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 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. 

Miami Beach mayor mulling run for governor will do Florida bus tour for radio show



Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a Democrat seriously considering a run for governor, is about to hop on a bus and scoot around Florida to get to know folks across the state. But the millionaire entrepreneur hasn't formally launched a gubernatorial bid yet. 

Consider it a campaign bus tour that he insists is not a campaign bus tour.

Levine's been tapped by Sirius/XM to make a five-part audio documentary called "A Day In The Sun." Billed as an encounter with everyday people who live in the Sunshine State, the documentary will be recorded during Levine's road trip July 10-14. He'll start in Miami and head north, stopping in areas like Tarpon Springs, Orlando, Daytona Beach, St. Augustine and the Panhandle.  

"Along the way he’ll speak with Floridians of diverse backgrounds and interests - from alligator wranglers to farmers to NASA engineers - exploring the rich tapestry of everyday people who help make the state unique," reads a press release from Sirius/XM.

The five-part weekly series will premiere on SiriusXM Insight channel 121 on Aug. 1. Always eager to bask in the spotlight, Levine hosts another Sirius/XM show called "The Mayor," which features him interviewing different political leaders and cultural figures from across the U.S.

Although not technically a campaign tour, the trip will put Levine in front of more voters as he mulls a bid for governor. The mayor has told the Miami Herald he plans to make a decision in the fall. He would enter a field of Democrats that includes former North Florida congresswoman Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando entrepreneur Chris King. Another potential candidate, trial attorney and noted medical marijuana advocate John Morgan, has said he's in no rush to decide.

Carlos Curbelo wants to be a Republican leader on climate change — if he can keep his seat



Members of Congress like Carlos Curbelo are in danger of becoming extinct.

The Republican, who represents a Miami-to-Key West district, is one of the few GOP voices speaking out against Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement and his desire to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency.

But as rising seas threaten to ruin property values in his district, Curbelo is trapped between conservatives who don’t have any interest in talking climate change and liberals who would love to take out a Republican incumbent in 2018.

In 2016, Curbelo had the second highest rating among House Republicans on the League of Conservation Voters’ annual scorecard.

The only member with a higher score than Curbelo, Illinois Republican Robert Dold, lost reelection.

Curbelo is fighting to avoid Dold’s fate, and during the first six months of Trump’s administration, he’s attempted to position himself as the national voice for Republicans who are concerned about climate change.

He munched on strawberries in South Miami-Dade with a PBS correspondent during a national television segment about conservatives embracing climate change, appeared in a New York Times front page opus on the GOP’s shift toward climate change denial and frequently tweets his displeasure with the White House.

“Every day there’s more momentum on the Republican side for responsible climate policy,” Curbelo, 37, said. “It’s also a generational issue, so there are a lot of colleagues who are my age or around my age who are far more open to engaging in this issue than those who have maybe been here 10 or 20 years.”

Instead of arguing that politicians must take action because humans are morally responsible for climate change, Curbelo is spreading a simple message: tackling the effects of climate change makes economic sense.

Curbelo, a former lobbyist and political operative, understands the political game.

In 2016, he won reelection by 12 points even after his district was redrawn in favor of Democrats. In the nascent 2018 cycle he’s among the top fundraisers from either party, with $613,622 raised, putting him 32nd nationally among House incumbents and challengers, according to Federal Election Commission data.

Curbelo frequently touts the Climate Solutions Caucus he co-founded last Congress with Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, where each member who joins is required to bring along someone from the other side of the aisle.

The strategy has appeared to work so far for Curbelo. He hasn’t drawn serious opposition for his seat in 2018 yet, despite Trump’s low approval ratings and excitement from national Democrats that the House could turn blue in 2018.

But the Climate Solutions Caucus is littered with vulnerable Republican incumbents: 15 of the caucus’s 21 Republican members are on the list of Democratic targets to flip in 2018.

The desire to keep moderates like Curbelo in Congress has divided environmental groups. Some, like the Environmental Defense Fund, spent nearly $500,000 to back Curbelo in 2016, while others, like the Sierra Club, choose to support Democrats.

“Absolutely, we recognize and applaud that he’s sort of split with his party and been a vocal advocate for action on climate change, but the Sierra Club needs to look across the board,” said Melinda Pierce, the Sierra Club’s legislative director. “If you look at the rest of his votes it doesn’t live up. He’s been active on climate, but if you look across the board he’s got votes on bills that are at odds with us, supporting natural gas exports, support for Keystone [Pipeline], support for fossil fuel subsidies. When our folks look at Carlos Curbelo they see a 23 percent lifetime environmental voting record.”

Read more here.

Confederate streets force Hollywood, Fla., to grapple with Civil War ghosts

@PatriciaMazzei @CrossingBordas

Every day after he’s done delivering mail in Miami Gardens, postman Jonathan Anderson returns home to Hollywood, where he strolls the neighborhood to check in with family and friends. Like him, most of them are African-American.

So it is especially hurtful to pass by three streets whose names might mean little to the uninformed. But Anderson knows: Forrest, Hood and Lee were three Confederate generals. Forrest was considered the father of the Ku Klux Klan.

“To me, when you walk out your door and see those names, and you are conscious of what they stand for, then it becomes something so distasteful you can’t shake it,” said Anderson, 62. “It is a showing from a very dark past that my ancestors had to go through — what we are still going through.”

Of all the places still grappling with the Civil War’s ugly legacy, the most unexpected might be sleepy Hollywood, a Broward County bedroom community founded 60 years after the war’s end, with zero claims to its history and located so far south it’s closer to the Caribbean than to the old Confederacy.

Yet the city has stuck with Confederate streets in a black neighborhood, ignoring renaming requests a decade and a half ago. For the past two years, the idea has been grinding through an unhurried bureaucracy to — perhaps, finally — christen them anew. 

Exasperated by Hollywood’s dawdling, a protest calling for the streets to be renamed turned nasty last week when pro-Confederates arrived and, according to a black state legislator, hurled racial epithets at him and other African Americans and Hispanics. The demonstration of about 150 people outside City Hall ended with five arrests when protesters disrupted a commission meeting.

“Blacks see what’s happening nationally and think, ‘Hell, no, this is not about to happen again,’” said state Rep. Shevrin Jones, a Democrat from neighboring West Park who said he was called a “monkey” and a “nigger.” “We will be vocal, and we will not sit on the sidelines.”

More here.

Photo credit: Charles Trainor Jr. Miami Herald staff

Miami House candidate lists home under construction as residence

Perez home construction@martindvassolo @PatriciaMazzei

The Kendall home where a Miami Republican candidate for the Florida House says he lives is a shell of a house, with no roof and little more than walls under construction.

Daniel Perez lists the house on Southwest 84th Street in Kendallwood as his residence on his voter registration and all of his candidacy documents, and he gets a tax-break homestead exemption there. But he isn’t currently sleeping there.

Perez said Thursday that while the house is under construction, he has been living with father in an apartment elsewhere in the district. He refused to provide the address to verify if it's within House District 116 boundaries.

“I think this is borderline ridiculous,” he said of being asked about his residency. His parents own a house outside the district, public records show.

Florida requires legislators to live in the districts they represent by Election Day. For Perez, that'd be Sept. 26, if he defeats rival Jose Mallea in the July 25 primary. Perez said he's unsure if construction on his new home will be finished by Sept. 26.

He said he lived in the home he and his now-fiancée bought for $460,000 a year ago before the new construction began a couple of months ago. Perez switched his voter registration to the home last September, and hasn't changed it since.

Perez debuted a TV ad Wednesday attacking Mallea for not living in the district -- though Mallea says he moved into a Doral rental apartment within district boundaries on June 15.

This post has been updated.

Photo: Martin Vassolo, The Miami Herald

Florida lawmakers tell Trump to back off Atlantic drilling

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - A large, bipartisan contingent of the Florida House delegation has a firm message for President Donald Trump: Lay off plans for oil drilling in the Atlantic.

“Opening the Atlantic to seismic testing and drilling jeopardizes our coastal businesses, fishing communities, tourism, and our national security,” reads a letter signed by the Florida lawmakers and dozens of others. “It harms our coastal economies in the near term and opens the door to even greater risks from offshore oil and gas production down the road. Therefore, we implore you not to issue any permits for seismic airgun surveys for subsea oil and gas deposits in the Atlantic Ocean.”

The letter was sent to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and was signed by Florida Reps. John Rutherford, Darren Soto, Bill Posey, Alcee Hastings, Matt Gaetz, Charlie Crist, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Frederica Wilson, Brian Mast, Dennis Ross, Val Demings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Yoho, Kathy Castor, Francis Rooney, Al  Lawson, Ted Deutch, Ron DeSantis, Lois Frankel, Vern Buchanan and Stephanie Murphy.

The Trump administration announced in April it was exploring opening up the Atlantic for oil and gas exploration.

The letter (see below) was organized by Rutherford, R-Jacksonville, and Rep. Don Beyer, a Virginia Democrat.

Continue reading "Florida lawmakers tell Trump to back off Atlantic drilling" »

Carlos Curbelo rips Trump's tweets that called an MSNBC host "crazy" (UPDATE w/ Ros-Lehtinen response)



Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo sharply criticized President Donald Trump on Thursday after Trump unloaded on a pair of MSNBC hosts on Twitter.

"Let's all remember the lessons from the Congressional shooting just a couple weeks ago," Curbelo said in a tweet. "We must treat one another with decency & respect." 

His comments came after the president mocked Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough (a former Florida Republican congressman) and Mika Brzezinski calling the pair "crazy" and "low I.Q." Curbelo did not support Trump during the 2016 election. 

"I heard poorly rated speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore)" Trump tweeted. "Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!"

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told reporters Thursday he had not seen Trump's tweet yet because he was in a classified briefing. 

Brzezinski fired back at Trump, also on Twitter, referencing a line of attack used by Rubio in the GOP primary, mocking Trump's supposedly small hands. The MSNBC anchor posted a picture of a Cheerios cereal box with the slogan "made for little hands" on the back.

Curbelo also cautioned that Trump's rhetoric leads to dangerous acts because "Personal attacks & character assassination yield a culture of social & political violence in which people can become radicalized & dangerous." 


UPDATE: Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a moderate who is retiring in 2018 and doesn't support Trump, said Trump's tweets make it harder for the White House to pursue its legislative agenda, rankling moderate Republican Senators like Maine Sen. Susan Collins

"There are so many important issues confronting our nation that merit the full attention of our President so it is a shame that on the very week that we are debating health care, he alienates Senators, like Susan Collins, whose votes he needs for passage," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "Pettiness and meanness are uncalled for from the most powerful leader of the free world." 

DEO chief of staff appointed to be new Florida Lottery secretary


Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday named a former executive with Florida Power & Light Co. and its parent company NextEra Energy to run the Florida Lottery.

Scott announced his appointment of Jim Poppell with a news release, praising Poppell’s most recent work as chief of staff for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

“During his time at DEO, Jim has helped provide Florida families and businesses with the support they need to succeed,” Scott said in a statement. “I am confident that Jim will continue the Lottery’s focus on fighting for students and achieving record sales to invest in our education system. I look forward to working with him to further support Florida students.”

Poppell will take over over as lottery secretary on July 10, Scott’s office said. He replaces Tom Delacenserie, who announced his resignation in late May to take a higher-paying position as the head of Kentucky’s state lottery.

David Mica, who has served as lottery chief of staff since 2016, has been serving as the interim secretary in the mean time.

According to his LinkedIn page, Poppell has been with DEO for almost two years, first starting as the agency’s general counsel. From 2006 to 2008, he was the vice president of human resources for FPL. Then, he was the executive vice president of human resources for NextEra from 2008 to 2010.

Photo credit: Florida DEO

Republican candidate for Florida House accuses primary rival of 'betraying' Rubio


Daniel Perez, a Miami Republican running for the state House, used his first TV ad to attack rival Jose Mallea as insufficiently loyal to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Mallea ran Rubio's long-shot 2010 Senate campaign. But the ad appears to refer to 2016, when Mallea worked backed Jeb Bush instead of Rubio for president. Mallea was an aide to then-Gov. Bush years before he managed Rubio's Senate campaign. Bush's super PAC, Right to Rise, which hired Mallea in 2015, poured money into attacking Rubio.

"Candidate Jose Mallea betrayed us," the Spanish-language TV ad says. "He says he's a friend of Marco Rubio's, but when we had the opportunity to elect one of our own to the White House, Jose Mallea directed millions of dollars in false attacks against Rubio."

Mallea's friendship with Rubio dates back to before 1998, when Rubio first ran for the West Miami City Commission. A photo of the two young men appears in Rubio's first book, "An American Son."

"I am proud of my 21-year friendship with Marco Rubio," Mallea said Thursday. "I have worked with Marco Rubio for years, and I was proud to stand with him in his very first campaign. Being his campaign manager in 2010 was the honor of a lifetime."

It's unclear where their friendship now stands.

In addition to invoking Miami's 2016 presidential campaign ghosts, Perez's ad accuses Mallea of accepting "thousands of dollars from special interests to launch his campaign for a district he doesn't live in."

Mallea said he moved into a rental apartment in Doral, which is in District 116, two weeks ago.

The special primary election is July 25.

This post has been updated.

As executions remain on hold, Florida's death row keeps shrinking

DeathrowWith Florida's death penalty laws under sustained attack in the courts, the state has not executed an inmate in 18 months, and the number of inmates on death row keeps dropping.

Florida's death row population is now at its lowest level in more than a decade as courts continue to vacate death sentences and order new sentencings for convicted killers, in most cases as a direct result of the precedent-setting Timothy Hurst case that struck down the state's death penalty sentencing system as unconstitutional.

A total of 367 men and women reside on death row at Florida State Prison and Union Correctional Institution, down from 383 at the start of this year. By comparison, there were 369 death row inmates on June 30, 2005. In March of last year, the death row population was 389.

Since Jan. 1, the state Department of Correction says, 15 inmates have been removed from death row because of court decisions and a 16th, Wydell Evans, died while being transferred to a court hearing in Brevard County.  According to the state, these are among the inmates who have been transferred off death row this year:

* Victor Caraballo, one of five men convicted of killing Ana Maria Angel, 18, a recent graduate of South Miami High School in 2002 who was abducted from South Beach, gang-raped and murdered.

* Emilia Carr, at 32 the youngest woman in America sentenced to death row two years ago. Sentenced to death for the killing of a woman in rural Marion County in what a court called a "love triangle," she's one of three women on death row in Florida, and her case was profiled by Diane Sawyer on ABC News.

* Zachary Taylor Wood, sentenced in Chipley in 2015 for the killing of a retired game warden. He was the first person in Florida's modern judicial history to be sentenced to death in rural Washington County.

Every capital murder case has unique characteristics. In Wood's case, the Florida Supreme Court, in a 6-1 decision, ordered that his death sentence be reduced to life without parole because "there was a lack of competent, substantial evidence to support the trial court's findings of the CCP and avoid arrest aggravating factors, and his death sentence is disproportionate when these aggravating factors are struck." CCP is judicial jargon for "cold, calculated and premeditated," one of many aggravating factors necessary to warrant a sentence of death.

Justice Ricky Polston, in a stinging dissent in the Wood case, wrote: "Beating the victim senseless with a garden hose, tying him up, and trying to set him on fire after dousing him with a petroleum product constitutes cold, calculated and premeditated (CCP). A unanimous jury recommendation for death is not surprising." 

Caraballo is the only South Florida killer who has left death row this year. None of the 15 is from Tampa Bay.

Gov. Rick Scott has not said when the state will resume executions. "We’re still working with the  attorney general on that," Scott told the Tampa Bay Times' Alex Leary. "Look, that’s a solemn duty but we’re still working with the attorney general’s office."

The last person executed in Florida was Oscar Ray Bolin on Jan. 7, 2016, making him the 92nd person to be executed since Florida resumed capital punishment in 1979. The last condemned inmate to join death row , convicted double-murderer Craig Wall of Pinellas County, arrived on June 6, 2016.

The state prison website shows 362 inmates on death row, but the agency says that's a mistake that it's working to fix. The true number is 367, the state says.