WASHINGTON -- Sen. Marco Rubio met Monday evening with Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson, whose ties to Vladimir Putin have raised concerns with Rubio and other lawmakers.
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Marco Rubio met Monday evening with Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson, whose ties to Vladimir Putin have raised concerns with Rubio and other lawmakers.
Florida lawmakers have inched closer to renewing a 20-year, multi-million dollar gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida by allowing owners of declining parimutuels to sell their permits to others who want to install slot machines at newer facilities outside of South Florida.
Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, have been actively negotiating with the Tribe and the governor’s office on a new gaming compact after a portion of the current one expired in October 2015, but the state can’t count on the revenue just yet.
Progress is so close the Senate has started starting drafting a bill but then canceled a meeting to hear the plan this week and will hear it later this month when lawmakers return to Tallahassee for pre-session hearings, Galvano told the Herald/Times.
For the first time in years, House leaders appear ready to allow some expansion of slot machines outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties to appease members from industry-heavy districts. But, in return, they are also abiding by House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s wishes to contract gaming that will lead to a net reduction of live, active permits throughout the state.
The idea, said Diaz, is to allow owners of stagnant dog track or jai-alai fronton operations to sell their live gaming permits to others seeking to obtain a slots license, and to “put the dormant permits out of their misery.” More here.
The deadly rampage at the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International airport Friday has prompted the Broward County Commission to hold a closed-door meeting about airport security Tuesday.
The commission will hold the private meeting following the 10 a.m. regular commission meeting at County Hall.
The agenda contains no details such as who will attend the meeting and simply states that the purpose is to "discuss security systems and information related to security systems" at the airport.
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel told the Miami Herald in a text he was unaware of the meeting.
County Attorney Joni Armstrong Coffey said that only Broward County officials and employees will attend.
"Because the statute exempts these meetings entirely from the open meetings requirements, no record is made," she told the Herald in an email. "That is because security sensitive information is confidential and prohibited from disclosure.
Florida law allows for governmental bodies to ban the public and media from meetings under narrow circumstances including to discuss security of public buildings.
The suspected shooter, Esteban Santiago, made his first appearance in federal court Monday. He faces a possible death penalty or life in prison on charges related to fatally shooting five people and injuring six others.
Miami Herald photo by David Santiago
Previously expected to run for state agriculture commissioner in 2018, former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli announced Monday that that campaign isn't in the cards for him.
"After much consideration and prayer, I have decided not to run for Commissioner of Agriculture in 2018," Crisafulli said in a statement shared on social media. "I plan to remain politically active, but after years of travel to fulfill my obligations to the House Republican Conference and as Speaker of the Florida House, there is nothing I want more than to spend time with my wife Kristen and our daughters as they finish out their final years of being at home before going off to college."
Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican, had been a Florida House member since 2008, before finishing his legislative career as House speaker in the 2014-16 term. He left the House due to term limits, and running for agriculture commissioner had long been thought to be his next move. (His official House portrait depicts him standing next to a table with an orange on it.)
"Agriculture is a vital part of my family’s history and of Florida’s history; in order for this state to continue to prosper, agriculture must remain a significant part of our state’s economy," Crisafulli said. "Commissioner (Adam) Putnam has done an outstanding job, and his successor will need an equally deep understanding of the fundamental role agriculture plays in Florida and how to address the challenges facing the industry. I look forward to supporting our next Commissioner of Agriculture, and I have no doubt a capable field of candidates will emerge who will be dedicated to the success of this critical industry.”
Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times
Miami-Dade donor Stephen Bittel released a list of about two dozen endorsements in his race for Florida Democratic Party chair -- including four three members of Congress Monday.
That far outpaces the number of endorsements released Monday by his local rival -- former state Sen. Dwight Bullard -- who announced a handful of endorsements.
Bittel, a major donor to Democratic candidates and a Coconut Grove developer, and Bullard will compete in the state party chair election in Orlando Saturday. The other candidates are activist Alan Clendenin -- from Hillsborough County who moved to Bradford to keep his bid alive -- Duval County's Lisa King and Osceola Democratic party chair Leah Carius.
State committeemen and women who represent large Democratic counties get the most powerful voice in the election because their votes are weighted based on the number of registered Democrats in their counties.
Holding a county party position is a prerequisite to running for state chair. After Bullard lost a state committeeman race to Bittel, he moved to Gadsden County and won a similar position there.
Bittel has been endorsed by three members of Congress who live in Palm Beach County: Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel.
Bittel's list initially included U.S. Rep. Val Demings who represents the Orlando area. After we posted this blog, a spokeswoman for Demings, Caroline Rowland, said Demings did not endorse Bittel or anyone else. Rowland provided a statement from Demings:
“While Mr. Bittel asked for my support, I told him I had not decided and would not decide until I had the opportunity to look at all of the candidates.”
Bittel's team said it was a "cut and paste error."
One key statewide politician is missing from the official endorsement list: U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the only statewide Democrat in Florida. Nelson has stopped short of officially endorsing Bittel but has praised him. Ultimately the votes are public so Nelson will have to make it clear Saturday which candidate he supports.
Also missing on endorsement lists: U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston who appears to be staying quiet about the race this time after stepping down as national party chair in July. In 2013, Wasserman Schultz urged activists to vote for Allison Tant, the eventual winner who isn't seeking the position again. Bittel has fundraised for Wasserman Schultz in the past.
A spokesman for Wasserman Schultz, David Damron, said she isn't commenting on the chair race and will send a proxy to vote for her.
One group that weighed in earlier in the process has since gone quiet: Our Revolution, the political organization formed by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. Our Revolution endorsed Bullard in December for his race in Miami-Dade County but a spokeswoman, Arianna Jones, told the Miami Herald that it is no longer involved in the race for state chair. Jones didn't respond to an email asking why Our Revolution is no longer involved.
Here are the endorsements Bullard and Bittel announced Monday -- all of them get a vote Saturday unless otherwise noted:
Here are Bullard's endorsements:
Here are Bittel's endorsements:
· Chris Reilly, President of Florida College Democrats
· Catherine Michiels, Lee County Committeeman
· Michael Bonacolta, Lee County Committeewoman
· Rhett Bullard, Hamilton County Committeeman
· Shauna Faries Adams, Hamilton County Committeewoman
· Lucy Garner: Charlotte County Committeeman
· Thomas Garner, Charlotte County Committeewoman
· Thomas Byrd, Bay County Committeeman
· Patricia Byrd, Bay County Committeewoman
· Diane Krumel, Escambia County Committeewoman
· David Dew, Martin County Committeeman and Chair of the Small County Coalition of FL
· Brad Culverhouse, St. Lucie County Committeeman
· Cong. Ted Deutch, US Congress
· · Cong. Lois Frankel, US Congress
· Cong. Alcee Hastings, US Congress
· Volusia Councilwoman Joyce Cusack, State Executive Committee
· Joseph Falk, State Executive Committee
· State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, State Executive Committee
· Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner, State Executive Committee
· Rep. Janet Cruz, Florida State House Democratic Leader
· Andy Tobias, State Executive Committee
· Carlos Odio, State Executive Committee
· Miami-Dade Democratic Party (Bittel gets a vote as state committeeman)
· Escambia Democratic Party steering committee (the party itself doesn't get a vote)
Tallahassee Mayor (and potential 2018 gubernatorial candidate) Andrew Gillum said Monday that the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando back in June and Friday's shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport should be wake-up calls for Florida's lawmakers.
As the Legislature prepares to vet several bills in the 2017 session that would expand gun-owners' rights, Gillum is calling for a moratorium on "all gun deregulation bills until we find a solution to protect our communities."
"In light of back-to-back mass shootings in less than a year and the daily pain that gun violence inflicts on our cities, it is clear that attempts to weaken our gun safety laws have failed to keep Floridians safe," Gillum said in a statement provided to the Herald/Times. "No mother or grandmother should fear walking into an airport. No father, son, or daughter should lose their life for meeting those they love for a night out. No parent should lose sleep wondering if a stray bullet will take their baby that day."
"It is time to bring commonsense back to the Capitol by ending the attack on gun safety and passing reform measures that protect our families from harm," Gillum added. "Our prayers for the victims and their families should be matched by our vigorous actions to keep families safe from repeated incidents of gun violence."
Florida's Republican-led Legislature is unlikely to heed the call from Gillum and other gun-control advocates. Many members of legislative leadership are strident supporters of Second Amendment rights.
In the wake of Friday's shooting in Fort Lauderdale, two conservative Republican lawmakers -- Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia -- who had previously been proposing to lift the ban on concealed weapons in airport terminals doubled down on their proposal.
While their bills would not have prevented Esteban Santiago from killing five people and wounding six others, they argue that allowing Florida's 1.7 million concealed weapons permit-holders to carry in airport terminals could have, perhaps, given bystanders a chance to defend themselves.
Legislative committees begin meeting this week to start vetting bills filed for the upcoming 2017 session, which begins in March. Gun legislation is not scheduled to be heard this week.
Gillum's name is among a handful of Democrats who are said to be considering a run for governor next year. He's been outspoken lately against the gun lobby, including the NRA. The First District Court of Appeals is hearing oral arguments on Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by gun rights groups, who sued Gillum and other Tallahassee officials after they failed in 2014 to repeal a ban on guns in a city park.
Photo credit: City of Tallahassee
As Florida lawmakers prepare to grapple again — for the third year in a row — with whether to allow concealed guns on public college and university campuses, another state has recent experience with this polarizing debate.
Conservative lawmakers in Texas also took several years before ultimately approving guns on their state’s campuses two years ago. They, too, faced resistance from many university presidents and attracted both praise and outrage from residents, as Florida lawmakers are starting to experience again this year.
Texas’ law took effect only five months ago on Aug. 1, making the state the eighth — and most recent — to allow concealed guns on public higher ed campuses. Twenty-three other states leave the policy up to individual colleges and universities, while 19 states, including Florida, have essentially a full ban.
When Texas’ law was implemented this summer, “the reaction was varied,” said David Daniel, deputy chancellor of the University of Texas System, which has 14 institutions including U-T Dallas where Daniel was president until 2015.
“On some campuses, there was a very high level of angst, tension and it was a distraction from the core work of the university,” Daniel said, whereas in “a small area with predominantly ranching communities where people are comfortable carrying firearms in a routine manner, it could be not a big deal.”
Texas has around 40 public universities, while Florida has 12. Florida has more active concealed weapons permits: 1.7 million compared to Texas’ nearly 1.2 million, as of Dec. 31.
After five months under the law, “we have been fortunate that there hasn’t been any major issues that have ratcheted up the level of concern,” said Chris Meyer, associate vice president for safety and security at Texas A&M University. “Campus has relaxed from the very tense state it was in. We’re much closer to being back to normal.”
Photo credit: University of Texas at Austin anthropology professor Pauline Strong posts a sign prohibiting guns at her office on the first day of the new campus-carry law Monday, Aug. 1, 2016. Jay Janner / AP
Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera on Monday endorsed Blaise Ingoglia's reelection bid as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, taking sides with the man who four years ago defeated Gov. Rick Scott's pick to head the state GOP.
"During the last three years I have traveled tens of thousands of miles across our wonderful state and have had the pleasure of spending time with so many dedicated members of our party," Lopez-Cantera said in a statement that also noted Florida Republicans' success in the November election.
"More times and in more counties than I can remember, our chairman Blaise Ingoglia was there too. As a former State Committeeman for Miami-Dade I can't tell you how much I appreciate a chairman who travels the state spending time at local REC events all the while seeking input on building up our local parties, meeting with our grassroots leaders and then putting those ideas into action."
In a statement of his own, Ingoglia thanked Lopez-Cantera: "We are blessed to have him as a member of our Republican Party and I am grateful for his support and friendship."
Scott has stayed out of the RPOF race among Ingoglia, an Hernando County state representative; Sarasota Republican Christian Ziegler and Lafayette County Alan Levy.
In 2013, Ingoglia ousted then-Chairwoman Leslie Dougher, Scott's pick to remain in the job. The relationship between the RPOF and Scott has never mended; the governor is hosting his own ball during President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration, an event usually organized by the state party.
But Ingoglia has secured endorsements from big-name Republicans across the state, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and a group of members of Congress. Lopez-Cantera also broke with Scott when he endorsed and campaigned for Rubio during the Republican Senate primary last summer -- and was sidelined by the governor's office as a result.
The party election will take place Saturday in Orlando.
Two conservative Republican lawmakers who want to lift Florida’s ban on concealed weapons in airport terminals say Friday’s shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport strengthens the need for their proposal.
Weeks before Esteban Santiago opened fire on Friday in a baggage-claim area, killing five people and injuring six others, state Sen. Greg Steube and state Rep. Jake Raburn had filed bills in the Florida Legislature that would allow the 1.7 million people with concealed weapons permits in the state to carry their guns in airport passenger terminals.
Raburn, R-Lithia, said Saturday that the proposal wasn’t inspired by any particular incident but is a matter of allowing “lawfully abiding citizens” to protect themselves, even if it’s simply while picking up loved ones from the airport.
Raburn told the Herald/Times “it’s hard to say” if his bill, if in place now, would have made a difference on Friday. He said 44 states already allow guns in airport terminals.
“There’s always the potential — if it were allowed and there were someone in that area that had a concealed weapon — that it could have gone differently,” Raburn said. “I’m not going to say that it would have, because my understanding is we’re talking about a span of time that’s less than a minute. It may not have changed anything.”
On Nov. 7, Esteban Santiago parked at an FBI office in Anchorage, Alaska — leaving his newborn son and his gun in the car — and told agents the CIA was trying to control his mind, pushing him to watch Islamic State terrorist videos.
The feds called local police, who took Santiago into custody and sent him to get a psychiatric evaluation. Santiago’s girlfriend picked up the baby. The cops took the gun — and a loaded magazine Santiago carried on him.
He got the gun back 31 days later. Twenty-nine days after that, one-way plane ticket in hand, Santiago hopped on a flight that brought him to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. He picked up a Walther 9mm gun he’d checked in as luggage, loaded it in a men’s room stall, and shot 11 people, five of them to death.
Santiago “shot the first people he encountered,” he told investigators who interrogated him. He emptied the two magazines, firing 10-15 bullets, “aiming at his victims’ heads.”
On Saturday, Miami U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer charged Santiago, 26, with committing an act of violence in an airport, using a firearm to commit the crime, and causing the death of a person — three federal offenses punishable by death. His first federal court appearance was set for 11 a.m. Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia O. Valle.