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Mitch Perry Report for 4.2.15 — Florida Republicans and immigration

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There’s lot of stories in the news this week about the Republican Party and social issues. Both Mike Pence in Indiana (considered a 2016 presidential possibility) and Asa Hutchison in Arkansas have asked for tweaks in their Religious Freedom Restoration Act bills, after the firestorm it’s created nationally, particularly amongst business groups.

Another issue that the Republicans have had to dance with carefully on is immigration, where there has always been a schism between the business side of the party and social conservatives.

This played out for a moment yesterday in the Florida state Senate, where Democrats, led by Orlando state Sen. Darren Soto, asked in a discussion about the budget to include language prohibiting state money from being used to join a Texas lawsuit against President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Attorney General Pam Bondi joined that lawsuit last December, leading to protests among immigration activists over the past few months.

This is the same Senate that a year ago (an election year) passed a Jack Latvala-sponsored bill allowing students who are undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Florida colleges and universities. It also passed a bill to allow undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children to practice law.

The Senate initially voted yesterday 16-15 to approve Soto’s amendment — a total rebuke to Bondi.

That’s when Latvala did a flip-flop, saying he had a momentary lapse of reason in supporting Soto because he sympathized with him on the issue. But tradition trumped sympathy, with Latvala saying that it was Senate custom for the the leaders of budget subcommittees to support the budget chairman. And in this case, Budget Chair Tom Lee didn’t support Soto’s amendment.

The Senate then took a second vote, where the Soto amendment died on a voice vote.

It’ll will be interesting how the Legislature acts on issues regarding immigration next year, when voters go to the polls to vote for president and U.S. Senate, among other office-holders in Florida.

In other news…

Yesterday was a big day for Tampa, though there’s been little change in personnel after last month’s municipal elections.

Bob Buckhorn gave one of his boldest, biggest speeches since becoming mayor four years ago yesterday, after he was sworn in for a new second-year term. If things go the mayor’s way, he won’t be around for all four years, however.

There was a change, however, in the leadership of the City Council, as Frank Reddick was voted on by his colleagues in a 4-3 vote over current incumbent Council Chairman Charlie Miranda.

On Tuesday, Ocala House Republican Dennis Baxley was on a conservative radio talk show, once again defending his flip flop on the gay adoption bill that passed the House last month.

And Ted Cruz is surging, and Jeb Bush is struggling with conservative voters, in a new Public Policy Polling survey released yesterday.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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