Scott Powers - 5/29 - SaintPetersBlog

Scott Powers

State attorney: Law enforcement to look into Andrew Gillum’s email

The office of State Attorney Jack Campbell in Tallahassee confirmed reports that he has advised Leon County or the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to look into whether Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a newly announced Democratic candidate for governor, illegally used city software to send out campaign email.

“I can confirm there have been allegations; a complaint has been made. And that it has been referred to an investigative agency,” said Assistant State Attorney Eddie Evans of Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit.

The matter involves reports that have been breaking in the Tallahassee Democrat, starting last week, which say Gillum had used Tallahassee city property to send campaign email in his just-announced Democratic campaign for governor in 2018.

Campbell received a letter from someone (apparently on the Jefferson County Grand Jury) wanting to know what he would do about it. In a response letter dated Thursday and provided to through an open records request, Campbell replied:

“I am aware of the complaints concerning Mayor Gillum’s use of an email system and have recently spoken to the Leon County Sheriff and Tallahassee Police Department concerning an investigation of these allegations. I believe that either the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or the Leon County Sheriff will do the investigation and then present their findings to me.”

After the first Tallahassee Democrat reports, Gillum acknowledged he conducted campaign correspondence on city property, called it a mistake, and said he was reimbursing the city for the costs.

Campbell made it clear he knows very little about the facts right now.

In his letter to the complainant — Paul Henry, whose address was redacted, which Campbell’s office cited as an open records exemption — Campbell declared:”I, like you, currently only know what I have learned from the media and the internet and would never base any decisions purely on those reports.”

Bill Nelson, Mike Rounds warn of Russia, China cyberthreats

After a classified intelligence briefing for a newly-formed U.S. Senate panel on cyberterrorism, Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds issued a strong warning Wednesday.

Rounds, the chairman from South Dakota, and Nelson, the Ranking Democrat, issued a joint release acknowledging a “very serious” cyberattack by Russia on American elections and warning that American infrastructure is vulnerable.

The classified briefing before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Cyberterrorism Subcommittee took place Wednesday afternoon. Rounds and Nelson issued the following statement:

“We have to accept the fact that right now, countries like Russia and China can inflict serious damage on our critical infrastructure through cyberspace, despite our best efforts to defend ourselves. In order to protect ourselves as we build up our capabilities, we have to deter these countries by making the consequences of an attack so severe that they wouldn’t even consider attacking us in the first place.

“We have already suffered some very serious cyberattacks such as Russia’s recent interference in our elections and China and North Korea’s hacking of U.S. corporations on a near daily basis. Developing methods and plans to threaten what these countries value the most — in order to deter future attacks — is one of our top priorities.”

Protests at Marco Rubio’s office say focus is on access, not booting him

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio lost leases on his offices in Tampa and Jacksonville in part because of landlord’s impatience with the incessant barrage of protests out front.

Is Orlando next?

The plaza in front of the downtown Orlando office building housing Rubio’s Central Florida office was the site of another protest Tuesday, as it has been almost every Tuesday this year.

This time, it was For Our Future and other groups pressing a combination of state, local and federal liberal causes as part of the statewide Awake The State rallies.

The building itself was occupied by protesters for most of a day and night last July when more than a hundred people staged a sit-in, demanding that Rubio consider gun restrictions in response to the horrific massacre at the Pulse nightclub just a couple miles away. Ten protesters were arrested for refusing to leave that night.

On Monday to the Florida Times-Union (and again Tuesday morning for, a Rubio spokeswoman in Jacksonville charged that the leases were yanked not because protesters were explicitly targeting the Republican senator but because they were targeting President Donald Trump,  using Rubio’s offices as a platform.

“For the second time in another major region of the state, the unruly behavior of some anti-Trump protesters is making it more inconvenient for Floridians to come to our local office to seek assistance with federal issues,” Christine Mandreucci asserted in a statement she had earlier provided to the Times-Union.

Orlando’s protesters aren’t entirely disputing that Rubio is not the primary target of their ire, but said as long as the senator refuses to respond to them they would assume he is doing nothing to address their concerns. Tuesday’s protest, for example, largely focused on state lawmakers and Trump, though most speakers called on Rubio to get involved in issues ranging from health care to Muslim bans, and from abortion to Israel.

“We would like to remind people like Marco Rubio who said that he would be a check on Donald Trump. He refuses to met with people, he refuses to have a town hall, he refuses to talk to us, so we’re holding it here,” said Mitch Emerson of For Our Future.

And they said they have no interest in causing the senator any problems with his landlord — Seaside Office Plaza is managed by Highwoods Properties.

“Truthfully, the one goal that I have, and the one goal that we have in general, is we would like our voices to be heard,” said Melanie Gold, a primary organizer of the Tuesday rallies.

Democratic gubernatorial maybe Gillum, Graham, Levine maybes weigh in on Rick Scott speech

Three current or potential Democratic candidates for governor criticized Gov. Rick Scott‘s State of the State speech Tuesday for what he did not talk about, with Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine critical of low-wage jobs, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum of Scott’s reading of the Pulse nightclub massacre and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham his priorities.

Gillum, the first major Democrat to enter the 2018 gubernatorial race, blasted Scott’s speech Tuesday for not addressing two issues Democrats have tied to last year’s Pulse nightclub massacre: Gun law reform and support for the gay community.

“No mention of common sense gun law reforms, nor the continued discrimination against the LGBTQ community in @FLGovScott’s State of the State,” Gillum tweeted after the speech.

Graham also weighed in, criticizing Scott and other notable Republican leaders — led by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, though she did not mention names — for fighting with each other rather than working together for Florida.

Levine took Scott’s side in his battles with Corcoran over support for Enterprise Florida and VISIT Florida, but said the governor is saying and doing little to attract good-paying jobs to Florida.

“Florida has clearly become a low-wage, high-cost state,” Levine said. “The governor didn’t offer any idea in how do we create good-paying jobs in our state. We get to tourism, and I’ll say it again. We love tourism. We love Disney World. But how can we make sure that all Floridians can visit Disney World, not just folks from outside the state?”

Before the speech, Gillum anticipated that with a prebuttal statement that said Floridians are looking for someone to champion “the issues and values that matter to us, and sadly Governor Scott will not and cannot rise to that level.”

Scott spent much of the opening minutes of his speech discussing the Pulse shooting, in which madman Omar Mateen, who declared he was inspired by ISIS and who avowed hatred of gays, killed 49 people and wounded 53 in Orlando’s popular gay nightclub last June 12. He spoke of meeting with families in the days that followed, and with police and other first responders, and praised Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings and Orlando Police Chief John Mina.

Yet Scott spoke, as many Republicans do, exclusively of Islamic terrorism behind the attack, not hatred of gays, which most Democrats refer to first.

Nor did the governor talk of any of the efforts by Orlando Democrats to call for restrictions on the rapid-fire assault rifle or the high-capacity ammunition magazines Mateen used, or address President Donald Trump’s efforts to stop Muslim immigrants from entering the United States.

“We all join the governor in mourning the tragic mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub, but the governor continues to fail to put forward common-sense gun safety reforms we need to keep our communities safe,” Gillum stated in his prebuttal.

“Instead of standing up to President Trump on his unconstitutional Muslim ban or his immoral executive order on sanctuary cities, Governor Scott appears poised to be silent, even when our values are threatened.

“Times like these call for champions on the issues and values that matter to us, and sadly, Governor Scott will not and cannot rise to that level,” Gillum concluded.

“Rather than fighting for the people of Florida, Rick Scott and Republicans leaders are wasting time fighting each other,” Graham responded in a statement. “We need leaders who put the people of Florida before their own political self-interests.

“Through this session and every day at the state Capitol, the top priorities should be helping workers get ahead, protecting our environment and improving schools,” she added. “We need our leaders to fight for families, children and seniors — not fighting each other.”

Another announced candidate, Orlando businessman Chris King, has indicated he is declining public discussions until he formally launches his campaign April 1.

Orlando attorney John Morgan, who said he might run for governor but wouldn’t decide until late this year, said he did not hear Scott’s speech.

Janet Cruz and Oscar Braynon slam quality of Rick Scott’s jobs

Democratic leaders Janet Cruz of the House of Representatives and Oscar Braynon of the Florida Senate slammed Gov. Rick Scott‘s primary focal point — jobs creation — Tuesday by arguing that the jobs he’s attracting are low-wage, low-benefit.

Scott boasted that Florida “is on the verge of becoming the job creation capital of the world!” and cited the 1.26 million private sector jobs added since he was elected in 2010, including 237,000 last year, in his annual State of the State address Tuesday.

“But let’s talk about the kind of jobs the governor is focused on creating because that’s the dirty little secret he wants to keep from you,” Cruz, of Tampa, responded.

“The governor, and Republican leadership in this state, want to create low-paying jobs that benefit the largest corporations because lower wages means higher profits for those at the top of the economic ladder,” she alleged in a written statement. “There’s no disputing the facts: Florida continues to lag behind the nation in median income for our families.”

Braynon, of Miami Gardens, took on the same theme early in his written response.

“Everyone needs work; everyone needs a job. The problem is the kind of jobs he’s been bringing home to Florida,” Braynon stated. “Because the majority of his jobs are great for teenagers, or someone just starting out, but not for someone with skills, with training, with a strong work history, or a family to support.

“They’re not the kind of jobs that let you save for that new car, that down payment on a new house, or your kid’s future education,” he continued. “They’re not the kind of jobs that invest in the people. And it’s that commitment to investing in the people that’s been missing from too many areas in the seven years since Governor Scott first took office.”

The two Democratic leaders in the Florida Legislature did not stop with criticism of Scott’s jobs record. Both also blasted him for not securing Medicaid expansion for Florida and for supporting national Republicans’ efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and both went after him on education and environmental issues.

Braynon tied the matters to economic development, charging that Scott cannot attract high-caliber businesses and jobs because he’s not investing in the base corporate leaders want.

“Business executives want what the rest of us do, and it all comes down to quality of life: good schools and top-notch universities, quality, affordable healthcare, efficient transportation, and clean water and air,” he stated. “They want more than just a state that sells itself as ‘cheap.'”

Cruz broadened her criticism beyond Scott to include all current Republican leaders in Florida, and for the past 20 years, charging that they were driven by ideology and priorities that do not serve most Floridians.

“Whether it’s through tax breaks that only benefit the privileged few and the largest corporations or the relentless, ideological drive to privatize core functions of your state government, the Republican solution to every issue facing our state has been to find more ways to line the pockets of the wealthy and the well-connected at your expense,” she declared.

“If you take one thing away from my remarks today I want it to be this: Florida’s problems do not lie in our revenues or our spending. Florida’s problems lie in the misplaced priorities of 20 years of Republican leadership,” Cruz stated.

Senate medical marijuana bill keeps industry restricted to seven

A new bill introduced Monday to enact Florida’s medical marijuana program is being sharply criticized by promoters of Amendment 2 for keeping the budding business restricted to the state’s current seven approved producers.

Senate Bill 1758, introduced by state Sen. Denise Grimsley, the Republican from Lake Wales, lays out how Florida should manage and regulate medical marijuana from growing the plants to which doctors can recommend it to deciding which patients are eligible, to how the products are produced, packaged and sold, to who can administer them.

The bill’s intention is to set up the framework required by Amendment 2 to Florida’s Constitution, a measure approved by 71 percent of Florida voters in the November election.

While much of the legislature may have bought into Amendment 2 backers’ intentions to make medical products derived from marijuana available to a wide range of patients with debilitating conditions, the bill reflects a widening divide: who should profit from the new business.

The bill restricts the business initially to those already approved and licensed under the state’s much more limited medical marijuana laws passed in 2014. There are seven such medical marijuana dispensing companies, already growing, processing, packaging and selling limited products made from low-THC cannabis.

If the number of registered patients approved to use medical marijuana exceeds 250,000, the state can add three more companies, with one of them required to a company with African-American ownership. Each additional 250,000-patient base would authorize another three companies to get into the business.

Brian Hughes, spokesman for Smart Medicine for Florida, praised the bill after a quick read.

“It is a sensible and conservative approach to moving forward in getting the medicine to patients. A cursory read finds benefits in this proposed legislation for patients, members of the law enforcement community, and physicians,” he said in a statement.

Yet Ben Pollara, manager of United For Care, which put Amendment 2 on the ballot, called the restriction something nobody wants “except the army of lobbyists” for the seven currently licensed companies.

“It’s absurd because it would lead to the creation of the seven largest marijuana businesses in the country, and ultimately not serve the will of 71 percent of Floridians who voted for this, and the half-million sick Floridians for which this was intended,” Pollara said. “It puts medical marijuana in the hands of a few gigantic players, the detriment of everybody else.”

Pollara said the bill, however, “gets right” provisions relating to patients and doctors.

The bill allows for medical marijuana to be used by patients with debilitating illnesses, as defined in Amendment 2, now incorporated into Section 29, Article X of the Florida State Constitution, who have gotten recommendations from qualified doctors, and are registered with the state. They include people suffering from cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, a positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, a physical, medical condition that chronically produces symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms, a terminal condition, or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class.

Donald Trump meets with 4th graders, private school leaders in Orlando

[The following is drawn from pool reports provided by Ted Mann, reporter for The Wall Street Journal.]

Accompanied by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and others, President Donald Trump dropped in on a Catholic school 4th-grade class the met with Orlando Diocese leaders Friday to talk about school choice.

With the 4th grade class of Jane Jones at St. Andrew Catholic School, Trump, who also was accompanied by his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, heard the students declare they were “scholars” and would be going to college and heaven.

St. Andrew is located in the largely-African American and low-income Pine Hills neighborhood of west Orange County, and some though not all of the students there are African-American.

Trump complimented them as “beautiful” and asked a few questions and advised them to “make a lot of money, right? But don’t go into politics after,” before moving on, after about 15 minutes, to a 2 p.m. meeting with Bishop John Noonan, from the Orlando Catholic Diocese, Henry Fortier, the superintendent of Catholic schools in Orlando, and others involved in private, parochial and charter schools.

Fortier told him he saw school choice creating “a partnership. It’s not a situation of us versus them,” he said. Of private schools, he said, “It shouldn’t be just for the wealthy who can afford it.”

John Kirtley, founder of Step Up for Students, which administers school choice aid, said the program provides tuition assistance for 100,000 kids, and that the average household income is $24,000 per year.

Trump said the school was doing a “fantastic job” and that it’s a school that “enriches both the mind and the soul. That’s a good education.”

He quoted Martin Luther King, saying that he “hoped that inferior education would become a thing of the past.”

Trump noted that he had said during his speech to Congress that education in the “civil rights issue of our time,” and added, “Betsy’s going to lead the charge, right?”

“You bet,” DeVos answered.

They left after about 30 minutes.

Space entrepeneur Robert Bigelow: ‘We stand ready’ to send station to the moon

Bigelow Aerospace founder Robert Bigelow believes existing technology, NASA interest, and business opportunities are ready now for a return to the moon — and his company is ready to provide a space station there.

In an exclusive interview with Wednesday, the Las Vegas-based billionaire space entrepreneur made the argument that there already exists the technology, the opportunities for scientific research, a clear business case, and at least some NASA interest, for a return to the moon.

And he said his company has ongoing conversations with NASA and key rocket companies to make that happen quickly — by 2020.

Whether or not NASA wants to go back, there are private companies eager to mine the moon.

Bigelow’s company is eager to put a space station depot in lunar orbit, from which such activities and others can be initiated, as well as support onboard research.

“We do not have the technologies, and there is zero business case for Mars. We do have a business case for the moon. And that’s why the moon absolutely makes the best sense,” Bigelow said. “And we can do the lunar activities far sooner than we can with Mars, which stretches out to, NASA’s views are Mars may be in the 2040s.”

His “New Space” company, Bigelow Aerospace of Las Vegas, designs space habitats, including a fully self-contained space station with 330 cubic meters of living and working space, which he said is ready for a lower-Earth orbit or, in about three years given the expected advancements in rocketry, for lunar orbit.

Bigelow Aerospace is marketing its B330 station for combined use by astronauts representing private industry research and commercial exploration, NASA, pure science research, and space tourism. He would not disclose how much a B330 would cost but said it would be nowhere near reported estimates of $500 million.

Bigelow said he is picking up President Donald Trump signals that he wants to see something exciting happening with NASA in his first term, and Bigelow believes that is a signal to those inside NASA to start thinking moon again.

In his address to the joint session of Congress Tuesday, Trump made a vague reference to “American footprints on distant worlds.” Earlier reports citing unnamed administrative sources, according to and other industry news operations, said Trump was interested in NASA taking on bold initiatives right away.

And any time a new president takes office, NASA’s missions all go on the table.

Bigelow Aerospace has been working up the lunar plans for years. After hearing Trump’s speech, he decided to promote them on Twitter Wednesday morning.

When called for elaboration, he returned the call.

“In view of President Trump’s initiative in trying to make something happen here in the next four years, which obviously a big challenge if you want to do something meaningful, we think this is doable,” Bigelow said. “We think if America deploys a lunar depot, that is going to speak volumes. That is going to have a significant effect, because you don’t really have to land something on the moon to let people know you have lunar plans.”

Bigelow said his company had ongoing conversations with NASA for about three years about the prospect of Bigelow-manufactured depots assisting the space agency’s plans, whether it is to prepare for a Mars mission or a return to the moon.

NASA has been noncommittal. Bigelow said his company also has concepts for moon surface bases.

“NASA is looking to see what it is President Trump is ready to do. So we stand ready as a company, as do others, to get on board and try to make things happen,” he said.

That will require two technological advances, but both are in the works. And it would involve business deals that have nothing to do with NASA — just space companies selling their services to each other.

There currently are no rockets with the room inside to carry a B330.

However, United Launch Alliance is redesigning its Atlas V rocket with a much bigger payload fairing, under the design known as the Atlas 552.

Last year, ULA and Bigelow signed an agreement to launch a B330 on the first Atlas 552 flight, in 2020.

That would get the private space station into lower Earth orbit. To get a B330 to the moon will require another set of boosters. Enter the ULA’s “Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage” boosters, refuelable, reusable boosters that could be put in orbit, then reused. They also should be available around then. Two of them could be attached to a B330 already in Earth’s orbit, and carry it to the moon, Bigelow said.

Finally, there is the matter of getting astronauts onboard.

The B330 is designed to have long-term, live-in astronauts, or to sit there and wait for occasional visitors. It houses up to six.

Earlier this week, SpaceX announced its plans to start sending private citizen astronauts around the moon by the end of 2018.

“I checked with SpaceX. They said ‘Yes! We would be ready, willing, able and very interested in providing capsule transportation for crew and cargo to that location,” he said. “At the same time, if the Lockheed Orion were on schedule and ready to launch with the SLS we are incorporating the possibility that both of those other programs, the Boeing SLS and the Lockheed Orion.

“There is something potentially in there for everybody,” Bigelow said.

And it could do something for NASA justification. America’s space agency is spending tens of billions of dollars to develop Lockheed’s deep-space Orion capsule and the next-generation SLS rocket, which is being created by several space companies, including Boeing.

But NASA has not quite figured out what to do with them.

Eventually, the rocket and capsule would be used for Mars missions. Until then, they’re to be used for missions to prepare for Mars.

NASA planned an asteroid mission, but that had significant opposition in Congress, and the space agency has been reassessing. NASA has not planned a moon mission, but there is some advocacy for that in Congress, and perhaps in the Trump administration.

NASA has argued the SLS and Orion could go any place in the solar system, but hasn’t actually identified any place else to go.

If the SLS and Orion were programmed to bring astronauts and supplies to a lunar space station, Bigelow argued: “It really gives the Orion and the SLS a legitimate mission. That is something that is badly needed, of course.”

“Two transportation systems and a depot would be extremely valuable and important for the next round of lunar activities,” he said.

Bigelow Aerospace’s business plan is for its space stations to be marketed much like a time share. Researchers, business interests, tourists, NASA or any other government space agency would book time. Whatever time they want to pay for.

Joe Negron, Pulse mother and doctor, a DREAMer, among guests for Donald Trump’s address to Congress

As is traditional, Florida’s congressional delegation is using its invite tickets to President Donald Trump‘s first address to a joint session of Congress mostly to make points, although U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is maybe making his points with his wife.

Each member of Congress gets one SOTU invitation to pass out. Democrat Nelson’s goes to his wife of 44 years, Grace Nelson.

Republican U.S. Sen Marco Rubio‘s bringing Florida Sen. President Joe Negron, who is in Washington this week for meetings with Rubio and other state legislators regarding federal-state issues.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando is bringing Christine Leinonen, mother of Christopher Leinonen, who was one of the 49 victims killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. Leinonen has been sharply critical of Trump for using the June 12, 2016, Pulse shooting to justify an immigration crackdown, particularly on Muslims.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park is bringing Dr. Marc Levy, Orlando Regional Medical Center surgeon who saved the lives of victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting last summer. Levy has called for more scientific and medical research on gun violence – from root causes to improved medical treatment.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando is bringing a potential DREAMer, a recent graduate of the University of Florida named Jose who migrated from Honduras to the United States at the age of 11 with his parents. Jose is seeking to avoid deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policies of former President Barack Obama, which Trump stated he intends to rescind.

No word yet on what Republican U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis, Bill Posey and Daniel Webster intend to do with their tickets.

Marco Rubio joins Tammy Baldwin in bill requiring Nazi art theft restitution

Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has joined with Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin on a bill that would force the return of, or restitution for, art and other belongings stolen by Nazis from Jews in the Holocaust.

The bill, entitled ‘‘Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act of 2017’’ would seek to use the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art of 1998 and the Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Assets and Related Issues of 2009 to prosecute claims and return stolen property or award restitution.

The United States was a signatory to both treaties.

The bill also would require the State Department to report on certain European countries’ compliance with the goals of the 2009 Terezin Declaration, and what actions those countries are taking to resolve the claims of U.S. citizens.

“Seventy years after World War II, when Nazis and their collaborators illegally confiscated Jews’ property in Central and Eastern Europe, this theft remains a largely unresolved issue and a source of lasting pain for many Holocaust survivors and their heirs,” Rubio stated in a news release. “This bipartisan legislation will help address this lasting injustice from a dark chapter in human history by facilitating the restitution of Jewish communal, private and heirless property. American leadership on this issue is vital, and I’m proud to join Senator Baldwin in introducing this bill.”

Co-sponsoring the bill are 14 senators, split between Democrats and Republicans, ranging from Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to Orrin Hatch of Utah.

The release states that groups supporting the JUST Act include the World Jewish Restitution Organization, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federations of North America, B’nai B’rith International, HIAS refugee assistance organization, and the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, agreed to June 30, 2009.

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