Around the South for September 21st: FL, TN, & AR

Florida: State parks remained closed.  About 50 Florida state parks remained closed in the fallout of Hurricane Irma, which swept the state last week.  State employees are hard at work in repairing the damage caused by the storm, which caused massive flooding and building damage.  Tennessee: Trump encourages Corker.  U.S. Sen. Bob Corker has support from a high place as he makes his decision on whether to run for re-election – this time from the White House.  President Donald Trump encouraged the Republican to run again when the pair met in Washington last week.  Arkansas: Gov, Sens back Obamacare repeal.  Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton each backed a revived effort to repeal former President Barack Obama’s health care law, which has gained steam in the past... read more

Around the South for Sep. 19: FL, SC & VA

  Florida: Putnam, Graham lead fundraising. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam (R) raised $314,000 for his gubernatorial bid in the month of August and a related PAC supporting him raised $727,000. On the Democratic side, former US Rep. Gwen Graham raised $242,000 in August, while an allied committee raised $120,000. Another Republican, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, though unannounced, has an allied PAC that brought in $1,088,000 in August. State Sen. Jack Latvala (R) did not announce until August, but an allied committee raised $272,000 in August ……. South Carolina: SCANA, a power company headquartered in Cayce, SC, undertook to build two nuclear reactors in Fairfield County, a project that went bankrupt, leaving a half-built facility and no clear path to finish it. The State newspaper reports that SCANA has given some $1.25 million in contributions to lawmakers since the year 2000. $90,000 recently went to 31 of the 32 legislators trying to figure out what happened to the failed project …….Virginia: Comstock bill on immigrant gang members passes House. The House last week passed a bill introduced by US Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) that would allow the federal government to deport or detain immigrants who are gang members. The measure was designed to combat the growing criminal activity of MS-13 in theWashington area... read more

Around the South for Sep. 18: AL, TX & FL

  Alabama: Trump to stump for Strange; Brooks is for Moore. President Trump announced that he will appear in Huntsville this Saturday night to boost the campaign of US Sen. Luther Strange (R). “’Big Luther’ is a great guy who gets things done!” tweeted Trump. Meanwhile, US Rep. ‘Mo” Brooks (R), who came in third in the primary, has endorsed former state Chief Justice Roy Moore (R). Two recent polls – both paid for by groups favorable to Strange – showed a close race, with a slim 2- to 4- point lead for Moore; two earlier polls showed Moore with a big lead ……. Florida: Rubio urges expulsion of Cuban diplomats. US Sen. Marco Rubio (R), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has urged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to expel Cuban diplomats from the US in retaliation for the acoustic attacks on more than 20 Americans at the US Embassy in Havana. He also urged Tillerson to consider closing the US Embassy in Havana. Four other Republican senators co-signed the letter: Burr (NC), Cornyn (TX), Cotton (AR) and Lankford (OK) ……. Texas: George P. Bush to head post-Harvey housing recovery. Texas General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush (R) will oversee the dispersal of $7.4 billion to repair infrastructure and to expedite payments to homeowners to make their own repairs. George P. Bush is the son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), the nephew of ex-President George W. Bush and the grandson of President George H. W. Bush. 2020? 2024? 2028?... read more

Around the South for Sep. 15: FL, OK & TN

  Florida: Trump, Pence visit the Sunshine State. President Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Fort Myers yesterday and met with Gov. Rick Scott (R) and other officials. Trump called Hurricane Irma a “real disaster” and said there is “much work to do,” reported Sunshine State News. He also said that the state “will be rebuilt and will come back even better than before.” ……. Oklahoma: Democrats three for three. Democrat Jacob Rosecrants won a special election for a seat in the Sooner State legislature in a district that has been held by the GOP for years and that Donald Trump won by ten points in 2016. This was the third special election in the state that Democrats have flipped this year “by knocking doors and hard work,” says a fundraising email ……. Tennessee: Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS). US Sen. Bob Corker (R), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), applauded the $25 million award to establish the GFEMS by the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Corker called it “a truly monumental day.”... read more

Around the South for Sep. 14: TX, TN & VA

  Texas:  Supremes put redistricting on hold. The US Supreme Court in a 5 to 4 ruling on Tuesday stayed the decisions of two lower federal courts that had held two Texascongressional districts were drawn with discriminatory intent against minorities. That means the Texas districts will likely maintain their current boundaries in the 2018 elections. The high court divided along conservative-liberal lines ……. Tennessee: Corker may not seek a third term. US Sen. Bob Corker (R), an influential lawmaker who chairs the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement published in The Tennessean that “running for reelection has never been automatic for me. While we are in a strong position, I am still contemplating the future and will make a decision at the appropriate time.” It has been rumored that Corker will run for governor in 2018, when the Nashville job will be open ……. Virginia: VMI will keep its Confederate statues. The Virginia Military Institute announced Tuesday that it will keep its Confederate statues, though it may add more historical context to them, including the possibility of a memorial to VMI alumni who for the Union... read more

Around the South for Sep. 13: AL, TX & OK

  Alabama: New poll puts Moore ahead, Jones strong in General. A new survey of likely voters by Boston’s Emerson College showed that for the Sept. 26 GOP Senate runoff, Roy Moore has 40% to 26% for Luther Strange. The same poll showed that Democrat Doug Jones, a former Birmingham US Attorney, would run a surprisingly strong race in the Dec. 12 General Election: Moore 43.5%, Jones 39.9% and Strange 43.1%, Jones 39.6% ……. Texas: Cruz staffer mistakenly “liked” a porn tweet. After “like” for a graphic pornographic video was posted on conservative US Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R) Twitter account and circulated widely on social media, Cruz said that a staffer had “inadvertently” hit the “like” button. “It was a mistake. It was not malicious.” …….Oklahoma: Ex-staffer to Fallin charged for “upskirting.” Prosecutors have charged a former member of Gov. Mary Fallin’s (R) staff with two criminal offenses, stemming from upskirt photos he took during a budget meeting in May, reported The Oklahoman. Travis Goss Brauer, 29, is charged with deleting data from his a laptop and destroying his cellphone after he learned the Oklahoma Highway Patrol was investigating his actions. Budget meetings can be boring... read more

Around the South for Sep. 12: FL, TX & SC

  Florida: Scott, Nelson praise feds on Irma. Gov. Richard Scott (R) told Fox News Sunday, “The president said, ‘Look, I will provide whatever resources you need’ when I talked to him. I pretty much talk to him every day.” And US Sen. Bill Nelson (D) told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that “there is cooperation between the federal level, the state and the locals,” adding that working together has been “seamless.” ……. Texas: McCaul blasts four home state GOPers.  US Rep. Mike McCaul (R) last week castigated US Reps. Barton, Hensarling, Johnson and Thornberry, all Republicans, for voting against the $15.25 billion aid package for storm relief for Texas and Florida, reports The Statesman. ‘[W]hen I have people dying and hurting in my home state, it was my duty and my moral obligation to help them… I think it’s unconscionable to vote against something like that.” The four nay-sayers are all from districts unaffected byHarvey’s floods ……. South Carolina: Scott to meet with Trump. US Sen. Tim Scott, the Senate’s only African-American Republican, will meet with President Trump tomorrow to discuss race relations, according to unnamed insiders cited by the Washington Post. It will be a “listening session.” Scott was very critical of the president for his initial response to the violence in Charlottesville, telling Vice News, “I’m not going to defend the indefensible.”... read more

Around the South for Sep. 11: FL, AL & VA

Florida: Scott takes own advice. Gov. Rick Scott (R) told fellow Floridians, “You need to leave — not tonight, not in an hour, right now… This is the most catastrophic storm the state has ever seen.” And he’s doing as he says, moving his family from their palatial beach-front home in Naples, where he often spend weekends, to the governor’s mansion in much safer Tallahassee, reports the Miami Herald ……. Alabama: Gillespie denounces alt-right protesters. “They are not on any legitimate political spectrum of left or right,” Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie said when asked a question about the alt-right protesters at Charlottesville at an NAACP meeting in Richmond. Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group financed by Charles Koch and David Koch, described at “billionaire industrialists” by the Washington Post, is financing a three-week run of radio commercials, to the tune of $1 million to $2 million, attacking Gillespie’s opponent, Democrat Ralph Northam ……. Alabama: Sessions sides with baker over same-sex couple. The Justice Department, under former Alabama Sen., now US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions (R), filed a brief with the US Supreme Court on behalf of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The Justice Department  contended that forcing the baker to make the cake “violates his sincerely held religious beliefs [and] invades his First Amendment rights.”... read more

Around the South for Sep. 8: OK, TX & GA

  Oklahoma: Bridenstine named to head NASA. President Trump has named US Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R) to head NASA. Bridenstine, a Trump backer in 2016, is a former pilot “whose goals for our solar system include installing humans on the moon and cleaning up space junk,” reports the Washington Post. He has also expressed doubts about human activity causing climate change ……. Texas: Fifth Circuit approves voter ID law. The New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of appeals, in accordance with a request from the Justice Department, has ruled two-to-one that the Texas voter ID law, which allows alternate forms of identification, is not discriminatory against minorities, reports the Texas Tribune ……. Georgia: Monuments battle got heated. The week before a statue of Martin Luther King was unveiled on the Capitol grounds, former state Rep. La Dawn Jones, a black Democrat from the Atlanta area, and state Rep. Jason Spencer, a white Republican from South Georgia, got into a Facebook feud that turned nasty, reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Spencer warned Jones that should she “continue her quixotic journey into South Georgia and it will not be pleasant… Too many necks that are red around here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about them.” Jones replied “put your hoods and your tiki torches away. We are no longer afraid.”... read more

Around the South for Sep. 7: FL, KY & SC

  Florida: Scott says ‘Get prepared right now.’  At a news conference yesterday, Gov. Rick Scott (R) warned that Hurricane Irma is “bigger, faster and stronger” than Hurricane Andrew, a major catastrophe for the state 25 years ago. “Do not ignore evacuation orders… We can rebuild your home, but we cannot rebuild your life.” ……. Kentucky: Paul wants budget reform attached to debt ceiling measure. “It is a mistake to raise the debt ceiling without having some dramatic reform to our budget process,” US Sen. Rand Paul (R) told Politico. Thus, Rand and other conservative senators may throw a monkey wrench into the GOP plan to attach a debt ceiling increase to the House-passed Hurricane Harvey relief measure of some $8 billion ……. South Carolina: Light sentences for lawmakers bring speculation. Former House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R) in 2014 and former House Majority Leader Jim Merrill (R) last month pled guilty to misdemeanors and were sentenced to probation, with Harrell also ordered to pay fines. Did the sentences reflect a difficulty in convicting and sentencing lawmakers? Or, since both Harrell and Merrill agreed to cooperate with the prosecution, are there charges against “bigger fish,” as The State newspaper put it, in the offing? Stay... read more

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