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Support for veto override lacking in legislative poll

By Times wire
Published August 30, 2005

TALLAHASSEE - The Legislature won't meet to vote on overriding Gov. Jeb Bush's veto of a bill that would have increased government privatization oversight.

Democrats sought to force an override session by turning in enough signatures to require a poll of lawmakers. But the poll found support far short of what would have been needed to force the Republican-dominated Legislature to override Republican Bush.

If 72 House members and 24 senators had responded with a yes in the poll by Secretary of State Glenda Hood, a veto override session would have been called. But only four senators and 30 House members said yes, Hood spokeswoman Jenny Nash said Monday.

The bill (SB 1146) Bush vetoed would have created a commission to approve state contracts worth more than $10-million and to adopt contracting standards for state agencies. The measure passed the House 116-2 and the Senate 39-0.

Lobbyist pleads innocent in SunCruz fraud case

MIAMI - Prominent Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded innocent Monday to a six-count federal fraud and conspiracy indictment stemming from his role in the 2000 purchase of the SunCruz fleet of casino boats.

The plea was entered by Abramoff's lawyer, Neal Sonnett, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick A. White. Abramoff was not present.

Abramoff and one of his SunCruz partners, Adam Kidan, are charged with faking a $23-million wire transfer to make it appear they were putting a large stake into the $147.5-million deal. Based on that transfer, two lenders agreed to provide them with $60-million, according to court documents.

Kidan, of New York, has also pleaded innocent. He and Abramoff are free on bail.

Sonnett also said Fort Lauderdale police have requested an interview with Abramoff regarding the unsolved February 2001 slaying of former SunCruz owner Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, who had clashed with Kidan over management of the company he founded. Abramoff has never given a statement in that case. Investigators say it appeared to be a planned hit.

"Jack Abramoff has no knowledge of the facts of the murder," Sonnett said. "We'll deal with the Fort Lauderdale police in due course."

Abramoff is also under investigation in Washington by a federal grand jury and by the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee for deals in which he and an associate received at least $66-million from six Indian tribes to lobby for their casinos and other interests. The tribes question whether the charges were excessive.

Congressional Democrats are pursuing allegations that Abramoff or his clients paid some overseas travel expenses for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Six charged with illegal sales of migratory birds

MIAMI - Six Hialeah residents were charged on Monday with illegally selling several protected species of migratory birds. One had been caught with two rare Cuban songbirds hidden in his underwear at Miami International Airport, officials said.

Giraldo Wong, Rafael Padrino, Jorge Hernandez, Francisco Corrales, Pablo Olivera Garcia, and Madeleisy Molerio were named in a 21-count indictment.

The birds included indigo and painted buntings, blue grosbeaks and northern cardinals. The six sold the birds from October 2004 to July 2005, violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Under a nearly 90-year-old federal law, the Department of the Interior maintains a list of highly migratory birds that are protected from capture, barter, sale, or transport, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Wong, returning from Cuba in May, was discovered with two Cuban grassguits in his underwear at the airport.

The defendants sold the birds almost every Sunday at an informal market for many months, prosecutors said. They said undercover officers purchased birds.

All the defendants except Corrales have been arrested.

[Last modified August 30, 2005, 02:45:28]

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