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.

April 08, 2015

Florida House votes to oppose Cuba policy

The Florida House on Wednesday took a formal position against President Obama's decision to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba.

The vote came two days before Obama is scheduled to see Cuban leader Raúl Castro at the Summit of the Americas in Panama. Republican Reps. Manny Diaz, Jr. and Jeanette Núñez said it was important to send a strong message in advance of the gathering.

"We are truly the last best hope for the Cuban people," Núñez said.

The measure is largely symbolic. In addition to expressing "profound disagreement" with the president's decision, it also opposes the opening of a Cuban consulate in Florida.

Rep. Joe Geller, D-Aventura, said the action didn't go far enough.

But Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, said it was the only tool available to state lawmakers.

"There's nothing else that we could possibly do," Trujillo said. "I wish I could tell you that Speaker [Steve] Crisafulli was going to send our powerful armada to Cuba and liberate it and free it."

Núñez said the measure was more than rhetoric.

"It matters because it is about the people," she said. "It's about freedom. It's about liberty that we enjoy and they don't."

The Florida Senate took a similar vote last month.

State lawmakers will now send a formal petition urging Congress to uphold the embargo.

Rand Paul, Debbie Wasserman Schultz spar over abortion


On his first day as a declared 2016 Republican presidential candidate, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist, declined to say in an interview which exceptions he would support, if any, should abortions be banned.

The Associated Press reported:

"The thing is about abortion — and about a lot of things — is that I think people get tied up in all these details of, sort of, you're this or this or that, or you're hard and fast (on) one thing or the other," Paul said.

In the past, Paul has supported legislation that would ban abortion with exceptions, while at other times, he's backed bills seeking a broader bar on abortion.

Campaigning in New Hampshire, Paul told the AP that it's his conviction that "life is special and deserves protection."


Later in the day, when asked after a campaign stop in Milford about the interview, which the Democratic National Committee had sent reporters, Paul said, "Why don't we ask the DNC: Is it OK to kill a 7-pound baby in the uterus?"

"You go back and go ask (DNC head) Debbie Wasserman Schultz if she's OK with killing a 7-pound baby that's just not born yet," Paul said. "Ask her when life begins, and ask Debbie when she's willing to protect life. When you get an answer from Debbie, come back to me."

That prompted Wasserman Schultz, a Weston congresswoman, to issue this statement through the DNC:

"Here's an answer. I support letting women and their doctors make this decision without government getting involved. Period. End of story. Now your turn, Senator Paul. We know you want to allow government officials like yourself to make this decision for women — but do you stand by your opposition to any exceptions, even when it comes to rape, incest, or life of the mother? Or do we just have different definitions of 'personal liberty'?  And I'd appreciate it if you could respond without 'shushing' me."

(The "shushing" referred to a February interview Paul gave a CNBC reporter.)

Wasserman Schultz's statement essentially calling on no abortion restrictions prompted this response from Republican National Committee Press Secretary Allison Moore:

"Today, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz made clear her extreme position on the issue of life. It's disturbing to know that the Chairwoman of the DNC supports zero protections for the life of an unborn child, not even in the final days before birth. We should be willing to protect the innocent. Do her fellow Democrats share their party chair's position, which is out-of-step with the majority of American women?"

Senate explodes narrow gambling bill as House contracts its plan

CasinoThe reliably precarious debate over the future of gambling in Florida continued its uncertain path on Wednesday when a Senate committee voted to end the requirement that horse and dog tracks operate live races and the House revised its gaming bill and excluded destination resort casinos.

But leaders say both plans appear headed for change.

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee narrowly approved a series of pro-gaming amendments to a SPB 7088 Wednesday that would have extended a portion of the gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe for one year. The amendments allow dog tracks in West Palm Beach and Naples to start operating slot machines, require that 10 percent of all slot machine revenues at the new racinos subsidize thoroughbred purses at Tampa Bay Downs, and give all pari-mutuels the option to end live racing. 

But the amendments prompted the committee’s chairman, Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, to vote against his own bill and predict that it will be modified if it is going to survive in the Senate.

"I would suspect that if we have a gaming bill come out of the Senate, it will look probably a bit different than what you saw come out of this committee today,’’ Bradley said after the meeting.

Meanwhile, House Republican Leader Dana Young released a revamped gaming bill, HB 1233, that shrinks her ambitious 316-page gaming bill to 59 pages and removes all opportunities for gaming expansion in Florida, including the opportunity for Miami Dade and Broward to offer destination resort casinos.

Continue reading "Senate explodes narrow gambling bill as House contracts its plan" »

USA Today: Marco Rubio, Rand Paul were careful with Senate office travel

From USA Today:

WASHINGTON — Rand Paul and Marco Rubio have apparently concluded that politics and Senate business don't mix.

Senators are allowed to mix political and official travel and bill taxpayers for a portion of the costs, but the two GOP senators have avoided doing so while building national profiles over the past several years.

USA TODAY has reported in recent weeks that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas — who has announced that he will run for president — and former senator Hillary Clinton used taxpayer funds from the Senate offices to travel around the country on trips that had a political component. Such expenditures are legal, and The Washington Post opined that the senators' use of mixed-purpose trips was "like everyone else."

But Rubio and Paul have avoided taxpayer-funded mixed-purpose trips in the run-up to the 2016 campaign season. Paul announced his presidential campaign Tuesday, and Rubio is expected to follow suit next week. Clinton is expected to announce her candidacy imminently.

More here.

South Florida leaders seek help controlling plastic bags

Plastic bags litter the Miami Beach shoreline. They get wrapped around the mangroves and clog the drainage system.

But there’s little city leaders can do because Florida law prohibits local governments from regulating or banning disposable plastic bags.

BullardSen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, is hoping to change that. He’s filed a bill that would allow coastal communities with fewer than 100,000 residents to create pilot programs addressing the issue.

The proposal won the unanimous support of the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee Wednesday, thanks partly to testimony from South Florida municipal leaders.

"We need your help," Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco told state lawmakers, pointing out that hundreds of thousands of tourists go shopping in his city.

Still, the proposal is a long shot. The powerful retail industry is against it, and its companion in the House (HB 661) has stalled.

More here.

Senate poised to take up growler bill

The Senate is ready for a vote in the Beer Wars.

SB 186 by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, would allow craft brewers to sell half-gallon refillable growlers of beer, an industry standard size currently illegal in the state of Florida. It would also clarify laws for tasting rooms.

“This is third year we’ve been working on this. Hopefully we’re going to bring it in for a landing this year,” Latvala said. “I think (it) will help an industry that has proven to be a very rapidly growing industry in Florida in the last few years.”

This has been a long-fought battle between craft brewers and the distributors tasked with transporting beer from those brewers to bars and liquor stores. A House companion has an 8 a.m. hearing in the Regulatory Affairs Committee on Thursday.

It’s likely the Senate bill will face a final Senate vote next time the chamber meets the morning of April 14

Religious protections against gay adoption headed to full House vote

After three hours of debate, House Democrats failed Wednesday afternoon to render ineffective a bill, HB 1117, by Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, that will allow adoption and foster-care agencies to deny service to some people based on their religious convictions — a so-called “conscience clause.”

Dems, led by Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach,  brought 17 amendments, all of which failed via voice vote. They say the bill will allow discrimination against gay Floridians who want to adopt.

But supporters have argued that agencies affiliated with religious organizations or whose leadership has deep religious convictions against same-sex marriage or the LGBT community more broadly could be forced to violate those beliefs without specific protections under law.

New Florida Republican super PAC alert


Time for a political guessing game: Which Florida Republican may have created a new "super PAC" to raise big bucks for the 2016 election?

A new political action committee, Reform Washington, to benefit an unnamed candidate was registered Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission. Its treasurer is Nancy Watkins, a top Florida GOP political accountant based in Tampa.

The only other bit of information available on the registration form, the super PAC's website, links to a page that has yet to be created, though the domain -- -- has been purchased, with the owner's name hidden by a proxy.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has yet to announce a super PAC benefiting his likely presidential bid, but "Reform Washington" doesn't necessarily sound like a Rubio slogan (his existing PAC is named Reclaim America; his books are titled An American Son and American Dreams). So the new organization could benefit a GOP contender to replace Rubio -- perhaps Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

There are also a number of other possible candidates, such as Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera or U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach.

No one's talking for now. Expect more news after Rubio's announcement next week.

UPDATE: The super PAC is indeed Atwater's, Politico reported Thursday.

Annette Taddeo skips Florida Keys radio interview, gets called out about it on air


The day after she launched her 2016 congressional campaign against Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, Democrat Annette Taddeo was scheduled to give an interview to US1 Radio in the Florida Keys, which is part of Curbelo's district.

The reason we know this is because Taddeo canceled her appearance the night before -- and Morning Magazine host Bill Becker made sure to tell listeners about it Tuesday. In turn, Republicans made sure to tell the national press Wednesday.

"I was going to have an interview with Annette Taddeo," Becker said, according to the recording publicized by the National Republican Congressional Committee. "I scheduled it yesterday morning, they said fine -- 'Oh, she'd love to be on the air with you,' and, you know, because yesterday she announced her candidacy for Congress.

"Then around 5 o'clock I get a call: She's tired. Too tired to do an interview in the morning. So, you know, I said, boy."

"What's going to happen if she wins? Is she going to be too tired to perform?" an unidentified Becker guest or co-host asked.

"I don't know," Becker said. "Anyway, wore out! All the interviews she did yesterday wore her out. But apparently she's not up to an interview this morning, so, hey, what can I do." ("You could make fun of her," the other man said.)

Concluded Becker: "They left me the whole day thinking that she was going to be on, and then at the end of the day, you know, it's hard to fill a hole in the show like that."

The GOP was quick to note that Curbelo has a standing weekly slot on Becker's show -- and that Taddeo had apparently not been too worn out to appear Monday on MSNBC (and describe herself as a member of the middle class, which the NRCC says is disingenuous for someone who's reported her net worth at $5.7 million).

"Annette Taddeo continues to demonstrate why she has never won any of her many campaigns for office," National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Chris Pack said in a statement. "It's also suspicious that while Annette Taddeo was too tired to appear on local Florida radio, she had no problem going on national television to lie about being middle class, despite her millions of dollars in wealth."

Jeb Bush was on board of Bloomberg charity that funded left-leaning initiatives

via @learyreports

Jeb Bush’s role with corporate boards has raised a number of issues and seeming political contradictions, including Tenet Healthcare’s support for Obamacare. Now Bush’s position with Michael Bloomberg’s charity is under scrutiny from opposition researchers.

While Jeb Bush was on the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charity funded some decidedly left-leaning initiatives, including partnering with Planned Parenthood and helping the Sierra Club with global warming projects, records show.

But as with Tenet, Bush says he didn’t agree with everything.

“Governor Bush was honored to serve on the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which does a lot of good work across the world,” spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said. “Governor Bush and Mayor Bloomberg have great mutual respect for one another. While they disagree on several policy issues, both share a passion for improving education in America. As a board member, Governor Bush did not vote on or approve individual projects or programs.”

A Bloomberg spokeswoman, Meghan Womack, confirmed that board members do not vote on individual initiatives. Bush joined Bloomberg Philanthropies board in 2010 and stepped down at the end of 2014. Bush have a long relationship dating to when Bush was governor and it seems clear he was brought on the board for his education policy expertise.

Still, several initiatives seem out of step with a likely GOP presidential contender:

Continue reading "Jeb Bush was on board of Bloomberg charity that funded left-leaning initiatives" »