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415 posts from April 2015

April 30, 2015

Sen. Marco Rubio went to bat for now-shuttered for-profit college

From Bloomberg News:

Last summer, Sen. Marco Rubio asked the U.S. Department of Education to “demonstrate leniency” toward Corinthian Colleges by permitting the wealthy for-profit company to continue accessing millions of dollars in federal financial aid while it was cooperating with a federal investigation.

Ten months later, the company shuttered its remaining 28 campuses, instantly displacing some 16,000 students just days after it was fined $30 million by the Department of Education for a scheme involving “confirmed cases of misrepresentation of job placement rates” for as many as 947 students. The decision to close shop came after years of federal and state investigations into the company.

The top-tier Florida Republican presidential candidate had made his plea in a letter — obtained by Bloomberg Politics — dated June 20, 2014, and addressed to Jim Shelton, the deputy secretary of education, and Ted Mitchell, the undersecretary for post-secondary education.

“It has been brought to my attention that the U.S. Department of Education has recently placed extreme financial constraints on Corinthian Colleges, Inc. by restricting the company’s timely access to federal financial aid. It is my understanding the Department of Education has requested extensive documents be provided by Corinthian Colleges for review, and Corinthian has acted in good faith to try to provide these documents as expeditiously as possible,” Rubio, R-Fla., wrote.

More here.

U.S. Supreme Court upholds Florida ban on judicial candidates seeking cash

via @MichaelDoyle10

A divided Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld Florida’s ban on judicial candidates directly soliciting campaign funds.

In a ruling that affects many of the 39 states where voters elect trial or appellate judges, the high court concluded that the direct-solicitation ban does not violate the First Amendment’s free-speech guarantee.

“A state’s decision to elect its judiciary does not compel it to treat judicial candidates like campaigners for political office,” Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. “A state may assure its people that judges will apply the law without fear or favor.”

The ruling split the court along somewhat unusual lines, as Roberts’ fellow conservatives Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented, as did frequent swing vote Anthony Kennedy. Two liberal justices, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, largely sided with Roberts’ conclusion, but broke from part of his reasoning.

The court’s bottom line in the case called Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, though, is a victory for judicial campaign fundraising limits. Coming from the conservative-dominated court, the ruling is also a notable good day for the frequently embattled advocates of campaign finance reform.

“Most states with elected judges have determined that drawing a line between personal solicitation by candidates and solicitation by committees is necessary to preserve public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary,” Roberts wrote. “These considered judgments deserve our respect.”

More here.

Super PAC backs Patrick Murphy's Florida Senate bid

via @adamsmithtimes

A new Super PAC has been formed to help elect U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, to the U.S. Senate seat now held by Marco Rubio. Floridians for a Strong Middle Class, which filed papers with the state earlier this week, is not bound by the $2,700 cap on individual contributions that Murphy's campaign is, and it cannot directly coordinate with the Murphy campaign.

Leaders of the committee include Tampa Democratic operatives/activists Ana Cruz andAlan Clendenin, former Bill Nelson aide Brian May of Miami (better known to some folks as the fellow who tried to slip a message to Alex Sink during her debate with Rick Scott in 2010), and Jennifer May of Washington handling compliance. Murphy's father, construction company owner Thomas Murphy, could be a major donor to Floridians for a Strong Middle Class, but a Democrat involved with the effort said that Thomas Murphy would be among a broad array of Democrats if he contributes.

Murphy so far is the only Democrat in the race and the clear favorite of the national and state Democratic establishment. The more liberal U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, has said he is leaning toward running for the nomination as well.

Several prominent Republicans have taken a pass on running. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Ponte Vedra Pedra Beach so far looks like the most likely Republican candidate.

Most independent analysts view the open seat as a pure toss-up at this point.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

When Marco Rubio and Grover Norquist disagreed on taxes

via @learyreports

Marco Rubio laid it down this week on Instagram. “I will oppose and veto ANY and ALL efforts to increase taxes.”

The declaration followed his re-upping of Grover Norquist’s tax “Pledge,” which Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform celebrated in a news release. Rubio had signed it twice before, as a state legislator and U.S. Senate candidate.

Rubio,  now running for president, is firm on the tax issue but not absolute.

Take this example in which Rubio, who’s signed the pledge, looks more anti-pledge than Jeb Bush, who refuses to sign the pledge. Grover makes a cameo.

In 2006, then state Rep. Rubio voted for a bill that aimed to increase by $2 the daily “surcharge” on rental cars. It would have asked voters to approve the hike, so Rubio and others who supported it could argue they weren’t raising taxes.

But that’s how Gov. Bush saw it, and Norquist as well.

“This rental car tax idea is just the newest attempt in a series of efforts by Florida’s local transit agencies and a number of counties to win legislative approval for revenue-raisers,” Norquist wrote in a letter to lawmakers. “After successive efforts to get approval for an additional tax on car owners have failed, the latest effort focuses on an idea that some think will be an easy sell: making tourists foot the bill.”

Americans for Tax Reform even ran a TV ad against the idea and Norquist met with Bush. In June 2006,Bush vetoed the bill.

“These taxes will be paid disparately by tourists visiting Florida, consequently creating taxation without representation on a large scale,” the governor wrote in his veto message. “Philosophically, I cannot support this."

This week we reached out to Americans for Tax Reform for comment. A spokesman did not respond.

Overall Rubio has a strong record on opposing taxes. But he did support increasing property taxes for schools. PolitiFact Florida explains.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Democrats continue hammering House GOP: first robo-calls, now mailers

Diaz_mailer_backDemocrats continue to hammer House Republicans in vulnerable districts over their early exit this week and are now dropping thousands of mailers in nine swing districts, a day after announcing they were targeting those same districts with robo-calls. 

“In Tallahassee, Manny Diaz lets the Tea Party pull his strings,’’ reads the flyer, which features Rep. Richard Corcoran as puppet master and the heads of Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli in the background. 

“Turning his back on Broward and Miami-Dade families, Miami Diaz decided that denying health care to 800,000 working Floridians was more important than doing his job,” the copy reads. 

Also targeted for the mass mailings are Reps. Scott. Plakon of Longwood, Bob Cortes of Maitland, Mike Miller of Winter Park, Shawn Harrison of Tampa, Chris Latvala of Clearwater, Kathleen Peters of St. Petersburg, Bill Hagar of Boca Raton, Manny Diaz of Hialeah, and Frank Artiles of Miami. Each of them reside in districts were voter registration is shifting away from Republicans, and that could make them vulnerable in the 2016 general election year.

The "Tea Party" message also helps Democrats exploit the pressure legislators are getting from those on the right, who are warning Republicans that a vote in favor of Medicaid expansion could draw a primary challenge for these House seats. 

“This week Floridians saw House Republicans quit work and go home, just because their jobs got tough.,’’ said Joshua Karp, spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party which is financing the mailers. "These mailers are going to make sure that House Republicans don’t get a free pass for allowing their Tea Party puppet masters to deny health care to hundreds of thousands of Floridians."

Driving home from Tallahassee, Rep. Manny Diaz dismissed the robo-calls and mailers as more of what he has already faced in the last election cycle. 

“This is just a repeat of what occurred in 2013,’’ he said. He said he’s done local radio and met with constituents at senior centers around his district and he believes he has their support. 

“I tell them that the one-size-fits-all forced hand of the federal government is not right, and the fact that many people who have gotten insurance under the exchange would lose their insurance if we expanded Medicaid and the health care outcomes are just not good ones.”

Gov. Scott says he'll work 'immediately' with Legislature on budget

Gov. Rick Scott has not been visible this week as the legislative session collapsed amid round after round of insults and threats of a lawsuit between his fellow Republicans.

Scott's Thursday schedule showed "no scheduled events" and Scott's press office did not respond to two requests to identify where he is. But Scott's office issued this news release in which Scott said he will begin working immediately with the Senate and House on a budget that will continue "critical programs."

Scott's statement does say that any conversation on changes to health care policy should involve "thoughtful debate" -- which is what the Florida Senate has been seeking from the House for weeks.

The full text of Scott's statement:

Now that the Florida Senate and House have adjourned, we must immediately turn our focus to how we can work together to craft a state budget before July 1st that continues funding for critical state services. There were no discussions about Medicaid expansion under Obamacare before the legislative session began. Today, it is clear that a thorough analysis of how healthcare can be reformed to improve cost, quality and access is needed, apart from the budget process.

Our previous state Medicaid reform efforts took months of thoughtful debate in order to not only develop the best policy with the most flexibility for our citizens, but to ensure we designed something that the federal government would ultimately approve. Any conversation on new healthcare or Medicaid reforms should be similarly deliberated.

Continue reading "Gov. Scott says he'll work 'immediately' with Legislature on budget" »

A scripted end, a dramatic finish, so of course session needed a movie title

via @KatieLSanders

The House's sine die see-ya seemed pulled from the script of a Hollywood drama, giving Capitol observers plenty to tweet about as relations between the chambers continued to ice over.

And so, #FLHouseMovieTitles was born. Here's a roundup of some of our favorites, though they're all pretty good.

The Terminator #flhousemovietitles

"Left Behind" #flhousemovietitles


"He's Just Not That Into You" #flhousemovietitles


ApocaLIPs Now #flhousemovietitles


Sine Die Hard


A Walk(out) to Remember. #flhousemovietitles

@KatieLSanders (uh that's me)

No Country for Old Men #flhousemovietitles


Crouching Crisafulli, Hidden Corcoran #flhousemovietitles


Mission Impossible. #flhousemovietitles


Ten Things I Hate About You (the Senate) #flhousemovietitles


The Passion of the Crisafulli #flhousemovietitles


Dude where's my bill? #flhousemovietitles


The (Re)vengers #flhousemovietitles


Kill Bills #flhousemovietitles


Tons from this year's Oscars work without adjustment: Wild, The Theory of Everything and of course, WHIPLASH #flhousemovietitles


--KATIE SANDERS, Tampa Bay Times

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on the Truth-O-Meter

With Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., expected to announce soon that he’s running for president in 2016, we thought we’d take a look back at his record on the Truth-O-Meter.

Sanders is an Independent, but he caucuses with Senate Democrats, and he isexpected to join the Democratic primary race -- a field that so far officially includes only former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Before becoming a senator in 2007, Sanders was a member of the House of Representatives and mayor of Burlington, Vermont’s largest city.

Sanders’ record over the past five years includes five Trues, four Mostly Trues, fourHalf Trues, one Mostly False, four Falses and zero Pants on Fires.

Turn to Lauren Carroll's story from PolitiFact to learn more about Sanders. PolitiFact also has Truth-O-Meter files for other presidential hopefuls including Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Jeff Clemens rejects congressional run because 'Tally is so entertaining lately'

Here's the release from Sen. Jeff Clemens, announcing he will not run for Congress, in the district opening up by U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy's run for U.S. Senate. It's worth the read:

Today, State Senator Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) announced that he will remain focused on his re-election to Senate District 27, eschewing a run for the open Congressional seat in Florida District 18. 

“Why would I run for Congress, when Tallahassee has become so entertaining lately?” asked Clemens, who has been mentioned as a future Minority Leader candidate in the Senate. “Besides, I have a tremendous amount of confidence that we’ll have a fantastic candidate who will keep that seat in Democratic hands.” 

Clemens, who while in the House was named by Florida Trend magazine as one of the three most promising rookie lawmakers (interestingly, with Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Happy, and Matt Gaetz R-Bashful), represents a solidly Democratic district in central Palm Beach County that includes West Palm Beach, Riviera Beach, Lake Worth and Palm Beach, amongst others. 

He has made his mark in the legislature as a proponent of reforming the criminal justice system, expanding voting rights, protecting the middle class and allowing terminally ill people to get really high. This year, Clemens’ legislative success extended to the passage of his bills regulating sober homes and creating an online voter registration system, not to mention an appearance on The Daily Show when he tried to coerce a state employee into saying the words “climate change.” 

“I still have a lot of things I want to accomplish in Tallahassee, and I’m hoping that some of them will involve getting more people to be afraid of words,” Clemens said. “Oh, and climate change. It would be good for them to fear actual climate change, too.” 

Thursday: Five Things to Watch in Tallahassee

This should be Day 59 of the 2015 legislative session. Ordinarily, lobbyists and lawmakers and activists would be scrambling to get their bills passed and their projects funded in the waning hours of session. But this year? Crickets.