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315 posts from August 2015

August 31, 2015

Jeb Bush's misleading claim about the release of his emails

As the other presidential candidate with a private email server, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is trying to contrast himself with Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"My email address, write it down, and send me your thoughts, jeb@jeb.org," he’s shown telling a crowd in an Aug. 27, 2015, campaign video (the clip is from the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines on Aug. 14). "By the way, I just gave out my email address. It’s exactly what I did when I was governor of the state of Florida. I released all my emails; I’m writing an e-book about my emails."

Bush and Clinton have drawn criticism from campaign rivals because they both used private email accounts and servers for their government jobs.

But can Bush claim he’s released all of his emails as a way of drawing a distinction between himself and Clinton? No, in reality, he's done exactly what Clinton has done. Bush says he has turned over and made public all the emails he was required to. That's the same argument Clinton is making.

And like Clinton, that means we may never know with 100 percent certainty if Bush left out any work-related emails.

Turn to Joshua Gillin's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida.

Marijuana amendment qualifies for court review

A constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana in Florida has reached a key milestone in its petition drive, triggering required reviews by Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Florida Supreme Court.

The proposal has gotten 73,713 signatures, according to Florida Division of Elections data. Bondi has 30 days to review the ballot language and send it to the Supreme Court, which will determine if it's constitutional.

The amendment would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for medical purposes and allow the state Department of Health to regulate marijuana growth and sale. In the 2014 election, it fell just short of the 60 percent required to amend the state constitution.

But backed by lawyer John Morgan, the amendment has already raked in over $1 million in contributions for the upcoming election cycle.

"This is the first major milestone to bringing medical marijuana back before the voters of Florida In November 2016," campaign manager Ben Pollara said. "In the next election, Floridians will succeed where their elected leaders have failed them, and pass a comprehensive, compassionate medical marijuana law to serve the hundreds of thousands of sick and suffering people who are so desperate for relief in our state."

Bondi is required to pass it on to the Supreme Court, but she can contest the language. In late 2013, she said in a letter to the court that, "Florida law would allow marijuana in limitless situations."

It takes 683,149 petition signatures to make it onto the ballot next November, and state law requires that those include a large portion of voters in 14 congressional districts. So far, most of the petition signatures are in districts 4 (Jacksonville), 11 (including Hernando County), 13 (Pinellas) and 14 (Pinellas and Hillsborough).

Miami Herald staff writer Patricia Mazzei contributed to this post.

Senator Nelson calls for independent redistricting commission


The repeated failures of the Florida Legislature to redraw the state’s congressional districts is a sure sign that Florida needs to create an independent commission to do the work, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said during a stop in Tallahassee on Monday.

“Seems to me we need an independent commission for future reapportionment so that you stop this self-serving process of drawing districts for your own self interest,” said Nelson, a Democrat.

Nelson’s comments come 10 days after the Florida Legislature ended its 12-day special session without producing a redistricting map that both the House and Senate could agree to for the state’s 27 congressional districts.

Nelson said other states – like Arizona and California - have created commissions to draw congressional districts and Florida needs to explore the same idea to keep the map drawing out of the hands of the self-interested.

“Seems to me that common sense says put it in the hands of as independent of a commission as you can make it,” Nelson said.

Nelson said the Legislature’s failures have created chaos and an uncertainty where people interested in running for office cannot file because they don’t know what district they are in.

When Florida voters overwhelmingly passed the fair districts redistricting reforms there was hope that that would be enough. But he said court documents reported on recently by the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau shows the Legislature has been engaged in a “political partisan exercise.”  He said the choice Florida faces is whether it will follow “partisan political hacks” or the rule of law.

Nelson also used his time in Tallahassee to accuse the Florida Legislature of having “thwarted the rule of law” over how it responded to the more recent Amendment 1, the constitutional amendment passed in 2014 calling for dedicating $700 million for environmental land conservation and preservation. The Legislature dedicated just a fraction for that cause.

Which Florida Democrats might run for attorney general in 2018?

via @adamsmithtimes

You've no doubt heard some of the prospective Democatic candidates for governor in 2018 - Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine - are all in the mix to take on Republican prospects that include Adam Putnam, Jeff Atwater, Will Weatherford, Marco Rubio.

But there also are several significant Democratic names bubbling up for the attorney general's race in 2018: Former prosecutor and state Sen. Rod Smith, who ran unsuccessfully for governor, in 2006, is seriously looking at it. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, an attorney and another of Democratic former stand out in the Florida House, also is interested in the job as he faces term limits in Fort Lauderdale. But Seiler, who also helped found and served as chairman of the Broward Bank of Commerce, is also seriously looking at running for Chief Financial Officer in 2018. A fresher face on the Democratic bench seen as a serious AG prospect is Democratic state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a graduate of Brown and Harvard Law. Former state Sen. Dan Gelber isn't looking at the position, but if Sen. Bill Nelson changed his mind about running again....

And the Republican AG candidates? Well, keep an eye on state Sen. Joe Negron.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

Donald Trump jabs Jeb Bush over immigration 'act of love' comment, without noting Bush says he'd deport criminals


Donald Trump posted an Instagram video Monday hitting Jeb Bush over his early 2014 remark calling illegal immigration an "act of love."

The video overlays Bush's words with mug shots of convicted murderers in the U.S. illegally. Intended to frighten and anger viewers, it quickly drew Twitter comparisons to George H.W. Bush's ads in the 1988 presidential campaign against Michael Dukakis over repeated criminal offender Willie Horton.

The ad fails to mention that Bush supports deporting people in the country illegally who commit serious crimes. It also indicates Trump, for all of his dismissing of Bush as a rival, still considers him a top competitor worth attacking.


Bush's campaign responded by reiterating its attack on Trump -- that he's not a real conservative -- and portraying him as soft on crime.
"Jeb Bush has a record of cracking down on violent criminals as Governor of Florida, while Donald Trump has up until it was convenient supported liberal, soft-on-crime politicians," Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said. "His immigration plan is not conservative, would violate the constitution and cost hundreds of billions of dollars, which he will likely attempt to pay for through with massive tax hikes."
Here are Bush's full "act of love" remarks: 
There are means by which we can control our border better than we have. And there should be penalties for breaking the law. But the way I look at this -- and I'm going to say this, and it'll be on tape and so be it. The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally, they come to our country because their families -- the dad who loved their children -- was worried that their children didn’t have food on the table. And they wanted to make sure their family was intact, and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family. I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime that there should be a price paid.
This post has been updated.

Patrick Murphy comes out in support of 'flawed' Iran deal

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, who is running for Sen. Marco Rubio’s seat announced his support for the Iran deal today.

This puts pressure on his Democratic rival, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando to announce his opinion on the deal. Grayson has raised concerns about the deal but hasn't announced how he will vote. This is a hot topic in Florida this week because U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, has arranged a meeting between Vice President Joe Biden and Jewish leaders in South Florida Thursday on the topic of the Iran deal. She remains undecided about the deal.

From a Murphy press release:

"I have promised Floridians that they can have faith in me to listen to them, to listen to my conscience, and to deeply study every bill. With the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran on my desk, I have taken my promise more seriously than ever. This has been the toughest decision of my time in Congress.

"I have listened to the strong cases made by advocates on both sides of this debate, which at times has become unfortunately rancorous. I have carefully studied the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, its appendices, and the classified reports from the negotiations, and have sought answers from both supporters and opponents.

Continue reading "Patrick Murphy comes out in support of 'flawed' Iran deal" »

Tax collectors alarmed by state talk of revamped driver license system

You can't get completely away from politics in Florida. One of many things that make the state such a unique place is that the person who provides your license tags and renews your driver's license and provides your license tags is likely to be an elected official.

Yes, a politician. Your county tax collector. (The licenses and tags are produced using equipment owned by a vendor under contract to the state). State highway safety officials are quietly studying a possible change to a new system of issuing driver licenses. No decision has been made, and wouldn't be without the approval of Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet. But just the idea of changing things has stirred up a lot of controversy.

More here. 

Scott Walker attacks Jeb Bush over Iran deal


Scott Walker, who has been struggling in the polls even in Iowa, the state where he appeared strongest, has a new web video out juxtaposing his position on the Iran nuclear deal with Jeb Bush's.

Neither 2016 Republican presidential candidate backs the agreement, which President Obama is trying to sell to the GOP-controlled Congress. Walker's ad, though, doesn't note that.

Instead, it highlights that Bush has avoided saying that he'll rip up the deal on the first day of his presidency. Bush has suggested doing so is an empty campaign promise since no newly elected president will realistically be able to take such a dramatic step just after being sworn in (and some conservative pundits have said as much).

"I will not probably have a confirmed secretary of state; I will not have a confirmed national security team in place; I will not have consulted with our allies. I will not have had the intelligence briefings to have made a decision," Bush said in Nevada last month. "If you're running for president, I think it's important to be mature and thoughtful about this."

Here's what Walker pledges in the ad: "I will terminate it on Day One."

"Governor Bush has repeatedly said it's a terrible deal, that Congress should reject it, and that if elected he would begin the process immediately to responsibly undo the deal and the damage it has done to our national security," Bush spokeswoman Allie Brandenburger said. 

"He believes we need a comprehensive strategy to confront Iran, including its efforts to obtain a nuclear weapons capability, its malign aggression in the region, its support for terrorism, its ballistic missile proliferation, its threats to Israel, and its atrocious human rights abuses.  

"Donald Trump said Hillary Clinton would be a good negotiator with Iran and with this disastrous deal we can see the damage that worldview has wrought and conservatives should unite in opposition to it."

Both Bush and Walker trail Republican frontrunner Trump. Walker, however, has been careful not to hit Trump. He's tried instead to position himself in some cases to the right of Trump, in an effort to appeal to the voters giving Trump high marks.

As Bush's lead has slipped in the polls, Walker's team seems ready to try to push Bush further down.


Iowa polls show Ben Carson moving closer to Donald Trump

via @learyreports

Donald Trump continues to lead in Iowa, but Ben Carson, who now lives in West Palm Beach, is moving up and is five percentage points from the boisterous New York celebrity developer, according to a new poll.

The Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll has Trump with 23 percent support and Carson with 18.

Ted Cruz - 8 percent
Scott Walker - 8 percent
Jeb Bush - 6 percent
Marco Rubio - 6 percent
Carly Fiorina - 5 percent

"Wow," said Kedron Bardwell, a political science professor at Simpson College, told the Register. "This poll will have Republican consultants shaking heads in bewilderment. Not since 1992 has anti-establishment sentiment been this strong."

ANOTHER POLL: A Monmouth University survey released this morning has Trump and Carson tied.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Solar energy group prepares to defend constitutional amendment


As they prepare to defend their proposed constitutional amendment before the state Supreme Court on Tuesday, the groups behind Floridians for Solar Choice are confident they'll get the justices' approval.

"We are very confident of that," said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the group shepherding the amendment through the initial stages of getting on the ballot for November 2016. "We have a oneness of purpose in what we are doing in removing this barrier and allowing markets to go forward in Florida."

The market he's referring to is the one for solar power.

Florida is one of just four states in the country where homeowners and businesses can't enter into an agreement directly with a solar power provider to put panels on their roof and buy the energy from them over time, according to Floridians for Solar Choice. Their amdendment seeks to change that.

The idea is that an energy customer could sign a contract with a solar company, which would install the panels on their home or business at no cost or a low cost and pay for it over time, along with energy generated from the panels.

On Tuesday, they'll have to show the Supreme Court that their amendment is valid under state law.

"Is it single-subject? Is it clear and unambiguous?" Smith said.

But there are a lot more hurdles ahead for the proposed amendment.

Most notably: An opposition campaign that's trying to get a different solar power initiative on the ballot -- one that would largely maintain the status quo on solar.

That other group -- Consumers for Smart Solar -- is backed largely by utility companies. The Solar Choice folks call them "intentionally misleading."

Assuming the Court approves the Solar Choice amendment, though, they'll have a hard-fought campaign ahead. Their work so far has been backed largely by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which doesn't make its own donors public because of fears they could be harrassed by utility company backers.

The campaign itself won't start in earnest until the November 2016 election date nears, but the group is releasing released its first Web ad video soon.