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June 16, 2015

$1 million tax cut for gun club members included in legislative package


For pro-gun Republicans in the Florida Legislature, passing a slew of tax cuts this week also meant standing up for their 2nd Amendment rights.

That is because among the more than $400 million in tax cuts sent to the governor on Monday is one that would bar the state from collecting sales tax revenue on gun club memberships. It amounts to a $1 million tax cut for gun club members in Florida.

"The Department of Revenue has been in error charging a tax on peoples' membership in a gun club," state Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, said right after the Florida House voted overwhelming to send the bill to the governor.

Gaetz is not alone in that thinking. The NRA's longtime Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer has been making the same case for years, insisting that the state Department of Revenue has long been violating state law. Florida law states that "except as expressly provided by the state Constitution or general law, the Legislature hereby declares that it is occupying the whole field of regulation of firearms and ammunition." To the NRA and Hammer, that means gun memberships are exempt from state sales taxes unless the legislators pass a bill to state otherwise.

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Big bucks for Miami water projects

How do you shrink $1.2 billion in requested water projects down to about $70 million?

You cut. A lot.

Lawmakers gutted the initial list of 475 projects — and added some new ones at the last minute. Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, the Senate’s budget chairman for environmental issues, said lawmakers tried to keep things as fair as possible, even as they had to pick which projects got reduced funding, or none at all.

“Well, we were looking to try to be as effective as we could with the dollars, number one,” he said. “Number two, we wanted to try to be fair and distribute the resources all across the state as much as we could.”

Still, some counties are coming away with big chunks of change for water infrastructure, while others won’t get any at all.

Miami-Dade County is getting $6.48 million to help fund 23 projects, more than any other county in the state. Included are drainage work in Miami Gardens and Miami Lakes.

The Tampa Bay area will see a water projects boon, too: $7.53 million across Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties.

Lawmakers dropped in $1 million to hook up some Pasco County residents to a different water source. Another $1.9 million will go to a Dade City stormwater project.

In fact Hillsborough and Pasco counties account for nearly all of the Tampa Bay water project funding. The two counties have important residents to this budget process: Appropriations Chairs Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, and Tom Lee, R-Brandon.

But, Hays said, the fact that the budget chairs call these counties home doesn’t mean there was political patronage involved in securing coveted water money.

“I don’t see any significance there,” Hays said. “There’s plenty of money going to places that don’t have Senate or House leadership people, too.”

For example: Miami.

The Onion's hot take on Jeb Bush


In April, we posted the satirical Marco Rubio profile published by The Onion. Here's the one the website crafted for Jeb Bush:

Birthplace: Shadow of his father and brother
Heritage: Seventh-generation Establishment
Languages: Fluent in both rich and poor
Connection to Hispanic Community: Checks out
Number Of Public Battles Over Coma Patients' Right To Die That He'd Like To Have Back: 1

More here.

Miami-Dade GOP plans Lincoln Day after-party for Carlos Lopez-Cantera, with most Miami poster ever


The Miami-Dade Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day fund-raiser is usually a classic chicken-dinner affair, this year with 2016 presidential candidate Marco Rubio as keynote speaker. Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera is listed as a "special guest."

That "special" designation now includes an after-party in Lopez-Cantera's honor -- and a flashy poster to go with it. Palm trees! Congas! A Chevy! Bentley!


Jeb Bush professes 'love' for Miami, 'a crazy, wacky place'


Twice at a New Hampshire town hall Tuesday, Jeb Bush invoked Miami, the adopted hometown that has embraced him as an honorary Cuban American and where he launched his 2016 presidential bid.

He referred to Miami as "where I live, that I love, and where I announced my campaign because it's part of my DNA."

"It's a crazy, wacky place," Bush said.

And it's also far more diverse than Derry, New Hampshire, a point Bush used as an example of how Republicans should campaign to all sorts of constituencies.

"I don't know if you saw the rally for my announcement," he said. "It's a different kind of crowd. Miami's a different kind of place."

Crowd shots from Monday, via Miami Herald photographers Patrick Farrell (top) and Charles Trainor Jr. (bottom):

Bush crowd

Crowd 2

Jeb Bush vs. Marco Rubio numbers on Facebook (advantage Rubio)

via @learyreports

Facebook has been keeping track of activity surrounding presidential announcements and reports this morning that in a 24 hour period, 493,000 people generated 849,000 "interactions" about Jeb Bush.

Interactions are likes, posts, comments and shares.

Marco Rubio, who announced on April 13, had 695,000 unique people generating 1.3 million interactions.

Over the last 90 days, Facebook said, conversation about Bush has been generated by an average of about 85,000 unique people per day.

Top states chattering about Jeb Bush (by engagement)

1. Florida

2. District of Columbia

3. Vermont

4. Maine

5. Oregon

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'It's a little awkward,' Jeb Bush says of running against Marco Rubio


Before the start of his first campaign event as an official candidate -- a town-hall style meeting in New Hampshire -- Jeb Bush sat down for an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News, who asked what it's like for Bush to run for president against friend Marco Rubio.

"It's a little awkward," Bush conceded.

But unlike his prior responses to that question -- including in New Hampshire in April, when he looked less than happy about the prospect of a Rubio-Bush rivalry -- Bush took a lighter tone and was met with laughter from the audience.

"It's a little awkward," he repeated. "But that's just the way it is."

Elsewhere in the interview, which will air at 10 p.m. on TV but was live-streamed online by a Bloomberg Politics reporter, Bush said the prison at Guántanamo Bay, Cuba, should remain open. On the kind of "enhanced interrogation" techniques employed by his brother's administration, though, Bush said, "I don't think that's necessary, I don't think we need it" but added that "it was appropriate at the time."

Bush took a swipe at Democrat Hillary Clinton for not giving voters or reporters enough access -- a favorite jab of his, given his frequent interactions with both -- and went after her record in the State Department and the U.S. Senate" She has her name on three laws in eight years."

At one point, Hannity mentioned that presidential hopeful Donald Trump criticized Bush over his support of Common Core educational standards -- and Bush laughed. "I'm sorry," he said, regaining his composure (and not sounding all that sorry).

Part-time Florida resident Donald Trump says he's running for president


Yes, really. And one of the things part-time Palm Beach County resident Donald Trump said in his stream-of-consciousness announcement speech at Trump Tower was, "I'm really rich." Just in case that was unclear. He also said he would be "the greatest jobs president that God ever created."

Real-estate mogul Trump is the fifth 2016 Republican contender with ties to Florida, to wit: former Gov. Jeb Bush, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

The Democratic National Committee welcomed Trump with a statement that can only be described as trolling from Press Secretary Holly Shulman saying Trump "adds some much-needed seriousness that has previously been lacking from the GOP field."

The way he's polling nationally, though, if Trump actually files paperwork to run he might make it on stage at the first GOP debate in August, while other candidates with experience in elective office but lower numbers might not make it.

Miami Lakes mayor crashes car into tree, briefly leaves scene

via @ChuckRabin

Combative Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi, who beat a federal bribery rap and won a fight against the city to return to office, was bruised up in a battle with a tree Monday night, police said.

According to police, Pizzi drove his Kia into a tree, the airbag deployed, and the mayor left the scene before returning a short time later wearing a baseball cap, and with a cut on his forehead.

Miami-Dade Police Lt. John Jenkins said Pizzi, who was the only person in the car, refused medical attention. Jenkins said Miami Lakes police, contracted by the city through the county, were already at the scene when Pizzi returned. The crash happened at Northwest 140th Street and 82nd Avenue, a residential enclave in Miami Lakes.

“He hit a tree. He didn’t go to the hospital. There was blood on the airbag,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said there was no need to give Pizzi an alcohol test. The mayor was very cooperative, he said, and “didn’t seem impaired.” The accident happened just before 9 Monday night.

More here.

Don Gaetz, surprise star of Jeb Bush opening acts


Much stagecraft went into Jeb Bush's campaign launch Monday in Miami, including such a lengthy line-up of opening acts that Bush's actual remarks took place more than half an hour late.

The final speaker to fire up the crowd before Bush bounded to the microphone seemed a surprising choice: state Sen. Don Gaetz, the Niceville Republican and former Florida Senate president who doesn't exactly appeal to any of the other groups of voters (women, Hispanics, African Americans) targeted by prior speakers.

But Gaetz delivered some of the best one-liners of the afternoon, attacking President Barack Obama directly -- and Bush rival Marco Rubio indirectly.

"After eight years, we've learned this much: The presidency of the United States does not come with training wheels. The presidency of the United States should not be the first management job you apply for," Gaetz said.

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