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April 19, 2017

Gov. Rick Scott calls Artiles' comments 'disgusting' but declines to say whether he should resign

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via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- Gov. Rick Scott said this afternoon that Sen. Frank Artiles comments were “disgusting” but declined to say whether the Miami Republican should resign.

“He’ll have to make a decision on what he does,” Scott told reporters after spending the day in Washington.

“It’s disgusting,” Scott said when asked to react to the racist, sexist rant.

“I called Senator (Audrey) Gibson this morning. I have a good working relationship with her," Scott said, nothing they walked in a Martin Luther King Day parade. "Nobody should be called names like that. Nobody should be treated like that. It was disgusting.”

Pressed by Gannett’s Ledyard King, Scott repeated that Artiles would have to make the decision whether to step down.

“I’ll just tell you it was disgusting what he said," Scott said. "It was not right to say to anybody. That’s why I called Senator Gibson this morning. She’ a wonderful person.”

Asked again, Scott said: "What you do everyday in your job has consequences when you run."

Photo credit: AP

Artiles' apology not enough: Democrats, Equality Florida, NAACP call for his removal

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via @mikevansickler

Miami Republican Sen. Frank Artiles may have said he's not resigning minutes after he apologized Wednesday for earlier using a racial slur and directing profanity at another senator.

But other groups are calling him to quit. Others are criticizing how Artiles apologized.

Here's a mid-afternoon sampling of the fallout:

Continue reading "Artiles' apology not enough: Democrats, Equality Florida, NAACP call for his removal" »

WATCH: Sen. Frank Artiles delivers a formal apology on Senate floor

@ByKristenMClark

At the direction of Senate President Joe Negron, Miami Republican Sen. Frank Artiles delivered a formal apology on the Senate floor Wednesday morning, two days after he insulted Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, in the presence of Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, and used a racial slur to describe other senators.

Watch the video below, and read more here on Artiles' apology and the continuing fallout of his actions.

Trump misleads about formation of MS-13 gang

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@amysherman1

President Donald Trump blamed former President Barack Obama on Twitter for the formation of one of the most notorious gangs.

“The weak illegal immigration policies of the Obama Admin. allowed bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U.S. We are removing them fast!” Trump tweeted April 18.

Trump’s tweet came days after four young men were found brutally murdered in Central Islip in Long Island. The Suffolk County police commissioner said he suspects the MS-13 involvement.

But the president’s post about the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13 gang, is misleading.

The gang was established in Los Angeles and spread across the country decades before Obama took office.

Trump’s administration has conducted target operations to arrest criminals, but data is not yet available on how many MS-13 gang members have been arrested or removed.

Ioan Grillo, author of the 2016 book “Gangster Warlords: Drug Dollars, Killing Fields, and the New Politics of Latin America,” disputed Trump’s conclusion.

“I have seen no evidence that the Obama administration can be blamed in any way for the existence or activities of the gang in the U.S.,” Grillo told PolitiFact.

We asked a Trump spokesman for more information but did not hear back by deadline.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

Bill protecting Uber and Lyft heads to Rick Scott's desk after four years of fighting

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@MichaelAuslen

Local governments won’t be allowed to regulate ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft under legislation passed nearly unanimously by the Florida Legislature.

It now heads to Gov. Rick Scott for signature or veto. His office has not yet signaled whether he will sign it.

The bill (HB 221) sets statewide insurance and background check standards for ridesharing companies. But most critically, it overrides local governments’ attempts to regulate them. Some of the most high-profile fights over local rules have been in Key West and Hillsborough County.

“We go from a patchwork of local regulations that were in conflict to each other to a statewide regime that provides harmony, stability and certainty for riders and drivers alike,” said Colin Tooze, spokesman for Uber.

Uber and Lyft have argued that being subject to different rules in all 67 counties and more than 400 cities and towns made it hard to do business. With the news of the law passing, Tooze refused to say what, if any, expansion Uber plans in the state.

Taxicab companies have fought against these regulations, saying that they hold ridesharing companies to different standards. Historically, local governments have been allowed to regulate companies like taxis and limos.

The bill’s passage Wednesday ends years of infighting among lawmakers, particularly in the Senate, where leaders were reluctant to preempt local governments on ridesharing.

However, this year, the taxis’ lobbying efforts fizzled.

Their trade group, the Florida Taxicab Association, did not respond to requests for comment.

Opposition among the Legislature was hard to find. The bill passed the House unanimously, and just one senator voted against it: Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.

Asked by the Times/Herald if he would talk about his opposition Wednesday, he rushed off the Senate floor and said, gruffly: “No.”

If signed by Scott, the law would require ridesharing companies to have $1 million in insurance coverage whenever their drivers were engaged in a ride, as well as heightened requirements when logged into their smartphone apps but not driving a passenger.

Additionally, there would be statewide standards for background checks.

“This strikes the right balance of regulation and making sure that there’s plenty of access for Floridians,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who has sponsored the legislation in the Senate for the last four years.

He said it is also a step forward in what he views as the long-term future of transportation: A network of driverless cars run by ridesharing companies.

For Uber drivers, the move settles uncertainty in some jurisdictions, including Key West, Broward and Hillsborough counties, which at varying times in recent years banned Uber and Lyft or ticketed their drivers.

“I think it was totally ridiculous that Uber had to be held hostage by each county and each quasi-governmental entity,” said Marla Garris, an Uber driver who lives in Pinellas County. “It doesn’t need to be gridlock with local government. We as Floridians need to be on the same page."

Photo: Associated Press

Artiles apologizes on Senate floor as resignation calls mount

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@PatriciaMazzei @stevebousquet @ByKristenMClark

Miami Republican Sen. Frank Artiles stood on the Florida Senate floor Wednesday morning and told his colleagues he was sorry for insulting them in private using curse words and a racial slur.

“I extend a heartfelt apology to my colleagues and to all those I have offended,” Artiles began.

He offered a direct apology to Sen. Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat he had called a “bitch.”

“My comments to you were the most regretful of all, because they injured you personally,” Artiles said. “No one deserves to be spoken to like that.”

Gibson did not look at him even once.

Artiles acknowledged that his comments, made in private Monday night and revealed Tuesday, reflected poorly on him. He also apologized to Sen. Perry Thurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat who witnessed Artiles’ exchange with Gibson and tried to get Artiles to reconsider his crass language before the conversation got out of hand.

Artiles’ refusal to apologize to Gibson in person prompted Senate leaders to get involved. They forced Artiles to say sorry in person late Tuesday. By then, his remarks to Gibson and Thurston — including deriding Republican Senate President Joe Negron as a “pussy” and lamenting that “niggas” in the GOP caucus elected him — had been made public. Both Gibson and Thurston are black.

Wednesday morning, Negron stripped Artiles of his chairmanship of the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee.

More here.

Senate will try another route to get daily recess in state law

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@ByKristenMClark

With House Republican leaders holding up a Senate-approved bill to mandate daily recess in public elementary schools, Florida senators will attempt another route to get the proposal enacted this year.

Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores, the sponsor of the Senate recess bill (SB 78), filed a sweeping amendment Wednesday morning to her measure aimed at reducing statewide standardized tests, which would drastically broaden the bill to include several other policies — including mandatory daily recess.

The 17-page amendment will be considered this afternoon when the testing bill (SB 926) is up for its final committee hearing in Senate Rules before it would go to the floor.

By attaching the recess policy to the broader bill, it gives the Senate more leverage and could force the House into considering it through negotiations. The House also views testing reforms as a top priority this session. 

Full story here.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell / Miami Herald

Gov. Scott at White House Wednesday morning for bill signing

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Gov. Rick Scott will be at the White House Wednesday morning as President Trump signs a veterans bill.

Florida Department of Veterans Affairs Executive Director, Retired Army Lt. Col. Glenn Sutphin, will also join, according to Scott's office. Trump is to sign the Veterans Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act.

“My father served in WWII and I proudly served in the United States Navy and I appreciate President Trump’s commitment to our military and our veterans.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

 

House and Senate advance medical pot bills but no compromise in sight

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@MichaelAuslen

Florida lawmakers are moving full steam ahead to implement the voter-approved constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana, but there is still no sign of a compromise between competing House and Senate plans.

The two legislators tasked with putting the voters’ will into effect, Sen. Rob Bradley and House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, say they have begun closed-door talks to bridge large divides between their legislation. 

Neither was willing to divulge any information about a compromise Tuesday after their competing bills (SB 406/HB 1397) cleared their second hearings in front of each chamber’s health care budget subcommittee. They must pass one more committee before floor votes.

With the end of the legislative session 17 days away, Tuesday’s votes came with no moves toward a middle ground between the two bills.

“I’m in negotiations with the Senate,” Rodrigues, R-Estero, said. “Those negotiations will continue. We’ll see some policy changes that will occur at the third stop, which is the Health and Human Services Committee.”

What kind of changes? “I have nothing else to add,” he said.

Bradley, R-Fleming Island, is being similarly tight-lipped.

“I want to respect the integrity of our conversations, and so I’ll leave it at that we’re making significant progress on a lot of the issues dealing with patient access and I’m confident that we’re going to come to a conclusion in short order,” he said.

Both men have staked out firm positions on key issues as their negotiations prepare.

Bradley said the Senate won’t consider a bill that provides enough access for a patient base that could expand into the hundreds of thousands in short order. He also said Tuesday that “it’s important to the Senate” that whatever compromise language the chambers agree on includes vaping and edibles.

Rodrigues and his House colleagues are more reluctant to allow patients to vape or eat cannabis, but he has said he would be willing to do so if doctors played a strong role in directing patients what to do. (That policy idea has some activists concerned it could scare off doctors who are legally allowed only to “recommend” marijuana, not prescribe it outright.)

Other sticking points that remain: Requiring patients have a three-month relationship with their doctors, which the Senate bill does not include but the House does, and which many members of the public said was contrary to the will of the voters in Tuesday’s House hearing.

Additionally, the House bill allows for fewer new license holders, while the Senate language now includes more growers but limits the number of dispensaries each is allowed to open.

It’s likely both chambers’ legislation will be considered in committees next week — House Health and Human Services and Senate Appropriations — before facing floor votes in the final week of session.

Photo: Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, is the House member charged with reaching a medical marijuana compromise with the Florida Senate. (Scott Keeler | Tampa Bay Times)

Florida parents want a House vote on recess. Will they get it?

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@ByKristenMClark

All that Florida parents want is guaranteed daily recess for their elementary school children. Just 20 minutes a day to allow for a brain break and some playtime.

But for the second consecutive year, that relatively simple request seems increasingly in jeopardy — despite overwhelming public and legislative support — thanks to obstruction by a few influential lawmakers in the Florida House.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, won’t have a conversation about school recess, and his top lieutenants offer only deflection when asked what the House will do.

Parents want a vote. In the two weeks since the state Senate unanimously passed its bill to require daily recess in public elementary schools, parents have mobilized, calling for SB 78 to be brought to the House floor.

“The PEOPLE have spoken and they want this bill!” Orlando “recess mom” Amy Narvaez wrote in an email to House leadership earlier this month that was obtained through a public records request.

But despite the public outcry, House leaders have shown no inclination to act.

Full story here.

Photo credit: Omari Accius 6, enjoys recess at Citrus Grove Elementary School on Thursday, February 9, 2017. Florida lawmakers are again considering a statewide mandate for daily recess in public elementary schools. Patrick Farrell / Miami Herald