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September 15, 2016

Connecticut U.S. senator uses Twitter to attack Rubio, defend Murphy

Chris murphy-ct_ap


One of the U.S. Senate's leading Democratic voices in favor of gun-control reform -- and an early supporter of Florida U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy -- unleashed a bit of a Tweet storm Thursday afternoon in response to a new bill introduced earlier in the day by Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Rubio's U.S. Senate office touted his "Terror Intelligence Improvement Act" as a bill that "would make it harder for suspected terrorists to purchase firearms and easier for law enforcement agencies to go after suspected terrorists, while safeguarding law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment and due process rights." (More here.)

But in one of a handful of tweets, Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy -- no relation to Patrick Murphy -- said: "This bill won't stop one terrorist from getting a gun. This is a rehash of the gun lobby's proposal."

Less than an hour after Chris Murphy's tweets, Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign released a lengthy statement from Chris Murphy with a message to the same effect.

Chris Murphy famously filibustered on the Senate floor for 15 hours in June in support of gun reform after the Orlando shooting.

Patrick Murphy and his campaign earlier Thursday were also quick to criticize Rubio for both the timing and content of his new bill.

Photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

*We have asked Rubio's campaign for comment and will update this post when they respond.

Rejecting Don Gaetz, UWF trustees promote provost to president

Trustees of the University of West Florida voted Friday to make provost Martha Saunders the school's next president, bypassing a better-known finalist for the position, Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.

The vote was 9-4 with Saunders getting nine votes and Gaetz four.

Saunders will succeed Judy Bense as president of the Pensacola university. Her appointment is subject to confirmation by the state university system's Board of Governors.

Gaetz, a former Okaloosa County school superintendent, school board member, and chairman of a Senate budget subcommittee on education, was seeking to be at least the fourth political figure in Florida to head a state university.

The decision followed a meeting at which students, faculty and community representatives all testified about the selection. The Pensacola News Journal reported that 366 UWF students signed a petition opposing Gaetz's appointment.

Gwen Graham votes with Republicans on Gitmo transfers

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Rep. Gwen Graham was one of only 12 Democrats to vote this morning for a GOP bill to prevent the transfer of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

The bill, which passed 244-174, comes as President Obama seeks to empty the prison and fulfill a campaign pledge. He’s unlikely to succeed.

"Our greatest responsibility is to protect the American people and keep our country safe," Graham said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. "I've read the classified documents on the detainees and personally toured GTMO. I believe it's the safest place to hold these criminals who would stop at nothing to murder innocent Americans."

Graham is likely to run for governor in 2018.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

David Rivera seeks to take ethics case to Florida's high court


Former state Rep. David Rivera isn’t giving up yet on his attempts to vindicate himself on charges that he broke Florida ethics rules while in office six years ago.

The Miami Republican’s attorney, Leonard Collins, filed a request Sept. 8 asking the Florida Supreme Court to take up Rivera’s case because, Collins argues, a ruling this summer by the First District Court of Appeal “conflicts” with a 1984 ruling by the Second District Court of Appeal.

The Florida Supreme Court should settle the matter and overturn the First DCA’s ruling, Collins argued, in his three-page notice this month to Florida’s highest court.

Zika fight ramps up in Miami-Dade mayoral race


Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and challenger Raquel Regalado continue their back-and-forth over Zika and the mayor's controversial decision to spray insecticide over Miami Beach. 

Regalado, a school board member sided with Miami Beach residents objecting to the spraying, citing health concerns. Gimenez labeled the position as a political ploy, in part because Regalado did not object to aerial spraying over Miami, where her father, Tomás Regalado, serves as mayor. 

The latest volley came from an Gimenez campaign email: "Unfortunately, my political opponent is trying to use the Zika issue to draw attention to herself. It's wrong. And let me be more clear, it's dangerous." 

The Thursday email followed Regalado appearing at a city meeting to support opponents of the spraying, and her releasing a campaign statement laying out her Zika plan. The statement built on past criticism that Gimenez was slow to act on Zika, with the county's mosquito-control tab soaring above $10 million, multiple times higher than the $1.5 million his administration had budgeted for 2016. 

"In November, as your newly elected Mayor, I will restore Mosquito Control operations to a fully-functional division with scientists, laboratory technicians, mapping specialists, and qualified field inspectors," Regalado wrote. "The control of mosquitoes is not emergency response work to be conducted by short-term hired contractors."

The fight involves the increasingly heated debate over mosquito spraying over Miami Beach, one of the most affluent areas in the county. When Zika transmissions were first discovered there last month, Gimenez aides said aerial spraying wouldn't be practical, given sea breezes and tall buildings. But as the mosquito counts continued to grow, despite squads of insecticide crews on the ground, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott pressing for aerial spraying, Gimenez gave the go-ahead for the plane runs. In his email, he cited recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control in Washington and state health officials for the spraying. 

The decision won the backing of Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine, but Regalado's condemnation brought her the endorsement of City Commissioner Michael Grieco.  

 "I understand that even limited spraying is not something we want to do for the lest of our lives," he wrote. "And we won't, but it is necessary that we do so NOW in order to prevent the spread of Zika-carrying mosquitoes." 

Murphy criticizes timing of Rubio's bill to thwart suspected terrorists from buying guns



Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy says Sen. Marco Rubio's introduction of a bill this morning to make it harder for suspected terrorists to buy guns is "an embarrassment" and smacks of political opportunism.

Rubio -- the Republican incumbent seeking re-election this fall against Murphy's challenge -- today offered what he's named the "Terror Intelligence Improvement Act" in reaction to the Orlando shooting at Pulse nightclub three months ago.

In a statement through his Senate office, Rubio said the bill is "another step toward fulfilling my promise" to Fred and Maria Wright, whose son, Jerry, was killed in the shooting.

"The Wrights made a simple request: that we improve our laws so it is more difficult for evil people to get ahold of guns," Rubio said. "I told them I would continue working toward consensus on common-sense measures that would help ensure criminals, terrorists and others seeking to take innocent lives are not able to acquire firearms."

He said his legislation "builds on some of the best ideas that have been proposed and improves them in ways that I hope will make a bipartisan solution more likely."

"This bill would achieve everyone’s goal of making it harder for suspected terrorists to buy guns, and do so without violating the due process and Second Amendment rights of innocent, law-abiding Americans," Rubio said.

Among its various provisions, Rubio's bill calls for requiring that the FBI director and the Joint Terrorism Task Force be immediately notified of requests to transfer a firearm to someone who was investigated for terrorism within the last 10 years. It also allows the U.S. Attorney General to delay a firearms' purchase for up to three days and file an emergency court petition if someone previously investigated for terrorism tries to buy a gun.

MORE: Read the bill.

But Murphy, in a campaign statement, was quick to criticize Rubio's introduction of the bill as a "transparent attempt to paper over his relentless opposition to legislation that prevents gun violence."

Continue reading "Murphy criticizes timing of Rubio's bill to thwart suspected terrorists from buying guns" »

Rubio defends Nelson after Scott Zika attack

via @learyreports

Gov. Rick Scott’s attack on Sen. Bill Nelson didn’t go over so well in Washington. First Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen rebuked Scott for partisanship then Sen. Marco Rubio defended Nelson, though without naming Scott.

“I would remind everyone that the Senate did act on this issue back in May in a bipartisan way,” Rubio said Wednesday afternoon in a floor speech about Zika. “And I would like to take this moment to point out that my colleague, Senator Bill Nelson from Florida, has been great to work with on this and multiple issues but on this one in particular and I thank him for his partnership and hard work in this regard.

"I enjoy our partnership on many issues involving the state of Florida including a water bill before the Senate. But on this issue of Zika in particular.”

Scott did not back down Wednesday, a day after saying Nelson turned his "back" on Florida by voting against a Zika funding bill that included provisions Democrats say attacks Planned Parenthood. Rubio voted for that bill but also supports a so-called clean funding bill.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Miami-Dade schools chief may have run afoul of Florida gift law

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via @KyraGurney

Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho might have violated state law by accepting event tickets and neckties worth more than $100 and failing to initially report the gifts.

The Florida Commission on Ethics announced Wednesday that it had found probable cause that Carvalho violated the gift law, but decided not to take any further action. “[B]ecause Mr. Carvalho was forthcoming, accepted responsibility for the failure to report certain gifts and ultimately reported those gifts on a Form 9 [a quarterly gift disclosure form], the Commission will take no further action on the allegations unless he requests an administrative hearing,” the commission said in a press release.

The gifts included tickets to events featuring Harry Connick Jr. and Kevin Spacey and a two-day cruise benefiting the United Way, the Associated Press reported.

School district spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego said Carvalho’s attendance at the events was part of his community outreach efforts.

More here.

Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff

Rubio missed nearly half of Foreign Relations hearings on Iran

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON – Sen. Marco Rubio has made opposition to the Iran nuclear deal a focus of his re-election campaign, using it to assert that Democratic opponent Patrick Murphy is weak on the issue.

But as Rubio presents himself as an expert on Iran and the Middle East in general, his attendance problems come back into view.

During the 114th Congress, Rubio missed nearly half of the Foreign Relations Committee hearings that dealt specifically with Iran, records show.

He also skipped a number of other hearings in which issues pertaining to Iran came up, though were not the sole focus.

It adds another layer to a weak spot Rubio’s rivals – Jeb Bush and other Republicans during the presidential primary and now, Democrats – have tried to exploit. In addition to missing many votes while he sought higher office, Rubio skipped out on dozens of committee hearings. Earlier this year, the Tampa Bay Times reported Rubio had missed 68 percent of all hearings since taking office.Now Rubio is running again and his record is available for scrutiny, especially since he has made Iran a focus. He has used it against Murphy and the Obama administration and to generally assert his experience.

Asked about the truancy, Rubio’s campaign said in a statement, “The difference between Marco and Murphy on Iran is clear. Marco opposes the dangerous Iran deal; Murphy supports it 100 percent. And despite more than $400 million in ransom payments to Iran, Murphy’s support for the deal has not wavered.”The campaign also noted that Murphy has a less than gold star attendance at his own committees, portending a likely response as the race heats up.

Polls show Rubio ahead.

Continue reading "Rubio missed nearly half of Foreign Relations hearings on Iran" »

Angry Instagram comments from animal activists on Miami-Dade mayor's account prompt police query

via @DavidOvalle305

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s Instagram account contains a collection of snapshots typical of a politician: speaking at a budget hearing, reading to schoolchildren, taking a selfie with other leaders.

But just about every humdrum photo has been received with unusual venom from social media commenters.

“INNOCENT ANIMALS ARE BEING KILLED LIKE TRASH AND IT'S YOUR FAULT!” And “you’re disgusting for what you’ve done to our animals!!!!” And “I can certainly tell you where to put that selfie stick.” And so on.

The mayor’s Instagram account has been largely hijacked by a particular group: animal-rights activists who have long railed against euthanizing unwanted pets in Miami-Dade County. It’s gotten this bad: One commenter — irate even in far-off Canada — warned he might try to put down the mayor or his family, a threat Miami-Dade police are now investigating.

Despite a gleaming new county animal shelter and the county’s claim that few animals are euthanized any more, online commenters continue to target Gimenez – who is running for re-election against Raquel Regalado, an opponent who enjoys the support of some of the county’s high-profile animal activists.

The mayor said he’s troubled by the dark tone the social media heckling has taken.

More here.

Photo credit: Peter Andrew Bosch, Miami Herald staff