March 14, 2017

UPDATED Miami Republicans remain conspicuously silent on CBO analysis of GOP healthcare plan

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@PatriciaMazzei @learyreports

Miami's three Republican lawmakers in Congress have said nothing about the GOP's plan to replace the Affordable Care Act since the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded Monday that some 14 million people would drop or lose insurance coverage in 2018.

The legislation is the biggest policy proposal in the House right now. And the districts represented by Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have among the highest number of Obamacare enrollees in the country. Yet none of the legislators' offices responded Tuesday afternoon to requests for comment.

UPDATE: Ros-Lehtinen has now said she opposes the replacement plan. And a spokeswoman for Diaz-Balart said he is still reviewing the legislation and CBO report. "He has concerns about the legislation, and is looking into those," Katrina Valdes said in an email.

Only Curbelo has had to cast a vote on the proposal so far, last week on the House Ways and Means committee. He then defended his support for the law -- and on Monday, a group linked to House Speaker Paul Ryan started airing TV ads on Curbelo's behalf in Miami.

A slew of Florida lawmakers have issued statements or answered questions about the proposal. Democrats are universally opposed:

Continue reading "UPDATED Miami Republicans remain conspicuously silent on CBO analysis of GOP healthcare plan" »

Republican group airs TV ad for Acosta ahead of hearing



With the Senate planning to hold a hearing next week for Alex Acosta, President Donald Trump's labor secretary nominee, a Republican group has started airing a TV ad in Washington to push Acosta's confirmation

America Rising Squared's spot, titled "Confirm Acosta," notes Acosta is the son of Cuban immigrants, the first in his family to attend college and a Harvard Law School graduate -- and that he was appointed to the Justice Department by former President George W. Bush.

"As a prosecutor, he brought down drug lords, radical Islamic terrorists and corrupt lobbyists," the ad says, showing off headlines about the Jose Padilla and Jack Abramoff cases prosecuted by Acosta's office when he was U.S. attorney in Miami.

The ad, which was launched Monday and first reported by Bloomberg, is part of a six-figure TV and digital campaign. Acosta's hearing is scheduled for March 22.


March 13, 2017

Former state Senate candidate Michael Góngora running for his old Miami Beach commission seat

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Former Miami Beach commissioner and mayoral candidate Michael Góngora, who also came in third last year during the Democratic primary for state Senate District 38, wants back in City Hall.

The condo attorney served as commissioner for a year in the mid-2000s following a special election and then a full term from 2009 to 2013 before losing the 2013 mayoral election to Philip Levine. Now, with Commissioner Joy Malakoff withdrawing her bid for reelection following a physical injury, Góngora has his sights set for his old seat on the dais.

Góngora's entry marks another development in what looks to be an interesting election year in the Beach. With Levine seriously mulling a run for governor, Commissioner Michael Grieco and former state legislator Dan Gelber will square off for mayor. 

And there's still plenty of time for other folks to throw their hats in. The city's qualifying period isn't until the first week of September. The election is Nov. 7.

Read more.

March 11, 2017

About that Miami-Dade state attorney's investigation into Steve Bannon


In a story published Saturday, The Washington Post mentioned that Steve Bannon, now President Donald Trump's senior White House adviser, is being investigated by the Miami-Dade County state attorney's office over his time as a registered Florida voter.

Prosecutors began looking into whether Bannon was a Florida resident in August, after The Guardian reported Bannon was once registered to vote in Miami, where he had leased a home in Coconut Grove. (The Miami Herald followed up with a story on Bannon's brief Miami presence here.) The Miami-Dade elections department confirmed the investigation to WTVJ-NBC 6 on Aug. 31 after prosecutors had requested records from elections staff.

The Post reported Saturday investigators had questioned Bannon's landlords, gardener and handyman. But the most explosive detail seemed to be that the state attorney's office, run by Democrat Katherine Fernández Rundle, still considers its Bannon case an "active criminal" investigation.

That's true because the review hasn't been closed yet. But local prosecutors are notoriously slow in closing out investigations that lead nowhere. And, six months later, it appears that little has come from the Bannon case. The Post's confirmation of the still-open investigation, however, might actually pressure prosecutors to complete it.

Bannon, it should be noted, never actually voted in Florida.

--with David Ovalle

This post has been updated.

Photo credit: Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS

March 10, 2017

A likely candidate for Florida governor suggested invading Cuba. He says he was just trying to make a point

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The panel of three local mayors discussing how the United States should approach doing business with Cuba was going predictably Friday until Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a likely Democratic candidate for Florida governor, brought up a word that, once upon a time in Miami, might have caused a political maelstrom: invasion.

“Why aren’t we discussing the invasion of the island?” Levine said.

He wasn’t endorsing the idea of a military incursion. A few moments earlier, Levine had argued that the best way to help Cubans themselves was to engage in open commerce with the island.

But he had no support for the expanded-business position from his colleagues, Coral Gables Mayor Jim Cason and Doral Mayor J.C. Bermudez. Cason, a Republican former head of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana, had in fact espoused the opposite view, questioning the ethics of any business that would enrich the pockets of the Cuban military.

So Levine made his provocative remark, predicting that a U.S.-led military operation “would probably take 24 hours at best.”

A few people in the crowd chuckled. Neither Bermudez nor Cason took him seriously. Levine later told the Miami Herald he’d been trying to highlight — perhaps inartfully — that opponents of the Obama administration’s Cuba opening, like Cason, couldn’t offer any better solutions.

The surprising exchange reflected how much the conversation on Cuba has changed in Miami. The suggestion that American troops might land on Cuban shores — a failed strategy under former President John F. Kennedy — is now a laugh line. The question of what to do instead, however, remains difficult for local politicians to answer.

More here.

Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff

March 09, 2017

Florida man claims he was shaken down for $1.15 million. Now he wants a refund.


@joeflech & @nicknehamas

Beneath the hulking foundations of the Oceana Bal Harbour — a 28-story, $1.3 billion condo tower in one of South Florida’s wealthiest towns — a toxic fight festers between two of Bal Harbour’s most prominent figures over a $1.15 million check.

Extortionist! Liar! Puppet master! Bully!

Insults and now a lawsuit are flying between Doug Rudolph and Joseph Imbesi, once friends and neighbors who teamed up to sell the storied but decrepit Bal Harbour Club to an Argentine condo developer for $220 million in 2012. The spacious, beachfront property was a gem, but the pair made for bad bedfellows.

March 04, 2017

Miami Republicans rally for Trump at Tropical Park

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Waving American flags and wearing red hats, about 2,000 people gathered at Tropical Park Saturday morning to show their support for President Donald Trump.

Displaying signs like Eva Sanchez’s “Latinos Support Trump — Build the Wall & Close the Border,’’ the crowd cheered on Trump’s immigration policies, which call for building a wall on the southern U.S. border with Mexico and temporarily banning citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Libya, Yemen and Sudan — from entering the country. (A federal appeals court panel unanimously blocked the ban last month.)

The rallies were held across the nation Saturday to show support for Trump, whose disapproval ratings, hovering around 50 percent, are at historically high levels for a new president. In Palm Beach, where Trump is staying this weekend at his Mar-A-Lago estate, dueling rallies of pro- and anti-Trump supporters squared off with harsh words and curses, the Palm Beach Post reported.

Keep reading here.


Miami-Dade judge shoots down detention policy prompted by Trump sanctuary city order


via @davidovalle305

Miami-Dade County — faced with threats by President Donald Trump to potentially cut off federal funding — violated the U.S. Constitution when it agreed to jail people slated for deportation, a judge ruled on Friday.

The judge’s decision was a rebuke of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s much-criticized decision to allow county jails to hold undocumented immigrants awaiting deportation by federal agents, a measure that has sparked protests and anger by many immigration advocates in South Florida.

Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch found that the policy violated the Tenth Amendment, which limits the reach of the federal government over states.
“Of course we must protect our country from the problems associated with unregulated immigration,” he wrote. “We must protect our country from a great many things; but from nothing so much as from the loss of our historic rights and liberties.”

He also wrote: “States cannot cede their reserved powers to the federal government — no, not even if they wish to do so.”

Keep reading here.

March 01, 2017

Miami-Dade's Trump-friendly detention policy faces first legal challenge

James Lacroix mugshotvia @DavidOvalle305

Haitian national James Lacroix pleaded guilty Tuesday to the minor crime of driving with a suspended license, ending his criminal case after more than seven weeks spent behind bars.

But Lacroix didn’t walk out of a Miami-Dade jail.

Instead, jailers kept him in custody under the county’s controversial decision to detain immigrants slated for deportation by federal authorities, even if their sentences have been finished. Lacroix has been ordered deported to Haiti, not for any violent crimes, but apparently because of a long history of driving without a valid license

In the latest ripple effect from the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration, a Miami-Dade judge has set a Thursday hearing to explore the legal authority the county jail has for keeping Lacroix behind bars.

It will be the first legal challenge to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s much-derided decision to begin cooperating with federal agents who have been empowered under President Donald Trump to dramatically step up deportations — actions that have generated protests across the nation, including in Miami-Dade, where Gimenez in January cited the threat of losing federal funding as a reason to cooperate with immigration agents.

“We don’t believe the federal government has the right to tell the state of Florida to spend money to keep someone jailed, to spend money to enforce their unconstitutional policies,” Lacroix’s lawyers, Philip Reizenstein and Kristen Kawass, said in a statement.

More here.

February 22, 2017

Suspicious package flagged at Curbelo's Capitol Hill office, all OK

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Someone hand-delivered an anonymous envelope to Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo's Capitol Hill office Wednesday, prompting a brief investigation that ultimately cleared the suspicious letter.

The envelope was addressed to "Comrade Curbelo," according to one of the congressman's staffers. Instead of a return address, it listed, "Kremlin."

Curbelo wasn't in the office -- he's spending the congressional recess in the district -- but some of his aides were.

The Capitol Police checked out the letter "out of an abundance of caution," spokeswoman Eva Malecki said. "We were able to clear it without any threat."

Malecki added that Capitol Police deal with similar situations "on almost a daily basis."

"Capitol Police puts their lives on the line everyday to keep our Washington, D.C. offices safe, and today their training and professionalism showed," Curbelo said in a statement. "I'm grateful for their swift response and that my staff is safe."

Photo credit: Roberto Koltun, el Nuevo Herald