Sunday, March 7, 2010

IAFF Responds to Rep. Mica

The Honorable John Mica
Ranking Member
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative Mica:

You were recently quoted as referring to a proposal to improve aircraft fire fighting standards as “junk.” On behalf of the nation’s nearly 300,000 professional fire fighters and emergency medical personnel, I am writing to express profound offense at your comments.

Airport fire fighters are committed to protecting the flying public, and are ready to put their lives on the line at a moment’s notice. Current aircraft fire fighting standards make it impossible for fire fighters to conduct a timely, safe and effective response to an incident. Updating these antiquated safety standards to reflect the many changes in aircraft design and fire fighting protocols that have occurred over the past generation is necessary to adequately protect both the flying public and emergency responders.

Your dismissive comment referring to the courageous acts of the nation’s fire fighters as “junk” is deeply offensive to the men and women who risk their lives in service to their community. While you have every right to disagree about the need to update an antiquated standard, you have no right to denigrate the work of true American heroes.

You owe them an apology.


Harold A. Schaitberger
General President

The International Association of Fire Fighters, headquartered in Washington, DC, is the leading advocate in North America for the safety and training of fire fighters and paramedics. The IAFF represents more than 297,000 full-time professional fire fighters and paramedics who protect communities in every state in the United States and throughout Canada.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Republicans Are Mismanaging Florida and It Is Time To Do Government Business A New Way

After 12 years of Republican control of state government, House Speaker Larry Cretul today admitted Republican mismanagement and confessed that it is time to “do government business a new way.”

In response, House Democratic Leader Franklin Sands urged Republican leaders to embrace good-government initiatives backed by Florida House Democrats.

“Today, I heard Florida House Democrats call for bipartisanship and good government, and I heard Republican leadership admit that 12 years of total Republican control of state government has failed Floridians,” said Sands, D-Weston. “It is time to bring real change to the way business is done in Tallahassee.”

During House floor remarks, Speaker Larry Cretul stated:

· “I am asking you to do government business a new way…”\
· “To make government work, we are going to have to change the way we approach it and the way we think…”

“I am thrilled that Florida Republican leaders are recognizing what Floridians have seen for a long time. Republicans have done such a lousy job of running state government that even they admit that it’s time `to do government business a new way’ for the good of our state.

“It is interesting to hear Speaker Cretul confess that Republican leadership since 1998 has led to unnecessary spending and a failure to follow basic government accountability measures that Florida put in place in the Government Performance and Accountability Act of 1994.

“Today, Speaker Cretul also called for greater budget transparency. I urge Republican leaders to consider the merits of House Joint Resolution 241 by Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota.”

House Joint Resolution 241. Expanding The Public’s Access. Rep. Keith Fitzgerald. The constitutional amendment requires budget documents be user friendly and easy to understand. The amendment would prevent last-minute backroom budget and legislative deals that avoid public input and scrutiny. The key components include these requirements:

· Budget documents must be user friendly, easy to read and understandable;
· A three-fourths vote is necessary to allow an amendment on the House floor during the last week of session to reduce the back room last minute deals showing up for a vote without public scrutiny;
· Members of conference committees are prohibited from discussing legislative matters among themselves, except at noticed public meetings;
· A two-thirds vote of both chambers is required to enact public records or public meeting exemptions;
· Citizens are allowed the right to challenge in court the rules governing public access to documents and meetings.

Rep. Rick Kriseman Files Military Readiness Bill Urging Congress To Repeal `Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Florida State Representative Rick Kriseman (D-St. Petersburg) has filed House Memorial 1459 urging Congress to adopt and the President of United States to sign into law legislation that repeals the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and institutes a policy of nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation with respect to service in the U.S. Military.

"It's past time to end the failed policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." There are nearly eighty thousand gay or lesbian veterans who live in Florida; brave men and women who served honorably, but also in fear. They deserved better, and today's service members deserve better. I urge our leaders in Washington, D.C. to move quickly in repealing this terribly ineffective law," said Representative Kriseman, who serves as a policy advisor to the House Democratic Caucus.

“Rick Kriseman joins our military’s top leaders in recognizing that firing qualified service members based on anti-gay prejudice is both un-American and hurts out military’s readiness. Those who choose to serve their country deserve respect, not discrimination," said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida.

More than 13,000 service members have been discharged under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, including hundreds of service members in critical occupations, such as counterintelligence experts and medical specialists. Further, hundreds of language specialists have been discharged from military service under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, including 55 Arabic translators and nine Farsi translators, all of which are vitally important positions to intelligence gathering and are positions for which there is a critical shortage of qualified personnel.

"My wife and I have two children. We want them to grow up in a safe world. I wish this for all Floridians. There's no doubt that this policy makes us less safe and compromises the readiness and expertise of our great military," said Representative Kriseman.

HM 1459 is the only such bill filed in the Florida Legislature this session. It now awaits a committee reference and hearing.

Florida House Democrats Support Unemployment Compensation Tax Relief

With job creation and retention for Floridians at the top of their agenda for 2010, Florida House Democratic Caucus members today voted unanimously in support of House Bill 7033, a measure that aims to recharge Florida’s economy by giving businesses immediate relief from unemployment compensation tax increases.

On a 117-0 vote, the Florida House of Representatives approved the bill, the first measure to be heard during the 2010 legislative session. It now proceeds to the Florida Senate. During House floor debate on HB7033, Florida House Democratic Caucus members offered these and other remarks:

Rep. Keith Fitzgerald (D-Sarasota): “There are small businesses all over the state suffering. Many are on the verge of bankruptcy and others would like to add to their payroll but can’t because of unemployment compensation tax increases…We’re all together on this. We will have many contentious issues over the rest of the session. This is one where we’re together.”

Rep. Ron Saunders (D-Key West): “I think it is very appropriate that this is the first bill. It is a good example of how, with bipartisan cooperation, we can get things done. This is not going to fix the problem. This delays the fix. But unless we continue to act in a bipartisan, cooperative manner, we’re going to have lots of problems, not just this year, but down the road.”

Rep. Geraldine Thompson (D-Orlando), House Democratic Leader Pro Tempore: “It is clear that we have all been listening very closely to our friends in the business community. I rise in support of this legislation, which will give immediate relief to our businesses facing increases in unemployment compensation taxes. At same time, I rise to urge this body to modernize our unemployment compensation system so that victims of domestic violence who can’t work can be covered and individuals who move to be closer to their spouses work can be covered…While I think this legislation is a good step in the right direction, I also urge us to consider modernization of our system.”

Rep. Maria Sachs (D-Delray Beach): “Floridians are looking for jobs. We have a 12-percent unemployment rate, and it’s 12.4 percent in home area of Palm Beach County. We are singing the same song when it comes to this bill. I’m very excited that this is our first bill.”

Rep. Joe Gibbons (D-Hallandale Beach): “This bill brings immediate relief to small businesses, the economic engine of our country. This is a first step, and I hope, not the last step to help small businesses.”

Soto Fights For Renters' Rights In Foreclosure

Representative Darren Soto (D-Orlando) offered two amendments today to House Bill 125 sponsored by Representative Hazelle Rogers (D-Lauderdale Lakes). House Bill 125 would increase protections for tenants who live in a property involved in a foreclosure proceeding. Representative Soto’s amendments, which were defeated in committee, would have granted rights to tenants who live in a property involved in a foreclosure action.

The amendments sought to give tenants: the ability to terminate a lease once a foreclosure action has been filed against the property in which they reside; the option to remain in a property according to the lease for the duration of the foreclosure action; and the right to remain in the property until 90 days after the certificate of title is issued or for the remainder of a valid written lease, whichever is longer.

Representative Soto also offered an amendment to require tenants be served with a plain-language notice explaining their rights. These amendments are to be interpreted consistent with federal case law.

“I am disheartened by today’s votes against common-sense legislation that would provide bare-minimum notice to any tenant whose property is in foreclosure,” said Representative Darren Soto. “Under current law, tenants in foreclosure have few rights and remedies; and the circumstances they face can be confusing, frustrating and tragic. Representative Rogers and I are committed to continuing the fight for this legislation to help renters.”

Members of the Civil Justice and Courts Policy Committee voted against House Bill 125 and both of Representative Soto’s amendments. The bill failed on a 9-2 vote.

Monday, March 1, 2010

They cut, we bleed

From Progress Florida:

Our state is facing a deficit of more than $3 billion, and every indication from Republican leaders in the legislature is they plan to balance Florida's budget on the backs of children, seniors, the uninsured, and the environment.

Sign our petition to Speaker Cretul, Senate President Atwater, and Gov. Crist: balance the budget by ending special interest tax loopholes, not more cuts.

Budget cuts hurt all of us. When legislators reduce school funding, more of our children are unprepared for the workforce, and worse, more end up in jail. When health care programs like Medicaid are slashed, many of our neighbors can't get access to the health care they need, which eventually drives up costs for everyone else. When environmental programs are cut, our open spaces, waterways and wildlife are threatened with destruction and extinction. Worst of all, more budget cuts means more people unemployed, and that means it will take longer for Florida to recover from the recession.

Sign our petition to Florida leadership: no more cuts.

As with any crisis, there's always an opportunity to do better. We can generate new revenues by closing down loopholes in our corporate income tax and eliminating special interest won sales tax exemptions. In the process, we can make our state's antiquated tax system more progressive and fair. The bottom line is that crippling budget cuts are unnecessary with these options available.

Florida can do better: sign our petition to legislative leaders and Gov. Crist urging a responsible budget with no cuts.

Balancing our budget by slashing key public services that we all benefit from is irresponsible and will prolong Florida's deep economic recession. Let's make sure our legislature gets the message.

For progress,
Mark, Ray, and the Progress Florida team


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Florida House Democrats Say: Don't Refuse Federal Economic Recovery Funds for Unemployed Families

From the House Dems:

Florida House Democrats today urged House Speaker Larry Cretul and other House Republicans to take immediate action to ensure that Florida doesn’t reject more than $1 billion in federal stimulus aid for out-of-work Floridians.

With the unemployment rate at 9.7 percent, Florida is under extreme economic duress due to the slowdown of the real estate market and the global economic recession. In the midst of this crisis, Florida’s unemployment trust fund is being drained.

Concerned about the thousands of hard working, middle-class Florida families who will suffer due to unexpected job loss, House Democrats are urging immediate legislative approval of two major actions before the end of the 2009 lawmaking session. Democrats are seeking:

· Approval of legislation that would allow the state to use $777 million in federal Recovery Act money for the rest of the year for an estimated 250,000 people whose benefits would otherwise expire.

· Passage of legislation that would implement the Unemployment Compensation Modernization Incentive program that would provide an additional $444 million for unemployed Floridians. This program would offer benefits to individuals who lose their jobs for certain family circumstances, such as the relocation of a spouse, family illness, or domestic violence.

Measures that would implement these changes have been authored by state senators and have been subject to modest review in the Florida House of Representatives. The House should take immediate steps to pass these bills, including CS/SB 810, CS SB 516, and House Bill 1333 by Representative J.G. Rader (D-Delray Beach).

Florida House Democrats appreciate concerns that have been raised about potential future-year expenses associated with adoption of these changes. However, Florida House Democrats have repeatedly noted that the economic recovery dollars that have been provided by Congress and approved by President Barack Obama are urgently needed to help Florida’s economy recover and for families to be able to avoid crushing financial crises due to unemployment during this recession.

Additionally, U.S. Department of Labor officials have again confirmed in a recent correspondence with Representative Kelly Skidmore (D-Boca Raton) that “there is no requirement that the state return any money it if later repeals the provisions” of the Unemployment Compensation Modernization Incentive program.

Representative Skidmore offered these remarks:

“Florida’s unemployed and hard-working families should not be denied their full and fair share of economic recovery funds. The Legislature should not penalize people who have lost their jobs due to no fault of their own. These dollars will make a real difference to people who are hungry and need rent money. This money can keep a roof over someone’s head and stimulate Florida’s economy.”