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November 30, 2016

Group of congressmen support Ingoglia for second term as Republican Party of Florida chair

BlaiseSummit

@JeremySWallace

Seven members of Congress and four soon-to-be members are publicly throwing their support behind Republican Party of Florida chairman Blaise Ingoglia for a second term running the state party.

Ingoglia released the list of 11 members who will have votes when the Republican Party of Florida meets in January to vote on who will be the chairman through 2018.

"The organization Chairman Blaise Ingoglia put in place this past election cycle was crucial in delivering big wins from President-Elect Trump and Senator Rubio, our Congressional delegation, and the State Senate and State House,” U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, a Republican from Alachua County.

Others on the list: Reps Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor; Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami; Ron DeSantis, R-Ponte Vedra Beach; Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee; Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland; and Dan Webster, R-Clermont. Congressmen-elect Neil Dunn, R-Panama City; Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach; Brian Mast, R-St. Lucie County; and John Rutherford, R-Jacksonville.

The list comes days after Ingoglia put out a list of 114 Republican activists who are supporting him.

But Ingoglia’s opponent Christian Ziegler, a Sarasota Republican, is hardly concerned about the lists. He says many of the people on Ingoglia’s list are county party chairs who are not seeking re-election this month, meaning they can’t vote in January when the race will be decided. He said there are others on the list who have encouraged him to run against Ingoglia so their endorsements may not translate into votes.

One example is Monroe County Republican Party chairwoman Debby Goodman, who after three terms as county party leader is not seeking re-election. Goodman said she won’t have a vote in January and said her name on the list “must have been an honest mistake.”

Ingoglia has since taken her name off his endorsement list.

Analysis shows Miami voters crossed party lines to support Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen -- and Clinton

An new analysis of how Florida's congressional districts voted in November by Democratic data guru Matt Isbell shows that voters crossed party lines heavily in two Miami-Dade districts to re-elect Republican incumbents, despite overwhelmingly support for Democrat Hillary Clinton. Florida Congressional Districts Trump v Clinton

Isbell's data shows that if voters who supported Clinton had stuck with Democrats in the congressional vote, there would be 14 Repubicans in Florida's congressional delegation and 13 Democrats, instead of 16-11 split that was elected.

The principle takeaway: the partisan battleground lies in Miami but the battle grounds are already clear for 2018: newly-elected Democratic Congressman Charlie Crist better be wary, his district barely embraced Clinton; and Republican U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart's Miami district also only narrowly gave Trump the edge. 

The crossover votes came in Miami District 26, where Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo fended off a challenge from his former rival, Democrat Joe Garcia 53 to 41 percent, with independent Jose Peixoto getting 6 percent of the vote. In Miami District 27, where Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen kept her decades long hold on an otherwise Democratic district by defeating Democrat Mark Fuhrman 55 to 45 percent. 

Here's the breakdown via Matt Isbell of @mcimaps: 

Continue reading "Analysis shows Miami voters crossed party lines to support Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen -- and Clinton" »

New House education chairman who opposed school recess plan 'will take a look' at it in 2017

Bileca_flhouse@ByKristenMClark

After being one of only two Florida House members to oppose it last session, Miami Republican Rep. Michael Bileca said he's open to considering a renewed effort to mandate recess time at Florida's public elementary schools.

But he indicated the proposal could still face some potentially tough scrutiny in 2017.

"I will take a look at it," Bileca told the Herald/Times. "The areas I had difficulty with were not changed (last session), so we'll need to see what's changed."

Although he's only one vote in the 120-member House, Bileca's opinion matters greatly because, as chairman of the Education Committee for the upcoming term, he has the power to influence the outcome of a wide range of education policy matters -- including this popular, parent-driven proposal.

Among Bileca's powers as chairman is deciding which bills are taken up by his committee. Failing to get a hearing is a frequent way bills die in session -- and it's how the recess measure stalled last spring in the Senate.

MORE: "Florida will again consider mandatory recess"

In filing a bill on Tuesday, Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, got the ball rolling to revive the Legislature's recess debate for next session. Rep. Rene Plasencia, the Orlando Republican who advocated for the issue last spring, is drafting the House companion.

"I know one of the things for me last year that I didn't like was it was tied to discipline," Bileca said, referencing a provision in last session's bill that read: "Free-play recess may not be withheld for academic or punititive reasons."

Bileca said he "expected modifications" in the proposal before it was brought to the House floor for a final vote but the bill was never altered.

Bileca and now-House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, were the only "no" votes when the measure passed the House, 112-2, in February. Corcoran's office did not respond to emails seeking comment this week about whether he would support a school recess proposal in the upcoming session.

While Plasencia's bill is still being drafted, the version Flores filed omits the line that concerned Bileca. It also doesn't include language affording recess time to sixth-graders who are enrolled at schools with at least one other elementary school grade, as last session's bill did.

In speaking with the Herald/Times, Bileca indicated the recess proposal could face a high bar as far as his support is concerned.

He noted that Florida already mandates physical education time, "a requirement that a lot of other states don't have." And he said: "My big focus for next session is going to be: Where are there areas we've over-regulated from the state level?"

One of the reasons the recess measure died last session in the Senate was because that chamber's education policy chairman at the time firmly believed it was a local issue that didn't "merit a Tallahassee solution."

Photo credit: State Rep. Michael Bileca, R-Miami, during the 2015 session. myfloridahouse.gov

'Building a wall is a phrase,' Rubio says

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio says he’s eager to get to work on Donald Trump’s agenda of ditching Obamacare and increasing border security, though Rubio implied that Trump’s wall was a rhetorical device.

“Building a wall is a phrase that is about securing the border and enforcing our immigration laws. And I think that's something we need to move on first,” Rubio said Tuesday night in an interview with Sean Hannity. “I've -- I've said now for a long time that it is the key that unlocks the door to be able to do anything else on immigration.”

Rubio’s comments reflect what other Republicans on Capitol Hill have said as questions have come up about the cost and feasibility of a wall, at least as Trump described it.

Rubio said he generally agreed with Trump’s domestic agenda but carefully noted potential differences on foreign policy. “We'll see how that develops. He's had -- as I said, he's never held public office before, so he said some things on the campaign trail. We'll see how that translates to foreign policy,” Rubio said.

Continue reading "'Building a wall is a phrase,' Rubio says" »

House set to pass health bill with Miami ties

@PatriciaMazzei

The U.S. House plans to vote Wednesday on a wide-ranging health bill that includes several items of interest to South Florida.

The legislation, dubbed the "21st Century Cures Act," would exempt the University of Miami's Sylvester Cancer Center from Medicare reimbursement cuts imposed on hospitals last year -- a protection that should help Sylvester expand, according to the office of Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Also included in the bill is language Ros-Lehtinen and Boca Raton Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch drafted to direct federal health grants to train physicians and educators about early signs of eating disorders. In addition, the legislation supports federal drug courts modeled in part like the state ones pioneered in Miami.

The Cures Act had been passed by the House before, but the Senate objected to some provisions. The new version is a result of negotiations between both chambers.

Perhaps the best known part of the legislation in South Florida is lifting a restriction to allow the Food and Drug Administration to authorize, on an emergency basis, the use of technologies such as a genetically modified mosquito to combat the Zika virus.

In op-ed, Curbelo calls on Trump administration to be 'inclusive'

From a Miami Herald op-ed column penned by newly reelected Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo:

A long and uninspiring election season has come and gone. Americans from all regions of the country, with diverse backgrounds and beliefs, cast ballots for candidates who best represented their vision for the future. Since Election Day, we have seen a wide array of emotions, from celebration to protest. As the dust settles and we look towards the future, officials at all levels must put politics aside and serve the people who elected them to make government more efficient.

I have been given the honor of returning to the U.S. House of Representatives for another two years to represent our South Florida community in Congress. Throughout the campaign, the theme I reiterated to constituents was the need for civility, the need to put people and ideas above petty politics. Campaigns might focus on personalities and personal attacks, but governing requires thoughtfulness and consensus-building. Those who govern must lead serious discussions of ideas for making our community and the country better places to live and raise a family. This is the only way we can hope to restore Americans’ trust and confidence in government and its institutions.

[...]

But we won’t be able to accomplish anything noteworthy unless all parties have a seat at the table to share their views and contribute. I encourage the new administration to be inclusive. It didn’t take me long to learn that without bipartisan cooperation little gets done in Washington. The best laws are often products of compromise and negotiation.

More here.

Another Floridian who was 'drug czar' has advice for Pam Bondi

If Attorney General Pam Bondi is considering serving as the nation's next drug czar in Donald Trump's White House, she might think twice -- especially if she talks with the other Floridian who held the same job nearly three decades ago.

That would be Bob Martinez, the former Republican governor and mayor of Tampa, who held the post in 1991 and 1992 in the last two years of President George H.W. Bush's term. When Bush lost to Bill Clinton in 1992, Martinez headed back to Florida.

In the alphabet soup of the federal bureaucracy, the Cabinet-level agency is known as ONDCP, the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

After Martinez lost his 1990 re-election bid to Lawton Chiles, he was hired as the nation's second drug czar, succeeding Bill Bennett, who went on to a career as a leading Republican pundit and talk-show host.

MartinezWFSUMartinez (left), now a lobbyist at Holland & Knight's Tampa office, knows the route to Senate confirmation. He schmoozed with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, then chaired by Democrat Joe Biden of Delaware; completed the lengthy Senate questionnaire for high-level appointees; and won Senate confirmation on an 88-12 vote. He also endured his share of negative press coverage along the way, like the 1992 Orlando Sentinel editorial that said: "The drug czar office of Bob Martinez is a joke. It has neither the power nor the right people to fight the nation's drug war."

Back in the early '90s, crack cocaine and marijuana use were seen as major drug problems. Lately, the drug czar's mission hasn't been attracting a lot of attention, even though overdoses and deaths from heroin, fentanyl and opioids have reached crisis proportions in many parts of America.

"I've not seen much from that office," Martinez told the Times/Herald. "It doesn't seem to have the same visibility as it did when I served. It has declined in terms of visibility."

He said the job required working with other federal agencies, law enforcement agencies, states and local governments, and to get drug treatment money to where it was needed most.  "You do a lot of jawboning to get things done," Martinez said. "It's not something that's direct. Policy is your domain."

Bondi is the subject of much speculation that she'll be offered a job in Trump's administration after working to help him win Florida.

November 29, 2016

Florida Rep. Dennis Ross joins Trump transition

via @learyreports

Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, has been named to President-elect Donald Trump's transition team, joining a group that includes Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Trump announced Ross and other additions in an email tonight:

Vice Chairs: Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis, Kathleen Troia "KT" McFarland, Congressman Tom Reed and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and U.S. Senator Tim Scott. Also joining the Executive Committee are: Congressman Sean Duffy, Congressman Trey Gowdy, Congressman Dennis Ross, Pastor Darrell Scott and Kiron Skinner.

Days before the election, Ross appeared at a Tampa rally for Trump "As Hillsborough County goes," Ross said, "so goes the state of Florida."

In the small sense, he was wrong. Hillary Clinton actually won Hillsborough, going from bellweather to outlier. But Trump won the state on way to a stunning national victory.

"Thank you!" Ross said in response to congratulations from a supporter on Twitter.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Fourth prison riot this year breaks out at troubled Franklin Correctional Institution in North Florida

Franklin CorrectionalThe Florida Department of Corrections was forced to quell yet another disturbance at a North Florida prison early Tuesday, deploying a response team to quiet an inmate unrest for the fourth time this year at Franklin Correctional Institution.

"The situation was quickly and effectively resolved and resulted in no injuries to staff or inmates,'' said Michelle Glady, spokesperson for the agency. "At this time the facility remains on lockdown. The Department is currently assessing the facility for damages and has placed involved inmates in confinement pending disciplinary review."

In June, inmates jumped a corrections officer and took over two dorms for several hours during a late-night riot at the facility in rural Carrabelle.  During that riot, about 300 inmates stormed two housing dorms, using makeshift tools to drill through a concrete and brick wall and smash bathroom fixtures, TVs, ceiling fans, toilets and sprinkler systems, destroying nearly everything in the dorms, officials with the Florida Department of Corrections and sources confirmed at the time.

The incidents are constant reminders that Franklin and other facilities are dangerously understaffed. Yet, the unrest comes on the same day a settlement was announced in a lawsuit in which three prison inspectors accused the agency of covering up an abusive inmate death in 2010 at Franklin Correctional. The officers filed the lawsuit alleging that they had been systematically retaliated against for attempting to bring their claims forward. 

Rather than investigating the claims, FDC officials demoted the whistleblowers and filed a series of internal investigations against them. The three inspectors filed a retaliation lawsuit and, a year ago, agreed to drop the charges in exchange for the state finding them different jobs at another state agency and releasing them from the investigations. They only cost to the state would have been the attorneys fees of about $25,000, said Ryan Andrews, their lawyer. FDC refused.

Tuesday, a settlement agreement was filed in Leon County Circuit Court showing the state agreed to pay the whistleblowers $800,000 to end the lawsuit.

Glady said that the portion of the settlement payment not covered by the agency's liability insurance will come from the agency’s administrative trust fund: $320,209.66.

Miami stop likely on Trump's victory tour

120TrumpBayF03 NEW PPP
@PatriciaMazzei

Miami appears to be a likely stop for President-elect Donald Trump's victory tour, which will kick off Thursday in Cincinnati.

Trump is expected to visit key states that helped win him the election, such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida. Several sources have told the Miami Herald that Trump's "thank you tour" is planning to hit Miami in the next few weeks, though a date isn't firm yet.

The president-elect is said to miss the energy of his massive campaign rallies.

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, Miami Herald