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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

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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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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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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Jeb Bush releases 33 years of tax returns

The Bush family mantra has been consistent for generations: First make a lot of money, and then focus on public service.

Jeb Bush followed that path before running for governor of Florida in the 1990s, and 33 years of newly released tax returns show how the Republican embraced that strategy with zeal before launching his presidential campaign this year.

Bush’s income jumped from $261,000 in 2006, his final year as governor, to more than $2.2 million in 2007. Then, from 2010 through 2013, tax returns released Tuesday show his annual income exploded from $3.2 million to nearly $7.4 million. (He got an extension until Oct. 15 to file his 2014 return.)

All told, Bush has earned at least $29 million since leaving public office.

The vast majority of income came from consulting and speaking fees, where Bush earned between $40,000 and $75,000 apiece for dozens of appearances before business and trade groups, colleges, and organizations ranging from The Salvation Army to a South Korean defense contractor.

Story here and look at the returns here.

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Nelson calls for stricter visa standards

In a press conference Tuesdsay, Sen. Bill Nelson called for increased federal oversight of professional, or H-1B visas, which have drawn complaints from local workers in recent weeks.  

H-1B visas are supposed to be given only to skilled foreign workers in "highly specialized" professions. But in recent weeks, Disney and Catalina IT, two national companies based in Florida, have been accused of using the visas to hire foreign workers for relatively unskilled positions as a cost-saving tool.

"I'm afraid that this visa program is being abused and misused by American companies to displace and replace American workers," Sen. Nelson, a Democrat, said.

The senator promised to draft legislation forcing the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security to enforce the H-1B statute as originally written. He said his legislation has bipartisan support, noting the bill's backing by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala..

Nelson said although he did not know the specific number of visa abuses, businesses appear to be "running amok." 

According to Nelson, regulatory agencies like the Department of Labor have expanded the definition of "skilled" over time. …

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Judge delays implementation of 24-hour waiting period for abortions

A Leon County judge has issued an injunction to stop the implementation of a mandatory, 24-hour waiting period before a woman can get an abortion.

The law, passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott, was supposed to go into effect on Wednesday.

The injunction by Chief Judge Charles Francis of Florida's 2nd Circuit means the law won't be enforced while a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a Gainesville abortion clinic works its way through the courts.

The lawsuit claims that the law is unconstitutional under Florida's strict privacy standards. An injunction has no bearing on the final outcome of the suit.

"We are pleased that no Florida woman is going to be subject to these dangerous and unconstitutional delays before getting the medical care they need as we complete the legal challenge to this destructive law," ACLU of Florida Legal Director Nancy Abudu said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. …

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Karl Rove's advice for Ted Cruz: Stop calling yourself the 'next Marco Rubio'

Ted Cruz and Karl Rove are fighting. It’s messy and involves former President George H.W. Bush. To read about that, go here.

But what caught our eye is a mention of Marco Rubio. In his defense, Rove wrote:

“My call to Mr. Cruz apparently didn’t offend him back then because he continued seeking my counsel about his political ambitions, specifically his 2012 bid for the U.S. Senate,” Rove wrote on Medium. “One piece of advice I offered was that he should stop describing himself as the ‘next Marco Rubio,’ since he did not have Senator Rubio’s outstanding legislative record of accomplishments as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.”

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Lopez-Cantera huddling with Broward Commissioner LaMarca

Making the rounds in anticipation of announcing a U.S. Senate bid, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera huddled Tuesday with Chip LaMarca, Broward’s lone Republican county commissioner, at an undisclosed location in Fort Lauderdale, according to Lopez-Cantera’s official schedule.

“LOL, just meeting him for coffee and to catch up,” LaMarca told The Miami Herald's Amy Sherman via text. “I’m sure that he wants to talk about the U.S. Senate campaign in Broward County. ... I’m happy to assist him because he’s a friend and has been supportive of me as well.”

Responding to Sherman's report, the Florida Democratic Party questioned whether Lopez-Cantera was campaigning on state time, a question the LG will hear repeatedly if he continues to hold his state job.

UPDATE: LaMarca said after the meeting between these two Florida elected officials, and after Sherman's original story drew attention on Twitter, that the subject of the Senate race never came up. "We talked about national politics and the presidential” race," LaMarca told Sherman. "I asked him about it. He said he would be happy to chat with me when the time is right." …

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Legal expert: Alan Grayson hedge fund explanation 'complete nonsense'

According to a story published Monday, Rep. Alan Grayson's hedge funds are in violation of a House ethics rule that prohibits sitting legislators from managing self-named investment entities.

Grayson, a populist Democrat, has at least three funds that bear his name, two of which are based in the Cayman Islands and one of which is based in Delaware. 

The Grayson Master Fund (Cayman) Ltd. and Grayson Fund (Cayman) Ltd. had been the subject of previous scrutiny because of Grayson's unusual fund structure

Grayson maintains he has not violated any ethics rules because he has no "fiduciary duty" over them. His explanation, via spokesman Ken Scudder:

"The reason why the funds’ offerings are ‘exempt’ is that all of the fund’s investors are qualified investors. ‘Qualified investors,’ by definition, are sophisticated investors to which no fiduciary duty is owed.”

Investment experts have called baloney on that explanation, saying fiduciary duty exists whether or not investors are "qualified."

Politico has the full story here



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Silence of the Pam: Bondi tight-lipped on DEP chief's job status

Gov. Rick Scott and the three Cabinet members will soon reappoint permanent directors of two Cabinet-level agencies snubbed by the Senate this spring. The selection process is slowed by new Cabinet rules that require more transparent application and interview systems, leaving the two leaders in a limbo-like "interim" status.

FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen is sure to win reappointment because neither Scott nor the Cabinet asked to interview anyone else for a job that requires extensive law enforcement experience. But it's a different story for Secretary Jon Steverson of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), who faces competition and a possible re-application process.

Attorney General Pam Bondi announced at last week's Cabinet meeting that she wants to consider others for DEP, which will be seen as a vote of no confidence in Steverson. He and a top aide faced criticism from the Cabinet earlier over the agency's handling of an appraisal and sale of state land. …

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Gwen Graham raising money in Tampa

Gwen Graham fundraising notice


Gwen Graham fundraising notice

U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham has a who's-who list of list of backers for a fundraiser in Tampa today. The first-term Democrat from Tallahassee is one of the GOP's top targets in Florida.

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Jeb Bush, now and then, on same-sex marriage

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage, Jeb Bush talked of judicial restraint and appointing the right people to the bench.

“Right now, we should focus on defending religious liberty by protecting those who act on their conscience and appointing judges who understand the limits placed on them by the Constitution,” his spokeswoman said, when asked about a Constitutional amendment proposed by Scott Walker.

Against that, it’s worth noting that gay marriage got rolling in Florida due to a 2014 decision from Monroe County Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia — whom then Gov. Bush appointed in October 2000.

Bush also once supported a national constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman (Walker just wants the states to decide). From a 2004 story in the Tallahassee Democrat: …

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Jeb Bush calls Confederate flag a 'racist' symbol

Campaigning in South Carolina today, Jeb Bush offered his strongest remarks on the Confederate flag, calling it a "racist" symbol.

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AG Pam Bondi asks court to allow execution

Attorney General Pam Bondi is asking the Florida Supreme Court to lift its halt on executions, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the state's lethal injection process is constitutional.

In February, the Florida Supreme Court had stopped the state from executing Jerry Correll, who was convicted in 1986 of stabbing his ex-wife, their daughter and her mother and sister in Orlando.

“Without a stay of execution in this case, Florida risks the unconstitutional execution of Correll, for which there is no remedy,” Chief Justice Jorge Labarga wrote in February. “In contrast, a stay pending determination of the issue in the United States Supreme Court will not prejudice the State and, more importantly, will ensure that Florida does not risk an unconstitutional execution.”

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Sen. Bill Nelson demands answers in wake of SpaceX launch explosion

In the aftermath of Sunday's disastrous explosion of a SpaceX shuttle slated to carry supplies to the International Space Station, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla, called for an appraisal of America's space capabilities.

"We would be remiss to underestimate the gravity of the situation right now," Nelson, a former astronaut, said in a release.

The SpaceX shuttle was the third unsuccessful cargo mission in eight months under NASA's watch. It was supposed to bring food and a new docking port to the Space Station. 

Here is Sen. Nelson's full statement: 

Rocket failure brings new worries

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER - Are we nearing a cliff where the safety of astronauts aboard the International Space Station could be jeopardized by a lack of supplies? What caused a SpaceX resupply rocket to explode yesterday shortly after takeoff? And how long will it be before America can once again safely launch astronauts into space? …

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