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Lenny Curry D.C. trip about Hart Bridge project, ‘relationship building’

Florida Politics caught up with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry on Monday, and the main topic of conversation was his trip last week to Washington, D.C.

Curry met with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, as well as Billy Kirkland and Justin Clark, who handle intergovernmental affairs for the White House, U.S. Reps. John Rutherford and Mario Diaz-Balart, and Sen. Marco Rubio.

The main goal of that trip: discussing the $25 million grant from the Department of Transportation that would allow the city to reconfigure off ramps from the Hart Bridge onto surface streets, allowing for more efficient movement of goods to and from the port.

And Curry, along with his team, made the pitch.

The in-person meeting, Curry said, had invaluable advantages, as a “face to face meeting” with the right people is inherently more meaningful than just presenting paper with project specs and scope.

Curry recounted the case he made against the current configuration.

Its age makes it a “dinosaur” in terms of design, one with safety issues that mandate changes.

The FDOT Study of the bridge conducted this year revealed the benefit to the port, another key benefit to the project.

The economic development for Bay Street the new traffic pattern would spawn, Curry said, was “gravy” — not the primary purpose for the project that some have suggested.

But the trip was about more than selling the project, Curry said. It’s about “long-term relationship building” as well, on this issue but others.

Curry often uses the phrase “relationship building” to describe meetings like this; in fact, he used the same phrase to describe his last trip to the White House, in June for a infrastructure summit with President Donald Trump.

As his administration moves through its third year, one can see the benefits of putting the work into relationships, with Curry being able to tout successful pension reform, including a tough collective bargaining process after a tough sale to state lawmakers.

Relationships were indispensable there, as well as to Curry’s recent re-org of children’s programs, the Kids Hope Alliance, which the mayor and his team sold to — and negotiated revisions with — the Jacksonville City Council.

Will relationships secure this much-needed infrastructure grant? Time will tell.

Joe Henderson: Roy Moore and the battle for GOP’s soul

From the moment years ago when Republicans decided victory was worth whatever the cost to their party’s soul, Roy Moore has been lurking out there, waiting for his chance to scream “yeehaw” on the national stage.

Well, he is here now, Republicans. He could still be elected to the U.S. Senate from Alabama, even after the Washington Post reported that when Moore was in his 30s, he had multiple sexual encounters with under-aged girls, including a 14-year-old. Polls still show a tight race.

Republicans looked the other way while Moore’s peculiar brand of public policy began gaining grassroots acceptance, including here in Florida, and now they don’t know what to do with him. Denounce him too strongly and a candidate could lose the almighty GOP “base.” Speak softly and they could soon have a pariah in their midst, one dedicated to replace them all with more people who think like he does.

Tough choice, eh? Moore is one of the heroes in a movement where what he says – and how supporters believe he will vote – is far more important than what he does, and how do you deal with that?

Yes, many prominent Republicans, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, have called for him to drop out of the race “IF” the allegations are proven true. That’s not exactly a Profiles in Courage stance, given that even though the Post named his accusers, this all happened about 40 years ago.

This is how Republicans believe they have to operate since they fell in line while Donald Trump took over their party (with fewer votes than Hillary Clinton) after a campaign of lies, insults and dark imagery – and maybe with a little help from his BFF Vladimir Putin.

Trump figured, correctly, that the Republican Party would be easier to hijack than Democrats. The new GOP, as envisioned by Steve Bannon, will be filled with people like Roy Moore – gun-waving, rights-trampling, Constitution-spitting fireballs with no regard for any view but their own.

“There’s a coalition coming together that’s going to challenge every Republican incumbent except for Ted Cruz,” Bannon told Sean Hannity. “We are declaring war on the Republican establishment that does not back the agenda Trump ran on. Nobody is safe. We’re coming after all of them. And we’re going to win.”

The wingnut faction of the GOP doesn’t care about law, fairness or diversity. They wrap themselves in the flag and the Bible, but don’t really seem to have a clue what either one stands for.

They believe in their self-righteousness to the exclusion of all else. They see themselves as the only true Americans and patriots. They don’t understand why anyone would be upset over the revelations about Moore.

Is this a good time to mention Moore started The Foundation for Moral Law? It’s true. Try not to laugh.

That group is decidedly Old Testament, finger-wagging “Thou Shalt Not” about the usual things that upset social conservatives. When one of their members is exposed in the way Moore was, they dismiss it as liberal lies.

The more publicity things like this get, the more hardened their stance becomes. Their self-righteousness is reinforced by hard-right outlets like Breitbart, and even if Moore loses and Republicans are walloped in the 2018 midterm elections, the true believers won’t be deterred.

They will blame the loss on a combination of gutless mainstream Republicans and the despised liberal media. They will see statesmanship as betrayal to their ideals. They will view any loss as a temporary setback.

Roy Moore’s supporters in Alabama see this election as another step toward taking their country back from all those liberals, scientists, elitists, Hollywood types and educated smarty pants who stole it. This isn’t a threat as much as it is the plan.

Packed D.C. schedule on Tuesday for Lenny Curry

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is in Washington D.C. today making the push for a federal infrastructure grant, and a packed itinerary awaits him.

The $25 million grant from the Department of Transportation would allow the city to reconfigure off ramps from the Hart Bridge onto surface streets.

The push is supported by Sen. Marco Rubio, who is just one of the Beltway power players Curry will meet with.

Curry will meet with Billy Kirkland and Justin Clark, who handle intergovernmental affairs for the White House.

As well, the Mayor has meetings slated with U.S. Reps. John Rutherford and Mario Diaz-Balart.

Diaz-Balart, a senior member of the House Committee on Appropriations, is chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. He also serves on the House Committee on the Budget.

Curry follows up the Diaz-Balart meeting with meetings with senior staff from the U.S. D.O.T., and then a meeting with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Worth noting: Marty Fiorentino of the Fiorentino Group helped Chao, an old friend and colleague, as she settled into her latest Cabinet position.

Curry, a Trump supporter even through Presidential statements that he describes as occasionally “inartful,” has focused on collaborating with the administration.

“I’ve already got messages in to the Trump Administration. I’d like the federal government to be able to help us in some form in Jacksonville. I don’t know what that looks like yet. But we’re going to leverage every relationship we have to get help here with issues we’re facing,” Curry said in February.

Jacksonville is uniquely positioned in terms of the Trump administration beyond the Fiorentino connection. Ballard Partners employs Susie Wiles, a city hall veteran and a close ally and friend of Curry.

Ultimately, though, the sale is Curry’s to make. And by the end of this day, the Mayor should have some idea as to whether he made it or not.

Marco Rubio backs Jacksonville Hart Bridge project

Jacksonville wants to revamp the offramps to the Hart Bridge downtown, routing regular traffic onto Bay Street and freight traffic on surface streets.

October saw the City Council approve $1.5 million for a design criteria study — a prerequisite to getting a federal grant that would help the city accomplish an infrastructure process that will cost at least $50 million.

October also saw U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio craft a letter of support for the project, which would hopefully see $25 million in federal funds via the Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program.

“The city’s proposal will make needed improvement to the Hart Bridge Expressway in order to relieve congestion, improve traffic flow, and enhance access to the Talleyrand Port Authority,” Rubio wrote.

The project would allow “efficient movement of people and freight throughout the region,” catalyzing “economic and job growth,” Rubio wrote.

The project is deemed necessary by the Curry administration, which has invested in capital projects for the Sports Complex, and which anticipates a ramp-up for the Shipyards rehab project from Jaguars owner Shad Khan.

The city is pursuing a federal infrastructure grant of $25 million, with $12.5 million from the state of Florida in matching money and $12.5 million from the city.

Stakes are high: if the federal money falls through, so does the matching money from the state.

 

GOP in ‘realignment,’ says Marco Rubio

Sen. Marco Rubio isn’t getting involved in the spat between Pres. Donald Trump and his GOP Senate colleagues, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake.

Instead, as USA Today reported Wednesday, Rubio is standing athwart the maelstrom, which the Republican Senator positions as a larger process of “realignment” — both in the party and nationally.

“The Republican Party is going through a moment of realignment internally, an internal debate about what the party is going to be about and what it’s going to represent in the years to come.” Rubio said Wednesday.

Then, as is sometimes the case when Rubio speaks directly, he issued qualifiers.

“So is the Democratic Party. And, by the way, so is every institution in America. From higher education to the media, everyone is going through the exact same internal debate and that is what is our role and function in this new era, cultural, societal and economic,” Rubio said.

That GOP realignment, Rubio said, includes a “populist backlash that is both economic but also cultural.”

“They are tired of being lectured to and told that their values are wrong, and not only wrong but they need to go away and be quiet. I think political correctness in this country went way too far and people got tired of it. And (Trump’s) become a vessel to respond to that. And that’s a real sentiment in our country that can’t be ignored.”

Rubio went to Arizona earlier this month to campaign for Sen. Flake, who has since opted to stand down for re-election.

Rubio, re-elected in 2016, doesn’t have to face voters for five more years. By then, perhaps the realignment will have wrapped.

Richard Berman: Florida lawmakers must support the Employee Rights Act

The 2018 election cycle is already underway. By next November, big bucks will be spent on dozens of House and Senate campaigns around the country. Experts estimate more than $3 billion will be spent on political advertisements alone.

If history is any indication, labor unions will be intimately involved. From 2012 to 2016, America’s unions sent nearly $765 million in member dues to the Democratic Party and liberal special interest groups. This is in addition to funds spent directly on candidate support. CUF estimates that, since 2010, unions have contributed more than $1 billion to liberal groups without prior member approval.

Recipients range from the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) to the Clinton Foundation and Planned Parenthood. The DGA received nearly $11 million. Catalist, the Democratic Party’s go-to data firm, made off with roughly $9.5 million. Working America, the AFL-CIO’s grassroots political machine, received a whopping $52 million in the last five years alone.

One of the group’s goals is to establish government-paid health care for everyone.

Despite the lopsided political preferences of union officials,  40 percent of union household members vote Republican in any given election cycle. In 2016, 43 percent of union household voters supported President Donald Trump. Union leadership continues to disregard them and bankroll the anti-Trump resistance.

This leaves many employees without a voice that matches their dues money. While opt-in permission is already a requirement for union campaign contributions, the same is not true for thinly veiled political advocacy — often disguised as “representational activities” — that is largely unrepresentative of employees’ interests. When did the multimillion-dollar Clinton Foundation become a charity entitled to the hijacked dues of union members?

Union officials can spend member dues on political advocacy without ever receiving affirmative consent from their dues-paying members. And they do so to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

In many cases, union members see their hard-earned dues spent on political causes they oppose. Imagine being a Republican and seeing a portion of your monthly paycheck used to fund a left-wing political agenda, or vice versa.

The solution to this injustice is the Employee Rights Act (ERA).

Reintroduced in the 115th Congress, the ERA would require union officials to obtain permission from their members before spending dues money on political advocacy. This would prevent union elites from turning their backs on members and playing politics against employees’ own interests.

The most comprehensive update to American labor law since the 1940s, the ERA contains eight common-sense reforms, including a guaranteed secret ballot in union elections. All the bill’s pro-employee provisions are designed to protect worker voice and democratize currently undemocratic union workplaces.

The ERA’s key provisions are so common-sense that  80 percent of union household members — across the political aisle — support them. More than 50 free-market organizations have endorsed the legislation, claiming it would “allow American workers an unencumbered opportunity to make their voice heard.”

Fortunately, most of Florida’s Republican delegation is on board as well. From Sen. Marco Rubio on down, Floridians in Washington are some of the ERA’s most dedicated champions. Unfortunately, Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart, and other lawmakers have yet to show their support for pro-employee labor reform.

The ERA is the only bill in Congress with 80 percent bipartisan support. It’s an idea whose time has come.
___

Richard Berman is the executive director of the Center for Union Facts.

U.S. Senate includes Marco Rubio’s child care amendment in budget bill

The U.S. Senate has approved an amendment pushed by Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio to provide a tax credit for child care in its budget resolution.

Rubio has made the child care tax credit amendment a hallmark of his efforts, vowing it would provide meaningful tax relief to middle income families.

The proposal essentially deducts $2,000 per child tax credits not just from income used to calculate income tax, but also from the income amounts calculated for social security and medicare, lowering the payroll tax deductions as well.

The amendment was cosponsored by U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, an Arizona Republican.

“Today’s passage of the Rubio-Lee child tax credit amendment is another step toward meaningful tax relief for working American families,” Rubio stated in a news release. “It has become increasingly expensive to raise children in the 21st century, and this bipartisan measure ensures that we are on track to invest in our families and future American taxpayers.

“Tax reform will not pass unless we significantly expand the child tax credit, and I’m glad to see that Congress took this important first step by showing unanimous support for the child tax credit in today’s budget resolution,” he added.

UF ready for white nationalist speech

University of Florida students arose Thursday to a campus outwardly expressing messages of love against the backdrop of a heavily armed law enforcement presence and the specter of a divisive mid-afternoon speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer.

Banners hung outside fraternity and sorority houses called for “Love Not Hate #TogetherUF.”

The Lubavitch Chabad Jewish Student Center had been open since Wednesday for a three-day “Good Deed Marathon,” which drew praise from University President Kent Fuchs.

Spencer, a self-described “identitarian” whose supporters chanted “Jews will not replace us” at a Charlottesville, Va., rally that turned deadly this summer, has been labeled an anti-Semite and white supremacist by groups such as the Anti-Defamation League.

“Another example of countering darkness with Light on Oct 19,” Fuchs, who has repeatedly called on students to Spencer and “his racist and anti-American message,” tweeted Wednesday night of the “Good Deed Marathon.”

Just before 11:30 a.m., the first of Spencer’s supporters, claiming they “like being part of a collective,” arrived. At the same time, the first protesters showed up, one carrying a sign stating “No Trump Nazis.”

Wary of clashes that have erupted on campuses elsewhere, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for Alachua County Monday night, at the behest of county Sheriff Sadie Darnell.

The head of the National Policy Institute, Spencer was one of the key speakers at an August “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., that turned deadly when a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters. Heather Heyer, 31, was killed, and dozens were injured.

Girding for the Thursday afternoon speech in Gainesville, streets near the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, where Spencer is to speak, were barricaded. Heavily outfitted law enforcement, some carrying riot helmets, marched along roads near the performing arts center.

Hundreds of journalists from around the globe inundated the campus of the state’s premiere university.

Some facilities near the center were closed, but the campus remained open, adding to the anxiety of students and faculty, many of whom strongly objected to the university allowing Spencer to appear.

While touring barricaded roads near the performing arts center and away from the heart of campus,  Jawamza Tucker, a 21-year-old telecommunications major from Miami, said that the university has been calm during the past week.

The emergency declaration issued by Scott “kind of set a precedent,” he said.

“A lot of my friends are telling me to be careful, and I’m not taking their words lightly, but I’m not worried,” said Tucker, who said he intends to “observe” the event. “I will proceed with caution. You never know what people have up their sleeves.”

Spencer, Tucker said, “feels threatened,” adding that the UF appearance won’t change things.

“This is, honestly, just one big event to get attention, to increase his platform, to increase his notoriety and infamy,” Tucker said.

The school had initially denied Spencer’s request to speak. But Fuchs has noted that, while Spencer’s appearance isn’t sponsored by any student group, the public university couldn’t lawfully prohibit the event based on the content or views expressed in the speech.

Security costs for the UF event have grown to $600,000, and an estimated 500 law enforcement officers, from the city, county and state, are said to be on campus.

It is unknown how many of Spencer’s supporters will attend the speech — organizers are distributing 600 tickets to individuals they view as friendly — or how many others will show up to protest his appearance and white ethno-state platform.

Antifa – anti-fascists – members from Atlanta and Orlando are expected to flood into Gainesville, even though they may not have access to the venue where Spencer will speak.

Organizers of the event decided to distribute tickets to the speech, instead of the typical process in which the center provides the tickets, after reports that ticket-holders could exchange the passes for free beer or even money.

A group called No Nazis at UF, which called for classes to be canceled and asserted that their mobilization kept “fascists” from marching Wednesday night, used Facebook to plan a demonstration for Thursday. More than 1,000 people expressed interest for the event.

University graduate U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is among state leaders, including Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, urging students to boycott Spencer’s event.

“#GatorNation not asking u to ignore his racist message.” Rubio tweeted Wednesday. “I am suggesting you embarrass him by denying him the attention he craves.”

Richard Corcoran: ‘We’re done with talking heads,’ Congress must OK Trump’s tax cuts

House Speaker Richard Corcoran joined other GOP lawmakers for a meeting Wednesday with business owners in Tampa, during which he delivered a stern message to Congress: Get behind Donald Trump and his proposed tax cuts.

“The time to act is now,” the Land O’Lakes Republican said at a downtown Tampa news conference. “We’re done with sound bite politics. We’re done with talking heads. What we need is for those guys to get into a room and pass meaningful tax reform.”

The plan (as currently outlined) would cut the top personal income tax rate; eliminate estate taxes (which presently only tax estates worth at least $5.5 million); kill the alternative minimum tax, and slashes rates on pass-through income. While Democrats predictably turned up noses to the proposal when it was unveiled last month, Senate Republicans have also objected to the proposed plan.

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker indicated he would not vote for any bill that significantly adds to the deficit.

“With realistic growth projections, it cannot produce a deficit,” Corker said. “There is no way in hell I’m voting for it.”

“I will not vote for the budget unless it keeps within the spending caps,” Rand Paul said Tuesday.

In a conversation earlier in the day with Trump, the Kentucky senator told the president, who is a fellow Republican: “I’m all in. I want to be supportive. I’m a ‘yes’ vote. But we have to obey our own rules.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin argues that robust growth, fueled by tax cuts, will actually pay down the national debt by $1 trillion.

However, that’s not what the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center says, contending the Trump tax cut plan would cut revenues to the U.S. Treasury by $5.6 trillion over 20 years.

Corcoran doesn’t agree, saying those calculations are through  “static” scoring — as opposed to “dynamic” scoring, which doesn’t make room for higher growth rates that bring in more revenue.

“Read any economist, any foundation, out there,” he said. “They’re predicting in the first five years, this could lead to  3.2 percent growth rate, which is an additional $2.5 trillion in revenues over ten years. So that more than pays for the tax plan.”

Not every foundation is saying that, however.

The nonpartisan balanced-budget advocacy group Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget believes the cuts will not be self-financing.

In a paper produced earlier this month, the Washington-based group argued the economy “would need to grow by $5 to $6 for every $1 of tax cuts,” to avoid adding to the deficit.

They also said that past tax cuts in 1981 and the early 2000s “have led to widening budget deficits and lower revenue, not the reverse as some claim.”

Corcoran also pushed back on the premise that the Trump tax cut plan rewards the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. The Speaker noted a provision in the plan to double the standard deduction for the majority of taxpayers who don’t take deductions. He also said an increase in the Child Tax Credit (CTC) would be a huge benefit for the middle class.

Speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, Marco Rubio said flatly that the Trump tax cut plan wouldn’t pass without a “significant” increase in the CTC.

Joining Corcoran at the event were state Rep. Neil Combee of Polk County and Tampa-area Reps. Jackie Toledo and Shawn Harrison, touting that the economies of Tampa Bay and the state were flourishing “based on good, solid conservative pro-business values and policies.”

It was a similar message Corcoran attempted to drive home to Congress, urging them to look at Florida as a laboratory of democracy to be emulated when it comes to fiscal health.

“When you cut 75 taxes over seven years, totaling $7 billion,” he said. “When you get rid of 5,000 regulations, what happens? You become the number one state in the entire union for fiscal health. You become the number four state for tax simplicity.”

Marco Rubio joins Bill Nelson’s call for urgent attention for public health crisis in Puerto Rico

Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on Friday sent a letter similar to one sent by his Democratic colleague urging more federal help for Puerto Rico, still darkened by the ravishes of Hurricane Maria more than three weeks ago.

Rubio asked U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Acting Secretary Eric Hargan to “provide a complete update and assessment of the public health concerns still plaguing Puerto Rico,” and expressed concern “that there has not been enough progress on a plan to provide a long-term solution so patients and officials are not constantly struggling with one crisis after another.”

Earlier Friday, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson announced he sent a similar letter to Hargan, warning that people were dying in Puerto Rico and federal assistance had to be accelerated before more people die.

As did Nelson, Rubio cited news accounts warning of horrific public health crises emerging. He asked Hargan to take aggressive action to help them.

“In light of the island’s damaged infrastructure and its residents’ lack of access to power and clean water, it is critical that the island receives the resources needed to properly treat people who depend on medically necessary services,” Rubio wrote. “Many Floridians contact my office every day to emphasize that their family and friends in Puerto Rico are still struggling to recover from this deadly storm.

“There are news reports that some water in Puerto Rico has been contaminated, causing people to contract leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that can cause kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, and death,” Rubio continued. “I am very concerned that there could be additional cases of leptospirosis or other bacterial infections, and that the island’s lack of resources could prevent those infected from receiving necessary treatment.”

Both Nelson and Rubio called attention to the dearth of operating dialysis centers and oxygen supplies, with Rubio saying he has heard personally from providers and officials that it is incredibly difficult to get supplies. Rubio acknowledged that progress has been made, but said he was concerned there has not been enough progress on long-term solutions for patients. He requested a complete update and assessment on public health issues in Puerto Rico.

He also said, “I also urge you to immediately clarify the conflicting information reported by government officials and media outlets.”

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