Today's Top Story

Report: Fla. voters had country’s longest waits to cast ballots posted on 10/1/14

by CHRIS ADAMSMCCLATCHY | WASHINGTON BUREAU

Vote signVoters in Florida waited far longer than those in other states to cast their votes in the 2012 election, hampered by long ballots and cutbacks in early voting options, according to a new report by congressional auditors.

Voters in the state stood in line more than 34 minutes on average, significantly longer than ballot-casters did in any other state reviewed by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ watchdog.

The shortest waits? Alaska, at just 1.4 minutes.

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Breaking News

  • Supreme Court to decide the fate of congressional redistricting plan, again posted on 10/1/14

    by News Service of Florida

    A high-stakes legal battle about the constitutionality of the state's congressional districts should be fast-tracked to the Florida Supreme Court, a divided appeals court ruled Wednesday.

    Under the ruling, the 1st District Court of Appeal would not take up a challenge to districts redrawn in August by the Legislature and to other decisions by a circuit judge. Instead, the case would go directly to the Supreme Court --- a relatively unusual move known as "certification" of the case to the higher court.

    A panel of the appeals court, in a 2-1 decision, agreed on the certification issue with voting-rights groups that have waged a drawn-out legal battle about whether congressional district lines were drawn in 2012 and redrawn this year to favor Republicans. While the redrawn districts would not take effect until the 2016 elections, the majority of the appeals court pointed to the lengthy history of the case in deciding to pass it along to the Supreme Court.

    "In this case, any doubts about the need for immediate review by the Supreme Court should be resolved in favor of certification,'' said the opinion, written by Judge Philip Padovano and joined by Judge Simone Marstiller.

    But in a dissent, Judge Scott Makar disputed the need to quickly send the case to the Supreme Court because the new districts won't take effect until 2016.

    » Read more

  • Florida consumer confidence hits post-recession high, report says posted on 10/1/14

    by john kennedy | Palm Beach Post

    In a political season, Gov. Rick Scott may have gotten some good news Wednesday from economists at the University of Florida.

    The state’s monthly consumer sentiment rose to a post-recession high in September — an 83 rating last reached in April 2007, UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research reported.

    The findings that Floridians are feeling a little buoyant about the economy would — on face value — seem to help the Republican governor, who has made job creation his defining issue.

    Democrat Charlie Crist, of course, could spin it that the last time Floridians were feeling this good about the economy, he was governor. Never mind the crash.

    “This is a welcome development given that consumer sentiment has been flat for the last few months,” said Chris McCarty, director of the survey conducted by UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

    “While we are still about ten points behind where we would like to be at this point in a recovery, confidence among Floridians is heading in the right direction,” he added.

    » Read more

  • Gray Swoope: Speeding Up Incentives Could Help Land Apple-like Firm posted on 10/1/14

    by JIM Turner | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

    Florida may be trying to entice Apple Inc. to build a manufacturing plant in the state.

    Or a top economic-development leader could just be using the prospect of landing the multinational electronics and technology company to get state lawmakers to allow more leeway on state incentives packages through a program known as the "Quick Action Closing Fund."

    Enterprise Florida President and Chief Executive Officer Gray Swoope told the agency's board members Tuesday that Apple is the kind of manufacturer desired by Florida. However, he said, state laws might hinder such economic-development efforts because of the length of time needed to get approval for incentives as firms try to open facilities quickly.

    Under the Quick Action Closing Fund, a joint House and Senate panel known as the Legislative Budget Commission is required to approve incentives packages over a $5 million threshold. The commission meets periodically throughout the year.

    » Read more

  • Utility, Foes of 'Smart Meters' Square Off posted on 10/1/14

    by News Service of Florida

    State regulators Tuesday took up a dispute about a Florida Power & Light plan to collect extra money from thousands of customers who refuse to allow "smart" meters to gauge electricity use.

    The dispute involves only a fraction of FPL's customers, but it is part of a broader controversy in which critics say they worry the new meter technology could pose threats to their privacy or health.

    The state Public Service Commission earlier this year agreed to allow FPL to collect a $95 "enrollment" fee and $13-a-month surcharges from customers who won't allow smart meters at their homes. But that prompted customer challenges, which led to a hearing that lasted throughout the day Tuesday and was expected to continue into the evening.

    FPL in recent years has installed about 4.5 million smart meters, which in part allow electricity use to be monitored remotely. The utility contends that older-style meters are now "non-standard" and that people who choose to use those meters should pay extra to cover costs such as meter reading. Without those extra charges, FPL says other customers would have to help pick up the tab.

    Robert Onsgard, an FPL project manager, testified during Tuesday's hearing that the utility has worked hard to make sure the charges are "fair and reasonable."

    But attorneys for the consumers spent hours questioning Onsgard and another FPL witness, Terry Deason, about the validity of the charges. For instance, Nathan Skop, an attorney for Loxahatchee residents Daniel and Alexandria Larson, compared the charges to earlier FPL projections about cost savings from new metering --- projections that he said had not been met.

    » Read more

  • FL Lawmaker Target of Food Advocates posted on 10/1/14

    by AP

    Americans like to talk about food, and they certainly like to eat. But they don't normally think about food policy when they vote.

    A group of food advocates is trying to figure out how to change that. They're putting money and organizational effort into elections for the first time, including an effort this fall to defeat Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., over his drive to increase work requirements for food stamp recipients.

    The push against Southerland is a test of how to make food policy stick in the political arena ahead of the 2016 presidential and congressional races.

    The reason? Many of the same people who care the most about issues like hunger, antibiotics in meat and labeling of genetically modified ingredients — moms and young people — also are politically aware and likely to cast ballots.

    » Read more

  • VA Secretary Visits Florida Facilities posted on 10/1/14

    by BOBBIE O'BRIEN | WUSF

    The new Secretary of Veteran Affairs is in Florida today to hear from veterans and talk to VA employees about his initiative to restore trust in the VA and eliminate the backlog of claims and long waits for health care.

    Robert McDonald, the former CEO of Procter & Gamble, is spending his first 90 days in office visiting VA facilities nationwide to explain his reform plan dubbed Road to Veterans Day 2014.

    He stopped by the Sarasota VA National Cemetery Tuesday. Today, McDonald will meet with employees at the St. Petersburg Regional VA Benefits Office and then tour Tampa's James A. Haley VA Hospital and Polytrauma Center.

    McDonald will hold a news conference this afternoon in Tampa before traveling to Orlando where he will tour the VA facilities on Thursday.

    » Read more

  • Mailer from Gov. Rick Scott's campaign mistaken on absentee ballots posted on 10/1/14

    by Steve Bousquet | Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

    Two Tampa Bay elections supervisors criticized as "inaccurate" and "incorrect" a mailer by Gov. Rick Scott's campaign committee that tells voters that their absentee ballots should have arrived by now. The attention-grabbing mailer by Scott's Let's Get to Work committee has the words "Voter Alert!" and the statement, "By now, you should have received your absentee ballot."

    Not true, elections official say. The first day that in-state absentees could be mailed was Tuesday, and they can be mailed up to Oct. 7, four weeks before Election Day. The last thing county elections officials want is to be inaccurately blamed for not sending ballots to their voters.

    Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer issued a news release that said, "Their information is incorrect." He plans to mail more than 150,000 absentee ballots to Tampa-area voters on Oct. 6.

    On Twitter, Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley showed the mailer and said: "Here is the inaccurate flyer that voters throughout FL rec'd with incorrect info from # LetsGetToWork."

    Scott campaign spokeswoman Jackie Schutz issued this statement: "Voting by mail is important, and we hope that all voters will receive their vote-by-mail ballots promptly." The campaign wouldn't comment on the record as to why it sent voters inaccurate information, but it's possible that the mail pieces simply reached Florida households sooner than expected.

    » Read more

  • Governor Scott Weighs In On Troubles Surrounding Florida Prisons posted on 9/30/14

    by Sascha Cordner | WFSU

    Governor Rick Scott is weighing in on the troubles surrounding the state’s prison system. The Florida Department of Corrections has been in the news lately for prison firings, allegations of inmate abuse, and the latest: threatening to cancel their contract with private inmate health care provider.

    During a recent stop in Jacksonville, Scott told reporters he’s aware of the problems in the system and he says Corrections’ Secretary Mike Crews is taking care of it.

    “Well, here’s what I care about: I want to make sure if anyone who ends up as an inmate, that they’re safe. I want to make sure all of our Corrections’ officers is safe,” said Scott. “The Secretary of the Department of Corrections is taking it seriously. He’s traveled the state, he’s made sure there’s new training programs, he’s made sure now there’s more transparency, and if there’s going to be investigations, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement—which has a great reputation—will be involved in those investigations.”

    » Read more

  • Jennifer Carroll Talks Healing By Writing Tell-All Book, Continuing Book Promo Tour posted on 9/30/14

    by Sascha Cordner | WFSU

    Former Florida Lieutenant Governor Jennifer says writing an autobiography on her life leading up to the events of her resignation was both therapeutic and a source of healing. She’s now promoting her book, “When You Get There,” which was released last month.

    Carroll’s 173-page book touches on several topics from her life as an immigrant from Trinidad coming to the U.S. to her time in the military, where she says she started overcoming adversity—a common theme in her book.

    She also spoke about her time serving as Governor Rick Scott’s second in command, before she was forced to step down last year amid an investigation into a gambling ring. She was accused of no wrongdoing.

    Carroll says at first, she was let in on meetings and was close enough to the Governor. But, later after he hired his second and third chiefs of staffs, she says all that went out the window.

    “So, even to my schedule, his staff—his chief of staff—had to approve everything on my schedule,” said Carroll. “I couldn’t even sneeze without getting the approval on anything. So, that undermining and removing me as if I didn’t even exist, I didn’t run on a ticket with him, that I didn’t get elected with him, that I was irrelevant to the office, made me feel like I was an unwanted stepchild.”

    » Read more

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