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July 21, 2015

Court sets Sept. 22-25 for review of Legislature's congressional redistricting map

From the News Service of Florida:

The Legislature and a coalition that successfully challenged the state's congressional districts have agreed to a schedule for a Leon County judge to determine whether lawmakers' second attempt to draw a map complies with the state Constitution.

The agreement, submitted to the Leon County circuit court late Tuesday, calls for a hearing on the new map to begin Sept. 22 and wrap up no later than Sept. 25. Leon County Circuit Judge George S. Reynolds III, who is in charge of a separate legal challenge to districts for the state Senate, had already set a Sept. 25 deadline for the end of the congressional case.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis --- who oversaw the initial challenge to the congressional map --- will also handle the second hearing. The case will ultimately return to the Florida Supreme Court, which struck down eight districts in a 5-2 ruling earlier this month.

Continue reading "Court sets Sept. 22-25 for review of Legislature's congressional redistricting map " »

Non-partisan primaries in Florida? Group files ballot initiative to get idea going

PrimariesArmed with data showing that the fastest growing segment of Florida’s electorate is choosing no party affiliation, a bipartisan group of activists is pushing for a constitutional amendment to open Florida’s closed primary system to all voters.

The All Voters Vote amendment will be delivered Wednesday to the Florida Division of Elections with the hope of getting enough signatures to place it on the 2016 ballot.

“The two parties are becoming increasingly extreme and increasingly shrill because the people who control the outcomes dictate what you have to do to be nominated to a particular party,” said Stearns, who served as chief of staff to former House Speaker Dick Pettigrew and campaign manager to former Gov. Reubin Askew, both Democrats.

“The result of this is more and more people are becoming unwilling to identify with either of them. The consequence of their collective decision is making politics worse and governments more damaged than they have already become.”

Under the proposal, also known as a “jungle primary,” all registered voters could vote in primaries for congressional and state partisan elected offices regardless of the party affiliation of the voter or candidate.

The candidate who receives the most votes and the runner-up would advance to the general election. In state elections, a candidate who gets more than 50 percent of votes in the primary wins the election.

More here on this Herald/Times exclusive. 

Jeb Bush on crowded GOP debate: 'I don't know what else to do'


There's no question right now that Jeb Bush would make it onto the first 2016 Republican presidential primary debate Aug. 6 in Cleveland. Organizers plan to accommodate the top 10 candidates, based on an average of national poll results. Bush is near the top across the board.

"I hope I make it," Bush quipped Tuesday in South Carolina.

But he had no answers for a woman in Spartanburg who expressed concern that the GOP will exclude at least six candidates from the debate.

"If every candidate got allowed on the stage in a 90-minute debate, we'd all have four minutes of discussion," Bush said. "I just want to be in it."

He shared the woman's concern that some candidates who might have interesting things to say would be left out -- especially considering the error margin of the polls being used to make the decision of who's in and who's out is larger than the percentage-point difference in the candidates who make the cutoff and those who don't.

"John Kasich is an effective governor and has a great record, and he's the host governor of the first debate in Cleveland," Bush said of Kasich, the 16th candidate, who entered the race Tuesday. "It's odd.... I'll give a shout-out to Kasich if he's not on [stage].

"I just don't know they're going to come about picking Number Nine and Number 10. It's a pretty large. I don't know what else to do," he said. "Clearly, anyone who thought I was going to be frontrunner... I proved that wrong."

Meet Pam Keith, U.S. Senate candidate

By Kirby Wilson

Democrat Pam Keith, doesn't have a statewide profile, a huge fundraising purse or a single day of experience as an elected public servant.

But don't call Keith a fringe candidate. She wants your vote in the 2016 U.S. Senate election anyway.

In Keith's eyes, her life has given her all the experience she needs. The daughter of Kenton Keith, a U.S. diplomat, Keith, 46, has traveled the world. Growing up, she at various times lived in Turkey, Morocco, Syria, Kentucky, Brazil and California. After graduating from Boston College Law School, she joined the Navy, serving as a JAG in Norfolk, VA and Bahrain. She achieved the rank of Lieutenant before leaving the service in 1999 for a position at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, a high-powered Washington, D.C. law firm. Since then, her law career has taken her around the country. She settled in Florida in 2011 when she took a job as in-house counsel for Florida Light & Power, and energy company based in Juno Beach.

“I have spent a lifetime being exposed to, educating myself to the issues that we face,” Keith said, citing her law record, her military service and policy talks she held with her now-retired father. “I know what our military needs, what our veterans need. I have a lot of good ideas.”

Continue reading "Meet Pam Keith, U.S. Senate candidate" »

7 House members in San Diego for conservative group ALEC

Conservative legislators from around the country are flocking to San Diego this week for an annual gathering focused on states’ rights, shrinking government and free-market policies.

Among the attendees at the annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, more commonly called ALEC, are seven members of the Florida House.

Republican Reps. Dennis Baxley of Ocala, Colleen Burton of Lakeland, Neil Combee of Polk County, Mike Hill of Pensacola, Larry Metz of Yalaha, Kathleen Petersof South Pasadena and John Wood of Winter Haven are all attending the conference, according to Wood’s office. Rep. Mike LaRosa, R-St. Cloud, was also authorized by the House to attend but is not in California for the event.

No members of the Senate are confirmed to be attending the conference, including Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, who serves as ALEC’s state co-chair in Florida alongside Wood.

Representatives attending the conference have been given permission by the Speaker’s office to use their taxpayer-funded member accounts for travel expenses. However, it’s not clear whether any of them will choose to do so.

Wood said he hasn’t yet decided if he’ll pay for his travels with taxpayer dollars or leftover campaign funds. In past years, he’s used campaign contributions.

“It’s just a great policy exchange on a number of different issues that state legislators are facing across our nation,” said Wood. “There’s no real particular agenda other than the mission of ALEC is limited government, free markets and federalism. Those are my principles, and those are principles that we hope to apply to good public policy decisions.”

Continue reading "7 House members in San Diego for conservative group ALEC" »

The Clintons really did attend Donald Trump's 2005 wedding

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s controversial campaign could just be a ruse to sabotage the GOP, said U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla. After all, the billionaire is so friendly with Hillary Clinton, Trump invited her to his nuptials.

"I think there's a small possibility that this gentleman is a phantom candidate," Curbelo told Miami radio host Roberto Rodríguez Tejeraon July 10, 2015. "Mr. Trump has a close friendship with Bill and Hillary Clinton. They were at his last wedding. He has contributed to the Clintons' foundation. He has contributed to Mrs. Clinton's Senate campaigns. All of this is very suspicious."

We’re not going to rule on whether Trump and the Clintons are friends -- as the old saying goes, "If you want a friend in politics, get a dog!" -- but we did want to find out if Curbelo had his wedding anecdote right.

Turn to Joshua Gillin's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida and see Curbelo's Truth-O-Meter record.

And then there were 16: John Kasich joins GOP presidential race

via @LightmanDavid

WASHINGTON -- John Kasich enters the race for the Republican presidential nomination with what should be a dream resume. Popular governor of a critical swing state. State and federal budget balancer. National security expertise. Friend to Democrats. Regular-guy appeal.

And yet the governor of Ohio started his bid Tuesday so far behind that he could end up not qualifying for the first candidate debate – which will be held in his home state Aug. 6.

Kasich, 63, becomes the 16th well-known Republican to formally enter the race. He has to catch up with rivals who already have set up slick organizations in key states and raised tens of millions of dollars.

Before a cheering crowd at Ohio State University, his alma mater, Kasich vowed to fight for the middle class, citing its disillusionment with the American dream. He cited the struggles of African-Americans and of middle-aged workers facing sudden layoffs. He’s felt the pain, he said.

He’s lived through recessions and seen terrorist attacks, and “I have become stronger for them and America has become stronger for them,” Kasich said in his trademark conversation tone. America will succeed, he said, “by staying together with our eyes on the horizon.”

Kasich insists he’s unfazed by the uphill challenge.

He’s had a string of political triumphs, notably two elections as governor of one of the nation’s most prized battleground states, the last time in a landslide. Kasich plans to stress that record.

More here.

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, former Miami-Dade registered lobbyists

via @learyreports

Here’s another thing Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush have in common: They have both been registered lobbyists in Miami-Dade County.

In 1991, Bush registered as a lobbyist in Miami-Dade on behalf of his real estate company with Armando Codina before he was elected to office, according to records reported on by the Wall Street Journal. Bush was representing Deering Bay residential development, which he and Codina sold after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Rubio was also listed as a registered lobbyist in Miami-Dade, from 1997 to 2005 while he worked for various law firms, mostly on land use. In 2003, Rubio was registered as a federal lobbyist while working for Becker & Poliakoff. His campaign told the Washington Post he did not recall filling out the document and that Rubio did not lobby. The firm in 2005 asked for the registration to be revoked.

Both Bush and Rubio say they were never really lobbyists in the generally accepted definition.

“Governor Bush was not working as a lobbyist,” spokeswoman Kristy Campbell told the Journal. “This was specific to the Deering Bay project where Governor Bush was a partner and the project required the Commission weigh in on permitting approval issues to move forward with work.”

Rubio’s camp has said law firms that did land use in Miami-Dade often registered lawyers “out of an abundance of caution.”

“In fact, all lawyers representing clients on land use matters are supposed to register as lobbyists,” campaign spokesman Alex Burgos told the Miami Herald in 2010, when Charlie Crist’s campaign tried to make an issue out of it. "While Marco worked on land use contracts and RFPs, he never met with elected officials to influence them on behalf of clients."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Scott will visit Guardsmen as states debate arming recruiters

On the heels of his order closing storefront National Guard recruiting centers and authorizing recruiters to carry guns, Gov. Rick Scott will visit the Guard's 125th Fighter Wing in Jacksonville at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday where he will meet with an estimated 100 Guard members.

Two of the shuttered Guard storefronts are in Jacksonville and nearby Orange Park. The others are in Brandon, Temple Terrace, Orlando and Miami.

Scott's order directed the state adjutant general, Michael Calhoun, to arm all Guardsmen, including providing them with weapons if they don't own them. That has touched off debate in other states, as Republican legislators in Missouri are urging Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, to allow Guard recruiters in that state to be armed, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. 

In New York, police have stepped up patrols at Guard recruiting centers, such as in Times Square. But a spokesman for the New York National Guard, Eric Durr, said recruiters won't be carrying weapons in that state. The Department of Defense opposes arming all troops and the Army's chief of staff, Raymond Odierno, has publicly questioned the wisdom of the new policy.

Governors in Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas have also authorized recruiters to carry firearms, and South Carolina is considering a similar step.

Scott's executive order last Saturday came two days after a Kuwait-born gunman killed four Marines and a sailor in two separate attacks at military facilities in Chattanooga, Tenn. The governor directed Calhoun to relocate about two dozen Guard personnel to nearby armories and to work with police to improve security. Scott also has ordered all state flags to fly at half-staff until sunset of the last day of funeral arrangements for victims of the Chattanooga shootings.

Legal pot director Patricia Nelson to leave health department

The woman at the helm of the state office that's legalizing some strains of medical cannabis is leaving the Department of Health to work for Gov. Rick Scott.

Pattricia Nelson will no longer be the director of the Office of Compassionate Use, Department of Health spokeswoman Tiffany Cowie confirmed. She'll be working for Scott's Office of Policy and Budget.

The shakeup comes in the middle of a critical time for the Office of Compassionate Use, which was tasked by lawmakers with the regulation of marijuana strains that are low in high-causing THC but helpful to patients battling cancer and epilepsy. Earlier this month, nurseries interested in growing and producing the drug applied for one of five licenses to do so. Nelson was one of three panelists reviewing and approving applications.

State health officials are actively looking for a replacement, said Cowie.

"As we transition, the department remains committed to getting this product to children with intractable epilepsy and people with advanced cancer as safely and quickly as possible," she wrote in a statement. "No delays are anticipated as a result of this transition."

Prior to heading up the Office of Compassionate Use, Nelson worked in the governor's office during Scott's first term as deputy director for the Office of Accountability and Regulatory Reform, according to her LinkedIn.