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Senate panel approves sentencing guideline, mandatory minimum changes

Monday, April 25th, 2011 by Dara Kam

The Senate Judiciary Committee gave tepid approval to a measure sponsored by Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, that would give judges discretion over sentencing for drug traffickers and lower from 85 to 65 percent the amount of time non-violent offenders would have to serve.

Doing away with Florida’s sentencing guidelines and the requirement that prisoners serve 85 percent of their sentences were among Gov. Rick Scott’s transition team’s recommendations.

They’re also part of a national movement called “Smart on Crime” pushed by conservatives like Grover Norquist as one way to cut prison costs by getting drug addicts into treatment instead of putting them behind bars.

But the bill (SB 1334) gave at least one conservative senator heartburn because it does away with the minimum mandatory sentence for drug dealers and instead would impose a $200,000 fine on someone trafficking in as much as 10,000 pounds of pot.

“It sweeps way too broadly for me,” objected Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland, a lawyer. “I’m reading where it says trafficking in cocaine. We’re talking about huge quantities of cocaine. We’re talking about 150 kilograms of cocaine and there’s no minimum mandatory sentence for that kind of person.”

The bill would transfer the sentencing authority to judges, Bogdanoff argued, and would require some repeat offenders to serve 92 percent – instead of the current 85 percent – of their sentences.

“This bill doesn’t say we’re not going to put drug traffickers in jail. It just says we’re going to leave the discretion to the judge,” argued Bogdanoff. “This is a whole movement on a national level. We are putting drug addicts in jail and that does not serve society. We need to get them help.”

Senate approves TABOR-type cap on government spending

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011 by Dara Kam

The Florida Senate approved a constitutional amendment that would cap government spending, a variation of the “Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights,” or TABOR, Colorado instituted in 1992 but repealed in 2005.

The so-called “Smart Cap” measure, sponsored by Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, limits future state spending to growth based on population and cost of living and constrains borrowing. Voters in 20 other states have rejected similar measures.

Opponents of the proposed amendment argued that the state constitution already curbs state spending by requiring a balanced budget and that the spending caps could harm the state’s most vulnerable in economic downturns like Florida is now experiencing. Lawmakers are struggling to slash at least $3.62 billion from last year’s budget.

The Colorado measure also capped local government spending increases, something not included in Bogdanoff’s proposal, and resulted in a dramatic decline in education and social services funding.

“We already have a revenue limit in Florida. We have repealed as much as $19 billion in taxes over the last 12 years. We simply don’t need an even more restrictive cap in the state constitution,” Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston argued. “If you think we’ve had hard choices to make…over the past few years,
TABOR will only make it worse.”

But Bogdanoff insisted her bill is necessary to rein lawmakers in.

“We already have a cap in the constitution. But it’s not working. We need one that’s going to work better,” Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, said. “This is not Colorado. We have learned from the mistakes of other states.
We didn’t want to repeat what they had done…If government takes less, the people have more. and I don’t know about you but I’m okay with that.”

The measure passed with a 27-13 vote. Two Republicans, Sens. Paula Dockery of Lakeland and Nancy Detert of Venice, voted against it; one Democrat, Sen. Bill Montford of Tallahassee, voted in favor.

The proposal is one of Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ top priorities. Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, is running for U.S. Senate, and, if approved by the House, could join him on the November 2012 ballot if he wins what is expected to be a crowded GOP primary.

The House has not yet voted on the bill (SB 958). It would require 60 percent approval by voters to get into the state constitution if it makes it on the ballot.

New state Sen. Bogdanoff cranks up 2012 money machine

Thursday, January 27th, 2011 by George Bennett


Three months after winning her Palm Beach-Broward seat, state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, is hitting up donors for 2012 reelection cash at events next week in Palm Beach and Broward counties.

The host committee for Bogdanoff’s Tuesday night event at McCormick & Schmick’s restaurant in West Palm Beach includes Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams, state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, state Reps. Bill Hager, Pat Rooney and George Moraitis and Mayors Jose Rodriguez of Boynton Beach and Susan Whelchel of Boca Raton.

Bogdanoff also has a Feb. 3 fund-raiser in Fort Lauderdale at the Tripp Scott law firm.

‘Outsider’ Scott gets support of nearly all GOP state House reps and senators

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010 by Dara Kam

All but a baker’s dozen of GOP state House and Senate members are backing Republican gubernatorial nominee Rick Scott, who ran as an “outsider” in a brutal GOP primary against Attorney General Bill McCollum.

Scott released a list of campaign co-chairmen that included nearly all of the state legislature’s Republicans, some of whom backed McCollum in the primary and objected at the time that Scott, who spent $50 million of his own money in the primary, couldn’t be trusted.

McCollum has refused to endorse Scott in the general election against Democrat Alex Sink.

The list of GOP legislators who haven’t signed on either, according to the campaign document, include:

Senate Majority Leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla, Sens. Victor Crist, Nancy Detert, Rudy Garcia, Steve Oelrich, and Alex Villalobos, who publicly endorsed Sink this week.

Also missing was Ft. Lauderdale Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, who’s running against Democrat Rep. Kelly Skidmore in the race to replace Senate President Jeff Atwater. Atwater’s stepping down to run for chief financial officer.

Dueling polls: both Domino, Bogdanoff say they’re up in GOP state Senate primary

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010 by George Bennett

Somebody’s in for a surprise on Aug. 24.

Republican state Reps. Carl Domino of Jupiter and Ellyn Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale — primary rivals in the race for Palm Beach-Broward Senate District 25 — are both leading in their respective internal polls, their campaigns say.

Domino has a 41.7-to-25.3 percent lead in a poll conducted July 8 by Diversified Research, according to a memo today by consultant David Wolfson.

Bogdanoff has a 31.7-to-21 percent lead in a late-June poll conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, campaign manager Todd Richardson says.

The GOP primary winner faces Democrat Kelly Skidmore and no-party candidate Miranda Rosenberg in November.

GOP state Senate candidates face off Thursday in West Palm Beach

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010 by George Bennett

Republicans running for the Florida Senate District 25 and 27 seats are scheduled to appear at a “Town Hall Debate” Thursday sponsored by the Republican Club of the Palm Beaches and South Florida 912. The event is at 6:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church at 1101 South Flagler Drive.

In District 25, state Reps. Ellyn Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale and Carl Domino of Jupiter are running for the GOP nomination to succeed Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, who is running for chief financial officer. The Republican winner will face Democratic state Rep. Kelly Skidmore and no-party candidate Miranda Rosenberg in November.

The District 27 GOP race features former Wellington councilwoman Lizbeth Benacquisto, retired pilot Michael Lameyer and former state Rep. Sharon Merchant. The seat is now held by state Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, who is running for attorney general. Democrats Pete Burkert and Kevin Rader are also running.

Shoeless Carl Domino’s TV debut

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010 by George Bennett

Amid the saturation advertising by Democratic Senate hopeful Jeff Greene and Republican governor hopeful Rick Scott in recent weeks, we neglected to mention that state Rep. Carl Domino, R-Jupiter, was the first local legislative candidate to make a significant TV buy with this 30-second spot for his state Senate campaign. The ad just finished a two-week run.

Like Greene and Scott, Domino is wealthy and has put significant amounts of his own money into his primary race against state Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale. Unlike the Greene and Scott ads that have aired so far, Domino comes across as a guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously. While impish background music plays throughout, Domino holds up a foam Florida State No. 1 finger, notes that he “married a woman way too good for me” and ends up barefoot in a blue suit in the ocean.

Republican Domino to Democrat Sachs: Thanks (?) for the kudos

Friday, June 4th, 2010 by George Bennett

With Gov. Charlie Crist making a late cancellation to attend an oil spill powwow in Louisiana with President Obama, state Reps. Carl Domino, R-Jupiter, and Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, filled in as speakers at today’s Forum Club of the Palm Beaches lunch.

Responding to an audience question about partisan rancor, Sachs said Domino “has really become the most bipartisan Republican in the Florida House.”

Working with the other party isn’t necessarily seen as a virtue in a competitive partisan primary like the one Domino faces against state Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, for a state Senate seat.

“In this political atmosphere, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing,” Domino said of Sachs’ remark. “I’ll take it as a good thing.”

Grass-roots cred: at least four local candidates make ballot by petition

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010 by George Bennett



At least four local candidates have secured spots on the 2010 ballot by collecting signatures rather than paying a filing fee.

Democratic Palm Beach County Commissioners Jess Santamaria and Priscilla Taylor and state House candidates Tami Donnally (R) and Lori Berman (D) turned in valid signatures from at least 1 percent of voters in their districts to qualify for the ballot.



The deadline to turn in signatures was noon Monday. Elections staffers are still checking on petitions submitted by five other candidates: Democratic county commission hopeful Michael E. Jackson, state Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, and state House candidates Mark Marciano, Francisco Rodriguez and Bill Hager.

The period for state and county candidates to submit final paperwork and filing fees to qualify for the 2010 ballot is June 14-18.


Bogdanoff lands key endorsements in GOP state Senate primary

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 by George Bennett



Senate President-designate Mike Haridopolos, the Merritt Island Republican who is the GOP’s Senate campaign honcho for 2010, announced today he’s backing state Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, in the Republican primary for the Palm Beach-Broward seat of current Senate Prez Jeff Atwater.

Bogdanoff faces state Rep. Carl Domino, R-Jupiter, in the GOP primary to replace Atwater, who’s running for chief financial officer. The GOP winner will face Democratic state Rep. Kelly Skidmore of Boca Raton.

Also endorsing Bogdanoff: state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, whose district includes some of Domino’s northern Palm Beach County constituents, and Sens. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.

Bogdanoff, Benacquisto maintain big money leads in GOP Senate primaries

Monday, January 11th, 2010 by George Bennett

State Rep. Carl Domino, R-Jupiter, finally cranked up his fund-raising operation for his GOP Senate primary against state Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, during the final quarter of 2009. But Bogdanoff still outraised Domino 2-to-1 during the quarter and has a $336,626-to-$48,965 lead in overall contributions.

Domino has also put $110,000 of his own money into the primary to succeed Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach. Atwater is running for chief financial officer.

In another closely watched GOP Senate primary, Wellington Councilwoman Lizbeth Benacquisto raised $33,810 during the fourth quarter while Republican rival Sharon Merchant raised $14,449. Benacquisto has an overall money edge of $150,040 to $72,099.

Benacquisto and Merchant are running for the seat of attorney general candidate Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres. Democratic Senate hopefuls Peter Burkert and Kevin Rader hadn’t turned in their fourth-quarter reports late this afternoon.

Rothstein roundup: Domino at ease, Tallahassee on edge, law firm on defensive

Monday, November 9th, 2009 by George Bennett

Fort Lauderdale attorney Scott Rothstein and Gov. Charlie Crist

State Rep. Carl Domino, R-Jupiter, doesn’t sound eager to make an issue of the $21,750 or more that GOP state Senate primary rival Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, has received over the years from alleged investment swindler Scott Rothstein.

“There but for the grace of God….” Domino said last week when asked about Bogdanoff’s Rothstein money and his apparently Rothstein-free portfolio.

Read about it in this week’s Politics column.

And click here to read Dara Kam’s account of the Rothstein-inspired unease in Tallahassee.

Also, esteemed business columnist Alexandra Clough pondures the allure of the Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm.

Atwater, Bogdanoff vow to give back Rothstein contributions

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009 by George Bennett

Senate President and chief financial officer candidate Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, and state Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, who’s running for Atwater’s Senate seat, have pledged to give back contributions related to Scott Rothstein, the Fort Lauderdale attorney accused by his law partners of looting investors in a multimillion-dollar scheme.

Atwater appears to have received a combined $11,500 from Rothstein, his wife, the Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm and a slew of businesses tied to Rothstein. Bogdanoff’s Senate campaign has logged at least $10,500 in Rothstein-linked money, and a political committee she’s affiliated with got $5,000 from Rothstein’s law firm.

Both Atwater’s and Bogdanoff’s campaigns, however, said they haven’t figured out yet exactly where to return the money.

Democratic CFO and governor candidate Alex Sink’s campaign pledged Monday to return all Rothstein-related contributions. Sink appears to have received at least $6,500 linked to Rothstein.

Stung by divorce, Nick Loeb dropping state Senate bid and pledging full refund to contributors

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009 by George Bennett

Anna and Nick Loeb in happier times

Anna and Nick Loeb in happier times

DELRAY BEACH — Saying he can’t run for office while going through a divorce, Nick Loeb is terminating his state Senate bid and pledging to spend more than $100,000 of his own money to give full refunds to everyone who contributed to his campaign.

Loeb, a Republican who had former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani come to Palm Beach County to headline a May fund-raiser, said he collected more than $300,000 in contributions and spent more than $100,000 on his campaign for the Palm Beach-Broward legislative seat of Senate President Jeff Atwater, who’s running for chief financial officer in 2010.

Loeb’s wife, Anna, filed for divorce this month. Nick Loeb said he and his wife have been separated since July, when he said Anna Loeb reconnected with an old boyfriend while she was visiting her native Sweden.

Anna Loeb’s attorney, Michael Walsh, was not immediately reachable this afternoon to comment on Nick Loeb’s version events.

“I wish things could be different. This is not what I wanted. I have tried to reconcile but this is what she wants,” Nick Loeb said.


Local pols seek their distance from indicted eye doc/moneyman

Monday, October 12th, 2009 by George Bennett

For years, Broward eye doctor Alan Mendelsohn wrote checks and raised money for a host of elected officials from both parties and funneled big bucks into campaigns through shadowy “527″ political committees.

Then the ophthalmologist/moneyman was hit with a 32-count federal indictment accusing him of siphoning much of the committee money for his personal use and directing $87,000 in concealed payments to an unnamed former public official.

Mendelsohn has pleaded not guilty, but the verdict is already in from the former recipients of Mendelsohn’s largesse. They’re distancing themselves from the former money spigot.

Click here to read about Mendelsohn and local pols in this week’s Politics column.

Former U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw helps rivals Bogdanoff, Domino raise money for GOP state Senate primary

Monday, September 28th, 2009 by George Bennett

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw of Fort Lauderdale is listed on the host committee for an Oct. 13 fund-raiser in West Palm Beach and an Oct. 15 event in Deerfield Beach for the state Senate campaign of state Rep. Carl Domino, R-Jupiter.

Shaw was also on the host committee for an Aug. 28 fund-raiser in Boca Raton for one of Domino’s GOP primary rivals, state Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale.

The invitation to Domino’s Oct. 15 fund-raiser also lists Broward County GOP Chairman Chip LaMarca as a host committee member. But LaMarca has endorsed Bogdanoff in the Republican Senate primary.

What gives?


Republican activist flushes chance to censure Crist; state GOP keeps eye on proceedings

Sunday, August 16th, 2009 by George Bennett



Barry Carson’s brief trip to the men’s room spared Gov. Charlie Crist the embarrassment of being censured by Palm Beach County’s Republican Party last week.

Carson, a Republican Executive Committee member from Jupiter, was out of the room and missed the vote when the rest of the committee split 65-65 on a resolution Wednesday night to rebuke Crist for his various departures from GOP orthodoxy.

The tie vote means the resolution failed.

Carson said he would have voted for censure.

mensroomBut after hours of debate and an earlier vote on whether to table the censure resolution, Carson went to the men’s room. When he got back, his name had been passed in the roll call of Republican committee members.

Carson said he told party leaders he was back and wanted to vote before the roll call was complete, but was ignored by county GOP Chairman Sid Dinerstein and others who opposed censure.



“Sid didn’t want the resolution and because of my prostate problem he found a way to get it (defeated),” Carson told the Politics column.

Dinerstein said he didn’t know of Carson’s wish to vote until it was too late.

“This guy didn’t say a word until our vote was finished and recorded,” Dinerstein said. “To me it was a little like sending in your absentee ballot late.”


Big Brother: Not us, says state GOP

Big Brother: Not us, says state GOP

The Republican Party of Florida, which is chaired by close Crist ally Jim Greer, took an interest in the censure vote. Carla Rivera, a field rep from the state GOP, attended the meeting and videotaped the county GOP’s deliberations.

“We do that a lot of times when we go to events,” state GOP spokeswoman Katie Gordon said. “It’s not sort of Big Brother overseeing what the local parties are doing. We’re all on the same team.”


State Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, is bolstering her Palm Beach County support as she runs for the Palm Beach-Broward state Senate district now held by CFO-seeking state Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach.



Bogdanoff is already backed by House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach. And the hosts for a Bogdanoff fund-raiser later this month include some big Boca Raton names: Mayor Susan Whelchel, Boca Councilwoman Susan Haynie, GOP activist Jack Furnari and former county Republican Chairman Tom Sliney.

Bogdanoff faces two Palm Beach County rivals — state Rep. Carl Domino of Jupiter and businessman Nick Loeb of Delray Beach — in a Republican primary in which about 64 percent of Republican voters live in Palm Beach County.




Retired educator Vincent Goodman, a Republican who was one of Crist’s four finalists for the Palm Beach County commission appointment that eventually went to Democrat Priscilla Taylor, has opened a campaign to run for the seat in 2010. Democrats have a 4-to-1 registration edge over Republicans in Taylor’s minority-dominated District 7.

Domino shrugs off $3,147 fund-raising while Senate rivals top six figures

Monday, July 20th, 2009 by George Bennett

State Rep. Carl Domino, R-Jupiter, says he’s not worried that he raised only $3,147 from contributors in the first six weeks of his campaign for the state Senate District 25 seat while Republican primary rivals Nick Loeb ($225,105) and state Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff ($122,575) have piled up far more.

Domino: $110,058 of own money in Senate race

Domino: $110,047 of own money in Senate race

“We raise money in a different cycle,” explained Domino, who has put $110,058 of his own money into the race. Domino, Bogdanoff and Loeb are vying for the Palm Beach-Broward seat of Senate President Jeff Atwater, who’s running for chief financial officer in 2010.

Bogdanoff’s and Loeb’s totals include money they raised for state House campaigns before Atwater announced he was leaving his Senate seat and they switched to that contest. Loeb has put $7,200 of his own money into the race on top of the $225,105 he’s received from others.

Domino says he’ll be financially competitive by the time the GOP primary rolls around more than 13 months from now. He says he doesn’t plan to crank up fund-raising until late September or October.

Wealthy investment manager Domino spent $210,000 of his own money on an unsuccessful 2000 state House bid and $270,000 of his own money on his winning 2002 state House campaign. Since entering the state House, Domino has relied primarily on other people’s money rather than his own checkbook. In 2008, he put $2,094 of his own money into his House reelection bid and raised $319,039 from donors.

Senate races attract slew of candidates who live outside districts

Monday, June 29th, 2009 by George Bennett

On his way to winning the state House District 78 seat last year, state Rep. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach, often reminded voters that he actually lived in the district while Democratic primary rival Steve Nichol did not and candidate Steven Perman had merely rented an apartment there while owning a house in Broward County.

Now Rader is entertaining thoughts of running next year in a state Senate district where he doesn’t live.

He has plenty of company.


Hasner endorses Bogdanoff in GOP state Senate primary

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009 by George Bennett

Passing over two Republicans from his own county, House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Boca Raton, is endorsing state Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, in the three-Republican primary for the seat of Senate President Jeff Atwater, who’s running for chief financial officer.

Hasner at one point was considered a likely GOP candidate for the Palm Beach-Broward seat, but opted not to run for any office in 2010 when he faces term limits.

About 64 percent of Senate District 25 voters live in Palm Beach County and about 36 percent in Broward County. Hasner’s endorsement of Broward County resident Bogdanoff comes at the expense of two Palm Beach County Republicans — state Rep. Carl Domino, R-Jupiter, and Delray Beach businessman Nick Loeb.


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