The Hillsborough County Democratic Hispanic Caucus is endorsing Alan Clendenin in the race for Florida Democratic Party chair.
“The Hispanic population has grown exponentially to become the largest minority in Hillsborough County and the State. Hispanics now account in Hillsborough alone for over twenty-five percent of the population or one in every four persons. Alan understands our issues and has always stood by us whenever we needed help.” according to Hispanic Caucus President, William “Bill” Guerra.
It was a rare show of support for Clendenin in his home county, as the statewide election among Democrats for party chair takes place Saturday in Orlando.
Clendenin was compelled to move to Bradford County in North Florida after losing his bid for state committeeman in Hillsborough County last month to Russ Patterson.
Adding insult to injury, the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee’s Steering Committee announced earlier this weekthey were supporting Stephen Bittel in the race for FDP chair, a vote angering some members of the party.
That vote was referred to in the news release issued out by the Hillsborough County Democratic Hispanic Caucus.
As voting members of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee (HCDEC) Steering Committee who attended last Monday night’s Steering Committee meeting, we are disappointed in the news media statements that have appeared yesterday and today of our HCDEC Chair implying that the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee Steering Committee supports a certain candidate for State Party Chair when no official motion was ever offered to support any candidate at the Monday night meeting nor was any vote taken by the Hillsborough County Steering Committee membership on Monday night that includes our vote as the Hillsborough County Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida.
Victor DiMaio with the Hillsborough County Democratic Hispanic Caucus says their membership consists of approximately 20 people.
A new video produced by the Florida House seeks to remind citizens of the Sunshine State that lawmakers, who will soon convene for the 2017 Legislative Session in March, are united in service to all Floridians.
In the clip from Speaker Richard Corcoran’s First Principles Production, group of Florida House members show that — despite political differences — “We are One House.”
The 90-second video — which begins with the passing of the gavel between former Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Corcoran — features a stream of House members such as Republican Reps. Jose Diaz (HD 116), Alexandra Miller (HD 72), Michael Grant (HD 75), Dane Eagle (HD 77) and Democrats Sean Shaw (HD 61) and Matt Willhite (HD 86) among others.
Each lawmaker talks about how the are representing all Floridians, first responders, seniors, veterans and those in need.
“I am so thankful to our colleagues who participated in our ‘One House’ project,” Corcoran said in a statement. “With this video, we aimed to show the public, the press, and each other, that we share many broad goals and in the end, we are no different, and no more important than any of the people we collectively represent.
“Because, as the video says, ‘all of them, are all of us,’” he added.
Corcoran encourages everyone to watch, share, and participate in the next video, as well as “always remain honored — even when we disagree — to serve together.”
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose bid for the presidency was derailed by businessman and eventual winner Donald Trump, says it’s unlikely he’ll ever run for office again.
Bush, who is spending two weeks at a Texas A&M University teaching a course on the role of governors, said Thursday that he’s focused on building up his business again and working with the foundation he created to push for changes in education policy.
“I unraveled everything I was doing to prepare for this – you don’t do that lightly,” said Bush. “I just think this was my chance. The conditions of this election weren’t tailor-made for me and I lost. But I’m not in therapy. I’m not in the fetal position. Life goes on.”
Bush, who was Florida’s governor from 1999 to 2007, is also dismissive of a return to the governor’s mansion. Under Florida’s Constitution Bush could run again for that office.
“It’s the best job in the world, but look, I’m not inclined to do it,” Bush said.
When Bush, the son of former president George H.W. Bush and brother of former president George W. Bush, jumped into the race for the Republican nomination in 2015, he was initially viewed as the front-runner. He quickly raised millions of dollars. But he encountered stiff resistance winning over GOP voters ready to embrace a political outsider like Trump. He ended his bid for the White House after a disappointing finish in the South Carolina primary.
Since his defeat, Bush has rejoined the foundation he created to push for changes in education policy that often drawn opposition from teacher unions and Democrats. Last month, the Pittsburgh-based law firm of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney announced that Bush will act as a strategic consultant to the firm and its clients. Bush’s consulting firm Jeb Bush & Associates will focus primarily on Florida.
“I can’t be unemployed forever,” Bush said.
Bush next week will wrap up a special course he’s been teaching this month at the Bush School of Government and Public Service. While he’s been on the Texas A&M campus, he’s been asked about Trump, who mocked Bush during the bruising GOP nomination battle. During a public appearance earlier this week, Bush said he hoped Trump will be successful as president. He also praised some of Trump’s picks for his Cabinet.
But he also said Trump should stop using Twitter, which the president-elect has used to announce his support and displeasure with opponents and the media. He said he hoped incoming first lady Melania Trump “will steal his phone.”
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.
Barry Friedman, editor and publisher of the online news site, lkldnow.com, will discuss the evolution of fake news as a major issue in current events and how readers can become more discerning of online postings.
Entitled “Fake News: Democracy in an Age of Media Bubbles and Infotainment News,” the event will be held 3:30 – 5:30 p.m., Sunday at the Just Dance Studio, 124 S. Kentucky Ave., Lakeland. An “admission fee” of $5 is requested for light refreshments during the two-hour seminar discussing the growing problem of fake news or deliberate propaganda.
Friedman notes that the 2016 election revealed a need for media consumers to know how to judge the credibility of what they read.
The lack of fireworks surrounding Senate consideration of President-elect Donald Trump‘s Cabinet picks may reflect a slew of statements his choices have made contradicting the billionaire businessman’s position on key issues.
Trump acknowledged the differences early Friday, posting a message on his Twitter account saying: “All my Cabinet nominee are looking good and doing a great job. I want them to be themselves and express their own thoughts, not mine!”
This week’s confirmation hearings produced an odd political chemistry where, for instance, one of the harshest examinations of a Trump Cabinet choice came from one of Trump’s fellow Republicans, presidential campaign rival Sen. Marco Rubio.
Despite Democrats’ dismay over some of Trump’s selections, the hearings were relatively tranquil, with Democrats generally restrained even in quizzing the more contentious picks. The reason, according to a few Democrats: The nominees are proving more palatable than Trump himself.
“As I meet members of the Cabinet I’m puzzled because many of them sound reasonable,” said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. “Far more reasonable than their president.”
That could change in weeks to come, because some of the most potentially explosive hearings are still pending, including the scrutiny of former Goldman Sachs partner Steven Mnuchin for Treasury secretary.
Several of Trump’s Cabinet selections this week made statements this week contradicting policy stances espoused by their soon-to-be boss on issues ranging from Russia and NATO to climate change and Muslims.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, picked for attorney general, said he’s against any outright ban on immigration by Muslims, in contrast to Trump’s onetime call to suspend admittance of Muslims until U.S. officials could learn more about nature of the threat of extremism.
His secretary of state candidate, Rex Tillerson, took a relatively hard line on Washington’s dealings with Russia, even though Trump has been talking about improving relations between Washington and Moscow and held out for days before saying he accepted the intelligence community’s conclusion that Moscow meddled in the U.S. election process.
Tillerson demurred, however, when one senator tried to lure him into calling President Vladimir Putin, whom he knows, a “war criminal,” although he emphasized support for NATO commitments that Trump had questioned. The secretary-of-state designate also said the United States should not back away from its efforts against nuclear proliferation, notwithstanding Trump’s suggestion earlier this year that some key U.S. allies like Japan and South Korea provide their own defense.
Some of the toughest questioning of Tillerson came not from Democrats but from Rubio, who grilled the Exxon Mobil executive on human rights issues.
As Mnuchin’s confirmation hearing approaches, Democrats have set up a website to solicit stories from the thousands of people whose homes were foreclosed on by OneWest Bank while he headed a group of investors who owned the bank. They hope to use Mnuchin’s nomination hearing to attack Trump’s populist appeal with working-class voters and cast themselves as defenders of the middle class.
Thus far, though, Republicans are congratulating themselves for generally smooth sailing. And overall, the lack of drama may also be due to the decision by Democrats while in the Senate majority to lower the vote threshold for Cabinet nominees and others from 60 votes to 50, allowing Republicans to ensure approval as long as they can hold their 52-seat majority together.
“The purpose of confirmation hearings is to examine the record and views of potential nominees and I think that’s what these hearings are doing,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. “I think it’s likely that all of the Cabinet nominees are going to be confirmed, I think the hearings have gone quite well this week.”
A hearing Thursday for neurosurgeon Ben Carson to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development featured some pointed questioning from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, but also warm exchanges between Carson and other committee Democrats. Afterward Carson thanked the panel and said that it “was actually kind of fun.”
Sessions was denied confirmation once before by the Senate, but that was three decades ago for a federal judgeship. This time around the Alabaman is a sitting senator and was treated gently, for the most part, by his colleagues, even when Democrats brought up the racial issues that brought him down him last time around. There was potential for drama as Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., broke with Senate tradition to testify against his colleague, but it came on the second day of the hearing after Sessions had finished testifying, so he was not even in the room.
Tillerson had the rockiest outing thus far, with Rubio pressing him on Russia and Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon confronting him about climate change and other issues. With Rubio and others undecided on supporting Tillerson, his ultimate confirmation is in question. But even with Tillerson, Democrats seemed to pull their punches at times.
“I don’t want to argue with you,” Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico remarked at one point, seeming to speak for several colleagues.
And it was practically bipartisan lovefests at the hearings for the choices for Central Intelligence Agency, Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo; retired Gen. James Mattis for Defense; and retired Gen. John Kelly for Homeland Security.
“Pompeo’s very popular, Mattis, Kelly — these are popular selections,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
The hearings seemed to underscore some emerging dynamics of Trump’s relations with Capitol Hill. Despite his highly unconventional approach, and his lack of Capitol Hill experience, many of his appointees and aides could have been selected by any other Republican, and the Senate is responding accordingly.
And even where Trump’s surprising approach raises the potential for problems, congressional Republicans are working overtime to paper them over, not highlight them.
“We are in complete sync,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., insisted Thursday in a discussion about a different topic, health care.
That could change in weeks to come, as the Senate holds hearings on Mnuchin and other more divisive selections. These include conservative Rep. Tom Price for Health and Human Services; Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a vocal denier of climate change science, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency; and fast-food executive Andrew Puzder to head the Labor Department.
Still, given that it’s the Senate, not daytime TV, there may be a limit to the potential for conflict, said Ben Marter, Durbin’s communications director. “You have to adjust your excite-o-meter down a little bit, because it’s a Senate hearing. It’s not Maury Povich.”
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.
Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
Orlando is the place to be for Florida political junkies this weekend, when both the Democratic and Republican state parties vote on their leaders for the 2018 election cycle.
With a limited amount of time to campaign, the Democratic race has verged into self-parody, with two of the five candidates traveling far afield to make themselves eligible under the FDP’s arcane bylaw rules when it comes to running for office. And a third candidate in the race is now the subject to a lawsuit based on the way that he became eligible for the position.
Party members will gather at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, where the action begins today with current chair Allison Tant having to preside over complaints about two of the five candidates running to succeed her.
One complaint will deal with the party mechanics that allowed Coconut Grover real estate developer and major Democratic fundraiser Stephen Bittel to be eligible to run for the state party chair position.
Bittel was not involved at all with the Miami-Dade County Democratic Executive Committee until about a month ago, when he was sworn in as a precinct captain at a late night reorganization meeting. That event itself is the source of a formal complaint, with critics charging that it is against party rules for precinct captains to be appointed at executive committee meetings.
Bittel foes believe that the fix was definitely in when longtime Miami-Dade County committeeman Bret Berlin resigned from his seat shortly afterwards, allowing Bittel the opportunity to compete for the chair position, which he ultimately won, easily defeating former state Senator Dwight Bullard.
The fashion that allowed Tampa’s Alan Clendenin to run is the cause of a second complaint. After losing his race for state committeeman in Hillsborough County on December 5, Clendenin, who lost a bitterly fought contest against Tant for party chair in 2013, then literally moved to a trailer in Bradford County, which had an opening for a committeeman. His new residency is being formally challenged.
Clendenin’s journey laid the template for Bullard to follow, where he has temporarily moved from Miami-Dade to Gadsden County to also become a committeeman and eligible in Saturday’s election.
The candidates have been traveling around the state to make their case. Bittel has been considered the solid favorite of the establishment, and that remains the case now that he’s been endorsed by Senator Bill Nelson. But he is opposed by some Democrats who say his establishment support makes this a Florida version of the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders contest.
Less visible in the press have been the two female candidates in the race – Duval County state committeewoman Lisa King and Osceola County DEC Chair Leah Carius.
Meanwhile, GOP activists will gather at the nearby Rosen Centre early tomorrow to decide on whether to maintain the status quo and stay with incumbent Blaise Ingoglia, or go for Sarasota County state committeeman Christian Ziegler, who has been embraced by the Breitbart/Donald Trump crowd.
Ziegler says that Ingoglia, the 46-year-old New York City native who runs two businesses and serves in the Florida House representing Hernando County, is spread far too thin for what should be a full-time job.
Ingoglia refutes that criticism, and though he’s never been embraced by Gov. Rick Scott (which has definitely hurt the RPOF’s fundraising), he does have the support of most of the GOP establishment in Tallahassee and (including Senator Marco Rubio).
Ingoglia and his supporters chant out, “Scoreboard” to any other criticisms, pointing out that the state went red in the presidential election for the first time since 2004. Ingoglia says his next goal if re-elected is to have Republicans surpass Democrats in voter registration, where today the Dems hold a more than 300,000 voter advantage, though that’s better than the 500,000 edge they enjoyed two years ago.
OP-ED: STEPHEN BITTEL ONLY CHOICE TO LEAD FLORIDA DEMS OUT OF DESOLATION, IRRELEVANCY via Ben Pollara for Florida Politics– Bittel is unequivocally the best candidate for the job and the only candidate capable of effecting the sort of change in the FDP that is so desperately needed. I don’t have a negative thing to say about any of the candidates. These people are my friends, and they are good people. But being a good person, and a good Democrat, with good intentions and good plans, simply isn’t enough to make someone the right person for this job … Bittel is a committed, lifelong Democrat. He’s a man of extraordinary compassion, who cares deeply about what is just and right. He’s hugely generous to the people, candidates, causes and charities that he believes in. He’s someone who knows how to hire and manage smart people, and how to run a large organization. Stephen Bittel is not the best choice to lead the Florida Democratic Party out of the desolation and marginalization that plagues us. Stephen Bittel is the only choice.
PARTY OFFICIALS: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH—NO MORE MUDSLINGING IN FLORIDA GOP CHAIR RACE via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Joe Gruters … Working as the Vice Chair of the Republican Party of Florida, is not only torn by party commitments, but has a friendship that goes back a decade to take into consideration. It’s been two months since Ziegler announced he would make a run for the top spot at the party, but those months haven’t been easy. Mud-slinging has become commonplace in the race for party chair. It’s gotten so bad, other party officials are stepping in to say they’re upset over how it’s going. Gruters is one of them. “I am disheartened at the negative campaigning that has been interjected into the Chairman’s race,” he wrote in an email going around the group to help [Blaise] Ingoglia’s re-election campaign. “Christian Ziegler has been one of my close friends and a local ally for the last 10 years,” Gruters wrote. “But, the people supporting his campaign for Chairman of the Party are pushing a false narrative on Christian’s behalf.”
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Sunburn will be taking Monday, Jan. 16 off in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Our team will still be working so check SaintPetersBlog.com; FloridaPolitics.com; and Orlando-Rising.com for updates throughout the day.
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BARACK OBAMA MAKING CHANGES TO CUBAN IMMIGRATION POLICY via Alicia Caldwell, Julie Pace and Matthew Lee of The Associated Press – Obama is ending a longstanding immigration policy that allows any Cuban who makes it to U.S. soil to stay and become a legal resident … The repeal of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy is effective immediately … The decision follows months of negotiations focused in part on getting Cuba to agree to take back people who had arrived in the U.S. … Cubans gave no assurances about treatment of those sent back to the country, but said political asylum remains an option for those concerned about persecution if they return. President-elect Donald Trump has taken a tougher line on U.S. relations with Cuba and could undo the change once he takes office.
OBAMA NAMES FLORIDA SUPPORTER, ANDREW EINSTEIN, TO HOLOCAUST COUNCIL via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times– Obama named Coral Springs trial lawyer Andrew Weinstein, a top Democratic fundraiser, a member of U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, a position he will continue to hold after Donald Trump becomes president on Jan. 20.
MARCO RUBIO QUICKLY KEEPS PROMISE TO STAND UP TO DONALD TRUMP IN U.S. SENATE via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics – Rubio promised during his campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate that he would stand up to Trump when necessary. “Necessary” didn’t take long to arrive. It came during a confirmation hearing for Rex Tillerson, Trump’s choice for Secretary of State. Rubio responded with what I thought was his finest hour as the junior senator from Florida. He showed plenty of backbone, conviction and passion in relentlessly hammering Tillerson about his stance (or non-stance) on Russia’s appalling human rights record. It was a bold gambit, but it’s one I believe Rubio made on principle. In so doing he risks the wrath of the incoming president, not to mention his own Republican Party. That showed a truckload of gumption.
WILL RUBIO BACK DOWN? via POLITICO – The Florida senator produced quite a fireworks show this week with his grilling of a seemingly rattled Tillerson at his confirmation hearing for secretary of state. But opposing Tillerson on the Senate floor — and antagonizing Trump, whom Rubio was dismissing as a “con man” around this time a year ago, before eventually endorsing him — is another thing entirely. Intentionally or not, Rubio is out on a limb after demanding denunciations of Russia and other authoritarian countries that Tillerson refused to offer. GOP leaders believe the former ExxonMobil CEO remains a solid bet for confirmation with or without Rubio’s support, but the Florida senator is being watched especially closely because he’s seen as a proxy for other GOP hawks.”
FLORIDA INSIDER POLL: RICHARD CORCORAN IS TOAST AGAINST ADAM PUTNAM IN GOV PRIMARY via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — House Speaker Richard Corcoran has been on a roll lately, generating headlines about his standing up for taxpayers and transparency against the lobbying corps and even Gov. Rick Scott on “picking winners and losers” through economic incentive programs. One can imagine a compelling message along those lines in a 2018 gubernatorial campaign. But a new Florida Insider Poll finds Florida’s political elites highly skeptical about Corcoran’s ability to win the GOP nomination against likely candidate Adam Putnam, the state agriculture commissioner. Among 180 political professionals, lobbyists, fundraisers, activists, and academics participating in our latest unscientific Florida Insider Poll, only 10 percent predicted Corcoran would win the nomination, while 70 percent said Putnam, and 20 percent selected the “Someone else” option. … On Scott’s next step, the conventional wisdom among Florida’s most savvy politicos is nearly unanimous: A whopping 95 percent expect him to run against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018.
TWEET, TWEET: @BillHelmich: #TBT More than 85 percent of the Florida Insiders surveyed predicted Bush would win the Florida primary.
PHILIP LEVINE ANNOUNCES FINAL TERM AS MIAMI BEACH MAYOR, TO LAUNCH STATEWIDE LISTENING TOUR via Florida Politics – In a video “state of the city” address … Levine talked about how he “rolled up his sleeves and got to work” on such issues as sea level rise, traffic congestion, the Zika virus and lower property taxes. With that, Levine adds that this will be his last term as mayor. “Now I look forward to ways of how best to serve my community and my state,” he says in the nearly three-minute video. “How to make Florida a 21st-century leader in the world economy” … many insiders speculate Levine — as a popular South Florida municipal leader — would possibly seek higher office. Levine adviser Christian Ulvert says: “Over the coming months, Mayor Levine will travel across Florida to listen to Floridians on how best to serve the state he loves. He will be making a final decision on his plans for continued public service in the spring.”
CHARLIE CRIST TO HOLD FIRST ST. PETERSBURG FUNDRAISER OF 2017 SATURDAY via Florida Politics — The afternoon reception, scheduled Saturday from 5:30 – 7 p.m., will be at the home of the Pinellas County Democrat’s sister, Dr. Elizabeth Crist Hyden in St. Petersburg. Supporters of the freshman St. Petersburg Democrat include Palm Harbor Attorney Fran Haasch as honorary chair, with a tentative host committee including St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Janette and Tom Carey, Gordon Chernecky, Susan and Bob Churuti, Aubrey Dicus, Watson Haynes, Paul Jallo, Katharine and Joe Saunders, Kent Whittemore and Emory Wood. A spot on the guest list will cost $500; $2,700 to be a host. Co-hosting the event will set supporters back $1,000.
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JACK LATVALA TO HOUSE: THE SENATE MAKES ITS OWN RULES via Florida Politics – “We have our own rules in the Senate. We are going to abide by our own rules,” Latvala told reporters … “I think it would be unfortunate if we got to a position where, because the House is trying to force their rules on the whole process, that we get into some kind of government shutdown or something like that … The way to avoid that is to have conversation and negotiation early on in the process. Next month, you’ll see us take some steps to try to bring that about.” Under rules approved when Richard Corcoran assumed the speakership, members must file a specific bill describing each project they hope to insert into the state budget. The idea is to get away from secretive logrolling late during sessions. Corcoran has suggested that senators seeking projects find a House co-sponsor, to remain within the spirit of the House’s drive for transparency. Latvala … wasn’t having it.
SENATE BILL SEEKS EXPEDITED HEARINGS FOR DISTRICT MAP CHANGES via Florida Politics – A bill filed in the Florida Senate would fast-track court rulings in challenges to electoral district boundaries, while requiring current boundaries to be used if the ruling isn’t rendered in a timely fashion. Senate Bill 352, filed Travis Hutson, seeks to resolve uncertainty among candidates and voters alike … Challenges to boundaries in legislative races must be given an expedited hearing … If a ruling is not rendered by the 71st day before the primary election in multi-county district races, the election must proceed according to extant boundaries, with any changes taking effect for the next election cycle. This would not apply to state attorney or public defender races, where the lines are not controversial; rather, to State Senate and State House races.
SENATORS FILE LEGISLATION TO KEEP BP OIL SPILL MONEY IN NORTH FLORIDA via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Three North Florida senators filed SB 364 to ensure funds money from the settlement of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill goes to the region’s eight disproportionately affected counties. Under current law, the affected counties are to receive 75 percent of all economic damage settlement funds received by the state. SB 364 clarifies that funds are to be directly appropriated to Triumph Gulf Coast Inc. no later than 30 days after they are received by the state, they said. The eight Florida counties disproportionately affected by the Deepwater Horizon Spill include: Bay County, Escambia County, Franklin County, Gulf County, Okaloosa County, Santa Rosa County, Walton County and Wakulla County.
HOUSE EDUCATION BUDGET KEEPS CONTROVERSIAL PROGRAMS AS ‘HIGH PRIORITY’ via Jeff Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times– Following directions to propose millions of dollars in education spending cuts, Florida House PreK-12 Appropriations chairman Rep. Manny Diaz told his committee members Thursday that no program should be considered sacred. … He cautioned members, however, that the base budget “drivers” would remain essentially off limits, making the cutting exercise more difficult. On that “high priority” list — right alongside increased per-student funds and the voluntary prekindergarten program — were Florida’s Best and Brightest teacher bonus, which to date has been annual budget proviso language rather than statute, and money for district-wide mandatory K-8 student uniforms, placed into law a year ago.
HOUSE CIVIL JUSTICE SUBCOMMITTEE TAKES UP JUDICIAL TERM LIMITS via Florida Politics – … and also reviewed how quickly the courts are clearing their caseloads. Judicial term limits failed in the Legislature last year, but House Speaker Richard Corcoran has declared the issue an important priority. Heather Fitzenhagen, chairwoman of the Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee, said she has not yet taken a position. She rejected a suggestion that House Republicans want to publish the Florida Supreme Court for rulings striking down GOP priority legislation. “Absolutely not. What we’re trying to do is the people’s business and making sure that all of our branches of government are functioning at the best possible efficiency, and that we’re getting things done in the best manner possible. That justice is served in a timely manner.”
FLORIDA CHAMBER HEAD STILL BULLISH ON INCENTIVES (WITH AN EXPLANATION) via Florida Politics – The head of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Thursday defended the state’s handout of economic incentives, but said they were only ever meant to stoke job creation in a targeted way. “In very, very limited cases, incentives are in play,” said Mark Wilson, the organization’s president and CEO. “We shouldn’t be using incentives for every job we create. In fact, they should rarely be used.”
FLORIDA PAID PRIVATE PRISON OPERATOR $16 MILLION TOO MUCH, LEGISLATOR’S AUDIT SAYS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald– Rep. David Richardson, a Democrat and retired forensic auditor, investigated seven years of state payments to Corrections Corporations of America (CCA), now known as CoreCivic of Tennessee, and concluded the pricing scheme approved by the Florida Department of Corrections resulted in at least $16 million in overcharges over the past seven years and was either the result of massive government ineptitude or a calculated fraud against taxpayers. Richardson, who has been on a one-man crusade to bring accountability to Florida’s troubled prison system, delivered a copy of his two-inch briefing book and a summary of his report to Florida’s Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel. He asked Miguel to conduct an investigation into potential criminal violations surrounding the Lake City Correctional Facility contract, as well as the six other Florida prisons operated by other vendors. This is the only prison CoreCivic now operates.
CASE DISMISSED: DAN RAULERSON TO REMAIN IN HOUSE via Florida Politics – Circuit Judge Charles W. Dodson dismissed the case brought by Jose N. Vazquez Figueroa, the Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged Raulerson last year for the House District 58 seat. Dodson ruled he did not have jurisdiction to decide the matter and threw out the suit “with prejudice,” meaning Vazquez can’t refile it. Raulerson’s lawyer … argued that the judge couldn’t decide the case because the House of Representatives is the sole judge of its membership under the state constitution. Dodson dismissed the case against Raulerson … as well as the other defendants: Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer; Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the state’s chief elections officer; and Kristi Reid Bronson, records bureau chief for the Division of Elections.
DRUNK TEEN IN WAL-MART SHOWS WHY WE NEED WALL BETWEEN LIQUOR, GROCERY STORES via Peter Schorsch – Walls are there for a reason. Consider the case of Lake Mary teen Shellby Conder. After drinking five beers in a Villages Wal-Mart, Conder was arrested last week for assaulting a Sumter County EMT while being handcuffed … the 18-year-old allegedly told a Wal-Mart manager she was drunk after drinking almost a six pack from the beer aisle; she then asked for a ride home. When deputies arrived, Conder resisted and began kicking. After paramedics called to the scene tried to evaluate her, the police report says Conder grabbed one by the groin … If a wall of separation can prevent something like that from happening across Florida, it may be good to continue keeping whiskey and Wheaties apart.
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RICK SCOTT HELPS GREENBURG TRAURIG MARK A MILESTONE via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – It began on a Saturday afternoon in 1967 at a delicatessen in Miami Beach. At Wolfie’s, legend has it. Three South Florida lawyers – Mel Greenberg, Larry Hoffman and Bob Traurig – met and formed the law and lobbying firm known today as Greenberg Traurig, which claims to have about 2,000 lawyers in 38 cities in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. To mark the firm’s first 50 years, Greenberg invited a few hundred friends to the Governor’s Club for a reception Thursday (ed. note: it was Wednesday) night. … Gov. Scott stopped by to say a few words and naturally talked about those 2,000 jobs. “You probably knew what I ran on in 2010. I ran on jobs,” Scott said to laughter. “I think, what, you have 2,000 lawyers now? Congratulations on all the jobs. I love jobs.”
CITRUS CROP PRODUCTION TRENDING DOWN AGAIN SLIGHTLY via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The latest estimates show “a slight decrease” in Florida orange production to 71 million boxes for the 2016-17 season, according to the Florida Department of Citrus. The department on Thursday shared the results of the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast, the first in 2017. The state’s citrus industry has been hurt by the citrus greening epidemic … “Despite the decrease, (the) crop size projection remains above the 70 million boxes the USDA initially estimated in October,” its press release says.
ACTUAL PRESS RELEASE via Adam Putnam‘s office – “Officials to Release Sterile Flies in Homestead in Precautionary Move”
ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA — On Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda, Gomes talks with Rep. Al Lawson Jr. about his plan to tackle student loan debt. Plus Rep. Darren Soto discusses President-elect Donald Trump’s influence in Congress. Gomes tours some of the capitol office buildings with former congressional candidate Annette Taddeo and her daughter Sofia. Gomes also takes a closer look at Gov. Scott‘s decision to address the shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport with Trump instead of President Obama.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the hardest working volunteer of them all, Chester Spellman. Also celebrating today is Francisco Gonzalez and Marco Pena. Early birthday wishes to Speaker-to-be Chris Sprowls, Floridian Partners’ Jorge Chamizo, and Steve Hurm.
Bishop, who has been out since Dec. 20 with a lower body injury, finally returned to the lineup after missing the last nine games and two periods for the Tampa Bay Lightning. And Bishop played well, improving his record to 10-10-2 in a 4-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.
The win broke a four-game losing streak for the Bolts. Buffalo narrowed the lead to one goal in the third period, but the Lightning held on.
“I thought Bish had a lot to do with that,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “The saves he made. The way he played the puck. I don’t know how many he stopped behind the net.”
Ondrej Palat scored twice for Tampa Bay. Nikita Kucheerov scored his 17th, and Anton Stralman scored an empty netter.
“Palat was a beast,” Cooper said. “He was all over the ice.”
Bishop said he wasn’t particularly rusty “after that first goal.” He stopped 26 of 28 shots.
The Tampa Bay Bucs have made their first big off-season signing, and it isn’t a player.
The Bucs signed defensive coordinator Mike Smith to an extension shortly after Smith withdrew his name from consideration from the (now Los Angeles) Chargers.
Tampa Bay came on late in the season in their 6-2 second half. They had 29 takeaways, and they led the league in third-down defense.
The Bucs started the season slowly with new corners and new defensive ends. Smith, 57, interviewed for the Jaguars and Chargers head coaching jobs, bringing an impressive resume. He went 66-46 as head coach of the Falcons from 2008-14, reaching the playoffs four times including the NFC Championship Game in 2012.
Theater is like life, actor and playwright Keith Hamilton Cobb told a crowd of 650 last night at The Moon. “There’s no Take 2. That keeps it honest and authentic, which we should all be.”
We should, but we’re not, so Liz Joyner, one of Florida’s few remaining honest and authentic civility activists, invited the whole town over for pizza and a sneak preview of Cobb’s one man tour de force, American Moor. He wrote and will perform the entire show tonight and tomorrow as part of the Southern Shakespeare Festival. See it at your own risk of rethinking everything you think you know.
Cobb’s play, Cobb’s character in the play, and Cobb’s real life begin in those moments in childhood when he stumbled over Shakespeare and recognized how many of The Bard’s characters were saying “some s%$! like” he wanted to say to some idiot he had to pretend to respect.
Cobb wanted to play all the leads in Shakespeare, and he has the Benedict Cumberbatch kind of chops to do it. But as a black actor in a world where most directors are white, and trained in Ivy League drama schools followed by an immersion in The Method, you’re pretty much stuck auditioning for Othello and playing him as instructed by a kid half your age with limited experience in life and no experience being a target of bigotry, jealousy and people too blind to see.
There will be time later to heap well-earned praise upon Joyner’s Village Square, and its co-sponsors in “Created Equal,” a series of community conversations about race and the many other things that divide us. Right now, those in driving distance of FAMU’s Lee Hall should be lining up babysitters and buying tickets to see American Moor.
Gov. RickScott has ordered flags at half-staff to honor two first responders killed in Central Florida.
The governor issued the directive Thursday.
“My wife Ann and I join Floridians across the state in praying for these officers and their families during this unimaginable time,” he said. “We ask that God provide them with much needed healing, comfort and hope.”
The U.S. and Florida flags will be flown at half-staff at the County Courthouse in Orange County, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Orlando, and at Orlando City Hall from sunrise to sunset this Friday and Saturday.
Authorities said Master Sergeant Debra Clayton of the Orlando Police Department died Monday in a shootout with Markeith Loyd, who is wanted on a murder charge related to the death of his pregnant girlfriend in December.
An Orange County sheriff’s deputy, Norman Lewis, later died from a car crash while he was traveling to the scene on a motorcycle.
“Any act of violence against our heroes is cowardly and shameful and our state will not stand for it,” Scott said. “I know the entire Orlando Police Department, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are working diligently to bring justice and ensure the Orlando community is safe and secure.”
In the past year, “our officers have faced challenges like never before,” he added. “But even after the terrorist attack at Pulse nightclub last summer and the attack at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport last week, our law enforcement officers still wake up each day and choose to put their lives on the line in order to protect our state.”
The deaths of Clayton and Lewis serve “as a sobering reminder of how important it is for each one of us to take every opportunity to thank these heroes for their service and sacrifice,” Scott said.