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April 05, 2017

Florida House votes unanimously to stop cities, counties regulating Uber



It took just seconds for the Florida House to vote unanimously to overrule local governments' regulation of ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

By a unanimous vote Wednesday, the chamber approved the bill (HB 221), which sets statewide requirements for insurance and background checks on those companies. There was no debate, nor were there significant opening or closing remarks by the bill's sponsor, Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor.

Significantly, the bill also prevents local goverments from passing their own regulations on these companies or instituting bans in their jurisdictions. That has been a cause for conflict in past years, but the unanimous vote Wednesday signals it no longer is -- at least in the Florida House.

The Senate version of the bill still has to be approved by the Rules Committee.


Florida lawmakers offer bipartisan praise for Bannon's removal from NSC

via @learyreports

Steve Bannon's removal from the National Security Council brought bipartisan praise from Florida.

Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miamicalled it "welcome news."


Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Orlando had also pushed for Bannon's removal.

“Today’s decision to remove Steve Bannon from the National Security Council is a huge victory for democracy and a strong step toward depoliticizing our national security,” she said. “In February, I introduced a bill to remove political advisers like Bannon from the NSC, and it received nearly 200 cosponsors and a groundswell of national public support. This is proof that democracy works and that the American people, when they make their voices heard, can affect change."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Rubio criticizes Trump administration's Syria stance

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio suggested Wednesday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s hands-off posture toward Syria contributed to the reported chemical weapons attack.

"It's concerning that the secretary of state, 72 hours ago or a week ago, this last Friday, said that the future's up to the people in Syria on what happens with Assad. In essence, almost nodding to the idea that Assad was going to get to stay in some capacity," Rubio said the Tampa Bay radio station 970 WFLA. 

"I don't think it's a coincidence that a few days later we see this,” Rubio said. “I hate to say this, but I think he’s going to get away with it again.”

Rubio appeared at a news conference later in Washington with Sen. Ben Cardin and both called for Trump to take a harder line.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Miami lawmaker: 'Schools of hope' plan is 'separate but unequal'



Miami Democratic state Rep. Kionne McGhee isn’t sugar-coating how much he dislikes House Republicans’ $200 million, “schools of hope” plan to attract high-performing charter schools to Florida that would aid students currently attending perpetually failing traditional public schools.

“This bill, in my humble opinion, creates a separate but unequal system” that “runs afoul” of the state and U.S. Constitutions, McGhee said Wednesday, when HB 5105 faced its second of only two committee hearings. McGhee will be the House Democratic leader starting in late 2018.

MORE: “Are ‘schools of hope’ the solution to perpetually failing public schools?”

House Pre-K-12 education budget chairman Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, and other Republicans noted that a question of constitutionality in Florida’s public education system already arises if the state continues to let students languish in perpetually failing schools for years and years.

“These schools have failed these kids long enough,” Diaz said. “These are kids trapped in generational poverty, and for us to create this illusion it [schools of hope] is a separate system? It’s not.”

The full Appropriations Committee sent the “schools of hope” bill to the House floor on a party-line vote, with Democrats opposed.

They argue the money could be better spent on bringing innovations to traditional public schools, rather than picking “winners and losers” and propping up a specific few nonprofit charter operators, whose “schools of hope” could essentially replace failing neighborhood schools.

The “schools of hope” bill is lawmakers’ “best effort to give hope to kids who have no hope,” Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater said. He told the committee members: “If you’re content with failure, then by all means vote against this bill.”

There are 115 schools in 27 counties across Florida — almost half of which are in South Florida and Tampa Bay alone — that have been graded “D” or “F” for three years or more. The 77,000 students in those schools are the ones House Republicans aim to help by bringing in these proposed “schools of hope.”

A Senate companion to HB 5105 doesn’t yet exist but is poised to surface through a sweeping amendment that would replace a relatively generic charter school bill from Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, with the “schools of hope” legislation. SB 796 — and Bean’s strike-all amendment — were supposed to be considered this week but the Senate Education Committee ran out of time. It could now be taken up as early as April 17.

Photo credit: Jeremy Wallace / Herald/Times

State Sen. Daphne Campbell's son back in jail

Gregory Campbellvia @DavidOvalle305

Once imprisoned for Medicaid fraud, the son of Miami lawmaker Daphne Campbell won a new trial and had been free from jail while awaiting a new trial.

At least until he tried to buy a ring for his wife.

Gregory Campbell, 34, was returned to jail after he was arrested recently at Aventura Mall, accused of using a fake driver’s license to try and open a credit account at Kay Jewelers.

He'll return to court on Wednesday for arraignment on the new charges. He faces charges of forgery and possession of a fictitious ID. If prosecutors file formal charges, Campbell could remain jailed until at least June, when he is scheduled to go to trial for the Medicaid case.

He was initially convicted of Medicaid fraud in 2013, and was sentenced to seven years in prison. Last year, a state appeals court reversed the conviction, saying he deserved a new trial.

More here.

Canadian marijuana distributor purchasing Florida's CHT Medical

Florida Election Marijuana


As Florida lawmakers grow closer to establishing the parameters for an expanded medical marijuana industry, one of the state's seven licensed cultivators and distributors appears to be cashing out.

CHT Medical, an Alachua cannabis distributor owned by Chestnut Hill Tree Farm, is on the verge of selling most or all of its assets to a private company affiliated with Aphria, a publicly traded Canadian medical marijuana corporation based in Ontario.

A pending transaction has been announced as part of a U.S. expansion for the Canadian firm. Aphria intends to operate its business in the states through a partnership with DFMMJ Investment Ltd., a company to be later named Liberty Health Sciences Inc. and known publicly as Aphria USA.

Continue reading "Canadian marijuana distributor purchasing Florida's CHT Medical" »

Trump's Doral resort offered discounted golf memberships


The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Trump National Doral, President Donald Trump's Miami-area golf resort, was offering an end-of-season membership discount last month.

A rare glimpse of a Trump U.S. club’s income and expenses came in a tax appeal by the Trump Organization last year, when his Doral resort near Miami disclosed an operating loss of $2.4 million for 2014. That figure doesn’t include payments on $125 million of loans on the property.

The Doral club in March was offering a 20% discount on its joining fee, cutting it to $40,000 from $50,000, according to a Doral employee. Such end-of-season offers are common in the golfing industry, according to a person close to the Trump Organization.

Read the Journal's story on Trump's golf properties here.

Photo credit: Carl Juste, Miami Herald staff

Orlando businessman Chris King kicks off race for Florida governor


via @adamsmithtimes

Chris King, a 38-year-old political newcomer, Orlando businessman and Harvard grad, kicked off his campaign for governor with a speech in Orlando where he called economic stagnation the biggest challenge facing the state.

"Friends, my mission is clear — to change our one-party state government and help Florida take the lead again. My call to public service has also been clear. I am stepping forward now because our time cries out for new leadership with fresh ideas. I am running for this job because I believe too many Floridians have been left out and left behind. This is the job that can actually do something about it," he said, per the campaign.

"There will be those that argue that a lifetime in political office prepares them for this job; I believe that it was traditional political experience that got us into this mess and it will be fresh ideas and new leadership that will get us out of it…  The true challenge for Democrats is to offer something different, not a little different, but way different."

 “As your next governor, I’ll launch an economic plan called ‘Homegrown Florida’ that will rely less on the artificial sweeteners to buy an economy and more on the real protein to grow an economy. A plan that will focus less on showering love, attention and cash incentives on giant out-of-state corporations, and more on elevating Florida’s working families.” 

King’s campaign summarized that plan::

  • Raising the minimum wage. 
  • Workforce training initiatives to get Floridians the skills they need for good jobs — from union apprenticeship programs to technical schools.
  • A business jumpstart fund to provide seed capital and growth capital to small business entrepreneurs. 
  • Infrastructure investments in our roads and bridges to help put folks back to work and help Florida businesses be more competitive in getting their goods to customers. 
  • An end to the raids on the affordable housing trust fund. 
  • Investment in university incubators and community initiatives that are fostering small business start-ups and technical support. 
  • Support for the Florida Competitive Workforce Act to end discrimination in the workplace and strengthen our workforce.

Andrew Gillum draws top tier donors to early campaign for Florida governor

via @adamsmithtimes

The campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum says the Tallahassee mayor has raised about $765,000 for his campaign, including $243,000 for his campaign and $522,000 for his affiliated Forward Florida Committee that can accept unlimited donations. He has $635,000 on hand heading into the second month of his campaign.

Prominent donors include George and Alex Soros, but the campaign says he received support from 56 of Florida's 67 counties, 3,500 online donations. Other prominent financial backers include Vin Ryan, Chris Findlater, Allison Tant, JP Austin, Leslie Kroeger, Tarra Pressley, Laurie Schecter, state Rep. Loranne Ausley, Jennifer Stearns Buttrick, Don Hinkle, Mimi Graham, and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Jordan.

“This resounding statement of early support proves that Andrew Gillum has the momentum to become the next Governor of Florida," said Sharon Lettman-Hicks, sernior advisor to the Gillum campaign. "Our campaign will continue to work to earn every vote in all corners of the state and invest in building the infrastructure needed to retake the governor's mansion. After nearly 20 years of failed leadership in Florida, Andrew Gillum will be a Governor the Sunshine State can be proud of again."

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

The news is good for Janet Reno's rustic Miami-Dade's homestead

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via @AndresViglucci

The natural oasis in the middle of Kendall where Janet Reno’s mother built a family home by hand, and where the former U.S. attorney general lived most of her life until her death last year, will be preserved and donated to Miami Dade College, the family says.

The wooded property and the rough-hewn family cottage were on the edge of the Everglades when the modest wood house went up in the 1940s. The site, around four acres, now sits a few blocks from the Palms at Town and Country mall, but in spirit and feel remains a throwback to the Miami of yore and miles away from the suburban sprawl that surrounds it. The Reno ranch and the home at its center, which is reached by a dirt road, are completely screened off from view by thickets of trees and vegetation.

“It’s amazing,” said Coral Gables attorney Alan Greer, who is representing the Reno family in negotiations with the college. “It’s like going back in time.”

Greer said the parties are ironing out a final agreement for donation of the ranch, which would become part of the environmental center at MDC’s Kendall campus. The center, nestled in a similar natural subtropical hammock, is a half mile south of the Reno property off Southwest 112th Avenue. The Renos were well known for their love of the outdoors and environmental activism.

“We’re working on all the details,” Greer said. “I’m confident we’re going to get there. It’s in conformity with Janet’s wishes.”

A spokesman for the college declined a request for comment.

More here.

Photo credit: Tim Chapman, Miami Herald file