Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for January 26 – Happy Kathy Mears Day!

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

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

PRESS SKITS TONIGHT!

Tonight is the 61st (sometimes) annual Capitol Press Corps Show, a.k.a. “Press Skits,” and boy do they have a show for you.

Or so we hope.

You see, the lineup is a closely held secret. (Though we do know the Associated Press’ Gary Fineout has a choice skit in the offering.)

So is the Legislature’s “counter-skits,” as is Gov. Rick Scott‘s (…should he choose to present one. It’s also a closely held secret; just ask Melissa Sellers, a.k.a. “Rick Scott’s brain”).

We do know we are promised “a funny and entertaining ride without interruptions.”

One thing is certain: The skit from Florida House of Representatives Chief of Staff Kathy Mears will be epic. Because it always is. Look, she’s legendary that way.

Whatever the entertainment value of tonight’s show, it’s an institution and for a good cause: Proceeds fund scholarships to college students and graduating high school seniors planning to pursue a career in reporting and writing.

The scholarships are named after Barbara L. Frye, the longtime Tallahassee bureau chief for United Press International and the first woman to work full-time in the Florida Capitol Press Corps.

We’ll borrow from the Press Corps flier from here: “Get there early (doors open at 6:30 p.m.), grab a drink, grab some food and get settled in. Because from the opening monologue forward, you won’t want to miss one second!”

Now the question is: where is POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon going to pre-game (assuming he has the time, that is…)?

CAP PRESS CORPS PRESIDENT TIA MITCHELL (who has really become the star of the show): “I know it sounds corny, but press skits really is an labor of love for the journalists who produce it every year. And we really appreciate those who spend their time and money to come laugh with us and have a little fun at politicians’ expense. We, the members of the Florida Capitol Press Corps, do this because we have a great time performing and it goes to a good cause. This year there are many changes, from our ticket prices to returning to first-come, first-served seating. The show itself will be like none other. We’ve hired theater students from FSU and FAMU, and they’ve really helped us step our game up performance-wise. I’m not going to give too much away. But I will say that folks should arrive early and get settled in. Because once we start the action it will be non-stop.”

TWEET, TWEET: @Fineout: What do @RepGwenGraham & Ben Carson have in common? Find out tomorrow at 2016 press skits

ALSO HAPPENING TONIGHT — ALZHEIMER’S ASSOCIATION TO MAKE HISTORIC CAPITOL PURPLE via Florida Politics – Florida’s Historic Capitol will “turn” purple this evening, part of a special ceremony with lawmakers to celebrate the annual Alzheimer’s Association State Advocacy Day on Wednesday. “Nearly 80 advocates from all over the state of Florida – including caregivers and those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s – will be visiting their legislators throughout Wednesday to (ask) for increased state research funding, support services, education programs, cultural outreach and increased respite care services,” the group said … purple lights will be shown on the old Capitol starting at 6 p.m. “to bring concern and awareness to Alzheimer’s disease, the sixth leading cause of death in America” … The state of Florida has the second highest incidence rate in the country: More than 500,000 Floridians live with Alzheimer’s, according to the association.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Bright House Networks for Business, your trusted provider of industry leading communications and networking services for any size business – from startup to enterprise, and everything in between. We offer a full portfolio of products and services, including Business Phone and cloud-based Hosted Voice, Business Internet at speeds up to 325 Mbps to fiber-based Dedicated Internet Access, several tiers of high-quality HD Video programming, and an array of advanced cloud and managed IT services. Our solutions are customized to fit your business, your budget, and your industry. We own, manage and maintain our network, which means we are 100% accountable; and we’re locally based, which allows us to be immediately responsive to our customers.  Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Bright House Networks. Learn more.***

RICK SCOTT’S BID FOR $250M JOB INCENTIVE FUND GAINS STEAM IN SENATE via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times  A Senate budget subcommittee chaired by Sen. Jack Latvala … included the $250 million in his budget proposal in the Quick Action Closing Fund program in the Department of Economic Opportunity. “It’s important that we in the Senate send a loud message that we’re all on the same team. We all want to produce jobs,” Latvala said. “This is obviously a big priority of the governor’s. He’s pretty single-minded.” Latvala said the gesture was partly philosophical and partly an olive branch to have better relations with the executive branch than in 2015, when the Senate and Scottwere repeatedly at odds and Scott vetoed hundreds of Senate-backed local projects. The money would be to attract companies to Florida over the next three years. Not yet decided is how the money will be doled out. Latvala and his panel favor a “pay as you go” approach to spending closing fund money that Scott opposes.

TWEET, TWEET: @Fineout: So wonder if some triangulation is happening in session over Scott proposals: House backs tax cuts, Senate backs Enterprise Fla. incentives

QUOTE OF THE DAY via Jackie Schutz: Governor Scott expects to end the legislative session strong with a $1 billion tax cut and a $250 million dedicated Florida Enterprise Fund, just as he started the session off strong by signing into law President Gardiner’s unique abilities legislation and Speaker Crisafulli’s water legislation.”

WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE IS READING: “Florida’s business incentives paid off for Osceola company” via Blair Barbour for the Orlando Sentinel

HOUSE DEMS VOW OPPOSITION, FILE AMENDMENTS TO FRACKING BILL via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – HB 191 would prohibit cities and counties from adopting bans on fracking. The bill also would provide for a study of the practice before regulations and permitting can be approved by the Legislature. House Democrats criticized the bill and filed 22 amendments … Rep. Evan Jenne, who has sponsored a bill to ban fracking and opposes HB 19, said there won’t be a floor fight. “I don’t think science is a fight … I think science is truth-based and has no ownership.” But Rep. Ray Rodrigues, a Republican from Estero and bill sponsor, said Democrats have not talked to him about amendments and he won’t comment on them.

HOUSE ADVANCES TWO ABORTION BILLS, INCLUDING NEAR TOTAL BAN via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Abortion quickly is becoming one of the main flash points in the Florida Legislature this year, with the House narrowly advancing one of the most radical anti-abortion bills in the nation Monday. House Bill 865 would outlaw nearly all abortions. It was approved by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee 8 to 3 with one Republican joining Democrats to vote against the measure. It has not been heard in any Senate committee and faces long odds in the more moderate chamber.

HOUSE COMMITTEE OK’S HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE REGULATION via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee approved HB 1097, which further regulates homeowners’ ability to sign over their right to collect insurance benefits to third parties. Filed by Lehigh Acres Republican Rep. Matt Caldwell, the measure came after reports of rising rates of water damage claims, largely in South Florida, leading Citizens Property Insurance Corporation and other insurers to raise rates. Insurers say that those flood claims are driven by fraud related to the “assignment of benefits” (AOB) agreements the bill regulates. “The AOB issue has, quite frankly, developed into a looming financial catastrophe for Citizens,” Citizens chief risk officer John Rollins testified to the committee. To cut down on this fraud, the bill limits homeowners’ ability to sign AOB agreements without first notifying insurers, except for emergency repairs. It also requires vendors to accept all the duties of the policyholder if they sign an AOB agreement. The bill also attempts to discourage contractors from performing unnecessary work by prohibiting them from seeking payments from policyholders if the insurance company does not pay the entirety of a claim.

HOUSE COMMITTEE PASSES BILL EXPANDING ROLE OF ADVANCED REGISTERED NURSES via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools –The House Health Innovation Subcommittee passed a bill expanding the ability of advanced registered nurse practitioners and physician assistants to order any medication for patients in a hospital, surgical center or nursing home. HB 1241, by Orlando Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia … is similar to SB 152 by Sen. Denise Grimsley, a Sebring Republican. Both bills have one more committee stop before they head to their respective chamber floors.

RAPE KITS LEGISLATION STEAMROLLS THROUGH SENATE JUDICIARY via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – Benacquisto‘s bill to standardize DNA testing procedures — including provisions stating evidence processing in a sexual assault must begin within 30 days of a request — rolled effortlessly through the Senate Criminal Justice Committee … [The] senator admitted CS/SB 636 carries a $30 million cost component, but she emphasized that some 13,000 rape kits across the state have been untested for years. The kits are from victims who have waited for six years or even longer to see their evidence processed. The bill passed the committee unanimously, without an objection and with all stakeholders — from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to not-for-profit organizations — waiving in favor.

SENATE PANEL APPROVES SCHOOL, SPORTS CHOICE BILL via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel – The bill (and several other “school choice” proposals) worry some educators and coaches, who fear it will complicate school finances and school planning and lead to groups of talented athletes all enrolling at certain schools. But during a brief meeting … at the Senate’s education budget panel, the “choice in sports” bill (SB 684) was approved unanimously, with little discussion and no debate. The bill aims to let parents enroll their child in any public school that has room, even if it is outside their attendance zone or outside their home county. It also eases restrictions on student athletes, making it easier for them to join teams if they switch schools midyear or if they attend a charter or private school or if they are home schooled.

ADVOCATES WARN BILL WILL CHILL ATTEMPTS TO CHALLENGE EXCESSIVE CHARGES FOR OPEN RECORDS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – A bill moving quickly through the Florida Legislature could have a chilling effect on [records requests]… SB 1220 gets a hearing before the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee Tuesday and public records advocates are hoping to water it down with an amendment to require attorneys fees if the complainant gives the agency at least two days notice before filing its lawsuit and wins after that. The measure is being promoted heavily by the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties… opposed is the Sunshine Coalition, a group of public records advocates led by the First Amendment Foundation.

ASSET FORFEITURE BILLS PASS FIRST PANEL via Nick Evans of WFSU – Senate Republicans Aaron Bean and Jeff Brandes … pitched their remedies before a Senate panel. In addition to annual reporting, Bean’s bill would require an agency official—the chief or his or her designate—to sign off on seizures. Brandes’ proposal goes further. “If the government wants to seize your property you must be charged with a crime,” Brandes says … While Bean’s proposal has drawn the support of the state’s police chiefs and sheriffs, Brandes’ measure faces stiff opposition.  Agencies worry his more aggressive restraints on the practice will leave it ineffective, and they pitched a number of hypothetical situations where requiring a criminal charge would present a problem … “Here’s what happens,” Brandes explains, “They put out and they say alright we found cocaine and cash in the vehicle, somebody come claim it you have ninety days to come claim it—under my bill you’ll have ninety days to come claim it … If somebody comes to claim the cash and cocaine we arrest them—and you know what?  We can seize it … If nobody claims it, it’s abandoned property and we take it. That’s what happens.” The Senate panel approved both measures.

BILL TO COMBAT GAS PUMP SKIMMERS PASSES SENATE PANEL via Florida Politics – A bill that requires gas stations to toughen up security and increases penalties for fuel pump fraudsters cleared its first Senate panel… SB 912 would require gas stations to secure fuel pump credit card readers to defend against data theft devices, known as “skimmers,” that capture credit and debit card information. It also ups the punishment for credit card theft to a second-degree felony and lowers the threshold from 10 stolen cards to five. The bill, a priority of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, is being carried by Majority Leader Rep. Dana Young and Sen. Anitere Flores.

DON GAETZ PLANS TO ASK SURGEON GENERAL ABOUT JOB CUTS, RISING HIV INFECTIONS via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Surgeon General John Armstrong this week faces his first Senate confirmation vote, and Gaetz is preparing to ask some tough questions. Gaetz gave Gov. Rick Scott’s top health official a heads-up in a letter sent Friday on seven questions that could come up Tuesday morning when the Health Policy committee decides if Armstrong should keep his $141,000-a-year job. At the heart of them are position cuts in the Department of Health and in county health departments, which Armstrong oversees, even as diseases like HIV grow in Florida. Since 2012, when Armstrong was appointed, the number of positions in DOH has decreased from 17,107 to 14,358. Scott is asking for an additional 718 cuts next year.

DAILY RECESS BILL TO BE HEARD BY HOUSE EDUCATION PANEL via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel – The Florida House’s K-12 education panel has the bill (HB 833) on the agenda for its 9 a.m. meeting. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Rene Plasencia … The bill, and its Senate companion, would require all elementary schools to work 20 minutes of recess into their daily schedule. It would also prohibit educators from taking recess away from kids for “academic or punitive” reasons. The bills were pushed by Florida parents — many of them local — upset that recess has been fading from Florida schools, with some campuses offering it only to their youngest students or only on Fridays. Schools have curtailed it in part to meet state academic requirements, such as providing a 90-minute block of reading instruction … these parents argue students need a break from academics in order to better focus on their lessons. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education both agree, as both recommend daily recess for young kids.

BILL PROHIBITING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST LGBT GAINS GOP SUPPORT via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel –- A bill to ban employment and housing discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people … will have its first hearing in … the Senate Judiciary Committee. And on the House side, the bill has only two committees to get through, a sign of support from House leadership. The bill received more-concrete support Monday from House Majority Leader Dana Young … “This is an issue that transcends party,” Young told a group from Equality Florida, the state’s largest gay rights organization. “I support you.” Despite getting its first hearing in the Senate, it still has a long road there, with four committee hearings in total. Its first committee in the House, Economic Affairs, is chaired by state Rep. Jose Oliva.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce coalition will host a news conference at 11:00 a.m. in Florida’s Capitol Building, 4th Floor, Senate side, to voice support of the Competitive Workforce Act, Senate Bill 120 sponsored by Sen. Joe Abruzzo of Boynton Beach.

TOP OP-ED: FLORIDA LAWMAKERS ACTUALLY BITING THE NRA via South Florida Sun-Sentinel – Don’t look now, but the lapdog has actually bitten back…. Last week, lawmakers shot down two gun bills awaiting them when their annual legislative session began this month. A couple of pro-gun bills appear dead in the water in Tallahassee. One of the bills called campus carry would have allowed people to carry concealed weapons anywhere on college campuses… will not get a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which effectively kills the bill. Another bill that would make it easier for people to use a Stand Your Ground defense… advanced to the Senate floor. However, a House panel has voted against the bill, which unless the language is amended onto something else, effectively kills the bill.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Jamestown Associates – Winning tough campaigns. The record to prove it. Jamestown produces persuasive TV, radio, mail and digital advertising that breaks through the clutter and gets votes. We help our clients in Florida and the nation perfect their message, create powerful ads, micro-target the media buy and WIN. Jamestown’s work has been recognized with 50 Pollie and Reed awards. See our work at www.JamestownAssociates.com***

FSU SETTLES LAWSUIT WITH WOMAN WHO ACCUSED JAMEIS WINSTON OF RAPE via Joe Reedy of the Associated Press – Florida State University has settled a Title IX lawsuit with a former student who said the school failed to adequately investigate allegations that she was raped by former star quarterback Jameis Winston. The settlement was announced a day before Winston’s accuser, Erica Kinsman, had been scheduled to give a deposition in the case. As part of the settlement, FSU is making a five-year commitment to sexual assault awareness and prevention. The university also has agreed to publish annual reports for the next five years about those programs. Florida State said in a statement that it has formed a Sexual Assault Prevention Task Group, hired a full-time Title IX coordinator, added six positions to improve campus safety and required all incoming freshmen to complete an online course to make “more informed choices about sex and relationships.”

TWEET, TWEET: @Fineout: 1 other thing to note: The Fla. attorney who helped get a nearly $1 mil settlement against FSU is same 1 who beat #FLLeg in redistricting

STATE RESPONDS TO SEMINOLE TRIBE FEDERAL LAWSUIT via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Lawyers for the state of Florida filed their response to a lawsuit filed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida nearly three weeks after a federal judge shot down their request to toss the case out. Among highlights of the filing: The state denies that the lawsuit was properly filed in Tallahassee and says “nothing in the (Seminole) Compact between the Tribe and the State excuses the Tribe’s failure to comply” with removing blackjack from their casinos. William Spicola, the top attorney to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, filed an answer to the complaint last week, according to court dockets … U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle rejected the state’s motion to dismiss, meaning the case will move forward.

ICYMI: LEGISLATORS’ VISIT TO ALABAMA CASION IS LEGAL, BUT PERCEPTION PROBLEM PERSISTS via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – A luxury bus picked up four Florida legislators at the Pensacola airport and drove them an hour north to the Wind Creek Casino & Hotel in Atmore, Ala… They dined with leaders of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and discussed the tribe’s vision for a casino in rural North Florida – a vision that includes slot machines. The lawmakers, all Democrats whose trip this month was coordinated by the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, didn’t pay for their transportation, meals or hotel rooms. All of that will be reported as in-kind donations to their re-election accounts and political committees. It does not sit well with everyone that Narain and the others stayed overnight and were feted by the Poarch Creek Indians, who are lobbying hard for the Legislature to approve slots in Gretna. “It is not surprising that gambling interests would use their money to try to influence legislators; it’s what they do,” said John Sowinski, president of anti-gambling advocacy group No Casinos.

FAIR SENTENCING NATIONAL TOUR COMES TO TALLAHASSEE: On Thursday, Jan. 28 at 6 p.m. the Fair Sentencing & Fair Chances National Tour launched by the Coalition for Public Safety, the nation’s largest bipartisan criminal justice reform organization, stops in Tallahassee at the FSU College of Law to highlight the need for criminal justice reform. The event is hosted by FSU Project on Accountable Justice and The James Madison Institute and features former Attorneys General Richard Doran and Bob Butterworth, Sen. Jeff Brandes, Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, as well as ACLU, Reason Foundation, Project on Accountable Justice, JMI and the Urban Institute. The public is invited to attend. RSVP by clicking here.

FLORIDA LOTTERY BREAKS SALES RECORD IN JANUARY via Stacey Readout of News4Jax – January sales exceeded $603 million thus far and there’s still one more week left in the month. The Lottery’s previous record was March 2015 when sales reached $539.5 million. “These tremendous sales mean great things for Florida, as Lottery players, retailers and the state’s education system will directly benefit,” said Tom Delacenserie, Secretary of the Florida Lottery. “To be just three weeks into 2016, and already have hundreds of millions of dollars in prizes won, and an estimated $187 million in revenue generated for education is truly unprecedented.” A large portion of January’s sales came from Powerball, which accounted for $237.6 million of sales. 40 percent of that will go to education, the Lottery said.

***A special message from Florida’s horsemen: While legislators debate using hard-earned taxpayer dollars for corporate relocation incentives, Florida employers who’ve been hard at work for decades could lose everything, thanks to “decoupling”— a Big Casino cash grab and gambling expansion plan tucked inside the Seminole Compact. It seems senseless to kill established Florida businesses, while spending public money in hopes new business may materialize. But Florida could do just that when “decoupling” leaves horse racing investors with NO WAY to do business and NO CHANCE to recoup financial return.  Gambling policy should be about growing Florida’s economy. Not padding the pockets of Big Casinos. Florida’s horsemen oppose decoupling in ANY form. NoDecoupling.com.***

— SIX DAYS TO THE IOWA CAUCUSES, TWO WEEKS TO THE NEW HAMPSHIRE PRIMARY —

HOW IOWA HIJACKED OUR DEMOCRACY via Jeff Greenfield of POLITICO Magazine – Indeed, if you look beyond the color and the pageantry, beyond the county fairs and butter cows, and appreciate the real workings and impact of the caucuses, you realize that Iowa is neither a useful bellwether or an important test for candidates. Moreover, there are baleful consequences of the inflated status of Iowa: It distorts the political process and leads to bad public policy. Iowa survives and flourishes as a political ritual for the same reason that bad people remain in power and bad policies remain in place: those who benefit from it can make the cost of challenging it too high. If there is no hope of unseating the caucuses from their privileged perch, it’s at least worth understanding how we got here—and at what cost.

IOWA CAUCUS WEATHER COULD BE BALMY via Charly Haley of the Des Moines Register – The … preliminary forecast shows caucus night has a 50 percent chance of being “warmer than normal” across Iowa. “Normal” temperatures for Feb. 1 in Des Moines are a high of 32 degrees and a low of 15 degrees … There’s also a 40 percent chance of more precipitation than normal across Iowa … could be rain or snow.

HOW DONALD TRUMP IS STEALING IOWA’S EVANGELICAL VOTE via Kevin Cirilli of Bloomberg Politics – Trump is now making overt moves to court evangelicals, most recently by making two high-profile appearances campuses known for their conservative brand of Christianity: Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia … Trump’s campaign cut a radio ad that will begin playing in Iowa and South Carolina, another evangelical stronghold and early-voting state, featuring a portion of a speech by Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of the Liberty University, delivered to introduce Trump. Trump’s rough edges may be part of his appeal, said David Andersen, a political science professor at Iowa State University. “A lot of people come to Iowa and try to be evangelical. Voters can see through that. Donald Trump doesn’t care about being anything but himself,” he said. “Donald Trump is winning over evangelicals by being honest and not faking that he’s evangelical.”

TRUMP’S CLOSING IOWA MESSAGE: ‘I GET ALONG WITH PEOPLE’ via Jenna Johnson and José DelReal of the Washington Post – “I think I’ll get along great with a lot of people,” Trump told a crowd of 1,500 at a Christian college in northwest Iowa. “Before I was doing this, I got along with the Democrats, with the Republicans, with the liberals, with the conservatives. I get along with people.” Trump is seeking to close the deal by portraying himself as a great uniter who can bring Washington together, healing ideological rifts with the sheer force of his personality. It’s a branding effort that seems at odds with the often-angry tone of Trump’s campaign, whose critics frequently carry signs that read, “A vote for Trump is a vote for hate.”

MARCO RUBIO’S IOWA CRISSCROSS APPROACH BENDS CAUCUS CAMPAIGN NORM via Florida Politics – Having spent little time in the state’s rural Christian conservative northwest, the Republican presidential candidate dropped in to Sioux County for the first time last week, then bounced across the state two days later to speak with some of Iowa’s more fiscally conservative voters in the east. “I’m going to trust that he knows what he’s doing,” state Rep. John Wills, who supports Rubio, said after his campaign stop at the Christian Dordt College in GOP-rich Sioux Center. “I hope he gets the chance to get up here again. Northwest Iowa is where you win.” Rubio began an uninterrupted nine-day run … ahead of Iowa’s lead-off caucuses … His itinerary includes college towns, larger cities and rural outposts.

RUBIO DITCHES HIS DREARY MESSAGE via Anna Palmer of POLITICO – After weeks of road-testing the gloomy, death-of-the-American-Dream message that his rivals are using, Rubio … brought his more positive, inspirational family story back to the center of his Iowa campaign. And he used Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst‘s first stop with him on the 2016 campaign trail to drive that message home.

RUBIO’S COLD WAR via Mary Jordan of the Washington Post – [As] Rubio campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination, he holds fast to the same hard-line view on Cuba he offered in a quiet fourth-floor Senate hearing room five years ago. Driven by a political philosophy shaped by his Cuban roots, he is now holding an even more important Obama nomination hostage: the U.S. ambassador to Mexico. At a time when most Americans support a landmark shift in U.S. policy on Cuba, Rubio has positioned himself as that move’s biggest foe. He champions a Cold War approach that many think is outdated and that runs counter to his image as the youthful leader of a new generation. “I said, ‘Marco, how can you hit Hillary Clinton for being the candidate of yesterday when you are supporting policies that date to the 1960s?’” said Sen. Jeff Flake … who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee with Rubio. But his intense focus on Cuba explains a lot about who Rubio is — and how, as a potential commander in chief, he sees the United States’ role in the world.

BIG GET?: The Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs tweets that Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley will appear with Jeb Bush on Friday 3:30 p.m. at the Cedar Falls Eagles Club, in what could be a big moment for the campaign.

IS CHRIS CHRISTIE’S NEW HAMPSHIRE SURGE A THING OF THE PAST? via Samantha Marcus of NJ.com  Christie, ranked fourth at the start of the month, dropped to sixth in the latest rankings. He trailed both of his main rivals for the more moderate GOP establishment voters and donors … Kasich and … Bush.

JOHN KASICH’S POLL SURGE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE ALARMS SOCIAL CONSERVATIVES via Seth McLaughlin of the Washington Times – Kasich’s poll surge … has spurred conservatives to warn social issues voters to be wary of him, saying he is one of the worst champions in the Republican presidential field when it comes to hot-button issues such as education and religious liberty. Kasich, who has no illusions of a strong showing in Iowa, where religious conservatives dominate, has instead focused his campaign efforts on New Hampshire, where he has begun to resonate with the more socially moderate electorate. Several polls over the past week show him having risen to second place, behind national front-runner … Trump. That has set off alarms for conservatives, who say Kasich, when given the chance to ally with them, has refused to enlist.

***Let The Edison be the key to planning your perfect event. From the internationally-inspired cuisine prepared by Executive Chef, John Minas, to the beautiful brick-adorned building that boasts old-world charm and contemporary finishes, you and your guests are sure to experience something stunning at every turn. With The Edison’s delicious catering and beautiful venue options, the possibilities for your next event are endless. Click here to learn more.***

IS FRANCIS ROONEY THE UNICORN IN FLORIDA’S U.S. SENATE RACE? via Florida Politics – Rooney, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See and the CEO of a major Naples-based an investment and holding company, is the “unicorn” we referred to in our previous reporting. As FloridaPolitics.com investigated the possibility of [CarlosBeruff running, several sources said that another possible self-funder is considering entering the race. One source described this self-funder as a “Rick Scott-type minus the baggage … from Southwest Florida … with the ability to write a check for $100 million (for both the primary and the general) … who would force DeSantis and Jolly to consider immediately dropping out of the race.” Rooney checks all of those boxes … BUT (and there is always a but), the word from the horse’s mouth is that he is not the unicorn we all have been looking for. Rooney told FloridaPolitics.com’s Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster that running for the U.S. Senate is way out of consideration. Instead … he is focused on helping elect Bush to the White House.

GOP SENATE HOPEFUL TODD WILCOX ANNOUNCES CAMPAIGN LEADERSHIP TEAM via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Wilcox may have the lowest name recognition of the four major Republicans running for U.S. Senate this year, but he’s just picked three high-profile Republicans for his leadership team: Brian Hughes as campaign manager, Eric Isaac as communications director, and Chris LaCivita as general consultant. “As momentum continues to build for our campaign, I am excited to announce the team that will lead us to victory,” said Wilcox … “I have a unique set of skills that includes building high performance teams of diverse experts focused on accomplishing complex missions in hostile environments and that is exactly what I’ve done here.”

CHARLIE CRIST REPORTS RAISING MORE THAN $500,000 SINCE ENTERING RACE via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times – His opponent, Eric Lynn …  had announced in the spring. He had used that time to raise more than $400,000. On Monday, Crist sent a message to supporters announcing a record-setting fundraising quarter of “more than a half-million dollars.” Historic with some qualifiers: First quarter for a non-incumbent, non-special election Democrat in Florida. Lynn’s campaign quickly sought to deflate the announcement by seizing on those caveats, pointing out that Crist had fallen far short of Alex Sink’s initial cash haul in the 2014 special election after the death of longtime Congressman C.W. “Bill” Young. “I think his supporters must be a little disappointed,” said Bill Burton, a Lynn advisor.

ANTI-GAMBLING GROUP HITS PETITION REVIEW THRESHOLD via Jeff Schweers of the Tampa Tribune – No Casinos! announced today it has collected 100,000 signatures for its Voters in Charge ballot initiative and is submitting them to county election supervisors to be validated for judicial review. State law requires 68,314 valid signatures to trigger a Florida Supreme Court review of the ballot language. “When we launched this petition drive in October, we outlined a plan that called for hitting this goal of collecting enough signatures, that when validated, would result in the total needed for the Supreme Court to review the initiative, and we have achieved that goal,” said John Sowinski, President of No Casinos! The amendment would give Florida voters the ultimate authority in allowing the expansion of casino gambling in Florida.

UNITED FOR CARE: MEDICAL MARIJUANA COMING TO 2016 BALLOT via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – As of Monday, an amendment to legalize medical marijuana for those with “debilitating” medical conditions had gathered over 666,000 valid petition signatures, putting the campaign less than 20,000 signatures away from being placed back on the ballot this year. This is the last week any amendments can be considered for this year’s vote. People United for Medical Marijuana (United For Care) … largely led by uber attorney John Morgan, has shouldered the responsibility of collecting enough signatures to get the amendment on the ballot next year. “I am confident we have turned in enough petitions to make the ballot by the deadline next week—and once we do, we are almost certainly going to be Amendment 2 again,” United for Care director Ben Pollara said.

NEW SENATE MAPS WILL SHAKE UP HOUSE CAMPAIGNS via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Roughly 15 House members are now considering running for Senate seats, a dynamic that has the political rumor mill spinning in the wake of the legal challenge. Combined with the fact that 30 House districts will have no incumbent running in 2016, more than 35 percent of the chamber could be new members next year. As things settle down and deals are cut determining who is going to run in winnable – sometimes open – Senate seats, the number will likely come down. But as the dominos fall, the redistricting ruling will almost certainly end up have a big impact on both chambers. “I think we will be OK because most of the seats with the biggest impact are safe seats,” said Rep. Janet Cruz … [Who] had been rumored to run against House Majority Leader Dana Young in a Hillsborough County seat created as part of the redistricting process. Cruz says she won’t seek the seat. “It would cost $4 million,” Cruz said. “I could win it this year, but it’s a two-year seat I would have to raise $4 million again and probably not hold it.”

LAUDERDALE LAKES MAYOR FILES AS DEMOCRAT FOR HD 95 RACE via Florida Politics – Barrington A. Russell filed for the seat on Jan. 19 and is the fourth Democrat to enter the race for the majority-minority seat held by Rogers since the 2008 cycle. Barrington joins Robert Lee LynchRoxanne Valies, and Patrick Jabouin in the four-way Democratic Primary for the Broward County seat. Russell was elected Lauderdale Lakes mayor in 2008 with a 52 percent share of the vote over Levoyd Williams, who also unsuccessfully ran for the HD 94 seat against Rep. Bobby DuBose in 2014. Russell was re-elected to another four-year mayoral term in the 2012 cycle when he defeated opponent Willie Jones 56-44.

FUN READ – HAWAII POLITICIAN’S FORAY INTO TINDER COULD NOT HAVE GONE WORSE via Samantha Grasso of The Daily Dot – Greggor Ilagan, a 29-year-old county councilman from Puna, Hawaii … [His] networking strategy quickly turned into a case of sliding into your DMs gone wrong. “Hey you! Help me make a positive difference in our community. Swipe right and let’s talk,” Ilagan’s Tinder profile read. “I bet we can find common ground on issues and make a positive impact around us. Swipe right and let’s get to know each other.” Ilagan, who is running for the District 2 Hawaii State Senate … soon realized he was targeting a much different audience than he expected. In setting his preferences to match with both men and women, Ilagan’s broad audience brought in some serious dating inquiries. “…Because it’s a dating site, there were actually a lot of guys that were hitting on me. I was always having to direct people back to the main focus … They asked me, ‘Oh, can I have a date?’ And I said, ‘Well, we can have a meeting and we can talk about government and maybe you can help out on the campaign.’”

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

LATEST ON THE LEGISLATIVE STAFFING MERRY-GO-ROUND via Legislative IQ powered by LobbyToolsIn

Off: Hope Lossing is no longer the district secretary for state Rep. Halsey Beshears.

On: Lance Clemons and Pamela Watt have become Beshears new district secretaries.

On: Sue Berfield is the new district secretary for state Rep. Chris Latvala.

On: Charkay Suiters is the new district secretary for state Rep. Amanda Murphy.

On: Will Grissom will become the new Senate’s deputy sergeant-at-arms.

Off: Melinda Ward is no longer a secretary for Wellington Democratic Sen. Joseph Abruzzo.

APPOINTED to the Supreme Court Judicial Nomination Commission: Jesse Panuccio, Jason Unger.

APPOINTED to the Third District Court of Appeal JNC: Justin Sayfie.

APPOINTED to the Sixth Circuit JNC: Brian Aungst, Jr., and Gordon Oldham.

TUESDAY’S GOVERNORS CLUB LUNCH MENU: As Florida lawmakers hash out the state’s business, hash is one of the few things not on the Governors Club luncheon menu. Tuesday’s lunch buffet includes Southwest Chicken Tortilla Soup; GC Club Sandwich Board with Chips; Mixed Green Salad with toppings; Cole Slaw & Potato Salad; Southern Fried Chicken; Barbeque Beef Ribs; Pecan Crusted Trout; Green Beans with Bacon & Baked Beans; baked potatoes with toppings, ending with Apple Crisp and Mini desserts.

FACEBOOK STATUS OF THE DAY via Brewster Bevis: “Amanda Burdick Bevis, Liam and I are thrilled to introduce Andrew Lyman Bevis to the world. Andrew was born this morning at 8:16am, weighing 7lbs 13oz. … Liam gets to meet his little brother this afternoon. Mom and baby are doing well. Dad needs a drink. … God has truly blessed us today.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of our favorite people (and always so sharply dressed) Claudia Davant. Also celebrating today are good guys Jason Roth and Mark Sharpe.

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.

Latest from Statewide

Go to Top