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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – March 1

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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

RUMOR DU JOUR —  Florida Governor Rick Scott will endorse Donald Trump tonight during a Trump rally at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach

HAPPY SUPER TUESDAY –“This race goes national” Hillary Clinton declared on Saturday night after crushing Bernie Sanders in the South Carolina Democratic Primary, and it does in a big way on Super Tuesday as a dozen states hold primaries and caucuses across the country.

Today has also been called the SEC Primary, what with Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia , Alabama, Arkansas and Texas voters all going to the polls today.

The name of the game is delegates – a total of 595 Republican delegates are up for grabs of the 1,237 needed to clinch the GOP nomination. Sanders and Clinton are facing off for 865 of the 2,383 delegated needed to win the Democratic race.

Republicans are competing in Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia.

Democrats will award delegates in the same states apart from Alaska, and are also competing in Colorado and in American Samoa.

Clinton and Trump are the front-runners going into 2016’s biggest Election Day of the year, and both are expected to come out on top in the majority of the contests they’re engaging in on Tuesday.

With the exception of Texas, where native son Ted Cruz leads in most polls, Trump could run the table. Some Marco Rubio partisans say he has a chance in Minnesota, but the Donald looks formidable.

The GOP race has disintegrated into a raucous series of name calling in recent days, following last Thursday night’s demolition derby like debate from Houston. Although Marco Rubio appears to be having a ball on the campaign trail attacking Trump with a number of personal attacks, it remains dubious if that will change the projected flow of the campaign, which has Trump only gaining strength.

The Manhattan business mogul spent much of Monday on defense, after weirdly failing to disassociate himself from receiving the endorsement from white supremacist David Duke on Sunday.

Conservative Solutions PAC, a super PAC supporting Rubio’s candidacy, began airing an ad on Monday which cuts to Trump saying about the KKK, “Well, I have to look at the group.”

“Trump refuses to denounce the KKK,” the narrator intones. “Think about that? For President?”

Meanwhile, Clinton is expected to dominate in the Southern States, where her favorability numbers with black voters is expected to continue after her shellacking of Sanders in South Carolina.

But Sanders insists he will take home a handful of states on Tuesday.

“I think we got a real shot at Minnesota. I think we got a shot at Colorado, Oklahoma, Massachusetts and Vermont,” Sanders said on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. “So we’re looking to the future, not looking back.”

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SUPER TUESDAY WAS CREATED TO NOMINATE SOMEONE MODERATE. IT BACKFIRED via Domenico Montanaro of NPR – The phrase “Super Tuesday” first emerged in 1980, when three southern states — Alabama, Florida and Georgia — held their primaries on the same day. It grew to nine in 1984. But the modern-day Super Tuesday was born in 1988, when a dozen southern states on the Democratic side, upset with the nomination of Walter Mondale four years earlier and frustrated with being out of power in the White House for 20 years, save for one term of Jimmy Carter, banded together to try and nominate someone more moderate. It backfired. Al Gore of Tennessee and Jesse Jackson split the Southern states with Jackson winning black Democrats. That allowed for Michael Dukakis to become the nominee after winning in the North, as well as in Florida and Texas. He, like Mondale before him, would go on to lose badly in the general election.


Alabama: Trump 42%, Rubio 19%, Cruz 16%, Carson 11%, Kasich 5% (Monmouth)

Oklahoma: Trump 35%, Cruz 23%, Rubio 22%, Kasich 8%, Carson 7% (Monmouth)

Massachusetts: Trump 47%, Rubio 15%, Cruz 15%, Kasich 11%, Carson 2% (UMass)

Texas: Cruz 33%, Trump 32%, Rubio 17%, Kasich 7%, Carson 6% (ARG)

— “Donald Trump expands lead in Georgia” via

MARCO RUBIO FINDS RENEWED PURPOSE IN TAKING ON DONALD TRUMP via Zeke Miller of TIME magazine – Rubio’s Super Tuesday run up – which, post-debate, has been about eviscerating Trump, often by resorting to his bullying tactics. “Days before Super Tuesday, when 12 states and one territory cast their votes, the Florida senator has turned his campaign into a riposte to Trump’s dominance in the Republican field. But unlike the half-dozen candidates who have followed similar routes, Rubio is aiming to beat Trump at his own game.”

RUBIO BARNSTORMS COUNTRY ON EVE OF SUPER TUESDAY via Ledyard King of USA TODAY –Rubio barnstormed across the country … trading jabs with GOP presidential rival Trump on the eve of Super Tuesday. “Name me a single great leader in human history that is saying the things, doing the things or acting the way he’s acting now,” Rubio said at an Atlanta rally … “This is not who we can turn over this country to, or our party. So I ask you: go out there and let your friends know that tomorrow’s an important day.” Rubio is not expected to win any of the 11 states on Super Tuesday: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia. But he’s expected to capture dozens of delegates because those states award them on a proportional basis.

TWEET, TWEET: @HawkinsUSA: Final Super Tuesday events today: Trump: VA, GA Rubio: TN, GA, AR, OK, OK Cruz: TX, TX Kasich: VT, MA Carson: KY, VA

WHY TED CRUZ PROBABLY WON’T DROP OUT, NO MATTER WHAT via Joshua Green of Bloomberg Politics  Dropping out would violate the logic of Cruz‘s whole political career. And anyone acquainted with his character and ambition should probably assume … that he won’t. Although his odds of winning the nomination are long, Cruz is bound to do what’s best for Cruz.

JOHN KASICH CONCEDES SUPER TUESDAY — AND MAYBE MICHIGAN — TO TRUMP via Henry Gomez of the Cleveland Plain Dealer – Kasich [is]virtually conceding Super Tuesday to Trump and publically lowering expectations for one of his key states, Michigan. “I think Trump’s probably going to win probably all of them. … But you keep holding your own and we have our campaign plan. … Our campaign plan was ultimately to, you know, hold our own in some of these places, and we will, I expect.”

BEN CARSON CAMP DOESN’T EXPECT SUPER TUESDAY WINS, BUT HE’S ‘GALVANIZED ABOUT STAYING IN’ via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – “We would be surprised if he won any states. What we’d like to do is garner some delegates,” said Robert Dees, the retired Army major general who became Carson’s campaign chairman in January after a staff shakeup. “He’s galvanized about staying in,” Dees said of Carson.

***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.***

FORMER SEN. TOM COBURN ENDORSES RUBIO, TRASHES DONALD TRUMP via Nick Gass of POLITICO –  He also had some … acute words for Trump. His campaign is a fabrication. He is perpetuating a fraud on the American people. His empty promises, bullying and bloviating rhetoric will only deepen the frustration and disillusionment that gave rise to his campaign.

— “Marco Rubio gets former Florida Sen. Connie Mack’s endorsement” via Alex Leary of the Miami Herald

— “Former Florida Sen. Mel Martinez endorses Marco Rubio” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald

RUBIO’S SUPER PAC GOES AFTER DONALD TRUMP ON KKK REMARKS via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – One of Rubio’s Super PACS has released a new commercial that blasts Trump for his refusal to disavow ex-Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke during an interview on a Sunday morning talk-show. The ad from the Conservative Solutions PAC opens with CNN’s Jake Tapperdescribing how he asked Trump three times whether he would reject the support of Duke and the KKK. The ad then cuts to Trump, saying, “Well, I have to look at the group” … “Trump refuses to denounce the KKK,” the narrator says. “Think about that? For president?” PAC officials say the ad, called “Better Way,” will air in states voting in March, as well as and on digital platforms.

TAKING APART DONALD TRUMP — John Oliver does to Trump what 16 Republicans presidential candidates have failed to do so far.

GOP GOVERNORS HOLD EMERGENCY CALL TO DISCUSS TRUMP via POLITICO: Top Republicans — including governors who convened an emergency conference call on Monday on which Trump was Topic A — expect the real estate mogul to carry as many as 10 states on Tuesday night, an outcome that would deal a body blow to Sen. Ted Cruz, who has staked his campaign heavily on the Southern states holding nominating contests, and to Sen. Marco Rubio, who has yet to win a primary and isn’t expected to do so on Tuesday.

PHOTOGRAPHER: SECRET SERVICE AGENT CHOKED ME AT A TRUMP RALLY via Jim Acosta, Kristen Holmes, Julia Manchester and Jeremy Diamond of CNN –  A photographer covering a Trump rally in Virginia said a Secret Service agent choked him and slammed him to the ground … as he tried to leave a media pen at the event where a protest erupted. A video of the incident shot by an attendee at the rally and later posted on social media shows the agent putting two hands on the photographer’s neck and slamming him to the ground. TIME magazine photographer Chris Morris told CNN that as he tried to exit the media pen, a Secret Service agent began choking him. “I’m not pressing charges,” Morris said. “I stepped 18 inches out of the pen and he grabbed me by the neck and started choking me and then he slammed me to the ground.”

TRUMP SECRETLY TOLD THE NEW YORK TIMES WHAT HE REALLY THINKS ABOUT IMMIGRATION via Ben Smith of BuzzFeed News – The New York Times is sitting on a recording of Trump opining on immigration that could, if released, have a dramatic effect on the GOP race. Trump visited the paper’s Manhattan headquarters on Tuesday, Jan. 5, part of a round of editorial board meetings. … The meetings, conducted partly on the record and partly off the record in a 13th floor conference room, give candidates a chance to make their pitch for the paper’s endorsement.

STUDENTS WANT JOE GRUTERS OFF FSU BOARD, PLAN PROTEST ON CAMPUS via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics –  Although Donald Trump said that he does disassociate himself from white supremacist David Duke, critics of the GOP presidential front-runner are seizing on his reluctance to do so in a CNN interview on Sunday. Among those critics are Florida State University students angry that Gruters, Trump’s campaign manager in Florida, sits on the FSU Board of Trustees. Activists say they’ll hold a public demonstration on the FSU campus at noon, calling for Gruters to step down from his position with the university. Gruters is in “direct violation of University Policy by acting as a surrogate for a candidate who repeatedly puts people down based on race, religion, etc.,” FSU student Jane Reid said. Reid is with FSU Students Against Racism.

EPILOGUE — JEB BUSH’S AMBITIONS PAID DIVIDENDS FOR GOP ADMAKER OVER THE YEARS via Matea Gold of the Washington Post – The sudden end to Bush’s presidential campaign this month appeared to bring another chapter to a close: his long and fruitful partnership with … Mike Murphy, the brash strategist who has been at his side for nearly two decades. Murphy rejected speculation in news reports and on Twitter that he made millions from Right to Rise. His total compensation was capped, he said, ending up in the “middle six figures” … Overall, less than 5 percent of the $81 million that the group spent on TV and digital ads – or less than $4 million – went to commissions for an ad-buying company and the firms run by the super PAC’s two media strategists, Murphy and Larry McCarthy.

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VOTERS IN FLORIDA BEGIN EARLY VOTING IN CRUCIAL PRIMARY via Sergio Bustos of the Associated Press – Tens of thousands of voters headed to the polls … for early voting in this critical contest that could make-or-break the presidential aspirations of native son, Sen. Rubio. Florida’s large and diverse population has turned it into a fiercely contested swing state in the general election, but it is also critical for nailing down all 99 Republican delegates at stake. Projections show that more than half of those voting in the primary will have cast their ballots before the March 15primary. So far, more than 303,000 Republican voters and more than 261,000 Democratic voters have submitted their absentee ballots … That means the absentee ballots thus far cast in Florida alone far outnumber the combined 335,000 voters who took part in the Iowa and Nevada caucuses. About 1.7 million Democratic and Republican voters requested absentee ballots ahead of the primary, said UF’s Smith. Absentee voters were mailed ballots weeks ago and include the names of Bush and seven other GOP candidates who have since dropped out of the race … almost 44 percent of the absentee Republican votes so far are from people who did not vote in 2012.

FLORIDA EARLY BALLOT VOTE UPDATE — With 16 days until Election Day, approximately 35 percent of all requested mail ballots have been returned. As of Monday, 10 a.m.: 584,946 votes have been cast (306,619 Republicans, 264,017 Democrats). Ballots mailed — Republican: 876,747; Democrat: 735,190; NMP: 51,218; Total: 1,638,481; Early voting has begun in Baker, Calhoun, Charlotte, Desoto, Duval, Hendry, Hillsborough, Lake, Levy, Liberty, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Orange, Polk, Santa Rosa and Taylor.

HILLARY CLINTON HAS BIG LEAD IN NEW FLORIDA POLL via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – The University of North Florida survey … has Clinton at 54 percent support and Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, at 24 percent. The 30-point difference is even larger than a Quinnipiac University poll … that had Clinton up by 26 percentage points. Clinton leads Sanders with African-American voters in Florida 66 percent to 12 percent and among female voters 58 percent to 20 percent.

ALAN GRAYSON THROWS ENDORSEMENT, SUPERDELEGATE VOTE, TO BERNIE SANDERS via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – Grayson made the decision after asking his supporter to help him decide between Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Grayson’s campaign said his effort, run through a web page, drew more than 376,000 on-line votes, and they came down overwhelmingly for Sanders, 86 percent to 14 percent. “Build it and they will come,” Grayson said. “And it turns out the voters want to play on this field of dreams.” It should be no surprise. Sanders and Grayson are both firmly entrenched in the Democratic Party’s progressive wing and more closely aligned with policies than Grayson and Clinton. Also, Sanders and Grayson hold the distinctions of being the only two members of Congress able to run campaigns largely on money raised through small donations, according to Grayson’s campaign’s release.

— “Clinton-Murphy supporters mock Grayson’s endorsement of Sanders” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO

EDITORIAL OF THE DAY — ALAN GRAYSON’S BLOODY BUSINESS MODEL via Florida Today –Thumbs down to Grayson, now a U.S. Senate candidate, whose ethically murky role in a hedge fund was revealed Feb. 11 by The New York Times. Grayson … initially named the fund after himself, based partly in the secretive Cayman Islands, and solicited investors by touting his experience on the House Financial Services Committee (minimum investment: $500,000). The fund specialized in finding profits in countries in crisis and Grayson told clients the best time to invest in companies there was when there was “blood in the streets” … That hardly jibes with Grayson’s image as a fighter for social justice. Grayson changed the name of the committee, but now is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for possibly mingling his congressional and business roles.

NATIONAL WOMEN’S RIGHTS GROUP BACKS PATRICK MURPHY IN FLORIDA’S U.S. SENATE RACE via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – “Patrick Murphy has consistently fought to defend and expand Americans’ reproductive freedom and we are proud to stand with him in his race for U.S. Senate,” [said] Sasha Bruce, a senior vice president with NARAL Pro-Choice America … Bruce called Murphy a “champion” and said he was “fearless in going up against the anti-choice majority in Congress and pushing back against the Republican-led smear campaign targeting Planned Parenthood and other health care providers.” Murphy said he’ll be the fighter that he says Florida women need in the U.S. Senate.

CARLOS BERUFF MAKES U.S. SENATE BID OFFICIAL via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – “This country that has given me so much is on the verge of slipping away from us,” said Beruff, who was born in Miami in 1958 to Cuban immigrants and now lives near Bradenton and owns Medallion Home. Beruff, a close ally of Scott, who is expected to dig deep into his own pockets to help fund his campaign, made his announcement at a Cuban bakery near where he grew up. He also is making stops in Jacksonville and Orlando before ending his first day on the campaign trail at his company headquarters in Manatee County.

TURN OUT THE LIGHTS, ELECTION IS OVER: NEARLY 75% OF FLORIDA VOTERS SUPPORT SMART SOLAR AMENDMENT, POLL SHOWS via Florida Politics – Nearly three out of four Florida voters are in favor of Amendment 1 according to the first opinion poll since the Consumers for Smart Solar initiative made the ballot in late January. “We are proud to have more than 1 million voters on record in support of our Smart Solar Amendment,” said Consumers for Smart Solar Co-Chairman Dick Batchelor. “And, we are delighted with the overwhelming voter support for Amendment 1 that was found in this survey.” The group said the poll “showed strong support for the amendment across all party, geographic and demographic groups.” About 15 percent of respondents said they were against the amendment.

DEMOCRAT JIM LANGE TO CHALLENGE DENNIS ROSS IN CD 15 via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Although last year’s redistricting has made Ross‘ Congressional District 15 seat slightly less Republican … he remains a strong favorite to be re-elected this fall. Jim Lange says that doesn’t intimidate him. “There are people more qualified, better connected, (and who) have better resources,” the self-effacing 54-year-old Lutz business consultant acknowledged during a recent interview. Nevertheless, the former “Reagan Republican” turned-converted Democrat is challenging Ross this November. It won’t be easy. While devoid of any political experience in the United States, Lange has certainly done his fair share of public service the past six years in Haiti. He established and runs the Haiti Recovery & Development Co., a nonprofit he created shortly after learning about the devastating earthquake there that killed nearly 300,000 people more than six years ago.

***LECRAE – LECRAE is heading back to school in 2016. The two-time Grammy® Award-winning hip-hop artist, known for his music message frequently at odds with his hip-hop peers, has fans buzzing with excitement at the announcement that he’ll be hitting the road in February 2016 for his HIGHER LEARNING TOUR including a Friday, April 8 show at Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. Joining Lecrae in Tallahassee will be DJ Promote and Swoope. Tickets are on sale now at!***

PR CAMPAIGN FOR JOHN ARMSTRONG CONFIRMATION IN HIGH GEAR via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – As of Monday, Scott’s press shop and that of the Health Department had sent out at least 20 ICYMI emails (“in case you missed it”), with a different individual or organization encouraging the Florida Senate to confirm Armstrong as the state’s top doc. Those groups, for instance, include the Florida Academy of Family Physicians and American College of Surgeons. His nomination is up before the Senate’s Ethics and Elections Committee at 8:30 a.m.


— “Here’s what I think I think about budget negotiations, Andy Gardiner, and the Seminole Compact” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

HOUSE DEMOCRATS RUNNING OUT OF REASONS TO VOTE NO ON BUDGET via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Democrats hate big tax cuts, and Republicans don’t like them this year either. Democrats don’t like spending taxpayer money to lure private companies to Florida, and Republicans flatly refuse to support this signature priority of Scott‘s. Democrats don’t like Republicans paying for a school budget increase on the backs of property taxpayers — and Republicans changed that too. In an historic policy shift and over Scott’s objections, they will pay for the boost in per-pupil spending with state tax revenue instead. “They have responded to a lot of things that we’ve complained about,” said Rep. Mark Pafford the House minority leader. “The big difference is that they’re actually putting together the kind of budget that we wanted to do.”

TED PROPOSALS INCH CLOSER, BUMP OTHER ITEMS TO BUDGET CHIEFS via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics – The Senate inched closer to the House Transportation and Economic Development budget Monday night with its third proposal, cutting the difference between the two chambers to a couple dozen line items and disagreements on funding sources. The House and Senate came to terms on the Department of Transportation budget earlier Monday, but still had a wide gulf between their respective plans for the Department of Economic Opportunity. The Senate made steps in closing that gap with it’s third offer, which matched the House position on about 20 line items, including the removal of $450,000 in business development center cash for Florida International University and a host of other six-figure sums within the Department of Economic Opportunity budget. The two chambers sit at about $7 million apart for the department, and neither the House and Senate have included any funding for the Florida Enterprise Fund, a pet project of Gov. Scott.

HOUSE, SENATE BUMP REMAINING HEALTH CARE ISSUES via LobbyTools’ Legislative Intelligence — The House and Senate agreed on almost all of the health care budget language Monday evening. The House made an offer on the Medicaid conforming bill which the Senate agreed to except for some language including a specific certificate of need exemption and graduate medical education funding. Those will be bumped to the at-late budget chairs. The Senate made an offer on the implementing bill, proviso as well as the $600 million Low Income Pool (LIP) and the $237 million Disproportionate Share Hospital Program (DSH) to help hospitals treat the poor and uninsured. The House agreed to everything except for a few items in proviso including language on Planned Parenthood. That will also be bumped to the at-large budget chairs.

AG & NATURAL RESOURCES BUDGET PANEL WRAPS UP TALKS via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics –  The Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations/General Government Appropriations conference panel held their final meeting of the 2016 Session on Monday, but the late-evening meeting did not bring closure on several unresolved items. House and Senate proposals remained just $6 million apart in terms of bottom-line figures – out of a mammoth $2.7 billion proposed budget silo –  but the ways the chambers wanted to spend the money were more widely divergent. Vice Chair Sen. Alan Hays began the meeting by saying he and Chair Rep. Ben Albritton had made great strides in reconciling their budget, but then launched into a string of line items Senate conferees would not accept.

HOUSE, SENATE AGREE TO FUND NEW POSITIONS IN MENTAL HOSPITALS via Michael Auslen of the Miami Herald –Lawmakers have agreed to fund additional staff in the state’s mental hospitals, where years of cuts have contributed to dangerous environments. Health care budget chairmen agreed to fund another 37 positions in the hospitals. The commitment of additional workers comes in the wake of reporting … That revealed violence and neglect in the state’s mental hospitals, which have seen budget and staffing cuts. “I think this committee has taken a priority of ensuring we protect our most vulnerable residents, and that’s what we’re doing,” Sen. Rene Garcia … the Senate’s health budget chairman said.

— “Tampa General, All Childrens take hit in state hospital funding” via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times

— “$3.1 million for Palm Beach County shooting range added in state budget deal via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

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ANOTHER WIN FOR BILL THAT WOULD ALLOW SLOTS ACROSS FLORIDA via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – For the first time in six years, a gambling bill has gotten traction in the Republican-controlled House, which has rejected past attempts to bring new casinos to South Florida. The legislation would approve a proposed deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida that would allow the tribe to add craps and roulette at their existing casinos. It would also allow them to hold onto blackjack tables that are the subject of a lawsuit between the tribe and the state. But a House panel … also signed off on changes that would allow county voters later this year to approve slot machines at existing dog or horse tracks. The only restriction is that the track must be more than 100 miles from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa. This means that slot machines could be added to tracks in north Florida as well as in Palm Beach, Brevard and Lee counties because voters in those counties have already held referendums on slots.

FANTASY SPORTS LANGUAGE IN GAMBLING BILL BECAUSE OF RICK SCOTT, LAWMAKER SAYS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – One mystery was solved after a House panel cleared the latest version of this session’s gambling legislation: state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz said language on fantasy sports play was inserted into his chamber’s bill because Scott wanted it there. Diaz … spoke after the Finance and Tax Committee OK’d on a 12-5 vote the House’s 2016 gambling bill (HB 7109). The bill is a rewrite of the proposed gambling Compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Diaz, as chair of the Regulatory Affairs Committee, is the House’s point man on gambling this year. “It was something the governor was very clear on, that he did not want a standalone fantasy bill to pass if it was not addressed in the Compact,” Diaz said. “The new version of the Compact specifically says if fantasy sports were approved, the Seminoles would think it was gambling and then they could do internet gambling, including but not limited to fantasy sports.” Senate President-designate Joe Negron had introduced just such a standalone bill in his chamber that legalized fantasy sports play by declaring it a game of skill, and thus not gambling.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA DEBATE HIGHLIGHTS MONEYED SPECIAL INTERESTS via Michael Auslen of the Miami Herald – Senators … considered a proposal to expand the state’s existing marijuana laws … to let licensed growers sell full-strength marijuana to terminal patients. Sen. Rob Bradley … the sponsor of the legislation (SB 460), says the proposal would also speed up the process to get the low-THC variety to sick kids, who have waited two years since the Legislature authorized it. But that argument angered Sen. Jack Latvala … who said the Legislature already voted in 2014 to help those kids. He called Bradley’s bill an attempt to expand the potentially lucrative medical marijuana market to the existing five growers who have been approved by the Department of Health. “I think the most repugnant thing is that we’re using the guise of helping these kids for a special interest food fight to expand the people that can offer this, that can make money on it,” Latvala said, adding that “This is about making money as much or more as it is about helping sick people. That’s my moral imperative to vote ‘no.’” He was the only member of the Senate Rules Committee to vote no after Democrats added a provision clarifying that black farmers can apply for licenses if they are expanded in the future. The measure now heads to the full Senate.

SENATE APPROVES WIDE-RANGING CHANGES TO BUILDING CODES via  Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The Senate Fiscal Policy Committee passed SB 704, filed by Elkton Republican Sen. Travis Hutson, which seeks to make several changes to Florida’s building codes. The original Senate bill was replaced with a strike-all amendment incorporating several provisions of the House version passed by the House Regulatory Committee last week. The bill was opposed by state fire marshals and fire chiefs, including John Pascale from the Florida Fire Chiefs Association, who criticize the bill for changing how close together buildings could be set, which could present a fire hazard. Hutson responded that the bill brought the building code closer in line to requirements of the state fire code. Pasquale said the association would offer a compromise language to the parts of the bill dealing with fire access elevators. SB 704 now heads to the Senate floor.

FLORIDA COULD REQUIRE ARREST BEFORE POLICE SEIZE PROPERTY via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press – Police would have to charge people with a crime before they can seize their money, cars, homes or other property under bills that are now ready for votes on the House and Senate floors. Sen. Jeff Brandes‘ bill was approved unanimously by the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee, the last of three stops before it can be considered by the full chamber. A House version of the bill (HB 889) cleared its last committee stop last week. The bill (SB 1044) is designed to prevent abuses of the current law, which doesn’t require an arrest before property is seized, but rather law enforcement’s belief that it was likely used in a crime. It was opposed by law enforcement officials until a compromise that removed language that would have also required a conviction before law agencies could keep seized property. Associations representing Florida sheriffs and police chiefs spoke in favor of the bill.

STRICTER ABORTION RULES READY FOR LEGISLATIVE FLOOR VOTES via the Associated Press –The bill (SB 1722) by Sen. Kelli Stargel got its final committee approval in the Senate … while a similar House bill by Rep. Colleen Burton has already passed its committees. Both Republican-sponsored bills require that a physician performing abortions in Florida have nearby hospital admitting privileges or that the clinic have a patient transfer agreement with a hospital. They prohibit public money for any medical service going to any organization, such as Planned Parenthood, that also performs abortions. They also toughen requirements for state inspections of abortion clinics.

***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.***

‘WHISKEY AND WHEATIES’ LOOKING DEAD, BUT ADVOCATES KEEP PUSHING via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – If proponents of tearing down the hard liquor “wall of separation” in retail stores had a theme song, it would be, “Don’t You (Forget About Me).” Businesses organized as Floridians for Fair Business Practices want to repeal the Prohibition-era state law that requires businesses, such as grocery chains and big-box retailers, to have separate stores to sell liquor. The past few year, big-box chains Wal-Mart and Target have supported tearing down the wall; Publix supermarkets, ABC Fine Wines & Liquor and the alcohol and drug-abuse prevention community stand in opposition. This is the third year the big-box chains have tried to get the repeal passed, but this session was their worst showing. The Senate bill (SB 420) has not yet even been put on an agenda in that chamber, and the House companion (HB 245) was temporarily postponed during a November committee week and never heard again.


— @fineout: .@JackLatvala tells members/lobbyists – don’t text him because he doesn’t want to deal with public record requests.

— @SaintPetersblog: .@JackLatvala and @MarkRuffalo are tweeting at each other. Seriously.

— @Mdixon55: .@JackLatvala asks @fineout to sing karaoke while we wait for TED to start. Room breaks out in “gary” chants

TODAY’S LEGISLATIVE SCHEDULE via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools

SENATE BUDGET MARATHON MEETING — The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold an extended meeting to discuss several bills, including a wide-ranging tax cut package beginning 10 a.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

HOUSE FLOOR SESSION — The Florida House session begins 10:30 a.m., and will take up several health care proposals: A Miami-Dade needle-exchange pilot program, telehealth, a new health cost transparency database, prescribing privileges for non-doctor health professionals, and balance billing.

IT’S SO HARD TO SAY GOODBYE — Honors for and speechs from departing members begin in the Florida Senate on Wednesday. Fourteen of the chamber’s 40 senators are leaving. Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta on Saturday released a schedule that goes through the day before Sine Die: Wednesday, March 2: Don Gaetz, Arthenia Joyner; Thursday, March 3: Garrett Richter, Thad Altman, Charlie Dean; Friday, March 4: Eleanor Sobel; Monday, March 7: Andy Gardiner (2 p.m.); Tuesday, March 8: Nancy Detert, Jeremy Ring; Wednesday, March 9: Alan Hays, Darren Soto; Thursday, March 10: Chris Smith, John Legg, Geraldine Thompson. Other than Gardiner, “exact times for these tributes will be determined based on Senate workload,” Betta said.

***Wind down after a busy day at work by brightening up your dinner plans at The Edison. Enjoy dishes from our internationally-inspired menu and choose from our top-rated wine selections to create a mouthwatering combination. Plus, if you stop by on weekdays from 3 – 6 p.m. you can enjoy Happy Hour in the Beer Garden! Book your reservation.***

ACLU ASKS FL SUPREME COURT TO REVIEW ABORTION RULING via Associated Press –  A group suing to stop Florida’s 24-hour waiting period for abortions is asking the state Supreme Court to review an appeals court decision that lets the law go into effect. The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida asked the Supreme Court this weekend to review Friday’s ruling by the 1st District Court of Appeal. The appeals court lifted an injunction approved by a lower court judge that put enforcement of the law on hold. The waiting period was signed into law last year by Gov. Scott. The ACLU is suing on behalf of a Gainesville clinic and argues that it puts a hardship on women seeking an abortion. It claims it violates privacy rights in the state constitution.

ENTERPRISE FLORIDA CHIEF TO HEAD TRADE MISSION TO MEXICO – Bill Johnson, who heads the public-private Enterprise Florida economic development organization, is leading a group of businesses on an “Export Development Trade Mission” to Mexico in late May. Johnson, who also holds the title of Florida Secretary of Commerce, called the trip “an exceptional opportunity for our small and mid-size businesses to grow through trade.” Florida exported more than $1.6 billion to Mexico last year, and Mexico is our nation’s third largest trading partner and second largest export market for U.S. products, according to a press release. “It’s a very accessible, growing market that provides a great fit for the products and services Florida businesses provide,” Johnson said. The trip will take place May 23-26.

FLORIDA POLY ACCREDITATION WILL BE TOO LATE FOR SOME GRADS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Florida Polytechnic University is taking another step toward becoming fully accredited, President Randy Avent told students, faculty and staff in an email … The Lakeland-based school will host members of the Candidacy Committee of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) March 7-10. It’s the “regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states” … But, Avent added, with some graduating this year, “… a few graduate students may be affected, and we are working with them now to find the best path forward. We do not expect any undergraduate students to be affected … I assure you we are committed to taking all steps toward accreditation as early as we are given the opportunity, with the success of our students as our topmost priority.”

FLORIDA CHAMBER CEO HEADS TO DC, TALKS WELFARE REFORM – Florida Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Mark Wilson is in Washington to testify before the U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources. He will “discuss opportunities to reform the welfare system to better meet the needs of job seekers and job creators, grow the economy, and move more American families forward.” The panel is chaired by Congressman Vern Buchanan, who himself is a previous chair of the Florida Chamber. Wilson wants to “break the cycle of generational poverty.” Wilson will speak around 10 a.m. in Room 1100 of the Longworth House Office Building.

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***

FIRST ON FLORIDA POLITICS — MIKE HARIDOPOLOS EYEING RETURN TO FLORIDA SENATE via Florida Politics – Former state Sen. Haridopolos is considering a possible return to the Florida Senate … eyeing Senate District 17, currently held by Thad Altman, a Rockledge Republican who is term-limited. But that seat is also being sought by GOP state Reps. Debbie Mayfield and Ritch Workman …

“I have been asked if I would run again ever since leaving office almost four years ago,” Haridopolos tells Florida Politics. “Serving my community has always been and continues to be important to me.” “I have not made the decision yet to officially run, but I plan to do what is best for my family and neighbors,” said Haridopolos.

The lawmakers who have met with Haridopolos say he is actively working to elbow Workman out of the race. Among those who Haridopolos has sought endorsements from are Joe NegronBill Galvano, and Wilton Simpson.

ICMYI: LAUREN BOOK ROCKED THE HOUSE AT OXFORD! – On Sunday, activist Lauren Book was one of a dozen speakers at the TEDx performances at Oxford University.  She shared her story and her motivation for turning tragedy into triumph and called it…” Finding you (wh)Y.” If you want to hear her 18-minute emotional and moving presentation, check it out here: Watch Lauren’s TED Talk From Oxford! | Lauren Book.

APPOINTED: Arthur “Chip” Diehl III to the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority.

ADVERTISING MOGUL THREW FUNDRAISER FOR CHAIRMAN’S WIFE AMID BROWARD HEALTH DEALS via Buddy Nevins and Dan Christensen of – Just seven weeks after signing a $2.1 million-a-year no-bid contract with Broward Health, advertising executive Jordan Zimmerman threw a political fundraiser for the wife of the hospital district’s chairman. Broward County Court Judge Nina Di Pietro, whose husband David Di Pietro chairs Broward Health’s board of commissioners, raised almost $22,000, nearly all of it from lawyers, auto dealers and other non-healthcare companies, campaign records say. Jordan and Terry Zimmerman, his wife, spent nearly $2,000 hosting the June 25 reception at Zimmerman Advertising’s showcase modernistic headquarters on North Andrews Avenue in Fort Lauderdale. A few months later, Zimmerman was back before Broward Health’s board seeking approval for yet another advertising deal – this one worth as much as $71.4 million over six years. That deal, supported by David Di Pietro and a majority of the board, was set for approval at last month’s board meeting, but was put on hold after Broward President/CEO Dr. Nabil El Sanadi’s Jan. 23 suicide. Broward Health Chief Financial Officer Robert K. Martin opposed the deal at the Dec. 17 board meeting, saying it was based on bogus statistics that made it appear like a good deal when it was not. Martin was fired Jan. 7. He was later given a settlement agreement that included a large payout and a requirement that he not disparage Broward Health.

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

HAPPENING TODAY: UBER, VOLUNTEER FLORIDA TEAM UP TO PROVIDE #SUITSFORSESSION FOR NEEDY via Florida Politics – #SuitsForSession … in partnership with Dress For Success Tallahassee, Goodwill Industries of the Big Bend Inc., the Florida Department of Education’s Division of Blind Services. The well-dressed denizens of the Florida Capitol – members of the Legislature, lobbyists, the private sector, local non-profits, state agencies, and more – are encouraged to drop off gently worn surplus suits, dresses and shoes from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on the Third Floor Rotunda. Uber will donate the clothing to nonprofits that serve job-seekers. For those unable to make it to the Capitol, Uber will pick up clothing donations for free and deliver them to Volunteer Florida all day.

TODAY’S GOVERNORS CLUB BUFFET MENU – Lawmakers start Week Eight of Session with a Governors Club lunch buffet featuring a Southern spread that includes Beef & Barley Soup; GC Club Sandwich Board with Chips; Roast Beef, Ham, Turkey, Swiss & Cheese; Mix Green Salad with Toppings; Cole Slaw & Potato Salad; Southern Fried Chicken; Carolina Pork Ribs; Pecan Trout; Corn on the Cob; Baked Beans and Roasted Red Potatoes, topped off with a delicious Apple Rum Crisp.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, David Christian, Rosanne Dunkelberger, Steve Kurlander, Ralph Lair, Adrianna Sekula, and Stephanie Grumman Zauder.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, 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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