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April 20, 2018

Parkland parents say public officials need to be fired soon for failing their children

Guttenberg

@alextdaugherty

Fred Guttenberg, the Parkland parent who confronted Marco Rubio on national television about the senator’s opposition to an assault weapons ban, had a very different conversation with the Florida Republican on Capitol Hill this week.

“Senator, see you tomorrow?” Guttenberg asked.

“I’m around all day, flying out Thursday night,” Rubio replied.

The pair disagree on gun-control policy, but Guttenberg and the Parkland families are united with Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson behind an effort to make the authorities who failed their children accountable.

History suggests they may be successful.

The families of the 17 victims in the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School persuaded the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott to sign a gun bill over the objections of the National Rifle Association. They successfully got the slow-moving U.S. Senate to fast-track limited school safety legislation into a must-pass spending bill last month.

And the voices that no lawmaker can ignore are pushing for agencies like the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Broward School Board and FBI to be held responsible, and soon.

“We all think we know, but we need to know with certainty, we need to find out why they made the mistakes and we need to fire people for their mistakes,” Guttenberg said. “Do any of the mistakes cross over to a criminal activity? I don’t know the law, but I do know at a minimum people need to be fired and they need to be fired soon.”

Three Parkland parents are serving on a state commission established by Scott and granted subpoena powers. The commission is set to meet next week. One parent recently met with FBI Director Christopher Wray to discuss how the agency can learn from its mistakes. And the parents are confident something will happen, even if it takes a lot longer than they would want.

Read more here.

April 19, 2018

As Florida lawmakers consider special legislative session, statewide teachers' union calls for more school funding

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ALESSANDRA DA PRA | Times


The Florida Education Association aimed to put Florida's political leaders on the spot on Thursday, calling for them to address school funding if they are all required to come back to Tallahassee for a special session on gambling issues.

"The Florida Education Association calls on Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders to address the shortfall in education funding before the start of the next fiscal year," reads a statement from the group, released Thursday. "With political will, the money can be found."

The statement follows a similar request made last week by the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.

The group pointed out that Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $64 million's worth of projects in the 2018-2019 budget, money that will be kicked back to the state's general revenue account.

The FEA also references an agreement reached Wednesday between the state and the Seminole Tribe which guaranteed the tribe will pay $300 million in the next year to continue its exclusive right to offer banked card games like blackjack. However, the Legislature assumed the agreement would hold when it drafted its budget and therefore the $300 million is already spoken for.

In this year's budget, the per-pupil portion of classroom education funding saw an increase of only 47 cents, much lower than in previous years. And law enforcement and districts  have been scrambling since the Legislature required that every school have an armed person on every campus, whether that be a trained school staff member or a law enforcement officer.

Before the budget was passed in March, the state's superintendents and school leaders already asked the Legislature to increase the per-pupil spending. That didn't happen.

A decision over whether a special session will be held is expected by early next week. If lawmakers do come back up to Tallahassee, either the governor or the House Speaker jointly with the Senate President have to specify the specific purpose or purposes of the special session. Unless they declare that education funding is part of that purpose, it's unlikely the FEA's requests would be addressed.

When asked if Gov. Scott would include education funding as part of the "call" for a special session, the governor's office disputed there is a shortfall in education funding.

Progressive groups protest payday loan conference at Trump resort

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Trump golfing in Doral, 2015 (Getty)

Several progressive groups are protesting today outside Trump National Doral Golf Club, where the payday lending industry is hosting its annual conference.

Speakers from the New Florida Majority, the Latino Victory Project, the Florida Immigrant Coalition and the Miami-Dade Democratic Party are there to object to what they call a "predatory" industry.

They say it's no coincidence that the industry is having its conference at a Trump resort. Since President Donald Trump took office, his pick to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has taken a hands-off approach to the payday lending industry, choosing to wait before implementing a new CFPB rule that would limit how many loans the industry can give someone each year.

Florida lawmakers this year, citing concerns about the rule, voted to allow the industry to offer loans that are twice as large and with fees that are also potentially twice as large. The CFPB rules don't apply to those larger loans.

Less than a month after Gov. Rick Scott signed off on the bill, the industry sued the CFPB to block the rule from ever taking effect.

Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo compares Mayor Francis Suarez to Maduro over strong mayor initiative

Suarez7

@joeflech

Recently-elected Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has long wanted to see his position turned into the city's chief administrator. He's launched an ballot petition effort to convince voters to change the city charter so he could run the city's day-to-day operations, as opposed to a mayor-appointed city manager.

But right on cue, recently-returned Commissioner Joe Carollo has issued his sharpest criticism yet of the young mayor. He compared Suarez's effort to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's consolidation of power through a pro-government assembly he created last year that effectively supersedes the opposition-led congress.

Carollo's barbs in a Miami Herald interview Tuesday underscored what onlookers expect from the relationship between the longtime Miami politician and the new mayor — friction.

"You look at what Maduro did with the Constituyente," Carollo said. "This is the Miami version."

Suarez believes the change will bring more transparency, efficiency and accountability to a municipal government with a reputation for dysfunction. He tried twice before to get a strong mayor question on the ballot through the commission, both times finding little support on the dais. Now he's going to the ballot petition route. 

Read more.

Police secretly recorded call to see if Miami politician lied about her #MeToo claim

 

@NewsbySmiley and @DavidOvalle305

As the "Me Too" movement gained steam across the nation last fall, Miami Beach City Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez went public with her own harrowing tale: that a political ally, Rafael Velasquez, had pulled out his penis and tried to force her to touch it while the two sat alone in a car.

But according to a newly released memo from the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, prosecutors have declined to charge Velasquez, saying there was not enough evidence to prove a crime took place.

If anything, investigators found evidence that conflicted with the commissioner's account — although they also declined to pursue Velasquez's counter-claim that the commissioner made the whole thing up and filed a false police report in order to promote her congressional campaign.

To read the rest, click here.

Darren Soto endorses David Richardson in Dem primary for Ros-Lehtinen's seat

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@alextdaugherty

Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, is wading into the crowded Democratic primary to replace outgoing Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, endorsing State Rep. David Richardson. 

Soto is the first sitting member of Congress to make an endorsement into the race. He's also the first Puerto Rican member of Congress from Florida and a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. 

"David Richardson is a fighter for the progressive cause. During his years as a State Legislator he fought for social rights and civil liberties for DACA recipients, LGBTQ Americans, and incarcerated Floridians," Soto said in a statement. "His campaign for Congress has continued this trend with his support for Medicare-for-All, his calls for immediate aid to Puerto Rico, and his demands for gun reform nationwide. As such, I am proud to endorse his campaign for Congress, and look forward to serving with a progressive voice like David's in Washington, D.C." 

The Democratic primary also includes includes former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman and former judge Mary Barzee Flores.

 

Shalala and Richardson have over $1 million to spend on the race after the latest fundraising quarter, though both have loaned money from themselves to their campaigns. Soto and Richardson served together in the Florida Legislature. 

"I’m deeply honored to receive the support of Congressman Darren Soto," Richardson said in a statement. "Darren since his days as a State Legislature has become a national leader on progressive issues and has fought tirelessly for the people of Florida. I’m happy to have his support as we approach the Democratic primary election on August 28th." 

National Democrats groups have largely stayed out of the primary for Ros-Lehtinen's seat and whoever wins the primary will be favored to flip the seat in November, though the Democratic Party lacks a Hispanic candidate in a majority-Hispanic district after state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez dropped out of the race last week. 

 

April 18, 2018

Curbelo to appear with Trump in Key West (updated)

Curbelo

@alextdaugherty 

Rep. Carlos Curbelo is headed to Key West with President Donald Trump tomorrow, but don't expect the duo to applaud the sunset at Mallory Square. 

The president will visit Naval Air Station Key West for a few hours on Thursday to receive a briefing from the Joint Interagency Task Force South, and Curbelo said Wednesday he'll join Trump on Air Force One for the quick visit.

"I’ll go ahead and break the news that I will be traveling with the President tomorrow, and will be arriving with him, and will be out at JIATF, and I am very grateful that he is taking the time to visit such a valuable asset for law enforcement, for our military, for our partners from other nations from the region," Curbelo said to U.S. 1 Radio News. "And I think for the Florida Keys it is wonderful that a president is visiting, taking the time to learn about a facility that is not only so critical for our national security, but obviously employs a lot of people in the Florida Keys." 

Curbelo doesn't have much of a relationship with Trump. He was the first Republican lawmaker to suggest Trump could be impeached and declined to vote for him in 2016. Since Trump assumed office Curbelo criticized some of his policy decisions like withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord and recently called on EPA secretary Scott Pruitt to resign amid mounting ethics issues. 

Trump was in Hialeah on Monday to tout the tax bill, a law Curbelo helped draft, but Curbelo wasn't there. He was traveling home from the Summit of the Americas in Peru. 

Curbelo is in the midst of a contentious reelection campaign against Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in a Democratic-leaning district, and appearing with Trump in public could be fodder for his opponent. The event on Thursday is an official White House event and not a campaign stop, though Trump riffed about his 2016 victory in Florida on Monday. 

UPDATE (4/19): Here's what Curbelo talked about with Trump, per his office. 

“I also appreciated the opportunity to travel with the President ‎and his team," Curbelo said in a statement. "I was able to stress to him the importance of finding a compromise on immigration that protects young immigrants brought to our country as children and also strengthens border security. We discussed FEMA's role in hurricane recovery, Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, and as we were arriving at our destination I shared with the President that sea level rise is increasingly a concern in the Keys and throughout South Florida."

NASA administrator opposed by Bill Nelson approved in drama-filled vote

Bill Nelson

@alextdaugherty

For months, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson has railed against the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., as NASA administrator, and his nomination stalled when Democrats along with Sen. Marco Rubio opposed him. 

On Wednesday, Bridenstine was finally confirmed to lead the nation's space program, but it wasn't without drama.

Rubio's belated support appeared to give Republicans enough votes, but Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake surprisingly voted "no" on Wednesday. Vice President Mike Pence was out of town, unable to break a 49-49 tie. Two senators were out for health-related reasons. 

The vote remained open for nearly an hour before Flake had a conversation with party leaders and switched his vote, though he was coy about his reasons for doing it. 

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Flake was trying to exert leverage over one of his signature issues: increased trade and interaction with Cuba. Flake wanted to talk Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo about travel restrictions to Cuba, according to Cornyn.   

Nelson has argued that Bridenstine, an elected official, should not be tapped to lead an agency typically led by a scientist. Bridenstine also attacked Rubio on immigration during the 2016 Republican primary. 

Oil industry announces opposition to amendment to ban drilling in state waters

CRC in Miami
Signaling its predictable opposition, the Florida Petroleum Council issued a statement Wednesday opposing the proposed amendment to the state constitution that bundles a ban on oil drilling in state waters with a ban on vaping in indoor work spaces.

The Constitution Revision Commission wrapped together the two proposals Monday, dubbed the amendment "clean air, clean water," and placed them on the November ballot on Monday. The 37-member citizen panel is convened every 20 years to put amendments directly on the ballot. 

“Domestic oil and natural gas development is a key driver of Florida’s economy – supporting high-paying jobs and investments in our state," said David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council, which represents the oil and gas industry. "Linking this important decision with electronic cigarette use just doesn’t make sense. Voters should be able to make decisions on public health and its economic future separately.”

The GOP majority panel was dominated by appointees named by Gov. Rick Scott, who hopes to also be on the ballot in November. It bundled together separate constitutional questions on five other amendments and rejected repeated attempts by several members of the commission to separate them. 

Mica said that by bundling the issues together, the CRC "will force Florida’s voters to vote for or against two completely unrelated, but important, issues at the same time. Bundling these issues is mixing apples and oranges, and this decision, made without any public debate, could harm jobs, the state economy, tax revenues, and our long-term energy future.”

In 2010, in the face of oil industry pressure, the Florida Legislature rejected a call by then-Gov. Charlie Crist to put a similar ban on oil drilling off state waters. Crist called a special session to ban the prospects of the practice in Florida in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill the year before, but the GOP-controlled legislature insisted it wasn't needed and adjourned the session after 49 minutes. 

Photo: Constitution Revision Commission members meet in Miami as part of its listening tour last year. Pedro Portal, Miami Herald. 

 

April 17, 2018

Scott wants to end career politicians. So why are they fundraising for him? He won’t say

Scott and nelson

via @scontorno

Gov. Rick Scott told a room of local businessmen and women Tuesday that he wants to put an end to career politicians, a frequent mantra of his nascent Senate campaign.

Yet in the 48 hours after his Tampa appearance, the Republican's campaign will hold fundraisers with some of the most seasoned creatures on Capitol Hill.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — the early front runner to be the next Speaker of the House — is scheduled to appear at a Wednesday night D.C. fundraiser for Scott. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is headlining another fundraiser, this one with a suggested contribution of $5,000, that features a half dozen other Senators and former elected officials.

McConnell was sworn into the Senate in 1985 — a career that easily surpasses Scott's proposal to cap a Senator's tenure at 12 years. McCarthy was first elected to the House in 2006 after a long career in California politics, so this would be his last term in office if Scott's idea was in affect.

Term limits are so central to Scott's early campaign, they were the subject of his first campaign ad. He plans to spend $2 million getting that message to voters across Florida.

So how does Scott reconcile these two realities? Asked about it after his Tampa event, he didn't really say.

"I think this concept of career politicians is why we don't get change in Washington," Scott said. "I really do believe we've got to bring in new ideas, fresh ideas, people that are up there saying I've got limited time, I want to get something done."

But why would you take money raised by career politicians if you want to get rid of them?

"My focus is, I have been very clear, I don't like the concept of career politicians," he said, "and I believe we ought to have term limits."

Rubio hires Heritage Action CEO as new chief of staff

Marco Rubio 3

@alextdaugherty

Sen. Marco Rubio has hired Michael Needham, the CEO of a conservative political organization that once battled with the Florida Republican over his support of a comprehensive immigration bill, as his new chief of staff. 

"Mike brings a wealth of policy, political and management experience that will greatly complement our office’s mission of serving the people of Florida and leading the effort to modernize the conservative movement in the 21st century," Rubio said in a statement. "Mike understands and shares these goals, and I look forward to his contributions." 

Needham, 36, was the CEO of Heritage Action for America, a conservative organization that pushed Republican lawmakers on a litany of issues including opposing comprehensive immigration reform and supporting the 2013 government shutdown over Obamacare funding. 

Needham will serve as Rubio's top advisor and oversee his staff of dozens in Washington and in various offices throughout Florida.

Rubio's former chief of staff Clint Reed was fired in January for violating "policies regarding proper relations between a supervisor and their subordinates." 

April 16, 2018

Corcoran visiting Liberty City Monday

Corcoran

@NewsbySmiley

With shootings in Liberty Square suddenly gaining political attention, outgoing Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran is visiting Liberty City Monday.

Corcoran, a possible Republican candidate for governor, is expected to stop by the city of Miami police substation near the public housing complex around 1 p.m. Attempts to reach House spokesman Fred Piccolo were unsuccessful Monday morning, but Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, confirmed Corcoran's attendance.

Corcoran's visit comes about a week after a shooting in which two were injured and another two killed, including a student at Miami Northwester Senior High. The shooting, which came on the heels of a 4-year-old girl's death, has sparked neighborhood protests and calls for attention to gun violence in minority communities.

Philip Levine, Gwen Graham say Trump should be impeached if he fires Mueller (Updated)

Levine

@alextdaugherty

Florida governor hopeful and former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine joined the Democratic pile-on of Donald Trump on Monday, calling for the president's impeachment if he fires special counsel Robert Mueller

"As Donald Trump heads to Miami today, we need to send a clear message that his efforts to obstruct the Mueller investigation from continuing will be met with full force from Floridians," Levine advisor Christian Ulvert said in a fundraising email. "The GOP-controlled Congress likely won't do it and we need Democratic Governors in states like Florida to stand up to the D.C. insiders." 

Levine's stance on potential impeachment for Trump puts him between the two other Democrats running in the primary. Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum called for Trump's immediate impeachment last year while former Rep. Gwen Graham called Trump a bully in a digital ad released earlier this month, though she stopped short of calling for impeachment at the time. 

Calling for Trump's impeachment could energize the base in contested Democratic primaries around the country, though an attempt to impeach Trump late last year garnered just 58 votes in the 435 member House of Representatives. 

UPDATE 4:50pm: Graham also said Trump should be impeached if he fires Mueller. 

"The House should start impeachment proceedings within 60 seconds of Trump firing Mueller," Graham said in an email.

A second Republican emerges in the race to replace Ros-Lehtinen

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@alextdaugherty

Miami broadcast journalist Maria Elvira Salazar looks like she could force a competitive Republican primary in the race to replacing retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Former Miami-Dade commissioner Bruno Barreiro was largely running a one-man money race among Republicans since he entered the primary shortly after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement, but Salazar bested his fundraising numbers in her first fundraising quarter since she officially jumped into the race in March. 

Salazar raised $303,115 from January 1 to March 31 and she has $287,612 left to spend, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. Barreiro raised $264,778, his best haul since entering the race shortly after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement last year. He maintains a cash on hand advantage over his new rival, with $420,978 left to spend. 

The pair have separated themselves from the rest of the Republican pack, though newcomers Stephen Marks and Michael Ohevzion have six figures left to spend. Marks loaned himself $200,000 while Ohevzion loaned himself $100,000 and directly contributed $35,000 to his own campaign. Angie Chirino, the daughter of Miami singer and songwriter Willy Chirino, hasn't had her fundraising totals processed yet by the FEC. 

Republicans are not favored to keep Ros-Lehtinen's seat in 2018, as the district voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by more than 19 percentage points. Multiple election prognosticators rate Ros-Lehtinen's district as "lean Democratic" and former University of Miami president Donna Shalala headlines a Democratic field that narrowed in the past week after two contenders dropped out after choosing to keep their current elected offices over making a run for Congress.

State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez's departure leaves Democrats without a Hispanic candidate in a majority Hispanic district. State Rep. David Richardson, former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman, former circuit court judge Mary Barzee Flores and Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez are among the remaining Democrats seeking Ros-Lehtinen's seat. 

 

April 13, 2018

Curbelo won't appear with Trump in Miami on Monday

Donald trump 2

@alextdaugherty @newsbysmiley

President Donald Trump is coming to South Florida to talk up the GOP tax bill on Monday, but a Miami Republican who played a role in its creation—and who is facing a tough reelection—won't be there. 

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a member of the House tax writing committee that drafted the tax bill signed into law by Trump late last year, is in Lima this weekend at the Summit of the Americas and won't be back in time for the Monday afternoon event, according to spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez

"Congressman Curbelo is part of the U.S. Delegation to the Summit of the Americas, taking place in Peru this weekend, promoting our engagement in the region," Rodriguez said in an email. "The delegation is not set to return until Monday so he is currently not expected to make it back in time to attend the event in Miami." 

Curbelo had plans to attend the summit well before Trump’s event was announced, Rodriguez said. 

The Monday event is an official White House event and not a Trump campaign stop, though Curbelo appearing alongside a president who overwhelmingly lost Curbelo's Miami-to-Key West district to Hillary Clinton could be ad fodder for Democrats seeking to defeat him in November. Curbelo's campaign previously said he doesn't invite people to campaign with him but "anyone who wants to support Carlos' efforts and endorse his bipartisan approach to public service is welcome to do so." 

Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who doesn't have a serious Democratic opponent and who has worked with Trump on Cuba policy and immigration, confirmed that he will attend the event, though details have not been publicly released yet by the White House. 

Sen. Marco Rubio's office did not immediately respond when asked if he plans to attend, though Rubio is also attending the Summit of the Americas in Peru. 

Tim Scott headlines annual Lincoln Day Dinner for Miami-Dade Republicans

Scott LDDinner

@NewsbySmiley

Miami-Dade Republicans are holding their 70th annual Lincoln Day Dinner April 20, with Sen. Tim Scott the headlining speaker.

Scott, R-SC, was one of the key players in crafting and passing $1.5 trillion in tax cuts late last year. POLITICO MAGAZINE recently called him "the most powerful and prominent black elected official in America." Sen. Marco Rubio will introduce him.

"We are incredibly excited to have such a dynamic speaker and conservative coming to Miami," said Nelson Diaz, chairman of the Republican Party of Miami-Dade County. "Senator Scott was an integral part of the tax reform legislation that has benefited so many Americans and their small businesses.”

The event takes place 6:30 p.m. following a private reception at the Doubletree Hotel, 711 NW 72nd Ave. Tickets can be acquired at www.MiamiDadeGOP.org.

 

Here's video of someone shoving cash in a purse on Daphne Campbell's birthday

 

@NewsbySmiley

On the night state Sen. Daphne Campbell celebrated her 60th birthday, friends and associates regaled her with dancers, dinner and a double-tiered cake and flowers at the Miami Shores Country Club. At the end of the evening, she was gifted with a black-and-white Kate Spade purse with diamond patterns.

And then someone shoved cash inside.

Exactly how much money Campbell received during the reelection campaign fundraiser isn’t known. But this much is: If Campbell kept the cash, she did so in violation of state law because she reported none of it.

The Democratic senator — whose long track record of ethical missteps and criminal investigations has made her one of Florida’s more controversial elected officials — says the whole thing was a gag, as does the businessman who gave her the money. Campbell criticized a reporter for asking her about the video, denying that money was ever exchanged and hanging up twice during an interview.

To read the rest, click here.

 

The GOP’s biggest LGBT advocate is retiring. Here’s how the party plans to move ahead.

IMG_1995

@alextdaugherty

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuba libre in hand, was busy waxing nostalgic with former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart about their efforts to undermine Fidel Castro when the animated discussion was interrupted by Caitlyn Jenner.

The world’s most recognizable advocate for transgender causes wanted to hug the retiring Miami lawmaker with a history of bucking and pushing the Republican Party on LGBT issues.

“Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a person of many firsts, and if you know anything about me I love firsts,” Jenner said at a recent gala honoring Ros-Lehtinen’s career. “The first Latina elected to Congress, the first woman elected to Congress from Florida, the first Republican in the House to support marriage equality, and she did it in a very big way.”

Jenner, also a Republican, and Ros-Lehtinen are at odds with the majority of Republican lawmakers. President Donald Trump has announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military via tweet and multiple state legislatures have considered legislation that would restrict access to restrooms, locker rooms, and other sex-segregated facilities on the basis of sex assigned at birth.

“Fighting for gay rights, transgender rights is such an important part of my DNA and what I do,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

Ros-Lehtinen introduced legislation in 2015 that would prohibit schools from discriminating against students based on sexual orientation or gender identity. She also signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief in a Supreme Court case seeking to protect access to public accommodations for transgender students. And Ros-Lehtinen’s son, Rodrigo, is the first openly transgender child of a sitting member of Congress.

“The most important job Ileana’s had... is being a mom,” Jenner said. “For the trans community we have many, many issues. The suicide rate for young trans youth is nine times higher than the general public, we have homelessness, we have young trans people being kicked out of their homes all across this country. Transgendered kids … may be bullied in school, they may be a little different, but when they go home, [if] they go to a safe place and a loving family, that is by far the most important thing we can do for our kids. So Ileana, I want to thank you for that.”

But Ros-Lehtinen, the only Republican in Congress with a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBT rights organization, won’t be in office next year.

Her retirement and a potential wave election for Democrats in 2018 could make pro-LGBT Republicans a rare breed in the next Congress. Four of the eight Senate Republicans endorsed by the Log Cabin Republicans, a pro-LGBT group, could be gone next year, and nine of the 11 House Republicans endorsed by the group are retiring or face tough reelection campaigns.

Ros-Lehtinen was honored by Jenner at the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute's annual gala. The institute recognized Ros-Lehtinen with its Leadership in Public Service Award and Leadership in International Relations Award, and it renamed the latter award after Ros-Lehtinen in her honor.

Read more here.

April 12, 2018

Parkland's congressman wants federal probe into Russian-linked gunmaker

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via @learyreports

Rep. Ted Deutch, who represents Parkland in Congress, is asking the Treasury to investigate whether a Florida-based gun maker with Russian ties has violated sanctions.

"Kalashnikov USA is a firearms manufacturer and seller located in my congressional district," the Boca Raton Democrat wrote in a letter to a Treasury official. "Recent media reports have raised questions as to whether Kalashnikov USA, or its parent company RWC Group LLC, may have violated federal sanctions law through illicit business relations with the Russian-owned Kalashnikov Concern JSC ("Kalashnikov Russia").

"According to a statement released by Kalashnikov USA, it relocated to South Florida in 2015. Reports indicate that Kalashnikov USA may have been offered tax incentives as part of Florida Governor Rick Scott's push to lure weapons manufacturers to Florida. According to Kalashnikov USA's own 2015 application for $162,000 in tax incentives, which was approved by Governor Scott's administration, the company planned to assemble its weapons with parts and components imported from Kalashnikov Russia's factory located in Russia.

"As you know, Kalashnikov Russia was sanctioned in 2014 as part of the U.S. response to Vladimir Putin's illegal actions in Ukraine. Given reports of Russia's attempts to illegally fund the National Rifle Association, connections between a US weapons manufacturer and a sanctioned Russian company are even more alarming."

Democrats, including Sen. Bill Nelson, have been angling to make this an issue against Scott, whose administration acknowledges the incentives but says none was given because the contract was terminated.

Poll shows Levine lead growing in Democratic primary

Levine

@NewsbySmiley

Philip Levine's lead in the Florida gubernatorial Democratic primary is growing, according to a poll commissioned by the former Miami Beach mayor's political consultant and released Thursday morning.

Little more than four months away from the election, Levine leads Gwen Graham by six points, according to data by Public Policy Polling. The firm, which queried 491 Democratic voters this week, found that Levine holds 29 percent of the vote, compared to 23 percent for Graham, 8 percent for Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and 4 percent for Winter Park businessman Chris King.

That leaves more than a third of Democratic primary voters undecided.

The poll was commissioned by Edge Communications, which is working with Levine's campaign.

Levine has steadily risen in polls since his entry into the race in November. Thanks in part to his own personal fortune, his campaign hit the airwaves early and often. Where Graham just recently released her first digital ad, he has already spent millions on television and social media commercials.

In a second, general election poll, PPP found that U.S. Senator Bill Nelson leads Gov. Rick Scott 50 percent to 44 percent. The poll also found that both Graham and Levine lead Republican gubernatorial candidates Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis in head-to-head matchups, with Levine faring a little better.

The poll queried 661 Florida voters, 37 percent of whom were Democrats and 36 percent of whom were Republican.