Greetings from Day 46 of the 60-day legislative session in Tallahassee. At the beginning of the week, things were looking a little rosier. Predictions of an extended session or a special session were down. But now, with just two weeks left in the process, you can almost see things going sideways, like a slow-motion train wreck you are powerless to stop. House and Senate budget negotiators say they’re making progress, but distraction after distraction has been thrown into the mix. Although one of those distractions is now history.
Frank Artiles, we hardly knew ye … Actually, strike that. The problem was that we knew him too well. In any case, say goodbye to state Sen. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, who will resign today, per the Miami Herald’s Patricia Mazzei and Mary Ellen Klas. Artiles announced his resignation in a letter to Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart:
“It is clear to me my recent actions and words that I spoke fell far short of what I expect for myself, and for this I am very sorry. I apologize to my family and friends and I apologize to all of my fellow senators and lawmakers. To the people of my district and all of Miami-Dade, I am sorry I have let you down and ask for your forgiveness.
“My actions and my presence in government is now a distraction to my colleagues, the legislative process and the citizens of our great State.
“I am responsible and I am accountable and effective immediately, I am resigning from the Florida State Senate.”
Things moved very quickly against Artiles, whose racist, sexist remarks to a fellow senator are being investigated by Senate General Counsel Dawn Roberts. A report and recommendation from Roberts as to whether Artiles violated Senate rules and whether he should be removed from office is expected Tuesday. But the Associated Press’ Brendan Farrington reports that Artiles had hired lawyer Steven Andrews, whose reputation as a pitbull greatly proceeds him. The most significant paragraphs in Farrington’s story are likely the third and fourth:
He also said Artiles’ comments should be judged side-by-side with the remarks of other senators.
“Should this matter be sent to the Senate floor, my client intends to put evidence of other similar speech by other senators,” Andrews wrote to Senate lawyer Dawn Roberts.
In other words, as of yesterday, Artiles was threatening to burn the house down if this made it to the Senate floor.
Then, Politico Florida’s Marc Caputo reported that Attorney General Pam Bondi has become the first major Republican politician in the state to say Artiles should consider resigning. That was probably the fork signifying Artiles was done. Once one statewide Republican official moved publicly against him, it made it easy for the rest to jump on board.
Gambling conference craps out: The Florida Supreme Court OK’ed a proposed constitutional amendment yesterday that, if Floridians voted for it in November, would give voters the right to decide on all future expansions of gambling in the state. That had the effect of canceling a proposed gambling conference in the Florida Legislature, as senators and representatives wanted to take the weekend to figure out what the ruling could mean for legislation. The big question about the amendment is whether it would apply retroactively — could gambling legislation approved by this year’s Legislature be upended by a constitutional amendment if voters approve it in 2018? The answer is up to greater legal minds than mine, but I have all the latest on gambling in my story.
Speaking of constitutional amendments approved by the state Supreme Court: The court also approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would give felons the right to vote in Florida after they’ve served probation and parole, the Orlando Sentinel’s Steven Lemongello reports. Florida has some of the harshest voting restoration laws in the country. Ex-felons lose the right to vote for life unless that right is given back to them by the governor and his three-person cabinet. And they rarely grant ex-felons their rights, at least under the current administration.
Beer! A bill that cleared its final committee stop, the Senate Appropriations Committee, yesterday would allow small craft brewers to self-distribute. But I talked with a dozen small craft brewers in South Florida and only two of them would qualify under the proposed law.
Speaking of bills that cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday: Florida Politics’ Michael Moline reports on a bill that implements Amendment 4, the solar power tax break that voters approved in last year’s primary election. But the House version includes requirements supported by the utility companies that would make owning your own solar equipment more difficult.
2018 watch: Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham tells the Sun Sentinel’s Anthony Man that she’s close to announcing her run for the governor’s mansion, saying the announcement would not come tomorrow, but would also not be two months away. Graham would be the third Democrat to announce, after Orlando businessman Chris King and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. The presence of Gillum, like Graham a Tallahassee-based politician, should make for an interesting race as the two rely on the same North Florida political base while trying to turn out votes in areas of the state that have more Democrats (read: our area of the state). Graham is still largely considered the frontrunner, but if Gillum can tamp down on Graham’s base while turning out black voters to his cause, well, who knows?
Making America great again ain’t cheap: If you don’t follow Florida politics at all, you may be forgiven for thinking that the retirement community The Villages is some sort of liberal utopia for aging hippies, what with all the boozing, STDs and other assorted debauchery. But, in fact, it is the single most conservative area of the state. A Republican running for statewide office who doesn’t stop by The Land of Misfit Golf Carts is committing campaign suicide. And, in fact, the Orlando Sentinel’s Steven Lemongello reports that The Villages gave $250,000 to President Donald Trump‘s inaugural committee.
Of course, that amount is a drop in the bucket for Trump’s inaugural committee. NPR’s Danielle Kurtzleben reports that the committee hauled in almost $107 million — double the previous record of $53 million set by President Barack Obama in 2009. Where did all that money go? Who knows! While the Federal Elections Commission requires disclosure of inaugural donations, it does not require disclosure of expenditures.
Welcome to America! Egyptian American Aya Hijazi, jailed in Egypt for three years, has come home to the United States after President Donald Trump negotiated her release, the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker and Karen Deyoung report.
Get the heck out of America! The Los Angeles Times’ Joseph Tanfani reports that as the Trump administration seeks to ramp up deportations, an overworked and poorly organized Immigration and Customs Enforcement is having a hard time keeping up.
Island time: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is taking some flak from Hawaiian lawmakers after referring to the state as an “island in the Pacific” in dismissing a Hawaiian federal judge’s ruling against President Donald Trump’s travel ban, the Associated Press’ Audrey McAvoy.
“I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power,” Sessions told radio host Mark Levin.
And if the attorney general can’t understand why that’s a bit condescending, from here on out, I’ll be referring to his home state of Alabama as “a trailer park in the South.”
In the Pines: The Sun Sentinel’s Susannah Bryan reports that Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis has called water issues in his city “a big hype.” On the other hand, state officials have told the city to warn pregnant women, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems not to drink the water. If those two things seem completely at odds with each other, that’s because they are.
Power Lunch playlist: It’s Friday, and that means a 10-song Spotify playlist dedicated to the week that was in political news — and oh boy, what a week it was. Enjoy, and I’ll see you at 10 a.m. Monday on the Sun Sentinel’s Facebook page for a Facebook Live weekly update.
MEANWHILE, IN THE TWITTERVERSE …
Always remember: In politics … “Not only will I not resign, but run for re-election” is code for “I’ll be gone by the end of the week”
≥140 CHARACTER HOT TAKE: Yeah, I had forgotten that truism. My bad.
≥140 CHARACTER HOT TAKE: Whew! From the first eight words, I thought this was going to be another Artiles tweet.
Broward Health’s interim president and CEO has resigned: sunsent.nl/2otZY4v
≥140 CHARACTER HOT TAKE: Wow, is there something in the water?
≥140 CHARACTER HOT TAKE: OK, clearly, everyone’s been drinking from the tap in Pembroke Pines.
As always, I’m @Daniel_Sweeney. Troll me there.