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Trifecta: Bondi files re-election papers

Monday, July 1st, 2013 by Dara Kam

Joining her two GOP Cabinet colleagues, Attorney General Pam Bondi filed papers on Monday to seek another term as the state’s top legal eagle.

Bondi announced her entree into the 2014 race on Twitter: “Officially filed for re-elect this morning-looking forward to continuing working hard and serving the people of Florida!”

Chief Financial Jeff Atwater and Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Adam Putnam have also filed their initial campaign documents. Thus far, only Putnam has drawn a Democratic challenger.

Bondi, backed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, won a three-way Republican primary in 2010 and handily defeated Democrat Dan Gelber, winning nearly 55 percent of the vote.

Since she took office in 2011, Bondi’s been at the forefront of some high-profile lawsuits. She took over predecessor Bill McCollum’s case against the federal government over the federal health care law, ultimately losing when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that the law is constitutional but that states don’t have to participate in the expansion of Medicaid.

More recently, Bondi sued BP over the Deepwater Horizon oil blast that rocked Panhandle tourism and dumped oil onto the region’s pristine beaches and emerald waters.

She also was one of the lead attorneys general in settlement with banks over foreclosures.

Since her election in 2010, Bondi has been on a crusade to stop prescription drug abuse, convincing Gov. Rick Scott to back a statewide prescription drug database and backing measures to crack down on “pill mills.”

Bondi’s also a renowned pet-lover who brings her St. Bernard Luke to work with her and has made a habit of bringing dogs available for adoption to Cabinet meetings.

Scott and Cabinet to decide on $580,000 purchase of property adjacent to The Grove

Monday, March 19th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet will choose whether to add a part of Florida’s history to the state’s historical resources tomorrow. The price? $580,000.

The panel will decide whether to buy a three-quarter acre parcel adjacent to The Grove, the former home of the late Gov. LeRoy Collins, his wife, Mary Call Collins and their family. The antebellum home was built by Mary Call Collins’s great-grandfather, Richard Keith Call, a two-term territorial governor of Florida.

The Collinses gave The Grove, adjacent to the governor’s mansion in mid-town Tallahassee, to the state, which has first right of refusal on the neighboring properties. The trust that owns the properties received a purchase offer for the two lots, now the site of a law office and a parking lot.

Sunshine State continues to sizzle, Scott and Cabinet are told

Thursday, June 16th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet were briefed Thursday on the state’s battle against wildfires, which have engulfed 333,000 acres and have forced the deployment of 2,000 firefighters and emergency workers, officials said.

State forestry officials said 422 fires were blazing on state and federal land in Florida, with some of the worst in western Flagler County, Volusia County and near the border between Alachua and Bradford counties.

Drought is plaguing most of the state. But with late afternoon and evening rain occasionally easing the dryness, lightning is increasing the fire threat, said Jim Karels, director of the Florida Division of Forestry

“How we get out of these events is kind of a checkerboard process,” Karels said. “We get a little bit of rain here and there, we get lightning, we fight the fires. But ideally those afternoon showers build up to the 40 percent to 50 percent chance that you normally see in the summer. And that tends to get us out of it in a week or two. But we’ve got to get that consistently. And we’re not there yet.”

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ACLU asks Justice Department to investigate Florida clemency changes

Monday, April 25th, 2011 by Dara Kam

The ACLU has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to find out whether Florida’s new clemency process negatively impacts minority voting rights.

The new rules, pushed by Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi and adopted by the all-GOP Florida Cabinet on March 9, require felons to wait at least five years before they can ask to have their civil rights, including the right to vote, restored.

The change will affect more than a million Floridians, many of whom are minorities, who make up half of the state’s prison population, according to The Sentencing Project.

The ACLU wants DOJ to review the new rules the Voting Rights Act.

“The changes were nothing more than a highly targeted effort to prevent a group of people – mostly minorities – from gaining access to the ballot box,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. “The changes, including the secretive and rushed process by which the rules were created, smack of raw politics and intentional, racially focused election manipulation – and it requires review by the Justice Department.”

Scott, Cabinet in Panhandle get their game (fish) on

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott with his new fishing license in Panama City

Gov. Rick Scott, in the Panhandle as the state’s cheerleader-in-chief, and the Florida Cabinet threw down the gauntlet – at each other – in advance of a “friendly” fishing tournament this afternoon.

In Panama City on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon blast that sent 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam held their first out-of-town Cabinet meeting at the Bay County Government Center in Panama City.

Some good news for Florida anglers other than the Cabinet – Putnam’s staff announced the state would hold two free fishing weekends at the open of the red snapper season on June 4 and again for Father’s Day on June 19. And they’ve extended the scallop season for three extra weeks. The season will begin a week before its previously scheduled July 1 kick off and last two weeks longer than the slated Sept. 10 close.

The Cabinet fishing competition began almost as soon as the panel – all clad in Columbia fishing shirts embroidered with the new “Gulf Safe” seafood marketing logo – reached the podium.

“It’s great to be here,” said Scott, who purchased his $17.50 fishing license at C and G Sporting Goods in downtown Panama City earlier in the day. “We’re going to have a fishing tournament. And we all know that I’m going to win.”

Bondi stepped up to Scott’s challenge.

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Cabinet fishing tournament tomorrow in Panama City

Monday, April 18th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet will be angling for some positive PR in the Panhandle tomorrow – literally.

Scott has set up a fishing tournament in Panama City after the Cabinet’s meeting there ends tomorrow afternoon, according to his spokeswoman Amy Graham.

Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater will go out on the water in charter fishing boats late tomorrow afternoon and have a weigh-in back at the docks to see who’s the best with a rod and reel.

They’ll be competing for a $5,000 grand prize sponsored by the Northwest Florida Tourism Council, one of the seven counties that just received $20 million from BP to market the region. The money will go to the winner’s choice of a charity related to the oil spill, Graham said.

Scott to hold Cabinet meeting, tour Panhandle on oil disaster anniversary

Thursday, April 14th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet will hold their next meeting in the Panhandle on Tuesday, the eve of the one-year anniversary since the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Scott will spend two days touring the region to promote Northwest Florida’s beaches and seafood, his staff said today.

His trip coincides not only with the BP oil disaster anniversary but comes on the heels of an announcement earlier this week that the oil giant is giving $30 million to seven Panhandle counties for marketing as the area’s summer tourist season kicks up.

Scott has not yet decided whether to join in a federal lawsuit, as Alabama has done and Mississippi and Louisiana are considering, against Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig. The state has until Wednesday, the date set by a Louisiana federal judge, to join the lawsuit. Lawyers involved in the case say Florida could lose out on recapturing millions of dollars in lost tax revenues by not joining the case.

Stay tuned for more details about Scott’s Panhandle swing.

Scott, clemency board do away with automatic restoration of rights for felons

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Convicted felons who have served their sentences and paid restitution must now wait a minimum of five years before applying to have their rights restored, under changes approved by Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet acting as the board of executive clemency today.

The new rules impose a five-year wait period for those convicted of non-violent crimes. Those convicted of violent crimes, including murder or DUI manslaughter, must wait seven years and require a hearing to request to have their civil rights, including the right to vote, restored.

Florida will now join two other states with such severe restrictions limiting former felons from voting.

The board did not release the proposed rule changes to the public until moments before the meeting began and limited public testimony to two-minutes per person for a total of 30 minutes before unanimously approving the changes.

“Felons seeking restoration of civil rights demonstrate they desire and deserve clemency only after they show they’re willing to abide by the law,” Scott said.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, a former prosecutor, first suggested the rule change two weeks ago. But it was Scott’s staff who explained the rules when questioned by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam Wednesday morning.

“I think they’re fair. I believe that there should be a waiting period and I believe that someone should have to ask to have their rights restored. I believe, as a 20-year prosecutor, any felony is a serious crime,” Bondi said.

Civil rights advocates, including five black lawmakers, objected to the rule changes, saying there is no evidence the current process – approved by Gov. Charlie Crist and the former Cabinet in 2007 – is not working.

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No delay in clemency vote

Monday, March 7th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Attorney General Pam Bondi wants a vote on changes to the state’s limited automatic restoration of rights for felons although her proposed rules won’t be available until the day of the vote.

Bondi and the Florida Cabinet, acting as the board of executive clemency, are slated to vote on her proposed rule changes Wednesday at a special meeting of the board.

Bondi, elected in November, wants to do away with the current automatic restoration of rights, including the right to vote, for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes, impose a three-to-five year waiting period before they can apply to have their rights restored and add more crimes to the list barring felons from regaining their civil rights.

Bondi met with ACLU executive director Howard Simon and NAACP Florida VP Dale Landry last week. The civil rights advocates asked Bondi to hold off on the vote until the public could scrutinize her proposed rules and give their input.

Bondi’s staff said last week she plans to ask for a vote Wednesday and that the rules won’t be available until then.

ACLU asks clemency board to slow down on changes to restoration of rights

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 by Dara Kam

Civil rights advocates are asking the clemency board to hold off on changes to the state’s restoration of rights for felons scheduled for a vote Wednesday.

Attorney General Pam Bondi announced last week she was drafting a proposed rule change eliminating Florida’s limited automatic restoration of rights for felons convicted of non-violent crimes, approved by the executive clemency board under former Gov. Charlie Crist’s urging nearly four years ago.

But the sweeping changes proposed by Bondi, including a wait period of three to five years before felons can apply to have their rights – including the right to vote – restored have not yet been released just two work days before the scheduled vote.

In a letter to board members Bondi, Gov. Rick Scott, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, ACLU of Florida executive director Howard Simon asked the clemency board to delay the vote until the public has time to scrutinize them.

“The combination of suddenness, speed and lack of details have created an environment in which needed input is locked out or sitting on the side waiting to review, analyze and offer suggestions and counsel,” Simon wrote to each of the board members. “There is no emergency that requires action at your meeting next week. Rule changes can be made at any time.”

Simon, who met with Bondi earlier this week, wants the board to get public input before doing away with the current system.

“Any changes will impact Florida families and public safety for years to come. It’s more important to get the process and policy right than to get it done quickly,” he wrote.

New Florida Cabinet meets for the first time

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011 by Dara Kam

The all-new Florida Cabinet held a very brief meeting this morning, the first since the all-GOP panel took office early this month.

Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam ran through the skimpy agenda in less than half an hour. The highlight: the Cabinet’s confirmation of Scott’s pick for Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard.

“Congratulations. You’ve got a lot of work to do,” Scott told Vinyard, a Jacksonville businessman and lawyer, after the vote. Scott’s transition team was highly critical of the agency and recommended merging it with two other departments to help streamline permitting and regulation.

Scott has revamped the Cabinet procedures and eliminated the until-now routine Q-and-A with reporters before and after the bimonthly meeting, at least for today.

Before the 9 a.m. meeting, Scott’s spokesman advised reporters not to rush the governor on the dais after the meeting ended and that Scott would not answer questions until noon when he is scheduled to address the Associated Press annual editors meeting on the 22nd floor of the Capitol.

Scott’s Cabinet colleagues weren’t so media-shy, however.

Bondi, Atwater and Putnam – all University of Florida alumni – posed for photos and shook hands outside the Cabinet room for about 30 minutes before the meeting started and remained for nearly as long answering questions from reporters after its conclusion.

Scott answered a single question after the meeting.

“Fine. Fine,” he responded when asked how his first Cabinet meeting went. He was then whisked away.

Jim Morrison bandmates demand apology, not pardon

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet’s pardon of the late iconic rocker Jim Morrison nearly 40 years after his death wasn’t enough, his Doors bandmates are saying.

In fact, it was unnecessary, The Doors’ remaining members Ray Manzarek, John Densmore and Robby Krieger contend, because Morrison never did what he was accused of.

“Four decades after the fact, with Jim an icon for multiple generations – and those who railed against him now a laughingstock – Florida has seen fit to issue a pardon,” the band members and the Morrison family wrote in a press release. “We don’t feel Jim needs to be pardoned for anything.”

What they want instead is an apology.

“If the State of Florida and the City of Miami want to make amends for the travesty of Jim Morrison’s arrest and prosecution forty years after the fact, an apology would be more appropriate – and expunging the whole sorry matter from the record,” they wrote.

Morrison was convicted after police reported he taunted a crowd March 1969, at the now-defunct Dinner Key auditorium in Miami with verbal sexual come-ons and simulated oral sex, then pulled down his pants and exposing himself to thousands of fans. He was convicted in 1970 of public profanity and indecent exposure and sentenced to six months in jail and a $500 fine.

He died in a Paris bathtub in 1971 while his appeal was pending.

Read the entire press release after the jump.
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Under pressure, GOP lawmakers drop two bills from special session

Monday, November 15th, 2010 by Dara Kam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bondi scooping up DC cash from Tim Kaine loser

Monday, October 25th, 2010 by Dara Kam

With barely more than a week until Election Day, GOP attorney general candidate Pam Bondi took time out from campaigning in the Sunshine State for quick trip to Washington DC to rake in some dough for ad time.

Bondi flew into DC briefly for a fundraiser hosted by former Virginia attorney general Jerry Kilgore, Bondi spokeswoman Sandi Copes said in an e-mail.

Bondi surely hopes she fares better than Kilgore did in his last election.

The Republican resigned as Virginia’s attorney general in 2005 to run for governor of the then-red state.

But Kilgore lost to Democrat Tim Kaine, now the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

The Gelber camp blasted Bondi, who’s never run for office before, for the fundraising trip, setting off a typical finger-pointing volley in the contentious race to succeed Attorney General Bill McCollum.
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Speaker-to-be tells Crist to back off on federal health care reforms

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010 by Dara Kam

House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon essentially gave Gov. Charlie Crist a cease and desist order telling the governor to quit enabling the federal government regarding health care reforms.

Cannon, R-Orlando, accused Crist of “commandeering of state insurance regulatory resources” by allowing executive agencies to begin implementing the federal health care reforms even as the state is suing White House agencies over them.

Read Cannon’s letter to Crist here.

Cannon’s demands could set up a possible showdown between the executive and legislative branches of government over the health care reforms, which Crist, the independent candidate in the U.S. Senate race, says he supports in part.

Cannon gave Crist until Nov. 15 to tell him how much the state is spending on workers and other resources to comply with the reforms and told him that Crist will need the legislature’s approval before taking any further action.

Cannon complains in the letter to Crist that the Office of Insurance Regulation is jumpstarting new insurance regulations by developing data systems. But that office is overseen by not just Crist. He and the Florida Cabinet – including Attorney General Bill McCollum, who filed the lawsuit over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care act – make up the Financial Services Commission that’s in charge of OIR.

CFO debate debacle

Friday, October 8th, 2010 by Dara Kam

There either will or won’t be a debate between chief financial officer candidates Jeff Atwater and his Democrat opponent Loranne Ausley.

Ausley, a former state representative from Tallahassee, has made much of Atwater, the outgoing Senate president, avoiding a debate in the statewide race.

She held a press conference in Tallahassee this morning Florida demanding that Atwater agree to a debate before the Nov. 2 election.

“I’m running to clean up the mess in Tallahassee, not to hide from problems, duck debates, and refuse to be held accountable,” she said.

Hold on, Atwater’s campaign insists. The North Palm Beach banker’s campaign spokesman Brian Hughes said they had agreed to an Oct. 21 debate at Univision but Ausley backed out.

“As for the issue of a debate, the facts are as I laid them out to you. She needs to tell you guys why she said no the the 21st. We accepted one date Oct 21) that they’ve said no to because of schedule. (Univision) They accepted one that we couldn’t do because of schedule (Leadership FL/UofF). Now, they’ve accepted an alternate date at Univision and we’re seeing if it will work,” Hughes said in an e-mail.

The upshot is that the duo may take part in a verbal duel on Oct. 28 sponsored by Univision.

UPDATE: Sink calls Scott deceptive, irresponsible for ‘scaring our retirees’

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: A spokesman for Rick Scott’s campaign responded to Alex Sink’s rant about her GOP opponent Scott’s attack ads, paid for by the Republican Party of Florida.

“As the St Petersburg Times reported, CFO Sink never declared a potential conflict and supported a no-bid contract to her former employer. Instead of looking for a correction from the St Petersburg Times, Sink is trying to draw attention from valid questions over her integrity and competence,” Scott campaign spokesman Joe Kildea said in an e-mail.

As far as her accusation that Scott is scaring pensioners, Kildea wrote: “She is trying to draw attention away from the facts (as reported in the St Pete. Times)”

Chief Financial Officer and Democrat governor hopeful Alex Sink went on a rant in response to questions about her GOP opponent Rick Scott’s attack ads accusing her of benefiting from a no-bid contract that went to her former employer and being responsible for the state pension fund’s $23 billion loss three years ago.

“You know that’s ridiculous,” Sink, a trustee along with Gov. Charlie Crist and Attorney General Bill McCollum of Florida’s State Board of Administration, which handles pension funds for state and municipal workers.

“The whole market almost collapsed. Everybody’s 401K took a dive. And the good news is that independent authorities call the Florida pension fund one of the strongest investment pension funds in the country.
We are one of the strongest public pension funds in the country. He is out there scaring our retirees into thinking that their pensions are at risk. He’s irresponsible and shouldn’t be doing it.”

Sink was even more incensed over an ad accusing her of voting to give former employer Bank of America a no-bid contract when she may have held stock in the company. The Republican Party of Florida paid for both of the television ads.

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Sink, Florida Cabinet fed up with BP claims czar Feinberg

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink used an update this morning on Florida’s response to the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster to blast BP claims czar Ken Feinberg for paying too little, too late to Panhandle businesses and causing at least one company to close its doors.

“I’m kind of of the mind set that enough is enough,” Sink, the Democrat candidate for governor, said at this morning’s Cabinet meeting. “I don’t know about you all but I’m sick and tired of this. These desperate people through no fault of their own having to shut their business down? That’s horrendous!”

Sink said the owners of Harmony Beach Vacations in Destin sent her an e-mail yesterday telling her they were going out of business because their claim for lost revenues has languished under both BP and Feinberg, who took over the oil giant’s maligned claims process for individuals and businesses on Aug. 23.

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Sink (and Crist) bold move over languishing oil spill claims: Write a letter!

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010 by Dara Kam

After hearing that not a single business on Pensacola Beach has received a dime from BP claims czar Ken Feinberg in nearly a month, Chief Financial Officer proposed sending (another) letter to Feinberg urging him to get on it.

“This is just not right,” Sink, the Democrat running for governor against Republican Rick Scott, said before the Cabinet heard an update on the oil spill at this morning’s Cabinet meeting.

Sink suggested ordering Feinberg to show up at the next Cabinet meeting to explain why he hasn’t followed through on his earlier pledge to quickly process claims to help out Panhandle residents whose businesses have floundered since the April 20th Deepwater Horizon disaster. Or, she said, the Cabinet could write a letter to Feinberg urging him to take action. Sink has made repeated requests in writing to Feinberg, BP officials and others demanding they speed up payments to floundering businesses in the Panhandle threatening to shut down because of the spill.

Gov. Charlie Crist agreed to sign on to Sink’s letter to try to get some help to Floridians, especially those in the Panhandle.

“It’s become increasingly difficult for them to be able to hang on,” Crist, the independent candidate in the three-way race for U.S. Senate said.

Attorney General Bill McCollum, whose office has been out front dealing with Feinberg and BP throughout response to the disaster, is supposed to meet with Feinberg this week. McCollum was in Pensacola attending the federal hearing on his lawsuit against President Barack Obama’s administration over health care reforms.

Aronberg, Gelber a state apart in last-minute push for attorney general

Saturday, August 21st, 2010 by Dara Kam

The Democratic candidates for attorney general spent the day in opposite parts of the state waving signs and knocking on doors in a last-ditch effort to win votes in Tuesday’s primary election.

State Sen. Dave Aronberg is spending the day in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. His opponent, Dan Gelber, is stumping in North Florida with stops in Tallahassee and Pensacola.

Gelber topped all of the attorney general candidates – including the three Republicans in a tight primary – in campaign contributions. He edged out opponent Aronberg, who led the raise in fundraising until this month, by just $11,000.

Like the Republican primary, the Aronberg and Gelber race is too close to call.

“With 43 percent undecided this is anyone’s game right now,” Aronberg said while going door-to-door in South Florida.

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