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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Jeb Bush's below average charitable giving

From the Miami Herald:

Jeb Bush says he’s proud of what he and his wife, Columba, have contributed to charity. But his tax records show they’ve given less than the national average and less than others with similar wealth.

The former Florida governor’s boast that he and his wife had donated $739,000 to charity since he left the governor’s office in 2007 is only one view of his record.

In 2013, the most recent tax year for which his records were available, the Bushes’ charitable contributions of $110,616 amounted to 1.5 percent of an adjusted gross income of $7.3 million. In 2012, their $104,169 in contributions amounted to 1.8 percent of their adjusted gross income.

Bush said he will report contributing $307,944 to charity in his 2014 tax return, but he has filed for a six-month filing extension and his adjusted gross income for that year was not made available.

That’s below the 3 percent national average for charitable giving and the 3.38 percent average in Florida, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

And it’s well below some of Bush’s political peers, who have far outpaced that level of giving, particularly as they made more money or began eyeing an election.

Read more here.

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Shots fired between potential Senate rivals Ron DeSantis and Alan Grayson

Rep. Ron DeSantis used President Obama's news on Cuba today to fire shots at U.S. Senate rival Patrick Murphy. But he also included Alan Grayson, who is nearing a decision whether to get in the race.

Grayson this afternooon hit back. …

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New judge to take over abortion restriction lawsuit

Add this to the twists and turns of the debate over a judge blocking a 24-hour, mandatory waiting period before abortions: The case has been handed over to a new judge.

Starting today, a lawsuit alleging that the waiting period, which went into effect today, is unconstitutional has been reassigned to Judge Charles Dodson. According to the website for the 2nd Circuit, the change was planned. All the civil cases that were on Judge Charles Francis' docket have been given to Dodson.

But this introduces a new wrinkle to the lawsuit.

Specifically, on Tuesday afternoon, Francis issued a temporary injunction, ordering the state not to enforce the requirement that women see a doctor 24 hours before having an abortion. After Attorney General Pam Bondi appealed the ruling, it was automatically stayed.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the lawsuit on behalf of a Gainesville abortion clinic, quickly asked Francis to lift the stay and prevent the law from going into effect. Now, that decision rests with Dodson. …

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How the Rick Scott administration is undercutting Carlos Lopez-Cantera's senate campaign

A new habit is taking hold among reporters covering Florida government and politics: Making a point of looking at the official calendar of Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

Today's was typical:

LT. GOVERNOR LOPEZ-CANTERA’S SCHEDULE

FOR WEDNESDAY, JULY 1, 2015  

NO SCHEDULED EVENTS

This is turning into a sizeable problem for the Republican lieutenant governor, who is poised to formally announce his candidacy for U.S. Senate within a couple weeks. Voters tend not to appreciate forking over $125,000 in taxpayer money to pay someone to do very little. Lopez-Cantera's response - that he's always on call - is unlikely to deflect attacks.

To be fair, the job responsibilities of the lieutenant governor pretty much non-existent. Essentially, the job calls for the lieutenant governor to keep breathing in case tragedy befalls the governor and the LG needs to take the wheel.

What's easily overlooked is how much Lopez-Cantera's vulnerability on this issue is largely courtesy of Gov. Rick Scott and his team. Rick Scott could have given CLC far more responsibility, but opted not to. Lawton Chiles and Jeb Bush gave their LG's plenty to do, but not Scott. …

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Rep. Carlos Curbelo one of few silent Republicans after Obamacare decision

After the Supreme Court upheld the federal subsidies prescribed by the Affordable Care Act in King vs. Burwell, almost every Florida Republican decried the decision, from Sen. Marco Rubio to Rep. Curt Clawson.

One of the very few Florida Republicans to stay out of the political fray after the decision was Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who did not issue any public statement after the ruling came down.

Curbelo's South Florida district would have seen 83,000 people lose their health insurance had the subsidies been ruled illegal. 

Curbelo, who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act in February, said although he did not support the ACA, the health care system in America needs reform. …

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Poll: Jeb rising, Rubio falling; both trail Clinton

A CNN/ORC poll released Wednesday shows Gov. Jeb Bush gaining popularity among likely Republican voters, Sen. Marco Rubio losing momentum and both Florida candidates trailing Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

According to the poll, 19 percent of Republicans favor Bush, an increase from 13 percent in May.

Rubio, who polled as high as 14 percent in May, has dropped to just 6 percent in the most recent survey. The senator has fallen into a virtual tie with Gov. Scott Walker for sixth place, trailing Bush, businessman Donald Trump (12 percent), Gov. Mike Huckabee (8 percent), neurosurgeon Ben Carson (7 percent) and Sen. Rand Paul (7 percent).

Both Bush and Trump saw large spikes in polling numbers after their respective June announcements.

In general election polls, Clinton bests Bush by 13 points (54 percent-41 percent) and Rubio by 17 points (56 percent-39 percent). The election is still 16 months away, though. 

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State tight lipped on incentives given to company to create 15 jobs over 2 years

No amount of jobs appears too few for Gov. Rick Scott to celebrate with bold headlines and press releases.

That point was obvious today, when Scott sent out a press release applauding the state’s role in luring 15 new jobs that will be created over two years in Suwannee County in north Florida.

“We are on a mission to make Florida the number one destination for jobs, and today we are another step closer as we announce the creation of new jobs in Live Oak,” Scott said in a press release.

But what Scott or the state did to lure those 15 jobs is a mystery. That is because neither Scott nor Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development arm, will say what the state gave International Mulch Company, a Missouri-based business, for financial incentives until as late after Christmas.

Beth Frady, director of public relations for Enterprise Florida, said any information not released today on the project is confidential and does not have to be released to the public for as long as 180 days after a public announcement is made, as Scott did on Wednesday. That would give Enterprise Florida until December 27 to divulge what inducements it gave International Mulch Company. …

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Scott vetoes money for controversial water-farming projects

The Tampa Bay Times' Craig Pittman writes about implications of Gov. Rick Scott's veto of $4.5 million toward controversial water-farming projects.

Read more here

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The bottom line: Gov. Scott's net worth grows to $147 million

Gov. Rick Scott reports his net worth has grown to nearly $147 million, an increase of about $14 million or nearly 11 percent more than the year before, and double what it was the year before that. The wealthiest governor in Florida history filed his annual financial disclosure statement with the Commission on Ethics and the agency posted it online Wednesday.

Scott reports that the assets held in a blind trust are worth $128 million and that his Naples home is worth $15.4 million.

Most of Scott's assets are kept in a blind trust, a decision that was the subject of much litigation over the past year in a case in which the governor prevailed.

Scott has defended the blind trust as necessary to prohibit him from making official decisions that could affect his portfolio. But because the assets are in a blind trust, the public cannot know how Scott got richer over the past 12 months. …

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Obama announces reopening of U.S. embassy in Cuba

A Cuban and American flag wave from the balcony of the Hotel Saratoga in Havana. President Barack Obama will announce on Wednesday that the U.S. and Cuba have reached an agreement to open embassies in Havana and Washington, various reports say.

Associated Press

A Cuban and American flag wave from the balcony of the Hotel Saratoga in Havana. President Barack Obama will announce on Wednesday that the U.S. and Cuba have reached an agreement to open embassies in Havana and Washington, various reports say.

Saying "We don’t have to be imprisoned by the past," President Barack Obama this morning announced the U.S. would reopen an embassy in Cuba this summer, a major step in restoring relations with the communist country severed in 1961.

Formaly diplomatic ties will begin July 20, after a notification period to Congress.

"There are Americans who want to travel to Cuba," Obama said from the Rose Garden. "There are American business that want to invest in Cuba. … Above all Americans want to get to know their neighbors to the south."

Obama said Secretary of State John Kerry would go to Cuba this summer for the flag raising.

Whlle public support has grown, resistance to the thaw remains fierce among some Florida Republicans. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami said in a statement that an embassy "will do nothing to help the Cuban people and is just another trivial attempt for President Obama to go legacy shopping." Sen. Marco Rubio made similar comments and said he would work to oppose Obama's nominee for ambassador.

But elsewhere in Florida, Tampa especially, the decision is welcomed as long overdue. …

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Bush and Rubio in middle of 'muddled' pack in Iowa

A new Q poll from Iowa shows Scott Walker ahead but ... Donald Trump in second, reflecting an unsettled field in a still early presidential nominating process.

Walker got 18 percent of the vote from likely GOP caucus participants, down from 25 percent in late February and 21 percent in May.

"Jostling for second place are Donald Trump and Ben Carson, at 10 percent each, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 9 percent each, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida at 8 percent and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at 7 percent. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has 5 percent. No other candidate is above 4 percent and 5 percent are undecided," read a polling memo.

Trump and Bush top the "no way" list as 28 percent say they would definitely not support Trump and 24 percent say no to Bush. "Those who thought the Republican race in the Iowa caucuses might begin to clarify itself better think again," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. "As even more candidates toss their hats into the ring, the race has gotten even more muddled."

More here.

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Obama to announce re-opening of embassy in Cuba

A Cuban and American flag wave from the balcony of the Hotel Saratoga in Havana. President Barack Obama will announce on Wednesday that the U.S. and Cuba have reached an agreement to open embassies in Havana and Washington, various reports say.

Associated Press

A Cuban and American flag wave from the balcony of the Hotel Saratoga in Havana. President Barack Obama will announce on Wednesday that the U.S. and Cuba have reached an agreement to open embassies in Havana and Washington, various reports say.

President Barack Obama will announce Wednesday an agreement to re-establish formal diplomatic ties with Cuba and reopen embassies closed more than a half century ago.

It marks a significant next step in a rapprochement that is bound to stir animosity among Florida's hardline Cuban immigrant community.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami said in a statement that an embassy "will do nothing to help the Cuban people and is just another trivial attempt for President Obama to go legacy shopping."

But elsewhere in Florida, Tampa especially, the decision is welcomed as long overdue. General support for restored ties, severed in 1961, has risen among Americans.

Obama began to formally end the thaw last year and recently Cuba was removed from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a condition from Havana before moving with embassies. The U.S. has an "interests section" there under the auspices of the Swiss government -- and Cuba has one in Washington. But embassies would bring stronger services.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, the son of Cuban immigrants, has vowed to fight funding for an embassy and Obama's nominee for ambassador. …

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Senate president calls Gov. Scott's UCF veto 'a shot at Orlando'

If Republicans in the Florida Senate are getting over their anger at Gov. Rick Scott's rash of vetoes, they sure don't sound like it.

Appearing on News 13's Political Connections, Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, did not mince words in describing Scott's zeroing out of money for programs for people with disabilities and for the start of a downtown Orlando campus of the University of Central Florida.

"It's a shot at our community. It's a shot at Orlando, Orange County, Central Florida, those of us who believe in economic development," Gardiner told the cable outlet in an interview. "While everybody will try to say, 'Oh, this is a shot at Andy Gardiner,' in many ways, it's a shot at our community." 

Scott vetoed $15 million to start the first phase of UCF's "downtown presence," saying it was not on the three-year list of approved projects by the Board of Governors. Gardiner said the BOG backed the project but for less money and he defended the Legislature's right to increase appropriations. …

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By the numbers: Jeb Bush's tax returns

Jeb Bush released an astounding 33 years of tax returns on Tuesday.

By the numbers:

36%: Total effective tax rate

33: Total number of years released

1,150: Total pages for all 33 years

$1.1 million: Average speech income per year since leaving office (see list in jump)

$739,511: Total given to charity since leaving office

List of speeches below:

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Convicted killer asks Supreme Court to delay execution again

The lawyers for an Orlando man whose execution was delayed by the Florida Supreme Court are asking the justices to intervene yet again.

In a response to Attorney General Pam Bondi's request that the execution of Jerry Correll -- a convicted killer of four -- move forward as planned, the condemned man's lawyers requested that the Court protect him until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a death penalty case it will hear in its upcoming term.

The Florida Court stayed Correll's execution in February after the federal justices accepted a case questioning the constitutionality of one of the three drugs used for lethal injections in Florida and three other states: Oklahoma, Arizona and Ohio. After a ruling Monday that the drug does not constitute "cruel and unusual punishment," Bondi asked for permission to move forward with the execution.

But another death penalty case is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, which calls into question the processes used to sentence Florida criminals to death. …

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