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July 20, 2015

Jeb Bush as the anti-Donald Trump, as portrayed in campaign and super PAC videos


As a presidential candidate, Jeb Bush can't coordinate his message or plans with Right to Right USA, the super PAC he used as a fundraising vehicle for five months before launching his campaign.

But he can release videos and make statements making his pitch crystal clear to his allies.

Take a look at a web video Bush's campaign released three days ago and at one released Monday by Right to Rise. The point of both: Bush is the anti-Donald Trump, the grownup in the room who intends to paint a positive picture of the GOP.

"Come Join Us," by Jeb 2016


"Passion and Conviction," by Right to Right USA


President Obama signs bill to give veterans ID cards to prove service time


All honorably discharged veterans will be able to get an ID card from the Department of Veterans Affairs to help them prove their status as former soldiers, under a bill authored  by a Florida Republican and signed into law by President Barack Obama on Monday.

Currently the VA only offers ID cards to those who served at least 20 years in the military or those who receive medical care for a service-connected disability. That leaves out thousands of soldiers who have to rely on official service paperwork, typically a DD-214 to prove they are a veteran for various discounts and programs.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Republican from Sarasota County, said he wanted to find a way to help veterans more easily prove they served without making them cart around papers that contain all kinds of personal information on them and can easily be misplaced.

Under Buchanan’s proposal the VA can begin creating ID cards as soon as two months from now. How much the cards will cost is still be to be determined by the VA.

In some states, like Florida, veterans can already apply to have a "V" added to their drivers license for $1 when they are renewing their license to help prove their status.

Charlie Crist plans to run for Congress

via @learyreports

Charlie Crist is preparing to run for the U.S. House seat David Jolly is vacating to run for Senate.

Crist's action follows Republican Jolly announcing his Senate campaign this morning. It's all due to the likely redrawing of the 13th Congressional District due to the recent Florida Supreme Court decision ordering new lines in eight districts across the state.

The new district would likely be much more Democratic, forcing Jolly to leave. Crist, the former Republican turn Democrat, has a natural base in hometown Pinellas County and would bring big name ID and fundraising ability.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

'Sad' day for Miami GOP members of Congress over Cuban embassy opening

Mario21 cuba new hmg


The three amigos, as U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen calls herself and Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart, watched Monday morning from Miami as the Cuban flag rose once again in Washington D.C.

In the afternoon, they gathered in Ros-Lehtinen's district office to declare it a "sad" day for Cuban Americans who have fought to keep the dictatorship isolated until the Castro regime becomes a democracy. The three Miami Republicans stood next to posters brandishing images of beaten up Cuban dissidents and the four men who died shot down by the Cuban government in the Brothers to the Rescue flights of 1996.

"There is not enough room in this office to display the faces of the opposition," Ros-Lehtinen said. 

Diaz-Balart said he won't consider a Cuban ambassador or other diplomats representatives of the people who live on the island.

"Cuba's true leaders, those are the ones that are in the prisons,"  Diaz-Balart said, or who've had their professional licenses or rationing cards taken away as a punishment for their political views. "The Castro regime is not the Cuban people. If only we had a president who knew the difference."

Continue reading "'Sad' day for Miami GOP members of Congress over Cuban embassy opening" »

Galvano and Oliva to chair redistricting committees

Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, and Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, will chair the respective House and Senate redistricting committees when lawmakers convene in a 12-day session beginning Aug. 10.

Also on the Senate committee are Republican Sens. Rob Bradley, Tom Lee and David Simmons. Democratic senators are Chris Smith, Audrey Gibson and Bill Montford.

In addition to Oliva, the House committee will include Republican Reps. Travis Cummings, Larry Metz, Marlene O'Toole, David Santiago, Jennifer Sullivan, Carlos Trujillo and Dana Young. Democratic representatives include Reggie Fullwood, Jared Moskowitz, Mark Pafford and Irv Slosberg.

Here's the House's membership and proposed schedule:

Continue reading "Galvano and Oliva to chair redistricting committees" »

Two new Miami-Dade department chiefs on the job


Two new Miami-Dade department chiefs start their first full weeks at their posts on Monday.

Alice Bravo left her job as a deputy city manager at Miami to become the county's transit chief. She replaces longtime transit head Ysela Llort, who resigned last month. Bravo's salary will be $235,000, enough to have given her the 29th slot in Dade Data's ranking of the 500 best-paid employees on the county payroll in 2014. 

The one-time engineer who helped design the Brickell extension of the city's Metromover line, she worked for the state transportation arm before joining Miami as head of capital projects. In a brief interview Monday, Bravo said she a top priority is "seeing what we can do to improve the experience of our riders, and improve ridership.

"A lot of that," she said, "is going to have to do with connectivity, and a lot of that has to do with riders once they get off the system." 

The other new appointee has actually been on the job for about a year. Gia Arbogast officially switched from interim library director to the permanent library director at last Tuesday's County Commission meeting (when the Bravo appointment was cleared as well). She took over the top spot when longtime director Raymond Santiago retired in the summer of 2014. In the move to permanent director, Arbogast received a 5 percent raise to $155,634 a year (enough for No. 242 on the Dade Data list). 

Arbogast joined the library system 29 years ago, and rose the administrative ranks from entry-level librarian to hold the top job.

Asked in an email about how the permanent appointment might change her approach to the position, Arbogast replied: "While I was Interim Director, we started a few projects that begin to open up Library spaces for learning experiences other than just reading books, such as MakerSpaces, technology learning and co-working areas, arts and crafts, etc.  As Director, I want to make sure that we continue to expand these learning areas throughout the Library system so that we begin to attract new audiences of all ages."

Legislators order staff to redraw congressional map and limit contact to lawyers

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner said Monday they will take an extraordinary hands-off approach to revising the state's eight congressional districts and asked staff to sequester itself from input and draw a joint "base map."

Staff is ordered to refrain from talking to anyone but legal counsel about the maps and "report" any legislators who attempts to inject illegal intent into the process.  

"We believe that presenting a base map that follows the Supreme Court order to you and the public will make it easier to discuss all legislative actions in an open and transparent manner,'' the officers wrote in their joint memo released Monday.

The extraordinary measures are a response to the unusual situation legislators find themselves in after the Florida Supreme Court voted 5-2 to invalidate the state's congressional map because they were "tainted with unconstitutional intent to favor the Republicans and incumbents."

The burden of proof now shifts to lawmakers to prove that they are following the law and, to do that, Crisafulli and Gardiner have ordered lawmakers to compile all documents and communications  related to drawing the maps and imposed the no-talk rule with map-drawers.

Continue reading "Legislators order staff to redraw congressional map and limit contact to lawyers" »

Florida's special redistricting session set for Aug. 10-21

Florida legislative leaders issued a joint proclamation Monday setting the dates of the next special session on redistricting for Aug. 10-21. The proclamation says the "sole and exclusive purpose" of the session is to redraw congressional district boundaries in response to a recent decision by the state Supreme Court.

In a joint memorandum, Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, wrote:

In preparation for the Legislature’s important work during an expedited special session, we are instructing professional staff of the House Select Committee on Redistricting and the Senate Committee on Reapportionment to work collaboratively with House and Senate legal counsel to develop a base map that complies with the Florida Supreme Court’s recent ruling and all of the relevant legal standards. This map proposal will be drafted solely by staff in collaboration with counsel, without our participation or the participation of any other member, and will be provided simultaneously to all members and the public prior to the convening of the Special Session. Our specific direction to staff is to begin their work by redrawing Congressional Districts 5, 13, 14, 21, 22, 25, 26, and 27 in compliance with the recent ruling of the Florida Supreme Court and to make any necessary conforming changes consistent with Article III, Section 20, of the Florida Constitution.  

Continue reading "Florida's special redistricting session set for Aug. 10-21" »

Fact-checking David Jolly, GOP candidate for Marco Rubio's seat

With only 15 months of congressional experience under his belt, U.S. Rep. David Jolly is announcing that he’s running for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio.

The 42-year-old Dunedin native announced July 20, 2015, he was seeking the Republican nomination after winning a March 2014 special election in Pinellas County’s 13th congressional district. The district has been one of the few genuinely competitive districts in the country, but the state Supreme Court ruled that it’s one of several that will have to be redrawn to conform to fair-districts rules passed by ballot measure. Those changes are expected to make the seat significantly more Democratic-leaning by adding heavily Democratic-leaning St. Petersburg in southern Pinellas to the district.

A lawyer and former lobbyist, Jolly was an aide to the district’s longtime congressman, U.S. Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young, who died in office in 2013. After winning the tight special election, Jolly won a full term more easily in the 2014 general election, without significant opposition.

He’s joining a Senate field that already includes U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who announced in May, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who announced his campaign on July 15. U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller and former Attorney General Bill McCollum also are considering running. U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and U.S. Rep.Patrick Murphy are looking to win the seat on the Democratic side.

Turn to Joshua Gillin's story about Jolly's Truth-O-Meter record from PolitiFact Florida.

Scott and Lopez-Cantera: We oppose diplomatic relations with Cuba

US CubaGov. Rick Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera took time out of their schedules Monday -- which each listed "no scheduled events" -- to denounce the revival of diplomatic ties between Cuba and the United States.

The Cuban government reopened its embassy in Washington Monday, flying the Cuban flag over the building for the first time since 1961. Scott and Lopez-Cantera had previously been vocal about their opposition to the move. 

“I stand in firm opposition to the reopening of the Cuban embassy in the United States and the American embassy in Cuba,'' Scott said in a statement. "Last week, the Castro regime arrested 100 peaceful protestors in Cuba. Reestablishing diplomatic ties will only serve to legitimize this sort of oppression. The arrests of peaceful protesters in Cuba have also doubled in the past year and President Obama continues to make concessions to the Castro brothers.

"This move by President Obama will further tie our great nation to the oppressive Castro regime. As Governor, I will continue to stand with the people of Cuba in their pro-democracy movement.” 

Lopez-Cantera, who last week announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate, echoed the sentiments. 

“Today, the Obama Administration capitulated to the Castro regime with no regard for the human rights or liberty of the Cuban people,'' he said in a statement. "I, along with Governor Scott, stand firmly against reestablishing diplomatic ties with Cuba.”

Photo: Andrew Harnik, AP