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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

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

Gov. Scott orders execution in Glades County murder case, the second for 2016

Gov. Rick Scott has ordered the execution of a man who has been on Florida's death row for two murders in 1983.

The execution of Michael Ray Lambrix, scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 11, 2016, is the second already planned in the new year. Oscar Ray Bolin is scheduled to be executed Jan. 7 for murders in Tampa Bay.

Lambrix was convicted in Glades County in 1984 for killing Aleisha Bryant and Clarence Moore, Jr.

According to information from the governor's office, Lambrix and his girlfriend met the victims at a bar and invited them back to the trailer where they lived for dinner. Lambrix then beat Moore to death with a tire iron and strangled Bryant. He stole a gold chain from Moore's body and buried them in a shallow grave before taking Moore's car.

Lambrix had escaped from work release in December 1982 while serving a two-year prison sentence for violoating probation.

But outside groups, including Amnesty International, have contested the narrative that led Lambrix to spend more than 30 years on death row. …

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Hillary Clinton bars press from her Tampa 'conversation'

From William March:

Organizers are expecting a crowd of more than 200 at the “Conversation with Hillary Rodham Clinton” Wednesday at the home of Alex Sink, Clinton’s first campaign event in Tampa in this race, but they won’t include any reporters.

“They aren’t allowing any press,” Sink said in response to a request from a Times reporter to attend.

“Tampa fundraiser is closed to the press,” confirmed campaign spokesman Tyrone Gayle.

Former Mayor Sandy Freedman said the campaign told her a week ago there were more than 200 RSVP’s for the event, and the number likely has increased since.


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After Colorado shooting, Florida group cancels anti-abortion rally

After a shooting at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs last week, anti-abortion activists in Florida are cancelling a rally planned at the state Capitol next week.

The Florida Family Policy Council, which was going to bus supporters from Miami and Orlando to picket the governor's office Dec. 7, has decided to push back the rally to the spring in response to the shooting that left three dead on Friday.

“This violent and horrifying act by someone who has a troubling and violent past, is in complete opposition to the pro-life cause,” said the group's president, John Stemberger, in a statement Monday. “We believe that we must continue promoting the pro-life message and reiterate the concern we have for every human life including the victims of this tragedy."

Stemberger and his supporters have been calling on Gov. Rick Scott to cancel contracts with Planned Parenthood that require the state to match some federal Medicaid funds. …

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White House offers Gov. Scott more information on Syrian refugees

Letter to Gov. Rick Scott


Letter to Gov. Rick Scott

The White House sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott today defending the vetting process for Syrians and offering “more regular access to refugee resettlement information.”

“This proposal responds to governors’ input while protecting the privacy of refugee families,” Whitehouse Chief of Staff Denis McDonough wrote in the letter.

Scott has joined numerous other governors in opposing the resettlement of more refugees. Secretary of State John Kerry previously sent a letter to Scott explaining the vetting process as “extraordinarily thorough and comprehensive" -- language McDonough stood by today.

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Disabled veterans get free parking at Tampa International

Disabled veterans will not have to wait for the Legislature to pass a new law to get free parking at Tampa International Airport.

Airport officials have already changed their policies to now allow any driver with a special disabled veterans license plate issued by the state to park for free up to a week.

The move comes after the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau reported that the Florida Legislature was considering a bill to make all airports give disabled veterans free parking, which some airports already provide as a courtesy. Some legislators thought they had already provided that in a law passed earlier this year. But some veterans with the disabled license plate reported that they were still being denied the free parking by airports that were citing a loophole that exempted them from the law. The law only allowed disabled veterans with ramps and lifts to have the free parking. Disabled veterans without that equipment were being charged full price for parking by many airports.

Florida has about 41,000 veterans who have the special disable veteran license plate. …

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RPOF names presidential primary candidates

Letter to Secretary of State


Letter to Secretary of State

The Republican Party of Florida on Monday formally named the candidates for next March's presidential primary ballot.

There has been concern the winner-take-all status of the primary and homestate favorites Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush would keep other candidates away. But the dynamics of the race continue to evolve and the state looks more competitive.

Candidates who appeared at the recent Sunshine Summit were granted ballot access. Missing from the list is George Pataki, who did not attend the Orlando summit and missed the deadline to get on the ballot. "He will not be on the Florida ballot," RPOF spokesman Wadi Gaitan said.

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Florida cities 'on alert', seeking to kill election date change idea

The Florida League of Cities is mobilizing opposition to kill a legislative proposal to revamp the state's elections timetable in advance of a House vote this week.

The House State Affairs Committee is scheduled to vote Thursday on a bill that would shift city elections to the same date as statewide November general election dates in even-numbered years and to similar dates in odd-numbered years. Most cities hold elections in the spring when they often have the ballot all to themselves. The change is being pushed by Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers, the panel's chairman, who says his goal is to inprove voter turnout in city elections. …

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Darrell Issa endorses Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio continues to pick up endorsements from Congress after a slow start on that front. Today, Rep. Darrell Issa was on Fox News.

Issa praised Rubio for fighting Obamacare and was asked about his difference with Rubio over the NSA's data collection.

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Rubio super PAC up with new ad

The super PAC supporting Marco Rubio is going up with this ad in Iowa and New Hampshire.

"He took on the Republican establishment and won," the ad begins, invoking Rubio's 2010 U.S. Senate win. Conservative Solutions PAC said the ad would begin Dec. 1.

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Dan McLaughlin, spokesman for Bill Nelson, to retire

Sen. Bill Nelson's longtime spokesman, Dan McLaughlin, will retire at the end of the year.

Nelson announced the news to staff today.

Dan McLaughlin, our Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director, is retiring at year's end after more than 21 years of outstanding public service, the last 15 of which were in the U.S. Senate.  He has decided to pursue opportunities in the private sector, including his passion for oil painting and Florida art. Dan has been my confidant and friend all these years, and is recognized in both journalism and communications as one of the best.

He is succeeded by Ryan Brown who, as Director of Communications, is hitting the ground running.

McLaughlin was a formidable reporter for the Tampa Tribune before entering politics. Nicknamed "Mad dog," he was not shy about telling reporters where he thought a story was to be found -- or if he thought a story was bull. His art has become an increasing focus.

McLaughlin's decision follows recent news that Nelson's chief of staff, Pete Mitchell, is retiring -- but not before laying the groundwork for Nelson's 2018 re-election campaign.

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