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125 posts from October 2018

October 31, 2018

Florida passed a permanent Daylight Saving Time bill. But Congress probably won't.

The switch between Daylight Saving Time and Standard Time each year is miserable.

It messes with our circadian rhythms. Studies show it leads to more heart attacks and strokes and depression.

About the only consolation is that this Sunday, you get to roll back your clock and get an extra hour of sleep — but one study found the change is so disruptive that you'll end up with a net loss of sleep for the week.

Didn't the Florida Legislature get rid of this?

It did, but, like seemingly everything else, Congress ruined it.

Lawmakers in Tallahassee passed a bill in the spring that would make Florida the first state to make Daylight Saving Time year-round, meaning it would enjoy the later sunsets (and later sunrises) 365 days a year. And, of course, you wouldn't have to change your clocks twice a year.

But to make it reality, Congress needed to approve it. And that's where it appears dead in the water.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio happily picked up the Legislature's baton in March, introducing two bills that would make the Florida's change permanent.

Both have languished, however, against opposition from broadcasters, parent-teacher organizations and others.

It's a sharp turnaround from earlier this year, when the idea of more sunshine in the Sunshine State sailed through the Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support and virtually no opposition from industry groups.

"Just like motherhood and apple pie, who’s going to say they don’t like it?" said Pat Roberts, president of the Florida Association of Broadcasters, which did not take a position on the state bill. "Unless you stop and go Whoa, we don’t want to be different from New York and Boston and Atlanta."

Roberts said that various industries, including his, have hit the brakes on the idea in Washington.

If Florida shifted an hour ahead of the East Coast for half the year, it would dramatically affect networks and viewers. The 11 o'clock news would be on at midnight. Late-night shows would start at 12:30. And the combination of an aging network audience and later show times would be a blow to stations across the state.

"The finance world isn’t too excited about it, either, and neither are the airlines," Roberts added.

If the whole country shifted to permanent daylight saving, the industry would be on board "100 percent."

"But I don’t think it’s going to happen," Roberts said.

Rubio introduced two bills to get Florida on permanent daylight saving. One would make it permanent around the country. The other would merely allow Florida alone to adopt it.

Neither have been heard in the the Senate's Commerce, Science and Transportation committee, where Rubio's counterpart, Sen. Bill Nelson, is the ranking Democrat.

Where Nelson stands on the bills is unclear. His spokesman did not return a request for comment Wednesday.

But Nelson's opponent in next week's election supports them. Gov. Rick Scott, who signed the Legislature's bill into law this year, would vote for at least one of the bills if he replaces Nelson, his spokesman said.

"He’d need to review the federal companion bill fully, but Governor Scott obviously supports the bill he signed," Scott spokesman Chris Hartline said.

If neither bill passes in this Congress, Rubio's spokeswoman says he'll introduce them again next year.

The origins of daylight saving go back 100 years, to World War 1, when the U.S. briefly copied Germany's idea to push back clocks an hour to save money on electricity.

The idea became permanent in 1966, when Congress standardized the "spring forward, fall back" dates and times that we know today. Congress allowed states to opt out of it — and some, like Arizona, did — but it did not allow any states to make daylight saving permanent.

The idea of making the days longer year-round came from state Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, who introduced the bill in the Legislature this year after hearing people in his barbershop complain about how the time changes made it tougher to get their kids to school.

The retail and tourism industries immediately supported his idea, with the extra hour of daylight allowing shoppers and visitors to spend more money.

There are other practical benefits. The U.S. Department of Transportation says it prevents traffic crashes, since more people are driving during daylight. A Brookings Institution study  says it prevents robberies, since people are no longer leaving work during the dark.

If Florida adopted it, on the Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year, sunrise in Florida would be at about 8 a.m. and sunset would be at about 6:30 p.m., rather than of 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

And, simply, people hate the time changes, according to polls. Russia ended its daylight saving in 2014. On Sunday, Europeans, changed their clocks back to standard time, possibly for the last time.

Steube said he did hear concerns from companies who do business with Alabama and Georgia, since Florida would be ahead by an hour half of the year. And school officials have expressed concerned that children would be going to school in the dark.

He understands the concerns, but says that he expects other states to get on board with Florida. And with many schools starting at 7:30 a.m. or earlier, many students already go to school in the dark during parts of the year.

There is, of course, a simple solution that would eliminate the time changes: Florida could simply not practice daylight saving in the summer.

But Steube, who's now running for Congress, said he'd rather have the daylight later and longer, and he would introduce a bill in the House of Representatives if elected.

"There’s no real reason in today’s world that we need it," Steube said.

Tampa Bay Times reporter Langston Taylor and Miami Herald reporter Alex Daugherty contributed to this report.

October 30, 2018

Rick Scott walks away when asked if he supports Trump ending birthright citizenship


Via @CEOstroff and @AlexTDaugherty

President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order ending birthright citizenship to children born in the U.S. to non-U.S. citizens, Trump told the online news website Axios.

The gambit, a plan that constitutional scholars say may not be feasible without changing the Constitution, comes seven days out from the midterm elections where current Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott is in a tight race against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson for a U.S. Senate seat.

When asked whether he supported Trump’s proposed end to birthright citizenship, Scott ignored the question and walked away from a Miami Herald reporter. The question was posed after Scott gave a press conference on Everglades restoration efforts near Everglades Safari Park.

Mara Gambineri, Scott’s deputy communications director, said the governor had already started walking away when the Herald’s question was posed and did not hear the question.

After publication Scott’s campaign released a statement from the governor: “I believe legal immigration makes us a better and stronger country, but illegal immigration does the opposite. I have not seen the details of what the president is suggesting and would need to fully review the proposal. While I’ve been clear that Florida is a great melting pot, America’s immigration system is broken and Congress — including Senator Nelson — has done nothing to fix the problem. My priorities continue to be securing the border and fixing the long-broken immigration system.”

Read the rest here.

Never-Trump Republicans who want to burn down the house in Florida look to Gillum


They want to burn the house down. And in Florida, Andrew Gillum is their spark.

Never-Trumpers, that shrinking segment of the Republican Party that can’t fathom to support someone who has shattered every norm of the presidency, are weighing a nuclear option as the Sunshine State approaches the midterm elections. Faced with a choice between an unabashed liberal and a Donald Trump apprentice in the race for governor, they are crossing the thin red line and voting for a candidate who wants to raise the minimum wage and hike corporate taxes.

In some cases, Republicans are voting for Gillum not because of anything he says or stands for, but because they believe a defeat for GOP nominee Ron DeSantis would be a high-profile indictment of Trump and the first step toward ending the president’s reign. For those who refuse to cede the direction of the party to someone they view as an emperor without clothes, Gillum is a means to an end.

“There’s a category of Republicans who I’ll call the burn-it-down folks,” said veteran Republican consultant Mac Stipanovich, who has blistered Trump even as the rest of the party in Florida has fallen in line. “They think that the only thing that can change the momentum that is Trump and Trumpism is defeat. Massive, bitter defeat. And they’re voting straight Democrat tickets.”

For those in the state party disgusted with Trump’s antics and rhetoric, Florida’s 2018 midterms present an existential dilemma. DeSantis, a former congressman who broadened his appeal by defending Trump and condemning Robert Mueller’s Russia probe on FOX News, owes much of his primary win over party-lifer Adam Putnam to the president’s endorsement. And Gov. Rick Scott, who’s running to unseat Bill Nelson in the U.S. Senate, chaired a pro-Trump Super PAC in 2016.

Read the rest here.

Obama to stump with Gillum and Nelson in Miami between Trump MAGA rallies in Florida


In the clearest sign of the national consequences of Florida’s races for governor and Congress, former President Barack Obama will join Democrats Andrew Gillum and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Friday in Miami for an appearance that will be sandwiched between visits to the state by President Donald Trump.

Obama, whose Miami stop was announced Monday, is scheduled to stump with the two top-of-ticket candidates and other Democrats at the Ice Palace film studios near Overtown only four days before the Nov. 6 election. Democrats are hoping to win back the Florida Governor’s Mansion for the first time in two decades, and need to keep Nelson’s seat in the Senate if they hope to also claw back Congress’ upper chamber.

Obama’s appearance is part of his party’s get-out-the-vote effort, as are Trump’s. But the dueling visits set up a clash between the parties’ highest profile figures, with Trump in Fort Myers on Halloween with GOP gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis and Gov. Rick Scott, and in Pensacola on Saturday.

“What they both know, what Trump knows and what Obama knows, is whoever’s governor has a powerful say in 2020,” said John Morgan, a wealthy attorney who for a time contemplated a run for governor as a Democrat. “Trump knows that if Nancy Pelosi is the speaker of the House, his life just got worse. And he knows that if DeSantis is elected governor, his life just got better.”

Read the rest here.

Andrew Gillum is a "stone cold thief," Trump said on Fox News last night

Screenshot 2018-10-30 10.12.38
President Donald Trump called Andrew Gillum a "stone cold thief" during an interview on Fox News on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018.

President Donald Trump called Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum a "stone cold thief" during an interview on Fox News last night, telling host Laura Ingraham that the Democratic nominee shouldn't be allowed to run for governor.

"Here's a guy that, in my opinion, is a stone cold thief, and his city, Tallahassee, is known as the most corrupt in Florida, and one of the most corrupt in the nation," Trump said.

Trump justified calling him a "thief," which he first did on Twitter on Monday, by bringing up the Hamilton ticket that was likely given to Gillum by an undercover FBI agent.

"The FBI offered him tickets at $1800 a piece and he took 'em," Trump said. "He took a trip with the same FBI agent. I guess he was posing as a developer or something. The man stone cold took this stuff. I don't even think he should be allowed to continue on with the race."

Trump also wondered how Gillum could be polling so well, saying that Gillum would turn Florida into Venezuela and that Gillum's Trump-endosrsed opponent, Republican Ron Desantis, is a "very good person."

"He's a disaster, and how he's even close to being tied is hard to believe," Trump said of Gillum.

You can watch the interview here.

With just a week left until the election, and Gillum continuing to hold a narrow lead in the polls, the rhetoric from Trump and his supporters has been heating up.

During a Monday press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump's "thief" tweet by saying Gillum "is under FBI investigation."

And former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani took to Twitter at 2:22 a.m. today to bash Gillum and the "sickenly (sic) biased" press.

The Florida governor's race might be the biggest race of the midterms, but there's a special reason why Trump is so interested in the outcome.

DeSantis only made a name for himself by frequently appearing on Fox News to defend Trump, and DeSantis did little to win the Republican primary besides receive Trump's endorsement.

If DeSantis loses, the effect on the 2020 presidential race will be "big time, big time," Former White House political strategist Steve Bannon told the Times before a speech to Republicans in Tampa last week.

"If Rick Scott was not governor, it would have been very hard for us to win Florida" in 2016, Bannon said.

Bannon, a right-wing firebrand, respected how formidable Gillum has been as a candidate, saying that "DeSantis is in the fight of his life."

"I think it’s going to come down to the wire on the last day," Bannon said. "Gillum’s proven that he’s a very tough competitor. … They may have miscalculated at first how tough Gillum was going to be. Gillum at the top of the ticket has made the Senate race more competitive and I think it’s made some of these House races more competitive."

Times staff writer William March contributed to this report.

As Election Day nears, Nikki Fried puts out TV ad calling for 'Something New'


Since the start of her campaign for agriculture commissioner, Nikki Fried has pushed the premise that she offers a fresh perspective the state needs — someone who is not a Tallahassee insider.

The Broward County attorney and Democratic candidate for commissioner of agriculture and consumer services has put out a new TV ad stressing that point exactly.

Released just a week before Election Day, the 30-second spot highlights the issues most prominent in the campaign for agriculture commissioner: green algae, red tide, background checks for concealed weapons permits and medical marijuana. 

The ad, paid for by the campaign, is narrated by Fried. She walks along a boardwalk, asking "What if instead of tolerating green algae and red tide — our leaders prioritized keeping Florida’s water blue?”

In the video, she sits down with group of children, emphasizing that she wants to keep them safe via background checks for concealed weapons permits.

She is shown walking alongside a patient, saying politicians need to "get out of the way" so that access to medical marijuana can be expanded. 

The ad ends with Fried saying it's "time for a change" and that Florida should "try something new." 

Her "fresh face" talking point has made appearances before in interviews and, more recently, in the first televised debate against opponent Rep. Matt Caldwell on CBS Miami last week.

She ended her time on the air by saying she "comes in with a new perspective, new ideas, a new approach.”

Caldwell, who had the final word, said experience holds more weight than fresh eyes. 

“It comes down to experience and leadership. Over the last eight years, I’ve dealt with the environment, with agriculture, with conservation. I’ve made them a priority and I’ll make them a priority as the commissioner of agriculture," he said then. 

October 29, 2018

Lawyer releases more Andrew Gillum documents, but they lack any bombshells

Gubernatorial democratic candidate Andrew Gillum speaks to a packed music center during a town hall at St. Petersburg College in St. Petersburg, on Friday. OCTAVIO JONES | Times

A Tallahassee lawyer released yet another batch of records relating to Mayor Andrew Gillum's trips with a former lobbyist today, but it lacks any of the bombshells that have dominated the storylines during the last two weeks of Gillum's campaign for governor.

The records deal with an afternoon trip to Tampa Gillum took in February 2016, more than a year before he launched his campaign for governor.

The trip was to discuss affordable housing with Tampa developer Peter Leach. While there, Leach also hosted a "meet and greet" with area bigwigs, including former CFO Alex Sink and former Gov. Charlie Crist.

It was one of seven trips Gillum took in 2016 that were arranged or attended by Adam Corey, a former lobbyist and Gillum's former friend. Leach was a client of Corey's at the time. Also on board the flight was Gillum's then-chief of staff, Dustin Daniels, who is running to replace Gillum as mayor.

The records provide little new information beyond what was first reported by Tallahassee Reports last year and followed up in a subsequent Tallahassee Democrat story.

 Gillum's spokesman told the Democrat last year that Gillum met with Leach at his office, and that Gillum paid for the trip with city funds because it constituted city business.

“The mayor was invited by Peter Leach to a meeting at his office to learn about some of the work he was doing to advance wrap-around social services in schools and housing developments,” the mayor's spokesman said. “While visiting Tampa the mayor also met with local political leaders before returning to Tallahassee."

The records, which include emails between Leach, Daniels and Corey going back a year before the trip, do not mention a meeting at Leach's office. Gillum's flight left Tallahassee at 11 a.m. and left Tampa at 5 p.m., records show. The "meet and greet" with Sink and Crist was from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

The records instead focus on a planned lunch "meet and greet Tampa donors" at The Capital Grille for Gillum.

The records show Leach was interested in boosting Gillum's profile in the Tampa area, with him helping craft Gillum's written biography before the lunch. Gillum was still more than a year away from launching his campaign for governor.

"This will be the first impression people in the Tampa area will have of him," Leach wrote to Corey and Daniels, "and as he broadens his exposure across the state this bio will gain even more importance as the first impression info about him."

Monday's records dump was the third in a week from Corey's attorney, Chris Kise, a Republican who worked for Gov. Rick Scott's transition team who's been accused by Gillum's campaign of dirty politics in the final two weeks of the governor's race.

Two previous releases revealed that undercover FBI agents might have paid for Gillum's ticket to Hamilton and might have sponsored a campaign fundraiser dinner worth more than $4,000.

Gillum campaign spokesman Geoff Burgan questioned Monday whether Kise was coordinating with the campaign of Gillum's opponent, Republican Ron DeSantis.

“Once again, Chris Kise, one of Rick Scott’s most high profile political hatchet men, is trying to confuse and distract voters with information that has long been public," Burgan said in a statement. "Since Kise has so much to say these days, Florida voters deserve to know whether he’s coordinating with the DeSantis campaign, who’s gotten $60,000 from Kise’s law firm. Is DeSantis going to disclose these Kise document leaks as an in-kind contribution?”

Kise called the allegation he was working with DeSantis' campaign "absurd."

Kise has been turning the records over to the Florida Commission on Ethics, which is looking into a complaint that Gillum received gifts worth more than $100.

While Kise does not need to release the records publicly, he's said he's doing so to take the heat off of Corey, whom he said has been unfairly targeted by the media. Gillum cut ties with Corey last year and has said that Corey violated his trust.

Kise unloaded on the statement from Gillum's campaign, saying that it's Gillum, not Corey, who "has serious criminal and ethical exposure."

"This criminal and ethical exposure explains why Andrew Gillum will not address personally any of the details, as his lawyers have likely counseled him on waiver of his Fifth Amendment rights," Kise said in a statement. "If Andrew Gillum can address the facts about his criminal and ethical violations, then he should address the facts.

"Otherwise those facts regarding Andrew Gillum’s criminal and/or unethical conduct, like all facts, speak for themselves."

Gillum's campaign has declined to answer several questions raised by the records releases, however, and Gillum has dismissed the issues as "made-up FBI controversies."

Tampa Bay Times staff writer Kirby Wilson contributed to this report.

Democratic Super PAC spends $2M on Democratic underdogs in Florida House races

Mingo polo

A Democratic Super PAC is deep into a $2 million spend on state House races that the minority party hopes will help claw back seats in the Florida Legislature.

Forward Majority, a state-focused group led by former Obama campaign strategist David Cohen, has spent $1.8 million in Florida through Friday, all of it over the last two months. Most the money has been spent on digital ads and mailers.

According to spokesman Ben Wexler-Waite, Forward Majority is targeting races across the state — including districts in South Florida, Tampa and Orlando — where Democrats are being outspent by Republicans. He said the PAC doesn’t use polling to prioritize its spending since the candidates it supports often don’t have the money to mass communicate, and is spending more in the races where donors and the party are spending less.

“We very much believe in this election, unlike other groups on the ground, that the Florida House is in play,” said Forward Majority spokesman Ben Wexler-Waite. “We’re putting $2 million into 30 districts.”

Wexler-Waite says top-level voter data shows that down-ballot Democrats can be more competitive in places like Miami, where Republicans rule the state delegation but Democrats run up the score in presidential races. Forward Majority just believes that more money and more messaging is needed to help out first-time and under-funded candidates who on average are being out-raised five-to-one by Republicans.

Among the candidates supported: Cindy Polo in northwest Dade ($76,000 raised and pictured above with opponent Frank Mingo), Javier Estevez in west Dade and Collier ($16,000 raised), and James Harden in Central Dade ($22,000). The PAC has also produced ads attacking Palm Beach County’s Rick Roth and James Buchanan, the son of Congressman Vern Buchanan, on the west coast.

Click here for more.

Given the chance to debate in English, Shalala says ‘Gracias, pero no’


Donna Shalala complained for weeks that her opponent, a former Spanish-language broadcast journalist, wouldn’t debate her in English.

But when she got the chance to confront Maria Elvira Salazar on Channel 10’s Sunday morning talk show, Shalala was a no-show.

“Donna Shalala is not here sitting across from Maria Elvira Salazar. All we can say is we tried our best for weeks to arrange a legitimate debate here on this program,” said Michael Putney, co-host of This Week in South Florida. “It went back and forth on which dates were accessible.”

Salazar, who’d been chided by Shalala for declining earlier dates to debate in English, got in a shot with her opponent not in the studio.

“I want the viewers to understand that my opponent Mrs. Shalala has been saying that I did not want to debate her in English. We had two debates, one in Telemundo another on Univision. You’re a witness that I texted you right after the primary and I said I was going to be very happy to come and do the first debate, or the only debate in English on this program,” Salazar said to Putney. “What a better forum?”

Shalala didn’t refuse to show, clarified co-host Glenna Milberg. The dates just didn’t work out.

Gillum dismisses ‘made-up FBI controversies’ while leaving questions unanswered

Gillum Stoic

Beset by new questions about relationships with lobbyists and FBI agents, Andrew Gillum has been short on answers.

The Democratic nominee for governor was quick to claim vindication and political persecution after a former confidant released hundreds of emails and text messages last week detailing Gillum’s travel and campaign activity in 2016. He’s dismissed an imbroglio about whether he failed to disclose gifts from developers who turned out to be undercover federal agents as “made-up FBI controversies.”

But Tallahassee’s mayor has been either unable or unwilling to answer some of the questions posed about his trips around the globe. And while his campaign denies new allegations that a federal investigator paid $4,300 to cater a kick-off fundraiser for the political committee funding his gubernatorial run, it can’t explain why finance reports contain no mention of any expenses surrounding the event.

“I’ve said frankly everything that I know to say on this,” Gillum said Saturday in Tampa during an interview on his campaign bus. “Now folks are asking me to answer for which caterer does what? I’ve done more events than I could count. I couldn’t tell you anything about a food venue or quite frankly whether somebody cooked it or somebody catered it. But that apparently is the new expectation.”

If Gillum sounds a little exasperated, it might be because he’s been answering questions about the FBI for about 20 months now. It was June of 2017 when prosecutors hit City Hall and a Tallahassee redevelopment agency with subpoenas for documents related to development deals and a handful of lobbyists and entrepreneurs, including Gillum’s close friend and former campaign treasurer, Adam Corey.

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