other states are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether the federal health care law is unconstitutional.

Florida led the challenge against the Obama administration, arguing that its requirement that most Americans purchase health insurance – also known as the “individual mandate” – is unconstitutional.

Last month, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled that the individual mandate is unconstitutional but upheld the remainder of the sweeping health care law, including a dramatic expansion of Medicaid.

But even Obama’s attorneys believe that much of the law relies on the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance.

Although several other cases are working their way through the courts, attorneys on both sides believe that a U.S. Supreme Court decision in Florida’s multi-state case will ultimately decide the matter.

Bondi’s lawyers argued that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act forces individuals to engage in commerce and is an imposition on states because of increased Medicaid costs which they cannot avoid.

“Both features of the Act raise constitutional issues that go to the heart of our system of limited government and the Constitution‘s division of authority between the federal government and the States. Of the various challenges working their way through the federal courts, only this case allows the Court to address both of these fundamental questions,” lawyers representing Bondi and the National Federal of Independent Businesses, wrote in the appeal filed today.

Bondi is holding a noon press conference on the filing today in the Capitol.

Obama fundraiser this week at home of recount lawyer – who represented Bush

Monday, August 22nd, 2011 by Dara Kam

Barry Richard, the lawyer who was instrumental in keeping Al Gore out of the White House a decade ago, is hosting a fundraiser for President Obama at his Tallahassee home on Wednesday.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Congresswoman from South Florida, will be the guest star at the fundraiser (suggested donations are $100) at the home of Richard and his wife Allison Tant. Wasserman Schultz served in both the state House and Senate before going to Washington.

Richard, a silver-haired Democrat, was a key figure in the historic recount legal battle known as “Bush vs. Gore,” arguing on behalf of George W. Bush all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Oral arguments set in federal health care lawsuit

Thursday, March 31st, 2011 by Dara Kam

A federal appeals court in Atlanta has set June 8 for oral arguments in the the federal health care lawsuit but denied Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s request for a full court hearing.

The fast-tracked lawsuit by 26 states, including Florida, and the National Federal of Independent Businesses is ultimately headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We are pleased that the 11th Circuit scheduled oral argument this June, so we can resolve this case and protect Americans’ individual liberties,” Bondi said in a statement. “This case will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, and a case of such national importance should have no delay.”

Pensacola U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in January ruled the health overhaul unconstitutional, saying the U.S. Commerce Clause did not allow the federal government to require every citizen to buy insurance or pay a penalty. Doing so would give the federal government such sweeping powers that it could force its citizens to eat broccoli, he contended.

Vinson, who is based in Pensacola, declared the entire health act invalid.

Earlier this month Vinson put a stay on his ruling while the appeals proceed – meaning the health act could continue to be implemented – but gave the White House a week to appeal. President Obama’s administration filed the appeal on March 9.

Florida bullet train dead – again

Friday, March 18th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Florida is out of the running (again) for $2.4 billion for a high-speed rail system linking Orlando, Tampa and Miami, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said this morning.

A coalition of state, local and federal officials’ plan to get the federal funds – again – after Gov. Rick Scott turned down the money last month has failed, Nelson said in a statement this morning.

The plan hinged on getting Amtrak to join in as an end-run around Scott. But Amtrak officials said no.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood reopened bids for the grant money last week to give Florida a second shot at drawing down the stimulus funds.

But that would have required an existing rail authority – like Amtrak – to participate. With Amtrak out of the picture, the coalition doesn’t have enough time to come up with another proposal to meet LaHood’s April 4 deadline.

Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman said in a letter to Nelson that the federally funded train system would help out in the future, but not now. He said that Florida and Amtrak could work together to try to get some of the $8 billion included in President Obama’s budget proposal (which Congress hasn’t yet approved).

Bondi asks for full court hearing in federal health care lawsuit

Friday, March 11th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Attorney General Pam Bondi wants a full-court review of the President Obama administration’s appeal in the federal health care lawsuit.

Bondi filed a motion with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta seeking an en banc hearing, meaning the appellate review would be held before all 10 federal judges.

The reason for her request, Bondi said in a press release, “is to avoid any unnecessary delays that may arise if a three-judge panel decides the case and then refers it for a hearing by the full 11th Circuit.”

If the court agrees to her request, the case would be heard on June 6, according to Bondi.

“This case is so significant to all Americans that it needs to be resolved as quickly as possible,” she said in the release. “If granted, the petition would allow a faster track to the Supreme Court.”

Feds file appeal in health care lawsuit

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011 by Dara Kam

President Obama’s administration filed an appeal Tuesday afternoon in Florida’s lawsuit challenging the federal health care law, meeting a Pensacola federal judge’s deadline.

Judge Roger Vinson of the Northern District of Florida, who struck down the law as unconstitutional, issued a stay Thursday of his earlier ruling, effectively ordering the 26 states that challenged it – including Florida – to continue to implement the law.

But e gave the White House until Thursday to appeal for his stay to remain intact.

The U.S. Justice Department filed the appeal to the Eleventh Circuit appeals court in Atlanta, but could have gone directly to the U.S. Supreme Court where the case will ultimately be decided.

Survey: Floridians want dollars for Everglades

Monday, February 28th, 2011 by John Kennedy

With environmental spending under fire in Tallahassee and Washington, a survey Monday showed two-thirds of Floridians support Everglades restoration, with a majority also opposed to reducing dollars flowing to the effort.

The Everglades Foundation released the survey, saying it supports the organization’s push for state lawmakers to steer clear of Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal to reduce restoration funding from $50 million to $17 million. Scott also wants water managers, including the South Florida Water Management District, to reduce property taxes by 25 percent, which environmentalists say could further drain dollars needed for Everglades work.

“Our message to the governor is that he can partner with the conservation community to create jobs and protect our water supply at the same time,” said Kirk Fordham, the foundation’s chief executive officer. “If we want to grow that supply of fresh water, the only solution out there is Everglades restoration.”

President Obama’s budget blueprint increases spending on restoration. But the Republican-led U.S. House has proposed sharp cuts in environmental programs and funding for the Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for much of the Everglades work.

The Everglades survey was conducted by the Tarrance Group, which does polling for Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, other Republican senators, and GOP members of the Florida congressional delegation.

The survey showed that 84 percent of voters rank maintaining Florida’s fresh water drinking supply as “very important.”  Seventy-nine percent agreed that to attract new business and industries to the state, access to a stable water supply is necessary.

The survey of 607 voters was taken Feb. 13-14. It has a 4.1 percent margin-of-error.

File an appeal already, Bondi tells White House

Thursday, February 24th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Attorney General Pam Bondi called President Obama’s administration’s request for clarification in a ruling overturning the federal health care law a delay tactic and urged the president to file an appeal to move the case along to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bondi yesterday asked U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson to reject the Justice Department’s request for clarification of his ruling that the health care law is unconstitutional. Some states, including Florida, have halted implementation of the law while awaiting an ultimate decision by the Supreme Court.

“Department of Justice’s motion to clarify is merely an attempt to delay the process when the order clearly required a halt to implementation,” Bondi said in a statement.

Vinson’s order amounts to an injunction on the health care law in Florida and the 25 other states in the lawsuit, Bondi said.

“Our memorandum states that time is of the essence in this matter, and the Court should deny the defendants’ motion for clarification as well as their thinly disguised request for a stay,” she said. “Everyone knows this case will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Department of Justice should join us in seeking an expedited appeals process. This issue is too important for delay, and we urge the
President to file an appeal in the appropriate appellate court, as was done in Virginia and Michigan. It is in the country’s best interest to present this case before the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as possible.”

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