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March 11, 2017

Muhammad Ali's son questioned again, en route to Fort Lauderdale

via @lrobertsonmiami @CTeproff

A day after Muhammad Ali Jr. advocated for a ban on religious and racial profiling before Congressional leaders, his identity was questioned by Department of Homeland Security authorities as he tried to board a Fort Lauderdale-bound plane in Washington, D.C. It was the second time in six weeks federal agents singled him out for questioning at an airport.

Ali, son of the late boxing champion and humanitarian Muhammad Ali, said he considered the 25-minute delay Friday at Ronald Reagan Airport to be retaliatory.

“I think I was singled out and it was premeditated,” Ali said. “I think they’re trying to make my life hell because of my religion, my name and my testimony. I testified against Donald Trump.”

Ali, 43, spoke to the House Subcommittee on Border Security, chaired by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich), who is sponsoring a bill called the Anti Profiling Act. Ali detailed his one hour and 45-minute detention on Feb. 7 at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport upon his return from a Black History Month event in Jamaica. He said he was interrogated about his name and his Muslim religion.

On both occasions, Ali was traveling with his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, who did not have a problem obtaining her ticket or boarding pass Friday. She was Muhammad Ali’s second wife from 1967-1977 and had four children with the boxer.

“It was humiliating,” Camacho-Ali said. “I couldn’t believe it was happening again, and the fact that we were simply going from D.C. to Florida makes it ridiculous.”

More here.

Photo via Twitter

March 10, 2017

Who dared to defy Gov. Rick Scott on jobs program?


(AP Photo)


Sixty two Republicans and 25 Democrats stood up against Gov. Rick Scott and voted to kill Enterprise Florida, the agency he has most relied to fulfill his campaign promises to create jobs.

Scott, a Republican, has traveled the state calling on voters to pressure their lawmakers to protect the agency, ran automated phone calls against some Republicans and released videos slamming Republicans who want to kill the agency as “job killers.” Still it did not stop 87 House members for voting to kill Enterprise Florida and 23 other tax incentive programs run by the state.

Here is how Florida House members voted Friday on a bill (HB 7005) to abolish Enterprise Florida. The vote was 87 to 28 with five missed votes.  A yes vote is a vote to abolish the agency.

YES (87):
Democrats: Bruce Antone, D-Orlando; Robert Asencio, D-Miami; Daisy Baez, D-Coral Gables; John Cortes, D-Kissimmee; Janet Cruz, D-Tampa; Kimberly Daniels, D-Jacksonville; Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville; Nicholas Duran, D-Miami; Katie Edwards, D-Plantation; Joe Geller, D-Aventura; Roy Hardemon, D-Miami;  Patrick Henry, D-Daytona Beach; Kristin Jacobs, D-Coconut Creek; Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach; Shevrin Jones, D-West Park; Larry Lee Jr., D-Port St. Lucie; Kionne McGhee, D-Miami; Sharon Pritchett, D-Miami Gardens;  David Richardson, D-Miami Beach; Barrington Russell, D-Lauderdale Lakes; Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton; Carlos Smith, D-Orlando; Cynthia Stafford, D-Miami; Richard Stark, D-Weston; Patricia Williams, D-Lauderdale Lakes

Republicans: Larry Ahern, R-Seminole; Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula; Thad Altman, R-Indialantic; Bryan Avila, R-Miami; Halsey Beshears, R-Monticello; Michael Bileca, R-Miami; Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton; Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford; Danny Burgess Jr., R-Zephyrhills; Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach; Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers; Charles Clemons, R-Newberry; Neil Combee, R-Polk County; Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes; Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs; Travis Cummings, R-Orange Park; Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami; Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah; Byron Donalds, R-Naples; Dane Eagle R-Cape Coral; Randy Fine, R-Brevard County; Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville; Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers; Julio Gonzalez, R-Venice; Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach; James Grant, R-Tampa; Mike Grant, R-Port Charlotte; Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart; Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa; Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill; Clay Ingram, R-Pensacola; Sam Killebrew, R-Winter Haven; Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud; Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater; Thomas Leek, R-Ormond Beach; MaryLynn Magar, R-Tequesta; Amber Mariano, R-Hudson; Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto; Stan McClain, R-Belleview; Larry Metz, R-Yalaha; Jeanette Nuñez, R-Miami; Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes; Bobby Payne, R-Palatka; Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park; Scott Plakon, R-Longwood; Mel Ponder, R-Destin; Elizabeth Porter, R-Lake City; Jake Raburn, R-Lithia; Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo; Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast; Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero; Bob Rommel, R-Naples; Rick Roth, R-Loxahatchee; Ross Spano, R-Dover; Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor; Cyndi Stevenson, R-St. Johns; Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora; Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa; Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami; Frank White, R-Pensacola; Jayer Williamson, R-Pace; Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville.

NO (28):
Democrats: Joe Abruzzo, D-Boyton Beach; Ramon Alexander, D-Tallahassee; Loranne Ausley, D-Tallahassee; Lori Berman, D-Lantana; Kamia Brown, D-Ocoee; Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg; Bobby DuBose, D-Fort Lauderdale; Al Jacquet, D-Lantana; Amy Mercado, D-Orlando; Wengay Newton, D-St. Petersburg; Sean Shaw, D-Tampa; David Silvers, D-West Palm Beach; Barbara Watson, D-Miami Gardens; Matt Willhite, D-Wellington.

Republicans: Brad Drake, R-Eucheeanna; Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando; Jay Fant, R-Jacksonville; Tom Goodson, R-Rockledge; Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota; Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton; Don Hahnfeldt, R-The Villages; Alex Miller, R-Sarasota; Mike Miller, R-Winter Park; George Moraitis Jr, R-Fort Lauderdale; Kathleen Peters, R-Treasure Island;  Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando; David Santiago, R-Deltona; Charlie Stone, R-Ocala;

Democrats: Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs,  *Clovis Watson Jr., D-Alachua.

Republicans: Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland; Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City; Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City,

*After the vote, Clovis Watson Jr. recorded a vote against the bill.

The House, Senate proposals to expand 'Best & Brightest' are out



More top educators in Florida would have a crack at an annual state bonus in the 2017-18 school year, under initial legislative proposals to expand a controversial, 2-year-old teacher incentive program.

While there’s more room for compromise this year, House and Senate plans, unveiled this week, likely won’t appease all critics because they keep intact a core premise that teachers’ unions have vehemently opposed.

To entice and reward the “Best & Brightest” teachers and — for the first time — principals who work in Florida public schools, lawmakers still want educators to demonstrate both “highly effective” teaching skills but also personal academic prowess in order to qualify for the extra cash.

Teachers and principals who tested well on the SAT/ACT back in high school could still use those scores as one way to meet the requirements, and going forward, lawmakers want to also let them use other, similar benchmarks — such as qualifying scores on graduate school entrance exams or teacher certification tests.

More here.

Photo credit: AP

Miami Republicans chastise EPA administrator for questioning cause of climate change


Two Miami Republican members of Congress this week chided Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, for saying Thursday he doesn't believe carbon dioxide is a primary cause of global warming, as science has long concluded.

"I would not agree that [carbon dioxide] is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see," Pruitt said on CNBC.

"Rising carbon emissions have been a contributing factor to climate change for decades," U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo said in a statement Thursday. "That is a scientific fact and the reality facing communities like my district. The EPA is tasked with the very responsibility of helping to lower the impact of carbon emissions, and for Mr. Pruitt to assert otherwise without scientific evidence is reckless and unacceptable."

Curbelo represents Florida's southernmost district, which includes the Keys. He's also the co-founder of a bipartisan climate change caucus in Congress.

On Friday, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who represents coastal parts of Miami-Dade County, also weighed in. Both Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen campaigned last year in their Democratic-leaning districts in part by promising to protect South Florida's environment.

"These comments by the EPA administrator casting doubt on the causes and impacts of climate change are disconcerting and troubling," she said. "I'm committed to helping ensure South Florida's environment remains pristine and we continue to combat sea level rise in order to protect our community."

Photo credit: Associated Press

Miramar mayor proposes 'safe zone' policy in response to Trump immigration enforcement



Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam has proposed that the city create a "safe zone" for undocumented immigrants in response to President Donald Trump's immigration ban.

Messam brought up his proposal during a March 8 commission meeting to require federal immigration agents to have a warrant to enter city-owned facilities and voluntary pre-kindergarten schools for immigration enforcement purposes.

"We want to make sure that our parents at least, regardless of their immigration status, that is one less fear that they have -- in regards to the prospect of their child being disrupted due to what we have seen going on across the country," Messam said at the meeting.

The commission didn't vote on his proposal but no one objected to Messam's request for city attorneys to draft the resolution. It wasn't clear when the commission will vote on the resolution but the next meeting is March 29.

The city resolution follows a vote earlier this week by the Broward school board to become a safe zone for immigrant students and their parents and the Miami-Dade school board plans to vote on a similar resolution March 15. Broward County approved a resolution showing support for diversity without mentioning immigration enforcement or creating any sanctuary policy. 

Such safe zone policies being pursued by Broward politicians, many of them Democrats, are in response to immigration enforcement actions and promises by Trump

The safe zone policies may not lead to any practical changes for federal officials because many such facilities aren't known for immigration raids -- U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement already has policies that generally protect school sites from enforcement actions. But the policies allow politicians to go on record opposing Trump's immigration plans.

Messam, the son of Jamaican immigrants, was elected in 2015 as mayor in Miramar, a city where about 44 percent of the population is foreign born. A Democrat, Messam was a surrogate to Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign in Florida and South Carolina.

Photo by Gregory F. Reed of former President Bill Clinton, center, and Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam, right, attending a September meeting of faith and community leaders at the Miramar Cultural Center and a tour of city hall.

A likely candidate for Florida governor suggested invading Cuba. He says he was just trying to make a point

Cuba Biz Ethics 01 EKM

The panel of three local mayors discussing how the United States should approach doing business with Cuba was going predictably Friday until Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a likely Democratic candidate for Florida governor, brought up a word that, once upon a time in Miami, might have caused a political maelstrom: invasion.

“Why aren’t we discussing the invasion of the island?” Levine said.

He wasn’t endorsing the idea of a military incursion. A few moments earlier, Levine had argued that the best way to help Cubans themselves was to engage in open commerce with the island.

But he had no support for the expanded-business position from his colleagues, Coral Gables Mayor Jim Cason and Doral Mayor J.C. Bermudez. Cason, a Republican former head of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana, had in fact espoused the opposite view, questioning the ethics of any business that would enrich the pockets of the Cuban military.

So Levine made his provocative remark, predicting that a U.S.-led military operation “would probably take 24 hours at best.”

A few people in the crowd chuckled. Neither Bermudez nor Cason took him seriously. Levine later told the Miami Herald he’d been trying to highlight — perhaps inartfully — that opponents of the Obama administration’s Cuba opening, like Cason, couldn’t offer any better solutions.

The surprising exchange reflected how much the conversation on Cuba has changed in Miami. The suggestion that American troops might land on Cuban shores — a failed strategy under former President John F. Kennedy — is now a laugh line. The question of what to do instead, however, remains difficult for local politicians to answer.

More here.

Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff

'Magic' Johnson visiting with Florida Senate members on Monday



L.A. Lakers great Earvin "Magic" Johnson will be at the Florida Capitol on Monday to promote HIV/AIDS awareness.

The Senate Democratic caucus announced Johnson will meet with Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, of Miami Gardens, and other members of the caucus at a 9 a.m. meeting.

The Naples Daily News reported this week that Johnson -- who the paper said represents a Medicaid managed-care company known as Anthem in Florida -- would also be at a "meet and greet" with Senate Republicans.

Johnson announced more than 25 years ago that he had tested positive for HIV.

Photo credit: AP

Florida House votes to kill Enterprise Florida despite Rick Scott's pressure





State Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, answers questions about his plan to kill Enterprise Florida during a debate on the floor of the Florida House of Representatives on Thursday. State Rep. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican and ardent defender of the agency, watches on. (Scott Keeler/Tampa Bay Times)


The Florida House voted on Friday to kill the agency Gov. Rick Scott has relied on for the last six year to hand out tax credits to lure business to the Sunshine State to create jobs.

State Rep. Paul Renner, a Republican from Flagler County, said tax credits to private businesses are "fundamentally unfair" because the government gets to pick some companies and industries over others to receive the credits.

“These incentives are also wrong because they do pick winners and losers,” Renner said.

He said a better use of incentive money would be to put it into education, public infrastructure or broad based tax cuts.

The House voted 87-28 for Renner's bill.

The vote comes even after Scott traveled the state in February going to Republican districts and publicly calling out members for supporting the bill the would kill Enterprise Florida. And on Tuesday, Scott used his State of the State Address to the Legislature to fight back against the idea that the agency is picking winners and losers.

Scott has asked the Legislature for $23.5 million to fund Enterprise Florida’s base operations next year and another $85 million of economic incentives to convince companies to move to Florida.

The vote came moments before the House voted 80-35 for a separate bill that would enact strict reforms on Visit Florida, the state's primary tourism marketing agency. The House originally sought to kill that agency as well after criticism mounted over a $1 million secret contract with pop music star Pitbull. Instead, Renner said the bill keeps Visit Florida alive, but with new guardrails to assure they are using taxpayer dollars wisely.

Scott responded quickly to both votes.

"Many politicians who voted for these bills say they are for jobs and tourism," Scott said in a statement. "But, I want to be very clear – a vote for these bills was a vote to kill tourism and jobs in Florida. I will continue to fight for Florida jobs and never stop standing up for the families and businesses whose livelihood depend on a strong and growing economy.”


Florida elderly and poor would fare worse under GOP's Obamacare replacement

Obamacare f epf

via @dchangmiami

For most of the estimated 1.7 million Floridians enrolled in an Affordable Care Act plan, the House Republican proposal to repeal and replace the health law known as Obamacare will change the financial aid they receive to pay their monthly premiums beginning in 2020.

Both Obamacare and the American Health Care Act unveiled this week by House Republicans include financial aid, in the form of tax credits, to help people buy insurance. But the law and the proposed bill calculate those amounts differently. The ACA tests family income, the local cost of health insurance, and age and smoking status to calculate financial aid. The proposed bill bases tax credits only on age, with a cut off for individuals who earn more than $75,000 a year ($150,000 a year for families).

In Florida, about 1.4 million people or more than 93 percent of those enrolled in an ACA plan for 2016 received financial aid that lowered their monthly premium, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The average monthly tax credit for those Floridians was $305.

But starting in 2020, that number of people who receive a tax credit, and how far that financial aid goes in lowering their monthly premiums, would change under the Republican proposal, according to analysis of the plan by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy think tank.

In general, Floridians who are older, with lower incomes and live in rural areas will fare worse under the AHCA than they did under Obamacare, the Kaiser analysis shows, while those who are younger, with higher incomes and who live in urban areas will be better off.

More here.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

An earlier version of this post had an incorrect headline.

Unanimous death juries legislation headed to governor's desk



In one of their first decisions this year, the Florida Legislature on Friday sent Gov. Rick Scott a bill that will require juries to vote unanimously to sentence a convicted murderer to death.

Mandated by a Florida Supreme Court ruling in Hurst vs. Florida that found the state's existing 10-2 jury vote requirement unconstitutional, the Legislature's move will allow prosecutors to pursue new death row cases as soon as Scott signs it.

"Your vote today allows cases to move forward and victims and their families to have justice," said Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, the House judiciary chairman and the bill's sponsor.

The Florida House voted 112-3 Friday for the legislation (SB 280). Opposed were Reps. Joe Geller, D-Aventura, Robert Asencio, D-Miami, and Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill.

"Our current law's been found unconstitutional, and so it is tempting to vote for this because at least requiring unanimity is better than what we have," Geller said. "(However,) I think it's morally and ethically wrong for the state to take life."

Geller filed legislation (HB 6045) to abolish the death penalty, but it has not been scheduled for a hearing.

The Senate voted unanimously for the measure making juries unanimous on Thursday. A spokeswoman for Scott said he is "reviewing" the legislation, but he has been a supporter of the death penalty, executing more people than any other governor since capital punishment came back into practice in 1976.

Photo: State Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, who sponsored legislation requiring juries to vote unanimously to put someone to death. (SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times)