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August 19, 2015

Florida health officials reverse position on Planned Parenthood abortions

@MichaelAuslen

Gov. Rick Scott’s health care agency is backing down from a legal fight with Planned Parenthood over allegations that three clinics were performing abortions not allowed by their license.

In a letter to Planned Parenthood’s lawyers, Agency for Health Care Administration general counsel Stuart Williams writes that the allegedly unlawful abortions at clinics in St. Petersburg, Naples and Fort Myers are actually allowed under state regulations.

AHCA had said that Planned Parenthood was conducting second-trimester abortions at clinics licensed to perform only first-trimester procedures. Under a 2006 rule, the first trimester of a pregnancy is defined as the 12 weeks after fertilization, or the 14 weeks after the pregnant woman’s last menstrual period.

In this case, abortions were being performed 13 weeks after the last menstrual period.

In the letter, Williams writes, “AHCA does now, and has at least since 2006 when rule 59A-9.019 was last amended, consider abortions performed during the first 14 weeks from the last normal menstrual period to constitute a first trimester abortion.”

Planned Parenthood on Monday sued AHCA, asking a judge to issue an injunction saying the license violations from the state were invalid.

Attempt to change Miami-Dade congressional districts fails

 @JeremySWallace

Florida Senator Dwight Bullard’s attempt to redraw a pair of congressional districts in Miami-Dade did not get far on Wednesday.

Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, tried to change a proposed redistricting map that would shift 35,000 black voters from the 26th Congressional, represented by U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, into the 27th District, which is not represented by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami.

Bullard specifically proposed shifting Richmond Heights, Palmetto Estates, and West Perrine back into the 26th District.

The Senate voted down the amendment, which would keep those communities contained in the Ros-Lehtinen district.

Bullard’s amendment comes days after a coalition of voting groups sent a warning shot to Florida lawmakers, claiming that their proposal for revising Miami-Dade’s most competitive congressional district appears to have been designed to boost the chances of Curbelo, who is being challenged for re-election by Democrat Annette Taddeo in 2016.

For the last several years District 26 has had one of the most turbulent election histories in the state.

Curbelo defeated Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia by 3 percentage points in 2014 but Taddeo, who was then on the ballot as the running mate for Democrat gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, was also popular. The Crist-Taddeo ticket won the district by 5 points over Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos López-Cantera.

In a letter to House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida suggested that shifting 35,000 black voters from Congressional District 26 into Congressional District 27, has a “partisan effect” that violates the anti-gerrymandering rules of the Florida Constitution.

Legislative map drawers have said they shifted the communities after being told by the Florida Supreme Court to not split Homestead, which was fully included into Curbelo’s district. Because of that, the area’s Bullard highlighted were shifted into Ros-Lehtinen’s district.

What the prison population has to do with Florida's redistricting fight

via @JeremySWallace

Florida’s prison population is fast becoming a point of contention in the Legislature’s attempt to redraw the state’s congressional districts.

The last Census counted more than 160,000 people in Florida correctional facilities, and they cannot vote. But they can skew how districts are drawn, and ultimately who represents the state in the U.S. House of Representatives. That is exactly what U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, is convinced is happening in North Florida.

Brown said the proposed new Congressional District 5 stretching from Jacksonville to Tallahassee will see a reduction in the percentage of black residents who are of voting age — a key measure used to ensure black voters can elect who they want to represent them in Congress — from 50 percent to 45 percent under the map that passed the House on Tuesday and is expected to be before the Senate on Wednesday.

But Brown, who is suing the Legislature to block the redrawing of her district, said the reduction of the black voting age population in her district could be even greater because her new district would have 17,000 prisoners in it — giving it one of the highest prison populations in the state. Her current district has just 10,000.

“You know that this is a non-performing area because you have 18 prisons,” Brown told the Senate last week, contending her district will be harder for black candidates to win if redrawn as planned.

More here.

Democrats in the Florida House ask to take redistricting out of Legislature entirely

@MichaelAuslen

The day after House members from both parties expressed disdain over redistricting before passing new congressional maps, Democrats redoubled their call to take the process out of the Legislature’s hands entirely.

Speaking Wednesday morning, leaders in the minority party said the current system used to divvy up population among congressional and state legislative representatives is “rotten to the core” and “needs to be blown up.”

“Today, it’s crooked as a bucket of snakes,” Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, said. “There are way too many blind spots in the process.”

The solution? Democrats say it’s an independent redistricting commission. Experts say these have worked well in other states, as the Herald/Times has previously reported.

Democrats anticipate two bills in the upcoming legislative session to create an independent commission. One, by Dania Beach Rep. Evan Jenne, hasn't been heard in the special redistricting session that ends this Friday in Tallahassee.

Continue reading "Democrats in the Florida House ask to take redistricting out of Legislature entirely" »

Alan Grayson's misleading attack on Patrick Murphy's legislative record

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson is bringing his brash reputation to bear in his Senate campaign, calling his Democratic primary opponent U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy "ineffective" as a legislator.

In an Aug. 12, 2015, statement, Grayson, D-Orlando, offered to help Murphy learn how to legislate. Grayson posted the video for the old Schoolhouse Rock song "I’m Just A Bill" and cited an InsideGov.com listicle that called Murphy one of "the least-effective members of Congress."

"Patrick Murphy is one of the least effective members of Congress, in part because he hasn't passed a single bill out of committee," Grayson said in the release.

Murphy, D-Jupiter, is competing with Grayson for the Democratic nomination to run for the Senate seat now held by GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio. Murphy has already been attacked by some Democrats for allegedly not being progressive enough, but we wondered whether the second-term congressman hadn’t gotten any bills out of committee. It’s time for us to take our own roll call.

See what Joshua Gillin of PolitiFact Florida found and here is Grayson's full Truth-O-Meter record.

Day 10: Three takeaways from the special session

Wednesday is Day 10 of the Florida Legislature's 12-day special legislative session on redrawing the map of congressional districts. Uncertainty reigns. By all accounts, the Senate and House aren't talking to each other. Here are three takeaways:

1, 2, 3, Look at Mr. Lee: The full Senate discusses its revised map crafted by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, that would reshape how Hillsborough County would be represented in Washington. Lee's lines also keep all of Sarasota County in one district and draw U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross of Lakeland one street out of his own district. The House voted out a staff-drawn "base map" Tuesday with none of those elements and no plans have been announced for House and Senate redistricting chairmen to meet in public to resolve their differences. The session is scheduled to end Friday.

Short-handed Democrats: The Senate floor session will find the 14-member Senate Democratic Caucus short two members from South Florida. Sens. Gwen Margolis and Chris Smith are on the mend from recent surgeries. UPDATE: Sen. Dwight Bullard, listed as excused by the Senate president's office, was present.

A better way?: Republicans and Democrats don't agree on much, but they are in sync that the ongoing redistricting fiasco in Tallahassee should never happen again. Some Republicans -- not all -- want to rein in the power of the court to dictate changes to districts, and Democrats want to take redistricting out of the hands of the Legislature and give it to an independent commission. House Democrats, led by Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, will argue their case at a Wednesday news conference at the Capitol.

August 18, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott's response to 'unprecedented' Planned Parenthood citations

@MichaelAuslen and @mjmachrowicz

Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday pointed directly to viral videos of Planned Parenthood's organ donation program as the reason behind sudden license violations against three of the organization's clinics in Florida, which say they have not changed their practices for years.

The state Agency for Health Care Administration cited clinics in St. Petersburg, Naples and Fort Myers for performing second-trimester abortions without a license, but the abortions in question are by most doctors' standards first-trimester procedures, Planned Parenthood contends in a lawsuit filed Monday. Further, the organization frequently reports information about its abortions to the state, and it has had no pushback on similar procedures since an AHCA rule defining the first and second trimester was passed in 2006.

Asked about why the state has waited until now to go after the abortions, Scott pivoted to the videos, a hot political issue, which spurred him to order inspections by AHCA.

"As anybody that saw those videos regarding Planned Parenthood, it was very disturbing and troubling," he said at an event Tuesday morning in Gibsonton, Fla. "So, we did the right thing, we said we're going to make sure that the Planned Parenthood facilities in Florida are compliant with the law, so AHCA went in to do that. They're working to make sure that they're compliant with the law, and they'll continue to do that. I know they're, right now, it looks like there's going to be litigation, and AHCA will be responsible for that."

The abortions in question are those done 13 weeks into a pregnancy, generally measured by doctors starting at the pregnant woman's last menstrual period. State rules define the first trimester as the first 12 weeks after fertalization, the same as 14 weeks after the last menstrual period.

Still, AHCA cited the three locations, which are only licensed to conduct first-trimester abortions.

Planned Parenthood has called the move "unprecedented" in a lawsuit requesting an emergency injunction against the agency, filed Monday in Leon County.

Marco Rubio rejects Donald Trump's proposal to reject birthright U.S. citizenship

via @learyreports

DES MOINES - Marco Rubio said Tuesday he does not agree with Donald Trump's call to end so-called birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants, though he said some abuses should be addressed.

"I'm open to doing things that prevent people who deliberately come to the U.S. for purposes of taking advantage of the 14th Amendment. But I'm not in favor of repealing it," Rubio told reporters before embarking on a quintessential presidential campaign tour of the Iowa State Fair.

Rubio said he had only read news accounts of Trump's immigration plan and said some ideas "have merit, but the majority of it is really not a workable plan that could ever pass Congress. It's a serious issue. We have to confront it as a country. But it's much more complex than people sometimes give it credit for."

For Rubio, the issue is personal. He was born in Miami in 1971 and his parents, though in the country legally, did not become citizens until 1975. (That was not uncommon back then, experts say.)

While some candidates have latched onto Trump's birthright citizenship stance, including Scott Walker, others such as Jeb Bush disagree. It could not easily be undone.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Marco Rubio goes viral -- with video showing him tossing football, hitting kid on head

It was by accident, in a Des Moines picnic.

Update: Here's what Rubio had to say about it on Twitter later:

Update #2: And here's the boy, asking for a second chance:

Donald Trump gets $23,000 refund from Miami-Dade County

Donald trump golf

@doug_hanks

Not that he needs it, but Donald Trump recently received a check for $22,718 from Miami-Dade County.

The money amounted to a refund on a $25,000 deposit Trump’s organization filed last year when he launched an effort to take over management of the county’s Crandon Park golf course. Trump withdrew the plan May 1 after facing resistance from county commissioners, marking one his last deal-making episodes before jumping into the 2016 presidential campaign in June.

For a celebrity mogul whose reported worth tops $10 billion, a $25,000 deposit doesn’t exactly tie up a significant amount of cash. According to financial reports he provided as part of his presidential run, Trump earned $362 million in 2014. It would have taken him about 33 minutes to make the $22,718.63 that Miami-Dade paid to Trump Golf Acquisitions LLC.

Trump check

More here.