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January 19, 2017

After Fort Lauderdale airport shooting, a look at how Florida lags behind on mental health funding

FLL Airportpeoplerunning


The suspect in the mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport told the FBI in Alaska in November that he was hearing voices.

Anchorage police confiscated Esteban Santiago’s handgun and took him for a mental health evaluation. Police returned his gun to him in December when he asked for it.

On Jan. 6, he flew to Broward County and is the suspected gunman in a rampage at the airport that left five dead and several others injured. Days later, Democratic state legislators held a press conference in Tallahassee to argue for gun control measures and more mental health funding.

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, said that Republican legislators argue that the way to reduce gun violence is not through gun control but mental health care funding. But Florida, he said, has the worst record in the nation in terms of funding mental health care treatment.

"We see once again Florida is ranked 50th in the nation for mental health care funding — 50th," he said. "There is no one that is doing worse than we are when it comes to making sure we that we are providing comprehensive mental health care."

Florida is near the bottom of the pack in mental health funding, and one key ranking cited by many experts places the state at 51st in per capita spending. However, there are some caveats about the ranking.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

Gov. Rick Scott's Sunshine Ball in Washington


via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Hundreds of guests packed Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium Wednesday for Gov. Rick Scott's Florida Sunshine Ball, which featured a Beach Boys performance and kicked off a days long celebration for incoming President Donald Trump.

"When Florida throws a party you have to show," said former U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff.

Among those we saw in the crowd: U.S. Reps. Tom Rooney and Matt Gaetz, former Rep. Allen Boyd,  Blaise IngogliaAl Cardenas, Lew Oliver, Nick Diceglie, J.J. Beyrouti, Christian Ziegler, and Brian Ballard, who arrived in a Cadillac SUV with Joe Negron. Sen. Marco Rubio was apparently inside the room, which was lit up in neon.

January 18, 2017

Trump inauguration draws South Florida attendees from outside politics

Palmetto Ridge Band Sendoff

Tickets in hand for Friday’s main event — and for three nights of celebratory balls — Rachel Sapoznik packed her fur coat and boarded a JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale to Washington on Wednesday, prepared to bundle up to experience the pomp surrounding Donald Trump’s inauguration.

She arrived to a pleasant weather surprise at the nation’s capital: “It’s beautiful, absolutely beautiful!” she said by phone, coat in hand.

Sapoznik, who owns an employer health-benefits company in North Miami Beach, made big plans to attend her first presidential swearing-in, starting with Wednesday night’s Florida Sunshine Ball hosted by Gov. Rick Scott.

South Floridians of all stripes started trickling into Washington this week ahead of Friday’s inauguration and the many festivities leading up to it.

As always, there will be a robust contingent of Republican politicians. In addition to the governor and his wife, Ann (who is hosting a tea), Attorney General Pam Bondi, one of Trump’s closest allies, will be in town. So will Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, state House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O’Lakes and state Senate President Joe Negron of Stuart, as well as Miami state Reps. Jose Felix Diaz and Carlos Trujillo, who are splitting a two-bedroom apartment they found on Airbnb. Members of Congress will be welcoming constituents to their Capitol Hill offices — in U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s case, with donuts and cafecito.

A few Democrats — Reps. Alcee Hastings of Delray Beach, Darren Soto of Orlando and Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens — are skipping the inauguration.)

Some attendees already know how special inaugurations can be: Diaz attended President Bill Clinton’s second inaugural — and the Florida ball — as a high school student.

“It’s probably one of the coolest trips I’ve ever taken in my life,” he said. “It’s probably one of the reasons I’m in politics today.”

But Trump was an unusual candidate who did not cozy up to the political establishment. So while his inauguration is attracting the usual plugged-in crowd, it’s also drawing the same grassroots believers who lifted him to victory.

More here.

Photo credit: Nicole Raucheisen/Naples Daily News via AP

Florida members of Congress ask Trump to save federal hospital funding


Seven Florida members of Congress from both political parties want incoming President Donald Trump's administration to renew -- and perhaps grow -- federal hospital funding for the state.

Florida's Low Income Pool, which helps pay for a hospital safety net across the state, is set to expire June 30. Gov. Rick Scott sued the Obama administration over recent cuts to the funding, alleging it was attempted coercion to get Florida to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

"The State of Florida has chosen not to expand Medicaid," the lawmakers write, and add that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service's "prescribed policy change has had unintended and detrimental consequences for children’s hospitals including Nicklaus Children’s, Joe DiMaggio Children’s, and St. Joseph’s Children’s, among others."

"Floridians should not be held hostage in healthcare policy reform negotiations between the state and federal governments," they added. "Regardless of the form that future federal healthcare reform efforts may take, a robust and improved LIP should be in place to ensure that Florida’s healthcare safety net is strengthened and secure."

According to the office of Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who put the effort together, the letter has been signed by fellow Republican Reps. Gus Bilirakis of Gainesville, Carlos Curbelo of Miami and Dan Webster of Clermont, as well as Democratic Reps. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg and Darren Soto of Orlando.

Read the letter below.

Continue reading "Florida members of Congress ask Trump to save federal hospital funding" »

Obama: Wet foot, dry foot 'was a carryover of an old way of thinking'


At his final White House news conference Wednesday, President Barack Obama made his first remarks about ending the special immigration policy for Cubans last week. Here is his answer in full, to a question about why he did away with wet foot/dry foot:

We underwent a monumental shift in our policy towards Cuba. My view was, after 50 years of the policy not working, it made sense for us to try to reopen diplomatic relations to engage the Cuban government, to be honest with them about the strong disagreements we have around political repression and treatment of dissenters and freedom of the press and freedom of religion. But to make progress for the Cuban people, our best shot was to suddenly have the Cuban people interacting with Americans, and seeing the incredibly  success of the Cuban-American community, and engaging in commerce and business and trade, and that it was through that process of opening up these bilateral relations that you would see over time serious and significant improvement.

Given that shift in the relationship, the policy that we had in place, which treated Cuban émigrés completely different from folks from El Salvador or Guatemala or Nicaragua or any other part of the world, one that made a distinction about whether you got here by land or by foot, that was a carryover of an old way of thinking that didn't make sense in this day and age, particularly as we're opening up travel between the two countries. And so we had very lengthy consultations with the Department of Homeland Security, we had some tough negotiations with the Cuban [government], but we arrived at a policy that we think is both fair and appropriate to the changing nature of the relationship between the two countries.

Photo credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press

Florida Gov. Rick Scott won't say if he's looking for potential Pam Bondi replacement

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - If Attorney General Pam Bondi is preparing to take a job in the Trump administration, Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday gave not an inch in acknowledging the task of appointing a replacement.

"She's been a good partner in our governor and cabinet meetings," Scott said. "I hope she doesn't leave. I hope she stays in Florida."

But if she does leave, do you have plans in place?

"I'll worry about that when it happens," he said. "I hope she doesn't leave."

This post will be updated with responses Scott gave to a number of issues, from Obamacare to the pardons President Obama has given drug offenders, many of them in Florida.

Scott declined to comment on that, saying he didn't know details of individual cases, but pivoted to yesterday's commutation of Chelsea Manning. "There is no question in the world this guy, or this person, committed treason. ... It's despicable. We have got to decide as a country that we're going to support our military."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Trump spoke to widower of slain Orlando police officer

via @adamsmithtimes

Donald Trump had met Orlando Police Sgt. Debra Clayton while in Florida and was horrified to hear she had been shot and killed Monday while trying to track down suspected murderer Markeith Loyd, Attorney General Pam Bondi told The Tampa Bay Times.

"He was deeply, deeply disturbed by the murder of Sgt. Debra Clayton. In fact, he called and spoke with Seth (her husband)," said Bondi, who hooked up Trump and the officer's widower. "He had met Sgt. Clayton and remembered her well, and the president-elect was very upset by her homicide and we're just thrilled they have her widower in custody."

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times


University of Miami grad bids farewell to working 'dream job' in Obama White House


via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - The University of Miami was buzzing over hosting the first presidential debate between George W. Bush and John Kerry and for one undergrad, it was a career defining moment.

Kaelan Richards started out as an undeclared major then history, then political science. “I loved politics but didn’t necessarily know what that means in terms of a job,” she said.

Richards staffed the 2004 debate, taking tickets at the door. Then a coordinator said she and a group of other volunteers could go inside. “It was life changing,” recalled Richards, who grew up on Anna Maria Island.

“I was like, ‘I’ve got to do this. I don’t know how yet, but I have to do it.’

This week, Richards wrapped up her “dream job” in the White House press shop. “It’s an incredible honor to be here,” she said in an interview. “With anything ending, there’s a little bit of nostalgia and wistfulness.”

Richards' work kept her focused on Florida. She was a senior regional communications director interacting with reporters in the southeast, midwest and the west coast.

“While national outlets and broader media trends change, people still rely on their local news. That’s a really important job and I’m honored to do it,” she said.

She worked on Capitol Hill for Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and joined the White House team in April 2014.

One of her biggest moments was briefing President Obama for the first time in January 2016. The president was sitting down with regional news reporters to talk about the Affordable Care Act and Richards and others were tasked with filling him in on local issues.

“There’s really nothing that can match walking into the Oval Office for the first time to do your job,” Richards said. “It was a little bit nerve-racking but mostly exciting. This is dream job, a dream opportunity.”

The job ended Tuesday.

Richards walked out to see Press Secretary Josh Earnest give his final briefing to reporters. She took photos with colleagues from the North Lawn and turned in her badge.

She says she’ll take some time off, and maybe visit Florida, before deciding what to do next. “It’s a unique opportunity to get a little perspective and think about things.”

Earnest, who worked on Jim Davis' 2006 gubernatorial campaign against Charlie Crist, said Richards "has worked tirelessly and effectively to bring President Obama's message outside of the Washington beltway, directly to people living in communities across the country. She's done so with a level of integrity and enthusiasm that has earned her the admiration of journalists and colleagues alike."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Courtesy the White House

NRA wants to block sheriffs from opposing its Capitol agenda

For years, National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer has clashed with Florida sheriffs on gun issues. But what truly rankles Hammer is the spectacle of sheriffs traveling to Tallahassee at taxpayer expense, armed and in full uniform, to battle elements of the NRA's agenda such as open carry or campus carry legislation.

"It's just patently wrong," Hammer told the Times/Herald. "They are there to protect our rights, not to come to Tallahassee at taxpayer expense to take away our rights." She said it's "intimidation" for a sheriff to lobby for gun free zones while standing before a legislative committee with a holster strapped to his hip.

Hammer said a sheriff who wants to lobby for stricter gun laws should be required to take a day off from work, switch to street clothes and travel to Tallahassee at personal expense. She said she has found a House sponsor for a bill to address the issue, but no such proposal has surfaced yet, and the idea will face resistance because the timing seems all wrong.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, has criticized the practice of local governments hiring outside lobbyists and says sheriffs and other elected officials should walk the halls of the Capitol, not pay other people to do it for them. Corcoran agrees with the NRA on gun issues, but he said sheriffs should be lobbying in person in Tallahassee.

"I think they have a First Amendment right to do that," Corcoran said. "A sheriff absolutely has the constitutional right to come up and advocate for what he thinks is best for the safety of his county."

Gualtieri081316_17759497_8colAn obvious target of Hammer's wrath is Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri (at left), who again this session will be the Florida Sheriffs Association's point man on legislative issues and who has never backed away from a fight with Hammer.

Gualtieri called Hammer's criticism "self-serving and disingenuous," noting that the NRA doesn't appear to have a problem with sheriffs in uniform showing up to support the gun lobby's priorities, as Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey did in the 2016 session on open carry legislation. That bill stalled amid resistance from law enforcement and the singular opposition of a committee chairman, former Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla of Miami.

"It's totally self-serving," Gualtieri said of Hammer. "Let people engage. Let the chips fall where they may. They (the NRA) can wrap themselves in the Constitution all they want. I listen to my constituents."

Sheriffs are constitutional officers, and Hammer accused Gualtieri of violating his oath of office in his actions. "Sheriffs are elected and sworn to uphold the constitutional rights of their constituents," Hammer said. "Continuing to talk about taking away those rights is contrary to their oath of office."



Florida GOP wants to pay reelected chairman big bucks

via @adamsmithtimes

To the victor go the spoils.

Shortly after overwhelmingly re-electing state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, the party's board members this weekend voted behind closed doors to reward him financially as well. Ingoglia had forgone a salary as party chairman after winning election in 2015, but board members voted Saturday that he should not only receive the $115,000 annual pay in 2017 and 2018, but also receive $230,000 in back pay for 2015 and 2016.

"We did the impossible by Republicans taking Florida. All the way down the line we were successful, and it was because of all the programs that Blaise put together over the last two years," said Nancy Riley, a state committeewoman from Pinellas said of the vote.

Just because the party authorized the money doesn't mean he'll accept it, Ingoglia told The Tampa Bay Times.

"While I am thankful that my executive board recognized my hard work and dedication to our party this past election cycle in wanting to give me back pay for deferring my salary, I have not yet made a decision whether to take it," he said in a text.

National Committeewoman Sharon Day, who is also co-chairman of the RNC, voted against the authorization, which she said came as a surprise to her.

"He campaigned (for re-election) saying that he hadn't taken a salary in two years. It was just my personal opinon that he made a choice not to take a salary," said Day, who was one of only two people to vote against the payments. 

"I think we had new members that didn't understand what was going on, and Blaise was in the room, so that made it awkward," Day said.

Continue reading "Florida GOP wants to pay reelected chairman big bucks" »

Supreme Court rejects teachers' union attempt to challenge voucher program

Voucher rally 2016@MaryEllenKlas

Florida's teachers union struck out Wednesday in its latest effort to dismantle Florida's tax credit scholarship program as the Florida Supreme Court rejectedits appeal for legal standing to challenge the voucher-like program that finances students from low-performing schools to attend private schools.

The Florida Education Association and other plaintiffs, including the NAACP, allege the scholarships are unconstitutional because the program diverts money that would otherwise go to the state’s accounts that fund public K-12 education. They also argue that the scholarship program pulls poor students out of the public school system in favor of private schools, diminishing funds to nearly 2.8 million children served by public schools.

The groups had previously been told by both the trial court and appeals court that it did not have legal standing to challenge the 15-year-old program adopted by the Legislature and Wednesday's rejection ends is their final appeal. Florida businesses earn dollar-for-dollar tax credits by donating to designated organizations -- primarily "Step Up for Students" -- which fund and distribute the scholarships. 

The decision is a victory for supporters of the scholarship program and comes  one year after the rally they held on the steps of the state Capitol to protest the lawsuit. Thousands of supporters gathered at the rally led by Martin Luther King III, son of the civil rights leader.

The event was organized by the "Save Our Scholarships Coalition" and other school-choice groups to emphasize support for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship. The groups have waged an expensive year-long television and social media marketing campaign that urged the teachers' union to "drop the suit."

Attorneys representing the state and the parents of scholarship recipients argued the union had no standing to sue because no scholarship money actually enters or leaves the state treasury. The scholarships are funded directly through private donations from businesses, which can then earn dollar-for-dollar tax credits from the state for their contributions.

In 2015, Leon County Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds III agreed with that explanation and rejected the teachers' lawsuit. The First District Court of Appeal agreed last year.

Justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince, Charles Canady and Ricky Polston agreed the union could not challenge the law. Justice R. Fred Lewis wanted to allow them to have oral arguments. Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and newly-appointed Justice Alan Lawson did not vote.

The program funds scholarships for more than 78,000 children to go to private, often religious, schools. Jacksonville-based Step Up For Students facilitates almost all of the money; $447 million was doled out this school year.

Proponents of the scholarship argue that if the teachers' union is successful in its lawsuit then the students would be "evicted" from private school because their families wouldn't be able to afford it anymore.

More than a quarter of the scholarship recipients -- almost 20,900 -- live in Miami-Dade County, and almost 70 percent of them are black or Hispanic.

The teachers union has been at war with the GOP-led Legislature for nearly two decades over the diversion of state funds into the voucher-like programs. In some of his first remarks as the new Florida House speaker last year, Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, accused the teachers union of being "downright evil" for its legal challenge to the tax credit scholarship program.


On Wednesday, Corcoran called the decision “a great victory for school children, parents, and classroom teachers who want the best for their students.”

Miami Herald staff reporter Kristen Clark contributed to this report. 

Photo: 2016 rally at the Florida Capitol in support of school voucher programs. By Steve Cannon, AP


January 17, 2017

Palm Beach learns to love Trump, once a scorned outsider


The genteel people of Palm Beach, home to the old-money fortunes of captains-of-industry scions, once ridiculed even their wealthy Kennedy neighbors — with their Irish Catholicism, Hollywood paparazzi and family scandals — as contemptible nouveau riche.

Then came Donald Trump.

Immediately branded by the notoriously insular locals as a vulgar arriviste, he acquired the late cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post’s landmark Mar-a-Lago estate — and the desirable social standing it bestowed — in 1985, only to spend the following three decades suing the town over and over again when it got in his way. The squabbles between Trump and the Palm Beach establishment became the stuff of tabloid legend.

My, how times have changed. Or at least, Trump’s place in the world has.

With Trump’s imminent presidential inauguration, Palm Beach has become far more tolerant of its most famous, and now most powerful, part-time resident. One might even be tempted to say the town has — gasp! — wrapped Trump in its collective embrace.

“That’s going too far,” chuckled Carey O’Donnell, a public relations and advertising exec and longtime resident who now lives on one of the three bridges leading to barrier-island Palm Beach. (The uninitiated often mistakenly identify Mar-a-Lago as being on the decidedly less upscale mainland city of West Palm Beach.)

Trump’s relationship with Palm Beach “has evolved over time,” O’Donnell conceded. “But certainly now there’s a drastic change. You wouldn’t call it an evolution anymore; now it’s a drastic shift — out of necessity, of course.”

And so, good luck finding a Palm Beacher today who offers something other than praise for the president-elect.

More here.

Photo credit: Charles Trainor Jr., Miami Herald staff

Fort Lauderdale airport security meeting raises questions, but no answers

FLL Airportswat DS


The mass shooting at the airport in Broward County has raised several questions about security, but government officials who met Tuesday said it will take time to reach conclusions about any long-term changes related to firearms in airports, paying for security or other measures to protect passengers.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat whose district includes the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, said one of the key questions is whether the U.S. should continue the policy of allowing guns in checked baggage. Wasserman Schultz met with law enforcement, aviation and government officials at the Broward Sheriff’s Office Tuesday to discuss airport security. The meeting was closed to the public, but officials spoke at a press conference after the meeting.

“There was no professional who was in the room today that said, ‘Oh, we definitely should continue to allow firearms to be checked in baggage traveling on airplanes,’” Wasserman Schultz said. “No one said that. In fact, there was pretty universal consensus that it needs to be addressed.”

When asked if the Transportation Security Administration wants to change the policy that allows guns checked in baggage, TSA Chief of Operations Gary Rasicot said “any changes to that I defer to the congresswoman and her colleagues.”

Providing more airport security comes at a price.

“We are all about saving dollars and we all have budgets, but I think we should be more about saving lives,” Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said during the press conference. “Whatever we need to make Broward County safe I will be asking for that money soon.”

In an interview with the Herald, Israel said that it cost his agency about $300,000 to respond to the shooting on Jan. 6th. Additionally, it will cost BSO about $100,000 a month in overtime to provide more security, he said.

“I will be going to the county asking to finance that bill,” he said.

Keep reading here.

Rate hike on FPL bills? Sierra Club says not so fast, files suit to block it

FPL power linesThe Sierra Club asked the Florida Supreme Court Tuesday to block a $811 million rate hike by Florida Power & Light over the next four years, arguing that regulators violated state law when they failed to determine if a billion-dollar expansion of gas-powered power plants are needed.

The Florida Public Service Commission in November unanimously approved a settlement agreement reached by FPL and various consumer groups to raise utility bills by $400 million beginning in January, to be followed by $411 million in rate hikes in the next three years.

The Florida chapter of the Sierra Club and AARP opposed the settlement, arguing that if the utility giant stopped fighting the expansion of rooftop solar and other alternative forms of energy, its customers would save money and FPL could wean 70 percent of its fleet from its dependence on climate-change-inducing fossil fuels. AARP argues that the company should not be guaranteed excessive profits at the expense of customers.

The commission did not address any of the opponents’ concerns and instead touted the agreement as good for the customers and good for FPL.

“The settlement ... produces rates that are fair just and reasonable and in the public interest,” said PSC Chair Julie Brown. She commended FPL for “smart, prudent decisions” that have led to the lowest rates in the state.

But the lawsuit claims that the PSC failed the principle goal of its oversight of electric utilities: determining if the rate increases are the most prudent, least-cost option facing FPL and ruling out other low-cost options, such as solar or energy efficiency. FPL relies on gas for 70 percent of its electricity generation and Sierra Club and other environmental groups argue that the company has tried to suppress conservation and competition from rooftop solar because it makes a profit off of building new plants, but can't profit off conservation or competition.
FPL responded with a statement that "Sierra Club is an extreme group that takes extreme positions,'' but did not address concerns about its excessive reliance on fossil fuels and attempts to suppress conservation. 

Continue reading "Rate hike on FPL bills? Sierra Club says not so fast, files suit to block it" »

Still avoiding Trump talk, John Lewis visits Miami high school

via @KyraGurney

Before U.S. Rep. John Lewis took the stage in a Miami school auditorium Tuesday, local Pastor Carl Johnson led the assembled students in a prayer. He thanked God for Lewis' civil rights work and also addressed a more recent struggle: Lewis' back-and-forth with President-elect Donald Trump.   

"Thank you for allowing him to speak his conviction to President-elect Donald Trump," Johnson prayed.

But when Lewis took the stage, he did not mention his feud with Trump, which was sparked when the civil-rights legend and Democratic congressman from Georgia said in a pre-taped "Meet the Press" interview Friday that he did not see Trump as a legitimate president. Trump responded Saturday, Tweeting that Lewis “should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk — no action or results. Sad!”

Lewis did, however, tell the students assembled at iTech @ Thomas A. Edison Educational Center, a magnet high school in Little Haiti, about the excitement he felt eight years ago when President Barack Obama was inaugurated. Lewis said he cried that day, bittersweet tears for the people who never lived to see an African-American president.

"I was crying for our mothers and our fathers, our grandmothers and our grandfathers," Lewis said as the students cheered. "I was crying for those little girls that were killed in the church in Birmingham. I was crying for Dr. King and many others...people that didn't live to see that day." 

Lewis shared stories from the civil-rights movement with the students, including the famous march in Selma, Alabama, during which he suffered a skill fracture. He also encouraged the students, who are part of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, a mentoring and scholarship program founded by U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, to stay away from gun violence and to stand up for what they believe is right.

"As young men, you have an obligation, a mission and a mandate, you have a legacy to uphold," he said.   

After the speech, Lewis took a few questions from reporters, but refused to address the feud with Trump. He did confirm that he had also skipped Bush's inauguration in 2001, despite saying on "Meet the Press" that Trump's would be the first inaugural he'd boycott.

"We didn't attend it like so many other members of Congress did," Lewis said.   


Introducing the Trump-O-Meter


President-elect Donald Trump promised coal jobs in West Virginia and manufacturing jobs in Michigan. He said he would fix the inner city of Baltimore and the airports in New York. He said he would cut taxes and grow the military. Create paid family leave and balance the budget.

Build the wall. Kill Obamacare.

Protect Social Security. Take care of veterans.

And that’s just the start.

"We’re going to win so much, you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning, you’re going to come to me and go ‘Please, please, we can’t win anymore.’ … You’ll say ‘Please, Mr. President, we beg you sir, we don’t want to win anymore. It’s too much. It’s not fair to everybody else,’ " Trump said in Montana last May. "And I’m going to say ‘I’m sorry, but we’re going to keep winning, winning, winning. We’re going to make America great again.’ "

The pitch worked. Now comes the hard part: Can Trump deliver?

For the past six months, PolitiFact has been cataloging promises Trump made to voters in speeches, appearances, interviews and debates. Today we launch our Trump-O-Meter, which will track 102 of the most significant pledges emblematic of his unconventional campaign. The Trump-O-Meter will measure whether Trump is able to accomplish what he told voters and ultimately rate each promise Kept, Broken or Compromise. It’s the same process we used to track the campaign promises made by President Barack Obama.

Keep reading PolitiFact's story about the Trump-O-Meter from Aaron Sharockman and Allison Graves and browse the full Trump-O-Meter including his promises about Cuba and Guantanamo Bay here.

State begins medical marijuana rule process


AR-140709507State health officials have started the process that will ultimately allow Floridians with debilitating conditions to buy and use medical marijuana.

Tuesday morning, the Florida Department of Health published its initial proposed rules for a statewide medical marijuana program and announced public hearings. But the rules essentially merge new patients into an existing, small medical cannabis program already functioning in the state, diverging from some of the key ideas pushed during the November election by backers of Amendment 2, the constitutional amendment that expanded medical marijuana.

Under the proposed rule, only patients with one of 10 specific medical diagnoses, including cancer, HIV and post-traumatic stress disorder, would have access to the drug, unless the Florida Board of Medicine specifically identifies additional debilitating conditions. Amendment 2, however, gives doctors the power to recommend marijuana to patients with any debilitating condition if "a physician believe sthat the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks."

It's likely the rules will change from DOH's initial proposal.

Amendment 2 gives the department until July to write rules governing medical marijuana. But it also allows the Legislature to step in and provide its own direction, which leaders in both the House and Senate appear eager to do.

Public hearings, which anyone can attend to contribute their thoughts about the proposed rule, begin in February around the state. A schedule is below. As well, people can tell the department what they think using a public comment form on its website.

It has already garnered criticism from Florida for Care, the group that pushed Amendment 2 in the election.

"The Legislature has demonstrated a willingness and a desire to implement this amendment in a reasonable manner that respects the plain language of the constitution and reflects the mandate of the electorate," chairman Ben Pollara said in a statement. "Why DOH would choose to engage in a policymaking exercise which ignores both the law and the role of the Legislature in implementing the law is a mystery."

The rule would not allow any new growers or dispensaries to form in the state, leaving control of the market in the hands of the seven nurseries licensed to grow, process and sell cannabis in Florida already. (A 2014 law allowed patients with certain conditions, including children with severe epillepsy, to use strains of cannabis low in THC, the chemical that causes a euphoric high. These nurseries were selected under that law.)

It also does not allow for the separation of growing facilities from dispensaries, which Amendment 2 does not require but allows for.

The rule maintains most of the regulations put in place by the Legislature and the health department in creating the low-THC cannabis program, including requirements that doctors take an eight-hour training course and be registered with the state. It also maintains a statewide database of patients, as well as requiring that patients be issued an ID card, as required by the amendment.

Medical marijuana public hearings:

Jacksonville: 2-4 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Duval County Health Department, 900 University Blvd. North.

Fort Lauderdale: 10 a.m.-noon Feb. 7 at the Broward County Health Department, 780 SW 24th St.

Tampa: 9-11 a.m. Feb. 8 at the DOH Tampa Branch Laboratory, 3602 Sepctrum Blvd.

Orlando: 6-8 p.m. Feb. 8 at the Orange County Health Department, 6102 Lake Ellenor Drive.

Tallahassee: 4-6 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Room 148.

Photo: Associated Press.

Congressman Alcee Hastings boycotts Donald Trump's inauguration



U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings will not attend Donald Trump's inauguration.

Hastings will spend the day in his district instead, spokesman Evan Polisar said. Hastings, who lives in Delray Beach, represents portions of Broward, Palm Beach and Hendry counties. Hastings rallied African-Americans to support Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The other two Democrats who represent Broward -- Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston and Ted Deutch of Boca Raton -- will both attend the inauguration. Wasserman Schultz will attend the Women's March on Washington Saturday and is co-hosting a breakfast before the march.

Here is Hastings' statement:

“I have decided to boycott the Inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump and remain in my Congressional district in Florida. This decision is not a protest of the results of the Electoral College, but rather, an objection to the demagoguery that continues to define the incoming administration.

“President-elect Trump has done little to prove that he is ready to lead this country. Instead, he continues to champion divisiveness. The office of the President is not endowed with unquestioned loyalty, and it is the obligation of each and every American to speak out against injustices however big or small. I cannot play a part in normalizing the countless offensive comments that he has made throughout the past year.

“It is quite simply wrong for the President-elect to use his position of power to continue to make racist, sexist, and bigoted statements, to demean those who have spent their lifetimes championing civil rights, such as Rep. John Lewis, and to ridicule religious minorities, ethnic minorities, and anyone who looks different. President-elect Trump continues to denigrate the American intelligence community, jeopardizing the security of the American people, and has clear, undeniable conflicts of interest in violation of Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution, designed to prevent foreign influence over American elected officials. Make no mistake: these behaviors are not, nor can they ever be, considered normal.

“President-elect Trump has made it clear that when given the choice, he stands with Vladimir Putin. I choose to stand with Rep. John Lewis, and every American that expects our President to serve with compassion and humility. If the Trump administration continues to champion illegal, unconstitutional, or other ideas that put the safety of the American people at risk, it will find no harsher critic than me.”


Who's going to Trump's inauguration? Gov. Scott, for starters



Several leading Florida Republicans are making the trek to Washington, D.C., this week to see Donald Trump take the oath of office and officially become president of the United States.

Gov. Rick Scott, who campaigned for Trump and chaired a super PAC that supported his presidential bid, will leave the state Tuesday evening ahead of an inaugural ball sponsored by his Let’s Get to Work political committee the next night. Scott will attend the inauguration and be seated with other Republican governors, according to his office. He returns to Florida Saturday.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, one of Trump's closest allies in the state and a likely pick for a top job in his White House will be there and at the Florida Sunshine Ball sponsored by Scott.

The other two cabinet officials, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater are not going.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, will attend the inauguration, his office said. Corcoran -- who initially backed former Gov. Jeb Bush, then Sen. Marco Rubio and finally Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for the Republican nomination -- was a reluctant supporter of Trump.

Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, will be there. Unlike his counterpart in the House, Negron was quicker to back Trump and served as a member of the electoral college, which gave the president-elect Florida's 29 electoral votes in December.

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, also a state representative from Spring Hill, is going. He led the state party through the election and was re-elected to the post Saturday.

Several other state lawmakers are, as well, including Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, who is being considered for an ambassadorship. So are House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues of Estero, Rep. Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz of Miami, Rep. Bill Hager of Delray Beach, Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen of Fort Myers, Rep. Jason Brodeur of Sanford and Rep. Joe Gruters of Sarasota, the Florida co-chair of the Trump campaign.

Brian Ballard, a top Tallahassee lobbyist and the Trump campaign's chief Florida fundraiser, is going to the inauguration and several related events. He was an elector for Trump, as well. So is Susie Wiles, who also led Trump's Florida operation. She is a Jacksonville-based lobbyist and helped usher Scott into office six years ago.

This list will continue to be updated as we hear from other Florida officials.

Photo: President-elect Donald Trump at an Orlando stop on his victory tour in December. (Andres Leiva, Tampa Bay Times)