Scott says even with Zika deal, “incompetence of Washington” was exposed

Gov. Rick Scott during an earlier trip to Miami to discuss spread of Zika virus
Gov. Rick Scott during an earlier trip to Miami to discuss spread of Zika virus

Florida’s plan for spending its portion of the $1.1 billion in federal Zika-fighting money approved by Congress was still unclear, Gov. Rick Scott conceded in a conference call Thursday.

But the deal approved late Wednesday did give Scott a chance to once again tee-off on Congress and the Obama administration.

“What was frustrating is everybody said they were funding,” Scott said, recalling that he made two trips “walking the halls” of Congress, lobbying for a deal on dollars to fight the mosquito-borne virus.

“Not one person said they were against it. But nothing happened, time and time again…It just shows you why people are frustrated with the incompetence of Washington,” said Scott, who is widely thought to be considering a U.S. Senate run in 2018.

He conceded, though, “it was refreshing something passed.”

Scott also said, “I don’t know how much Florida is going to get and when we’re going to get our funding.”

The governor pointed out that he has already allocated $61.2 million from the state treasury for efforts to combat the virus, including $25 million in long-range research money. Some of those dollars could be replaced once the federal cash arrives, he said.

Scott repeated his call, however, for 10,ooo Zika prevention kits from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with better guidance for mosquito control in the 4.5-square-mile area of Miami-Dade County where local transmission of the virus has been identified.

NPA candidates in U.S. Senate race sue to get included in TV debates

NPA Senate candidate Steven Machat
NPA Senate candidate Steven Machat

Four non-partisan candidates for U.S. Senate filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against organizers of the pair of upcoming debates between Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Democrat Patrick Murphy, in an attempt to be included in the televised contests.

Steven Machat, a Miami-based music producer and author running as a no party affiliated (NPA) candidate, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Miami.

“The Florida U.S. Senate race is not a two-party race,” Machat’s campaign said. “Our intention is to give the citizens of Florida an informed and educated experience with all the candidates in Florida’s U.S. Senate race, not just one Democrat and one Republican, neither of which represent the majority of Florida’s voters.”

Other NPA Senate contenders are Basil Dalack of Tequesta, Tony Khoury of Coral Gables and Bruce Nathan of Palm City.

Murphy and Rubio have agreed to two debates, one Oct. 17 at WFTV-Orlando, sponsored by and the other Oct. 26, at Broward College.

The Orlando debate is  sponsored by Cox Media Group, Politico Florida and ABC News. The Broward College debate is sponsored by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association.

WFTV said its standard for inviting candidates was that they must draw at least 15 percent support in a credible poll. The NPA candidates in the Florida Senate race aren’t registering support close to that level.

Big trouble in Little Havana? Newsweek says Donald Trump violated Cuba embargo in 1990s

This Newsweek story could hurt Donald Trump among hardline anti-Castro voters who are an important part of the GOP coalition in Florida.
This Newsweek story could hurt Donald Trump among hardline anti-Castro voters who are an important part of the GOP coalition in Florida.

Donald Trump has been talking tough on Cuba in recent visits to crucial Florida, hoping to woo the hardline anti-Fidel Castro Cuban-American voters who remain an important part of the GOP coalition in the state and so far have been tepid in their support for the Republican nominee.

 

Newsweek article online today says a Trump company in 1998 “secretly conducted business in communist Cuba during Fidel Castro’s presidency despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal.” That could erode Trump’s support with Republican-leaning Cuban-American voters who were only supporting Trump by a 35-to-31 percent margin over Hillary Clinton in a recent Florida International Univeristy poll. 

 

Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway dismissed the story, but didn’t dispute Newsweek’s reporting that Trump spent more than $68,000 to explore business opportunities in Cuba.

 

“Read the entire story. It starts out with a screaming headline, as it usually does, that he did business in Cuba. And it turns out that he decided not to invest there. They paid money, as I understand, in 1998 — and we’re not supposed to talk about years ago when it comes to the Clintons,” Conway said on ABC’s “The View” Thursday.

 

Trump visited Miami’s Little Havana on Wednesday to woo Cuban-Americans. And at a Sept. 16 rally in Miami, Trump vowed (beginning around the 30:00 mark on this video) to “stand with the Cuban people in their fight against communist oppression. We’re on the right side. Great people. They’re great people. The president’s one-sided deal for Cuba and with Cuba benefits only the Castro regime.”

 

A little later, Trump added: “All of the concessions that Barack Obama has granted the Castro regime were done through executive order, which means the next president can reverse them. And that I will do unless the Castro regime meets  our demands…those demands will include religious and political freedom for the Cuban people and the freeing of political prisoners.”

Hillary Clinton visits Fort Pierce, Coral Springs on Friday

Hillary Clinton in Tampa on Sept. 6.
Hillary Clinton in Tampa on Sept. 6.

Hillary Clinton‘s campaign has filled in the details of her Friday visit to Florida.

 

The Democratic presidential nominee will make a morning appearance at the Sunrise Theatre in Fort Pierce and an afternoon stop at the Coral Springs Gymnasium in Coral Springs.

 

Doors open at 9:30 a.m. for the Fort Pierce event, where her campaign says she will make remarks on national service. Doors open at 1:30 p.m. for the Coral Springs event.

 

Clinton’s last Florida visit was a Sept. 21 rally in Orlando. Republican nominee Donald Trump campaigned in the state Tuesday, including an Hispanic outreach event in Miami and a rally in Melbourne.

 

 

 

 

With Zika funding on the horizon, Florida senators see aggressive steps coming

Zika virus funding almost settled.
Zika virus funding almost settled.

With $1.1 billion to fight Zika tucked into a stopgap spending bill, Florida’s U.S. senators said Wednesday that a more aggressive approach was coming to the virus touching almost 1,000 people in their state.

The House is expected to approve the measure as early as Wednesday night and send it to President Barack Obama for his signature.

“The emergency spending approved today will help increase local mosquito-control efforts to contain the spread of the virus and allow federal researchers to continue their search for a vaccine,” said Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat.

“The threat we face from Zika is a true public health emergency and we need our local, state and federal agencies working together to put this money to use as quickly as possible.”

President Obama requested $1.9 billion in Zika funding in February. But the Republican-led House and Senate have deadlocked for months over finalizing money to help states fight the virus.

Florida has had almost 800 travel-related cases of Zika, along with more than 100 cases contracted locally.

The $1.1 billion anti-Zika package is part of a larger measure that would finance the government through Dec. 9. According to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, $15 million is specifically targeted for states with local transmissions, with Florida being the only such state so far.

The spending plan also includes $60 million for territories like Puerto Rico, which has the highest number of infected American citizens.

Both Nelson and Rubio voted in support of Wednesday’s proposal.

“I’m glad these critical resources are now moving forward so we can help the thousands of Americans suffering from this virus, step up our mosquito eradication efforts, and develop a vaccine to eradicate Zika for good,” Rubio said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has already dipped into the state treasury for $36.2 million for various Zika-fighting efforts. He also has approved spending another $25 million for research into a vaccine against the virus.

Scott has acknowledged being frustrated with the long standoff in Washington and has blasted Congress for months. He was cautious in his comments about the pending deal.

“Every day that Congress fails to act, more cases are diagnosed in our state,” Scott said.

 

Do-over Dem primary in Senate District 30? Judge sends dispute to Tallahassee

Rubin Anderson, who says he should be on the ballot in a new Senate District 30 Democratic primary, leaves court today (Bill DiPaolo/The Palm Beach Post)
Rubin Anderson, who says he should be on the ballot in a new Senate District 30 Democratic primary, leaves court today (Bill DiPaolo/The Palm Beach Post)

A lawsuit that seeks to throw out state Rep. Bobby Powell‘s Aug. 30 Democratic primary win in Senate District 30 should be decided in Tallahassee because of its statewide implications, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Tom Barkdull said today.

 

Reporter Bill DiPaolo has today’s developments here.

 

A lawsuit by Rubin Anderson would force Democratic state Senate rivals Michael Steinger, left, and state Rep. Bobby Powell to run again with Anderson on the ballot.
A lawsuit by Rubin Anderson would force Democratic state Senate rivals Michael Steinger, left, and state Rep. Bobby Powell to run again with Anderson on the ballot.

West Palm Beach Democrat Rubin Anderson filed the suit, citing a recent Florida Supreme Court ruling that ordered Miami Gardens to throw out its Aug. 30 mayoral election and conduct a new one. Anderson filed to run against Powell and trial lawyer Michael Steinger, but was disqualified in July after his bank did not honor his campaign’s $1,781.82 check to cover the candidate qualifying fee.

 

Florida law gives a candidate until the end of the qualifying period to rectify such a situation, but Anderson had no remedy because his check was returned after qualifying closed. But the section of state law that thwarted Anderson was declared unconstitutional this month by the Florida Supreme Court. The court ordered a new mayoral election in Miami Gardens after candidate James Wrights qualifying check was rejected because of a bank error.

 

The Supreme Court’s action means an older law is now in effect that gives candidates 48 hours to fix a problem with a qualifying check, even if the qualifying deadline has passed.

 

Anderson wants the court to order a new primary with his name on the ballot along with Powell’s and Steinger’s. Powell won the Aug. 30 primary with 67.3 percent and has been preparing for a Nov. 8 general election against Republican Ron Berman.

 

“This case has statewide implications and should be heard in Leon County circuit court,” Barkdull said today.

Murphy doubles-down on Spanish-language advertising; Rubio gets more help from Kochs

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy
U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy

Democrat Patrick Murphy double-downed Wednesday on Spanish-language advertising — airing a radio spot to match the TV buy he announced a day earlier.

Both ads target his rival, Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, for supporting de-funding Planned Parenthood and for opposing abortion — especially at a time when Zika is raising alarms about severe birth defects linked to the virus.

“He stands with Donald Trump, whose rhetoric and actions towards women have offended millions,” Murphy spokesman Freddy Balsera said of Rubio.

But the Republican’s campaign swung back.

“Not only does Murphy support using taxpayer money to fund abortions, he also supports late-term abortions. Murphy’s extreme positions on abortion put him out of touch with the vast majority of Floridians,” said Olivia Perez-Cubas, a Rubio spokeswoman.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio

Rubio’s campaign also drew more help Wednesday from the Koch brothers, whose affiliated organizations are strong backers of the first-term Republican.

Concerned Veterans for America is targeting Murphy for his vote last year against the so-called VA Accountability Act, meant to hold Veterans Administration employees accountable for misconduct. The measure also was opposed by the Obama administration, which labeled it “unproductive.”

Concerned Veterans announced a six-figure digital ad buy aimed at helping Republican candidates in Nevada, Pennsylvania and Florida.

Rubio asks feds to investigate jetty where Marlins’ pitcher Jose Fernandez died

A bag of baseballs signed by Jose Fernandez washed ashore following boat crash.
A bag of baseballs signed by Jose Fernandez washed ashore following boat crash.

Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio asked the U.S. Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers to investigate Wednesday the Government Cut jetty where Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez and two others were killed in a boat crash last weekend.

“While our hearts are heavy with grief for the numerous lives lost every year on the water, we can do more to save others,” Rubio said in his letter to federal officials.

More Jose Fernandez coverage | Gallery: Marlins honor Fernandez | Gallery: Jose Fernandez killed

The jetty off Miami Beach is poorly lit and mostly submerged at high tide, according to reports. Boaters frequently have problems navigating around it, experts said.

 

Anti-Big Sugar group endorses Brian Mast over Randy Perkins in Congress race

Brian Mast talks to voters at a Republican candidate forum in April in Stuart.
Brian Mast talks to voters at a Republican candidate forum in April in Stuart.

Democratic congressional candidate Randy Perkins has been running online ads that accuse Republican Brian Mast of being cozy with the sugar industry. But Bullsugar.org — a group that blames Big Sugar for contributing to water quality problems in the Treasure Coast and elsewhere — announced it is endorsing Mast in the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional District 18 race.

 

Bullsugar has also endorsed Democrat Patrick Murphy over Republican incumbent Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate race.

 

Democrat Randy Perkins runs an ad depicting Republican foe Brian Mast as a friend of the sugar industry.
Democrat Randy Perkins runs an ad depicting Republican foe Brian Mast as a friend of the sugar industry.

The group’s voter guide doesn’t list its reasons for endorsing Mast, but its Facebook page highlights a recent TCPalm.com letter to the editor about Perkins attending a dinner with U.S. Sugar Senior Vice President Robert Coker.

 

Mast drew fire in the District 18 GOP primary for attending two fundraisers in which the host committees included members of the Fanjul family, which runs sugar giant Florida Crystals. Mast returned contributions from the Fanjuls, but Perkins says he should also return the other money he raised at the events.

 

Bullsugar advocates buying land owned by the sugar industry to store water from Lake Okeechobee and reduce harmful discharges into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. The group opposes the federal sugar subsidy program, which it says artificially drives up the value of the sugar land.

 

Said Mast: “I’m honored to have the endorsement of Bullsugar.org and I am proud to be associated with an organization that seeks to repair the damage done to our rivers. This will be a top priority for me in Congress, and I look forward to working with members of the House on both sides of the aisle to fix this issue once and for all.

“Bullsugar.org is an organization that seeks to keep our water clean for generations to come. This is vital to our way of life and our economy in Florida, and particularly in District 18.”

 

 

Catholic bishops have “concerns” about medical marijuana ballot proposal

Bishops have concerns about medical marijuana initiative
Bishops have concerns about medical marijuana initiative

With polls showing Florida’s medical marijuana ballot measure likely to win voter approval in November, the state’s Catholic bishops are tapping the brakes.

The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops on Tuesday didn’t say they were opposing the initiative, on the ballot as Amendment 2.

But they have “concerns.”

“At first glance, the proposed amendment appeals to a sense of empathy and implies safe and limited use by the infirm,” the bishops wrote. “However, closer inspection reveals that the framework established by Amendment 2 is problematic.”

The bishops cited four areas where the proposal has problems. They said it has a potential for fraud and abuse; opens the door to risks from edible marijuana products; there’s no assurance of quality and consistency with the medical pot sold; and could provide greater access to marijuana for kids.