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July 22, 2015

Governor Scott wants military recruiters armed


Florida Gov. Rick Scott has already ordered neighborhood military recruitment centers in Florida moved to armories, now he wants to assure National Guard members are armed and ready to respond if they are attacked like what happened in Tennessee earlier this month.

During a press conference in Jacksonville today, Scott said he has asked the leader of the Florida National Guard, Adjutant General Michael Calhoun, to make sure all qualified soldiers are armed so they can defend themselves, including during recruitment work.

"Our military needs to be safe," Scott said.

Calhoun said there was no policy to arm recruiters until know, unless they were in a state building and had their own personal weapon.

"We just want to reassure our recruiters and the individuals that come to those centers are protected," Calhoun said.

Scott is also looking at other options, including bullet proof glass at recruitment centers and calling for more local police patrols of recruitment centers and armories to assure safety of soldiers.

"I do hope the president is taking notice of what we are doing here," Scott said.

Does Greece have three times as many government workers as Florida as Jeff Atwater says?

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater capitalized on news about the floundering Greek economy to point out a new report that said the Florida economy was doing just fine.

In an "open letter to the people of Florida," Atwater said the Sunshine State had been ranked fifth in fiscal solvency by George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. He then contrasted Florida’s success with the beleaguered European nation.

"A country in economic peril, Greece’s priorities have historically been very different from Florida’s," Atwater wrote on July 13, 2015. "For example, Greeks depend much more on their government for employment and services. Although we have twice the population of Greece, the State of Florida employs three times fewer government employees."

PunditFact previously confirmed that Greece’s economic output is comparable to Miami, but could that 3-to-1 comparison of public-sector workers be accurate? Yes, if you’re looking at Florida’s direct employees, but experts we talked to said Atwater’s comparison is deeply flawed.

Read more from Joshua Gillin at PolitiFact Florida.

Soccer talks teed up in Miami, as the county mayoral race looms


Looks like we can add Major League Soccer to the list of issues facing the 2016 mayoral race in Miami-Dade County. 

On Wednesday, David Beckham sent a letter to Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado asking to begin talks on building a pro-soccer stadium next to Marlins Park. The letter notes Beckham and partners would like to negotiate "in cooperation with Miami-Dade County." 

While the city would provide the land for Beckham's MLS franchise, Miami-Dade County may end up owning it in order for Beckham's team to avoid a property-tax bill.

The twist: Regalado's daughter, school board member Raquel Regalado, is running against Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. 

More here

Here's the Beckham letter: 

Miami Beckham United letter to Mayor Regalado

Guess who's coming to dinner (with Gov. Scott at the mansion)?

Gov. Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott are holding another of their community leaders dinners at the Governor's Mansion in Tallahassee on Wednesday evening. Like similar events, they include a mix of public officials, political appointees, community leaders and personal friends of the first family. (Mrs. Scott will not attend this dinner, Scott's office said).

Among the more notable names on this list are Belinda Keiser, vice chancellor of Keiser University, a Scott appointee to the board of Enterprise Florida and a possible Republican candidate for Congress in 2016; Matt Carlucci, a Scott appointee to the Commission on Ethics; Scott Thomas, a Scott appointee who chairs the Florida Elections Commission; Lakeland Mayor Howard Wiggs; John Browning of the Florida Transportation Commission, a Palatka businessman and long-time donor to the Republican Party and its candidates; Citrus County Superintendent of Schools Sandra Himmel; and the sheriffs of Columbia and Sumter County, Mark Hunter and Bill Farmer.

Below is the full list of invited guests and their affiliations as provided by Scott's office.


Continue reading "Guess who's coming to dinner (with Gov. Scott at the mansion)?" »

100,000 back medical pot initiative

Medical marijuana is one step closer to its return to the ballot in 2016.

United for Care, the group fighting to legalize medical pot through a voter-approved constitutional amendment next fall, announced Wednesday that it's sending petitions to county election supervisors on behalf of 100,000 Floridians who want to see the issue on the ballot.

Election supervisors must now verify that the signatures are legitimate, and if there are at least 68,317 statewide, the measure will go before the Florida Supreme Court.Campaign Manager Ben Pollara said the ballot item could be ready for Supreme Court review by mid-August.

“This is a massive head start over the previous campaign - which started late. If we can sustain this pace, we should ensure our place on the ballot before the holidays,” Pollara said.

United for Care, which is heavily backed by lawyer John Morgan, made a similar push to legalize medical marijuana on the 2014 ballot. The issue garnered a majority of the vote but fell short of the 60 percent required to pass a constitutional amendment.

The group is off to a fast start this year, raising $373,855.18 since the November 2014 election. Last month, there were $292,962.95 in contributions, nearly all of which came from Morgan.

Tensions rise in Miami before Beckham stadium negotiations begin


Negotiations with David Beckham and his partners to build a soccer stadium next to Marlins Park haven't even begun yet, but already a key Miami city commissioner is frustrated with the process.

Commissioner Frank Carollo, whose district includes the city-owned land where Beckham's team is now looking to build a stadium for a Miami MLS franchise, says he's concerned that the project would also require purchasing a private apartment complex and displacing residents. More disconcerting, he says, is that those residents are now learning through the media that they might have to find a new home.

"I think it's unfair," said Carollo. "It's not the right way to start the conversation."

Carollo says he is also frustrated that he wasn't told about Beckham's interest in the site across from Marlins Stadium until after Mayor Tomás Regalado held a video conference Friday with Beckham partner, Marcelo Claure, and then called a news conference.

Carollo isn't against a Beckham stadium. A year ago, he proposed the vote in which the Miami Commission endorsed Beckham's efforts to build a stadium in Miami. But his frustrations -- while not terribly surprising -- inject tensions into a process that hasn't even begun yet.

City officials expect Beckham's team to hand-deliver a letter to City Hall Wednesday, stating their interest in the former Orange Bowl site in writing and kicking off formal negotiations. City Manager Daniel Alfonso stressed that negotiations haven't begun yet, but said his administration is sensitive to the impact the project would have on displaced residents.

"It’s not like we’re going to kick these people out to the curb," he said. "We know they’re renting. We’ll work to try and relocate them."

Miami commissioners are expected to take up the issue Thursday at Miami City Hall. Regalado could not be reached Wednesday morning, but said Tuesday that he and Alfonso didn't know what Claure wanted to speak about when he requested the video conference last week.

Regalado also said Tuesday that Beckham and his investors have been told by MLS that they 90 days to exercise their option to buy a franchise. If the deadline passes, he said, MLS will give the franchise to a team in Minnesota.

Lawyer in Gov. Rick Scott's administration runs for Congress as Republican

Republican Mary Thomas, general counsel in the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, announced Wednesday that she'll run for Congress in the 2nd District, hoping to unseat Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham.

Announcing her campaign in Tallahassee, Thomas said she plans to bring conservative ideals to Congress representing the heavily Democratic district. Among her objectives: repeal the Affordable Care Act, put a hard line against undocumented immigration, eliminate the U.S. Department of Education and Common Core standards, and instituting a less progressive tax scale.

"As a conservative Republican, it has been an honor working for Republican Gov. Rick Scott," she said. "Gov. Scott and his administration have proven that free-market principles work. Washington could take a few lessons from what we've done here in Florida.

Thomas has worked for Scott since his administration began in 2011. She grew up in Palm Harbor and attended Florida State University College of Law.

If elected, Thomas would be the first Indian-American woman ever elected to Congress. Her parents, Tom and Annie Thomas are physicians who immigrated from India in 1972, which Thomas says is why she has such strong opposition to undocumented immigration.

"My family story is a shining example of the American dream," she said. "Illegal immigration is deeply personal to me and my family."

The 2nd District is one that could be caught up in redistricting that the state Legislature will begin in August. Thomas says she's confident that she will appeal to voters, no matter who she runs against -- be it Graham or another member of the House.

Former GOP Rep. Steve Southerland has been rumored to be thinking about the 2nd District seat, as well, but Thomas says she has his support.

Florida medical marijuana campaign submits 100K ballot petitions for review


United for Care, the campaign to once again get medical marijuana on the Florida ballot, said Wednesday it has submitted 100,000 petitions to county elections supervisors for review.

The supervisors now have 30 days to validate the signatures and send them to Tallahassee. The Florida Supreme Court would then have to schedule a review of the proposed constitutional amended to legalize medical pot.

"This is a massive head start over the previous campaign -- which started late," campaign manager Ben Pollara said in a statement. "If we can sustain this pace, we should ensure our place on the ballot before the holidays."

A total of 68,317 valid petitions are required to obtain Supreme Court review for the amendment language (about a quarter to a third usually get rejected for various reasons, which is why campaigns collect more than petitions). Even more petitions -- 683,179 -- would be required to actually get the OK'ed language on the 2016 ballot.

Pollara said United for Care expects to get a Supreme Court review date around mid-August. He said the campaign has about 13,000 volunteers working to collect signatures, no doubt propelled by how well the amendment did in 2014. It garnered nearly 58 percent support, which was slightly short of the 60-percent threshold required for constitutional amendments.

The campaign expects to do even better in a presidential year, with a more left-leaning electorate.

Marco Rubio says Obama has 'no class,' cites Daily Show interview, likens him to Donald Trump


With Jon Stewart in his final weeks as host, President Obama made a visit Tuesday to Comedy Central's The Daily Show

Obama gave a lengthy interview in which he joked he had signed an executive order forbidding Stewart from leaving the show. He also defended the deal his administration negotiated to try to contain Iran's nuclear program.

"When you hear the critics talk about, 'Well, it's a bad deal; we could have got a better deal,' you then ask them, 'Well, what represents a better deal? What is it that you think could happen?'" Obama said.

"Typically they're vague, and they fall back on, 'Well, if you'd beat your chest a little bit more... Or if you'd brought Dick Cheney to the negotiations, then everything would be fine.'" ("Let's not get crazy," Stewart interjected.)

The Cheney line drew criticism Wednesday morning from Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio, himself a Daily Show veteran, who said on Fox News that he didn't like Obama's joke.

Rubio wove in the criticism of Obama as he slammed rival Donald Trump, telling Fox and Friends that Trump's style isn't fit for the Oval Office.

"It is important that we have– to conduct the presidency, it has to be done in a dignified way, with a level of class," he said. " don't think [Trump's] behavior the last few weeks is either dignified or worthy of office he seeks."

"We already have a president now that has no class," Rubio continued, referring to Obama. "I mean, we have a president now that does selfie-stick videos, that invites YouTube stars there, people that you know eat cereal out of a bathtub... You just saw the interview he did right now where he goes on comedy shows to talk about something as serious as Iran. The list goes on and on.

"It is important for us to have a presidency that restores dignity and class to the White House, and I don't believe that some of the language that Mr. Trump is employing is worthy of the office. I just do not."


In Miami, worries about tourism and Cuban sand


Concerns over the tourism threat Cuba poses to Miami have reached the granular level: Who will have the better sand?

In pitching his new $40 million plan to combat beach erosion, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Tuesday pledged to find replacement sand white enough to hold its own against Cuba’s famously gleaming coast.

“It has some of the best beaches, and most beautiful beaches, in the world,” Gimenez said of Cuba, where he lived until age 7. “We have to face that.”

Gimenez’s warning captures the anxiety in tourism circles over how a newly accessible Cuba might upend the Caribbean vacation market once U.S. tourists are free to travel there. Miami is seen as vulnerable to a Cuban comeback as a U.S. vacation destination, given they both offer sunny getaways during the winter months.

More here.