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June 20, 2015

With national HQ in Miami, Jeb Bush says Florida HQ will be in Tampa

via @learyreports

Jeb Bush told an ecstatic crowd in Tampa tonight that his state campaign headquarters would be in Tampa.

Miami will remain the national headquarters.

"I know we can fix the problems in Washington, D.C. because we did it here," Bush said. 

This is the second straight presidential election cycle in which Tampa will feature prominently in the Republican party's strategy. In 2012, the city hosted the Republican National Convention.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

June 19, 2015

Disney donated to Gov. Rick Scott's PAC on GOP summit day

via @JeremySWallace

Florida Gov. Rick Scott's presidential candidates summit earlier this month in Orlando happened in large part thanks to Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts.

New campaign finance records show Disney donated nearly a quarter million to Scott's Let's Get to Work political fundraising committee on June 2, the same day the Republican governor held an Economic Growth Summit held at a Disney hotel that drew some of the top GOP candidates for 2016.

Let's Get to Work reported collecting $252,503.34 from the Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts. It's the single largest donation to Scott's political committee this year from a donor, not counting the Republican Party of Florida, which transferred $500,000 to the governor in January.

On its website, Let's Get to Work said the money was for "travel, food and beverages."

Seven Republican presidential hopefuls spoke at Scott's Economic Growth Summit, where he touted the state's improving economy since he took office in 2011.

--JEREMY S. WALLACE, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

'People of faith must come together,' Jeb Bush says after Charleston shooting

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Jeb Bush made the case for a strong faith element in government during a speech before Christian conservatives this morning, recounting his actions as governor and vowing to make the U.S. a defender of religious freedom around the globe.

"I stood on the side of Terri Schiavo and her parents,” Bush said, recalling his controversial role in the end-of-life case that drew worldwide attention.

"How strange in our time today to hear our faith and our moral traditions spoken as some kind of backwards or oppressive force. When in fact, it is really the moral foundation of our country," Bush said to applause before the Faith & Freedom Coalition gathering.

Bush said as Florida governor he protected the "most vulnerable," including abused mothers and people with developmental disabilities. He said he was “shocked” at the "total lack of regulation" on abortion clinics in Florida and pushed for more oversight. "I signed into law a partial-birth abortion ban."

"We can shut down government if we all acted on our sense of consciousness about helping others," he said. "If we restore that front and center as the guiding principle of what it is to be a successful person, the demands on government would subside. We'd all be conservatives, which should be the objective."

He declared that religious freedoms are “under attack” and vowed not to hide his faith if elected.

“We should not push aside those who believe in traditional marriage,” Bush said to more applause.

Bush, who launched his presidential campaign on Monday, began the speech with a remembrance of the victims in the Charleston church shooting. He was to campaign in the city on Thursday but canceled.

“I don't know what was on the mind or heart of the man who committed these atrocious crimes, but I do know what was in the heart of the victims. They were meeting in brotherhood and sisterhood in that church ... they were praying, they were learning and studying the word of the Lord.

"In times of great national mourning, people of faith, all of us, must come together and at least reflect on this and fortify our strength, love Christ, love of God, to be able to continue to go forth. This has had a big impact on me."

--ALEX LEARY

Miami mayor offers to pay for roving downtown toilets

via @NewsBySmiley

Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado wants downtown business owners to know that, for him, fecal matters.

And so, amid calls to bring souped-up porta-potties to the area to rid the streets of human waste, Regalado says he’s willing to use some extra office cash to pay for a roughly $500,000, six-month test run.

“I really feel that I owe it to downtown Miami,” said Regalado. “It’s an economic engine of the city.”

Downtown business owners and the city’s tax-funded Downtown Development Authority have been calling for additional public restrooms for about a month, going back to when local businessman Jose Goyanes noted news reports about San Francisco using a portable “Pit Stop” program to reduce instances of public urination and defecation.

The issue became a mini public-relations fiasco for downtown after the DDA demanded that the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust pay for the toilets. After being rebuffed by Ron Book, the chairman of the tax-funded Trust, Goyanes made a YouTube compilation of human waste and then produced a map showing all the locations where feces and urine were discovered one morning around downtown.

More here.

Marco Rubio calls off two Sarasota events

via @learyreports

Marco Rubio was supposed to be in Sarasota Friday for an event but will fundraise in Washington instead, the second of two events he canceled in the city.

Rubio had been scheduled for a fundraiser there Thursday night, “but his local supporters had trouble lining up enough high-dollar donors to make the visit worthwhile for the candidate,” according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. An organizer said: “Everyone I spoke to said 'I love Rubio, I love what he stands for and he would make an excellent president."

That cancellation seemed to trigger Rubio pulling out another gathering with supporters on Friday. On Tuesday, Harry Walia, Rubio’s county chair, sent an email that said Rubio couldn’t make it. (Walia’s name was on the fundraiser invite.)

“The campaign trails took our candidate too far from our county and his schedule will not allow him to attend the event on June 19, 2015,” the note said, without mentioning where Rubio had gone instead. “One thing for sure, Marco will be visiting Sarasota but at a different date.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Legislators use $79 billion budget to choose winners -- and losers

When the sun shone on the legislative budget agreement completed an hour before midnight Monday, the examples of who-you-know politics came to light — millions of dollars in pet projects for legislative leaders and well-connected lobbyists.

But often faring worse were those projects that didn’t have a high-profile voice — those with waiting lists of services for the adult disabled, the elderly and even public safety.

Lauren’s Kids, the program to aid victims of sexual abuse founded by the daughter of super-lobbyist Ron Book of Miami, was funded for another year for $3.8 million. But the budget for high-risk probation officers who supervise sex offenders when they return to the community saw little change. Hundreds of officers will continue to have caseloads of violent offenders that exceed the 40-person maximum allowed by state law.

An online education program for prison inmates pushed by a well-connected lobbyist and former Republican Party staff member was funded for $1.5 million. But a public television program that allowed hundreds of teachers to access free instructional videos for their students to prepare for state tests was zeroed out.

Lawmakers included $12 million for a priority of Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, to help families of children with disabilities pay for educational services, but they also cut millions in funding for services for 20,000 disabled adults.

On Friday, Florida legislators are poised to pass the $79 billion state budget by the June 30 deadline and end the bitter impasse that threw them into special session — at a cost to taxpayers of an extra $1.5 million this year. It’s a must-pass document and no changes will be allowed.

More here.

June 18, 2015

Rubio at faith conference pushes family, education themes

@CAdamsMcClatchy

Rubio061815
Marco Rubio speaks Thursday at Faith and Freedom gathering (Photo: Chris Adams)

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio told a gathering of evangelical Christian activists in Washington that he would work to transform the U.S. economy and tax system – as well as make the government more aware of the core values needed to make the nation strong.

“You cannot have a strong country without strong people,” the Florida Republican on Thursday told the event, which was organized by the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “You cannot have strong people without strong families. And you cannot have strong families with a government that strong-arms parents and our faith.”

The event was a must-stop among contenders for the GOP presidential nomination. Rubio is one of a dozen declared candidates, with several more waiting in the wings to determine if they’ll jump in as well. Rubio was warmly received by the crowd, although political experts say that other candidates have a deeper well of support among the party's evangelical base, which is vital in early states in the presidential nominating process.

His speech was a standard recitation of his life story and his goals if he were to be president. It’s a tale that starts with his parents coming to the U.S. from Cuba and ends with Rubio’s views on a muscular foreign policy and a need to get the government off the backs of businesses, taxpayers and families.

He emphasized the role of his family, led by his parents’ constant work to help build a better life for their children. On the campaign trail, he said, “I will see something that reminds me of my parents. Today it’s easy – I’m in a hotel banquet room, which is what my father did for many years as a bartender. … It’s a reminder to me and hopefully to our audience that so much of what I’ve been able to do in this life -- the opportunities that I’ve had -- has been directly the result of the experience that they felt in this country.”

Continue reading "Rubio at faith conference pushes family, education themes" »

Immigration activists interrupt Marco Rubio speech

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Immigration activists interrupted Marco Rubio’s speech today before Christian conservatives and his reaction contrasted with how Jeb Bush handled a similar outburst at his announcement speech Monday in Miami.

Rubio paused his speech as the activists talked about deferred action, the Obama program that has protected some young immigrants from deportation. He then made a reference to how in Cuba such free speech would not be allowed, though staff at the Faith & Freedom Coalition ushered the activists out (as the crowd booed the demonstrators). A man blocked reporters from leaving the room, then relented but said reporters wouldn’t be able to get back in.

"If you did that in another country, you would be in jail tonight," Rubio said. "In America, people have a right to interrupt speeches, they have a right to be rude, they have a right to be wrong. We live in a free society." But he did not address immigration.

Bush’s speech Monday was stopped by a string of youth in green T-shirts that spelled out “legal status is not enough.” Bush, who oddly did not plan to address immigration in his speech, went off script.

"Just so our friends know, the next president of the United States will pass meaningful immigration reform so that will be solved. Not by executive order,” he said to explosive cheers from the audience, filled with Hispanics. "USA, USA, USA!" the crowd chanted.

Yesterday, Bush told ABC News that he does support a path to citizenship for immigrants brought to the country as children by their parents. While he once called for citizenship for the larger population he now advocates earned legal status.

The scenes Monday and today show how immigration will continue to be an issue for Bush and Rubio, both whom have taken heat from conservatives but both whom see Hispanic support as key to their chances at the White House.

Rubio opposes Obama's deferred action but has advocated for reforms and supports a path to citizenship.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

PSC rejects staff, sides with FPL, votes to have ratepayers finance fracking projects

Millions of homes and businesses who are customers of Florida Power & Light will be financing as much as $500 million a year in unregulated natural gas fracking projects conducted by the state’s largest utility, state regulators decided Thursday. 

The Florida Public Service Commission sided with FPL and against consumer advocates and unanimously approved guidelines that give the company carte blanche approval to charge its customers for natural gas fracking and “wildcatting” activities without oversight from regulators for the next five years.

The decision gives the state largest utility company unprecedented permission to use ratepayer dollars to finance an energy exploration and production business. According to an analysis by the PSC’s staff, FPL will be the first utility in the nation to be allowed to use ratepayer money for such an “non-regulated risk.”

FPL spokesman Mark Bubriski disputed the characterization that the projects are not regulated, arguing that the guidelines "nsure the PSC has the power to monitor project costs through the required independent audit."

But PSC spokeswoman Cindy Muir said that while FPL will now "have the opportunity to recover non-regulated investments through regulated rates...this should not be considered regulation." 

The decision also gives the company, a regulated monopoly, a guaranteed new source of revenue that will allow it to increase its rate base for the next several years in the face of increasing competition from solar and other alternative energy sources.

Continue reading "PSC rejects staff, sides with FPL, votes to have ratepayers finance fracking projects" »

PSC rejects staff, sides with FPL to have ratepayers finance fracking projects

Millions of homes and businesses who are customers of Florida Power & Light will be financing as much as $500 million a year in unregulated natural gas fracking projects conducted by the state’s largest utility, state regulators decided Thursday. 

The Florida Public Service Commission sided with FPL and against consumer advocates and unanimously approved guidelines that give the company carte blanche approval to charge its customers for gas fracking and “wildcatting” activities without oversight from regulators for the next five years.

The decision gives the state largest utility company unprecedented permission to use ratepayer dollars to finance an energy exploration business. According to an analysis by the PSC’s staff, FPL will be the first utility in the nation to be allowed to use ratepayer money for an “unregulated risk.”

The decision also gives the company a guaranteed new source of revenue that will allow it to increase its rate base for the next several years, in the face of increasing competition from solar and other alternative energy sources.

Continue reading "PSC rejects staff, sides with FPL to have ratepayers finance fracking projects" »