Archive for the ‘Florida’ Category

Ethics Committee extends Vern Buchanan investigation

Posted on: March 23rd, 2012 by The American Independent 1 Comment

Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota (Pic via Facebook)

The U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Ethics has decided to extend its investigation into Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla. According to a statement released today, the matter was transmitted to the Committee by the Office of Congressional Ethics on February 9, 2012.

The statement, in full, from the Committee on Ethics:

Pursuant to House Rule XI, Clause 3(a)(8)(A) and Committee Rules 17A(b)(1)(A) and 17A(c)(I), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Ethics have jointly decided to extend the matter regarding Representative Vern Buchanan, which was transmitted to the Committee by the Office of Congressional Ethics on February 9, 2012.

The Committee notes that the mere fact of a referral or an extension, and the mandatory disclosure of such an extension and the name of the subject of the matter, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee.

The Committee will announce its course of action in this matter on or before Wednesday, May 9, 2012.

Buchanan has been the subject of more than one investigation in recent years.

In 2009, the Federal Election Commission charged that Buchanan’s former business partner, Sam Kazran, and a dealership the two once co-owned had violated campaign laws by using funds from the company “to reimburse [dealership] employees, Kazran’s business partners, their family members and Kazran’s relatives for $67,900 in contributions to Buchanan’s 2006 and 2008 Congressional campaigns.”

Though Buchanan was never charged in the case, the FEC report reveals that many at the agency had doubts about his innocence. Both the Department of Justice and the Office of Congressional Ethics also launched investigations into the matter.

Last month, the details of an ethics investigation into discrepancies on Buchanan’s 2008-2011 financial disclosures were made public. According to its report, the board of the Office of Congressional Ethics recommended that the Committee on Ethics further review the allegations after finding “substantial reason to believe that Representative Buchanan violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law” during the course of its investigation.

Feds question Florida’s plans for Medicaid privatization

Posted on: March 14th, 2012 by The American Independent 3 Comments

Gov. Rick Scott (Pic via http://www.flgov.com/media-center/photos/)

Months after the state of Florida submitted its plans to privatize most of its Medicaid program, the federal government is still asking the state to explain the feasibility of those plans. (more…)

Opponents want alternatives to immigrant detention centers

Posted on: March 14th, 2012 by The American Independent 1 Comment

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE, led a tour this week of its new immigrant detention center in Texas. The detention center, which will be managed by Florida-based private prison industry corporation The GEO Group, has raised concerns from immigrant advocates. (more…)

Justice Department Protects Voting Rights for Minorities in Texas

Posted on: March 14th, 2012 by Paul 5 Comments

Ed. note: This piece was written and published in coordination with Ms. Magazine.

On Monday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder used his powers under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to block enforcement of a prohibitive new voting law in Texas. The law would have required voters to show government-issued identification at the polls.

The Justice Department ruled that Texas’ law would disproportionately deny Hispanics and other marginalized populations the right to vote–a frequent concern about such “strict” voter ID laws.

Texas is among 16 states and counties that are required by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act to obtain federal “pre-clearance” of new voting laws that could affect minorities. The law was enacted in the Civil Rights era as a way of protecting the voting rights of African Americans and other marginalized groups.

The blocked Texas law is just one of a number of restrictive voter ID laws enacted by states all over the country in the past year. The laws have raised red flags from voting-rights and civil-rights groups who say they are a barrier to the polls for women, African Americans, Latinos, students, low-income voters, the elderly and people with disabilities.

In the case of women, the millions who change their names after getting married or divorced could face problems updating documentation, because it takes time and money many women, especially low-income women, do not have. According to the Brennan Center, only 66 percent of voting-age women have ready access to proof-of-citizenship documentation with their current legal name.

Before 2011, only two states exclusively required government-issued IDs for voting; the rest accepted various forms of identification, such as student IDs, Social Security cards, utility bills and bank statements. But last year, 34 state legislatures, mostly GOP-led, introduced strict ID laws, and seven states–Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennesee, Texas and Wisconsinenacted them.

Like Texas, South Carolina is covered by Section 5 and recently saw its new strict ID law struck down by the Justice Department for the same reasons. Yesterday, Wisconsin’s voter ID law was deemed unconstitutional by a state court.

Voter ID laws are just one of the many voting crackdowns passed in mostly GOP-led state legislatures last year. Others include ending Election Day registration and imposing harsh restrictions on third-party voter registration drives.

Voting rights groups, who have expressed hope that the federal government will use its power to protect minority voting access as the 2012 elections unfold, were heartened by the Texas decision.

Meanwhile, Texas has asked a federal court to overturn the Justice Department decision.

Anti-abortion activists invoke ‘Freedom Rides’

Posted on: March 13th, 2012 by The American Independent No Comments

Screenshot of “Justice Rides” YouTube promotion

A campaign comparing the anti-abortion rights movement to the civil rights movement is making its way through the state of Florida this month.

(more…)

Fla. lawmakers pass no anti-abortion bills in 2012

Posted on: March 12th, 2012 by The American Independent No Comments

Planned Parenthood Rally at Capitol, Pic by Ashley Lopez

Despite last session’s onslaught of legislation aimed at cracking down on legal abortions in the state, the Florida Legislature did not pass a single anti-abortion bill during the 2012 legislative session. About 10 anti-abortion bills were introduced this year. (more…)

Study: HIV rates for black women higher than previously thought

Posted on: March 9th, 2012 by The American Independent No Comments

A newly-released study indicates that HIV rates for black women in parts of the U.S. are much higher than previously estimated. The study, released by the HIV Prevention Trials Network, was released on Thursday, just days prior to National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. (more…)

Fla. budget would cut family planning, keep anti-abortion funding intact

Posted on: March 8th, 2012 by The American Independent 4 Comments

Photo: Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada

Florida’s $70 billion budget will strip about $4.4 million in family planning dollars from the state’s Medicaid budget. The state’s funding for controversial crisis pregnancy centers, however, remains intact. (more…)