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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida inspired new group focused on improving how elections are run

Access Democracy wants to improve voter participation and how elections are run

Tampa Bay Times

Access Democracy wants to improve voter participation and how elections are run

A new group run by two lawyers and veteran Democratic operatives specializing in voter protection efforts is launching a pilot program in Florida, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to work with local elections officials to improve the voting process. Access Democracy, run by Obama's 2012 Florida Voter Protection Director Hannah Fried and Alexis Prieur L'Heureux, wants to help identify problems using specific data and partner with election officials to tackle problems such as long lines as well as support supervisor of elections candidates who want to improve access to voting.

From a Medium post:  …

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Group: Richard Corcoran "sells out Florida" at Koch retreat

Oliva and Corcoran catching up

Tampa Bay Times

Oliva and Corcoran catching up

The left-leaning advocacy group, FloridaStrong, released a web ad on Monday criticizing House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, and his successor, Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, for attending a Koch retreat over the weekend.

Corcoran and Oliva "talk a big game when it comes to enacting transparency and accountability around how taxpayers are spent...until it comes to the Koch Brothers and their reckless corporate agenda that directly hurts Floridians' quality of life."

 

 

 

 

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Florida congressmen: Ruth Bader Ginsburg should recuse herself for Trump 'bias'

WASHINGTON - Seven Florida Republican House members are calling for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to recuse herself from the upcoming deliberation on the travel ban, asserting she has shown "bias" towards President Donald Trump.

“Your public criticism of Donald Trump during the campaign included statements such as ‘I can’t imagine what this place would be - I can’t imagine what the country would be - with Donald Trump as our president’ You referred to Donald Trump as ‘a faker.’ When asked about the possibility of Donald Trump winning the presidency, you responded, ‘I don’t want to think about that possibility, but if it should be, then everything is up for grabs.’ ”

Nearly 60 House members signed the letter, including Florida Reps. Ron DeSantis, Neal Dunn, Daniel Webster, Ted Yoho, John Rutherford, Bill Posey and Francis Rooney.

Read it here.

"As an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court," it reads, "you are required to recuse yourself in cases in which your ‘impartiality might reasonably be questioned’ and where you have a ‘a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party.’ ” …

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Gov. Rick Scott appoints 'my friend' Jimmy Patronis as state chief financial officer

Rick Scott appoints Jimmy Patronis (background) as CFO

Steve Bousquet

Rick Scott appoints Jimmy Patronis (background) as CFO

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday appointed a long-time friend and political supporter, Jimmy Patronis, to replace Jeff Atwater as Florida's next chief financial officer, making him one of three members of the Cabinet that sets state policy on a wide range of issues. He'll take over Friday.

Scott made the announcement before a crowd of about 100 family friends and local business and political leaders at Captain Anderson's, a prominent local seafood restaurant run by the Patronis family that's marking its 50th anniversary this year. 

"He's somebody I've known for a long time," said Scott, who recalled that Patronis was an early supporter in the spring of 2010 when most people gave Scott had "no shot" of getting elected governor. "One thing about Jimmy, whatever he tells you he's going to do, he's going to do. There's no question. He's not going to waver. He's not going to play games. He's a direct, honest person."

With his wife Katie and their two young sons alongside, Patronis choked up several times as he faced TV cameras. He called Scott "my friend and my mentor" and said the governor's record of improving Florida's economy has been "revolutionary."     …

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Don Gaetz on Jimmy Patronis - and the possibilities of Tom Lee

Former Senate President Don Gaetz

Florida Senate

Former Senate President Don Gaetz

Former Senate President Don Gaetz joined the growing list of Republicans commending Public Service Commissioner Jimmy Patronis, whom the governor appointed today as the state's next Chief Financial Officer, replacing Jeff Atwater who is resigning to work in academia.

"He would be eminently qualified,'' Gaetz said Friday, reached after a fishing trip in Canada. He noted that he has known Patronis 10 years, that his son, Matt, was positioned to run against him in the state Senate seat Gaetz was vacating and that he sees Patronis' skills as a restaurant owner and manager helpful to being the man in charge of overseeing one of the state's most important agencies.

"He spent his entire life working and expanding and managing one of Florida's most successful small businesses,'' Gaetz said. "It's a very complex and very successful business. Jimmy has been pivotal in the expansion and success of the business." …

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Shark Tank blogger interested in congressional run

A Democratic district doesn’t seem like ideal territory for a conservative blogger but Javier Manjarres of the Shark Tank says he’s “exploring” a challenge to Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton.

“It was clear that after the historic 2016 elections, Americans rejected the agenda and policies of the outgoing Obama Administration that they believe were threatening the American way of life,” Manjarres said Sunday on his website.

Detuch crushed his Republican opponent, Andrea McGee, in 2016.

Manjarres thinks he'd have a better shot, though it's unclear how he would play in the liberal district. His past could also be an issue.

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Half of Tampa Bay lawmakers earn D grades on open government but some stand out with high marks

Sens. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, were among the highest-ranking local lawmakers on the Florida Society of News Editors' "Sunshine Scoreboard."

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Sens. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, were among the highest-ranking local lawmakers on the Florida Society of News Editors' "Sunshine Scoreboard."

In a new ranking of their voting records on open-government issues, the Florida Society of News Editors has bad news for state lawmakers.

Most of them don’t score very well.

The group, made up of three dozen Florida news organizations including the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald, published a scorecard this weekend based on a review of how all 160 members of the Florida Legislature voted during the spring session.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Half of Florida lawmakers fail or nearly fail review of support for public records.

In Tampa Bay, the FSNE analysis found, half of the 26 officials were deserving of a D grade, nine earned a C and four earned a B. There were no Fs among local officials and no A’s statewide.

The scorecard is based on how lawmakers voted on a list of priorities provided by the First Amendment Foundation, which is supported largely by newspapers and broadcast stations. A vote in line with the foundation earned points, while a vote against the foundation lost points. And sponsoring or co-sponsoring legislation put more points on the line.

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AP: Rick Scott to name Jimmy Patronis CFO on Monday

Then state Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City Beach, left, and Gov. Rick Scott, tour downtown Panama City, Fla. on Tuesday, April 19, 2011. Scott will name Patronis CFO on Monday.

AP

Then state Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City Beach, left, and Gov. Rick Scott, tour downtown Panama City, Fla. on Tuesday, April 19, 2011. Scott will name Patronis CFO on Monday.

From the AP's Gary Fineout:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is turning to a long-time political ally and former north Florida legislator to take over one of the top elected jobs in state government. 

Scott on Monday will announce he's appointing Republican Jimmy Patronis to replace Jeff Atwater as chief financial officer. Atwater, who was first elected to the post in 2010, is resigning from the job before his term is over to become a vice president at Florida Atlantic University. Patronis, who helped his family run a well-known restaurant in Panama City, currently sits on the state panel that regulates utilities. He was a member of the Florida Legislature for eight years before Scott appointed him to the Public Service Commission. 

"As a small business owner, Jimmy has been a successful job creator and has helped grow Panama City's economy," Scott said in a statement Sunday. "I know that he will bring his wealth of private sector experience with him to Tallahassee."  …

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Latvala on if he'd make a better governor than Putnam: 'Oh absolutely'

Latvala

AP

Latvala

Senate Budget Chief Jack Latvala did not hold back when asked in a local Miami TV interview Sunday about his potential Republican rivals in the 2018 governor's race.

Would Latvala, a Clearwater senator who has yet to declare a bid, make a better governor than Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who has?

"Oh, absolutely," Latvala told WFOR-CBS 4's Jim DeFede on "Facing South Florida." "Because I've actually made a payroll. I've actually paid workers comp claims. I've been in business all these years, while Adam has been in elected office since he was 22 years old."

What about House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O'Lakes, another possible contender?

"Richard is a trial lawyer at heart," Latvala declared. "That's his background: He's a lawyer with a law firm that lobbies now. I don't knonw how much he actually works and practices law. He's basically a government animal as well."

Latvala, who said he'll make a decision about whether to run in August, pitched himself as a practical alternative. …

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Corcoran attends Koch brothers' retreat at exclusive Rocky Mountain resort

Florida Speaker Richard Corcoran, left, and his successor, Rep. Jose Oliva of Miami, attended a three-day retreat hosted by the conservative Koch network.

[SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]

Florida Speaker Richard Corcoran, left, and his successor, Rep. Jose Oliva of Miami, attended a three-day retreat hosted by the conservative Koch network.

In a potential run for governor, House Speaker Richard Corcoran has criticized special interests while claiming state government officials like him are more representative of Florida residents than officials in local governments.

"I care more about the people of this state than I care about the governments of this state," Corcoran recently told Tampa residents at a Cafe con Tampa breakfast

This weekend, Corcoran was 1,880 miles away from Florida attending a three-day conference hosted by the Koch brothers' conservative network. Along with his successor as House Speaker, Rep. Jose Oliva and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, Corcoran was one of the few elected officials invited to mingle with hundreds of the nation's top conservative donors.

 

 

The event was held in Colorado Springs at the super-duper exclusive (and not very populist seeming) five-star Broadmoor resort in the Rocky Mountains, where rooms fetch between $500 to $1,000 per night. 

The purpose of the retreat was for the Koch brothers' Seminar Network, an umbrella organization started by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, to develop a strategy for the 2018 election, according to the Denver Post. …

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Amid FBI probe of Tallahassee, Gillum says GOP trying to 'put as much dirt on me as they can'

Andrew Gillum

Tallahassee Democrat

Andrew Gillum

Tallahassee mayor and candidate for governor Andrew Gillum might like his supporters to think a federal investigation into development deals in his city is political – but he’s not ready to say so himself. 

In an interview with the Buzz following a Tampa campaign appearance Saturday, his first on the subject, Gillum hinted at political motives behind early problems for his campaign, which include the investigation. 

At the same time, however, Gillum said he wasn’t accusing the FBI of any political motivation, and said, “It’s the FBI’s job to get to the bottom of exactly what’s gone on. If something illegal or untoward has occurred I’m going to do everything I can to assist them in bringing resolution to that situation.” 

Gillum also proclaimed his innocence of any wrongdoing, and said the Tallahassee FBI field office approved a statement he released Friday saying he is not a target or subject of the investigation. 

A federal grand jury has subpoenaed records from the city and a local community redevelopment agency concerning Tallahassee development projects and a developer who is a political ally of Gillum.  …

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Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics

Winner of the week

Allison Tant. Remember the glory days of the Florida Democratic Party when Tant ran the show from 2013 through 2016? Okay, so the former party chairwoman may not have notched a lot of victories as party leader, but at least she didn't use racial language in a dumb argument with legislators like her successor, Stephen Bittel.

Loser of the week

Andrew Gillum. A pending FBI investigation into a development deal involving Tallahassee City Hall. A still-open Leon County Sheriff's Office investigation into Mayor Gillum's email practices. It may turn out there is no fire, but there sure is a lot of smoke threatening to cripple Gillum's campaign for governor.

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Jeb Bush back in the hunt for the Marlins, now opposing Derek Jeter

Associated Press:

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has switched sides in pursuit of the Miami Marlins, and he’s trying to beat out former teammate Derek Jeter.

Bush has joined forces with businessman Tagg Romney in a group trying to buy the Marlins, two people familiar with the negotiations said Friday. The people confirmed Bush’s new role to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the parties involved in the sales talks aren’t commenting publicly.

One of the people said South Florida businessman Jorge Mas has contacted the Marlins to say he’s leading a group interested in buying the franchise, meaning at least three groups are pursuing a deal.

Bush and Jeter, the 14-time New York Yankees All-Star shortstop, led rival groups earlier this year. They then joined forces, but Bush dropped out in May.

Now they’re rivals again, and Jeter is still exploring financing options.

The Romney-Bush group also includes Quogue Capital investment fund founder Wayne Rothbaum, Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine and former Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart. …

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Rick Scott signs medical marijuana, 37 other bills into law

Gov. Rick Scott

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Gov. Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

Lawmakers passed the measure (SB 8A) in a special session after failing in their regular session early this year, to implement a constitutional amendment legalizing the drug, which was supported the will of 71 percent of voters.

Under the constitutional amendment, patients with a host of conditions can buy and use medical marijuana. Among them: cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma and epilepsy.

The new law also sets in motion a plan to license 10 new companies as growers by October, bringing the statewide total to 17.

It allows patients to use cannabis pills, oils, edibles and "vape" pens with a doctor's approval but bans smoking.

"The constitutional amendment was passed overwhelmingly, and I'm glad the House and Senate were able to come together for a bill that makes sense for our state," Scott said earlier  this month. …

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Gov. Scott plans D.C. trip as U.S. Senate debates Obamacare repeal

Florida Gov. Rick Scott

AP

Florida Gov. Rick Scott

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday that he will travel to Washington, D.C. next week so he can provide input as the U.S. Senate debates its proposal to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a new plan.

No details were released as to when Scott would travel to the nation's capital or whom he will meet with there.

"I have been carefully reviewing the bill and next week, I will be traveling to Washington to meet with congressional leaders to provide input on how we can make the bill better for Floridians," Scott said in a statement.

Scott is widely expected to run for U.S. Senate in 2018 against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson.

Scott called Obamacare a "terrible, expensive mess" and offered some general insight into what he would want to see out of Congress' replacement plan.

“All states must be treated equitably. Florida taxpayers deserve the same treatment as every other state under the Medicaid program," Scott said. He added: "Every American, including those with pre-existing conditions, should have the ability to buy any kind of insurance they want. This will drive down costs and give people the flexibility and power to determine what they want to buy."

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