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Florida Democratic Party News Clips — March 26, 2013

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SUN SENTINEL: GOP ELECTIONS REFORMS 'FALL WOEFULLY SHORT'

Sun Sentinel Op-Ed: We Need Meaningful Election Reform, Not Window Dressing [Sun Sentinel] "When the Florida Legislature began its new session this month, many lawmakers descended upon the Capitol with election reform proposals, and rightfully so. During the 2012 elections, the state’s problems at the polls – most notably, those long lines with outrageous wait times of up to eight hours – faced the glare of the national spotlight. President Barack Obama even raised the issue during his State of the Union address, sharing the ordeal of Desiline Victor, a 102-year-oldNorth Miami resident who was forced to wait in line for hours before she could cast her ballot...While the election reform omnibus bills recently passed by the House and the Senate include a few steps in the right direction, they fall woefully short of achieving the change that is needed in Florida...Given the ineffective voting policies that constantly plague Florida elections, what we need are bold, forward-looking measures. Two bills that were before the legislature actually met this standard – Desiline’s Free and Fair Democracy Act, co-sponsored by Senators Oscar Braynon and Dwight Bullard, and its House companion introduced by Rep. Joe Saunders. Their approach to election reform took politics out of the equation by enshrining the right to vote into state law. While the Legislature ultimately chose a piecemeal route, we can more effectively and meaningfully resolve the state’s voting problems by guarantee voting as a fundamental right.”

 

TAMPA BAY TIMES: LEGISLATURE'S 'FIXATION' WITH CHARTER SCHOOLS UNDERMINING PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM

Editorial: Stop the Giveaway to Charter Schools [Tampa Bay Times] "Once again legislators are looking for ways to undermine Florida's public school system by giving more taxpayer dollars and freebies to charter schools, including those run by for-profit management companies. At a time when school district budgets remain squeezed for cash, two House bills would give charter schools more opportunities while undercutting traditional public schools where most Florida students attend. Public schools are bought with public money, and they should not be given away to schools operated by private interests...The Legislature should end its fixation with charter schools as the answer to all that ails Florida's school performance...Gov. Rick Scott, with his newfound interest for public education and teachers, should tell legislative leaders that traditional public schools must come first and that charter schools, while they are here to stay, should not be getting guaranteed tax dollars every year to build and maintain schools that are run by people who don't answer directly to the voters."

 

GOP LEGISLATURE PUSHING TUITION HIKES ON DEBT-BURDENED COLLEGE STUDENTS

House Pursuing Tuition Hike for State Universities Despite Gov. Scott's Objections [Lakeland Ledger] "The House is pursuing a 6 percent tuition increase for state universities and colleges next year, despite opposition from Gov. Rick Scott and the Senate's decision not to back a tuition increase. House Appropriations Chairman Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, said Monday that House leaders think the tuition hike is appropriate, given the financial needs of the schools and the fact that Florida's tuition remains low compared to other universities and colleges nationally."

 

AG BONDI, GOP LAWMAKERS PLAYING 'SHELL GAME' WITH AFFORDABLE HOUSING FUNDS

Despite Budget Surplus, Bill Would Strip Housing Aid Trust Fund [Tampa Bay Times] "Attorney General Pam Bondi praised Florida House Republicans last week after they unveiled a plan to spend $200 million from a national mortgage settlement on a variety of affordable housing needs for those hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis...Lost amid all the back-slapping, however, is that House Republicans are planning to strip an equal amount for housing aid — $200 million — from a separate trust fund so that it could be spent on other priorities, such as teacher raises and health care. In effect, they are swapping out what the state already had set aside for affordable housing while claiming they are spending more on it. 'What they're doing is a shell game,' said Jaimie Ross, president of the Florida Housing Coalition. 'We have no budget deficit, and yet the House is still planning to take this money we have for affordable housing. There's no excuse. It's embarrassing.'"

 

AS FOURTH BUCHANAN DONOR IS SENTENCED FOR ILLEGAL CONTRIBUTIONS...

Friend of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan Evades Prison Time for Illegal Fundraising [Tampa Bay Times] "For 20 years, Tampa home builder Timothy Mobley and U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan have been friends. They vacation together, bicycle together and at times have done business together. Now that friendship has exacted a heavy toll, though not as heavy as federal prosecutors wanted. A federal judge in Jacksonville last week sentenced Mobley to three years' probation and fined him $200,000 for making illegal contributions to Buchanan's campaigns and the Republican Party of Florida. It was the stiffest penalty so far to result from the numerous investigations into fundraising activities on behalf of Buchanan, a millionaire Sarasota car dealer."

 

Judge Fines Buchanan Contributor [Herald Tribune] "A federal judge sentenced a prominent campaign donor to U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan to three years of probation and $200,000 in fines for organizing an illegal campaign donation scheme to help Buchanan’s past campaigns for Congress. Tampa home builder Timothy F. Mobley had faced up to 10 years in prison for organizing the scheme that funneled more than $90,000 to Buchanan’s campaigns for Congress and the Republican Party of Florida."

 

...FORMER FL GOP CHAIR STILL AWAITS HIS FATE

Greer Prepares for Sentencing [WOKV] "The man who once stood in front of the Republican Party of Florida as a leader will stand in front of a judge this week as a convict learning his prison sentence. Jim Greer pled guilty last month to four counts of theft and a reduced money laundering charge, which will give him a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison. Before the plea, he faced as much as 75 years in prison. As part of the plea, Greer admits to creating a shell company to funnel party funds in to a personal bank account, in addition to drawing his salary. He claims the party knew about the arrangement."

 

PRESIDENT OBAMA COMING TO MIAMI FRIDAY

President Obama to visit PortMiami [Miami Herald] "President Barack Obama will visit PortMiami when he comes into town Friday to speak about the economy."