Partly Cloudy78° FULL FORECASTPartly Cloudy78° FULL FORECAST
Make us your home page

The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Medical marijuana amendment hits milestone for court review

A constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana in Florida has reached a key milestone in its petition drive, triggering required reviews by Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Florida Supreme Court.

The proposal has gotten 73,713 signatures, according to Florida Division of Elections data. Bondi has 30 days to review the ballot language and send it to the Supreme Court, which will determine if it's constitutional.

The amendment would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for medical purposes and allow the state Department of Health to regulate marijuana growth and sale. In the 2014 election, it fell just short of the 60 percent required to amend the state constitution.

But backed by lawyer John Morgan, the amendment has already raked in over $1 million in contributions for the upcoming election cycle. …

Full Story

Senator Nelson calls for independent redistricting commission for Florida

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, tells reporters in Tallahassee that the Legislature's inability to reach a deal on redistricting shows the state needs an independent redistricting commission to do the work.

Jeremy Wallace

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, tells reporters in Tallahassee that the Legislature's inability to reach a deal on redistricting shows the state needs an independent redistricting commission to do the work.

The repeated failures of the Florida Legislature to redraw the state’s congressional districts is a sure sign that Florida needs to create an independent commission to do the work, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said during a stop in Tallahassee on Monday.

“Seems to me we need an independent commission for future reapportionment so that you stop this self-serving process of drawing districts for your own self interest,” said Nelson, a Democrat.

Nelson’s comments come 10 days after the Florida Legislature ended its 12-day special session without producing a redistricting map that both the House and Senate could agree to for the state’s 27 congressional districts.

Nelson said other states – like Arizona and California - have created commissions to draw congressional districts and Florida needs to explore the same idea to keep the map drawing out of the hands of the self-interested.

“Seems to me that common sense says put it in the hands of as independent of a commission as you can make it,” Nelson said.

Nelson said the Legislature’s failures have created chaos and an uncertainty where people interested in running for office cannot file because they don’t know what district they are in. …

Full Story

Patrick Murphy comes out in support of Iran nuclear deal

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy says he can back the Iran nuclear deal, call it "flawed" but "the best available option to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon."

Murphy is running for U.S. Senate and his Democratic primary rival, Rep. Alan Grayson, has not said if he can support the deal. A number of other Florida Democrats remain undecided, including Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Sen. Bill Nelson is on board with the Obama administration.

Murphy issued this statement:

"I have promised Floridians that they can have faith in me to listen to them, to listen to my conscience, and to deeply study every bill. With the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran on my desk, I have taken my promise more seriously than ever. This has been the toughest decision of my time in Congress.

"I have listened to the strong cases made by advocates on both sides of this debate, which at times has become unfortunately rancorous. I have carefully studied the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, its appendices, and the classified reports from the negotiations, and have sought answers from both supporters and opponents. …

Full Story

Meet the Dems eyeing Fla Attorney General office

You've no doubt heard some of the prospective Democatic candidates for governor in 2018 - Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine - are all in the mix to take on Republican prospects that include Adam Putnam, Jeff Atwater, Will Weatherford, Marco Rubio.

But there also are several significant Democratic names bubbling up for the attorney general's race in 2018: Former prosecutor and state Sen. Rod Smith, who ran unsuccessfully for governor, in 2006, is seriously looking at it. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, an attorney and another of Democratic former stand out in the Florida House, also is interested in the job as he faces term limits in Fort Lauderdale.

But Seiler, who also helped found and served as chairman of the Broward Bank of Commerce, is also seriously looking at running for Chief Financial Officer in 2018. A fresher face on the Democratic bench seen as a serious AG prospect is Democratic state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a graduate of Brown and Harvard Law. Former state Sen. Dan Gelber isn't looking at the position, but if Sen. Bill Nelson changed his mind about running again....

Full Story

Jeb Bush faces distorted attacks from Walker, Trump

The campaigns of Scott Walker and Donald Trump released videos today that attack Jeb Bush on the Iran deal and immigration. But both are distortions of Bush's position.

Walker's video implies Bush favors the Iran nuclear deal. Bush does not, but he's shown caution (at times) about how quickly it could be unraveled by the next president. Walker is shown in the video saying he would kill it on "Day One," which is thename of the ad.

Trump's ad juxtaposes Bush's "act of love" remark with images of violent criminals who are immigrants. Bush has said the majority of people who come the U.S. illegally do it as an "act of love" to help their families. But he's routinely added that people who commit serious crimes should be deported. Trump's ad avoids any such context. (Marco Rubio has said, if he were an immigrant struggling to provide for his family, he would commit what amounts to an act of love.

The dual attacks highlight how Bush remains a top target even amid fresh doubts about his campaign progress.

Full Story

Tax collectors alarmed over possible new driver license system

You can't get completely away from politics in Florida. One of many things that make the state such a unique place is that the person who renews your driver's license and provides your license tags is likely to be an elected official.

Yes, a politician. Your county tax collectors, and their front-line employees. (The licenses and tags are produced using equipment owned by a vendor under contract to the state). State highway safety officials are quietly studying a possible change to a new system of issuing driver licenses. No decision has been made, and wouldn't be without the approval of Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet. But just the idea of changing things has stirred up a lot of controversy. More here.  

Full Story

Solar energy group prepares to defend constitutional amendment

As they prepare to defend their proposed constitutional amendment before the state Supreme Court on Tuesday, the groups behind Floridians for Solar Choice are confident they'll get the justices' approval.

"We are very confident of that," said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the group shepherding the amendment through the initial stages of getting on the ballot for November 2016. "We have a oneness of purpose in what we are doing in removing this barrier and allowing markets to go forward in Florida."

The market he's referring to is the one for solar power.

Florida is one of just four states in the country where homeowners and businesses can't enter into an agreement directly with a solar power provider to put panels on their roof and buy the energy from them over time, according to Floridians for Solar Choice. Their amdendment seeks to change that.

The idea is that an energy customer could sign a contract with a solar company, which would install the panels on their home or business at no cost or a low cost and pay for it over time, along with energy generated from the panels. …

Full Story

Prosecutor Meggs won't seek re-election

One of the most well known state attorneys in Florida is calling it quits.

State Attorney Willie Meggs told the Tallahassee Democrat on Monday that he will not seek re-election in 2016. Meggs, 72, has been the chief prosecutor for the 2nd Judical Circuit since 1985.

By virtue of working in circuit that includes Florida’s capital city and Florida State University, Meggs has often found himself having to make decisions on whether to prosecute elected officials and sports stars.

In 2013, Meggs, an FSU graduate and Democrat, made headlines for chosing not to prosecute former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston for sexual assault saying there was not enough evidence to win a conviction.

He's also had a history of clashing with the political power players in Tallahassee. In the early 1990s, he filed criminal charges against two dozen lawmakers for failing to report trips to places like Alaska and Mexico. …

Full Story

Ben Carson makes move in Iowa; Bush and Rubio remain in middle of pack

Donald Trump continues to lead in Iowa, but Ben Carson, who now lives in West Palm Beach, is moving up and is five percentage points from the boisterous New York celebrity developer, according to a new poll.

The Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll has Trump with 23 percent support and Carson with 18.

Ted Cruz - 8 percent
Scott Walker - 8 percent
Jeb Bush - 6 percent
Marco Rubio - 6 percent
Carly Fiorina - 5 percent

"Wow," said Kedron Bardwell, a political science professor at Simpson College, told the Register. "This poll will have Republican consultants shaking heads in bewilderment. Not since 1992 has anti-establishment sentiment been this strong."

ANOTHER POLL: A Monmouth University survey released this morning has Trump and Carson tied.

Full Story

Amid campaign fundraising questions, Jeb Bush welcomes donors to Coral Gables tonight

Tropical Storm Erika nearly forced Jeb Bush's presidential campaign to call off a donor reception planned for Monday night in Coral Gables. But the storm dissipated before reaching Florida and the event will still take place, at the home of auto executive Manny Kadre, one of the donors told the Miami Herald.

The hometown fundraiser comes as Bush tries to contend with slower summer fundraising and the phenomenon of Donald Trump, the 2016 Republican presidential frontrunner whose stunning rise in public-opinion polls has stunned veteran GOP campaign operatives. Bush has seen his popularity slip, in some polls behind both Trump and Ben Carson.

Grappling with a tougher, longer slog of a campaign, Bush has started going after Trump. Some Florida donors were eager to see a more aggressive Bush -- like the politician they remember in the  Governor's Mansion -- but the shift in strategy has its risks. Bush used the term "anchor babies," which immigration advocates consider offensive, after Trump did, giving Bush the kind of unflattering headlines that make it more difficult for fundraisers to get donors to open their wallets. …

Full Story

What Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are up to the week of Aug. 31

What Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are up to the week of Aug. 31.

Rubio starts a two-day visit to Nevada on Monday with a rally in Reno. On Tuesday he has events in Carson City, Terington and Fallon. Wednesday he is in Oklahoma City. Thursday in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Rubio heads to Puerto Rico on Friday. It will be Rubio's first visit to P.R. as a candidate and it coincides with a trip there by Hillary Clinton.

Bush has a fundraiser today in Coral Gables. Tuesday he visits La Progresiva Presbyterian School in Miami. He will tour the school and then hold a town hall with high school students. Thursday he tours a business in Hampton, N.H. He also has a town hall in Laconia.

Previous week here.

Full Story

Joan Jett and the Wall Streeters pony up for Wall Street-bashing Alan Grayson

Alan Grayson NYC invite

Grayson campaign

Alan Grayson NYC invite

We can't decide which is more interesting: That the great Joan Jett co-hosted a fundraiser for Alan "Don't Give a Damn 'Bout my Bad Reputation' Grayson in New York last week, or that the Aug. 27 reception was also co-hosted by three Wall Streeters on the same day Grayson sent a fundraising email boasting that "Wall Street bankers hate me."

At least three of the listed co-hosts - Avery Byrd, Lawrence Hui, and Mary Namorato - are in the investment business. Grayson, himself a hedge fund operator, has been hammering Democratic U.S. Senate rival patrick Murphy for receiving money from Wall Street, especially Goldman Sachs.

"When it comes to making law in the Senate, do you want Senator Goldman Sachs (D-FL) casting our votes, or do you want Senator Alan Grayson (D-FL) fighting for justice, equality, and peace?," Grayson said in another fundraising email Saturday. "Stop the Wall Street cabal from buying Florida’s U.S. Senate seat with your $3 contribution to our campaign — it’s too important to wait!" …

Full Story

Winner and loser of the week in Fla politics

Winner of the week

Rick Scott. A new Quinnipiac poll found 45 percent of Florida voters approve of his performance and 44 percent disapprove. Those are his best numbers since taking office. In today's polarized political environment 45 is the new 55.

Loser of the week

Jeb Bush. With the Bush campaign pressing reset yet again (here and here), his poll numbers falling and not rising, and the candidate exciting almost nobody outside of the GOP establishment,  a worrisome perception of the former governor is setting in: He calls himself the race's "joyful tortoise" but he's starting to look like a weaker version of Mitt Romney.

Full Story

The late Tom Slade's unvarnished view of Jeb Bush

From our story about Jeb Bush's style of governing:

,,,Darryl Paulson, professor emeritus of government at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, called Bush a "highly successful" governor who was more likely to get his way through strong-arming than persuading Republicans and Democrats to find common ground.

In 2005, Paulson interviewed Tom Slade, the legendary, late Florida GOP chairman, about the history of the Republican Party in Florida. Slade died in 2014, but Paulson provided the Tampa Bay Times with notes from that interview. Slade's descriptions of Bush 10 years ago:



"Uncompromisingly steadfast, without tolerance for any advice."


"Doesn't seek advice well."

"Lacks maturity to be president of the United States."

"Arrogant as hell, but so is George."

Full Story

Sizing up the Republican U.S. Senate candidates in Tampa

A Quinnipiac University Poll released Tuesday found that about nine in 10 Florida voters did not know enough about the four Republicans running to succeed Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate to have an opinion of them. And probably more than a few people in that poll exaggerated their awareness of Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, defense contractor Todd Wilcox, and U.S. Reps. David Jolly and Ron DeSantis so they could sound better informed.

So we were especially interested in checking out the foursome’s rare joint appearance in Tampa Saturday to see if anyone stood out before a crowd of several hundred activists and gathered for the Republican Party of Florida’s quarterly meeting. Conventional political wisdom has it that northeast Florida’s Ron DeSantis, an Iraq War veteran and alum of Yale and Harvard Law, is the anti-establishment candidate, while Jolly and Lopez-Cantera are vying to emerge as the mainstream conservative alternative. Wilcox, a Special Forces and CIA combat veteran from Orlando, is a political newcomer and wildcard underdog. …

Full Story