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December 06, 2017

Sen. Annette Taddeo says #MeToo and calls for Jack Latvala's resignation

Annette Taddeo@MaryEllenKlas

Miami Democrat Sen. Annette Taddeo, the Florida Senate's newest member, said #MeToo Wednesday that she had been "subjected to inappropriate behavior" in her past and then joined the growing chorus of lawmakers saying it's time for Sen. Jack Latvala to resign. 

Latvala, R-Clearwater, under a Senate investigation for sexual harassment by a Senate legislative aide, has denied the allegations. Most senators have refrained from publicly indicating whether he is guilty but Taddeo joined Sens. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast, and called for him to step down. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Latvala foe, has also called for him to resign. 

 "While speaking out is never easy, I know in my heart I cannot stay silent any longer. Without going into details, I have been subjected to inappropriate behavior as a young woman by a religious leader,'' Taddeo said in a statement. "While I did not speak out publicly then, I know today, I have an opportunity to add my voice to a movement that I hope reshapes our society. We cannot tolerate anything less than respect from any individual- period.

“I was proud to be elected to serve in the Florida Senate this sall because of the opportunities to advance meaningful policies that make families lives better. Sadly, the recent controversy surrounding Sen. Jack Latvala has all but derailed our focus on policy discussions and continues to consume the Legislature.

“The hostile environment and the continued harassment of employees is simply wrong and must end. To do that, I firmly believe Sen. Jack Latvala must resign as the mounting news accounts and ongoing details surrounding his circumstances without a doubt have created a distraction from representing his constituents.

“I believe Sen. Jack Latvala has an opportunity to put service and people first- and that start’s by resigning his seat so we can get back to the business of Floridians.”

Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, filed a Senate Rules complaint against Latvala on Tuesday, accusing him of attempting to intimidate witnesses and undermine the credibility of his accuser, Rachel Perrin Rogers. Book stopped short of calling for his resignation.

Read more: Senator files complaint against Latvala for interfering in investigation

Sen. Bill Galvano said he expects the investigation to be complete some time next week. 

Bill Nelson says Al Franken should resign

Sexual_Misconduct_Franken_10646

via @learyreports

Update: Florida Sen. Bill Nelson said Minnesota Sen. Al Franken should resign after he was accused of unwanted sexual touching by multiple women. 

“Sexual harassment is never acceptable," Nelson said in a statement. "I agree with a majority of the Democratic senators that Sen. Franken should step aside."

Nelson made his comments hours after a slew of Democratic senators called on Franken to resign. Franken said he will make a decision about his political future tomorrow. 

From earlier:

A majority of Democratic Senators — including Chuck Schumer — today called for Al Franken to resign but Florida's Bill Nelson is not yet among them.

Nelson's office hasn't responded to multiple questions about his stance.

When the allegations first surfaced, Nelson told us, "Sexual harassment is never acceptable. The Senate Ethics committee will fully investigate this troubling incident, as I believe they should."

Franken was to appear at a fundraiser for Nelson, at Alex Sink's Tampa-area home, but then canceled. Nelson is up for reelection in 2018. 

For some South Florida Democrats in Congress, Trump is right on Jerusalem

Trump_Jerusalem_97877

@alextdaugherty

South Florida Democratic Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ted Deutch rarely agree with President Donald Trump, but the pair supported his decision on Wednesday to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital along with moving the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv.

“My longstanding view is that Jerusalem is and will remain the undivided capital of Israel, and it should remain a city accessible to people of all faiths,” Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, said in a statement. “We must work toward a day where the entire world recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and that can be achieved through final status negotiations. I remain as committed as ever to safeguarding Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, at peace with its neighbors, with Jerusalem as its undisputed capital.”

Deutch, D-Boca Raton, issued a joint statement supporting the move with Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The two are the highest ranking members on the House Foreign Affairs Middle East subcommittee.

“There is no debate that the Jewish people have a deep-rooted religious, cultural and historic tie to Jerusalem, and today’s decision reaffirms that connection,” Deutch and Ros-Lehtinen said.

Deutch and Wasserman Schultz represent districts with large Jewish populations and are seen as supporters of Israel in Congress.

South Florida Republicans uniformly praised Trump’s decision on Wednesday, including Sen. Marco Rubio and Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo.

“I commend President Trump for following U.S. law and recognizing Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish state of Israel,” Rubio said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is an important step in the right direction. Unequivocal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will be complete when the U.S. embassy is officially relocated there.”

But some of Trump’s top Cabinet officials reportedly opposed the decision, arguing that the move to recognize Jerusalem would needlessly inflame tensions between Israel and Palestinians and potentially put people in danger.

Read more here.

Decision over city manager leads to another Carollo-Suarez crossroad in Miami

Suarez-carollo

@NewsbySmiley

The race to win Miami’s elections is over.

The race to run City Hall is on.

Coming into office with a specific set of plans in his first year as mayor, Francis Suarez wants to install a city manager of his choosing next week to oversee Miami’s billion-dollar city government. The mayor announced Wednesday that he’s nominating Emilio González, former director of Miami International Airport, to fill the post, which will oversee more than 4,000 employees and handle the launch of a $400 million general obligation bond programthat voters just approved, among many responsibilities.

But Suarez may not get what he wants.

In order to hire someone, the mayor needs three of the city’s five commissioners to ratify his appointment. And newly elected Commissioner Joe Carollo has other plans.

To read more click here.

Frederica Wilson votes to move forward on impeaching Trump

105FWilson20 NEW PPP

@alextdaugherty

Miami Gardens Rep. Frederica Wilson, who had endured days of criticism and false attacks from President Donald Trump and White House chief of staff John Kelly after she criticized the president's choice of words to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, was one of 58 House Democrats to buck leadership and vote for moving forward on a motion to impeach Trump on Wednesday.

The impeachment motion offered by Texas Democratic Rep. Al Green was expected to fail, though nearly a third of House Democrats voted in favor of Green's proposal despite House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and minority whip Steny Hoyer urging their members not to vote in favor of moving forward with it. 

Green defended Wilson during an October floor speech that morphed from a defense of Wilson into justification for moving forward on impeachment. 

"I rise today to defend the honorable Frederica Wilson," Green said. "I do so because in this country, we have allowed public discourse to be degraded to the extent that the president of the United States of America would call a member of congress – an honorable woman – wacky. This is not a wacky person, this is a person of honor and integrity and of intellect. There are those who say wait until the next election – I am not one of them. I believe that the remedy for this kind of behavior and the impact that it is having on society is impeachment." 

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, who was impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate in 1989, also voted in favor of moving forward on impeachment.

Liberal research institute urges GOP leadership to include Rubio amendment in tax bill

819931778

@alextdaugherty

Sen. Marco Rubio's effort to include an expanded and fully refundable child tax credit appeared to die when the Senate voted down the proposal on Friday night, but a liberal Washington-based research institute is urging the Florida Republican to revive his effort as the House and Senate hash out their differences on a final tax bill this week. 

Rubio's proposal with Utah Sen. Mike Lee would raise a proposed cut to the corporate tax rate from 20 percent to 20.9 percent to pay for a child tax credit that reduces some families’ tax bill for every child they have under the age of 17.

"During the Senate debate, the Senate rejected the Rubio-Lee amendment, but now that the bill is in a conference committee with the House, the only route for Senators Rubio and Lee is to use the leverage of their votes to secure this change — as Senator (Ron) Johnson did to secure a larger tax cut for wealthy investors," wrote Chuck Marr, the director of federal tax policy for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "Otherwise, Republicans will cement their choice to pass a $1.5 trillion tax bill without providing virtually any meaningful relief to the lowest-income working families."

Rubio and Lee have not given any indication that they will vote against a tax bill that doesn't include their amendment. Both Republicans voted for the Senate bill which passed with a 51-49 majority.

"Adopting the Rubio-Lee amendment wouldn’t fix either the Republican tax bill’s extreme tilt to the top or its fiscal profligacy, nor would it change the fact that key congressional Republicans are already saying they will seek to pay for their tax cuts next year by cutting programs that support low-income working families. But this modest change would allow millions of low- and moderate-income working families to fare somewhat better." 

Hours after the Senate pass their version of a tax overhaul, President Donald Trump said he'd potentially be open to raising the corporate tax rate cut to 22 percent instead of 20 percent after multiple Republicans said a 20 percent corporate rate was the highest they could support. The current corporate tax rate is 35 percent. 

"It could be 22 when it all comes out, but it could also be 20," Trump said. "We’ll see what ultimately comes out." 

Rubio and Lee's amendment failed by a vote of 29 to 71, and the 29 votes included some Democrats like Florida Sen. Bill Nelson

Read the entire post by Marr here.

On C-SPAN, Corcoran says Latvala 'heading toward expulsion'

The big black C-SPAN tour bus rolled through Tallahassee Wednesday as part of the cable channel’s “50 Capitals Tour.” The only political figure who got air time was House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes.

Seated in a small studio at the back of the bus, Corcoran was asked about the Senate investigation of sexual harassment allegations against Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.

“I think there’s clearly probable cause and honestly it looks at this point that they’re heading toward expulsion,” Corcoran predicted to a national audience.

Corcoran, who called on Latvala to resign when the allegations first surfaced on Nov. 3, said Latvala would be “one of the first in decades” to be expelled.

Senate President Joe Negron’s office has said that a check of the archives showed that no member has ever been expelled from the Senate. (The last time a House member was expelled was in 1961).

Corcoran drew a contrast between how prominent figures at private companies accused of harassment, such as Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer, were quickly fired and stripped of their titles, but politicians remain in office.

“We have elected officials that you would think would be held to a higher standard,” Corcoran said. “There’s an entitlement mentality.”

The live 11-minute interview touched on post-Irma hurricane recovery, the extension of the Suncoast Parkway to the Georgia line and Corcoran’s support for term limits for members of Congress.

Asked when his own term will end, Corcoran said: “I’m down to one year. Then I go back to being a citizen.”

State Department to appoint new leader for U.S. embassy in Venezuela

Robinson_Todd_200_1

via @kyragurney

The U.S. State Department plans to appoint a new leader to the U.S. embassy in Venezuela amid increasing tensions with the beleaguered South American nation.

Todd D. Robinson, the former U.S. ambassador to Guatemala, has been chosen to lead the embassy in Caracas, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, told the Miami Herald.

The decision comes at a critical time for U.S. relations with Venezuela. The Trump Administration has sanctioned dozens of Venezuelans in recent months, including President Nicolás Maduro, whom Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has labeled a “dictator.” In August, the U.S. also imposed economic sanctions against Venezuela, banning debt trades for bonds issued by the government and its state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela SA.

Ros-Lehtinen expressed confidence in Robinson’s ability to represent U.S. interests in Venezuela. “He’s for freedom, democracy, the rule of law, separation of powers. He gets it,” Ros-Lehtinen said on Tuesday shortly after meeting with Robinson. “We told him, ‘Sanction more people, that’s the best thing that we can do. Get those thugs to not be able to come to the U.S.’”

Read more here.

Galvano says Latvala case likely won't be resolved until January, cites Sansom as precedent

Bill GalvanoSen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican and the Senate's incoming Senate president who has kept a low profile in the sexual harassment investigation of Sen. Jack Latvala, told the Herald/Times it could be January before the case is resolved.

"I believe that the special master's report will come out before too long -- maybe not this week but the next eight to 10 days,'' he said. "That's not because I have official knowledge that's because of the timing in this process. Of course, we'll be out of committee."

"It's within the president's prerogative's to call a special Rules Committee meeting but, based on my experience I would think it would be more in January, after everybody's had a chance to adjust what the special master has come up with,'' he said.

"It's my hope that -- and I have no reason to doubt this -- that there's been a thorough investigation that the special master will have a detailed report for the Rules Committee to review with recommendations. As a lawyer, former Rules chair, a member of the Senate Rules Committee, once you afford that due process to occur, you see what is presented and then deliberate and make decision on that."

Read more: Senator files complaint against Latvala for interfering in investigation

Galvano said the precedent they will follow mirrors that of former House Speaker Ray Sansom, who faced a complaint from a Clearwater Democrat and ultimately resigned as speaker in February 2009 amid misconduct allegations. Galvano was the House Rules Committee chair at the time, and led the House Committee on Official Standards and Conduct which was prepared to investigate and potentially oust Sansom before he resigned.

"There is a rules process in place -- very similar to what we dealt with in the House years back,'' Galvano told the Herald/Times, "when we had the issue with the speaker. How it works is a complaint is filed. It's reviewed by the Rules chair to determine of it they are reading it in a light most favorable to the claimant. Would those allegations rise to a level that requires further investigation. Therein lies the appointment of the special master, who will then make recommendations to the Rules Committee with findings and the Rules Committee can deliberate on it, under the direction of the chair and then make the recommendation to the full chamber."

Galvano noted that the second investigation, involving Gail Golman-Holtzman of the Jackson Lewis law firm, is designed to determine if the other allegations against Latvala are true by providing anonymity to women to come forward with allegations. What will come of that?

"I don't know how or what has come through that,'' Galvano said. "I'm equally interested in seeing how that plays out."

Tougher texting-while-driving law in Florida wins House speaker's support

The movement to crack down on Floridians who text while driving has gained a powerful new convert: House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes.

Corcoran, who was largely silent on the issue in the 2017 legislative session, now supports a bill to make texting a primary offense, rather than the weaker secondary offense that it has been since 2013.

“The data is staggering,” Corcoran told WTSP Channel 10 in Tampa Tuesday, in one of a series of local TV interviews on the subject. “It’s going to be a great benefit to the state of Florida.”

He noted that according to state data, Florida had nearly 50,000 distracted driving crashes in 2016 and 235 deaths, yet police issued fewer than 1,400 tickets for texting while driving.

Florida is one of only four states that makes texting while driving a secondary offense, which means police must stop drivers for another reason. Many African-American legislators oppose giving police more authority to stop and ticket drivers for texting while driving, fearing it could encourage racial profiling.

Corcoran said there is no evidence of that in other states that have cracked down on texting while driving.

Corcoran’s advocacy of a stronger texting law comes as a broad coalition of groups seeks passage of a law that would make texting a primary offense, similar to speeding or running a red light, subject to higher fines and penalty points on a driver’s record that often drive up the cost of insurance.

Car accidents have been on the increase in Florida, as are injuries and deaths on the highways, and that has led to higher insurance premiums.

Corcoran, 52, a lawyer, is considering running for governor in 2018. Explaining why he now supports a tougher texting law, he said: “Because I’ve done it. I know I’ve done it.” He said drivers under age 30 are most likely to have accidents due to texting while driving.

Under Corcoran’s proposal, a texting while driving violation would carry a $30 fine plus court costs, for a total penalty of up to $108, and a second or subsequent violation within five years would be subject to a $60 fine plus court costs totaling $158.

A violation resulting in a crash would add six points to the driver’s record. The bill will include a provision that prevents police from searching a driver’s cell phone without a court order.

The House sponsor of making texting while driving a primary offense is Rep. Emily Slosberg, a Democrat from Boca Raton. Corcoran said his proposal will be sponsored by Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa.