December 11, 2014

BLOOMBERG: Jeb Bush Has a Mitt Romney Problem posts this analysis of Jeb Bush's private equity firms and how it could make it harder to run for president.

"A private-equity-guy presidential candidate with lots of deals for the press to untangle—it sounds at least 47 percent familiar," writes Bloomberg.

Read the full story here.


December 10, 2014

ICYMI: More NYT scrutiny on Bondi

In case you missed it, the New York Times published another story this weekend on attorneys general and, once again, it touched on Florida’s own Pam Bondi.

Sunday’s story by Times reporter Eric Lipton was the sixth he’s written about attorneys general since October. It spotlights Oklahoma Attorney Scott Pruitt to illustrate how energy industry lobbyists have enlisted the help of mostly Republican attorneys general in their legal battles against President Obama’s administration.

Bondi, who was a focus in two earlier stories, one published on Oct. 29 and a second on Nov. 9, played a supporting role in the latest article, getting quoted down in the story voicing support for taking the side of industry in so many legal battles.

“When the federal government oversteps its legal authority and takes actions that hurt our business and residents, it’s entirely appropriate for us to partner with adversely affected private entities in fighting back,” Lipton quotes Bondi as saying.

That’s a similar explanation that Bondi gave the Times/Herald when it wrote a story in October about her office’s numerous "friend-of-the-court" briefs and other letters or reports pertaining to an array of topics and issues, some of which don't directly involve the state.

No matter the cause -- showing support for the Keystone pipeline, objecting to the federal rejection of a coal mining permit in West Virginia, challenging a ban on some semiautomatic weapons in Connecticut or New York -- Bondi was usually joined by numerous fellow Republican attorneys generals from mostly southern and western states

Bondi’s office in October described her involvement in these out-of-state battles as way to protect the rights of Floridians, even if they weren’t directly affected by the specific case. In an e-mail, a spokeswoman, Jenn Meale, said no outside group influenced Bondi’s decision to get involved in these battles.

"The only consideration Attorney General Bondi gives to matters before her office, including decisions on whether to participate in amicus briefs, is what is best for Floridians," Meale wrote in October.

In almost every case, a few Democratic attorneys general would join in, allowing Bondi to characterize the briefs as “bipartisan.”

But Lipton's online version of Sunday's story included supporting documents that suggest Bondi's motives are a bit more complicated, and partisan.

Continue reading "ICYMI: More NYT scrutiny on Bondi" »

Armstrong: All Florida hospitals are Ebola ready

Florida Surgeon General and Secretary of Health John Armstrong provided additional information Wednesday on the state's preparedness for a potential Ebola outbreak.

Armstrong issued the press release one week after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a list of the nation's 36 Ebola treatment centers. No Florida hospitals were on the list.

"The CDC's list of 'Ebola Ready' hospitals does not take into account that Florida hospitals began preparing for Ebola months ago so that every hospital in Florida is prepared to treat an Ebola patient," Armstrong said Wednesday.

He also noted that Florida on Wednesday renewed its request to the federal government for additional Ebola testing kits and for Ebola screening at Florida airports.

Saint Leo online poll: Jeb Bush blows away Marco Rubio and GOP pack, nearly leads Hillary Clinton in FL


Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush would handily carry his homestate in a crowded GOP primary and is the only Republican to marginally lead Democrat Hillary Clinton in a theoretical 2016 presidential contest, according to a new Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey.

Bush would pull 34 percent GOP support in a primary -- more than double former presidential candidate Mitt Romney's 15 percent and more than triple U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's 10 percent, the poll shows. The other 15 potential candidates (yes, it's that kind of potential Republican primary) all pull single-digit support in Florida.

In a general-election race against Clinton, Bush receives 43 percent of the vote and Clinton 42 percent. That 1 percentage-point lead is well within the poll's 3.5 percentage-point error margin.

All other major GOP candidates trail Clinton. Of them, Rubio does the best but trails her 46-42 percent.

Overall, by 44-38 percent, Florida voters say Bush should run. But only 28 percent say the same of Rubio, with 48 percent saying he shouldn't seek the presidency in 2016.

In a head-to-head matchup between Bush and Rubio, the former governor would get 57 percent Republican support to the senator's 21 percent; 7 percent want neither. 

"The conventional wisdom is that there¹s only room for one Florida Republican in the presidential field, Bush or Rubio; and the clear, cut winner is Jeb Bush," Saint Leo's political science instructor Frank Orlando said in a written statement. "

"As Florida's 'favorite son,' he appears to be winning the invisible primary," Orlando said. "Our poll results confirm beyond a doubt his dominance over Rubio and the other Republican contenders. Jeb is wildly popular among Floridians. I was surprised at his massive advantage."

Florida is crucial for Republicans. Because Democrats take California and Florida in presidential contests, GOP candidates need to win Texas and Florida to even up the odds in the Electoral College. Texas isn't likely to turn blue for decades. If a Democrat takes Florida and its 29 Electoral College votes (in addition to Claifornia's 55 and New York's 29), it would give the party about 42 percent of the 270 needed to win the White House -- making a GOP win exceedingly unlikely (even if the Republican won vaunted Ohio and its 18 Electoral College Votes).

Orlando's poll didn't survey the field without Bush, so it's tough to see how well Rubio would do without him in the race. 

Chances are that we won't see Bush and Rubio opposing each other on the same ballot. They're friends. Rubio owes a measure of his early career to the help of the elder Bush. If the two run for president at the same time (which I used to think was unlikely but no longer), there's a better chance Rubio would eventually drop out and qualify to run for his U.S. Senate seat again (Florida doesn't allow a person to seek two offices simultaneously on the same ballot). There's also a chance Rubio may leave the U.S. Senate.

But it's really early, anything can happen, this poll is a small snapshot in time, etc.

Saint Leo says this is an online-only poll. That technology (as opposed to live-call and robo-polling surveys) is still being worked out.

More here

Report: Florida ranks second in school school shootings since Sandy Hook massacre

In the two years since the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, there have been at least 95 school shootings including fatal and nonfatal assaults, suicides, and unintentional shootings — an average of nearly one a week, reports Everytown For Our Safety, a group pushing for stricter gun control.

The 95 school shootings occurred in 33 states across the country. Fifty-two percent of the shootings took place at K-12 schools and 48 percent took place on college or university campuses. Eight of the 94 shootings occurred in Florida – the second-highest state rate in the study.

Read the report here.

Report: Plurality-Winning Governors Elected At Century-Long High Water Mark

From Smart Politics ...

The rate of gubernatorial candidates elected without the support of a majority of voters is at its highest level since the 1910s. 

The 2014 election cycle fell far short of the projected upheaval in the number of governors ousted from office in November.

While polls showed as many as a dozen competitive races, only two incumbents fell on Election Day - Illinois Democrat Pat Quinn and Pennsylvania Republican Tom Corbett (joining Hawaii Democrat Neil Abercrombie who lost his party's primary).

That said, there were still many close races.

Twelve races were decided by less than five points (in Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Vermont) and six others were decided by less than 10 points (Georgia, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin).

 Read the Smart Politics report here

Miami-Dade school board member Raquel Regalado wants to join teachers union lawsuit against Mayor Carlos Gimenez


Miami-Dade County schools may join a lawsuit against the county mayor over a backlog in property tax appeals that drains money out of district coffers.

Board member Raquel Regalado said she has placed an item on Wednesday’s regular agenda asking the school district attorney for a legal opinion about joining the suit. Such an opinion is required by board rules before members can vote to join any legal action.

The United Teachers of Dade sued Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Friday for underfunding the Value Adjustment Board, which hears property tax appeals. As a result, the suit claims, appeals take years to be resolved and the district loses out on funds it’s owed.

The school board is expected to vote on joining the suit sometime in January, after getting their required legal opinion.

In a text message, Regalado said the district has tried negotiating with the county over the property tax issue, so joining the suit is “the only remaining option.”

Gov. Scott's surprise pick to run prisons: Julie Jones

Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday will appoint a new chief of the troubled Florida prison system: Julie Jones, the former executive director of the state highway safety agency.

JonesJones, 57, will be the first woman to head the Department of Corrections in the agency's history. Her appointment comes at a time when the agency has been wracked by revelations of inmate deaths, abuses by correctional officers and a chronic budget deficit.

Jones retired last April after five years at the helm of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. She has extensive law enforcement experience but has no background in prisons.

Scott issued a statement that said: "Julie Jones has had a distinguished career working with our state’s law enforcement community for over thirty years.  It is evident through her work across state government that she is a true reformer who is laser-focused on ensuring accountability and transparency.  She led the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles for nearly five years with integrity and under her leadership, she managed a complete restructuring of the agency that led to more oversight.  She also secured Cabinet approval for a performance plan to ensure the agency was running efficiently while holding employees accountable.

"Florida’s recidivism rate continues to decline and I know she will be committed to making sure it drops even further and making much needed reforms with the current system. I am confident Julie will be an effective leader at DOC and make sure the agency is run with accountability and integrity,” Scott's statement said.

December 09, 2014

Steube files proposal to allow guns on college campuses

Weeks after a gunman opened fire at the Florida State library, a lawmaker has proposed legislation that would let some people carry concealed weapons on college campuses.

The bill (HB 4005) was filed Monday by state Rep. Greg Steube. Steube, R-Sarasota, has also filed a proposal that would enable certain teachers and administrators to carry concealed firearms at primary and secondary schools.

The Nov. 20 shooting at FSU left two students and one school employee wounded. 

It spurred a renewed call for allowing guns on campus. A group called FSU Students for Concealed Carry called on the legislature to consider such a measure, and the National Rifle Association's Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer has said she would support the dialogue.

Expect pushback from Democrats, teachers and FSU President John Thrasher. (Thrasher fought to kill a similar proposal in 2011, saying the decision was "beyond personal.")

Steube's bills do not yet have a Senate companions. 

Jeb Bush says it's not just tattoos and obesity that keep applicants out of the military -- it's also the entrance exam

Common Core’s Republican defender-in-chief, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, has been known to marshal a varied portfolio of evidence to show that the United States need to raise its education standards.

In a question-and-answer session at a Wall Street Journal event on Dec. 1, Bush told attendees that a majority of high school graduates aren’t ready for college or work. He added that our educational schools are also a problem for the military.

"In the video beforehand," Bush said, Gen. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "talked about 25 percent pass rate. Now, that's not just because of the test. That's also because of obesity and too many tattoos, to be honest with you, on visible body parts for people that are trying to get into the military. But the pass rate for a high-school level test to join the military is about 35 percent, I think, or 40 percent at best. And these are abysmal numbers. (These are) horrific numbers. And yet, there's no one marching in the streets. There's no one saying, you know, ‘The end is near because of this.’ But the fact is, the end is near if we can't fix this."

Bush is correct that obesity and tattoos keep out some applicants. But do only 35 to 40 percent of applicants for the military pass the test? Turn to PolitiFact for the answer.