Note: This blog's templates will be updated this afternoon to a responsive design bringing it in line with

At that time, we will also change to the Facebook commenting system. You will need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment.

June 24, 2015

Scott’s vetoes cut into local South Florida projects

Gov. Rick Scott’s veto ax hit South Florida deeply Tuesday, cutting projects with both local support and others that were priorities for local government.

Scott cut a record total of $461 million from the $78.7 billion state budget and made the deepest local cut to Florida International University. The state school lost $5 million intended for a land swap that would allow it to move into a portion of a county park currently occupied by the Miami-Dade Youth Fair.

FIU has offered to move the fair, but negotiations are at an impasse as fair executives insist the cost of the project will be several times more than the $40 million estimated by supporters. Last year, Scott approved $10 million in state funds toward the move, but this year the governor appeared to side with fair executives and said the spending was not acceptable because “a total project cost had not been established.”

The veto disappointed members of the Miami-Dade legislative delegation, which pushed for the funding as a top priority.

The governor left intact, however, two local university projects related to autism — $1.7 million for the University of Miami’s Center for Autism and $750,000 for the Dan Marino Foundation. He also agreed to steer $965,000 to the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and $500,000 to Camillus House to serve sexually exploited adolescent girls.

The governor, however, cut several urban parks and bike trails because they “circumvent the Transportation Work Program.” Among them: $2 million for the Underline Linear Park and Urban Trail in Miami, a 10-mile linear park running under the county's elevated Metrorail system from Miami to Dadeland.

More here.

Jeb Bush's campaign finance chairman will be New York Jets owner Woody Johnson

Jeb Bush has named Woody Johnson, the billionaire New York Jets football team owner and top Republican fund-raiser, as his national finance chairman and Jack Oliver as co-chairman.

Johnson has been spending lots of time with Bush, lending him his private jet to go to Europe to polish his foreign-policy credentials and appearing with the candidate at a Greenwich, Connecticut, fund-raiser Tuesday evening. The Johnson pick was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Bush's second week as a declared candidate also includes finance events in Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando, New York, Chicago, Houston, Dallas and Tulsa.

 "Woody's longstanding commitment to public service and strong track record of working with people of different backgrounds to accomplish big goals represent the values and priorities of Jeb's campaign," Bush adviser Sally Bradshaw said in a statement. "Under the leadership of Woody, Jack Oliver, Heather Larrison and so many others, I'm confident Jeb will have the resources needed to share his message of expanding economic opportunity for all Americans to voters across the nation."

In a statement, Johnson called Bush "a bold and thoughtful leader with the vision and experience to ensure our nation’s greatest days remain ahead. As governor, he was able to unite Floridians around the shared goals of opportunity, growth, prosperity and freedom, achieving tremendous results for his state."

The campaign plans to name more finance appointees later.

This post and its headline have been updated to substitute the Wall Street Journal's story with our own reporting.

Former state Sen. Durell Peaden of Crestview has died

Durell_Peaden_Jr._s002@stevebousquet and @MaryEllenKlas

Former Florida Sen. Durell Peaden, a well-liked Panhandle legislator who represented Northwest Florida in the House and Senate for 15 years, died Tuesday at age 69. He had suffered a severe heart attack earlier this month while in Pennsylvania.

Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, who is a cousin to Peaden and replaced him in the state Senate, notified his colleagues of Peaden's death on Wednesday morning in an email.

"Doc had a love for his family and his community that was beyond anything. He was a friend. He was a cousin but most of all he was a mentor,'' Evers told the Herald/Times. 
When Evers went to him with a problem, Peaden would offer a history lesson and words of wisdom, often mentioning their great uncle in the Whig Party of 1800s. "Things are the same now as they were then,'' Peaden would say. "It just has a different spin." 
In an interview with the Herald/Times in 2010 while aboard a National Guard C-130 plane to inspect the BP oil spill, Peaden talked about the importance of what's known in Panhandle politics as the Yellow River Code.

Peaden, a self-styled "country doctor" from Crestview, was elected as a Democrat in 1995. He switched to the Republican Party in 1997, part of a wave of North Florida Democrats who switched to the GOP in the 1990s. 

A smiling and cherubic presence in the state Capitol in Tallahassee, Peaden was a sponsor of Florida's original "stand your ground" law, which became highly controversial following the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in 2012. But in this New York Times interview, Peaden said the law was misapplied in Martin's case and that he never intended for it to protect shooters such as George Zimmerman.

"He may have been small in stature,'' Evers said, "but as a public servant he stood above anybody else."

Peaden is survived by his wife Nancy and three children, Durell III (Trey), Tyler, and Taylen. Funeral arrangements are pending.


Did Obama cause a 'massive' tax increase on middle class as Jeb Bush says?

After six years with a Democrat in the White House, middle-class Americans face a bigger tax bill than they did before, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said in a speech launching his 2016 presidential campaign.

"The party now in the White House is planning a no-suspense primary, for a no-change election," he said in his June 15 remarks in Miami. "They are responsible for the slowest economic recovery ever, the biggest debt increases ever, a massive tax increase on the middle class, the relentless buildup of the regulatory state, and the swift, mindless drawdown of a military that was generations in the making."

The claim that President Barack Obama and the Democrats have significantly raised taxes is bound to come up frequently in the 2016 election, so we decided to take a whack at it now.

When we asked Bush’s campaign specifically what tax increases he was talking about, they pointed to the Affordable Care Act.

It's a claim we heard before, and one that is flawed. Bush is correct that the Affordable Care Act raises taxes. But pinpointing the middle class as the recipient of "a massive tax increase" is misleading. It's the upper-class that is feeling the brunt of the impact. And health care subsidies, in some cases, may be offsetting tax increases.

A note: The term "middle class" is hard to define, but for the purposes of this article, we are roughly looking at a generous threshold that comprises households making up to $250,000 a year.

Turn to Lauren Carroll's fact-check from PolitiFact and see Bush's full Truth-O-Meter record.

June 23, 2015

Miami Beach to host U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting in 2017


The meeting in summer 2017 will bring about 250 mayors from across the country to Miami Beach.

Miami Beach will host the 85th annual U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2017.

The summer meeting brings together about 250 mayors from across the country to discuss a wide range of issues and hear from guest speakers that have included the President and congressional leaders.

The nonpartisan organization is made up of mayors representing cities with populations of 30,000 or greater. This year’s meeting was held June 19-22 in San Francisco.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine said he and the city staff worked with the Great Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau and former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz to support the Beach’s bid, which was successful during last weekend’s annual meeting. The Beach is well-equipped to host such an event, Levine said.

“Clearly our core competency is hosting large events,” he said. “That’s what we do for a living in Miami Beach.”

Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director of the conference, praised the Beach for its history and place in South Florida.

“We are pleased that the nation’s mayors will be convening in Miami Beach for our 2017 summer meeting,” he said in a news release. “It is a vibrant city with a rich architectural heritage. Moreover, it’s commitment to building a diversified economy by leveraging international trade opportunities holds many lessons from which we can learn.”

The last time the meeting came to Miami-Dade was when the city of Miami hosted in 2008. This is the first time Miami Beach will play host.

Florida elections commission fines ex-North Miami councilman who bounced checks

via @LDixon_3

Former North Miami councilman and mayoral candidate Jean Marcellus has been fined by the state’s elections commission for authorizing campaign expenses with insufficient funds during his mayoral run in 2013.

The Florida Elections Commission voted at its May meeting to fine Marcellus $6,800.

The fine adds to Marcellus’ recent history of mismanaging money, as he was disqualified from running for North Miami mayor in May’s election for writing a bad check to pay his $2,400 qualifying fee.

Marcellus declined to comment Monday, other than to say he wanted to get more details from his attorney.

The complaint was filed March 2014 by Ruth Ogen, who rented a space to Marcellus for his campaign headquarters. Ogen said that he owed her four $1,500 payments for the space and that three of his checks bounced when he tried to pay. Eventually Marcellus paid Ogen $4,500 of the $6,000 that he reported on his campaign finance documents.

Marcellus told the commission’s investigators that he thought there was enough cash in the account to cover the rent payments. He blamed the shortfall on bounced checks from campaign contributors.

In total, the investigation found 34 instances where Marcellus approved spending without sufficient funds.

He finished in fifth place in the 2013 race and third in the 2014 special election to replace former Mayor Lucie Tondreau.

Before his mayoral aspirations, he was a city councilman from 2009 to 2013 representing North Miami’s District 3.


What Jeb Bush said in Miami this month about SCOTUS and Obamacare


When he spoke to reporters in Miami on June 5, Jeb Bush was asked what government should do if the U.S. Supreme Court rules subsidies for the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional (a decision is due by Monday).

Here's what Bush said:

I think Congress ought to proactively unite behind an alternative to the status quo that would allow for a continuation -- as proposed, for example, by Sen. [Ron] Johnson [R-Wisconsin], or a variation of that -- where we would extend this out so there's not big disruption. But also give states the power to change Obamacare. In Florida it might mean less mandates -- no employer mandate, no employee mandate -- a high-deductible, lower-cost insurance that’s focused on catastrophic coverage in an exchange that's not coercive. So I think this is the opportunity for Republicans to not just talk about how bad Obamacare is -- which it is -- but also to unite behind an alternative. And Congress would have to do this. If not, the governor is stuck, and the Legislature is stuck, in a precarious position.

Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera's role (or lack thereof) in budget vetoes


Florida Gov. Rick Scott vetoed so many projects in the state budget Tuesday -- and so quickly -- that it made some political insiders wonder: Did he get recommendations from anyone outside his office?

That question was making the rounds in Miami in particular, as the hometown of Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, whom some lobbyists privately hoped would intercede for local projects.

No such luck.

Lopez-Cantera, a likely 2016 U.S. Senate candidate, said Monday before celebrating the budget's tax cuts with Scott that he left the budget review to the governor.

"There's always room to make government more efficient, and I trust the governor and his judgement in his review of the budget, which I know is already under way," Lopez-Cantera said  before the event with Scott in Doral.

Did he make any veto suggestions to Scott? "I have not made any recommendations to the governor, no. Not yet."

Would he? "Wait and see," Lopez-Cantera said. "I'm not sure."

The budget, and vetoes, were signed 22 hours later.

Did Hillary Clinton only have three laws pass with her name on them as Jeb Bush says?

As Jeb Bush reels off his accomplishments as governor cutting taxes and slashing state jobs, he says he’s ready to put his record up against Hillary Clinton’s.

A day after his announcement speech at Miami Dade College, Fox News’ Sean Hannity asked Bush to comment on the Democrat’s record.

Hannity: "Can you name in a serious way one specific Hillary accomplishment, or what would you say that's good about her?"

Bush: "She's smart. I think she's smart. I think she loves her country. I don't ascribe bad motives for people that I don't agree with. But as a senator, I think she passed -- she has her name on three laws in eight years."

There is some truth to Bush’s claim about laws passed, but it doesn’t tell the full story about her legislative accomplishments as a senator. See what PolitiFact Florida found.

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson back advancing Obama trade bill

via @learyreports

Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio helped a key trade bill clear a hurdle today, setting it up for final passage.

Both faced opposition.

Nelson was facing pressure from liberals and employee unions to oppose the deal for fear of hurting jobs and wages in the U.S.

Rubio was urged to oppose the deal from at least one tea party group in Florida. A message from the Martin 9/12 Committee urged members to call Rubio and say:

- You OPPOSE the Trade Promotion Authority, and do not believe President Obama can be trusted to negotiate anything that might affect immigration law.

- President Obama has already unilaterally usurped the power that belongs to Congress to change immigration laws, and Congress has NO business giving up more of its authority to him.

- Trade agreements have been used in the past to increase immigration and President Obama is currently negotiating several trade agreements that will encompass three-fourths of the world's economy!

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times