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July 20, 2015

Integrity Florida study: Higher minimum wage does not cost jobs

The research and watchdog group Integrity Florida released a report Monday that called it a myth that a higher minimum wage results in job losses.

"We wanted to take an objective look at the claim made by some that an increase in the minimum wage means employers will cut jobs," said Ben Wilcox, research director of Integrity Florida. "Our research found no evidence that claim is true."

Integrity Florida compared state-by-state jobs numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics with changes in the minimum wage from Jan. 1, 2014 to Jan. 1, 2015.

During that period, 25 states raised the minimum wage, and every state experienced job growth except for West Virginia. The report also found higher job growth in states that raised the minimum wage, including Florida, than in states that didn't.

The report by Wilcox and Alan Stonecipher also examined five cities and counties that increased the ninimum wage, all of which saw year-to-year job growth. They are the Washington, D.C. suburbs of Montgomery County and Prince George's County, Md.; Las Cruces, N.M.; Sante Fe County, N.M.; and SeaTac, Wash. The data shows that Washington State has the nation's highest statewide minimum wage of $9.47, and ranked second among states in job growth during the period at 6.8 percent.

A total of 29 states and the District of Columbia (which recently increased its minimum wage to $10.50 an hour) require employers to pay a higher minimum wage than the federal rate. Florida's minimum wage of $8.05 an hour is tied to the consumer price index following passage of a voter-approved constitutional amendment in 2004. Another petition drive is underway that would ask Florida voters to approve a $10 minimum wage in 2016.

In his campaign for re-election last year, Gov. Rick Scott opposed a higher minimum wage, and Democratic rival Charlie Crist supported raising it to $10.10 an hour. Scott signed a law in 2013 that prohibits cities and counties from establishing their own minimum wage ordinances. Scott relies on the same BLS data that Integrity Florida used to show job growth in Florida.

Integrity Florida, a private organization funded with private money, has no position on the question of a higher minimum wage. Wilcox said the group receives no money from unions and that the study was not funded by any group with a stake in the minimum wage debate.

Jeb Bush vows to take on bureaucracy and revolving door of influence if elected

With Tallahassee as his backdrop, Jeb Bush vowed to “disrupt” the Washington establishment if he's elected president, by shrinking government, seeking a line-item veto, campaigning for a balanced budget amendment and imposing a six-year ban on the revolving door of Congressmen entering the lobbying corps.

"The ultimate disruption of Washington is to reject, as I do, the whole idea of a government forever growing more, borrowing more, and spending more,’’ Bush told 350 supporters at Florida State University. It was the first in a series of speeches intended to outline his priorities. 

Standing before a sign that proclaimed “DC Reform,” Bush took a subtle dig at some of his rivals – Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky -- by emphasizing his outsider status. He called for legislation to pay Congress only on days they show up for work and joked that "it would at least get them to show up for a vote."

He then launched a multi-part proposal that he said would reform Washington the way he changed Tallahassee. His proposals include many of the spending limits Republican candidates have been touting for decades -- asking states to ratify a balanced budget amendment, embracing the line-time veto, reforming government contracting, and imposing limits on agency spending.

But Bush offered a few updated approaches, based on his time in Tallahassee.

Noting that he was the first governor to make his budget available online, he said agencies should have to justify their spending and provide more transparency. Citing his push to reduce the state workforce by 13,000, he said he would shrink government payroll 10 percent by freezing hiring and then hiring only one worker to replace every three that retire.

He called for lobbying reforms, noting that in Washington "spending on lobbying has risen by more than 45 percent over the past decade, translating to $12.5 million per member of Congress at last count."

Referring to the Florida lobbyist reforms, backed by Bush but initiated in Florida by former-Senate President Tom Lee, he said he would end the revolving door of Congressmen getting jobs as lobbyists by imposing a six-year ban on the practice. 

"We need to help politicians to rediscover life outside of Washington, which – who knows? – might even be a pleasant surprise for them,'' he said. 

The friendly audience of supporters included former campaign and agency staff he had hired throughout his career -- many of whom have now become lobbyists. He nonetheless aim at the livelihoods of some of them calling them an "ambiguous class of consultants who lobby but call it something else."

"The definition of the term ‘lobbyist’ should be expanded to address the cadre of ‘government relations’ and ‘government affairs’ specialists now populating the Capitol,'' he said.

Bush blasted the federal civil service system as “ruled by inertia” where “people are hired, promoted, and given pay increases often without regard to performance.”

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U.S., Cuba reestablish diplomatic relations

via @HeraldMimi

WASHINGTON -- The red, white and blue Cuban flag was raised over the island’s embassy in Washington on Monday for the first time since 1961 — a fluttering symbol of the historic thaw taking place between the Cold War foes.

As pro and anti-Cuban protestors gathered outside the gates of the embassy chanting “Fidel” and “Justice” — the flag was was raised at about 10:35 EST.

The ceremony came after the United States and Cuba reestablished diplomatic ties early Monday after a 54-year gap.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez led a delegation of 36 Cuban officials and members of Cuba’s cultural world at the ceremony marking the conversion of its interests section in Washington to a full-fledged embassy.

Speaking at the embassy, Rodríguez hailed the new era in diplomatic relations but said they were just the beginning.

More here.

This post has been updated.

U.S. Rep. David Jolly says he's running for U.S. Senate

via @adamsmithtimes

David Jolly, the former congressional aide who surprised much of the political world 15 months ago by winning a special election for a Pinellas County congressional seat, is running for U.S. Senate.

“Based on my record as a conservative who has gotten results in the United States Congress and who has advanced the conservative principles we ran on, I am asking the people of Florida to let me serve as their next United States Senator,” said Jolly, 42, who confirmed his plans to the Tampa Bay Times Monday morning.

The lawyer and former lobbyist joins a Republican field that so far includes U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of northeast Florida and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami. They are vying for the seat held by Republican Marco Rubio, who is running for president and says he will not seek re-election. Other potential Republican contenders include former Attorney General Bill McCollum and U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller of northwest Florida.

Jolly cracked the door open for a Senate run after Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced he would take a pass, but the move became much more logical for him earlier this month after the Florida Supreme Court ruled that state lawmakers must re-draw the boundaries of eight congressional districts including his. Jolly represents Congressional District 13, one of just a few dozen truly competitive swing districts in the country, and most observers expect it to become a heavily Democratic district once the lines are redrawn to include voters in southern St. Petersburg.

More here.

Jeb Bush promises to 'disrupt the establishment' and reform the civil service system

Borrowing a term from popular culture, Jeb Bush will tell a Tallahassee audience Monday that if elected president in 2016, he will not "preside" over the "establishment" in Washington but will "disrupt that establishment and make it accountable to the people."

In excerpts of his speech to a GOP audience at Florida State University, he is suggesting that will mean disrupting the civil service system, as he did in Florida with his controversial efforts to seek civil service reforms. 

"People are hired, promoted, and given pay increases often without regard to performance,'' he writes, according to excerpts of his speech released by his campaign.

"More than ever, it’s a system stuck in old ways, ruled by inertia, and unaccountable to the people.  And with over two million employees on the federal payroll, these problems carry a heavy cost, and a few serious reforms will go a long way."

As governor, Bush reduced the state workforce 13,000 by shifting state jobs to private contractors on everything from toll takers to personnel services. The exercise angered state employee unions and state workers and, according to a Herald analysis, he steered at least $667 million in state services and 9,787 jobs to the private companies.

Bush abolished the state Department of Labor and gave new contracting authority to all his agencies, especially the Department of Management Services. His successors, former Gov. Charlie Crist and Gov. Rick Scott, continued the trend and private companies now run state toll collections, law enforcement communications systems, Medicaid collections, payroll functions, mail services, prison canteens, janitorial duties, office leasing and even oversight of foster care for the state's neediest children.

The share of the state budget "outsourced" to private companies exploded -- and so did the Tallahassee’s cottage industry of executive branch lobbyists, who made a living off negotiating and capturing state contracts. Their clients rewarded the Republican Party with millions in campaign contributions during Bush's term, and continue to be a major source of revenue for GOP candidates. 

Bush's talk of performance measures is only one of a series of reforms the former governor is expected to announce at his 10 a.m. speech. More here. 

Here are more excerpts released by the Bush campaign:

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Did Barack Obama break his promise over the Iran deal as Marco Rubio says?

The agreement reached with Iran over nuclear weapons remained a top issue on the Sunday July 19 news shows, with critics of the deal urging that it be scuttled by Congress.

On CNN’s State of the Union, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told host Jake Tapper that "this deal violates promises the president made to the American people on multiple fronts. It is not an anytime, anywhere inspection process."

This issue also came up on the same day on CBS’s Face the Nation, when Secretary of State John Kerry said of anytime, anywhere inspections, "This is a term that, honestly, I never heard in the four years that we were negotiating. It was not on the table. There's no such thing in arms control as ‘anytime, anywhere.’ There isn't any nation in the world, none that has an anytime, anywhere. We always were negotiating was an end to the interminable delays that people had previously. "

On Rubio’s claim, we see two questions. First, does the Iran deal fall short of an "anytime, anywhere inspection process"? And second, did Obama promise that it would include an inspection regime that strict?

See what Louis Jacobson of PolitiFact found and see Rubio's full Truth-O-Meter record.

Jeb Bush's mixed record 'devolving Mount Tallahassee'

Jeb Bush returns to the Florida capital Monday brining the same anti-big-government message he used to win the Governor’s Mansion to his quest to take the White House in 2016.

The former governor, who served from 1998-2006, will kick off the first of a series of speeches outlining  his priorities at Florida State Universit. His target: “Mount Washington,’’ as he portrays himself as an outsider ready to reform.

 "Gov. Bush will talk about putting America's financial house in order and why that requires a president willing to challenge the culture of our nation's capital,’’ his campaign said. 

It’s the same approach Bush took 17 years ago, when he derided the state capital as “Mount Tallahassee” --  bureaucracy-laden and bereft of fresh ideas.In his first year as governor, Bush said he preferred community-based solutions and opposed “topdown” systems.

 “The expectation here isn't that you're supposed to be waiting for a message via pigeon from Mount Tallahassee,” he said. 

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July 19, 2015

Poll: Jeb Bush leads Marco Rubio in Miami-Dade County -- even among Cuban-Americans

GOP 2016 Bush(3)


For Republicans in Miami-Dade County, the only place in the country that can boast two local entries in the 2016 presidential race, one favorite son is more favorite than the other, a new poll shows.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush leads U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio 35-25 percent among registered GOP voters, according to the public-opinion survey conducted by Bendixen & Amandi International for the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald. No other contender in the Republican field of 15 declared candidates cracked double digits in the poll of Miami-Dade, the most populous county in the nation’s largest swing state.

Perhaps the most surprising finding in the poll is that Bush is more popular than Rubio even among Cuban-American Republicans, by 43-31 percent — even though Rubio is the son of Cuban immigrants. The other Cuban American in the race, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, drew 7 percent support (so did “Undecided”).

“In spite of the fact that Jeb enjoys honorary Cuban status, he does that much better than the person who would be the first potential Cuban-American president of the United States,” pollster Fernand Amandi said. “It could be a very difficult number for Marco. When he can’t win over the heart of his base, what does that mean for his prospects of winning the primary in Florida?”

More here.

Photo credit: AP

Raquel Regalado far behind Carlos Gimenez in new poll on Dade mayoral race


With 13 months to go before the August 2016 primaries, school board member Raquel Regalado trails incumbent Carlos Gimenez by double digits in the Miami-Dade mayoral race. But Gimenez still finished second behind the undecided vote. 

Regalado, heir to one of the most prominent names in Miami politics, trailed Gimenez by 23 points in a survey done by Bendixen & Amandi International for the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. Of the 600 registered county voters polled on their pick in the mayoral race, 40 percent chose Gimenez and 17 percent chose Regalado, a two-term school board member and daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado.

While Gimenez easily topped his lone challenger in the survey, 43 percent of respondents opted not to pick a candidate. That left Gimenez, in office since 2011, the second-place finisher behind the undecided category with a little more than a year to go before the August 2016 primary that could decide the race. 

Check out the full results here

Calling IRS was act of frustration during tax season report shows


Nearly two-thirds of calls routed to customer service representatives with the IRS during tax season went unanswered, and those who did get through were on hold for on average 23 minutes, a new report issued to Congress this week said.

IRS National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson said the numbers were far worse than they were a year ago, when 71 percent of the calls were answered and hold times averaged 14 minutes.

The problem, according to the report submitted to the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, was that funding for the IRS is down 17 percent since 2010 and the agency had to handle the implementation of large portions of the federal affordable care act.

The call answer rate and wait times were even worse for tax payers that suspected that they were victims of identity theft.

The IRS answered only 17 percent of calls from taxpayers who called after being notified that their tax returns had been blocked by the Taxpayer Protection Program (TPP) on suspicion of identity theft, and the hold times averaged about 28 minutes,” the report to Congress stated.  “In three consecutive weeks during the filing season, the IRS answered fewer than 10 percent of these calls.”

 U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, is on the Senate Finance Committee.

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