News from Tallahassee for 9/18/14

Federal judge calls out David Rivera, sentences Ana Alliegro to six months of house arrest posted on 9/11/14


Before David Rivera’s confidante was sentenced in a campaign-finance scheme on Wednesday, a federal judge had some advice from the bench for the former Miami congressman: Act like a man.

“Some people would call it chivalry, some people call it sexism — that the man should come forward and not let the woman do time on his behalf,” said U.S. District Judge Robert Scola, who gave Rivera’s friend, Ana Alliegro, a one-year sentence split between six months she had already spent in jail and six months of house arrest.

Alliegro, who will also be on probation for two years, was released from custody a couple of hours later. She walked out of the downtown federal detention center alone, wearing brown prison garb, and tried to find the way on foot to her defense attorneys’ office.

She wouldn’t talk about Rivera, though she would be the key witness if prosecutors charge the Republican with the same crime. When asked by reporters why she stood by him for so long, Alliegro said: “It’s just the way I am.”

“I’m enjoying the weather, and I’m just looking forward to my future,” she said. “I intend to be a good member of society.”

The judge could have given Alliegro a stiffer sentence but suggested he was being lenient because she wasn’t acting by herself, in “rogue” fashion, and instead was a pawn in what federal prosecutors say was Rivera’s conspiracy.

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In Shadows of Redistricting Ruling, Senate Case Looms posted on 9/9/14

by BRANDON LARRABEE | News Service of Florida

FL redistricting special session 2014While much of the state's political establishment has focused on the congressional redistricting lawsuit and its possible effects on future elections, a related fight over the map for the state Senate is continuing.

That case could eventually lead to new districts for the 40-member upper chamber, which, like the state House, is currently dominated by Republicans. Any final ruling against that plan would require a third draft of the Senate districts after the Florida Supreme Court tossed the original lawmaker-approved plan two years ago.

For now, both sides are still working to discover evidence for an eventual courtroom clash on the Senate map. Meanwhile, a coalition of voting-rights organizations that includes the League of Women Voters of Florida is continuing the legal fight over the state's congressional map, which was redrawn after Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ruled it unconstitutional in July.

Lewis has since accepted a second draft of the congressional map and rejected the coalition's efforts to push back the 2014 elections and put the new plan in place immediately. The plaintiffs have appealed that ruling, saying voters should not be forced to cast ballots in unconstitutional districts.

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State program will use tax dollars to pay for enhancements to pro sports facilities posted on 9/8/14

by Drew Dixon | Florida Times-Union

There’s uncommon unity now over taxpayer funding of professional sports teams following several local and state developments in the past few months.

Not only Florida and Jacksonville, which have at times been at odds over sports franchises, but a state governmental watchdog group and other analysts, who have sometimes been skeptical about using tax dollars for professional sports operations, are unified behind new efforts to bolster sports facilities.

In June, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a measure that created the Florida Sports Development Program. The program establishes a process for distributing tax revenues for the construction or improvement of professional sports franchise facilities.

The move nearly coincided with the establishment earlier this year of the Jacksonville Sports Council, which seeks to enhance sports activities and events in North Florida and focuses on all sports, not just professional.

Alan Verlander, executive director of the local council, said the state’s commitment to enhancing sports facilities couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.

“What the state is hopefully finally realizing through this is that it’s important to invest in what is bringing people to your city or cities across the state,” Verlander said.

Under the state measure, sporting projects and complexes seeking Florida tax revenue will initially have proposals evaluated by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Then the disbursement of funds must pass approval by the Florida Legislative Budget Commission.

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Weekly Roundup: Nobody's Perfect posted on 8/25/14

by BRANDON LARRABEE | News Service of Florida

What's the old saying? You win some and you lose some?

That was the case for the state in court this week, where attorneys won a historic case and lost another. On one hand, lawyers for the Legislature won a total victory in the second round of the legal battle over the state's congressional districts when a Leon County judge ruled that a redrawn plan complied with the Florida Constitution's prohibition on political gerrymandering. And he ruled in favor of the state on the question of whether the 2014 elections will be held under the existing map or the new one.

On the other hand, a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was struck down by a federal judge -- though he suspended his ruling until an almost-inevitable appeal can be heard.

Outside the courtroom, political battles continued ahead of Tuesday's primaries, though both Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist were expected to cruise to easy victories.

Judge upholds new congressional map posted on 8/25/14

by Aaron Deslatte and Scott Powers | Orlando Sentinel

Special Session redistricting 2014A judge signed off on the Florida Legislature's second-stab at drawing a non-partisan congressional map Friday, describing the tweaks made to the sprawling Jacksonville-to-Orlando seat of Rep. Corrine Brown "somewhat more compliant" with anti-gerrymandering standards.

Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis also ruled that the new map will not take effect until 2016, keeping in place the currently invalidated lines through the fall's elections.

The ruling clears a hurdle for this fall’s elections to continue, albeit with districts determined to be unconstitutional.

"I am pleased with Judge Lewis’ speedy, thoughtful and conscientious decision," House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said in a statement. "I am especially relieved that our overseas military voters and those Floridians who cast their ballots early will have their votes counted this election. You know, sometimes life affords you second chances; I am glad we got it right on the second round."

Lewis ruled in July that GOP operatives had improperly influenced what was supposed to be a new era of nonpartisan re-drawing of political lines once a decade. Although he invalidated the entire map, he found faults mainly with two seats held by Brown and Republican Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden.

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