February 13, 2015

Rubio talks Bush and presidential aspirations, as others talk up Rubio


@CAdamsMcClatchy, @LightmanDavid

The relationship between potential presidential aspirants U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush – both Florida Republicans – was detailed on the front page of The Washington Post Friday. It showed a pragmatic and mutually beneficial relationship that may now be turning competitive.

Rubio addressed the issue with the Miami Herald as well this week, during an interview in which he mostly deflected talk of presidential campaigns –- “soon,” he said of his decision –- but did offer his standard, friendly comment about his budding rivalry with Bush.

Asked if he had spoken with Bush about a presidential run, and whether Bush’s decision would affect his, Rubio said:

“Well, Governor Bush and I are friends, and I admire him greatly. I’m not going to talk to the press about what we discussed. Suffice it to say that I’ve said before that my decision on whether I run or not will not be based on anyone else’s decision. And he would tell you the exact same thing.”

The Weekly Standard, an influential conservative political magazine, also weighed in on Rubio Friday, and its conclusion was quite flattering: “He is the most talented communicator in politics today. He is a visceral conservative who makes the case for limited government and American greatness better than anyone in the Republican field—better than anyone, anywhere.”

Senate committee to take up plan to create outside board to police prisons

Sen. Greg EversFlorida’s prison system would undergo a historic overhaul that would require the troubled agency to report to an independent oversight board with the power to investigate and crackdown on abuse and wrongdoing, under a proposal filed Friday by a key senator. 

Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, the chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, filed a 40-page amendment to SB 7020 that weakens the governor’s authority over the Department of Corrections in the wake of mounting evidence that the agency can no longer police itself.

The agency has been pummeled by reports of suspicious inmate deaths, allegations of cover-ups, and claims by whistleblowers that its chief inspector general has sabotaged investigations and ignored inmate abuse. Use of force in state prisons has almost doubled in the past five years, and critics say it has led to widespread abuse among untrained prison guards working 12-hour shifts in understaffed prisons.

Under the plan, which Evers hopes to win legislative approval, future DOC secretaries would be appointed by the governor but must get the consent of the independently-elected Cabinet -- a move that will dilute the governor’s control over the agency that has seen massive budget cutbacks and four secretaries in four years.

"There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come,’’ said Allison DeFoor, director of the director of the Project on Accountable Justice, a consortium of four universities which recommended the oversight board as one of the reforms needed to bring more accountability to the prison system.

He said that many governors have tried to fix Florida’s prisons and he believes legislators have concluded that Scott, and Julie Jones, his latest DOC secretary, now need outside help.

"As Albert Einstein said, ‘the mind that created the problem cannot solve it,’’’ DeFoor said. "So it’s time to round up a posse and get this fixed.’’ More here.

Continue reading "Senate committee to take up plan to create outside board to police prisons" »

In Miami GOP stronghold, people sign up in droves for Obamacare -- but they don't necessarily like it


Obamacare a epfThe man stood up in a huff after spending half an hour of his Saturday in Hialeah reluctantly signing up for health insurance he didn’t want.

“It’s like Communism!” Pedro Fuentes said, spitting out the words after enrolling in a plan through the Affordable Care Act that would cost his family more than $90 a month.

No city in the country, when measured by ZIP codes, has more enrollments through the federal insurance exchange than Hialeah, one of the most Republican cities in America. But many of the people registering aren’t happy about it.

They don’t like President Obama. They don’t want health insurance. And they certainly can’t fathom having to pay a tax penalty for failing to get covered.

That has brought them here, to Ñooo Qué Barato (“Damn, How Cheap”), Hialeah’s best-known bargain store, where a banner by the entrance reads, in Spanish, REFORMA DE LA SALUD. Infórmese aquí. Inscríbase ahora.HEALTHCARE REFORM. Inform yourself here. Enroll now.

More here.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

Raquel Regalado using appeals-board seat to spark another fight


It didn't take long for likely Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Raquel Regalado to use her new seat on a county board to get a confrontation rolling.

Regalado recently had her fellow school board members name her to an open seat on Miami-Dade's Value Adjustment Board, which presides over an appeals process that has cost both the school system and MIami-Dade's county government millions of dollars in lost property-tax revenue.

On Friday, Regalado issued a memorandum to fellow VAB members calling for a special VAB meeting within two weeks to discuss the kind of changes she had tried to get implemented through a school-board lawsuit against Miami-Dade.

(Regalado's push for litigation was minimized by the administration of Miami-Dade Carlos Gimenez, which noted it also suffers from the VAB's actions but can't change anything without state intervention.)

Read Regalado's letter to VAB members here, as well as her memo outlining the changes she's proposing. 

Regalado appears ready to take on Gimenez in the 2016 mayoral election, and has already waged a public campaign opposing his effort to raise property taxes for a new courthouse, and recently launched a court fight against Miami-Dade awarding a $9 million subsidy for the SkyRise Miami observation tower. Gimenez's camp portrays Regalado's moves as grand-standing aimed at generating headlines. 

Marco Rubio faces stiff odds in reversing Cuba policy

via @CAdamsMcClatchy

In December, just hours after the White House abruptly changed course in the nation’s relationship with Cuba, Sen. Marco Rubio laid down his marker.

“I intend to use every tool at our disposal in the majority to unravel as many of these changes as possible,” he said Dec. 17.

It’s now February – and despite congressional hearings and ongoing pressure on the administration, it’s not clear that Rubio and other opponents can undo what the president already did.

Rubio is perhaps the nation’s most prominent lawmaker on the Cuba issue. He’s a Cuban-American, a member of the Senate’s Republican majority and a potential presidential candidate. And he represents Florida, Cuba’s closest U.S. neighbor.

But according to Cuba experts, Rubio might have little ability to reverse Obama’s changes. And Rubio might have realized that.

More here.

Governor fills empty Miami-Dade school board seat


Lubby Navarro is the newest member of the Miami-Dade County School Board.

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday appointed Navarro to the seat vacated by Rep. Carlos Curbelo when he won a bid for congress in November.

Navarro, 40, is a familiar face: she’s currently executive director of intergovernmental affairs for the school district. She also serves on the Redland Community Council and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

District spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego said Navarro will have to take a leave of absence from her current position with the school system, or resign. According to the district, Navarro’s current salary is $85,000, compared with the school board’s $42,500.

Navarro did not immediately return a call for comment.

Navarro was born in Cuba and attended local public schools, according to her application for the position. She worked in the Florida Legislature and for Miami-Dade County, and called herself an “active” volunteer for the local Republican party.

Her term begins immediately and runs until Jan. 2017.

Jeb Bush's PAC spreads wealth to GOPers in key primary states

via @lesleyclark

Jeb Bush’s political action committee announced Friday that it’s delivered more than $120,000 to Republican candidates and early primary states as the former Florida governor launches an aggressive fund raising bid and potential run for the Republican presidential nomination.

Bush’s Right to Rise gave $10,000 each to the Republican parties in states that play outsize roles in the primaries and early presidential contest including Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Bush also gave $5,200 to Sens. Kelly Ayotte, N.H.; Richard Burr, N.C.; Chuck Grassley, Iowa; Rob Portman, Ohio; Tim Scott, S.C. and Reps. Barbara Comstock, Va.; Trey Gowdy, S.C.; Frank Guinta, N.H.; Joe Heck, Nevada; Mia Love, Utah; Martha McSally, Ariz.; Elise Stefanik, N.Y.; David Young, Iowa; and Lee Zeldin, N.Y.

Bush, who serves as honorary chair of his committee, said in a statement he was “proud to support great conservative candidates who are committed to renewing America's promise by expanding opportunity and igniting upward mobility in our country.”

The distributions come as Bush gears up a formidable fund raising operation. Bush was to raise money on Wall Street Wednesday at what Politico called an “eye-popping $100,000 per-ticket Park Avenue event hosted by private equity mogul Henry Kravis and his wife.”

The Sunlight Foundation notes the committee has at least two events next week, including one in Washington, D.C., hosted by BGR Group, a mostly Republican lobbying group founded by former Mississippi Gov. and Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour.

Chicago Tribune: George Sheldon to be named new chief of Illinois' DCF

George Sheldon may have lost his bid for Attorney General last year to Pam Bondi, but his reputation as a Mr. Fix-It is intact.

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, has selected the Florida Democrat as the new head of that state's Department of Children and Family Services.

Sheldon couldn't be reached for comment.

From today's Chicago Tribune:

In his first major step toward repairing Illinois' faltering child welfare system, Gov. Bruce Rauner has selected a prominent Florida Democrat to head the Department of Children and Family Services, the Tribune has learned.

George Sheldon, 67, who was credited with efforts to reform Florida's often-criticized Department of Children and Families when he ran that agency from 2008 through 2011, will be named in an announcement Friday, according to a state official who confirmed the appointment.

Sheldon was best known for sharply reducing the number of Florida children placed in state protective custody, for releasing formerly confidential state records detailing abuse and neglect allegations at assisted living facilities statewide, and for expanding adoption opportunities for gay men and women.

He subsequently served under President Barack Obama as acting assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, administering a $50 billion budget.

Continue reading "Chicago Tribune: George Sheldon to be named new chief of Illinois' DCF" »

The Alcee Hastings' Truth-O-Meter file: claims about dildos, guns and voting rights

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., recently upped his profile as an outspoken and provocative liberal when he bashed Texas as a "crazy" state.

At a Feb. 2 House Rules Committee hearing, lawmakers were discussing Texas’ decision not to participate in state health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. At one point, Hastings said, "I don't know about in your state, which I think is a crazy state to begin with, and I mean that just as I said it."

U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, a Texas Republican, said Hastings’ comment was "defamatory," setting off a battle later parodied on The Daily Show.

Then, on Feb. 5, Hastings gave an interview to CNN in which he cited Texas law to bolster his case that the state is "crazy."

Hastings is a former federal judge who was acquitted by a federal jury of bribery charges in 1983, later impeached by the House of Representatives, and removed from the federal bench in 1989 by the Senate.

Neverthless, he was elected to Congress in 1992 and represents District 20, which includes parts of Broward, Palm Beach and Hendry counties. Hastings, a resident of Miramar, is one of Broward County’s longest serving politicians and plans to seekre-election in 2016.

Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the rest of our story about our fact-checks of Hastings' recent claims and one he made during the 2012 noncitizen voter purge.

February 12, 2015

Pursuing a county golf course, Donald Trump answered the call to help mayor's campaign


How did Donald Trump come to write a large campaign check for Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez's reelection effort while he pursues a take-over of a prime county golf course?

Gimenez called and asked, according to a Trump executive. 

Ed Russo, Trump's point person in talks over a proposal to manage Miami-Dade's Crandon Park course, said Gimenez called last month to request a contribution. Campaign records show Trump wrote a check for $15,000 to Miami-Dade Residents First, Gimenez's political action committee. 

"The mayor called me and said he was running for reelection, and asked if we could help him out," Russo said Thursday during an interview at the Trump National Doral Miami resort. "I called Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump said he would be honored." 

Gimenez could not be reached for comment Thursday. He is believed to have called dozens of potential donors last month during the launch of his fund-raising effort for 2016, a standard exercise for an incumbent seeking the cash needed to mount a campaign. 

His committee raised an eye-popping $500,000 in January. Companies and individuals with business before the county are the primary font of campaign cash for incumbents in Miami-Dade. A number of county contractors, tenants and developers joined Trump in meeting the $15,000 cap that Gimenez's fund-raisers set for January gifts.

Gimenez's call to Russo sheds more light on a relationship that became a complication for the mayor this week. On Wednesday, Gimenez sent a memo to County Commissioners recusing himself from the Trump matter, citing one of his son's lobbying work for Trump in Doral. 

Trump submitted his Crandon plan to the Parks department in July. He's pledging to spend $10 million on upgrades while retaining discounted rates for local residents and continuing to operate it as a public course. His company would assume control of the waterfront spot on Key Biscayne and retain the bulk of any profit Trump can generate from what is now a money-losing course, according to Trump's proposal.   

The Miami Herald disclosed Trump's Crandon ambitions this week, prompting Gimenez's recusal memo. Gimenez wrote commissioners that he just learned Miami-Dade had received an unsolicited proposal from Trump about Crandon. 

Aides later clarified that Gimenez meant he was unaware of the proposal's arrival, since he played an active role in the Trump organization's interactions with Miami-Dade since 2013. 

Gimenez and Trump last year traded letters on the celebrity developer's interest in Crandon, and the mayor met with top aides and Russo in early 2014 about a possible deal. 

In late 2013, Russo said he traveled to Crandon with Trump and a golf pro to play with Gimenez. He later proposed spending $10 million improving the course in exchange for a management contract. 

Gimenez's recusal this week left Jean Monestime, as the County Commission's chairman, authorized to recommend to fellow commissioners whether to accept Trump's proposal. County rules governing unsolicited proposals give commissioners the option of rejecting Trump's plan outright, or using it as the framework for a bidding process that would let other would-be managers try to beat Trump's offer.

That process is expected to get started this spring. In his interview, Russo said Trump hadn't received any special treatment from the Gimenez administration, even with one of the mayor's sons, Carlos J. Gimenez, working as a Trump lobbyist in Doral.  

"What help have I received?" Russo asked. "I should have been on the [County Commission] agenda four months ago... If I could have picked up the phone and got the mayor's help, maybe I would have gotten the approvals already."