By Marc Caputo ([email protected]; @MarcACaputo) with Raquel Zaldivar ([email protected]; @raqzal), Sergio Bustos ([email protected]; @sbustosFL) and the staff of POLITICO Florida

Good Thursday morning. Twenty-five years ago today, Hurricane Andrew decimated Homestead with Category 5 winds, and the state vowed to build better. But is Florida ready for the next monster storm? Since Andrew hit, 10 percent of all of the nation’s new homes have been built in Florida (second only to Texas), according to USA Today, which also reported that a hurricane similar to Andrew today would cause a staggering $300 billion in damage. In today’s news, Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Rick Scott and others will attend the funeral of two slain Kissimmee police officers. Tonight, Rubio continues his tour of the state in support of Republican causes and candidates with a fundraiser for Rep. Carlos Curbelo in Bal Harbour. Rubio spoke briefly yesterday at a rally with Vice President Mike Pence and Scott concerning Venezuela, but the event was more talk than action. Still, let’s start there …

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WE GOT YOUR BACK — “Pence: U.S. to use ‘economic and diplomatic power’ to restore democracy in Venezuela,” by POLITICO Florida’s Sergio Bustos: Vice President Mike Pence made a quick trip Wednesday afternoon to the Miami suburb of Doral, home to the nation’s largest Venezuelan community, to reinforce and reiterate the Trump administration’s commitment and support for those fighting against the authoritarian government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. “The U.S will continue to bring the full measure of U.S. economic and diplomatic power to bear until democracy is restored in Venezuela,” Pence told a cheering crowd of hundreds of people at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. “The collapse of Venezuela will endanger all who call the Western Hemisphere home. We cannot and will not let that happen.” Read more.

SONIC ATTACK — “Some U.S. diplomats in Cuba diagnosed with serious health conditions, medical records show,” by CBS News: “According to medical records reviewed exclusively by CBS News, a U.S. doctor who evaluated American and Canadian diplomats working in Havana diagnosed them with conditions as serious as mild traumatic brain injury, and with likely damage to the central nervous system. The diplomats complained about symptoms ranging from hearing loss and nausea to headaches and balance disorders after the State Department said ‘incidents’ began affecting them beginning in late 2016. A source familiar with these incidents says officials are investigating whether the diplomats were targets of a type of sonic attack directed at their homes, which were provided by the Cuban government. The source says reports of more attacks affecting U.S. embassy workers on the island continue.” Read more

SPEAKING OUT — “Rubio laments congressional failures, says white supremacists ‘threat’ to GOP,” by POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon: Sen. Marco Rubio laid out what he sees as congressional failures and where he thinks the Republican Party should go during a campaign-style speech Tuesday night before the Seminole County Republican Party. The Miami Republican says high profile legislative failures, including the failed repeal of Obamacare, are bad for the future of the party, which made some high-profile promises during the 2016 campaign cycle. “We are not a debate society. We are not a think tank,” he said of the GOP, according to a video of his remarks. “We have to put that in action. That is where, up to this point, the new Congress has failed.” Read more.

RECALIBRATING? — “Taking heat from some for Charlottesville remarks, Rubio denounces the ‘other side,'” by the Tampa Bay Times’ Alex Leary Read more.

‘MICHAEL THE BLACK MAN’ — “‘Blacks for Trump’ Supporter Was Arrested in Florida for Throwing Big Loud Party,” by the Miami New Times’ Tim Elfrink: “Tune into a Donald Trump rally and there’s a decent chance you’ll see Maurice Symonette — better known as Michael the Black Man — front and center behind the president waving his hand-drawn ‘Blacks For Trump’ sign … Symonette is no ordinary Trump supporter. As New Times first chronicled during the campaign, he’s a former member of Miami’s lethal Yahweh ben Yahweh cult who personally beat two murder charges (for allegedly pummeling one man to death and sticking a sharp stick into another victim’s eyeball). He has also beat four other felonies in more recent years ranging from grand theft auto to carrying concealed weapons. By those standards, Michael the Black Man’s latest brush with the law barely registers — but for one of Trump’s most visible African-American supporters, it’s both newsworthy and kind of hilarious.” Read more

MAR-A-LAGO LOSING — “Nixing Mar-a-Lago event comes with a price for Boca charity, CEO says,” by the Sun Sentinel’s Skyler Swisher: “A Boca Raton charity that helps kids with developmental disabilities stands to lose $160,000 after it decided not to hold a fundraiser at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, its CEO said. The Unicorn Children’s Foundation became the 17th organization Tuesday to cancel an event planned at the president’s private club in Palm Beach — part of the fallout over his remarks on violence in Charlottesville, Va. Trump served as an honorary chairman at past events and made regular appearances at the charity’s fundraisers, CEO Sharon Alexander said. While most organizations are trying to reschedule their fundraisers at other venues, Alexander said the foundation could not find a viable site for its fashion show luncheon.” Read more

— “NEW: Howard Stern, Jimmy Kimmel offer opposing views on Mar-a-Lago,” by the Palm Beach Post’s Jorge Milian Read more

— “Palm Beach Zoo, which bolted from Mar-a-Lago, now set for The Breakers,” by the Palm Beach Post’s Alexandra Clough Read more

RAIN ON THE REBEL PARADE — “Melbourne’s Confederate flag parade controversy may be resolved,” by Florida Today’s Rick Neale: “City council members have decided to stop granting tax dollars to parades — potentially ending emotional, divisive Melbourne City Hall debate over the Confederate flag. Tuesday night, council members voted 4-3 to stop helping fund four parades: Fourth of July ($2,500), Memorial Day ($2,000), Veterans Day ($2,000) and the Melbourne Light Parade ($7,000). These parades are organized by nonprofits. The first three parades typically include floats decorated by Confederate Sons Association of Florida Indian River Camp 47 and Sons of Confederate Veterans Capt. J.J. Dickison Camp 1387.” Read more

… PENINSULA AND BEYOND …

SIGN OF INFLUENCE — “Major GOP donor wins regulatory fight with local governments,” by POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon: Max Alvarez is a businessman who owns more than 300 gas stations in South Florida and is a top donor to scores of Republicans. So when he sought to keep local cities and counties from regulating his use of signage and advertising on his business properties, Florida lawmakers paid attention. And, in the end, Alvarez got his way. The Republican-dominated House and Senate each approved bills this year that contained specific language banning local governments from passing or enforcing ordinances that impacts advertising used by franchisees that have agreements with national companies. Read more.

NO RUSH — “RGA hits Gillum for asking FBI to ‘move quickly’,” by POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon: The Republican Governors Association is criticizing Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for comments he made saying he hopes the FBI will “move quickly” in its investigation of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency. The investigation became public in June when a federal subpoena naming several local political and business leaders was delivered to the city attorney’s office. Gillum was not named, but has said he spoke to the FBI about the investigation. He told the Tallahassee Democrat last week that he hopes the FBI will do its work quickly, in part, so it will not further impact his Democratic gubernatorial bid. Read more.

SHOUTED DOWN Rep. Charlie Crist wanted to have a meeting with teens about stopping what he said is a rash of car thefts in the St. Petersburg area. But the meetings was broken up by activists with the group Uhuru, which protests the killing of black people at the hands of law enforcement. The group’s city council candidate did most of the shouting at Crist’s meeting, which FOX13’s Evan Axelbank caught on video. His story about the event can be read here

— “Charlie Crist asking local youth for advice on how to stop deadly car theft epidemic,” by the Tampa Bay Times’ Zachary T. Sampson and Lisa Gartner Read more

MENENDEZ FILES — “Menendez, Melgen jury set; judge denies he kept press, public out of courtroom,” by POLITICO New Jersey’s Matt Friedman: Read more.

— @nytpolitics: “This fall, Robert Menendez will have to choose between attending his corruption trial and casting Senate votes” http://nyti.ms/2g6z57o

NEARLY CLEARED — “Ethics panel staff: Company run by higher ed official can donate land, money to FGCU,” by POLITICO Florida’s Daniel Ducassi: Read more.

TO WHOSE BENEFIT — “Corcoran wants to abolish public financing for campaigns,” by POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon: In a move likely to spill over into the 2018 gubernatorial campaign, state House Speaker Richard Corcoran Wednesday called on a constitutional panel to recommend abolishing the state’s public financing system. “This is gross waste of taxpayer money and is nothing more than welfare for politicians,” said Corcoran, rolling out his request of the Constitution Revision Commission. “All it does is protect the insider political class.” … Corcoran, along with state Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, are asking CRC members to put on the 2018 ballot a proposal to abolish the public financing portion of the state constitution. The commission meets once every 20 years to consider changes to the state constitution. Any recommendations it makes will be on the 2018 ballot and need 60 percent voter approval. Read more.

MAKE NO CHANGE — “Buchanan wants endangered classification to remain for Florida panther,” by POLITICO Florida’s Bruce Ritchie: U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan is joining some environmentalists in calling for a federal agency to retain its endangered species classification for the Florida panther. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced in June it is conducting a five-year status review for 23 species of plants and animals including the panther, the official state animal. The public has until Aug. 29 to submit comments. In his letter to the agency on Wednesday, Buchanan said he was writing to express his “strong concern” over reports that the agency could weaken protections. Read more.

RED TAPE, GREEN POT — “Trying to get a medical marijuana card soon? Don’t hold your breath,” by the Miami Herald’s David Smiley: “Since June 7, the number of patients certified over the entire first three years of Florida’s fledgling cannabis program has nearly doubled from 16,760 to more than 31,000. But patients are finding it’s one thing to receive a doctor’s certification, and another to receive the state-issued identification card needed to legally place an order. Doctors seeking state-required training through a new course that has yet to be offered are equally frustrated, leading to a growing feeling that the Florida Office of Medical Marijuana Use and its 12 employees — nine of whom are part-time — are simply overwhelmed.” Read more

SEPTIC UPDATE — “Martin County Commission OKs larger septics; bad for St. Lucie River or good compromise?” by the TC Palm’s Tyler Treadway: “With state agencies giving the go-ahead, Martin County commissioners Tuesday approved increasing the size of septic systems from 2,000 to 5,000 gallons a day. At least for now. The maximum size of the county’s septic systems has yo-yo’ed over the past eight years depending on the makeup of the commission.” Read more

LIP SERVICE — “Commentary: After police killings, we must do more than tweet sympathies,” by the Orlando Sentinel’s Scott Maxwell: “Last weekend, after two police officers were gunned down in Kissimmee, Florida politicians rushed to their Twitter accounts … But the more I thought about … the part where the politicians declared we won’t tolerate this — I also thought: They are wrong. We absolutely tolerate this … By all accounts so far, the accused killer was struggling with a raft of mental-health issues, having been Baker Acted just last month. Yet Florida is notorious for shortchanging mental-health programs. We trail almost every other state in mental-health funding. Instead of fixing that, we generate headlines like this: “Cuts to mental health care could leave thousands without help, advocates say.” That was just two weeks ago.” Read more

— “Kissimmee officer who washed blood off the street where fellow cops died: ‘It needed to be done,'” by the Orlando Sentinel’s Krista Torralva Read more

BROWARD SLEAZE — “Broward inspector general catches contractor over-billed county,” by the Sun Sentinel’s Larry Barszewski: “Broward taxpayers paid almost $70,000 more than they should have for a neighborhood improvement project because the contractor hired to do the work overbilled the county, the Office of Inspector General says. The contractor, Giannetti Contracting Corp., also underpaid one of its sub-contractors $31,612 for work it did in the unincorporated Broadview Park community west of State Road 7 and north of Interstate 595, the inspector general’s investigation found. The project included sewer, drainage, water, landscaping, roadway and sidewalk improvements.” Read more

MIAMI SLEAZE — “Feds widen hunt for dirty money in Miami real estate,” by Nicholas Nehamas and Rene Rodriguez: “On Tuesday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced it would extend and expand a temporary initiative designed to uncover criminals laundering money through real estate. The decree targets secretive shell companies — corporations that don’t have to reveal their true owners — buying luxury homes. The feds have already renewed the rules twice since announcing them in January 2016.” Read more

MIAMI SCHOOL SLEAZE — “Principal siphoned $42,000 in school funds to pay housekeeper, investigators say,” by Miami Herald’s Kyra Gurney: “A former Miami Jackson Adult Education Center principal was arrested Wednesday after authorities say he used close to $42,000 in school district funds to pay his housekeeper. Joey Bautista, 48, has been charged with three felonies: an organized scheme to defraud and three counts each of official misconduct and grand theft.” Read more

‘THE KKK WANTS YOU!’ — “KKK ‘recruitment’ fliers stir emotions in PCB,” by the Panama City News Herald’s John Henderson: “Fliers found in some yards in western Bay County are part of a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) recruitment effort, a Mississippi leader says, and the head of the local NAACP chapter is concerned. Someone affiliated with the Mississippi-based KKK American Christian Knights chapter on Monday tossed out the fliers on the driveways of homes in the Sunnyside community on the west end of Panama City Beach. The fliers, sealed inside sandwich baggies filled with rocks, state: ‘The KKK Wants You!’” Read more

… ODDS, ENDS AND FLORIDA MEN …

CITY OF TROLLS — “Is Miami the capital of bad behavior online? You can comment here,” by the Miami Herald’s Nancy Dahlberg: “Wired partnered with online platform Disqus to look at 92 million online comments over a 16-month period across the United States. Wired found that 10.2 percent of Miami’s comments were toxic, the third highest among large cities. Maybe if the Magic City wasn’t already a capital of road rage and uncaring people, we could have also claimed the king of the trolls throne. But that honor goes to Sin City (12.1 percent) followed closely by the City of Brotherly Love (10.7 percent). We’re meaner than the Big Apple though, with 9.6 percent toxicity. Go figure.” Read more

“Death of Greg Evers felt across Florida,” by the NWF Daily News’ Tom McLaughlin: Read more

— “VIDEO: Florida Hooters manager helps cops take down angry customer,” by the Orlando Sentinel’s Tiffini Theisen Read more

— “Florida officer charged in K-9 partner’s death,” by the AP Read more

— “Florida man accused of sending child porn to TV anchor,” by the AP Read more

— “High school’s assistant principal run over while directing traffic,” by the Sun Sentinel’s Adam Sacasa Read more

— “Will Florida have a $3 million senator? The fundraising arms race is on for SD 40 cash,” by Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas: Read more

SCHOOL DAZE — “Parents arrested after teacher smells pot on boy’s backpack,” by the AP: An 11-year-old “student’s backpack that smelled like marijuana led police in Florida to his house, where they found a small grow house run by his parents. Now, 41-year-old Rolando Naranjo and 33-year-old Betsy Espinoza are in jail, charged with multiple drug and child neglect charges.” Read more

WHAT? At first glance, the AP headline “Florida to execute white man for racially motivated murder” looks like needless race-baiting. But the first words of the first paragraph tell the rest of the story: “For the first time in state history, Florida is expecting to execute a white man Thursday for killing a black person — and it plans to do so with the help of a drug that has never been used before in any U.S. execution. Barring a stay, Mark Asay, 53, is scheduled to die by lethal injection after 6 p.m. Asay was convicted by a jury of two racially motivated, premeditated murders in Jacksonville in 1987.” That’s right. While Florida has executed a number of blacks who killed whites, it never has executed a white who killed a black. Read the rest of Jason Dearen’s story here.

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