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April 25, 2018

Bill Nelson will vote for Mike Pompeo as secretary of state

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@alextdaugherty

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson will vote to confirm Mike Pompeo as President Donald Trump's second secretary of state, his office confirmed Wednesday. Nelson's stance is a change from January 2017, when he voted against Pompeo's confirmation as CIA Director.  

Pompeo, a former congressman and currently director of the CIA, is expected to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate after about a half dozen Senate Democrats said they would vote for him. Some Democrats have expressed concerns over Pompeo leading the State Department due to his past support for torture practices and military intervention in Iraq. 

Nelson said Pompeo's secret meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un "put him in a better light" in terms of his confirmation but stopped short of saying how he would vote last week.

"I support the trip, I think it's a lot better talking than shooting especially when the crazy child dictator has nuclear weapons, I think it's better to be talking," Nelson said. "On Pompeo, I will defer on that. I voted against him. I thought he was going to be too political as CIA Director and I'm going to evaluate that as secretary of state." 

Pompeo will take over the State Department if confirmed after Rex Tillerson was fired via tweet. Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is an enthusiastic supporter of Pompeo, who endorsed Rubio during his presidential bid. 

“CIA Director Mike Pompeo has the full confidence of the president, an outstanding record of service to our country, and is more than qualified to serve as Secretary of State," Rubio said in a statement. "As Director Pompeo’s nomination now moves to the Senate Floor, I strongly urge my colleagues to put country over party and confirm him without further delay."

Curbelo, Ros-Lehtinen rank among the most bipartisan members of Congress

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@alextdaugherty

When French President Emmanuel Macron stressed the importance of climate change during a joint address to Congress on Wednesday, three Republicans stood up and joined Democrats to applaud him. 

The trio, Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, along with Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, also happen to be the three most bipartisan House Republicans, according to new rankings complied by Georgetown University. 

Ros-Lehtinen, who has signed on to the DREAM Act, was ranked as the most bipartisan House Republican while Curbelo, who introduced a bill to ban bump stocks, ranked third out of 236 House Republicans. The rankings are based on the number of bills introduced in 2017 by an individual lawmaker that receive support from lawmakers of the opposing party and by signing onto bills introduced by a lawmaker from the other party. 

"The Index rewards those who prioritize governance over posturing and aims to encourage members of Congress to seek areas of consensus as opposed to simply using legislation to delineate differences," Georgetown University's Lugar Center says on its website. The center uses metrics to award more weight to bills that attract substantial bipartisan support, and does not include ceremonial bills like naming post offices that typically receive support from both parties. 

Curbelo is up for reelection in a Miami-to-Key West district that is the most Democratic-leaning in the country currently represented by a Republican running for reelection, and is campaigning in part on a record of working with Democrats on certain issues like climate change. He's distanced himself from President Donald Trump, who lost his district by 16 percentage points, on a number of issues, though he did accompany the president on a recent visit to Key West and helped write the GOP tax bill that became law late last year. 

Ros-Lehtinen, a frequent critic of Trump, is retiring this year. Democrats are favored to flip her seat in November. 

Both Curbelo's and Ros-Lehtinen's rankings from 2017 were up compared to rankings issued after the 114th Congress. Ros-Lehtinen ranked fifth among House Republicans while Curbelo ranked 7th. Former Florida Rep. Gwen Graham, now running for governor in a contested Democratic primary, also ranked among the top 10 most bipartisan lawmakers before leaving Congress. 

In the Senate, Republican Marco Rubio ranks 10th among 100 senators while Democrat Bill Nelson ranks 36th. 

Here's the bipartisan rankings for Miami-Dade's congressional delegation: 

-Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehinen (R) 2nd out of 435 members 

-Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R) 4th

-Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz (D) 160th 

-Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R) 225th 

-Rep. Frederica Wilson (D) 412th 

State House candidate defends problematic plastic surgery centers

Kubs

@NewsbySmiley

An attorney seeking a seat in the Florida Legislature represents plastic surgery centers where patients have been maimed and killed as a result of botched cosmetic procedures.

Kubs Lalchandani, a Democrat running to represent the state's 113th House district, is a co-founder and partner of Lalchandani Simon PL, a law firm specializing in the representation of healthcare professionals, tech start-ups and the hospitality industry. Among its clients, the firm represents cosmetic surgery centers, some of which have been in the news for procedures gone wrong.

Last year, a woman from Antigua undergoing liposuction at Spectrum Aesthetics Center for Cosmetic Surgery died as a result of complications associated with the procedure, according to an autopsy report. Nikisha Lewis’ death came amid a spate of fatalities related to South Florida plastic surgery centers, and two years after a doctor operating at the same clinic and others, Osakatukei “Osak” Omulepu, was accused by the state Department of Health of botching four surgeries in two days.

In 2013, an 18-year-old girl went into a coma shortly after undergoing breast augmentation at the Coral Gables Cosmetic Center and awoke with brain damage. The anesthesiologist on the procedure, Mario Alberto Diaz, once pleaded guilty to charges in Iowa related to his role in prescribing thousands of medications through an online pill mill. The state charged Diaz with medical malpractice in the 2013 incident and later settled.

Last month, Delma Pineda died following breast augmentation and liposuction procedures at an affiliated clinic, CG Cosmetic Surgery. An autopsy report is pending.

Each of these clinics was represented by Lalchandani, who is running in the Democratic primary to replace David Richardson as the representative of a district that includes all of Miami Beach, PortMiami, downtown and Little Havana. But the attorney said in a statement that surgery centers represent only a portion of his firm's business.

"My law firm represents many clients in the technology, healthcare, and hospitality fields, including physicians," said Lalchandani, who declined an interview. "Our job is to provide these clients with legal counsel. As noted in a few stories where I was on record on behalf of my clients, my focus has always been to offer words of support for those impacted and always offer my clients the best legal path forward."

To read the rest, click here.

Fearing court action, Scott calls emergency meeting of clemency board

Gov. Rick Scott called an emergency meeting of the Cabinet for Wednesday in anticipation of a federal court not approving a delay in adopting a new system of granting the right to vote to convicted felons.

Scott acted in the absence of a decision of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which has not acted on the state's request to stay a lower court decision that struck down the state's system of restoring voting rights to felons and ordered a new system to be instituted by April 26.

"This meeting will be open to the public, who will have an opportunity to provide input at the beginning of the meeting," Scott's office said in a statement released Tuesday night. "If a stay is not issued, the meeting agenda will be for the board to consider how to respond to the lower court's decision."

The court's decision can be found here.

Scott and the Cabinet have had a month to respond to the court ruling, but scheduled a meeting for 9:30 p.m. Wednesday night at the Capitol. Why 9:30? To give the public 24 hours notice from a 9:30 p.m. advisory.

April 24, 2018

How one Republican held up the U.S. Senate over Cuba travel policy

Cuba Trump

@alextdaugherty

The U.S. Senate ground to a halt last week, and Cuba was the culprit.

After months in limbo, Donald Trump's pick to lead NASA finally appeared to have enough support for confirmation, and a vote was scheduled. Sen. Marco Rubio, who opposed Rep. Jim Bridenstine's nomination because he wanted a non-politician to run the nation's space program, switched his stance, giving Republicans enough votes to move forward with Bridenstine on a party-line vote.

But Jeff Flake had other ideas.

The Arizona Republican seized the GOP's one-vote advantage over the minority and initially cast a "no" vote on Bridenstine. Vice President Mike Pence was in Florida, unable to hustle to Capitol Hill to break a 49-49 tie. Republican leaders were forced to negotiate with Flake on the Senate floor to get him to change his vote.

Flake's reason for dithering? The longtime critic of U.S. trade and travel restrictions with Cuba wanted to talk to Mike Pompeo, Trump's nominee for secretary of state, about travel restrictions to Cuba, according to Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas.

"I want to talk to Pompeo on a number of issues, that's all I'll say," Flake said with a smile when asked if he sought to talk to the secretary of state nominee about Cuba travel restrictions in exchange for a "yes" vote on Bridenstine.

Flake, a frequent Trump critic, doesn't have much of an incentive to listen to party leaders who could help his reelection chances:. He's retiring after the 2018 elections.

That means he can continue to push Senate leaders on issues like Cuba, where the fault lines aren't drawn up neatly along party lines.

"My goal has always been the same, of closer ties, more travel, more commerce because I think that moves Cuba closer to democracy, so I'll use any leverage I can to try to bring that about," Flake said. "I'll try to keep the progress and the policies we've made particularly with Cuban entrepreneurs achieving some kind of independence from the government down there that we don't turn them back."

Read more here.

Three GOP contenders for governor will converge in unlikely place

The first joint appearance of all three expected Republican candidates for governor is scheduled in an unlikely place: deep blue Broward County.

The Broward County Republican Executive Committee's Facebook page says that Adam Putnam, Ron DeSantis and Richard Corcoran have all accepted invitations to address county GOP activists at the party's annual Lincoln Day Dinner on May 18 at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina hotel.

The county party chairman is Rep. George Moraitis, R-Fort Lauderdale, who confirmed in an interview that all three will attend.

The post includes Corcoran as a candidate, even though he has not yet announced his candidacy. The latest expected timetable has the House speaker entering the race in early May, after legislative leaders decide whether or not to hold a special session on gambling.

Broward is one of the keys to Democratic hopes of regaining the Florida Governor's Mansion after a 24-year absence, dating to Lawton Chiles' narrow re-election victory over Jeb Bush in 1994.

It is home to about 581,000 registered Democrats, more than any other county. But it also has a track record of lackluster turnouts in midterm elections.

April 23, 2018

The NRA just broke a 15-year fundraising record

Trump NRA

@alextdaugherty

As the student-led March for Our Lives movement captured the nation's attention in the weeks after the Parkland shooting, the other side of the gun control debate enjoyed a banner month of its own.

The National Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund raised $2.4 million from March 1 to March 31st, the group's first full month of political fundraising since the nation's deadliest high school shooting on Valentine's Day, according to filings submitted to the Federal Elections Commission. The total is $1.5 million more than the organization raised during the same time period in 2017, when it took in $884,000 in donations, and $1.6 million more than it raised in February 2018.

The $2.4 million haul is the most money raised by the NRA's political arm in one month since June 2003, the last month when electronic federal records were readily available. It surpasses the $1.1 million and $1.5 million raised in January and February 2013, the two months after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Most of the donations, $1.9 million of the $2.4 million total, came from small donors who gave less than $200. The NRA doles out money to political campaigns from the victory fund, but most of its spending is on activity that isn't directly linked with a lawmakers' campaign where the group is not bound by state and federal campaign finance limits. For example, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio received only $9,900 in direct contributions from the NRA during his 2016 U.S. Senate campaign, but his campaign benefited from $3.3 million in outside spending from the NRA to help him defeat Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy.

Read more here.

Florida Family Policy Council to host forum with Putnam and DeSantis

Florida Family Policy Council
The conservative Florida Family Policy Council has announced it is hosting a forum May 5 in Orlando with GOP candidates Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis and is willing to include Richard Corcoran, if the House speaker makes the long-awaiting announcement by then -- which is not expected.

The event will be moderated by Fox News pollster Frank Luntz, who set the criteria for appearing at the forum as any major candidate who has "average poll numbers of at least above 4% on the polls listed at the RealClear Politics list for the Florida GOP Governor race." See:  https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2018/governor/Florida.html

Since there are currently 11 named candidates, FFPC President John Stemberger said in a statement that inviting all of them to the forum was unworkable.

“It is simply impossible to have a meaningful and extended dialogue with 11 candidates at one event,'' he said. "Additionally, this process of setting objective polling criteria is consistent with IRS Revenue Rulings and recommendations for 501c3 candidate forums.”

DeSantis, a U.S. congressman from Palm Coast, and Putnam, Florida's agriculture commissioner, have both confirmed they'll be in attendance at the forum, Stemberger said. If Corcoran announces his caniddacy before May 5, he "would be qualified to participate based on the aforementioned criteria,'' the statement said.

The Family Policy Council advocates for an end to abortion, opposes gay marriage and advocates for steering state money to private and religious schools. Stemberger was a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, appointed by Corcoran.

 

April 20, 2018

Parkland parents say public officials need to be fired soon for failing their children

Guttenberg

@alextdaugherty

Fred Guttenberg, the Parkland parent who confronted Marco Rubio on national television about the senator’s opposition to an assault weapons ban, had a very different conversation with the Florida Republican on Capitol Hill this week.

“Senator, see you tomorrow?” Guttenberg asked.

“I’m around all day, flying out Thursday night,” Rubio replied.

The pair disagree on gun-control policy, but Guttenberg and the Parkland families are united with Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson behind an effort to make the authorities who failed their children accountable.

History suggests they may be successful.

The families of the 17 victims in the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School persuaded the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott to sign a gun bill over the objections of the National Rifle Association. They successfully got the slow-moving U.S. Senate to fast-track limited school safety legislation into a must-pass spending bill last month.

And the voices that no lawmaker can ignore are pushing for agencies like the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Broward School Board and FBI to be held responsible, and soon.

“We all think we know, but we need to know with certainty, we need to find out why they made the mistakes and we need to fire people for their mistakes,” Guttenberg said. “Do any of the mistakes cross over to a criminal activity? I don’t know the law, but I do know at a minimum people need to be fired and they need to be fired soon.”

Three Parkland parents are serving on a state commission established by Scott and granted subpoena powers. The commission is set to meet next week. One parent recently met with FBI Director Christopher Wray to discuss how the agency can learn from its mistakes. And the parents are confident something will happen, even if it takes a lot longer than they would want.

Read more here.

April 19, 2018

As Florida lawmakers consider special legislative session, statewide teachers' union calls for more school funding

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ALESSANDRA DA PRA | Times


The Florida Education Association aimed to put Florida's political leaders on the spot on Thursday, calling for them to address school funding if they are all required to come back to Tallahassee for a special session on gambling issues.

"The Florida Education Association calls on Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders to address the shortfall in education funding before the start of the next fiscal year," reads a statement from the group, released Thursday. "With political will, the money can be found."

The statement follows a similar request made last week by the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.

The group pointed out that Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $64 million's worth of projects in the 2018-2019 budget, money that will be kicked back to the state's general revenue account.

The FEA also references an agreement reached Wednesday between the state and the Seminole Tribe which guaranteed the tribe will pay $300 million in the next year to continue its exclusive right to offer banked card games like blackjack. However, the Legislature assumed the agreement would hold when it drafted its budget and therefore the $300 million is already spoken for.

In this year's budget, the per-pupil portion of classroom education funding saw an increase of only 47 cents, much lower than in previous years. And law enforcement and districts  have been scrambling since the Legislature required that every school have an armed person on every campus, whether that be a trained school staff member or a law enforcement officer.

Before the budget was passed in March, the state's superintendents and school leaders already asked the Legislature to increase the per-pupil spending. That didn't happen.

A decision over whether a special session will be held is expected by early next week. If lawmakers do come back up to Tallahassee, either the governor or the House Speaker jointly with the Senate President have to specify the specific purpose or purposes of the special session. Unless they declare that education funding is part of that purpose, it's unlikely the FEA's requests would be addressed.

When asked if Gov. Scott would include education funding as part of the "call" for a special session, the governor's office disputed there is a shortfall in education funding.

Progressive groups protest payday loan conference at Trump resort

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Trump golfing in Doral, 2015 (Getty)

Several progressive groups are protesting today outside Trump National Doral Golf Club, where the payday lending industry is hosting its annual conference.

Speakers from the New Florida Majority, the Latino Victory Project, the Florida Immigrant Coalition and the Miami-Dade Democratic Party are there to object to what they call a "predatory" industry.

They say it's no coincidence that the industry is having its conference at a Trump resort. Since President Donald Trump took office, his pick to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has taken a hands-off approach to the payday lending industry, choosing to wait before implementing a new CFPB rule that would limit how many loans the industry can give someone each year.

Florida lawmakers this year, citing concerns about the rule, voted to allow the industry to offer loans that are twice as large and with fees that are also potentially twice as large. The CFPB rules don't apply to those larger loans.

Less than a month after Gov. Rick Scott signed off on the bill, the industry sued the CFPB to block the rule from ever taking effect.

Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo compares Mayor Francis Suarez to Maduro over strong mayor initiative

Suarez7

@joeflech

Recently-elected Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has long wanted to see his position turned into the city's chief administrator. He's launched an ballot petition effort to convince voters to change the city charter so he could run the city's day-to-day operations, as opposed to a mayor-appointed city manager.

But right on cue, recently-returned Commissioner Joe Carollo has issued his sharpest criticism yet of the young mayor. He compared Suarez's effort to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's consolidation of power through a pro-government assembly he created last year that effectively supersedes the opposition-led congress.

Carollo's barbs in a Miami Herald interview Tuesday underscored what onlookers expect from the relationship between the longtime Miami politician and the new mayor — friction.

"You look at what Maduro did with the Constituyente," Carollo said. "This is the Miami version."

Suarez believes the change will bring more transparency, efficiency and accountability to a municipal government with a reputation for dysfunction. He tried twice before to get a strong mayor question on the ballot through the commission, both times finding little support on the dais. Now he's going to the ballot petition route. 

Read more.

Police secretly recorded call to see if Miami politician lied about her #MeToo claim

 

@NewsbySmiley and @DavidOvalle305

As the "Me Too" movement gained steam across the nation last fall, Miami Beach City Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez went public with her own harrowing tale: that a political ally, Rafael Velasquez, had pulled out his penis and tried to force her to touch it while the two sat alone in a car.

But according to a newly released memo from the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, prosecutors have declined to charge Velasquez, saying there was not enough evidence to prove a crime took place.

If anything, investigators found evidence that conflicted with the commissioner's account — although they also declined to pursue Velasquez's counter-claim that the commissioner made the whole thing up and filed a false police report in order to promote her congressional campaign.

To read the rest, click here.

Darren Soto endorses David Richardson in Dem primary for Ros-Lehtinen's seat

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@alextdaugherty

Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, is wading into the crowded Democratic primary to replace outgoing Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, endorsing State Rep. David Richardson. 

Soto is the first sitting member of Congress to make an endorsement into the race. He's also the first Puerto Rican member of Congress from Florida and a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. 

"David Richardson is a fighter for the progressive cause. During his years as a State Legislator he fought for social rights and civil liberties for DACA recipients, LGBTQ Americans, and incarcerated Floridians," Soto said in a statement. "His campaign for Congress has continued this trend with his support for Medicare-for-All, his calls for immediate aid to Puerto Rico, and his demands for gun reform nationwide. As such, I am proud to endorse his campaign for Congress, and look forward to serving with a progressive voice like David's in Washington, D.C." 

The Democratic primary also includes includes former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman and former judge Mary Barzee Flores.

 

Shalala and Richardson have over $1 million to spend on the race after the latest fundraising quarter, though both have loaned money from themselves to their campaigns. Soto and Richardson served together in the Florida Legislature. 

"I’m deeply honored to receive the support of Congressman Darren Soto," Richardson said in a statement. "Darren since his days as a State Legislature has become a national leader on progressive issues and has fought tirelessly for the people of Florida. I’m happy to have his support as we approach the Democratic primary election on August 28th." 

National Democrats groups have largely stayed out of the primary for Ros-Lehtinen's seat and whoever wins the primary will be favored to flip the seat in November, though the Democratic Party lacks a Hispanic candidate in a majority-Hispanic district after state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez dropped out of the race last week. 

 

April 18, 2018

Curbelo to appear with Trump in Key West (updated)

Curbelo

@alextdaugherty 

Rep. Carlos Curbelo is headed to Key West with President Donald Trump tomorrow, but don't expect the duo to applaud the sunset at Mallory Square. 

The president will visit Naval Air Station Key West for a few hours on Thursday to receive a briefing from the Joint Interagency Task Force South, and Curbelo said Wednesday he'll join Trump on Air Force One for the quick visit.

"I’ll go ahead and break the news that I will be traveling with the President tomorrow, and will be arriving with him, and will be out at JIATF, and I am very grateful that he is taking the time to visit such a valuable asset for law enforcement, for our military, for our partners from other nations from the region," Curbelo said to U.S. 1 Radio News. "And I think for the Florida Keys it is wonderful that a president is visiting, taking the time to learn about a facility that is not only so critical for our national security, but obviously employs a lot of people in the Florida Keys." 

Curbelo doesn't have much of a relationship with Trump. He was the first Republican lawmaker to suggest Trump could be impeached and declined to vote for him in 2016. Since Trump assumed office Curbelo criticized some of his policy decisions like withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord and recently called on EPA secretary Scott Pruitt to resign amid mounting ethics issues. 

Trump was in Hialeah on Monday to tout the tax bill, a law Curbelo helped draft, but Curbelo wasn't there. He was traveling home from the Summit of the Americas in Peru. 

Curbelo is in the midst of a contentious reelection campaign against Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in a Democratic-leaning district, and appearing with Trump in public could be fodder for his opponent. The event on Thursday is an official White House event and not a campaign stop, though Trump riffed about his 2016 victory in Florida on Monday. 

UPDATE (4/19): Here's what Curbelo talked about with Trump, per his office. 

“I also appreciated the opportunity to travel with the President ‎and his team," Curbelo said in a statement. "I was able to stress to him the importance of finding a compromise on immigration that protects young immigrants brought to our country as children and also strengthens border security. We discussed FEMA's role in hurricane recovery, Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, and as we were arriving at our destination I shared with the President that sea level rise is increasingly a concern in the Keys and throughout South Florida."

NASA administrator opposed by Bill Nelson approved in drama-filled vote

Bill Nelson

@alextdaugherty

For months, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson has railed against the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., as NASA administrator, and his nomination stalled when Democrats along with Sen. Marco Rubio opposed him. 

On Wednesday, Bridenstine was finally confirmed to lead the nation's space program, but it wasn't without drama.

Rubio's belated support appeared to give Republicans enough votes, but Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake surprisingly voted "no" on Wednesday. Vice President Mike Pence was out of town, unable to break a 49-49 tie. Two senators were out for health-related reasons. 

The vote remained open for nearly an hour before Flake had a conversation with party leaders and switched his vote, though he was coy about his reasons for doing it. 

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Flake was trying to exert leverage over one of his signature issues: increased trade and interaction with Cuba. Flake wanted to talk Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo about travel restrictions to Cuba, according to Cornyn.   

Nelson has argued that Bridenstine, an elected official, should not be tapped to lead an agency typically led by a scientist. Bridenstine also attacked Rubio on immigration during the 2016 Republican primary. 

Oil industry announces opposition to amendment to ban drilling in state waters

CRC in Miami
Signaling its predictable opposition, the Florida Petroleum Council issued a statement Wednesday opposing the proposed amendment to the state constitution that bundles a ban on oil drilling in state waters with a ban on vaping in indoor work spaces.

The Constitution Revision Commission wrapped together the two proposals Monday, dubbed the amendment "clean air, clean water," and placed them on the November ballot on Monday. The 37-member citizen panel is convened every 20 years to put amendments directly on the ballot. 

“Domestic oil and natural gas development is a key driver of Florida’s economy – supporting high-paying jobs and investments in our state," said David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council, which represents the oil and gas industry. "Linking this important decision with electronic cigarette use just doesn’t make sense. Voters should be able to make decisions on public health and its economic future separately.”

The GOP majority panel was dominated by appointees named by Gov. Rick Scott, who hopes to also be on the ballot in November. It bundled together separate constitutional questions on five other amendments and rejected repeated attempts by several members of the commission to separate them. 

Mica said that by bundling the issues together, the CRC "will force Florida’s voters to vote for or against two completely unrelated, but important, issues at the same time. Bundling these issues is mixing apples and oranges, and this decision, made without any public debate, could harm jobs, the state economy, tax revenues, and our long-term energy future.”

In 2010, in the face of oil industry pressure, the Florida Legislature rejected a call by then-Gov. Charlie Crist to put a similar ban on oil drilling off state waters. Crist called a special session to ban the prospects of the practice in Florida in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill the year before, but the GOP-controlled legislature insisted it wasn't needed and adjourned the session after 49 minutes. 

Photo: Constitution Revision Commission members meet in Miami as part of its listening tour last year. Pedro Portal, Miami Herald. 

 

April 17, 2018

Scott wants to end career politicians. So why are they fundraising for him? He won’t say

Scott and nelson

via @scontorno

Gov. Rick Scott told a room of local businessmen and women Tuesday that he wants to put an end to career politicians, a frequent mantra of his nascent Senate campaign.

Yet in the 48 hours after his Tampa appearance, the Republican's campaign will hold fundraisers with some of the most seasoned creatures on Capitol Hill.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — the early front runner to be the next Speaker of the House — is scheduled to appear at a Wednesday night D.C. fundraiser for Scott. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is headlining another fundraiser, this one with a suggested contribution of $5,000, that features a half dozen other Senators and former elected officials.

McConnell was sworn into the Senate in 1985 — a career that easily surpasses Scott's proposal to cap a Senator's tenure at 12 years. McCarthy was first elected to the House in 2006 after a long career in California politics, so this would be his last term in office if Scott's idea was in affect.

Term limits are so central to Scott's early campaign, they were the subject of his first campaign ad. He plans to spend $2 million getting that message to voters across Florida.

So how does Scott reconcile these two realities? Asked about it after his Tampa event, he didn't really say.

"I think this concept of career politicians is why we don't get change in Washington," Scott said. "I really do believe we've got to bring in new ideas, fresh ideas, people that are up there saying I've got limited time, I want to get something done."

But why would you take money raised by career politicians if you want to get rid of them?

"My focus is, I have been very clear, I don't like the concept of career politicians," he said, "and I believe we ought to have term limits."

Rubio hires Heritage Action CEO as new chief of staff

Marco Rubio 3

@alextdaugherty

Sen. Marco Rubio has hired Michael Needham, the CEO of a conservative political organization that once battled with the Florida Republican over his support of a comprehensive immigration bill, as his new chief of staff. 

"Mike brings a wealth of policy, political and management experience that will greatly complement our office’s mission of serving the people of Florida and leading the effort to modernize the conservative movement in the 21st century," Rubio said in a statement. "Mike understands and shares these goals, and I look forward to his contributions." 

Needham, 36, was the CEO of Heritage Action for America, a conservative organization that pushed Republican lawmakers on a litany of issues including opposing comprehensive immigration reform and supporting the 2013 government shutdown over Obamacare funding. 

Needham will serve as Rubio's top advisor and oversee his staff of dozens in Washington and in various offices throughout Florida.

Rubio's former chief of staff Clint Reed was fired in January for violating "policies regarding proper relations between a supervisor and their subordinates." 

April 16, 2018

Corcoran visiting Liberty City Monday

Corcoran

@NewsbySmiley

With shootings in Liberty Square suddenly gaining political attention, outgoing Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran is visiting Liberty City Monday.

Corcoran, a possible Republican candidate for governor, is expected to stop by the city of Miami police substation near the public housing complex around 1 p.m. Attempts to reach House spokesman Fred Piccolo were unsuccessful Monday morning, but Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, confirmed Corcoran's attendance.

Corcoran's visit comes about a week after a shooting in which two were injured and another two killed, including a student at Miami Northwester Senior High. The shooting, which came on the heels of a 4-year-old girl's death, has sparked neighborhood protests and calls for attention to gun violence in minority communities.