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July 05, 2017

Trump plan to overhaul air traffic control has key opponent: Mario Diaz-Balart

Mario Diaz-Balart


One month ago, Donald Trump publicly backed an overhaul of the nation’s air traffic control system during a White House speech, the first major policy proposal announced by the president during “Infrastructure Week.”

But standing in Trump’s way is the only Miami House Republican who voted for him during the 2016 election: Mario Diaz-Balart.

Diaz-Balart is chairman of the House subcommittee tasked with funding the Federal Aviation Administration, a powerful position that allows the veteran lawmaker to shape legislation that affects the federal budget. He’s worried that public oversight of the nation’s air-traffic control system could end if it’s run by a private non-profit controlled by various stakeholders in the airline industry.

Proponents of the plan say that privatizing the nation’s air traffic control system will lead to faster implementation of GPS technology that will result in fewer flight delays and queues on the tarmac.

Diaz-Balart bristles at calling the proposal “privatization.”

“It’s not privatization,” Diaz-Balart said. “It’s a monopoly and it will remain a monopoly as opposed to being a monopoly being run by the public sector. It will be a monopoly run by private interests with zero oversight. There’s still no competition.”

Diaz-Balart said it’s important to have elected officials in charge of overseeing the nation’s air traffic control system, because everyday citizens can choose to vote someone out of office if they think a member of Congress isn’t doing enough to rectify airplane noise or pollution complaints.

In the past, Diaz-Balart has contacted the FAA on flight paths through downtown Miami and said the FAA made changes to the flight paths after his office reached out.

That doesn’t happen if a private non-profit takes control, said Diaz-Balart, whose district includes Miami International Airport.

“Who would people go to if in fact there are issues of excess noise?” Diaz-Balart said. “Who are you going to complain to? Right now you complain to your member of Congress and we win some and lose some. I don’t have a problem with special interests but I do have a problem when you’re giving those special interests run of the U.S. airspace without competition.”

Airlines for America, a group composed of major commercial airlines in favor of privatization, said Diaz-Balart’s opposition won’t slow the bill down.

“It would be unfortunate for political turf wars in Washington to stand between the residents of South Florida and the modern, 21st century ATC system they are paying for but haven’t yet received,” Airlines for America spokesman Vaughn Jennings said in an email. “There is unprecedented momentum in favor of reforming our nation’s antiquated ATC infrastructure. We are confident that the bill will reach the floor.”

Read more here. 

Talk of fixing HB 7069 ‘way too premature,’ Hialeah lawmaker says

Florida Legislature (12)


Although a major school reform bill was signed into law last month amid heavy criticism and calls that it be fixed immediately, an influential lawmaker from Miami-Dade County indicates that issue won’t be a priority on the Legislature’s agenda for 2018.

“It’s way too premature,” said Hialeah Republican Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., who helms the House’s pre-K-12 education budget committee. “Making adjustments going forward — we first have to see what happens instead of jumping the gun.”

HB 7069 took effect Saturday, prompting myriad changes in statewide education policy — many favorable to charter schools seeking less restrictions to their expansion in Florida.

Among the most controversial of those changes is a new “Schools of Hope” program to help the state’s worst-performing schools by, in part, providing incentives for new charter schools to directly compete with them.

It’s that part of the bill that some senators — led by Republican David Simmons of Altamonte Springs — have argued needs to be revised. They say, as written, the new law forces failing schools to either shut down after getting two “D” or “F” grades or hand themselves over to privately managed charters, with both options leaving the schools’ teachers out of work.

Diaz — who helped craft HB 7069 and shepherd it through the Legislature — contends such critics are misreading the new law and they need to be patient while the Florida Department of Education drafts rules this summer that better clarify how the “Schools of Hope” program will be implemented.

More here.

Photo credit: AP 

Taddeo poll shows she has 17-point edge against Rivas-Logan but both remain unknown to many Dems

Rivas Logan and TaddeoA new poll from Democratic candidate Annette Taddeo for the Democratic primary in the open Senate District 40 seat shows the Miami businesswoman has a 17-percentage-point lead against former state Rep. Ana Rivas Logan among voters who know them.

The poll by Democratic pollster Thomas Eldon of SEA Polling surveyed 350 registered and likely Democratic primary voters and found that 34 percent viewed Taddeo favorably while 21 percent viewed Rivas-Logan favorably. But even more Democrats didn't know either of them: 42 percent didn't recognize Taddeo and 54 percent didn't recognize Rivas Logan. 

The veteran politicians are attempting to win the July 25 Democratic primary in the race to replace  former Sen. Frank Artiles, who resigned in April following a tirade against two fellow legislators and amid revelations that he paid a former Hooters “calendar girl” and a Playboy model as political campaign consultants. Three Republicans — former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and attorney Lorenzo Palomares — are seeking the Republican nomination. The winners of each party will run in the general election set for Sept. 26.

When pollsters asked how they would vote in the primary, respondents favored Taddeo by 40 percent to Rivas-Logan's 23 percent while 37 percent of those surveyed were undecided. When pollsters read biographical information about both of the candidates, Taddeo held the edge 59 percent to Rivas Logan's 32 percent and 10 percent of those surveyed remained undecided. 

Taddeo, has unsuccessfully attempted to run for Congress in 2008, for Miami-Dade County Commission in 2010, as Charlie Crist’s gubernatorial running mate in 2014 and in 2016 lost to Joe Garcia in a Democratic congressional primary . Rivas-Logan served on the Miami-Dade School Board from 2004-08 and in 2010, she was elected to the state House as a Republican. 

The survey was conducted June 26-28, 2017 with interviews conducted in both English and Spanish from accent neutral, bi-lingual
interviewers. The margin of error for the full sample is 4.29. 

Read more: Two women vie for voters to replace disgraced former Sen. Frank Artiles

Photo: Former Rep. Ana Rivas Logan and businesswoman Annette Taddeo are competing in the Democratic primary for state Senate District 40. 

Republican ad ties Bill Nelson to Elizabeth Warren

Takata Airbags Congress(2)

via @learyreports

Republicans are re-opening a familiar playbook against Sen. Bill Nelson and attempting to tie him to the liberal wing of the Democratic party.

A Facebook ad released today by the NRSC contends Nelson has voted with Sen. Elizabeth Warren "90% of the time" and implies he stands with her on single-payer health care. He hasn't been vocal on that issue, however, and drew complaints in 2009 for being cautious in general to Obamacare.

On Monday, Nelson was in Tampa for a meeting with constituents worried about the GOP replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act.. "The ACA is not perfect, and there are a bunch of things we ought to fix," Nelson said.

The broader goal is to show Nelson as a liberal, a label he's been able to shake off in past elections. This is the second known digital ad this year from Republicans linking Nelson and Warren. The first came in February, also on low-cost Facebook.

Warren does support Nelson; earlier this year, her PAC donated $10,000 to his re-election effort.

The NRSC said the ad "will run statewide while Nelson is home for the July 4th recess and throughout the month."

Read more here.  

Miami-Dade Democratic lawyers to challenge Trump voter fraud commission



A newly formed group of Miami-Dade Democratic lawyers plans to challenge President Donald Trump's voter fraud commission's request for Florida and other states to provide voter roll data.

The Presidential Advisory Commission for Voter Integrity sent a June 28 letter to the Florida Division of Elections asking officials to hand over voter data by July 14. The commission wants voters' names, registration status, political party affiliation, voting history, social security numbers and other information.

Ben Kuehne, a lawyer who formed the new Miami-Dade Democratic Lawyers Council, said the council is planning to file a court challenge against the commission and to stop Florida from turning over "private voter information."

"We are actively involved in analyzing the Presidential Commission to challenge its legality and oppose any attempt by Florida officials to comply with the collection efforts on constitutional and privacy grounds," Kuehne said.

In the majority of states, officials have said they won't comply with all or part of the request, CNN reported. But so far, Florida's Secretary of State Ken Detzner hasn't made it clear how he will respond.

Detzner's spokeswoman Sarah Revell said Detzner is reviewing the request by Kris Kobach, chair of the commission. It would be surprising if Detzner didn't comply at least partially with Kobach's request because Detzner is an appointee of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a Trump ally.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle, who is considering a bid for governor or attorney general in 2018, spoke at the first meeting of the lawyers Council June 26 at Seasons 52 restaurant in Coral Gables. Both offices are currently held by Republicans who are term limited.

In June, the Miami-Dade Democratic Party passed a resolution calling for Fernández Rundle to resign related to how she handled the case of Darren Rainey, a mentally ill inmate who died five years ago at the Dade Correctional Institution. Rainey was locked in a prison shower for 90 minutes.Fernández Rundle has defended her decision not to charge guards.

Kuehne said the council won't make endorsements in races. 

"This is an active lawyers' group organized to protect voter eligibility and election compliance," he said.

However the council gave Fernández Rundle  a platform to talk about two hot topics for Democratic voters: restoration of civil rights for nonviolent felons and protecting Dreamers, illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children.

She told the group of 75 lawyers that "as officers of the Court you have a have a special obligation to protect people's Constitutional voting rights," according to a press release from the council.

She told Democrats that "you have an additional obligation to protect the rights of such groups as the 'Dreamers,' children brought to the United States by their parents who may not enjoy legal status, and who have been threatened by the Trump administration after being protected under the Obama administration."

Miami Herald file photo of voters at the Coral Gables library during March 2016 primary.





July 03, 2017

Executions to resume in Florida — next one set for August



Florida is planning to execute its next Death Row inmate in August — which will be the first execution in more than a year-and-a-half amid months of legal limbo over the state’s death penalty law.

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday issued a death warrant that re-schedules Mark James Asay’s execution for 6 p.m. Aug. 24.

Asay was convicted in 1988 of killing two men in Jacksonville. If his execution happens as scheduled, Asay will become the first white person put to death for murdering a black person in Florida, now-retired Justice James E.C. Perry previously said.

Asay was originally scheduled to be put to death in March 2016 but his execution was halted that month in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling known has Hurst v. Florida that upended Florida’s death penalty law by deeming unconstitutional the state’s procedures for sentencing prisoners to death.

As part of addressing that decision, the Florida Supreme Court last December cemented death sentences for nearly 200 prisoners — including Asay — whose sentences were finalized before a June 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling referenced in the Hurst decision.

RELATED: “There are fewer murderers on Florida’s Death Row but not because of executions”

State justices in December also lifted a stay on the execution of Asay, in particular, paving the way for executions to resume in the state.

It’s unclear why Scott waited more than six months to issue the new warrant.

Full story here.

Photo credit: Florida Department of Corrections.

Tim Canova reports he raised $32,000 in first two weeks



Tim Canova's campaign reported that he raised about $32,000 during the last two weeks of June after he kicked off his rematch against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston.

Canova raised $31,928 through 1,323 in small donations with an average donation of $24, according to his campaign. Canova, a Nova Southeastern University law professor who lives in Hollywood, has made campaign finance reform a key platform of his campaign and pledged not to take donations from corporate interests or political action committees. During his failed 2016 bid against Wasserman Schultz, he criticized her for taking money from Wall Street banks.

Wasserman Schultz raised about $269,000 through March and hasn't yet announced what she raised through June. She represents the left-leaning Congressional District 23 which stretches from Weston to northern Miami-Dade County.

The first fundraising period for Canova is so short that it doesn't provide much of an indication of his fundraising prospects this cycle. In 2016, Canova hit the $1 million mark about four months into his first campaign for elected office.

Campaigns must submit fundraising reports to the Federal Election Commission by July 15.


Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson urge Commerce Department to allow red snapper fishing in South Atlantic



Florida anglers have a line to Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson. 

The state's Republican and Democratic senators may be divided on hot-button issues like health care but the pair can agree on one thing: the U.S. Department of Commerce should allow recreational red snapper fishing in the South Atlantic. 

Last week, Rubio and Nelson penned a letter to commerce secretary Wilbur Ross expressing disappointment over a decision not to allow recreational red snapper fishing off of Florida's east coast in 2017. 

"We cannot stress enough how important the red snapper fishery is to Florida's economy," the senators wrote. "This decision is disappointing for residents and small business owners from Jacksonville to Miami especially considering the enhanced opportunities being afforded to their peers along Florida's Gulf coast." 

The letter comes after the federal government announced an extended red snapper season off of Florida's Gulf Coast in mid-June. Recreational anglers now have 39 days to fish for red snapper this summer after the federal government initially announced a three day season at the beginning of June, raising the ire of fisherman accustomed to a longer season. 

"It is clear that excessively limiting recreational opportunities to fish for red snapper in federal waters--even as populations continue to rebound--threatens to further erode the public's trust in the federal institutions charged with science-based fisheries management decisions," the letter said. 

The federal government has jurisdiction over red snapper fishing in federal waters, which begin nine miles offshore on the Gulf Coast and three miles offshore on the Atlantic coast. Closer to shore, the state of Florida regulates recreational red snapper fishing. Recreational anglers can fish for red snapper in state waters on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through September 4.  

Read the letter here. 



UPDATED: Lawmakers react to Miami judge's ruling deeming Stand Your Ground change unconstitutional

Florida Legislature (21)


Several lawmakers took to Twitter on Monday to weigh in on a Miami judge's ruling that new changes the Legislature made to Florida's Stand Your Ground law were unconstitutional and beyond the purview of their law-making duties.

The Miami Herald's David Ovalle has more on the ruling here.

SB 128 passed the Legislature along partylines with Democrats opposed, and Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law last month. Scott's office had no immediate reaction to Monday's news other than acknowledging they were "reviewing the ruling."

Here's what some lawmakers had to say: 

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes:

Sen. Rob Bradley, the Fleming Island Republican who, for two years, sponsored the legislation to change Florida's Stand Your Ground law:

Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford...

... with a responses from Reps. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs, and David Richardson, D-Miami Beach:

Rep. Julio Gonzalez, R-Venice:

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando:

Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Jacksonville Beach...

... with agreement from Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa:

 Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami...

 ... which drew this brief exchange with Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville:

Photo credit: Mark Wallheiser / AP

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to fundraise for Jose Felix Diaz's senate race



Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is the special guest at a fundraiser for Rep. Jose Felix Diaz's state senate campaign at the Biltmore Hotel July 18th.

Diaz is running in the July 25th primary for the special election in District 40 created by the resignation of Sen. Frank Artiles

Diaz will face attorney Lorenzo Palomares and former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla in the Republican primary.