Thursday, December 24, 2009

Nelson touts health-care vote -- and his Gator aid

Sen. Bill Nelson’s statement on today’s health-care vote:

“During these many months of debate over health-care reform, my goal has been to pass legislation to make coverage affordable and available to everyone.

“Regardless of where we stand on specifics, I think most can agree the system is broken and needs to be fixed.

“While the Senate bill I voted for isn't perfect, it has many good elements.

“It will prevent insurers from dropping the sick and stop them from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. It also will reduce the deficit. And it includes one of my amendments to protect 800,000 seniors in Medicare HMOs all over Florida.

“Congress still has to merge this bill with the House version. And I’ve told negotiators I want them to close the "donut hole" gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage.”

And this from our Washington correspondent Lesley Clark on Miami Herald's Naked Politics blog:

Nelson's amendment to grandfather Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in Florida has drawn criticism as one of the goodies ladled out by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to get the legislation passed. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote that Capitol Hill critics have dubbed it "Gator Aid."

But PolitiFact notes that Florida seniors wouldn't be the only ones covered.

"Specifically, the money targets communities and areas where the cost of service is highest and allows those people to use the old rules," PolitiFact writes. "The language in the health care bill, which begins on Page 894, never mentions Florida or any specific state. Rather it creates a difficult-to-follow formula to determine just who should be protected from the changes.

"We should note that Nelson's provision wasn't a last-minute addition. The Medicare Advantage exemption was included in the health care reform bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee in October.

"We'll also note that the Senate Finance Committee widened the pool of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries protected from the new rules. The total additional cost is expected to be around $7.5 billion over 10 years, (Nelson spokesman Dan) McLaughlin said. Independent analysts at the Kaiser Family Foundation say the protections will cost around $5 billion between 2012 and 2019.

"So who benefits? Floridians for sure.

"Florida will definitely be treated more generously than most other states," said John Rother, executive vice president for policy and strategy for AARP.

"But not just Floridians. Of the 1 million or so Floridians participating in Medicare Advantage, about 800,000 are expected to be protected from possible cuts. But so are people living in New York and Los Angeles, as well as in Oregon, McLaughlin says. A spokesman for Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., confirmed that New Jersey seniors also will benefit from Nelson's protections to Medicare Advantage.

"And Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said this: "We got a special protection worth billions of dollars to stop Medicare cuts for 800,000 New York seniors."

Monday, December 21, 2009

Florida vote split on Senate health-care legislation

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson voted to move ahead on health care legislation early today, while Republican Sen. George LeMieux voted in the minority against the action.

The two vying for LeMieux's seat -- Gov. Charlie Crist and former House Speaker Marco Rubio -- remain dead-set against the legislation.

Following are the senators' statements:

Sen. Bill Nelson’s statement on health-care vote:
“In voting to move a health-care bill forward, my main goal was to help pass legislation that'll make health coverage more affordable and available for everybody. And one of my top priorities remains protecting seniors. Recently, I was able to pass an amendment to the bill that excluded some 800,000 policyholders all across
Florida from cuts to Medicare Advantage.

“I believe that no matter where people stand on certain specifics of this complex issue of reforming health care, most all of us should agree the current system can be unfair and too costly. It’s broken – and, it needs to be fixed.
“The legislation in the Senate certainly doesn’t have everything l want, like forcing
drug companies to lower prices for prescriptions covered under Medicare or allowing seniors to import lower-cost drugs from Canada. But no piece of legislation does.
“And when it comes to health care reform, we can't afford to sit by and do nothing anymore.
“I firmly believe this legislation will provide more affordable coverage for millions of uninsured Americans, prevent insurance companies from dropping folks who get sick and stop them from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. The legislation
will also help reduce the country’s deficit.”

And from LeMieux's web site:

Republicans are continuing to fight against Democratic health care reform proposals, which would cut your Medicare, raise your taxes, and threaten your health care choices. We believe that any health care reform legislation should lower costs and expand access without raising your taxes or adding billions of dollars to the deficit.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rubio catches up with Crist in new poll

A new Rasmussen poll shows that the race for GOP nomination for Florida's U.S. Senate seat is now a dead heat between once-seemingly-invincible Charlie Crist and the once-seemingly-only-a-long shot Marco Rubio, with each coming in at 43 percent.

Earlier polling gains for Rubio, a former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, might have been due, in part, to delays by the governor in responding to challenge posed by his younger, less-well-known rival. But recently, Crist's campaign has gone on the offensive, raising questions about Rubio's record and his supposed conservative credentials.

For his efforts, Crist, with the backing of the national Republican establishment and a big fund-raising lead, is locked in a tie. The governor's support has dropped from 53 percent in August to 49 in October.

“The fact that Crist has fallen below 50 percentin a primary against a lesser known opponent suggests potential vulnerability,” Rasmussen Reports states.

Conversely, Rubio's numbers have improved as his name-recognition has increased. In August, his support was at 31 percent.

For more details about the poll's findings, go here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Governor's office's phone blooper gets steamy

Tiger Woods isn't the only newsmaker whose voice mail message has gotten him into trouble this week.

Editors at the Bradenton Herald are always reinforcing with reporters the importance of double-checking the telephone numbers they might include with their stories, since readers depend on us to provide them with correct information.

And we don't want to be embarrassed like Gov. Charlie Crist had to be when it was revealed this week that because of a phone number mix-up, Crist for some two months had been encouraging callers wanting more information about the Florida KidCare health insurance program to call a phone sex line.

Unlike Woods, Crist wasn't trying to organize a cover-up of his own bad behavior, but you'd have to think the governor's tan got a little darker this morning if he happened to catch the folks at "Morning Joe" having a good laugh at his expense over the mix-up.

The governor's office has corrected the mistake, but you can hear it all here, via the Palm Beach Post.

For the record, the correct number for more information about KidCare is (888) 540-5437.

We double-checked.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Manatee legislative delegation to meet Dec. 15

The Manatee County legislative delegation will hold its annual meeting Dec. 15 to "hear presentations on proposed local bills, general presentations, and constituent issues," according to a news release.

Just don't go before legislators with your hat in hand. Florida's budget crunch means once again, lawmakers will not be able to return from Tallahassee with funding for local projects.

The release continues:
"(P)lease be advised that the delegation will not be receiving or hearing any budget requests as directed by the following statement issued by the Senate President:

'Given the continuing fiscal challenges our state is facing and our need to focus efforts on solutions to balance the state’s budget, we will not be opening the Community Budget Issue Request System (CBIRS) this year. With the further decline in state revenues, it is my desire to avoid creating unrealistic funding expectations.'"
For more information or for those seeking to be placed on the delegation agenda contact Margaret Clark at (941) 727-6349 or by e-mail at

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Local politicos are all a Twitter

Want to know the latest thoughts on your elected officials' minds, and you want to know it RIGHT NOW?

Well, Twitter, which has quickly has shown that it's more than just another Internet time-waster, may be for you.

A story in the Bradenton Herald this past Sunday
detailed on how candidates for U.S. Senate, governor and other statewide offices in Florida are using Twitter, and its social media cousin Facebook, to connect and stay in touch with voters, campaign contributors and others.

A companion piece listed several local politicians in Bradenton and Manatee County who have gone all a Twitter.

For instance, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, who has become very aggressive with his use of social media, last week used Twitter to tout the support he has gained for his proposal to require that Congress open to the public all debate over health care reform.

But it's not all political. For example, this morning Bradenton City Council member Harold Byrd used his Twitter feed to congratulate Manatee High alum Willie Taggart on being named the head football coach at Western Kentucky University.

Local politicians on Twitter include:
Are there others out there? E-mail me at

Monday, November 16, 2009

Buchanan: Don't cut Medicare to pay for health care reform (UPDATED)

Pinning down exactly how much any of the health care proposals making their way through Congress might end up costing is challenge for the most actuarially adept Americans. Trying to pin a price on reform is as much a political exercise as it is a feat of accounting.

Which is why U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, and other Republicans were quick to jump on a weekend report from the agency that oversees the Medicare program that found that $500 billion in planned cuts in order to pay for health care reform would sharply reduce benefits for many senior citizens.

In response, Buchanan - who represents the most elderly congressional district in the nation - issued a news release calling on Congress "to develop a health reform plan that will not punish the elderly or bankrupt America."

"I will not stand by while we devastate Medicare, one of the most important pillars of our nation's health care delivery system for senior citizens," Buchanan said.

Read Buchanan's entire statement here.

UPDATED, Nov. 17, 2009According to his Facebook page, Buchanan will go to the House floor between noon and 12:30 p.m. to speak on this issue. You can watch it on C-SPAN.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Graham: Flu response shows shortcomings in bio-defense

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham delivers a lecture at the University of South Florida's Sarasota campus last year. (Bradenton Herald file photo.)

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham watches the response so far to the nation's H1N1 flu outbreak, and it only confirms what he has been warning as chairman of commission studying the threat of bio-terrorism and other weapons of mass destruction against the United States:

We aren't doing enough to protect ourselves.

Officials knew more than six months ago that H1N1 would be a problem this winter, but "in spite of that, the president just declared an emergency, all over the country people are lining up to get shots and there is not enough vaccine available," Graham told Political Watch, in advance of a speaking engagement next week in Sarasota.

"If it is a man-made pandemic, we will have zero time to respond," Graham warned.

The Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism
, which Graham has chaired for almost two years, last month issued an interim report updating progress on recommendations it made last year.

Among the conclusions: The government is spending only a fraction of what is needed for drugs and medical countermeasures to counter influenza, other emerging diseases and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear public health threats.

Considering that the commission's warning last year that WMD will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013, the time to prepare and act is now, Graham said.

"If we are not ready when that moment arrives, the game is over," he said.

Graham, who turned 73 on Monday, has remained active in public life as a lecturer, author and senior statesman since retiring from the U.S. Senate in 2004 after 18 years of service. Just last week, Graham and fellow former governors Jeb Bush, Bob Martinez and Reubin Askew joined in a campaign to lobby state lawmakers to restore funding for the Florida Forever land acquisition and conservation program.

On Nov. 18, Graham will be the first speaker in a series sponsored by Forum Truth, a nonpartisan public affairs group based in Sarasota.

Graham co-authored "America, the Owner's Manual: Making Government Work for You," released earlier this year.

Using 11 case studies, Graham said his book is designed "to provide to people who want to be more than spectators in democracy ... a road map of how to do that."

The challenge in getting more people involved in the system is that too many people do not have the basic skills or knowledge about American civics, Graham said. As a result, too many Americans don't bother to vote or otherwise participate in the democratic process.

To illustrate that, Graham, who graduated from high school in 1955, said that between the 7th and 12th grades, he took three 0ne-year civics courses.

By comparison, his granddaughter, who recently graduated from high school, took only a single one-semester course all throughout middle and high school.

"I think one of the reasons why there has been such a decline in citizenship ... is because people are intimidated about being involved," Graham said. "They never learned the skills of citizenship."

For more information about Graham's speech, including how to get tickets, visit or call (941) 349-8350.

--- Marc R. Masferrer

Monday, November 9, 2009

Buchanan calls for Congress to investigate Fort Hood shooting

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan is calling on Congress to investigate the mass shooting at Fort Hood last week as a possible terrorist attack.

Buchanan, R-Sarasota, quoted media reports that the alleged shooter, Army Major Nidal Hasan, had shouted Allahu Akbar (God is great), before opening fire and killing 13 people and wounding 30.

“We have a lot of questions that need to be answered,” Buchanan said in a letter today to the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson, “the bottom line is we need to make sure our military installations are safe and that we are doing everything possible to protect our men and women serving on those bases.”

Buchanan released a copy of the letter this morning attached to a news release.

“The Homeland Security Committee should investigate the motives behind the shooting and any connection between Hasan and terrorist organizations,” Buchanan said. “If the shootings amounted to a terrorist attack, we need to know if this could have been averted and if enough is being done to prevent future attacks.”

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Castor votes for health care reform bill

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, whose district includes part of Manatee County, released the following statement today regarding the passage of the Affordable Health Care for America Act:

“Today we are making history. At long last, Americans will have access to health insurance that is affordable and dependable. You will have coverage you can count on. Even if you change jobs, get sick or have a pre-existing condition, you will have affordable and meaningful health insurance.

“Floridians win. In the Tampa Bay area alone, nearly 2.3 million residents with health insurance will see improved employer-based health coverage. More than 100,000 area small businesses could qualify for tax credits to provide health insurance to their employees. And approximately 631,000 uninsured individuals will finally gain access to health insurance.

“The Affordable Health Care for America Act we passed today offers stability, security and vital consumer protections that will take effect immediately. You won’t have to pay co-pays or deductibles for preventive care and you won’t be denied coverage if you have a pre-existing condition. You do not have to worry about insurance companies canceling your coverage if you are diagnosed with cancer or another ailment. You do not have to worry about health insurance companies barring you from coverage because you had cancer that is in remission or have recovered from heart disease. You will not go bankrupt when serious illness strikes. You will have meaningful, affordable, stable and dependable health insurance coverage.

“Insurance companies won’t be able to charge higher premiums based on your medical history or current medical condition. No discrimination means exactly that: No discrimination.
“Seniors, rest assured. You will see immediate improvements in your health care.

Approximately 92,100 Tampa Bay area seniors will avoid the Medicare “doughnut hole” for Part D prescriptions because of the legislation we passed today. More than 900,000 seniors in the Tampa Bay area will see immediate improvements to their coverage. I am pleased the AARP has endorsed this landmark legislation. We are truly doing right by seniors.

“We are helping our young adults and their families too. Parents can keep their children on their health insurance plan through their child’s 27th birthday. That means no more worrying about your children’s health insurance when they are in college or looking for their first jobs.
“Meaningful health insurance reform is long overdue in this country.”

Castor successfully authored numerous provisions in the bill that benefit Florida, including sections relating to graduate medical education, wellness initiatives for small businesses, aid for our trauma care, primary care improvements and penalties for unscrupulous Medicare marketing practices. Castor advocates for Florida on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee.

Buchanan speaks against health care bill

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan earlier today went before the House to express his opposition to proposed health care legislation being debated by the House of Representatives.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Charlie Crist in 'denial' about stimulus plan

Gov. Charlie Crist encouraged Congress earlier this year to pass President Barack Obama's stimulus plan, and literally embraced the president when he visited Fort Myers to campaign for the package.

Just don't let the governor/Senate candidate - whose signature is affixed to this letter expressing "support" for the stimulus package - hear you say he "endorsed" the stimulus package.

Here's guessing Crist's denial won't cause the Club for Growth to pull this ad:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sen. LeMieux opens regional offices

U.S. Senator George LeMieux today announced the locations of his regional offices in Florida. LeMieux’s regional offices provide residents with a local contact when seeking assistance with federal issues or concerns.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to serve the people of Florida and I am dedicated to working hard for every Floridian.” said Senator LeMieux. “These offices provide constituents with access to me and my staff so we can best serve their needs.”

Frequently requested services include ensuring the proper Social Security benefits are received, that Medicare is paying appropriate claims in a timely manner, that military families and veterans are receiving pay and benefits on time, assistance with the IRS, passport applications, and hurricane recovery applications.

201 S. Orange Ave., Suite 350
Orlando, FL 32801
Tel: (407) 254-2573
Fax: (407) 423-0941
TTY: (407) 254-5548
Toll-Free in FL: (866) 630-7106

1650 Prudential Drive, Suite 220
Jacksonville, FL 32207
Tel: (904) 398-8586
Fax: (904) 398-8591

8669 NW 36th St., Ste 355
Miami, FL 33166
Tel: (305) 444-8332
Fax: (305) 444-8449

Fort Myers
2120 Main Street, Suite 200
Fort Myers, Florida 33901
Tel: (239) 332-3898
Fax: (239) 332-3447

1 N. Palafox Street, Suite 159
Pensacola, FL 32502
Tel: (850) 433-2603
Fax: (850) 433-2554

3802 Spectrum Blvd., Suite 106
Tampa, FL 33612
Tel: (813) 977-6450
Fax: (813) 977-6593

Fort Lauderdale
642 N. Federal Hwy.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304
Tel: (866) 630-7106

356 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-3041
Fax: (202) 228-5171

Rubio to speak next week in E. Manatee

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio will be the guest speaker next week at a luncheon meeting of the East Manatee Republican Club.

Rubio, a former speaker of the Florida House, is challenging Gov. Charlie Crist for the GOP nomination for the seat now held by Sen. George Lemieux, whom Crist appointed after former Sen. Mel Martinez resigned.

The event is set for 11:30 a.m. Nov. 12 at Peridia Golf and Country Club, 4950 Peridia Blvd., Bradenton. The cost is $15.

For more information, visit

And to make reservations for lunch, call (941) 739-3813 or e-mail

Golden set to launch bid for Congress

With this year's local elections come and gone, attention can now turn fully to the 2010 elections, where the stakes, from Washington to Bradenton, will be even higher.

Major events in two of the higher-profile races are set for the coming week.

Former Bradenton City Council member James T. Golden on Thursday, after months of silence about his obvious plans to run for Congress - he hasn't spoken to the media, but he has appeared before various political clubs and launched a Web site and Facebook page - officially kicks off his bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota.

Golden, a Democrat, is set to officially announce during an event at the River Club in East Manatee. The party starts at 6 p.m. Call Golden's campaign headquarters at (941) 567-6224 for the details.

And on Thursday, Nov. 12, former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, who is gaining in the polls on Gov. Charlie Crist for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate, will speak to a luncheon meeting of the East Manatee Republican Club. The event starts at 11:30 a.m. at the Peridia Golf and Country Club. The cost is $15.

To make reservations, call (941) 739-3813 or e-mail

Precinct-by-precinct election results available

For those who want to know more about how their candidate won or lost in Tuesday's local elections - or maybe you just want to know how your neighbors voted - the Manatee County elections office just posted precinct-by-precinct results on its Web site.

You can find them here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Buchanan: Send more troops to Afghanistan

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan visits with troops from the
82th Army Airborne Division while visiting Afghanistan. (Provided photo)

Fresh from a boots-on-the-ground visit to Afghanistan, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan wants President Barack Obama to follow his generals' recommendations and send more troops to the war-torn country.

Buchanan, however, distanced himself from former Vice President Dick Cheney, who last month said Obama was "dithering" by taking so long to decide on the next step in a war now in its eighth year.

"I don't necessarily agree with that," Buchanan, R-Sarasota, said in an interview this afternoon. Obama "is the president, and he is at a critical juncture when it comes to Afghanistan.

"On the other hand, I'd like to see it get done," Buchanan said.

Buchanan, who returned Monday from a four-day visit with five other House members, said the two-pronged challenge for Afghanistan, and for the American role there, is to establish security in Afghan cities and villages, and then build a system of long-term governance.

Progress has been made in both areas, according to Buchanan,"but there is a lot more to be done."

"The idea is to get to the point where they can function as a country," Buchanan said.

Obama, said Buchanan, has two realistic options: Withdraw from Afghanistan; or follow the example of the Iraqi "surge" and increase the American troop level to what he said in a statement is "the appropriate level to accomplish the mission." American generals have asked for as many as 40,000 additional troops.

Buchanan first visited Afghanistan in April 2007, when the war there was arguably not the Bush administration's top priority as it dealt with situation in Iraq.

"Now, all the focus is right there," Buchanan said.

The fight is important, according to Buchanan, especially as long as al-Qaida and the Taliban remain active in Afghanistan. "You can take them on there, or you can take them on here," he said.

While in country, Buchanan said he met with several military servicemen from his district, and said he was impressed with the morale of American forces.

"They were pretty focused," he said.

Buchanan said "victory" in Afghanistan will come when Afghans "provide their own security, when our kids are out of there." Hopefully, he said, that will be in one to two years.

"The sooner the better," he said.

Hayes, Chappie, Whitmore back DiSabatino in District 4

Republican primary voters next August will select their nominee for the District 4 seat on the Manatee County Commission, representing southern portions of the county.

Incumbent Ron Getman, a Republican, is retiring from electoral politics and is not running for re-election. Getman has not endorsed any of the three Republicans - Robin DiSabatino, Norm Luppino and Timothy Norwood - so far in the race, and he might not.

Three of Getman's commission colleagues are not so reticent.

Campaign finance reports filed last month show that DiSabatino received financial contributions of $500 from Donna Hayes and $100 each from commissioners John Chappie and Carol Whitmore.

In all, DiSabatino, a real estate broker, reported $25,350 in contributions - including $20,000 from her personal bank account. She also reported spending $272.81, mostly for postage, printing and voter lists.

The other two candidates, Luppino and Norwood, did not file financial reports. Democrat Roger C. Galle reported $100 in contributions, and expenses totaling $19.92.

State Sen. Paula Dockery expected to launch bid for governor

Paula Dockery

A dark-haired, brown-eyed 40-something-year-old woman with strong conservative credentials wants to make her mark on the 2010 race to be Florida's next governor.

No, Sarah Palin is not moving to Florida.

But the comparisons between state Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, who today was expected to launch her bid for the Republican nomination for Florida governor and the former Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential nominee, have already started. A commenter on the St. Petersburg Times' political blog even called Dockery, "Palin with a brain."

(Another difference between Dockery and Palin: Dockery has said she wouldn't vote for a bill allowing oil and gas drilling in state waters off Florida's Gulf Coast.)

The conventional wisdom had been that Republican Bill McCollum and Democrat Alex Sink wouldface off a year from this week to become the next governor of Florida.

Well, Dockery isn't buying it.

"Today's the day, I'm in," Dockery wrote on her Facebook page this morning.

Dockery, 48, was elected to the state House in 1996 and the Senate in 2002 and chairs the Criminal Justice Committee, and would be term limited out of the Senate in 2012. She has a fairly conservative voting record, perhaps most notably helping defeat a proposed high-speed rail system during the legislative session earlier this year.

As Abel Harding of notes, Dockery's entry means another potential insurgent-vs.-establishment race on the Republican primary ballot next August, similar to the top-of-the-ticket tussle between Gov. Charlie Crist and former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio for the U.S. Senate nomination.

It also sets up the possibility that Florida's governor's race will be another front in the heated debate in the Republican Party about the best path out of the political wilderness leading to the presidential election in 2012.

The ideological disparity between Dockery and McCollum, long a conservative stalwart as a member of Congress, may not be as great as that between Rubio and Crist. But considering what Harding and other observers have described as McCollum's lackluster political performance since returning to Florida from Washington, Dockery's campaign has the potential to stir up an already fascinating 2010 election season in the Sunshine State.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Buchanan: U.S. doesn't need 'partisan' health reform

Not surprising to anyone who has been following his public statements on health care reform, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, this afternoon blasted the health care bill released today by House Democrats.

Here is his statement:
“We need reform to provide more affordable, accessible, quality health care for all Americans,” said Buchanan. “Unfortunately, instead of a bipartisan effort to reduce costs without jeopardizing care, House Democrat leaders have emerged from behind closed doors with a partisan bill that creates a government-run insurance plan, increases the deficit, cuts Medicare and threatens to kill jobs by taxing small businesses.
“My constituents have spoken loud and clear,” continued Buchanan. “They are opposed to Washington bureaucrats making health care decisions best left to doctors and patients. I will continue to oppose a Washington takeover of health care and work for common sense reforms to reduce costs, increase portability, and provide coverage for individuals with preexisting conditions.”
Buchanan has introduced a bipartisan resolution, with 136 co-sponsors, to end closed-door, secret negations on health care reform. The resolution, H. Res. 847, demands that all conference committee meetings on the health care bill be conducted in the open under the watchful eye of the American people.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Buchanan: Republicans, Democrats want open debate on health care

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan says that in less than 24 hours, more than 100 House members, Republicans and Democrats, have co-sponsored his resolution to open health care talks to the public. Buchanan’s resolution, H. Res. 847 would put the House on record against secret, closed-door deals on health care reform legislation.

“Democracy thrives best when the people are fully involved and engaged,” said Buchanan, R-Sarasota, on the floor of the House. “I have introduced a resolution demanding that the critical decisions made on the sweeping health care reform bill now before Congress be conducted under the watchful eye of the American people.”

Buchanan noted, “In the past, massive legislative measures have been written in the middle-of-the-night by a handful of members and staff, and then quickly passed into law before the American people have a chance to even see what the final version looks like, let alone determine how they feel about it.”

You can read Buchanan's resolution here.

Watch Buchanan's speech here:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Buchanan: Sunshine needed in health care debate

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Bradenton, this week will ask his House colleagues to promise that upcoming debates on a final health care bill be conducted out in the open so Americans will know what is going on, and where their representatives stand.

Buchanan said he will introduce a resolution demanding that all conference committee meetings on a health care reform bill be conducted in the open "under the watchful eye of the American people."

“In Florida, we put a high priority on the public’s access to government meetings,” Buchanan said in a news release. “The Florida Sunshine Law helps ensure an open government. It is time to shine some Florida Sunshine on the Halls of Congress.”

The entire resolution reads:
“Whereas, House rules allow conference committees to hold closed-door meetings that exclude the public and press;

“Whereas, full transparency is critical to a healthy democracy, such openness has not always been the case among conferees who have met privately behind closed doors;
“Whereas, in previous years, conferees have met in small rooms or private meetings and circumvented full transparency;

“Whereas, the New York Times has reported on a disturbing pattern of House leadership skirting open access by allowing small groups of conference committee members to meet privately;

“Whereas, ABC News reported earlier this year that the $1 Trillion Stimulus bill was passed after “closed-door negotiations”;

“Whereas, health care reform is one of the largest public policy reforms taken up by Congress in generations;

“Whereas, health care reform will impact the lives of all Americans;

“Whereas, health care constitutes 1/6 of our nation’s economy;

“Whereas, the Congress is elected by the people to serve the people: Now, therefore, be it

“Resolved, that it is the sense of the House of Representatives that any conference committee or meetings held to determine the content of sweeping national health care legislation be held in full public view, not behind closed doors.”

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Buchanan's campaign chest tops $1 million

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, has topped the $1 million mark in his bid for a third term, far outpacing his challengers, according to campaign finance disclosure reports filed today.

The Sarasota Republican raised more than $166,000 in July, August and September to push his campaign fund-raising total to nearly $1.07 million, his campaign said in a filing with the Federal Election Commission.

Most of Buchanan’s third-quarter contributors were individuals, primarily from the real estate, construction and business communities in Manatee and Sarasota counties. Political action committees representing bankers, utilities, automakers and other businesses gave Buchanan $43,500 during the three-month period.

Buchanan’s campaign spent more than $139,000 during the reporting period, primarily for various campaign consultants, payroll, office rent and other operating expenses. The campaign had $731,823 in cash on hand as of Sept. 30.

James T. Golden, a Bradenton city councilman who is seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat, raised $15,340 during the quarter. His campaign has raised slightly more than $42,000 so far.

All of Golden’s contributions came from individuals throughout Florida, including Bradenton, Sarasota, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. His campaign spent $26,548 from July through September, primarily for consultants, travel and office equipment.

He had $14,561 cash on hand as of Sept. 30.

No report was available for John G. Gish of Englewood, who filed paperwork with state elections officials on Sept. 24 to mount a non-party affiliated bid for the seat. A phone number for Gish could not be located.

-- Duane Marsteller

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Marco Rubio plans several visits to area

Marco Rubio, the former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives from West Miami, who is seeking the same U.S. Senate seat coveted by Gov. Charlie Crist, plans some local grassroots politicking.

The seat became open after Mel Martinez announced he would not complete his term.

Rubio is set to visit the Sarasota Republican Club 6 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Sarasota Yacht Club.

Rubio is also scheduled to visit the East Manatee Republican Club 11:30 a.m. Nov. 12 at the Peridia Golf and Country Club; 4950 Peridia Blvd., Bradenton. Cost is $15.

For more information, visit

-- Posted by Jim Jones

Friday, October 2, 2009

Former county planner running for Manatee commission

Norm Luppino

Norm Luppino
, a former Manatee County planner for 23 years, is running for a seat on the Manatee County Commission.

Luppino, a Republican, is seeking the District 4 seat now held by Ron Getman, who last month announced he would not be running for re-election next year. Luppino is a neighbor of Getman's in the Whitfield neighborhood of southern Manatee.

In a news release, Luppino, 50, said he "understands the issues that affect the economic vitality of our community, the preservation of older neighborhoods and the importance of requiring new development that is sustainable and compatible."

Luppino is the second Republican to enter the race. The first was Robin DiSabatino, a local Realtor. The sole Democrat so far is Roger C. Galle.

The party primaries are set for Aug. 24.

Luppino holds a master's degree in urban planning and has 25 years of work experience, giving him the "knowledge and insight to address the special needs of our district," the release states.

As a county planner, Luppino worked on several major development projects, including University Park Country Club, Creekwood, Lakewood Ranch, Tara, The Concession and Heritage Harbour.

He also has been active with several non-profit groups, including the American Heart Association, Keep Manatee Beautiful and Crosley Estate Foundation.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gulf Coast Builders Exchange endorses G. Steube

The Gulf Coast Builders Exchange has endorsed Greg Steube's campaign for the District 67 seat in the Florida House of Representatives.

"I am particularly pleased," Steube said in a news release, "in that not only have all the homebuilders in the district, Manatee, Hillsborough and Sarasota, endorsed my candidacy, but also the commercial builders, the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange."

"They endorsed my message of rebuilding Florida's economy. We still have 6 workers unemployed for every job opening. Simply put, we need new good paying jobs and that will be my focus. We must make our economy work again," Steube said.

Steube and three other Republicans - Jeremiah Guccione, Robert McCann and Marie Nisco - are so far vying for the GOP nomination for the seat now held by Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, who is barred by term limits from running for re-election. The primary is next August.

Read all of Steube's release here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Golden announces that he is set to announce congressional bid

Former Bradenton city councilman James T. Golden, who has done everything but announce his candidacy to indicate that he is challenging U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan in next year's elections, announced Tuesday that he is ready to announce.

But you will have to wait until Nov. 5 to know for sure that his campaign is official.

Golden, a Democrat, sent out an e-mail to media and presumably presumptive supporters asking them to "save the date" for the kick-off of his campaign for the 13th Congressional District seat held by Buchanan, R-Sarasota, since 2007.

Details of where and exactly when will be announced later, according to the e-mail.

Cynics may conclude Golden is just trying to drag out his announcement for maximum publicity. But maybe he should be complimented for waiting until this year's election on Nov. 3 has passed before trying to get voters to pay attention to next year's campaign.

Golden may not yet be an announced candidate, but he already has collected at least $26,000 in contributions - a fraction of the almost $705,000 in cash Buchanan had on hand as of June 30, the latest available figure.

How much Golden and Buchanan have raised in the third quarter of the year will be released next month.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Buchanan to hold town hall Saturday in Parrish

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan's office just sent out a last-minute reminder about his next town hall meeting.

This one - again focused on health care reform and the economy - will take place Saturday in Parrish, at the recently opened Parrish Community Center, 12214 U.S. 301 N.

It is set to run from 10 to 11 a.m.

Previous town halls, including in East Manatee and Sarasota, have drawn overflow crowds, so might be best to arrive early if you want to make sure you get in the room with the congressman.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Candidate Boyd to stump in Cortez

Jim Boyd next week will take his campaign for the Florida House to the fish docks of Cortez.

Star Fish Co. and the Bell family will host a meet-and-greet reception for Boyd from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Sept. 28 at Star Fish Co., 12306 46th Ave., Cortez. The event will feature a question-and-answer session with the candidates. Light appetizers and refreshments will also be served.

Boyd, a Republican, so far is the only candidate running to succeed Rep. Bill Galvano as the District 68 representative in the Florida House. District 68 is comprised of western Manatee County, including Cortez.

Galvano, R-Bradenton, cannot run for re-election next year because of term limits, but he has announced that he will run for the Florida Senate in 2012. He has endorsed Boyd.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Graham headlines new speakers series

Just received word on a new speaker series coming to the area, starting in November.

Here's the news release:
Forum Truth, a Sarasota-based organization that provides relevant public programming on current topics that effect all Americans, is pleased to announce the beginning lineup of notable participants for its annual speaker series. Included on the list are a former Florida statesman and four Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists.

“We are very excited to make the first announcements about our scheduled speakers,” remarked Irene Bandy-Hedden, chair of Forum Truth. “Some names are well known, others might be less recognizable. All have led very exciting careers that have affected us in some way. Whether as a legislator making news, a journalist reporting the news or as a prime-time film maker telling a story, you will not want to miss any of these fascinating presentations. We hope to announce other names as we receive additional confirmations, but Forum Truth did not want to hold up the announcement of the important people already confirmed. It’s an impressive list and we think people will want to reserve the dates as soon as possible.”

Former Florida Governor and Senator Bob Graham leads the list and is scheduled to speak on Wednesday, November 18th. Mark Thompson, Time Magazine reporter since 1994 specializing in coverage of national security and military stories, as well as a 1985 Pulitzer-Prize winner when he was at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, will appear on Thursday, January 7, 2010. Pulitzer-Prize winning former New York Times correspondent, author and PBS host of over 20 prime-time specials and mini-series, Hedrick Smith, will take the stage on Thursday, February 4, 2010. On Wednesday, March 24th, Cynthia Tucker, 2007 Pulitzer Prize commentary winner, syndicated columnist, frequent commentator on Jim Lehrer’s NewsHour as well as other news shows and the first black woman to edit the editorial page of a major daily newspaper, the Atlanta Constitution, will speak. Linda Greenhouse, another Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times Supreme Court correspondent for nearly 30 consecutive years, is scheduled for Wednesday, April 14th.

Forum Truth is a membership organization with members receiving advance speaker information and discount ticket prices. Program events are open to all, members and non-members. Further details about these events will be released as the appearance dates get closer.

Bandy-Hedden continued, “Forum Truth is dedicated to bringing interesting and knowledgeable experts to our community in order to involve the public in meaningful discussions about some of the most important issues facing our society. Past speakers have included an exciting array of people in the national spotlight including Gwen Ifill, Amy Goodman, and David Broder. Join us for another year as we present this exciting array of speakers to who will surely enlighten us with fascinating insight and information as we continue discussions important to us all.”

Forum Truth is a voluntary, not-for-profit organization that provides public forums on important issues without the influence of special interest groups. The meetings presented by the group provide reliable, in-depth and easily accessible information on issues of national importance. All presentations are open to Forum members and non-members alike. Since its inception in 2003, the membership group has brought over 70 nationally acclaimed, professional speakers to the Sarasota/Manatee area. To become a member or for more information on Forum Truth, visit the website, or call 359-8350. You may also become a fan on Facebook or follow Forum Truth on Twitter. Links to these social media groups are also accessible through the website.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bradenton City Council election ballot set

Three members of the Bradenton City Council are being challenged in their bids for re-election in November.

The qualifying period ended Tuesday with council members Marianne Barnebey, Patrick Roff and Bemis Smith drawing one opponent each. The election is Nov. 3.

The races shape up like this:

In Ward 2, which is comprised of neighborhoods in the west-central part of the city extending from the Manatee River to south of Cortez Road, Barnebey is being challenged by Lori Melton, who currently is unemployed. Barnebey was first elected to the council in 1997, and is seeking a fourth term on the council.

Barnebey said she has worked hard to be accessible and responsive to her constituents. She touted her work on homeless issues, and as the city's representative on the Metropolitan Planning Organization, which sets transportation priorities for the region. Recently, the city won $1 million for the construction of a new Ninth Avenue West bridge at Wares Creek.

Melton, who previously has worked in the accounting field, including for construction companies, said she doesn't have a particular problem with Barnebey. They just live in the same ward.

Still, "I think people can get complacent," Melton said. "We've got new challenges today in our city."

In Ward 3, which is made up of neighborhoods in central Bradenton, including Wares Creek and Ballard Park, Roff is being challenged by Richard O’Brien, a political science instructor at University of South Florida. Roff was first elected to the council in 2005, and is seeking a second term.

Roff said two priorities of his have been the planned dredging of Wares Creek and the revitalization of Tamiami Trail. Progress has been made in both areas, he said.

“When I ran for office my first term I was into city-building," Roff said. "Little did I know we were heading into an economic disaster. I’m a natural problem solver, so I had to switch gears into crisis control and on to economic recovery. I can get us there.”

O'Brien's were some of the first campaign signs to appear on local lawns, as he has been busy knocking on doors in the ward. He said residents are worried about crime and the down economy.

"I'm running against decent people, but they are not doing enough when it comes to crime and jobs," O'Brien said.

O'Brien said he thinks the city should consolidate some positions at City Hall and shift the spending to the police department. The city also needs to ensure that local companies benefit from spending on federal stimulus projects.

In Ward 4, which covers neighborhoods along the Manatee River east of U.S. 301 and along the Braden River, Smith is being challenged by retired city employee Joel C. “Joe” Henry. Smith was first elected in 2001, and is seeking a third term on the council.

Smith said he wants to continue working on redevelopment efforts in his ward, which have been hit hard by the recession. For example, several condominium projects planned for along the Manatee River have stalled as the real estate market collapsed.

"In running for re-election, I feel like there is more I need to do," Smith said.

Henry retired from the city parks and building department in July 2008, and would like to bring some of that experience to the council.

"I would like to pay attention to our roads and streets," Henry said. "I want to ensure good employees are compensated for their work and loyalty."

Incumbency has not been a guarantor of re-election in recent local political campaigns. In the 2007 elections, current council member Harold Byrd Jr. ousted incumbent James Golden, and it took a runoff for Mayor Wayne Poston to put away a challenge from former mayor Bill Evers.

And last year, two Manatee County commissioners, Jane von Hahmann and Amy Stein, were ousted after they lost their Republican primary races.

Bradenton City Council members hold nonpartisan positions, and are paid an annual salary of $27,834.

In the Bradenton election, the candidates have to be a resident of their respective ward, but all city residents can vote in each race.

Monday, September 14, 2009

3 Bradenton City Council members face election challenges

With a half day to go before the end of the qualifying period, the three Bradenton City Council members up for re-election in November each face a challenger, according to the Manatee County elections office.

In Ward 2, Marianne Barnebey is being challenged by construction executive Lori Melton.

In Ward 3, Patrick Roff is being challenged by businessman Richard O'Brien.

And in Ward 4, Bemis Smith is being challenged by retired city employee Joel V. (Joe) Henry Sr.

The qualifying period ends at noon Tuesday.

The election is Nov. 3.

Noon Tuesday also is the qualifying deadline for the city council election in Anna Maria. Five candidates are currently qualified to run.

Commissioners, neighborhood activists laud Getman's service

A version of this story will appear in Tuesday's print editions of the Bradenton Herald

Herald Staff Writers

MANATEE - County Commissioner Ron Getman is not running for re-election next year, but he is not sailing into retirement.

First elected in 2002, Getman, 65, announced Monday he would not seek a third term on the commission representing southern Manatee so that he could devote more time to his at-home travel agency, which specializes in cruise vacations.

“It truly has been an honor and a privilege to have served,” Getman told reporters gathered in his 9th floor corner office in the county administration building. “My interest is in serving this community, and I did that.”

Already, two candidates — Robin DiSabatino, a Republican, and Roger Galle, a Democrat — have filed for the District 4 seat.

Getman, a Republican, said the prospect of being challenged for the job in a year when incumbents might be held accountable for the down economy and other problems, did not influence his decision.

Last year, two former commissioners, Jane von Hahmann and Amy Stein, lost their seats when they were defeated in the GOP primary by two candidates, John Chappie and Larry Bustle, respectively, who were backed by several business interests. The philosophical shift, especially on development matters, was perceived to have left Getman in the minority.

“It’s more pro-business, and his philosophy was government does it best,” said Commissioner Donna Hayes, a member of the majority bloc. “The commission has changed.”

Getman said he was proud of the work the commission has done to set standards for future growth in the county. As an example, he said past commissions had not acquired the right-of-way needed for widening of major roads like Manatee Avenue and 53rd Avenue, but now such factors are taken into consideration when the commission approves development.

Under Getman’s tenure as commission chairman, the county and local municipalities in 2002 signed the “Accord,” which set a framework for how local officials approach growth issues with some uniformity.

“Ron was his own person, interested in doing the right things for the county,” said Commissioner Joe McClash, who was first elected to the commission in 1992. “He was a good steward, not a rubber stamp for developers, and I respected that.”

Getman said he also was proud of his efforts to win approval of ordinances banning panhandling, setting safety standards for ice cream vending trucks and restricting when and where fireworks could be sold.

Most recently, the preservation of the Bayshore Gardens area captured Getman’s attention as residents there began to express concerns that properties in the neighborhood were not being kept up. Bayshore Gardens Homeowners Association President Suzanna Young said Getman’s interest in the neighborhood has put some teeth behind efforts to begin stricter code enforcement in the area.

“He just conducted a great meeting for us. He really added impetus to what we are trying to do here,” she said.

Another neighborhood activist, Whitfield Estates resident Norman Luppino, was particularly sensitive about Getman’s decision. Getman also resides in Whitfield Estates.

“I hope whoever represents our district isn’t paid for by the developers,” said Luppino, a former county planner. “The commission needs better balance than it has right now.”

Another Whitfield Estates activist, Mike Holderness Sr., said Getman was “such an asset in the position.”

“The amount of time he puts in is over and above what anybody can imagine,” said Holderness, a longtime Realtor. “He was involved in so many things. It’s a great loss, but it was just time.”
Getman said depending on who runs, he may make an endorsement in the campaign to succeed him.

“It is easy for a candidate to make promises which they may or may not be capable of fulfilling,” Getman said. “We need to look to the history of the person who makes those types of remarks to discover their true abilities.”

DiSabatino, who launched her campaign last week, said she had heard various rumors about Getman’s plans, but that did not play a factor in her decision to run.

“Ron is a patriot,” DiSabatino said. “We appreciate his service.”

Getman’s final 16 months on the commission will put a cap on a 48-year public service career. Before being elected, Getman had spent 33 years with the Florida Highway Patrol, two years as a Sanford, Fla., police officer and four years in the military.

Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who next year is running for re-election to an at-large seat on the commission, said the board will miss Getman’s rapport with law enforcement.

“It was a real benefit to the county,” Whitmore said. “We need to keep that communication open.”

Getman said he will remain active in the community, including as president of the Gold Star Club of Manatee County, which provides rewards for information about serious crimes in the county. He also will work to grow his 4-year-old travel agency, Getman Cruise & Travel.

Getman’s colleagues on the commission did not begrudge his decision to leave the board.

“As you get older, do you want to come in and do this every day?” Whitmore said. “After eight years, this is hard. He deserves a life.”

Commissioner Hayes agreed.

“He has other things to do with his life,” she said. “I’m sure his wife and family are delighted.”

McClash saluted Getman as a devoted public servant.

“From the highway patrol to county commissioner, I applaud his time,” he said. “You don’t find people like him every day who serve on county commission. He was a friend of Manatee County.”

Herald Staff Writer Robert Napper contributed to this story.

Ron Getman not running for re-election in 2010

Manatee County Commissioner Ron Getman, on the commission since 2002, announced this morning he is not running for re-election next year.

In public service for 47 years, in the military, law enforcement and the commission, Getman said he wants to devote more time and energy to a travel agency he started four years ago.

"My time as a county commission has been gratifying, and I have enjoyed the opportunity to help shape the future of our community as it relates to the growth, safety and welfare of our county," Getman said in a statement. "I have the greatest admiration and respect for the members of our community that have allowed me to represent them during my tenure."

Getman, a Republican, said the defeat of two incumbent commissioners in last year's GOP primaries did not affect his decision.

Local real estate broker Robin DiSabatino, a Republican, last week announced her bid for the District 4 seat now held by Getman. District 4 is comprised of neighborhoods in southern Manatee County.

Depending on who enters the contest, Getman said he may later make an endorsement in the race.

"It is my hope that knowing that I will not be running for re-election, someone will come forward that possesses a knowledge of the issues of this community and has a record of working with and being part of various civic, youth and social groups that serve our community," Getman said.

Getman said he will stay active with the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce and as president of the Gold Star Club.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Senate candidate Rubio to speak in Venice

U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio will speak Saturday at a meeting of the Republican Club of South Sarasota County in Venice.

The meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. at the South Venice Civic Association Clubhouse, 720 Alligator Drive, which is about three-fourths of a mile west of Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41).

Rubio, a former speaker of the Florida House Representatives, is running against Gov. Charlie Crist and four other candidates for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Sen. George Lemieux, who was sworn in Thursday after the resignation of former Sen. Mel Martinez.

Lemieux, who was appointed by Crist to the position, is not running for a full term in next year's elections.

For more information, call (941) 486-1414 or e-mail

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Galvano endorses Boyd to succeed him in Fla. House

Bill Galvano, left, and Jim Boyd

State. Rep. Bill Galvano
tonight endorsed Jim Boyd as the man he wants to succeed him in the Florida House of Representatives in next year's election. Galvano, R-Bradenton, cannot run for re-election because of term limits.

So far, Boyd, a Republican, is the only candidate in the race for House District 68, which covers western Manatee County.

Here is the news release issued by Boyd's campaign:
State Rep. Bill Galvano announced tonight his endorsement of Republican candidate Jim Boyd to succeed him in the Florida House of Representatives.

At a reception for Boyd at the Bradenton Yacht Club hosted by 50 community leaders from around the area, Galvano, who will leave the Florida House in November 2010 due to term limits, expressed confidence in Boyd’s ability to continue the outstanding leadership he has provided the citizens of District 68 since his election in 2002.

“I know and respect Jim Boyd, and I am confident that through his leadership, the people of District 68 will continue to have a strong voice in Tallahassee,” Galvano said.

Boyd expressed appreciation for Galvano’s endorsement. “I am truly grateful for Bill’s friendship and belief in me. I’m the only declared candidate for District 68, so he didn’t have to take a position in supporting me. I am truly humbled. Filling his shoes will be no small task.”

Boyd went on saying, “I am gratified by the support that so many people from our community have shown me. The same dedication and work ethic that has enabled me to be a successful business owner will also make me a successful advocate for District 68 and Manatee County. Our next financial report will show that even in these hard economic times we have raised approximately $100,000.

“One of my first priorities is to get people back to work,” Boyd said. “I believe the State Legislature has an important role to play in recruiting businesses to locate in Florida and encourage existing businesses to stay here. Additionally, if we expect to have a workforce that can compete in the 21st century, we must adequately fund K-12 and higher education.”

Jeb Bush plans live presentation to Ranch gathering

Jeb Bush, former Florida governor, will be speaking to members of the Lakewood Ranch Republican Club live via interactive video on Sept. 18.

Following Bush's presentation, guests will have the opportunity to have a live discussion with him

The meeting will be at the Lakewood Ranch County Club, 7650 Legacy Boulevard. Registration will be 11 - 11:45 a.m., followed by a buffet lunch at noon.

Cost is $20, payable by cash or check.

For reservations visit

Guests are invited and welcome.

For more information, contact Dr. Craig Trigueiro at (941) 753-7843.

Manatee chamber joins health care debate

The Manatee County Chamber of Commerce is one of some 3,100 chambers, businesses and other groups in the country that have signed a letter sent to every member of Congress "expressing concern with the current health care proposals moving through Congress," a news release states.

”Health care is the foundation of everyone’s quality of life, and we need meaningful reform that will address those issues that are driving up the costs of health care and making it unaffordable to millions of Americans,” Bob Bartz, president of the Manatee County chamber said in the release from the local chamber.

Read the letter at

Rep. Castor's response to Obama's health care speech

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, issued the following in response to President Barack Obama's health care speech Wednesday evening:
“Health insurance reform is vital to Florida families and businesses. The status quo is not working for too many of my neighbors and is too expensive. We need to bring competition to lower costs for our hard-working families and make insurance available to many more. No longer will insurance companies be able to deny you coverage if you get sick, they won't be able to charge you higher premiums because of medical history or current illness, if you change jobs, you can carry your policy with you, and you won’t have to pay co-pays or deductibles for preventative care. And if you like your health insurance, you can keep it.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Buchanan reacts to Obama speech

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan issued the following statement in response to President Barack Obama's address on health care to a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress:
"Health care is a very personal issue that impacts all Americans,” said Buchanan. “I applaud the President for taking on such an important issue. What we need is a truly bipartisan effort to pass a thoughtful and balanced bill that will lower costs and increase access to affordable care without jeopardizing quality.

“Private health insurance is too expensive for many working families,” added Buchanan. “We should focus on balanced, common-sense reforms such as eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse, reducing frivolous lawsuits, coverage of pre-existing conditions, ensuring portability and preserving the doctor-patient relationship. We should also create association health plans that allow small businesses to purchase group health plans, which will make coverage more affordable by spreading risk and increasing negotiating power."

Sen. Mel Martinez's final remarks

Here is a copy of Sen. Mel Martinez's prepared remarks for his farewell speech on the Senate floor, which he is giving as this is typed, via the Miami Herald's Naked Politics Blog:
The unique opportunity to serve in the United States Senate is the culmination of an unlikely journey ­-- a journey that has taken me from the country of my birth to the halls of the most cherished institution of our democracy.

I am very grateful to the people of Florida for giving me the privilege of representing them in the United States Senate. I consider my time in the Senate as the culmination of my time in public service ­-- the close of a fulfilling chapter of my own American Dream.

Having lived through the onset of tyranny in one country and played a part in the proud democratic traditions of another, I leave here today with tremendous gratitude for the opportunity to give back to the nation I love -the nation not of my birth but of my choice, the great nation that has such a proud tradition of welcoming immigrants and even showering us with opportunity. That is why I consider serving my community, my state, and our nation for the past 12 years a privilege.

It was a desire to give back and make a contribution to this nation that propelled me to enter public life. As a mayor, a cabinet secretary, and as a Senator, preserving opportunities for others to receive their own claim to the American Dream has always been a mission for me.

I have worked during all phases of my public life with a sincere desire to make a difference and today, I prepare to return home knowing that I have done my best to advance the things that make our nation great, prosperous, and free.

We truly live in the greatest nation in the history of the world, and throughout my time in public service, I have been humbled to play such a proud role in our democracy.

As Mayor of Orange County, it was a pleasure to lead the community that had done so much for me and my family. The agenda during my tenure was aggressive and carried out due to the hard work of a lot of people ­ some who are still around me today.

Following my service as mayor, I received a call from President-Elect George W. Bush to serve my adopted nation as the first Cuban-American in the Cabinet of a President. The call to serve as HUD Secretary was unexpected and not only a source of pride for me and my family, but especially for the Cuban-American community. I will always be grateful to President Bush for giving me such an historic

My time of service in the Cabinet was punctuated by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The sobering events of that day defined a large part of that period of time. Participating in the reconstruction of Lower Manhattan and the added responsibility from those events will be forever carried in my memory.

While there is no question it was a privilege to serve the President, there has been no greater honor than serving the people of Florida as senator. Aside from the debates, the speeches, and the painstaking work that goes into turning ideas into law, one the most rewarding experiences has been helping Floridians resolve issues that impact their lives.

In the short time I have been here, my office has assisted more than 36,000 of Florida¹s families through casework, and written correspondence to countless more. We made tremendous progress on some of the many issues facing our nation and Florida in particular. These included efforts to develop our natural energy resources while protecting the environment; seeking to modernize our military through increased shipbuilding and ensuring we meet the Navy¹s goal of strategic dispersal; and working to protect our nation¹s homebuyers from bad loans, bad investments, and predatory lending practices.

It has also been rewarding to know that our work can often impact the lives of those living outside our borders, fighting for the freedoms we hold dear. I have brought to my work the belief that it is always necessary to provide a voice for those silenced for attempting to advance the cause of freedom. Having lived under Cuba's repressive dictatorship, I have always recognized the struggle of those who fight for freedom.

That has always been and will continue to be a lifelong passion. I have taken every opportunity to recognize those engaged in Cuba¹s peaceful civic struggle for democratic change in Cuba and stand up for their human rights: Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, Antúnez, the Damas de Blanco (the Ladies in White), and the victims of the Black Spring government crackdowns. It is my fervent hope that one day in the not too distant future, the people of Cuba will live in freedom with dignity and the hope for a better tomorrow that is their God-given right.

Even though I will no longer hold public office, my passion to work and devote myself to seeing a day when the people of Cuba can live in freedom will continue. The preservation of all freedoms ­ whether they be in Cuba or around the world­ calls us to stand up whenever and wherever it is threatened. One series of events will stand out in my mind as evidence of the power of an individual.

A constituent of mine, a woman named Cuc Foshee, was falsely imprisoned in a Ho Chi Minh prison while she was visiting her family in Vietnam. She was there for a wedding but the Vietnamese government knew Ms. Foshee as someone unafraid to speak out against the government ­a right we take for granted. While on her way to the wedding, Ms. Foshee and six others were arrested and detained for supporting so-called "anti-government" activities. For months in prison, Ms. Foshee faced endless interrogation for crimes she didn't commit. She was denied many of the basic rights granted to prisoners in the American justice system and was prohibited from contacting her family back home. After her plight was brought to my attention, I began working with President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to help secure her release. Using what tools we had here in the Senate at the time ­ including a Vietnamese free trade agreement before the Senate ­ we drew attention to her cause and eventually negotiated her release from prison. Through this experience, we saw exactly why freedom matters, even if it¹s just freedom for one person.

While there have been many triumphs, there are also those challenges that remain unmet­ including comprehensive immigration reform. I¹m proud to say a key supporter of our efforts on comprehensive immigration reform was the late Senator Ted Kennedy. For nearly a half-century, Senator Ted Kennedy has played an integral part in this institution and I¹m saddened by his death. It was an honor to work with him closely with him on immigration. While we often disagreed, he was a man of his word and always ready to get something done. I always admired his ability to put differences aside and find consensus on some of the most important issues facing our nation. His work on immigration was no exception.But despite our best efforts, which included Senators Kennedy and McCain,other members from both sides of the aisle, and strong leadership from President Bush, I'm sad to say the problem remains unresolved. President Ronald Reagan talked about the idea that America remains a beacon of freedom to the world when he spoke about the "shining city on the hill." In his farewell address to our nation, he touched on the idea that the contributions of all individuals are what make our nation great. He said: "if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here." I believe those words to be as true today as they were then. Although the bill didn¹t make it across the finish line, I¹m proud of the progress that was made. I hope Congress can one day reach consensus on the issue because fixing our nation's broken immigration system remains a national imperative.

Whether it¹s immigration, budgets, or even Supreme Court justices, I'll miss the debates. I thank my fellow Senators for their collegiality and friendship. I know these friendships will be the hardest to leave. I want to thank Senator McConnell and the party leadership for their support and friendship these past years. I also want to thank my friends on the other side of the aisle,­ especially Senators Harry Reid and Dick Durbin. I especially enjoyed working with you during those rare but important issues where we found consensus.

Bill Nelson, my fellow colleague from Florida ­ you have been a true friend and a tireless advocate for the people of Florida. I appreciate your staff¹s hard work, including your Chief of Staff, Pete Mitchell. And I also want to thank you for the kindness you have extended to Kitty and me over the years. I think we made a good team for Florida.

I also thank my wonderful staff for their tremendous dedication, hard work, and commitment to serving the people of Florida. I would like to specifically recognize my State Director Kevin Doyle, Senior Director Kate Bush, Communications Director Ken Lundberg, Legislative Director Michael Zehr, Executive Assistant Terry Couch, and my Chief of Staff and longtime friend Tom Weinberg. I'd also like to thank those who were with me on day one:­ my former Communications Director Kerry Feehery, former State Director Matthew Hunter, and former Chief of Staff John Little.

Most importantly, I would like to thank my wife Kitty and our family for their love and support especially during my public life. Throughout my life, I have always lived by the belief that if you work hard, play by the rules, and have an abiding faith in God, all things are possible in America. My time in the Senate is a testament to that fact, and I am humbled by the trust the people of Florida placed in me. I also very specially want to thank the Cuban-American community throughout our country but especially in South Florida. You embraced me and believed in me. We shared pride in who we are and what we have accomplished. Your enthusiastic support has touched my heart for as long as I live and I will treasure these things forever.

Me hicieron suyos y creyeron en mi. Compartimos el orgullo en lo que somos y lo que hemos logrado. Su apoyo entusiasta ha tocado mi corazon, y atesoraré estas memorias para siempre.

My time of service is only a fraction of the nearly two and a half centuries that have passed since our founders charted our course as a free people. But the opportunity for someone like me to serve speaks volumes about the promise they made and the one our nation continues to keep. I would like to close with the words of José Martí, a hero of mine and to all those who strive to further the cause of freedom.

He said, quote "Liberty is the essence of life. Whatever is done without it is imperfect." As a public servant, his words have stuck with me as I have worked to ensure freedom and opportunity continues to flourish across my state and our great nation.