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16 posts from May 8, 2017

May 08, 2017

Republicans reach out to Lopez-Cantera, Bush Jr. to gauge interest in Ros-Lehtinen's seat

2 Carlos Lopez-Cantera 0621

The Republican Party reached out to at least two Miamians last week to gauge their interest in running for GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's seat: Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Jeb Bush Jr., the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

The National Republican Congressional Committee spoke to both men in the days after Ros-Lehtinen, a 28-year House veteran, announced her retirement from the heavily Democratic 27th district, the Miami Herald has learned.

As Democrats lined up as potential candidates, Republicans have yet to find a good fit to run in 2018; a single well-known Republican, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, has said he's running.

Lopez-Cantera declined to comment Monday. Bush did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. 

The day Ros-Lehtinen retired, Lopez-Cantera said in a statement that he would "spend the next few days" discussing a possible candidacy with his family. Bush's father has been in the headlines recently as an interested buyer of the Miami Marlins baseball team.

Other Republicans whose names have been floated: state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, former Ros-Lehtinen chief of staff Art Estopiñán, state Sen. Anitere Flores, state Sen. René García, state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, former Miami-Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado, former County Commission Juan C. Zapata.

Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff

Gov. Scott sets special election to replace Artiles


Florida Gov. Rick Scott has picked the dates for a special election to replace Miami Republican Sen. Frank Artiles.

The special primary will take place July 25, and the special general election will take place Sept. 26, Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz told the Miami Herald on Monday, shortly after Scott signed an executive order setting the election.

Artiles resigned last month after unleashing racist and sexist remarks in a conversation with two African-American senators. He represented Senate District 40, a competitive seat in Southwest Miami-Dade County.

Ban on charters' private enrichment left out of education bill


Lawmakers were on track this spring to enact long-sought safeguards to stop businesses from turning a profit off public money intended for charter school capital projects.

But for the second year in a row, that proposal abruptly vanished and was left out of a late-session compromise House and Senate leaders struck in private.

MORE: “Parents, school leaders urge ‘no’ vote on mammoth education bill”

Despite being sought and supported by both chambers, the proposed accountability restrictions on charter schools didn’t make it in the final education budget bill released Friday evening — a 278-page proposal that combined four K-12 budget measures and lumped in myriad other education policies unrelated to spending.

Lawmakers will cast up-or-down votes on HB 7069 Monday, along with other bills that make up the 2017-18 budget; they can’t amend the bills.

Full details here on why the capital outlay restrictions aren't in the bill.

Digital ads target Curbelo for Obamacare replacement vote


The web ads bashing House Republicans -- including Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo -- for voting for the American Health Care Act last week are starting.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Monday launched a 15-second digital spot calling the Obamacare replacement legislation unaffordable and more expensive for older Americans.

"And House Republicans voted yes," the ad says.

The DCCC is targeting 10 Republican lawmakers it considers vulnerable. The ad is slated to run for two weeks in YouTube and in Google, when users search for Curbelo and healthcare-related terms.

"The passage of this repeal and ripoff bill was a defining moment for every single House Republican," DCCC spokesman Cole Leiter said in a statement. That's why the DCCC moved quickly to launch a substantial digital ad campaign to educate voters on the personal impact of this disastrous bill, and to expose the vulnerable House Republicans who supported it."

A pro-Obamacare group, Save My Care, is also rolling out a digital ad, noting the AARP's and American Medical Association's opposition to the AHCA -- and mentioning Curbelo by name.

"Congressman Curbelo: How could you do this to us?" the ad says.

The Women's March Florida Chapter, a liberal group that formed after the election of President Donald Trump, has also called for a demonstration Monday afternoon outside Curbelo's Key West district office.

Outside a South Miami-Dade Dunkin' Donuts on Monday, after checking out the aftermath of a car plowing through the storefront, Curbelo said he's heard plenty already from constituents regarding his healthcare vote.

"I've heard it all. I've gotten many messages thanking me for my vote and many people who are very upset," he said. "What I want my constituents to know is that I'm focused on improving the quality of health care in our country and on reducing costs."

This post has been updated.

--with Martin Vassolo

Joe Negron: USF's allegations 'entirely unsupported by the facts'

As the Legislature returns to pass a budget Monday, Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has written an op-ed column for the Tampa Bay Times. In it, he rejects USF's contention that it was a victim of a legislative maneuver to deny the Tampa university preeminent status and millions of dollars a year now enjoyed by UF and FSU.

NegronBousquetNegron is the Legislature's leading proponent of moving to a new four-year graduation standard of 60 percent for a university to reach preeminence, and that standard awaits an up-or-town vote Monday by both houses.

The full background on what happened is here from the Tampa Bay Times. Here's Negron's version of the controversy:

Under the leadership of Dr. Judy Genshaft, the University of South Florida has become one of the leading public universities in Florida. The USF system ranks ninth in the nation among public universities for granted U.S. patents, according to the Intellectual Property Owners Association/NAI (2015).  In June 2016, USF achieved "Emerging Preeminent State University" status as designated by the Florida Board of Governors. Recently some have claimed that the Florida Legislature "moved the goal posts", thus denying USF Tampa status as a "preeminent state university."

This allegation is incorrect and entirely unsupported by the facts.

There is one, and only one, reason USF Tampa narrowly missed preeminent designation this year: the university did not reach the current metric of a 70 percent six-year graduation rate. It came up just short at 67 percent. As it has been for some time, this is the current graduation measurement in effect through the 2018 academic year.

In the first draft of Senate Bill 2, the Senate provided for a 50 percent four-year graduation rate for preeminence, effectively immediately. Upon further reflection and in consultation with the Florida House, we decided it was more equitable to apply this new standard prospectively and not retroactively. We also raised the qualifying four-year graduation rate to 60 percent. I stand by both of those decisions and would make them again.  

First, in academia – as well as in business and sports – fundamental fairness requires that all competitors know the rules of engagement before the results are determined.  That is why a prospective application is superior to a retroactive application. Second, any university seeking to be known as "preeminent" should have at least 60 percent of its full-time students graduating on time. 

The goal posts were not moved. Proposed legislation is frequently revised and amended during session, and it was imprudent for any observer to count their chickens before they hatched. USF simply did not hit the current standard. The good news is that USF will have every opportunity to reach preeminence in the coming years if they meet the new 60 percent four-year graduation rate, which is achievable.

The University of South Florida also had a banner year in the budget, thanks to Appropriations Chair Sen. Jack Latvala and the entire Tampa Bay Senate delegation. USF received an increase in operational funding of approximately $42 million and an additional $12 million for the Morsani College of Medicine in downtown Tampa, as well as $3.1 million for Davis Hall at USF St. Pete.

At my designation ceremony in December 2015, I pledged that transforming our universities in Florida into national elite destination universities like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Virginia would be a top priority, a promise I have kept.  The proposed budget on the desks of legislators contains nearly $600 million in additional funding for universities and for merit and need-based scholarships for students. I have no doubt that the University of South Florida will continue its steady ascension to becoming one of the preeminent universities in Florida and one of the exceptional universities in the United States.

Lawmakers will decide major K-12 policy, spending today -- and rest of 2017-18 budget



A swift outcry of condemnation came over the weekend from many parents, teachers and school administrators who want the Florida Legislature to reject a $419 million, 278-page K-12 public schools bill — which was decided behind closed doors, which lawmakers cannot change and which they’ll have had only about 72 hours to review when they vote Monday.

House and Senate members will decide the fate of HB 7069 as part of several up-or-down votes on a 2017-18 budget package. The Legislature extended its annual session until 11:59 p.m. Monday with the intent of passing an $82.4 billion spending plan, its single constitutional obligation.

MORE: “All eyes on the Florida budget as lawmakers return to state Capitol for one final act”

Public education advocates, like the Florida PTA and other groups, and superintendents — including Miami-Dade County Public Schools chief Alberto Carvalho — aim to convince their elected representatives to vote “no.” Such an outcome is unlikely but not unprecedented, and it would potentially call the entire budget into question because of the major dollars attached.

“I’ve spoken to so many senators — both parties — who are opposed to so many portions of that bill,” Broward County Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point, said. “The question is: Will they have the fortitude to vote no?”

More here.

Photo credit: Carl Juste / Miami Herald