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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.9.18

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Ana Ceballos, Daniel McAuliffe, and Jim Rosica.

Last call for “Winners and Losers,” the Session-end list of who’s swimming and who’s underwater.

We need your suggestions by noon today. Our first draft will go live when the hanky drops, and then updated.

Keep sending us your suggestions and inside juice, driven by schadenfreude or not.

The usual disclaimer: Don’t send stuff on big-ticket items like the Governor or the budget. We’re looking for specific people and issues.

Your answers will remain confidential and can be sent to Peter@FloridaPolitics.com.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

— @MarcACaputo: A poll having Sen. Bill Nelson leading Gov. Rick Scott by 10 in FL is, charitably, a pretty big outlier

— @RepCharlieCrist: If FL legislature can pass #gunsafety legislation, Congress can too. Disappointed no #AssaultWeaponsBan and more guns allowed in schools, but this is meaningful progress improving public safety. Our work is far from over! #MSDStrong

— @Fineout: So a little process 101 for national/international media — the clock doesn’t start ticking for @FLGovScott until the gun/school safety bill is actually signed and presented to his office. That’s important to know because much of the bill takes effect upon becoming law

— @MDixon55: Budget closed out before @richardcorcoran or @joenegronfl had a meeting. Usually presiding officers have to do at least one brief pow wow

— @MaryEllenKlas: Here’s a follow up Q for @richardcorcoran, if the House really believed in passing sexual harassment, why not pass the stand-alone bill by @Kristin_Jacobs, instead attaching it to an ethics bill you knew the @FLSenate wasn’t going to accept?

— @Daniel_Sweeney: But it just goes to show the old saying’s true — nothing’s dead till the hanky drops.

— @JoseFelixDiaz: Ambassador @RepCTrujillo gave his farewell today. He proudly spoke of his true priorities; God, family and Country. Our speaker referred to him as the “most fearless amongst us.” Which is true. What he didn’t say was that he was also the most talented and the most loyal

— @TroyKinsey: A funny thing happened on the road to sine die: it appears the #flleg‘s legendary joint Black-Hispanic Caucus sine die gala at The Moon is now no more. @FLBlkCaucus is doing its own thing (last night)

— @AustinMKnipper: Big thank you to Senator @JeffreyBrandes for taking the time out his busy end-of-session schedule to speak with us UF Tallahassee Fellows last night. His honest and substantive words were both enlightening and inspiring. I wish him the best.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Sine Die (maybe) — 2; St. Patrick’s Day — 8; March For Our Lives/#NeverAgain gun violence protest — 15; Major League Baseball Opening Day — 20; Easter — 23; NFL Draft begins — 48; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 55; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 75; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 105; Primary Election Day — 172; College Football opening weekend — 176; General Election Day — 242; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 340.

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— MAYHEM AT SEN. DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS —

Last night, in the Senate bubble, during what was supposed to be a routine vote for the next Democratic leaders (the presumptive winner here is Audrey Gibson and the next-in-line was thought to be Gary Farmer), all hell broke out.

As an anti-Farmer movement began to develop, members began publicly voicing their disapproval. At that point, Randolph Bracy unexpectedly nominated Lauren Book. After she accepted the nomination, that’s when things got heated. In an effort to calm down and unify the caucus, Oscar Braynon pulled both Farmer and Book into a private meeting.

Gary Farmer is causing a ruckus at the caucus.

We are hearing that during the negotiations Farmer mansplained to Book that she could not possibly fulfill the duties of Leader-designate because she has two young children.

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, by the way.

This comment was not well-received by the current Pro-tem, who also serves as chair of an appropriations subcommittee and has had quite a first term in the upper chamber, despite the fact that said impediments to job fulfillment were ever-present throughout her first term.

So where does that leave things?

As of this morning, Book is now holding enough pledge cards to defeat Farmer.

… if the Democrats hold the vote today.

— BUDGET NOTES —

Florida legislators finish work on budget” via The Associated Press — Legislators agreed on a long line of last minute changes on Thursday. The final $88.7 billion budget was delivered to legislators by midafternoon. Florida has a 72-hour “cooling off period” to make sure everyone can read the budget before the final vote. Legislative leaders said they plan to vote on the budget on Sunday. Legislators got bogged down in budget negotiations while they spent hours debating and working on a comprehensive gun and school safety bill. The new budget includes boosts in money for public schools and universities and sets aside $100 million for Florida’s land preservation program.

#Sprinkle details” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — As the House and Senate finalized differences on the roughly $89 billion 2018-19 budget, the supplemental funding — informally known as the “sprinkle fund” — was unveiled in a 10 a.m. budget meeting. The 21 last-minute spending list includes $30 million for charter school maintenance projects, $20 million for performance-based incentive in the state university system and $3.3 million for the University of South Florida. From that list, a dozen items are hurricane-related costs and contingent on reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Education budget increases amid shadow of shooting” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — A new $88.7 billion state budget, expected to be approved Sunday, includes a $21.1 billion spending plan for the 67 school districts. It would boost per-student funding by $101.50 during 2018-2019 to $7,408 and represents a $485 million increase in state funding and local property taxes. A significant increase in school spending is tied to the Feb. 14 tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The annual school funding formula would include a new category for mental-health funding with $69 million. It would increase the “safe schools” program, which helps pay for school resource officers, to $162 million, a $97.5 million increase. Outside of the funding formula, the school districts also could apply for grants to improve the security of their campuses in a $98.9 million program. But lawmakers pared Gov. Scott’s request for an $18 million increase in funding for classroom supplies for teachers. Lawmakers backed an $8.8 million increase, which should boost the annual payments by about $50 to $300.

Legislature slashing Health Dep’t pay because of medical marijuana delays” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Lawmakers on Thursday included a provision to withhold more than $1.9 million in Department of Health salaries and benefits in the final 2018-19 state budget until regulators fully implement medical marijuana. The proviso language, which “qualifies or restricts a specific appropriation,” means Health officials will get a 7.75 percent pay and benefits cut until they “implement” medical cannabis as authorized under the state constitution and statute. The full budget was released midday Thursday. The money will be “held in reserve,” with its release “contingent upon implementation,” the language says. That means “solely and exclusively by adopting all rules required by statute and any other rules necessary to implement this constitutional provision.”

Safety net hospitals take a win in 2018-19 budget” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Hospitals serving large numbers of the state’s Medicaid patients “applauded” funding in the 2018-19 budget they say “puts patients before profits.” In a Thursday news release, the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida thanked budget writers for maintaining funding. The Legislature agreed to fund another $319 million — including the federal share — in the upcoming year’s budget, as they did for this year (2017-18). “Safety net hospitals ensure the highest level of care to all Floridians, regardless of their ability to pay,” it said. “By leaving intact this important funding policy, legislators showed compassion for the needs of low-income elderly, pregnant women, critically ill children and fragile newborns.”

Florida judges in line to get large raises” via The Associated Press — The new budget has a 36 percent pay raise for the seven justices on the Florida Supreme Court. It also raises the salaries of all judges, as well as prosecutors and public defenders. State law enforcement officers are in line for a seven-percent or 10 percent pay raise. State firefighters would receive a $2,500 pay raise. The Republican-controlled Legislature is scheduled to vote on the budget on Sunday and then send it to Gov. Scott.

Lawmakers give juvenile officers pay raises” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics ﹘ There is good news for juvenile detention and probation officers. They are getting a pay raise. The House and Senate agreed Wednesday to set aside $8 million in pay raises for the more than 2,000 detention and probation officers who work with at-risk youth in the state. That amount goes hand in hand with Gov. Scott’s spending plan proposal was before the Legislative Session began. The money commitment will amount to a 10-percent pay raise, which Scott hopes will help recruit and retain better detention and probation officers to work in the Department of Juvenile Justice.

‘It’s silly’: Senate won’t punish Enterprise Rent-a-Car for NRA move” Senate Budget Chief Rob Bradley said it would set “bad precedent” to go along with a House plan that would have financially punished Enterprise Rent-A-Car for cutting ties with the National Rifle Association. “I think that it’s silly to get involved in rebidding contracts … because you’re mad at a temporary moment in time about something that they have or haven’t done politically,” Bradley said. House members, mirroring what Georgia lawmakers were doing, tried to target an aviation fuel tax reduction benefiting Delta and a statewide rental car contract held by Enterprise after the companies severed ties with the NRA, according to a POLITICO Florida report. The rental car company’s contract expires in 2020. The House quietly proposed a plan that would have hurt Delta and Enterprise after the companies decided not to give NRA members discounts following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

It’s ‘silly’ to want to punish Enterprise Rent-A-Car for its stance on the NRA, says Rob Bradley.

Legislative leaders increase funding for UF project” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — Dozens of member projects were zeroed out as legislative leaders reached a deal on an $89 billion budget deal, but one University of Florida project was not only salvaged, it got double of what the House and Senate had initially agreed to. “It was about making sure that the projects that we chose had the greatest impact on the economy and greatest return on investments,” Senate Budget Chair Bradley told reporters after budget conference Wednesday night. The House and the Senate had initially agreed to fund the Data Science and Information Center at the University of Florida at $25 million, but on Wednesday once the budget deal had been agreed to, it got $50 million in funds.

Oscar winner’s Miami alma mater on the chopping block — again” via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida — The Legislature’s Republican leadership formally agreed to cut $500,000 in state grant funding to a Miami arts high school with a string of famous alumni, including 2017 Oscar winner Tarell Alvin McCraney. Last year, lawmakers had considered but abruptly reversed course on eliminating entirely a $650,000 recurring annual grant to New World School of the Arts after an outcry from McCraney and other graduates of the high school. McCraney, who won an Oscar for writing “Moonlight” together with Barry Jenkins, led a social media campaign decrying the cut to his innovative alma mater. The grant supports the school’s art programs through things like equipment and supplies, while money for the academic programs comes from the K-12 funding formula in the state budget. Other notable alumni include Alex Lacamoire, who served as music director and orchestrator for the Broadway shows “Hamilton” and “In the Heights,” and “Cocaine Cowboys” director Billy Corben. But it’s likely too late this year to put the money back in.

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Standing with victims’ families, Scott expected to sign into law gun control, school safety billvia Marc Caputo of POLITICOGov. Scott is expected to sign or signal support for an unprecedented $400 million school safety and gun control bill on Friday when families of the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre meet with him in Florida’s Capitol, according to state lawmakers who worked on the legislation. Scott’s office would neither confirm nor deny the governor’s intentions and instead pointed to his public statements pledging to study the bill in depth and to listen to the 17 families of those killed in the state’s worst school shooting in history. Those families banded together and urged the Florida House on Wednesday to approve the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, FL SB7026 (18R), which is now on Scott’s desk and awaits his approval or veto. The legislators who helped craft and push the bill — which passed the Florida Senate by just one vote on Monday — said they’ve been told or been given strong hints that Scott will approve the legislation, which closely mirrors a proposal he put forward after the Feb. 14 shootings in Parkland, Fla. State Sen. Lauren Book, a Broward County Democrat who helped organize and pay for Stoneman Douglas students to travel to Tallahassee to meet legislators, said she was being told on good authority that the Republican governor is “going to sign it. That’s my understanding.”

Largest school districts may skip armed ‘guardians’ program, even if Governor signs it” via Emily Mahoney and Jeffrey Solochek of the Miami Herald — The Broward, Duval and Hillsborough county school boards adopted formal statements opposing the idea of arming school personnel, and calling for adequate funding to support sworn officers in the schools instead. A day earlier, Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho made clear his district’s position, saying anyone who thinks arming educators is a solution is “absolutely out of their mind.” Also, a majority of Pasco County board members have signaled their dissent, as have officials in Pinellas County. “What’s the liability on that?” Pinellas board chair Renee Flowers asked … “We’re here to educate our students. Everyone has their own area of expertise. Cafeteria workers, maintenance people, librarians. … That’s not what they were hired for.” Among the state’s 12 biggest districts, only Brevard County leaders are seriously considering a proposal to arm school staff, though district spokeswoman Jennifer Wolfinger noted, “We haven’t agreed to it.” Lee County district leaders have not taken any public position.

Miami-Dade Schools chief Alberto Carvalho is one of the school leaders against arming teachers.

Donald Trump says Florida lawmakers were ‘listening to me’ on arming school personnel” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — “I want to congratulate the state of Florida and your representatives on some very good legislation that’s been passed,” Trump said at a Cabinet meeting. “I guess they’ve been listening to me a lot more because, unexpectedly, they passed concealed-carry for some very special teachers that have a great ability with weapons and with guns.” Trump added: “I guess they liked what I said. … A lot of people were surprised. I wasn’t so surprised. I think they did a great job in many respects.”

Lauren Book revives human trafficking legislation” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Sen. Book made headlines last week when she unexpectedly tabled a bill that would give victims of human trafficking the right to sue hotels that are complicit in the illicit activity. Only a few days later, the same provision is back — this time as an amendment Book sponsored and successfully tacked onto a House-backed bill that expands control and monitoring of sex offenders and predators in the state. The amended bill, HB 1301, was primed for a Senate floor vote on Thursday and could be voted on by the chamber as soon as Friday’s floor session. If approved, it would be sent back to the House for another vote. Though some in the chamber could have unspoken reservations for the otherwise popular measure. SB 1044 had stalled in a committee chaired by Republican Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, who also objected to Book’s attempt to bring the amendment onto HB 1301. Because Book’s amendment language already is provided in other legislation, Benacquisto argued the amendment was out of order.

House makes modest offer toward gambling compromise” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The House’s first stab on comprehensive gambling legislation this year includes a Spartan offer to the Senate of only three new slot machine licenses for pari-mutuels in counties that OK’d slots in local referendums. The Conference Committee on Gaming met for the first time Thursday evening; Rep. Mike La Rosa was elected chair. The proposal on the table would also require the selected counties to conduct a second referendum to confirm the first, to be held after July 1, the offer says.

— MORE CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Teachers union urges Scott to veto funds for arming school staff” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — The Florida Education Association wrote to the governor the day after the Legislature approved a gun-control and school-safety package that aims to improve school security in the wake of last month’s deadly shootings at a high school in Parkland. The union’s letter did not suggest Scott veto the bill but instead asked him to use his line-item power to cut from the state budget funding for the “Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program.” That program would allow some school employees, with training, to carry guns on campus. That section of the bill (HB 7026) was one of the most controversial and has prompted lots of debate.

’Thoughts and prayers’ bring pushback” via Dara Kam and Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Sen. Kelli Stargel said she’s been inundated with angry and hateful messages after she said “thoughts and prayers” were the best way to stop the evil behind mass shootings like the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. “The pushback has been incredible. As my daughter called it, it was the quote heard ‘round the world.” Stargel said her son, who lives in Chile, told her it showed up in his news feeds. The senator called the reaction “unfortunate” … “So we’re not just thinking and praying. But I think the pushback is indicative of the hate and anger that’s going on in our culture,” Stargel said. Stargel remains unapologetic for her comments, delivered during debate on the school-safety measure this week.

Legislature backs bill removing black farmer medical marijuana requirement” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — The Senate passed a bill (HB 6049) that would delete a provision from statutes requiring a black farmer to be a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association Florida Chapter to be eligible for one of the state’s medical marijuana growing licenses. The House passed the bill earlier, meaning it now awaits Gov. Scott’s approval to become law. The move comes in the wake of an ongoing lawsuit filed by Columbus Smith, a black farmer from Panama City who argued that the BFAA stipulation barred him from receiving a growing license.

Legislature backs PBMS, drug pricing legislation” via Lobby Tools —  Legislation revising requirements for pharmacy benefit managers and pharmacists heads to Gov. Scott’s desk after getting unanimous backing from the Florida Senate … HB 351 requires PBMs to register with the Office of Insurance Regulation if they do business in Florida. It also compels pharmacists in the state to relay the availability of lower cost, generic prescription drugs to patients. Scott will also receive a health care measure (HB 283) intended to allow the Lower Keys Medical Center to qualify for a Level I adult cardiovascular services license and better recruit cardiac physicians.

Lawmakers give boost to health care ‘ministries’” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — A bill that could increase enrollment in health care sharing ministries was passed by the Florida House and is headed to Gov. Scott. The House passed the measure (SB 660) by an 89-27 vote, with opposition coming from Democrats who expressed concerns that the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation doesn’t regulate the sharing arrangements. The Senate voted unanimously to pass the bill earlier in the session. Health care sharing ministries have been exempt from Florida’s insurance code since 2008 and limit participation to people who share the same religious beliefs. The bill would broaden the current law to include people with the same set of ethical or religious beliefs. The bill, if signed by Scott, would benefit some large health care ministries, including Melbourne-based Christian Care Ministries and its health care cost-sharing program known as Medi-Share.

Legislature wants to move up date of 2020 session” via The Associated Press — The Senate voted 34-3 to move the date of that year’s annual session from March to January. The House has already approved the bill and it now goes to Gov. Scott. Florida’s Constitution requires that legislators hold a session in March during odd-numbered years but legislators can move the date in even-numbered years. Sen. Oscar Braynon voted against the bill, saying that Tallahassee was “too cold” in January. Sen. Bill Galvano retorted that it was too hot later in the year.

Soon, troubled Pinellas construction board will lose independence” via Mark Puente of the Tampa Bay Times — County commissioners have been calling for the Legislature to reform the licensing board since January 2017. The coming reforms will reduce the number of licensing board members from 21 to 15. It also would subject the agency to annual financial audits and make commissioners responsible for appointing board members, instead of just approving recommendations made by the former executive director. The agency and its employees currently report to a board of mostly private contractors appointed by trade associations, not elected officials. Some current board members have served for decades. But the new rules will prevent board members from serving more than two consecutive four-year terms. The agency will also have to produce annual reports on how it serves contractors and taxpayers. A provision in the new law says the agency will be eligible for state funding for three years as it transitions to county government. But that doesn’t automatically mean the agency will become taxpayer-funded.

Governors Club special Friday lunch buffet menu — As Session extends (for a few more days), the Governors Club will offer a special Friday lunch menu with mixed green salad and assorted dressings; antipasto salad; egg salad; potato salad; macaroni salad; beefsteak; sausage and peppers; wild mushroom ravioli Bolognese; herb buttered orzo; Italian zucchini casserole; corn on the cob; strawberry cheesecake for dessert.

— SESSION’S ‘BIGGEST LOSERS’ ANNOUNCED

State Sen. Aaron Bean announced the winners of the Florida Legislature’s Annual Biggest Loser Weight Loss Competition. The eight-week contest is open to members of the legislature and Capitol employees who compete to lose the most weight during the legislative session.

“Session is a stressful time for everyone at the Capitol, and it is easy to put on a few pounds if you’re not careful,” Bean said.

The 2018 Biggest Loser Weight Loss Competition winners are:

— Men: Rep. Clovis Watson (27.5 lbs.); Gary Austin of the Sergeant’s Office (22 lbs.) and Kurt Schrader of Bill Drafting (16.5 lbs.).

— Women: Mary Cowart, an aide to Rep. Cynthia Stafford (17.5 lbs.); Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (16 lbs.) and House Policy Chief Heather Bishop (12 lbs.).

Honorable mentions: Reps. Larry Ahern, Tracie Davis and Bob Cortes, as well as Bean, Kevin Rader and Daphne Campbell. Rep. Bobby Payne won the “Steady Eddy” award by staying the same weight.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Chris King raises $265,441 in February” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The campaign raised $201,091 during the month and his political committee Rise and Lead raised $64,350, according to his campaign. Through the end of January, the campaign had raised just over $2 million and through Feb. 15 Rise and Lead had raised just over $1.2 million. King’s campaign and the political committee have now raised a grand total of $3,492,133 and have a combined total of $1,760,061 left in the bank.

Assignment editors — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine will speak at two events in Lee County, starting with a 7 p.m. speech at the Lee County Democratic Party Annual Gala at the La Venezia Ballroom, 4646 SE. 10th Pl. in Cape Coral. At 8 p.m., Levine will speak at the 2018 Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus Winter Conference at the Holiday Inn Fort Myers airport at town Center, 9931 Interstate Commerce Dr. in Fort Myers.

Crystal Ball updates Florida congressional seats to favor Democrats Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball made several updates in predictions for Congressional seats across the country, nearly all favoring Democrats. In Florida, Sarasota Republican Vern Buchanan’s 16th Congressional District moved from “safe Republican” to “likely Republican.” For Orlando Democrat Stephanie Murphy, her 7th Congressional District has been updated from “leans” to “likely Democratic.”

Larry Sabato made some ‘Crystal Ball’ changes, all good for Democrats.

Democratic super PAC reserves $1.1 million in Miami TV time” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — House Majority PAC has reserved just over $43 million for television ads in the final weeks of the 2018 election cycle nationwide. The outlay includes $1,119,500 in Miami and $420,000 in West Palm Beach. “The Republicans are panicking about losing their majority in the House, because they know that across the country Democrats have top-notch candidates running, and there’s a surge in grassroots participation,” House Majority PAC Executive Director Charlie Kelly said in a statement. “2018 will bring a barrage of frantic negative attack ads from GOP outside groups, but HMP is ensuring we’re prepared early-on to fight back. Momentum is on our side, and with smart, strategic investments, we will help Democrats win across the country.” The most competitive House election in Miami is expected to be incumbent Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo‘s race against Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

Donna Shalala seeks to fight Trump if elected to Congress” via Adriana Gomez Licon of The Associated Press — Former Bill Clinton cabinet member Shalala is vying to win the Democratic nomination to flip a Florida district long held by a popular Republican congresswoman, but her sights are already set on Trump. President Clinton’s former Health and Human Services secretary is 77, a decade older than the retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and she’s never run for elective office before. But she told The Associated Press that Trump is an “embarrassment” and Democrats must stop him “from making terrible decisions.” Shalala says it will be no easy feat to replace Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring after 30 years in Congress and is well loved among Miami’s Cuban-American voters. … a poll in late January showed her ahead in a crowded Democratic field that includes Florida Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell, former federal judge Mary Barzee Flores and four other contenders. At least two Republicans also are running.

Joe Gruters is running for the state Senate” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Gruters will run for Florida’s Senate District 23, which covers Sarasota County and part of Charlotte. The seat is being vacated by Sen. Greg Steube, who is resigning to run for Congress. “This campaign is about fighting every waking hour for a community that has given me so much,” Gruters said in his announcement. After losing two state House races at a young age, Gruters worked for U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan and eventually took over as Sarasota GOP chairman, a position that brought him in contact with Trump. With Gruters hinting for weeks that he will run for the Senate, a number of potential candidates have been exploring running for his state House seat, including Lakewood Ranch Republican Club President Steve Vernon and Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh. Democrat Liv Coleman, a college professor from Bradenton, already has filed to run for the House seat.

— PARKLAND —

Parkland shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz withdraws not guilty plea, stands mute on 34 counts” via Elliot Kleinberg of the Palm Beach Post — Nikolas Cruz withdrew his not guilty plea Thursday and instead chose to “stand mute,” according to a court motion. A grand jury in Broward County has formally indicted Nikolas Cruz in the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High … The panel charged the 19-year-old with 17 counts of premeditated first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder in the mass shooting.

— “Nikolas Cruz handcuffed over Xbox fight with mom; reports reveal years of turmoil” via David Fleshler of the Sun-Sentinel

Audio files detail response in Parkland school shooting” via Linda Trischitta of the Sun Sentinel — It had been 11 minutes since Cruz unleashed his deadly barrage of gunfire inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. That’s when four Coral Springs police officers and two Broward Sheriff’s deputies entered the 1200 building, according to a timeline and radio calls released Thursday by the sheriff’s office. Responders didn’t know where the gunman was or whether there were more shooters. … “Analysis of the audiotapes indicates that there was not a lot of accurate information, it was a rapidly evolving scene and the sounds of gunfire were difficult to pinpoint,” Broward Sheriff Colonel Jack Dale said Thursday. … Coral Springs fire dispatchers got the first 911 call about a shooting a minute after it started. Cell calls made to 911 in Parkland go to Coral Springs’ communications center.

Anthony Borges, Stoneman Douglas student shot five times, returns to intensive care” via David Fleshler, Wells Dusenbury and David Lyons of the Sun-Sentinel — Anthony Borges is a tough, well-conditioned student-athlete who is defying the odds. Doctors operated on Borges on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, and he is now in stable condition … During the shooting last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, the 15-year-old used his body to block a classroom door, saving the lives of numerous students. Shot five times, he was among the most seriously wounded of the survivors … “He’s doing OK now,” the lawyer, Alex Arreaza, said Thursday afternoon. … Doctors detected a possible abdominal infection and an ulcer in his small intestine from the impact of one of the bullets, his father, Royer Borges, wrote on Facebook. “So they decided to intervene and cut that section of the small intestine so that my son’s life wasn’t further compromised,” he wrote.

Hillary Clinton gives Emma Gonzalez a shout-out on International Women’s Day” via the Sun-Sentinel — Parkland student Emma Gonzalez has been an inspiration to many — including Hillary Clinton. The former presidential candidate tweeted about who inspires her on International Women’s Day. She listed Gonzalez among a group “whose righteous voices have pushed us to see possibility and a path forward on gun violence prevention.” With her tweet, Clinton included a photo of Gonzalez speaking at the emotional town hall at the BB&T Center following the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Bill Nelson takes Twitter to task, says hoax ‘scares me to death’” via Tim Johnson for the Miami Herald — Nelson said Twitter is taking steps to guard against the kind of fake tweets that hit The Miami Herald last month, but that “a lot more has got to be done.” Nelson called for a technical summit, led perhaps the Federal Trade Commission, to “get all of the relevant companies in the same room and talk about this problem with a collective sense of urgency and come up with some solutions.” Such a summit should include social media platforms, digital content companies, software developers, news organizations and government agencies, he said. However, the Twitter executives who met with Nelson declined to identify those behind the hoax, which came shortly after the Feb. 14 high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead. In the aftermath of the school massacre, a perpetrator sent out tweets containing manipulated images purporting to tweet from a reporter at the Herald … The fake tweets appeared intended to rile the public, asking the race of the gunman and seeking photos from the scene.

— STATEWIDE —

Scott, Cabinet delay dozens of voting rights cases after legal setback” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Dozens of people who lost the right to vote from long-ago felony convictions remain in limbo because a federal judge has struck down Florida’s civil rights restoration process as unconstitutional. After waiting for years for their petitions to be considered, they traveled to Tallahassee to seek mercy from Scott and the three Cabinet members, who meet quarterly as the board of clemency. But with the restoration process discredited by the courts, the cases weren’t considered. “Several cases that were scheduled to be heard have been continued because a federal judge has objected to our system for restoring civil rights,” Scott said as the meeting began. “Although we strongly disagree with the judge’s ruling, we will respect his order not to consider applications for restoration of civil rights while we appeal his decision.”

Gun falls out of Florida kindergartner’s backpack in class” via The Associated Press — A gun fell out of a kindergartner’s backpack in a Florida charter school classroom, but it didn’t fire and it is unclear how it got there. Somerset Academy Lakes Elementary spokeswoman Lynn Norman-Teck said the child’s teacher immediately picked up the gun after it fell Thursday morning and no students were endangered. Principal Clint Duvo informed parents about the incident on the West Palm Beach school’s Facebook page. He wrote that the child didn’t know how the gun got into the backpack and had no intention of bringing it to school.

Noor Salman trial: ‘I would view her as a terrorist,’ man says in jury selection for Pulse gunman’s widow” via Krista Torralva of the Orlando Sentinel — A retired Air Force veteran considered for the jury in the federal trial of Noor Salman served a harsh opinion of Pulse gunman Omar Mateen’s widow. “I would view her as a terrorist,” he said Thursday, day six of jury selection. “I question why she’s being tried in [civilian] court versus a military tribunal.” The man, whose work since 2001 has included involvement in the War on Terror, was excused. By the end of the day, lawyers had approved 46 potential jurors. … U.S. District Judge Paul Byron has said he wants to get 60 for the lawyers to pick from. During questioning, some potential jurors admitted their judgment might be influenced by media coverage; their proximity to the club, which has been a makeshift memorial since the June 12, 2016, shooting that killed 49; and relationships with survivors.

Worst story of the day — “At Florida home for the disabled, scathing report comes on heels of bizarre death” via Monique Madan of the Miami Herald — Carlton Palms Educational Center in Mount Dora is a gorgeous place … the only one in the state that’s licensed to care for intellectually disabled Floridians with severe behavioral challenges … It’s also the place where 26-year-old William James Lamson died last week after beating his head against objects in his bedroom …  Five years before that, it was where a nonverbal Broward girl succumbed to dehydration days after her arrival at her new home. In 1997, it was where Jon Henley, 14, was found dead in his bed with low levels of anti-seizure medicine in his system. Most recently, it was where a man was beaten up by his caregivers. The young man’s death — currently being investigated by the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Children & Families — came days before a federally funded advocacy group released a 33-page report detailing “abuse or neglect” at the long-troubled complex for disabled people with complex behavioral problems.

Carlton Palms facility for mentally disabled in Mount Dora.

Pinellas sheriff: Former investigator lied about protecting kids” via Kathryn Varn of the Tampa Bay Times — Steven Urban, 29, faces 10 counts of falsifying records, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said. An internal review found that his conduct spans many more cases: Out of 142 child welfare cases over a year period, Urban lied or reported misleading information in 75 of them, the review found. In one recent case, he reported that he had interviewed a family member who died in 2014. “This guy needs to go to prison,” Gualtieri said during a news conference. “He needs the harshest of consequences … because he put kids in harm’s way.” Urban, who had worked at the sheriff’s office for six years, resigned Jan. 17 soon after he was confronted with the allegations, Gualtieri said. He made about $47,500 a year.

— OPINIONS —

Scott should veto school safety bill, demand better” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — To be sure, there are positive provisions in this $400 million package. Yet those improvements are outweighed by a dangerous plan to secretly arm school personnel such as counselors, librarians, coaches — and some teachers. Allowing more guns in schools held by anyone other than uniformed law enforcement officers is opposed by teachers, Tampa Bay school districts and most voters. It’s also opposed by black lawmakers who legitimately fear children of color could be particularly at risk in a violent situation. A last-minute revision that renames this program and exempts many teachers from participating may help solve a political problem for the governor, who has opposed arming teachers. In practice, it would be just as risky and unacceptable. The scope of the reforms should match the magnitude of the challenge of protecting our children. Scott should veto this bill, call the Legislature into special session later this month and insist on a more vigorous approach.

— MOVEMENTS —

Fish and Wildlife picks spark Senate debate” via the News Service of Florida — Senate Democrats objected to three of Gov. Scott’s appointees to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission — though the appointees were ultimately confirmed. Sen. Gary Farmer questioned the qualifications of Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission appointees Gary Nicklaus, Sonya Rood and Gary Lester. That led Republicans to defend the governor’s choices. “These people are of honor and integrity and deserve our vote,” Sen. Aaron Bean said. Senators then voted 23-14 to approve the nomination of Nicklaus; 25-12 to approve the nomination of Rood, and 24-13 to approve the nomination of Lester.

UCF poised to choose its next president” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — The Board of Trustees is expected to select the University of Central Florida’s next President Friday from a pool of four finalists who have visited the campus for interviews and meetings with students, staff and the public. All of the finalists, which include UCF Provost Dale Whittaker, are high-level administrators at research universities. The others vying for the post are Suresh Garimella, executive vice president for research and partnerships at Purdue University; Mark Kennedy, president at the University of North Dakota; and Matt Wilson, president of the University of Akron.

Former El Nuevo Herald editor is Miami-Dade mayor’s new spokeswoman” via Doug Hanks of the Miami Herald — Myriam Marquez, the former El Nuevo Herald editor, will take on the top communications job in Miami-Dade County as the new spokeswoman for Mayor Carlos Gimenez. The veteran editor and columnist takes on the $175,000-a-year county post with the title of senior adviser and communications director for the county. That puts her in charge of all press shops across the bureaucracy. Marquez, who left the Spanish-language paper last summer, also used to be the Miami Herald’s Editorial Page. Marquez replaces Mike Hernández, a political consultant hired in 2014 as Gimenez revved up for what was a successful 2016 reelection campaign. Term limits require Gimenez to exit the mayor’s office in 2020. In a news release, Marquez said: “I share the Mayor’s vision of improving our residents’ quality of life in cost-efficient ways that protect their pockets, and I am excited about all the innovations underway.”

— WEEKEND TV —

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues that affect the area’s citizens.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion of domestic violence, the rise in reported cases and the need for dedicated detectives on these types of cases. Joining Walker-Torres are Clara Reynolds, president and CEO, Crisis Center of Tampa Bay; Carolina Cassedy, senior at Robinson High School, Get Loud Program; Roseanne Cupoli, chief program officer, The Spring of Tampa Bay; Michelle Sperzel, CEO, Harbor House; Judge Alice L. Blackwell, Ninth Judicial Circuit Court.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A look back at the 2018 Legislative Session. Anchors Ybeth Bruzual and Al Ruechel along with reporter Troy Kinsey will break down the legislative session and discuss which bills were passed and failed. Allison Graves with PolitiFact Florida will use the Truth-O-Meter to rate claims that came out of Session.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests: Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute Director Rick Mullaney.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg talk current events and host a weekly roundtable with newsmakers.

— ALOE —

Landmark restaurant Andrew’s completes major renovations” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Dressed in a loose black T-shirt and jeans, Andrew Reiss is a casual contrast to the army of suits at Andrew’s. He spoke about how $300,000 in renovations offered an overdue face-lift to his landmark restaurant … The interior, a museum of downtown images, was dated. Two years ago, Reiss stepped down as the owner and took on a supervisory role as longtime General Manager Jack Penrod took ownership of Epicurean Partners Inc., the company that owns Andrew’s Grill and Bar, Andrew’s 228 and Andrew’s Catering. Now, trendy garage doors replaced windows. The pergola’s wood slots allow sunshine to poke through in the fall and winter and provide protection in the warmer months. At night, gas lamps burn bright. Remodeling also included fresh paint, indoor furniture (outdoor furniture to come), refreshed bathrooms and a timeline of Andrew’s history through its various logos since the restaurant opened as The Deli in 1972.

How pink became sine die tradition in Tallahassee” via Florida Politics — Pink is the tradition for Capitol veterans to pay tribute to the late lobbyist Marvin Arrington. “Marvin was here for a long time, and he had a tradition of wearing a pink sports coat on the last day of Session,” said Wayne Malaney, who lobbies for newspaper publishers. In 2002, Arrington succumbed to a heart attack in a parking lot a block north of the Capitol. It was the Monday of the last week of session for that year. By the time people realized he was in crisis, smoke from the spinning of his car tires filled the downtown area. “Marvin wore pink carnations and no one serving today was here when Marvin was, but those who remembered him by wearing pink,” said Keith Arnold, who served in the House in the 1980s and 1990s and now lobbies. The last day of the 2002 session, Arrington’s son, Reynolds, and nephew, Patrick, showed up at the Capitol wearing Arrington’s trademark pink jackets. Joining them are more than 100 lobbyists sporting pink: carnations, jackets, shirts, all responding to Reynolds’ request to remember his dad with a display of pink.

Lobbyists wear their pink, in honor of Marvin Arrington, an insurance lobbyist with an affinity for pink who died during the last week of the 2002 Session, on the fourth floor Friday, May 5, 2017, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. Photo by Phil Sears

Tallahassee not the only town with ‘sine die’ traditions” via Florida Politics — In Idaho, capital reporters wear ugly ties near session’s end to “encourage legislators to finish their business quickly and go home” …  In the Magnolia State, Mississippi State University lobbyists put tomato seedlings “on the desks of legislators, staff members and sometimes statehouse reporters.” In Georgia, lawmakers toss ripped paper into the air above their desks, and in Alabama, legislators give a “shroud” award to the bill deemed least likely to pass.

Watch out: Daylight Saving Time may cause heart attack spike” via Laura Geggel of Live Science — As people set their clocks forward an hour for daylight saving time this Sunday (March 8), they may also want to take extra care of their heart. That’s because people tend to have more heart attacks on the Monday following spring’s daylight saving time … In fact, the number of heart attacks increased 24 percent on the Monday following a daylight saving time, compared with the daily average for the weeks surrounding the start of daylight saving time, according to a 2014 study in the journal Open Heart. With this in mind, people who are at risk of a heart attack — such as those who smoke, have a strong family history of heart attack or have high cholesterol or high blood pressure — shouldn’t delay a trip to the emergency room if they feel chest pain, said senior researcher Dr. Hitinder Gurm an interventional cardiologist and an associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Health System. “If you start to get some chest pain and indigestion that doesn’t want to go away, please get it checked out,” Gurm said.

Happy birthday to the great Kristy Campbell, Melissa Akeson of The Rubin Group, David Bennett, former state House candidate J.B. Bensmihen, Vanessa Thompson, and Jamie Van Pelt. Celebrating this weekend are Sen. Doug Broxson and Arek Whatshisface with Tiger Beat on the Potomac.

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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