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80 posts from January 2018

January 20, 2018

Busy South Florida weekend for Democratic gubernatorial candidates



It's January. Which means Florida's Democratic gubernatorial candidates really want to visit balmy South Florida.

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham is in Doral today serving up draughts at M.I.A. Beer Company during on of her campaign's "work days" -- a throwback to the blue-collar events her father, former Governor Bob Graham, used to hold.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine (he lives here, but whatever) will appear at Las Fiestas de la Calle Miami, a two-day Puerto Rican festival at Bayfront Park, to talk about his "commitment to Puerto Rican families."

And on Sunday, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is visiting the 93d Street Missionary Baptist Church in the morning and then heading at 11 a.m. to the Women's March at Mana Wynwood Convention Center.

The three candidates are heading into town on the heels of a visit by Winter Park businessman Chris King, who was in South Florida last week on an "affordable living tour."

On the Republican side, Ron DeSantis has scheduled a campaign kickoff Jan. 29 in Boca Raton.

Photo: Gwen Graham helps brew a batch of beer at M.I.A. Brewery in Doral. Courtesy Twitter 

January 19, 2018

Bill Nelson votes against short-term spending bill without immigration deal



Sen. Bill Nelson voted against a short-term spending bill to keep the government running on Friday as the Florida Democrat balked at a proposal that did not include a solution for nearly 800,000 undocumented young immigrants who could face deportation in March if Congress fails to act.

As of 10:40 pm the Senate vote was still open and not finalized.

Nelson remained undecided on his vote for over 24 hours after the House of Representatives passed a short-term spending bill on Thursday night. Nelson’s office said on Thursday he would wait to see what the House passed before making a decision, but then the Florida Democrat did not make his vote public until giving his thumbs down on the Senate floor just before 10:30 pm.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needed Democratic support to keep the government open because a spending bill requires 60 votes in the 100-member Senate, and Republicans control only 51 seats.

Nelson, the only statewide elected Democrat from Florida, faced pressure from immigration activists to join the more liberal wing of his party to vote against a short-term spending bill without a solution for Dreamers.

Nelson is one of 10 Democrats up for reelection in 2018 in states won by President Donald Trump in 2016. Some of the red state Democratic senators like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin backed the short-term spending bill while others like Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey did not.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio voted in favor of the bill along with most Senate Republicans. He blamed Senate Democrats for voting to shut down the government.

“At a time when we face so much chaos in our politics, the only thing worse than a short-term spending deal is a government shutdown. I too support border security, dealing with DACA, increasing defense spending and disaster relief for Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico,” Rubio said in a statement shortly before the vote. “We should keep the government open while we continue to work on these issues.”

Two Miami Republicans in the House of Representatives, Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, also voted against the spending bill after arguing that it is irresponsible to keep stalling on the Dreamer issue.

Federal court confirms Florida House’s power to enforce subpoena in Visit Florida case

Pat RobertsA judge in the U.S. District Court in Tallahassee denied a preliminary injunction to TV executive C. Patrick (Pat) Roberts on Friday, reaffirming the Florida House's powers to enforce the subpoenas it issued last week as part of its investigation into Visit Florida's tourism contracts.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, was not physically in the courtroom. But his presence weighed heavy on the proceedings as Judge Mark Walker, an Obama appointee, discussed how "some could use the word … 'bully'" to describe the House's actions in issuing the subpoenas, which had a "thousand-pound gorilla aspect" when issued against a single private citizen.

"We are coequal branches and I would respectfully suggest to the Florida Legislature, just as I am cautious about overextending my jurisdiction, my colleagues in the other branch should similarly comport themselves," Walker said.

Roberts was seeking the injunction to prevent what he viewed as "imminent danger" of being severely punished by the House —the state Constitution allows it to impose up to $1,000 in fines and 90 days in jail per day Roberts is deemed in contempt —for not handing over the business contracts and tax records requested by the House. As executive of MAT Media, LLC, Roberts was granted multi-million dollar contracts in 2012 by Visit Florida, the state's tourism arm, to produce shows that featured celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse and promoted the state as a fishing destination.

He has maintained that many of the documents contain "trade secrets" or nondisclosure agreements with other companies.

The House has been investigating if Roberts raked in big profits from the deal at the taxpayers' expense, after the Naples Daily News found that Roberts had been gifted a $175,000 boat from one of the program's sponsors and kept all advertising and sponsorship revenue.

Despite the ruling, Roberts's lawyer, Tim Jansen, said outside the courthouse that it was a "victory for Mr. Roberts and for every citizen in the state of Florida."

"Only in their response to our lawsuit for an injunction did they finally concede that they will give meaningful opportunity to be heard on these subpoenas," Jansen said. "Otherwise Mr. Roberts would've been incarcerated, we believe, immediately at 5:01 or as soon as session could've been put into place by the Speaker."

Because the House has never exercised its authority to issue subpoenas before, there is no defined way for Roberts to argue against them.

But during the hearing, Adam Tanenbaum, the House's lawyer, said they would continue to negotiate with Roberts about which documents the House had a right to obtain and which would be considered public record, and would allow two state lawsuits related to the subpoenas play out.

Rubio calls out Puerto Rico’s governor and tampers statehood push

Governor Ricardo Roselló0183 JAI (2)


Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló is learning what happens when you challenge Marco Rubio.

In December, Rosselló called out Rubio by name because he was unhappy with the Republican tax bill and said he would campaign against those who “turned their backs” on the U.S. territory.

Now, the Florida Republican who is often regarded as Puerto Rico’s most important advocate in Washington, is throwing cold water on Puerto Rican statehood and is urging Rosselló, a Democrat who won election in 2016, to spend more time governing in San Juan than campaigning in Florida. Rubio’s comments in Puerto Rico’s largest newspaper are a blow to Rosselló’s hopes for Congress to act on statehood, his party’s most important policy issue.

“If I were the governor of a state or territory that does not have power, I would spend more time [there] than in Orlando,” Rubio said to El Nuevo Día. “Sometimes, when people feel criticized and under pressure, they look for someone to blame, because they did not achieve this or that. I do not think it is smart to turn the Puerto Rican issue into a partisan issue.”

Rubio’s comments come after Rosselló was in Washington last week to announce a Puerto Rican “shadow delegation” of two U.S. senators and five U.S. House members who demand to be seated in Congress. Puerto Rico’s “shadow delegation” is attempting to gain statehood through a similar plan successfully adopted by Tennessee in the late 1700s and copied by other states like Alaska.

Rosselló’s shadow delegation was a 2016 campaign promise, but the effort is getting more attention after Puerto Rico’s power grid was destroyed by Hurricane Maria and thousands on the island are still without power months later.

“Certainly the hurricane has had an influence,” said Pedro Rosselló, Ricardo Rosselló’s father and the governor of Puerto Rico from 1993 to 2001, in an interview with the Miami Herald.

Pedro Rosselló said the hurricane and the federal government’s slower response compared to disaster recovery efforts in Florida and Texas has raised the profile of the statehood issue.

“Stateside, U.S. citizens recognize that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, natural born,” Rosselló said. “That wasn’t so before [Hurricane Maria]. Before, our polling shows that about 25 percent recognize that fact, after that it’s up in the 85 percent level. That’s a direct result of the hurricane.”

But while Rubio hasn’t changed his longtime position supporting statehood, a public admission that there aren’t 60 votes for statehood in the U.S. Senate is a blow to Ricardo Rosselló’s pro-statehood New Progressive Party.

Read more here.

Scott's pro-DREAMers op-ed brings blasts from Democrats

Gov. Rick Scott is not a candidate for the U.S. Senate -- not yet -- but Democrats aren’t waiting for the formality of an announcement to cast him as an opportunist rewriting his own record in an election year.

Scott has repeatedly drawn fire for shifting positions on education, the environment and offshore oil drilling. The latest case in point is immigration.

Democrats on Friday pounced on Scott’s latest op-ed in USA Today in which he called for a compassionate approach to the treatment of young immigrants known as DREAMers, while still supporting President Donald J. Trump’s stricter border controls.

In addressing a nationwide audience, Scott largely blamed Congress, and not his fellow Republicans or Trump, for the failure of the federal government to resolve the status of DREAMers.

"I’ve long been an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration and I remain so," Scott wrote under the byline of an “opinion contributor” to USA Today. "But I refuse to watch these children be punished for the actions of their parents." Read Scott’s article here.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton led the charge, saying it’s obvious that Scott sees political gain in recasting himself as a moderate on immigration.

“The governor cannot hide from his record,” Deutch said, “and he can’t pick and choose when to demonize immigrants and when to pretend to be their savior.”

Deutch said that as a private hospital executive, Scott supported policies to discourage hiring Hispanics. As a first-time candidate in 2010, Deutch said, Scott favored tougher “Arizona-style” immigration restrictions to appease tea party supporters.

Deutch said the Scott administration’s unsuccessful efforts to purge the voter rolls of suspected non-citizens in 2012 had the effect of targeting Hispanics more than other groups. A federal judge ruled that the effort was illegal and it ended.

“Governor Scott being a DREAMer champion is fake news,” said Cristian Avila of an immigrant organization, Mi Familia Vota. Avila, 27, is a Phoenix resident who has been politically active in Florida and is one of about 800,000 people in the program known as DACA, for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

The coordinated attack on Scott’s record was organized by For Our Future, a liberal Super PAC backed by four major labor unions and the wealthy environmentalist Tom Steyer.

The conference call provided a small flavor of the intensity of criticism Scott will face if, as is widely expected, he challenges three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

State Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, the House Democratic leader, joined in the criticism, and Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point, said that when the DREAM Act came before Congress in 2010, Scott strongly opposed it but is now a supporter.

“Actions speak louder than words,” Farmer said. “So far, Rick Scott’s actions have shown nothing but contempt for DREAMers and their families.”

Andrew Gillum proposes corporate tax hike for more education funding

Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Emily L. Mahoney | Times

Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is running for governor, made the unusual move of proposing an tax increase while on the campaign trail Friday.


Gillum said if elected, he would increase Florida's corporate tax rate to 7.75 percent, up from the current 5.5 percent. That increase would generate $1 billion in increased annual revenue, he said, which he said he would use to boost education funding.

"Miami was shortlisted as we're competing in this contest (for Amazon's new headquarters)," Gillum said. "What is Amazon looking for? ... Not only do we want a friendly environment for businesses to call home, but we also want to have an environment where they're guaranteed a workforce that is prepared."

That billion would allow the state to impose a minimum teacher salary of $50,000, allocate $100 million to construction of public schools and expand early childhood education programs and vocational training.

Florida's corporate tax was the brainchild of Democratic Governor Reubin Askew in the 1970s. The state has no income tax.

Eliminating corporate taxes was a big campaign promise of Gov. Rick Scott, which he has not completely fulfilled. He has, however, raised the threshold for taxable corporate income.

Levine releases DACA ad, en Español



Philip Levine continues to spend early and to go hard after Hispanic voters as he runs for the Democratic nomination for Florida's governor.

On Friday, the ex-Miami Beach mayor's political committee, All About Florida, released another Spanish-language commercial, this one hammering President Donald Trump over DACA as a fight over the protection of Dreamers threatens to contribute to a federal government shutdown.

The committee is spending $100,000 and running the ad for 10 days on Spanish-language networks across the state, according to political consultant Christian Ulvert. Levine's campaign and committee have spent more than $2 million on commercials and media buys ahead of the August primary.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, and Winter Park businessman Chris King are also running for the Democratic nomination.

January 18, 2018

Where Miami lawmakers stand on a spending bill without an immigration compromise

Frederica Wilson 2


The federal government will shut down at 11:59 p.m. Friday unless the House and Senate pass a short-term spending bill.

The two U.S. senators from Florida and the five U.S. representatives from Miami-Dade County are divided on the spending bill, which faces opposition from conservative House Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate.

Keep in mind that the calculus can change quickly if an immigration compromise to protect Dreamers — undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children — is imminent.

Here’s where the Miami-Dade delegation stands on the short-term spending bill as of Thursday afternoon:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R): Rubio said on Monday “you can’t shut the government down over DACA,” and is likely to support a short-term spending bill. He voted in favor of a short-term spending bill in December.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D): Nelson is undecided, and is waiting to see how the House votes before deciding his vote. The Florida Democrat is facing pressure from immigration activists to vote against a short-term spending bill. He voted in favor of a short-term spending bill in December.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R): Curbelo will vote no unless a DACA solution is imminent. He voted against the short-term spending bill in December due to DACA.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R): Ros-Lehtinen will vote no unless a DACA solution is imminent. She also voted against the December spending bill due to DACA.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R): Diaz-Balart will vote in favor of the bill. “Shutting down the government, which among other things puts the lives of our troops in danger, would be detrimental and must be avoided,” Diaz-Balart said.

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D): Wilson voted against the December spending bill along with the majority of House Democrats. She’s pledged not to support any immigration compromise that includes funding for a border wall. “I do not plan to vote for the continuing resolution unless it includes measures to protect Dreamers and TPS holders; critical funding for CHIP and community health centers; and additional disaster recovery funding for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Texas, Florida, and states impacted by wildfires.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D): Wasserman Schultz opposes the short-term spending bill due to concerns over DACA and funding for community health centers. “We remain mired in this unbreakable habit” of passing short-term spending bills, she said Thursday.

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran asks DHS to investigate St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Andrew Gillum

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/98739f1160a9458db215cec49fb033ee/2018-01-18/15992be9807a47cd8030733ada43b36d.png
Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran SCOTT KEELER | Times

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen asking the federal government to investigate St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for what he called illegal “sanctuary city” policies in their cities.

Both mayors are Democrats, and Gillum has announced his candidacy for the governor’s race that Corcoran may yet join. But even in the world of Florida politics, Corcoran’s letter represented a bold step.

His letter was not signed by any other official, and Kerri Wyland of the Governor's Press Office confirmed that Gov. Rick Scott had not spoken to Corcoran about the letter.

Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, made immigration a centerpiece issue of the 2018 session when he streamlined passage of HB9 last week, a bill that would ban sanctuary cities and penalize elected officials that vote for related policies. He mentions the bill in his letter, adding the House is “now waiting on the Florida Senate to act.”

Corcoran’s letter came after Nielsen spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, saying her department had asked federal prosecutors to look into filing criminal charges against city officials in sanctuary cities.

That night, Corcoran tweeted a news story about Nielsen’s comments, saying she “can start with investigating @AndrewGillum and @Kriseman, who have been advocates for illegal sanctuary policies and amnesty. If you won’t follow the law, you don’t belong in office!”

He mimicked similar language in the formal letter he sent the same day.

“It is clear to many in our state that this problem is only growing, and the Department of Homeland Security should investigate these two elected officials immediately,” it read.

The letter then referred to a statement Kriseman wrote in February, responding to President Donald Trump’s executive order to cut federal funding from cities and counties that “willfully violate federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States.”

“I have no hesitation in declaring St. Petersburg a sanctuary from harmful federal immigration laws,” Kriseman wrote at the time. “We will not expend resources to help enforce such laws, nor will our police officers stop, question or arrest an individual solely on the basis that they may have unlawfully entered the United States.”

But Ben Kirby, spokesman for Kriseman, said St. Petersburg can’t technically be a sanctuary city because of the fact it doesn’t have its own jail and uses one run by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

“What the mayor has said consistently is that he wants to work hard to ensure St. Pete is a welcoming and inclusive and lawful city … he encourages Speaker Corcoran to focus on the same for our entire state,” Kirby said. “There’s plenty of time for Republican primary politics after session.”

There is technically no legal definition of a “sanctuary city,” but a common element in the debate is the practice of local jails calling U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents about detainees they suspect to be undocumented and often holding them for a short period until ICE arrives.

As of Wednesday, Pinellas County was one of 17 Florida counties to make an agreement with ICE to cooperate in its jails via a legal workaround that avoids the sheriffs taking on extra liability.

Geoff Burgan, spokesman for Gillum, also said Tallahassee is not technically a sanctuary city and the letter is only the speaker playing politics.

“No matter how much Richard Corcoran tries, Donald Trump and Sean Hannity have already endorsed Ron DeSantis,” he said. “Tallahassee’s police officers are not ICE agents but if Corcoran wants to suddenly expand the federal government in Florida that’s his prerogative.”

Two women running for Congress in Miami make Time Magazine cover



Two Democrats running for competitive congressional seats in Miami are getting some exposure on the cover of Time Magazine, one of President Donald Trump's favorite platforms. 

Democrats Mary Barzee Flores and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell feature on Time's latest cover in a story highlighting the hundreds of women nationwide who decided to run for office after Trump's victory in 2016.

Barzee Flores is one of a host of Democrats seeking to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, while Mucarsel-Powell is Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo's only serious challenger. 

Barzee Flores is mounting her first campaign for elected office. The former federal judge nominee works as a lawyer in Miami. Mucarsel-Powell is in her second campaign, she ran a closer than expected race against well-funded Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores in 2016. 

Both Barzee Flores and Mucarsel-Powell are endorsed by EMILY's list, which provides money and operational support to progressive, pro-abortion rights female candidates nationwide.

Saturday is the one year anniversary of Trump's inauguration and hundreds of women's marches are planned around the country this weekend.