A large group of conservative and tea party figures, including former Florida Rep. Allen West, have sent a letter to Congress opposing the Senate immigration bill.
"We write to express our serious concerns regarding the Gang of Eight's immigration bill, S. 744. We oppose this bill and urge you to vote against it when it comes to the Senate floor," it reads. "No matter how well-intentioned, the (Charles) Schumer-(Marco) Rubio bill suffers from fundamental design flaws that make it unsalvageable. Many of us support various parts of the legislation, but the overall package is so unsatisfactory that the Senate would do better to start over from scratch."
The letter comes as the Senate Judiciary Committee looks to wrap up its work on the bill this week. West was joined by Erick Erickson, Phyllis Schlafly, T. Willard Fair, of the Urban League of Greater Miami, radio hosts Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham, and scores of tea party groups and activists, including Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots.
Coulter to help Rep. Buchanan
Ann Coulter will be in Sarasota on Friday to help Rep. Vern Buchanan raise campaign money, according to an invitation.
The event will be held at the home of Kim Githler. Admission: $250 per person.
Coulter has a home in Palm Beach, one of many national Republican figures who reside in Florida at least part of the year.
Lining up Scott's bill signings
A signing ceremony for the texting while driving bill (SB 52) has been set for 2-3 p.m. Tuesday in Miami, according to an email listed on Project Sunburst, a website that displays executive staff emails in the governor's office, but Jackie Schutz, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott, wouldn't confirm the information. She said the governor is still "reviewing the legislation."
Other emails on Sunburst noted signings for a few other bills, including HB 705 relating to economic development on June 3 in West Palm Beach and HB 1129, requiring care of infants born alive during a failed abortion, on June 5 somewhere in the Panhandle.
The texting bill would make texting while driving a secondary offense, which means a motorist would have to commit another offense, such as careless driving or speeding, in order to be pulled over. Once stopped, a driver could receive two tickets, one for the first infraction and one for texting. The penalty would be $30 for a first-time texting offense, a nonmoving violation. A driver would pay a $60 fine and be assessed three points if caught texting while driving again within five years, with more points added if the violation is in a school zone or another serious offense.
Senate sponsor Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, has asked that the bill be signed somewhere closer to Sarasota.
Diaz-Balart family's loss
Lincoln Gabriel Diaz-Balart, son and namesake of a former congressman and nephew of a current U.S. representative, died Sunday at the age of 29.
The Diaz-Balart family is, perhaps, the most politically powerful in Miami's Cuban-exile community.
U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is a sitting Republican representative. His brother, Lincoln Diaz-Balart retired from Congress after the 2010 elections. Another brother, Jose Diaz-Balart is a Telemundo host. A cousin of theirs is son and namesake of Fidel Castro, a prior uncle by marriage. A longtime family friend and virtual sister, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, expressed her sorrow Monday morning in a radio interview during which she spoke of the toll of depression and suicide.
Times/Herald staff writers Marc Caputo and Rochelle Koff contributed to this report.