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
DEBATE NIGHT IN AMERICA
Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate from the University of Miami on CNN could be the last encounter with the remaining four candidates in the race engaging together.
Following Tuesday’s primaries, only Ted Cruz appears to have a possibility of cutting off Donald Trump’s race to the required 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.
It’s much dire for Marco Rubio and John Kasich in the last debate before the March 15th Florida and Ohio primaries, a pair of must win winner-take-all contests in the respective home states.
Both men need very strong performances tonight to keep their fading candidacies alive. While some polls show Kasich viable in the Buckeye State where he was reelected as governor a year-and-a-half ago, Rubio’s fate appears already baked in, with several polls showing him trailing by double-digits against Trump.
In fact, after his desultory performance on Tuesday night in which he received zero delegates in the four contests at stake, the push for him to step down grew louder, with various conservative columnists telling him it was time to end his run. The Florida senator told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd will leave on his own time table, which looks like it may be next Wednesday.
CNN’s Jake Tapper moderates the contest beginning at 8:30 p.m. eastern time.
ABOUT LAST NIGHT – HILLARY CLINTON, BERNIE SANDERS DEBATE via Nancy Benac and Lisa Lerer of the Associated Press – Fighting for Florida and beyond, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders tangled in an intense debate over who’s the true friend of American Hispanics, trading accusations over guest worker programs “akin to slavery” and the embracing of “vigilantes” against immigrants.
They had even worse things to say about Trump.
Facing off Thursday evening, just six days before Florida gives its verdict on the presidential race, Clinton faulted Sanders for repeatedly voting against a 2007 comprehensive immigration reform bill; he faulted her for opposing a 2007 effort to let people who were in the country illegally obtain driver’s licenses. Had the immigration package passed back then, Clinton said, “a lot of the issues we are still discussing today would be in the rearview mirror.”
The debate opened with a question that appeared to startle Clinton. Univision’s Jorge Ramos asked her if she would drop out of the race if indicted over the handling of her email while secretary of state. “Oh for goodness, that is not going to happen,” Clinton declared. “I’m not even answering that question.”
For all the disagreements, the overall tone of the candidates was considerably less tense than their Sunday faceoff. Sanders even paused at one point to make fun of his own pronunciation of “huge” as “yuge.”
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FLORIDA, FAMED FOR POLITICAL SPECTACLES, BRACES FOR ANOTHER AS PRIMARY NEARS via Jeremy Peters of the New York Times – Even if Republicans were spending more to swamp Trump in negative ads, it is not clear they would agree on a candidate to support in his place. Rubio has spoken to Jeb Bush at least twice since Bush quit the race on Feb. 20. But the campaign has all but written off the possibility that Bush will endorse him. Bush’s friends say some Bush loyalists still feel that Rubio did not show the respect he should have to the man who helped nurture his career when he was a young state legislator. “I talked to Jeb, and he doesn’t have any harsh feelings about this,” said Mel Martinez, the former senator whose seat Rubio won. “I think he obviously wishes Marco would have been a little more loyal a friend. But what are you going to do? … It’s a tough deal.” Given that absentee votes were circulated before Bush dropped out, he is still expected to register some support on Primary Day. “It’s probably going to be at least 2 percent,” said Michael P. McDonald, who studies elections for the University of Florida and the Brookings Institution, basing his assumptions on the results in Texas, where Mr. Bush drew votes even after dropping out. In Florida, like in Texas, he said, “they like their Bushes.”
— FLORIDA POLLS GALORE —
Q-POLL: DONALD TRUMP LEADS MARCO RUBIO 45%-22% via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Trump leads the Republican field with 45 percent support in the Sunshine State. Rubio is in second with 22 percent. The gulf between the two men has only widened since a February Quinnipiac University poll, that showed Trump leading Rubio 44 percent to 28 percent. The effort within the Republican Party to stop Trump from winning the presidential nomination appears unlikely to stop him from taking Florida’s delegate-rich winner-take-all primary,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “In the Sunshine State, hometown hero Sen. Marco Rubio is 23 points behind Trump and isn’t even doing much better than Sen. Ted Cruz. Also discouraging for the anti-Trump folks is that Trump voters say they are less likely than those supporting any of the other candidates to change their mind in the closing days.” Seventy-nine percent of likely Republican primary voters said they have made up their mind when it comes to their top pick on March 15.
AIF POLL SHOWS TRUMP LEADING RUBIO BY SIX, BUT LEAD IS LIKELY BIGGER via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – “This is an electorate of unlikelies — I’m calling them surge voters. I’m watching them every day. They’re not dropping off. They’re surging to the polls,” said Ryan Tyson, director of political operations at Associated Industries of Florida, which conducted the survey … That survey showed Trump leading Rubio 33-27 percent, with Cruz at 16 percent and Kasich at 12 … he analyzed the 772,000 Republicans who have already voted early and found that 17 percent — or 132,000 — had not voted in the last two major elections. Those voters aren’t considered likely voters. Tyson found that polls using a different method of surveying — simply asking people to self-identify their party registration and their likelihood of voting — showed Trump leading Rubio with far higher margins, 20 percentage points or more.
FOX NEWS POLL: TRUMP DOMINATES GOP RACE IN FLORIDA via Dana Blanton of Fox News – Trump is trouncing Rubio on his home turf … Trump receives 43 percent among Florida likely GOP primary voters. Rubio is a distant second with 20 percent, closely followed by Cruz at 16 percent … Kasich comes in fourth with 10 percent. Here is what’s driving the vote: a 63-percent majority of likely Republican primary voters feels “betrayed” by politicians in their party — and they go heavily for Trump over Cruz (49-18 percent), with Rubio and Kasich way behind (12 percent and 11 percent respectively). In addition, just 48 percent of Sunshine State GOPers approve of the job Rubio is doing as senator, while 38 percent disapprove. Among voters who approve of his performance, Rubio bests Trump by 12 points, yet he trails the Donald by a whopping 62 points among those who disapprove.
UNF POLL: TRUMP 36%, RUBIO 24% via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Trump leads the Republican field with 36 percent support. Rubio is in second with 24 percent, followed by Cruz at 16 percent, and Kasich at 9 percent. More than 14 percent of likely Republican primary voters polled said they didn’t know who they will vote for in the GOP primary. Nearly three-quarters of likely Republican primary voters said they would vote for Trump in the general election if the New York businessman faced off against Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. Rubio was the most liked out of the top 3 Republican candidates, with 64 percent of Republicans saying they had a favorable opinion of the Florida Republican. Fifty-five percent of voters said they a favorable opinion of Trump, while 93 percent of likely Republican primary voters said they had an unfavorable opinion of Clinton. Rubio is the top choice among Cuban voters, with 56.8 percent saying supported him. He also has support from more than 33 percent of non-Cuban Hispanic voters, according to the survey.
GUESS WHO HAS BEEN READING THE POLLS? BILL NELSON: TRUMP WILL WIN BIG IN STATE via Jesse Byrnes of The Hill – Bill Nelson says his colleague Rubio is going to get crushed in their home state’s GOP presidential primary. Nelson predicted on “MSNBC Live with Kate Snow” on Wednesday that Trump “will win Florida by double digits” … “It’s obvious,” Nelson responded when asked why he thought so, noting recent polling and Trump’s overtures in the state. “The ground has shifted from underneath” Rubio — mostly toward Trump, but also toward Cruz. Nelson also predicted that Clinton, whom he has long backed, will beat rival Sanders in the state.
HILLARY CLINTON 62%, BERNIE SANDERS 32%, ACCORDING TO NEW Q-POLL via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The survey shows the former secretary of state is sweeping the women’s vote in building what looks like an insurmountable overall lead heading into Florida’s March 15 primary. Quinnipiac also finds Clinton leading Sanders in Ohio, though the race is much closer there, just nine points. “Secretary Hillary Clinton has doubled-up on Sen. Bernie Sanders in Florida. With less than a week until the actual voting, it is difficult to see a path to victory for him in the Sunshine State. He just has too much ground to make up and not enough time in which to do it,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll … In Florida, Clinton leads Sanders among women by a 69 percent to 24 spread. She leads among men with a 51 percent to 43 spread. She also leads among voters who describe themselves as “very liberal, 50 percent to 46 percent. And she leads among black voters 65 percent to 27.”
CLINTON RELEASES FIRST ADS IN FLORIDA via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel – The ads, “Stand” and “Predatory”, will begin airing in the Orlando area. “Stand”, narrated by Morgan Freeman, talks about mothers who lost their sons and daughters to gun violence and her work on behalf of families in Flint, Michigan. “Predatory” talks about Clinton‘s opposition to “predatory” prescription drug pricing, including a clip of her criticizing Valeant Pharmaceuticals. The campaign also released two 60-second radio ads running in Orlando, Miami, Tampa, and other markets.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas will campaign and get out the vote for Clinton at the Hillary for Florida Miami Phone Bank Kick Off, beginning 12 p.m. at 2 Grove Isle Dr. In Miami.
SHUT OUT OF VOTING FOR PRESIDENT, INDIE VOTERS IN FLORIDA FEELS THE STATE NEEDS A MORE INCLUSIVE PROCESS FOR THEM via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Independent voters are getting sick of being shut out. That’s the findings of a poll from Open Primaries, a national nonprofit group advocating for open and nonpartisan primary systems … the group released a survey that showed overwhelming support for changing Florida to an open primary system, where independents would be eligible to vote in primary elections. Currently in Florida, one must be registered as either a Republican or Democrat a full month before voting takes place to be eligible to vote. There was an organized group hoping to change that law. All Voters Vote is a group that attempted to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot this year that would not only allow independent voters to chance to vote in primary elections, but would list all of the candidates on one page, with the two-top vote getters moving on to the general election, regardless of political process. Their attempts to get on the ballot fell far short of getting the more than 683,000 signatures required.
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JEB BUSH TO MEET WITH THREE CANDIDATES — BUT NOT DONALD TRUMP — BEFORE FLORIDA PRIMARY via Ashley Parker of the New York Times – Bush has plans to meet with Cruz, Kasich and Rubio … The list’s glaring omission, of course, was Trump. Bush will meet with Rubio on Wednesday, and Cruz and Kasich on Thursday … It was unclear whether Bush intended to make an endorsement before Tuesday’s winner-take-all primary in Florida.
RUBIO SAYS HE’S ‘NOT ENTIRELY PROUD’ OF PERSONAL ATTACKS AGAINST TRUMP via Alexandra Jaffe of NBC News – “In terms of things that have to do with personal stuff, yeah, at the end of the day it’s not something I’m entirely proud of. My kids were embarrassed by it, and if I had to do it again I wouldn’t,” he said in a town hall … Rubio’s comments were an implicit acknowledgment that the strategy didn’t work, and he has since shifted away from personal attacks on Trump in favor of more policy-focused fare. But he insisted that it was “appropriate” to point out that Trump is “portraying himself as something he’s not,” a central focus of his argument against the GOP frontrunner.
RUBIO SPEAKS TO A NEARLY EMPTY FLORIDA STADIUM via Catherine Krueger of Talking Points Memo – Rubio drew a “disappointing” crowd for an event in his home state … just days before a critical primary in the state … CNN’s Jason Carroll, who was on the ground in Hialeah, Florida, called the crowd “much, much smaller” than at Rubio’s past events and said the “couple hundred” supporters gathered were “not even filling the end zone” of the high school football stadium. “This is Marco Rubio’s home turf,” Carroll reminded viewers.
RUBIO’S CAMPAIGN IS BASICALLY OVER via Philip Bump of the Washington Post – It’s hard to exaggerate what a debacle Tuesday night was for Rubio. It was fine to come in third in Iowa’s caucuses, when he saw a late surge and was running against 11 other people. It is not fine to come in third in Idaho in a field of four candidates. It is not fine to win 16 percent of the vote there, when you need 20 percent in order to qualify for any delegates. It is not fine at all to come in fourth — dead last in the current field — in both Mississippi and Michigan, qualifying for delegates in neither. This was once a three-man delegate race, with Rubio and Cruz jockeying a bit behind Trump … In the RealClearPolitics average of polling — which, admittedly, has had some misses this year — Trump leads by 15, even as both he and Rubio have slipped. What that graph does not show is a big Rubio surge, the sort of surge that Rubio would absolutely need to see in order to win his home state … I suppose that since his alternative is to head back to the Senate to play out the final days of his first term, there’s no reason to quit now.
RUBIO NEVER HAD A BASE via Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com – Rubio… may be proving that there’s not all that large a market for what you might call an upscale or cosmopolitan conservative. Many voters in the near-in suburbs, Rubio’s best areas geographically, long ago left the Republican Party. Rubio might have the image to win them back — young, Hispanic, optimistic — but he doesn’t have the policies, being staunchly conservative on issues such as abortion and gay marriage. Likewise, while Rubio appears to do well among nonwhite Republicans, there are very few of them voting in the primaries, and Rubio has turned away from the moderate immigration positions that once might have won him more Latino support.
HOW IT IS PLAYING: RUBIO PRESSURED TO DROP OUT — Washington Post, Sorry, Marco Rubio, it’s time to fold – “Florida insiders friendly to your cause do not think you can win … Stay in and you risk losing your state, ending your career on a terrible note and getting blamed for taking just enough away in states such as Ohio and Illinois to give Donald Trump, a man you have all but said is unfit for office, the nomination.” Boston Globe, Rubio should quit the race – “… if those conversations weren’t taking place before today, they need to happen now …” The Resurgent, Marco Rubio Needs to Get Out Now Because #NeverTrump is Becoming #TrumpGuaranteed – “Marco Rubio is a great guy … almost all of my family and most of my friends have voted for him in the primaries and caucuses held so far, and it is time for Marco Rubio to withdraw from the race.” Washington Post, Joe Scarborough: Marco Rubio gets massacred – “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.” Slate, Marco Rubio Is Getting Smoked, Buried, and Swamped in Florida Polls – “Gawker’s suggestion that Rubio drop out of the race to compete on Dancing With the Stars seems about right.”
MY TAKE – “Actually, Marco, you don’t get to drop out” via Florida Politics
TRUMP TARGETS RUBIO’S FRIENDSHIP WITH RALPH ARZA AND DAVID RIVERA IN NEW AD via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Trump tweeted out the advertisement … The 30-second video features pictures of Rubio with former Ralph Arza and David Rivera. Both men have been shrouded in controversy, but Rubio has remained friends with them. Arza resigned from the Florida House in 2006 after using a racial slur; while Rivera has faced several ethical issues over the years … Azra has campaigned with Rubio and Rivera has been spotted at several events with the Florida Republican.
AFTER TRUMP ENDORSEMENT, NASCAR LEADER FACES THE FALLOUT via Jenna Fryer of The Associated Press – When Brian France endorsed Trump for president, the chairman and chief executive of NASCAR thought of it as nothing more than a “routine endorsement.” He’s been dealing with the fallout ever since. France’s decision … has roiled a sport his family built from the ground up. It’s threatened a decade of work to broaden NASCAR’s appeal among minorities, upset one of the most powerful teams in the sport and risked a break with the corporate sponsors that are its financial lifeblood. “I was frankly, very surprised that my diversity efforts for my whole career would have been called into question, over this, in my view, a routine endorsement,” France said. France acknowledged he’s had to have conversations with sponsors since making the endorsement, which came as NASCAR is seeking a new main sponsor for its top series. “I made a few phone calls and clarified some things,” he said. “That kind of goes with the territory.”
— “Jon Voight endorses Trump” via Joel Pollak of Breitbart
TRUMP’S VIPS GET FRONT-ROW SEATS TO HIS POLITICAL SPECTACLE via Michael Bender of Bloomberg Politics – If you can get your mind around the idea of Trump becoming the 45th president of the U.S., it’s easy to imagine him using his sprawling South Florida holdings as a series of White House Souths: tropical versions of the Bush family’s Kennebunkport, Hyannis Port in pastels, Martha’s Vineyard with more hairspray, royal palms and white wine. He’s been working that meme all fall … And Tuesday night, as results rolled in from Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho, and Hawaii, the scene was repeated at Trump National Golf Club Jupiter. Guests sipped martinis at an open bar on the patio as waitresses dressed in tuxedoes served cocktail weenies, Beef Wellington, and mini-lobster rolls to ravenous reporters. “I like Mr. Trump a lot,” said Paul O’Neill, the former New York Yankee who, dressed in an open-collar shirt and dark suit, was among the 200 or so club members in attendance on Tuesday. “We play golf together. I belong to his club. I hope he does well” … “You’ve been touring my properties,” Trump joked with reporters on Tuesday. “We’ve been giving you the Trump tour. Very impressive, right?”
WHETHER OR NOT HIS STEAK’S FOR SALE, TRUMP’S BRAND THRIVES via Beth J. Harpa of The Associated Press – Whether or not you can buy Trump‘s steaks, and whether or not he wins the Republican presidential nomination, one thing is for sure: Trump the Brand is alive and well. Trump brandished steak, wine and water at his news conference at the Trump National Golf Course in Jupiter, Florida. The news conference took place after Trump won Republican primaries in Michigan and Mississippi. But what got as much attention as Trump’s success at the polls was his display of Trump products. “I think what Trump did last night was absolutely genius for his brands,” said Devorah Neiger, who owns Medshop.com, a New York City-based online medical supply company. “It is the dream of every company to get their name in major publications. … What Trump did last night, in one fell swoop, was get his brands talked about across every single major media outlet without spending a penny.” Not everyone was impressed by Trump’s product showcase. Speaking as a marketing strategist, Samuella Becker found herself “bewildered.” The products, noted Becker, founder of TigressPR, “either are not available for purchase — steaks no longer offered by Sharper Image,” or are “aimed at an internal audience — water and magazines for resort guests.” (Trump also showed off a magazine.) “If his aim was to show his startup business prowess, it didn’t succeed,” she said. Justin Hamel, founder of MastaMinds, Inc., a Michigan-based online specialty retailer, agreed. “He is further building his brand recognition, awareness and it’s all for free,” said Hamel. “Even if Trump loses his presidential bid, he still wins.”
MEANWHILE … GOP ESTABLISHMENT CREEPS TOWARD TED CRUZ via Katie Glueck of POLITICO – Republican elites are begrudgingly embracing Cruz-and hanging Rubio out to dry. … ‘[Cruz] seems to be the only guy who’s got some momentum, and is probably the best situated if there is anybody out there to beat Trump,’ said Austin Barbour. That Barbour … Who have sharply differed with Cruz on substance and style, would even consider throwing in with the Texas senator speaks to how far the more centrist wing of the party is willing to bend in search of someone to beat Trump. Barbour backed Jeb Bush until he dropped out, and before that he supported Rick Perry, another former rival whom Cruz can now count among his supporters.
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FIRST IN SUNBURN – TOM ROONEY ENDORSES REBECCA NEGRON via Florida Politics — The Okeechobee Republican is throwing his support behind Negron’s bid for Congressional District 18. In a statement, Rooney said Negron is “committed to strengthening and empowering our military, ensuring we have the tools necessary to secure and protect our nation.”
DARDEN RICE WILL NOT CHALLENGE JEFF BRANDES IN SD 24 via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – “I really like what I’m doing right now, and I really don’t have any interest in the job,” Rice said … After two previously unsuccessful attempts to serve in public office, Rice broke through to win the District 4 council seat in the fall of 2013. She was recently elected to serve as chair for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Agency (PSTA), and says that she has many things that she’s just started on that she wants to finish. “I want to make the most of what I have here now.”
GERALDINE THOMPSON ELECTED CHAIR OF LEGISLATIVE BLACK CAUCUS WHILE VOWING TO STAY IN CONGRESSIONAL RACE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Thompson, an Orlando Democrat, said she did not have to make a choice between campaigning or serving as chair, because this year the Senate is set to provide the chair for the caucus, and all Florida senators would be required to run for re-election. So virtually everyone who could serve as chair of the caucus is running in a campaign, and no one is assured of being there after January, she said.
Thompson is assured of not being there after January. That is unless she drops her bid to be elected to Congress in the Orlando-based Congressional District 10 and seeks re-election instead. She said Wednesday night that will not happen. Thompson, who currently is the caucus’s vice-chair, said she intends to serve eight months as chair of the caucus, and then expects to be replaced by a special election.
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WHAT GOV’S SCOTT’S OFFICE IS READING — FLORIDA ADDS 20K JOBS IN FEBRUARY via Florida Politics – Florida added 20,200 jobs in February according to data released by payroll company ADP. The total bested all but California in the Regional Employment Report and is an improvement of about 2,300 jobs over January numbers and 5,000 jobs over the February 2015 total. The breakdown shows 16,500 of the new jobs headed to the service industry, with the remaining 3,700 to goods-producing sectors. Of those, 3,400 went into the mining and construction industry, and 300 went to manufacturing. In the service sector, trade, transportation and utilities saw 4,500 new positions, and professional and business services got 4,400.
JOHN ARMSTRONG WILL NOT BE CONFIRMED AS SURGEON GENERAL via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – [Senate] President Andy Gardiner will not bring the embattled surgeon general to the floor for a confirmation vote by the full Senate. Without that vote, Armstrong will lose his job. Armstrong … had his confirmation stuck in the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, where he did not have the votes needed to advance to the full Senate. All this week, Gardiner has said that he is considering whether to bring up a vote, despite Armstrong not passing through the committee. As Senate president, Gardiner can force a vote on the issue, but doing so would be an unusual move.
EDITORIAL OF THE DAY — FAILURE OF SEMINOLE GAMBLING DEAL HAS CONSEQUENCES via the South Florida Sun Sentinel – The Scott-Seminole package had the virtue of attempting to balance competing interests among the state’s multiple gambling interests. But the virtue also was a drawback. By trying to give something to nearly everyone, its inevitable effect was to expand gambling. For many lawmakers and competitors that was more vice than virtue … Winning approval for all that would have been hard enough. Then other issues got rolled into the gambling debate, including whether slot machines and/or other games should be allowed at pari-mutuels outside of South Florida if local voters agreed. There also has been a fierce debate over “decoupling,” which would allow racetracks to offer other forms of gambling even if they stopped running live races. Unfortunately, the Legislature’s failure to act on the compact and on fantasy sports leagues doesn’t mean nothing will happen. The Seminoles have been making annual payments of more than $200 million to Florida under the old compact, which expired last year. With no compact, the Seminoles are not required to continue payments. Incidentally, they’re also not allowed to continue offering blackjack and baccarat games — though so far they have continued. If there is no new agreement, the state will lose the money and the Indian casinos will lose thousands of jobs.
MEANWHILE … CRUCIAL FEDERAL TRIAL OVER GAMBLING COULD BE PUSHED BACK via The Associated Press – Attorneys for both the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state … asked a federal judge to push back a two-week trial until October. The trial now scheduled for July will determine whether or not the Seminoles can continue to have blackjack tables at their casinos. The tribe filed the lawsuit October after a 5-year deal with the state expired. Attorneys say they need more time to interview potential witnesses and prepare for the trial.
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MY TAKE — “Not to be a skunk at Andy Gardiner’s picnic, but …” via Florida Politics
LEGISLATURE APPROVES CONTROVERSIAL ABORTION RESTRICTIONS via Reuters – Florida legislators … approved abortion restrictions that include requirements for physicians similar to a Texas law currently under review by the Supreme Court and prohibited state funding for routine care at abortion clinics. The measure imposes regulations that could force clinics to close, provider Planned Parenthood said. Supporters argue it aims to protect women’s health, while opponents called it an attack on groups assisting women in terminating pregnancies. “Let’s get Florida out of the abortion business,” said State Senator Aaron Bean … “That’s what this bill does.” The legislation passed largely along party lines in the Florida House and Senate … Scott did not immediately say if he will sign it.
COHABITATION COULD SOON BE LEGAL AGAIN IN FLORIDA, AS LEGISLATURE SENDS REPEAL TO GOV via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – The Florida House passed the cohabitation repeal bill (SB 498) by a 112-5 vote … The Senate passed the bill last week unanimously. Sen. Eleanor Sobel and Reps. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda and Richard Stark led the charge this year. The Five Republicans who opposed it on the House floor were: Reps. Janet Adkins, Brad Drake, Mike Hill, Jennifer Sullivan and Charles Van Zant. Shortly after the vote, Rep. Ray Rodrigues changed his vote to “no” also, but that doesn’t count in the official vote tally.
LAWMAKERS PASS FIX TO RELIEVE COUNTIES OF JUVENILE JUSTICE COSTS via Jeff Schweers of the Tampa Tribune – A bill that clears up 10 years of legal fighting is heading to Scott to be signed into law. The House voted 117-0 to approve SB 1322 by Sen. Jack Latvala … The counties will pay the department $42.5 million for the budget year that begins July 1 — $11.8 million less than they paid in the current budget year. Starting July 1, 2017, the department and 38 counties that are not fiscally constrained will evenly split the cost of detaining young offenders. The Department of Juvenile Justice said it would need $10.5 million for next year and about $8 million for the following and subsequent years. The state will cover all the costs for the 29 counties that are fiscally constrained. Courts have ruled counties were overcharged as much as $200 million, with Hillsborough charged the most at $11 million.
LEGISLATURE SENDS BILL TO GOV TO SHRINK MIAMI-DADE EXPRESSWAY AUTHORITY BOARD via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Sponsored by Rep. Jeanette Nuñez and Sen. Anitere Flores, HB 299 shrinks the MDX board from 13 members to nine and prohibits anyone from serving on the board if that person has represented a client or done business with the authority in the last four years. The compromise approved … allows the board to shrink by attrition, as terms expire and does not include controversial provisions of previous versions, such as revising the agency’s bonding authority and requiring the county commission to sign off on any toll hikes. The bill reduces the number of members appointed by the Miami-Dade County Commission from seven to five and the number appointed by the governor from five to three. The Department of Transportation district secretary remains as a member of the panel. The proposal also includes a provision that would require the immediate termination of any MDX board member who violates the ethics rules or fails to file a financial disclosure form. It was aimed at preventing the behavior of former MDX member Robert Holland, who was fined by the state ethics commission for repeatedly ignoring the financial disclosure law.
BILL INSPIRED BY MISSING TEQUESTA TEENS WINS FINAL APPROVAL FROM STATE LAWMAKERS via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post – The measure (CS/HB 427) is aimed at encouraging boaters to buy an emergency position indicator radio beacon (EPIRB) or personal locator beacon for their watercraft. Supporters portray the legislation as a legacy for the 14-year-old friends, Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, missing since last July. Rep. MaryLynn Magar and Sen. Joe Negron, who represent the youngsters’ home town, sponsored the legislation. It cleared the Senate on a 39-0 vote and now goes to Scott, who is expected to sign the bill into law.
SENATE APPROVES OMNIBUS HEALTH CARE BILL via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Filed by Sen. Don Gaetz the bill combines several House priorities with Senate plans. Gaetz attached a large amendment rewriting a House bill on surgical centers. Among several provisions, HB 85 allows patients in an ambulatory surgical center to stay in the center for up to 24 hours but does not include the creation of recovery care centers in the original House language that would allow patients to stay 72 hours. The bill includes direct primary care agreements between patients and doctors … The bill now includes changes on step-therapy or “fail-first” protocols … Those protocols require that patients try an approved treatment or drug before trying something different. The bill also requires insurers have a “clear and convenient” process for providers to request an override of the protocol. But changes to prescription protocols may be a hard pill to swallow as no House counterpart was heard. HB 85 is now back in the House.
SENATE UNANIMOUSLY PASSES A HOST OF ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The Senate unanimously passed a bill affecting a hodgepodge of different environmental regulations … The bill makes it easier to obtain a water well contractor license; changes regulations around phosphate mines; allows more activities to contribute to the state’s water credit trading program; provides more oversight for storm water management construction; and allows funds in the state’s solid waste landfill closure account to pay for a wider range of activities. HB 589 by Rep. Cary Pigman … now goes to Scott for final approval.
HOUSE VOTES TO REPEAL RED LIGHT CAMERAS IN FLORIDA, BUT UNLIKELY TO CLEAR SENATE via Jeremy Wallace of the Miami Herald – Still, that did not stop House members from spending more than 40 minutes debating the bill. “They do not save lives,” Rep. Frank Artiles … who sponsored the legislation in the House, said … Cameras are part of a “scheme” by cities and counties to pad their budgets and “fleece” citizens. But supporters of the cameras said they are changing people’s behaviors and forcing them to slow down at yellow lights. “Red light cameras curtail speed, which kills people in traffic accidents,” said Rep. Charles Van Zant … Artiles said in some communities – like St. Petersburg – the cameras were so unpopular they have been withdrawn. The Senate version of the bill passed out of one committee, but never cleared two others it was required to pass before coming to a full vote of the Senate.
HMOS BEGIN VETO CAMPAIGN ON DENTAL HEALTH CARVE-OUT BILL via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – A bitter industry fight over the delivery of dental care in Florida’s multi-billion Medicaid program has shifted from the Legislature to Gov. Scott.
The Medicaid HMOs may have a natural ally in Scott, a former health care executive, who signed the 2011 bill requiring all Medicaid beneficiaries, from the young to the old, to enroll in managed care plan. But MCNA Dental, the Fort Lauderdale based company pushing the dental changes, gave more than $700,000 to legislators, political parties and politcal committees in the upcoming 2016 election, records with the state Diivsion of Elections show. The Florida Association of Health Plans and two of the state’s Medicaid HMOs wrote letters to Scott this week asking the governor to veto HB 819, sponsored by Senate president designate Joe Negron.
Scott received the bill Wednesday and will have until March 24 to veto it, sign it into law or allow it to become law without his signature.
FACEBOOK STATUS OF THE DAY via Charlie Anderson: “I was thrilled to watch Senator Detert receive a “Super-Hearo” cape from Knox, one of the young advocates for auditory-oral education programs for those with cochlear implants. We were able to secure just over a million dollars in the budget for these deserving kids! Woohoo!”
***Wind down after a busy day at work by brightening up your dinner plans at The Edison. Enjoy dishes from our internationally-inspired menu and choose from our top-rated wine selections to create a mouthwatering combination. Plus, if you stop by on weekdays from 3 – 6 p.m. you can enjoy Happy Hour in the Beer Garden! Book your reservation.***
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Olivia Crosby, Nathan B. Greene: Florida Association of Realtors
Robert Hawken, Leath Consulting: ESG Kullen
Jim Smith, Southern Strategy Group: Apple Inc.
Joseph Steele, Smith & Associates: City Walk Active Living
Anthony Suarez, A. Suarez & Associates: National Council of La Raza
Colin Tooze: Uber Technologies
SHIRT OF THE DAY:
TIP AND TRASH LED TO OX BOTTOM DRUG BUST OF LOBBYIST via Karl Effers of the Tallahassee Democrat – Tallahassee Police raided the Ox Bottom home of a former state lobbyist after drug paraphernalia and drug manufacturing supplies were found in the street-side garbage. Nine people were arrested on various drug charges at the home Feb. 24, but what led TPD investigators to the house, besides the physical evidence discovered in the trash, was a tip from the Ox Bottom Manor Community Association … Neighbors in the 667-homesite subdivision alerted association officials about “oddities going on and odd activities at the property,” said Ox Bottom Manor Community Association President Chris Keena … the Whittondale Drive home owned by former Florida Farm Bureau lobbyist Ben G. Parks where the bust occurred is 2,500 square feet — upwards of nine people living in one home is unheard of, Keena said.
***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 TuckerCivicCenter.com!***
GOVERNORS CLUB THURSDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU – Session might be winding down, but that isn’t stopping the Governors Club from offering a truly international-style lunch buffet menu, which includes New England Clam Chowder; French Bread Sandwich Board with Chips: Roast Turkey, Ham, Swiss, Cheddar, Pickles, Pepper, Onions, Lettuce & Tomatoes; Mexican Salad; Romaine Lettuce, Mexican Cheese, Vine-Ripe Tomatoes, Roasted Peppers, Black Olives, Black Beans, Roasted Corn, Avocado, Green Onions; Chicken Salad, Tuna Salad; Roasted Sirloin with a Barbeque Demi; Baja Chipotle Chicken; Grilled Breast of Chicken with Chipotle Sauce, Peppers, Onions, Black Beans & Mexican Cheese; Lemon Caper Wahoo; “O’Doski Breaded Pork Schnitzel,” Risi Bisi Rice and Vegetable Medley, finishing up with a Mini Dessert Bar.
CHICK-FIL-A IS TESTING A NEW SOLUTION TO CRAZY LONG LINES via Venessa Wong of BuzzFeed News – [T]he chain is … to have a team of four to six servers walk up to cars in the drive-thru to take orders via tablet, rather than having drivers wait to reach the usual pair of speakers. … The second is to have another set of servers walk to cars with their orders when they are ready.
MYSTERIES ABOUND IN THE GAME OF THRONES SEASON SIX TRAILER via David Sims of the Atlantic – The trailer is full of action and bombast, but delivered at a strangely mournful tempo. That makes sense considering the abject misery most of the cast was in last year: Khaleesi Daenerys deposed from her throne in Slaver’s Bay, Queen Cersei forced to do a nude walk of shame through King’s Landing by religious zealots, Arya blinded by a guild of assassins, and Jon stabbed to death by his compatriots in the Night’s Watch. The trailer keeps things vague, but it’s nice to see Daenerys, Arya, Cersei, Sansa, and others all on their feet again, looking to avenge past wrongs. With all five of [George R.R.] Martin’s enormous tomes bled dry of material at this point, though, the show will now start pointing itself towards its own inevitable conclusion, guided only by story outlines Martin gave to the show’s creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. There’s a little bit from the novels left to cover: A power struggle among the Iron Islanders, who we glimpse in the trailer, and Arya’s continued life in the guild of assassins she joined in Braavos. As for Jon Snow himself? We only see his cold corpse lying in repose, but it’s still hard to believe that last season’s betrayal was it for the character, who had so many unsolved mysteries to uncover, including his own parentage.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rep. Doug Broxon, my friend Shawn Foster and reporter Arek Sarkissian.