Sunburn for February 29 – Leaping towards Super Tuesday, a budget deal, and maybe a new Seminole Compact

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

IF YOU’VE BEEN AWAY FROM FLORIDA POLITICS FOR 3 DAYS and you could only call one person to get a concise briefing of everything you missed about legislative politics, who would you call? Me? Gary FineoutTravis BlantonChris Dudley were at the top of my list.

OVERHEARD at a poker table in Las Vegas’ The Venetian hotel and casino, during a conversation between a noisy American and a man who said he was from Mexico: “Just like El Chapo doesn’t speak for your country, Donald Trump doesn’t speak for us.”

DONALD TRUMP WAS THE TALK OF THE TOWN in Vegas, with his golden hotel literally looming over The Strip. It took me getting beyond the Florida bubble — to listen and read beyond ‘Jebio’ to understand how and why Trump is set to prevail on Super Tuesday and, eventually, the GOP nomination, if not presidency. In this crossroads of the country, people are not just voting for Trump, they admire him. I spoke with dozens of car drivers and high-end bartenders and card players and tourists from everywhere and so many of them — clearly white working class folks — agree with Trump’s worldview. In Florida, we’ve had a jaded view of Trump – we think of him as the owner of Mar-a-Lago who wanted to bring gambling to the state — and the state’s political media, including this outlet, has been in many ways propogandists for the Florida angle to the presidential race. The moment you get beyond that, it’s clear why Trump has a hammerlock on the presidential race.

— “In Iowa, students chant ‘Trump! Trump!’ After basketball loss to more racially diverse high school” via Chuck Schilken of the Los Angeles Times

WALL OF GOP RESISTANCE TO TRUMP BEGINS TO CRACK via Eli Stokols of POLITICO – Christie wasn’t the first mainstream Republican to jump. He won’t be the last … From Rep. Duncan Hunter and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who have signaled an openness to working with Trump, to Mike Huckabee‘s daughter and adviser Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who officially joined Trump’s campaign this week, Republican officials and operatives are coming to grips with the reality that this anti-establishment hero is now the presumptive GOP nominee. ‘Folks are now going through the stages of grief,’ said one high-ranking Republican operative. ‘Some are already at acceptance’ … For Christie, the endorsement was his only path to national relevance after quitting the presidential contest. [It allowed Trump to regain control of] the news cycle after getting roughed up by the establishment’s last hope, Marco Rubio. … [S]everal Capitol Hill staffers, including a congressional chief of staff, and a number of state GOP staffers, have begun peddling their resumes to Trump’s campaign … ‘Everybody wants on the bus before it leaves the station.

AN INSIDE LOOK AT THE GOP’S FRANTIC EFFORT TO DERAIL A DONALD TRUMP NOMINATION via Alexander Burns, Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin of the New York Times – In public, there were calls for the party to unite behind a single candidate. In dozens of interviews, elected officials, political strategists and donors described a frantic, last-ditch campaign to block Trump — and the agonizing reasons that many of them have become convinced it will fail. Behind the scenes, a desperate mission to save the party sputtered and stalled at every turn. Efforts to unite warring candidates behind one failed spectacularly: An overture from Rubio to Christie angered and insulted the governor. An unsubtle appeal from Romney to Kasich, about the party’s need to consolidate behind one rival to Trump, fell on deaf ears. Despite all the forces arrayed against Trump … the party has been gripped by a nearly incapacitating leadership vacuum and a paralytic sense of indecision and despair, as he has won smashing victories in South Carolina and Nevada. Donors have dreaded the consequences of clashing with Trump directly. Elected officials have balked at attacking him out of concern that they might unintentionally fuel his populist revolt … Should Trump clinch the presidential nomination, it would represent a rout of historic proportions for the institutional Republican Party, and could set off an internal rift unseen in either party for a half-century … The party’s biggest benefactors remain totally opposed to him. At a recent presentation hosted by billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch, the country’s most prolific conservative donors, their political advisers characterized Trump’s record as utterly unacceptable, and highlighted his support for government-funded business subsidies and government-backed health care. There is still hope that Rubio might be able to unite much of the party and slow Trump’s advance in a series of big-state primaries in March, and a host of top elected officials endorsed him over the last week. But Rubio has struggled to sideline Kasich and Cruz, who is running a dogged campaign on the right. He has also been unable to win over several of his former rivals who might help consolidate the Republican establishment more squarely behind him. Rubio showed a lack of finesse in dealing with his fallen rivals’ injured egos.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: TRUMP’S KKK IGNORANCE ‘DISQUALIFYING’ via Nick Gass of POLITICO –Trump‘s failure to explicitly disavow the Ku Klux Klan and former Grand Wizard David Duke is “disqualifying,” Joe Scarborough declared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” … “It’s breathtaking. That is disqualifying right there. To say you don’t know about the Ku Klux Klan? You don’t know about David Duke?” the co-host said during the opening segment of the show after remarking upon Trump’s feigned ignorance of the group and Duke during an interview with CNN on Sunday, two days after he explicitly disavowed the group in a news conference. The “most stunning thing” about the latest development, said Scarborough, a southerner himself, is that the latest maneuver “isn’t buying him a single vote … I mean is he really so stupid that he thinks Southerners aren’t offended by the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke? Is he really so ignorant of Southern voters that he thinks this is the way to their heart — to go neutral, to play Switzerland when you’re talking about the Klan? … And to say he doesn’t know enough information about the Klan to condemn them — exactly what does Donald Trump expect to learn in the next 24 hours about the Klan.”

POLL DU JOUR – A new CNN/ORC poll finds Trump leading the GOP presidential race nationally with 49%, followed by Marco Rubio at 16%, Ted Cruz at 15%, Ben Carson at 10% and John Kasich at 6%.

THE LAUGHABLE IDEA OF VICE PRESIDENT RICK SCOTT via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Okay, I’ll bite. With all due respect to Chris Cilizza and Bill Cotterell, who have suggested recently that Florida Gov. Rick Scott could make a logical running mate selection for Donald Trump, that idea is utter nonsense. There may be worse choices for Trump’s vice presidential nominee, but I struggle to think of many. … Okay, Bill Cosby. Perhaps someone from Trump world is floating this notion with an eye toward playing Scott for an endorsement the way McCain played then-Gov. Charlie Crist in 2008, I don’t know. But ask yourself what putting Rick Scott on the ticket gets Trump.

STORY YOU WON’T READ IN SUNBURN – “Roger Stone responds to CNN banning him

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FIRST MIAMI SPANISH-LANGUAGE TV AD FOR MARCO RUBIO: ‘ONE OF US’ CAN BE PRESIDENT via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Miami elections happen just as much — if not more so — in Spanish than in English. So the super PAC supporting Rubio‘s presidential bid’s got a TV ad acknowledging just that. The spot by Conservative Solutions PAC, titled “Miami,” makes an explicit appeal to Hispanics to back “one of our own” for the White House … our English translation: “Miami has its own rhythm. This time we can make one of our own be the next president. Marco Rubio, proud son of Miami. He knows our streets. Our communities. Our passions. Understands our dreams. Believes in our future. Because he has never forgotten where he comes from. He depends on us, Miami.”

— “Hobby Lobby founder backs Marco Rubio for president” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

— “Rubio blames the media for the rise Of Donald Trump” via Sam Stein of Huffington Post

— “Marco Rubio makes fun of Donald Trump’s short fingers” via Ron Brackett of the Tampa Bay Times

— “Rubio to campaign ‘as long as it takes’ to beat Trump” via Eli Stokols of POLITICO

RUBIO TAX RETURNS SHOW STEADY SALARY, BOOSTED BY BOOK DEALS via Jeff Horwitz and Chad Day of the Associated Press – Rubio released summaries of his last five years of tax filings … revealing him to be a candidate with a senator’s steady annual income of $176,000 who reaped repeated windfalls from book deals. During his first four years in the Senate, Rubio and his wife, Jeanette, together earned an average of $531,000 a year. Since winning election to an office in Washington, Rubio’s income has ranged from $276,059 to $938,963, and he has paid between $46,500 and $254,894 in federal income tax. A comparison with personal Senate financial disclosures shows most of the income came from a business that collected royalties on two books: Rubio’s memoir, “An American Son,” and a pre-campaign tract, “American Dreams.” In 2012, Rubio’s most lucrative year, his effective tax rate topped out at a little more than 31 percent. But by 2014 – the last year for which a return summary is available – the family’s income dropped to $335,963, an amount on which the Rubios paid a 24 percent tax rate. Rubio’s earnings that year were padded by cashing out $68,241 from his retirement savings.

MINORITY VOTERS HELP HILLARY CLINTON DOMINATE BERNIE SANDERS IN FLORIDA POLL via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – The strong minority support underpinning Clinton’s 54-24 percent lead over Sanders in the University of North Florida poll bears a resemblance to her outsized backing by black voters in South Carolina, where the former secretary of state beat the Vermont senator by taking an astonishingly high 74 percent of the vote. Clinton’s support over Sanders with African-Americans was highest, 67-12 percent. Hispanics favored her over Sanders by 66-22 percent. Non-Hispanic white voters backed her 48-30 percent, according to the poll.

AFTER SC WIN, HILLARY CLINTON POISED TO SWEEP THE SOUTH via Jamie Self of the State (S.C.) –Clinton’s firewall turned out to be much more formidable than Sanders — or recent S.C. polls — predicted. Winning by 48 points in Saturday’s Democratic presidential primary, Clinton will next compete against … Sanders in a dozen states. Clinton is riding the momentum of a landslide into those states. In many, Clinton can expect similar support from African Americans who cast more than 60 percent of the vote in Saturday’s contest. … For Sanders, Clinton’s rout makes his chance of securing the Democratic nomination even more remote.

BILL CLINTON AND BLACK OFFICIALS HIGHLIGHT POLICING ISSUES AT MIAMI HILLARY EVENT via Joey Francilus of POLITICO Florida – A hoarse-voiced Clinton spoke before a crowd of about 400 and was joined by a who’s who of Miami’s leading black politicians at the event. The former president was introduced by south Florida congresswoman Frederica Wilson and was joined by seat predecessors Kendrick Meek and mother Carrie Meek, and Miami-Dade school board member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall. The former president made a get-out-the-vote call to a demographically mixed crowd that included many fresh out of church Sunday afternoon dressed in their Sunday best and an organization formed by local activist Sabrina Fulton, whose son Trayvon Martin was shot dead in 2012 and became an early catalyst for the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

FLORIDA KICKS OFF EARLY VOTING IN PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY via the Associated Press — Early voting in Florida’s contested presidential primary is starting. Several counties are scheduled to open early voting sites on Monday. The mandatory early voting period runs starts Saturday through March 12, but the law now allows election supervisors to open polling places a few days earlier. Seventeen counties, including Duval, Hillsborough, Lake, Miami-Dade, Orange and Santa Rosa, are scheduled to open polling places for early voting. Counties usually set up early voting sites in libraries and government buildings. Florida’s presidential primary is March 15 and only voters who are already registered Democrat or Republican may vote in it.

GOP VOTER REGISTRATION UP AHEAD OF FLORIDA PRIMARY via the Associated Press – The number of registered voters in Florida is growing and there has been a last-minute jump in the number of registered Republicans … The total number of eligible voters has risen to 12.06 million. There were about 11.93 million voters eligible during the 2014 election and the 2012 presidential election … now 4.27 million registered Republicans and that more than 82,000 Republicans have registered since the start of the year. There were about 4.17 million GOP voters during the 2014 election.

‘STREET FIGHTER’ CARLOS BERUFF VIES FOR SENATE SEAT via Michael Braga, Josh Salman and Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Beruff was so determined to get rid of State College of Florida President Lars Hafner in 2012 that he personally paid an attorney to investigate the former Democratic state legislator. Nine thousand dollars later, Beruff had proof that Hafner forged the signature of SCF’s former board chairman on a grant application. Even though Hafner was later cleared of any wrongdoing — and had personal permission to sign on the former board chairman’s behalf — the revelation forced Hafner to resign his $323,000-per-year position … Beruff, who campaign advisers acknowledge is never afraid to rock the boat, says he was only doing what he believes was right for the school and its students. Now, the 58-year-old homebuilder is seeking a much bigger stage for his political aspirations. Beruff is expected to formally announce … that he is running for the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by GOP presidential hopeful Marco Rubio. Insiders estimate that Beruff would need to raise upwards of $30 million to win the Republican nomination, and ultimately as much as $100 million to bag the Senate seat. Even if he cuts a check from his personal fortune, there are questions about whether Beruff can muster that type of cash. He also lacks the name recognition of others already campaigning in the race, including Florida’s lieutenant governor. But Beruff already has picked up some of Scott’s top political advisers and his conservative reforms on various government boards could play well in a GOP primary where cutting taxes, tackling government inefficiency and advancing free market business are top priorities for voters.

— “Beruff could benefit from Cuban heritage in U.S. Senate race” via Zach Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

EXCLUSIVE ANALYSIS: FLORIDA GOP CANDIDATE COMMITTEES HOLD $20 MILLION ADVANTAGE OVER DEMOCRATS via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Florida Republican incumbents and candidates are collecting 10 times as much money in independent political action campaigns than are Democrats. A review of 140 such PACs affiliated with office holders or candidates ranging from Scott to state representatives finds a nearly complete dominance of the political financing strategy. More than 100 Republicans have PACs to support their messages, policies and election campaigns, and combined they finished January with more than $22 million in the bank. Meanwhile, Democrats are affiliated with fewer than 40 such PACs, with combined assets of just over $2.1 million. The review found dozens of Florida candidate-associated PACs collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars each, and even millions of dollars, as money from trade associations and other interests has been more precise targets than just going into party coffers.  The money going to the individual PACs generally is money that is not going to the party or the Legislature caucus funds, and the greater the PACs, the lesser the influence those funds may have in the elections … In recent years, Let’s Get To Work … had been the gold standard for fundraising and independent political messaging in Florida. But after a big spending spree this winter, the PAC is relatively broke now, compared with some of the other Republican PACs. Florida Grown PC, affiliated with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, now leads the PAC pack with $3.2 million in hand at the end of January. PACs affiliated with four Republican Senate leaders Tom Lee … Jack Latvala … future Senate President Joe Negron … And Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano … have more than $1 million each. By contrast, no PACs affiliated with Democrats had $1 million at the end of January. Republicans are affiliated with 33 PACs that have at least $100,000. Democrats are affiliated with five, and four of those … are affiliated with candidates who are not in office.

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LAWMAKERS MOVING QUICKLY TO WRAP UP BUDGET TALKS via the Associated Press — Legislators met in the Capitol over the weekend to work out spending on key areas such as education, transportation and health care. Legislative leaders Friday reached a broad budget deal regarding tax cuts and overall spending. Now budget committees are working on individual items. House Republicans on Saturday offered a school funding proposal that would trim local property taxes charged by school districts. Senate Republicans have been critical of a proposal by Gov. Rick Scott to rely on local tax hikes to boost school funding. Legislators also agreed on road construction spending in the coming year plus a long list of local projects. Some of those projects were vetoed last year.

LEGISLATORS REACH A DEAL OVER MONEY FOR SCHOOLS via the Associated Press – House and Senate budget writers on Sunday agreed to boost school funding by $458 million. That will result in a one-percent hike in the amount of how much money is spent per student. Under the deal Florida will spend $7,178 a year per student. But in a major shift legislators agreed to only use state tax dollars to pay for the increase. Gov. Scott had proposed using an increase in local property taxes to boost school funding. Some Republican legislators had been critical of his proposal. The decision by legislators to use state money for the increase means that property tax rates charged by school districts will go down slightly this fall.

BUDGET NEGOTIATORS FACE $40 MIL GAP IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The budget subcommittee that writes the state’s economic development and transportation budget reached a deal Sunday on the $133 million Department of State budget, and is now prepared to head into the toughest part of negotiations: economic development projects. The department budget was completed after the House agreed to fund roughly $10 million in projects sought by the Senate, including $1 million for Ruth Eckerd Hall in Tampa, $1 million for to build a dolphin tank at the Clearwater aquarium, and $175,000 for the New Smyrna Beach East Coast Surf Museum. During a Saturday afternoon meeting, Sen. Jack Latvala, the Clearwater Republican who writes the Senate’s transportation and economic development budget, funded all of the House’s project requests in the department’s budget, a move he said was designed to encourage the House to fund his projects and close out the budget area.

HOUSE, SENATE TED BUDGET WRITERS STILL UNRESOLVED ON DEO FUNDING via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics – House and Senate budget conferees remain some distance away from reconciling their varying budget proposals, with a nominal $8 million and several line items standing between lawmakers and a unified budget proposal to send to Gov. Scott. The elephant in the room? Neither proposal circulating in the Conference Committee on House Transportation & Economic Development Appropriations/Senate Transportation, Tourism, & Economic Development has any money allocated for the $250 million Florida Enterprise Fund that insiders say is Scott’s No. 1 priority, perhaps even more so than the $1 billion tax package Scott and House Republicans have touted since before Session.

JOBS CHIEF: NO INCENTIVES MEANS 50,000 JOBS LOST via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – House and Senate leaders agreed to eliminate incentive funding for the Quick Action Closing Fund, a program run by Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private economic development arm. Its goal is to use taxpayer dollars to lure businesses to relocate or expand in the state. Bill Johnson, Enterprise Florida CEO, sent a letter to local governments and economic development boards across the state saying the lack of funding means the state will lose out on 277 projects currently in negotiations. “With today’s actions by legislative leaders, there is no longer any funding for incentives at Enterprise Florida. As a result, there are 277 projects Enterprise Florida Inc. is actively competing for, that are effectively lost. This means the Legislature’s actions will result in losing the creation of approximately 50,000 jobs,” Johnson’s letter states.

STATE MONEY LOOKS SET FOR FINAL STAGE OF MOVING FOURTH DCA TO DOWNTOWN WEST PALM BEACH via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post –The final installment of $7.3 million needed to move the moldy Fourth District Court of Appeal courthouse to downtown West Palm Beach appeared set in an early and easy budget deal between House and Senate negotiators. The agreement emerged as House and Senate conferees began work on crafting a new spending plan for the year beginning July 1. House budget chief Richard Corcoran … Has been generally cool to the big courthouse move, but it was his side that quickly endorsed the Senate’s pitch for funding. The 4th DCA [is] looking to relocate from Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard in West Palm Beach to a new building planned between Clematis Street and Datura Street, east of Tamarind Avenue.

MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR FOODFIGHT OVER POLICE RADIOS AT ISSUE via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics – An obscure but heated battle over a state contract potentially worth hundreds of millions of public dollars is at stake as budget conferees continue to hammer out differences between House and Senate proposals. The issue: the radio equipment law enforcement agents use to communicate, problems with which have led to the deaths of multiple officers around the country left stranded.

Tucked into the House’s government operations budget proposal is $7 million for a line item that reads “Replacement Of Statewide Law Enforcement Radio Equipment.” The budget request was made by Melbourne Rep. Ritch Workman on behalf of a Washington, D.C.-based government relations director for Harris Corporation, which currently holds a contract to provide law enforcement radio support valued at an estimated $18 million annually. Critics of the move – including representatives for Motorola Solutions, who hope to take over the contract after the current arrangement expires in 2021 – say the $7 million appropriation would unfairly bolster Harris’ grip on the contract, which provides that proprietary Harris-made radios fulfill orders for replacements.


— “Rick Scott suffers 2 crushing defeats as budget talks begin” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

— “A livid Jack Latvala blasts Legislature’s rejection of Scott’s jobs fund” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

— “Lawmakers make progress on justice funding, but differences remain” via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida

— “In first health care budget offer, KidCare expansion is agreed to and clinics get a bump” via Christine Sexton of POLITICO

— “Bonding for land acquisition not discussed, House budget chief says” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO

— “House proposes $724K cut in local property taxes for education” via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO

MY #1POLICY TAKEAWAY FROM LAS VEGAS: How ridiculous the state of Florida is, not for not allowing destination resorts or full-scale casino -style gambling, but that lawmakers and lobbyists waste their time argue whether to limit a bet to $25 or whether a dog race needs to run while a track hosts a poker game. Either allow it all, allow it all and contain it, or don’t be in bed with gambling interests. But the framework in place and the one that may succeed it are Kafkaesque.

HAPPENING OVERNIGHT — LAWMAKERS FILE 122 PAGES OF CHANGES TO SEMINOLE COMPACT via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A “proposed committee substitute” that dropped Sunday night on the House’s 2016 gambling legislation would keep intact the guts of the proposed Seminole Compact and allow for expanded gambling throughout the state. The measure, set for consideration in the House Finance and Tax Committee Monday, makes proposed revisions to the new gambling deal (HB 7109). Among those, the language allows slot machines in six counties where voters approved the gambling in local referendums with $120 million in revenue guaranteed to the state, and allow a form of poker known as “designated player games” at all pari-mutuels, something regulators now say is illegal. The language allows expanded blackjack in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, though with a $25 bet limit, and would allow dog tracks to “decouple,” removing the requirement that dog and horse tracks run live races to have more profitable card rooms and slot machines.

THE COMPACT EXPLAINED to me, via text message, by one of the state’s top gaming lobbyists: “Seminole Tribe gets their entire deal. … Slots in referendum counties with 121 million revenue guarantee. … Designated player games are authorized at all Pari Mutuels … limited blackjack with a $25 bet limit authorized at dade and Broward facilities … thoroughbred purse pool with no decoupling at Gulfstream and Tampa bay. Calder decouples. … All dogs decouple. … No jai alai decoupling in house except Seminole county. …. Mardi Gras casino is permitted to move its facility

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

LAWMAKERS REVIVE VETOED PROJECTS, DARING RICK SCOTT TO AX THEM AGAIN via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Local projects that lawmakers placed in the budget last year that Scott swiftly vetoed are springing back to life in the Capitol … as lawmakers dare Scott to kill them two years in a row. House members agreed with the Senate to support a series of projects in that category. Scott last year vetoed $240,956 to restore a Bethel A.M.E. Church in Pinellas County but it’s back at $340,956 … vetoed $1 million for the Military Museum of South Florida but it reappeared Sunday at $250,000 … Vetoed $1 million for a black cultural tourism project known as Sankofa, but it’s back at the same amount … vetoed $175,000 for an East Coast Surfing Museum in New Smyrna Beach, but the same amount was agreed to Sunday and included in a list of local economic development projects. Repairs to an American Legion post in Key West costing $154,000, vetoed last year, is back in the budget. So is $2 million for restoration of the Hotel Ponce de Leon for Flagler College. The list goes on and on. After lawmakers gutted Scott’s two priorities of tax cuts and job incentive money, everyone expects Scott to get even by using his veto pen even more aggressively this year than the $461 million he axed last year.

LEGISLATORS HOPE TO SAVE LICENSE SUSPENSION REFORM BILL via NBC 6 South Florida –License suspensions can result from a minor infraction and can lead to thousands of dollars in debt as collection charges pile up and people can’t get their licenses back, said Sen. Jeff Brandes… “The stories are heartbreaking of individuals who got a minor fine or a fee and it snowballs … Then they can’t get to work or get their kids to day care,” without risking more fines for driving with a suspended license. However, a bill by Brandes and state Rep. Darryl Rouson may die because it could cut revenue to clerk of court offices. Florida clerks face a $40 million deficit and are heavily dependent on fines and fees from traffic cases … As staffing dwindles, citizens seeking services in clerks’ offices are experiencing longer wait times and hold times … the threat of license suspensions is their most effective tool to force payment of other fees.

MIAMI LEGISLATOR’S QUIET QUEST TO DEMAND PRISON FIXES GETS RESULTS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – Rep. David Richardson was on a mission … has quietly met with more than 120 inmates during more than 30 visits to 23 different corrections facilities in his quest to determine how to fix the ailing system. Drawing on a 30-year career unraveling corporate corruption and financial malfeasance, and using a state law that allows legislators exclusive, and unannounced, access to any Florida prison, Richardson has attempted to find the truth behind the brutal “test of heart” hazing rituals used by prison gangs to extort money from young newcomers in return for protection. Richardson dutifully reported his observations to Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones and made several recommendations. To Richardson’s delight, Jones has not only listened, she used them to underscore changes she has also sought since she arrived a year ago as an industry outsider and the first woman to lead the agency.

***Florida hospitals are on a mission. A mission to increase access to health care, improve the quality of care and reduce costs for patients. Find out more about the Florida Hospital Association’s “Mission to Care” and its new website that provides hospital prices and quality ratings in a consumer-friendly, searchable format.***

WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE IS READING — GLOOMY OUTLOOK KEEPS FLORIDA CONSUMER SENTIMENT FLAT IN FEBRUARY via Florida Politics – Consumer sentiment among Floridians fell slightly in February to 91.5—down almost 1 point from January’s revised reading of 92.4. Among the five components that make up the index, three increased and two declined. Perceptions of the personal financial situation now compared with a year ago rose a point, from 83.4 to 84.4, while opinions as to whether now is a good time to buy a big-ticket item, such as a car, went up one-tenth of a point to 101.2. Anticipation of U.S. economic conditions over the next year rose 1.3 points to 86.3. However, optimism did not hold for the long run, as views of the U.S. economy over the next five years fell almost a point, down to 87.5. Expectations of personal finances a year from now show the greatest decline in this month’s reading, dropping from 104 to 98. This was 6 points lower than last month and 3.2 points lower than February last year.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will announce jobs at a 10 AM news conference at ProcessMap, a web-based software and service provider located at 13450 W. Sunrise Blvd., Suite 160 in Sunrise.

JUDGE: DOH SHOULD NOT HAVE DISQUALIFIED GAINESVILLE MEDICAL POT APPLICANT via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Judge R. Bruce McKibben said the Department of Health incorrectly disqualified Daniel Banks, the director of research and development for San Felasco Nurseries, for failing a level 2 background check. The application was tossed out because Banks pleaded no contest to possession of phenobarbital in Kansas in 2004. Banks was 18 years old at the time, and took phenobarbital from an animal hospital he was working at. He self-reported his crime, and the doctor declined to press charges. However, he was eventually charged with theft and possession of controlled substance. He pled no contest on the possession charge, a misdemeanor in Kansas. In Florida, it would have been a felony. McKibben said it was “clear that the offense to which Banks pled nolo contendere was not a felony, at least in Kansas.” Since Banks was charged in Kansas, McKibben said “his crime was a misdemeanor, not a felony, for purposes of determining whether it was a disqualifying offense.”

BATTLE RAGES OVER FLORIDA LAW LIMITING DOCTORS’ GUN SPEECH via Kurt Anderson of the Associated Press – … thousands of physicians, medical organizations and other groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union that challenged the law, formally called the Firearm Owners Privacy Act, in a lawsuit known popularly as “Docs vs. Glocks.” The law, passed in 2011 amid strong support from the National Rifle Association, is the only one of its kind in the nation, although similar laws have been considered in 12 other states, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The legal battle, which has raged since the law’s inception, is a clash between the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech and the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms, amid a national discussion about the role and availability of weapons across the U.S. The lawsuit is now pending before the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals following conflicting earlier rulings on its constitutionality – and the case could wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court. The law, supporters point out, permits doctors under a “good faith” provision to ask about firearms if the questions are deemed “relevant to the patient’s medical care or safety” or the safety of other people. The law also has some teeth: doctors who violate the law could face professional discipline, such as a fine, or even lose their medical licenses. The state Department of Health would investigate any complaints, although the law has never been enforced because it was blocked in 2012 by a Miami judge’s decision that found it an unconstitutional violation of free speech rights.

USF SEES A DAY WHEN IT WILL JOIN THE RANKS OF FLORIDA’S ‘PREEMINENT’ UNIVERSITIES via Lisa Gartner of the Tampa Bay Times – Since 2013, both Florida and Florida State have met the Legislature’s benchmarks for “pre-eminent status,” receiving an extra $5 million to $15 million each year in state funds to attract the best faculty and students and grow the universities’ reach across the globe. Between them, UF and FSU have hired more than 150 faculty members, expanded programs in engineering and innovation and doubled down on research in areas like brain disease and the human lifespan. Now, Florida’s lawmakers are considering a tier of “emerging pre-eminent” universities, which would meet at least half of the 12 benchmarks and receive up to $5 million each year. The expectation is that, one day, these “emerging” schools would become full-fledged pre-eminent universities alongside UF and FSU. The University of South Florida in Tampa was the only school that would have met the criteria for emerging pre-eminence in 2015. But by some of the measures considered for pre-eminence, USF actually leads the pack. It was awarded 292 patents over three years, about 30 more than UF and three times as many as FSU. And according to a 2015 Board of Governors report, USF spent more on research and appointed more doctoral degrees than FSU.

ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA – Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda explores whether Marco Rubio’s battle with Donald Trump will get him enough delegates on Super Tuesday to stay in the race. Rubio’s state campaign co-chairman, who is also former House Majority Leader Adam Hasner tells Gomes the campaign is cranking up as former Jeb Bush supporters ban together to help Rubio. The Legislature said no to Gov. Scott’s top budget priorities including a $250 million pot of economic incentive money. POLITICO’s Matt Dixon discusses the fallout. Also, is computer coding a foreign language? Gomes looks at how Florida could soon allow students to meet their foreign language requirement through coding.

BEST STORY I MISSED WHILE IN VEGAS – POLICE INVESTIGATING MOLOTOV COCKTAIL THROWN AT CITY COMMISSIONER’S HOME via Jared Keever of – Someone threw what appeared to be a small Molotov cocktail through a window at the home of city Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline … Officials said the small glass bottle didn’t break after it came through the window around 11:30 p.m. … by the time firefighters arrived at Sikes-Kline’s Davis Shores home a small fire had already been put out. Because the fire didn’t spread and because there was only minimal property damage, the incident became “more of a police investigation.”

Peter Schorsch

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


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

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