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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Senate Obamacare effort dies; Rubio in favor of repeal, Nelson against

The Senate vote


The Senate vote

WASHINGTON - The Senate Republican effort to Obamacare failed early Friday, with John McCain providing a decisive vote.

Sen. Marco Rubio joined the majority and Sen. Bill Nelon was with the Democrats.

But it fell to McCain and Republican moderates Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to defeat the so-called skinny repeal.

"This is clearly a disappointing moment," Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said as he reflected on a seven-year campaign promise to end Obamacare.

Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer called for both parties to come together to repair a less than perfect law. "Let's give it a shot," he said. "Let's give it a shot."

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Adam Putnam lands a nice endorsement as rivals circle

Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida, representing more than 2,600 companies across the state, is not waiting for the likes of Ron DeSantis, Jack Latvala, and Richard Corcoran to decide on mounting campaigns for governor. ABC of Florida announced its endorsement Adam Putnam for governor tonight at its state convention in Marco Island.

“There’s no question that Adam Putnam is the right choice for Governor of Florida. His conservative values and free market approach will ensure that every individual and every business has the opportunity to compete on a level playing field,” said Mary Tappouni, President of Breaking Ground Contracting and State Chair of ABC of Florida.
“Adam Putnam knows what it means to run a small business. He will fight for the Floridians who are sick and tired of government getting in the way of prosperity. And he’ll work to ensure we have a well-trained workforce that can support our growing economy.  As the largest single provider of Apprenticeship Training in the state, acknowledging our skilled worker shortage is of critical importance to our association.” 

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Crist votes for measure that includes money for Trump's wall

WASHINGTON – Rep. Charlie Crist was for it and against it.

He was one of five Democrats to vote Thursday for a defense spending package that includes $1.6 billion for President Trump’s border wall.

But Crist says he opposes the wall. His statement:

"Today, I voted to fund our brave soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and guardsmen serving our nation overseas, including those who call MacDill Air Force Base home. I also voted to keep our commitment to those wounded in the fight for our freedom receiving care through the Bay Pines VA and other VA facilities across the country.

"Let me be clear, I strongly oppose President Trump’s proposed border wall. I supported efforts to strike it from the legislation supporting our troops and our veterans.  It will not make our nation safer, will not reduce unlawful crossings, and will hurt our environment.  The provision can and should be eliminated in negotiations with the Senate."

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Florida's legal losses up to $19 million and counting since 2011

This is getting expensive.

[SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]

This is getting expensive.

From Gary Fineout of the Associated Press:

Florida's price tag for losing legal battles — which has included courtroom fights over drug testing, voting rights and gay marriage — continues to grow under Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott recently agreed to pay $1.1 million to cover the legal bills of physicians and medical organizations in their successful challenge of a law that restricted doctors' ability to talk to patients about guns. The law had been pushed through the Florida Legislature at the urging of the National Rifle Association.

In early July, the state also agreed to a $2 million payment that will go to lawyers who sued on behalf of disabled inmates.

A review of records by The Associated Press shows that since Scott took office in 2011 the state has paid at least $19 million to cover expenses and fees for lawyers who have sued the state. Many of those lawsuits took aim at policies put in place by Scott and the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The Scott administration has defended the legal expenses in the past, saying the governor will "vigorously defend" Florida's laws. …

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He didn't support Trump: Lynn Aronberg says that's partly why she divorced Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg

Dave and Lynn Aronberg were married on St. Pete Beach in May 2015.


Dave and Lynn Aronberg were married on St. Pete Beach in May 2015.

In announcing that her divorce was settled this week, Lynn Aronberg said the reason for the split in part was because she supports President Donald Trump and her Democratic husband does not.

In a press release Thursday, Lynn Aronberg said she is a "staunch Republican and supporter of President Trump," while her husband, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, is not.  She said that fact led her to feel "increasingly isolated in the marriage."

The 37-year-old former Miami Dolphins cheerleader and public relations consultant said she is getting a $100,000 settlement, including a new BMW and $40,000 in cash.

Jose Lambiet’s Gossip Extra website says the couple signed the divorce settlement this week over drinks at The Breakers in Palm Beach.

Dave Aronberg is a former state senator who was elected to his current office in 2012. Before that, he worked for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. A spokesman for the 46-year-old prosecutor said Aronberg had no comment.

The couple got engaged in December 2014 in Paris, and they were married in May 2015 on St. Pete Beach.

Lynn Aronberg first filed for divorce in March

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Scott backs off boycott of companies doing business with Venezuela

Florida Governor Rick Scott speaks to the media as he holds a Venezuelan ‘Freedom Rally’ at El Arepazo 2 restaurant on July 10, 2017 in Doral. Scott called on the Venezuelan government to free Leopoldo Lopez, a political prisoner from house arrest, as well as those that have been wrongly imprisoned by Nicolas Maduro's government.

Joe Raedle Getty Images

Florida Governor Rick Scott speaks to the media as he holds a Venezuelan ‘Freedom Rally’ at El Arepazo 2 restaurant on July 10, 2017 in Doral. Scott called on the Venezuelan government to free Leopoldo Lopez, a political prisoner from house arrest, as well as those that have been wrongly imprisoned by Nicolas Maduro's government.

Gov. Rick Scott will ask the Florida Cabinet next month to prohibit the state's investment managers from doing something they already do not do: invest in companies or securities owned or controlled by the Venezuelan government.

The proposed resolution released by the governor’s office on Thursday stops short of advancing a bolder threat Scott had been making at public appearances as recently as last week when he vowed to boycott companies that “do business” with the Nicolás Maduro regime.

Instead, the vote on the resolution -- scheduled for the Aug. 16 meeting of the State Board of Administration -- will be a mostly-symbolic gesture aimed at sending the message that Florida will not tolerate any business sympathetic to the Maduro regime going forward. The SBA oversees the Florida Retirement System and its $150 billion in assets.

"We currently do not maintain any investments owned by the Venezuelan government right now,'' SBA spokesperson John Kuczwanski told the Herald/Times. The governor's resolution will not change that but make sure it doesn't change going forward. …

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Lawsuit: Annette Taddeo owes $38,000 to American Express

Annettee Taddeo

[El Nuevo Herald]

Annettee Taddeo

Democratic Florida Senate candidate Annette Taddeo and her translation business owe American Express nearly $38,000, according to a lawsuit the credit card company filed last month.

American Express sued Taddeo and her company, LanguageSpeak, in Miami circuit court June 29, seeking payment for an unpaid balance of $37,794 due since December. In a statement, Taddeo said she was "blindsided" by the lawsuit and called some of the charges "disputed."

She claimed the suit, first reported by Politico, was politically motivated. She won the Democratic primaryTuesday for Senate District 40.

"My team was working to get this resolved in short order prior to the lawsuit, and believe it will be by the end of the week," she said. "I have no doubt that this suit is timed with my campaign for state senate given the over $300,000 in attacks waged by Tallahassee special interests against me over the last five weeks." …

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In Florida a year ago today, Trump asked Russia to find Clinton's emails

A year ago today, at his golf club in Doral, Donald Trump begged Russians to find Hillary Clinton's emails.

“I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Trump said. "I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

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Army Corps needs more time on Negron reservoir

Senate President Joe Negron is closely monitoring the progress of Senate Bill 10.

[SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]

Senate President Joe Negron is closely monitoring the progress of Senate Bill 10.

From the News Service of Florida's Jim Turner:

Federal assistance may be on the way for the state's latest Everglades restoration effort.

But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it will need another month to figure out how to join in Senate President Joe Negron's plan for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.

Col. Jason Kirk, the Florida commander for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, advised the South Florida Water Management District this week that a review is underway of options for working together on changes to what is known as the Central Everglades Planning Project. The changes were outlined in a measure (SB 10) that Negron pushed through the Legislature this year.

“We are currently working through multiple options for the next steps to address your request,” Kirk wrote.

Supporters of the reservoir, a priority of Negron, R-Stuart, anticipate the federal government covering half the cost of the work.

Part of the bill requires the water management district to request the Army Corps participate --- by next Tuesday --- in helping to develop a report on revisions needed to increase water storage south of Lake Okeechobee. …

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Florida Congressmen to attend White House ceremony honoring officers who responded to baseball shooting

WASHINGTON - Florida Reps. Dennis Ross and Ron DeSantis will be at the White House today as President Trump awards the Public Safety Medal of Valor to officers who responded to the baseball field shooting last month.

Ross and DeSantis aremembers of the Republican team and DeSantis unknowingly crossed paths with the shooter just before he opened fire.

Trump will honor two Capitol Police Special Agents and three Alexandria Police Officers who "exhibited extraordinary valor above and beyond the call of duty as the first responders to the Alexandria, VA baseball field shooting on June 14, 2017," according to a White House statement.

Capitol Police Officers, Alexandria Police Officers, pilots from the U.S. Park Police Aviation Unit, EMTs and doctors will be attending, as well as the Jennifer Scalise, wife of Congressman Scalise, victims of the shooting, and members of Congress, the White House said.

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Another Florida man tapped for Trump administrative job

The White House is filling up on Floridians

[White House]

The White House is filling up on Floridians

President Donald Trump’s choice to be the next U.S. director for the African Development Bank has strong ties to the Sunshine State.

On July 19, the White House announced J. Steven Dowd of Florida as its choice to represent the United States for the African Development Bank, a multilateral development and finance institution. Dowd owns property in Seminole County and has worked for two businesses incorporated in Florida.

When contacted by The Buzz, Dowd declined comment.

"Thanks for contacting me. Unfortunately, until I am confirmed by the Senate it would be inappropriate for me to engage publicly. I would be pleased to speak with you after confirmation."

According to property records, Dowd owns a 4-bed, 3.5-bath house in Lake Mary worth north of $500,000. His party affiliation in Florida has him listed as a Democrat as recently as 2016, according to public voting records.

Dowd co-founded Ag Source, LLC in 2009 in Seminole County. The company is involved in global agriculture logistics, according to a White House release. He also helped start Marcona Ocean Industries, a shipping and mining company started in Longwood in 1995. …

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Trump highlights Wasserman Schultz controversy

Donald Trump has Debbie Wasserman Schultz on his mind this morning.

The president retweeted to his millions of followers a post accusing TV networks of ignoring the controversy surrounding Wassmerman Schultz.

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Republican group sends $100,000 to help Diaz in SD40 -- is it insurance or worry?

Republican candidate Jose Felix Diaz, is surrounded by supporters after he won the primary for Florida's Senate District 40 race. Democrat Annette Taddeo, right, celebrates her victory with supporter Venus Lovely at BJ’s Restaurant in The Falls. 

hotos by Charles Trainor Jr.| and Patrick Farrell |

Republican candidate Jose Felix Diaz, is surrounded by supporters after he won the primary for Florida's Senate District 40 race. Democrat Annette Taddeo, right, celebrates her victory with supporter Venus Lovely at BJ’s Restaurant in The Falls. 

Insurance money or concern? That is the question after the Republican State Leadership Committee sent a $100,000 check late Wednesday to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, run by state Senate leaders, to boost the chances of Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in the Miami District 40 special election. 

A Democratic poll conducted in June and released on Wednesday found that Democratic nominee in the race, Annette Taddeo, edged Diaz 42-38 percent. According to the memo by pollster Anzalone Liszt Grove Research for the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, Taddeo was also ahead by 16 percentage points among voters without party affiliation who couldn't cast primary ballots.

But, as the primary turnout showed, ensuring voter enthusiasm in the district for the Sept. 26 general election is going to be a challenge -- and margins will matter.

On Tuesday, only 10.4 percent of the district's registered Democrats showed up to vote and 13.5 percent of the registered Republicans. Diaz collected more total votes against his two rivals, 7,678, than Taddeo -- who got 7,101.  …

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Why did Debbie Wasserman Schultz keep paying tech expert suspected of stealing House computers?

The following is from the Miami Herald:

When a computer expert who worked for congressional Democrats was accused of stealing computers and data systems in February, members of Congress cut him loose within days, leaving Imran Awan with no supporters five months later.

Except for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The Weston Democrat has not explained why she continued to employ Awan until Tuesday, when she fired him — after he was arrested on bank-fraud charges at Dulles International Airport in Virginia attempting to board a flight to Pakistan.

Nor has she elaborated on what work Awan did for her after he lost access to the House computer network.

She declined to answer questions about Awan in Washington on Wednesday, and her spokesman, David Damron, accompanied her to the House floor, instructing a reporter that Wasserman Schultz would not take questions about her former employee.

Wednesday evening, Wasserman Schultz released a statement: …

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That was fast: Two Republicans may run for Raulerson's seat

Yvonne Fry

Special to the Times

Yvonne Fry

Less than 24 hours after state Rep. Dan Raulerson announced his resignation, groundwork is being laid for what could be a tough Republican primary to replace him.

One prominent Plant City Republican, businesswoman and civic activist Yvonne Fry, has announced she'll run for the seat. Another, businessman and county Farm Bureau board member Lawrence McClure, is seriously considering a run.

Both represent long-time Plant City families and already have linked up with campaign consultants. Both have been thinking about seeking the Plant City-based House seat after Raulerson reached his term limit in 2020 but are moving up their plans in light of Raulerson's resignation this week, effective Aug. 15.

They're likely to face a tightly compressed schedule for raising money and campaigning.

Pre-session committee meetings for the 2018 legislative session begin in September, and Gov. Rick Scott, who'll set a date for the special election, may seek to have a new representative in place quickly.

Fry said Tuesday she'll file candidacy papers this week. …

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