<![CDATA[NBC 6 South Florida - Miami Political News and South Florida Politics]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC+6+LOGO+GOOGLE.png NBC 6 South Florida http://www.nbcmiami.com en-us Thu, 24 Jul 2014 11:32:15 -0400 Thu, 24 Jul 2014 11:32:15 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Miami Woman Takes Cruise Fight to Congress]]> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:57:23 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/amanda+butler+before+congress.jpg

A Miami woman spoke in front of a special Senate Committee Hearing in Washington D.C. Wednesday afternoon. Amanda Butler said she’s trying to make it safer for the thousands of people who go on board cruise ships every year.

“What my family went through, no one deserves to go through that,” said Butler.

She was one of four victims who testified Wednesday to try and strengthen safety regulations onboard cruise ships nationwide.

Butler’s 51-year-old mother dropped to the ground on board the Carnival Conquest last year. Butler said it took more than 15 minutes for medical help to show up.

“The way these contracts are written, you don’t know what you’re signing onto and you’re literally signing all of your rights as a human away,” said Butler.

Kim Ware of Houston also testified in front of members of Congress. She was on board the Carnival Triumph when it caught fire and lost power.

"They really didn’t know what to do or how to take care of us, didn’t have a plan,” said Ware.

The ship was stranded at sea for four days. Ware said she wants to prevent a similar situation from happening to anyone else.

“Our ship was set out to sea with only four of six generators working and Carnival had been told that fuel hoses were leaking and they were not fixed,” said Ware.

The head of the Senate Commerce Committee is sponsoring a new bill that would not only strengthen safety regulations but it would also make it easier for passengers to file complaints.

“It’s not about human life anymore for larger corporations, its’ the bottom line, it’s a dollar bill,” said Butler.

The Cruise Lines International Association, the group representing the cruise corporations, released a statement shortly after the hearing. A spokesperson said:

“Today’s hearing presented a distorted picture of an industry that has an exceptional guest care and safety record. More than 22 million cruise passengers every year enjoy exceptional vacation value and a lifetime of positive memories, as demonstrated by a more than 90% customer satisfaction rate and 70% repeat cruisers. The cruise industry is already heavily regulated. Adding a new layer of federal regulation and bureaucracy at the expense of taxpayers, cruise lines and cruise passengers is both unjustified and unnecessary. The CPPA is a solution in search of a problem.”

Photo Credit: NBC 6 South Florida]]>
<![CDATA[David Rivera Suspends Congressional Campaign]]> Sat, 12 Jul 2014 06:55:52 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/081811+david+rivera.jpg

Former Miami Congressman David Rivera suspended his congressional campaign Friday after just 72 days in the race. Rivera lost his re-election bid in 2012 to Congressman Joe Garcia.

Rivera cited the recent ruling from a Tallahassee judge that invalidated the Congressional re-districting map. However, Rivera’s district was nowhere near any of the districts that were involved in the Congressional redistricting fight.

Rivera said, “As a Congressional candidate affected by this decision, I will not be held hostage by Florida’s liberal activist judges…I have decided to suspend campaigning for CD 26 and will launch my candidacy to the Florida State House of Representatives for the 2016 cycle…As always, I am humbled and grateful for your support of my candidacy. However, while Florida’s liberal activist judges may cast uncertainty by hijacking the congressional reapportionment process, I simply will not allow myself to be one of their hostages.”

Rivera is under investigation by the federal government for a campaign-finance issue. Rivera’s decision comes one day after a straw candidate linked to Rivera, Justin Lamar Sternad, was sentenced to seven months in federal prison after he admitted accepting $82,000 from Rivera’s friend Ana Alliegro for campaign advertisements, according to the Miami Herald.

Alliegro is awaiting trial for making false statements on campaign reports and making illegal campaign contributions, according to the Herald. Rivera has not been charged with any crimes.

Photo Credit: NBCMiami.com]]>
<![CDATA[Warden of Jail Where Inmate Died Suspended]]> Thu, 10 Jul 2014 17:25:26 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/jail_generic_bars.jpg

Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mike Crews has suspended the warden of a Florida City prison where a developmentally disabled inmate died after he was locked in a scalding shower for more than an hour.

“I am outraged and appalled at the reports and the allegations of abuse that we continue to hear and read coming out of Dade,” Secretary Crews said Thursday.

The Miami Herald has been on the case of the death of Darren Rainey, 50, for months and Crews the corrections department hasn’t responded to a request for comment on the case until Thursday. Crews told the Herald he had no responded because he hoped the investigation into Rainey’s death would have been finished by now.

While the warden has been suspended by Crews, the two corrections officers who were in charge of Rainey have not been suspended or had any action taken against them. According to the Herald, one inmate said guards “taunted Rainey with comments such as ‘hot enough.’”

“I do know who they are,” Crews said. “They have not been disciplined and they are still working.”

Crews continued, “Right now, all we have are the allegations that is part of that investigation that we mentioned earlier. When it’s concluded, hopefully we will have concrete information as to exactly what might they have done or not done.”

And as the investigation into Rainey’s death continues, other cases of inmate deaths from around the state are drawing more scrutiny to the department of corrections.

“We have a responsibility to make sure we are doing everything we can to provide a safe environment inside that fence,” Crews said. “That safe environment goes to not only our officers and our staff, but it goes for the inmates. So clearly, we have got to do a better job at that.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Beckham Ready to Consider Broward County: Report]]> Fri, 04 Jul 2014 15:14:23 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/050714+david+beckham+in+miami.jpg

As David Beckham’s group continues to search for a location for a new Major League Soccer stadium, Broward County may be ready to step in to facilitate a stadium outside of Miami, according to the Miami Herald.

The Herald reported that Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter said Beckham’s group is ready to talk to the county about a soccer-specific stadium.

"I spoke to a representative [from Beckham's group] twice," Ritter said in an email to NBC 6. "I expect to be speaking with him again in the next week or so. No meeting is set as of today."

The move comes after Beckham’s group has been denied two prime locations in downtown Miami for a new soccer stadium. The group originally looked at a plot of land near the Port of Miami, but it was axed in favor of land next to the AmericanAirlines Arena.

The area near the AAA was rejected by the city of Miami after Miami-Dade County killed the Port of Miami project. Miami officials have discussed putting the stadium near Marlins Park, but according to the Herald, the Beckham group doesn’t like the site because it’s “spiritually tainted” after the Marlins stadium deal.

Ritter told the Herald that one area of land that might fit would be county-owned land near the BB&T Center. However, that would put the team far away from Miami-Dade County residents and might make filling the stadium tougher.

"It would come down to whether or not the site meets Beckham's specifications," Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said in an email to NBC 6. "If he wants waterfront property, we have plenty of that in Broward County as well. We're very willing to talk to him."

Beckham's public relations firm released a statement in response to the report, saying, "The Beckham team has taken a pause to weigh alternatives regarding next steps. We believe the public is very passionate about soccer and deserves a world class MLS team."

Beckham’s group had previously said it was going to take some time to evaluate the options in Miami before making a new move.

Photo Credit: NBC6.com]]>
<![CDATA[Berkeley Set to Require Free Medical Pot for Poor]]> Fri, 04 Jul 2014 12:55:16 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/06-11-2014-medical-marijuana-generic.jpg

Medical marijuana dispensaries in Berkeley will likely soon be required to provide free pot to low-income members and homeless people, according to an ordinance approved by the city council on Tuesday.

The city is also looking to approve a fourth dispensary, raising the current limit of three locations.

The proposed ordinance, first reported by the East Bay Express, requires that Berkeley dispensaries give away two percent of the amount of cannabis they sell each year low-income people. And the pot can't be poor quality either. The proposed city ordinance reads (PDF) that the "medical cannabis provided under this section shall be the same quality on average" as marijuana "dispensed to other members."

“It’s sort of a cruel thing that when you are really ill and you do have a serious illness... it can be hard to work, it can be hard to maintain a job and when that happens, your finances suffer and then you can’t buy the medicine you need,” said Sean Luce with the Berkeley Patients Group.

In order to be eligible, a person must qualify for exemption from local taxes and fees, an income level that's set every year by the city council. That equates to $32,000 a year for one person and $46,000 a year for a family of four.

The ordinance is awaiting final approval, but could become law in August.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Candidate Disqualified After Qualifying Fee Check Bounces]]> Wed, 02 Jul 2014 23:30:06 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/219*120/money_generic_cash.jpg

Florida Representative David Richardson was planning for a re-election campaign against Republican Laura Rivero Levey in District 113. But a returned check has instead given Richardson the election without a single vote being cast, according to the News Service of Florida.

“I just got a call from the Florida Department of Elections and was notified that my Republican opponent’s check covering the election filing fee has ‘bounced,” Richardson wrote on Facebook.

The Department of State told the NSF that Levey’s “qualifying check was returned so she is no longer qualified.

The Republican Party said it was a banking error and that the party was planning on working with the division of elections to correct the problem. However, the Department of State said the decision to remove Levey was “final.”

The NSF reported that Levey listed among her contributions $2,000 from the state party. Richardson has raised $158,128, loaned himself $76,366, and spent $56,909.

District 113 covers much of Miami Beach and North Bay Village.

<![CDATA[Gov. Scott Signs Bills to Overhaul Child Welfare]]> Mon, 23 Jun 2014 14:34:11 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/rick+scott2.jpg

Gov. Rick Scott has signed a sweeping bill aimed at overhauling the child-welfare system after hundreds of child abuse-related deaths in the past five years.

Scott said Monday the bill will help hire 270 child protective investigators to reduce caseloads. The law also establishes a response team to quickly investigate child abuse deaths when the child had previous incidents with the system.

The new law comes on the heels of a scathing series from The Miami Herald, which highlighted the deaths of 477 children involved with the department in the past five years.

A report released last fall reviewing 40 child deaths revealed that welfare authorities overlooked danger signs, such as parental drug abuse or domestic violence. Most children who died were younger than 5.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Scott Signs Law Giving Money to Pro Teams]]> Fri, 20 Jun 2014 21:04:52 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Money_Hand_Money_Generic.jpg

Pro sports teams and the Daytona International Speedway will get millions in taxpayer help under a bill signed Friday by Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott's decision to give a boost to the pro teams, including budding Major League Soccer franchises, came over the objections of tea party groups that supported his maverick run for governor four years ago. It also comes a year after the owner of the Miami Dolphins failed to get financial help to upgrade SunLife Stadium in a push to attract another Super Bowl to the region.

The new law (HB 7095) would establish a pool of $13 million in taxpayer-supported subsidies that could be spent each year, with no team receiving more than $3 million a year. But the subsidies could then be in place for decades. The projects must cost a minimum of $100 million to qualify for the help. Proposals will be evaluated and ranked before they are approved.

"This sports development program will allow franchises to expand in Florida, and create more jobs and opportunities for Florida families," Scott said in a written statement.

Florida already gives out millions each year to pro sports franchises, but Scott backed the proposal because it includes requirements that teams would have to repay the state if certain conditions aren't met.

The new law also would require Major League Baseball to change its policy on Cuban players if the Marlins and Rays want a share of the state money set aside for stadiums.

With the exception of Canada, residents of foreign nations can negotiate with all 30 baseball teams before signing a contract, but teams aren't allowed to negotiate with Cuban players if they remain in that country because of the U.S. embargo of the communist island. And Cuban players are subject to the amateur draft if they come directly to the U.S., potentially costing them tens of millions of dollars. That's why Cuban players seek to establish residency in a third country first, often at great risk.

Los Angeles Dodgers' outfielder Yasiel Puig's dangerous escape from Cuba to Mexico inspired the conditions the law places on baseball stadium construction money.

Two of the most likely immediate beneficiaries of the legislation will be the soccer team coming to Orlando and the iconic racetrack in Daytona. The track owners last year began a $400 million overhaul called "Daytona Rising."

"Our local supporters and community partners worked hard during the last legislative session to help keep millions of dollars in new tax revenues in our region," said International Speedway Corp. CEO Lesa France Kennedy. "By setting up an equitable process for facilities to partner with the state, this law sets the framework to potentially provide additional capital for the Daytona Rising project, allowing us to build upon the already massive economic benefits to the state."

The proposal, however, drew fire from some groups. Americans for Prosperity Florida urged Scott to veto the bill. The group's June letter said using public funds to renovate and build sports facilities was "irresponsible use of tax dollars" and opposed by most Floridians.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[5 Things to Know About New House GOP Leader McCarthy]]> Thu, 19 Jun 2014 19:30:24 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/450883992.jpg

House Republicans selected a new majority leader Thursday, tapping  Rep. Kevin McCarthy to the conference's No. 2 post.

The California native replaces outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who was handed a surprising defeat by a little-known GOP challenger in Virgnia's primary election

The promotion puts the 49-year-old McCarthywho has quickly risen through the leadership ranks during his four terms in Congress, next in line to potentially succeed House Speaker John Boehner.

Here are five things you may not know about the new majority leader:

He got his (lucky) start in sandwiches.

A young McCarthy used a $5,000 lottery prize to start his own business, opening a sandwich shop called Kevin O's Deli at age 19. The shop he has descibed as "Subway before there was Subway," offered "fresh Dutch Krunch white rolls every day," and sandwiches "hot upon request," according to The Orange County Register. McCarthy says he used the profits from later selling that deli to finance his college education. The experience of building a business before hitting 21, he says, helped shape his views on limited government regulations and taxes.

He sees (some of) himself in “House of Cards.”

When Netflix’s popular political drama debuted in 2013, a few things felt a little too familiar to McCarthy, who, like the show’s fictional lead, Rep. Francis Underwood, served as majority whip. That framed whip hanging in Underwood’s office? A spitting image of the one McCarthy received as a gift from Cantor. The scene where Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, tells members “Vote your district, vote your conscience, don't surprise me"? Sounds strikingly like what McCarthy says he tells his own conference. The real-life whip believes those nods came out of a meet-and-greet he had with Spacey before the show started filming. He says the similarities between him and Underwood, a Democrat known for his duplicitous and Machiavellian ways, stop at those superficial references, though. "This one is made professionally about Washington, but it's not Washington," he said of the show during an appearance in Sacramento. "Don't believe what you see in there, but it's intriguing."

He co-starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In the California state Capitol, that is. McCarthy, first elected to represent his home district in Kern County in the state Legislature in 2002, rose to leader of the Assembly’s Republican caucus during his first term. That put him at the bargaining table with then-Gov. Schwarzenegger, who entered office via a 2003 recall election, on state budget negotiations and other major issues facing the Golden State. McCarthy left California's Capitol for the halls of Congress after the 2006 election, when he won the House seat vacated by his own political mentor and former boss, former Republican Rep. Bill Thomas.

He’s an all-star Instagrammer.

McCarthy’s filter-laden Instagram account has attracted more than 12,000 followers to date. While cameos from the likes of Beyonce, Ringo Star and cute dogs don’t hurt, the GOP congressman also uses the social platform to post behind-the-scenes photos from his political and personal life (including frequent “Throwback Thursday” pictures). His social media savvy led BuzzFeed to name him the “best Republican congressman on Instagram” in 2013.


He splits with some GOP conservatives on immigration.

McCarthy hails from one of the nation's bluest states. But the California native hasn’t strayed much from the GOP line in his own time in office, voting with his party 96 percent of the time, according to one Washington Post analysis.  Still, he's split with the more conservative factions of his caucus on at least one key issue seen as a potential factor in Cantor’s primary defeat: immigration reform. Unlike his tea party-aligned colleagues, McCarthy has expressed support for creating a path to legal status for the country’s undocumented immigrants. His campaign for majority leader drew criticism from some conservative commentators, who blasted his backing of immigration reform, Sandy relief funding and a budget compromise. Despite some differences in ideology and style, McCarthy, a skilled networker and social butterfly, has made many friends in Washington, thanks in part to his success in raising cash and building a program to train and support up-and-coming candidates.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lethal Injections Back in the Spotlight]]> Tue, 17 Jun 2014 20:32:01 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/drug+test+generic.jpg

Over the next 24 hours, Florida and two others states are set to execute prisoners by lethal injections. They will be the first executions by lethal injection since Oklahoma botched an execution by lethal injection seven weeks ago.

All of the states refuse to say where they get their drugs or if the drugs are tested. Lawyers for the criminals set to be executed have challenged the secretive process use by some states to obtain the lethal injections drugs from compounding pharmacies.

Nine executions nationwide have been stayed or postponed since late April, when Oklahoma prison officials halted the execution of Clayton Lockett after noting that the lethal injection drugs weren't being administered into his vein properly. Lockett's punishment was halted and he died of a heart attack several minutes later.

"I think after Clayton Lockett's execution everyone is going to be watching very closely," Fordham University School of Law professor Deborah Denno, a death penalty expert, said of this week's executions. "The scrutiny is going to be even closer."

Marcus Wellons is set to die Tuesday night in Georgia, followed six hours later by John Winfield, who faces execution at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday in Missouri. John Ruthell Henry's execution is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday in Florida.

Georgia and Missouri both use the single drug pentobarbital, a sedative. Florida uses a three-drug combination of midazolam hydrochloride, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride.

Despite concerns about the drugs and how they are obtained, death penalty supporters say all three convicted killers are getting what they deserve.

Wellons was convicted in the 1989 rape and murder of India Roberts, his 15-year-old neighbor in suburban Atlanta. Soon after the girl left for school, another neighbor heard muffled screams from the apartment where Wellons was living. Later that day, a man told police he saw a man carrying what appeared to be a body in a sheet. Police found the girl's body in a wooded area. She had been strangled and raped.

The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday denied clemency to Wellons, leaving his fate in the hands of the courts.

In Missouri, Winfield had been dating Carmelita Donald on and off for several years and fathered two of her children. Donald began dating another man. One night in 1996, in a jealous rage, Winfield showed up outside Donald's apartment in St. Louis County and confronted her, along with two friends of hers.

Winfield shot all three women in the head. Arthea Sanders and Shawnee Murphy died. Donald survived but was blinded.

Symone Winfield, the daughter of Donald and John Winfield, is among those asking Gov. Jay Nixon for clemency. A federal judge granted a stay of execution last week on a claim that a prison worker dropped plans to write a letter in support of clemency due to intimidation from staff. A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals late Monday upheld the stay, and the state appealed for a hearing before the full 8th Circuit.

In Florida, the state is moving ahead with the execution despite claims that Henry is mentally ill and intellectually disabled. The state claims anyone with an IQ of at least 70 is not mentally disabled; testing has shown Henry's IQ at 78, though his lawyers say it should be re-evaluated.

Henry stabbed his estranged wife, Suzanne Henry, to death a few days before Christmas in 1985. Hours later, he killed her 5-year-old son from a previous relationship. Henry had previously pleaded no contest to second-degree murder for fatally stabbing his common-law wife, Patricia Roddy, in 1976, and was on parole when Suzanne Henry and the boy were killed.

Florida and Missouri trail only Texas as the most active death penalty states. Texas has carried out seven executions. Florida has executed five men in 2014 and Missouri has executed four. Combined, the three states have performed 16 of the 20 executions this year.

Wellons would be the first Georgia inmate executed since February 2013 and just the second since 2011.

<![CDATA[Scott Signs Bill Approving Use of Pot Strain]]> Mon, 16 Jun 2014 20:12:51 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/06-10-2014-medical-marijuana.jpg

Some patients in Florida are going to be able to use a strain of low-potency marijuana under a bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott on Monday signed the measure that allows the use of a particular strain for epilepsy and cancer patients.

The measure passed with strong support in the Florida Legislature after legislators heard stories of children suffering from seizures who could be helped by the strain known as Charlotte's Web.

Scott, who opposes a constitutional amendment to allow the use of medical marijuana, said in a statement that he does not want to see "kids suffer."

He said in a statement that the approval of the bill will ensure that children will have the "medication needed to improve their quality of life."

Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Scott Signs Almost 100 Bills]]> Fri, 13 Jun 2014 21:37:41 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/rick+scott2.jpg

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law on Friday dozens of measures covering everything from flood insurance, late-term abortions, electronic cigarettes to regulating parasailing.

The Republican governor, who has been holding re-election campaign events for most of this month, did the bill signings privately. Scott and previous governors usually hold public bill signings during the summer, but he has spent little time in the Capitol since the end of the annual legislative session.

Scott signed nearly 100 bills into law, including a measure that redefines that state's current third trimester abortion ban. Current law prohibits abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy unless the mother's life is at risk. The new law (HB 1047) will require women to have a doctor determine whether a fetus is viable before having an abortion.

Some of the other bills signed by Scott include one (SB 542) that is designed to make it easier for private companies to sell flood insurance in the state. Florida is home to 37 percent of the federal flood insurance policies. The push for the bill came in the wake of skyrocketing premiums in the federal program although Congress did roll back some of those amid an outcry from coastal homeowners.

The governor also signed a measure (SB 224) that prohibits the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors.

Parasailing in in the state would be subject to safety guidelines under a bill also signed by Scott. The popular water sport in which people are lifted into the air by a motor boat has received national attention in recent years with several deaths and accidents.

One of the main requirements of the new law (SB 320) is that parasailing would be banned if there is a sustained wind speed of more than 20 miles per hour, when gusts are higher than 25 miles per hour, or when rain or fog diminishes visibility.

In 2012, Kathleen Miskell died after her parasail harness broke and she plummeted as much as 200 feet into the Atlantic Ocean. Amber White died in a parasailing accident in 2007.

"The safety of Floridians and the many tourists who visit our state is paramount, and this law will hopefully prevent parasailing tragedies such as we've seen," said Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach and the bill sponsor.

Charities in the state would be subject to stricter regulations (HB 629) under another bill approved by Scott. The legislation was a top priority of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose office regulates charities, and came in the wake of articles by the Tampa Bay Times examining fraudulent charities.

"This law will weed out the bad actors who are defrauding generous givers and thus bring integrity back to Florida's network of reputable charities," Putnam said in a statement.

Scott also signed a bill (SB 708) that would prohibit insurers from using credit information to deny a claim or cancel a policy. The new law would also create a "homeowner claims bill of rights" that requires insurers to spell out to homeowners what they can expect when they file a claim. The legislation was a top priority of Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Future For Beckham Stadium Unknown]]> Wed, 11 Jun 2014 07:28:51 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/032414+david+beckham.jpg

Now that two different sites are off the table for a potential Major League Soccer Stadium; the question is what is next for David Beckham?

“The only city land left for the city to do any kind of deal will be the Marlins Stadium, because in the 2007 original footprint, there was a soccer stadium beside the baseball stadium,” Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado said.

Plan A for the stadium was at PortMiami. However, stiff opposition from Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and other interests pushed back against that plan. The Miami-Dade County Commission eventually pulled the possible site completely out of the equation.

Plan B was the site at Museum Park, the FEC slip. The plan called for filling in the boatslip, creating a new park in the area, and building a 20,000 seat stadium next door to the AmericanAirlines Arena. Both plans would have created what Beckham wanted, a stadium on the water.

As recently as last week, Beckham told NBC 6 that he was finding some support for the stadium site at Museum Park.

“There was a few of them that actually said, ‘Hope you get the stadium. Looking forward to the stadium being downtown,” Beckham said last Friday.

By Tuesday, the Museum Park/FEC slip was confirmed to be a no-go. Mayor Regalado, who along with Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez suggested the site to Beckham, said he and the Miami City manager had determined the stadium shouldn’t be built at the FEC slip site.

Some residents in the downtown area pushed the city to not bend it for Beckham at the expense of the community overall.

“Downtown, ten years ago, was a wasteland, and the City worked very hard to get a bunch of people to move down here, and we did,” said Dalia Lagoa, president of the Downtown Neighbors Alliance. “Because we bought into this concept, and we were sold on the vision that we would have a museum and a beautiful park.”

The plan for the stadium now is in limbo. While Regalado suggested a site near Marlins Park, the Miami Beckham United group said it will take some time off to weigh more options for a stadium and location.

Once a site is eventually selected, he stadium is expected to cost upwards of $250 million and will be privately financed.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NBC's Chuck Todd: Why Cantor Lost]]> Tue, 10 Jun 2014 22:35:52 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000006784560_1200x675_278401091860.jpg NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd explains what led to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's stunning loss in the 7th District.]]> <![CDATA[Billionaire GOP Donor Targets Pot in Fla.]]> Tue, 10 Jun 2014 21:01:27 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/marijuana+generic.jpg

One of the world's richest men has decided to roll into a political battle over whether Florida should legalize medical marijuana.

New campaign finance reports filed Tuesday show that billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is now helping the group that wants to defeat the constitutional amendment that will be on the November ballot.

Adelson, a high-profile Republican donor and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., wrote a single check for $2.5 million to the political committee trying to defeat Amendment 2. It represents nearly all of the $2.7 million raised so far by the Drug Free Florida Committee.

Adelson and his company have been trying to expand casino gambling in Florida only to run into opposition in the Florida Legislature. Legislative leaders and other top Republicans in Florida are opposed to the medical marijuana amendment even though polls have consistently shown a majority of voters support the measure. Adelson's wife is a physician who helped found drug-abuse treatment centers.

A spokeswoman for the Drug Free Florida Committee said she could not say why Adelson is donating to the group.

But Sarah Bascom did contend that opponents "vow to keep raising money so that we can continue to ask the hard questions of the amendment's supporters and inform Florida voters on the real issues behind Amendment 2."

Bascom's group maintains that the medical marijuana measure has a loophole that will allow people to obtain marijuana for nearly any reason. Supporters say that is not true, and note the Florida Supreme Court rejected a similar argument made by Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Ben Pollara, campaign manager for United for Care, labeled Adelson an "out of state gambling interest." Pollara said many of the organizers opposing the amendment are not "credible people" to argue that "medical marijuana is bad for the people of the state of Florida." The group pushing the amendment has been largely backed by trial attorney John Morgan. Former Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running against incumbent Gov. Rick Scott, works at Morgan's firm.

Pollara did acknowledge that Adelson's financial support was unexpected, but he remained confident that Floridians would continue to support the amendment.

Sixty percent of voters need to vote yes on the amendment in order for it to pass.

<![CDATA[Scott Switches Positions on Immigration Ahead of Election]]> Mon, 09 Jun 2014 22:03:22 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/gov+rick+scott.jpg


When Rick Scott made his maverick push for Florida governor four years ago, the Republican took a hard line against illegal immigration that he used to assail his main GOP rival for the job. But with a likely tight re-election campaign looming, the incumbent is making a concentrated push to win over Hispanic voters.


Scott's latest bid to redo his image came Monday when Florida joined more than three dozen other states in the nation that offer in-state tuition rates to high school students living in the country illegally. The incumbent governor signed the college measure into law even though he had opposed the idea back in 2011.

He has framed his support as an effort to keep the cost of college affordable for aspiring students. The tuition rate paid by those in the country illegally is about four times higher than it is for other residents. The bill also restricts the ability of most state universities to charge tuition higher than the rate set by the state Legislature.

"Signing this historic legislation today will keep tuition low, and allow all students who grew up in Florida to have the same access to affordable higher education," Scott said in a statement.

But the new law also gives Scott a way to try to win over Hispanic voters.

Democrats, who have backed the push for in-state tuition for several years only to watch it die under previous Republican administrations, have sharply criticized Scott's about-face as a "deathbed conversion." Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, called Scott's decision to back the bill a "remarkable turn-around."

And Scott's decision to embrace the in-state tuition law comes at the same time his re-election campaign is actively targeting Hispanic votes. It launched a Spanish radio ad this week, which followed a Spanish-language ad that was aired on television in late April. The ads came earlier than those from past candidates.

Jaime Florez, the Hispanic communications director for Scott, vowed the initial buy was "only the first of many to come." Scott has a Spanish website and a Spanish communications shop.

Four years ago, Scott had strong backing from tea party conservatives. He called for an Arizona-styled enforcement law for illegal immigration and a need to "secure the borders." Just last year he vetoed a bill that would have offered temporary driver's license to some young immigrants.

But freed from the likelihood of a contested GOP primary, Scott is softening the stances he took during his first campaign.

He pushed for the legislation even after many of his fellow Republicans came out firmly against it and even called it "pandering" during a divisive debate in the state Capitol this spring.

Florida's Hispanic community varies widely by region and political affiliation. While Cuban-Americans reside in Miami-Dade and lean Republican, many Puerto Ricans who back Democratic candidates reside in Central Florida.

An April poll taken by a statewide business group found that 75 percent of likely Hispanic voters backed the idea. The poll of 500 voters, which had a margin of error of 4.38 percent, found strong support among both Cuban-Americans and Puerto Ricans for offering in-state tuition rates to high school graduates even if they were living in the country illegally.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, who championed the legislation even before Scott did, contended the push in the Legislature was not about a political goal of helping the governor and Republicans but about policy.

"We were righting a wrong," said Weatherford, a Wesley Chapel Republican. "I think it's a reflection of the leaders in Tallahassee who recognize there was an injustice taking place in society."

Scott has also criticized top Democratic rival and former Gov. Charlie Crist for advocating that the United States should scrap the 52-year-old embargo with Cuba.

Annette Taddeo-Goldstein, chairwoman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, maintained that Hispanics won't be swayed by an "election year ploy."

"At the end of the day I don't think it's going to work because as Hispanics we remember," said Taddeo-Goldstein.

One problem for Democrats, however, is that Crist was opposed to in-state tuition for students living here illegally when he was running as a Republican. Crist now says he supports the change.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Scott & Perry Bet On NBA Finals]]> Thu, 05 Jun 2014 22:08:31 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/031113+rick+scott.jpg

Governor Rick Scott and Texas Governor Rick Perry got into the betting surrounding the NBA Finals Thursday.

If Miami wins, Perry said he would send a 3 pound cinnamon roll from Lulu’s Bakery and Café in San Antonio to Tallahassee. Conversely, if San Antonio wins, Governor Scott said he would send Whetstone Chocolates from St. Augustine to Austin.

Governor Scott said, “Coach Erik Spoelstra and the Miami Heat have had an incredible run and I look forward to a great series. I am confident that the Heat will be bringing home a third straight title and I look forward to them cementing their legacy as one of the greatest basketball teams of all time. Go Heat.”

The Heat and Spurs’ in the NBA Finals is a rematch from last year’s Finals.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Florida Sues for Access to VA Facilities]]> Thu, 05 Jun 2014 15:41:01 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/va5.jpg

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday against the Department of Veterans Affairs to gain access to inspect VA hospitals in Florida.

The AHCA’s lawsuit alleged that the VA has “failed to comply with minimum standards of patient safety in VA hospitals within the state of Florida. The AHCA has been demanding access to the hospitals since the VA scandal broke around a month ago.

The AHCA has demanded access to access to VA clinics in Gainesville, Lake City, Miami, Tampa, St. Petersburg, and West Palm Beach.

“The VA’s refusal to permit any such inspection or respond to FOIA public records requests, in the face of an ever-growing body of consumer complaint evidence, has led AHCA to be reasonably concerned that the VA is failing the very population it is charged by Congress with protecting,” the lawsuit stated.

The lawsuit was announced on the same day that a bipartisan deal was reached in the U.S. Senate to address major issues with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The new bill allows eligible veterans to use non-VA medical care if they experience long wait times or live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA hospital or clinic.

The new bill authorizes the department to enter into leases for 26 major medical facilities in 18 states and to spend $500 million to hire new doctors and nurses with an expedited hiring process. The new bill should be debated next week and then get sent to the House of Representatives.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Ros-Lehtinen States Opposition to Taliban Deal]]> Tue, 03 Jun 2014 22:01:22 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/AP558299051787.jpg

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) said Tuesday that she opposed the proposed prisoner swap to secure the freedom of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in 2011 while she chaired the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“I can reaffirm that I, and many of my colleagues, strongly stated our opposition to any deal for Sgt. Bergdahl that would in any way benefit the Taliban or jeopardize the safety and security of our brave men and women in uniform who placed their lives on the line day in and day out to protect their fellow servicemen and women, our country, and our national security interests,” Ros-Lehtinen’s office said in a statement.

Ros-Lehtinen also said she was “outraged and disgusted” that the White House had “legitimize Hamas” and “embolden the Taliban.”

Ros-Lethinen’s comments came on the same day Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner said they were not told of the deal in advance by the White House. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was also not told about the exchange until Saturday.

The only Congressional leader told of the deal ahead of time was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, according to Politico.

Photo Credit: US Army/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Judge Accused of Punching Attorney]]> Mon, 02 Jun 2014 20:35:04 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/court-gavel-generic-law.jpg

A Florida judge is accused of punching an assistant public defender during an altercation in a hallway outside a courtroom.

WFTV in Orlando reports that Judge John Murphy hit assistant public defender Andrew Weinstock after the two exchanged words over whether his client could have a speedy trial in the Brevard County courtroom.

Weinstock's supervisor, Public Defender Blaise Trettis, tells WFTV that the judge grabbed Weinstock's collar in the hallway off the courtroom after the judge asked the attorney to come into the hallway.

Deputies broke up the fight.

Murphy wasn't arrested.

No one answered the phone in Murphy's judicial chamber, and a spokeswoman for the court administration didn't respond to an email. Weinstock also didn't respond to an email inquiry.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bondi: Gay Marriage Would Cause Harm]]> Fri, 30 May 2014 16:44:57 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/081413+pam+bondi.jpg

The attorney general of Florida says in court documents that recognizing same sex marriages performed in other states would disrupt existing marriage laws and "impose significant public harm."

Eight gay couples and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state in federal court in March. The lawsuit argues Florida is discriminating against the couples by not recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican who was named in the lawsuit along with fellow GOP Gov. Rick Scott and other state officials, earlier this month filed a lengthy response that asks a federal judge to throw out the lawsuit for several reasons, saying a federal court shouldn't rule on a state's marriage laws.

Bondi's office also argues that the state has a legitimate interest in defining marriage as between a man and woman. Florida first banned same-sex marriages nearly two decades ago and voters reinforced that ban when they passed a constitutional amendment in 2008.

"Florida's marriage laws, then, have a close, direct, and rational relationship to society's legitimate interest in increasing the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by the mothers and fathers who produced them in stable and enduring family units," Bondi's office said in court documents.

The state's legal position also notes that there would be significant financial and logistical problems for the state's pension and health insurance programs if same-sex marriages were recognized.

The lead attorney for the ACLU of Florida disagreed.

"Florida's discriminatory laws cause serious harm to real families across the state," attorney Daniel Tilley said in a statement. "Despite the state's assertion that the harms to same-sex married couples aren't significant enough to warrant relief, the families living every day being treated like legal strangers by their home state know better."

Scott earlier this year said he supports Florida's constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, but added that he "does not believe that anyone should be discriminated against for any reason."

The lawsuit in Florida is part of a groundswell of challenges in the gay marriage debate.

Several federal judges have ruled in support of same-sex marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down part of the federal anti-gay marriage law.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>