July 28, 2017

Florida fulfills request for voter data by Trump election commission

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@amysherman1

Florida provided voter-roll data to President Donald Trump’s election-fraud commission Friday despite a lawsuit by the ACLU of Florida attempting to prevent the state from providing the information.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner complied with the request by the commission after a federal judge in Washington D.C. cleared the way Monday for the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to resume its effort to collect voter data from all states. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected a request by the Electronic Privacy Information Center to block the data collection.

“Today the Department of State pursuant to Florida law fulfilled the public records request that we received from the Presidential Advisory Commission,” said Sarah Revell, Detzner’s spokeswoman. “As we have said all along, we will follow Florida law and will only submit information that is already available and regularly provided to anyone who requests it.”

Keep reading here.

June 08, 2017

Sarah Palin's falsely linked Florida House photo with her Facebook rant on climate accord

PalinFLHousefacebook

@amysherman1

It’s clear that Sarah Palin hates the Paris climate agreement.

What’s unclear is why she used a photo of Florida lawmakers to make her point in a Facebook meme.

"Don’t be fooled! The Paris climate accord is a scam," stated the headline at the top of Palin’s Facebook post June 6, 2017. (By June 7, the Facebook meme was no longer available but PolitiFact had taken a screenshot of her post, which had been shared at least 8,000 times.)

Beneath the headline is a photo of an unidentified group of mostly men cheering. The Facebook post doesn’t identify the people in the photo, but they are Florida House members at the state Capitol in Tallahassee.

Beneath the photo Palin shared is text that says: "They pretend it’s about fixing our environment ... But it’s really about stealing billions from the American people and giving it to foreign countries, governments and lobbyists!"

The Facebook meme, posted after President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement, could leave the impression that the people in the photo are rejoicing using the agreement to steal billions from Americans.

That's not the case.

PolitiFact fact-checked Palin’s photo as part of our effort to debunk fake news on Facebook. Our efforts to reach a spokesperson for Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, were unsuccessful. (Palin’s post was previously debunked by other news outlets including the Miami Herald, a partner along with the Tampa Bay Times in PolitiFact Florida, and Politico.)

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

February 01, 2017

Invalid votes for president spike in Florida, outnumbering Trump's margin of victory here

From Gary Fineout at the Associated Press:

Beyoncé, Tim Tebow or the Norse god Thor for prez? Those were some of Florida's more unusual picks for president this past election.

And the number of Florida voters who didn't cast a vote for either Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or any other valid contender spiked in 2016, apparently in protest over the ballot choices.

A report released by state officials Wednesday showed more than 161,000 Florida voters who took part in the elections either at the polls or by mail didn't cast a valid vote for president.

The "non-valid votes" include those who wrote in such names as Mickey Mouse or Bernie Sanders and others who simply left the ballot blank. It also includes those who voted for more than one candidate.

All told, the invalid ballots outnumbered Republican Trump's margin of victory over Democrat Clinton of nearly 113,000 votes to clinch Florida's 29 electoral votes.

And the rate of invalid votes for president in 2016 — 1.69 percent overall — was more than double the rate it was in 2012 and 2008 when President Barack Obama won the state each time.

"There were some people who were very disgruntled," said Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles, giving the read of some fellow election officials on the report.

More here.

December 23, 2016

Florida housing agency chief resigns after audit reveals expensive meals, bonuses

Stephen augervia @TB_Times' @susanskate

The executive director of Florida Housing Finance Corp. has resigned in the wake of an audit that rapped the agency for hosting expensive meals, including a $52,000 dinner, and awarding nearly $443,000 in employee bonuses while thousands of Floridian were waiting for help to save their homes.

Stephen Auger, who has headed the state-run agency since 2005, said he was stepping down from his job in a letter to the agency's board chairman the day after the Tampa Bay Times reported on the audit.

"It has been an honor and a blessing to have been part of an organization of such fine people who work so diligently to provide a range of affordable housing opportunities that help make Florida's communities great places to live, work and do business," Auger wrote.

MORE: “Audit hits Florida housing agency for nearly $443k in employee bonuses, $52k filet mignon dinner”

But the agency under Auger's tenure has repeatedly come under fire for its lackluster performance in helping struggling homeowners during the foreclosure crisis. In a blistering report last year prompted by a Times' investigation, a top federal official said Florida had one of the highest rejection rates and lowest acceptance rates of applicants seeing mortgage relief from the federal Hardest Hit Fund.

Full story here, and check back for updates.

Herald/Times reporter Kristen M. Clark contributed to this report.

Photo credit: Florida Housing Finance Corp.

Florida's denial of felons' voting rights 'radically out-of-step,' report says

@ByKristenMClark

A new report from the Brennan Center for Justice takes Florida to task for its law denying voting rights to felons unless they successfully navigate an arduous and lengthy process to get those rights back.

The Brennan Center calls Florida’s law “radically out of step with policies around the rest of the country” and “one of the harshest laws in the nation.” The law needs to be replaced,the report said.

MORE: Read the full report

According to the report, released this month, 1.6 million Floridians are denied voting rights because of the state law. Those residents represent more than 10 percent of the state’s voting-age population. A disproportionate number, nearly one-third, are black.

“Florida’s criminal disenfranchisement law is rooted in some of our country’s most discriminatory voting practices, and it continues to have its intended effects today,” said the report’s author, Erika Wood, a New York Law School professor and director of the Voting Rights and Civic Participation Project of the Impact Center for Public Interest Law.

“It is time for Florida to learn from the past and then leave it behind. The right to vote should not be used as a tool for lifetime punishment,” Wood added.

Full story here.

Florida members of Congress tell feds: Pay our state for Trump's Mar-a-Lago security costs

Mar-a-Lago

via @learyreports

President-elect Donald Trump's travel to Florida is causing steep security costs and lawmakers want the federal government to pay.

Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio along with Reps. Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel and Patrick Murphy sent this letter:

Dear Attorney General Lynch and Secretary Johnson,

We are writing to make you aware of the attached request from the Mayor of Palm Beach County regarding reimbursement for ancillary costs associated with helping protect President-elect Trump, who has often visited his home in the area.

According to Mayor Burdick, the county spent approximately $250,000 to provide security support for the President-elect during his four-day visit over Thanksgiving alone.

Congress appropriated $7 million to the Department of Justice in the recently-passed government funding bill (P.L. 114-254) to reimburse State and local law enforcement agencies for overtime costs associated with protecting the President-elect before his inauguration.

We urge you to consider using those funds or any other resources that you deem appropriate to help the county offset these costs.

We appreciate your attention to this matter.

Photo credit: AP

December 22, 2016

Former prisons investigator accused of covering up abuse takes job with Leon County sheriff

Beasley

via @jknipebrown

Jeffery Beasley, who was accused of covering up and thwarting investigations into human rights abuses in the Florida prison system, has resigned, the Miami Herald has learned.

Beasley, the former inspector general for the Florida Department of Corrections, has accepted a post as chief of investigations for the Leon County Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Walt McNeil confirmed Wednesday.

“As is often the case in state government, in particular positions, sometimes you have to carry a burden for higher levels of state government," McNeil said. “I make no excuses for him, but I believe his background and experience and the level of professionalism he displayed throughout his career speaks volumes."

McNeil said Beasley will start Jan. 3.

Beasley’s departure comes a little more than a year after he stepped down from his top cop post at the embattled state prisons agency. In October 2015, he was given a new title — director of investigations — despite months of widespread criticism and allegations that he and others in his office failed to investigate and, in some instances, even derailed cases involving the abuse and even death of prisoners in Florida prisons.

Full story here.

Photo credit: Jeffery Beasley, then-Inspector General of the Florida prison system, testified before lawmakers in 2014. The Florida Channel.

December 21, 2016

Florida Gov. Rick Scott writes to Raúl Castro: 'Allow a new era of freedom and opportunity'

Govscott01wmm

@ByKristenMClark

Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott sent a letter to Cuban President Raúl Castro on Tuesday, calling for him to change course and “allow a new era of freedom and opportunity for Cuba.”

Scott referenced the celebrations in Miami after the death of Fidel Castro last month, saying the demonstrations “represented the hope for an end to the decades of torture, repression, incarceration and death that you and your brother have caused the people of Cuba.”

But, Scott noted, Raúl Castro appears to be continuing his brother’s legacy — with recent examples that include the arrest of Cuban artist Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado, who mocked Fidel’s death in an online video.

“After Pope Francis’ trip to Cuba, you suggested that you may return to the church and pray again. My prayer for you and the Cuban people is that you listen to Pope Francis and focus on bringing absolute freedom and democracy to Cuba,” Scott wrote. “I pray that you open Cuba to freedom of the press and religion; release all political prisoners; provide unfettered access to the internet; allow ownership of land; provide reparations to those whose property was confiscated; bring all Cuban military home and allow for free and fair elections with international supervision.”

Full story here.

Photo credit: Walter Michot / Miami Herald

As Floridians wait for help saving homes, state agency spends $52K on filet mignon dinner

via @TB_Times' @susanskate

To show appreciation for lenders who work with low-income borrowers, Florida's housing agency hosted a $52,000 dinner that featured filet mignon, broiled lobster tails and a bar stocked with "deluxe brand liquors.''

At a reception for its own board members, the agency spent $300 for a bartender, $425 for a pork carving station and $420 for a "Spanish charcuterie station.''

And a time when thousands of Floridians were waiting for help in saving their homes, the agency awarded a total of nearly $443,000 in bonuses to its employees.

Those are among the findings in a critical state audit of the Florida Housing Finance Corp. Released this month, the report cites several areas in which it said the organization needs to better account for its spending, improve controls over electronic fund transfers and ensure the security of confidential personal information.

More here.

Uncertainty in Florida's death penalty law yields fewer executions, sentences

Gurney5

@ByKristenMClark

The lingering uncertainty over Florida’s death penalty sentencing procedures in the past year has made the state a microcosm of nationwide trends, according to a new report from a national nonprofit research organization focused on capital punishment.

The annual year-end assessment from the Death Penalty Information Center, released Wednesday, finds that death-penalty sentences, executions and public support for capital punishment all continued to decline nationwide in 2016.

Similar results were seen in Florida, where one public opinion poll earlier this year showed Floridians favoring life sentences over executions and where administration of the death penalty has been effectively on hold since January, when the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated Florida’s process for imposing death sentences.

“As a practical matter because of the unconstitutionality of the statute and the state Legislature’s failure to take appropriate precautions when it enacted a ‘fix’ in the statute, we ended up with the functional equivalent of no death penalty in Florida this year,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

Full story here.

Photo credit: Florida Department of Corrections