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249 posts from June 2017

June 30, 2017

Rick Scott's net worth soars $30 million in 2016 as the value of his Florida mansion drops

Rick Scott APFlorida Gov. Rick Scott saw his net worth increase by more than $30 million last year as his blind trust rose in value, a reversal of fortunes that had seen him lose $27 million the year before.

Scott, a two-term Republican and former businessman, filed his annual financial disclosure form Friday showing that his net worth was more than $149 million at the end of 2016, a 25 percent increase from the previous year.

Scott, a former hospital executive, has maintained most of his assets in the Gov. Richard L. Scott 2014 Qualified Blind Trust. The law allows public officials to create a blind trust in lieu of revealing their assets on a financial disclosure form. But by shielding the investments from the governor’s direct control, it also shields from the public any information about how the governor increased his wealth.

The governor’s blind trust is managed by a third party — a company that includes the governor’s former personal advisor. The governor reported that in 2016 his blind trust rose in value from $100 million to $130 million, but the governor also drew less income from the trust last year than he did in 2014.

Scott reported $4.3 million in income from his trust in 2016 — down from the $16.5 million in income he reported from the trust in 2015. The law does not require Scott to report how he spent the income from his trust. The governor does not take a salary from the state.

Questions have followed Scott since he first created the blind trust when he was elected in 2010. When Scott ran for re-election in 2014, he briefly dissolved his first trust and released information about the individual holdings in it. He also released his tax returns for 2013.

The tax returns showed that the Scott family earns millions more than the governor reported individually on his financial disclosure form. It also raised questions about whether Scott may have control over assets held by his wife, Ann Scott.

An investigation by the Herald/Times into those investments found that filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicated the governor had substantially larger holdings in several companies than what he reported to the state. A lawsuit was filed by George Sheldon, a 2014 Democrat candidate for attorney general, but a court ruled that the governor could not be compelled to disclose more information.

Tallahassee attorney Jim Apthorp appealed the decision, arguing that the blind trust law violated the constitutional provisions of the state’s public records law, but the Florida Supreme Court rejected that argument in 2015.

Both Scott and his wife maintain the blind trust. Florida law does not require spouses of elected officials to reveal their financial holdings.

The governor's 2016 disclosure shows that he saw the value of his home in Naples dropped from $15.4 million to $15 million, but saw a $20,000 increase in the value of an adjacent $144,000 boathouse. His 60-acre Montana residence, however, was listed at the same value the governor has listed it as for the last three years.

The governor continues to report payments due from four individuals or entities, including S. Scott, P. Phillips, Luther Oaks, and Roland Alonzo.

The governor's IRA through Pershing Advisor Solutions increased in value by $20,000 to $571,764. His Wells Fargo bank account was down $5,000 from 2015 to $52,312, and his Mutual of Omaha bank account was down $1 from 2015 to $91,477.

Under the law, the governor could withdraw money from his blind trust at the end of December 2016, use it to make an investment in 2017, and not have to disclose that investment until June 30, 2018, the next reporting year. That report is expected to show another spike in the governor’s net worth as a result of the multi-million sale of a Michigan-based plastics company in which the governor’s firm was a principal owner.

In the governor's final year in office, 2018, he will not have to make any financial disclosure.

Paul Renner wins speaker's race for 2022

SP_409499_KEEL_6_FLGOV (1)


Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, has won the race for speaker of the Florida House in the 2022-2024 term.

Renner, who was elected to the House in a 2014 special election, beat out Tampa Rep. Jamie Grant for the designation as speaker in a first round of voting by their fellow freshman members of the House, the Times-Union's Tia Mitchell reports.

Current House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, confirmed the news on Twitter.

Of course, his speakership depends on Renner remaining in office through the 2022 election and on Republicans retaining their majority in the chamber. He would be speaker during a crucial redistricting session, when House and Senate leaders have the ability to influence the map of districts that elect them.

Renner is slated to follow Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, in the job.

Photo by Scott Keeler | Tampa Bay Times

Rival candidate offers to represent man who threatened to 'kill' Miami Republican lawmaker

Steve Stfeliz@martindvassolo

A Miami attorney and Republican candidate for the state Senate offered Friday to represent a man who was arrested after he threatened to "kill" Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, one of the attorney's rivals.

Lorenzo Palomares said Friday he's willing to represent Steve St. Felix, who was charged Monday after he left a threatening comment on Diaz's Facebook page.

“It will be an honor to represent him pro bono,” said Palomares, who like Diaz is running in the July 25 primary for Senate District 40.

Police say St. Felix was “fed up” with the Republican Party and that he was not taking his medication when he threatened Diaz. It is unknown what condition St. Felix might suffer.

“I’ll kill your ass and you better not show up to the next REC meeting,” St. Felix wrote on Facebook, referring to the Republican Executive Committee, the local party's formal name.

St. Felix was an REC member until he resigned "several months ago," said REC Chairman Nelson Diaz, no relation to the state representative. A St. Felix friend said he sometimes called him "Mr. Republican."

Rep. Diaz, Palomares and the third Republican in the primary race, former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, remain REC members, according to the party.

Rep. Diaz reported the threat to police, who then arrested the 34-year-old and charged him with written threats with intent to do bodily injury. St. Felix told police he was sorry for making the threat, and that he did not intend to harm Diaz. He remains in jail on a $500,000 bond.

During a court hearing Thursday, St. Felix invoked the names of other Miami Republicans, including party Chairman Diaz, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

“I want Marco Rubio, Nelson Diaz, Manny Diaz, Manny Diaz Jr., Carlos Gimenez...go eat a Cuban sandwich boy,” he said, according to court footage from WTVJ-NBC 6.

Following St. Felix's arrest, Rep. Diaz said it was disheartening to be threatened over politics.

“It is sad to see that our national political discourse has led us to a place where someone threatens the life of a stranger based solely on their party affiliation,” he said in a written statement.

Palomares accused Rep. Diaz of using the incident to score free publicity ahead of a July 25 primary.

“He is certainly the one who caused this issue to happen," Palomares said of the St. Felix incident. "This man is not a violent man. I’ve seen him. I’ve dealt with him."

Palomares called St. Felix's half-a-million-dollar bond "ridiculous" and said Rep. Diaz overreacted.

The night after St. Felix's arrest, Rep. Diaz grabbed a microphone at the end of the local GOP's annual fundraiser and told the crowd gathered to listen to a speech by White House counselor Kellyanne Conway that he “was told not to come here because if I came here, somebody was gonna try to kill me.”

“I don’t care. I’m here because I want to be here with you tonight,” he said, to raucous applause.

Party Chairman Diaz said St. Felix "never displayed any signs of mental health problems” while at the REC, but clearly he was grappling with a psychological condition.

“Steven is upset in the manner and means by which the party is being managed by Nelson Diaz," Palomares said. "He didn’t take his pills, but they overreacted to it.”

St. Felix has made controversial comments online before, especially when not on his medication, said high school friend Frantz Jean, a 35-year-old living in Lauderhill. The two played varsity football at North Miami Beach Senior High before St. Felix went on the Florida A&M University to play college ball, Jean said. At the time, he was a “typical teenager.”

“It’s after high school that we started noticing the change in his behavior from time to time,” he said, adding that St. Felix was obsessive about his Republican affiliation.

“That’s the number one thing he always says, 'I’m a Republican. He’s always been a proud Republican. That’s why we always call him ‘Mr. Republican,’” he said.

He said St. Felix would often take to social media to vent about his life, sometimes rattling off posts until early in the morning.

“When I saw him on the news, it broke my heart,” Jean said. “This is the first time that it's actually gone this far to him being incarcerated.”

Jean said he and his friends will try to make sure St. Felix has access to his medications and maintains a strict regimen.

“When he’s under his medication, he’s a perfectly fine citizen,” he said.

Photo: Miami-Dade Corrections

Jimmy Patronis sworn in as Florida's new chief financial officer


via @stevebousquet

Jimmy Patronis took the oath of office Friday morning as Florida's new chief financial officer in Gov. Rick Scott's office in the state Capitol. As Scott looked on, Chief Justice Jorge Labarga of the Florida Supreme Court administered the oath of office.

Patronis, 45, was accompanied by his wife Katie and their two sons, Theo and Johnny. A Panama City restaurateur, former Republican state House member and former member of the Public Service Commission, Patronis becomes the state's fourth CFO, succeeding Jeff Atwater, who resigned after six-and-a-half years in office to take a senior position at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

"I really look forward to being effective and efficient and keeping up the same standards and values that CFO Atwater has brought to the job," Patronis said. "Greater transparency, greater efficiency and attacking fraud in our insurance and just doing what he can to ensure that the economy and transparency of our state grows."

More than two dozen friends were on hand for the ceremony, including former Republican state Rep. Jim Frishe of Pinellas Park, who served with Patronis for six years in the state House of Representatives.

Here’s how much money school districts will have to share with charters under new state law



Florida’s 650 charter schools will see an extra $96.3 million coming their way in 2017-18, thanks to a controversial provision in a sweeping education bill Gov. Rick Scott signed into law earlier this month that forces school districts to hand over some of their local tax dollars.

An aspect of HB 7069 that most concerned school district administrators and locally elected school boards requires districts to give a cut of their taxpayer funding to privately managed charter schools for use on construction and maintenance projects.

RELATED: “Here’s how the controversial new schools law will impact South Florida”

Data requested by the Herald/Times and provided by the Florida House now provides a look at the statewide impact of that fiscal policy.

The $96 million equates to nearly 7 percent of the $1.4 billion statewide that county school districts would have had in total to spend next year, after accounting for required debt payments off the top.

The state’s most populous school districts — Miami-Dade and Broward counties — will take the biggest hits in terms of pure dollar amounts under the new sharing formula.

Full details here.

Photo credit: Miami Herald file photo

June 29, 2017

Miami Republicans vote against bill to expand penalties on sanctuary cities



Donald Trump campaigned as a tough-on-immigration Republican who would roll back Obama-era protections for undocumented immigrants.

But he can’t count on Miami’s Republican delegation in the House to back him on every facet of his immigration agenda.

The three Republicans, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen voted against a bill on Thursday that would deny federal law-enforcement funds to cities that choose not to comply with the federal government’s effort to enforce tougher immigration laws.

“I think this one is frankly too broad,” Diaz-Balart said.

The bill passed the House by a vote of 228-195. The Miami trio were among just seven Republicans who voted against the bill, which passed largely on party lines.

But the three Republicans did vote for another bill on Thursday trumpeted by Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz that would expand criminal penalties for undocumented immigrants who commit serious crimes. The bill, dubbed Kate’s Law, is named after Kate Steinle, a San Francisco woman murdered by an illegal immigrant who was in the U.S. despite multiple deportations.

“I think most people would agree, you’re here in this country illegally, you’re doing terrible things, you’re just a bad apple. Let’s get rid of you,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “We have so many good people who want to come. That’s totally different than the sanctuary cities issue where so many of those folks are good people. That makes no distinction between whether they are good people or criminals. But in Kate’s Law we’re talking about criminals who have done horrible things. I don’t care if they’re American or from Central America. You’re bad, you’ve got to be in jail and you should be deported.”

Read more here. 

Miami Beach mayor mulling run for governor will do Florida bus tour for radio show



Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a Democrat seriously considering a run for governor, is about to hop on a bus and scoot around Florida to get to know folks across the state. But the millionaire entrepreneur hasn't formally launched a gubernatorial bid yet. 

Consider it a campaign bus tour that he insists is not a campaign bus tour.

Levine's been tapped by Sirius/XM to make a five-part audio documentary called "A Day In The Sun." Billed as an encounter with everyday people who live in the Sunshine State, the documentary will be recorded during Levine's road trip July 10-14. He'll start in Miami and head north, stopping in areas like Tarpon Springs, Orlando, Daytona Beach, St. Augustine and the Panhandle.  

"Along the way he’ll speak with Floridians of diverse backgrounds and interests - from alligator wranglers to farmers to NASA engineers - exploring the rich tapestry of everyday people who help make the state unique," reads a press release from Sirius/XM.

The five-part weekly series will premiere on SiriusXM Insight channel 121 on Aug. 1. Always eager to bask in the spotlight, Levine hosts another Sirius/XM show called "The Mayor," which features him interviewing different political leaders and cultural figures from across the U.S.

Although not technically a campaign tour, the trip will put Levine in front of more voters as he mulls a bid for governor. The mayor has told the Miami Herald he plans to make a decision in the fall. He would enter a field of Democrats that includes former North Florida congresswoman Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando entrepreneur Chris King. Another potential candidate, trial attorney and noted medical marijuana advocate John Morgan, has said he's in no rush to decide.

Carlos Curbelo wants to be a Republican leader on climate change — if he can keep his seat



Members of Congress like Carlos Curbelo are in danger of becoming extinct.

The Republican, who represents a Miami-to-Key West district, is one of the few GOP voices speaking out against Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement and his desire to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency.

But as rising seas threaten to ruin property values in his district, Curbelo is trapped between conservatives who don’t have any interest in talking climate change and liberals who would love to take out a Republican incumbent in 2018.

In 2016, Curbelo had the second highest rating among House Republicans on the League of Conservation Voters’ annual scorecard.

The only member with a higher score than Curbelo, Illinois Republican Robert Dold, lost reelection.

Curbelo is fighting to avoid Dold’s fate, and during the first six months of Trump’s administration, he’s attempted to position himself as the national voice for Republicans who are concerned about climate change.

He munched on strawberries in South Miami-Dade with a PBS correspondent during a national television segment about conservatives embracing climate change, appeared in a New York Times front page opus on the GOP’s shift toward climate change denial and frequently tweets his displeasure with the White House.

“Every day there’s more momentum on the Republican side for responsible climate policy,” Curbelo, 37, said. “It’s also a generational issue, so there are a lot of colleagues who are my age or around my age who are far more open to engaging in this issue than those who have maybe been here 10 or 20 years.”

Instead of arguing that politicians must take action because humans are morally responsible for climate change, Curbelo is spreading a simple message: tackling the effects of climate change makes economic sense.

Curbelo, a former lobbyist and political operative, understands the political game.

In 2016, he won reelection by 12 points even after his district was redrawn in favor of Democrats. In the nascent 2018 cycle he’s among the top fundraisers from either party, with $613,622 raised, putting him 32nd nationally among House incumbents and challengers, according to Federal Election Commission data.

Curbelo frequently touts the Climate Solutions Caucus he co-founded last Congress with Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, where each member who joins is required to bring along someone from the other side of the aisle.

The strategy has appeared to work so far for Curbelo. He hasn’t drawn serious opposition for his seat in 2018 yet, despite Trump’s low approval ratings and excitement from national Democrats that the House could turn blue in 2018.

But the Climate Solutions Caucus is littered with vulnerable Republican incumbents: 15 of the caucus’s 21 Republican members are on the list of Democratic targets to flip in 2018.

The desire to keep moderates like Curbelo in Congress has divided environmental groups. Some, like the Environmental Defense Fund, spent nearly $500,000 to back Curbelo in 2016, while others, like the Sierra Club, choose to support Democrats.

“Absolutely, we recognize and applaud that he’s sort of split with his party and been a vocal advocate for action on climate change, but the Sierra Club needs to look across the board,” said Melinda Pierce, the Sierra Club’s legislative director. “If you look at the rest of his votes it doesn’t live up. He’s been active on climate, but if you look across the board he’s got votes on bills that are at odds with us, supporting natural gas exports, support for Keystone [Pipeline], support for fossil fuel subsidies. When our folks look at Carlos Curbelo they see a 23 percent lifetime environmental voting record.”

Read more here.

Confederate streets force Hollywood, Fla., to grapple with Civil War ghosts

@PatriciaMazzei @CrossingBordas

Every day after he’s done delivering mail in Miami Gardens, postman Jonathan Anderson returns home to Hollywood, where he strolls the neighborhood to check in with family and friends. Like him, most of them are African-American.

So it is especially hurtful to pass by three streets whose names might mean little to the uninformed. But Anderson knows: Forrest, Hood and Lee were three Confederate generals. Forrest was considered the father of the Ku Klux Klan.

“To me, when you walk out your door and see those names, and you are conscious of what they stand for, then it becomes something so distasteful you can’t shake it,” said Anderson, 62. “It is a showing from a very dark past that my ancestors had to go through — what we are still going through.”

Of all the places still grappling with the Civil War’s ugly legacy, the most unexpected might be sleepy Hollywood, a Broward County bedroom community founded 60 years after the war’s end, with zero claims to its history and located so far south it’s closer to the Caribbean than to the old Confederacy.

Yet the city has stuck with Confederate streets in a black neighborhood, ignoring renaming requests a decade and a half ago. For the past two years, the idea has been grinding through an unhurried bureaucracy to — perhaps, finally — christen them anew. 

Exasperated by Hollywood’s dawdling, a protest calling for the streets to be renamed turned nasty last week when pro-Confederates arrived and, according to a black state legislator, hurled racial epithets at him and other African Americans and Hispanics. The demonstration of about 150 people outside City Hall ended with five arrests when protesters disrupted a commission meeting.

“Blacks see what’s happening nationally and think, ‘Hell, no, this is not about to happen again,’” said state Rep. Shevrin Jones, a Democrat from neighboring West Park who said he was called a “monkey” and a “nigger.” “We will be vocal, and we will not sit on the sidelines.”

More here.

Photo credit: Charles Trainor Jr. Miami Herald staff

Miami House candidate lists home under construction as residence

Perez home construction@martindvassolo @PatriciaMazzei

The Kendall home where a Miami Republican candidate for the Florida House says he lives is a shell of a house, with no roof and little more than walls under construction.

Daniel Perez lists the house on Southwest 84th Street in Kendallwood as his residence on his voter registration and all of his candidacy documents, and he gets a tax-break homestead exemption there. But he isn’t currently sleeping there.

Perez said Thursday that while the house is under construction, he has been living with father in an apartment elsewhere in the district. He refused to provide the address to verify if it's within House District 116 boundaries.

“I think this is borderline ridiculous,” he said of being asked about his residency. His parents own a house outside the district, public records show.

Florida requires legislators to live in the districts they represent by Election Day. For Perez, that'd be Sept. 26, if he defeats rival Jose Mallea in the July 25 primary. Perez said he's unsure if construction on his new home will be finished by Sept. 26.

He said he lived in the home he and his now-fiancée bought for $460,000 a year ago before the new construction began a couple of months ago. Perez switched his voter registration to the home last September, and hasn't changed it since.

Perez debuted a TV ad Wednesday attacking Mallea for not living in the district -- though Mallea says he moved into a Doral rental apartment within district boundaries on June 15.

This post has been updated.

Photo: Martin Vassolo, The Miami Herald