November 09, 2016

High court seems open to Miami's plea for millions from banks for discriminatory housing loans

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@jamesmartinrose

WASHINGTON Supreme Court justices appear receptive to Miami’s argument that it’s entitled to sue banks under federal discrimination law for the impact from racially discriminatory loans.

The case hinges on whether the 1968 Fair Housing Act, the last of the landmark civil rights laws, covers only the direct effects of discrimination or also covers indirect consequences, such as property tax losses and increased policing costs.

With a vacancy still unfilled from the death of Antonin Scalia last winter and with Justice Clarence Thomas maintaining his customary silence, the seven other justices grilled lawyers in a lively Election Day session Tuesday in which several also wondered whether the law’s protections might extend to anyone who suffers an indirect financial loss because of discriminatory mortgages.

During oral arguments, justices asked more questions of Neal Katyal, a former U.S. solicitor general who is representing the Bank of America and Wells Fargo in the case, than of Robert Peck, a Washington attorney for the city of Miami.

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. appeared most skeptical of Miami’s claims, while Justice Elena Kagan targeted the banks’ arguments.

For more.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article113297903.html#storylink=cpy

November 04, 2016

Outside money floods Rubio-Murphy race thanks to high court's Citizens United ruling

  Senate 2016 Rubio_Ordo (1)-082516

Individuals, corporations, advocacy groups and super-PACs from outside Florida are pumping money into the close Senate contest between incumbent Marco Rubio and challenger Patrick Murphy.

More than $48 million in independent expenditures, most of it from outside the Sunshine State, has been spent on the Rubio-Murphy race in which the Miami Republican has held about a 3 point lead in recent days, according to the polling average on realclearpolitics.com.

Only five other U.S. Senate campaigns -- in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio -- have received more money from outside their campaigns.

Every state except Nevada features incumbent GOP senators who, like Rubio, are trying to fend off Democratic challengers. Nevada's race is for an open Senate seat vacated by the retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

Those six races will likely decide whether the Republican Party retains the Senate majority it gained in the November 2014 elections.

In addition to money contributed by outside groups, Rubio's campaign had raised $12.48 million through Oct. 19 while Murphy's campaign had raised $13.72 million, for a total of $26.2 million, according to the Federal Election Commission.

That figure combined with the independent expenditures puts an overall price tag of almost $75 million on the Rubio-Murphy Senate race.

In Florida's Senate race, outside groups have made 14 TV, media and digital ad buys totaling at least $1 million, all but one of them targeting Murphy.

The biggest buy was made by the Senate Leadership Fund on Oct. 27 for $3.16 million.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a spinoff of the American Crossroads super PAC started by former President George W. Bush senior adviser Karl Rove, has spent $81.7 million in the current election cycle.

Among all super PACs in the country, only the liberal Priorities USA Action and the conservative Right to Rise USA have spent more.

Other groups based outside Florida that have spent big against Murphy are the American Future Fund, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Republican Senate Committee and the National Rifle Association.

The only Florida-centric organization with significant expenditures opposing Murphy is the Florida First Project, a super PAC created in June on the day Rubio did an about-switch and announced he was running for Senate re-election after having declined during his earlier presidential bid.

So-called "super" political action committees are free to collect unlimited amounts of money as long as the donors' identities and the amounts of their contributions.

The flood of independent expenditures by super PACs has followed a landmark 2010 Supreme Court ruling, in a case brought by the conservative watchdog group Citizens United, that described such spending as expressions of free speech protected by the First Amendment.

However, direct contributions to political campaigns remain limited by campaign-finance law.

Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 09, 2016

President Obama signs new disaster declaration for Hurricane Matthew's impact in Florida

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@ByKristenMClark & @JeremySWallace

President Barack Obama signed a new disaster declaration for Florida on Saturday, freeing up additional federal funding and resources to help with clean-up and recovery efforts after Hurricane Matthew.

The White House announced Obama's act early Sunday morning.

While Obama already granted a preliminary disaster declaration before the storm, a second one after the storm is required to trigger post-storm recovery funding.

The new declaration makes available federal funding to state and eligible local governments and certain non-profits on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in eight Florida counties. Those counties span the east coast from the Treasure Coast to northeast Florida -- areas which felt the brunt of Matthew in the state: Brevard, Duval, Flagler, Indian River, Nassau, St. Johns, St. Lucie and Volusia.

More here.

 

Photo credit: Kevin Dietsch, Bloomberg

October 06, 2016

Gov. Scott's office talking with FSU, U-F about Saturday football games

@ByKristenMClark

As Hurricane Matthew bears down on Florida with the potential for catastrophic damage to coastal areas, state and university officials are potentially re-evaluating a couple major college football games still scheduled for Saturday.

Rick Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said the governor spoke directly today with Florida State University President John Thrasher about the status of the Seminoles' game against the University of Miami Hurricanes, where kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. in Miami Gardens.

Schutz said the governor did not express an opinion about whether the game should continue as planned, be cancelled or be relocated, rather Scott was "reaching out to learn more about the university's process" for making such a decision.

Schutz said staff in Scott's office have also been in touch with University of Miami officials, as well as officials at the University of Florida -- which is scheduled to play Louisiana State University at home in Gainesville at noon Saturday.

University leaders told Scott's office they would let the governor know soon about how they'll move forward with Saturday's games, Schutz said.

Earlier Thursday, Louisiana U.S. Sen. David Vitter tweeted that Scott should move the Florida-LSU game out of Gainesville, using the hashtags #CmonMan, #GeauxTigers and #StaySafe.

Gov. Scott: Half of available Florida National Guard activated for Hurricane Matthew

@ByKristenMClark

Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday activated another 2,000 National Guard members — making for 3,500 members activated as of the afternoon, about half of what is available for deployment, Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said.

Activated members include both soldiers and airmen, with search and rescue teams awaiting Hurricane Matthew in West Palm Beach and Orlando, said Air Force Maj. Caitlin Brown of the Florida National Guard. Other troops were at Camp Blanding near Starke, Fla.

Scott has authorized the mobilization of up to 6,600 Guard, if need be, Schutz said. Brown said the Guard has nearly 2,500 “high water vehicles,” eight helicopters, 17 boats and more than 700 generators that could be used in emergency operations, she added. The Guard also evacuated its “F-15 fleet out of the path of the storm.”

"Protecting lives remains our No. 1 priority and that is why I have now activated over half of the National Guard who will play a big role in important life-saving missions," Scott said in a statement Thursday afternoon. "I have directed them to focus on prepositioning resources, assist with helping people evacuate safely and our sheltering operations.  In the immediate aftermath of the storm, they will be involved in recovery efforts including search and rescue missions.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also has high-water vehicles prepositioned across the state to help with these efforts."

"While the federal government has just approved our request for a pre-landfall emergency declaration for food, water and tarps, I am asking the President for additional generators and pumps to help with power outages and flooding once the storm hits," Scott added. "Following the most recent weather briefing from the National Hurricane Center, we can expect to have a lot of flooding, especially in Northeast Florida, and we will need additional pumping equipment from the federal government.”

Gov. Rick Scott on Hurricane Matthew: 'Unfortunately, this is going to kill people'

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@ByKristenMClark

As South Florida began to see squalls from the outer bands of Hurricane Matthew on Thursday morning, Florida Gov. Rick Scott didn’t sugarcoat the danger that awaits coastal residents who don’t evacuate.

“This storm will kill you,” Scott said during a morning briefing at the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. If “you’re in an evacuation area, get out. Don’t take a chance.”

“Do not surf. Do not go to the beach. This will kill you,” he added.

More here.

October 05, 2016

Hurricane Matthew: Gov. Scott suspends tolls in mandatory evacuation zones

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@ByKristenMClark

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday afternoon that he's directed the Florida Department of Transportation to suspend traffic tolls in counties where there are evacuations for Hurricane Matthew.

"This includes all toll roads in counties with mandatory evacuations," Scott spokeswoman Taryn Fenske clarified to the Herald/Times. "Obviously this is fluid and will continue to change as counties issue evacuation orders."

As of 2 p.m., the only county that had declared a mandatory evacuation was Brevard County -- where a mandatory evacuation for the county's barrier islands takes effect at 3 p.m.

Scott tweeted that tolls on State Road 528 in Brevard County had been suspended, but his office hasn't mentioned any other affected roadways.

Voluntary evacuations have begun in St. Lucie, Flagler and Duval counties, Scott's office said in a noon update.

MORE: The latest on Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane warnings now cover almost the entire east coast of Florida, from the Miami-Dade and Broward County line north to Flagler County, just south of Jacksonville. Scott said this morning that the suspension of traffic tolls would depend on county evacuation plans. 

"Evacuations have started to be ordered this morning and I expect more counties to order evacuations soon," Scott said in his statement this afternoon. "Protecting life and moving people to safety remains our top priority and today I directed the Florida Department of Transportation to suspend tolls as needed to keep traffic flowing. If there is an evacuation order in a county, all tolls will be suspended in that county."

Photo credit: El Nuevo Herald file photo

Gov. Scott, state emergency officials stress 'calm and urgency' ahead of Hurricane Matthew

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@ByKristenMClark

As Hurricane Matthew prepared to lash the Bahamas and inched closer to Florida on Wednesday morning, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he is worried there haven’t been enough evacuations yet in advance of the strong storm.

“My biggest concern is people don’t take it seriously enough,” Scott said told emergency management officials during a morning briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. “This could turn, and are we going to be ready?”

In a news conference afterward, Scott repeatedly used words like “devastating” and “catastrophic” to stress the seriousness of the damage Matthew could do to Florida’s eastern coast.

MORE ON MIAMIHERALD.COM: The latest on Hurricane Matthew

He said residents in coastal low-lying areas or on barrier islands should leave immediately.

“This is a dangerous storm and it is never too early to evacuate,” Scott said. “You must leave before it’s too late. We cannot put first-responders’ lives at risk during the storm.”

Full story here.

September 30, 2016

FBI talks ballot security with Florida election officials; 'we’ve not been hacked,' one says

Florida Primary

@ByKristenMClark @MichaelAuslen & @stevebousquet

Officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigation held a secret conference call with all 67 county supervisors of elections in Florida on Friday afternoon to discuss the security of voters’ ballots ahead of the November election.

One elections supervisor told the Herald/Times that the FBI informed supervisors of “a malicious act found in a jurisdiction” in Florida, but he stressed “we’ve not been hacked” and nothing was found to have happened at the state level, such as with Florida’s voter registration system.

“It was a good call in that they were proactive, and we need to have federal and state authorities working together,” Leon County Elections Supervisor Ian Sancho said. “I would warn people against jumping to any conclusions. ... The positive and aggressive discussion we had is exactly what we need to do to be secure for Nov. 8.” 

Florida Department of State spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice acknowledged the department “participated in an informational call related to elections security” that the FBI convened.

More here.

Photo credit: Alan Diaz / AP

September 29, 2016

President Obama to give health care speech Wednesday in Tampa

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama will deliver a speech on the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday at University of South Florida in Tampa, the White House said.

 

"Located in Hillsborough County, which has a strong health care system, USF offers a diverse set of training programs for health professions and has led efforts to sign up people for health insurance," the White House said. "Further details about the President's travel to Florida will be made available in the coming days."

It's unclear whether Obama will do another event for Hillary Clinton, though he is expected to hit the road on her behalf in October.