January 22, 2015

In Miami-Dade, thumbs up for U.S. gun ban fails on party-line vote (for now)


Members of the Miami-Dade County Commission hold non-partisan seats. They run in primaries where all candidates compete, and only the top two vote-getters can make it into a run-off.

But sometimes, party affiliation can be instructive. 

On Wednesday, the commission voted down a symbolic resolution urging Congress to revive a national ban on some automatic weapons. In the 5 to 6 vote, all four Democrats voted yes (Daniella Levine Cava, Barbara Jordan, Jean Monestime and Dennis Moss) and all six Republicans voted no (Bruno Barreiro, Esteban "Steve" Bovo, Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Rebeca Sosa, Javier Souto and Juan C. Zapata). Xavier Suarez, an independent, voted yes as well, according to the clerk's tally.  

But the results may not last. The winning side agreed to let Jordan, the resolution's sponsor, undo the no vote, withdraw her motion and bring back it on another day. The two Democrats that complete the 13-member commission, Audrey Edmonson and Sally Heyman, were absent Wednesday, and their votes would be enough to tilt the count back into the gun ban's favor. 

For those keeping score, the commission is officially split in terms of party. Levine Cava, a Democrat, last year ousted an incumbent Republican, Lynda Bell. The left the commission with six Democrats and six Republicans, with Suarez the lone independent.

Read the story here.  


Awkward: Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney to meet privately in Utah

From The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are scheduled to meet privately this week in Utah, raising the possibility that the two former governors will find a way to avoid competing presidential campaigns that would split the Republican establishment next year, two prominent party members said Wednesday night.

The meeting was planned before Mr. Romney’s surprise announcement two weeks ago to donors in New York that he was considering a third run for the White House.

Mr. Bush proposed the meeting, according to one of the party members familiar with the planning, who did not want to be quoted by name in discussing a secret meeting.

The original idea was for Mr. Bush, who announced his presidential ambitions in December, to show his respect for Mr. Romney, the Republican Party’s 2012 nominee. The meeting stayed on both men’s calendars even as Mr. Romney took steps to test the presidential waters, moves that could make the meeting awkward.

January 21, 2015

Florida Cabinet turns up heat on Rick Scott in FDLE scandal

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Cabinet members are turning up the heat on Gov. Rick Scott over the botched removal of a top state police official, with Attorney General Pam Bondi raising “serious questions” about Scott’s conduct.

Bondi on Wednesday became the last of the three elected Republican Cabinet members to distance herself from the ouster last month of Gerald Bailey as commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Bailey alleges that Scott and his aides meddled in law-enforcement business and used strong-arm tactics to pressure him to resign.

Taking indirect aim at Scott on his preference for secrecy over transparency, Bondi said she and the public have a right to know the truth, and that she would insist that the Bailey matter be discussed “thoroughly and in the sunshine” at the next Cabinet meeting Feb. 5.

“The recent process behind the appointment of a new FDLE commissioner has raised serious questions and those questions should be answered to ensure transparency and the public’s right to know,” Bondi said in a statement that held back on explicitly criticizing Scott or anyone in his administration.

The firing has mushroomed into the messiest controversy of Scott’s governorship and tarnished the start of his second term. At the same time, Cabinet members, at least two of whom are expected to run for governor in 2018, are frantically trying to extricate themselves from an issue that they could have avoided.

More here

Governor holds secret meeting with gambling execs

CasinoThe top executives of seven of South Florida gambling venues traveled to Tallahassee Wednesday to have a pre-arranged, closed-door meeting with Gov. Rick Scott who, in keeping with his un-even policies on transparency, kept it off his public agenda. 

The officials -- from the Isle of Capri, Dania, Mardi Gras, Calder, Magic City, Miami Jai Alai and Hialeah -- discussed their continued hopes for the Seminole gaming compact, sources close to the casinos told the Herald/Times.

The governor must either re-negotiate a portion of the gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida by the end of July, or forfeit about $116 million of annual revenue. Although the governor negotiates the deal, the Legislature will have the final say since it must approve it.

The pari-mutuels want to use the compact as an opportunity to lower their tax rate to better allow them to compete with the tribe.

Absent from the meeting was Gulfstream race track and casino and the Palm Beach County Kennel Club, the other two South Florida pari-mutuels. PBKC's top priority is to bring slot machines to the track and end the requirement that they race dogs in order to operate poker games.

Here is the public version of the governor's schedule:

Continue reading "Governor holds secret meeting with gambling execs" »

Miami-Dade commission asks Congress to revise Cuban Adjustment Act


The most unusual of votes about U.S.-Cuba policy took place Wednesday -- not in Washington or Havana, but in Miami.

After a wrought discussion, the Miami-Dade County Commission unanimously agreed to ask Congress to revise the Cuban Adjustment Act, a 1966 federal law that allows Cubans, unlike any other foreigners, to apply for U.S. residency one year and one day after arriving.

As a local government, the commission has no foreign-policy authority. But as a legislative body in the home of the country's largest Cuban community, the vote represents a symbolic acknowledgment -- even from longtime hardliners -- that at least portions of U.S.-Cuba policy needs a fresh look.

"This is a good thing that has been misused in some cases, but it doesn't mean we have to throw it away," Commissioner Javier Souto, a Cuban-born Republican, said of the CAA. "We shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater."

Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, the Republican son of Cuban immigrants who became U.S. residents thanks to the law, had proposed asking Congress to repeal it altogether -- a bold request that drew attention among Cuban exiles already on edge about President Obama's move to normalize relations with the island's communist regime.

Continue reading "Miami-Dade commission asks Congress to revise Cuban Adjustment Act" »

VIDEO: Bondi just a week ago was anything but transparent on Bailey

It's not Thursday yet, but what the heck.

In light of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi saying Wednesday that "the public has a right to know" about the ouster of Gerald Bailey from the Department of Law Enforcement, the below video would be a great #throwbackthursday meme for the interwebs.

It was recorded Jan. 13 by the Florida Channel after the Cabinet meeting.

Compare and contrast her comments from Wednesday with those eight days ago.




Could this be the year Florida allows beer growler sales?

As brewers and beer distributors pled their cases on a long list of alcohol issues to legislative committees Wednesday, the early indications were that a bill allowing growler sales could go through. 

Note: "early indications" and "could." 

Half-gallon jugs of beer, called growlers, are standard in most states' craft beer scenes. Yet a peculiarity of Florida law bans the 64-ounce containers, and any others more than 32 ounces or less than 128. 

But Executive Director Mitch Rubin said Wednesday the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association would not oppose lifting the growler ban this year, as long as it's done with rules about volume, labeling and bottle seals. The group, which represents beer distributors in the state, has in the past opposed growlers and other proposals that allow brewers to sell directly to customers without the distributors' involvement. 

It's the first sign that Florida craft beer drinkers could soon go to a local craft brewery to fill up a growler. 

Continue reading "Could this be the year Florida allows beer growler sales?" »

Alan Grayson. A bigamy complaint against his wife. Breast implant surgery. 'Nuff said

From AP

A trial to determine whether U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson's wife committed bigamy when she wed the congressman has been delayed because she required emergency surgery to remove breast implants.

The trial had been scheduled for Thursday in Orlando but is now set for March.

Lolita Grayson had been suffering chest pains. When she went to a hospital to get checked out, she was told she needed emergency surgery to remove the leaking implants and scar tissue, according to court papers filed this week.

The surgery was Monday.

Continue reading "Alan Grayson. A bigamy complaint against his wife. Breast implant surgery. 'Nuff said" »

Lobbying firm cannot represent Miami-Dade County and Uber at the same time, commission says


One of Miami-Dade County's hired lobbying firms recently made this awkward request of elected commissioners: Would the county be OK with the firm also representing Uber Technologies, the ride-for-hire service that happens to be operating illegally in Miami-Dade?

Ballard Partners requested a conflict-of-interest waiver after the firm was hired by Uber to lobby state lawmakers during the upcoming session. Last year, Uber tried unsuccessfully to get lawmakers to legalize the company's business, which is outlawed in counties like Miami-Dade that regulate taxicabs and related forms of transportation.

Uber and competitor Lyft have set up shop anyway, despite being targeted by Miami-Dade code-enforcement officers, who last year impounded cars and gave out tickets

Given that the county and Uber are in an adversarial position locally -- and perhaps also at the state level, if Uber pursues legislation that trumps local authority -- the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust opined Ballard should not be allowed to represent both clients simultaneously. Sylvester Lukis, senior counsel for the firm's Miami office, disagreed, telling commissioners no conflict exists for now, because no state legislation has been filed for the county to support or oppose.

Lukis went as far as to suggest that having Ballard represent both the county and Uber could result in "mutually satisfactory" legislation. 

But commissioners weren't buying it. They voted unanimously Wednesday to deny Ballard's request.

"If we go forward with this waiver, we'll be paying our lobbyist to work against our own interests," Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava said.

When asked by the board, Lukis declined to say which client would take priority if the firm had to choose one over the other.

Miami-Dade mayor issues statement on Key Biscayne cyclist death


Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued a rare statement regarding a traffic fatality Wednesday, expressing his condolences for the death of a cyclist on the county's Rickenbacker Causeway  in Key Biscayne.

His administration has come under fire over bike safety on the Rickenbacker, which has seen other cyclist deaths and severe injuries. Cycling advocates want a protected bike lane installed, which could cost as much as $30 million, according to one plan's estimate

Gimenez's statement urges increased enforcement of speeding rules to protect existing bike lines, and notes Miami-Dade has spent more than $14 million on pedestrian and cyclist safety since he took office in 2011.

The full statement follows:

Our thoughts today are with the family and friends of the victim who lost his life this morning in a cycling accident on Crandon Park Boulevard.  A second victim is critically injured and we pray for him as well.  At this time, there is an active police investigation and we will know more in the days to come.  The Rickenbacker Causeway, its bridges and the roads leading into the Village of Key Biscayne are some of the County’s most beautiful assets and a favorite spot for outdoor activities.  I have prioritized improvements to these areas since my time as the Commissioner for District 7.  Our staff has collaborated with leaders from the cycling community through monthly meetings to work together to find solutions.

In addition, my administration, with the support of our Board of County Commissioners has invested over $14 million on pedestrian and bicycle improvements. We all remain committed to prioritizing the master plan for additional improvements as funding becomes available.

I join Vice Chairman Bovo, Commissioners Suarez and Diaz in asking our Police Departments in Miami-Dade County, City of Miami and the Village of Key Biscayne to continue their stepped up enforcement activities.

I want to reiterate that the safety of all of our pedestrians, bicyclists and our traveling public is of the utmost importance and is a top transportation priority.  We will work through our Transit and Mobility Services Committee of the Board to continue to address these issues.