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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

House Republicans propose dedicated money to help Everglades

From our friends at the Associated Press:

The Florida House wants to dedicate as much as $200 million a year on projects to help restore the state's fabled Everglades.

House Republicans on Tuesday announced their "Legacy Florida" initiative. It would require that each year that the state set aside conservation money for a variety of Everglades restoration projects.

The list would include projects that lessen the level of discharges from Lake Okeechobee into nearby estuaries. In recent years federal authorities have been criticized for discharging polluted water from the lake into Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee River.

The "Legacy Florida" bill is sponsored by Rep. Gayle Harrell but it has the backing of top Republicans including House Speaker Steve Crisafulli.

Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican, said in a statement that he believed "consistent funding" will help preserve and protect the Everglades. 

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Senate's top lawyer, Scott adviser will compete for judgeships

George Levesque, the chief counsel to the Florida Senate, is one of 30 candidates for two upcoming vacant judgeships on the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee. He'll be interviewed next week by a nine-member DCA nominating commission that will send at least three names for each position to Gov. Rick Scott, who will make the appointments. 

Levesque has the full support of Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, Senate spokeswoman Katherine Betta said Tuesday.

Other candidates include Mark Kruse, who works for Scott in the Office of Planning and Budgeting; Trisha Meggs Pate, an assistant attorney general and daughter of Tallahassee-area state prosecutor Willie Meggs; Assistant Attorney General Allen Winsor; J. Daniel McCarthy, who directs the 1st DCA marshal's office; and Leon County Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey.

DCA judges Simone Marstiller and Robert Benton are both retiring from the court, which routinely hears appeals in cases involving state laws and state government agencies. A DCA judgeship pays $154,140 a year. Scott's most recent appointment to the 15-member DCA, in June, was Thomas "Bo" Winokur, who was an assistant general counsel in Scott's office.

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Jeb Bush helping Fla GOP raise money

Jeb Bush will attend a state GOP fundraising event Dec. 11 in Tampa


Jeb Bush will attend a state GOP fundraising event Dec. 11 in Tampa

You might think Jeb Bush has enough on his own plate, but Florida's former governor and struggling presidential candidate is stepping up to raise money for the Florida GOP.  That's more than even current Gov. Rick Scott is doing for his state party these days, as Scott  is raising money only for his own political committee.

Bush will attend a Republican Party of Florida fundraising reception in Tampa Dec. 11 - helping state party Chairman Blaise Ingoglia raise money to help the GOP in America's biggest battleground. Polls right now suggest the Florida GOP is more likely to be working to deliver 27 electoral votes to Donald Trump or Marco Rubio than Bush.

Keep in mind that Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran is currentlly the only top elected official in Florida helping raise money for the state GOP, and Corcoran is a Bush supporter, even though he had been Rubio's top adviser in the legislature.

"Jeb has always supported the RPOF," Bush campaign spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said. "The Chairman asked the Governor a little while back to help raise funds for the party and he is glad to. A strong party infrastructure Florida is critical to Republicans’ success in 2016."


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Hillary Clinton thought 'Mittens' Romney could lose Florida

Hillary Clinton email

U.S. Department of State

Hillary Clinton email

An email from the latest State Department release of Hillary Clinton communications show she was concerned that Mitt Romney, whom she called Mittens, could lose Florida's 2012 GOP primary to Newt "Grinch" Gingrich.

Clinton, who thought a loss could bring changes to ballot access, sent the email to confidant Sidney Blumenthal. Romney won the primary in a blowout.

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Herman Cain: 'Jeb Bush has been doing nothing but losing'

Herman Cain — remember him? — isn’t happy with Jeb Bush, who last week in Sarasota cited the 2012 former presidential candidate as evidence that current front-runners Donald Trump and Ben Carson will fade.

“If you want to say I had a ‘fall,’ go ahead, I guess,” Cain wrote on his website. “You can’t fall when you’ve never gotten any higher than the floor in the first place, and that’s the state of the Jeb Bush campaign. A guy with his name, his money and the team behind him should be one of the top-tier contenders, and he should certainly not be letting Donald Trump wipe the floor with him if Trump is as unserious and unqualified as Bush would have you believe.

"And yet, Jeb Bush can’t break out of the middle single-digits.

"As for the suggestion that Donald Trump and Ben Carson will surely flame out because Herman Cain did, you’ll probably not be surprised that I’m getting a little tired of that one. But I would tell you two things.

"First, I was and remain proud of what my campaign accomplished. No, we didn’t get to the finish line, but most of the people who run me down have never gotten anywhere near as far as we did – and as I mentioned above, that certainly includes Jeb Bush. …

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Unstoppable Donald Trump in Fla? Meet his supporters

Donald Trump, for those keeping score, has been leading the Republican field in Florida polls since August. Much of the political intelligentsia presumed that Trump had reached a ceiling in support and/or his lead would evaporate amid assorted gaffes/controversies (John McCain wasn't really a war hero, Megyn Kelly must have been  having her period, etc., etc.). In in fact Trump's lead in Florida has only grown - from a RealClearPolitcs average of 24 percent in August to 32 percent today.

Jeb Bush, meanwhile has dropped from second place in his home state with 22 percent to to fifth place with an average of 9 percent support, while Ben Carson rose from 10 percent to 18 percent today, and Marco Rubio from 9 percent to 17 percent.

Maybe Trump has reached his ceiling, and maybe not. But based on the conversations we had with Trump supporters in Sarasota last weekend, anyone counting on many of his supporters to think twice may be sorely disappointed. Here are a few conversations we had with Floridians for Trump;


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President Barack Obama holds up Miami as climate change example

President Barack Obama once again used Miami as an example of a place already feeling the effects of climate change, giving reporters Tuesday a somewhat exaggerated example about the city's high tides showing the costs of letting seas continue to rise.

"I think that as the science around climate change is more accepted, as people start realizing that even today you can put a price on the damage that climate change is doing -- you know, you go down to Miami and when it's flooding at high tide on a sunny day and fish are swimming through the middle of the streets -- you know, that there's a cost to that," Obama said at the Paris climate talks.

While Miami Beach has certainly suffered from sunny-day floods during high tides, recent reports about fish swimming in the street have come from further north in Broward County and are far from widespread. No one's pulling out their fishing rods on the road.

WSVN-FOX 7 reported in September that a mullet was spotted swimming in Fort Lauderdale. A member of the Miami Herald and WLRN radio's Public Insight Network reported in October that she saw fish in the streets of Hollywood during a king tide. …

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Will Gov. Scott remember a favor? This Democrat hopes so

Orlando's Democratic mayor, Buddy Dyer, was in familiar territory Tuesday, walking the halls of the Florida Senate where he used to work. The mayor's mission is to get $15 million for the University of Central Florida's downtown Orlando campus in the next state budget.


This is a sensitive subject for Orlando's movers and shakers because of Gov. Rick Scott. With a boost from Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, the money was in the Legislature's budget last session, but Scott quickly wiped it out with the stroke of his veto pen -- the biggest single-ticket item on his long list of $461 million in line-item vetoes. A ticked-off Gardiner went on Orlando TV to call Scott's veto "a shot at Orlando."

But the new year will bring a new session and new hope for UCF's campus. After all, as Dyer was quick to note Tuesday, he's a big-city mayor who two weeks ago endorsed one of Scott's top priorities: a bigger pot of incentive money for Enterprise Florida. It was an easy call, Dyer noted, because the ask came from "the man with the veto pen."


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Jeb Bush's latest ad features Medal of Honor recipients

Jeb Bush’s campaign is launching a new TV ad featuring Medal of Honor recipients vouching for his ability to lead in tough times.

“This is no reality show. This is serious business,” says retired Marine Corps Maj. General James Livingston. The screen then shows President Obama, whom Livingston said required “training wheels."

The ad will run for three weeks, at a cost of $600,000, in New Hampshire and Boston starting tomorrow, the campaign said.

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Senators under oath for redistricting trial grows to 10; Senate wants Democrats to testify

The Florida Senate's lawyers could call Democrat Sens. Oscar Braynon and Jeff Clemens and Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Bill Galvano to the witness stand in the upcoming redistricting trail, adding three senators to the list of seven already proposed by the challengers in documents submitted Monday to the court. 

The Senate's lawyers said it might call Braynon of Miami Gardens and Clemens of Lake Worth as witnesses in the five-day trial that begins Dec. 14 in Leon County Circuit Court. Each had submitted maps they said they had drawn during the redistricting session that ended last month. 

They also said they may call Ellen Freiden, the Miami lawyer for the League of Women Voters whose Fair Districts crusade helped to put the anti-gerrymandering rules into the Florida Constitution, and Galvano, the Bradenton Repubican who headed the Senate's redistricting effort for the last year. …

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State investigators: Planned Parenthood didn’t sell organs

From our friends at the Associated Press:

State investigators say there’s no evidence Planned Parenthood in Florida purchased or sold human organs or tissue.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger confirmed in an email Monday that an inquiry into Planned Parenthood has closed and didn’t move into a full investigation.

State health officials inspected 16 Planned Parenthood facilities in August and reported that three clinics were illegally performing second-trimester abortions.

Planned Parenthood representatives have maintained that abortions were performed during the first trimester and that state officials were changing trimester definitions. Executive Director Laura Goodhue said Monday that the organization doesn’t offer any tissue donation services in Florida.

Gov. Rick Scott ordered the inspections after videos surfaced showing organization officials discussing fetal organ research. Scott spokeswoman Jeri Bustamante said Monday that the governor appreciates the law enforcement division’s work.

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Corizon pulls out of prison health care contract, leaving future of privatization in limbo

After two years of complaints about healthcare in Florida’s prisons, the private company that has been responsible for the largest share of inmate care — Corizon Health — decided not to renew its $1.1 billion contract with the state Monday, leaving the future of care for 74,000 inmates in limbo when the company pulls out in six months.

The decision by the Tennessee-based company to exercise its right to terminate the contract that was scheduled to expire in 2018 came as the Florida Department of Corrections was attempting to renegotiate the agreement amid reports of inmate maltreatment, chronic understaffing and rising numbers of unnatural inmate deaths. 

"We appreciate the contracts for inmate health services permit very little of the flexibility that Secretary Jones would like in order to address issues such as staffing, mental health care, and electronic health records," Corizon Chief Executive Officer Karey Witty said in a statement. "We have tried to address the department's concerns but have found the terms of the current contract too constraining. At this point, we believe the best way to move forward is to focus our efforts on a successful transition to a new provider." …

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Rubio on Planned Parenthood shooting: Focus on mental health issues

Marco Rubio said Monday that mental health issues need to be better addressed in relation to shootings but stressed the federal government is not the answer to broader questions.

Rubio spoke on a New Hampshire radio show and was asked for his “presidential prescription” for domestic terrorism. The host cited the shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado.

Rubio called it “horrifying” and focused on mental health.

“As a country,” Rubio said on WKXL, “we need to be more serious about how we address mental health. I know there’s a bill working its way through Congress and that is something we should look at that will help improve things to some extent.

“But I also think we need to look at our society at large. Why is it that these things are happening? It kind of leads you back to (that) the societal breakdown is a major contributor to some of the problems we face in this country. And not every problem in America has a federal government solution to it. A lot of them lie in our own homes, in our own neighborhoods, in our own communities.

“Obviously mental health is an illness and needs to be treated as such. We need to be serious about people that have not just shown they have mental illness but have expressed violent tendencies and ensure that we have systems at the state and local level that are in place to address that before it turns into a violent incident."

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Seven legislators included on witness list in redistricting trial

Six senators, the head of the House redistricting committee and a long list of Republican political operatives could be questioned under oath as potential witnesses in the week-long Senate redistricting trial that begins Dec. 14.

Sen. Anitere Flores and Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, both Miami Republicans, may be questioned under oath about the origins and development of the staff-drawn base maps approved by the Senate and submitted tp the court by Gardiner, R-Orlando, according to a lengthy witness list filed Monday with the court by the coalition of voting groups.

Also on the potential witness list are Republican Sens. Jack Latvala of Clearwater and Tom Lee of Brandon and House Redistricting Committee Chairman Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes. The plaintiffs list only Galvano, R-Bradenton, as a witness who will definitely be called. 

A five-day trial is scheduled before Leon County Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds and the plaintiffs, led by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida, say they will show that the map proposed by the Senate was rife with attempts to protect incumbents, in violation of the anti-gerrymandering provisions of the state constitution. 



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Debt and taxes top PolitiFact Florida's Top 5 stories for November

Statements by South Florida’s GOP presidential rivals Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio led PolitiFact Florida’s website in November, touching on taxes and Rubio’s spending while speaker of the Florida House.

The five most-read fact-checks from November, counting down to the most popular:Full Story