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

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.

August 21, 2015

As governor, Jeb Bush loved manatees -- but sided with boaters

via @craigtimes

As a presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush hasn’t said much about the environmental issues facing America. He’s waffled on climate change, and supported approval of the Keystone pipeline and drilling in the Arctic, and that’s been about it.

But when he was a gubernatorial candidate in 1998, he took pains to show his concern about the environment — particularly one of the state’s signature animals, manatees. He even helped SeaWorld release a pair of rehabilitated manatees, one of them named “Little Jeb.” After he was elected, during a 2000 Cabinet meeting, he made his interest in manatees even plainer.

“There’s an endangered species that’s close to being extinct in Florida waters, and I don’t want to be part of that,” Bush announced. “It’s my favorite mammal.”

Yet when Bush had a chance to solve one of the biggest problems in manatee protection, he backed off, deferring instead to is own conservative ideology.

What happened with Bush and manatees remains one of the great what-ifs of Florida environmental history and provides a window into how he might deal with similar situations as president.

More here.

For now, Marco Rubio's happy in middle of presidential pack

via @learyreports

WEST DES MOINES -- The rain began and the rooftop bar, jammed with 400 people who just heard from Sen. Marco Rubio, cleared out. Scott Maanum hoped to meet him, but others surrounded Rubio for selfie after selfie and then the Republican presidential contender was gone, too.

“He was very inspiring,” said Maanum, a 35-year-old physician. “He drives the point home about making a better future, and that really connects with me.”

Four months after launching his campaign in Miami, declaring “yesterday is over” in an unambiguous shot at Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, Rubio has made the generational argument his focus, and he used it repeatedly during a whirlwind trip to Iowa.

It’s a way to project optimism that has been a winning formula for past presidents and to confront the challenge posed by his inexperience as a first-term senator who draws comparisons to Barack Obama.

“We inherited from our grandparents and parents the greatest nation in the history of the world, so now it’s our turn,” Rubio, 44, told the bar crowd Tuesday evening. “I know some people go around talking about making America great again,” he said, referring to Donald Trump. “America is great.”

But while Rubio left audiences impressed, he is mired in the middle of a sprawling pack of Republicans — many of whom are trying to capitalize on public disgust with Washington and are warning voters about taking a leap on another inspirational speaker.

Rubio and his advisors insist they are in the place they want, using a slow and steady playbook and avoiding the media glare that top candidates face.

More here.

Chief of Miami-Dade's Jackson hospital also wears other hats

via @dchangmiami

From the most recent financial disclosures filed by key employees and members of the Public Health Trust that governs Miami-Dade’s public Jackson Health System: Chief executive Carlos Migoya is a partner in the Aspen, Colorado, sushi hot spot Matsuhisa Restaurant, where the lowest-priced entree is a $29 plate of free range chicken with wasabi pepper or Teriyaki sauce.

Migoya also lists a partnership stake in the Davie-based company Aerolease Aviation, which buys, sells and leases commercial airplanes.

Matsuhisa and Aerolease are co-owned by Michael Goldberg, a Colorado businessman and prolific fundraiser for Democratic candidates.

Migoya’s earnings from the partnerships are not detailed in the disclosure form, though they are listed as secondary sources. His primary source of income is his job as Jackson Health’s CEO, for which Migoya is paid an annual salary of $730,000, plus performance-based incentives that could push his total take home pay past $1 million.

--DANIEL CHANG

This is how the House and Senate left their proposed congressional maps

@MichaelAuslen

When the Florida House and Senate left Tallahassee at noon Friday, they ceded a great deal of control over redistricting to the courts.

As Speaker Steve Crisafulli said on the floor of the House, it's likely that a trial court judge or even Supreme Court justices could look at the last maps agreed to by the House and Senate as the basis of the map defining Florida's 27 congressional districts for the next election.

"The court will have a decision to make of whether or not they want to draw the map, take the plaintiffs’ map or take up a map drawn here in the House or the Senate," he said.

It's unclear how that process would look, or whether judges would be presented with the maps passed by the House and Senate Friday. With that in mind, and with the caveat that House or Senate leaders could direct their lawyers to put forward something different, here are the most recent maps put forward by each chamber. (You can click on the maps for much higher-resolution versions.)

Continue reading "This is how the House and Senate left their proposed congressional maps" »

Crisafulli: No malice to Senate but their map is 'flawed'

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli sent the following message to House members, expressing disappointment for the collapse of the session and reinforcing his opposition to the Senate map:

Members: 

Thank you, once again, for coming to Tallahassee to give your best effort to produce a compliant remedial Congressional map. I am deeply disappointed that we could not reach an agreement with the Florida Senate.

Though we failed to pass a map agreed to by both Chambers, I am confident that the bipartisan map we passed out of the House – a map that was produced with input from both the House and the Senate (HB 1B) - was a map that gave the Legislature the best chance to complete the remedial process successfully.

It is without malice toward the Florida Senate that I say I believe their map was flawed.  As Chair Oliva stated perfectly, the Legislature is not the judge of intent. Unfortunately, when the Legislature uses inconsistent methodology or principles that afford benefits to some regions to the detriment of others, we open ourselves up to the exact type of criticism and adverse decisions that we have received in the past from the Florida Supreme Court.

Plainly stated, the final version of HB 1B that we returned to the Senate was the best map before the Legislature on both Tier 1 and Tier 2 standards. The Senate never questioned the constitutional validity of the House Bill.

This Special Session was not about pushing limits but about how well we could fulfill our duty, and thus preserve the Legislature’s constitutional authority over redistricting. I am extremely proud of the manner by which the House conducted itself during Special Session, and I again wish to commend Chair Oliva for his outstanding service.

Over the next few days, I will be consulting with our House Counsel to determine our best course of action. Your votes in committee and on the House floor will be at the forefront of my mind as I make these decisions.

I apologize for the uncertainty that we are faced with and commit to providing you with more information in a timely manner.

Once again, thank you for working so hard to fulfill your responsibilities. The last chapter has not yet been written. 

After bashing redistricting ruling, Florida Legislature turns to court to referee and decide

After the legislative session collapsed Friday with the House and Senate unable to agree on a way to repair the congressional map the court ruled invalid, leaders of both chambers conceded that court will not only be their referee, it will likely make the decision.

This is the same Legislature whose Republican leaders fundamentally disagree with the court ruling that found they violated the anti-gerrymandering provisions of the state constitution by passing approved a GOP-leaning map in 2012 that was designed to favor incumbents and political parties. They has spent much of the 10-day session blasting the court for "overreaching." 

With less than 30 minutes left in the two-week redistricting session, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, warned legislators that if the Senate rejected the House congressional map, they were, by default, leaving it up to the courts to decide.

The next step, he said, is "the House counsel will have an opportunity to explain why we feel is indeed the best map to put forward. The Senate counsel will have that same opportunity and the courts will have a decision to make of whether or not they want to redraw the map, take the plaintiffs map or take one of the maps produced here in the Florida House or Florida Senate." 

In essence: the House lawyers will make the case for the House map. The Senate lawyers will argue for the Senate map and the plaintiffs -- the League of Women Voters and Common Cause -- can offer up their own map. Or, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis can design a map himself.

Continue reading "After bashing redistricting ruling, Florida Legislature turns to court to referee and decide " »

House digs in heels, refuses to extend session

As Hurricane Danny strengthened to a category 2 storm, the tempest brewing in Tallahassee over redrawing the state's 27 congressional district maps intensified, as well.

The Florida House at 11:10 a.m. Friday dug its heels in, reiterating its push for its own base map and further widening the rift between the House and Senate. They also refused by a 99-3 vote to extend the special session to 6 p.m. Tuesday, which the Senate passed minutes earlier. The session will end at noon Friday.

“I can tell you with all honesty, I did not expect to be standing here today,” said Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Hialeah, the House redistricting committee chairman.

The move came just hours after senators walked out of a heated meeting with Oliva. Negotiations over congressional district maps have broken down over changes the Senate made that put Sarasota County completely within one district and moved District 15 to include all of eastern and southern Hillsborough County.

“What you saw was a disagreement over what is constitutional,” Oliva said. “But what you also saw near the end of that meeting was the loss of that cordiality which was so important to this process.”

Lawmakers have had since Aug. 10 to agree to new maps. The disagreement and inability to reach a compromise by their self-imposed deadline of noon today has led to consternation among many.

Before convening on the House floor, the Democratic Caucus met, and members were frustrated that the endgame at this point is unclear.

“WTF?” said Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, choosing not to swear but clearly aggravated. "Seriously, I don't see us staying through Tuesday and it having any different outcome than we've seen so far."

Throughout the special session on redistricting, House and Senate leaders have repeatedly said that they did not anticipate disagreement or that the session would not be wrapped up by noon.

But those intentions had been blown away Friday afternoon as House members took the floor of their chamber. Even some Democrats — just months ago allied with the Senate over Medicaid expansion — started criticizing the upper chamber.

Senators storm out of redistricting meeting in protest

Facing a noon deadline to pass a new congressional district map, the Florida Senate refused Friday morning to accept changes offered by the House.

As the impasse deepened, lawmakers discussed the possibility of creating a joint conference committee and extending the two-week special session into a third week next week.

UPDATE: Senators stormed out of a meeting with the House shortly before 10 a.m. after asking that the House agree to set up a conference committee.

Senate Reapportionment Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, defended the Senate's amended map that reshapes Hillsborough County and solidifies Sarasota County into a single congressional district.

"What we think counts," Galvano told senators in a brief floor session. "I think the House is taking a very careful position in order to not be kicked out by the court case," said Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, who offered the amendment to keep Sarasota County whole. "By cutting us (Sarasota County) in half, you could have taken a constitutional district and made it unconstitutional. In the House's carefulness, they could get it kicked out anyway."

"We continue to be in a very inconsistent situation," said Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, the House redistricting chairman. The House's position is that the Senate proposal won't pass muster with the Florida Supreme Court.

-- With reporting by Michael Auslen, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio mired in Donald Trump's 'anchor babies' controversy

via @learyreports

Donald Trump this week injected “anchor babies” into the immigration debate and Florida’s Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio were pulled in. Both got burned, in different ways.

Rubio and Bush sought to massage the issue, saying they did not want to get rid of the 14th Amendment’s birthright citizenship but do want a crackdown on clear abuses.

But Bush made the political mistake of calling the children “anchor babies,” which some consider a slur. Hillary Clinton, who is dealing with a growing email problem and may need a distraction, jumped all over Bush with tweets and a video. Just about every liberal and immigrant rights group criticized him as well.

For Bush, points with the conservative base probably aren’t worth the distraction and implication Trump is getting the better of him. Or the damage it could do in a general election. Or that Bush looks like a hypocrite.

Rubio, true to form, used more finesse.

He said Tuesday that abuses should be looked at but didn’t say “anchor babies,” calling such children “human beings” in an appearance on CNBC.

That provoked unwanted problems on Rubio’s right. Twitter and a story on Breitbart News are littered with scorching comments that harken back to Marco “amnesty” Rubio, part author of the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill.

Continue reading "Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio mired in Donald Trump's 'anchor babies' controversy" »

Marco Rubio: 'We have an Army that just cut 40,000 spots'

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said at the Iowa State Fair that to face threats from across the globe, ranging from the Middle East to Asia to Russia, the United States needs to keep its military strong.

"The most important obligation of the federal government is to keep you safe and me safe and our family safe," Rubio said on Aug. 18, 2015. "And it’s not doing that now, because we are eviscerating our defense spending."

One example he cited: "We have an Army that just cut 40,000 spots."

We were curious if that number was correct, so we decided to check it out. See what PolitiFact Florida found.