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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Fla GOP leaders to hold immigration conference call

Several Republican party officials will host a conference call Thursday to discuss immigration policy in the 2016 election.

The call is a response to public polling that shows "the benefits of running to the right on immigration in a GOP primary are small, while the costs in the general election are huge," according to a release.

Reps. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, and Erik Fresen, R-Miami, and Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Miami will all participate in the call. 

Here's the the full release:


MIAMI, FL- On Thursday, July 2nd, several Florida Republican leaders will host a media teleconference to discuss the Republican Presidential Primary and candidates’ approach to immigration reform.  The call follows the release of new polling data, conducted by Burning Glass Consulting and The Partnership for a New American Economy, about Republican primary voters and caucus participants in early states.  The polling results show that the benefits of running to the right on immigration in a GOP primary are small, while the costs in the general election are huge.

WHO:            …

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Putnam's plea for pre-veto face time with Gov. Scott was ignored

Here's yet another backstory on Gov. Rick Scott's budget vetoes, and this one could definitely give Scott headaches at future Cabinet meetings. As the budget time clock was ticking, Scott and his staff dissed Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who simply wanted to make his case for agency projects.

It began to unfold on Friday, June 19. As the Legislature was passing a budget, ending a three-week special session, Putnam immediately sought face time with the governor to argue his case for spending priorities."I request a meeting with you at your earliest convenience," Putnam wrote.

Putnam's office hand-delivered a detailed letter to Scott asking for "careful consideration" of his priorities, including $4.5 million for water-farming projects, $3.7 million to replace a dilapidated petroleum lab at Port Everglades and $2,000 raises for state forestry firefighters.

Not only did Putnam not get the meeting he wanted, but the request was ignored, and four days later Scott vetoed all three requests, among others.

"We never received a response," said Putnam's spokeswoman, Jennifer Meale. …

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AG Bondi: Florida to receive $3.25 billion in BP oil spill claims

In a Thursday press conference at the Port of Tampa, Attorney General Pam Bondi announced Florida will receive $3.25 billion from BP as part of a "joint federal-state agreement" to help states affected by the oil giant's infamous 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. 

The state will get $2 billion in economic loss claims and $1.25 billion in natural resource claims, per a press release from Bondi.

"I want to thank all of the people who came together, in common purpose, to do the right thing for our state,” Bondi said in the release.

Follow this story as it develops here

Here's Bondi's full release:

Attorney General Pam Bondi Announces Historic Multi-Billion Dollar Agreement with BP on Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill …

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George Pataki wants Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio to stand up to Donald Trump

George Pataki sends a letter to fellow Republican candidates for president, asking them to stand up to Donald Trump's "unacceptable" comments about Mexicans. Most candidates have avoided saying anything.

To the best of our knowledge, Marco Rubio has not remarked.

Jeb Bush has. In Nevada on Saturday Bush said in Spanish, according to Bloomberg News, that Trump spends his life fighting with people and does not represent the values of the Republican Party.

The story went on, “But when Bush was asked the same question about Trump’s remarks in English, he seemed put out at having to repeat himself, then gave a milder version of his original answer: ‘I don’t agree with him. I think he’s wrong. It’s pretty simple.’”

And to the Daily Caller: “His views are not reflective of the immigrant experience. He’s just wrong. ... I don’t spend a lot of quality time going over the Trump message.”

Rubio, like Bush, has talked about how most immigrants come to the U.S. for a better life, an "act of love," as Bush put it.

Dear Fellow Republican candidates for president,

“And some, I assume, are good people.” …

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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:




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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