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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – March 3

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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.

Remember, there are five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining, Acceptance

Denial – PANIC SWELLS TALK OF CONTESTED CONVENTION TO PROPEL MARCO RUBIO TO NOMINATION via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Officially, Rubio insists he will defeat Trump in Florida … and then continue marching toward the nomination. But the Florida senator’s campaign is also quietly telling party leaders that even if Rubio loses his home state … He will press forward on a mission to keep Trump from winning the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. Panic in the Republican establishment over the growing likelihood that Trump will win the Republican nomination is leading some party leaders, political operatives and activists to start actively preparing for the primary to blow up in a contested national convention in July. One avenue of attack to derail Trump … is in the selection of delegates to the national convention in Cleveland. Delegates from various states might be obligated to vote for the winner of that state’s primary on the first ballot, for instance, but then would be free to vote for whoever they want on the second and third. Anti-Trump forces may try to stack state delegation with Trump “SILO’s” — supporters in name only — who would end up rejecting Trump.

Anger – ANTI-DONALD TRUMP FORCES STRIKE BACK AFTER SUPER TUESDAY DRUBBING via Nolan McCaskill of POLITICO – Rivals and the growing legion of Trump spoilers loudly warned … about the need to stop the man they contend will not only hand the White House to Clinton but also destroy the Republican Party. Our Principles PAC, a super PAC created by former Mitt Romney aide Katie Packer with the sole intent of throwing a roadblock in Trump’s path to Cleveland, held a conference call with some of the Republican Party’s top donors, including Hewlett Packard President and CEO Meg Whitman, Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts, and New York hedge fund manager Paul Singer. “Basically what that conversation was, was a gathering of people who at this stage — looking at where the state of the race is — realize that now is the time to stop Donald Trump,” [said] Tim Miller, a former Bush spokesman who is now Our Principles’ communications adviser. “If we’re gonna stop him, there’s still time to do it. It has to happen right now.” The group went up with a new ad — running nationally and in Illinois, Florida and Michigan — hammering Trump for running an alleged scam through Trump University, a real estate school that is the subject of an ongoing civil fraud case in New York. “Donald Trump belongs in 3 a.m. infomercials,” the narrator says.

More Anger – RATTLED REPUBLICANS SEEK A LAST-DITCH STRATEGY TO STOP TRUMP via Kathleen Hennessey and Julie Pace of the Associated Press – Sensing a window closing fast, GOP leaders and elder statesmen toggled through a menu of scenarios but landed on none. Some amplified calls to rally around a Trump alternative, even if that alternative is Cruz, a prickly conservative with few friends in the party. Others laid out still-hazy plans for a brokered national convention, an option likely to smack of the backroom dealing Trump fans despise. Some floated more extreme measures, talking of breaking from the party and starting anew. “It’s all a play to stall it or try to deny him the nomination,” said Neil Newhouse, a GOP pollster. “And the problem with that is no one has the best scenario for how to do that.” As Republicans surveyed the wreckage from Trump’s surge, some argued there was still a chance to stop him. He was not yet on track to claim the nomination before the party’s national gathering in July … He has won 46 percent of the delegates awarded so far, and he would have to increase that to 51 percent in the remaining primaries.

Peak Anger – ENDORSING TRUMP, GOP OFFICEHOLDER? GO FETCH YOUR SHINEBOX via Rick Wilson of the Daily Beast – In recent days, a few bold members of the Senate, House, and candidates down the ballot have recognized the danger Trump poses not only to the GOP’s hopes of winning the White House, but to the larger conservative movement. Though it may be too late, the #NeverTrump movement is growing, as principled conservatives and political realists begin to see the scope of the devastation the Trump candidacy will create, much less the possibility that a power-mad narcissist man-child with a short attention span and poor impulse control could hold the keys to the Oval Office and our nuclear arsenal … in the coming days it’s likely we will see Vichy Republicans of various stripes break to Trump … driven to his anti-immigration message, which they believe is the singular and driving motivation for Republican base voters. Most will break like frightened herd animals, reading this year’s polling as a sign of permanent political realignment. A few will do so out of malice against the hated Establishment. Some will seek to curry favor, or appointment in the Thousand Year Trump administration.

Depression – THE GOP HAS TWO THEORIES ON HOW TO STOP TRUMP. BOTH ARE LIKELY TO FAIL. via Philip Bump of The Washington Post – Theory No. 1, the one that has been the go-to for months, is that consolidating the anti-Trump vote behind one candidate would, at long last, result in someone who could consistently beat Trump. Theory No. 2, which has emerged in the wake of Trump’s early primary victories, is that it’s actually better to keep everyone in, splitting the vote enough that Trump won’t get a majority of the delegates — and forcing a contested convention. The evidence at hand suggests that neither of these theories would actually be successful — and, accordingly, that Trump cannot be stopped. We know three things … As people have dropped out, outsider candidates have actually benefited … It’s not clear what would happen if the field narrowed to two people … Consolidation so far doesn’t seem to have helped Rubio much … There’s consolidation (a long shot) and fragmentation (a longer shot) — and there’s Trump wins the nomination. That appears to be the one option that the establishment refuses to embrace.

Bargaining – WALL STREET’S BIG SHORT: PRES. DONALD J TRUMP via Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss and David Randall of Reuters – Add the juggernaut that is Trump to the list of what-ifs that is worrying Wall Street. A growing realization that the unpredictable New York real estate developer is in a position to win the Republican nomination and then battle Clinton for the White House in November’s election has caused some investors to sell U.S. stocks. They fear having such a wild-card president could trigger trade wars, hurt the economy and add a lot of market volatility. “As the market rarely feasts on lack of predictability – Trump represents a nightmare for investors this year,” said hedge fund manager Douglas Kass … who said last week that he was adding to his existing short bet on the U.S. stock market in part because of Trump’s increasingly strong position in the race. Trump’s statements on business and Wall Street don’t neatly fit into one ideological worldview, but if anything, they are seen as isolationist in a globally connected world.

Acceptance – NEW SPIN FROM GOP SENATORS: MAYBE TRUMP’S NOT SO BAD via Burgess Everett and Anna Palmer of POLITICO – Senate Republicans have a new pitch when it comes to Trump: He might not be so bad for their chances of keeping their tenuous majority, after all. While the GOP establishment confronts an existential crisis for what Trump at the top of the ticket could mean for the future of the party, several Republican senators have been signaling behind the scenes to donors and supporters that the real estate magnate could actually help them in November. Several Republican lawmakers have told lobbyists and donors that a Trump ticket would boost turnout and that it would be easier to create distance from Trump on policy than from Cruz or Rubio. They reason that Clinton has just as many negatives as Trump, if not more.

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OH, THE IRONY — TRUMP’S BEST PERFORMANCES IN TEXAS WERE LARGELY NEAR THE MEXICAN BORDER via Philip Bump of The Washington Post – The [Texas] counties where Trump did win were clustered in the Southwestern part of the state, near the Mexican border. Which would suggest that something about Trump’s message — say, his support for a border wall — resonated there. But such things can be deceiving. Exit polls showed that Trump’s best area was actually around Dallas/Fort Worth, which is more central in the state. The panhandle — the part that sticks up to the north — was Trump’s weakest area. He does a bit better in the west and south, with the exception of the far west, where El Paso is located … it’s not clear that it was Trump’s specific position on immigration that caused him to do better in the southwest. But if we were looking for a place where his pro-wall message might be unusually resonant, that’s it.

SUPER PACS LAUNCH ANTI-TRUMP ADS IN FLORIDA via Reid Epstein of the Wall Street Journal – Club for Growth is beginning a $1.5 million campaign in Florida to diminish Trump’s numbers … The advocacy group was the first third-party group to spend significant sums against Trump, when it invested $1 million in an anti-Trump campaign in Iowa last fall. The new ad, which will air across Florida cable television and online, hits Trump for his use of eminent domain and bankruptcy filings. “Trump picks on workers and widows. He won’t do a thing to China and Mexico,” the ad’s narrator says. Trump, whose campaign events are regularly carried live on cable television, has yet to purchase any television advertising time in Florida.

BOOKMAKER PAYS OUT EARLY ON TRUMP WINNING REPUBLICAN NOMINATION via Dara Doyle of Bloomberg Business – Paddy Power Betfair Plc, Ireland’s largest bookmaker, is paying out 120,000 euros ($130,000) on Trump winning the U.S. Republican presidential nomination. “Since 1988, the candidate to clean up on Super Tuesday has always gone onto win their party’s nomination,” the Dublin-based bookmaker said in e-mailed statement. Gambling companies pay out early when they regard the result as a foregone conclusion, in part because it draws publicity and in part because gamblers often recycle winnings into other wagers. Trump’s odds indicate he has a 33 percent chance of winning the White House, while Clinton has a 65 percent shot, Paddy Power Betfair said.

MEGYN KELLY SAYS SHE DOESN’T EXPECT TRUMP HOSTILITY IN DEBATE via David Bauder of The Associated Press – “I think he’s much more focused on securing the nomination now and not on me, and that’s how it should be,” Kelly said. [The] debate, the 11th among Republicans, will be held at Detroit’s Fox Theater from 9 to 11 p.m. EST. At the very least, the Fox moderators won’t have to prepare one set of questions for if Trump showed up and another for if he didn’t, as they did in Iowa. Kelly, who has not interviewed Trump since last summer’s dust-up, said she’s preparing the same tough but fair questions she always tries for.

HOW GARY FINEOUT AND JOHN KENNEDY OWNED FOX NEWS via Florida Politics – The rumor du jour was that Scott would endorse Trump for president at a news conference Trump planned for after the polls closed on Super Tuesday … Right before 9 p.m., Fox News’ Brit Hume blurted out on Twitter that Scott would be endorsing Trump. He cited two unidentified sources. Except Hume was wrong. It’s not clear who Hume’s sources were, but it’s certain they are not as good as The Associated Press’ Gary Fineout or the Palm Beach Post’s John Kennedy. Then again, all these Florida reporters did was, you know, ask Scott’s spokeswoman whether he’d be endorsing Trump … In other words, @Fineout’s sources > @BritHume’s sources.

MY TAKE: MARCO, IT’S THE LENGTH OF YOUR COFFIN THAT MATTERS via Florida Politics – Rubio seems obsessed with size of Trump’s hands, but like Tolstoy’s Pahom, Florida’s junior senator could better spend his time pondering the wages of blind ambition. For two years, Rubio has harbored a gross miscalculation; that is, that there is no downside for him running for president. His belief was that even if he lost the primary or general election, he will have exposed the Rubio brand to donors, voters, and the media on a national stage, and that exposure alone is worth the risk of losing. But, here he is wrong, for to be exposed as a treacherous callow loser is a powerfully negative thing, and to fail to win your own state amplifies the effect even more. Treacherous, because Rubio has that lean-and-hungry look that drives him to turn without compunction on those who fostered his career. And, Rubio is likely to soon learn the price of high-profile failure in his home state of Florida. By the time Rubio arrives at sundown at the place where he started, he risks not only losing this race but all future races.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR RUBIO via Isaac Chotiner of Slate – Rubio‘s candidacy failed for a number of reasons. Above all, Trump has emerged as a nearly unstoppable force. But there were other festering problems, from his canned answers and over programmed style, to the unfortunate fact that he is a youngish, Hispanic man who speaks about his hopes and dreams for America to a Republican electorate that is white, old, and hopelessly depressed about an increasingly Hispanic America. This is the sort of thesis that is impossible to prove with data, at least for now, but it is inarguable that Rubio never captured the imagination of the people who could vote for him. Beyond demographics, part of Rubio’s problem was that his substantive platform mirrored Bushism in too many ways. And, of course, there was his original sin: his membership in the so-called Gang of Eight, a group of senators who worked to pass an immigration reform proposal that, it was thought, might give Republicans a chance with Hispanic voters.

RUBIO VOTES EARLY IN FLORIDA PRIMARY – FOR HIMSELF via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Rubio and his wife, Jeanette … stepped into the community center in West Miami, the city that launched his political career. They were there to vote early in Florida’s Republican presidential primary — and to show a confident face the morning after Rubio’s lackluster Super Tuesday. He won a state, finally (Minnesota) but rival Cruz took three (Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska) — keeping divided the GOP field of candidates not named Donald Trump, as Trump carries on triumphant. That’s left Rubio and Cruz talking not of defeating Trump in elections but of denying him a majority of delegates in July’s nominating convention.

RUBIO’S DICK JOKES HAVE NOTHING ON THOMAS JEFFERSON’S via Charles Pierce of Esquire – You should read this whole thing by Matt Taibbi when you have the time. The overall case he makes is a compelling one, but, alas, I have to say I’m not sure I agree with Matt about his history work there … “Madison and Jefferson never foresaw this situation. They knew there was danger of demagoguery, but they never imagined presidential candidates exchanging ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ jokes or doing ‘let’s laugh at the disabled’ routines” … As a matter of fact, Jefferson was well aware of the political salience of the well-timed tiny-dick joke because he used them himself, in the ferocious campaign of 1800. As the challenger in 1800, his goal was to topple the incumbent. His critique of President John Adams included the accusation that he was “a hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” And, of course, old Martin Van Buren campaigned by accusing William Henry Harrison, the hero of Tippecanoe, of being “a man who wore corsets, put cologne on his whiskers, slept on French beds, rode in a British coach, and ate with golden spoons from silver plates.” Which is sort of an implied dick joke from a more civilized time. And thus do we discover that, in yet another vital element of being a political candidate, Rubio comes up…well…short.

WHERE BROCK MIKOSKY WILL BE TONIGHT – Team Marco Rubio Tampa Headquarters Grand Opening from 6:45 – 8 p.m., 1602 Oakfield Drive. Suite 109 in Brandon.

BLOG POST OF THE DAY: TED CRUZ IS STOPPING TRUMP. RUBIO IS NOT. via Erick Erickson of the Resurgent – It is time for Rubio, behind by double digits in his home state … to accept he will not be the nominee. It is time for Cruz to accept we need a unity ticket and for Rubio to agree to be Cruz’s Vice Presidential pick, uniting the outsider and insider factions of the party and stopping Trump in the process. The non-Trump faction has the delegates to stop Trump. But now there must be unity.

CRUZ RAISED NEARLY $12 MILLION IN FEBRUARY — HIS BIGGEST MONTH YET via Shane Goldmacher of POLITICO – Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe tweeted the fundraising details … the campaign had received 225,000 donations with an average of $52 per contribution in the month. Cruz began February with $13.6 million in the bank — roughly $8.5 million more than Rubio had. Rubio’s team has indicated that his fundraising has ticked up following Bush’s withdrawal from the race after South Carolina, but they have not released their February numbers, which are not due to be disclosed until March 20.

BEN CARSON’S ‘UNGODLY’ CAMPAIGN via Kyle Cheney of POLITICO – The premise of Carson’s candidacy, as he often described it, was his ability to build teams to tackle complex issues, as he did for 30 years in a Johns Hopkins operating room. If he could coordinate dozens of experts to execute life-saving surgeries, he could do the same in the Situation Room or for the economy, he posited. Yet time after time, his own campaign team seemed to undercut the premise — and Carson himself never seemed sure how to corral competing personalities. Throughout 2015, Carson’s campaign was exposed as a jumble of equally influential aides who agreed only on their distrust of one another. There was Terry Giles, who helped launch the campaign in the spring but departed acrimoniously in June. His departure opened the way to Barry Bennett and communications director Doug Watts, veteran political operatives who resigned on New Year’s Eve. There was Dean Parker, the national finance chairman whose spending decisions led to his resignation in January. The campaign finally seemed to stabilize that month under Robert Dees, the controversial ex-general who took the reins, along with senior strategist Ed Brookover, after Bennett and Watts resigned. All of them, though, played second fiddle to Armstrong Williams, the conservative media maven whose voice seemed to ring a little louder in Carson’s ears than the others — and whose unilateral decision making aided Carson’s unlikely rise but also led to devastating strategic blunders that contributed to the campaign’s demise.

THE BRIEF HIGH AND MANY LOWS OF CARSON’S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN via Janell Ross of The Washington Post – From the very beginning and certainly almost to the very end … Carson was not just a different kind of candidate. He ran a very different kind of campaign too. And different is not always better, folks. Carson entered the race as a kind of cultural giant — an icon about whom, nonetheless, many details were not known. Even his reputation for breaking new medical ground was seen through the gauzy filter of only Carson’s surgical success stories and the insights of former colleagues. The reality of even the surgery that made him famous and the Horatio Alger-like life story before it was indeed more complex than they first seemed. And as Carson, the novice politician, actually made his way into the political thicket, his cerebral, almost anesthetized, speaking pattern, his patrician hand placement and his penchant for hyperbolic metaphors and similes created challenges and sometimes small crises for his campaign. Carson also never seemed to fully comprehend that his fondness for the hyperbolic metaphor may have attracted additional attention. The same was true of his somnambulant debate-stage presence and his tendency to rattle off what often sounded like the first five paragraphs of the “Introduction to Middle East Politics” memo someone drafted for him in response to any and every question about the Islamic State or national security. You see, in the end, calling Obamacare “worse than slavery” may have gotten him a political commentator’s start, but it turns out that it didn’t deliver the presidency.

FLORIDA EARLY BALLOT VOTE UPDATE — As of Wednesday, 10 a.m. Eastern: 693,403 votes have been cast – 358,271, Republican; 306,944, Democrat; 28,188, Other. Requested mail ballots: 1,845,023 — 847,872, Republican; 731,488, Democrat; 265,663, Other. Early voting: 42,208 – 20,718, Republican; 19,896, Democrat; 1,594, Other. Total EAV: 735,611 – 378,989, Republican; 326,840, Democrat; 29,782, Other.

WILL FLORIDA EXTINGUISH THE BERN? via Steve Schale of – For the first time in a while, the Florida Democratic Primary will mean something. There are really four things strongly working in Clinton‘s favor here: Diversity … Between 35-40% of primary voters will be from communities of color. Voting Age … The primary electorate in both parties is older. Big Mo … Clinton has won several tough primaries in the early going, but as she the election heads south, the confines get more friendly. Her significant home field advantage … If the Clinton’s had a third home state after Arkansas and New York, Florida would probably be it. That being said, let’s look at how the state should play out on the Democratic side. Somewhere near 80% of our vote will be cast in four media markets.  Miami and Tampa will make up nearly equal shares. Of the remaining media markets, no one is likely to be much more than 5% of the total statewide vote. People of color will make up between 35-40% of the vote. Because the Tampa area tends to report very quickly, we will know by 7:05 p.m. EST where this thing is headed.

A PRIMARY POEM via Claudia Davant, “From my dad at midnight last night”:

Rubio could not get over the hump./His ass was kicked by Donald Trump./Cruz‘s mouth is so detestable/It will prove him to be unelectable

The party is split from head to toe/But now there will be no Rubio/And now the man of the hour is Cruz/Who will scream to the world that he just can’t lose

And so for the party to not lose face/They must support the man in second place/But in all the race he’s just a bump/Who lost his ass to Donald Trump

So now its war with the democrats/They will call her the Queen of rats/And when it’s done we’ll all be tired/Oh hearing the Donald say, “you’re fired.”

And in November when it’s all been said/Half of the country will say we’re dead/And then the winner will be all in clover/And we all can say, Thank God. It’s over!

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PRESIDENT OBAMA AND VP JOE BIDEN ENDORSE PATRICK MURPHY FOR U.S. SENATE via Florida Politics – “I am proud to endorse Congressman Patrick Murphyfor the United States Senate. Patrick has been a tireless champion for middle-class families and a defender of the economic progress that American workers and businesses have made,” Obama stated … “In Congress, he’s fought to strengthen Medicare and Social Security, reform our criminal justice system, and protect a woman’s right to choose. Floridians can count on Patrick Murphy to stand up for them every day as their next Senator.” Biden also cited the middle class … “[Murphy is] a leader who knows what’s important: growing our economy from the middle class out, helping families put food on the table and save a little for the future. Patrick Murphy has the progressive values, the work ethic, and the youthful energy the U.S. Senate needs … He’ll work tirelessly to bring people together to make a difference for Florida’s middle class.”

REPUBLICAN PUSHBACK: Greg Blair, NRSC: “Murphy’s Washington handlers hit the panic button”; Ian Prior, Senate Leadership Fund: “Patrick Murphy’s $111,000 Obama endorsement”

HAPPENING TONIGHT: Murphy holds a fundraiser in support of his U.S. Senate campaign. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at the home of Linda Saul-Sena and Mark Sena, 157 Biscayne Ave. in Tampa. RSVP with or (561) 847-4105.

CARLOS LOPEZ-CANTERA HIGHLIGHTS HIS FAMILY’S CUBA HISTORY IN FIRST CAMPAIGN VIDEO via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – In the 60-second spot called “Freedom,” Lopez-Cantera tells the story of how his grandfather was arrested and detained in Cuba in 1960, and how, upon release, he gathered his family and fled with just the clothes on their backs. The video includes grainy, black-and-white stock footage of 1960 Cuba including of Fidel Castro, and interviews with Lopez-Cantera and his father, Carlos Lopez-Cantera Sr. “This country has been very, very good to my family,” the lieutenant governor says. “I love the United States of America so much, because anybody can do anything … America means opportunity to me, because I’ve seen it.”

RON DESANTIS TO BEGIN AIRING TV ADS via The Associated Press – DeSantis will air the first television ads in Florida’s Republican Senate primary with a spot criticizing Clinton that will be shown during the next two Republican Presidential debates and during Fox News coverage of the March 15 presidential primary elections. The ad opens with footage of Clinton being interviewed. She’s asked if she’s always told the truth and she replies, “I’ve always tried to.” DeSantis then criticizes the former first lady, senator and secretary of state … “She thinks she’s above the law. She’s not. All public officials, including the secretary of state, must be held accountable, especially when their conduct puts our national security at risk,” DeSantis says while speaking directly to the camera. “It’s time we bring accountability to Washington, but I need your help to do it.”

ERIC LYNN BOASTS OF HIS NOW ENDORSEMENT – IN FRONT OF CHARLIE CRIST via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Lynn had some news he couldn’t wait to announce before a group of Democrats at the Clearwater Main Library … “Because of my lifelong work on women’s rights, equality, I’ve talked to many in this room about the ERA — how we need the Equal Rights Amendment to make sure that women’s pay is equal. Because of my work and my life on these important issues, I’m so proud and humbled to tell you that last week I was endorsed by the National Organization for Women.” The crowd of approximately 50 people, nearly all members of the Democratic Women’s Club of Upper Pinellas, applauded heartily. That included Crist, who is running against Lynn in the CD 13 Democratic contest … For a candidate like Lynn attempting to beat a heavyweight like Crist, the NOW PAC endorsement is meaningful.

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CHOOSE YOUR NEWS: “Tom Lee and Andy Gardiner spear the corpse: The gaming bill is dead” via The Miami Herald OR “House throwing a Hail Mary on Seminole Compact” via Florida Politics

EXECUTION DELAYED WHILE LAWMAKERS WORK TO FIX SYSTEM via The Associated Press – Florida’s high court has delayed the execution of a convicted killer while lawmakers determine how to change the state’s death penalty sentencing system to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found it unconstitutional. The Florida Supreme Court … stayed the March 17 execution of Mark Asay, a Jacksonville man sentenced to death in 1987 for murdering two men. Asay’s is the second scheduled execution to be halted since the January ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

SENATORS TRY, FAIL TO REQUIRE UNANIMOUS JURY DECISION ON DEATH PENALTY CASES; HOUSE COMPROMISE INTACT via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Some senators … unsuccessfully tried to undo a political compromise with the Florida House that’s intended to fix the state’s death penalty sentencing procedures, in light of a U.S. Supreme Court decision related to Florida’s law. Under the agreement, at least 10 of 12 jurors would have to agree to impose a death sentence, as opposed to having only a simple majority under today’s law. But several senators, led by Sen. Jeff Clemens … urged the chamber to force the House’s hand and stick to requiring a unanimous jury decision — a policy the Senate Criminal Justice committee endorsed by a 5-0 vote earlier this session. After lengthy debate, Clemens’ amendment narrowly failed, first by an 18-22 vote. The vote was reconsidered a few minutes later, after Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano said “some wrong buttons were inadvertently pushed.” The amendment failed a second time by a 17-23 vote, with three Republican senators changing their votes.

STATE WORKERS UNLIKELY TO GET PAY RAISE THIS YEAR via The Associated Press – Tom Lee said there isn’t enough money this year to offer pay raises to all state employees, although Lee said there’s a chance that select state workers may get a raise. Last year, legislators proposed targeted pay raises to firefighters and some highway patrol troopers. A 3-percent across-the-board pay raise for state workers and university employees would cost nearly $263 million. Legislators are using the extra money they have this year to boost spending in health care and schools and to set aside money for tax cuts.

WHAT KILLED RICK SCOTT’S WISH LIST? IDEOLOGY, SENATOR SAYS via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post – Scott looks poised to complete one of his most miserable sessions since taking office in 2011. What happened? “It’s more of an ideological problem,” Senate Budget Chief Tom Lee said. “It’s not about the money, I don’t think … I’ve had enough conversation with enough of my colleagues to get a pulse of their perspective that too many of them think there’s not enough bang for the buck. They think this is more of a marketing program than a real job creator.” Lee said he “still thinks there’s a middle ground there.” But he didn’t offer a path for Scott to claim some kind of victory. But even as the budget and more modest tax cut plan edges closer to completion, Lee said he expected to hear more from Scott as the governor seeks to keep some of his wish list alive. “I would suspect this discussion is going to continue for a while,” he said.

AN UNAPOLOGETIC SCOTT OFFERS NO REGRETS IN HIS HANDLING OF LEGISLATURE via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Over the last six months Scott spent millions on television ads, a bus tour around the state, and trying to cajole business leaders to pressure legislators to give him his priority items. It hasn’t worked so far. Scott said if the legislature continues to refuse to give him $250 million for his job creation program, called the Enterprise Fund, it will result in lost jobs … he has about 277 job recruitment projects on the table now that could generate another 50,000 jobs. But that is just the tip of the iceberg in potential disappointment for Scott. The Legislature is working on a tax plan that is expected to be rolled out later this week that would cut just $110 million in taxes. Scott was adamant in pushing the Legislature to give him $1 billion in cuts, including eliminating corporate income taxes for manufacturing and retail companies. Legislators have also effectively killed any potential of a gambling agreement passing this year.

SCOTT DOESN’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT A REPLACEMENT FOR SURGEON GENERAL via Michael Auslen Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – “Dr. Armstrong has done a great job,” he said, noting that Armstrong is battling colon cancer. “I’m appreciative of all his hard work. I’m hopeful he’ll get through the Senate confirmation process.” That appears unlikely with not enough senators supporting Armstrong’s confirmation in the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee and President Andy Gardiner opposing a Senate floor vote without that panel’s endorsement. By March 11, when the legislative session is scheduled to end, Armstrong must be confirmed or Scott will have to replace him at the helm of the Department of Health. If the governor does have to replace Armstrong, the new surgeon general would have to be a licensed physician with advanced training or experience in public health.

ANDY GARDINER: JOHN ARMSTRONG MAY GET FULL SENATE CONSIDERATION via Christine Jordan Sexton of POLITICO Florida – Gardiner is doing some “soul-searching” on whether to let health secretary John Armstrong be considered by the full Senate for confirmation, he said Wednesday. Gardiner… has consistently said no gubernatorial appointee would be considered by the full Senate if they did not clear the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee. The committee had twice had to defer a confirmation vote on Armstrong, who doesn’t have enough votes to clear the committee. “I’ve got some real soul-searching to do to decide, should the entire Senate have a say on Dr. Armstrong? I may be coming back to you guys and say, ‘I’ve changed my mind.’ I just don’t know yet,” Gardiner said.

LEGISLATIVE INACTION ON COMPACT WILL COST JOBS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – “My responsibility was to work to get a Compact done,” [Scott] said. “My team put together a very good Compact for the citizens of our state. It’s up to the Legislature to make their decision on what they want to do … According to the Seminoles, if the Compact is not passed, 3,700 people are going to lose their jobs … The Legislature has the opportunity to make that decision (and) we still have (time) left in the Legislative Session.” The tribe raised that possibility before when Scott met with its leaders in South Florida earlier this month.

BOCK, BOCK: GAMBLING OPPONENTS CALL RACETRACK’S LAWYERS CHICKENS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Lawyers for Gretna Racing, the Gadsden County track seeking to add slot machines …  asked the Florida Supreme Court to toss out former Gov. Bob Graham‘s friend-of-the-court brief .. saying he “has no right to raise a new issue from his position as a nonparty.” Graham’s brief opposes the operators of the racetrack. They argue they should be allowed to offer slot machines because voters approved them in a local referendum in 2012. The brief said slots are essentially “lotteries,” and lotteries, unless expressly permitted, are otherwise banned by the state constitution. “We have long since settled the question … of whether certain legislatively described gambling machines, such as slot machines, constituted lotteries prohibited by the state constitution,” the court said. “We concluded they did not.”

SENATE JUMP STARTS INCENTIVE BILL, BUT MORE FUNDING STILL A LONG SHOT via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – On the agenda for a lengthy Senate Appropriations Committee meeting is an economic incentive bill sponsored by state Sen. Jack Latvala … The bill makes several changes to the incentive programs but does not include any funding. Scott’s top priority this session was $250 million in incentive money that could be used to lure companies to Florida. The bill was put on the agenda by committee chair Tom Lee, who last week decided not to hear the bill, signaling to many that it wasn’t passing this session. With lawmakers including no incentive money in their budgets, Lee called the bill less important. It would only come up again if needed, he said. Just because the bill is now on a committee agenda, however, does not mean the proposal will get a funding boost. “I think it’s more of an ideological thing than a money thing,” Lee said.

HOSPITAL FUNDING IN STATE BUDGET BEING RE-EVALUATED via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – House and Senate budget negotiators agreed on a plan to distribute $608 million in federal Low Income Pool money, plus other types of supplemental funding that total $1.6 billion. But the math doesn’t look good for safety net hospitals like University of Florida Health Jacksonville, which stand to lose tens of millions of dollars in the upcoming fiscal year. Now lawmakers say they need to run the numbers again and determine if tweaks are needed. “If the data that we’ve used as inputs is inaccurate and it’s producing flawed outputs, I think we should be open to taking a look at it,” Senate budget chief Tom Lee said. The concern isn’t just about hospitals not liking the numbers they see, Lee said, but whether there were flaws in the underlying decision-making on how the money is distributed. “The question is: what’s the policy? Is it fair to everyone?” Lee said.

SURPRISE MEDICAL BILLS: SENATE FIGHT HOLDS BILL’S FATE via Charles Elmore of the Palm Beach Post – Consumers lost protections against “balance billing” for medical charges … when the Senate, at the urging of its Stuart-based future president, passed amendments that effectively gutted the bill … In a startling reversal, the Florida Senate removed an amendment adopted earlier in the day that carved out anesthesiologists and radiologists from legislation designed to protect consumers against “balance billing.” Sen. [JackLatvala said he withdrew the amendment after the chamber began discussing a motion to reconsider the vote. Still, the [JoeNegron amendment remains on the Senate bill, meaning the chambers have different versions as the session winds down. Yes votes for the Latvala amendment included Jeff Clemens and Joe Abruzzo.

BILL CREATES PERMANENT FINANCING FOR EVERGLADES RESTORATION via The Associated Press – The state House passed the “Legacy Florida” Act … 117-1. A similar bill in the Senate is scheduled to be heard by its final committee … and could then be eligible for a vote of the full Senate. The bill requires that some of the money from the 2014 voter-approved constitutional Amendment 1 on land preservation go for Everglades restoration projects. It says the lesser of $200 million or 25 percent of the available Amendment 1 money should go for those projects. The Senate bill names a smaller amount but also directs additional money to protection and restoration of springs.

HOUSE PASSES BALANCE BILLING FIX via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The bill (HB 221) was approved by a 116-1 vote, with only state Rep. Julio Gonzalez in opposition … The legislation was a priority of CFO Jeff Atwater, who opposes balance billing. “To be balanced billed is to receive a request for payment from an out-of-network provider to cover the cost that your insurance company did not pay because the provider was not within their outlined network,” Atwater said in a statement. “This situation happens most frequently during times of emergency (and) can result in high-dollar costs to the consumer.”

HOUSE PASSES NEEDLE EXCHANGE PILOT FOR MIAMI-DADE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The House … passed the IDEA Act (the Miami-Dade Infectious Disease Elimination Act”), sponsored by Plantation Democrat Katie Edwards. The bill would create a pilot program in Miami-Dade County, run by the University of Miami, to establish sterile syringe exchanges. No taxpayer money will be required to implement it. The bill’s companion in the Senate passed last week, 37-2. That bill was sponsored by Miami Gardens Democrat Oscar Braynon.

HOUSE SENDS SENATE A VARIETY OF HEALTH CARE COST-SAVING MEASURES via Florida Politics – The House passed a number of bills: HB 37, which restores the patient-physician relationship through the use of Direct Primary Care; HB 85, extending the length of time a patient can stay in a recovery care center; HB 423, allowing Advanced Nurse Practitioners and Physicians Assistants to prescribe certain medications; HB 1061, removing barriers to attract nurses into the state; HB 1175, which increases health care transparency for consumers; and HB 7087, which encourages the use of telehealth as way to increase health care access while reducing costs.

HOUSE VOTES 82-37 TO APPROVE “PASTOR PROTECTION” ACT via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The passage came after more than an hour of passionate debate. Opponents questioned why the bill (HB 43) was needed, with some calling it an insult to the state’s gay community. “This bill is about discriminating in the name of religion, sadly,” said Rep. David Richardson, a Miami Beach Democrat and the only openly gay member of the Florida House. “It is an insult to the gay community.” Rep. Scott Plakon, the Longwood Republican sponsoring the measure, said the measure offers protections to “pastors … that have concerns” about gay marriage. The proposal protects clergy, churches and religious organizations and their employees from civil action for refusing to perform gay marriages.

BILL REQUIRING QUICK TESTING OF RAPE KITS GOES TO GOV. SCOTT via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press – Law enforcement agencies will soon have to turn over rape kits for testing within 30 days under a bill sent to Scott, who plans to sign it. The bill is a response to a backlog of thousands of untested rape kits in Florida, an issue Attorney General Pam Bondi brought awareness to last fall. “This can make a tremendous impact not only in the state of Florida but throughout our country,” said Bondi, who noted the information will be shared with national crime databases. “Think of the potential of solving unsolved rapes and unsolved murders and other serious crimes throughout the country.” The legislation was proposed after an audit released last fall showed that as many as 13,000 rape kits have gone untested in Florida.

***SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER – “Hit song after hit song, bright lights and dancing to blow you away.”- BBC. One of the most beloved dance stories of all time, Saturday Night Fever is the coming of age tale of young Tony Manero who learns the value of life in 1970’s Brooklyn. Based on the 1977 movie starring John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever is packed with legendary hits from the Bee Gees, including “Stayin’ Alive,” “Night Fever,” “You Should Be Dancing,” and “How Deep is Your Love,” in addition to several new songs written especially for this production. Live March 10! Tickets are on sale now at!***

UBER TARGETS GARDINER TO BACK HOUSE BILL ON TNC’S via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Uber officials says Gardiner is the reason the Senate won’t support the Matt Gaetz-sponsored bill on Transportation Network Companies (TNC), and they’re targeting the Senate president in several ways. The group has sent e-mails to its supporters in Orlando that says, “Senate President Andy Gardiner and the special interests he represents are blocking comprehensive legislation to regulate Uber across the state from even reaching a vote on the Senate floor. Ask Senator Gardiner to allow his colleagues in the Senate to vote on the House ridesharing bill.” It has also produced digital ads up on Google and Facebook, and pushed out text messages to Orlando residents.

OPEN CARRY BACK FROM THE DEAD? – After suffering a long list of defeats this Session, the gun lobby made a last-ditch effort late on Tuesday to revive a bill that has already been declared dead. An amendment filed by Sen. Don Gaetz would allow Floridians to openly carry handguns in public. In February, after staunch opposition by law enforcement officials, Judiciary Chairman Sen. Diaz de la Portilla publicly stated that he would not hear the bill in his panel, rendering it essentially dead. Gaetz’s eleventh-hour move would require a procedural override of the Senate rules, which insiders say Sen. Jack Latvala may challenge via a point of order, and Rules Chair Sen. David Simmons is unlikely to allow.

‘BEST & BRIGHTEST’ TEACHER BONUSES FACE BATTLE IN FLORIDA SENATE via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – A controversial bonus plan that awards “highly effective” teachers based on their ACT/SAT scores faces a tough fight in the Florida Senate — and that battle is bogging down a massive education bill that Sen. Don Gaetz wants to use as a vehicle to permanently extend the “Best & Brightest” bonuses. Rank-and-file senators in both parties are, at least, reluctant or, at most, altogether opposed to the program. Echoing other critics, they argue it’s not a fair way to reward teachers, since there’s no proven correlation between teachers’ high school test scores and their ability to be good teachers. But Senate Republican leaders say they want to make a “good faith effort” to support “Best & Brightest” because it’s a priority for House Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran, a Land O’Lakes Republican who’s in line to become House Speaker … “The process works best when we respect each chamber’s priorities, as much as we respect our own,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee said.

LAST-MINUTE BUDGET MOVE WOULD GRANT MIAMI FIRM HEALTH SECTOR MONOPOLY via Florida Politics – An amendment put forward by Sen. Bill Galvano would turn over the state’s budget for medically complex children to one company: Miami-based Caregiver Services, Inc. The language would allow the AHCA to contract with a provider service network offering specialty plans that cover children who are eligible for the state’s Medicaid program. Though seemingly innocent, the amendment relies on Florida statutes that lack the competitive procurement, accountability and quality of care requirements that Florida’s current Medicaid managed care plans are held to, effectively allowing the firm and its affiliate, Children First Specialty Plan, LLC, to get a sole-sourced contract without a competitive bidding process. The lack of a competitive bidding process has turned into a major sticking point with top-ranking lawmakers in the House, who have offered language to add back in the bidding and standards statutes, but Caregiver Services ignored it and pushed ahead with the sole-source language on the Senate side.

A BLUNT FORCE TO CRUSH FLORIDIANS’ OPPOSITION TO MARIJUANA via Bertha Madras of the Sunshine State News – The well-funded movement to medicalize marijuana spreading across our nation calls out for caution and restraint. Activists claim that marijuana is a safe medicine but de facto, it is evolving into a gateway for marijuana legalization. The claim conflicts with current science, with intelligent public health policy, with rigorous standards of the drug approval process, and with best practices of medicine. Why is whole plant marijuana not approved? Concerns focus on abuse liability, safety and effectiveness. This amendment [to Florida Bill SB 460] ignores the FDA, ignores meta-analyses completed by independent biomedical researchers, ignores the policy statements of reputable medical associations, and ignores current marijuana science.  In 2014, Floridians wisely voted not to accept THC-laden marijuana as a “medical option”. Senator [RobBradley’s current amendment maneuvers the bill around the will of the people. Above all, this bill ignores the voters of Florida and the democratic process.  Floridians should protest this amendment, a blunt force to suppress their opposition to marijuana.


***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.***

CORRECTIONS AGENCY TO BE GRILLED BY SENATORS OVER NEW INMATE HEALTH CARE CONTRACT via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Florida Department of Corrections’ decision to award a two-year $268 million contract to a health care company with deep political connections has drawn a lawsuit from another politically-connected company, and faced some questions from the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Civil and Criminal Justice …  The contract between the prison agency and Centurion of Florida was signed Feb. 1 after Corizon Health told FDC Secretary Julie Jones in December that it planned to abandon its five-year, $1.2 billion contract three years early. Jones determined that the emergency situation did not require the state to seek competitive bids and, rather than a formal bid-seeking process, she asked other health care companies to offer proposals to fill the gap in prison health care until the agency negotiates a new bid with new companies in 2018. Three companies submitted proposals — Wexford, the company that is paid $48 million a year to serve 18,000 inmates in the South Florida region, as well as Centurion, and Armor. The department awarded the contract to Centurion, a partnership between MHM Services, a provider of mental health care services and Centene, the company that is holds a lucrative Medicaid managed-care contract with the state. The company has contributed $298,000 to legislative campaigns and political committees in 2015 alone and its chief lobbyist is former House Speaker Dean Cannon.

SEVEN-MILLION-DOLLAR BUDGET PROPOSAL FOR POLICE RADIOS CAUSES SHARP DIVIDE via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida – Jeanette Núñez was presenting the initial version of the $1.9 billion government operations budget to the House committee that helps write the plan when she ran into some skepticism.  A sliver of that overall spending plan — $7 million — caught the eye of Rep. Charles Van Zant … tied to … a potentially $1 billion contract dealing with upgrades to the statewide law enforcement radio system. The issue has sparked a special interest fight between Harris Corp., which currently has the contract, and Motorola, the company that wants it. In the process, lawmakers have split … Both sides have large stables of lobbyists, and have sprinkled campaign contributions to lawmakers and committees across the state. The Núñez, who supports Harris, has $7 million to buy new radios in her proposed 2016-17 budget, something Van Zant took issue with. He asked during the committee meeting who requested the funding … Núñez implied the funding was requested by the Joint Task Force, which makes recommendations on law enforcement radios. It is overseen by the Department of Management Services, which is part of Scott’s administration. Van Zant took her answer to mean she was saying that the Joint Task Force or DMS had requested the radio money. Núñez said later that she wasn’t suggesting DMS and the Task Force had asked for the money, but that she was just explaining the process.

IT’S TIME FOR #CATESINEDIE – PLACE YOUR BETS ON WHEN THE SINE DIE HANKIES WILL DROP via Florida Politics – “Before tomorrow at 4 p.m., use hashtag #CateSineDie and tweet the exact date and time you believe the hanky will drop following adjournment of the Florida House and Senate,” said Florida media guru Kevin Cate. “That’s it.” Cate … also added in a new altruistic wrinkle for 2016. The Capitol-goer who predicts most accurately the exact time of Session’s end will win $500 for their favorite charity.

GOVERNORS CLUB THURSDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU – Wrapping up the workweek, Florida legislators will get to enjoy a wide variety of Governors Club tidbits, including Shrimp & Corn Chowder; GC Sandwich Board with Chips; Roast Turkey, Ham, Swiss & Cheddar Cheese; Mediterranean Salad; Chicken Salad & Tuna Salad; Grilled London Broil with Barbeque Demi; Caprese Chicken; Grilled Marinated Mahi Mahi with Sweet Asian Sauce; Risi Bisi Rice; Vegetable Medley; Shrimp and Linguine Alfredo and capped off with a Mini Dessert Bar.


Dean Cannon, Richard Reeves, Joseph Salzverg, Capitol Insight: Leon County School Board

Scott DiBiasio: Appraisal Institute

Rudy Garcia, Florida Governmental Affairs: LifeWallet

Cynthia Henderson, Cynergy Consulting: General Dynamics Information Technology

Rhett O’Doski, Advantage Consulting Team: Florida Psychological and Associated Healthcare

David Roberts, Akerman: Florida Air Conditioning Contractors Professional Alliance

William RubinMelissa AkesonChristopher FinkbeinerHeather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: Charter Schools USA;

Derek Whitis, Whitis Consulting: Florida Psychological and Associated Healthcare

FLORIDA RETURNS RECORD $32 MILLION IN UNCLAIMED PROPERTY via the Associated Press – Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said the state returned $32 million in property last month, beating the previous record of $27.5 million in August 2014. The Bureau of Unclaimed Property holds money from dormant bank, insurance and utility accounts plus unclaimed valuables from abandoned safe deposit boxes. It currently holds $1.5 billion, which is used for public schools until claimed. Those who suspect they might have unclaimed property can check at

TRIBUNE PUBLISHING SHAKEUP INCLUDES LEADERSHIP SHAKEUPS AT ORLANDO, FORT LAUDERDALE NEWSPAPERS via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – At the Orlando Sentinel, Nancy Meyer is out as publisher after a little more than a year in that position. Editor Avido Khahaifa has been named editor-publisher … changes are effective immediately. At the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Howard Greenberg … is leaving immediately. Editor Howard Saltz was named editor-publisher. The changes come as Michael Ferro, who recently bought enough Tribune Publishing stock to become the largest shareholder, and then became chairman, consolidates his power.

ACTUAL PRESS RELEASE — “Tampa ranks #14 for Termites

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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