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January 30, 2016

Carlos Lopez-Cantera says he raised $318K last quarter for Florida Senate race, announces legislative endorsements

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera raised about $318,000 in the last three months of 2015 and has about $431,000 cash on hand, his U.S. Senate campaign told the Miami Herald on Saturday.

Those numbers put Lopez-Cantera, who is from Miami, well behind U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, the Republican fundraising leader, who announced earlier this month that he amassed about $772,000 – nearly two-and-a-half times as Lopez-Cantera -- and has about $2.5 million in the bank. Neither candidate’s totals include fundraising by allied super PACs.

The other two top Republicans in the race to replace Marco Rubio, U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores and defense contractor Todd Wilcox of Orlando, have not released their totals yet. Financial reports are due to the Federal Election Commission on Sunday. The primary will be held in August.

To temper the financial news, Lopez-Cantera’s campaign also announced endorsements from more than half of the Republicans in the Florida Legislature. The list of 47 lawmakers (out of 81) comprises mostly representatives – Lopez-Cantera used to be one – and includes the three Republican senators from Miami: Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Anitere Flores and René García.

Lopez-Cantera’s campaign called him the “grassroots” front-runner because it said 92 percent of donations came from Floridians – a dig at DeSantis, who has drawn big support from Washington D.C. conservatives and other interests.

“I’m honored that we continue to receive so much support from within our great state, and our campaign is right on track,” Lopez-Cantera said in a statement.” We are running a grassroots campaign from the ground up not the top down, and I look forward to continuing to work with our extensive grassroots network to ensure that we win so that Floridians can have a senator who will always put Florida first.”

Pathologist raises doubts about Miami-Dade prison autopsy that says Darren Rainey death was 'accidental'

Darren Raineyvia @JknipeBrown

In his 40 years overseeing inmate death cases in New York’s prisons, Dr. Michael Baden says he has rarely seen a case as outrageous as Darren Rainey’s.

Three and a half years after Rainey’s death — in what witnesses say was a scalding shower at Dade Correctional Institution — the autopsy has still not been publicly released, and the criminal case remains open. Details of the report were leaked to the Miami Herald last week that his death has been ruled an “accident,” a conclusion that stunned Rainey’s relatives, who still haven’t been able to see the autopsy report.

“Why are they still covering it up?’’ asked Andre Chapman, Rainey’s brother. “How did they come up with accidental?”

Baden, a nationally recognized forensic pathologist who served on New York State’s prison medical review board for four decades, said there is no reason that Rainey’s family should still be waiting for closure.

“It’s extraordinarily unusual for an autopsy to take this long — and if people are thinking ‘this is a cover-up,’ well, this is what happens when it takes this long.”

The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s autopsy report, completed last week but still under wraps, found that Rainey died from complications of schizophrenia, heart disease and “confinement’’ in a shower on June 23, 2012, sources told the Herald. Story here. 

 

A preview of Marco Rubio's 30-minute TV ad in Iowa

via @learyreports

Iowans will see Marco Rubio this weekend, a lot.

Rubio's campaign Saturday and Sunday will air a 30-minute television spot in every market across the state. "The television special will present an opportunity for Iowans to see the genuine passion that Marco has shared at town halls all across Iowa. For those in the Hawkeye State who have not been able to make it to one of Marco's events, they will get to experience one of his recent town halls from their own living room," the campaign said.

The campagin encouraged viewers to tweet "#HeyMarco" to get questions answered about the caucuses and learn more about the candidate. "They will also have an opportunity to call-in to a line set up for Iowans to get questions answered."

For some reason the campaign did not release the 30-minute spot; it provided this sample instead.

 

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Trailing in Iowa, Jeb Bush looks much more relaxed as a candidate

GOP 2016 Bush (12)

@PatriciaMazzei

CARROLL, Iowa -- Maybe it was the cold meds for his nagging cough. Or the year of rocky practice on the presidential campaign trail. Or the low expectations of where he’ll finish in Monday’s Iowa caucuses.

Whatever the reason, in the final days leading to the first Republican vote, Jeb Bush at long last seemed liberated. He was the candidate who might have been, sans Donald Trump. The governor Floridians knew. A man comfortable with being a Bush.

During Thursday night’s Trump-less debate in Des Moines, Bush embraced his family’s political dynasty, and did so almost with gusto.

“Look,” Bush said in response to a question about the GOP’s mainstream-vs.-outsider divide. “I am in the establishment because my dad, the greatest man alive, was president of the United States, and my brother, who I adore as well, as a fantastic brother, was president. Fine, I’ll take it. I guess I’m part of the establishment. Barbara Bush is my mom. I’ll take that, too. But this election is not about our pedigree; this is an election about people that are really hurting. We need a leader that will fix things and has a proven record to do it.”

His answer would have been nearly unthinkable eight months ago, when Bush, not yet a presidential candidate, stumbled over and over again when asked about his brother’s Iraq War and his family’s dynastic legacy. Bush’s inability to deal with The Bush Question, his candidacy’s most evident obstacle, was an early warning sign to some Republican donors and strategists that he might be in trouble.

But Bush’s grinding campaign has served as public talk-therapy session. He jokingly admits as much in his town halls, and a sort of psychological breakthrough had happened by Friday after the debate.

“I’m Jeb, exclamation point — proud to be a Bush,” Bush said in Carroll, about 90 minutes northwest of Des Moines, after a man asked him to compare himself with his father, former President George H.W. Bush, and his brother, former President George W. Bush.

More here.

Photo credit: Paul Sancya, Associated Press

The angry Iowa voters of 2016

via @lesleyclark @anitakumar01 @maria_e_recio

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa -- Craig Ziemke has voted for Democrats all his life, including twice for President Barack Obama. Not this year.

“The whole country is going to hell,” the 66-year-old retired factory worker said, standing against the bleachers at a high school gymnasium while waiting for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to arrive. Ziemke’s fury is deep: Roads and bridges in the U.S. are falling apart, jobs are scarce and the U.S. border is wide open, he says.

“We’re letting all these people into the country. No one even knows who the hell they are,” he said. “We don’t need any more Arabs. The United States, anymore, is just a dumping ground for everyone.”

Ziemke plans to caucus for a Republican on Monday – and likely for Trump, “the only one with brains,” he said.

If Obama’s 2008 campaign in Iowa and beyond defined the election as one of “hope and change,” this year may well be described as the politics of rage.

In interviews with dozens of voters in both parties, the driving motivation across the state is anger and uprising. They’re fed up with lawmakers in Washington, who seem to work two or three days a week and get little done aside from raising money to stay in office. They’re mad about stagnant wages, companies sending jobs overseas and terrorists sneaking in across the border.

The rage is driving the campaigns of the “outsiders.” For Republicans, that’s the bombastic Trump and his chief rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, with verbal assaults against his own Republican colleagues.

More here.

January 29, 2016

In Kendall, homeowners group wants to freeze growth until "unbearable" traffic eases

@doug_hanks

Kendall has a reputation for being one of the more gridlocked corners of Miami-Dade County, and now a leading homeowners group is urging a dramatic fix for the traffic: stop all building in the area. 

The Kendall Federation of Homeowners Associations on Thursday passed a resolution urging Miami-Dade commissioners to impose a moratorium on new development in the area west of the Florida Turnpike until traffic improves. 

The resolution calls the traffic "unbearable," and "becoming worse." 

KFHA Says Stop Building In Kendall

Sending a message? House and Senate budget plans reject Gov. Scott's request for additional prison staff

Julie JonesDespite reports by three independent auditors that turnover and understaffing at Florida's prison system has created a security risk throughout the state, neither the House nor Senate budget proposals give the governor his request to hire 734 additional corrections officers.

Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones made the request for for $18.4 million in December, amending the governor's original proposal which actually asked for more money for staffing needs -- $28 million. Jones said 734 new officers were needed to allow the agency to transition from 12-hour shifts to 8-hour shifts after the audits concluded that the long hours contribute to staff fatigue, inmate-on-inmate violence, and "allegations of inmate abuse, mistreatment, and staff misconduct."

The governor's first draft of his budget, released in October, asked for $28 million to hire 272 additional staff and provide enough money to pay overtime to allow for critical posts to be sufficiently staffed during periods of both planned and unplanned staff absences. The audits showed that prison security is at serious risk because critical posts are frequently left unmanned or understaffed.

But rather than heed those requests, the initial budget proposal from the Senate authorizes 23,892 total positions at the department -- the same number authorized this budget year, but also sets aside $4.3 million in "salary incentive payments" for current employees. The House's proposed budget gave the agency 184 additional positions, for a total of 24,076 -- far short of what the agency was seeking. 

If the agency wants to hire more positions, both the House and Senate include identical language allowing Jones to ask the Legislative Budget Commission for money to hire more staff -- but only if the inmate population increases. There is no mention of dealing with existing staff shortages. 
 
Judging by the comments by Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and Senate leaders, this is clearly an opening position in the month-long dance to complete the state's $80 billion budget.
 
Gardiner has repeatedly mentioned the need for more spending on prisons in his list of spending needs that must be balanced against Gov. Rick Scott's call for $1 billion in tax cuts.
 
So it appears legislative leaders may be attempting to send the governor a message. Scott has used television commercials and a statewide bus tour to pressure legislators to adopt his $1 billion tax cut package and his call for $250 million for economic development projects. But the Senate budget does not include an additional cut on corporate taxes for manufacturing, his top priority, and while the House tax package will provide make the existing manufacturing tax cut permanent, it does not set aside the money for economic development as the governor requested.  
 
The House and Senate budget plans use identical language to impose some new requirements on the governor's troubled prison agency. They require FDC to report to complete a report by next year, demonstrating that the agency has eliminated overlapping positions. The two chambers are also ordering up a $500,000 study it calls a "resource allocation analytics project for the purpose of analyzing and mitigating inmate deaths and reducing recidivism rate."
 
Photo: FDC Secretary Julie Jones

Dave Barry, like Donald Trump, skips GOP debate in Iowa

Clinton

From Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry:

NEWTON, Iowa -- I was in the mood for some excitement, so I drove out to Newton, the county seat of Jasper County, to hear Hillary Clinton. I got here early, so I ate lunch at the Midtown Café, in the heart of downtown, where the clientele was mainly older ladies (by which I mean ladies roughly my age) and large agricultural-looking men in bib overalls.

The menu had an item called the Pancake Challenge: “$14 if you fail, no leaving of table and no help.” I asked the waitress about it, and she said the pancakes are gigantic. “Only one person ever beat the Pancake Challenge,” she said.

So I went with the daily special, which was cream chipped beef on biscuits. It came in a portion the size of a four-person life raft. It was a meal suitable for working men, men in bib overalls who perform hard agricultural labor such as baling soybeans or neutering heifers. It was not suitable for a newspaper columnist whose most strenuous physical activity is typing in the Wi-Fi code. But it tasted good, and it will be lodged in my stomach for years to come.

After taking the Chipped Beef Challenge I staggered over to the Clinton event, which was held in the Berg Middle School gymnasium. There was a banner with the Hillary logo and the slogan “Fighting for us.”

Clinton was introduced by a slick video, which listed the many achievements she has accomplished in her lengthy career of holding positions while at the same time being a woman. Then Clinton came out and delivered her speech, which contained a LOT of specific policy information, and statements such as “I’m proposing something called the National Infrastructure Bank.” At one point, talking about wind power — Wind power is important! — she informed us how many parts are in a turbine. It was something like 900, which I think we can all agree is an impressive number of turbine parts, but it’s not the kind of thing that excites people. The crowd, which was very pro-Hillary, applauded at the right times and even emitted some “Whoo!”s, but they didn’t seem really fired up.

I am no political consultant, but I think Clinton’s main image problem is that, while she wants us to believe she’s Fighting For Us, the main vibe she gives off is that she’s Way Smarter Than Us. (To be fair: I think Ted Cruz has the same problem.)

More here.

Photo credit: Daniel Acker, Bloomberg

House lawyer: Yes, Uber-driving Rep. Ritch Workman can vote on ridesharing bills

@MichaelAuslen

Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, wants answers about whether his side job as an Uber driver could conflict with his work as a legislator.

On Tuesday, his answer came: It's okay for him to vote on legislation regulating ridesharing companies.

The next day, he did.

Workman was one of 108 House members who on Wednesday approved legislation (HB 509) to prevent local governments from banning ridesharing companies like Uber.

Before he cast that vote, he asked General Counsel Matthew Carson if it would be a conflict of interest. It's not, because the bill affects thousands of drivers for ridesharing companies across the state, not just Driver-for-Hire/Rules Chairman Workman.

"In an abundance of caution, I wanted to make sure I was following state law and House rules in participating in voting on a bill that would directly affect one of my employers," Workman said.

He started driving for the company last August when he has off time in Tallahassee. It's not his main source of income -- he works for Keiser University -- but it does raise one of the big questions that looms over Florida's part-time Legislature every year: How do you balance being citizen-lawmakers who have jobs outside the Capitol with preventing people from gaming the process for their own benefit?

"We have to be able to allow part-time legislators to participate in the process," Workman said. "Otherwise, we're just going to have a bunch of millionaires."

And while lots of lawmakers are millionaires, others are teachers, prosecutors, realtors and executives of non-profits.

They don't all ask for or even need declarations from House and Senate lawyers. Then again, they're not all dealing with legislation where special interests have debated with as much ferocity as the ridesharing bill.

Florida House plans to take up open-carry, campus-carry gun bills next week

@ByKristenMClark

The Florida House is making quick work of a proposal to allow people with concealed weapons permits to openly carry handguns in Florida.

The legislation cleared its final committee in a contentious hearing on Thursday, and the full chamber plans to debate it during the House's next session scheduled for Tuesday.

HB 163 is on the daily calendar, as is a similarly controversial bill that would let concealed weapons permit-holders carry concealed on the state's 40 public college and university campuses. 

Any floor vote on the guns-on-campus bill -- HB 4001 -- is likely to be mostly political, though, because the proposal has stalled in the Senate, all-but-killing its chances at becoming law this year.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla said last week he won't schedule a hearing on it. Proponents are hoping to use some legislative maneuvering to get around his decision, but Senate leadership said that wouldn't be well-received.

The open carry bill, meanwhile, is likely to pass the Republican-dominated House, but could face similar jeopardy in the Senate. Diaz de la Portilla said earlier this month he was willing to have a hearing on it because of an amendment proposed by the Florida Sheriffs Association.

Democrats in the House tried to push that amendment Thursday but were shot down by a Republican majority. The change would have gutted the bill, stripping away the ability to openly carry and instead only shoring up protections for gun owners who accidentally display concealed weapons -- which the National Rifle Association said was its primary desire for the bill.

Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville -- sponsor of the Senate open carry bill -- said Thursday he won't support that amendment.

And it seems that Diaz de la Portilla could be reconsidering his decision to hear the bill at all. The Naples Daily News reported that Diaz de la Portilla might block the bill if it doesn't include the sheriffs association's amendment. Efforts to reach Diaz de la Portilla on Friday were unsuccessful, so the Herald/Times cannot independently confirm that report.

Also on the House's debate calendar Tuesday: Legislation that would make it a misdemeanor crime to fire a gun outdoors recreationally, including for target shooting, in a primarily residential area. It's aimed at prohibiting backyard gun ranges in densely populated areas.