October 30, 2015

Chicago woman mistakenly named in Alan Grayson's campaign disclosure 'comfortable' with his explanation


GraysonThe retired Chicago teacher, who unexpectedly found herself named nearly 2,300 times in Alan Grayson's most recent Senate campaign disclosure, says the situation has been "one of the more bizarre occurrences in my life."

Jacqueline Kirley didn't know about the anomaly reported in the Democratic congressman's quarterly report -- filed two weeks ago with the FEC -- until the Herald/Times called her Wednesday. The question of 'What happened?' seemed answered Thursday when Grayon's campaign acknowledged a "very weird, weird" glitch in their reporting software.

It caused Kirley's name to be associated with the donor ID of a political action committee that helps Democratic candidates raise money; the mistake incorrectly identified contributions made through the PAC as having come from Kirley when she, in fact, had not donated anything to Grayson's Senate run.

Kirley couldn't be reached for a final comment prior to our story running yesterday, but she replied late Thursday evening by email -- relaying a sense of relief, but also some lingering questions of how the report had been filed with such an obvious flaw.

Continue reading "Chicago woman mistakenly named in Alan Grayson's campaign disclosure 'comfortable' with his explanation" »

October 29, 2015

Patrick Murphy's list of endorsements grows in U.S. Senate bid


U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy says he's picked up more endorsements from sitting U.S. senators, whom he hopes to join in 2017.

The Jupiter Democrat is competing with U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, of Orlando, for the Democratic primary in the 2016 race to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate.

Added to Murphy's list of endorsers today are: Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico.

In statements provided by Murphy's campaign, the senators complimented Murphy's commitment to to the middle class, citing his defense of Medicare and Social Security.

Murphy's campaign also touted today the endorsement of Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., but Chris Murphy has been listed on Patrick Murphy's campaign website for some time, alongside Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.

October 28, 2015

Alan Grayson joins calls for Marco Rubio's resignation



U.S. Senate candidate Alan Grayson, a Democratic congressman from Orlando, says Marco Rubio should resign his seat in the U.S. Senate since he isn't doing the job Floridians elected him to and is, instead, "conducting a vanity campaign for president."

"Marco Rubio has already quit on the people of Florida. His resignation simply makes that official. And when he does, I will say good riddance," Grayson said in a statement this afternoon.

Rubio, disenchanted with the Senate, has explained his poor attendance and voting record by saying he's focused on running for president, where he can make the Senate more effective.

This morning, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's editorial board called on Rubio to resign, and Grayson echoed that sentiment.

“If Senator Rubio does not want to do his job of representing Florida in the Senate, then he should quit," said Grayson, who's seeking to replace Rubio in 2016.

"After missing more votes than any other senator this year, Rubio is M.I.A., in dereliction of duty, Grayson said. "Even before he announced his Presidential campaign, Marco Rubio had the worst attendance record in the Senate. Sen. Feinstein, who is 82 years old, missed fewer votes than Rubio. Sen. Kirk, who suffered a devastating stoke, missed fewer votes than Rubio."

"Floridians have the reasonable expectation that Marco Rubio should show up to work, earn his pay of $14,500 each month, and do his job," Grayson continued. "Instead of doing his job, however, Marco is conducting a vanity campaign for president.  He has missed as many as half of his votes. What kind of employee misses half of his work days, and then expects a promotion?"

Grayson faces a competitive Democratic primary next year against fellow U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter.

Photo credit: AP

Conflicts erupt as Florida Senate passes map 22-18

via @MaryEllenKlas

The personal and political conflicts that have divided Florida Senate Republicans for months reached the boiling point on Wednesday as the Senate narrowly approved a redrawn redistricting map 22-18 and two powerful senators pointedly used the opportunity to finger each other for the chamber’s mistakes.

Democrats voted together in opposition to the map, which they said would be struck down by the court as unconstitutional violation of the anti-gerrymandering rules of the Florida Constitution. They were joined by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and three other Republicans.

Following the debate, however, angry emotions spilled into view as Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, who was redistricting chairman when the invalidated 2012 maps were approved, rose for a rare “point of personal privilege," a rule that supercedes all others, and used it to criticize Latvala for blaming Gaetz for the Legislature having to redo the Senate map.

“Sen. Latvala says Don Gaetz is the cause for the special session. You decide. I am am sorry for my mistakes. Sen. Latvala should be sorry for his,’’ he said, reading from prepared remarks. “I take no satisfaction from this exchange. I did not seek it. But when a bully throws a sucker punch, you hit back and never give in.”

Over the last two months, Latvala has been harshly critical of Senate leadership because of the court’s rejection of the map drawn during the 2012 term, pointing out a Herald/Times report that the taxpayer cost of the redistricting litigation has risen to $11 million and suggesting the blame should be placed on Gaetz.

In arguing against the map on Wednesday, he did not mention Gaetz by name but said, “there’s a lot of doubt whether we here in this Senate have handled this issue in a way that we can be proud of.”

Continue reading "Conflicts erupt as Florida Senate passes map 22-18" »

October 27, 2015

Education effort underway before next Florida Constitution Revision Commission in 2017-18



The next mandatory review of Florida's Constitution won't start for another year or so, but a partnership of organizations led by the LeRoy Collins Institute at Florida State University and the Florida Bar wants to start raising Floridians' awareness about the process.

A Constitution Revision Commission convenes every 20 years to review Florida's Constitution and propose changes for voters to decide on. The board was established by the Legislature in the '60s and has met twice: in 1977-78 and 1997-98. The next one will be appointed prior to the 2017 legislative session, so that proposed amendments can go to the voters in 2018.

"The purpose of this project is really to educate, engage and empower the citizens," said Carol Weissert, director of the LeRoy Collins Institute, "and we want to start early because we want to make sure that citizens know this is coming up and they are going to participate in this process.

"The worst thing that we thought could happen is that it comes along and nobody's paying attention to it," she said.

The group -- "Partnership for Revising Florida's Constitution" -- has launched a website, produced a citizen's guide and started accounts on Twitter and Facebook as part of its public awareness campaign.

Continue reading "Education effort underway before next Florida Constitution Revision Commission in 2017-18" »

October 23, 2015

Lawmaker: FBI involvement in Corey Jones shooting investigation 'a positive development'



Edwin narainThe chairman of Florida's Legislative Black Caucus said Friday evening that the Federal Bureau of Investigations' involvement in investigating the police-involved shooting death of Corey Jones this week in Palm Beach Gardens is "a positive development" in the effort to restore public confidence. 

"It sends the right signal that the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office wants to have as much transparency as possible in the process," Rep. Edwin Narain, D-Tampa, told the Herald/Times.

Members of the black caucus -- all Democrats -- called Wednesday for Republican Gov. Rick Scott to launch an independent probe into the questionable circumstances surrounding Jones' death beyond separate investigations the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office had already launched.

Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said in a statement Friday evening that he had requested the FBI's help and the agency agreed.

Continue reading "Lawmaker: FBI involvement in Corey Jones shooting investigation 'a positive development'" »

Florida among 24 states suing over EPA carbon emissions rule

Obama-Power Plants


Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has joined 23 other states to fight an initiative from President Barack Obama that's intended to combat greenhouse gases and the effects of climate change.

A federal lawsuit challenging a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule, called the Clean Power Plan, was filed in D.C. this week. The initiative, announced by Obama in August, aims to reduce carbon emissions nationwide by imposing limits on power plants.

In her announcement about the lawsuit today, Bondi said the EPA rule lays out an "unrealistic" timeframe to cut carbon emissions by 2030 and would "require the use of costly and unproven technologies." (Here are the goals for Florida, according to the EPA.)

She said the initiative "would result in dramatically higher electricity bills and significantly less reliable service for families, businesses, hospitals and schools across the country."

“We will not stand by and allow these unlawful and heavy-handed utility regulations to trample our states’ rights and drastically increase electricity prices in Florida,” Bondi said in the statement. “We have seen how President Obama’s overreach has created unease in markets, eliminated competition and increased costs for millions of Americans. This new federal rule promulgated by the EPA will have a similar effect on energy production, access and price in Florida and across the country.”

This isn't the first time Bondi has fought the Obama administration in court. She also unsuccessfully sued over the Affordable Care Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately upheld.

Those joining Florida in challenging the EPA rule are: West Virginia, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming, the Arizona Corporation Commission, and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

Photo Credit: AP

October 22, 2015

Florida police, sheriffs groups oppose open-carry gun proposals

Javier ortiz


Groups representing Florida sheriffs and police officers came out this week in opposition to a controversial legislative proposal that would allow anyone with a concealed weapons permit to openly carry their guns statewide.

Law enforcement representatives say Senate Bill 300 / House Bill 163 would restrict the ability of officers to ensure public safety and the bills fail to include enhanced training and requirements for the holstering and handling of openly carried weapons, among other concerns.

Supporters of the legislation -- sponsored by Republican father-son duo Sen. Don Gaetz of Niceville and Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach -- argue it strengthens Second Amendment rights for Americans to defend themselves.

The Florida Fraternal Order of Police unanimously opposes the legislation, specifically because of a provision that would prohibit an officer from asking for someone's concealed-carry permit unless the officer had "probable cause" -- a more stringent legal standard than what is currently in law. If the officer made the request without probable cause, the officer could face a $5,000 fine and the agency they work for could be fined $100,000, under the proposed law.

"If something happens and an officer is not allowed to, at least, ask someone and inquire during the situation of a protest if they should be openly carrying, you’re tying their hands," Lisa Henning, the group's legislative liaison, told senators this week.

Continue reading "Florida police, sheriffs groups oppose open-carry gun proposals" »

October 21, 2015

Legislative Black Caucus wants 'independent investigation' into Corey Jones shooting

Black caucus


Members of the Florida Legislature’s Black Caucus want Republican Gov. Rick Scott to launch an independent investigation into the police-involved shooting death of Corey Jones in Palm Beach County on Sunday, and they say the tragedy is another example of why legislation is needed to improve transparency and accountability from local police agencies.

“Once again, another young black man has been killed by being someplace he rightfully belonged in our state,” said Rep. Ed Narain, D-Tampa, the caucus chairman.

Scott’s office said he has offered the assistance of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to Palm Beach County authorities, but he did not commit to a separate state-level investigation.

“Our office continues to monitor any developments,” Scott’s spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said in a statement.

Jones, a 31-year-old church drummer and Boynton Beach resident, was shot dead at around 3:15 a.m. after an encounter with a police officer when his vehicle broke down on an I-95 exit ramp in Palm Beach Gardens. The officer, Nouman Raja, was on duty in plain clothes and driving an unmarked police vehicle.

The Palm Beach Gardens Police Department said Raja was investigating what he thought was an abandoned vehicle and when Raja left his own vehicle “he was suddenly confronted by an armed subject.” Raja’s vehicle had no dash camera and he wore no body camera. The Palm Beach Gardens Police Department waited nearly two days before commenting on the shooting, after getting pressure from the local police union.

Although the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and Palm Beach County State Attorney’'s Office are each looking into the shooting, Rep. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, said “an independent and thorough investigation by an outside agency” — in this case, the FDLE — would help restore public confidence.

“This has to stop,” Powell said. “There’s no evidence that we’ve seen to indicate that this man was a trouble-maker. ... My community is frustrated and rightfully so.” 

More here.

Proposed law, aiming to reduce deaths in hot cars, gets favorable support


Legislation aimed at curbing the number of hot-car deaths in Florida got unanimous favor from a House committee on Tuesday.

The bill — sponsored by House Republican Leader Dana Young, of Tampa, and Rep. Jared Evan Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs — would allow people to break in to locked vehicles in order to free a senior citizen, person with disabilities, child or pet if there is a “good faith belief” that person or animal is “in imminent danger of suffering harm.”

Under House Bill 131, the person breaking in to the vehicle could not be sued for the damage if they call 911 beforehand and remain until emergency services arrive. They also can’t use any more force than is necessary to rescue the person or pet inside.

Young said she’s not aware of any instances where someone has been sued for rescuing a pet or person from a locked car. She said she hopes the proposal brings awareness and empowers bystanders to help save lives.

“We don’t ever want to be in a situation where someone was thinking about doing the rescue and paused, worrying about the liability, and in those moments … something tragic happens,” Moskowitz said.

More here.