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
Sen. Marco Rubio is declining to take a position for now on the health care bill, saying he'll take time to study the effect on Florida.
From his office: “Senator Rubio will decide how to vote on health care on the basis of how it impacts Florida. He has already spoken to Governor Scott, Senate President Negron and Speaker Corcoran about the first draft of this proposal. He has instructed his staff to share with state leaders the first draft and has asked them to run numbers and provide input on how this initial proposal would impact Florida’s Medicaid program and individual insurance marketplace. He has invited them to send staff to Washington next week to help us formulate changes and amendments to this proposal. He will continue to reach out for input and suggested changes from Florida providers, insurers and patient advocate groups.”Full Story
Courtesy of Jimmy Patronis
Gov. Rick Scott's expected pick of Jimmy Patronis as the state's next Chief Financial Officer would be a solid addition to the Republican Party ticket but may not do much to smooth some rough waters developing in the Panhandle over schools, area Republicans said this week.
Patronis, a Panama City restaurateur and former state legislator who was named by Scott to the Public Service Commission, is the leading candidate to replace outgoing CFO Jeff Atwater, sources close to the governor told the Herald/Times last week.
Two others have been openly interested because they want to run as the incumbent on next year's ballot: Rep. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, and former state senator and Manatee County developer Pat Neal. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry talked to the governor about the job but, sources said, his family was not prepared to trade life in Jacksonville for Tallahassee. …Full Story
Alex Leary | Times
Reporters on Thursday wait for Republican senators to leave a briefing on the health care bill
WASHINGTON - Sen. Bill Nelson lashed out at the GOP health care plan released Thursday, deeming it "just as bad as the House bill."
"Now we know why they tried to keep this secret," Nelson said. "This bill is just as bad as the House bill, taking coverage away from millions of people and making huge cuts to Medicaid. If that weren’t enough, it also allows insurance companies to hike rates for older Americans. Fixing our nation’s health care system shouldn’t be a partisan issue. We should be working together, not plotting behind closed doors to make it worse.”
The reaction is predictable as Democrats are lockstep in opposition.Full Story
Tampa Bay Times
Budget cuts are on the way for the Dept. of Citrus
From the News Service of Florida's Jim Turner:
The Florida Department of Citrus plans to continue to squeeze its operations during the coming year as the industry struggles, though travelers will still be able to receive free orange juice at state welcome centers.
The Florida Citrus Commission, which oversees the department, approved a preliminary $17.5 million operating budget Wednesday that would feature a 22 percent spending cut, with no change to a so-called "box tax" on oranges.
The spending reductions during the 2017-2018 fiscal year would come mostly by eliminating retail-marketing efforts, which stood at $1.5 million in the current year, a $1.43 million cut to public relations and a nearly $1 million decrease to the fresh and gift fruit program.
The agency's plan includes $4.65 million from the state Legislature, down from $7.65 million in the current state budget. The proposal also includes a $250,000 contract with the tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida, similar to the current year, to continue providing orange juice to travelers at state welcome centers on Interstate 10, Interstate 75, Interstate 95 and U.S. 231. …
Alex Leary | Times
A note from Rep. Charlie Crist
WASHINGTON – A week after a gunman opened fire on a group of Republicans, Rep. Charlie Crist this morning called for the establishment of a national day of civility, saying “the need for action could not be more urgent.”
“As public officials I believe we have a responsibility to try to lead by example,” Crist said, joined at a news conference by two other freshmen representatives.
Crist displayed a yellow wristband he is sending to every member of the House and Senate, which says: “Practice the GOLDEN RULE every day!"
“Words do matter,” Crist said. “How we treat each other does matter.”
The legislation calls for the day of civility to land on July 12, a reference to Matthew 7:12.
“The great leaders of our country were great statesmen and they acted with great civility and we need to return to that principle,” said Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., who earlier this year organized freshmen members in signing a “commitment to civility.”
“We need to learn to disagree better,” added Rep. Nanette Barragan, D-Calif.Full Story
Scott Keeler | Times
Rep. Shevrin Jones.
A black state legislator says he was called a "n-----" and a "monkey" Wednesday by pro-Confederates who want Hollywood to keep three roads named after Confederate generals, including one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan.
Rep. Shevrin Jones, a West Park Democrat, tweeted Wednesday that he was also told "to go back where I came from" at a protest outside Hollywood City Hall that resulted in the arrest of five people who interrupted a commission meeting. The board was not taking up the street names.
Pro-Confederate counter-protesters apparently showed up at the rally, leading to the incident recounted by Jones.
Jones wrote that he attended to protest to take down the signs, which run through the predominantly black Hollywood neighborhood of Liberia. The demonstration was organized in part by the Black Lives Matter movement and local pastors.
Today, I got called a nigger, monkey, and told to go back to where I came from; all for asking for unity in our City. #TakeDowntheSigns
Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau
2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum speaks at a press conference in Tallahassee in May.
Criticizing President Donald Trump's administration for wanting to "turn back the clock and take essential healthcare away from women" by rolling back parts of Obamacare, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum on Thursday will propose protecting women's access to free birth control through a new state law instead.
“As governor, I'm going to stand with women and ensure that neither the government nor their employer stand between a woman and her doctor in making the critical health decisions that affect her life. This is an essential part of providing better quality care and economic security and stability to more Floridians," Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, said in a statement provided to the Herald/Times.
Enacting such a measure would require earning support from Florida's Republican-led Legislature, which would prove challenging -- particularly in the more conservative-minded House. …Full Story
Tampa Bay Times
Do you expect a Democrat to win the 2018 election for Attorney General, CFO, or Agriculture Commissioner?
For all the anger and energy apparent among Democrats in Florida since Donald Trump's election, the state's political elites so far expect 2018 to be, yet again, a strong year for Republican candidates.
Our latest Florida Insider Poll of more than 190 veterans of Florida politics finds nearly three out of four expect Republicans to win their sixth straight gubernatorial election, and also sweep the open seat races for Agriculture Commissioner, Attorney General and Chief Financial Officer.
"Any frustrations with Trump that should benefit Democrats is dwarfed by a messageless, Democrat Party in chaos. Hugely, big midterm victories ahead for Republicans," said one Republican.
The survey was taken in the aftermath of recently elected Florida Democratic Party chairman Stephen Bittel infuriating people by complaining that black legislators were acting childish and were playing the race card after a sudden program change at the party's annual fundraising dinner
Nearly 85 percent said Bittel is not a strong and effective party leader, while 56 percent said the same about Florida Republican Chairman Blaise Ingoglia. …Full Story
Steve Cannon, AP
Straight off a controversial session, House Speaker Richard Corcoran ignited his month-old political committee this week with $608,000 in contributions -- half of it in the form of generous gifts from the political committees of his two top deputies, Reps. Jose Oliva and Carlos Trujillo.
But the other generous check to the Watchdog PAC came in the form of a $100,000 contribution from Miami auto magnate Norman Braman.
The contribution of $250,000 from Oliva's political committee and the $100,000 from Trujillo's PAC, are noteworthy, but in the secret world of shape-shifting transfers between political allies in Florida, they are not all that meaningful.
The Braman gift, however, is telling as Corcoran is rumored to be using the PAC to position himself for higher office. Miami's business leaders were in a serious tizzy in late April, when it appeared that Miami Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, the House's lead negotiator on a gambling bill, presented an offer to the Senate that indicated House leadership was prepared to overcome years of resistance and agree to authorize a new gaming facility in Miami-Dade. …Full Story
Tampa Bay Times
The election is still nearly two years away, but a poll of the 2019 Tampa mayor's race this week found that a plurality of voters with an opinion liked former police chief Jane Castor more five other prospective candidates.
The automated telephone poll, commissioned by Tampa insurance executive Guy King and done by StPetePolls.org, surveyed 647 registered voters in Tampa on Monday. It had a 3.9 percent margin of error and a 95 percent confidence level.
When respondents were asked if the election were held today and were given six names to choose from, they responded:
• Jane Castor, 37.3 percent.
• Unsure, 29.1 percent.
• City Council member Mike Suarez, 9.7 percent.
• Former state Rep. Ed Narain and former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik, 7.7 percent each.
• City Council member Harry Cohen, 6.2 percent.
• Architect Mickey Jacob, 2.3 percent.
King said he commissioned the poll because, "I've seen the last few years how important having good leadership in the mayor's office is, (and) I started wondering, when our current mayor is gone, who's going to fill those shoes?" Term limits will force Mayor Bob Buckhorn to leave the office after his second term.
Read story here.Full Story