« December 2014 | Main | February 2015 »

275 posts from January 2015

January 30, 2015

Fact-checking Debbie Wasserman Schultz's claim about Marco Rubio's position on immigration reform and pathway to citizenship

As U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., considers a bid for president, Democrats are attacking him on his signature issue: immigration.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of South Florida had this to say about her fellow Floridian:

"Marco Rubio needs to first figure out which way the wind is blowing when it comes to committing on his position on any given issue," said the Democratic National Committee chair. "He was for immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship before he was against it. It is really unfortunate that he has chosen the most politically expedient path on issues that matter the most to people here in Florida."

Has Rubio back-tracked? While Rubio has changed his opinion on how the legislation should be passed, we also found that he hasn’t changed his views on the underlying policy issues. Turn to PolitiFact Florida to see how we rated her claim

Cameras capture scuffle at Miami community meeting


We know. We know. The words "community meeting" generally don't get the blood flowing.

But every once in a while a pastor tells a city commissioner to grow a pair, and someone busts out a chokehold.


At least, that's what happened last night, according to reporters who attended a meeting at St. John Institutional Missionary Baptist Church. According to WLRN, about 100 gathered at the Overtown church for a discussion about the massive incentive package granted to the developers of the Miami Worldcenter.

Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon, who negotiated the deal in exchange for higher wages and local workforce guarantees, was among those in attendance.

During the meeting, Bishop James Adams -- who has been critical of the agreement -- told Hardemon he'd negotiated a weak deal. Things got tense.

"It's about time that we have somebody to grow the testicles to stand up to these people and tell them, ‘Hell no,’” Adams said, according to WLRN.

And then activist Renita Holmes was put in a chokehold during a scuffle. From WLRN:

At one point, at least six different people appeared to be holding on to Holmes. One woman was clearly yanking her hair while another had her in a chokehold. The melee broke up before police arrived. It did not appear that anyone was arrested, but Holmes did file a police report.

January 29, 2015

Amid friction, Miami-Dade mayor and schools chief agree to lobby on tax appeals

@doug_hanks and @cveiga

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Thursday invited the county's schools chief to launch a joint lobbying effort for changes in state law governing property-tax appeals.

"I invite you to join me on a visit to Tallahassee to meet with our legislators and senior leaders in the Department of Revenue," Gimenez wrote in a two-page letter to Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. "I believe traveling together to our state capital will be more effective and beneficial to our community."

Carvalho endorsed the plan, and noted he had already suggested it.

"The concept of jointly advocating for solutions to this critical issue in Tallahassee is both welcomed and timely as we recommended it as our last joint meeting," Carvalho said, referring to a sit down with Gimenez and aides. "Our Dade delegation has committed to being helpful. We look forward to equally determined efforts at the local level."

The exchange is the latest installment in an issue brimming with political intrigue. The debate centers around  an independent board with authority over the property valuations that are at the heart of funding for both county government and the school board.

A spike in successful appeals blew holes in both budgets in recent years, and Carvalho has been demanding changes. Gimenez insists the matter is out of his hands, since he has no authority over the property-appraiser's office or the appeals panel, which is called the Value Adjustment Board. 

Gimenez faces a possible reelection challenge next year by school board member Raquel Regalado, who wanted the school board to join a teacher-union suit against Gimenez over the appeals issue.

That effort stalled. But Carvalho, long considered a formidable mayoral candidate if he should want to run, has made no secret of his annoyance at Miami-Dade for not taking the lead on the issue. Gimenez has dismissed the complaints as misguided politics, and resting on a flawed understanding on how the tax-appeals system works.  

The school board recently named Regalado to one of the two seats it controls on the five-member VAB. She said Thursday the solution relies in reforming the VAB system in Miami-Dade, which sees far more successful appeals than do other counties in Florida. 

"Going to Tallahassee to lobby isn't going to work. There are 67 counties, and 66 get it right," Regalado said. "To think just because we go with him things are going to change dramatically is naive at best," she said. 

The back-and-forth between Miami-Dade's two largest governments has been a mix of public civility and subtle finger pointing. Gimenez dispatched his budget chief and communications director to a school board uninvited, raising eyebrows from the Carvalho crowd. Alluding to a feisty television appearance by Gimenez over the weekend, Carvalho said he was disappointed by what he heard from "the highest levels of government in this community."

"The willingness that is often spoken about -- joining our hands and finding a solution -- is not really the truth," Carvalho said at the school-system's budget committee meeting on Tuesday. "And I am disappointed that I heard that this week."

Read the Gimenez letter by clicking below. 


 Letter to Superintendent Carvalho



Meggs won't investigate possible FDLE open meetings violation

State Attorney Willie Meggs said Thursday that he will not investigate whether the state's open meetings law was violated by Gov. Rick Scott and the three elected Cabinet members in last month's ouster of the commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

"It doesn't ring my bell," Meggs told the Times/Herald. "If one of the Cabinet staff aides came to my office and wanted to confess, that's about the only way I'm going to prove a violation of the Sunshine Law. Short of that, I'd need a wire tap. People are generally smart enough that if they know they're violating the law they're not going to put it in writing."

St. Petersburg attorney Matthew Weidner formally asked Meggs to investigate whether staff aides working for the Cabinet and Scott colluded in Gerald Bailey's removal, violating the Sunshine Law's requirement that business be conducted in public.

It was the second time in a week that Meggs refused to investigate the Bailey case. Last week, he downplayed allegations from Bailey that Scott had politicized the law enforcement agency as "much ado about nothing" and "nothing more than a squabble."

Meggs' office in Tallahassee, the state's capital, is often asked to intervene in allegations of wrongdoing by state officials.

He told Weidner that his complaint was speculative, at best.

"He told me that he read about the case in the newspaper," Meggs said. "I told him unless he had personal knowledge of what happened, I couldn't investigate. I can't just investigate because someone read about it in the newspaper."

Weidner said Meggs' refusal sets an unrealistic standard for prosecuting open meetings and public records cases.

"It's an impossible burden to say I need to have witnessed it," Weidner said. "I don't think that's what the law requires for there to be an investigation. Clearly there were conversations and emails that preceded Bailey's removal. It's wholly inconceivable that this happened without a public record."

Read story here.

Carlos Curbelo backs immigration reform but could support House immigration lawsuit against Obama


House Speaker John Boehner's move toward suing President Obama over his executive immigration action could put Miami Republican members of Congress in a tough spot. They generally support the policies pushed by the president but oppose how he went about them. So would they back a House lawsuit?

Maybe, freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo told The Daily Beast on Wednesday.

Freshman Republican Carlos Curbelo of Florida, one of a handful of supporters of comprehensive immigration reform in the Republican caucus, told The Daily Beast that while he would have to see the lawsuit, that "if it's very specific in seeking to hold the Obama Administration for violating the Constitution, I could support it." In his opinion, it needed to be "a question of the Constitution not of the policy goals advanced through the actions." But, while Curbelo noted the lawsuit was not "unimportant," he was more concerned about "an ultimate solution…a series of bills that will address all of our immigration challenges."

However, Curbelo had strongly favored a lawsuit during his campaign last year. When a Spanish-language radio host asked in August if Obama should be impeached over his immigration action, Curbelo suggested suing instead.

"What they should do is sue him, as they have done in other cases, with Obamacare," Curbelo told a WAQI-AM (710) Radio Mambí host known as Lourdes D'Kendall. "If the president exceeds himself, exceeds his authority, they should take him to the Supreme Court. And I'm very sure -- I trust -- that the court won't let us down and will rule in favor of the Constitution. We cannot let this country be ruled by decree. 

"That would even be my position if it were a Republican president pushing a policy I agreed with," Curbelo continued. "We need to honor the Constitution and this country's institutions."

Listen to audio of that campaign interview here, in Spanish, after the two-minute mark.

NYT: Mitt's Iowa guy chooses Jeb

From The New York Times:

David Kochel, a Republican strategist based in Iowa who worked on both of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns, is joining Jeb Bush’s political action committee as a senior strategist and is in line to serve as Mr. Bush’s national campaign manager.

“David is one of the most talented state-based operatives in the nation and brings a different focus and different set of priorities to our effort to communicate Governor Bush’s focus on economic and social mobility,” said Sally Bradshaw, Mr. Bush’s longtime strategist.

The move to tap Mr. Kochel, who advised Mr. Romney for over six years, represents a shot across the bow of the 2012 Republican nominee, who is now considering a third bid for the White House.

More here

Return of the GOP King: Jeb Bush's political team staffs up in Tallahassee


A new but old political team is setting up shop in Tallahassee: Jeb Bush’s crew.

Starting this week, Bush’s nascent political operation began working for his Right to Rise political action committee in the capital city, forming the nucleus of a campaign team if the former Florida governor seeks the White House.

Tallahassee was a natural pick for a Bush political team because it’s populated with fiercely loyal Republicans and former employees of the governor – starting with Bush’s longtime adviser, Sally Bradshaw.

“It reflects the overall ethos that Jeb has – a sense of cause, a sense of principle that he inspired in others,” said Brett Doster, a longtime Bush backer and Mitt Romney’s 2012 Florida campaign manager.

“People get into politics to be part of something greater than themselves,” he said, “and Jeb Bush gave them an outlet.”

Continue reading "Return of the GOP King: Jeb Bush's political team staffs up in Tallahassee" »

Carlos Curbelo creates leadership PAC to benefit pro-immigration reform Republicans


As a Republican representing Democrat-rich South Florida, Carlos Curbelo has no trouble supporting comprehensive immigration reform in Congress.

But that's a far more difficult position for some of his colleagues who fear conservative primary challengers to take.

So Curbelo has opened a new political action committee to raise money for those Republicans who might need some financial support for taking a moderate immigration tack. The committee, registered Jan. 14 with the Federal Election Commission, has been christened "What a Country!" (Yes, the initials come out to WAC PAC.)

"What a Country recognizes that the United States is the land of opportunity, where anyone who comes here and works hard and plays by the rules can get ahead," Curbelo told the Miami Herald. "It will support candidates who understand the importance of overhauling our nation's immigration laws to secure our borders, promote legal immigration and reward those who contribute to our economy."

He declined to name names, but Curbelo said potential beneficiaries could be Republicans who, like him, "voted against punishing people who were brought to this country as children and who are de facto Americans."

He was referring to a House vote earlier this month to end President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which granted legal status to immigrants who had been brought into the country illegally as children.

Curbelo was one of 26 Republicans to vote against the legislative amendment, along with Miami Republicans Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen gets assignments in new intelligence committee role


U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was so visible in Miami as chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that it's easy to forget she no longer chairs the panel, as a result of House GOP term limits.

But the Miami Republican still has prime committee assignments. She remains the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa. And on Wednesday, she received new subcommittee assignments in the powerful House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Ros-Lehtinen was appointed to subcommittees on the Department of Defense Intelligence and Overhead Architecture, and the NSA and Cybersecurity.

Sen. Marco Rubio says Obama administration should support "independent" investigation of Argentine prosecutor's death

From Sen. Marco Rubio press release:

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio today urged Secretary of State John Kerry to support the establishment of an “independent, internationally assisted investigation” into the recent suspicious death of Alberto Nisman, Argentina’s Special Prosecutor in charge of investigating the 1994 terrorist attack against a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.

 In a letter to Kerry, Rubio highlighted the implications of Mr. Nisman’s unfinished work for U.S. national security, and called on the administration to do everything it can to ensure that his investigation into the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Society (AMIA) attacks and Iranian activities in the region is continued.

 “The suspicious death of Alberto Nisman, Argentina’s Special Prosecutor investigating the 1994 terrorist attack against the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Society (AMIA) in Buenos Aires, deserves greater attention by this Administration,” Rubio wrote. “I am increasingly concerned about the ability of the Government of Argentina to conduct a fair and impartial investigation into his death, or its capacity to ensure the independence of a prosecutor that would continue Mr. Nisman’s decade-longwork. I thus urge the Administration to support the establishment of an independent, internationally assisted investigation into Mr. Nisman’s suspicious death.”


Continue reading "Sen. Marco Rubio says Obama administration should support "independent" investigation of Argentine prosecutor's death" »