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August 16, 2017

Ex-Miami-Dade elections worker will get house arrest for voter fraud

via @DavidOvalle305

Everybody agreed: When Gladys Coego covertly filled in other people’s absentee ballots while working at the Miami-Dade elections headquarters, she chipped away at the integrity of the voting system.

But at 74 years old, Coego is elderly, diabetic and depressed, her relatives told a judge on Wednesday.

She had no previous criminal record. And nobody – not detectives, prosecutors and or even Coego herself – could say why she filled in the ballots. She had no known ties to any campaign, there was no evidence anyone paid her and she illegally filled only a few ballots before being spotted. Yet her small-time case led to bigly national headlines, coming as then-candidate Donald Trump railed about widespread national voter fraud.

“Emotionally, I am destroyed,” Coego said in Spanish. “I have no explanation for what I have done .... no one offered me anything in exchange for what I did.”

For those reasons, a Miami-Dade judge on Wednesday declined to sentenced Coego to jail, instead ordering her to serve two years of house arrest, plus three years of probation. 

Circuit Judge Alberto Milián acknowledged “there is a perception in this community that there is a lack of integrity in the election process, especially in the issue of absentee ballots.”

“This appears to be an isolated incident,” Milián said, adding: “I don't want to make this defendant a poster child or scapegoat for the perceived inequities of the system.”

More here.

Worried about vandalism, police are watching a Confederate monument at Florida's Capitol

Capitol confederate monument 4


After violent white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend prompted a national conversation about public symbols of the Confederacy, law enforcement in charge of the Florida Capitol took preventative steps to watch over one very prominent symbol right in downtown Tallahassee.

A monument honoring slain Confederate soldiers — described as a “Civil War marble obelisk” by the state Department of Management Services, which oversees the Capitol Complex — sits in a lawn in front of the Old Capitol along Monroe Street, a main thoroughfare in Florida's capital city.

Wednesday afternoon, an unmanned patrol car was parked on the public sidewalk near the monument, which isn't a common sight.

FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger told the Herald/Times that Capitol Police made the decision as a deterrent “to prevent vandalism” in the wake of “a national event.”

The monument is easy to overlook as one associated with the Confederacy because it does not specifically reference it.

It reads: “To rescue from oblivion and perpetuate in the memory of succeeding generations the heroic patriotism of the men of Leon County who perished in the Civil War of 1861-1865, this monument is raised by their country women.”

Florida fought on the side of the Confederacy after state leaders voted to secede from the Union in January 1861.

Photo credit: Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times

Governor and Cabinet approve scaled back plan on Venezuela investments after Goldman Sachs' visit

Nicolas MaduroGov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet unanimously voted Wednesday to continue to refrain from allowing state investment managers to use Florida funds to invest in companies controlled by the Nicolás Maduro regime or companies that violate federal law by doing business in Venezuela.

The state currently has no direct investment with the government of Venezuela and the proposal will continue that, but the resolution falls short of a plan initially pitched by Scott that would have required the state to divest its assets in companies that do business with the Maduro regime, including Goldman Sachs.

Instead, the mostly symbolic measure is designed to send a message to the emerging dictatorship that Florida will not sanction the regime’s brutality. Story here. 

Scott says 'there's no moral equivalency between the two sides' in reference to Trump's comments

Rick Scott profile glassesGov. Rick Scott on Wednesday repeated his condemnation of the actions in Charlottesville and indirectly contradicted President Donald Trump, who said Tuesday the people protesting the white supremacists were members of the "alt-left" and also deserved blame.

"I watched what happened on Saturday and it's disgusting,'' Scott told reporters after the August Cabinet meeting at the state Capitol Wednesday. "It's evil. There's no place in our country for racism, bigotry, the KKK, neonazis, white supremacists. There's no moral equivalency between the two sides.

"Let's remember what happened on Saturday: a white supremacist murdered a young women -- about the same age as my daughter,'' he said. "19 individuals were harmed.

"I served in the Navy. My dad served in the second World War. I didn't serve to defend neo-Nazis. I've met and recognized Holocaust survivors in this state. This state is a state where people work together. I urge all political leaders -- at the state and local and federal level, including the president -- to focus on unity, how do we come together, how do we create more love and less hate. We've got to eliminate the divisiveness in our country."

But when it came to directly criticizing Trump, Scott refrained and repeated his talking points. 

"If you want to ask Pres. Trump what he said, you can ask him but I'm telling you right now I don't believe in racism. I don't believe in bigotry. What happened in Charlottesville was evil. There's no moral equivalency between the two sides. A young lady was murdered. We lost two law enforcement officers. Every elected official needs to figure out how to bring our country together." 





In Florida senate race, Democrats mislead in attack on GOP candidate and Trump's Obamacare repeal plan



Florida Democrats are trying to attach President Donald Trump to the Republican in a Miami state Senate race seen as a crucial battleground.

Millions of dollars are expected to be spent on the race between former Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Democrat Annette Taddeo for Senate District 40. The Sept. 26 special election was called to replace Sen. Frank Artiles, who resigned after using sexist and racist language.

The Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the state Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, released a new TV ad featuring Taddeo. It links Diaz to Trump’s support for repealing Obamacare — using a photo of Diaz and Trump together at the inauguration as more proof of their lockstep bond.

"Jose Felix Diaz supports Trump's every move including his plan to slash Medicare, charge older Americans an age tax and cut coverage for pre-existing conditions," states the ad.

The ad is referencing Trump’s plan to repeal Obamacare and is a nod to efforts in the U.S. House and Senate to repeal and replace the law.

Diaz was a consistent vote against the Affordable Care Act as a statehouse member, even though his actions could not influence the federal law. But the ad exaggerates the support Diaz lent to the U.S. House and Senate legislation this year. He has mostly been quiet on the issue.

More here from PolitiFact Florida.

Pam Bondi: President Trump 'needed to state the organizations'

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a strong supporter of President Donald J. Trump, said Wednesday he was not specific enough in his initial reaction to last Saturday's violent car attack by a driver in Charlottesville, Va., that killed a woman who was protesting white supremacists.

Bondi said Trump's widely-criticized statement decrying violence "on many sides" was "kind of a catch-all," and she said: "I think he needed to state the organizations, and he did." Trump did, two days later. He cited the groups by name in a prepared statement Monday and called them "criminals and thugs."

Speaking to reporters after Wednesday's Cabinet meeting, Bondi said she preferred the initial response by Trump's daughter Ivanka to the attack, in which she tweeted: "There should be no FullSizeRender (21) place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis."

Bondi noted that her office announced that it secured jury convictions in Lake City of two Ku Klux Klan members, both of them former state prison guards, for conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in plotting to kill a former inmate who is African-American. "Racism is alive and thriving in our state and it will not be tolerated," Bondi said.

At least four times, Capitol reporters attempted to get Bondi to comment on the president's response to the attack, in which he first placed blame "on many sides, on many sides." After trying to walk back that statement, Trump on Tuesday appeared to lay equal blame on both sides.

"I haven't talked to the president since then, so you're going to have to ask him about those comments," said Bondi, who gave a prime-time speech for Trump at last year's GOP convention and who for a time was under consideration for a White House job.

Asked a second time, she said: "I don't know what he (Trump) meant by 'many sides.' I haven't talked to him." Asked a third time, Bondi said: "He's his own man .... Until I talk to him, I'm not going to comment." 

She added: "The KKK, the white supremacists, neo-Nazis, David Duke will not be tolerated in the state of Florida, nor their actions. It's sickening to me that groups like this are still thriving in our state and our country and our world."

Bondi, a Republican and the state's chief legal officer, also said University of Florida President Kent Fuchs made the right decision in cancelling a planned Sept. 12 speech by white nationalist leader Richard Spencer at the Gainesville campus. "The First Amendment cannot overpower the potential violence that could be done to college students."

Latvala launches campaign in Hialeah, fielding questions on Charlottesville


Jack Latvala, Florida’s newest Republican candidate for governor, struggled Wednesday to fully blame the deadly violence that took place during a Charlottesville rally over the weekend on white supremacists.

Latvala formally launched his 2018 bid in Hialeah with a moment of silence for the 32-year-old woman and two state troopers who died in Virginia. But he later declined to lay all responsibility for their deaths on the racist neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan groups that staged two days of demonstrations.

“I wasn’t there,” Latvala, a state senator from Clearwater, told reporters. “I condemn all violence of people that are protesting. If people are peacefully exercising their rights — whether they be, you know, white supremacists, or whether they be Black Lives Matter folks — you know, they have a right to demonstrate without having a mob attack them.”

The three dead were “innocent,” he said. Pressed on whether he was equating neo-Nazis with the Black Lives Matter activists, Latvala added: “No, I’m not supporting Nazis.”

Latvala also said he did not see President Donald Trump’s extraordinary news conference Tuesday in which the president appeared to put white supremacists and those who protested them on the same moral plane. 

“I’ve been focused on what Jack Latvala’s doing. I don’t know what you’re even talking about,” he said. “I denounced [white supremacists] and all of us — Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, all of us that look at these things responsibly — denounced it. So, specifically what he said yesterday, I can’t comment unless I saw it.”

Latvala’s Charlottesville exchange with reporters came moments after a campaign-launch speech in which he portrayed himself as the straight-talk candidate.

More here.

Photo credit: Scott Keeler, Tampa Bay Times

UF rejects white nationalist's request to speak on campus

President Fuchs  2016@harrisalexc

The University of Florida denied so-called “alt-right” leader Richard Spencer’s request to speak on campus in September, citing “serious concerns for safety.”

The university decided against allowing Spencer, who led the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville that erupted in violence and ended with the death of a young woman, to speak on campus after the unrest in Virginia, as well as posts on internet forums like reddit and 4chan that claimed Florida was “the next battlefield.”

“I find the racist rhetoric of Richard Spencer and white nationalism repugnant and counter to everything the university and this nation stands for,” UF President Kent Fuchs posted in a letter to students, adding that the university is still “unwaveringly dedicated to free speech.”

“However, the First Amendment does not require a public institution to risk imminent violence to students and others,” Fuchs continued. “The likelihood of violence and potential injury — not the words or ideas — has caused us to take this action.”

More here.


Rick Scott contacts National Guard as Richard Spencer's UF speech nears


via @ByTierraSmith

Gov. Rick Scott said in Tampa today that he has reached out to the heads of the National Guard and the Florida Department of Highway Safety in anticipation of next month's speech at the University of Florida by Richard Spencer, the white nationalist who organized this weekend's rallies at Charlottesville, Va.

"I want to make sure everyone is safe," Scott told reporters.

Scott said he also spoke with UF President Kent Fuchs this weekend.

"Whether it's the KKK, neo-Nazis or white supremacists, it is evil," Scott said. "It doesn't belong in our society."

Asked if there were any laws or regulations that would allow Spencer to speak, Scott spoke about a delicate balance.

"We have the First Amendment," Scott said. "But we don't condone violence. My job as governor is to make sure we stay safe."


Photo credit: Chris Urso | Tampa Bay Times

NRCC goes after Wasserman Schultz on fired IT staffer


National Republicans have one of their favorite foes -- Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston -- in their sights again.

The National Republican Congressional Committee debuted a web video Wednesday, backed by a five-figure ad buy, criticizing Wasserman Schultz for not firing former House IT staffer Imran Awan until after he was arrested at Dulles International Airport month and charged with bank fraud.

The spot starts with an illustration of a police-car chase.

"Scandals, lies and corruption," the narrator intones. "That's Debbie Wasserman Schultz."

Other congressional Democrats had cut Awan loose in February, accusing him of stealing computers and data systems. But Wasserman Schultz kept him on, saying recently she was concerned his due-process rights might have been infringed if he'd been let go over a technicality. She has since drawn a challenger to her solidly Democratic Broward County district.

Wasserman Schultz resigned as Democratic National Committee chairwoman a year ago after Wikileaks published thousands of emails showing the party appeared to favor Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.

"As usual, instead of taking responsibility, she made an abundance of excuses and doubled down," NRCC Communications Director Matt Gorman said in a statement. "As long as Florida has Debbie Wasserman Schultz, they'll have to deal with the scandals that follow her around."

Adam Putnam: Fight the hatred, but those statues should stay

MONTICELLO -- Republican candidate for governor Adam Putnam told party activists Tuesday night that the violence by white supremacists in Charlottesville last weekend "is just awful. And it's hate and it's violent and it's dark, and it's got no place in our society and all of us ought to stand up together and say we're just not going to do that. That's not welcome in our society, that type of white supremacy and hatred and just going after each other."

The agriculture commissioner spoke at a Reagan Day barbecue to members of Leon and Jefferson county Republican parties. While he condemned the acts of those in Virginia, he stopped well short of calling for the removal of Confederate monuments in Florida and in other southern states.

"We need to be learning from that process, not just eradicating it from memory," Putnam told the crowd. "We ought to be focused more on eradicating hate today than eradicating yesteryear's history ... Are we going to have to rename Jefferson County? Are we going to have to rename Washington County? Rename Jackson County? Where does it end?"

"No," Putnam said, answering his own question. "That's not the lessons for our kids. The lesson for our kids is you better know your history or you're doomed to repeat it." He said future children should watch video of helpless victims jumping out of the World Trade Center to escape flames during the 9/11 attacks.

In the aftermath of Saturday's shocking events in Virginia, when a man rammed through a crowd of counter-demonstrators in his car, killing a woman, Putnam's initial tweet said: "Hate is not welcome in this country and it will not be tolerated."

About 150 people endured stifling humidity at the barbecue, where another prospective candidate for governor, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, took part in the state GOP giving $7,000 to the Jefferson County Republican Party. Speaking with reporters, Corcoran said it was wrong to criticize President Donald J. Trump's choice of words in his initial reaction to the events, when he criticized violence "on many sides."

Said Corcoran: "I think the scrutiny on that is wholly unnecessary ... Focusing on the missing one word in an initial statement when I think it's patently clear from the administration that this was an atrocity, it was evil, and it was evil because of those by name -- neo-Nazis, white supremacists, that they named -- it's all addressed." 

Corcoran has said he may run for governor, but he won't make a final decision until next March, when the 2018 legislative session is scheduled to end.

August 15, 2017

Poor communication led to chaos during Fort Lauderdale airport shooting, report says


@amysherman1 @chabelih

Officers responding to a mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in January failed to coordinate and communicate effectively in the aftermath of the incident, causing havoc at the airport, according to a new report.

On Tuesday, Broward County released a report by a consultant who examined the response by law enforcement, airport and county workers to the Jan. 6 mass shooting that left five people dead and stranded about 12,000 people at the airport for several hours.

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, county officials including airport director Mark Gale defended their response to the shooting while also agreeing with recommendations for security improvements outlined in the report.

“Some will take weeks, some will take months, some will take longer but we intend to stay vigilant until all of these recommendations have been addressed,” he said.

More here.

Republicans again denounce Trump after he again accuses 'both sides' of violence in Charlottesville


Check out Miami Republicans' tweets from Saturday and now, again, from Tuesday, in response to President Donald Trump's insistence that "both sides" -- and not just white supremacists and neo-Nazis -- were to blame for violence over the weekend Charlottesville. The three lawmakers are Hispanic.

Continue reading "Republicans again denounce Trump after he again accuses 'both sides' of violence in Charlottesville" »

Curbelo: After Charlottesville, Trump should marginalize Bannon, Miller


President Donald Trump should stop listening to two top White House aides who want to "accommodate" white nationalist groups, Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo said after the weekend's deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Curbelo did not go as far as to call for Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist and senior counselor, and Stephen Miller, Trump's senior adviser for policy, to be fired. But he told CNN the two men should be "marginalized," and the president should give more weight to other advisers, such as new Chief of Staff John Kelly.

"'Alt-right' is about white nationalism. It's about racism. It is about dividing this country," Curbelo said on CNN's "Out Front" with Erin Burnett on Monday. "And regrettably, there are members of the president's staff who at least believe that this movement should be accommodated."

Curbelo named Bannon and Miller and blamed them for Trump's initial "lack of clarity" in his response to the Charlottesville clashes.

"I'm not saying these people are racists," Curbelo said. "I'm not saying they want to advance a racist agenda. But it is pretty clear they think these people should be accommodated." 

Curbelo was one of many Republicans to slam Trump for failing to forcefully denounce white supremacists Saturday. Trump only did so, with apparent reluctance, on Monday.

"Better late than never," Curbelo told CNN. "I'm glad the president came out and called evil by name." But he said he remained "concerned with that glaring omission from Saturday."

"He needs to take steps to make sure things like this never happen again," Curbelo said.

On Wednesday, Trump went back to blaming the violence on "both sides:" neo-Nazis and white supremacists and racists but also their counter-protesters.

He left Bannon's future in question.

"He is not a racist, I can tell you that," Trump told reporters. "We'll see what happens with Mr. Bannon. But he's a good person" who gets treated "unfairly" by the press, he said.

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen began calling for Bannon's ouster in April.

Wasserman Schultz: Florida lawmakers should hold special session, replace Confederate statue

@ByKristenMClark Confederate Statue Florida

As monuments celebrating the Confederacy face renewed scrutiny nationwide in the wake of a violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants Florida lawmakers to meet in special session this fall to replace the statue of a Confederate general that still represents the Sunshine State in the U.S. Capitol.

State lawmakers already voted 18 months ago to remove the statue of Edmund Kirby Smith from the National Statuary Hall after lengthy and contentious debates in Tallahassee. But Smith’s statue remains in the U.S. Capitol because state lawmakers failed during the 2017 session to agree on whom to replace him with when one committee chairman blocked a proposal.

“It’s time to stop playing games,” Wasserman Schultz, a Broward County Democrat, said in a statement Tuesday. “No family visiting our nation’s Capitol should have to explain to their child that the statue representing our state honors someone who fought for a philosophy built on hatred and oppression.”

“Governor [Rick] Scott and the Florida Legislature must take immediate action by calling a one-day special session,” she said.

Full story here.

Photo credit: AP

Curbelo heads to Reagan Ranch in California to make tax-reform pitch

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Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo is headed to a storied site for Republicans -- former President Ronald Reagan's California ranch -- to help the House GOP make its tax-reform pitch.

Curbelo will join Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas and other lawmakers at Rancho del Cielo in Santa Barbara on Wednesday. Brady chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax policy. Curbelo is the only South Florida legislator on the panel -- which makes him the most prominent local voice on the issue.

It's not the sexiest of political topics, Curbelo readily acknowledges: "It's easy for this issue to become a technical issue."

Republicans intend to return from their August congressional recess and push tax reform, moving on from their failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. A super PAC tied to House Speaker Paul Ryan is already running ads in Curbelo's district urging a tax-code rewrite. His votes will be closely watched by Democrats, who consider Curbelo's Westchester-to-Key West 26th district a top 2018 target.

The most contentious tax question for Republicans so far has been whether to support a 20 percent tax on imports into the country -- the so-called Border Adjustment Tax. Ads have asked Curbelo to oppose it.

Curbelo said tax reform already taken up most of his time in Washington this year, in part because he's had to master the complexities of tax policy.

"Most of what I knew about taxes was how to file them," he said.

Since then, he's tried to simplify the issue by filming YouTube videos in English and Spanish outside a Miami coffee window -- a ventanita. His line? "Tax reform is about people."

Wednesday's event is intended to recall tax reform passed under Reagan, the last major overhaul of the code. Curbelo's piece will be proposing more targeted child tax credits and a larger standard deduction, two changes the GOP says will save families money. Curbelo has also filed legislation to permanently extend IRS tax-prep services for low-income filers, and and to allow marijuana businesses to benefit from tax deductions and credits.

Ahead of Wednesday's talk, Curbelo tried to frame the discussion as a big-picture economic question.

"I actually look at a lot of the pessimism and anger and even some of the violence in our country, and I attribute at least part of it to the fact that we've been growing at a very slow rate for the last decade-plus," he said. "People are hopeless. A lot of people feel like they don't have the opportunities, or have a prosperous future in this country, so they are resentful and they look for scapegoats."

"My big goal in tax reform is to make people happy in this country," he said. "I think we achieve that by getting to 3 percent growth through tax reform and tax simplification and tax reduction."

Photo credit: José A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

Senate President Joe Negron shakes up power structure for 2018

NegronBousquetSenate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, shook up the Senate power structure in a big and unexpected way Tuesday, stripping some veteran Republicans of their committee assignments and rewarding others with new, high-profile assignments.

Negron told the Herald/Times on Tuesday that with 20 freshmen in the 40-member Senate, he felt it was important to redistribute influence.   

"In an era of term limits, I believe it's important for each senator to be considered for additional opportunities to participate in the committee process," Negron said.

Nine Senate committees will have new leaders, including five of the seven budget subcommittees.

Negron removed Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, from his chairmanship of a Senate budget subcommittee for pre-K-12 education. Simmons' replacement in both positions is first-term Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, who like Simmons is an attorney.

Negron moved Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg from the Senate budget subcommittee on transportation and economic development to the panel that oversees civil and criminal justice, including the state prison system, courts, prosecutors and public defenders. In his new role, Brandes replaces Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, who lost that chairmanship but is now head of a Senate panel on utilities that was led by former Sen. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, who resigned in April.

The complete Senate committee reorganization can be found here.

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, replaces Brandes as "TED" appropriations chairman, putting him in charge of nearly one-fourth of the state budget, including all road projects and the state highway safety agency.

Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, will replace Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Grimsley is a candidate to replace Adam Putnam as agriculture commissioner.

Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, acknowledged that while it is not common for Senate presidents to re-shuffle the committee chair line-up in mid-term, there also haven't been 20 freshman senators. She said the changes are a reflection of people indicating they have interests or strengths in previous areas and who's best suited on different policy issues."

"You've got to look at Joe Negron as a person,'' she said. "He's methodical and fair on policy -- and not vindictive." 

Flores said it would be wrong for people to view Simmons' removal from the pre-K-12 Appropriations subcommittee as retaliation for his opposition to HB 7069. "That bill would have had the same result if it were held today,- unless there is a change in Senate District 40,'' she said, referring to the open seat of Sen. Frank Artiles being sought by Miami Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Democrat Annette Taddeo. 

Like Flores, Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, saw no change in his assignments. Three Tampa Bay Republicans -- Jack Latvala of Clearwater, Tom Lee of Thonotosassa and Dana Young -- also saw no changes.



House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, also plans to announce a shakeup in House committee assignments. Under legislative rules, House assignments are for one year and Senate assignments are for two years.     

Broward commissioners to review airport security report behind closed doors



Broward County Commissioners will hold a closed-door meeting Tuesday review a consultant's report about the Jan. 6 mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport but it is unclear when the report will be released to the public.

County commissioners will hold a shade meeting at 10 a.m. to discuss the report followed by a news conference at 2 p.m. where county, airport and law enforcement officials will discuss the report prepared by consultant Ross & Baruzzini for Broward County’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL). Under Florida's Sunshine law, the county can meet in private to discuss security at county facilities.

"The report is currently under review by Federal Authorities," airport spokesman Greg Meyer said. "We are hopeful that they will give us approval to release it in advance of the news conference."

A separate draft report by the Broward Sheriff's Office found poor communication by BSO and the Broward County Aviation Department, along with other mistakes, contributed to the chaos which left 12,000 passengers trapped in the airport for several hours. County officials disputed some of the allegations in the report.

The consultant's report is expected to include security recommendations which commissioners can use when they set the annual budget in September. Broward Sheriff Scott Israel is expected to join Mayor Barbara Sharief and airport director Mark Gale at the press conference.

Law enforcement apprehended Esteban Santiago in less than two minutes, but more chaos occurred about 90 minutes later amid a false report about another shooting. 

Santiago faces trial in January.





State: Each school district must review teachers' eligibility for 'Best & Brightest' bonuses

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The Florida Department of Education says it will be up to each of the state's 67 county school districts to determine which of their local teachers is eligible for the state "Best and Brightest" bonus program that lawmakers revamped as part of a massive education law that took effect this summer.

Hershel Lyons, Florida's chancellor of public schools, issued guidance to school district superintendents through a two-page memo last week that details how the revised and expanded program should be implemented. It's the latest in a trickle of memos from the DOE that explain how school districts should make sure they comply with the plethora of new education policy in House Bill 7069.

In addition to the original "Best and Brightest" bonus that was first enacted two years ago and is based on teachers' own SAT/ACT scores, HB 7069 calls for top teachers to also get extra money each year for simply being evaluated as "effective" or "highly effective."

All "highly effective" teachers will now get $1,200 bonuses, while "effective" teachers can get "up to $800," under the new law.

RELATED: "Lots of questions but few answers on how to make state’s new education policy work"

"Highly effective" teachers can also still receive bonuses of $6,000 if they can show they scored in the 80th percentile or above when they took the SAT or ACT -- either in high school or more recently, if they choose to retake the exam. (A change to the program that reduces that threshold to the 77th percentile and makes it easier for teachers to qualify using other exams and criteria does not take effect until the 2020-2021 school year.)

"Each scholarship has its own eligibility requirements that districts must review and administer locally," Lyons wrote to the districts on Aug. 11.

Teachers seeking the $6,000 have until Nov. 1 to submit their SAT/ACT score report to their local school district, Lyons wrote. Then by Dec. 1, each district must tell the DOE how many classroom teachers they have eligible for the "Best and Brightest" awards.

Lyons said the DOE will disburse the award dollars to districts by Feb. 1, so that eligible teachers can receive their bonuses on April 1, 2018.

The expanded "Best and Brightest" program also includes new bonuses for top principals, but guidance on how that will be implemented isn't available yet. "Information regarding the Best and Brightest Principal Scholarship Program will be sent in the near future," Lyons wrote.

Neither Lyons' memo nor other guidance to date from the DOE has addressed a concern raised by Miami-Dade schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho relating to how teachers' evaluations should be calculated under the new law -- an issue that, Carvalho said, could effect whether teachers know if they are eligible for the bonuses.

Another part of HB 7069 eliminated a state mandate requiring teachers to be evaluated based on a state-approved formula known as the "value-added model," or VAM, but state law still requires teachers' evaluations to factor in student performance. “So if not VAM, then what?” Carvalho asked last month, noting teachers' final evaluations could be delayed in the interim.

House Republicans -- who have fought for the bonus program since lawmakers first enacted it through the 2015-16 state budget -- say "Best and Brightest" is a way to reward good teachers, but the program has been heavily criticized by teachers' unions and other groups.

Critics argue a one-time bonus -- even annually -- isn't as good as an actual and permanent bump in salary, which they say would benefit teachers more. They've also complained about tying the bonus to teachers' SAT/ACT results, saying a teacher's performance on a single exam isn't an indicator of one's ability to be an effective teacher.

Photo credit: Miami Herald file photo

August 14, 2017

Sen. Al Franken to appear at Miami book fair

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via @ogleconnie

Former Vice President Joe Biden isn’t the only famous political name on this year’s list of Miami Book Fair authors.

The fair, which opens Nov. 12 with journalist Dan Rather, has announced that Sen. Al Franken will close out the fair on Nov. 19 to talk about his book “Giant of the Senate.”

Also appearing are Barbara Pierce Bush and Jenna Bush Hager — you know them as the Bush twins, daughters of former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura Bush — to discuss their joint memoir “Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life.”

The fair takes place at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson campus in downtown Miami. But Biden, who will talk about his book “Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose,” will appear Nov. 18 in partnership with the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

More here.