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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Statewide condo law reforms sought by Miami-Dade lawmakers signed into law

C.M. Guerrero / el Nuevo Herald

From Brenda Medina of El Nuevo Herald:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has approved state condominium law reforms that seek to punish voter fraud and theft in condo associations, clarify the definition of conflicts of interest and promote transparency.

Amendments to chapter 718 of the state law will take effect on July 1.

“I am very happy that we have finally achieved some of what is needed to stop fraud and abuse toward condominium owners,” said Maritza Escobar, owner of a condo unit in Hialeah Gardens. “In the future we have to make more changes to stop the abuse from management companies and boards.”

The reforms were presented in Tallahassee as a signature bill by the bipartisan Dade Delegation during the legislative session that ended in May. It was sponsored by Rep. José Félix Díaz and Senators José Javier Rodríguez and René García, and unanimously approved by the state House and Senate.

“That [the governor] signed the law is a victory and one that does not always happen,” said Díaz, whose district encompasses the Fontainebleau neighborhood in west Miami-Dade.

Díaz, who is vying for a Senate seat, said the delegation’s action and community engagement were key to the reforms getting passed. …

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Rick Scott appoints Jonathan Zachem to lead business regulatory agency

Scott appoints Jonathan Zachem as Secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation

DPBR

Scott appoints Jonathan Zachem as Secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation

From the News Service of Florida:

Gov. Rick Scott appointed Jonathan Zachem as Secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation on Tuesday. The department has been without a full-time leader since Ken Lawson left to become president and CEO of tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida in January.

Zachem had been DBPR's deputy secretary and previously served as chief attorney and then director of the agency's Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.

He also worked as in the prosecution services unit at the Florida Department of Health. Matilde Miller, who had been serving as interim secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulations since Lawson left, has also moved to Visit Florida, taking the role of vice president of compliance.

 

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Poll: Republicans poised to unseat Democratic mayor in St. Pete

Charles Frago reports:

A newly released robo poll by St. Pete Polls shows Republican former Mayor Rick Baker beating Kriseman by  a 43.5 to 38.8 percentage point margin.

If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote in the Aug. 29 primary, the race continues until Nov.7. That appears to be a distinct possibility at this point. Only 8.9  percent of voters remain undecided. Another 8.7 percent split their support among the other five candidates on the ballot: Ernisa Barnwell (0 percent), Theresa “Momma Tee” Lassite (3 percent), Paul Congemi (1.7 percent), Anthony Cates III (2 percent) and Jesse Nevel 2.1 percent).

Baker leads Kriseman among white and black voters, although the former mayor, who served between 2001 and 2010, has narrow advantage among the latter: 38 to 36 percent.

Baker also leads among younger voters, although Kriseman did well among voters aged 50-69, receiving 41 percent to Baker’s 39.  Baker captured the vote of those above 70 by a 50-36 percentage point margin, his best showing among age groups. …

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Kellyanne Conway warns of health care spin, but then delivers her own in Miami

White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway is welcomed by state Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-District 105, at the Miami-Dade GOP’s Lincoln Day fundraiser on Tuesday night.

CHARLES TRAINOR JR. | Miami Herald

White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway is welcomed by state Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-District 105, at the Miami-Dade GOP’s Lincoln Day fundraiser on Tuesday night.

On the same day that Senate Republicans were forced to delay a vote on their healthcare legislation because not enough of them wanted to vote for it, White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway defended the bill in Miami.

“I know that people like to spin tales,” she said at the Miami-Dade County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day fundraising dinner. “Do the homework. Read all of the information.”

She, however, was not always providing it.

Conway said the Senate bill, called the “Better Care Reconciliation Act,” would offer “an increase in Medicaid spending every year, with a slowing of the growth of the expansion” promoted by former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

In its report released Monday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded that the lower rate of spending on Medicaid would result in a $772 billion reduction by 2026, about a 26 percent cut over a decade that would leave thousands of people without health insurance. Medicaid, which is run by states but funded by states and the federal government, provides care to the disabled and the needy. …

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Fight between Rick Scott and Aramis Ayala heads to high court

www.flcourts.org

Gov. Rick Scott and Orlando prosecutor Aramis Ayala square off Wednesday before the Florida Supreme Court in a high-profile case being watched nationally that could have implications for the 2018 elections.

Ayala demands that Scott show by what authority he stripped the elected Orange-Osceola state attorney of nearly two dozen felony cases after she said she would not seek the death penalty for an accused cop killer. Scott argues in court papers that under state law, he can reassign cases for any "good and sufficient reason (that) he determines that the ends of justice would be best served."

In her reply brief, Ayala claims that on four occasions, Scott rejected citizen requests to disqualify prosecutors from cases on the grounds that "each state attorney is an elected official charged with the duty to determine how to prosecute any crime committed within his jurisdiction" and that they "answer to the voters of their individual jurisdictions."

 

 …

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Rubio, Scott talk health care as vote put off for now

By Alex Daughtery of the Miami Herald

WASHINGTON - Minutes after he delayed a vote on a bill to repeal Obamacare when a number of Republican senators said they could not support it as written, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell retreated to his office.

Rick Scott and Marco Rubio were waiting for him.

The pair met with McConnell for half an hour, and after the meeting Rubio said the vote delay was “helpful to us.”

“I’m going to view this entirely through the lens of what this means for Florida,” Rubio said. “The one unique advantage that we have being from Florida is that we have done what this law is going to... encourage other states to do.”

Rubio and Scott never publicly opposed the bill, which stalled after a number of senators told McConnell said they could not vote for the legislation in its current shape. But their tepid response, with Rubio summoning health care staffers from Tallahassee to review the bill and Scott declining to say he would vote for it if he could, is evidence of the work Senate leaders need to do to get a bill passed. …

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Bill Nelson knocks Rick Scott over Senate health bill

Sen. Bill Nelson attacked Gov. Rick Scott, his likely 2018 rival, over today's trip to Washington.

"Rick Scott is supporting and urging Republican senators to vote for a bill that makes huge cuts to Medicaid, takes coverage away from 22 million people and allows insurance companies to hike rates for older Americans," Nelson said in a statement. "If he really cared about the people of Florida, he’d be doing the exact opposite of what he’s doing now.”

A vote on the Senate legislation has been called off until after July 4. Scott was scheduled to meet with Sen. Mitch McConnell and Marco Rubio at 3 p.m.

Earlier, he previously declined to say whether Rubio should support the bill as written.

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Graham, Gillum and King urge rejection of Senate health care bill

Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham delivered petitions to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio Tuesday, urging him to reject the Senate health care proposal this week.

Mary Ellen Klas

Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham delivered petitions to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio Tuesday, urging him to reject the Senate health care proposal this week.

As Gov. Rick Scott and other Florida Republicans scramble in D.C. today to try to understand the impact of the proposed Senate healthcare bill on the state, three Democratic candidates for governor offered their own feedback Tuesday. 

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham delivered a three-foot stack of petitions to the Tallahassee office of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, signed by 4,000 people, urging him to reject the proposal because it will hurt more Floridians than it will help.

"This bill is heartless,'' Graham said, urging Rubio to transcend the partisanship surrounding the issue and reject it for Florida. "He doesn't represent the Republican Party. he doesn't represent Donald J. Trump. He represents the people of Florida and that's why he should vote against this bill."

She was joined by Dr. Louis St. Petery, a Tallahassee pediatrician, who feared that the Medicaid cuts and restructuring in the Senate bill will leave thousands of children in the state without care. …

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Man charged with threatening Florida lawmaker on Facebook

This booking photo released by the Miami-Dade Police Department shows Steve St. Felix, who has been charged with threatening to kill Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in a Facebook post.

[Miami-Dade Police Department]

This booking photo released by the Miami-Dade Police Department shows Steve St. Felix, who has been charged with threatening to kill Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in a Facebook post.

From The Associated Press:

MIAMI — A Florida man has been charged with threatening to kill a state legislator in a Facebook post. 

The Miami-Dade Police Department said in a news release Tuesday that 34-year-old Steve St. Felix made the threat on Sunday against Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz. The post said St. Felix would kill the lawmaker if he appeared at a political meeting. 

Police say St. Felix admitted making the threatening post after his arrest and that he is "fed up with the Republican Party." Investigators also say St. Felix said he meant no actual harm and that he had failed to take unspecified medication at the time. 

St. Felix is jailed on a charge of making written threats to kill or do bodily injury. Court records didn't list a lawyer for him.

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Crist puts Beach Drive condo on market

Congressman Charlie Crist in his Washington office.

Alex Leary | Times

Congressman Charlie Crist in his Washington office.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo on the market for $1.5 million.

The couple, who are divorcing, bought the three-bedroom, three bath unit in Parkshore Plaza in July 2015 for $1.036 million while Crist was considering what would be his successful run for the U.S. House. At a time when congressional district boundaries were still uncertain, the couple also bought at house on St. Pete Beach that they sold in January for $1.030 million.

Crist met Carole, a glamorous fixture on the New York and Hamptons social circuit, in the fall of 2007. They got engaged in July 2008 when he was a Republican governor widely seen as a top contender to be Sen. John McCain's vice presidential running mate.

Last November, he was elected to the U.S. House, representing much of Pinellas County.

In February, shortly after taking his seat, Crist announced he had filed for divorce.

More here.

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Gov. Scott in Washington as health care debate intensifies

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks at Creative Sign Designs in Tampa on June 13.

CHRIS URSO | Times

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks at Creative Sign Designs in Tampa on June 13.

Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday began a daylong series of meetings in Washington on health care, saying he wants to ensure Florida gets its share of Medicaid funding while praising parts of the Senate GOP’s Obamacare replacement.

“I like the fact that they are getting rid of the mandates (to carry insurance) and they are getting rid of the taxes,” Scott said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times.

“I’d like to make sure that we have a block grant program to where we have less regulation in our state. We should be able to decide the benefits for our Medicaid program and not the federal government.”

Scott, a former health care executive, said Florida should be treated fairly under Medicaid and that he would push policy makers on that point. “Just take a state like New York. For our basic Medicaid program, we have a million more people than New York. The federal government gives them $23 billion and gives us $14 billion. There’s no logic to that. It’s not fair,” Scott said.

He also said he wants to ensure that anyone in Florida, including those with pre-existing conditions, “has the right to buy the insurance plan that they want to buy.”

Though Scott said he was still reviewing the Senate bill, his view on the existing law is unambiguous. "Obamacare was sold on a complete lie. It was supposed to drive down the cost of health care ... ."

Below is his schedule.Full Story

Opinions across Florida: The Disciples of Darkness

From left to right, top to bottom, here are 12 bay area Florida House members and their grades on openness: Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, D-plus; Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, D-plus; Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, D-plus; Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, D-minus; Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, D-minus; Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City, D-plus; Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, D-plus; Rep. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, D-plus; Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, D-plus; Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, D-minus; Rep. Amber Mariano, R-Hudson, D-plus; House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, D-plus.

Tampa Bay Times

From left to right, top to bottom, here are 12 bay area Florida House members and their grades on openness: Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, D-plus; Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, D-plus; Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, D-plus; Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, D-minus; Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, D-minus; Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City, D-plus; Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, D-plus; Rep. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, D-plus; Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, D-plus; Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, D-minus; Rep. Amber Mariano, R-Hudson, D-plus; House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, D-plus.

Here's a roundup of opinions from Florida news outlets.

These are dark times for Florida's government-in-the-sunshine laws. The Florida Legislature continued to pass exemptions that chip away at the guarantee of open meetings and records. And Tampa Bay's delegation certainly helped this trend, according to a scorecard handed out by the Florida Society of News Editors. That Tampa Bay Times editorial board singled out the lawmakers for their poor marks in a Tuesday editorial.

These 12 Tampa Bay legislators, who happen to be all Republicans, aren't alone. The FSNE scorecard handed out three F's (none in Tampa Bay), 77 D's, 71 C's and 9 B's. But these 12 shared the same disappointing voting records. They all voted to allow two members of any school board, county commission or city council to meet in secret to discuss public business without any public notice or record of what was said. That is illegal now, and it would have taken government into the dark back rooms of 50 years ago. …

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Gov. Scott signs school funding, economic development bills

Florida Gov. Rick Scott

AP

Florida Gov. Rick Scott

From the News Service of Florida:

Gov. Rick Scott signed 29 bills late Monday, including measures boosting spending on education, tourism marketing and economic development.

By signing the bills, and vetoing five more, Scott essentially closed the books on this year’s regular and special legislative sessions.

The bills Scott approved included perhaps one of the hardest-fought wins of his time as governor: a measure (HB 1A) that provided $76 million for the tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida; established an $85 million fund to pay for infrastructure improvements and job training to help draw businesses; and set aside $50 million in repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike along Lake Okeechobee.

That legislation was approved in this month’s special session after the House refused to approve direct business incentives that Scott prefers and gave far less for Visit Florida than he had requested during the regular session, which ended in May. …

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Bill Nelson Video: Talk to this Florida mom before you call Obamacare a failure

Sen. Bill Nelson spoke on the senate floor about the health care reform debate, sharing the story of a single Florida mother trying to keep alive her daughter, kindergarten teacher Megan Geller, who died at age 28 in 2015 after a two-year battle with leukemia.

 

“The mom of this girl, had she been faced with this without insurance coverage, she would be bankrupt. She wouldn't have been able to even afford the first transplant, much less the two years of extra life that her daughter had fighting for her life. And anybody who goes through something like Elaine and her daughter Megan did knows that every second counts. That's what this health care debate is really about, giving people peace of mind, giving them that financial security, that certainty, putting people's health ahead of other things, like company profits.”

 

 

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Rubio remains noncommital on Obamacare replacement but a likely yes vote

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. speaks at an event in Miami, Friday, June 16, 2017, where President Donald Trump announced a revised Cuba policy aimed at stopping the flow of U.S. cash to the country's military and security services while maintaining diplomatic relations.

[Associated Press]

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. speaks at an event in Miami, Friday, June 16, 2017, where President Donald Trump announced a revised Cuba policy aimed at stopping the flow of U.S. cash to the country's military and security services while maintaining diplomatic relations.

Sen. Marco Rubio has been bombarded with phone calls, emails and on Monday, protests took place outside his offices in Doral and Palm Beach Gardens. But while the effort is most unlikely to dissuade the Florida Republican from voting for the Obamacare replacement -- if it even comes up for a vote this week -- he remains noncommittal.

Rubio's office worked Monday to show him engaged on improvements to the bill, distributing a picture of a meeting with staff for legislative leaders in Tallahassee, whom Rubio invited to Washington. (It's not clear what those meetings have produced.)

I appreciate @FLGovScott, @joenegronfl, & @richardcorcoran sending their staff to DC to help us sort through #bettercare impact on #Florida pic.twitter.com/Aixn4qeSEO

Rubio has outlined areas of concern, including tying tax credits to income, while laying down a justification for dismantling the Affordable Care Act. He's repeatedly reminded voters that he ran in opposition to the law. Rubio also foreshadowed a response to Monday's Congressional Budget Office score, showing 22 million more people would be without coverage by 2026. …

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