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12 posts from June 10, 2014

June 10, 2014

With Eric Cantor's shocking defeat, immigration reform all but dies in US House this year


The No. 2 Republican in the U.S. House is a goner.

And amid the ashes of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s shocking defeat Tuesday night, comprehensive immigration reform smolders.

This is not to say that immigration reform would have passed this year if the Virginia Republican had not been the first House majority leader to lose since 1899. Immigration reform was already endangered in 2014.

But Cantor’s defeat to tea partyer David Brat was so intertwined with immigration — “amnesty” and “illegal aliens” — that the few fence-sitters in the GOP-led House are going to flock back to the politically right side of the divide.

Regardless of polls showing comprehensive immigration reform is popular nationwide and even in Cantor’s district, Brat’s win and Cantor’s loss is now a powerful symbol, a rallying cry.

That matters in politics.

“Is it absolutely devastating? I don’t know,” said U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican who for years has tried to get his party to tackle the issue.

Full story here

Battle lines intensify in marijuana debate

The battle over medical marijuana in Florida officially lit up Tuesday when a state sheriff’s association launched an “education” campaign to oppose it, two polls show the proposal remains widely popular,  and an out-of-state casino magnate cut a $2.5 million check bankrolling the opposition effort.

The $2.5 million contribution by Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Las Vegas Sands casino empire and a heavy contributor to Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election effort, not only juices the anti-marijuana movement, it effectively brings the medical marijuana debate into the governor’s race.

The largest proponent of the amendment so far has been John Morgan, the Orlando trial lawyer and chief supporter of Scott’s Democratic rival, Charlie Crist.

Morgan, a Democrat also employs Crist at his law firm, spent $4 million bankrolling United For Care, the petition-initiative that brought the constitutional amendment to the November ballot. He has vowed to spend more to get the 60 percent majority needed for it to become law.

Many Democrats believe the amendment will drive sympathetic voters to the polls in support of Crist. While a newly-formed group backed by Adelson, the Drug Free Florida Committee, was started by long-time GOP fundraiser Mel Sembler and his wife Betty. It has raised $2.7 million so far and its top donors have been primarily Republicans.

Continue reading "Battle lines intensify in marijuana debate" »

U.S. Rep. Brown blasts Gov. Scott over VA lawsuit

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, blasted Republican Gov. Rick Scott Tuesday for his decision to sue the Veterans Administration in an effort to get state health care inspectors into federal veterans' hospitals. She said Scott's "unprecedented" action "could be a violation of the law."

Referring to the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), which runs Florida's Medicaid program, Brown reminded Scott that Florida has refused to expand its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. She wrote: "Ironically, the same agency you directed to make these unauthorized visits, purportedly out of a concern for the quality of health care being provided to our veterans, has failed to provide health services to 900,000 deserving Floridians."

State health officials made surprise visits to Florida's six VA hospitals and other VA-operated facilities in April and May and were blocked from entering each time, The Associated Press reported. VA officials told state officials that federal facilities aren't subject to state laws.

"The VA's refusal to permit any such inspection or respond to FOIA public records requests, in the face of an ever-growing body of consumer complaint evidence, has led AHCA to be reasonably concerned that the VA is failing the very population it is charged by Congress with protecting: America's veterans and their families," the state lawsuit said.

 "I would recommend that you and the state agencies you oversee focus on the many serious problems facing the citizens of Florida," Brown wrote.

Move over Scott and Crist, it's now Sheldon Adelson v. John Morgan

Want proof that the Amendment 2/medical marijuana campaign is also about the governor's race -- and maybe even the Indian gaming deal?

Take a look at the $2.5 million check cut on May 29 by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson to the campaign committee opposing Amendment 2, the ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in Florida for medical purposes. 

Adelson, owner of the Las Vegas Sands gambling empire, had been a huge contributor to the campaign of Gov. Rick Scott until the governor started negotiating the gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe earlier this year. Because the governor wanted to avoid signing a controversial bill in this delicate re-election year, the compact talks allowed the governor to ask legislators to effectively put a halt to the gaming rewrite proposed by legislators this past legislative session. That, in turn, led to rumors that Adelson was prepared to abandon efforts to bring a destination resort to Florida. 

But Adelson's contribution to the anti-marijuana group is a sign that he's maybe having second thoughts about pulling out of Florida. The group, the Drug Free Florida Committee, was started by long-time GOP fundraiser Mel Sembler and his wife Betty. The big donors are all Republicans -- Sembler $100,000, Jenkins family (of Publix) $100,000 and Neal Communities $100,000 -- and now Adelson.

Promoting the issue is big time Crist supporter John Morgan, a Democrat and Orlando trial lawyer who has financed much of the proponent's $3.1 million campaign. He promises to spend more. 

Continue reading "Move over Scott and Crist, it's now Sheldon Adelson v. John Morgan " »

UPDATED Miami takes downtown waterfront site off table for MLS stadium


Less than a month after Miami-Dade County spurned a Major League Soccer stadium, the city of Miami did the same, telling David Beckham’s investment group Tuesday that he cannot build on downtown’s Museum Park and deep-water boat slip.

Mayor Tomás Regalado and City Manager Daniel Alfonso told Beckham’s group thanks but no thanks when lead negotiator John Alschuler offered Miami $2 million a year in rent of sorts to make a deal.

That was “generous,” according to Alfonso, but neither he nor the mayor walked into the meeting with Alschuler intending to bargain. “Given the uniqueness of this site, we agreed that this was just not the right place,” Alfonso said.

“The slip is off the table,” Regalado said.

Alschuler, Beckham’s real-estate adviser, said the group plans to take some time to consider its remaining options in light of the sudden setback.

“Our team’s going to pause,” he said. “They’re going to consider all alternatives and look forward to constructive engagement.”

More here.

Bipartisan poll: medical marijuana at 70% among FL likely voters


Seven in 10 likely Florida voters support a proposed constitutional amendment for medical marijuana -- outsized support that has remained relatively constant for more than a year, according to a new bipartisan survey.

“This support is broad-based and spans the electorate regardless of partisan, regional, or racial lines,” pollsters Anzalone Liszt Grove Research/Public Opinion Strategies wrote in an analysis of the survey, which was conducted for the amendment's backers, United for Care.

“Strong majorities support medical marijuana across media markets, regardless of whether they live in North, Central, or South Florida,” the pollsters wrote. Anazalone polls for Democrat Charlie Crist and President Obama; POS has surveyed extensively for the Republican Party of Florida and GOP candidates.

The United for Care poll jibes with others taken over the past year, including a Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday that shows the Florida amendment would garner about 66 percent support.

Continue reading "Bipartisan poll: medical marijuana at 70% among FL likely voters" »

WFLA/SurveyUSA poll: Crist retakes lead, beating Scott 44-40. Huh?


File this one under the category labeled "what?"

Somehow, Democrat Charlie Crist has retaken the lead over Gov. Rick Scott in the latest SurveyUSA poll for Tampa's WFLA NBC affiliate.

Here's what makes Crist's 44-40 percent advantage over Scott odd: the same pollster two weeks ago released a survey showing Crist down 40-42 to Scott, an inside-the-error-margin lead for the Republican just as Crist's lead is inside the margin. And that result, considering other polling like today's PPP survey, made sense because Scott is spending millions on TV already (about $12 million in 12 weeks by now). Crist has spent nothing.

TV ads move the electorate. No TV ads usually don't. 

Even Crist's spokesman, Kevin Cate, seemed puzzled -- or amused -- with the cumulative 6 percentage-point shift.

"Must be all of our $0 on TV vs. RS's $15 mil," Cate said via Twitter.

This could be a one-off, a statistical blip or an inside-the-error margin shift (Crist's lead is still within the MOE). It's definitely odd.

WFLA and SurveyUSA haven't yet posted their crosstabs, so it's not clear where the partisan shifting is occuring, although WFLA reports that Crist is running strong in South Florida. But that's no surprise. It's a Democratic bastion.

Putting aside the inexplicable Crist jump, there's reason for Scott to be concerned with all of the recent polling. Despite the millions he has spent, he looks frozen at 42 to 45 percent support. In the SurveyUSA poll, Scott's numbers haven't budget. In the PPP survey, Scott was also at 42 percent. Yes, if you "unskew" the polls, Scott's numbers will nudge up.

But regardless, it's a sign that Scott has serious -- but not insurmountable -- problems.

Update: The headline had the wrong numbers. Perhaps it's a sign from above to post no more SurveyUSA polls.

On pot, plebiscite and power lines, politicians out of sync with Miami-Dade voters


Whether it’s a public vote for a Miami Dade College tax, pot for medical purposes or the controversy over new power lines, county voters are at odds with state politicians, a new Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald poll shows.

The most popular issue in the poll, conducted by Bendixen & Amandi International: whether voters should decide the fate of MDC’s push for a half-penny sales-tax increase over five years for renovation and expansion.

Nearly nine in 10 voters — 88 percent — said they should have the right to decide it, a level of support that cuts across every demographic line: race, ethnicity, party and age.

But don’t expect a vote any time soon.

Four state House members banded together in the last lawmaking session to prevent a vote, saying MDC is poor-mouthing to get taxpayers to fork over $1 billion for projects it can already pay for — accusations the college denies.

Rep. Jose Oliva, a Hialeah Republican who’s slated to lead the House in its 2019 session, said he’s not changing his mind.

“Once this gets let loose to referendum, they will raise all sorts of money. They will hire consultants. There will be radio, TV and phone-banking just like a campaign,” said Oliva.

“There is no one but us to advocate on behalf of the taxpayer,” he said. “And the problem I have with that is I would be derelict in my duties because one reason people elected me was so that I’m not taxing them if they do not need to be taxed. In this case, that is what I’m doing.”

Miami Dade College’s provost, Rolando Montoya, said in a written statement that the institution doesn’t have lots of money lying around, that it has been frugal with the money it has and that what appeared to be a large amount of money for various projects — $508 million — was restricted.

Montoya took a measure of comfort from the poll.

“The voters are the heartbeat of the democratic process,” he said. “That the future of MDC is viewed as important to the members of our community will always be greatly appreciated by all of us at the College.”

Story here

Crist raises $2 million in May: $1.6 million in big checks, thousands in small sums

Democrat Charlie Crist announced Tuesday he and his political committee raised more than $2 million in the month of May, bringing the campaign total to $12.6 million, his campaign reported. 

The campaign continues to make a distinction between the big bucks earned by his rival, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, by noting that the average contribution to the Crist campaign for the month was $102.92 as 4,915 people sent checks of under $100.

Here's the breakdown: 

Scott, by contrast, raised less than $50,000 in his political committee but announced the party $3.4 million in May while his political campaign raised $1 million 

Crist's political committee received its biggest checks this month $200,000 - from Chicago media mogul Fred Eyechaner and another from the West Palm Beach-based trial lawyers Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley. Most of Crist's other large contributions in May came from law firms.


Scott raises another million in May as party coffers grow

Gov. Rick Scott raised another cool million in the month of May. Meanwhile the party, which the governor raises money for and which gets the better ad rates, is raising more money than the governor's political committee, Lets' Get to Work. Here's the breakdown:

  • $3.54 million raised by Republican Party of Florida
  • $1.12 million raised by Rick Scott for Florida
  • $46,100 raised by Let’s Get To Work

Scott's biggest checks this cycle came from Ben Hill Griffin, Inc. of citrus growing fame which gave Lets' Get to Work $25,000. There is no way to determine how much of the Republican Party take was raised for House and Senate Republicans for their handful of competitive races. 

Crist, by contrast, raised $2 million in May with $1.6 million going to his political committee and more than $587,000 to his campaign.

The lastest numbers come as Public Policy Polling released a new poll that shows that Scott and Crist are now tied. Here's the release:

"Rick Scott's early negative advertising blitz against Charlie Crist has paid off in a big way. What was a 12 point lead for Crist over Scott last fall at 50/38 is now a tie race at 42% each, and the biggest thing that's changed over the last 8 months is how Floridians feel about Crist.

Continue reading "Scott raises another million in May as party coffers grow" »