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May 28, 2015

AP: Jeb Bush's roles on numerous corporate boards could become 2016 presidential campaign issue

From the Associated Press:

During his transition from Florida governor to likely presidential candidate, Jeb Bush served on the boards or as an adviser to at least 15 companies and nonprofits, a dizzying array of corporate connections that earned him millions of dollars and occasional headaches.

More here.

Bush served on the board of directors or as an adviser to at least 15 companies and nonprofits since leaving office as Florida governor in early 2007. Here are the 15, his role for each, the years he served and his pay in the cases it is known.
 
Read the list here.

AP: Marco Rubio returns to other childhood home: Las Vegas (not Miami)

From the Associated Press:

When Marco Rubio attends his 44th birthday party and fundraiser at the home of the host of the "Pawn Stars" reality show Thursday, it won't be his first birthday in Las Vegas.

The Cuban-American son of South Florida spent part of his childhood in Las Vegas, from 1979 to 1985, where he joined the Mormon church, became a fierce union supporter at a tender age and grew alienated from his Cuban-American peers before returning to Miami for high school. In these formative years, Rubio impressed schoolmates and neighbors as a curious and driven boy who talked too much in class and showed early signs of the policy wonk and competitive player he would become.

More here.

May 27, 2015

In Miami, Obama sets stage for Democratic donors to wade into 2016

@PatriciaMazzei

In Miami, the early 2016 presidential campaign has for months played out as the Jeb and Marco Show, starring two Republican hometown candidates with little attention paid to anyone else.

Now it’s Democrats’ turn to vie for the spotlight.

President Barack Obama unofficially kicked off his political party’s own local fund-raising season Wednesday, attending a pair of $33,400-per-person events in Coconut Grove to benefit the Democratic National Committee for next year’s election.

Though he didn’t name her, Obama set the stage for his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, to ramp up her own check-collecting from South Florida’s well-heeled donors. Clinton has two private receptions planned for Thursday in the Grove and Coral Gables, followed by two more events Friday in Parkland and outside Orlando.

“An eight-year span in the life of a country is pretty short,” Obama said. “We can get a lot done, but part of what we’re also doing is laying the foundation so that we then pass that baton to the next administration, and we institutionalize some of the progress that we’ve been making.”

More here.

Environmentalists renew call for Everglades land buy before special Florida session

via @jenstaletovich

Environmentalists say they are not giving up the battle to secure land south of Lake Okeechobee for Everglades restoration. They’re just changing tracts.

With lawmakers scheduled to meet Monday for the start of a 20-day special session, several of the state’s most influential conservation groups on Wednesday renewed calls to buy land needed to store water and move it to the thirsty southern Everglades. They also want lawmakers to order the South Florida Water Management District to set a schedule for designing and building a reservoir.

“We have a path forward,” said Mary Barley, president of the Everglades Trust. “The cost of inaction could be catastrophic.”

Over the dry winter, Florida Bay withered as salinity shot up. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was also forced to release dirty lake water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers to protect the lake’s aging dike. The dirty lake water triggered a toxic algae bloom two summers ago that killed fish and made the rivers off-limits for months.

The groups had hoped to complete a deal to buy about 46,000 acres from U.S. Sugar before it expired in October using money from Amendment 1, a November constitutional measure that 75 percent of voters supported. But the deal fell apart after the company backed off the plan and water managers instead voted to endorse a vague budget plan by Gov. Rick Scott to spend $500 million on restoration efforts. With that controversial deal behind them, group leaders said they were hopeful Wednesday that opposition would also fade.

More here.

South Florida lawmakers take up Medicaid expansion at health forum

via @chabelih

With a special legislative session set for next week, South Florida lawmakers, hospital representatives and health groups gathered Wednesday to discuss Medicaid expansion, the future of healthcare in Florida and a looming Supreme Court decision on subsidies.

Sen. Rene Garcia, a Miami Republican who chairs the Senate healthcare budget committee, in a panel discussion with Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, said a healthcare crisis still exists in Florida after the Legislature adjourned without passing a budget. About 850,000 Floridians fall into the healthcare “gap” created when Florida chose not to expand Medicaid.

Garcia said he is frustrated with the House’s refusal to explore options for Medicaid expansion: “It just makes no sense to me that you cannot sit in a room and have a conversation as to how we are going to fix the problem.”

The panel offered some hope of a solution to the impasse, noting that House appropriations chair Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, called the Senate’s proposed Medicaid expansion plan “exciting” earlier this week, with the caveat that the Senate guarantees it will take up several other House proposals.

Still, no House Republicans attended the Health Foundation of South Florida’s forum, though they were invited.

More here.

House responds with batch of bills it says will lower health care costs

After spending the last legislative session knocking down Senate proposals for expanding health care coverage while offering no alternative of their own, Florida House Republicans filed a series of bills Wednesday that attempt to take a rifle-shot approach to lowering the spiraling costs of health care in Florida.

Many of the proposals are not new, and some have been passed by key committees in the state Senate, but all embrace the belief of many House leaders that the state must inject free-market competition into the health care marketplace to lower costs of health care before expanding access to the uninsured. Opponents, however, claim that many of the proposals just unleash turf battles within the health care industry that will not suppress costs.

“The crisis in health care begins at the cost part of that equation,’’ said Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, a top House lieutenant. “Until we address costs there will never be enough [Medicaid] expansion as those costs continue to rise. What I need to do is put together a system that is heavily dependent on competition and consumerism and free markets.”

The bills, filed along with several budget bills that will be introduced in the three-week special session that begins Monday, include:

Continue reading "House responds with batch of bills it says will lower health care costs" »

Judge dismisses final marijuana challenge; access expected by 'end of year' state says

Florida regulators said they expect to provide access to a limited strain of non-euphoric marijuana for medical purposes by the end of the year after a Tallahassee judge on Wednesday dismissed the final challenge to the long-awaited rule.

The Florida Department of Health, which developed the rule, is expected to start accepting applications within three weeks from eligible growers for the strain of marijuana that is low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabadiol, or CBD. Growers could start selling to eligible patients who are put on a state-run "compassionate use registry" within months.

"I am one happy legislator,'' said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, one of the sponsors of the 2014 legislation that attempted to expedite the development and cultivation of the so-called "Charlotte's Web" strain of low-THC marijuana to help people suffering from epileptic seizures, cancer and other ailments.

Legislators had intended for the medical strain of cannabis to be available to Floridians by January of this year but regulators had their first rule rejected, and then faced a series of legal challenges. On Wednesday, they offered patients new hope.

"Today's ruling allows the department to move forward with implementing the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, approved by the legislature in 2014,'' the Department of Health said in a statement. "The department remains committed to ensuring safe and efficient access to this product for children with refractory epilepsy and patients with advanced cancer. We are moving swiftly to facilitate access to the product before the end of the year.”

Continue reading "Judge dismisses final marijuana challenge; access expected by 'end of year' state says" »

AP: Rick Santorum to formally enter GOP presidential race

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON -- Rick Santorum, an aggressive advocate for conservative family values, will launch a second bid for president on Wednesday, a spokesman said.

The former Pennsylvania senator exceeded the political world's expectations by scoring a second-place finish in the race for the Republican presidential nomination four years ago. Yet as he competes again, he may struggle even to qualify for the debate stage in 2016.

The 57-year-old Republican will deliver his announcement at a factory near his western Pennsylvania hometown, according to spokesman Matt Beynon.

Santorum will be surrounded by factory workers at the event, a carefully scripted setting designed to showcase his focus on the working class. A major player in 2012, he opens this political season almost as a heavy underdog in a race expected to feature more than a dozen high-profile Republicans — most of them newcomers to presidential politics.

More here.

How Rick Scott snubbed the Florida GOP on presidential cattle call

via @adamsmithtimes

Gov. Rick Scott will be front and center before the national media Tuesday as he hosts his Economic Growth Summit at Disney World, where most of the top tier presidential candidates will be talking about the vision for growing the economy.

Overlooked on this high profile cattle call is how the entire thing was put together through Scott's political committee, Let's Get to Work, rather than the state GOP. This is unprecedented and a reminder that the leading elected Republican in Florida still has a rocky - at best - relationship with the Republican Party of Florida. It's been that way since party officials snubbed him early this year by electing state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia the party chairman, rather than Scott's preferred candidate.

Traditionally, the state party has used these events to raise money through sponsorships, speaking fees, and the like that ultimately helps pay for the Republican nominee's general election campaign in Florida. No one from Let's Get to Work has yet responded to our inquiries today, so we don't know if Scott's committee is raising any money off his summit. 

Here's the rough schedule Tuesday:

Continue reading "How Rick Scott snubbed the Florida GOP on presidential cattle call" »

WaPo: Ohio Gov. Kasich looks to announce 2016 bid this summer

From the Washington Post:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has been actively gauging reactions to a possible campaign for president in 2016, is now moving rapidly to assemble the staff and financial resources for such a bid and is looking to declare his candidacy sometime after June 30, according to knowledgeable Republicans.

Kasich advisers say his principal competition would come from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.). 

Kasich v. Bush 

"They consider Bush potentially hobbled by resistance to a third president from the same family," reports Post. Asked in the recent interview whether his message would be similar to Bush's, Kasich said, "I don't know anything about [Bush's theme]. I really don't. I've never listened to him. What's "Right to Rise"? Getting up in the morning?" Right to Rise is the name of Bush's super PAC.

Kasich v. Rubio

Kasich advisers view Rubio as having significant potential but faced with the problem of being a first-term senator who would be trying to follow a first-term senator -- President Barack Obama -- to the White House. "We hired an inexperienced person to run the country," a Kasich adviser said. "That didn't work out very well. That plays well in his [Kasich's] favor."

More here.