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September 16, 2016

Murphy, Rubio debate gun reform 3 months after Orlando shooting

Rubio murphy


Three months after the Orlando shooting massacre, how best to reform America’s gun laws and better thwart suspected terrorists’ efforts to buy firearms has become an issue of sharp contrast between the two candidates running in Florida’s highly competitive and nationally watched U.S. Senate race.

Gun control reform became a prominent topic this week between Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy and Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio, as each candidate seeks to better define himself — and his opponent — for Florida voters.

Earlier this week, Murphy used an endorsement he got from the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, an LGBT gun-reform group founded after the Orlando shooting, as an opportunity to strike a contrast with Rubio’s defense of gun rights.

Then on Thursday, their differences boiled over after Rubio introduced his own Orlando-inspired gun reform proposal in the Senate.

More here.

Photo credit: AP / The Palm Beach Post

PolitiFact: A look at attacks on Marco Rubio's statements about Social Security, Medicare



Two Democratic groups say Republican Sen. Marco Rubio wants to cut Social Security and Medicare -- programs that millions of Florida seniors rely on each year.

"Marco Rubio wanted to cut Social Security and Medicare because he said they’re bankrupting our country. But that’s what politicians say when the insurance industry bankrolls their campaigns. Marco Rubio has taken almost $1 million from the insurance industry which was profit from his privatization plans," says the narrator in a TV ad by the Senate Majority PAC and AFSCME People.

The PAC aims to elect Democrats to the Senate, including U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, while AFSCME is a union representing public workers.

We found that Rubio’s views are much more nuanced than the ad suggests.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

Will sprawl doom Florida? Projecting into the future in 2070

Florida in 2070via @JenStaletovich

Over the next 50 years, Florida’s swelling population is expected to gobble up another 15 percent — or 5 million acres — of the state’s disappearing farms, forests and unprotected green space, according to a new study released Thursday.

With the population expected to reach nearly 34 million by 2070, University of Florida researchers partnered with 1000 Friends of Florida and the state Department of Agriculture to look at growth trends and urban sprawl in a state powered by land booms. What they found was startling: In Central Florida, where the population is expected to surge along the I-4 corridor, half the region will be developed if no more land is protected. Agriculture and other green spaces shrink by nearly 2.4 million acres. That could dramatically increase the flow of urban pollution into Lake Okeechobee.

In rapidly expanding South Florida, another 1.1 million acres would be lost.

But with smarter planning that concentrates growth around urban cores, researchers found they could save up to 1.5 million acres. Story here. 

NRSC repeats specific attacks on Murphy's resume that Politifact rated "Mostly False"



The National Republican Senatorial Committee is out with yet another ad criticizing Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy for embellishing his résumé.

The ad's message mirrors one the Senate Republicans' campaign committee released last week, which included specific claims that Politifact rated "Mostly False."

The ad cites a CBS4 Miami report from June as its source to say that Murphy "never" worked as a CPA or "never" was a small business owner.

Murphy's explanation of what he did in those roles has evolved since last spring, after the media started vetting his résumé. But while he might have oversold his credentials, Politifact found: "In both cases, the word 'never' is too extreme to characterize Murphy’s work experience."

Murphy's campaign has repeatedly pushed back on Republicans' attacks over the Jupiter congressman's résumé, saying they've been "discredited."

"All the NRSC has 'revealed' in this ad is repeated lies, which have been rated 'mostly false' by PolitiFact, a respected, independent fact-checker," Murphy spokeswoman Galia Slayen said in a statement. "After Marco Rubio abandoned Florida to pursue his own political ambition, it's clear that Rubio and his special interest allies have nothing but lies to run on."

But the nuances of Murphy's résumé are not as black-and-white as either side likes to portray it. Learn more here from Politifact about the extent of Murphy's CPA and small business experience.

Meanwhile, this week, Politifact also rated "Mostly True" a claim in an ad from Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio, which said Murphy had embellished his academic credentials from the University of Miami.

Here's the new NRSC ad:

Image credit: NRSC / YouTube

*This post has been updated with comment from Murphy's campaign.

Scott picks Tampa water utilities veteran as the next PSC commissioner

Donald PolmannA water utilities veteran who has spent a career navigating the water wars of Tampa Bay was named Florida's next public service commissioner late Thursday by Gov. Rick Scott.

Donald Polmann, 59, who has twice been on the short list of nominees to come before the governor, will replace Lisa Edgar for the four-year term on the state utilities board beginning Jan. 2. Edgar, 53, is retiring after 12 years on the board.

Polmann is Scott's fourth appointment to the influential five-member panel that has the power to raise or lower customer utility bills. The four-year term pays $131,000 a year.

For the first time, the governor did not select a legislative insider or incumbent to the post, as he did when he reappointed Edgar in 2012 and subsequently reappointed PSC Commissioners Art Graham and Ron Brise to second terms, and named former state House Rep. Jimmy Patronis to an open seat. All were candidates preferred by the state's politically powerful utility giants which were among the largest contributors to Scott's re-election bid in 2014.

Polmann, was one of the finalists recommended in 2012 when Scott reappointed Edgar and again in 2013 when the governor reappointed Brise and Graham.

Polmann received his bachelor’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, his master’s degree from the University of Florida, and a doctorate in civil engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Polmann served as director of science and engineering at Tampa Bay Water, a regional water supply authority. He has spent most of his 30-year career focused on drinking water regulation and protection and is currently self-employed as a consultant in civil and environmental engineering.

Polmann, who is currently self-employed as a consultant in civil and environmental engineering, has the support of Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. In a letter of recommendation on Polmann's behalf, Latvala said he had known Polmann, a constituent, for 15 years and that Polmann "was a major player in the transformation of Tampa Bay Water from the previous agency, the West Coast Regional Water Authority."

Latvala was an outspoken critic of Edgar's, who was first appointed to the post by former Gov. Jeb Bush in 2004, reappointed by former Gov. Charlie Crist in 2007 and by Scott four years later.

Scott choose Polmann over two other candidates, Gainesville City Commissioner Todd Chase and Florida SouthWestern State College professor Cynthia Wilson Orndoff. He must be confirmed by the Florida Senate for his term to be official.

In his interview before the PSC Nominating Council on Aug. 18, Polmann said his "family heritage in construction and blue collar work" as well as his experience as a water manager will inform his outlook.

"On one hand, I've witnessed the struggles of making ends meet, both at home and in the family business, in a tough economy,'' he said. "How can we possibly raise utility rates with those conditions prevalent in so many places in our communities? On the other hand, we find infrastructure in our cities and towns throughout our state sorely in need of repair, replacement, upgrade, and yes, expansion, as our state's economy grows."

"...We've been seeing more and water breaks, sewer plant overflows, power outages, etc. -- quality of service -- and reliability must be addressed,'' he said.

He added that his expertise in water and environmental resource management; operations research, risk and uncertainty; regulatory and policy compliance; quality assurance and strategic planning and the state's Sunshine law will serve him well to find the balance between competing issues.interests, including utility investors.

The five-member PSC is in the midst of a controversial $1.3 billion rate case with Florida Power & Light.

The PSC is an agency that reports to and is funded by the Legislature, but commissioners are appointed by the governor after receiving a list of recommendations from the PSC Nominating Council, which is dominated by legislators.

Negron upends Senate Appropriations Committee staff in effort to cushion any 'loyalty gaps'

Joe NegronFresh off a bitter two-year fight to become Senate president, Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, is shaking up the Senate's professional staff in a way the Legislature hasn't seen since former Senate President Mike Haridopolos six years ago.

The biggest turnover will occur in the Appropriations Committee, where nearly every high level staff director has been moved out.

As part of his rapprochement with his former rival, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, Negron named Latvala head of the Appropriations Committee. But the scenario means that Negron must include people in his inner circle who had been previous rivals, so he has used his hiring power to surround himself with people Negron has brought to the job -- a management tactic often intended to increase staff loyalty.

Latvala, reached Thursday after a visit to Stuart where he met with Negron, said he had no problem with the staff shakeup. "It is the prerogative of the Senate president to do the staffing,'' he said. "I have no problem with it."

Negron spokesperson Katie Betta said the incoming Senate president's previous experience as Appropriations Committee chairman in the House and Senate gave him "an idea of exactly what he was looking for, and he could not be more pleased with the team he has put together for Senate Appropriations in the coming term."

In May, Negron announced he would replace Appropriations Staff Director Cindy Kynoch with Mike Hansen, who was Negron's staff director when he was head of the Appropriations Committee under former Senate President Don Gaetz. Hansen, a legislative veteran and former budget aide to Gov. Jeb Bush, is currently CEO of the Florida Council for Community Mental Health in Tallahassee.

Continue reading "Negron upends Senate Appropriations Committee staff in effort to cushion any 'loyalty gaps'" »

September 15, 2016

Trump returns to Miami with Florida campaign on upswing

Trump doral

Donald Trump is coming to a different Florida on Friday — a Florida where he’s on the upswing.

Last time he visited the southeastern end of the state, for a Sunrise rally a little more than a month ago, Hillary Clinton continued to edge him in Florida polling averages. He’d suffered a spate of bad press over his campaign’s criticism of the Gold Star Khan family. He falsely accused President Barack Obama of “founding” ISIS.

When he returns Friday, to hold a rally at downtown Miami’s James L. Knight Center, Trump will be fresh off a batch of new polls showing him tied with Clinton in Florida — or ever so narrowly ahead. Florida’s a swing state because it moves with the country; his uptick here is also reflected nationally, and in other battlegrounds like Nevada and Ohio.

Trump has noticed. At a Wednesday night rally in Ohio, the Republican nominee went back to his old self from the primaries, ditching his TelePrompTer and bragging about the Florida and Ohio numbers. A Real Clear Politics average of recent Florida polls shows him leadingClinton by 0.7 percent, even when Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein are taken into account.

“It feels good — there’s momentum,” said Brian Ballard, a Trump Florida finance chairman. “In the finance part of the campaign, you can always feel it. Calls get returned faster.”

More here.

Photo credit: Charles Trainor Jr., Miami Herald staff

Rubio criticizes Murphy, Obama over Gitmo

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio on Thursday criticized a vote by Rep. Patrick Murphy against a GOP measure to prevent transfers of detainees held at Guantánamo Bay.

“Today, Patrick Murphy voted to fund the release of terrorists at Guantánamo Bay, despite even more evidence that they are rejoining militant groups,” Rubio campaign spokesman Michael Ahrens said. “Murphy continues to stand in lock step with the Obama administration’s liberal policies that pose a direct threat to our national security and the safety of all Americans.”

Murphy supports President Obama's attempt to close the prison.

Florida lawmakers voted party line with the exception of Democrat Gwen Graham, who joined Republicans.

Rubio also condemned the Obama administration amid a report that two former detainees had returned to fighting. Nine total have done so, according to the government.

“We know that the remaining detainees are considered ‘the worst of the worst,’ and with a confirmed recidivism rate of 30 percent, it’s baffling the Administration continues to set these terrorists free to threaten America and our allies, including our military men and women serving overseas,” Rubio said. “The President’s efforts to preserve his legacy at any cost is hindering U.S. national security precisely at a time when the threats to our country are growing, and terrorist groups like al Qaeda and ISIS are giving these former detainees more options for reengagement. This is why I will continue to urge President Obama to stop setting terrorists free from Guantánamo and immediately work to recapture those who have returned to terrorist activity.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

TSA says no U.S. marshals aboard new Cuba flights

via @HeraldMimi

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is calling for the suspension of the regularly scheduled flights between the United States and Cuba that began in recent weeks because he says, despite previous claims, federal air marshals still aren’t aboard the new flights to and from the island.

In response to a request from the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, the TSA issued a statement in August that said: “In the spirit of enhancing the security of international civil aviation, the United States and The Republic of Cuba entered into an aviation security agreement that sets forth the legal framework for the deployment of U.S. in-flight security officers — more commonly known as federal air marshals — on board certain flights to and from Cuba.”

But during a House hearing Wednesday, TSA Deputy Administrator Huban Gowadia said that the Cuban government has not yet signed the agreement, meaning the first scheduled flights between the United States and Cuba since 1961 began without the deployment of air marshals.

Gowadia clarified that air marshals only fly on select charters rather than the new flights, and said the United States and Cuba are continuing to work toward an agreement covering regularly scheduled flights.

More here.

Everglades restoration plan passes senate

Everglades aerial (2)

by @jenstaletovich

Everglades restoration took a step forward Thursday when the U.S. Senate passed a massive waterworks bill that includes a plan aimed at fixing the overlooked heart of the vast wetlands.

In 94-3 vote, senators approved the Water Resources Development Act, which includes about $2 billion for the Central Everglades Planning Project. The project, launched in 2011 to speed up restoration and focus efforts on central wetlands critical to moving fresh water south into Florida Bay, got a big assist in the spring when Sen. Jim Inhofe vowed to throw his weight behind it. The powerful chairman of the Environmental and Public Works Committee, remembered for being the only no vote opposing the original comprehensive restoration plan in 2000, said he changed his mind after Sen. Marco Rubio convinced the work was necessary.

The vote comes after a brutal winter for the region. Record rain forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to repeatedly release dirty water from Lake Okeechobee into coastal estuaries, triggering a massive algae bloom along the Treasure Coast.

The WRDA still has to pass the House, no small hurdle, which has not yet scheduled a vote. However, including $220 million in emergency funding to address the water crisis in Flint is drawing support that may help push it through.

"It addresses a lot of big ticket items that have gotten a ton of attention this year," said Julie Hill-Gabriel, deputy director of policy for Audubon Florida.

Hill-Gabriel was hopeful the House schedules a vote this year on the plan. Two years ago, the plan stalled when the Corps, which oversees work, balked at approving it in time for that year's WRDA bill.



"We’re hopeful it will happen this year," Hill-Gabriel said. "Whether it’s next week or the lame duck session, we hope the House steps up and gets it done."