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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio helps GOP secure votes to proceed on health care debate

WASHINGTON - Senate Republicans secured enough votes to proceed to debate on health care proposals, with Marco Rubio of Floirda joining in.

Rubio's vote was never in doubt. The vote hung in the balance as Sens. Ron Johnson and John McCain were not around. They eventually showed and both voted to proceed.

Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski were the only Republican "no" votes.

Despite the partisanship, both parties erupted in applause as the sight of McCain, who returned after brain surgery. Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson both clapped along, smiling.

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Miami-Dade schools will weigh joining HB 7069 lawsuit during Wednesday workshop

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho (center) and Miami-Dade School Board members will gather for a workshop Wednesday to weigh the district’s legal options in response to House Bill 7069, which could include joining the effort of other districts in suing the state.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho (center) and Miami-Dade School Board members will gather for a workshop Wednesday to weigh the district’s legal options in response to House Bill 7069, which could include joining the effort of other districts in suing the state.

Miami-Dade Public Schools could decide as soon as Wednesday whether to join Broward County and other school districts in challenging the constitutionality of a sweeping K-12 education reform law that took effect this month.

Miami-Dade School Board members are holding a workshop to discuss their legal options when it comes to House Bill 7069 — but it’s evident by legal counsel they’ve already received which avenue they’re most likely to pursue: Suing the state.

Tapping the help of three outside legal firms, the district has already spent about $9,900 to research the constitutionality of HB 7069, a district spokeswoman said Monday. According to documents requested by the Herald/Times, some of that legal advice came even before the final version of the legislation was introduced and passed in the final days of session in early May. …

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Bob Graham says Trump appears to be pushing Jeff Sessions aside to get at Robert Mueller

Former Sen. Bob Graham on CNN

Screen shot

Former Sen. Bob Graham on CNN

WASHINGTON - President Trump's attack on Attorney General Jeff Sessions is "unseemly" and without precedent, former Florida Sen. Bob Graham said this morning. 

“I think that if the reason for attacking Sessions, asking him almost bluntly to resign, is in order to appoint someone who would then fire Bob Mueller as the independent prosecutor, that's going to put tremendous pressure on the congressional committees who are conducting parallel policy investigations,” said Graham, former Democratic chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Graham, appearing on CNN, said Trump’s antics, which have been criticized today by several top Senate Republicans, could make GOP lawmakers less willing to get behind the president’s agenda, including today’s health care vote.

"If the president would treat a friend like Jeff the way he is, how can I depend on him to be my ally if I cast this very unpopular vote?”

Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign - "quietly working to boost Clinton." So where is the investigation A.G. @seanhannity

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!

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Corcoran rearranges House deck chairs; more changes ahead

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes

Steve Bousquet - Times

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes

House Speaker Richard Corcoran is reshuffling the leadership deck chairs with more changes to come in the weeks ahead.

The Land O'Lakes Republican announced Tuesday that Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, is the new chairman of the Commerce Committee, replacing Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, who resigned to run for an open Senate seat in Miami-Dade. Boyd had been chairman of the Ways & Means Committee that writes tax legislation, but Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, who recently won a GOP caucus vote to be House speaker in the 2022-2024 cycle, will be its new chairman. Renner, a redshirt freshman, had held no chairmanship, and he carried the torch in the 2017 session for Corcoran's agenda on tourism and economic development issues, which brought Renner a lot of grief from Gov. Rick Scott and local tourism leaders.

"Updated committee assignments will be made in the next few weeks," Corcoran told members in a memo. That signals more change is coming from the speaker, who has the final say on members' assignments that determine political power and, in many cases, campaign fund-raising strength. …

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It is primary day in Miami-Dade County

Alex Diaz de la Portilla, left; Jose Felix Diaz, center, and Lorenzo Palomares are vying for the Republican nomination in Senate District 40.

Miami Herald

Alex Diaz de la Portilla, left; Jose Felix Diaz, center, and Lorenzo Palomares are vying for the Republican nomination in Senate District 40.

Late July is hardly peak election season in Miami-Dade County. But the polls in some parts of town will nevertheless be open Tuesday for voters to cast ballots in a pair of special primary elections featuring campaigns as heated as the season.

Republicans will pick among Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla and attorney Lorenzo Palomares to represent Senate District 40, a competitive Southwest Miami-Dade district where Democrats will choose between former Rep. Ana Rivas Logan and businesswoman Annette Taddeo. The winners will face off in the Sept. 26 general election.

Diaz, the only sitting lawmaker of the bunch, had to resign to seek the seat — requiring another election for the Republican-leaning House District 116, also in Southwest Dade. GOP voters there will select between brewery owner Jose Mallea and attorney Daniel Perez. There is no Democratic primary because only one candidate, Gabriela Mayaudón, qualified to run. She and either Perez or Mallea will take each other on in September. Both districts are majority Hispanic. …

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Zika cases continue to increase

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

AP

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

From the News Service of Florida:

Florida has reported six additional cases of the Zika virus during the past week, bringing the total to 113 in 2017, according to numbers posted Monday on the state Department of Health website.

The 113 cases were up from a total of 107 listed on the department website a week earlier. Of the new tally, 85 cases were classified as “travel related” -- meaning people were infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus elsewhere and brought it into the state.

Another 22 involve people classified as having “undetermined” exposure to the virus in 2016 and then being tested in 2017.

The other six people were infected in Florida in 2016 and were tested in 2017. Zika is particularly dangerous to pregnant women because it can cause severe birth defects. The Department of Health website said the state does not have any areas of “ongoing, active transmission of Zika by mosquitoes.”

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PolitiFact: Adam Putnam was for amnesty

Amy Sherman and PolitiFact Florida look into Richard Corcoran pollster's claim that Adam Putnam "was for amnesty": 

....Fabrizio said that Putnam "was for amnesty."

While in Congress, Putnam supported legislation that would have expanded work visa categories for undocumented immigrants and put them on a path to legal permanent status. After leaving Congress, he supported the 2013 immigration legislation, which wasn’t blanket legal residency but did include a path, albeit a long one, to legal status.

Putnam’s campaign points to examples of legislation he supported that weren’t favorable to undocumented immigrants such as toughening up border security and opposing the Dream Act.

The claim is partially accurate, but lacks important context. We rate this claim Half True.

Full ruling here

 

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Putnam, Corcoran, Latvala converge at sheriffs' summer event

A sheriff's patrol car at a crime scene in Hillsborough.

Rich Shopes - Times

A sheriff's patrol car at a crime scene in Hillsborough.

The leading Republican candidate for governor and two would-be rivals converged on Bonita Springs this week for the summer conference of Florida sheriffs.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam addressed the group Monday as did House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes. Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, is there Tuesday. So is Gov. Rick Scott as he plots a run for U.S. Senate.

Corcoran is one of 21 lawmakers given a "Friend of the Sheriff" award for his support of their agenda. Latvala was one of five "champions" for his support for a prolific juvenile offender law aimed at reducing Pinellas' epidemic of car thefts.

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Putnam spoke in support of law enforcement and "it was what you would expect from somebody in his position." Alachua Sheriff Sadie Darnell said Putnam "talked about the grandeur of Florida" in a luncheon speech, and recalled Putnam saying he doesn't want Florida to become like Colorado and California with their tolerance of recreational marijuana use. …

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Pete Antonacci confirmed as Enterprise Fla. CEO at $165,000

Pete Antonacci

Miami Herald

Pete Antonacci

A "nationwide search for Pete Antonacci" came to a quick conclusion Monday as Enterprise Florida's board of directors voted unanimously to make him the job-recruitment agency's new president and chief executive officer.

Hired without a formal search, Antonacci arrives with the strong backing of the most important person in EFI's world, Gov. Rick Scott, who delivered a strong endorsement of his former legal adviser.

"He will clearly help get deals done," Scott told board members. EFI vice chairman Stan Connally, who recommended Antonacci's hiring, called him a "fantastic" pick, and board member Dominic Calabro of Florida TaxWatch called him "a real class act."

Antonacci has a long and diverse resume in state government. He served as Scott's general counsel, as Scott's appointee as interim state attorney in Palm Beach County and as the executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, whose members are Scott appointees. He's a former lawyer and lobbyist with the Gray Robinson law firm and spent much of his career as deputy attorney general under Bob Butterworth, a Democrat who was Florida attorney general from 1986 to 2002. …

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Absentee ballot fraud case fizzles in Palm Beach County

Palm Beach County State Attorney David Aronberg

Miami Herald

Palm Beach County State Attorney David Aronberg

We hear a lot about voter fraud, and many concerns about its threat to democracy are unwarranted.

But in Florida, at least, absentee ballots have always posed a bona fide threat.

The Palm Beach Post in March reported that there were some issues with absentee ballots for the 2016 August primary. Among the findings: at least 300 request forms for the ballots were requested without voters' knowledge; the campaigns monitored the ballots, visiting the homes when they arrived in mailboxes; and picking up the ballots and delivering them to the elections offices.

The two Democratic candidates, Palm Beach Commissioner Mark Bernard and Rep. Al Jacquet, both won, the Post said, as they took advantage of "gaping holes in Florida's vote-by-mail laws to pressure and cajole voters in their living rooms." A blind voter told the Post that Bernard filled out his ballot and signed it. Voters must sign their their own ballot.

Did the absentee ballots matter? Jacket lost at the polls to his opponent by 132 votes, but beat him in mail ballots by 1,167.

"That is highly suspect," Daniel Smith, a University of Florida professor, told the Post. …

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Charlie Crist a top freshman fundraiser

WASHINGTON - Florida Rep. Charlie Crist leads all freshmen in fundraising this year, according to an analysis.

UPDATE: Roll Call updated its story with a correction to show that Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., is the freshmen leader, edging Crist.

The correct number for Crist is $1.3 million while Gottheimer raised $1.6 million.

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Committee attacking Taddeo paid consultant for Rivas Logan

Ana Rivas Logan and Annette Taddeo.

Special to the Times

Ana Rivas Logan and Annette Taddeo.

State Senate candidate Ana Rivas Logan asserted earlier this month that she had no connection to a political committee attacking her Democratic opponent, Annette Taddeo.

Rivas Logan claimed she'd even try to call the managers of the Floridians for Accountability committee after they mentioned Taddeo's 11-year-old daughter in a campaign flier, but "they don't answer their phones," Rivas Logan said in a televised July 16 exchange.

But two days later, Floridians for Accountability spent $250 buying photographs from a source Rivas Logan knows well: Her campaign's political consultant, Pedro Diaz.

A campaign-finance report filed by Floridians for Accountability last Thursday lists a $250 expenditure to "Diaz Campaigns" on July 18 for "photos." The Miami P.O. Box address listed is the same Rivas Logan has listed in her own report to pay "Diaz Consulting."

Asked about the payment Monday, Diaz described the transaction as "just some photos that they wanted to us to take care of for them for another project." He declined to offer specifics, insisting the photos in question were unrelated to the campaign. …

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Rubio to headline Seminole County GOP dinner

Sen. Marco Rubio to headline dinner

Seminole County GOP

Sen. Marco Rubio to headline dinner

Sen. Marco Rubio will headline the Seminole County GOP's Lincoln Day Dinner on Aug. 22, according to a release.

Tickets start at $150.

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Five questions for the Democrat running for attorney general

Ryan Torrens

Tampa Bay Times

Ryan Torrens

From our friends at The News Service of Florida: Ryan Torrens is the first, and so far only, Democrat to take the initial step toward trying to succeed term-limited Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2018.

Torrens, a 32-year-old attorney from Hillsborough County, went to the University of Tampa and George Washington University Law School. He owns a law practice, which focuses on foreclosure-defense and consumer-protection litigation.

The News Service of Florida has five questions for Ryan Torrens:

Q: What was the spark that made you want to concentrate on consumer protection and foreclosure defense? …

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Jeb Bush: Anthony Scaramucci will help Trump

Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director

The Associated Press

Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director

WASHINGTON - Before he discovered unyielding love for Donald Trump, Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, was a Jeb Bush man.

"Jeb has the forward-looking vision and executive experience to lead our country and ensure our economy grows at its full potential,” Scaramucci said in September 2015 after joining Bush’s national finance commiteee. He had initially been with Scott Walker.

“As governor of Florida Jeb turned words into action and brought real reform to the state, creating an environment for job growth and economic prosperity, I know he will do the same as president,” Scaramucci said in a news release from Bush’s campaign.

Bush was eager to show strength — and not scare off donors — as his poll numbers were weakening. “Anthony’s decision to join our organization is evidence of Jeb’s appeal as the executive with the most conservative, results-oriented record in this entire race,” Jack Oliver, Bush’s national finance co-chairman said. …

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