This Week In Tallahassee


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Rep. David Richardson 


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Rep. Jared Moskowitz
Gov. Rick Scott penned an op-ed calling out members of the Florida House for their decision to support a bill (HB 7005) to eliminate Enterprise Florida, Visit Florida and a slew of other economic incentive programs. It came hours after several members said just because they vote in favor of a bill in committee does not mean they “support the bill wholeheartedly.” But the bill may already be changing. Rep. Paul Renner, the bill’s sponsor, filed an amendment that would keep Visit Florida, but slash its budget and provide for additional legislative oversight. Additionally, Rep. Joe Gruters, the only Republican to vote against the bill, filed legislation (HB 889) that calls for more transparency from the economic development and tourism marketing agencies.

Senate Democrats want Scott to declare a public health emergency over the growing opioid epidemic in the state. Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon sent the governor a letter urging him to issue an emergency declaration, noting the number of heroin deaths in Florida nearly 80 percent from 2014 to 2015.

While Florida lawmakers are in the midst of discussingdeath penalty, the court ruled Monday that prosecutors can continue to seek it in ongoing cases. The court ruled the death penalty can be applied as long as there is a unanimous jury recommendation.

Nursing homes are vowing to kill an effort to repeal a requirement that they demonstrate a demand for new beds before they can expand or build new facilities. It’s a top priority for the Florida Health Care Association, which held a roundtable discussion to highlight its legislative priorities ahead of the 2017 Legislative Session.

And finally: A trio of Florida House members are taking a stand against animal cruelty, filing a bill to prevent animals from being sold or adopted by people who have been convicted of animal abuse. The bill was filed by South Florida Democrats Jared Moskowitz and David Richardson, and Spring Hill Republican Blaise Ingoglia.

Florida HB-17 Would Nullify LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinances

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A bill (HB 17) that would repeal a range of local policies, including LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinances, is being fast-tracked through the Florida House. 

If passed, HB 17 would set an expiration date for existing Human Rights Ordinances that now protect 60% of Floridians in employment, housing, and public accommodations, and would prohibit any future ordinances from becoming law. It would even prevent the Jacksonville City Council from implementing the HRO they just passed after years of advocacy! 


Just last year, the entire country watched as North Carolina paid the price for fast-tracking House Bill 2, a deeply discriminatory bill that repealed local protections for LGBTQ people and other important local policies. 

Wasserman Schultz Condemn Reports of an Executive Order that would Permit Discriminatory Religious Exemptions


Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) and 20 Jewish House Members of Congress wrote President Trump today urging him not to exempt any federally funded, faith-based organizations from current nondiscrimination protections. Wasserman Schultz and the Members sent the letter after press reports indicated that Trump would issue an Executive Order that would allow federally funded groups to discriminate based on religious objections. Wasserman Schultz and organizations supportive of the letter issued the following statements:

“The use of religious faith as a tool to discriminate contradicts a core American value, and the principles of social justice and equality so central to our Jewish faith,” Wasserman Schultz said. “The ability to worship and believe in accordance with one’s faith is a cherished freedom, but it does not override the rights of other Americans to live their truth, to receive necessary health care services, or seek employment. There should be no policy, carve-out, or exemption that would enable federally funded religious organizations to discriminate against others.”

The letter is endorsed by several leading religious and civil and human rights groups, including: American Jewish World Service (AJWS), Anti-Defamation Laegue, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, the Human Rights Campaign, Keshet, National Council of Jewish Women, T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.

“President Trump’s draft executive order is a sweeping departure from decades of precedent to create a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people using taxpayer money,” said David Stacy, the Government Affairs Director at the Human Rights Campaign.  “People of faith across the country agree that religious discrimination has no place in our federal government, and we applaud the leadership of Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz and the other Members signing this letter for speaking out against this harmful proposal.”

"Keshet is proud to stand with Jewish members of Congress -- and people of conscience everywhere -- in condemning any restrictions on civil and human rights in the name of religious freedom,” said Idit Klein, Executive Director of Keshet. “We believe that using religion to justify discrimination is antithetical to the core values of every faith tradition, including Judaism. As Jews, we act for the dignity and respect of all people not despite our religious tradition but because of it."

“As an American Jewish organization which provides aid to Christians, Muslims, Hindus and others in 19 of the poorest countries in the world, we are gravely concerned about any executive order or policy that would result in the U.S. government endorsing any one religion’s values, imposing them on others and allowing them to justify, even unintentionally, discrimination,” said Robert Bank, president and CEO of American Jewish World Service.

Among the Representatives who signed the letter to President Trump: David N. Cicilline, Jacky Rosen, Jerrold Nadler, Bradley S. Schneider, Steve Cohen, Theodore E. Deutch, Sander M. Levin, Susan Davis, Jan Schakowsky, Alan Lowenthal, Jamie Raskin, Josh Gottheimer, John Yarmuth, Nita M. Lowey, Suzanne Bonamici, Jared Polis, Lois Frankel, Eliot L. Engel, Brad Sherman and Adam B. Schiff.

Wasserman Schultz on Trump's EPA Pick Scott Pruitt



 Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) issued the following statement on Scott Pruitt, President Trump's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency:

"It's hard to imagine a more destructive pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency than Scott Pruitt, a climate science doubter who sued the agency he's cynically being asked to lead more than a dozen times. Any Republican Senator who votes for Pruitt is basically handing matches to an arsonist. Sea levels are already encroaching on Florida's coasts, forcing local taxpayers to spend millions of dollars to fend off a problem that will only get worse under Pruitt. The EPA desperately needs a leader who wants to protect our water, land and air -- not a pollution apologist who will try to destroy it."

Trump/Russia timeline




Investigative reporters have begun to flesh out the Trump/Russia timeline. To keep everything in one location, here’s an updated summary (so far):
  • Trump’s efforts to develop business in Russia date to 1987. In 1996, he applied for his trademark in that country. Discussing ambitions for a Trump hotel in 2007, he declared ,”We will be in Moscow at some point.”
  • Oct. 15, 2007, Trump said: “Look at Putin — what he’s doing with Russia — I mean, you know, what’s going on over there. I mean this guy has done — whether you like him or don’t like him — he’s doing a great job.”
  • September 2008Donald Trump Jr. said: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets… we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
  • June 18, 2013, Trump tweeted: “Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow — if so, will he become my new best friend?” While at the pageant, Trump said, “I have plans for the establishment of business in Russia. Now, I am in talks with several Russian companies to establish this skyscraper.”
  • Nov. 11, 2013, Trump tweeted: “TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next.”
  • November 2013, Trump said: “[Putin’s] done a very brilliant job in terms of what he represents and who he’s represented.”
  • March 6, 2014, Trump said: “You know, I was in Moscow a couple of months ago. I own the Miss Universe Pageant and they treated me so great. Putin even sent me a present, a beautiful present.”
  • Sept. 15, 2015, Trump told Bill O’Reilly: “I will tell you in terms of leadership he [Putin] is getting an ‘A,’ and our president is not doing so well.”
  • Nov. 10, 2015, Trump said: “I got to know [Putin] very well because we were both on 60 Minutes. We were stablemates, and we did very well that night.”
  • Dec. 10, 2015: Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who would become Trump’s national security adviser, sat at Putin’s table for the 10th anniversary gala of Russia’s state-owned television propaganda network, RT. Flynn had made a paid appearance on the network.
  • Feb. 17, 2016: As questions about Russia swirled around Trump, he changed his story: “I have no relationship with [Putin], other than he called me a genius.”
  • April 20, 2016: Paul Manafort became Trump’s campaign manager. Reports surfaced about his 2007 to 2012 ties to Ukraine’s pro-Putin former president, whom Manafort had helped to elect.
  • July 18, 2016: The Washington Post reported that the Trump campaign worked behind the scenes on a Republican Convention platform plank. It gutted the GOP’s longstanding support for Ukrainians’ popular resistance to Russia’s 2014 intervention.
  • July 27, 2016, Trump said: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” At the same press conference, he insisted: “I never met Putin. I’ve never spoken to him.”
  • July 31, 2016: Manafort denied knowing anything about the change in the Republican platform. That afternoon, Boris Epshteyn, Trump’s Russian-born adviser, spouted the Kremlin’s party line telling CNN: “Russia did not seize Crimea. We can talk about the conflict that happened between Ukraine and the Crimea… But there was no seizure by Russia. That’s an incorrect statement, characterization, of what happened.”
  • Aug. 6, 2016: NPR confirmed the Trump campaign’s involvement in the Republican platform change on Ukraine.
  • Aug. 19, 2016: As reports of Manafort’s financial connections to Ukraine intensified, he resigned from the Trump campaign.
  • Oct. 1, 2016: Six days before Wikileaks released its first batch of DNC emails that the Russians had hacked, Trump’s informal adviser and surrogate, Roger Stone tweeted: “Wednesday@HillaryClinton is done. #Wikileaks.”
  • Oct. 4, 2016: Trump tweeted: “CLINTON’S CLOSE TIES TO PUTIN DESERVE SCRUTINY.”
  • Oct. 12, 2016: Roger Stone told NBC News, “I have back-channel communications with WikiLeaks.”
  • Nov. 9, 2016: After Putin announced Trump’s election victory, Russia’s Parliament erupted in applause.
  • Nov. 10, 2016: Russia’s deputy foreign minister admitted that during the campaign, the Kremlin had continuing communications with Trump’s “immediate entourage.”
  • Dec. 13, 2016: NBC News’ Richard Engel reports from Moscow on Trump’s secretary of state pick, Rex Tillerson. Former Russian Energy Minister Vladimir Milov told Engel that Tillerson was a “gift for Putin.”
  • Dec. 29, 2016: On the same day that President Obama announced Russian sanctions for its interference with the 2016 election, national security adviser-designate Lt. Gen. Flynn placed five phone calls to the Russian ambassador.
  • Dec. 30, 2016: After Putin made a surprise announcement that Russia would not retaliate for the new sanctions, Trump tweeted, “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) — I always knew he was very smart.”
  • Jan. 11, 2017: the final question of Trump’s first news conference came from Ann Compton of ABC News: 
    “Mr. President-elect, can you stand here today, once and for all, and say that no one connected to you or your campaign had any contact with Russia leading up to or during the presidential campaign?”
    Trump never answered her. Away from cameras and heading toward the elevators, he reportedly said, “No,” his team didn’t have contact with Russia.
 
The Flynn Affair
  • Jan. 13, 2017: In response to The Washington Post’s article about Flynn’s Dec. 29 conversations with the Russian ambassador, press secretary Sean Spicer said it was only one call. They “exchanged logistical information” for an upcoming call between Trump and Vladimir Putin after the inauguration.
  • Jan. 15, 2017: “We should trust Putin,” Trump told The Times of London. Expressing once again his skepticism about NATO, Trump lambasted Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.
  • Jan. 15, 2017: Appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation, Vice President Pence said Flynn’s call to the Russian ambassador on the same day President Obama announced new sanctions was “strictly coincidental:” “They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure on Russia…. What I can confirm, having to spoken with [Flynn] about it, is that those conversations that happened to occur around the time that the United States took action to expel diplomats had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions.”
  • Jan. 23, 2017: At Sean Spicer’s first press briefing, he said none of Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador touched on the Dec. 29 sanctions. That got the attention of FBI Director James Comey. According to the Wall Street Journal, Comey convinced acting Attorney General Sally Yates to delay informing the White House immediately about the discrepancy between Spicer’s characterization of Flynn’s calls and US intelligence intercepts showing that the two had, in fact, discussed sanctions. Comey asked Yates wait a bit longer so the FBI could to develop more information, including an interview of Flynn that occurred shortly thereafter.
  • Jan. 26, 2017: Acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed White House counsel Don McGahn that Flynn had made misleading statements about his late December conversations with the Russian ambassador. Sean Spicer later said Trump and a small group of White House advisers were “immediately informed of the situation.”
  • Feb. 8, 2017: Flynn told reporters at The Washington Post that he did not discuss US sanctions in his December conversation with the Russian ambassador.
  • Feb. 9, 2017: Through a spokesman, Flynn changed his position: “While [Flynn] had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”
  • Feb. 10, 2017: Trump told reporters he was unaware of reports surrounding Flynn’s December conversations with the Russian ambassador.
  • Feb. 13, 2017The Washington Post broke another story: Then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates had warned the White House in late January that Flynn had mischaracterized his December conversation with the Russian ambassador, and that it made him vulnerable to Russian blackmail. Later that evening, Flynn resigned.
  • Feb. 14, 2017The New York Times corroborated the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister’s admission on Nov. 10. Based on information from four current and former American officials, The Times reported, “Members of the Trump campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior intelligence officials in the year before the election.”
 
Keep Sending the Message
In response to the latest controversy surrounding Mike Flynn and Russia, Trump tweeted a Valentine’s Day diversion: “The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?”
No, the real story is the question Trump ducked on Jan. 11: What contact did Trump or anyone on his team have with Russia before the US election?
Stay on message. Tell Republicans in Congress that American democracy requires an answer — under oath — to Ann Compton’s Jan. 11, 2017 question: “Mr. President-elect, can you stand here today, once and for all, and say that no one connected to you or your campaign had any contact with Russia leading up to or during the presidential campaign?”
Putin knows the answer. So does the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, who said in November that the Kremlin had maintained continuing communications with Trump’s “immediate entourage” prior to the election. So do any campaign members and other Trump associates who, according to The New York Times, had “repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.”
But the American people don’t, and that asymmetry of information could give Putin the power to blackmail the country’s leaders. On Jan. 7, Sen. Lindsey Graham urged an investigation “wherever it leads.” A few Republicans want the Senate Intelligence Committee to add the Flynn affair in its ongoing inquiry — but they’re offering too little, too late. At this point, a credible investigation requires the approach that Sen. John McCain initially proposed: a bipartisan commission with subpoena power. American democracy can no longer trust Senate Republicans to run this show. Nor can hearings be conducted secretly.
Congress must authorize a special independent 9/11-type commission. Step 2 of The Trump Resistance Plan has contact information and language for messages to Republicans and Democrats in Congress. Call, write, email, march and win.


Source billmoyers.com

Paul Ryan: Portrait in Courage

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Samantha Bee used Wednesday night’s Full Frontal to give Paul Ryan a very sarcastic profile about how the House Speaker went from being the “conscience of the Republican party” to an obedient enabler for President Donald Trump.





Judiciary Cmte. Adopts Deutch's Amendment to Defend Independence of Office of Government Ethics


The House Judiciary Committee adopted an amendment introduced by Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22) to ensure that the committee will defend the independent operations of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE).

Deutch's amendment to the Committee's plan for oversight ensures that the Judiciary Committee will not just "consider the priorities and operation" of the office, but will also "investigate any threat to the independence or efficacy" of OGE. 

As senior member of the Judiciary Committee and the Ranking Member of the House Ethics Committee, Congressman Deutch issued this statement following the adoption of his amendment:

"From the President's failure to fully divest himself from his businesses, to his adviser's free commercial for a Trump family clothing line, President Trump has already made the Office of Government Ethics one of the most important agencies we have. It is imperative that we have an independent government ethics office shielded from political whims that will keep our government transparent and free of conflicts of interest. While the President and certain House Republican leaders have disparaged this independent agency and challenged its crucial work, I am thankful that my colleagues on the Committee agree that it is the responsibility of the Judiciary Committee to ensure that OGE can operate without fear of political attacks."

Rep. Deutch's Statement Following Meeting between PM Netanyahu and Pres. Trump


Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, released the following statement following the joint press conference between President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu:

"I am pleased to see the commitment from President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu to continue to crack down on Iran for its dangerous support of terrorism and illegal ballistic missile tests. These hostile activities, which are well outside the scope of the nuclear deal, must be met with tough sanctions. 

"President Trump made clear today that a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians can only come through direct negotiations, and he is correct. The goal of this process must continue to be two states for two peoples living side by side in peace and security – a Jewish democratic state of Israel and a demilitarized Palestinian state.

"Finally, I am appalled that when asked about the rise in anti-Semitic attacks in this country, President Trump responded by recounting his vote count in the Electoral College. The President not only refused to directly condemn anti-Semitism, but he couldn’t even bring himself to utter the word 'anti-Semitism.' This continues an alarming trend in this White House, following the refusal to acknowledge that Hitler’s Final Solution was aimed at wiping Jews from the face of the earth, and the complete omission on a list of terror attacks of any acts of terrorism in Israel."

Rick Scott announced the appointments of Fabienne E. Fahnestock and Yael Gamm to the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court.

 Governor Rick Scott announced the appointments of Fabienne E. Fahnestock and Yael Gamm to the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court.
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Fahnestock, 43, of Parkland, has served as a shareholder at Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart, 
P.A., since 2007. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami, her master’s degree from Nova Southeastern University, and her law degree from the University of Florida. Fahnestock fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Thomas M. Lynch, IV.





Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standingGamm, 40, of Plantation, has served as an Assistant State Attorney for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office since 2010. She received her bachelor’s degree from Florida State University, and her law degree from Nova Southeastern University. Gamm fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Arthur M. Birken.