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September 30, 2015

Jeb Bush: Marco Rubio 'followed my leadership' in Tallahassee


Jeb Bush got in a couple of subtle digs at rival Marco Rubio in an interview Wednesday with CNN: He called him a follower in Tallahassee and suggested electing another first-term senator as president to follow Barack Obama would be foolish.

Obama, Bush said, has "been the greatest, most divisive president in modern history," according to CNN. "What we need is someone with proven leadership to fix things, and I believe I have those skills."

Bush has slid in early polls, while Rubio has seen a rise, particularly since Rubio's strong performance at the last Republican presidential debate.

The difference between the two men, Bush insisted, is his track record as Florida governor.

"I disrupted the old order in Tallahassee," Bush said. "I relied on people like Marco Rubio and many others to follow my leadership, and we moved the needle."

GOP Senate candidates take differing approaches to government shutdown


When the U.S. House voted Wednesday afternoon to avoid a government shutdown, the two Republican congressmen eyeing a U.S. Senate seat from Florida took completely different approaches.

Rep. David Jolly voted in favor of a continuing resolution that keeps the federal government open on a temporary basis. But Rep. Ron DeSantis joined 150 other Republicans in voting against the resolution.

“My concern within the caucus is those members who truly think that shutting down government is a legitimate tool,” Jolly said. “We empower President Obama every time we shut down government.”

The shutdown push was driven by opponents of Planned Parenthood who stood firm against funding the organization.

“Continuing resolutions are no way to legislate,” DeSantis said in a written statement. “Today's continuing resolution extends the spending priorities of the Harry Reid Senate from 2014, fails to direct money away from organizations like Planned Parenthood.”

Two other candidates for Sen. Marco Rubio’s seat are current members of Congress: Democratic Reps. Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson. They joined the rest of the Democrats in voting against the shutdown.

Julie Jones conducts interviews for top prison jobs, includes incumbents

The former head of the State of Illinois’ Department of Corrections and 12 current Florida wardens and regional prison directors are among the list of candidates being interviewed by Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones in her search to fill the four top jobs to manage the state’s prison system.

In August, Jones asked the 12 top officials in charge of prisons and probation to reapply for their jobs as part of a major realignment designed to centralize power at the agency. As part of the exercise, she accepted 71 applications for the three existing regional director of institutions jobs and the open post at a newly added fourth region. She has now narrowed the list to 17.  Download Applicants Names for Regional Director of Institution Advertisement (1)

Among them are current regional chiefs Sam Culpepper, Eric Lane and Randy Tifft, as well as assistant regional directors Rodney Tomlinson and Larry Mayo. All of those officials have been at the helm during one of the most brutal periods in Department of Corrections history as the number of inmates who died of unnatural causes reached record numbers, use of force was at a five-year high, and the agency was forced to fire and discipline officers involved with inmate abuse.

Also applying for the regional director of institutions jobs are regional wardens Jennifer Folsom and Brian Riedl, Lake County Correctional Institution warden Erich Von Hummel, Suwannee Correctional Institution Warden Thomas Reid, Tomoka Correctional Institution Warden Terry Royal, Zephyrhills Correctional Institution Warden Jeffrey Trovillion; Charlotte Correctional Institution Warden John Willis, Central Florida Reception Center Warden Michael Morgan. Michael Pavicic, a Fort Myers resident who formerly worked as a corrections officer at the Cuyahoga County sheriff’s department in Ohio has also applied. 

Only four applicants are from outside Florida: James Dzurenda, deputy commissioner for the New York City Department of Correction and Salvador "Tony" Godinez, former head of the Illinois prison system who retired in March after a new governor was elected, Milon Woolf, warden at the the Idaho Department of Corrections and Gary Albrecht, a contract officer with the U.S. military command in Afghanistan, overseeing corrections education and training.

Godinez was head of that Illinios’ sixth largest agency with 78,000 inmates and 11,000 employees. He came under fire last year after a Chicago Sun-Times investigation found that the agency permitted a former gang member with a lengthy criminal record to be hired as an advisor to the chief of parole. During Godinez’s four-year tenure, the agency struggled with overcrowding issues as then Gov. Pat Quinn sought to close prisons and halfway houses.

Continue reading "Julie Jones conducts interviews for top prison jobs, includes incumbents" »

State-run insurance company continues to shrink policy count, CEO says


The state government’s role as a property insurer is only going to get smaller over the next four months.

Citizens Property Insurance has already passed off 1 million insurance policies to private carriers since 2012, and another surge is coming over the next four month, said Barry Gilway, CEO and president of Citizens.

Gilway told the Citizens board of governors on Wednesday that there will be enormous action in October and November and he foresees a very strong January coming for take-outs - policies offered up to private carriers.

By the end of the year, Gilway predicted tens of thousands of more policies will be in the hands of the private market.

“So we’re still thinking that we’re going to be – by the end of the year – we’ll be in the low 500,000 range,” Gilway said of total policies.

By the end of 2016, Citizens projects it will have 450,000 policies or less.

Continue reading "State-run insurance company continues to shrink policy count, CEO says" »

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson speaks on Senate floor about Miami Beach tide floods

Climate Time 01 EKM


Florida Sen. Bill Nelson was on Miami Beach this week as part of former Vice President Al Gore's climate-change training conference.

The Democratic senator got to experience firsthand how the seasonal king tides flood the city. He showed off enlarged photographs showing water up to pedestrians' ankles.

"This is downtown Miami Beach. You see the fella? It's above his ankles. And he's up on the curb. Right here is the curb. He steps down and it comes up just below his knee. You see the cars. You see the water. That's downtown Miami Beach," Nelson said. "This is not just the phenomenon of the big full moon. This is the phenomenon of sea-level rise."

"Mr. President," he added, addressing Senate President Mitch McConnell, "we can't keep denying what in fact is happening, and the proof's in the pudding, and the proof is right here."


Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff

Florida CFO Jeff Atwater reconsidering U.S. Senate race


Almost six months after Jeff Atwater unequivocally declared he would not be a candidate for the U.S. Senate, the state’s elected chief financial officer is once again considering jumping into the contest saying there is still a possibility he will run in 2016.

Atwater said friends and people he has deep respect for have been constantly asking him if he might be a candidate, despite his April declaration he would not run.

“Yea, I would say there is still a possibility of that,” Atwater, a Republican from Palm Beach County, said in an interview with the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau.

The GOP field for the U.S. Senate is crowded, but mostly with candidates who have never run for statewide office before. The field already includes U.S. Reps David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, and Ron Desantis, R-Ponte Vedra Beach, as well as Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox. U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson are the leading candidates running for the Democratic nomination. 

Early polls have shown voters unfamiliar with any of the GOP candidates running. While Atwater is far from a household name, he has run two statewide campaigns in 2010 and last year’s 2014 re-election.

Atwater was thought to be a front runner if he got in the race because of his elective experience. Prior to being chief financial officer he was a member of the Florida Legislature, where he rose to become Senate President in 2008. But Atwater stunned GOP insiders in April when he told the Times/Herald he would not run for the U.S. Senate.

"While I have certainly taken these words of support under consideration, I will not be a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2016," Atwater later posted on Facebook.

But it was a different answer this week asked about running for the seat.

“We won’t rule that out,” Atwater said.

The U.S. Senate seat open in 2016 is currently held by Marco Rubio, who is not seeking re-election so he can run for president.

Poll asks voters for words to describe Donald Trump


A new Suffolk University/USA Today poll published Wednesday asked respondents to describe some declared or potential presidential candidates in one word.

The results for Republican Donald Trump are striking.

Here are the top five words or groups of words they offered in the open-ended question:

1. Idiot/Jerk/Stupid/Dumb

2. Arrogant

3. Crazy/Nuts

4. Buffoon/Clown/Comical/Joke

5. Unfavorable/Dislike him

Trump remains the first choice among GOP likely voters, with 23 percent. Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina are tied for second place with 13 percent, followed by Marco Rubio (9 percent) and Jeb Bush (8 percent).

The error margin was 5 percentage points.

ABC News: Jeb Bush doesn't think Washington Redskins should change name

From ABC News:

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush is siding with the Washington Redskins’ right to keep the team’s name, despite protests from Native American groups and pressure from Congress to force a change.

“I don’t think it should change it,” Bush said on the inaugural episode of "The Arena" radio program, set to debut Friday afternoon on Sirius XM’s POTUS Channel 124. “But again, I don’t think politicians ought to be having any say about that, to be honest with you. I don’t find it offensive. Native American tribes generally don’t find it offensive.”

Bush cited the NCAA’s decision to let Florida State University keep its Seminoles nickname in 2005, while Bush was the governor of Florida, in explaining his thinking on the name for Washington’s football franchise.

“We had a similar kind of flap with FSU, if you recall, the Seminoles. And the Seminole tribe itself kind of came to the defense of the university and it subsided,” he said. “It’s a sport, for crying out loud. It’s a football team. Washington has a huge fan base -- I’m missing something here, I guess.”

More here.

UPDATE: Democratic National Committee chairwoman and Weston Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz issued a statement on Bush's remarks:

Jeb Bush's support of the Washington football team's name and mascot is extremely insulting to Native American people and is one of many reasons he will not earn the Native American vote. The team's name is a racial slur that perpetuates negative stereotypes of Native American people, and reduces proud cultures to an insulting caricature.

Over the past few weeks, Jeb Bush has shown a shocking disregard for America's diverse society. First, during an exchange about immigration from Latin America, he slurred American children born in this country to immigrants. Then, he clarified that the offensive term he used was, 'frankly, more related to Asian people.' Last week, he insulted African-Americans, implying that they only voted for Democrats because of 'free stuff,' and also said America should not have a multicultural society. So much for the Republican Party's plan to appeal to minorities.

Donald Trump's Pants on Fire claim about unemployment

During the televised press conference in which he announced his tax plan, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump returned to a claim he has made before -- that the official unemployment rate -- currently 5.1 percent -- woefully undercounts the percentage of people who are unemployed.

During the Sept. 28, 2015, media event, Trump described an unemployment rate in the range of 5 percent as "such a phony number."

"The number isn't reflective," he said. "I've seen numbers of 24 percent -- I actually saw a number of 42 percent unemployment. Forty-two percent." He continued, "5.3 percent unemployment -- that is the biggest joke there is in this country. … The unemployment rate is probably 20 percent, but I will tell you, you have some great economists that will tell you it's a 30, 32. And the highest I've heard so far is 42 percent."

We previously rated False a claim by Trump that "our real unemployment is anywhere from 18 to 20 percent." So if 18 to 20 percent is false, how does 42 percent rate? We took a closer look.

See what Louis Jacobson of PolitiFact found.

District results released for new Florida Standards Assessments

@cveiga and @ByKristenMClark

The much-anticipated results for Florida’s new standardized tests are in, and they are likely only to fuel criticism of the Florida Standards Assessments.

After months of waiting — students took the tests last school year — the Florida Department of Education on Wednesday released preliminary scores that provide a glimpse of how students did in comparison with their peers across the state.

The rankings show that more than a quarter of students in Miami-Dade County ranked near the bottom for each of the five tests. In neighboring Broward County, a quarter or more of students landed in the bottom – except for the algebra end of course exams, on which students did slightly better.

The results are not actual scores; they show only how each district’s students fared relative to other districts. It’s still not known how many students passed or failed because the state has yet to finalize cut-off scores.

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart released her recommendations this week, giving the legislature 90 days to review it. The State Board of Education is expected to adopt the “cut scores” in January.

More here.