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Andrew Gillum blasts Republicans for hiding ‘immoral disaster’ of Senate health care bill

Andrew Gillum blasted Senate Republicans Tuesday for “hiding” behind its Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill, an “immoral disaster” which is being written largely behind closed doors and without Democrat input.

But the Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic candidate for Florida Governor is not the only one. Gillum is part of a growing chorus of disapproval coming from both sides of the aisle.

Several Senate Republicans have also criticized their own party, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who questioned the lack of transparency in the process.

“The Senate is not a place where you can just cook up something behind closed doors and rush it for a vote on the floor,” the Rubio said Sunday on “Face the Nation.”

Despite Republicans wanting to vote on the bill is soon as next week, there has been, so far, no legislation presented for examination and few lawmakers (of either party) who even know what is in the proposal.

On Monday evening, Democrats took to the Senate floor for a series of lengthy speeches chastising Republicans — notably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — for trying to push through a massive “back door” bill repealing the Affordable Care Act.

In response, Gillum released a statement giving somewhat backhanded praise to Rubio for cautioning against ramming a health care bill through the Senate.

“Senate Republicans are hiding their health care bill for one reason only: it’s an immoral disaster that will likely take health care away from more than 20 million Americans,” Gillum said. “Health care is a right in this country and state, and they are hiding behind closed doors because they don’t want us to know the truth.

“I was heartened to see Senator Rubio raise the transparency issue this weekend — if he feels so strongly about it, he should refuse to vote for it unless it receives full scrutiny.

“I’m glad his Democratic colleagues held the floor last night — we need to put up as many obstacles as possible to prevent Republicans from passing this bill that threatens the quality of life for so many Floridians.”

N.Y. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand hearts Gwen Graham for Governor

Gwen Graham scored a major national endorsement Tuesday when New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced backing Graham’s campaign for Florida governor.

“I am proud to join thousands of others in supporting Gwen Graham, a strong progressive leader, for Governor of Florida. In the age of Trump, we need courageous leaders like Gwen who will always put people over politics and aren’t afraid to stand up to anybody to do what is right,” Gillibrand said. “For her strength and leadership skills, her fortitude and passion, I offer my strongest endorsement of Democrat Gwen Graham for Governor of Florida. Take it from me: with Gwen Graham as governor, Florida will have a champion for progressive values in the Governor’s office.”

In the immediate aftermath of last year’s presidential election, Gillibrand was on the short list of potential Democrats to run for president in 2020. However, she quashed that talk early last month saying definitively she was ruling out such a run.

Nevertheless, it’s a big get for Graham, currently involved in a three-way race for the 2018 Democratic nomination against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park businessman Chris King.

“After almost 20 years of Republican rule and with Donald Trump in the White House, Florida needs a governor who will stand up for our values and fight to strengthen public education, expand access to health care, and protect civil rights,” Graham said. “Senator Gillibrand is a warrior in Washington fighting for our shared values. Kirsten’s support and the support of women from across the country who share our mission to turn Florida blue is humbling and driving our campaign forward.”

Graham has previously earned the endorsement of Emily’s List, the national political action committee that backs pro-choice Democratic female candidates for office.

In the statement accompanying the announcement of Gillibrand’s endorsement, the Graham campaign made sure to mention that she earned a 100 percent rating from both NARAL and Planned Parenthood and co-sponsored legislation to renew the battle for an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

AT&T, FirstNet offer states ‘early opt in’ for first-responder LTE network

FirstNet and AT&T are taking the next step toward a nationwide wireless broadband network for first responders. This means Florida’s police, firefighters and EMTs will soon be getting a dedicated network for public-safety communications.

FirstNet’s long-awaited first responder LTE network is finally moving forward, as FirstNet officials Monday announced more details on individual network plans for states and territories to early opt in online.

FirstNet officials say they are finishing the fee structure for states and territories wanting to use the LTE core and licensed 20 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum – as well as a possible opt-out scenario — but FirstNet Chair Sue Swenson said it there is a chance the final numbers may not be ready in time for next week’s rollout of the state plans.

“We’re trying to get it into next week, but for sure in the September one,” Swenson said in an interview with IWCE Urgent Communications. “At least they’ll have an indication of it, because that’s how they’re going to make the decision. I mean, you have to have that in there. We know how important that is.”

Under the federal law giving FirstNet responsibility for the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN), states and territories can choose the FirstNet plan — constructed by AT&T — or pursue an “opt-out” alternative.

The partners have begun presenting individual State Plans, which detail what they’ll get. Local governments will have 45 days decide to join FirstNet.

Each State plan will come fully funded and without added money from local governments, but governors could choose to opt out and build their own networks and plans. So far, eight states are considering their own alternative first responder network.

The remaining states can take the 45 days to review state plans.

As the winning bidder, AT&T will build the network for the states choosing to opt in, and maintain the network for the next 25 years.

If all goes as planned, responders in those states – including Florida — will have access to the dedicated network by the end of the year.

Cuba rejects new U.S. policy, saying pressure will not work

Cuba’s foreign minister has rejected President Donald Trump‘s new policy toward the island, saying “we will never negotiate under pressure or under threat” and refusing to return U.S. fugitives who have received asylum in Cuba.

In a hard-edged response to the policy announced Friday, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said from Vienna Monday that Trump’s restrictions on transactions with the Cuban military would not achieve their objective of weakening the government. He said they would instead create unity behind the communist leadership.

He described fugitives such as Joanne Chesimard, a black militant convicted of the murder of a New Jersey state trooper, as political refugees who had received asylum from the Cuban government and would not be returned because the U.S. has no “legal or moral basis” to demand their return.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Simone Marstiller takes herself out of Attorney General contention

Former appellate judge and Republican Simone Marstiller said on Facebook she will not run for Attorney General in 2018.

“NOT running for AG,” she posted Monday night. “Holding that office has been a dream of mine for a long time.

Marstiller

“But I’ve reluctantly concluded that running for the office just isn’t financially feasible for me,” she added. “Thanks from the bottom of my heart to all of you for encouraging me and pledging your support. I am blessed beyond measure to have people like you in my life. The adventure continues …”

Marstiller declined further comment Tuesday.

Her name was first floated in a January post on The Capitolist by Brian Burgess, who included her among his picks to replace current Attorney General Pam Bondi amid rumors she was leaving to take a post in President Donald Trump‘s administration. Bondi is term-limited in 2018.

“She’s a staunch conservative thinker, a bit of a fireball, and strikes me as someone rank-and-file Republicans could embrace as potential A.G. candidate – not only because she’s got the fire in the belly for politics, but also because she’d throw a wrench into the flailing and failing identity politics machinery of the Florida Democratic Party,” Burgess wrote in January.

“She’d be an absolute joy to watch – not only arguing cases and in press conferences, but on the campaign trail, too.”

Last month, Marstiller told The Capitolist’s John Lucas she was “weighing her options” for a possible candidacy.

The Liberian-born Marstiller is now in private law practice after retiring in 2015 as a judge of the 1st District Court of Appeal, based in Tallahassee.

Her long resume includes being Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Interim Secretary of the Department of Management Services, Deputy Chief of Staff, and state Chief Information Officer under Gov. Jeb Bush. 

She also was Associate Deputy Attorney General under Attorney General Bill McCollum and Executive Director for the Florida Elections Commission.

Declared GOP Attorney General candidates for 2018 include state Rep. Jay Fant of Jacksonville and former Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ashley Moody. Tampa Bay-area attorney and political newcomer Ryan Torrens has filed for the post as a Democrat.

Rick Scott remains tight-lipped about U.S. Senate bid

Gov. Rick Scott remains tight-lipped about his 2018 plans, telling CNN he won’t make any decision about the U.S. Senate race until “later.”

“I’ve always said the same thing: It’s 2017. The race is in 2018. I won’t make a decision until later,” said Scott during an interview with Erin Burnett on her show Erin Burnett OutFront. “Politicians seem to worry about their next job. I’ve got 570 days to go in this job. I’m trying to make Florida No. 1 for jobs, No. 1 for people being safe … and No. 1 for education.”

Scott is widely believed to be considering a U.S. Senate run in 2018. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has already said he plans to run for re-election.

The Naples Republican has been boosting his national profile for months now. In May, he announced he would chair the New Republican, a federal super PAC aimed rebranding the Republican Party and helping President Donald Trump.

The super PAC was founded by GOP strategist Alex Castellanos, and several Scott allies have been tapped to oversee the day-to-day operations. Melissa Stone, the governor’s former chief-of-staff and campaign manager of his successful 2014 re-election campaign, serves as the executive director; while Taylor Teepel, served in the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and spent two years as former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief of staff, is New Republican’s finance director.

If Scott decides to run, he’ll have a big-name backer. President Donald Trump has encouraged Scott to run on several occasions, including last week when they were in Miami to announce the president’s Cuba policy.

“He’s doing a great job,” the president told the crowd. “I hope he runs for the Senate.”

Scott told Burnett that wasn’t the first time Trump put him on the spot, telling Burnett that Trump “did the same thing … a week and a half ago” when he was with him at an infrastructure conference.

Matt Caldwell releases video highlighting #2LaneTravels Work Days Tour

Rep. Matt Caldwell spent Friday afternoon elbow deep in shark carcasses.

The North Fort Myers Republican heaved the sharks onto a scale, weighed them and packed them back in ice, preparing them to be shipped. It was a dirty job in an industry that he will oversee if elected Agriculture Commissioner in 2018.

Caldwell kicked off his #2LaneTravels Work Days at Key Largo Fisheries in Key Largo on Friday. The statewide tour is a chance for Caldwell to showcase the industries that the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services oversees.

“The Commissioner of Agriculture oversees all the blue collar jobs in Florida. If I’m going to be in charge of overseeing and regulating these jobs, I need to understand what goes into it,” said Caldwell. “The people who end up at top are the ones who started in the mail room. For me, the same thing is true here, if I can do the best job I can … if I’m blessed to come out on top, I have to understand (the jobs).”

Work days are a political tradition in the Sunshine State. Bob Graham, the state’s former Democratic governor and senator, made them a staple of his political career.

“Everyone knows Gov. Graham and his work days,” said Caldwell. “(It showed he) wasn’t afraid of doing hard work and was committed to understanding Florida top to bottom.”

Gov. Rick Scott held several work days during his first term in office, including selling doughnuts in Jacksonville and working as a park ranger at Hillsborough River State Park. Gwen Graham, a former U.S. and Democratic candidate for governor, is following in her father’s footsteps and doing her own workdays, including installing rooftop solar panels.

For Caldwell, the work days serve a dual purpose. While it helps it him better understand Florida, he’s also hopeful it will help Floridians better understand what the Agriculture Commissioner does.

“When you go around and try to explain to people who aren’t farmers, I remind them of the show ‘Dirty Jobs,’” he said. “Pretty much everything he does is what the Commissioner’s Office oversees.”

Caldwell said he expects future work days to include working on cattle ranches, with timber crews, and in tire shops.

Caldwell is one of four Republicans vying for their party’s nomination to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in 2018. Sen. Denise Grimsley, former state Rep. Baxter Troutman, and Paul Paulson have also filed to run.

Putnam, who can’t run for re-election in 2018 because of term limits, is running for governor.

Chris King brings home his ‘progressive entrepreneur’ campaign message

Democratic gubernatorial candidate and affordable housing developer Chris King pitches this scenario to Democratic crowds hungry for a rare statewide victory, and a blue governor’s office for the first time in 20 years:

“If you can imagine the gubernatorial debate of 2018, late October, we have a Republican, and we have a Democrat. And the time always comes where the Republican looks at the Democrat and says to the state of Florida, ‘You can’t trust this Democrat.’ Right? ‘This is a tax-and-spend liberal. They can’t create jobs. They can’t build businesses. They will ride this economy dead!’ It happens every time!” King, of Winter Park, said before a gathering of about 200 Democrats at the Orange County party’s monthly executive committee meeting Monday night.

“If I’m your nominee, I will be able to say in that moment, with the whole state watching, ‘On the contrary: not this Democrat! This Democrat created successful businesses, created jobs, delivered profit to investors, served customers. And this Democrat did all of that while honoring his progressive values,'” King continued.

“And then I’ll be able to look at the Republican in that moment, and say, ‘Mr. [Adam] Putnam, or Mr. [Richard] Corcoran, or Mr. [Jack] Latvala,’ or whoever comes out on top, ‘It was your party that rode this economy down, that created an affordable housing crisis. It was your party that said no to Medicaid expansion. It was your party that steered this party to the back of the pack,'” King continued. “And I will ask for the wheel back, and I will take it back, in 2018.”

And with that presentation, King, who built a fortune with development companies he insists he and his brother built from scratch, sought to distance himself from both his Democratic challengers, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, as well as the Republicans.

It’s a continuation of the “progressive entrepreneur” theme King initiated when he kicked off his campaign in Orlando two months ago. King criticizes Florida Republicans for overseeing a drop in inflation-adjusted wages and benefits, or doing nothing about it, and for, he said, leading Florida to place at the bottom of the nation’s 10 most populous states in per-capita income, productivity, gross domestic product, and mental health care services.

He pledges an economic program that would focus on minimum wage increases; steering capital to “home-grown” small businesses, rather than offering financial incentives to, as he said, set up low-wage satellite offices in Florida; creating workforce training institutes in community colleges; and using the state’s affordable housing trust fund for affordable housing.

King also ran through his commitments to all the rest of the state Democrats’ principal platform planks, including re-instilling respect and support for public schools and teachers; seeking health care for all, including accepting Medicaid expansion money; pushing adoption of the Florida Comprehensive Workforce Act, banning discrimination against the LGBTQ community; and staunchly supporting environmental protections and the development of solar and other alternative energies, including his pledge to take no campaign money from the sugar industry.

Yet while the environmental pledges may have drawn the loudest ovation, King’s “progressive entrepreneur” was the centerpiece of his campaign, and of his speech Monday night. He said it is based on his own business practices and philosophy, which he said provides living wages, full health care paid for by the company, and bonuses, for every employee, while the companies are “heavily philanthropic.”

“You can be a progressive, and believe in equality, and opportunity, and fairness, and justice, and care for the neediest among us. You can also marry that to entrepreneurship, to integrity, and hard work, and discipline, and stewartship. When those things are brought together, I’ve found in business it was a magical formula,” King said. “In government, it can be a game-changer for the Democratic Party.”

Judge reverses himself, decides ‘pre-reveal’ machines are slots

In a stunning reversal, a Tallahassee judge on Monday decided he had gotten it “wrong the first time around” and said games known as “pre-reveal” are in fact illegal slot machines. 

Circuit Judge John Cooper, however, was quick to say his change of mind was not influenced by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, but rather by further argument on how pre-reveal, or “no chance,” games actually play.

The Tribe’s lawyer had said that allowing the machines, which look and play like slots, violates their exclusive right to offer slot machines outside South Florida, imperiling the state’s future cut of the Tribe’s gambling revenue by “multi-billions of dollars.”

Whether pre-reveal games affect the Tribe’s deal is “a political issue,” Cooper said Monday. “My holding is not based upon whether (the Tribe) likes the ruling or dislikes the ruling.”

In March, Cooper issued issued a declaratory judgment that “pre-reveal” games weren’t slots. That was because players have to “press a ‘preview’ button before a play button can be activated.” If the outcome of the game is known, it’s not a game of chance, he said then.

But Barry Richardthe Tribe’s outside attorney, has previously argued Cooper misunderstood the game play: “The player is not wagering for the already revealed outcome, but rather on the next outcome, which is unknown.”

On Monday, Richard added: “Can anybody rationally believe the intent of the Legislature was to jeopardize (the state’s cut) … to allow these machines?”

Argument offered Monday dealt with the state law on slot machines, the nature of randomness, and whether the “unpredictability” of games of chance lies with the player or with the game.

“Once you walk up to the game, you see the outcome every time,” said Robert E. Turffs, attorney for Blue Sky Games, which designed the software that runs the games. 

Cooper countered: “But I have no way of knowing or predicting the next time, is that right?”

He also used an example of professional basketball player LeBron James shooting free throws. “The ball and the hoop has nothing to do with” James’ free-throw percentage—unless the hoop changes size every time he throws, Cooper said. 

The judge, in withdrawing his earlier ruling, said he had come to realize the game was a “series of plays,” including known and unknown outcomes.

Magdalena Ozarowski, attorney for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), said it’s the “later outcomes” of the game—not the one revealed to the player—that are unpredictable to the user. That’s what makes it a slot machine.

The case got started when DBPR agents found one of the games in a Jacksonville sports bar and told the proprietor the machine was an “illegal gambling device.”

The only way to remove the element of chance is to remove the pre-reveal software, Ozarowski added. Without that, you’d have a “box and a monitor.”

Kathey Bright Fanning, president of the Jacksonville-based Gator Coin II company that’s behind the machines, was in the courtroom for Monday’s proceeding. Afterward, she said she was “disappointed” with the judge’s turnabout.

“They’re wrong,” she said. “The Tribe is wrong.”

Cooper’s new decision will be “immediately appealable” to the 1st District Court of Appeal, he said: “Let’s call it a final judgment.”

Ted Yoho urges Ben Carson to reverse Obama-era ‘Housing First,’ reinstate homeless shelter funds

Gainesville Republican Ted Yolo, joined by 22 other House Republicans, co-signed a letter calling Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to reverse the “Housing First” emphasis in policies during the Obama administration.

“Housing First” philosophy holds that the best solution for homelessness is moving people into permanent, independent housing as quickly as possible. In order to implement those guidelines, HUD began increasing programs following that approach, cutting support for traditional shelters.

GOP lawmakers say that because of Housing First, successful homeless shelters in their districts have lost federal funding; they believe Carson needs to review the policy now.

“The Housing First approach may work for some, but it isn’t — and can’t be — the answer for all,” says California Republican Darrell Issa, who also signed the letter to Carson. “This misguided policy has caused some of the most effective homeless assistance programs in our district to walk away from the funding they need to help families get back on their feet.”

Federal officials have acknowledged that the change represents a major shift, with some programs receiving federal dollars in the past are now cut off, making it a more cost-effective way to reach the ambitious goal to end homelessness by 2020 set out by the Obama administration.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness has also endorsed the approach.

The text of the letter:

Dear Secretary Carson:

We are writing to you to express our concerns about current U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) policies and priorities regarding homelessness assistance.  It has come to our attention that HUD’s current procedures in administering such assistance have put homeless families, youth, and children at risk, in addition to jeopardizing holistic-based programs that work to alleviate the effects of poverty by supporting sobriety, work, and accountability.

As you know, in recent competitions for the Continuum of Care program, one of the program priorities articulated by HUD has been the “Housing First” approach, which focuses on providing immediate access to housing, prioritizing providers that offer services to clients on a voluntary basis, rather than those programs that require sobriety or participation in education, work, training, or service programs.  Under this policy, HUD now gives considerable preference based on a program’s commitment to using the Housing First model, placing programs that do not use that model at a severe disadvantage in receiving financial assistance.

By implementing its preference for the Housing First model, HUD has removed any incentive for independent housing programs to operate under a model that includes mandatory services, accountability, or sobriety.  In doing this, the Department has effectively used its administrative and regulatory power to impose national priorities on communities, forcing communities and providers to maximize services for certain populations — chronically homeless adults — at the expense of other equally worthy populations — families, youth, and children — and particular program models, regardless of local circumstances, needs, or a program’s effectiveness to lift participants out of poverty. Communities as a whole, which benefit from having these programs, are now unfortunately and unfairly penalized by the elimination or decline of such programs.

We strongly urge you to thoroughly review the Department’s procedures with respect to providing assistance to programs combating homelessness and to appropriately exercise your authority in providing support for these types of programs that include families, youth, and children and the community-based program models that serve them well by enabling them to increase their incomes and educational attainment, maintain sobriety, and acquire permanent life skills that will help prevent them from returning to a life of homelessness.

In order to support these families and their children, we also urge you to end the recommended scoring guidelines that currently punish programs that prioritize work, education, and sobriety. We believe that families have the best opportunity to escape dependence on public assistance when they are supported in their recovery and given education, training and work opportunities.

We look forward to working with you to break the intergenerational cycle of family homelessness by promoting programs that serve families and provide safe and drug free housing.  Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact Robert Rische in Congressman Issa’s office at (202) 225-3906 or robert.rische@mail.house.gov.

Sincerely,

Darrell Issa (CA-49)
Don Bacon (NE-02)
Andy Barr (KY-06)
Mike Conaway (TX-11)
Scott DesJarlais (TN-04)
Trent Franks (AZ-08)
Glenn Grothman (WI-06)
Randy Hultgren (IL-14)
Mike Johnson (LA-04)
Doug LaMalfa (CA-01)
Roger Marshall (KS-01)
Mark Meadows (NC-11)
Luke Messer (IN-06)
Alex Mooney (WV-02)
Gary Palmer (AL-06)
Steve Pearce (NM-02)
Robert Pittenger (NC-09)
David Rouzer (NC-07)
Steve Stivers (OH-15)
Mark Walker (NC-06)
Joe Wilson (SC-02)
Ted Yoho (FL-03)
Ted Budd (NC-13)

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