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

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.

November 13, 2015

Has Marco Rubio proposed $1 trillion in new military spending?

The word conservative was uttered 18 times during the Fox Business News Republican presidential debate on Nov. 10, 2015.

The first 17 references made in the Milwaukee Theatre were done with particular emphasis by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. (Ohio Gov. John Kasich used the word once.)

Paul called himself the only fiscal conservative among the eight candidates on stage -- and made a point to contrast himself with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, in one of the more contentious exchanges of the night.

Rubio had just defended his proposal to increase a child tax credit when Paul interjected.

"We have to decide what is conservative and what isn't conservative. Is it fiscally conservative to have a trillion-dollar expenditure? We're not talking about giving people back their tax money. He's talking about giving people money they didn't pay. It's a welfare transfer payment," Paul said of Rubio’s tax credit plan.

"So, here's what we have. Is it conservative to have $1 trillion in transfer payments -- a new welfare program that's a refundable tax credit? Add that to Marco's plan for $1 trillion in new military spending, and you get something that looks, to me, not very conservative."

Keep reading from PolitiFact.

Dick Cheney to Florida GOP: Hillary Clinton's in 'big trouble'


via @adamsmithtimes

LAKE BUENA VISTA -- For Republicans trying to cast themselves as the party of the future, their choice to headline their annual fundraising gala Thursday night seemed a lot more like a nod to the past.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, 74, gave more than 1,000 Republicans gathered at Disney World a grim assessment of the threats facing America and a blistering attack on the record of President Barack Obama.

“My impression is that Obama's eager to get out of town. I'm eager to have him get out of town,” Cheney said. “It's extraordinarily important that the Republican Party reclaim the reputation that we've had for most of my life — that we are the go-to guys on national security and defense.”

Cheney, a divisive figure even with members of his party, happens to be one of the main reasons why the GOP lost the trust of many voters on foreign policy and national defense. A leading force behind President George W. Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he left office in 2009 with only 13 percent of the American people having a favorable opinion of him.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam introduced him as “easily the most consequential leader in the modern Republican Party and certainly the most consequential vice president in the history of our country.”

But even among the avid Republicans gathered in Orlando for Thursday's Statesman's Dinner and a two-day presidential candidate summit starting Friday, audience members found Cheney a less-than-ideal standard-bearer to put forth.

More here.

November 12, 2015

David Beckham meets with schools chief at SoHo House during Miami swing


Trying to close a stadium deal with local governments, David Beckham this week greeted the man who would be his landlord: Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

The Wednesday meeting was at Miami Beach's SoHo Beach House, the luxe hotel and private club that is Beckham's regular base of operations during visits to the Miami area.

"We spent a lot of time talking about kids," Carvalho said Thursday night. "I came away feeling very comfortable about the decency of this guy."

The unannounced meeting was one stop on Beckham's Miami swing, which included filming part of a soccer documentary for UNICEF and a nighttime visit with the University of Miami women's soccer team. Beckham, a global fashion icon, was photographed wearing an orange T-Shirt emblazoned with "The U" in photos posted on Twitter from the encounter.

Beckham's appearances come as his two-year stadium quest has never been closer to a final deal, but also as his negotiators warn it could still fall apart over real estate prices.

The plan is for his investment group to pay for a $200 million stadium to rise next to Marlins Park on a mix of privately-owned land and parcels currently owned by the city of Miami. Beckham's group has agreed to pay Miami for the real estate, while negotiating separate deals with the private owners.

The stadium and site would be transferred to the school system in order to shield it from property taxes, and in exchange Beckham's group would provide free space for large school events and some form of sports-related education for visiting classes and students. The Beckham group would also sponsor some school activities, including buying band uniforms and supplies.  

Carvalho said Beckham's people contacted him early in the week about a meeting.

The sit down marks something of a do-over for the Beckham group, which failed to invite school officials to a VIP reception with the soccer star in early 2014. The who's-who event launched Beckham's extended pursuit of a stadium site, and the stream of party pics of politicians and business leaders posing with the soccer celebrity came to represent the limits of star power to overcome political complications and commercial interests in Miami. 

Carvalho said no photos were taken at his afternoon meeting with Beckham. "When I met Mr. Beckham, I was clear in telling him that I've seen how he comes to town, and everybody wants a Beckham kiss and a hug and a Beckham selfie. I said I'll take a Beckham handshake. He laughed."

Continue reading "David Beckham meets with schools chief at SoHo House during Miami swing" »

Marco Rubio rallies Florida GOP to take on Democrats

Rubio orlando


LAKE BUENA VISTA -- His star in the presidential race on the rise, Marco Rubio dropped in Thursday on one of the groups that knows him best: the Republican Party of Florida.

On the campaign trail, Rubio likes to note that he’s twice defied the Florida GOP establishment: in 2010 when he ran for the U.S. Senate against the sitting Republican governor and now as a candidate in the same race as former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Rubio made sure to remind Republicans — light-heartedly — of his track record Thursday night.

“Five years ago when this party was under different leadership, I couldn’t even get a table, because I happened to be running against the then-sitting governor of Florida for U.S. Senate,” Rubio began, referring to Charlie Crist. “Apparently he’s now running for the Congress as a vegetarian.... Yeah, he’s running out of parties indeed.”

Rubio spoke at the party’s annual Statesman’s Dinner, a sold-out fundraiser that drew nearly 1,000 people on the eve of the Sunshine Summit, a two-day event featuring 13 of the 15 Republicans running for the 2016 presidential nomination. He played the role of motivator to party stalwarts ahead of the 2016 election.

“Tomorrow you’re going to hear from a bunch of candidates running for president that are going to ask you to vote for them, and I’ll be one of them,” Rubio said. (“One out of six Republicans is running for president,” he joked.) “Tonight, I want to talk to you about why the next president needs to be a Republican, because we simply cannot afford another four years like the last eight.”

More here.

Lawmaker renews call for body camera regulations, after police officer who shot Corey Jones is terminated


Shev jonesA Broward County lawmaker is renewing his call for more transparency and accountability measures from law enforcement, now that the Palm Beach Gardens police officer who shot Corey Jones last month has been fired.

Palm Beach Gardens officials announced Nouman Raja's termination today. (More here.)

“Those of us who have sought justice in this case still have been shortchanged of meaningful information,” Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, said in a statement. “Even with the firing, we don’t know the details of how the police department reached this decision. Our quest for justice begins with transparency and facts."

“This is just the beginning,” he added. “We have a long way to go until we get justice for Corey Jones."

Jones said justice and transparency can come from more accurate records of police shootings, such as those which might be provided by dash-camera or body-camera footage -- neither of which is available in the investigation of Corey Jones' death.

Corey Jones was shot dead at 3 a.m. Oct. 18 on an I-95 off-ramp in Palm Beach County after his car broke down. Raja was on duty in plain clothes and driving an unmarked police van, when he stopped to investigate what he thought was an abandoned vehicle. Jones was shot three times.

The unmarked police van had no dash camera, and Raja wore no body camera, because the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department doesn't own or use the devices.

Shevrin Jones has again proposed legislation that would require police agencies to have policies and protocols in place if they choose to use body cameras, but his bill falls short of mandating use of the devices. (More here.)

“Body cameras won’t necessarily save a life,” Shevrin Jones said. “Matters like these will allow for the police force to set forth rules and regulations for the officers, and the proper protocol and procedure in handling them.”

Photo credit: The Florida Channel

Senate asks court to hire redistricting expert to draw map, challengers disagree

Senate map

After months of feuding, the Florida House and Senate reached a redistricting truce on Thursday and asked the court to hire an expert to draw a new map revising the state Senate boundaries instead of conducting a five-day trial next month.

"The appointment of a consultant would streamline this litigation and reduce the burden to the parties and Florida’s taxpayers by eliminating the need for costly discovery and a five-day evidentiary hearing,'' wrote the Senate lawyers to Leon County Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds. "It would also eliminate any suspicion that the adopted map was laden with improper intent."  Download Case No. 2012-CA-2842_Senate's Motion for Appointment of a Court-Appointed Consultant to Draw Senate Map (1)

Reynolds had asked the parties to submit a scheduling plan for the Senate redistricting trial by Thursday. But after receiving the call for an expert, Reynolds issued an order saying the trial would move ahead as scheduled, with maps submitted by next Wednesday. There was no mention of what he will do with the Senate's request.  Download Amended Order (1) (1)

The lawyers for the challengers, a coalition led by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida, were not happy with the Senate's request. They have drawn three proposed Senate maps and expect to present them in court, along with the Legislature's alternatives.

Continue reading "Senate asks court to hire redistricting expert to draw map, challengers disagree" »

Marco Rubio unveils campaign chairs in all Florida counties


ORLANDO -- Marco Rubio unveiled a list Thursday of supporters for his presidential candidacy in every Florida county.

Rubio has lagged behind Jeb Bush in home-state endorsements. But the sitting U.S. senator is the one climbing in presidential polls, sticking to his strategy of rolling out his campaign slowly and methodically in an effort to save money and not peak too soon.

His campaign published the names a few hours before Rubio was scheduled to speak at the Republican Party of Florida's annual Statesman's Dinner in Orlando, and before a two-day party event featuring Rubio and 12 of his rivals for the 2016 nomination. Rubio will open the Sunshine Summit on Friday.

Rubio named a campaign chairman in all 67 Florida counties, and named other supporters from the state legislature and municipalities. In June, Rubio announced his Florida effort would be headed by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney and former House Majority Leader Rep. Adam Hasner.

"These county chairs are proof that Floridians are tired of electing the same politicians with the same 20th Century ideas and are eager to embrace Marco's vision for a vibrant 21st Century," Rooney said in a statement. 

In his own statement, Hasner noted many of them are "new to the political arena."

Notable South Florida backers include Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez, Miami-Dade County Commissioners Esteban Bovo and Rebeca Sosa. Sosa was Rubio's political godmother in West Miami, where he began his career in elected office; two current city leaders -- West Miami Mayor Eduardo Muhina and Vice Mayor Juan Blanes -- have endorsed Rubio.

The Miami-Dade list also includes Miami Young Republicans President Jessica Fernandez.

Here is the full list:

Continue reading "Marco Rubio unveils campaign chairs in all Florida counties" »

Gov. Rick Scott, Florida colleges team up to raise graduation rates - but no specifics attached


Rickscott111215Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued a challenge to the state's 28 colleges today: Graduate 100 percent of their full-time students to either attend a four-year university or land a job.

The colleges say they're unanimously on board -- but it'll be up to them to figure out how to more than double the current statewide average graduation rate of 43 percent.

The governor says they'll have his support, but he's offering no money or other specific resources behind his “Ready, Set, Work” College Challenge, which he announced Thursday.

Instead, Scott told reporters in Lynn Haven that he wants colleges to find an inexpensive solution, much like a business would be required to reach a goal without raising costs.

"We have record funding for our state college system, but I'm going to challenge all of them to do this less expensively," Scott said.

"My expectation in business was every customer had to succeed," he added. In this case, he said colleges need to look at students and the businesses wanting to hire them as their "customers."

He encouraged colleges to find out what businesses want from future employees and provide students with internships or other programs to fulfill those needs.

"Every child is important, so we need to have a program at every state college that they're focused on every, every, every student getting a degree or going on to university and finishing with a great job," Scott said.

He said he doesn't want colleges to increase their tuition or fees; "I want to make sure whatever capital dollars we put into the system get a return, and you know what the return should be? It should be good-paying jobs," he said.

Photo credit: The Florida Channel

AFSCME union endorses Patrick Murphy for U.S. Senate



Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy has picked up another high-profile endorsement: the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees.

Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter, announced the union's support this afternoon in a conference call with reporters.

AFSCME Florida Executive Director Andy Madtes said the union's 15,000 members "just felt that Murphy was the best choice for us and our members" and that they plan to mobilize to help Murphy's campaign. Murphy will also have the backing of AFSCME International and its 1.6 million members nationwide.

Madtes said the union vetted Murphy and fellow Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Orlando Congressman Alan Grayson over the summer on issues such as workers' rights and income inequality.

Madtes said AFSCME's endorsement of Murphy is "not a reflection on anything negative," in regards to Grayson. He said the members want a candidate who will fight for workers in Washington, D.C., and it was a call of "who could do it best."

It's the latest in a growing list of endorsements Murphy has picked up in his bid for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat. While Murphy has poised himself to be the Democratic establishment's favorite, Grayson is garnering support from grassroots donors and progressives.

Less than two weeks ago, Murphy also heralded the endorsement of the Florida Teamsters and three national Democrats during the state party's annual convention at Walt Disney World.

North Palm Beach attorney Pam Keith is also running in next summer's Democratic primary.

Four candidates are running in the Republican primary: U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami, and Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox.

Photo credit: Walter Michot / Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times

State Reps. Murphy, Latvala renew call to end nuclear energy fee, demand billions in refunds

Two Tampa Bay lawmakers are renewing a plan that would force energy companies to refund billions of dollars collected for nuclear power projects that were never built.

Reps. Amanda Murphy, D-New Port Richey, and Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, have again filed legislation to repeal the Advanced Cost Recovery Fee. The fee allows utility companies like Duke Energy and Florida Power and Light to collect money for nuclear power plants. But the companies don't have to guarantee the plants will ever be built.

"Duke Energy has already collected over 3 billion dollars for failed projects that will never provide consumers with a single kilowatt of energy," Murphy said in a statement Thursday announcing the bill (HB 395). "We don’t need to wait and see the same thing happen on the East Coast of our state.”

Similar attempts to eliminate the fee and force a refund have been made for years.

Last year, attempts to tack the language onto other reforms to the Public Service Commission and utility regulations were shot down in the House Energy and Utilities Subcommittee. Arguing to repeal the fee in March, Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, called it a "utility tax."

State regulators in 2014 ordered Duke Energy to refund $54 million in fees collected for a Levy County plant that was scrapped. But Latvala says that's not enough.

"While a small refund was made regarding the Advanced Nuclear Cost Recovery fee, this in no way compliments the money that consumers of Duke paid for a project which never developed into completion," he said in a statement.

No bill has been filed in the Senate at this time.