Headlines Archives - Page 2 of 766 - Florida Politics
skydiving

Matt Gaetz wins appeal for northwest Florida skydiving business

Congressman Matt Gaetz, also an attorney, has won an appeal that should allow a Walton County couple to continue operating a skydiving business on their 290-acre farm near Paxton.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal issued its unanimous decision Tuesday for James and Melanie Nipper.

He “had a distinguished career as a U.S. Army Paratrooper and member of the elite Golden Knights parachute team from 1981-1997;” she “was an Army pilot,” the opinion said. They have since retired from the military.

County officials earlier had gotten a lower court order barring the Nippers from running “Skydive North Florida” at their farm, saying “it violated the County’s zoning code.”

The county had “determined that the use of the property as a commercial skydiving business violated (land) uses allowed in a Large Scale Agricultural District (in) which the Plaintiffs’ property is located,” according to the opinion.

But Judges Timothy D. Osterhaus, Brad Thomas and Stephanie W. Ray said the county “did not show a clear legal right” to ban the Nippers from running a skydiving operation.

The opinion cited the county’s land use policy, saying that language allowing outdoor recreational activities but not specifically banning skydiving “indicates that skydiving may be permissible.”

“No one denies that skydiving is an outdoor recreational activity,” the court said.

Gaetz, a Republican who was in the state House and now represents northwest Florida’s 1st Congressional District, had been with the Fort Walton Beach firm of Keefe, Anchors & Gordon.

In a brief interview, James Nipper said he appreciated the decision: “Justice was served.”

King Day parade turns violent when 8 shot in Miami

A national holiday celebrating nonviolence and Martin Luther King Jr. erupted into mayhem when eight people were shot at a park named after the slain civil rights leader.

Hundreds of people had gathered in the park after the annual MLK Day parade in the Liberty City neighborhood, and the shooting sent people running in all directions Monday afternoon. Police said they were not sure what started the shooting.

The wounded ranged in age from 11 to 30. Only one of those shot was in critical condition Monday.

Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez tweeted that it was a “shameful closing” to the parade.

“Certainly not what the followers of Dr. King Jr. want out of our community,” he wrote.

Miami-Dade Detective Daniel Ferrin said two suspects were questioned and two guns had been recovered.

The parade has been a tradition since the 1970s. People gather on the streets to barbecue, listen to music and celebrate King’s life.

The shots rang out around 3:40 p.m. as bikers and ATV riders roared past in celebration. Their motto: “Bikes up, Guns down,” The Miami Herald reported.

Police evacuated and closed the park after the shootings.

Terrell Dandy, who was in the park, said it was peaceful until he heard three gunshots. Then the crowd began to stampede out of the park.

“It was good until you had these idiots out there shooting,” Dandy told the newspaper. “It was just a bunch of commotion.”

Conciliatory meeting between Donald Trump, Martin Luther King Jr.’s son

The Latest on President-elect Donald Trump (all times EST):

2:10 p.m.

The son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. says he had a “very constructive” meeting with President-elect Donald Trump on the holiday marking King’s life.

Martin Luther King III played down Trump’s recent claim that Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon, was “all talk.” He told reporters at Trump Tower on Monday that in the heat of emotion, “a lot of things get said on both sides.”

King says the focus of his meeting with Trump was to improve voter participation and stress the need to bring America together. He says Trump assured him it’s his intent to reach out to all Americans, even those who did not support him.

Trump briefly appeared with King after their nearly hour-long meeting but ignored reporters’ questions.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative media commentator Monica Crowley will not be joining the Trump administration following accusations of plagiarism.

That’s according to a transition official.

Crowley had been slated to join Trump’s National Security Council as a director of strategic communications. Her decision comes after CNN reported that several passages in a 2012 book written by Crowley were plagiarized. Publisher HarperCollins then pulled the book.

Crowley’s withdrawal from her position was first reported by the Washington Times. The transition official confirmed the decision on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

10:00 a.m.

President-elect Donald Trump is continuing to lash out at critics in the intelligence community and Democrats in Congress who are vowing to skip his swearing-in ceremony.

The tough-talking Republican questioned whether the CIA director himself was “the leaker of fake news” in a Sunday night tweet.

The extraordinary criticism from the incoming president came hours after CIA chief John Brennan charged that Trump lacks a full understanding of the threat Moscow poses to the United States.

Trump shot back in a Twitter post Sunday, saying: “Oh really, couldn’t do much worse – just look at Syria (red line), Crimea, Ukraine and the build-up of Russian nukes. Not good! Was this the leaker of Fake News?”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Joe Biden: Donald Trump should retain sanctions on Russia

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, on a last foreign trip before leaving office, has met with Ukraine’s president and called on the impending Donald Trump administration to retain Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia.

Biden’s comments Monday at a briefing with President Petro Poroshenko came after Trump indicated in a Times of London interview that he could end sanctions imposed in the aftermath Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea in return for a nuclear arms reduction deal.

“The Crimea-related sanctions against Russia must remain in place until Russia returns full control to the people of Ukraine,” Biden said.

Other U.S. sanctions are connected to Russia’s involvement in the separatist war in eastern Ukraine. Biden said that Russia must fulfill its obligations under the 2015 Minsk agreement on ending that conflict.

Republish with permission of The Associated Press.

Mike Pence looks like he will be Donald Trump’s inside man in Congress

When Mike Pence landed in Congress after the 2000 election, he was a conservative agitator who often bucked President George W. Bush‘s agenda. Seventeen years later, he’s the vice president-elect and Donald Trump‘s inside man on Capitol Hill.

Pence, who spent a dozen years in Congress before becoming Indiana’s governor, is visiting frequently with lawmakers and promising close coordination after Trump’s inauguration Friday. In a sign of his attentiveness, Pence will have an office in the House as well as the traditional honorary office for the vice president in the Senate.

Pence’s role takes on greater importance, given Trump’s ascension to the White House without any experience in elective office.

Trump has few long-standing political alliances in Congress and a strained relationship with the Republican establishment, a hangover from the 2016 campaign. Trump’s agenda doesn’t always align with Republicans’ priorities, and his inflammatory remarks about immigrants, Muslims and women made many in the GOP cringe.

Pence has forged an enduring friendship with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., dating to their early years in Congress, along with other House Republicans crucial to advancing Trump’s agenda. In early meetings with lawmakers, Pence has passed out his personal cellphone number and promised an open line to the administration.

“He’s the trusted intermediary. He’s the person that people on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue know and trust,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.

If Trump is known for his brash form of disruptive politics, Pence represents the incoming administration in a more traditional manner, exemplified by his polite, Midwestern demeanor. He joined Trump in New York on Wednesday for the president-elect’s first news conference since the Nov. 8 election. Pence soon returned to Capitol Hill for meetings with several senators, including Democrats Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Tim Kaine of Virginia. The latter was Hillary Clinton‘s running mate and Pence’s adversary in October’s vice president debate.

“Opportunities to work together on issues like infrastructure and child care we think represent a significant chance to bring together leaders in both political parties,” Pence said after meeting with Kaine.

Pence’s early days in Washington were marked more by his role as a conservative purist than deal-maker.

He opposed the Bush administration on issues such as the president’s No Child Left Behind education law and an overhaul of Medicare that provided new prescription drug coverage in 2003. Pence was a leading conservative voice, often arguing that the Republican administration had strayed from conservative principles and had failed to curb federal spending.

After Republicans were swept from power in the 2006 elections, Pence unsuccessfully challenged Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, to become minority leader. Two years later, Boehner backed Pence’s entry into the leadership team, elevating the Indiana congressman to chairman of the House GOP conference, the party’s No. 3 post.

One of the ways Pence built lasting ties with fellow lawmakers was through Bible study.

Pence often joined Ryan, House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Georgia Rep. Tom Price, Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, for weekly Bible study sessions. House Republicans say those are the types of interactions that will help him in Trump’s administration.

“Mike Pence is a House man. He cares about us and he will make sure that we are in the loop,” said Rep. Jack Carter, R-Texas, who also attended Bible study with Pence.

By having an office in the House along with the ceremonial one in the Senate for his role as the chamber’s president, Pence will follow a path set by Vice President Dick Cheney, a former Wyoming congressman who maintained a House office during the Bush presidency.

Pence’s conservative record gives rank-and-file Democrats few reasons to be hopeful that he could be a bipartisan deal-maker on Trump’s behalf.

Planned Parenthood, for example, mobilized after Ryan said he planned to strip federal dollars from their organization as part of repeal of Obama’s health care law. The organization pointed to Pence’s anti-abortion record and history of seeking to block federal dollars from the health care provider as one of the reasons for the quick GOP push.

“Mike Pence’s fingerprints are all over that,” said Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s executive vice president.

But Pence has tried to build some bridges.

When Manchin, a centrist Democrat facing re-election next year, called incoming Trump White House adviser Katie Walsh in early January to request a meeting with Pence, the senator found himself face to face with Pence only a few hours later. They exchanged cellphone numbers and Manchin again sat down with Pence on Wednesday for a discussion that included the Supreme Court vacancy and federal judicial appointments.

“My job is going to be trying to find pathways forward – how do you find a way to fix things, repair things and make things happen? So you’ve got to build these relationships,” Manchin said.

Republish with permission of The Associated Press.

Human trafficking cases increase 50 percent in Florida

Officials say the number of human trafficking cases have increased more than 50 percent in the state from the previous year.The Florida Department of Children and Families says Florida received 1,892 reports of human trafficking. That’s a 54 percent increase from the previous year. The increase in reported allegations of human trafficking was due in large part to increased training and a new screening tool developed between DCF, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and the attorney general.

The Statewide Council on Human Trafficking also implemented specialized training for first responders and other child welfare professionals to help recognize the signs.

DCF tracks human trafficking by three primary categories: sexual exploitation by a non-caregiver, such as an adult entertainment club or escort service; sexual exploitation by a parent, guardian or caregiver; and labor trafficking.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Florida Blue Foundation symposium to focus on health care, poverty and community

Purpose Built Community President Carol Naughton

The Florida Blue Foundation will hold its 2017 Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee. The two-day event will feature speakers from leading health professionals, and focus on a variety of issues facing the industry.

The event kicks off at 9:45 a.m. April 19 with a keynote address from Carol Naughton, the president of Purpose Built Community. Naughton is expected to discuss how to create healthy neighborhoods to help break the cycle of poverty.

Several panels are scheduled for April 19, including presentations about building a culture of a healthy community, meeting future needs in the industry, strategic planning and health care reform. Mark Brewer, the president and CEO of the Central Florida Foundation, is also scheduled to facilitate a session titled “How to Engage a Community After an Attack.”

The event continues April 20 with a keynote address from Dr. Daniel Dawes, a health care strategist and attorney. Dawes is scheduled to give a presentation titled “Health Equity for All: Looking Back & Moving Forward with Health Reform in America.”

Dawes is also scheduled to moderate a panel titled “Affordable Care Act: Where Do We Go from Here – The Politics of Health Care.” Panelists will include Tom Feeney, the president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida; Dr. Antonia Novello, the former U.S. Surgeon General; Jason Altmire, the senior vice president of public policy and community engagement at Florida Blue; and Susan McManus, a distinguished professor of government and international affairs at the University of South Florida.

The Sapphire Luncheon and Awards ceremony is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. April 20. Patrick Geraghty, the CEO of Guidewell Holding Company, is scheduled to be the keynote speaker during the luncheon.

 

Bob Graham: Daughter Gwen Graham hasn’t told him her plans yet

Like much of the rest of Florida, former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham said he’s waiting to hear what his daughter former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham will decide about running for governor.

The younger Graham has been talking about it for months, and even told FloridaPolitics.com that she wants to run for governor of Florida in the 2018 election, a job her father held while she was in junior high. But she also said she would not make that decision until after she left office as a member of the U.S. Congress.

She’s also dealing with the health of her husband Steve Hurm, who is being treated for prostate cancer.

Her last day in Congress was last week.

“She’s only been out of office for a few days. And she’s thinking about what to do. She’ll let her friends, and I hope parents, know when she makes the decision,” the former senator told FloridaPolitics.com during a stop in Orlando Friday.

“She hasn’t closed the book yet.”

Regardless of when she does, the elder Graham expressed keen interest in the 2018 gubernatorial election cycle, particularly because of the issue of protecting Florida’s natural resources — a passion he and his daughter have shared. He said he’s been very concerned about what recent administrations.

“Over the last few years, we’ve had a very distinct orientation towards the role of government in lives of Floridians. I’ve been particularly concerned about the role in protecting the natural resources that distinguish Florida,” he said. People are going to essentially have a referendum on the question of is this the way we want it to be permanently, or are we going to go back to a government we had at the end of the 20th century? That will be a very significant and with long-duration impacts, that decision Floridians will make.”

Tale of 2 parties: Florida GOP high, Dems low ahead of 2018

The state Republican and Democratic parties met two miles from each other Saturday, their first meetings since Donald Trump carried Florida in November’s election, but the atmosphere and enthusiasm were worlds apart.

As both parties chose their leaders, it was easy to see which has more confidence heading into an election cycle when the governor’s office and all three Cabinet seats will be open. Republicans were aglow in victory after Trump stunned many political observers by winning the state Barack Obama carried in 2008 and 2012. At the same time, Democrats held a contentious election to choose a new chairman with little talk about this past election.

“How good does this feel? We defied the mainstream media, we defied conventional wisdom, defied the pollsters,” Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told GOP county chairs. “Right across town, Democrats are having their election and they’re not feeling near as good.”

As both parties prepare for 2018, Republicans are focused on how to build off the momentum Trump built with voters who traditionally haven’t been part of the political process while Democrats elected wealthy real estate developer and major party donor Stephen Bittel as chairman in hopes of ending two decades of futility at the polls.

“Donald Trump got a lot of people off of the couch and got them involved. It is our job at the Republican Party of Florida to harness all of that passion, all of that energy, and keep them in the game,” said state GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, who was easily re-elected. “And when we do, and mark my words we will do it, we will cripple the Democrat Party for a generation.”

After the Democrats elected Bittel, a group of protesters stood outside the meeting room holding signs that read, “SHAME,” ”This is not the party of the people” and “People over $$.”

Still, Bittel tried to paint the best picture of the party’s future.

“We have had an under-resourced operation in Florida for a long time. That changes, starting today, and we will build a different kind of party, I’m a different kind leader and we will change things,” Bittel said. “I grew up in Florida in an era when we won everything. I’m looking forward to that era again.”

But Bittel, 60, grew up more than four decades ago, and there’s a new generation of Democrats who have rarely seen victory.

Florida hasn’t elected a Democrat as governor since 1994. They’ve lost 14 of the past 15 Cabinet races. And despite Democrats’ success in passing a ballot initiative that requires political districts to be drawn in a way that doesn’t favor parties or incumbents, Republicans maintain huge majorities in the Legislature and hold 16 of Florida’s 27 U.S. House seats.

Republicans appear better situated heading into a critical state election. Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the three GOP Cabinet members, including Putnam, are leaving office because of term limits. Also in 2018, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is seeking a fourth term, and it’s widely thought Scott will challenge him in what could be Nelson’s toughest re-election yet.

But despite under-performing again in 2016, Democrats think 2018 can be different. Democratic strategist and former state party political director Christian Ulvert pointed at several pluses. First, Nelson, the one consistently successful Florida Democrat since 2000, will be on the ballot.

“This year, we have a potential for Bill Nelson setting the tone, to really set the stage from the top down,” Ulvert said.

He also said the party has a rich field of popular city mayors who could be on the ballot for statewide races, including Fort Lauderdale’s Jack Seiler, Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn, Miami Beach’s Philip Levine, Orlando’s Buddy Dyer and Tallahassee’s Andrew Gillum.

Putnam, who is likely to run for governor, warned Republicans that despite their successes, the party cannot become complacent.

“We can’t get arrogant and cocky and lose our way,” Putnam said. “We can’t take anything for granted.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Ringling Bros Circus to end its 146-year run

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is folding up its tent, ending nearly a century and a half of performing the Greatest Show on Earth.

A combination of declining attendance, increasing operating costs, along with changing public tastes and prolonged battles with animal rights groups caused the downfall of the American icon.

Circus employees were told Saturday night after shows in Orlando and Miami.

“After much evaluation and deliberation, my family and I have made the difficult business decision that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will hold its final performances in May of this year, according to a statement from Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, which produces the circus.

Feld added that ticket sales dropped dramatically after the circus retired elephants from its shows last May after a 14-year fight with animal rights activists over allegations that circus employees mistreated the elephants.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), one of the circus’ most vocal critics, took credit for the demise.

“After 36 years of PETA protests, which have awoken the world to the plight of animals in captivity, PETA heralds the end of what has been the saddest show on earth for wild animals, and asks all other animal circuses to follow suit, as this is a sign of changing times,” Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, wrote in a statement.

Ringling’s two traveling shows have 30 remaining scheduled appearances. The final shows are May 7 in Providence, R.I. and May 21 in Uniondale, N.Y.

The announcement puts most of the shows’ 500 or so employees out of a job, the Associated Press reported. Feld said some would be transferred to the company’s other shows like Monster Jam, Disney on Ice and Marvel Live! The company will help with job placement, resumes and, in some cases, housing relocation.

Ringling’s 40 retired elephants are living at the Center for Elephant Conservation in Polk County, which the company will continue to operate. Homes will be found for the other animals, which include lions, tigers, camels, donkeys, alpacas, kangaroos and llamas.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons