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.

July 28, 2015

Detzner tells counties updated voter database 'ready to go live'

Secretary of State Ken Detzner's office is telling Florida's 67 election supervisors that updated hardware on the state voter database is "ready to go live."

An alert from Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews went out Monday evening after details emerged of a critical state audit of the agency's management of the Florida Voter Registration System (FVRS). In addition, county election supervisors, who have repeatedly criticized Detzner for a lack of communication, called the audit findings "troubling."

Supervisors also struck a more cooperative tone in response to the state's action. Pasco County Supervisor Brian Corley, president of the supervisors' statewide association, said: "The FVRS hardware update is obviously welcomed by the supervisors of elections as the upgrade should provide a more stable platform going forward and we look forward to working with the Department of State on the software refresh."

The full text of Matthews' email to supervisors follows.

Continue reading "Detzner tells counties updated voter database 'ready to go live'" »

Mason-Dixon poll: Floridians support solar energy but would vote down industry-backed amendment

via @KirbyWilson88

A new poll shows that Florida voters would vote down a constitutional amendment proposed by the solar industry despite Floridians' overwhelming support for more solar energy in the state.

The amendment, titled, “Limits or Prevents Barriers to Local Solar Electricity Supply,” promises that it “Limits or prevents government and electric utility imposed barriers to supplying local solar electricity." Just 30 percent of voters support this proposal, compared with 45 percent who oppose it, per the poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research.

The poll also shows Floridians widely favor an amendment from the utility companies that "establishes a right under Florida's constitution for consumers to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use." 66 percent of voters polled said they would support this deal, compared with just 22 percent who would not.

The difference between the support for the two amendments can be attriubted to the confusing wording of the first proposal and the relatively clear wording of the second, according to the poll's analysis.

"Such a sharp difference in the results of two questions related to solar energy can only be explained by the ballot language," says the analysis. "The solar industry amendment is much more confusing to the average voter than the language offered in the counter-amendment."

Continue reading "Mason-Dixon poll: Floridians support solar energy but would vote down industry-backed amendment" »

Florida Republicans discontinue presidential straw poll again


One cycle after reviving the Florida straw poll, the state Republican Party is scrapping it again.

A spokesman for the RPOF said when the party holds its new Sunshine Summit for presidential candidates in October, it will not include either a nationally televised debate or a straw poll that was an on-again-off-again tradition dating back to Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign.

In 2011, the RPOF revived the straw poll during what was its Presidency 5 event that included a nationally televised debate with all of the major contenders. A shocking upset victory by former pizza company CEO Herman Cain over Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Mitt Romney in the straw launched Cain into national contention for at least a few months before he dropped out of the contest entirely.

That straw poll was once seen as a bellweather because the winners of the first 3 straw poll events all went on to win the GOP nomination. In 1979, Reagan impressively won the straw poll that many expected was going to be a close fight with former Texas Gov. John Connally. After Reagan’s big win in 1979, George H.W. Bush won it in 1987 and then Bob Dole in 1995. The poll was then discontinued until the 2011 cycle.

Continue reading "Florida Republicans discontinue presidential straw poll again" »

Political group spends cash on Marco Rubio in debate lead up

via @learyreports

A political group that does not disclose its donors has put Marco Rubio in the lead of early TV advertising, spending $2.6 million already in advance of next week’s GOP debate.

Conservative Solutions Project’s ads have focused on the Iran deal, producing spots before it was announced and on the day. “July 14th, 2015 – Barack Obama makes a deal giving Iran a clear path to a nuclear bomb,” a narrator says. “Congress can stop it. Marco Rubio is leading the fight.”

Rubio has been missing a lot of work in Washington to campaign but returned last week for a Foreign Relations hearing on the deal, his campaign using social media to highlight his confrontation with Secretary of State John Kerry.

NBC News, which had access to ad buying data, put the pro-Rubio group first in ad spending. He was followed by a pro-John Kasich group, New Day for America, with $2.1 million. Kasich is trying to lift his profile so he can make the cut for the first debate next week in Cleveland.

Rick Perry, also struggling to emerge from the lower end of the pack, is aided with $1.3 million in spending from the Opportunity and Freedom PAC. Bobby Jindal is backed with $1.1. million from Believe Again PAC. Chris Christie benefits from $500,000 from his campaign and America Leads PAC.

Total spending so far: almost $8 million, NBC News reports. “By comparison, only about $1 million was spent at this point in the 2012 GOP presidential contest, per SMG Delta. The only Democratic entity that has been spending money on a presidential candidate is the Super PAC supporting Martin O’Malley – and it’s just $25,000.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

$14 billion Florida beer industry means big business

Florida loves a cold brew — a lot, according to a new study that says beer pumps $14 billion into the state's economy every year.

The beer industry accounts for more than $5 billion in wages and benefits for more than 125,000 jobs in the state, according to the study commissioned by the Beer Institute and National Beer Wholesalers Association, an industry group of distributors who transport bottles, cans and kegs from breweries to stores and bars. And the industry brought in $3 billion in tax revenues to state coffers last year.

"Beer is more than our nation's favorite adult drink — it is a powerhouse in job creation, commercial activity and tax revenue," Jim McGreevy, Beer Institute president and CEO, said in a statement.

Much of that impact can be attributed to big names like Budweiser and MillerCoors, which account for most of the beer consumed in the U.S., even as craft breweries continue to boom.

According to the Beer Institute study, 70 percent of brewing jobs in the U.S. are with large and medium-sized breweries, and the distributors have increased their employment by 20 percent in the last decade.

It's not just the big guys that are growing. Craft breweries nationwide are on track to almost double their production from just three years ago, according to a separate study released Monday by their national group, the Brewers Association.

Right now, craft beer represents just a fraction of the total industry in Florida. With growth will come more jobs and greater impact on the state's economy as small breweries hire more employees to keep up with demand, said Josh Aubuchon, executive director of the Florida Brewers Guild.

"The (job-creating) benefit of the small craft brewer is that because the equipment is much less automated, you can't run the whole brewhouse with just one person like you can the big automated systems," Aubuchon said. "You need more boots on the ground."

He and others in the craft beer industry are hoping to see their market share continue to grow, especially after the legislative session this spring that included the passage of their marquee law, allowing breweries to sell 64-ounce growlers and open tasting rooms.

Florida leads nation in property at risk from climate change

via @jenstaletovich

Florida has more private property at risk from flooding linked to climate change than any other state, an amount that could double in the next four decades, according to a new report by the Risky Business Project.

By 2030, $69 billion in coastal property in Florida could flood at high tide that is not at risk today, the report found. That amount is projected to climb to $152 billion by 2050.

While projections for rising seas are not new, for the first time researchers tried to quantify the economic damage wrought by climate change by better understanding the risks to business and a rebounding economy. Growth in manufacturing and energy production have created a mini boom in the Southeast and Texas, the report said. But climate change threatens to undo that progress and cause widespread damage to the region’s economic pillars: manufacturing, agriculture and energy.

For Florida, the blows are significant and not only for property. Higher temperatures and rising seas could slow labor productivity, stress the energy industry and dry up cash pumped into the state by tourists.

“The sea-rise numbers are out there. The heat numbers are out there. What this study has done for the first time is really look at this from a business perspective,” former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who co-chaired the project, said in an interview with the Miami Herald.

More here.

July 27, 2015

Jeb Bush, en español, recalls 'dark-skinned' son's experience with discrimination


There are some things Jeb Bush seems more comfortable saying in Spanish. 

In his second language, the one he polished to woo his Mexican-born wife, Bush has more than once opened up in interviews in ways he has not yet in English.

That may have to do with the questions Bush, an honorary Cuban American, gets asked in Spanish versus the ones he gets asked in English. But whether it's because of Bush or because of the interviewers, the former Florida governor has expressed himself in more personal terms en español.

In Puerto Rico earlier this year, Bush's answer to whether he'd attend a same-sex wedding -- "Claro que sí" -- was far warmer in Spanish than in English. Earlier Monday, he said in Spanish that he had been "hurt" by Donald Trump's comments about Mexicans.

And in the same interview with Telemundo's José Diaz-Balart, Bush opened up about a time one of his sons, now-Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, faced teasing because of the color of his skin.

Here's a transcript of the exchange, as translated by Telemundo:

Díaz-Balart: I know your three sons are bilingual. Were there times when they were younger where they were targeted either because of the color of their skin or their accent? And as a father how did you talk to them when they would tell you that they were laughed at because of their accent or the color of their skin?

Bush: It was important. I remember there was a time when my son went to Ocala to play baseball, a game on a team. And the team was a Miami team, the majority were Hispanics. My son George, he's dark-skinned. And they spoke horrible things about those from Miami. And naturally I had to explain or describe that people who hate are not the majority, and we just accept them and move forward. Because he was quite upset. Because he and his friends never -- since we live in Miami, we don't have a problem. But in other parts of the country, it exists. It's a good lesson to learn, to always remember that we still don't have a country that's full justice for all. We can see this in the African-American communities also, there's discrimination still. And in my life it's important to acknowledge this and to act about that -- yes.

Díaz-Balart: Act on it, but how?

Bush: When I was governor, I got to govern like this, bring in everybody who wanted to be with me. In regards of assigning judges, people in important positions in my administration. I had the greatest diversity from any other governor, and always be aware of the diversity of the state of Florida. It's a virtue. It's something positive. It should not divide us, but we should embrace diversity so that we can have better results.

'Joyful tortoise' Jeb Bush campaigns in Central Florida

via @adamsmithtimes

MAITLAND -- Repeat after Jeb Bush: He is not angry. Not even a tiny bit.

Florida’s Republican former governor is happy — joyful even. And campaigning throughout Orlando Monday the merriest of presidential candidates reminded supporters over and over again that he is nothing like some of his churlish counterparts in the GOP primary.

“Here’s the deal: I don’t have anger in my heart,” he told about 200 people at a community center in Maitland Monday evening. “We shouldn’t be scolding people. We shouldn’t be saying outrageous things that turns people off to the conservative message.”

“I’m not a grievance candidate,” he told more than 150 fans in Longwood, warning that the race was sure to be a long one and poll numbers would rise and fall. “I’m the tortoise in the race — but I’m a joyful tortoise.”

And in Longwood, after predicting his “hopeful, optimistic message” would win him strong support among Hispanic voters, he chided former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for having compared the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement to the Holocaust.

“We need to tone down the rhetoric,” Bush said. “The use of that kind of language is just wrong. This is not the way we’re going to win elections.”

At a time when Donald Trump is drowning out most of the other Republican candidates calling rivals idiots and losers, Bush appears perfectly content to come off as a different kind of Republican candidate.

More here.

Cuban-American lawmakers react with alarm to Cuba's upgrade on trafficking report


Cuban-American lawmakers reacted incredulously to the upgrade that Cuba received from the U.S. State Department in its annual “Trafficking in Persons Report.”

The report, released Monday, is a compilation of nations that have made inadequate progress preventing activities such as sex trafficking or forced labor.

This year, 23 countries were on the on the report’s Tier 3 –- nations such as Iran, North Korea, Libya, Russia and others “whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.”

Gone from the list? Cuba.

In a briefing, Under Secretary of State Sarah Sewall detailed serious problems that remain in Cuba, and noted that the designation for nations such as Cuba “does not mean that a country is free from problems or free from human trafficking.”

Cuba was upgraded, she said, because of progress by its government in addressing and prosecuting sex trafficking -– as well as the commitments it has made to become compliant with the minimum standards.

The U.S. remains concerned about Cuba in part because of its “failure to recognize forced labor as a problem or to act to combat it,” she said.

Continue reading "Cuban-American lawmakers react with alarm to Cuba's upgrade on trafficking report" »

Jeb Bush tells Telemundo he felt 'hurt' by Donald Trump's comments about Mexicans


Jeb Bush spoke Monday in more personal terms than he has in the past about Donald Trump's claim that many Mexicans who cross the border into the U.S. are criminals and rapists.

How did Trump's comments make him feel, considering that his wife was born in Mexico, Telemundo news anchor José Díaz-Balart asked Bush in a Spanish-language interview taped in Orlando.

"Hurt," Bush said. "To hear a person speak in such vulgar fashion. This makes solving this problem more difficult."

Bush added that, "when politicians speak that way, offend millions of people who are here legally" and get in the way of fixing the problem. "It doesn't make sense."

The former Florida governor, who routinely answers questions in Spanish from reporters in cities with a strong Spanish-language media presence, also elaborated on how his family deals with its Hispanicness.

"Columba is very Mexican -- proud of her citizenship in this country, of course, but we eat Mexican food at home," Bush said, referring to his wife. "Our children are Hispanic, in many ways."

Spanish is spoken at home, he added, "particularly when my first lady is mad at me." 

Díaz-Balart's brothers, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, both Miami Republicans, have endorsed Bush.

This post has been updated.