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July 25, 2015

Super-lobbyist Ron Book bashes Miami commissioner for 'despicable' behavior on homeless issue (W/AUDIO)


The fierce debate over Miami’s sleeping-mat program for the homeless turned personal on Friday, as Miami-Dade Homeless Trust chairman Ron Book lashed out at city leaders — singling out one commissioner in particular.

Book took aim at Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who spearheaded the mat program. The two men have feuded over whether the county homeless agency should help fund 115 outdoor mats, which are part of a covered pavilion at the Camillus House shelter. Sarnoff says it’s only right that the county chip in; Book says outdoor mats encourage the homeless to stay on the street rather than seek social services, and his agency won’t fund something that’s counterproductive.

The mat program, started last year, runs out of money on Aug. 1.

On Friday, Book said Sarnoff has jumped into the homelessness issue without truly understanding it. And the city of Miami, he said, can’t be trusted.

“They’re never OK, they’re never satisfied, because Marc Sarnoff wants to be nothing but right, and he’s wrong about this, he’s wrong about it,” said Book, who in addition to leading the Homeless Trust is also one of Florida’s most powerful lobbyists.

Book’s angry comments, with his arm repeatedly banging on the table, came during a sit-down meeting with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. The meeting, which was open to the public, was an attempt by Gimenez to broker a deal on the outdoor mat issue.

As Book ripped into Sarnoff — who wasn’t in attendance — Gimenez tried to calm him.

“He thinks he’s right, you think you’re right,” the mayor said.

“He’s no expert!” responded Book, his voice raised. “He parachutes in, he hasn’t done any research, he hasn’t gone to conferences, he doesn’t care, ’cause he wants to be right. ... His behavior is despicable.”

Ron Book speaks with county mayor

More here.

Jeb Bush's best weapon: Donald Trump

via @adamsmithtimes @KirbyWilson88

Jeb Bush has raised more than $100 million for his presidential campaign, but the strongest 2016 weapon of late hasn’t cost him a dime: Donald Trump.

For weeks, the blustery billionaire has made it next to impossible for any other Republican candidate to be noticed or emerge as a viable alternative to the former Florida governor.

Even as Bush and his allies publicly tsk tsk The Donald’s inflammatory rhetoric, many of them are quietly thrilled at how helpful Trump has been, albeit unintentionally.

“When this is all said and done, it will be to Jeb’s credit that he had a crazy son of a (gun) riding him in the early going, because it made him look much more sane,” said Tallahassee lobbyist and former Bush political strategist J.M. “Mac” Stipanovich. “And for the Republicans in the mid to lower tiers in this huge primary field, Trump has been a huge detriment. They have not been able to gain traction or get attention to make any kind of move.”

Since mid June, when Bush and Trump both formally jumped into the race, only three candidates have gained ground in the average of national Republican polls: Bush, Trump and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Bush’s average level of support rose nearly 3 percentage points to 13.4 percent nationally, Trump’s rose nearly 15 points to an average of 18.2 percent and Walker’s rose 1.4 points to an average of 12 percent. Every other Republican during those seven weeks when Trump dominated the media coverage saw the numbers drop.

“The Republican field is Gov. Bush and everybody else, with some stars in that everybody else category like Sen. (Marco) Rubio and Gov. Walker,” said former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, a Broward Republican. “The problem for a challenger is they need oxygen, they need the media to pay attention to them and Donald Trump is sucking up all the oxygen.”

More here.

Jimmy Fallon gets wind of Miami congressman's Donald Trump conspiracy theory


Jimmy Fallon used his Tonight Show monologue Friday to reflect on Donald Trump's Republican presidential candidacy -- and name-dropped the Miami congressman who has posited Trump might be a Democratic ringer.

"Trump's got everybody all worked up," Fallon said. "In fact, one GOP congressman named Carlos Curbelo actually suggested that Donald Trump may be a phantom candidate that has been planted by Democrats.

"The DNC strongly denied this -- while Hillary said, 'Crap, they figured it out! Take off the wig, Bill! You're fired!"

Here was Trump's response to Curbelo's theory.

Will the roadmap through Florida redistricting include revising Senate map early?

Crisafulli and GardinerLike the aftershocks of an earthquake, Florida legislators are feeling the tremors of the Florida Supreme Court’s redistricting ruling on their own districts — particularly in the state Senate.

Senators who thought they had comfortable re-election bids are now facing uncertainty as questions loom about whether the same factors that led the court to invalidate the congressional map will provoke judges to reject the Senate political boundaries, too. That would force the Legislature into another special session to redraw the Senate map and potentially make politically safe districts for many incumbents more competitive.

Legislative leaders are privately discussing whether to proactively redraw the Senate map before it is thrown out by a court or — in their worst-case scenario — redrawn by the court.

“One could say that since the court has returned the congressional maps to us twice, there is reason to believe a Senate map could be returned as well,” said Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, who will head the House redistricting committee when lawmakers return in special session in August.

But, Oliva told the Herald/Times, “if any discussions are happening about the Senate maps, it’s happening between presiding officers.” House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, and Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, would not confirm that discussions are taking place.

More here.

July 24, 2015

Term limits? It's no hurdle for ex-lawmakers who return home

It has been more than two decades since Florida voters embedded term limits in the state Constitution when they declared "eight is enough" for most members of the Legislature. 

But while term limits broke the grip that career politicians held on the state Capitol, it created a wealth of political opportunities for them at the local level to be county commissioners or constitutional officers -- well-paying jobs that in many cases don't come with term limits.

It's a direct result of term limits, and it happens so routinely that it often escapes attention.

More here.

Governor Scott's biggest campaign donations in 2015


Florida Gov. Rick Scott has had hundreds of political donors to his campaigns for governor and a political committee he runs.

But some are more generous than others. Scott’s Let’s Get to Work Committee has received at least $100,000 or more from 12 different donors since the start of 2015. Here is a list of those big donors, ranked by most money given.

1. $580,000 Republican Party of Florida – While listed as a donation, this money actually represents Scott removing money he helped raise for the party, but removed after his choice from RPOF chair was rejected.

2. $252,503 Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts – This was an in-kind donation for travel, food and beverage to help Scott have an economic summit with candidates running for president earlier this summer.

3. $200,000 Jeffrey Vinik  Tampa Bay Lightning owner who is leading a $1 billion redevelop plan for downtown Tampa near Amalie Arena.

Continue reading "Governor Scott's biggest campaign donations in 2015" »

Wife of U.S. Senate candidate in Florida quietly visited Cuba this year

via @adamsmithtimes

The Republican-controlled  Senate Appropriations Committee voted to lift the long-standing ban on travel to Cuba on Thursday -- highlighting a clear policy dividing line among the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in 2016.

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach both oppose easing travel restrictions while U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, in June was one of 18 House Republicans who voted in favor lifting travel restrictions.

Jolly has said Obama went too far in opening relations with Cuba, but opposing travel to Cuba could be a little awkward, and not just because it is widely supported in Tampa Tampa Bay.

That's because his wife quietly traveled to Cuba in January. Laura Donahoe was not yet engaged or married to Jolly when a group of Pinellas business and government officials traveled to Cuba, though her participation was never publicly announced.

Continue reading "Wife of U.S. Senate candidate in Florida quietly visited Cuba this year" »

With 2 hometown candidates expected on stage, Miami-Dade Republicans plan debate watch parties


Just how eager are Miami-Dade County Republicans to see two of their own make their 2016 presidential debate debuts?

Plans are under way two weeks in advance for parties to watch the first debate, which will be aired Aug. 6 by Fox News. 

The Miami-Dade GOP has not endorsed Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush, yet it has invited supporters to gather at a location at least geographically closer to Rubio: the Rebeca Sosa Multipurpose Facility in Rubio's hometown of West Miami, named after his political godmother.

Some of Rubio's friends, though, have organized an event of their own.

Bernie Navarro and his wife, Claudia, along with Navarro's Benworth Capital Partners, a real-estate investment firm, will hold a watch party at Miami Dade College's Koubek Center in the city of Miami. Navarro hosted Rubio and close supporters the day before the candidate launched his campaign in April, as well as Rubio's first local fundraiser as a presidential contender.

Fox News and the Republican National Committee will limit the number of candidates on the first debate stage to 10 (16 have filed to run so far). Bush and Rubio are expected to make it, since both are polling near the top of the field.

Ethics commission: Former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll broke law

The Florida Commission on Ethics unanimously decided Friday that former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll broke the law when she filed inaccurate disclosures of her income with the state.

The case revolves around Carroll's income in 2010, when she was required to submit detailed personal financial information to the state as a member of the Florida House. She did not properly disclose a significant amount of income she recieved as a consultant for a group called Allied Veterans of the World either to the Ethics Commission or on her federal tax return.

Commissioners fined Carroll $1,000. Because Carroll was a House member when the ethics violation was committed, its enforcement is up to Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island.

In the order agreed to by the Ethics Commission on Friday, Carroll admitted to the claims that she violated ethics laws.

Carroll’s case was referred to the commission in 2014. She resigned as lieutenant governor to Gov. Rick Scott in 2013.

A second allegation that Carroll broke other ethics laws by not disclosing a conflict of intererst as a legislator because of her relationship with Allied Veterans of the World, which is involved in gambling. But the Commission found in June that there was no probable cause for that issue to be considered.