Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – April 10

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

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

Today’s SachsFact is brought to you by the public affairs, integrated marketing and reputation management experts at Sachs Media Group: Talk about shocking irony … Florida’s own Clearwater can be a doozy. According to some sources, the Pinellas County city is the national champ in lightning strikes, with the highest number per capita in the U.S. At the same time, Clearwater tops the Guinness Book of World Records ranking of communities with the most consecutive days with sunshine in a single year: a whopping 361 days. You think the Grateful Dead had the city in mind when they sang, “If the thunder don’t get you, then the lightning will”?

DAYS UNTIL Sine Die – 22; Special Election in  HD 64 – 11: Jacksonville’s Mayoral Election – 39; Florida’s Presidential Primary: 339; Florida’s 2016 Primary Election: 508; Florida’s 2016 General Election: 578.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Jeremy Branch and Jose Gonzalez. Celebrating this weekend is Rep. Mark Pafford, Chris Carmody, Fred Piccolo and Jared Rosenstein.

PRE-ORDERED at 3:38 a.m. — Apple Watch 38mm Stainless Steel Case with Black Classic Buckle

HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND (MAYBE) — HILLARY CLINTON WILL ANNOUNCE HER CAMPAIGN via Hunter Walker of Business Insider

A source with knowledge of Hillary Clinton’s plans has confirmed that she will officially announce her 2016 presidential bid on Saturday or Sunday. This will be imminently followed by campaign travel.

A spokesperson for Clinton’s campaign team did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

HAPPENING TODAY — OBAMA, CASTRO TO COME FACE TO FACE AMID BID TO RESTORE TIES via The Associated Press

As leaders from across the Western Hemisphere gather Friday in Panama, all eyes will be on two presidents: Barack Obama and Raul Castro, whose expected encounter at the Summit of the Americas will mark a historic moment as the U.S. and Cuba seek to restore ties they abandoned decades ago.

Americans and Cubans alike can recall just how deep the animosity between their countries ran during the Cold War, when even a casual, friendly exchange between their leaders would have been unthinkable. So while Obama and Castro have no formal meetings scheduled together, even a brief handshake or hallway greeting will be scrutinized for signs of whether the two nations are really poised to put their hostile pasts behind them.

Obama and Castro cross paths at the Summit of the Americas in the throes of a delicate diplomatic experiment: the renewal of formal relations between countries that haven’t had any in more than 50 years.

Even their arrival Thursday evening seemed steeped in symbolism: Obama, after arriving in Panama City, was whisked via helicopter to his waiting motorcade at an airport former known as Howard Air Force Base, from which the U.S. launched its 1989 invasion of Panama.

Castro’s plane landed on the tarmac minutes later, missing Obama only briefly — two world leaders passing warily in the night.

ALSO HAPPENING TODAY — JEB BUSH TO HIGHLIGHT RECORD ON GUN RIGHTS — INCLUDING STAND YOUR GROUND — BEFORE NRA via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Bush will play up his A+ rating as governor from the NRA during a speech today before the group in Nashville, including his signing into law the now controversial “stand your ground” legislation that was a central focus of the Trayvon Martin killing.

“In his speech to the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum (Bush) will discuss the importance of second amendment rights and, more broadly, individual freedom and the freedom to defend liberty when it’s threatened by government intrusion/regulation,”  his staff said in an advance of the forum, which will feature other presidential candidates, including Marco Rubio.

“He’ll address the current challenge our country faces under the Obama Administration, where the government is getting too big and too intrusive. Governor Bush will highlight many of the laws he passed as governor that served as a model for many other states’ gun laws.”

But stand your ground has gained widespread attention since George Zimmerman shot to death Martin in 2012, provoking debate about gun laws and race. Bush signed the legislation into law in April 2005 and it had wide bipartisan support.

In 2012, Bush said it did not apply to the Martin case. “This law does not apply to this particular circumstance,” Bush said in Arlington, Texas. “Stand your ground means stand your ground. It doesn’t mean chase after somebody who’s turned their back.”

“Anytime an innocent life is taken it’s a tragedy,” Bush said. “You’ve got to let the process work.”

He stressed that, “applied properly, I support the law.”

His campaign team noted the law in trying to highlight Bush’s record on gun rights. Under assault from conservatives over immigration and Common Core, the gun issue gives Bush cred with the base.Rubio will also address the NRA gathering today.

INTERESTING OP-ED – EXPLAINING BUSH’S HISPANIC ERROR via Eli Finkel of the New York Times

Bush’s error is a prominent entry point into some fascinating questions about what shapes human identity.

The first thing to notice is that Bush made a very specific error. He did not declare himself African-American or Native American. He declared himself Hispanic. Bush’s wife is from Mexico. Might her Hispanic identity have played a role in his voter registration error?

… Being invested in a romantic relationship changes how we define ourselves, even at our deepest levels of identity.

This is an important lesson about selfhood. Most of us tend to think of our identity as a relatively fixed quality. We recognize, of course, that our behavior changes from one context to another, but we view our fundamental attributes and qualities as stable. In reality, however, identity is much more complicated and interesting, much more relational, than that.

Jeb Bush certainly knows that he is not Hispanic. But his marriage may make it just a bit more difficult for him — especially if he’s distracted or acting quickly — to hold that fact in mind.

MARCO RUBIO TAX PLAN CHALLENGES GOP ORTHODOXY via Ben White of POLITICO

Rubio is about to shake up the Republican presidential primary by running on a tax plan that tosses out decades of GOP allegiance to the idea of simply slashing rates across the board and expecting faster economic growth to follow.

Instead, Rubio plans to campaign hard on the complex plan he introduced this year with Utah Sen. Mike Lee that would use the tax code to reward families with children while slashing levies on business and investment income but keeping a top rate personal income rate of 35 percent, far higher than many Republicans would like.

Rubio appears to be hoping his plan will appeal to Republican voters concerned about rising economic inequality and tired of getting beaten up in the general election over plans that Democrats say would hand massive tax cuts to the rich at the expense of the middle class.

… But not all Republicans are embracing the plan. Some argue that it leaves the top rate far too close to the current highest bracket of 39.6 percent. And they note that it would apply the 35 percent rate to individual incomes as low as $75,000, possibly exposing many middle-income earners to a significant tax hike.

And in a field that already includes flat tax proposals from Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, analysts say this could leave Rubio as seemingly out of step and too timid on the tax cut front. It could also allow Jeb Bush, who will compete with Rubio in the more centrist lane of the GOP primary, to come up with a less complicated tax cut plan that hews more closely to Republican orthodoxy.

RUBIO GETS A SUPER PAC via Philip Elliott of the Associated Press

If he runs for president as expected, Sen. Marco Rubio will have a political committee ready to raise and spend unlimited cash on his behalf.

Rubio is set to announce his 2016 campaign plans in a speech in Miami and would become the third major candidate to declare his White House ambitions.

But from even his most enthusiastic supporters, Rubio can only accept $2,700 to help him win the nomination. The pro-Rubio, independent Conservative Solutions PAC will face no such limits.

Conservative Solutions is set to collect checks from deep-pocketed donors to pay for as many television, digital and radio ads as it can afford to boost Rubio’s chances.

Super PACs are political committees that operate independently of the candidates and cannot coordinate strategy with the campaigns of those seeking office. But they often can play an outsized role in shaping how voters view the candidates because they can buy so much more advertising than the campaigns can afford.

Led by veteran Republican consultant Warren Tompkins, Conservative Solutions PAC is set to be Rubio’s primary advertising partner, allowing the official campaign to focus on other nuts-and-bolts functions of running a race, such as building databases, knocking on doors and staging public events.

FEC REMINDS RUBIO (AGAIN) TO CLEAN UP HIS CAMPAIGN FINANCES via Colby Itkowitz of the Washington Post

Rubio may want to clear the air with the Federal Election Commission before embarking on his next career endeavor.

Just because he’s running for president now (it’s nearly official!) the FEC isn’t going to let the Florida Republican off without him cleaning up his Senate campaign committee.

Rubio received a letter from the FEC Wednesday listing all the individual donors who exceeded the $2,600 legal contributions to his committee. There are 14 offenders who overpaid for his 2016 Senate re-election.

This should not come as a surprise to the Rubio folks. They received written warnings about these overgenerous donors after every quarterly campaign filing in 2014, but have just ignored them.

“We take compliance seriously and fully understand the limits,” said Alex Conant, Rubio spokesman. “We are aware of the request for additional information, are reviewing our filings and filing a response very shortly.”

THE FOX PRIMARY: 18 POTENTIAL CANDIDATES HAVE ALREADY MADE MORE THAN 800 APPEARANCES via Ben DiMieiro of Media Matters

Since President Obama’s second inauguration, Sen. Rand Paul has appeared 119 times on Fox News’ evening and primetime programming and Fox News Sunday, far outpacing the other declared and likely Republican presidential candidates not employed by the network. On the other end of the spectrum, Jeb Bush has appeared on the programs studied only three times.

Among the potential candidates that were on Fox News’ payroll for all or part of the duration of this study, Fox News contributor John Bolton has made 171 appearances, more often than Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson — who were both dropped by the network over their presidential aspirations — combined.

When Texas Senator Ted Cruz announced last month that he is seeking the Republican 2016 presidential nomination, his first TV interview, unsurprisingly, was a full hour on Sean Hannity’s show. The same night, Rand Paul (and perennial fake presidential candidate Donald Trump) appeared on Megyn Kelly’s show to react to Cruz’s announcement and discuss their own presidential aspirations.

Paul followed Cruz’s lead by appearing in an “exclusive” interview on Hannity’s Fox program Tuesday, hours after announcing the start of his own campaign.

While the first presidential primary is about nine months away, Cruz’s and Paul’s competing appearances provide a glimpse into what is becoming an election tradition. For the past two years, a slew of Republican would-be presidential candidates have been involved in The Fox Primary, making regular appearances to curry favor with the network’s influential hosts and reach out directly to the channel’s decidedly conservative audience.

In a February piece for The Hill, Fox News contributor and former congressman John LeBoutillier argued that “the key to winning the 2016 GOP presidential nomination is winning the ‘Fox Primary.'” Touting the importance of coverage from Fox News for Republican contenders trying to court primary voters, LeBoutillier claimed, “The Fox primary is crucial to any GOP candidate.” According to LeBoutillier, “The competition just to get on these shows will be intense.”

TALLAHASSEE MAYOR ANDREW GILLUM, REP. ALAN WILLIAMS ENDORSE PATRICK MURPHY FOR U.S. SENATE via Ryan Ray of SaintPetersBlog

At a joint press conference at Florida Democratic Party headquarters in Tallahassee, Mayor Andrew Gillum and Rep. Alan Williams both offered ebullient endorsements of Congressman Patrick Murphy’s bid for the U.S. Senate.

Evoking Murphy’s can-do brand of bipartisanship, Gillum began with an old chestnut about the pragmatic task of governing.

“There are no Democratic potholes, and no Republican way to pave a street,” said Gillum in his extemporaneous remarks.

“I think that’s what our generation represents,” said Murphy, referring to Gillum’s sentiment. “I talk to colleagues and so many different Floridians and start hearing one common theme, which is that they’re tired of partisanship, they’re tired of the nonsense.”

“I decided that I want to run for the U.S. Senate because I think I can make an even bigger difference on so many issues I’m passionate about. Whether that’s the environment, protecting Social Security and Medicare, and supporting the middle class and making sure that they grow. That’s what sets our country apart.”

14 GIFS EXPLAINING ANNETTE TADDEO’S RUN FOR CONGRESS View here

In a blog post at the NRCC, Chris Pack uses 14 GIFs – short animated or video clips that play in a loop – to describe the reaction of Democrat Annette Taddeo’s deciding to run for Congress. Each GIF, which is people either laughing or doing something silly — comes with a caption: So perennial losing candidate Annette Taddeo is running for office for the fourth time … As you may remember, in 2008 she ran for Congress…and lost. And in 2010, she ran for Miami-Dade County Commission…and lost.

Then in 2014, she ran for Lieutenant Governor and…lost. Now she has announced that she’s running…again. And let’s just say, her campaign has been off to a rough start. First, she doesn’t even live in the district she wants to represent. Then she was caught using fellow perennial losing candidate Charlie Crist’s e-mail list to make her announcement, possibly breaking election law.

Then she goes on MSNBC to talk about her run for Congress and says she is middle class even though she is worth $5.7 million and lives in a $1.25 million, 6,500 square foot mansion.

A scathing column then comes out saying that she’s “still not ready for prime time.”

And then a local radio station calls her out for cancelling an interview with their station because she was too tired to call in. Of course, this led to another scathing column mocking Annette Taddeo as “the gift that keeps on giving.”

Someone needs to sit down with Annette and tell her this whole “running for office” thing just isn’t for her. But in the meantime, we’ll be watching.

At the end, there is a pitch for donations.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Bright House Networks, a trusted provider of industry-leading communications and networking services to businesses of all sizes, from startups to large, multi-site organizations. Our Enterprise Solutions provides the fiber connectivity, cloud and managed services  today’s large organizations demand, while our Business  Solutions team works with small- to mid-size companies to ensure they get the right services to fit their needs and their budget. Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Bright House Networks. Learn more at brighthouse.com/business.***

RICK SCOTT REPEATS MEDICAID EXPANSION OPPOSITION DURING STOP IN SARASOTA via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald Tribune

Scott reiterated on Thursday his new pledge not to accept an expansion of Medicaid because of how the federal government is phasing out another program aimed at paying for health care for low-income families.

… Scott said the pull back of the Low Income Pool funds only makes him less trusting of taking the Medicaid expansion dollars.

“The same federal government that offers some money for a program is walking away from another health care program,” Scott said during a stop in Sarasota. “How can you feel comfortable picking up another federal program when they are walking away from an existing program?”

Asked if he has had any new discussion with the House or the Senate on the issue over the last 48 hours, Scott would not say. Instead he repeated his top priorities for the Legislature session, which is scheduled to end on May 1.

“What I’m focused on this session is the highest funding for K-12 per pupil in history of the state, making college more affordable, and get the $673 million in tax cuts to put money back in your hands,” Scott said.

DON GAETZ SAID THIS … GOV. SCOTT CHANGED STAND ON MEDICAID ‘TWO OR THREE TIMES’ via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Don Gaetz has a way with words — especially on the subject of Gov. Scott.

The Republican senator from Niceville, asked about Scott’s latest statement in opposition to a Senate plan to draw down federal money to expand health insurance, told Capitol reporters: “The governor is entitled to all of his positions on the issue.”

Gaetz was smiling. But he wasn’t kidding. And he kept going.

Elaborating on Scott’s Medicaid stand, Gaetz said: “He’s entitled to change his mind. But on this issue, he’s changed it two or three times. Maybe he’ll land sometime soon on a position that he’ll hold for an extended period of time. I hope it’s in favor of Sen. (Aaron) Bean’s bill.” Bean is the sponsor of SB 7044, which would use billions in federal money to create a Florida health insurance exchange that senators say is not a full-blown expansion of Medicaid.

Gaetz’s comments reflect the Senate leadership’s growing frustration with Scott’s unwillingness to fully engage on the biggest issue of the 2015 legislative session as Week Six prepares to draw to a close.

Gaetz also played an important role at a Senate hearing in stalling the confirmation of Dr. John Armstrong, Scott’s surgeon general and secretary of the state Department of Health, after Armstrong stonewalled senators’ questions about the benefits of expanded health insurance coverage.

Gaetz said he likes Armstrong, has toured public health clinics with him and got a “nice note” from Armstrong after their sharp exchange. But he added: “As the chief health officer of the state, he has to, in my judgment, be able to answer direct questions about whether improved health access can result in better health outcomes. That’s not a trick question.”

ANDY GARDINER SAID THIS … SENATE WON’T PLAY GAMES WITH RICK SCOTT’S HEALTH NOMINEES via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics

The Florida Senate isn’t going to play games with Gov. Rick Scott’s executive appointments in the wake of the Medicaid meltdown that is occurring in Tallahassee.

Senate President Andy Gardiner told reporters that he holds Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Liz Dudek in high regard and doesn’t see her nomination to run the state’s Medicaid agency at risk.

“I like the secretary a lot and I have a tremendous amount of respect for her,” Gardiner said. He acknowledged the press release that Dudek released last week announcing that Low Income Pool negotiations between Florida and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was not  well timed.

“It’s probably not productive for everybody,” Gardiner said. “But at the end of the day, my message to CMS and to Liz and everybody else is, ‘This is kind of a big deal. And it’s time to quit the finger pointing and let’s find a scape goat here.’”

JOE NEGRON SAID THAT? via Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post

U.S. Sugar deal hopefuls are reading Sen. Joe Negron’s recent comments about spending Amendment 1 money to mean that the senator from the Treasure Coast is in favor of the land buy. Headlines are saying that Negron, a champion of the St. Lucie Estuary, is seeking $500 million for the land buy.

However, his statement could also be construed to mean he wants a $500 million slice of the Amendment 1 pie to go towards buying land – a much bigger chunk than proposed by others, who want more money spent on maintaining lands already owned by the state.

Here’s what Negron said. You be the judge: “I have advocated from Day One that we must have additional storage capacity south of Lake Okeechobee to stop the catastrophic discharges into our community.  I am working every day to free up an additional $500 million to purchase land.  There is a long way to go to achieve this objective.  Once we have designated this revenue, we can then consider and evaluate all the possibilities:  the U.S. Sugar Option, expediting C-44, Florida Forever and other ideas.  I remain committed to projects that will clean, store and send water south of Lake Okeechobee.”

***The Fiorentino Group is a full service government relations and business development firm providing a broad range of consulting services to clients looking to influence public policy and create new business opportunities. The Fiorentino Group’s team of advocates is one of the largest in the state and has decades of experience in state, local and federal government relations and new business development.***

HOUSE OK’S $690 MILLION IN TAX CUTS, CLOUDED BY STANDOFF WITH SENATE via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

A $690 million package of tax cuts, topped by a consumer-friendly reduction in phone and TV taxes,  was approved by the state House — but faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

The measure was OK’d 112-3, with many Republican legislators saying the givebacks are credit to Florida’s recovering economy.

“It will put money directly into the pockets of working-class people every month,” said Finance & Tax Committee Chairman Matt Gaetz.

But a number of Democrats blasted the tax-cutting as coming at the expense of sick, elderly and poor Floridians in need of more government services.

“This is an example of dollars that are not going to be part of the budget,” said House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach. Needy Floridians, “are not getting much attention at all,” he added.

In the end, however, only Pafford and two other Democrats voted against the measure (HB 7141).

HOUSE WILL TACKLE CERTIFICATE OF NEED, MALPRACTICE IN 2016, JASON BRODEUR SAYS via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics

At the last regularly scheduled meeting of the 2015 session for his committee House Health & Human Services Committee Chairman Jason Brodeur dropped a bomb an announced that the chamber would next year tackle some of the thorniest issues in health care:certificate of need (CON), insurance mandates and medical malpractice.

The news puts most health care professionals and their respective lobbyists on notice that 2015 will be a bumpy ride.

Certificate of need is a regulatory process to control the costs of health care by curbing the proliferation of new services or allowing the expansion of services. Florida uses CON to regulate nursing homes, hospices, intermediate care facilities for the developmentally disabled, new hospitals and certain hospital services. Brodeur noted that there are 19 exceptions for CON in Florida statutes and certain states, such as Texas, don’t use CON at all. This fight usually pits provider against provider or, alternatively, those with a CON against those who want a CON.

Insurance mandates are requirements put on insurers and HMOs to provide access to certain services or certain health care providers. The discussion on mandates usually pits providers and patient advocates who want to see services included in health care plans against insurers who argue that the mandates drive up the costs of care.

Medical malpractice takes on many different issues but Brodeur was clear in his remarks that he planned on pushing legislation that would establish a no fault systems called the Patients’ Compensation System. Brodeur filed bills in 2013 and 2014 to establish the system and only half jokingly said that no one like the legislation. The bill was filed this year by Rep. Cary Pigman, a physician, in the House as well as Sen. Jeff Brandes. This fight usually pits the trial attorneys against a unified physician/insurance lobby.

HOUSE PANEL OKS BALANCE BILLING BAN, SPONSOR SAYS UNLIKELY TO PASS THIS YEAR via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics

Health insurers and HMOs may have won the battle in a House health care committee but they may end up losing the war this session.

The House Health and Human Services Committee approved a bill that would ban non-participating providers from balance billing patients in need of emergency care under, CS/HB 681. Additionally, the measure would place into law a reimbursement schedule for non-participating providers.

But CS/HB 681 bill sponsor Rep. Carlos Trujillo acknowledged that he didn’t think the measure would “make it across the finish line,” this session and he promised to work with the health care community that adamantly opposes the measure.

Organized medicine came out in force against the measure. Florida Medical Association General Counsel and lobbyist Jeff Scott told the committee that the solution to balanced billing would come at the expense of doctors and patients. Scott said insurers should be required to advise people when they buy insurance products that there is a possibility that they can be balance billed.

FRUSTRATED SENATORS PUSH POT FIX via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida on Sunshine State News

Citing frustration with delays in getting non-euphoric cannabis to patients, a Florida Senate panel Thursday pushed forward a revised attempt to create a regulatory framework for the pot industry but did not include changes sought by black farmers who complain they would be shut out of the industry.

The bill, approved by the Senate Rules Committee and headed to the Senate floor, would quadruple the number of state-approved businesses that could participate, from five to 20.

The Florida Department of Health would choose by lottery two licensees in each of five regions to grow, process and distribute cannabis that reportedly does not get users high but is believed to dramatically reduce or eliminate life-threatening seizures in children with rare forms of epilepsy. Ten other “dispensing organizations” would also receive licenses.

Senate Regulated Industries Chairman Rob Bradley, who was instrumental in passage of a 2014 measure that legalized the non-euphoric pot for certain patients, is backing another effort this session after legal challenges delayed health officials’ attempts to get the medical marijuana industry off the ground.

In addition to increasing the number of “dispensing organizations,” Bradley’s bill would expand the types of patients who would be eligible for the treatment, but would leave intact the makeup of the marijuana — a maximum of 0.08 percent of euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and at least 10 percent cannabadiol, or CBD — currently authorized in the law. Critics say the THC levels are too low to aid patients with cancer, AIDS, Parkinson’s diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions included in the Senate plan (SB 7066), which also was expanded Thursday to include autism.

Bradley said he expects “a robust discussion” about the THC levels on the Senate floor when the bill comes up for a vote before the session ends May 1.

SENATE PANEL MOVES BILL TO ADD PREGNANT WOMEN AS PROTECTED CLASS via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Under current law, pregnant workers are supposed to be protected from being fired, turned down for employment, or otherwise discriminated against just because they’re pregnant. But it still happens.

Here in Florida, state law protects many different groups of people from discrimination, but one group not currently part of that protected class is pregnant women.

That would change under a bill being sponsored by Orlando Democratic state Sen. Geraldine Thompson. This morning in the Senate Rules Committee, the panel unanimously approved her bill (SB 982) that would would prohibit discrimination on the basis of pregnancy in public lodging, restaurants and places of public accommodation, as well as prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of pregnancy.

There were no objections from the other members of the Senate. Although seemingly a no-brainer, Thompson introduced the bill last year, where the Senate voted for it unanimously, but it never cleared the House.

There is a companion bill in the Florida House this year sponsored by Delray Beach Democrat Lori Berman.

SOUTH FLORIDA VOTERS MAY GET CHANCE TO VOTE ON CASINOS via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press

South Florida voters may get a chance to tell legislators whether they want Las-Vegas styled casinos.

A Florida House panel on Thursday voted in favor of a stripped-down gambling bill.

Legislators removed a provision to allow two casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, but agreed to let county commissioners hold referendums on whether casinos should be allowed.

Rep. Ritch Workman said he wants to know if people in “downtown Miami” support a casino.

Even if voters say yes, the Legislature would have to give approval.

The House bill (HB 1233) was changed to allow slot machines at dog tracks in Lee and Palm Beach counties.

A similar gambling bill now moving in the Senate would also extend for one year a deal that lets the Seminole Tribe offer blackjack at its casinos.

‘WHISKEY AND WHEATIES’ BILL LIVES, SPONSOR SAYS via James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune

The “whiskey and Wheaties” bill was abruptly yanked off its latest committee’s agenda Thursday, but its sponsor says it will be back next week.

The bill (HB 107) was slated to be heard by the House Regulatory Affairs committee, but was “temporarily postponed,” in legislative parlance.

The wide-ranging alcoholic beverages measure originally had language repealing the state’s 80-year-old requirement that retailers sell hard liquor in a separate store away from groceries and other goods.

The bill was changed, however, to keep the separation requirement and instead allow only a door between adjoined liquor and main stores. That same change was in the Senate version (SB 468).

Bill sponsor Greg Steube, a Republican state representative from Sarasota, didn’t get into details when a reporter caught up with him.

“We’re just trying to work out some details,” he said.

He said the bill would be back before Regulatory Affairs at next meeting.

BILL TO ALLOW PEOPLE TO CARRY CONCEALED WEAPONS DURING EMERGENCIES GOING TO GOVERNOR via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Legislation that would Floridians to carry concealed weapons without a permit during certain emergency situations passed in the Florida House and will soon go to Governor Scott’s desk for him to sign.

Sponsored by Fort Myers Republican Heather Fitzenhagan, HB 290 is similar but with some tweaks from the bill sponsored last year by St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes that faced opposition from the Florida Sheriffs Association and moderate Republicans like Jack Latvala.

But this year both Latvala and the FSA were on board, with the only opposition coming from House Democrats. Which means the bill passed with relative ease.

Currently under Florida law, only people with concealed weapon permits are allowed to carry their guns in public in the event of a mandatory evacuation.

Democrats fretted that allowing unlicensed gun owners to carry during an emergency would be a recipe for disaster.

BILL DELAY SEPTIC WASTE BAN PASSES HOUSE WITH CALLS FOR STUDY, SPRINGS PROTECTION via Bruce Ritchie of Florida Politics

A bill that delays a ban on the disposal of septic tank waste on farm fields across the state passed the House in anticipation of a state study of the waste disposal practice.

Florida has 2.6 million septic tanks scattered across the state that annually produce 100 million gallons of waste, called septage, when they are pumped out. About 40 percent is spread at 88 land application sites across the state, according to the Florida Department of Health.

In 2010, the Legislature voted to ban the land spreading of waste beginning in 2016 as part of a bill that supporters said would protect springs and waterways from nutrient pollution.

But septic tank waste haulers now say the ban could cause the price of septic tank pump-outs to skyrocket. They support a Department of Environmental Protection study, which already is underway.

“Let’s go back and let’s do the study,” said Rep. Katie Edwards, a Democrat from Plantation. “And let’s figure out a way to either have a much more permanent land application of septage process in place or let’s have a hard-and-fast ban that actually makes sense.”

THE KIND OF DAY IT – ANTI-KLAN ACTIVISTS MARCH, BURN CONFEDERATE FLAG IN FRONT OF OLD CAPITOL WITHOUT INCIDENT via Ryan Ray of SaintPetersBlog

A group of around 60 protestors marched from Florida State University to the Capitol this evening in a show of force against recent Ku Klux Klan-related activity in Tallahassee. The event, organized by Students for a Democratic Society, culminated in the burning of a Confederate flag near the steps of the Old Capitol building.

Referring to recent reports of neglect and abuse in prisons overseen by the Florida Department of Corrections, chants of “DOC, KKK, how many people did you kill today?” and “Indict, convict, send these racist cops to jail; the whole damn system is guilty as hell!” filled College Avenue as the sun set over Downtown Tallahassee.

A mixture of anti-racist exhortations, militant rhetoric and homespun political economy was voiced over a bullhorn as officers from the Tallahassee Police Department and Florida Department of Law Enforcement looked on, mostly unperturbed.

Much to the officers’ relief, not in attendance were counter-protestors from the small Republic of Florida Militia, who had earlier threatened via social media to meet the protest with force.

“They’re cowards, that’s why they’re not here,” said Naomi Bradley, representing a group called the Trans Front at the rally.

DEEP DIVE — PROBATION OFFICER TRAINING FUNDS NOT DEDICATED TO TRAINING via Noah Pransky of WTSP

New documents … indicate chronic underfunding has not just caused dangerous lapses in felon supervision, but it was also compounded by a legislative raid on a corrections trust fund intended to pay for officers’ training and equipment.

Even though lawmakers ordered the trust fund closed in 2004, the State of Florida has continued to collect millions of dollars from probationers in the last decade, pouring the money into its general revenue fund. All the while, the Department of Corrections’ budget has continued to starve.

A 10 Investigates series exposed how DOC penny-pinching has led to unnecessary risks involving felony offenders living in the community. Officers have little access to working vehicles, and their caseloads are at “dangerous” levels.

New DOC Secretary Julie Jones told 10 Investigates she’d authorize the purchase of new equipment this year, as well as the filling of any officer vacancy. But recruiting and retention of probation officers has been significantly hampered by low salaries that significantly trail those of other large law enforcement agencies.

The DOC is in charge of supervising felony probationers, often considered the highest-risk offenders in the community. Each offender must pay $2 per month to the state to help pay for their supervision.

But with the money going to the state’s general revenue fund, Florida’s probation officers have never had radios or smart phones. If they choose to carry a firearm, they must pay for it themselves. And this year, the agency has to seek permission from the legislature to spend the money on soft body armor.

The DOC reports the collections have averaged $548,000 in the last five fiscal years. While the agency reports spending an average of $584,000 on training and arsenal/security supplies during that time, the expenditures fall short of revenues some years.

POLICY NOTES FOR TODAY

BOARD OF MEDICINE MEETS

The Florida Board of Medicine meets to discuss physician disciplinary issues involving physicians. Meeting starts 7:30 a.m., DoubleTree by Hilton Deerfield Beach, 100 Fairway Dr. in Deerfield Beach.

STATE COLLEGE PRESIDENTS MEETING 

The Florida College System Council of Presidents conference starts at 8:30 a.m. with a committee meeting, followed by a meeting of the Council of Presidents. Event is at the Tallahassee Community College Capitol Center, 300 West Pensacola St. in Tallahassee.

***Metz, Husband & Daughton is a full-service  firm dedicated to overcoming clients’ legislative, legal and regulatory challenges. An energetic team of highly-skilled members; MHD has the experience, expertise and reputation necessary to achieve clients’ diverse goals in the policy and political arena.  MHD has proven proficient in achieving results through long-standing representation of Fortune 500 companies, major Florida corporations, and state-wide trade and professional associations. www.MetzLaw.com.***

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Douglas Bell, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Celgene Corporation

Carl Eldred, Hopping Green & Sams: Florida Electric Power Coordinating Group

Thomas Griffin, The Fiorentino Group: KIPP Schools, St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office

Anita Mitchell, The Mitchell Group: Dan Laubacher

VOTING FOR THE TALLYMADNESS FINAL FOUR ENDS MONDAY

So far the Elite 8 has shown an uptick in ballots cast as the 2015 virtual clash of Tallahassee lobbying corps heavyweights moves into the semi-final round. Voting to decide who will move on to breathe the rare air of the vaunted Final Four ends Monday at midnight. A reminder of who is in contention for the title:

#1 seed Brian Ballard is taking on #3 seed Mark Delegal in a battle to see who can crash the TallyMadness.com servers due to high-volume voting, and  the top-seeded Ron Book looks to stave off an upset against #7 seed Tim Meenan, who has keep the votes flowing big-time since the Round of 64.

Meanwhile #9 seed Brecht Heuchan faces #11 seed John Holley and surprise semi-finals hopeful #16 Monica Rodriguez seeks to continue her Cinderella run against #3 seed Robert Coker.

Voting in the Elite 8 round ends Monday, April 13 at midnight on TallyMadness.com. Vote early and often to advance your favorite influencer to the promised land of the TallyMadness Final Four!

CONTEXT FLORIDA: CHILD RIGHTS, SCOTT’S FLIP, DIVERSIFICATION AND KIM GORDON

On Context FloridaEvery child has the right to be loved, says Martin Dyckman. When will the Florida Senate recognize that? Sometimes, it is painful being right, notes Daniel Tilson. Gov. Scott this week publicly confirmed he is opposed to ensuring affordable access to health insurance and healthcare for all Floridians. Again. For years, Florida governors and legislators stressed the need to diversify Florida’s economy, says Bob Sparks. A state’s financial well-being so heavily dependent upon tourism and agriculture is a disaster or recession away from economic calamity, they said. Resorts, parks and Fresh From Florida are great for our economy in so many ways, but our menu needs more entrees. Catherine Durkin Robinson reviews Kim Gordon’s new book, “Girl in a Band.” Gordon especially was important as an original rocker/feminist and she always seemed so unconventional and unapologetic about it.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA

Trimmel Gomes’ newest episode of The Rotunda tells the story of Florida State University student Carly Hellstrom, a victim of revenge porn and how she managed to get lawmakers to advance measures to make the practice.

As Governor Rick Scott backs away from his support for Medicaid expansion, Senate President Andy Gardiner denies claims that his chamber is being vengeful by delaying confirmation of Department of Health Secretary John Armstrong.

Despite a big pitch by Jimmy Buffett, the power of the Parrot Heads weren’t enough to sway lawmakers to spend Amendment One money to purchase environmentally sensitive land, as they’d hope. Gomes talks with Everglades Coalition CEO Eric Eikenberg, President of the Florida Wildlife Federation Manley Fuller, Rep. Victor Torres as they react to the lack of momentum.

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy makes a stop in Tallahassee to pick up endorsements from Mayor Andrew Gillum and Rep. Alan Williams in his bid for US Senate when Marco Rubio vacates his seat.

WEEKEND TV

Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James  on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: Film students from discuss their recent project on Newtown, Sarasota’s historic black community.

Facing Florida with Mike Vasilinda: A discussion with analysts Steve Vancore and Screven Watson on nearly-end-of-Session issues.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Former Tampa City Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena, Mike Deeson of CBS Ten News, Joe Brown of the Tampa Trib and consultant Nick Hansen.

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Senate budget chief Tom Lee of Brandon.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Congressman Dan Webster of Winter Garden, plus political analysts Lou Frey and Dick Batchelor.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon, Steve Vancore, Peter Schorsch and Marc Caputo.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.