Congress

Congressional subcommittee chair: GOP take on Amendment 4 “an act of defiance”

A day after a congressional panel held a hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Democratic U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch and Alcee Hastings filed legislation to make it easier for voters to fix signature mismatches.

Even if Congress doesn’t pass the South Florida Democrats’ federal legislation, the elections changes they’re proposing will almost certainly go into effect here in the Sunshine State.

Giving voters another chance and more time to fix their mismatched VBM signatures  is one of the provisions included in a an elections package (SB 7066) on its way to Gov. Ron DeSantis. The proposal also includes the Republican-controlled Legislature’s controversial plan to carry out a constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to felons who’ve completed their sentences. Murderers and people convicted of felony sexual offenses are excluded from the “automatic” vote-restoration.

Under the provision included in the elections package, felons would have to pay all financial obligations — including restitution, fines and fees — before having their voting rights restored. Judges can waive the fees and fines, or order community service in lieu of payment.

“As this subcommittee continues to travel the country, I can think of no better place than here in Florida, a state that is no stranger to having its elections become the focus of national attention,” said U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, an Ohio Democrat who chairs the Committee on House Administrations Elections Subcommittee.

Fudge called Florida’s passage of Amendment 4, which more than 5 million voters supported, a “watershed moment for civil rights.”

Echoing other critics’ objections to the plan, the congresswoman blasted Florida lawmakers’ handling of Amendment 4, saying it amounts to a modern-day poll tax.

“They blatantly ignored the will of the Florida voters that approved the measure in a retroactive act of voter suppression. It is an act of defiance by this legislature,” she said.

Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum was among the witnesses at yesterday’s hearing, which addressed issues related to the 2018 elections, such as faulty ballot design, rejection of VBM ballots and recount litigation.

A joint press release issued by Deutch and Hastings cites a report by University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith, who found that 15 percent of vote-by-mail ballots submitted by Parkland voters aged 18 to 21 were nearly three times more likely to be rejected than those of voters in the same age group statewide.

Smith’s analysis found that 15 percent of the VBM ballots sent by the young Parkland voters were tossed. Students in Parkland launched a national voter registration effort following last year’s horrific mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School left 17 students and staff dead and another 17 people injured.

Here’s more from the South Florida Dems’ press release:

The “Protecting American Votes Act” will require elections officials to make two attempts to notify voters when their ballots are rejected based on a signature mismatch—by mail in addition to either text, phone, or e-mail. It will also require states to provide at least ten days from the date of notice to cure the mismatch to verify their identity and ensure their vote is counted. Officials who review signatures will also be required to participate in formal training and provide a report to Congress detailing the number of ballots that are rejected and description of the notification and cure process the state uses to protect voters. These reforms reflect several of the changes the Florida legislature included in SB 7066 to reform its election laws.

 

 

 

Bigger, better, stronger? Panama City officials plead for aid

Months after Hurricane Michael ravaged the Florida Panhandle, Panama City officials are calling out both state lawmakers and Congress to adequately fund disaster relief.

The appeal comes in a two-and-a-half-minute video that highlights successful recovery efforts while expressing the agonizing wait for assistance that has stretched to 200 days.

The storm that crippled Bay County left behind 31million cubic yards of debris, or 12 million truckloads, created a housing crisis and displaced thousands of students, Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki explains as he takes viewers on a tour of his community.

“We know that we need help from Tallahassee and Washington,” Brudnicki says as he wraps up the video. “With your help we can rebuild Panama City bigger, better and stronger. Thank you.”

Brudnicki and City Manager Mark McQueen are off Monday to D.C. for several days of meetings with members of Congress and various federal agencies.

By Jim Turner.

Gaetz takes on Cuomo after going viral over Parkland exchange with Parkland dad

After making international news for scolding the parents of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teens who were among the 17 students and faculty gunned down a year ago, Congressman Matt Gaetz spent nearly 11 minutes in a verbal slugfest with CNN’s Chris Cuomo last night.

Gaetz, a Panhandle Republican who is one of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ top advisors, made national news after a heated exchange with Manuel Oliver, whose 17-year-old son, Joaquin (Guac) Oliver, was among the 14 slain students killed at the Parkland school a year ago.

The confrontation between the former Florida House representative and the grieving dad came during a congressional hearing on gun violence. Oliver repeatedly yelled out when Gaetz, a fierce ally of President Donald Trump, brought up The Wall as a critical solution to the issue. Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter, Jaime, was also among the victims and who was sitting next to Oliver, also loudly objected to Gaetz’s take.

Video of Gaetz pointing his finger at Oliver and Guttenberg, and questioning whether  the men should be booted from the committee went viral.

Last night, Gaetz — a strong NRA proponent — told Cuomo he “wasn’t trying to get Mr. Oliver thrown out” of the committee.

Gaetz said he was concerned for a woman who was “violently raped in a gun-free zone” who was seated in front of Oliver.

“He didn’t mean to intimidate her, but they did,” Gaetz said.

When pressed by Cuomo about why he brought up illegal immigration during a debate about gun violence, Gaetz said he “wanted to highlight the fact that there are victims of gun violence who would be in a better position today” with a wall across the southern U.S. border.

“I did not want to throw the guy out,” he said. “A wall will mean fewer people will die at the hands of illegal aliens.”

Oliver later told CNN he found Gaetz’s remarks at the committee hearing, at which universal background check legislation was discussed, was “pretty offensive.”

“No. 1, I don’t think you’re qualified for this. No. 2, you’re asking us to waste time. You are wasting time from us really to go ahead and solve the problem,” Oliver said. “If this is how this is going to work, I have to stop this guy. I have to let the nation know he’s wrong.”

Watch Oliver on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.

Scott on “ridiculous” government shutdown: I’m going to work hard!

img_1400Orlando’s Spectrum News13 caught up with U.S. Sen. Rick Scott during his first days in the nation’s capitol.

Scott, a Republican who ousted long-serving Democrat Bill Nelson, joined the Senate in the midst of a government shutdown that’s deepened an already seismic partisan divide.

The former Florida governor called the shutdown, which has affected roughly 800,000 federal workers and contractors, “ridiculous.”

“We shouldn’t be shutting down government. … We’ve got to figure out how to bring people together,” said Scott, words that might not reflect the thoughts of his close pal, President Donald Trump.

As he did while he was governor, the uber-wealthy Scott said he’ll forgo the $174,000 government salary.

“I’m going to work hard. I’m going to work on building relationships and I’m going to take the time to learn the issues and how to get things done,” Scott said.

Watch the video here.

 

 

Watch yourself! Deutch now Ethics Committee chairman

deutch betterU.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Democrat from Palm Beach County, will take over as chairman of the House Ethics Committee, now that the Dems have retaken the House.

Deutch, a lawyer, had previously served as the ranking member on the committee, which is charged with interpreting and enforcing the House’s ethics rules.

Here’s what Deutch had to say in a press release, following his election to the leadership post:

I am honored to be selected by my colleagues to lead the House Ethics Committee. As Members of Congress, we must hold ourselves to the high ethical standard that our constituents expect from us. Ethics in government and the integrity of our nation’s elected officials remain of great concern of the public – and rightly so. This bipartisan committee and its nonpartisan professional staff will continue its record of keeping Congress honest, protecting Congressional employee rights, and strengthening the American people’s trust in the people’s House. In addition, in the last Congress our Committee worked with other Members to pass important bipartisan reforms to the Congressional Accountability Act. I look forward to building upon that work to ensure that all legislative branch employees can work in a safe and respectful workplace.

Mass. peeps raise dough for Gillum

A trio of Massachusetts mayors hosted a who’s who of rising Democratic stars at a fundraiser for Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, the Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate who’s facing off against President Donald Trump acolyte Ron DeSantis, in Boston last night.

Guest of honor Gillum was a no-show, due to flight delays, according to Gillum’s campaign staff.

But, judging from the photos, the candidate’s absence didn’t seem to curb the enthusiasm of his supporters.

The event at the UMass Club was hosted by Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer, an African-American educator who made history last year by becoming the city’s first mayor, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera.

Screenshot_2018-10-03 Mayor Yvonne M Spicer ( Mayor_Spicer) Twitter

Yep, that’s lawyer Angela Rye, the political diva and CNN commentator, with Spicer. Rye was one of about 100 attendeees who showed up to help Gillum make his own history as Florida’s first black governor.

“Florida needs Andrew Gillum. Florida deserves Andrew Gillum. We are at a crossroads in our country. One road leads to chaos and division and the other leads to unity and growth for all. Mayor Gillum has shown excellent leadership skills as a voice for the citizens of Tallahassee. He has stood firm on education, gun control and climate change and his discussions that have led to “Ban the Box”, are just some of the work and policies that are a brand for Mayor Gillum. He’s a creative leader with a heart for the people of Florida. We support him here in Massachusetts and encourage Floridians to not only come out to vote but to vote for Andrew Gillum,” Mayor Spicer told Truth or Dara when we asked about the last night’s event.

Also on-scene was Ayanna Pressley (shown to the left of Spicer in the bottom-left photo), the Boston city councilor who made national news by toppling veteran Congressman Mike Capuano, who’s held the seat for two decades, in the September primary.

Pressley focused on minority and youth voters, a strategy that helped boost Gillum to victory in Florida’s crowded Democratic primary in August.

Dueling Dems go after Trump, cigar-toting Republicans in latest ads

Democrats Gwen Graham and Jeff Greene launched new TV ads this week, as time runs out before voters start casting ballots in the Aug. 28 primary.

Greene, the Palm Beach billionaire who lives next door to President Donald Trump, takes aim at his neighbor in one of two ads totaling a $2.7 million weeklong buy, according to Greene’s camp.

Or rather, Trump is the one taking aim in the ads — with his golf club.

The spot features the president swinging away on the golf course, and complains that “Florida taxpayers are paying for it — literally ” every time Trump visits the Sunshine State. The presidential drop-ins cost millions in overtime and road closures, according to the ad, in which Greene pledges “to put a stop to that, day one” if elected governor.

A second Greene ad’s more upbeat, and stars the candidate, his wife and his three young sons — Malcolm, Brandon and Cameron — he says are the reason he’s in the race to succeed outgoing Gov. Rick Scott.

Greene is a late entry into the crowded Democratic field, but he’s pledged to spend what it takes to move into the govenror’s mansion.

In her latest ad, Graham — who ousted former U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland in 2014 and served a term in Congress before deciding to seek re-election after her North Florida district was redrawn — continued what appears to be a general-election strategy by going after Republicans.

“It has been really bad for Florida that, for twenty years, the Republican Party has been in total control. It’s these high-paid lobbyists that are in charge in Tallahassee,” Graham says while black-and-white images of GOP legislators posing with cigars on the floor of the state House flash on the screen.

Graham and Greene are facing off in the primary against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando entrepreneur Chris King.