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May 18, 2015

John Morgan is 'astounded' by lawmakers' 'collective stupidity'

Lawyer and medical marijuana apologist John Morgan is looking to 2016 with a plea to fill the coffers of his campaign for legal medicinal pot, United for Care.

And he’s doing it with harsh words directed at the Florida Legislature, where medical marijuana didn’t take off this year and even an attempt to speed up bureaucratic processes surrounding low-THC cannabis called Charlotte’s Web were stalled. He sent out this email to supporters Monday:

“The collective stupidity of the Florida legislature continues to astound me. 

“Let's face it - most politicians are out to protect their own careers.  But by ignoring medical marijuana, they are not only endangering their personal chances in 2016, they're very possibly setting up a scenario that could have an impact on the presidential race.  Turnout WILL change because of our presence on the ballot. 

“And with God as my witness - we are going to be on the ballot. 

“We are going to win this war for the patients of Florida. Make a donation here today, and I'll match it. 

“What's outrageous is that they just doubled down... calling a special session of legislature and leaving medical marijuana off the agenda.

Experts: Rubio’s numbers on military strength don’t tell full story


Pop quiz: On the high seas off, say, South Florida, the U.S. Navy from about 1915 is churning toward a confrontation with the U.S. Navy of 2015. Who would you put your money on?

To listen to presidential contender Marco Rubio recently, today’s Navy might need to be worried – which defense experts say would misread the true nature of how a country measures the strength of its military.

In his pivotal speech before the Council on Foreign Relations last week, Rubio – a freshman Republican senator from Florida – laid out a broad critique of Barack Obama’s military policy, saying the president has made the United States weaker.

“He enacted hundreds of billions of dollars in defense cuts that left our Army on track to be at pre-World War II levels, our Navy at pre-World War I levels, and our Air Force with the smallest and oldest combat force in its history,” Rubio said.

It was a reference Rubio had made before, including a showcase speech in 2014 focused on rebuilding American strength. In that speech, he did add a qualifier – but quickly indicated it didn’t matter.

“Some argue our equipment is more capable, so our forces don’t need to be as large,” he said. “But the world is still the same size. And even the most advanced combat aircraft, ship or soldier can only be in one place at a time.”

The issue isn’t a new one – and in fact came up in a 2012 presidential debate. And trotting out the startling historical numbers is something the Obama administration itself has done when trying to argue against certain budget cuts.

To Kelley Sayler, an associate fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank, the “picture is probably a bit more complicated and a bit less catastrophic than Sen. Rubio suggests.”

More here.

Hospitals say no to Scott's profit-sharing plan

Florida hospitals have a response to Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal that lost federal health care funding be offset by profit sharing: No way.

On May 8, the governor wrote in a letter that surpluses from profitable hospitals could be used to help keep afloat those that don’t break even as a possible replacement for the federally funded Low-Income Pool, which ends June 30.

But the FHA says its hospitals already fund poor Floridians’ health care by way of Medicaid. Pointing to a report commissioned by the state, FHA points out that hospitals contribute roughly $1.3 billion to Medicaid.

“You have suggested that a new tax on hospital operating surpluses might be a way to sustain the existing LIP program,” the letter, signed by the association's board of trustees, says. “Such an arrangement is not a solution to the challenge we face.”

The hospitals support a Medicaid expansion plan put forward by the Florida Senate, which Scott and the House are unwilling to agree to.

FHA likens Scott’s profit-sharing idea to an additional tax on hospitals. The governor likes to compare it to something else.

“This would be similar to how large-market baseball teams share revenues with small-market baseball teams," the governor wrote in his May 8 letter. "With the hospital industry's record-high profits, it does not make sense for the hospital industry to ask state taxpayers to back fill funding the Obama Administration has elected to terminate.”

The health care funding question will likely come to a head during a June 1-20 special session of the Legislature, when lawmakers are expected to approve a budget and will consider the Senate’s Medicaid plan. Meantime, Scott is moving forward with his own health care agenda, including convening a commission to study hospital funding, which meets for the first time Wednesday.

Obama to curtail military-equipment for police

via @anitakumar01

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will announce Monday that he will limit a federal program that provides military equipment to law enforcement, administration officials say.

The move comes after the uproar caused by the deaths of of deaths of black men by police or in police custody in the last year.

Obama will make the announcement during a visit to Camden, N.J., a city administration officials say improved relations between police and residents after a period of high crime and mistrust.

Last year, Obama asked Congress $263 million over three years to increase use of body-worn cameras, expand training for law enforcement and increase the number of cities where the Department of Justice works with local police. But he didn’t make significant changes to a federal program that provides military equipment to law enforcement, despite complaints after police with riot gear and assault-style weapons responded to protesters of the Ferguson, Mo. shooting.

A task force he created recommended that local police should be prohibited from using federal money to acquire items, including tracked armored vehicles, hih-caliver firearms and ammunition and camouflage uniforms. It also recommended new restrictions on other military-style items, including wheeled armored vehicles, pyrotechnics and battering rams and riot gear.

“The idea is to make sure that we strike a balance in providing the equipment, which is appropriate and useful and important for local law enforcement agencies to keep the community safe, while at the same time putting standards in place,” said Cecilia Muñoz, director of Obama’s Domestic Policy Council.

Obama on Monday will announce $163 million in grants to urge police departments to adopt the suggestions.

--ANITA KUMAR, McClatchy White House correspondent

Jeb Bush's claim about leaving 10,000 troops in Iraq under Obama

During a tough campaign week focused on the Iraq War, former Gov. Jeb Bush shifted blame for problems there to President Barack Obama, saying that Obama’s actions helped hand the country over to Islamic State.

A University of Nevada student attending a town hall-style meeting in Reno asked Bush why he was placing the burden on Obama, at one point telling Bush, "Your brother created ISIS." Bush countered that the Obama administration hadn’t followed through on proper planning.

"We had an agreement that the president could have signed that would have kept 10,000 troops, less than we have in Korea, that could have created the stability that would have allowed for Iraq to progress," Bush said. (Watch video of the exchange above.)

The claim came in the middle of a rough few days for Bush, who was being criticized for his changing answers on whether he would have invaded Iraq. We wondered if it was true that Obama could have signed a deal to leave 10,000 U.S. troops in the country after the war’s end.

Turn to Joshua Gillin's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida and here is PolitiFact's story about what Bush said over several days about the war in Iraq and Hillary Clinton.

Marco Rubio has listed himself as 'white' instead of 'Hispanic.' News flash: He's both.


IMG_4702Marco Rubio has listed himself as "white"  instead of "Hispanic" in applications to renew his Florida driver's license, according to records obtained by the Miami Herald.

That might sound a little like Rubio made a mistake akin to when Jeb Bush incorrectly checked off "Hispanic" in his Miami-Dade County voter registration. But it's not.

Here's why: Rubio is white. He's also Hispanic. And being forced to pick between the two is a false choice.

"White" refers to Rubio's race. "Hispanic" refers to his ethnicity. There are, for example, white Hispanics, black Hispanics, Asian Hispanics and Hispanics of indigenous descent. Rubio is a white Hispanic.

Most government forms, however, are not enlightened enough to discern between a person's race and their ethnicity. When the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Department asks license applicants to fill out an optional race field, the choices are Asian, Black, Hispanic, Native American, Other and White -- as if a person couldn't be more than one of those things at the same time.

The information isn't mandatory -- it doesn't appear on a driver's license card -- and some of Rubio's transactions with the HSMV over the years don't list any race. His 1998 and 2004 renewal applications list "white," as shown in the partial 1998 application above (the Miami Herald redacted Rubio's license number as a courtesy; other information was redacted by the HSMV). His latest renewal, from 2014, shows a blank space under "race."

Of course, there's no confusion as to Rubio's lineage. His name gives away his Hispanic roots, and he has made it part of his political narrative to tell the story of how his parents left Cuba seeking a better life for their children.

A Rubio spokesman said the Florida senator "doesn't recall" how he renewed his license.

"But this looks like a glitch since he considers himself an American of Hispanic descent," Alex Conant said in an email. "The fact that he is of Hispanic descent has been hard to miss since his first campaign given the fact that he's made his family's story a centerpiece of his public life."

The race-versus-ethnicity question is far from unusual in Rubio's diverse hometown of Miami. Some Hispanics have a personal policy of listing their race rather than their ethnicity, since that's really what is being asked. Others choose without giving it much thought, depending on the form and their mood on any given day. Since the options show a lack of understanding about what makes a person Hispanic, why bother taking it too seriously?

The U.S. Census has separated race and ethnicity, specifically over the question of Hispanic origin, since 1997. Perhaps it's time for all government agencies to do the same.

Jeb Bush on same-sex marriage: 'This has been accelerated at a warp pace'


Same-sex marriage is not a constitutional right, Jeb Bush said in an interview over the weekend in which he spoke about the issue in moralistic terms.

Bush, a devout Roman Catholic, told the Christian Broadcasting Network that "traditional marriage is a sacrament" and that society has moved too quickly to abandon that view.

"Do you believe there should be a constitutional right to same-sex marriage?" host David Brody asked. "Because that's the argument in front of the Supreme Court."

"I don't, but I'm not a lawyer, and clearly this has been accelerated at a warp pace," Bush said. "What's interesting is four years ago Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had the same view that I just expressed to you. It's thousands of years of culture and history is just being changed at warps speed. It's hard to fathom why it is this way."

Bush has said in the past that legalizing same-sex marriages should be decided on a state-by-state basis.

Last month in New Hampshire, a college Republican told Bush he is worried the GOP is losing younger voters by opposing same-sex marriages.

"I have no animus in my heart," Bush said at the time. "I have no hatred or bitterness in my heart for people that have a different view."

"I think that we need to be finding ways to unite behind broader issues where there's broader support."


Elián González, now 21, tells ABC News he'd like to visit Miami


Elián González, the 6-year-old boy who was on every Miami television screen in 2000, made his way back to American airwaves Monday morning.

In an interview with Jim Avila of ABC News, he opened up about his his life in Cuba and his feelings toward the United States.

“I want to take the time to thank the American people for their love,” González said in English.

Elián first came into the public eye in 1999 when fishermen found him clinging to an inner tube in the Atlantic. A boat carrying his mother and 10 other Cubans fleeing the country capsized, killing everyone aboard — except the young boy.

“I was floating alone in the middle of the sea, that’s the last thing I remember,” he told ABC in the first of several interviews airing through the day and evening.

His rescue led to an international custody battle between his father, Juan Miguel González, and his Miami relatives who took him in.

The standoff ended in April 2000 when armed federal agents entered the Miami home where Elián was staying and seized the boy. Within hours, he was on a plane back to Cuba.

That 6-year-old boy is now a 21-year-old man with a beard and a fiancée.

In the interview, he said that he is not angry with his American relatives. He even added that he would like to visit the United States one day.

He also said he would visit his family in Miami again — under one condition that the network did not immediately reveal.

Part of the interview aired early on Good Morning America. Other parts will air Monday evening onWorld News Tonight with David Murr and on Nightline.

May 17, 2015

Miami-Dade County to finish redrawing voter precincts


Voting lineAt long last, Miami-Dade County plans to finish drawing new voter precincts, a once-a-decade task that contributed to waits of up to seven hours outside the polls on Election Day in 2012.

Later this year, the Miami-Dade elections department plans to send updated registration cards to the county’s nearly 1.3 million voters. About 12 percent of them will find they’ve been moved to a different polling place, under a proposal scheduled for county commissioners’ approval Tuesday.

That’s far less than the 55 percent of voters Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley said last year would be displaced in 2015. Her office redrew a minimal number of precinct boundaries — only the ones of the most crowded precincts — to displace as few voters as possible before the 2014 gubernatorial election.

Last year’s moves, coupled with the purchase of electronic voter sign-in devices and the expansion of early voting, proved more effective than expected, so Townsley’s department no longer intends to be as aggressive in redrawing the rest of the precincts. There were no embarrassing lines last November.

Her more modest proposal is better because it affects fewer voters, Townsley told commissioners last week.

“It costs less,” she added. “It provides more compact precincts with improved voter distribution across the county.”

More here.

Photo credit: David Santiago, El Nuevo Herald

Yes, the House and Senate are agreeing — but on how much?

An agreement on special session released Friday by House and Senate leadership marks the first significant step by Republicans in the Legislature toward a compromise on the budget and health care funding.

Statements released by Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli show that the House and Senate are indeed getting along. While agreed-upon terms of a June 1-20 special session include possible victories for leadership in both chambers, there’s a lot still to be resolved, says Senate Appropriations Chair Tom Lee, R-Brandon.

“The negotiations of an outcome are far too fluid for me to predict what’s going to succeed, what’s not going to succeed, how FHIX is even going to look when it’s filed,” Lee said.

FHIX, the Senate’s proposed health insurance exchange that would be funded by federal Medicaid dollars, has been a major sticking point, one that the House has been unwilling to adopt because of the involvement of federal tax dollars.

Lee said he doesn’t think the House is necessarily going to sign on with the current plan, but he’s hopeful that the negotiations moving forward will be positive, and he said the proclamation creates “enough focus” to reach a budget agreement.

But no deals have been made yet. A backroom agreement between Gardiner, Lee, Crisafulli and House Appropriations Chair Richard Corcoran, R-Land O Lakes, wouldn’t be taken kindly by Senators, Lee said.

“Senators have a very different expectation of their leadership,” Lee said. “I think the president wants to honor his commitment to a process. We don’t want to commit our members to any particular policy outcomes. This is going to evolve."