February 17, 2015

'That's not leadership,' Jeb Bush says of Obama's executive action on immigration


Jeb Bush took to Facebook Tuesday to criticize President Obama's executive action on immigration last year, following the ruling by a federal judge in Texas late Monday temporarily blocking Obama's move.

"Last year, the president overstepped his executive authority and, in turn, hurt the effort toward a commonsense immigration solution," Bush wrote. "That's not leadership. The millions of families affected across the country deserve better.

"Now, more than ever, we need President Obama to work with Congress to secure the border and fix our broken immigration system."

Bush's support of an immigration overhaul -- he co-authored a book about it, Immigration Wars -- doesn't sit well with some of the GOP's conservative grassroots. By calling out Obama for the way he has gone about letting millions of immigrants in the country illegally stay, Bush has found a way to oppose the president, at least when it comes to process.

Proponents of immigration reform have noted that Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush, allowed 1.5 million unauthorized immigrants to stay in the U.S. with a 1990 executive action. That's far fewer than the nearly 5 million people affected by Obama's latest action.

Obama first allowed immigrants brought illegally as children to remain in the country. That original policy, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was unaffected by Monday's ruling in Texas. 

But Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement Tuesday that the department won't begin to accept DACA extensions tomorrow, as planned, and won't be accepting applications for the new policy, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, known as DAPA. 

The Justice Department plans to appeal the Texas decision, which resulted from a lawsuit filed by a coalition of 26 states, including Florida.

Nancy Pelosi leads congressional delegation to Cuba


A group of Democratic members of Congress, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, is scheduled to arrive Tuesday in Cuba as part of the first formal U.S. House of Representatives trip since President Obama moved toward closer diplomatic ties with the island's communist regime.

The group will meet with "Cuban government officials, Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, local community leaders and representatives, and American officials at the U.S. interests section," according to a news release from Pelosi's office. It's unclear whether the local community leaders and representatives will include any dissidents.

"This delegation travels to Cuba in friendship and to build upon the announcement of U.S. normalization of relations and other initiatives announced by President Obama," Pelosi said in a statement. "This delegation will work to advance the U.S.-Cuba relationship and build on the work done by many in the Congress over the years, especially with respect to agriculture and trade."

None of the representatives on the trip are from Florida.

In addition to Pelosi, they are: Reps. Eliot Engel, Steve Israel and Nydia Velázquez of New York; Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Rep. Anna Eshoo of California, Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, and Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island.

Three Democratic senators -- Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Mark Warner of Virginia -- wrapped up a four-day visit to Cuba on Tuesday.

Miami Beach mayor hires new chief of staff


Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has tapped an experienced Florida lobbyist and public policy advisor to be his next chief of staff.

Fátima Perez, who starts Feb. 23, has worked in Florida governmental affairs for more than 15 years. She worked as a senior advisor to former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and as a senior legislative aide in the both chambers of the Florida Legislature. She's also worked in corporate communications for BellSouth/AT&T, Inc., as a lobbyist with law firm Akerman Senterfitt and, more recently, with Southern Strategy Group.

Levine made the announcement in an email Tuesday morning.

"I am confident Fátima's work ethic and professional experience will be an asset to our office and our city," he wrote.

The move comes after his current chief of staff, Alex Miranda, decided to go to Tallahassee to work for the Republican Party of Florida.

Miranda, who managed Levine's mayoral campaign in 2013, also wants to return to pursuing a law degree at Florida State University.

On Tuesday, he told the Miami Herald he'd been thinking about making the move for a while. 

"It was always something that was in the back of my mind,” he said."I put law school on hold about a year and a half ago. Then the right opportunity came up to work in Tallahassee."

Miranda said he'll be working on Republican Florida House campaigns until December 2016. His last day in Miami Beach is Feb. 27, and he said he feels "truly blessed" to have worked for Levine.

Levine thanked Miranda in his statement.

"I want to thank Alex for all his dedication and commitment to the City of Miami Beach and wish him the very best in all his future endeavors," he wrote.

February 16, 2015

Rep. Jones proposes privacy fix for police body camera bill

The sponsor of a bill regulating police body cameras is addressing concerns about officer privacy raised by police unions and associations.

In language being announced later this afternoon, Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, is responding to one key question posed by the Florida Police Benevolent Association: When should body cameras be turned on?

His answer, per amended bill language, is simple: during “law enforcement-related encounters and activities.”

Continue reading "Rep. Jones proposes privacy fix for police body camera bill" »

Amended 'Sunshine' suit filed against Scott, Cabinet

A broad coalition of Florida news organizations and First Amendment advocates filed an amended lawsuit Monday against Gov. Rick Scott and three elected Cabinet members, accusing all four officials of violating the open meetings law in the forced dismissal of FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey.

The revised lawsuit lists most of the state's major media outlets, including the Tampa Bay Times. The Miami Herald was previously listed as a plaintiff, as were The Associated Press, Gannett, Gatehouse Media, Morris Communications, Orlando Sentinel Communications, Palm Beach Newspapers, Scripps Media and the Sun-Sentinel Company. Plaintiffs also include St. Petersburg lawyer Matthew Weidner; Citizens for Sunshine, a non-profit advocacy group; the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and the Florida Society of News Editors.

Sarasota attorney Andrea Flynn Mogensen wrote in an introduction to the complaint: "This action seeks a declaration that the governor and members of the Florida Cabinet, acting in their capacity as head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), are subject to the Sunshine Law when aides seek to act for and exchange information among defendants as to decisions about hiring and firing the head of FDLE. Plaintiffs allege that defendants violated the Sunshine Law by using conduits to engage in polling, discussions, communications and other exchanges regarding the decision to force the resignation of the FDLE commissioner and appoint a replacement without any notice to the public, without any opportunity for the public to attend, and without any minutes being taken. Because the governor appears to justify this conduct by claiming it is part of a longstanding convention and tradition, plaintiffs also seek injunctive relief."

The lawsuit follows a series of reports by the Times/Herald about the circumstances of Bailey's forced ouster after a highly regarded three-decade career at FDLE, including eight years as commissioner. Bailey contends that Scott's former general counsel, Pete Antonacci, came to his office on Dec. 16 and told him he was to retire or resign by 3 p.m. that day, and that he was acting with the concurrence of all three Cabinet members. Scott and the Cabinet never publicly discussed removing and replacing Bailey. The change was made public in a Dec. 16 news release by Scott's office announcing his appointment of Rick Swearingen as interim commissioner. The four officials voted to confirm Swearingen as commissioner on Jan. 13.

The lawsuit asks Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds to declare that the Sunshine Law was violated, to issue a permanent injunction to prevent Scott and Cabinet members from engaging in future conversations about agency appointments outside of an official meeting, and to pay plaintiffs  legal fees and costs.




Stoking talk of presidential run, Marco Rubio in Iowa calls U.S. foreign policy a 'disaster'

via @learyreports

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- If Heaven Shaffer wasn't so exuberant, you'd think she was part of a script designed to sweeten the image of Sen. Marco Rubio, who came here Friday to sign books and stoke talk he's running for president.

Shaffer, 22, a Republican and a Walmart clerk, arrived over an hour early and was first in line, clutching Rubio's book, American Dreams. When the Florida Republican showed up just after noon, she lurched forward and told him he'd make a good president.

"Oh, thank you!" Rubio replied.

For an hour and a half under the watch of a gaggle of TV and newspaper reporters, Rubio signed books, soaked up encouragement, made small talk — "Today's Friday the 13th? So far, so good. . . . Visit Florida, I promise you it won't snow" — and coolly stood his ground when confronted by an immigration activist.

He left little doubt he intends to move forward with a run and will stake a claim in Iowa, which holds the first nominating contest on Feb. 1, 2016. The "if" in the following seems a formality: "If I run for president," Rubio told one man, "I'm sure I'll be back quite a bit."

More here.

February 15, 2015

Jeb Bush has kept his distance from Iowa, where the voter landscape looks hostile

via @learyreports

BOONE, Iowa — Mark Doss wants to ask Jeb Bush a question. "Why do you say you're willing to lose the primary to win the general election?"

Bush said those words two months ago in Washington, a place that seems a million miles from this country town about an hour northwest of Des Moines. But to Doss, an Evangelical church administrator, it was personal, almost "vindictive."

"It felt like he's saying, 'I don't care about you.' I was a bit turned off."

As Bush prepares to formally enter the race for president, there is a glaring disconnect between his ravenous fundraising and support among the Republican elite, and the reception from everyday voters like Doss, 57.

"A lot of people don't like him or have reservations," said Doss, who joined his wife on a 14-degree afternoon at Dutch Oven Bakery, a cozy spot filled with the smells of coffee and fresh doughnuts. "He has embraced Common Core, immigration and represents the establishment. It's a serious problem."

"But it can be overcome," Doss added. "He needs to make his case clearly and reaffirm all the other things conservatives are looking for — a balanced budget, strong military."

More here.

'It might be good for them to go visit Cuba,' Rand Paul says in Sarasota of Cuba hard liners

via @adamsmithtimes

SARASOTA -- Conventional wisdom has it that Florida is Jeb Bush country in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio enjoys lots of conservative Sunshine State love as well.

But that didn’t stop Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul from courting Republicans in Bush/Rubio home turf this weekend. At a Valentine’s evening airport rally Saturday night he found plenty of Republicans receptive to his message.

“I like Jeb Bush. I’ve voted for him,” said Republican business broker Dale Tindall. “But whether it’s the Bushes or the Kennedys, or the Clintons, enough is enough.”

That sentiment was repeated over and over again in random interviews among the several hundred people gathered Saturday to see Paul, who told the Tampa Bay Times he is not intimidated by his rivals’ Florida advantage or by Bush’s expected overwhelming fundraising advantage.

“Most of the grass-roots of our party believes that we should have less centralization of education in Washington. Most of the people I meet are opposed to Common Core, as I am,” Paul, 52, said of the education standards championed by Bush and adopted by Florida and most other states. “I just think it’s going to be difficult (for Bush) to win over grass-roots conservatives.”

More here.

NY TIMES: As Dynasty’s Son, Jeb Bush Used His Connections Freely

From the New York Times' Steve Eder and Michael Barbaro:

For the 12 years that his father held national elective office, Mr. [Jeb] Bush used his unique access to the highest reaches of government to seek favors for Republican allies, push his views and burnish his political profile in his home state, a review of presidential library records shows. In the process, Mr. Bush carefully constructed an elaborate and enduring network of relationships in Florida that helped lead to his election as governor in 1998 and, now, to his place as a top contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

Here's link to full story

February 14, 2015

FDLE chief: I'm not 'the governor's boy'

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen on Friday broke his silence on a crisis that has rocked his agency, bristling at perceptions that he was hired as "the governor's boy."

Speaking publicly for the first time, Swearingen said he was "shocked" that his predecessor and mentor, Gerald Bailey, was driven from office by Gov. Rick Scott after nearly three decades. Swearingen said it was unfair to suggest he was placed as FDLE commissioner to do the governor's bidding and it reflects an ignorance of the agency's mission.

In an interview Friday at his office near the state Capitol, Swearingen told the Times/Herald he won't compromise his integrity or FDLE's independence.

"If I'm asked to do anything illegal, unethical or immoral, I can walk away tomorrow," he said. "I wouldn't do anything to bring discredit on this agency."

Read Steve Bousquet's interview.