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September 28, 2015

Raquel Regalado revs up campaign ads for Miami-Dade mayoral race


With less than a year to go before the election, Miami-Dade mayoral hopeful Raquel Regalado is hoping to rev up her campaign this week with bus ads and online videos. 

The two-term school board member and radio host launched her campaign in the spring with a series of videos on her Facebook page. The latest batch includes an attack on her opponent, incumbent Mayor Carlos Gimenez, that includes a critique of his endorsement of privatizing some local-government services.

"The real problem, however, is not government," Regalado said. "It's Carlos Gimenez." 


Gimenez, in office since 2011, has not official filed as a candidate for the 2016 election, which starts with a non-partisan primary next August.  

A July poll found Regalado, who is the daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, trailing Gimenez by 23 points. That survey, performed for the Miami Herald by  Bendixen & Amandi International, did not include County Commissioner Xavier Suarez, who says he is considering a mayoral run.

A spokesman for Gimenez's political committee, Miami-Dade Residents First, declined to comment on the ad. 

Most Dems in Florida Legislature endorse Patrick Murphy for U.S. Senate, campaign says


Five more Democratic state lawmakers are getting behind U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, in the party's primary race for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat.

Murphy's campaign announced the endorsements today from Amanda Murphy of New Port Richey, Cynthia Stafford of Miami, Richard Stark of Weston and Mia Jones and Reggie Fullwood, both of Jacksonville.

In statements provided by Murphy's campaign, the state legislators praised Murphy as "the kind of fresh, new leader we need."

The added support gives Murphy the backing of almost 60 percent of the 53 Democrats in the Florida Legislature: seven in the Senate and 24 in the House, his campaign said.

Murphy, who represents the Treasure Coast and part of Palm Beach County, is poised to have a showdown with fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, and North Palm Beach attorney Pam Keith in next year's August primary.

Miami-Dade mayor pledges to make Uber legal by end of 2015


via @glenngarvin

Ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft will be legal in Miami-Dade County by the end of the year, Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Monday, while “a substantial part” of the taxi industry will be deregulated.

“Demand is too great” for the ride-sharing companies, Gimenez said. “You're not going to put that genie back in the bottle.... I'm not going to drag Uber and Lyft back into the 20th century. I think the taxi industry has to move into the 21st.”

Gimenez made his remarks following a press conference where the New York-based company ZabCab unveiled a new app that will allow customers to summon regular taxis with a single tap on their smart phones, one of the popular features of the ride-sharing companies.

Ride-sharing companies, which hook up passengers with freelance drivers via cellphone technology, are technically illegal in Miami-Dade. But, after drawing a blizzard of traffic tickets when they first set up shop in the county in the spring of 2014, they've operated more or less openly for the past year.

Broward and Palm Beach counties, after similar tumult, took steps this summer to legalize the ridesharing companies. And Gimenez said he's going to follow the same path.

More here.

Gov. Scott's latest hospital target: Posting cost data online


Gov. Rick Scott is calling for legislation that would require hospitals to post their prices and financial details online, the latest in his crusade against “unfairly high hospital costs.”

In a statement, Scott said that he hopes to work with the Legislature in their session that begins in January to pass reforms aimed at transparency.

“I look forward to working with the Legislature in the upcoming session to make reforms that will allow patients to see what revenues hospitals are collecting and what they are billing patients for medical procedures,” he said. “With our proposed reforms, patients who believe their hospital bills are unconscionably high will have the ability to ask for a third-party review of their charges.”

The announcement came Monday afternoon just as the governor’s Commission on Health Care and Hospital Funding was set to meet in Tampa. A key item on the agenda: transparency from hospitals.

Since the commission’s first meeting in May, board members and the governor have demanded financial details from hospitals, some of which have been reluctant to disclose information or to repackage data they report to the state already.

The reforms appear aimed at putting more information out publicly, including updating state law governing the database. At the hospital commission meeting, members heard from Andrea Caballero from the organization Catalyst for Payment Reform, which puts out a cost transparency report card every year. Florida is one of 45 states to earn an “F” in 2015.

“In order to be effective, price transparency initiatives must provide accessible and actionable information to decision-makers in a timely manner,” the report card says. “While legal barriers hindered initial efforts to promote price transparency, states can address many of these barriers through legislation and litigation.”

Florida Legislature continues to be a path to wealth for many


Every Florida lawmaker has now submitted their personal financial information for 2014 (the forms were due July 1 but the final one arrived at the Commission on Ethics last week). Still, it is clear: It pays to be in the state Legislature.

Having every lawmaker’s financial information available allows us to verify data from an Aug. 1 story that showcased how most elected members of the House and Senate have seen their personal wealth increase while serving in office, even as the average Florida worker has seen their wages stagnate or even fall since the Great Recession.

Originally, the Herald/Times reported that 114 lawmakers had increased their personal wealth since first taking office. With data updated for the 14 legislators whose forms hadn’t yet been submitted, that number rises to 117.

Yes, nearly three-quarters of the 160 members of the Legislature have gotten richer since being elected. And on average, lawmakers' net worth has more than doubled from the year of their first campaign.

Lawmakers’ incomes have risen, too, to the tune of 67 percent on average — just above the 63 percent reported in August. Members of the Legislature earn nearly $30,000 per year in addition to any outside work or investments.

Contrast that with the average worker. Data shows that earnings are higher than they were in 2010 but still much lower than before the economic downturn in 2007 and 2008.

The average member of the Legislature reported earning $228,745 in 2014 and having a personal net worth of $2 million.

On average, Republicans in the Legislature are wealthier than Democrats, and senators are wealthier than members of the House. Members who represent Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties earned an average of $286,578 last year and reported net worths averaging $2 million. More details are below.

Earlier reporting relied on year-old data for 14 members of the Legislature whose financial disclosures had not been made public by the Commission on Ethics by July 31. Lawmakers have until July 1 every year to file details about their finances and sources of income, but fines don’t kick in until Sept. 1.

That is why many lawmakers don’t file forms until August. One member, Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando, did not file his form until last week because of a snafu with the U.S. Postal Service. He postmarked the package before the Sept. 1 deadline, and a fine was removed from his record on the ethics commission’s website.

Financial disclosure details:

Average House member’s net worth: $1.43 million
Average House member’s 2014 income: $183,875

Average senator’s net worth: $3.79 million
Average senator’s 2014 income: $365,658

Average Republican lawmaker’s net worth: $2.38 million
Average Republican lawmaker’s 2014 income: $256,171

Average Democrat lawmaker’s net worth: $1.3 million
Average Democrat lawmaker’s 2014 income: $172,838

Dan Webster's blueprint for being House speaker: Flatten the pyramid, fix the process

Dan WebsterU.S. Rep. Dan Webster's bid to become speaker of the U.S. House may hinge on many things, not the least of which is his district may become doomed by redistricting, but he has put into writing what he thinks should be done to end Washington's hyper-dysfunction.

In short: leaders enable their membership, empower them with responsibility for which they are held accountable and that flattens the power pyramid.

“My goal is for the House of Representatives to be based on principle, not on power. Every Member of Congress deserves a seat at the table to be involved in the process,'' Webster said in a statement on Friday. "I will continue fighting for this to become a reality in Washington, and will be running for Speaker of the House.”

Webster, R-Winter Garden, told the Herald/Times two weeks before House Speaker John Boehner announced he would retire at the end of October that "the key" to dismantling the dysfunction of both Congress and the Florida Legislature "is you have to understand that power and principle cannot co exist.'' 

We were talking to Webster about his experience in reforming the House system, in light of the manifesto proposed by incoming Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran to flatten the power structure and diminish what he considers the corrupting influence of special interests in the legislative process.

Webster spelled it out in this one-page white paper after the mid-term elections.

Continue reading "Dan Webster's blueprint for being House speaker: Flatten the pyramid, fix the process" »

Senate president nixes 'dissatisfied' Democrats' bid for lawyers

Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, has rejected a request by Senate Democrats for outside lawyers to represent the minority party in the upcoming remapping of Senate districts that will require Supreme Court approval. Disappointed by what they call Gardiner's "deeply problematic" decision, Democrats are urging him to change his mind before the upcoming three-week special session set to begin Oct. 19.

"I do not believe the interest of the Senate would be served by granting a request to retain additional legal counsel to represent a group of dissatisfied senators in redistricting litigation, regardless of the partisan affiliation of those senators," Gardiner wrote in a letter to Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. "I use the term 'dissatisfied senators' intentionally, because every redistricting proposal passed this decade has passed this body with bipartisan support."

Senate rules allow the president to hire outside counsel if "the interests of the Senate would not otherwise be adequately represented," but Gardiner said that's not the case with redistricting. He said Senate lawyers "advise and guide the work product that a majority of senators" will approve -- regardless of party affiliation.

Joyner fired back Friday with a second letter to Gardiner in which she renewed her party's request for separate legal support, saying her party questioned the impartiality of a Senate legal team that is led by a former Florida Supreme Court justice, Raoul Cantero and two associates at the White & Case law firm in Miami, Jason Zakia and Jesse Green.

Joyner reminded Gardiner of "your admission" in court documents that the current Senate map is unconstitutional because it was drawn with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or incumbent in violation of the two "fair districts" amendments to Florida's Constitution that voters approved in 2010. 

"I have no doubt that they (Senate lawyers) served the majority well. It is their ability to fairly serve the 14 members of the minority party and the millions of constituents we represent which I see as deeply problematic," Joyner wrote.

Gardiner has allowed individual Republican senators to hire legal representation at taxpayer expense. He told Joyner he did so because those senators faced "specific discovery requests" that targeted their official duties.

Ben Carson's Mostly False claim about immigration

With a new poll showing him in a virtual tie with Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, Ben Carson went on the Sunday news shows to talk politics. On ABC’s This Week, host Martha Raddatz grilled Carson about some of his comments on immigration.

Carson said he gets his information on immigration from local sheriffs and that he doesn’t trust figures from the federal government.

"You know, a lot of these people who are captured, it's ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) who comes along and says, you must release these people. And that's not helpful to the American people. They need to be working for the American people, not against them," Carson said.

"We've had examples like in Yuma County where we've been able to stop 97 percent of the illegal flow, and those programs, they abolish," Carson added. "They don't want that. What is wrong with them?"

We too wondered why the government would abolish programs as effective as Carson said. So we checked it out, and found a lot more to the story of what was going on in Yuma County, Ariz.

See what Angie Drobnic Holan of PolitiFact found.

UPDATED Marco Rubio: 'I'm not interested in the back and forth' with Donald Trump's 'freak show'


Marco Rubio absolutely, positively wants to stay above the fray in the 2016 Republican presidential race.

But he sure knows how to tuck in jabs against frontrunner Donald Trump while trying to distance himself from Trump's attacks on him and other more establishment candidates.

The latest example: In an interview aired Monday on NPR, Rubio was asked about Trump's calling him a "clown" on Friday.

"I'm not interested in the back and forth," Rubio said -- only to deride Trump's  "freak show."

"He is a very sensitive person. He doesn't like to be criticized. He responds to criticism very poorly," Rubio said. "His poll numbers have taken a beating and he was embarrassed on national television at the debate by Carly Fiorina and others."

"But this election is not going to be about Donald Trump," Rubio continued. "He thinks it is, but it's not about him. It has to be about the issues confronting our country. And my sense of it is that every time issues become prominent he will say something outrageous or do something outrageous so that he doesn't have to talk about the issues."

UPDATE: Asked about Rubio's comment in a New York news conference unveiling his tax plan, Trump again referred to Rubio as a "lightweight."

"Look, look. Sen. Rubio is a lightweight. We understand that. He wouldn't be able to do this. He wouldn't know a trade deal from any other deal. And what certain people are trying to do...

"We're going up very strongly in the polls. They don't know know what to do about it...

"I'm funding my own campaign. Guys like Rubio, I mean, he desperately needs money. Ask the car dealer in Florida." (That would be Norman Braman.) "Ask the people that support him..."

"A guy Rubio and others...they're largely controlled by their donors, the special interests and, frankly, more than anybody else, the lobbyists."

Jeb Bush's misleading claim about growth under George W. Bush

During his 2016 Republican presidential bid, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has periodically had to answer for the record of his brother, George W. Bush, and he had to do it again on a recent edition of Fox News Sunday.

Host Chris Wallace asked Bush, "Whether it was Ronald Reagan's tax cuts or your brother's tax cuts, they did add greatly to the deficit."

Bush responded, "They didn't (add to the deficit) as greatly as the static thinkers on the left think. They created a dynamic effect of high growth. And that's what we need."

We didn’t recall rapid economic growth under Bush, so we thought we’d look at the past five presidents’ records in order to gauge Jeb Bush’s comments.

See what Louis Jacobson at PolitiFact found and see Bush's Truth-O-Meter record.