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Sunburn for February 24 — Happy Seersucker Day!

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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.

SCREW THE CALENDAR AND WEAR YOUR SEERSUCKER TODAY (This is such a fun story I want to make sure everyone knows Jenna wrote it)

The rules of seersucker are simple.

Wear a pastel tie and make sure it matches your socks. Pairing black shoes with your snazzy suit is a no-no. And definitely don’t wear it outside of seersucker season, which for some means runs from Easter to Labor Day.

The Florida Legislature is bending that last rule this year. Blame it on an early session or Floridians undying love for lightweight fabric. Either way, seersucker will be the outfit du jour Wednesday.

It’s Seersucker Day at the Florida Capitol. The annual event usually occurs in April. But with Session scheduled to end in early March, some are saying to heck with the rules and pulling out their favorite seersucker ensemble.

Others are scratching their heads. Is it OK to wear the thin, all-cotton, striped garb in February? What about when the temperature isn’t expected to get above 70 degrees?

Wear it, said Cheryl Lampard, a stylist and the founder of Style Matters International in Naples. Sure, it’s a summer suit. And it definitely is not summer — in fact, it’s only supposed to be 67 degrees Wednesday. But Lampard said if that’s the theme, “you have to stick to it.”

“I think you can do it,” she said.

But how?

Lampard suggested sticking to the classic navy and white version of seersucker. Wear the jacket with a pair of dark pants, instead of the full suit. Or just find a nice seersucker tie for a pop of the spirit.

For women, Lampard suggested pairing a seersucker jacket with a darker skirt or put a shirt under their dress to create a layered look.

“You have to honor it,” said Lampard. “But it shows a bit of creativity to put other things with it.”

Victor Gavalas, owner of Nic’s Toggery in Tallahassee, is skeptical a February Seersucker Day will be a smashing success. Gavalas said he usually sees clients coming in to get seersucker suits, but that hasn’t been happening this year. The early session, Gavalas said, might mean fewer people participate.

Those who do decide to don their favorite outfit will definitely stand out.

“You can’t muffle seersucker,” said Gavalas.

Florida isn’t the only place that celebrates seersucker. In the late 1990s, Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott decided one Thursday each June would be deemed Seersucker Thursday in the U.S. Senate. The tradition continued until 2012, when Senate cloakroom staff said the tradition was being discontinued.

It was revived in 2014 by the Louisiana Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy and Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Not everyone is a fan, though. In 2013, a Missouri senator proposed banning anyone over 8 years old from wearing seersucker suits. He eventually withdrew that suggestion.

So what would one of seersucker’s biggest booster do if he was still in the Florida House? Former state Rep. Jimmy Patronis, a Panama City Republican, said he doesn’t think he has ever worn seersucker until after Easter.

patronis

“I’m a little bit of a purist,” he said.

Patronis jokingly suggested members who want to participate set their clock 33 days fast — that’s how many days until Easter Sunday — so they can blame their iPhone if anyone questions their decision.

And as for whether he’ll be partaking Wednesday? Well, Patronis will be in Tallahassee for a Florida Public Service Commission meeting, but he didn’t bring his suit. He said he didn’t realize his former colleagues would be celebrating seersucker. Don’t worry, though, he will fully honor the tradition — just not right yet.

“I’ll find an appropriate time this summer to fully honor the tradition,” he said.

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DONALD TRUMP WINS NEVADA; MARCO RUBIO ELBOWS PAST TED CRUZ FOR SECOND via The Associated Press – Notching three in a row, Donald Trump decisively won Nevada’s Republican caucuses Tuesday as Marco Rubio bid to elbow out Ted Cruz for second place in an increasingly urgent effort to slam the brakes on the Trump juggernaut. Trump now can claim victories in the West, the South and Northeast — a testament to his broad appeal among the mad-as-hell voters making their voices heard in the 2016 presidential race. His rivals are running out of time to stop him.

“We’re winning, winning, winning the country,” Trump declared. “Soon, the country is going to start winning, winning, winning.” Ticking off a list of upcoming primary states where he’s leading in preference polls, Trump predicted he’ll soon be able to claim the GOP nomination. “It’s going to be an amazing two months,” he told a raucous crowd at a Las Vegas casino. “We might not even need the two months, folks, to be honest.”

With time running out, Nevada was a critical test for Rubio and Cruz, the two senators battling to emerge as the clear alternative to the GOP front-runner. Rubio was out to prove he can build on recent momentum, while Cruz was looking for a spark to help him recover from a particularly rocky stretch in his campaign. Lagging far behind the two senators in the Nevada vote were John Kasich and Ben Carson.

Rubio, already campaigning in Michigan as caucus results rolled in, sought to project confidence that he can consolidate the non-Trump voters who have been splintering among an assortment of GOP candidates, saying “we have incredible room to grow.” But after finishing third in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire and second in South Carolina, Rubio needs a win soon to support the idea he can beat Trump.

FLASHBACK to December 2015: “Nevada is Rubio’s firewall but Cruz could tear it down” via National Review

ENTRANCE POLLS — A clear majority of those attending the Nevada caucuses want the next president to be from outside the political establishment, driving businessman Trump to victory. The 6 in 10 caucus-goers who said they prefer an outsider over someone with political experience was a higher percentage than in any other GOP primary or caucus so far, according to the entrance poll conducted for the Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research.

But in a silver lining for Rubio, he earned majority support from those who’d rather have the next president be someone with political experience. That made him the first candidate to consolidate that support in any early primary or caucus state.

About 4 in 10 Nevada caucus-goers were born-again Christians, but they failed to give much of a bump to Cruz, who has campaigned hard for their support. In fact, about 4 in 10 of them supported Trump. Even Rubio caught Cruz among that group, with about a quarter of evangelicals supporting each.

Trump was supported by an overwhelming majority — nearly 9 in 10 — of those caring most about having a candidate who “tells it like it is” and by 6 in 10 who wanted a candidate who can bring change. Rubio was supported by about half those who cared most about electability.

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RICK SCOTT FLOATED AS POTENTIAL VP CHOICE FOR DONALD TRUMP via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — [Quiet] speculation broke out in the open … when The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza listed Scott on a short-list of possible vice presidential candidates that Trump might be contemplating as he continues to roll through the Republican primary and caucus calendar. Like Trump, Scott was a lifelong nonpolitician until he opted to run for governor in 2010. Like Trump, Scott made a fortune in the private sector. Scott does have that unfortunate blemish on his business record: the $1.7 billion for Medicare fraud that occurred at Columbia/HCA. Scott created the health care company in 1987 and quit it in 1997, less than four months after a federal inquiry became public. But as Cillizza writes, “this is Donald Trump we are talking about.”

POLL DU JOUR: A new Rasmussen Reports survey finds Trump leading the GOP presidential field with 36 percent support, followed by Rubio at 21 percent and Cruz at 17 percent. For Trump, that’s a five-point gain in support from the beginning of this month while Rubio’s support has held steady, while support for Cruz has fallen slightly.

FLORIDA EARLY BALLOT VOTE UPDATE — As of Tuesday morning: Absentees mailed — Republican: 856,215; Democrat: 720,650; NMP: 50,808; Total: 1,627,673; 84,457 new ballots returned Monday, Feb. 22. Ballots returned — Republican: 188,752; Democrat: 164,012; NMP: 10,098; Total: 362,862. Early voting begins in the following counties Monday, February 29: Baker, Calhoun, Charlotte, Desoto, Duval, Hendry, Hillsborough, Lake, Levy, Liberty, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Orange, Polk, Santa Rosa and Taylor.

FIRST ON FLORIDA POLITICS — “BRINGING THE FAMILY TOGETHER” THE FOCUS OF TALLAHASSEE GATHERING OF MARCO RUBIO INSIDERS AND SUPPORTERS via Florida Politics — Approximately 100 Florida lawmakers and A-list insiders attended a briefing in Tallahassee designed to ‘bring the Florida family together’ in support of Rubio‘s White House bid … the organization meeting’s purpose was to update Rubio supporters on specific ways they can help Rubio in the run-up to Florida’s primary … the briefing was led by former House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, who is Co-Chairman of Rubio’s Florida effort. Longtime Rubio adviser Todd Reid gave a presentation outlining the victory plan, while lobbyist Nick Iarossi presented a finance plan.

— “Florida GOP establishment ignores Trump mojo” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

RIVALS NO MORE, RUBIO AND JEB BUSH TALK AND AGREE TO MEET via Jeremy Peters of The New York Times — Leaving Nevada … for a day of campaigning in Minnesota and Michigan, Rubio told reporters that he had spoken with Bush … the two planned to meet sometime in the near future. Rubio said he had not asked for Bush’s endorsement. “He’s just decompressing from this election … And trying to get going again in the rest of his life. But we’ll meet and talk soon enough.” He characterized their talk as friendly. “A nice conversation,” he said. “We’re going to get together soon.” Despite the acrimony between their two campaigns, Rubio said, “Things happen … But that’s never changed my feelings toward him. And I don’t think that has changed his feelings toward me.”

BEST, YET UNSURPRISING, ANECDOTE OF THE DAY via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — “(JebBush was supposed to be in Charleston three days after launching his candidacy in June, but he was forced to cancel after a gunman killed nine people at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The venue for his town hall became the site for emergency news conferences instead. And Bush’s South Carolina aides, led by Brett Doster, stuck around — because they had to undo their setup, but also to hand out refreshments they had already paid for to police officers, city leaders and reporters. It was a kind gesture on a day when politics suddenly didn’t seem so important.”

TWEET, TWEET: @bethreinhard: Jeb Bush doing thank-you call with national finance team (today).

KOCH BROTHERS’ DC GURU JOINS RUBIO TEAM via Mike Allen of POLITICO — Marc Short, the Koch brothers’ top political adviser in Washington and a trusted member of their inner circle for five years, is making a surprise move to the Rubio campaign as a senior adviser as the Republican establishment ramps up efforts to stop Trump. Short — president of Freedom Partners, the Kochs’ umbrella political organization — will join the campaign in about a week and brings deep connections to the donor and grassroots worlds. “Marc has been running the most sophisticated political operation for the last few cycles, and really knows the mood of the electorate,” said Scott Reed, senior political strategist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “This is a big sign of consolidation by the party.”

TWEET, TWEET: @TheRickWilson: It is difficult to exaggerate how consequential this is for @marcorubio‘s efforts.

MORE RICK WILSON — “With God as my witness, I will not vote for Donald Trump

RUBIO WINNING WALL STREET FUNDRAISING RACE via Ginger Gibson and Grant Smith of Reuters — [Rubio] has received more than $4 million from the employees of banks and investment firms like Bank of America Corp … Deutsche Bank … and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. … since launching his bid for the presidency … Bush … came in second in Wall Street donations, accumulating $2.45 million in contributions, while Democratic hopeful Clinton took third place with $723,361. More money could be on the way for Rubio as the Republican field narrows. Within minutes of Bush leaving the race, for example, some of his donors told Reuters they were preparing to throw their financial support behind Rubio.

GOP MEGADONOR COMMITS TO RUBIO via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — Rubio just bagged up another, big GOP mega-donor — Kentucky billionaire Joe Craft … Craft and his fiancé, Kelly Knight, are adding their names to the growing list of prominent donors who are giving their support to Rubio. Knight confirmed the decision in a text message.

RUBIO ENDORSEMENT SPREE MAY BE TOO LATE via Anna Palmer and Eli Stokols of POLITICO — During the last 72 hours, Rubio has racked up more than 20 endorsements from high-profile Republican leaders such as Bob Dole, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Prominent megadonors like Joe Craft and political operatives including the Koch brother’s political guru Marc Short have also jumped on board … The torrent of support follows months of calculated overtures from top Rubio operatives to Republicans on the sidelines and those supporting other candidates, with the senator making the case in public and private that he is the only Republican candidate who can unify the party and beat Clinton. The groundswell of support is being spurred by the increasingly urgent calls to stop Trump, a critical enough problem that mainstream Republicans are suddenly able to look past the fact that Rubio hasn’t won a single early primary contest and that he doesn’t have a clear Super Tuesday victory in sight. And it’s unclear if they’ll move the needle for Rubio, whose support in the early primaries has been stuck in the low 20s.

GUESS WHAT CAMPAIGN INFO CHRIS CHRISTIE JUST SOLD TO RUBIO? via Claude Brodesser-Akner of NJ.com — Christie‘s now-suspended presidential campaign has sold its email list of supporters and donors to … Rubio … That means those who supported the governor are now getting messages from Rubio, who was Christie’s prime target during the New Hampshire primary. The first email message went out Sunday afternoon.

JOHN KASICH TROLLS RUBIO OVER FLORIDA POLLS via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — My home-state poll numbers are bad, but yours are worse. Kasich sent message to Rubio after a Quinnipiac University survey showed the Ohio governor trailing Trump 31-26 percent in the Buckeye State. “When it comes to winning home state primaries, John Kasich is in a far superior position when compared to Senator Rubio,” Kasich’s campaign wrote on its blog, which featured three old polls from January that showed Trump destroying Rubio in Florida. This is what the GOP presidential race has come to: downplaying Trump’s strength, fighting for second and bragging that everyone else is doing worse. In Kasich’s case, it also means cherry-picking numbers. Trump’s five-percentage-point margin over Kasich isn’t much bigger than the 7-point lead Trump has over Rubio in the most recent Florida survey, conducted by Florida Southern College. Rubio’s campaign said it “feels good about where we are” but had no further comment.

MY TAKE: REPORT SHOWS TRUMP, CRUZ-LED TICKET COULD SPELL DOWN-BALLOT GOP TROUBLE IN FLORIDA via Florida Politics — If Trump becomes the nominee, states holding U.S. Senate races — Florida is among them — could see trouble for Republicans and the future of the GOP-controlled Senate. A new Smart Politics report shows that rarely — or never — does a state vote for a Republican U.S. Senator and elect a Democratic presidential nominee. Of the 18 states voting for a Democratic presidential nominee with a Republican U.S. Senate candidate in the same election cycle, 11 will hold Senate races in 2016, including five crucial battlegrounds: Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Arizona, and Indiana. Of course, Trump or Cruz at the top of the ticket in November does not automatically mean Republicans will lose down-ballot. But Smart Politics reports that in Florida, it would be a first. In those five states with a Democratic winner in over 35 election cycles that also had U.S. Senate races, Republicans lost all 35: 10 times in Florida, nine each in North Carolina and Wisconsin, five times in Arizona and twice in Indiana. Conversely, Kansas is the only state never to split the ticket the other way; that is, electing a GOP nominee for president and a Democrat for U.S. Senate.

HERE’S HOW TRUMP COULD BECOME PRES. via Zach Carter and Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post — If he succeeds in the Rust Belt, look out … Trump has a perfectly plausible path to the presidency as a Republican. If he makes it to the White House, he’ll get there by taking the Upper Midwest back from the Democratic Party. … Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Together, those four Rust Belt states account for 64 electoral votes. … All he has to do is carry the Rust Belt — a region perfectly attuned to Trump’s fiery denunciations of American trade policy and his angry condemnation of Washington corruption.

IF YOU READ ONE THING — MY VERY PECULIAR AND SPECULATIVE THEORY OF WHY THE GOP HAS NOT STOPPED TRUMP via Daniel Drezner of The Washington Post — Basically, I think the fault lies with political scientists. For the past few years, political scientists and pollsters have developed a number of explanations, indicators and theories for why some candidates do well and others don’t. The Party Decides, for example, has been the primary theory driving how political analysts have thought about presidential campaigns. It seemed to explain nomination fights of the recent past quite well. GOP decision-makers also read the same analyses and concluded that they did not need to do anything to stop Trump. Sure, his poll numbers stayed robust even after he kept saying racist and insulting things, but there were good auxiliary hypotheses to explain why that was the case. They kept reading analysis after analysis in 2015 about how Donald Trump had little chance of winning the GOP nomination. They read smart take after smart take telling them that Trump didn’t have a chance. Even as the media covered Trump, even as late as the South Carolina debate, pundits were also talking about how his latest transgressive comment would doom his chances. So GOP leaders didn’t take any action. Except that the reason smart analysts believed Trump had no chance was because they thought GOP leaders would eventually take action. Just how much of Trump’s rise came about because the people who could have stopped him read analyses asserting that he had no chance of winning? How much did political scientists refute their own hypotheses?

REPUBLICAN GOVERNORS RELUCTANT TO WEIGH IN ON TRUMP via the National Journal — Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernors on hand … for the Na­tion­al Gov­ernors As­so­ci­ation winter meet­ing demon­strated a near-uni­form un­will­ing­ness to en­ter­tain the idea of … Trump as the GOP pres­id­en­tial nom­in­ee. Asked about that pro­spect, many offered a sim­il­ar re­frain: I’d rather not say. They took pains to cau­tion — with a hint of hope­ful­ness in their voices — that much could yet change. … The col­lect­ive hes­it­ancy about Trump … mirrored the stunned dis­be­lief among party fig­ure­heads that the com­bat­ive real-es­tate mogul could yet emerge vic­tori­ous from the GOP primar­ies.

NO TRUMP OR BERNIE SANDERS FOR FLORIDA LAWMAKERS via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Neither of their insurgent presidential campaigns has any publicly professed supporters in Tallahassee … For the most part, GOP lawmakers have been backers of Florida sons Rubio or Bush … Democrats who have announced endorsements back Clinton. Members of both parties acknowledge that an anti-establishment message is resonating with many voters, but they aren’t prepared to adopt Trump’s vehement anti-illegal immigration rhetoric or Sanders’ calls for a political “revolution” … “I think there’s bipartisan anger against Washington, D.C., which increasingly is denying the needs of the 320 million people in America,” said Rep. Scott Plakon … a Rubio supporter. “The question is what to do about that anger, and I think the answer to that is to elect the right person that will right that ship.” Still, of Trump, Plakon said, “being angry is not governing.”

BILL CLINTON TO APPEAR AT PUBLIC EVENT IN MIAMI-DADE FEBRUARY 28 via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald — Clinton will appear at a public event … a day before early voting starts in the county. Clinton will be at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Complex in Miami Gardens … No time has been announced yet for the afternoon event. He will also attend fundraisers in Coconut Grove and Boca Raton, donors have said.

MEANWHILE … CNN SAYS IT WILL NO LONGER HAVE TRUMP ALLY ROGER STONE ON AIR via Hadas Gold of POLITICO — Stone had made disparaging remarks on Twitter about CNN political analyst Ana Navarro … Stone sent out tweets over the past few days calling Navarro, who was a Bush supporter, “Entitled Diva Bitch,” “Borderline retarded” and “‘dumber than dog s—.” He also tweeted about Navarro in December, saying she reminds him of a “rabid pekinese.” He also previously called Navarro and former contributor Roland Martin “quota hires” for the network … Stone said CNN’s decision “smacks of Soviet-style censorship … I am an unapologetic critic of Ana Navarro because I question her qualifications to opine on any political topic- she is a ‘Republican strategist’ who has never actually worked on any campaign beyond an honorific title.”

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IN EMAIL BLAST, HARRY REID CAMPAIGNS FOR PATRICK MURPHY via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times — Reid, the top Democrat in the U.S. Senate … is doubling-down on his call for Murphy‘s Democratic opponent Alan Grayson to drop out. “We need strong leaders in the Senate — middle-class champions dedicated to working hard and getting things done. People like Patrick Murphy,” Reid wrote in a campaign email … He added in reference to Grayson: “What we DON’T need is a disgraceful hedge fund manager masquerading as a ‘progressive.'” Reid repeated his statement and urged Murphy supporters to sign an online petition calling on Grayson to drop out of the race.

NRCC CALLS ON CHARLIE CRIST AND ERIC LYNN TO OPPOSE OBAMA’S GITMO CLOSURE PLAN via Janelle Irwin of Florida Politics — “Do Charlie Crist and Eric Lynn support the President and his dangerous policy,” the NRCC asked in an email. “Or will they finally stand against President Obama and put the safety of American citizens before the liberal’s insatiable political need to close GITMO?” … “It is unconscionable for Charlie Crist and Eric Lynn to stand silently as President Obama moves forward with his irresponsible plan and puts safety of Americans at risk,” said NRCC Communications Director Katie Martin. “Charlie Crist and Eric Lynn need to start standing up for the American people instead of letting a lame duck president steamroll our national security as he heads toward the exit.”

DANIEL WEBSTER ON SWITCH: CD 10 IS ‘MAJORITY-MINORITY’ DISTRICT IN NEED OF MINORITY REPRESENTATION via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Webster said that the newly drawn CD 10 was designed to be a district with a majority of voters who are minorities and that it was done so to allow minority representation to be elected there. He’s white. “District 10, the old District 10 is the one I serve, I liked that. It was Polk and Lake and Orange counties. But new District 10 was designed by the people who drafted it, the staff in the House, the drafters for the plaintiffs in the court case, and the [Florida Supreme Court] justices all said this seat is a majority-minority seat. It’s designed for a minority to elect a candidate of their choice,” Webster said. “So it’s not even competitive. It’s designed for one thing: to elect a minority.”

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MY TAKE — ON THE RUMOR ABOUT MELISSA SELLERS’ DEPARTURE via Florida Politics — Probably the only two people who know exactly when and why Melissa Sellers is leaving the Governor’s Office is Sellers and the Governor … Everyone knows. And no one knows. Because Tallahassee, after all, is Chinatown. Chasing these rumors makes one feel like Charlie Brown getting ready to kick the football held by Lucy van Pelt. She always the pulls the ball away at the last moment, and we all fall on our asses. Except maybe it’s different this time. Maybe she really will leave the administration. The rumors say it will happen sometime after session … right before Sellers ties the knot April 16.

BILL JOHNSON TO KOCH BROTHERS: “WHAT’S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE IS GOOD FOR THE GANDER” via Jeff Schweers of the Tampa Tribune — The head of Enterprise Florida today lambasted Americans for Prosperity for launching a campaign that attacks Scott’s $250 million economic development package, versions of which are still making their way through the Senate and House this week: “Scott’s proposal would support Florida’s efforts to win competitive projects with a guaranteed return on investment to ensure taxpayer dollars are protected while helping grow jobs in our state,” Johnson, President and CEO of Enterprise Florida, said in a prepared statement … Johnson said it was hypocritical of AFP to take such a stand, since Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the U.S. and the primary backer of AFP, has received $196 million in governmental tax incentives. “Koch Industries is willing to use taxpayer money to benefit their business, but opposing the Florida Enterprise Fund means they will not let small and growing businesses in Florida access incentive dollars,” Johnson said, urging AFP to suspend its campaign. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

LACK OF AGREEMENT ON TAX CUTS STALLS TALLAHASSEE BUDGET TALKS via Steve Bousquet of the Miami Herald — The Florida Legislature has exactly two weeks to agree on a state budget for the 2016 session to end on time, and Senate leaders said they have not made much progress with the House on a key question: the size of a tax-cut package. That stumbling block means legislative leaders cannot yet agree on the size of allocations to various programs. Until those amounts are set, the Senate and House cannot appoint budget conferees and schedule public negotiating sessions. Despite an obvious lack of progress, Senate President Andy Gardiner … said the Legislature remains ahead of schedule and there’s still plenty of time to reach an agreement. “We’re not totally under the gun yet, but we are getting to the point where we need to start making some decisions,” Gardiner told reporters after the Senate adjourned early Tuesday afternoon. “We want to make sure that it (the budget) is properly vetted and we’re not rushing near the end.”

SENATE PANEL POSTPONES CONFIRMATION VOTE ON SURGEON GENERAL JOHN ARMSTRONG via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times — Armstrong needs the support of six members of the Senate’s Ethics and Elections Committee to keep his $141,000-a-year job as the state’s top doctor and secretary of the Department of Health. Four Democrats and Republican Sen. Anitere Flores … planned to vote against him. “The surgeon general should be someone that has a strong commitment to public health,” Flores said. “And there have been a series of issues that perhaps question what that commitment to public health is.” What most worries Flores are cutbacks to county health clinics, where staff have been cut back and patient visits have declined. Armstrong said many patients now receive care from other charitable health centers, but Flores said he hasn’t sent her data she requested to confirm that. The panel’s chairman, Sen. Garrett Richter … said the committee will meet once more next week, but he said Armstrong faces a “steep uphill climb” to win enough votes to keep his job.

DESPITE CHANCE AT REVIVAL, CHANGES TO FLORIDA’S “STAND YOUR GROUND” LAW WON’T BE HEARD AGAIN via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald — The “Hail Mary” pass for the legislation hinged on a Senate-approved bill getting consideration in the House Judiciary Committee. But the bill is not listed on the committee’s agenda, which was released this afternoon. The meeting is the panel’s last scheduled gathering of the 2016 session. “We spent most of the floor session today — some of my colleagues and I — working the bill and it looked like we had the votes to kill it, quite frankly,” [said] Rep. David Kerner … The bill not being put on the agenda “could mean there wasn’t support for the bill or leadership made a decision not to find out,” Kerner said. “But whatever it is, it’s a win for a lot of people. It’s a win for victims, it’s a win for prosecutors trying to do their job, and it’s a win for the community that just wants to be kept safe.”

ANDY GARDINER SAYS AMENDMENTS COULD SEND MARIJUANA BILL BACK TO COMMITTEE via Christine Sexton of POLITICO — Gardiner has delayed action on a bill that authorizes the terminally ill to use marijuana … told senators … that the number of amendments was putting the measure at “risk of being referred back to committee.” The Senate was set to break at noon, but Gardiner extended the session by an hour, in part to address the bill. Sen. Jack Latvala told Gardiner he would be asking the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rob Bradley a series of questions. In response, Gardiner acknowledged “whether it’s today or tomorrow we’re going to have to address these issues.”

CHILD CUSTODY CHANGES SWEEP THROUGH FLORIDA SENATE, AMID FEARS IT WILL HURT FAMILIES via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post — Legislation aimed at promoting equally shared child custody in divorce cases was approved 23-15 by the Florida Senate … although the move still faces a stern test in the House. The measure (SB 250) also is included in a controversial alimony bill (SB 668) advancing in the Senate. Sen. Gwen Margolis was among several senators who warned the proposal is “putting women at a major disadvantage … We’re putting them into a state where they have to hire an attorney, go back to court … and we’re going to have chaos in the courts.” The Senate proposal would direct courts to assume that it is in the best interest of a child to have equal time-sharing between parents, and also includes similar language in a more sweeping bill overhauling alimony in Florida. Advocates for so-called shared-parenting laws argue that children are better served when they can spend equal amounts of time with both parents.

GET READY TO CRUISE DOWN ‘SPEAKER WILL WEATHERFORD HIGHWAY’ via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Senators … amended a road-naming bill to designate part of the planned State Road 56 extension in Pasco County as “Speaker Will Weatherford Highway” …  The amendment sponsor was Sen. John Legg. The amended bill passed 34-1, with only Sen. Nancy Detert voting no. The bill (SB 114) will rename an as-yet unbuilt section of the SR 56 extension between Meadow Pointe Boulevard to U.S. 301.

REWRITTEN FMPA BILLS ARE MOVING IN HOUSE AND SENATE via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida — A bill establishing reporting requirements for the Florida Municipal Power Agency passed its first Senate committee stop …  after being watered down in the face of opposition. SB 840 would have placed the agency, which serves two million residents in 31 cities, under Public Service Commission oversight and required the Office of Public Counsel to participate in FMPA proceedings. The Senate bill was stripped of those two provisions, but it still retains financial reporting requirements. And the bill still faces opposition from FMPA and its member cities, who have hired former House Speaker Dean Cannon to lobby for them.

LAWMAKERS PREDICT FAVORABLE VOTE ON JACKSONVILLE PENSION BILL via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union — Northeast Florida representatives say they are confident the Jacksonville pension bill will be approved on the House floor … “I think it’s really important policy, and it’s important for the city of Jacksonville and for our region,” Rep. Cyndi Stevenson said. “So I feel confident because it’s the right thing.” The House … approved an amendment that would prohibit the Police and Fire Pension Fund board from participating in collective bargaining or negotiating pension benefits. The amendment also requires all employees to contribution 10 percent of their salary toward retirement benefits. Both provisions are already part of the pension agreement already in place, but now makes them a legal requirement if the city were to move forward with the halfpenny tax to pay down pension debt.

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

SWIFTMUD DROPS GUN CLUB LAWSUIT AFTER NRA LOBBYIST DEMANDS AGENCY BE ABOLISHED via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times — Two weeks after the National Rifle Association’s most influential lobbyist demanded the governor and Legislature abolish the Southwest Florida Water Management District over its treatment of the Skyway Trap and Skeet Club, the water agency controlled by the governor quietly dropped its lawsuit against the Pinellas Park gun club. The matter was added to a meeting agenda at the last minute as a “consent agenda” item and passed with no discussion whatsoever. A spokeswoman … said the board took that step because “there’s been a change in the practice at the club.” But she wouldn’t say what that change was, nor comment on whether the governor’s office told the agency to back off. “That’s all I can tell you.”

SEMINOLE TRIBE “WEIGHS IN” WITH ANOTHER PRO-COMPACT AD via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The latest 30-second spot, titled “The Senate Weighs In,” highlights that a key Senate panel cleared the new agreement but that it still must be passed by the full Legislature. Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen has explained that approving the compact also will push forward a $1.8 billion expansion now on hold, including a new 36-floor hotel shaped like a giant guitar in South Florida, and create more than 19,000 temporary and permanent jobs. Unlike its predecessors, the spot is, for now, only a statewide digital ad … It will be broadcast only in Tallahassee.

***SUNBURN is brought to you in part by Bascom Communications & Consulting, LLC, a top-notch public affairs, political communications and public relations firm. Visit www.bascomllc.com to read about their growing team, success stories and case studies.***

WHAT THAD ALTMAN IS WATCHING — SPACEX FALCON 9 LAUNCH TO FINALLY DELIVER SES SATELLITE — SpaceX intends to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Wednesday to carry a communications satellite that has been waiting more than six months for the ride. A 6:46 p.m. launch is set for the Falcon 9 to lift the satellite owned by Luxembourg-based SES Corp. Initially, SES had expected to put the unit in orbit last August but multiple delays, chiefly because SpaceX shut down launch operations for six months after its June 28 rocket explosion, kept pushing back the mission. This will be SpaceX’s second launch from Cape Canaveral and third overall since it returned to service in December. Yet the company’s manifest of launches remains backlogged, including a resupply mission to the International Space Station that has been postponed indefinitely.

GOVERNORS CLUB WEDNESDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU — Wednesday is Italian day at the Governors Club, with a lunch buffet featuring fare such as Tuscany Sausage and Tomato Soup; Antipasti Flatbread Sandwich Board; Salad Bar with Caprese Salad and Italian Salad; Rustic Italian Pork Ragu; Braised Balsamic Chicken; Cheese Ravioli with Mushrooms, Asparagus & Sun-Dried Pesto; Fried Calamari & Shrimp; Italian Vegetables and Butter Pappardelle Pasta, finishing up with Assorted Mini Desserts.

CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS ON THE LATEST LOBBYING COMPENSATION REPORTS

Registered governmental affairs firms, representing virtually every industry in Florida, reported earning more than $32.75 million from October 1 to December 31 of 2015 to lobby the Florida Legislature.

FloridaPolitics.com previously reported which firms made what, with Ballard Partners leading all firms in Q4 compensation.

Crunching the numbers, here are a few additional thoughts on the fourth-quarter numbers. (None of these numbers include compensation for executive branch lobbying, which can be just as lucrative for a firm. However, for this story, let’s compare apples to apples and focus on just legislative fees.)

— A warning sign? Yes, median compensation figures are up $2.7 million quarter-over-quarter from 2014 to 2015, but that may be misleading. With the 2016 Legislative Session moved up to January, the reporting period before its start may be what Q4 of 2015 should be compared to; by that standard — comparing Q4 of 2015 to Q1 of 2014, the overall number is down from the $34,525,000 taken in during that period.

— First by a mile: Ballard Partners $2,346,000 haul was almost $600,000 more than that of Southern Strategy Group. That’s the widest margin between the first and second place in at least eight quarters.

— Welcome to the Million Dollar Club: Greenberg Traurig brought in approximately $1,007,000 during Q4 of 2015, making the white shoe law firm only the fifth firm to earn more than a million dollars in a single quarter. As FloridaPolitics.com has observed before, much of this growth can be pegged to the company’s hiring of Fred Karlinsky away from Colodny Fass.

— A defined second tier: For as long as FP has been crunching these numbers, there has been a defined first tier of lobbying firms, the Big 4 so to speak: Ballard, SSG, Ron Book, Capital City Consulting. Greenberg Traurig is very close to joining that first tier. What’s changed over the last year is the rise of a defined second tier made up of Corcoran & Johnston, Johnson & Blanton, and The Rubin Group. These three firms each take in north of $750,000 per quarter. What also defines these firms is that they are much smaller in size than the firms of the first tier. Call them the mega-boutique firms.

— Lucky 13: Earning more than $500,000 in quarterly compensation were a record 13 firms, with Smith Bryan & Myers the newest addition to this level.

— Moving on up: The biggest jumps in earnings, quarter to quarter, come from The Rubin Group ($876,000 up from $695,000) and Capitol Insight ($550,000 up from $455,000 last quarter — and from $380,000 during Q4 of 2014.)

— Capitol Insight’s rise is creating an interesting battle for a coveted spot on the Top 10 list: Currently, that position is held by GrayRobinson, which has seen its figures drop off by $125,000 since Q4 of 2014. In the #11 spot is Floridian Partners, with Capitol Insight right behind it. Might we see Dean Cannon‘s firm leapfrog into the #10 spot, ahead of GR (still dealing with the death of Fred Leonhardt)?

— Where are you, Trey? After posting a sizable haul during Q2 of 2015 ($489,000), Trey Traviesa‘s Strategos Public Affairs is outside of the Top 25. Also off the Top 25 list for the first time since FP can remember? Guy Spearman‘s Spearman Management, Inc.

— Another firm with noticeable growth (+20 percent quarter over quarter) is Gunster Yoakley & Stewart. We can’t give all the credit to its hiring of Cameron Yarbrough, but we’re sure he’ll take it.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Ellyn Bogdanoff, EBS Consulting: Grandiflora

Edward Briggs, Natalie King, Ronald Pierce, RSA Consulting: Visit Tampa Bay

Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick, The Mayernick Group: Grandiflora

James Randolph Spratt, CAS Governmental Services: Glades County Board of Commissioners; Okeechobee Utility Authority

William Stander, Whisper: Florida Custom Car Association

Guillermo Fernandez-Quincoces, Foley & Lardner: Dosal Tobacco Corporation

***Capital City Consulting, LLC is a full-service government and public affairs firm located in Tallahassee, Florida. At Capital City Consulting, our team of professionals specialize in developing unique government relations and public affairs strategies and delivering unrivaled results for our clients before the Florida Legislature and Executive Branch Agencies. Capital City Consulting has the experience, contacts and winning strategies to help our clients stand out in the capital city. Learn more at www.capcityconsult.com.***

DUKE, FPL CUSTOMERS COULD SEE LOWER BILLS AS NATURAL GAS PRICES FALL via the Orlando Sentinel — With lower-than-expected natural gas prices, state regulators … will consider proposals by Duke Energy Florida and Florida Power & Light to reduce customers’ monthly bills this spring. Staff members of the Florida Public Service Commission have recommended approval of the proposals during a meeting March 1. Costs for power-plant fuel are passed through to utility customers, and the Public Service Commission uses projections each year to determine how much will be included in monthly bills. But after the amounts were set for this year, Duke and FPL proposed changes because of low natural-gas prices. If the proposals are approved … Duke residential customers who use 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month would see their bills drop from $114.15 to $108.32, according to the commission staff recommendation. That change would occur with the company’s first April billing cycle. Similar FPL customers would see their monthly bills go from $93.38 to $91.73, a change that would occur as the utility brings online a new Port Everglades plant on April 1.

PUBLIX RANKED AS MOST ADMIRED COMPANY IN FLORIDA via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — … according to a new ranking from Fortune magazine. Publix was the only Florida company to break the top 50 on a list of America’s 340 most-admired companies. The grocer ranked 49th. Four companies headquartered in South Florida made the list: Jarden Corp. in Boca Raton, Lennar in Miami, NextEra in Juno Beach and Ryder System in Miami. At the top of the list were Apple; Alphabet, which owns Google; and Amazon.

RESTAURANTS ARE BOOMING DESPITE FINANCIAL MARKET TURMOIL via Don Lee of the Miami Herald — One part of the U.S. economy is enjoying a surprising boom, and it should prove useful in combating the recent slowdown: Americans are spending more eating out than ever before. The restaurant industry, long a reliable indicator of the underlying economy, has become an economic standout at a time of financial market turmoil and global uncertainty. Sales at food service and drinking places jumped nearly 8 percent last year from 2014, more than double the pace of growth for total retail sales. Employment at restaurants and watering holes grew nearly twice the rate of all other sectors combined over the past five years. Last month, eating and drinking places created 47,000 new jobs, more than what manufacturers added all last year, according to the Labor Department.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been 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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