Sunburn for Feb. 18 – Are Donald Trump’s days as frontrunner numbered OR can Trump be stopped? – Florida Politics

Sunburn for Feb. 18 – Are Donald Trump’s days as frontrunner numbered OR can Trump be stopped?

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Ryan Ray, and Jim Rosica.


If you believe a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, the answer may be yes. The survey of national Republican primary voters showed Ted Cruz leading Trump, 28 percent to 26 percent. It is the first time since November that Trump has fallen to the No. 2 position in the polls.

The poll may just be an outlier in the never-ending coverage of the horserace. No other recent polls show Trump trailing, and the NBC/WSJ poll is within in the margin of error. But as more and more Republicans cast their ballots — South Carolina voters head to the polls Saturday and thousands of Floridians are already voting — the question now becomes: Can Trump be stopped?

It’s likely the New York businessman will win the South Carolina primary.

Recent show him with a commanding lead in the Palmetto State; while Cruz and Marco Rubio battle for second.

Rubio scored a crucial endorsement Wednesday from South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. That endorsement could give the Florida Republican a boost in the polls, considering a December poll found Haley had an 81 percent approval rating.

Rubio is gaining ground in South Carolina and nationally. A national Quinnipiac poll him leading Cruz, while a national Public Policy Polling survey has him tied with the Texas senator. In South Carolina, the men are running neck-in-neck with two surveys showing Cruz leading Rubio by just two points.

It’s unknown whether South Carolina will winnow the Republican field. Jeb Bush, Trump’s perennial punching bag, said he’s planning to go to Nevada, which holds its GOP caucus on Feb. 23. Bush told NBC News this week he was “in it for the long haul.”

And for candidates hoping to topple Trump, sticking it out might just be the best way to do it. Voters in 11 states cast ballots on March 1, and few polls have been conducted those states in recent weeks. All told, 633 delegates are up for grabs in March 1 contests.

But in early voting states, delegates are awarded proportionally. That changes come March 15, when states can begin award ing all of its delegates to the winner of the GOP primary. Five states — including Florida with its 99 delegates  —are scheduled to hold nominating contests on March 15.

It’s unclear whether staying the course will pay off. In a Florida Atlantic University from January, Trump held a 19 point lead over Cruz and a 22 point lead over Rubio.

ACTUAL EMAIL via Donald Trump’s campaign: “Stop the Establishment from Stealing the FL Election!”

ALTERNATE QUESTION — IF TRUMP WINS SOUTH CAROLINA, CAN HE BE STOPPED? via Philip Bump of the Washington Post – Trump is poised to have a gigantic lead in the Republican delegate race. By no means an insurmountable one, of course, but a big Trump victory there will start to raise questions about where, if anywhere, he can be stopped … he gets 29 delegates, without qualifications. That’s only slightly fewer than all of his competitors have to date, combined. On top of that, he gets three additional delegates for each congressional district he wins. He won’t win the state without winning at least a few of the seven districts; he could certainly win them all. If he does, he’ll walk away with 50 delegates — just about the same number that were awarded in Iowa and New Hampshire combined. The scorecard, as tallied by FrontloadingHQ, would be Rubio 10, Cruz 11 — and Trump 67. The problem for the non-Trumps is that the system is working against them. After South Carolina, the big contests on Super Tuesday (March 1) and March 15 will distribute delegates proportionally. The winner gets more delegates than the losers, but the losers get something. If Trump wins South Carolina, though, something would need to change dramatically and quickly for Trump not to be the prohibitive leader in the Republican contest by one month from today.


HOW TRUMP COULD STILL LOSE, EXPLAINED via Aaron Blake of the Washington Post – Once this race reduces to two candidates, Trump is no longer the front-runner. The real question is how quickly that happens, and whether he’s amassed too many delegates already. Trump leads Rubio and Cruz each by 17 points in the current six-candidate race. If you eliminate the other three candidates, though, Trump’s lead over Rubio drops to 12 points. And if you then take Cruz out, it’s a virtual tie: Trump 46, Rubio 45. A tie ballgame isn’t “Trump loses,” of course, but it does diminish his chances significantly. In other words, there is still an argument to be made that the thinning of the field could help the GOP rally around a Trump alternative and defeat him.

TRUMP: LINDSEY GRAHAM A ‘DISGRACE,’ ‘NUT JOB,’ ‘ONE OF THE DUMBEST HUMAN BEINGS’ via Nolan McCaskill of POLITICO – “I think Lindsey Graham is a disgrace, and I think you have one of the worst representatives of any representative in the United States, and I don’t think he should run,” Trump said about the South Carolina senator at a campaign event in front of the lawmaker’s home-state crowd. “I don’t think he could run for dog catcher in this state and win again. I really don’t. Other than that, I think he’s wonderful.” Earlier Wednesday … Graham said the Republican front-runner would make a “terrible commander in chief” and said the Republican Party would get “slaughtered” with him as the nominee.“He’s one of the dumbest human beings I’ve ever seen,” Trump said.

TRUMP: TORTURE WORKS via CNN – Trump told a town hall in South Carolina that waterboarding was fine but nearly enough. He also said he firmly supported torture. “Don’t tell me it doesn’t work,” he said. “Torture works. OK, folks?”

TED CRUZ OVERTAKES TRUMP IN NATIONAL POLL – A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds Trump has fallen behind Cruz in the national GOP horserace. Cruz leads with 28%, followed by Trump at 26%, Marco Rubio at 17%, John Kasich at 11%, Ben Carson at 10% and Jeb Bush at 4%.

JEB BUSH TELLS NBC NEWS HE’S IN RACE FOR “LONG HAUL” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Or at least that’s what the former Florida governor told NBC News reporter Peter Alexander during an interview this week. Bush brushed off questions about whether South Carolina would be his campaign’s last stand, saying he is doing well in the Palmetto State. “The obituaries have been written probably once a week and, we’re in it for the long haul … But we are going to do well here” … he thinks Donald Trump has hijacked the Republican Party. Bush said he thinks that support is temporary, and said Trump “is not going to win the presidency … This guy is not serious,” said Bush, according to a transcript of the interview. “In a serious dangerous time, we need a serious person with a steady hand to be president of the United States.”

MARCO RUBIO’S ENDORSEMENT BY NIKKI HALEY HAS RISKS AND REWARDS via Jeremy Carl of the National Review – If Rubio finishes a strong second here, or manages to win in an upset, he has a chance to consolidate his support in the establishment lane as the preferred alternative to Trump and Cruz.   However, if he finishes third or worse, he may have a long-term problem.  Certainly, if Bush or Kasich beats Rubio, his unexpected fall would be a story.  But if Rubio, with substantial organization and spending in SC, and the top three endorsements in the state, cannot beat Cruz here, it would be a major blow to his campaign. At that point he will have lost three consecutive races to Trump and Cruz with only Nevada standing between him and the Southern primaries March 1st, where Cruz has put the majority of his organizing muscle while other candidates spent big in early states. South Carolina is looking increasingly critical for Rubio to prove he can be a leading candidate in the race.  With Haley’s endorsement, he has helped his chances of doing that, but he’s also increased the risk if he disappoints.

BUSH DISAPPOINTED WITH HALEY’S ENDORSEMENT OF RUBIO via the Associated Press – Bush says he is “disappointed” that Haley is endorsing rival Rubio just three days before voters in the state cast ballots for the Republican nominee … Bush said of Haley: “She’s a very good governor and should I win the nomination, there’ll be a role for her in the campaign.”

BUSH SUPPORTERS IN OPEN PANIC – Bush “Was barraged by conflicting advice from supporters increasingly distressed by the rise of GOP front-runner Donald Trump and that the former Florida governor’s campaign has stalled,” the Washington Post reports. “One guy urged him to talk more about his compassion. Another told him to take Trump’s attacks on the chin and stay substantive. A third man urged him to work harder to spread the word nationally. Never before had Bush faced supporters so annoyed and worried about his fate. They quickly turned a campaign rally on a country club gazebo here into an open campaign strategy session — with dozens of reporters watching.”

BUSH STRUGGLES TO MASK MOUNTING FRUSTRATION via Eli Stokols of POLITICO – A frustrated Bush in South Carolina … after learning that Nikki Haley had backed rival Rubio … Many of the voters who attended Bush’s town hall had just laid bare their own doubts about Bush’s chances to be the GOP nominee. During the question and answer period following an unusually hot-tempered 30-minute rendition of his stump speech, Bush received unsolicited advice from three audience members in succession, all of them encouraging him to be tougher.

BUSH PUSHES BACK AT RUBIO ON FOREIGN POLICY EXPERIENCE via Ashley Parker of the New York Times – “I know what it is to be commander in chief,” Bush said, referring to his time as governor of Florida, where he oversaw his state’s National Guard. “I know what it is to lead … And for someone who has no experience at all to suggest I don’t — having lived overseas, having worked overseas, developing relationships with leaders overseas, being governor of the fourth-largest state and being a commander-in-chief of the Florida national guard … With all due respect Senator Rubio, your four years or five years or whatever it is as senator does not match up to my capabilities of understanding how the world works.” Speaking on CNN last week, Rubio was blunt in his criticism of Bush. “The fact of the matter is, Jeb has no foreign policy experience … He has no foreign policy experience and was governor a long time ago. The world has changed a lot in the last 10 years.”

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RUBIO TOUTS HIS NATIONAL SECURITY CREDENTIALS via Robert Behre of the Post and Courier – Instead of blasting his GOP rivals … Rubio told a few hundred supporters here why he is most qualified to be the nation’s next commander in chief. The Florida senator, who serves on the Committee on Foreign Relations, delivered a mostly upbeat 45-minute-long stump speech, but one that warned national security is as relevant today as it was during the Cold War. He ticked off the nuclear threat from North Korea, China’s theft of U.S. military technology, the rise of the Islamic State and the nation of Iran newly enriched by the recent nuclear deal.

RUBIO LAUGHS OFF SUGGESTION TO ‘WATERBOARD’ HILLARY CLINTON via the Associated Press – The suggestion came just after [Rubio] promised to keep the US base at Guantanamo Bay open ‘‘forever.’’ A supporter at a rally in North Myrtle Beach shouted, ‘‘Waterboard Hillary,’’ referring to the interrogation technique that has long been considered torture. Rubio laughed, noting, ‘‘The press is here.’’ He smiled and added: ‘‘I didn’t hear what they said. I know it wasn’t a bad word.’’

TREY GOWDY, TIM SCOTT CALL RUBIO A CONSERVATIVE WHO CAN WIN IN NEW RADIO AD via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Filling a U.S. Supreme Court vacancy is front and center in a new … 60-second radio spot … [with] U.S. Sen. Tim Scott and U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, both South Carolina Republicans, discuss how the election could decide the future of the court. “You and I talk about it all the time: Marco Rubio is the sixth most conservative member of Congress, House and Senate, according to Heritage, which of course is led by Jim DeMint right now,” Gowdy says … “He is as conservative as anybody in this race, but he can win. If you care about the Second Amendment, if you care about religious liberty, if you care about the 10th Amendment, if you care about the proper scope of government in our lives then you have to pick the next Supreme Court Justice. You better win in November.”

CALLS FOR RUBIO TO ABIDE ANTONIN SCALIA REPLACEMENT PROCESS GROW LOUDER via Kate Bradshaw of Creative Loafing Tampa – In a written statement, Progress Florida Executive Director Mark Ferrulo points out how odd it is that Rubio claims appointments can’t take place within the final year of his term when Rubio has been blocking the president’s judicial appointments for quite some time. Take Mary Barzee Flores, whom Obama nominated to “fill an emergency vacancy” in South Florida last year. “Despite the urgent need to fill this vacancy—and Sen. Rubio’s initial support for Flores’ nomination—Sen. Rubio has refused to sign the ‘blue slip’ necessary for her to receive a confirmation hearing. Since Rubio and his GOP colleagues have argued that President Obama shouldn’t be allowed to fill the Supreme Court vacancy during his last year in office, one wonders what Rubio’s rationale has been over the past year for obstructing the judicial emergency in the Southern District,” Ferrulo said in a written statement. Ferrulo called the apparent attempts at obstruction a “slap in the face” for Americans who depend on a fully functioning Supreme Court, and noted how Senate Judiciary Committee, under the leadership of Iowa Senator Ted Grassley, has seen a historically high amount of obstruction against President Obama’s judicial nominees.

SOUTH CAROLINA IS KEY EARLY TEST OF TED CRUZ’S SOUTHERN STRATEGY via Eliana Johnson of the National Review – South Carolina presents a critical test for Cruz, whose campaign will rise or fall on the extent of his success in uniting the GOP’s evangelical and tea-party factions, both strongly represented here and across the rest of the South. After Georgia secretary of state Brian Kemp led a successful effort to convince Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas, and Cruz’s native Texas to band together and hold their nominating contests on the same day — Super Tuesday, March 1 — Cruz saw an opportunity to amass delegates and momentum early in the nominating process. He has made no secret that he believes his path to the nomination runs through the South, and he has gone so far as to call it his “firewall.” The tenor of Cruz’s remarks reflects a fundamental assumption — and a gamble — on the part of his campaign, which is that conservatives in South Carolina and the rest of the South are, broadly speaking, more conservative than those in purple Iowa. “I think on balance the entire region, the South is much more conservative than they are in Iowa,” says a top Cruz adviser. “The bar is higher to call them tea partiers because everybody is to the right, so that’s what I think the data points miss.”

JOHN KASICH WILL NOT BE IN SOUTH CAROLINA ON PRIMARY NIGHT via James Pindell of the Boston Globe  Instead, he’s spending most of the day in Massachusetts. Kasich will hold a town hall meeting in Worcester Saturday afternoon before attending a high-dollar fund-raiser in Boston’s Back Bay. After last week’s New Hampshire primary, Kasich has quickly tried to turn momentum into campaign cash. All of the candidates, including Kasich, will need plentiful resources for robust television advertising campaigns in the 13 states that hold nominating contests on March 1, including Massachusetts. Polls of the South Carolina GOP primary show Kasich competing with Bush for fourth place. In the Nevada Republican caucuses, which will be held Tuesday, a new CNN/ORC poll showed him in fifth place.

MEANWHILE … POLL: HILLARY CLINTON, BERNIE SANDERS IN A DEAD HEAT FOR NEVADA via Jennifer Agiesta of CNN  – Though Clinton holds an edge over Sanders on handling a range of top issues, the results suggest the extremely close race hinges on divided opinions on the economy. Overall, 48% of likely caucus attendees say they support Clinton, 47% Sanders. Both candidates carry their demographic strong points from prior states into Nevada, with Clinton holding an edge among women, while Sanders tops the former secretary of state among voters under age 55.

Guys, Marco Rubio is having a campaign rally at a CrossFit tomorrow. It’s called Swamp Rabbit CrossFit. Yep.: @Eorden: Guys, Marco Rubio is having a campaign rally at a CrossFit tomorrow. It’s called Swamp Rabbit CrossFit. Yep.

ALAN GRAYSON PUTTING HIS SUPER DELEGATE VOTE UP FOR A VOTE via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – The Orlando congressman … who is running for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat, used his campaign newsletter to open up an on-line survey link for his supporters … asking them to weigh in. Supporters are to tell him to pick between … Clinton or Sanders. “Bernie or Hillary? You tell me,” Grayson asks. The link also leads to a fundraising request. Noting the controversy around how some super delegates are planning to act at the convention, Grayson said that this form of netroots activism could catch on … “It could make one of the least democratic elements of the UnDemocratic Party into something really special – a decision Of the People, By the People and For the People.”

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BILL NELSON CELEBRATES REDISTRICTING DURING TALLAHASSEE STOP via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Before scheduled meetings with Andy Gardiner … and Adam PutnamNelson started the day at a rally with the League of Women Voters to celebrate their court victory over the Florida Legislature, which forced lawmakers to redraw Senate and Congressional district lines. Nelson told more than 100 people at the rally, that they’ve made Florida elections more fair by their refusal to give up. Nelson later met with state Senate Democrats where he told them he expects their numbers to grow because of the court decisions. Democrats currently have 14 of the 40 seats in the Florida Senate. He specifically singled out the work of state Sen. Arthenia Joyner … For her work on legislation related to the Dozier School for Boys in the Florida Panhandle.

EXCLUSIVE — CLUB FOR GROWTH PRESIDENT DAVID MCINTOSH CONSIDERS BACKING MORE FLORIDA RACES via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The fiscal conservatism political organization … has its hands unusually full with the presidential race this year but is taking a close look at weighing in on several Florida races beyond the two it already has targeted. McIntosh said … the fluidity of Florida’s congressional races, because in part to the redistricting ordered last fall, has the club looking at two or three more races … the group also is weighing in heavily on the GOP presidential race. Its target there has been to stop Donald Trump, while hoping either of two longtime CFB darlings … Rubio and Cruz, rise. “Our ability to impact the process is in the Republican primaries,” McIntosh said … CFG already has endorsed Ron DeSantis in Florida’s Republican U.S. Senate primary and Mary Thomas in Congressional District 2.

CARLOS BERUFF IS RUNNING, SOURCE SAYS via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – A source familiar with Beruff’s plans said the announcement is set for Feb. 29 at his company headquarters in southern Manatee County. … “He’s been inviting people and telling people to keep Feb. 29 open,” said the source, who did not want to offend Beruff and spoke on the condition of remaining anonymous. … Beruff is likely to position himself as a government outsider, conservative reformer and successful entrepreneur. But just like the other candidates, he is not well known statewide and would have to spend big to get his name out.

ADLF FILES COMPLAINT AGAINST CARLOS LOPEZ-CANTERA’S SENATE CAMPAIGN AND REFORM WASHINGTON via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The American Democracy Legal Fund has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Lopez-Cantera’s Senate campaign and the super PAC supporting him. The complaint alleges that the … campaign and Reform Washington, the super PAC backing Lopez-Cantera, violated the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 … engaged in illegal coordination because both have ties to Rick Wilson and his Tallahassee-based firm Intrepid Media, Inc. “ADLF is a liberal group set up for the express purpose of filing frivolous complaints against conservative leaders,” said Courtney Alexander, a spokeswoman for Lopez-Cantera’s campaign. “Rick Wilson has no current relationship with our campaign, and we have fully complied with all FEC rules and regulations. It is flattering that the Democrats are so threatened by Carlos’ candidacy that they are making up these fake accusations.”

HAPPENING TODAY: State Sens. Jack Latvala and Jeff Brandes and Reps. Larry AhernChris LatvalaKathleen Peters and Chris Sprowls host a meet-and-greet for Republican Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate David Jolly. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at the Greenberg Taurig offices, 101 East College Ave. in Tallahassee.

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AS ALABAMA GOES, SO GOES FLORIDA IN REACHING DEATH PENALTY FIX via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – A necessary political compromise to repair Florida’s broken death penalty sentencing system and resume executions has been reached, and the magic number is 10 … If this likely compromise is reached by both houses of the Legislature and signed into law by Scott, all future death penalty cases in Florida will require at least 10 of 12 jurors to agree on a punishment of death for a defendant. If a jury has three holdouts, a defendant would get life in prison without parole. Among the 32 states that still use capital punishment, Alabama is the only other state with a 10-to-2 system. Prosecutors have lobbied for weeks for 9-3 jury recommendations in death cases, and a clear majority of senators favor a requirement for unanimity, a position backed by public defenders statewide and legal experts who are closely following the legislation.

STALLED STAND YOUR GROUND BILL GETS NEW LIFE IN HOUSE via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – To resurrect that plan in the House, the Senate bill  (SB 344), sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, and could be heard as soon as next week. His bill has passed the full Senate. … A decision to pull legislation from the other chamber must be done by a presiding officer, in this case House Speaker Crisafulli. When asked about the decision, he said it was a “fair discussion to have.”

SENATE PANEL OKS SEMINOLE COMPACT, GAMBLING BILL via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Senate Regulated Industries Committee, which oversees gambling in Florida, approved both measures (SB 7072, SB 7074) with four senators opposed: Republicans Aaron Bean … Anitere Flores … Kelli Stargel … and Democrat Gwen Margolis … That panel was initially the only “committee of reference” for the measures, which began as proposed committee bills. That means they now head to Senate President Andy Gardiner, who will decide at least one other committee to review them.

HOUSE ROLLS TWO MEDICAL MARIJUANA BILLS INTO ONE via Christine Sexton of POLITICO – HB 307 and HB 1313 into one new bill … [with] an added provision: The Florida Department of Health would be authorized to add three new additional dispensing organizations if 250,000 patients across the state seek medical marijuana. Several lobbyists who testified before the House Health & Human Services Committee said that the 250,000 patient threshold should be lowered and more nurseries approved to grow and sell marijuana. Rep. Matt Gaetz … noted that some who want to see more licenses awarded run cannabis associations that seek to increase membership. Gaetz testified that House membership is “everywhere” on the issue of how many nurseries should be authorized to grow marijuana. Some members, he said, would like for only one nursery to be authorized to sell while other members would like to see as many as 20 nurseries authorized. “Some (members) think that cannabis should be in vending machines and available recreationally for everyone,” Gaetz said. “I am trying to strike a very delicate balance here to get a bill that focuses less on the growth of a cannabis industry and more what is really needed to get the product to patients.”

JOSÉ OLIVA ON CON: ‘WE HAVE MOVED THE BALL FORWARD’ via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – Oliva [said the] 6-2 vote by a Senate spending committee to kill priority legislation (SB 1144) to remodel regulations that limit new hospital construction really is a win, given that the Senate wouldn’t entertain the idea the last two legislative sessions. “We have moved the ball forward,” he said. “As we push they have started to open discussions.”  He noted that it wasn’t the only weapon in his arsenal. Both chambers are moving similar bills to allow Florida to join a multi-state nurse compact as well measures to increase health care cost transparency. “It wasn’t the only piece,” Oliva said of the effort to reduce the costs of health care in Florida. “But it was a vital piece.”

***In Marion County alone, the horse industry’s annual economic impact is $2.62 billion and nearly 20,000 jobs — completely dwarfing any Seminole Compact estimates.  Totally opposed by horsemen, the “partial decoupling” plan now in play would put horsemen on forced welfare with an artificial “set aside purse pool,” wiping out free enterprise and Florida’s ability to compete for horse racing business with other states.  United Florida Horsemen want legislators to know that “Partial Decoupling” is being peddled by casino-only interests, the goal of which is to channel money directly into their corporate bottom lines that would have normally been circulated into Florida’s economy.***

ADVOCATES REACH COMPROMISE WITH CITIES OVER PUBLIC RECORDS BILL via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The compromise, worked out between the First Amendment Foundation, the League of Cities and the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rene Garcia reinstates the requirement in SB 1220 that a judge shall award attorneys fees in lawsuit when governments violate the state public records laws. The original proposal, SB 1220, removed the requirement that judges award attorneys fees and instead gave judges the discretion, prompting public records advocates to warn that it could gut the state’s Sunshine laws by removing the only tool the public has to seek redress when government officials violate the law. The bill is a top priority of the League of Cities, which proposed the measure as a remedy to stop a handful of abusive law firms and individuals who file frivolous or deceptive public records requests in an attempt to churn legal fees.

FLORIDA MAY CHANGE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE SCHOOL LAW via the Associated Press – A House panel approved a bill that would change how families are notified of their right to skip the daily pledge. The measure is now headed to the full House. Students are required to recite the pledge unless a parent asks in writing for a child to be excused. Current law requires schools to post a notice telling students they don’t have to recite the pledge. The bill (HB 1403) sponsored by Rep. Doug Broxson would allow the notice to be placed in a student handbook instead.

DEAL TO MAKE GOOD ON DEBT TO COUNTIES HITS WALL IN HOUSE via Jeff Schweers of the Tampa Tribune – A deal to fix a problem 10 years in the making over how much counties pay the state in juvenile detention costs has hit a wall as the Legislature reaches the halfway point … The deal would evenly split costs between the counties and the state Department of Juvenile Justice and counties that were overcharged would be reimbursed for their losses. But the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee didn’t take up HB 1279 by Rep. Chris Latvala … The reason: The detention-sharing agreement has a recurring annual cost to the state of $7 million to $8 million, committee chairman Larry Metz said … “It was not in our budget” … Still, he said, as the saying goes, anything can happen until lawmakers adjourn.

JEFF BRANDES BILL TO REDUCE DRIVER LICENSES SUSPENSIONS FOR NONDRIVING INFRACTIONS ADVANCES via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – SB 7046, removes the penalty of driver’s license suspension for a list of crimes unrelated to driving — such as graffiti by a minor, truancy and failure to pay court fees. It also reduces the length of the suspension when it is allowed from one year to six months and provides an alternative of community service for those who can demonstrate they can’t afford to pay the court fines. The bill also imposes new notice requirements designed to help defendants understand that if they can’t afford the fees associated with using a public defender in a legal case, they have the option to do community service. When the court does impose fees, the bill sets up a new payment schedule that may not exceed 2 percent of a person’s income and requires courts to offer the option of a payment plan. And in criminal traffic cases, the offender must be allowed the option of community service in lieu of payment if they can demonstrate they are below the poverty line and qualify for a public defender.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD BACKERS PROTEST DEFUNDING BILL via the Associated Press – Planned Parenthood supporters say a bill moving through the Florida Legislature to defund the organization would leave Florida women without adequate access to reproductive health care. Dozens of women appeared at the hearing protesting the bill. Even bill supporter, Sen. Denise Grimsley … said she worries that eliminating government contracts with Planned Parenthood wouldn’t leave women enough options. The bill would prohibit state or local health departments contracting with any organization for any health care services, if that organization also provides abortions. Planned Parenthood says it has many clinics in areas with few alternatives.

SENATE COMMITTEE PASSES OVER TWO DOZEN CHANGES TO FLORIDA BUILDING CODES via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – SB 704, sponsored by Elkton Republican state Sen. Travis Hutson, passed with a 5-1 vote. If enacted, the bill would make more than two dozen adjustments to Florida Building Codes. Under debate was a provision to give builders the option to comply with the energy code, which would include an alternative Energy Rating Index use to meet conservation demands under the code … restricting the Florida Building Code from requiring more than a single fire service access elevator in residential buildings of a certain height … codes related to “zero lot lines” for structures built close to property lines … increases the occupancy requirements for fire sprinklers at restaurants … prohibits adding to the 2014 Code any mandatory “blower door” and air infiltration testing and mechanical ventilation device requirements.

***In Marion County alone, the horse industry’s annual economic impact is $2.62 billion and nearly 20,000 jobs — completely dwarfing any Seminole Compact estimates.  Totally opposed by horsemen, the “partial decoupling” plan now in play would put horsemen on forced welfare with an artificial “set aside purse pool,” wiping out free enterprise and Florida’s ability to compete for horse racing business with other states.  United Florida Horsemen want legislators to know that “Partial Decoupling” is being peddled by casino-only interests, the goal of which is to channel money directly into their corporate bottom lines that would have normally been circulated into Florida’s economy.***

SLATE OF CONTENTIOUS EDUCATION BILLS READY FOR HOUSE VOTE THURSDAY via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO Florida – On Thursday, the chamber will also take up HB 833, which would mandate 100 minutes of recess per week in elementary schools. That bill appears to be dead in the Senate. … Also ready for a vote are HB 669, which would ease student transfers among public schools and districts; HB 1365, which would establish a pilot program in “competency-based” education; HB 1155, which would bar membership organizations like the Florida School Boards Association from using membership dues paid with taxpayer dollars to sue the state; HB 189, which would ease STEM teacher certification requirements; HB 1305, which would let schools purchase or obtain epinephrine auto-injectors, which treat emergency allergic reactions, from wholesale distributors or manufacturers at a fair-market or reduced price or for free; and HB 7019, which would require college and university boards of trustees to publicly notice their intention to raise tuition or fees.

ITS CONFIRMATIONS DAY IN THE FLORIDA SENATE via Florida Politics – Dozens of state officials whose appointments need Senate approval will be considered Thursday by the Florida Senate, records show. Among Gov. Rick Scott‘s top officials on the docket are Corrections Secretary Julie Jones, Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Mike Carroll and Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Commissioner Rick Swearing. … Other Scott appointees include Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) Secretary Liz Dudek and Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) Secretary Ken Lawson. Also to be considered are Pete Antonacci, formerly Scott’s general counsel. He left the Governor’s Office when he became Scott’s choice to lead the South Florida Water Management District. Another former member of Scott’s inner circle, Noah Valenstein, needs confirmation as head of the Suwannee River Water Management District.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a press conference at 9 a.m. at Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort to announce Florida’s 2015 tourism numbers. Scott also will talk job creation at 1:30 p.m. at Arthrex, 1370 Creekside Blvd in Naples.

IMMIGRANT-RIGHTS ACTIVIST FILES TO RUN FOR MIAMI-BASED HD 108 via Florida Politics –  A fourth Democrat has filed to run for the seat currently held by Miami Democratic Rep. Daphne Campbell, who announced last month she will challenge Sen. Gwen Margolis in the newly redrawn SD 38. Francesca Menes, who filed for the seat Monday, joins former Campbell campaign staffer Fayola Delica, former North Miami City Councilor Marie Steril and Michael Hepburn, who took second place behind former John Patrick Julien in the 2010 Democratic primary in HD 104. Menes is best known as an immigrant rights activist who took her advocacy to the capital this session to oppose a handful of bills she and other activists have derided as “anti-immigrant.”

APPOINTED: Jennifer Taylor to the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Court.

APPOINTED: Michael S. Williams to the Hillsborough County Court.


Erica Atalia: Netsmart Technologies

Brian BallardBradley Burleson, Ballard Partners: CARCO Group; Flagler Construction Equipment

Brian Bautista, Impact GR: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Slater Bayliss, Cardenas Partners: Eaton

Matt BryanDavid DanielJeff HartleyAndrea Reilly, Smith Bryan & Myers: DJI Technology

Karyn CunninghamThomas GammonKarla Hernandez-MatsFedrick IngramJason JosephJoseph Minor: United Teachers of Dade

Troy Greenawait: Realtors Association of Indian River County

Jeffrey Paul Johnson: AARP

Natalie Kato, Lewis Longman & Walker: Lealman Special Fire Control District

Dara Lynn Lahav: Community Advocacy Network

Barbara Lumpkin: Baptist Health South Florida

Wallace Gene McGee, GMA: Prestige Health Choice

Paul MitchellGeorge Oscar AndersonKelly CohenJonathan Setzer, Southern Strategy Group: University of Central Florida Foundation; VOANS SW Florida Healthcare; MCNA Dental Plans; Prescribed Pediatric Extended Care

Sean Pittman, Pittman Law Group: Hackney Nursery

David Roberts, Akerman: Pure Analytics

Amrita Singh: Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Abby Lee Vandegrift: Florida Hospice & Palliative Care Association

Robert Yass: Hartford Financial Services Group

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rep. Marlene O’Toole and FSU’s Lynn Hatter.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.
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