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Atwater airs first ad in CFO race

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Senate President Jeff Atwater, the GOP chief financial officer candidate, released his first statewide television ad less than a month before the Nov. 2 election.

Atwater, in a polo shirt, stands before a chalkboard in the “Chalk Talk” ad, instructing viewers about how he supports lower taxes, smaller government and less red tape to help grow Florida’s economy.

Atwater’s positive ad makes no mention of his opponent, former state Rep. Loranne Ausley. The Tallahassee Democrat has attacked the North Palm Beach banker for his role in the legislature’s spending on a $110 million private prison that cost at least 70 prison workers their jobs and a $38 million luxury appeals court. And she hammered him for not hiring an auditing firm to scrutinize lobbyist expenditure and compensation reports.

Atwater hit back with a reminder that Ausley sponsored a bill that would have watered-down the gift ban that prohibits lawmakers from accepting gifts from lobbyists. Her bill would have allowed lawmakers to wine and dine at official functions as long as the value of the food or drinks was less than $20.

UPDATE: Atwater punches back in CFO wars

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: It took just minutes for Loranne Ausley’s campaign to respond to opponent Jeff Atwater’s latest lob.

“It’s nice to welcome Jeff Atwater to the campaign, if only to defend his refusal to follow the law and audit lobbyists. Now if only he had a platform, or a defense of his $2 billion in tax hikes, or his vote for the $48 million Taj Mahal, or the $110 million private prison to nowhere, or his RPOF AmEx card. I’m sure this will all be explained in detail at the debate that he refuses to have with the real fiscal watchdog in the campaign, Loranne Ausley,” Ausley’s campaign spokesman Kevin Cate wrote in an e-mail.

After weeks of getting hammered by Democrat Loranne Ausley, Senate President Jeff Atwater has gone on the offensive in the chief financial officer battle.

Atwater’s campaign issued a press release reminding voters that his opponent Ausley sponsored a measure two years ago that would have weakened (slightly) the state’s lobbying ban prohibiting lawmakers from accepting gifts from lobbyists.

Ausley, a former state representative from Tallahassee, sponsored a bill that would have allowed lawmakers to take food or drinks worth $20 or less at government-related functions and some other affairs.

“Whether a demonstration of unrivaled hypocrisy or a severe case of amnesia, Loranne Ausley’s record is clear: she wants free lunch and she wants big-money lobbyists to pick up the check,” Atwater’s campaign spokesman Brian Hughes said in an e-mail.

Ausley’s latest shot at Atwater blamed him for failing to hire a firm to audit the lobbyist reports as state law requires.

She’s gone after Atwater for a variety of big-ticket spending items during his tenure as senate president, including a controversial appeals court, dubbed the “Taj Mahal,” that is now the subject of a grand jury investigation.

CFO candidate Ausley slams opponent Atwater for failure to audit lobbyists

Monday, September 27th, 2010 by Dara Kam

The Senate President is a powerful man, but who knew he had control over items as far-reaching as lobbyists’ earnings and courthouse buildings?

Former state Rep. Loranne Ausley, apparently.

In her continuing strategy to defeat outgoing Senate President Jeff Atwater, Ausley, a Democrat, has accused him of failing to rein in spending on a controversial appeal court nicknamed the “Taj Mahal” nearing completion in Tallahassee and a private prison that cost dozens of corrections workers their jobs.

In her latest attack, Ausley bashes Atwater for failing to audit lobbyists’ compensation reports, something that lawmakers have been required to do for years but have failed to follow through on.

The lobbyist gift ban law, passed in 2005, 2005 law, requires lobbyists to file quarterly reports telling how much they earn.
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GOP candidates’ refusal to participate leads to cancelation of Cabinet debates

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

With two of the three GOP Florida Cabinet candidates refusing to participate in a debate next month, organizers had no choice but to cancel the event.

Attorney general candidate Pam Bondi and Senate President Jeff Atwater, the Republican nominee for chief financial officer, would not agree to debate their Democratic opponents, Florida Press Association president Dean Ridings said today. The press association and Leadership Florida had planned to host the Oct. 5 event at the University of Florida.

GOP agriculture commissioner candidate Adam Putnam was the only Republican who signed up for the debate, Ridings said.

“Pam Bondi and Jeff Atwater would not confirm. We are pretty much at the deadline. And every indication was that they would not participate,” Ridings said. “It didn’t make sense just to do the one” debate, Ridings said.

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UPDATE: It’s official: Oil spill special session off the table

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: Senate President Jeff Atwater called to clarify his position on the decision not to hold a special session on oil spill-related issues. Here’s what he had to say:

“I haven’t changed my mind on anything. I don’t know how I could have tried any harder,” Atwater said about the House’s decision that a special session is unnecessary this year. He said a special session is both “timely and necessary.”

There’s no need for a special session to address the fall-out from BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig blast that pumped millions of gallons of hydrocarbons into the Gulf of Mexico, House Speaker Larry Cretul and Senate President Jeff Atwater have decided.

Despite earlier promises that lawmakers would convene as early as September to try to give a helping hand to fishermen and others in the Panhandle whose finances have crumbled in the aftermath of the April 20 disaster, the pair are convinced those issues can wait until the regular session next year in March.

“It would appear that while there are some issues where legislative action may be appropriate, there are no issues that require immediate formal legislative action. Additionally, there are several areas where it is clear that we do not yet possess the information necessary to make informed decisions. Moreover, many of these issues require solutions that would benefit from closer scrutiny during a regular legislative session,” Cretul, R-Ocala, wrote to House members today.

Atwater, who is running statewide for chief financial officer, apparently agreed although he had previously pushed the House to come back early.

Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, said he asked his select committee “to continue developing proposals, gathering data, and working with incoming leadership in preparation for the next session” in a memo to the his members today.

Atwater blasts BP claims czar remarks as ‘dismissive’ of needy Floridians

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Senate President Jeff Atwater called BP claims czar Ken Feinberg’s observation that things appear to be back to normal in the Panhandle premature and “dismissive of Floridians.”

Atwater, who’s running for chief financial officer against Democrat Loranne Ausley, issued a press release in response to a story today in The Palm Beach Post in which Feinberg said that Northwest Florida fishermen may not be eligible for the full six months of emergency payments other businesses may be entitled to when he takes over BP’s maligned claims system at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

“Despite incomplete data about the threats facing the people of our state, Ken Feinberg was quoted today saying that ‘I’m watching on TV. The beaches look fabulous.’ These remarks came as he seemed dismissive of Floridians who are seeking financial relief. Understanding the serious problems facing Floridians along the Gulf takes more than watching television, and our beaches are not the only place in Florida facing the threat,” Atwater said in a statement issued by his campaign.

Feinberg, appointed by BP and President Barack Obama to handle claims for individuals and businesses harmed by the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil blast, made his remarks at a meeting in Pensacola on Tuesday, the same day several academic institutions refuted federal officials’ contention that most of the oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico has disappeared.

“Our state has a unique and precious marine ecosystem, and scientists are still reporting that this ecosystem is in trouble. Just today, some of the best and brightest researchers at the University of South Florida said between 70 and 79 percent of all the oil that was spilled is under the surface and still causing ecological damage,” Atwater wrote. “For BP or the federal government to cut and run now would only create another catastrophe.”

House Deepwater Horizon coordinator says no need for special session

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Lawmakers appear to have abandoned their earlier pledge to hold a special session on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in September and instead could possibly wait until the regular session in March.

Rep. Gary Aubuchon, the coordinator of the House’s five Deepwater Horizon oil spill work groups, has until Aug. 31 to give House Speaker Larry Cretul a report on possible legislation to help revive the Florida Panhandle economy or provide tax breaks to residents there. Aubuchon said Tuesday those suggestions probably won’t go to Cretul until sometime during the first week of September.

And although some Panhandle business owners have already shuttered operations and others are on the brink of doing the same because of plummeting revenues during their peak summer tourist season that coincided with the April 20 oil disaster, Aubuchon said early reports from his leaders show there’s no need to rush.

“We are continuing to ask the questions, attend the meetings, gather the data and looking for a productive role the state could play. Whether we begin to play that role in September, or November, or during the regular session is a question yet to be answered,” Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, said after meeting with Ken Feinberg, the claims czar who will take over BP’s problematic claims system on Monday at 12:01 a.m.

“One of the questions I’m asking each work group coordinator to answer is does anything you are working on now or anticipate working on necessitate the need for a special session? The early feedback I’m getting is no it does not,” Aubuchon said. “But the final conclusion has not been reached. And of course that is a decision that will be made by our presiding officers in the House and Senate.”

Even the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, whose members would probably benefit the most, is ok with holding off on a special session until after November.

Sen. Don Gaetz wants to pass a bill that would allow the FRLA to access up to $5 million of a trust fund comprised of fees paid by restaurant and hotel owners. There’s about $9 million in the trust fund, which is supposed to be earmarked for promotions.

FRLA President Carol Dover said she met with GOP legislative leaders last week.
“Coming into September with the group that are going to be gone or waiting until the organizational session with the group that are going to be bound by what they have passed could be a better way,” Dover said.

Lawmakers met in an aborted special session late in June after being ordered bv Gov. Charlie Crist to take up a constitutional amendment banning offshore drilling. They left in less than two hours without passing anything.

But before the special session even began, Senate President Jeff Atwater asked Cretul, R-Ocala, to consider a special session late in August or in September.

Atwater reiterated that hope yesterday.

The North Palm Beach Republican who is running statewide for chief financial officer believes lawmakers should meet within a month “to provide Floridians the assistance and relief that they need in the wake of this crisis,” Emhof said.

Monday, August 16th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Former Rep. Loranne Ausley, isn’t waiting until the primaries are over to bash her GOP opponent – Senate prison-to-nowherePresident Jeff Atwater – in the race for state CFO.

Ausley’s blasting Atwater’s voting record on spending issues in an attempt to paint the North Palm Beach banker as a Tallahassee insider (Ausley spent eight years in the Florida House and whose family has ties to the late Gov. Lawton Chiles) out of touch with Floridians.

Ausley’s latest attack slammed Atwater for a program that did away with 71 prison work squad jobs and created a controversial new private prison in the Panhandle.

Ausley dubbed the Blackwater River Correctional Institution, run by Boca Raton-based Geo Group, the “Prison to Nowhere” that cost taxpayers $110 million during this year’s budget-slashing session. According to the Florida Department of Corrections, which fiercely opposed opening the prison this early, the prison work squads saved taxpayers $35.7 million.

“Senate President Jeff Atwater’s ‘prison to nowhere’ is yet another product of the broken system in Tallahassee, and once again Florida taxpayers are stuck with the bill,” said Ausley. “Floridians are fed up with politicians who play by their own rules with our money. Whether it’s the ‘Tallahassee Taj Mahal,’ the ‘Prison to Nowhere’ or an airport hanger for a political contributor, politicians in Tallahassee need to be held accountable.”

Ausley last week slammed Atwater for supporting a new District Court of Appeals courthouse building in Tallahassee, which she called the ‘Taj Mahal.’

DEP Secy. Sole to update lawmakers on oil spill

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Sole will update lawmakers about the state’s preparation for the massive oil spill leaking in the Gulf of Mexico on a conference call at 2 p.m. this afternoon.

Senate President Jeff Atwater, who is running statewide for chief financial officer and has quietly opposed drilling off of Florida’s coast being pushed by GOP House leaders, invited his members to listen in.

“Since the issue of offshore drilling was first raised last year, I have been committed to ensuring no decision to open state waters to drilling would be made without a thorough study of the implications. The impact that a catastrophe, such as the Deepwater Horizon spill, could have on Florida was at the forefront of my mind. Despite the many individuals who championed the fiscal benefits and decried possible negative impacts, I was resolute in the need for a comprehensive study,” Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, said in a memo.

“Florida is home to too many precious and unique ecosystems, world-renowned beaches, and an economy that is significantly based on tourism, to take the implications that surround offshore drilling lightly.

Thus, the Senate is actively monitoring the Deepwater Horizon spill. As this catastrophe plays out in the gulf, I want you to be informed as to the most recent efforts and actions underway to contain the damage and preparations being considered for cleaning up any oil that may reach our shores,” he wrote.

Today, at 2 PM, DEP Secretary Mike Sole will be conducting a teleconference for members of the Legislature. I strongly encourage you to participate by calling 888-808-6959 and entering the following code: 2452140#.

Cozy sine die inside Senate chambers

Friday, April 30th, 2010 by Dara Kam

It looked for a while like the session would end without the ceremonial sine die hankie drop.

Not to worry, traditionalists.

House Speaker Larry Cretul shut down shop about two hours before his counterpart Jeff Atwater, in his final turn as President and as a senator, unhurriedly guided his chamber to a conclusion.

About 8:30 p.m., Cretul and a bipartisan contingent of House GOP leaders and Democrats entered the Senate and lined the center aisle as the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms prepared to drop the white hankies.

At 8:47 p.m., the hankies fell.

It lacked the pageantry but was a much more intimate affair than in prior years, and there was no chance that newly-non-partisan Gov. Charlie Crist could drop in out on the rotunda floor. (He couldn’t have anyway; he was en route to Miami).

“It took us a while, but we finally got the House to come around to the Senate position,” Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, joked later.

BUDGET UPDATE: JD saves rape crisis centers

Saturday, April 24th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Among the items settled at this morning’s budget negotiations is $250,000 for the state’s 30 rape crisis centers.

Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander made sure the money for the centers that provide emergency services to rape victims made it into Florida’s $69 billion budget after President Jeff Atwater was asked about the item yesterday evening.

Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, said at the time that he had dozens of similar requests from advocates sitting on his desk and he had yet to sort through them.

However the other agencies fared, rape victim advocates are calling Alexander, R-Lake Wales, a hero today.

Alexander and House counterpart David Rivera, R-Miami, have finished up their work for today. Atwater and House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, will likely iron out the final differences between their two spending plans by Tuesday.

Senate bids farewell to President Atwater

Friday, April 23rd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Photo: Darryl Jarmon, Florida Senate Photographer

Photo: Darryl Jarmon, Florida Senate Photographer

The Florida Senate said goodbye to President Jeff Atwater this morning in a bipartisan laudatory tribute capped off by the unveiling of his portrait.

“A wonderful, wonderful textbook example of what a president ought to be,” said Sen. Frederica Wilson, a Miami Democrat. “Mr. Atwater, President of the Senate, is a class act.”

Flanked by his wife Carole and two of his four children, Atwater addressed the Senate for the last time with just a week left to the 2010 legislative session. The North Palm Beach banker is quitting the Senate to run statewide for chief financial officer.

“I know we have been in challenging times. I know we have often asked the question, how do we get to this place of the prosperity and the opportunity that Floridians have so long fought for?” Atwater told the chamber, holding up a pamphlet. “I just would like to share with you two last places where I hold faith: the inspired words of our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of our country.”
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Crist likely to sign elimination of statute of limitations on child sex crimes into law

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

After six years, victims of childhood sexual abuse stand a good chance of eliminating the statute of limitations on sex crimes against children between the ages of 12 and 16.

Senate President Jeff Atwater said yesterday he wants the measure to pass and Gov. Charlie Crist said today he’s likely to sign it into law.

“It probably makes sense. It just sounds like common sense. If you find out that somebody committed such a heinous crime as that and it was a long time ago, it still was a heinous crime,” Crist told reporters today.

The House is expected to vote on the bill (HB 525) and the Senate could vote on it as early as tomorrow.

The Florida Catholic Conference has successfully thwarted similar legislation for the past six years, and continues to lobby against doing away with the current statute of limitations for institutions like the Catholic Church but supports doing away with the time restrictions on cases involving individual defendants.

On Tuesday, the Conference wrote a letter to Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, asking him to amend the bill to address the Catholic’s concerns.

“The open-ended nature of these proposals creates tremendous uncertainty for any organization’s potential liability for alleged acts of negligence,” Florida Catholic Conference executive director Mike McCarron wrote to Atwater.

“There’s no statute of limitations on suffering so there should be no statute of limitations on justice,” Atwater, who is running statewide for chief financial officer, told The Palm Beach Post yesterday.

Catholic Church wants redemption, not restitution, for churches involved with child sex molesters

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010 by Dara Kam

The Catholic Church is ramping up efforts to water down a measure backed by victims of childhood sexual abuse that would do away with the statute of limitations on sex crimes on children between the ages of 12 and 16.

The Florida Catholic Conference wants Senate President Jeff Atwater to help modify the bill now that it’s ready to hit the Senate floor despite the conference’s lobbying to limit the number of years a victim has to press charges against a molester.

The Catholic conference is okay with doing away with the current statute of limitations for individuals who commit the crimes but wants a time limit on criminal or civil charges against institutions like churches involved in the abuse.

The reason? Money.

“The open-ended nature of these proposals creates tremendous uncertainty for any organization’s potential liability for alleged acts of negligence,” Florida Catholic Conference executive director Mike McCarron wrote in a letterto Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, yesterday.

“We fully support the added protection for children that will come from these bills. It is also our hope that an amendment will be adopted to reasonably limit what we believe is inequitable institutional liability for private employers.”

The House is expected to pass its version of the bill (SB 870, HB 525) tomorrow.

The church has fought off efforts to do away with the time restrictions for the past six years. Lawmakers have seven working days left before the session ends to pass the bill this year.

McCarron said he’s tried to amend the bill to exclude institutions or to set a time limit of up to 30 years.

Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI promised today that the Roman Catholic Church would take official action on a growing scandal over sexual abuse by priests.

In an unusual move, Benedict spoke openly about his meeting with abuse victims during a trip to Malta and said he promised them the church would take action.

“I shared their suffering and emotionally prayed with them,” the pope said during his weekly audience at The Vatican, describing his visit on Sunday with eight Maltese men who claim to have been molested by priests as youths.

The church will investigate the allegations, bring justice to those responsible for the abuse and “implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people in the future,” the Vatican said in a statement.

Last week, the Vatican issued guidelines instructing bishops to report abuse cases to civil authorities where required by local laws.
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Oops…Budget meetings a NO-go

Saturday, April 17th, 2010 by Dara Kam

The House and Senate canceled budget negotiations scheduled to begin this weekend.

Shortly before the slated 10 a.m. organizational conference meeting, both chambers sent out terse announcements that the powwows weren’t going to happen.

“Despite our earlier optimism, it has become apparent that budget conferences will be unable to meet this weekend. We will continue working with our House partners and will notify you when we have further information.

“I hope you have a pleasant weekend with your families and look forward to seeing you next week,” Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, told his members in an e-mail.

“The 10:00 am Budget Conference organizational meeting has been postponed. We do not anticipate any conference meetings being scheduled today. Please continue to monitor your emails throughout the weekend so we can keep you up to date. Thank you for your patience and hard work,” House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, said in his message.

The news likely didn’t set well with many lawmakers who canceled their trips home late yesterday afternoon when the leaders originally announced the conferences would kick off this weekend.

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Atwater addresses crowd at ‘We the People’ rally

Friday, April 16th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, addressed a crowd of about 600 at a “We the People” rally Thursday afternoon on the steps of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee. The rally was one of thousands that took place across the country on tax day.

Part 1

Part 2

Demand for balanced federal budget – demagoguery or good for democracy?

Thursday, April 15th, 2010 by Dara Kam

A proposed statewide referendum that wouldn’t really do anything to balance any budget but would send a statement to Congress generated a lot of heat in the House Rules committee this morning.

“Basically House memorials are meaningless. They’re like toilet paper,” House Democratic leader Ron Saunders said of the proposal.

The “nonbinding statewide advisory referendum,” pushed by GOP leaders including Senate President Jeff Atwater and already passed by the Senate, would ask voters the following question:

In order to stop the uncontrolled growth of our national debt and prevent excessive borrowing by the Federal Government, which threatens jobs, robs America and our children of their opportunity for success, and threatens our national security, should the United States Constitution be amended to require a balanced federal budget without raising taxes?

“This sends a message today that federal spending is out of control and we need to have a balance,” House budget chief David Rivera, R-Miami, told the Rules Committee this morning.

But Saunders and other Dems objected to the strongly-worded proposal as election-year “propaganda,” “incendiary” and “hypocritical” because lawmakers raised millions of dollars in drivers “fees” and cigarette taxes to balance the budget last year.

“The language here is unnecessary and just an opportunity to demagogue,” said Saunders, D-Key West, who offered an amendment changing the language to “Should the U.S. Constitution be amended to require a balanced federal budget?”

His amendment failed, and the referendum passed along partisan lines.

Lawson: Florida GOP leaders ‘psychologically intoxicated’ over health care reform

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Attorney General Bill McCollum’s lawsuit against Democrat-controlled Congress and President Barack Obama’s administration has sparked a political feud not only in the nation’s Capitol but in the state’s as well.

Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson took offense at Senate President Jeff Atwater’s congratulatory press release lauding McCollum’s legal disparaging of the president’s health care reform.

The president’s office issued an unusually partisan release entitled “Florida Senate Leaders Support AG McCollum’s Legal Challenge to Unprecedented and Unconstitutional Government Health Care Scheme.”

The GOP leaders are “like little boys who are playing marbles and the ones who lost went home,” Lawson, D-Tallahassee said.

(more…)

Campaigning lawmakers cautioned not to be criminals

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

With a slew of lawmakers, including Senate President Jeff Atwater, running for higher office this year, Senate Rules Chairman Alex Villalobos delivered a stern warning to members about using staff for campaign purposes.

Villalobos, who would have been in Atwater’s presidential shoes were it not for a coup staged by Atwater and his backers more than two years ago, sent a memo to the Senate’s 40 members outlining what their aides can – and mostly cannot – while on the clock.

Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, is leaving office early to run statewide for chief financial officer. Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson, forced out because of term limits, is running for Congress, along with Democratic state Sens. Frederica Wilson of Miami, Charlie Justice of St. Petersburg and Palm Beach County’s own Ted Deutch of Boca Raton. Senate Majority Leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, is also expected to run for Congress.

And Sens. Dave Aronberg of Greenacres and Dan Gelber of Miami Beach are running statewide in a Democratic primary for attorney general.

Senate staff can’t use annual leave or comp time to work on campaigns, nor can they work on a campaign during their lunch hour, Villalobos wrote.

They can volunteer after hours, that means outside the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

But aides can’t take a paying job with a campaign unless they get permission from Atwater and take leave-without-pay first.

“A Senator who uses staff paid by the Senate to work on his or her campaign while ‘on duty’ may be liable for theft,” Villalobos wrote. If the employee earned more than $5,000 or more as a state worker, the crime is a felony.

And the staffer who works on the campaign could also be liable for theft.

Oh, and no using state equipment like telephones or computers for campaign stuff. That’s a misdemeanor.

Atwater bashes Congressional spending, lays out goals

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Senate President Jeff Atwater launched his opening day remarks with an attack on his federal counterparts for wanton spending, then laid out a pro-business agenda for the 2010 session and a push to water down class size restrictions put into the Florida Constitution in 2002.

“Over the next sixty days you will each search your souls, come to your own personal decisions, but for my part, I will not participate in the evisceration of the American dream, I will not lower my vision, I will not choose the easy path, and I will not stand idly by while Congress smothers the next generation with its self indulgence and irresponsibility,” Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, said early in his speech.

Atwater, who is leaving office this year to run statewide for chief financial officer, also recognized seven senators leaving office this year because of term limits, including Alex Villalobos of Miami. Villalobos would have been at Atwater’s place at the podium today were it not for a coup that Atwater and his supporters staged more than two years ago.

Atwater, a descendent of Florida Gov. Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, was joined by other family members in the audience who were in town for the opening of an exhibit on Broward at the Old Capitol.

Listen to Atwater’s speech here.

Or read the text of his speech here.

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