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September 22, 2015

The defiant dozen: Martin is 12th county with NPA voter surge

Martin County on Florida's Treasure Coast has become the 12th Florida county to see the growing surge of unaffiliated voters who are rejecting both major political parties.

The combined total of NPA and minor party voters has edged past Democrats in Martin, according to Supervisor of Elections Vicki Davis' web site. Martin and many other counties have special events planned Tuesday in recognition of National Voter Registration Day.

Democrats in Florida are also outnumbered by "others" in Clay, Collier, Lee, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and St. Johns counties. Republicans are in effect a third party in Broward, Miami-Dade, Orange, Osceola and Palm Beach. The big three South Florida counties combined account for about one-fourth of all voters in the state.

As the no-party affiliation trend escalates across the state, four more medium-sized counties will soon see Democrats slip to third place: Charlotte, Flagler, Indian River and Monroe. In Florida, NPA voters are not allowed to vote in party primary elections.

Total voter registration in Florida reached 12 million in August, and no-party and minor party voters account for 27 percent of all voters in the state (NPAs are 24 percent and minor party voters are 3 percent). Statewide, Democrats account for 38 percent of voters and Republicans 35 percent. The number of unaffiliated voters has grown by about 1 million statewide since Barack Obama took office in 2009 and will approach 30 percent of the electorate by the time of the 2016 presidential election.

Jeb Bush: How Catholic faith changed my life

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has an essay posted on about his Catholic faith timed with Pope Francis' visit to the United States:

Millions of American Catholics, like me, are excited that Pope Francis is making his first journey to the United States. In our Holy Father, we have a model of personal holiness and deep concern for the most vulnerable among us. He reminds us to speak out for the persecuted, advocate for the unborn, comfort the afflicted and welcome the stranger.

The pundits would like to make him out to be a politician, but his charge is much greater than that: He is the spiritual leader to the largest group of Christians on Earth and an inspiration to all people of good will.

The church that Francis leads never tires of proclaiming the dignity of all people -- a truth that is also at the heart of our form of government that pledges liberty and justice for all. It underlies the first freedom in our Constitution, the freedom of religion, a freedom that too many in our government have lost sight of in recent years.

More here.

Carlos Curbelo and Anitere Flores make Huff Post's 40 under 40 in Latino politics

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, state Sen. Anitere Flores and Alberto Martinez, chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio made Huffington Post's 40 under 40 in Latino politics.

From Huff Post

1. Alberto E. Martinez (Marco Rubio): At only 35 years of age, Alberto serves as the Chief of Staff for Senator Marco Rubio. Prior to his time as Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff, he was a Senior Advisor to Rubio's Reclaim America PAC and the Romney for President campaign. Previously, Alberto served as the Communications Director for the Republican majority during Rubio's term as speaker of the Florida House. Prior to his work with Rubio, Martinez served as Deputy Speechwriter for Governor Jeb Bush and Florida Communications Director for President George W. Bush's reelection campaign in 2004.

5. Anitere Flores (State Senator): Senator Flores is the first Republican Hispanic woman to serve in both the Florida House and Senate since 1986. Prior to becoming a Republican Member of the Florida Senate's 38th district, she served in the Florida House of Representatives 114 district from 2004 to 2010. After law school, Anitere was hired by the Florida House of Representatives to work on the Education Council, and later worked for Governor Jeb Bush as his Education Policy Chief.

6. Carlos Curbelo (Congressman): At only 35 years of age, Rep. Curbelo is one of the youngest Latino elected officials in congress. Before being elected as a U.S. Representative from Florida's 26th congressional district, he was previously a member of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools board. He is a former state director for former U.S. Senator George LeMieux of Florida.

Also on the list is Wadi Gaitan, the first Hispanic communications director for the Republican Party of Florida and "easily one of the top bilingual media operatives in America." 

September 21, 2015

Body-camera footage captures Dade commissioner's DUI arrest in Key West


In June, Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz cast one of only two no votes on the 13-member commission for buying body cameras for the county's police department. On Monday, he summoned the press to say he was "extremely sorry" after Key West's body cameras captured his DUI arrest on film. 

"After seeing the video and reading the police reports, again, I am sorry," the four-term commissioner told reporters outside of his Sweetwater home. He did not take questions.

On footage from body cameras that the Key West police department issued only two months ago, Diaz is seen telling officers he is an elected official from MIami-Dade County and on a first-name basis with the sheriff of Monroe County (Miami-Dade's southern neighbor and home to the Keys). He also made reference to the cameras he clearly knew were filming him.

When an officer scolded him for driving his Harley-Davidson while drinking, Diaz was captured on tape saying: "There goes my political career."

More here

Scott budget will include $19 million for mental health

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday announced that he will ask for more than $19 million in his state budget proposal to address mental health and substance abuse in the state, his first announcement for next year's budget.

The money is intended to fund proposals to expand mental health care services across the state, which Scott laid out in an executive order in June that said "state funding for mental healthcare is too fragmented."

"It is critical that we do all we can to help individuals and families affected by mental illness and substance abuse in our state," Scott said in a written statement Monday.

Lapses in mental health care access has been targeted recently in reports by the Miami Herald and other news organizations about the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Corrections.

Scott's budget will include:

* $12.8 million for Community Behavioral Health Services that aim to help people with mental health needs without resorting to incarceration and to help mentally ill inmates rejoin the community.

* $3.7 million to create five Community Action Treatment teams to treat youth with unmet mental health needs.

* $2.8 million to expand Family Intensive Treatment teams in counties where abuse and neglect is rampant and closely tied to substance abuse.

NYT reports that Scott Walker is dropping out of race

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is dropping out of the race for president  because his fundraising has dried up, reports the New York Times. He will announce his decision at a press conference in Madison at 6 p.m. eastern time.

Here is his bio from PolitiFact Wisconsin: Walker was elected governor of Wisconsin in November 2010. He was recalled in 2012 after igniting controversy with a bill curtailing public-employee union collective-bargaining rights. He survived the recall election, defeating Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.  He won re-election to a four-year term in November 2014

Here is Walker's Truth-O-Meter record from PolitiFact.

Jeb Bush takes on Donald Trump in Houston speech to Hispanic chamber

via @learyreports

Protesters wasted no time attacking Jeb Bush as he began a speech before the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Houston today.

Today I would like to honor three women, recognize them for the work they do,” Bush said as chants in the crowd began. He paused as it grew louder.

“No hope without our vote,” the protesters shouted.

“I believe we need immigration reform,” Bush said. “I’ve been clear about this. I believe that Dream Act kids should have a path to citizenship.”

The outburst relented and Bush began a speech touching on his record as governor and plans for the future. He alluded to Donald Trump several times, pushing back on Trump's comments about Bush speaking Spanish and having a Mexican-American wife.

Bush advocated for immigration reform as part of an economic growth strategy. "We need to respect the rule of law," he said. "But we don't need to build a wall. We don't need to deport every person ..."

Bush criticized some in his party (meaning Trump) for using language of fear, then told the story of how he met his wife, Columba, in Mexico. "My wife is an American by choice."

He concluded his remarks in Spanish to sustained applause.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Alan Grayson changes name of hedge fund

via @learyreports

Rep. Alan Grayson has changed the name of a hedge fund that raised questions of violating congressional rules -- questions he previously swatted away.

This month, the millionaire Orlando Democrat petitioned to change Grayson Fund Management Company to Sibylline Fund Management.

His spokesman confirmed the move Sunday evening. “There's nothing wrong with the investor partnership using ‘Grayson’ in their name, but at this point, it's simply easier to change the name than to argue about it,” spokesman Kevin Franck said in an email.

Grayson argued that he was on firm footing (Politico in June quoted a number of people who disagreed). But it had become an issue as Grayson runs for Senate. He faced an official House complaint filed by a supporter of rival Patrick Murphy, who pointed to congressional rules barring lawmakers from lending their names to entities that provide a fidiciary role.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Was there no discussion about the national debt during the CNN debate as Marco Rubio says?

The high polling numbers for the GOP presidential field’s "outsider" candidates are in part the result of the media refusing to discuss substantive issues, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

Rubio said on the Sept. 20, 2015, episode of This Week that political newcomers like Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson were seeing success because people were tired of establishment candidates. But the CNN debate earlier in the week in Simi Valley, Calif., also showed that coverage isn’t focused on the country’s problems, he said.

"I don’t think it’s limited to the politicians, it’s also the media," Rubio said. "We had a three-hour debate, no discussion about the national debt, very little about the economy. It was a constant he-said-she-said, what do you say because so-and-so called you this name or that name."

What did the candidates really discuss during the debate? We reviewed the transcript and wouldn’t say there was "no discussion" about the debt, but Rubio has a point there was little said about the economy.

See what Joshua Gillin of PolitiFact found.

Report: Florida among 'least fair' for state taxes nationwide


Florida might have one of the perks of no state income tax, but according to one personal finance website, the Sunshine State has among the "least fair" state tax systems in the United States.

WalletHub released its annual survey this morning of "2015’s Most & Least Fair State Tax Systems," and Florida came in near the bottom of the pack: 45th out of the 50 states. Illinois, Arkansas, Hawaii, Georgia and Washington finished out the bottom five.

Among the key findings related to Florida: "The wealthiest 1 percent are most undertaxed" here, and the poor (which the survey defines as the bottom 20 percent) are among the most overtaxed.

Which states are the "fairest" of them all? According to WalletHub's survey, the top five are Montana, Oregon, South Carolina, Delaware and Idaho.

Check out the full report here.