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Staff Reports

Legislative leaders reach budget deal, Session extension looms

Florida lawmakers will extend their annual session for several days to pass a new $87 billion-plus state budget, which will include a $101.50 increase in per-student funding in public schools.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced early Wednesday afternoon that legislative leaders had reached agreement on the budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. One of the last issues to be resolved was funding for hospitals and nursing homes.

His announcement came after House and Senate negotiators failed to finalize a budget before a Tuesday deadline, forcing an extension of the 60-day legislative session, which had been scheduled to end Friday.

“We do believe that as of right now we have agreement on the budget,” Corcoran told the House, drawing applause from the members.

But Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron said they have not worked out the timing of the session extension, which will likely mean a final vote on the annual appropriations bill Sunday afternoon or Monday.

The budget bill must be published, and then lawmakers must wait 72 hours before the final vote under a constitutionally mandated “cooling off” period.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley said the last major issue settled was a deal securing $40 million in state funds, which can be matched with $60 million in federal funding, for nursing homes.

“It was very important to us in the Senate,” Bradley said. “We have a $100 million to help our elderly, our frail, vulnerable citizens who are in our nursing homes.”

Lawmakers also settled a dispute over a funding formula distributing Medicaid payments to Florida hospitals.

“I tell you I’ve spent the last 36 hours watching a lot of heavily lobbied special interests fight like hyenas over a static amount of money,” Bradley said. “At the end of the day, what is important to us is creating new money to help vulnerable Floridians rather than worrying about how these special interests work out their fights among themselves.”

Although the specific details had not been released early Wednesday evening, Bradley cited a number of accomplishments in the new budget, including $100 million for the Florida Forever environmental land-buying program and $400 million for a school-safety initiative, which will provide more mental health services and security officers for schools.

He said the budget will include a tax-cut package, which is expected to be in the range of $80 million, and will include more than $50 million to address the opioid crisis.

Although state workers will not receive a general pay raise, the budget includes pay hikes for state law enforcement officers, assistant state attorneys, state firefighters, assistant public defenders and probation and detention officers in the Department of Juvenile Justice, Bradley said.

He said there would be “record” funding for the state university system and public schools. The $21 billion public school budget will include a per-student funding increase of $101.50, Bradley said.

The budget includes a permanent expansion of Bright Futures scholarships for students at universities and state colleges, including allowing the merit aid to be used to attend summer classes.

However, without the appropriations bill actually being published, the budget deal technically remained “open” for adjustments on Wednesday, with some lawmakers speculating that it was being used as leverage to sway some reluctant House members as they debated a contentious school-safety bill (SB 7026). The House passed the bill 67-49 early Wednesday evening.

“In my opinion, it’s because they are wrangling votes over there” in the House, Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon said about the delay on finalizing the budget.

Bradley said he could not speculate on the House, while saying “there were no carrots or sticks with regards to the budget” in the Senate debate over the school-safety bill, which passed in a 20-18 vote earlier in the week. He said the budget delay was caused by differences over the health-care spending.

Sen. Tom Lee, a former budget chairman and Senate president, said he believed there were real budget differences between the two chambers “but maybe they weren’t working on it very hard — they weren’t in a big rush.”

He said using spending initiatives in the annual budget bill to motivate individual members is “a real management tool.”

“They’ve used every tool that I have ever seen used in this building to try to whip the votes for this (school-safety) bill,” Lee said.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post.

After marathon floor session, House poised to approve school safety bill

After an hours-long floor session, in which a series of Democratic attempts to change a controversial school safety bill failed, the Republican-controlled House on Tuesday readied the proposal for a final vote.

Before that could happen, dozens of amendments sponsored by Democrats were killed.

One by Rep. Jared Moskowitz would have removed a ‘guardian program’ in the bill (SB 7026), which would allow school employees other than full-time classroom teachers to carry a gun on campus.

Originally, the bill would have created a ‘marshal program,’ which would have allowed teachers to carry concealed weapons on campus to fend off active shooters.

Now, it’s called the “Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program,” in honor of the coach who died trying to protect students. Moskowitz and Feis both graduated in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High’s Class of 1999.

“It never dawned on me that we would create a guardian program,” Moskowitz said. “… My mind is just blank on this subject. I am spent.”

But Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat, said he had to privately talked to plenty of members on both sides of the aisle.

“If this was a secret ballot, this program would be out of the bill. I know that,” he said. “I have begged, I have pleaded … I have sold sh-t I never thought I would, just to get this provision out of the bill.”

Moskowitz said he didn’t want the chamber’s legacy to be that it “armed teachers.”

“These students want to know that they made a difference; they’re willing to accept stuff I know they don’t agree with,” he said. “I want to do something, but I want to do the right thing.” His amendment failed on a 71-42 vote.

By 4:45 p.m., at least 10 amendments had been voted down, out of over 40 that had been filed on the bill in the House, almost all by Democrats. Others were withdrawn during the day.

Lawmakers are struggling to pass a bill to address school safety and mental health after the Valentine’s Day shooting at Broward County’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that claimed the lives of three adults and 14 teens.

A summary of the bill’s provisions as of Tuesday morning is here.

Rick Scott doles out $22 million from job growth grant fund

On a day when most of the attention of Florida political watchers is on the debate in the Florida House on school safety measures, Gov. Rick Scott rolled out $22 million from the Job Growth Grant Fund.

The $85 million fund has now dispersed $57 million.

“I’m proud to announce the nearly $22 million in awards for 11 Florida Job Growth Grant Fund projects across the state. The $85 million Florida Job Growth Grand Fund was established last year with the help of the Florida Legislature to help Florida aggressively fight to be the best destination for businesses to succeed. These projects will help meet infrastructure and workforce training needs across the state in order to promote economic development. These projects are also slated to add more than 18,600 jobs for Florida families. I look forward to the completion of these projects,” Scott asserted.

The biggest spend: $5.8 million to build the “NEO City Gateway Road” in Osceola County, connecting U.S. 192 to two roads into a 500 acre master planned technology district.

“Access to NeoCity is at the heart of this infrastructure project, and making it connected, functional and appealing is fundamental to its long-term success. Creating high-profile roadways that provide connections to our existing transportation network will have an immediate impact in attracting new partners to our project,” remarked Fred Hawkins Jr., Chairman of the Osceola Board of County Commissioners.

Pensacola also scored, via $4 million for airport infrastructure improvements. Mayor Ashton Hayward touted the money as “another win enhancing our global presence along the I-10 Aerospace Corridor.”

Additional spending to local and regional governments included $1.987 million to Marianna to extend the runway at Marianna Airport Commerce Park to 6,000 feet. Titusville got $1.06 million for a new water main in the southern industrial district. Volusia got $1,961 million to extend County Road 4009. And Sumter County got $838,000 for water infrastructure upgrades along County Road 470.

Broward College got $3.187 million for a workforce training program, which College President J. David Armstrong says “will be used to train workers and grow jobs in the skilled workforce areas of aviation, advanced manufacturing, and information technology.”

Other colleges came out ahead as well. St. Petersburg College got $1,596,858 to create the Mechatronics and Electromechanical Technician training program, billed as “an accelerated, innovative, responsive and competency-based technical workforce program that meets the advanced manufacturing industry’s skill requirements.”

Big Bend Technical College got $100,000 to open a Diesel Maintenance Technician Program and a Diesel System Technical 1 Program. Valencia College received $1,320,000 to start the Advanced Manufacturing and Distribution Logistics project. And Chipola College got $76,240 for new welding equipment.

Delegation for 3.6.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

For one night, Trump trades tweets for stand up comedy

While Twitter is President Donald Trump‘s communication tool of choice, he used the podium to zing friends, opponents, and himself on Saturday night. Judging by the content of his comments at Saturday night’s Gridiron Club dinner, we could use more of these.

Trump mingled with what he calls the “fake news” media to help roast some of the guests while poking fun at himself. Organizers did their part by leaving a card at each place setting labeled “fake menu.”

Trump maintained a tradition that goes back to 1885, where every president has attended at least one of the dinners. His predecessor, Barack Obama, participated in three.

Donald Trump poked fun at himself at the Gridiron Club, with mixed results.

For at least a day those who oppose a sitting president can laugh at some of the barbs he throws at himself. Obama’s supporters and opponents admired his ability to deliver jokes at his own expense.

Saturday night’s event was a timeout from daily coverage of issues like North Korea, the Russia investigation, and the security clearance policies of the Trump administration. The face of the latter question belongs to Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, whose White House security level was recently downgraded.

“You know, we were late tonight because Jared could not get through security,” Trump joked.

Whether it came from good taste, good sense, or both, the ongoing back-and-forth on gun control — by far the issue most on the minds of Americans — was not included in the banter.

The president had a joke involving Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom Trump has seemingly not forgiven for turning over the Russia investigation to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and subsequently to special counsel Robert Mueller.

“Attorney General Sessions is with us tonight,” Trump said. “You know, it’s weird. I offered him a ride over — and he recused himself,” Trump deadpanned.

Trump’s back-and-forth food fight with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un has left a portion of the U.S. population and media with an uneasy feeling. On Saturday, he used this issue as the only one to mix humor with a serious policy component.

“I won’t rule out direct talks with Kim Jong-Un — I just won’t,” Trump said. As far as the risk of dealing with a madman is concerned, that’s his problem, not mine.”

The president concluded his remarks on the issue by changing tone, saying “maybe positive things are happening now,” referring to a reported willingness of the North Koreans to talk.

“I hope that’s true.”

The Gridiron Club is made up of members of the media, who raise funds for scholarships geared toward journalism students. While the Sunday shows returned to the divisiveness, people took a break to laugh while helping others on Saturday, if only for a while.

Nelson speaks on White House gun meeting snub

During last week’s meeting with Trump at the White House on guns and school safety, five members of the Florida delegation were seated around the table offering their views. Republicans John Rutherford of Jacksonville and Brian Mast of Palm City were there.

So were Democrats Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park and Ted Deutch of Boca Raton. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio was seated at Trump’s right, but Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson was not invited.

Bill Nelson was noticeably absent at Donald Trump’s bipartisan gun control meeting.

Nelson seemed to take it personally. During an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program, Nelson said it “was counterproductive that they would want to exclude me” in the effort to seek bipartisan reform.

The three-term Senator seemed to dismiss anything Trump offered in the way of gun control saying the president was unreliable. He accused the president of making promises, then backtracking.

Nelson also spoke of the partisan nature of the gun issue.

“It’s symptomatic of what’s happening in our society today, where everybody is retreating to polls, they’re getting very self-interested, highly partisan, highly-ideological rigid, and we’re seeing that play into this question about what do we do in the aftermath of these massacres,” Nelson said.

Rubio backs Parkland father’s call to fix school security first

The debate following the shootings that left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is solidifying into two camps. On one side is Republican Rubio and most the GOP members of the delegation, who advocate fixing school safety issues first, then take up gun control.

On the other side is Nelson and delegation Democrats, who are calling for a ban on the AR-15 and other weapons described as assault rifles. Last week, Palm City Republican Mast joined the call for banning the AR-15 on a temporary basis.

Andrew Pollack, father of Parkland victim, appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Rubio reacted to an appearance by Andrew Pollack on the CBS Sunday program Face the Nation. Pollack, who lost his daughter, Meadow, is one of the leading voices for establishing school security first.

“The work of Andrew Pollack & his family in memory of his daughter Meadow is having a real impact,” Rubio tweeted. “He is 100% correct that step one should be school safety and preventing another #Parkland. Then we can focus on the broader gun debate, but let’s get this done first.”

Perhaps Rubio is a bit more optimistic about step two. During his CBS appearance, Pollack offered the opinion that changing gun laws “is not achievable.”

Nelson, Rubio team up with colleagues on stopping illegal gun purchases

Florida’s senators, along with colleagues from 6 other states have filed a bill designed to assist states in enforcing existing law against individuals illegally attempting to purchase firearms. The NICS Denial Notification Act requires federal authorities to alert state law enforcement within 24 hours when individuals “lie and try” to buy firearms.

Federal officials are notified when individuals who are legally prohibited from purchasing a firearm (such as convicted felons, fugitives, and domestic abusers) try to buy a gun but fail a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) background check. These attempted purchases often violate federal and state laws, but the federal government rarely prosecutes any of these individuals.

Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson team up on illegal firearm purchases. 

“The NICS Denial Notification Act would not only require federal authorities to flag background check denials for state-level authorities, [but] it would also hold these federal officials accountable,” Rubio said in a joint news release. “This would be a strong step forward in preventing future tragedies.”

“Efforts to reduce gun violence are only as good as the systems in place to prevent prohibited individuals from obtaining guns,” said Nelson. “This bill is just another common-sense way to further those efforts to keep our communities safe from gun violence. I hope we can continue this conversation and continue to work together on comprehensive gun reform.”

In the 13 states that run their own background checks using the FBI’s NICS system, state authorities are aware when prohibited persons fail background checks and can have state law enforcement investigate these cases. Florida is one of those states.

Joining Nelson and Rubio in filing the bill was Delaware Democrat Chris Coons and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey. Also co-sponsoring the bill is Illinois Democrat Tammy Duckworth, Texas Republican John Cornyn, Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill, and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham.

Those endorsing the legislation include the Fraternal Order of Police; Major Cities Chiefs Police Association; Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association; National District Attorneys Association; National Domestic Violence Hotline; National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Everytown for Gun Safety.

UN Ambassador joins South Florida Republicans in Miami

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, visited Florida International University in Miami on Friday for a panel discussion with Republican Rubio and the area’s three Republican members of Congress. All were effusive in their praise for Haley and the Trump administration foreign policy.

“All of us are just so blessed that we have an administration that understands who our allies are, who our friends are and who our enemies are, and how each should be treated,” said Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Kendall.

Nikki Haley is heading to Miami to meet with Congressional Republicans.

The panel, also consisting of local community leaders and FIU President Mark Rosenberg, discussed Cuba, foreign aid, and related issues. Rubio stressed the importance of assisting U.S. allies.

“First of all, it’s like one-percent of our budget, people think it’s like 40 percent, and it’s not charity,” Rubio said. “it’s an investment in national security.”

“A lot of folks say the Cold War’s over, the Cold War’s over in a lot of places, but for the people of Cuba, it’s the same, exact same murderous regime,” said Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart.

Haley predicted the coming year would bring the U.S. closer to their Latin American neighbors.

“I just came back from a trip to Honduras and Guatemala,” she said. “This is the year of the Americas, and so we’re gonna see the United States put a lot of emphasis on our relationship with those countries, how we can strengthen them.”

Retiring GOP Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen tweeted several photos from the event.

Gaetz refiles Schiff’s 2013 FISA bill

In 2013, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California submitted a bill calling for the appointment authority of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) judges be changed from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to the President. Five years later, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach thinks that was such a good idea, he filed the same bill.

Gaetz talked about the legislation on the House floor. Watch the video by clicking the image below.

In addition to switching appointments to the President, FISA judges would be subject to Senate confirmation. Gaetz claims the Presidential Appointment of FISA Judges Act would increase transparency and improve Congressional oversight over the court.

The FISA Court has featured prominently in the news recently with the dueling memos between California Republican Devin Nunes and Schiff.

The Schiff bill did not get very far under a GOP Congress, but Gaetz, with ample sarcasm, is giving Schiff another chance. In fact, he is asking Schiff to co-sponsor his bill.

“I am reaching out to you in the spirit of comity, in the hopes you will co-sponsor this bill,” Gaetz said in a letter to Schiff. “Its merits have not diminished since 2013, oversight of FISA is even more necessary today.”

Lawson files bill to help land-grant HBCUs

The first-term Democrat from Tallahassee is sponsoring a bill that would bring funding for facility improvements at land-grant Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). Lawson introduced the HBCU Parity Act of 2018 last week to address a need for maintenance support.

A total of 19 universities from around the country would be involved. Lawson’s alma mater, Florida A&M, is the only university in Florida that would be affected.

Al Lawson is behind a move to boost funding for HBCUs, like Florida A&M. 

“I am pleased to introduce the HBCU Parity Act of 2018 that will provide much-needed resources to our land-grant institutions,” said Lawson in a news release. “Having state-of-the-art facilities will allow HBCUs to be more competitive in their recruitment efforts, which in turn, will offer a stronger and more diverse cohort of individuals in the nation’s agricultural industry.”

Lawson has attracted 14 co-sponsors to his bill. Among them are Florida Democrats Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens, Alcee Hastings of Delray Beach, and Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg.

Crist hoping Trump will push gun legislation

The first-term Democrat from St. Petersburg is optimistic common sense” gun legislation will finally pass in Washington. He is not quite as confident it will come soon.

“I don’t really understand why common sense ideas can’t be brought forward, or even discussed on the floor,” the Pinellas congressman said while visiting with Pinellas County School Board Chair Rene Flowers, law enforcement officials, administrators and students at Gibbs High School in South St. Petersburg on Monday.

Charlie Crist talks guns and common-sense solutions with Gibbs High School students.

“I do think these things will change, and I do think new ideas will be brought forward, I just don’t know if it’s going to be now,” Crist added. “If the President weighs in more, I think we’ll have a better shot at that, so I hope that happens.”

Trump first shocked both sides of the gun control debate during his one-hour meeting with a bipartisan group of House and Senate members at the White House last week. He spoke of expanded background checks, raising age limits for gun purchases and keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.

Soon after, Trump met with the NRA and seemed to soften some of his previous statements.

Students weighed in with questions and comments, including the issue of arming teachers. Crist and the students weighing in oppose the idea.

T. Rooney claims Hicks was ‘set up’

Last week’s resignation of White House Communications Director Hope Hicks briefly took some of the spotlight away from the raging debate over gun control. The announcement came one day after her appearance before the House Intelligence Committee, where Hicks admitted that she told “white lies” on behalf of Trump.

The circumstance that led to Hicks making that admission did not sit well with Okeechobee Republican Rooney. According to Rooney, Hicks was “set up” with a “bull …. question.”

“The whole line of questioning was a trap,” Rooney said. “They sent her down a rabbit hole that she could not get out of. And it was completely unfair.”

Hope Hicks was ‘set up,’ says Tom Rooney. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell from California drew Rooney’s ire by asking Hicks if her boss (Trump) ever asked her to lie for him. She eventually responded with the news-making admission.

“If your response to the question, ‘Have you ever been asked by your boss to lie for him?’ is to take two timeouts, we already know the answer to the question,” Swalwell said.

Rooney was unconvinced.

“I think the fair representation is that it was a setup: Use an extremely gratuitously broad question to make her look bad and ignore the rest of the nine hours that we were down there,” Rooney said.

Viewpoint: Florida flyers don’t need higher airport fees

Air travelers who made resolutions to travel more in 2018 may not be in for a happy new year. That’s because Congress is considering an 89 percent increase in the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC), one of the many taxes and fees airline passengers pay every time they fly. If approved, travelers flying out of Florida will pay up to $318.4 million more in air traveler fees this coming year alone.

The PFC or Airport Tax is one of 14 different fees tacked on to the cost of every plane ticket we buy.  The current law allows airports to charge up to $4.50. The measure introduced by Sen. Susan Collins would raise that to $8.50 on the first leg of each flight. That may not sound like a lot, but a family of four purchasing round-trip tickets could pay up to $104 in Airport Taxes alone.

Passengers are asking why?

Susan Collins is considering a boost to airport taxes, which could cost Florida flyers more than $300M.

In 2016, America’s airports took in $3.2 billion in PFC revenue, the highest level in the history of the program. That’s on top of the $6 billion in federal funding which is just sitting in the FAA’s trust fund. That’s money waiting to be used, that US airports can utilize. The argument that the airports need the money when they are currently sitting on $14.2 billion of unrestricted cash and investments on hand is nothing if not absurd.

When pressed by a Congressional committee to name an airport infrastructure improvement project that had gone unfunded due to lack of current PFC revenues, the head of the airport trade group was unable to name a single one.

It also belies a more fundamental question — Why should travelers pay for the total cost of running an airport when the municipalities and businesses that stand to benefit the most pay nothing? If the airports really need more money, it should come from surrounding airport businesses and the municipalities rather than from passengers. We are tapped out.

The reason, of course, is politics. Some in Congress and local Chambers of Commerce figure that they can get away with a sneaky tax increase by pawning it off as part of the fare airline travelers pay without having to anger their constituents.

It’s a bad deal for the millions of passengers who already pay more than their fair share in taxes. In addition to the Airport Tax, travelers pay a premium for parking, taxi and ride-sharing surcharges, and expensive airport food.

Meanwhile, Congress — who claims to be looking out for the little guy — just passed a massive tax cut that excluded private jet owners from paying an excise tax when they fly. Relative to what the normal commercial passenger pays flying coach, private jet owners — who happen to be among the biggest campaign contributors — pay pennies on the dollar.  Now, after a giveaway to the wealthiest among us, Congress is proposing to raise airport taxes on the little guy. Sad.

The good news is that airfares are down, more people are flying than ever before, and business is beginning to boom. Now is not the time to curb this growth by nearly doubling a tax that will make flying more expensive for our nation’s nearly 800 million yearly airline passengers.

Raising the PFC is nothing more than a greedy and easy way for airports to raise more revenue without asking their own municipalities for more funding. If Congress truly wants to ease the tax burden on the middle-class, their first New Year’s resolution should be to scrap the proposed Airport Tax increase.

Charlie Leocha is the chairman and co-founder of the consumer advocacy group Travelers United.

Trump always greeted by well-wishers on visits to Mar-a-Lago

Though Trump supporters are not the subject of many media stories, there is a vocal group of them in the Palm Beach area. Every time he pays a visit to his Mar-a-Lago mansion, he has a welcoming committee waiting for him.

Some will stand in the rain just to get a glimpse of him, if that is what it takes. Some of the more star-struck among the group are beside themselves if he responds.

Donald Trump supporters always greet the president at Mar-a-Lago.

“I thought I was going to faint,” Portia Dumond told The Washington Post after Trump waved at her. Dumond is a first-time Trump greeter who was almost in tears Saturday afternoon after Trump’s car slowed down and he smiled through his window as he headed to Palm Beach International Airport.

With this about Trump, there are always the protesters. On this day they lined the other side of the street carrying signs of “Corruption” and “Impeach.”

But on this day and whenever he visits South Florida, Trump was obviously glad to have to see some friendly faces.

On this date in the headlines

March 6, 1993 — Despite reports the Naval Aviation Depot in Pensacola was on a list for closure, Democratic Sen. Bob Graham said he was assured no such list exists. But, “the truth is, Florida is a major military state … and it’s unrealistic to think Florida would be immune from the process, Graham said.”

[NOTE: Later that year the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) closed three Aviation Depots, including the one in Pensacola]

March 6, 2001 — After complaining of chest pains, Vice President Dick Cheney was taken to the hospital where doctors performed angioplasty surgery three months after his fourth heart attack. Cheney was expected to be released “in a day or two” from George Washington University Hospital.

March 6, 2013 — Former Gov. Jeb Bush has released a new book on immigration policy which suggests undocumented immigrants should be legalized, but not given a path to citizenship. The puts him “slightly to the right” of first-term GOP Sen. Rubio, who, along with 7 other Senators (Gang of 8), have called for a path to citizenship.

Donna Shalala files to run for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s House seat

Former University of Miami President Donna Shalala is running to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, according to paperwork filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Shalala, a Democrat, served as Health and Human Services secretary under President Bill Clinton. Well-known in the region, Shalala, 77, is considered a top choice for the Democratic nomination.

With access to the Clinton family’s big-pocketed donors, Shalala has the potential to be a formidable fundraiser.

But some of her strengths could be also be weaknesses.

Another Democrat in the race, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, told Politico earlier this year said that Shalala represented the “elite” of the party.

Shalala was popular during her tenure at the University of Miami, but she also weathered a number of scandals. In one case, environmentalists criticized Shala after she sold a piece of land for development that they said should have been preserved.

Ros-Lehtinen, a moderate Republican, is leaving a Congress after 28 years in office. Most political observers see her Miami district as an easy win for Democrats in November. The district favored Hillary Clinton for president by 19 points.

Republicans have had troubling recruiting high-profile candidates. A number of GOP officials told the Miami Herald in January that the seat was “unwinnable.”

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro and songwriter Angie Chirino are currently running for the Republican nomination.

Meanwhile, the race has attracted a host of candidates on the Democratic side.

Other Democrats running include former Judge Mary Barzee Flores, state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriquez, state Rep. David Richardson, former Miami Herald reporter and Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman and Miami Commissioner Ken Russell.

That crowded field may narrow now that Shalala has entered the race.

Material from ABC 10 was used in this post.

#CateSineDie: Place your bets on Session’s end

It may not compare to March Madness — the billions wagered in office betting pools during the NCAA basketball tournament — but Capitol observers have some side bets on the 2018 Legislative Session.

The biggest one: “When will the hankie drop?”

Enter the annual #CateSineDie.

“This Florida Legislative Session has been cray, no matter your politics,” said CateComm founder Kevin Cate in an email. #CateSineDie is about “having a tiny bit of fun” in the final few days of Session.

The rules are simple and, like all good ideas, stolen from Bob Barker.

Predict when lawmakers adjourn the 2018 Legislative Session and CateComm will contribute $300 to the charity of your choosing.

To enter, just tweet an entry — date and time — AND use the hashtag #CateSineDie (so CateComm can keep track) — closest without going over wins.

Entries for the #CateSineDie are due no later than 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Digital technology enables a public conversation to occur in real time as news events unfold. Twitter has been around since 2008, and Cate began the Sine Die conversation/competition in 2012.

While the end of Session is usually festive around the Capitol Complex and along Adams Street, a budget agreement — as is often the case — looms heavy over the House and Senate.

Twitter feeds serve to unite kindred spirits in a community, providing sort of a news service, especially for those under the age of 50, as events occur.

Once known simply as the “pound symbol” (#), a hashtag in a post indicates access to a feed of other posts that are part of the conversation. Users can also search for specific hashtags, providing more information on a trending topic.

“If you don’t know how to tweet, entertain us with your attempt,” Cate writes. “Or just look at how everyone else is doing it here or by searching #CateSineDie on Twitter.”

And for those in and around The Process … good luck!

Charlie Crist sells downtown St. Petersburg condo

Charlie and Carole Crist have sold their condo in the Parkshore Plaza building in downtown St. Petersburg.

The couple, who are going through a divorce, sold the condo to Susan and Daniel McGeown for $1.35 million, about $300,000 more than they paid for the property when they bought it in mid-2015.

The Crist real estate transaction was first reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

When the Crists put the condo on the market back in June, the list price was $1.5 million.

Last year, the Crists sold their St. Pete Beach home for about $1 million. That sale also produced a tidy profit of about $100,000 over what they paid for the home.

Charlie Crist announced last year, shortly before he took his seat in Congress, that he was filing for divorce.

He and Carole have been married since 2008, and were together during Crist’s change from a Republican governor, to an independent U.S. Senate candidate, to his current role as a Democratic U.S. Representative.

“I think the world of Carole. She’s an amazing person. It just didn’t work out for us,” Crist said at the time.

Despite announcing their split in February 2017, there have not been new actions in their divorce case for several months; the pair are still married.

Email insights: Emma Collum says campaign cash will help fix weak gun regulations

House District 93 candidate Emma Collum sent out an email this week asking for campaign donations so she can fix “weak gun regulations” and “remove weapons of war from our streets.”

HD 93 covers part of Broward, the county that’s home to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where a school shooter killed 17 people, including 14 students, on Feb. 14.

Less than two weeks out from the tragedy, Collum wrote in the Monday email “this is our chance to push real and major changes for the people of Broward and beyond.”

Collum doesn’t mention any of students or teachers who died in Parkland or any of the grassroots work being done by students after they went through such a horrific experience.

Actually, she doesn’t mention Parkland at all. She just puts her hand out for donors who, if they act fast, can have their contributions doubled by other donors who are sick of “politics as usual” — as if this kind of money grab wasn’t the embodiment of “politics as usual.”

“Tallahassee is broken and failing us. We need to expect more—and get more—from our leaders,” Collum said in the Monday message. “I’m running for office because I know we can do better, and I’m tired of watching the policies we care about get pushed aside.”

Collum then says she’s for passing an assault weapon bans, improving access to healthcare, lower prescription drug prices, and protecting the environment and coastline.

“Can you help me win this seat so I can advocate for these issues in the Florida House?” she asks.

HD 93 is held by Republican Rep. George Moraitis, who faces term limits in 2018.

Collum is running against Stephanie Myers for the Democratic nomination. Republican Chip LaMarca, currently a Broward County Commissioner, is the only GOP candidate in the race.

Emma Collum, George Moraitis, Stephanie Myers, Chip LaMarca, HD 93, House District 93, Email Insights, 2018 election, 2018 legislative races, Parkland mass shooting

Delegation for 3.2.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

In one week, gun control dialogue has changed direction

Recent history shows that at the end of each week, Washington observers say they have not seen many like this. The same is certainly true at the end of this week.

With President Donald Trump in the White House, the unexpected is gradually becoming the norm. Perhaps we should not be surprised at anything he says or does, but this week he baffled/shocked/angered/pleased — choose your verb — during Wednesday’s meeting with legislators at the White House on guns and school safety.

Donald Trump says ‘take guns first, due process second.’ (Photo credit: Getty Images)

Trump discussed having a conversation on banning some weapons, raising the age to buy guns, and more background checks. Shock and awe came when the president talked about taking guns away from the mentally ill and worrying about due process later.

“Take the guns first, go through due process second,” he said.

He also admonished some for being too fearful of the NRA.

Sitting around the table hearing all of this were 5 members of the delegation.

Democrats Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park and Ted Deutch of Boca Raton were joined at the table by Republican Brian Mast of Palm City. Republican John Rutherford of Jacksonville and GOP Sen. Marco Rubio were also there.

“I was heartened to hear the president was open to a wide variety of solutions because we owe it to our country to do something, to act,” Murphy said on CBS.

“The President said we can’t wait on comprehensive gun safety legislation, and he’s right. We have to act now,” Deutch said in a statement.

The two Democrats represent areas where recent mass killings took place and wish to go further than Mast’s recent call for the specific temporary ban. Do they believe Trump will follow up his words with actions that run counter to GOP policy?

“We got the president’s commitment he would see this through to the end,” Murphy said.

Rutherford and Trump had a spirited exchange on gun-free zones and having other states recognize one state’s concealed/carry permits, known as reciprocity.

“You’re not going to get it approved,” Trump told Rutherford, but took the opportunity to at call for ending gun-free zones on military bases. Rutherford is the sponsor of the Stop School Violence Act just launched in the House of Representatives

Rubio said the meeting was productive and previewed the next steps including the launch of the Senate version of Rutherford’s bill.

“(Thursday), we’re going to announce Stop School Violence Act, which we’ve been working on for some time with (Utah Republican) Senator (Orrin) Hatch and the Newtown Promise families to try to get that moving forward.”

In the span of one week, or one day, or one hour, the conversation on guns has dramatically changed.

What can happen next week to top this one?

Nelson holds slim lead over Scott in Quinnipiac survey

The three-term Democrat holds a small advantage over Gov. Rick Scott according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University. Nelson is the choice of 46 percent of respondents, while Scott earned the support of 42 percent.

Among independent voters, Nelson’s advantage was 46-33. Both held nearly identical 80-point majorities among their party faithful.

Bill Nelson leads Rick Scott in the latest polling, but not by much.

“Florida’s Senate race features probably the two best-known politicians in the Sunshine State,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “A race between two-term Gov. Rick Scott and four-term (sic) incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson makes this unusual in that most voters probably already have made up their minds.”

When respondents were asked if they would be more or less likely to support a candidate who supports Trump, only 16 percent of independents said they would be more likely to vote for that candidate with 41 percent saying they would be less likely and 41 percent saying it would make no difference.

Among Democrats, 76 percent said it would make them less likely to vote for a Trump supporter, while 48 percent of Republicans said it would make them more likely for a pro-Trump candidate and 43 percent saying it would make no difference.

The survey included 1,156 registered voters that included 32 percent Democrats, 30 percent Republicans, 33 percent independents and 5 percent “other.”

Rubio’s numbers go south after CNN town hall

Things have gone off the rails very quickly for the two-term Republican Senator. Following last week’s CNN town hall, where he faced a hostile crowd in South Florida, the commentaries and editorial cartoons have been in attack mode.

A new Quinnipiac poll puts Rubio’s job approval rate at 38 percent with 53 percent disapproving. The numbers reflect the accelerated negativity toward the National Rifle Association, who has supported Rubio in his elections.

Marco Rubio takes a dive after CNN town hall.

The numbers are even worse among Hispanics. Only 27 percent support him, while 66 percent disapprove.

The town hall reception may have been unnerving and the ferocity of the reaction toward him may have led Rubio to a somber place. He tweeted “We the People don’t like each other very much …. and worst of all we have infected the next generation with the same disease.”

Democratic Rep. Deutch, who shared the town hall stage with Rubio, was quick to respond. “No,” he said. “The next generation is lifting us up …. The disease we must eradicate is gun violence. Ready to talk when you are.”

Drudge ‘scoop’: Trump running for re-election

Twenty years ago, the Drudge Report was touting a blockbuster story about President Bill Clinton and a White House intern. As it turned out, the story was everything Drudge promised, and more.

On Tuesday, he promised another “SHOCK ANNOUNCEMENT” to be announced later that day. The news aggregator-in-chief later provided the “World Exclusive” announcement at 10:05 a.m.: President Trump is running for re-election.

Drudge was just as accurate as he was 20 years ago, but the shock value was somewhat reduced. Few expected Trump to do anything other than run again.

Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign manager Brad Parscale. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

Many in the media either mocked or yawned at the announcement. The Palm Beach Post’s George Bennett pointed out that Trump opened a re-election account 13 months ago and continues to have campaign rallies.

The news coming from the announcement is his former digital adviser, Brad Parscale, will serve as campaign manager. Parscale currently heads a pro-Trump outside group called America First Policies.

With the primary season still two years away, plenty is sure to happen between now and then. Perhaps there will be events that merit a Drudge flashing siren at the top.

Unions concerned with Supreme Court case

This week the U.S. Supreme Court heard a potentially huge case involving membership in labor unions. Janus vs. AFSCME involves whether nonunion workers can be required to pay union dues.

Observers believe an unfavorable ruling for the union could send them, especially unions representing government workers, on a slide from which they could not recover. Democrats could lose a major source of campaign funding.

Unions are starting to worry over Janus vs. AFSCME.

Just two years ago the Court heard a similar case, but a 4-4 tie favored the unions. This ruling came less than two months after the death of originalist icon Antonin Scalia, who was no union sympathizer.

This time, all nine Justices will decide the outcome. After Republicans kept Obama appointee Merrick Garland off the court in 2016, Trump’s appointee, Neil Gorsuch, joined his 8 colleagues.

During the hearing, just as much news came not from what was said, but what was not said. The Justices asked pointed questions of both sides, but Gorsuch remained quiet throughout.

Justice Clarence Thomas is well-known for not asking questions of lawyers from either side during arguments, but many are not sure what to make of Gorsuch’s self-imposed gag. Those on the union side fear he will be the deciding vote.

“I think people who are in public sector unions are very concerned about their viability going forward,” said Elizabeth Wydra, president of The Constitutional Accountability Center.

A ruling is expected in June.

Rutherford files bill to address school violence

The focus on school safety continued in Congress this week with another bipartisan bill filed on Tuesday. The Stop School Violence Act is sponsored by Jacksonville Republican John Rutherford and co-sponsored by Boca Raton Democrat Deutch.

John Rutherford backs a bill to help curb school violence.

If enacted, the bill would create a grant program to train students, teachers, school officials, and local law enforcement how to identify and intervene early when signs of violence arise. It would also create a coordinated reporting system, and implement FBI & Secret Service-based school threat assessment protocols to prevent school shootings before they happen.“As a career police officer and sheriff for 12 years in my hometown of Jacksonville, I know firsthand the importance of communities working together with their law enforcement agencies to keep people safe,” Rutherford said at a joint news conference. “This bill invests in early intervention and prevention programs in our local schools, so that our communities and law enforcement can be partners in preventing violent events from happening.”

The STOP School Violence Act reauthorizes and amends the bipartisan 2001 Secure Our Schools program through the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, providing local law enforcement, school personnel and students with the tools they need to proactively prevent a threat. The legislation authorizes $50 million annually for state and local schools to develop ways to prevent future tragedies, including developing threat reporting mechanisms and providing significant improvements in school security.

Among the delegation, 16 members quickly signed on as bill co-sponsors.

EMILY’s List backs Soderberg in CD 6 

The leading Democratic candidate to replace Republican Ron DeSantis in the 6th Congressional District, has picked up a key endorsement in her bid. EMILY’s List has thrown their support behind Nancy Soderberg, the former deputy national security adviser to President Clinton.

“Nancy Soderberg knows what it means to take on tough jobs. She has used her positions to advocate change, move our country forward, and defend the rights of our citizens,” said EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriok. “In her current role as a professor at the University of North Florida and a small-business owner, she is deeply invested in her community and will do what it takes to ensure that the working families of the 6th District have a voice in Washington.”

Nancy Soderberg gets the nod from EMILY’s List.

DeSantis is not seeking re-election and is instead running for Governor of Florida.

Through December 31, Soderberg had raised more than $544,000 and had $376,000 cash on hand. She currently serves as a professor of foreign policy and director of the public service leadership program at the University of North Florida and is president and CEO of Soderberg Global Solutions, an international consulting firm.

Since their founding in 1985, EMILY’s List has raised more than $500 million dollars to support pro-choice Democratic women candidates.

Soto earns perfect score

According to the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), the Democrat from Orlando is solid on environmental issues. The League gave Soto a perfect score of 100 on their environmental scorecard, the only member of Florida’s delegation to do so.

Democratic Rep. Val Demings of Orlando earned a score of 97 while her Democratic colleagues Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach and Alcee Hastings of Delray Beach earned scores of 94. The highest score among Republicans was earned by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami and Carlos Curbelo of Kendall, who scored 33.

The League of Conservation Voters gives Darren Soto perfect marks.

Soto has pushed for several pieces of legislation and funding relating to restoration projects for the Kissimmee River and the Everglades. He also covered legislation and issues ranging from support for the U.S. EPA, climate change, California water resource management, and pesticides.

“I am honored to have received a perfect score on the LCV scorecard”, said Soto in a news release from his office. “You can count on me to continue fighting to protect our environment, especially fighting offshore drilling and keeping our Florida coasts and waters pristine. Legislation I’ve recently introduced would protect the Everglades and provide resources to restore our beloved Kissimmee River.”

Castor calls on Tillerson to return embassy personnel to Cuba

Recently the Democrat from Tampa visited Cuba and among the items on her agenda was the mysterious cyber illness that afflicted several members of the U.S. Embassy staff in Havana. The State Department removed 60 percent of the staff after 22 American workers.

Now, Castor is calling on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to return consular officials and diplomatic personnel to the embassy as soon as possible.

Kathy Castor is calling on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to reinstate diplomats to Cuba.

“While I appreciate your overriding concern with the health and safety of our diplomats following the unexplained health incidents, it is time to increase staffing and re-establish an American presence to serve our interests and our citizens,” the Tampa Democrat wrote in the letter to Tillerson sent Wednesday.

Shortly after Tillerson ordered the removal of U.S. diplomats from Cuba, the State Department then opted to suspend all visa processing in Havana, moving that function to Bogota, Columbia.

Castor, representing a district that is home to one of the largest Cuban-American populations in the country, said it’s “unreasonable and unaffordable” for Cubans who want to travel to Tampa or Miami to go to another country to do so.

Castor visited Cuba earlier this month with fellow Democratic Reps. James McGovern from Massachusetts and Susan Davis from California, as well as Senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Gary Peters from Michigan and Ron Wyden from Oregon.

The entire delegation, except for Castor, chose to meet with Cuban President Raul Castro during the visit. Castro will step down in April.

Crist files bipartisan legislation to protect Israel from Iranian drones

With the increasing danger Israel faces from drone attacks from Iran, the first-term Democrat from St. Petersburg joined with a Republican colleague to file legislation to protect the Jewish nation from those attacks. Crist and Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson launched the United States-Israel Joint Drone Detection Cooperation Act.

“In the face of this new and growing threat, we have the opportunity to share our technology and expertise to the benefit of U.S. and Israeli security,” Crist said in a joint release.

Israel faces nearby enemies that surround them. The Crist-Johnson bill takes that into account as well.

Charlie Crist is helping protect Israel from Iranian drones.

“We call on Congress to act swiftly and strongly to fend off Iranian aggression and that of other adversaries in the region,” Crist added.

“I am proud to introduce this bill with my good friend, Congressman Crist, and look forward to further enhancing our decades-old alliance with Israel,” Johnson said.

House passes Bilirakis bill for heart research funding

A bill sponsored by the Republican from Palm Harbor designed to help those living with congenital heart disease has passed the House of Representatives. The Congenital Futures Heart Reauthorization Act was sent to the Senate with a 394-7 vote.

The bill calls for an increased investment into further research to benefit the two to three million Americans suffering from Congenital Heart Disease (CHD). Of that total, approximately one million are children.

Gus Bilirakis meets with patients and families to celebrate House passage of The Congenital Heart Futures Re-authorization Act.

Statistics reveal that one in 100 babies are born with some form of CHD. Of those, 5 percent will not live to see their first birthday.

“Better data leads to better research,” Bilirakis said in a news release. “This bipartisan initiative is about giving hope to families who have suffered and improving the quality of life for millions of Americans by investing in lifesaving research. I urge my Senate colleagues to do the right thing on behalf of sick kids and join me in this fight by sending the bill to the President’s desk as quickly as possible.”

The bill enjoyed a broad range of 28 co-sponsors. Among those include Democrats Soto of Orlando and Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park along with Republicans Daniel Webster of Orlando and Ros-Lehtinen of Miami.

Buchanan one of the richest

Vern Buchanan is worth an estimated $74 million, according to a report published in Roll Call. This makes him the eighth wealthiest member of the Congress.

The Longboat Key Republican owns car dealerships across the Southeast, starting in 1992 with a dealership selling Hondas and Acuras. The chain expanded to two dozen locations, which some have been sold. Buchanan was also involved in the reinsurance, charter jet and yacht leasing businesses, and his investments in real estate are at least $28 million.

Vern Buchanan is one of the wealthiest members of Congress.

Topping the list (once again) is San Diego-area Republican Darrell Issa, worth about $238 million. Issa made his fortune in the car alarm business.

After Buchanan, the next wealthiest member of Congress from Florida is Napes Rep. Frances Rooney, worth $22.6 million.  The money comes from the family business, Manhattan Construction Group.

The top Democrat is Tampa Rep. Castor, listed as the 98th wealthiest member of Congress with $3 million net worth. $2.7 million of that is from investments.

Mast signs on to broad range of gun, school safety bills

Last week, the Republican from Palm City penned an op-ed in The New York Times that revealed his support for banning the AR-15 rifle from public sale. On Tuesday, he signed on as a co-sponsor to 6 current bills that cover the areas of gun violence, school security, law enforcement, and mental health.

Brian Mast signed onto a wide range of gun and school safety bills.

“This will take a comprehensive approach that includes evaluating access to firearms, school safety, law enforcement failures and mental illness,” Mast said in a statement. “We must be open to considering who can purchase firearms and what kind of firearms are available for purchase.”

Asked about the response in the 18th Congressional District to his willingness to outlaw the AR-15, Mast described the reaction as “a mixed bag.”

“I am committed to working with anyone — Republican or Democrats — who is willing to do the hard, bipartisan problem solving needed to come up with a definition that can keep communities safe, while also not casting law-abiding recreational gun owners as criminals,” Mast said.

 Hastings calls on state Republicans to allow local gun control

On Tuesday, the veteran Democrat from Delray Beach went at the gun control issue in a different way. Instead of demanding federal action, he asked for Republican state legislative leaders to allow local communities to establish their own regulations.

Hastings wrote to Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron, calling on them to repeal what is known as the firearm pre-emption law that limits the ability of localities to implement sensible gun control measures. While he was at it, he basically called them hypocrites to their party’s mantra.

Alcee Hastings wades into the ‘home rule’ debate on gun control.

“It was my understanding that a founding principle of the Republican Party is that local control is best, yet Florida’s firearm pre-emption law flies in the face of that principle,” he wrote. “At the same time Republicans rail against big government mandates, they seem delighted in passing laws that directly attack the principle of home rule and avert the powers of local government officials.

“Home rule is based on a concept that the closer the government is to the people, the more responsive it will be,” he continued. “Instead of letting the cities and counties work, you have shifted local government responsibility to the State.”

He finished the letter by calling on the Florida Legislature to “prioritize the repeal of the firearm prevention law.” Gov. Rick Scott was copied.

Deutch, Wasserman Schultz to co-host opioid roundtable

With the opioid crisis showing no signs of improving, two South Florida Democrats will raise awareness of the issue on Saturday. Democratic Rep. Deutch from Boca Raton and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston will join with Massachusetts Democrat Joe Kennedy III to host a roundtable discussion on the epidemic.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ted Deutch to host a roundtable on the opioid crisis.

They will be joined by local community leaders and families impacted by the scourge. Invited guests include the Chief Program Officer of the United Way of Broward County, Maria Hernandez, and the Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, Heather Davidson.

The event will be held at United Way of Broward County at 1300 S. Andrews Avenue in Fort Lauderdale. It is set to begin at 3:30 p.m.

Trump negotiates deal for new Air Force One

A new Air Force One is on the horizon. Trump has negotiated an informal deal with Boeing that will significantly upgrade the current presidential aircraft.

The reported $3.9 billion “fixed price contract” will provide two enhanced 747 aircraft that will be labeled Air Force One when the president is on board. Trump personally negotiated the deal, which saw Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg personally visiting the White House on multiple occasions.

Air Force One is getting an update.

In a statement, Boeing said it is “proud to build the next generation of Air Force One, providing American Presidents with a flying White House at outstanding value to taxpayers.”

“President Trump negotiated a good deal on behalf of the American people,” it said.

The agreement includes the two 747-800 aircraft and the cost of modifying them, including external stairs, large galleys and a secure communications suite. Other modifications include electrical power upgrades and adding a medical facility, an executive space and a self-defense system.

Trump has been pushing to have the aircraft ready in 2021, just in time for a second term if he is able to win re-election.

Jimmy Patronis can’t stop, won’t stop for first responders

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, also the state’s Fire Marshal, Thursday applauded a Senate panel’s unanimous approval of a workers’ compensation insurance bill that could provide expanded benefits to first responders with job-related post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Last year, four states, including Texas, passed measures that give first responders the needed access to mental health benefits for first responders, with three of those states doing it through the workers’ compensation system,” he said in a statement. “This year we MUST add Florida to this list.”

The Senate bill (SB 376), carried by Democratic Sen. Lauren Book, now heads to the Senate floor.

Patronis had blasted the Florida League of Cities earlier this week after it opposed the House version (HB 227). He said the group was “attempting to derail” the legislation.

Because cities and counties in Florida employ almost all first responders, they will incur almost all of the costs of the benefit.

“Firefighters, for example, have a suicide attempt rate five times the general adult population. Suicide is not a solution,” Patronis said then.

The League later dropped its opposition after saying the House bill had been “tightened up.”

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