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October 07, 2015

Jebisms: 'Let the big dog eat'

@lesleyclark @PatriciaMazzei

There were a few confused looks in Oskaloosa, Iowa, on Wednesday when Jeb Bush used one of his favorite campaign trail phrases: "Let the big dog eat."

He was forced to explain himself using another oft-cited Bush metaphor, saying he meant "releasing the animal spirits of this country."

"I wasn't talking about big dogs eating other people," he said. "I had a big dog, and he didn't eat anybody."

We present to you an entry in the dictionary of Jebisms:

let the big dog eat


1 : Phrase Bush routinely employs when he talks about giving individuals and businesses some space from government. He says it’s a “North Florida” term -- and it's in fact the name of a song by Bill Wharton and the Ingredients, a blues band that hails from Monticello, near Tallahassee. (Wharton is known as "The Sauce Boss." He's known to make gumbo during shows.)


The phrase is also part of golf's "colorful vernacular," according to the 2000 book Let the Big Dog Eat!: A Dictionary of the Secret Language of Golf$3.99 on Amazon. (Bush is an avid golfer.)

And in the 1996 film Tin Cup, a washed-up golf pro played by Kevin Costner calls the biggest club in the bag the "big dog" and urges co-star Rene Russo to "let him loose, let it rip, let the big dog eat."

Local, state education leaders call for Gov. Rick Scott to issue executive order on testing


The chorus of voices calling for a pause to Florida’s school accountability system grew louder on Wednesday, with local and state organizations coming together to ask Gov. Rick Scott to sign an executive order to suspend the use of new standardized tests in education decisions.

Joining forces in the announcement were: The Miami-Dade County PTA, NAACP of Florida, League of United Latin American Citizens, and advocacy groups Fund Education Now and the Florida chapter of Parents Across America.

“We find Florida’s school accountability program flawed and have lost faith in the system.  It is time to stand up for Florida’s students,” Joseph Gebara, president of the Miami-Dade County PTA, said in an emailed statement.


The state PTA, school board association and superintendents association have all called on the Florida to hold off on issuing school-level grades for at least a year.

At issue is the rocky implementation of the Florida Standards Assessments, or FSAs, last spring. The tests replaced the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests, or FCAT. The FSAs were hobbled by technical glitches and even a cyber attack.

A study of the new exams concluded they were a fair assessment of what students learned, and that scores can be used in high-level cases like teacher evaluations and school grades.

But education leaders don’t trust the conclusions of the study, which also noted that scores of some students are “suspect” because of the technical problems.

School advocates are now calling for a review of Florida’s entire school accountability system, a demand echoed in the latest statement.

Florida Senate fine-tunes system for evaluating member projects

After a controversial late-night barrage of dozens of member projects last spring followed by sweeping vetoes by Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Senate is fine-tuning its handling of project requests.

For the first time, senators will have to attach their names to specific projects, and all groups seeking money will be asked to complete a two-page form and provide supporting documentation.

The House already requires members to disclose in writing the projects they are sponsoring.

Last year, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Education asked groups seeking education money to respond to a similar inquiry, but some groups ignored the request.

A Senate letter to be sent to those groups says that a failure to respond this time "will likely mean your funding request will not be considered."

The form asks for details on a local match, the expected benefit and measures used "to document performance data." See the form here: Funding Initiative Request Form

Miami-Dade commissioner: DUI arrest has 'nothing to do' with my elected position


Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz sought to draw a line between his government role and a recent DUI arrest, taking time from a brief public apology Tuesday to state his “personal legal situation” had “nothing to do with my elected position.”

Speaking at the start of the regular twice-a-month commission meeting, Diaz told fellow commissioners he was sorry for “any embarrassment my personal legal situation has caused.” He has yet to discuss his actions on the night of Sept. 19, when Keys police said he raced his Harley-Davidson motorcycle at twice the speed limit and then failed field sobriety tests. The four-term commissioner spent the night in jail on a DUI charge. On Monday his lawyer entered a plea of not guilty to the misdemeanor charge.

Diaz, 55, faces the risk of being removed from office by Gov. Rick Scott, who can suspend elected officials arrested on misdemeanors if the offense is related to an official duty. Diaz, an avid motorcycle rider, was participating in the annual Poker Run bike party in Key West and has said the outing wasn’t tied to his role as commissioner.

Shortly after being pulled over for going 74 mph in a 30-mph zone, Diaz introduced himself to officers “Commissioner Diaz from Miami-Dade County” and later noted Monroe Sheriff Rick Ramsay knew his name. Diaz did not have a driver’s license at the time. Diaz later called Ramsay to apologize for using his name during the stop, spokespeople for both men confirmed this week.

More here

Latvala cites Scott aide's 'arrogance,' defends AFL-CIO lobbyist

Gov. Rick Scott's jobs guru, Jesse Panuccio, never got a chance Wednesday to make his pitch for $3.5 million to fight benefits fraud in the Department of Economic Opportunity. Instead, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, took the DEO chief to the woodshed, criticizing his "arrogance" toward a union lobbyist and telling Panuccio, a Scott favorite: "I frankly don't like your attitude."

It's the latest sign of open hostility between the Senate and Scott, and it's clear Panuccio could have problems winning Senate confirmation next session. If Panuccio is not confirmed, he'll lose his $141,000-a-year job -- a decision the jobs chief says is "out of my hands."

Panuccio, testifying before Latvala's Senate budget subcommittee, hit his usual points: The economy is improving, the number of jobs is growing, unemployment is declining -- and fewer Floridians are filing for unemployment benefits.

That was the opening senators were waiting for. They cited persistent complaints from constituents who can't file for unemployment because of problems with Connect, DEO's troubled online system for filing claims. Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, said of the unemployed: "They don't get paid, therefore the statistics look good. You can't get anybody on the phone. I just want the system to work."

AFL-CIO lobbyist Rich Templin cited statistics on the unemployed that Panuccio called "invalid" and suggested the left-leaning labor organization had a political agenda for refusing to acknowledge that Scott's policies have improved the economy. At that point, Latvala defended the AFL-CIO lobbyist for his "courage" and tore into Panuccio.

"You know, I frankly don't like your attitude. I think there's an arrogance in the way you present this that's a sense of entitlement, and I just think it's wrong," Latvala said. "We're here to serve the people." He said if Templin has "the courage to come up here and speak their mind, then I just don't think they should be put down the way you put Mr. Templin down, and I object to that."

After the meeting, Panuccio told the Herald/Times: "I try to deal in facts. I know there's a lot of politics swirling around the Capitol right now." Asked if he's worried he could lose his job if the Senate refuses to confirm him in 2016, he said: "All I can do is do my job every day and come and report as honestly as I can on what we do. All those things are out of my hands."

House and Senate are drawing redistricting maps and Senate Dems hired own lawyers

Tensions mounted Wednesday more than a week before the special session on Senate redistricting is set to begin as House and Senate leaders acknowledged that staff had begun drafting maps using guidelines agreed to exclusively by House and Senate leaders and their lawyers, but the lawyer hired to represent Senate Democrats would not be allowed to take part in the process.

Senate Redistricting Chairman Bill Galvano acknowledged that the drawing of Senate districts is well underway by House and Senate staff for the three-week special session that begins Oct. 19. They are working in a sequestered space in the Senate redistricting suite and are being advised by the lawyers hired by the GOP-led Senate and House but, he said, the Senate Democrats will not have a separate lawyer at the table.

Senate Democrat Leader Arthenia Joyner told the Herald/Times she has hired Tallahassee attorney Mark Herron to represent the Senate Democrats in the redistricting process, using funds from the Florida Democratic Party, after Senate President Andy Gardiner twice rejected her request to allow the Democratic caucus to have its own lawyer advise them during the drawing of the Senate redistricting map.

“I had no choice,’’ Joyner said. "There is an inherent conflict because they drew the maps to favor Republicans. These same lawyers defended the maps and then admitted they violated the Constitution. Now, these lawyers are giving advice...Either fire them and get new lawyers, or hire us our own lawyers."

She said the Senate's current lawyers, former Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero and Jason Zakia, were the Senate’s lead lawyers defending the existing maps in the protracted legal battle over the congressional and Senate redistricting maps first adopted by lawmakers in 2012. Cantero's signature was on the stipulated settlement agreement admitting that the Senate map violated the state constitution's Fair Districts standards.

In a Sept. 25 letter to Gardiner, Joyner asked him to reconsider his decision not to finance separate counsel for the minority party, noting that Cantero and Zakia have “been at the forefront of the unconstitutional maps – both Congressional and Senate – since the redrafting process began” and “they cannot serve two masters.” Download Joyner letter to Gardiner

The letter came after an exchange between Galvano and House Redistricting Chairman Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, over how the two chambers would develop draft Senate maps for the redistricting special session.

In a Sept. 17 letter to Oliva, Galvano said the House and Senate would “direct our attorneys to advise the map drawers on the specific types of methodologies to be used as well as other factors to be considered” and that “the methodologies and principles that guide the drawing of each map be documented, so that our members understand how each map was drawn and understand the parameters for proposing amendments if they wish to do so.”  Download Chair Galvano to Chair Oliva

Oliva responded that the House and Senate legal counsel “would meet prior to the map-drawing process” and issue “a joint memo to the map drawers that outlines in writing the mutually agreed-upon methodologies. Download Chair Oliva Response

Herron said Wednesday he had been retained but was surprised to learn that the drafting of the Senate maps had begun and was still awaiting word of that joint memo detailing the principles each side would abide by. 

"It's news to me it's underway,'' he told the Herald/Times. "I haven't seen the principles.”

Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta responded saying the guidelines "were sent from House and Senate attorneys to House and Senate Redistricting staff. Senators were not included and were not privy to the substance of the document."

She did not make a copy of the guidelines available but instead said it would be made public "at the same time everyone else, including the Senators, receives it."

Betta also said that Cantero and Zakia's firm, White and Case, "did not advise the Senate regarding the enacted Congressional map, nor did they play an active role in the development of the enacted Senate map. The Court has not declared unconstitutional any map developed during the time  Justice Cantero and Mr. Zakia have been the Senate’s primary legal counsel for redistricting."

According to the contract with the firm, White and Case was hired in March 2012 after the court had rejected the Senate map and before the Senate had redrafted its map. With White and Case as its counsel in July, the Senate decided to settle the lawsuit against its redistricting map, acknowledging that the map violated the constitution. 

Joyner noted that Cantero has been the lead counsel for the Senate and was in the deposition when former Senate redistricting staff director John Guthrie was deposed by challengers over the Senate map, a day after the Senate agreed to settle the case. As the Herald/Times first reported, Guthrie testified under oath that former Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, intentionally met individually with senators so they could “share their reactions” to draft Senate maps and avoid the public meeting requirements of Senate rules.

Galvano, R-Bradenton, said he agreed with Gardiner’s decision not to retain a separate lawyer for Democrats because Cantero and Zakia work for all 40-members of the Senate, not just the 26 Republicans. 

“At this point they’re Senate lawyers and it’s all the Senate,’’ Galvano told the Herald/Times. “Both the maps that have passed through this process have been bipartisan so there hasn’t been a bright-line rule between Republicans and Democrats on what maps were passed and have gotten into the litigation process.

“So at this point the lawyers are only advising as to the interpretation of the law as its come through the Supreme Court and circuit court and what criteria they should use pursuant to the Constitution."

If Joyner asks to have her lawyer sit in, will he be allowed?

“At this point, her lawyer is not the Senate lawyer or the House lawyer and the procedure that has been established was: House and Senate staff, House and Senate lawyers, no members,’’ Galvano said. “So her counsel would be deemed independent counsel, not the chamber counsel so that’s how I think it would be viewed.” 


Patrick Murphy jabs Alan Grayson with first web ad


U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, of Jupiter, took a swipe at his main opponent in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate by launching his first web ad today.

In the 45-second bit, Murphy's campaign juxtaposes two contradictory statements from U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, of Orlando, as a means to illustrate what appears to be double-speak on Grayson's part.

"Home ownership is, in fact, the American dream. There's no other way to put it," a video clip shows Grayson telling the Florida Realtors Conference in late August.

The ad follows with an audio clip of Grayson a month later telling the Democratic Women's Caucus of Florida: "The American dream is not the ability to buy a home. Despite what the National Association of Realtors may want you to think."

Grayson launched his first web ad about six weeks ago, attacking Murphy's legislative record. That video appears to no longer be available.

Grayson and Murphy are battling for the party nomination in the race for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat. North Palm Beach attorney Pam Keith is also running.

Florida Supreme Court will hear challenge to state's ban on openly carrying guns


The Florida Supreme Court has agreed to hear a Fort Pierce man's constitutional challenge to Florida's ban on openly carried weapons.

The agreement from the court came in a notice filed late Tuesday, the same day a House committee advanced a proposal to allow Floridians with concealed-carry permits to openly carry their weapons in public. Florida has prohibited open-carrying of firearms since the late 1980s.

Dale Lee Norman was arrested in 2012 while openly carrying a firearm; he had it in a holster in public view, according to court records. He was found guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor after a jury trial in St. Lucie County. On appeal, he challenged the constitutionality of Florida's law, citing the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth District Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's decision.

Supreme Court Justices gave Norman until Oct. 26 to file his brief with the court. Oral arguments haven't yet been scheduled.

Read the Supreme Court's order.

Gaetz and Bradley file measure to dramatically expand market medical pot

Promising to give another option to sick patients in Florida, the authors of the state's existing medical marijuana bill filed legislation Wednesday to allow high potency strains of cannabis to be cultivated and sold for non-smoking purposes for a potentially vast new audience -- those diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Under the bill filed by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, two physicians would determine that a patient is at the end of life and the patient would then be eligible for marijuana with unlimited levels of THC, expanding the existing law that legalizes only non-euphoric strains of marijuana. 

"We're offering this because people who want to die without being jacked up with opiates or who are in excruciating pain are visiting their legislators, their making phone calls, their sending emails and it's working,'' Gaetz said. 

The law would expand the "Right to Try" legislation passed last year which allows terminally ill patients to access experimental and potentially life-saving—treatments more easily. 

"It's appropriate to have more flexibility for those families where they can try experimental drugs they should also be able to try high potency marijuana,'' Bradley said. 

"This is a game changer,'' said Taylor Biehl, legislative director of the Capital Alliance Group, which represents a consortium of cannabis growers who have applied to cultivate and distribute medical pot in Florida. "This is a foot hold for drastically increasing the patient base across the line."

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Miami-Dade mayor names new elections supervisor


Miami-Dade County has a new elections supervisor.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s office said Wednesday the mayor has appointed Christina White to replace Penelope Townsley, who is retiring. White is Townsley’s chief deputy and, as a veteran employee, she has frequently served as the face of the elections department.

“I am confident that Ms. White has the experience and expertise needed to successfully lead the Election Department as we enter into the 2016 Presidential Election year,” Gimenez wrote in a memo to county commissioners informing them of her designation.

Miami-Dade is the only one of Florida’s 67 counties that does not have an elected supervisor. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who oversees elections, had asked Gimenez for a clear succession plan ahead of Townsley’s May 1, 2016, mandatory retirement. White won’t take over until that date, though she will be running day-to-day operations until then, Gimenez’s memo said.

White’s county career began in 2002 as a spokeswoman for what was then the Department of Environmental Resources. She has worked in the elections department since 2006, rising from senior executive assistant to the elections supervisor to chief deputy in 2013.

Townsley was thrown into the spotlight during the 2012 presidential election, which was plagued with voter lines so long that a few people cast ballots after President Barack Obama had already started delivering his victory speech.

The department has since invested in new elections equipment and reorganized its precincts, and Gimenez has become something of a poster child for the Obama administration of a Republican willing to undertake voter reforms.

This post has been updated.