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August 21, 2015

Marco Rubio: 'We have an Army that just cut 40,000 spots'

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said at the Iowa State Fair that to face threats from across the globe, ranging from the Middle East to Asia to Russia, the United States needs to keep its military strong.

"The most important obligation of the federal government is to keep you safe and me safe and our family safe," Rubio said on Aug. 18, 2015. "And it’s not doing that now, because we are eviscerating our defense spending."

One example he cited: "We have an Army that just cut 40,000 spots."

We were curious if that number was correct, so we decided to check it out. See what PolitiFact Florida found. 

Three takeaways from Florida's special session


The Legislature enters the final day of the 12-day special session still without an agreement on a final map. The full Senate meets at 9 a.m. to consider the House’s latest offer.

 No Deal. The Florida House on Thursday flat out rejected the Senate’s plan to put all of eastern Hillsborough County into one Congressional District. The House voted on 60-38 to instead send a revised redistricting map back to the Senate with eastern Hillsborough split between two districts. All of Hillsborough south of the Alafia River would be in U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s district, and most of the rest of eastern Hillsborough east of Interstate 75 would be in U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross’s district.

A Full Sunrise. While the House plan didn’t budge on Hillsborough, House leaders offered up a plan to put all of the city of Sunrise into one Congressional district. Currently the Broward County city is split three ways. But the House plan passed Thursday puts the city of 90,000 people fully into the 20th District, represented by U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar.

Showdown at High Noon: The Legislature has a noon deadline to complete their work. The Special Session officially ends at noon, and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said he does not anticipate agreeing to extend the session. “I feel we have a deadline that’s in place and we’re working toward that deadline,” he said. But what happens if they get to noon and there is no final map? “I would say we don’t have a map.”

August 20, 2015

Legislature hits impasse over congressional redistricting plans


A divide over how to shape Tampa Bay's congressional districts is creating uncertainty over whether the Legislature will be able to finish its job in a court-ordered special session on time.

While a legislative impasse is hardly new in the recent political dynamics of the House and the Senate, the latest breakdown is complicated by the fact that they are under a Florida Supreme Court order to draw new districts because the last two attempts failed to produce a constitutionally sound map.

What happens if they don't hit their noon Friday deadline to pass identical redistricting maps? Even legislative leaders are uncertain about the next step.

"I don't know the actual legal procedures from that point, but I'm sure I'll be briefed on that at some point knowing that we are where we are today," House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said moments after the House rejected a Senate plan that would have put all of eastern Hillsborough County — about 520,000 people — into one congressional district, instead of being split into three as they are now.

Instead, the House forwarded a new proposal that is nearly identical to the base map both chambers started with two weeks ago, but with a few "nip and tucks," as Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, called them. More specifically, Oliva, who is leading the House redistricting committee, authored the new plan that puts all of Sunrise, a city of about 90,000 people in Broward County, into one congressional district, rather than being split three ways as it is now. Riviera Beach in Palm Beach County also would be kept whole instead of being split in two congressional districts.

But Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said the House's objections to keeping eastern Hillsborough together in one county "does not make sense." He said the Senate is trying to minimize how much Hillsborough is cut up, which complies with the Supreme Court's directives.

"I can tell you that the Senate is not prepared to back away from these changes," Galvano told Oliva in a face-to-face meeting after the House rejected the Senate plan.

More here.

Senate, Gardiner respond to shadow redistricting process

In response to a Herald/Times story today detailing a shadow redistricting process used to draw state Senate districts, Senate President Andy Gardiner issued a response Thursday afternoon.

You can read the full story here. To judge for yourself, the full deposition is attached here (vol. 1) and  here (vol. 2).

The Senate entered in to a consent judgement with the Plaintiffs because on July 9, more than three years after they approved the current Senate map, the Florida Supreme Court imposed a new and unprecedented definition of legislative intent.

The Court’s most recent definition of legislative intent was not in place at the time Amendments 5 and 6 were approved for placement on the ballot in 2010 or when President Gaetz and Speaker Weatherford developed the process by which the House and Senate would draw new legislative maps in 2012.

I now have the benefit of numerous court rulings and constitutional interpretations, not available to President Gaetz in 2012, which I will consider when outlining a process to draw the new Senate map later this year.

Rather than going back and trying to dissect the 2012 redistricting process based on judicial guidance that didn’t exist until 2015, the Senate is moving forward to develop a new map that fully complies with the Court’s most recent interpretation of the constitution.

The Senate also issued what it calls a "fact check" of the story:

Continue reading "Senate, Gardiner respond to shadow redistricting process" »

House passes changes to congressional map

The Florida House approved Thursday afternoon a congressional map put forward by Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Hialeah.

This map of districts strikes alterations made in the Senate to district lines in Hillsborough and Sarasota counties, and substitutes changes in Central and South Florida to keep some cities, including Sunrise, wholely within one district.

The new map passed by a 60-38 vote.

Now, the map will go back to the Senate, which is not expected to meet again until Friday morning. Oliva, who chairs the House Select Committee on Redistricting, will meet later this afternoon with Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, in an open meeting to discuss these changes.

Lawmakers are up against a self-imposed deadline of noon tomorrow. But House Speaker Steve Crisafulli's office has said it hasn't made any moves toward extending the special session in Tallahassee.

10 years after Hurricane Katrina, a look at President Barack Obama's campaign promises

A decade after Katrina, the largest city the hurricane struck is still on the road to recovery.

The initial federal response to the catastrophe received a boatload of criticism, including from then-candidate Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential bid. Visiting New Orleans, Obama blasted how the Bush administration dealt with the hurricane.

"America failed the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast long before that failure showed up on our television sets. America failed them again during Katrina. We cannot — we must not — fail for a third time," Obama said on Aug. 27, 2007. "But tragically, that's what's happening today. And that's what needs to change."

Obama then laid out his plan for New Orleans and made a few promises. On the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we looked at eight of those promises centered on the city of New Orleans and found that Obama has largely kept his pledges to protect against future storms, restore wetlands and rebuild schools and hospitals. In some cases, such as housing relief or improving public transit, things haven’t turned out exactly as envisioned. He’s broken one promise entirely, he’s kept four and compromised on three others.

Keep reading the story about Obama's promises from PolitiFact and The Lens, a nonprofit newsroom in New Orleans.

Florida Highway Patrol gets new chief

Col. Gene Spaulding was named Thursday as the new director of the Florida Highway Patrol. He's a 22-year veteran of FHP who began his career as a state trooper in 1993 at Troop K in Fort Pierce and has worked at five stations throughout the state, most recently at Troop G in Jacksonville.

Spaulding's appointment is effective Friday, Aug. 21. He was chosen by Terry Rhodes, executive director of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and he succeeds Col. David Brierton, who retired in June.

“I am confident Col. Gene Spaulding is the right person to effectively lead the Patrol in the years ahead," Rhodes said. "He brings a field perspective to the Patrol while continuing the traditions that make the Florida Highway Patrol, quite simply, Florida’s Finest.”

Marco Rubio: Institutional racism 'doesn't just go away'


The first question Marco Rubio got Thursday when he spoke in Detroit was not about the economy -- the subject of his speech -- but about anger in minority communities.

And Rubio continued to try to stand out in the crowded 2016 Republican presidential field by striking an empathetic tone on the issue of institutional racism.

"Many African-American males feel locked out of opportunity in this country," Rubio said.

He acknowledged that the country "has a history of discriminating against people" and that the issue "doesn't just go away." Congress can't write a single law to fix it, he added, noting that there needs to be a change in society from the bottom up.

"I hope we'll take that seriously," said Rubio, who is Cuban-American. "We can't be a great nation in the 21st century when a significant percentage of the population feels locked out."

Rubio took a similar tack last week in an interview on Fox News:

It is a fact in the African-American community around this country there has been for a number of years now, a growing resentment towards the way law enforcement and its criminal justice system interacts with their community. It is particularly endemic among African-American males. That in some communities in this country have a much higher chance of interacting with the criminal justice than higher education.

We do need to face this. It is a serious problem in this country.  There are a lot of different reasons for it. Not all of them have governmental answers. But it is something we need to confront.

Jeb Bush says he shed tears over signing Florida death warrants


In an unusual moment Thursday in New Hampshire, a woman at a town hall-style meeting in Keene asked Jeb Bush if he ever cried in office when he was Florida governor.

Yes, he said.

"I cried for joy," Bush said. "You don't know the Bushes -- we're like cry babies."

He called himself a "converted Catholic" -- "It gives me a lot of serenity" -- and cited his responsibility as governor to enforce areas that "aren't in concert with your faith," like the death penalty.

"Signing death warrants and then participating in the process -- it's not like crying like sobbing crying," Bush clarified. "But there are moments in public leadership when -- quietly, you don't want to cry in public all the time -- yeah, of course."

He also spoke at length about working on issues for people with disabilities and crying tears of joy when they got care they needed.

"I'm a nerdball," Bush conceded. But he added, "this is about helping people. If you can't show your humanity..." (Americans don't want a president "from Mars.")

Earlier, Bush had made his pitch for the 2016 Republican nominee to wage a broad campaign that appeals to people one paycheck away from financial devastation.

"They're watching the political news, and they're going, 'This is completely irrelevant to my life,'" he said, without naming Donald Trump. "It's funny... Maybe it'll be a train wreck, it'll be fun to watch or whatever... We have to reach out to them with policies that are not liberal."

"You don't have to be liberal to care about people," he said.

WSJ: Bush clan will headline Jeb fundraiser in Houston

From the Wall Street Journal:

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is bringing out the big guns for his next donor summit, turning to his father and brother to headline the event in Texas this fall, according to a copy of the invitation.

Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush will be the big draw at the third major-donor conference Jeb Bush has organized to raise money for his 2016 White House bid.

The Houston gathering, dubbed the “Jeb Celebration,” illustrates the pros and cons ofJeb Bush’s famous bloodline because it is sure to draw legions of donors loyal to his dad and brother while rekindling voters’ concerns about electing the son and brother of the last two Republican presidents.

More here.