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June 23, 2016

Jeb endorses Marco, and Marco says thanks


It's all a Twitter-official love-fest now:

22 news organizations sue Orlando for Pulse 911 calls

via @ElizaDewey

Eleven days after the Orlando massacre, the public still does not have full access to transcripts of the 911 calls made by the shooter and his victims. Thursday, a coalition of 22 media companies, including the parent company of the Miami Herald, filed suit against the city of Orlando for its refusal to release the calls from that night.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Orange County, challenges the city’s contention that those calls are exempt from public records laws because they record the killing of a person. The media consortium argues that the Orlando shooting is similar to the infamous Sandy Hook school shooting, in which a Connecticut court ruled that related 911 calls were not confidential despite state laws that restricted the release of child abuse records.

The lawsuit also asserts a key discrepancy in the city’s argument: “The federal government has stated that there were no reports of gunfire during the three-hour standoff. Thus no recordings created during that time could have captured any killings.”

“One important step in truly understanding what happened that night is contained in these and other records that haven’t been released,” said Aminda Marqués Gonzalez, executive editor of the Miami Herald, whose parent McClatchy joined the suit. “Under Florida law, the public has a right to know. That’s what we are asking for — compliance with state law.”

More here.

Rick Scott gives state power to spend $26.2 million on Zika


Gov. Rick Scott declared Thursday he would use his executive powers under a public health emergency to spend up to $26.2 million in state money to fight Zika virus.

The money will be used for mosquito control, lab equipment and to purchase "Zika prevention kits" from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the CDC website, the kits include a bed net, insect repellant, standing water treatment tabs and condoms.

It will be released as needed, the governor's office said. Scott has given state Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip the authority to spend the money.

"We are in the middle of hot, rainy weather which is when mosquitoes are most prevalent," Scott said in a statement. "It is clear that allocating this funding is necessary if we are going to stay ahead of the spread of this virus."

Until Thursday, Scott had resisted expanding an emergency declaration he signed in February to give himself the authority to spend state money. Instead, he has called on the federal government to fund Zika prevention programs.

In a statement Thursday, he again called out "Washington's inaction."

Asked earlier this month about why he hasn't tapped into state reserves, he told Fox News that Florida has been spending money to fight the disease but that it would "rely on our federal partners."

"This is a national issue," he said. "This is not just affecting Florida."

There are 213 documented cases of Zika in Florida, according to the Department of Health, and they are all travel-related. There are no known cases of people being infected with the virus after being bitten by a mosquito in Florida.

Curbelo rivals take aim over Supreme Court immigration ruling


The two Democrats vying to challenge U.S. Carlos Curbelo leaped at the chance Thursday to pound the Miami Republican over the Supreme Court's ruling to block one of President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration.

Annette Taddeo and former Rep. Joe Garcia noted Curbelo had characterized the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, or DAPA, overreach by the White House. The court deadlocked 4-4 over the program, allowing a lower appeals court decision against its constitutionality to stand. The late Justice Antonin Scalia has not been replaced.

"It's a sad day for immigrant families and the many activists who have fought for real change," Garcia said in a statement. "When Republicans refused to put my comprehensive immigration reform bill to a vote, I supported President Obama's actions. Now, two years later, Republican still won't take up immigration reform, or even fill the Supreme Court's vacancy, all while they continue to push immigrants into the shadows."

DAPA would have allowed the parents of lawful permanent residents -- in effect, the parents who brought their children into the country illegally -- to apply for a program protecting them from deportation.

"I'm heartbroken by today's Supreme Court decision," Taddeo said in a statement. "It's a big blow to Hispanic families in South Florida. Families continue to be torn apart because of our broken immigration system, and instead of solving the problem, Carlos Curbelo and his Republican buddies in Congress continue to shift the blame elsewhere."

Taddeo also blasted Curbelo on Twitter, saying if he "really cared about South Florida's immigrant families, he wouldn't be applauding" the decision -- even though Curbelo didn't actually praise the court.

He and other Republicans said in a joint statement Thursday that the court ruling did not solve the immigration problem and Congress should "work together" to fix the system. Last week, he and Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen led the effort to defeat a House amendment against Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

Garcia and Taddeo, however, argue Curbelo has moderated his position in office, given that his newly redrawn district is more Democratic, as is the presidential-election year electorate. Garcia noted Curbelo said in 2014 that he did "not support amnesty" for undocumented immigrants and thought the U.S. should return children crossing the border back to their home countries.

This post has been updated.

Donald Trump wrongly says Hillary Clinton would create open borders

While Donald Trump vows to build a wall between the United States and Mexico to keep undocumented immigrants out, he says Hillary Clinton has the opposite approach.

"She’s pledged to grant mass amnesty, and in her first 100 days, end virtually all immigration enforcement and thus create totally open borders for the United States, totally open borders," Trump said in a June 22 speech.

Claiming that Clinton would create "totally open borders" is a serious charge that suggests allowing people to travel freely or with very few restrictions between two countries. 

That’s not what Clinton has proposed. Clinton has supported legislation that includes a path to citizenship (with conditions) and included heightened border security. As a candidate, she says she will focus on deportations of criminals.

However, some experts argue that "open borders" doesn't necessarily mean no enforcement at all but making it far easier for undocumented immigrants to stay here. Clinton does want to make it easier for many undocumented immigrants, but that’s not the same as getting rid of enforcement.

We emailed a Trump spokeswoman twice and did not hear back.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

Scott Fuhrman qualifies to challenge Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in U.S. House District 27


Democrat Scott Fuhrman has qualified for the ballot in U.S. House District 27, currently represented by longtime Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Furhman, 34, of South Miami, is the first serious candidate to challenge Ros-Lehtinen in eight years. He kicked off his "unorthodox" campaign by announcing his past brushes with the law, including a 2009 charge of driving under the influence and prohibited use of a weapon in Colorado. Fuhrman was also arrested three times for alcohol-related offenses while a student at Florida State. 

Ros-Lehtinen, who has served in Congress since 1989, is considered a heavy favorite. The Cuban-American has stated that she will not vote for Donald Trump.

Fuhrman is a third-generation fruit-juice bottler and new to the political scene.

Here is a statement from Fuhrman's campaign: 

"The challenges currently facing this country require passionate and energetic advocacy of bold solutions to move this nation forward. Advocates who are eager to stand up and fight for our seniors and our children, and especially against the forces that seek to divide us. It's time for new leadership in CD 27 to take action on behalf of the community that my family has called home for five generations. I'm excited to be officially on the ballot, and look forward to a positive, issue-focused campaign."

Trying to scare away Democratic rivals, Anitere Flores reveals more union support


She's already scared away one serious Democratic rival. But just in case any others are thinking of qualifying to run by Friday's noon deadline, Miami Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores released more labor-union endorsements Thursday.

Flores received the backing of the Teamsters Local Union 769, the Dade County Association of Fire Fighters and the Laborers' International Union of North America (LiUNA) Construction and Craft Workers Local 1652.

Labor tends to support Democrats; Flores is trying to run as a moderate in a newly redrawn Southwest Miami-Dade County district that leans Democratic.

Democrat Andrew Korge decided earlier this week to switch races and no longer challenge Flores in District 39. An internal Flores poll showed her handily defeating him. Those numbers, like the union endorsements, appeared strategically publicized to pressure Korge -- and any other Democrats -- out of the race.

Gov. Scott faces Friday deadline on controversial judicial choice

Gov. Rick Scott has until Friday to appoint a new circuit judge in Jacksonville, and it may be the most closely-watched judicial appointment of his time in office.

The question is whether Scott will appoint state Rep. Charles McBurney, a Jacksonville Republican, to the court. McBurney has been the target of a well-organized effort by the National Rifle Association, which is trying to block his appointment because McBurney refused to hear a bill in the 2016 session that would have shifted the burden of proof from citizens to the state under the self-defense law known as "stand your ground." 

McBurney, a former prosecutor who faces term limits and can't seek re-election, is one of six finalists for the post. The 59-year-old lawyer enjoyed high marks with the NRA, until now.

The NRA's Marion Hammer accused McBurney of pandering to prosecutors to enhance his bid for a judgeship, and she rallied her members and supporters to blast Scott with messages opposing McBurney. Thousands have responded from all over the state. Scott would antagonize a lot of NRA members if he appoints McBurney.

"As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee," Hammer wrote, "Charles McBurney arrogantly put his ambition ahead of your constitutional right of self-defense and your basic right to the presumption of innocence." The bill (SB 344), by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, passed the Senate, 24-12, and died in McBurney's committee.

However, on another legislative issue in 2016 that was a big deal to Scott, McBurney was there for him. The lawmaker voted for a bill (HB 1325) to set up a framework to spend $250 million in incentive money for future jobs deals. The House rejected Scott's request for the money, and the bill died in the Senate.


Rubio votes against gun-control compromise, Nelson votes in favor

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio helped kill a compromise gun control measure today. Sen. Bill Nelson voted in favor of the amendment by Sen. Susan Collins, which would restrict people on the government no-fly list from buying guns.

Rubio, now a candidate for Senate, has drawn criticism from the left for opposing a number of gun measures that followed the Orlando tragedy. His office said he reviewed Collins' "no fly, no buy" plan but he was not expected to back it with the NRA coming out in opposition.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

New Florida super PAC formed to elect Democrats

via @adamsmithtimes

A new, well-funded voter mobilization group is gearing up across Florida to help elect Democrats up and down the ballot. For Florida's Future, a joint super PAC and 501(c)4 organization, aims to highlight and hold accountable candidates for their words and records on specific issues including climate change, student debt, and retirement security.

The group is affiliated with the national For Our Future PAC led by billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer and several prominent labor unions. It aims to raise and spend $50-million in the top battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Wisconsin.

“This election season has proven that nothing can be taken for granted, so our work is focused on empowering and expanding the efforts of existing organizations and coalitions to ensure that the Trump/Rubio ticket and their friends are held accountable for what they have said and done," said Ashley Walker, a top Democratic consultant in Florida, leading the Sunshine State effort. "By calling out where Trump, Rubio and their allies stand on the issues, we can build an organization that will not just be united in November, but will continue working in 2017 and beyond.”

The group is targeting races from the president to the state House and possibly local offices and is revving up just as many Republicans are fretting about Donald Trump potentially being vastly outspent by Hillary Clinton. He started the month off with just $1.3-million on hand, compared to $42-million for Clinton.

The effort is being put together by Steyer's NextGen Climate; the American Federation of State; County and Municipal Employees; the American Federation of Teachers; and the National Education Association. 

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times