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October 26, 2016

SEC files for final judgment against city of Miami in securities fraud case


Attorneys for the Securities and Exchange Commission asked a federal judge Wednesday to enter a final judgment in the historic civil securities fraud case against the City of Miami.

The proposed judgment -- which city commissioners approved two weeks ago -- calls on the city to pay a $1 million civil penalty to the SEC within 14 days of entry of the judgment. The city would also be subject to a court-enforced injunction barring it from further violations of the Securities Act and the Exchange Act.

Former Miami budget director and co-defendant Michael Boudreaux plans to challenge the jury verdict, according to his attorney.

Miami made history this summer by becoming the first municipality to fight the SEC all the way to trial, and then again last month when a jury found city officials had violated a 2003 cease-and-desist order by playing shell games with the budget in the late 2000s -- making Miami a repeat offender.

Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso signed a consent form Tuesday, in which the city waived its right to appeal the verdict or any judgment. The matter is now in the hands of Judge Cecilia Altonaga.

Florida scientists call on Trump to address climate change

Matheson flooding

by @jenstaletovich

Florida scientists who two years ago called out Rick Scott for failing to acknowledge the dire impacts from climate change have turned their attention to Donald Trump.

On Wednesday, a letter signed by 26 scientists from the state's largest universities, including the University of Florida, University of Miami, Florida A&M, Florida State and a half dozen other schools asked to meet with the Republican presidential candidate to present the latest findings on climate science. FSU oceanographer Jeff Chanton said the letter was delivered to Republican headquarters in Tallahassee Wednesday morning.

"On the heels of Hurricane Matthew, we are reminded how fragile our infrastructure is. One bad storm has the potential to ruin thousands of lives, and devastate local economies," the scientists wrote.

Trump has repeatedly called climate change a hoax. While he backed off a 2012 tweet blaming the Chinese for coming up with the concept to smother U.S. manufacturing competition, as the campaign heated up he repeatedly referred to the weather phenomenon driving up sea level in South Florida as a hoax, according to PolitiFact. In a speech in May on energy policy, Trump also said he would opt out of the landmark Paris Climate Agreement if elected. The 2015 accord signed by 195 countries for the first time spells out a plan to limit global warming. In response, 375 scientists, including 30 Nobel laureates, warned that such a move would lead to "severe and long-lasting" consequences.

"This notion of climate change as a hoax, from a scientific perspective, that's sheer nonsense," David Hastings, a climate scientist at Eckerd College, said in a press call Wednesday. "It’s not a scientific perspective and what we want to bring to the table is science. All credible climate scientists share the opinion that climate change is real. We are causing it. It's bad."

In 2014, some of the scientists who signed the letter made a similar pitch to Gov. Rick Scott. When he ran for office, Scott said he remained unconvinced that global warming was man-made. Once in office, he demurred when asked again, saying "I'm not a scientist." A later report cited a number of state employees or people who worked with the state saying they were banned from using the term.


Scientists said they wrote the letter in part to bring attention to the issue of climate change, which has not been addressed in televised debates.

"Not one moderator has asked about it," Chanton said. "Yet it’s probably one of the more important issues of our time. It's at least as important as ISIS in my mind."

When asked if he realistically thought the letter would cause the candidate to change his opinion, Chanton joked he was hopeful.

"He needs a Hail Mary," he said, "and this just might be the thing for him."


Fact-checking Patrick Murphy's claim about his father's firm and Donald Trump

Murphyatpodium (1)


U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy has lambasted U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio for continuing to endorse Donald Trump for president. Rubio has fired back by portraying Murphy, a Democrat, as having business ties to Trump.

"There's only one person on the stage tonight whose family made millions of dollars in partnership with Donald Trump and that's you," Rubio said in the first Senate debate on Oct. 17.

After the debate, in a TV interview with WFLA that aired Oct. 23, Murphy said that Rubio wasn’t telling the truth.

"It's an absolute lie. We’ve never done business with Donald Trump," Murphy said. "And Marco Rubio is just trying to distract and confuse the voters because he’s so concerned with his own choice for president."

Reporter Candace McCowan followed up: "Was there not some dealings between him and your father on a real estate deal?"

"No, absolutely not. We’ve never had a contract with Donald Trump," Murphy said.

Who’s telling the truth here?

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

Rubio leads Murphy in new FAU poll, but 12 percent remain undecided


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has a narrow lead over Congressman Patrick Murphy heading into the final stretch of the campaign, but there are still a sizeable number of undecided voters, a new poll from the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative shows.

The poll of 500 likely voters showed 46 percent are backing Rubio, the Miami Republican seeking a second term. About 42 percent said they were backing Murphy, the two-term Democratic Congressman from Palm Beach County. But 12 percent said they were undecided on the contest - double the number that said they are undecided about th presidential race in the same poll.

The FAU poll showed Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump 46 percent to 43 percent, with 6 percent undecided.

“The U.S. Senate race is very tight,” said Monica Escaleras, director of FAU’s Business and Economics Polling Initiative.

Other findings in the poll conducted from Oct. 21 to Oct. 23 showed:

-68 percent of Hispanic voters supporting Clinton, compared to 19 percent for Trump 

-37 percent of voters said Rubio’s support of Trump would make them less likely to vote for him, while 30 percent said it made them more likely to support him, and

-67 percent support Amendment 2, the proposal to allow medical marijuana in Florida

Debbie Wasserman Schultz's misleading claim about Obamacare insurers


Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., had to play defense over the Affordable Care Act -- sometimes called Obamacare -- during an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Oct. 25.

The previous afternoon, the federal government had announced that premiums for plans under the act would rise an average of 22 percent in 2017. While most plan-holders would see their federal subsidies increase to ease the premium hike, the news was an unwelcome development for Democrats, especially in the final days of an election season.

On CNN, Blitzer asked Wasserman Schultz about the hikes, saying, "that’s not the way it was supposed to be, was it?"

She responded, "Well, we're in a transition year, and as I said, you have 91 percent of … previously uninsured Americans in Florida who are eligible for a tax credit, which brings those costs down. So those numbers are really an anomaly. It's four or five states where the number of insurance options have narrowed and so premiums have increased, but we're going to be able to make sure that if we just sit down together and iron out the kinks that have occurred with Obamacare."

The part that caught our eye had to do with the decline in the number of insurers offering policies under the Affordable Care Act, which is considered one of the factors driving the rise in premiums. Is Wasserman Schultz correct that "it's four or five states where the number of insurance options have narrowed"?

Actually, it’s more than that.

Keep reading Louis Jacobson's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida.

Trump rallies supporters in reliably blue Tallahassee


TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s capital city may be reliably blue, but that didn’t stop Donald Trump from drawing several thousand supporters from North Florida and southern Georgia to a campaign stop in a field Tuesday night.

The rally, at the Tallahassee Automobile Museum, was more subdued than typical for Trump. He spoke using prepared remarks on a TelePrompTer, rather than talking off the cuff, his signature speaking style.

Trump highlighted his plans for the first 100 days in office, as well as health care policy, rattling off the news that premiums on the Affordable Care Act exchange are expected to increase by double digits next year.

“Job-killing Obamacare is just one more way that our system is rigged,” he said.

But that didn’t stop some of the mainstays of Trump rallies everywhere. Chants of “Lock her up” by supporters, a typical jab that “there is nothing more corrupt than those people” in the mainstream media, and a call-and-response that has been part of his repertoire since well before he became the Republican nominee:

“Who’s going to pay for that wall?” Trump asks.

“Mexico!” the crowd roars back.

Just hours earlier before the rally, Florida’s four top elected officials, Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet, all Republicans, met eight miles down the road at the state Capitol.

Scott, who chairs a pro-Trump super PAC, did not attend the rally, instead hosting a leadership dinner at the Governor’s Mansion. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who have been less eager supporters of Trump, were likewise absent.

But Attorney General Pam Bondi warmed up crowds before Trump took the stage, saying she voted early Monday, the first day she could.

“My precinct was packed out and guess who was in there: All people who want to make America great again,” Bondi said. “It’s us who’s gonna show them that these polls are rigged.”

Earlier, following the Cabinet meeting, she reiterated her support for Trump, while condemning remarks he has made about women that came to light in recent weeks following the Access Hollywood tape leak.

“I know Donald Trump. I have seen him evolve in the last 14 months,” Bondi said. “I think he will be an excellent role model. I know he has raised wonderful kids.”

Leon County is reliable territory for Democrats, particularly in a presidential election year. President Barack Obama carried the county with more than 60 percent of the vote in 2008 and 2012.

That led many to wonder why Trump, trailing Hillary Clinton in Florida by three or four points in recent polls, would spend time in the state’s capital city,
rather than rallying supporters to vote in more fruitful Republican strongholds like Central Florida or Jacksonville.

Continue reading "Trump rallies supporters in reliably blue Tallahassee" »

Tonight is the second -- and final -- debate night for Rubio and Murphy



Florida’s U.S. Senate race has, at last, shifted into a position long predicted by political observers and even the candidates themselves: A neck-and-neck contest that will go down to the wire between Marco Rubio, the Republican incumbent, and Patrick Murphy, the Democratic challenger.

The candidates’ second and final debate Wednesday night is among their last chances to gain an edge in the competitive contest and to draw the support of undecided voters who’ve yet to cast their ballots.

The debate begins at 7 p.m. at Broward College in Davie.

More details here on what to expect and how to watch.

October 25, 2016

In Broward, Hillary Clinton stumps for Patrick Murphy


@newsbysmiley @amysherman1

With polls suggesting she’s pulling ahead of Donald Trump in Florida, Hillary Clinton traveled to South Florida Tuesday and delivered her strongest pitch yet for for U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy while urging voters not to grow over-confident.

“It’s going to be a close election,” she said at Broward College’s Coconut Creek campus. “Don’t get complacent, because we've got to turn people out.”

Appearing a little more relaxed and perhaps even a tad sarcastic, Clinton blasted U.S. Senator Marco Rubio for his deflections on climate change, and Donald Trump for not coming out strongly enough in support of Israel. She spoke to a crowd of about 1,750, which delighted the Democratic nominee by singing happy birthday to her, one day before she turns 69.

Keep reading here.
Miami Herald photo by Patrick Farrell

More Broward ballots missing marijuana question, lawsuit alleges

Norm Kent


Hours after a Broward judge said she was ready to rule quickly on a case about ballots missing the medical marijuana amendment, a new wrinkle appeared Tuesday evening: Two more voters found Amendment 2 missing on their ballots.

NORML of Florida, a group that supports reforming marijuana laws, filed a new emergency motion Tuesday night asking the court to hold a rehearing in its lawsuit against Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes.

The voters “are victims of the respondent’s failure to carry out her constitutional duties and face the prospect of being deprived of the right to vote on matters of great public concern,” attorney Russell Cormican wrote in a new motion.

Cormican works with Norm Kent, the attorney for NORML of Florida. They filed suit last week after elections officials verified that two Oakland Park voters received mail-in ballots that omitted Amendment 2, a statewide question about allowing the use of marijuana for medical reasons.

Cormican wrote in an emergency motion filed Tuesday evening that he had heard from two additional voters — Johnny Alexander and Cary Gandolfi, both from Plantation — who had received absentee ballots that lacked the amendment. He heard from those voters after his emergency hearing earlier in the day.

He wrote that Alexander contacted Snipes’ office about his ballot and was “treated in a dismissive manner and was told that he must be mistaken.”

Keep reading here.
Miami Herald photo by Carl Juste

Rubio: 'We're not going to be held hostage to whatever Patrick Murphy's mood is' on debates


Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has ruled out the potential for any additional debates after Wednesday night's showdown with Democrat Patrick Murphy at Broward College -- what will be their second of two scheduled debates this fall.

"It's going to be the final one, because we're not going to keep playing this game," Rubio told Adrian Whitsett of WESH 2 News in Orlando over the weekend.

Rubio's comments came a day after Rubio and Murphy quarreled over who was to blame for the cancellation of what could have been their third debate, organized by Univision.

MORE: "No Univision debate for Rubio, Murphy"

The Spanish-language network took the event off the table after Murphy's campaign objected to the station's proposal -- which Rubio supported -- of having the debate in Spanish with a translator for Murphy. Murphy wanted the debate in English and then dubbed for the Hispanic-viewing audience. (His campaign accused Rubio of seeking unprecedented rules.)

In writing off any possible future debates, Rubio essentially told WESH that the clock had run out with two weeks left until Election Day.

"We have things to schedule, places to be and things to do," Rubio said. "We're not going to be held hostage to whatever Patrick Murphy's mood is in the morning when they call him about debates."

Continue reading "Rubio: 'We're not going to be held hostage to whatever Patrick Murphy's mood is' on debates" »

Murphy denies Trump connections, but unearths photo of Murphy's dad with The Donald



After Patrick Murphy relentlessly criticized U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio for weeks for standing by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Rubio tried to shift the spotlight on to his Democratic challenger during last week's first Senate debate by alleging Murphy's family has made "millions" off doing business with Trump.

Murphy quickly called it "another lie" and, in the days since, has repeatedly denied any direct business connections between Trump and his family’s Coastal Construction Group. "We've never had a contract with Donald Trump," Murphy told the Tampa Bay Times and other Florida news media last week.

But on Tuesday unearthed old photos that put Murphy in the position of having to further explain himself.

The images show Murphy’s father -- Coastal founder and CEO Tom Murphy Jr. (shown above at far left) -- a few feet away from Trump in a group photo-op at the ground-breaking for Trump Hollywood in 2007. Everyone in the photo, including the elder Murphy, is wearing a Trump-branded hard-hat.

Republicans quickly blasted out's story, saying the images were "damaging" to the Jupiter congressman and "prove Murphy lied in the last debate."

But Murphy's campaign says the images show nothing of the sort and shed no new light on Coastal's business history with Trump.

The campaign acknowledges Coastal and Trump were "associated" with the same two South Florida projects -- Trump Hollywood and Trump Royale in Sunny Isles. But the campaign maintains, as Murphy has also said: It was the developer's responsibility in each project for separately hiring Coastal as its builder and Trump to market the properties.

Nonetheless, expect this topic to come up during Wednesday night's second and final U.S. Senate debate.

Photo credit: In this Getty image from 2007, Tom Murphy Jr. (pictured far left) appears in a group photo with Donald Trump (center) during the ground-breaking for Trump Hollywood.

Tampa Rep.: 'There was no fraud' in lawsuit over qualifying papers


A case that could disqualify state Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City, from re-election due to an error on a form he filed with the state was postponed Tuesday — by more problems with paperwork.

Circuit Judge Charles Dodson in Tallahassee said Tuesday that Jose Vazquez Figueroa, a Democrat facing Raulerson in his northeast Hillsborough district, didn’t properly notify Raulerson’s lawyers and those for state officials also listed in the lawsuit he filed about a hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

Vazquez alleges that Raulerson’s personal financial disclosure was tampered with. It appears that Wite-Out was used to change the date on a notary’s signature. Notaries are not allowed too use correction fluid to make changes. They are supposed to make changes to forms by striking items out with a pen.

The office of Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner showed the Times/Herald an original copy of Raulerson’s filing, which appears to have been changed to show a different date.

That’s technically not allowed by notary rules, Raulerson said. But that’s also not the point.

He says this is an overly technical lawsuit and that the law surrounding how notaries change paperwork is intended to prevent fraud.

“There was no fraud,” Raulerson said. “It’s an illustration of how pinheaded our society has become.”

But Vazquez, who ran against Raulerson in 2012 and lost with just 43 percent of the vote, says rules are rules, and Raulerson or his notary broke them on a qualifying filing — and that fact won’t change.

“That document is not going to change, any argument the parties can bring,” he said.

With Election Day two weeks away, it’s not clear whether the case would be settled before voting ends.

Vazquez, who has been representing himself in court and took a bus to Tallahassee to appear before Dodson, said he plans to raise money so he can afford legal help and avoid process errors like the one that delayed the case Tuesday.

And after the election, he has no plans of backing down. Whatever the results, he said he plans to follow through with the lawsuit.

As for Raulerson, he hopes the courts won’t intervene in the race.

“We’ll see if the judiciary wants to insert themselves between the relationship of a state representative and their constituents,” he said.

DCCC compares Curbelo to Trump in new TV ad


The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee keeps trying to link Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo to Donald Trump, even if Curbelo isn't backing him for president.

In a new TV ad, the DCCC compares Curbelo to Trump on offshore oil drilling, immigration and Social Security. Curbelo is being challenged by Democrat Joe Garcia.

"Curbelo supports drilling offshore -- just like Trump," the ad says. "Curbelo's been sending campaign cash to help anti-immigrant politicians.... Carlos Curbelo calls Social Security a 'Ponzi scheme.' You know who else says that? Donald Trump."

The ad is a mash-up of past DCCC Curbelo ads, including one PolitiFact Florida found misleading on the oil-drilling claim. Curbelo asked TV stations to yank the ad as a result.

As for funding other politicians, Curbelo created a committee he said would support other Republicans who back immigration reform. Some of the committee's beneficiaries, however, have sounded less than eager to adopt reforms, though Curbelo insists they're privately open to at least talking about it.

Curbelo and Trump have both called Social Security a Ponzi scheme.

Mysterious Democratic slate card says vote yes on Amendment 1 and for Regalado

Slate p2 Slate p1Another round of October trickery emerged Tuesday as a mysterious slate card was being handed out in Miami Dade early voting sites in North Dade and North Miami.

The card, deceptively titled the “Miami Dade County official 2016 Election Guide,” appeared to be pro-Democrat with two odd exceptions: it urged people to vote yes on Amendment 1, the utility-backed proposal aimed at stifling solar competition in Florida, and it urged people to vote for school board member Raquel Regalado, one of two Republican candidates in the run-off for Miami-Dade mayor.

A person wearing a Regalado t-shirt was photographed by Miami lawyer J.C. Planas handing out the slate card at the North Miami Library early voting site on Tuesday. Planas is a former state legislator and supporter of Carlos Gimenez, Regalado's opponent.   Regalado poll worker

Regalado, an opponent of Amendment 1, denied any connection to the slate cards.

"I have not authorized a slate card. I have not printed a slate card and I have no idea about this,'' she told the Miami Herald. "I have taken a position against Amendment 1. It's so crazy."

The Miami-Dade Democratic Party, which is also opposing Amendment 1 and has taken no position on the mayor's race, said it has nothing to do with the slate card.

"This is not our slate card. Our slate card is posted on our website. and includes our disclaimer,'' said Juan Cuba, executive director of the Miami Dade Democratic Executive Committee. "Whoever did this is attempting to trick voters into voting for their preferred candidates. I have no idea who is printing or distributing these. Our slate card is NO on Amendment 1."

Cuba said the party’s lawyer is considering their legal options and has notified the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections.

Sarah Bascom, spokesperson for the Amendment 1 political committee, also distanced her campaign.

"We have never seen this.  This is not something from our campaign,'' she said. 

The slate card first appeared on Monday, according to Vimari Roman, a candidate for the Village of El Portal Council Seat 2. She wrote to opponents of Amendment 1, Floridians for Solar Choice, saying the flier "is made to confuse voters and to sway their vote." 

Whoever is behind it has probably broken the law. State law requires that any campaign matter distributed in Florida include prominent placement of a disclaimer indicating who paid for or is behind the material.

Planas, who teaches election law at St. Thomas University Law School, says he has drafted a cease and desist letter on behalf of himself, an interested voter, and will distribute it to poll workers tomorrow. 

Donald Trump in Tallahassee tonight, but Gov. Rick Scott not going


Donald Trump will be in Tallahassee tonight, just 8 miles from the Florida Capitol Building. But don't expect to see Gov. Rick Scott, who is the chairman of a super PAC supporting Trump, among the crowd.

Scott told reporters in Tallahassee that he has a scheduling conflict due to a dinner he is hosting at the Governor's Mansion in which people are having to fly in from out of town to attend. He had no other plans to see Trump on Tuesday and said he didn't get a chance to see him over the weekend either when both were in Naples, where Scott lives.

But Scott left no doubt that his support for Trump is unwavering, even in spite of video comments about him grabbing women inappropriately.

"I still support Donald Trump," Scott said. "The revelations are disturbing and disgusting, but lets put it in perspective. The revelations about Hillary Clinton lying about her emails, about getting rich off a phony foundation based on selling access, that’s disgusting. I want someone in the White House who will finally focus on jobs. I’ve been governor for six years. I haven’t had anyone in the White House that is focused on jobs. There’s no support out of Washington with regard to jobs."

Scott said he has already voted. He voted by mail he said. 

Scott may not attend, but Attorney General Pam Bondi confirmed that she will be at the Trump rally in Tallahassee. On Monday night she appeared at Trump's rally in Tampa. Florida's chief financial officer Jeff Atwater was a firm "I don't know." Atwater said he had another commitment he had to check on and was not sure if he'd be able to get to the rally.

Trump is speaking at Automobile Museum in Tallahassee. The event begins at 6 p.m. 




Trump tries to win over Miami Cubans once again

Trump cubans

@PatriciaMazzei @doug_hanks

With Florida slipping away from his electoral grasp, Donald Trump devoted much of Tuesday to Miami’s Cuban Americans, the reliably Republican voters who have stubbornly resisted this year to lean decisively toward the GOP nominee.

Trump paid tribute to Bay of Pigs veterans who had honored him with a historic endorsement.

He listened to the mother of Brothers to the Rescue pilot shot down by the Cuban government over the Florida Straits.

“Very sad story,” Trump told Miriam de la Pena.

And he eagerly repeated criticism of rival Hillary Clinton when longtime Miami Republican donor and activist Remedios Diaz-Oliver declared, “She has never done anything right.”

“It’s just about true,” Trump said. “She’s never done a thing right. Bad judgment.”

Trump’s overtures reflected his broader problem two weeks from Election Day: He has yet to consolidate the conservative vote. The more time he spends trying to do so, the less time he’s got to try to persuade independents and moderates who decide general elections.

More here.

Photo credit: Evan Vucci, Associated Press

Patrick Murphy will speak at Hillary Clinton rally today in Broward

Murphy primary nite 5 - richard graulich pbp


Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy will be among the opening speakers before Hillary Clinton takes the stage at a campaign rally today in Coconut Creek, Murphy's campaign said.

The rally is set to begin around 2:15 p.m.

This is the third major Clinton rally Murphy has spoken at in as many weeks, all in the strongly Democratic terrain of South Florida. It will be his second with Clinton directly; the other rally featured President Barack Obama stumping on Clinton's behalf.

When Obama spoke in Miami Gardens on Thursday, he devoted a significant portion of his speech to criticizing Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio and urging Democratic voters to support Murphy so the Jupiter congressman could unseat him.

In Murphy's first two rally speeches, he got about 5-8 minutes on stage -- in which he delivered part of his routine stump speech to the friendly audience, while also laying into his opponent for continuing to support Donald Trump for president.

In contrast to Murphy, Rubio has not -- and, the senator's campaign says, will not -- campaign alongside Trump in Florida.

Photo credit: Richard Graulich / Palm Beach Post

Secretive Democratic donors pouring money into South Florida elections


A secretive network of Democratic boosters intent on shifting Florida’s politics from right to left has set its sights this election season on South Florida, where years of groundwork have helped create conditions that left several Republican incumbents vulnerable.

Through affiliated nonprofits and political committees, the Florida Alliance has spent more than $1 million this summer backing liberal causes and blasting Republicans, particularly those in districts painfully redrawn this year to be more competitive. Nowhere have these efforts been more evident than in Miami-Dade County, home to several of the Alliance’s biggest donors and swing races where its actions could sway the vote.

“We want to win. And we want to invest our money in races where we think we can make a difference,” said Terranova Corp. chairman Stephen Bittel, an Alliance member and prominent Democratic donor out of Miami Beach.

To read the rest,  click here.

Drivers and tax collectors 'livid' over crashes in state system

Irate Florida tax collectors say they are being forced to turn away thousands of customers because of repeated breakdowns in the state database that stores records of millions of drivers licenses and car and truck registrations.

"Our customers are livid," Hillsborough Tax Collector Doug Belden wrote in an email on Monday. "There appears to be a major problem."  His chief IT expert, Kirk Sexton, described the breakdowns as "severe" and wrote in a memo that the glitches also affect law enforcement's ability to run checks on motorists.

"Totally unacceptable," Manatee County Tax Collector Ken Burton wrote in an email. He said his front-line staff members who deal with customers report a problem every 3.7 days between April 1 and Sept. 30 of this year.

It's not new. The creaky database has been plagued by problems for years, and the Legislature has appropriated money to modernize it. But the crashes continue and they're driving tax collectors crazy.

Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano holds Saturday office hours, but said he had to turn away more than 1,000 customers because the system was down. "It's just constant," said Fasano, who in a letter to the state cited the "frequency and duration" of system breakdowns. In his frustration, Fasano says he's seriously thinking of telling disgruntled customers to send a note to Governor Rick Scott until the problems are fixed.

Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles executive director Terry Rhodes wrote a letter to House Speaker-Designate Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, explaining all that has gone wrong with the system, including "forced relocation logistics, aging hardware, a constantly growing data set (and) expanding utilization" which together are "compromising system availability."

The department is a Cabinet-level agency, and Rhodes reports to Scott and all three Cabinet members, which is where the buck stops in this case. Rhodes' spokeswoman, Beth Frady, told the Times/Herald: "We understand our customers' frustration. This is not the type of service that we want to offer. The department is working to improve the system." DHSMV's system also plays a critical role in verifying new voter registration forms but Frady said that function has not been impaired by the recent breakdowns.


"We are the wall," says new anti-Trump ad in Spanish


A new TV ad against Donald Trump airing in Florida starts, as so many do, with Trump's own words.

"We are going to build the wall," he says, in English.

Then a man says in Spanish: "No. No, you won't."

And a woman: "Because we are the wall."

The spot, airing on Univision and Telemundo in Florida, was written, directed and produced for SEIU COPE on behalf of iAmerica Action by Colin Rogero, a Hispanic Democrat from Miami. It ends with Hispanics linking arms in wall formation in front of the White House. Other parts of the ad were filmed in Miami, including a prominent shot of a Wynwood wall.

"It was a great privilege to interact with Hispanics of so many different cultures, in the neighborhoods in and around where I grew up to create this spot," Rogero said in a statement.