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Scott Powers

Oscar Braynon: gun legislation is about ‘reality not philosophy’

Florida Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon considers 2nd Amendment arguments to be about philosophy and he’d  much rather talk about running from house parties when shots break out or watching from behind a car while the man on the other side is shot dead.

“This is my reality,” Braynon told a room full of journalists gathered for the Associated Press’s annual Florida Legislative Planning Session in Tallahassee. “I don’t want to talk about philosophy.

“I represent people who live a life. They don’t live a philosophy,” continued the Miami Gardens Democrat. “They live a life where they have to provide for their children and keep their families safe. And that’s their reality.”

Braynon gave a prebuttle to remarks given later by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam talking to reporters, in which the Republican potential gubernatorial candidate spoke of protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners in Florida.

Braynon pushed for the Democrats’ agenda, which includes Senate Bill 142 requiring safe storage of firearms, Senate Bill 170 prohibiting guns in performing arts centers, or theaters and 254 prohibiting sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and opposing open-carry and campus-carry legislation pushed by Republicans.

“These are what we believe are common-sense gun legislation,” Braynon said.

“When I talk about guns, I’m not talking about hunting. I’m not talking about this movie thing that apparently some of my colleagues think about, like Die Hard 2,” he said. “I’m talking about real, legit things that happen. I’m talking about my neighborhood. This is my reality.”

He took issue with those who called Democrats’ bills affronts to the 2nd Amendment, saying he and Democrats can support the 2nd Amendment and call for “common sense” restrictions, just as many Republicans say they support the 15th Amendment that gave African Americans the right to vote yet opposing related measures like the Voting Rights Act.

Baynon also declared a hardline stand Tuesday against Republican budget plans to cut spending and taxes. He argued that property tax cuts might give low- to middle-class families relief of just $20 a month while they see reduced services from schools, hospitals and other services that far outstrip that.

And he argued Republicans have been doing it for the full decade he’s been in the Florida Legislature always promising the economic boosts from the strategy would help everyone, but he hasn’t seen it happen.

“It has not worked. The proof is in the pudding, because 10 years later here we are again,” he said.

“I would say doing the same thing expecting new results is insanity. I am going to call it now. We are taking a caucus position as the Senate Democrats against insanity,” Braynon said.

 

Rick Scott budget proposing cutting $156 million from Tri-Rail over contract

Gov. Rick Scott is proposing cutting $156 million in state funding for Tri-Rail development unless the South Florida Regional Transit Authority reverses its decision to award a controversial half-billion contract to a lone qualified bidder.

Scott’s proposed 2017 state budget now includes an item calling for “no funding” until the authority withdraws, cancels or otherwise terminates the authority’s Notice of Intent for awarding its operating contract to Herzog Transit Services.

On the line is $156 million the state had programmed for Tri-Rail’s capital outlay from the Florida Transportation Trust Fund.

A transit authority spokeswoman said Tuesday the authority was aware of the governor’s action, but said the authority is declining comment right now.

The authority’s board of directors approved the Herzog contract by a 6-2 vote last Friday against objections from the Florida Department of Transportation and state Sen. Jeff Brandes, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Transportation.

The Herzog contract is worth $344 million for seven years and has annual extension options that could take it out to 10 years for $511 million. It was awarded after the transit authority’s staff unilaterally rejected five other proposals for the service on technical grounds. Some of the proposals asked far less money, as low as $396 million for ten years.

The other companies bidding on the contract, including the current operations contractor Transdev Services of Maryland, have challenged the staff rulings that there were technical issues with their proposals. Specifically, the staff had cited language that the staff interpreted as meaning the bid prices were conditional. The companies have since responded that is not the case.

The governor’s budget item also declares that before the SFRTA can obtain a new contract for operations and maintenance services, it will have to “obtain the department’s written approval of all items and conditions of the new procurement and contract for the services that were the subject of such request for proposal to ensure the authority has sufficient revenues to fund the contract.

“Further, no funds shall be provided to the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority by the department without the prior review and written approval by the department of the authority’s proposed expenditures.”

 

Janet Cruz ready to support Richard Corcoran on Enterprise Florida

After laying out Democrats’ priorities for the House this session, Florida House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz said she would support Republican Speaker Richard Corcoran’s attacks on Enterprise Florida and VISIT Florida.

Speaking before journalists gathered for the Florida Legislative Planning Session, Cruz, of Tampa, pledged that Democrats would continue to fight for increasing funding for public education, particularly for teachers, health care coverage for low-income Floridians and support for public hospitals.

Afterward, pressed for where that money might come from, she offered to do away with corporate development incentives provided by Enterprise Florida, incentives that were vigorously defended by Gov. Rick Scott, but targeted by Speaker Corcoran for major reform, at the same conference.

“I understand the importance of attracting business, but in a good economy, do we really need to spend that money to attract businesses? Won’t they come to Florida?” Cruz challenged. “I think in a good economy these corporations find their way to Tampa without incentives.”

Cruz offered that she sees both sides on corporate incentives, but added, “we still have teachers that are some of the lowest paid in the country. We have school funding that is 50th. You know, that’s why I say we have misplaced priorities.

“Maybe we make cuts on some of the Enterprise money; maybe we start there,” Cruz said.

The priorities that she laid out are not new to Democrats. Cruz said the party and leadership have to do a better job of making a case for how the priorities would help Floridians.

“I don’t think as Democrats we’ve done a good enough job of articulating our core values have a direct impact on ensuring Florida’s families can continue to climb the economic ladder to success,” she said. “It comes down to the simple idea that we need to get more money into Floridian’s pockets.”

Those priorities include that:

— Every child deserves a quality public education. That includes re-expansion of the Bright Futures scholarship program.

— Every Floridian should have access to quality, affordable health care.

— Florida protects and preserve the environment for future generations.

— Florida creates “safe communities” where families can live without the threat of violence.

— Floridians all deserve the same equal a uniform treatment under the law.

— And “everyone deserves a fair shot to achieve their version of the American Dream.”

In question and answer, Cruz took to defending hospitals for criticism and state subsidy cuts, saying they had become like public schools and teachers, vilified by some Republicans for opposing Republican initiatives, and then cut.

“Years ago this started where we villainized teachers, and we villainized the unions that support them. Now I think that all has changed in the direction of public hospitals. Hospitals are not accustomed to being villains, but they are being villainized. You hear, ‘Oh, the hospitals are too large. They need to be privatized.’ All of this is an attempt to privatize. So we Democrats are standing up for our safety-net hospitals.”

 

DCCC puts 2018 targets on four Florida Republican Congress members

Three weeks into the 115th Congress, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has put targets on four Republican members of Congress from Florida: Brian Mast, Mario Diaz-Balart, Carlos Curbelo, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

The DCCC listed those four among 59 targeted nationally in a mid-term memo circulated to various Democratic allies.

The DCCC’s rival, the National Republican Congressional Committee, scoffed.

Mast beat Democrat Randy Perkins in Florida’s 18th Congressional District in November, succeeding Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy for that Treasure Coast seat. Diaz-Balart won his eighth term in Congress when he defeated Democrat Alina Valdez in Florida’s 25th Congressional District. Curbelo ousted Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia in Florida’s 26th Congressional District. And Ros-Lehtinen won a 14th term when she defeated Democrat Scott Fuhrman in Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

The campaigns in the 18th and 26th were among the most expensive races in Florida, with both the DCCC and the NRCC investing millions of dollars in those campaigns.

The DCCC memo says the organization is counting on the longstanding trend continuing, that the party in the White House loses significant numbers of Congressional seats in the midterm elections. The Democratic group also contends it is setting up unprecedented ground games, and predicts an unpopular President Donald Trump will fuel that effort even more.

But Mast, Diaz-Balart, Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen?

In response statements she put out,, NRCC spokeswoman Maddie Anderson called the Mast target “delusional” and scoffed at the others, saying, “Keep on keeping on, DCCC.”

 

1,000 gather at Orlando airport to protest Donald Trump’s immigrant ban

A peaceful march through Orlando International Airport Sunday afternoon involving as many as 1,000 people protested President Donald Trump‘s ban on Islamic refugees and individuals from seven Islamic countries.

Chanting things such as “Islamaphobia has got to go!” “Refugees are welcome here!” and”This is what America looks like!” the protesters poured in from a gathering site in one of the main terminal’s parking garages and then swelled into a mass protest inside the terminal, near the central food court.

After about 20 minutes there, waving signs and growing to become too large for the area, the crowd moved to one end of the terminal complex near the gates, continued for another 20 minutes there, and then departed peacefully.

The demonstration was one of many that took place at airports across the country, but may have been one of the biggest. It was organized mostly through social media, in less than 24 hours.

One of the organizers, Ida Vishkaee Eskamani, a veteran progressive grassroots organizer in Central Florida who also is a legislative aide to state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, said Orlando made her proud, again.

“The demonstration today shows the world that Orlando is a community that stands with its Muslim and immigrants and refugee communities,” said Eskamani, whose family immigrated from Iran, one of the affected families, and who still has family there, including a grandmother whose annual visits are now in jeopardy. “And we take a lot of pride in that.”

There were no incidents, no arrests, and no disruptions of any airport activities from the rally, according to Carolyn Fennell, senior director of public affairs and community relations for the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.

There was a significant police presence. The protest organizers contacted the airport in advance though they did not seek a permit. Scores of Orlando police officers held points on the perimeter, mainly trying to keep corridors open for airline passengers and others to pass. The most contentious exchanges seemed to be along the lines of when officers politely asked protesters to step forward a bit to allow a particular cluster of passengers to get by, and the protesters respectfully did so.

“There were no flight delays or delays at the security checkpoints. Parking was not impacted,” Fennell stated.

And this was a first. In 35 years, Orlando International Airport had never before hosted a protest, not including the occasional union picket, said Executive Director Phil Brown. So the airport has no formal policies, except that the protesters were welcome in public access areas as long as they did not disrupt anyone else’s access to to the areas.

Smith, an Orlando Democrat who joined the protest, said the peaceful nature “is what this is all about. This type of peaceful resistance is patriotic. This is what people should be doing, resisting the illegal and unconstitutional orders from Donald Trump.”

Late Friday afternoon, Trump signed an executive order banning all refugees from entering the United States and forbidding entry to any people from seven Islamic countries, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Until a federal judge stayed the order late Saturday, it had forced airports to detain numerous people who already were flying in when Trump signed the order.

None of the seven countries have direct flights to Orlando International. So there was no immediate direct impact in Orlando, as had been seen at New York’s Kennedy International Airport and elsewhere, where incoming passengers were detained.

As many as 1,000 gather at Orlando airport to protest Donald Trump’s immigrant ban

A peaceful march through Orlando International Airport Sunday afternoon involving as many as 1,000 people protested President Donald Trump‘s ban on refugees and people from seven Islamic countries Sunday afternoon.

Chanting things such as “Islamaphobia has got to go!” “Refugees are welcome here!” and”This is what America looks like!” the protesters poured in from a gathering site in one of the main terminal’s parking garages and then swelled into a mass protest inside the terminal, near the main food court.

After about 20 minutes there, waiving signs and growing in size to become too large for the area, the crowd moved to one end of the terminal complex near the gates, continued for another 20 minutes there, and then departed peacefully.

The demonstration was one of many that took place at airports across the country Sunday, but may have been one of the biggest. It was organized mostly through social media, in less than 24 hours.

One of the organizers, Ida Vishkaee Eskamani, a veteran progressive grassroots organizer in Central Florida who also is a legislative aide to state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, said Orlando made her proud, again.

“The demonstration today shows the world that Orlando is a community that stands with its Muslim and immigrants and refugee communities,” said Eskamani, whose family immigrated from Iran, one of the affected families, and who still has family there, including a grandmother whose annual visits are now in jeopardy. “And we take a lot of pride in that.”

There were no incidents, no arrests, and no disruptions of any airport activities from the rally, according to Carolyn Fennell, senior director of public affairs and community relations for the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.

There was a significant police presence. The protest organizers contacted the airport in advance though they did not seek a permit. Scores of Orlando police officers held points on the perimeter, mainly seeking to keep corridors open for airline passengers and others to get by. The most contentious exchanges seemed to be along the lines of when officers politely asked protesters to step forward a bit to allow a particular cluster of passengers to get by, and the protesters respectfully did so.

“There were no flight delays or delays at the security checkpoints. Parking was not impacted,” Fennell stated.

And this was a first. In 35 years, Orlando International Airport had never before hosted a protest, not including the occasional union picket, said Executive Director Phil Brown. So the airport has no formal policies, except that the protesters were welcome in public access areas so long as they did not disrupt anyone else’s access to to the areas.

Smith, an Orlando Democrat who joined the protest, said the peaceful nature “is what this is all about. This type of peaceful resistance is patriotic. This is what people should be doing, resisting the illegal and unconstitutional orders from Donald Trump.”

Late Friday afternoon, Trump signed an executive order banning all refugees from entering the United States and forbidding entry to any people from seven Islamic countries, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Until a federal judge stayed the order late Saturday, it had forced airports to detain numerous people who already were flying in when Trump signed the order.

None  of the seven countries has any direct flights into Orlando International.

Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold threatens to pull Tri-Rail’s state money

Blowback erupted from another direction for the South Florida Regional Transit Authority late Friday over its big and controversial Tri-Rail operations contract when Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold questioned the agency’s accountability and threatened to cut off its state money.

Boxold sent the transit authority’s Executive Director Jack Stephens a letter late Friday questioning the SFRTA’s accountability and saying the department now will be reviewing state funding for the commuter rail system, “and may elect to withhold such funding in the future.”

The trigger for Boxold’s response came when the SFRTA Board of Directors voted on Friday afternoon to award a long-term railroad operations and maintenance contract to Herzog Transit systems – after the transit authority’s staff first tossed out five competing bids, including some that would have cost up to $115 million less.

The rejected companies challenged their rejections in court last week but lost. Yet, saying “it just didn’t look right,” state Sen. Jeff Brandes issued a stern warning Thursday to the SFRTA board that it should hold off on the contract decision for a while, to allow time for more scrutiny.

On Friday, by a 6-2 vote, the board awarded the contract to the only proposal left after the staff review. That deal calls for the SFRTA to pay Herzog $344 million to run the trains for seven years, with three annual renewal extensions that, if exercised, would push the total bill to $511 million. At least some of the other proposals – all rejected by transit authority staff in late December on technical grounds that the companies are disputing – were as low as $269 million for seven years and $396 million for ten.

FDOT’s official representative on the SFRTA board, District IV Secretary Gerry O’Reilly, voted against letting the contract, as did board chairman Tim Ryan, a Broward County Commissioner.

Boxold characterized the contract award as being in defiance of concerns  that the department had previously about fiscal accountability at the authority.

“This action heightens the department’s overall concern regarding the authority’s accountability for expenditures of the state funding that the department provides for authority operations and maintenance costs,” Boxold wrote.

Boxold noted the SFRTA gets $42.1 million in state money to subsidize the railroad, which runs commuter trains through Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

“Based on the authority’s action today, and the authority’s position on the ability of the department to impose state law controls on the authority’s expenditures, the department is reviewing all discretionary funding it provides the authority and may elect to withhold such funding in the future,” Boxold warned.

Boxold made reference to an apparent running dispute between the state department and the regional transit authority about whether the state has oversight on accounting for state money that goes into Tri-Rail.

“The authority has made it clear that it does not believe that the department has the power to comprehensively require the authority to account for its expenditure of those funds beyond the initial review of a proposed authority procurement,” Boxold said. But he wrote that the department’s inspector general determined in the fall that the state does have that oversight for the transit authority’s state money.

Earlier Friday Brandes expressed deep concerns about the board’s approval of the operations and maintenance contract, and said he would explore options to hold SFRTA accountable. His concerns, combined with his frustration that the board ignored his request that it postpone the contract vote, also signals a potential threat to Tri-Rail’s finances. That’s because Brandes chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development. Tri-Rail’s future proposed state subsidies must go through that committee in order to make it into the state budget.

 

Randolph Bracy bill seeks to restrict electronic publication of pre-conviction mug shots

Concerned that wholesale electronic publication of arrest booking pictures on the internet can hang around and hurt the lives of people later found to be innocent, state Sen. Randolph Bracy filed a bill Friday that would restrict internet mugshot publication by Florida law enforcement agencies.

Senate Bill 546 particularly focuses on the trend in recent years of many sheriff’s offices and other law enforcement agencies posting all their daily mug shots. The problem, Bracy argued, is that private companies take and repost them, but many never bother to follow up and remove the posts from the internet if charges are dropped or the people pictured are proven innocent. In the worst cases, he said, some companies have required that people pay fees to have their mug shots removed from online rogue galleries.

“It can stop people from getting a job. Even if they’re not convicted, once those pictures are up, it can hinder them from moving on,” said Bracy, an Oakland Democrat who chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

Less clear is how much the bill would impact news media’s use of the mug shots. The bill likely could draw strong responses from open-records and media advocates, and perhaps from law enforcement agencies who use the mug galleries to inform the public.

SB 546 would stop the law enforcement agencies from publishing the mug shots online unless someone is convicted, but would keep the booking photos available for public access through Florida’s open records laws requests.

Mug shot galleries have become routine features on the sites of many mainstream news media, and of many web-based media that specialize principally in publishing mug shots. Software is available that allows pictures to be downloaded live from sheriff’s offices’ websites and other law enforcement agencies and republished on the third-party sites. The third-party sites often with disclaimers indicating the person pictured is not convicted, and that the site owner is not likely to update the information after the case is settled.

Bracy argued that the commercial uses of the mug shots are causing too many problems for individuals pictured in them.

“They’re making a profit off people” trying to clear their names, Bracy said. “I think it is unfair.”

Tri-Rail awards controversial contract, Brandes lashes out

The South Florida Regional Transit Authority voted Friday afternoon to award a long-term management contract worth up to a half-billion dollars amidst concerns that it did so after tossing five of six bids, and powerful state Sen. Jeff Brandes reacted with “deep concern.”

The SFRTA Board of Directors voted 6-2 Friday to award an operations and maintenance contract that could be worth $511 million over ten years to Herzog Transit Services after the authorities’ staff disqualified five other proposals, some for far less money, on technical reasons. Board chairman Tim Ryan, a Broward County Commissioner, and Florida Department of Transportation District IV Secretary Gerry O’Reilly cast the no votes.

The prospect had drawn challenges from the other bidders and cautions from Brandes, who chairs a key committee and issued a warning Thursday that the board would be best holding off for some scrutiny first.

On Friday Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, said he would look into it. He called it “deeply concerning” and said that Florida taxpayers deserve to know with confidence that the transit authority “is acting in good faith.” He said he had spoken to Ryan and the Florida Department of Transportation before the meeting.

“Right now we’re going to explore all our options,” Brandes said. “Our focus now is to understand, talk to the various parties, including the governor’s office, the Department of Transportation, and office, and understand what our options are for a more in-depth review of the procurement procedures.”

Brandes chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development, through which the transit authority’s annual state subsidies flow. SFRTA gets about $50 million a year in state tax dollars, Brandes said earlier.

He said the fact that the FDOT representative and board chairman voted against the proposal were indications of the need for a review.

Officials of the transit authority and Herzog were not immediately available for comment Friday.

Brandes’ office also issued a written statement that read: “It is deeply concerning that the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority would proceed with, and approve, a contract for over $500 million given the controversy that has surrounded the bid process, especially considering the disqualification by the SFRTA of 5 of the 6 bids. My office will review all options available to further scrutinize the procurement process of the SFRTA and the decisions that were made to award this contract.

“Florida taxpayers invest significantly in the SFRTA and the taxpayers deserve to know, with confidence, that the SFRTA is acting in good faith,” the statement continued.

The “good faith” concern is a step further than Brandes was willing to go Thursday when he was cautioning that the contract-award process “just didn’t look right,” after learning that bids seeking as much as $115 million less money were thrown out by the SFRTA staff before the Herzog contract was brought as the loan option to the board on Friday.

Tri-Rail is the oldest and largest state-funded rail in the state, operating up to 50 trains a day on a 72-mile track through Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

The contract allows Herzog to take over over four different long-term contracts merged into one, to operate the system, maintain the trains and equipment, maintain the stations, and provide dispatching. It’s a seven-year deal with three one-year extension options. Herzog’s bid sought $511 million for the full ten years. Other bidders were lower, as low as $396 million.

The contract takes effect July 1.

Some rejected bidders, including Tri-Rail’s current operator, Maryland’s Transdev Services, challenged in court, but lost a key ruling Monday before Circuit Judge Barbara McCarthy of Broward County, who allowed the contract award to go forward.

The issues the challengers have raised question how much latitude the agency’s staff has in deciding whether a proposal meets requirements, how staff members can make judgment calls and assumptions that go beyond stated prices, and how they do so without contacting the bidders for clarification.

Jeff Brandes urges Tri-Rail to hold off on controversial half-billion dollar contract, seeks inquiry

Saying he is concerned “it just doesn’t look right,” state Sen. Jeff Brandes, who chairs a key committee, said late Thursday he hopes the South Florida Regional Transit Authority does not award a controversial operations contract Friday that could be worth $511 million over ten years.

Brandes said he’s asking the staff of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development to look into the transit authority’s procurement process that led to this point, with five of six proposals being tossed on technical reasons and the authority then pushing a more expensive deal with the remaining bidder, Herzog Services.

Concerns about the deal were first reported earlier Thursday on FloridaPolitics.com, and on POLITICO Florida. Brandes said he first learned of the deal and concerns surrounding it late Wednesday.

The transit authority said earlier Thursday it would not comment, due to rules requiring silence on the matter until the SFRTA Board of Trustees gets the presentation Friday.

Brandes said he hopes the transit authority board will postpone a decision for a few weeks. In the meantime, he’ll be gearing up his committee to look into it.

That’s no small matter for Tri-Rail. He said the SFRTA gets about $50 million a year in state subsidy. And that goes through his committee. That’s enough money essentially to cover the entire contract.

The Republican senator from St. Petersburg stressed that he’s not accusing anyone of of wrong-doing, and that he has no evidence of wrong-doing.

But he said that anytime a contract this big comes up there should be scrutiny, especially when the process essentially turned the competition into a one-bid deal, raising strong objections from the companies whose proposals were rejected in secret, for technical reasons, which they dispute.

“It just doesn’t look right,” Brandes said. “Here you have a $500 million, ten-year contract where you disqualify five of the six bidders, it doesn’t look right. So if it doesn’t look right, we should take the opportunity to make sure it follows a correct process and the taxpayers are getting the best deal they can get for $500 million for the operation of that facility.”

He said he wants to have conversations with the transit authority’s leadership to understand their process, and perhaps would like to see an inspector general investigation. or auditor’s review. He said there might need to be hearings at the state level. And then he wants to talk about long-term, more systemic changes, including whether big independent authorities like SFRTA ought to be brought into the state system so that contract disputes could be appealed to state administrative court.

Tri-Rail is the oldest and largest state-funded rail in the state, operating up to 50 trains a day on a 72-mile track through Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

The transit authority is seeking a company to take over four different long-term contracts merged into one, to operate the system, maintain the trains and equipment, maintain the stations, and provide dispatching. It’s a seven-year deal with three one-year extension options. Herzog’s bid sought $511 million for the full ten years. Other bidders were lower, as low as $396 million.

Some rejected bidders, including Tri-Rail’s current operator, Maryland’s Transdev Services, are fuming and challenging. This month, Transdev went to court to block the award; initially getting a temporary restraining order.

Two other disqualified bidders, Bombardier Mass Transit and First Transit, joined in. But after a hearing last Friday, Circuit Judge Barbara McCarthy of Broward County lifted her order Monday.

The issues the challengers have raised questions on how much latitude the agency’s staff has in deciding whether a proposal meets requirements, how staff members can make judgment calls and assumptions that go beyond stated prices, and how they do so without contacting the bidders for clarification.

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