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Reporter William March has covered state and national politics since 1994. Email
Reporter Mike Salinero has covered Hillsborough County government since 2007. Email
Florida Political Blogs:
Most Recent Entries
- Gov. Scott to sign texting while driving ban
- Trial of ex-Carroll aide, set for this week, is delayed
- Tampa Dems bring $$ for a Panhandle candidate—her name’s Graham
- Gaetz: Weatherford should be governor, senator “or even higher”
- New catch phrase for Scott? ‘It’s under review’
- Nelson, 501(c)(4) attack victim, says enforcing law would have prevent scandal
- Rich gets NOW endorsement
- Emily’s List again backs Ehrlich
- Jaroch: Tampa 912 “one of the first ones targeted”
- GOP Hispanic outreach official switches parties
- Castor, Crist, local Dems raise $$ for Graham’s daughter
- Joyner designated Senate Democratic leader
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Gov. Scott to sign texting while driving ban
Posted May 24, 2013 by James L. Rosica
Updated May 24, 2013 at 02:16 PM
TALLAHASSEE—Gov. Rick Scott on Friday announced he will sign a statewide ban on texting while driving, making Florida the 40th state to enact a ban for all drivers.
Scott will sign the bill (SB 52) next Tuesday in Miami, at Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High School.
“As a father and a grandfather, texting while driving is something that concerns me when my loved ones are on the road,” he said in a statement. “The 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are known as the deadliest days on the road for teenagers … I cannot think of a better time to officially sign this bill into law.”
The effort to enact a ban took five legislative sessions before it passed this year. Conservatives in the House and Senate had opposed previous attempts, saying a ban smacked of government intrusion into people’s lives.
Florida’s law makes texting while driving a secondary offense. That means police have to first stop drivers for another offense, like making an illegal turn or speeding.
A first violation is a $30 fine plus court costs. A second or subsequent violation within five years adds three points to the driver’s license and a $60 fine.
The ban includes typing a text or reading a text while driving. It does allow texting while stopped at a red light. It includes tablet computers, but excludes using a “talk-to-text” feature.
The bill was supported by phone companies, law enforcement, trial lawyers, business groups, the AARP and AAA.
A preliminary state report shows 256,443 reported crashes in 2012. In 4,841 of those crashes, a driver had been texting or otherwise using what was called an “electronic communication device” while driving.
Also on Tuesday, Scott will travel to West Palm Beach to sign a bill (HB 7065) providing $880 million in state funding for long-term Everglades restoration.
Trial of ex-Carroll aide, set for this week, is delayed
Posted May 23, 2013 by James L. Rosica
Updated May 23, 2013 at 04:02 PM
Former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll still hasn’t given pre-trial testimony in a case against an ex-aide who was charged with illegally taping and disclosing a conversation in Carroll’s Capitol office suite.
In fact, court records show Carletha Cole’s case – first filed in December 2011 – had been set for trial this week but was postponed until September.
Why the delay?
Steve Andrews, Cole’s attorney, didn’t return a call; he previously said he wanted to interview Carroll to poke holes in the state’s case.
But one reason might be State Attorney Willie Meggs’ desire to have the deposition in front of a judge. Meggs, a Democrat, has maintained that the defense’s aim is to embarrass Gov. Rick Scott.
Cole is charged with giving a reporter a secretly recorded conversation between Cole and John Konkus, Carroll’s then-chief of staff. Cole was later fired. The recording wound up on The Florida Times-Union’s website.
Konkus is heard saying that Steve MacNamara, once Gov. Rick Scott’s chief of staff, is afraid of Carroll, and he also complains that Scott is “not leading.”
Andrews has said Cole was set up because she walked in on Carroll and a female aide in a compromising position. Carroll, a former Navy officer who is married, famously denied the allegation by saying, “Black women who look like me don’t engage in relationships like that.”
Circuit Judge Frank Sheffield lifted a previous order giving Carroll a shield from being questioned while a public official. She resigned in April after an investigation into an internet sweepstakes operation resulted in almost 60 arrests. Carroll, who is not accused of wrongdoing, had done public relations work for the company before her election.
Cole is charged with a third-degree felony. She faces a maximum five-year sentence if convicted.
“We’ve been ready,” Meggs said. “But, you know, they keep filing stuff.”
Tampa Dems bring $$ for a Panhandle candidate—her name’s Graham
Posted May 22, 2013 by William March
Updated May 22, 2013 at 09:08 PM
Two former governors, former political opponents, together headlined a who’s-who-among-Tampa-Democrats fundraiser in Palma Ceia Wednesday night for Gwen Graham of Tallahassee who hopes to retake a Panhandle U.S. House seat for Democrats.
One governor was Bob Graham, the candidate’s father. The other was Charlie Crist, former Republican.
No one mentioned that Crist made his name as a statewide political figure in 1998 by running against Bob Graham for the U.S. Senate.
But since he became a Democrat, Crist has been fundraising for other Democrats with the zeal of a convert—or of someone who’s expected to announce a campaign for governor and wants to build up IOU’s.
Tuesday night, he headlined a fundraiser for St. Petersburg City Council candidate Darden Rice; two weeks ago he delivered the keynote for a joint fundraising dinner for the Hillsborough and Pinellas Democratic parties; in March, he did the same in Manatee County.
Crist, clearly eager to establish his bona fides as a Democrat, said his fundraising activity is only because, “I’ve got so many friends on the Democratic side of the aisle and they’ve always been friends.”
The fundraiser, at the home of Stacy Frank, was also hosted by her mother, Clerk of Court Pat Frank; Mayor Bob Buckhorn; City Council member Harry Cohen; former Mayor Sandy Freedman; former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis; Rep. Kathy Castor and her mother, former USF President Betty Castor; and a dozen more prominent Tampa Democratic insiders.
Gwen Graham, 50, hasn’t run for office before, but has political savvy. She’s been involved in her father’s campaigns and others, including the 2004 presidential campaign of Howard Dean.
She’s a lawyer who works for the Leon County school system. She’s married to Steve Hurm, counsel for the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and has three children by her former husband, Mark Logan—who’s also her campaign treasurer and attended the Wednesday event.
As one of eight candidates backed by the national Democratic Party in hopes that they can flip GOP-held seats, she’s probably a shoo-in for the nominationn to run against incumbent Republican Rep. Steve Southerland of Panama City. Southerland, a tea party champion, won the seat from long-term Democrat Allen Boyd in the 2010 GOP wave election, and held it in 2012 against former state Sen. Al Lawson of Tallahassee.
“I’ve been approached to run for office before, but I was concerned that the argument would be that I was just running because I was Bob Graham’s daughter,” Gwen Graham told the crowd. But she said “dysfunctional” was too weak a word for the current, polarized Congress, and that Southerland’s re-election convinced her there was “an opportunity where I could start to be the change my dad talked about.”
Can she win against an incumbent in a conservative district?
“It’ll be a tough race,” said Logan. He said factors in her favor including the racial diversity of the huge, thinly-populated Panhandle district; environmental concerns about preservation of rivers and springs in the district; and worry among the district’s large military population about sequestration.
Graham said despite electing Southerland, the district isn’t solidly Republican-voting—it went for Democrat Alex Sink against Republican Gov. Rick Scott in 2010, she said, and redistricting since then has added some Democratic voters.
Although she told the crowd she wants to be seen for who she is rather than simply her father’s daughter, there’s no doubt Bob Graham, the state’s foremost living Democratic icon, is her best campaign asset.
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” Crist told the crowd.
Gaetz: Weatherford should be governor, senator “or even higher”
Posted May 22, 2013 by William March
Updated May 22, 2013 at 05:44 PM
State Senate Pres. Don Gaetz told reporters today he thinks House Speaker Will Weatherford of Wesley Chapel “should be governor of Florida, he should be a U.S. senator or even higher.”
The comments came during a tour of Tampa Bay Technical High School in Tampa by Gaetz and Weatherford, when reporters asked them about possible future political aspirations.
Weatherford, considered a rising star in the state Republican Party, danced around the question.
“My aspirations are to spend the next year working with the Senate president doing what we did (during his first year as speaker) and then going home and being with my three daughters who are under the age of five,” he said. “They don’t get to see me very much, and so that’s my priority.
“I know a lot of people who spend a lot of time worrying about the future, but the future takes care of itself,” he said. “It’s a huge honor to be the speaker of the Florida ... and I’m worried about that. I’m not worried about anything in the future.”
Gaetz, who isn’t known to have higher political ambitions, responded, “I don’t know if he has aspirations for higher office, but I have aspirations for him. Will Weatherford should be governor of Florida, he should be a U.S. senator or even higher, and my aspiration is to do the first fundraiser for him when he runs statewide.”
New catch phrase for Scott? ‘It’s under review’
Posted May 22, 2013 by James L. Rosica
Updated May 22, 2013 at 01:18 PM
Gov. Rick Scott’s office already has one catchphrase: “It’s Working.”
He might consider one more: “It’s Being Reviewed.”
One form or another of the word “review” is a favorite of the governor and his staff when asked the status of legislation and other state business.
For example, “We’ll review it and see what it does,” Scott said when asked whether he would sign a bill passed this year that speeds up the state’s capital punishment process.
“We’re reviewing it,” he said of another bill, which would have ended lifetime alimony in Florida. He ultimately vetoed that one.
“It’s under review,” a spokesman was quoted as saying, when asked whether Scott would sign a new death warrant for Miami killer John Errol Ferguson, whose federal appeal was recently rejected.
On Wednesday, asked for an update on the lieutenant governor search, Scott’s press office sent a brief email in response: “This is something we are reviewing.”
“It’s a standard rhetorical device designed to deflect attention away from a question,” explained Clay Calvert, a journalism and communications professor at the University of Florida.
Of course, it’s not unique to Scott or his administration; Obama spokesman Jay Carney has been called out for his constant use of “I appreciate the question” at press conferences.
“It usually means they don’t have a talking point,” Calvert said.