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November 13, 2015

Ahead of first Florida event, Ted Cruz names state team

via @adamsmithtimes

The Ted Cruz presidential campaign today rolls out its "Florida Leadership Team:

"Our campaign is building a grassroots army across the critical state of Florida,” said Cruz. “I’m encouraged by the strong support our campaign is seeing from leaders who are ready to stand up for conservative principles and turn our country around.”

Here's the Cruz Florida team:

Continue reading "Ahead of first Florida event, Ted Cruz names state team" »

Miami wins fight over attorneys fees in homeless Pottinger settlement


The city of Miami does not owe close to $500,000 to a half-dozen attorneys who defended a class-action settlement protecting the rights of the homeless, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th circuit.

The attorneys say they spent nearly 900 combined hours fending off substantial changes to Miami's landmark Pottinger settlement in 2013 and 2014. The settlement, first created in 1998 after Miami was found by a judge to have systematically pushed the destitute out of downtown, gave the homeless special privileges for "life-sustaining" behavior, such as urinating on the street or bathing in public.

When the city moved to weaken the agreement, the American Civil Liberties Union and a team of attorneys fought back on behalf of the homeless. They ultimately agreed to some notable changes. But they couldn't agree on whether the city should pay a $476,000 bill for the work of six attorneys.

Last year, a federal judge ruled that the city did not owe attorneys fees due to unaltered stipulations in the Pottinger settlement that limited the city's liability for future attorney's fees. An 11th circuit judicial panel agreed Tuesday.

"We recognize that, at some level, this result may not “feel” right," the panel's opinion stated. "Although it is important to compensate attorneys who help their clients prevail (or, as is the case here, keep their hard-won gains) in civil rights cases, it is just as important to hold parties to the terms of the bargains they strike..."

Lack of time, money slows Florida's open primary ballot initiative

Supporters of a game-changing statewide ballot initiative to allow all voters to vote in primaries have shelved plans to get on the 2016 ballot, but say they will redouble their efforts to put the question before voters in 2018.

The proposal, called All Voters Vote, is being spearheaded by, among others, Gene Stearns, a Miami lawyer who was chief of staff to Richard Pettigrew, a Democratic speaker of the Florida House from Miami in the early 1970s. Their goal: end Florida's "closed primary" system in which only Republicans and Democrats can participate in party primaries, and replace it with a system in which everyone could vote and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, would advance to the general election in November. 

The proposal is a direct result of the explosion in Florida of voters who have no party affiliation. NPA voters and minor-party voters now comprise 27 percent of the electorate, and they will approach parity with the two major parties within a decade. Both parties strongly oppose an open primary system, and bills filed last session to create open primaries went nowhere in the Legislature.

The chairman of All Voters Vote, Tallahassee lawyer Glenn Burhans Jr., said there simply isn't enough time to raise the money needed to get sufficient signatures from voters to put the question on the ballot. A ballot initiative requires more than 683,000 valid signatures that must be validated by county election supervisors by next Feb. 1. Signatures must be submitted in early January, and groups must pay 10 cents for every signature submitted.

"The money is a big deal," Burhans said. "It takes a lot of effort and resources to get there, and there are a lot of competing interests in the current election cycle that make it difficult and challenging to raise money. But this issue and our perceived solution are not going away. We're going to continue to build up our network ... We just didn't have the runway length we needed."

PAC says Ted Cruz stopped Marco Rubio's push for 'amnesty'

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s leadership role on a 2013 bill to change immigration laws continues to draw fire for him in the GOP presidential primary.

The Courageous Conservatives PAC, which supports U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, has attacked Rubio’s position in a radio ad in Iowa:

"We all loved how Marco Rubio took apart Jeb Bush in the debate. Wasn’t it great? But what’s Rubio ever done? Anything? Other than his Gang of Eight Amnesty bill, can anyone think of anything Marco Rubio’s ever done? Anything at all besides amnesty?" says the narrator who then switches to praise Cruz. "When Chuck Schumer and Marco Rubio tried to push amnesty, it was Ted Cruz who stopped them."

We decided to research Cruz’s role in the death of Rubio’s bill, and we’ll explain the problems with labeling it as "amnesty."

See how PolitiFact Florida rated this claim.

Fact-checking Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and rest of GOP presidential field before the Sunshine Summit

GOP presidential candidates including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush speak at the Republican Party of Florida Sunshine Summit in Orlando today.

Here is a link to PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter records of all the 2016 candidates including Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

Let’s take a look at a recent fact-check for some of the candidates:

Bush: "My plan actually gives the middle class the greatest break: $2,000 per family." Middle-class families could potentially realize a higher percentage tax break, based on Bush’s plan. But that’s only counting those who would file their tax returns using the standard deduction, something the wealthy aren’t likely to do. Even with caps on itemized deductions, a range of experts said the wealthiest Americans stand to benefit more than the middle class, thanks to Bush’s proposed changes in corporate, estate and other taxes. We rated this statement Mostly False.

Rubio: "Welders make more money than philosophers." It made for a great soundbite, but neither salary nor labor statistics back up Rubio’s claim. Statistically, philosophy majors make more money than welders -- with much more room to significantly increase pay throughout their careers. We rated this statement False.

Carson: Says Hillary Clinton told her daughter and a government official that Benghazi "was a terrorist attack, and then tells everybody else that it was a video."  Carson is oversimplifying and distorting Clinton’s comments to portray a complex situation in the worst possible light. He has a point that Clinton told her daughter that terrorists attacked in Benghazi, and she told the Libyan president that a terrorist group had taken responsibility. But those were private comments made hours after the attack.  Carson misleads when he said that she told everybody else that it was a video. We rated this statement Mostly False.

Trump: Says President Dwight Eisenhower "moved 1.5 million illegal immigrants out of this country." Trump is referring to a 1954 campaign known as "Operation Wetback." While the idea that the operation resulted in more than 1 million deportations is not pulled out of thin air, historians widely cite that number as far too high for a variety of reasons -- including the fact that hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants would have had to self-deport. We rated this statement Half True

Has Marco Rubio proposed $1 trillion in new military spending?

The word conservative was uttered 18 times during the Fox Business News Republican presidential debate on Nov. 10, 2015.

The first 17 references made in the Milwaukee Theatre were done with particular emphasis by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. (Ohio Gov. John Kasich used the word once.)

Paul called himself the only fiscal conservative among the eight candidates on stage -- and made a point to contrast himself with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, in one of the more contentious exchanges of the night.

Rubio had just defended his proposal to increase a child tax credit when Paul interjected.

"We have to decide what is conservative and what isn't conservative. Is it fiscally conservative to have a trillion-dollar expenditure? We're not talking about giving people back their tax money. He's talking about giving people money they didn't pay. It's a welfare transfer payment," Paul said of Rubio’s tax credit plan.

"So, here's what we have. Is it conservative to have $1 trillion in transfer payments -- a new welfare program that's a refundable tax credit? Add that to Marco's plan for $1 trillion in new military spending, and you get something that looks, to me, not very conservative."

Keep reading from PolitiFact.

Dick Cheney to Florida GOP: Hillary Clinton's in 'big trouble'


via @adamsmithtimes

LAKE BUENA VISTA -- For Republicans trying to cast themselves as the party of the future, their choice to headline their annual fundraising gala Thursday night seemed a lot more like a nod to the past.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, 74, gave more than 1,000 Republicans gathered at Disney World a grim assessment of the threats facing America and a blistering attack on the record of President Barack Obama.

“My impression is that Obama's eager to get out of town. I'm eager to have him get out of town,” Cheney said. “It's extraordinarily important that the Republican Party reclaim the reputation that we've had for most of my life — that we are the go-to guys on national security and defense.”

Cheney, a divisive figure even with members of his party, happens to be one of the main reasons why the GOP lost the trust of many voters on foreign policy and national defense. A leading force behind President George W. Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he left office in 2009 with only 13 percent of the American people having a favorable opinion of him.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam introduced him as “easily the most consequential leader in the modern Republican Party and certainly the most consequential vice president in the history of our country.”

But even among the avid Republicans gathered in Orlando for Thursday's Statesman's Dinner and a two-day presidential candidate summit starting Friday, audience members found Cheney a less-than-ideal standard-bearer to put forth.

More here.

November 12, 2015

David Beckham meets with schools chief at SoHo House during Miami swing


Trying to close a stadium deal with local governments, David Beckham this week greeted the man who would be his landlord: Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

The Wednesday meeting was at Miami Beach's SoHo Beach House, the luxe hotel and private club that is Beckham's regular base of operations during visits to the Miami area.

"We spent a lot of time talking about kids," Carvalho said Thursday night. "I came away feeling very comfortable about the decency of this guy."

The unannounced meeting was one stop on Beckham's Miami swing, which included filming part of a soccer documentary for UNICEF and a nighttime visit with the University of Miami women's soccer team. Beckham, a global fashion icon, was photographed wearing an orange T-Shirt emblazoned with "The U" in photos posted on Twitter from the encounter.

Beckham's appearances come as his two-year stadium quest has never been closer to a final deal, but also as his negotiators warn it could still fall apart over real estate prices.

The plan is for his investment group to pay for a $200 million stadium to rise next to Marlins Park on a mix of privately-owned land and parcels currently owned by the city of Miami. Beckham's group has agreed to pay Miami for the real estate, while negotiating separate deals with the private owners.

The stadium and site would be transferred to the school system in order to shield it from property taxes, and in exchange Beckham's group would provide free space for large school events and some form of sports-related education for visiting classes and students. The Beckham group would also sponsor some school activities, including buying band uniforms and supplies.  

Carvalho said Beckham's people contacted him early in the week about a meeting.

The sit down marks something of a do-over for the Beckham group, which failed to invite school officials to a VIP reception with the soccer star in early 2014. The who's-who event launched Beckham's extended pursuit of a stadium site, and the stream of party pics of politicians and business leaders posing with the soccer celebrity came to represent the limits of star power to overcome political complications and commercial interests in Miami. 

Carvalho said no photos were taken at his afternoon meeting with Beckham. "When I met Mr. Beckham, I was clear in telling him that I've seen how he comes to town, and everybody wants a Beckham kiss and a hug and a Beckham selfie. I said I'll take a Beckham handshake. He laughed."

Continue reading "David Beckham meets with schools chief at SoHo House during Miami swing" »

Marco Rubio rallies Florida GOP to take on Democrats

Rubio orlando


LAKE BUENA VISTA -- His star in the presidential race on the rise, Marco Rubio dropped in Thursday on one of the groups that knows him best: the Republican Party of Florida.

On the campaign trail, Rubio likes to note that he’s twice defied the Florida GOP establishment: in 2010 when he ran for the U.S. Senate against the sitting Republican governor and now as a candidate in the same race as former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Rubio made sure to remind Republicans — light-heartedly — of his track record Thursday night.

“Five years ago when this party was under different leadership, I couldn’t even get a table, because I happened to be running against the then-sitting governor of Florida for U.S. Senate,” Rubio began, referring to Charlie Crist. “Apparently he’s now running for the Congress as a vegetarian.... Yeah, he’s running out of parties indeed.”

Rubio spoke at the party’s annual Statesman’s Dinner, a sold-out fundraiser that drew nearly 1,000 people on the eve of the Sunshine Summit, a two-day event featuring 13 of the 15 Republicans running for the 2016 presidential nomination. He played the role of motivator to party stalwarts ahead of the 2016 election.

“Tomorrow you’re going to hear from a bunch of candidates running for president that are going to ask you to vote for them, and I’ll be one of them,” Rubio said. (“One out of six Republicans is running for president,” he joked.) “Tonight, I want to talk to you about why the next president needs to be a Republican, because we simply cannot afford another four years like the last eight.”

More here.

Lawmaker renews call for body camera regulations, after police officer who shot Corey Jones is terminated


Shev jonesA Broward County lawmaker is renewing his call for more transparency and accountability measures from law enforcement, now that the Palm Beach Gardens police officer who shot Corey Jones last month has been fired.

Palm Beach Gardens officials announced Nouman Raja's termination today. (More here.)

“Those of us who have sought justice in this case still have been shortchanged of meaningful information,” Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, said in a statement. “Even with the firing, we don’t know the details of how the police department reached this decision. Our quest for justice begins with transparency and facts."

“This is just the beginning,” he added. “We have a long way to go until we get justice for Corey Jones."

Jones said justice and transparency can come from more accurate records of police shootings, such as those which might be provided by dash-camera or body-camera footage -- neither of which is available in the investigation of Corey Jones' death.

Corey Jones was shot dead at 3 a.m. Oct. 18 on an I-95 off-ramp in Palm Beach County after his car broke down. Raja was on duty in plain clothes and driving an unmarked police van, when he stopped to investigate what he thought was an abandoned vehicle. Jones was shot three times.

The unmarked police van had no dash camera, and Raja wore no body camera, because the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department doesn't own or use the devices.

Shevrin Jones has again proposed legislation that would require police agencies to have policies and protocols in place if they choose to use body cameras, but his bill falls short of mandating use of the devices. (More here.)

“Body cameras won’t necessarily save a life,” Shevrin Jones said. “Matters like these will allow for the police force to set forth rules and regulations for the officers, and the proper protocol and procedure in handling them.”

Photo credit: The Florida Channel