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April 17, 2015

PolitiFact looks at Marco Rubio's record on federal marriage amendment

Sen. Marco Rubio’s fledging 2016 campaign got a lesson in presidential politics when he drew fire for potentially contradicting himself on whether he had ever supported a nationwide ban on gay marriage.

"I’ve never supported a federal constitutional amendment on marriage," Rubio told MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt during an April 11 interview.

But in an article on its website, the network pointed to a 2010 voter guide from the Christian Coalition that asked Rubio and his opponents Charlie Crist and Kendrick Meek their stance on several issues. Next to the topic "Federal Marriage Amendment to prevent same sex marriage," Rubio’s position is listed as "Supports."

What set PolitiFact’s bells ringing is that the voter guide is the only place we can find where Rubio apparently said he supported an amendment to the country’s constitution banning same-sex unions. That’s going to keep the statement off our Truth-O-Meter, because we don’t want to weigh in here when we can’t definitively confirm or debunk the position.

The Christian Coalition, which didn’t return our phone call or email, told MSNBC it stood by its voter guide. A spokeswoman said the guide was compiled from a survey Rubio filled out in 2010. The guide was then checked against candidates’ past statements and votes ( did the same thing, for example, because Rubio would not answer the question about same-sex marriage directly). The group told the network they couldn’t find the survey without looking through their archives.

Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the rest of this article.

Commission approves $58K in fines for former state representative David Rivera

Without any debate, members of the state ethics commission on Friday agreed that former U.S. Rep. David Rivera should pay $57,821.96 for improperly accepting state money for travel when he served as a state representative.

It will now be up to the Florida House to decide whether to penalize its former member.

Rivera, who was in Tallahassee Friday but did not attend the ethics hearing, declined to comment on the final order from the ethics commission. But his attorney Leonard Collins called it "expected," and said he planned to appeal to the First District Court of Appeal.

"This is a really unfortunate case," Collins said, raising a host of concerns about how the ethics commission handled Rivera's case.

More here.

'It is what it is,' Jeb Bush says of Marco Rubio's candidacy

Bush Friday


MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Jeb Bush isn't thrilled that Marco Rubio is running for president.

"It is what it is," Bush said Friday in New Hampshire, after scrunching up his face at a reporter's question about Rubio's campaign launch earlier this week.

Bush, the former Florida governor, called Rubio, the former Florida House speaker, a "good, close friend." But his answer made it clear that it pains Bush somewhat that he's being asked about what a reporter referred to as betrayal from his onetime protégé.

Rubio, the insurgent candidate among the Florida Republican establishment, said Monday at Miami's Freedom Tower that some people think he "should step aside and wait my turn."

"But I cannot," he insisted. (Bush said Thursday he hadn't watched Rubio's speech.)

In a series of news interviews later, Rubio suggested his friendship with Bush would remain untouched. "We'll remain friends throughout this process," he told The Today Show.

But Bush's tone Friday was more measured, and perhaps more realistic.

"We'll all sort out -- look, this is -- I'm not a candidate," Bush said. "And if I am a candidate, this is a long journey. And one of my objectives would be to maintain the friendships I have with the people that may be asipiring to the same thing. I think it's possible."

Could a Marco Rubio/Jeb Bush ticket happen?

The links between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have some talking about a Bush/Rubio ticket in 2016. But is it even possible?

The day after Rubio announced he was running for president, liberal MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell was already looking ahead to what happens if Rubio’s campaign falls short.

"Marco Rubio looks like one of the best possible vice presidential candidates in the Republican field," O’Donnell said on his show on April 14, 2015. "But the one person who can’t choose him is Jeb Bush, because the president and vice president can't be from the same state."

While we're still waiting for Bush to make his candidacy official, O'Donnell's claim that "the president and vice president can't be from the same state," got our heads spinning. If correct, that would rule out a Florida ticket of Bush/Rubio, or a Texas ticket of Rick Perry and Ted Cruz for that matter, or any combination that includes Bush, Rubio and two other Florida residents and possible contenders -- Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee.

So is it true?

See what Jon Greenberg of PunditFact found and here is PolitiFact's full Truth-O-Meter file for Bush and Rubio

April 16, 2015

Jeb Bush treats himself in New Hampshire


CONCORD, N.H. -- He's said no to pizza. He's turned down barbecue sauce. But Jeb Bush couldn't resist a slice of blueberry pie Thursday.

He couldn't, really, not at an event titled "Politics and Pie" where he had shown up with two key lime pies from Joe's Stone Crab in Miami Beach to contribute to the spread.

So Bush, whose paleo diet (and personal trainer) have become famous for helping him slim down remarkably, broke the rules and dug in. He hadn't had pie since December, he said, and added that key lime is his favorite but he would "save that for the people of New Hampshire."

Then he went for the blueberry.

"To hell with the diet!" Bush proclaimed before a throng of cameras trained on his first bite.

"Slow news day," he added.

Bush pie

Jeb Bush: Feds, Tallahassee should 'try to forge a compromise' on Medicaid expansion, hospital funding

Politics and Pie


CONCORD, N.H. -- He's been traversing the country building the foundations a juggernaut 2016 presidential campaign, but former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush still keeps an eye on Tallahassee.

Bush commiserated with Republican voters -- and enjoyed a piece of blueberry pie, breaking his ongoing paleo diet -- Thursday evening at a clubhouse on the outskirts of New Hampshire's state capital. Then he took questions from reporters, including one about what how the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott might overcome a stalemate over funding hospital charity care and expanding Medicaid. 

The standoff has effectively halted the annual lawmaking session, with no state budget deal in sight. Scott said Thursday he intends to sue the Obama administration over its threat to withhold federal funds for hospitals that treat the poor.

Bush hadn't heard of the yet-to-be-filed lawsuit, but suggested all sides sit down and find a solution.

"The feds and the executive branch and representatives from the House and Senate ought to get together and try to forge a compromise," he said. 

But would such a compromise involve expanding Medicaid, as proposed under the Affordable Care Act and rejected by the GOP-controlled Florida government in the past?

"I don't know," Bush said. "That's their job, frankly. Expanding Medicaid without reforming it is not going to solve our problems over the long run." Bush's spokeswoman told the Miami Herald on Friday that he opposes Medicaid expansion.

On Thursday, Bush touted reforms begun while he was governor that turned over control of Florida's Medicaid program to managed-care companies. He told voters gathered for a "Politics and Pie" event that the federal government should allow states to innovate on Medicaid to better fit their needs.

"We need to reform Medicaid, and there's a plan to do that in Florida that's a pretty good one, so if it was part of that, and there are trade-offs and all that stuff -- that's how you get past an impasse," he later told reporters.

This post has been updated to include Bush's spokeswoman.

Three guards plead guilty in federal court to abusing inmates


Three of the “Chipley Five,’’ a group of corrections officers accused of beating and kicking a handcuffed inmate at the Northwest Florida Reception Center in Chipley, have pleaded guilty to civil rights violations, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

Former state prison guards William Finch, 35, of Wauseau, and Dalton E. Riley, 24, of Bethlehem, pleaded guilty Thursday before a federal judge in Panama City. A third ex-officer, Robert L. Miller, 48, of Lynn Haven, pleaded guilty on April 1.

The three admitted that they beat inmate Jeremiah Tatum, then tried to cover it up. According to the state attorney, Finch falsified reports by stating they attacked Tatum because he had spit on one of the officers.

Two other officers, James Perkins and Christopher Christmas, also face federal charges in connection with the Aug. 5 beating, which was allegedly planned in advance as retaliation against Tatum.

A captain, James Kirkland, allegedly orchestrated the assault after Tatum tried to block the chemical agents sprayed on him and, as a result, some of the gas dispersed onto Kirkland and another corrections officer, according to court documents.

More here.

GOP infighting and the partial-blind selection of leaders eight years out

Eric EisnaugleImagine electing one of the three most powerful people in the state based on a resume, a handshake and promise.

There’s no audition for the job. You don’t get a chance to see how the prospective leader performs under stress, how he resolves conflicts, or even how he feels about many issues. But you do know his political pedigree and which lobbyists and fundraisers back him.

That’s how Florida legislators designate their House speaker – six years before they take the official vote. It’s a precarious way to run a democracy and that’s part of the reason why Rep. Eric Eisnaugle and Rep. Blaise Ingoglia are scrambling for cover this week.

Eisnaugle, an Orlando Republican, had reportedly sewn up pledges from 17 of the 19 House freshmen to become their speaker designee for 2020-2022 term -- until this week, when word got out that he’s being targeted in an attempted coup.

Rumor is that as many as six of the 19 freshmen have withdrawn their support from Eisnaugle, allegedly leaving him only 11 supporters. The suspected culprit: Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, who was also elected Republican Party of Florida chairman in January.

Ingoglia told the Orlando Sentinel this week that he is not putting his name forth as a rival to Eisnaugle and denied rumors, first reported in the SaintPetersblog, that other freshmen Republicans supporting Eisnaugle, who live in potentially vulnerable districts, may not get party support in 2016.

But former RPOF chair Leslie Dougher called Ingoglia out in a widely-circulated letter last weekend and that was followed by a blistering scold from Orange County Republican Chairman Lew Oliver.

Continue reading "GOP infighting and the partial-blind selection of leaders eight years out" »

Jackson employees push for Medicaid expansion

Jackson1Several dozen nurses, doctors and healthcare professionals from Jackson Health System made the case for Medicaid expansion Thursday in a creative way.

They said it with shoes.

A few weeks ago, powerful House Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran characterized the forces pushing for health care expansion as "Gucci-loafing, shoe-wearing special interests." The remark inspired Democratic Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez to file a tongue-in-cheek proposal to tax Gucci shoes sold to lobbyists. 

On Thursday, the team from Jackson lugged a bag of well-worn tennis shoes to the Capitol to show what they wear to work.

"We don't exactly wear Gucci loaders and we are trying to save lives every day," said Martha Baker, a Jackson Health System nurse and president of SEIU Local 1991. "We want Medicaid expansion."

They used colorful flip flops to make their next point: that Gov. Rick Scott should again reverse his position and support Medicaid expansion

"We need you to flip back," Baker said.

With time running out in the 60-day legislative session, the House and the Senate remain gridlocked over the issue.


Legislative leaders agree 'in concept' on prison reform deal

A panel of legislators would be empowered to investigate and subpoena staff at the Department of Corrections in an effort to provide aggressive oversight and demand reform at the troubled agency, under a compromise prison reform plan being floated by top negotiators for the House and Senate.

The tentative deal was hatched Thursday between Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, and Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, as they huddled together in the House chamber during the morning legislative session.

The proposal would replace a provision in the Senate’s prison reform bill, SB 7020, to create a nine-member independent oversight commission approved by the governor, Evers said.

The compromise would create a legislative select committee with at least four investigators. It would have the power to subpoena staff, monitor inmate and staff grievances, investigate complaints, take public testimony, meet regularly and monitor DOC’s ability to follow performance standards.

“It’s everything the commission would be but made up of House and Senate members,’’ said Evers, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee who spearheaded the call for prison reform. SB 7020 has passed the Senate and is awaiting approval in the House. "We have an agreement in concept but it's a far cry from where we were six months ago when no one was even talking about this, and nobody would have even considered an oversight board." 

The compromise still must get conceptual approval from House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, and Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and then be approved by the full House and Senate.  

Continue reading "Legislative leaders agree 'in concept' on prison reform deal " »