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July 03, 2017

UPDATED: Lawmakers react to Miami judge's ruling deeming Stand Your Ground change unconstitutional

Florida Legislature (21)


Several lawmakers took to Twitter on Monday to weigh in on a Miami judge's ruling that new changes the Legislature made to Florida's Stand Your Ground law were unconstitutional and beyond the purview of their law-making duties.

The Miami Herald's David Ovalle has more on the ruling here.

SB 128 passed the Legislature along partylines with Democrats opposed, and Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law last month. Scott's office had no immediate reaction to Monday's news other than acknowledging they were "reviewing the ruling."

Here's what some lawmakers had to say: 

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes:

Sen. Rob Bradley, the Fleming Island Republican who, for two years, sponsored the legislation to change Florida's Stand Your Ground law:

Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford...

... with a responses from Reps. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs, and David Richardson, D-Miami Beach:

Rep. Julio Gonzalez, R-Venice:

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando:

Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Jacksonville Beach...

... with agreement from Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa:

 Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami...

 ... which drew this brief exchange with Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville:

Photo credit: Mark Wallheiser / AP

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to fundraise for Jose Felix Diaz's senate race



Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is the special guest at a fundraiser for Rep. Jose Felix Diaz's state senate campaign at the Biltmore Hotel July 18th.

Diaz is running in the July 25th primary for the special election in District 40 created by the resignation of Sen. Frank Artiles

Diaz will face attorney Lorenzo Palomares and former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla in the Republican primary.

Broward Sheriff won't let mother of dying, heroin-addicted daughter be at her hospital bed

Lucy Moss's daughterby Carol Marbin Miller @Marbinus

Lucy Moss’ worst fear always was that her heroin-addicted daughter would die alone.

When she found out her daughter, who had spent three months in jail on drug possession charges, was “on life support” in a Broward County hospital, she rushed to Fort Lauderdale on a flight her relatives paid for. She hitched rides from strangers to make it to her daughter’s bedside. And she secured an emergency hearing Sunday in front of a judge after police limited her to two short visits.

But neither her entreaties nor a judge’s order could sway the Broward Sheriff’s Office. Separated by Intensive Care Unit walls — and BSO policy — from her daughter, Moss still fears Carare will die alone.

“This is a nightmare,” Moss, 48, said Sunday afternoon. “All I want to do is see my daughter.”

Moss was awakened from her sleep Wednesday night when a Cleveland police officer pounded on her door. Her daughter, Kristin Carare, whose heroin addiction had sent her to the Broward County Jail three months earlier, was in intensive care. When Moss saw her petite, 26-year-old daughter at Broward North Medical Center — shackled to her hospital bed and tethered to a ventilator — she froze at the door. Carare’s normally 111-pound body was bloated like a balloon, and cocooned in hospital wires.

Photo: Kristin Carare, courtesy of her mother Lucy Moss 

Miami-Dade judge rules new Stand Your Ground law unconstitutional


via @davidovalle305

Florida’s updated “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law is unconstitutional, a Miami judge ruled on Monday.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch ruled that lawmakers overstepped their authority in creating the law this year that forces prosecutors to disprove a defendant’s self-defense claim at a pre-trial hearing.

The judge ruled that under Florida’s constitution, that change should have been crafted by the Florida Supreme Court, not the Legislature.

“As a matter of constitutional separation of powers, that procedure cannot be legislatively modified,” Hirsch wrote in a 14-page order.

The ruling is a victory for prosecutors who have firmly opposed the law they believe makes it easier for defendants to get away with murder and other violent crime.

The law, an update to the already controversial “Stand Your Ground” statute passed over a decade ago, was pushed by the politically powerful National Rifle Association. Gov. Rick Scott signed the new law into effect in last month.

Keep reading from the Miami Herald here.

June 30, 2017

Rick Scott's net worth soars $30 million in 2016 as the value of his Florida mansion drops

Rick Scott APFlorida Gov. Rick Scott saw his net worth increase by more than $30 million last year as his blind trust rose in value, a reversal of fortunes that had seen him lose $27 million the year before.

Scott, a two-term Republican and former businessman, filed his annual financial disclosure form Friday showing that his net worth was more than $149 million at the end of 2016, a 25 percent increase from the previous year.

Scott, a former hospital executive, has maintained most of his assets in the Gov. Richard L. Scott 2014 Qualified Blind Trust. The law allows public officials to create a blind trust in lieu of revealing their assets on a financial disclosure form. But by shielding the investments from the governor’s direct control, it also shields from the public any information about how the governor increased his wealth.

The governor’s blind trust is managed by a third party — a company that includes the governor’s former personal advisor. The governor reported that in 2016 his blind trust rose in value from $100 million to $130 million, but the governor also drew less income from the trust last year than he did in 2014.

Scott reported $4.3 million in income from his trust in 2016 — down from the $16.5 million in income he reported from the trust in 2015. The law does not require Scott to report how he spent the income from his trust. The governor does not take a salary from the state.

Questions have followed Scott since he first created the blind trust when he was elected in 2010. When Scott ran for re-election in 2014, he briefly dissolved his first trust and released information about the individual holdings in it. He also released his tax returns for 2013.

The tax returns showed that the Scott family earns millions more than the governor reported individually on his financial disclosure form. It also raised questions about whether Scott may have control over assets held by his wife, Ann Scott.

An investigation by the Herald/Times into those investments found that filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicated the governor had substantially larger holdings in several companies than what he reported to the state. A lawsuit was filed by George Sheldon, a 2014 Democrat candidate for attorney general, but a court ruled that the governor could not be compelled to disclose more information.

Tallahassee attorney Jim Apthorp appealed the decision, arguing that the blind trust law violated the constitutional provisions of the state’s public records law, but the Florida Supreme Court rejected that argument in 2015.

Both Scott and his wife maintain the blind trust. Florida law does not require spouses of elected officials to reveal their financial holdings.

The governor's 2016 disclosure shows that he saw the value of his home in Naples dropped from $15.4 million to $15 million, but saw a $20,000 increase in the value of an adjacent $144,000 boathouse. His 60-acre Montana residence, however, was listed at the same value the governor has listed it as for the last three years.

The governor continues to report payments due from four individuals or entities, including S. Scott, P. Phillips, Luther Oaks, and Roland Alonzo.

The governor's IRA through Pershing Advisor Solutions increased in value by $20,000 to $571,764. His Wells Fargo bank account was down $5,000 from 2015 to $52,312, and his Mutual of Omaha bank account was down $1 from 2015 to $91,477.

Under the law, the governor could withdraw money from his blind trust at the end of December 2016, use it to make an investment in 2017, and not have to disclose that investment until June 30, 2018, the next reporting year. That report is expected to show another spike in the governor’s net worth as a result of the multi-million sale of a Michigan-based plastics company in which the governor’s firm was a principal owner.

In the governor's final year in office, 2018, he will not have to make any financial disclosure.

Paul Renner wins speaker's race for 2022

SP_409499_KEEL_6_FLGOV (1)


Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, has won the race for speaker of the Florida House in the 2022-2024 term.

Renner, who was elected to the House in a 2014 special election, beat out Tampa Rep. Jamie Grant for the designation as speaker in a first round of voting by their fellow freshman members of the House, the Times-Union's Tia Mitchell reports.

Current House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, confirmed the news on Twitter.

Of course, his speakership depends on Renner remaining in office through the 2022 election and on Republicans retaining their majority in the chamber. He would be speaker during a crucial redistricting session, when House and Senate leaders have the ability to influence the map of districts that elect them.

Renner is slated to follow Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, in the job.

Photo by Scott Keeler | Tampa Bay Times

Rival candidate offers to represent man who threatened to 'kill' Miami Republican lawmaker

Steve Stfeliz@martindvassolo

A Miami attorney and Republican candidate for the state Senate offered Friday to represent a man who was arrested after he threatened to "kill" Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, one of the attorney's rivals.

Lorenzo Palomares said Friday he's willing to represent Steve St. Felix, who was charged Monday after he left a threatening comment on Diaz's Facebook page.

“It will be an honor to represent him pro bono,” said Palomares, who like Diaz is running in the July 25 primary for Senate District 40.

Police say St. Felix was “fed up” with the Republican Party and that he was not taking his medication when he threatened Diaz. It is unknown what condition St. Felix might suffer.

“I’ll kill your ass and you better not show up to the next REC meeting,” St. Felix wrote on Facebook, referring to the Republican Executive Committee, the local party's formal name.

St. Felix was an REC member until he resigned "several months ago," said REC Chairman Nelson Diaz, no relation to the state representative. A St. Felix friend said he sometimes called him "Mr. Republican."

Rep. Diaz, Palomares and the third Republican in the primary race, former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, remain REC members, according to the party.

Rep. Diaz reported the threat to police, who then arrested the 34-year-old and charged him with written threats with intent to do bodily injury. St. Felix told police he was sorry for making the threat, and that he did not intend to harm Diaz. He remains in jail on a $500,000 bond.

During a court hearing Thursday, St. Felix invoked the names of other Miami Republicans, including party Chairman Diaz, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

“I want Marco Rubio, Nelson Diaz, Manny Diaz, Manny Diaz Jr., Carlos Gimenez...go eat a Cuban sandwich boy,” he said, according to court footage from WTVJ-NBC 6.

Following St. Felix's arrest, Rep. Diaz said it was disheartening to be threatened over politics.

“It is sad to see that our national political discourse has led us to a place where someone threatens the life of a stranger based solely on their party affiliation,” he said in a written statement.

Palomares accused Rep. Diaz of using the incident to score free publicity ahead of a July 25 primary.

“He is certainly the one who caused this issue to happen," Palomares said of the St. Felix incident. "This man is not a violent man. I’ve seen him. I’ve dealt with him."

Palomares called St. Felix's half-a-million-dollar bond "ridiculous" and said Rep. Diaz overreacted.

The night after St. Felix's arrest, Rep. Diaz grabbed a microphone at the end of the local GOP's annual fundraiser and told the crowd gathered to listen to a speech by White House counselor Kellyanne Conway that he “was told not to come here because if I came here, somebody was gonna try to kill me.”

“I don’t care. I’m here because I want to be here with you tonight,” he said, to raucous applause.

Party Chairman Diaz said St. Felix "never displayed any signs of mental health problems” while at the REC, but clearly he was grappling with a psychological condition.

“Steven is upset in the manner and means by which the party is being managed by Nelson Diaz," Palomares said. "He didn’t take his pills, but they overreacted to it.”

St. Felix has made controversial comments online before, especially when not on his medication, said high school friend Frantz Jean, a 35-year-old living in Lauderhill. The two played varsity football at North Miami Beach Senior High before St. Felix went on the Florida A&M University to play college ball, Jean said. At the time, he was a “typical teenager.”

“It’s after high school that we started noticing the change in his behavior from time to time,” he said, adding that St. Felix was obsessive about his Republican affiliation.

“That’s the number one thing he always says, 'I’m a Republican. He’s always been a proud Republican. That’s why we always call him ‘Mr. Republican,’” he said.

He said St. Felix would often take to social media to vent about his life, sometimes rattling off posts until early in the morning.

“When I saw him on the news, it broke my heart,” Jean said. “This is the first time that it's actually gone this far to him being incarcerated.”

Jean said he and his friends will try to make sure St. Felix has access to his medications and maintains a strict regimen.

“When he’s under his medication, he’s a perfectly fine citizen,” he said.

Photo: Miami-Dade Corrections

Jimmy Patronis sworn in as Florida's new chief financial officer


via @stevebousquet

Jimmy Patronis took the oath of office Friday morning as Florida's new chief financial officer in Gov. Rick Scott's office in the state Capitol. As Scott looked on, Chief Justice Jorge Labarga of the Florida Supreme Court administered the oath of office.

Patronis, 45, was accompanied by his wife Katie and their two sons, Theo and Johnny. A Panama City restaurateur, former Republican state House member and former member of the Public Service Commission, Patronis becomes the state's fourth CFO, succeeding Jeff Atwater, who resigned after six-and-a-half years in office to take a senior position at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

"I really look forward to being effective and efficient and keeping up the same standards and values that CFO Atwater has brought to the job," Patronis said. "Greater transparency, greater efficiency and attacking fraud in our insurance and just doing what he can to ensure that the economy and transparency of our state grows."

More than two dozen friends were on hand for the ceremony, including former Republican state Rep. Jim Frishe of Pinellas Park, who served with Patronis for six years in the state House of Representatives.

Here’s how much money school districts will have to share with charters under new state law



Florida’s 650 charter schools will see an extra $96.3 million coming their way in 2017-18, thanks to a controversial provision in a sweeping education bill Gov. Rick Scott signed into law earlier this month that forces school districts to hand over some of their local tax dollars.

An aspect of HB 7069 that most concerned school district administrators and locally elected school boards requires districts to give a cut of their taxpayer funding to privately managed charter schools for use on construction and maintenance projects.

RELATED: “Here’s how the controversial new schools law will impact South Florida”

Data requested by the Herald/Times and provided by the Florida House now provides a look at the statewide impact of that fiscal policy.

The $96 million equates to nearly 7 percent of the $1.4 billion statewide that county school districts would have had in total to spend next year, after accounting for required debt payments off the top.

The state’s most populous school districts — Miami-Dade and Broward counties — will take the biggest hits in terms of pure dollar amounts under the new sharing formula.

Full details here.

Photo credit: Miami Herald file photo

June 29, 2017

Miami Republicans vote against bill to expand penalties on sanctuary cities



Donald Trump campaigned as a tough-on-immigration Republican who would roll back Obama-era protections for undocumented immigrants.

But he can’t count on Miami’s Republican delegation in the House to back him on every facet of his immigration agenda.

The three Republicans, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen voted against a bill on Thursday that would deny federal law-enforcement funds to cities that choose not to comply with the federal government’s effort to enforce tougher immigration laws.

“I think this one is frankly too broad,” Diaz-Balart said.

The bill passed the House by a vote of 228-195. The Miami trio were among just seven Republicans who voted against the bill, which passed largely on party lines.

But the three Republicans did vote for another bill on Thursday trumpeted by Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz that would expand criminal penalties for undocumented immigrants who commit serious crimes. The bill, dubbed Kate’s Law, is named after Kate Steinle, a San Francisco woman murdered by an illegal immigrant who was in the U.S. despite multiple deportations.

“I think most people would agree, you’re here in this country illegally, you’re doing terrible things, you’re just a bad apple. Let’s get rid of you,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “We have so many good people who want to come. That’s totally different than the sanctuary cities issue where so many of those folks are good people. That makes no distinction between whether they are good people or criminals. But in Kate’s Law we’re talking about criminals who have done horrible things. I don’t care if they’re American or from Central America. You’re bad, you’ve got to be in jail and you should be deported.”

Read more here.