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Sunburn for March 8 – Sine Die in sight; Budget notes galore; Latest prez primary poll; Ben Carson for Senate?

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

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

WITH FOUR DAYS LEFT OF SESSION, LAWMAKERS HAVE PLENTY OF UNFINISHED WORK via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – Over the next (four) days, state legislators need to wrap up work on a roughly $80 billion budget. They’re also expected to vote on contentious bills dealing with abortion and alimony. Legislators may also adopt a bill to repeal the state’s ban on unmarried adults living together.

Legislators have already passed several significant bills including an overhaul of the state’s death penalty law. Gov. Rick Scott signed the measure into law on Monday. Several other proposals, including bills that would allow people with concealed weapons permits to bring guns onto college campuses and immigration, have stalled and aren’t expected to pass. Legislators have also rejected a proposed $3 billion gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Here’s where several major pieces of legislation stand right now:

Budget: Negotiators Monday night reached agreement on dozens of spending items, including a teacher bonus program as well as added money for the agency that helps people with disabilities. This means the session will end Friday. State law requires the budget to be finished 72 hours before a final vote. Part of the final deal included setting aside money for items being sought by House and Senate leaders.

Tax cuts: Scott wanted roughly $1 billion in tax cuts. But legislators, citing signs of the state’s economy softening, scaled back the tax cut package. Later this week they are expected to approve a bill (HB 7099) that includes a handful of smaller tax cuts, including the permanent repeal of the sales tax charged on the purchasing of manufacturing equipment. The bill also includes a three-day back to school tax holiday. Between Aug. 5 and Aug. 7 shoppers will not have to pay sales taxes on clothes worth $60 or less and school supplies worth $15 or less.

Medical marijuana: Lawmakers on Monday sent Scott a bill that would allow patients with terminal conditions use medical marijuana.

Abortion: Lawmakers are expected to take a final vote on a bill dealing with abortion. It would prohibit state money being used to pay for any health care service from a clinic or organization that also performs abortions, a measure aimed a Planned Parenthood. It requires that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital or clinics have a patient transfer agreement. It also would redefine dates of gestation and trimesters of pregnancy.

Alimony: The Legislature could send to Scott this week a family law bill that would end permanent alimony awards. It would replace those award formulas to determine the amount and duration of payments and would urge judges to consider equal time-sharing with children for divorcing parents.

Education: Lawmakers are still considering several high-profile bills dealing with the state’s public schools. One measure would make permanent a controversial program that awards teacher bonuses based on their scores on a college admission test. Legislators are also considering whether to change Florida high school athletics.

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HOUSE, SENATE REACH BUDGET DEAL AFTER UNVEILING $123 MILLION IN NEW PROJECTS via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The increased spending came largely from supplemental funding lists, known as “sprinkle lists” in Capitol parlance, that emerge at the end of final budget negotiations. The lists were unveiled during a 9 p.m. budget meeting. The House proposed $30 million in additional spending, while the Senate had $72 million in additional funding.

On the lists was a $25 million boost for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, including a 3 percent increase for residential habilitation services, which amounts to nearly $11 million. Other things on the last-minute spending list include $11 million proposed by the Senate for the University of North Florida’s Skinner Jones Hall. Budget negotiators said the project had support throughout the process, but had slipped through the cracks. The Senate also put forward $10 million for the Department of State’s cultural grant list.

House budget chief Richard Corcoran and Senate budget chief Tom Lee noted that the $102 million sprinkle list was much smaller than last year’s proposal, which was more than $300 million and widely criticized for boosting the budget late in the process.

TWEET, TWEET: @ByKristenMClark: @richardcorcoran says it takes 12hrs to print out budget so it’ll be on lawmakers’ desks sometime Tuesday a.m. On track to #SineDie Friday.

— BUDGET NOTES — 

‘BEST & BRIGHTEST’ TEACHER BONUSES WILL CONTINUE ANOTHER YEAR via Kristen M. Clark of the Miami Herald — Under a compromise struck to favor House leaders, the Senate has agreed to allocate about $49 million in 2016-17 to reward “highly effective” teachers based on their SAT/ACT scores. That’s the same controversial manner in which the program was enacted last summer. Senators this session wanted to avoid that by having a floor vote on the “Best & Brightest” policy but haven’t had that opportunity. … The $49 million for next year is $5 million more than what lawmakers allocated this year and $4 million more than what the House asked for.

— “In rush to Sine Die, an unfair tax increase somehow sneaks into Florida’s “tax cut” budget” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

— “No money for septic removals on Legislature’s water projects list” via Isadora Rangel of TCPalm

PALM BEACH CO. SCOOPS UP NEW SPENDING via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post – Close to $1.5 million was added for the West Tech Training Center in Belle Glade; another $1 million for water pipes in the Glades; and $225,000 for Palm Beach Habilitation Center in Lake Worth, which absorbed a budget cut last year of that amount. Another $500,000 was poured in for restoration work on the Lake Worth Lagoon, bringing the state total to $2 million.

SHOT: HARRIS CORP.’S UNSEEMLY PUSH TO BLOCK COMPETITION FOR POLICE RADIOS DIDN’T WORK AFTER ALL via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – It pleased me to learn the House and Senate couldn’t agree on the $7 million budget allocation Harris had pushed for; and Sunday the request was pronounced dead. Left off the budget. It means the competitive-bid process to upgrade local and state law enforcement radios is alive and well. It will go on as it was planned in a 2014 Joint Task Force Board meeting on the new radio system. That’s new radios and towers for seamless communication between some 4,000 first responders, law enforcement and emergency personnel. Virtually everybody affected, from the governor to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to the Fish and Wildlife Commission, have said — many in testimony before the joint committee dealing with the upgrade — they want to see competitive bids on this project. They have not said it’s important to bypass the process for 5 percent, 10 percent, any percent of the radio order before the project goes out for bid. Which is exactly what Harris wanted: The company said some agencies were complaining they didn’t want to wait for an upgrade that they need the radios now. Thus the House’s budget request for $7 million to pay for 10 percent of the upgraded radios in an early purchase. Trouble is, as soon as legislators in the House began pushing Harris’ agenda, the cat was out of the bag.

CHASER: MONEY TO RELACE LEO RADIOS RETURNS DURING LAST MINUTE NEGOTIATIONS via Legislative IQ powered by LobbyTools — The 2016-17 fiscal year budget sent to Gov. Rick Scott will include $7 million to buy replacement radio equipment after the House inserted the money into a “supplemental funding” list before the last budget meeting of the session.

CHASER – PART 2: “There was no request from the agency for this money, they didn’t want them, they’re going to get them anyway, let’s see if they take them,” said Sen. Lee.

OVERRIDING RICK SCOTT VETOES WOULD BE HISTORIC – AND SO WOULD VENUE via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – If Scott vetoes large chunks of the Legislature’s new budget, some lawmakers say overriding his vetoes is a definite possibility. If that happens, it would be historic, and it would fittingly take place in the historic setting of Florida’s Old Capitol, which is now a museum. The 2016 regular session is scheduled to end Friday, March 11, and construction crews will begin tearing down the 1970’s-era chamber on Saturday to begin construction on a $6 million replacement, which includes new paneling, carpeting, desks, chairs and visitors’ galleries. If a special session is held, the House will stay put. But the temporary relocation of senators to the Old Capitol would revive another grand Tallahassee tradition: Back in the day, reporters who covered the Senate sat in the chamber, a few feet behind the senators themselves — not in a glass-enclosed gallery overlooking the chamber.

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ANDY GARDINER SHOOTS BACK AT UBER AFTER CAMPAIGN ATTACKING HIM via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – “The reality is nobody filed preemption in the Senate at all,” [Gardiner] said … “Maybe somebody needs to watch School House Rock, how a bill becomes a law.” That’s true — no bill has been filed in the upper chamber, although it passed the Florida House on a 108-10 vote in January. The Senate does have legislation that would set insurance and background check requirements. Sen. Jeff Brandes … has filed an amendment to add the prohibition on local bans.

SENATE PASSES MEDICAL MARIJUANA EXPANSION, SENDS TO GOV. SCOTT via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Under the bill, which passed on a bipartisan 28-11 vote, terminally ill patients could be prescribed medical marijuana. It could also lead to more growers if nurseries turned down for a license by the Department of Health are successful in ongoing court challenges. Sen. Rob Bradley sponsored the bill in the Senate, which grew from a two-page expansion of the state’s Right to Try law to a 29-page proposal that includes regulations and provisions for additional licenses. In this year’s bill, lawmakers wrote in provisions to ensure that the original five growers approved by the Department of Health for growing low-THC cannabis are protected and have the first crack at full-fledged medical marijuana in the state. That’s caused controversy, as senators have called the structure a “monopoly” and said it helps entrenched special interests.

JOHN MORGAN CALLS MEDICAL MARIJUANA EXPANSION BILL ‘TYPICAL TALLAHASSEE WINDOW DRESSING’ via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The group backing a medical marijuana ballot initiative is calling out lawmakers for a proposal that provides relief to more patients. The Senate voted 28-11 to approve a bill that expands the Right to Try Act to include cannabis. While the measure allows people with one year left to live to use medical marijuana, not just the low-THC version approved in 2014, lawmakers swatted down amendments to expand the patients to include people suffering from a variety of illnesses or disabilities. “Once again, Tallahassee politicians are putting their own campaigns before medical science and the rights of doctors,” said John Morgan, the chairman of United for Care.

SENATE PASSES SERIES OF DEPARTMENT OF FINANCIAL SERVICES REFORMS via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – An amended version of a bill reforming several laws and policies related to the Department of Financial Services passed the Senate unanimously, and now heads back to the House. The bill, HB 651, creates a new grant program for volunteer fire departments and specifies that employees of state universities, special districts and water management districts can participate in the state’s deferred compensation program, among other changes. The bill returned to the House because of amendments added by Sen. Alan Hays and Sen. Jeff Brandes. Hays’ amendment pushes back the repeal of a statute exempting medical malpractice insurance premiums from emergency assessments to 2019. That exemption was set to expire at the end of May. Brandes’ amendments make relatively minor changes to surplus lines and travel insurance regulation.

SENATE UNANIMOUSLY PASSES BROAD TRANSPORTATION BILL, SENDS TO HOUSE via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – House Bill 7027, a broadly worded bill seeks to reform several policies and programs for the Florida Department of Transportation. Among the amendments were adding language to encourage the development of transportation policy for the advancement of autonomous, driverless car technology … several other changes, which include reducing the money the state would get from claiming dormant toll accounts … also transfers administration of the Pinellas Bayway System to the Florida Turnpike Authority … includes a provision increasing the amount of money devoted to the Florida Seaport and Economic Development (FSTED) – bringing it to a minimum of $25 million annually … eases some of the licensing requirements for operators at Florida ports, transferring some authority from the federal government to FDOT for enforcing the National Environmental Policy Act.

OMNIBUS ANTI-CORRUPTION BILL PASSES IN FLORIDA HOUSE via Associated Press – The House approved the bill Monday 104-3. But in the Senate, it has failed to receive committee approvals needed before a floor vote. The bill aims to end what a 2009 statewide grand jury called a corruption tax resulting from misconduct by public officials and government contractors. House Bill 593 redefines corruption in criminal law to make it easier for prosecutors to prove cases. It adds new restrictions on outside employment by legislators, and it increases requirements for financial reporting by local officials and lobbyists. A shorter version of the bill including the corruption redefinition has also passed the House and is ready for a Senate vote.

BILL TO DEVELOP GUIDELINES FOR POLICE BODY CAMERAS CLEARS THE FLORIDA SENATE via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The Florida Senate voted 37-0 to approve a bill (HB 93) that requires police to develop standards that govern how agencies use, maintain and store body cameras and recorded data. “This is a very important bill for our community,” said Sen. Oscar Braynon … “It is good to know that someone like Sen. [ChrisSmith and Rep. [ShevrinJones are doing something to make sure we have transparency to help exonerate both parties. I think everyone involved believes this is a step in the right direction.” Smith, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said there is a need for “adequate rules and regulations” for body cameras, since law enforcement agencies are using them.

BILL TO REQUIRE LIFE INSURANCE COMPANIES DO MORE TO FIND BENEFICIARIES CLEARS HOUSE via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – … and goes back to the Florida Senate for final approval … Jeff Atwater has made the issue a top priority this year because he said there is a systemic practice within the life insurance industry in which many companies are sitting on billions of dollars in overdue, unpaid life insurance benefits. He said some companies are doing little to track down families whose loved ones paid their premiums for years. Under Senate Bill 966 insurers would be required to search the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File for all of their policyholders retroactively to 1992 and every year going forward. If a beneficiary cannot be found, the insurance company must turn the policy over to the State of Florida’s Unclaimed Property Program, currently overseen by Atwater, where the state will continue to look for rightful beneficiaries.

HOUSE PASSES HIGH-SCHOOL SPORTS BILL via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics –The House passed the measure (HB 31) by state Rep. Ross Spano on a 109-0 vote. Its main provision is that it would allow private schools to join the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) on a per-sport basis, rather than signing up for a full membership that would require a school to play by the group’s strict rules in all athletics … the bill includes a provision to “provide a process for the resolution of student eligibility disputes which includes the opportunity to use an informal conference procedure.”

COSMETICS LEGISLATION MOVING FORWARD AS SESSION WINDS DOWN via Florida Politics – A proposal to overhaul archaic state regulations on Florida-based cosmetics manufacturers has gained steam from two major industry endorsements as Session winds down … The bills – HB 261 by Rep. Chris Latvala and SB 176 by Sen. Jeff Brandes — would reform a regulatory cosmetics regime manufacturers have called “unnecessary and burdensome” by cutting down on governmental red tape at the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation. A law currently on the books requires any firm who manufactures, packages or labels cosmetics must register each product every two years with the Department of Business & Professional Regulation, and pay attendant fees to fund that often duplicative work. Cosmetics made out-of-state may be sold in Florida without any such requirement applying, which has caused some firms like Radical Cosmetics – a company wooed from out of state by economic development boosters before discovering the onerous registration law – to leave the state for greener pastures.

IMMIGRANT GROUP PLANS FUNERAL FOR ANTI-IMMIGRANT LAWS IN TALLAHASSEE via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – A caravan organized by the We Are Florida! campaign, consisting of immigrant workers, voters and community leaders will be heading to Tallahassee to make sure bills they see as unfriendly to immigrants are not only dead, but also buried. Members of the campaign plan to hold a wake and a funeral for the bills that were killed off during this year’s session. The caravan is set to depart from Miami and will make several stops across the state throughout the week. The caravan will make stops in Bonita Springs, Tampa, Apopka, picking up new members to add to the caravan along the way.  The group will make its final stop in Tallahassee Thursday morning. This year the Florida Legislature saw a slew of immigrant-focused legislation. One of the primary proposals would have penalized Florida’s “sanctuary cities” for not complying with federal immigration laws.

SAVE THE DATE: Tallahassee’s The Moon nightclub is hosting an End of Session Celebration honoring the Black & Hispanic Caucuses, Thursday, March 10. Admission is $5; doors open at 7 p.m. The Moon is at 1105 East Lafayette St. in Tallahassee.

GOV. SCOTT SIGNS CHANGES TO DEATH PENALTY SENTENCING SYSTEM via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott signed into law changes to Florida’s death penalty sentencing system in an effort to bring the state in line with a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision. The bill (HB 7101) requires juries to have a greater say in death penalty cases and requires that at least 10 of 12 jurors must agree on a recommendation to impose a death sentence. “It is my solemn duty to uphold the laws of Florida and my foremost concern is always for the victims and their loved ones,” Scott said in a statement. “I hope this legislation will allow families of these horrific crimes to get the closure they deserve.”

WHAT THE GOV’S OFF ICE IS READING — FLORIDA BASKS IN A TEXAS STYLE RESURGENCE via Steven Moore of the Wall Street Journal – Scott, only half-jokingly, offers a list of his “favorite governors”: Andrew Cuomo in New York, Dannel Malloy in Connecticut and Tom Wolf in Pennsylvania. “Every time they raise taxes,” Scott says, “it’s basically a gift to Florida. More and more people are buying homes here and we get richer. It’s just incredible to me that these liberals keep pretending that taxes don’t matter.”

STATE PARK’S NEW NAME REFLECTS BROWARD’S STRUGGLE FOR EQUALITY via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – In his last session as a state senator, Democrat Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale will leave a legacy that reflects his county’s long struggle for racial equality. The Senate unanimously approved a bill to rename John U. Lloyd State Park as Von D. Mizell – Eula Johnson State Park to honor two African-American pioneers. Mizell was Fort Lauderdale’s first black doctor and Johnson was the county’s first NAACP president. In the years before the civil rights movement, Fort Lauderdale’s world famous beach was off limits to black residents, and they were restricted to what was then known as “Colored Beach” at John U. Lloyd State Park, just south of Port Everglades. The park was originally named for a former county attorney who handled the paperwork creating the park, but Smith said the time has come for the state to change its name. “John Lloyd is a good man,” Smith said, “but now is a good time to acknowledge why we have the park.” Smith’s bill (SB 288) also renames a park boat ramp for Alphonso Giles, who ferried local black residents to the beach in the days of segregation.

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— HAPPENING TODAY — MICHIGAN, 3 OTHER STATES HEAD TO THE POLLS —

Michigan is the crown jewel Tuesday as voters in four states deliver verdicts on the presidential campaign. It’s the first big industrial state to weigh in, and should offer clues about how the candidates will play in important Midwest contests to come. But it will be Wednesday on the East Coast before the night’s final prize gets awarded in Hawaii.

The night’s first polls close in Mississippi at 8 p.m., with primary results for both parties. Michigan’s primary results for both parties follow at 9. Both of those states will have exit poll data to poke through, helping to explain who voted for whom and why. Idaho’s Republican-only primary closes at 11 p.m., and Hawaii’s GOP caucuses close at 1 a.m. Results from Democrats living abroad also will filter in at some point. In all, there are 150 GOP delegates at stake, and 179 Democratic delegates to be doled out.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both are favored in Michigan. But keep an eye on the winners’ margins of victory: That’s what determines the allocation of delegates, which is key at this point in the campaign. Both front-runners are trying to pad their delegate leads to make their claims on the nomination seem inevitable.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a distant fourth in the GOP delegate chase, has spent significant time in Michigan and is hoping to get a big boost from his neighboring state. He’s been moving up in recent Michigan polls, but it’s always wise to play down expectations. So when reporters asked on Monday if he needed to finish in the top 2 in Michigan, Kasich responded: “I don’t feel like I have to do anything except breathe and take care of my family.”

CHOOSE YOUR POLL…

… DONALD TRUMP LOSES LEAD IN MICHIGAN: A new American Research Group poll in Michigan shows Kasich leading the GOP field with 33%, followed by Trump at 31%, Cruz at 15% and Rubio at 11%. Trump led Kasich by 18 points in their last survey conducted two weeks ago.

… TRUMP STILL STRONG – JOHN KASICH/TED CRUZ RISE via Fox 2 News Detroit – Trump continues to lead by 22 percentage points going into the election in Michigan. Trump (42 percent) has dropped 5 percentage points since our last poll Thursday night before the FOX News Channel debate in Detroit, but still is ahead of Ohio Governor John Kasich (19.6 percent) who gained 6 percent, Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (19.3 percent) who gained 5 percent, Marco Rubio (9 percent) who lost 6 percent … according to the latest Mitchell/FOX 2 Detroit – Michigan Poll.

NEW POLL SHOWS RUBIO TRAILING TRUMP IN FLORIDA, WITH SUPPORT DECLINING via Nick Gass of POLITICO Florida – The latest Monmouth University poll … Trump earned the support of 38 percent of likely Republican primary voters, while Rubio drew 30 percent. The gulf between the top two candidates and the rest of the field is wider — Cruz finished third with 17 percent, while Kasich took just 10 percent … Just 5 percent remain undecided among those candidates. The Florida senator holds an 11-point lead over Trump (41 percent to 30 percent) in the southern part of the state, while Trump has run up a 22-point advantage in the central region (44 percent to 22 percent). The race is closest in the northern regions of the state, with Trump leading 36 percent to 32 percent. Roughly four-in-10 (38 percent) of likely voters said they are completely decided on their choice, while 25 percent said they have a strong preference. Another 9 percent said they have a slight preference, while 10 percent said they are truly undecided. Among Trump voters, 67 percent said they have decided to vote for the real-estate magnate, while smaller shares said they have made up their minds on Kasich (59 percent), Rubio (55 percent) or Cruz (48 percent). Rubio leads considerably among the 19 percent who said they have already voted, grabbing 48 percent to Trump’s 23 percent. Among those who have not yet voted, however, Trump leads Rubio 42 percent to 26 percent.

RUBIO SPOKESMAN BLASTS CNN: ‘I MEAN, WHO DOES THAT?’ via Eliza Collins of POLITICO – Rubio’s campaign spokesman raced across town to give a combative interview to CNN, swatting down a report he called “fiction” that said there is pressure from some of the Florida senator’s advisers to drop out of the 2016 presidential race. “Jamie’s report was utter nonsense,” Alex Conant said about a CNN story by Jamie Gangel that said Rubio was “bullish” about his chances of winning Florida, but some advisers don’t agree and think he should exit the race ahead of the March 15 to avoid an embarrassing loss to Trump. “Most of his advisers agree he does not have a path to the nomination and some are advising him to get out ahead of the March 15 primary,” the story said, citing unnamed “sources” … “I’m gonna ask you to stop reading that sort of fiction on air,” a fired-up Conant told host Wolf Blitzer. “That is fiction and CNN should stop reporting it.” Conant said angrily that CNN had not reached out to the campaign for request for comment, asking, “I mean, who does that?”

RUBIO’S PATH FORWARD GETS ROCKIER via Nick Gass of POLITICO – Rubio is sinking further into a hole, with Trump and Cruz heaping piles of dirt on top of him. Eight days out from his home-state primary, which is seen as a must-win for the Florida senator, Rubio was hit with two new polls that spell trouble for his attempts to prove it’s not a two-man race between Trump and Cruz. The billionaire businessman and Texas senator, meanwhile, debuted new attacks on Rubio as they escalate their efforts to get him to bow out. A Monmouth poll showed Rubio still trailing Trump by eight points in the winner-take-all state of Florida, where Rubio is campaigning today. While Rubio has closed the gap some, there are worrying signs – although 55 percent of Rubio voters said they have completely decided to vote for him, an even higher share of Trump supporters – 67 percent – is set on voting for the businessman. Another potentially foreboding data point: While Rubio leads Trump 2-to-1 among the 19 percent of voters who said they have already voted, Trump holds a 16-point advantage among those yet to vote. Approximately 600,000 Florida Republicans had voted absentee by Monday morning, roughly one-quarter of the expected 2 million GOP voters in the state, which has a closed primary. Tuesday’s contest in Michigan isn’t looking so hot, either. Another Monmouth poll out has Rubio in a distant fourth in the state, where Trump leads by double digits in nine of the last 10 polls. With just 13 percent in the Monmouth poll, Rubio is hovering around the 15 percent necessary to pick up any of the delegates allocated by state-wide vote. Rubio is also in fourth place in the RealClearPolitics average of recent Michigan polls.

DID RUBIO SPREAD HIMSELF TOO THIN? via Noah Pransky of WTSP – A 10 Investigates analysis of television ad spending suggests by trying to compete as a populist alternative to Trumpin nearly every state, Rubio may have spread himself too thin to gain any real momentum. In fact … the Rubio campaign has made just one television ad-buy in Florida after making more than 2,500 ad-buys in 18 other states. While his political action committee, Conservative Solutions PAC, has made more than 100 television ad-buys in Florida over the course of the last year, the Rubio campaign is not supposed to have any coordination with the PAC. Florida’s junior senator is making a rare appearance in Tampa Monday afternoon, with just eight days to try and come from behind and win his home state.

BAD STRATEGY, POORLY RUN CAMPAIGN ARE KILLING RUBIO’S CHANCES via Ed O’Keefe, Robert Costa and Paul Kane of The Washington Post – Party leaders, donors and other supporters of Rubio portray a political operation that continues to come up short in its message, in its attention to the fundamentals of campaigning and in its use of a promising politician. The failures have all but doomed Rubio’s chances of securing the GOP nomination, leaving him far behind Trump and Cruz in both delegates and states won. “They have no infrastructure,” said Scott Reed, who is unaffiliated with any campaign but serves as the chief political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “His campaign hasn’t been able to keep up with his candidacy. … They don’t have the operation in the states to help him get over the top. He should be a finalist going all the way to California, and he’s not.”

THE RUBIO CAMPAIGN AUTOPSIES HAVE ALREADY BEGUN via Ryu Spaeth of the New Republic – It’s a genre of political reporting unto itself, the article that captures all the reasons a campaign is flailing. In the case of Rubio, The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe and Robert Costa tick all the boxes: a poor message, weak campaign infrastructure, a short-sighted primary strategy, the candidate himself. Truly, in politics it is defeat, not victory, that has a hundred fathers. Rubio is betting it all on the March 15 primary in Florida, where he should be able to correct at least some of his campaign’s perceived flaws. He isn’t leaving things to the last minute—as he did in, say, Virginia—and he is known throughout the state. One problem is that he doesn’t have much money left, making him reliant on his affiliated super PACs to attack Trump. The other is that he is still lacking a certain high-profile endorsement: from Jeb Bush, the man he supplanted as the establishment’s choice in the race. When you consider the ease with which Rubio dispatched his former mentor, another way to read the Post’s article is that Rubio has done passably well in a year that was never going to favor the establishment. Maybe it’s not the strategy or the message that will prove to be his undoing—it’s just Trump.

TAMPA’S MAYOR: ‘I HAVE NEVER MET MARCO RUBIO’ BUT ‘ONE WOULD THINK…’ via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times – “I will tell you in no uncertain terms: He’s been the senator for four years. I am the mayor of the third-largest city in this state. I have never met Marco Rubio. He has never taken the time, either in Washington, D.C. or in Tampa,” Mayor Bob Buckhorn told MSNBC. Rubio’s staff, yes, but not the senator himself, he said. “One would think if you were the sitting U.S. senator of the state of Florida that you would have taken the time to meet the mayor of the third largest city in the state,” said Buckhorn, a potential candidate for governor in 2018. And he doesn’t expect Rubio to close the gap. “My sense is that Mr. (DonaldTrump is going to win, and I think this will be the last stand for Sen. Rubio,” he said.

RUBIO’S TOP DONORS TO GATHER AT MIAMI RETREAT THIS WEEK via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO – The retreat — which is being dubbed a “leadership huddle” — will take place on Thursday and Friday, immediately before and after this week’s GOP debate. Donors who have raised at least $27,000 are being invited to attend, according to an invitation. On Thursday, donors who have raised at least $100,000 are invited to a lunch with top campaign surrogates and staffers. The event is expected to draw Rubio backers from across the country.

DONALD TRUMP BLASTS ‘CORRUPT MARCO’ IN NEW FLORIDA AD via Donovan Slack of USA TODAY – Trump may be beating Rubio in polls of the senator’s home state of Florida, but the real estate mogul is taking no chances. His campaign unveiled a new attack ad that will run in Florida in the run-up to that state’s winner-take-all primary … The 60-second spot, titled “Corrupt Marco,” asserts Rubio has “spent years defrauding the people of Florida,” and recounts his using a Republican Party credit card to buy personal goods and services and for flights he double-billed to taxpayers and the party. It also dings him for his dismal Senate voting record. “Another corrupt, all-talk, no-action politician,” a narrator says in the ad. “In my opinion, he is a total crook and I am doing the people of Florida a great favor by further exposing him,” he said.

RUBIO CAMPAIGN HITS BACK AFTER TRUMP ATTACK AD via Daniel Strauss of POLITICO – “First, Donald Trump gave big bucks to Charlie Crist in 2010 and now he’s recycling the same false and negative attacks about Marco. Charlie Crist’s and Donald Trump’s con didn’t fool Floridians in 2010 and it won’t fool them now. These attacks didn’t even stop Trump himself from saying Mitt Romney should pick Marco as his vice president just two years later,” Rubio spokesman Joe Pounder said in a statement … The 60-second attack ad, released by Trump’s campaign … features a narrator saying “corrupt Marco Rubio has spent years defrauding the people of Florida.”

SEEING DONALD TRUMP AS VULNERABLE, GOP ELITES NOW EYE A CONTESTED CONVENTION via Philip Rucker and Robert Costa of the Washington Post – The presentation is an 11th-hour rebuttal to the fatalism permeating the Republican establishment: Slide by slide, state by state, it calculates how Trump could be denied the nomination. Rubio wins Florida. Kasich wins Ohio. Cruznotches victories in the Midwest and Mountain West. And the results in California and other states are jumbled enough to leave Trump three dozen delegates short of the 1,237 required — forcing a contested convention in Cleveland in July. The slide show, by two operatives advising one of a handful of anti-Trump super PACs, encapsulates the newly emboldened view of many GOP leaders and donors. They see a clearer path to stopping Trump following his two losses and two narrower-than-expected wins on Saturday. But the slow-bleed strategy is risky and hinges on Trump losing Florida, Illinois and Ohio on March 15; wins in all three would set him on track to amass the majority of delegates. Even as some party figures see glimmers of hope that Trump could be overtaken, others believe any stop-Trump efforts could prove futile.

HOW A GOP RULE CHANGE COULD DENY DONALD TRUMP THE NOMINATION via the National Journal – [A]mid talk of a con­ven­tion battle for the first time since 1976, Re­pub­lic­an in­siders are talk­ing about chan­ging a rule ahead of the party’s nom­in­a­tion that would lower the bar for a pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate to be eli­gible as the GOP nom­in­ee. At is­sue is Rule 40, which states that any GOP can­did­ate must get a ma­jor­ity of the del­eg­ates from eight states—in­stead of a plur­al­ity of from five, the pre­vi­ous stand­ard—to be able to get the nom­in­a­tion. … The Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee will take a look at po­ten­tial changes in its April meet­ing.

MONEY POURS IN AS MOVE TO STOP DONALD TRUMP EXPANDS via Matt Flegenheimer and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times – Trump‘s reed-thin organization appears to be catching up with him, suggesting he could be at a disadvantage if he is forced into a protracted slog for delegates. And vote tallies Saturday made clear that Trump has had at least some trouble building upon his intensely loyal following, leaving him increasingly dependent upon landslides in early voting. The deluge of negative messages from a patchwork of groups — highlighting claims by angry customers of Trump’s defunct educational company and his history of shape-shifting positions — already appears to have hurt Trump’s cause.

VETERANS TAKE ON TRUMP IN TWO NEW ADS via Nick Corasaniti of the New York Times – The voice of a veteran, Lt. Col. Tom Hanton, tracks his slow march to the camera, an American flag hung vertically behind him. “When I heard Donald Trump insult my fellow prisoners of war from Vietnam by calling us losers, that was the most infuriating comment I think I’ve heard from a politician in my entire life,” he says … The ad is meant to portray Trump as both dishonest and a bully, and to challenge one of Trump’s repeated assertions: that he “loves the vets.” … Having veterans themselves speak out against Trump carries extra weight against the candidate.

TED CRUZ ALLIES ARE TAKING A HUGE GAMBLE ON SQUASHING MARCO RUBIO via Allan Smith of Business Insider – The move to tear votes away from Rubio, however, could ensure that Trump will win next week’s Florida primary, which with 99 delegates is the largest winner-take-all contest of the election cycle. Keep the Promise I, one of the four main super PACs backing Cruz’s candidacy, began firing off ads … targeting Rubio for his Senate attendance, support for sugar subsidies, and various tax initiatives … Rubio’s campaign fired back, calling the ads the “gold standard of hypocrisy” … The spots come as Cruz has made it clear his plan is to “vigorously contest” Rubio’s home state of Florida — a state Rubio and many of his allies consider a must-win to keep his presidential hopes alive. The Cruz campaign opened 10 offices across the state within the past week. Rubio is facing an uphill battle in the Sunshine State.

CRUZ TO UNVEIL SENATE ENDORSEMENTS THIS WEEK via Elaina Plott of The National Review –Cruz’s colleagues may loathe him, but they seem to have found somebody they dislike even more. With the prospect of Trump’s nomination looming over the GOP, Cruz is set to unveil endorsements from at least four senators this week, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Until now, Cruz had failed to earn the endorsement of even a single Senate colleague, a fact Trump and other presidential rivals have been quick to use against the Texas freshman. But as many senators see Rubio’s prospects dimming, some are beginning to make peace with Cruz, convinced that he’s the only candidate who can stop Trump. If Rubio can’t clinch his home state of Florida … yet more may come forward to back the devil they know. The forthcoming endorsements are a sign that the members of the upper chamber are beginning to abandon their personal grievances in order to preserve the Republican party of old.

SHOT: CRUZ ACCUSES MEDIA OF HOLDING BACK ON NEGATIVE TRUMP STORIES via Callum Borchers of The Washington Post – On CBS, he claimed that journalists, apparently convinced that Trump will win the primary contest, are saving their best Trump stories for the general. “I can’t tell you how many media outlets who I hear have this great exposé on Donald, on different aspects of his business dealings or his past, but they said, ‘You know what? We’re going to hold it till June or July … We’re not going to run it now,’” Cruz told John Dickerson. “You’re saying reporters have told you that?” asked Dickerson. “Absolutely,” said Cruz, declining to name them. “We’ve got multiple.”

CHASER 1: TRUMP TOWER FUNDED BY RICH CHINESE WHO INVEST CASH FOR via Jesse Drucker of Bloomberg Politics – Throughout his campaign, Trump has attacked China, warning about dangers of deficient immigrant screening. He has called for a revamping of our immigration system, saying he’d make an exception for the highly-skilled. Yet no skills are required of the wealthy Chinese being courted by a subtitled video to finance a huge Trump-branded tower in New Jersey. The video was produced to help raise millions through a controversial government program known as EB-5, offering expedited visas to foreign investors overwhelmingly from China. In exchange for investing at least $500,000 in a project promising to create jobs, foreigners receive a two-year visa with a good chance of obtaining permanent residency for them and their families. The Jersey City project has raised $50 million – a quarter of its funding — from loans obtained through EB-5, according to the U.S. Immigration Fund. General counsel Mark Giresi said he believed ‘nearly all’ of the EB-5 investors in the Trump project were from China.

CHASER 2: TRUMP CHALLENGED OVER TIES TO MOB LINKED GAMBLER WITH UGLY PAST via Michael Isikoff of Yahoo! Politics – Edith Creamer, daughter of New Jersey mob figure Robert LiButti, says her late father had a longtime relationship with Trump including gambling millions and flying on his helicopter. While Trump has denied the relationship, Creamer said the two knew each other well. “He’s a liar…Of course he knew him. I flew in the helicopter with Ivana and the kids. I like Trump, but it pisses me off he denies knowing my father.” Trump’s response to questions about LiButti underscores a recurring theme — his tendency to minimize or deny associations with unsavory characters with whom he has done business. Trump first faced questions about his dealings with LiButti, later banned from New Jersey casinos for his ties to Mafia boss John Gotti, in 1991 … that probe resulted in a $200,000 fine against the Trump Plaza for violating anti-discrimination laws. Additionally, LiButti referenced Trump in a newly-released police tape transcripts, saying: “I’m very close with him.”

IF YOU READ ONE THING: THE TWO AMERICAS BEHIND TRUMP AND BERNIE SANDERS via Mike Barnicle of The Daily Beast – This is not the Massachusetts labeled as “all-liberal-all the time” by pundits and professors. This is the state of too much of this nation; a region where the rantings of the Tea Party had a built-in audience, eager to act against any established political order. Rebellion has its roots in government’s indifference and incompetence. The social compact was fractured long before the economic collapse of 2008. In places like many of the cities and towns along Route 2 heading west, job loss and wage stagnation have been a fact of life for at least 30 years. Take a look at any color-coded voting map of last week’s primaries in Massachusetts and you will see an entire region that had been waiting for a Trump or a Sanders to show up with a vehicle ready-made for the forgotten to drive home a point to a political system uniquely incapable of addressing the lives, income and optimism lost. Two different states of mind. Two different countries. One that caters to those with good educations, who live in affluent ZIP codes, who were certainly hurt in the collapse of 2008 but not left for dead. The other, a majority, mere roadkill. Already crushed, too many were pushed to the edge of a cliff, left with a paycheck-to-paycheck existence … if they were lucky enough to have employment at all. Trump, with all his flaws and false promise, speaks to this audience. Sanders, with his imperfect proposals and genuine, lifelong belief in equity, is heard here loud and clear. Their success is no mystery.

HAPPENING TONIGHT — FAMOUS MIAMI via The Washington Post – The Washington Post and DC media outlet FamousDC are hosting a pre-debate party Tuesday at 8 p.m. at FIFTY (The Viceroy Hotel). The hyper networking event will be attended by presidential candidate staff, national media, top strategists from both parties, and other influencers in the political arena from DC, Miami and beyond. This is the eighth pre-debate event in a series designed and convened by FamousDC to bring reporters, campaign officials, local political leaders, and operatives together outside of Washington with a high profile campaign event as the backdrop. RSVP at famousmiami.splashthat.com.

MEANWHILE ..BERNIE SANDERS SPEAKS IN MIAMI via Eliot Kleinberg of the Palm Beach Post – Sanders will lead a rally at 7 p.m. … at the James L. Knight Center, at 400 SE 2nd Ave. Doors open at 4:30 p.m.Sanders and fellow candidate Clinton debate Wednesday at the Miami-Dade College Kendall campus. The next day, Clinton will be at a “get out the vote” campaign in event in Tampa. Republican candidates debate Thursday at the University of Miami.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Jamestown Associates, winner of eight 2016 Reed Awards and 60 industry awards overall. Jamestown’s TV, radio, mail and digital advertising helps clients in Florida and across the nation perfect their message, create powerful ads, micro-target the media buy and WIN. See how Jamestown Associates wins tough campaigns at jamestownassociates.com***

— MORE NOTES FROM THE 2016 CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

POLL: BEN CARSON WOULD LEAD GOP SENATE PRIMARY via Julie Gargotta and Caitlin Constantine of Orlando News 13 – A majority of likely voters – 56 percent – would vote for Carson in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, should he decide to run. Another 15 percent said they’d vote for someone else, while 29 percent said it’s too soon to say. This question follows CNN reports that GOP operatives encouraged Carson to drop out of the presidential race and run for the U.S. Senate seat from Florida. It’s the same seat that Rubio will be vacating, and Republicans are eager to keep the seat from Democratic control. Yet, if the speculation pans out and Carson runs for the Senate seat, there will be competition. Several others, including Carlos Lopez-Cantera and David Jolly, have already thrown their hats into the ring. Our same poll, without Carson listed, placed Jolly in the lead, though 34 percent claimed they are still undecided.

FLORIDA SUPREME COURT APPEARS DIVIDED OVER UTILITY BACKED SOLAR AMENDMENT via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – In oral arguments, environmental advocates said the proposal by “Consumers for Smart Solar” is unconstitutionally misleading because it lures voters into thinking it will increase access to rooftop solar when, in fact, it will reduce solar options. Proponents say the amendment is needed to make the right to install solar panels a constitutional right. They deny the proposal is intended to protect the regulated utilities, who control the current solar market, from competition. The utilities, however, continued to pursue their counter amendment, arguing it is a needed to protect the access to solar energy. But Justices Peggy QuinceBarbara Parienteand James E.C. Perry were skeptical. Quince noted that current law allows people to own or lease solar panels on their homes and asked: “Why do we need this established in the Constitution?” Raoul Cantero, lawyer for the “Smart Solar” group and a former Supreme Court justice, replied that the measure was needed to prevent future legislators or regulators from reducing access to solar in Florida. Justice R. Fred Lewis seemed to agree. “A constitutional right may prohibit certain regulations that may come up that just a general property right would not prohibit,” he said.

DENNIS ROSS BLASTS PRESIDENT AS HE STARTS CD 15 RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – “I’m angry about it because yes, we’ve tried to seal our borders but what has happened? Nothing,” said the Polk County Republican, speaking to about 50 employees at a Plant City milk distributor to start his 2016 re-election campaign. “We have before us, the greatest challenge that we’ve seen in my lifetime,” he said. “What we’ve seen over the last several years is a president who has refused to work with the Congress, a president who unfortunately is doing his best to put this military at pre-World War II levels, who refuses to take the fight to ISIS and eliminate them as a threat to this country, who refuses to close our borders and make sure that we’re safe, not only at home, but in our businesses, as we go about this great country.”

MARLENE O’TOOLE FILES FOR SD 12 RACE, SETTING UP PRIMARY BATTLE WITH DENNIS BAXLEY via Florida Politics – O’Toole currently represents House District 33 and, like Baxley, is finishing up her last term, though her Lake County roots should set her apart from Baxley, who currently represents neighboring Marion County. Lake County makes up the largest part of the SD 12 electorate, with about 220,000 residents. The district also includes about 160,000 voters from the southern half of Marion County as well as all of Sumter County, which includes heavily Republican retirement community the Villages. Though O’Toole may have an advantage in a Lake County-centric district, she is far behind Baxley in fundraising. Baxley, up to the start of the 2016 Legislative Session … raised nearly $200,000 … As of the end of January, he had about $110,000 of that money on hand.

GOVERNORS CLUB TUESDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU – For the final week of the 2016 Session, a delicious Governors Club buffet greets lawmakers as they rush headlong to Sine Die. Tuesday’smenu includes Beef and Bean Soup; GC Wrap Board with Chips: Roast Beef & Smoked Gouda, Ham & Swiss, Turkey & Cheddar; Mix Green Salad Bar with Traditional; Cole Slaw & Potato Salad; Southern Fried Chicken; Barbeque Pork Ribs; Garlic Shrimp with Rice; Corn on the Cob; Baked Beans; and O’Brian Mashed Potatoes; finishing up with Apple Crisp and the ever-popular Mini Desserts.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Lester Abberger, Florida Lobby Associates: Lyme Timber Company

David Glenn Albert, The Waverly Group: StarTraq

Sebastian Aleksander, The Aleksander Group: American Legacy Publishing

Albert Balido, Anfield: B & J Martin

Slater Bayliss, Cardenas Partners: The Florida Bar, Family Law Section

Marty FiorentinoThomas GriffinJoseph MobleyMark Pinto, The Fiorentino Group: Clay County

Shaddrick Haston: Florida Assisted Living Affiliation

Nick Iarossi, Capital City Consulting: Majestic Realty Co.

Stephen Wise, Stephen Wise Consulting: Beaver Street Enterprise Center

SAVE THE DATE: Wear something green and get your Irish on with the folks at public affairs firm Ballard Partners while they celebrate next weekend with its exclusive St. Patrick’s Parade Balcony Party. The annual celebration of all things Irish, now in its fifth year, will be held Saturday, March 12, at the Ballard Partners Tampa offices at 1726 E. Seventh Ave. The balcony opens at 6 p.m.; parade begins at 7 p.m. Demand will be high and space will be limited, so RSVPs are required no later than Thursday, March 10, to Rachel@BallardFL.com.

WHAT JOHN HOLLEY IS READING  NEXTERA ENERGY, FPL PARENT, NAMED TO WORLD’S MOST ETHICAL COMPANIES LIST via The Ethisphere Institute – The Ethisphere Institute, a global leader in defining and advancing the standards of ethical business practices, announced NextEra Energy made its list of the 2016 World’s Most Ethical Companies. “Transparency and sustainability are no longer mere buzzwords for corporations. As a Board member, my role is not only one of oversight, but one of stewardship, that is, ensuring that these corporations are both valuable and worth preserving,” said Sherry Barrat of NextEra Energy … The award is based on companies’ scores in five key categories: ethics and compliance program (35 percent), corporate citizenship and responsibility (20 percent), culture of ethics (20 percent), governance (15 percent) and leadership, innovation and reputation (10 percent) and provided to all companies who participate in the process.

ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA  Trimmel Gomes is celebrating the one-year anniversary of The Rotunda podcast. Since its launch in March of 2015, Gomes has been using his public radio chops to feature the many people and issues shaping Florida politics. His 50th episode includes a walk-and-talk interview through the streets of Tallahassee with Florida Politics’ Peter Schorsch sharing some of his “juiciest tidbits” about Florida’s political landscape. Gomes checks in on Rubio’s campaign strategy to win the Sunshine State following his disappointing finish on Super Saturday and then an update on some of the top issues percolating in the final days of 2016 legislative session.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rep. Michael Bileca and to Ryan Smith (did I miss my invite to Smithapalooza?)

Written By

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.

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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.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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