Published Nov. 18, 2008|Updated Nov. 19, 2008

Report: sugar land not worth $1.3-billion

An independent financial adviser hired by the state says the land U.S. Sugar wants to sell for Everglades restoration is worth $930-million -- not the $1.3-billion price tag that the state and the sugar company announced last week(

All of U.S. Sugar's holdings -- all 187,000 acres of its land, plus its sugar mill, its railroad and its citrus operation -- would be worth $1.3-billion, according to the Nov. 13 letter to the water board from Duff & Phelps(, the board's New York-based financial adviser. Read the letter(

U.S. Sugar vice president Bob co*ker(*ker_bio.html) (pictured) called the financial adviser "Huey, Dewey & Louie," (after Donald Duck's cartoon nephews) and said the firm "probably shouldn't be licensed to work in Florida."

That valuation was done for a business deal that's not currently on the table," he said. State officials said they're still working on making sure the deal is a good one for the taxpayers.

--Craig Pittman

Posted by Times Editor at 5:58:35 PM on November 18, 2008

Finally, a Democratic victory in the House

House Democrats may be coming off a lackluster election but they scored today during the Miami-Dade delegation meeting.

Rep. Luis Garcia, D-Miami Beach, was elected vice chair over Republican Rep. Anitere Flores of Miami. The surprising 13-7 vote, triggered by a lack of GOP lawmakers at the meeting, puts Garcia in line to seek the chairmanship down the road.

For now, Rep. Juan Zapata will remain chairman. He was re-elected for a consecutive term.

Posted by Alex Leary at 5:45:43 PM on November 18, 2008

Huckabee's back

Mike Huckabee will bring his book-signing bus tour to Tampa on Nov. 28 at 9 a.m. at Hyde Park Village. Huckabee has just released Do the Right Thing, which offers an inside look at his presidential campaign. Apparently, the book also rehashes his sparring with Mitt Romney, with Huckabee saying his opponent in the primaries was "anything but conservative until he changed the light bulbs in his chandelier in time to run for president," according to Time magazine. But Huckabee's web site says the book "shows how the Republican Party can heal its divisions -- between social and fiscal conservatives, the wealthy and the middle class, the religious and the secular -- and become a true majority party again."

The Tampa book event is sponsored by independent bookseller Inkwood Books. Huckabee is also scheduled to sign books Dec. 7 at Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, and make stops in Panama City, Orlando, Sarasota, Pensacola, The Villages and Southwest Ranches.

Posted by Janet Zink at 4:38:24 PM on November 18, 2008

Another potential challenger to Karen Thurman

Dec. 20 is when the state party is scheduled to elect a new party chair (Florida statutes require that the parties elect their leaders within 60 days of Dec. 1), and we're hearing a surprising amount of Buzz that Karen Thurman may be more vulnerable than we had assumed. Here's a new, potentially formidable contender : veteran Democratic fundraiser Mike Moskowitz, Broward state committeeman.

Moskowitz tells us he has had calls of encouragement but is keeping his powder dry for now to see if a consensus candidate emerges: "I want to see what occurs. If the right person comes forward that can really attract a significant amount of support and is someone I feel comfortable with, I am very happy to be Broward State committeeman. ... (But) I cannot stand by and let us not have the best possible leadership," said Moskowitz, who argues the party needs both a strong fundraiser and political director concentrating on 2010.

So is Thurman a strong leader? "She is a very nice person,'' Moskowitz said.

DNC member Allan Katz has also talked up Tallahassee City Commissioner Andrew Gillum, another early Obama supporter, but Gillum is not eligible and told us he's not interested: "It would take an act of a president to make that change,'' he said. Miami-Dade Democratic chairman Bret Berlin is expected to run against Thurman, and there's Buzz that Flagler County Democratic Doug Courtney also may run.

Posted by Adam Smith at 4:25:01 PM on November 18, 2008

Sansom fills out his staff

House Speaker Ray Sansom today made council and committee staff appointments.

Office of the Speaker Pro Tempore, George Levesque, staff director and special counsel; Office of the Majority Leader, Todd Reid, staff director; Office of the Majority Floor Leader and Whip, Alberto Martinez, staff director; Office of Reapportionment, Don Rubottom, staff director; Minority Office, Barry Kling, staff director; General Counsel, Karen Camechis; Rules and Calendar Council, Stephanie Birtman, council director.

A full list is here(

Posted by Alex Leary at 3:02:36 PM on November 18, 2008

Obama praises Crist

Taped remarks from the prez-elect to the bipartisan Governors' Global Climate Summit in Los Angeles:

"In particular, I want to commend Gov. Sebelius, Gov. Doyle, Gov. Crist, Gov. Blagojevich and your host, Gov. Schwarzenegger - all of you have shown true leadership in the fight to combat global warming. And we've also seen a number of businesses doing their part by investing in clean energy technologies. But too often, Washington has failed to show the same kind of leadership. That will change when I take office."

Posted by Adam Smith at 1:44:05 PM on November 18, 2008

Sen. Al Lawson: I almost endorsed Gov. Crist

Sen. Al Lawson revealed today that he nearly endorsed Gov. Charlie Crist for governor during the 2006 campaign.

"I almost endorsed you, my wife really liked you," Lawson said. Lawson had been a supporter of Sen. Rod Smith who lost to congressman Jim Davis during the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Posted by Jennifer Liberto at 11:31:49 AM on November 18, 2008

Sen. Jeff Atwater elected Senate president

Sen. Jeff Atwater will take the gavel as the next president of the Florida Senate, and he thanked his colleagues today for the honor.

Atwater praised Gov. Charlie Crist, Speaker Ray Sansom and his family.

"I look forward to working with you and I thank you for your support. When the polls closed on Nov. 4, the election ended," Atwater said to Sen. Al Lawson.

He spoke about the Lewis & Clark expedition and said that "spirit of exploration" inspires him today.

"We have welcomed to these shores those who would take the dangerous journey in search of freedom," Atwater said. "We are a people restless to build a future that the world will envy."

"Today I want to speak to you directly about the most important issue of this moment."

He said he wants to tackle the economic challenges.

"We face unprecedented challenges that cannot be deferred and they will not be delayed," Atwater said. "We have seen their drive and their spirit too many times to doubt. But for us now, we must build a government that honors their hard work."

He talked about families tightening their belts, "So must their government."

"Our government must encourage entrepreneurship and not impeded it. It must serve not as an anchor, but as a sail," Atwater said.

He talked about creating a select, bipartisan committee to look at the economy and come up with answers to solve the crisis.

"This is a crisis and we'll treat it as such," Atwater said. He said the recommendations they come up with will be ready for the regular session.

Posted by Jennifer Liberto at 11:04:50 AM on November 18, 2008

Senate relaxes rules on itself

The Senate just relaxed a lot of the rules on its members, relaxing or wiping out some of the tougher requirements that came with the Tom Lee administration.

Senators made it easier to vote with conflicts of interest, easier to dismiss complaints against themselves and gave themselves more time to report money raised and spent in their political committees.

They now don't have to register their affiliation with a 527, the second they register the committee, just as "required by law." They also don't have to create "immediate" Web sites anymore -- just create them promptly. And they don't have to report expenditures and money raised to their committees within 10 days anymore.

The rules also make it easier to have conflicts of interest by declaring that a senator absolutely "is not disqualified from voting on a measure" when there's a conflict on interest, as long as they declare they could personally benefit.

They made it harder to file a complaint against a senator. The complaint must be based on "personal knowledge" and it gives all committee chairs, the rule chair and the president the ability to dismiss it, if they don't find "probable cause."

Read the rule changes here(

Check out rule 1.361, 1.39 and 1.42.

Jennifer Liberto, Times staff writer

Posted by Times Editor at 10:24:03 AM on November 18, 2008

Speaker Sansom: 'It's not about us'

Raymond Edward Sansom, a native Floridian from the Panhandle, officially became Speaker of the Florida House this morning following a unanimous vote of the 120-member body.

He quickly cut through the ceremony, saying Florida faces some of its greatest challenges ever and offered a broad conservative vision to meet them.

"We have an economy that has slowed down and needs to be awakened. We have an over-regulated workforce. We have citizens that seem to be exhausted with government, just talk to them."

Sansom, 46 and a father of three, quoted pastor Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life. "The first sentence of that book says, 'It's not about you.' It can't be about us. If we walk in here with the attitude that it's not about us, it's about the people we serve, we will meet the challenges for the next two years in the state of Florida. I am convinced of that." (Buzz audio here:

Thirty five new House members were also sworn in, taking the oath from Judge John Stargel, a former lawmaker from Lakeland. The House also passed a resolution in memory of Rep. Stan Mayfield, who died of cancer in September.

Posted by Alex Leary at 10:20:26 AM on November 18, 2008

Q poll: 50% would re-elect Crist, 36% Martinez

Quinnipiac( 11/11-16 Fla poll (moe +/-2.7%): "Florida Gov. Charlie Crist remains overwhelmingly popular with a 68 - 18 percent job approval rating that makes him a strong favorite for re-election in 2010, but Sen. Mel Martinez's 42 - 33 percent approval rating makes him much more vulnerable, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. ...

"Among the Democratic officials mentioned as possible 2010 Crist opponents and whom respondents were asked to rate favorably or unfavorably, (Alex Sink) - the only statewide elected official among the four - scores best.

"She is viewed favorably by 27 percent, unfavorably by 13 percent, with 59 percent of voters saying they don't know enough about her to form an opinion. Still those numbers are far superior to U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd, with an 11 - 5 percent favorability, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, with a 14 - 8 percent score, and State Sen.-elect Dan Gelber, with an 8 - 3 percent favorability. "

"Attorney General Bill McCollum gets a 51 percent job approval rating, three times the 17 percent who give him a thumbs down verdict. CFO Sink has a 35 - 21 percent job approval rating, while U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson gets a 51 - 22 percent score. "

Posted by Adam Smith at 8:54:47 AM on November 18, 2008

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