Charlie Crist Archives - Page 4 of 77 - Florida Politics

Partly in disbelief, Florida’s members of Congress denounce Donald Trump’s revelations to Russians

A lot of Florida’s Democratic members of Congress are responding with stunned disbelief to news reports — and President Donald Trump‘s Tuesday morning tweet — that he shared classified, highly sensitive ISIS information with Russian diplomats last week, calling the prospect inexcusable and demanding details.

Republican U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami and Mario Diaz-Balart also denounced the events, while most other Republican members from Florida have yet to react Tuesday morning to Monday evenings’ news, and Trump’s tweet essentially acknowledging the information exchange.

On the other hand, Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey of Rockledge argued that if the concerns are real and serious, the sources who brought the story forward need to be taking their concerns to Congress, not offering unnamed source tips to the media.

“The President has the authority to make decisions regarding our national security and work with other nations to combat international terrorism,” Posey stated. “It’s time for these unnamed sources to come forward and inform Congress and the public of any specific allegations.”

After reports first in The Washington Post and then other major media outlets, Trump responded Tuesday morning with two tweets stating, “As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining …” and “… to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”

Essentially The Washington Post and others had reported that Trump told the Russian officials about intelligence it had gathered on ISIS in Syria, from third-party sources that presumably would not want that information shared with the Russians, who are not aligned with the United States in the multisided Syrian conflicts.

“If the story is true,” began a statement from Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

“If these allegations are true,” opened Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando.

“If reports are accurate,” surmised Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton

“If true,” started Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston.

“Putin and the Russian regime are dangerous players in the global arena,” Diaz-Balart stated. “They are not our allies and cannot be trusted with sensitive, classified information.”

Ros-Lehtinen spoke on CBS Miami, and then passed along her essential position in a tweet Tuesday morning: “No one should share classified information with nations like #Russia that have interests adverse to ours.”

Democrats were no less direct, including those who caveated their statements in initial disbelief, calling for damage assessments and more.

And with later reports on Tuesday that the intelligence may have come from Israel, Deutch really let loose.

“It is shocking that President Trump shared classified information reportedly obtained by Israel with the Russians. Not only does this endanger Israel’s intelligence network, but it puts highly sensitive information into the hands of Russia — a partner of Israel’s enemies Syria, Iran, and its proxy Hezbollah,” Deutch said. “Intelligence cooperation between the United States and Israel has always been a cornerstone of our relationship, and to jeopardize this while boasting to the Russians puts America’s national security and Israel’s security at serious risk.”

“When you betray the trust of our allies and national security partners, it jeopardizes our safety and future intelligence sharing. As the former vice chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I can’t stress enough how serious of a blunder this is,” declared U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings of Miramar. “It is imperative that Congress is given a full briefing on the extent of the damage that President Donald John Trump has caused in compromising highly classified code-word intelligence to the Russians.”

“If the story is true, this is a serious breach of security and will have lasting and dangerous consequences for the U.S.,” Nelson said.

“Trump betrays our country & allies when he leaks classified info to Russia,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando.

“The news that the president gave highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador in the Oval Office is deeply, deeply disturbing. His actions are indefensible,” declared U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg. “They delivered a self-inflicted wound to our national security, imperiling secret, sensitive operations overseas battling ISIS, putting the lives of our operatives in grave danger. Congress must exercise its oversight responsibilities immediately. The repercussions of the disclosure, and measures to prevent the President from repeating such a serious error, must be weighed.”

“If these allegations are true, they are inexcusable and deserve immediate action from Congress. In leaking this kind of intelligence, the President would be putting lives in danger. Our allies need to know that they can trust us,” Demings offered.

“As president, Trump has the right to declassify anything he wants, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do,” offered U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens. “Russia is not our friend, and the sooner he realizes that, the better off our country will be.”

“If true, news reports indicate that President Trump compromised America’s intelligence gathering operations and security, and possibly harmed a relationship with a key ally and put lives at risk,” stated Wasserman Schultz. “His disclosure would be a gravely dangerous compromise of classified information with an adversary. Congress needs an immediate and full briefing on what damage has been done.”

“If reports are accurate, President Trump revealed vital and highly classified information in the Oval Office to Putin’s top officials. This reckless move jeopardizes our intelligence sources, exposes extremely sensitive information, and seriously calls into question our president’s judgment,” Deutch declared in his original statement, before the Israel report. “This dangerous behavior threatens our global alliances in the fight against terrorism and actually makes America less safe.”

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee posted on Facebook, “Reports of President Trump sharing highly sensitive information with Russian officials is extremely concerning. This underscores the need for a Special Prosecutor to investigate this administration’s ties to Russia.”

At a news conference Tuesday morning, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa said: “If it’s true that President Trump shared classified information with one of our adversaries while they were invited into the Oval Office, it’s simply outrageous and it undermines the ability of the United States of America to cooperate with our allies across the world, gathering intelligence. It undermines the effectiveness of the brave men and women in our intelligence agencies.”

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, also sent out a tweet, stating, “If other nations can’t trust us to keep shared classified info secret, then they will stop sharing it with us — making us less safe.”

Murphy’s campaign side had a lot more to say on the subject late Tuesday, in a fundraising email, demanding that transcripts of Trump’s meeting with the Russians be sent to Congress for review:

“These leaks could put American lives in danger and no one — not even the President — should be given a free pass for this kind of reckless behavior. Nothing is more important than the safety and security of American citizens. Trump’s leaks to the Russians put our national security at risk and endanger our relationships with key allies.

“In fact, The Associated Press is reporting that other countries may stop sharing intelligence that could prevent future terrorist attacks. As a former National Security specialist with one of the nation’s top security clearances, Stephanie knows the importance of keeping classified information within the intelligence community.

“That’s why she’s taking Trump’s leaks VERY seriously and calling for the immediate release of the meeting transcripts for Congressional review.

“Congress should at least have the same information the Russians now have in their possession. If our President put our nation in danger — we deserve to know.”

The email then directs people to click on a link to send a message to Trump, but the link first sends visitors to a fundraising page for Murphy’s 2018 re-election.

George Sheldon now taken to task by hometown paper

George Sheldon‘s hometown newspaper now has weighed in on the former Florida politico, putting in newsprint the latest ethics woes of the now-director of Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services.

The Tallahassee Democrat’s Monday edition (online version here), with help from the Chicago Tribune’s estimable reporting of the last few weeks, documented Sheldon’s travails as head of Illinois’ DCFS.

The lede, by the nearly 20-year Democrat veteran Jeff Burlew: “George Sheldon, a well-known figure in Florida politics who took over Illinois’ troubled child welfare agency in 2015, is embroiled in ongoing state ethics probes and facing scrutiny over contracts given to past campaign donors and consultants.”

Sheldon, a Democrat who lost a challenge to incumbent GOP Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2014, was secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families from 2008-2011 under then-Gov. Charlie Crist.

He also has served in the state House, as a deputy to Attorney General Bob Butterworth, and as acting assistant secretary for the federal Administration for Children and Families under President Barack Obama.

The upshot: Sheldon now is looking at a beating a retreat to Miami, to head the Our Kids nonprofit that provides child services in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

Not that Sheldon—still listed as owning a home in Tallahassee that last sold for $409,000—talks much to the Florida media these days.

Sheldon, who was a reporter’s best friend during his AG campaign, now has taken to largely shunting press inquiries to right-hand man Neil Skene, a former St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times) Tallahassee bureau chief. Skene joined Sheldon’s leadership team in Illinois.

“George’s leadership has won widespread, bipartisan support, including an outpouring from people in the General Assembly and the child-welfare system urging him to remain in Illinois and complete that work that is under way,” Skene told the Democrat, adding that Sheldon “saw no personal financial benefit from any of the Florida contracts.”

They include Gary Yordon, a political consultant and former Leon County commissioner, and Adam Corey, part-owner of Tallahassee’s Edison restaurant.

Yordon got “$35,000 to produce two television public service announcements about child drowning danger and safe infant sleeping practices,” the paper reported, and Corey “lobbied for a company, Presidio Networked Solutions, that was awarded more than $1 million in contracts with (Illinois’) DCFS.”

Sheldon did tell the Tribune last week he “can’t not give serious consideration to Florida. It’s home, but I also feel an obligation to Illinois.” He said he expects to make a decision “in the coming weeks.”

Larry Sabato moves Carlos Curbelo’s CD 26 race to ‘Toss-up’

Bad news for Carlos Curbelo, Brian Mast, and other Florida Republicans in vulnerable Congressional Districts in 2018 who voted for the American Health Care Act.

Only 21 percent of American voters approve of the GOP health care plan passed by the House last week, according to a Quinnipiac survey released Thursday. That’s a slight improvement over the 17 percent who approved of the first health care plan in

That’s a slight improvement over the 17 percent who approved of the first health care plan in March. Overall, the current health plan goes down 56 to 21 percent.

The bill has come under intense criticism from Democrats, who say that it will hurt Americans with pre-existing conditions. Republicans counter that the bill gives the individual states $8 billion to create high-risk pools for those citizens, but the public isn’t buying it.

Voters polled, in margins of 75 — 21 percent, including 59 — 34 percent among Republicans, that it’s a “bad idea” to give states the ability to allow health insurance companies to raise rates on people with pre-existing conditions.

Meanwhile, after the AHCA vote. Sabato’s “Crystal Ball” ratings downgraded Curbelo’s chances of retaining Florida’s 26th Congressional District seat next year. Sabato had CD 26 as “leaning Republican,” but now shifted it to “Toss-up” (the forecasting website is named after University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato).

Mario Diaz-Balart‘s position in Florida’s 25th congressional district was also downgraded slightly, going from “likely Republican” to “leaning Republican.” Diaz-Balart also voted for the AHCA.

Kyle Kondik, the managing editor for Sabato’s Crystal Ball, writes that Diaz-Balart’s seat is “only vulnerable in a wave environment,” adding that his district “also became a little less Republican last year.”

On the Democratic side, Kondik lists three congressional seats maintaining a “leans Democratic” outlook — Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 27th District, and Charlie Crist in Florida’s 13th District. The other seat is Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat in Florida’s 27th District.

After she announced last month that she would not run for re-election, the seat shifted to “Leans Democratic” because it now lacks an incumbent and is the most Democratic-leaning seat held by any Republican in the country.

As Kondik writes, the final story of the AHCA has yet to be written. Republican leaders say the bill they produce will be notably different from the House version.

However, that may not be enough to prevent Democrats from using the AHCA to run against Republicans in 2018. In 2010, Republicans had a field day blasting red-district Democrats over a cap-and-trade climate change bill that narrowly passed the House the previous year, even though it never got a vote in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Whether the Democrats can use this unpopular vote effectively against Republicans next year, of course, remains to be seen.

Florida’s Democrats, Carlos Curbelo call for investigation after James Comey firing

Florida’s Democratic members of Congress are expressing outrage over Tuesday evening’s firing of FBI Director James Comey and saying it solidifies their demands for an independent investigation into ties between President Donald Trump and Russia.

In statements released last night, Democrats were using words like “disgusting,” “disturbing” and “preposterous,” even as many acknowledged that they were unhappy with Comey dating to his announced findings about Hillary Clinton‘s email scandal on the even of the 2016 election.

At least two Florida Republicans weighed in, as U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Kendall expressed concern about the questions the Trump’s firing of Comey raises and called for a special investigation by Congress, while U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach called it “the right decision.”

Typical of many of the Democrats was U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, who called Tuesday,  “a dark day for justice in America,” and then went on to criticize Comey for his past actions.

“The conduct of FBI Director James Comey before the 2016 Election was certainly disturbing, and undoubtedly deserved criticism and scrutiny,” Wasserman Schultz declared. “But the reasoning and timing behind this firing is absolutely preposterous and unbelievable. It smacks of a Nixon-esque cover up of President Trump’s Kremlin ties. And with this egregious political power play, there is now no question that a special prosecutor is needed, because Americans absolutely deserve an open, independent investigation into Trump’s Russian connections.”

Some were more measured. U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park said the firing, “gives rise to many questions, which I have no doubt will be examined in the coming days.

“However,” Murphy continued. “the President’s action makes one thing crystal clear: there needs to be a swift, independent and non-partisan investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Congress and the American people deserve to know all the facts, especially if we are to prevent further foreign interferences in our democracy. We should follow the evidence wherever it leads—regardless of whom it may implicate. The American people deserve an inquiry that is above partisan politics and is solely devoted to uncovering the truth.”

On the Republican side, Curbelo called the firing “an extraordinary decision that “raises many questions all of which must be answered.

“Congress and the American people need a transparent explanation as to how this decision was reached and why it was executed at this time,” Curbelo continued. “It is critical that the FBI can continue all of its pending work with independence and integrity – especially the investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to influence our last election and undermine American democracy. Today I reiterate the need for Congress to establish a Select Committee with full investigatory powers to thoroughly examine this matter.”

DeSantis stressed that the firing should rightfully remove the concerns about politics in the FBI.

“President Trump made the right decision to relieve FBI Director James Comey of his duties,” DeSantis stated. “I look forward to the President nominating a strong director who will keep the FBI focused on its core mission and out of the political thicket.”

Among other Democrats weighing in:

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson:

“Now it is more clear than ever that we need an independent commission to get to the truth of Russia’s interference with our election.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa:

“President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey is a blatant attempt to stall the FBI’s ongoing investigation of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. It is also part of a disturbing trend — first, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates is fired by Trump after informing the White House of deep concerns about Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and his activities with Russia. Now, Comey is fired by Trump a week after testifying that the FBI is conducting its investigation.

“Trump may well be trying to distract the American people from the very troubling conflicts of interest, and those connections between Trump’s former national security adviser and Russia that were known about for some 18 days before Trump reluctantly fired Flynn. It is past time for an independent, bipartisan investigation. Trump may want to bury the investigation, but his presidency will continue under a cloud unless a special prosecutor or independent commission is established and the facts are fully presented to the American people.”

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg:

“I don’t disagree with the decision to remove Director Comey from his post given his actions over the past year. But the timing is extremely suspect given the FBI recently announced they are investigating the Trump administration for alleged ties to Russia.

“Now President Trump gets to nominate the head of the agency leading that investigation. We need a special prosecutor to take over the Russia investigation, and the Senate must drill down to a degree like never before on whoever is nominated to replace Director Comey. The integrity of our top law enforcement agency – and our democracy – is at stake!”

U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando:

“The circumstances surrounding the firing of FBI Director James Comey, from the timing, to the justification, to the individuals involved, are very concerning.

“We need to restore the American people’s faith in the ability of the FBI to conduct a fair and non-partisan investigation. That starts with the investigation into the Russian interference of the 2016 election, and the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia.

“It’s time for all of us to put partisanship aside, and do what’s best for the future of our democracy.”

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton:

“Not since President Nixon have we seen such a disgraceful abuse of power and attack on the integrity of our system of justice. During one of the most important national security investigations of our time, Director Comey’s firing is a blatant attack on the independence of the Justice Department. This behavior – firing the person who is investigating you – may pass in [Vladimir] Putin’s Russia, but it is disgracefully below the office of the President of the United States.

“This is only the latest in a string of alarming moves by the White House: first they fired acting-Attorney General Yates for calling attention to their compromised National Security Advisor, then Preet Bharara, and now Director Comey.

“Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions has lost any remaining credibility by getting involved in an investigation from which he promised to recuse himself. Given the actions of the White House, the American people unfortunately must now question whether anyone affiliated with this Administration can investigate this case of Russian influence honestly, thoroughly, and independently. We need a special prosecutor and an independent commission to continue this investigation without the whiff of political oversight or interference.”

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings of Miramar:

“The FBI Director’s firing cries out for a Special Prosecutor. Up until the moment of his dismissal, Director Comey was actively investigating President Donald John Trumps’ connection to Russian interference in the 2016 election. The American people deserve to know why Director Comey was fired without reason and Donald Trump needs to explain himself immediately.”

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens:

“Like many, I was stunned to learn that President Trump has fired FBI director James Comey. This dismissal came as Comey was leading an investigation into whether individuals connected to the president coordinated with Russia to impact the 2016 presidential election.

“This abrupt action raises many serious questions and is further proof that an independent prosecutor should be named to head the Russia investigation. It also could make the possibility of such an appointment more likely. The president may think that firing Comey will help his case, but no matter who conducts the investigation, Comey will now likely be called to testify under oath and his words could do the administration far more harm than good.”

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach:

“I am no fan of Director Comey, but I’m deeply disturbed by President Trump’s decision to fire the man who is investigating him. This just goes to show that it’s now more important than ever to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate Russian interference in our presidential election, and possible Russian coordination with the Trump campaign.”

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando tweeted this on Twitter:

“Trump fires Comey while under investigation about Russia-Watergate all over again! #Sayfie @FlaDems @HispanicCaucus”

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee posted this on Facebook:

“The American people deserve to know the truth about the full Russia investigation and we need an independent special prosecutor to oversee it. #ComeyFiring”

Annette Taddeo announces bid to replace Frank Artiles in Senate

Annette Taddeo is throwing her hat in the race to replace former Sen. Frank Artiles.

 Taddeo announced Tuesday she was running in the Senate District 40 special election to replace Artiles, the Miami-Dade Republican who resigned last month amid scandal.

“Through our campaign, we can right a wrong and show how this community can come together, regardless of race, gender or religion,” she said in a statement. “I know that in this election, residents from every part of Senate District 40, including those who stood firm in demanding Frank Artiles resign, will send a clear message to Tallahassee that the days of division are behind us.”

The 50-year-old Democrat is no stranger to campaigns. In 2016, she ran in Florida’s 26th Congressional District, where she faced former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia in the Democratic Party. She received 49 percent of the vote to Garcia’s 51 percent.

According to Taddeo’s campaign, she carried 59 of the 91 precincts shared by the congressional and state Senate district.

“Miami-Dade families know that to get real results for our residents we need to take a people first approach to Tallahassee,” she said in a statement. “I am excited for the journey ahead and campaigning hard to earn the support of my neighbors in Senate District 40.”

Taddeo was former Gov. Charlie Crist’s running mate in 2014 when he ran for governor as a Democrat. In 2008, she challenged Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 18th Congressional District, receiving 42 percent of the vote to Ros-Lehtinen’s 58 percent.

Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday the dates for the special election to replace Artiles, who resigned in April after he made national news after he accosted two black colleagues at a private club in Tallahassee. The special primary election is July 25, with a special general election on Sept. 26.

State Rep. Daisy Baez has already filed to run for the Senate District 40 seat, and has already grabbed the endorsements of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, both of whom are running for governor in 2018.

On the Republican side, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz is considering a run. Former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla has already filed to run.

Charlie Crist: ‘Horrible’ GOP health care bill ‘like they don’t care about people’

Three days after House Republicans passed a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a group of St. Petersburg residents, joined by Congressman Charlie Crist, is organizing some voter pushback against  the “horrible bill.”

Approximately 70 citizens met up with the St. Petersburg Democrat in North Straub Park Sunday afternoon to announce that they intend to “stand up and fight back” against the bill, viewed by many as the biggest legislative victory in the young Trump presidency.

“It was a horrible bill then — this one is even worse,” said Crist, referring to the GOP’s first legislative attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare that did not get a vote in March.

The House narrowly voted Thursday to support a reconfigured version of the American Health Care Act, 217-213.

“I can’t imagine that anyone would pass it, that anyone would write it, that anyone would support it let alone vote for the darn thing,” Crist said in disgust. “It’s awful. And it’s like they don’t care about people, and I don’t think they do,” he said of congressional Republicans.

Going back to his first electoral victory in the Florida state Senate in 1992, Crist said the AHCA (which he voted against) was the “worst piece of legislation I’ve seen in all those years. The worst!”

Crist specifically called out three provisions of the legislation which upset him. One is that the bill completely defunds Planned Parenthood in its first year of implementation.

Referring to how the family planning organization does more than just perform abortions, Crist said: “the ignorance about that is stunning.”

Crist also decried the parts of the bill that permits insurance companies to charge as much as five times a person between the ages of 50-64, compared to costs to a healthy 20-something. The bill proposes more than $880 billion proposed in Medicaid cuts.

On ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, House Speaker Paul Ryan defended those proposed cuts, saying the Medicaid system isn’t working (an argument echoed by state GOP lawmakers one was in defense of their opposition to Medicaid expansion in Florida).

“Doctors aren’t taking Medicaid, hospitals can’t survive with Medicaid alone. So by giving the states the ability to customize their Medicaid population their program to work for them,” Ryan said.

As an “eternal optimist,” Crist remains hopeful that the GOP Senate can substantially improve the bill. Republican Senators like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Lamar Alexander, are among those speaking out about the bill, he noted.

Crist also asked the crowd to contact Sen. Marco Rubio, prompting comments from the partisan crowd that they’ve tried, but couldn’t leave a message.

Others spoke to the crowd in defense of the ACA. Erica Behr, who said that when her husband’s kidney began to fail two years ago, she gave him one of hers. That is an act that the Republicans will punish her for, Behr said.

“This is a pre-existing condition for me,” she explained, adding that after kidney surgery, she developed autoimmune problems. “I would be on disability without my health care,” she said, “and that’s what the Republicans are trying to do if the ACA is repealed.”

“When you, your family or friends develop an illness, it becomes a pre-existing condition if your health care policy changes. People shouldn’t be punished financially for getting sick,” said Dr. Juan Dumois, chairman of the division or infectious disease at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital

Sunday’s rally was one of more than 75 demonstrations scheduled to take place this weekend in opposition to the passage of the AHCA. Women’s March Pinellas and Awake Pinellas led the demonstration in St. Pete.

Charlie Crist applauds Terry McAuliffe for beating his record on restoring voting rights

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe says he had broken the record for restoring voting rights to convicted felons, calling it his “proudest achievement” as governor.

And Charlie Crist is leading the cheers applauding the move.

McAuliffe boasted Thursday he had individually restored rights to 156,221 Virginians, surpassing the previous record-holder — Crist — by a nose.

As governor of Florida from 2007 to 2011, Crist restored voting rights to 155,315 felons, according to figures that McAuliffe’s office obtained from Florida.

“I applaud Governor McAuliffe’s leadership on a moral issue that goes to the heart of our democracy, the right to vote,” Crist said. “Clemency can be life changing. I thank Governor McAuliffe for his shared commitment to protecting civil rights and correcting wrongs in the criminal justice system.”

“I hope more Chief Executives follow his inspirational lead,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Florida Supreme Court approved language last week of a proposed state ballot initiative which would restore voting rights to nonviolent ex-felons.

Desmond Meade, the head of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, said his group had collected 75,000 signatures to ensure a court hearing. He’ll need another 700,000 by early next year to qualify to get the measure on the 2018 ballot.

Florida is one of just three states that permanently bars ex-felons from voting unless they get clemency.

“Expanding democracy in Virginia has been my proudest achievement during my time as Governor,” McAuliffe said in a written statement. “Over the course of the last year, I have had the privilege to meet with many of the men and women affected by this order, and their stories inspired us as we continued this fight against the hostile opponents of progress.”

Charlie Crist asking feds to require safety belts on all new school buses

Congressman Charlie Crist is looking to better protect students riding school buses.

On Wednesday, the St. Petersburg Democrat introduced the Best to Use Safety (BUS) Belts Act to enhance school bus safety, by requiring all new buses be equipped with safety belts.

The act would also provide grants to upgrade existing buses with seat belts.

“Families across Florida teach their children to buckle up. But for millions of kids across the country their school bus lacks this basic safety feature,” Crist said. “All students deserve access to a safe education – this measure simply extends that principle to children’s transportation to and from school.”

In the past six months, school bus accidents have killed and injured students in Maryland, Tennessee, Massachusetts and on Tuesday, in Omaha, Nebraska. Crist’s BUS Belts Act would aim to prevent injuries and deaths when school bus accidents occur.

“Children are provided the protection of three-point belts when they ride in a car. The same protection should be offered to them in school buses. This legislation would enable this to happen,” added Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council.

Florida already mandates seat belts on school buses, per a bill sponsored by Crist when he was in the state Senate. Federal law currently only covers the driver’s seat on large school buses.

On Tuesday, the Texas state Senate voted to approve legislation requiring all new school buses to come equipped with safety belts. That measure now heads to the Texas House.

Emily Slosberg’s personal, uphill battle for tougher texting laws

Twenty-one years after a car crash that took her twin sister’s life, Emily Slosberg is continuing the fight to make Florida roads safer.

Slosberg, the state representative and daughter of longtime Democratic state lawmaker Irv Slosberg, has picked up her father’s crusade on driver’s safety by championing stronger texting while driving laws statewide.

As reported by WTSP 10Investigates, the issue is deeply personal for both Emily and Irv Slosberg,

On Feb. 23, 1996, seven teenagers between the ages of 13 and 15 — including Emily and Dori Slosberg — had been riding in the back seat of a 1995 Honda Civic. In the front seat were a 19-year-old and 17-year-old.

After the car had swerved to miss an oncoming car, the Honda hit a pole and slammed into another vehicle. Five of the teens were killed, others suffered severe spinal injuries. Emily Slosberg spent 10 days in the hospital and missed her sister’s funeral.

Irv Slosberg, who first came to the Florida House in 2000, passed a mandatory seat belt bill in 2009 — the Dori Slosberg and Katie Marchetti Safety Belt Law — signed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist. Slosberg was also one of first to advocate stronger texting laws in Florida, first enacted in 2013.

Emily Slosberg, CEO of the Dori Slosberg Foundation, is now a Democrat representing District 91, the seat her father held since 2012 and had given up in 2016 for an unsuccessful Senate run.

Emily seeks to continue what her father started.

“We have an epidemic on the roads,” she told WTSP. “I believe that texting and driving, distracted driving, is a major cause of driving fatalities.”

Slosberg said that she is not looking to replace Florida’s existing texting while driving law but to strengthen it.

Current Florida law puts texting while driving as a secondary offense — law enforcement cannot pull a driver over for texting only, and can only do so when they are committing another traffic violation. Even then, a texting ticket is only $20.

Initially, Slosberg sought to use a creative tactic to change the law, by attempting to introduce a bill making texting and driving a primary offense in her Palm Beach County district (known as a “municipality bill”), effectively sidestepping the state law restrictions that consider it a secondary offense.

Slosberg, however, faced stiff opposition from influential members of the Legislature — including some from her own delegation.

“She said on the night she planned to present her bill to her colleagues,” write Donovan Myrie and Noah Pransky of WTSP. “State Sen. Bobby Powell, the chair of the local Palm County delegation, blocked her from speaking to her colleagues. Slosberg was forced to make her presentation during public testimony, and in her words, leadership attempted to ‘add insult to injury’ by adjourning before she had a chance to speak.”

Slosberg also faced a legal challenge for her municipality bill, when Dawn Wynn, the senior assistant attorney for Palm Beach County, issued an opinion (at Powell’s request) confirming that “traffic laws shall be uniform throughout the state” and reinforcing that texting and driving is a secondary offense.

Republicans, many with a Libertarian lean, were also resistant to the idea.

What’s more, Powell suggested making texting while driving a primary offense could have racial overtones — saying that additional laws give law enforcement another opportunity to profile African-Americans and Hispanics.

Despite that, Slosberg stays undeterred, and progress could be coming, although not soon enough for many.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran — typically opposed to greater government intervention — told 10Investigates he will consider a workshop of the issue which could include a national study by Florida’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA). That would result in legislative recommendations in late 2017, and the issue of distracted driving would return for the 2018 Session. If passed, tougher laws in Florida could come as soon as summer 2018.

If another SCOTUS opening occurs, will Charles Canady get a serious look?

According to Sen. Charles Grassley, the U.S. Supreme Court may need to fill another opening this summer. The Iowa Republican, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, did not name names, but rumors are swirling it could be the Court’s swing vote, 80-year-old Anthony Kennedy.

If that occurs, President Trump will go back to his list of 21 potential nominees, now numbering 20 after the elevation of Neil Gorsuch. Rumored to be on the short list before Gorsuch’s selection was Judge William Pryor of Alabama from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Diane Sykes of Wisconsin from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania from the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

If those rumors are true, will those three again go to the top? How about some of the others? Also on the Trump list are Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady and Judge Federico Moreno from the Southern District of Florida.

The next nominee will be an appeals court judge or a state supreme court justice. Moreno and Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee are the only two not fitting that description. Moreno’s logical next step is a promotion to the court of appeals.

Will Canady receive serious consideration this time? He has similar educational training to the current Court.

All 9 current justices studied law at either Harvard or Yale (Ruth Bader Ginsburg started at Harvard, but earned her law degree from Columbia). Canady received his degree from Yale, while Pryor came from Tulane, Sykes from Marquette, and Hardiman from Georgetown. Gorsuch attended Harvard and Oxford.

As a former state legislator, four-term Congressman and General Counsel for Gov. Jeb Bush, Canady understands the separation of powers between the three branches of government. He was Chief Justice from 2010-2012 and along with Ricky Polston, comprise the Court’s reliable conservative minority.

If Gov. Rick Scott wanted to bend Trump’s ear about Canady, the President would certainly listen. There is no question Scott and Trump are of like minds on many topics in addition to jobs. Another Trump friend, Attorney General Pam Bondi, could do the same.

On the downside, Canady will be 63 years old in June. Next to Moreno (64) and Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young, who is 65, Canady is the oldest on the list.

Pryor is 55, Sykes 58 and Hardiman is 52. The thought of having someone on the bench for 30 years is an appealing quality for a sitting president.

Confirmation hearings would certainly be lively. Millennials will not likely recall the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, but Canady was one of the House prosecutors. Would Democrats have fun with that?

How about being questioned by Judiciary Committee member Lindsey Graham? The South Carolina Republican was also one of the impeachment prosecutors (known as House Managers).

How juicy would it be for Canady to be tapped and for Charlie Crist to receive some credit for raising Canady’s profile? It was then-Governor Crist who appointed Canady to the Florida Supreme Court.

Perhaps Canady wound up on Trump’s list as a favor to Scott, or the president will actually give him a serious look. No one has retired yet, but that doesn’t stop playing the “what ifs” game in the meantime.

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