Siempre Levine – en español y inglés – y Puerto Rico

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a Democrat who is running for governor, launched a bilingual TV ad, featuring Levine’s trip to storm-torn Puerto Rico.

The ad, “Siempre,” or “Always,” — in which Levine pledges to “always be with Puerto Rico” includes grainy black-and-white footage from his visit to the island after Hurricane Maria. The ad will run for five weeks in select markets, according to a press release from his campaign.

New report puts $500 billion price tag on opioid crisis

Nearly all of the focus on the opioid crisis gripping the nation has been on the human toll, with 14 Floridians a day dying from drug-related causes and twice that number experiencing non-fatal overdoses.

But the opioid epidemic has a whopping fiscal cost as well, according to a new report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers released this morning.

The report found that previous estimates of the economic costs associated with opioids “greatly understate” the true amount because they don’t include the economic impact of fatalities.

The report found that the economic impact of the opioid crisis was more than $500 billion in 2015, a six-fold increase over previous estimates.

Over 50,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2015, and 63 percent of those deaths involved opioids, according to the report.

“The problem is worsening at an alarming pace, with opioid-involved deaths doubling in the past ten years and quadrupling in the past sixteen,” the council wrote.

The new figure quantifies the costs of opioid-related deaths by relying on the “value of a statistical life,” figures usually used when evaluating “fatality-risk reduction” benefits of policies or proposals.

The numbers in the report, however, are certain to be questioned. The use of VSL is controversial. And the council adjusted the numbers of deaths in its total to reflect the under-reporting of opioid-related deaths by 14 percent, based on a 2014 study.

The authors of the report offered an explanation for why their estimates were so much higher than prior analyses.

The council relied on VSL and included heroin-related deaths as well as prescription drug deaths. The White House report also used the upward adjustment for under-reported deaths. And the opioid problem has worsened, the authors noted.

The report was aimed at giving policymakers the “economic analysis needed to review and assess” potential solutions to the opioid epidemic, the council wrote.

“A better understanding of the economic causes contributing to the crisis is crucial for evaluating the success of various interventions to combat it,” the report reads.

And the CEA concluded by pointing the finger at drug companies for contributing to the use of street drugs by hiking prices.

“Supply-side interventions that raise the economic costs of supplying legal prescriptions of opioids may have unintended consequences depending on the extent of demand side substitution induced towards illicit opioids,”  the report concluded.


House member’s fumbled tweet

1280px-Florida_A&M_Rattlers_logo.svgTallahassee Democratic Rep. Ramon Alexander, a passionate Rattler, flagged himself for a tweet calling for the head of Florida A&M’s football team as it fell to Bethune-Cookman in Orlando on Saturday.

Alexander, a 2007 FAMU grad, tweeted Saturday: “It is extremely rare that I will make this type of public comment…. Coach Alex Wood MUST be fired immediately for the fake punt call in the 4th Quarter of the Florida Classic….and I mean Immediately.”

A day later Alexander acknowledged that he was “frustrated like thousands of other Rattlers” with the 29-24 outcome in the Florida Classic.

“I have no problem with admitting when I could have handled my personal thoughts and frustrations differently,” the freshman Democrat said in a statement issued Sunday.

“As a member of the Florida House of Representatives, I must attempt to be cognizant at all times of my significant role in the Florida Legislature,” Alexander continued. “To be very clear my reaction and personal opinions were in no way intended to directly influence the leadership of FAMU to make a specific decision about the future of Rattler Football.”

FAMU is 3-8, (2-5 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference). In three seasons, the Rattlers have an 8-24 record under Wood, including last season’s 4-7 (4-4 in conference).

It’s doubtful that Alexander’s tweet had anything to do with it, but by Monday morning, Wood was gone, according to news reports.

By Jim Turner.

Berman fires up Senate run — with wood oven

HousePhotoSized6427State Rep. Lori Berman, a Lantana Democrat, is kicking off her special election Senate campaign at an upscale pizza joint in Delray Beach in two weeks.

And everyone’s invited — just keep your “encouraged” checks under $1,000.

Berman, who is already in the contest to replace disgraced Democrat Jeff Clemens for the Palm Beach County seat, posted an invitation on Twitter Thursday announcing the Nov. 30 event at Wood & Fire in Delray Beach.

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Clemens resigned after admitting to an extramarital affair with a lobbyist, and the seat will remain vacant through the 60-day 2018 legislative session that begins Jan. 9.

Gov. Rick Scott set a special primary for Jan. 30 and the special general election for April 10.

Democrat Arthur Morrison of West Palm Beach and Lake Worth Republican Tami Donnally have also opened campaign accounts. Former Rep. Irv Slosberg, a Democrat narrowly defeated by Clemens in a spendy primary last year, is expected to run.

By Jim Turner.

EMILY’s List backs Mary Barzee Flores in CD 27

20374691_747055515505507_3902901032105913306_nEMILY’s List is backing Mary Barzee Flores in what is expected to be a heated race to replace Miami U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who’s quitting Congress after nearly three decades.

Flores, a onetime public defender and former Miami-Dade circuit judge, will face off in the Democratic primary against (among others) state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, who’s also a lawyer and who flipped a GOP seat last year after emerging victorious in a vicious contest with incumbent Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (another lawyer).

The backing of Emily’s List not only aids Flores in the fundraising arena, but could also give her a leg up with women voters, who may be more voted to support female candidates amid the national uprising about sexual harassment in the boardroom, in statehouses, in Congress, and, of course, in Hollywood.

The EMILY’s List press release, issued this morning:

“Mary Barzee Flores has built a reputation as a dogged public defender and empathetic judge in the same community she was born and where she and her husband ​are ​rais​ing​ their family. Now EMILY’s List is proud to endorse her as she seeks to bring her incredible work ethic and passion for her hometown to the halls of Congress,” EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock said in the release.

“This open seat represents an opportunity for Floridians to send a message to Washington. Working families need a representative who will fight to protect basic women’s health care services, defend against the rolling back of environmental protections, and push to reform our broken immigration system. Mary is ready for the job, and we look forward to supporting her every step of the way.”

Mary stepped up to run and to fight for the working families of Miami-Dade County after the 2016 election inspired her to be the candidate she knew her community needed. She is running for the open seat currently held by retiring incumbent Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who has represented this district since 1990 — a time during which South Florida has undergone dramatic changes. Mary is an outstanding leader running a strong grassroots campaign, and she has what it takes to flip this must-win seat.


Scott: Roy Moore needs to get out of the race. “This is about victims.”

A day ago, Gov. Rick Scott called allegations that Alabama Senatorial candidate Roy Moore had sexually molested underage girls “disgusting,” and said the firebrand Republican should drop out of the race “if the allegations are true.”

But today, Scott dropped the qualifier and said Moore needs to exit the race.

Scott was in Texas for a Republican Governors Association meeting; he’s the vice chairman of the group.

Here’s an excerpt from an Austin American-Statesman report by Jonathan Tilove:

Republican Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Scott of Florida did not hesitate for a second Wednesday when asked what Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore should do amid accusations that he was engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior with teenagers as young as 14 when he was in his 30s.

“He should get out,” said Walker, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, which is holding its annual meeting a the JW Marriott Austin Wednesday and Thursday.

“This is way above partisan politics,” said Scott, the association’s vice chairman. “This is about doing the right thing. It’s pretty clear what’s right and what’s wrong. This is not about Roy Moore. This is about victims.”

“I think about my family,” Scott said. “I have daughters and I have grandsons and when you hear these media reports, it’s disgusting. You just can’t imagine that these things are happening. Whether you are talking about what’s happening in Alabama or L.A., D.C., or the media reports coming out of my state capital.”

“He needs to do the right thing, and the right thing for the citizens of his state, and that means he gets out of the race,” Scott said.

Walker was asked whether the controversy surrounding Moore might affect gubernatorial races next year and place Republican candidates on the defensive.

“No,” Walker said. “No more than the Democrats had to answer for (former U.S. Rep.) Anthony Weiner or (former New York Gov.) Elliot Spitzer or anybody else out there,” Walker said.

“Anthony Weiner did something wrong and I didn’t say all Democrats are Anthony Weiner, that’s just a ridiculous assumption,” Walker said. “Voters in our states are smart. I think a lot of people in politics or covering politics assume that people aren’t very smart. They are. Whether they vote for us or not, I think voters are smart and they are going to want you to answer for things you are going to do as governor, not what somebody else does in some other state.”

But, Walker was asked, if Alabama voters, knowing what they know, elect Moore to the Senate, should Republicans in the Senate seek to keep him from being seated.

“I think they’ve made it pretty clear. You heard Cory Gardner the other day,” said Walker, referring to the Colorado senator, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who said Monday that if Moore is elected, the Senate should expel him.

“I think other leaders have said repeatedly they wouldn’t seat him,” Walker said.

Scott pitches Florida budget — to Congress

The day after rolling out his state spending proposal, Gov. Rick Scott — who’s widely expected to run for the U.S. Senate next year — urged Congress Wednesday to include money in the federal budget:

  • Florida agriculture in future disaster funding;
  • Speed repairs on the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee.
  • repay the state for helping displaced Puerto Ricans from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
  • reform the National Flood Insurance Program.

“Over the past two months, as Florida has responded to and now recovers from this devastating storm, we have identified critical areas in which the support of the federal government is essential to our full recovery,” Scott wrote House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell today.

The letter outlining the need for federal assistance also highlights Scott’s $21 million 2018 state budget request for the citrus industry, the $50 million he’s asking state lawmakers for the dike, and the $12 million he’s proposing to assist students that need help learning English.

Read the letter here.

By Jim Turner.