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February 04, 2016

PolitiFact fact-checks the MSNBC Democratic debate in New Hampshire


The two remaining Democrats running for president square off starting at 9 p.m. tonight on MSNBC. PolitiFact will be listening to the statements made by both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and rating their claims on our Truth-O-Meter. Follow our live coverage tonight.

Here is our most recent fact-check of both candidates:

Clinton said in the CNN town hall that when terrorists killed more than 250 Americans in Lebanon under Ronald Reagan, "the Democrats didn’t make that a partisan issue." Clinton has a strong point that the Democrat-held House did not react as forcefully to the 1983 Beirut bombings as the Republican-held House reacted to the 2012 Benghazi attack, which killed four. But Walter Mondale, running against Reagan in 1984, and some congressional Democrats repeatedly said Ronald Reagan had failed personally regarding Lebanon. We rated Clinton’s partially accurate claim Half True.

Sanders said in an ad that he was endorsed by the Valley News newspaper, a newspaper in West Lebanon, New Hampshire. While the paper published a laudatory editorial about the Vermont senator, it hasn't offered him an official endorsement. PolitiFact New Hampshire rated that statement False.

Photo credit Associated Press.

Florida House member from Aventura 'mortified' by 'mistake' on campus-carry vote



CaptureRep. Joseph Geller, D-Aventura, says he's "mortified" and "very embarrassed" today by what he calls an honest mistake Wednesday night.

As the House was called to vote on a controversial measure to allow concealed handguns on Florida's public college and university campuses, Geller said he pressed the wrong button -- not only for himself, but for his seatmate, Rep. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando.

That's why the two Democrats came in as "yes" votes in the 80-37 result, which passed the bill out of the chamber. (The only Democrat to intentionally vote for it was Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, who co-sponsored the bill.)

"It was absolutely a mistake. I just hit the wrong button and they locked the machine too quickly for me to fix it," Geller told the Herald/Times.

The voting board was open for nine seconds, during which time members could cast their votes.

During House floor speeches earlier in the night -- and the night before when amendments were considered -- Geller had railed against allowing guns on campuses, so his "yes" vote raised a few eyebrows.

He and Bracy changed their votes to "no" within about five minutes of the vote, which is reflected in the House record but not in the vote tally itself.

Geller said that Bracy was on the other side of the House chamber -- talking to another representative about a different bill -- when the voting happened, so Geller pushed Bracy's button for him, as they had agreed to.

The practice, though frowned upon, is allowed under House rules, so long as the member is in the chamber when another votes for him and as long as that other member does so on the member's "specific request and direction."

Geller said he normally double-checks the board, but was briefly distracted by someone who came up to speak with him.

And then it was too late.

He said he's gotten calls from constituents today about his recorded vote, and he's kicking himself for what happened.

"I own it; I own the mistake," he said. "I'm sorry for it. I regret it. I'm mortified by it."

Photo credit: Rep. Joseph Geller, D-Aventura, speaks on the House floor during the 2015 session. (Florida House) // The Florida Channel

Surgeon General John Armstrong answers to health department cuts, rising HIV cases


Surgeon General John Armstrong is addressing concerns that could come up in his Feb. 16 confirmation hearing in an interview published Thursday by the News Service of Florida.

Armstrong addresses questions about rising infections of HIV in Florida, which leads the nation for new cases, over the last four years, as well as staffing cuts to the county health departments following Times/Herald reporting on the issue. And he discusses changes to the state's Children's Medical Services program.

The surgeon general declined requests to be interviewed ahead of the Times/Herald story.

From the News Service:

Q: Why does Florida have such high rates of diagnosed HIV cases, and what are we doing about it?

ARMSTRONG: Well, I think that's an important point. I'm very familiar with HIV/AIDS, very familiar as a professional. I trained when HIV/AIDS was emerging, and I saw it for what it was: A very cruel disease, very cruel. So I invested a lot of time learning about it, so that I understood what needed to be done: how to be safe, but how to really help people. And I've carried that with me. So when I came into this department and looked at where we were with HIV/AIDS, I kind of reset the playing field. I talk a lot about eliminating things. I find in general there's talk about, "Let's reduce this." … I don't want to reduce it, I want to eliminate it. To those who push back and say, "You'll never eliminate it" --- well, of course you won't, if you say you'll never eliminate it. You've got to start somewhere. And it turns out remarkable things have happened when people say, "You know what? We're going to eliminate this."

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Gov. Rick Scott: Zika public health emergency expanded to Broward


After the number of confirmed cases of Zika virus in Florida grew to 12, Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday expanded a public health emergency in the state to include Broward County.

Speaking in Tampa alongside Dr. John Armstrong, the state’s surgeon general, Scott urged Floridians to be prepared, “just like a hurricane.” He is asking the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide at least 1,000 kits to test pregnant women who show symptoms of the virus.

“It’s no different than what I do in hurricanes. You always try to get out in front of something, try to prevent the problem but know if you’re going to have a problem you’d rather be prepared.”

All 12 of the confirmed cases in Florida are travel-related, and there have been no known transmissions within the state, either from mosquitos or between people. None of the people who have been infected are pregnant women, according to Scott’s office. Reports have connected Zika to a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly, although according to the CDC, “knowledge of the evolving.”

On Wednesday, Scott signed an executive order declaring the public health emergency in Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Santa Rosa and Lee counties.

The governor’s action is reminiscent of his response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Africa, but he has not declared public health emergencies for outbreaks of other illnesses, including other mosquito-borne diseases.

“With regard to Ebola, we got ahead of it,” Scott said. “We put a lot of effort into making sure everyone was informed in our state in case something happened.”

Jeb Bush says Miami isn't the same kind of 'sanctuary city' as San Francisco


TILTON, N.H. -- Miami's two Republican presidential candidates, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, both get applause when they campaign against federal funding for so-called "sanctuary cities," where local law-enforcement agencies limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

But advocates consider their home county of Miami-Dade to be such a sanctuary. And legislation passed by the Florida House on Wednesday that would ban the practice would, by the House staff's own analysis, affect Miami-Dade.

Asked about the state legislation while campaigning in New Hampshire on Thursday, Bush, a former Florida governor, cautioned against painting all cities and counties with too wide a brush.

"Miami-Dade County's version of a sanctuary city may be different than the one that exists in San Francisco, where they released convicted felons into the community rather than apply federal law," Bush said. "I don't think Miami-Dade was doing that. So you've got to be careful about the conversation."

He reiterated, however, that it shouldn't be OK for a local police department to defy immigration law. (The way Miami-Dade's policy works is that the police department cooperates with the feds on some immigration cases, but does not detain people flagged as being in the country illegally indefinitely.)

"I don't think there should be a violation of federal law by local communities knowingly doing it," Bush said. "There should be some restrictions. The idea of restricting federal law-enforcement dollars for communities that violate federal law and endanger their communities is appropriate.

"I don't think Miami-Dade County does that, though."

Jeb Bush: Marco Rubio is trying to 'rewrite history' on record



TILTON, N.H. -- Team Jeb Bush and Team Marco Rubio aren’t even pretending anymore that the two Florida men aren’t gunning for each other ahead of Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.

Conservative Solutions PAC, which is backing Rubio, released a video Thursday attacking the former governor as a poor campaigner past his prime.

“What happened to Jeb Bush? He spent millions praising himself, and his campaign tanked. Then Jeb spent millions more tearing down Republicans, and he fell even further,” the spot says. “Jeb Bush’s ideas are old and wrong, from Wall Street bailouts to Common Core. Jeb Bush: He did some good things in the past, but he’s not the answer for America’s future.”


Bush, who hadn’t seen the video, suggested it was a sign that he’s doing well enough in New Hampshire – despite having placed far behind Rubio in Iowa – to merit attention.

“I’ve laid out the most detailed plans about the future, much more than him, and he’s attacking me at the same time that he’s all worried that people are attacking him,” Bush told reporters outside the Tilt’n Diner (“No Crybabies, No Beepers”), where he shook voters’ hands and had lunch. “This is politics. I can take the hits. Sen. Rubio was supportive of Race to the Top, the one indirect means by which the federal government would have been involved in Common Core standards.”

He also accused Rubio of having "no record" and trying to "rewrite history." Rubio has repeatedly countered that being a governor like Bush doesn't prepare a candidate for the presidency, which is a different gig altogether.

Earlier Thursday, Bush had cast Rubio as a career politician, telling manufacturing workers in Pittsfield that the senator “was elected when he was 26.”

 “But he has never done anything in his life,” Bush said at Globe Manufacturing, the same firefighter-suit producer Rubio had visited a day earlier. “I know that you’ll take you r decision, and you’ll do it wisely.”

Did John Kasich have the worst spending record as Jeb Bush's PAC says?

The super PAC supporting former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is trying to counter a perceived challenge for moderate New Hampshire voters from Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

The PAC, Right to Rise, is airing an ad in New Hampshire that declares Kasich "wrong on New Hampshire issues." It’s run at least 284 times on Boston television since Jan. 21, according to the Internet Archive’s Political Ad Tracker.

The 30-second ad makes a number of claims, but we decided to focus on one surrounding spending. The ad claims Kasich had "the worst rating on spending of any governor in the country, Republican or Democrat."

That’s a potentially devastating claim, especially since Kasich is selling the economic turnaround in Ohio as part of his presidential resume. It in large part hinges on Kasich’s decision to expand Medicaid in the state as part of President Barack Obama’s health care law.

See what Aaron Sharockman of PolitiFact found and follow PolitiFact's live coverage in New Hampshire.

Ban red-light cameras? Florida Senate panel advances proposal


Above objections from local police chiefs and city and county officials, Florida lawmakers are advancing legislation to outlaw red-light cameras statewide.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, argues the devices -- which capture infractions and later result in sometimes costly tickets for motorists -- have "essentially no safety benefit" and he said they serve to do little more than line local governments' pockets with extra revenue.

"It’s a backdoor tax increase on citizens who often can't afford to pay it, and you’re making intersections less safe," Brandes said.

Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, agreed: "I don’t like the cash-register they’ve become either."

Brandes' bill (SB 168) to ban red-light cameras and prohibit local governments from using them got its first approval by a Senate committee Thursday morning, with Democrats opposed.

In the House, the effort is a little more bipartisan, with Reps. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, and Kristin Jacobs, D-Coconut Creek, pushing HB 4027 together. They have a press conference scheduled for this afternoon to discuss their proposal. It received its first favorable vote two weeks ago, also with some Democratic opposition.

The state legalized red-light cameras in 2010.

But a growing number of municipalities -- including North Miami Beach and, recently, Gulfport near Tampa -- have voted to turn off their cameras or have stopped using the devices altogether in the face of public backlash, lawsuits and court rulings that found the devices could violate constitutional rights.

Last year, the Florida Supreme Court declined to take up an appeals court's ruling on a lawsuit challenging how the city of Hollywood used red-light tickets to enforce traffic laws in Broward County. The court said the city's outside private vendor had, "for all practical purposes," the power to decide which motorists were ticketed, when the city bears that responsibility.

Responding to Brandes' desire to outlaw the devices statewide, Democrats on the Senate Transportation Committee objected Thursday to what they called "an expansion of pre-emption" by the state and they questioned the validity of state data that Brandes presented to demonstrate proven increases in accidents because of the devices.

"It’s working in Orange County. We’ve seen people alter their behavior once they get a citation for running a red light," Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, said.

Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, said "I personally think they work," citing his own experience getting a ticket, which he said deterred future infractions.

But he said cities should have the power to decide for themselves. That is what cities want, too.

The Florida League of Cities isn't weighing in on whether using the cameras is good or bad. The group does "support the ability of cities to use that tool" as a public-safety measure, said Scott Dudley, the league's legislative director.

In regards to Brandes calling it a hidden tax, Dudley countered: "It’s a hidden tax that can be easily avoided by not running a red light."

He said the larger traffic safety problem is cellphones and distracted driving.

"That’s really what the Legislature should be looking at," Dudley said.

Brandes ended the hearing with an emotional appeal, blasting the "cold-hearted" devices that don't have the capacity for leeway in doling out punishment, as police officers and sheriff's deputies have.

"It’s the cold, calculated nature of this I find most objectionable," Brandes said. "They don’t offer us the human side of law enforcement. They’re completely and utterly machine-driven."

His bill has two more committee stops before it could reach the Senate floor. Artiles and Jacobs' bill has one more committee to clear in the House.

The proposed law wouldn’t take effect until 2019 to allow time for municipalities’ contracts with vendors to expire, Brandes said.


PolitiFact's guide to the Republican-on-Republican attacks


With the Iowa caucuses over and the New Hampshire primary ahead, the Republican candidates are aiming to draw distinctions among each other like never before.

The longstanding truce between the two leading candidates, Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, recently turned into a full-out feud, and it will likely continue since Trump took second place to Cruz in Iowa caucuses.

Trump has been repeatedly attacking Cruz as "nasty" and "two-faced" and questioning whether the Canadian-born senator would actually qualify for the presidency. Cruz, for his part, says he’s taken the high road and "hasn’t insulted Donald" personally (Mostly False).

Cruz’s other war, with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — who came in third in Iowa —has been centered on immigration. The two have made largely inaccurate statements about each other’s positions on the hot-button issue. Then there’s the rest of the field, vying for attention as they trade jabs with Trump and each other.

With so much mudslinging, it can be hard to sort out which accusations and insults are based in facts. PolitiFact’s got you covered. Here’s a rundown of Republican-on-Republican attacks.

Jeb Bush wrong to claim debt never a debate topic


Just a day after finishing far back in the Republican pack in Iowa, Jeb Bush sought a fresh start in New Hampshire with an appearance at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge.

Among other things, Bush responded to an attendee’s question about the national debt with an observation about how little attention the debt has gotten in the presidential campaign.

The debt "comes up all the time in town meetings ... but it's never asked in the debates," Bush said. "It's really weird. It hasn't been brought up."

Really? No moderator asked about the debt, and no candidate volunteered anything about it?

We found that hard to believe -- and it turns out, Bush’s memory on this one is faulty. (Bush has taken part in each of the seven main-stage debates in 2015 and 2016.) His campaign did not respond to an inquiry.

See what Louis Jacobson of PolitiFact found about Bush's statement and follow our coverage in New Hampshire.