September 27, 2016

Rubio, Nelson honor José Fernández with Senate resolution

203 Marlins Braves DS

via @learyreports

Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson today introduced a Senate resolution honoring Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández, who died Sunday in a boating accident with two friends.

“José Fernández was the embodiment of the American Dream,” said Rubio. “He risked his life escaping tyranny in Cuba to seek liberty and opportunity in America. José was thrown in jail by the Castro regime for attempting to flee, and when his mother fell overboard into choppy waters during their journey, José risked his life to save her so they could arrive in America together. It is a testament to the kind of person he was. This resolution honors José’s life, legacy and contributions to the people and state of Florida."

Neson said, “José Fernández was a remarkable young man whose talent and passion for the game of baseball brought joy to so many in South Florida. He will certainly be missed both on and off the field, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”

Read the resolution here.

Photo credit: José Fernández pitching in 2015. David Santiago / Miami Herald

Rubio remembers Marlins ace on Senate floor



Sen. Marco Rubio delivered a moving tribute to Jose Fernandez in the Senate on Tuesday, growing emotional in recalling their shared opposition to the Cuban government.

In a poignant speech on the Senate floor, Rubio said the ace pitcher was on his way to a Hall of Fame career and to leading the Miami Marlins to "a couple pennants" before he died Sunday when his 32-foot fishing boat struck a jetty near Government Cut channel.

Miami residents Emilio Macias, 27, and Eduardo Rivero, 25, close friends of the 24-year-old Fernandez, were also on board the vessel and died with him.

"I never met Jose Fernandez, yet I feel like I knew him," Rubio said in his tribute. "And that's how millions of people feel. They feel like they know him. It is, in the end, our story -- as Cuban-Americans, as Americans."

The Miami Republican and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson introduced a resolution honoring Fernandez.

Among the personal qualities and professional accomplishments cited in the measure, it says that Fernandez "came to embody the American dream and was a great source of pride for the Cuban exile community of the United States."

Fernandez's grandfather,  Rubio said, tried and failed to defect from Cuba 13 times before succeeding and settling in Tampa 

As great a pitcher as he was, the former presidential candidate said, "off the field -- as a human being, as a son, as a grandson, as a teammate, as a neighbor -- he was even better."

Fernandez's grandfather, Rubio recounted, tried and failed to defect from Cuba 13 times before succeeding and settling in Tampa.

Rubio then told the by-now familiar story of how Fernandez rescued his mother after she fell overboard in 2007 during the family's fourth attempt to leave Cuba while taking a more perilous, longer route to Mexico instead of Florida.

"Jose was 15 years old," Rubio said. "Before America ever met Jose Fernandez, before his fastball earned him millions of dollars, this young man was revealing himself."

Rubio quoted from a 2012 scouting report on the fellow Cuban-American, then 20, that said he "exudes confidence" and had a "no-fear approach" to pitching.

"This was not arrogance," the senator said. "This was the peaceful self-assurance of a kid who had known life and death."

Rubio said he was touched by Fernandez saying that his proudest accomplishment in life was having become a U.S. citizen last year.

"'I consider myself now to be free,'" Rubio quoted the pitcher as having said.

Rubio added: "Jose knew how special and fortunate and blessed he was and we are," Rubio said. "He went from a Cuban prison to a Major League clubhouse. Jose's story was our story. He reminds so many in my community of someone they knew -- of a brother or a son or a nephew."

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, El Nuevo Herald





September 26, 2016

Tim Kaine says Donald Trump's comment on Gennifer Flowers shows he views debate as 'part of the entertainment industry'



CBS4's Jim DeFede asked Tim Kaine about his thoughts on Donald Trump suggesting he would invite Gennifer Flowers, who claimed to have an affair with Bill Clinton in the 1990s, to the first presidential debate.

"What it said to me about Donald Trump was 'I'm viewing this as kind of part of the entertainment industry.' This is deadly serious. This is deadly serious," Kaine told DeFede on Sunday, the day he also spoke at Miami Dade College. "We've got all of these challenges at home and abroad, the good thing is America can always solve our challenges if we just let everybody around the table together -- don't divide against one and other. So the fact that he was doing that to me was par for the course. This was like it was a reality TV show. No, this is not that. This is trying to be commander in chief, the president of the most important nation on earth."

Trump's comment about Flowers began after Mark Cuban, a Trump critic and owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, tweeted that he had been invited to the debate by Hillary Clinton's campaign. Trump responded by bashing Cuban's TV show the "Benefactor" and said:

"If dopey Mark Cuban of failed Benefactor fame wants to sit in the front row, perhaps I will put Gennifer Flowers right alongside of him!"

Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, speaking on CNN’s "State of the Union" Sunday, said "we have not invited (Flowers) formally and we don't expect her to there as a guest of the Trump campaign."

Bill Clinton initially denied rumors of an affair with Flowers but admitted under oath in 1998 to having a sexual encounter with her.

Image credit: CB4 Miami

Bill Clinton to visit North Florida on bus tour


Bill Clinton will be visiting parts of North Florida later this week on a "Stronger Together" bus tour for his wife's presidential campaign.

The Hillary Clinton campaign says the former president will hold public events in Panama City, Tallahassee and Jacksonville on Friday and Saturday, "with additional stops along the way."

"President Clinton will talk to Floridians about Hillary Clinton's plans to build an economy that works for all, not just those at the top," the campaign said.

Further details about the public events haven't yet been released.

Bill Clinton was last in Tallahassee in March, when he attended a private fundraiser and spoke to students at Florida A&M University.

September 15, 2016

Everglades restoration plan passes senate

Everglades aerial (2)

by @jenstaletovich

Everglades restoration took a step forward Thursday when the U.S. Senate passed a massive waterworks bill that includes a plan aimed at fixing the overlooked heart of the vast wetlands.

In 94-3 vote, senators approved the Water Resources Development Act, which includes about $2 billion for the Central Everglades Planning Project. The project, launched in 2011 to speed up restoration and focus efforts on central wetlands critical to moving fresh water south into Florida Bay, got a big assist in the spring when Sen. Jim Inhofe vowed to throw his weight behind it. The powerful chairman of the Environmental and Public Works Committee, remembered for being the only no vote opposing the original comprehensive restoration plan in 2000, said he changed his mind after Sen. Marco Rubio convinced the work was necessary.

The vote comes after a brutal winter for the region. Record rain forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to repeatedly release dirty water from Lake Okeechobee into coastal estuaries, triggering a massive algae bloom along the Treasure Coast.

The WRDA still has to pass the House, no small hurdle, which has not yet scheduled a vote. However, including $220 million in emergency funding to address the water crisis in Flint is drawing support that may help push it through.

"It addresses a lot of big ticket items that have gotten a ton of attention this year," said Julie Hill-Gabriel, deputy director of policy for Audubon Florida.

Hill-Gabriel was hopeful the House schedules a vote this year on the plan. Two years ago, the plan stalled when the Corps, which oversees work, balked at approving it in time for that year's WRDA bill.



"We’re hopeful it will happen this year," Hill-Gabriel said. "Whether it’s next week or the lame duck session, we hope the House steps up and gets it done."



September 14, 2016

New FL study further shows benefits of juvenile civil citations over arrests



Miami-Dade County led the state last year in sending child offenders to diversion programs rather than arresting them for misdemeanor crimes, according to a new independent study released Wednesday.

But while Miami-Dade — like Florida, on the whole — is doing better to favor juvenile civil citations, the nonpartisan “Stepping Up 2016” study found other counties, including Hillsborough, have a long way to go in making better use of the alternative, which experts praise as a more effective and beneficial option to arrest.

Across Miami-Dade, 91 percent of eligible youth were given civil citations instead of arrests, the highest in the state for 2014-15, according to the study. Miami-Dade Police had a 99 percent usage rate for citations, and the school district had a 92 percent rate.

By comparison, in countywide numbers, Monroe used civil citations over arrests 80 percent of the time in eligible cases, Broward used them 68 percent of the time and Palm Beach used them almost 59 percent of the time, the study found.

In the Tampa Bay area, Pinellas County was second-best statewide with a usage rate of 82 percent — compared to 53 percent for Pasco and Hernando counties, 32 percent for Hillsborough and 24 percent for Citrus, the study found.

The report — the second annual study of its kind by The Children’s Campaign and several other state and national advocacy groups — builds upon previous findings that juvenile civil citations are preferable because youth are less likely to re-offend and because citation programs increase public safety and save potentially millions in taxpayer money.

Read more here.

Photo credit: Carl Juste / Miami Herald

August 26, 2016

Tim Kaine urges voter registration, tours small business hub in Tallahassee



After a day of raising money, touring a local business hub and speaking at a get-out-the-vote rally with university students, Hillary Clinton's vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine made the most of a short visit to Florida's capital city on Friday.

It was his third trip to the Sunshine State -- but first to Tallahassee -- since joining Clinton's ticket last month, he said.

As the Democratic U.S. senator from Virginia took the stage at Florida A&M University this afternoon, he donned a Rattlers hat and somewhat sheepishly hissed a few times while imitating two fangs with his fingers -- an attempt at the university's "Rattler Strike," which charmed a cheering crowd.

During a 15-minute address, Kaine urged FAMU students to not be mere bystanders in this year's election. He encouraged them to volunteer, vote and make sure they and their friends are registered to vote.

"You have a superb reputation -- of any university  -- of student activism and of getting people to understand the critical importance of voting," Kaine told the few hundred students gathered in the blazing summer heat outside FAMU's student union as part of their weekly "Set Friday" event.

Kaine said Clinton's campaign is launching a nationwide initiative with historically black colleges and universities, like FAMU, to encourage voter registration.

"We want FAMU to lead the way," Kaine said to more applause from the crowd.

Continue reading "Tim Kaine urges voter registration, tours small business hub in Tallahassee" »

August 22, 2016

Florida Supreme Court chief justice wants to bolster courthouse security

From the News Service of Florida:

Pointing to a need to "move ahead quickly on this issue," Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga on Monday announced the creation of a panel to study local courthouse security.

The Trial Courthouse Security Workgroup will look at issues such as evaluating security practices at courthouses, reviewing national courthouse security procedures and developing standards for training, according to the announcement.

"Every day in Florida's courthouses, people are living through heartbreaking dilemmas in both criminal and civil cases," Labarga said in a prepared statement. "We must do everything in our power to make sure that these buildings remain safe and secure and that the troubles we hope to resolve are not compounded by acts of violence in the very place reserved for justice. It is key to our freedoms as Americans."

The panel will be chaired by Margaret Steinbeck, a judge in Southwest Florida's 20th Judicial Circuit. It also will include the chief judges from eight judicial circuits, two attorneys and a staff member from the Office of State Courts Administrator.

August 18, 2016

Florida trendline shows Donald Trump losing ground

via @adamsmithtimes

Amid all the talk lately about Donald Trump flailing and falling way behind Hillary Clinton in key battleground states, it's worth reminding everybody that, Florida being Florida, we should expect another close presidential election in the America's biggest battleground state.

In the last six presidential elections, after all, Florida has produced three Democratic victories and three Republican victories (one of those, the tied race of 2000). The average margin of victory over those six races was 2.7 percentage points, with the most lopsided result being Bill Clinton's 5.7 point win over Bob Dole and Ross Perot in 1996.

That said, Trump has lost ground in recent weeks in must-win Florida.

With 80 days before election day and less than 50 days before mail voting starts, Hillary Clinton leads Trump by 4.5 percentage points in the average of recent polls compiled by

Prior to the conventions, Florida was a dead heat, but the six polls conducted since then show the Democratic nominee leading by as much as 9 percentage points and as little as 1.

These numbers are not predictive, especially with the first debate still more than a month off. But for what it's worth, RealClear showed Mitt Romney leading by 1 percentage point at this point in 2012 and John McCain leading Barack Obama by nearly 3 at this point in 2008.

I haven't found an average for 2004, but a late August St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald poll showed George W. Bush leading John Kerry 48 percent to 46 percent in Florida.

Image credit:


July 06, 2016

Miami gunfire victim, others push Congress to pass controls


Gun violence victims from Miami and other cities rallied outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday and demanded that Congress act on pending legislation to limit firearms sales in the wake of the Orlando massacre last month.

Wearing orange T-shirts to commemorate the 49 people murdered in Orlando and others shot to death, the activists heard rousing remarks from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. John Lewis trying to continue the momentum for gun controls sparked by an unusual overnight sit-in the civil rights icon led on the House floor two weeks ago.

“The American public deserves so much more from our nation’s leaders than constant arguing,” Antwan Reeves, a Miami-Dade Schools employee who survived an automatic-rifle attack on him and his cousin in Miami Gardens last November, told reporters and spectators at the rally.

Saying “it’s a miracle that I’m here today,” Reeves told a riveting story of how he and his cousin, St. Louis Rams receiver Stedman Bailey, were sprayed with gunfire Nov. 24 while they sat in a car at Northwest 199th Street and 38th Place. Another vehicle pulled up alongside them, and an occupant opened fire as Reeves shielded two of his children in the backseat of their car.

Reeves took 11 bullets while Bailey was shot twice in the head, but both men survived after Reeves somehow drove to Aventura Hospital and Medical Center and each underwent emergency surgery.

“The weapons used during that night of madness left behind 40 shell casings,” Reeves said at Wednesday’s demonstration. “These types of weapons should not be in possession of ordinary citizens.”

Rep. Frederica Wilson, Reeves’ representative in the House, also attended the protest.

“We’re going to need the American public and pressure from the people of this nation to help us in this battle,” Wilson told reporters after the rally.

She added: “I am tired of burying little black boys (in my community), and I even have a foundation set aside to pay for their funerals. So we’re going to fight. I’ve been in this battle for a long time, and I do not intend to give up now.”

Since the June 12 tragedy in Orlando, Republicans who control the Senate and the House have blocked mainly Democratic efforts to pass “No Fly, No Buy” legislation that would make it more difficult for people on FBI terror watch lists to purchase guns.

Reps. Carlos Curbelo of Miami-Dade and David Jolly of Indian Shores, Fla., are among a small number of Republicans who have broken with their party and pushed for those limited controls.