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November 17, 2016

Amid buzz over governor's race, John Morgan says he's considering candidacy


Johnmorgan111416_8colThis week, Democrats have been talking about trial lawyer John Morgan launching a run for governor.

Today, the man himself weighed in: Morgan is thinking about it.

"It is either extremely flattering that so many people put such faith in me, or sad that people have so little faith in the typical politicians of both parties who are expected to seek the office," he wrote in a long post on Medium. "Before I go down this road any further I need a lot of time to think about it."

The post outlines a few core ideas of a Morgan candidacy, including promises to "largely self-fund any campaign" and that he would only serve one term as the state's chief executive. And he points out that he enjoys high name recognition as the man behind the "For the People" Morgan & Morgan ads all over the state.

Some controversial policy ideas are in the post, as well. After bankrolling the successful medical marijuana campaign this year, Morgan said he next wanted to decriminalize the drug statewide. A $15 minimum wage is not new to the Morgan political ideology either.

Morgan wants to immediately release from jail and prison anyone convicted of drug possession and automatically restore civil rights to non-violent felons who have finished their sentences. But he says that there are statewide elected positions with "no real need," like lieutenant governor and commissioner of agriculture.

The Medium post represents a change of heart for a man who told the Times/Herald earlier this year that he would not run for office. "I don't think I would even take the job," he said.

Still, it's not entirely surprising. The people who have publicly called on him to run for governor are close Morgan allies. Ben Pollara is the Miami political consultant who ran the medical marijuana campaigns in 2014 and 2016. Morgan hired former Gov. Charlie Crist and contributed to his congressional campaign.

A Morgan candidacy would be the first of many surprises ahead for the 2018 gubernatorial race, which is already picking up steam. Potential Democratic candidates include Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is likely to run, and House Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran has made known his interest.

Photo: Cherie Diez, Tampa Bay Times

The Florida politicians who might land jobs in Trump's administration

via @learyreports

As Gov. Rick Scott pays a visit to Donald Trump today in New York, let’s review the Florida politicians who could land in a Trump administration.

Pam Bondi, the state attorney general who often appeared at Trump campaign rallies. Bondi has already been named to Trump’s transition team and has been floated as a possible Justice Department official. Bondi visited Trump Tower on Tuesday.

Jeff Miller, the retiring congressman who endorsed Trump in late April, just as Trump as trying to build support on Capitol Hill. Miller is a possible pick to run the Department of Veterans Affairs. He chairs the House VA committee and has expressed an openness to the job with Trump.

John Mica, the congressman who lost his Orlando-area seat to newcomer Stephanie Murphy has been floated as a possible transportation secretary. Mica led the House transportation committee and was not ready to leave Washington. He has a bond with Trump: It was Mica who got the federal government to put up for lease the Old Post Office building that is now Trump International Hotel down the street from the White House. Mica “would be honored if he was named Transportation Secretary,” an aide tells the Tampa Bay Times.

And here's a Florida related name:

Tony Bennett, the former Florida education commissioner, is among the names circulating for Trump’s education secretary. More known for his work in Indiana, Bennett is not considered the top choice, according to reports.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

November 16, 2016

Ahead of Miami visit, Bernie Sanders calls climate change country's biggest challenge

via @OgleConnie

Sen. Bernie Sanders believes all of the challenges facing the country are significant. Election finance reform. Ending what he calls a “rigged” economy. Providing affordable healthcare and education.

But the biggest, most dangerous threat takes aim directly at South Florida, and, he says, President-elect Donald Trump isn’t even concerned about it.

“All of them are important in terms of the future of the United States,” says Sanders, who’s in Miami Saturday to talk about his new book at Miami Book Fair, “but above them all is climate change. We have a president-elect who doesn’t believe in climate change. That’s frightening for this country — and the world. ... If we don’t move boldly to transform our energy system, the planet is in deep danger.”

Also dangerous, he says, is “the bigotry that he espoused during the campaign. It’s tearing the fabric of this country apart.”

In “Our Revolution” (Thomas Dunne Books, $27), the former Democratic presidential candidate looks back on what began as something of a fringe campaign and ended up as a significant political movement.

More here.

Photo credit: Craig Ruttle, Associated Press

Gov. Rick Scott to meet with Donald Trump in New York on Thursday


Gov. Rick Scott is traveling to New York on Thursday to meet face to face with President-elect Donald Trump.

Scott has already spoken to Trump three times since election day, but the meeting on Thursday will give the governor a chance to congratulate him on his victory in person and offer his help to "reinvent the federal government," Scott’s spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said.

Scott earlier this week praised having Trump in the White House and noted the two have known each other for 20 years.

"I think now I have a partner in the White House," Scott said.

Scott has brushed off questions about whether he would join a Trump administration, repeatedly saying he is focused on his job as governor, which runs through 2018.

Raquel Regalado fined in campaign-finance violation tied to Miami-Dade mayoral campaign

@doug_hanks and  @ByKristenMClark 

Former Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Raquel Regalado was hit with another elections fine on Wednesday, with a state board imposing a $2,000 penalty for her allowing a political committee to improperly fund a campaign video and website. 

The Florida Elections Commission issued the fine in a case centered around Serving Miamians, the state political committee used to boost campaigns of both Regalado, who resigned from the Miami-Dade school board to run for county mayor, and her father, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado.

Commission investigators flagged Serving Miamians, officially an "electioneering communication organization," for funding a campaign website and video in the early days of Raquel Regalado's challenge of incumbent Carlos Gimenez last year.

Though Regalado starred in the video and the site in question was, she told investigators she hadn't seen either of them until receiving the elections complaint in June 2015. While candidates can raise money for committees like Serving Miamians, the entities can't implicitly advocate for a candidate's election.

Gimenez, reelected last week by a 12-point margin, used Regalado's past campaign infractions to portray his challenger as someone lacking the kind of management skills needed to be mayor. Regalado accused the Gimenez campaign of being behind the complaint, which was filed by Darren Centinella, a Republican campaign consultant out of D.C.

This is Regalado's third campaign fine. She paid $5,000 in 2012 in connection with improper campaign-finance reports from when she was treasurer for her father's 2009 campaign. In 2011, she paid about $3,500 for an overdue finance report tied to her first school-board campaign in 2010. 

Continue reading "Raquel Regalado fined in campaign-finance violation tied to Miami-Dade mayoral campaign" »

Obama to award Presidential Medal of Freedom to Miami Dade College chief

via @KyraGurney

Over the last two decades, Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padrón has overseen a dramatic expansion that opened college classroom doors to tens of thousands of minority students and helped shape the school into a national model for affordable education.

On Wednesday, the White House announced that President Barack Obama would honor Padrón for his achievements with the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“I am humbled and so grateful to the President for this special honor,” Padrón said in a statement. “This award truly is an affirmation of Miami Dade College and the life-changing work that takes place every day at our campuses and classrooms. This recognition is also for every professor, administrator and staff member who has stood by my side during the last four decades, pushing forth our mission to change lives through education. And I especially dedicate this honor to the millions of students who found an open door to opportunity at Miami Dade College and gave me the chance to make a difference in their lives."

Obama will present the award at a White House ceremony on Nov. 22, inducting Padrón into a small circle of distinguished leaders that includes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Stephen Hawking, Margaret Thatcher, Bob Dylan, Yogi Berra and Neil Armstrong, to name a few.

More here

Charlie Crist joins fight to draft John Morgan for governor

A former governor is joining the calls for Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan to run for governor in 2018.

Congressman and former Gov. Charlie Crist tells the Times/Herald that Morgan, who bankrolled this year's medical marijuana amendment, would be "outstanding" as governor.

"He would be a populist with a tremendous heart, a great sense of what's important to people and his fellow man and he would be a great governor," Crist said. "I don't have any idea if he has any interest, but I hope he does."

Crist has long been politically tied to Morgan. He works at the Morgan & Morgan law firm, whose lawyers constituted a major chunk of the contributions to Crist's congressional race this year and his gubernatorial run in 2014.

An asset, said Crist, who served one term as governor from 2007 to 2011 and lost a second run for the office in 2014, would be Morgan's outsider status and progressive ideology. In addition to funding this year's medical marijuana initiative, Morgan has spoken openly about decriminalizing the drug and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

"He would fire up the base. He would fire up independents," Crist said.

In recent days, Democratic consultants including a close Morgan ally, Ben Pollara, launched a campaign to draft Morgan for a 2018 run. Gov. Rick Scott is term-limited and a wide field is emerging to replace him, especially among Democrats.

For his own part, Morgan has not spoken publicly. He did not reply to emailed questions this week about his interest in running.

Sen. Nelson wants to try to block oil-drilling bill

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson is corralling opposition to a bill he says would incentivize oil drilling off the coast of Florida.

“I’m going to block it,” Nelson said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times.

“The senator from Louisiana is going to try to get his camel’s nose under the tent so that the camel will eventually, completely take over the tent on drilling off the coast of Florida.”

Nelson said legislation to be considered Thursday is a “head fake” because it excludes Florida. He said Sen. Bill Cassidy’s bill sets up a revenue sharing agreement between Gulf states and that Florida would regret not being involved over lost revenue.

Nelson, up for re-election in 2018, is confident he can get the 60 votes to block the bill. He plans a floor speech Wednesday afternoon.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Pay up, Fasano demands after database crash; State says no

After the latest crash of the Florida driver's license database, Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano decided he'd had enough. He sent an invoice of $5,155.91  to state highway safety chief Terry Rhodes, demanding that the state reimburse the county for the local tax revenue he lost on Saturday, Nov. 5.

"We have lost significant revenue that we cannot recoup," Fasano told Rhodes in his letter. "Attached is an invoice."

Fasano, one of two tax collectors who regularly holds office hours on the weekend, said he turned away thousands of customers at four offices that day but that he paid his employees through 1 p.m., the scheduled end of their work shifts. Tax collectors can keep a small slice of every license, tag and title transaction and that money pays for office operations.

Because the disruption was the state's fault, he said, the state should pick up the tab. His bill included $4,477 for hours worked, $342 for payroll taxes and $337 for that day's costs of employer contributions to the state pension fund.

Rhodes' response, dated Tuesday, said: "While I am sympathetic to the expenditures incurred by your office during this outage as our DHSMV offices did as well, there are limitations within the statutory framework relatred to the department's expenditures." She reassured Fasano that the state is doing all it can "to stabilize our systems" and prevent any future database breakdowns until the agency moves to a cloud-based solution by next June.


November 15, 2016

Miami-Dade mayor resists “sanctuary city” label as Trump promises crackdown


With President-elect Donald Trump promising to crack down on “sanctuary cities” that aren’t helping federal authorities apprehend undocumented immigrants, some mayors warn they’re ready to do battle with Washington on the issue.

In Miami-Dade, Mayor Carlos Gimenez argues there is no battle line to be drawn because the label doesn’t apply to his county.

“We comply with the law,” Gimenez said Tuesday. “We’re not a sanctuary city.”

Miami-Dade does decline some federal requests to detain individuals wanted for non-criminal immigration violations, a policy that helped land Florida’s largest county on a list of so-called sanctuary cities in a recent Justice Department report. And while Miami-Dade has already felt pressure under the Obama administration to fight the “sanctuary” label, the designation is getting far more attention after Trump’s upset win last week.

Read the story here.