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November 20, 2015

NRA attacks Miami Rep. Trujillo for 'betrayal' of gun owners' rights

From The News Service of Florida:

Gun-rights advocates are targeting a Miami lawmaker after a bill to broaden the state's controversial "stand your ground" law was scuttled at the Capitol. The National Rifle Association and Unified Sportsmen of Florida emailed its members Thursday calling the actions by House Criminal Justice Chairman Carlos Trujillo an "orchestrated" betrayal of "law-abiding gun owners," as the measure died on a 6-6 vote two days earlier.

Trujillo and Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights, joined four Democrats in opposing the measure, which proposed to shift the burden of proof to the state in cases involving the "stand your ground" law. Under the 2005 law, people can use deadly force and do not have a duty to retreat if they think it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.

"It is important to recognize and remember the committee members who were loyal to the Constitution and your right of self-defense --- as well it is the betrayers," said the email from Marion Hammer, an influential lobbyist for both groups.

Hammer told The News Service of Florida she was "shocked" by the vote, but declined further comment, saying her email blast --- with "Betrayal" in its subject line --- spoke for itself. The tie vote came after Democrats were able to attach a pair of amendments to the bill that stripped some enforcement powers from the proposal.

Continue reading "NRA attacks Miami Rep. Trujillo for 'betrayal' of gun owners' rights" »

Republicans want Florida education commissioner elected again



Two Republican lawmakers have filed bills seeking a constitutional amendment to make Florida's education commissioner an elected position once again and to do away with appointed citizens' oversight of the state public education system.

The proposal from Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, and Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, calls for restoring the education commissioner to the governor's cabinet and for re-designating the governor and the cabinet as the State Board of Education, starting in January 2019.

That's how leadership of Florida's education system used to be organized until 1998, when voters approved a constitutional amendment restructuring the cabinet and creating the State Board of Education. The commissioner is appointed by the state board, which is made up of seven members chosen by the governor.

There have been four education commissioners in the past five years. Current commissioner Pam Stewart ascended to the post in 2013, after former commissioner Tony Bennett resigned.

Continue reading "Republicans want Florida education commissioner elected again" »

Private poll shows school ties build support for David Beckham soccer stadium in Miami


Soccer poll excerpt

Miami-Dade voters are generally split on David Beckham building a stadium next to Marlins Park, but overwhelmingly support the idea once told the school system will be a partner in the project, according to a private poll.

When 400 likely county voters were asked their opinion on building a Major League Soccer stadium for Beckham's team next to the baseball park, 40 percent supported the idea and 44 percent opposed. But told favorable attributes about Beckham's arrangement with the county school system, including free use for graduations and sporting events, and respondents embraced the plan: 74 percent supported the stadium and just 19 percent opposed.

"Voters in general, and those in Miami-Dade in particular, are naturally skeptical of deals such as this," said Keith Donner, the political consultant who helped craft the poll for a private-sector client he declined to name. "Once they know more about the proposed deal-- especially the school system's involvement and the benefits to the public schools -- they gravitate towards supporting it in droves. They really move over."

The telephone poll was conducted in English and Spanish between Oct. 30 and Nov. 4  by National Victory Strategies out of West Miami. Donner said the respondents were screened for prior participation in low-turnout elections. (The poll is roughly split between Democrats and Republicans, though the GOP makes up less than a third of the county's electorate. Read the poll results here.)

Donner shared the stadium portion of what he said was a much larger poll, but declined to provide the entire survey. He described the client as a "disinterested party that was polling on other issues tangentially related to the school system."

Continue reading "Private poll shows school ties build support for David Beckham soccer stadium in Miami" »

Neither red nor blue: Most new Florida voters reject both parties

The state of Florida is seeing an explosion in unaffiliated voters, many of them young and Hispanic, who are deserting the two major parties in droves and altering the composition of the electorate in the third-largest state. Within a decade, some experts predict, Florida will be a "triple-parity" state, with equal numbers of Republicans, Democrats and NPAs, or voters with no party affiliation.

The implications for democracy are significant, starting with the fact that Florida is a "closed primary" state where NPA voters are prohibited from casting ballots in party primaries. Since 1995, the percentage of NPA voters in Florida has grown by 300 percent and it shows no sign of stopping.

More here.

Do the feds want to send 425 Syrians to Florida as Rick Scott says?

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has joined dozens of governors who say they don’t want to take Syrian refugees following the terrorist attacks in Paris.

He criticized the federal government’s plans to take 10,000 Syrian refugees during an interview with Fox News’ Stuart Varney on Nov. 17.

"This is something that they are making the decision, whether we like it or not, to send 425 refugees to our state without giving us any information."

Is Scott right that the feds have decided to send 425 Syrian refugees to Florida with no input from the state? PolitiFact Florida decided to check it out.

GOP lawmakers on Scott and higher taxes: 'This has got to stop'

When Gov. Rick Scott rolls out his budget proposal in Jacksonville next Monday, he will likely highlight tax cuts and more money for public education. But a spike in school spending will likely have to come from higher property taxes on small businesses and homeowners, and that has some Republican legislators angry.

"This has got to stop," says Republican Rep. Fred Costello of Ormond Beach.

Costello has decided it's time to force Scott and lawmakers to tell people the truth, that higher property taxes pay for schools. Costello wants to require a public notice of whether a state-imposed tax increase pays for a school budget increase, and that it be spelled out with a "clear and concise explanation" in newspaper ads, just as cities and counties do every year when they publish the roll-back rate.

"It's going to force us to say we're raising taxes," Costello said. "Nobody in Tallahassee wants to do that."

Scott's office sees it very differently. "Rising property values are good for the economy and homeowners. This bill seems to ignore that reality," spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said Friday.

As Florida's economy improves, the taxable values of homes and businesses go up. But what politicians don't talk about is that higher property values results in higher property taxes -- even if the tax rate doesn't go up. Every year, the governor and legislators pass a budget that requires school boards to impose a local property tax, known as required local effort.

Continue reading "GOP lawmakers on Scott and higher taxes: 'This has got to stop'" »

Politico: The congressional page who took down Mark Foley

From Politico Magazine:

In the middle of October I was sitting on my couch in Washington and heard a familiar name come up on CNN: Dennis Hastert. “Prosecutors have charged Hastert with lying to the FBI about $3.5 million he agreed to pay to… a former student to keep quiet about allegations of sexual abuse dating back to Hastert's time as a high school teacher.” On October 28, after striking a deal with prosecutors, the former speaker of the House pleaded guilty.

This was nine years after the FBI had barged into my parents’ house, more than a decade after the unsettling things I’d seen on Capitol Hill. It was the final thud of a decline that had reshaped Congress—and in which I’d played a pivotal role that almost nobody except those FBI agents knew.

Hastert’s speakership had ended in both defeat and scandal. He resigned the office in November 2006, after Democrats retook the House. He didn’t have much choice in the matter. That fall, a story exploded that likely cost Republicans their House and Senate majority: Florida Republican Rep. Mark Foley, it was revealed, had repeatedly made sexual advances to several congressional pages. Hastert, the speaker at the time, had allegedly been told by House colleagues about Foley’s history of messaging teens, and did nothing.

I was a congressional page in 2001 and 2002. During that year, Foley sent sexual instant messages to at least three of my classmates. The messages weren’t flirtatious—though some started that way—but out and out lewd. Two of those recipients continued to receive them well after their time in the page program had elapsed, extending into our college years. Many of us who were pages at the time knew that the conversations had taken place. Some of us even shared copies of the message logs among ourselves. But how the conversations went public, and who gave them to reporters and started the avalanche that ended Foley’s career and dealt a blow to the Republican congressional majority, has never come out.

It was me.

More here.

Donald Trump: Close down mosques. Jeb Bush: 'That's just wrong.' Marco Rubio: Close down any place inspiring radicals

via @learyreports

Donald Trump wants to close down mosques in the U.S. and create a database to track Muslims — post-Paris efforts that have stirred debate and backlash.

Jeb Bush denounced Trump this morning on CNBC, going farther than other Republican candidates. “You talk about internment. You talk about closing mosques. You talk about registering people. That’s just wrong,” Bush said. “I don’t care about campaigns. … It’s not a question of toughness. It’s manipulating people’s angst and their fears. That’s not strength, that’s weakness.”


Marco Rubio last night on Fox News was asked a more focused question about the mosques. “It’s not about closing down mosques. It’s about closing down any place - whether it's a cafe, a diner an Internet site - any place where radicals are being inspired." Rubio went on to say the bigger problem is finding out where the places are, citing limits on intelligence gathering. "Any facility that is being used to radicalize and inspire attacks against the United States should be a place that we look at."


--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott, GOP govs ask for no more Syrian refugees in letter to Obama

The 27 Republican governors who earlier this week opposed Syrian refugees settling in their states -- including Florida's Rick Scott -- are taking up a united front.

On Friday, they sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to suspend resettlement of refugees from Syria nationwide in light of attacks in France last week.

Other southern governors signed on the list, including Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Greg Abbot of Texas and Nathan Deal of Georgia. New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, the only Democrat to join the anti-refugee talk, did not join.

States have no power to refuse refugees, legal experts say. PolitiFact has answered five key questions about Syrian refugees, including about the screening process they undergo before entering the couuntry.

Below is the full text of the letter from the governors. The list of governors is included on the full document here.

Continue reading "Rick Scott, GOP govs ask for no more Syrian refugees in letter to Obama" »

Donald Trump's Pants on Fire claim about feds sending Syrians to states with GOP governors

As growing numbers of governors including Florida's Rick Scott were expressing opposition to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their state, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump raised the ante in an interview with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham.

Trump charged that the Obama administration is deliberately trying to resettle Syrian refugees in states with Republican governors while sparing states that have Democratic governors.

"They send them to the Republicans, not to the Democrats, you know, because they know the problems," Trump said on Nov. 17, 2015. "In California, you have a Democrat as a governor (Jerry Brown). In Florida, you have Rick Scott (a Republican). So you know they send them to the Republicans because you know why would we want to bother the Democrats? It's just insane. Taking these people is absolutely insanity."

Is the administration sending refugees to Republican-led states but not Democratic ones? In a word, no.

See what Louis Jacobson of PolitiFact found.