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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

South Florida water managers pick insider to be third director in 3 years

Ernie Marks was named the new executive director of the South Florida Water Management District Monday.

Courtesy of South Florida Water Management District

Ernie Marks was named the new executive director of the South Florida Water Management District Monday.

The South Florida Water Management District chose its deputy director as the agency’s new chief, replacing a combative insider close to the governor with a career environmental regulator who has spent more than a decade working on Everglades restoration.

Ernie Marks, who joined the district in March 2016, becomes the third director in three years.

Marks served as the South Florida regional director for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for two years and before that oversaw ecosystem projects for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for a decade. He has a degree in environmental economics and natural resource management from the University of Rhode Island.

Marks was the only person nominated for the position during the board’s 31-minute meeting, largely spent praising the work of outgoing director, Pete Antonacci, the former general counsel for Gov. Rick Scott who earlier this month was named new chief of Enterprise Florida.

“Pete was the right guy at the right time,” said board chairman Dan O’Keefe. “My advice to Enterprise Florida: Brace yourselves and fasten your seat belts.” …

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Conservative watchdog group calls for investigation of Wasserman Schultz

A conservative anti-corruption watchdog group is asking for an ethics investigation of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., after former House IT aide Imran Awan was apprehended trying the flee the country. In a complaint that will be filed Monday, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) asks if Wasserman Schultz violated the House's rules by continuing to pay Awan after he was cut off from the House computer system.

[Associated Press]

A conservative anti-corruption watchdog group is asking for an ethics investigation of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., after former House IT aide Imran Awan was apprehended trying the flee the country. In a complaint that will be filed Monday, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) asks if Wasserman Schultz violated the House's rules by continuing to pay Awan after he was cut off from the House computer system.

A conservative anti-corruption watchdog group is asking for an ethics investigation of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston., after former House IT aide Imran Awan was apprehended trying the flee the country. In a complaint that will be filed Monday, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) asks if Wasserman Schultz violated the House's rules by continuing to pay Awan after he was cut off from the House computer system.

"It appears that Representative Wasserman Schultz permitted an employee to remain on the House payroll in violation of House Ethics Rules," FACT's Matthew Whitaker writes in the letter to the Office of Congressional Ethics. "After Awan was barred from accessing the House computer system, Wasserman Schultz continued to pay Awan with taxpayer funds for IT consulting - a position that he could not reasonably be able to perform." …

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Florida adds three 'travel related' Zika cases

Aedes Aegypti mosquito in the lab at Pinellas County Mosquito Control.

[JIM DAMASKE | Tampa Bay Times]

Aedes Aegypti mosquito in the lab at Pinellas County Mosquito Control.

From the News Service of Florida:

Florida added three new “travel related” Zika cases during the past week, bringing to 116 the number of reported cases of the mosquito-borne virus this year, according to numbers posted Monday on the state Department of Health website.

State numbers a week earlier showed 113 cases. The state does not have any areas where ongoing transmission of the virus is occurring, according to the Department of Health. But incidences of infected people bringing the virus into the state --- known as “travel related” cases --- continue to increase.

The new numbers show 88 travel-related infections reported this year. Another 22 cases involve people who were exposed to Zika in 2016 and tested in 2017, with the nature of the exposures listed as “undetermined.” Another six cases involve people who were infected in the state in 2016 and tested in 2017. Zika is particularly dangerous to pregnant women because it can cause severe birth defects.

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Hopefuls emerge for next So Fla water district director

The sun rises over the Florida Everglades

Jon Kral for the Miami Herald

The sun rises over the Florida Everglades

Who will be the next director of the South Florida Water Management District?

The board convenes today in a conference call to announce a replacement to outgoing director Pete Antonacci, who was named by Gov. Rick Scott last week to head the embattled Enterprise Florida economic development agency, a lateral move for the governor's former general counsel and loyal supporter.

The replacement director may be an interim appointment or permanent -- potentially, only an 18-month job -- and the candidates include:

Once the new, or interim ED is in place, one question ahead is whether the  new director will pivot the agency to reversing the decision by Antonacci to sever ties with the National Academies of Science. Antonacci apparently took the governor's office, and his political staff, by surprise when he announced to the governing board that he no longer wanted his staff to continue the relationship with the top scientists charged with reviewing the Everglades project. 

The organization has a $358,000 annual contract with the SFWMD and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review Everglades restoration progress and to produce a report every other year. …

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Matt Gaetz sponsors amendment based on Reddit conspiracy forum

Pepe the Frog

Twitter

Pepe the Frog

Wired had an interesting story about how U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz is filing amendments in Congress.

Apparently, a legislative aide for Gaetz, Devin Murphy, took information posted in the notorious Reddit conspiracy forum, r/The_Donald and used it as the basis for an amendment that Gaetz filed Wednesday. It calls for an investigation into Hillary Clinton and James Comey. Many of its claims come from r/The_Donald, which is a big problem according to Wired.

That Murphy sought out legislative advice from r/The_Donald, specifically, is all the more troubling given its history. Even though the forum officially condemns anti-Semitism and racism, racist, neo-Nazi, and anti-Islam tendencies have permeated the community since its inception.

r/The_Donald has also provided a breeding ground for a number of unfounded conspiracies. Most recently, it helped promote the Seth Rich murder conspiracy theory, which eventually found its way to Sean Hannity. Before that, r/The_Donald also acted as an incubator for the Pizzagate subreddit, which ultimately led to a man firing a rifle inside of a crowded restaurant. Devinm666 apparently sought to give that same community a platform in Congress. …

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Scott declares emergency - including in Tampa Bay - because of Tropical Storm Emily

Gov. Rick Scott

AP

Gov. Rick Scott

With Tropical Storm Emily bearing down on Florida's west-central coast, Gov. Rick Scott issued a state of emergency in 31 counties late Monday morning.

The affected counties include those in the Tampa Bay area, such as Hillsborough and Pinellas counties which are among those under a tropical storm warning. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties are also covered by the emergency declaration, although they aren't forecast to be in the direct path of the storm. Read the declaration here.

"This state of emergency gives the state the flexibility to work with local governments to ensure they have the resources they may need," Scott wrote in one of a series of tweets just after 11 a.m. "[The Florida National Guard] stands ready to assist with any storm related impacts."

Scott's office said at 8 a.m. the governor was en route to Tallahassee to monitor the storm from the State Emergency Operations Center.

Scott's chief spokesman John Tupps initially told the Herald/Times Scott was out of the state and Tupps declined to specify his whereabouts. Tupps later said Scott and his wife, Ann, were on vacation in Maine. …

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Gainesville, St. Pete PDs push back on Trump remarks

President Donald Trump speaks at Suffolk Community College on Friday in Brentwood, New York.

[Getty Images North America]

President Donald Trump speaks at Suffolk Community College on Friday in Brentwood, New York.

From the Associated Press:

Gainesville’s police department has rejected President Donald Trump’s remarks that appeared to advocate for the rougher treatment of people in police custody. St. Peterburg's police department also joined in on Twitter.

The Gainesville Police Department responded on Twitter to Trump’s remarks in a speech in Suffolk County, New York on Friday. The president told law enforcement to not be “too nice” when dealing with handcuffed suspects.

The comment elicited some applause.

The Suffolk County Police Department said in a statement after Trump’s speech it “will not tolerate the roughing up of prisoners.”

Gainesville’s department said it “rejects these remarks and continues to serve with respect.” The tweet was retweeted nearly 34,000 times on Saturday afternoon.

The @POTUS made remarks today that endorsed and condoned police brutality.

GPD rejects these remarks and continues to serve with respect.

 

Department spokesman Officer Ben Tobias also tweeted that those who applauded “should be ashamed.” His tweet was retweeted more than 72,000 times on Saturday.

St. Pete's police department also tweeted its support for Suffolk County's stand.

 

  …

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Open carry advocates ask Adam Putnam: Where have you been?

Doug Clifford - Times

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is talking a lot about a "pathway" to an open carry gun law in Florida as he seeks the Republican nomination for governor, and proudly calls himself an "NRA sellout" on social media in response to media criticism of pushing a pro-gun agenda.

But his support for open carry surprises people who have actually pushed for it in Tallahassee.

Two leading open carry supporters, Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and former Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, can't recall Putnam ever doing anything to get the bill passed.

"Zero," Gaetz said. "He didn't help and he didn't hurt. He played no role in moving the bill. He never called me or approached me about the bill or offered to help." …

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Jack Latvala fires subtweet at NRA 'sell-out' Adam Putnam

Jack Latvala is having fun on Twitter.

SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times

Jack Latvala is having fun on Twitter.

We're all waiting to see what Sen. Jack Latvala will announce on Aug. 16.

Will he run for governor or won't he?

But Latvala, an artist of suspense, is keeping everyone hooked until then with tweets like the one he fired off Sunday that tweaks GOP gubernatorial frontrunner Adam Putnam for his now infamous "sell-out" tweet of last week.

Latvala doesn't himself name Putnam, but by attaching this hard-hitting Pensacola News Journal editorial, he doesn't leave any doubt who he's aiming at -- or what the broader context is.

 

 

 

I will never sell out to anyone, anytime #Sayfie https://t.co/8Pzq8yfBQS

 

By that tweet, at least, Latvala is in it to win it.

 

 

 

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Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics

Winner of the week

José Félix ‘Pepi’ Díaz. The lawmaker crushed two rivals in a three-way Republican primary for an open state Senate seat in Miami-Dade where more Republican voters than Democrats showed up. Diaz is expected to have a fundraising advantage over Democratic nominee Annette Taddeo, who’s weighed down by a lawsuit from American Express.

Loser of the week

Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The Broward congresswoman and former head of the Democratic National Committee attracted a month’s worth of negative press after she belatedly fired a technology aide who was trying to flee the country to evade a felony charge of bank fraud.

 

 

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Florida turns over voter data to Trump commission

They have your info.

[Stephen Crowley | NYT]

They have your info.

Florida provided voter-roll data to President Donald Trump’s election-fraud commission Friday despite a lawsuit by the ACLU of Florida attempting to prevent the state from providing the information.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner complied with the request by the commission after a federal judge in Washington, D.C., cleared the way Monday for the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to resume its effort to collect voter data from all states. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected a request by the Electronic Privacy Information Center to block the data collection.

“Today the Department of State pursuant to Florida law fulfilled the public records request that we received from the Presidential Advisory Commission,” said Sarah Revell, Detzner’s spokeswoman. “As we have said all along, we will follow Florida law and will only submit information that is already available and regularly provided to anyone who requests it.”

On June 28, the commission asked states to send publicly available voter data by July 14. Detzner agreed to provide public data, but not private data such as Social Security numbers or driver’s license information. …

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Rubio: I intend to keep campaign promises on Obamacare

WASHINGTON - Sen. Marco Rubio says he remains committed to overturning Obamacare following the collapse of the latest attempt.

"In both 2010 and 2016, I ran on the promise of repealing and replacing ObamaCare, and I intend to keep that promise," Rubio told the Tampa Bay times in a statement. "The insurance markets are crumbling - the average premiums have more than doubled and earlier this year yet another rate increase has been proposed for 2018. If we do not to act, things will only get worse because a failing ObamaCare will remain in place.

"Many people, across Florida and the country, expect their elected leaders to keep their commitments and do the work they were sent to Washington to do. While last evening's vote was disappointing, I remain committed to passing a health care bill that leaves Floridians better off than they are under the disastrous Obamacare."

We have asked Sen. Bill Nelson for a statement.

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TBT editorial board recommends Rick Baker in St. Pete mayoral race

Rick Baker

Tampa Bay Times

Rick Baker

From the Times' editorial board:

St. Petersburg voters are fortunate to have two experienced candidates for mayor. Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker have deep roots in the city and long records of public service. Both have helped transform St. Petersburg into an urban success story. At this moment, Baker is the better choice to keep the city on track.

Baker, 61, served as mayor from 2001 to 2010 and helped build the foundation for St. Petersburg's renaissance. He helped ensure Beach Drive became a walkable destination with restaurants and outdoor cafes rather than a condo canyon. He was a key player in bringing the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to the city, finding the site and public money for the iconic Salvador Dalí Museum and negotiating a new home for St. Petersburg College, the Florida Orchestra and American Stage. …

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Video: Rubio, Nelson look on as McCain delivers death blow on health care

Watch the dramatic moment when Sen. John McCain strides into the chamber and delivers the blow.

Sen. Marco Rubio stood with hands on hips, apparently chewing gum. Sen. Bill Nelson was sitting down and looked over at fellow Democrats who briefly celebrated before being waved down by Chuck Schumer.

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Florida 'Dreamers' worry Obama-era protection will disappear

Mariana Sanchez Ramirez, 23, poses on the Tampa campus of the University of South Florida.

Chris Urso | Times

Mariana Sanchez Ramirez, 23, poses on the Tampa campus of the University of South Florida.

Andrea Seabra imagined the worst if Donald Trump won: "I thought on the first day he would say, 'DACA is done' and send immigration officers to every house."

Trump had vowed to immediately rescind President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that has spared hundreds of thousands of immigrants from deportation.

Six months into his term, though, the government continues to grant new applicants and make renewals. "I'm still here," said Seabra, who lives near St. Petersburg.

Trump has aggressively moved on enforcement, rounding up hard criminals and minor offenders alike, stirring emotional debates in cities and towns across the country. At the same time he has shown restraint toward the young immigrants who arrived by no fault of their own and have little or no recollection of their homelands.

But there is growing uncertainty and Trump may be forced to take a stand. A group of Republican state attorneys general have issued an ultimatum: End DACA by Sept. 5 or face a lawsuit contending, as Trump said during the campaign, that the program is "unconstitutional executive amnesty." …

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