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October 06, 2015

Miami Beach candidates attack each other over Rebecca Towers senior housing facility



Miami Beach candidates are feuding over a supposed development deal that some say would displace hundreds of seniors living in the waterfront affordable-housing complex Rebecca Towers.

No such deal has materialized, but posts by political blogger Elaine de Valle were followed by campaign email blasts sent from commission candidate Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and a press release from incumbent Mayor Philip Levine’s challenger David Wieder that accuse Levine’s political handler — also a well-known Beach lobbyist — of trying to push the South Beach redevelopment project.

More here.

Citing South Florida fraud 'crisis,' jobs agency wants police unit

Gov. Rick Scott's jobs guru, Jesse Panuccio, wants more money from the Legislature to create a law enforcement unit in his Department of Economic Opportunity to fight what he calls a "crisis" in unemployment assistance fraud in Florida. DEO's budget proposal includes $3.5 million for fraud prevention and detection including a "fraud criminal investigation unit" with three sworn officers and three investigators to start.

Testifying before a legislative panel Tuesday, Panuccio described "organized criminal enterprises" committing identity theft to steal jobless benefits intended for others, and that the problem is most severe in South Florida. Panuccio used a federal grant to create an anti-fraud initiative that he said found about 130,000 fraudulent claims in nearly a two-year period, but "the fraud keeps coming."

Republicans on the House budget subcommittee for economic development immediately voiced skepticism about the idea.

The chairman, Rep. Clay Ingram, R-Pensacola, called Panuccio's idea "a pretty big deal" and "a little out of place" for DEO and asked why FDLE couldn't handle the work. Added the vice-chairman, Rep. George Moraitis, R-Fort Lauderdale: "It's probably more appropriate for a law enforcement agency."

"It's certainly not the only model," Panuccio said after hearing the voices of skepticism. "We are open to any model so long as that model is dedicated to this issue."

State regulators: We are 'unable to say' when medical pot will be available in Florida

Marijuana samplesState regulators said Tuesday they could not say when a limited strain of marijuana will be available in Florida for medical purposes, even though it is nearly a year past the deadline on which the drug was promised. 

“At this time we are unable to provide a date the licenses will be available,’’ said Nichole Geary, general counsel for the Florida Department of Health which is in charge of licensing the five dispensaries that will cultivate and distribute the low-THC strain of medical cannabis approved by lawmakers in 2014. 

That answer drew sharp criticism from Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, who along with other lawmakers supported the legalization of marijuana low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabadiol, or CBD, to help patients with cancer and seizures, such as severe epilepsy.

 “I’m sure you’re aware of the frustration that members of the legislature have had in this process,’’ Steube said at a meeting of the House's Health Quality Subcommittee. “This is something we voted on two years ago.”

He noted that the agency received the applications from 28 growers on July 8 and was required to have a three-person panel review the applications and select companies that will produce and dispense the marijuana within 90 days.

“It’s been three months since then and you’re still telling us today that you have no idea when there will be some timeline,’’ he said. “I just don’t understand how we don’t have some type of way ahead.” 

Geary responded that the applications are lengthy and the agency is trying to be careful.

Continue reading "State regulators: We are 'unable to say' when medical pot will be available in Florida" »

'My ambitions are not for me,' Marco Rubio says

via @learyreports

Marco Rubio continued to grab the spotlight with an appearance on NBC's Today and one of the first questions he faced was his absence in Washington. The presidential contender is on track to miss two consecutive weeks of votes in Washington and has the worst attendance record of any current senator.

While Rubio not long ago railed on the Senate floor, "If you don't want to vote on things, don't run for the Senate," he has been telling reporters lately that voting is not the most important part of the job.

"My ambitions are not for me. My ambitions are for my country and for Florida," Rubio told Matt Lauer this morning.

The interview also touches on the race for House speaker (Rubio takes a pass) and the Oregon shooting (Rubio says new gun laws won't help).

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Study: Floridians don't want guns on campus, are split on Medicaid expansion


Floridians are pretty well split in agreement on a number of hot button issues — Medicaid expansion, Common Core and off-shore oil drilling. But as the Legislature prepares for a January legislative session and reelection campaigns not long after, they may want to think about areas of widespread agreement.

A massive statewide poll released Monday by University of South Florida researchers shows that more than seven in 10 adult Floridians want to allow police to wear body cameras, have stricter water quality regulations, continue banning concealed guns on college campuses.

It’s the first of four sets of data that will be released this month by USF and Nielsen in their annual Sunshine State Survey.

USF Professor Susan MacManus, who runs the survey, said Tuesday that elected officials and advocacy groups should pay attention to the data because it shows how Floridians’ opinions are changing over time.

“The diversity of people moving into this state is obviously moving opinions into a more liberal direction,” MacManus said. “You have to constantly be looking at changes in opinions.”

One of the biggest changes in opinions: Less and less, people consider the economy and jobs to be the most important issue in Florida. Just 22 percent of respondents said so this year, compared to 30 percent last year and 52 percent in 2011.

A number of issues in the portion of the survey released this week are likely to come up during the legislative session, which begins in January. Early committee hearings have already begun.

On that list of hot topics is allowing concealed handguns on college campuses, where they are currently banned. According to the survey, 73 percent of Floridians oppose allowing guns on campuses, compared to just 17 percent who are in favor. Another gun-rights issue (the Stand Your Ground Law) is more divisive, with 30 percent wanting to repeal the law and 41 percent wanting it on the books.

Nine in 10 Floridians support police body cameras. Last spring, legislation to require them was watered down and then did not pass the Legislature.

Sixty percent of Floridians want more school vouchers. Two-thirds want stricter environmental regulations. Seventy-two percent want stricter water quality regulations.

Open-carry bill passes Florida House subcommittee


Gun owners in Florida with concealed-carry permits are one step closer to getting the right to openly carry those weapons in public, under legislation that cleared a House subcommittee today by a 8-4 vote.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, who introduced HB 163, said it “restores and vindicates” Second Amendment rights and promotes public safety. But critics of the proposal said it should, at a minimum, include better training requirements and also better protect property owner’s rights if they don't want weapons in their homes or businesses.

Those who are in total opposition said an open-carry law in Florida would instill fear, rather than calm.

“When I am out at Starbucks and there’s a cop there with his gun, it’s intimidating and it’s scary,” said Shawn Bartelt, a retiree and mother of two teenagers from Orlando. “I do not want to walk around when I walk my dogs and know that somebody’s carrying a gun out there. … I don’t want my kids raised in a world where we’re being less civilized.”

Gaetz argued that fighting for gun-owners’ rights has the opposite effect, and he said federal crime statistics are on his side.

“While we will certainly hear from shrill voices on the left that open carry will lead to the wild, wild west, that is not borne out by any of the data we have,” Gaetz said. He said U.S. Department of Justice statistics from 2012 actually show less violent crime in states with open-carry laws.

Florida is one of only five states and the District of Columbia, which prohibit openly carrying firearms and other restricted weapons.

Continue reading "Open-carry bill passes Florida House subcommittee" »

Ben Carson's false claim about Margaret Sanger and African-Americans

Despite being dead for 49 years, Margaret Sanger, founder of the organization that became Planned Parenthood, has a way of turning up in the news. Her latest appearance came during  remarks by Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson at a retirement center in Exeter, N.H.

Answering a question at RiverWoods Retirement Community, Carson said that "Planned Parenthood, as you know, was founded by Margaret Sanger. . . . Margaret Sanger was a eugenicist. She believed that people like me should be eliminated, or kept under control."

At a press conference later, the West Palm Beach resident specified what he meant by "people like me."  He said he was "talking about the black race."

See what PolitiFact New Hampshire found about Carson's claim and here is his Truth-O-Meter record

Federal audit: Florida not helping homeowners enough with mortgages

via @NickNehamas

A long-criticized billion dollar program meant to keep homeowners from losing their homes is still being mismanaged in Florida, according to a federal audit that will be released Tuesday.

The Hardest Hit Fund was established by Congress in 2010 to provide mortgage relief and other assistance to struggling homeowners as part of a wider effort to bail out the nation’s economy. The program is jointly managed in Florida by the U.S. Treasury Department and the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, a state agency.

Florida was one of the states hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis. It has received more than $1 billion of the $7.6 billion disbursed nationwide. But Florida’s performance has lagged well behind other states because of a lack of federal oversight, according to an audit performed by the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which serves as a watchdog for the bailout.

The audit found that Florida accepted only 20 percent of homeowners who applied for assistance, the lowest rate among the 18 states that received funding. (The District of Columbia is also part of the program). The national acceptance rate was 48 percent.

More here.

From Benghazi to attacks on Jeb Bush, PolitiFact checks in on Hillary Clinton's Truth-O-Meter record


Hillary Clinton took questions Monday in a town hall sponsored by the Today show, a continuing sign of Clinton’s shift toward more high-profile campaign appearances.

PolitiFact has been watching Clinton closely, however, since her first run for president in 2007. Overall, we’ve fact-checked 125 claims made by the former New York senator and secretary of state.

Here’s a look at some recent Clinton claims we’ve analyzed and here are our fact-checks of Clinton attacking former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

October 05, 2015

Marco Rubio on Jeb Bush: 'The world has changed a lot in 15 years'


Marco Rubio suggested in an interview aired Monday that his one-time mentor turned presidential rival Jeb Bush has been out of office too long to be the best 2016 Republican contender.

"The world has changed a lot in 15 years," Rubio told Fox News' John Roberts. Bush was last elected 13 years ago, in 2002, and left office in eight years ago, in early 2007.

"The issues we confronted in Florida 15 years ago are nothing like the issues the country's confronting now," Rubio continued. "I'm very confident that over the last few years -- in the time that I've been involved in all of this -- no one has shown better judgment, or more leadership on the issues facing our country, than I have."

Rubio was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives 15 years ago, in 2000, when he was 29. Bush said last week that Rubio "followed" the former governor's leadership in Tallahassee.