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13 posts from July 24, 2013

July 24, 2013

Obama speech in Jax underscores battle over the economy

The tweet from Florida Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry summed up the GOP challenge as President Obama travels to the port of Jacksonville on Thursday to tout the economy and underscore the plight of the middle class.

“@BarackObama in Jax on TH, but it’s @FLGovScott who helped middle class w/JAXPORT $,” Curry wrote.

In the last year, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature steered $38 million in state transportation money to help deepen a crucial port channel needed for large cargo ships. It is a loan to keep the project moving forward until the federal government completes the lengthy authorization process and starts writing the checks, port officials said.

The theme — steering credit for successes in the state’s economy to the governor while blaming the president for holding it back — is going to be a recurring one for Curry as Scott seeks re-election in the next year.

But economists say that while Obama and Scott have played a role in the economic recovery, it is the Federal Reserve that deserves most of the credit. The federal monetary policy that has kept interests rates low has revved up Florida’s stagnant housing market, provided a lift to the construction industry and helped to reduce unemployment, said two promiment state economists.

Consumers are more optimistic in Florida than they have been since the onset of the recession, said Chris McCarty, an economist at the University of Florida, and the reason is primarily the rise in housing prices. But can Scott or Obama take credit for the uptick in housing prices?

“Most people would argue the answer is no,’’ he said. “Credit Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve.” More here. 


More fallout from voting rights act ruling: court dismisses challenge to FL's voter purge

A federal court in Tampa dismissed the claim by civil rights activists Wednesday challenging the controversial 2012 voter purge enacted by Gov. Rick Scott and the state's Division of Elections to rid the rolls of what they believed were scores of fraudulent voter registrations.

The action was challenged by the the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on behalf of Mi Familia Vota and two U.S. citizens and alleged it unconstitutionally targeted minority voters.

The court on Wednesday cited the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on Shelby County v. Holder, which dismantled the part of the federal Voting Rights Act that required that state actions receive federal approval or preclearnace.

The ACLU of Florida director Howard Simon said the decision is further proof that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling "has taken away one of the primary tools we have used to challenge efforts to undermine democracy by suppressing minority votes.”

Here is the ACLU press release:

Continue reading "More fallout from voting rights act ruling: court dismisses challenge to FL's voter purge" »

Poll: Republicans like George Zimmerman more than President Obama. Independents not far behind


Fox News just released a nationwide poll that reflects many others by finding voters are unhappy with the economy and want Obamacare repealed.

But what's truly eye-opening are the comparisons of partisan opinions of President Barack Obama and George Zimmerman, who was acquitted July 13 of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges for shooting unarmed Miami Gardens 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012.

Republicans have a more-favorable opinion of Zimmerman, a figure of sympathy to a number of conservatives, than Obama. That's right: The Democratic occupant of the White House is held in less favorable regard by Republicans than the guy who shot an unarmed teenager and successfully pleaded self-defense.

Specifically: Republicans are two-and-a-half times more-likely to have a favorable opinion of Zimmerman than Obama. And they're almost three-times more likely to have an unfavorable opinion of Obama than Zimmerman.

Republicans, with independents siding more with them, also agree with the verdict more than Democrats (who disagree with it). There's also a clear racial divide, with blacks disagreeing most-strongly with the verdict than whites. African-Americans are more likely to see race as a major factor in the case.

Asked for whether they rate these people as favorable or unfavorable, here's how GOP respondents answered the pollster:

Obama: 18-79% favorable-unfavorable

Zimmerman: 45-27% fav-unfav

But independents aren't far behind Republicans.

Among them, Zimmerman's fav-unfav: 28-34%. Obama: 30-60. So while independents narrowly liked Obama more, they disliked him by an even greater margin.

Overall, Obama beat out Zimmerman with a 50-46% rating for the president, thanks to strong Democratic support (88-11%). Overall, Zimmerman's fav-unfav is 28-43%, due largely to extreme Democratic dislike (his fav-unfav among them: 14-64%).

This fav-unfav question, incidentally, is an apples-to-apples question. Earlier in the poll, respondents were asked to rate their approval or disapproval of the president's job performance. The overall numbers: 46-47%. (Dem: 84-12%. GOP: 14-82%. Ind: 25-60%).

The other Zimmerman-trial questions exposed also exposed a partisan divide. There's an even bigger racial gap as well.

The verdict, agree-disagree?
Overall: 49-40
Dem: 26-64.
Rep: 73-18.
Ind: 57-29.
White: 56-31.
Black: 10-87

Was race the single-most important factor, one of several important factors or not an important factor?

Overall: 19-34-36
Dem: 36-36-23
Rep: 8-31-51
Ind: 9-35-41
White: 14-36-39
Black 54-28-12

Bring civil rights charges, yes-no?
Overall 28-66
Dem: 48-47
Rep: 14-82
Ind: 15-76
White: 20-74
Black: 77-22



Feds to Florida: Not too late for Medicaid expansion

Federal officials on Wednesday renewed calls for Florida lawmakers to accept an estimated $50 billion over the next 10 years to expand Medicaid, the joint state and federal health insurance program for the poor, to cover an additional one million Floridians who would otherwise remain uninsured even after Jan. 1 when healthcare reform begins in earnest.

Saying it’s not too late for Florida to accept federal funds available for Medicaid expansion, officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services held a conference call with reporters to reiterate the economic and social benefits of expanding the healthcare safety net for the state’s poorest residents.

Under the proposal, the federal government would agree to pay 100 percent of the cost of expanding Medicaid in Florida, or an estimated $5 billion a year, from 2014 through 2016, and at least 90 percent thereafter.

Paul Dioguardi, director of intergovernmental and external affairs for HHS, said that Florida could expect to add about 120,000 private sector jobs to the economy and save the state an estimated $430 million in healthcare costs by accepting the funds.

"States can improve health, protect families from financial ruin, ensure doctors and hospitals get paid for the care they deliver, and boost the economy," he said. "We’re still hopeful that Florida will take advantage of this generous offer."

Is it likely to happen? Read more here.

Civil rights group wants Angela Corey replaced in Jacksonville trial

The Florida Civil Rights Association wants Gov. Rick Scott to remove State Attorney Angela Corey from a controversial shooting case in Jacksonville.

"A new special prosecutor is needed to suppress racial tension created in the failed prosecution by Corey and her staff that led to a NOT GUILTY verdict in the George Zimmerman murder trial of Trayvon Martin," FCRA President J. Willie David, III, wrote in a letter on Wednesday. 

Corey served as special prosecutor in the high-profile Zimmerman case.

Zimmerman's acquittal this month touched off racially charged protests around the country.

In the Jacksonville case, Michael Dunn, a white man, is accused in the shooting death of Jordan Davis, an unarmed black teenager.

Read the two pages of the letter below. View this photo
View this photo

Residency of all legislators under review

From the News Service of Florida

Legislative leadership wants to know where House and Senate members are when they say they're at home.

With Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, raising questions about a number of Democratic lawmakers living outside the districts they represent, the top attorneys for the House and Senate have been directed to recommend standards for residency.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Ken Detzner will be asked to get a list of where all 160 legislators are registered to vote.

"Neither the House nor the Senate has historically developed a clear set of principles to determine the residency of our members," House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said in letter Wednesday to Latvala. "The recommended guidelines should draw on any past rulings of the House and Senate on this question, as well as decisions from other bodies in related legal contexts."

Continue reading "Residency of all legislators under review" »

Protesters demand pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants


The Dream Defenders weren't the only activists at the Florida Capitol on Wednesday.

Despite afternoon showers, the North Florida Coalition for Immigration Reform gathered on the steps of the Old Capitol to demand a pathway to citizenship for the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants.

"The pathway to citizenship is the pathway to freedom," said Tabitha Frazier, president of the Leon County Democratic Hispanic Caucus. "Our representatives must know that if they do not support this cause, they will not be reelected."

Frazier was joined by the National Organization of Women's Barbara DeVane, Organizing for America's Jaclyn Smith, former Leon County Commissioner Akin Akinyemi and a number of undocumented college students.

The U.S. Senate has already passed a bipartisan immigration bill that creates a 13-year pathway to citizenship. But House Republicans and Democrats have clashed over the issue, and it is unclear if they will reach a compromise.

Congress begins a month-long summer recess next week.

Joe Garcia blasts Steve King's drug smuggler-DREAMer comments, then campaigns on it


Miami Rep. Joe Garcia gave an impassioned speech yesterday in the U.S. House Judiciary's Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security where he tore into Iowa Rep. Steve King for saying illegal immigrant kids are more likely to be drug runners than valedictorians.

House Speaker John Boehner called his fellow Republican's comments "wrong."

But they're just right for campaigning purposes for Garcia, a Democrat, who just sent out an email highlighting King's comments and asking supporters to get involved, volunteer or donate.

"As a Hispanic, I am offended - but as an American, I am disgusted," Garcia wrote in a campaign email.

For the Democrat, it's a three-fer of an issue: 1) it raises money 2) it helps raise Garcia's profile and 3) it makes immigration and hardline Republican approaches to the issue part of his campaign. Democrats have already lit into one of Garcia's challengers, Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo, over immigration (more here).

Curbelo, a Republican who said his support for comprehensive immigration reform has been "unwavering" for years, made it clear that, when it comes to King's comments, he agrees with Garcia.

"@SteveKingIA comments were inaccurate, stupid, and do not represent the views of @GO," Curbelo said on Twitter, in a message that's designed to make King see it.

King, who also made comments suggesting immigration policy should be like picking a "bird dog," is rapidly becoming a problem for many mainstream Republicans for his inflammatory comments. Aside from Boehner's rebuke, Univision went after King earlier this week for his "bird dog" comments.

Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, who tussled with King, has crusaded to pass the DREAM Act for college-bound undocumented children brought to this country by their parents. He said King "compared immigrants to dogs." King accused Ramos of a "mischaracterization." (more here).

Interviews like this are dangerous for Republicans. Univision, a Spanish-language powerhouse, was the nation's most-watched network in July. Its audience is only growing, and many of them vote.

Then King said this to NewsMax:

“There are kids that were brought into this country by their parents unknowing they were breaking the law. And they will say to me and others who defend the rule of law, ‘We have to do something about the 11 million. Some of them are valedictorians.’ Well, my answer to that is…it’s true in some cases, but they aren’t all valedictorians. They weren’t all brought in by their parents. For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert. Those people would be legalized with the same act.”

Garcia yesterday singled out the comments in committee, where he didn't mention King by name:  

"When members of this committee -- when members of this House -- use inflammatory language, use offensive language, it does not help the process. In my district, I have multiple schools who on a regular basis produce valedictorians, and they are undocumented. However, when members of this House, use language such as 'for everyone that is a valedictorian, there is another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds -- and have calves the size of cantaloupes because they've been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,' it is offensive. And it is beneath the dignity of this body and this country.... This is an American problem. And we need to work together."

King is one of the most-vocal immigration-reform opponents and has crusaded for more border security. But with comments like the ones above, it's little wonder that 59% of voters in a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll said Republican calls for more border security is an "excuse to block reform." Only 36 percent said it was a "legitimate concern."

**Note: This post has been updated. Garcia supporters point out that the email was a standard campaign email that didn't have a specific "ask" for donations. So it technically wasn't just a fundraising email, as the previous headline and other parts of this blog said or indicated.

Miami-Dade state attorney to congressional hopeful: Absentee-ballot probe not 'political fodder'


The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office engaged in a war of words Wednesday with congressional candidate and Cutler Bay Mayor Ed MacDougall, who called for a special prosecutor to take over a high-profile absentee ballot investigation.

MacDougall, a Republican, intends to challenge Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia, whose campaign has been at the center of the investigation into hundreds of fraudulent absentee-ballot requests submitted online for last August's primary election.

Garcia fired his former chief of staff and top political adviser, Jeffrey Garcia, no relation, after Jeffrey Garcia admitted to the congressman that he had directed the campaign to submit some of the phantom requests.

In a letter Wednesday, MacDougall asked Republican Gov. Rick Scott to step in, accusing Miami-Dade prosecutors of taking too long in their probe. 

Continue reading "Miami-Dade state attorney to congressional hopeful: Absentee-ballot probe not 'political fodder'" »

Miami-Dade commission cancels meeting amid outcry over budget cuts


Miami-Dade commissioners have canceled their July 30 meeting.

The scheduling decision would rarely be news, considering the board usually strikes the last meeting in July from its calendar to take off for its annual, month-long August break. Indeed, they had planned to cancel the July 30 meeting for weeks.

But this year, the cancellation came as activists concerned about proposed cuts to the county budget hoped to make their case next week for commissioners to reconsider keeping the property-tax rate flat -- instead of raising it to maintain services.

Continue reading "Miami-Dade commission cancels meeting amid outcry over budget cuts" »