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249 posts from June 2017

June 29, 2017

Florida lawmakers tell Trump to back off Atlantic drilling

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - A large, bipartisan contingent of the Florida House delegation has a firm message for President Donald Trump: Lay off plans for oil drilling in the Atlantic.

“Opening the Atlantic to seismic testing and drilling jeopardizes our coastal businesses, fishing communities, tourism, and our national security,” reads a letter signed by the Florida lawmakers and dozens of others. “It harms our coastal economies in the near term and opens the door to even greater risks from offshore oil and gas production down the road. Therefore, we implore you not to issue any permits for seismic airgun surveys for subsea oil and gas deposits in the Atlantic Ocean.”

The letter was sent to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and was signed by Florida Reps. John Rutherford, Darren Soto, Bill Posey, Alcee Hastings, Matt Gaetz, Charlie Crist, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Frederica Wilson, Brian Mast, Dennis Ross, Val Demings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Yoho, Kathy Castor, Francis Rooney, Al  Lawson, Ted Deutch, Ron DeSantis, Lois Frankel, Vern Buchanan and Stephanie Murphy.

The Trump administration announced in April it was exploring opening up the Atlantic for oil and gas exploration.

The letter (see below) was organized by Rutherford, R-Jacksonville, and Rep. Don Beyer, a Virginia Democrat.

Continue reading "Florida lawmakers tell Trump to back off Atlantic drilling" »

Carlos Curbelo rips Trump's tweets that called an MSNBC host "crazy" (UPDATE w/ Ros-Lehtinen response)



Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo sharply criticized President Donald Trump on Thursday after Trump unloaded on a pair of MSNBC hosts on Twitter.

"Let's all remember the lessons from the Congressional shooting just a couple weeks ago," Curbelo said in a tweet. "We must treat one another with decency & respect." 

His comments came after the president mocked Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough (a former Florida Republican congressman) and Mika Brzezinski calling the pair "crazy" and "low I.Q." Curbelo did not support Trump during the 2016 election. 

"I heard poorly rated speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore)" Trump tweeted. "Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!"

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told reporters Thursday he had not seen Trump's tweet yet because he was in a classified briefing. 

Brzezinski fired back at Trump, also on Twitter, referencing a line of attack used by Rubio in the GOP primary, mocking Trump's supposedly small hands. The MSNBC anchor posted a picture of a Cheerios cereal box with the slogan "made for little hands" on the back.

Curbelo also cautioned that Trump's rhetoric leads to dangerous acts because "Personal attacks & character assassination yield a culture of social & political violence in which people can become radicalized & dangerous." 


UPDATE: Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a moderate who is retiring in 2018 and doesn't support Trump, said Trump's tweets make it harder for the White House to pursue its legislative agenda, rankling moderate Republican Senators like Maine Sen. Susan Collins

"There are so many important issues confronting our nation that merit the full attention of our President so it is a shame that on the very week that we are debating health care, he alienates Senators, like Susan Collins, whose votes he needs for passage," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "Pettiness and meanness are uncalled for from the most powerful leader of the free world." 

DEO chief of staff appointed to be new Florida Lottery secretary


Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday named a former executive with Florida Power & Light Co. and its parent company NextEra Energy to run the Florida Lottery.

Scott announced his appointment of Jim Poppell with a news release, praising Poppell’s most recent work as chief of staff for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

“During his time at DEO, Jim has helped provide Florida families and businesses with the support they need to succeed,” Scott said in a statement. “I am confident that Jim will continue the Lottery’s focus on fighting for students and achieving record sales to invest in our education system. I look forward to working with him to further support Florida students.”

Poppell will take over over as lottery secretary on July 10, Scott’s office said. He replaces Tom Delacenserie, who announced his resignation in late May to take a higher-paying position as the head of Kentucky’s state lottery.

David Mica, who has served as lottery chief of staff since 2016, has been serving as the interim secretary in the mean time.

According to his LinkedIn page, Poppell has been with DEO for almost two years, first starting as the agency’s general counsel. From 2006 to 2008, he was the vice president of human resources for FPL. Then, he was the executive vice president of human resources for NextEra from 2008 to 2010.

Photo credit: Florida DEO

Republican candidate for Florida House accuses primary rival of 'betraying' Rubio


Daniel Perez, a Miami Republican running for the state House, used his first TV ad to attack rival Jose Mallea as insufficiently loyal to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Mallea ran Rubio's long-shot 2010 Senate campaign. But the ad appears to refer to 2016, when Mallea worked backed Jeb Bush instead of Rubio for president. Mallea was an aide to then-Gov. Bush years before he managed Rubio's Senate campaign. Bush's super PAC, Right to Rise, which hired Mallea in 2015, poured money into attacking Rubio.

"Candidate Jose Mallea betrayed us," the Spanish-language TV ad says. "He says he's a friend of Marco Rubio's, but when we had the opportunity to elect one of our own to the White House, Jose Mallea directed millions of dollars in false attacks against Rubio."

Mallea's friendship with Rubio dates back to before 1998, when Rubio first ran for the West Miami City Commission. A photo of the two young men appears in Rubio's first book, "An American Son."

"I am proud of my 21-year friendship with Marco Rubio," Mallea said Thursday. "I have worked with Marco Rubio for years, and I was proud to stand with him in his very first campaign. Being his campaign manager in 2010 was the honor of a lifetime."

It's unclear where their friendship now stands.

In addition to invoking Miami's 2016 presidential campaign ghosts, Perez's ad accuses Mallea of accepting "thousands of dollars from special interests to launch his campaign for a district he doesn't live in."

Mallea said he moved into a rental apartment in Doral, which is in District 116, two weeks ago.

The special primary election is July 25.

This post has been updated.

As executions remain on hold, Florida's death row keeps shrinking

DeathrowWith Florida's death penalty laws under sustained attack in the courts, the state has not executed an inmate in 18 months, and the number of inmates on death row keeps dropping.

Florida's death row population is now at its lowest level in more than a decade as courts continue to vacate death sentences and order new sentencings for convicted killers, in most cases as a direct result of the precedent-setting Timothy Hurst case that struck down the state's death penalty sentencing system as unconstitutional.

A total of 367 men and women reside on death row at Florida State Prison and Union Correctional Institution, down from 383 at the start of this year. By comparison, there were 369 death row inmates on June 30, 2005. In March of last year, the death row population was 389.

Since Jan. 1, the state Department of Correction says, 15 inmates have been removed from death row because of court decisions and a 16th, Wydell Evans, died while being transferred to a court hearing in Brevard County.  According to the state, these are among the inmates who have been transferred off death row this year:

* Victor Caraballo, one of five men convicted of killing Ana Maria Angel, 18, a recent graduate of South Miami High School in 2002 who was abducted from South Beach, gang-raped and murdered.

* Emilia Carr, at 32 the youngest woman in America sentenced to death row two years ago. Sentenced to death for the killing of a woman in rural Marion County in what a court called a "love triangle," she's one of three women on death row in Florida, and her case was profiled by Diane Sawyer on ABC News.

* Zachary Taylor Wood, sentenced in Chipley in 2015 for the killing of a retired game warden. He was the first person in Florida's modern judicial history to be sentenced to death in rural Washington County.

Every capital murder case has unique characteristics. In Wood's case, the Florida Supreme Court, in a 6-1 decision, ordered that his death sentence be reduced to life without parole because "there was a lack of competent, substantial evidence to support the trial court's findings of the CCP and avoid arrest aggravating factors, and his death sentence is disproportionate when these aggravating factors are struck." CCP is judicial jargon for "cold, calculated and premeditated," one of many aggravating factors necessary to warrant a sentence of death.

Justice Ricky Polston, in a stinging dissent in the Wood case, wrote: "Beating the victim senseless with a garden hose, tying him up, and trying to set him on fire after dousing him with a petroleum product constitutes cold, calculated and premeditated (CCP). A unanimous jury recommendation for death is not surprising." 

Caraballo is the only South Florida killer who has left death row this year. None of the 15 is from Tampa Bay.

Gov. Rick Scott has not said when the state will resume executions. "We’re still working with the  attorney general on that," Scott told the Tampa Bay Times' Alex Leary. "Look, that’s a solemn duty but we’re still working with the attorney general’s office."

The last person executed in Florida was Oscar Ray Bolin on Jan. 7, 2016, making him the 92nd person to be executed since Florida resumed capital punishment in 1979. The last condemned inmate to join death row , convicted double-murderer Craig Wall of Pinellas County, arrived on June 6, 2016.

The state prison website shows 362 inmates on death row, but the agency says that's a mistake that it's working to fix. The true number is 367, the state says.



Adam Putnam to tout lower weapons fee, before tax collectors

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the leading Republican candidate for governor, is in Clearwater on Thursday for a "major announcement" with Pinellas County Tax Collector Charles Thomas.

The news is that Putnam, working with the state Legislature, got a reduction in the fee to apply for a concealed weapons license or a renewal license, and it's a piece of news that Putnam's office wanted to announce first.

Putnam's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services processes permit applications, but Floridians can file them with their local tax collector, who also accepts property tax payments and issues driver's licenses, vehicle registrations and car and truck titles.

Shortly before Putnam's office issued a media alert Wednesday, it alerted tax collectors in an email that said: "We ask that you refrain from sending your releases until after we send our release, as the news should first come from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. We’ll forward you all our release once it has gone out." (Tax collectors had nothing to do with the fee reduction, but they are elected officials, too).

Florida has nearly 1.8 million concealed weapons license holders. The Legislature passed a bill in the regular session (HB 467) that reduces the license fee and renewal fee by $5, From $60 to $55 for a first-time licensee and from $50 to $45 for a renewal. The measure was sponsored by Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, and Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, and Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law on June 9.

June 28, 2017

As ballots hit mailboxes, Miami House race hits TV airwaves

@martindvassolo @PatriciaMazzei

With mail-in ballots sent to voters Tuesday, two Republicans running for a special Miami House seat unveiled new TV ads aimed at reaching voters who have already been getting an onslaught of campaign fliers in their mailboxes.

In his ad, Daniel Perez accuses opponent Jose Mallea, who helped run U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's 2010 campaign, as disloyal for then working for Jeb Bush's 2016 presidential campaign. Before working for Rubio, Mallea worked for Bush when Bush was governor.

Jose Mallea continued to try to tie himself to President Donald Trump's Cuba policy in the ad, released in English and Spanish. It echoes a robocall Mallea put out the day Trump announced his harder Cuba line in Miami two weeks ago.

"Jose Mallea supports Donald Trump and his policy on Cuba," says the ad, which also calls Mallea a "true conservative" who wants to "eliminate property taxes for our seniors and create better jobs." 

The 30-second TV spot comes after a series of Mallea fliers have tried to paint his opponent, Daniel Perez, as soft on Cuba because Perez and his fiancée took wedding engagement photos earlier this year in Havana.

"Daniel Perez lied to us!" one of the recent fliers reads, accusing Perez of being a Havana tourist.

Perez has dismissed the suggestion, saying he and his fiancée went to Cuba to visit family, though they did take down the engagement photos that once were online.

"That's a matter we already addressed," Perez's political consultant, David Custin, said Wednesday.

Perez's campaign also planned to debut a TV ad Wednesday, but it couldn't immediately provide video of the spot.

Continue reading "As ballots hit mailboxes, Miami House race hits TV airwaves" »

Good news for Bill Nelson? Floridians elect senators from the president's party just 29 percent of the time

Bill Nelson


Floridians have voted for senators that align with the incumbent president's party just 29 percent of the time since 1966, potentially good news for Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson ahead of the 2018 election since Republican Donald Trump occupies the White House. 

The senate election data was crunched by the University of Minnesota's Smart Politics, and it shows that the 10 Democratic senators defending seats in states won by Trump might have an easier time beating the GOP in 2018. On average, voters in Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin elected a senator that aligned with the incumbent president's party just 38 percent of the time.

But Nelson has already bucked the trend twice. He won reelection in 2000 and 2012 when Democrats controlled the presidency. 

Nelson is likely to face a challenge from Gov. Rick Scott, a Trump ally. 

Nevada and Arizona, the two states occupied by potentially vulnerable Senate Republicans in 2018, voted for a senator from the president's party just 41 percent of the time since 1966.

Read more here. 

Joe Negron returns to West Palm Beach law firm

Florida Legislature (30)


Senate President Joe Negron is back at work in the private sector as of Wednesday, when he returned to a West Palm Beach law firm he previously worked for seven years ago.

Akerman LLP announced Negron’s return through a statement that touted Negron’s “30 years of experience in high stakes litigation, business law and complex commercial litigation.”

“Joe is widely-known by both the bench and the bar as a compelling advocate who skillfully represents businesses and directors in complex commercial disputes. He brings important investigative and trial experience to our clients,” Lawrence Rochefort, the head of Akerman’s Litigation Practice Group, said in the announcement. “His strong reputation and track record make him a powerful addition to our trial team.”

Negron, R-Stuart, previously worked for Akerman from 2005 to 2010. He had left the firm to join another West Palm Beach-based practice, Gunster.

It was from Gunster that Negron resigned in January out of an “abundance of caution to avoid even the possible appearance of” a conflict of interest with his legislative duties.

When asked Wednesday how that concern of a conflict of interest had been resolved, he told the Herald/Times his resignation in January “was a unique set of circumstances related to one particular issue, Senate Bill 10.”

SB 10 — one of Negron’s main priorities during the 2017, which Gov. Rick Scott signed into law last month — calls for building a 78 billion gallon reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee in an effort to improve Everglades restoration. One of Gunster’s major clients, U.S. Sugar Corp., opposed the land buy required for the additional water storage.

Like Gunster, Akerman represents high-profile clients with business before the Florida Legislature, and the firm also advertises “Florida legislative and executive lobbying“ as among its services.

Negron emphasized that Florida’s part-time Legislature is a “citizen legislature where people from all walks of life, business and industry serve the people.” 

“Like all elected officials, legislators continue to work in the communities they serve,” he said. “There are very clear guidelines and ethical rules that relate to all members of the Legislature, and I will certainly adhere to those.”

Negron said he’ll practice business law and commercial litigation at Akerman, a firm that he noted has a “national platform.” He said Wednesday was his first day of work and he’ll be based out of the West Palm Beach office.

At least one other influential lawmaker works for Akerman: Miami Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, who is running in a special election this year to fill the District 40 Florida Senate left vacant when Republican Frank Artiles resigned this spring.

Photo credit: AP

Miami Democrat kicks off congressional campaign talking health care, climate change -- but not Trump



State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez picked the most Little Havana of scenes to kick off his campaign for Congress on Tuesday, gathering a small group of supporters outside Calle Ocho's Domino Park as he pitched himself as the candidate to tackle big issues -- and what's expected to be a hotly contested race.

"When I'm speaking with neighbors, families, residents, constituents -- they're talking to me about the fact that the residents of District 27 need access to affordable health care. And that starts with protecting the gains in the Affordable Care Act," he said, a day after the Senate postponed a vote on legislation to undo some of former President Barack Obama's signature law.

As he spoke, men shuffled dominoes on nearby tables. An old-school peanut salesman walked by ("¡Manícero!"). Tourists streamed out of double-decker buses.

Laying out his campaign platform in addition to healthcare, Rodríguez mentioned the economy and climate change, though he offered no specifics, even when pressed about what Obamacare tweaks, if any, he'd support.

He declined to call himself a "moderate" Democrat, though that's how he's voted in the Florida House and Senate -- and how he's likely to run in the Southeast Miami-Dade County district, which leans Democratic but is currently held by Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring. Rodríguez praised the congresswoman's constituent services as a model to follow.

Several other Democrats are also seeking Ros-Lehtinen's seat. Rodríguez was the first big-name Democrat to jump into the race after Ros-Lehtinen's retirement announcement last month.

Not once did he name Democrats' likely bogeyman in next year's election: President Donald Trump.

Continue reading "Miami Democrat kicks off congressional campaign talking health care, climate change -- but not Trump" »