July 31, 2014

Federal bribery trial of suspended Miami Lakes mayor draws his one-time nemesis

@jayhweaver

Schadenfreude -- that German word conveying a feeling of joy over someone else's troubles -- filled the air at the federal bribery trial of suspended Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi.

As convicted Miami-Dade lobbyist Richard Candia testified about giving alleged bribes to Pizzi, the indicted politician's one-time nemesis, ex-County Commissioner Natacha Seijas,  showed up to take in the courtroom drama this week.

Seijas, once an influential politician in Hialeah and Miami Lakes, lost her commission seat in 2011, when Pizzi led a nasty recall effort to oust her.  Over the years, neither has been publicly shy about expressing contempt for the other.

But on Tuesday, Seijas held her tongue when asked by a Miami Herald reporter why she came to watch Pizzi face charges of accepting $6,750 in alleged bribes during an FBI sting operation.

"I believe in the justice system," Seijas would only say, "and I'm waiting for it to happen."

--JAY WEAVER

July 30, 2014

Rubio now endorses medical marijuana -- but only low-THC strain

Marco Rubio, MH@LearyReports

Sen. Marco Rubio this afternoon said he supports the use of medical marijuana but only the noneuphoric type approved by the Florida Legislature.

His comments came in a wide-ranging interview with reporters, and the Florida Republican made clear he was limiting support to noneuphoric strains such as "Charlotte's Web."

Rubio called the ballot initiative before voters this November a "ruse" that could allow people with dubious medical needs to get access to the high-inducing form of the drug.

Continue reading "Rubio now endorses medical marijuana -- but only low-THC strain" »

Crist lines up union support, and cash, like a true blue Democrat

Charlie Crist, TBT

Charlie Crist may be a newly minted Democrat, but he’s racking up union support as if he has always been a liberal shade of blue.

AFSCME, the union that bargains for most state employees, sent Crist’s political committee a $1 million check on Tuesday, the same day he announced that, if elected, he would use his executive powers to immediately raise the minimum wage for state contractors to $10.10 an hour — a top union priority.

The Florida Police Benevolent Association also endorsed Crist this month, and sent his campaign $50,000 — an amount matched by the Florida pipefitters’ union. The Dade County firefighters donated $25,000; AFSCME’s political committee, the Florida Workers’ Advocates, already gave Crist $50,000; and the Florida Education Association, which first endorsed Crist as an independent Senate candidate in 2010, this year endorsed him again.

The endorsements and contributions are more signs that Crist is now the candidate of the Democratic establishment, which has eschewed longtime liberal Democrat and former state Sen. Nan Rich, his opponent in the Aug. 26 primary. And they are proof that attempts by Gov. Rick Scott to mend fences with teachers and police unions, whose ranks provide boots-on-the-ground campaign support, have fallen short.

Continue reading "Crist lines up union support, and cash, like a true blue Democrat" »

Regulators say pot dispensaries can sell statewide but want them chosen by lottery

MarijuanaFive medical marijuana dispensaries will be allowed to sell their product statewide under a new rule proposed by state regulators, but which nurseries get picked to operate the new industry will be chosen by a statewide lottery to avoid litigation, state officials said Wednesday.

The revised rule will be discussed at a workshop in Tallahassee on Friday as the state prepares to authorize five nurseries in each region of the state to cultivate and distribute marijuana for medical purposes.

Florida legislators passed the law last spring legalizing marijuana low in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and high in CBD (cannabidiol) for patients with seizures, severe and persistent muscle spasms and cancer. The dispensaries must be in operation by Jan. 1 to start selling to patients who are put on a state-run “compassionate use registry.”

The first draft of the rule came under harsh criticism from members of the industry who want the state to focus on finding applicants that can produce the best quality, not those that can win because of chance.

Continue reading "Regulators say pot dispensaries can sell statewide but want them chosen by lottery" »

Scott's embrace of U.S. Sugar at odds with his 2010 campaign

@craigtimes

@mikevansickler

Before he was governor, Rick Scott attacked another Florida politician for accepting campaign funds from U.S. Sugar. He even said Bill McCollum, his opponent in the 2010 Republican primary, had been "bought and paid for.''

Four years later, Scott has received at least $534,000 for his reelection campaign from the corporate giant, and went on a 2013 hunting trip to its hunting lodge at King Ranch in Texas.

"The governor enjoys hunting and doesn't get to go as often as he'd like," said campaign spokesman Greg Blair in a Tuesday night e-mail. "But he enjoyed the experience. He was even able to shoot a buck on the trip."

While Scott bagged a buck, his hosts may claim the bigger prize: access to the state's most powerful politicians.

Read story here.

Also, watch this video, starting at the 1:53 mark.

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UPDATE: Sheldon restores status to practice law amid AG bid

@mikevansickler

Since October, George Sheldon has been running to be the Democratic nominee for Florida Attorney General, the state’s top lawyer.

So it didn’t help his campaign any when he learned Tuesday that, according to The Florida Bar, Sheldon could no longer -- wait for it -- practice law in Florida.

By late Wednesday, Sheldon managed to get his license and membership restored. But what happened?

Turns out he hadn’t been reporting his continuing legal education, a Bar requirement.

“A delinquent member shall not engage in the practice of law in this state and shall not be entitled to any privileges and benefits accorded to members of The Florida Bar in good standing,” The Bar’s executive director, John Harkness, Jr., wrote in a July 7 letter to Sheldon.

“We assume this is an oversight,” Harkness wrote. “However, under the Supreme Court Rules, in order to correct your CLER delinquency, you must complete the required general hours, including five hours of ethics, professionalism, substance abuse or mental illness awareness, or show eligibility to claim an exemption.”

Sheldon’s been running for Attorney General since October, raising nearly $300,000. How could he have overlooked the requirements to be an actual lawyer in Florida?

Continue reading "UPDATE: Sheldon restores status to practice law amid AG bid" »

Rep. Grant the winner in Florida ethics commission ruling

In a closed-door session, the Florida Commission on Ethics ruled in favor of Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, after an investigation into whether he misused his position to benefit a company that allegedly funded a grant awarded to his personal business venture.

The nine-member panel also decided there was no probable cause concerning an allegation that Grant had a conflict when he voted on legislation that related to excise taxes on phosphate mining.

The decision was announced Wednesday after the commission's investigator spent more than a year examining a complicated case stemming from complaints filed by Henry Kuhlman, a retired military pilot from Hardee County.

"My reaction is that they missed the mark and politics are involved," Kuhlman said.

Continue reading "Rep. Grant the winner in Florida ethics commission ruling" »

Rick Scott bashes Charlie Crist's 'hypocrisy at the highest level' over debates, but...

Gov. Rick Scott has agreed to three debates. Democrat Charlie Crist wants more. 

But against Democrat Nan Rich, the Republican-turned-Democrat-turned-independent Crist has no interest in debating.

“It’s hypocrisy at the highest level. Either one is too many. Or three is not enough,” Scott said Wednesday during a stop at TimBar Packaging and Display in North Miami. “One is too many when he’s talking about running against a woman in the primary. But three is not enough if he makes it to the general. So it’s pure hypocrisy.”

But Democrats are quick to point out that Scott, too, has Republican primary opponents. And Scott won’t debate them, including a woman named Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder, either.

Continue reading "Rick Scott bashes Charlie Crist's 'hypocrisy at the highest level' over debates, but..." »

Marco Rubio votes to move Senate border bill, but vows to oppose it without new reforms

From a press release:

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today issued the following statement regarding his vote to debate the Senate border bill:

“Today, I voted to move to the Senate border bill so that we would have the opportunity to vote on and pass amendments that would achieve real reforms on border security, end the DACA program for new applicants and reform the 2008 law that allows unaccompanied minors who enter the U.S. illegally to be released.

“If these types of reforms are not included in the bill, I will vote to deny the Democrats the 60 votes they will need to pass this bill. Furthermore, as I have previously stated, I will oppose any efforts to add the 2013 Senate bill or the DREAM Act to this legislation. This legislation needs to address the current humanitarian crisis on our southern border, and prevent any future mass migrations.”

 

 

Six families to defend new state scholarship program

Six families will be in Tallahassee Thursday to make the case for Florida's new scholarships for students with special needs.

The program came under fire earlier this month, after the statewide teachers union filed a lawsuit questioning the way it became law.

The six families are planning an 11 a.m. press conference to say the scholarship program should not be abandoned because of the lawsuit.

"If we're not convenient to their cause then we just don't matter," said Ashli McCall, a certified teacher in Florida and the parent of an autistic child. "We matter."

Other participants will include former Sen. Alfred Lawson, Jr., a Tallahassee Democrat; Allison Aubuchon, of former Gov. Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education; and Clint Bolick, of Goldwater Institute.

The Goldwater Institute has defended similar school choice programs nationwide.

"These children deserve high-quality educational opportunities that are customized to suit their unique needs, and we will stand up with their families and defend these scholarships from the very people who have failed these students in the public schools,” Bolick said.

July 29, 2014

South Florida reps meet with wife of prominent Cuban dissident who describes beatings, arrests

@CAdamsMcClatchy

Five members of the U.S. House of Representatives, -- including four from Florida – met with the wife of Cuban dissident Jorge Luis García Pérez, who described the ongoing, systemic repression she and her husband have suffered.

Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera is a human rights activist who has suffered threats, beatings and harassment at the hands of Cuban authorities because of her efforts, according to Rep. Joe Garcia, a Democrat from Miami who said he was “truly inspired by this couple’s untiring commitment to the Cuban people and their courage and bravery in the face of continuing abuses by the Cuban regime.”

Also at the meeting late Tuesday afternoon: Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R, Miami), Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R, Miami), Curt Clawson (R, Bonita Springs) and Rep. Albio Sires, a Democrat from New Jersey.

In a meeting with the House members and a short talk with reporters afterward, Pérez Aguilera described the arrests and ransacking of their home earlier this year. They took everything –- “They even took our family pictures,” she said through a translator.

She plans to meet with Senate officials on Wednesday.

The Herald recently described the couple’s story and the U.S. State Department’s reaction to it.

Charlie Crist unveils Day 1 plan, Rick Scott asks 'where are the jobs?'

Democratic Charlie Crist today announced his "First Day of Fairness'' plan in his hometown of St. Petersburg today, outlining what he'd do Day One as governor.

* Faster, more affordable access to public records from agencies run by the governor's office.

* Raising the minimum wage for contractors doing business with agencies reporting to the governor's office

* Issuing an executive order requiring equal pay for women employed by companies doing business with agencies reporting to the governor's office.

* Ordering executive agencies to grant contract work to in-state "whenever possible and legal.''

* Protecting the rights of LGBT workers through an executive order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity within agencies reporting to the governor's office and their contractors.

Gov. Rick Scott's campaign chairman, state Sen. John Thrasher, promptly blasted the plan for not creating jobs:

"Charlie Crist thinks he can win this election by doing his best Barack Obama impersonation – all talk and no action. And it’s telling that his new proposal includes no plans for job creation or education. Crist’s record speaks louder than any of his words: billions in tax hikes and double-digit tuition increases – as Florida was losing 832,000 jobs and 28,000 small businesses – was anything but ‘fair’ to the middle class.”

Historical context: those tax hikes and tuition increases were voted for by Scott's running mate, Lieutenant Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, and Thrasher only began denouncing Crist's job record after he left the GOP.

-- with Charlotte Sutton

Haiti's PM, Laurent Lamothe, is pulling a Hillary Clinton

@Jacquiecharles

PORT-AU-PRINCE -- For a man who says he’s not a presidential candidate, Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe is campaigning like one.

From visiting a remote central Haiti village with United Nations head Ban Ki-moon to stumping at a Haitian diaspora town hall in North Miami, Lamothe last week was everywhere a candidate needs to be — although the start of the 2015 Haitian presidential race is more than a year away.

“That is how prime ministers run,” said Robert Fatton, a University of Virginia politics professor and Haiti expert. “That is not a Haitian thing. This is politics.”

Lamothe, 41, the tech savvy businessman-turned-politician, insists that he’s not a candidate.

“This is part of my job; what I am doing as prime minister, it is to govern; it is to manage,” Lamothe said before joining more than a dozen flown-in members of his cabinet in front an overflow crowd for his televised town hall in North Miami. “I am prime minister today, and I am focusing on that.”

But Lamothe’s schedule reflects a Hillary Clinton-like method of raising a future candidate’s profile without officially announcing for office. And that is prompting concern and panic in Haiti where observers say the presidential posturing is intensifying a crisis prompted by legislative and local elections that are three years behind schedule.

More here

 

Plaintiffs want expert to redraw congressional map before November election

Responding to a Tallahassee court judge's skepticism that he could craft a new congressional map in time for the November elections, the voters group is now asking the court to appoint a redistricting expert to do it.

The plaintiffs, a group of voters groups led by the League of Women Voters, successfully sued the state to throw out the congressional map. But Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis said at a hearing last week that he was unsure he could order a special election or revise the map.

In an amended response brief filed Tuesday, the plaintiffs now ask Lewis to appoint a special master and have both sides submit proposals so that the state does not conduct an election using an unconstitutional map. They have not indicated if they intend to appeal Lewis' ruling if he does not agree.

Click here to download the plaintiffs' latest brief.

Marco Rubio's Half True claim about dads from his values speech at Catholic University

In defending traditional marriage, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in a speech about values at Catholic University that fathers play a vital role in their children’s success.

Rubio cited statistics about the number of children born to unwed mothers and what that means for their chances to climb out of poverty and go to college.

After getting an education, finding a good job and getting married, "The final element of the success sequence is raising children in a married, two-parent home," Rubio said July 23, 2014. "Even in my own family, of course, I have examples of children raised by one parent who have gone on to successful lives. But we also know that having an active father makes children 98 percent more likely to graduate from college and complete the first step of the success sequence."

We decided to fact-check the 98 percent statistic.

Jeb Bush's Mostly True claim about border kids

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, one of the Republican Party’s most vocal advocates of federal action on immigration policy, recently re-entered the immigration debate with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal regarding the thousands of undocumented Central American minors flocking to the United States border.

Bush, a potential 2016 candidate, co-authored the op-ed with Clint Bolick, the vice president for litigation at the libertarian Goldwater Institute (the two also teamed up for a book on immigration in 2013). Before laying out their suggested course of action, Bush and Bolick explain the problem.

"Currently the vast number of children is overwhelming the process," they wrote. "Roughly half do not show up for their hearings. As a result, judging by Homeland Security figures, only a fraction of the approximately 20,000 Central American children who entered the country illegally in 2013 were repatriated. By some estimates, as few as 2 percent of the 50,000 children who have crossed the border illegally this year have been sent home."

We’ve already looked at the number of minors who report for their hearings. (Bush's description of it as "roughly half" is not far off from what we found.) But what about the number of children that the government has returned this year? We decided to look into the stat.

The fact-check was written by Steve Contorno of PolitiFact.

Gov. Rick Scott agrees to 3 debates

@tbtia

Gov. Rick Scott's campaign announced today that he agreed to appear in three debates against the Democratic nominee, either former Gov. Charlie Crist or Nan Rich. The debates are all within four weeks of the Nov. 4 general election:

The governor declined to participate in a planned Oct. 7 debate sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times, WTSP-10 News and the University of South Florida, which would have been the first of the season. Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said three is enough.

"Three statewide debates will give voters ample opportunity to hear from Gov. Scott and his challenger,' she wrote in an email. "He will be spending the rest of his time traveling the state and meeting with voters."

By signing on to dates later in the election season, many voters many have already made up their minds by the time the two gubernatorial nominees square off.

Continue reading "Gov. Rick Scott agrees to 3 debates" »

Crist and Scott least popular gov candidates in decade

@AdamSmithTimes

From our friends at 538.com:

....Iin Florida, home to one of the nation’s marquee gubernatorial races, Democrat Charlie Crist and Republican incumbent Rick Scott are teetering on becoming the least-liked pair of candidates for any governor’s race in the past 10 years....

...Both Crist and Scott hold negative net favorable ratings (the percentage of people with a favorable view minus the percentage with a negative view). No other gubernatorial campaign in the country currently features such bipartisan disdain. Thirteen races for governor have had at least one live interview poll that asked about candidate images since the beginning of May. Among the candidates in those races, the average net favorable rating is just over +10 percentage points, compared to the -4 points in Florida. (I limited my search to live interview polling because it is thought that favorable ratings are systematically lower across alternative polling technologies.)

More here

July 28, 2014

Pro-Hamas demonstrator at Miami's 'Friendship' torch: 'I'm gonna kill you...and all the Israelis!'

@MarcACaputo

Is there a better Miami spot for pro-Hamas demonstrators to threaten and push a provocative cameraman than the "Torch of Friendship?”

You read that right: The Torch of Friendship at Bayfront Park.

After what was an otherwise-peaceful protest against “the massacre in Gaza,” a cameraman affiliated with the pro-Israel/anti-Islamic group The United West hit the video jackpot: a group of men who couldn't control their tempers and a few dozen demonstrators chanting in favor of holy war and Hamas, designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.

"I’m gonna kill you motherfucker, you and all the Israelis!” one man says, after flipping two middle fingers.

And…. Cut! That's a wrap, folks.

"Miami HAMAS ATTACKS Jewish Reporter!" the YouTube headline from The United West blares. It was uploaded six days after the July 20 rally and quickly blazed across conservative websites. 

Continue reading "Pro-Hamas demonstrator at Miami's 'Friendship' torch: 'I'm gonna kill you...and all the Israelis!'" »

Miami-Dade mayor calls demolition of soldier's home 'unfortunate'

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami-Dade County declined interview requests last week in the case of the local soldier whose home was demolished while he was on active duty, in violation of U.S. law, according to a federal judge.

Late Monday, a day after the soldier's story ran in the Miami Herald, County Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued a statement on the situation, sounding disappointed at Miami-Dade's actions.

"This unfortunate situation began prior to my time as mayor," Gimenez said. "It is still in the hands of the County Attorney's Office. I look forward to a swift and fair resolution.

"My administration will continue to comply with all federal laws that safeguard our veterans, especially when they are on active duty."