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Rick Scott gets personal in 2017 ‘State of The State’ address

In what was his most personally felt State of the State speech so far, Gov. Rick Scott Tuesday delivered an impassioned plea for Florida’s economic development organization and business incentives targeted for elimination by the House of Representatives.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran is seeking to abolish Enterprise Florida and other financial programs he has termed “corporate welfare.” Though the Senate is not backing the House’s moves, Scott fought back, criticizing the negative narrative.

The governor, who once ran the privately-held Columbia/HCA hospital and health care chain, told a joint session of the state’s House and Senate that he knew “what it’s like to be poor.”

“I have lived in poverty,” said Scott, repeating his rags-to-riches story. “I watched my parents struggle to put food on the table. When most kids were playing Little League or riding bikes, I had a job … I went from delivering papers, to opening a small business so my mom could have a job, to running the nation’s largest health care company.”

Tuesday’s speech opening the 2017 Legislative Session is Scott’s second-to-last State of the State address. With less than two years left in office, the governor is beginning to eye his legacy.

“It’s easy to throw out catch phrases like ‘picking winners and losers’ and ‘corporate welfare,’ ” he said. “(T)hat’s not what we are doing. We are competing with 49 other states and hundreds of countries for jobs. When we bring new jobs to Florida, there are only winners.

“… I will admit it is probably more difficult for people who have never gone hungry, or gone through foreclosure, or seen their family car repossessed, to understand this,” Scott said.

“If you have never lived through these experiences, it may be harder to understand the urgency. I will just leave it like this: I am fighting for our state’s job programs because I am fighting for families just like mine growing up.”

The governor still had time for moments of levity, however, as when he greeted the state’s Supreme Court justices: “You look great in your robes, by the way,” he said, mentioning his appointed of the court’s newest member, C. Alan Lawson.

He also said he and wife Ann were expecting twin grandchildren soon, making six since he took office, then joked that his daughter must have taken his slogan literally: “Let’s get to work.”

Scott also took a moment to thank former Senate President and current state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater for his service. Atwater is resigning at the end of the legislative session to take a similar position with Florida Atlantic University.

He took note of last year’s Pulse nightclub shooting, thanking Orlando Police Chief John Mina and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings for the law enforcement response, singling out SWAT officer Michael Napolitano, whose Kevlar helmet stopped a bullet to his head.

Napolitano and fellow officers demonstrate “the courage to serve in the face of evil,” Scott said.

Kathy Castor calls new GOP House health care plan ‘Robin Hood in reverse’

Congresswoman Kathy Castor has always been an unflagging champion of the Affordable Care Act, so you could bet she would have a harsh reaction to the plan unveiled by House Republican leaders on Monday night.

“It’s pretty horrendous,” the Tampa Democrat told a group of reporters gathered in front of a medical building Tuesday morning on West Swann Avenue in South Tampa.

Castor said Floridians arguably have the most to lose under the GOP proposal. More than 1.7 million Floridians signed up for ACA plans on Healthcare.gov in 2016, the most of any state. They would automatically lose coverage when the exchanges are eliminated.

Although Florida Gov. Rick Scott did not allow for Medicaid expansion which could have brought on at least 750,000 more Floridians to the ACA, there are groups of Floridians — children, the disabled, people with Alzheimer’s and others — whose coverage is funded by Medicaid. The GOP House plan calls for a change Medicaid funding which would have it distributed by a per-person allotment to the states.

“If they devastate Medicaid, they will harm families across the state,” Castor warned.

Approximately 85 percent of those on the ACA receive some government subsidy to pay for their coverage. Under the House GOP plan, that subsidy would go away, to replaced by a tax credit that would start at $2,000 annually for those under 30 years of age, and max out at $4,000 for seniors.

“Instead of going to the doctor’s office, they want to ask working families across America to go to the accountant’s office for care,” Castor remarked, adding that such credits won’t be available until after a citizen gets their income tax refund, which could be a full year or longer from when they would have to pay for a medical procedure.

Higher-income Americans could pay fewer taxes and get more tax benefits with the new plan, according to an analysis from CNN/Money. The legislation would eliminate two taxes that Obamacare levied on the wealthy to help pay for the law. Nearly everyone in the top one percent who earn more than $774,000 a year, would enjoy a hefty tax cut, averaging $33,000, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. Those in the top 0.1 percent would get an average tax cut of about $197,000.

“It’s a reverse Robin Hood,” the Congresswoman quipped. “It’s a steal from the poor to give to the rich, and even (a) steal from working families,” adding, “to give huge tax cuts for the wealthiest among us and withdraw coverage to so many more of our neighbors? I don’t understand that.”

As she has done in previous news conferences focused on maintaining the ACA, Castor featured a Tampa citizen who testified on behalf of the current health care system. Joe Nammour, 36, is a small-business man who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis five years ago, where he said that he was denied access to coverage because it’s a disease that is very expensive to treat. He praised the ACA for not discriminating against people like him who have a pre-existing condition.

Republicans are touting that the most popular provisions of the ACA, including not discriminating against pre-existing conditions, are maintained in their proposal. Like Obamacare, it requires insurers cover these people and prevents carriers from charging them more because of their health.

However, the GOP plan would lift the requirement that insurers cover a certain share of the cost of getting care. This change would allow carriers to offer a wider selection of policies, including more with higher deductibles and copays. That could make it harder to find plans with low deductibles that the sick often want.

Castor is the Vice Ranking Member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, which will be voting on the new bill on Wednesday. That’s despite the fact that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has yet to score this repeal bill, which would determine what it would cost and how many people would remain uninsured. She disputed a reporter’s question that the Democrats pushed the ACA through Congress without anyone reading the bill.

“The difference is, before we went to a committee markup, we had had months and months of hearings and heard from experts and folks from all across the spectrum, and many academics and crafted that bill,” she said, calling that notion “a canard.”

Richard Corcoran: Florida House is keeping the faith with voters

In prepared remarks for his speech Tuesday, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran again threw down the gauntlet to Senate leadership and the Governor’s office, offering an unapologetic defense of the House’s approach to state government under his watch.

That said, Corcoran asserts that the House is willing to negotiate, to “come to the table, sit down and work together to ensure real reform and genuine accountability.”

“We don’t believe the House has a monopoly on good ideas.  We’re willing to listen, we’re willing to talk, and we’re willing to enter into good compromise,” Corcoran asserted.

Corcoran said his vision for the Florida House is a pure one: “To govern as we campaigned,” despite the “outrage, vehement opposition and personal attacks” that have resulted from political rivals.

“And so be it. Because everything we have done so far — we have done to keep faith with the voters who sent us here,” Corcoran said.

Among the accomplishments, Corcoran cited: “the toughest ethics and transparency rules of any chamber of any legislature in the United States” and “an end to the shadowy pork barrel budgets that wasted millions in taxpayer money.”

In his prepared remarks, Corcoran also alluded to the House’s focus on Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, two priority incentive projects of Gov. Rick Scott.

“We questioned an agency’s spending and exposed its failures and abuses,” Corcoran said. “We forced another agency into the sunshine, sued a rapper and won, only to reveal even more wasteful spending.”

Of course, there’s more to government in Florida than suing Pitbull.

Corcoran’s remarks also focused on the House’s new insistence that universities, economic development agencies, and tourist development commissions have transparent budgeting, and that state agencies “demonstrate they are obtaining value for taxpayers.”

“We have taken on each of these fights because they were the right thing to do, and we will carry that mission forward,” Corcoran asserted.

Corcoran, over the next 60 days, vows a transformational agenda … and will brook no interference.

“And for those organizations and agencies unwilling to change; who see themselves as being special; as being exempt and above the law, then know this: we will continue to fight for the taxpayers, and we don’t care if that battle takes place in committee rooms or courtrooms,” Corcoran remarked.

“And for anyone waiting for us to slow down, to drop the big ideas, to stop trying to shake up the system, to cower in the face of attacks, or to cave to the demands of special interests; here’s our message to you:  We will not,” Corcoran added.

The Florida House, said Corcoran, “will fight to eliminate waste” from the state budget, which is proposed as the largest budget in Florida history.

The House will not only oppose another property tax increase, Corcoran said, but “will also fight for another $25,000 Homestead Exemption that will give Florida’s homeowners over $700 million in savings.”

The House also will continue its fight for 12-year term limits on appellate judges.

“I’m not saying this is easy. Debate can get intense especially if it’s about something important in people’s lives, but we can be passionate about these issues without ever becoming personal,” Corcoran said.

Indeed, Corcoran believes such robust debate is a hallmark of democracy.

“Many pundits have used the debates between the governor, judiciary, Senate and the House to portend doom.  It is actually just the opposite.  A robust civil debate is a sign that our democracy is working,” Corcoran asserted.

“When we get lazy and start rubber-stamping bills; when we never engage in spirited intellectual debate, that is when people should begin to worry.  Even a special session isn’t a disaster; it’s just a longer, more complicated conversation.  And these issues are so important that sometimes they merit more time.  It’s called the marketplace of ideas,” Corcoran added, “and it makes our country the wonder of the world.”

Corcoran believes that the “greatest accomplishments” this Legislative Session will be bipartisan. And he offered a rhetorical olive branch, of sorts, to the agencies in the crosshairs of the Florida House.

“I also want to deliver a message to all the entities with whom the House has engaged with — we extend our hand to you.  Come to the table, sit down and let’s work together to ensure real reform and genuine accountability. We don’t believe the House has a monopoly on good ideas.  We’re willing to listen, we’re willing to talk, and we’re willing to enter into good compromise,” Corcoran said.

The remarks Corcoran prepared for delivery serve myriad purposes. They establish the Florida House’s positions as rooted in principle while offering a way forward for the kind of negotiation that makes the difference between a successful session and one that fails.


Rick Scott to talk Pulse massacre, tax cuts in State of the State address

The office of Florida Gov. Rick Scott released some excerpts from the State of the State address that the governor will deliver Tuesday.

Expect the governor to discuss his bread and butter themes (tax cuts and the “Fighting for Florida’s Future” budget), while also discussing an eventful year for the Sunshine State that saw Florida wrestle with myriad tragedies.

“Since I last stood here to address you, Florida has endured many heartbreaks. I have prayed for families around our state who have been impacted by tragedy, and my own heart has been broken for their losses,” reads the excerpts.

“Our state has been rocked by the gruesome terrorist attack at the Pulse Nightclub, in Orlando. We endured two hurricanes, fought against the rapid spread of the Zika Virus, and were devastated by the deadly Ft. Lauderdale Airport shooting,” Scott will say.

The governor will focus especially on the Pulse “terrorist attack”, describing “the horror we saw on June 12, 2016 when a terrorist inspired by ISIS stormed into Pulse and senselessly killed 49 innocent people.”

“The days I spent in Orlando following the shooting will always be with me,” Scott will say.

Scott spent many days in Orlando after the mass shooting, meeting with representatives from myriad community groups. One policy initiative emerging from the tragedy: a budget line item to invest $5.8 million into 48 counterterrorism agents.

On the economic front, look for Scott to discuss his proposal to “cut taxes by $618 million to cut costs for small businesses, students, veterans, teachers and families.”

“Our Fighting for Florida’s Future tax cut package will boost our economy and encourage businesses of all sizes to create jobs,” Scott will say.

The governor will call attention to the “commercial lease tax,” which Scott would like to eliminate, as it “unfairly targets small businesses.”

The commercial lease tax cut could save businesses $454 million a year, claims the governor’s office.

In his remaining months in office, Gov. Scott wants to find a way to make it harder for future legislatures to raise taxes, he will say Tuesday.

“Even more important than continuing to cut taxes in our state is that we prevent against unfair tax increases in the future so our progress is not undone. My goal before I leave office is that we work together on a solution to make it harder for any future legislature – even one not as conservative as we have here today – to raise taxes,” Scott will say.

Guns, gambling and taxes: Legislators return to work

Once the Florida Legislature kicks off its 60-day Session March 7, legislators are expected to pass, or kill, dozens of measures dealing with everything from abortion to gambling and the environment.

So far, more than 2,000 bills have been filed, but in the end, legislators usually pass fewer than 300 pieces of legislation each year.

Here’s a look at some of the top issues this Session:

DEATH PENALTY: Florida legislators are expected to quickly pass a measure that would require a unanimous jury recommendation before the death penalty can be imposed. Last year, the state Supreme Court declared a new law requiring a 10-2 jury vote to impose the death penalty unconstitutional.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Voters last November overwhelmingly approved Amendment 2, which allows higher-strength marijuana to be used for a wider list of medical ailments than had been allowed under state law. Legislators will consider bills to implement the amendment, including possibly expanding who can grow and sell medical marijuana.

GUNS: There are about two dozen gun-related bills that already have been filed and the vast majority would expand gun rights so they can be carried in places that they are now not allowed including university campuses and non-secure areas of airports. Democrats have proposed more restrictions, but they have virtually no chance of passing.

GAMBLING: Top legislative leaders say they would like to come up with a comprehensive overhaul of gambling laws. But so far, the House and Senate are divided on what should be done.

The Senate is considering a bill that would allow slot machines at dog and horse tracks in eight counties outside South Florida. The Senate gambling bill would also allow the Seminole Tribe to offer craps and roulette at its casinos.

The House version would allow the Seminoles to keep blackjack and slot machines at its casinos for 20 years. But it would not allow gambling to expand to other parts of the state.

WATER: Senate President Joe Negron wants to borrow up to $1.2 billion to acquire 60,000 acres of land and build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries that have been blamed for toxic algae blooms.

JUDICIAL TERM LIMITS: House Speaker Richard Corcoran wants to impose a 12-year term limit on Supreme Court justices and appeals court judges. The House is backing a constitutional amendment for the 2018 ballot that would ask voters to make the change. But it’s unclear if the Senate will consider the proposal.

BUDGET: Florida legislators are required to annually pass a new budget. Gov. Rick Scott has recommended an $83.5 billion budget that includes money for tax cuts, steep reductions for hospitals and uses local tax dollars to boost school spending.

House Republicans are opposed to Scott’s use of local property taxes and they are expected to call for large budget cuts while also increasing spending on education. Senate President Joe Negron wants to eliminate a tax break for the insurance industry and use the money to cut taxes charged on cellphone service and cable television. Negron also wants to boost spending on universities and colleges.

EDUCATION: Legislators are considering several bills dealing with schools, including one that would require elementary schools to set aside 20 minutes each day for “free-play recess.” Another bill would allow high school students to earn foreign language credits if they take courses in computer coding. Legislators are also considering changes to Florida’s high-stakes standardized tests, including pushing back the testing date to the end of the school year.

HIGHER EDUCATION: Negron has called for an overhaul of the state’s colleges and universities that requires the state to cover 100 percent of tuition costs for top performing high school students who attend a university or college. The Senate plan also calls for boosting efforts to recruit and retain university faculty.

ABORTION: Several abortion bills have been filed including one that would make it easier for women to sue physicians for physical or emotional injuries stemming from abortions.

ECONOMIC INCENTIVES: Corcoran wants to scuttle the state’s economic development agency and trim back spending at the state’s tourism marketing outfit. The move is strongly opposed by Gov. Scott who says they help the economy, but Corcoran has criticized the efforts as a form of “corporate welfare.”

HEALTH CARE: Legislators are considering several proposals that would eliminate limits on certain types of health care facilities. They may also overhaul the state worker health insurance program and expand the use of direct primary care agreements between physicians and patients.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Janet Cruz is ready to lead her caucus during what’s expected to be a raucous Session

Speaking to an audience in her home district of Tampa last month, House Minority Leader Janet Cruz feels Florida doesn’t have a spending or revenue problem.

Tallahassee has a “priority problem,” the House District 62 representative said.

She maintains that attitude going into the 2017 regular Legislative Session, which officially kicks off  Tuesday.

“The Republicans have continued to focus on massive handouts for the ultrawealthy and the large corporations at the expense of our public education, at the expense of our hospitals, at the expense of our environment, and at the expense of small businesses, which in my opinion is the backbone of this country,” Cruz told FloridaPolitics.com in a phone interview last week.

“All of these issues are about creating good paying jobs that provide economic security for working Floridians and essentially these people are just looking for some economic security, higher wages, better-paying jobs.”

While acknowledging that the Rick Scott versus Richard Corcoran contretemps will entertain Capitol observers this spring, she supports Corcoran’s attempts to kill Enterprise Florida, the public-private agency that entices companies to add jobs in the state.

“I have a hard time stroking million dollars checks for millionaires. I just don’t see it,” she says, referring to the median income in her district being only $39,000.

Cruz is pleased that the bills to defund Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida were decoupled in the past few weeks, because she sees the value of Visit Florida to the Sunshine State, but only if greater oversight is imposed on its management.

“Salaries as a state employee are typically lower than in corporate America, yet for some reason Visit Florida doesn’t quite subscribe to that salary range as a state employee,” she says, referring to the fact that former Visit Florida CEO Will Seccombe made an annual salary of $293,000.

Cruz is one of the leaders of the Tampa Bay area legislative delegation, where transportation remains a central problem plaguing the region. Last month, the entire delegation convened in Clearwater, with much of the discussion on creating a regional transit authority (Clearwater Senator Jack Latvala has just filed a bill in the Senate to do that).

Nevertheless, she remains optimistic about the possibility of establishing such an entity.

For the first time, Cruz agrees with her GOP colleagues in Hillsborough about eliminating the controversial Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, and supports a bill sponsored by Tampa Bay-area Republicans Chris Sprowls and Jamie Grant that would finally enact statewide regulations on transportation network companies.

“It’s finally going to happen, and I think that there were some legislators, including myself, that were resistant,” Cruz says. “Not because I don’t love Lyft or Uber, because I love both of them. Because I didn’t feel that it was fair and the playing field wasn’t level for the taxi companies to follow so many different rules and so many regulations.”

“Then I felt like Uber kind of came in as a bully and said, ‘we’re going to do it our way, and we really care what you have to say, and we’re your local rules and regs are, we’re going to do it our way.’”

Cruz believes it’s still important that Uber drivers have an “advanced level” of background security checks. Uber and Lyft are the future, she says, “so we just have to work on regulating it so that Floridians are safe. That’s my biggest concern.”

(Under the Sprowls-Grant bill, TNC drivers will not be required to have a Level II background check. In a committee hearing last month, Sprowls downplayed the notion that a Level II check is more rigorous than what is in his bill. “The FBI database has 95 million records. These multistage databases that we specifically outline in the bill, have 500 million records,” he said).

Senate President Joe Negron was one of a handful of Florida Republicans who traveled to Washington last week to discuss potential health care changes with their congressional counterparts. He supports a plan being floated that would have the federal government giving a form of a block grant to the state for Medicaid coverage.

Like virtually every Democrat, Cruz would prefer that the Affordable Care Act stay in place, but she’ll reserve judgment if a new GOP plan ends up covering at least as many if not more of her constituents.

That remains extremely dubious, though.

While the Florida Senate overwhelmingly supported a hybrid version of Medicaid expansion a couple of years ago, Cruz’ GOP colleagues in the House overwhelmingly rejected such an idea, which rankles the Tampa Democrat.

“I hear them get so snarky sometimes in the Legislature about folks without health care coverage and it slays me, honestly, because these folks who don’t have coverage end up in the emergency room because that’s their only option, that cost is passed on to us … so it’s like really?” she says. “You’re pushing so hard not to have coverage for working families, yet, believe it or not, you’re paying for it at the end.”

There will be plenty of bills, resolutions and resolution-like memorials in the 2017 session — 39 in all.

Cruz says that the National Rifle Association’s influence on GOP legislators is preventing the Legislature from moving forward on “common sense gun safety reforms.” She’s cognizant of the vast cultural differences that representatives from more rural areas of the state feel about guns as opposed to those from urban regions like Tampa.

“I understand that people have very different perspectives, but nobody is trying to take anyone’s gun away from them,” she insists. “We just want to make sure that campuses and airports are safe.”

Cruz did offer her prediction for the coming session.

“I’m looking forward to working with Speaker Corcoran, watching the sparks fly between the Speaker and the Governor, hoping that session will end on time and we won’t waste taxpayer’s dollars. But we’ll see.”

Enterprise Florida CEO Chris Hart resigns, citing lack of ‘common vision’ with Rick Scott

Citing a lack of “common vision” with Gov. Rick Scott, Chris Hart IV has resigned as Enterprise Florida’s president and CEO.

Hart, who had previously served as the president and CEO of CareerSource Florida, was unanimously selected November 30 by the enterprise Florida board of directors for the job that paid between $175,000 and $200,000 a year. He had officially been in the position since January 3.

According to his letter of resignation, posted on Twitter by POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon, Hart “knew at that time there would be significant work to be done to restore the corporation’ s reputation as a highly competent economic development organization, and that much of the initial effort would be directed at members of the legislature.”

“The professionals I have encountered are best are best described as stewards of their mission, who have both personal and professional integrity, and seek to deliver value for the state of Florida and the communities they represent with a high degree of competency, every single day.”

Hart continues: “Unfortunately, during the same time period, I’ve come to realize that Gov. Scott and I do not share a common vision or understanding for how enterprise Florida, Inc. Can best provide value within his administration.”

“This difference of opinion,” Hart writes, “is of such a critical nature that I no longer believe I can be effective in my position.”

Since there had not been either a consensus, formal agreement or contract, Hart resigned effective immediately.

“It is odd that Chris Hart never shared any differences of opinion or vision with the Governor until we first read that he had them in his resignation letter,” said Jackie Schutz, a spokeswoman for the governor, in a statement. “The future of EFI and its role in creating more jobs in Florida as we compete with other states is more important than one person’s sudden change of opinion or position, no matter how surprising.”

Richard Corcoran selects Darryl Rouson, Tom Lee to constitution panel

House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced that Sen. Darryl Rouson, Rep. Chris Sprowls, and Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco will be among his nine picks for the Constitution Revision Commission.

The Land O’Lakes Republican’s selections will round out the 37-member review panel, which meets every 20 years to look over and suggest changes to the Florida Constitution. The panel must be established within 30 days before the regular 2017 Legislative Session convenes.

The annual 60-day session kicks off Tuesday.

“I’ve said it on numerous occasions, I would only appoint Commission Members who understood and respected the role of our constitution and the separation of powers. I believe all these appointees share that respect and understanding,” said Corcoran in a statement. “With that as a foundation, these appointees are diverse, principled, and won’t march in lockstep with anyone. And my only charge to each has been to do what they believe to be right. I am sure that each Member appointed today will do their part to ensure freedom and the rule of law are embodied in our final product.”

Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat, was elected to the Senate in 2016, after serving serving eight years in the Florida House. He’s a former Pinellas County prosecutor, who also served as commissioner on the Tax and Budget Reform Commission.

Sprowls is also a former prosecutor, leaving the State Attorney’s Office over the summer to join Buchanan Ingersoll and Rooney. First elected in 2014, the Palm Harbor Republican has quickly moved up the leadership ladder, and is in line to become Speaker after the 2020 elections.

Sprowls isn’t the only member of the House leadership team expected to get a spot at the table. Corcoran is also expected to name Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Speaker Pro Tempore Jeanette Nunez to panel, according to sources briefed on the Speaker’s plans.

Look for Corcoran to also select Rich Newsome, a long-time friend and attorney who has lobbied on behalf of the state’s trial lawyers; Sen. Tom Lee, a Brandon Republican and former Senate President; John Stemberger with the Florida Family Policy Council; and Erika Donalds, a member of the Collier County School Board and the wife of freshman Rep. Byron Donalds. 

 Corcoran’s announcements comes just days after Gov. Rick Scott announced his appointments, which were also heavy on supporters and political allies.

As Governor, Scott selected 15 of the 37 commissioners, as well as its chairman. The Naples Republican selected Carlos Beruff, a Manatee County homebuilder who ran for U.S. Senate in 2016, as chairman.

Senate President Joe Negron also got nine picks, while the Chief Justice is allotted three. Republican Pam Bondi is automatically a member as the state’s Attorney General.

The commission has met twice before, in 1977-78 and 1997-98, but this will be the first to be selected by a majority of Republicans. Any changes the commission proposes would be in the form of constitutional amendments, which would have to be approved by 60 percent of voters on a statewide ballot.

Bill Nelson holds early lead over Rick Scott (44-38%) in U.S. Senate race

A poll released Monday from the University of North Florida shows Sen. Bill Nelson ahead of Gov. Rick Scott in a hypothetical match-up for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat.

Meanwhile, the favorability ratings of both Sen. Marco Rubio and President Donald Trump are both underwater.

Nelson is up by six points (44 percent to 38 percent) over Scott, with 12 percent undecided.

Nelson’s personal favorability is +14 (42 percent approval, against 28 percent disapproval). Scott’s is + 6, with 46 percent of those surveyed approve of Scott, and 40 percent disapproving.

UNF Polling Director Michael Binder describes the six-point spread as “meaningful,” as “Rick Scott’s alliance with Donald Trump will likely factor into this election’s outcome next year.”

Currently, Trump is underwater with Florida voters, with 44 percent approval compared to 51 percent disapproval. In fact, 44 percent of Florida registered voters surveyed strongly disapprove of the president.

Meanwhile, Rubio ebbs even below that -7 net rating, with an anemic 40 percent approval against 48 percent disapproval.

Florida voters are even more sour on the performance of the Congress: 65 percent disapproval, against 28 percent approval.

UNF polled 973 people — 27 percent on landlines — between the dates of Feb. 13 and Feb. 26. The asserted margin of error is 3 percent.

Lisa Carlton not running for Florida Agriculture Commissioner in 2018

Lisa Carlton has decided she will not run for Florida agriculture commissioner.

Instead, the former state Senator, who co-owns a cattle ranch with her family, will focus on her new role as a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission.

As first reported by Zac Anderson the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Carlton, a Sarasota Republican, has changed her mind since January, when she told the paper she was considering a statewide campaign in 2018 for agriculture commissioner.

Last week, Gov. Rick Scott appointed Carlton to the CRC, the panel which meets every 20 years to put Florida Constitution amendments on the ballot in 2018.

“It is imperative that my service to the CRC not conflict with the politics of campaigning for a statewide office,” Carlton told the Herald-Tribune. “Therefore, while my family and I have sincerely appreciated the strong support from friends around the state who have been encouraging me to seek the Florida Agricultural Commissioner seat next year, at this time I do not plan to seek elected office.”

Carlton said she wants to spend the next year “traveling the state and hearing my fellow Floridians’ ideas for improving our state’s founding document.”

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