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Senate president-designate Gaetz’s time at the podium in question?

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 by Dara Kam

Senate President-designate Don Gaetz anticipated time with the gavel may be in question after a leadership coup staged by Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher, a veteran lawmaker who also served as head of the state GOP, failed yesterday.

Gaetz said he played a “very, very limited” role in the still-unraveling presidency power play in which Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, tried to strip Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner of his expected ascendency to the throne in two years. Thrasher was joined in his effort by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who is angling to take over in 2016.

Gaetz told reporters this evening that who will follow in Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ footsteps will be determined after the November elections. Eleven senators – including eight Republicans – are leaving the chamber this year because of term limits.

“I’ve been designated as the next Senate president. Depending on the results of the 2012 election, the Republicans may or may not control the Senate. At that time, the Senate as a whole will elect its next president. I will be a candidate,” Gaetz, R-Niceville, said. It’s virtually impossible that Republicans won’t control the chamber with their 28-12 lead majority, but the outcome of the elections could very well impact his future.

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, is challenging Gardiner, R-Orlando, for the 2015-2016 presidency. Latvala supporters joined with Gardiner backers yesterday to prevent Thrasher, a veteran lawmaker, from replacing Gardiner in that battle.

The machinations turned sour for many in the GOP caucus, especially on the heels of intense pressure from Haridopolos and his lieutenants who failed to contain a GOP uprising against a prison privatization bill.

“Members on both sides rose up in support of Andy because of outrage over how this was handled,” Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, said, without adding who she’s supporting.

Many in the fractured GOP caucus hope the drama will be resolved before the session ends in two weeks. But the Senate palace intrigue will likely play out for some time with shrewd tacticians Thrasher and Latvala pulling strings.

And the disarray could bring Democrats into play. A bipartisan coalition of conservative Democrats and Republicans joined forces in 1986 to unseat Sen. Ken Jenne, a liberal Hollywood Democrat who was replaced by more conservative Democrat Jon Vogt of Cocoa Beach.

Senate GOP leadership scramble

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 by Dara Kam

Former House Speaker and powerful Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher may have tipped his hand too soon in a bid to make history as the second lawmaker to serve as leader of both chambers.

Thrasher is embroiled in a fight with Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner over the 2014 Senate presidency. Gardiner had already assembled the pledges to assume the leadership role after incoming Senate President Don Gaetz. But Sen. Jack Latvala, a political mastermind who returned to the Senate last year, launched a play for the 2014 top spot.

The drama played out in the Senate Office Building late Tuesday evening. Talk around the Capitol had Gardiner handing over his presumed presidency to Thrasher, who would be followed in 2016 by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart.

But a tired-looking Thrasher left the Senate Office Building around 7 p.m., and more than an hour later, Gardiner was still holed up in his office.

“I am very humbled and very happy. It’s been a real eye-opening thing for me,” Gardiner, R-Orlando, said, emerging from his office for a bathroom break. “I’m a happy warrior.”

Gardiner credited Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, with helping gird his support, calling Simmons “a rock star.”

Thrasher apparently was unable to convince enough of Gardiner’s pledges to switch over. But before going home, the veteran legislator – who also served as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida – did not exactly concede.

“If I got enough votes, I guess I would be” Senate president in 2014, the St. Augustine Republican said. “I don’t know. We’re going to wait and see what happens. I think it’s premature to talk about that right now.”

Negron called the “leadership discussions” normal.

“There have been discussions today as there were yesterday and will be tomorrow and next month and next year among the family caucus on how we want to proceed,” the Stuart Republican said. He said the future presidency was still up in the air. “We’re talking about that.”

And he said he’s been “quietly been gaining support” for his 2016 bid.

“We’ll have to see how the rest of it plays out,” he said.

Thrasher played down what may have been a tide-turning loss Tuesday.

“I’m taking over the last three weeks and throwing Mike Haridopolos out and then I’m taking over from Gaetz and all that,” he joked.

Senate unanimously supports new county lines for St. Lucie, Martin

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The Florida Senate gave a unanimous thumbs-up to a plan (SB 800) that would move a waterfront enclave now in St. Lucie County into Martin County.

The 129-acre parcel includes the Beau Rivage development, where homeowners have a “Stuart” address but live in another county. Residents are divided about the proposal, which would require voter approval before the boundaries would be changed.

Bill sponsor Joe Negron, R-Stuart, called the proposal (SB 800) “democracy in action” before the 38-0 vote with no discussion.

The community’s address and proximity to Martin County has created confusion even among police and elections officials, proponents of the new lines say, including Alan Marcus, who’s spearheaded the move and said “There’s nothing St. Lucie County about this area.”

Residents also want the switch because St. Lucie County, which opposes the switch, school officials have indicated they are backing away from an agreement allowing the neighborhood children to attend school in Martin County.

Critics of the plan acknowledge the school issue needs to be resolved but say that some homeowners want to increase their property values by switching to Martin County and that Martin officials haven’t given enough assurances about what will happen if the change occurs.

A House version of the proposal, sponsored by Stuart Republican Gayle Harrell, has two more committee stops before it gets to the floor for a full vote.

Negron sez no 2 ‘Dnt txt n drv’ bill

Thursday, January 12th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Texting while driving would be a new moving violation under a bill approved by a Senate committee this morning over the objections of Sen. Joe Negron, who said distracted drivers can already be punished under existing law.

Negron cast the sole “no” vote on the measure (SB 416) which would make texting and driving a secondary offense – meaning police could not ticket drivers unless they are pulled over for another reason – punishable by a minimum $30 fine and a six-point drivers license violation if it results results in an accident.

Florida law already includes a reckless driving – which carries a minimum $25 fine and can result in prison sentences –moving violation, which should cover problematic texting, Negron argued. That means law enforcement officers can now pull over “someone weaving down the road while they’re texting” and give them a ticket, said Negron, a lawyer.

And it would be difficult for authorities to determine if someone texting just because they are using an electronic device, Negron said.

“What if I was just looking at my Blackberry to get the address of where I’m driving to. Is that texting because I punched a number and something came up for me to read? What about navigation devices? To me there are legitimate uses of electronic device while you’re driving. Texting is not one of them,” Negron said.

The bill is based on a sample law provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation, encouraging states to enact legislation to ban texting and driving. The Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee approved the measure, sponsored by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, by a 12-1 vote this morning.

Negron said lawmakers need to be careful before creating new crimes, which he said they have done too often in the past.

“I think if we would simply enforce the careless driving law that we already have that that would send a message to stop that,” he said.

‘Caylee’s Law’ that’s not a ‘Caylee’s Law’ gets first nod of approval in Senate

Thursday, January 12th, 2012 by Dara Kam

A bill prompted by Casey Anthony‘s acquittal last year of murdering her two-year-old daughter Caylee received unanimous support from a Senate committee this morning.

The measure (SB 858) would make it a third-degree felony for parents or guardians to lie to law enforcement officials during an investigation when a child under the age of 16 is missing and is seriously injured or dies. Each count would be punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to $5,000. Under the proposal, Casey Anthony could have been sentenced to 20 years behind bars for misleading police in the investigation into her missing daughter who was later found dead.

“I think it would be utterly reprehensible for a parent to know that their child is missing and intentionally steer law enforcement in the wrong direction,” bill sponsor Joe Negron, R-Stuart, told the Senate Criminal Justice Committee this morning.

The bill is not as far-reaching as other proposals that include making it a crime to fail to report a child missing within a certain period of time. Negron said that’s because law enforcement officials advised that such a law might confuse parents, some of whom already mistakenly believe they must wait 48 hours before contacting authorities when a child goes missing.

But Sen. Alan Hays questioned whether the penalty was severe enough.

“I share your dismay, disgust, reprehension, everything, just the repulsiveness, the very idea of a parent willfully giving false information,” Hays, R-Umatilla, said. “Sen. Negron, I’m ready to throw them in jail and throw the key away.”

(more…)

Palm Beach County Commission sues state over ‘political bullying’ gun law

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011 by Dara Kam

The Palm Beach County Commission has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, the Florida House and the Florida Senate today over a gun law that that went into effect on Oct. 1. Local officials who violate the law could be removed from office and face a $5,000 fine.

The sanctions “are simply a form of political bullying that serves no governmental purpose” and have a “chilling effect,” the lawsuit reads.

The commission’s lawsuit complains that the new law, sponsored by Sen. Joe Negron, is unconstitutional because it violates the separation of powers because it gives the governor the ability to remove local officials from office and strips local officials of immunity from lawsuits.

Under current law, the governor is only allowed to suspend local officials and the Florida Senate has the power to remove them or reinstate them.

“Threatened removal of individual commissioners in a matter that is consistent with the terms of the Florida Constitution is political overreaching and political bullying that serves no legitimate governmental purpose,” Amy Taylor Petrick, an attorney for the county, wrote in the lawsuit filed in the Palm Beach County Circuit Court today.

The lawsuit asks the court to find that the law is unconstitutional, stop the governor from being able to remove local officials from office and order that they can’t be fined for breaking the law.

Negron said the penalties are necessary because city and county commissioners have ignored a law that gives the legislature the discretion to regulate gun laws.

After the law went into effect, municipalities, counties and state agencies were forced to scrap hundreds of measures dealing with firearms and could no longer bar people from being guns into government buildings, including the state Capitol.

“Political disputes should be resolved in the elected government arena rather than in courtrooms. So we’ll see where it goes from here,” said Negron, who had not seen the lawsuit Tuesday evening.

Negron, R-Stuart, said he does not intend to file a bill to repeal the law during the legislative session that begins next month.

“I would consider that just as I have to follow federal law and I have to follow county laws and city laws when I’m in their counties and cities, they should follow the preemption of the state law then nobody has anything to worry about,” Negron, R-Stuart, said.

Spokeswomen for Bondi and House Speaker Dean Cannon said their lawyers are reviewing the lawsuit.

National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer, who pushed the bill, called the lawsuit un-American.

“They’re using taxpayer dollars to try to keep from being punished for violating the law? That’s exactly the American way, is it?” she said.

Casey Anthony case prompts Senate committee to recommend harsher penalties for lying about missing children

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011 by Dara Kam

A special Senate committee created in response to the murder of two-year-old Caylee Anthony and subsequent acquittal of her mother Casey wants to make it a felony to lie to law enforcement officials when a child goes missing and is hurt or killed, punishable by five years in prison.

Senate Select Committee on Protecting Florida’s Children Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, proposed the measure heightening penalties under current law, now a misdemeanor for lying to law enforcement officials investigating crimes. Instead, Negron’s measure would make it a third-degree felony for anyone to “knowingly and willfully” give false information to law enforcement officers conducting an investigation involving a child 16 years of age or younger.

Casey Anthony was acquitted of murdering her daughter, two-year-old Caylee Anthony, this summer but convicted of four counts of misleading law enforcement officers. An Orlando judge sentenced Anthony to four years behind bars – one for each count of lying to police officers – and she was released earlier this year after serving three years.

Under Negron’s proposal, Anthony could have been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

(more…)

Bondi, Negron seek to tackle latest Rx abuse victims – newborns

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Newborns are the latest victims of the prescription drug epidemic plaguing Florida and the country, Attorney General Pam Bondi said today.

That’s why Bondi is asking lawmakers to help her create a task force to find out how rampant the problem is and come up with solutions before prescription drug-addicted babies become a crisis as difficult to address as pill mills.

“We do not want this to become the next crack baby epidemic…and that’s where we’re headed,” Bondi told reporters at a press conference flanked by supporters of the legislation, including Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, the bill’s sponsor and chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Budget Committee. Bondi was also joined by Stephanie Haridopolos, a family practice physician and the wife of Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island.

Bondi said she and Stephanie Haridopolos recently visited the neo-natal intensive care unit at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital in Tampa. Kenneth Solomon, the unit’s director, said Wednesday that about 25 percent of the babies in his unit are there because they are withdrawing from drugs. The majority of the babies are addicted to oxycodone, Percocet or methodone, Solomon said. Twenty percent of the babies born addicted to drugs in his unit wind up in foster care, he said.

Usually, babies and mothers spend up to 72 hours in the hospital. But babies addicted to drugs can spend up to two months in the NICU at three times the cost, Solomon said. The babies suffer from extreme sensitivity to light and sound, fevers, incessant crying and respiratory problems, are often born prematurely and sometimes must be readdicted to the drug before the withdrawal procedure can begin, he said.

“Instead of getting milk, those babies are getting methodone,” Bondi said. “And it’s got to stop.”

As the Senate’s chief of state spending on health care, Negron said lawmakers need to step in immediately to assess the problem.

(more…)

Committee examines missing children laws in response to Casey Anthony case

Monday, September 19th, 2011 by Dara Kam

A select committee headed by Sen. Joe Negron began looking into whether Florida’s laws need to be changed in reaction to the Casey Anthony case, in which a jury cleared the Orange County woman of killing her 2-year-old daughter Caylee Marie.

Caylee Anthony was last seen on June 15, 2008. Her mother waited a month before telling her parents or police that the child was missing. Caylee Anthony’s body was found in December 2008, but her body was so decomposed medical examiners could not determine the cause of death.

Following Casey Anthony’s acquittal, state lawmakers filed more than a half-dozen bills that would impose fines or jail sentences for failing to report a missing child, currently not a crime in Florida or any other state.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos created the Select Committee on Protecting Florida’s Children to make recommendations on possible changes to the law.

At the committee’s first meeting Monday afternoon, Negron said the select committee’s first order of business will be to decide whether new laws are needed and cautioned against allowing emotions to prevail in crafting legislation.

“The committee is not here to second guess the jury,” Negron, R-Stuart, said.

(more…)

Negron blasts TaxWatch ‘hackneyed’ turkey list

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Sen. Joe Negron slammed Florida TaxWatch’s annual budget “turkey” list, calling it a “media gimmick” based on the “mistaken rationale that budget decisions originating from the executive branch come clothed with a presumption of correctness while ideas from the elected representatives of the people should be viewed with suspicion.”

TaxWatch released the list to help Gov. Rick Scott with his veto pen. Scott is expected to sign the budget and red-line items of his choice Thursday afternoon.

Negron, a Stuart Republican who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee and was once the House’s budget chief, called out TaxWatch staff for the manner in which they arrived at $203 million in pork.

TaxWatch’s turkey criteria include items – more than half the total turkey list – that landed in the budget during or after conferences where budget negotiators from the House and Senate resolve differences between their two spending plans. Many of the items that eventually wound their way into the budget that way had never previously been discussed or proposed by either chamber.

TaxWatch’s “added in conference” category is “a flimsy basis to disparage a budget expenditure,” Negron said in a statement.

“The conference process is a meaningful and significant component of the appropriations enterprise. Conference provides an open and transparent opportunity for the House and Senate to negotiate an agreed upon budget and to take a concluding look at the Appropriations Act to determine final priorities. Many proposed funding items are reduced or eliminated during this review process,” he wrote.

Lose weight, quit smoking or lose Medicaid benefits?

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Sen. Joe Negron wants fat Floridians and smokers to get healthy or else.

Included in Negron’s revamp of the state-federal Medicaid program – which Negron will release tomorrow – is a component aimed at what senators are calling “personal responsibility.”

Sen. Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican who helped craft Negron’s bill, said Medicaid patients have to take control of their health care just as he had to do when his doctor told him to lose weight.

“We’re saying that an individual who’s been diagnosed as morbidly obese needs to be on a medically-directed program of weight loss to manage that health care problem that could turn into an increased taxpayer liability. The same thing with smokers,” Gaetz said.

The bill would require smokers and alcoholics and drug addicts to get treatment, Gaetz said.

Negron said his bill would include incentives for Medicaid patients to lose weight, quit smoking and stop drinking but did not give details about what they would be.

If they don’t get thinner and put down the smokes, Negron said their coverage could be cut off.

“It’s possible,” Negron, R-Stuart, said.

He said the Medicaid program currently includes a seldom-used provision that would allow the state to boot patients out.

“If you are non-compliant with your appointments, if you reject medical advice, there is a system in place under current law, which is rarely used but it has been used, …where someone would no longer receive services,” Negron said.

Healthier Medicaid patients will save the state money, Gaetz and Negron said.

“They not only compromise the quality of that person’s life they compromise the efficacy of any medical care that might be rendered but they drive up costs that are then shifted to the friends and neighbors who are actually paying the health care bill for the individual who is smoking,” Gaetz said.

The system can no longer tolerate someone “who is an alcoholic and wants to offload the medical consequences of alcoholism to the taxpayers of Florida,” Gaetz said.

Negron: less government interference in foreclosures

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Sen. Joe Negron jumped on some of Attorney General Pam Bondi’s staff during a presentation on investigations into the state’s foreclosure crisis at today’s Banking and Insurance Committee meeting.

Attorney General Pam Bondi is continuing an investigation launched last year by predecessor Bill McCollum that thus far has found that the foreclosure process in Florida is in total disarray.

But Negron objected to some of the AG’s presentation and questioned whether the investigation is beyond the state’s top legal eagle’s scope of responsibility.

First, Negron didn’t like the term “foreclosure mills” referring to law firms that churn out the cases and are under investigation and being sued for racketeering and other allegations.

“It could also be called a very busy law firm because you provide very good service to your clients,” suggested Negron, R-Stuart, a lawyer with the West Palm Beach-based Gunster law firm.

He also didn’t like the finding by Scott Palmer, the head of the AG’s mortgage fraud investigation, that banks aren’t using loan modifications enough to avoid foreclosure.

“Where does…the government have the right to tell the bank what’s in your best interest?” he wanted to know.

(more…)

Incoming Senate Prez Haridopolos winds up “broken Medicaid” tour

Friday, August 6th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Senate President-to-be Mike Haridopolos wrapped up a three-day tour of Florida highlighting one of his priorities when he takes over the chamber in November: a total overhaul of the state Medicaid system, which he calls broken.

Haridopolos toured cities from Miami to Tallahassee by bus, flanked by GOP Senate leaders Don Gaetz of Niceville and Joe Negron of Stuart, as well as Haridopolos’ wife Stephanie, a family practice doctor in their Melbourne hometown.

It’s not unusual for new chamber leaders to travel around the state to pump themselves up before taking the helm.

Former Senate President Ken Pruitt made a sweep of Florida in a little yellow school bus championing the Bright Futures scholarship for two years before taking over the chamber in 2006.

Haridopolos wants the federal government to approve a Medicaid waiver for Florida that would allow the state to place all of the state’s 2.7 million Medicaid recipients into managed care. It’s unlikely that Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration would approve such a maneuver, especially given Haridopolos’ and crew’s repeated bashing of federal health care reforms and their support for Attorney General Bill McCollum’s lawsuit against the White House regarding the new health care law.

Expect a major component of Haridopolos’ Medicaid revamp to include tort reform.

He told reporters today that a major problem for Medicaid providers such as hospitals is the high cost of medical malpractice insurance.

“What we’ve consistently heard during these round table discussions is that doctors who have protections against malpractice lawsuits have the ability to deliver a higher quality of care to their patients,” Haridopolos said.

UPDATE: Negron children’s services deal sour pill for some

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: Sen. Joe Negron successfully attached the children’s services agreement to a bill dealing with early childhood education this afternoon but the Senate didn’t take a final vote on the bill (SB 2014) yet.

The state’s children’s services councils agreed to a deal with Sen. Joe Negron this year because they would likely have fared worse in the future, a lobbyist for the special taxing districts said.

Negron’s deal would require that voters reauthorize the state’s eight children’s services councils that have taxing authority periodically, beginning in 2014 with Martin, St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties.

The councils voted to accept the deal yesterday but Martin and St. Lucie refused to vote on the plan that would require voter reauthorization every 12 years unless the referendum specified another time frame or no future vote at all.

Negron, already a Senate leader after less than a year in office, will be even more powerful after his reelection in the fall, said the state council association’s lobbyist Ron Book.

Negron believes that all boards, councils or other groups that have the ability to tax citizens should be elected.

The Stuart Republican wants the change because he’s unhappy with the Martin council’s spending on a new headquarters.

Children’s advocates say the councils are an easy target because they have less clout than taxing authorities like water management districts.

“I think they’re right. But that doesn’t mean that he as a policy maker and an elected member of the Florida Senate shouldn’t move legislation that he thinks is right,” Book said.

He said the councils weren’t forced into the deal but they would likely do worse next year.

“There is less incentive for Sen. Negron to negotiate a compromise next year or the year after than there was this year,” Book said. “Sen. Negron becomes an even more significant leader in the Florida Senate after his reelection and I think that that is an issue they had to consider. Will you do better to negotiate a compromise today than later? They were in a better position to negotiate something that they could live with today than they would be next year.”

Negron, who plans to amend a bill with the compromise today on the Senate floor, said he never threatened the councils and that they are working with him to ensure that the House signs off on the agreement.
(more…)

Senate signs off on Crist PSC picks – for now

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010 by Dara Kam

The Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee gave a preliminary nod to Gov. Charlie Crist’s two latest picks for the Public Service Commission, David Klement and Benjamin “Steve” Stevens.

But, judging from the questions and comments at this morning’s hearings, the new utility regulators who helped kill two proposed rate hikes – including Florida Power & Light Co.’s requested $1.2 billion increase – have a ways to go.

“This is the first step in a very long process,” said chairman Alex Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami.

The committee gave the pair a preliminary nod with an 8-1 vote. Sen. Chris Smith, a black Democrat from Ft. Lauderdale, voted against the appointees because, he said, there are no minorities on the panel.

Sens. Mike Haridopolos and Joe Negron peppered the pair with questions that mirrored the investor-owned utilities dissatisfaction with the regulators that turned down nearly $2 billion in proposed rate increases since they joined the panel this year.

Negron asked Stevens, a Pensacola bar owner and accountant, about the regulator’s statements during a January hearing in which Stevens said he would oppose a rate increase in the future.

Negron, a Republican lawyer from Stuart, wanted to know if Stevens has already made up his mind about future votes.

“I’m not predisposed. I’m open-minded but I do recognize that I’ve got technical guys here, technical guys there and they’re very smart and we have to make a decision,” Stevens said.

Haridopolos was even more pointed. He said that the PSC’s refusal to grant the rate hikes has made it harder and more expensive for the utilities to borrow money.

Haridopolos also grilled both regulators on whether they feel pressure from Crist to vote a certain way after Crist threatened to fire any commissioners who supported the rate hikes.

“We expect you to call balls and strikes. And we expect not to hear about the legislature should do this or that. We expect you to do your job. We move away from the obvious politics that are being played,” Haridopolos, R-Indialantic, said. Lawmakers want commissioners “who don’t care what the governor thinks, don’t care what the legislature thinks, and look at the long term view,” he went on.

“I will take the long-term view,” Stevens assured him.

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee must vote on the appointees before a full Senate vote.

Senate moves to end separation of church and state

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010 by Dara Kam

The separation of church and state has been in Florida’s constitution for more than a century.

But that might this fall under a proposal approved by a Senate committee this morning that could go before voters on the November ballot.

The “Religious Freedom” amendment would delete the 125-year-old provision in the constitution prohibiting state money from being spent directly or indirectly to aid any church, sect or religious denomination. And it would open the door to former Gov. Jeb Bush’s school voucher program allowing public school students to use state money to pay for religious school tuition that the Florida Supreme Court struck down.

Also known as the “Blaine Amendment,” the separation of church and state restriction was an anti-Catholic, anti-immigration measure aimed at keeping Catholics from obtaining government funding for their schools.

(more…)

House committee kills Sen. Negron’s children’s services revamp on tie vote

Thursday, April 8th, 2010 by Dara Kam

A House committee killed one of Sen. Joe Negron’s priority bills on a tie vote this afternoon after using a procedural maneuver to keep opponents of the measure from speaking against it.

The measure (HB 1227, SB 1216) would have made the state’s 8 children’s services boards be re-authorized by voters every six years. County commissions can now put the boards, which have taxing authority, on the referendum whenever they want.

Negron sponsored the bill because because he’s miffed about the Martin County Children’s Services Council, which was planning to spend millions on new headquarters in his Stuart hometown.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Jeff Koons was among opponents of the measure who traveled to Tallahassee to testify against it.

They didn’t get to say a word.

With the end of the House Military and Local Affairs Policy Committee meeting nearing, member Chris Dorworth used a procedural maneuver to limit debate on the issue to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, and one opponent who sits on the committee.

Two Republicans joined Democrats to kill the measure on a 7-7 vote.

Senate overhauls Medicaid

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010 by Dara Kam

The Senate approved a sweeping overhaul of Medicaid that would require some Medicaid recipients to pay deductibles and co-payments and give vouchers to others for medical care.

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, introduced what he called the “transformative” change as an amendment to the budget (SB 2700), which drew criticism from Democrats who objected the major changes should have been debated in committees.

The proposal would give state health care officials the authority to develop a new waiver program for Florida’s $18 billion Medicaid program. Federal officials would have to approve the waiver.

Negron said the time is urgent because the federal health care reforms signed into law by President Barack Obama could significantly increase the state’s spending on Medicaid, the health care program for the poor.

“The reason we can’t put money into education into other areas of the budget is because…they just come hand us an invoice, you owe us $1.8 billion more this year.
I don’t know why it should be entitled to preferential treatment over all the other needs of the state,” Negron said. “The time right now is urgent.”

The proposal is “a wholesale change of one of the largest and most important programs in this state,” objected Democrat Nan Rich, vice chairwoman of the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee.

“This is a huge policy and appropriations issue. It does not belong passed or defeated on this floor today. It needs to go to substantive committees,” said Rich, D-Weston.

The amendment passed by a 24-12 vote.

Senate does away with teacher tenure after angry debate

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 by Dara Kam

The Senate passed a measure that would have a far-reaching impact on teachers’ salaries and job security after a heated debate by Democratic opponents and an angry defense of the bill by Republicans.

Four Republicans – Sens. Charlie Dean of Inverness, Paula Dockery of Lakeland, Dennis Jones of Seminole and Alex Villalobos of Miami – joined Democrats on the losing side of the 21-17 vote.

(more…)

Bogdanoff lands key endorsements in GOP state Senate primary

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 by George Bennett

Bogdanoff

Bogdanoff

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.

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