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9 posts from August 3, 2014

August 03, 2014

Weatherford announces session but warns of disrupting election with new districts

In an email to House members and staff late Sunday, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, acknowledged that he and Senate President Don Gaetz have called members into session starting Thursday, Aug. 7 "for the sole and exclusive purpose of reapportioning Florida's Congressional Districts" but he warned of the problems of applying the changes to this year's elections. 

Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis on Friday ordered lawmakers to revise their congressional redistricting map to fix two districts he had previously ordered unconstitutional — those held by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden.

Lewis gave the Legislature until Aug. 15 to fix the map and said he was considering calling a special election after the Nov. 4 general election for the affected districts. He called for an Aug. 20 hearing to allow lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case, a group of voting organizations, and the defendants, the GOP-led Legislature, to present their arguments on what the court should decide.

"We continue to maintain our strong objection to any attempt to disrupt the current election process. Florida’s Supervisors of Elections have raised serious concerns over changing the elections process at this late date,'' Weatherford wrote.

"The NAACP also pointed out in their response to Judge Lewis that, “In a special election, get-out-the-vote infrastructure simply does not exist. Voters who face challenges to political participation – be it financial, job scheduling, transportation, or other impediments – will be irreparably harmed by conducting the election at a time where that infrastructure does not exist.”

Here's Weatherford's email: 

Continue reading "Weatherford announces session but warns of disrupting election with new districts" »

Legislators plan to return for redistricting session on Thursday

Facing an Aug. 15 deadline, Florida legislative leaders will announce Monday that they will bring lawmakers back for a week-long special session on Thursday, Aug. 7, to revise the congressional redistricting map declared invalid by a judge.

Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis on Friday ordered lawmakers to revise their congressional redistricting map to fix two districts he had previously ordered unconstitutional, those held by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville and Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden.

Lewis gave the Legislature until Aug. 15 to fix the map, an action that requires a special session of the Legislature and an abrupt halt to their summer vacations and primary campaigning.

Lewis also said he was considering calling a special election after Nov. 4 for the affected districts and he called for an Aug. 20 hearing to decide how to go forward.

The plan is to allow most of the legislature return to their districts after they convene for the opening session on Thursday. Only those legislators who are members of the House and Senate redistricting committees will stay to work out the details of the revised map. The full House and Senate will then return on Wednesday, Aug. 13 or Thursday, Aug. 14, to pass the final map before the deadline.

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said Senate leaders had advised him late Sunday that "we gavel in on Thursday."

In an email late Friday to Senate members and staff, Senate President Don Gaetz said they had not decided how to respond to Lewis' ruling but asked everyone to "keep and do not delete" all redistricting records in light of the pending litigation over congressional districts.

House deputy general counsel Steve Goodwin sent a similar email late Friday with the same directions to House members and staff. House members were informed in an email from House chief of staff Kathy Mears on Sunday that they will have an announcement about the legislative response on Monday.

In his July 10 ruling, Lewis concluded that Florida's legislative leaders destroyed documents and allowed political consultants to "make a mockery" of their self-described transparency in the redistricting process. He found that GOP political consultants conspired "to infuence and manipulate the Legislature into violation of its constitutional duty" under the Fair District amendments.

The Legislature has chosen not to appeal the ruling but had asked the wait until after the Nov. 4 elections to revise the map. Lewis rejected that argument but left open the possibility that the revised map will not be in place this election cycle.

There is no indication whether political consultants or the public will be allowed to provide input into the redistricting session this time but House and Senate leaders are now officially asking members not to destroy any records.

Gaetz's memo defines documents that must be preserved as "all records related to the enactment of new congressional districts, including copies of unfiled draft maps, unfiled draft bills and amendments, correspondence, emails, texts and other electronic communications related to the enactment of new congressional districts, whether sent or received on official Senate accounts or devices or personal email accounts or devices.”

 

On the defensive over climate change, Scott offers new focus: increase funds for environment

On the same day the Miami Herald reported that billionaire activist Tom Steyer is targeting GOP Gov. Rick Scott for his environmental record and position on climate change, the governor's campaign advanced word that on Monday  he is promising to increase the state's spending on the environment if he's given a second term.

From the Associated Press @Fineout

TALLLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida Gov. Rick Scott, caught in a tight campaign with his chief rival challenging his environmental record, has pledged if re-elected to spend millions more on everything from cleaning up springs to buying more lands for conservation.

Scott is scheduled to roll out a substantial environmental platform during campaign stops Monday in Martin County on Florida's east coast.

Several of the "Let's Keep Florida Beautiful" proposals Scott plans to announce represent a marked turn-around from his 2010 campaign when he pledged to slash government spending and tear away regulations that he said were harming the state's economy.

"Florida's natural beauty is a big reason why this is the best state in the country to call home," Scott said in a statement. "Our natural resources are the foundation of our economy - they drive tourism, housing, business, and agriculture - and they deserve our long-term commitment."

The Republican incumbent is vowing to dedicate $500 million to springs restoration over the next 10 years as well as $500 million over the same time period to help create alternative water supplies. He also wants to keep moving ahead with projects designed to steer excess and potentially polluted water from Lake Okeechobee away from the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.

Scott also plans to promise to spend $150 million a year for Florida Forever, the state's environmental and conservation land-buying programs. The state once spent as much as $300 million a year on the program before legislators enacted steep cutbacks amid Florida's souring economy.

The governor is also pledging to crack down on polluters during a second term by increasing the fines that can be assessed against "bad actors" who violate permit terms. Scott said he also wants to consider making it harder for some companies to secure permits if they have had a history of harming the environment. Similar proposals in the past have been blocked by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist has been vocal in his criticism of Scott's handling of the environment, especially over Scott's reluctance to espouse a firm opinion on climate change. The Scott campaign has pushed back by contending that Crist didn't do enough to help the Everglades or springs during his time in office.

Scott himself did not emphasize environmental issues during his 2010 run for governor and during his first campaign expressed skepticism about climate change. In the last two years he has directed more attention to issues such as water quality and Everglades restoration, but Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, said some of Scott's proposals marked a new direction for the governor.

"Florida has a history of governors with strong environmental records and Gov. Scott's proposal reflect a continuing shift in that direction," Draper said.

He added, "The proposed funds for Florida Forever, water supply and springs protection are in line with our expectations and build on the funds already put into the Everglades. The focus on water conservation and enforcement is new and grabs our attention."

Slapped for making a 'mockery' of transparency, House and Senate now order redistricting docs retained

After being pummeled by a harshly-worded court ruling that concluded Florida's legislative leaders destroyed documents and allowed political consultants to "make a mockery" of their self-described transparency in the redistricting process, legislative leaders are now taking precautions. 

In an email late Friday to Senate members and staff, Senate President Don Gaetz asked everyone to "keep and do not delete" all redistricting records in light of the pending litigation over congressional districts. In a similar email at the same time, House deputy general counsel Steve Godwin gave the same directions to House members and staff and highlighted the same words. 

The emails came hours after Lewis ordered lawmakers to revise their congressional redistricting map to fix two districts he had previously ordered unconstitutional. He said he was considering calling a special election after Nov. 4 for the affected districts and he called for an Aug. 20 hearing to decide how to go forward.  Download Romo.remedy-order.august-1-2014-1

Gaetz along with House Speaker Will Weatherford must decide whether to appeal the order, defy the court, or call lawmakers into session to revise the maps. He said legislators "have not made a decision how to proceed "but sent out the records retention notice just in case. Lewis in his July 10 ruling found that the "winning is everything" approach to political debate today contributed to the climate that allowed GOP political consultants to conspire "to infuence and manipulate the Legislature into violation of its constitutional duty" under the Fair District amendments.

Continue reading "Slapped for making a 'mockery' of transparency, House and Senate now order redistricting docs retained" »

Charlie Crist's lost summer

@MarcACaputo

Charlie Crist lost the summer.

The Democrat started his campaign in the fall with a bang, a double-digit lead in some polls. That margin has whimpered into a tie with Gov. Rick Scott, a result of the Republican’s mammoth ad campaign ($20 million since spring!).

But Democrats are privately grumbling that Crist, too, bears some blame. His campaign is buzzless to many Democrats.

Flat.

Meh.

Were it not for Scott’s self-inflicted wounds and likeability problems, Crist would look doomed right now and Democrats would be in full-blown panic mode at the beginning of August.

Instead they’re just nervous. Just like Republicans are about Scott.

“There’s worry,” says a top South Florida Democratic fundraiser and Crist supporter. “There’s not much excitement right now with Charlie.”

Blame three major missteps:

Column here

Miami Republicans jostle to go up against Rep. Joe Garcia

@PatriciaMazzei

The latest twist in the bizarre Republican race for Florida’s 26th congressional district came last week when some voters received automated phone calls from the candidate who’s supposedly no longer campaigning for the seat.

David Rivera’s recorded voice, older Hispanic voters reported, urged them to pick him and ignore “lies” in the news media.

Rivera emailed supporters last month to say he was suspending his campaign. But he never withdrew his candidacy, so his name still appears on the Aug. 26 primary ballot, along with those of Carlos Curbelo, Ed MacDougall, Joe Martinez and Lorenzo Palomares-Starbuck.

That raises the odd possibility that Rivera, 48, could win after running a stealth campaign — avoiding questions about the ongoing federal criminal investigation into his alleged involvement in an illegal 2012 campaign-finance scheme.

Rivera, who has denied wrongdoing, did not respond Friday to a request for comment.

His foray into the race was fitting for the Kendall-to-Key West district, which has been fertile ground for controversy.

More here.

Primary challenger says he more liberal than Congresswoman Frederica Wilson

@PatriciaMazzei

Even the man trying to unseat Congresswoman Frederica Wilson admits he faces no easy task.

“It’s going to be very, very difficult to defeat her,” said Michael Etienne, who is running in the Aug. 26 primary against Wilson, a Miami Gardens Democrat and one of South Florida’s best known politicians (She likes to wear hats.).

The 24th congressional district extends from Miramar to Brickell, including Opa-locka, Miami Shores and Little Haiti.

Two candidates — Dufirstson Julio Neree, a Republican, and Luis E. Fernandez, running without political-party affiliation — await in the November general election, though Democrats are practically assured a victory in the solidly left-leaning district.

Etienne, the 31-year-old elected North Miami city clerk, has not raised any campaign funds, spending nearly $20,000 of his own money to qualify for the ballot and pay for a smattering of advertising. Wilson has raked in more than $277,000, mostly from deep-pocketed political action committees, many of them representing labor unions.

But Etienne said his candidacy is about making a point that Wilson — despite being a dependable backer of President Barack Obama — is not, in Etienne’s view, liberal enough.

More here.

Accused ‘bag man’ testifies about alleged $1,000 payoff to suspended Miami Lakes mayor

@jayhweaver

On a mid-December day, lobbyist Richard Candia says he first looked for Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi at town hall, then at a nearby field before finally catching up with him at a local Starbuck’s.

They agreed to meet there, Candia claims, so that he could give the mayor a $1,000 cash bribe.

“I removed the envelope from my coat pocket,” Candia testified at Pizzi's federal bribery trial last week. “I put the envelope on top of the newspaper [on the table]. He put another newspaper over it and he walked away.”

The lobbyist further testified he dropped off his 14-year-old son at a nearby “comic book store” before conducting the transaction.

But Pizzi’s defense team countered the now-convicted Candia, a star witness for the prosecution who will wrap up his testmony Monday, lied about giving the money to the mayor on Dec. 14, 2012. They say he fabricated the whole tale to curry favor with prosecutors in the hope of reducing his prison sentence.

Pizzi’s lead attorney, Ed Shohat, accused Candia of making “false statements” to prosecutors, the grand jury and to the 12-person trial jury during his testimony on the alleged bribe and other key issues.

More here.

Carlos Curbelo deploys the Jeb Bush bomb in CD26 primary

@MarcACaputo

No other Republican polls as well in the Florida GOP as former Gov. Jeb Bush.

And Miami-Dade School Board Member Carlos Curbelo hopes that's equally true in the crowded GOP primary in Congressional District 26, which stretches from their shared home county to Key West. This week, Republican voters in the district should be receiving a Curbelo-paid mailer featuring Bush's likeness and endorsement of the "proven education reformer and a proponent of expanding economic freedom and cutting wasteful spending."

So what's in a mailer?

Perhaps a lot.

In the recent CD13 race in the St. Petersburg area, Bush's support for David Jolly might have helped the Republican beat Democrat Alex Sink, strategists say. They say that after they started featuring Bush on TV as well as in a mailer for absentee-ballot voters, Jolly's poll numbers started to tick up just enough. If so, it's a remarkable feat because that was a general election.

This mailer is for a primary of just Republican voters. And it's in their home county. And the bilingual Bush is well-known to Anglos as well as Hispanics, who comprise a majority of the voters in the district.

As with CD13, this flier arrives just as voters are returning their absentee ballots. The election is Aug. 26 to see who challenges incumbent Rep. Joe Garcia in November.

If establishment money and endorsements are an indicator, Curbelo's the frontrunner. But ya never know in a primary. And that's doubly true when you have a sneaky, well-known former congressman running but not running -- David Rivera.

None of this means Bush is beloved by all. He promotes the Common Core educational standards, which some conservatives have demonized. And, remarkably so, the Miami-Dade GOP last year took a stand against Common Core -- a slap at Bush who helped make the once-floundering party a powerhouse in a Democratic County.

Common Core, though, hasn't really been an issue in this congressional race. After all, Common Core was created and managed by the states. A federal conservative who opposes a states' rights issue has a measure of explaining to do.

Common Core hasn't appeared to hurt Bush's standing with Florida Republican voters. In a series of Florida polls, Quinnipiac University consistently finds he's most-liked by the GOP in a presidential match-up against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who nevertheless edges him.

  CarlosCurbelo_GovernorBushABSChase

CarlosCurbelo_GovernorBushABSChase2