Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 389

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

Bob Gualtieri vexed over immigration misinformation

A community forum to discuss the recent agreement between 17 Florida Sheriffs and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is scheduled to take place Thursday night in St. Petersburg.

That agreement allows local authorities to hold undocumented immigrants beyond the time they normally would have to be released based on state or local cases. It was announced at a press conference at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in Largo last month, and came about after courts objected to sheriffs making their own decisions based on a civil detainer request. Under the new arrangement, the migrants are booked under federal auspices.

Indivisible FL-13, For Our Future FL, the Allendale United Methodist Church, the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Women’s March Pinellas and others have organized the event at the Allendale United Methodist Church.

A press release announcing the event said that Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri was invited but is unable to attend. Gualtieri confirms that he won’t be available to participate, but says that he’s concerned and frustrated by what he calls misinformation being perpetuated by critics of the agreement.

“What we’re talking about in this area is solely one hundred percent only criminal illegal aliens, and when I see in the literature that’s being distributed that what we’re doing is in the same sentence as ‘dreamers’ is absolutely erroneous, and it’s very concerning, because they’re putting fear into the community needlessly by this misleading information,” he says.

Gualtieri says the agreement does not give his deputies carte blanche to start detaining whomever they believe might be undocumented, contrary to claims by some critics. Instead, he says it’s all about people who have been arrested for violating a law and then later determined to be out of status, a much more narrow population.

“A lot of these these people … either are ignorant about it or they are intentionally misleading and then causing others to be misled and causing concern in the public and in the immigrant communities needlessly, because they’re trying to scare these people.”

At a protest in front of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Ybor City two weeks ago, Father Peter Ruggere of Corpus Christi in St. Petersburg said service is the image expected from local law enforcement, not handing off undocumented immigrants to the federal government.

“We do not expect them to be handymen, cleaner-uppers for ICE. That’s not their job,” he said. “Their job is to serve and protect this community, and that’s why we’re here.”

At a rally in Tampa a week ago, activists put out an “emergency travel advisory” for Florida, warning potential visitors to be cautious about entering a state where racial profiling is occurring.

“We’re also advising that they particularly avoid high-risk areas, such as the counties that are increasing their collaboration with ICE and DHS as well as airports, seaports, Greyhound bus stations, 7-11 convenience stores and gas stations,” said Briann Gonyea, an attorney with the Council on American Islamic Relations.

There have been incidents where the undocumented  have been picked up on Greyhound buses and in 7-11s, though in most cases reported it’s been at the hands of Border Patrol officers, who work for Customs and Border Protection, an arm of the Homeland Security Department.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Border Patrol officers are working without permission on private property and setting up checkpoints up to 100 miles away from the border under a little-known federal law that is being used more widely in the Trump administration’s aggressive crackdown on illegal immigration.

Gualtieri says that’s not what sheriff deputies in Florida are up to.

“It’s all nonsense, ” he says. But he says if a person is undocumented and committing crimes, “We’re going to help ICE get you out of here, and that’s the way it should be.”

Gualtieri says that of the estimated 11-13 million undocumented people in the U.S., approximately one million have committed crimes – and that’s who he’s concerned about (In 2016 the Migration Policy Institute estimated that 820,000 of the 11 million unauthorized have been convicted of a crime).

“This isn’t about Sheriff Gualtieri,” said CAIR Florida attorney Robert Sichta .”This is about some law enforcement agencies deciding to ride the wave of a new and dangerous shift in policy that attempts to divide our communities into persons who deserve the protection of the Constitution and those who do not. The Constitution is still the law of the land. People are not criminals until found guilty. Existing detention laws follow the Constitution. The fact that any local government would expose itself to liability from unlawful detentions boggles the mind.”

Marc Rodrigues of the Hillsborough Community Protection Coalition rejects the idea that activists like himself are promoting fear, saying there’s already enough of that in immigrant communities due to the current political climate.

“Sheriff Gualtieri can talk about safety all he wants, but members of the community we speak with are in fact feeling less safe as a result of these policies, less likely to approach law enforcement if they are victims of crime,” he said.

“The reality is that that what is often considered a misdemeanor infraction for a U.S. citizen that is resolved routinely, thousands of times every day across this country through the paying of a fine or the posting of bond, results, for an immigrant, in utter life-shattering devastation,” Rodrigues added.

“When an undocumented immigrant repeatedly drives without a license to be able to work and to keep a roof over their head and food on the table in a state that won’t allow that immigrant to apply for a driving permit, that person is deemed a ‘felon’ and subjected to these Sheriff-ICE collaboration, detention, deportation, family separation policies. Then we’re asked to remain silent as politicians and Sheriffs, eager to capitalize on fear to advance their careers, crow about how incredible of a job they’ve done to keep US citizens safe from the dangers of a housekeeper, tomato picker, landscaper or construction worker who was found driving with a broken tail light. We will not remain silent.”

The 17 counties participating include: Bay, Brevard, Charlotte, Columbia, Hernando, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lee, Manatee, Monroe, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Suwannee and Walton.

An organizer for Thursday’s event, Vickie Dunn, says that her group would have welcomed Gualtieri speaking to the group at a later date, “but that option wasn’t offered.”

The roundtable discussion is scheduled to take place Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. at the Allendale United Methodist Church, 3803 Haines Rd. N. in St. Petersburg. Those who plan on attending are advised to RSVP online.

Chris King: Legislature ‘cowardly’ for running from assault rifle ban

On the debate over assault rifle bans, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King believes the Florida Legislature is a bunch of cowards.

With the eyes of the nation on them, the GOP-led state House blocked a move by Democrats Tuesday to debate a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines in Florida, six days after a massacre that took 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Republicans explained it would have been unprecedented to take a bill stuck in a subcommittee and move it to the chamber floor for debate.

The optics have been terrible though, with national media organizations focusing on showing Parkland students who were in the gallery that afternoon crying after the vote.

Headlines from outlets like The Washington Post screamed, “Florida House refuses to debate guns, declares porn dangerous,” referring to a resolution by Dover Republican Rep. Ross Spano that declares pornography a health risk that states a need for education, research and policy changes to protect Floridians, especially teenagers, from pornography.

King said it was downright “cowardly” for the House to not even engage in a debate on the issue.

“That’s a terrible explanation,” he said about the reasoning that such bills aren’t heard out of committee while appearing on Tampa’s WMNF 88.5 FM Thursday.

“There are good people that can talk about these issues, recognize that they’re complicated, and that we need to have a debate and we need to discuss it and talk about the substance of these ideas,” he said, adding that he supported the same proposal by Orlando Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (HB 219) that was similarly never brought up for debate last year after the Pulse nightclub massacre.

“I think it’s a real absence of leadership and it’s cowardly to not even talk about solutions, to not even be willing to stand out there and say, ‘I oppose,’ as the Republicans would likely do, ‘I oppose an assault weapons ban, and here’s why.’ They don’t want to make that argument. They don’t want to stand up to folks like those students from Parkland who can’t understand why they wouldn’t do that,” King said.

On Wednesday night, U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and Boca Raton U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch appeared before a live town-hall audience broadcast nationally by CNN in Sunrise. Missing in action was Gov. Rick Scott, an absence that King calls “tragic.”

“We need a governor to not only sooth the wounds but propose big ideas that we can get behind,” King said. “I believe that’s a big problem. We haven’t had leadership from this governor for a long time.”

A Gravis Marketing poll released earlier this week shows King with only two percent support in his contest for the Democratic nomination for governor, but the Winter Park businessman says he remains unconcerned with more than six months to go before the August primary.

“My opportunity over the next seven months is as people are messaged and as people understand where we are on these issues, they’ll be making choices,” King said, adding that the poll showed that more than two-thirds of Democratic voters haven’t decided on a candidate yet.

Noting that while his better-known opponents, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine are still relatively unknown by Democratic voters at large, King’s job is to “catch fire” and speak to voter concerns.

Former state lawmaker Rob Wallace commits suicide

Rob Wallace, a Republican who served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1994 to 2002 representing Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, died on Monday, jumping from a Dale Mabry Highway overpass.

Wallace was 65.

At least one witness saw Wallace plunge 40 to 50 feet onto Gunn Highway, according to a Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s report. A 911 call came in at 7:02 p.m., and first responders found his body lying on a rock surface next to railroad tracks.

Quoting a medical report, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Wallace had been suffering from depression “for the past several years.”

Former state Sen. John Grant worked closely with Wallace for about eight years and said he was saddened by news of his death.

“This just proves how much we don’t know about how to fight mental illness,” said John Grant, who served in the Legislature with Wallace. “It’s not like other medical problems where you can get an MRI and find out what is wrong.”

After serving eight years in the Florida House, he was thought done with politics but came back unexpectedly in 2010. That’s when Hillsborough and Florida Republicans were scrambling for a candidate to replace Jim Norman in the Senate District 17 race in Hillsborough and Pasco Counties.

Norman was kicked off the ballot less than a month before he was expected to win the seat following a trial filed by the Republican he had defeated in the primary that August, Kevin Ambler.

After Ambler lost to Norman, he filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn his loss, arguing that Norman was not qualified to run because he failed to disclose a gift for an Arkansas vacation home on his state ethics forms.

Tallahassee Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford ultimately found Norman’s explanation that he knew nothing about the house “patently absurd,” and ordered him off the ballot.

Then six Republican representatives from Hillsborough and Pasco counties selected Wallace to replace Norman on the ballot. Norman appealed that verdict, and ultimately got back on the ballot, and was elected to the Senate.

In 2012, after Norman opted not to run for re-election for the Senate seat, Wallace filed to run in the Republican primary that year, where he ended up losing to John Legg. He complained to this reporter that year that the GOP establishment in Tallahassee had intervened in the primary.

“I have no problem with people like (Richard) Corcoran, (Mike) Fasano, (Will) Weatherford, ” he said of Pasco area Republicans who were endorsing Legg in the SD 17 race, which encompasses parts of both Pasco and Hillsborough counties.

“They know Legg, they want to work with him, that’s fine. But for Tallahassee to come in, that’s wrong. In the long run, it hurts the party. It may be expedient in this case or a couple of cases around the state, but they really need to stay out of it.”

Wallace attended Tampa Catholic High School and was a USF graduate in 1974, majoring in civil/environmental engineering. In 1979, he founded Environmental Engineering Consultants, Inc.

He said that he got into the environmental business in the early 1970s at a time when the Environmental Protection Agency had just been formed and was dealing with air and water issues on a national basis.

“I came to the belief that man can cause problems and man can solve those problems, and I wanted to be on the cleanup team,” he once said.

A memorial service will be held at St. Timothy Catholic Church in Lutz on Monday at 1 p.m.

“He was a true family man who loved and cared deeply for his community,” said Wallace’s daughter Amber Loper.

In addition to his daughter, Wallace is survived by his sons, Robert, Scott, and Connor Wallace, and his wife, Ann. He had three grandchildren.

Kathy Castor hopes U.S. can learn truth about diplomat injuries in Cuba

Kathy Castor was part of a six-member group of Democratic members of Congress visiting Cuba over the past few days, but the delegation shrank to five this week when meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro.

“I came back to Tampa on Tuesday, ” Castor said in a phone call Wednesday afternoon before the rest of her colleagues visited Cuban leader.

It was Castor’s fourth trip to the communist island since 2011, but she has never met with either President Castro or his brother, the late Fidel Castro, in part because she says she wants “to turn the page.”

“I’m focused on the future, and I think the Tampa area community is as well,” she says, expressing regret that she didn’t meet up with Miguel Diaz-Canel, the first vice president of the Council of the State

Diaz-Canel is expected to succeed Castro when a transfer of power takes place in April. The 56-year-old is the first official who does not belong to the revolutionary “old guard,” since he was born after the Cuban Revolution took over in the 1950s.

Castor is the first Florida member of Congress to call for the end to the now nearly 60-year-old Cuban economic boycott after visiting the island in 2013.

Although considered a bold move in comparison to previous Cuba visitors like former Mayor Dick Greco and Representative Jim Davis, the conditions in Tampa had paved by activists and later members of the business community in Tampa who have embraced strengthening relations between the two communities.

The Greater Tampa Chamber, for example, has led several delegation trips in recent years, and wholeheartedly supported the concept of bringing a Cuban consulate to Tampa, an idea that died with President Donald Trump reversing the rapprochement during the Barack Obama era.

Castor said part of her trip (she left Florida Saturday) was to learn more about the mystery that continues to surround the strange symptoms of illness experienced by at least two dozen U.S. diplomats station in Havana.

The symptoms were first reported in late 2016 but not disclosed by the State Department until August of 2017. In response, Washington expelled 17 Cuban diplomats from Washington, and ordered most of its own diplomatic personnel from Havana back to U.S. soil and limited travel there to emergency personnel.

The Castro government condemned the purported attacks and denied any involvement but later called into question the integrity of the incidents.

A report by U.S. medical experts from the University of Pennsylvania, published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., concluded the diplomatic personnel suffered brain injuries without evidence of head trauma. The Americans reported a range of symptoms including hearing loss, headaches, dizziness, nausea and loss of concentration.

Initially, the U.S. government blamed the symptoms on “sonic” or “acoustic” attacks but has since backed off those labels.

The Penn group could not determine a cause, saying that any “sensory phenomena” was of “unclear origin.”

Briefed by intelligence officials, Castor reviewed the Penn study and said it’s clear that it was no sonar or acoustic attack, but agreed something did happen to the diplomats.

Castor doesn’t believe the Cuban government had any motivation for the incident, since it has only frayed the improving relations between the two nations, which began to thaw with Obama’s diplomatic breakthrough in December 2014.

If not Cuba, though, she says it’s unclear who would have a motive.

“Some rogue element? Some other country? There simply isn’t any evidence to point in any one direction or another,” she said, adding that she hopes U.S. intelligence agencies can ultimately learn the truth.

While critics of U.S. outreach to Cuba (such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio) are continuing to criticize human rights violations of the Castro government. Obama overtures were fruitless since the Cuban government has continued such activities, they say.

But Castor has always championed the loosening of regulations that allow the Cuban people to become more entrepreneurial. However, in her recent excursion, Castor saw less growth in small business movement.

After talking to some small business owners over the past several days, Castor said: “It really appears that the economic reforms on the island have stalled.”

According to Castor, one factor hurting the Cuban people is that the government continues to sustain two separate currencies — one for everyday Cubans, and another for visitors.

Last fall, the Trump administration rescinded one of the most significant Obama-era changes regarding “people-to-people” visas for Americans to travel to Cuba.

The Obama White House had expanded those categories, allowing U.S. travelers for the first time to book a flight online to Havana, buy people-to-people visas at U.S. airport counters, then go on their trip.

Now, travelers need to be accompanied by a U.S.-based tour guide, who must ensure they engage in approved activities that help the Cuban people.

That’s put a sizable dent in the number of visitors who now travel to Cuba from the U.S., Castor said.

Matt Caldwell: Gun-free zones led to Parkland shooting

Republican candidate for Agriculture Commissioner Matt Caldwell on Wednesday said he believes making schools gun-free zones is the main reason on why tragedies like last week’s mass shooting at a Broward County high school happen.

“I believe that these … shootings happen because (schools) are soft targets—they happen because we designate them gun-free zones,” said Caldwell, a Republican House member from North Fort Myers, on CNN Wednesday morning.

CNN anchor John Berman immediately pushed back on the Florida lawmaker, saying it’s not known whether the shooter picked his target because he knew no one on campus would be armed.

Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is being held on premeditated murder charges.

“It appears that it was targeted because” Cruz had attended the high school, Berman told Caldwell.

Caldwell’s sentiment that gun-free zones are the main reason for such mass shootings is shared by other Florida Senate Republicans, including Sarasota’s Greg Steube and Ocala’s Dennis Baxley.

The two legislators proposed a bill (SB 1236) that would allow school principals or superintendents to designate individuals who could carry guns during school hours. Those receiving the designation would have to meet training and background requirements.

The bill had been scheduled to be debated in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, but was withdrawn over the weekend.

Caldwell’s six-and-half-minute interview began with Berman challenging him over House Republicans’ rejection of a bill (HB 219) which would criminalize the sale and possession of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, mentioning the AR-15 model reportedly used by Cruz.

The bill has been stuck in a House subcommittee for months and has not been heard.

Like other House Republicans who opposed the bill, Caldwell explained to Berman that the push to bring the bill up for a vote was highly unusual, saying “we don’t pull bills out of committee.”

Caldwell, first elected to the House in 2010, also claimed that the bill went beyond banning semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines, saying, “that wasn’t just a ban on high capacity magazines, that was a ban on all guns.”

The bill, however, refers to “any assault weapon or large-capacity ammunition magazine.”

Alluding to the fact that the FBI and Department of Children and Families were aware of Cruz’s troubled history leading up to last week’s shooting, Caldwell said that is something that legislators need to focus on, and not gun-control measures.

“Taking away people’s Second Amendment rights (isn’t) going to do that,” he said.

Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, is expected to introduce a legislative package Thursday to include new age restrictions for gun purchases, a ban on bump stocks and gun-violence restraining orders.

Ryan Torrens says he’ll allow local gun control laws

If elected, Democratic Attorney General candidate Ryan Torrens says he would not enforce Florida law that prohibits cities and counties from enacting their own gun-control ordinances.

Local officials who do enforce them can face a $5,000 fine.

“It is blatantly clear that Gov. (Rick) Scott and our state Legislature are not willing to lift a finger to set in place any common-sense gun reforms,” Torrens said. “So, if the leaders of Broward County are ready to take action to protect (their) children and families, then I am going to support those efforts.”

The original law banning local gun policies was passed in 1987. The 2011 update exposed local officials to penalties for enforcing prompted ordinances.

Mayors from some of Florida’s biggest cities have complained about the legislation for years, most prominently being Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a Democrat and gun owner himself, who decried how the law prevented him from banning guns in downtown Tampa during the 2012 Republican National Convention.

If elected as the state’s chief legal officer, Torrens promises not to pursue local officials for putting in place what he calls reasonable ordinances to keep their communities safe.

“This law is an illegal encroachment on the authority of localities to achieve the very compelling interest of protecting their children and families, especially when we have a state legislature that always puts the National Rifle Association (NRA) and their own reelection before the safety of our children,” Torrens said.

On Tuesday, every Republican member of the House present on the floor voted against a proposal to bring a stalled assault rifle ban, pushed by Orlando Democrat Carlos G. Smith, out of committee and up for a vote.

“We know special interest money has corrupted our politics. Now, it is abundantly clear that the influence of special interest groups like the NRA is not just corrupting, but deadly,” Torrens said. “The Florida GOP should immediately return all contributions from the NRA and stand up for what is right – protecting our children, families, and first responders.”

His stance is by far the most progressive of anyone entering the race.

The 32-year-old Hillsborough County attorney was the first Democrat to enter the contest in 2018. Current Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi is term-limited this year.

He’s since been joined by Tampa state Rep. Sean Shaw, a Democrat who has kept a relatively low profile on the campaign front since declaring his candidacy last month.

The four Republicans in the race—state Reps. Frank White, Ross Spano and Jay Fant, and former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody—have previously spoken enthusiastically about gun rights.

In fact, Fant has claimed that Moody has been insufficiently pro-Second Amendment in her record as a judge.

Mike Deeson says city of Tampa participating in ‘sham’ regarding CFO’s address

Mike Deeson is pushing back on the city of Tampa’s official position regarding where finance director Sonya Little resides.

The former Channel 10 news investigative reporter filed a lawsuit Monday against the City of Tampa, claiming it is in violation of public records laws by denying him the home address of the city’s CFO, whom Deeson maintains resides outside of the city limits of Tampa. If that’s accurate, t would be a violation of the city charter.

Deeson says that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has always been aware of that, but circumvented that classification by listing Little as being the “interim” director for nearly six years, even though she’s served in his administration for almost the entire time he has been in office.

“The charter allows someone to be in an interim position,” Buckhorn told Deeson in December of 2016, “We are not violating the charter.”

Last year, the city said Little moved to Tampa. Deeson requested her address, but city officials objected, saying it was exempt from the state’s Sunshine Laws because she was a local government employee whose duties include revenue “collection and enforcement,” according to the lawsuit.

Deeson claims that the city only changed its tune about Little moving to Tampa after he began airing reports questioning Buckhorn about it. He says the address in unincorporated Hillsborough County remains her declared homestead property and carries the homestead tax exemption afforded under Florida law.

When asked to comment on Tuesday, City Attorney Sal Territo provided this statement: “Little is a Resident of the City of Tampa, and her address is exempt from public records because of her position as the Director of Revenue and Finance of the City of Tampa.”

Deeson exploded after he read those remarks.

“For the six years when the city blatantly and shamefully violated the city charter, it NEVER claimed that Sonya Little’s address was exempt from public disclosure,” the veteran journalist emailed Tuesday night. “After trampling on the charter for 6 years, the city is saying trust us to do the right thing. I don’t trust them and believe they only reason the city is trying this use this exemption  is because it is concerned I will expose the fact that Ms. Little spends the majority of her time living at her home in the county rather than the address she claims is her permanent residence.”

“I think the Mayor, Ms Little and those who have participated in this overt sham for the past six years and now continue to deprive the citizens of their right to know about their government should be ashamed!”

Deeson retired from WTSP last year after an illustrious career as a TV reporter. He continues to work on documentaries, as well as providing commentaries on his Facebook page.

Carlos Curbelo & Brian Mast

Progressives target Brian Mast, Carlos Curbelo on immigration

An immigration advocacy group on Tuesday launched a series of digital ads targeting Republican U.S. Reps. Brian Mast and Carlos Curbelo, as well as their GOP colleagues, for their role in failing to protect “Dreamers.”

iAmerica Action announced it will spend $250,000 in 27 House districts on the ads, many of which have large Latino populations.

Mast represents Florida’s 18th Congressional District in Palm Beach County, while Curbelo represents Miami down to Key West as part of representing Florida’s 26th Congressional district.

Both seats are considered targets for a potential Democratic flip in the 2018 election cycle.

The ads encourage voters to call House Speaker Paul Ryan. One reads, “It’s not fair for Dreamers to lose the only home they’ve ever known.” Another says, “The party of family values should not separate families.”

“While the fight is about protecting young Americans who live here, work here, go to school here, and pay taxes, at its core it’s about something far greater,”says iAmerica Action President Rocio Sáenz.

“Will we become an isolated nation that fears outsiders? Or continue with a rich tradition of welcoming immigrants who help make our country innovative and more competitive,” he added. “After the White House-Republican leadership collusion to sink the bipartisan Dreamer deal, it’s clear that our work is far from over.”

The ad comes as moderate Republicans like Curbelo have previously said that they support a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, but instead voted in favor of a large budget bill two weeks ago that did not include any immigration provisions.

Curbelo said in December that he would not vote for a budget bill without including a way to protect the 620,000 people who are protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, commonly referred to as DACA.

DACA temporarily shields from deportation young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. President Donald Trump rescinded the program in September, but gave Congress until March 5 to come up with a legislative solution for the program’s recipients. Two federal judges since then have ruled that the program won’t end next month.

The U.S. Senate rejected three separate proposals last week aimed at resolving the young immigrants’ fate, after Trump declared that he would veto any measure that did not directly address his immigration priorities.

iAmerica Action ran ads targeting GOP Senators last month after Trump reportedly referred to some countries as “sh*thole” countries during an immigration discussion.

Jim Waurishuk elected chair of Hillsborough GOP, vows to make county party great again

Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and Hillsborough County’s Republican State Committeeman Jim Waurishuk is the new Chairman of the Hillsborough Republican Executive Committee.

Waurishuk defeated political consultant April Schiff, 76-58 Tuesday night during the party’s monthly meeting in Tampa.

The military veteran has only been involved with local party politics since 2011 when he joined the Hillsborough County REC. He told the local Republicans in his speech that he naturally gravitated to Donald Trump during the most recent presidential election

“In May of 2015 I took a stand and stood to support Donald Trump for president and I have stood steadfast with him ever since,” he boasted. In fact, Waurishuk introduced Trump when the then Republican presidential candidate spoke at the USF SunDome in February of 2016. He also touted endorsements from not only local Republican officials, but also support from such figures as Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, high ranking officials for at least part of Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Nearly everyone in local Republican politics admits, the party is in dire need of  a transfusion of energy and excitement, following the resignation last month of Deborah Tamargo.

Tamargo was elected in 2014 but faced an inter-party battle in 2016 before stepping down after she faced a grievance filed against her by other party officers, including Waurishuk.

Waurishuk admitted that Hillsborough County is a different place than it was in 2004, the last time it went red in a presidential election.

“Through strong Republican policies and leadership, we will turn the party around and continue to grow,” he promised, adding that he would improve fundraising and grow the party’s volunteer basis. He also said that the party needed to change its message, and its messaging.

Waurishuk’s military background has made him a respected voice with national conservative media venues like Fox News, the Laura Ingraham radio show and 970 WFLA in Tampa. He served as a staff advisor at U.S. Special Operation Command (USSOCOM)  and Central Command out of MacDill Air Force base over the past 15 years.

He defeated Schiff, who in her speech said that she had ran her campaign based on three principles – unity, civility and success.

She said she believed in celebrating a diversity of views a la Ronald Reagan’s “big tent” philosophy and said it was important to respect each other’s opinions And she promised to bring back elected officials who had wandered away from the local party during the Tamargo years.

Pasco County State Committeeman Bill Bunting attended the meeting and excitedly called Pasco County Chairman Randy Evans immediately after Waurishuk was announced as the winner.

“I’m glad this guy’s in because we’re going to need him, and we’re going to help him,” Bunting said, adding that he throught that the party under Tamargo was “dysfunctional” in his opinion.

Bethune statue bill heads to governor

Florida is poised to make history with the Legislature’s Tuesday passage of a proposal to place a statue of civil-rights leader and educator Mary McLeod Bethune in the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol.

The statue of Bethune would replace a likeness of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, who has represented Florida for decades in the Capitol.

The proposal was sponsored by Daytona Beach Democrat Patrick Henry (HB 139) in the House and Fort Lauderdale Democrat Perry Thurston (SB 472) in the Senate.

The House on Tuesday OK’d the Senate’s version, which passed unanimously last month, sending it to Gov. Rick Scott. His office later Tuesday said the governor would sign the measure into law.

The final House vote was 111-1, with Jacksonville Republican (and attorney general candidate) Jay Fant the lone holdout. Fant has previously said that the state should not be in the “statue removal business.”

Henry said that Florida was making history by selecting Bethune, the first female African-American to get her own likeness in Statuary Hall in its 154-year history.

Born in July of 1875 in Mayesville, South Carolina, McLeod Bethune was a child of former slaves. Believing that education provided the key to racial advancement, Bethune founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute in 1904, which later became Bethune-Cookman College.

She served as the president of the Florida chapter of the National Association of Colored Women for many years. In 1924, Bethune became the organization’s national leader, beating out fellow reformer Ida B. Wells for the top position.

She also became involved in government service, and advised several presidents. In 1935, Bethune became a special advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt on minority affairs. That same year, she also started up her own civil rights organization, the National Council of Negro Women.

“If we truly want to honor her legacy, we must not stop here,” Henry told fellow lawmakers. “We must continue efforts, such as providing a quality education for our young people, creating access to good paying jobs, and a quality education for our young people.”

Each state is represented by two statues, with Florida long represented by likenesses of Smith and John Gorrie, widely considered the father of air conditioning.

Smith is famous largely as the last Confederate officer to surrender a significant force at the end of the Civil War, nearly two months after Gen. Robert E. Lee gave in to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia and formally ended the war on April 9, 1865.

It’s been several years since lawmakers first took up the challenge of removing Smith from Statuary Hall, starring in 2015.

During the 2016 Session, Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz sponsored legislation to have the Smith statue removed and replaced by a memorial for Marjory Stoneman Douglas, credited with helping create the Everglades National Park. That bill did not move.

Similar efforts were unsuccessful during the 2017 Session, but after violence took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer regarding a Confederate monument, momentum was revived to replace Smith’s statute, with Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz demanding the Legislature remove the statue. The Legislature was not in Session at the time.

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