Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for March 7 – RIP Nancy Reagan; Marco’s not-so-super Saturday; Budget coming in for a close

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

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

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


FORMER FIRST LADY DIES AT 94 IN CALIFORNIA via The Associated Press — [The] helpmate, backstage adviser and fierce protector of Ronald Reagan in his journey from actor to president — and finally during his 10-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease — has died. She was 94. The former first lady died Sunday at her home in the Bel-Air section of Los Angeles of congestive heart failure … Her best-known project as first lady was the “Just Say No” campaign to help kids and teens stay off drugs. When she swept into the White House in 1981, the former Hollywood actress partial to designer gowns and pricey china was widely dismissed as a pre-feminist throwback, concerned only with fashion, decorating and entertaining. By the time she moved out eight years later, Mrs. Reagan was fending off accusations that she was a behind-the-scenes “dragon lady” wielding unchecked power over the Reagan administration — and doing it based on astrology to boot. All along she maintained that her only mission was to back her “Ronnie” and strengthen his presidency.




THE LATEST FIGURES via Dan Smith of Election Smith – As of yesterday, combining absentee mail and early in-person voting, 1.063 million Floridians have cast ballots, including nearly 571.9k Republicans and 462.1k Democrats.  That’s roughly 12.6% of all Republicans and 9.2% of all Democrats (active and inactive) registered in Florida. Of the 571.9k Republicans who have already voted as of 3/5/2016, 11.2% are Hispanic and 85.7% are white. Of the 462.1k Democrats who have already voted, 18.6% are black, 10.1% are Hispanic, and 67.7% are white.


Ted Cruz split 2-2 with Donald Trump, a heartening night for underdogs but one that did little to shake up the campaign for the 2016 presidential nominations.

Cruz won in Kansas and Maine — Trump answered with victories in Louisiana and Kentucky.

Marco Rubio, considered the only other Republican capable of stopping Trump, trailed in the races and the front-runner tried to nudge him out the door. “Marco has to get out of the race,” Trump said. “Has to.”

Cruz and Sanders both benefited from a caucus system that requires organization from campaigns and commitment — if not passion — from voters.

But because delegates are being awarded proportionally in the weekend races, Trump’s GOP rivals had limited opportunity to curb the drive of the front-runners. Larger contests ahead, with winner-take-all delegate prizes, afford more of that chance.

Rallying in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Cruz, a Texas senator, declared: “The scream you hear, the howl that comes from Washington D.C., is utter terror at what we the people are doing together.”

Saturday’s GOP races in Maine, Kansas, Kentucky and Louisiana and Democratic contests in Nebraska, Kansas and Louisiana were largely overshadowed by the Super Tuesday races dominated by Trump.

But with Trump yet to win states by the margins he’ll need to secure the nomination before the GOP convention, every one of the 155 GOP delegates at stake on Saturday was worth fighting for.

DONALD TRUMP CALLS ON RUBIO TO DROP OUT OF PRESIDENTIAL RACE via The Associated Press — “Marco has to get out of the race. Has to,” Trump said at a news conference at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Florida, where dozens of friends and club members mixed in with reporters covering his campaign. Trump said that Rubio had “a very, very bad night,” and said that it’s time for the race to be a two-man contest between him and Cruz. “You’ve got to be able to win. And he has not been able to win. And I think it’s time that he drops out,” he said of Rubio. “I would love to take on Ted one-on-one. That would be so much fun.” Rubio’s campaign promptly rejected Trump’s call and continued to attack his business record and conservative credentials.


— @LauraIngram: Another primary night & more clear that there is ZERO desire or hunger for Rubio (Bush 3.0). A total fabrication of the Donor Class.

— @NewtGingrich: With the kansas and maine results Cruz gets a big boost, Rubio loses believability in contest with Cruz to be main alternative to Trump

POLL FOR ANTI-TRUMP GROUP FINDS NARROWING GOP RACE IN FLORIDA via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — Trump leads Rubio 35-30 percent ahead of the March 15 primary, according to the poll conducted for Our Principles PAC by The Tarrance Group, a Republican firm … Cruz drew 16 percent support, Kasich 9 percent and Carson 5 percent … Six percent of respondents were undecided. Earlier polls by other firms have suggested a wider — in some cases, much wider — margin between Trump and Rubio. The Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found Trump ahead by 20 percentage points, Quinnipiac University by 16 points and Associated Industries of Florida by 7 points. All those polls were conducted last week, before Our Priorities and two other groups — American Future Fund and Club for Growth — unleashed their anti-Trump advertising. The new poll offered a glimmer of hope for Rubio in that he continues to have the most favorable rating among all the candidates. That gives him the most room to grow among undecided voters; according to the poll, 24 percent of respondents are still picking a candidate. Sixteen percent are leaning toward one, and 57 percent have already decided.

CLUB FOR GROWTH TO SPEND ANOTHER TWO DOLLARS MILLION ON ANTI-TRUMP ADS via Maggie Haberman of The New York Times – The Club for Growth will also spend another $1 million in Florida on a separate ad buy against Trump. “A big-government liberal at the top of the GOP ticket would cost Republicans the White House, the Senate majority, and, ultimately, the Supreme Court,” said David McIntosh, the president of the Club for Growth Action, describing Trump’s positions as a “shell game.”

TRUMP, RUBIO RATCHET UP CAMPAIGN ATTACKS AGAINST EACH OTHER IN FLORIDA via Adam Smith and Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times — “If we win Florida, it’s all over,” Trump told a crowd of nearly 10,000 at UCF, and most political observers agree that at least for Rubio, it would be all over if he loses Florida on March 15. The Florida senator has repeatedly predicted he will win his home state, even though he has not led a single poll of Florida Republicans in six months … Now, finally, Rubio is focused on Florida, scheduling campaign stops throughout the state … while his super PAC political committee is spending at least $6 million in TV ads mostly blasting Trump. [W]hile Trump was stirring up the troops in Orlando, Rubio was 140 miles away at a Jacksonville rally. “The eyes of the nation are on this great state,” Rubio told the Jacksonville crowd. “This state where my parents met the American dream, this state where my own American dreams have come to pass, this state that has always given me a chance and will do so again.” Trump faces perhaps his biggest onslaught of negative ads to date in Florida, with roughly $9 million in ads already purchased by Rubio’s political committee and other Trump groups. The Republican front-runner … has bought less than $2 million in TV ads in Florida … in Orlando gloated about how little money he spent compared with other candidates he beat in prior contests. “I spent the least amount of money and I’m number one by a lot. I’m killing everybody.”

— “Scott Plakon, Mike Miller denounce Donald Trump, call for support for Marco Rubio” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

TERRIFYING PHOTO OF THE WEEKEND: Trump made members of a Florida crowd raise their right hands and swear to vote for him in the March 15 primary.

heil trump

TOP OP-ED: RUBIO GETS MASSACRED via Joe Scarborough for The Washington Post – “Super Saturday” ended up being a massacre for Rubio. If the Florida senator wants to salvage his political career, it is time that his quixotic quest for the White House comes to an end. Republican voters were obviously turned off by Rubio’s efforts to match Trump insult for insult. The Florida senator first suggested that the Manhattan billionaire had wet his pants during a presidential debate. Then — channeling bathroom humor found in Austin Powers — Marco Rubio suggested that the GOP frontrunner was poorly endowed sexually. It was too much for conservative voters who would normally be his natural constituency. The Rubio campaign … was left humiliated again, cornered into betting their candidate’s political future on a first place finish in Florida. That outcome was made more difficult by tonight’s collapse. The senator still has time to salvage a political career damaged by his lackluster presidential campaign. But that won’t still be the case if Rubio hangs around this race long enough to be embarrassed by Trump in his home state of Florida. If that were to be the case, the once promising senator would be forced to live out his professional life as a Beltway lobbyist or worse yet, endure the grim existence of being a cable news host.

BATTERED RUBIO VOWS RACE ‘ONLY GETS BETTER FOR US’ via Sarah Wheaton of POLITICO — Saturday night was not kind to Rubio … badly trailing Trump and Cruz, [he] lost every state and even failed to pick up delegates in some of the contests. Despite the dismal news, Rubio offered a rosy picture of the race going forward, especially in the winner-take-all Florida primary. “We’re going to win Florida, and you’ll find out on March 15 how confident we are,” Rubio said, in Spanish, to supporters in San Juan, Puerto Rico … “Tonight we will have more delegates than we did last night,” Rubio promised. “This map only gets better for us.” Cruz’s campaign, however, said it’s all but over for Rubio. “It’s devastating. The Florida-or-bust strategy hasn’t worked in the past, and it won’t work this time,” Cruz’s spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said. “Cruz continues to amass delegates as conservatives rally behind him and gets closer and closer to making this a two-man race between him and Trump.”

— “Rubio dominates Panhandle REC straw poll” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

EVEN IN JACKSONVILLE, RUBIO FACES ENTHUSIASM GAP via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Rubio, who arrived in Jacksonville en route from an earnest, well-received address at CPAC in DC, has to win urban areas like Jacksonville to win the state … he identified “even up into Jacksonville” as one of the areas in the Sunshine State that he expects to break favorably for him, as opposed to rural North Florida and the Panhandle, which looks destined for Trump. There to see and be seen: state and local government workers, stalwarts of the Duval County Republican Party, the college educated conservatives upon which Marco’s poll numbers rely. Missing: the evangelicals that will back Cruz; the Golden Corral conservatives that prefer “Big Donald” to Florida’s junior senator. Rubio’s Florida campaign will be a test of the strength of the party regulars, including endorsing Mayor Lenny Curry. The campaign is on a budget that will require the high gear GOTV. The facility chosen, the 3000-capacity Morocco Temple, is a $5,000 space … chosen because they couldn’t afford the $11,000 fee for the University of North Florida arena. Turnout? Well, the optimist would say the room was half full.

— “Rubio holding Sarasota rally Tuesday” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

CRUZ LOOKS TO TAKE ON RUBIO, ON THE FELLOW SENATOR’S FLORIDA TURF via Katie Zezima and Matea Gold of The Washington Post — Cruz’s campaign … is opening ten field offices in Florida … Trump has a big lead in the polls there, but Cruz’s campaign thinks it can increase its support in the state by appealing to conservatives and positioning the candidate as an alternative to Trump. “We recognize that it’s an uphill battle for us, but it becomes a lot easier if we can consolidate the anti-Trump vote,” said Manny Roman, the chairman of Cruz’s campaign in Miami-Dade County. Cruz’s team thinks that Florida Republicans lean conservative, and the senator can swoop in as a high-minded alternative while Rubio and Trump engage in a war of insults. Cruz’s campaign said it will run an “aggressive” ad campaign in the state.

MUST-READ — CRUZ TOOK VOTES FROM RUBIO IN LA. via Phillip Bump of The Washington Post – … If we look at the votes in counties for which we have data (culled from the AP’s initial and final vote tallies), you can see that Cruz gained strength after the absentee vote. This suggests that the shift probably wasn’t a function of Cruz’s (clearly strong) get-out-the-vote effort. Field efforts like that result in relatively limited swings, and it’s hard to see how they could have run a hugely successful turnout effort throughout the state uniformly. Instead, this looks like the state of Louisiana bailed on Rubio in favor of Cruz.

CRUZ OPENING 10 OFFICES IN FLORIDA via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — They are in Pensacola, Jacksonville, Tampa, Umatilla, Rockledge, Lakeland, Fort Myers, Naples, Boca Raton and Miami. The campaign said it would make it easier for “volunteers to quickly connect with the campaign, and help them make calls or walk door to door.”

TWEET OF THE WEEKEND: @DavidAxelrod: You get the feeling @tedcruz feels like a man with very big hands tonight.


 @JMartNYT: Today leaves no doubt: @tedcruz is the most formidable alternative to Trump.

 @MarcACaputo: In listening to Cruz & pundits, Rubio gonna need PR win tomorrow to slow the 2-man-race narrative that’s burning the airwaves

 @MarkHalperin: Reasons Cruz might have risen: Carson out; smart spending. Reason Rubio might have fallen: has gone off-brand.

CRUZ WINS CPAC STRAW POLLCruz 40%; Rubio 30%; Trump 15%; Kasich 8 percent

MIKE ALLEN’S ANALYSIS via POLITICO: “Turn out the lights, Establishment. The GOP nominee is either a man hated by the establishment writ large (Trump) or the man most hated by his fellow Republican senators (Cruz). They have won 18 of 19 states. They have 81% of delegates. They whooped Bush — and now Rubio, absent a miracle. No money, convention tricks or momentum swings can change this course. (Hey, remember all those stories from one month ago, saying the establishment was warming to Trump because they disdain Cruz?)”

FLASHBACK TO MY “BOLD” PREDICTION AT END OF LAST YEAR: “Ted Cruz will be the Republican presidential nominee AFTER a brokered convention.”

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TRUMP KILLS GOP AUTOPSY via Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — Republican elders drew up a plan for a kinder, more inclusive Republican party. Trump is tearing it apart … [W]ith Trump’s GOP takeover fully underway, interviews with four co-authors [Henry BarbourJon HuntsmanAri Fleischer and Sally Bradshaw] of the 2012 autopsy and 10 other Republican leaders reveal a party establishment terrified that Trump is not only repeating the party’s failures — he’s destroying the party in the process. … For GOP leaders, what’s so vexing about Trump’s campaign is that it’s a photo negative of everything the autopsy said was needed to win a general election. “Swing voters would flock away from him in droves,” said Barbour … And as for Trump’s claim that his working-class appealing will bring back Reagan Democrats, the veteran Mississippi Republican operative is unmoved: “He’s chasing some ghost that I don’t think exists anymore.”

VOICE MAILS REVEAL TRUMP’S COZY RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LIBERAL MEDIA via Ashley Feinberg and Andy Cush of Gawker — … the authentic Trump is a creature of elite Manhattan society, who counts among his personal friends many members of the decadent liberal media, and whose natural habitat is an Upper East Side cocktail party. As Cruz has put it, Trump has ‘New York values.

THE BEST LAID FREE MEDIA PLAN OF RUBIO via Sasha Issenberg of Bloomberg Politics — The daily reports that [the consulting firm] 0ptimus returned to Rubio‘s headquarters had informed nearly every important decision the campaign had made in the week leading up to Super Tuesday. Rubio undertook separate trips to Arkansas, two days apart, because his analysts spotted adjacent districts where he might be able to crawl into second place, a position that would ensure a delegate from each. When Rubio was booked to spend time in a satellite studio, an 0ptimus analysis of which media markets carried the greatest opportunity for pivotal wins guided the campaign’s press office to offer the senator as a guest to television stations in Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, Nashville and Knoxville. Even the candidate’s declivitous descent into dick jokes was guided by a rigorously quantitative determination of the most effective way for Rubio to reach his targeted voters.

THOUSANDS OF YEARS OF EVOLUTION HAVE PREPARED US TO BE REPULSED BY CRUZ’S FACE via Richard E. Cytowic for — We start learning to read others from the day we are born. Newborns mirror back smiles. Infants imitate gestures. Quite soon they start figuring out others’ intentions. The emotional brain learns to surmise what lies behind facial expressions, decipher body language and interpret tone. We read between the lines. We hear what isn’t said. And this should spell trouble for politicians … it can be unsettling to observe someone who seems incapable of smiling naturally … Cruz is one of the best examples of this: his body language, whether purposeful or inadvertent, comes across as inauthentic at best. At worst, his downturned face and eyebrows give some voters the creeps … we fail to distinguish the charisma and presentation skills needed on the campaign trail from the far different assets actually needed to lead and govern. We judge good talkers to be good leaders, and smarter than quiet types. Nowhere is emotion’s play on the face more evident that in the authentic “Duchenne smile” which Cruz has so much trouble with.

JOHN KASICH PREDICTS THERE WILL BE A BROKERED GOP CONVENTION via Nolan McCaskill of POLITICO — Kasich … doubts any Republican presidential candidate will amass the 1,237 delegates necessary to win the Republican nomination outright, a scenario that would set up a floor fight at a brokered convention. “I don’t think anybody’s gonna get that,” Kasich told Fox News host Sean Hannity during an interview onstage at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. “I’m gonna win Ohio. And then we gonna …,” Kasich started to say before Hannity interrupted, asking the Ohio governor if he thought there would be a brokered convention. “I do. I do,” Kasich responded.

QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND: “(Ted Cruz is) an inspiration to every kid in America who worries that he’ll never be able to run for president because nobody likes him. He’s running. And look, I told Barack, if you really, really want to remake the Supreme Court, nominate Cruz. Before you know it, you’ll have eight vacancies.” — Vice President Joe Biden, as reported by The Washington Post.

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DIVIDE GROWING BETWEEN RICK SCOTT, OTHER REPUBLICANS via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press Scott is being handed a string of defeats that could render his final 2 ½ years in office nearly irrelevant. They could also serve as a reminder that there are limits to how much sway a multimillionaire businessman used to his own way can have over politicians used to compromise and deal-making. GOP legislators have already rejected Scott’s pitch for steep tax cuts and $250 million for business incentives. They have also scuttled a major gambling deal he negotiated with the Seminole Tribe of Florida and may reject his hand-picked leader for the state’s health department. And there is growing talk that if Scott vetoes parts of this year’s budget, lawmakers will override him. Republican legislative leaders have been careful to avoid direct criticisms of Scott in the last few weeks, but as the session winds down they have started to be more open about the divide that exists. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, for example, has noted on several occasions that Scott’s budget wish list wasn’t based on “reality” and that the governor wanted to spend more money on tax cuts than was available. When pressed to name something that Scott accomplished this year, Sen. Tom Lee bluntly said the governor helped convince the House and Senate to work more closely together. Last year, the House and Senate were at odds over everything from Medicaid expansion to redrawing new congressional and state Senate districts. Rep. Richard Corcoran tried to downplay questions about Scott’s agenda foundering in the Legislature. “He has to get 100 percent of a 100 percent request to have a good year?” Corcoran said. “When has he ever gotten that year? He’s never gotten that year.”

TWEET, TWEET: @Jason_Garcia: In hindsight, lots of folks (including me) may have underestimated how angry the House was w/Scott’s vetoes last yr. … The narrative was SCOTT SMACKS SENATE!!1!1! But he also killed big House stuff — water farming, IMG Academy, Jacksonville soccer, etc.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will announce new jobs at a 9:40 a.m. news conference at FIS Global, a financial services and technology provider, 701 San Marco Blvd., 10th floor in Jacksonville.


TWEET, TWEET: @Fineout: Let’s just say that @richardcorcoran is building up a hefty agenda for his coming time as speaker … From tax policy, to criminal justice, to courts to health care @richardcorcoran appears ready to tear it all up … @richardcorcoran today called the fact that Fla. has 100k inmates in prison “unmanageable” and he says state needs overhaul

HOUSE, SENATE BUDGET TALKS NEARLY COMPLETE, BUT UNCERTAINTIES REMAIN via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union — House and Senate negotiators have reached agreement on the vast majority of the spending plan, but a few high-profile issues remain, such as tax cuts, employee pay raises and higher education funding. Each day, the list of things that are left to be done gets shorter. “If you’re someone who cares about agriculture and natural resources in Florida, it’s a great budget,” House budget chief Richard Corcoran said. “If you’re someone who cares about health care quality and funding, I think it did very well.” Some of the decisions don’t have anything to do with numbers, but the accompanying language in the budget that directions how certain dollars are spent. Late Friday night, lawmakers agreed to insert a provision in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement budget requiring its agents to investigate all instances when someone is killed or seriously injured by a law enforcement officer statewide. Spending on K-12 public schools is largely agreed upon, but other issues — like whether to provide educators bonuses based on high school test scores and how much money to set aside in performance funding for public universities — are still being sorted out. Now, they just have to worry about Scott’s veto pen.

LAWMAKERS BOND FOR HIGHER ED AND WATER PROJECTS via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Corcoran and Lee approved an ambitious $714 million education construction list that will benefit the K-12 system, state colleges and universities. The $700 million construction program is based on a combination of cash and bonding, which could face a veto from Gov. Scott, who has taken a hard line against expanding the state’s debt. Corcoran defended the bonding, saying legislative leaders believe now is a good time to borrow money at low interest rates to meet the state’s education construction needs.

— “So about that PECO list. I found some interesting nuggets. Wrapped up in this blog post” via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union

— “Lawmakers OK UCF campus cash” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel

BUDGET’S WINNERS AND LOSERS, FROM FIREFIGHTERS TO RADIO VENDORS via Steve Bousquet of the Miami Herald – The Legislature’s two budget chairmen rejected across-the-board pay increases for all state workers, but they did OK raises for select groups of employees, including $2,000 for forestry firefighters, $2,000 for certain groups of inspectors in DBPR and $4,000 for nurses and nurse supervisors in the Department of Veterans Affairs. They also rejected Scott‘s plan for a performance based program of bonuses for state workers. The Legislature is giving Scott $1.8 million to competitively bid a contract for a new automated travel management system for all state agencies and the courts. Corcoran said the goal is for state employees’ travel records to be online for citizens to see, as a way to “clean up state government and make it more accountable for the people,” The budget also will include a $200,000 study of whether to move the 2nd District Court of Appeal from Lakeland to Tampa. Lee said progress on budget talks slowed … because of a “vendor fist fight” on a perennial big-dollar issue involving a contract for purchases of police radios. The Senate did not accept a House offer to spend another $7 million to replace radios under an existing state contract with Melbourne-based Harris Corp. that’s due to expire in five years and is sure to be the subject of a fierce fight with Motorola and other firms.

ANDY GARDINER: PUTTING ‘BEST & BRIGHTEST’ IN BUDGET AGAIN COULD BE ‘APPROPRIATE’ COMPROMISE via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times — As rank-and-file senators grow more worried that a controversial teacher bonus program could be slipped into the annual budget for the second year in a row, Gardiner … endorses that approach as a possible “appropriate” compromise with the House. “It was in the implementing bill last year. I think it’s an issue that’s very important to the speaker-designate (Rep. Richard Corcoran), and it’s not a new issue,” Gardiner … said of the “Best & Brightest” program that awards bonuses to “highly effective” teachers based on their high school SAT/ACT scores. “Maybe that’s the compromise -— where instead of codifying it in statute in Senate Bill 524, it’s a one-year implementation,” Gardiner said, referencing a massive education bill that includes permanently extending the bonuses. “I think that might be appropriate, but I’ll leave that to the chairs to see if they want to do that,” he said.

RECORD SCHOOL FUNDING TAKES DIFFERENT PATH via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Lawmakers have reached an agreement on a new spending plan for the K-12 system beginning July 1. Per-student funding will rise to record level of $7,178, eclipsing the previous high-water mark of $7,126 reached in 2007-08, just as Florida was moving into the Great Recession. But the rise in K-12 funding was troubling for some lawmakers who knew much of the increase over the last few years has been built on higher local property tax collections for the schools. Lawmakers didn’t increase the so-called “required local effort (RLE)” tax rate. But a rise in property values, as well as new construction, resulted in more local tax collections even with the same tax rate.

PRISON HIRING PROGRAM REJECTED; CABINET MEMBERS GET PROTECTION via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Senate and House negotiators struck agreements on many spending items … including a rejection of the prison system’s request for 734 new correctional officers and giving Cabinet members the option of state trooper protection for the first time. Those decisions were among dozens of deals brokered by the Legislature’s two main budget-writers, Sen. Lee and Rep. Corcoran … who publicly ratified deals they and their staffs made in criminal justice, courts, tourism, transportation and economic development. In the prison system, independent audits have repeatedly flagged staff shortages as a security crisis. But even though lawmakers budgeted $12.2 million for new hires, they have approved 215 new correctional officer jobs, not the 734 that Corrections Secretary Julie Jones says she needs, especially because the agency is changing from 12-hour shifts back to eight-hour shifts. Jones calls the 734 positions “an operational imperative that will increase both safety and security in our institutions.” Lee said he and Corcoran decided that the agency could not handle so much hiring while also reworking a contract for inmate health care. “Our staff felt the department pretty much had its hands full dealing with the health care issues,” Lee said, “and this was probably more than they could swallow.”

AFTER DEFEAT FOR PRISON SYSTEM, JULIE JONES SAID ‘WE HAD CONSENSUS’ via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Jones did not expect legislative leaders to deny her request to hire 734 additional correctional officers … The agency said it will have enough money to hire the 734 officers, but it needed legislative authorization to fill the positions, which three separate operational reviews concluded are urgently needed. Jones said she thought she had a deal with the Legislature, and she released a statement in which she said: “we believed we had consensus.” The Legislature’s decision … is yet another political defeat for Scott as well. Scott’s initial budget recommendation last November did not include those positions, but he did endorse Jones’ request in January.

WHY ARE SAFETY NET HOSPITALS CRYING FOUL OVER $134 MILLION IN NEW FUNDING? via Florida Politics — [A]ll Florida hospitals — even the for-profit institutions so easy to demonize in this kind of discussion — will be feeling some pain from the federal government’s decision to trim Low-Income Pool funding by $400 million. But we’ll also see that all Florida hospitals, including the squawking safety net ones, will still have the resources required to care for everyone who needs it. Funding for uncompensated health care is parceled out through convoluted formulas, and an important part of the equation is Low-Income Pool — LIP — funding. Those federal funds are supposed to offset the cost of uncompensated care, and both nonprofit and for-profit hospitals receive a portion. Florida and the feds have been in squabbling over LIP funding for several years, and now the state is having to find a way to divvy up a shrinking pool of money amid ever-increasing health care costs. when you include the many factors incorporated into the Senate proposal, safety net hospitals stand to come out ahead of last year’s funding by more than $134 million — which is $30 million more than for-profit hospitals stand to gain under this plan. Considering that Florida’s for-profit hospitals actually provide greater volumes of care to uninsured residents while also having the burden of paying taxes, the proposed formula actually provides a meaningful advantage to the state’s public hospitals, the ones that are clamoring for even more money.

LAST-MINUTE CASH WOULD HELP FUND SETTLEMENT WITH PARI-MUTUEL via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Two million dollars not requested by the state was added to the transportation budget late in negotiations, tied in part to a settlement the Florida Department of Transportation reached with the owner of a Central Florida Jai-Alai fronton. The money is for the Seminole County Flyover, a completed $21 million project that allows U.S. 17-92 in the county to go over State Road 436. The idea of building the bridge prompted a lawsuit from Richard Birdoff, a New York real estate developer who owns Orlando Jai-Alai, which owns property that would be impacted by the new development. He argued that updated traffic numbers indicated the flyover was not needed, and he said it would be an eyesore. The lawsuit ultimately was settled in January. The purpose of the funding was a mystery to those involved in the transportation budget process. “This funding was not requested in the agency’s legislative budget request or the governor’s recommended budget,” said Dick Kane, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation. “We do not know what the appropriation is for.”

BUDGET DEAL INCLUDES $1 MILLION FOR AIRPORT via Sean Rossman of the Tallahassee Democrat — A state budget compromise includes $1 million for Tallahassee International Airport, money that Mayor Andrew Gillum‘s office says will be used to attract the airline JetBlue. Gillum’s office, which oversees city lobbying efforts on the state level, said budget chairmen Sen. Lee and Rep. Corcoran agreed on the appropriation during a Friday budget conference. The money … would assist with JetBlue start up costs, marketing and revenue guarantees.

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HOUSE LAYS SEMINOLE COMPACT FAILURE AT FEET OF SENATE via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — It’s the Florida Senate’s fault that the Seminole Compact wasn’t passed this session, two House leaders said … They rejected claims there weren’t enough votes in the House, saying instead there was no point in moving a bill that wasn’t going to be considered across the Capitol Rotunda. The Senate gave up on it earlier this week, with President Gardiner saying the compact “will be for another day, and for somebody else to handle.” This is his final year in office. “We wanted to keep hope alive, but obviously nothing panned out,” said House Speaker Steve Crisafulli … “We figured there was no life in it … as for 2016, it won’t have an opportunity to come back up … It just couldn’t get done in the Senate … There wasn’t a compromise opportunity to get it done.”

PUSH TO LEGALIZE FANTASY SPORTS FAILS via The Associated Press — Matt Gaetz … made a last-ditch effort to keep a fantasy sports bill alive in the final days of the 2016 session. But he dropped the effort after getting resistance from some other Republicans. Legislators this year proposed bills that would have covered both season-long fantasy leagues, as well as daily fantasy leagues.

SENATE PASSES DIVISIVE ALIMONY, CHILD CUSTODY REVISIONS via William March of The Associated Press — The legislation would end lifetime alimony, replacing it with formulas for payment amounts and duration depending on the length of the marriage and the spouses’ incomes. It urges judges to consider equal time-sharing with children for divorcing parents, and specifies circumstances to consider in deciding time sharing. Backers including influential Sen. Lee … say the bill would bring consistency and predictability to alimony awards, cutting litigation. They contend near-equal time with both parents is in a child’s best interest, and those presumptions that mothers should predominate are outdated. Opponents say the bill would harm women who give up careers to be stay-home mothers. Urging judges to consider equal time-sharing, they have said, could push them away from putting children’s best interests foremost. Lee added an amendment … so the time-sharing provisions would apply only to future custody settlements, quieting some objections.

CITING RULES ISSUE, SENATE DECLINES TO TAKE UP LAST-DITCH ATTEMPT FOR SCHOOL RECESS via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times — Although the measure passed the House last month by a near-unanimous vote, the bill by Sen. Alan Hays never got a hearing in a Senate committee because education policy committee Chairman Sen. John Legg refused to take it up. When Hays tried to amend his proposal on to a bill last week in committee, the Umatilla Republican was convinced by his party leaders to withdraw the proposal. And then again today, his last-ditch attempt was thwarted by the full Senate. As Hays’ amendment was called up on the floor, Legg immediately called a point of order. (The Trinity Republican has called the recess proposal “a local issue” that doesn’t merit a statewide mandate.)

NEW STANDARDS FOR POLICE BODY CAMERAS via The Associated Press — The House … passed a bill that would require police to develop standards for the use of body cameras and how the audio and video files will be stored. The bill (HB 93) does not mandate that police must use body cameras. Rep. Shevrin Jones … says his bill is needed to improve relations between the public and police. His bill also requires law-enforcement agencies to have training procedures in place for officers who use the cameras. A similar bill is moving in the Florida Senate.

HOUSE OKS MEASURE TO END STATE CHARITY CAMPAIGN via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — An amendment sponsored by Rep. Alan Williams and tacked onto a government accountability bill would remove the Florida State Employees’ Charitable Campaign from statutes and require the Department of Management Services to issue recommendations on how best to create a new one. “The public trust has been broken,” said Williams … “Administrators flourished and critical needs went unmet. Make no mistake, it’s time to correct this wrong and move in a new direction. It’s time to restore the faith of the givers.” However, some nonprofit leaders expressed reservations about the proposal. If the charity campaign is stricken from statutes, there’s no guarantee lawmakers will create a new one. And DMS Secretary Chad Poppell has already suggested to lawmakers that the state end the FSECC altogether. Ted Granger, president of the United Way of Florida, said Williams was “doing everything he can” to improve the campaign. But, he added, “I am very concerned about DMS doing the study. Their history indicates that it likely won’t be a fair and balanced study.”

BILL TO ALLOW ALCOHOL AT ALL ABOARD STATIONS GETS FINAL PASSAGE via Isadora Rangel of TC Palm — SB 698 changes different alcohol and tobacco regulations and would allow wine, beer and alcohol to be sold at rail stations, including restaurants and “entertainment or recreational facilities” within the premises. The House passed the bill with a 115-1 vote … The Senate passed it with a 38-0 vote last week. Florida currently allows beer, wine and liquor to be sold to rail passengers for consumption on the cars, and liquor may be sold only in miniature bottles of no more than 2 ounces. The bill would expand that to the stations, and liquor would not have to be sold in miniature bottles. The license issued by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation would not be subject to the restrictions limiting the number of such licenses that may be issued per county. The bill also prohibits local governments from requiring additional licenses or levying an extra tax.

SENATE POISED TO DISCUSS JACKSONVILLE PENSION BILL, VOTE TUESDAY via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union — The pension bill championed by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is ready for debate and vote on the Senate floor. The Senate is expected to consider a Senate Bill 1652 on Monday, starting with an amendment to make it match the House version, HB 1297. Sen. Rob Bradley … the bill sponsor … talked to many of his Senate colleagues and explained the stakes of the legislation that would allow Jacksonville to create a half-penny sales tax to pay down pension debt. “They all understand the issue and appreciate the dire financial situation that the city is facing,” Bradley said. “I feel confident going into next week that we’ll be able to get this across the finish line.” The measure, if approved by the Senate and signed into law by Scott, would allow for a voter referendum to authorize the pension tax.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Uber will join the Florida Police Chiefs Association to discuss safety measures at the first Florida DUI Reduction Roundtable, 8 a.m. EST at the Governors Club Plantation Room, 202 1/2 South Adams St. in Tallahassee.

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PATRICK MURPHY IS ASKED ABOUT HIS FATHER’S FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO HIS CAMPAIGN via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — Murphy … was at a Suncoast Tiger Bay Club luncheon to introduce himself to Tampa Bay area residents. Although he decried the excessive money in politics as “disgusting” and said that he “hated it” earlier in his address, Murphy has raised by far the most money of anyone in the contest to date — with well over $4 million in his coffers. A separate super PAC (“Floridians for a Strong Middle Class”) supporting his candidacy has raised over $500,000, with $200,000 coming from his father, construction executive Thomas Murphy. In the final question asked during the Q&A period, Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith asked whether Murphy would back up his claim that he hated the big money in politics by telling his father to refrain from contributing to his super PAC. “I hate the money in politics, and I hate gotcha questions, too,” replied Murphy, eliciting a loud cheer from the crowd. The congressman went on to say that he supports every piece of legislation floating in Congress that would attempt to repeal the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United decision which unleashed even more big money into the political system. “I’m on every single bill out there to make sure that we get money out of politics, and that’s where the focus needs to be,” he said.

CARLOS BERUFF’S SENATE CAMPAIGN OFF TO BRISK START via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — After hinting for weeks that he would enter the race, the Manatee County homebuilder formally announced his candidacy in a series of events that gave some insight into the type of campaign he will run. Here are a few things we learned about Beruff from his announcement: His team is professional and well organized — Beruff announced his campaign not with a single event, but with four stops around the state. He has a solid base in Southwest Florida — Beruff had never run for public office before so it wasn’t clear he had that core group of supporters every candidate needs to help propel them. But he has been active behind the scenes and the crowd assembled at his announcement showed he has a lot of friends in high places. His speechmaking could use some work … He’s comfortable in his own skin … He’s willing to put in the miles … His biography could be key — One of the most compelling aspects of Beruff’s announcement speech was when he talked about his family fleeing Cuba for opportunities in the United States.

AUGUSTUS INVICTUS BLOCKED FROM ENTERING CANADA OVER NEO-NAZI CLIENT via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Invictus, the Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate … had been denied entry to The Great White North on his way to a Vancouver speaking engagement. The 32-year-old made headlines when he told The Associated Press he was a pagan who once killed and drank a goat’s blood. He also released his “LSD Journals,” in which he described a fantasy a fantasy of raping a woman he saw in an Orlando bar. He’s also a working lawyer licensed to practice in four states and federal court. Invictus is running for the seat being vacated by Republican Marco Rubio … The Canada Border Services Agency interrogated him for three-and-a-half hours … he said, asking “about my affiliation with neo-Nazis, about the charges of fascism, and about allegations of racism.” In 2014, Invictus took on the criminal appeal of the former leader of a central Florida neo-Nazi group. The man had been convicted on domestic terrorism charges. Border agents even “went so far as to order him to remove his shirt to search for tattoos with neo-Nazi symbols, which they did not find,” the release said.

CHARITY WITH TIES TO CORRINE BROWN TARGET OF FRAUD CASE via Jason Dearen and Kurt Anderson of The Associated Press — The head of a purported charity with close ties to Florida U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown pleaded guilty in a federal fraud investigation. One Door for Education Foundation Inc. President Carla Wiley pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and agreed to testify in the larger ongoing case, according to a plea agreement … Court filings show Wiley opened a checking account for Leesburg, Virginia-based One Door in 2012 and deposited $800,000 over the next four years. Over that time, federal prosecutors say it gave one scholarship for $1,000 and that Wiley transferred herself tens of thousands of dollars, including $16,000 for making payments on two vehicles registered in her name. The money was also used to fund lavish parties, an NFL luxury box and other extravagances in Washington, according to the plea agreement … funds were used to benefit two people identified only as Person A and Person B … a public records request to the office of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer correspond to some allegations in the federal court documents that “Person A” is Brown.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross will travel across Florida’s newly drawn 15th Congressional District to announce his intention to seek re-election. At 1 p.m., Ross will be at the Southeast Milk Plant, 2502 Turkey Creek Road in Plant City. Then, at 2:30 p.m., he will visit Draken International at the Lakeland Linder Airport, 3330 Flightline Dr. in Lakeland. Ross then finishes up at 4 p.m. event in Clermont at Uncle Matt’s Organic Inc., 1645 East Highway 50 Suite 102.

LAKEWOOD RANCH AIRLINE PILOT CHALLENGING VERN BUCHANAN FOR CONGRESSIONAL SEAT via Kate Irby of the Bradenton Herald — Brent King, 49, of Lakewood Ranch, filed against the incumbent this week and said he believes the area needs a more moderate voice. “Vern wants to build a wall,” King said, referring to a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border some Republicans support to prevent illegal immigration. “I don’t think the majority of our district wants that.” King is originally from Atlanta, where he was a high school teacher who taught political science, economics and geography and a soccer coach. He later turned to business consulting and then became an airline pilot for a major airline in 2002. He moved to Lakewood Ranch in 2005 and has lived in Florida since 2000, besides a brief move to Tulsa, Okla., for his wife’s career. King said some major issues he wants to focus on are economic inequality, affordable education, increased opportunities for women, climate change and immigration. He added that he would be more vocal than Buchanan has been about bringing economic opportunity to the area.

COLLEGE STUDENT FILES TO CHALLENGE NEIL COMBEE IN HD 39 via Bill Rufty of Florida Politics – Victor E. Sims spent much of his childhood in foster care, going from house to house. Now, as an adult with a college degree upcoming, he is running for the Florida Legislature challenging an incumbent state representative. Sims, a Winter Haven Democrat, officially opened his campaign … for House District 39 held by Rep. Neil Combee … who is seeking his third two-year term. Now 20, Sims said he will complete his bachelor’s degree from University of South Florida St. Petersburg in May. He will turn 21 four days before the Nov. 8 general election.

REBECCA SMITH ENTERS HD 60 RACE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — The seat is currently occupied by Dana Young, but she will vacate it this fall, as she attempts to advance to the state Senate District 18 seat recently created due to redistricting. “Over the past three decades, I’ve built a successful business here in Tampa,” Smith said in a statement. “I know what it takes to balance a budget, meet payroll, provide for employees and their families, grow the business to create more jobs and opportunity, and make the tough choices necessary, both when times are good and when times are challenging.” Smith, a Republican founded The A.D. Morgan Corporation, in 1989 at the age of 29, with a $10,000 loan from her father during real estate crisis of the late 80s. She is a class “A” certified general contractor and is a graduate of the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture and a Master of Science degree in Building Construction. Since its founding, A.D. Morgan has grossed over $400 million in revenues. She has also served as a board member for the Tampa/Hillsborough Expressway Authority since 2009.

WELCOME TO THE WORLDSloane Frances Ziegler, the beautiful daughter of Bridget and Christian. Born Friday at 1:42 p.m. 21 inches, 7 pounds, 8 ounces. Says Dad (the Republican state committeeman from Sarasota County): “The more beautiful her eyes, the more karate classes I’ll have to sign up for.”

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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