News from Tallahassee for 8/21/14

Former associate of ex-Rep. Rivera pleads guilty posted on 8/20/14

by CURT ANDERSON | AP

MIAMI (AP) -- Less than a week before trial, a onetime close associate of former U.S. Rep. David Rivera pleaded guilty Tuesday to four charges in a long-running campaign finance investigation that also implicates Rivera.

Attorneys for Ana Alliegro announced in a surprise that she would plead guilty rather than go to trial Monday. Prosecutor Thomas Mulvihill said there was no plea agreement requiring Alliegro to cooperate as a government witness against Rivera.

Her attorney, Richard Klugh, said there was no written deal in place.

"There is no guaranteed benefit for the plea. She's just accepted responsibility," he said.

Rivera, a Republican, has not been charged and has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. Alliegro, 44, was accused of funneling about $80,000 to an unknown Democratic candidate, Justin Sternad, in the 2012 primary for the House seat then held by Rivera. Prosecutors say the goal was to weaken Democrat Joe Garcia, who won anyway and later defeated Rivera in the general election.

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Redistricting fight goes back before judge to settle posted on 8/20/14

by john kennedy | Palm Beach Post

Lawyers for voters’ groups will square-off today against those representing the Republican-led Legislature and elections officials over a proposed new congressional district map and election timetable now in the hands of a Leon County judge.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis has scheduled arguments for 9 a.m. on the congressional plan redrawn by state lawmakers in a three-day special session earlier this month. After Lewis invalidated the map approved in 2012 by the Legislature for favoring incumbents and ruling Republicans, lawmakers recast the boundaries of seven congressional districts but argued that its too late to use that map this fall.

Instead, Republican leaders are urging Lewis to approve using the invalidated map for the election contests currently underway. State and county elections officials have supported that stance by submitting documents to Lewis contending that special elections could not be held for any redrawn districts until next spring.

The Florida League of Women Voters, the state’s Common Cause chapter, and several Democratic voters who successfully challenged the 2012 redistricting plan are urging that Lewis reject the Legislature’s latest map-making effort and draw a plan himself. The voters’ coalition has presented three possible maps to guide Lewis.

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Groups ask judge to reject new map for Congress posted on 8/19/14

by GARY FINEOUT | AP

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The same groups that successfully challenged Florida's congressional map are now asking a judge to throw out a new one drawn up by the Legislature.

In a sharply-worded motion Monday, the coalition that sued legislators asserted the map adopted last week remained "brazenly partisan" and would not fix the problems that prompted a judge to declare it unconstitutional.

The groups, which include the League of Women Voters of Florida, called on Judge Terry Lewis to reject the new map that alters seven of Florida's congressional districts and shifts nearly 400,000 voters. Lewis is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday.

"Despite being given the opportunity to right the wrong they committed and to honor the clear mandate of Florida's voters, legislative defendants have squandered that opportunity," the motion said.

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Dissecting Florida's redrawn congressional districts posted on 8/18/14

by Linda Qiu And Derek Tsang | Tampa Bay Times

FL Redistricting mapIn a three-day special session, Florida legislators last week approved changes to the state's congressional map to address the concerns of Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis, who ruled two districts unconstitutional. A hearing on the changes is scheduled for Wednesday.

But on the surface, according to a Tampa Bay Times analysis, very little has changed. While lawmakers ended up redrawing the physical boundaries of seven of the state's 27 congressional districts and moving 368,040 people, the changes could hardly be seen as significant.

"There was a lot of furniture that got moved around," said Michael McDonald, an elections expert who will begin teaching at the University of Florida this fall. "But if you replace a blue chair with another blue chair, that room doesn't look a lot different."

For this analysis, we'll focus on the two districts ruled invalid by Judge Lewis — District 5, held by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and District 10, held by U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden — and examine what the proposed new districts look like.

What has changed with the new congressional map?

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Lobbying firms collect millions during second quarter posted on 8/18/14

by JIM SAUNDERS | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

With industries ranging from casinos to taxicabs looking to influence the Legislature, new reports offer a glimpse of the millions of dollars in fees that lobbying firms collected during the second quarter of the year.

The reports, due before a Thursday night deadline, show that at least four lobbying firms collected $1 million or more in fees from April 1 to June 30 — a period that included the second half of the 60-day legislative session.

Those firms, Ballard Partners, Capital City Consulting, Ronald L. Book PA and Southern Strategy Group, represented clients ranging from the obscure to the obvious. As an example, Southern Strategy reported receiving fees from the Florida Girl Scout Legislative Network, as well as from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida.

In some cases, clients paid large chunks of money for representation. That included players in the gambling industry, though a debate about rewriting the state’s gambling laws fizzled during the session.

For instance, Ballard Partners reported getting paid $89,000 by Resorts World Miami, LLC, which has been involved in attempts to bring a resort casino to South Florida. Similarly, Capital City Consulting reported collecting $73,000 from Las Vegas Sands Corp., another firm heavily involved in the casino issue.

Industries interested in other issues also spent big. The firm headed by prominent lobbyist Ron Book, as an example, reported getting paid $50,000 by the Florida Taxicab Association. Taxi companies fought a legislative proposal that could have helped Uber Technologies, a smart-phone app that links riders with cars, do business in the state.

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