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February 27, 2017

Rick Scott hangs out with Donald Trump in Washington

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- In Tallahassee, a battle looms with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, but here, Gov. Rick Scott has had a remarkable few days.

On Friday Scott was elected vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Saturday, he had lunch with President Trump and watched "La La Land" at the White House then went out to dinner with commander-in-chief at Trump International Hotel.

Sunday night, Scott was taking selfies with Ivanka Trump at the White House Governors’ Ball.

“For a guy that grew up in public housing, to be able to have lunch at the White House and watch a movie at the White House and then go to dinner with the president, it’s pretty amazing,” Scott told reporters Monday afternoon.

Amid the socializing, Scott said he spoke with Trump about getting rid of Obamacare, deeming it an “absolute mess.” He again called for flexibility with Medicaid.

“We have a mess and we’ve got to fix it. We can’t be wobbly kneed, we can’t say, ‘Oh gosh how are we going to do this?’ We’ve got to repeal and replace Obamacare," Scott declared.

But that job is proving more difficult for Republicans, some who have shifted from talk of a repeal to mending the Affordable Care Act. Combative town hall meetings this month have put lawmakers on the defensive.

Scott said Trump, who has said he'll soon reveal a plan, mainly listened to ideas.

Scott also met Monday with Betsy DeVos and Elaine Chao, respectively the secretaries of education and transportation. 

His Washington adventure continues Tuesday when Scott will be on Capitol Hill then attend Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Libertarian think tank calculates cost of jobs and money for Everglades reservoir

Sugar harvest2

by @jenstaletovich

The libertarian James Madison Institute has calculated what an Everglades reservoir will cost the state beyond purchasing the land and it's not cheap: 4,148 jobs, either direct or indirect, and a $695 million hit to the state's economy.

The report, drafted by the institute and Antonio Villamil, former U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs for President George H.W. Bush, looked at the loss in revenue and jobs by converting 60,000 acres of farmland to a reservoir in Palm Beach and Hendry counties. The authors then extrapolated costs to indirect losses in the economy, including jobs, household income and gross domestic product. The biggest losers, the report said, would be the agricultural and forestry industry, followed by advisory jobs that depend on those fields.

"In conclusion, Florida's economy would suffer substantial negative impacts each year from the implementation of the proposed land acquisition," the report says.

The report is based on a proposal by Senate President Joe Negron targeting two areas in Palm Beach and Hendry counties that he unveiled in August, although a bill now making its way through the legislature asks South Florida water managers to pursue deals with willing sellers or follow through on a 2010 deal struck by former Gov. Charlie Crist. It does not specifically identify land.

The report says sugar farms and mills take up most of the land targeted, but a wide range of other crops are grown in the area. Direct jobs loss would amount to 1,915 with economic impacts totaling $345 million.

Critics say what the report doesn't address are losses caused by pollution generated by the farms or the subsidies supplied to sugar growers by the U.S. government. Americans for Tax Reform reported that amounted to $300 million in 2013. Tariffs and trade deals also hike the cost of sugar about 24 percent, costing consumers between $2.9 and $3.5 billion, according to a 2016 Congressional Research Service analysis. Because of a trade deal struck with Mexico, those subsidies vanished between 2015 and 2019. However, costs could surge back to $115 million if the the deal falls apart, according to the analysis.

 

Corcoran, Negron to discuss Obamacare, flood insurance with Rubio in D.C.

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Richard Corcoran and other legislators are in Washington Monday and Tuesday for a series of meetings and social gatherings with Sen. Marco Rubio and others.

Though the parties are keeping details close — for reasons that aren’t clear — we have obtained an itinerary.

Monday

1-2 p.m. Working lunch flood insurance
2-5 p.m. Affordable Care Act and impact on Florida
5-6 p.m. Social Hour
6-8 p.m. - Dinner with Rubio and Rep. Vern Buchanan

Tuesday:

9-11 a.m. Breakfast - water issues
11-1 p.m. Tax reform
1-3 p.m. Meetings with individual members of Congress

Rubio’s office said Friday that the meetings are “to make sure we are providing open lines of communication and be a resource as it relates to federal activity and how it impacts Florida as they head into legislative session.”

Here is a list of those invited:

Speaker Richard Corcoran
President Joe Negron
Rep. Jeanette Nunez
Rep. Jose Oliva
Rep. Jose Felix Diaz
Rep. Michael Bileca
Rep. Janet Cruz
Rep. Ray Rodrigues
Rep. Bobby DuBose
Rep. George Moraitis
Rep. Carlos Trujillo
Sen. Wilton Simpson
Sen. Anitere Flores
Sen. Bill Galvano
Sen. Jack Latvala
Sen. Oscar Braynon
Sen. Lauren Book

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times, with Jeremy Wallace

White House may probe SEAL's death in Yemen

Navy SEAL 06 EKM (2)
via @jknipebrown

A White House spokeswoman has indicated that President Donald Trump may consider opening an investigation into the counter-terrorism operation in Yemen that claimed the life of a Navy SEAL and more than a dozen civilians last month.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, principal White House deputy secretary, in an interview on ABC News'
This Week" on Sunday, acknowledged that a decision had not been made about a probe, which was requested by the SEAL’s father, Bill Owens, in an interview published Sunday in the Miami Herald.

“I haven't had the chance to speak with him directly about that, but I would imagine that he would be supportive of that,” Sanders said of Trump.

Owens, who lives in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, wants a thorough probe — not only into the raid itself, but also into the entire timeline, which would include the planning, timing and decision-making that went into the operation.

Trump gave the green light for the plan six days into his term. While it had been planned and vetted under former President Barack Obama, Owens expressed doubts whether Trump’s team had enough time to review it.

More here.

Photo courtesy of the Owens family

The tale of Trump, an unwanted mansion and a Russian fertilizer king

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via @glenngarvin

Since the allegations about Donald Trump’s business connections to Russia started to fly last year in the middle of his presidential campaign, the fog of political war has made it difficult to tell the real from the shadow. Except for one very visible landmark: a sprawling, rococo seaside mansion in Palm Beach that Trump himself liked to boast about as an example of his real-estate acumen.

“What do I have to do with Russia?” he replied to reporters’ questions at a press conference in Doral last summer. “You know the closest I came to Russia, I bought a house a number of years ago in Palm Beach … for $40 million, and I sold it to a Russian for $100 million.”

That was a bland, if fairly accurate, summary of a wild and goofy tale of the Palm Beach real-estate market involving tax fraud, Russian billionaires, lurid divorce-court accusations and — at least in the opinion of some Palm Beach observers — the execrably vulgar taste of the super-rich.

It’s a tale that’s now coming to a sad end: That $100 million mansion, once the most expensive home in America, has become its most expensive tear-down. Not a single trace of the compound remains, and soon even its address will disappear: The 6.3-acre estate on which it stood has been broken into three parcels, and one of them has already sold.

“It’s an odd story, but Palm Beach real estate can be kind of strange,” said Gary Pohrer, one of the island’s real-estate agents. “People decide they want something, and they’ll pay a price that doesn’t necessarily correspond to reality.”

More here.

Photo credit: Gregg Lovett, Palm Beach Post file

Rick Scott: 'Great to see Ivanka Trump last night'

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via @learyreports

Gov. Rick Scott tweeted a photo Monday morning of him and Ivanka Trump from Sunday night's Governors' Ball at the White House.

Scott, who had lunch with President Trump on Saturday, remains in Washington. This morning he and other governors attended a meeting at the White House and at 12:30 p.m., Scott is to meet with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos followed by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Who is trying to buy access to Rick Scott?

ScottAPfile

Gov. Rick Scott (AP Photo)

@JeremySWallace

Gov. Rick Scott faces term limits and cannot seek re-election, but that isn’t stopping the biggest special interest groups from continuing to load up his political action committee with huge checks.

A private prison operator, a sugar industry giant and a Clearwater real estate management company with ties to a major Florida insurance company, are among those who have given Scott’s Let’s Get to Work committee at least $100,000 during the first two months of 2017 and at least $250,000 each since the start of 2015.

Scott has relied on the Let’s Get to Work committee to promote his agenda around the state. He’s recently used Let’s Get to Work to fund robo calls against Florida House members, pay for videos against House leadership and fund a poll defending his job incentive programs that the Legislature has threatened to kill. He’s also used the committee to pay for an inauguration ball in Washington D.C. when President Donald Trump took office.

Scott cannot run for re-election, but he’s been considered a potential challenger for the U.S. Senate in 2018 against Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat.

Top 10 Donors to Rick Scott’s Let’s Get to Work Committee

$790,052 - Florida Chamber of Commerce
$335,000 - Associated Industries of Florida PAC 
$325,000 - U.S. Sugar Corporation, based in Clewiston
$310,000 - The Geo Group Inc - private prison operator based in Boca Raton
$277,503 - Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts
$250,000 - Skye Lane Properties, a real estate management company in Clearwater and a subsidiary of Heritage Insurance Holdings.
$250,000 - Floridians for a Stronger Democracy - a PAC with ties to Associated Industries of
Florida.
$250,000 - Voice of Florida Business - a PAC with ties to Associated Industries of Florida.
$200,000 - Jeffrey Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning
$200,000 - Daniel Doyle Jr. & DEX Imaging - Doyle is CEO of the document imaging equipment company Tampa based

SOURCE: Florida Division of Elections

The annual debate over charter, traditional school capital funding resumes

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@ByKristenMClark

Once again, Florida lawmakers will try to force school districts to share part of their local tax dollars with charter schools so that those privately managed schools can enjoy the same access to funding for maintenance and construction projects as traditional public schools.

The Legislature tried to enact such a mandate in 2015 and came close to doing it last year, too — until the House rejected a Senate plan to prevent charter-school operators from profiting off the taxpayer funding they receive.

MORE FROM POLITIFACT: “Do traditional schools get more capital funding than charter schools?”

The Senate is taking the lead this time by not only reviving its proposal to ban “personal financial enrichment” of charter school operators as a condition of getting public dollars for capital projects, but by pairing it with another controversial idea.

One year later, the debate resumes.

One Senate Republican leader, with some Democratic support, wants to let school boards raise taxes to generate more capital funding for their local schools’ needs. But that plan has already hit a roadblock — House Republicans and some senators who are wary of being labeled as having supported a “tax increase.”

More here.

Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

February 26, 2017

Rubio: I won't attend town halls full of 'liberal activists'

@PatriciaMazzei

Don't expect to see U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio at a town hall anytime soon.

The Florida Republican said in an interview this weekend that the much-ballyhooed events organized last week by Indivisible Miami, a group that opposes President Donald Trump, aren't real forums to exchange ideas.

"They are not town halls anymore," Rubio told Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4 on Saturday. "And I wish they were, because I enjoy that process very much, going back to my time as [Florida] speaker of the House."

Indivisible Miami put together several "empty-chair" town halls for Rubio's constituents last week. The senator was never expected to show up. His office hasn't scheduled any town halls of his own, unlike some of his fellow GOP colleagues in the Senate. 

"These are real people. They are real liberal activists, and I respect their right to do it," Rubio said of the crowds who showed up to last week's events, estimating that "80-90 percent" were liberal activists. "But it is not a productive exercise. It's all designed to have news coverage at night."

Rubio also told "Facing South Florida" host Jim DeFede that it's too soon to call for a special prosecutor to investigate alleged Russian interference into the U.S. presidential election, including any potential ties to Trump's campaign, as Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California has suggested.

"We will gather facts. We will gather evidence," Rubio said of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "We will present that in a report to the Senate and ultimately to the American people and then I believe people will be able to opine about whether or not that is something worthy of the intervention of the Justice Department. And at that time we would opine. But I don't even know it will rise to that level. I'm not prepared to say that. It might and if it does we'll act and if it doesn't we won't."

Dad of SEAL slain in Yemen wants answers: 'Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation'

Navy SEAL 01 EKM
via @jknipebrown

When they brought William “Ryan” Owens home, the Navy SEAL was carried from a C-17 military plane in a flag-draped casket, onto the tarmac at Dover Air Force Base, as President Donald Trump, his daughter, Ivanka, and Owens’ family paid their respects.

It was a private transfer, as the family had requested. No media and no bystanders, except for some military dignitaries.

Owens’ father, Bill, had learned only a short time before the ceremony that Trump was coming. Owens was sitting with his wife, Marie, and other family members in the solemn, living room-like space where the loved ones of the fallen assemble before they are taken to the flight line.

“I’m sorry, I don’t want to see him,’’ Owens recalled telling the chaplain who informed him that Trump was on his way from Washington. “I told them I don’t want to meet the President.”

It had been little more than 24 hours since six officers in dress uniform knocked on the door to Owens’ home in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. It was not yet daylight when he answered the door, already knowing in the pit of his stomach what they had come to tell him.

Now, Owens cringed at the thought of having to shake the hand of the president who approved the raid in Yemen that claimed his son’s life — an operation that he and others are now calling into question.

“I told them I didn’t want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him,” Owens said Friday, speaking out for the first time in an interview with the Miami Herald.

Owens, also a military veteran, was troubled by Trump’s harsh treatment of a Gold Star family during his presidential campaign. Now Owens was a Gold Star parent, and he said he had deep reservations about the way the decision was made to launch what would be his son’s last mission.

More here.

Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff

Private prison deprived inmates of heat and hot water for months, Richardson finds

Gadsden broken faucetThe 284 women housed in C-dorm at Gadsden Correctional Facility lived for months without hot water or heat, faced flooded bathrooms daily and endured water rations when the septic tanks were jammed with food waste.

After state Rep. David Richardson demanded action following a series of surprise visits over the past 18 months, the private prison operator that runs the facility — Management Training Corp. of Centerville, Utah — received approval from the state to repair and replace the water heater, at a cost to taxpayers of nearly $10,000. But Warden Shelly Sonberg never authorized the work.

Richardson, a Miami Beach Democrat, announced another inspection this month, this time with Chad Poppell, the head of the Department of Management Services, the state agency that oversees private prisons, and two other state legislators.

In the two days before they arrived, four work crews descended on the prison and made many of the repairs. The vice president of the private prison operator, Management Training Corp., also arrived in town to meet with state officials. The state’s chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel, dispatched inspectors to assess the safety and welfare of the inmates.

For Richardson, who has been on a one-man mission to force change in Florida’s troubled prison system, it’s another frustrating example of the failure of the state to monitor and hold accountable its prison operators.

“I’m a policymaker. I’m not a monitor. I’m not their auditor. Why is it that I’m out there fixing water heaters?” he said.

In a letter to Richardson Thursday, Poppell said he has since removed the state-paid official in charge of monitoring conditions at the prison and has also launched his own investigation. Story here. 

Photo: One of several non-working hot water faucets found by Rep. David Richardson at Gadsden Correctional Facility where women have been deprived of heat and hot water for months. 

Here's why it's so difficult to be a Syrian refugee in South Florida

REFUGEES b epf
@PatriciaMazzei @NickNehamas @karadapena

For decades, South Florida has welcomed wave after wave of people fleeing political and economic unrest in their home countries. Cubans. Haitians. Nicaraguans. Colombians. In a region awash with exiles, you would think it would be easy to accommodate the latest swell of refugees.

Tell that to a Syrian.

The number of Syrian refugees coming to Florida has spiked in recent years, as the U.S. has started to accept more people escaping the war-torn Middle Eastern nation. But resettling these newest immigrants has proven challenging for aid agencies, charities and volunteers who help the new arrivals. Syrians don’t have a large community of their countrymen awaiting them — or many Arabic speakers with whom they can communicate.

“Life without language is very hard,” Kamar Byrkdar, a 27-year-old Syrian refugee who arrived in Broward County five months ago with her husband and two children, said through an interpreter. “We want to be able to improve our English so that we’re able to stand on our own two feet.”

When the Byrkdars arrived, after a three-year wait in Lebanon, they had work permits, Medicaid and an apartment west of Fort Lauderdale. But it took three months, Byrkdar said, for anyone to show them how to enroll their kids in school. She and her husband didn’t know how to buy bus fare, much less how to navigate routes. Byrkdar learned where she could sign up for English classes only three weeks ago. Her children remain anxious around the police, whom they associate with war.

Now they have to contend with the emotional stress of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which barred entry into the U.S. for 90 days for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It also indefinitely suspended the admission of Syrian refugees, and prohibited refugees from all other countries for 120 days.

More here.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

February 25, 2017

Rick Scott dined with Donald Trump at the White House

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via @learyreports

Florida Gov. Rick Scott had lunch today at the White House with President Donald Trump and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

The White House called it a working lunch "to discuss how best to solve the problems of Obamacare, with a special emphasis on the states’ role in healthcare."

Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio had dinner with Trump.

Scott's official daily schedule originally did not disclose the lunch. The governor's office sent a revised schedule at 5:25 p.m. indicating the meeting with Trump was at 2 p.m.

Scott then also tweeted a photo of himself in the Oval Office with the president, saying it was "great meeting with my friend @realDonaldTrump today on reinventing great health care in our nation!"

-- with Kristen M. Clark contributing

Photo credit: @FLGovScott

February 24, 2017

Delay, deception and destruction of public records on private accounts lead to big Martin County fine

Maggy HurchallaA company that sued Martin County for allegedly reneging on a contract to use land to clean polluted water from Lake Okeechobee has won a major public records lawsuit accusing county commissioners of denying they conducted public business on private email accounts, delaying producing the accounts once they were discovered and, in one case, destroying the record trail.

The county has agreed to pay Lake Point LLC, a company that operates a rock mine in western Martin County, more than $371,800 in attorneys’ fees and establish a new policy for how to handle public business on private email accounts.

Photo by Miami Herald: Former Martin County Commissioner Maggy Hurchalla turned over emails between her and county commissioners, igniting a public records lawsuit that now has led to a $371,800 fine. 

Rick Scott gets post that could elevate national profile

ScottConvention

AP Photo

@JeremySWallace

Gov. Rick Scott will be second-in-command of a Republican organization that played a huge financial role in his re-election.

On Friday the Republican Governor's Association named Scott its vice chairman, replacing South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who resigned and was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the chairman of the group, made the announced in a statement to the media.

“I am honored to serve in this new role for the RGA and help build upon our momentum that led to today’s near-century high of 33 Republican governors," Scott said. "The RGA has proved time and again that it is the most effective political organization in the country and I look forward to helping the RGA continue that tradition.”

The RGA has also proven to be a big supporter of Scott in the past. In 2014, the RGA spent over $18 million to help Scott win his re-election over Democrat Charlie Crist.

"Governor Rick Scott’s leadership and electoral experience will be a tremendous asset to the RGA as we recruit candidates, fundraise, and continue to build a solid foundation of resources for 38 gubernatorial elections over the next two years," Walker said. 

Florida Legislature leaders heading to D.C. to meet with Rubio

@JeremySWallace

The top leaders of the Florida Legislature are going to Washington, D.C. next week for a series of meetings with Congressional leaders and a lengthy discussion with Sen. Marco Rubio over federal issues.

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron are confirmed to be part of a contingent that has meetings scheduled with Rubio on Monday and Tuesday.

Corcoran said Rubio invited leaders of the Legislature to go over federal transportation, health care and environmental issues and how they might after Florida.

A spokeswoman for Rubio said the meetings are to make sure there is an open line of communication as the state Legislature prepares to start its new session on March 7.

Rubio’s office said they have invited 17 leaders of the Florida House and Senate to the meeting including Democratic leaders of both chambers.

Andrew Gillum 'seriously considering' 2018 governor's race

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@ByKristenMClark

It’s been no big secret that Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has had his eye on the Florida governor’s mansion, but now the Democrat is acknowledging it out loud.

Speaking Friday at the Central Florida Urban League’s Cornerstone Awards in Orlando, Gillum announced officially that he is “seriously considering running for governor.”

The announcement is not unlike recent ones by those of fellow Democrats, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former Tallahassee Congresswoman Gwen Graham — who also have all-but-announced formal campaigns for 2018.

“I feel strongly that the direction our state government has gone these last 20 years is out of step with the majority of Floridians, from the environment to wages, to education and job creation,” Gillum said, according to prepared remarks. “I believe this is a moment that requires not just people who quietly agree on these issues, but people who are going to be champions, who will get out and lead on them.”

The 37-year-old Gillum is viewed as a rising star in the Democratic Party. The affable African American politician was among the featured speakers at last summer’s Democratic National Convention and he has been a standout in Tallahassee city politics for 14 years.

However, Gillum faces some big obstacles if he does embark on a statewide campaign.

Full story here.

Photo credit: CateComm

Fewer state workers and higher job turnover in Florida in 2016

SEratioThe state government workforce continued to get smaller Gov. Rick Scott over the past year, and Florida has the fewest full-time state workers in proportion to its population of any state, according to a report released Friday.

The annual workforce report, produced by the state Department of Management Services, includes these findings:

* The total number of full-time state worker positions at the end of the last fiscal year was 97,700, compared to 104,134 in 2012, which was a year after Scott became governor. The actual number of employees was 88,991, which is 5.6 percent below the number in 2012.

* Florida had 101 full and part-time employees per 10,000 residents in 2016, the fewest of any state. The national average is 209.

* The state had 87 full-time employees per 10,000 residents, also the fewest of any state. The national average is 169.

* Employee turnover among career service workers, who make up the largest chunk of full-time state workers, was 11.8 percent last year, the highest percentage since Scott became governor in 2011 and the first time the turnover rate reached double digits.

* Women greatly outnumber men in the state work force but men make more money on average across the board in state government. Among career service workers, the average salary was $37,042 for men and $34,384 for women. The average salary for all state workers was $39,657, which is 3.9 percent higher than it was in 2012.

All statistics in the workforce report are as of June 30, 2016. The full report can be found here.

PolitiFact: A look at Trump's progress on immigration promises

Trumpfirstweeksign

via @miriamvalverde

In his administration’s earliest weeks, President Donald Trump has worked to deliver on major campaign promises that could impact millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.

Trump’s immigration policy as commander in chief has mostly been in line with his campaign rhetoric. A flurry of executive orders cast a wide net for people who will become deportation priorities and authorized the construction of a border wall with Mexico.

But Trump has held back on at least one promise for which he pledged prompt action: Recipients of a deferred action program Trump said he would terminate immediately for now have seen no changes.

Here’s a rundown of some major issues outlined in Trump’s executive orders and in implementation memos issued by Homeland Security, the department tasked with enforcing immigration laws.

Border wall planning in early stages

Trump’s promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is In the Works. An executive order signed Jan. 25 directs the DHS secretary to "take all appropriate steps to immediately plan, design, and construct a physical wall along the southern border, using appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve complete operational control of the southern border."

In an implementation memo issued Feb. 20, DHS Secretary John Kelly instructed U.S. Customs and Border Protection to consult with other executive departments and agencies on the immediate planning, design, construction and maintenance of the border wall. The memo directs the use of materials originating in the United States "to the maximum extent permitted by law."

Border Patrol is assessing priority areas where a wall or similar physical barriers can be built, DHS said. The department has identified locations near El Paso, Texas; Tucson, Ariz.; and El Centro, Calif., for wall construction as the fencing in place is "no longer effective."

Currently, there are 702 miles of fencing along the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. It includes 652 miles of primary fencing, 36 miles of secondary fencing and 14 miles of tertiary fencing, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Keep reading Miriam Valverde's story from PolitiFact.

Why did two Miami commissioners miss marijuana civil citation vote?

Modern4 health lnew cmg

@NewsbySmiley

When the Miami City Commission voted Thursday to give police officers the discretion to issue civil citations for misdemeanor marijuana possession instead of making an arrest, two commissioners were conspicuously absent.

Francis Suarez and Frank Carollo -- the former running for mayor, the latter mulling a run -- disappeared from the dais when the item came up in the evening. They missed the unanimous vote by Wifredo "Willy" Gort, Keon Hardemon and Ken Russell to enter into a three-year civil citation compact with the county, which implemented citations in 2015.

The agreement allows police to issue fines for several misdemeanor offenses, including littering and theft of shopping carts (commissioners removed trespassing and loitering and prowling). But the headliner of the group was marijuana possession.

Curious about why they were missing, and how they would have voted, we called Carollo and Suarez Friday morning to get a response.

Suarez didn't remember specifically why he left the dais -- "I just wasn't there" -- but said he supports the issuance of civil citations for misdemeanor pot possession. He shared police concerns about downgrading trespassing and prowling offenses, which apparently held up the agreement for months.

Carollo, a former police officer, did not respond to a voice mail and text message left on his cell phone around 9:45 a.m.

We'll update this blog if and when he calls back.