Make us your home page

The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Judge blocks parts of abortion law hours before it goes into effect

A federal judge late Thursday night blocked parts of a controversial abortion law within hours of it going into effect.

The injunction, written by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle, orders the state to maintain contracts for preventive care with abortion clinics including Planned Parenthood and prevents a new rule that would require 50 percent of all abortion clinic records to be reviewed by the state each year.

Hinkle's ruling simply blocks these parts of the law from going into effect while the case is argued or unless a higher court overturns his decision. He wrote in the opinion that he expects the defunding and record inspection provisions will likely be ruled unconstitional.

Backstory: The three provisions of Florida's abortion law challenged by Planned Parenthood

Attorney General Pam Bondi's office could not be immediately reached Thursday night for comment on whether it planned to appeal the decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Leaders with Planned Parenthood, which sued the state over the law, said in written statements that they were pleased with the decision. …

Full Story

Governor's net worth drops $27 million as he draws more income from blind trust

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a multi-millionaire former businessman, saw his net worth decline $27 million last year as his blind trust dropped in value.

Scott filed his annual financial disclosure form Thursday, showing that his net worth was more than $119 million at the end of 2015, a 19 percent drop from the previous year.

Scott, a former hospital executive, has maintained most of his assets in the Gov. Richard L. Scott 2014 Qualified Blind Trust. The law allows public officials to create a blind trust in lieu of revealing their assets on a financial disclosure form.

The governor’s blind trust is managed by a third party — a company that includes a longtime business associate of Scott. By law, the trust is intended to shield his investments from his direct control, but it also shields them from public disclosure.

The governor reported that in 2015 his blind trust dropped in value from $127.8 million to $100 million, but the governor also drew more income from the trust last year than he did in 2014. …

Full Story

Gov. Rick Scott's still a multi-millionaire, but...

Our friends at the AP are reporting that Gov. Rick Scott's net worth dropped nearly 19 percent from the prior year.

But don't worry about Scott's finances. He still listed a net worth of $119 million by the end of 2015.

Read the story here.


Full Story

Still no Supreme Court decision on death penalty with one week left before recess

With one week left before the Florida Supreme Court goes on its summer recess, the justices have yet to rule on one of the most anticipated and politically charged questions facing them this year: Whether to commute the sentences of 390 death row inmates after the state’s death penalty laws were struck down and rewritten this spring.

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case called Hurst vs. Florida that the process used to sentence people to death in the state was unconstitutional.

Without a valid death penalty law on the books, the Florida Legislature passed new laws for death sentences that will leave the decision to the jury, which has to find one aggravating circumstance and agree to the death penalty on a 10-2 vote.

What remains unclear is how the Hurst decision will impact those who have already been sentenced to death.

Defense attorneys for death-row inmates have argued their clients’ sentences should be commuted to life in prison. But the state has stood by the original death sentences. …

Full Story

Donald Trump denies listening in on Mar-a-lago phone calls

Here's an odd, anonymously sourced one from Buzzfeed:

At Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach resort he runs as a club for paying guests and celebrities, Donald Trump had a telephone console installed in his bedroom that acted like a switchboard, connecting to every phone extension on the estate, according to six former workers. Several of them said he used that console to eavesdrop on calls involving staff.

Trump’s spokeswoman Hope Hicks responded to written questions with one sentence: “This is totally and completely untrue.”

More here

Full Story

Patrick Murphy gears up for the TV air war against Alan Grayson

The Patrick Murphy U.S. Senate campaign has reserved nearly $1.7-million in TV time for commercials over the final four weeks leading up to the Aug. 30 primary against Democrat Alan Grayson. The campaign has reserved air time in the Tampa, Orlando, Miami and Jacksonville markets.

Murphy already has radio ads airing in much of the state targeting African-American voters and featuring Barack Obama, and as of March 31 had a lot more money on hand than Grayson: $5.6 million versus $400,000.

Full Story

Alan Grayson to launch six-figure ad buy in Florida's U.S. Senate race

With 60 days until the primary election, Florida's Democratic contest for U.S. Senate continues to ramp up.

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, is making a six-figure ad buy that will start airing on Florida TV stations soon, Grayson's spokesman Dave Damron confirmed today.

No other details on the ad buy are available yet, including how much exactly Grayson plans to spend, which markets his ads will air in and what the focus of his ads will be.

Politico first reported on the ad buy.

Grayson is competing in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary against fellow U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, Miami labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith, former assistant U.S. attorney Reginald Luster of Jacksonville and California real estate developer "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente of Orlando.

The candidates' next quarterly campaign finance reports to the Federal Elections Commission are due July 15, so it's unclear how much cash on hand Grayson has to spend at this point.

Headed into April, Grayson had about $430,000 in cash on hand, compared to the $5.6 million Murphy had in the bank by that point.

Full Story

PolitiFact: The truth so far in the 2016 presidential election

On March 23, 2015, in a college auditorium in Virginia, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz became the first major candidate to announce his campaign for president.

From then until now -- a span of 465 days -- PolitiFact has been watching the candidates and fact-checking their claims. Through June 29, we have published 650 fact-checks of the presidential candidates on our Truth-O-Meter.

That’s more than one new fact-check a day, and as you can imagine, a lot of Mostly False, False and Pants on Fire claims.

We get asked all the time how the candidates compare. We often fret the question because we don’t fact-check every claim a politician makes (we’d never sleep), and we may fact-check a statement multiple times if candidates keep repeating themselves. GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump, for instance, has often made the False claim that the United States is "the highest taxed nation in the world," and we've fact-checked it four times.

Keep reading Aaron Sharockman's story from PolitiFact.

Full Story

Keep an eye on these Florida House races

News Service of Florida's Brandon Larrabee has a good roundup of key Florida state House races this year:

There is little danger that Republicans will lose their stranglehold on the Florida House of Representatives this year. The party has an 81-39 edge in the chamber even after the passage of the anti-gerrymandering "Fair Districts" amendments approved by voters in 2012, and the redistricting that followed.

However, Democrats would like to get back to 40 seats or above in the November elections, in part because denying Republicans a two-thirds majority would allow the minority party to have a little more leverage in how the chamber is run.

Both parties are watching several seats --- many of them along the Interstate 4 corridor that roughly bisects Florida and serves as the state's political heartland --- to see if Democrats can make progress in the fall elections. And with qualifying having wrapped up last week, those races are taking shape.

Here are some of the most prominent: …

Full Story

Senate candidate Carlos Beruff remains optimistic despite odds

LUTZ — The table was set for 14.

But by the time U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff arrived at the Lutz Carrabas, only four people had shown up. Counting the organizers and campaign workers, the number of people who had to be at the meet-and-greet with the businessman-turned-politician exceeded the number of people who wanted to be.

The event by the Pasco Federated Republican Women's Club was initially billed as a debate among five GOP senate candidates. But after cancellations, Beruff found himself sharing the long table on the restaurant's patio with long-shot candidate Ernie Rivera, with State Road 54 and Suncoast Parkway traffic audible in the background.

Despite the lackluster showing, and a recent poll putting him 52 points behind front-running incumbent and former presidential candidate Marco Rubio, Beruff laughed off any concerns.

"Is that all?" he joked with a reporter before the meet-and-greet. "That's not bad. I'm not 90 points behind. It's only 52."

He said he prefers the underdog position, even though he'll have to increase his support by a percentage point a day until the Aug. 30 primary, which is 62 days away. …

Full Story

New Florida poll highlights the steep climb facing Carlos Beruff against Marco Rubio

That Donald Trump crushed Marco Rubio by nearly 20 percentage points in Rubio's home state primary this year would seem to suggest Rubio has a serious problem with his base - and with his millionaire U.S. Senate primary challenger Carlos Beruff. That may turn out to be the case, but fresh polling data from Associated Industries of Florida shows what a tough hurdle Beruff faces. The June 27 and 28 survey of 732 likely Republican primary voters found 71 percent had a favorable view of Rubio and 21 percent unfavorable. Little known Beruff was viewed favorably by 11 percent and unfavorably by 9 percent (Donald Trump was 62/32).

Those are not poll numbers pointing to a frontrunner, Rubio, with a serious problem with his Republican voters -- as former Gov. Charlie Crist did in 2010, when Rubio pulled his historic upset over the former governor. The AIF poll found that 71 percent of voters said they would vote for Rubio and just 7 percent for Beruff, who already has spent at least $4-million of his own money on TV ads. Ernie Rivera and Dwight Mark Anthony Young - two unknowns also on the primary ballot - each drew 2 percent, and 18 percent said they were undecided. …

Full Story

How Fair Districts may lead to a whiter Florida Senate

Supporters of the FairDistricts redistricting reform repeatedly stressed that drawing fairer, more compact and competitive districts would not necessarily mean less diverse representation. But the close of candidate qualifying last week left an awkward landscape for Florida Democratic leaders: The very real prospect that Democratic-leaning districts drawn with the expectation they would be represented by Aftican-Americans or Hispanics winding up represented instead by wealthy or well-funded white candidates, who in several cases could benefit from Democratic primaries crowded with several minority candidates.

"We're looking at at it and we're concerned," said state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, Chairwoman of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus. "We need a diverse senate that looks like Florida, and we need a diverse congressional delegation that looks like Florida." …

Full Story

Potential Florida CFO candidate Pat Neal takes name out of running

After years of setting up to run for statewide office, Manatee County land developer and key Republican fundraiser Pat Neal said Wednesday that he has decided against running for chief financial officer of Florida, partly due to the “dispiriting” rise of Donald Trump.

For parts of the last two years, Neal had been not so quietly laying groundwork to run for CFO in 2018 when current office holder Jeff Atwater is term limited out of office. In 2014 when Atwater considered leaving the post early to become a college president but did not, Neal acknowledged his interest in the statewide position to reporters.

Neal, a former state senator, said his main reason for not running is that the housing market is booming and he needs to focus his time and energy on his business. 

But, Neal made it a point in an interview with the Times/Herald to note his frustration at watching Trump’s emergence.

“Trump’s candidacy and its success has been dispiriting to me,” Neal said.

He said Trump’s rise reflects a Republican Party that he does not understand. …

Full Story

Beruff on new poll: I've been an underdog my whole life

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff said he is not worried about public polling that shows him getting crushed by Sen. Marco Rubio in their Aug. 30 primary.

During an interview on NewsRadio 610 WIOD earlier today, Beruff was asked by host Fernand R. Amandi about a Bay News 9 poll that shows Rubio with 63 percent of the vote compared to just 11 percent for Beruff. Another 13 percent in the poll were undecided.

“I’ve been an underdog my whole life,” Beruff responded.

Beruff said he is undaunted about being the only Republican left to take on on Rubio head to head in the primary.

“It’s sorta fun now to be the only guy left standing,” Beruff said.

As expected, Beruff spent much of his 18 minutes on the show blasting Rubio for “accomplishing nothing” during his more than 5 years in the U.S. Senate.

Check out the full interview here:



Full Story

PolitiFact debunks some attacks on Patrick Murphy's resume

A PAC supporting Marco Rubio’s Republican Senate re-election unleashed attacks on Patrick Murphy’s background.

Florida First Project used quotes by CBS4 Miami’s Jim DeFede about Murphy’s experience as a businessman and Certified Public Accountant. Murphy "isn’t who he says he is," says the narrator in the web ad.

Murphy’s campaign disputed several claims in DeFede’s investigation. Time for PolitiFact Florida to weigh in.

We found that Murphy’s description of his past employment is based on actual circumstances, but at times he omits a full explanation. The ad uses the most damning quotes by DeFede without including some of the crucial details.

More here

Full Story