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June 23, 2015

Miami Beach to host U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting in 2017

@joeflech

The meeting in summer 2017 will bring about 250 mayors from across the country to Miami Beach.

Miami Beach will host the 85th annual U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2017.

The summer meeting brings together about 250 mayors from across the country to discuss a wide range of issues and hear from guest speakers that have included the President and congressional leaders.

The nonpartisan organization is made up of mayors representing cities with populations of 30,000 or greater. This year’s meeting was held June 19-22 in San Francisco.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine said he and the city staff worked with the Great Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau and former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz to support the Beach’s bid, which was successful during last weekend’s annual meeting. The Beach is well-equipped to host such an event, Levine said.

“Clearly our core competency is hosting large events,” he said. “That’s what we do for a living in Miami Beach.”

Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director of the conference, praised the Beach for its history and place in South Florida.

“We are pleased that the nation’s mayors will be convening in Miami Beach for our 2017 summer meeting,” he said in a news release. “It is a vibrant city with a rich architectural heritage. Moreover, it’s commitment to building a diversified economy by leveraging international trade opportunities holds many lessons from which we can learn.”

The last time the meeting came to Miami-Dade was when the city of Miami hosted in 2008. This is the first time Miami Beach will play host.

Florida elections commission fines ex-North Miami councilman who bounced checks

via @LDixon_3

Former North Miami councilman and mayoral candidate Jean Marcellus has been fined by the state’s elections commission for authorizing campaign expenses with insufficient funds during his mayoral run in 2013.

The Florida Elections Commission voted at its May meeting to fine Marcellus $6,800.

The fine adds to Marcellus’ recent history of mismanaging money, as he was disqualified from running for North Miami mayor in May’s election for writing a bad check to pay his $2,400 qualifying fee.

Marcellus declined to comment Monday, other than to say he wanted to get more details from his attorney.

The complaint was filed March 2014 by Ruth Ogen, who rented a space to Marcellus for his campaign headquarters. Ogen said that he owed her four $1,500 payments for the space and that three of his checks bounced when he tried to pay. Eventually Marcellus paid Ogen $4,500 of the $6,000 that he reported on his campaign finance documents.

Marcellus told the commission’s investigators that he thought there was enough cash in the account to cover the rent payments. He blamed the shortfall on bounced checks from campaign contributors.

In total, the investigation found 34 instances where Marcellus approved spending without sufficient funds.

He finished in fifth place in the 2013 race and third in the 2014 special election to replace former Mayor Lucie Tondreau.

Before his mayoral aspirations, he was a city councilman from 2009 to 2013 representing North Miami’s District 3.

--LANCE DIXON

What Jeb Bush said in Miami this month about SCOTUS and Obamacare

@PatriciaMazzei

When he spoke to reporters in Miami on June 5, Jeb Bush was asked what government should do if the U.S. Supreme Court rules subsidies for the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional (a decision is due by Monday).

Here's what Bush said:

I think Congress ought to proactively unite behind an alternative to the status quo that would allow for a continuation -- as proposed, for example, by Sen. [Ron] Johnson [R-Wisconsin], or a variation of that -- where we would extend this out so there's not big disruption. But also give states the power to change Obamacare. In Florida it might mean less mandates -- no employer mandate, no employee mandate -- a high-deductible, lower-cost insurance that’s focused on catastrophic coverage in an exchange that's not coercive. So I think this is the opportunity for Republicans to not just talk about how bad Obamacare is -- which it is -- but also to unite behind an alternative. And Congress would have to do this. If not, the governor is stuck, and the Legislature is stuck, in a precarious position.

Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera's role (or lack thereof) in budget vetoes

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Gov. Rick Scott vetoed so many projects in the state budget Tuesday -- and so quickly -- that it made some political insiders wonder: Did he get recommendations from anyone outside his office?

That question was making the rounds in Miami in particular, as the hometown of Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, whom some lobbyists privately hoped would intercede for local projects.

No such luck.

Lopez-Cantera, a likely 2016 U.S. Senate candidate, said Monday before celebrating the budget's tax cuts with Scott that he left the budget review to the governor.

"There's always room to make government more efficient, and I trust the governor and his judgement in his review of the budget, which I know is already under way," Lopez-Cantera said  before the event with Scott in Doral.

Did he make any veto suggestions to Scott? "I have not made any recommendations to the governor, no. Not yet."

Would he? "Wait and see," Lopez-Cantera said. "I'm not sure."

The budget, and vetoes, were signed 22 hours later.

Did Hillary Clinton only have three laws pass with her name on them as Jeb Bush says?

As Jeb Bush reels off his accomplishments as governor cutting taxes and slashing state jobs, he says he’s ready to put his record up against Hillary Clinton’s.

A day after his announcement speech at Miami Dade College, Fox News’ Sean Hannity asked Bush to comment on the Democrat’s record.

Hannity: "Can you name in a serious way one specific Hillary accomplishment, or what would you say that's good about her?"

Bush: "She's smart. I think she's smart. I think she loves her country. I don't ascribe bad motives for people that I don't agree with. But as a senator, I think she passed -- she has her name on three laws in eight years."

There is some truth to Bush’s claim about laws passed, but it doesn’t tell the full story about her legislative accomplishments as a senator. See what PolitiFact Florida found.

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson back advancing Obama trade bill

via @learyreports

Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio helped a key trade bill clear a hurdle today, setting it up for final passage.

Both faced opposition.

Nelson was facing pressure from liberals and employee unions to oppose the deal for fear of hurting jobs and wages in the U.S.

Rubio was urged to oppose the deal from at least one tea party group in Florida. A message from the Martin 9/12 Committee urged members to call Rubio and say:

- You OPPOSE the Trade Promotion Authority, and do not believe President Obama can be trusted to negotiate anything that might affect immigration law.

- President Obama has already unilaterally usurped the power that belongs to Congress to change immigration laws, and Congress has NO business giving up more of its authority to him.

- Trade agreements have been used in the past to increase immigration and President Obama is currently negotiating several trade agreements that will encompass three-fourths of the world's economy!

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Andy Gardiner: budget vetoes are 'dreams shattered' for disabled

As lawmakers react to a whopping $461 million in budget vetoes today by Gov. Rick Scott, one very powerful senator is irate.

That's President Andy Gardiner, who issued an uncharacteristically harsh statement criticizing the governor's vetoes of programs meant to help children with special needs, the president's top priority.

“While Governor Scott will undoubtedly spend the next several weeks traveling the state touting his record number of vetoes as win for Florida’s families, there are many families across Florida who have seen their dreams shattered by his decisions today," Gardiner said in the statement.

“Families who had hoped their children born with unique abilities would have the opportunity to attend a post-secondary program, receive specialized job training and take part in the college experience, will see that dream postponed another year," it continues.

But Gardiner didn't stop there. Bringing back up the debate over health care funding that led to the budget being finished this late in the first place, he lambasts the governor for refusing to take federal Medicaid expansion dollars but then cutting health programs in the state budget.

This, said Gardiner, was an instance of Scott, "again depriving these families of the chance for proactive primary care and pushing more and more Floridians without health insurance towards hospital emergency rooms when they are at their sickest and most vulnerable."

And he chalks it all up to politicking by the governor's office.

"It is unfortunate that the messaging strategy needed to achieve the Governor’s political agenda comes at the expense of the most vulnerable people in our state.”

Looks like this rift between the Senate Republicans and Gov. Scott won't be endign anytime soon...

Putnam 'profoundly disappointed' in Scott's veto of firefighter pay raise

@JeremySWallace

Firefighters who battle forest fires in Florida will not be getting pay raises because of Gov. Rick Scott’s vetoes.

The Legislature has set aside $1.6 million in the state budget to give the state’s 606 Forest Service firefighters each a $2,000 a year pay raise.

“I am profoundly disappointed,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said on Tuesday after learning of the veto. “Our forest firefighters put their lives on the line. They are demonstratively underpaid relative to peers.”

The vetoes come as Florida fire fighters are battling an unusually high number of fires. On Friday the state was fighting 90 active wildfires, Putnam said. And since January the state has dealt with 1,440 fires on over 30,000 acres. The Florida Panhandle, North Florida and Florida Atlantic Coast are all facing a high wildfire threat.

 Putnam questioned the lack of consistency in the vetoes, noting other government employees in less dangerous jobs will get raises, but not the fire fighters.

“I’m even more disappointed that it wasn’t applied consistently,”  Putnam said. The helpful people who take your drivers license photo were allowed to receive a pay raise. And our forest firefighters who put their lives on the line were not.”

Suffolk poll: Jeb Bush leads in New Hampshire -- with Donald Trump in 2nd place

@PatriciaMazzei

A week after he officially became a 2016 presidential candidate, a new poll shows the former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush leading the Republican field in New Hampshire, a state his supporters eye as his best chance to do well in early 2016 primaries.

The public-opinion survey from Suffolk University Political Research Center shows Bush narrowly atop the field with 14 percent of support -- followed, surprisingly, by real-estate mogul Donald Trump, who also held a campaign announcement last week but has yet to file candidacy paperwork. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio came in fourth place in the poll, with 7 percent, after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (8 percent).

"Jeb Bush continues to lead, but Donald Trump has emerged as an anti-Jeb Bush alternative in New Hampshire," said David Paleologos, the research center's director. "Many of those who like Trump are voting for him, and although many more dislike him, the unfavorables are split up among many other candidates. It's the politics of plurality."

The poll's error margin is 4.4 percentage points.

Latvala rails: The governor has declared war on the Legislature

With the ink barely dry on Gov. Rick Scott's veto of $461 million in legislatively approved projects, Sen. Jack Latvala railed against it in an interview Tuesday saying, "the governor has declared war on the Legislature." He predicted Scott will face continued deterioration of relations with the Republican-controlled body. 

"There’s stuff in there that he has approved in the past,'' said Latvala, R-Clearwater, chairman of the Senate budget committe on transporation and economic development. He cited the Miami project on paralysis research and the pay raise for forestry firefighters as examples of projects Scott has recommended in his budgets in the past but are now on the lengthy veto list. 

Latvala directed the blame directly at the governor's staff and, primarily, his chief of staff, Melissa Sellers, who formerly worked for Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

"The governor is not being well served by these kids from Louisiana,'' Latvala told the Herald/Times. "I don't recall a governor's office as unresponsive as that one is. They’ve got him totally isolated. You can’t have a meeting without Melissa sitting there. She totally controls the agenda but what are her credentials to do that? She won a campaign."

Latvala criticized the governor for delegating to staff who have little understanding of the budget, the legislative process and make little effort to understand the details.

"The advice is dead wrong,'' he said. "There are so many inconsistencies in the ways those things are applied. They don’t even know what he asked for before."

He noted that at the advice of staff he is "in campaign mode all the time.'' He accused the governor of "rushing" the budget announcement. (It was announced on the same day that Scott and the Cabinet approved using more than $228,000 in taxpayer money to end a lawsuit against them for violating the state's open meetings law.)

"Some times you have to be in a public service mode,'' Latvala huffed. "Some times you have to be in a governing mode. That's what Charlie Crist's problem was. The campaign is over and you have to start governing."

He predicted Scott "is going to have problems with the Legislature now, worse than he’s had in the past, and these people will go off and take jobs in presidential campaigns and he’ll be left holding the bag."