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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Former State Sen. Greg Evers dead at 62

Evers

Times

Evers

Former State Sen. Greg Evers, a Baker Florida farmer and veteran politician, was killed in a single car crash near his home in Okaloosa County late Monday. The Florida Highway Patrol said the death is being investigated. Evers was 62. 

According to a press release from the Florida Highway Patrol released late Tuesday, Lt. Eddie Elmore of the Florida Highway Patrol said that sometime on Monday night, Evers' vehicle "failed to negotiate the curve" on Griffith Mill Road near Baker, crossed the road, crashed through a guardrail, and landed "into a creek where the vehicle became submerged." His car was found on Tuesday afternoon.  Download Evers report - Okaloosa County 8-22-17 2 Form1

Evers, a Republican who left the Senate in 2016 to run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Congress, was born in Milton, Florida, and grew up on his family's farm, later attending Pensacola Community College. He took over his family's fertilizer business and moved it to Baker, where he grew cotton, soybeans, peanuts, wheat, corn and strawberries. …

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Bill Nelson: Confederate statues belong in museum

A day after saying decisions on Confederate monuments should be left to "communities," Sen. Bill Nelson changed his stance:

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Mary McLeod Bethune to replace Edmund Kirby Smith?

Mary McLeod Bethune

[Bethune-Cookman College]

Mary McLeod Bethune

Representing Florida since 1922 in the U.S. Capitol has been the likeness of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith. Why him?

Nobody has a really good answer. The St. Augustine native was the last Confederate general to surrender, and hey, what says American patriotism better than the last holdout of a breakaway bloc of states that wanted to preserve slavery?

Talks of finally replacing Smith have been renewed with Charlottesville and the national debate over Confederate monuments. A Florida lawmaker is hoping to take advantage of this.

According to the News Service of Florida, Rep. Patrick Henry, D-Daytona Beach, has filed  HCR 73, that would replace Smith with one of the three Florida citizens recommended by the ad hoc committee of the Great Floridians Program within the Division of Historical Resources of the Department of State.   …

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Should soft drinks be purchased by those on public assistance?

Coke is not it for some House Republicans

[Coca Cola]

Coke is not it for some House Republicans

Florida House Republicans have felt little hesitation in judging the actions of those who use food stamps, making it harder for many recipients to use them.

Earlier this year, they pushed a bill that would have denied food stamps for 229,000 Floridians, most of them children, in an effort to reduce fraud. (It didn't pass). Budget Chair Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, said fraud was a problem based on his observation at an unspecified date and year that he saw someone in a grocery store use federal help who also had a Mercedes key chain. When he was in the state House in 2013, current U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz tweeted that he saw a woman in a Publix use federal assistance who had back tattoos.

Even though U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics show those receiving public assistance live more frugally than those who don't, their spending habits are being targeted again -- this time over their consumption of soft drinks.

Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, has filed HB 47 that would prohibit participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, for purchasing soft drinks. The bill would require Florida's Department of Children and Families to request a waiver of federal requirements. …

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Bill Nelson shares Rick Scott's cautious stance on Confederate monuments

On the issue of Confederate monuments, Sen. Bill Nelson is taking the cautious route of Gov. Rick Scott.

“My attitude is a monument, a statue, ought to signify unity instead of division,” Nelson, told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on Monday after a speech before the Manatee Chamber of Commerce.

But should Confederate monuments be removed? “I think leaving it up to the good sense of the communities involved is the best thing to do," the Democrat running for re-election said.

That’s effectively what Scott, who is likely to challenge Nelson next year, told the Tampa Bay Times last week.

"We have a democracy," Scott said. "We have the ability to have conversations about things, whether it's policy or things like monuments, and that's what's going on around our country right now. Some of these decisions will need to be made locally, some will be decided at the state level, some will be decided at the federal level, but what everybody needs to do is go through the process that's set up to make policy changes and make changes if they do with regards to a monument."

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NAACP demands Rick Scott and lawmakers remove Confederate symbols from Capitol

Adora Obi Nweze

Special to the Times

Adora Obi Nweze

Given the vacuum left by Gov. Rick Scott's silence on the matter, the NAACP Florida State Conference is calling for the removal of all Confederate symbols at the state Capitol. The group is asking for legislative leaders to support a ban on all Confederate symbols on public property across the state.

Here's a statement released Tuesday quoting Adora Obi Nweze, president of NAACP Florida State Conference and a member of the National Board of Directors. …

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Catholic bishops call on Gov. Scott to halt scheduled execution

Mark James Asay

Florida Department of Corrections

Mark James Asay

It has been 20 months since an inmate has been executed in Florida, and the state's Catholic bishops are calling on Gov. Rick Scott to halt Thursday's scheduled execution of Mark James Asay.

In a letter delivered to Scott Monday, Michael Sheedy, executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote: "Indeed, Mr. Asay's violent acts call out for justice and should be condemned. However, life without parole is an alternative and severe sentence. We hold that if non-lethal means are available to keep society safe from an aggressor, then authority must limit itself to such means."

Read the bishops' letter here.

After a lengthy suspension of Florida's troubled death penalty system due to legal challenges and actions by the Legislature,, Asay, 53, is scheduled to die at 6 p.m. Thursday at Florida State Prison in Starke for the murders of two men, Robert Booker and Robert McDowell, in Jacksonville in 1987. Booker, who was African-American, was shot in the abdomen after he and Asay had a racially-charged confrontation outside a bar. In a summary of the case, the state Supreme Court quoted Asay as having used the N-word three times. …

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Sarasota GOP names Dick Cheney 'Statesman of the Year'

Dick and Liz Cheney

Sarasota GOP

Dick and Liz Cheney

Former Vice President Dick Cheney will be honored as "Statesman of Year" by the Sarasota GOP, a title that twice went to Donald Trump.

Rep. Liz Cheney is to be named "Stateswoman of the Year."

“They are providing multigenerational leadership to our nation and represent the traditional, conservative values our party stands for,"  said party Chairman Joe Gruters.

The ceremony will be Oct. 7 at the Westin in downtown Sarasota. Details here.

Past statesmen include Trump (in 2012 and 2015) Sean Hannity, Rick Scott, Ted Cruz and Haley Barbour.

In noting the award in 2015, we described Trump as a showman of sort, who "almost no one takes seriously."

Gruters, who worked on the campaign, said then that the future president “will no doubt play a large role in deciding which direction our country heads and he will help return us to the path of limited, constitutional government.”

Bonus: Charlie Crist occupies Dick Cheney's old congressional office.

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Rubio praises Trump for 'excellent' speech on Afghanistan

Sen. Marco Rubio praised President Donald Trump's "excellent" speech on Afghanistan. Sen. Bill Nelson was less effusive but agreed with the goal.

#AfghanStrategy laid out by @POTUS was put together the right way. Careful review & consideration of multiple views & ideas. Very good.

Good #AfghanStrategy & excellent speech by @POTUS laying it out to the nation.

Goal of new #AfghanStrategy is peace by defeating #ISIS #AQ & #Taliban much better that previous admin goal to get out by certain date

New #AfghanStrategy based on the conditions on ground not on arbitrary numbers and timelines is the right approach

Here is Nelson: "In the short run, the Afghan government has been overrun by terrorists and needs to be strengthened temporarily. In the long run, the Afghans must protect their own people and the U.S. troops should exit the country as soon as practical.”

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Gov. Rick Scott blasts report of shifting words on Charlottesville

Gov. Rick Scott, one of the most scripted politicians in modern Florida history, said Monday that "both sides” bear blame for Charlottesville.

“There’s no moral authority on both sides,” Scott said on Monday, according to the Naples Daily News.

But, hours later, Scott’s office said he misspoke and lashed out at the newspaper.

“Governor Scott inadvertently said the word ‘authority’ instead of ‘equivalency’ while meeting with reporters in Fort Myers today and the Naples Daily News reported this as a policy change. This is false and the Naples Daily News distorted the facts,” read a statement from McKinley Lewis, Scotts deputy communications director.

Scott on Monday was asked about Sen. Marco Rubio’s comments, which faulted President Donald Trump for assigning blame to “both sides.”

“As you know, it was horrible what happened in Charlottesville. It was evil. There’s no place in our society for KK(K) for neo-Nazis or for white supremacists,” Scott said at Stevens Construction in Fort Myers, while discussing job growth.

"There’s no moral authority on both sides. We saw white supremacists accused of killing that young lady. And I have a daughter about the same age as her.” …

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Pence to visit Miami on Wednesday

Pence

AP

Pence

Vice President Mike Pence will be in Miami on Wednesday.

As part of his visit, Pence is scheduled to deliver remarks at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Doral, according to an invitation to the event.

The invitation doesn’t say what topic or topics Pence might address. But his trip to Latin America last week involved a lot of discussion about what to do about the political crisis in Venezuela. Doral has so many Venezuelan immigrants it is known as Doralzuela.

Pence reassured regional allies in Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Panama last week that the White House prefers international pressure against Maduro and his newly inaugurated national constituent assembly, which effectively usurped the power of the South American country’s last remaining independent branch of government.

 

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Rubio attacked for not attacking 'Antifa'

The far right is angry with Sen. Marco Rubio for condemning white nationalist groups in Charlottesville -- and faulting President Trump for not doing so more clearly – while not pointing a finger at the far left Antifa.

“McCain, Romney and Rubio join the Republicans for Antifa Club,” reads a headline on Breitbart News.

Across social media, Rubio was excoriated for his remarks, which drew bipartisan, mainstream praise. Rubio said there was no equivalency between the two sides in Charlottesville.

"Mr. President, you can't allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame. They support idea which cost nation & world so much pain," Rubio wrote on Twitter. "The #WhiteSupremacy groups will see being assigned only 50% of blame as a win.W e can not allow this old evil to be resurrected."

Exactly. @marcorubio, do you get it now? Hate is hate. Condemn it ALL. https://t.co/0dQWrBSD44

Do you understand who #Antifa are? Google history. Look on YouTube. As a Cuban-American you should be the 1st to denounce publically!

#Rubio needs #Sanctions against him for aligning himself with #Antifa, a terrorist group! I am ashamed of you @marcorubio! #MAGA https://t.co/5giwpIvg4D

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Sen. Bill Nelson ready to campaign on GOP failure to fix Obamacare

For years, Sen. Bill Nelson has faced a steady barrage of partisan attacks over the Affordable Care Act, but as he begins the 2018 re-election campaign, the Democrat stands to benefit from a flipped script:

Republicans, who have a complete lock on Congress, failed to get rid of the law and are now on the defensive while support for Obamacare grows.

"They tried. They couldn't replace it. Then they tried, and they couldn't repeal it," Nelson told the Tampa Bay Times.

"I don't think their position is going to be very ascendant in next year's election. Exactly the opposite," he said. "I think those of us who stood up for it, and hopefully now can economically strengthen it so that it does work like it was intended. I think that is going to be the preferred position going into the election."

That posture defangs a central message of Republicans, who spent millions on anti-Obamacare ads in Nelson's 2012 election, and of Nelson's possible opponent, Gov. Rick Scott, who made several visits to Washington and said he was helping craft legislation to replace the law. …

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Republicans back Rick Scott's removal of Aramis Ayala in Kissimmee police shooting case

Ayala

[Special to the Times]

Ayala

The Kissimmee police shooting over the weekend also sparked the latest round between Gov. Rick Scott and Republicans and Orlando State Attorney Aramis Ayala.

Ayala declared earlier this year that she objected to the death penalty for a number of reasons, including that African-Americans were grossly overrepresented on death row (which PolitiFact rated Mostly True). 

Republicans objected and the dispute is now in the hands of the courts

Scott already reassigned 27 felony cases, over the objections of Ayala, on Saturday when he issued an executive order announcing that he was reassigning the case involving the Kissimmee shooting to State Attorney Brad King in Hernando. 

“Last night’s violence against our law enforcement community is reprehensible and has no place in our state. In Florida, we have zero tolerance for violence and those who attack our law enforcement. Today, I am using my executive authority to reassign this case to State Attorney Brad King to ensure the victims of last night’s attack and their families receive the justice they deserve.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi agreed.

 

 

So did Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

 

 

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Lt. Gov. Lopez-Cantera won't run for Congress

Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

Miami Herald

Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has decided not to run for Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat in Congress, though he may seek another office in 2020.

“We have decided that being a candidate in 2018 is not what’s best for our family,” Lopez-Cantera, who is married and has two young daughters, said in a statement.

He pledged to remain involved in politics and suggested he could launch a future candidacy for an unnamed position. He’s considered a possible contender to become Miami-Dade County’s next mayor.

“There is still a lot of work to be done and I will continue to look for ways to be a part of the solution,” he said. “I may run for public office again, but not in 2018.”

Instead of jumping into the race for Florida’s 27th congressional district, Lopez-Cantera said he will complete his term as lieutenant governor, which ends next year. He’s No. 2 to Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

“I will also be supporting candidates and causes that lower the cost of government on our citizens, such as the upcoming constitutional amendment for an additional homestead exemption,” said Lopez-Cantera, the former Miami-Dade property appraiser.

More here.

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