Donald Trump Archives - Page 3 of 313 - Florida Politics

‘So many signs’: Donald Trump responds to Parkland massacre

President Donald Trump has taken to Twitter on multiple occasions since Nicolas Cruz murdered 17 people at the Parkland school from which he was expelled.

“So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior,” Trump tweeted Thursday. “Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”

While all available evidence suggests that Cruz indeed had been reported to authorities repeatedly, and the fact of his expulsion suggests a critical eye also, this is the most detailed tweet Trump has made since the shooting Wednesday afternoon.

Trump offered “prayers and condolences” in a tweet Wednesday afternoon, followed up by a tweet that said he and Gov. Rick Scott were “working closely with law enforcement in the wake of this terrible shooting.”

President Trump has taken to Twitter on multiple occasions to extend prayers, condolences, and thoughts in the wake of mass murders, though those tweets have not been without incident.

Time reports that in late 2017, Trump tweeted condolences regarding a shooting in Texas two weeks before that took 58 lives at a church, in the wake of a similar incident in California (a multi-locational massacre which included an elementary school).

Immigration activists call for ‘Emergency Travel Advisory’ for Florida

Immigration activists are telling potential visitors to “stay away” from Florida.

Expressing concerns about reports of arrests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which grew at a larger rate in Florida than anywhere else in the country over the past year, as well as a recent pact between 17 sheriffs and ICE, groups of activists held a protest in five cities across the state.

At a press conference and rally Wednesday in front of the Hillsborough County Center in downtown Tampa, protesters called for the public to reconsider visiting Florida due to what they claim is racial profiling occurring in the state.

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

Although it’s questionable how significant such an advisory might affect Florida, recent statistics show a decline in travel to the U.S. since President Donald Trump took office; new data from the Commerce Department shows the slump translates $4.6 billion in lost spending as well as a drop of 40,000 jobs, according to an analysis by the U.S. Travel Association.

Florida saw a total of 6,192 arrests by ICE agents in2017, according to a recently released study from the Pew Research Center. That was the largest increase of any state in the nation.

An incident on a Greyhound bus in January also shook advocates for the undocumented.

As the bus pulled up to a Fort Lauderdale station on a Friday afternoon last month en route to Miami, the driver announced there would be a “routine” security checkpoint. Two uniformed officers boarded the bus and instructed each person to present “a U.S. identification or a passport with a stamp of entrance.”

A woman, identified only as “Beverly” was detained, CBS 4 reports. Three days later, the woman was turned over to ICE and Enforcement Removal Operations (ERO) for removal proceedings.

That event has haunted and angered activists such as Maria Jose Chapa, an organizer with the Service Employees International Union, who likened the actions to something out of Nazi Germany.

“Who is suspicious among our community? There are plenty of people who are undocumented but how do you point those people out?” she asked. “Are we targeting everyone, or are we only specifically targeting black and brown bodies or people who have accents that don’t sound American English?”

While the activists say people of color, in particular, should be careful about visiting Florida, there has yet to have been a single collective crackdown in the Sunshine State as there have been in other American cities. A series of operations taking place last week in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and San Antonio led to more than 680 arrests , according to figures released by ICE.

Also subject to strong criticism at the Tampa rally were Florida Republicans who have embraced tough policies on immigration.

“The Republican Speaker of House, Richard Corcoran, once called Donald Trump repugnant and lamented how people could accept a presidential candidate who offended so many groups of people, including women, people of disabilities and Latinos,” said Stephanie Garza with For Our Future FL. Garza recounted how Corcoran has done a 180 degree turn on the president, praising him for ending DACA, the executive order granting protection from deportation to thousands of undocumented students, and is now pushing for HB 9, which would ban so-called sanctuary cities.

“There are no sanctuary cities in Florida,” Garza said.”This bill is about blowing the dog whistle for the country’s far-right by scapegoating America’s income disparities and economic problems onto communities of color.”

Tuesday night, Corcoran debated Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum about sanctuary cities. In an email sent after the debate from Corcoran’s Watchdog PAC, a spokesman wrote: “The Speaker’s message was simple, ‘If it weren’t for San Francisco’s sanctuary policies, Kate Steinle would still be alive.’ Speaker Corcoran clearly showed why he is recognized statewide as a bold conservative leader, who fearlessly champions policies that put the interests of Floridians first.”

Activists also took aim at Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and the other fifteen sheriffs in Florida who recently signed an agreement with ICE to prevent the release of criminal undocumented immigrants into the community.

Activist Marc Rodrigues questioned if all undocumented immigrants would be vetted in the same way by the sheriffs.

“If a person has overstepped their Visa and they’re from Canada or Ireland, is the same ‘suspicion’ applied to them? Or does it only apply to brown people?” he asked.

At the conclusion of the press conference, the 25 activists walked a few blocks over to the Greyhound station to ask if they would continue to allow ICE agents to look for undocumented immigrants on their buses.

A spokesperson for Greyhound told Florida Politics that they would issue a statement, but it had not been received by post time.

Second Democrat challenges Sam Killebrew in HD 41

Democrat Alex Perkins filed paperwork Monday to run for House District 41, the Polk County-based seat currently held by Winter Haven Republican Rep. Sam Killebrew.

Perkins, who lives in Davenport, joins Winter Haven Democrat Carmelo Garcia in the primary race for the seat. The pair are on a level playing field as far as fundraising goes.

Garcia entered the race back in May, and despite the 9-month head start in the race he has yet to report any campaign contributions.

Garcia also carries some baggage – he was arrested on charges of grand theft the same day he filed for HD 41 over accusations he had written bad checks in 2016, though the Osceola County State Attorney’s Office dropped the charges in August.

Killebrew has held the seat since 2016 and is heading toward his term term in the House. Through the end of January, he had raised $42,600 for his re-election bid and had $36,910 on hand.

In past election cycles, HD 41 has had a decidedly Republican tilt.

The district voted plus-5 for Donald Trump in 2016 even though there are 8,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans within the district.

Former Rep. John Wood won the seat in 2012 with a 52-49 victory over Democrat Karen Welzel, followed by a 59-41 drubbing of Democrat Celestyne Williams in 2014. In 2016, Killebrew bested former circuit court judge Bob Doyel 53-47.

Those margins could shift if the so-called “blue wave” hasn’t petered out by November.

Steve Schale: The message of Sarasota

Steve Schale

2010 was like a living a broken record.

No matter what candidates said or did, or whether they ran embracing themselves with the president, or running as their own style of Democrat, it just didn’t matter. Voters were looking to send a message, and people who had Democrat on their name tag were the only vessel that existed.

My model for Sarasota going into Election Day said that if Republicans turned out between 2,000 and 2,500 more voters than Democrats during the day, Margaret Good would hold on, but it would be tight.

In terms of turnout, that’s what happened.

If you look at what happened with turnout, in 2010 or 2014, the Republican Party wins easily, in a normal election (do we have any of those) — with this electorate, the Republican Party probably would have won, or the Good would have won a real close one.

But as the margin demonstrated, this wasn’t a normal election.

Yes, Margaret was a good candidate, and yes, candidates and the campaigns they run matter. Yes, it helped that there was a national focus on the race, Vice President Joe Biden endorsing, grassroots money from everywhere — nor did it hurt that Corey Lewandowski came to town to reinforce that message.

All of these things mattered.

In 2010, a lot of fantastic candidates lost, and lost for reasons outside their own control. The lost because voters wanted to send a message, and since the president wasn’t on the ballot, they used the only proxy they could.

Not all special elections are created equal, and not all outcomes matter the same. This one probably matters more than most.

Here’s a few of my reasons why.

First, let’s go back to a little reminder about Florida. Most of Florida mirrors someplace else in America. Why did Donald Trump go to Pensacola to do rallies for Roy Moore? Well, that part of Florida is very similar to the deep south.

Go to a Jets/Dolphins game in Miami, and you might think you are at a Jets home game, or a Steelers/Jaguars game in Duuuval, and in addition to seeing Blake Bortles lead the almost-AFC Champions, you will get a good sense of where a lot of Duval comes from.

Sarasota, like much of Florida from Tampa south to Naples, has a Midwestern feel, a result of migration that came down from the parts of America accessed from I-75.

So, the voters here, in large part, have more in common with voters from suburban communities in the Midwest. In other words, these are the kinds of voters who voted for George W. Bush, voted for Barack Obama — at least in 08, and in many cases, also in 12, then voted for Trump. There are red states and blue states.

There are also Trump Republicans and Old Guard Republicans. These are Old Guard.

This district is very white and has an older average age than most. For evidence, among the voters who voted early, 94 percent were white, and 90 percent were over the age of 50 — two numbers that based on the overwhelming Republican Party advantage on Election Day will likely only rise.

In fact, out of the 27,000+ voters who have already cast a ballot, just over 900 are under 35. In other words, this is not a district where change comes from younger ethnic voters surging, as it has in many other specials around the country. Change comes here two ways: Democrats voting, and swing voters sending a message.

Personally, I’ve always been a bit obsessed with this district. Besides being a great community to visit, when I first worked for the legislature, this district was represented by a Democrat, Shirley Brown, and in 2006, when I ran the Florida House Democratic Caucus, winning this seat back was one of my personal goals.

In 2008, we laid down a real marker here during the presidential campaign, putting a real operation on the ground, sending in both Obama and Biden, and almost winning the county for the first time since FDR.

Why? Because if we are doing the things we need to do well here, we are going to do well in a lot of other places.

One other factoid about the district: The last two times the Democrats won this seat in an open seat: 1992, and 2006, both pretty good years.

Last time Republicans won it from a Democratic incumbent: 2010, not exactly a great year for my team. You get the idea.

So, here are a couple of my takeaways.


Largely the story of special elections around the country, women were the story here in Sarasota. Before Election Day, women were driving turnout, and while we don’t have Election Day data yet, I assume this pattern continued. Democratic women make up 19 percent of registered voters, but make up 26 percent of voters so far in this special election.

In fact, while district-wide turnout for the early vote was 21 percent, turnout among Democratic women is 30 percent. And these weren’t just super voters: Good was turning out a lot more Democratic women who had little or no primary voting history.

Swing voters.

I thought Good was up somewhere around 8 points going into Election Day (her pollster told me his model had her up 11, and yes Tom, I said that seemed a little “rosy”) — and that was based on her winning about 15 percent of Republicans and winning a sizable majority of NPA voters.

She ended up ahead after Early Vote by 12 points, which means she had to be winning NPA voters by a margin of close to 2:1. In addition, Republicans had roughly a 16-point advantage on Election Day in terms of voters, and for her to maintain a strong win, she needed to maintain similar margins.

If you go back to 2006 or 2010, one of the signs that the wave was coming was chunks of NPA voters began to really perform as partisans. You’d see it first in the self-ID question in polls, where polling was coming back more Democratic or more Republican than it should, and same in the early voting.

Not all NPA voters are created equal, but if older white NPAs — driven by women turning out — are performing more Democratic, that’s going to be a good sign for 2018.

I’ve argued for some time Trump fundamentally misread his own election (something Democrats have also been guilty of). Trump has been gambling he can be a 40 percent president and appeal to a small segment of hard-right voters and be sustained by them, but last night was just the next proof point that this is toxic for the Republican Party, at least among swing voters.


Nights like this require two things: the “Blue Wave” and the “Red Revolt.” I lived the opposite in 2010, where Republicans came out of the woodwork, and elements of the Democratic coalition either stayed home or sent a message with their vote.

Republicans outnumbered Democrats by 13,000 in this district, and by roughly 2,500 in terms of people who voted in the special election.

Two things — final partisan model will be a few points more Democratic than registration — and several more Democratic than 2016. In other words — Democrats showed up, and Republicans didn’t. But at the same point, in a seat where, again, 2,500 more Republicans voted, Good doesn’t win by winning a sizable number of Republicans.

Putting a finer point on it: On Election Day, Republican voters outnumbered Democrats by over 2,000. They only won the day by 110 votes. A bunch of Republicans chose to revolt today — both by not voting and by voting for Good.

In years like this, when swing voters are frustrated with the incumbent president, their only vehicle to express their frustration is through members of the incumbent party. And in HD 72, that revolt happened with center-right voters — which in some ways, is why this matters more than some other races.

Just as Democrats struggled in 2010 and 2014, when their base voters stayed home, as Obama proved in Florida in both 08 and 12 — and in a lot of states in the Midwest in both cycles, Republicans face real math problems if they can’t run up the score with voters like these.

So yes, this matters. It matters for confidence, but more than anything, it matters because this shows center-right moderates felt the need to send a message — and the only way they could send a message is to vote against the president’s party.

And trust me, having lived through 2010 and 2014, this is the biggest challenge Republicans will face in the coming months, figuring out how to navigate their own base, while still talking to voters who are dissatisfied with the direction of the presidency.

Energy around this race was ridiculous.

Good received almost 3,000 contributions in the last month, which is pretty much unheard of in a State House race. I had Democratic friends from literally every corner of the country asking how they could make phone calls or help out.

The folks on the ground did a great job of harnessing grassroots energy. I remember in 08, sometimes it is hard just to guide the mob of supporters in the same direction, and just like in the Miami race, the party folks from House Victory, the FDP, and the rest of the progressive groups are working together, not against each other.

Terrie Rizzo, the FDP Chair; State Rep. Kionne McGhee, the incoming Democratic Leader, and Reggie Cardoza, who runs House Victory, all deserve real credit in sticking the sword in the ground here and seeing it through. In addition, congratulations to one of my best friends, pollster and strategist Tom Eldon, who I think is now 5-1 lifetime in this seat.

And to the GOP team that lost, I’ve been there. In 2010, more often than not, all you could do was never enough.

Nine months out, the win matters for what it says about politics now, but it in some ways, it matters less about Florida than it does about those parts of the country where these Florida voters come from.

But more than anything, I do think we are in this for a while.

Voters keep voting for change, but as long as Washington keeps reading their calls for change as a mandate for one way, just as we’ve seen a lot of this for the last decade, I think we will see more nights like this for some time to come.

Blue wave forming? Margaret Good wins special election in House District 72

Democrat Margaret Good won Tuesday’s special election in House District 72 in a victory that will likely set off a round of Republican recriminations … and angst.  

Good led the race throughout Tuesday night, leading the early balloting and ending with over 52 percent of the vote, compared to 45 percent for Republican James Buchanan, to represent HD 72 — which covers Siesta Key, parts of the city of Sarasota and parts of Sarasota County — for the next nine months.

Alison Foxall finished a distant third with 3 percent, despite relatively strong fundraising for a Libertarian running in a state legislative race.

Gov. Rick Scott called the special election following the sudden resignation of former Rep. Alex Miller in September. Miller stepped down after less than a year in office, citing business concerns and raising two teenagers.

It is the second special election in recent months in which Democrats captured a formerly Republican legislative seat, with the other being a win by Sen. Annette Taddeo of Miami.

Good, an attorney, said ithat the victory wouldn’t have been possible without the “thousands of individuals, who like me, have had enough of the divisiveness that permeates Tallahassee.”

“The voters have spoken,” Good said. “People in District 72 want leaders who listen and act boldly to better our community. I will be accessible, transparent and fully committed to this community that has provided me and my family so much.”

While HD 72 has just over 122,600 eligible voters, the race attracted attention from local, state, and national leaders, which helped the special election hit some of the highest turnout levels of any in recent memory. More than 44,100 voters had cast ballots, a turnout of over 36 percent.

For example, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden cut a last-minute get-out-the-vote robocall for Good. Democratic gubernatorial candidates Chris King and Andrew Gillum also campaigned on her behalf.

As an indication of the national interest in the race, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez issued a statement Tuesday night about the win.

“Just like we did last year with Annette Taddeo, Democrats are organizing, investing, and winning elections across Florida as voters reject (Gov.) Rick Scott and Donald Trump’s disastrous agenda,” Perez said in the statement.

As for Buchanan, a Sarasota businessman and son of longtime Longboat Key congressman Vern Buchanan earned high-profile endorsements from Republican, including both Gov. Scott and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Last weekend, Corey Lewandowski, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, joined other Republican leaders to headline a rally of about 200 supporters in Sarasota to bolster the final days of Buchanan’s campaign. This backing from Trump cohorts at Saturday’s event (which included state Reps. Jay Fant, a candidate for Attorney General, and Joe Gruters, who served as one of Trump’s top Florida supporters) gave HD 72 an echo of the contentious 2016 presidential race, complete with audience chants of “lock her up” — a popular Trump refrain against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Libertarian Foxall also nabbed a rare endorsement from “The Observer,” a Sarasota-area newspaper.

What also makes the race notable is that Good remained competitive throughout, despite HD 72 having about 13,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats or unaffiliated voters — and has been reliable GOP territory for more than a decade.

Much of Good’s viability can be credited to energized Democrats from across the nation, who came to her aid through a flood of small-dollar donations, canvassing and phone banks from liberal bastions as far away as San Francisco, New York, and Washington D.C.

The result was early voting that saw roughly equal participation from registered voters of both major parties — notwithstanding the significant Republican registration advantage — as well as numbers that suggested the best Election Day turnout of any offseason contest.

By 2 p.m. Monday, voters had already cast 27,525 votes, a turnout of just over 22 percent. Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that in a typical special election — without the glare of a national spotlight — turnout usually runs about 15 percent. On Monday, 11,965 registered Republicans voted early (either in-person or vote-by-mail) compared to 11,798 Democrats — for a turnout already well over 22 percent.

Regarding polls, the race remained a squeaker to the end, with Good and Buchanan swapping the lead — always within the margin of error — and no clear front-runner right up to Election Day.

Among early returns, Good bettered Buchanan 55 to 43 percent with vote-by-mail and early in-person voting.

But pollsters also found that with voters who planned to cast ballots Election Day, Buchanan outperformed Good, which suggested a surge of eleventh-hour Republican support.

But it was ultimately not enough to pull off a Republican win.

Either way, for local and national Democrats, Good’s victory will be seen as another bellwether for an expected national “blue wave” of anti-Trump sentiment at the polls. Buchanan’s decisive loss — particularly in traditionally red HD 72 — could also be taken as a measure of rising dissatisfaction with Republicans in 2018, nominally led by an increasingly unpopular president.

However, some Republicans view Buchanan’s underperformance as more of a repudiation of GOP extremism than a Democratic uprising.

“This was less a blue wave than a red revolt,” Republican consultant Anthony Pedicini told POLITICO. “Republicans turned out on Election Day, and looks like there was little benefit to our campaign.”

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.

Florida Democrats congratulate Margaret Good on HD 72 win

Democrat Margaret Good decisively won the Sarasota-area House District 72 special election Tuesday, defeating Republican James Buchanan 52 to 45 percent.

Florida Democrats were quick to praise Good on flipping HD 72, which was reliably Republican for at least a decade, citing her “positive message of growing Sarasota’s economy, fully funding our public schools, and protecting our coastline.”

Many Democrats view the race as a precursor to a national “blue wave” of anti-Donald Trump sentiment at the polls. They say Buchanan’s loss — particularly in traditionally red HD 72 — is a sign of dissatisfaction with Republicans in 2018, nominally led by an increasingly unpopular president.

A sampling of Florida Democrats congratulating Good on her win:

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson:

“Congratulations to Margaret Good on a huge win! The people of Sarasota will be well represented with her in Tallahassee.”

Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham:

“Floridians made a great choice tonight in electing Margaret Good to the State House. After 20 years of one-party rule, Floridians want leaders who will fight for health care, create jobs, improve public education, and protect the environment—​ and that’s exactly what Margaret will do. I look forward to working with her as governor to create change in Tallahassee and a better Florida for everyone.”

Gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine:

“Congratulations to Margaret Good on her incredible victory in HD 72! She stepped up to run, because she believes, like so many, that Tallahassee needs fresh leadership with a clear vision. Today, Margaret Good and the Democrats flipped this seat because they offered a real vision for Sarasotans, and in November, we will flip the Governor’s mansion!”

Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez:

“Congratulations to Representative-elect Margaret Good on her victory tonight’s special election, which flipped yet another Republican-held seat from red to blue in a district that Trump carried in 2016. Just like we did last year with Annette Taddeo, Democrats are organizing, investing, and winning elections across Florida as voters reject Rick Scott and Donald Trump’s disastrous agenda. I’m confident Margaret will fight every day for working families across Florida. The DNC is proud to stand with Margaret and the Florida Democratic Party, and we will continue working to elect Democrats up and down the ballot.”

The DCCC’s Cole Leiter:

“Margaret Good’s overwhelming victory in Florida’s HD 72 demonstrates that voters are energized to cast their ballot for a candidate who can shake up our broken political system, not the son of a Washington establishment politician. While this big Democratic victory should put the elder Buchanan on notice, he cannot undo his steadfast support for the House Republican agenda that puts the very rich and biggest corporations first, and middle class Sarasotans last. Democratic candidate Dave Shapiro has already hit the ground running in the race for Congress, and will be a very strong competitor in November.”

The NLCC’s Jessica Post:

“Representative-elect Margaret Good’s campaign was dedicated to the people of Sarasota County who are tired of Florida Republicans peddling a Trump agenda counter to their values. Rep.-elect Good went door-to-door, talking with voters about affordable health care, fully funded public schools, safeguarding LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights, and protecting Florida’s beautiful environment. The DLCC is proud of the investments we made to support Rep.-elect Good in her fight to flip HD-72, and we look forward to continuing our work alongside Florida Democrats as we prepare to elect more Democrats to the Florida Legislature ahead of 2020 redistricting.”

Florida Democratic Party:

“We couldn’t be more proud of Margaret, for the campaign she ran. She was the better candidate, her message resonated with voters in Sarasota, and the results showed that. This win shows us that Floridians are rejecting the same tired rhetoric we saw with Donald Trump’s campaign, which was the same rhetoric Buchanan used to try and win. This is a referendum on Trump and the GOP.

“Republicans across the state continue to campaign on issues like the border wall, that are not actual state issues and only serve to divide and demonize the immigrant population. We are going to continue to focus on the real issues effecting this state, like the fact that nearly half the state is struggling — living paycheck to paycheck, and the fact that hundreds of thousands of people are without health care because Republican leadership refused to expand Medicaid. This is the beginning of a movement here in Florida. We will continue to work hard in every race, up and down the ballot, because Floridians deserve better.”

State Rep. Kionne McGhee, Democratic Leader-designate:

“Tonight’s victory is a testament to the power of the grassroots campaign we built in Sarasota, as well as the appetite for change in Tallahassee that’s growing all over this state. I’m looking forward to Margaret joining us in the Legislature beginning tomorrow in the fight for expanded access to health care and stopping attacks on our public schools.”

Aliki Moncrief, Executive Director, Florida Conservation Voters:

“Margaret Good will be a breath of fresh air in Tallahassee. We are thrilled to welcome her as another outspoken advocate for Florida’s environment. Our quality of life and our economy are intertwined and both depend on a clean and healthy environment. We need leaders like Margaret Good to fight for our water, conservation lands, and clean energy. Sarasota may be 327 miles away from Tallahassee, but tonight, voters sent a loud and clear message to the Capitol that can’t be ignored.”

Joe Saunders of Equality Florida:

“Equality Florida Action PAC played a key role in rallying support within the Suncoast and across the state for Margaret Good, including working with local volunteers to raise campaign contributions and building satellite phone banks across the state to turn out progressive votes. Florida’s LGBTQ and allied community is under attack by forces in Washington and Tallahassee. This year we’re going to make clear that those who stand with us will earn our support and those who ignore us or attack us will be held to account. Margaret is ready on day one to fight for our families, which is why we’ve shown up for her.”

Reggie Cardozo of House Victory:

“Margaret’s win shows that grassroots Democratic campaigns can and will defeat the cynical House Republican machine funded by special interests and run by Tallahassee insiders. This great victory is just the beginning of the Blue Wave to come in 2018.”

House readies ‘across the board’ tax package

Farmers, nursing homes and property owners impacted by Hurricane Irma could receive tax relief as part of a $332.7 million package that will be introduced Wednesday in the Florida House.

The package (PCB WMC 18-03), which will be rolled out in the House Ways & Means Committee, will be built on education-related tax credits, a reduction in a commercial-lease tax and sales tax “holidays’ on back-to-school items and hurricane supplies.

Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican, said Tuesday the goal is to offer “across the board” savings, without hurting the budget.

“There are many people that are interested in tax cuts, tax credits, but we tried to look at what is the most effective way from a public policy standpoint to benefit Floridians,” Renner said.

A Senate tax-cut proposal is still in the works.

Senate Finance and Tax Appropriations Chairwoman Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican, said the Senate has not set a “bottom-line number” for its package.

Stargel said the package might include a number of the House proposals, from hurricane relief for agriculture to the sales tax holidays. But she said the numbers might not exactly align.

“There are several things that they’ve included that I think that we can agree on, that we like that they’re doing,” Stargel said. “There’s a couple of things we’re not really sure. It’s ambiguous. We’re having to look into a little more detail as to how it’s supposed to work out.”

Stargel said she’d like to support a further reduction in the commercial-lease tax, while she needs more information about the educational tax credits.

With a hit to local government revenue accounting for $37.6 million of the House package, the overall proposal tops the $180 million in cuts approved last year and a $180 million request by Gov. Rick Scott for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Scott’s proposal includes shopping tax “holidays” and a request to cut fees on driver’s licenses.

But the House package differs, proposing an 18 percent reduction on civil penalties for non-criminal traffic infractions — such as speeding within 30 mph over the posted limit — if motorists attend driver-improvement school.

The House package also includes a $6.7 million cut by providing a sales-tax exemption for generator purchases by nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Scott’s administration has pushed for nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have generators after the deaths of residents of a Broward County nursing home that lost its air-conditioning system in Hurricane Irma.

The largest part of the House package, an estimated $154 million a year reduction in state revenue, would come through sales-tax credits that businesses could take to fund voucher-like scholarships in the Gardiner Scholarship Program and the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program.

Stargel said her committee may workshop the proposal.

“It’s something different that we’ve not ever seen,” Stargel said. “The proposal has not run through any of our discussions.”

Another $34.1 million next year in the House package would come from reducing the commercial lease tax from 5.8 percent to 5.5 percent starting Jan. 1. That reduction would affect half of the state’s 2018-2019 fiscal year, and the savings to businesses would grow to $81.1 million when implemented for a full fiscal year.

Long a target for elimination by business-lobbying groups, lawmakers dropped the lease tax from 6 percent to 5.8 percent a year ago.

The House would offer a 10-day back-to-school tax holiday in August that would allow families to avoid paying sales taxes on school supplies, clothes costing $60 or less and personal computers and accessories up to $1,000. The package also would offer three separate seven-day periods in May, June and July when Floridians could buy hurricane supplies without paying sales taxes. The holidays are collectively projected to total $74.5 million.

The package also would offer post-Irma tax refunds on agricultural building materials, which would be a projected $8.8 million savings for farmers; on agricultural fencing, $2.7 million; and fuel used to transport agricultural products, $3.7 million.

Another $13.1 million would be available to cover losses when citrus processing equipment went idle because of Irma or because of the industry’s decade-long battle against citrus greening disease.

The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has estimated farmers and ranchers incurred $2.5 billion in losses from Hurricane Irma.

Most of the losses are expected to be covered through a federal spending plan signed by President Donald Trump that included $2.36 billion for agricultural impacts from Irma and hurricanes Harvey in Texas and Maria in Puerto Rico.

Among other proposals, the package also would provide a property-tax abatement for homeowners forced out of their residences for at least 30 days due to damages from hurricanes Hermine, Matthew and Irma in 2016 and 2017.

John Rutherford predicates success of Trumponomics on entitlement cuts

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, a Jacksonville Republican, is an enthusiastic defender of the agenda of President Donald Trump.

That held true during a press gaggle Monday in Jacksonville, in which Rutherford defended the continuing resolution to keep the government open, the tax reform bill that critics argue will disproportionately benefit corporations over the middle class, and suggested entitlement cuts down the road to offset a legislative commitment to increased deficit spending.

Asking Rutherford about these issues, reporters note that these measures look likely to pass debt onto future generations.

Rutherford asserted that CBO assumptions of 1.9 percent GDP growth over the next 10 years are probably low.

“They’re anticipating as high as four, four and a half,” Rutherford said. “Each point above 1.9 percent is $274 billion a year. If we’re just one point above, in three years we fill the trillion dollar hole created by the tax cut.”

Regarding the CR, Rutherford asserted that “if your house is being eaten up by termites and it’s on fire, which are you going to address first? Some things are more exigent than others.”

“One of the things that we have to do is address the hollowed-out military,” Rutherford said, noting that four times as many military members (89 to 22) died in training than in combat last year.

“Dying in training accidents,” said Rutherford, “because of a hollowed-out military. In that CR, we also managed to force the Democrats to give us two years of full funding for our military.”

Reporters also asked him where the country would get the money.

“Where it’s going to come from,” said Rutherford, “is when we get to the entitlements side of the budget, that’s where the bulk of the revenue is at; that’s where we’re going to have to cut and find ways to make that happen.”

“The bottom line is, your house is on fire and you’ve got to fix it,” Rutherford said.

We asked Rutherford if that was like putting a fifth mortgage on the said house.

“Well, look, I think that the — the first thing that we did was the tax bill. That is going to help because in three years we can balance that issue. The other seven years will burn down that national debt.”

Presented with the question of trillion-dollar deficits, an ambitious infrastructure proposal, and seeming “buy now, pay later” ethos, Rutherford asserted that he is a “fiscal conservative,” before offering another analogy.

“If I use my car to get to work, and my car breaks down, and I have to go into debt to fix my car, I’m going to fix my car because I have to get to work, that’s how I make my living,” Rutherford said.

“So yes, there are some times that we’ve got to invest and got to borrow to invest, and we’re doing that,” Rutherford said.

We then presented Rutherford with the Trump administration’s practice of weakening the dollar.

“The market goes up and the market goes down, I don’t want to get into all of that,” Rutherford contended. “I’m not trying to weaken the dollar. I’m trying to save lives.”

Rutherford is willing to weaken the dollar “temporarily.” He expects that the aforementioned entitlement cuts will strengthen the currency.

“A lot of entitlements we have waste, fraud, and abuse. They’re talking about $70 billion in waste and fraud,” Rutherford said.

“Look, you can cut entitlements by giving more people jobs … if you look at all the people who are able bodied and on Medicaid right now, if these folks get off of Medicaid and get back in the workforce, not only do they stop absorbing taxes, they start paying taxes,” Rutherford said.

“And it’s better for them.”

Philip Levine runs ads in D.C., Florida blasting GOP immigration ‘intolerance’

With new ads running in both Florida and the nation’s capital, Miami Beach Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is blasting House Speaker Richard Corcoran and President Donald Trump for their tough stances on immigration.

Starting this week, the 30-second spot, called “Intolerance,” is serving as a direct response to Corcoran’s “hateful and race-baiting ad” targeting sanctuary cities that continues to get airtime throughout the state, says Christian Ulvert, a special adviser to Levine’s campaign for governor.

In the ads, Levine also calls out Trump: “It’s bad enough that we hear this from a president who bullies for a living.”

The $250,000 ad buy will be broadcast in English and Spanish, airing in selected Florida media markets.

In addition, the Levine campaign is spending $20,000 to run the same ad on the Fox News and CNN affiliates in Washington D.C.

“We wanted those in D.C. who continue to stoke this kind of fear and message of hate to know that one of the largest states in our country and one of the most pivotal ones in this election cycle, is watching and the mayor wanted to deliver a direct message,” said Ulvert when asked how running the ads in D.C. helps Levine in Florida.

Levine has been the only Democratic candidate to begin airing television ads in this election cycle, and he has been doing so since last November in order to build up name recognition, and it appears to be working.

Mason-Dixon poll released last week showed Levine in trailing former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham by three percentage points in the race for the Democratic nomination for governor, 20%-17%.

On Monday, the University of North Florida released a survey showing that all major Democratic candidates are struggling with name recognition. However, Levine is doing slightly better than either Graham or Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum on that metric, though an overwhelming 73 percent of those surveyed say they haven’t heard of the Miami Beach Mayor (78 percent said they hadn’t heard of Graham; 81 percent said the same of Gillum).

In fundraising, Levine continues to lead all Democratic candidates with over $9 million raised to date.

Meanwhile, Corcoran’s provocative immigration ad is keeping him in the news cycle, as all of the Democratic candidates have criticized its tone and message.

Gillum is taking his beef with Corcoran on immigration public when the two debate in Tallahassee Tuesday night.

“Glad to have Mayor Levine finally speak up the way Mayor Gillum did three weeks ago on Speaker Corcoran’s TV ad,” Gillum spokesman Geoff Burgan said in response to Levine’s ad buy. “Floridians need a fighter like Mayor Gillum in the Governor’s Mansion, not someone who waits for polling to tell him when to take a stand.”

Although he has not announced a bid for Governor, Corcoran is widely expected to do so next month after the Legislative Session ends.

Watch the new Levine ad below:

Joe Biden cuts robocall for Margaret Good in HD 72 special election

HD 72 Democratic candidate Margaret Good picked up an endorsement from Joe Biden last week, and the former Vice President followed up the nod by recording a robocall that will start going out to area voters Monday.

Biden opens up the call by reminding voters to get to the polls Tuesday, before delving into a similar message from the endorsement statement he released last week.

“Margaret’s been a champion for you and she’ll continue to be in the fight for affordable health care, public education for our kids, and protecting Florida’s vital coastline,” Biden says in the recording.

Biden then reminds voters that polls are open until 7 p.m. before closing out by saying “go vote please, and vote for Margaret Good.”

Good is squaring off against Republican James Buchanan and Libertarian Alison Foxall in the special election for HD 72, which opened up last year with the abrupt resignation of Republican Alex Miller. Election Day is Feb. 13.

Biden’s not the only national figure weighing in on the race.

Corey Lewandowski, a former campaign manager on for Donald Trump, stopped in Sarasota Sunday evening to pick up a “MAGA Champion of the Year” award from the Sarasota GOP and to stump on behalf of Buchanan.

Trump carried HD 72 by 5 points in 2016, and while Buchanan is the favorite heading into Election Day, Democrats believe they have gained some ground in the Sarasota-based seat.

A recent poll showed Buchanan with a 3-point lead over Good, 49-46, but that edge falls well within the margin of error. Foxall had about 3 percent support in that poll, while the remainder said they were unsure.

Good also surged past Buchanan in the fundraising race with more than $370,000 raised over the past five weeks compared to $104,000 for Buchanan, including about $33,000 in loans.

A recording of Biden’s robocall is below.

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