Republican sniping and seat numbering dominates redistricting

Senate redistricting gets a little tense.
Senate redistricting gets a little tense.

Republican senators continued sniping Wednesday while reviewing plans for redrawing their election boundaries and a seat numbering scheme that could help a leadership bid by a Palm Beach County lawmaker.

Senate Redistricting Chairman Bill Galvano advanced the position that only half the 40-member Senate should face re-election next year – even if virtually every district changed in the effort to comply with a legal settlement with voters’ groups.

Under the seat-numbering plan proposed Wednesday, eight of the 13 Republican supporters of Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, would be shielded from facing re-election contests next fall.

Negron represents northern Palm Beach County and is locked in a bitter contest for next year’s Senate presidency with Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. Having a majority of his backers guaranteed of holding onto their seats would benefit Negron’s chances.

Galvano, R-Bradenton, is among those who pledged to support Negron. But under criticism, Galvano agreed late Wednesday to also consider randomly assigning numbers to seats — and letting the Redistricting Committee choose which way to go.

“We’re on a really thin line here,” said Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, who added his own redistricting proposal Wednesday to six statewide plans already drawn by House and Senate staff.

“If you’re going to make the argument that some people don’t have to run here, the question is…why?” Clemens said, adding, “It’s a clear violation of a constitutional mandate that we not go through this process for a political purpose or to protect incumbents.”

Full story:  http://bit.ly/1QV6pWb

Florida Joe Biden supporters react to his decision not to run for president

The Draft Biden effort never got a signal to stop or slow down, state Sen. Jeremy Ring noted.
The Draft Biden effort never got a signal to stop or slow down, state Sen. Jeremy Ring noted.

Vice President Joe Biden‘s decision not to enter the 2016 presidential race surprised state Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Parkland, who’s been involved in the Draft Biden effort and thought recent signs pointed toward a run.

State Sen. Jeremy Ring
State Sen. Jeremy Ring

Ring said Biden would have added excitement to the race for Democrats.

“There’s always enthusiasm around a presidential election. But I think with Joe Biden there would have been more enthusiasm around the individual. So it does take some of that away,” Ring said.

State Sen. Joseph Abruzzo
State Sen. Joseph Abruzzo

Another Democrat who urged Biden to run, state Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Boynton Beach, tried to look at the bright side.

“The good news is we have Joe Biden to help lead our nation for another year. The unfortunate news is that when the vice president exits public office he will be irreplaceable,” Abruzzo said.

schale biden tweet
Tallahassee-based Democratic strategist Steven Schale, who signed on with the Draft Biden movement recently, told his Twitter followers he “Couldn’t be more proud to have been standing up for @JoeBiden. He represents the absolute best in what we all want in public service.”

Biden’s wrestling with a potential run was always linked to how he and his family are coping with the loss of son Beau Biden, who died of cancer in May.

Delray Beach resident Frank Biden, brother of the vice president.
Delray Beach resident Frank Biden, brother of the vice president.

“It’s all about the dialogue between his head and his heart,” the vice president’s brother, Delray Beach resident Frank Biden, said last week.

Ring said he believes Biden’s head was in the race, but his heart wasn’t.

“He wanted to do it, from the standpoint that they’ve been running a campaign for awhile now. He never told the Draft Biden team to stop or slow down,” Ring said. “If he ever could have figured out a way to emotionally make it work with all the tragedy that’s really pretty recent, he would have.”

Corey Jones shooting: Patrick Murphy renews call for police body cameras

Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter.
Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter.

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, says the Sunday shooting death of Corey Jones by a plainclothes Palm Beach Gardens police officer underscores the need for police to wear body cameras.

 

Corey Jones
Corey Jones

Murphy signed on in June as a cosponsor of a bill by Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, to authorize federal grants to local law enforcement agencies to buy or lease body cameras. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, is another of the bill’s 28 cosponsors.

 

Click here to read The Palm Beach Post’s ongoing coverage of the Corey Jones shooting.

 

Said a Murphy statement today: “While there is an ongoing investigation into the death of Corey Jones, it is an unfortunate reality that all the details of what happened that night will never be known.  That is why it is vital that law enforcement officers – including plainclothes officers – be equipped with body cameras so that when terrible tragedies like this happen, we have a real window into what occurred. Congress must act immediately to help local law enforcement agencies invest in body cameras that protect both officers and citizens involved in altercations. By doing this, we will improve public safety and better relations between police and the communities they serve.”

Corey Jones shooting: Florida black lawmakers unite behind call for independent probe

Rep. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, and black legislators want an independent probe of Corey Jones' shooting.
Rep. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, and black legislators want an independent probe of Corey Jones’ shooting.

Black legislators united Wednesday behind a call for the state to conduct an independent investigation into last weekend’s shooting death of Corey Jones by a Palm Beach Gardens police officer.

Florida Conference of Black State Legislators Chairman Rep. Ed Narain, D-Tampa, said it was important for Gov. Rick Scott to order the probe to “restore public confidence” between the black community and Palm Beach Gardens police.

The investigation also would help resolve issues surrounding the early Sunday encounter between Jones and Officer Nouman Raja, who has been placed on administrative leave. A caucus member, Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, first proposed the state-run probe Tuesday.

Rep. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, said he has spoken with Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg who said two investigations are currently underway, one led by his office and another by the county’s Sheriff’s Office.

“Yesterday I spoke with the governor, who assured me he wants to gather all the facts,” said Powell, who said the caucus wants Scott to order the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to conduct its own probe.

“This has to stop,” Powell added. “There’s no evidence that we’ve seen that this man was a trouble maker. My community is frustrated, and rightfully so.”

The black caucus also said Jones’ death underscores the need for legislation requiring police to wear body cameras and have vehicle dashboard cameras to record encounters between officers and the public. Other legislation proposed by caucus members would require enhanced police training on possible racial biases.

Jones, a Delray Beach Housing Authority employee and drummer in local bands, was shot early Sunday morning by Officer Nouman Raja near an Interstate-95 exit ramp. Jones’ car apparently had broken down and Raja stopped at the scene in plain clothes while driving an unmarked vehicle, authorities said.

Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said, “The governor offered the assistance of FDLE in the two ongoing investigations by the State Attorney’s Office and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office into the death of Corey Jones. Our office continues to monitor any developments.”

» RELATED: Read the Palm Beach Post’s complete coverage of the Corey Jones shooting

For Charlie Crist, parties and offices change but the fan and ‘the people’ are constant

With "the people" at his back and his ubiquitous electric fan at his feet, Charlie Crist launches another campaign.
With “the people” at his back and his ubiquitous electric fan at his feet, Charlie Crist launches another campaign.

Charlie Crist has been a Republican, an independent and a Democrat.

He’s won races for state Senate, education commissioner and attorney general, lost two races for U.S. Senate and won and lost races for governor. He’s been conservative-talking “Chain Gang Charlie” and a Barack Obama-embracing cheerleader for the Democratic stimulus and health care bills.

The fan beneath Crist's lectern led to a 2014 debate fracas with Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
The fan beneath Crist’s lectern led to a 2014 debate fracas with Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

But some things about Crist never change.

For one thing, there’s that electric fan. Crist brought the cooling device with him in his Republican days (“What’s the deal with the fan?” primary rival Tom Gallagher demanded before a 2006 Republican gubernatorial debate) and, most famously, as a Democrat to last fall’s debate with Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Not surprisingly, the fan was present Tuesday when Crist made an outdoor announcement that he’s running for a U.S. House seat as a Democrat in his home town of St. Petersburg.

Flanked by running mate Annette Taddeo (left) and wife Carole, "People's Governor" Charlie Crist concedes last year's election.
Flanked by running mate Annette Taddeo (left) and wife Carole, “People’s Governor” Charlie Crist concedes last year’s election.

There’s also “the people.”

Crist called himself “the people’s governor” when he took office as a Republican in 2007. As a Democrat, he ran unsuccessfully last year as “the people’s governor” against Scott. Crist regularly refers to “the people” in his speeches, and Tuesday was no exception.

“The real problem with Washington is that they fail to listen. They fail to listen to the people. I have always tried to listen to the people,” Crist said Tuesday.

He added: “I think it’s important to always listen to the people. That will be a hallmark of my campaign. Hopefully it’s been a hallmark of my career…The people’s will must be done.”

Just in time for Halloween: Scott wants to hear tales of hospital price-gouging

Scott wants to hear stories about hospital price-gouging
Scott wants to hear stories about hospital price-gouging

Gov. Rick Scott’s Halloween season call for scary price-gouging stories from hospitals brought a swift response Tuesday from the Florida Hospital Association.

Scott and the industry have been at odds for months.

But the Republican governor turned up the pressure another notch by asking Floridians who think they were victims of hospital over-charging to contact the Governor’s Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding to share their stories.

The commission was meeting Tuesday at the state Capitol, its latest in a months-long series of hearings. Commissioners are probing hospital spending, profits and costs but many industry critics privately dismiss the panel as a kangaroo court organized by the governor.

“Last month, we announced major reforms to increase transparency and accountability so we can better empower patients,” Scott said. “By requiring hospitals to post pricing information online, we will give patients the tools necessary to prevent and report the deceptive practice of price gouging.”

Scott wants to hear consumer horror stories here:

https://apps.ahca.myflorida.com/HospitalCommission/pricegouging.aspx

The FHA said it supports giving patients more information. But the association also hinted that it has problems with Scott’s approach.

“The best way to truly empower patients, and to understand what drives costs, is to bring everyone in the health care continuum to the table,” said Bruce Rueben, FHA president. “By utilizing data from all health care claims, a comprehensive database would provide meaningful information about health care quality, costs and access.”

Scott and hospitals have been battling since last spring, when industry organizations backed Senate President Andy Gardiner’s push for a privatized form of Medicaid expansion, opposed by the governor and the House.

The clash delayed budget talks and forced lawmakers into a June special session. In the end, the Medicaid expansion push died, but a cut in federal aid to hospitals was softened with $450 million in taxpayer money, effectively killing Scott’s push for a record level of per-pupil school spending and even bigger tax breaks.

With hospitals facing another reduction in federal dollars this year, Scott’s healthcare commission appears at least partially designed to expose financing data that could give the governor some ground cover for opposing steering more taxpayer cash toward hospitals when lawmakers reconvene in January.

 

Corey Jones shooting: Lawmaker calls for FDLE probe

Rep. Shevrin Jones
Rep. Shevrin Jones

A Broward County lawmaker is asking for a state investigation into last weekend’s shooting death of Corey Jones following an encounter with a Palm Beach Gardens police officer.

Jones, a Delray Beach Housing Authority employee and drummer in local bands, was shot early Sunday morning by Officer Nouman Raja near an Interstate-95 exit ramp. Jones’ car apparently had broken down and Raja stopped at the scene in plain clothes while driving an unmarked vehicle, authorities said.

» RELATED: Read the Palm Beach Post’s complete coverage of the Corey Jones shooting

Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, said he wants the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to look into the circumstances surrounding Jones’ death.

Jones also said that legislation he is sponsoring that would require body cameras for Florida law enforcement officials would help bring clarity to similar confrontations.

“I said this before and I’ll say it again, HB 93 is not about right and wrong- it’s about justice and safety,” said Rep. Jones. “What is it going to take to save a life?”

Raja is on paid administrative leave while an investigation is conducted by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said that the agency “has no jurisdiction or authority over local law enforcement.”

For his part, Jones said, “I did not personally know Mr. Corey Jones, but, I am calling on my colleagues in the Legislature, and particularly those from South Florida, to join me in seeking a full investigation of yet another incident of a police-involved shooting and a law enforcement agency releasing little information in the face of legitimate questions from citizens.

“We need an agency that’s completely independent and without any connections to the department,” he added. “I only wish we required body cameras for all law enforcement officers, to protect the officers and citizens alike.”

 

It’s open season for gun bills in the Florida Senate

Guns getting the go-ahead from Florida lawmakers
Guns getting the go-ahead from Florida lawmakers

In the wake of high profile shootings across the nation, state senators approved three major gun bills Tuesday, exposing deep divisions within the state over how to shield Floridians from random violence.

Legislation sailed through committees to allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry handguns openly, another that lets them have guns on college campuses, and another proposal seen by critics as expanding the self-defense, ‘stand your ground’ law.

Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, a sponsor of the campus gun bill (SB 68) said Floridians want the state to enhance their ability to fight back.

“Each of these bills are actually targeted at specific issues that have happened recently,” Evers said. “It’s time that we changed the Florida statutes to stop gun-owners from being nailed to the cross.”

But Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, said the Legislature’s Republican leaders are ignoring the views of many Floridians who think fewer guns are needed.

“I’m not sure why,” Gibson said, adding, “How do any of these bills reduce gun violence?”

More here:  http://bit.ly/1ZUNmkJ

Some senators may get a free pass next year — with the right number

Special session starts -- with a few sparks
Special session starts — with a few sparks

The Florida Legislature opened a three-week special session Monday to redraw Senate district boundaries, with sparks flying from a proposal that could shape a bitter leadership fight among ruling Republicans.

Senate Redistricting Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said he was ready to defy a more than 30-year-old state Supreme Court ruling that ordered lawmakers to run for re-election when their district boundaries are changed by redistricting.

Galvano said that he and Senate legal staff maintain that not all senators should be forced back to the ballot next year.

A key to gaining a free pass would be if a senator’s seat number doesn’t change in redistricting, even if thousands of voters were added or subtracted to their district through the latest line-drawing.

“We are not going to have every member running again,” Galvano said, after outlining his plan to the full Senate as it opened a session scheduled to continue until Nov. 6.

For Palm Beach County, the latest round of redistricting is expected to reduce the number of Senate districts from four to three, with Republican Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, likely pushed further up the Treasure Coast, losing the Jupiter-Tequesta area he now represents.

The county’s three Democratic senators, Maria Sachs of Delray Beach, Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth and Joe Abruzzo of Wellington, look positioned to retain most of their current districts under six proposed maps unveiled by the House and Senate.

Todd Bonlarron, the county’s lobbyist, argued Monday before a House-Senate redistricting panel, that Palm Beach shouldn’t lose a senate seat.

“We believe…it could be reasonably be split into four seats,” Bonlarron said.

Scott targets Kentucky for latest corporate hunting trip

Gov. Rick Scott is targeting Kentucky for jobs.
Gov. Rick Scott is targeting Kentucky for jobs.

Radio ads promoting Florida as a place to do business began airing today in Kentucky, the latest Democratic-led state targeted by Gov. Rick Scott for jobs.

In a bid to lure companies to Florida, the spot takes a swipe at Gov. Steve Beshear’s “pro-union and big government” policies. It also promotes Florida as a right-to-work state with no income tax rated highly for its business environment.

The ad promises that, “Florida Gov. Rick Scott is coming to Kentucky to share Florida’s success story.”

Scott plans a trip to the state later this month. His previous trips this year include stops in Pennsylvania, California and Connecticut — states all led by Democrats.