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June 17, 2015

FPL ask regulators to have customers finance the expansion of its fracking business

Fpl plantState utility regulators will decide Thursday whether Florida Power & Light’s 4 million customers — or its shareholders — will finance the company’s expansion into oil and natural gas reserves.

The Florida Public Service Commission gave the company approval to get into the controversial fracking business in December. It now must decide whether to approve guidelines proposed by FPL that would let the company spend up to $750 million a year more on gas exploration without regulatory approval.

In a rare pushback to the powerful utility, PSC staff members recommended against having customers foot the bill for the untested venture.

Their argument: the success of FPL’s natural gas exploration — including gas fracking and “wildcatting” in untested territories — is risky because it depends on the ability of the state’s largest utility to do something no utility company has ever done at a time when natural gas prices are volatile.

“The distribution of benefits to FPL and its customers is not equitable,” the staff concluded. While customers have to wait decades to see any drop in fuel costs resulting from the investment, there would be an immediate benefit to the company and its shareholders because it would “grow earnings” by expanding the rate base.

FPL counters that the risk is worth the reward.

“The guidelines we proposed are designed to enable us to take advantage of future opportunities to obtain more essential clean natural gas directly from the source, generating additional savings for our customers and helping protect them from the risk of fuel market volatility,’’ said Mark Bubriski, FPL spokesman.

More here.

BuzzFeed News: Super PAC backing Jeb Bush has collected so much cash to give opponents 'heart attacks'

From BuzzFeed News:

The super PAC tied to Republican presidential candidate and former governor of Florida Jeb Bush has raised $17 million so far in the New York-area alone, according to a conference call between the super PAC officials and donors on Wednesday.

Mike Murphy, the longtime Jeb Bush confidant and consultant who is heading the Right to Rise super PAC, told a group of donors on a conference call Wednesday that they had so far raised $17 million in the Tri-State area to support Bush’s campaign for the presidency.

Telling the donors on the call they were “killers” who he was going to “set loose,” Murphy said the number the SuperPAC would be filing by the next July reporting deadline would give opponents “heart attacks” and discourage their rivals’ donors from opening their wallets.

More here.

How much did Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush pay to launch their campaigns at Miami Dade College?

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Dade College housed not one but two presidential campaign kickoffs in a span of two months -- Marco Rubio's and Jeb Bush's -- not because the university endorsed the candidates but because the candidates paid to be there.

The nation's largest institution of higher learning is a public university with public facilities that can be rented by (hey!) the public. That includes the 2016 Republican presidential campaigns of both Miami candidates.

Rubio rented the Freedom Tower downtown, a place emblematic of Cuban exiles' arrival to the U.S. Bush leased the gymnasium and adjacent cafeteria of the campus in Kendall, a neighborhood representative of the university's diverse (largely Hispanic) student population.

How much did they pay, at least to the university?

Bush, who on Monday held the far larger of the two events, was charged $6,570, according to a facilities rental invoice obtained by the Miami Herald through a public-records request. The cost included the facilities (the gym, cafeteria, and a room) as well as audiovisual and lighting technicians, security, custodians, and "other" items, such as 600 chairs, 50 cocktail tables and one set of flags.

Rubio, whose April event took place at the much smaller Freedom Tower, was charged $2,352 for facilities and support services, including 40 chairs and 10 tables. (Except for the people behind Rubio, the audience at the Freedom Tower stood, while the audience watching Bush sat.)

It goes without saying that Bush's event was more disruptive to daily campus operations. But it also got widely noticed as a bigger production befitting the presumptive fund-raising front-runner.

A teeny cloud in Miami-Dade lifts from Donald Trump's presidential campaign

Donald trump golf

@doug_hanks 

There was a time — about a month ago — when Donald Trump’s political agenda included pursuit of a management contract at a Miami-Dade golf course. On Wednesday, the country’s newest presidential candidate was cleared in a county ethics probe relating to that failed deal, which started with a round of golf with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Miami-Dade’s ethics commission rejected a complaint by blogger Al Crespo that claimed Trump improperly lobbied Gimenez during their round at the Crandon Park golf course in late 2013. Trump reportedly criticized the condition of the county-owned course and offered to buy it. Gimenez said that wasn’t possible, but eventually was in talks with Trump’s organization about outsourcing management to the celebrity developer.

“Since there was no proposal for which action was being sought at the time of the initial discussion between Trump and Gimenez, the meeting is not considered lobbying,” the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust wrote in a report released Wednesday.

Trump offered a $10 million upgrade for Crandon, but course loyalists questioned why the well-regarded 18 holes needed a rescue from someone with a reputation for pricey golf resorts. Trump promised special discounts and access for county residents, but would have controlled the tee times and been free to rework the layout under the proposed 99-year deal. He wanted to slash mangroves blocking the course’s water views, and turn a sleepy clubhouse into a thriving hospitality business.

More here.

Fact-checking Jeb Bush's attack on Hillary Clinton about her comment that religious beliefs "have to be changed"

As he tries to appeal to religious conservatives, Jeb Bush has portrayed Hillary Clinton as the enemy of those who believe in religious freedom.

"These have been rough years for religious charities and their right of conscience, and the leading Democratic candidate hinted of more to come," Bush said during his announcement speech at Miami Dade College on June 15. "Secretary Clinton insists that when the progressive agenda encounters religious beliefs to the contrary, those beliefs ‘have to be changed.’ That is what she said. That is what she said. And I guess we should at least thank her for the warning."

So is that what she actually said about the need for religious beliefs to change? We looked at when and where she made her comments, and found Bush is taking her words out of context.  

Turn to PolitiFact to see how we rated Bush's claim.

Bill Nelson makes good on Stanley Cup push-up bet

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson, born Sept. 29, 1942, this afternoon dropped and did 46 pushups to make good on a bet over the Stanley Cup with Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois.

He was supposed to do 23, the number of goals scored in the showdown between the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning. But Nelson, who underwent NASA training many years ago and went into space, bargained with Durbin so that he wouldn't have to make a special trip to Tampa for Cuban sandwiches, which were part of the bet.

"Are you up for it?" Durbin asked.

Removing his jacket, loosening his collar and tucking his gold tie into a blue buttondown, Nelson hit the carpet. Durbin counted them off as an amused -- and surprised -- press corps and gaggle of interns looked on.

"1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46."

"Hey!" Durbin shouted at the end. "Thank God that you lost and I didn't. They'd be taking me out of here on a stretcher."

Nelson is up for re-election in 2018, and if there was any doubt about his energy level, he just put that to rest.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Jeb Bush hires Miami firm to work on Hispanic digital outreach

@PatriciaMazzei

One of the perks of running a 2016 presidential operation out of Miami is finding Spanish speakers to assist is easy.

Jeb Bush, whose crew is headquartered in West Miami-Dade County, has hired Pinta, a Miami Beach-based marketing firm, to help with Hispanic strategy, particularly online.

Mike Valdés-Fauli, the company's president and chief executive, emailed friends over the weekend urging them to attend Bush's launch Monday at Miami Dade College. As part of the invitation, he mentioned he would be working for the campaign.

"I've long admired the Governor for his significant accomplishments in both the public and private sector, preference for reason over ideology, unparalleled grasp of the issues, and penchant for celebrating (as opposed to begrudging) diversity in our society," Valdés-Fauli wrote in the email, which was obtained by the Miami Herald. "For those reasons, I'm incredibly proud that Pinta has been formally engaged to assist his cause with Hispanic strategy, digital content and social media."

Valdés-Fauli declined an interview request from the Herald over his expected role. The campaign has been focused on Bush's announcement and subsequent tour of early-primary states and did not respond to a request for comment.

Jorge Arrizurieta, a friend of Bush's who also knows Valdés-Fauli, characterized the hire as noteworthy as part of a "robust" organization.

Continue reading "Jeb Bush hires Miami firm to work on Hispanic digital outreach" »

Shades of Mayberry as rural sheriff seeks Gov. Scott's budget help

A small-town sheriff who was once suspended from office by Gov. Rick Scott now wants Scott and the Cabinet to end a long-running local battle by forcing the county commission to give him more money in last year's budget.

It's yet another vestige of Florida's creaky Cabinet system. The Constitution allows sheriffs and other constitutional officers to appeal denials of budget increases to the governor and Cabinet. These fights are usually settled before they reach Tallahassee, but this Mayberry-style spat, which literally involves a guy named Floyd, likely will go the distance over $209,000.

The sheriff is Nick Finch of tiny Liberty County, who was suspended from office by Scott in 2013 for refusing to arrest Floyd Parrish, who was carrying a concealed weapon with no permit. Finch said the Second Amendment trumps state law, which made him a hero to gun rights advocates. A jury acquitted Finch of misconduct, Scott reinstated him and Finch renewed his bare-knuckle brawl with the boys at the courthouse.

Both sides staked out positions Wednesday at a meeting of Cabinet aides. A Cabinet staff report concluded that Finch was treated unfairly because no other constitutional officer's budget was cut, and offered him another $209,000. Finch wants more than that, at least $329,000, to buy replacement patrol cars, ammunition, tasers, batteries and other items and give increased pension benefits to deputies.

"It's a slap in the face," Finch said of the $209,000. "I'm disappointed to say the least ... I have to protect the people I serve."

County Attorney Shalene Grover offered to split the difference and give Finch $269,000. Finch said no, saying: "Would half of your wife's life be acceptable?"

Liberty County is a fiscally constrained county, which means it can't collect any more in property taxes, but Finch claims the tiny county is sitting on nearly $3 million in unspent reserves. Liberty, about 60 miles southwest of Tallahassee, is nearly 900 square miles in size but has the fewest people of any in Florida (population 7,710, which includes 1,829 prison inmates).

Because Finch wears a badge and carries a gun, Scott and Cabinet members are expected to give him the money he wants next Tuesday and the sheriff seemed to know this. As he left Wednesday's meeting with his finance director and two deputies in tow, he said: "I think I'm holding all the cards right now."

Gov. Rick Scott won't drop lawsuit against feds until decision made on LIP

@dchangmiami

A federal court hearing that could have featured testimony from Florida Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Health and Human Services Sec. Sylvia Burwell was canceled today after Gov. Scott withdrew his request that the judge in the case compel the government to continue a hospital payment program set to expire on June 30.

Judge M. Casey Rodgers issued the order today canceling the hearing previously set for Friday, and she ordered the federal government to file a response by July 8 to Gov. Scott's legal complaint that the Obama administration was attempting to coerce Florida to adopt Medicaid expansion by withholding a decision on the hospital payment program known as Low Income Pool.

In a legal brief filed Wednesday, Gov. Scott stated that the Florida Legislature's budget agreement assumes LIP funding will continue and that the proposal sets aside sufficient funds to pay state hospitals that care for large numbers of uninsured and under-insured  patients on Medicaid.

"The budget agreement thus mitigates the threat of imminent harm to the State, its healthcare providers, and their patients,'' the legal brief states.

Continue reading "Gov. Rick Scott won't drop lawsuit against feds until decision made on LIP" »

Hillary Clinton's Full Flop on same-sex marriage

On the day that the U.S. Supreme Court was poised to hear oral arguments about same-sex marriage April 28, Hillary Clinton changed her "H" logo to rainbow-colored and tweeted: "Every loving couple & family deserves to be recognized & treated equally under the law across our nation. #LoveMustWin #LoveCantWait."

Clinton came out in support of same-sex marriage in 2013 after more than a decade of opposing it. But her views are particularly in the spotlight now that she is a presidential candidate.

We decided to put Clinton’s statements about same-sex marriage on our Flip-O-Meter, which measures whether a candidate has changed their views without making a value judgment about such flips. We found that as public opinion shifted toward support for same-sex marriage, so did Clinton.

Turn to PolitiFact to see why we gave Clinton a Full Flop.