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Guest Author

Sean Pittman: Far-left labels don’t apply to Andrew Gillum

If you believe the conventional wisdom of the Florida Governor’s race, voters have a stark choice between a Bernie Sanders Democrat and a Donald Trump Republican.

Andrew Gillum, who recently chose his primary opponent Chris King as his running mate, is indeed running against Republican Congressman and presidential acolyte, Ron DeSantis, with Jeanette Nunez for Lieutenant Governor.

It is indeed a glaring political contrast, but not in the way the DeSantis camp would have you believe.

I can’t speak for the Republicans — and won’t. However, the far-out description doesn’t fit Gillum, and it shouldn’t fly as campaign fodder in the November election.

Yes, Sanders did come to Florida and endorse Gillum. But, Gillum was a Hillary Clinton surrogate during the 2016 campaign and made her short list for running mate. Gillum was part of a four-member effort in Tallahassee that raised $500,000 for Obama’s first run as president in 2008.

Now, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is with Gillum as brother-in-arms; his primary opponent, Gwen Graham, the daughter of former Governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, told Gillum to “go out and win the d— thing” as part of her endorsement. State Sen. Lauren Book, the daughter of one of the capitol’s most influential lawyer/lobbyists, also made the shortlist for Gillum’s running mate.

If you know Florida politics, this is not exactly the makings of a leftist cabal.

Besides those who support him, Gillum’s record as Tallahassee Mayor doesn’t suggest a socialist ideology either. In fact, the mayor-turned-gubernatorial candidate has pushed sensible policies that have fostered growth and development in the state’s capital city.

As Mayor, Gillum got rid of business license fees, revised the permitting process to make it more timely and refunded utility deposits to businesses in good standing. The changes made Tallahassee a better place for business and home to Florida’s fastest growing economy.

But, what about all that support from George Soros and Tom Steyer, the two billionaires most identified with progressive causes? Gillum may share political beliefs with the two, but he also appreciates the support from them and the full range of Floridians backing his campaign.

The reality is that many of these so-called progressive issues are becoming more mainstream by the day. Poll after poll shows a majority of Americans favor “Medicare-for-All.” People actually want affordable and accessible health care, including many Republicans who see the value in Medicare and Medicaid expansion as a way to improve medical services and lower drug prices.

Raising the minimum wage in Florida fails the radical-left standard, too.

You don’t need a poll, although several do show Floridians think the current state minimum wage of $8.25 needs to be raised, given our low-wage economy makes it difficult to make ends meet with only one job.

So, while it may be easy to mischaracterize Gillum as a member of the radical fringe, it’s just not true. Facts suggest otherwise.

As the campaign goes on, more and more Floridians will see Gillum for who for who use he is — a pragmatic candidate whose common-sense ideas are welcome by the voters and much more mainstream than many pundits think.

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Sean Pittman is the senior partner of the Pittman Law Group, a Tallahassee-based law firm and co-host of Sunday morning television talk show “The Usual Suspects.”

John Stemberger: Andrew Gillum in two words: impressive and radical

Florida Democrats have nominated Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum to be their choice for Governor who will run against Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis on Nov. 6.

No doubt, Gillum is impressive. He is smart and attractive. He is a winsome communicator, has a beautiful family and has a certain youthful excitement about him.

His personal story is moving. He was born poor in Miami. His mother was a school bus driver and his father, a construction worker. He was the fifth of seven children and the first to graduate from high school. Gillum was elected to Tallahassee’s City Council in 2003 while he was still a student at Florida A&M University. He stayed on the City Council until his election as Mayor in 2014. A pastor friend of mine in Tallahassee who has personally known Gillum for years said Gillum is “Obama 2.0” and could easily be a future President of the United States.

In terms of political currency, Andrew Gillum is the package. He could be the most impressive Democrat candidate for Governor in modern Florida political history.

But he is also the most radical.

He self-identified in the primary as the “true progressive in this race,” and the USA Herald called Gillum the “far-left choice” in the Democratic field. CNN reported, “Gillum was, without question, the choice of liberals in this race” and said the lesson of the primary election was, “you can’t be too liberal.”

Gillum was backed early by radical activist and billionaire political funders, George Soros and Tom Steyer. Soros of New York is worth around $8 billion. Steyer of California is worth around $1.6 billion. If you have never heard of these men, do a couple of Google searches and you will realize how politically dangerous and far to the left these major out-of-state players are. They will eventually pump millions into Gillum’s campaign to silently manipulate the future of our state. Gillum said he is “deeply appreciative of Mr. Soros, as well as Mr. Steyer….”

Gillum was also endorsed by socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The Bernie endorsement was made in person and came complete with a big public hug with State Rep. Carlos Smith, Florida’s openly gay-identified activist legislator standing by with a co-endorsement.

On economic policy, Gillum wants to turn Florida in an entirely new direction. He wants to raise the minimum wage from $8.25 to $15 an hour. He is also on record for raising the corporate tax rate to more than 40 percent — which is about a billion dollars. A Forbes magazine article described it by saying “Gillum’s proposal would make Florida the high tax capital of the South for businesses.” If you understand anything about economic policy, you know why these are really bad ideas for small businesses, for middle-class wage earners and for our overall economic growth as a state.

On education policy, he is an open enemy to school choice and vouchers and is “strongly opposed” to charter schools. He also wants to socialize and adopt Bernie Sanders’ free college education policy by “making college debt free.”

On social policy, having medical marijuana in Florida for certain medical conditions is not enough. Like personal injury lawyer John Morgan, Gillum now also wants to legalize pot for recreational purposes throughout our state, which is the family-friendly vacation capital of the world.

Gillum is backed by two of the most radically liberal groups in our state, Equality Florida and Planned Parenthood. These were supporting groups of the recent “die in” where activists and Democratic candidates lay down in “mass protest” inside Publix grocery stores across the state blocking moms from shopping on a Saturday morning this summer.

Gillum is one of the strongest advocates for the creation of new LGBTQ rights and “transgender rights.” He supports the so-called “Competitive Workforce Act” (CWA) bill that would allow men who subjectively express themselves as women to use women’s showers, dressing rooms and bathrooms in public schools, gyms, domestic violence shelters, scout camps, YMCA camps, and all other “public accommodations.” This is a blatant violation of the privacy, dignity, and safety of women and children. Mr. Gillum is apparently more sensitive to the “needs” of the biological males who act out as females than the thousands of real women who have suffered rape, abuse, and violence at the hands of men who would have to undress and shower with other men in close and intimate personal spaces if the CWA passes.

He has been described as a “sanctuary sympathizer” and directly called for abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).

On health care, Gillum is on record wanting “Medicare for All,” saying he would “work through with anyone … to make health care more universal in Florida.”

He is pro-abortion and wants to use our tax dollars in Florida to reinstate funding to Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in America.

He is opposed to robust 2nd Amendment rights and has sued the National Rifle Association as Mayor of Tallahassee to prevent ordinary citizens from defending themselves in city parks. Gillum’s website lists extensive new gun control laws he wants and proudly advertises he “led marches” for new gun control laws.

Finally, Gillum has been dogged by and is embroiled in scandal and controversy over various ethics charges and other shady transactions.

As Mayor, he purchased an online email system with hard-earned taxpayer’s money and then used that for Democratic political campaigns and not city business. Since then he has been embroiled in a political firestorm. Brazenly, he said that he does not regret purchasing the email software, only that a political campaign email was “accidentally” sent. He did reimburse the city but as of 2017, the matter was being investigated by Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil.

Additionally, and more significantly, there is an ongoing federal investigation into public corruption in Tallahassee that looms over Gillum. The scandal involves out-of-town developers who were able to influence city development projects. The federal probe is related to unreported gifts of Broadway tickets, boat rides, food and hotel rooms received during a New York City trip with a Tallahassee lobbyist and at least two undercover FBI agents posing as businessmen.

Two things are clear about Andrew Gillum. He is very impressive. But he also is very radical. Florida deserves better. Much better.

John Stemberger is a conservative leader who practices law in Orlando and leads the Florida Family Policy Council.

Len Cabrera: Democratic socialism puts lipstick on a pig

The recent surge in popularity for “democratic socialism” is the latest evidence of the failures of our national education system, especially when it comes to economics and our nation’s founding.

While the party leaders probably know exactly what they intend (the centralization of government power with the camouflage of popular will), a simple YouTube search demonstrates that the followers can’t even define the terms that make up the name.

When opponents point out the obvious historic failures of socialism — which always results in tyranny and poverty — the party leaders are quick to claim they’re not socialist in the sense of the Soviet Union, Cuba or Venezuela. They claim they don’t want government ownership of the means of production, but simply seek to redistribute the wealth created by capitalism to make it more “fair,” like the “socialist” Scandinavian countries. This retort is classic bait-and-switch since these countries are not socialist, but have free market economies with heavy redistribution. When you read their formal party platform, it becomes clear that this response is an outright lie.

The Democratic Socialists of America‘s website is an incoherent hodgepodge of utopian progressive fantasies and nineteenth-century Marxist theology mixed with modern intersectional social justice rhetoric to pander to female, minority and LGBTQ voters. If you can stomach sifting through the website, you’ll eventually find their definition of “economic democracy,” which includes “direct ownership and/or control of much of the economic resources of society,” including “control over private resources… land, raw materials, and manufacturing infrastructure.” Direct ownership would be textbook socialism. If DSA prefers to control the private resources, that would be fascism.

For all their supposed forward-thinking, the DSA’s economic policies are just a restatement of John Dewey‘s economic determinism from the 1930s, which is itself a restatement of Karl Marx‘s misunderstanding of free markets. Like all socialists before them, DSA policies will fail because they ignore basic economics, especially the incentives created by market prices, private property, and profit-seeking behavior. Socialist academics like to assert that they know how to run society when most haven’t even run a business. Visit wonderfulloaf.org or ipencilmovie.org and ask yourself if any politician or bureaucrat you’ve ever met is capable of producing and distributing “simple” products like bread and pencils.

If we ignore DSA’s lie and accept that they simply want to redistribute income, history still shows this does not work. California is arguably the most progressive state in the nation, with heavy redistributive policies that provide benefits to people with incomes 200% above the poverty line. According to the Census Bureau, California has only 12% of the nation’s population, but is home to about one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients. Despite all this government assistance, the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure ranks California as the worst state in the union, with more than one in five residents living in poverty.

The new ideas of the DSA include pandering to identity groups (other than simply the proletariat) and adding “democratic” to their title. They use the term to imply there is popular will to centralize government power. They will be kinder, gentler tyrants.

This insistence on popular will sounds nice, but it’s just a ploy to convert envy into political power. It’s easy to get majorities to vote for more government when they don’t have to pay for it. (The top 50% of tax filers paid 97% of all income taxes in 2015.) If the Constitution didn’t prohibit seizure of private property, it’s not hard to imagine DSA getting 51% of the people to vote to take everything from the other 49%. “Democracy is not freedom,” wrote Marvin Simkin in the Los Angeles Times. “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch. Freedom comes from the recognition of certain rights which may not be taken, not even by a 99% vote.”

In addition to being economically illiterate, the DSA’s policies ignore the principles in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. With Constitution Day coming up on September 17, maybe budding democratic socialists should read the Constitution so they can learn that we are a constitutional republic, based on the sovereignty of the individual and subject to the rule of law, not the rule of the mob.

Giancarlo Sopo: Debunking six myths about democratic socialism for Floridians

The Florida Governor’s race kicked off last week with a tweet and a race to the bottom. The morning after the primary, President Donald Trump slammed democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum as the “failed socialist mayor” of Tallahassee. Then, GOP nominee Ron DeSantis went on national television and warned that, if elected, his opponent could “monkey” up the state, which immediately elicited accusations of racism.

Bigotry and ideological extremism should have no place in Florida. The former is patently vile, and the latter is especially troubling in a state inhabited by millions of victims of Karl Marx’s gospel of envy. Such serious imputations should be based on facts. It’s understandable why Congressman DeSantis’ comment rubbed many the wrong way, but was it irrefutable evidence of racial bias? Also, one can see why Mayor Gillum’s campaigning with Sen. Bernie Sanders raises red flags (no pun intended), but does it mean that he, too, is a democratic socialist?

I suspect these charges would not hold up in court. Despite both candidates taking steps to discredit these attacks, we’re likely to continue hearing them through Election Day.

This leaves Florida voters with the unenviable task of discerning fact from fiction. Racism is usually self-evident, but identifying socialism requires a grasp of its ideological contours. Thus, it’s important for Floridians to understand what this ideology means and what it does not, so we can determine the credibility of claims routinely made by the right and the left.

Myth: Democratic socialism is unlike real socialism.

Fact: One of the most pervasive falsehoods surrounding “democratic socialism” is that it’s fundamentally different than Cold War-style socialism — it isn’t. It’s true that the two diverge on matters of governing processes but on economics, democratic socialism and the socialist policies of Havana are nearly indistinguishable. In a recent interview, the head of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the country’s largest socialist organization with several chapters across the state, identified the elimination of privately owned companies and the nationalization of major industries as the group’s primary objectives. To be clear, these are not isolated views among democratic socialists. They’re as integral to that ideology as Jesus’ divinity is to Christianity — and also largely consistent with Cuban law.

Myth: Democratic socialists are today’s New Deal liberals.

Fact: Democratic socialists view FDR’s New Deal as insufficient. As Meagan Day, a DSA member and writer at the socialist magazine Jacobin, explained last month, democratic socialists want to go much farther than the New Deal, which largely focused on aiding the elderly, poor, and unemployed. As she noted, “here’s the truth: in the long run, democratic socialists want to end capitalism. And we want to do that by pursuing a reform agenda today … to revive a politics focused on class hierarchy and inequality in the United States.”

Myth: Government programs = Socialism

Fact: Socialism is the collective ownership of the means of production — not all government-led initiatives meet this definition. Also, not all progressives, and certainly not all Democrats, are hostile to free enterprise. Moreover, there is scant evidence that expanding health care inevitably leads to a government take-over of the economy. Of the 25 freest countries in the world in the libertarian Cato Institute’s most recent Freedom Index, almost all have national health care initiatives via public, private or hybrid models.

Myth: It’s what they have in Scandinavia.

Fact: The Nordic region has some of the world’s freest economies. Perhaps the most common misconception is to equate democratic socialism with Nordic social democracy. This is false. Democratic socialists like the welfare state aspects of Scandinavia, but they are ultimately committed to dismantling the free enterprise system. Conversely, Nordic social democrats are at peace with capitalism and focus their energy on strengthening social services. In fact, according to a 2018 World Bank report, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway surpass the U.S. in ease of starting a business and trading across borders. They also beat us when it comes to property rights in at least one study. This is precisely why democratic socialists often argue the Nordic Model is “not good enough” because, as they say, “capitalist control persists over the large majority of workplaces.”

Myth: Raising taxes is socialism

Fact: The merits of tax hikes are  debatable, but they are not inherently socialist. It’s true that in some countries, socialist leaders have pursued high tax regimens to weaken private sector activity, but their marginal rates were usually at confiscatory levels. In addition, Florida’s constitution specifically prohibits state income taxes. And though uncertainty over taxes has been shown to affect the economy, once rates are clearly defined, other considerations — such as human capital, supply chains, and infrastructure — are likelier to dictate corporate growth strategies.

Myth: We‘re overly sensitive to socialism because America is a right-wing country

Fact: Democratic socialists’ economic proposals are extreme — even by European standards. During my research, I presented a dozen Norwegian economists with a write-up of DSA’s economic ideas that were summarized by Vox, a liberal news website, and asked them to rate where the policies would fall along their country’s political spectrum. Eleven classified them as “far-left/fringe.”

Even after dispelling myths regarding socialism, some will continue to misuse the term as a slur to describe garden-variety liberals or delude themselves that today’s socialists are not what they claim to be. The rest of us should demand intellectual honesty and a better kind of politics.

Our next Governor will have to address numerous challenges. From toxic algae that are decimating our shores and wildlife to regulatory capture and occupational licensing requirements that rig our economy, we simply have too many real problems to be distracted by fallacies for the next 60 days.

It’s time to get to the issues.

Giancarlo Sopo is a Miami-based public affairs consultant and writer. His commentary has been featured in The New York Times, Univision, Fox News, CNN, Politico, and The Miami Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @giancarlosopo.

Emmett Reed: As Irma anniversary nears, safety remains FHCA members’ top priority

As we reflect on what we’ve learned since Hurricane Irma blasted Florida one year ago, Florida’s nursing centers are continuing their work of improving preparations, education, and training – to be ready for a storm of comparable power and impact.

We cannot forget the lessons of the tragedy that struck a South Florida nursing center last year. Even though that center was not a member of Florida Health Care Association, the loss of life there was felt deeply throughout the long-term care profession. The episode has served as an immeasurable motivator for our member nursing centers and assisted living facilities to remain prepared to keep our more than 70,000 residents safe throughout the storm season.

Following Florida’s brush with Tropical Storm Gordon this week and three powerful systems brewing in the Atlantic as this is written, these dedicated caregivers continue to demonstrate strong leadership to be ready for whatever comes their way.

Since Governor Rick Scott implemented new generator requirements for long-term care centers, our members have been working tirelessly on their emergency power plans, including strengthening steps for both evacuation and shelter-in-place scenarios. They’re enhancing their systems for communicating with family members and enhancing relationships with emergency managers so those authorities have a better understanding of the centers’ residents and the complexities of their medical needs. They’re also putting those plans to the test, running disaster drills and training seminars so both staff and residents are familiar with the steps that will be taken during an emergency.

Centers are also working to install their permanent generators to keep residents safe, cool, and comfortable if they experience a loss of power. The generator installation process can take an average of 38 weeks to complete – these are not like a portable generator to cool your home, they are massive and custom-fit for buildings that, on average, house 120 residents. While centers are navigating through the logistics of permitting, zoning, engineering, construction, and inspection of these massive generators and the fuel to accompany them, they’re bringing in mobile generators or making plans to evacuate should the power go out.

Compliance with regulations to keep residents safe is a responsibility our member centers have and always will take seriously. At the same time, these centers are demonstrating that there’s more to their mission than just compliance – it’s about providing quality care and enriching the lives of elders who can no longer care for themselves at home.  

Every day – whether in the midst of hurricane season or not – FHCA members remain dedicated to improving health outcomes for our residents. Their care and safety remain our first priorities, and we are steadfast in our commitment to do everything we can to ensure their well-being no matter what nature throws our way.

One year after Irma, Florida’s long-term care residents should feel a greater sense of comfort knowing their caretakers are prepared for any situation that comes their way. And family members should feel at ease with the reassurance that their loved ones are in good hands.

Families with loved ones in a care center can see how facilities in that county are complying by visiting the Emergency Preparedness section of FHCA’s “Elder Care Florida” website.

Emmett Reed is the executive director of the Florida Health Care Association.

Seth Miller, Michelle Feldman: Preventing the next Biscayne Park scandal

Former police officers in Biscayne Park, a small suburb north of Miami, are charged with framing innocent people in an effort to boost the department’s crime-solving record. Raimundo Atesiano, the police chief who resigned in 2014, allegedly directed his force to pin unsolved crimes on random black people in the community.

False confessions played a major role in the scheme. Guillermo Ravelo, who was fired from the department this year, admitted to fabricating confessions from two innocent men who Chief Atesiano allegedly ordered him to arrest without evidence. Ravelo falsely claimed in an arrest affidavit that one man admitted to committing two home break-ins in 2013, and that another confessed to stealing items in five unsolved car burglaries in 2014. Charges against both men were eventually dropped.

Florida has a history of problems with false confessions, which contributed to six wrongful convictions in the state since 1989. The innocent Floridians in these cases collectively spent 66 years behind bars and taxpayers were forced to cover $38 million in civil awards and settlements stemming from the wrongful convictions.

There is a common-sense way to help prevent what happened to innocent people in Biscayne Park and around the state from happening again. The Florida Legislature should pass a law requiring police to record suspect interrogations in their entirety.

Had a law been in place, it would have been a lot more difficult for Guillermo Ravelo to make up confessions that never occurred. A law might have also protected Anthony Caravella, who spent 26 years in prison for a rape and murder in Broward County, until DNA testing exonerated him in 2010. Caravella, an intellectually disabled teenager, admitted to the crimes after five days of physical and mental coercion by his interrogators. Detectives taped only his confession, so the judge and jury did not hear critical context about the abuse that preceded it.

Nationally, 24 states and all federal law enforcement agencies require recording of suspect interrogations. In Florida, many jurisdictions have implemented the practice on their own. Broward County began recording interrogations over a decade ago, in the wake of several false confession cases. The Miami-Dade Police Department announced in 2014 that it would videotape interviews in homicide investigations.

However, without a state law, individual agencies and officers can choose whether or not to record. The result is a hodgepodge of practices across the state, and protections that vary based on where a Floridian is arrested. Even if a department does have a policy in place, there is no legal consequence if an officer decides to tape only part, or none, of an interview.

Over the years, legislation has been introduced to require recording of interrogations. Most recently, Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, and Democratic Rep. Sharon Prichett of Miami-Dade introduced a bill that passed three Senate committees but was never scheduled for a committee hearing in the House.

The next Biscayne Park scandal and the next wrongful conviction in Florida can be stopped, and you can help. Tell your state Senator and Representative that you support a law requiring police to record suspect interrogations.

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Seth Miller is the Executive Director of the Innocence Project of Florida; Michelle Feldman is the Legislative Strategist at the national Innocence Project.

Logan McFaddin: To weather future storms, now is time to prepare, plan

Logan McFaddin

Nearly two-thirds of Florida residents say they have taken precautions in advance of the 2018 Hurricane Season, according to a poll by SurveyMonkey on behalf of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).

A year ago, Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys, inflicting major damage and leaving more than 15 million residents without power. And, with more than $50 billion in damages, it ranks as the fifth-costliest storm in United States history.

Despite the devastation that millions of Florida homeowners have experienced, 36 percent still say they haven’t taken precautions for the next storm. PCI strongly encourages those Floridians who have not taken action to protect themselves and their families to come up with a plan.

Preparing for a major storm is much more than just gathering supplies. Insurers encourage anyone living in the Sunshine State to create emergency plans, prepare financially and know how to avoid contractor abuse as we enter peak hurricane season.

Florida is the most hurricane-prone state in the nation, with 40 percent of all U. S. hurricanes hitting the state.  Since 1851, there have been 118 direct hurricane hits in Florida, and history shows September is an extremely active month.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to talk to your insurance agent or company about your coverage options to best protect yourself, your family and your property. Don’t wait until it is too late.  Of the Floridians surveyed, nearly 38 percent reported that their property suffered damage due to last year’s storms.  Last year, Hurricane Irma forced millions of residents to evacuate and according to the Office of Insurance Regulation insured losses from Irma totaled more than $5.5 billion.

For homeowners who experience property damage and are eager to get repairs underway, they must be cautious about the potential of crooked contractors. After a major storm hits, unscrupulous contractors are known to flood the area looking to take advantage of people desperate to get back into their homes. These contractors make false promises, take full payments upfront and never finish the work, sometimes even creating damage where none existed. To prevent this type of abuse from happening, it is imperative for homeowners to fully understand any contractual obligations when they sign on the dotted line. With an Assignment of Benefits (AOB) contract, homeowners relinquish their rights under their policy to a third party.

To raise awareness on these fraudulent schemes and help Floridians avoid becoming the next victim of contractor abuse, PCI, has created an online tool that is a one-stop shop where Florida insurance agents, companies and residents can go to find tips and information on how to navigate AOB. We invite homeowners to visit this interactive digital guide at pciaa.net.

Being prepared and having a plan is the first step in weathering any storm. Now is the time to take action and learn more about hurricane preparation, recovery and the rebuilding process.

For a complete 2018 Hurricane Guide, visit zmags.com.

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Logan McFaddin is Florida Regional Manager for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

Jose Oliva: Confirm Brett Kavanaugh

If, as Justice Antonin Scalia said, “Our appointment and confirmation process has … evolved into a mini-plebiscite on the meaning of the Constitution whenever a new justice is to be seated,” then our freedoms, our Republic, and our Constitution could not be in better hands than with Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

On paper, Judge Kavanaugh is eminently qualified. You would be hard-pressed to find a more qualified individual to serve on the nation’s highest court.

But the reasons to confirm him go far beyond a stellar resume.

George Washington declared the Constitution to be the guide he would never abandon. Judge Kavanaugh’s career, both in and out of the courtroom, clearly demonstrates his commitment to embodying Washington’s reverence for the four corners of that most transformational document.

That respect and recognition of restrictions on judicial power should cause none to fear. On the contrary, such deference to the text will keep speech free, faith personal, homes secure, families protected, federal power limited, and rights divinely bestowed and inalienable.

In other words, a Justice faithful to the text of the Constitution will ensure our liberties and respect the freedoms that we all cherish.

What more can we ask of a judge or any man?

As President Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but If you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Judge Kavanaugh, as an appellate judge on the federal bench, wielded considerable power and passed the test of self-limitation with flying colors.

And one need only listen to Judge Kavanaugh himself to understand why he would make Lincoln proud when he said, “The judge’s job is to interpret the law, not to make the law or make policy. So read the words of the statute as written. Read the text of the Constitution as written, mindful of history and tradition. Don’t make up new constitutional rights that are not in the text of the Constitution. Don’t shy away from enforcing constitutional rights that are in the text of the Constitution.”

That philosophy will secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

In a time when the idea that the Constitution is a “living, breathing document” is taken seriously, a judge willing to so forthrightly declare that it is not the job of an unelected branch of government to set policy, no matter their personal feelings about the propriety of such policy, is both refreshing and consistent with the finest judicial traditions of this great country.

Justices who adhere to the plain meaning of the text of the Constitution do honor to the sacrifices of the men and women who fought to see it to fruition. President John Adams, who lamented that we would never know how much it cost his generation to preserve our freedom, would, I believe, see Judge Kavanaugh’s work as an affirmation of all they fought for. Their sacrifice for liberty was not in vain so long as we who are heirs to that toil do our part to preserve it.

And that is my hope in all I do as a Legislator and all I do in this writing. To be worthy of the sacrifices made by generations past.

I am convinced that the Constitution and the restrictions it places on all branches of government are the reasons we are still a government of the people, for the people, and by the people.

And people like Judge Kavanaugh, willing to serve, willing to abide by the Constitution as written, and willing to endure the fire of confirmation, are the reason, God willing, we always will be.

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State Rep. Jose Oliva is set to become the next Speaker of the Florida House.

Annie Betancourt: Recognize working families on Labor Day

On this Labor Day, as we squeeze in one more weekend getaway to the beach with the family, we can also give some consideration to the workers who are the backbone of the economic engine that powers our everyday life.

Florida has just surpassed a GDP of 1 trillion dollars and we currently have the 17th largest economy in the world. However, too often, workers in Florida and especially women, are not experiencing economic progress. One out of every 3 workers among us in Florida earns under $12 per hour. Two-thirds of minimum wage workers in Florida are women, earning just $8.25 per hour.

Simply put, our state government fails to ensure that hardworking families have all they need to thrive: living wages, basic protections such as sick-and-family leave, pregnancy accommodations, equal pay for women and more.

In an effort to understand the differences between states, and to rank them, anti-poverty organization Oxfam America created the Best States to Work Index, which measures labor and employment policies of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The index reflects the idea that workers fare better when they earn higher wages, have the right to organize, and enjoy protections around paid sick and family leave, among others.

According to the Best States to Work Index, Florida ranks at 37 in the nation in its treatment of workers. On the plus side, our state minimum wage, currently at $8.25, exceeds the federal minimum wage. However, it still falls far short of what the state’s working families really need. Two full-time working parents in Florida with two kids each need to make $15.79 an hour to meet basic living costs, according to the MIT living wage calculator.

Given the difference in the cost of living between South Florida and the Panhandle, the legislature has tied the hands of local governments which know the needs of citizen’s best — from establishing a minimum wage that meets the cost of living and is appropriate for their residents, although Miami Beach is challenging that shortsighted ban in the Florida Supreme Court. In addition, Florida fails to require accommodations for pregnant women at the workplace and to provide paid sick and family leave for workers.

Those policies are especially important to ensure strong and healthy families.

But there could be change afoot. There is a movement to get a $15 minimum wage on the ballot in 2020. If passed, that would gradually increase the minimum wage to $10 per hour in 2021, then up to $15 by 2026. More than 70 percent of our state’s voters supported the ballot to increase the minimum wage in 2004, and it’s time for an update, especially at a time when the cost of housing is out of reach for many Floridians. And a group of progressive organizations have come together to promote a Florida Workers’ Agenda for the next governor, detailing a slate of reforms that would go a long way toward improving the state’s environment as a place to work.

Critics of such measures claim that providing a decent work environment means killing jobs and, in the end, will mean a drop in the quality of life of our citizens. So Oxfam looked to see if the states ranked lowest on the Best States to Work Index also have a better quality of life.

In their index, states with higher scores tend to have more prosperous economies and lower infant mortality rates: California ranks No. 3 on the index, and the infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births) is 4.2; in Alabama, No. 49, the infant mortality rate is 9.1. In Florida, we have an infant mortality rate of 6.1 per 1,000 births.

As we mark yet another Labor Day, let’s accept the reality that it’s up to us Floridians to demand changes that will tip the scales back toward working families.

Together, we can make a difference by standing up for workers.

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Former state Rep. Annie Betancourt is an ambassador of Oxfam America Sisters on the Planet.

Joe Clements: Possible paths to victory for Andrew Gillum, Ron DeSantis

On July 9, I published “The ‘big picture’ predictions on Election 2018,” which shared the reasons I thought Andrew Gillum would win the Democratic primary for governor.

Throughout the summer, I tweeted about why I thought Gillum would win the primary election and the rationale behind it, which I retweeted on election night after the results flowed in.

Where do I stand now?

I think Gillum carries the advantage going into the general election, but I do not believe Ron DeSantis faces any challenges that Adam Putnam would not have faced.

First, let’s forecast the rise of Andrew Gillum.

Gillum is going to quickly become a national Democratic icon and people will start floating his name as a 2020 presidential nominee. The energy around Gillum in Democratic circles will be intense as he is a better-looking and more rhetorically-polished Bernie Sanders. Gillum may offer fringe left beliefs, but he does not look or sound fringe.

The bane of Democratic politics in Florida is voter turnout.

While Democrats outnumber Republicans, they can rarely achieve high enough turnout rates to beat Republicans statewide. Gillum, like Barack Obama, brings “once in a generation” excitement to minority communities that will be thrilled to vote for Florida’s first black governor.

Let’s call this strategy the “Barack Obama,” where a candidate can use star power and inspirational messaging to drive turnout among low-propensity voters.

The FBI investigation and corruption charges are unlikely to hold weight with voters who have low confidence in the FBI and dismiss information they don’t like as “Fake News.”

At best, Gillum’s mayoral record can be used to motivate Republican voters, but it is unlikely to deter Democrats.

Finally, Gillum is going to benefit from any attack tweets issued by Donald Trump, as this will provide him with national earned media and drive home the narrative that he is the nation’s premier anti-Trump candidate.

The DeSantis campaign should work with the White House as much as possible to focus presidential messaging about Gillum around the FBI investigation and corruption charges. By doing so, the media will begin to talk about those issues, and Gillum will be forced to answer an attack on his record and not merely respond to Trump.

To win, Gillum needs to focus on voter turnout and not make unforced errors in the media or in debates.

Now, let’s take a look at DeSantis.

As a Republican, DeSantis has two valid strategic options that will lead to a win statewide.

The “Rick Scott:” Move away from the President while also trying to build a coalition of Republicans and moderates around economic issues.

Or …

The “Donald Trump:” Keep working with the President to recreate the Trump coalition of hardcore Republicans and blue collar, white Democrats around social issues.

The issue for DeSantis with the Scott strategy is women. Generally, college-educated moderate women do not support Trump. Democrats will exploit DeSantis’s support for Trump to wedge away soft Republican and NPA women.

DeSantis’ issue with the Trump strategy is that it is successful for only one person – Donald Trump. No one can guarantee if Trump-supported candidates are able to generate the same level of support and voter turnout as the Big Man himself.

That said, I don’t believe DeSantis faces a steeper climb than, say, Putnam, or any other Republican candidate, would have against Gillum. I believe that if Putnam won, he would have ultimately pursued the Trump strategy once it was evident that support among moderate women had collapsed.

Ironically, all the attributes for which Trump praises DeSantis make it difficult for him to recreate the Trump strategy. Ivy League lawyers are typically unpopular among populist NPA and Democratic voters in Florida’s exurban and rural counties, just the where DeSantis needs to recreate the Trump coalition.

There are two actions the DeSantis campaign can take to build a Trump strategy.

First, the DeSantis campaign should seek the endorsement and active support of the one Republican who is most beloved in our rural and exurban areas: Putnam.

Putnam draws large crowds in these areas and the DeSantis campaign needs a validator to voters who will not vote for Gillum but may be at risk of simply not voting.

If DeSantis fails to win these rural and exurban voters, he will have taken the Mitt Romney strategy, which is not a winning route.

Second, the DeSantis campaign should select a moderate Republican woman (or Puerto Rican) to fill the lieutenant governor slot – and give that person a meaningful role.

Denise Grimsley and Jeanette Nunez are both choices, offering overlapping benefits. Grimsley is liked among rural voters and Nunez among Miami Cuban voters. There are also several viable options for LG in Orlando that carry deep ties to the I-4 Puerto Rican community, such as Bob Cortes and Rene Plascencia.

DeSantis would hit the jackpot if he finds a moderate, Republican, Puerto Rican woman for his ticket.

To win, DeSantis needs to duplicate the Trump coalition without the benefit of Trump on the ticket.

In the end, Republicans will be working with tight numbers, but they will ultimately have the advantage of a good economy; voters are always looking to keep things “on the right track.”

So, there we have it: Gillum needs to initiate Twitter battles with Trump and turn out low-propensity voters. DeSantis needs to offset the loss of moderate women with big wins in Trump Country.

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Joe Clements is co-founder and CEO of Strategic Digital Services, a Tallahassee-based tech company. He is also co-founder of Bundl, a campaign contribution management app.

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