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Today: Carl Domino, 70, interrupts congressional campaign to receive law degree

by George Bennett | May 10th, 2014

Former state Rep. Carl Domino, investment manager and congressional candidate, will get law degree from Nova Southeastern University today. (THOMAS CORDY/PALM BEACH POST)

At an age when many of his peers are in or nearing retirement, 70-year-old former state Rep. Carl Domino will join a crop of millennials today to receive a law degree from Nova Southeastern University.

Domino plans to take the bar exam this summer and then contend in the highly competitive job market — not for an entry-level post at a law firm, but for a seat in Congress.

He’s one of six Republicans running in the Aug. 26 GOP primary for the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast seat of Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter. If the election doesn’t pan out, Jupiter resident Domino will still run an investment management firm that handles nearly $300 million in assets.

Domino said he spent three years and about $120,000 pursuing his juris doctorate so he could better understand how legislation works and because he enjoys learning new things.

“I think if you keep trying to learn stuff, and I’ve always been a big reader, it just helps your mental acuity,” Domino said this week.

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Murphy one of only seven House Democrats to vote for special Benghazi committee

by George Bennett | May 8th, 2014

Five days after the terrorist attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi, then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice repeats talking points blaming spontaneous reaction to a “hateful video.”

Freshman U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, was one of only seven Democrats in the House to vote tonight in favor of creating a select committee to investigate the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans.

The final vote was 232-to-186, with Republicans voting 225-0 for the committee and Democrats voting 186-7 against.

Murphy spokeswoman Erin Moffet Hale released this statement:

“While the congressman respects the work his colleagues have done already investigating this matter, when it comes to American lives lost overseas in service to our nation, we must make sure that all questions have been answered. He sincerely hopes that this committee is not used as a way to politicize this tragedy and the deaths of four Americans.”

Jim Davis, slammed by Crist in 2006 for Cuba visit, says Crist ‘will learn a lot’ if he goes

by George Bennett | May 8th, 2014

2006 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jim Davis, who lost to then-Republican Charlie Crist

When he was a Republican running for governor in 2006, Charlie Crist accused Democratic rival Jim Davis of “poor judgment” for visiting Cuba three years earlier.


A Crist ad said Davis “met with terrorists” because as a member of Congress he met with members of the Cuban government (though not Fidel Castro himself) and also met with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat.

Now a Democrat and no longer a supporter of the U.S. embargo against Cuba, Crist has said he might visit Cuba himself this year.

Davis was asked today if he sees any inconsistency in Crist visiting the communist island after bashing Davis for doing so.

“I don’t want to be a Republican Party of Florida tweet today,” Davis said. He said he gained valuable information by seeing conditions in Cuba firsthand and “talking to people, particularly regular people” while he was there.

“In campaigns these days, everything gets thrown at you, including the kitchen sink. That’s what happened to me and it’s even worse now,” Davis said. “I think if Charlie Crist goes to Cuba he will learn a lot. I did.”

Murphy 1 of 7 Dems to get U.S. Chamber award; 1 of 6 voting to hold IRS official in contempt

by George Bennett | May 8th, 2014

Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter

Freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, will make a pair of appearances Monday with a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official to highlight the pro-business group’s “Spirit of Enterprise” award, which goes to members of Congress who supported the Chamber’s agenda on at least 70 percent of votes in 2013.

The Chamber is handing out 206 of the awards in the House — but only seven to Democrats.

Murphy and the Chamber’s Moore Hallmark will appear at a Northern Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce breakfast and a Martin County Council of Chambers of Commerce lunch on Monday. Murphy voted with the Chamber’s position on 10 of 13 selected votes in 2013 for a 77 percent score. The three other members of Palm Beach County’s House delegation — Democratic Reps. Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel and Alcee Hastings — each got 31 percent scores.

Murphy often highlights votes in which he joins Republicans since he represents a Palm Beach-Treasure Coast district that has a slight Republican tilt and voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. Six Republicans are competing for the right to challenge him in November.

On Wednesday, Murphy was one of only six Democrats to join 225 Republicans in a vote to hold former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions about her role in delaying applications from conservative groups for tax-exempt status.

Murphy then was one of 26 Democrats to vote for a resolution calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special counsel to investigate IRS targeting of conservative groups.

Scott says Crist will be Castro ‘puppet’ if he visits Cuba

by George Bennett | May 7th, 2014

Gov. Rick Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera campaigning today in Greenacres.

GREENACRES — Gov. Rick Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera blasted Democrat Charlie Crist for considering a trip to Cuba this summer.

“It’s sort of laughable. He’s going to go down there and help promote the Castro regime,” Scott told reporters after a campaign appearance at AutoNation Chevrolet to promote cuts in motor vehicle fees and other taxes.

“He’s just going to be a puppet for the Castro regime and every dollar he spends down there is going to help them oppress their people,” Scott said.

Crist’s interest in visiting the communist island was first reported by The Tampa Bay Times.

“The embargo has done nothing in fifty years to change the regime in Cuba or end the suffering of the Cuban people,” Crist campaign spokesman Kevin Cate said. “Gov. Crist is exploring every opportunity to help bring economic freedom and democracy to the people of Cuba.”

Lopez-Cantera said his family “lost everything” after Castro came to power and his grandmother’s brothers were imprisoned by Castro.

“Charlie’s been a Republican and an independent and a Democrat,” Lopez-Cantera said. “I don’t know, maybe he’s going down there to explore becoming a communist.”

Charlie Crist says ‘I’ll just go there,’ plays race card again in explaining party switch

by George Bennett | May 7th, 2014

Crist: GOP treatment of "the African-American president" was "a big reason" he left party.

Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat Charlie Crist denied he left the GOP because he was trailing Marco Rubio in a 2010 Senate primary and said “a big reason” he bolted was the way some Republicans treated “the African-American president.”

Crist’s remarks in an interview with Fusion TV’s Jorge Ramos echo his claims to Stephen Colbert in February that his infamous Fort Myers stimulus hug of President Barack Obama angered GOP activists in part because Obama “was a Democrat, but not just a Democrat, an African-American.”

Then-Republican Crist was initially the frontrunner for the party’s 2010 Senate nomination, but fell far behind Rubio and left the party to become an independent in 2010. He became a Democrat in December 2012.

“You left the Republican Party because you were going to lose to Marco Rubio,” Ramos said.

Crist said he left because the party’s leadership “went off the cliff” and “I couldn’t be consistent with myself and my core beliefs, and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African-American president, I’ll just go there.”

He referred again to “the African-American president” and said the way “some” in the party treated Obama was “a big reason” he left the GOP.

RNC spokesman Izzy Santa responded to Crist’s remarks in an e-mail to Fusion: “Being a flip-flopper is bad enough, but playing the race card to win over voters is pitiful.”

Frankel says new Benghazi investigation ‘is about Hillary Clinton running for president’

by George Bennett | May 6th, 2014

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach.

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, says she’s “troubled” by a newly surfaced White House e-mail from 2012 on the infamous Benghazi talking points, but she said 2016 presidential politics are behind the latest Republican calls for a House select committee investigation.

Asked if Democrats should participate in the hearings, Frankel’s office pointed to her interview with a local TV station.

“This is about Hillary Clinton running for president and the Republicans just trying to stop her,” Frankel told local CBS 12 News. Clinton was secretary of state when the attack occurred.

Republican calls for a Benghazi probe have intensified since the recent release of an e-mail by Ben Rhodes, at the time a deputy national security adviser, coaching then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice before a series of Sunday talk show appearances to “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”

Said Frankel: “I’m troubled by that e-mail but the email is not really a smoking gun. I think the e-mail sort of backed up what the administration was saying and I think what’s important is keeping our diplomats safe in the future.”

New Benghazi probe? Dem Murphy ‘respects the work his colleagues have done already’

by George Bennett | May 6th, 2014

Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter.

With House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announcing he’ll create a House select committee to investigate the deadly 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, the Obama administration and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., haven’t been clear on whether Democrats will participate.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday the administration cooperates with “legitimate” congressional oversight, but wouldn’t say if he considers the Benghazi committee legitimate. Pelosi today called for the panel to be split evenly between Republicans and Democrats. Evenly divided committees are rare on Capitol Hill and Pelosi’s demand could be seen as laying the groundwork for Democrats to boycott the panel if Republicans don’t agree.

Erin Moffet Hale, a spokeswoman for freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, gave this answer when asked via e-mail if Murphy believes Democrats should participate:

“The Congressman respects the work his colleagues have done already investigating this matter in the Oversight and several other House Committees. He believes that Congress’ main concern needs to be focused on improving safety so that an attack like this doesn’t happen again.”

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, characterized the investigation as being aimed at potential 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the attack.

The offices of the three other members of Palm Beach County’s House delegation — Democratic Reps. Ted Deutch and Alcee Hastings — did not immediately respond to e-mailed questions about the Benghazi panel.

Republican calls for a Benghazi probe have intensified since the recent release of an e-mail by Ben Rhodes, at the time a deputy national security adviser, coaching then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice before a series of Sunday talk show appearances to “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”

Release of inmate Jim Greer’s ‘Shakespearean’ tell-all might be delayed until his own release in July

by George Bennett | May 5th, 2014

Former Republican Party of Florida chairman Jim Greer's Department of Corrections photo

A tell-all book about former Republican Party of Florida Chairman and Charlie Crist friend Jim Greer‘s plunge from political power to incarceration might be delayed five weeks to coincide with Greer’s July release from custody on grand theft and money-laundering charges.

Authored by Peter Golenbock and published by NewSouth Books, The Chairman: The Rise and Betrayal of Jim Greer, is billed on Amazon as nothing less than “a Shakespearean tale of friendship and betrayal to rival Hamlet.”

The book — which appears likely to take shots at Crist, Sen. Marco Rubio, former Attorney Gen. Bill McCollum and the tea party movement — has been scheduled for June 1 release.

But NewSouth publisher Suzanne La Rosa said the date might be pushed back to July 7. She mentioned possible “safety concerns” for Greer, who is scheduled for release from the Bridges of Orlando work-release facility on July 5.

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Medical marijuana gets 88% support in new Florida poll; 53% back ‘personal use’ of pot

by George Bennett | May 5th, 2014

Nearly 9 out of 10 Florida voters say adults should be allowed to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if their doctor prescribes it, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.

An amendment to the Florida constitution to legalize medical marijuana goes before voters in November and needs 60 percent support to pass. The Quinnipiac poll didn’t specifically ask about the ballot question, but found 88 percent support for permitting medical marijuana. That’s up from 82 percent support in November.

The same poll found 53 percent support for “allowing adults in Florida to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use,” with 42 percent opposed. Voters were more evenly divided in November, with 48 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed.

Asked if they’ve ever tried marijuana, 45 percent of Florida voters say they have and 54 percent say they have not. The age group with the highest percentage of reported marijuana use was 50-to-64-year-olds, with 62 percent saying they have tried pot.

Does GOP help Scott’s re-elect by adding new pages to playbook? (w/vid of session’s last night)

by John Kennedy | May 4th, 2014

After years of budget-cutting and strict social policies, Florida’s ruling Republicans worked to soften some edges during the just-completed legislative session with steps that appear designed to bolster Gov. Rick Scott for a bruising re-election battle.

The $77.1 billion state budget approved by lawmakers late Friday is the largest in state history, filled with increased dollars for schools and environmental programs, and chocked with hometown spending on social services, museums, theaters and local government projects.

Full story here:

Record big budget could make big target for election-year Scott

by John Kennedy | May 3rd, 2014

The Florida Legislature approved a strain of medical marijuana, in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants and the last piece of a $500 million package of tax-and-fee cuts Friday as it skidded toward the finish line of the 2014 session.

Following a frenzied last day of deal-making between the chambers, the House and Senate then both approved the $77.1 billion budget – the largest in state history — in lopsided votes after 10 p.m. and adjourned at 10:40 p.m.

The House voted 102-15 in favor of the budget and sent to the Senate, which approved it unanimously.

“I hope you’re as proud about this budget as I am,” said Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla. “I’m going to go home and brag about what we’ve done.”

House Democrats, however, said the spending plan shorted school funding and failed to help those without health insurance.

“There’s an opportunity to be great,” said House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston. “This doesn’t do it.”

Full story here:

A wrongful conviction, Legislature tries to make right

by John Kennedy | May 3rd, 2014

James Richardson, wrongfully convicted of killing his children

Almost a half-century after James Richardson was wrongfully convicted and served more than two decades in prison, accused of poisoning his seven children, the Florida Senate approved a measure Friday making the elderly, former farmworker eligible for state compensation.

“This is our way of saying we take responsibility for the wrongful act of some others,” said Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa.

The measure (CS/SB 326) was approved 38-0 by the Senate, sending it to Gov. Rick Scott.

Richardson, 78, had traveled to the Capitol from his home in Wichita, Kan., earlier this week and was introduced in the House and Senate galleries, drawing a standing ovation from House members.

But it wasn’t until the closing hours of the session Friday night that the bill came up for a Senate vote.

“If you ever meet this gentleman, Mr. Richardson, in addition to his story, what will impress you is his humility,” said Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon.

Full story, video:

Richardson bill troubled in Senate as clock winds down

by John Kennedy | May 2nd, 2014

James Richardson

After being recognized in the House and Senate — and drawing a standing ovation from House members — it was growing likely that James Richardson would return to Kansas without legislation to compensate him for being wrongfully imprisoned in Florida for more than two decades.

Richardson, 78, has come from Wichita in expectation of the bill passing. He was honored by the two chambers and sat most of Thursday in the Senate gallery awaiting a vote on SB 326. But increased wrangling in the Florida Senate over a range of issues pushed the Richardson legislation to the bottom of the calendar Friday, the session’s final day.

Richardson lived in Arcadia when a few days before Halloween 1967, he was accused of poisoning his children when they came home for lunch. He was quickly convicted and condemned to death.

But a 1989 investigation ordered by then-Gov. Bob Martinez revealed wholesale misconduct by investigators and prosecutors, leading to Richardson being set free. Still, because of the circumstances of his case, Richardson does not qualify for state payment under the state’s five-year-old wrongful incarceration law.

A similar bill (CS/HB 227) was approved earlier this month 116-0 by the House. It would make Richardson eligible for $1.2 million in compensation. But as the clock wound down on the 2014 session, the measure was languishing.

Low-THC medical marijuana approved by Senate

by John Kennedy | May 2nd, 2014

The Florida Senate voted 30-9 Friday to allow doctors to prescribe low-THC medical marijuana to patients suffering from cancer or epilepsy.

The move came after Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, beat back efforts to open marijuana production to more growers in Florida. Bradley warned that the late-hour amendment could endanger the legislation, which cleared the House Thursday.

“We’re at day 60,” Bradley said of the two-month session. “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Gov. Rick Scott has said that he would sign the legislation into law.

The measure would allow doctors to prescribe a liquid form of marijuana rich in cannabidiol, or CBD. The pot is low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound with produces a high.

Under the bill, the state’s Department of Health would establish four dispensing organizations in Florida to dispense the low-THC pot dubbed Charlotte’s Web.

The department also would create a DOH Office of Compassionate Use, which would compile a registry of patients who doctors consider eligible for being treated with the marijuana strain.

Beginning in January 2015, doctors treating patients for cancer or “severe and persistent muscle spasms” associated with epilepsy could prescribe the low-THC marijuana. Only residents of Florida could obtain a prescription, under the bill.

Feuer appears to win circuit judgeship without opposition as filing closes; Murphy draws 6 GOP foes

by George Bennett | May 2nd, 2014

Attorney Samantha Schosberg Feuer appeared to win a Palm Beach County circuit judgeship without opposition when the state’s qualifying deadline for judicial and congressional candidates passed at noon today.

Feuer is the only candidate listed on the Division of Elections website as qualifying for the open Group 32 seat, but a division spokeswoman said it could be a few hours before the list is official because of late filers.

Follow and @gbennettpost on Twitter for updates.

The Group 32 seat became open this week when Judge Sandra McSorley withdrew her bid for re-election. The only other open circuit judgeship, the Group 30 seat, drew at least three candidates: Maxine Cheesman, Jaimie Goodman and Peggy Rowe-Linn.

Most circuit judges who seek re-election win new terms without opposition. But Judge Diana Lewis drew a challenge from attorney Jessica Ticktin.

At least six Republicans have qualified for the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional District 18 seat of freshman Democrat Patrick Murphy. At least three Republicans qualified for the Palm Beach-Broward seat of freshman Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel.

House OK’s instate tuition for immigrants, sending it to Scott

by John Kennedy | May 2nd, 2014

Children of undocumented immigrants would be eligible for instate tuition in Florida under legislation that sailed Friday through the House on an 84-32 vote.

The legislation cleared the Senate a day earlier. It now goes to Gov. Rick Scott, who promised to sign it into law this election year.

House Republicans noted the legislation will reduce tuition for all students.

The measure (CS/HB 851) eliminates a provision in law that allowed Florida’s 12 public universities to hike tuition by as much as 15 percent annually. Instead, only Florida State University and the University of Florida will be able to seek tuition boosts higher than what’s granted by the Legislature — and then only as much as 6 percent-a-year.

But the instate provision for immigrants has been the chief focus of the legislation.

“I hope this signals an end to the anti-immigrant extremism that has prevailed in both of these houses for over a decade,” said Rep. Jose Rodriguez, D-Miami.

The legislation allows children of undocumented immigrants to qualify for instate tuition if they attended high school for three years in Florida.  Average non-resident tuition costs $21,434 annually, compared with the average $6,318
in-state fee.

Jobs for votes?

by Christine Stapleton | May 2nd, 2014

Senator Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, rattled the Senate leadership this morning when – during his comments on a controversial education bill SB 850 - Bullard said that “someone in the House” had told him that “jobs had been offered in exchange forv otes” in the House. The bill pertains to corporate tax scholarships and the handling of application fees for scholarships.

Sen. Dwight Bullard

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, halted the proceedings and asked Bullard to repeat the accusation. Bullard said he would retract his statement but added:

“I do apologize,” Bullard said. “It was shared with me… jobs were offered and placed on the table. All I know is someone said they were offered a job. It had nothing to do with this chamber.”

Bullard said he would not reveal who told him about the deal. Gaetz sternly responded to Bullard.

“Senator you are an officer state of Florida and you took and oath to defend the laws,” Gaetz said. “If you have knowledge of crime, you need to report that to the State Attorney today.”

After the exchange, several other Democratic senators huddled with Bullard.

The debate continues and Bullard cannot now be reached for comment.

Today at noon: Qualifying deadline for congressional, judicial candidates

by George Bennett | May 2nd, 2014

Attorney Samantha Schosberg Feuer (center) is one of several judicial candidates who have switched races this week. Will there be more changes before today's noon qualifying deadline?

The deadline for congressional and judicial candidates to qualify for the 2014 ballot in Florida is at noon today.

Some people to watch in Palm Beach County:

** Circuit Judge Diana Lewis: She holds the Group 14 seat and faced a challenge there from attorney Jessica Ticktin, who put $200,000 into the race. When Group 32 Judge Sandra McSorley decided not to seek re-election, Lewis switched to that race. Then Ticktin switched to the Group 32 race as well. Will Lewis switch again? If she does, will Ticktin follow her again?

** Attorney Samantha Schosberg Feuer: With impressive backing from the county’s legal establishment, Feuer opened a campaign for the open Group 30 circuit judge seat. Three other candidates entered as well, including attorney Jaimie Goodman, who has his own slew of endorsements and put $159,000 into the race. So Feuer switched to the Group 14 race after Lewis left. Feuer prefers to run for an open seat rather than challenge an incumbent, so if Lewis goes back to Group 14, she might switch again.

** Congressional District 18 Republicans: How many will end up running for the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast seat of freshman Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy? By the end of Thursday, four Republicans had secured spots on the GOP primary ballot: former state Rep. Carl Domino, Beverly Hires, software designer Brian Lara and former Connecticut legislator Alan Schlesinger. A fifth Republican, former Tequesta Councilman Calvin Turnquest, says he has sent in his $10,440 check and should qualify today. Three other Republicans — Ilya Katz, Frank Lynch and Nick Wukoson — have shown some public interest in running for the seat as well.

** Henry Colon: He’s the Republican who filed for the Palm Beach-Broward seat of Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch but, as of Wednesday, his campaign was about $8,000 short of the money needed to pay the $10,440 filing fee. Colon appealed to big-name Republicans — including former Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin — to try to raise the cash.

Parasailing regulations headed to Gov. Rick Scott

by John Kennedy | May 1st, 2014

Commercial parasailing operations, involved in several tragedies along Florida waterways in recent years, would gain state regulation for the first time under legislation headed to Gov. Rick Scott.

Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, sponsored the measure (SB 320) approved 38-0 Thursday in the Senate. It also includes new restrictions on kite-boarding near airport runways, but the focus in on parasailing.

“I don’t care what else is on it, as long as we get this through,” said Sachs, who has struggled for several years to tighten oversight of parasail operations.

There have been 21 parasailing accidents in Florida from 2001 through last October, resulting in 23 injuries and six fatalities, according to state records.

In 10 of the accidents, high winds or gusts were found to be a contributing factor. In six of those 10 accidents, there was also equipment failure. The other 11 accidents reportedly were caused by a variety of factors, including operator error and equipment malfunctions.


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