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May 19, 2015

Hillary Clinton's coming to Florida to raise money

@PatriciaMazzei

Hillary Clinton will make her first trip to South Florida next week as a 2016 Democratic presidential candidate to raise money from well-heeled political donors. A couple of public events are also in the works.

Four fund-raising events, each dubbed a "Conversation with Hillary," will take place May 28-29 in Miami-Dade, Broward and Seminole counties, according to an email Jon Adrabi, deputy national finance director for Clinton's campaign, sent supporters. The fund-raisers were first reported by Politico.

One of the events will take place at the Orlando-area home of John Morgan, the trial attorney who funded the 2014 statewide referendum to legalize medical marijuana. Also hosting separate events are trial attorneys Ira Leesfield of Coconut Grove and Michael Moskowitz of Parkland. Moskowitz is the father of Democratic state Rep. Jared Moskowitz, who's hosting the event at his parents' home, according to his legislative office. The fourth event is at the Coral Gables home of Nilda Milton, whose late husband, José, was a developer.

To attend, donors must contribute $2,700. Co-hosting an event requires $27,000, and hosting $50,000, which a donor can raise by asking others for money. With those larger contributions comes a chance to get closer to Clinton at a reception.

Here are the events:

Continue reading "Hillary Clinton's coming to Florida to raise money" »

May 18, 2015

After tough week, a warm Miami embrace for Jeb Bush

Bub19 JBush NEW PPP

@PatriciaMazzei

Jeb Bush felt the welcoming embrace of Miami on Monday as he tried to put behind him a difficult week of campaigning without yet being a presidential candidate.

His political action committee, Right to Rise, held a political fund-raiser in the overwhelmingly Hispanic, working-class suburb of Sweetwater, where the former Florida Republican governor was greeted as a old friend in need of a little TLC. 

"Aquí está la vieja guardia -- no tan vieja," Bush joked in Spanish after being introduced by former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart. The old guard is here -- not that old. (Not all of it was there: The two other co-hosts, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, were stuck on Capitol Hill. More than 500 people RSVP'ed for the event, according to a Bush spokeswoman.)

Last week, Bush took heat for repeatedly bumbling a response to a question about the 2003 Iraq invasion authorized by his brother, former President George W. Bush.

There was no mention of the incident Monday from Jeb Bush during his brief speech to the crowd, who had paid $25 each to attend -- a pittance compared to receptions that have asked donors for six-figure checks.

 

Continue reading "After tough week, a warm Miami embrace for Jeb Bush" »

Agencies release shutdown contingencies ahead of special session

@MichaelAuslen @stevebousquet

State agencies on Monday met Gov. Rick Scott​'s deadline to list critical services that could be affected by a possible government shutdown if lawmakers cannot agree on a budget for the state by June 30.

Scott got a hodgepodge of responses. Some of the documents paint a picture of what agency heads see as the most essential functions that shouldn’t be interrupted by a budget stalemate, while others highlight what could be cut in the event of a shutdown.

Some agencies, such as the Department of Corrections and Department of Law Enforcement, told the governor most or all of their functions are critical, saying that enough funding would need to be in place to keep correctional officers and criminal investigators in place.

On the theoretical chopping block: $10 billion in transportation infrastructure improvements, pre-kindergarten for thousands of students and slower response times by the Department of Emergency Management in the event of a natural disaster.

Cleanup of dangerous pollutants could be slowed. Floridians who rely on Medicaid for health care could lose access to primary care and rely entirely on emergency rooms. The Department of Transportation could have to “suspend highway lighting,” putting Floridians literally in the dark.

“Governor Scott’s focus is to keep government running.  He asked agencies what critical services would need to stay up and running in the event the Legislature does not agree on a budget by June 30,” Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said in a statement.

In their responses to Scott’s request, several agencies said they were confident lawmakers would agree on a budget.

“It is our belief that Legislative leaders will reach agreement and craft a responsible budget during the upcoming special session,” wrote Bonnie Rogers, who works for Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Lawmakers have agreed on the terms of a special session for June 1-20 to pass a budget, which they did not agree on during the regular session this spring.

John Morgan is 'astounded' by lawmakers' 'collective stupidity'

Lawyer and medical marijuana apologist John Morgan is looking to 2016 with a plea to fill the coffers of his campaign for legal medicinal pot, United for Care.

And he’s doing it with harsh words directed at the Florida Legislature, where medical marijuana didn’t take off this year and even an attempt to speed up bureaucratic processes surrounding low-THC cannabis called Charlotte’s Web were stalled. He sent out this email to supporters Monday:

“The collective stupidity of the Florida legislature continues to astound me. 

“Let's face it - most politicians are out to protect their own careers.  But by ignoring medical marijuana, they are not only endangering their personal chances in 2016, they're very possibly setting up a scenario that could have an impact on the presidential race.  Turnout WILL change because of our presence on the ballot. 

“And with God as my witness - we are going to be on the ballot. 

“We are going to win this war for the patients of Florida. Make a donation here today, and I'll match it. 

“What's outrageous is that they just doubled down... calling a special session of legislature and leaving medical marijuana off the agenda.

Experts: Rubio’s numbers on military strength don’t tell full story

@CAdamsMcClatchy

Pop quiz: On the high seas off, say, South Florida, the U.S. Navy from about 1915 is churning toward a confrontation with the U.S. Navy of 2015. Who would you put your money on?

To listen to presidential contender Marco Rubio recently, today’s Navy might need to be worried – which defense experts say would misread the true nature of how a country measures the strength of its military.

In his pivotal speech before the Council on Foreign Relations last week, Rubio – a freshman Republican senator from Florida – laid out a broad critique of Barack Obama’s military policy, saying the president has made the United States weaker.

“He enacted hundreds of billions of dollars in defense cuts that left our Army on track to be at pre-World War II levels, our Navy at pre-World War I levels, and our Air Force with the smallest and oldest combat force in its history,” Rubio said.

It was a reference Rubio had made before, including a showcase speech in 2014 focused on rebuilding American strength. In that speech, he did add a qualifier – but quickly indicated it didn’t matter.

“Some argue our equipment is more capable, so our forces don’t need to be as large,” he said. “But the world is still the same size. And even the most advanced combat aircraft, ship or soldier can only be in one place at a time.”

The issue isn’t a new one – and in fact came up in a 2012 presidential debate. And trotting out the startling historical numbers is something the Obama administration itself has done when trying to argue against certain budget cuts.

To Kelley Sayler, an associate fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank, the “picture is probably a bit more complicated and a bit less catastrophic than Sen. Rubio suggests.”

More here.

Hospitals say no to Scott's profit-sharing plan

Florida hospitals have a response to Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal that lost federal health care funding be offset by profit sharing: No way.

On May 8, the governor wrote in a letter that surpluses from profitable hospitals could be used to help keep afloat those that don’t break even as a possible replacement for the federally funded Low-Income Pool, which ends June 30.

But the FHA says its hospitals already fund poor Floridians’ health care by way of Medicaid. Pointing to a report commissioned by the state, FHA points out that hospitals contribute roughly $1.3 billion to Medicaid.

“You have suggested that a new tax on hospital operating surpluses might be a way to sustain the existing LIP program,” the letter, signed by the association's board of trustees, says. “Such an arrangement is not a solution to the challenge we face.”

The hospitals support a Medicaid expansion plan put forward by the Florida Senate, which Scott and the House are unwilling to agree to.

FHA likens Scott’s profit-sharing idea to an additional tax on hospitals. The governor likes to compare it to something else.

“This would be similar to how large-market baseball teams share revenues with small-market baseball teams," the governor wrote in his May 8 letter. "With the hospital industry's record-high profits, it does not make sense for the hospital industry to ask state taxpayers to back fill funding the Obama Administration has elected to terminate.”

The health care funding question will likely come to a head during a June 1-20 special session of the Legislature, when lawmakers are expected to approve a budget and will consider the Senate’s Medicaid plan. Meantime, Scott is moving forward with his own health care agenda, including convening a commission to study hospital funding, which meets for the first time Wednesday.

Obama to curtail military-equipment for police

via @anitakumar01

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will announce Monday that he will limit a federal program that provides military equipment to law enforcement, administration officials say.

The move comes after the uproar caused by the deaths of of deaths of black men by police or in police custody in the last year.

Obama will make the announcement during a visit to Camden, N.J., a city administration officials say improved relations between police and residents after a period of high crime and mistrust.

Last year, Obama asked Congress $263 million over three years to increase use of body-worn cameras, expand training for law enforcement and increase the number of cities where the Department of Justice works with local police. But he didn’t make significant changes to a federal program that provides military equipment to law enforcement, despite complaints after police with riot gear and assault-style weapons responded to protesters of the Ferguson, Mo. shooting.

A task force he created recommended that local police should be prohibited from using federal money to acquire items, including tracked armored vehicles, hih-caliver firearms and ammunition and camouflage uniforms. It also recommended new restrictions on other military-style items, including wheeled armored vehicles, pyrotechnics and battering rams and riot gear.

“The idea is to make sure that we strike a balance in providing the equipment, which is appropriate and useful and important for local law enforcement agencies to keep the community safe, while at the same time putting standards in place,” said Cecilia Muñoz, director of Obama’s Domestic Policy Council.

Obama on Monday will announce $163 million in grants to urge police departments to adopt the suggestions.

--ANITA KUMAR, McClatchy White House correspondent

Jeb Bush's claim about leaving 10,000 troops in Iraq under Obama

During a tough campaign week focused on the Iraq War, former Gov. Jeb Bush shifted blame for problems there to President Barack Obama, saying that Obama’s actions helped hand the country over to Islamic State.

A University of Nevada student attending a town hall-style meeting in Reno asked Bush why he was placing the burden on Obama, at one point telling Bush, "Your brother created ISIS." Bush countered that the Obama administration hadn’t followed through on proper planning.

"We had an agreement that the president could have signed that would have kept 10,000 troops, less than we have in Korea, that could have created the stability that would have allowed for Iraq to progress," Bush said. (Watch video of the exchange above.)

The claim came in the middle of a rough few days for Bush, who was being criticized for his changing answers on whether he would have invaded Iraq. We wondered if it was true that Obama could have signed a deal to leave 10,000 U.S. troops in the country after the war’s end.

Turn to Joshua Gillin's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida and here is PolitiFact's story about what Bush said over several days about the war in Iraq and Hillary Clinton.

Marco Rubio has listed himself as 'white' instead of 'Hispanic.' News flash: He's both.

@PatriciaMazzei

IMG_4702Marco Rubio has listed himself as "white"  instead of "Hispanic" in applications to renew his Florida driver's license, according to records obtained by the Miami Herald.

That might sound a little like Rubio made a mistake akin to when Jeb Bush incorrectly checked off "Hispanic" in his Miami-Dade County voter registration. But it's not.

Here's why: Rubio is white. He's also Hispanic. And being forced to pick between the two is a false choice.

"White" refers to Rubio's race. "Hispanic" refers to his ethnicity. There are, for example, white Hispanics, black Hispanics, Asian Hispanics and Hispanics of indigenous descent. Rubio is a white Hispanic.

Most government forms, however, are not enlightened enough to discern between a person's race and their ethnicity. When the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Department asks license applicants to fill out an optional race field, the choices are Asian, Black, Hispanic, Native American, Other and White -- as if a person couldn't be more than one of those things at the same time.

The information isn't mandatory -- it doesn't appear on a driver's license card -- and some of Rubio's transactions with the HSMV over the years don't list any race. His 1998 and 2004 renewal applications list "white," as shown in the partial 1998 application above (the Miami Herald redacted Rubio's license number as a courtesy; other information was redacted by the HSMV). His latest renewal, from 2014, shows a blank space under "race."

Of course, there's no confusion as to Rubio's lineage. His name gives away his Hispanic roots, and he has made it part of his political narrative to tell the story of how his parents left Cuba seeking a better life for their children.

A Rubio spokesman said the Florida senator "doesn't recall" how he renewed his license.

"But this looks like a glitch since he considers himself an American of Hispanic descent," Alex Conant said in an email. "The fact that he is of Hispanic descent has been hard to miss since his first campaign given the fact that he's made his family's story a centerpiece of his public life."

The race-versus-ethnicity question is far from unusual in Rubio's diverse hometown of Miami. Some Hispanics have a personal policy of listing their race rather than their ethnicity, since that's really what is being asked. Others choose without giving it much thought, depending on the form and their mood on any given day. Since the options show a lack of understanding about what makes a person Hispanic, why bother taking it too seriously?

The U.S. Census has separated race and ethnicity, specifically over the question of Hispanic origin, since 1997. Perhaps it's time for all government agencies to do the same.

Jeb Bush on same-sex marriage: 'This has been accelerated at a warp pace'

@PatriciaMazzei

Same-sex marriage is not a constitutional right, Jeb Bush said in an interview over the weekend in which he spoke about the issue in moralistic terms.

Bush, a devout Roman Catholic, told the Christian Broadcasting Network that "traditional marriage is a sacrament" and that society has moved too quickly to abandon that view.

"Do you believe there should be a constitutional right to same-sex marriage?" host David Brody asked. "Because that's the argument in front of the Supreme Court."

"I don't, but I'm not a lawyer, and clearly this has been accelerated at a warp pace," Bush said. "What's interesting is four years ago Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had the same view that I just expressed to you. It's thousands of years of culture and history is just being changed at warps speed. It's hard to fathom why it is this way."

Bush has said in the past that legalizing same-sex marriages should be decided on a state-by-state basis.

Last month in New Hampshire, a college Republican told Bush he is worried the GOP is losing younger voters by opposing same-sex marriages.

"I have no animus in my heart," Bush said at the time. "I have no hatred or bitterness in my heart for people that have a different view."

"I think that we need to be finding ways to unite behind broader issues where there's broader support."