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November 23, 2015

Latest TV ad by pro-Jeb Bush super PAC focuses on - what else? - foreign policy


The Paris terrorist attacks have dominated the 2016 Republican primary race, forcing candidates to focus on foreign policy and national security.

The latest example: Right to Rise USA, the pro-Jeb Bush super PAC, has produced a new TV ad highlighting a speech Bush gave last week on national defense.

The spot, titled "Leader," is scheduled to air on Fox News Channel nationally and in the early primary states (Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina) beginning Wednesday, said Paul Lindsay, a super PAC spokesman.


Suffolk poll: Marco Rubio in second place in New Hampshire


Marco Rubio is in second place among Republican primary voters in new Hampshire, according to a new poll by Suffolk University and the Boston Globe.

Rubio still only has half the support of frontrunner Donald Trump, the poll shows: 11 percent compared to Trump's 22 percent. But the Florida senator has more support than other GOP establishment candidates who could challenge Trump. And Rubio remains well-liked by poll respondents: 64 percent gave him a favorable rating and 22 percent an unfavorable one, the best numbers in the field.

"Donald Trump's loyal 22 percent goes a long way in New Hampshire," David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, said in a statement. "As long as the remaining 78 percent is split relatively evenly among the six or seven major contenders, we're getting close to 'Trump-mate' in the Granite State."

The other top candidates were Ben Carson (10 percent), Ted Cruz and John Kasich (9 percent each), and Jeb Bush (8 percent).

Last time Suffolk polled the New Hampshire field, in June, Bush was in first place, followed by Trump.

Miami-Dade schools looks to cash in on land

District land@cveiga

When it comes to some of Miami-Dade’s biggest proposed development deals, one surprising major player has emerged.

It’s not condo magnate Jorge Pérez, golf course mogul Donald Trump, the Soffer family of Fontainebleau fame or any of the other familiar names.

It’s the Miami-Dade County School Board and Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

Riding widespread community support and popularity, the board and Carvalho have increasingly sought to capitalize on South Florida’s lucrative real estate market, efforts they insist will benefit 350,000 mostly poor school kids.

The district has taken a starring role in negotiations with David Beckham to build a Major League Soccer stadium, and to bring the world’s largest shopping mall to land on the edge of the Everglades. But the country’s fourth-largest school district isn’t finished.

Sitting on land in some of Miami’s hottest neighborhoods, Miami-Dade is now considering offering up its downtown headquarters for what could be a 10-acre redevelopment — and to profit off a school site in the exclusive Design District.

“There is a clear opportunity,” Carvalho recently told School Board members.

The only thing standing in the way is South Florida’s infamously cyclical real estate market, which appears to be headed for a cool down. Squeezed by a strong dollar and plenty of inventory, developers have already shelved plans for new towers downtown.

There’s also the question: should a school district insert itself in complicated real estate deals?

“Generally speaking, the school district is all about educating. It’s not about real estate development. And when somebody gets away from their expertise, nothing good ever comes of it,” said Peter Zalewski, founder of the South Florida condo-tracking website CraneSpotters.

More here.

Backlog of 10,000 rape kits not addressed in Scott's new budget plan

Via @JeremySWallace

Florida Gov. Rick Scott touted in press releases last week that he was going to ask the Legislature for $8.5 million to improve the state crime lab’s turnaround times in processing incoming crime evidence. But his proposed budget released Monday does not include any funding to directly address a backlog of older rape kits in evidence rooms around the state that will likely cost the state at least another $9 million to handle.

In his proposed 2016-2017 spending plan released Monday, Scott proposed $3.8 million for a variety of enhancements to the current forensic services budget for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, funding FDLE officials said was critical to keeping up with incoming requests for biology testing, including rape kits.  Scott also proposed another $4 million to give pay raises to the agencies 297 crime lab employees to help retain current workers.

But the budget plan does not address any funding expected to be identified in a state report due out next month that will show the state has more than 10,000 untested rape kits in evidence rooms around the state.State officials, including Attorney General Pam Bondi, have been pushing to test those older DNA samples in hopes they can identify criminals in other cases or help uncover serial rapists.

Older kits languish in evidence rooms in Florida for a variety of reasons. Sometimes victims no longer want an investigation to continue, a case is not being pursued by prosecutors or a suspect has already pled guilty so the kit was never tested. A big factor is simply improvements in technology. Many of the older kits have been sitting on shelves for up to 25 years, when DNA testing was not as common place or reliable as it is today.

But testing the older kits would be costly. While FDLE’s report isn’t due until next month, agency officials have said it costs them $904 to outsource each rape kit. At that price, the state would be looking at more than $9 million in additional expenses if they are told to test all of those extra kits had to be outsourced. FDLE officials say they do not have the staff currently to handle another 10,000 laboratory requests.

When FDLE submitted it's annual budget request to the governor earlier this fall, it did not include any funding for the older, untested rape kits. But in early November, FDLE officials for the first time confirmed their December report will show the state has more than 10,000 such kits.

“The Governor is proud to fully fund FDLE’s request for crime lab support and invest millions in additional resources to help reduce the backlog of these kits across the state,” Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz, said about FDLE's original request that did not include funding for the untested kits.

Though Scott is not proposing funding the backlogged kits, the Florida Legislature has already begun making noise that they want the backlogged addressed. State Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, told FDLE officials that addressing the backlog has to be a priority that jumps ahead of many of their other tasks. He even suggested paying for more staff if that would help handle the backlog.

"I'm committed to making sure every kit needed to be tested is done so in a prompt manner," Negron said earlier this month.

While Scott is required to submit a proposed budget, it is up to the Florida Legislature to build the budget, though Scott has the power to veto items he objects to. 

David Beckham may draw a stadium foe from Miami-Dade GOP

Beckham pic 2


David Beckham’s push for a soccer stadium in Miami may be drawing opposition from the local Republican Party.

Nelson Diaz, chairman of the Miami-Dade GOP, said Saturday he’s hearing criticism from local party members who don’t want the county school board to give Beckham a property-tax break by assuming ownership of his planned 30,000-seat home for Major League Soccer.

“The feeling is: We’ve had enough,” said Diaz, a lobbyist with Southern Strategies and volunteer chairman of the county party’s executive committee. “I have not taken a position myself, but I kind of share a little bit of that feeling. We made a bad deal with the Marlins. Are we going to do it again?”

Diaz said the party may invite Beckham’s group to make its pitch in January and then take a position on the privately financed deal.

In heavily Democratic Miami-Dade, there are more independents than Republicans, who make up about 28 percent of the electorate. But the GOP could have outsized influence on the soccer deal since it is slated to be approved in a Miami referendum that would coincide with the March presidential primary that may be a showdown between Miami candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.

At issue is Beckham’s pursuit of government ownership for a stadium he and his investors would privately fund. He has offered to spend about $200 million to build a stadium for his Major League Soccer franchise, and pay Miami for a portfolio of city land next to Marlins Park. He wants the school system to take ownership of the stadium, which would shield the facility from paying property taxes.

More here

New Yorker profiles Marco Rubio, 'un joven viejo'

From the New Yorker:

At the age of forty-four, [Marco] Rubio has lively dark eyes, soft cheeks, and downy brown hair affixed in a perfect part. He sometimes asks crowds to see him in the tradition of a “young President who said, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.’ ” (J.F.K. was forty-three when he entered the White House.) Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, is only five months older than Rubio, but nobody calls him boyish.

If the Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, the Party will be offering the oldest candidate that it has ever run in a general election, and Rubio has taken to saying, “Never in the modern history of this country has the political class in both parties been more out of touch with our country than it is right now.” But in policy terms Rubio can appear older than his years. His opposition to same-sex marriage, to raising the minimum wage, and to restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba puts him out of step with most American Latinos. In the Spanish-language media, he is sometimes described as un joven viejo—a young fogey.

After a summer submerged in a raucous primary field, Rubio had recently climbed into third place. He was ahead of Jeb Bush, his former mentor, and far behind [Donald] Trump and Ben Carson. Trump’s campaign marched to the sound of a dirge—“The American Dream is dead,” he told crowds—and Rubio presented himself as a sunny alternative, a way out of Trump’s sulfurous moment. “We’re very blessed to have so many good people running for President,” he said earnestly to the crowd in Boulder City.


Rubio’s campaign faces a range of tactical questions—Does he have the organization to win an early state? Will he lose his home state to Trump? Could Cruz win with only conservative and evangelical voters?—but the larger question will be harder to solve: Rubio has succeeded in politics by straddling as many positions as possible. He is the Catholic at the Protestant church, the quarterback of both teams, the joven viejo. But it isn’t clear that he can continue to do that and also be as bold as he would need to be to alter the Presidential prospects of the Republican Party in a changing country.

More here.

Gov. Scott appoints new lottery secretary


Tom Delacenserie has been appointed secretary of the Florida Lottery, Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday.

He’s been serving as the interim secretary since October, when Cynthia O'Connell resigned from the job amidst reports of questionable travel and excessive vacation.

Delacenserie will face confirmation by the Florida Senate. He earns a $141,000 salary.

Delacenserie is a longtime lottery executive, who was a deputy secretary in charge of the department’s sales and marketing from 2013 until taking over the top job and before that was director of sales for eight years.

He has a degree from University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and worked in sales prior to joining the lottery in 2000.

“Tom has demonstrated his knowledge of this important agency and his commitment to serving Floridians,” Scott said in a written statement announcing Delacenserie’s appointment. “We look forward to his continued success as Secretary, and the continued investment in Florida’s education system."

Donald Trump's Pants on Fire claim about cheering after Sept. 11, 2001

Arguing that there are terrorist sympathizers in the United States, Donald Trump says he saw "thousands" of New Jerseyans celebrating after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

"I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down," the Republican presidential candidate said at a Nov. 21 rally in Birmingham, Ala. "And I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering."

The next day, ABC This Week host George Stephanopoulos asked Trump if he misspoke, noting that "the police say that didn't happen."

Trump -- who has said he was in his Manhattan apartment the morning of the attack -- doubled down.

"It was on television. I saw it," Trump said. "It was well covered at the time, George. Now, I know they don't like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good."

We looked back at the record to see what we could find about American Muslim celebrations in New Jersey on 9/11. While we found widely broadcast video of people in Palestine celebrating, we found no evidence to back up Trump’s description of events on American soil.

See what Lauren Carroll of PolitiFact found.

Florida announces 5 licenses to dispense medical marijuana

Marijuana samples

Five Florida nurseries, including two from Miami-Dade County, were selected Monday to cultivate and distribute the first legal marijuana in the state, opening the door to the sale and distribution of the non-euphoric strains next year to treat patients with seizure disorders and cancer.

Costa Nursery Farms, of Miami, won the bid for the Southeast Region. Knox Nursery of Winter Garden, will grow it for the Central Region. Hackney Nursery Company of Tallahassee will grow it for the Northwest Region. Chestnut Hill Tree Farm of Alachua will be the grower for the Northeast Region and Alpha Foliage of Homestead will grow it for the Southwest Region.

The decision moves the state closer to implementing the 2014 law that allows for marijuana low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabidiol, or CBD. The law was intended to treat patients with intractable epilepsy and people with advanced cancer who obtain their doctors' permission.

To qualify for the low-THC based cannabis treatment, patients must obtain permission from a qualified doctor and be added to the Compassionate Use Registry.

Under the law, applicants had to have been in business in Florida for at least 30 years and grow a minimum of 400,000 plants at the time they applied. 

Continue reading "Florida announces 5 licenses to dispense medical marijuana" »

Putnam 'disappointed, not surprised' at Scott's lack of pay raises

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam immediately criticized Gov. Rick Scott's proposed budget, which has $1 billion in tax cuts but no pay raises for state forestry firefighters, who earn an average of about $27,000 a year. The full text of the statement Putnam issued Monday:

"I’m disappointed that the governor left Florida wildland firefighter salary increases out of his budget, but I’m not surprised after last year’s veto. With a starting salary of $24,000 per year, our firefighters are at least as deserving as those who got pay increases last year and those who have pay increases included in the budget this year. I look forward to working with the Legislature again to meet the needs of our wildland firefighters.”

Putnam was angry and disappointed that Scott vetoed $2,000 raises for firefighters after the Legislature approved them in June, and after ignoring Putnam's request that he be given a chance to make the case for them. Putnam is asking lawmakers to approve them again next year, as some firefighters have gone to the western U.S. to battle severe wildfires there to assist in public safety and to supplement their state pay.

At his budget announcement in Jacksonville, Scott said he opposes across-the-board pay raises to workers -- though last year he gave them to a select groups of state troopers and to driver's license examiners and next year would give them to FDLE crime lab workers.

"I think the right thing to do is what's in my budget," Scott said. "I've put in my budget a bonus plan for our state workers. It will be up to $1,500 and it will be tied to agencies hitting their goals, you hitting your goals and agencies continuing to find savings. We need to continue to focus on how do we make this state government more efficient."