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July 28, 2015

Florida Senate: We broke anti-gerrymandering law


Because it's not every day that the Florida Senate admits it violated the state's constitution.

From a legal settlement in which the Senate agreed to redraw district boundaries:


The Florida House wants everyone to know it wasn't its fault.

From a joint statement by House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner:


Legislature sets special session for October to redraw Florida Senate districts


The Florida Legislature has set yet another special session, this time for October to redraw the Florida Senate district lines that opponents had argued violated the state constitution prohibition on gerrymandering to favor or disfavor politicians.

The Legislature will meet from Oct. 19 to Nov. 6, according to a joint statement put out by House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner.

It will mark the third special session this year. In June, legislators met in special session to finish a budget that was not completed during the regular session in the spring. In August, legislators will be in special session again to redraw the state's 27 congressional districts, which the Florida Supreme Court ruled earlier this month violated the state consitution.

The court had not instructed the Legislature to redraw the Senate lines yet, but Senate leaders have agreed to make the changes now based on they said was a new precedent the Supreme Court set in throwing out the Congressional lines.

In its landmark ruling, the Supreme Court invalidated the state's congressional map after political operatives "infiltrated" the process, used fake email accounts to submit the maps as nonpartisan private citizens and created districts that found their way into the final maps approved by lawmakers. Because those actions violated the Fair Districts provisions of the state Constitution, the court ordered lawmakers to redraw eight congressional districts and provided guidelines on how to do it.

A trial over the Senate map was scheduled to begin Sept. 28 in Leon County Circuit Court in a case in which two Democrat-leaning groups, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause, argue that 28 of the 40 Senate districts were designed to favor incumbents and the Republican Party, violating the Fair Districts amendments to the state Constitution.

Real Clear Politics: Scott Walker again suggests he'll skip Florida primary

From Real Clear Politics:

Scott Walker has insisted he will be able to “compete anywhere in the country” as a candidate for president — but, at a private event in St. Louis on Sunday, Walker said he does not plan to compete in Florida, contradicting his own public assertions that he would not skip that primary.

During a fundraiser at the St. Louis home of Rex Sinquefield, Missouri’s most active Republican donor, Walker reasoned that it “doesn't make a ton of sense for him to pour cash into Florida” with Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in the race, said one person who was present for Walker’s remarks. Bush is a former Florida governor, and Rubio is senator from Florida.

Instead, Walker suggested he will focus on the Midwestern states with primaries around the same time, the source said — including Missouri, Illinois and Ohio, which are slated to hold their primaries March 15, the same day as Florida’s.

A second person who was present confirmed that Walker said it would not make sense for him to try to compete in Florida with Rubio and Bush in the race.

More here.

UPDATE: Walker spokeswoman AshLee Strong, while not disputing the Real Clear Politics report, said Walker intends to compete "everywhere."

"The Governor is going to play everywhere as evidenced by his travel to 11 states since becoming a candidate," Strong said. "We have long said Governor Walker has appeal with voters of all kinds across all states but we have also acknowledged the obvious that there are two Floridians in the race."

Donald Trump wrongly says number of illegal immigrants is 30 million or higher

The day after Donald Trump visited the border in Laredo, Texas, he was armed with some fresh claims about illegal immigration, including how many immigrants are actually here.

"I don't think the 11 million -- which is a number you have been hearing for many many years, I've been hearing that number for five years -- I don't think that is an accurate number anymore," Trump said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe July 24. "I am now hearing it's 30 million, it could be 34 million, which is a much bigger problem."

Host Joe Scarborough then asked Trump, "Who are you hearing that from?"

Trump replied: "I am hearing it from other people, and I have seen it written in various newspapers. The truth is the government has no idea how many illegals are here."

Is Trump right that there are 30 million or more illegal immigrants? We decided to see what the latest evidence shows.

Turn to PolitiFact for the rest of our fact-check and see Trump's full Truth-O-Meter record.

Detzner tells counties updated voter database 'ready to go live'

Secretary of State Ken Detzner's office is telling Florida's 67 election supervisors that updated hardware on the state voter database is "ready to go live."

An alert from Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews went out Monday evening after details emerged of a critical state audit of the agency's management of the Florida Voter Registration System (FVRS). In addition, county election supervisors, who have repeatedly criticized Detzner for a lack of communication, called the audit findings "troubling."

Supervisors also struck a more cooperative tone in response to the state's action. Pasco County Supervisor Brian Corley, president of the supervisors' statewide association, said: "The FVRS hardware update is obviously welcomed by the supervisors of elections as the upgrade should provide a more stable platform going forward and we look forward to working with the Department of State on the software refresh."

The full text of Matthews' email to supervisors follows.

Continue reading "Detzner tells counties updated voter database 'ready to go live'" »

Mason-Dixon poll: Floridians support solar energy but would vote down industry-backed amendment

via @KirbyWilson88

A new poll shows that Florida voters would vote down a constitutional amendment proposed by the solar industry despite Floridians' overwhelming support for more solar energy in the state.

The amendment, titled, “Limits or Prevents Barriers to Local Solar Electricity Supply,” promises that it “Limits or prevents government and electric utility imposed barriers to supplying local solar electricity." Just 30 percent of voters support this proposal, compared with 45 percent who oppose it, per the poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research.

The poll also shows Floridians widely favor an amendment from the utility companies that "establishes a right under Florida's constitution for consumers to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use." 66 percent of voters polled said they would support this deal, compared with just 22 percent who would not.

The difference between the support for the two amendments can be attriubted to the confusing wording of the first proposal and the relatively clear wording of the second, according to the poll's analysis.

"Such a sharp difference in the results of two questions related to solar energy can only be explained by the ballot language," says the analysis. "The solar industry amendment is much more confusing to the average voter than the language offered in the counter-amendment."

Continue reading "Mason-Dixon poll: Floridians support solar energy but would vote down industry-backed amendment" »

Florida Republicans discontinue presidential straw poll again


One cycle after reviving the Florida straw poll, the state Republican Party is scrapping it again.

A spokesman for the RPOF said when the party holds its new Sunshine Summit for presidential candidates in October, it will not include either a nationally televised debate or a straw poll that was an on-again-off-again tradition dating back to Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign.

In 2011, the RPOF revived the straw poll during what was its Presidency 5 event that included a nationally televised debate with all of the major contenders. A shocking upset victory by former pizza company CEO Herman Cain over Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Mitt Romney in the straw launched Cain into national contention for at least a few months before he dropped out of the contest entirely.

That straw poll was once seen as a bellweather because the winners of the first 3 straw poll events all went on to win the GOP nomination. In 1979, Reagan impressively won the straw poll that many expected was going to be a close fight with former Texas Gov. John Connally. After Reagan’s big win in 1979, George H.W. Bush won it in 1987 and then Bob Dole in 1995. The poll was then discontinued until the 2011 cycle.

Continue reading "Florida Republicans discontinue presidential straw poll again" »

Political group spends cash on Marco Rubio in debate lead up

via @learyreports

A political group that does not disclose its donors has put Marco Rubio in the lead of early TV advertising, spending $2.6 million already in advance of next week’s GOP debate.

Conservative Solutions Project’s ads have focused on the Iran deal, producing spots before it was announced and on the day. “July 14th, 2015 – Barack Obama makes a deal giving Iran a clear path to a nuclear bomb,” a narrator says. “Congress can stop it. Marco Rubio is leading the fight.”

Rubio has been missing a lot of work in Washington to campaign but returned last week for a Foreign Relations hearing on the deal, his campaign using social media to highlight his confrontation with Secretary of State John Kerry.

NBC News, which had access to ad buying data, put the pro-Rubio group first in ad spending. He was followed by a pro-John Kasich group, New Day for America, with $2.1 million. Kasich is trying to lift his profile so he can make the cut for the first debate next week in Cleveland.

Rick Perry, also struggling to emerge from the lower end of the pack, is aided with $1.3 million in spending from the Opportunity and Freedom PAC. Bobby Jindal is backed with $1.1. million from Believe Again PAC. Chris Christie benefits from $500,000 from his campaign and America Leads PAC.

Total spending so far: almost $8 million, NBC News reports. “By comparison, only about $1 million was spent at this point in the 2012 GOP presidential contest, per SMG Delta. The only Democratic entity that has been spending money on a presidential candidate is the Super PAC supporting Martin O’Malley – and it’s just $25,000.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

$14 billion Florida beer industry means big business

Florida loves a cold brew — a lot, according to a new study that says beer pumps $14 billion into the state's economy every year.

The beer industry accounts for more than $5 billion in wages and benefits for more than 125,000 jobs in the state, according to the study commissioned by the Beer Institute and National Beer Wholesalers Association, an industry group of distributors who transport bottles, cans and kegs from breweries to stores and bars. And the industry brought in $3 billion in tax revenues to state coffers last year.

"Beer is more than our nation's favorite adult drink — it is a powerhouse in job creation, commercial activity and tax revenue," Jim McGreevy, Beer Institute president and CEO, said in a statement.

Much of that impact can be attributed to big names like Budweiser and MillerCoors, which account for most of the beer consumed in the U.S., even as craft breweries continue to boom.

According to the Beer Institute study, 70 percent of brewing jobs in the U.S. are with large and medium-sized breweries, and the distributors have increased their employment by 20 percent in the last decade.

It's not just the big guys that are growing. Craft breweries nationwide are on track to almost double their production from just three years ago, according to a separate study released Monday by their national group, the Brewers Association.

Right now, craft beer represents just a fraction of the total industry in Florida. With growth will come more jobs and greater impact on the state's economy as small breweries hire more employees to keep up with demand, said Josh Aubuchon, executive director of the Florida Brewers Guild.

"The (job-creating) benefit of the small craft brewer is that because the equipment is much less automated, you can't run the whole brewhouse with just one person like you can the big automated systems," Aubuchon said. "You need more boots on the ground."

He and others in the craft beer industry are hoping to see their market share continue to grow, especially after the legislative session this spring that included the passage of their marquee law, allowing breweries to sell 64-ounce growlers and open tasting rooms.

Florida leads nation in property at risk from climate change

via @jenstaletovich

Florida has more private property at risk from flooding linked to climate change than any other state, an amount that could double in the next four decades, according to a new report by the Risky Business Project.

By 2030, $69 billion in coastal property in Florida could flood at high tide that is not at risk today, the report found. That amount is projected to climb to $152 billion by 2050.

While projections for rising seas are not new, for the first time researchers tried to quantify the economic damage wrought by climate change by better understanding the risks to business and a rebounding economy. Growth in manufacturing and energy production have created a mini boom in the Southeast and Texas, the report said. But climate change threatens to undo that progress and cause widespread damage to the region’s economic pillars: manufacturing, agriculture and energy.

For Florida, the blows are significant and not only for property. Higher temperatures and rising seas could slow labor productivity, stress the energy industry and dry up cash pumped into the state by tourists.

“The sea-rise numbers are out there. The heat numbers are out there. What this study has done for the first time is really look at this from a business perspective,” former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who co-chaired the project, said in an interview with the Miami Herald.

More here.