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413 posts from September 2016

September 30, 2016

Voter at Broward Hillary Clinton rally: 'This time is for overcoming the second ceiling'



Broward Democrats have waited nearly a year to hear Hillary Clinton at a major public rally in their county.

They waited in line as the thunder cackled and ignored suggestions from police officers to seek shelter elsewhere inside or return to their cars. This was a fired-up and heavily female crowd that wasn't going to miss their chance to hear Clinton.

The crowd included first-time voters, immigrants from the Caribbean, Muslims, Jews -- and a feminist wearing a Miss Piggy t-shirt.

Here is a snapshot of what they said:

Rukhsana Ayyub, a 62-year-old Coconut Creek voter, emigrated from Pakistan when she was 23.

"I have a message for Trump," said Ayyub, who works for a nonprofit. "I am an immigrant. I am a Muslim. I am proud to pay my taxes."

Ayyub said she found Trump's comments about a Muslim registry "very disturbing."

"We all have demons, discrimination inside but Hillary Clinton is encouraging us to be better humans," she said.

American voters shattered the first ceiling by electing Obama, she said.

"This time is for overcoming the second ceiling," she said, reeling off a long list of countries including in the Third World already led by women.

Pepper Thompson, 56, a retired school librarian from Coconut Creek wore her "Miss Piggy" t-shirt to send a message to Donald Trump. (A former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, said Trump called her Miss Piggy.)

"I wanted to show Donald he can throw insults around but he is the one who is sexist, racist...," she said.

Thompson was thrilled that Clinton was appearing in Coral Springs.

"I've been dying to see her," said Thompson, who has been volunteering to register voters.

Kathryn Kvech, 39, pulled her four children -- age ranging from 5 to 12 -- out of school early to hear Clinton.

"I am raising my children to be kind people," said the Coral Springs stay-at-home mother and Democrat. "Hillary promotes kindness."

Marilyn St. Julien, a black voter from Tamarac, said that Clinton needs to "keep doing what she is doing" to turn out black voters.

"She sympathizes with blacks,  Black Lives Matter, stuff like that," said St. Julien, a 48-year-old nurse.

Black voters will ultimately turn out for Clinton, she predicted.

"Everybody I know are for Hillary," she said.

Some black voters said they have no doubts that on Nov. 8th, black voters will turn out for Clinton.

"I love everything about her," said Maureen Fuller, 58, of Margate who works at Walmart and is originally from Jamaica. "I like her experience. She will always be for women and looking out for us. When the day comes to vote black people will go out and vote for her."

Miami Herald photo by Pedro Portal 


Attorney: Bondi's office never checked for conflict of interest with Trump donation


Attorney General Pam Bondi's office has no written policy about checking for conflicts of interest and never looked into any possible conflict surrounding a $25,000 check from Donald Trump that has caused allegations of pay-for-play politics.

In a letter responding to requests filed by Massachusetts lawyer J. Whitfield Larrabee, a Bondi staffer wrote that "a search of our records has produced no public records responsive to your request." Larrabee provided the letter to the Times/Herald.

On Sept. 6, Larrabee, who has filed ethics cases alleging Bondi's political committee improperly accepted money from Trump, requested copies of "records setting forth the policy, practice or procedure of the attorney general's office for checking conflicts of interest" both in 2013 and in 2016, as well as any records of a check into the $25,000 check.

Even after questions were raised about the check, it appears no one in Bondi's office investigated whether there was any impropriety.

That check dominated presidential politics early this month as national news organizations stirred up a a third wave of questions about it. The September 2013 contribution from the Donald J. Trump Foundation to Pam Bondi's political committee, And Justice For All, came around the time that New York filed a lawsuit against Trump University, alleging it scammed students out of thousands of dollars.

Florida never followed suit, and records show that even when Bill McCollum was attorney general and as early as the first months of Bondi's term in 2011, the state showed little interest in complaints against Trump's real estate seminars.

Earlier this month, Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray told the Times/Herald that the attorney general's office does not require employees to sign a code of ethics and instead has distributed chapter 112 of the Florida Satutes, which includes ethics rules that all state employees are required to abide by.

Chapter 112 bans conflicts of interest, but Larrabee has raised concerns that the attorney general's office does not have a written policy about checking for them.

Bondi has insisted that she did nothing wrong. And in fact, she didn't even need the money, winning re-election handily in 2014 and with funds to spare.

"I just knew there was nothing improper," Bondi said at a press conference last week in the Florida Capitol. "I will never let money from anyone affect what I do. I'm proud of my office. I'm proud of the work that we do."

Times Tallahassee bureau chief Steve Bousquet contributed to this report.

Trump Florida aide quits, saying she's 'no longer comfortable'

via @learyreports

More unrest in the Donald Trump campaign in Florida.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Fact-checking a claim about 'kid-friendly pot' and Amendment 2 in Florida


Opponents of Florida’s medical marijuana amendment are warning that cannabis-enhanced edibles will endanger children, hoping that voters will eat up their dire predictions and reject the measure.

"Amendment 2 will bring kid-friendly pot candy to Florida," the anti-drug campaign Vote No On 2 said in a flier we received in the mail Sept. 22, 2016.

The campaign is run by the Drug Free Florida Committee, an anti-drug group started in 2014 by longtime GOP fundraiser Mel Sembler and his wife, Betty, with financial backing from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

We wanted to find out whether the medical marijuana amendment allows "pot candy," and whether it really would be "kid-friendly."

Keep reading Joshua Gillin's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida.

Latvala 'very upset' with Florida's water quality woes


Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, expressed concern Friday about contamination in Florida's water, saying the state and local governments have failed to fulfill one of their most basic jobs: ensuring people have access to safe, clean water.

"I'm very upset with the totality of what's happening to our water supply around the state," said Latvala, who will be the powerful Senate budget chairman next year. "It's maybe not as sexy as talking about tax cuts or new programs but it's just a fundamental responsibility of government to protect citizens and their water supply."

Months ago, green algae blooms caused by discharges from Lake Okeechobee made national headlines. Then, in the wake of Hurricane Hermine, local governments including Tampa, St. Petersburg, Largo and Clearwater began dumping excess sewage into Tampa Bay. Now, a sinkhole has opened at a Polk County phosphate processing plant owned by fertilizer giant Mosaic, which both the state and company initially kept quiet.

These incidents, said Latvala, "all portend for some attention because it's just hard to imagine they're all happening at the same time."

He pointed specifically to cutbacks in staffing at the Department of Environmental Protection, the state agency charged with ensuring state waterways aren't polluted. But Latvala would not go as far as to say DEP is to blame for not taking a more active role.

"I don't know if there's any culpability there," he said of the Mosaic sinkhole. "I will tell you in Tampa Bay, DEP has been very responsive to the concerns of our delegation in Pinellas County."

Sen. Latvala and former Supreme Court Justice Bell declare opposition to Amendment 2


The campaign against a medical marijuana constitutional amendment is rolling out high profile names who have joined their cause, including two on Friday: State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and former Florida Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Bell.

"I just see too many opportunities for abuse," said Latvala, who will be appropriations chairman next year. "I'm concerned that the constitution is permanent. I just think that that's a big risk we're talking about with this amendment."

Amendment 2 would expand medical marijuana in Florida, allowing doctors to recommend it for patients with a long list of conditions, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Many opponents, including Latvala, say it could have disastrous effects: Teens with access to drugs, children going to the hospital after eating "pot candy," an influx of dispensaries on every street corner in the state.

Bell said the Legislature won't be able to effectively regulate the medical cannabis industry because Amendment 2 will be in the constitution.

"Though shrewdly written, Amendment 2 does not belong in our constitution," he said.

However, the amendment explicitly allows for the Legislature to pass laws "consistent with this section" and for the Department of Health to write and enforce regulations.

Latvala is putting money into the race, as well, dipping into "the lion's share" of his well-padded campaign account to oppose Amendment 2. He has no opponent in his bid for re-election to the Senate. An ad he recorded opposing Amendment 2 begins airing this weekend in the Tampa Bay area on a $100,000 buy.

Supporters of Amendment 2 argue the Legislature has had its chance to enact a broad-based medical marijuana program after nearly 60 percent of voters approved a similar constitutional amendment in 2014. But Latvala believes the state has taken big steps, including a law signed this year that allows terminal patients within one year of death access to the drug, which Latvala opposed.

He's not the only senator who has weighed in on the medical marijuana initiative. Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, whose district is just south of Latvala's, announced his support for the initiative two weeks ago.

"The Legislature believes it knows better than physicians on how to treat patients," Brandes said in a statement at the time. "And the only way we’re going to see meaningful change in that area is to put it in the Constitution."

Update: United for Care, the political committee supporting Amendment 2, released a statement responding to criticism by Latvala and Bell.

“If the legislature had done their job in the first place, Senator Latvala wouldn’t have an amendment to oppose. They didn’t," said United for Care campaign manager Ben Pollara. "If Senator Latvala is displeased that this issue is now before voters as a constitutional amendment, perhaps he should reflect on why the legislature failed to enact the people’s will."

Corcoran plans to re-structure Florida House committees



Incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, on Friday announced his plans to shake-up the chamber's committees once he assumes the top leadership role in November.

Corcoran also said he'll announce his leadership team -- including speaker pro-tempore, majority leader and the chairpersons of main committees -- by Nov. 9, the day after the fall election.

The new committee structure calls for, overall, a couple fewer committees than the 2015-16 sessions, with a bit more emphasis on education and many changes to committee names and which subcommittee reports to which full committee.

For instance, Corcoran is splitting the education budget subcommittee into two: One focused on higher education and the other focused on pre-K-12. And he's re-working the K-12 subcommittees from "Choice & Innovation" and "K-12" into the Pre-K-12 "Innovation" and "Quality" committees.

Other changes: The "Finance & Tax Committee" will become the "Ways & Means Committee," and several committees and subcommittees will be lumped into two main policy areas, the newly named Commerce and Government Accountability committees.

Also, instead of having a Rules, Calendar & Ethics Committee with its own subcommittee, Corcoran is splitting them into two main committees: Public Integrity & Ethics and Rules & Policy.

The structure for the Judiciary and Health & Human Services committees and subcommittees will remain the same.

The organizational session for the 2017 Legislature will convene on Nov. 22.

Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

Zika the subject of robocalls against Miami-Dade mayor


Zika already stands as a top campaign issue for Miami-Dade mayoral challenger Raquel Regalado, who blames incumbent Carlos Gimenez for not taking more aggressive action against the county's mosquito population. That attack line is surfacing in robocalls against Gimenez.

A pair of calls reported to Naked Politics has automated voices blaming Gimenez for the spread of Zika and the most recent arrival of a case of dengue fever in Miami-Dade. The sources of the calls aren't known, but robocalls often are supported by third-party groups with no direct ties to campaigns. 

While Zika has spread nationwide by travelers, Miami-Dade is the only spot with a travel advisory tied to local transmissions (which covers a large chunk of Miami Beach). Gimenez argues the county has been taking aggressive measures against a virus that's difficult to stop; Regalado blames Gimenez for not beefing up mosquito spending in the run-up to Zika's approach. One of the robocalls cited a recent Miami Herald investigation showing Miami-Dade's anti-mosquito staff was overwhelmed by the arrival of Zika. 

A Regalado spokeswoman said the campaign wasn't sponsoring the calls. An Gimenez spokesman called the calls false and criticized the school board member for continuing to "play politics with issues of importance to the community."

Gov. Rick Scott's false attack about Hillary Clinton's refugee plan


Gov. Rick Scott backed up Donald Trump’s first presidential debate performance, praising the Republican nominee and lamenting that Hillary Clinton wasn’t pressed hard enough on her policy positions.

In a Sept. 27 Facebook post touting an ad from the pro-Trump Rebuilding America Now PAC, Scott declared the real estate mogul "the winner in last night’s debate because he is the candidate for change."

"The biggest loser was the American people," Scott wrote, "because we never got to hear a vigorous conversation about why Hillary set up an illegal email server for classified information or why she wants to bring in thousands of refugees to America from all around the world without any kind of security screening."

We’ll set aside the email controversy and focus on the assertion about vetting refugees. Does Clinton want to bring in thousands of foreigners with no background checks at all?

She does want to allow refugees into America, although the figures are up for debate — but the idea that there will be no security screening is wrong.

Keep reading Joshua Gillin's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida and here's a look at Scott's Truth-O-Meter record.

In Miami race, Democrats mislead in attack on Carlos Curbelo about climate change, oil drilling



While Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo portrays himself as an environmentalist, the Democratic Party says he is no treehugger and is aligned with Donald Trump.

"Republican Carlos Curbelo and Donald Trump's ideas about the environment are more alike than you think. Curbelo talks about protecting the environment," says aTV ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The ad then shows a clip of Curbelo talking about protecting the environment and then pivots to a clip of him on an oil rig.

The narrator continues: "Curbelo supports drilling offshore just like Trump, and Curbelo repeatedly voted against President Obama's ability to fight pollution and combat climate change."

Curbelo represents a Democratic-leaning Westchester-to-Key West district. He faces a rematch Nov. 8 with former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Miami. (Curbelo does not support Trump but said he won’t vote for Hillary Clinton, either.)

We found that Curbelo supports current drilling but opposes an expansion near Florida’s coasts. And while Curbelo has taken some votes related to pollution and climate change that Democrats criticize, he has been one of the more outspoken Republicans about combating climate change.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida