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February 03, 2016

VIDEO: Florida House members react to debate over open carry


Florida House members were in session until nearly 10 p.m. Tuesday night, spending much of the evening debating two high-profile gun bills: open carry and campus carry.

The open-carry bill was amended with one significant change: To allow lawmakers to carry concealed handguns in legislative sessions and official meetings. It's one of the handful of areas specified in law where licensed gun-owners can't carry concealed.

Here's what Republican and Democratic leaders had to say about that amendment following last night's session, and read our full story here about the evening's debate.

Floor votes on both the campus-carry and open-carry measures are expected this afternoon in the House.


Son of Hillary Clinton donor to file for Florida state Senate, not Congress


Andrew Korge has made up his mind: He will run for the Florida state Senate -- and not Congress -- this year.

A Democrat and the son of prominent Hillary Clinton donor Chris Korge, Andrew Korge had filed to run for the Legislature before flirting with a congressional race

He told the Miami Herald he made up his mind after taking a hard look at the redrawn Senate map and considering where he might be able to get more done.

"To run for Congress is a tremendous honor, but at the end of the day, seeing what these folks in Tallahassee are doing with this session, it's just had a tremendous effect on me," he said. "I want to make an impact, too, and when you think of a freshman congressperson and a freshman state senator -- you can really do something in Tallahassee."

Among his top issues, Korge cited protecting South Florida from climate change and fracking, and defending abortion rights. He's also got an interest in education policy.

For Congress, Korge would have challenged Annette Taddeo -- and possibly former Rep. Joe Garcia, who has yet to enter the race but has made it clear he probably will. Garcia's candidacy would have made it more difficult for a political novice like Korge to survive a primary.

Korge plans to send paperwork to Tallahassee Wednesday filing for Senate District 39. The expected Republican candidate in that seat would be Sen. Anitere Flores of Miami, who would have to move to the district. Korge said he's intends to do the same.

The seat leans Hispanic -- which Flores is but Korge is not -- but also Democratic. Flores and Democratic Sen. Dwight Bullard had worked out a deal where Flores would run for District 39 unopposed by a Democrat in order to avoid facing her colleague Bullard in District 40, where both now live.

Korge, who due to his family network would be less reliant on Senate Democrats' support, said talk of the agreement didn't sit well with him. "It is not uncommon or unusual for insiders in Tallahassee to cut deals at everyone else's expense. That's part of the frustration that everyone has with what's going on in Tallahassee. That's part of what needs to change."

Capitol Buzz: Five things to watch today in Tallahassee



The governor plays cornhole at the Florida Capitol, lawmakers huddle for initial budget talks and controversial gun bills get a floor vote in the House. Here's what we're watching today:

* Proposed plans for the 2016-17 budget will go before the House's and Senate's full appropriations committees. Both chambers have scheduled daylong meetings to debate and revise their respective proposals, which were released Friday. (House Appropriations, 8 a.m., 212 Knott Building. Senate Appropriations, 9 a.m. 412 Knott Buiding)

* Gov. Rick Scott is elevating his efforts to persuade the Legislature to support his call for a $1 billion tax cut and $250 million in business incentives. In a rare move, he's hosting a rally at the Florida Capitol, starting at 11 a.m. It will feature "leaders from around the state" and a specialty cornhole set branded with Scott's slogan of "1st For Jobs."

* The House Finance and Tax Committee, led by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, plans to formally unveil its "bipartisan" tax cut package -- and "much anticipated" hashtag -- during a press conference after the committee's meeting, set for 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

* More than 100 employees of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa plan to visit with House and Senate members to help draw support for a $3 billion gaming compact, which the Seminole tribe and the governor signed but which the Legislature is hesitant to back.

* The House convenes for session at 3. After heated debate yesterday evening, the chamber is expected to pass two controversial gun bills and consider a slew of other legislation on the table.

Photo credit: Gov. Rick Scott's office

February 02, 2016

Under revised open-carry bill, Florida lawmakers could carry concealed guns in legislative meetings



Florida's 160 lawmakers could inconspicuously pack heat in the state House and Senate chambers and legislative meetings, under a provision tacked on to a controversial open-carry handguns proposal that's expected to pass the Florida House on Wednesday.

The amendment by Rep. John Wood, R-Winter Haven, was one of almost two dozen proposed changes that representatives vetted -- and a handful they approved -- during three hours of debate that stretched past 9 p.m. Tuesday over two high-profile gun bills.

The measures alter how 1.4 million people with concealed weapons permits in Florida can carry handguns.

The Republican-dominated House accepted Wood's idea by a 72-43 vote to allow lawmakers to carry concealed guns in legislative sessions and official meetings, but it's possible the change could prove fatal for the measure, which already faced a tough climb in the Senate.

Both the open-carry measure and another that would allow permit-holders to carry concealed on public university and college campuses are likely to pass the House. But across the Capitol, Senate Judiciary Chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, said he won't hear the campus-carry proposal in his committee for the second year in a row, and he indicated last week he could change his mind and not hear the open-carry plan, either.

The two measures are endorsed by the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups, but opponents cite numerous safety concerns.

Heading into Tuesday's House debate, more than 40 amendments were filed to the open-carry bill but almost half were later withdrawn; those were mostly rebuttals that bill sponsor and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, initially sought.

All but one of the others -- Wood's -- were filed by Democrats, as an attempt to chip away at the proposal and add exclusions to where concealed-carry permit-holders could openly carry. Each Democratic amendment failed by wide margins with almost entirely Republican support.

Continue reading "Under revised open-carry bill, Florida lawmakers could carry concealed guns in legislative meetings" »

'If you're not with Marco, you're electing Democrats,' pro-Marco Rubio super PAC ad says

via @adamsmithtimes

Conservative Solutions, the super PAC supporting Marco Rubio, is up with a new TV spot casting Florida's senator as the conservative who can actually win.

"Marco Rubio is the conservative who can win – and the Clinton machine knows it. Rubio beat the establishment. He’ll unite Republicans and restore the American Dream.

If you’re not with Marco, you’re electing the Democrats."



Miami Beach mayor heads to New Hampshire to campaign for Hillary Clinton


Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine plans to travel to New Hampshire Saturday to campaign for Hillary Clinton for president.

Ahead of next Tuesday's primary in the Granite State, Levine will stump for Clinton, a longtime friend. He is on her campaign's Florida Leadership Council. Bill Clinton endorsed Levine's mayor candidacy in 2013, lending him some star power.

Levine has called Clinton "the best candidate quipped to tackle" the challenges facing American cities.

Marco Rubio has bounce in his step and target on his back in New Hampshire

GOP 2016 Rubio


EXETER, N.H. -- In the Republican presidential race, Marco Rubio is the man in the middle.

Heading into New Hampshire’s primary on Tuesday, he’s got to keep gaining on front-runners Ted Cruz, who won Iowa’s caucuses Monday, and Donald Trump, who finished second.

“This is not a time for patience. This is a time for urgent action, because if we get this election done, there may be no turning around for America,” he told hundreds of people at a picturesque town hall Tuesday night in the New Hampshire town of Exeter. “We must at the end of this process bring this party and this movement together.”

Before he can try to do that, though, Rubio will have to fend off challenges from three governors who barely registered among Iowa Republicans but have dedicated most of their energy and cash to reaching New Hampshire’s maverick voters.

Rubio could let Trump and Cruz duke it out for the anti-establishment vote, with the hope that one will destroy the other. But it will be impossible for him to avoidconfrontations with the other establishment Republicans — especially since his campaign started urging donors after the caucuses to pressure Rubio’s mainstream rivals to bow out of the contest.

Two of them, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, wasted no time Tuesday, intensifying their hits on Rubio, a first-term Florida senator, over his lack of executive experience (Bush) and his disavowing comprehensive-immigration reform he had sponsored in the Senate (Christie).

More here.

Photo credit: Steven Senne, Associated Press

Miami-Dade commissioners express fear of greater PAC disclosure rules


Daniella Levine Cava joined the Miami-Dade County Commission a year and a half ago — unseating an incumbent commissioner with promises to restore the public’s trust and bring greater transparency to County Hall.

On Tuesday, Levine Cava found out just how hard it can be to put those promises into practice. At the final vote for Levine Cava’s proposed new political action committee law, which would require greater disclosures from local elected officials, Miami-Dade’s newest commissioner had almost no support from her colleagues.

Levine Cava’s proposal is relatively modest, and built to mirror existing regulations that apply to state politicians, who must file a disclosure for certain types of political action committees they are raising money for. If approved, Levine Cava’s ordinance would apply to county and municipal elected posts in Miami-Dade.

But county commissioners expressed all sorts of fears, and delayed any action for now. Commissioner Barbara Jordan said not everyone who’s asked to donate actually does so, and keeping track of it all isn’t easy.

“I may make a phone call, but there may not be a contribution,” she said. “I’m so forgetful, I don’t want to go to jail.”

Read more here

House continues fast pace of bill removing requirement that public records violators pay attorneys fees

In a dispute that could reshape how the state handles its Sunshine laws, another House committee gave approval to a bill that proponents say will crack down on "economic terrorists" that are abusing the state's public records laws by extorting money out of government with frivolous and misleading public records requests.

But opponents say the solution is an overreaction that will "gut" the state's open records laws and permanently cloud its Sunshine Law tradition. They warn that the bill removes the only tool the public has to seek redress when government officials violate the state's public records laws and have offered a compromise that is being rejected.

The House Governmental Operations Appropriations Subcommittee voted 11-1 for the bill on Tuesday, although two Republicans and two Democrats on the committee indicated they would like to see modifications before it reaches a floor vote.

The measure, HB 1021 sponsored by Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and SB 1220, by Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, removes the requirement that judges award attorneys fees when state or local government violates the state's public records law.

"I think this bill really gets at the crux because I don't think people are going to be inhibited from access to public records" or being awarded attorneys fees "if its egregious and the public entity is not acting in good faith,'' Steube told the committee.

He cited the example of the small Palm Beach County Town of Gulfstream, which has received 2500 records requests and 46 lawsuits -- almost all from a single law firm -- requiring it to hire one additional staff member to comply with the law.

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