Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – April 14

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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: Ever wanted to own your own town? The Panhandle community of Destin once belonged almost entirely to one man. In 1935, timber landowner J.R. Moody purchased more than 97 percent of what is now Destin – 5,783 acres – for the princely sum of $38,226. The long-time fishing village still has only 13,200 fulltime residents, but thanks to its treasured sugar-white beaches the state attributes more than 3.6 million annual visitors directly to Destin’s charms. And we all missed our chance to own a coastal paradise … by 80 years.

BEFORE YOU DIVE INTO #MARCODAY, READ THIS — SURVEY: NEARLY 9 IN 10 US ADULTS NOW HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE via Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the Associated Press

Underlining a change across the nation, nearly 9 out of 10 adults now say they have health insurance, according to an extensive survey released Monday.

As recently as 2013, slightly more than 8 out of 10 had coverage.

Whether the new number from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index turns out to be a high-water mark for President Barack Obama’s health care law, or a milestone on the path toward his goal of getting virtually all U.S. residents covered, remains to be seen.

The survey found that the share of adults who lack insurance dropped to 11.9 percent for the first three months of this year, the lowest level since that survey began its tracking in 2008. The latest update overlaps with the period when the health law’s second sign-up season was winding down.

Coverage gains from 2014-2015 translate to about 3.6 million fewer adults uninsured since the fall, before open enrollment got under way, according to Gallup.

On balance, an estimated 14.75 million adults have gained coverage since the fall of 2013, when the law’s first open enrollment season was about to begin.

DAYS UNTIL Sine Die: 18; Special Election in HD 64: 7; Jacksonville’s Mayoral Election: 35; Florida’s Presidential Primary: 335; Florida’s 2016 Primary Election: 504; Florida’s 2016 General Election: 574.

QUOTE OF THE DAY via Larry Sabato in a special edition of his Crystal Ball: “What we do know is that a mountain of money and resources will be thrown into (Florida) by both parties — both the presidency and control of the Senate could depend on it.”

MARCO RUBIO ANNOUNCES HE’S RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT via Alex Isenstadt and Marc Caputo of POLITICO

In a historic building that symbolizes the United States’ promise and past, Marco Rubio on Monday announced his candidacy for president, playing up his family’s immigrant roots and promising to usher in a “new American century.”

The first-term Florida senator, a 43-year-old rising star in the Republican party, said Americans are starting to doubt their economic opportunities. He cast himself as the torchbearer of the next generation of U.S. visionaries who can restore hope.

“While our people and economy are pushing the boundaries of the 21st century, too many of our leaders and their ideas are stuck in the 20th century,” Rubio said. “We must change the decisions we are making by changing the people who are making them.”

… Starting slowly, Rubio lit up the crowd when he called for a “new American century.” Building to a crescendo, he officially announced his candidacy, and the crowd in the Mediterranean-style building chanted his name, which echoed off the arched ceilings buttressed by gilded Corinthian columns.

… Rubio never mentioned (Jeb) Bush by name. But he did take a passing shot at those who say Rubio should wait on the elder Bush. “I have heard some suggest that I should step aside and wait my turn. But I cannot,” he said. “I believe our very identity as an exceptional nation is at stake, and I can make a difference as president.”

SPOTTED at the Freedom Tower event: Former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner.

SPOTTED via Bay News 9’s coverage of the event: Reps. Scott Plakon and Mike Miller

ALSO SPOTTED: NFL wide receiver Wes Welker; former University of Miami coast Butch Davis. H/t to Marc Caputo.

REAX TO RUBIO’S ANNOUNCEMENT

— @SenBillNelson: I have a great personal and professional relationship with Marco. But I am all in with Hillary.

— Ted Cruz: “Marco is a friend and colleague whom I greatly respect. We’re both the sons of immigrants who escaped Cuba to build a better life in the United States, and we share a deep appreciation and understanding of what it means to work hard and achieve the American Dream. Marco is a talented communicator and part of a new generation of Republicans stepping forward to promote conservative solutions to our pressing challenges. He is a strong addition to the Republican field, and he will undoubtedly elevate the debate for all of us.”

— Mario Diaz-Balart: “As I have stated before, no one is more prepared to be president than Jeb Bush. I am a great admirer of Senator Rubio. He is a brilliant and talented leader with a great message for America who understands the disastrous effects of President Obama’s policies.”

— RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia: “The Republican Party of Florida is excited and welcomes the first of possibly two ‘All-Star’ Florida sons to announce a bid for President of the United States of America. While the RPOF will maintain neutrality through the primary, we will continue working hard to build the team and create the infrastructure necessary to deliver our 29 electoral votes to our Republican nominee, regardless of who he or she may be. The RPOF proudly welcomes Senator Marco Rubio to the race for President of the United States.”

— Nelson Diaz, a staffer for Rubio when was in the state Legislature and now a Miami lobbyist and chairman of the Republican Party of Miami-Dade County: Marco’s doing this for the same reason he ran for the Senate. He wanted to be a Senator. He thought that would be the best place to be … If he wants to be president, he’s going to run to be president. He’s not running against anyone in the party. He’s running against Obama and Clinton.”

— @SteveSchale: I’ve observed @MarcoRubio longer than most. Tonight he showed why people underestimate him at their own peril.

— @SaintPetersBlog: My wife, @MichelleTodd, worked as hard as anyone to defeat @MarcoRubio in ’10; she said tonight’s speech = “scary good.”

THE 2016 GOP FIELD GETS ITS FIRST REAL CONTENDER via Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight.com

Rubio’s campaign has so far attracted paltry support from Republican voters, according to polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, as well as nationally. He’s down near Chris Christie! Yet, when we talk about him in the FiveThirtyEight office, we usually put Rubio in the top tier, in front of everyone except Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, the two candidates at the top of the polls.

Remember when Rubio ran Charlie Crist out of the party in his 2010 Senate bid? He did so thanks, in part, to support from conservative stalwarts Sen. Tom Coburn, Sen. Jim DeMint and Rep. Paul Ryan. Rubio has a 93 percent lifetime rating from the Club for Growth. He has a real chance of winning the backing of tea party leaders such as Sen. Mike Lee. He has even managed to stay acceptable to Glenn Beck.

And yet, Rubio has some decent electability credentials. He is not polling particularly well with Hispanics right now, but Rubio pulled 40 percent of the non-Cuban Hispanic vote in a three-way contest in his 2010 Senate bid. Mitt Romney, by contrast, won only 27 percent among them in the two-way presidential race in 2012.

In part because he did so well with Hispanics, Rubio vastly over-performed most other Republican senatorial candidates in 2010, as well as those who ran in 2014. Rubio won his race by 11 percentage points more than you would have expected controlling for the past presidential vote of the state and incumbency.

Part of the reason Rubio remains so well-liked is that he is ideologically in line with Republican voters, just as he is with Republican officeholders. According to March YouGov polling, Republicans are more likely to say Rubio is “about right” on the issues than “too conservative” or “not conservative enough” by a 34 percentage point margin. That’s the second-widest margin of any Republican candidate. Rubio is well ahead of Bush and just behind Walker.

Which brings us back to Rubio’s path to the GOP nomination: It looks a lot like Walker’s — pulling together conservative and establishment Republicans. Neither Rubio nor Walker has the appeal with moderate and liberal Republicans that Bush does at this moment. Here are net favorability numbers from a March Gallup survey (which were similar to state-level Quinnipiac polls).

MUST-SEE CHART via NBC News: Other than Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Rubio scores the highest among Republican primary voters when they are asked which candidates they COULD see themselves supporting.

MEDIA TEAM INTENDS TO TELL THE RUBIO STORY via Ashley Parker of the New York Times

Rubio and his team believe their candidate — the almost perpetually rosy-cheeked son of Cuban immigrants — has a compelling story to tell. And they’ve brought on Poolhouse, a scrappy Republican ad agency based in Richmond, Va., to help share that story.

Founded by Tim O’Toole and Will Ritter, both veterans of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, Poolhouse will work alongside Something Else Strategies to handle Rubio’s media — both digital and television ads.

“Poolhouse couldn’t be more pumped to join the Marco Rubio media team,” Ritter said. “Marco’s a bold, new-generation leader with a fresh vision for our party and country. His message generates excitement wherever he goes. Besides his strong command of the issues and raw political talent, his team is top-notch.”

Ritter was director of advance for Romney’s campaign, and O’Toole was director of the Romney digital video department.

Something Else Strategies, in addition to working on Rubio’s media, is also integrated in the highest levels of the Rubio campaign, handing the team’s overall strategy. Todd Harris, one of the company’s founding partners, will serve as a senior adviser, overseeing message and communications, and Heath Thompson, another founding partner, will serve as Rubio’s most senior political adviser.

Harris, Thompson and Malorie Thompson, another founding partner at Something Else Strategies, have been with Rubio since 2009. … Lori Raad, the company’s fourth founding partner, will also work on the campaign.

NEW ON THE TWITTERS: @TeamMarco – “We are the staff, not the man … We also live Marvel and DC Comics TV shows/movies.”

TWEET, TWEET: @MarcoRubio: I’m now on @Snapchat. My username is marcorubio16. Please add me.

THE COUNTER ARGUMENT – RUBIO IS THE MOST DISINGENUOUS REPUBLICAN RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT via Brian Beutler of The New Republic

If Rubio were both serious and talented enough to move his party away from its most inhibiting orthodoxy, in defiance of those donors, his candidacy would represent a watershed. His appeal to constituencies outside of the GOP base would be both sincere and persuasive.

But Rubio is not that politician. He is no likelier to succeed at persuading Republican supply-siders to reimagine their fiscal priorities than he was at persuading nativists to support a citizenship guarantee for unauthorized immigrants. In fact, nobody understands the obstacles facing Marco Rubio better than Marco Rubio. But rather than abandon his reformist pretensions, or advance them knowing he will ultimately lose, Rubio has chosen to claim the mantle of reform and surrender to the right simultaneously—to make promises to nontraditional voters he knows he can’t keep. My colleague Danny Vinik proposes that Rubio wants to “improve the lives of poor Americans” but he must “tailor [his] solutions to gain substantial support in the GOP, and those compromises would cause more harm to the poor.” I think this makes Rubio the most disingenuous candidate in the field.

Nothing captures Rubio’s irreconcilable commitments quite like the evolution of his plan to reform the tax code. From the outset, Rubio never intended to sideline the interests of the wealthy. As originally conceived, his tax plan would’ve paired modest middle class benefits with very large tax cuts for high earners, much like George W. Bush’s first big tax cut in 2001. But when conservatives voiced dissatisfaction with that particular distribution, Rubio responded not by telling them to buzz off, or by eliminating the middle-income benefits and plying the savings into further high-end tax cuts. Rather, he kept the benefits, and layered hugely regressive additional tax cuts for the wealthy on top of an already unaffordable plan.

INTERESTING Q&A WITH ADAM SMITH ABOUT RUBIO RUNNING via Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post

Rubio is still a newbie on the national political scene … so I reached out to Tampa Bay Times political boss (not his official title) Adam Smith.

FIX:  For most people, the story of Marco Rubio starts in 2010, when he won a Senate seat. What’s the story of Marco Rubio in Florida state politics before that?

Adam: Not much. He was a talented, young legislator who clearly had a lot of ambition. But he could point to few big legislative achievements as Florida House speaker. On most big issues, he was rolled by then-Governor Charlie Crist and the more moderate Florida Senate.

FIX: Why is he giving up his Senate seat?  Is this up-or-out mentality consistent with what you know about him?

Adam: A lot like Jeb Bush, Rubio is an impatient guy. It was always hard to see him as a lifer in the Senate. Nor has he shown much enthusiasm for the slow, nuts-and-bolts work of actually legislating. He’s more about announcing big policy ideas than actually crafting bills and corralling votes to implement them.

FIX: What’s Rubio’s biggest weakness as a candidate? Does he have an obvious Achilles heel?

Adam: His youth and inexperience is a blessing and a curse. It makes him a fresh face, but also invites unwelcome and obvious comparisons to Obama. He’s 43 and could pass for 35. That doesn’t help him pass the “seems presidential” threshold.

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ CALLS MARCO RUBIO A ‘PRUNE WRAPPED IN TINSEL’ via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Giving a little pre-speech smacktalk to welcome Rubio to the highest level of scrutiny in American politics was Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, always poised to attack a Republican — and in the case of Rubio, a fellow South Floridian to boot.

The DNC chair picked apart virtually everything that Rubio has worked on since being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, but says he’s really no different than any of the other members of what she termed the “clown car” that represents the growing list of GOP presidential candidates who have announced for 2016. But Wasserman Schultz was withering in denouncing that theory, using the image of a prune to describe how truly “fresh” the GOP senator from West Miami really is.

“When you have a prune that’s wrapped in tinsel, it doesn’t make it fresh and new, it makes it something old wrapped in prettier, shinier packaging,” she said in one of her more colorful descriptions.

And she used Rubio’ backtracking from the comprehensive immigration reform bill that he helped craft in 2013 as an example of how far right wing the GOP has become in recent times.

PROGRESS FLORIDA LAUNCHES OPPO WEBSITE FOR MARCO RUBIO’S BIG ANNOUNCEMENT via Phil Ammann of Florida Politics

Because Rubio took months to come to a decision on running for president, Democrats had plenty of time to prepare. In response to Rubio’s announcement, Progress Florida immediately launched WrongWayRubio.com, a website shining a spotlight on the candidate, whom they say has “a vision for America that’s out of touch” with middle-class working families.

“Sen. Marco Rubio faces a big challenge in overcoming his long track record of ethical lapses and out of touch issue positions,” said Progress Florida Executive Director Mark Ferrulo in a statement. “Rubio’s efforts to win over the far right wing of his party have put him out of step with everyday Americans.

“Rubio has been on the wrong side of nearly every important issue. He helped lead the GOP-driven government shutdown, opposed equal pay for women, opposes marriage equality, and is a climate change denier – despite his home state being ‘ground zero’ when it comes to the effects of rising seas,” he added.

HOW RUBIO’S ANNOUNCEMENT IS PLAYING

POLITICOMarco Rubio announces he’s running for president – “He cast himself as the torchbearer of the next generation of U.S. visionaries who can restore hope.” New York TimesMarco Rubio Announces 2016 Presidential Bid – “… presented himself as the embodiment of generational change who can unite the Republican Party’s factions and offer economic solutions for the 21st century.” Fox NewsRubio announces 2016 GOP presidential campaign, vows to restore, reinvent American Dream – “Another challenge is whether he can win over conservatives, upset with his early support of comprehensive immigration-reform legislation passed two years ago by the Senate.” Miami New TimesImmigration activists drowned out Marco Rubio’s speech outside Freedom Tower – “… a feisty group of pro-immigration activists upset by Rubio’s lack of support for comprehensive immigration reform had their own message.” New York MagazineHow Marco Rubio Got His Mojo Back – “The most telling line … was his purportedly cutting dismissal of a government that is ‘taxing and borrowing and regulating like it was 1999.’” WTSP NewsRubio announcement fires up GOP faithful – “Rubio also showed his soft side, becoming emotional talking about his poor upbringing, his father’s death, and the American dream through hard work.” BuzzFeed NewsEveryone In Miami Is Just So Happy Both Bush And Rubio Are Running – “Ask nearly anyone in Miami and you’ll find this good cheer about both men, regardless of which one they’re supporting.”

SHOULD JEB BUSH STEP ASIDE FOR MARCO RUBIO? via Brian Crowley of the Crowley Political Report

Should Bush stay in – or should he step aside for Marco Rubio?

Bush has not been in a Republican primary since 1994. Bush was 41. He ran against three candidates – all of whom had years in elected office. Bush had not spent a day as an elected official.

Bush is (now) 62. Most of his campaign has been a rehash of the same ideas he was talking about in 1994. So far, the Bush of that era seems to be missing in this campaign. In 1994, there was energy. In 2015, there is a sense of entitlement.

In 1994, Republicans were excited about Bush’s potential. Even though he lost, they never lost faith. His victory in 1998, stirred the GOP. It would begin the next two decades of GOP dominance in Tallahassee.

One thing Florida Republicans have learned about Jeb Bush and his followers is that you are either with him or against him. If you are against him, they are done with you.

With the stakes this high, Floridians supporting Rubio will forever be banished from Bush world.

Rubio at 43, is very much the Jeb Bush of the 1990s.  Rubio represents something new for the GOP – for better or worse. And the very fact that he is willing to take on Bush in Florida may say far more about Bush than it does Rubio.

Could it be that Rubio believes Bush’s Florida support – untested since 2002 – is at best fragile. That if Rubio does well in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, he has a reasonable shot at winning Florida?

Is Rubio the GOP’s future? Is Bush just in the way? This is going to be ugly. The Bush team will soon begin ripping Rubio apart. He is now the enemy.

MEANWHILE … FLORIDIAN BEN CARSON TO ANNOUNCE WHITE HOUSE BID IN MAY

The pediatric neurosurgeon is expected to launch his presidential campaign at the Detroit Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts on May 4. 

AND … CRIST ALUM AMANDA LITMAN NAMED HILLARY CLINTON 2016 EMAIL DIRECTOR via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics

Former Charlie Crist for Governor digital director Amanda Litman is heading to Hillaryworld as the Democratic field’s only real contender kicks off her campaign today in Iowa, Clinton’s 2008 Waterloo.

Litman has been named the Clinton 2016 presidential campaign’s Email Director, giving her to put into practice her confident remarks at the end of the 2014 midterm cycle, a disastrous one for Democrats, but one that Litman says will help the Ds slingshot into victory in a more favorable presidential year.

“Democrats this cycle may have lost, but we raised the bar on what statewide and down-ballot races can accomplish online,” Litman said to Peter Hamby of CNN. “We worked together to innovate, test, share best practices, and build a stronger network and pipeline of talent.”

Litman also has served in the role of email writer in chief for the vaunted OFA program that shook up Democratic politics two cycles in a row, penning the electronic missives for President Barack Obama‘s re-election campaign.

TWEET, TWEET: @jennifereduffy: #FLSen: Rubio’s presidential bid creates the second open GOP seat of the cycle.  It also means that it moves from Likely R to Toss Up.

PATRICK MURPHY SAYS ‘NOTHING CHANGES’ AFTER MARCO RUBIO ANNOUNCEMENT via Phil Ammann of Florida Politics

The Jupiter Democrat recently entered the race for Rubio’s soon-to-be vacated Senate seat, weighed in with a statement.

“This announcement doesn’t change the core principles of my campaign,” Murphy said. “Floridians need a strong leader in the Senate. That means our next U.S. Senator must take a stand against every attempt to dismantle Social Security and Medicare, fight to provide opportunities for middle-class Floridians, protect our Everglades, and ensure that every American has equal rights under the law.

“These are things we’ve been lacking under Sen. Rubio’s time in office,” he added. “I’m committed to ending the gridlock that is holding our nation back by working together to get things done for Florida and this country.”

VERN BUCHANAN SAYS HE ‘HAS NOT RULED OUT’ RUNNING FOR RUBIO’S SENATE SEAT IN 2016 via Kate Irby of the Bradenton Herald

After Rubio’s announcement that he will run for president in 2016,Buchanan said he “has not ruled out” running for Rubio’s Senate seat in 2016.

For 10 years, Buchanan has served in the House, where he’s a member of the House Ways and Mean Committee, which presides over tax policy, international trade and health care, as well as the Budget Committee.

“I’m trying to gauge where I can best be of service,” Buchanan said. “I’m weighing whether I can better serve as a senior member of the House or as a junior member of the Senate.”

If Buchanan decides to step into what will likely be a highly contested race, he’ll set off another contested race for his seat in the House.

“It would be an extremely crowded field,” Alcock said. “A lot of people will run saying, ‘Hey, what do I have to lose?'”

IS WILL WEATHERFORD INTERESTED IN THE SENATE? via Kathleen McGrory of the Miami Herald

Asked if he was interested, (Will) Weatherford was coy.

“I would say, right now, I am hugely focused on growing a business and changing a lot of diapers,” said Weatherford, a father of four.

UNDERREPORTED #FLSEN NEWS >>> Former state Senate President Don Gaetz told CQ Roll Call on Monday he is considering a Senate bid, saying people had begun reaching out to him in the last two days. The legislator is personally wealthy and said if he ran, he would likely help self-fund his campaign.

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GOVERNOR ‘SCARCE’ AS FAR FROM TALLAHASSEE AS HE CAN GET via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

As Florida legislators made their way back to the Capitol for the seventh week of the session, Gov. Scott was about as far from Tallahassee as he could get. The question is, did anyone notice?

He made a 48-hour foray to Los Angeles on yet another mission to poach jobs from a state with a Democratic governor.

This time, Scott’s target was California Gov. Jerry Brown, who Scott calls a tax-and-spend liberal, but whose enduring popularity resulted in him winning a state-record fourth term last fall with 58 percent of the vote.

With Scott on the Left Coast were the new CEO of Enterprise Florida, Bill Johnson, and directors of six Florida seaports in Tampa, Miami, Cape Canaveral, Jacksonville, Bradenton and Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades.

Their goal is to steer more seaport business to the East Coast in response to a labor dispute that has caused headaches for shippers and clogged traffic in and out of West Coast ports.

Gov. Scarce got out of town at a time when his own party’s Legislature remains mired in gridlock in a deep philosophical divide over health care expansion.

Scott could be helping the Senate and House find elusive middle ground and avoid serious damage to the Republican brand in Florida. Instead, his hands-off approach to the Legislature is becoming so frustrating that some lawmakers are calling out Scott.

SCOTT’S SESSION FUNDRAISING SPIKES via Matt Dixon of Political Fix Florida

Gov. Scott raised nearly $1.5 million for his political committee during the legislative session, a sharp increase from the amount he raised during the 2014 legislative session.

Raising money during session is noteworthy because it means collecting large checks while many of those donor’s bills are in play. Those pieces of legislation must be passed by lawmakers, but Scott’s office can lobby for bills and ultimately has the power to veto whatever gets to his desk.

To avoid any pay-for-play appearances, the Legislature has a joint rule that bans members from “directly or indirectly” raising money for their campaigns or outside political committees.

During last year’s session, Scott raised a total of just under $480,000 during the entire two-month session.

Scott’s political committee – Let’s Get to Work – last month rolled out campaign-style television ads touting his session priorities. As part of that roll out, Scott began holding donor meetings asking them to begin bundling contributions to fund the ad running statewide.

The largest session donor this year is the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which gave … $240,000 on March 20.

GRIMM COLUMN: AMID PRISON SCANDAL, WE’RE STUCK WITH SCOTT WHILE GEORGIA HAS THE REAL DEAL via the Miami Herald

Surely, Scott must have noticed, now that he’s on his fourth Department of Corrections secretary in four years, that something’s amiss with Florida’s prison system.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating more than 100 prison deaths of inmates.

Guards regularly covered up their involvement in suspicious deaths, while the DOC’s Inspector General’s Office pretended not to notice. Several current and former inspectors told state legislators that they had been ordered to ignore evidence of guard brutality. This testimony was elicited despite an order from the DOC hierarchy warning inspectors to keep their mouths shut.

All that, yet the governor had little to say about Florida’s prison crisis. Not even after the last week’s corrections scandal reverberated through the national media with the arrest of three guards charged with plotting the murder of a black inmate at DOC’s Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler. The guards were identified as members of the Ku Klux Klan. To put it more specifically, they ran with the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

When a prison employee adopts the title “Exalted Cyclops,” it may be time for a governor to take notice. Not our governor. After months of news stories that begin, “In the latest scandal out of the Florida prison system,” Scott has remained oblivious. The corrections calamity didn’t rate a mention in his January inaugural address.

Up in Georgia, meanwhile, Gov. Deal has made penal reform a personal mission. Over the last four years, under Deal’s leadership, mandatory minimum sentencing has been modified. Judges have been given more discretion in sentencing.

While Florida has been brutalizing inmates, Georgia has added prison education programs. The famously conservative governor has pushed through programs aimed at reducing the number of juveniles and adult non-violent drug offenders in Georgia lock-ups. The state’s prison population, which had been rapidly increasing in the years before Deal took office, has been reduced from 56,432 to 53,383. “A lot of people said that’s not a topic that a Republican governor ought to be talking about,” Deal told the Summit on Criminal Justice Reform last month.

DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN via Lowell Matthews of Excelined.org

You probably noticed the great fanfare over Florida’s new Advanced Placement (AP) results this past week. Wait…You didn’t hear anything about it?

So, you haven’t heard that Florida is third in the country in the percentage of 2014 high school graduates who scored a college level score on an AP exam? And that this was despite a poverty rate of almost 58 percent in Florida public schools?

You didn’t hear that almost 6 in 10 Florida public school graduates in 2014 took an AP exam, the highest state participation rate in the country? But I’m sure you heard from the teachers’ union about the great work of Florida’s AP teachers. No?

The reason for the silence from the above is that the vast improvement in Florida’s public education system over the past 15 years does not fit their failed narrative of failed reforms. And so any and all mishaps or perceived wrongs with those reforms are trumpeted and the hard data showing they are working, such as the latest AP results, are ignored.

In the last two years, we have heard constant union complaints about the alleged “evils” of high-stakes, standardized testing in our schools.

It just so happens that AP exams are high-stakes, standardized tests. Yet there are no protests about AP exams being too hard. No one is calling for the end of AP because it is “one-size fits all.” You don’t hear about kids getting ill from the stress of taking AP exams. You don’t hear anything about the alleged evils of the high-stakes, standardized SAT or ACT either.

However, in the last two years, we have heard constant union complaints about the alleged “evils” of high-stakes, standardized testing in our schools.

MY TAKES FOR TUESDAY…

TIME FOR AN END TO JOE NEGRON VS. JACK LATVALA Full blog post here

UNSTOPPABLE FORCE OF THE STATE SENATE MEETS IMMOVABLE OBJECT OF THE STATE HOUSE Full blog post here

HEALTH INSURANCE ADVOCATES ROLL OUT SECRET WEAPON: THE NEWS CONFERENCE via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

Supporters of the health insurance expansion endorsed by the Florida Senate are rolling out a secret weapon in their bid to win over a resistant Gov. Scott and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli. The news conference.

Business associations, health care policy experts and 20-somethings have scheduled three separate events at the Florida Capitol this week as they attempt end the standoff between the House and Senate over that chamber’s Florida Health Insurance Exchange (FHIX), a private insurance proposal considered eligible for federal Medicaid expansion dollars.

FHIX is expected to pull $2.8 billion into the state to begin providing health coverage to 800,000 low-income, uninsured Floridians. FHIX also could offset the possible loss of federal funding for the so-called Low Income Pool (LIP), which steers about $2 billion to Florida hospitals treating the poor.

The House-Senate health insurance clash already has stalled work on resolving state budget differences and is threatening to send the legislative session past its scheduled May 1 finish. With less than three weeks to go, advocates are getting louder.

BLAISE INGOGLIA DENIES PLOT IN SPEAKERSHIP RIFT via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia on Monday denied allegations he was part of a move to pressure Central Florida Republicans to sway the race for House speaker in 2020.

“The accusation that the RPOF has made any threats to sitting members of the Florida House of Representatives is flat out wrong and void of any truth. In fact, one phone call to any of these three members would have cleared that up immediately,” Ingoglia said in an emailed statement.

In a blistering email to top Republicans sent Sunday, Orange County GOP Chairman Lew Oliver accused Ingoglia of being involved — possibly as an “innocent pawn” — in threats to three GOP House members with Orange County at least partially in their districts.

… Oliver never states who “key House leadership” is, but Rep. Richard Corcoran is next in line to be House speaker in 2016 and controls the House campaign strategy for Republicans in 2016.

“I would rather not personalize it on that level because I’m trying to make it about the principle,” of Ingoglia’s conflict of interest, Oliver said in an interview Monday.

FORMER CIA DIRECTOR URGES FLORIDA LAWMAKERS TO PREPARE AGAINST ELECTROMAGNETIC PULSE ATTACKS via Bruce Ritchie of Florida Politics

Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey Jr. urged legislators to take action to protect Florida’s electric grid from a terrorist or foreign military attack.

Woolsey, who was CIA director from 1993 to 1995 under President Bill Clinton, spoke during House legislative working group meeting about the threat of electromagnetic pulse weapons that could destroy key components and cause long-term blackouts.

Such weapons, he said, could be delivered by any nation with a nuclear arsenal and intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities. Computers, phones and other devices with computer chips, including cars, could be knocked out of use along with transformers that maintain the electricity grid.

“Knocking out a big transformer in the electric grid is like knocking out your heart,” Woolsey said. “You can’t really function without it. And the grid can’t function without the extremely high voltage transformer.”

People can get through a few days when power lines or transformers are knocked out by storms, Woolsey said. But the loss of power for weeks or months would be difficult for most people and society to withstand, leading to a massive loss of life and return to 19th Century technologies and living standards.

SENATE PANEL PASSES DRONE BILL via Matt Dixon of the Naples Daily News

A proposal outlining the legal uses for unmanned drones has cleared a Senate panel, paving the way for drones to be used in a variety of commercial applications in Florida.

Under the proposal, drones could legally be used in Florida for anything from scholarly research and surveying the scene of a catastrophe to marketing real estate and air quality sampling and monitoring. The measure (SB 1178) cleared the Senate criminal justice committee unanimously.

“Right now, Florida is not viewed, as I understand it, as extremely friendly,” said Sen. Garrett Richter. “This sends a message to the country that Florida is welcoming to this industry, as opposed to being silent on drones.”

The proposal legalizes 22 specific uses for drones, including mapping purposes, military operations, and oil pipeline safety. The amended version of the bill removes criminal penalties and calls on the Department of Transportation to review any impact on public safety from the use of drones for commercial purposes.

“The Legislature cannot stop technology, but we can regulate it,” said Richter.

SHERIFF SAYS HE SPOKE FOR BOOZE BILL INDEPENDENT OF FAMILY TIES via James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune

Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco says he made his decision to speak on a bill moving in the Legislature this year independent of his wife’s work with one of the lobbyists working to get the bill passed.

In a press release, Nocco addressed a wide-ranging alcoholic beverages measure (HB 107) that originally contained a repeal of a state law requiring retailers to sell hard liquor in a separate store away from groceries and other goods.

That language has been amended to keep the separation requirement and instead allow only a door between adjoined liquor and main stores.

Walmart and the Walgreens drugstore chain, which still prefer a full repeal, have hired Tallahassee lobbyist Brian Ballard. Sheriff Nocco’s wife Bridget works as a fundraiser in Ballard’s Tampa office. Call that a coincidence, Nocco said.

He said he received a call from Lutz-based lobbyist Jeff Johnston, also working for Walmart, asking him to talk about the bill.

“Really, I just wanted to comment from a law enforcement perspective, that this is about clerks checking IDs,” said Nocco, who added he isn’t taking sides on the repeal.

“I’m not weighing in to say, ‘If this happens, it’ll be great,’” he said. “What I’m saying is, don’t say the world will come to an end if it does pass … I hate when people in Tallahassee use law enforcement as an excuse for why things can’t get done.”

GUNS IN SCHOOLS BILL TO MAKE A RETURN APPEARANCE IN SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times

A controversial proposal to allow some teachers to bring concealed weapons to Florida schools appeared dead in the Senate after the Education Committee refused to vote on it.

But with rumors swirling that the issue might resurface as a floor amendment to some other bill, committee chairman Sen. John Legg has called a previously unscheduled meeting to let his panel weigh in. If it fails in committee, it would be essentially ineligible by Senate rules for consideration any further.

“It did not have the votes last time,” said Legg, who is “adamantly against” the measure. “I want to vote on this bill this time. I will not support a TP (temporary postponement) of this bill. … If there is not a ‘no’ vote on this bill, it is eligible for the floor.”

LEGISLATIVE SCHEDULE HIGHLIGHTS

HOUSE DEBATES PRISON SYSTEM REFORMS

The House Judiciary Committee takes up HB 7131, a bipartisan bill filed by Miami Republican Carlos Trujillo and Orlando Democrat Randolph Bracy, to increase oversight of the state’s prison system. Meeting is 9 a.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

HOUSE CONSIDERS SIR LANCELOT JONES DAY 

The House State Affairs Committee will consider HB 585, from Key Largo Republican Holly Raschein and Miami Democrat Kionne McGhee, to designate Sir Lancelot Jones Day as the second Monday in October in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties. Born in 1898, Jones lived in the southern end of Biscayne Bay, and sold 277 acres of family land to the National Park Service, which became Biscayne National Park. Meeting is 9 a.m. in Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

RED LIGHT CAMERAS ON TABLE 

The House Economic Affairs Committee takes up HB 7071 a proposal by Hialeah Republican Bryan Avila, which seeks to change the Florida’s red-light camera laws. Part of the bill would require local governments to use red-light camera revenues for public safety projects. (Tuesday, 9:30 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

ADOPTIONS, ‘GROWLERS’ ON TAP IN SENATE SESSION

Part of the 10 a.m. Senate floor session is a vote on SB 186, from Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala, which will allow breweries to sell 64-ounce beer “growlers.” The Senate could also vote on HB 7013, a bill spearheaded by Niceville Republican Don Gaetz to provide subsidies for state workers who adopt foster children. Session begins 10 a.m. in the Senate chamber.

ALCOHOL SEPARATION LAWS DEBATED IN HOUSE

The House Regulatory Affairs Committee will debate HB 107, from Sarasota Republican Greg Steube, which addresses several alcoholic-beverage issues, including the repeal of a law requiring liquor stores to be separate facilities from groceries and other retailers. The bill would permit an inside doo to connect liquor stores to businesses, such as grocery stores. Meeting is 1 p.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

SENATE LOOKS AT TELEHEALTH 

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee take up SB 478 from Fernandina Beach Republican Aaron Bean and Senate Democratic Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner of Tampa to promote the use of telehealth, otherwise known as telemedicine, statewide. Meeting is 1:30 p.m. in Room 401 of the Senate Office Building.

SENATE RIDES A ‘TRAIN’ OF TRANSPORTATION BILL 

The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittees take up an omnibus bill (SB 1554) from St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes to combine a range of transportation issues – known as a legislative “train” – that includes airport-zoning regulations and the creation of a Northwest Florida Regional Transportation Finance Authority for Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties. Meeting is 1:30 p.m. in Room 301 of the Senate Office Building.

OTHER SCHEDULED MEETINGS

1 p.m.: House Local & Federal Affairs Committee meets in Room 212 of the Knott Building.

1:30 p.m.: Senate General Government Appropriations Subcommittee meets in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

4 p.m.: Senate Community Affairs Committee meets in Room 301 of the Senate Office Building.

HARVARD’S JULIO FRENK IS NEW UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI PRESIDENT via Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press

Julio Frenk, a former health minister in Mexico and a dean who helped quadruple fundraising at Harvard during his recent tenure there, was tapped as the next president of the University of Miami.

The school’s board of trustees unanimously approved Frenk’s selection. He’ll take office Sept. 1, three months after former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala’s tenure ends. Shalala, who has been president since 2001, succeeded in raising the profile of a school now consistently ranked among the nation’s top 50 colleges and universities.

Frenk had been the dean of the faculty at Harvard’s School of Public Health. He introduced comprehensive universal health care to Mexican citizens during his tenure there and is the author of two books for young people about the workings of the body.

Shalala departs June 1 and will take over as President of the Clinton Foundation. Provost Thomas LeBlanc will serve as Interim President until Frenk’s inauguration.

Frenk told the AP there were three major reasons for wanting the Miami job: The school’s “upward momentum,” as he put it; its geographic location with Miami being a gateway connecting Latin America and the Caribbean to the U.S.; and how it’s a new chance for him to put his own stamp on something significant.

Frenk’s wife, Dr. Felicia Knaul – an associate Harvard professor, a breast cancer survivor and research and advocacy advocate – will also be joining Miami as a faculty member in the fall.

COURT TO ISSUE CONFIDENTIALITY IN FLORIDA V. GEORGIA WATER CASE via Bruce Ritchie of Florida Politics

An official appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court to oversee a lawsuit filed by Florida against Georgia over water use says he will issue an order providing for confidential talks among the states.

Robert I. Lancaster, a Maine attorney who is serving as special master in the case, in a conference call also called the media “relentless and ruthless” and said “they will do everything they can to publish everything that they can find out.”

Claiming that Georgia’s unchecked growth and water use was harming Apalachicola Bay oysters and the seafood industry, Gov. Scott in 2013 asked the Supreme Court to allocate water between the two states. The Supreme Court last November appointed Lancaster to oversee the case.

In March, Scott asked Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal to forward a proposal for resolving differences between the states. Scott’s letter was in response to Deal’s request in February to meet on the issue.

On April 2, Florida and Georgia together asked Lancaster to order that meetings, other communications and documents involving negotiations be kept confidential. In a telephone transcript filed Friday, Lancaster told attorneys from the states he would issue such an order.

JUDGE ORDERS MEDICAL CANNABIS TRADE ASSOCIATION TO DISCLOSE MEMBERSHIP via James Call of Florida Politics

The Medical Cannabis Trade Association of Florida is considering whether to withdraw its challenge to a proposed rule of the Charlotte’s Web law. Judge W. David Watkins ordered the association to divulge its membership when he granted a motion to compel filed by the Department of Health.

DOH attorney Eduardo Lombard argued during a telephone hearing that the Department and the court needed to know the association’s membership in order to determine whether MCTA had standing to block the rule from going into effect.

MCTA attorneys said revealing the information would create “incredibly adverse consequences” for the membership since DOH would have “a great deal of discretion” in awarding licenses to cultivate marijuana and dispense medicinal oil.

Also representing MCTA was Clifford Wolf.  He suggested the association would agree to a middle solution, provide the information for Watkins’ eyes only. Lombard objected, saying the DOH wanted the information for discovery and the arrangement would limit DOH’s ability to appeal in the unlikely event if Watkins’ erred in any ruling he would make.

The proposed rule would enable DOH to award five licenses authorized in 2014 by the Legislature. To qualify for the licenses, a nursery must have operated in Florida for at least 30 years and have an inventory of 400,000 plants.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA GROUP RAISES $16K IN MARCH

Supporters of a prospective 2016 constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana had a slow fundraising last month, according to the state Division of Elections.

Led by Orlando attorney John Morgan, “People United for Medical Marijuana” raised $15,931 in March, spending $10,666. In the first three months of 2015, the committee raised a total $40,382, spending $29,863. The committee spearheaded the 2014 effort to pass Amendment 2, seeking to legalize medical marijuana, which fell short of the 60 percent required to pass.

To be included on the 2016 ballot, “People United” would need to present to the state a petition with 683,149 valid signatures. As of Monday, the Division of Elections show there were no valid petition signatures submitted.

 SOLAR AMENDMENT SUPPORTERS TAKE IN $32K IN MARCH

Supporters of a constitutional amendment to expand the use of solar power in Florida raised $32,140 in March, for a total of $172,405, according to Florida Division of Elections. “Floridians for Solar Choice,” received $30,000 from the SACE Action Fund, a PAC for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. At the same time, the group also spent $26,499, for an overall expenditure total of $152,171.

March expenditures include $24,139 to PCI Consultants Inc., for petition-signature gathering.

As of Monday, Floridians for Solar Choice submitted 80,168 valid petition signatures to the state, enough for a Florida Supreme Court review of the suggested ballot language. After the Supreme Court signs off on the language, the group would then be required to submit 683,149 signatures to appear on the November 2016 ballot. The proposed amendment, if passed, would allow businesses and property owners the ability to sell solar-generated power.

MEANWHILE … CONSERVATIVE GROUP OPPOSES SOLAR AMENDMENT FOLLOWING TAMPA DEBATE via Bruce Ritchie of Florida Politics

Following a debate last month, a Tampa Bay group that says it promotes a return to constitutional government and free markets has come out against a proposed constitutional amendment that would encourage the use of solar energy.

Floridians for Solar Choice proposes a constitutional amendment that would promote local, small-scale solar energy production and prohibit barriers to solar energy. The group has collected enough petition signatures for Florida Supreme Court review but still needs more than 600,000 to get the measure on the ballot.

On March 24, Floridians for Solar Choice Chair Tory Perfetti debated James Cato of the Heartland Institute before members of the Tampa 912 Project. The group says it has more than 2,000 members.

The group’s board said in an emailed statement that its approach to governance is through legislation rather than constitutional amendments.

The statement didn’t refer to the specific legislation that achieves goals similar to the constitutional amendment. SB 1118 and HB 1077 may come closest to the constitutional amendment by allowing an owner of a commercial or business property owner to sell energy to its tenants or to a neighboring property.

Neither bill has been heard in a committee and are likely dead in the 2015 Legislative session.

MIAMI-DADE MAYOR RAISES NEARLY $900K IN FIRST QUARTER via Doug Hanks of the Miami Herald

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez tapped large donors to bring in more than $200,000 last month for his reelection effort.

The donations to a Gimenez political committee brings his first-quarter tally to just shy of $880,000, a record pace for an election whose primary is still 17 months away. And while there was early talk within the Gimenez camp of raising $1 million in the first quarter, the March report clearly demonstrates the financial advantage the incumbent brings to the 2016 mayoral race.

Gimenez’s committee, Miami-Dade Residents First, raised more in one day ($66,500 on March 30) than challenger Raquel Regalado, a school board member, posted for all of March ($48,310). Of the 53 checks Miami-Dade Residents First received in March, 21 were for at least $5,000.

With the help of professional fund-raiser Brian Goldmeier, whose firm is so far earning $3,000 a week, Miami-Dade Residents First has collected $879,952 since the mayor began personally soliciting donors in mid-January, according to committee reports. In March, the committee brought in $208,000.

EPILOGUE — PAC WITH TIES TO GOP CAMPAIGN FIRMS PAID FOR ANTI-GUIDO MANISCALCO, PRO-JACKIE TOLEDO ADS via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times

A Tallahassee-based political action committee with ties to Republican campaign firms is now listed as the major donor to Moving Tampa Forward, the mysterious political committee whose third-party attack ads stirred up last month’s Tampa City Council runoff between Guido Maniscalco and Jackie Toledo.

The Committee for Responsible Representation contributed $16,500 of the $23,500 that Moving Tampa Forward has said it received, according to a report filed late Friday with the Florida Division of Elections. The other $7,000 came from a law firm run by former Fort Myers Mayor Wilbur C. Smith III.

The chair of the Committee for Responsible Representation is listed as William S. Jones, who is involved in more than two dozen political committees or electioneering organizations registered with the state. Jones, who goes by Stafford Jones, runs the Gainesville political consulting and polling firm War Room Logistics and is chair of the Alachua County Republican Executive Committee.

As an ECO, the Committee for Responsible Representation spent money with Republican campaign consultants such as Data Targeting, Electioneering Consulting, SRCP Media of Virginia and Jones’ own firm, War Room Logistics. Along with Data Targeting and Electioneering Consulting, Toledo campaign consultant Anthony Pedicini was involved in the email discussions that took place in an effort to circumvent the state’s constitutional ban on gerrymandered legislative districts.

Maniscalco said that he paid about $5,000 per mailer, so he doesn’t see how $23,500 would cover the cost of Moving Tampa Forward’s mailers, which included several pro-Toledo pieces, three that attacked him and another that attacked both him and a third candidate, Tommy Castellano.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Kimberly Case, Holland & Knight: Fernbrook Florida

Michael Corcoran, Jeff Johnston, Corcoran & Johnston: Roy and Ashley Wright as Guardians of Tucker Wright

Erik Figlio, Ausley & McMullen: No Casinos, Inc.

Patrick Maloy, Floridian Partners: Salus Finance

Paul Mitchell, Southern Strategy Group: Southland Benefit Solutions

Aaron Nevins, Chelsea Road Consulting: Mccain Sales of Florida

TALLYMADNESS ELITE EIGHT RESULTS ARE IN; FINAL FOUR VOTING STARTS TONIGHT!

The quarterfinal round of the 2015 edition of TallyMadness – the online voting competition to determine Tallahassee’s “best lobbyist” – is in the books. Like every stage of this year’s tournament there were some surprises, as the playoff atmosphere and hard-nosed, physical play that defines TallyMadness competition continued to take hold. See below for results from an electrifying Elite Eight.

#3 seed Mark Delegal continued his assault on the TallyMadness “Submit Vote” button as he prevailed over a respectable challenge from the top-seeded Brian Ballard, who is felled in a narrow upset to the TallyMadness phenom from Holland & Knight.

#1 seed Ron Book moves on the become the only top seed to make it to the Final Four, defeating #7 Tim Meenan along the way in another matchup that remained close over the weekend. Book and Delegal will see each other in the the Northern half of this year’s bracket in the semi-final round.

Past TallyMadness champion and #16 seed Monica Rodriguez’s impressive run comes to an abrupt end this week, as #3 seed Richard Coker was able to stave off her usual barrage of votes. A job well done to both candidates in this barn-burning donnybrook.

And finally, John Holley carries the honor of being the lowest-seeded player still vying for this year’s championship, as the #11 seed bested #9 Brecht Heuchan this week in a back-and-forth electoral showdown between serious vote-getters at every stage of this year’s tourney. Holley and Cokey

Voting to determine who will face off in the Championship Round of TallyMadness 2015 starts tonight and will go until Wednesday, April 15. Vote early and vote often to put your favorite influencer over the top in their quest for TallyMadness glory!

***Things will be great when you’re downtown at 101 RESTAURANT and MINT Lounge in Tallahassee. 101 Restaurant has been voted the best meal in the Capitol City featuring steaks, seafood, and specialty cocktails. We offer $8.99 lunch specials all week long that include pastas, pizzas, and salads. Mint Lounge is upscale and classy, and it’s the best place to enjoy live music and a good vibe. — Tuesday $8.99 Lunch Specials — Double Happy Hour 4:00-7:00pm & 10:30 pm-12:30am — Karaoke Tuesday 9:00-11:00pm — Tequila Tuesday: 11:00pm-Close/ 2 for 1 mojitos, $3 Margaritas — Featured Entree: Brisket Burger with Fried Macaroni — Featured Soup: Shrimp and Corn Chowder.***

CONTEXT FLORIDA: HUNTING GROUND, JACKSONVILLE MAYO CLINIC, MEDICAL MARIJUANA AND TWO CHAMBERS

On Context Florida: A Tallahassee theater on a holiday weekend is a lonely place, says Florence Snyder, especially if the film is ‘The Hunting Ground,’ a documentary examination of sexual assault on college campuses. Campus sexual assault is not a new problem. Florida is blessed to have some of the highest quality cancer care centers in the world, says Mia Jones, Democratic Leader Pro-Tempore and ranking member on the Health and Human Services Committee. Among them is the renowned Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, designated by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center. Florida Medical Cannabis Association Executive Director Cerise Naylor notes that since June 2014, medical marijuana has been legal in Florida thanks to the Florida Legislature’s passage of Senate Bill 1030. Unfortunately, Florida patients still wait for the law to become a reality in their medical treatment due to continuing delays in implementing the statute. Peter Schorsch writes that in an interesting and oft-forgotten historical footnote, the origin of the terms “Upper Chamber” and “Lower Chamber” are not related to power, but were originally derived from the actual physical location of the respective legislative bodies. Thereafter, the Senate was considered “Upper Chamber,” despite having equal power to the House. As we head into the final days of the Florida legislative session, the terms seem to come into sharp contrast as a gantlet of sorts has been laid down between the upper and lower chambers.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

SPOTTED in the New York Times: The Broward Bulldog about a story about Bob Graham and his pursuit of 9/11 truth.

WALLENDA PLANS TO WALK ON 400-FOOT ORLANDO OBSERVATION WHEEL via the Associated Press

Daredevil Nik Wallenda says he’ll walk untethered on top of a 400-foot observation wheel in Orlando, Florida, next month. Wallenda said at a New York City news conference that the Orlando Eye will be moving when he attempts his feat April 29.

The attraction in the heart of Orlando’s tourist district officially opens in May.

In November, Wallenda made two hair-raising Chicago skyscraper crossings on high wires without a safety net or a harness. Two of his previous tightrope walks took him over the brink of Niagara Falls in 2012 and across a Grand Canyon-area gorge in 2013.

Wallenda is the great-grandson of Karl Wallenda, who fell to his death during a tightrope stunt in Puerto Rico at 73.

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.