Happy Holidays from the Obama Family

Happy Holidays from the Obama Family
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama recorded a special video to wish the American people a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
The holidays are the perfect time to give thanks to our men and women in uniform and the families who support them. You can join the President and First Lady in thanking our troops, military families and veterans for their service and sacrifice by visiting JoiningForces.gov.
Happy Holidays!

Amendment 7 is back on the ballot

Amendment 7 is back on the ballot. Born-again as Amendment 8

Here (below) is the new wording on the description/summary that will appear on the ballot.
Note also that it is now called Amendment 8. Amendment 7 no longer exists.
However, the proposed change to the Florida Constitution is the same in both 7 and 8.

Read The Jeb Bush Scam on Florida Education Below


Old (Amendment 7)
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to provide, consistent with the United States Constitution, that no individual or entity may be denied, on the basis of religious identity or belief, governmental benefits, funding, or other support and to delete the prohibition against using revenues from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution

New (Amendment 8)
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution providing that no individual or entity may be denied, on the basis of religious identity or belief, governmental benefits, funding or other support, except as required by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and deleting the prohibition against using revenues from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.

Florida's Ag Gag Bill Reintroduced

Earlier this year a bill was introduced in Florida by Senator Jim Norman that would have made it a felony to take photos or video of a farm or agriculture operation.

The “Ag Gag” bill was openly supported by Big Ag and directed at both whistle-blowers who go undercover to document the cruelty that animals on farms suffer, as well as anyone who wants to just snap a shot while standing on the side of the road. Those documenting what they saw would have been left facing criminal charges, while abusers would be left unaccountable. Fortunately, the bill never came to a vote and similar measures failed in Minnesota, Iowa and New York.

Sen. Norman has reintroduced this legislation by sneaking similar language into a larger agricultural bill (SB 1184), which will make it a first-degree misdemeanor to take photos, audio recordings or video of a farm or farm operation without previous written consent.

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/floridas-ag-gag-bill-reintroduced.html#ixzz1hAb0jGAt

Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Statement on Vote by House Republicans to Raise Taxes on Middle-Class Americans

Following today’s vote by House Republicans to reject an extension of the President’s payroll tax cut for the middle class passed overwhelmingly by the Senate without giving the Senate bill a clean up or down vote, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement:
“Today, with less than two weeks to go until 160 million Americans are hit with a tax hike in the middle of the holiday season, House Republicans turned their backs on America’s working families and voted against extending a payroll tax cut for the middle class.  This vote comes just days after Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Senate came together in the name of compromise to pass a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance benefits that provide a vital lifeline to millions of Americans who have lost their jobs as a result of the economic downturn.  That bipartisan bill passed the Senate 89-10 – with the support of many conservative Republicans – and after this critical compromise, for House Republicans to say no and vote to raise taxes on 160 million hardworking Americans is simply extremism at its worst.
“Republicans in the House made their priorities very clear today – they are taking their orders from the Tea Party and its extreme economic policies.  They’re obviously not listening to any number of Senate Republicans who have come out in support of this tax cut for the middle class, who know it’s a necessary step to restore our economic security.  Nor are they listening to John McCain’s former economic advisor Mark Zandi, who recently warned that a failure to pass an extension of the payroll tax cut will significantly increase the odds of a recession.  As we saw today, House Republicans are terrified of disappointing Tea Party extremists, even if the consequence is a tax increase on millions of middle-class families.  This is a GOP-inflicted wound to our economic recovery – it’s simply unacceptable, and the House GOP should be ashamed of itself. ”

Jeb Bush's Voucher scam, Amendment named "Religious Freedom", sent back to be renamed

What Florida's Media is reporting

Judge tosses ‘Religious Freedom’ amendment from 2012 ballot

 | 12.14.11 | 1:10 pm
Judge Terry Lewis today ruled that a proposed amendment to Florida’s constitution that would repeal a ban on taxpayer funding for religious institutions is deceptive and must be rewritten before it can appear on the state’s 2012 ballot.
A coalition of educators, religious leaders and civil liberties advocates filed the challenge to the amendment in July, claiming the ballot’s wording was deceptive. The groups claimed the amendment, which was presented as a “Religious Freedom” measure, was passed for other reasons — mostly to open up greater public funding for private schools.
According to Lewis’ final judgement summary, he found “the ballot summary ambiguous and misleading.”
The Florida Education Association said in a press release today that in his ruling, Judge Lewis wrote: “It naturally flows from the language deleted and the language added that the primary effect of the amendment will be to make it a lot harder for the state to deny funding or program benefits to a sectarian institution.”
Association President Andy Ford said Amendment 7 would “have required taxpayers to fund a broad array of religious programs and institutions.”
“The judge agreed that taxpayers and voters need to be told the truth and that the purpose and effect of the amendment was not clear in the ballot summary and was misleading to voters,” Ford said.
According to Ford, if enacted, “Amendment 7 could open the gateway to school vouchers for all.”
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, another group challenging the law, echoed that sentiment today.
“The measure claims to advance religious freedom but, in fact, it would repeal state constitutional safeguards that prohibit the use of public funds for religious schools and other ministries,” the group said in a press release.
The group argued that the amendment “would even require the state government to fund religious groups when it makes public funds available to non-religious organizations.”
While the decision is a victory for the organizations challenging the law, the judge did disagree with the groups’ challenge to a provision in Florida’s new elections law that requires the attorney general to rewrite a ballot measure when it is found to be deceptive.
As The Florida Independent previously reported, Florida GOP legislators slipped little-noticed rules into this year’s elections bill that made it harder to challenge the language of a ballot measure. One provision creates stricter time limits for challenging ballot measures, as well as shifting responsibilities away from the Legislature. It allows the attorney general to rewrite an amendment’s ballot title or summary if it is successfully challenged in court.
Ron Meyer, the attorney who filed the legal challenge to the ballot measure, said this provision “violates separation of powers” in the state. He argued that by passing the law, the Legislature gave responsibility that is “purely a legislative matter” to the executive branch.
According the judge’s summary, however, he felt the provision does not “violate the separation of powers doctrine.”
Ford said in the FEA’s statement the group is “reviewing [Judge Lewis'] ruling and will decide later whether to challenge that ruling in an appellate court.”
Howard Simon, the executive director of the ACLU of Florida (another challenger), said in a statement today that “the court’s order should serve as a reminder to Florida voters to be very wary of anything the Legislature wants to do – especially on a topic this important.”
“They are intentionally using deceptive language to trick us all into unknowingly sacrificing our freedoms,” he said.

Amendment at least temporarily off Fla. ballot

The Associated Press
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A proposal that would repeal a ban on public funding of churches and other religious organizations is off the ballot, at least temporarily.
A judge in Tallahassee on Wednesday removed the proposed state constitutional amendment due to a misleading ballot summary.
But Circuit Judge Terry Lewis also upheld a new law that will let Attorney General Pam Bondi rewrite the summary.
Lewis found a phrase saying the amendment would be "consistent with the United States Constitution" ambiguous and misleading.
That's because the amendment itself uses different language.
Besides repealing the existing "no aid" provision, the amendment would require state and local governments to fund religious organizations in certain circumstances.
The Florida Education Association challenged the amendment because it would lift a potential obstacle to school vouchers.

Judge tosses Religious Freedom amendment from ballot, for now

By Paul Flemming
Florida Capital Bureau
Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis has stricken Amendment 7 from next November's ballot, for the time being removing the proposal the Legislature titled the Religious Freedom amendment that would allow the state greater leeway to fund religious-affiliated programs.
Lewis ruled that the summary language that would appear on the ballot was unconstitutionally ambiguous.
Further, Lewis ruled in another challenge brought by the Florida Education Association, that the state's attorney general can re-write the portions of the ballot summary found unconstitutional and fix it so it can appear on the ballot.
Lewis' ruling includes an example of ballot-summary language that would be constitutional. The combination of rulings, barring different opinions by higher courts, means the proposed amendment could still appear on November's ballot with the wording changed.
"Specifically, I find that the phrase 'consistent with the United States Constitution' is ambiguous and misleading in light of the language of the proposed amendment itself, which uses the phrase 'Except to the extent required by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,'" Lewis wrote in his 12-page ruling.
Florida Education Association President Andy Ford said Lewis' ruling was the right one. The teachers union is one of the plaintiffs in the legal challenge against the amendment.
“We applaud the judge’s decision," Ford said in a statement. "Amendment 7 would have required taxpayers to fund a broad array of religious programs and institutions.”
The proposed amendment, sponsored in the Legislature by state Sen. Thad Altman, a Melbourne Republican, would have the effect of nullifying current provisions of the state's constitution, specifically the Blaine amendment prohibits any government money "directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution."
That portion of the state's constitution is stricter than the U.S. Constitution's "no establishment" portion of the Bill of Rights.
However, Lewis said the proposed amendment would go beyond merely aligning Florida's constitutional language with the federal First Amendment.
"Whereas before, the provision was more restrictive than the First Amendment relative to spending public funds that might aid a sectarian institution, if it passes, the provision will be more restrictive as to the withholding of public funds from sectarian institutions," Lewis wrote.
The Florida Education Association's Ford said the union is considering whether to further challenge Lewis' ruling about the attorney general's authority to rewrite the ballot summary.


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Safe Schools South Florida announce the launch of its new web site

Safe Schools South Florida is proud to announce the launch of its new web sitewww.safeschoolssouthflorida.org and invites you to join us in our 20th Anniversary Miami Celebration to be held Saturday, January  21, 2012 at the beautiful Coral Gables home of Carla Lupi, MD and Raquel Matas, Esq.

We hope you will visit our new web site and see the programs of support, training and resources we provide to lesbian, gay, bisexual,  transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) students and their allies, schools and families.

Please purchase 20th Anniversary Miami Celebration tickets or make a donation through our web site to help us celebrate the success of the past 20 years and help provide support for the years to come.

Happy Holidays from Everyone at Safe School South Florida!   

Light-Up Lauderdale

Light-Up Lauderdale
Light Up Lauderdale is a holiday centric promenade of lights in Riverwalk Park. This event connects the cultural, historical and business districts along New River. November to January 2012. Visit www.goriverwalk.com

Debbie Wasserman Schultz's Statement on Another Vote by Senate Republicans to Raise Taxes on Middle-Class Families

Republicans plan to skip town tonight without voting for the payroll tax cut extension.

Failure to extend the payroll tax cut would mean a $1,000 tax hike for the average American family. Economists say it could also cost between 400,000 and 1 million American jobs.

And get this: according to Politico, in a closed-door meeting Speaker Boehner told the Republican House caucus that extending the payroll tax cut and helping Americans pay their bills is “chicken shi--.”

Following today’s vote in the U.S. Senate, where Republicans once again blocked a payroll tax cut for the middle class, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement:

“This is now the second time in two weeks that Republicans in the Senate have voted to deny vital economic relief to millions of middle-class Americans.  By continuing to oppose the President’s proposal to extend and expand the payroll tax cut, Republicans are saying no to putting $1,500 back into the pockets of working families across the country.  As the President emphasized earlier this week, we are facing a critical make or break moment for middle-class Americans in this country – today’s vote was an opportunity to help them get ahead and move our nation forward, and it is astonishing that Republicans would vote to stand in their way.

“For the many Republicans in Congress who have pledged never to raise taxes on a single individual, today’s vote for a tax increase on millions of middle-class Americans is the height of hypocrisy.  The Republican Party’s priorities grow clearer by the day – they would rather give more tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires than lift a finger to help the middle class.  On the campaign trail, Mitt Romney belittled the middle class payroll tax cut as a ‘little Band-Aid’ – then he flip-flopped when he realized it was popular, like he does on every issue, and now says he supports it.  It’s time for Republicans to start working with the President to give middle-class Americans a fair chance and a fair shot at success.”

Florida Republican issues letter opposing proposed immigration detention center

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, sent a letter this week to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stating his opposition to the location of a publicly funded, privately managed immigration detention center to be built in South Florida.


DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Former Congressman Robert Wexler Respond to Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Former Congressman Robert Wexler Respond to Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum

Washington, DC— This afternoon on a conference call, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Former Congressman Robert Wexler responded to the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in Washington, DC.

To listen to audio of the call, please click on the following link: http://my.democrats.org/page/-/audio/calls/DWSWexler430ConfCall120711.mp3
On the call, Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said:
The Jewish community has always stood strong to care for the elderly and the sick, to fiercely defend equality and civil rights, and invest in education to give our children the brightest possible future. When we look at what President Obama is doing on these domestic policy issues, there is no question where he stands on the values that matter most to the Jewish community. And there is nothing, I mean nothing in the Republicans’ right wing social agenda that speaks to our community’s values, especially when it comes to protecting a woman’s right to choose, the separation of church and state, and investing in our children’s future.

The President’s unwavering commitment speaks for itself: Because of his leadership, we have raised U.S. military assistance to unprecedented levels, sending Israel the largest-ever security assistance funding in 2010, and raising that to $3 billion for 2011. Contrast that with what Mitt Romney and other leading Presidential candidates said less than a month ago when they advocated starting Israel’s foreign aid budget at zero.
On the call, Robert Wexler said:
What has occurred at the RJC is nothing less than the theater of the absurd. Absurd because Mr. Romney and others use allegations such as timid and weak in the context of President Obama and in the context of our relationship with Israel and the world, and nothing could be further from the truth. President Obama of course made an extraordinarily bold and courageous decision in terms of our ultimate elimination of Osama bin Laden.

The objective fact is that the security, cooperation, and security relationship between the United States and Israel has never been better. This President, President Barack Obama has ushered in an era of extraordinary strategic and military cooperation.

Florida Redistricting Committee Meeting 12-6-11

Redistricting Committee meeting on December 6, 2011, two hours after staff released the Congressional and State map proposals. House Redistricting Chairman Will Weatherford explains how to access the maps and informs Members about the next steps of the redistricting process.

Below are the latest releases of public information, calendar updates, legislative information

Clinton's Landmark LGBT Speech

Clinton's Landmark LGBT Speech Shows Importance of Electing Pro-Equality Candidates Watch video

White House Conference Call

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Today, President Obama traveled to Osawatomie, Kansas, to deliver a speech about the choice we face as a country – to allow too few to do well while too many struggle to get by, or to give everyone a fair shot.

On Thursday, December 8th at 3:00 p.m. EST, please join us for a conference call with Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, to discuss President Obama’s speech in Kansas, his support for a payroll tax cut that will save middle class families $1500, and this week's We Can't Wait executive actions.

We ask that you share this invitation with your networks and affiliates.

Please RSVP here to join us and learn more.

Thank you,

The White House Office of Public Engagement
WHAT: Call on Kansas Speech, Payroll Tax Cut, and We Can’t Wait
WHEN: Thursday, December 8th  
Start Time: 3:00 p.m. EST
Dial In:  (800) 288-8967
Passcode Title: White House Update Call

This call is off the record and not for press purposes.

Why We Need Gaming In South Florida

The lethargic economy of the last few years has affected many, and hit minorities disproportionately.  Both in Florida and nationwide, the unemployment rate of African Americans and Hispanics remains significantly higher than the national average.  The reasons for such a gap vary, but the fact remains:  many need work, and jobs are scarce.

The plan to build three destination resorts with gaming in Miami-Dade and Broward counties could go a long way in putting a dent into unemployment in South Florida.  There are several reasons I would encourage my legislators to support this legislation.

Given the weak economy we need to look at all avenues to create jobs. This plan has the potential to create tens of thousands of jobs, including construction, retail sales and hotel management. Many of these jobs will go to minority workers, who are well-represented in the gaming industry. A 2007 study estimated that minorities make up fully half of all employees in the industry.

In addition to the direct economic benefits, destination resort would attract an estimated one million new visitors to the area each year. The increase in tourism and convention business would provide a needed boost to all types of local businesses. 

The other side of the coin is the improved regulatory structure the plan would put in place. Florida already has gaming of all types, but right now it’s not being managed efficiently or reviewed appropriately. Increased oversight is a good thing, and will weed out predatory practices. I would much rather see upscale gaming options that create jobs and attract visitors as opposed to more internet cafes and lottery sales in poor neighborhoods.

This is not an endorsement for free-for-all gambling all over Florida, but an observation that reforming the system and building destination resorts with gaming in high-demand areas that serve as tourist hubs could spur job creation that benefits those most harmed by our stagnant economy.  

Decision to drop police beating case spurs claims of political motives

In 2009, while newly elected State Attorney Michael McAuliffe was still building a reputation for cracking down on public corruption, his office charged two former West Palm Beach police officers with battery and official misconduct in the beating of a handcuffed robbery suspect captured on video.
Prosecutors actively pursued the case until September, when they dropped all charges against one officer and allowed another to plead to a misdemeanor. The move prompted speculation that McAuliffe dropped the case to garner favor with the local police union for his upcoming re-­election bid. Three weeks later, a retired police officer filed an ethics complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics against McAuliffe, citing a meeting between him and union officials shortly before the case ended as evidence.
McAuliffe and prosecutors in the case deny the allegations. At the time the charges were dropped, they attributed the decision largely to an enhanced version of the police video a defense attorney played for them in early September . They say it shows that the suspect provoked the officers' attack.
Source: Topix.com

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Statement Recognizing World AIDS Day

Since 1988, World AIDS Day has given us an important opportunity to take pause and show our support for the estimated 33.3 million individuals across the world who are living with HIV/AIDS, to remember those whose lives have been tragically lost to this disease, and to recommit ourselves to the goals of HIV/AIDS awareness, treatment and prevention.
“We have made tremendous progress in the ongoing fight against HIV/AIDS – both here in America and abroad.  President Obama has established our nation’s first comprehensive HIV/AIDS strategy, and he put an end to the discriminatory ban that prevented individuals with HIV/AIDS from entering the country.  Additionally, both the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria have supported anti-retroviral treatments for millions of people around the world. 
“That progress began a new chapter today, as the President announced he is directing $50 million in increased funding for domestic HIV/AIDS treatment and care – $15 million for the Ryan White Part C program supporting HIV medical clinics across the country, and $35 million for state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs.  President Obama also set a new goal today in the global AIDS fight – aiming to increase the target for treatment from 4 million people to 6 million people by the end of 2013.  As we take these important steps to eradicate and treat this disease, I am proud to join the President and so many others around the world in offering my support to those living with HIV/AIDS – and to our continued struggle against this global epidemic.”