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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Amid FBI probe of Tallahassee, Gillum says GOP trying to 'put as much dirt on me as they can'

Andrew Gillum

Tallahassee Democrat

Andrew Gillum

Tallahassee mayor and candidate for governor Andrew Gillum might like his supporters to think a federal investigation into development deals in his city is political – but he’s not ready to say so himself. 

In an interview with the Buzz following a Tampa campaign appearance Saturday, his first on the subject, Gillum hinted at political motives behind early problems for his campaign, which include the investigation. 

At the same time, however, Gillum said he wasn’t accusing the FBI of any political motivation, and said, “It’s the FBI’s job to get to the bottom of exactly what’s gone on. If something illegal or untoward has occurred I’m going to do everything I can to assist them in bringing resolution to that situation.” 

Gillum also proclaimed his innocence of any wrongdoing, and said the Tallahassee FBI field office approved a statement he released Friday saying he is not a target or subject of the investigation. 

A federal grand jury has subpoenaed records from the city and a local community redevelopment agency concerning Tallahassee development projects and a developer who is a political ally of Gillum.  …

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Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics

Winner of the week

Allison Tant. Remember the glory days of the Florida Democratic Party when Tant ran the show from 2013 through 2016? Okay, so the former party chairwoman may not have notched a lot of victories as party leader, but at least she didn't use racial language in a dumb argument with legislators like her successor, Stephen Bittel.

Loser of the week

Andrew Gillum. A pending FBI investigation into a development deal involving Tallahassee City Hall. A still-open Leon County Sheriff's Office investigation into Mayor Gillum's email practices. It may turn out there is no fire, but there sure is a lot of smoke threatening to cripple Gillum's campaign for governor.

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Jeb Bush back in the hunt for the Marlins, now opposing Derek Jeter

Associated Press:

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has switched sides in pursuit of the Miami Marlins, and he’s trying to beat out former teammate Derek Jeter.

Bush has joined forces with businessman Tagg Romney in a group trying to buy the Marlins, two people familiar with the negotiations said Friday. The people confirmed Bush’s new role to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the parties involved in the sales talks aren’t commenting publicly.

One of the people said South Florida businessman Jorge Mas has contacted the Marlins to say he’s leading a group interested in buying the franchise, meaning at least three groups are pursuing a deal.

Bush and Jeter, the 14-time New York Yankees All-Star shortstop, led rival groups earlier this year. They then joined forces, but Bush dropped out in May.

Now they’re rivals again, and Jeter is still exploring financing options.

The Romney-Bush group also includes Quogue Capital investment fund founder Wayne Rothbaum, Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine and former Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart. …

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Rick Scott signs medical marijuana, 37 other bills into law

Gov. Rick Scott

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Gov. Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

Lawmakers passed the measure (SB 8A) in a special session after failing in their regular session early this year, to implement a constitutional amendment legalizing the drug, which was supported the will of 71 percent of voters.

Under the constitutional amendment, patients with a host of conditions can buy and use medical marijuana. Among them: cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma and epilepsy.

The new law also sets in motion a plan to license 10 new companies as growers by October, bringing the statewide total to 17.

It allows patients to use cannabis pills, oils, edibles and "vape" pens with a doctor's approval but bans smoking.

"The constitutional amendment was passed overwhelmingly, and I'm glad the House and Senate were able to come together for a bill that makes sense for our state," Scott said earlier  this month. …

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Gov. Scott plans D.C. trip as U.S. Senate debates Obamacare repeal

Florida Gov. Rick Scott

AP

Florida Gov. Rick Scott

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday that he will travel to Washington, D.C. next week so he can provide input as the U.S. Senate debates its proposal to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a new plan.

No details were released as to when Scott would travel to the nation's capital or whom he will meet with there.

"I have been carefully reviewing the bill and next week, I will be traveling to Washington to meet with congressional leaders to provide input on how we can make the bill better for Floridians," Scott said in a statement.

Scott is widely expected to run for U.S. Senate in 2018 against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson.

Scott called Obamacare a "terrible, expensive mess" and offered some general insight into what he would want to see out of Congress' replacement plan.

“All states must be treated equitably. Florida taxpayers deserve the same treatment as every other state under the Medicaid program," Scott said. He added: "Every American, including those with pre-existing conditions, should have the ability to buy any kind of insurance they want. This will drive down costs and give people the flexibility and power to determine what they want to buy."

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Andrew Gillum: FBI says I'm 'not the focus of investigation' into city of Tallahassee

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democratic candidate for governor in 2018

Tallahassee Democrat

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democratic candidate for governor in 2018

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum said in a formal statement Friday that he spoke with the FBI last week about its probe into redevelopment deals in the city, and he said FBI officials "assured me I was not the focus of an investigation."

Gillum's statement was distributed to media through a city of Tallahassee spokesman, not Gillum's 2018 Democratic campaign for governor.

His lengthy comments come a day after the Associated Press reported that the FBI had launched its investigation, which the AP said involves prominent business owners and developers in Tallahassee, including a former campaign treasurer for Gillum.

MORE: "Federal authorities launch probe into city of Tallahassee"

The AP said it received copies of federal grand jury subpoenas through a records request. The subpoenas seek documents from the city and a local redevelopment agency. Gillum was not named in the subpoenas, the AP reported, and the subpoenas did not reveal what potential wrongdoing federal authorities were specifically investigating. …

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Trump signs 'VA accountability' bill, as Gus Bilirakis watches

Rep. Gus Bilirakis, at President Trump's left, watches the bill signing.

Screen capture

Rep. Gus Bilirakis, at President Trump's left, watches the bill signing.

WASHINGTON - Rep. Gus Bilirakis was among a group of lawmakers on hand to see President Trump sign a "VA accountability bill that will make it easier to dismiss problem employees.

The White House said a Florida veteran, Rick Disney, also attended.

The legislation was sponsored in the Senate by Marco Rubio, and was supported by Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

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It's a good news, bad news story for Florida Democrats

Former Vice President Joe Biden addresses Florida Democrats at their Leadership Blue Gala on June 17.

Photo by Carol Porter

Former Vice President Joe Biden addresses Florida Democrats at their Leadership Blue Gala on June 17.

After Donald Trump’s election, so many people started showing up at monthly Pinellas County Democratic Party meetings, the group had to start forking out more money for a bigger room.

The Orange County Democratic Executive Committee changed venues to accommodate bigger crowds of fired-up Democrats. And within the fast-growing Hillsborough Democratic Party, activists have launched New Tampa and Temple Terrace clubs, the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Tampa Bay and Labor and Caribbean caucuses.

“People are coming out of the woodwork,’’ said Palm Beach County Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo, a Democratic National Committee member.

The unprecedented surge in grass roots energy and activity should bode well for downtrodden Florida Democrats heading into the 2018 midterms, but it belies a grimmer reality: The state party that won one of the past 13 Florida Cabinet races and zero of the past five governor’s races, remains as much of a darkhorse as ever, with fundamental questions about resources and competence.

Column here.

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Credit rating agency: HB 7069 could affect Florida school districts' financial standing

 Gov. Rick Scott speaks to legislators at the end of a  special session, Friday, June 9, 2017, in Tallahassee, Fla.

Steve Cannon / AP

Gov. Rick Scott speaks to legislators at the end of a special session, Friday, June 9, 2017, in Tallahassee, Fla.

From the News Service of Florida:

Part of a controversial and wide-ranging education bill (HB 7069) signed by Gov. Rick Scott could affect the credit ratings of some of the state's school districts, according to a report released Thursday by Moody's Investors Service.

The report said a requirement that school districts share construction funds generated by local property taxes with charter schools "is credit negative for school districts with significant charter enrollment."

The finding isn't a change to the districts' ratings, but could affect them in the future.

"As capital revenues follow students to charters, traditional schools' ability to cut capital expenditures will be tempered by aging infrastructure and the need to attract and retain students," the analysis said.

The bill, championed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, touched off weeks of debate, with major education groups urging Scott to veto it. But Scott signed the measure last week.

Read the Moody's report here.

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Group: Jamie Grant is "cheating" on term limits

Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa

Tampa Bay Times

Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa

From Times correspondent William March

State Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa, is being bashed by the U.S. Term Limits organization, which claims he's "cheating" on term limits – but the charge goes back to a wrinkle in Florida election law that fouled up Grant's 2014 re-election.

That re-election was invalidated because of litigation over a write-in candidate who filed for his District 64 seat, but didn't live in the district and never campaigned. Grant missed most of the 2015 legislative session while the litigation was decided, but won re-election again in a special election in April, 2015.

As a result, he missed most of the 2015 legislative session – but because he was technically out of office for six months, his term limits clock was re-started. First elected in 2010, Grant could end up serving as much as 14 years in the state House, despite the limit of four two-year terms.

Grant had nothing to do with the lawsuit – it was filed by the husband of another candidate – but Phil Blumel, president of U.S. Term Limits, blamed him for the situation in a news release, saying, "Rep. Grant's scheme to evade term limits is sleazy and outrageous." …

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Richard Corcoran makes nice with Visit Florida

Visit Florida's racing team is no more after July 3. The soccer team? It stays, for now.

Visit Florida

Visit Florida's racing team is no more after July 3. The soccer team? It stays, for now.

From the News Service of Florida's Jim Turner:

House Speaker Richard Corcoran said Visit Florida apparently listened to state lawmakers' criticism, as the tourism-marketing agency has canceled an auto racing sponsorship and is negotiating for a better deal with an English football club.

“It's clear that Visit Florida has heard us loud and clear and are beginning the process of cleaning up their act and ceasing the waste of taxpayer money,” Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, said in a statement Thursday.

During this year's regular legislative session, Corcoran was highly critical of Visit Florida spending and clashed with Gov. Rick Scott about the agency.

Among the more prominent complaints about Visit Florida was a $1 million deal with Miami rapper Pitbull, along with sponsorships of Fulham Football Club in England and the Visit Florida racing team.

Lawmakers during the regular session moved to cut Visit Florida's budget in 2017-2018 by two-thirds from the current fiscal year. But the funding was bumped up to $76 million --- nearly matching the money in the current year --- during a special session this month. …

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Opinions across Florida: Trump chooses wisely on Cuba

President Donald Trump, with Republican leaders, signs policy documents rolling back Obama-era changes that eased U.S.-Cuba relations at the Manuel Artime Theater in Miami.

NYT

President Donald Trump, with Republican leaders, signs policy documents rolling back Obama-era changes that eased U.S.-Cuba relations at the Manuel Artime Theater in Miami.

Not all newspapers agree on Trump's handling of Cuba. While the Tampa Bay Times editorial board criticized Trump's approach for crimping improving relations, two other newspapers approved the new direction. 

The Miami Herald concluded that Trump is "right to recalibrate this policy without jettisoning it wholesale."

In one of the most important changes, transactions with the Business Administration Group, S.A — GAESA — will be prohibited. GAESA is the company of the Cuban Armed Forces that, according to estimates, controls 60 percent of the Cuban economy. And there will be limits on Americans’ ability to travel to Cuba, a change of which we are less enamored.

These measures should significantly reduce the amount of money flowing into the coffers of the Cuban regime. U.S. tourism has been booming since relations between Washington and Havana were resumed. According to island authorities, in 2016 the number of U.S. visitors increased by 74 percent compared to 2015. …

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Here's a story about Miami real estate that involves Trump, bikers and Russians

Vladimir Putin (L), then Russia's Prime Minister, walks side by side with Alexander Zaldostanov (R), nicknamed "the Surgeon", the leader of the group of Russian bikers called the Night Wolves, near Sevastopol in Ukraine's Crimea, in 2010.

ALEXEY DRUZHININ AFP

Vladimir Putin (L), then Russia's Prime Minister, walks side by side with Alexander Zaldostanov (R), nicknamed "the Surgeon", the leader of the group of Russian bikers called the Night Wolves, near Sevastopol in Ukraine's Crimea, in 2010.

From the Miami Herald's Lily Dobrovolskaya and Nicholas Nehamas:

Out-of-town money pouring into South Florida real estate is as old as Henry Flagler.

But the tale of Igor Zorin offers a 21st-century twist with all the weirdness modern Miami has to offer: Russian cash, a motorcycle club named after Russia’s powerful special forces and a condo tower branded by Donald Trump.

Zorin is a Russian government official who’s spent nearly $8 million on waterfront South Florida homes, hardly financially prudent given his bureaucrat’s salary of $75,000 per year. He runs a state-owned broadcasting company that, among other duties, operates sound systems for the annual military parade that sends columns of soldiers and tanks rumbling through Moscow’s Red Square.

Zorin has other Miami connections, too: His local business associate, Svyatoslav Mangushev, a Russian intelligence officer turned Miami real estate investor, helped found a biker club called Spetsnaz M.C. Spetsnaz is a group of motorcycle-loving South Florida expatriates who named themselves after the Russian equivalent of Delta Force or Seal Team Six. …

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Bill Clinton coming to Miami Beach on Saturday for mayors' convention

Former President Bill Clinton gives the opening address to kick off a meeting of International Aid Groups at the InterAction Forum 2017 at the Washington Convention Center on June 20.

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Former President Bill Clinton gives the opening address to kick off a meeting of International Aid Groups at the InterAction Forum 2017 at the Washington Convention Center on June 20.

From our friends at the Miami Herald:

Former President Bill Clinton is heading to Miami Beach on Saturday to address the U.S. Conference of Mayors. A friend of Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine, who lobbied to bring the event to Miami Beach in 2017, Clinton will speak at the day's luncheon at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. It is closed to the public.

The convention gathers nearly 300 mayors from across the city. It runs through Monday at the Fontainebleau. No details were released on Clinton's speech, but he will be addressing mayors during a lunch with a theme of "city livability." 

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Florida Insiders: The state parties are dying; 'I heard someone long for the leadership of Jim Greer'

Florida Insider Poll

Tampa Bay Times

Florida Insider Poll

For all the attention on Florida Democratic Chairman Stephen Bittel's bone-headed gaffe this week, the diminished state of the once mighty Florida GOP today compared to even a few years ago is arguably more striking than the condition of the long-suffering Florida Democratic Party. A decade ago, no one would have imagined the Republican Party of Florida all but abandoned by the sitting Republican governor and more or less avoided by the Republican frontrunner to succeed him.

The major parties still have an important role in politics and campaigns, but in the post-Citizens United era of super PACs and anti-establishment voter uprisings, the role of the parties is far less significant than it used to be. …

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