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February 08, 2016

South Florida auto dealer Rick Case asked Gov. Rick Scott to increase funding to Boys & Girls Clubs


A few months before lawmakers began debating how best to fund after-school programs next year, one prominent South Florida businessman put a bug in Republican Gov. Rick Scott's ear to increase state funding for the Florida Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs.

In an email to Scott's office in early October -- obtained by the Herald/Times through a public records request -- auto dealer Rick Case asked Scott to recommend $20 million total next year for the state Boys & Girls Clubs, with $10 million each from the departments of Education and Juvenile Justice.

"I do have some community business that I need your help with leading into the 2016 Legislative Session in January," Case led his email, after noting how he was "looking forward" to seeing Scott at Case's daughter's upcoming wedding. 

Case pointed out that the Florida Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs took a 50 percent cut in its state funding this year, which meant the Broward County Boys & Girls Club -- with which Case said he is "deeply involved" -- also lost almost half of its state aid received by way of the alliance.

"We are working hard here in Broward to make up that shortfall, but I really need you (sic) help to make our kids a priority in your budget submission this year," Case wrote.

He added: "You have to agree with me that there are few organizations that have an ROI (return on investment) like Florida Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs in the State of Florida. Placing us in your budget will send a resounding signal for our efforts in every club working in their respective counties across the state."

It doesn't appear the plea had an effect on Scott, who recommended less funding for the alliance this year.

Scott's budget proposal kept education funding for the Florida Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs flat at $2.5 million for next year and recommended $600,000 in juvenile justice funding (down from $3 million this year).

Designated funding for after-school and mentoring programs are a point of contention in the Legislature's budget proposals for 2016-17.

The Senate wants to do away with line-item funding and replace it with a competitive grant program that more non-profit program providers can access. Senate education budget Chairman Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said that deciding which aftercare programs are funded by individual line items each year is “so much a function of lobbying" that he wanted a more fair process. More here.

Marco Rubio won’t name VP or Cabinet picks, but…


NASHUA, N.H. -– The last question at Marco Rubio’s first town hall Monday might have been the most interesting. And, for all the talk about how much candidates prefer to talk about policy, this one was about politics.

Who would be his dream governing team?

Naming one would be “presumptuous,” Rubio told employees at BAE Systems, an electronics contractor. But he rattled off a list anyway.

“Despite our differences, I think the Republican candidates that are running and that have run over the past few weeks are very talented people,” he said. Then, he continued: “I don’t want to get overly partisan about any of this but – why not?”

There were laughs.

“First of all, the diversity of our field. The Republican field has a woman, an African-American, two Hispanic-American running, so it’s very diverse,” Rubio said. “Number two, the talent of our people: three governors, at one point three U.S. senators, a former U.S. senator –- actually, more than three governors. One of the most famous business people in the world.”

“Ask yourself this: Who is the up-and-coming, talented, 45-, 50-year-old Democrat nationally? Who is it?”

“I’ll give you a few minutes,” he deadpanned. “They don’t have any. That’s why their field is down to two people.”

And then he named the GOP’s “deep bench” outside of the presidential field: U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire (a hometown favorite), Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina “about the same age as I am” (the next state that votes), Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico.

“There’ll be no shortage of talented people to rely on for all sorts of things. And I have said from the beginning of this race, from this Republican field I think there’s a president a potential vice president, Cabinet people, future presidents.”

“We’re blessed to have a very talented field,” he concluded. “It’s just made it for a very messy and competitive process in the long term.”

Rubio attacks Cruz for defending Chinese company

Getting tough on China has been a recurring theme among the candidates running for president in 2016

In Bow, N.H. last week, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said one his GOP rivals isn’t telling the whole truth about his record standing up for American firms against the Chinese.

"Ted Cruz was counsel on record for a Chinese company that stole an invention from an American inventor in Florida," Rubio said. "Here you have someone who goes around talking tough about China, but he leaves out the fact that when China stole an American inventor’s product, he stood with the Chinese."

"That is a fact," Rubio said.

We decided to check it out. See what Jonathan Van Fleet of PolitiFact New Hampshire found and see PolitiFact's coverage in New Hampshire.

Capitol Buzz: Five things to watch today in Tallahassee


Welcome to Week 5 of the 2016 session. Wednesday marks the halfway point! Most lawmakers will be back in town by this afternoon for committee meetings, with a regular schedule of work resuming Tuesday.

Here are some items we're watching today.

* Should future legislative sessions starts in January? The House government operations budget committee will consider a bill to do that for not next year, but in 2018. If enacted, that would mean a full year between the end of this session and the start of the 2017 session next March, but then another short window between 2017 and 2018 sessions. The hearing starts at 3.

* A Senate committee will take up a nondiscrimination bill for LGBT Floridians. It's the first time the legislation has ever had a hearing. The Senate Judiciary Committee at 1:30 p.m. will consider the controversial bill, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state's civil rights protection laws, but it's already garnered opposition from social conservative and religious groups.

* Also before the Senate Judiciary Committee: a non-binding "memorial" urging Congress to repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, which is often referred to as the "wet foot, dry foot" policy. It's on the agenda but it could get postponed until Tuesday. The House version also is slated to be heard Tuesday.

* This afternoon, the Senate Criminal Justice will consider fixing Florida's death penalty in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that deemed its sentencing procedure unconstitutional. Unlike the House, the Senate is proposing to go all the way and require unanimous jury recommendations. The hearing begins at 4.

* Community leaders from the western part of Tampa Bay will spend the evening at the Capitol, with "Leadership Pinellas" hosting a reception on the 22nd floor.

February 07, 2016

For Marco Rubio, a Florida reunion before the Super Bowl


MANCHESTER, N.H. -– Marco Rubio’s Super Bowl watch party Sunday in New Hampshire had a distinct Florida flavor.

Mingling with voters were volunteers who flew up from Rubio’s home state, on their own dime, to make phone calls and knock on doors ahead of Tuesday’s primary. You could spot the Floridians: They wore matching badges on lanyards that read, “Freezin’ for the Future.”

They were doing what Rubio himself did eight years ago, when he trekked to the Granite State to stump for Mike Huckabee.

“I took vacation days to come up. It was that important to me,” said Doug Kruse, a 47-year-old nonprofit fundraiser from Parkland.

Kruse lived for 13 years in New Hampshire, so he’s familiar with the state. Since arriving Friday he’s worked a Rubio phone bank, trying to persuade voters to support the candidate.

“People in New Hampshire, on the weekend before the primary, they know that they’re going to get 15-20 calls a day…so they don’t really answer the phone,” he said. But when they do, he tells them that Rubio has foreign-policy experience and the right “vision for America.”

Jason Steele came Thursday with his wife, Lori Harbert, and 16-year-old son, Jace Chastain, from Melbourne Beach.

“We wanted to come up to show the people of New Hampshire what the people of Florida think of Marco Rubio,” said Steele, who has been on the door-knocking trail. “I actually fell into the snow. I was covered in it. It was fun.”

Among the volunteers was former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner (Rubio’s Florida campaign co-chairman), former Miami state Senate Majority Leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla, Republican operative Christian Cámara, Tallahassee attorney Len Collins, former Rubio state legislative aide Rafael “Ralph” Perez and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban Bovo. Nelson Diaz, chairman of the Miami-Dade Republican Party attended an event earlier in the day, though not in an official party capacity.

Quipped Bovo: “It’s not like knocking on doors in Hialeah, that’s for sure.”

The party featured Little Caesars pizza, popcorn, cold cuts, veggies, black-bean-and-cheese dip and cake. But, alas, no beer.

Rubio spoke briefly -- "I think there’s a football game on tonight" -- and wrapped up before the game began. 

"Enjoy the game. It doesn’t really matter to me, the Dolphins haven't been there since '84, '85." (1985.)

An earlier version of this post misstated Diaz de la Portilla's title.<\i>

New Hampshire voters have the Marco Rubio-Chris Christie showdown on their mind


via @learyreports

BEDFORD, N.H. – The Christie-Rubio showdown was the talk of a middle school cafeteria here before the candidate showed up to a crowd of hundreds.

Steve Poschmann, Bedford, 50, intends to vote for Rubio

“It was a little cringe-worthy how he repeated the same lines over and over again how Obama is deliberately destroying the country. He should have laid off those and gone after Christie. I’m not sure why he didn’t. He’s not even running against Obama. Will it hurt? It depends how much the video gets out there.”

Kevin Reigstad, Bedford, 50, undecided

“It made Christie look bad, like a bully. Every politician has their messaging they want to get out. Chris Christie does the same thing, tells the same story, makes the same points."

Val Zanchuk, Concord, 65, undecided independent voter

"Christie pretty much skewered Rubio. It affirmed my concerns that he’s fairly shallow. I’m just here to see if he has anything to say other than his normal script. Rubio should be bleeding right now. I saw Jeb on Friday. I was impressed. He comes across much more genuine, much more knowledgeable than he appears to be on TV and the debates."

Continue reading "New Hampshire voters have the Marco Rubio-Chris Christie showdown on their mind" »

Jeb Bush, the day after the debate: 'Donald Trump, you're the loser!'



NASHUA, N.H. -– Jeb Bush packed a town hall Sunday with people who, in several cases, said they came to see him because they saw him take on Donald Trump in Saturday night’s debate.

“His performance in the debate last night was worthy to come see him,” said 47-year-old Bryan Harms of Amherst. “I love that he actually hits back against Trump. Someone’s got to do that a little bit – at least he has the guts to do that.”

Harms, an independent voter, plans to cast his ballot for Bush rival John Kasich. But he had brought a friend to see Bush anyway.

And Bush drew undecided voters too.

“I thought he did a good job showing he had experience,” said 51-year-old Republican Kevin Giroux of Nashua. He’s torn between Bush and Chris Christie, whom he said had the most memorable debate moment when he hammered Marco Rubio.

“He was ducking the questions,” Giroux said of Rubio.

Bush played up his feud with Trump, repeating his debate attack on Trump’s support of eminent domain and adopting a Trumpian tone to call the celebrity businessman out for bashing combat veterans like Arizona Sen. John McCain.

“Donald Trump, you’re the loser!” Bush said. He received a standing ovation.

Continue reading "Jeb Bush, the day after the debate: 'Donald Trump, you're the loser!'" »

Carl Hiaasen: The end of the applause for Jeb Bush

From Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen:

“Please clap,” Jeb Bush wryly told a subdued crowd in New Hampshire last week, a moment that epitomizes his problem.

The pundits call it lack of traction. Among too many voters it’s lack of interest.

If Jeb bombs in New Hampshire, he’s done. Even if he doesn’t quit the race, it’s over.

A year ago this scenario was unimaginable. He had more money, more brains, more connections and more governing experience than any other Republican wanting to be president. Like many people, I thought his nomination would be a slam dunk.

The gaseous rise of Donald Trump upended everything, but not only for Jeb. The other candidates had to scramble, too. Some did a better job.

Sure, Iowa is a silly place to start a presidential campaign. Its demographics are freakishly white, and the GOP electorate is anomalously dominated by evangelical Christians.

Still, Jeb spent plenty of time and money there, and wound up with only 2.8 percent of the vote. That’s miserably weak, and there’s no positive spin.

What’s happening? The answer is, for better or worse: Not much.

More here.

Marco Rubio defends repeating Obama attack at debate: 'I'm going to keep saying it'


NASHUA, N.H. -- Chris Christie rattled Marco Rubio in Saturday night's debate for repeating four times a line about President Barack Obama. But Rubio said Sunday morning that he stands by what he said -- and plans to keep saying it on the campaign trail.

"I would pay them to keep running that clip because that's what I believe, passionately," Rubio told ABC News' This Week

"We raised more money last night in the first hour that debate than any other debate. As far as that message, I hope they keep running it and I'm going to keep saying because it's true. Barack Obama --  yes, has he hired incompetent people to implement laws and run agencies? Absolutely.

"But when it comes to the -- what he's trying to do to America, it's part of a plan. He has said he wanted to change the country; he's doing it in a way that is robbing us of everything that makes us special."

Miami politicians trek to New Hampshire to help presidential candidates