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August 25, 2015

Is 'precedence' behind the House and Senate redistricting divide?

Maybe it's all about October?

In the ideological divide that has led to stalemate over the congressional redistricting map, Republican leaders in the House have argued that the Senate map lacks "consistency."

The proposed Senate plan no longer divides Hillsborough and Sarasota counties, but it creates a new division by shifting the Orlando-based district, now held by U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, into Lake County.

Republicans in the Senate have staunchly defended the Senate's position. Even Sen. Bill Galvano, Senate Reapportionment Committee chairman, argues it is the preferred approach, even though his home county remains more whole in the House's map than the Senate's.

The House argues that by failing to apply the same standards across the map, the Senate risks having the court reject its map. The Senate counters that the House's base map, as drawn by staff, fails to include the legislative input essential to the redistricting process. 

Now, both want the court to decide which map is better.

If the Senate wins, the court confirms that notion that a map can reflect the regional input of local legislators inconsistently without violating the redistricting standards as interpreted by the court. That's important as lawmakers prepare to redraw the Senate map in October. (Remember, it was the Senate that admitted to violating the Fair Districts provisions and called for the session to revise the Senate map. The House remained silent.)

If the House wins, the call for consistency will prevail. 

“We are not here to set precedent,'' said Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, the House Reapportionment Committee chairman. "After the Senate admitted violating the law, we now are here to comply with the law. So therefore no rational will be acceptable in one part of the map but not in another. It has to be consistently applied." 

The Senate has understandably more at stake than the House during that exercise. Notes Oliva: “I won’t be here five or six years from now. I’m never running for Senate under any circumstances."

Senate responds to House: we're 'ready willing and able to reconvene' session

The Florida Senate has asked the Florida Supreme Court to deny the House's request to relinquish jurisdiction in order to allow the trial court to mediate their dispute over the congressional map.

In a motion filed Tuesday, the Senate argues that the trial court already has the "authority to modify" the deadlines it originally set and repeated its contention that the Senate "is ready, willing, and able to reconvene in special session to fulfill the Legislature’s obligations to draw new congressional districts."

On Monday, the House asked the court to relinquish jurisdiction of the redistricting case for 60 days and allow Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis to conduct hearings and decide whether the House or Senate map is best. 

The Senate added, however, that if the Supreme Court concludes that it is necessary to extend the trial court's jurisdiction, it should limit it to allowing the court to "recommend approval or disapproval of any remedial plan passed by the Legislature.

"The Florida Senate believes that an initial impasse should not deprive the trial court of jurisdiction to review any plan that the Legislature passes at a later date."  Download Senate response

Lewis has scheduled a scheduling hearing on the issue for 3 p.m. today. 

Candidates for Senate, legislative leaders headline Orlando conference


With the halls of the Capitol emptied out after a contentious special session and Gov. Rick Scott on vacation in Colorado, the state's political hotspot this week will be Orlando at the Associated Industries of Florida's annual conference.

The group has six big-name officials lined up to speak Wednesday and Thursday at the JW Marriott Orlando.

Among them are three Republican candidates for U.S. Senate: U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach and David Jolly of Indian Shores, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

Fresh off an end of session blow-up, Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, are also both on the agenda, although their appearances are separated by sevaral hours Wednesday morning. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is on the list as well.

AIF was one of the largest supporters of a Medicaid expansion plan in the regular legislative session, but it's notable that their annual conference billing includes supporters and opponents of the proposal, which led to a breakdown of the budget process and ultimately failed in the House during a special session in June.

On Tuesday, AIF hosted a golf tournament at the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando that featured at least 18 state lawmakers as "celebrity golfers."

Rubio gets highest job approval rating yet in new Florida poll


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio may be stuck in the middle of the pack in the race for the White House, but back home he is getting his best ratings ever from Floridians for the job he is doing in the U.S. Senate.

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows 57 percent of 1,093 voters said they approve of the job Rubio is doing as senator. It is the highest rating Rubio has ever had from the polling organization, which regularly polls Florida.

In April of this year, 54 percent approved of how Rubio was doing his job – tying a previous record high he last enjoyed in 2012.

Rubio’s current 57 percent approval rating is about 8 percentage points higher than he had in a Quinnipiac Poll and 10 percentage points up from their February poll.

And it is light years ahead of where he was at the start of his tenure in the Senate. In February 2011, just 42 percent approved of Rubio’s performance, though he had only been in office for a month at that point.

Rubio’s approval rating is well ahead of both Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, and Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat. Both had an approval rating of 45 percent in the latest Quinnipiac Poll.

Alan Grayson’s first ad attacks Patrick Murphy’s legislative record

Alan Grayson is out with his first web ad attacking fellow Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy for his legislative record.

Grayson of Orlando and Murphy of Jupiter are battling in the primary for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s seat.

Set to the schoolhouse rock song “I’m just a bill” the ad stems from an listicle that called Murphy one of "the least-effective members of Congress."


Continue reading "Alan Grayson’s first ad attacks Patrick Murphy’s legislative record" »

Jeb Bush: Donald Trump 'was a Democrat longer in the last decade than he was a Republican'

After losing ground to Donald Trump in the polls following the first GOP presidential debate, Jeb Bush has gone on the attack, questioning the real estate mogul’s Republican bona fides.

"Mr. Trump doesn't have a proven conservative record," Bush said at a town hall in Merrimack, N.H., on Aug. 19, 2015. "He was a Democrat longer in the last decade than he was a Republican."

Bush also said Trump has given more money to Democrats than he has given to Republicans, a claim we’ve previously rated Mostly False. Bush tweeted video of the town hall the same night, calling Trump "a tax-hiking Democrat."

In his defense, Trump said on Face The Nation on Aug. 23 that living in Manhattan for years affected his alignment.

"I was from an area that was all Democrat," Trump said. "And, frankly, over the years, I have — and especially as I have gotten more and more involved — I have evolved."

We know Trump has changed his political affiliation several times over the years, but we wanted to figure out just when and how the billionaire liked to party.

See what Joshua Gillin of PolitiFact Florida found.

Voters clueless about Fla. Senate field; Scott's numbers improve

A new statewide poll in Florida by Quinnipiac University largely comes up empty by finding that every major candidate for U.S. Senate in both parties is so unknown that "none has achieved enough voter recognition for a valid measure of their favorability."

And in a small sign of progress for Republican Gov. Rick Scott, his job approval edged upward, with a divided electorate approving of his performance by 45 to 44 percent. That's hardly a ringing endorsement, but it marks the first time since February 2011, one month after Scott took office, that he scored a positive approval rating with voters. The previous Q-poll in late June had Scott underwater, with 39 percent approving of his job performance and 49 percent disapproving.

Quinnipiac polled 1,093 Florida voters from Aug. 7 to 18. The overall poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

As expected, the race for U.S. Senate is completely wide open and very few voters recognize the names of the people jockeying to replace Republican Marco Rubio.

In the Republican Senate field, 92 percent of voters have not heard of entrepreneur and combat veteran Todd Wilcox of Orlando; 87 percent didn't recognize the name of U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach; and 86 percent didn't know enough about either U.S. Rep. David Jolly of St. Petersburg or Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera to rate him.

Former state Attorney General and U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum's name was a mystery to 71 percent of voters, a stunning statistic considering McCollum has run four times for statewide office in the past 15 years, including previous two Senate bids in 2000 and 2004.

Among Democrats, the most familiar name was U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando, but his numbers suggest trouble at 10 percent favorable, 22 percent unfavorable and 67 percent not knowing who he is. The "don't recognize" numbers was 86 percent for one-term U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and 81 percent for two-term U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter.

August 24, 2015

At Port Miami, developers rush in where David Beckham failed to build

Port soccer stadium@doug_hanks

David Beckham’s first choice for a soccer site would be transformed into a mega-yacht marina, convention center and office hub if a development group can secure a no-bid lease on nine acres of prime waterfront at PortMiami.

Backed by three county commissioners, the proposal by Miami Yacht Harbor seeks to take over a fuel-spill facility’s port lease and then secure a new agreement for 90 years on the same waterfront that launched Beckham’s soccer quest in early 2014. Plans include a commercial center with offices geared toward maritime businesses, restaurants, duty-free shopping and about 800 hotel rooms for cruise passengers, and a convention center to host trade-industry events.

As outlined in legislation sponsored by Commissioner Bruno Barreiro and heading for a committee vote Thursday, Miami Yacht Harbor would negotiate to lease the nine-acre site without Miami-Dade opening up the deal to other bidders. Two prominent figures in Miami-Dade political circles, former legislative aide Opal Jones and airport concessionaire Bill Perry, are on the development team.

In an interview, Jones said the county’s dormant plans for developing the southwest corner call for the kind of fast-track proposal Miami Yacht Harbor is offering.

“They have been trying to develop the port for years,” said Jones, who served as chief of staff to Betty Ferguson, a county commissioner in the 1990s and 2000s. “How many times are they going to go out and ask people to build this property?”

More here

Journalist Michael Putney responds to Miami Beach commissioner's attack ad


The war of words between local veteran political journalist Michael Putney and Miami Beach Commissioner Jonah Wolfson continued Sunday on WPLG-TV’s This Week in South Florida.

Program host Putney took time at the end of the show to respond to a full-page attack ad bought by Relentless for Progress (RFP), the new PAC that’s become the talk of political circles in Miami Beach and around the county for raising more than $1 million in a few months.

The ad, which ran three times in the Miami Herald, was a lengthy letter signed by Wolfson, who is the PAC chairman. In the letter, he blasted Putney for writing a Herald op-ed column criticizing the PAC, Wolfson and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who donated $5,000 to the political group.

Continue reading "Journalist Michael Putney responds to Miami Beach commissioner's attack ad" »

Acting alone, House asks Supreme Court to let trial court mediate map dispute

The intra-party feuding that led to a legislative stalemate on congressional redistricting continued Monday as Republican House leaders split from the Senate and asked the Florida Supreme Court to allow a trial court judge to mediate their dispute.

"We are in an unprecedented and unique time, and every action we take is charting new territory,'' acknowledged House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, in a letter to House members after House lawyers filed a motion asking the Florida Supreme Court to relinquish jurisdiction of the redistricting case for 60 days.

The House then asked to court to allow Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis to conduct hearings and decide whether the House or Senate map is best.

But Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said in a statement late Monday that the Senate is not prepared to relinquish control to the trial court, which has set a scheduling hearing for Tuesday, and would prefer to come back into special session to find a compromise.

"During tomorrow’s hearing, the Senate attorneys will convey to the court the Senate’s continued willingness to compromise and work with the House to fulfill our responsibility to draw a constitutionally compliant congressional map for Florida,” Gardiner said.

Continue reading "Acting alone, House asks Supreme Court to let trial court mediate map dispute" »