December 08, 2014

New Republican lawmakers reflect Florida’s diversity

The new class of Republican state representatives doesn’t fit the national GOP stereotype.

Four of the 19 new members are Hispanic. Two are women.

The GOP has long been more diverse in Florida than in other states, thanks largely to Cuban Americans from Miami-Dade County. But the party is involved in a broader push to recruit minority and female candidates from across the state.

The effort paid off in 2014. Three of the four new Hispanic members were elected outside of Miami-Dade.

"This is the new face of the Republican Party of Florida," said newly elected state Rep. Bob Cortes, an Altamonte Springs Republican who was born in New York but grew up in Puerto Rico. "You're seeing more young, fresh, Hispanic Republicans not only run for office, but win."

Cortes and the other new members of the state House will be in Tallahassee Tuesday for training.

Read more here.

December 07, 2014

The 5 signs Jeb Bush is getting ready to run for president

Jeb Bush is not running for president.

And he’s not not running for president.

Let’s just say Bush is jogging en route to the campaign track. The former Florida governor is getting ready, pre-campaigning. In dramatic terms, he’s backstage mulling whether his campaign is to be or not to be.

“I’m not saying, ‘Oh, woe is me,’ here, don’t get me wrong,” Bush said Monday at a Wall Street Journal event in Washington. “I’ve got to really do a lot of soul-searching.”

There’s little doubt Bush would love to be president. The actual running is the issue. Bush’s Monday comments concerned not his potential presidency but his potential candidacy.

Continue reading "The 5 signs Jeb Bush is getting ready to run for president" »

George W. Bush on Jeb running for president: 'I have no clue where his head is now.'

@MarcACaputo

Will Jeb or won't Jeb? Even his brother, former President George W. Bush, doesn't know if the former Florida governor will run for the White House.

Here's what the one Bush said of the other to CNN's Candy Crowley:

"When you’re weighing the presidency, you think ‘Do I fear success?’ In other words: ‘Can I handle it if I win?’ On paper it seems like maybe an easy task. On the other hand, if you really start thinking about the implications of being president, some people go ‘Well, I’m not sure I can really handle that’ – and therefore back off. The other thing about it is do you fear failure? And Jeb doesn’t. Nor does he fear success, by the way. One reason why is because he was an able governor of Florida.

"The final consideration, of course, is what you just brought up: The family. And he has seen what it’s like to be the son of a president. He’s seen what it’s like to be the brother of a president. And therefore he’s being very – he is not rushing into running for the presidency. I have no clue where his head is now. By the way, people say ‘Convince your brother to run.’ You know, you can’t convince him to run. Only he can make the decision.

"And pushing him doesn’t help, by the way."

December 06, 2014

Rick Scott, Marco Rubio address Fla GOP

@AdamSmithTimes

Florida Republican party leaders gathered in Tampa Saturday for their quarterly board meeting, and we heard a fair amount of chatter about an potential upset in the upcoming election of a new chairman of the state GOP.

Gov. Rick Scott picked the current chairwoman, Leslie Dougher of Clay County, six months ago to fill the remainder of the term of of Lenny Curry after Curry stepped down to run for mayor of Jacksonville. Scott endorsed her for reelection last month, which you might think would decide the matter. It didn't. Three other Republicans - newly elected state Rep. Blaise Ingolia, R-Spring Hill, former state Rep. Kurt Kelly of Ocala, and Martin County Republican State Committeeman Eric Miller - stepped up to challenge Dougher. The election is next month.

Tensions between elected officials and local grass roots party leaders are common in both state parties. The locals never appreciate top-down decisions or leadership selections from the electeds, and we heard several predictions from the activists gathered at Tampa's Grand Hyatt Saturday that Ingolia would actually prevail. Call us skeptical, given past history and the block of votes controlled by the governor and legislative leaders.

"I love the goivernor, the governor has been great for the state of Florida," said Ingolia, who is vice chairman of the state party and was in line to be chairman before Scott anointed Dougher last Spring. "This isn't about anything other than making the party is doing the right thing, is going in the right direction for 2016."

Scott appeared at Saturday's meeting, and thanked the activists for their work in the last election. He made a point of telling the gathering how much he appreciated Dougher for working hard, understandign the importance of grass roots politics and staying on message.

"Leslie, you did a great job, the governor said, noting that the party's work is just begining again.

"We need more registered Republicans. We had 11,000 volunteers last time, we're going to need more," he said. "We can't wait until 2016 starts."

Dougher promised the most sophistificated voter turnout operation ever seen in Florida to beat "the Clinton machine" in 2016.
"You will have the resources you need," she said. "Our job is to win electons. Our job is to not get caught up in petty intra-party fighting that takes us off message or gets us into the blogs."

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who may be running for president, also revved up the crowd.

"Florida is going to be ground zero for the presidential election, it's going to be ground zero for keeping a Republican majority in the senate, and to do that it's going to take a strong party," Rubio said. "I pledge to do anything and everything I can to help strengthen this party."

December 05, 2014

Miami protesters shut down highway traffic

@LDixon_3 @joeflech @NewsbySmiley

Protesters rallying in Miami Friday as part of a national outcry over police-related killings in New York and Ferguson marched through the streets of Midtown and onto Interstate-195, shutting down the highway and the Julia Tuttle Causeway.

“Shut it down! Shut it down!” they chanted.

The protest, which was also held on behalf of local teen and graffiti artist Israel “Reefa” Llach, killed more than a year ago by Miami Beach Police, began at Northwest 36th Street and First Avenue. A group of hundreds moved east down 36th toward the highway, which leads to Miami Beach, and walked up an on-ramp.

More here.

Miami-Dade teachers union sues county mayor over property-tax collections

@cveiga

Students with disabilities aren’t getting the services they need, school libraries are understaffed and classrooms are overcrowded — and Miami-Dade’s teacher union says it’s the county mayor’s fault.

United Teachers of Dade announced Friday it is suing Mayor Carlos Gimenez for underfunding the Value Adjustment Board, which hears property tax appeals. As a result, appeals take years to be heard and collections that fund the school board fall short, the union says.

“This is a scandal that’s falling on the backs of fourth graders,” said Mark Richard, an attorney representing UTD.

The Dade county school board has said it expects to lose more than $60 million this year over the tax appeal issue, which is unique to South Florida. Ironically, Miami-Dade has also missed out on money — $40 million last year.

Mike Hernández, Gimenez’s communications director, said the county doesn’t deserve the blame. He said the clerk of courts and property appraiser request funding for the appeal board, and that the county hasn’t denied any funding requests in recent years.

“It’s unfortunate that a life-long educator like the president of the United Teachers of Dade doesn’t understand civics,” Hernández said.

--CHRISTINA VEIGA

Pam Bondi makes FL 18th state to sue President Obama over immigration action

@MarcACaputo

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced late Friday that the Sunshine State would join a federal lawsuit to block President Barack Obama’s executive action sparing as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Of the 18 states now suing the Obama administration over immigration, all have Republican governors or Republican attorneys general. But Florida is the only major swing state with a significant Hispanic population, making Bondi’s decision a potential presidential campaign issue as the 2016 election cycle gets underway.

In a written statement, Bondi said the lawsuit isn’t about politics, it’s about Obama circumventing Congress and acting alone.

“This lawsuit is not about immigration, rather this lawsuit is about President Obama — yet again — overstepping the power granted to him by our United States Constitution,” Bondi said echoing the language of the suit initiated this week by Texas Attorney General and Governor-elect Greg Abbott.

“We need to fix our system of immigration,” Bondi said, “but willfully turning a blind eye to the inconvenience of law and rule is not the path to a remedy, but a prescription for unwarranted presidential overreach.”

But Democrats say Bondi is leading Republicans into a problem with Hispanics that has vexed them in recent presidential elections and threatens to do so again. Republican Gov. Rick Scott has stayed out of the fray and referred questions to Bondi's office.

More here

Families ask to take part in voucher lawsuit

UPDATE: Circuit Court Judge George S. Reynolds, III, granted the families full party status to participate in the defense.

ORIGINAL POST: Several families are in Tallahassee on Friday in hopes of becoming parties to a high-profile education lawsuit.

The legal challenge -- brought by the Florida Education Association, the Florida School Boards Association, the state PTA and several other groups -- is aimed at the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which provides private-school scholarships to children from low-income families. The groups say the program conflicts with the state's Constitutional duty to provide a "uniform" system of public schools.

But 15 parents want to help defend the program. 

"Most of the Proposed Intervenor-Defendants do not have the financial means to send their children to private school, absent the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship," their attorney wrote in court filings. "Accordingly, if the program is eliminated they will be forced to look for alternatives or to send their children to public school -- in many instances the same public schools where their children were struggling or failing before becoming Florida Tax Credit Scholarship recipients."

Here's more on the lawsuit.

Miami-Dade's financial foul-up fixed, fuss-free

@PatriciaMazzei @doug_hanks

Miami-Dade County was prepared for a lengthy budget hearing Thursday night: Rope lines. A stack of speaker cards. A corps of bureaucrats with thick binders ready to answer questions.

But only four members of the public showed up.

The quartet of speakers said their piece in their allotted two minutes. Then, 12 of 13 county commissioners made quick work of what may be the first-ever rerun of Miami-Dade’s usually contentious budget vote.

“We had so much fun at the last budget hearing that we decided to do it over again,” Mayor Carlos Gimenez quipped.

The meeting lasted 38 minutes.

Commissioners had adopted a $6.2 billion budget for 2015 on Sept. 18. But the Florida Department of Revenue informed them in November that they had misled the public by making a mistake in a newspaper advertisement detailing the budget and property-tax rates.

More here.

No Florida hospitals designated Ebola treatment centers

UPDATE: The Florida Department of Health provided the following statement Friday: "Florida hospitals are prepared. In addition we have worked to enhance Florida’s readiness across the state through acquiring additional PPEs [personal protective equipment], establishing a National Guard Rapid Response Team and working with all hospitals, first responders and ports of entry to maintain the strong sense of readiness we have established regarding Ebola in Florida. We will continue to push the federal government to provide additional testing kits and to conduct screening at Florida airports."

ORIGINAL POST: Republican Gov. Rick Scott made Ebola preparedness a top priority in October during the final weeks of his re-election campaign — so much so, that he appeared on live television to tout his plans for keeping Floridians safe.

But as of Thursday, no Florida hospitals had been designated Ebola treatment centers.

The 36 treatment centers are in New York, California and ten other states, along with the District of Columbia, according to a list released by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The closest to Florida is Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

While the CDC plays a role in assessing potential Ebola treatment centers, it is up to state health officials to decide which hospitals receive the designation.

Florida Department of Health spokesman Nathan Dunn declined to say why no Florida hospitals appeared on the list. But he noted that 159 hospitals in Florida have completed Ebola-specific training.

"We feel like we’ve taken the steps necessary to make sure Florida is prepared for a case of Ebola," he said.

Read more here.