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Mitch Perry Report for 12.2.15 – Here’s Hillary … and her plan to begin fixing our infrastructure needs

A new national Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday morning shows Hillary Clinton walking away with the Democratic nomination for president, about two months before the Iowa caucuses. Clinton leads Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders by 30 percentage points, 60-30 percent.

No doubt Clinton enthusiasts will be reveling in that new nugget when they gather Wednesday afternoon in Orlando for a speech she’s scheduled to give at 1 p.m. She’s expected to speak in-depth about her plan to fix the country’s infrastructure issues, fleshing out the ideas she unveiled Monday. Her five-year, $275 billion plan intends to build and repair not only roads and bridges but also address the nation’s needs with public transit, freight rail, airports, broadband Internet, and water systems. It’s the most expensive domestic policy proposal she’s made to date, and it comes simultaneously with Congress apparently finally coming together to pass such an infrastructure bill.

Congressional leaders in D.C. said Tuesday that the $300 billion FAST ACT will provide “long-term certainty for states and local governments” as well as “improvements to the programs that sustain our roads bridges and passenger rail system.”

However, The New York Times reports that the bill doesn’t address the shortfall in financing for the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which has been dwindling for years because it relies on the federal gas tax.

Interestingly, Clinton’s program fails to deal with this as well, since nobody wants to talk about raising taxes in an election year – or any year, in this era.

In other news …

Speaking of Clinton’s two-day fundraising swirl in Florida, the Republican National Committee took a shot at the hostess of her first stop in Miami Beach.

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On World AIDS Day, the city of Tampa unveiled its new and improved AIDS Memorial Park.

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Tampa denizens woke up to the news that excited some, and no doubt bored others, but hey, Channelside is getting a Publix!

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Pinellas County U.S. Rep. David Jolly was scheduled to take his delayed honeymoon to Paris — right after the terrorist attacks occurred. He and his new wife went anyway … read his take here.

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And might we get rid of the 140-year-plus law in Florida banning unmarried couples from living together? 

Bill to repeal shacking up ban unanimously passes in committee

Florida is one of only three states that still has a law on the books prohibiting men and women from living together if they are not married. Attempts in 2011 and again in this year’s regular Legislative Session to repeal it failed, but Hollywood Democratic state Sen. Eleanor Sobel hopes it finally will happen in 2016.

On Tuesday the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to support Sobel’s proposal (SB 498).

The law now states that a couple found to be “living in sin” could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor that could result in a $500 fine or 60 days in a local jail.

The law was written in 1868.

“Times have changed,” Sobel told the committee. “Currently, over half-a-million couples in Florida are breaking this law as we speak. The government should not intrude in the private lives of two consenting adults.”

The bill is moving forward in the House as well, where it’s being sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vaslinda of Tallahassee, HB 4003.

However, there has been opposition there to a repeal. In September, Republican Reps. Dennis Baxley of Ocala, Ross Spano of Riverview, and Charles Van Zant of Palatka were the only members of the 13-member The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee subcommittee who voted against the bill, citing moral reasons.

RNC hammers Dawn McCall, host of Hillary Clinton fundraiser in Miami Beach

Whomever is the likely GOP presidential nominee next year, Florida will be a must-win state for that candidate to get to the 270 electoral votes needed. At least that’s the conventional wisdom.

So any chance that the Republican Party of Florida and the Republican National Committee can take a shot at likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, they’ll take it.

The presumptive Democratic front-runner is in the Sunshine State to fundraise at five different locations over Tuesday and Wednesday. The first event took place in Miami Beach Tuesday afternoon, at the Miami Beach home of Dawn McCall and Gail Williams. McCall is a former State Department official who worked under Clinton, and RNC is making an issue about an incident that happened under her tenure.

In an email titled, “Time to Unlike?” the RPOF cites a tough inspector general’s report that, among other things, revealed that the State Dept. spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Facebook “likes” under McCall.

Specifically, in order to bolster its presence on Facebook, the State Department paid about $630,000 for campaigns to increase its total number of likes. The report said, “Many in the bureau criticize the advertising campaigns as ‘buying fans’ who may have once clicked on an ad or ‘liked’ a photo but have no real interest in the topic and have never engaged further.”

McCall was hired by the State Department as Coordinator of the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) at the Department of State in July of 2010. She resigned in April of 2013.

Clinton continues her fundraising tour Wednesday, beginning with an event at the Thonotosassa home of Alex Sink.



Alan Grayson Senate campaign manager Doug Dodson is out

Two weeks ago, rumors began circulating that there might be some shake-ups in Alan Grayson‘s campaign for the Democratic nomination for Senate.

Apparently those rumors were accurate, as both POLITICO and the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald reported on Tuesday that campaign manager Doug Dodson had left the campaign.

The Herald’s Amy Sherman also reports that Deputy campaign manager David Keith has left the campaign, and Senior Adviser and campaign spokesman Kevin Franck would soon be leaving.

Franck declined to respond to our inquiries when we asked about the rumors last month.

Grayson is in an intense contest against fellow Florida Congressman Patrick Murphy for the nomination for U.S. Senate in 2016.

After honeymooning in Paris, David Jolly vows “terror will never win”

Pinellas County U.S. Rep. and GOP Senate candidate David Jolly and Laura Donohoe married this past summer, but because Congress was still in session the couple delayed their honeymoon until late November during the week-long Thanksgiving congressional break.

Their plans were to celebrate their nuptials in the Paris, the City of Light.

Then the terrorist attacks occurred there Nov. 13, hours after Jolly spoke to hundreds of Republicans at the Sunshine Summit in Orlando.

“We were faced with much of the same concerns and fear that everyone across the U.S and in Europe faced as well, and so in the face of that, you had to decide – do we continue on with our life, do we continue on as honeymoon travel, as planned in Paris?” Jolly said speaking from Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

“Laura and I talked about it, and decided it was the right thing to do.”

So off they went.

Jolly said a highlight from the nearly week-long trip was visiting the many Christmas markets that open about this time of year in Paris.

“There were thousands of French people, kids riding carousels, people shopping for Christmas ornaments,” he said, including a noticeable security presence. “But I can tell you in those thousands upon thousands of people with Christmas Carols playing, that was a minute that I realized that terror will never win.”

The attacks led to a major discussion in this country regarding resettling Syrian refugees into the U.S., with Jolly joining every other Republican in the House of Representatives in voting to put a “pause” on the issue.

The Obama administration has called for the U.S. to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees by next year. Republicans have argued that Syrian refugees pose a security risk, after what authorities thought was a Syrian passport was discovered on the body of one of the attackers who killed 130 in Paris. The passport was later discovered to be fake, but that hasn’t stopped Republicans, and the issue is scheduled to come up in the big spending bill that must be approved by Dec. 11.

More legislators, though, say the U.S. visa waiver program should be dealt with first. On Monday, the Obama administration proposed tighter screening of travelers from 38 nations that aren’t required to have visas before entering the U.S.

Jolly agreed that the visa waiver program is much more urgent to stem potential foreign terrorists entering the U.S, but said the greater threat is from the flow of foreign fighters.

“The greatest threat we face is an open border where somebody can find a way to come in illegally,” he said, referring to the north and south U.S. borders and coastlines.

The next most dangerous threat, he said, are homegrown terrorists.

“The number of individuals who are considered homegrown terror suspects, that we currently provide surveillance to, dramatically outweighs anyone who might be coming in through the refugee resettlement program,” he said.

“The visa waiver program, refugee resettlement, border control, all these things need to be strengthened, but we need to keep it in context,” Jolly said. “We still have a much more significant issue when it comes to an open border. That’s the greatest threat of all. I think we should deal with border security in immigration reform now as a result of that.”

Jeb Bush releases new TV ad in New Hampshire on national security

The Jeb Bush presidential campaign has made TV and cable news buys in New Hampshire and the Boston market with a new 60-second ad called “Honor.”

The ad features Medal of Honor recipients – retired Marine Corps Col. Jay Vargas, retired Army Master Sgt. Leroy Petry, retired Air Force Col. Leo Thorsness, and retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. James Livingston – discussing why they think Bush is the leader the country needs to take on the national security threats facing the United States.

The ads runs from now until Dec. 22, and includes a mixture of both 60-second and a shortened 30-second version of the ad.

The campaign says the cable buys will exclusively air on Fox News.

Mitch Perry Report for 12.1.15 – Corizon Health Care terminates contract with Florida prisons. That’s not a bad thing

If you don’t know of anyone who is caught up in the Florida corrections system, stories about the care of prisoners may not matter much to you at all.

But they have been disturbing, particularly regarding the state of health care for those who incarcerated.

Rick Scott ran for office in 2010 promising to privatize health care in the corrections system in Florida, and that finally happened in October of 2013, when Corizon Health Care took over (along with Wexford Health Services).

Corizon is the St. Louis based company that had already been subject to numerous allegations of quality problems with their care raised in lawsuits across the country, including charges of long waits for care and prisoners dying after not being properly diagnosed with cancer and other diseases. In fact, in 2012,  Corizon had lost statewide contracts covering 84,000 inmates in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. That didn’t stop Florida from hiring them in 2013.

Corizon announced on Monday that it plans to terminate it’s $1.2 billion contract in the next six months.

In September, lawyers for Florida inmates filed a class-action lawsuit against the Department of Corrections and Corizon, alleging that the state agency and the company are denying hernia operations to save money. Corizon also has been fined almost $70,000 for failing to meet standards set by the state.

DOC Secretary Julie Jones had already announced that she intended to reopen bidding for prison contracts before the start of 2016.

In a statement, the DOC said that Jones will “work closely with the Department’s Office of Health Services to ensure that the appropriate staff and resources are available at our facilities to continue seamless delivery of appropriate medical care to our inmate population.”

The DOC will continue its partnership with another private carrier, Wexford Health Services, who provide health care services for prisons in the southern part of the state.

Whenever I write about Corizon, I always reference the story I wrote nearly a year and half ago for Creative Loafing. You read it and make up your own mind.

In other news …

Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian forensic pathologist who was the first doctor in America to publish findings of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in NFL and military veterans, will be speaking in Tampa later this week. Omalu’s battles with the National Football League to accept his findings will be the focus of the new Will Smith film, “Concussion,” to be released nationally on Christmas Day.

While some civil liberty groups (and Democratic senators) want a section of the FISA Amendment Act to go away regarding surveillance, Bill Nelson argued yesterday that he wants Section 702 of the FISA Amendment Act to be extended permanently. 

If you’re registered Republican in time to vote in next March’s presidential primary in Florida, you can vote for the departed Bobby Jindal, but you’re out of luck if you’re part of the .001 percent of voters who want to support George Pataki for president. That’s because Jindal qualified to appear on the ballot, despite the fact that he’s departed the race, while Pataki is still nominally running, but failed to qualify to get on the Florida ballot.

At the Donald Trump rally in Sarasota last weekend, this reporter spoke with some of those in attendance to learn more about the appeal of the NYC based real estate mogul turned presidential hopeful.

A provision that Congressman David Jolly introduced last February ensuring that the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base will not be returned to the Cuban government is now the law of the land in the U.S., thanks to President Obama‘s support of the NDAA last week.

Tampa City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione announced last month that she would enter the Democratic Primary for the House District 63 seat currently occupied by Republican incumbent Shawn Harrison. In an interview with us last week, Montelione said definitively that she will beat Democratic opponent Mike Reedy, but not surprisingly, he disagrees.

Bill Nelson calls for permanent extension of Section 702 of FISA Amendment Act

Citing the terrorist attacks in Paris earlier this month, Florida Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson took to the floor of the Senate Monday to call for the permanent extension of Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, which is scheduled to expire in 2017.

“This crucial tool provides access to electronic communications of suspected terrorists and other foreign persons located outside of the U.S., and so as we redouble our counterterrorism efforts, we must maintain what works and make the necessary changes as the threat evolves,” Nelson said. “And that means remaining vigilant and using all the tools in our toolbox, including intelligence collection, homeland security protections in the fight against ISIS on the battlefield.”

Nelson began his speech by referencing a change in the law that occurred this weekend that means  the National Security Agency will no longer directly hold information about the telephone calls of millions of US citizens. The USA Freedom Act that passed this summer and went into effect this past the weekend means that phone data will remain with the telecom companies, and the NSA will have to go to the FISA court to get access. However, the change only applies to telephone records. The NSA can continue to harvest bulk communications from the Internet and social media.

The ACLU called the change a “milestone,” but Nelson complained about that change.

“So how long is it going to take to go into court? Is it going to take months? Is it going to take weeks? Days? All the time the potential terrorist is well ahead of us,” he said, adding that “this senator feels that we shouldn’t limit those hops if we’re trying to find out who the bad guy is and who it is, what he’s about to do.”

While Nelson wants Section 702 of the FISA Amendment Acts permanently extended, civil liberty groups want it to go away.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the nation’s leading civil liberties groups on digital issues, has said that Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act “is deeply troubling.”

“Section 702 is not just about keeping us safe from terrorism. It’s a distressingly powerful surveillance tool,”  EFE activist Nadia Kayyali wrote last year. She cited the fact that the NSA has shared intelligence with the Drug Enforcement Agency that has led to prosecutions for drug crimes, all while concealing the source of the data.

“We also need to reform the FISA Amendments Act, which sunsets in 2017,” Senate Judiciary Committee ranking Democrat and USA Freedom Act author Sen. Patrick Leahy said last month. “This law, also known as Section 702, has significant privacy implications for innocent Americans. And with the European Court of Justice’s decision, it continues to have significant implications for American businesses in the global economy. I look forward to working with you to reform Section 702 and other surveillance authorities.”

RPOF lists 14 for March presidential primary; includes Bobby Jindal, but not George Pataki

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia delivered a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner on Monday with a list of 14 GOP presidential candidates who have qualified to be on the Florida presidential preference primary next March.

The letter lists Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Rand Paul (shown in photo signing forms in Orlando two weeks ago at the Sunshine Summit putting his name on the ballot), Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum and Donald Trump.

Jindal dropped out of the race on Nov. 17, but his name will remain on the ballot.

The only Republican candidate who is (allegedly) still in the race who will not be on the ballot is former New York Governor George Pataki, who failed to qualify on the ballot.

The RPOF’s executive committee voted in late September that GOP candidates for president could qualify for the March 15 presidential primary in Florida by doing one of three things: Get at least 125 signatures in each of the 27 congressional districts, pay $25,000 as a qualifying fee – or attend the party’s Sunshine Summit in mid-November.

All of those candidates, save for Pataki, took up the third option, and attended the two-day event in Orlando this month.

Longtime Bill Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin to retire

Another longtime staffer to Florida Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is stepping down.

Dan McLaughlin, Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director, will retire at the end of the year, after a 21-year association with Nelson, the past 15 in the Senate.

Dan has been my confidant and friend all these years, and is recognized in both journalism and communications as one of the best,” Nelson wrote in a memo to staffers.

McLaughlin is a former reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He will be replaced by Ryan Brown.

in October, Pete Mitchell, Nelson’s longtime chief-of-staff, announced that he would be departing from Nelson’s staff. However Nelson noted at the time that Mitchell would “begin laying the groundwork for my re-election in 2018.”

The 73-year-old Nelson has been Florida’s highest-ranking Democrat for years, and flirted with running for governor of 2014, but never appeared serious. He clearly indicated that he’d like to challenge Rick Scott, and he may get his wish in 2018.

Scott has not discouraged talk that he would be a candidate for the Republican nomination for Senate in ’18.

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