Note: This blog's templates will be updated this afternoon to a responsive design bringing it in line with MiamiHerald.com.

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.

August 28, 2015

Latvala's lost Senate pledge: 'He's never looked me in the eye'

State Sen. Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, may prove to be the decisive vote to break the deadlock for Senate president in 2016 between Sens. Joe Negron of Stuart and Jack Latvala of Clearwater. But tensions continue to simmer.

It was an open secret in the 2015 session that Altman had flipped his support from Latvala to Negron, but it wasn't official until Negron issued a statement Wednesday listing the senators (including himself) who make up his 14 supporters in the 26-member Senate Republican caucus.

"He flipped before the session," Latvala told the Herald/Times. "But he's never looked me in the eye and said he flipped. I still have a signed pledge card from him."

Latvala says Senate President Andy Gardiner's call for a December caucus vote to make Negron president is premature and ill-advised. He said Altman and two other Republican senators are termed out in 2016 and can't run for new terms and the Senate is "dysfunctional" over the need to redraw its own districts, which requires Supreme Court approval.

Altman declined to discuss his change of heart in the closely-fought battle for the presidency. "That's a member to member thing," Altman said. "I have a great regard for Jack Latvala and he's a very talented person. But with Joe, we share a lot of the same values,and I feel he's the right person to lead us at this time."

Latvala insists the power struggle is not over, but Altman sounded convinced that it is. "It's a relief," Altman said. "It's a tough decision and it's one of the most important decisions we make as a body."

August 27, 2015

For Miami-Dade mayor, a clash over animal-shelter funds

@doug_hanks

Mayor Carlos Gimenez sparred with the leader of an animal-rights group Thursday in what turned out to be the tensest  exchange during eight town halls dedicated to his proposed 2016 budget for Miami-Dade County.

Rita Schwartz, a founder of the Pets' Trust advocacy group, was called as the last speaker at the West Dade Kendall Library when she began an extended critique of what she called the county's "watered down" plan for reduce stray cat and dogs.

"If you want to know the truth of what is really happening, Mr. Mayor, we've been asking you for over a year to meet with us," Schwartz replied.

He responded: "Ma'am, I've met with your group on a number of times. We disagree. And we will continue to disagree."

'You have to understand that we have to prioritize the money that we have," Gimenez continued. "I've had pets all my life. I've had cats. I've had dogs. I'm just as much of a pet lover as you are. But I have different priorities."

The exchange at Gimenez's final town hall came a day after the Pets' Trust failed to win support from a County Commission panel for adding $13 million to the 2016 Animal Services budget.

In 2012, the group successfully passed a non-binding ballot item that endorsed a special property tax for animal services, but Gimenez joined commissioners in declining to create the tax.  But recent budgets saw a 50 percent increase in Animal Services spending, and survival statistics are up in the county shelter.

  

Continue reading "For Miami-Dade mayor, a clash over animal-shelter funds" »

AP: Donald Trump: 'It's my hair... I swear' (with video)

GOP 2016 Trump Hair

From the Associated Press:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says his trademark hairdo is for real.

He told 1,800 people in South Carolina Thursday: “It’s my hair … I swear.”

The billionaire developer waved a copy of The New York Times shortly after taking the stage, saying the newspaper accused him of wearing a toupee.

Then he called a woman onstage from a front table and instructed her to tug on his hair.

As she pulled, he asked her to confirm that it’s real. She said, “I do believe it is,” to laughter and applause, and Trump tossed his copy of the Times into the crowd.

Trump leads most polls of GOP primary voters.

Photo credit: Richard Shiro, Associated Press

Hillary Clinton's misleading claim about GOP candidates' college plans

Hillary Clinton is contrasting her plan to overhaul federal assistance for tuition at public colleges with her potential GOP rivals by saying Republicans haven’t even considered the issue.

"Not one of the 17 GOP candidates has discussed how they'd address the rising cost of college," said in an Aug. 23, 2015, tweet. "Disappointing, but not surprising."

What is a little surprising to PolitiFact Florida is that Clinton’s tweet omits at least one candidate who has made college costs a major platform plank — the Sunshine State’s Sen. Marco Rubio.

Rubio said as much by tweeting back the same day, saying Clinton "can't lecture me on student loans. I've had student loans & I have a plan to modernize higher ed." He then linked to a statement on his website excoriating Clinton for planning to put tax dollars into an "outdated system."

Keep reading Joshua Gillin's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida.

Ex-Florida state senator, a former Republican, likes Bernie Sanders in 2016

via @adamsmithtimes

We caught up with former Republican Public Service Commissioner and state Sen. Nancy Argenziano, the Citrus County populist who was never shy about criticizing Florida's utility companies and her own party leaders if she thought they were hurting consumers. And ....well...let's just say she hasn't made much progress in mastering the art of soft-spoken diplomacy.

"If you don't agree with Jeb on something you're sh-- out of luck. If you don't agree with him on something, there is no making it better. It's my way or hit the highway," said Argenziano when asked about Bush's constant talk on the campaign trail about his record of forging consensus and finding common ground with people who might disagree.

Argenziano quit the GOP in 2011, saying her lifelong party had been hijacked by extremists and special interests, and ran unsuccessfully for the state House in 2012 as an independent candidate. Her preferred presidential candidate? Bernie Sanders, because he's talking about tackling the influence of big money in politics. If Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, Argenziano will support her rather than any of the Republicans, even though Bush is the smartest of the bunch as "the cream of the crop."

"But he's still part of a party that does not care about science, that does not care about the environment, that does not care about women's rights," Argenziano said. "And if any damn Republican tells me there's not a war on women, then come and talk and sit and debate with me because there certainly is, and I can tell you as a woman who was inside the Republican party, they are not very friendly to women. And the women that they do have probably are just puppet heads with two brain cells."

Once a shrinking violet, always a shrinking violet.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

Plaintiffs: Time for Supreme Court to draw redistricting after legislative failure

Equating the Legislature's redistricting failure to a strike out, the challengers to the state's congressional redistricting efforts on Thursday called on the Florida Supreme Court to redraw the map it invalidated and reject the Legislature's call for more time. 

"Faced with the Legislature’s disregard of its mandate, this Court should promptly adopt a remedial plan,'' wrote the lawyers for the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and a coalition of Democrat-leaning voters in a motion filed Thursday.  Download Filed_08-27-2015_Coalition_Response

"...the unique circumstances of the crisis created by the Legislature—hitting foul balls in its first two attempts and now striking out without a swing when given a third opportunity to draw constitutional districts—warrants the remedy requested."

The motion comes a day after Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis asked the court for guidance after the Legislature ended its special redistricting session without an enacted congressional map -- the third attempt in three years. 

The House and Senate have asked the Supreme Court to allow Lewis to conduct a trial and decide whether the maps proposed by the House or the Senate map best.

Continue reading "Plaintiffs: Time for Supreme Court to draw redistricting after legislative failure" »

A Pants on Fire for Jeb Bush about Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood is not involved in women’s health issues, said Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush.

At a town hall in Englewood, Colo., Aug. 25, an audience member asked Bush about his record on women’s health, as well as what he would do for women’s health, particularly for veterans, as president.

"When I was governor, we expanded those programs through community-based organizations, and that’s something I think the federal government needs to continue to do," Bush said. "I, for one, don’t think Planned Parenthood ought to get a penny, though. And that’s the difference because they’re not actually doing women’s health issues. They're involved in something way different than that."

Bush, who cut off state funding for Planned Parenthood as governor, then pivoted to talk about veterans affairs.

Bush’s claim that the organization is not involved in women’s health caught our attention. Setting aside the issue of abortion, Planned Parenthood offers many other medical services -- most of which seem obviously related to women’s health.

Keep reading Lauren Carroll's fact-check from PolitiFact.

Joe Biden to speak at Miami Dade College

Vice President Joe Biden will speak at the Science Center at Miami Dade College on Sept. 2.

Update: The speech will take place sometime in the afternoon at North Campus, according to the university.

From a press release:

The Vice President will discuss the importance of helping more Americans go to college and the critical role that partnerships between community colleges and employers play in helping Americans obtain the skills they need to succeed in the workforce. On Thursday, September 3rd, the Vice President will meet with Jewish community leaders in Miami to discuss the nuclear deal reached with Iran.

Biden’s office has not released details about the meeting about the Iran deal but a Jewish leader invited to that event told Naked Politics yesterday that it will be held at the Jewish Community Center in Davie.

--with Patricia Mazzei

Determined to keep pushing, Galvano proposes yet another congressional map

Galvano planBy Mary Ellen Klas and Jeremy Wallace

No doesn't mean no when the stakes remain high, so Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, on Thursday released yet another proposed congressional redistricting map in an effort to get the House to agree to a deal before the court draws its own plan. 

The latest plan leaves U.S. Rep. Dan Webster's district in Orange County, as sought by the House. But it wrecks havoc for other incumbents  by doing a major rewrite of districts in Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties, and could end the congressional career of U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee.

All of Hillsborough south of Brandon would be combined in a new congressional district with all of Manatee County - now covered by Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota. Under Galvano's plan, that district has no current incumbent living in it.

All of Sarasota County, represented now by Buchanan, would be pushed into a new 17th Congressional district that would include four other counties – Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee and part of Polk - currently represented by Rooney. He would either have to move further west to challenge Buchanan, or remain in a new 9th Congressional District that would stretch up into Orlando, a heavily Democratic district represented now by Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando.

Continue reading "Determined to keep pushing, Galvano proposes yet another congressional map" »

Scott warns to pay attention, plan ahead for Erika

@MichaelAuslen

Gov. Rick Scott's message to Floridians late Thursday morning was straightforward: Start preparing for Tropical Storm Erika now.

The National Hurricane Center forecasts that the storm could approach Florida's east coast this weekend and could escalate into a hurricane. If it did, it would be the first to hit the state in 10 years.

This could cause a big problem, he said, especially as millions of people have moved to Florida in that time and haven't experienced a hurricane before. 

"We haven't had a hurricane in years," Scott said, addressing reporters in Tallahassee after a statewide emergency management conference call. "The way I think about it is stop and think about your family for a second...How can I make sure they're prepared? Do I have enough water? Do I have enough food? Are they going to need a shelter?"

The state has a website, floridadisaster.org, with resources for hurricane and storm preparation.

In addition to making a plan, ensuring people have enough food and water and a place to go in the event that an evacuation is ordered, Scott said it's important to follow the news.

Especially with the likelihood that the storm could escalate during the weekend, he said it's critical that Floridians pay attention to elected officials and follow the news to stay up-to-date about any new information about the storm.

But there remains a lot of uncertainty about the storm and its path. Tropical storms and hurricanes tend to be unpredictable, and it's not yet clear when, where or if Erika will hit Florida.

"Hopefully this will continue just being a drill," the governor said.

In the meantime, get ready. Scott's next briefing on Erika is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in Tallahassee.