Flags at half-staff today for late Palm Beach County Rep. Gene Campbell

Gene Campbell
Gene Campbell

Gov. Rick Scott ordered flags flown at half-staff until sunset today at the state Capitol, Palm Beach County Courthouse and Royal Palm Beach City Hall in honor of former Palm Beach County state Rep. Gene Campbell.

Campbell, who served in the House from 1974-76 and again from 1978-80, died Tuesday. He was 77 and lived in Royal Palm Beach.

After leaving office, he worked for the Palm Beach County school district and also served as assistant principal at Glades Central High School.

Sen. Jeff Clemens rolls out 26 endorsements for re-election bid (cc: Maria Sachs?)

Clemens is running in the newly drawn Senate District 31, where Democrats have a 47-to-25 percent registration advantage.
Clemens is running in the newly drawn Senate District 31, where Democrats have a 47-to-25 percent registration advantage.

State Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Atlantis, today announced 26 endorsements for his re-election bid from a variety of elected Democrats and municipal officials as well as organizations that have some clout in Democratic primaries.

 

Sen. Maria Sachs hasn't ruled out a run against Clemens.
Sen. Maria Sachs hasn’t ruled out a run against Clemens.

Clemens, who’s in line to become Senate Democratic leader in 2018, would be a safe bet for re-election under ordinary circumstances.

 

But a court-ordered redistricting plan means he’ll have to appeal to some new voters this year. And a fellow Democratic incumbent, Sen. Maria Sachs, has said she’s considering running against Clemens District 31 or against Sen. Joseph Abruzzo in District 29.

 

Another Dem, Emmanuel Morel, has already opened a campaign against Clemens in District 31, where Democrats have a 47-to-25 percent registration advantage over Republicans.

 

Clemens today released the following list of endorsers for his re-election bid:

 

State Rep. David Kerner

State Rep. Bobby Powell

County Commissioner Shelley Vana

County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay

Former County Commissioner Burt Aaronson

School Board Member Erica Whitfield

Boynton Beach Vice Mayor Mack McCray

Boynton Beach Commissioner Joe Casello

Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein

Delray Beach Commissioner Mitch Katz

Delray Beach Commissioner Shelly Petrolia

Lake Worth Commissioner Andy Amoroso

Greenacres Mayor Samuel Ferreri

Greenacres Commissioner Jonathan Pierce

West Palm Beach Commissioner Shanon Materio

Lake Clarke Shores Mayor Robert Shalhoub

South Palm Beach Mayor Bonnie Fischer

South Palm Beach Vice Mayor Joseph Flagello

Lantana Mayor David Stewart

Lantana Councilman Philip Arydas

Atlantis Councilman Michael LeCoursier

Riviera Beach Councilmember Terence Davis

Service Employees International Union Local

Palm Beach Police Benevolent Association

Florida Planned Parenthood PAC

Palm Beach Human Rights Council

 

Nelson says Zika virus fight should force recess delay

Sen. Nelson says recess may have to wait
Sen. Nelson says recess may have to wait

With the U.S. House and Senate deadlocked over the amount of money needed to combat the Zika virus, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said Wednesday that next week’s recess should be delayed to work on an agreement.

Nelson wrote Majority Leader Mitch McConnell voicing his frustration at the stalled effort — with the Senate approving $1.1 billion compared to $622 million from the House. The Obama administration in February called for $1.9 billion for Zika.

“While we are just beginning to understand the virus, there is one thing that Congress knows for sure: time is of the essence,” Nelson told McConnell.

Nelson and fellow Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, have pushed for the $1.9 billion funding level, a rare moment that Rubio is siding with the White House.

But Florida has the biggest outbreak of the virus in the continental U.S., with 158 cases, including 36 pregnant women. On Tuesday, Rubio took to the Senate floor to criticize House members and call on voters to push for more funding over the Memorial Day recess.

 

Scott wants more university students out the door in four

Gov. Scott wants state's four-year university graduation rate to increase
Gov. Scott wants state’s four-year university graduation rate to increase

Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday he wants Florida universities to improve their four-year graduation rates and will again ask state lawmakers to let Bright Futures scholarships cover summer classes.

Scott kicked off a two-day Degrees to Jobs summit at Universal Studios in Orlando.

The Republican governor has gathered business, political and education leaders together in a bid to better connect Florida students with meaningful jobs when they graduate.

“What’s your path, what’s your plan, how can you get out of here in four years? What can we do to help you?” Scott said are questions students should be asked. “By the way, it is going to cost you more if you stay longer.”

Only 44 percent of students attending Florida’s public universities graduate in four years. The six-year graduation rate, which many schools now embrace as normal, is 71 percent.

Scott said that one tactic which could help students is extending merit-based Bright Futures scholarships so they help pay for summer tuition and expenses.

The Legislature refused to go along with Scott’s idea this year, but the governor said he would make another pitch next spring.

Labarga: Twitter and Facebook help courts “tell our story”

Chief Justice Jorge Labarga
Chief Justice Jorge Labarga

Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga said it is important for the state’s legal system to embrace social media age as part of its mission to deliver effective justice.

In a piece written for the Florida Bar Journal, Labarga said an expanded communication effort that he is spearheading across the courts is central to retaining Floridians’ confidence that legal rights are handled fairly and equitably in the state.

That could even include expanding the courts’ use of Twitter and Facebook to “tell our story,” said Labarga, a former Palm Beach County judge, prosecutor and public defender, who still lives in Wellington.

“Yes, it is true that we continue to deliver effective justice in the Florida state courts,” Labarga said in the piece.

“But it is also true that not enough people actually see and understand the ways in which we make justice happen. This lack of understanding can breed mistrust of the courts and of the legal profession. We allow this state of affairs to occur at our peril.”

Labarga, sworn in as the state’s first Cuban-American chief justice in June 2014, has campaigned to increase the public’s access to the court system while also fostering better communication.

Labarga in February was re-elected in February by his six colleagues on the Supreme Court for a second, two-year term. He’s the first chief justice to to serve back-to-back stints since Charles H. DuPont in 1865.

Scott kicks off Degrees to Jobs Summit saying Floridians expect great education, great job

Gov. Scott opens Degrees to Jobs Summit
Gov. Scott opens Degrees to Jobs Summit

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off a two-day Degrees to Jobs Summit in Orlando on Wednesday, urging the political, business and education leaders gathered to focus on a goal to “move this state forward.”

Scott’s summit is set for Wednesday and Thursday at Universal Studios in Orlando. A long list of invitees include the head football coaches from the University of Florida, Florida State University and the University of Miami, chancellors of the State University System and Florida College System, college and university presidents and administrators, and a wide range of top business leaders.

Faculty at Florida’s colleges and universities were not invited to the event — a point challenged by the United Faculty of Florida.

The overall theme of the summit is built around college affordability and how business leaders and education officials can better connect Florida students with meaningful jobs when they graduate.

In opening the event, Scott said Floridians expect “a great education and a great job.”

After failed White House bid, Jeb! comes full circle

Jeb Bush during a visit to Florida State University in 2015.
Jeb Bush during a visit to Florida State University in 2015.

Jeb Bush has come full circle — spending more than $130 million on a failed presidential campaign and now back as chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Bush took the title back from former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who held it while the former Florida governor churned through cash, winning no states until packing in his White House bid in February.

Bush created the Foundation for Excellence in Education after ending his two terms in the Governor’s Mansion, intent on continuing his promotion of standardized testing, charter schools and vouchers.

The foundation was a spin-off of a similar organization he started after losing the Florida governor’s race to Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles in 1994.

Palm Beach power broker Llwyd Ecclestone on new Donald Trump-RNC team

E. Llwyd Ecclestone in March at the Palm Beach County GOP's Lincoln Day dinner at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago. Ecclestone received a lifetime achievement award from the local party.
E. Llwyd Ecclestone in March at the Palm Beach County GOP’s Lincoln Day dinner at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago. Ecclestone received a lifetime achievement award from the local party.

 

Longtime Palm Beach County developer, power broker and political donor E. Llwyd Ecclestone is part of a new “2016 Trump Victory leadership team” launched by part-time Palm Beacher Donald Trump‘s presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee.

 

The joint venture is part of Trump’s metamorphosis from establishment-trashing, largely self-financing outsider with little campaign organization to the presumptive GOP nominee who will begin hitting up donors for contributions.

 

 

Trump Victory CmteThe first Trump Victory fundraiser will be Wednesday night in Los Angeles.

 

Ecclestone and wife Diana Ecclestone have given more than $275,000 to the national GOP over the past two years, according to OpenSecrets.org. Llwyd Ecclestone gave $1,000 to Marco Rubio‘s presidential campaign in April 2015 and $1,000 to Chris Christie‘s campaign in December.

 

Ecclestone called Trump “a very, very unique person to lead the country.”

 

Trump lacks the campaign organization of likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or just about any traditional candidate.

 

“He wasn’t a politician. He had nothing organized from before…He’s coming from running a fairly large business,” said Ecclestone, who said Trump’s unorthodox approach doesn’t worry him. “He’s smart. He’ll figure it out.”

 

Llwyd and Diana Ecclestone are among 14 initial “Presidential Trustees” on the Trump Victory committee.

 

Another prominent Florida moneyman, Tampa developer Mel Sembler, is one of six vice chairs on the committee.

 

 

State wins epic legal fight over education system

Judge George Reynolds
Judge George Reynolds

A Gainesville-based organization Tuesday lost an epic challenge first filed in 2009 to Florida’s entire system of education, with a Leon County judge ruling it failed to make its wide-ranging case.

Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds held a four-week trial ending in March in the lawsuit brought by Citizens for Strong Schools, which featured testimony from dozens of witnesses, including Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

In his 179-page order, Reynolds dismissed the organization’s wide-ranging claim that Florida had failed its duty to provide every student with a high quality and uniform education, as required by the state constitution since a voter-approved 1998 amendment.

Jodi Siegel, executive director of Southern Legal Counsel, a nonprofit law firm representing Citizens, said it would appeal the ruling.

Almost every element of Florida’s education system was on trial: private school vouchers, standardized testing, K-12 funding, and graduation rates were all analyzed in testimony from legal experts on both sides.

Citizens essentially argued that virtually all the changes enacted at Florida schools since roughly the late 1990s detracted from the adequacy of education.

The lawsuit challenged the tilt toward private schools drawing taxpayer dollars and the requirement for wholesale testing, hallmarks of  the changes enacted under then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and since advanced by the Republican-led Legislature.

Reynolds said Citizens had failed to meet their “burden of proof on the causation issue.”

 

Union not invited to Scott’s Degrees to Jobs Summit

Gov. Rick Scott
Gov. Rick Scott

The union representing Florida college and university instructors was not invited to Gov. Rick Scott’s Degrees to Jobs Summit this week — an oversight that will prove costly, officials said Tuesday.

“The very premise of Rick Scott’s summit is problematic in that the mission of higher education is much more than just jobs,” United Faculty of Florida, which has 22,000 faculty members at state schools, said in a statement.

“While obtaining a job after graduation is important, higher education is about developing educated, well-rounded citizens and future leaders who are able to communicate and write effectively, think critically, and solve problems – skills that are also important criteria for those who do the hiring.”

Scott’s summit is set for Wednesday and Thursday at Universal Studios in Orlando. A long list of invitees include the head football coaches from the University of Florida, Florida State University and the University of Miami, chancellors of the State University System and Florida College System, and a wide range of top business leaders.

“If Gov. Scott is serious about improving higher education, then he needs to make sure that our university and college systems are funded properly, not relying on gimmicks such as one-size-fits-all performance funding,” UFF said.

Scott’s office responded.

“The Degrees to Jobs Summit is bringing together hundreds of stakeholders, including Board of Trustees and college and university presidents, to discuss how Florida’s higher education system can ready students for success,” said McKinley Lewis, a Scott spokesman.

“Gov. Scott believes our higher education system must be solely focused on preparing grads to get jobs in high demand fields when they graduate.”