April 12, 2017

Andrew Gillum: House Republicans 'have a credibility problem'

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Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum — a Democrat running for governor next year — is accusing Republicans in the state House of having “a credibility problem.”

Speaking at a press conference today at the Florida Capitol about House Republicans' "schools of hope" legislation, Gillum said Republicans contradict themselves with their legislative priorities.

RELATED: " 'Schools of hope' are not the answer, Democrats say" (w/ video) 

Gillum said that, for instance, while Republicans say they want to help students in failing schools by bringing in charter-operated "schools of hope," they’ve also proposed this session little to help those same communities, which are often neighborhoods with low-income families who are predominantly black or Hispanic.

Gillum noted that Republicans have proposed limitations on government welfare programs, such as food stamps, and they also have not prioritized early childhood education spending or investing in health care programs that help low-income families afford medical services.

"The Republican House, right now, is trying to take $200 million and put into the hands of their friends who are well-healed and well-connected," Gillum said referencing the "schools of hope" plan. "They want us to trust them on this issue — when by and by, and time and time again, they have turned the other direction when it comes to meeting the needs of the most indigent in this state."

Photo credit: Courtesy of CateComm

February 20, 2017

Senate Democratic leader to Gov. Rick Scott: Treat opioid crisis as a public health emergency

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Florida Senate Democrats are urging Gov. Rick Scott to declare a public health emergency over the growing opioid epidemic in the state.

“No longer confined to small urban enclaves, heroin and fentanyl have become the scourge of communities throughout Florida, wreaking widespread devastation not only from the ravages of addiction, but the resurgence of deadly diseases associated with drug abuse,” Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, of Miami Gardens, wrote in a letter to Scott on Monday.

“There is no family, no race, no ethnicity, no income level this epidemic cannot touch — and no effective state bulwark in place to stop it,” Braynon added.

More here.

Photo credit: Steve Cannon / AP

January 13, 2017

John Morgan doesn't know if he'll run for governor. But he's talking like he will.



Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan isn't a candidate for public office and says he's still not sure he'd ever be one. But he sure was talking like one Friday in a speech to the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club in Pensacola.

In a half-hour speech during a club luncheon, Morgan -- who is considering a run for governor in 2018 -- spoke like a politician testing the waters and trying out a potential stump speech.

He recounted his youth in Lexington, Ky., his wealth and success owning multiple businesses from a billboard company to hotels, and his recent high-profile work to get Amendment 2 passed in Florida, which legalized medical marijuana.

He said he had hoped the Legislature would take action first and when lawmakers didn't, he was forced to step up to the plate.

"They wouldn't do it in Tallahassee," Morgan said. "You all ask yourselves a question: When is the last time in the last 10 years that Tallahassee's ever done anything -- anything -- to help you? That's benefited your life?"

Continue reading "John Morgan doesn't know if he'll run for governor. But he's talking like he will." »

December 08, 2016

Republicans go on offensive against Gwen Graham



Gwen Graham hasn't officially launched a campaign for Florida governor in 2018 -- but that's not stopping the Republican Governors Association from taking a pre-emptive swipe at the outgoing Democratic congresswoman from Tallahassee.

In a statement Thursday, the RGA accused Graham of not being transparent, saying her congressional office hasn't responded to a Freedom of Information Act request made by the RGA.

However, the federal FOIA applies only to the executive branch, i.e. federal agencies. Congress, like federal courts, is exempt so Graham -- or any other member of Congress -- is under no obligation to respond to FOIA requests.

Nonetheless, RGA spokesman Jon Thompson said, "when it comes to transparency, Gwen Graham says one thing, but does another."

"Graham says she believes that Florida families deserve full transparency, but as her actions have demonstrated, she only believes in full transparency until it could impact her quest for political power," Thompson said.

Graham dismissed the RGA's criticism, saying in a statement: "We are 23 months away from the governor's election in Florida, and there will be plenty of time for the RGA to engage in this petty nonsense and partisan attacks."

Continue reading "Republicans go on offensive against Gwen Graham" »

October 10, 2016

Congress more stingy on providing disaster relief than it once was


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The final damage tally from Hurricane Matthew across Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas isn't yet known, but it’s certain those states will ask Congress for billions in disaster aid.

President Barack Obama, after speaking with their governors, suggested that he’ll be seeking emergency funds for damage from Matthew and earlier storms when lawmakers convene after the Nov. 8 election, and Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio said Florida was certain to seek assistance.

“While the state has yet to commence an assessment of damage due to unsafe conditions remaining in many areas, we must be prepared for the long road of recovery ahead,” Rubio wrote Friday in a letter backing up a request from Scott that Obama declare Matthew a “major disaster” for his state, a designation that would allow it to seek more emergency aid from Washington.

For more, read here.

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, El Nuevo Herald


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article106789687.html#storylink=cpy


September 23, 2016

Can Zika aid bill overcome its DC partisan past?



WASHINGTON Senate Republican leaders revealed what they called a breakthrough in Zika funding Thursday under renewed pressure from Florida lawmakers and mayors to break a seven-month political impasse.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/latest-news/article103560742.html#storylink=cpy

Democrats, however, said disputes over funding other urgent needs could still block any final deal, with the Zika money now part of a larger appropriations measure meant to fund the federal government through Dec. 9.

Just a few hours after Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine met with South Florida members of Congress and visited the White House to push for the stalled Zika money, the Senate Republicans disclosed the new Zika effort.

For more, read here:

Photo credit: C. M. Guerrero, El Nuevo Herald


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/latest-news/article103560742.html#storylink=cpy


September 14, 2016

Competing demands crowd Zika money



WASHINGTON Turns out, Zika isn’t the only urgent problem that needs federal funds fast.

Florida lawmakers pushing to get $1.1 billion for Zika prevention and research into a rapidly evolving broader appropriations bill are competing with members of Congress from across the country who want their needs addressed.

On his second day in Washington to push for Zika funding, Gov. Rick Scott met with members of Congress from the state who briefed him on the rapidly evolving negotiations over federal spending.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, said he’s jousting with other panel members seeking vital funding for their districts and states.

Lawmakers from Louisiana want billions for flood relief. Congressmen from Michigan want millions to clean contaminated drinking water. Others are pushing for more money for veterans’ healthcare.

“Florida’s not the only state with urgent needs,” Diaz-Balart told reporters after he and other Florida lawmakers met with Scott.

The governor said that Florida can’t wait any longer to receive federal aid to help with treating the almost 800 people in the state infected with the virus and preventing it from spreading further.

“We need help, and we need help now,” Scott said.

Scott criticized Sen. Bill Nelson for joining other Democrats in having voted down earlier Zika bills because they contained extraneous provisions related to abortion, Planned Parenthood and the federal health insurance law.

Scott’s criticism drew a rebuke from Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a fellow Republican from Miami.

“We don’t need to be calling people out,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “Sen. Nelson has been trying to help get Zika funding.”

Beyond the competition among different funding needs, there was disagreement on Capitol Hill over how much time the omnibus spending bill, called a Continuing Resolution, should cover going forward.

Appropriators sought a short-term measure that would keep the government operating into December. Some conservatives wanted it to be funded until March. President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress were pushing for a bill to cover the entire next fiscal year, starting Oct. 1 and lasting through Sept. 30, 2017.

Video credit: Ken Cedeno, McClatchy



August 25, 2016

Rubio raps FEMA over algae blooms

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Sen. Marco Rubio criticized the Obama administration for again declining to issue a federal disaster declaration in response to toxic algae in Florida's waterways.

"Even though the end to this disaster is not in sight, the President is telling our state we are on our own," the Miami Republican said Thursday in a statement.

Barack Obama did not appear to be involved in the decision. In a brief letter earlier Thursday, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate rejected Gov. Rick Scott's appeal of his agency's earlier denial of extra money to help fight the algae blooms from Lake Okeechobee discharges intended to protect its aging dike.

"After a thorough review of all information contained in your initial request and appeal, we reaffirm our original findings that supplemental federal assistance under the Stafford Act is not appropriate for this event," Fugate wrote to Scott. "Therefore, I must inform you that your appeal for an emergency declaration is denied."

The thick algae blooms look like guacamole and smell bad. The algae has fouled Treasure Coast waterways fed by Lake Okeechobee.

"The Administration has chosen yet again to turn a blind eye to the livelihoods of Floridians who are affected by this toxic algae," Rubio said.

For more on Rubio's response:

Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article86989367.html#storylink=cpy


April 21, 2016

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn confirms he, too, is considering 2018 Democratic bid for governor

via Richard Danielson @Danielson_Times

With U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and state Sen. Jeremy Ring both saying they're thinking of running for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday that, yes, he's still considering a run, too. But don't look for any decisions from him until after November:

Q — Graham's announcement that she will not run for Congress but will explore a race for governor is seen as a sign she is in. You have been considered a likely candidate in the race. How far are you on you exploration and when would you decide?

"I can't imagine that I would make a decision prior to the presidential election. I think it really is unfair for Secretary (Hillary) Clinton and Patrick Murphy to have a governor's race interjected into this cycle. It's competition for money. It's competition for attention. It's competition that they don't need."

Q — How far along are you on the work that you need to do to make that decision?

"What I do every day is the best thing that I can do to position myself if I choose to go down that path. If I run, it will be based on a record of real accomplishments  having to make real decisions and doing what a CEO does.  So the best thing I can do for that story is to continue to do my job every day. I think at the end of this period, Tampa's going to have a pretty compelling story to tell in the biggest media market in the state, where just in this (primary) alone, 22 percent of the vote came out of the Tampa Bay area. So I'm just focused on doing my job."

Q — Are you having conversations with people around the state about the idea of running for governor — party people, potential donors?

"I've said from day one that we were going to explore this, we were going to look, you know, test the message, test out how Tampa's renaissance is playing, test out the messenger. So yeah, I've had ongoing conversations with people all over the state."

Q — And how are those tests going?

"Tampa's got a great story, and I love telling Tampa's story, and to the extent that Tampa's story helps me, so be it, but I think what it does demonstrate is I've got a proven record. It's not hyperbole. It's not rhetoric. It's not, you know, resolutions in the congressional record. It's a real record, creating jobs and creating opportunities and getting this city out of the depths of the recession to where we're one of the hottest real estate markets in America, and that's a great story to tell."

Q —Any pushback from party people that you stayed on the sidelines during the last governor's race?

"No, not necessarily. Because I think they understand why: that my first priority is to be the mayor of Tampa, and I had to do what was in the best interest of being the mayor of Tampa and the city of Tampa. And that medical school I was not willing to put at risk. That was too important to us, too important to USF, and had I gotten involved in a partisan governor's race at the time that probably would not have happened."

Q — What do you think of Graham's announcement?

"It was expected. That was not any surprise to me or anybody else who's been following this."

Q —If she's in, does that play a role in your decision?

"No. None whatsoever."

Q — Why are you thinking about running for governor?

"I think the state needs a change. I think we need adult leadership in Tallahassee. I think the fact that one party has controlled the legislative process for 20 years has led to some really bad decisions. And I think if I can do at the state level what we've done here, I think we could change the state of Florida. And I think people are ready for a change. They're tired of the hyper-partisanship. They're tired of the dominance by one party. I think they're looking for a more pragmatic, more practical approach to governance. And I think the one place you can do that and have an impact on the state like we've done here is from the governor's office. But I do think voters are going to expect you to have a proven track record. They're going to want to see your body of work.  They don't want just another politician running for just another office. They're going to look at the candidates in this race and they're going to say, 'What have you done with your life? In your last job what did you do?' And I think that Tampa's story's going to be pretty compelling."

Jeremy Ring acknowledges he's considering run for governor too: 'No door is closed'

Jeremy RingState Sen. Jeremy Ring of Margate confirmed Thursday that he is calling potential funders and conducting his own exploratory campaign for a possible run for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018.

"No door is closed for me. I am considering it, yes, and am in an exploratory phase. I can't imagine having a decision in 2016." 

Ring, whose is retiring from the state Senate because of term limits this year, said he saw Gwen Graham's video announcing her interest in running today and considered it "extraordinarily misleading."

"If you were to do a 'pants on fire' thing, it would be an inferno,'' he said, referring to PolitiFact Florida's accuracy rating.
"The redistricting was done by the courts and it's not a conservative court. To blame the legislature, was someone disingenuous when you think all the court battles out there. The court pretty much did the Legislature's job but in the video, she blames the Legislature."

Ring said he interpreted Graham's video as a sign she is running, not just considering. "Everyone has a right to run, and to try to handicap races two years out is complete insanity."

Ring, who was on the team that built Yahoo, left the Internet start-up in 2001 and moved to Florida in 2001 to start a new company, Collegiate Images, with a friend. His net worth is $13.7 million. 

He said that he will spend the next several months doing "what I need to do to be credible. I won't run if I'm not credible. I'm certainly exploring it but it is going to come down to after the presidential election if I think I can win.

"In 2016, it comes down to fundraising. I feel I have the best bio of anyone who could possibly run. I have the best message of anyone who could possibly run -- bring the innovation economy to Florida. Can I bring people to support me?"

Miami Herald reporters Amy Sherman and Kristen Clark contributed to this report.