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February 10, 2017

Donald Trump-connected Kushner may buy Marlins


@via kaufsports

So, it turns out that it may, in fact, be a member of the Trump-connected Kushner family who is interested in buying the Miami Marlins, just not Ivanka Trump’s father-in-law Charles Kushner, as originally reported.

According to the New York Times, it is Joshua Kushner, Ivanka’s brother-in-law, who has been pursuing the Marlins “for several months.” Joshua is the younger brother of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and close advisor.

Joshua, a venture capitalist who invested in Instagram and is very involved in the family’s real estate dealings, and his brother-in-law Joseph Meyer are said to have proposed a complicated financial package for the Marlins that would include other partners. According to the Times, the Marlins negotiations do not involve Jared or his father, Charles, who served a prison sentence for tax evasion, illegal campaign donations and witness tampering.

Keep reading Michelle Kaufman's story here.
Miami Herald photo by Charles Trainor Jr. is of Jeffrey Loria

In Miami Gardens, Khizr Khan celebrates court ruling against Trump ban


Less than two hours after an appeals court refused to restore President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations, Khizr Khan, perhaps the most famous Muslim American of last year’s campaign, celebrated the news among his admirers at the Islamic Center of Greater Miami.

“There will not be any ban,” Khan predicted.

“I am sure all of you have heard by now that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal unanimously — all judges — have stayed the ban permanently,” he added, as the crowd at the Miami Gardens mosque broke into applause and a couple of hollers.

“That speaks volumes to the malice that Donald Trump and a few members of his Cabinet, a few members of his [national] security staff, have against Muslims. They will be defeated. There are patriotic Americans among Republicans that know that these are not the values of this country.”

Khan called the ban — and Trump’s hostile reaction to the judiciary — “an embarrassment.”

“I hope somebody translates into easy English to him,” he said of the ruling. (“Donald Trump is an immigrant,” Khan added. “Two-thirds of his wives are immigrants. Mothers of his children are immigrants. How dare he has forgotten that! So we will remind him.”)

It was a rallying cry from Khan, the Gold Star father who became an overnight political celebrity after he spoke against Trump in July at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Khan’s 27-year-old son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed by a car bomb in Iraq in 2004.

“Have you even read the United States Constitution?” the elder Khan asked of Trump as he pulled a copy of the Constitution from his pocket at the convention. “You have sacrificed nothing.”

More here.

Photo credit: Carl Juste, Miami Herald staff

Moms want 20 minutes of school recess a day. Will Florida Legislature act?

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@ByKristenMClark @KyraGurney

On a recent Friday afternoon, a troop of kindergarteners walked outside in a single-file line to their daily 20-minute recess break at Miami Gardens Elementary School.

Once the children reached the edge of a grassy field, they broke into a run. Two girls held hands and twirled in circles in the middle of the field, while the other kids split into groups to play tag.

“We get to have fun with our friends and play whatever we want,” said Raven Hightower, one of the kindergarteners. “We run around. We can find insects.” Her classmates chimed in — they enjoy playing tag and chasing butterflies, too.

Hightower and her classmates are lucky. Most Florida public schoolchildren don’t get outdoor playtime every school day — and getting it even several days a week isn’t a guarantee in many school districts.

In Miami-Dade County, elementary children are supposed to get it at least two to three days a week, with a few schools testing out the five-day model. Since December, Orange County public schools have required recess five days a week.

But in Pinellas County, students might have recess only twice a week. And in Polk County, one kindergarten class in Lakeland last year got recess for a short time only on Fridays.

Across Florida, how much unstructured playtime public elementary schoolchildren get each day varies greatly from school to school. Some of the state’s 67 county school districts don’t have a formal policy, and in those that do, administrators often give principals and teachers a lot of discretion.

It’s that inconsistency that’s leading passionate “recess moms” to once again lobby lawmakers this spring to pass a statewide, mandatory requirement that elementary schoolchildren get 20 minutes of recess each day.

“One day, we may not need this mandate for our children, but we need it now,” said Angela Browning, a mom from Orlando who helped found the group Recess for All Florida Students.

More here.

Photo credit: Kindergarten students head out to the playground for recess at Citrus Grove Elementary School in Miami on Thursday, February 9, 2017. Patrick Farrell / Miami Herald

February 09, 2017

Appeals court denies to restore travel ban. 'See you in court,' defiant Trump tweets

From McClatchy:

In a major blow to the Trump Administration, a panel of three federal judges on Thursday unanimously denied the federal government’s efforts to toss out an order that halted the president’s travel ban, sending the case back to the Seattle judge who issued the temporary restraining order last Friday.

“The government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury,” the court stated.

President Donald Trump reacted quickly with a tweet: “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”

The Trump Administration had appealed a ruling by U.S. District Judge James L. Robart in Seattle last Friday that imposed a temporary restraining order to stop the administration from moving forward with Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order that created a temporary new travel ban. The order suspended immigration for 90 days from the Muslim majority nations of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen, and also placed a 120-day hold on refugee admissions from all countries as well as an indefinite suspension of refugee admissions from Syria.

As federal immigration authorities moved to enforce the order, travel was disrupted for thousands of immigrants who had already obtained valid visas, and protests by thousands of demonstrators at airports across the country erupted.

More here.

Health officials wrap up week of hearings on marijuana


IMG_6434The Florida Department of Health’s fifth and final hearing on new medical marijuana rules may have been its most sparsely attended, but those who did show up largely spoke with one voice.

Not all speakers presented the same wish list, but many — particularly hopeful cannabis patients and their caregivers — expressed a handful of hopes with the new rules DOH must put in place by this summer.

The highlights:

* Don’t require doctors have a 90-day relationship with a patient.
* Allow “whole-plant use” so patients aren’t limited to oils, pills and proprietary vaping devices.
* Let doctors determine which patients would benefit from cannabis, rather than only allowing those with conditions enumerated in Amendment 2 or by the Board of Medicine.
* Give out additional licenses, and let companies specialize in growing, production, testing or dispensing, rather than forcing them to be vertically integrated.
* Find ways to keep costs down.

That’s a snippet of two hours of public testimony in Tallahassee on Thursday. The department made stops earlier this week in Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale, an unusual move that officials say they were not required to do.

Additionally, the health department will continue accepting written comment through Friday at 5 p.m.

Now, Christian Bax, the director of the Office of Compassionate Use, is tasked with reading through comment and changing a rule his office proposed last month to implement Amendment 2 after 71 percent of voters approved it in November.

There is no timeline yet, but DOH does face a July deadline to write rules.

They’ll also likely face new direction from the state Legislature, which will almost certainly pass a medical marijuana bill during its session, which begins March 7.

Photo: Department of Health officials listen to public comment at the final rulemaking hearing for new medical marijuana rules Thursday in Tallahassee. (Michael Auslen, Times/Herald)

Study: South Florida ranks No. 5 in undocumented immigrant population

110Gimenez01 NEW PPP

South Florida is home to nearly half a million immigrants who are in the country illegally, making it the metropolitan area with the fifth-largest undocumented population in the U.S., according to a new analysis by the Pew Research Center.

Some 450,000 unauthorized immigrants reside in the greater Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area, Pew found, based on 2014 estimates from government data. About 55,000 live in the city of Miami alone.

President Donald Trump has promised to crack down on illegal immigration, signing an executive order last month to cut federal funding for cities and counties considered “sanctuaries” for the undocumented. To avoid the label, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez quickly agreed to hold inmates in local jails for federal immigration agents even if the feds refuse to reimburse the county for the expense — a contentious policy reversal that has been met with protests.

South Florida trails other major urban centers that attract scores more of undocumented immigrants. Leading the list are New York and Los Angeles, with 1.2 million and 1 million, respectively. In third and fourth place are Houston (575,000) and Dallas (450,000).

More here.

As livid Corcoran dares Senate to sue, Negron squelches lawsuit threat

Joe Negron Richard Corcoran@SteveBousquet

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Thursday dared the Senate to make good on a threat to file a lawsuit challenging the House's power to impose new budget-writing rules that affect how the Senate crafts a budget, but Senate President Joe Negron has shot back, saying that's not going to happen.

"Legislative business should be resolved in the Capitol, not in the court system,'' Negron told the Herald/Times. "I expect that to happen."

Negron's comments follow a day-long public feud between Corcoran and Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, after Latvala took credit for a compromise that he said would avoid a lawsuit and a feared shutdown of state government over differences in how to resolve the state budget -- the only bill legislators are required to pass each year.

Latvala sponsored a proposed joint rule designed to meet the House halfway and it passed the Senate Rules Committee Thursday. 

"This saves us from going to the precipice of potentially gridlock, government shutdown, all those bad things," Latvala told reporters. "I think that's all going to be avoided now. It's not completely worked out between the two sides, but we're well on the way.

But it doesn't go nearly as far as Corcoran wants.The House rules imposed by Corcoran include a detailed questionnaire on every member-sponsored project and a requirement that only one-time non-recurring money can be spent on projects -- an effort to halt the practice of embedding permanent projects into the budget without annual review. 

In a statement on Thursday, Corcoran stood by his rules and dared the Senate to follow through on the lawsuit.

"They threatened to sue us if we put that language in our House rules. We're still waiting," he said. "If they want to sue the House for fighting on behalf of the people for unprecedented levels of transparency, accountability and public scrutiny of pork barrel spending, I'll pay their filing fee."

 The feud carried into the night late Wednesday as Corcoran and Negron negotiated by phone on how the Senate might offer a compromise that respects House changes to the budget-writing process. As they spoke, a story about the Senate's threatened lawsuit appeared in the Naples Daily News.

The story, bannered as an exclusive, quoted Latvala as saying: “We’re adhering to the fidelity of the Constitution ... We’re not abiding by the other House’s rules in the budget process. We’re going to abide by our policies and procedures and long-standing customs."

Although Negron said the Senate has no intention of filing a lawsuit, the Senate has retained the Chicago law firm of Sidley Austin to advise Negron on a variety of legal issues, Negron's spokesperson said. The Times/Herald could not get confirmation that the firm has drafted legal briefs in preparation for a lawsuit. 

"All communications between the Senate and outside counsel are privileged,'' said Senate spokesperson Katie Betta. 

Will Florida become the first state to impose term limits on justices?

Florida supreme court.1_12061496_8col@MaryEllenKlas

Despite a torrent of criticism from both conservatives and liberal lawyers, a House committee on Thursday advanced a proposed constitutional amendment that would impose a 12-year term limit on Florida Supreme Court justices and appeal court judges who now can serve until retirement age.

The idea is a top priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, who accuses the Florida Supreme Court of repeatedly "writing whole cloth law" in violation of the separation of powers. If the measure is placed on the November 2018 ballot, it would need 60 percent of the vote to become law. No other state has such steep limits on its highest courts, although Colorado, Mississippi and Nevada have proposed judicial term limits at the appellate level and voters have rejected it .

The House Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee voted 8-7, for HJR1, by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora. The measure would not apply to judges currently in office but take effect beginning with anyone who is appointed to the appellate courts beginning in 2019.

Under current law, justices and appeals court judges can serve until they reach the retirement age of 70, but must face voters in an up-or-down merit retention election every six years. Sullivan argued that since no justice or judge has been turned out of office in the last 40 years, the system has not worked as intended.

“An accountability system that does not hold people accountable is not truly accountable,'' she said. "This bill seeks to correct that and give the people of Florida another opportunity to implement the accountability they originally intended to place upon our judicial branch of government."

The Florida Supreme Court, however, does have the power to discipline judges and the Judicial Qualifications Commission recommends who to discipline and remove. Most of the appellate judges that have faced sanctions in the last two decades have resigned before being reprimanded, according to a 2015 report by legislative auditors.

The proposed amendment is opposed by the Florida Bar, former court justices and legal scholars and, this year, the conservative Florida Justice Reform Institute, a judicial advocacy organization that has been on the losing side of many Florida Supreme Court rulings, also voiced its opposition to the bill.

Continue reading "Will Florida become the first state to impose term limits on justices? " »

Florida Senate pushes back against House plan to kill Visit Florida


The Florida Senate continues to send unmistakably blunt signals that it is not going along with a House plan to completely kill whole agencies like Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida.

During a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Thursday, the Legislature’s top economic analyst Amy Baker, showed lawmakers data that indicated that for every $1 the state invests in Visit Florida, it gets $3.20 in return.

That provoked State Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, to ask Baker to clarify that she presents those same numbers to the House.

“You provide services to not just us but to our friends in the House right,” Bradley asked

Baker assured him she did.
“And you’re telling us for every dollar of taxpayer money we spend, we get $3.20 back,” Bradley said in emphasizing the point more than actually asking a question he didn’t know the answer to.

If that was not enough, State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, bluntly told the audience that Baker’s charts showed five of the state’s top economic development programs that generate the biggest return on investment from the state would be killed under a bill the Florida House is pushing that would eliminate Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. Those programs returned as much as $5.60 for every $1 the state invests.

“They all produce a net increase in tax revenue over and above what we invest in them, and all five of those are included in a bill the House passed out of a committee yesterday to abolish,” Latvala said.

Fugate quietly leaves job as FEMA chief

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- Craig Fugate was never one to call attention to himself, so it's fitting that his tenure as the nation's disaster response chief ended without fanfare.

Fugate resigned as FEMA administrator just before President Trump took office, a routine move for political appointees. The acting head is Robert Fenton.

"I'm a Gator," Fugate told the Tampa Bay Times in 2011. "As soon as the president says I am done, I will be on the way back home as fast as I can get in my vehicle and crank the ignition."

Fugate ran the Florida Emergency Management Division from 2001 to 2009,  a time known for a series of punishing hurricanes. President Obama appointed him in 2009 and by all accounts, Fugate ran FEMA well, even as Gov. Rick Scott sometimes complained about a lack of federal funds.

We're seeking information from FEMA.

In early January, Fugate wrote a piece for the Tampa Bay Times on a smarter way to fund disaster recovery in America.

"FEMA has proposed an alternative based on an insurance model. What if states were required to kick in a larger share of disaster recovery costs up front? In other words, states would have to pay a "deductible" toward recovery costs for certain types of assistance after each disaster as a condition of receiving federal funds. Additionally, what if we allowed states to earn credits toward their deductible by making investments in activities that actually save lives, mitigate risks and reduce disaster costs?"

Times staff writer Craig Pittman contributed to this report.