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June 16, 2015

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.

Continue reading "Don Gaetz, surprise star of Jeb Bush opening acts" »

Lawsuit could be brewing against state over Amendment 1 funding

House and Senate leaders declared Sunday that they had set aside $55 million for buying new public land from a ballot measure that was passed last year by 75 percent of state voters.

It wasn't until Monday that environmentalists realized lawmakers were planning to spend far less, setting up a likely legal showdown over what exactly Amendment 1 means.

The problem: The ballot measure, Amendment 1, dedicated more than $700 million for conservation and preservation. Environmentalists had hoped that lawmakers would approve at least $300 million to buy conservation and preservation lands.

Instead, lawmakers carved up the money for other projects, including millions for an agricultural giant.

Sponsors of Amendment 1 said the weekend agreement earmarks only $17.4 million for the acquisition of parks and wildlife habitat under the state program Florida Forever.

"This is an insult to the 4.2 million voters who voted Yes for Amendment 1," said Will Abberger, chairman of Florida Water and Land Legacy, the Amendment 1 sponsor committee. "Last November Florida voters sent a loud and clear message to the Legislature: make funding for conservation land acquisition a priority. The Legislature is ignoring Florida voters."

Abberger and Audubon of Florida executive director Eric Draper said they were exploring "all options," which they said could include legal action against the Legislature for violating the intent of Amendment 1.

Even one of the negotiators of the agreement, Senate Appropriations Chair Tom Lee, R-Brandon, said a legal challenge is certain.

"I'm not a lawyer, but in this world we live in today, I am confident of one thing and one thing only, and that is that there will be litigation," Lee said.

More here.

End Cuban embargo, says TV ad by new advocacy group


Engage Cuba, a new advocacy group that, as it name suggests, wants to end U.S. travel and trade restrictions to the island, said Tuesday it's airing a television advertisement pushing its position.

"It's been over 50 years. Isn't it time for a change?" the ad says.

"Public polls show that Americans are saying, 'We are tired of the Cold War-era policy that won't let us trade or travel to Cuba. We want our government to let us play a role in this significant period of transition,'" Engage Cuba President James Williams said in a statement.

The statement also said the spot will air on cable networks Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC.


Jeb Bush supporters in Congress serve as TV surrogates

via @learyreports

As Jeb Bush played up his executive experience as governor on Monday, some of his backers in Congress amplified the argument on TV.

On Fox, U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami talked him up, while Rep. John Mica of Winter Park went on CNN. They were asked about Marco Rubioand all offered polite praise but, again, they said Bush has shown he can get things done.

"I love them both," Ros-Lehtinen said, adding that Rubio understood her decision. "Marco is a wonderful man and he's got a great future."



--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

As millions fly at midnight, it's 'the way government should work'

The paper flew. One handout, then three, then six, then nine, 12 and finally 15.

Page after page of vendor-driven language dealing with replacing portable statewide police radios, creating a pilot online education program and a $1 million handout to the beef and beef products industry. Now that's pork! Just before midnight at Florida's Capitol, legislators reappeared in public to put the finishing touches on an $80 billion-or-so budget that now awaits the formality of an up-or-down vote by lawmakers and a review by Gov. Rick Scott.

The day had begun with Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, saying "so far, so good," but warning that money was extremely tight because of the need to spend $400 million in tax revenue to shore up the loss of federal money in the low income pool for hospitals.

"We're in a new world order now," Gardiner said. "When you take over $400 million out of the budget and put it into health care, there's going to be impact."

Legislative leaders insist that they, not bureaucrats, know how to best allocate taxpayers' money because they understand the needs back home, and they traditionally hoard a secret stash of public money to fund the wish lists of powerful members.

Continue reading "As millions fly at midnight, it's 'the way government should work' " »

June 15, 2015

Fact-checking Jeb Bush's talking points

Former Gov. Jeb Bush made some claims in his announcement speech that overlapped with those already fact-checked by PolitiFact Florida -- and in one case he has tweaked his talking point after getting a False rating.

During his speech he said that during his tenure as governor Florida created “1.3 million new jobs.”

In June, Bush said that during his eight years as Florida governor, "we created 1.3 million net new jobs -- more jobs created than Texas." He got his numbers right, but it’s worth noting that no governor is solely, or even mostly, responsible for economic growth in their state -- and if he wants to take credit for the expansion on his watch, then he also needs to shoulder some of the blame for the bust that followed his departure from office. Read that fact-check here.

During his speech Bush said that during his tenure Florida had “a bond upgrade to Triple-A compared to the sorry downgrade of America’s credit in these years.”

Note how he tweaked that talking point -- in May he said."Florida was the only state during my eight years to go from AA to AAA" in its bond rating. He omitted two states and we rated that claim False.

Bush also said that “after we reformed education in Florida, low-income student achievement improved here more than any other state.” We previously fact-checked a claim he made about closing the achievement gap for minorities and the poor.

Berthy De La Rosa-Aponte, a Broward mother of a disabled daughter, gave one of the introductory speeches today. She was an inspiration to Bush but those who were familiar with services for the disabled previously told PolitiFact Florida that multiple lawsuits forced Bush to invest more money to serve more disabled Floridians, and the system was still left with many problems. See PolitiFact Florida’s story here.

Remember those House bills on healthcare cost? Senate says never mind, let's study it

The Florida House's attempt to get the state Senate to focus on passing legislation aimed at controlling health care costs is now getting the same treatment as the Senate's to expand health insurance with Medicaid money -- it's dead.

Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health Policy on Monday cancelled Tuesday’s scheduled meeting of his committee to take up six bills that have passed the House and instead released a statement calling for a joint House and Senate "Task Force on Health Care Policy Innovation."

“Last week, our committee held a workshop where we reviewed and discussed several pieces of legislation designed to expand access, increase competition and lower the cost of health care services in our state,'' he said in a statement. "In one form or another some of these policy ideas have previously earned support in the Senate, while others are new and have not yet been fully explored."

The House last week passed six bills that said would contain health care costs and the Senate last week held a workshop on some of the ideas. The bills stripped away regulations by eliminating the certificate of need for hospital expansion, opened the door to off-site surgery and recovery centers, allowed advanced-registered nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe controlled substances, and created new options for state employees to choose from health-insurance plans.

Continue reading "Remember those House bills on healthcare cost? Senate says never mind, let's study it" »

Immigration protesters disrupt Jeb Bush presidential announcement

Protesters one


Jeb Bush wasn't going to mention immigration reform in the launch of his 2016 Republican presidential campaign. The word didn't appear in his prepared remarks, even though he co-authored a book a few years ago titled Immigration Wars.

But a group of protesters forced his hand Monday at Miami Dade College's Kendall campus. They interrupted his 28-minute speech, standing up in neon-green T-shirts that spelled out, "LEGAL STATUS IS NOT ENOUGH!"

The group of self-described gay-rights and immigration advocates comprised members of Get Equal Florida, United We Dream, We Count! and several other organizations.

Their chants were drowned out by Bush's crowd, about 3,000 people strong. Several reporters in the back of the hall heard Bush say, "I agree," but he was away from the lectern and the audio did not record on C-SPAN's broadcast.

Bush then took to the microphone in earnest.

"By the way, just so that our friends know, the next president of the United States will pass meaningful immigration reform so that will be solved, not by executive order," he said, prompting loud cheers.

The advocates were escorted out, and Bush resumed his speech. "I kind of lost my train of thought here," he said, before going right back to where he had been cut off.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

Protesters two



Non-candidate Lopez-Cantera holds fundraiser for his political committee

CLC fundraiserFundraising efforts continue to gear up for Lieutenant Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and his non-campaign for U.S. Senate.

Lopez-Cantera's political committee, known as the Restore Washington Leadership PAC, is hosting a $5,000 per person fundraising reception on Thursday, June 25, in Coral Gables with special guests former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart and Congresswomen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. 

Lopez-Cantera has not announced his candidacy but has been making calls to gauge support. As long as he remains a non-candidate, federal law allows him to raise money for his super PAC without violating campaign-finance laws that prohibit candidates from coordinating with super PACs.