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April 21, 2015

Former Miami mayor and Hillary Clinton supporter Manny Diaz hosting event for Martin O'Malley

@PatriciaMazzei

Invite
As Miami mayor, Manny Diaz backed Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary. But now he's hosting a breakfast for former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a potential Clinton rival in 2016.

The event, organized by O'Malley's political action committee, allows people to contribute to his likely campaign effort. But Diaz said in an email to invitees that they don't necessarily need to give O'Malley money.

"As sitting Mayors, Martin and I worked closely together and have maintained a strong friendship through the years," Diaz wrote, referring to O'Malley's tenure as mayor of Baltimore. "I would like to introduce you to my friend. No commitments. No checks. Only a cup of coffee, a handshake and a simple hello."

The breakfast is scheduled for 8 a.m. May 8 at Perricone's on Brickell.

In radio interview, Jeb Bush praises NSA surveillance

@PatriciaMazzei

Asked by a Seattle radio host Tuesday to name the best thing President Obama's administration has done, likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush cited the government's controversial surveillance programs.

"The NSA being enhanced," he told host Michael Medved in a pre-recorded interview, "while protecting civil liberties."

Bush praised Obama for continuing National Security Agency programs begun under his brother, George W. Bush, that have drawn the ire of civil libertarians who object to the government's power to listen to conversations or otherwise gather data on law-abiding citizens.

"He's not abandoned them," Jeb Bush said.

Bush has advocated for the expanded surveillance programs in the past, calling the technology "hugely important" in a February speech and reiterating in March that Obama should defend and explain the intelligence gathering. Marco Rubio, the Florida Senator who unlike Bush has formally announced his presidential candidacy, has also stood by the programs, describing them as essential in a dangerous world.

A fellow GOP presidential hopeful, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, has made criticism of the programs a key campaign platform.

Bush is in the Pacific Northwest raising money for his still-not-campaign campaign.

This guy? Meet the frequently wrong doctor House Republicans are relying on for their talking points

In the “history lesson” that House Republican leaders gave to their members on Tuesday, they handed out a resource guide that they could refer to in the coming weeks to bolster their position to oppose Medicaid expansion.

Included in the packet was an article written by Jason Fodeman, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Arizona.

Why Fodeman?

Well, if Nexis-Lexis is any guide, and it is, then Fodeman is one of the earliest opponents of Obamacare.

A former health policy fellow at the right-wing Heritage Foundation, Fodeman has made a career out of slamming Obamacare.

On April 20, 2009, nearly a year before the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, the Wichita Eagle, The Herald (Rock Hill, S.C.), the Washington Times, and the Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City) ran an op-ed by Fodeman with the headline “Don’t make health care crisis worse.”

Passing Obamacare, Fodeman warned, would “generate a $9.3 trillion tidal wave of red ink over the next decade.”

Yikes!

So five years into Obamacare, how we doin’?

Continue reading "This guy? Meet the frequently wrong doctor House Republicans are relying on for their talking points" »

Sen. Gaetz: I don’t support allowing agencies to deny gay adoptions

via @SteveRothaus:

Florida state Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said Tuesday the he does not support a proposal allowing private agencies to deny adoptions by gay and lesbian couples on religious or moral grounds.

“It has many, many problems,” Gaetz, the former Senate president, told the Miami Herald. “It has constitutional problems, practical problems, and I would not support it. I’m not a lawyer. I’m relying on the general counsel’s opinion. I would not vote for House Bill 7111.”

The House on April 9 passed HB 7111. Chief sponsor Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, called it a religious “conscience” bill.

On Monday, the Florida Senate Rules Committee didn’t move forward with its companion bill. A vote was temporarily postponed and may be brought up again by the same committee, said state Rep. David Richardson, Florida’s first openly gay lawmaker.

Committee Chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, said Monday afternoon he would work with Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, to determine how to proceed.

“With the clock running out, it is very likely the end of the line for this bad bill,” said Nadine Smith, CEO of LGBT-rights group Equality Florida. “The bottom line is the bill is unconstitutional. It would have allowed state-funded discrimination and in doing so threatened hundreds of millions of federal dollars for foster care and adoption. It was written in way to allow a broad range of discrimination at taxpayer expense.”

On April 8, Gaetz urged fellow senators to officially repeal Florida’s 1977 gay adoption ban, which hasn’t been enforced since 2010 when several courts found it unconstitutional.

More here.

Marco Rubio refunds excessive campaign contributions

From Florida Bulldog:

Two days before he officially announced his run for the presidency last week, Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign disclosed that it had refunded more than $23,000 in excessive contributions it previously had accepted.

Another $27,000 in over-the-limit contributions originally raised to boost Republican Rubio for a Senate primary election fight was either reclassified for use in the 2016 general election, or applied to the spouses of donors who gave more than the $2,600 maximum per election allowed by federal law, federal election records show.

That $50,000 in refunds, reclassifications and reassignments were in response to violation notices sent by the Federal Election Commission to the campaign after each of its quarterly financial report filings in 2014.

In four April 11 response letters, Rubio campaign assistant treasurer Lisa Lisker said that Rubio’s campaign committee — recently renamed Marco Rubio for President — and the separate Rubio Victory PAC had not tracked excessive contributions or duplicate entries.

More here.

Mario Diaz-Balart asks USPS to explain denied ZIP code for Miami Lakes

via @Paradise_Afshar

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart has written a letter to Postmaster General Megan Brennan in support of Miami Lakes' quest to learn why its request for a ZIP code boundary change was denied by the U.S. Postal Service.

"I respectfully request, within all applicable rules and regulations, for the full and fair consideration of Miami Lakes' [Freedom of Information Act] request and would appreciate a response on this matter," the letter said.

In December, Miami Lakes submitted a public records request to the postal service, asking for backup documents, such as studies and cost breakdowns, that were used to deny the town's request for a ZIP code boundary review.

In response, the postal service said it couldn't provide the information requested, as those details are exempt from public disclosure.

The town has appealed this response saying, in part, that the postal service's denial is an "error as a matter of policy and of law."

More here.

House committee squeezes out gaming bill to phase out dog racing as promoters keep heat on

House F and T gamingThe calm in the lobbyist-packed room belied the intensity of the behind-the-scenes battle underway to end the House’s resistance to gambling expansion.

Before the Finance and Tax Committee met, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli added Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton to the committee -- an extra vote of assurance to help the bill make it through the tough committee.

As the vote looked close, lobbyists Ron Book, Brian Ballard and Sean Pittman quietly met in the corner of the meeting room with Rep. Hazelle Rogers, attempting to get the Lauderhill Democrat to end her opposition to the bill. The lobbyists represent Palm Beach and Naples tracks who have been trying for years to get slots at their tracks.

In the end, a last-minute switch by Republican Rep. John Tobia of Melbourne Beach to support the bill, and a decision by Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, to miss the vote, brought HB 1233 to victory.

The vote was 10-8 for what could be the most expansive rewrite of Florida’s gaming laws in a decade, when voters authorized slot machines. It opens the door to expanding slot machines at the Palm Beach Kennel Club and the Flagler Race Track in Naples if agreed to by the Seminole Tribe in a legislatively-approved compact. 

Most important for its author, Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, it "decouples" the requirement that greyhound tracks continue to race a minimum number of races in order to operate the more lucrative poker rooms or slots casinos and requires tracks that continue to race to report all dog injuries. 

Young urged her colleagues to vote for the bill "on behalf of the thousands of racing greyhounds that are bred and live their lives to do nothing but run around a circle with no one watches." 

But the measure still faces steep hurdles. The Florida Senate is awaiting a vote on its version of gambling expansion -- a plan that would also extend the compact with the Seminole Tribe for one year.

Animal activists who want to end dog racing aren't taking any chances. Starting Tuesday, Grey2K USA launched an aggressive email and phoning campaign urging their supports to appeal to lawmakers to pass the bill. 

"There are ten days left in the Florida legislative session, and we are very close to a major victory for the dogs!,'' the email states. "In the next few days, the Florida House of Representatives will vote on House Bill 1233, a very important measure that will help thousands of greyhounds. HB 1233 includes two important new laws: it will decouple dog racing from other types of gambling, and also will require that greyhound injuries be reported to the public.

"Please contact your State Representative right away and ask for a YES vote on House Bill 1233." 

Photo: Gaming lobbyists Ron Book and Brian Ballard leave their seats during a meeting of the House Finance and Tax Committee meeting before they meet with Rep. Hazelle Rogers at the side of the room. By Mary Ellen Klas

Cheat sheet: House GOP's nine talking points on Medicaid expansion

To hold a meeting among House Republicans in private to discuss Medicaid expansion and the Low Income Pool, Speaker Steve Crisafulli said the meeting was for informational purposes only.

“It was strictly a history lesson for our members,” Crisafulli said. “It was important for us to do it.”

Yet the 20-page packet distributed to members during the secret meetings makes for a poor history. It’s more of a nine-step guide on how to defend the House’s double-down rejection of Medicaid expansion.

Crisafulli and other House leaders make it easy for any caucus members who might be wavering, or who might be running out of things to say in explaining their refusal. On page 3 of the packet,  nine talking points are provided.

Pay attention: We’ll probably be hearing these repeated over the next two weeks.

-- Medicaid expansion and the Low Income Pool (LIP) are separate issues. (Not if you’re the federal government and the Florida Senate.)

-- Nothing should give our state more pause in this debate than the Obama Administration’s attempt to force Florida to expand Medicaid under Obamacare in order to receive LIP funding.

-- It is unthinkable that the federal government would leave our state on the hook for over a billion dollars simply because they want a specific policy outcome. (That sounds hauntingly similar to what Gov. Rick Scott said. Wonder if they are sharing notes.)

-- I support a safety net for our most vulnerable citizens, but I believe that Medicaid expansion is the wrong approach to strengthening that net.

-- Just because a person has Medicaid does not mean they will have better health. They only scientific study of Medicaid in the country found that Medicaid patients’ clinical outcomes are no better than the uninsured.

-- There is also no flexibility in Medicaid expansion. Florida cannot choose the population, benefit, design, price or eligibility conditions.

-- Medicaid is supposed to be a safety net, but the expansion population goes beyond traditional Medicaid populations of vulnerable people like low-income children, the disabled, and the elderly.

-- We must take a very cautious and deliberate approach to implementing PPACA. If Florida expands Medicaid, it may not be able to undo that decision.

-- We will continue to listen to new ideas. I believe we should strengthen our safety net by continuing to find new and better market-based solutions that are sustainably funded and will provide Florida families and seniors with access to quality, affordable healthcare.

Florida House Republicans tackle Medicaid standoff behind closed doors; Senate holds emergency meeting

While the 40-member Senate convened a rare emergency meeting to discuss Florida's budget dilemma Tuesday -- with more than 100 lobbyists, citizen activists and reporters attending -- House Republicans took up the same issue behind closed doors.

To keep reporters and members of the public out, a legislative aide was posted at the door.

After the meeting, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, told reporters that the caucus discussed the major sticking points of this year's legislative session: Medicaid expansion and the future of a federal hospital funding program known as the Low Income Pool.

"It was strictly a history lesson for our members," Crisafulli said. "It was important for us to do it."

But an Associated Press reporter overheard conversation from the closed door meeting and heard Crisafulli give the caucus strategic advice. "We're asking you to trust us," Crisafulli was heard telling members.

Later, he warned: "You're going to get beat up by the press."

More here.

Sen. Lee: Governor and House should avoid 'blood on their hands'

Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon, met with Gov. Rick Scott Monday evening and they discussed the health care impasse that will send the 2015 session into overtime.

Lee called their face to face meeting a productive sign and that "the door has been cracked" on using federal money to expand health care access in Florida. But he did not elaborate and he predicted it would be "the dark days of June" before the Legislature and governor come to a critical health care funding agreement that is the lynchpin of budget negotiations.

"This is a very real problem not just for the completion of our session but for the image of the Republican Party in America," Lee said, "and I do not think that the House or the governor wants this blood on their hands when this cart goes into the ditch because people will not come to the table and have an honest political discussion about legitimate differences we have over health care funding."

Marco Rubio camp doesn't name names but notes tension with Jeb Bush

@PatriciaMazzei

At the end of Marco Rubio's first week as a 2016 presidential candidate, his campaign manager, Terry Sullivan, wrote up an email -- promptly leaked to reporters -- touting the launch and noting reports about early signs of strain with likely rival Jeb Bush.

"Our early success is not going unnoticed by other campaigns. The weekend, the Drudge Report highlighted an AP report that another campaign has 'Started quietly spreading negative information about Rubio's record,'" Sullivan wrote. Then he added, in bold: "We cannot take the bait and return fire. We must stay positive."

Of course, Rubio has gotten a lot of ink (and pixels) in part because he's a contrast to Bush, and because the relationship between the two men dates back more than a decade.

Overheard from a super secret House Republican meeting

 

For more than an hour, House Republicans met to discuss Medicaid expansion and how it relates to the Low Income Pool, the two issues that have made the legislative session screech to a halt.

But Republicans decided to ban the public from the meeting, claiming they wouldn't talk about pressing legislative matters.

So reporters had to stand outside and wait for lawmakers to come out and recap what they couldn't discuss in public. Yes, this is Florida, which prides itself on its open meetings law. And yes, despite that pride, legislators can lock out the press so they can discuss matters like Medicaid expansion.

Associated Press reporter Gary Fineout listened in to the meeting by placing his ear at the crack of door. It's not glamorous, but Fineout was able to catch certain phrases here and there. Here's what he told the rest of us as we waited for Republicans to end their secret meeting.

"We're asking you to trust us," Speaker Steve Crisafulli told Republican members. "Feel good about where you are." (applause)

Crisafulli told the caucus that former Gov. Jeb Bush was taken out of context when he was recently quoted on Medicaid.

"We're going to get beat up by the press," Crisafulli said.

"We're going to do what we can do to get out of town constitutionally, whether it's through a special session or extended session," Crisafulli said.

That sure sounds like strategy and discussing action on future legislative action. But afterward, Crisafulli pointed out that Medicaid expansion is not legislation that is before the House. It is, however, in front of the Senate, which Fineout said would subject the meeting to the open meetings law.

Crisafulli, however, said the House's general counsel, Matt Carson, had cleared the script that Crisafulli was reading from.

“I was very scripted. He said everything we were doing in that meeting was perfectly within the confines of the the law.”

Joe Scarborough -- 'absolutely not' a 2018 Florida Senate candidate -- says 2016 Senate race will 'heat up a bit'

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Republicans are having trouble recruiting a candidate to run for Sen. Marco Rubio's seat in 2016, a presidential election year when more Democrats go to the polls. Some Republicans may not want to leave their safe positions in the U.S. House or the state Capitol to risk losing.

But might they also be worried about Rubio changing his mind? The first-term senator has said repeatedly (including on NPR last week) that he won't seek re-election as he runs for president. Yet Rubio doesn't really have to decide until next year, when Senate candidates must qualify for the ballot.

And that makes MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, a Republican and former Florida congressman, wonder if Rubio might still want to keep his seat.

We caught up with Scarborough in Nashua, New Hampshire, where he moderated a media panel at the state GOP's "First in the Nation" summit, a two-day event that drew 19 potential presidential contenders.

"I've got a friend from Northwest Florida named Don Gaetz who's talking about jumping into it," Scarborough said of the Senate race. "Don's got enough money that he can finance a good bit of his campaign, at least to start, but I think it'll heat up a bit.

"I think -- I mean, I still wonder -- I hear Marco saying that he's not going to run, but isn't qualifying in May [2016]?" he continued. "So if he loses..."

He then noted Florida's March 15 primary.

"We'll see what happens in March. If he's out in March, is Marco really going to say, 'Yeah, I want to get out of this,' especially if he does a good job? And so I think when Marco makes a more definitive statement, when we see how this campaign's going to go, I think then you might have more people jumping in."

How about that idea that he could run for Senate in Florida in 2018?

"No, absolutely not," Scarborough said. "I love my job."

Poll: Florida Senate race to replace Marco Rubio remains wide open

@PatriciaMazzei

There is no favorite yet among either Republicans or Democrats to replace Marco Rubio in the Senate, according to a new poll that highlights how fluid and possibly crowded the candidate field could be in the high-profile 2016 race.

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, the only announced candidate on either side so far, holds a 23-14 percent lead over potential rival Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando. Grayson is better known, but Murphy is better liked, the survey by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research found. Sixty-three percent of respondents remain undecided, with 18 months to go until the election. The poll's error margin is 5 percentage points.

On the GOP side, the best known candidate is former Attorney General Bill McCollum, who has twice run statewide for Senate. The poll pegged his popularity at 20 percent. Compare to that to the other possible contenders: Rep. David Jolly, 8 percent; Rep. Vern Buchanan, 7 percent; Rep. Tom Rooney, 5 percent; Rep. Ron DeSantis and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, 4 percent; former Sen. George LeMieux, 3 percent, and state Sen. Don Gaetz, 1 percent. Forty-eight percent are undecided.

Rooney said Monday he won't run.

Senate won't recess early

The Senate, at least, looks like it will stay in session until May 1.

President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, confirmed Tuesday that the chamber wouldn’t recess early.

Times/Herald Tallahassee reporter Kat McGrory reports:

He also released the following statement, suggesting the chamber would continue working toward a final budget but saying it wouldn’t happen by the May 1 scheduled end of session.

Yesterday, AHCA formally began the process of submitting the Senate Plan for Medicaid Sustainability to CMS. This plan is now the vehicle for any LIP funding the state may be able to include in our budget for the coming year.

Florida’s recent history of applying for such waivers documents a pattern of lengthy consideration by CMS. For example, the LIP model used for the current fiscal year was formally submitted in November of 2013. We did not receive provisional approval until last April, and final approval came in July.

Therefore, despite the best efforts of the Senate to develop a Florida-based solution, at this time, there is no scenario under which we can complete a budget process that is open and transparent by May 1st. 

We can however, continue to work toward a final budget that ensures funding for services to the uninsured in the absence of LIP. The Senate budget left significant unallocated revenue beyond that of our traditional reserves. Without a clear timetable for an answer from CMS on LIP, we may need to use this unallocated general revenue to draw down federal funding to help mitigate the loss of LIP and ensure our hospitals can continue to serve their communities.

Specifically, without LIP, our state may need to dedicate an upwards of $600 million to maintain services for the uninsured in our hospitals. This state investment will draw down federal matching funds that offset $1.5 billion in net hospital losses.

Neither FHIX nor LIP alone can address the health care challenges facing our state. Together, FHIX and the new LIP model proposed by the Senate could reduce the need for general revenue backfill as more of Florida’s uninsured gain coverage over the next few years. CMS has already indicated support for this type of ‘glide path’ approach.

We must also address the fact that pharmacy costs within our statewide manage care plans are exceeding predicted levels, resulting in a potential liability of $200 million. This, along with other health care issues, will continue to impact all other areas of our budget.

I hope Governor Scott and the Florida House will adopt our comprehensive solution, including FHIX and LIP, as Florida’s plan to address the health care challenges facing our state. If we can present a united approach, I am hopeful we can receive LIP funding this year and dedicate the $600 million we may need to backfill LIP to other priorities.

A presidential shout-out for PolitiFact's Obameter

President Barack Obama, sports fan, has continued a tradition of welcoming championship teams to the White House for some presidential props. On April 20, he greeted the Ohio State Buckeyes, who won the 2014 College Football Playoff national championship.

What’s that got to do with politics? Well, back in 2008, Obama pledged to "throw his weight around" to get a playoff system for college football, rather than a system based on computer and human rankings.

"I think any sensible person would say that if you've got a bunch of teams who play throughout the season and many of them have one loss or two losses — there's no clear, decisive winner — that we should be creating a playoff system," he said on 60 Minutes, adding, "I don't know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this."

Granted, this isn’t as weighty a promise as world peace. It’s one of a handful of light-hearted pledges in our database of 500-plus promises. But lo and behold, a college playoff system did come to pass, and Obama did speak up in favor of it. So back in 2012, when plans were made to start a playoff system, we rated his promise asPromise Kept.

See what Obama said about PolitiFact's Obameter here.

Broward Dems to discuss law enforcement and race tonight

Broward Democrats will hold a forum on “law enforcement and race” at their monthly meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at Deicke Auditorium in Plantation.

Participants include State Attorney Mike Satz, Police Benevolent Association President Jeff Marano and representatives from the public defender’s office and the Fort Lauderdale police department. Democratic chairman Mitch Ceasar will moderate.

“If Broward truly wants to be a community, then we need to act like a community,” Ceasar said.

Ceasar said the forum was prompted by incidents nationwide that have shone a spotlight again on law enforcement and race such as the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Trayvon Martin in Sanford.

Closer to home, four Fort Lauderdale police officers recently lost their jobs after an internal affairs investigation confirmed their involvement in a racist video and racist text messages.

April 20, 2015

When Marco Rubio compared Common Core to Florida battle over LIP and Medicaid expansion

@PatriciaMazzei

New Hampshire voters don't really know or care about Florida's fight with the federal government over hospital charity funding and Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. But Marco Rubio used the tussle as an example Friday in Manchester about what he characterized as Washington's threat over state capitals.

An educator at Manchester Community College, where Rubio held his first campaign event since announcing his 2016 presidential candidacy, asked him about Common Core, the controversial education standards that many Granite State Republicans consider a four-letter word.

Rubio said he was "cautious" about giving the federal government any role in setting school curricula.

"I've always made the argument that the federal government always ends up turning a carrot into a stick," he said. "They'll tell you these are the standards we want you to meet, but it's just a carrot. If you do it, we'll give you money. They ultimately turn it into a stick and force you to do it."

Then he pivoted to Florida, where the Republican state House and Gov. Rick Scott are battling the Republican state Senate over whether to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid to plug a budget hole caused by the feds' ending of the indigent-hospital fund known as the low-income pool.

"Just now in Florida there's a big fight going on -- it has nothing to do with education, it has to do with healthcare," Rubio said. He explained LIP and said it "has nothing to do with Medicaid expansion."

"The federal government is now telling Florida, if you don't do Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, we won't give you the LIP money," Rubio said. "And I fear the same thing the same thing's going to happen with a program like Common Core."

Rubio, a former Florida House speaker, later told reporters that he disagrees with the feds.

"I don't think the government should hold them hostage," he said. "And that's what's happening: The federal government is basically telling the state, unless you do something we want on an unrelated matter, you wont get LIP funding. I think it's an example of federal overreach and what federal agencies always do."

Asked a similar question a day earlier in New Hampshire, Rubio's likely rival former Gov. Jeb Bush said the state and federal governments should look for middle ground to resolve the impasse, which is holding up next year's budget. A Bush spokeswoman later added that Bush opposes Medicaid expansion.

Government in the Sunshine? Not for House Republicans.

@mikevansickler

House Republicans plan to meet Tuesday before the 11 a.m. regular floor session, but they won’t allow the public to attend.

With the House and Senate at an impasse over what to do about Medicaid expansion, the Low Income Pool and the overall state budget, not everyone is pleased with the decision.

“We have a crisis in this state and they don’t want us there,” said Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation. “There’s nothing more important this session than Medicaid expansion, LIP and getting a budget passed, and they’re kicking us out.”

The 80 House Republicans will meet in the Majority Office conference room at 322 in the Capitol. Michael Williams, spokesman for House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said the meeting will be closed.

In a Monday e-mail, Williams cited Article III, Section 4(e) of the Florida Constitution that provides that “all pre-arranged gatherings, between more than two members of the Legislature,...the purpose of which is to agree upon formal legislative action that will be taken at a subsequent time,...regarding pending legislation or amendments, shall be reasonably open to the public.”

But Williams said partisan offices and “other caucuses” regularly hold closed meetings to discuss “procedural and other issues.”

“Such meetings are not problematic so long as participants do not agree upon formal legislative action regarding pending legislation or amendments,” Williams said.

Tuesday’s meeting, Williams said, “will not include agreement on formal legislative action.”
What does formal mean?

Pretty much anything the Republicans want it to, said Petersen, and that’s the problem.

“It’s their call,” she said. “It’s subject to their interpretation. I don’t agree with their interpretation, but we can’t do squat about it. They get to decide what our constitutional right of access means, and they get to enforce it.”

And if somehow, given even those lax standards, they violate the law and take “formal” legislative action?

“How will we know?” Petersen said.

Judge: Sweetwater mayor can't run for re-election

via @BrendaMedinar

A Miami-Dade civil court judge has determined that Sweetwater Mayor José M. Díaz may not run as a candidate in the May 12 election, citing a law known as "resign to run."

At issue is the fact that Díaz was appointed — not elected — to the mayoral seat after the arrest of former Mayor Manuel Maroño. Before that, he was a commissioner and he never officially resigned from that post.

Judge Barbara Areces ruled on Monday that state and municipal law requires that Díaz resign from his last elected post by March 6 in order to run for the mayoral seat.

Díaz 's attorney, Juan Carlos Planas, said he will appeal the decision, arguing that Díaz did not have to resign because the commission seat he left vacant when appointed mayor was already filled.

“The Mayor had no reason to resign because he wasn’t occupying two seats at the same time,” said Planas.

More here.