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May 03, 2016

Ted Cruz drops out of GOP presidential race

@PatriciaMazzei

Ted Cruz lost the Indiana primary resoundingly to Donald Trump on Tuesday, clearing Trump's path to the Republican presidential nomination and prompting Cruz to withdraw from the campaign.

"Together we left it all on the field in Indiana. We gave it everything we've got," Cruz told supporters in Indianapolis. "But the voters chose another path."

The Texas senator said he suspended his campaign "with a heavy heart," because he no longer has a "viable path" to the nomination. That makes Trump the almost-certain nominee, though he has yet to garner the 1,237 delegates needed.

"When we launched this campaign 13 months ago, we saw a movement grow. The pundits all said it was hopeless," Cruz said. "I am so grateful to you.... The movement that you have started is extraordinary."

That leaves a single symbolic rival to Trump: Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has remained in the race even though he only won his home state and has fewer delegates than Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who ended his candidacy March 15.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus made it clear Tuesday night that Trump is the party's choice (with a typo in the tweet to boot):

From New York, Trump congratulated Cruz, whom he had branded "Lyin' Ted" during the race and with whom he traded forceful accusations earlier Tuesday. By evening, Trump called Cruz a "hell of a competitor."

"He is a tough, smart guy," Trump said. "He's got an amazing future."

The celebrity businessman seemed awed by his own success.

"It's been some unbelievable day and evening and year," Trump said. "It's a beautiful think to watch and a beautiful thing to behold, and we're going to make America great again."

"We are going to win bigly," he added.

Jeffrey Bragg, rejected as insurance commissioner, applies for the Public Service Commission

Gov. Rick Scott's top choice to become insurance commissioner, Jeffrey S. Bragg, is among the 11 candidates who have applied to become Public Service Commissioner, the powerful board that regulates utilities.

Bragg, a Palm Harbor resident and former executive director of the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Terrorism Risk Insurance Program under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, previously applied to become insurance commissioner and was the governor's top choice. But his nomination was rejected by Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who preferred state Rep. Bill Hagar for the job, and their impasse led them to agree to an alternate, David Altmaire, a deputy insurance commissioner.

Reached by phone late Tuesday, Bragg would not say if he had been recruited for the powerful PSC post by the governor.

"I'm just looking for a good fit and hope this will be it,'' Bragg told the Herald/Times. "I do want to get back in the game in some meaningful way." 

The post is being vacated by for the position being vacated by Lisa Edgar, the longest serving member of the PSC who confirmed Tuesday that she will not seek a fourth term to the commission. She served three four-year terms and had been appointed by Govs. Jeb Bush, Charlie Crist and Rick Scott

The other candidates applying to fill Edgar's post include: Johnnie E. Cooper. John R. Coleman, Albert E. Martin, Dennis E. Shannon, Jeffrey S. Foster, Cynthia J. Wilson Orndoff, Donald J. Polmann, Thomas P. Brantley, Stuart W. Pollins and Todd N. Chase. No additional information was made available late Tuesday. 

The Public Service Commission Nominating Council, a 12-member panel controlled by legislators, will interview the candidates in Tallahassee on Thursday and recommend three names to be submitted to the governor. Scott will then select his appointee from the list. 

Times report Steve Bousquet contributed to this report. 

Here is Edgar's statement: 

Continue reading "Jeffrey Bragg, rejected as insurance commissioner, applies for the Public Service Commission" »

Florida Legislature: Cities can't ban Styrofoam. Coral Gables: Yes, we can

via @LDixon_3

Coral Gables has taken several steps to become a sustainable city in the past year by encouraging and mandating green building standards, easing the process to obtain solar panels, and taking steps to ban the use of polystyrene products in the city.

That last effort has become a complicated move for the city in the past few months as the Florida Legislature passed a bill in February preventing local municipalities from banning the use of Styrofoam containers or other products. Cities that approved their bans before Jan. 1 were allowed to keep their laws in place, but others — like Coral Gables — were forced to reverse their decisions.

The Gables commission has since taken steps to keep the city ban including approving an ordinance that makes their ban effective as of December 2015, when the commission gave initial approval to the ban, and backing up their decision to keep the ban by citing the Miami-Dade home rule charter.

City Attorney Craig Leen said Coral Gables may face a legal challenge if it goes forward with enforcement and he argued that the home-rule charter should protect the city.

“The Legislature can’t come here and legislate in a way that harms the city in the eyes of the city commission,” Leen said.

More here.

Tampa Bay Times buys rival Tampa Tribune

From the Associated Press:

Florida's largest newspaper, The Tampa Bay Times, said Tuesday it has purchased its main competitor, the Tampa Tribune, ending a decades-long newspaper rivalry.

The acquisition means that the Tribune printed its final newspaper Tuesday, ending its 123-year-old run as a stand-alone paper. The Times will become the fifth-largest Sunday circulation newspaper in the nation.

Times chairman and CEO Paul Tash said he intends to create one financially secure, locally owned daily newspaper in the Tampa Bay region. Tash did not disclose the purchase price.

"The continued competition between the newspapers was threatening to both," Tash said in a statement. "There are very few cities that are able to sustain more than one daily newspaper, and the Tampa Bay region is not among them."

The Times bought the paper from Revolution Capital Group, which purchased the Tribune in 2012 for $9.5 million.

People around the Tampa Bay area were stunned when they heard the news. St. Petersburg and Tampa — 30 miles apart and separated by Tampa Bay — have always been vastly different places, and that was reflected in the two newspapers. Tampa is more urban, grittier, diverse, while its neighbor across the bay has morphed from a place affectionately known as "God's Waiting Room" into a hipster play land with murals, microbreweries and the state's largest farmer's market.

For years, the Tribune was considered the more conservative paper, while the Times was thought of as more liberal.

More here.

'A fire burning' to keep expanding school choice in Florida, Hialeah lawmaker says

IMG_8111

@ByKristenMClark

The Legislature's approval of a massive education bill and other innovative policies this spring has reinvigorated the "school choice" movement in Florida, a key Miami-Dade lawmaker said Tuesday.

In the past few years, "there was a complacency," state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, said. "What I heard from my colleagues was, 'so much has been done, we have to see what works.' I’m saying, 'we don't have time for that.' 

"I was pleasantly surprised this session," he added. "The stars aligned and we were able to push some things through... a lot of revolutionary things."

And Floridians can expect that wave of policies to continue in upcoming legislative sessions, said Diaz -- who's in line to be the next chairman of either the House Education Committee or the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee under incoming speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes.

"It's clearly awoken," Diaz said of the push for school choice. "There is a political will you see in the incoming leadership; there is a fire burning. We’re headed in that direction and they’ll be a charge led from the top."

Diaz's remarks came during a luncheon in downtown Miami on Tuesday about the benefits of school choice in Florida. The discussion was sponsored by the James Madison Institute -- a Tallahassee-based free market think tank, which supports school choice policies.

More here.

Photo credit: Republican State Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., center, speaks during a panel discussion about educational choice, sponsored by the James Madison Institute, on Tuesday at the the InterContinental Miami Hotel. (Sabrina Paz Riesgo / Influence Communications)

California Seethin': Gov. Scott's trip brings blast of bad press

First the video at the Gainesville Starbucks that went viral. Now this.

Gov. Rick Scott sure has a knack for attracting publicity to Florida. But it's the worst kind.

Columnist Tim Grobaty of the Long Beach Press Telegram labels Scott's job-poaching journey to Los Angeles this week as that of a "full-blown stalker."

Just getting warmed up, he goes on to describe Florida as "utterly uninhabitable" during the summer months, "with the humidity surpassing the state's median IQ."

Not exactly the kind of stuff you find in the talking points for promoting economic development in Florida.

He also writes of mosquitoes the size of SPAM cans and sinkholes that swallow entire neighborhoods, and says Florida leads or nearly leads the nation in hjust about every negative category, beginning with "health care fraud." Read the column here.

Donald Trump, the best thing that's happened to fútbol ads

Colombia Copa America Trophy(2)

@PatriciaMazzei

Oh, yes, Latin American soccer is having fun with this U.S. presidential election.

First it was Mexican network TV Azteca that invoked Donald Trump last fall to ramp up excitement for a U.S.-Mexico clash. Fox Soccer Channel followed suit.

Now, a month from kickoff of the Copa América Centenario tournament, Argentina's TyC Sports has debuted a fútbol spot of its own invoking The Donald as motivation for the South American country's top-ranked national team -- and its fans.

This year's special Copa América, celebrating the continental tournament's centennial, will be held in the U.S.

Cue border-wall talk.

Or as the Argentine ad concludes: "La verdad lo mejor que pueden hacer es no dejarnos entrar." The truth is the best thing they can do is not let us in.

Argentina plays its first Copa América match against archrival Chile in Santa Clara, California, on June 6 -- the day before the California primary.

Photo credit: Fernando Vergara, Associated Press

Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld is in Cuba, and a Miami congresswoman is not happy about it

Cuba Chanel

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen knows a thing or two about how to troll on Twitter.

Her account, @RosLehtinen, has spent the past couple of weeks periodically posting about French fashion house Chanel, which plans to hold a runway show Tuesday night in Havana.

Ros-Lehtinen's particular target: designer Karl Lagerfeld, the German haute couture powerhouse heading Chanel's line, "inspired" by Cuba. The congresswoman used the opportunity to highlight repression against Cuba's Ladies in White dissidents.

A sample of her tweets:

Ros-Lehtinen is a vocal opponent of President Obama's reestablished diplomatic relations with the Castro regime. That puts her at odds with Miami Cuban-American superstar musicians Emilio and Gloria Estefan, who told New York Magazine they back the new policy and are happy to see Chanel on the island.

Photo credit: Ramon Espinosa, Associated Press

Florida GOP to pick final presidential convention delegates

@PatriciaMazzei

The Republican Party of Florida will select the remaining 15 of its 99 presidential nominating delegates next week in Tampa.

Party honchos will meet May 13-14 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Tampa for their quarterly meeting. At 12:30 p.m. May 14, a Saturday, the RPOF executive board will name its delegates, who will join the ones picked in recent weeks for each congressional district by Republican Executive Committees in each Florida county. That process drew ire from supporters of front-runner Donald Trump, who said they were left out of many of the slots, particularly in South Florida.

The sort of delegates picked at the RPOF level are people like state Rep. José Oliva of Miami Lakes, a likely future speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

Here's the meeting's public schedule:

Continue reading "Florida GOP to pick final presidential convention delegates " »

State receives just one letter supporting retreat from anti-discrimination rules for LGBT foster children

@MichaelAuslen

When the state first proposed to backtrack from new rules banning discrimination and controversial conversion therapies for LGBT foster children in group homes, the response from Florida’s gay-rights groups was loud.

Equality Florida — which lobbies for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights — sent out an alert: “PROTECTIONS FOR FLORIDA’S LGBTQ FOSTER KIDS ARE UNDER ATTACK!”

The result: More than 50 people appeared at a public hearing to protest the change, and 700 submitted a written comment to the Department of Children and Families opposing it.

“I am not gay but I do not feel that anyone should be able to treat gay children and teens any differently than straight children and teens,” wrote Claudia Gattshall of Tampa. “I am appalled.”

“After all your attempts to hinder gay rights, especially this current attempt to allow bullying of foster children, I’ve decided we will no longer vacation in your state until you stop this nonsense,” wrote Paul Cotter of Pascoag, R.I., who said he and his husband usually vacation in Ft. Lauderdale every year.

Equality Florida sent more than 500 form letters on behalf of people — so many emails with the exact same message that they got caught in DCF’s spam filter.

And 10 Democratic members of Congress weighed in, as well.

Continue reading "State receives just one letter supporting retreat from anti-discrimination rules for LGBT foster children" »