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, Murphy step up air attacks in U.S. Senate race

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (left), Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (left), Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter.

Democrat Patrick Murphy and Republican Marco Rubio stepped up their air attack Tuesday in Florida’s U.S. Senate race, with Rubio putting up two new spots and Murphy using Spanish-language television for the first time.

The Jupiter congressman’s ad dubbed “Negligente” echoes themes in another Murphy spot already airing statewide, critical of Rubio’s opposition to abortion.

The ad claims the Republican senator’s voting record is risky to women, especially at a time when the Zika virus is coursing through Florida.

“Marco Rubio opposes a woman’s right to choose even in cases of rape, incest, or if a woman is infected with Zika. He is irresponsible on women’s health,” said Freddy Balsera, a strategist recently hired by the campaign as an Hispanic strategist.

Rubio, meanwhile, is airing two new spots across the state that rip Murphy for inflating his resume — especially his claims as a small business owner that have been diminished through media reports.

New abortion funding ban forces changes in Palm Beach County

New state law erases funding at Planned Parenthood clinics
New state law erases funding at Planned Parenthood clinics

A new state law banning taxpayer dollars from flowing to organizations that perform abortions has prompted Palm Beach County’s Children’s Services Council to revamp funding for a teen outreach program.

The council this week said the Urban League of Palm Beach County will directly run 12 teen clubs it currently subcontracts with Planned Parenthood for at least some services.

The council said decision will not change its current funding of  $330,435 to the Urban League for the Teen Outreach Program (TOP), nor will any students be affected.

The changes are set to take effect July 1, the same day the new state law bars public money from going to abortion providers. Planned Parenthood has estimated it will lose $204,000 with elimination of its TOP subcontract.

Supporters of the bill (HB 1411) Gov. Rick Scott signed into law said it’s important that public dollars not go to organizations that perform abortions – even if that might be only part of their overall mission.

Planned Parenthood operates 22 health centers across Florida, including three in Palm Beach County. Fifteen of the centers provide abortion services, including those in Wellington and Boca Raton.

The organization, along with abortion rights advocates, said the new law is punitive and part of efforts in 18 states this year aimed at barring public dollars from flowing to abortion providers.

Obama administration warns Florida and other states that Medicaid money can’t be barred from abortion providers

Planned Parenthood should continue to draw Medicaid dollars, federal officials say
Planned Parenthood should continue to draw Medicaid dollars, federal officials say

The Obama administration Tuesday warned Florida and other states that Medicaid dollars cannot be shut off from Planned Parenthood simply because many of its clinics provide abortion services.

Florida is among 10 states that have recently taken action aimed at barring public dollars from going to Planned Parenthood, which has been under fire since videos now discredited were released last summer which purportedly showed officials with the organization discussing the sale of fetal parts.

A new Florida law taking effect July 1 sets new regulations for abortion clinics and also bars taxpayer money from going to organizations which provide the service.

While Planned Parenthood officials have said they were confident that Medicaid funds could not be blocked by the state, they acknowledge that about $500,000 in other public funds are expected to be lost.

The biggest hit will be felt in Palm Beach County, where the Children’s Services Council steers $204,000 to the organization for a teen outreach program.

“Providing the full range of women’s health services neither disqualifies a provider from participating in the Medicaid program, nor is the provision of such services inconsistent with the best interests of the beneficiary, and shall not be grounds for a state’s action against a provider in the Medicaid program,” wrote Vikki Wachino, director of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The agency had earlier notified Gov. Rick Scott’s administration that the state was not empowered to stop Medicaid dollars from going to Planned Parenthood.

The joint state-federal Medicaid program funds reproductive health services but only covers abortion in cases of rape, incest or to protect a woman’s life.

Rick Scott responds to viral video: ‘She was not someone you could talk to’

Gov. Rick Scott this afternoon responded to a viral video where a former Lake Worth city commissioner yells at Scott, calls him a profane name and rushes him out of a Starbucks.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The video was filmed at one of the coffee chain’s Gainesville locations and features activist Cara Jennings telling Scott, “You cut Medicaid, so I couldn’t get Obamacare.” Scott at one point can be heard replying to Jennings, saying he has created 1 million jobs in the state.

The video has been viewed more than 250,000 times since it was posted to YouTube on April 5.

Following a ceremonial bill signing Wednesday in Boca Raton, Scott said he hadn’t seen the video. When asked why he didn’t try to talk more with Jennings, Scott said, “She was not someone you could talk to.”

Jennings told Post reporter Kevin Thompson she was angry at Scott for signing into a law a controversial abortion bill.

“I am pro-life. I believe in the sanctity of life,” Scott said.

He then said lawmakers have more than $5 million in the state budget for health prevention services.

Asked about Medicaid expansion, Scott said, “If the federal government wants to have a program, they should fund their program. But don’t come to the state of Florida and ask us to tax our taxpayers for a federal program. I don’t believe in that. I don’t go to the federal government and say, ‘Fund my program.’ If they have a program, they should fund it.”

Read more here.

— Wayne Washington

New district boundaries leaves Senate wary of House’s red meat menu

Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, represents a toss-up district.
Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, represents a toss-up district.

The Florida House is racing ahead with what some are calling a red meat menu of election-year bills aimed at luring Republican voters, but fellow GOP leaders in the Senate have emerged suddenly as a wall of resistance.

A reason: Many of these senators will be running for re-election this fall in newly redrawn districts, where Republicans no longer hold overwhelming dominance.

“The makeup of a legislator’s district is always a consideration for the legislator,” said Senate Rules Chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs.

“I don’t think anyone is going to ignore the interests of their voters, especially in a new or modified district,” he said.

While both chambers of the Florida Legislature have been under the control of Republicans since 1996, the Florida House generally has been more conservative, with members representing smaller pockets of voters.

The most recent House district boundaries were approved by the Legislature in 2012 and didn’t undergo the intense, four years of court challenges that Senate boundaries faced.

A judge in December finally set a Senate map, whose 40 districts now will include 21 that were won by President Barack Obama in 2012 and 19 carried by Mitt Romney.

Republicans hold a 26-14 majority in the Senate now, but will be hard-pressed to maintain that kind of dominance in November.

Full story:

Pafford’s bid to make scrub jay the state bird facing a long flight

Florida scrub jay
Florida scrub jay

House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford’s bid to have the scrub jay designated as Florida’s official bird faces a long flight.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, is requiring that Pafford’s bill (HB 843) clear four committees on its way to the House floor — increasing the odds that it won’t survive the two-month legislative session.

The scrub jay bill is opposed by Marion Hammer, longtime lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, who managed to sidetrack similar efforts on behalf of the bird in 1999 and 2000.

“For me to get through every hoop, basically, it’s impossible,” said Pafford, of West Palm Beach.

While Pafford’s bill has drawn four committee assignments, by contrast proposed legislation (HB 865) that would outlaw most abortions in Florida has only been sent to three committees for hearings.

Another major lifestyle-changing measure that would put the state permanently on daylight savings time (HB 893) also has been directed to three committees.

“It does illustrate the issue of who gets their priorities met in this process,” Pafford said.

Hammer says she is a fan of the mockingbird, which was named Florida’s official bird by the 1927 Senate. She also worries that switching to the scrub jay would increase environmental efforts to protect the threatened bird’s habitat, mostly coastal and interior scrub across Central Florida.