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April 19, 2017

Bernie Sanders rallies crowd in Miami

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@amysherman1

Independent Bernie Sanders was met with cheers in Miami Wednesday night as he called for transforming the Democratic Party into a grassroots force that will fight for the poor and middle class and push back against President Donald Trump.

“We are going to take on the billionaire class…” Sanders said. “Donald Trump did not win the election — the Democrats lost the election! That means rebuilding the Democratic Party, making it a grassroots party — a party from the bottom on up!”

Sanders spoke at the James L. Knight Center as part of a nationwide “Come Together and Fight Back” Tour largely in swing states and Republican states. Sanders spoke in Maine and Kentucky earlier this week and will later go to Texas, Nebraska, Utah, Arizona and Nevada. The goal is to rebuild the party after the major rift that developed between supporters of Sanders and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president. About 2,000 people were in the crowd, according to a Knight Center official.

Sanders was accompanied by Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez, a labor secretary under President Obama. Perez’s predecessor, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, had to step down from the chair position in July after WikiLeaks published thousands of emails showing that the DNC favored Clinton over Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont.

Perez bashed GOP leaders — with some colorful language as he dropped the “s” word multiple times: “The Republican leadership doesn’t give a s--- about people who are suffering.”

 
Keep reading here.

DNC chair Tom Perez calls out Carlos Curbelo in Miami

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@amysherman1

During his speech to introduce Bernie Sanders in Miami, Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez bashed U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Miami Republican for his position on health care reform and for doling out PAC money to Republicans who have opposed immigration reform.

Curbelo “voted for Trump’s half-baked health care plan out of committee and what did he say? ‘No one will lose coverage,’” Perez said at the James L. Knight Center Wednesday. “That’s bullshit my friends.”

Curbelo voted for the bill in committee but expressed “serious concerns” after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the policy would force 14 million Americans to drop or lose their insurance coverage. When the bill collapsed in March Curbelo refused to say how he would have voted on the bill

Curbelo, who represents a left-leaning district, is one of the most targeted Republican members of Congress in the nation.

Perez also called out Curbelo for how he doles out money from his leadership PAC. Perez said that Curbelo promised that his PAC to boost other Republicans would only go to those who supported Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) -- a program to help undocumented immigrants who arrived as children avoid deportation.

“Guess what it happened?” Perez said. “That turned out to be a lie."

In 2016, Curbelo opened a political action committee to raise money for those Republicans who might need some financial support for taking a moderate immigration tack. Curbelo said at the time that potential beneficiaries could be Republicans who, like him, "voted against punishing people who were brought to this country as children and who are de facto Americans."

He was referring to a House vote to end President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which granted legal status to immigrants who had been brought into the country illegally as children.

Curbelo told the Herald in 2016 that the 47 Republicans who received money from WACPAC indicated to him in off-the-record conversations that they are committed to immigration reform.

This blog has been updated to reflect Curbelo's statements about when he opened a PAC.

Longtime Rubio spokesman leaving for tech gig

via @learyreports

Alex Burgos, a key member of Marco Rubio’s core team, is leaving for a position with TechNet, a bipartisan network of “innovation economy” CEOs and senior executives.

Burgos will be vice president of federal policy, government relations and communications and begins next Tuesday, according to a release. His departure follows that of Alberto Martinez.

“As a seasoned veteran of Capitol Hill and federal campaigns at all levels, Alex brings a wealth of policy experience, deep relationships, and strategic vision to TechNet.  We are excited to welcome Alex to the TechNet team and believe his wide range of skills, experience, and insights will take our federal advocacy programs to new levels of success.”

TechNet’s network of 71 members includes Apple, Facebook, Oracle, Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Lyft, Uber and Airbnb.

Burgos concludes eight years with Rubio, serving as his chief spokesman and deputy chief of staff. He’s a Miami native and Florida Gator.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

WATCH: Senate President Joe Negron addresses Frank Artiles' remarks

@ByKristenMClark

After this morning's Senate session when Miami Republican Sen. Frank Artiles formally apologized, President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, sat down with reporters to discuss Artiles' offensive remarks toward his Senate colleagues on Monday night.

MORE: "Legislative complaint seeks to expel Miami lawmaker from Senate over ‘racist rant’ "

Negron first laid out in detail -- almost as if presenting a case in a courtroom -- how he was informed of Artiles' comments and how and why he decided to respond. He then answered questions, including whether he thought Artiles should resign and what the next steps for possible discipline might be for the freshman senator.

Watch Negron's explanation and answers below.

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.