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Sunburn for January 29 – Oh, what could have been…

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

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

OH, WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN…

For the Republican candidates for president, it was a glimpse of what could have been.

Front-runner Donald Trump‘s boycott of the final debate before the Iowa caucuses created space for his rivals to delve more deeply into their differences on immigration, foreign policy and their approach to governing.

And for some candidates — former Gov. Jeb Bush in particular — Trump’s absence from the debate stage Thursday night appeared to ease some of the tension created by his sharply personal attacks.

A frequent target of Trump, Bush opened the debate by saying wryly, “I kind of miss Donald Trump; he was a teddy bear to me.”

Trump’s absence put the spotlight on Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, as well, who needs a strong showing in Iowa in order to stay in the top tier of candidates.

The two senators were confronted with video clips suggesting they had changed their positions on immigration, one of the most contentious issues among Republicans. While each insisted the other had flip-flopped, both denied they had switched their own views on allowing some people in the U.S. illegally to stay.

Cruz accused Rubio of making a “politically advantageous” decision to support a 2013 Senate bill that included a pathway to citizenship, while the Florida senator said his Texas rival was “willing to say or do anything to get votes.”

“This is the lie that Ted’s campaign is built on,” Rubio said. “That he’s the most conservative guy.”

In a rare standout debate moment for Bush, the former Florida governor sharply sided with Cruz in accusing Rubio of having “cut and run” on the Senate immigration bill.

“He cut and run because it wasn’t popular with conservatives,” said Bush, who was more consistent in this debate than in previous outings.

Bush also defended the flurry of critical advertisements his well-funded super PAC has launched against Rubio and other rivals.

“It’s called politics,” Bush said. “That’s the way it is. I’m running hard.”

TAKEAWAYS

— Elephant not in the room —

Trump has repeatedly demonstrated his ability to dominate the stage. There is little doubt he helped his rivals by not showing up.

He was mocked early and largely forgotten. Cruz set the tone with a sarcastic impression of his top rival: “I’m a maniac and everyone on this stage is stupid, fat and ugly,” Cruz said. “Now that we’ve gotten the Donald Trump portion out of the way …”

Rubio also weighed in: “It’s not about Donald Trump. He’s an entertaining guy. He’s the greatest show on earth.”

Beyond a few playful jabs, the two-hour debate was a Trump-free zone, one of the few such events in the race so far.

— Cruz the front-runner —

Cruz fought to make sure he was positioned at center stage in Trump’s absence, but did little to take advantage of the opportunity. He tried to embrace the role of de facto front-runner at the outset, pointing out that he was being attacked by several rivals — even before there were any pointed exchanges.

Cruz later faced sharp questions on immigration, national security and, perhaps most importantly, whether he was trustworthy. Trust is the theme of the fiery conservative’s campaign, and several candidates questioned his authenticity.

“Ted, throughout this campaign, you’ve been willing to say or do anything in order to get votes,” Rubio charged.

Cruz fought back by accusing Rubio of bending to the will of donors on immigration, but it was hardly a decisive victory.

— No amnesty for Rubio —

Rubio did not help himself among the conservatives who question his position on immigration. The issue is by far his greatest vulnerability as he tries to convince skeptical GOP activists that he doesn’t support so-called amnesty.

The debate moderators played a series of video clips highlighting Rubio’s apparent shift on the issue, which put the first-term senator on the defensive at the outset of a key exchange.

At best, Rubio may have clouded the issue of whether he had backed off his earlier calls for comprehensive legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship.

But Bush seemed to get the best of him in an exchange in which Bush questioned Rubio’s retreat on the issue.

“You shouldn’t cut and run,” Bush charged.

— Bush clouds lane —

Bush repeatedly beat back questions about his long-term viability in the 2016 contest, insisting he has a path to the nomination and would ultimately defeat leading Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“We’re just starting. The first vote hasn’t been counted. Why don’t we let the process work?” Bush said.

Overall, Bush had more success on the debate stage without having to contend with Trump. His strength — and full-steam-ahead approach — was a pointed reminder that the fight for the party’s mainstream wing is far from over.

— Trump’s counter programming —

It was a risky move politically, but Trump helped raise $6 million to benefit veterans at an event three miles away from the debate stage.

Instead of going after his rivals on national television, Trump read out the names of wealthy friends who’d pledged major contributions to veterans’ causes. When he announced he’d pledged $1 million himself, the crowd erupted in cheers.

He explained to the Drake University crowd that he had little choice but to skip the debate. Trump admitted he didn’t know if the decision would hurt him in the polls, but tried to cast it as a sign of strength.

“You have to stick up for your rights. When you’re treated badly, you have to stick up for your rights,” he said.

As for the debate, Trump predicted it would have far fewer viewers without him on the stage. That may be true, but Iowa voters will decide in four days whether Trump hurt his chances in the 2016 race simply to prove a point.

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HOW LONG DID THEY SPEAK via Noah Weiland of POLITICO — (The) endurance champion was Marco Rubio, who was quiet out of the gate but took over the second half of the debate, butting in frequently with attacks against Cruz and Jeb Bush. Rubio turned the spotlight onto Cruz, accusing him of selling out to the GOP flavor of the week throughout his career in Washington. In the end, Rubio finished at 13 minutes, 39 seconds, putting him in first place by just more than 20 seconds over Cruz.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT via Ben Carson: “Putin is a one-horse country — oil and energy.”

DONALD TRUMP WASN’T ON THE DEBATE STAGE, BUT HE WAS STILL FRONT-AND-CENTER IN AMERICANS’ MINDS via Phillip Bump of the Washington Post – We have used Google search traffic as a way of approximating the real-time thinking of people tuning in. … Over the course of the debate, Trump got more attention, minute-by-minute, despite skipping the thing. Paul saw a spike when he mentioned his father, and Rubio saw a spike when he mentioned his faith, but otherwise is was the Trump Show from start to finish.

WATCH EVERY TIME TRUMP WAS MENTIONED AT THE DEBATE — Trump’s name — which he once said was worth $3.3 billion — came up at least a dozen more times during the Des Moines debate. Watch the video here to see every mention.

TWEET, TWEET

— @AriFleischer: Bush was his strongest yet. He probably helped himself in NH.

— @BenjySarlin: So Trump is getting 17% of this Google debate poll without being there

— @BresPolitico: Easily Bush’s best debate

@FrankLuntz: 23 of 27 #GOPDebate focus groupers tonight say @MarcoRubio won the debate

@JRubinBlogger: At this rate Jeb might hop over Cruz — in Iowa. Jeb’s best night and Cruz’s worst.

— @MarcACaputo: Theory: Trump’s no-show hurt Rubio because it helped Cruz…

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Chris Cillizza: Winners — Rand Paul, Megyn Kelly, Jeb Bush, Video reels of past candidate statements, Commercials; Losers — Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Chris Christie

David French of National Review: “Jeb won, Rubio helped himself the most, and thoughts on what might have been

Charles Krauthammer: “Very strong” Jeb wins Fox News Debate. Video here.

Nancy Smith: Winners — Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul; Losers — Ted Cruz, Chris Christie

Leon Wolf of RedState: Winners — Fox News, Chris Christie, Rand Paul; Losers — Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush

DEMOCRATIC/PROGRESSIVE REAX

American Bridge: “Tonight’s sleepy debate made one thing abundantly clear – the Republican Party needs Donald Trump. The Republican field rushed to fill the void left by Trump’s absence by mirroring his extreme positions on issues from immigration to religious tests to taxes rigged against the middle class.  Despite their very best efforts to channel The Donald’s policies, the GOP field nearly put the nation to sleep early. In case there was ever any doubt about Trump’s impact, look no further than his dominance in a debate he didn’t even take part in.

NextGen’s Tom Steyer: “Anyone who hoped that with Donald Trump absent, the remaining Republican presidential candidates would have a serious discussion of our nation’s most urgent challenges was sorely disappointed tonight. The candidates have made clear that if elected president they wouldn’t support Iowa’s clean energy economy, putting them at odds with the majority of Americans—and Iowa’s GOP leaders. These candidates would forfeit America’s opportunity to create millions of jobs, put more money in Americans’ pockets and drive economic growth for decades. The Republican candidates need to stop telling us what they won’t do to address climate change, and start telling us what they would actually do to seize America’s clean energy opportunity.”

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RUBIO TO HUDDLE WITH DONORS POST-DEBATE via Anna Palmer of POLITICO – Rubio plans to speak with major donors and bundlers on … conference call following the Republican debate, according to multiple sources familiar with the call. This is the first time the Florida Republican will personally discuss the state of play with donors since before Christmas. It comes just days before Rubio’s fourth-quarter fundraising numbers … Rubio will need a strong cash infusion from donors to fund campaign operations. Rubio held a major dollar fundraiser in Des Moines … as he continues to try to bring in campaign checks without having to travel to major money centers such as New York and California.

DOES RUBIO HAVE MOMENTUM via Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight —  If anything’s happening, it seems to be confined to Iowa. Rubio has lost a few points, not gained them, in New Hampshire. And his national polls have been flat. There’s also a conspicuous sign that Rubio doesn’t have momentum. Despite being the sort of candidate who should have appeal to ‘party elites,’ Rubio hasn’t received any endorsements from current governors or members of Congress since Sen. Jim Inhofe endorsed him on Jan. 9.”

RUBIO REDUCES AD BUY IN NEW HAMPSHIRE, SOUTH CAROLINA via Leigh Ann Caldwell of NBC News – Rubio has again reduced advertising buys in two early nominating states just days before the primary process officially begins. The campaign cut $102,000 from its television advertising buy in New Hampshire, whose primary is February 9th, and $32,000 from advertisements in South Carolina. South Carolinians head to the polls on February 20th. The reductions are for commercials slated to run from January 26th until February 1st. The latest reduction in advertisement spending comes one week the Florida senator slashed $850,000 in advertising in Iowa in the final days leading up to the February 1st caucus and another $123,000 in New Hampshire.

RICK SCOTT: DON’T COUNT JEB BUSH OUT via James Rosen of the Miami Herald – “I still think it’s early,” Scott [said]. “I mean, we haven’t even done the first primary yet.” Scott said that Bush“was a very successful governor” when he headed the state from 1999 to 2007, noting in particular his education reforms. “We’re at a 12-year high in our K-12 graduation rate,” Scott said. Adding that “Jeb is working hard,” Scott said, “The person that works the hardest generally wins.” Despite praising Bush’s record in Florida, Scott declined to endorse him. Neither is he endorsing — yet — fellow Floridian Rubio, the first-term U.S. senator, nor any of the other Republican presidential hopefuls. “Like a lot of voters in Florida, I’m watching the candidates,” the governor said.

BUSH HOPES TO HAVE GEORGE W. BUSH ON TRAIL NEXT MONTH via Michael Bender of Bloomberg Politics – George W. Bush left the White House with an approval rating of 34 percent, and he remains one of the most divisive political figures in the nation. But his brother sees a huge upside and plans to join forces with the 43rd president on the campaign trail. “He’s the most popular Republican alive,” Jeb Bush said … “George, if you look at his favorability among Republican, it’s pretty serious” … details of when the two brothers would campaign together are being worked out. Asked if the former president, who was viewed favorably by three out of four Republicans … would campaign with him in South Carolina, Bush said: “That’s my hope … It’s appropriate to kind of set the table a little bit to get a sense of where we are … Iowa and New Hampshire are going to change whatever the dynamics look like today, one way or another.”

— “Jeb Bush is best choice for Republican nomination” via the Tampa Bay Times

NEW POLL SHOWS FOUR-WAY BATTLE FOR SECOND PLACE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE GOP PRIMARY via James Pindell of the Boston Globe – A new poll of likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters once again puts … Trump in the lead, but it also shows a quickly shifting and intense fight for second place. Notably … Bush has moved into a four-way statistical tie for second place in the survey, along with … KasichCruz and Rubio …  Trump had 27 percent, while Cruz and Kasich had 12 percent, Bush had 11 percent, and Rubio had 10 percent in the survey. Another 12 percent of likely Republican primary voters said they were undecided in the Feb. 9 contest.

POLL DU JOUR #2: A new Public Policy Polling survey in Iowa finds Trump leading the GOP presidential race with 31%, followed by Cruz at 23%, Rubio at 14% and Carson at 9%.

MANY 2016 CANDIDATES DON’T DISCLOSE BUNDLERS via Fredreka Schouten of USA TODAY – Rubio … has not released his bundlers’ names. Campaign officials “disclose what we’re required to,” spokesman Alex Conant said … Cruz spokesman Brian Phillips said no decision has been made yet. While candidates often tout the big names who have joined their “finance committees,” only Bush and Clinton have released bundler lists indicating who actually has raised money.

COMPANIES WORRY TRUMP-LED CONVENTION COULD HURT BRANDS via Anna Palmer of POLITICO – Companies weighing Republican National Convention sponsorships are nervous about their brands being associated with Trump if he’s the nominee … “If it is him, many will scale down activity,” said one Republican lobbyist who has held conference calls about the so-called Trump factor.

***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.***

ALAN GRAYSON GETS NOD FROM PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRATS OF AMERICA via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The group, which held a town hall-style teleconference with Grayson last week, had been backing him informally since before he officially entered the race last summer … last month 90 percent of the PDA’s Florida membership voted to endorse him. “Rep. Alan Grayson fights for the progressive change we need, on the issues which the PDA has long advocated,” the group stated … “We’re confident that the hard-hitting honesty he brought to the U.S. House of Representatives will bring some much needed backbone to the U.S. Senate.”

JOHN MORGAN EXPECTING MORE ALLIES, FEWER OPPONENTS IN SECOND POT AMENDMENT TRY via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Florida’s champions of medical marijuana expressed confidence … they have learned enough from their two-point 2014 election defeat to win this November. The group’s chair… John Morgan, and campaign manager, Ben Pollara, predicted they will have more allies and fewer opponents in 2016 than they did in 2014. One reason … all the activity surrounding the state’s limited (though troubled and still not implemented) medical marijuana law, which allows non-euphoric pot products for people with epilepsy and a handful of other disorders, has spread interest. “When we started till now, no law firm had a marijuana practice area. Now every big law firm has a medical marijuana practice area. Not one lobbyist had a marijuana client. Now every lobbyist has a marijuana client,” Morgan said. “Law firms, lobbyists, legislators, they know it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, and they just have to figure out how to do it.”

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SENATE TIES RICK SCOTT’S INCENTIVE MONEY TO GULF OIL SPILL SETTLEMENT FUNDS via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Scott has requested a $250 million pot of economic incentive funding his administration can use to lure new businesses to the state … The Senate budget … would fund $100 million of that number with the latest oil spill settlement money. Under the terms of the settlement, 75 percent of its funds must be spent in the Panhandle, which was hit hardest by the 2010 spill. The remaining 25 percent would fund the pot of economic incentive money.

NEARLY $800M SEPARATES HOUSE, SENATE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT BUDGETS via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The Senate’s transportation and economic development budget is nearly $800 million larger than the plan put forward by the House, a difference that will no doubt be one of the last issues debated during the final weeks of the legislative session … [Both plans] deal with a number of key issues very differently. Overall, the Senate proposal is $12.4 billion, or $796 million more than the House plan. The most high-profile differences between the two will be funding for the $250 million pot of economic incentive money that … Scott‘s administration can use to lure companies to Florida. The Senate gave Scott the $250 million, but tied it to the state receiving settlement money from 2010’s BP oil spill. It’s unclear exactly when the money will arrive, but Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office expects it before the end of the current fiscal year. The House plan does not fund the economic incentive program. But

HOUSE, SENATE RELEASE EDUCATION BUDGET PROPOSALS FOR 2016-2017 via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The House is endorsing an education budget of $7.26 billion; the Senate plan for education is slightly smaller, coming in at $7.25 billion … House is offering $1.205 billion for Florida colleges; the Senate is putting that number at $1.227 billion. Both plans estimate tuition revenue at $2 billion. State universities would get $4.73 billion under the House plan while the Senate provides $4.68 billion … performance funding to state universities … the House would give $500 million, half that number coming from new state money and the rest from the university base budget. From the Senate plan, universities would receive $475 million; $225 of that coming from the state. Performance funding for the Florida College System under the house plan would be $60 million — $40 million from the state and $20 million from colleges. The Senate would also give Colleges $60 million in performance funding, but with half coming from the state and the rest from the schools.

SENATE RECOMMENDS $3.6 BILLION FOR ENVIRONMENTAL AGENCIES IN 2016-17 BUDGET via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Among other things, the budget provides $1.5 billion to the Department of Environmental Protection, $1.7 billion to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service, $384.8 million to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and $41.9 million to the Department of Citrus … confirms a 4 percent budget increase requested by the DEP and Scott, but only $82 million for Everglades restoration, which was less than contained in both the DEP budget ($176 million) and Scott’s plan ($151 million.) … $50 million for springs restoration projects … $82.6 million to land acquisition … give Florida Forever $22.3 million … $50 million would be allocated for water projects statewide. Local governments had already requested nearly $700 million for various water projects. FDACS’ budget also includes about $2.8 million for implementing agriculture best management practices statewide, as well as eight additional staffers for the Office of Water Policy and a line item that would increase the pay for firefighters.

ON EVERGLADES ACTION DAY, ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS TO URGE LAWMAKERS TO SET ASIDE MONEY FOR RESTORATION PROJECTS via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – “The focus this year is a funding mechanism,” said Jason Totoiu, the co-chairman of the Everglades Coalition, which is made up a coalition of 61 environmental and conservation organizations. “It’s been inconsistent” … Totoiu said the money set aside each year has varied, which may have hampered restoration projects. Totoiu said the coalition plans to encourage lawmakers to set aside some of the Amendment 1 dollars for restoration projects. They aren’t alone in that plight … two Treasure Coast lawmakers filed legislation (HB 989/SB 1168) to secure funding for Everglades restoration. The proposals — sponsored by Gayle Harrell and Joe Negron — call on the state to set aside 25 percent or $200 million, whichever is the smallest, a year for Everglades projects.

BRIAN PITTS SUING SCOTT, LAWMAKERS OVER “INVALID” STATE BUDGET via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Perennial gadfly and Capitol fixture Pitts is suing … for “preliminary and perpetual relief” from what he calls an “invalid” state budget for this year. Pitts, a trustee of his St. Petersburg-based Justice-2-Jesus church group, filed a 30-page complaint in Leon Circuit Civil Court last week …  In the sometimes rambling document, mystifyingly laid out in landscape format, Pitts said the 2015-16 state budget … is both “unlawful and unconstitutional.” Pitts laid out a laundry list of offenses bolstering his argument, including a lack of itemizations and improperly defined line-items, though Pitts acknowledges “there are just too many (deficiencies) to number.”

SENATE APPROVES CHANGES TO ‘STAND YOUR GROUND’ LAW via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – By a 24-12 vote, the Florida Senate … approved changes to the state’s “stand your ground” law — which are endorsed by the National Rifle Association but which opponents argue would “stack the deck against justice for the dead,” especially if the victim is a racial minority. The legislation shifts the burden of proof in a pre-trial hearing from defendants to prosecutors, requiring state attorneys to prove “by clear and convincing evidence” why a defendant could not claim “stand your ground” in self-defense cases. Its prospects at becoming law are unknown, because a House version — which required the demonstration of a higher burden of proof from prosecutors — unexpectedly stalled in November in committee, a rare defeat for a priority of the NRA.

SENATE APPROVES MAJOR CHANGE TO STATE’S 10 TO 20-LIFE LAW via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times –A unanimous Florida Senate … removed the crime of aggravated assault from the list of gun-related crimes that require an automatic 20-year prison sentence under a law known as 10-20-Life. The 38-0 vote is the latest sign by lawmakers across the political spectrum that minimum mandatory prison sentences, in which judges have no discretion in sentencing, are in some cases are arbitrary and unjust. The 10-20-Life law took effect in 1999, the first year Jeb Bushwas governor, during a wave of gun-related crime across Florida. It is widely supported by prosecutors and public defenders, has passed three committees in the House with no dissenting votes, and is likely to reach Scott‘s desk before the current legislative session ends.

OPEN CARRY BILL SHOOTS THROUGH HOUSE COMMITTEE via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – The Florida House Judiciary Committee paved the way for open carry … approving a measure to legalize a bill allowing open carry– the bill’s last stop before heading to the House floor — by a vote of 12-4. Only one Democrat, Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasalinda … voted to approve the measure. HB 163 … would make it legal for concealed carry permit holders to carry their firearms in public. Anyone who willfully infringes on concealed weapons permit holders’ right to openly carry (like law enforcement officers) would face a $5,000 fine. Government entities who try to infringe upon the open carry rule could face an even higher penalty, $100,000.

HOUSE, SENATE DISAGREEMENT MEANS OPEN CARRY BILL LIKELY DEAD via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News – Sen. Don Gaetz … will block an amendment to his bill that removes the allowance to openly carry weapons and replace it with language to only forgive accidental display of weapons in public. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla … would block the proposal if the bill does not include that amendment. Members of a House committee rejected the amendment … and passed a version of Gaetz’s bill on a 12-4 vote. That bill is now headed for the House floor. Diaz de la Portilla … said he would consider the failure of the House amendment and may decide to block Gaetz’s bill. “I’ll have to consider that in my decision,” Diaz de la Portilla said. “I don’t know if (the amendment) will face a tough crowd in the Senate but it’s obvious it faced a tough crowd in the House.”

CHILD-SUPPORT ACTIVIST EJECTED FROM SENATE PANEL VOWS TO RETURN via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Cynthia Wheeler, a nurse and child-support activist from Palm Beach County, has come to Tallahassee before to speak on family-law related bills. She was in the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday for a bill (SB 250), sponsored by Tom Lee that would change state law on child-sharing. But the panel ran late, and chair Miguel Diaz de la Portilla … told people who wanted to speak on the bill they could have only 30 seconds each. So Wheeler said she decided to get straight to her point, saying, “Senator Lee is a liar; no study has been done to say the demographics don’t exist…”De la Portilla wouldn’t have it: “No no no no, we won’t … I’m sorry, ma’am, we don’t do that.” A Senate sergeant-at-arms quickly came over to the lectern and turned off the microphone. After a few seconds, he tried to physically remove her but she stood her ground.

JET FUEL TAX PROPOSAL REROUTED TO HOUSE TAX PACKAGE, FUTURE UNCERTAIN via Florida Politics – A proposal to change the state’s jet fuel tax was rerouted … by the House Finance and Tax Committee … it may possibly be rolled into a larger tax package. In addition to being absorbed into the overall tax package, the move could make the jet fuel tax revenue-neutral. Originally, the bill would have instituted a 3.3-cent per gallon tax on jet fuel; Wednesday’s move now aims to make the tax an across-the-board 4.27-cent per-gallon. While cutting a range of taxes, the plan tries to fix an ongoing disparity, something that has been a part of Florida’s tax code – for one reason or another – for years. However, it also creates the same problem many have had with the state’s jet fuel tax in the first place. Although some progress has been made on the issue, a final destination for this proposal is still unknown. And, given the track record of Florida lawmakers (as well as tax cuts advocated by Scott), the future is far from certain.

OP-ED OF THE DAY: DECEPTIVE BILL IS DAMAGING TO WOMEN via Lauren Groff for the Gainesville Sun – Because I am a novelist, my imagination sometimes conjures up an alternative timeline for my life. In one alternate world, birth control is difficult to find and so many obstacles have been placed before my legal right to abortion access that they’re almost impossible to get … This alternative reality is closer than one might think for many young Florida women. This week, the Florida Legislature held hearings on dangerous legislation called the TRAP (Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers) bill. This is dishonest regulation that does nothing to improve patient care or health outcomes; rather, it restricts access to reproductive health care by increasing unnecessary government regulation and mandatory reporting to cut off women’s access to safe, legal abortion care in Florida. This bill requires all abortion-providing physicians to obtain admitting privileges to local hospitals, which is absolutely medically unnecessary; it mandates yearly inspections of abortion providers with at least 50 percent of patient records examined, which is immensely intrusive into patients’ privacy; and it effectively defunds Planned Parenthood in Florida by prohibiting state funding — including Medicaid contracts — to be provided to abortion providers … Reproductive health services are among the safest and most sought-after forms of medical care in the United States. Planned Parenthood leads the charge in sexual health education, which has been proven over and over to be the most powerful tool we have against unwanted pregnancies.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will join the final two days of the 20th anniversary Great Florida Cattle Drive, where several hundred participants drive more than 500 head of cattle from South St. Cloud to the Silver Spurs Arena, 1875 Silver Spur Ln. in Kenansville.

***The Edison offers exclusive dining options that are sure to impress your guests. Dine at our Chef’s Table to experience the hustle and bustle in the heart of The Edison’s kitchen and watch the Chef personally prepare your cuisine in this one-of-a-kind dining space. Looking for something a little more intimate? The Edison’s Private Wine Room offers a stunning atmosphere that serves as the perfect backdrop to your next dinner party. Learn more.***

ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA

Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda features former governor Charlie Crist and his quest for yet another political office. Gomes also recaps the time-honored tradition of the Capitol Press Corps sharing laughs with the people they cover. Veteran (sometimes retired) journalist Lucy Morgan shares her best memories leading into the 61st (Sometimes) Annual Press Skits.

Gomes also talks with Secretaries Christina K. Daly of the Department of Juvenile Justice and Mike Carroll with the Department of Children and Families about their ongoing efforts to identify and put a stop to human trafficking.

WEEKEND TV

Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James  on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: Political analyst Dr. Lawrence Miller on Trump’s fraught relationship with the national Republican party.

Facing Florida with Mike Vasilinda: Outgoing Dept. of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio and Florida Education Association President Joanne McCall.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida President Susan Smith, Tampa Chamber of Commerce head Ron Christaldi, Tampa Tribune reporter Anastasia Dawson, and Tampa Bay Times reporter Craig Pittman.

On Point with Shannon Ogden on WFCN in Jacksonville: UNF professor Dr. Michael Binder on the upcoming Iowa caucuses, Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union with an update on the 2016 Legislative Session.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Republican Senate candidate Todd Wilcox on why he believes he’s best suited to take over Rubio’s Senate seat, Lou Frey and Dick Batchelor preview Monday night’s Iowa caucuses, and PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter rates a claim made by Rubio about the 1981 release of the American hostages held by Iran.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Steve Vancore, Gary Yordon, Sean Pittman, and Dr. Bob McClure of the James Madison Institute.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Political analyst & former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll on Presidential candidates ahead of Iowa, plus attorneys Julie Agent Schlax and Rod Sullivan debate the meaning of a recent ruling on Florida’s death penalty. Plus Jacksonville University Professor Ellen Wald talks energy markets.

WHAT THE POLITICO FL STAFF IS READING: POLITICO IMPLODES via Erik Wemple of the Washington Post – In what can be described only as a cataclysm in Beltway media, CEO Jim VandeHei is leaving Politico … And in what can be described only as a mega-cataclysm, Politico Chief White House correspondent Mike Allen is joining VandeHei … It doesn’t end there: Kim Kingsley, the Chief Operating Officer is leaving as well. Kingsley has provided the glue that bridged Politico’s newsroom and its business side as the site sprinted to revenues approaching $20 million just years after launching … Other departures are Danielle Jones and Chief Revenue Officer Roy Schwartz. VandeHei, Allen and Schwartz will stay through the 2016 election; the others will leave on earlier timetables. Editor-in-Chief John Harris will say on board and take on the additional title of publisher. Politico as we’ve come to know it is no longer. The reported departures follow whispers among Washington media circles that VandeHei was clashing with Politico ownership — chiefly Robert Allbritton — about matters related to Politico’s expansion and profitability. “Our dream is a Politico journalistic presence in every capital of every state and country of consequence by 2020,” wrote VandeHei and Harris in a staff memo last year. It’s not clear where that dream is headed now.

***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.***

PERSONNEL NOTE: AT&T NAMES CRISTAL COLE REGIONAL DIRECTOR OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS via Florida Politics – Cole will serve as Regional Director of External Affairs for Northeast Miami-Dade County and the Miami-Dade County School Board. In her new role, Cole will be responsible for a variety of legislative and community affairs initiatives. She will assist with technology deployment and infrastructure investment, collaborating with community, legislative and business leaders. “The opportunity to work with a company like AT&T whose reputation of service is so deeply-rooted in the South Florida community is exciting to me,” Cole said … “Continuing the tradition of serving a community I love while helping AT&T deliver cutting edge technologies through products and services that will enhance the quality of life of all Floridians is a win-win for me.”

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Brian Ballard, Ballard Partners: City of Hollywood

Darryl Boudreau: The Nature Conservancy

Stephen Burgess, Sarah Niewold, Meenan: AHIP – America’s Health Insurance Plans; NAIFA-Florida,

Michael Corcoran, Michael Cantens, Jeff Johnston, Amanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: American Airlines

Kevin Dempsey, Michael Hole, Norman Pellegrini, Mark Weinberg: Citigroup Global Markets

Tonyaa Renee Fargason: Board of Governors, State University System of Florida

Michael Fields: Bank of America

Christopher Finkbeiner, Heather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: Ride Group

Nick Iarossi, Ashley Kalifeh, Capital City Consulting: Lodestar Financial Group; RaceTech

George Marsh, Richard Sicking, James Tolley: Florida Professional Firefighters

Kent Perez: Office of the Attorney General

William Power: American Chemistry Council

Edward Pozzuoli: Life Insurance Settlement Association

Jonathan Setzer, Southern Strategy Group: The College Board

Michelle Renee Tallent: Department of Health

Jennifer Ungru, Jones Walker: Leon Medical Centers

Brandon Wagner: Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners

Paul Wharton, Paul W. Wharton Ph.D. Consulting: First Coast Maritime Academy

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Marlene Williams, a “30 under 30 Rising Star of Florida politics.”

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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