Special Session on Florida Senate Redistricting Scheduled for October

The Florida Legislature will hold a special session at the end of October and the start of November to redraw the state Senate districts, the leaders of both chambers announced Tuesday. Already returning to Tallahassee for a special session to redo the congressional districts after the Florida Supreme Court ruled eight of them failed to pass constitutional muster, the special session on Senate districts will take place from Oct. 19 through Nov 6.

Bush and Clinton Lead Their Parties in Florida Primaries

recent poll by Mason-Dixon revealed the popularity and viability of each of the candidates from the Democrats and the Republicans. Leading the back for the Democrats was Hillary Clinton, with a 41 percent lead, while Jeb Bush came in on top for the Republicans, with a 12 percent lead over Marco Rubio.
  • Which candidate from the Democrats would you choose?
    • Hillary Clinton - 58%
    • Bernie Sanders - 17%
    • Joe Biden - 2%
    • Martin O'Malley, 2%
    • Undecided - 23%
Sanders grassroots campaign is gaining popularity, but he will find it difficult to tackle Clinton's established political machine.

Hillary Clinton Still Ahead of the Democratic Field in Florida

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues to hold a commanding lead in the Florida Democratic presidential primary, a new poll shows. 
Mason-Dixon unveiled a new poll on Friday which has Clinton, who leads all of the national polls, far out in front of her potential Democratic rivals. Clinton pulls a majority -- 58 percent --  of those surveyed. 
In a memo accompanying the poll, Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon insisted she was “still far ahead of the primary field.”
Clinton’s chief challenger in Florida is U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who has become the favorite of  far left liberals  Sanders pulls 17 percent in the new poll.
Besides Clinton and Sanders, the other Democratic candidates are floundering in Florida. Former Gov. Martin O’Malley, D-Md., pulls 2 percent. Former U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., and former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee, D-R.I., take less than 1 percent apiece. 
The poll did not include Vice President Joe Biden who has not ruled out a third presidential bid though he has not been an active presence on the campaign trail, either. 
Clinton beat primary rival Barack Obama in Florida back in 2008. Biden never made it to the Florida primary in his two previous presidential bids back in 1988 and in 2008. 
The poll of 500 Florida Democrats was taken from July 20-23 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.5 percent. Jeb Bush holds a commanding lead over Sen. Marco Rubio among registered Florida Republicans, who have soured on the senator since he announced his presidential bid in April, a new poll shows.
In the crowded GOP field, Bush leads the second-place Rubio 28 to 16 percent in their home state, according to Mason Dixon Polling & Research’s survey. In Mason-Dixon’s poll three months ago, Rubio was essentially tied with Bush 31 to 30 percent.
Rubio’s 15 percentage-point drop coincides with the rise of Gov. Scott Walker, who’s now in third place with 13 percent – an 11 point increase for the Wisconsin governor since the April survey.
“And the center of the GOP political universe of late — Donald Trump — is in fourth with 11 percent,” Mason Dixon pollster Brad Coker said in a written analysis.
“This is the first Florida poll taken entirely since Trump’s remarks regarding John McCain’s Vietnam War service. His 11% showing in Florida is far below his support in recent national polls. This could be the result of the home state advantage of both Bush and Rubio,” Coker wrote. “However, the fact that Walker has slipped ahead of him may be a stronger sign that his candidacy is fading. Furthermore, there is a clear ceiling that Trump has among Florida Republicans. When asked if they are considering a vote for Trump, a large majority (58%) said they were not. Only 27% gave an indication that Trump was under their serious consideration.”
All the other Republican candidates are polling in the single digits.


LWVF Logo (better resolution?)

Updated July 26,2015

Special Session Set for August 10-21 and Court date for both sides to argue the resulting maps is set for September 22.

Redistricting committee members included in the summary document.
 -Background on how we got to where we are today
When the League was first formed in Florida 76 years ago, gerrymandered districts and the need for redistricting was one of the first issues identified as an issue for League to study and begin work on... Since that time, we have been working on resolving what was one of the MOST gerrymandered states in the country.

Finally in 2008, we composed 2 citizen initiative constitutional ballot amendments with a coalition of other organizations, mainly Common Cause and Democracia, called Fair Districts. One ballot amendment was for congressional redistricting standards, the other for state House and Senate standards. The standards were the same for each...in summary "that districts had to be drawn that were contiguous, compact, use natural geographic boundaries and borders and, most importantly, to not benefit one political party over another." The purpose of these amendments, known as amendments 5 and 6, was to finally give constitutional mandates to our legislature who drew these new districts every 10 years following the census results. Up to this point in time, our legislature had absolutely NO guidelines, which were resulting in them drawing districts that benefited them and their jobs. This occurred when Democrats were in power and when Republicans were in power. It was the quintessential "fox guarding the hen house". Our legislators were drawing districts choosing their voters, rather than drawing districts where voters had a choice of choosing their representative. They were protecting their jobs.

For 2 years, we collected petitions, over 1.6 million, 800,000 for each amendment, and got both amendments on the ballot in 2010. They passed by 63% with over 3.1 million voters saying YES!

Our legislature and Governor began fighting these amendments from day one. League continued to push back with litigation and education and advocacy. Our Florida Editorial Boards all endorsed the implementation of these standards and were a strong ally. Finally, coming into 2012, the redistricting year, our leaders said, "The will of the people has been heard. This cycle of redistricting will be the MOST transparent and open in Florida's history. And will follow the letter of the law."

Sadly, the resulting maps, with the exception of the State House maps, were not even close. More litigation led by LWVFlorida began.

-Recent litigation
Last year, we concentrated on the congressional maps and brought our case to the Circuit Court in Tallahassee. Judge Terry Lewis was presiding. We were aware of the poorly drawn maps and that the process had not been followed, but what our legal team laid out in the course of 5 days of testimony read like a Carl Hiassan or James Patterson novel. Political operatives exchanging late night emails and deleting them. Secret meetings to plan maps for their benefit and then having them submitted by what was supposed to be an objective student from a Florida university. Good old boy comments in emails and vacation trips together gleefully proud of themselves thwarting this new system. It was disgusting, embarrassing, and egregious finger flicking to the people of Florida and the constitution.

Judge Lewis ruled in our favor and mandated that the legislature come back into special session to remedy the maps. The legislature reconvened last August for 3 days...yes, 3 days to complete this task. Again, secret meetings....no transparency. Florida was headed into a primary election and a general election in November. The clock was ticking and without congressional maps, the election cycle would surely have been changed at a costly rate to Florida and confusion for our voters.

Judge Lewis accepted the redrawn maps. And elections went on as planned. But, we did not give up. We appealed this decision to the highest court, the Florida Supreme Court. Our case was heard in March of last year and we anxiously awaited their decision.

-Thursday July 9, 2015
The Florida Supreme Court ruled in our favor on all counts! We had argued that 8 congressional districts were unlawful. Districts 5 and 13 were at the top of the list, followed by 14, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27. They agreed and mandated that those 8 had to be redrawn....and that any district that was affected by the movement of those 8, must ALSO be redrawn. Suggested maps were entered into the court's records by our counsel, but they do not necessarily mean that the court has to follow those specific maps in their redrawing. In essence, the strong likelihood that almost the entire state's congressional map of 27 districts will be changed to follow the mandates of amendments 5 and 6. Additionally, the court requested that ALL meetings and material be open to the public, recorded and filed back to them.  Also, that a trial be held upon completion of the maps for both sides to argue their positions. And that, finally, the maps come back to the Supreme Court for final approval. The Court mandated that all of this be completed in 100 days, or by October, 17, 2015.

The Florida Supreme Court took our legislature to the woodshed where they belonged for their egregious behavior. And they are keeping them on a short leash to finally get this done right.

As of this writing, there has been no response from the legislature on their plans or timeline for a special session.

On July 16, one week after the Supreme Court ruling, Judge Reynolds in Tallahassee, laid out a tighter timeline mandating that by next Wed July 22, both sides have their plan and timeline submitted to the court.  He also mandated that the new maps AND the trial for both sides to argue their positions on the new maps be completed by September 25. This will leave about 3 weeks for the Supreme Court to then review the resulting maps and render their decision.

Another important date to keep in mind in all of this, is that we begin a NEW case in circuit court on the SENATE maps on September 25.  Much of the same egregious behavior will again be repeated in our case against the legislature on these maps as it was in the congressional map case.

-What Can the Supreme Court do if our legislature fails again?
This is a really good lesson in American Civics. Checks and balances among the branches of our government worked in that the Judiciary branch "checked" the Legislature's unconstitutional behavior, set strict guidelines, will oversee, and if necessary, take over the task of drawing maps.

The Supreme Court will hopefully accept the maps because they will be done correctly.  However, if they are not, the Court may:
-Assign a Master to draw the maps.  This was done in New York when their legislature failed to draw maps and the congressional districts that exist there today are a result of this method.
-Review every map that has been submitted throughout this entire process and choose one of them
-Open the process for submittal of new maps by the public.

-What impact does the Federal Supreme Court decision on redistricting commissions have, if any, on Florida?
That decision released 3 weeks ago is a big win for all of the states battling redistricting with their legislature. The decision states simply that redistricting does NOT have to be the sole responsibility of a state's legislature. An objective redistricting commission is a viable alternative. Currently 21 states utilize some form of nonpartisan/bipartisan redistricting commissions.

Florida could implement a commission 3 ways:
-Our legislature proposing it and placing it on the ballot.
-The Constitutional Commission review in 2017 before legislative session could place it as an amendment
-A citizen initiative, could work to place it on the ballot most probably in 2018.

-What about the request from Congressional representatives to hold public hearings around the state to gain public opinion and input before maps are drawn?
The League consistently supports public input, transparency in government process and civic engagement. However, the clear guidelines of the Supreme Court opinion did not include this as a proposed part of the necessary legislative process. We support the court's guidelines of public meetings and complete filing of all records and communications related to the redistricting process, but feels that the timeline is not sufficient for appropriate traveling statewide hearings. A schedule of special legislative session and trial is the priority of meetings to meet the court deadline.

This provides a very brief synopsis of this issue. Any and all of this paper may be used for press background or comment by local League presidents. Also, we encourage the writing of letters to the editors or "My Word" pieces with facts taken from this paper. This is a good time to have a Hot Topics Redistricting "Update" for your members and/or include it in your Voter. This paper may be posted on your web site and on Facebook page. The public needs to understand what all the front page stories really mean! Or please continue to refer press questions to me atpamelasgoodman@gmail.com or 561-843-1233. Any questions regarding litigation that are not answered in this synopsis, please ALWAYS refer to me first! We are NOT commenting on any specific maps or districts that have been presented in litigation. It is in the Court's hands at this point.

-Special Session announced and Court date Announced!
Legislative Special session will be held Aug 10-Aug 21, 2015. Redistricting Committees will work with staff only with all records filed to the Senate President and Speaker of the House. The first unveiling of the new maps will be on Tuesday August 11 in a joint session. Committees are:

House Select Committee on Redistricting: Chair Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Hialeah who is scheduled to become House Speaker after the 2018 elections.  Other Republicans are: Vice Chair Charles McBurney, Jacksonville; Carlos Trujillo, Doral; Dana Young, Tampa; Travis Cummings, Orange Park; Larry Metz, Groveland; Marlene O'Toole, The Villages; David Santiago, Daytona; andJennifer Sullivan, Eustis.

Democrats are Mark Pafford, West Palm Beach, Reggie Fullwood, Jacksonville,Jared Moskowitz, Coral Springs, Irv Slosberg, Delray Beach. 

Senate: Republicans Chair Senator Bill Galvano, Bradenton; Rob Bradley, Orange Park; Tom Lee, Brandon; David Simmons, Altamonte Springs.

Democrats Vice Chair Chris Smith, Ft. Lauderdale; Audrey Gibson, Jacksonville; Bill Montford, Tallahassee.

The court date for both sides to argue the resulting maps is set for Sept 22, 2015

Two additional comments:
This is a moving target...we will continue to update you as they occur, so stay tuned!

Finally, NONE of this, I mean NONE...could have been accomplished without YOU! I truly believe that each and every one of our members had a piece of this...whether you got a petition signed, spoke to 100 groups or mentioned it to your neighbor or fellow worker... This important issue is why the League exists today stronger and smarter than ever before!

Thank you!!!!

In League,

Whose Dumped Trump So Far

Since making controversial comments about Mexican immigrants during his campaign kick-off speech, part-time Palm Beacher Donald Trump has seen several major companies and celebrities — and even countries — part ways with his brands.
Here’s the latest list. We’ll keep this updated if more are announced.
Companies dumping Trump
• Univision: The Spanish-language network set off a chain reaction with its announcement it would not air the Donald Trump-owned Miss USA pageant. Univision also said it would sever all ties with Trump’s businesses.
• Televisa: Will not air Miss USA.
• NBC: Will not air Miss USA.
• Serta: Will not renew its contract with Trump Home at the end of 2015.
• Macy’s: Will no longer carry Trump’s menswear line.
• Rapper Flo Rida: Will not perform at Miss USA.
• Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama: Have pulled out of the Trump-owned Miss Universe pageant.
• NASCAR: Will not hold its annual awards ceremony as planned at the Trump National Doral Miami.
• ESPN: Will no longer hold its ESPN Celebrity Golf Classic at Trump’s Los Angeles golf course.
• PGA of America: Announced it reached a mutual agreement to move its Grand Slam of Golf from being played at Trump’s L.A. course.
• PVH Corp.: Will wind down its deal with Trump to produce his menswear line.
• Celebrity chef Jose AndresWill not open a restaurant as planned in Trump’s new hotel under construction in Washington, D.C.
Source Pam Beach Post

Hillary Clinton Is Coming To Fort Lauderdale

Hillary Clinton is scheduled to address the National Urban League Conference on July 31 in Fort Lauderdale. It would mark Clinton's first public event locally since becoming a candidate; she came to Florida in May for a series of private fund-raisers.
The National Urban League is a civil-rights organization that, among other things, advocates against racial discrimination and for African Americans. Clinton's speech to the group would be geared at black voters, a key Democratic constituency 

Fourth of July terror warning issued by FBI, Homeland Security

"We will also adjust security measures, seen and unseen, as necessary to protect the American people,'' Johnson said. "We continue to encourage all Americans to attend public events and celebrate this country during this summer season, but always remain vigilant.''
Federal authorities have warned local law enforcement officials across the country about a heightened concern involving possible terror attacks targeting the July 4th holiday, a U.S. law enforcement official said.
While there was no specific or credible threat of attack, the official said the intelligence bulletin prepared by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI alerted local colleagues to the ongoing threats posed by the Islamic State and other homegrown extremists. The official was not authorized to comment publicly.
The bulletins are frequently issued in advance of major U.S. holidays out of an abundance of caution and concern that operatives may exploit the timing to generate greater attention.
The warning comes as federal investigators have worked to disrupt a number of Islamic State-inspired plots, including a planned assault earlier this month on police officers in Boston. In that case, authorities fatally shot Usaamah Rahim as he allegedly planned to attack police with military-style knives.
Also this month, a New York suspect in a Islamic State-related terror investigation was arrested after attacking an FBI agent with a kitchen knife during a search of his home.
Fareed Mumuni, 21, was charged with attempted murder, after he emerged as a suspect in alleged plots to use pressure-cooker explosives and knives to attack police.
In a statement Friday following attacks in Tunisia, France and Kuwait, DHS SecretaryJeh Johnson said local law enforcement was being encouraged to be "vigilant and prepared'' in preparation for July 4th celebrations.
"We will also adjust security measures, seen and unseen, as necessary to protect the American people,'' Johnson said. "We continue to encourage all Americans to attend public events and celebrate this country during this summer season, but always remain vigilant.''

Re-Posted from USAToday

Hispanic leaders say Republican Party must condemn Trump

 Hispanic leaders are warning of harm to Republican White House hopes unless the party's presidential contenders do more to condemn Donald Trump, a businessman turned presidential candidate who's refusing to apologize for calling Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers.
Trump's comments, delivered in his announcement speech last month, have haunted the GOP for much of the last two weeks and dominated Spanish-language media. It's bad timing for a Republican Party that has invested significantly in Hispanic outreach in recent years, given the surging influence of the minority vote.

Yet several Republican candidates have avoided the issue altogether, while those who have weighed in have declined to criticize Trump as strongly as many Hispanic leaders would like.
"The time has come for the candidates to distance themselves from Trump and call his comments what they are: ludicrous, baseless and insulting," said Alfonso Aguilar, a Republican who leads the American Principles Project's Latino Partnership. "Sadly, it hurts the party with Hispanic voters. It's a level of idiocy I haven't seen in a long time."

The political and practical Trump-related fallout has intensified in recent days.
The leading Hispanic television network, Univision, has backed out of televising the Miss USA pageant, a joint venture between Trump and NBC, which also cut ties with Trump. On Wednesday, the Macy's department store chain, which carried a Donald Trump menswear line, said it was ending its relationship with him. Other retailers are facing pressure to follow suit.
The reaction from Republican presidential candidates, however, has often been far less aggressive.

In a recent interview on Fox News, conservative firebrand Ted Cruz insisted that Trump should not apologize.
"I like Donald Trump," said Cruz, a Texas senator who is Hispanic. "I think he's terrific. I think he's brash. I think he speaks the truth. And I think that NBC is engaging in political correctness that is silly and that is wrong."
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said simply that Trump is "wrong."
"Maybe we'll have a chance to have an honest discussion about it on stage," Bush said last weekend while campaigning in Nevada.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who often talks about his re-election margins with Latino voters, called Trump's comments "wholly inappropriate" during a news conference. In a subsequent radio interview, Christie described Trump as "a really wonderful guy (who's) always been a good friend."

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, silent on the issue for more than two weeks, took a more pointed tone in a statement Thursday evening. "Trump's comments are not just offensive and inaccurate, but also divisive," said Rubio, a Hispanic. "Our next president needs to be someone who brings Americans together - not someone who continues to divide."
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Thursday: "I don't think Donald Trump's remarks reflect the Republican Party."
Among others, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former technology executive Carly Fiorina and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson have been silent.
"We're listening very, very closely, not just what candidates say but what they don't say - the sins of commission and the sins of omission," said Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, who called Trump's comments "xenophobic rhetoric."
Trump is showing no sign of backing down.

"My statements have been contorted to seem racist and discriminatory," he wrote in a message to supporters on Thursday. "What I want is for legal immigrants to not be unfairly punished because others are coming into America illegally, flooding the labor market and not paying taxes."
"You can count on me to keep fighting," he continued.
In his announcement speech, Trump said Mexican immigrants are "bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
Such rhetoric resonates with some of the Republican Party's most passionate voters, who have long viewed illegal immigration as one of the nation's most pressing problems. Yet GOP leaders have urged conservatives to adopt a more welcoming tone in recent years as Hispanic voters increasingly sided with Democrats.

Not since the 2004 re-election campaign of President George W. Bush has a Republican presidential candidate earned as much as 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. Mitt Romney got a dismal 27 percent in the 2012 contest against President Barack Obama.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton cast Trump's remarks as "emblematic" of a larger perception within the Republican Party.
"A recent entry into the Republican presidential campaign said some very inflammatory things about Mexican immigrants," she said in an interview last month. "Everyone should stand up and say that's not acceptable."

Meanwhile, the attention has helped Trump sell some books. "Trump: The Art of the Deal," first published in 1987, and a release from 2007, "Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life," were both in the top 2,000 on Amazon.com's best-seller list as of midday Thursday. "Think Big," co-written by Bill Zanker, was Amazon's top seller for personal finance.

Re-establishing Diplomatic Relations and Permanent Diplomatic Missions

The United States and Cuba will open embassies in their capital cities after more than 50 years of hostilities between the two countries. The latest developments 

click to enlarge letter