The NRA Battles Florida Republicans on Gun Control

“The National Rifle Association, equipped with a vaunted political email list and support from passionate single-issue voters, is gearing up to take on Florida Gov. Rick Scott and GOP leaders as they tee up a rarity in Florida lawmaking: gun control legislation,” Politico reports.

“The central question for Republicans as the state’s legislative session enters its final weeks is whether the NRA, which opposes the GOP-written measures, will get rolled by a collection of lawmakers it helped get elected.”

Axios: Meet Florida’s influential NRA lobbyist.

Florida Lawmakers Back Age Limits for Assault Rifles

“Gov. Rick Scott (R) and top state lawmakers proposed on Friday the most significant move toward gun control in Florida in decades, backing new limits that defy the National Rifle Association but fall short of demands from survivors of last week’s school shooting,” the New York Times reports.

“Faced with massive protests, the Republican governor announced a plan to raise the minimum age to buy any firearm, including semiautomatic rifles, from 18 to 21. Mr. Scott also vowed to strengthen rules to keep weapons away from people who have mental health problems or injunctions against them for stalking or domestic violence.”

Inside the Russian Effort to Bamboozle Florida

“The scathing indictment unsealed Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller outlines a multi-state scheme to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. But the document makes clear that the operation in Florida, the nation’s largest swing state, was in a class by itself,” Politico reports.

“The indictment is packed with details of how Russian nationals duped Donald Trump campaign volunteers and grass-roots organizations in Florida into holding rallies they organized and helped fund with foreign cash… During the heat of the 2016 race, Trump campaign officials in Florida said they were surprised by all the grass-roots support for the president — which seemed entirely organic at the time.”

Everyone Elected In This House District Has Pleaded Guilty

Since Florida’s 114th state House district was formed in 2012, every candidate voters have sent to the Florida Capitol on their behalf has pleaded guilty to criminal charges, the Miami Herald reports.

“On Tuesday, some of the 34,000 Republican voters in the district, which includes Flagami, Coral Gables, West Miami and parts of Pinecrest and Cutler Bay, will head to the polls to begin the process of voting for the first time — hopefully — to elect someone who won’t disgrace them.”

Florida Rules for Felons’ Voting Rights Struck Down

A federal judge ruled that the state of Florida “routinely violates the constitutional rights of its citizens by permanently revoking the ‘fundamental right’ to vote for anyone convicted of a felony,” the Tampa Bay Times reports.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said the Florida “scheme” unfairly relies on the personal support of the governor for citizens to regain the right to vote.

Florida Ballot Measure Could Add 1.5 Million Voters

“Floridians will get to decide in November whether they want to amend the state constitution to automatically restore voting rights to felons once they complete their sentences, a move that could significantly expand the franchise to over 1.5 million people,” the HuffPost reports.

“Florida election officials verified Tuesday that organizers had gathered enough petitions to put the referendum on the ballot this year. Just gathering those signatures was a herculean task for the grassroots effort ― Florida law required the organizers to gather 766,200 signatures, equal to 8 percent of the votes cast in the last presidential election.”

It’s Like Trump Is Trying to Lose Florida

“President Trump’s comments about ‘shithole countries’ like Haiti could hurt him most severely in his winter home of Florida, a state that’s also home to a large Haitian community. And it’s just the latest time he’s singled out a key voting bloc to antagonize in the state,” TPM reports.

“His racially charged comments add insult to injury to the community, just weeks after his administration ended temporary status protection for 60,000 Haitian refugees living in the U.S.”

“And that’s nothing compared to how much he’s infuriated the state’s fast-growing Puerto Rican community with his administration’s shoddy response to Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island.”

Trump Says Drilling Won’t Be Allowed Off Florida Coast

“The Trump administration told Florida’s governor it won’t consider new oil and gas drilling off the state’s coast, backtracking on plans to expand offshore drilling all around the U.S. and bowing to pressure from fellow Republicans in the state,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

First Read: “Exempting Florida — but not other states — appears to be the kind of transactional favoritism that many good-government observers worried about when Trump became president. Bottom line: The Trump administration has invited lawsuits if it doesn’t extend the same kind of exemption to other states that want it.”

A Great Migration Is Set to Transform Florida

New York Times: “More than 168,000 people have flown or sailed out of Puerto Rico to Florida since the hurricane, landing at airports in Orlando, Miami and Tampa, and the port in Fort Lauderdale. Nearly half are arriving in Orlando, where they are tapping their networks of family and friends. An additional 100,000 are booked on flights to Orlando through Dec. 31…  Large numbers are also settling in the Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach areas.”

“With so many arriving so abruptly, the migration is expected to transform Orlando, a city that has already become a stronghold of Puerto Ricans, many of them fleeing the island’s economic crisis in recent years. The Puerto Rican population of Florida has exploded from 479,000 in 2000 to well over one million today, according to the Pew Research Center. The number of Puerto Ricans in Orlando was 210,000 in 2014… and since then the count has risen rapidly as more arrived during the economic crisis.”

“The impact of this latest wave is likely to stretch from schools and housing to the work force and even politics. Puerto Ricans, who are American citizens and tilt Democratic, could sway the electoral results of one of the country’s most pivotal swing states.”

Florida Democratic Chair Ousted for Being ‘Creepy’

Tampa Bay Times: “Stephen Bittel’s rocky tenure as Florida Democratic Party chairman ended in disgrace Friday after he resigned following accusations from women that he leered at them, made suggestive comments and created an unprofessional work environment.”

“Bittel’s position became untenable after all four major Democratic candidates for Florida governor urged his ouster following a Politico Florida report late Thursday in which six women anonymously complained about Bittel’s behavior. They said he was ‘creepy’ and ‘demeaning.’ Bittel apologized, but it was not enough.”

Top Florida Democrat Resigns Over Affair

“The Florida Senate’s top Democratic leader, Jeff Clemens, resigned Friday after admitting to having an affair with a lobbyist during the last legislative session, saying that repairing his personal life was impossible while serving in the high-profile role,” the Miami Herald reports.

Said Clemens: “I have made mistakes I am ashamed of, and for the past six months I have been focused on becoming a better person. But it is clear to me that task is impossible to finish while in elected office. The process won’t allow it, and the people of Florida deserve better. All women deserve respect, and by my actions, I feel I have failed that standard. I have to do better.”

Florida Democrat Apologizes for Affair with Lobbyist

Florida state Sen. Jeff Clemens (D), the incoming leader of Florida’s Senate Democrats, apologized for having an affair with a lobbyist during the last legislative session, Politico reports.

Said Clemens: “I used poor judgment and hurt people that I care about, and for that I apologized long ago. But I also owe my constituents and colleagues an apology and I intend to do just that.”

“The affair between Clemens and lobbyist Devon West came to a head at the end of the regular spring lawmaking session, when West came into possession of Clemens’ Apple laptop, and gained access to all his contacts and personal information and then informed his wife of the tryst.”

Exodus From Puerto Rico Could Remake Florida Politics

New York Times: “Every day dozens of Puerto Ricans pour into the Orlando area, fleeing their homes and lives ravaged by Hurricane Maria. In the months to come, officials here said, that number could surge to more than 100,000. And those numbers could remake politics in Florida, a state where the last two presidential and governor’s races were decided by roughly one percentage point or less.”

“There are more than a million Puerto Ricans in Florida, a number that has doubled since 2001, driven largely until now by a faltering economy. But their political powers have evolved slowly in this state, and the wave of potential voters from the island could quickly change that calculus.”