Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has switched sides in pursuit of the Miami Marlins, and he’s trying to beat out former teammate Derek Jeter.
Bush has joined forces with businessman Tagg Romney in a group trying to buy the Marlins, two people familiar with the negotiations said Friday. The people confirmed Bush’s new role to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the parties involved in the sales talks aren’t commenting publicly.
One of the people said South Florida businessman Jorge Mas has contacted the Marlins to say he’s leading a group interested in buying the franchise, meaning at least three groups are pursuing a deal.
Bush and Jeter, the 14-time New York Yankees All-Star shortstop, led rival groups earlier this year. They then joined forces, but Bush dropped out in May.
Now they’re rivals again, and Jeter is still exploring financing options.
The Romney-Bush group also includes Quogue Capital investment fund founder Wayne Rothbaum, Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine and former Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart. …Full Story
SCOTT KEELER | Times
Gov. Rick Scott
Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.
Lawmakers passed the measure (SB 8A) in a special session after failing in their regular session early this year, to implement a constitutional amendment legalizing the drug, which was supported the will of 71 percent of voters.
Under the constitutional amendment, patients with a host of conditions can buy and use medical marijuana. Among them: cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma and epilepsy.
The new law also sets in motion a plan to license 10 new companies as growers by October, bringing the statewide total to 17.
It allows patients to use cannabis pills, oils, edibles and "vape" pens with a doctor's approval but bans smoking.
"The constitutional amendment was passed overwhelmingly, and I'm glad the House and Senate were able to come together for a bill that makes sense for our state," Scott said earlier this month. …Full Story
Florida Gov. Rick Scott
Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday that he will travel to Washington, D.C. next week so he can provide input as the U.S. Senate debates its proposal to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a new plan.
No details were released as to when Scott would travel to the nation's capital or whom he will meet with there.
"I have been carefully reviewing the bill and next week, I will be traveling to Washington to meet with congressional leaders to provide input on how we can make the bill better for Floridians," Scott said in a statement.
Scott is widely expected to run for U.S. Senate in 2018 against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson.
Scott called Obamacare a "terrible, expensive mess" and offered some general insight into what he would want to see out of Congress' replacement plan.
“All states must be treated equitably. Florida taxpayers deserve the same treatment as every other state under the Medicaid program," Scott said. He added: "Every American, including those with pre-existing conditions, should have the ability to buy any kind of insurance they want. This will drive down costs and give people the flexibility and power to determine what they want to buy."Full Story
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democratic candidate for governor in 2018
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum said in a formal statement Friday that he spoke with the FBI last week about its probe into redevelopment deals in the city, and he said FBI officials "assured me I was not the focus of an investigation."
Gillum's statement was distributed to media through a city of Tallahassee spokesman, not Gillum's 2018 Democratic campaign for governor.
His lengthy comments come a day after the Associated Press reported that the FBI had launched its investigation, which the AP said involves prominent business owners and developers in Tallahassee, including a former campaign treasurer for Gillum.
MORE: "Federal authorities launch probe into city of Tallahassee"
The AP said it received copies of federal grand jury subpoenas through a records request. The subpoenas seek documents from the city and a local redevelopment agency. Gillum was not named in the subpoenas, the AP reported, and the subpoenas did not reveal what potential wrongdoing federal authorities were specifically investigating. …Full Story
Rep. Gus Bilirakis, at President Trump's left, watches the bill signing.
WASHINGTON - Rep. Gus Bilirakis was among a group of lawmakers on hand to see President Trump sign a "VA accountability bill that will make it easier to dismiss problem employees.
The White House said a Florida veteran, Rick Disney, also attended.
The legislation was sponsored in the Senate by Marco Rubio, and was supported by Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.
Photo by Carol Porter
Former Vice President Joe Biden addresses Florida Democrats at their Leadership Blue Gala on June 17.
After Donald Trump’s election, so many people started showing up at monthly Pinellas County Democratic Party meetings, the group had to start forking out more money for a bigger room.
The Orange County Democratic Executive Committee changed venues to accommodate bigger crowds of fired-up Democrats. And within the fast-growing Hillsborough Democratic Party, activists have launched New Tampa and Temple Terrace clubs, the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Tampa Bay and Labor and Caribbean caucuses.
“People are coming out of the woodwork,’’ said Palm Beach County Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo, a Democratic National Committee member.
The unprecedented surge in grass roots energy and activity should bode well for downtrodden Florida Democrats heading into the 2018 midterms, but it belies a grimmer reality: The state party that won one of the past 13 Florida Cabinet races and zero of the past five governor’s races, remains as much of a darkhorse as ever, with fundamental questions about resources and competence.
Column here.Full Story
Steve Cannon / AP
Gov. Rick Scott speaks to legislators at the end of a special session, Friday, June 9, 2017, in Tallahassee, Fla.
From the News Service of Florida:
Part of a controversial and wide-ranging education bill (HB 7069) signed by Gov. Rick Scott could affect the credit ratings of some of the state's school districts, according to a report released Thursday by Moody's Investors Service.
The report said a requirement that school districts share construction funds generated by local property taxes with charter schools "is credit negative for school districts with significant charter enrollment."
The finding isn't a change to the districts' ratings, but could affect them in the future.
"As capital revenues follow students to charters, traditional schools' ability to cut capital expenditures will be tempered by aging infrastructure and the need to attract and retain students," the analysis said.
The bill, championed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, touched off weeks of debate, with major education groups urging Scott to veto it. But Scott signed the measure last week.
Read the Moody's report here.Full Story
Tampa Bay Times
Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa
From Times correspondent William March:
State Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa, is being bashed by the U.S. Term Limits organization, which claims he's "cheating" on term limits – but the charge goes back to a wrinkle in Florida election law that fouled up Grant's 2014 re-election.
That re-election was invalidated because of litigation over a write-in candidate who filed for his District 64 seat, but didn't live in the district and never campaigned. Grant missed most of the 2015 legislative session while the litigation was decided, but won re-election again in a special election in April, 2015.
As a result, he missed most of the 2015 legislative session – but because he was technically out of office for six months, his term limits clock was re-started. First elected in 2010, Grant could end up serving as much as 14 years in the state House, despite the limit of four two-year terms.
Grant had nothing to do with the lawsuit – it was filed by the husband of another candidate – but Phil Blumel, president of U.S. Term Limits, blamed him for the situation in a news release, saying, "Rep. Grant's scheme to evade term limits is sleazy and outrageous." …Full Story
Visit Florida's racing team is no more after July 3. The soccer team? It stays, for now.
From the News Service of Florida's Jim Turner:
House Speaker Richard Corcoran said Visit Florida apparently listened to state lawmakers' criticism, as the tourism-marketing agency has canceled an auto racing sponsorship and is negotiating for a better deal with an English football club.
“It's clear that Visit Florida has heard us loud and clear and are beginning the process of cleaning up their act and ceasing the waste of taxpayer money,” Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, said in a statement Thursday.
During this year's regular legislative session, Corcoran was highly critical of Visit Florida spending and clashed with Gov. Rick Scott about the agency.
Among the more prominent complaints about Visit Florida was a $1 million deal with Miami rapper Pitbull, along with sponsorships of Fulham Football Club in England and the Visit Florida racing team.
Lawmakers during the regular session moved to cut Visit Florida's budget in 2017-2018 by two-thirds from the current fiscal year. But the funding was bumped up to $76 million --- nearly matching the money in the current year --- during a special session this month. …Full Story
President Donald Trump, with Republican leaders, signs policy documents rolling back Obama-era changes that eased U.S.-Cuba relations at the Manuel Artime Theater in Miami.
Not all newspapers agree on Trump's handling of Cuba. While the Tampa Bay Times editorial board criticized Trump's approach for crimping improving relations, two other newspapers approved the new direction.
The Miami Herald concluded that Trump is "right to recalibrate this policy without jettisoning it wholesale."
In one of the most important changes, transactions with the Business Administration Group, S.A — GAESA — will be prohibited. GAESA is the company of the Cuban Armed Forces that, according to estimates, controls 60 percent of the Cuban economy. And there will be limits on Americans’ ability to travel to Cuba, a change of which we are less enamored.
These measures should significantly reduce the amount of money flowing into the coffers of the Cuban regime. U.S. tourism has been booming since relations between Washington and Havana were resumed. According to island authorities, in 2016 the number of U.S. visitors increased by 74 percent compared to 2015. …Full Story
ALEXEY DRUZHININ AFP
Vladimir Putin (L), then Russia's Prime Minister, walks side by side with Alexander Zaldostanov (R), nicknamed "the Surgeon", the leader of the group of Russian bikers called the Night Wolves, near Sevastopol in Ukraine's Crimea, in 2010.
From the Miami Herald's Lily Dobrovolskaya and Nicholas Nehamas:
Out-of-town money pouring into South Florida real estate is as old as Henry Flagler.
But the tale of Igor Zorin offers a 21st-century twist with all the weirdness modern Miami has to offer: Russian cash, a motorcycle club named after Russia’s powerful special forces and a condo tower branded by Donald Trump.
Zorin is a Russian government official who’s spent nearly $8 million on waterfront South Florida homes, hardly financially prudent given his bureaucrat’s salary of $75,000 per year. He runs a state-owned broadcasting company that, among other duties, operates sound systems for the annual military parade that sends columns of soldiers and tanks rumbling through Moscow’s Red Square.
Zorin has other Miami connections, too: His local business associate, Svyatoslav Mangushev, a Russian intelligence officer turned Miami real estate investor, helped found a biker club called Spetsnaz M.C. Spetsnaz is a group of motorcycle-loving South Florida expatriates who named themselves after the Russian equivalent of Delta Force or Seal Team Six. …Full Story
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
Former President Bill Clinton gives the opening address to kick off a meeting of International Aid Groups at the InterAction Forum 2017 at the Washington Convention Center on June 20.
From our friends at the Miami Herald:
Former President Bill Clinton is heading to Miami Beach on Saturday to address the U.S. Conference of Mayors. A friend of Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine, who lobbied to bring the event to Miami Beach in 2017, Clinton will speak at the day's luncheon at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. It is closed to the public.
The convention gathers nearly 300 mayors from across the city. It runs through Monday at the Fontainebleau. No details were released on Clinton's speech, but he will be addressing mayors during a lunch with a theme of "city livability." Full Story
Tampa Bay Times
Florida Insider Poll
For all the attention on Florida Democratic Chairman Stephen Bittel's bone-headed gaffe this week, the diminished state of the once mighty Florida GOP today compared to even a few years ago is arguably more striking than the condition of the long-suffering Florida Democratic Party. A decade ago, no one would have imagined the Republican Party of Florida all but abandoned by the sitting Republican governor and more or less avoided by the Republican frontrunner to succeed him.
The major parties still have an important role in politics and campaigns, but in the post-Citizens United era of super PACs and anti-establishment voter uprisings, the role of the parties is far less significant than it used to be. …Full Story
UPDATED POST (5:00 p.m.):
From Gary Fineout at the Associated Press:
In a move that could shake-up next year's race for Florida governor, the FBI has launched an investigation into redevelopment deals involving prominent business owners and developers in the state capital.
Federal grand jury subpoenas this month seek five years of records from the city of Tallahassee and a local redevelopment agency that involve high profile projects and developers including an ally of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.
Gillum, one of several Democrats in the 2018 governor's race, is not named in the subpoenas to the city and agency, which were provided Thursday to The Associated Press in response to a public records request. "We expect the city to respond fully and completely to the subpoena and we hope the situation is resolved quickly," Geoff Burgan, a spokesman for Gillum's campaign, told the AP.
The subpoenas ask for any documents and communications between the redevelopment agency, the city, their officials, and a list of people and corporations. The material is to be turned over to the grand jury in July. …Full Story
Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times
Florida Senate during the 2017 session
Not even two weeks removed from a special session to close out this year's legislative agenda, Florida lawmakers are already looking ahead to 2018.
Because that's an even-numbered (i.e. election) year, the 60-day session will run from January through early March -- which means pre-session committee weeks will start this fall.
In less than three months, to be exact.
Mark your calendars -- here are the House's and Senate's schedule, released Thursday afternoon:
-- Week of Sept. 11, with meetings starting no earlier than 1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12
-- Week of Oct. 9
-- Week of Oct. 23
-- Week of Nov. 6 (finishing before the Veterans Day Holiday that Friday)
-- Week of Nov. 13
-- Week of Dec. 4
The 2018 regular session starts Tuesday, Jan. 9.Full Story