December 20, 2014

GOP consultants have some fun and send out a doc-shredding Christmas card

Data Targeting Christmas
Data Targeting, the Republican political consulting firm that went to legal war for the last year to keep its redistricting documents shielded from the public record, has had some fun this holiday season at its own expense. 

It's animated Christmas card comes with jingling bells and features Pat Bainter in a Santa coat with colleagues Matt Mitchell and Mike Sheehan at his side. It announces "But there's one 'secret' we've made sure they'll never get."

A countdown clock notes that the message will self destruct in 15 seconds, and the card then slides into a paper shredder and ends with: "Merry Christmas." 

For the record, the company lost its legal fight but won the redistricting war.  The Supreme Court ordered its shielded documents released, but only after the trial had ended and the congressional redistricting maps were redrawn with minimal changes. The docs, however, may shed more light on the legislative map and could cause some heartburn for the GOP leadership in the next legal fight over the Senate maps.

Lawyers for the Legislature on Friday filed a brief renewing the argument that the Fair Districts amendments to the state constitution were unconstitutional. That argument was rejected as it relates to the congressional maps but it's yet another sign that the battle rages on. Merry Christmas Pat, Mike and Matt. 

December 19, 2014

Poll: Cuban-Americans split on Obama’s Cuba policy, divided along generational lines

Cuban-Americans nationwide are almost evenly divided over support for the embargo and for President Obama’s effort to normalize relations with Cuba, according to a new poll that shows a vast generational divide in reaction to this week’s historic announcement.

The poll by Bendixen & Amandi International also showed that Cuban-Americans are nearly split on whether Obama should have exchanged prisoners Wednesday with Raul Castro’s communist government.

But they strongly disapprove of Obama’s foreign policy overall and his approach to Cuba specifically, according to the poll of 400 Cuban-Americans conducted for The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and the Tampa Bay Times.

Among the strongest responses from Cuban-Americans: Whether the United States should remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror. That move is opposed by 60 percent, with only 22 percent in favor. The Obama administration is reviewing Cuba’s designation.

“The Cuban people will not see any benefits,” poll respondent Gabriel Rivera, a 40-year-old Miami resident, said of Obama’s announcement. “They will remain in the same condition because the Cuban government doesn’t grant any freedoms.”

More here

In Coconut Grove, a huddle between a mayor and a lieutenant governor


Miami-Dade County Carlos Gimenez and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera had a sit-down Friday to talk about Florida helping the county attract some new business, a spokesman for the mayor said. 

Details weren't forthcoming, but the morning get-together between the two Republicans at Coconut Grove's Green Street Cafe was called to discuss "economic development projects... that require state assistance or financing," said Michael Hernández, communications director for Gimenez. 

In recent months, Gimenez said there was an economic-development project he would not name that he is trying to put together. He mentioned the project when announcing his support to use economic-development money tied to property taxes to subsidize development of SkyRise Miami, the Miami Wilds theme park and other ventures. 

Hernández said the morning meeting with Gimenez, Lopez-Cantera, who lives in Miami, and Gimenez's chief of staff, Alex Ferro, did not touch on the issue of property-tax appeals. Lopez-Cantera, as the county's elected property appraiser until Gov. Rick Scott picked him as his No. 2, has expertise in the matter, since he ran the office that defended the valuation appeals. 

The county schools chief, Alberto Carvalho, has met with Gimenez twice this month on the topic, and Carvalho is pushing for county and state action on the appeals to the Values Adjustment Board. Miami-Dade is facing a suit by the county teachers' union on the appeals, and school board member Raquel Regalado, a potential Gimenez challenger in 2016, wants the school system to join the litigation. 

The appeal payouts cut into revenue for both the county and the school system. Gimenez and his staff say they'd like to see Florida reform the rules on appeals. But they note the mayor has no control of the process.

Hernández said Gimenez did not raise the VAB issue with Lopez-Cantera, and that the last-minute meeting was called to discuss economic development. "That's his focus," Hernández said of Gimenez. 




Rick Scott touts reaching 700,000 jobs, but that's not what he promised in 2010 campaign

Less than three weeks before his second-term inauguration, Gov. Rick Scott is crowing that he has accomplished a goal he initially said could take seven years, despite the fact he isn’t even halfway to what he actually promised.

Scott and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity said Friday that as of November 2014, the state had added 715,700 private-sector jobs since December 2010, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

The governor used those numbers to declare victory on a major platform plank, his 7-7-7 plan for jobs growth, in which he promised the state would add 700,000 jobs in seven years by implementing Scott’s seven-point economic plan. Never mind that in 2010, Scott had actually promised 700,000 on top of normal growth, which means 1.7 million total. He’s also ignoring tens of thousands of employees cut from government payrolls over the past four years. 

Turn to Joshua Gillin's story from PolitiFact Florida.

Marco Rubio's claims about Cuba face Truth-O-Meter

PolitiFact checked two claims this week by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, related to Cuba:

"The president said that the people of Cuba do not have access to advanced, 21st century modern technology for communications and telecommunications because of the U.S. embargo. That is false," Rubio said. "The reason why they don't have access to 21st century telecommunications — like smart phones, like access to the Internet — is because it is illegal in Cuba."

Obama’s statement wasn’t as full-throated as Rubio made it sound. And some of what Obama suggested is true, experts told us.

That said, Rubio has the better part of the argument that Cuba’s restrictive policies loom large over the debate. We rated this statement Mostly True (fact-check written by Lauren Carroll and Steve Contorno).

At a press conference Rubio said this:

"The White House has conceded everything and gained little. They gained no commitment on the part of the Cuban regime to freedom of press or freedom of speech or elections. No binding commitment was made to truly open up the Internet. No commitment was made to allowing the establishment of political parties or to even begin the semblance of a transition to a democracy.

We rated his statement Mostly True (fact-check written by Louis Jacobson).

Marco Rubio and Rand Paul trade shots on TV, Twitter and Facebook over Cuba


As they jockey for possible presidential bids, Republican senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul are taking aim at each other on TV, Twitter and Facebook over Cuba policy.

Paul "doesn't know what he's talking about," Rubio says.

Rubio is an out-of-touch "isolationist," Paul says.

Even if the two don't run against each other, it certainly makes the GOP caucus in the U.S. Senate a potential viper pit -- especially because Texas Sen. Ted Cruz wants to run and incoming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he supports Rubio's hardline on Cuba but that he also backs his fellow Kentucky senator, Paul.

It started after President Obama and Raul Castro on Wednesday jointly announced efforts to normalize relations. The decision was anathema to Rubio, whose political identity is rooted in the conservative exile politics of Miami and its support for toughening the embargo against Cuba.

But while Republican presidential candidates lined up to echo Rubio's position, Paul on Thursday sided more with Obama, noting many U.S. farmers support the idea of more Cuba trade because it's a new market for their crops.

"The 50-year embargo just hasn't worked," Paul said in a radio interview with Tom Roten of News Talk 800 WVHU in Huntington, West Virginia. "If the goal is regime change, it sure doesn't seem to be working, and probably, it punishes the people more than the regime because the regime can blame the embargo for hardship."

Paul pointed out that many younger Cuban-Americans support his point of view, which is probably true.

"In the end, I think opening up Cuba is probably a good idea," he said.

Rubio, appearing Thursday on FOX, then blasted Paul for being ignorant. Here's the transcript, as found on Breitbart:

"He [Paul] has no idea what he’s talking about. And I’ll tell you why. Number one, the embargo on Cuba is an embargo that, quite frankly, has a bunch of holes in it. To give you an example, the United States is still one of Cuba’s largest trading partners, even now with the embargo, all sorts of commercial products and humanitarian products, like foodstuffs and other things are available in Cuba. Americans travel there all the time on what they call cultural exchanges. A bunch of Americans travel there by the way in violation of the embargo through third countries, Cuban-Americans can travel as many times as they want. They can send a lot of money back to Cuba to their relatives. What’s hurting the Cuban people is not the embargo, what’s hurting the Cuban people is the Cuban government. Look, Venezuela’s economy looks like Cuba’s economy now, you can’t even buy toilet paper in Caracas, and there’s no embargo on Venezuela. What Venezuela has in common with Cuba is they both have adopted radical socialist governmental policies…the embargo is not what’s hurting the Cuban people. it’s the lack of freedom and the lack of competent leaders."

Paul came back Friday on Twitter, and called out Rubio's handle: "The United States trades and engages with other communist nations, such as China and Vietnam. So @marcorubio why not Cuba?"

Then Paul took to Facebook: "Seems to me, Senator Rubio is acting like an isolationist who wants to retreat to our borders and perhaps build a moat. I reject this isolationism.”

“Senator Marco Rubio believes the embargo against Cuba has been ineffective, yet he wants to continue perpetuating failed policies,...After 50 years of conflict, why not try a new approach? The United States trades and engages with other communist nations, such as China and Vietnam. Why not Cuba? I am a proponent of peace through commerce, and I believe engaging Cuba can lead to positive change...Finally, let’s be clear that Senator Rubio does not speak for the majority of Cuban-Americans. A recent poll demonstrates that a large majority of Cuban-Americans actually support normalizing relations between our countries.”

Your move, Sen. Rubio....

Rick Scott appoints Jim Boxold as FDOT secretary

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday appointed Jim Boxold to be Florida’s next transportation secretary.
Boxold, who since 2013 has been former Secretary Ananth Prasad’s chief of staff and director of legislative affairs, was one of three finalists recommended Thursday by the Florida Transportation Commission.
Previously, Boxold served 10 years as the director of cabinet affairs for the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture.
“Jim will bring passion, energy and experience to our mission of making Florida the premier destination for jobs. I am grateful for Secretary Prasad’s service and I am confident Jim is the best person to carry on his commitment to excellence in improving our state’s infrastructure in the years ahead,” Scott said in a statement.
Boxold said in a statement, “It is an absolute honor to be appointed as Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation today. Under Governor Scott’s leadership, transportation has been made a top priority to help drive our state’s economic growth and improve the lives of families. We will continue to focus on the Governor’s mission to make Florida the best state to live and get a great job.”


Fact-checking Ana Navarro's claim about Cuba, Venezuela and oil

President Barack Obama’s historic decision to open full diplomatic relations with Cuba has appalled many opponents of the Castro regime. Among their biggest complaints is that Cuba got huge concessions from the United States without being required to make fundamental changes to its political system.

CNN contributor and Republican strategist Ana Navarro also argued that Obama could have outwaited the Castro brothers, Fidel and Raul. The Cuban economy is in shambles, Navarro told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

"A lot of what their survival depends on is Venezuelan oil money, which is drying up," Navarro said. "Now that we are so close to the end of those two dictators -- who have oppressed these people for over half a century -- now we're going to change and do it unilaterally without them lifting the oppression?"

The Cuba-Venezuela connection has been on the lips of many commentators since the's news broke. We thought it would be good to put a number to Venezuela’s generosity toward Cuba and to what extent that aid is a matter of life or death for the Cuban economy.

Turn to Jon Greenberg's fact-check from PunditFact.

Campaigning on Cuba issues is no longer so straightforward in Florida


Talking about U.S. policy toward Cuba used to be relatively easy for politicians in Florida: say “Cuba libre” or “Cuba sí, Castro no.”

Support for sanctions and the embargo was a given.

But no longer.

The reaction to President Barack Obama’s historic announcement Wednesday to try to reestablish diplomatic ties with Cuba was the latest sign yet that attitudes in the Cuban-American community are changing or, at least, are far more complex than many would think.

Less than half of Cuban-Americans — 47 percent to be exact — favored the embargo in a Latino Decisions poll of 400 highly likely Florida Hispanic voters taken in the final days of the 2014 elections.

Opposition to the embargo stood at 39 percent among likely Cuban-American voters — a result that Latino Decisons pollster Gary Segura found surprisingly high. “The Cuban-American leadership that supports the embargo has to be in a panic over this,” he said.

The poll also showed that only 33 percent of Cuban-American respondents said the embargo was very important. But 32 percent said the issue was not important.

So the intensity of those voters who favor the embargo isn’t overwhelming, according to the poll.

The Latino Decisions poll echoes results from Florida International University’s annual Cuba poll. FIU’s last survey, in May, found 51 percent of Cuban-American voters favored the embargo in Miami-Dade County, which has the nation’s largest concentration of people of Cuban descent, nearly 900,000 people.

More here

December 18, 2014

Regulators give FPL approval to charge customers to invest in fracking

The Public Service Commission gave approval Thursday to a request by Florida Power & Light to charge customers for its exploration of natural gas using fracking technologies.

The panel concluded that the project, which allows the company to invest $191 million in a joint venture with PetroQuest Energy, Inc., would help to stabilize volatile energy costs and save customers more than $100 million over 30 years – about two cents a month -- and stabilize a fraction of the company's energy costs. 

The measure was opposed by the lawyers who represent the public in rate cases, as well as the state’s largest industrial energy users, the Florida Retail Federation and several environmental groups. The PSC postponed a decision until March on the question of whether FPL will be allowed to charge customers up to $750 million a year in similar projects without PSC approval.

The opponents argued that there was no guarantee that the risk of shouldering the costs of oil and gas drilling in an uncertain regulatory environment would produce benefits for ratepayers and could backfire in higher costs. They argued the decision to allow the company to use customer dollars for speculation was something that should be left to the Legislature.

“FPL will shift all risks of investing in gas reserves to the customers in exchange for promises of potential customer fuel savings and guaranteed trued-up profits (or returns) for shareholders,’’ the public counsel said in its brief. It noted that it is not opposed to guaranteeing fuel savings to customers however, "FPL simply cannot guarantee those savings to customers over the next 50 years.”

The ruling could be the beginning of a trend as Duke Energy, the largest utility in the Tampa Bay market, said it is also considering asking for permission to charge its customers for fracking exploration.

Continue reading "Regulators give FPL approval to charge customers to invest in fracking" »

Scott to pick from three finalists to replace FDOT's Prasad

The Florida Transportation Commission recommended three men to Gov. Rick Scott for the replacement of outgoing FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad on Thursday.

That’s pretty quick turnaround considering that Prasad announced he was leaving on Dec. 2. Also, keep in mind that the $10-billion agency is the state’s biggest builder, overseeing 6,500 employees and a work plan through mid-2019 that has nearly 7,000 projects, including 762 new lane miles, 7,345 repaved miles, 190 repaired bridges and 76 replaced bridges.

With the possible opening of Cuba for trade, perhaps this would be a good time to slow down and consider the direction of a Florida transportation system that’s in dire need of new revenue.

Instead, it was full speed ahead for the nine member advisory board, which unanimously (!) chose three finalists from a field of eight that was culled only in a quickie job posting in the past two weeks.

The finalists are:

-- Jim Boxold, who since 2013 has been Prasad’s chief of staff and director of legislative affairs. Previously, he served 10 years as the director of cabinet affairs for the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture.

-- Eugene Conti, vice president of his own consulting company who served as secretary of the North Carolina Department of Transportation from 2009-2013.

-- Art Misiaszek, deputy division engineer overseeing the New England division of Amtrak’s capital and reimbursable projects, making him responsible for planning, design, construction and project management.


Continue reading "Scott to pick from three finalists to replace FDOT's Prasad" »

From penniless Cuban exile to billionaire GOP moneyman, Mike Fernandez says Obama's Cuba action 'long overdue'


Mike Fernandez arrived in the United States as a 12-year-old penniless immigrant in 1964 after his family fled Cuba. Today, he's one of Miami's most-respected and influential businessmen, a health-insurance billionaire and a GOP moneyman who dutifully supports fellow Republicans in the area.

Except on one issue today: President Obama's decision to restore diplomatic ties with the regime in Cuba.

"I am not a fan of President Obama but after 50 plus years, this is long overdue," Fernandez, who has just penned a new book called Humbled by the Journey said via email when asked his opinion.

Fernandez's opinion is significant not just because of his party registration and provenance, but because of his age as well. He's 62, old enough to remember the revolution, his father's small sandwich shop in Manzanilla and the life of an immigrant in America. So except for the billions he earned as a health insurance whiz, he's just like most older exiles, who are the most-likely to support the embargo.

Here's his whole statement:

"I feel the pain that Cuban Americans feel. I feel the pain that the Cuban people have been forced to unjustly experience. Trust me, I feel the pain. Having said that, As Americans we lost 58,000 of our sons in Vietnam and 15 years later, we established diplomatic relationships with our former enemy. I am not a fan of President Obama but after 50 plus years, this is long overdue.

History has been written, lives have been lost, millions have suffered but it’s time to turn the page on the 'Cuba book.' Let us focus on helping the Cuban people versus hurting the regime. Biology will soon take care of them."

For outgoing Miami-Dade commission chair, a legacy of early adjournments


When Rebeca Sosa took over as chairwoman of the Miami-Dade County Commission two years ago, she 'eliminated the lunch break and bumped employee-appreciation ceremonies off the main agend.

The result: Commission meetings that once reliably stretched to the dinner hour and beyond instead finished by the afternoon under Sosa.

"You did what you said would do," Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz told Sosa Thursday during her last meeting as chair. "We got out early most meetings. I think we broke all the records."

In January, Commisisoner Jean Monestime takes over as the panel's first Haitian-American chair. Chairs serve for two years, and are elected by the 13-member panel. The first change may come to the commission's committee system.

When Sosa took over for then-commissioner Joe Martinez in late 2012, she expanded the panels from six to eight (and celebrated employee milestones at those sessions). Monestime is said to be considering a return to six committees in order to have fewer meetings and more commissioners on each panel. A recent Finance Committee meeting, with a $570 million property-tax allocation for Miami Beach on the agenda, was cancelled for lack of a quorum. 

Monestime has the authority to set up the committees and name chairs, and he plans to announce the new set-up in January. 

"You've led this body with such grace," Monestime told Sosa. "I'm happy I was able to sit here and watch how fluidly you've allowed these meetings to go forward."

Commissioner Javier Souto described Sosa as a task-master with a gentle touch. "She brought the whip," Souto said, "with the Vaseline."

Sosa called her election as chair "an incredible privilege." "I have been honored and blessed," she said. 

She thanked the commission offices that fall under the chair's authority, and credited her fellow commissioners with cooperating in the new meeting regime.

"Whatever changes we made," she said, "we did it together." 


December 17, 2014

For Miami-Dade mayor, Cuban memories were good and brief


As a young boy in Cuba, Carlos Gimenez often woke up to the caretaker's voice rousing his father for a day's work on the family ranch.

"I would get dressed. and my horse would be ready," the 60-year-old recalled. "Those were good times."

Now mayor of Miami-Dade County, Gimenez's public profile and private history put him in the spotlight as President Barack Obama offers Cuba a diplomatic embrace. The county's senior Cuban-born politician issued a disapproving statement Wednesday, but in an interview he didn't ramp up the criticism.

"While I welcome the release of Alan Gross and another person, I am deeply disturbed that it appears that in this negotiation we did not secure freedoms for the Cuban people," Gimenez said in the statement from his office. Hours later, a reporter asked if he thought Obama's move would do any good, he replied: "That's to be determined. We'll see." 

The Cuban news comes weeks after Gimenez, a Republican, touted the Obama administration's approval of a new hiring initiative he's pitching as a way to help ease chronic unemployment in some of Miami-Dade's black neighborhoods. Gimenez also is on the same side of the White House on police body cameras, which he wants issued to all county patrol officers.

After a brief flirtation with becoming an independent, Gimenez is positioning himself as a non-partisan administrator as he gears up for a reelection fight in 2016 that the Democratic Party has pledged to make competitive for him. 

His Miami counterpart and fellow Cuban immigrant, Mayor Tomás Regalado, seemed to take a harsher tone with the Obama administration, predicting trouble if Washington accommodated Cuba in opening a consulate in Miami. 

“I would think having a consulate in Miami would be a mistake because it would create a safety issue,” said Regalado, a Republican whose father spent 22 years in prison under the Castro regime. "Because some people eventually will try to do something to the consulate.”

Regaldo's daughter, school board member Raquel Regalado, is considering a run against Gimenez in 2016 for county mayor. Gimenez declined to take a position on the consulate question. "I think there are a lot of other obstacles that have to be hopped over before we think of a Cuban consulate here in Miami," he said. 

Continue reading "For Miami-Dade mayor, Cuban memories were good and brief" »

On Cuba, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is out of step with DNC, Obama


Nearly all politicians who support longstanding hardline U.S. policy toward Cuba tend to be Cuban-American, Republican or both.

With one big exception: Weston U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz who happens to be the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. On Wednesday, after President Obama announced an historic deal to thaw the Cold War-era hostilities with Cuba, Wasserman Schultz was eerily quiet.

Then, when Wasserman Schultz spoke, she was clearly out of step with the DNC. Consider the statements each issued and their timing:

Continue reading "On Cuba, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is out of step with DNC, Obama" »

Miami, heart of Cuban exile community, stunned by U.S. policy shift

@PatriciaMazzei @cveiga

The hard line dividing Miami and Havana, drawn more than half a century ago by Cuban exiles who shunned the dictatorship they left behind, suddenly softened Wednesday, leaving two stunned generations of Cuban Americans to grapple with what the future may hold.

President Barack Obama announced he would restore diplomatic relations with Cuba after the communist regime led by Raúl Castro freed American political prisoner Alan Gross and other dissidents. That was welcome news to exiles but the president also agreed to a spy swap, the kind of deal stalwart Castro critics have long opposed.

Shock reverberated through Miami, the heart of the exile community, where detractors lambasted the policy shift — and the Democratic president — for what they called a betrayal. A frenzy of reporters and politicians descended on Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana, a mecca of traditional anti-Castro sentiment.

But only a small crowd had gathered in protest. Miami’s streets, into the early evening, remained quiet.

More here.

Before Jeb Bush worked at Barclays, bank was fined $300m over Cuba sanctions

From BuzzFeed:

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush blasted the Obama administration’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba in a Facebook post Wednesday, but in an example of why Bush’s ties to private equity and Barclays could provide fodder for opponents and critics, Barclays (which reportedly pays Bush more than a million dollars a year) had to settle criminal charges for violating sanctions that included Cuba.

Barclays agreed in 2010 to to forfeit $298 million to the United States and to the New York County District Attorney’s Office “in connection with violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA),” according to a Justice Department press release....

Bush has been at Barclays since 2008, but the actions that led to the fine took place before the Florida governor was with the bank....

“Governor Bush has long been a strong advocate for policies that will foster a free and democratic Cuba,” Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said. “His record as a supporter of the embargo and on U.S. policy regarding Cuba is clear. That contrasts sharply with the ill-advised decision announced today by President Obama to reestablish diplomatic ties with the Castro regime, which will only serve to benefit these heinous dictators, who for decades have oppressed the Cuban people."

More here

Jeb Bush loves 'The U Part 2,' says NCAA looked like 'complete idiots'


A day after indicating that a presidential bid was likelier than ever, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made his annual appearance Wednesday at the Camacol Christmas Basket charity event to help pass food out to the needy, but he made it clear he wasn’t giving the press any statement about campaigning for the White House.

But football? Well, that’s another matter when it comes to the University of Miami and the new ESPN “30 for 30” documentary The U Part 2.

The documentary came up during a brief chat I had with Lieutenant Gov. Lopez-Cantera, a UM grad, who was passing out chocolate milk with Bush. When Lopez-Cantera mentioned he hadn’t seen The U Part 2 yet, Bush made it clear he had.

“It was a great show. It was spectacular,” Bush said. He then added that some of the subject-matter of the documentary – a Ponzi schemer who helped spark a flawed NCAA investigation of the school -- was depressing.

“It’s horrible,” Bush said. “The U Part 1 is the one I really liked. It was really spectacular.”

The most-notable character to Bush: Randy Philips, the former UM safety who said he was used by fraudster Nevin Shapiro to gain access to younger players in furtherance of a sports-agency business.

“He was great,” Bush said of Phillips. “He was on fire.”

As for the subsequent investigation, which dragged on for years and used tactics that even the NCAA said were questionable, Bush said “It was brutal. Basically, if it’s correct, they’re lucky. It was a bad prosecution.”

“The NCAA looks like complete idiots.”

Bush, governor from 1999-2007, is a University of Texas graduate. But like many who call the Miami-area home, he’s a Canes fan. After Bush’s reelection in 2002, the Hurricanes lost to Ohio State in a national title game after a controversial call featured in documentary.

Said Bush at the time: “It was a bad call but that's the way life works.”


Gardiner lays out session priorities and weighs in on broad issues

Andy GardinerSenate President Andy Gardiner laid out his priorities in an information meeting with reporters Wednesday and said he will be focused on implementing Amendment 1, bringing more tax relief to Floridians and finding ways to help special needs students get broader employment opportunities.

Gardiner, R-Orlando, who was sworn in for the two-year term as Senate president in November, touched on several high profile issues that are likely to become the focus of the 60-day session in March.

MEDICAID -- Gardiner, vice president of Orlando Health, said he is open to hearing details on a compromise health care reform plan pushed by a coalition of hospitals this month, that would help the state move toward expanding Medicaid under Obamacare to cover more of the uninsured.

ENVIRONMENT -- He said committees will conduct hearing in January to hear what the authors of Amendment 1 had in mind as the legislature works on how to implement the new constitutional provision to dedicate one third of the state’s documentary stamp taxes to land and water preservation.

CLAIMS --Unlike his predecessor Senate President Don Gaetz, Gardiner is open to giving a hearing to the 33 claims bills filed to require state or local government pay a settlement or legal liability.

TESTING -- He wants his education committees to review the amount of school tests required of Florida k-12 students. “The jury’s still out on if we are over-testing,’’ he said. On Common Core, however, he said there are legitimate concerns about the proposal “but I don’t support walking away from that accountability.”

Continue reading "Gardiner lays out session priorities and weighs in on broad issues" »

Fact-checking climate change claims by Sen. Marco Rubio, Rush Limbaugh and more

Climate change was in the news this year, starting with the polar vortex at the beginning of 2014 and continuing with the Keystone XL pipeline and proposed carbon-cutting regulations on power plants.

But what stuck with readers were the claims that flat-out denied climate change science. The statement "Climate change is a hoax" won PolitiFact’s annual Readers' Poll for Lie of the Year with 31.8 percent of the vote.

Here, then, are other highlights from our fact-checks about climate change in 2014.

The hoax

Politicians with much higher profiles than Whitney also have argued with basic climate change science, such as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a potential 2016 presidential contender. He said in May that human activity is not "causing these dramatic changes to our climate." We rated that claim False.

Turn to Lauren Carroll's article from PolitiFact for the rest of the story.