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Sheriff Bradshaw gets $1 million for violence prevention unit

Monday, April 29th, 2013 by Dara Kam

House and Senate budget leaders have awarded Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw $1 million for a new violence prevention unit aimed at preventing tragedies like Sandy Hook from occurring on his turf.

It’s just one-third of what Bradshaw had sought from the Legislature, but it’s a ten-fold bump from what was originally in the budget before House and Senate budget leaders finalized the state’s $74 billion budget this weekend.

Bradshaw wants to use the money for a 15-person “prevention intervention” unit made up of five deputies, five mental health professionals, five caseworkers and a 24-hour hotline where citizens can report neighbors, friends or family members they fear may harm themselves or others.

Bradshaw told lawmakers last month he hopes the hotline and the unit can stop potentially dangerous people before they act out.

Bradshaw’s proposal is a first-of-its-kind in the nation, and he hopes it will become a model for the rest of the state like his gang prevention and pill mill units.

It’s part of the magical budget conference process where House and Senate budget negotiators hash out their differences that items can get increased. In Bradshaw’s case, both the House and Senate had included $100,000 in the criminal justice budget. But over the weekend, Senate budget chief Joe Negron, R-Stuart, added another $450,000 in the Senate’s “supplemental budget” list and his House counterpart Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, added the same amount.

The proposal still needs the blessing of Gov. Rick Scott, who has a line-item veto authority.

Claims bill reform off the table this year

Thursday, March 28th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Florida cities, counties, public hospitals and other “sovereign” entities have put the brakes on an overhaul of the state’s claims bill process that allows people who have been harmed or injured by local governments to get paid more than $200,000 without the Legislature’s approval.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon, said a House plan to revamp the system is too contentious to tackle this year.

“It’s very, very controversial. It’s a total change of direction,” Lee said. “That’s going to take a lot of time and energy.”

As a result, the Senate won’t hear any claims bills this year at the direction of Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, who has said he won’t allow any of the bills to come up without a reform.

The House Select Committee on Claims Bills last week approved a plan that would raise the current $200,000 caps on individual payments to $1 million and $300,000 per-incident cap to $1.5 million to encourage local governments to purchase insurance or self-insure. The proposal would also impose a “hard cap” on payments for those with insurance by barring individuals who get those payments from being able to seek additional money.

No action on claims bills this year means that the family of Carl Abbott, a North Palm Beach man who was badly injured when a Palm Beach County school bus ran him over 2008, will have to wait at least another year for a $1.9 million settlement reached with the school board in 2009.

Abbott’s son, David, wants to use the money to move his father, now living in a nursing home and unable to eat on his own, into a facility where he can get rehabilitative care.

Lee said the claims bill process is troubled and inconsistent.

“My perspective has always been if we’re going to have sovereign immunity, then let’s have sovereign immunity. Why are we up here waiving it all the time just because there’s a difficult political situation?
I’ve never really understood the subjectiveness of the claims bill process and why somebody with the right lobbyist and the right lawyer and the right legislator behind it all of a sudden gets a huge payout for somebody when somebody else doesn’t,” he said. “It’s an imperfect process. We’re going to try to make it better. But it’s a heavy lift to try to reform that system. And until we do, we’re not going to be hearing any claims bills.”

Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw asks Legislature for $3 million for violence prevention unit

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw made a $3 million pitch for a violence prevention unit and hotline he believes could help avert tragedies like Sandy Hook and Aurora by identifying potentially violent citizens before they act out.

Bradshaw needs the money for a 15-person “prevention intervention” unit, including five deputies, five mental health professionals and five caseworkers and to fund a 24-hour hotline where citizens can report neighbors, friends or family members they fear may harm themselves or others. Bradshaw said his office can identify whether the person or the residence has a history of violence and wants to be able to send “low-key” teams out to determine if they need help.

“At least we can put this person on our radar screen,” Bradshaw said. “It’s not about arrest. We cannot arrest our way out of this. This is about prevention intervention.”

At least one committee member expressed concern about attaching a mental health stigma to individuals and about ensuring that, once identified, the individuals get follow-up care. The sheriff said local mental health agencies support his proposal. But the majority of the panel, including Palm Beach County Sens. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth and Joseph Abruzzo of Wellington, praised Bradshaw.

Bradshaw pointed to several incidents in Palm Beach County he said may have been averted if his teams had been in place.

“A young man stabbed his mother to death. Three days before that, the deputies had been to that house. But the kid knew enough to say the right things…the deputies didn’t have enough to Baker Act him.
If that team of professionals had gone there with him, he couldn’t have talked long enough to talk his way out of it. We had a guy that guy fired from work, went home, killed his live-in boyfriend, shot himself. Two days before that, his coworkers knew that he’d bought a gun and was angry. If they’d had this system to call, we could have gone to that house, talked to that person and maybe we would have stopped that,” he said. “There’s all these people in the community that know things are going on. We’ve got to give them an avenue to get to us and feel comfortable about the fact that we’re going there to help these people.”

Bradshaw said he hopes his program will become a model for the state as did his gang prevention and pill mill units.

“The emphasis is to prevent these things from happening so I don’t have somebody go to a school and kill 25 people, I don’t have somebody go back to their workplace and shoot everybody there or I don’t have something happen that almost happened at the University of Central Florida,” he said. “The information is out there. This will work…This is a first of its kind. And I believe we have an opportunity here to make a difference in preventing violence.”

But committee Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, told Bradshaw that he supports his idea but made no promises about funding it.

“The purpose, as I expressed it, was to get this conversation started. I’m not sure we’re going to be able to fund this in this year’s budget,” Bradley said. “But because this is such an issue that is on the forefront of our citizens’ minds, on our minds, I think it’s imiportant that this committee address this issue.”

Bradshaw said later he intends to get the program off the ground with or without the Legislature’s help.

“We ask for the best, and if it’s less than that then we’ll scale it down. Instead of having it 24 hours a day, maybe we’ll have it 12 hours a day and they would be on call,” he said. “I’m pretty hopeful that I’m going to get some assistance. If it doesn’t work here, then we’ll try other sources. But I’m not going to give up.”

Elections, McDonalds and immediate gratification

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Four weeks after the presidential election, a Senate committee began delving into what went wrong in Florida.

A host of potential culprits include the media, select county elections supervisors, stingy county commissions and possibly the legislature itself, according to testimony from Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Ron Labasky – the general counsel of the state supervisors of elections association – and Pasco County Elections Supervisor Brian Corley.

Detzner said he will meet next week with supervisors he’s targeted as “underperforming” because of lengthy waits during early voting and on Election Day and other problems he did not identify. Those counties are: Lee, Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and St. Lucie, he said. The supervisors from those counties will also be called to appear before the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, chairman Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, said today.

Latvala said the committee may hold public hearings in South Florida sometime in January.

One senator proposed giving Detzner more authority to suspend county supervisors, pointing to problems experienced in Palm Beach County without identifying PBC by name.

“We heard a lot of complaints regarding a ballot…they were making copies of ballots because they were originally wrong,” said Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando. “I’m all for independence and local control…But…at what point is there an intervention? If it becomes so apparent that a county has not made the appropriate decisions or the ballots were sent out wrong…There’s really no recourse.”

But Latvala, a veteran legislator, said later that the governor already has the authority to remove a supervisor for wrongdoing, recalling that Gov. Jeb Bush once suspended a Broward County elections supervisor.

Latvala said he didn’t think the committee would likely give Detzner more power, but said that some counties repeatedly have problems.

“if the shoe fits, Palm Beach County should wear it,” he said.

Committee members frequently used McDonald’s or other restaurants as an example of how election should be run.

But Sen. Tom Lee, a former Senate president elected in November, posed a critical question.

“What is an acceptable length of time for somebody to wait to vote?”

Detzner said he would know what an acceptable time is if he ran a restaurant and his customers left.

“If people have to wait too long to vote, they may go home and not vote,” he said.

Detzner complimented the voters who waited in line and were “civil” and had political conversations while biding their time.

“It was a wonderful thing to see people having that kind of dialogue,” he said. “But to wait in line four or five or six hours is unacceptable.”

Scott administration says 86 non-citizens removed from voting rolls since purge started

Friday, June 8th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Eighty-six voters who are likely not U.S. citizens – including one Palm Beach County woman – have been removed from the rolls as a result of Gov. Rick Scott’s controversial non-citizen purge now being challenged in federal court, according to Department of State records released today.

And more than half of those appear to have voted, the records showed.

The 86 voters make up about one-third of one percent of the 2,600 voters flagged as potentially ineligible by Scott’s administration.

But it’s unclear how many of those voters removed since the problematic purge started in April were actually included in the list distributed to elections supervisors by Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

Greenacres voter Anabilil Gomez was removed from the voting rolls on May 3, the records show. But she was not on Detzner’s list. And Detzner’s spokesman Chris Cate said it is unknown yet whether Gomez or others were on the master list of 182,000 from which the April batch was culled and which officials have not yet released to the public.

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said Gomez likely came to the elections office and asked to be removed. Bucher never sent letters to the suspect voters notifying them that they needed to prove their citizenship as Detzner’s office ordered her and the 66 other county supervisors to do.

“It looks like she came to the counter and told us because we sent her a voter card in December 11. The only way we would have that information is if she was telling us because we never sent the letters out,” Bucher said, adding that others came to her office “trying to give us copies of their documents” to ensure they would not be removed from the rolls.

It is a felony for ineligible people, including non-citizens, to register or vote in Florida.

Bucher said her office sent Gomez a voter registration card in December but the woman had not voted in any election.

But state department officials said 46 others on the list of 86 have voted, including about a dozen whose voting records pre-date 2006. More than half of the voters on the list were registered in Lee county.

Scott’s staff trumpeted the revelation as a vindication of the purge process, blasted by Democrats and civil rights organizations.

“As you already know, but I insist you point out, not a single US citizen has been removed from the voter rolls as a result of the state’s inquiry. But we now know with absolute certainty that a growing number of non-US citizens aren’t just illegally registered to vote here in Florida, they are also casting ballots and influencing election outcomes,” Scott spokesman Brian Burgess wrote in an e-mail. “The State of Florida has a legal obligation to do what it can to protect the votes of its citizens, and that includes preventing never-eligible, non-citizens from casting ballots and diluting the votes of eligible, law-abiding voters.”
(more…)

Supreme Court decision to stay out of slots highlights Palm Beach County case

Friday, April 27th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The Florida Supreme Court on Friday refused to wade into a lower court decision that opened the door for slot machines at pari-mutuels throughout the state, elevating a Palm Beach County challenge to a proposed slots referendum this fall.

The Supreme Court dismissed appeals by several Miami-Dade County pari-mutuels challenging whether slots should be limited to seven pari-mutuels in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

That appellate court decision last fall opened the door for counties, including Palm Beach, to put referenda before voters allowing them to decide whether their pari-mutuels should be allowed to have more lucrative slot machine gambling.

Gambling lawyers throughout the state and Gov. Rick Scott’s administration officials were anxiously awaiting what many hoped would be a Supreme Court decision settling the issue.

Instead, focus is now on the Palm Beach County lawsuit filed by a Boca Raton woman last month. The Palm Beach court case could ripple throughout the state if Judge Janis Keyser yanks the referendum off the ballot.

“Obviously every pari-mutuel in the state is watching that with eager interest,” Marc Dunbar, an attorney who represents Gulfstream Race Track and who also is a part-owner of a Gretna horse track in Gadsden County, where he hopes to soon start slot machine gambling. “All of a sudden all eyes go to Palm Beach.”

Lawyers representing the county are expected to file their briefs Monday in the case.

County commissioners voted in December to place the referendum on the ballot in the hopes that a favorable vote would lead to slot machines at the Palm Beach County Kennel Club. Voters in three counties – Gadsden, Hamilton and Washington – have already signed off on the measures.

The Palm Beach County lawsuit filed by Boca Raton resident Sandra Medlicott centers on an opinion issued by Attorney General Pam Bondi earlier this year saying pari-mutuels should not be authorized to offer slots without changes to the state constitution or permission from the Legislature.

State elections chief Ken Detzner on Palm Beach County election fiasco

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Florida’s top election official, said his aides are on the ground in Palm Beach County trying to figure out what went wrong with last week’s Wellington elections in which elections supervisor Susan Bucher‘s office certifiedtwo wrong winners in local races.

Detzner, who took over the post last month, said his office is working with Bucher and Dominion Voting Systems, the vendor of the election voting and tabulation equipment Bucher blames for the erroneous results.

“We have people on the ground in Palm Beach working with the supervisor’s office to evaluate what the problem is, number one. That’s the first thing we have to do,” Detzner said Tuesday morning. “Keep in mind there were 16 municipal elections. Of those, one election appears to have had a problem…The question is to determine where the problem was. And until I hear back from my people, we’re not going to make any conclusions or any ideas of what happened until I hear back from them.”

Detzner, whose office certifies all elections hardware and software, said the Dominion technology is in use in Indian River County was recently purchased by Duval County.

The Palm Beach County mishap has sparked a political and legal upheaval in the village of Wellington and appears to be unprecedented since on overhaul in state election laws – in part in response to the county’s infamous “butterfly ballots – in the aftermath of the protracted 2000 recount.

Detzner called the Wellington incident – announced by Bucher Monday – isolated and said he remains confident in the integrity of the November presidential elections.

“Any time there is an irregularity in an election it would cause some concern. Again, I have to look back at there were 16 municipal elections. Fifteen of those went well. There was a problem with one. So I’m going to be reviewing the process, the certification, whether or not there was human error, whether or not it was a software glitch, what it is, and we’ll make corrective actions going forward,” he said. “But I’m confident if you’ve seen the primary results, the primary election results, we did not have any problems. SO I’m confident we have good systems. The supervisors are doing their job. And I’m confident that this might be a very isolated situation and we’ll take corrective action.”

Detzner said it was premature to anticipate any action against Bucher or her office.

“I wouldn’t suggest that in any way until I know what the problem is. That would be very wrong for me to do that,” he said.

Gov. Rick Scott, who appointed Detzner last month, said he was aware of the Wellington problem but not the specifics of what appeared to have gone wrong.

“I feel comfortable that our secretary of state is going to do a good job,” Scott said before this morning’s Cabinet meeting.

When asked if he was concerned about possible election problems in November, Scott said: “I worry about everything. I do worry about hurricanes and wildfires a little more than other things.”

Scott to name Pete Antonacci as interim Palm Beach County state attorney

Thursday, March 8th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott is expected to name Peter Antonacci, a former Florida statewide prosecutor and deputy attorney general who has handled high-profile assignments for Republican and Democratic governors, to fill the Palm Beach County state attorney’s job, Tallahassee sources said today.

Scott is expected to make an announcement Friday on a replacement for State Attorney Michael McAuliffe, who is leaving office next week to take a job with billionaire Bill Koch’s Oxbow Carbon.

The appointee will serve through the end of McAuliffe’s term on Jan. 7. Scott last month said he did not know whether he wanted his appointee to run for a full four-year term in November.

The appointment has been a difficult one for Scott. He originally set a Feb. 15 deadline for applications and received five, then extended it to Feb. 22 and received six more. Scott personally interviewed five applicants.

Read The Palm Beach Post’s story here.

Internet ban, in limbo in Senate, on its way to House floor with blessing of Gov. Scott and Cabinet

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet are putting pressure on lawmakers to approve an all-out ban on Internet cafés now on its way to the House floor but facing a doubtful future in the Senate.

The House Economic Affairs Committee approved the bill (HB 3) this morning, drawing the praise of the Republican governor and Cabinet who want the so-called “casinos on the corner” shuttered.

Critics of the cafés, an estimated $1 billion industry which operates under state “sweepstakes” laws and are largely unregulated, say they prey on the state’s poor and vulnerable. But the café operators say they provide good jobs for their employees and a place to socialize for seniors and others.

Scott believes the store-front casinos found in strip malls throughout the state are already illegal but wants lawmakers to officially ban them.

“These store front casinos are impacting Florida’s neighborhoods and families,” said Governor Scott. “They are and should be illegal. Representative Plakon’s bill closes this loophole and I commend his dedication to shutting down these establishments,” Scott said in a statement released by Rep. Scott Plakon, the Longwood Republican who’s sponsored the bill.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam joined in the chorus demanding the shut-down.

But the Senate is moving forward with a separate measure that would regulate the cafés and impose a $100 fee per computer terminal for operators. Estimates of the number of cafés in the state range from 800 to 1,400 but all agree they have mushroomed in the past few years. Palm Beach County commissioners recently barred new cafés from opening in unincorporated areas.

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee approved a regulation measure and set aside a bill that would make the cafés illegal.

Internet café stand-off: Senate committee passes regulation, House and Scott want shut-down

Thursday, January 19th, 2012 by Dara Kam

An Internet café showdown is shaping up after a Senate committee overwhelmingly approved a measure that would regulate the “casinos-on-corner” shortly before the sponsor of a proposal that would shut them down withdrew his bill from consideration.

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee signed off on the regulation of the cafés (SB 380) after hearing from proponents who said the facilities provide up to 13,000 jobs and are a place for seniors to socialize.

“We have never had one, eensy-teensy, bit of crime,” said Julie Slattery, who owns two Internet cafés in Melbourne.

“This is a business. It’s a real business. It’s a form of entertainment,” Slattery said. She asked the committee to regulate rather than shut the locales to “get rid of whatever it is you’re afraid of.”

But prosecutors and the Florida Sheriffs’ Association objected that the cafés are a venue for crimes and illegal gambling and need to be shuttered.

Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, the bill’s sponsor, rejected those arguments, noting that prosecutions have not resulted in a single conviction.

“I guess there’s a shortage of real crime out there so there’s a need to create some more so you can go prosecute it,” Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, said, adding that traffic problems and robberies often take place at convenience stores.

“Should the next bill ban convenience stores, too?” he said.

After passing the regulatory measure by an 8-1 vote, the committee then took up a bill (SB 428) that would outlaw the facilities. That proposal is similar to one passed by a House committee earlier this week and mirrors the criminalization Gov. Rick Scott yesterday said he’d like lawmakers to impose.

But before the committee could vote on his bill, Sen. Steve Oelrich asked the committee to temporarily put it aside, fending off the panel possibly killing the measure. That would have put an end to the possibility of outlawing the cafés for the rest of the session.

(more…)

House committee approves ban on Internet cafes

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012 by Dara Kam

A measure banning Internet cafes in Florida cleared its first hurdle in the Florida House over the objections of two Palm Beach County Democrats and setting up a stand-off with the Senate that wants to regulate the “casinos on the corner.”

Lawmakers need to shutter the cafes because they prey on the poor and elderly and are highly addictive, said bill sponsor Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood.

Plakon also cited reports showing that welfare recipients are using state-issued debit cards to at ATMs at the facilities to underwrite their gambling habit.

Lawmakers can pass his bill (HB 3), do nothing or regulate the facilities, which could cost the state $200 million a year by invalidating a deal Florida has with the Seminole Indians, Plakon said.

“The regulation bill would be the effect of us authorizing 1,000 gambling locations in this state,” Plakon said.

To help persuade the Business and Consumer Affairs Committee to support his bill, Plakon pointed to a San Francisco newspaper that pilloried Florida lawmakers for failing to shut down the cafes.

“This is San Francisco laughing at us,” Plakon said. “San Francisco, mind you members, is laughing at us.”

Cafe customers purchase Internet time, which they can use to browse the Web or play free “sweepstakes” games, in which computer credit or time is won. Those credits can be redeemed for cash.

Palm Beach County commissioners recently issued a moratorium blocking any new cafes from opening in unincorporated areas.
Industry backers say shutting the cafes down would put thousands of workers in the unemployment line.

“What strikes me is the jobs. It seems like some funny, fuzzy math but there are thousands, possibly tens of thousands of jobs at risk,” said Rep. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington, on the losing side of a 10-5 vote.

Rep. Mack Bernard, D-West Palm Beach, voted against the measure but said he was troubled by the bill needed more information about the ability the use of welfare money at the cafes.

“This is one of the sickest votes I’ve taken since I’ve been here,” Bernard said.

Bondi, state regulators say no to slots at Gretna and raise doubts about Palm Beach

Thursday, January 12th, 2012 by Dara Kam

State regulators won’t give a Panhandle horsetrack permission to have slot machines without legislative approval or changes to the state constitution based on an opinion issued by Attorney General Pam Bondi on Thursday.

Her non-binding opinion also puts in doubt a local bill Palm Beach County and the Palm Beach County Kennel Club are seeking to get slots approved at the dog track. A referendum on the slots will go before county voters in November.

Bondi issued the opinion in response to a question from state gambling regulators regarding Creek Entertainment Gretna racetrack in Gadsden County. Voters there and in Washington County will decide on Jan. 31 whether they want to allow their local pari-mutuels to offer slots, something the Gretna owners are banking on.

But Bondi said the referenda would only be valid if they are first authorized by the Legislature or in the state Constitution, and Department of Business and Professional Regulation officials said they would comply with her opinion.

Lawyers for PBKC and the Gretna track rejected Bondi’s opinion, accusing her of being biased against the slot machines and promising that the courts will ultimately decide on the issue.

“This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that an Attorney General has opined, for political issues, on a gambling issue outside of their authority,” attorney Marc Dunbar, one of the owners of the Gretna track, said in a statement. “Fortunately the Supreme Court has ruled on many occasions that these advisory opinions have no binding affect and more times than not are eventually rejected by Florida courts. I look forward to meeting her in court where law, not politics, will ultimately decide the issue.”

Chris Smith tapped as Senate Democratic Leader

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Sen. Chris Smith, whose district includes part of Palm Beach County, will head up the Senate Democratic caucus next year as the minority party tries to make inroads in a post-redistricting era.

With a 28-12 partisan split, Smith takes the reins of a caucus from Nan Rich in a GOP-dominated chamber. But by working with moderate Republicans, Democrats have helped put the brakes on conservative issues such as House Speaker Dean Cannon’s Supreme Court overhaul and a thorny immigration bill.

“Our numbers are few but we’ve been able to build coalitions,” the Fort Lauderdale lawyer said.

In a typical election year, Smith’s priorities would be to regain the two seats lost to Republicans last year – including former Sen. Dave Aronberg’s District 27 seat won by Lizbeth Benacquisto – or capture others.

But redistricting and the presidential elections leaves much of the 2012 work up in the air, Smith said.

“It changes so much with the political landscape. I’m sure two years ago Nan didn’t know the tea party was going to be so front and center. So who knows what’s going to happen in ’12. Hopefully after the Obama reelection the tea party will realize their five minutes of fame are up, we’ll be able to get down to some serious agenda of governing the state,” he said.

Benacquisto and Palm Beach County immigrant women shed tears over domestic violence

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Dozens of immigrants from Palm Beach County, accompanied by their children and grandchildren, got on a bus in Lake Worth at 11 p.m. to travel to the Capitol as part of a week-long effort by hundreds of immigrants now swarming the Capitol.

The immigrants, their children and advocates are pleading with lawmakers to abandon an Arizona-like immigration reform now under consideration in both the House and Senate.

More than a dozen women and children met with Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Wellington, for nearly 30 minutes. Both the women and the senator emerged in tears.

Leonila, an undocumented restaurant worker from Mexico who lives in West Palm Beach, shared her story with Benacquisto. The mother of five, who would not give her last name, told the senator that she was a domestic violence victim who fears that women like her will be even more afraid to get help after they are sexually or physically abused.

“One doesn’t have to think too hard about how that would affect me,” said Benacquisto, who during her campaign last year disclosed that she was raped at the age of 19.

Benacquisto pledged to work with the sponsors of the bill (SB 2040) to include provisions for women who are domestic violence or sexual abuse victims.

“Any victim who needs to ask for assistance at that time needs to have the confidence they can go to someplace safe,” Benacquisto said.

PBC’s gun clip bill looks like a longshot

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson said Wednesday he thinks state lawmakers should embrace the county’s call for banning gun clips containing more than 15 rounds — especially following Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting earlier this year.

But the legislation, proposed by Rep. Lori Berman and Sen. Maria Sachs,  both Delray Beach Democrats, likely faces tall odds in a Republican Legislature filled with lawmakers elected with the backing of the National Rifle Association.

“You know, a TV commentator has said, ‘the first 10 rounds, blame the person, the next 21 rounds, you should blame the law,’” said Aronson, who joined Berman and Sachs at a Capitol news conference to promote the legislation, which has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

House Bill 1335, which Representative Berman filed on Monday, limits the sale or transfer of high-volume ammunition devices with a capacity greater than 15 bullets.

 Giffords was critically wounded when accused assailant Jared Loughner, who is charged in January’s shooting near Tucson, used a high-capacity magazine to fire 31 shots in 15 seconds from a pistol he purchased legally. Six people were killed and 14 wounded. (more…)

Anti-corruption measures now in play

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 by John Kennedy

The fate of a grand jury’s call for tougher sanctions against political corruption now goes to the politicians — with legislation pending in the House and Senate.

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, filed legislation (SB 1484)  this week that would allow as much as $100,000 in civil fines for some ethics violations — a tenfold increase in currrent penalties. Also, a new $5,000 penalty would be imposed on lobbyists who fail to accurately submit financial disclosure reports.

“Public officials need to be held to a high standard,” Fasano said Thursday.

Fasano, one of former Gov. Charlie Crist’s last allies in the Leigslature, if following through on the recommendations of a statewide grand jury examining public corruption in Florida. Crist sought the grand jury investigation following a string of high-profile corruption cases.

Rep. Lori Berman, D-Delray Beach, filed legislation (HB 249) in January that would boost penalties on public officials convicted in criminal cases of corruption. In addition to the statewide grand jury report, two Palm Beach County grand juries also recommended additional public corruption laws.

Scott, Golden Bear talk economic development…and tweets

Thursday, January 20th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Golf legend Jack Nicklaus met with Gov. Rick Scott to discuss how the Golden Bear can help the new governor turn the state’s economy around.

Nicklaus, the golfer-turned-businessman and philanthropist who lives in North Palm Beach, and Scott stepped outside the governor’s office to answer a few questions from The Palm Beach Post but remained tight-lipped about any potential economic development plan, other than it would involve…golf.

The links superstar is the head of an exclusive golf course design company that’s launched more than 350 courses throughout the U.S. and in nearly three dozen other countries.

Scott and Nicklaus, whose flight arrival was delayed more than an hour because of fog, met for about 30 minutes before stepping into the governor’s waiting room to answer a few questions from a reporter.

“I invited Mr. Nicklaus , the greatest golfer ever, to come and give me his ideas on economic development in the state. He’s lived here since 1962 and clearly cares about the state,” Scott told The Palm Beach Post.

Nicklaus said they had “basically a general conversation about how we can help and how golf can be involved.”

Scott said the talks were preliminary.

“We’re the number one golf state, the number one tourist destination in the world. So we started the conversation to see if there’s any ideas,” he said.

“It’s obvious golf can help the economic growth of the state,” Nicklaus added. He said he and Scott discussed how “somebody with my age and experience…with all the years of playing golf, how that can apply to what’s going on here.”

Scott’s staffers, clearly impressed by Nicklaus, took turns posing for photos with “The Golden Bear” inside the governor’s office before Nicklaus and his entourage left the Capitol.

Scott said he plays golf but “not well,” prompting Nicklaus to downplay his current prowess on the greens.

“Everybody’s wanted to play golf like I did. Now they can,” he joked, pausing before helping out a reporter clearly baffled by his meaning. “I’m 71 years old. I don’t play like I did when I was 45.”

(more…)

Scott stumps in WPB one day before election

Monday, November 1st, 2010 by Dara Kam

Just one day before the crucial vote that will decide whether his $75 million investment paid off, Rick Scott included West Palm Beach in a last-minute appeal to Republicans.

U.S. Sen. George LeMieux climbed on the stage with Scott, also joined by Palm Beach County homeboys U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, outgoing Senate president and chief financial officer candidate Jeff Atwater, and a host of other local officials.

Mark Foley, who once held Rooney’s Congressional seat, also showed up in the crowd at Park Avenue BBQ Grille.

PBC businessman and longtime GOP donor Llywd Ecclestone, who escaped the restaurant parking lot heat under an awning, said he supports Scott’s plan to get the state’s economy back on track.

“He will create jobs and that’s what we need,” Ecclestone said.

But Scott’s pledge of 700,000 jobs is an ambitious goal, the developer acknowledged.

“It’s going to be difficult. It’s not going to be easy,” Ecclestone said.

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LeMieux joins Scott for some Palm Beach BBQ Monday; Clinton visit includes Sink

Sunday, October 31st, 2010 by Dara Kam

U.S. Sen. George LeMieux will join Rick Scott and running-mate Jennifer Carroll in West Palm Beach for some (more) barbecue at the Park Avenue BBQ and Grille around noon tomorrow.

The GOP gubernatorial candidates will also visit their campaign headquarters in Ft. Lauderdale and a school in Davie before a homecoming party in Naples Monday evening capping Scott’s weeklong tour of the state leading up to Election Day.

Scott’s campaign rented the Cambier Park Bandshell and will have a live band to greet Scott, who moved to Naples seven years ago. Scott and his wife Ann’s pals Wayne and Susan Mullican, who joined the Scott family on the bus tour Sunday, took out a full page ad in the Naples Daily News to advertise the event.

Democratic gubernatorial contender Alex Sink will be onstage with the most sought-after Democrats nationwide tomorrow evening: Former president Bill Clinton, who’ll be in the Sunshine State stumping for pal Kendrick Meek. Clinton’s visit – his twelfth for Meek’s U.S. Senate bid – comes after a shakeup over reports that Clinton tried to persuade Meek to drop out of the U.S. Senate race.

Bob Graham and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson will also campaign for Sink in Ft. Myers on Monday, but not only AFTER Scott has already left town.

Meek calls Sachs defection to Crist ‘strange’

Monday, August 30th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Just two weeks after publicly pumping up U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek in the U.S. Senate Democratic primary race against Jeff Greene, state senator-to-be Maria Sachs yesterday pulled a switch and endorsed Meek’s general election rival Gov. Charlie Crist.

Meek said Sachs, a Delray Beach lawyer, signed an endorsement pledge for him in December and called the switcheroo “strange” especially because Palm Beach County Democrats virtually anointed her to fill U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch’s seat when he left the state senate to go to Washington.

“She spoke very passionately two weeks ago of her support of my candidacy, felt that I should be the next U.S. Senator of Florida,” Meek said at a roundtable with reporters this morning.

(more…)

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