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June 22, 2015

In Miami for tax-cut tour, Gov. Rick Scott calls state spending plan 'a good budget'


Florida Gov. Rick Scott dropped by the Miami suburb of Doral on Monday to trumpet tax cuts in the budget state lawmakers approved Friday -- even though they're only about half of what he had had asked for in January.

Standing at Sergio's Restaurant, Scott started a chant in English and Spanish -- "Cut my taxes! Cut my taxes! Recorta mis impuestos! Recorta mis impuestos!" -- and held up his iPhone to note the state's communications tax charged on most cell phone and cable TV bills will drop to 4.92 percent from 6.65 percent, saving an average person about $20 a year from a monthly bill of $100.

Asked about getting less from legislators than he sought, Scott still declared himself "excited."

"I'm excited that we got $400 million in tax cuts. I want to thank all the legislators that helped get that done," he said. "We cut taxes every year. Before this year, 40 tax cuts; $400 million this year. I'm not going to complain.... This is a good budget year."

He wouldn't say if the budget has too much spending on lawmakers' pet projects, or go into detail on how he plans to pick which items to veto.

"I'll be going through the budget like I've done every year," he said. "I started working on it this weekend.... The same way I go through it every time, I make sure it's good for all Florida families. I'm going to watch your money. I want to continue to make sure we have tax cuts."

Scott highlighted Sergio's, a local 40-year-old chain, for being owned by a Cuban-American woman, Blanca Gazitúa, who was the first Hispanic woman named to the National Restaurant Association, according to her son Carlos Gazitúa, Sergio's chief executive.

The governor told the story of a former server, Mónica Alarcón, an immigrant and mother pregnant with another child who stood next to him before reporters. She now manages hospitality training over 250 employees.

"Started out as a waitress -- probably 10 years old, very young," Scott joked. "Now she's a big shot.... It's great to watch [someone] build a business."

Jeb Bush's misleading claim about blaming the Dems for 'swift, mindless' military cuts

The size and scope of the U.S. military is already becoming an issue on the presidential campaign trail. During his presidential campaign kickoff speech, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush criticized the Obama administration for leaving the military to wither.

Among the bad decisions being made by "the party now in the White House," Bush said, was "the swift, mindless drawdown of a military that was generations in the making."

We decided to take a closer look at his claim. We’ll break it down into two key questions. Has there been a "swift, mindless drawdown" of the military? And are the Democrats "responsible"?

See what Louis Jacobson of PolitiFact found.

WSJ/NBC poll: It's starting to look like a Jeb Bush-Marco Rubio GOP race


Three-quarters of Republican primary voters across the country say they could see themselves supporting Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio for president, putting them ahead of the rest of the candidate field, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

In March, 49 percent of respondents said they could see themselves voting for Bush, the former Florida governor, and 56 percent for Rubio, a U.S. senator, the poll found. Three months later, those percentages climbed to 75 for Bush and 74 for Rubio. In third place is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, with 65 percent (up from 52 percent in March).

The particularly strong improvement for Bush comes a week after he formally announced his 2016 candidacy. The first primaries are still a long way away, though, and a national poll doesn't capture voters' sentiment in each of the early-voting states.

When asked to pick one candidate they could vote for in the election, 22 percent of respondents chose Bush, 17 percent chose Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and 16 percent chose Rubio. The poll's error margin is 6.38 percentage points.

Quinnipiac poll: Lopez-Cantera trails Murphy, Obama and Scott still in 'job approval hole'

Lieutenant Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has not made it official yet, but a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll says he is already trailing U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy in the 2016 U.S. Senate race.

If a matchup were held today, Lopez-Cantera would be behind by 40 to 28 percent. He is expected to announce on July 15. Also trailing Murphy is U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis: 39 to 31 percent. 

The news is equally grim for Gov. Rick Scott and President Barack Obama. Both remain mired in negative approval ratings in Florida, according to the poll taken June 4-15 of 1,147 Florida voters that has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. Obama's job approval rating in Florida is 43 to 51 percent while Scott's is worse with 39 percent of voters having a favorable view of him and 49 percent who don't.

Here's the press release:

Continue reading "Quinnipiac poll: Lopez-Cantera trails Murphy, Obama and Scott still in 'job approval hole'" »

The shadowboxing match between Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- They can’t bring themselves to say it outright, instead using oblique putdowns, a pair of passive aggressive buddy-rivals on the 2016 presidential campaign trail.

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are at the top of a big field of candidates seeking the Republican nomination. The former Florida governor and the current U.S. senator are largely in line on the issues, so they are plying other avenues to undermine each other.

The back-and-forth is a case study in the subtler art of political combat. It’s also an illustration of how strong Rubio, who has long seen Bush as the standard-bearer for Florida Republicans, has emerged in the contest’s early stages. A new poll shows him at Bush’s heels in Florida, crucial to any Republican’s shot at the White House.

While they dance around the subject, both know their hopes rest on eliminating the other guy — preferably before the March 15 Florida primary, avoiding a costly and personal war.

“I chose to run because, for America, the future is now,” Rubio said in a speech Thursday in Washington. “And if we keep promoting the same leaders, we will be left behind and we will lose the race for the 21st Century.

“There are those seeking the presidency based solely on what they achieved in the past.”

Is he talking about Hillary Clinton? Yes. But Rubio, 44, is also talking about Bush.

He just won’t mention Bush, 62, by name.

More here.

Two Florida agencies, two approaches to climate change

From the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting:

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a steering committee to address climate change. The commission maintains computer modeling programs that show how climate change will affect water and land crucial to wildlife. It holds regular seminars to educate staff on the latest climate science.

On its website, the commission has a “Climate Change 101” page that addresses key challenges the state faces.

Eight miles from the state commission’s Tallahassee headquarters, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which bills itself as the state’s “lead agency for environmental management and stewardship,” states that it is only monitoring sea-level rise. That is its sole effort to address climate change.

As Florida Center for Investigative Reporting first reported, the emphasis on “climate change” within the DEP has declined over the past five years during Gov. Rick Scott’s tenure in office. For instance, a Web page titled “Climate Change and Coral Reefs” hasn’t been updated since Nov. 18, 2011 — the year Scott took office. That was also the year a DEP spokesperson told the Tampa Bay Times that “DEP is not pursuing any programs or projects regarding climate change.”

One likely explanation for the different priorities at the two agencies is that FWC, created by voters in 1999 as an independent commission and run by an autonomous board, does not answer to the governor. The DEP, on the other hand, does report to the governor’s office.

More here.

June 21, 2015

Miami-Dade mayor meeting again with Marcelo Claure on soccer


Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is scheduled for an early-morning meeting Monday with Marcelo Claure, a major investor behind David Beckham's pursuit of a soccer stadium in Miami.

The mayor's public schedule includes the 7:30 a.m. meeting between Gimenez and Claure at the county's Water and Sewer offices near Gimenez's home in the Coral Gables area. No details were available, but the confab comes just a month after Gimenez met Claure, Beckham and others in the soccer star's circle about a potential stadium.

That meeting took place at the University of Miami, as outgoing president Donna Shalala tried to broker a joint football-and-soccer stadium that both Beckham and the university could use. 

At the time, a stadium next to Marlins Park around the old Orange Bowl site was considered the favored location. But the Beckham team has also been scouting privately-owned property in the Overtown area. 

Scott tours state on Monday to tout tax cuts


Florida Gov. Rick Scott is wasting no time celebrating more than $400 million in tax cuts the Florida Legislature gave him last week.

The Republican governor is planning a whirlwind tour of Florida on Monday, hitting seven cities in about 12 hours to hold press conferences to celebrate the tax cut package. It starts in Fort Myers at 8:30 a.m., and hits Miami, Greenacres, St. Petersburg, Winter Garden, Jacksonville and finally Pensacola.

Scott’s Miami event is set for 10:30 a.m. at Sergio’s Restaurant, 1640 NW 87th Ave..

The centerpiece of the tax cut plan is a reduction in the state’s communications tax charged on most cellular phone and cable television services. The 6.65 percent rate will drop to 4.92 percent, saving a consumer $20 a year on a $100 a month bill. While Scott is celebrating the cut, it’s about half of what he had sought from the Legislature in January, when he proposed a $40 a month cut.

Continue reading "Scott tours state on Monday to tout tax cuts" »

2015 session is now on the books; here's the list of what passed and failed

The 2015 legislative session is now in the history books as one of the most contentious in recent memory. With lawmakers completing a $78.7 billion budget on the 19th-day of the 20-day special session on Friday, they managed to finish the budget just 11 days before the deadline. It was also the latest the budget has been completed in 23 years. 

They also left with much unfinished business -- such as how to resolve the dilemma of the uninsured and the unused promise of accepting federal money. That debate will resume in September.

 Here's our list of the high profile bills and how they fared in session 2015 and 2015a.

June 20, 2015

Marco Rubio revels in Miami-Dade GOP homecoming

178 rubio speech 062115 ADD


It was homecoming for Marco Rubio at the Miami-Dade Republican Party on Saturday night, and he relished the chance to kid around with the people who know him best.

“Marco! Marco!” the sold-out crowd cheered as he took the stage.

“My son was saying ‘Polo,’” Rubio joked.

The Florida senator and 2016 presidential candidate headlined the local GOP’s annual Lincoln Day fund-raiser. They booked him a year ago, long before he launched his candidacy. The choice proved prescient: The party sold more tickets than it had since 1989, Chairman Nelson Diaz said.

With the loyalties of Miami Republicans split between Rubio and that other local candidate, no one on stage uttered the words “Jeb Bush.”

Bush, who kicked off his campaign Monday at Miami Dade College, was alluded to several times. But this night was Rubio’s.

“I am not running against any of my fellow Republicans,” Rubio insisted, addressing the news media. “I know they want us to fight. I know they want us to argue. It makes for better articles.”

Continue reading "Marco Rubio revels in Miami-Dade GOP homecoming" »