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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bill Nelson 'concerned' with how Clinton campaign handling email controversy; says Biden won't run

Sen. Bill Nelson added to criticism among Democrats of Hillary Clinton's handling of the email controversy, telling a crowd in West Palm Beach today that he is "concerned."

But Nelson, who had encouraged Clinton to run, said she will "overcome" the storm. He also predicted Joe Biden will not run, and scoffed at Rick Scott challenging him in 2018.

“I am concerned because I don’t think her campaign has handled it well,” Nelson said, according to George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post.

“I believe that she is telling us the truth when she, Hillary, says that she did not get classified information. If she did, number one, it wasn’t marked and number two it wasn’t supposed to be coming on her computer anyway. So the fault with that, if it did, is being held with whoever sent it.”

On Biden: “I am a supporter of Hillary’s. I am publicly out there for her and Joe Biden was one of my best friends in the Senate. ... As long as Hillary has not fallen to all of this inquiry, and I think she will overcome this, under those circumstances I don’t think Joe will get into the race. That’s just my personal opinion. …

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Galvano: Counting on Supreme Court to give lawmakers time to reconvene for redistricting

Bill GalvanoAs the afternoon fades on this Friday in August, the Florida Supreme Court has not yet issued a ruling as to how it wants to proceed in the redistricting impasse over the congressional maps.

Senate Redistricting chief Bill Galvano told the Herald/Times he believes the court is prepared to give the Legislature more time to work out differences between the House and Senate, if they can soon agree to reconvene in special session. 

"The door is still open to talk and reconvene, although that hasn’t been agreed to,'' said Galvano, R-Bradenton, in an interview. "There was a misunderstanding that the court was going to order or issue a statement today. The Supreme Court operates on its own time schedule. We still have until Oct. 17."

Meanwhile, Senate President Andy Gardiner on Friday formally requested a meeting with House Speaker Steve Crisafulli to discuss convening another special session to discuss the alternate map offered by Galvano.  Download 8 27 15 Speaker Crisafulli …

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Florida Lottery Secretary O'Connell resigns

Cynthia O'Connell, the under-fire Secretary of the Florida Lottery, has resigned.

Gov. Rick Scott said Friday he has appointed longtime lottery executive Tom Delacenserie as the Interim Secretary.

Scott said in a statement that O'Connell announced her Oct. 1 departure to explore opportunities in the private sector. However, O'Connell and her agency have faced severe criticism over poor financial management and a fraud investigation into recurring payouts. Earlier this week, Politico wrote that O'Connell racked up nearly $30,000 in travel bills and took nine weeks of vacation in 2014 -- roughly 20 percent of all business days -- in a time key staffers in her office were under investigation.

O'Connell, who has an annual salary of $141,000, was appointed to her current post by Scott in 2011. …

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Jeb Bush, the consensus-builder gov?

Jeb Bush says he's the man to fix the partisan gridlock and dysfunction in Washington. It just takes a willingness to find common ground and reach across the aisle to work with people who may often disagree with you.

"I don't assume it's my way or the highway," Florida's former governor recently told a woman who asked at the Iowa State Fair how his style differs from Donald Trump's.

Jeb Bush, consensus-builder? That's not the leadership style most people remember from his eight years as governor.

"His style is my way or the highway," said former Florida House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, a Republican who supported most of Bush's agenda but is undecided for 2016. "The whole time I worked with him, he never listened to me or anybody else in the process. If Mitch McConnell and John Boehner think they're going to have a great relationship with President Jeb Bush, they better watch out."

Story here

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Rubio: China 'a growing danger to our national security'

Marco Rubio is giving a speech in North Charleston on China. Here are remarks as prepared for delivery:

Today I’d like to discuss China’s rise in global affairs and what I’ll do as president to ensure it doesn’t undermine American interests. If there were any doubts about the importance of this topic, the financial events of the past week put them to rest.

On Monday, due in large part to a crash in China’s stock market, our own markets suffered their worst day in four years. Insecurity and anxiety about the future – already high for America’s families – climbed even higher.

It was a jarring illustration of how our economy has changed. In the 21st century, what happens across the world can impact American families as much as what happens across town. The affairs of foreign nations are increasingly our business, whether we like it or not, and this is especially true of China.

In this new century, China presents both opportunities and challenges for our people. …

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Jose Oliva: New congressional map from Senate is good but too late

At this time last Friday, House and Senate negotiations over new congressional district maps were falling apart, as the chambers approached a noon deadline without a compromise.

Now, House Redistricting Chairman Jose Oliva, R-Hialeah, says he likes the latest map proposed by Senate Reapportionment Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, Thursday.

But it's too late.

"If the Senate had offered an amendment like the map filed by Chairman Galvano yesterday afternoon," Oliva wrote in a memo to House members, "that map would have been given serious consideration."

At issue has been the configuration of a district in southern and eastern Hillsborough County, which the Senate pushed for but House members wouldn't agree to, saying it didn't use "consistent" methodology to draw boundaries and could be thrown out by the Supreme Court.

Galvano's latest map addresses other concerns of the Senate (including putting all of Sarasota County within one district) but doesn't create a southern Hillsborough seat. …

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Environmentalists ask judge to divert state surplus to Amendment 1 fund

Environmental groups are asking a Leon County judge to intervene in how the state will spend a large chunk of the $700 million in funds set aside by voters for conservation.

If granted, the injunction, filed Friday by environmental law group Earthjustice on behalf of four nonprofits, would force the state to put more than $200 million from the state budget surplus into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. The state budget, passed by the Legislature in June, uses some of the money in the trust fund to fund existing projects like administration of the Department of Environmental Protection or firefighting by the Department of Agriculture.

Critics say this flies in the face of what three-quarters of voters demanded when they supported Amendment 1 on the ballot in November.

"We're not saying that those things aren't appropriate for funding," said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation. "We don't think they're appropriate for Amendment 1 funding."

Environmentalists, including Fuller, want to see the $700 million from the trust fund in this year's budget spent on land acquisition in the interest of conservation. …

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'Alarming' delay in Sunshine Law training for Gov. Scott, Cabinet

A little more "sunshine" in state government is proving tough to accomplish.

It has been nearly six months since Gov. Rick Scott and the three elected Cabinet members agreed that they needed a refresher course in Florida's public records and open meeting laws. They agreed to do it by the end of the year at a public Cabinet meeting but the training has not been scheduled and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam's office calls the foot-dragging "alarming."

At a meeting of Cabinet aides this week, Putnam's Cabinet aide, Brooke McKnight, raised the issue.

"It's a little alarming when you look at the calendar and we are running out of dates," McKnight told her colleagues. "I thought it was important to bring it up today." …

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Donald Trump keeps pounding 'low-energy' Jeb Bush

A joyful tortoise

http://bit.ly/1UaX6qI

A joyful tortoise

Jeb Bush may be the hardest working candidate out there, a constant presence on the town hall and fundraising circuit. This week alone he was in Texas, Colorado, Utah, Alabama, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia.

But Bush, the self-styled “joyful tortoise," keeps getting attacked by Donald Trump as “low-energy." Morning Joe Scarborough actually posed it as a serious question today.

“Are you doing that just to provoke him or do you really think the fact that you say he's a low energy would prevent him from being an effective president?” Scarborough asked Trump.

“You know, I like him,” Trump replied. “He's a nice person. He is a low energy person.  There's no question about it. And, you know, I think we need much more than a low energy person right now to put this country back in shape. We need tremendous energy and tremendous smarts and tremendous cunning and all of the things that other countries have.”

Jeb world is supposedly irked by the low-energy stuff and it showed in Bush’s town hall in Pensacola on Wednesday. “We need leadership in Washington, D.C. High-energy leadership,” the former governor said. …

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Gov. Rick Scott declares state of emergency in every Florida county ahead of Erika

Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency throughout all of Florida after the latest forecasts show Tropical Storm Erika could rip through the middle of the state.

At about 8:45 a.m., Scott announced the order, which puts Bryan Koon, director of the state Division of Emergency Management, in control of emergency response and initiates a number of state laws allowing aid to come in to Florida from the outside in the event that it's needed and for state agencies to react.

The latest forecast by the National Hurricane Center at 8 a.m. Friday says Erika is no longer expected to become a hurricane. However, the tropical storm's path is forecast to go right up the middle of the state. At 2 a.m. Monday, the current forecast shows Erika making landfall in South Florida. At 2 a.m. Tuesday, it could be in the middle of the state, not far from Lakeland.

After a briefing from emergency management staff Thursday, Scott spoke to reporters, urging Floridians to start making preparations now using resources at floridadisaster.org and to ensure loved ones are prepared as well. You can find more resources online in the Times' Hurricane Preparedness Guide.

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Operatives file federal lawsuit seeking to invalidate Fair Districts

A group of Alachua-based Republicans calling themselves the "Conservative Coalition for Free Speech and Association" filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday challenging the Fair Districts amendments of the Florida Constitution as unconstitutional.

The group is suing Secretary of State Ken Detzner in an attempt to invalidate the anti-gerrymandering amendments approved by voters in 2010. Several members of the group have fought the release of their private emails in pending redistricting lawsuits, claiming it violates their First Amendment right to free speech and association.

Meanwhile, the release of a limited number of those documents showed that they were engaged in what the court called a "shadow redistricting" process that aimed to influence the Legislature's drawing of its maps in a way that favored Republicans. 

Led by Stafford Jones, head the Alachua Republican Executive Committee, the group echoed many of the complaints of Florida legislators in its lawsuit, and blasted the Florida Supreme Court for violating their First Amendment rights. 

The court's 5-2 ruling invalidating the congressional map because it showed improper partisan intent was "overreaching,'' said Jones in a statement. The court "quite cynically, if not dangerously, redefined protected political free speech and the anonymous petitioning of government as a 'conspiracy'; a conspiracy to commit Democracy?"

According to documents filed in the current redistricting lawsuits challenging the congressional and state Senate maps, Jones and other members of the group involved in the lawsuit were instrumental in recruiting Republicans with scripted talking points to appear at the Legislature's public hearings across the state.

They also actively worked on and submitted Republican-leaning maps as part of the public submission process, pieces of which were included in the final versions of the maps adopted by lawmakers, court documents show.

This is the second lawsuit filed in the Northern District of Florida that attempts to invalidate the state Supreme Court's ruling. The district is believed to be most favorable to conservatives. 

Documents obtained by the Herald/Times show that taxpayers have already spent $11 million in legal fees for the legislature's defense of its redistricting maps. The Democratic Party has used that to launch a campaign and distribute mailers targeting individual lawmakers for wasting taxpayer money. 

Here's the press release and lawsuit:  Download Federal_ComplaintFull Story

Weeks later, flood-damaged Tampa Bay still waits for federal disaster declaration

TALLAHASSEE — The pounding rains stopped nearly three weeks ago, yet pleas for federal assistance from flooding damage still haven't been answered for some Tampa Bay residents unable to return to their homes.

Federal officials were assessing damage in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco a week ago, yet there has been no formal disaster declaration, which would trigger hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured-property losses, and other help for individuals and business owners affected by the storms.

The delay is due, in part, to how long it took Gov. Rick Scott to request a disaster declaration for those counties, plus Taylor and Dixie farther north. The Republican governor declared a state of emergency Aug. 6, but only submitted a formal request for federal assistance to President Barack Obama on Tuesday — three weeks after the storms subsided and almost a week after preliminary damage-assessment teams with the Federal Emergency Management Agency left the region. Scott on Thursday blamed the delay on trying to get accurate damage assessments required by the federal government to get the assistance.  …

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In which Trump trashes Jeb to Crisafulli and Weatherford suggests Trump inflates his golf score

A great read with lots of Florda tidbits in the Washington Post about the long-shaky Bush-Trump relationship:

Donald Trump spent a day in January 2014 hobnobbing with politicians at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla. The billionaire mogul touted legalizing gambling with state Rep. Steve Crisafulli, speaker of the Florida House, and two other wired Florida Republicans, plugging his properties as potential sites for casinos.

But as they tapped putts on the manicured greens, something else was on Trump’s mind: Jeb Bush.

“He was trashing Jeb and, quite honestly, I don’t think he’s ever held Jeb in high regard,” said Crisafulli, a Bush supporter who said he was “uncomfortable” with the conversation and defended the former Florida governor to Trump. “I’ve met with Mr. Trump on several occasions, and he’s constantly had things to say about Jeb. . . . He’s always had a negative connotation about Jeb.”

More here

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Weeks later, flood-damaged Tampa Bay still waits for federal disaster declaration

The pounding rains stopped nearly three weeks ago, yet pleas for federal assistance from flooding damage still haven't been answered for some Tampa Bay residents unable to return to their homes.

Federal officials were assessing damage in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco a week ago, yet there has been no formal disaster declaration, which would trigger hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured-property losses, and other help for individuals and business owners affected by the storms.

The delay is due, in part, to how long it took Gov. Rick Scott to request a disaster declaration for those counties, plus Taylor and Dixie farther north. The Republican governor declared a state of emergency Aug. 6, but only submitted a formal request for federal assistance to President Barack Obama on Tuesday — three weeks after the storms subsided and almost a week after preliminary damage-assessment teams with the Federal Emergency Management Agency left the region. Scott on Thursday blamed the delay on trying to get accurate damage assessments required by the federal government to get the assistance.  …

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"Shadow redistricting" operatives fire back

Some of the GOP operatives/activists swept up in the legal battles over the legislature's redistricting process, are firing back. Stafford Jones, Matt Mitchell, and Pat Bainter have formed the Conservative Coalition for Free Speech and Association committee to overturn the "Fair Districts" constitutional amendment passed by Florida voters and stand up for what they call fundamental First Amendment rights. Here's their site.

 

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