Richard Corcoran Archives - Page 6 of 80 - Florida Politics

Takeaways from Tallahassee — A tragic dialogue

With only three weeks left in the 2018 Legislative Session, the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is dominating the conversation in Tallahassee.

Democrats have started making noise about Republicans obstructing their long-stalled gun control bills, while GOP-leaders have focused on the need for changes to mental health laws, and needed funding boosts.

Students are released from a lockdown outside of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron and Senate budget chief Rob Bradley all spoke about the shooting through that lens. The Senate is also considering school “hardening” and providing funding to destroy the building where the massacre occurred, the Miami Herald reports.

But the clock is ticking for the Republican-controlled Legislature to make meaningful change in response to 17 people being gunned down at the suburban Broward County school. So far, a push for mental health funding is gaining the most momentum, but concrete proposals have yet to emerge.

With that said, here are the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Ana CeballosJim RosicaDanny McAuliffeAndrew Wilson and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Parkland’s legislative aftermath — The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Broward County shook the entire country and the state Capitol this week, reviving the political debate on what can be done to put an end to gun violence. Senate leadership says the focus will be on boosting funding for mental health services and more security on campuses across Florida — not gun control. House members have sent a letter to House Speaker Richard Corcoran — who has mostly been mum since the shooting — asking him to match the Senate’s funding proposal for mental health services. Broward County legislators flew back home upon hearing the news of the shooting to attend Thursday’s vigil and be with the community.

Putnam pulls gun proposal — A proposal tucked into an agriculture-related bill that would have allowed applicants to get concealed weapon permits if Florida officials don’t complete their complete background checks in time was pulled from consideration due to “timing” and “sensitivity.” The hearing was set a day after the shooting. Senate President Negron said it would be up to the bill sponsor to see if the proposal would get another hearing this session, but Senate Budget Chairman Bradley said it will not be coming back this session and that mental health will be a priority.

Underage marriages still in play — A clash between the House and the Senate is putting legislation that aims to end forced child marriages in a tough spot. While the bill is very much alive, legislators that led the effort in their chambers are working together to see what the next step will be. The Florida House voted this week to allow a court to issue a marriage license to 16- and 17-year-olds in cases when there is a pregnancy. Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto and the entire Senate want a ban on all underage marriages. Benacquisto said she is “concerned” that the House proposal may not close all loopholes that could lead to forced child marriages in the state. She said she will continue to work with Rep. Jeanette Nunez to weigh all options for the bill.

Fixing voter-restoration process — After a federal judge said the state’s current voter-restoration system is unconstitutional, the state fought back and said Gov. Scott and the Cabinet should be tasked with fixing its flaws —  not the courts. But a national voting rights advocacy group that convinced the judge to strike down the current process said the court should restore voting rights to all felons who complete any “waiting period” set by the state. Currently, the state has a five-year waiting period before a former felon can apply to have their voting rights restored.

A hyped-up immigration debate — After days of tweeting back and forth, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and House Speaker Corcoran met face-to-face to debate the sanctuary city issue that has taken over the governor’s race. The 45-minute debate centered on Corcoran’s $1.4 million television ad that portraying immigrants who entered the country illegally as a danger to Floridians and HB 9, a proposal that threatens local officials who do not fully comply with federal immigration authorities with removal from office and fines. Corcoran and Gillum advocated for polar opposite sides on the issue — as expected. But both fed their base supporters, which would make it a win for both try to boost their name recognition statewide.

Scott gives update on response to Parkland school shooting

The day after 17 died in a mass shooting at Marjory Douglas High School, Gov. Scott listed off what state agencies are doing to help the survivors.

The Florida Department of Education and the Florida Department of Children and Families through its local managing entity, Broward Behavioral Health Coalition, are providing grief counseling in the area. DOE has also put the Florida Association of School Psychologists on standby if more counselors are needed.

Rick Scott speaks to the media outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Attorney General Pam Bondi is also on the scene with her director of victim services and approximately a dozen victim advocates. The office is also offering counseling services and funeral, burial and medical expenses for victims and their families.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Highway Patrol are assisting the Broward County Sheriff’s Office with the investigation.

The state Department of Health is also on call to help the Broward County medical examiner, while OneBlood is working to meet the blood donation needs of the victims. The agency said O negative blood is needed to replenish the area’s supply.

Senators ask Negron to convene school safety task force

Sens. Rene Garcia and Anitere Flores sent a letter Friday to Senate President Negron asking him to “immediately convene” a task force that would find comprehensive solutions to “protect our students and teacher from violence.”

“The task force should consider reviewing the following issues, mental health, access to care, funding and treatment options,” they write.

Lawmakers call on Senate President Joe Negron to convene a school safety task force.

Both Miami Republicans want a task force to explore review issues of mental health treatment options as well as options for hiring former military and police officers to secure schools.

The findings collected by the task force would provide a “framework for action” by the governor and the Legislature.

“We should not allow the inaction of our Federal partners to be the cause of our inaction in addressing the issues of violence in our schools and our community,” the letter states. “The time for action is now.”

Senators visit Floridians affected by school shooting

Senate President Negron, Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon and Sens. Lauren Book and Gary Farmer went to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Wednesday to meet with those affected by the tragedy.

The senators visited Broward Health where they met with medical personnel responsible for treating shooting victims. They also met with Broward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel with Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie and Gov. Rick Scott.

The pictures and video I viewed previously did not prepare us for the horrendous sight we viewed today at Stoneman Douglas,” Negron said. That horrific scene of one person’s destruction was a stark contrast to the heroism and hope we encountered during our meeting with the doctors and other medical personnel.”

Negron said he is committed to pushing legislation that will give $100 million in funding for mental health services, improve the safety and security of state schools and ensure that a person suffering from a mental health issue does not have the ability to purchase a firearm.

“I look forward to visiting Parkland again to share with the community the progress we have made toward preventing a tragedy like this from ever happening again,” Negron said.

Gibson, Berman want gun bills heard in 2018 Legislative Session

In the wake of the Parkland school shooting Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Senate President Negron and House Speaker Corcoran imploring them to consider a proposal that would allow guns to be temporarily confiscated from owners who pose a threat to themselves or others.

HB 231 and SB 530, sponsored by Lantana Rep. Lori Berman and Jacksonville Sen. Audrey Gibson, would allow family, friends, teachers or law enforcement officers to get a court order to temporarily remove a firearm if there is evidence that a person poses a significant danger to themselves or others because of a mental health crisis or violent behavior.

“Now more than ever, these bills must be heard. The most recent shooting is unacceptable and too tragic to comprehend. It is time we step up and come together to act on meaningful gun safety reform,” Berman said. “As a mother, my heart breaks for these families. There are no words to describe the horror of a child not returning home from school. Florida needs to set an example for the rest of the nation by not just demanding action but taking action.”

The bills are based off a Washington state law. Similar measures have passed in California, Oregon, Indiana, and Connecticut.

Instagram of the week

Florida picks up another $10 million in Israeli bonds

CFO Jimmy Patronis presents a $10 million check to Israel Bonds representatives.

CFO Jimmy Patronis announced this week that Florida is increasing its stake in Israeli bonds by $10 million this year, bringing the Sunshine State’s total investment to $50 million.

“During a time when our nation is criticized and attacked for moving our embassy to Jerusalem, it’s incredibly important to signal to the world that we stand firmly with the State of Israel,” Patronis said.

“Israel’s economy has seen significant growth over the years including expanded development in the high-tech industry. Increasing our investment in Israel by $10 million this year not only provides a good return on investment but strengthens our relationship. The interests of Israel will always be the interests of the United States, and this unprecedented investment further cements us as friends, allies and economic partners.”

Patronis decided to increase Florida’s investment after discussions with Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and other representatives, including Israel Bonds President Israel Maimon. The move gives Florida the third largest stake in the State of Israel among U.S. states.

Conservative activist seeks constitutional fix to abortion issue

John Stemberger is telling supporters their “voice is needed at one of the four upcoming historic hearings of the 2017-2018 Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).”

The commission, in the process of rewriting parts of the state constitution, announced the second round of public hearings on their work, in Melbourne on Feb. 19, Jacksonville on Feb. 20, Pensacola on Feb. 27, and St. Petersburg on March 13.

CRC member John Stemberger wants to amend the constitution close a loophole allowing some abortions.

The panel now has 37 proposals under review for possible addition to the state’s governing document. That doesn’t include one favored by Stemberger, an Orlando attorney who sits on the commission and leads the conservative Florida Family Policy Council. Proposal 22 was voted down by other commissioners.

It’s “designed to fix our state constitution’s privacy clause and require the Florida Supreme Court to interpret it in accordance with the original intent of the Legislature (which placed it on the ballot) and the people who adopted it,” he told supporters in an email this week. “Florida’s privacy clause was intended for informational privacy and not for abortion.”

Stemberger and others have urged the commission to amend the constitution to undo a 1989 Florida Supreme Court decision striking down as unconstitutional a state law that required parental consent before a minor can get an abortion. Opponents complain that the constitutional provision at issue, the right to privacy, was misconstrued to apply to abortion rights instead of a right to “informational privacy” against the government.

“If 15 CRC members vote to revive the proposal, the matter can still be heard and voted on by the entire commission,” Stemberger said.

“The first public hearing in this second round of CRC hearings occurred this past week in Fort Lauderdale, one of the most liberal cities in the state,” he added. “The forum was packed with what appeared to be 500-600 people who were very hostile to life, parental rights and school choice.

“During the hearing, opponents were very rude, disruptive and did not respect the Chairman’s repeated requests to be civil and not cheer, clap, or otherwise disrupt the forum or another speaker’s time. Citizens who support life, parental rights, life and school choice need to attend these upcoming hearings and present better, respectful, more persuasive (not to mention truthful) arguments to this historic commission.”

The 37-member panel convenes every 20 years. Any changes it ultimately approves still must go on the 2018 statewide ballot and gain 60 percent approval to be added to the constitution.

DOH wants Floridians to show their heart some love

The Florida Department of Health said this week that Floridians should treat Valentine’s Day as a reminder to live a heart-healthy life.

DOH and the American Heart Association recognize February as a time to help Americans focus on making changes to their lifestyle in order to combat heart disease, the leading cause of death in Florida and the country.

“This month, take some time to show your heart extra love — if you take care of your heart, your heart will take care of you,” DOH Secretary Celeste Philip said. “Heart disease remains a threat to too many Floridians, and almost half of adults in America have high blood pressure. But there are many ways to reduce your risk for high blood pressure and heart disease, such as making smart food choices, staying active and getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night.”

DOH’s recommendations for keeping hearts fit are 150 minutes of exercise a week, regular visits to the doctor for preventive screenings, and a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Smokers can also greatly decrease their risk of heart disease by quitting, and Tobacco Free Florida is willing to lend a helping hand for those ready to make the change.

Child Safety Alarm Act clears first committee

A bill by Orlando Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart that aims to crack down on children being left in hot daycare vehicles cleared its first committee this week with a unanimous vote.

“This is a bipartisan effort to keep our children safe,” Stewart said. “We need to be doing everything we can to try to prevent our most precious cargo from being left in hot vans and I look forward to the same vote outcome at the Transportation Committee.”

Three-year-old Myles Hill.

Stewart filed the bill after the 2017 death of 3-year-old Myles Hill, who was left unattended in a daycare van for 12 hours in the scorching summer heat.

SB 486 would require vehicles used by day care facilities to be outfitted with an alarm system that reminds drivers to check the car for children before leaving the vehicle. The bill is expected to be taken up next for a vote in the Senate Transportation Committee, followed by the Rules Committee before it’s ready for the Senate floor.

A similar bill in the House, HB 305, has been filed by Orlando Democratic Rep. Bruce Antone but has not yet been heard in committee.

Plakon gives the ultimate Valentine’s Day present

Some give flowers, others give chocolates. But state Rep. Scott Plakon gets tattoos for Valentine’s Day.

“I just got a tattoo. Really. I’m not kidding. A real one,” Plakon wrote in a Facebook post.


Plakon got a tattoo with the purple Alzheimer’s Awareness ribbon and a daisy in honor of his wife Susie, whose favorite flower is the daisy and was diagnosed with Alzheimer.

“As I’ve shared before,” he said, “my new life’s mission is to help bring more awareness to the reality of Alzheimer’s disease. What better way to make it permanent than to get a tattoo?”

The Seminole County Republican said he went to the tattoo parlor on his way home from Tallahassee. He stopped at Infamous Tattoos in Leesburg.

“Sort of an unusual gift but Happy Valentine’s Day, Susie Plakon!” he wrote.

Scott Plakon and tattoo artist SP.
Scott Plakon’s new ink.

COA group praises Senate for ‘Condo Cleanup Bill’ vote

A bill by Sen. Kathleen Passidomo that would patch up a number of cracks in 2017 legislation aimed at reforming condominium owners association rules cleared its second Senate panel this week, much to the delight of association group Chief Executive Officers of Management Companies.

“Last year, the Florida Legislature passed a number of needed reforms that instructed Associations what to do but not how to implement those reforms,” said CEOMC Executive Director and Lobbyist Mark Anderson.

“SB 1274 is essentially the instruction manual of how to properly implement those important reforms while protecting our Associations and homeowners from unintended higher costs. We are pleased to see this legislation moving quickly and appreciate the leadership of Senator Passidomo.”

The “Condo Cleanup Bill,” makes clear how long COAs must keep official records, such as vote tallies or contract bids, on hand for unit owners. It also requires larger complexes to post certain records online and clarifies financial reporting requirements for complexes based on their annual revenues.

The bill now moves on to the Rules Committee, its final stop before it’s ready for the chamber floor.

Rhodes Roberts named 2017 Woman of the Year in Agriculture

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced this week that has been picked as the “Woman of the Year in Agriculture” for 2017.

At the Food Foresight panel during the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit in Orlando, from left: Elliott Grant, Martha Rhodes Roberts, Teresa Siles and Kerry Tucker.

“Florida’s robust agriculture industry would not be as bright as it is today without the dedication and service of individuals such as Dr. Roberts,” Putnam said. “I’m honored to present Dr. Roberts with the 2017 Woman of the Year in Agriculture award.”

Roberts spent 35 years working for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, beginning in 1968, where she championed policy changes for the advancement of Florida’s agriculture industry, trade and production practices.

In 1984, Roberts became the first woman in the United States to serve as an Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture.

After leaving DACS, Roberts spent 13 years as Director of Industry Relations and then as Special Assistant for Government Affairs for the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

FSU dedicates memorial honoring Navy hero

Florida State University dedicated a memorial this week to Lt. Cmdr. Scott Speicher, a Navy pilot and FSU alumnus who was killed during the Persian Gulf War.

FSU President John Thrasher and a member of the Speicher family spoke at the dedication, which was part of Military Appreciation Weekend at the university.

Years after his death, Scott Speicher is memorialized at FSU.

The memorial features a bronze helmet similar to what Speicher would have worn and included a black granite pedestal, bronze plaque and his name. The memorial is part of an exterior face-lift to the Scott Speicher Tennis Center, located at the intersection of Chieftain Way and Spirit Way.

The center, completed in 2003, was named after Speicher due to his love of the sport.

FSU women’s tennis coach Jennifer Hyde said she and members of the team were excited and proud to be a part of the dedication.

“I think it’s very important for our student-athletes to pause and appreciate the namesake behind this facility,” Hyde said. “This new memorial honoring Scott Speicher and his family recognizes that we would not be able to live the lives we have without the commitment of our military members, who protect our freedoms and way of life.”

Speicher was shot down over Iraq in 1991 on the first night of Operation Desert Storm. He was listed as missing for nearly two decades until United States Marines discovered the crash site and his remains in 2009. He was the first American combat casualty in the Persian Gulf War.

New cruise line to build headquarters in Florida

The Sunshine State is once again proving to be an ideal location for businesses.

Virgin Voyages, a new cruise company by the global Virgin brands, announced this week that it will house its headquarters in Plantation. The move is expected to bring 300 new jobs to Broward County and an investment of $15.9 million into the local economy.

Virgin Voyages will soon be headquartered in Plantation.

The state played an integral role in securing Virgin Voyages’ headquarters, coordinating with local ordinances and articulating the strength of Broward County’s diverse, educated and multicultural workforce, infrastructure, quality of life, proximity to major seaports and a competitive tax and business environment — all of which were cited by the new cruise line as reasons for placing its headquarters in Plantation.

“As a top tourism destination, the gateway to Latin America and one of the most business-friendly states, Florida is the best place for Virgin Voyages’ new headquarters,” said Gov. Scott, who has made it a priority to bring jobs to the state during his tenure.

The news capped a great week for Florida’s economy. On the same day of the Virgin Voyages announcement, aerospace powerhouse Lockheed Martin told Floridians it would be expanding in the Orlando area, creating 500 new jobs.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott calls on FBI director to resign

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday called on FBI Director Christopher Wray to resign after the agency admitted to mishandling a January tip that the 19-year-old accused of gunning down 17 people in Parkland was potentially planning a school shooting.

“Seventeen innocent people are dead and acknowledging a mistake isn’t going to cut it,” Scott said. “An apology will never bring these 17 Floridians back to life or comfort the families who are in pain.”

The FBI received the tip on Jan. 5. It said the accused gunman, Nikolas Cruz, had a gun and wanted to kill people. The person also cited his erratic behavior, disturbing social media posts and signs that he may be plotting a school shooting, the FBI said in a statement.

The FBI acknowledged it got the tip but agents failed to connect it to Cruz, who police say has confessed to the massacre.

“The families will spend a lifetime wondering how this could happen, and an apology will never give them the answers they desperately need,” Scott said.

“We constantly promote ‘see something, say something,’ and a courageous person did just that to the FBI. And the FBI failed to act. ‘See something, say something’ is an incredibly important tool and people must have confidence in the follow through from law enforcement. The FBI Director needs to resign.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran piggybacked on Scott’s call for Wray — a President Donald Trump nominee — to resign.

“@FlGovScott is right, the FBI Director should resign immediately. 17 innocent lives were lost because the agency failed to follow protocol — that’s unacceptable,” Corcoran tweeted.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the tip falling through the crack is “more than just an error review,” but also about how federal investigation authorities respond to tips. Sessions ordered an “immediate review” on the Department of Justice and FBI tip process.

“We will make this a top priority,” Sessions said, “it has never been more important to encourage every person in every community to spot the warning signs and alert law enforcement.”

“Do not assume someone else will step up — all of us must be vigilant. Our children’s lives depend on it.”

Pixabay (free download)

Lizbeth Benacquisto sees ‘concerns’ over minor marriage ban

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto says she’s hopeful but “still sees concerns” over eventual passage of legislation aimed at preventing minors from getting married.

Benacquisto, the Senate’s Rules chair, told Florida Politics Thursday she “looks forward to passing as strong a ban on child marriage as we can” this session. The Fort Myers Republican sponsored her chamber’s bill (SB 140), which was OK’d 37-0 on Jan. 31.

But that version was a blanket ban on marriages for those under 18. The House amended the bill this week and sent it back to the Senate with language that would still allow some minors to get married.

Specifically, the House would make it illegal for marriage licenses to be issued to those under 16, but 16- and 17-year-olds would be permitted to wed if the girl is pregnant and the father is no more than two years older.


“The House would allow a girl who is 16 to marry. And I understand there is a condition on the age of the person she might want to marry,” Benacquisto said.

“But if she appears in a courthouse on the advent of her 16th birthday and she’s five months pregnant, that young lady has been in a relationship that would otherwise be seen as criminal.

“To move forward and allow that, I find is troubling,” she added. “We don’t allow that under current law … I don’t feel right to be consenting to that.”

Legislation was filed after reports on a Tampa Bay-area woman who was forced to marry her rapist at age 11.

In Florida, 16,417 children—one as young as 13—were married in the period of 2000-15, state Vital Statistics data shows. In one extreme example, a 17-year-old female married an 83-year-old man in 2004.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has said he is in support of permitting some minors to be married because it would give “high school sweethearts” the option to tie the knot if they want.

Philip Levine wants ‘immediate policy changes’ on gun laws

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine wrote Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron on Thursday, urging a commitment to gun control measures in the wake of the Parkland massacre Wednesday.

“We need more than thoughts and prayers — we need immediate policy changes that can have an immediate deterrence of these tragic incidents,” Levine wrote.

Levine, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Governor, saw a primary opponent (Gwen Graham) issue her own calls for gun control measures.

Levine goes farther in terms of policy recommendations than Graham does.

He calls for a reversal of state laws pre-empting local gun bans, a ban on semi-automatic and assault rifles, fast background checks, and a review of mental health funding.

Levine’s letter references a 2016 resolution passed by Miami Beach that calls for a statewide assault weapons ban, while also calling for the end of pre-emption of local gun bans.

The “Legislature’s endless obsession with pre-empting local mayors and city commissioners from enacting sensible policies in their local communities has tied the hands of those who are closest to the people,” Levine writes.

Levine also references “legislation making its way through our legislative session that would weaken background checks, allow guns on college campuses and efforts to weaponize our schools. These policies are simply disgusting and only serve to undermine our public safety.”

“I urge you to immediately suspend the above-referenced legislation from moving forward in Tallahassee and redirect efforts to swiftly enact sensible and responsible gun reforms this year,” Levine writes.

Mr. Speaker, take down that ad

Immediately following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Hollywood, reluctant to exploit terrorism plot lines, postponed the Arnold Schwarzenegger film “Collateral Damage” because it featured Colombian terrorists bent on attacking the U.S.

A 2015 film about Islamic terrorists determined to attack Paris was shelved after shooters and suicide bombers targeted a concert hall, a major stadium, restaurants and bars, almost simultaneously — leaving 130 people dead and hundreds wounded. A poster for that movie showed an image of an assault weapon shaped into the form of the Eiffel Tower.

After the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, Walmart executives were smart enough to know they had to pull the ads for the Bushmaster AR-15, the gun that was used to kill 20 children and six adults, just as it had been used in the deadly shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

Last year’s massacre in Las Vegas prompted the entertainment destination to re-brand its “Sin City” image.

These are just four examples of when the entertainment and advertising industries have had to change their plans due to a real-world tragedy.

Now, it’s time to add one more to the list.

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran needs to immediately pull the TV ad his political committee is currently running throughout the state.

The spot shows a sinister-looking Latino man, wearing a hoodie, passing a happy, smiling teenager on the street in broad daylight. He pulls a gun for no reason and fires. The girl is presumably killed.

Before the horrible tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Corcoran’s ad was only hard to stomach. The morning after seventeen (a number which could climb) Floridians were gunned down, the spot is nothing less than terrifying.

Before Nikolas Cruz killed and injured scores of his former classmates, Corcoran’s ad had something to do with preventing Florida cities from serving as sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants. In the light of day, with some victims still fighting for their lives, the ad is traumatic.

“This could have happened to any family, anywhere,” Corcoran says in the voice-over. And he’s right; it did just happen. In Parkland, recently named Florida’s safest city.

Obviously, Corcoran’s ad is about “illegal immigrants.” What happened in a suburb about an hour northwest of Miami has nothing to do with them or sanctuary cities.

But there is a time and a place for everything. And now is not the time for that ad to keep airing. Not in a place often referred to as the “Gunshine State.”

The Speaker is smart enough not to put up a fight about this.

He made his point with the ad. He told Republican super-voters petrified of those with brown skin that he would not let Orlando go the way of San Francisco. He’ll uphold the rule of law. Or something like that.

The ad garnered national headlines. It led to a debate between Corcoran and Democrat gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum on immigration issues.

By normal standards, the ad was effective, if not, infuriating.

But can you imagine what it would be like for someone connected to Marjory Stoneman to turn on the cable news and see that ad?

Mr. Speaker, please take down the ad.


Material from Ian Rustic‘s “Trapped in the War on Terror” was used in this post.

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.

Richard Corcoran, Andrew Gillum clash during immigration debate

After weeks of tweeting back and forth on the issue of immigration, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and House Speaker Richard Corcoran debated face-to-face on Tuesday and clashed sharply on the topic — as predicted.

The 45-minute debate largely focused on two things: HB 9, a bill that seeks to punish local officials who do not fully comply with federal immigration authorities, and a controversial television ad ran by Corcoran that depicts immigrants who are in the country illegally as a danger to Floridians.

The debate often times got stuck on one thing: diction. Gillum defended his use of “undocumented immigrants,” arguing an immigrant is illegal aims to “dehumanize” a person. The Land O’Lakes Republican, however, viewed it differently.

“You keep saying undocumented immigrants,” Corcoran said, “but there is nothing undocumented about them — they are illegal.”

At one point, Gillum put Corcoran’s nationality in question, pointing out that he was born in Canada.

“I’m a natural-born American citizen,” Corcoran said. “To say I’m an immigrant is you playing politics and using perjoratives in the worst possible way.”

“It’s good to say you are an immigrant,” Gillum responded.

The splintering over the issue highlighted their polar opposite stances on immigration that feed their base supporters and on Tuesday gave politicians what they need the most: attention. A recent poll shows the vast majority of voters do not recognize their names.

Also discussed during the debate was the 30-second video by Corcoran’s political committee, titled “Preventable,” which opens by alluding to the high-profile 2015 killing of Kathryn Steinle along Pier 14 in the Embarcadero district of San Francisco. The video depicts a bearded man in a hoodie pointing and firing a handgun directly at a woman walking the sidewalk of a suburban community.

A voice-over by Corcoran states: “A young woman, gunned down by an illegal immigrant who should’ve been deported but was protected by a sanctuary city.”

The video then fades to Corcoran, who is in his final House term and has said he’s waiting until after the Legislative session to make an announcement regarding his political future, who makes Steinle’s story personal.

When he heard of Steinle’s death, “I thought about my own daughter Kate,” Corcoran, a father of six, says in the video.

“Incredibly, some Tallahassee politicians want to make Florida a sanctuary state,” Corcoran, shown with his arm draped around Kate’s shoulders, says. “On my watch, Florida will never be a sanctuary state.”

Gillum on Tuesday took offense at the depiction of the killer in Corcoran’s video, highlighting the significance of the dark-skinned, hoodie-wearing villain.

As moderator Gary Fineout pointed out, a jury found Jose Ines Garcia Zanate not guilty of second-degree murder charges in Steinle’s death. Garcia Zanate said he found the gun on the pier and that it accidentally went off. Authorities confirmed the bullet ricocheted off the ground before striking Steinle.

“The truth is, this ad is a gross misrepresentation of what took place,” Gillum said.

The use of the gray hoodie was particularly offensive, Gillum said, “as if that point would be lost on any of us in the same state where Trayvon Martin was killed, for wearing a hoodie.”

After the debate, Corcoran told reporters his teenage son’s garb was the inspiration for the hoodie.

Gillum asked Corcoran, who referred to the mayor as “Gillum,” to apologize for the video and take it down.

Corcoran showed no contrition.

Corcoran has not yet announced his run for governor, but if $1.4 million media buys, meetings with Roger Stone and debates with a Democrat running for governor are any indication, he is more than likely in the race by the time the 2018 Legislative Session ends.

“The Speaker clearly has an intent of appealing to a very small slice of the Republican primary voter for a race that he has yet to determine that he wants to enter,” Gillum said.

During his closing remarks, Corcoran repeated a common theme, calling his position “a common-sense, right-minded policy.”

“If you remember one single thing from this debate, here’s what I would ask you to remember,” Corcoran said, knocking three times on the podium. “Nobody, nobody in this state should ever have a law enforcement officer knock on their door and tell them their son or their daughter has been killed by an illegal immigrant who had sanctuary status in the city, a completely and utterly needless and unnecessary death. … I will fight and continue to fight in this legislative session, or in any capacity I can, to ensure that no parent has to have that knock on the door. Whatever it is, I have to do to do that, I will do it.”

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

Joe Henderson: Sanctuary city debate probably didn’t change minds

I expected House Speaker Richard Corcoran to be cool and smooth in the great sanctuary city debate Tuesday night, and he was.

I thought his opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, would bring the fire from the other side of the issue, and he did.


That probably depends on your politics. Both men made their points about Corcoran’s controversial HB 9, which would ban sanctuary cities in Florida and punish officials who don’t cooperate with federal immigration agents.

Corcoran punctuated his closing statement with three knocks on the podium, symbolizing the knock on the door that he said a parent could receive from law enforcement officers telling them their son or daughter had been murdered by an illegal immigrant.

Theatrical? Obviously. But it did make Corcoran’s point about harboring the undocumented.

But Gillum made his point, too, that the bill (and TV ad) is tantamount to racial profiling, noting that the killer in the ad was dressed in a hoodie like Trayvon Martin.

I think Gillum almost fumbled a wide-open chance to attack the ad much earlier though on that key point, though.

Late in the debate, co-moderator Gary Fineout in a question to Corcoran reminded viewers that the controversial ad misrepresented what actually happened.

The shooter was acquitted and the death, while tragic, was ruled an accident.

Only then did Gillum begin to press Corcoran about the aspect of profiling and the other dog whistles implied in the ad. He should have been pounding that point from the start.

But Corcoran swung and missed too, and not just with the disingenuous TV ad, which he tried to explain was merely asking if the victim, Kate Steinle, would still be alive “if not for the sanctuary policy?”

That killing happened in San Francisco. Corcoran used three other examples of deaths he linked to illegal immigrants. None of those occurred in Florida, either.

And Gillum claimed that there are no sanctuary cities in Florida anyway, so what’s the point of the bill?

There were several dog whistles going off during the debate from both participants. Corcoran kept ramming home the point of “illegal immigrants.”

He also tried to portray the proposed bill as a benign, commonsense measure that anyone should feel comfortable supporting. If that is so, then why has he been promoting it with a wildly inflammatory TV ad designed to scare your pants off if you meet someone on the street who doesn’t look like you?

Gillum dropped words like “police state” into his argument against the bill and noted that people of color could be the ones most likely to face demands to “show their papers” to prove citizenship.

Both men need the exposure this debate allowed. Gillum faces a tough challenge in his campaign to be the Democratic nominee for governor.

If Corcoran jumps into the race as expected for the Republican nomination, polls indicate that the majority of Florida voters don’t even know who he is – despite his high profile and controversial moves.

Face-to-face engagements like this sanctuary city debate are good. The fact it happened at all is the most important thing in an election year.

That was the real win for both men in this exercise because, truth be told, I doubt any minds were changed by what they said.

Jeanette Nunez seeks to amend Senate bill that bans all child marriages

There’s a rift between the Florida House and Senate over a bill that could ban outright all marriages for minors in the state, and that will become more pronounced on Wednesday when the lower chamber takes up the matter.

House members will consider the child marriage bill (SB 140) passed by the Senate, but with an amendment that would allow some minors to marry in cases when a pregnant minor is at least 16 years old. The partner would have to be no more than two years older.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has said this provision would allow “high school sweethearts” to marry, but critics say it could trap a minor into a marriage in which the partner is an adult and has more legal advantages than the minor.

“Sixteen-year-olds are still children. It is important that anyone that enters a marriage enters in equal footing,” said Ryan Wiggins, the representative for Sherry Johnson, who was forced to marry her rapist at the age of 11.

“It would be bad governance to allow (minors) to enter a marriage where they can end up trapped,” Wiggins added.

Legislation proposing a strict ban on all minor marriages passed the Senate unanimously, with the upper chamber as a co-sponsor. Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto has been a vocal sponsor of the measure and has been featured in national news stories as her proposal would make Florida the first state in the nation to have such a ban.

The House, however, has been more conservative on the matter and has inserted religion into the debate. Some members argue that a baby born out of wedlock is a concern for many Floridians and that there should be some flexibility for older teens who get pregnant. Others, like state Rep. George Moraitis, said a ban could push minors to seek “different” options, alluding to abortion.

To appease some of the concerns from House members, Republican state Rep. Jeanette Nunez has filed a strike-all amendment to Benacquisto’s bill that would allow a court to issue a marriage license to 16- and 17-year-olds if the partner is no more than two years older. Nunez is the sponsor of the child marriage bill in the House.

Her House bill includes a paternity test as a requirement to issue the marriage license, but Nunez’s amendment to the Senate bill would get rid of that mandate. However, the couple would still require a written statement from a licensed physician to verify the pregnancy.

Under the proposal, all minors under 16 would be banned for getting married, which under certain circumstances is legal under current state law.

As Florida politicians focus on immigration, state leads in ICE arrests

As immigration takes center stage in Florida politics — with some Republicans calling on local authorities to fully comply with federal immigration authorities — a new report shows the state is leading the nation in Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrests.

Florida is dominating the nation in immigration arrests due to a significant uptick in “non-criminal” detentions, a pattern mirrored across the country during the 2017 fiscal year.

“The overall number of immigration arrests made by ICE in 2017 varied around the U.S., and the most arrests did not always occur in areas close to the U.S.-Mexico border or in places with the largest unauthorized immigrant populations,” according to a Pew Research Center report.

Between 2016 and 2017, federal immigration agents arrested 6,192 unauthorized immigrants in Florida, 30 percent of whom had no criminal convictions.

When it comes to deportations, half of those who were sent back to their countries of origin were not facing criminal charges or had a criminal background in the U.S., data shows.

Under President Barack Obama, ICE focused its enforcement efforts more narrowly by prioritizing arrests on those convicted of serious crimes. The report states there is a “growing emphasis by federal authorities on interior enforcement efforts,” such as the deal struck with 17 Florida sheriffs.

As a crackdown on immigration takes place in a state that has long acted as a magnet for immigrants, an election year is turning up the volume on the issue.

In a poll released Monday, a quarter of Republican voters listed immigration as the most important problem facing Florida. The same poll showed that only 14 percent of Democrats believe the issue to be on the same scale of importance.

Politicians — and those who are widely expected to run — have been quick to use immigration at the forefront of their campaigns.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has spent nearly $1.5 million on a controversial “sanctuary cities” TV ad portraying all immigrants as a danger to Floridians and has prioritized legislation that would threaten local officials who do not fully comply with immigration authorities with removal from office or hefty fines.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum has called Corcoran’s stance on immigration “race-baiting” and will debate the likely Republican gubernatorial candidate in Tallahassee.

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