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August 20, 2015

New documents reveal shadow Florida Senate process to draw map

The shadow redistricting process that brought down the congressional map was also in full swing in the Senate, depositions and email documents submitted as part of pending litigation now reveal.

The documents, filed Wednesday in Leon County Circuit Court as part of a pending lawsuit over the Senate map, show that Republican operatives faked “public” submissions, forwarded maps to Senate staff, and created Republican-leaning pieces that became the foundation of the adopted Senate redistricting plan.

The same tactics emerged in the congressional redistricting trial that led to the Florida Supreme Court’s ordering the maps redrawn in a special session that ends this week.

Documents show that the elaborate plan, involving staffing up public hearings with fake testimony and building maps in the shadows, involved many of the same Republicans advisors who influenced the congressional plan — long-time political consultant Rich Heffley, Gainesville-based operative Pat Bainter and Republican Party of Florida advisor Frank Terraferma.

But testimony also shows the degree to which former Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, was aware of the process.

More here.

Gov. Rick Scott blasts Legislature over job incentive money

Gov. Rick Scott picked a new fight with his fellow Republicans in the Legislature Thursday by criticizing them for not spending more money for incentive programs to bring jobs to Florida. Speaking to business leaders at an Enterprise Florida board meeting in Ponte Vedra Beach, Scott voiced frustration with lawmakers.

"The Legislature didn't fully fund our tool kit. It's pretty frustrating," Scott said. "We're down to $9 million ... We will not be able to get deals done moving forward."

Legislators insist that Enterprise Florida didn't spen most of the money it got last year and that the public-private partnership is too dependent on taxpayer subsidies to survive. Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who chairs a budget subcommittee for all economic development programs, said Enterprise Florida keeps earmarked escrow funds in a bank where it draws one quarter of 1 percent interest. He proposed moving the money to a fund under control of a state agency where it would draw at least 3 percent interest.

"If money for businesses is so important, why does the governor and his people continue to fight me on getting a better return on our investment?" Latvala said. "It's a little sad. But I'm going to continue to fight for the taxpayers."

Continue reading "Gov. Rick Scott blasts Legislature over job incentive money" »

House prepares to reject Senate congressional district changes

@JeremySWallace

The Florida House is preparing to reject the Florida Senate’s plan to create an East Hillsborough County-based Congressional district championed by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon. Instead the House is pushing a new plan that makes changes to South Florida, particularly in and around Sunrise.

House redistricting leader Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, submitted a new amendment to a base plan the two chambers are working on that strips Lee’s proposal to most of eastern and southern Hillsborough into the 15th Congressional district, now represented by U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland.

Instead Oliva’s plan returns the map to the original plan, which would shift 150,000 southern Hillsborough residents into the 17th District, represented now by U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota. That in turn would force Sarasota County to be split into two Congressional districts for the first time in decades. The southern half of Sarasota County would be represented by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, a Republican who lives in Okeechobee County.

But Oliva's plan has additional changes, particularly for South Florida.

Continue reading "House prepares to reject Senate congressional district changes" »

Ads supporting Iran deal target Miami and West Palm Beach markets

@JeremySWallace

The liberal group Americans United for Change is targeting Florida media markets as part of a campaign to build support for the nuclear deal with Iran.

The group’s $500,000 ad buy includes Miami and West Palm Beach markets, as well as Los Angeles, New York City, Baltimore, Boston, Providence and Washington, D.C.

In the ad, the group warns not to trust some of the critics who oppose the Iran deal because they were also members of President George W. Bush’s administration.

“The same people that rushed us into war in Iraq want to sink the new agreement that would help stop war with Iran,” the ad states with pictures of former vice president Dick Cheney and Bush flashing on the screen.

The ad is scheduled to air over the next two weeks. Congress is expected to take up the Iran nuclear deal in September.

  

Fact-checking claims about abortion by Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio

With the first Republican presidential debate over, Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush are both ramping up their campaigns.

From time to time, PolitiFact Florida will check in on how they’re faring on our Truth-O-Meter. Here’s a look at the latest fact-checks of both including a few claims about abortion and Planned Parenthood.

We have fact-checked Rubio 102 times and Bush 49 times.

Turn to PolitiFact Florida to read a summary of our recent fact-checks of Rubio and Bush.

Asked about drug addiction, Jeb Bush gets personal

@PatriciaMazzei

Heroin and prescription drug use worries New Hampshire voters, who frequently ask 2016 presidential candidates what they would do to tackle the addiction surge.

Republican Jeb Bush got the question once again in Merrimack on Wednesday. And he made reference to his own daughter's past struggle with drug use.

Addiction is a "lifetime challenge," he said, and addicts need help from friends and family to adopt recovery as a "philosophy."

"People need to stay together in this regard," Bush said, noting he had gone to a private roundtable earlier in the day to discuss the issue. "And, look, I have some personal experience with this, just as a dad, and it is the most heartbreaking thing in the world to have to go through."

Noelle Bush, then in her 20s, was arrested in 2002 in Tallahassee and charged with trying to fill a false drug prescription. Her father was Florida governor and her uncle George W. Bush was president, so the arrest made headlines. She is now in her late 30s and occasionally appears with her father on the campaign trail, including an event lat month in Orlando, where she lives.

Quinnipiac poll: Donald Trump up, Hillary Clinton down in Florida

@PatriciaMazzei

Donald Trump has climbed to the top of the 2016 Republican presidential field in Florida, according to a new poll that shows him ahead of hometown favorites Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.

Perhaps even more noteworthy: Democrat Hillary Clinton's popularity has taken a tumble, the poll shows, and she now trails Bush and Rubio and is essentially tied with Trump in potential general-election match-ups.

The Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday shows Trump leading the GOP field in Florida with 21 percent, followed by Bush (17 percent) and Rubio and Ben Carson (both at 11 percent). Carson is a neurosurgeon who retired to West Palm Beach. No other candidate tops 7 percent support, and 8 percent are undecided.

Trump received merely 3 percent support in the last Quinnipiac survey of Florida in June, a sign of his summer surge.

At the time, Clinton led the Democratic field with 64 percent support. Now she's at 48 percent, with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 15 percent, Vice President Joe Biden (who for now is not a candidate) at 11 percent and 17 percent undecided.

In head-to-head match-ups, Rubio leads Clinton 51-39 percent, Bush leads her 49-38 percent, and Trump leads her 43-41 percent, a statistical tie. The poll has an error margin of 3 percentage points.

If Trump were to run as a third-party candidate, then the poll shows Clinton at 37 percent, Bush at 36 percent and Trump at 19 percent in Florida.

"Hillary Clinton's poll numbers are like a leaky faucet: drip, drip, drip, drip. She is now getting less than half the vote in all three states' Democratic primaries,", said Peter A. Brown, the poll's assistant director, who also surveyed voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania. "Gov. Jeb Bush got middling debate grades and slips in the GOP horse race. Yet he does very well when voters rate the leading Republican candidates on personal characteristics."

Rubio continues to show high favorability ratings, the measure his campaign considers most important this early in the presidential race because it shows he has potential to grow as the campaign chugs along and more voters start paying attention.

Day 11: Three takeaways from Florida's special session

It's Day 11 of Florida's special session on congressional redistricting. Two days to go and still no deal on a new map. Here are three takeaways:

Eyes on the House: What will the House do? House redistricting chairman Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, praised several components of the Senate's revised map, and the House delayed the start of its Thursday floor session until at least 3 p.m., a sign that it was taking the Senate map seriously.

Senate on hold: The Senate calendar listed a floor session for 10 a.m. Thursday, but Senate leaders told members to stand by and be ready to convene at any time.

Extension watch: The session is scheduled to end at noon Friday and legislative leaders said they had no plans to extend the session until next week. But in this state capital, this year, anything's possible.

In Detroit, Marco Rubio plans to say Hillary Clinton wants 'to drive in reverse'

@PatriciaMazzei

Marco Rubio will speak Thursday to the Detroit Economic Club, casting his presidential campaign as the way forward for a city that once was "the heart of the old economy."

He will discuss his tax plan -- which has been criticized by some conservatives -- by speaking in personal terms about an auto-servicing shop owner and a young single mother working there, according to speech excerpts released by his campaign. Throughout his political career, Rubio has repeatedly gone back to the image of the single mother to illustrate what government might do to improve her life.

Jeb Bush  spoke to the Detroit Economic Club in February, before he was a formal candidate.

Rubio also plans to take a jab at Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, once again labeling her as a candidate of the past.

"Hillary Clinton believes the way to win the race for the future is to drive in reverse –- to revert back to more regulations, higher taxes and bigger government," Rubio plans to say. "I believe the way forward is to embrace the future and modernize our government. I believe if we once again make America the best place in the world to create jobs, and empower every American to fill those jobs, then our generation will embrace The New American Economy and lay the foundation for A New American Century."

Read all the excerpts below.

Continue reading "In Detroit, Marco Rubio plans to say Hillary Clinton wants 'to drive in reverse'" »

August 19, 2015

Guns, liquor, cash missing from evidence lockup in Miami-area police department

via @ChuckRabin @BrendaMedinar

For the past several years, random cops have had unfettered access to the Sweetwater Police Department’s evidence room. Signing a log sheet when entering or leaving wasn’t required. Cameras to record visits were broken or pointed the wrong way.

During that time, liquor bottles were mysteriously filled with only water, and tens of thousands of dollars disappeared. So did 19 weapons and 19 bicycles.

In all, 7,877 items that should have been safely tucked away in the small rectangular room down the hall from the chief’s office are missing, an audit by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement found.

The audit also found that:

▪ Evidence was not logged properly or documented.

▪  There was an incomplete list of receipts and a lack of case numbers.

▪  And an internal control as simple as making certain two officers were present every time someone entered the room wasn’t enforced.

So far, there is no indication that missing evidence has harmed any prosecutions. But the findings place future cases in jeopardy, said Acting Sweetwater Police Chief Placido Diaz. And in at least one instance, Diaz said, a man who had more than $5,000 confiscated from him and has asked that it be returned isn’t getting his money back anytime soon.

More here.