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Negron gets ‘A’ from group associated with ‘T’, as in Tea Party

Thursday, September 8th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Sen. Joe Negron, the Stuart Republican whose district includes parts of Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, was named “legislator of  the year,” by the Florida branch of Americans for Prosperty, the conservative advocacy organization.

Negron shared the title with Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, both of whom were feted for their efforts to tilt the state Legislature further to the right. AFP, which has emerged as a guide and financial backer of the tea party movement, was founded by conservative billionaire energy titans, David and Charles Koch.

Seventy-nine legislators — all Republicans – received A+ scores from the group. Every Democrat drew a failing grade — except Rep. Leonard Bembry, D-Greenville, who was given a D by AFP.

Slade O’Brien, AFP’s Palm Beach County-based state director, said Negron was pivotal in the Legislature’s efforts to revamp Medicaid, while also steering the state toward reducing the size of government and cutting taxes.

Democrats drawing lousy marks, “show hostility towards the free market and protecting the individual liberties on which our country was founded,” O’Brien said.

Rick Scott attends secret Koch brothers meeting in Colorado

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Florida Gov. Rick Scott attended a secret, invitation-only meeting outside Vail, Colo., hosted by conservative billionaire GOP donors David and Charles Koch, the governor’s staff confirmed today.

The meeting wasn’t on Scott’s official schedule and his spokesman Lane Wright initially refused to confirm or deny whether the first-term governor would make an appearance, saying he would not “speculate as to what he has done, or will do on his personal time.”

But, after The St. Petersburg Times reported Tuesday Scott did attend the meeting, Wright confirmed that the governor was there but would not say whether Scott was in Colorado on Sunday or Monday.

“I told anybody who asked me,” Scott, in Washington, D.C., told the Times, without revealing too much about what took place.

“It was very interesting,” he told the Times. “They wanted to know basically… what am I doing in Florida.”

Scott, the self-proclaimed “jobs governor,” joined at least three other conservative Republican heads-of-state at the semi-annual meeting.

Govs. John Kasich of Ohio and Bob McDonnell of Virginia all dropped into the conference, entitled “Understanding and Addressing Threats to American Enterprise and Prosperity.” And Scott’s competitor-in-chief, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, addressed the group on Sunday, the first of the four-day meeting that wraps up Wednesday.

“The purpose of this conference is to develop support for the kind of free-market policies and initiatives that can get our country back on the path to economic prosperity and sustained job creation,” a spokeswoman for Koch Industries told The Denver Post last week.

Kansas-based Koch Industries, the second largest privately owned company in the United States, earned $100 billion in revenues in 2009, is controlled by Charles and David Koch, political activists who have donated more than $100 million to conservative GOP causes over the past three decades, according to a New Yorker profile. The pair have recently donated to tea party groups and organizations opposed to President Obama.

Florida Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff blasted Scott for secretly leaving the state during a state of emergency he declared because of wildfires.

“For Rick Scott to secretly leave the state during a state of emergency is completely irresponsible and shows why he continues to be the least popular governor in America,” Jotkoff said.

Senate turns out the lights on electric rate hike

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Legislation that would have given Florida Power & Light and other investor-owned utilities authority to raise customer rates to finance alternate energy projects appears dead for this session.

The Senate Budget Committee, on its final day of hearings, rewrote portions of the measure (CS/SB 2078), before delaying a vote.  But when the committee adjourned without a final vote, budget chief J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said that was the last lawmakers should expect to see of the proposal.

“We are disappointed, but we remain committed to working with the governor and Legislature to address Florida’s future energy needs,” said FPL spokeswoman Jackie Anderson.

Florida utilities, heavy contributors to both political parties, would have been allowed to tack on an additional charge – without prior approval by state regulators – to cover their costs of building solar and biomass energy plants or buying renewable energy from producers.

For FPL’s 4 million customers, mostly in South Florida, the Juno Beach-based utility’s $206.1 million share could mean an extra $2.40-a-month on average, or $28.80 annually, to encourage the use of alternate sources to oil-, gas-, coal-, or nuclear power.

Supporters said the move, sponsored by first-year Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Wellington, chair of the Senate’s Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee,  would create jobs in the burgeoning renewable industry. Critics said the extra charge is a giveaway, especially to FPL which last year was denied most of a $1.25 billion rate hike by the Florida Public Service Commission.

While utilities are potent political forces, Benacquisto’s bill ran into tea party opposition. Americans for Prosperity, an advocacy group founded by Palm Beach oil billionaire David Koch and a force in conservative politics, ran a full-page newspaper advertisement in the Tallahassee Democrat critical of the legislation.

Gov. Rick Scott also said he was wary of giving utilities the go-ahead to raise rates without regulatory oversight.

Removing the possibility of the rate increase would shield consumers from one of several measures certain to take money out of Floridians’ pockets. Scott and legislative leaders insist they are crafting a no-new-taxes budget, although higher out-of-pocket costs look certain for many Floridians.

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