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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Jeb Bush on the 'most ridiculous example of political correctness in history'

Jeb Bush on ESPN's decision to pull commentator Robert Lee from a football broadcast at the University of Virginia.

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Corcoran: Let voters end taxpayer-subsidized political campaigns

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes

Scott Keeler - Times

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, may not be running for governor -- not yet anyway -- but his latest idea will get the attention of those who are.

Corcoran called on the Constitution Revision Commission Wednesday to put a ballot question to voters in 2018 to repeal Florida's system of partial public financing of statewide elections.

Corcoran, who appointed nine of the CRC's 37 members, says public campaign financing is "a gross waste of taxpayer money and is nothing more than welfare for politicians. All it does is protect the insider political class. You really have to be clueless or just plain selfish to accept money from our state coffers that could go to our school children, first responders or be put back in the pockets of our taxpayers."

It's not a new idea: Voters rejected a similar proposal in 2010. Corcoran's mission looks clear: He won't take public money and he doesn't his opponents taking it, either. …

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Trump controversies continue to take toll on Mar-a-Lago

President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club continues to lose business in light of his controversial remarks on race and violence.

Unicorn Children’s Foundation this week became the latest charity to cancel plans to hold an event at the Palm Beach estate.

“Due to the political turbulence associated with this choice of venue it would be a disservice to our supporters and our children to hold our event at Mar-a-Lago,” the group said in a statement. “We prefer the conversations to be centered off the venue and instead focused on how we can help kids with special needs excel in their communities.

“Therefore, we have decided that it is in the best interest of the organization and the families we support to not host our fashion show luncheon at Mar-a-Lago.  Our hope is that this decision will shift the conversation back to our mission, special needs priorities and the people we serve.”

The Washington Post counted up the losses: 17 charities so far have withdrawn from events. …

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Taking heat from some for Charlottesville remarks, Rubio denounces the 'other side'

Marco Rubio on the campaign trail in 2015

The Associated Press

Marco Rubio on the campaign trail in 2015

Sen. Marco Rubio, who has come under fire for not denouncing the “Antifa,” did so in a speech last night in Florida, bemoaning people “on the other side of the political spectrum who decide they can physically attack people they don’t like.”

“And it’s not just Nazis and KKK people,” Rubio said before Seminole County Republicans.

Breitbart News and people on social media, Trump supporters among them, have lashed out at Rubio for his denunciation of the white supremacists groups that sparked violence in Charlottesville.

Rubio said Tuesday that such hate groups have no place in the GOP. “They’re not the reason why we won election in 2016. That is not what conservatism is all about.”

And then he pivoted.

“I think having that high moral high ground allows us to point to others — communists, socialists, anarchists — who have decided that they have the right to take violent action against people they disagree with. …

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Florida struggles to keep up with medical pot demand

Medical pot

Special to the Times

Medical pot

The cannabis boom is under way in Florida, and government is struggling to keep up.

Thousands of new patients have sought access to medical marijuana this summer following the passage of a new law expanding the list of maladies that qualify for treatment. Since June 7, the number of patients certified over the entire first three years of Florida’s fledgling cannabis program has nearly doubled from 16,760 to more than 31,000.

But patients are finding it’s one thing to receive a doctor’s certification, and another to receive the state-issued identification card needed to legally place an order. Doctors seeking state-required training through a new course that has yet to be offered are equally frustrated, leading to a growing feeling that the Florida Office of Medical Marijuana Use and its 12 employees — nine of whom are part-time — are simply overwhelmed.

“I’m not sure the state was prepared,” said Pete Sessa, chief operating officer of the advocacy-minded Florida Cannabis Coalition. …

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Rubio to Seminole County GOP: 'America is going to be okay'

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Miami.

Times files

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Miami.

Sen. Marco Rubio delivered a reshaped stump speech Tuesday night to the Seminole County GOP, touching on many of the same points he made as a presidential candidate but adapting it to the tumultuous politics of the moment.

"America is going to be OK," Rubio said. "America is going to be fine. In fact, America -- your America, my America, the America we're going to leave our children -- has a chance to be better than it's ever been. I believe our children have the opportunity to be the freest and most prosperous people that have ever walked the face of this earth."

"It's hard to believe that if you open up newspapers, watch the news, get on the internet, whatever," Rubio said, without immediately naming President Donald Trump. "But I really believe that with all of my heart, because that's been our history. It's at the core of who we are."

Rubio later praised the president's Monday night speech on Afghanistan and denounced the white supremacists and neo-Nazis instigators in Charlottesville.

"There is nothing conservative about those people. Nothing," he said to applause. …

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Pence will try to escape long shadow of Trump’s military talk on Venezuela today in Miami

Vice President Mike Pence will visit Miami’s Venezuelan enclave of Doral on Tuesday.

Associated Press

Vice President Mike Pence will visit Miami’s Venezuelan enclave of Doral on Tuesday.

The uncomfortable but inevitable question that dogged Vice President Mike Pence everywhere he went in Latin America last week will trail him to Miami on Wednesday: Is President Donald Trump really considering potential military action in Venezuela?

Pence tried over and over again to say no — without actually uttering the word or outright contradicting Trump — during his recent swing through Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Panama, where regional allies publicly rebuked the notion of any U.S. intervention.

The vice president’s cleanup tour will conclude Wednesday in Doral, home to the largest Venezuelan immigrant community in the U.S. In private meetings with local Venezuelans, and in remarks at a neighborhood church, Pence is expected to say the White House remains committed to punishing President Nicolás Maduro’s government for systematically dismantling the South American country’s democracy.

But exactly what the punishment from the U.S. might entail remains unclear, a month after Trump promised “strong and swift economic actions.” …

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GOP lawmaker's feud with Richard Corcoran gets her trip to Siberia

Rep. Kathleen Peters now sits next to two empty seats.

Florida House of Representatives

Rep. Kathleen Peters now sits next to two empty seats.

The perks of power in Tallahassee are a coveted chairmanship, a Capitol office in a prime location and a prominent seat on the House floor. Now Rep. Kathleen Peters has lost all three, but here's the twist: Her trip to Siberia might actually help her reach the next rung on the Tampa Bay political ladder.

Peters, a three-term Treasure Island Republican, had little use for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, in the 2017 session, as they battled over state money for tourism and his attacks on local government home rule. She's also an ally of Corcoran's enemy, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. Fed up with Corcoran, Peters won't be back, and will instead run for a seat on the Pinellas County Commission in 2018.

Frustrated with Peters, Corcoran reminded her who's in charge. He removed her as chairman of the House Energy and Utilities Subcommittee, relocated her to a fourth-floor office (gasp!) next to a Democrat, then isolated her to the end of a row next to two vacant seats to be filled by "redshirt" freshmen, beyond the Florida Channel's TV camera angles. "He could have put me on the 14th floor, I suppose," Peters said. …

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Former State Sen. Greg Evers dead at 62

Evers

Times

Evers

Former State Sen. Greg Evers, a Baker Florida farmer and veteran politician, was killed in a single car crash near his home in Okaloosa County late Monday. The Florida Highway Patrol said the death is being investigated. Evers was 62. 

According to a press release from the Florida Highway Patrol released late Tuesday, Lt. Eddie Elmore of the Florida Highway Patrol said that sometime on Monday night, Evers' vehicle "failed to negotiate the curve" on Griffith Mill Road near Baker, crossed the road, crashed through a guardrail, and landed "into a creek where the vehicle became submerged." His car was found on Tuesday afternoon.  Download Evers report - Okaloosa County 8-22-17 2 Form1

Evers, a Republican who left the Senate in 2016 to run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Congress, was born in Milton, Florida, and grew up on his family's farm, later attending Pensacola Community College. He took over his family's fertilizer business and moved it to Baker, where he grew cotton, soybeans, peanuts, wheat, corn and strawberries. …

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Bill Nelson: Confederate statues belong in museum

A day after saying decisions on Confederate monuments should be left to "communities," Sen. Bill Nelson changed his stance:

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Mary McLeod Bethune to replace Edmund Kirby Smith?

Mary McLeod Bethune

[Bethune-Cookman College]

Mary McLeod Bethune

Representing Florida since 1922 in the U.S. Capitol has been the likeness of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith. Why him?

Nobody has a really good answer. The St. Augustine native was the last Confederate general to surrender, and hey, what says American patriotism better than the last holdout of a breakaway bloc of states that wanted to preserve slavery?

Talks of finally replacing Smith have been renewed with Charlottesville and the national debate over Confederate monuments. A Florida lawmaker is hoping to take advantage of this.

According to the News Service of Florida, Rep. Patrick Henry, D-Daytona Beach, has filed  HCR 73, that would replace Smith with one of the three Florida citizens recommended by the ad hoc committee of the Great Floridians Program within the Division of Historical Resources of the Department of State.   …

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Should soft drinks be purchased by those on public assistance?

Coke is not it for some House Republicans

[Coca Cola]

Coke is not it for some House Republicans

Florida House Republicans have felt little hesitation in judging the actions of those who use food stamps, making it harder for many recipients to use them.

Earlier this year, they pushed a bill that would have denied food stamps for 229,000 Floridians, most of them children, in an effort to reduce fraud. (It didn't pass). Budget Chair Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, said fraud was a problem based on his observation at an unspecified date and year that he saw someone in a grocery store use federal help who also had a Mercedes key chain. When he was in the state House in 2013, current U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz tweeted that he saw a woman in a Publix use federal assistance who had back tattoos.

Even though U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics show those receiving public assistance live more frugally than those who don't, their spending habits are being targeted again -- this time over their consumption of soft drinks.

Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, has filed HB 47 that would prohibit participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, for purchasing soft drinks. The bill would require Florida's Department of Children and Families to request a waiver of federal requirements. …

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Bill Nelson shares Rick Scott's cautious stance on Confederate monuments

On the issue of Confederate monuments, Sen. Bill Nelson is taking the cautious route of Gov. Rick Scott.

“My attitude is a monument, a statue, ought to signify unity instead of division,” Nelson, told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on Monday after a speech before the Manatee Chamber of Commerce.

But should Confederate monuments be removed? “I think leaving it up to the good sense of the communities involved is the best thing to do," the Democrat running for re-election said.

That’s effectively what Scott, who is likely to challenge Nelson next year, told the Tampa Bay Times last week.

"We have a democracy," Scott said. "We have the ability to have conversations about things, whether it's policy or things like monuments, and that's what's going on around our country right now. Some of these decisions will need to be made locally, some will be decided at the state level, some will be decided at the federal level, but what everybody needs to do is go through the process that's set up to make policy changes and make changes if they do with regards to a monument."

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NAACP demands Rick Scott and lawmakers remove Confederate symbols from Capitol

Adora Obi Nweze

Special to the Times

Adora Obi Nweze

Given the vacuum left by Gov. Rick Scott's silence on the matter, the NAACP Florida State Conference is calling for the removal of all Confederate symbols at the state Capitol. The group is asking for legislative leaders to support a ban on all Confederate symbols on public property across the state.

Here's a statement released Tuesday quoting Adora Obi Nweze, president of NAACP Florida State Conference and a member of the National Board of Directors. …

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Catholic bishops call on Gov. Scott to halt scheduled execution

Mark James Asay

Florida Department of Corrections

Mark James Asay

It has been 20 months since an inmate has been executed in Florida, and the state's Catholic bishops are calling on Gov. Rick Scott to halt Thursday's scheduled execution of Mark James Asay.

In a letter delivered to Scott Monday, Michael Sheedy, executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote: "Indeed, Mr. Asay's violent acts call out for justice and should be condemned. However, life without parole is an alternative and severe sentence. We hold that if non-lethal means are available to keep society safe from an aggressor, then authority must limit itself to such means."

Read the bishops' letter here.

After a lengthy suspension of Florida's troubled death penalty system due to legal challenges and actions by the Legislature,, Asay, 53, is scheduled to die at 6 p.m. Thursday at Florida State Prison in Starke for the murders of two men, Robert Booker and Robert McDowell, in Jacksonville in 1987. Booker, who was African-American, was shot in the abdomen after he and Asay had a racially-charged confrontation outside a bar. In a summary of the case, the state Supreme Court quoted Asay as having used the N-word three times. …

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