Note: This blog's templates will be updated this afternoon to a responsive design bringing it in line with

At that time, we will also change to the Facebook commenting system. You will need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment.

May 16, 2018

Marco Rubio proposes safety law for public housing after Liberty City shootings


Following two shootings that rocked the country’s oldest public housing complex, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is filing a bill that seeks to improve safety around HUD projects.

Rubio on Wednesday plans to file the Liberty City Rising Act, named after the Miami community where two shootings little more than a week apart in March and April wounded two and killed three, including a 4-year-old girl. The shootings at Liberty Square, a roughly 709-unit HUD project, sparked a walkout at nearby Miami Northwestern High and directed political and media attention to gun violence in low-income, minority communities after the mass shooting in Parkland.

Specifically, Rubio's bill seeks to require that public housing authorities ensure that HUD and Section 8 voucher properties in “high-crime areas” have dead-bolt locks on entry doors, smoke detectors in common areas and covers on security camera boxes and covered security camera wires. Security cameras must work – a problem that may have complicated the police investigation into the second of the two shootings in Miami.

The law, according to Rubio's office, also requires that housing authorities operate a crime hotline available to tenants, and that HUD give priority to “high-crime areas” when awarding its properties safety and security grants.

Rubio, R-Fl., is filing the bill shortly after a visit to Liberty Square, which is undergoing an ambitious redevelopment as part of Miami-Dade County’s Liberty City Rising program.

“During my visit to Liberty City, I heard firsthand from a community that has been wracked with violence for far too long,” Rubio said in a statement. “I will work to pass the Liberty City Rising Act as a means to ensure that communities like Liberty Square are held to higher safety standards so these families can raise their children in safe and sanitary living conditions.”

Rubio recently called for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to quickly approve requests for housing vouchers for eligible tenants seeking to leave Liberty Square and requested the Senate Small Business Committee to visit Liberty Square to talk about how small businesses can get involved.   

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King drops anti-Sugar commercial


Philip Levine finally has company on TV.

Chris King, a Winter Park businessman who’s spent the last 13 months grinding out a campaign for governor, begins airing a commercial Wednesday in five of the state’s 10 media markets. The ad highlights King’s position against Big Sugar campaign contributions – a stance subsequently adopted by Democratic rivals Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, and Levine.

The ad also touts King’s proposals to expand Medicaid, fund affordable housing and eliminate tuition for community college and public trade school.

“I’ll take Florida in a new direction by expanding Medicaid to cover the uninsured, protecting funding for affordable housing, and expanding community college and trade school programs that lead to good jobs,” King says in the ad. “If you want new leadership and fresh ideas, I’m ready to fight for you.”

King’s campaign doesn’t say how much he’s spending on the ad buy (Politico reports it's at least $820,000) which is funded out of his official campaign account. But roughly 100 days out from the primaries, they’re hoping that the commercial will boost his polling numbers, which have floated in the single digits during most his campaign. Recently, a Florida Atlantic University poll showed him at 10 percent.

King's commercial follows six months of opponent-free air-time for Levine's campaign, which has spent around $8 million on TV ads. The Collective, a political committee backing African American candidates, recently dropped a commercial attacking Graham, but King is the first candidate to join Levine on TV.

South Florida viewers won’t see the ad, since it’s running in Gainesville, Jacksonville, Orlando, Panama City and West Palm Beach only. But it will be interesting to see if King’s numbers rise, if there’s any consequence for Levine’s polling, and whether Gillum or Graham quickly follow suit.

It's another seven-figure week on television for Rick Scott

Scott and nelson


Florida's U.S. Senate race is coming to the airwaves in Miami. 

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is continuing his television advertising blitz by releasing a Spanish language ad in the South Florida market, part of a $3.2 million television ad buy spread between three ads across the state just this week. 

The Spanish language ad, titled "Cambiar" (change) focuses on Scott's effort to create jobs, and is the latest iteration in a television campaign that has cost over $8 million with Election Day about six months away. Scott's likely opponent, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, has not spent money on television advertising yet. 

The ad targeting South Florida voters comes two days after the Scott campaign released a television ad targeting Puerto Rican voters in Central Florida, a group of voters seen as crucial for both parties in what could be the most expensive U.S. Senate race in history. Scott has released six television and digital advertisements since he officially announced his candidacy last month.

Scott was in Israel earlier this week with a host of U.S. Senators as the Trump administration opened a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, and he may have free reign of the state throughout the month of August if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cancels a scheduled break and forces Nelson and other Democrats up for reelection to stay in Washington for votes. 

Watch the new ad below: 



May 15, 2018

Bill Nelson to vote for Donald Trump's CIA Director pick

Bill Nelson


Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson announced Tuesday he will vote for Gina Haspel to lead the nation's foreign intelligence arm, joining a slew of Democrats who publicly said they would vote for President Donald Trump's pick. Haspel will likely be confirmed by the U.S. Senate later this week after about a half dozen Democrats who, like Nelson, are running for reelections in states won by Trump, said they would vote for her.

"Gina Haspel has dedicated her life to serving her country and the brave men and women who work at the CIA deserve a career professional, like her, to lead them," Nelson said in a statement. "Gina Haspel has publicly acknowledged that the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program should not have been undertaken and has vowed to uphold our nation’s laws and values in leading the agency. She has earned the respect and backing of former intelligence chiefs from the Bush and Obama administrations. I will vote to support her nomination to be the next director of the CIA." 

Nelson's announcement comes after he met one-on-one with Haspel on Tuesday. The former deputy CIA director's nomination has come under scrutiny from some Republicans and Democrats over her connections to torture while she worked overseas during the George W. Bush administration.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott, Nelson's likely opponent in November, called on Nelson to divulge his stance on Haspel last week, and criticized Nelson for "slow walking" her nomination.  

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has publicly said he supports Haspel's nomination, though Republican Sens. John McCain and Rand Paul have said they will not vote for Haspel due to her past ties to torture. 

Extra long ballot in November causes concern for groups supporting property tax initiative

A screen grab from a pro-Amendment 2 ad | YouTube

There's no organized opposition. Approving the ballot measure keeps the status quo. But supporting groups aren't taking any chances.

That's in part because November's ballot promises to be a long one, with scores of races and proposed constitutional amendments, which can sometimes lead voters to skip questions or vote "no" more easily.

"We are in a non-presidential election cycle so there's going to be some voter fatigue and endurance issues and we want to make sure when they get to Amendment 2 they're going to vote 'yes,'" said Patrick Slevin, a spokesman for the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, during a press conference held on Tuesday by Florida TaxWatch and its partners.

Amendment 2 was put on the ballot by a vote in the Florida Legislature, and would make permanent a 10 percent cap on annual tax increases for properties that don't fall under the homestead exemption — including businesses, rentals and summer homes. There is an exemption for taxes levied by school districts.

That cap was established by an amendment approved by voters in 2008, but is set to expire in 2019 unless 60 percent of voters check "yes" next to the proposed amendment to the state constitution in November. A political committee called "Everybody is for Amendment 2" has launched an ad explaining and promoting the amendment.

Even the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties, two groups that would be impacted by a limited property tax base, do not currently have positions on Amendment 2, though they may adopt positions at a later date. Cities and counties can still change their property tax rates.

Dominic Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, said polling shows that the amendment is nearing the required 60 percent of voter support, but they are working to shore up support just in case. TaxWatch, a nonpartisan business-backed research group, predicts that if the cap were allowed to expire it could mean an annual $700 million increase in taxes on those types of properties.

The 2018 ballot will feature the races for U.S. Senate, governor, cabinet positions and 13 proposed constitutional amendments — on top of any local elections.

"Voter fatigue" was a major topic of conversation of the Constitution Revision Commission, which log-rolled several amendments together with the stated goal of reducing the total number of questions. The result will be single proposed amendments that address multiple issues, like vaping indoors and offshore oil drilling.

Amendment 2 is "straightforward" and only includes one issue, which helps its chances, Calabro said. "But you can't anything for granted."

Donna Shalala's opponents needle her for skipping candidate forum

Debate 27

If a debate takes place in the race to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Congress and Donna Shalala doesn’t attend, does it make a sound?

That’s a conundrum that the field in Florida’s 27th congressional district grappled with Tuesday as Miami-Dade Democrats prepared to host a candidates’ forum at a Unitarian Universalist church near Dadeland.

Democratic candidates Matt Haggman, Michael Hepburn, David Richardson and Kristen Rosen Gonzalez all planned to attend Tuesday night, according to the Miami-Dade Democratic Party. Shalala did not.

“There will be lots of time to debate," Shalala told the Miami Herald.

To read the rest, click here.

May 14, 2018

Attorney General Bondi to make "major announcement" about opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi

Attorney General Pam Bondi is making a "major announcement" about the opioid crisis in Tampa tomorrow.

The announcement is being made at Riverside Recovery Center at 2 p.m.

While the details of her announcement were not released, she's been working for months to find a team of lawyers to sue the drug makers and distributors accused of causing the state's heroin crisis, which has killed thousands of Floridians.

The Herald/Times reported today that some top lawyers and law firms did not apply to represent the state, citing an 8-year-old state law that caps attorneys' fees.

Gwen Graham says she would only pick a Democrat as her running mate

Former Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Graham

Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham is clarifying that she would only nominate a Democrat as her running mate, stepping back from comments made last week that she would consider Republican Congressman David Jolly for lieutenant governor.

"While While @DavidJollyFL and I obviously disagree on many issues, like many progressives, I do respect his bravery taking on @realDonaldTrump — more than even some Democrats in the race for governor have been willing to do," the former Congresswoman from Tallahassee wrote on Twitter.

Last week, Graham told "Strange Days" podcast host Fernand Amandi that Jolly "would certainly fit" her definition of a lieutenant governor, as first reported by Politico.

Amandi asked her about former Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy, who has been flirting with the unusual idea of running for governor with Jolly, although it's unclear whether the bipartisan ticket would even be legal.

Amandi asked, "If Congressman Murphy does not get in the race, would you consider a split ticket? Would you consider a Republican for lieutenant governor, if it fit the criteria that you thought were good for Florida to unite Floridians?"

"It’s interesting you bring up that question, because I’ve been asked that about lieutenant governor," Graham said. "I do have criteria for the individual I’m looking for, and primarily it’s someone who can help me govern. I see my lieutenant governor selection as someone who’s going to be right by my side, helping me get the state back on the right path. And so Patrick would certainly fit that definition, as would David, as would all of the other candidates for governor on the democratic ticket at the moment. So it’s really going to be for me a thorough analysis of who can bring the most to help make the biggest difference in the state of Florida.

Graham, who has been hammered by one of her opponents for not being liberal enough, clarified on Twitter Monday that she would only nominate a Democrat as her running mate:

"For lieutenant governor, I will choose a Democrat who reflects my progressive values: a woman's right to choose, supporting public schools, raising the minimum wage, fighting climate change, expanding health care with a public option, and passing bold gun safety legislation," she wrote.

Judge's ruling that ballots were illegally destroyed continues Broward election woes


Florida's Secretary of State plans to send an elections expert to the state's second-largest county during the upcoming elections to "ensure that all laws are followed," after a judge ruled that the Broward Supervisor of Elections illegally destroyed ballots cast in a 2016 congressional race.

Broward Circuit Judge Raag Singhal issued an order Friday determining that Supervisor Brenda Snipes' office improperly discarded thousands of ballots cast two years ago in the Democratic primary race between Tim Canova and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. In a ruling first reported by Politico, Singhal sided with Canova, who filed a lawsuit last year after he said Snipes ignored and then illegally obstructed his request to copy and inspect ballots.

Snipes contends that her office kept scanned, electronic copies of the ballots and did nothing wrong. She plans to challenge the order. But heading into the mid-term elections, Singhal's determination that Snipes broke state and federal law is sure to spark controversy around an office that oversees voting in Florida's most reliably Democratic county.

"Given all the scrutiny going on about elections processes these days and elections concerns, one has to wonder why on the eve of having to produce these records they were destroyed," Frank Rainer, an attorney for Canova, said in an interview.

Click here to read the rest.

Rick Scott, Ron DeSantis attend U.S. embassy opening in Jerusalem

Gov Rick Scott


Florida Gov. Rick Scott is in Israel today for the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, and gubernatorial hopeful Ron DeSantis will also be on hand as members of the Trump administration tout the president's decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv.

Donald Trump's decision to move the embassy was praised by Scott last year and he is also meeting with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a schedule released by Scott's office. The decision to move the embassy has been praised by many Florida Republicans while South Florida Democrats in districts with large Jewish populations also supported the move.

Some of Trump’s top Cabinet officials opposed the decision, arguing that the move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital would needlessly inflame tensions between Israel and Palestinians and potentially put people in danger. Demonstrations on the Israel-Gaza border on Monday killed 41 Palestinians demonstrating along the border fence with 1,600 wounded, according to the Washington Post. The protests mark the bloodiest day in Gaza since a 2014 war with Israel, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. 

Scott is traveling to Israel in his official capacity as governor and not through his Senate campaign. He is scheduled to return to Florida on Tuesday. 

Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart also attended the embassy opening with a host of Republicans in Congress.