04/21/2017 06:55 AM EDT
Good Friday morning. Good grief, just when you thought it couldn't get weirder ...
AS THE ARTILES TURNS AND BURNS - Miami state Sen. Frank Artiles lit a figurative fire in the Senate for offending colleagues with incendiary racial and derogatory remarks. But rather than let the embers burn out, Artiles hired the political equivalent of a flamethrower: attorney Steve Andrews. Andrews - who in 2010 filed an unsuccessful lawsuit seeking to keep now-Gov. Rick Scott off the ballot by arguing he was a "public hazard" under Florida product liability law - promptly began turning up the heat on Republican leadership Thursday by filing records requests for correspondence, threatening to depose some members, claiming Artiles' speech was constitutionally protected and demanding some senators recuse themselves from hearing a Senate rules complaint calling for Artiles' expulsion.
BACKFIRE? - Yesterday morning, it looked as if Artiles would survive an expulsion vote, which takes two-thirds of the Senate's membership and therefore would require 12 Republicans to side with 15 Democrats. But the more Artiles inflames his fellow Republicans, the less sympathy they have for him - especially as one of his friends in the state House called the Senate's process a "kangaroo court" (the House has a similar rules process, FYI). "His apology the other day didn't sound like he was sorry. And he's not acting like he's sorry. It's like 'Look, Frank, you're running out of friends. Are you daring us to do this?' I think he has lost his mind," said one Senate Republican.
BONDI LEADS - While other Republican leaders have shied away from calling on Artiles to resign, Attorney General Pam Bondi almost went there in an exclusive interview with POLITICO Florida: "There is simply no room for racial, hurtful language spoken to your colleagues or anyone else. I have always liked Frank and hope he gives serious consideration to resigning so the focus can return to important legislative issues." Read more
- "If I had an employee who said what he said, I would immediately fire him," Gov. Scott told reporters in Tampa. He didn't go as far as Bondi. And of all the people he can't stand in Tallahassee, Andrews might top the list.
- "Frank Artiles delivers Joe Negron his first crisis as Senate president," by TCPalm's Isadora Rangel: Read more
- "Rep. Oliva: Conflicted senators are 'railroading' Artiles over slurs," by Miami Herald's Mary Ellen Klas, Patricia Mazzei and Kristen M. Clark: Read more
- "What you're seeing in Tallahassee is the good ol' Republican Cuban Boys Club in action," by Miami Herald's Fabiola Santiago: Read more
- "Lawyer: Florida senator's slurs are protected free speech," by AP's Brendan Farrington: Read more
... TALLAHASSEE REPORT ...
SCHOOL CHOICE FILES - "Bill easing local zoning requirements for charter schools: Ensuring parity or going too far?" by POLITICO Florida's Jessica Bakeman: Legislative proposals making it easier for charter schools to open in existing facilities like churches or libraries have revived a familiar education policy fight: Are charters and traditional public schools receiving equal treatment, or is one type of school getting a better deal than the other? Read story here
TERMINATED - "Report of 'life threatening' conditions spurs state to end prison health care contract," by POLITICO Florida's Daniel Ducassi: After receiving a report from state officials about 'life-threatening' deficiencies at a South Florida prison, the Florida Department of Corrections this week terminated a $238 million prison healthcare contract with Wexford Health Sources, Inc. The firm's "lack of performance" has left Florida DOC secretary Julie Jones "absolutely outraged," a spokeswoman said. Read story here
READ THE FINE PRINT - "Medicaid money may not be cure-all for hospitals - or budget writers," by POLITICO Florida's Christine Sexton: Policymakers cheering Florida's unexpected Medicaid windfall may want to read the fine print first. Some have hailed the Trump administration's decision to double the amount of Medicaid supplemental funding available for Florida in the upcoming year as a last-minute boon that could help the House and Senate strike a hard-fought budget deal. But hammering out the "special terms and conditions" accompanying the $1.5 billion spending authority could be a large obstacle to reaching a budget agreement in the waning days of this year's session. That's because the conditionsthe state would have to abide by are still more restrictive than what the counties and hospital taxing districts that contribute the required matching funds would like. The hospitals think the current draft rules put the program at about half of that $1.5 billion figure. Read story here
- "Lawmakers poised to address septic tanks with watered down bill," by TCPalm's Isadora Rangel: "This probably won't be the year lawmakers force septic tank inspections to protect waterways, but they are on the path to get an accurate account of how many exist in the state." Read more
PLACE YOUR BETS - "Gambling amendment gets court approval as legislators cancel conference," by Sun Sentinel's Dan Sweeney: "Following a Florida Supreme Court decision Thursday morning that gave the green light to a proposed constitutional amendment on gambling, negotiations between the Florida House and Senate over gambling legislation were called off. The court ruled 4-2 that the amendment's wording was not misleading and sticks to one subject. The amendment gives Florida voters the 'exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling.' Backers of the amendment will still need to gather more than 700,000 signatures to make the 2018 ballot. They had submitted 74,626 signatures as of Thursday, according to the state Division of Elections." Read more
DRUG WAR CASUALTIES - "How Florida Entraps Pain Patients, Forces Them to Snitch, Then Locks Them Up for Decades," by Reason.com's Lauren Krisai and C.J. Ciaramella: A "Reason analysis revealed that there are more than 2,000 inmates serving sentences in the state for trafficking oxycodone/hydrocodone. Although Florida legislators passed the laws with the intention of going after large-scale traffickers, 63 percent of those currently serving time for pill trafficking offenses are first-time inmates ... [Many] were set up by confidential informants who started working for the police after their own arrests ... another 20 percent were previously incarcerated, but for a drug or property crime only. Just 17 percent had been previously incarcerated for a violent offense. Some 435 are over the age of 50, which is the age prisoners are defined as elderly in Florida. Of those, 53 percent have never been to prison before, and 26 percent have been imprisoned previously for a drug or property crime only.
"What these numbers show is that, more often than not, Florida prosecutors used opioid trafficking laws to imprison the bottom rung of the drug trade-addicts or people with prescriptions who sold on the side for extra cash-rather than high-level dealers." Read more
- "Read More Profiles of People Crushed by Florida's Draconian Opioid Laws," by Reason's C.J. Ciaramella: Read more
LONG WAY TO GO - "Voting rights for ex-felons in Florida closer to getting on the ballot," by Sun Sentinel's Steven Lemongello: "The movement led by Desmond Meade of Orlando to restore voting rights to non-violent ex-felons is one step closer to fruition. The Florida Supreme Court approved Thursday the language of a proposed state ballot initiative to restore those rights, paving the way for its placement on the November 2018 ballot. But Meade's group, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, still needs to collect hundreds of thousands of more signatures if they hope to actually bring the measure before voters." Read more
COSTS OF BEING SHADY - "Florida agencies that break records laws could pay price," by AP's staff: "Government agencies would have to pay attorney fees for people who successfully sue them to obtain public records under a bill heading to Florida Gov. Rick Scott. The House unanimously passed the bill Thursday. It means government agencies would have to pay attorney fees if a judge determines they broke the state's open government laws by not providing records. The law would apply if someone seeking records gave written notice of what they were trying to obtain at least five business days before filing suit." Read more
... TRUMPLANDIA ...
SURVEY SAYS - Trump's Mar-a-Lago (and other private-property) visits are unpopular with voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday: "Trump spends too much time at properties owned by his company, voters say 55 - 34 percent. He does not spend enough time at the White House, 50 percent of voters say, while 2 percent say he spends too much time and 38 percent say he spends the right amount of time." Read more
MAR-A-LAGO CONTROVERSY - "Secret meeting at Mar-a-Lago raises questions about Colombia peace and Trump," by McClatchy's Franco Ordoñez and Anita Kumar: "President Donald Trump quietly met a pair of former Colombian presidents last weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, thrusting his administration into an ugly power struggle in Latin America that threatens to undermine the country's controversial peace agreement with rebel leaders. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is expected to push Trump to support the peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia at their first meeting at the White House next month. He wants the Trump administration and Congress to maintain the $450 million in foreign aid promised by former President Barack Obama to implement the plan to end Latin America's longest armed conflict." Read more
FLORIDA'S FRIENDLIEST HOMETOWN - "The Villages gave $250,000 to Trump inaugural committee," by Orlando Sentinel's Steven Lemongello: "Dozens of corporations and companies gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to President Donald Trump's inauguration - and so did The Villages. According to documents filed this week with the Federal Election Commission, the massive age-restricted community development district in northeast Lake, south Marion and east Sumter counties contributed $250,000 to help fund Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20. That amount was equal to the contributions of companies such as Charter Communications, Comcast, Pepsi and Ford Motor Co., according to a summary of the filing by The Center for Public Integrity, or CPI." Read more
THE APPRENTICE - "Rick Scott latches himself to Donald Trump," by Tampa Bay Times' Alex Leary: Read more
... AROUND THE STATE ...
BIPARTISAN - "Rubio, Nelson avoid town halls with voters," by Orlando Sentinel's Steven Lemongello: "Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson have not held any open town hall meetings this year, even during the continuing two-week Senate recess. The senators' offices did cite meetings with different groups, including students and business owners, but said there were no current plans for any town halls that would be open to anyone who wants to attend." Read more
RENTAL WIN - "Court temporarily blocks Miami's ban on app-based short-term rentals," by WPLG 10's Glenna Milberg: "Five Miami hosts backed by Airbnb filed the lawsuit last week, alleging the City of Miami was ignoring Florida State law by reinterpreting local zoning codes as a ban on short-term rentals, responding to residents who fear home renters will ruin their quality of life. The lawsuit also takes issue with the city's action against the hosts who came forward publicly to defend their businesses at a recent city commission meeting." Read more
THE NEW CUBA - "GM quits Venezuela after government seizes its factory," by AP's Juan Carlos Hernandez and Joshua Goodman: "General Motors announced Thursday that it was shuttering its operations in Venezuela after authorities seized its factory in the country, a move that could draw the Trump administration into the escalating chaos engulfing the South American nation amid days of deadly protests. The plant in the industrial city of Valencia was confiscated on Wednesday as anti-government protesters clashed with security forces and pro-government groups in a country battered by economic troubles, including food shortages and triple-digit inflation. Three people were killed and hundreds arrested in the deadliest day of protests since the unrest began three weeks ago." Read more here
BOTTOMING OUT - "Vanishing ocean floor in the Florida Keys worsens risks from sea rise, study finds," by Miami Herald's Jenny Staletovich: "If sea rise weren't scary enough, scientists have now found another phenomenon threatening the Florida Keys and other coasts protected by reefs: a vanishing ocean floor. In a study published today in the journal Biogeosciences, a team from the U.S. Geological Survey documented a dramatic erosion of the sea floor around coral reefs, ranging from a few inches to nearly three feet since the 1930s. Combined with sea rise, the disappearing bottom means the hazards facing coasts - storm surge from hurricanes and even erosion from everyday waves - will likely be worse than now projected, especially for the low-lying Keys." Read more
TENSE TIMES - "This Florida military unit is watching for North Korean nuclear bomb tests," by Pensacola News Journal's Rick Neale: "Headquartered at Patrick Air Force Base, the Air Force Technical Applications Center operates and maintains the U.S. Atomic Energy Detection System. Operating on all seven continents, this $3 billion surveillance network of more than 3,600 high-tech sensors - including seismic sensors, ocean hydrophones and gamma detectors - identifies nuclear detonations underground, underwater, and in the Earth's atmosphere and space." Read more
WE DON'T NEED ANOTHER HERO - "Police Union President Calls Cop Who Shot Charles Kinsey a 'Hero'," by Miami New Times' Jerry Iannelli: "Police unions are paid to defend cops who find themselves ensnared in legal trouble. That's the basic reason those unions exist. But there's a bit of a difference between providing legal support to a cop accused of shooting an innocent man and what Dade County Police Benevolent Association President John Rivera did last week. In an April 13 letter New Times obtained, Rivera referred to Jonathan Aledda, the North Miami cop who was charged with attempted manslaughter last week after he shot the unarmed, innocent Charles Kinsey last July, as a 'hero.' He also called Aledda's arrest 'horrific,' 'malicious,' and orchestrated by 'cowards.'" Read more
... ODDS, ENDS AND FLORIDA MEN ...
- "New retail medical marijuana dispensary - 'not a head shop' - opens in Miami," by Miami Herald's Joey Flechas and David Smiley: Read more
- "Florida far from Gov. Rick's promise to lead nation in reading, math," by PolitiFact's Amy Sherman: Read more
- "After nearly two months on a precarious trek to America, asylum-seekers now miss Cuba," by Miami Herald's Lisette Poole: Read more
- "Many Poor Venezuelans Are Too Hungry to Join Antigovernment Protests," by Wall Street Journal's Anatoly Kurmanaev and Kemal Vyas: Read more
- "Manatee farmers hurt by falling tomato prices," by Bradenton Herald's James A. Jones Jr.: Read more
- "Great white shark Katharine pops up off Vero Beach," by TCPalm's staff:Read more
- "17 charged in Polk heroin trafficking investigation," by The Ledger's Gary White: Read more
- "Man with alleged ISIS sympathies accused of plotting to kill federal judge in Tampa," by Tampa Bay Times' Dan Sullivan: Read more
- "Noor Salman trial starts in March; summonses to be sent in September, judge says," by Orlando Sentinel's Rene Stutzman: Read more
- "22 dogs rescued from 'absolutely disgusting' scene, St. Lucie sheriff says," by Orlando Sentinel's Sara Nealeigh: Read more
- "Sentenced to death, man paroled after 1977 Sandy Creek murders," by Tallahassee Democrat's Karl Etters: Read more
- "Golden Gate Estate brush fires: Mandatory evacuations issued," by Naples Daily News staff: Read more
- "82-year-old bride-to-be awaits Florida fiance's parole after 32 years," by AP's staff: Full story
OF COURSE HE DID - "Florida man bites dog - then his brother, police say," by Miami Herald's Alex Harris: "When 4-month-old Phoebe started 'acting up,' police said Zachary Kelly tried to 'teach the dog a lesson.' The 30-year-old man is accused of holding the puppy down and biting her on the ears, according to Fox5, until she yelped. This set off a fight with his brother, Kelly's girlfriend told the TV station. The Brevard County man bit his brother on the chest, police said." Read more
DEATH OF AN EASTER GATOR - "Captured gator photographed wearing bunny ears killed," by Palm Beach Post's Ryan DiPentima: "What started out as what one South Florida woman thought would be a harmless photo has led to a somber ending. A Royal Palm Beach homeowner called Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Sunday saying a 5-foot-long gator had been hanging around her property for a month and a half. It got too close for comfort, and out of fear for the safety of her 2-year-old child, she wanted it gone. When a trapper arrived, the homeowner, who did not want to be identified, had just finished an Easter egg hunt. As the alligator's mouth was taped shut and a leash was around its neck, she placed bunny ears on top of it and snapped a photo." Read more
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