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September 04, 2015

Miami-Dade voters, check your mail


If you vote in Miami-Dade County, you may want to keep an eye on your snail-mail box.

The elections department has started mailing out new voter cards and will continue to do so over the next couple of weeks. The county finished redrawing its new precincts to ease overcrowding, which means about 12 percent of voters have been assigned a new polling place.

"Voters are encouraged to review their new card carefully to ensure they know where to vote before heading to the polls on Election Day, and are asked to contact the Department if they would like to make any updates to their voter record," Chief Deputy Elections Supervisor Christina White said.

State board of education board member resigns


Gov. Rick Scott is losing one of the state’s seven board of education board member thanks to his own doing.

Scott on Friday appointed Manatee County resident John Colon to fill a vacancy on the Manatee County School Board, which prompted Colon to then have to submit his resignation from the state board of education.

Colon, a Republican and financial advisor who lives in the University Park areas of Manatee County, has been on the state board of education since 2013 and was reappointed earlier this year for a term that was supposed to run through 2018.

Colon said he loved being on the state board of education, but could not pass up an opportunity to serve more in his local community. Colon has previously been the chairman of the Sarasota Housing Authority and ran for the Manatee County Commission in 2012 but lost.

With both state and local education experience, Colon said he hoped to be a person who could bring key insight to the school district when it comes to dealing with state rules and regulations.

Colon's appointment to the school board is only until the next election in 2016.

Colon replaces Manatee School Board member Mary Cantrell, who died in July, just 8 months after winning a seat on the board.

Court allows for another redistricting session but orders trial court to take charge

The Florida Supreme Court on Friday ordered the trial court to return to the redistricting drawing board, allowing it to review the rival maps submitted by the House and Senate and choose between them. 

The court rejected a request by the plaintiffs to take over the drawing of the congressional map after a two-week special session of the Legislature in August ended in stalemate without an enacted map.

But the high court also opened the door to the state Senate's request to conduct another special session on redistricting, as long as the work is completed by the deadline it set in July -- Oct. 17.

The ruling orders Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis to hold a hearing on the "proposed remedial plans" from both the House, the Senate, as well as any amendments offered to them.

"However, the Legislature is not precluded from enacting a remedial plan prior to the time the trial court sets for the hearing,'' the court added.

The ruling was signed by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and Justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince and J.C. Perry. Justice Charles Canady, the most outspoken critic of the court's previous redistricting rulings, concurred in most of the decision but dissent in the part which said the trial court may not accept new evidence. Justice Ricky Polston concurred.

Continue reading "Court allows for another redistricting session but orders trial court to take charge" »

Jeb Bush announces first TV ad buy

Jeb Bush announced his first ad buy today. The ads will start the week before the second GOP debate which airs Sept. 16th. From a Bush campaign press release:

This initial $500,000 buy will include Boston broadcast television, WMUR and statewide cable in the Granite State and run from 9/9 to 9/29, with 15 percent of the initial placement dedicated for targeted online advertising.

This is the first step in a multi-week process where we will be expanding our advertising in New Hampshire and the other early states.

Our first television ad will highlight Governor Bush’s strong conservative record of reform and his plan to change the culture in Washington. He is the only candidate with the proven record of conservative leadership and results to take on the entrenched special interests in our nation’s capital to restore opportunity for all Americans.

Environmentalists knock Miami-Dade budget for ignoring sea-level rise


Environmentalists slammed Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez for only a passing mention of sea-level rise in his proposed 2016 budget and urged county leaders to make the problem a priority by dedicating tax dollars toward the issue.

At a hearing for a $6.8-billion budget that eases past spending cuts for libraries, charity grants, worker pay, parks and public safety, one speaker after another stepped to the microphone to criticize a lack of urgency by Miami-Dade toward the local consequences of climate change.

“In this three-volume budget, there is one mention of sea-level rise,” Maggie Fernandez, of the League of Women Voters, told county commissioners during the evening meeting. “This has to be a joke. Given that we’re Ground Zero for climate change.”

A PDF search of the Gimenez budget seemed to confirm the talking point: The phrase “sea-level rise” only appears once in the plan, on Page 265 of Volume 3. Even then, it’s on a list of “unfunded capital projects.” Officials said protecting coastal parks from higher seas would cost $175 million, but those funds aren’t in the budget.

More here.

Florida Chief Justice Jorge Labarga has kidney cancer

Chief-Justice-Jorge-Labarga-236x336Florida Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, the first Cuban American to lead the Florida Supreme Court, announced on Friday that he will undergo treatment this month for kidney cancer. 

"Doctors tell me that my prognosis is very good after surgery because the cancer was detected early by blood tests during a routine medical exam,'' Labarga said in a statement. "This is a big example of why regular testing is so important for everyone."

Labarga, 62, will undergo treatment at Shands Hospital in Gainesville. Doctors expect he will spend seven days in the hospital. He will resume his duties remotely, soon after the surgery, the statement from the court said.

Justice Barbara Pariente will assume the role of acting chief justice for any period of time during which Labarga is incapacitated. The Florida Rules of Judicial Administration for the Florida Supreme Court require that the member longest in service fill in when the chief judge is incapacitated. 

Labarga was named to the two-year term of chief justice in June 2014. He was appointed to the state’s high court by former Gov. Charlie Crist in 2009 after serving on both the 4th District Court of Appeal and the circuit court of Palm Beach County. He was named to the circuit court in 1996 by former Gov. Lawton Chiles.

Considered a moderate, Labarga has been a member of the majority on several high-profile cases that have been vigorously ridiculed by the Republican-led Legislature, most recently the 5-2 decision to order lawmakers to redraw the congressional redistricting map. The stinging ruling prompted the state Senate to admit it violated the Fair Districts amendments to the state constitution and to agree to set a special session for October to redraw its state Senate maps.

Continue reading "Florida Chief Justice Jorge Labarga has kidney cancer" »

Marco Rubio opposes Puerto Rico bankruptcy rights


On the same day of his campaign trip to Puerto Rico, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio made it known that he is against allowing the island's local governments to file for bankruptcy, as U.S. municipalities are allowed to do.

The position puts Rubio at odds with Republican rival Jeb Bush and Democrat Hillary Clinton, both of whom have said Puerto Rico should have the legal bankruptcy rights it has sought from Congress.

Clinton also plans to be in San Juan on Friday, and the Rubio camp has been eager to draw a contrast, noting that her visit will include an invitation-only event, rather than one open to the public.

Puerto Rico faces a deep debt crisis. And while the territory itself wouldn't be able to seek Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection -- neither can U.S. states -- giving its municipalities permission to do so might relieve some of their government debt burden.

Though they're U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans on the island do not vote for president. They do send delegates to the Republican and Democratic nominating conventions. And Florida, the country's largest swing state, has a robust, growing Puerto Rican population along the key I-4 corridor.

Rubio penned an op-ed, published Friday in English and Spanish, calling for Puerto Rico to take tough budget measures to deal with its financial hole.

Puerto Rico is clearly blessed with natural beauty, a vibrant culture, and hard-working and patriotic Americans. Unfortunately, the same liberal ideology that has wreaked havoc on the broader U.S. has had far more disastrous consequences for Puerto Rico. Like their counterparts in Washington, Puerto Rico's liberal-leaning politicians –- who today are hosting Hillary Clinton in San Juan -- have taxed and spent too much, and lacked the political courage and competence to pull Puerto Rico out of economic despair.


Allowing Puerto Rican municipalities to reorganize their debts under Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code would not solve Puerto Rico’s problems and should only be a measure of last resort considered if Puerto Rico takes significant steps to fix its budget and economic mess.


Ultimately, Puerto Rico’s status must be resolved, and its unequal treatment by the federal government must end. As president, I will continue to speak clearly about the importance of enabling Puerto Ricans to resolve their status. [...] Puerto Rico should have a federally-sponsored vote on the island with two choices: become a state or not. If a majority of Puerto Ricans votes yes, Congress and the next president should respect their will and do what's necessary to admit them as the 51st state.

September 03, 2015

Kentucky office should grant same-sex marriage licenses while protecting clerk's religious freedom, Rubio and Bush say

via @learyreports

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio both called for a middle ground in the controversial case involving the Kentucky clerk who has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Their careful responses illustrate an attempt to balance pressures the situation has presented, with religious conservatives on one side and those (including Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia) who say the clerk, Kim Davis, has an obligation to uphold the law, like it or not.

"She is sworn to uphold the law, and it seems to me that there ought to be common ground, there ought to be big enough space for her to act on her conscience and for, now that the law is the law of the land for a gay couple to be married in whatever jurisdiction that is," Bush told reporters in New Hampshire on Thursday. 

"I’m a little confused about why that can’t be done. It’s being done all across the country and its a sign of leadership to be able to create that climate. We shouldn’t be pushing people out of the public square if they have deeply held views, nor should we discriminate against people, particularly, after this court ruling as it relates to sexual orientation, so I think there ought to be a way to figure this out. There are ways that other places are looking at, which is to say, we will not, you don’t have to exercise this responsibility, we’ll have someone else in the office do it, so that you can maintain your religious conscience, which I think is appropriate, but people have the right to be able to get a certificate of marriage." 

Rubio in a statement Wednesday had a similar approach: 

Continue reading "Kentucky office should grant same-sex marriage licenses while protecting clerk's religious freedom, Rubio and Bush say" »

Miami-Dade commission chairman to headline Annette Taddeo fundraiser



Annette Taddeo, the Democrat hoping to unseat Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, has lined up the support of Jean Monestime, the Miami-Dade County Commission chairman.

Monestime will be the featured guest at a sit-down dinner to raise money for Taddeo on Sept. 15 at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. An invitation to the event obtained by the Miami Herald asks supporters to join Monestime "for a private dinner and conversation with his friend" Taddeo. Monestime is the highest-ranking Democrat on the commission, albeit in a nonpartisan post.

The suggested donation to attend is $5,400 from individuals to Taddeo's campaign ($2,700 each for the primary and general elections) or $5,000 from political action committees interested in contributing to the campaign. Taddeo herself isn't raising money for any PAC.

Taddeo lags behind Curbelo in the money race -- he's a top House Republican fundraiser -- and may continue to do so. Incumbents tend to draw early support from political committees and establishment donors; Taddeo may see more support from Democratic PACs closer to the election if she shows she's got a chance of defeating Curbelo.

GOP candidates pledge to support Donald Trump if he's nominee


via @learyreports

On Wednesday, Donald Trump dug the GOP’s hole with Hispanics deeper, lashing out atJeb Bush for using Spanish. On Thursday Trump got a personal visit from RNC chairman Reince Priebus and another huge wave of media attention.

Priebus was trying to smoke out Trump, who refused to rule out a third-party run during the first debate. Did he think the master salesman would take the bait? If anything the stunt handed a certificate of legitimacy to Trump, who has been accused by Jeb Bush of not being a true conservative.

“I was greatly honored that he did come up,” Trump said of Priebus at his news conference, carried on all the cable news channels – even CSPAN. Trump waved the pledge for all to see.

But what’s to stop Trump from discarding it and running as an independent? Nothing.

How hard Priebus will work on collecting the pledge from others? Not that it’s necessary. Any candidate seeking access to RNC data must make the pledge. Same with entering the South Carolina primary.

In validating Trump, Priebus has put other candidates on the hook for supporting the GOP nominee – even if that’s Donald J. Trump.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

On upcoming Miami Dolphins season, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush disagree


Miami Beach commissioner closing his controversial PAC


Controversial political action committee Relentless for Progress has relented.

Citing personal reflection as his primary motivation, Miami Beach Commissioner Jonah Wolfson announced Thursday afternoon that he will close his committee, which has raised more than $1 million from a gallery of city vendors, prominent developers and lobbyists. He said he will return what remains of the money to contributors, which is about half.

he PAC had become the talk of political circles both in and outside of Miami Beach for its rapid fundraising from entities who have business with the city, and its activity attracted the attention of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, which started investigating.

The committee sparked a debate about the role of “soft money” in local politics — particularly in a city like Miami Beach, which has an ordinance that prohibits vendors, developers and lobbyists from donating directly or indirectly to candidates’ campaigns. Wolfson had planned on using Relentless for Progress — whose initials mirror the acronym for the way cities solicit city vendors, “request for proposal” — to back candidates in this year’s Beach elections. Three commission seats are up for grabs in November and Mayor Philip Levine has a challenger.

More here.

South Florida recovers from motorcade traffic, again

via @CTeproff @AndresViglucci

Psst. It’s OK to get back out on the road, South Florida. Biden’s gone.

Vice President Joe Biden graced South Florida with a two-day vice-presidential visit that concluded on Thursday, bringing with him not inconsiderable national attention as he tried to shore up local Jewish support for President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran even as he mulls running for the top spot himself.

Oh, and traffic tie-ups.

The vice president of the United States comes to town for two days and all some people can talk about is the mess his motorcade caused in some places. You certainly know who you are. You were stuck untold minutes in rush-hour gridlock on the Golden Glades Interchange on Thursday morning, and you howled about it on Twitter. Because, you know, gridlock never happens under any other circumstances on the Golden Glades Interchange.

“Turnpike shutdown in Broward!” NBC6 traffic reporter Kelly Blanco tweeted as the motorcade made its way through Hollywood and onto Davie, where Biden met with Jewish leaders. “Biden’s motorcade has shut down I-95 NB at the Golden Glades!” she warned just minutes before.

@JoeBiden thanks for shutting down Miami traffic during rush hour. @POTUS wouldn't loan you the chopper?” tweeted one Ed Deppman.

You’d think South Floridians had never before run across the well-known nuisances associated with the presidential, or vice-presidential in this case, motorcade.

More here.

White House invites Miami-Dade mayor to climate-change summit


Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez is getting more White House love.

Gimenez has been invited -- and plans to attend -- the inaugural U.S.-China Climate Leaders Summit in two weeks in Los Angeles.

The summit is part of a U.S.-China effort to cooperate on curbing global warming and promoting clean energy, and will give the two countries something to boast about when Chinese President Xi Jinping travels to Washington the following week for a state visit.

Mayors of cities in the U.S. and China -- 12 from each country, according to Gimenez's office -- were invited to share ideas and perhaps leave the two-day summit with some sort of commitment or "action statement."

"Mayor Gimenez looks forward to sharing Miami-Dade County's work to mitigate the effects of sea-level rise with fellow mayors from throughout the U.S. and China and learning from them," Gimenez spokesman Michael Hernández said in a statement. "Miami-Dade is in a unique location and position to be at the forefront on the issue."

As it happens, Gimenez was getting criticized during the county's first budget hearing Thursday by residents worried that planning sea-level rise -- the top climate-change consequence for Miami-Dade -- was getting short shrift in the mayor's proposed spending plan. His office said he spoke to residents outside the County Hall chambers to try to reassure them.

This is the second time in two months that the White House has reached out to Gimenez, a Republican in a non-partisan post. He was the featured guest on a conference all last month celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. Gimenez spoke about Miami-Dade's efforts to make voting easier after a slew of embarrassing problems at the 2012 polls.

--with Douglas Hanks

Frederica Wilson endorses Iran deal


A day after hedging on whether she would back President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens, said she'd vote for the deal. Wilson is one of the biggest proponent's of Obama's agenda, so the bigger news would have been if she had rejected the agreement.

Here's her statement:

After careful consideration of the arguments and analyses from all sides, I have decided that I will support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed upon by Iran and the P5+1.

I believe that the JCPOA is the best option for our national security and international stability. The agreement – which is based on verification, not trust – blocks the pathways for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, ensures greater stability in the Middle East, and decreases the possibility of armed conflict. I do not want to alienate the United States from the international community and our allies, and we cannot afford to enter into another war. I cannot in good conscience send more women and men to war, and this country, especially my constituents, cannot afford the economic consequences of another military engagement. No deal is perfect but now is the time for diplomacy.

The people of the 24th Congressional District of Florida are “war weary” and long for peace all over the world.

My commitment to Israel and my Jewish constituents is unbreakable, as exemplified by my legislative record and decades of work in our community. It is because of this commitment that I believe we must do everything in our power to restrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

I applaud President Obama, his cabinet officials, and the international community for their work in crafting a deal that will prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear arms. I stand with the majority of my democratic colleagues in supporting the JCPOA.

Jeb Bush announces Miami-Dade leadership team, satellite campaign office



Jeb Bush has been a friend to many a Miami-Dade County Republican. And now they’re returning the favor.

About 300 elected officials, political donors and community members have endorsed Bush for president, his campaign said Thursday.

Bush also named a Miami-Dade campaign committee charged with winning Florida’s largest county in a presidential primary that could include another hometown favorite, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. If Bush wins the GOP nomination, the committee — Jeb Bush Jr., U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and longtime friends Jorge Arrizurieta and T. Willard Fair — will face the daunting task of diminishing Democrats’ advantage in blue Miami-Dade.

To get a jump on organizing, the committee plans to open a local office next Saturday separate from Bush’s existing national campaign headquarters at 9250W. Flagler St. The satellite office will be located at 5430 SW Eighth St. across from Pego Lamps, the Miami Herald has learned.

“The support our friend Jeb will receive locally is a direct product of his longstanding commitment and service to our community,” Arrizurieta said in a statement. “We have been looking forward to this day for 30 years.”

Bush’s endorsement list includes some names of people who have already raised campaign cash for him or otherwise shown their support, including the three local Cuban-American Republicans in Congress, Ros-Lehtinen and Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart. Also named are a slew of current and former state lawmakers and county and city politicians; developers, political operatives, bankers, family friends and other civic leaders.

More here.

Here's the full list:

Continue reading "Jeb Bush announces Miami-Dade leadership team, satellite campaign office" »

Obama rejects Governor Scott's request for disaster declaration


President Barack Obama rejected Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s request for a disaster declaration for Tampa Bay’s August flooding on the basis that the damage to the region was not enough to be beyond the capabilities of the state and local governments, according to congressional sources.

A federal disaster declaration would have triggered hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured-property losses, and other help for individuals and business owners affected by the storms.

But the Federal Emergency Management Agency officials, who advise the president on disaster declarations, said the damage from the storms that saturated the area from July 25 to Aug.  3 was not of such severity and magnitude that state and local officials cannot handle it on their own – a standard phrase used in past disaster declaration denials.

FEMA notified Scott of the denial in a letter sent to him on Thursday.

It’s not the first time the Obama administration has rejected Scott’s pleas for disaster assistance. Three times in 2012, FEMA rejected Scott’s initial request for federal assistance for two hurricanes and a flooding incident near Pensacola. Later, Scott’s request for help for damage sustained in South Florida from Hurricane Isaac was approved after an appeal showed more confirmed damage.

But don’t think Obama has it out for Scott, who earlier this year sued the Obama administration over federal health care funding. Obama has also approved three other disaster declarations since 2011, most recently in May 2014 for severe storms and flooding that besieged the Pensacola area.

Continue reading "Obama rejects Governor Scott's request for disaster declaration" »

Under proposed law, people could break in to save pets, children, elderly from hot cars


If you see a helpless dog or baby or senior citizen trapped in a car in the heat, you could break in to rescue them -- assuming a bill in the Legislature for the winter 2016 session passes.

The proposal (HB 131) would allow any passerby to use a minimal amount of force to rescue children, pets, the elderly and disabled adults if they feel the individual could be in danger and they call 911 before doing so. It would provide immunity from being sued.

House Majority Leader Dana Young, R-Tampa, filed the legislation, an unusual step for the majority leader. Last year, she filed one bill to legalize beer growlers -- her pet project -- and a handful for high-profile gambling reform.

In a statement released to the press Thursday, she said she was inspired to file the "Good Samaritan Act" by the high rate of death among children and pets trapped in cars under the hot Florida sun.

“Florida has the second highest rate of child vehicular heatstroke deaths in the nation,” Young said. “The time has come to empower ordinary citizens to come forward and help prevent these senseless tragedies.”

Similar legislation (SB 200) that would make locking an animal in a hot car a first-degree misdemeanor and allow law enforcement and first responders to break in and rescue a pet has been filed by Sen. Dorothy Hukill. It doesn't appear that Young's bill has been filed in previous legislative sessions.

Of course, there's an easy solution here -- one that could make someone less likely to break into your car if Young's bill passes -- and that's to not lock the people and animals you're responsible for in a hot car.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez launches attack ads against mayor


When budget season comes around, it’s common for Miami-Dade county commissioners to have a particular complaint or concern — but Commissioner Xavier Suarez is taking his budget beef to the airwaves.

Wednesday evening, TV commercials began airing with Suarez bashing Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez over transit spending. Miami-Dade’s half-penny transit tax, approved by voters in 2002, isn’t being spent to give voters the transit expansion they were promised, the ads proclaim.

“Mayor Gimenez insists on using nearly $100 million from the half-cent tax to manage the transportation system,” Suarez complains in the ad, which has a background of trains whizzing by, along with a budget pie chart and a Metrorail map.

“Say no to Gimenez and support me in this effort,” Suarez tells viewers.

In an interview, Suarez said he’s spending “more than $125,000” on the ads, which will run over a five-day span. The money comes from Suarez’s Imagine Miami political action committee.

The ads coincide with Miami-Dade’s first public budget hearing, which will take place at 5:01 p.m. Thursday in commission chambers at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center, 111 NW First St.

Voters have long complained they were deceived by the transit tax — and county leaders acknowledge they over-promised to get the measure passed. Voters approved the 2002 half-cent tax after they were promised a massive Metrorail expansion. But once county leaders got the money, they used much of it to fix budget deficits within the transportation department. The Metrorail expansion never happened.

Suarez, who has suggested he may run for mayor next year, may stir up some public anger with his new commercials. He may also raise his public profile just before launching a mayoral bid.

More here

New ad from utility-backed group opposing solar power amendment

Consumers for Smart Solar, a utility-backed group opposing a constitutional amendment to stop regulations of some solar energy providers, on Thursday released an online ad attacking the amendment's supporters.

Called "Fine Print," it echoes many of the arguments utility companies made in the Supreme Court on Tuesday when they urged the justices to deny the group Floridians for Solar Choice access to the ballot in November. The ad walks through the language on the ballot initiative, which would prevent state and local governments from regulating a "local solar provider" -- a company that puts solar panels on someone's roof and then sells that power to them and their neighbors -- as a traditional utility company.

"This is ridiculous. Shady solar contractors would become constitutionally immune to state or local consumer protection laws?" the ad says. "They could price gauge, make false promises, overcharge or outright scam consumers?"

Supporters of the amendment, of course, disagree. They say the utility companies have an unfair monopoly over all energy production and that more competition in the market will encourage solar energy and lead to lower prices for consumers.

Here's the Consumers for Smart Solar ad, in full. The group has been funded largely by utility companies, including Duke Energy, Tampa Electric Company, Gulf Power Company and Florida Power and Light, as well as Chamber of Commerce groups.

Floridians for Solar Choice released a new online campaign earlier this week, as well, funded largely by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a group that doesn't make its donors public because it fears they will face retribution or harassment from utility companies. We mentioned this ad in an earlier post, but it wasn't yet on YouTube for us to link to.