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June 17, 2015

Jeb Bush hires Miami firm to work on Hispanic digital outreach


One of the perks of running a 2016 presidential operation out of Miami is finding Spanish speakers to assist is easy.

Jeb Bush, whose crew is headquartered in West Miami-Dade County, has hired Pinta, a Miami Beach-based marketing firm, to help with Hispanic strategy, particularly online.

Mike Valdés-Fauli, the company's president and chief executive, emailed friends over the weekend urging them to attend Bush's launch Monday at Miami Dade College. As part of the invitation, he mentioned he would be working for the campaign.

"I've long admired the Governor for his significant accomplishments in both the public and private sector, preference for reason over ideology, unparalleled grasp of the issues, and penchant for celebrating (as opposed to begrudging) diversity in our society," Valdés-Fauli wrote in the email, which was obtained by the Miami Herald. "For those reasons, I'm incredibly proud that Pinta has been formally engaged to assist his cause with Hispanic strategy, digital content and social media."

Valdés-Fauli declined an interview request from the Herald over his expected role. The campaign has been focused on Bush's announcement and subsequent tour of early-primary states and did not respond to a request for comment.

Jorge Arrizurieta, a friend of Bush's who also knows Valdés-Fauli, characterized the hire as noteworthy as part of a "robust" organization.

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Shades of Mayberry as rural sheriff seeks Gov. Scott's budget help

A small-town sheriff who was once suspended from office by Gov. Rick Scott now wants Scott and the Cabinet to end a long-running local battle by forcing the county commission to give him more money in last year's budget.

It's yet another vestige of Florida's creaky Cabinet system. The Constitution allows sheriffs and other constitutional officers to appeal denials of budget increases to the governor and Cabinet. These fights are usually settled before they reach Tallahassee, but this Mayberry-style spat, which literally involves a guy named Floyd, likely will go the distance over $209,000.

The sheriff is Nick Finch of tiny Liberty County, who was suspended from office by Scott in 2013 for refusing to arrest Floyd Parrish, who was carrying a concealed weapon with no permit. Finch said the Second Amendment trumps state law, which made him a hero to gun rights advocates. A jury acquitted Finch of misconduct, Scott reinstated him and Finch renewed his bare-knuckle brawl with the boys at the courthouse.

Both sides staked out positions Wednesday at a meeting of Cabinet aides. A Cabinet staff report concluded that Finch was treated unfairly because no other constitutional officer's budget was cut, and offered him another $209,000. Finch wants more than that, at least $329,000, to buy replacement patrol cars, ammunition, tasers, batteries and other items and give increased pension benefits to deputies.

"It's a slap in the face," Finch said of the $209,000. "I'm disappointed to say the least ... I have to protect the people I serve."

County Attorney Shalene Grover offered to split the difference and give Finch $269,000. Finch said no, saying: "Would half of your wife's life be acceptable?"

Liberty County is a fiscally constrained county, which means it can't collect any more in property taxes, but Finch claims the tiny county is sitting on nearly $3 million in unspent reserves. Liberty, about 60 miles southwest of Tallahassee, is nearly 900 square miles in size but has the fewest people of any in Florida (population 7,710, which includes 1,829 prison inmates).

Because Finch wears a badge and carries a gun, Scott and Cabinet members are expected to give him the money he wants next Tuesday and the sheriff seemed to know this. As he left Wednesday's meeting with his finance director and two deputies in tow, he said: "I think I'm holding all the cards right now."

Gov. Rick Scott won't drop lawsuit against feds until decision made on LIP


A federal court hearing that could have featured testimony from Florida Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Health and Human Services Sec. Sylvia Burwell was canceled today after Gov. Scott withdrew his request that the judge in the case compel the government to continue a hospital payment program set to expire on June 30.

Judge M. Casey Rodgers issued the order today canceling the hearing previously set for Friday, and she ordered the federal government to file a response by July 8 to Gov. Scott's legal complaint that the Obama administration was attempting to coerce Florida to adopt Medicaid expansion by withholding a decision on the hospital payment program known as Low Income Pool.

In a legal brief filed Wednesday, Gov. Scott stated that the Florida Legislature's budget agreement assumes LIP funding will continue and that the proposal sets aside sufficient funds to pay state hospitals that care for large numbers of uninsured and under-insured  patients on Medicaid.

"The budget agreement thus mitigates the threat of imminent harm to the State, its healthcare providers, and their patients,'' the legal brief states.

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Hillary Clinton's Full Flop on same-sex marriage

On the day that the U.S. Supreme Court was poised to hear oral arguments about same-sex marriage April 28, Hillary Clinton changed her "H" logo to rainbow-colored and tweeted: "Every loving couple & family deserves to be recognized & treated equally under the law across our nation. #LoveMustWin #LoveCantWait."

Clinton came out in support of same-sex marriage in 2013 after more than a decade of opposing it. But her views are particularly in the spotlight now that she is a presidential candidate.

We decided to put Clinton’s statements about same-sex marriage on our Flip-O-Meter, which measures whether a candidate has changed their views without making a value judgment about such flips. We found that as public opinion shifted toward support for same-sex marriage, so did Clinton.

Turn to PolitiFact to see why we gave Clinton a Full Flop.

Florida House kills tougher regulation of for-profit colleges


Florida lawmakers have rejected a proposal that would have cracked down on the worst-performing for-profit colleges by suspending their licenses to operate and kicking them out of state financial aid programs.

The proposal, which had bipartisan support in the Senate, could never get anywhere in the Florida House. The Republican leadership in the House ignored the bill during the regular legislative session — failing to give it a single committee hearing.

During the current special session focused on budget issues, Senate leaders again brought up the proposal. House leadership shot it down.

More here.

Jeb Bush shows off español, sips coquito on Jimmy Fallon


Jeb Bush got a chance to play straight man to Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight show Tuesday, slow-jamming the news and sharing a laugh over his Jeb! logo's enthusiasm.

Bush kept a little grin on his face during the slow-jamming, in which Fallon urged the audience to "listen to my man Jebediah."

"He gots lots of experience down South," Fallon said. "He came from Texas, where everything is bigger, to turn Florida from a limp peninsula to a virile member of the U.S. economy."

Bush then got to talk about immigration -- in Spanish.

"Somos una nación de inmigrantes y creo que todo el mundo debería tener la oportunidad de alcanzar el sueño americano," Bush said to cheers.

"I know you just got back from Miami, but I didn't think I was interviewing Gov. Pitbull," Fallon quipped. ("Fireball!" Bush said.)

In a sit-down with Fallon later, Bush called Miami "a pretty rocking place" and praised his brother former President George W. Bush as "a significantly better artist than I am -- I'm still doing stick drawings." Jeb Bush said he speaks "Spanish most of the time" with wife Columba, "and all the time when she's mad at me."

Fallon asked about the Jeb! logo: "Do I shout it? Did Regis Philbin come up with it: Jeb!" 

The segment ended with Fallon bringing out two glasses of Puerto Rican coquito -- eggnog with coconut milk -- forcing Bush to break his Paleo diet to toast. "Whew," Bush said, taking a sip.

Quinnipiac poll: Strongest GOP challenger to Hillary Clinton in Florida is Marco Rubio


Marco Rubio's popularity surge since announcing his 2016 presidential campaign in April makes him the strongest Republican challenger in his home state of Florida -- at least for now -- against Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to a new public-opinion poll.

Clinton leads Rubio 47-44 percent in Florida, the survey by Quinnipiac University shows. Rubio also polls well in two other swing states, Ohio and Pennsylvania, even if he's not the GOP candidate in the tightest match-ups against Clinton in those cases.

In Ohio, potential contender and Gov. John Kasich leads Clinton 47-44 percent. Rubio trails her 45-42 percent. In Pennsylvania, she ekes ahead of Rubio 44-43 percent.

With error margins of 3 percentage points in Florida, 2.8 percentage points in Ohio and 3.2 percentage points in Pennsylvania, most of the match-ups effectively show ties. So early in the 2016 race, the more important takeaway is the trend from several polls showing Rubio on the upswing, according to Peter A. Brown, the poll's assistant director.

"It's a long way until Election Day, but in the critical swing states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has a tiny edge over the GOP field," Brown said in a statement.

Eight other hopefuls are "within striking distance" in at least one of the three states, he noted. That includes newly announced candidate Jeb Bush, whom Clinton leads 46-42 percent in Florida, 42-41 percent in Ohio and 45-41 percent in Pennsylvania.

Clinton continues to struggle in survey questions asking voters if she is honest and trustworthy.

AP: Jeb Bush 'slow jams' the news with 'Tonight' show's Jimmy Fallon

From the Associated Press:
NEW YORK -- Republican Jeb Bush "slow jammed" the news, told about meeting his wife, offered a guacamole recipe and oddly compared his presidential father and brother during a "Tonight" show appearance.

One day after announcing his bid for the presidency, Bush entered the entertainment world on the nation's most popular late-night talk show. Americans don't expect their presidents to be song-and-dance entertainers, but they at least expect them to appear comfortable and quick-witted opposite television hosts.

He was featured Tuesday night on the show's recurring "slow jam the news" skit with host Jimmy Fallon. The job required Bush to recite lines about his candidacy while Fallon, stylized as a 1970s soul man and backed by the Roots, offered a series of double entendres. Bush took the straight man role that was most often filled by NBC's suspended anchorman, Brian Williams.

June 16, 2015

For new U.S. House member Curbelo, support for Jeb Bush clear


The newest member of South Florida’s congressional delegation has nice things to say about both of the top Florida politicians running for president – but his preference for Jeb Bush is pretty clear-cut.

Carlos Curbelo, a Kendall Republican who beat a sitting Democrat in the 2014 midterm election, is one of 11 Republican U.S. House members out of 17 from the state lining up behind the former governor – and against the sitting U.S. senator, Marco Rubio of West Miami.

(Yes, yes: There are five GOP contenders with Florida ties – add in Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee, too – but Bush v. Rubio is the main event.)

In an interview Monday in his congressional office, with Bush’s announcement speech airing in the background, Curbelo said he has known Rubio for years and helped with some fundraising back in the senator’s Florida House days; he also said he was a volunteer for Bush’s 2002 campaign, and is friends with Bush’s son.

Bush supported Curbelo in his primary election – “which I was very grateful for,” he said. “But I’m not supporting him because he’s my friend. I’m supporting him because I believe in him.”

One of the chief criticisms of President Barack Obama is that he came into office without the experience to hold the highest office in the world, Curbelo said; the country ended up with years of “mediocre leadership.”

“We need a proven leader who has lead as an executive, both in the public sector and in the private sector – who can, from a political perspective, grow our party, and take us into places and neighborhoods where we’ve never been before,” Curbelo said. “And I think that’s Jeb Bush.”

As for Rubio: “I have a lot of respect for him. I’ve known him for many years. … I think he makes us all proud by how far he’s come and everything he’s achieved. I just think that between the two, Jeb is more prepared and more ready to lead.”

Gov. Rick Scott signs, vetoes legislation

Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday signed 17 bills into law and vetoed another three.

One of the bills he vetoed would have exempted investigatory records by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services from public disclosure. He said he vetoed it because it required additional legislation to be passed by lawmakers, which did not happen.

Another would have allowed property tax increases to help pay for firefighter pensions. The third dealt with agency rulemaking.

He signed 17 bills into law:

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