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September 28, 2015

UPDATED Marco Rubio: 'I'm not interested in the back and forth' with Donald Trump's 'freak show'


Marco Rubio absolutely, positively wants to stay above the fray in the 2016 Republican presidential race.

But he sure knows how to tuck in jabs against frontrunner Donald Trump while trying to distance himself from Trump's attacks on him and other more establishment candidates.

The latest example: In an interview aired Monday on NPR, Rubio was asked about Trump's calling him a "clown" on Friday.

"I'm not interested in the back and forth," Rubio said -- only to deride Trump's  "freak show."

"He is a very sensitive person. He doesn't like to be criticized. He responds to criticism very poorly," Rubio said. "His poll numbers have taken a beating and he was embarrassed on national television at the debate by Carly Fiorina and others."

"But this election is not going to be about Donald Trump," Rubio continued. "He thinks it is, but it's not about him. It has to be about the issues confronting our country. And my sense of it is that every time issues become prominent he will say something outrageous or do something outrageous so that he doesn't have to talk about the issues."

UPDATE: Asked about Rubio's comment in a New York news conference unveiling his tax plan, Trump again referred to Rubio as a "lightweight."

"Look, look. Sen. Rubio is a lightweight. We understand that. He wouldn't be able to do this. He wouldn't know a trade deal from any other deal. And what certain people are trying to do...

"We're going up very strongly in the polls. They don't know know what to do about it...

"I'm funding my own campaign. Guys like Rubio, I mean, he desperately needs money. Ask the car dealer in Florida." (That would be Norman Braman.) "Ask the people that support him..."

"A guy Rubio and others...they're largely controlled by their donors, the special interests and, frankly, more than anybody else, the lobbyists."

Jeb Bush's misleading claim about growth under George W. Bush

During his 2016 Republican presidential bid, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has periodically had to answer for the record of his brother, George W. Bush, and he had to do it again on a recent edition of Fox News Sunday.

Host Chris Wallace asked Bush, "Whether it was Ronald Reagan's tax cuts or your brother's tax cuts, they did add greatly to the deficit."

Bush responded, "They didn't (add to the deficit) as greatly as the static thinkers on the left think. They created a dynamic effect of high growth. And that's what we need."

We didn’t recall rapid economic growth under Bush, so we thought we’d look at the past five presidents’ records in order to gauge Jeb Bush’s comments.

See what Louis Jacobson at PolitiFact found and see Bush's Truth-O-Meter record.

September 27, 2015

Hillary Clinton heads to Broward College


Hillary Clinton will swing by Broward College at 2:30 p.m. Friday for a "grassroots organizing meeting," her campaign said Sunday. Blue Broward, of course, is the heart of Florida Democratic politics.

The Democrat will be in South Florida for three big-money fundraisers. Her campaign had said the candidate would hold a public event in Fort Lauderdale; it will actually take place in Davie, at Broward College's Hugh Adams Central Campus B. George Mayer Gymnasium.

"During the event, Clinton will lay out the case for her campaign and directly ask supporters to get involve," the campaign said in an advisory to reporters.

Members of the public can sign up to attend here.

Fox News Sunday asks Jeb Bush if he needs 'a $3M tax cut'


Jeb Bush defended his tax plan and his recent remark about African-American voters on Fox News Sunday, in his first national Sunday morning show interview in four months.

Bush, who took host Chris Wallace to Little Havana's Domino Park and to Bush's recently opened Miami-Dade County field office in Coral Gables, dismissed criticism about saying last week that African-American voters didn't want "free stuff" -- a comment that echoed Mitt Romney in 2012.

"I think we need to make our case to African-American voters and all voters that an aspirational message, fixing a few big complex things, will allow people to rise up," Bush said. "That's what people want. They don't want free stuff. That was my whole point. You know, the left argues all the time taking things out of context."

Wallace pressed Bush on how his tax plan would result in a greater benefit for the country's highest earners -- the kind of argument that might particularly resonate against Bush, the son and brother of two former presidents who in 2013 reported earning more than $7 million.

Here's the exchange, according to a Fox News transcript:

WALLACE: The Tax Foundation says the middle class would see after tax income increase 2.9 percent. But the top 1 percent would get a boost of 11.6 percent.

An analysis of your tax returns for the last six years, which you have released to the public, the last six years indicates that you would save, under your tax plan, $3 million.

Does Jeb Bush need a $3 million tax cut?

BUSH: Look, the benefit of this goes disproportionately to the middle class. If you look at what the middle class pays today compared to what they would pay in our tax plan --  

WALLACE: But they get a 2.9 percent increase in after tax income --  

BUSH: Because higher income people pay more taxes right now and proportionally, everybody will get a benefit. But proportionally, they'll pay more in with my plan than what they pay today.

WALLACE: Well, I mean forgive me, sir, but -- but 2.9 seems like it's less than 11.6.

BUSH: The simple fact is 1 percent of people pay 40 percent of all the taxes. And so, of course, tax cuts for everybody is going to generate more for people that are paying a lot more. I mean that's just the way it is.

Raquel Regalado posting bus-stop ads in Miami for county mayor race


Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Raquel Regalado is paying for her first advertisements, with her face set to look out from bus stops across Miami.

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A two-term school board member and radio host, Regalado said the ads are expected to go up Monday at 15 bus stops in Miami.

They bear the slogan "Our Future Begins August 2016," a reference to the primary that could decide the election if one candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote. Incumbent Carlos Gimenez has already said he plans to seek another four-year term, and County Commissioner Xavier Suarez says he may run for mayor, too.

Regalado is the daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, and her launch of a Miami-centered ad campaign is sure to be noted. A 2017 to succeed her father in Miami is considered a possible back-up plan should Regalado lose the Miami-Dade race in 2016.

Regalado said she was interested in posting the bus-shelter ads outside of Miami, but political ads aren't allowed on the county's transit system. (Cities typically manage bus shelters within their municipal limits, and Miami allows political ads.) 

September 26, 2015

Sen. Oscar Braynon took a job at for-profit college, may have violated FL Constitution


Sen. Oscar Braynon II introduced himself as just an interested lawmaker — interested enough to drive all the way to Gainesville.

At a February meeting of Florida’s Board of Physical Therapy, held in Gainesville’s Best Western Gateway Grand, Braynon stood up to speak about a controversial issue: colleges offering unaccredited physical therapy assistant programs. The Miami Gardens Democrat was no expert on the topic, as he had to ask board members to explain how college accreditation works.

But Braynon was sure of this much: The Florida Legislature wanted students from unaccredited physical therapy assistant programs to get licensed. It didn’t matter that the physical therapy board was concerned that unaccredited programs might be of poor quality, and pose a threat to public safety.

Braynon told the board that the Legislature’s goal is “to allow access to people” from additional schools to take the license exam.

“It’s to sit for the test,” Braynon said.

What Braynon never told the board: He himself was employed as “senior vice president of government and senior relations” by a for-profit college, the University of Southernmost Florida. And that college was about to unveil its own unaccredited program. Getting the Board of Physical Therapy to go along on licensing was essential to his boss’ bottom line.

Exactly 11 days after Braynon’s trip to Gainesville, USMF sent out a news release that it was “excited to announce the launch of its Associate of Science in Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program.” The program is currently available at the Jacksonville campus, and tuition is $40,000, according to the website of USMF, which also operates in Coral Gables.

More here.

Dead inmate's family sues state for inhumane treatment after beating death


A year ago this week, Latandra Ellington, a 36-year-old mother of four, filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Corrections, alleging that a corrections officer had threatened to kill her.

Less than 24 hours later, she was found dead in a confinement cell at Lowell Correctional Institution, the second-largest women’s prison in the nation, located in Ocala.

A lawsuit filed by Ellington’s family last week claims that Ellington, who had only seven months left on her 22-year prison term, had been beaten, subjected to inhumane treatment and did not receive proper medical care.

The medical examiner who conducted the autopsy, Barbara Wolf, ruled last year that Ellington died as result of heart disease. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which investigated her death, found no evidence of foul play.

Ellington died on Oct. 1, 2014, 10 days after writing a letter to her family alleging that an officer — identified in her note as a Sgt. Q —repeatedly threatened to beat her with a radio. The FDLE probe suggested that Ellington had angered the officer, later identified as Patrick Quercioli, because she had caught him having sex with an inmate.

More here.

Congressional redistricting fight: It's now about that Senate map

Tom Lee testimonySen. Tom Lee, one of the Senate’s most powerful Republicans, took the stand Friday in the ongoing trial over how to configure Florida’s 27 congressional districts and said that he did not draw a district to benefit himself and he had no intention of running for Congress.

It was a rare, personal moment in the unprecedented process that has reshaped how redistricting works in Florida.

But, while the testimony was designed by the Senate to undercut attacks by the Republican-led House that the Senate map was drawn to benefit incumbent Republicans, it also exposed how the congressional trial is really just a practice run.

Leaders in the House and Senate have concluded that the outcome of the trial will have a direct impact on the drawing of something more personal than congressional districts — the Senate map — because how the case is resolved could decide how much input legislators will have in shaping that plan.

“A lot of this is about precedent as we proceed with developing the Senate maps,” said Lee, R-Brandon, after testifying on the second day of hearings. “There are a lot of strategic decisions that will come back based on how the court treats the maps.”

The House is arguing that its map, drawn primarily by staff in a sequestered room with input from only lawyers hired by the GOP-led House and Senate is more constitutional because it shielded legislators from any improper partisan intent.

The Senate argues that the staff-drawn base map is the “starting point” and legislators should not be penalized for changing maps — even if they inadvertently benefit themselves — as long as there was not improper intent.

More here.

Florida loses $400M in jobs fraud, feds offer grant to help, Scott admin won't apply


The U.S. Department of Labor divvied up $10 million worth of federal funding among 23 states to fight the problem of jobs fraud known as worker misclassification, but Florida didn’t get a penny.

That’s because the state didn’t apply for a grant — even though a yearlong Miami Herald and McClatchy Newspapers investigation found misclassification in Florida’s construction industry costs taxpayers $400 million per year in lost state and federal tax revenue.

Misclassification happens when employers claim that their workers are independent contractors instead of full-time employees. The scheme allows companies to evade payroll and unemployment taxes and then undercut law-abiding competitors on bids.

After the Herald series came out, Florida signed an agreement with the federal government to crack down on misclassification.

The office of Gov. Rick Scott did not say why the state had failed to apply for funding. Instead, it directed a reporter late Friday afternoon to contact the Department of Revenue, which did not respond.

More here


September 25, 2015

House, Senate agree to record meetings and pursue multiple base maps for Senate redistricting

@MichaelAuslen and @MaryEllenKlas

Florida House and Senate leaders have agreed to the basic terms of drawing "base maps," the starting points for a Senate redistricting special session next month.

Letters between House Redistricting Chairman Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, and Senate Reapportionment Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, show changes from the congressional redistricting process in August, which could give senators more options and more control over the configuration of the districts where they will have to run for reelection.

The biggest difference is that House and Senate staff will draw multiple base Senate maps in consultation with attorneys. The congressional redistricting process used just one map, which the House was reluctant to change, even as members of the Senate proposed amendments making dramatic shifts.

All conversations with House and Senate redistricting staff will also be recorded. During congressional redistricting, only Senate conversations were recorded, but the House has agreed to follow the Senate's procedures, as they are drawing the Senate's map.

Galvano confirmed to the Herald/Times that staff will draw "five or six" such maps as a starting point for the redistricting special session Oct. 19-Nov. 6.

Continue reading "House, Senate agree to record meetings and pursue multiple base maps for Senate redistricting" »