Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – April 15

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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:

It’s Tax Day, and you thought you were done with your responsibilities? Not so fast … Florida’s “Tax Freedom Day” doesn’t arrive until Monday. That’s when Floridians will have collectively worked long enough to pay all federal, state and local tax obligations, according to the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan research organization. Florida’s Tax Freedom Day is April 20, four days ahead of the nation as a whole (but five days later than last year). So the tax forms may be about done, but the tax responsibility isn’t. Soon ….

BEST WAY TO CELEBRATE TAX DAY at the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists’s last “FAPT-tini” of the Session. 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the 2nd floor conference room of Tallahassee Center (above Mint lounge and 101 restaurant).

DAYS UNTIL Sine Die: 17; Special Election in HD 64: 6; Jacksonville’s Mayoral Election: 34; Florida’s Presidential Primary: 334; Florida’s 2016 Primary Election: 503; Florida’s 2016 General Election: 574.

OBAMA REMOVES CUBA FROM THE LIST OF STATE SPONSORS OF TERRORISM via Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post

President Obama has decided to lift the U.S. designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, a decision that removes a principal impediment to establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries and accepts that Havana’s role as an agent of revolution has long since slipped into history.

The long-awaited action, which was announced by the White House in a message to Congress on Tuesday, follows a pledge made by Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro last December to move toward normalized relations.

Congress has 45 days to consider Cuba’s removal from the list before it becomes effective, but it cannot interfere with Obama’s decision without voting on separate legislation, a measure that the White House has deemed unlikely.

… The Cuban government made no initial public response to Obama’s decision, which its government was informed of in advance of the announcement.

JEB BUSH REACTS…

“President Obama embraced Cuba’s oppressive dictator, Raul Castro by removing Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism List and consummating the Obama Administration’s rapprochement with the Communist police state. Coupled with this policy of accommodation with Cuba is the Administration’s failure to respond sooner and more forcefully to the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, where the policies of late dictator Hugo Chavez and his chosen successor, Nicolás Maduro continue to hurt their people. Beyond denying their citizens the basic freedoms all humans deserve, the Castro and Maduro regimes continue to engage in activities abroad that undermine stability in this pivotal region.

“While I am concerned about the continuing assault on human rights and democracy in Latin America, I am encouraged by the signers of the ‘Declaration of Panama’ – Latin American democracies committed to expanding freedom and opportunity throughout this region. These brave defenders of liberty and democracy are the natural allies of the United States. Rather than breathing new life into corrupt regimes, the United States should stand with these leaders, and on the side of the Venezuelan and Cuban people who have for too long been denied the fundamental freedoms they so deserve.”

MARCO RUBIO REACTS… 

“Well, the decision made by the White House today is a terrible one, but not surprising unfortunately,” Rubio said. “Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism. They harbor fugitives of American justice, including someone who killed a police officer in New Jersey over 30 years ago. It’s also the country that’s helping North Korea evade weapons sanctions by the United Nations. They should have remained on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and I think sends a chilling message to our enemies aboard that this White House is no longer serious about calling terrorism by its proper name.”

DNC SAYS RUBIO IS OLD-FASHIONED

“For a guy who just yesterday said he wanted to be a new leader and usher in a new American century, it sure sounds like Marco Rubio is clinging to an outdated foreign policy relic from the Cold War,” responded DNC spokesman Mo Elleithee.

TWEET, TWEET: @MarcACaputo: Is Obama’s decision to delist Cuba as a terror sponsor part of a plot to help Rubio get even more press?

TRIO OF MIAMI CUBAN-AMERICAN REPUBLICANS DON’T LIKE IT EITHER Read their statements here.

RUBIO HAS FOUND THE PERFECT ATTACK MESSAGE AGAINST BOTH BUSH AND CLINTON via Jonathan Allen of VOX

Rubio’s building a campaign for the future that echoes the messaging strategy of a winning candidate from the past who isn’t popular in Republican circles: Barack Obama.

The first-term Florida senator is running as the embodiment of change against Bush, Clinton, and Paul political dynasties. His slogan — “new American century” — casts them as hopelessly retro. Remember “Change we can believe in?” Rubio does. Here’s how he put it in his launch speech yesterday: “We must change the decisions we are making by changing the people who are making them.”

It’s not just his rhetoric — or even the way Rubio’s lilt and cadence were reminiscent of Obama’s seminal Jefferson-Jackson speech in Iowa in 2007 — that mimics Obama and draws a favorable contrast with Bush and Clinton, in particular. More tellingly, political operatives say, Rubio’s narrative connects with his version of a young, improbable outsider storming the castles of the Washington political elite, a storyline that proved compelling for Obama.

“Senator Rubio has linked his life story to his political vision, which is straight out of the Obama playbook,” says Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for Obama’s presidential campaigns and in the White House. “And despite being a senator, he is campaigning as a Washington outsider, as someone who can do things differently.”

The cohesive narrative, smoothly spun by the telegenic Rubio, helps explain why some political prognosticators are convinced he’s in the top tier of Republican candidates, despite anemic poll numbers. Many candidates never develop a message in which their personal story and political agenda reinforce each other. Rubio has that down early, just like Obama.

BUSH IN SWING-STATE OHIO SPEECH: I’M ‘MY OWN PERSON’ via Julie Carr Smith of AP

Bush kicked off a speech to business leaders on Tuesday with a series of personal recollections, saying he’s his “own person.”

The former Florida governor … brought his all-but-declared 2016 presidential bid to the swing state after making a courtesy call to Republican Gov. John Kasich, who’s also weighing a presidential run.

Bush delivered an address to the Ohio Chamber of Commerce’s sold-out annual meeting before heading to a fundraiser in Cincinnati.

He told the crowd he’s blessed to be the son of one president and the brother of another but “I’m also my own person. I’ve lived my own life.”

He talked of having a new grandchild and of how he fell in love with his wife. He described meeting her in Mexico when he was 17 and falling madly in love.

“It was head-over-heels in love. It was I-lose-20-pounds-in-three-weeks in love, I-couldn’t-sleep in love. It was a transformative event in my life, and she didn’t see it quite that way,” he said to laughs. “Her first reaction was, `You’re too tall.'”

American Bridge, a pro-Hillary Clinton super political action committee, knocked Bush’s choice of venue as favoring business over middle-class workers, including those tied to the auto industry, whose bailout he opposed.

BUSH SAYS HE WON’T DISPARAGE MARCO via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

“He is my friend, and I care for him a lot,” Bush said in response to reporter questions about Rubio’s launch on Tuesday. “I really admire him a lot. I’m not good at playing like I’m something I’m not. I am his friend and he’s mine and I’m never going to disparage him.”

THE GOP PRESIDENTIAL FIELD LOOKS CHAOTIC. IT’S NOT. via Nate Cohn of the New York Times

Rubio’s preferred path to the nomination involves keeping Bush from winning the invisible primary by a wide margin, and outmuscling Bush for many of the same people who might have otherwise supported him. It’s not impossible to imagine: Rubio is a talented speaker with an appealing biography. He is a young candidate with a new brand, and he would appeal to those who don’t want another Bush. He has also spent much of the last four years cultivating the party’s Washington establishment.

But if Rubio can’t keep Bush out of the category of invisible primary winner, his path to the nomination starts looking quite narrow.

TWEET OF THE DAY: @HannaMan00: Top Rubio consultant, Todd Harris proudly sporting a Jeb ’16 sticker. Of course DC insiders always hedge their bets.

JOURNALISM — RUBIO LIKELY IS THE BIGGEST MIAMI DOLPHINS FAN EVER TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT via Matt Bonesteel of the Washington Post

When Rubio was young … his father would impersonate Dolphins coaching legend Don Shula in order to get his son to wear his leg braces, as Rubio wrote for the Daily Caller for Father’s Day last year:

“I’ll never forget when I was a boy and the doctor told me I had to wear leg braces to correct knee problems. I often refused to put them on. But every day when I refused, the phone would ring and – to my great surprise – on the other end would be Don Shula, head coach of the Miami Dolphins. ‘If you want to play for me one day,’ he’d say, ‘you’d better put on those braces.’

“It didn’t occur to me until years later that, unlike Coach Shula, the man on the phone had a Cuban accent and sounded suspiciously like my dad.”

Rubio’s obsessiveness about the Dolphins has extended to the present day. He even married a former Dolphins cheerleader, Jeanette Dousdebes Rubio, in 1998. And his least-favorite team? The New York Jets, of course.

RICK SCOTT TO HOST BUSH, RUBIO AND GOP PREZ HOPEFULS AT ORLANDO SUMMIT via Phil Amman of Florida Politics

Gov. Scott will host most of the prospective 2016 Republican presidential candidates, including fellow Floridians Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, at an Economic Growth Summit in June.

Potential and announced candidates will meet in Orlando on Tuesday, June 2 for an opportunity to talk about the economy, jobs and their vision for economic growth for the country.

Although Bush, a former Florida governor, has not officially entered the White House contest, it is widely assumed that by time of the summit, he will have entered the 2016 presidential race. Rubio, the sitting Republican Senator from Florida, announced he is running on Monday.

Joining Bush and Rubio at the Orlando event will be a large segment of the current Republican presidential field: Governors Chris Christie of New Jersey, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and former Governors Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Rick Perry of Texas.

Organizers will announce more details of the summit in the few weeks.

JEFF ATWATER KEEPS OPTIONS OPEN FOR FUTURE CAMPAIGNS

Atwater has not ruled out a future run for higher office, like Governor or Senator, just not in 2016.

Timing for Rubio’s soon-to-be-vacated U.S. Senate seat was too close to the last election, Atwater said at a Florida Capitol presentation event for 2014 Fire Service Awards.

Running a Senate campaign is not something for a “casual six months” of preparation, Atwater told the crowd. “It’s now. And it’s every day now. It’s every weekend now.”

After just spending more than a year on the campaign trail, balancing work and family, the former Florida Senate president would rather focus on “this job.”

IN TOPSY-TURVY REPUBLICAN FIELD, DON GAETZ EYES U.S. SENATE RUN via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Gaetz said he’s considering entering Florida’s wide-open 2016 U.S. Senate race as a self-funding candidate. He said his wife Victoria is totally on board with him leaping into the void created by Atwater’s unexpected decision to not seek the seat held by Rubio.

“With Jeff Atwater out, that just shows how much the eggs have been scrambled in Florida, that I have people calling me and offering substantial commitments of support,” Gaetz said.

The Panhandle lawmaker and former Senate president said he’s “a long way” from making any decision and that he’s under no illusions about the challenge he faces building statewide name recognition.

But Gaetz does have a reported net worth of $25 million (in 2012), and said he’s willing to spend his own money — a big advantage in a crowded race with no-big name candidates. “I could do that if I got in the race,” he said, “and my wife told me last night that she was all in, and she was a lot more in than I was.”

RON DESANTIS MOVES TOWARD BID FOR MARCO RUBIO’S SENATE SEAT via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

DeSantis said he is thinking of entering the race for Marco Rubio’s Senate seat, an expected development. In a statement the Republican said:

“Marco Rubio has done a great job in the U.S. Senate. His 2010 campaign inspired me to consider running for office, and I have no doubt that he will make a compelling candidate on the national stage. As it became clear that Senator Rubio was likely to run for President, I received encouragement to consider running for the Senate. Casey and I will use the next several weeks to discuss the race with our friends and supporters and will make a decision in short order.”

“The country is suffering from stagnation at home and indignities abroad. We need a new generation of leaders who will promote policies that will foster economic growth and alleviate the middle class squeeze, defend America’s national security against those who threaten our people, reform the culture of Washington, D.C., and reassert the constitutional principles that make our country unique. Whatever shape my future service takes, I look forward to doing my part to help get our country back on track.”

Also, Senate Conservatives Fund said it would back DeSantis if he gets in.

>>>TEA PARTY EXCITED BY POTENTIAL DESANTIS CANDIDACY: “When we first endorsed Ron DeSantis for Congress in 2012, it was because he promised to challenge the status quo with bold, conservative leadership. He has done just that. Senator Rubio will be greatly missed, but a DeSantis candidacy would give Tea Partiers throughout Florida a competitve, conservative choice to replace him.  Not only is DeSantis solid on the key economic issues, he also is a hard-working candidate who can be elected statewide in Florida.  We are excited and encouraged by this exciting development.” — Taylor Budowich of the Tea Party Express

DAVID JOLLY CONSIDERING U.S. SENATE RUN – BUT NOT QUICKLY via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Thirteen months after winning a Pinellas County Congressional seat widely expected to go Democratic, U.S. Rep. David Jolly is taking a serious look at running for the U.S. Senate. But Jolly, 42, said he is in no rush to make a decision even as Republicans across Florida are scrambling to assess their own shot winning a rare open senate seat.

Barely a week ago on Easter Sunday, Jolly proposed to his girlfriend, Laura Donahoe, and he said he will not make a decision about running for office until after their wedding, which is likely in June or July.

“As I listen to supporters and those who are encouraging me to look at the senate race I want to do two things  — one, I want to make sure I  attend to the wedding matters and our engagement, and, two, to allow for sufficient time to made the decision that’s right, first for Laura and me and then ultimately for Pinellas County,” Jolly said, the afternoon after Sen. Rubio announced his candidacy for president.

“My absolute commitment is to Pinellas County … Even as I’m  listen to folks about the Senate race, every bit of my consideration is being done through the lense of what this means for Pinellas County.”

TWEET, TWEET: @BylineBrandon: MEMBERS OF THE FLORIDA CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION: To expedite matters, please only tell us if you’re not running for the Senate

REBECCA NEGRON ENTERS GOP RACE FOR PATRICK MURPHY CONGRESSIONAL SEAT via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Negron, a Martin County school board member and the wife of powerful state Sen. Joe Negron … announced she’s running for the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional seat that Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy is giving up to run for Senate.

She’s the first Republican to enter the race for the District 18 seat, which Republicans see as a prime pickup opportunity in 2016. Republicans slightly outnumber Democrats in the district and Republican Mitt Romney carried it in 2012, though Republican Gov. Rick Scott barely edged Charlie Crist in District 18 last year.

“I have lived in Martin County for more than 30 years, and I have worked and raised a family here,” Negron said in a statement released by her new campaign.  “I know the issues that are important to our area, and I know that our area wants and deserves someone in Washington that is grounded in their roots here at home, but can make a difference in Washington.  Over the course of this campaign, I look forward to a healthy discussion on issues, such as educating our children, growing our economy and workforce and helping families keep more of their hard-earned dollars to spend how they wish, not how the federal government wants.  I also plan to campaign on local issues, such as long-term water solutions and the environment – all of which I know are front-of-mind issues for my neighbors.”

TWEET, TWEET: @gbennettpost: Republican @Carl_Domino, thumped in 2014 vs @RepMurphyFL, says “right now it would be hard to believe I won’t get in” #FL18 race in 2016

FEDS TO GOV RICK SCOTT: EXPAND MEDICAID IF YOU WANT HOSPITAL FUNDS via Gary Fineout and Kelly Kennedy of the Associated Press

Federal health officials said publicly for the first time that they want expansion of Florida’s Medicaid program as part of any deal to grant Gov. Rick Scott’s request to help the state’s hospitals treat poor patients.

Scott, so far, is refusing and with neither side backing down, that could lead to the Legislature failing to pass a budget before the scheduled end of its annual session May 1. Senate leaders say they will not approve a final budget that includes large cuts to hospitals.

The Republican governor has maintained that his opposition to Medicaid expansion, which he supported two years ago, is due to the contentious nature of recent talks with the federal government. Scott has said he no longer trusts the federal government and his administration contends Obama administration officials halted negotiations earlier this month.

“Why would we put taxpayers on the hook when we can’t trust the federal government to fulfill a program they already started?” Scott asked.

Federal officials, however, continue to dispute that they halted negotiations. Emails obtained from The Associated Press show that state officials and federal officials remained in contact over the past two weeks but the Scott administration has drawn a distinction, saying there haven’t been any face-to-face meetings or scheduled phone calls since late March.

SCOTT SIGNS SCHOOL TESTING BILL via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Political Fix Florida

Scott signed legislation aimed at reducing the number of tests students in Florida’s public schools take each year.

“This legislation reduces the number of tests our students take, including the 11th grade English Language Arts test that we eliminated this year through an Executive Order in February,” he said in a statement. “I agree with many teachers and parents who say we have too many tests, and while this legislation is a great step forward, we will keep working to make sure Florida students are not over tested.”

The state House passed the legislation last week, one week after the measure cleared the state Senate.

Among other things, the bill eliminates the 11th grade English language assessment, prohibits final exams where statewide end of course exams already exist and caps the amount of time students can sit for tests.

TWEET, TWEET: @SteveCrisafulli: Thanks to @FLGovScott for signing the student testing reform bill! This will reduce testing without retreating from accountability.

SCOTT’S PHILADELPHIA TRIP COST $40,000; PAYOFF AWAITED via James Rosica of The Tampa Tribune

Scott spent about $40,000 in public and private dollars on a two-day “domestic business development mission” to Philadelphia in February, state records show.

Scott, who paid a similar visit to California on Sunday and Monday, made the trip to persuade “job creators and business leaders … why they should move their business to Florida.”

At the end of his visit to the Keystone State, Scott announced that Wawa, a Pennsylvania-based convenience store chain, would expand into the Fort Myers market and open more stores in Broward and Palm Beach counties next year.

But Wawa already had been in Florida, opening its first store in Orlando in 2012. It now has more than 60 locations here.

Any new companies Scott may have persuaded to move still haven’t been announced.

MEGA-MALL PROJECT IN NORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE WINS STATE APPROVAL FOR LAND DEAL via Douglas Hanks & Steve Bousquet of The Miami Herald

A land deal at the heart of an ambitious plan to bring the largest mall in America to northwest Miami-Dade County got the green light Tuesday from Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet members.

In a unanimous vote in Tallahassee, the four-member Cabinet approved 82 acres of state land to Miami-Dade for $12.3 million. The county will then sell it for the same amount to American Dream Miami developer Triple Five.

Some of South Florida’s largest malls urged the Cabinet to reject the American Dream deal, an early sign of the fight ahead for Triple Five as it pursues a shopping destination large enough to have its own indoor ski slope and sea-lion habitat.

“Government should not be deciding winners and losers,” said Shobi Khan, chief operating officer of General Growth Properties, which owns the nearby Pembroke Lakes Mall, as well as downtown Miami’s Bayside Marketplace. “This process has lacked transparency in terms of a formal bidding process. And for the Florida taxpayers, they’re not getting fair compensation for this land.”

RICHARD CORCORAN DISPUTES HOUSE SPEAKER PLOT, THREAT ALLEGATIONS via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel

Rep. Richard Corcoran … said he’s not behind a move to pressure three Central Florida Republican House members to change their vote in the 2020 House Speaker race.

Corcoran is slated to become House Speaker after the next election in 2016 and is in charge of House campaigns for Republicans in the upcoming election cycle.

“Here’s one thing the House of Representatives does very well: We do better than most in bringing back all of our members, those members especially. Those are big seats that we won in the election cycle and we have every intention of keeping them. Right before session we had a campaign school and all three of them were there and all three of them were told how much we’re going to protect them and take care of them, just like any other incumbent,” Corcoran told the Sentinel.

Corcoran spoke after giving a talk at a prayer breakfast held by the Florida Faith & Freedom Coalition, a social conservative advocacy group. Eisnaugle was scheduled to attend but was absent.

Corcoran shrugged the whole situation off as scurrilous rumors.

“Honestly, those things get started, but indulging them? I mean it’s just silliness. So it’s a person who’s a friend of a cousin who’s father read that someone in the state – and now we’re going to write about it?” Corcoran said.

LEGISLATURE REPEALS 38-YEAR OLD BAN ON GAY ADOPTION via the Associated Press

Florida’s 38-year-old ban on gay adoption is getting tossed out by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature.

The Florida Senate voted 27-11 for an adoption bill (HB 7013) that repeals the law first passed in 1977. It now heads to Gov. Scott.

Sen. Don Gaetz, the sponsor of the bill, called the current ban “meaningless” since it is no longer enforced. An appeals court ruled it unconstitutional in 2010.

But Sen. Alan Hays called the repeal of the ban “a poison pill.” He urged legislators to consider the “long term implications” of repealing the ban.

The House has passed a separate “conscience” law that would allow faith-based organizations handling adoptions to refuse to let gays adopt. It’s not clear if the Senate will pass the measure.

SENATE OKS BEER ‘GROWLERS,’ HOUSE TO VOTE SOON via James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune

In a partial victory for Florida’s craft beer enthusiasts, the state Senate passed a bill that would legalize the half-gallon “growler” — the most popular size of the glass jug used to take home beer on tap.

Senators passed the measure (SB 186) on a 38-0 vote even though sponsor Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, presented a rewrite of the bill on the day of the vote.

The new legislation authorizes 64-ounce growlers in Florida and covers a spectrum of other beer-related issues, including regulating beer shipping and tastings.

“It started as a simple growler bill,” said Latvala, who has pushed similar legislation the past few years. “We added a few things.”

If approved by the House of Representatives and signed into law by Gov. Scott, Florida would be the last state to allow the half-gallon growler.

As Latvala explained, the last-minute rewrite was aimed at ensuring a favorable reception in the House, where a similar bill (HB 301) also is in play.

SENATE BILL AMENDED TO BAN FRACKING DURING STUDY, RULE-MAKING via Bruce Ritchie of Florida Politics

A bill that would regulate oil and gas-hydraulic fracturing was amended by a Senate Committee to place a moratorium on the activity until after a study is completed 2016.

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as “high-pressure well-stimulation” or “fracking,” is a process involving the use of water, sand and chemicals to extract oil and gas from rock.

Supporters say SB 1468 is needed to provide regulation for fracking like which occurred in 2013 in Collier County. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says fracking is allowed and that more regulations are needed.

But opponents say the bill could open the door for more fracking in the Florida, which they say threatens drinking water supplies. They support bills that would ban fracking, but they are likely dead because they haven’t been heard in committees.

SB 1468 was amended to require a study by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to be completed by March 1, 2016 and implement rules. A DEP representative said the bill would prohibit fracking until the study and rule-making are complete.

SENATE AMENDMENT REQUIRES REVIEW OF STATE PARKS FOR AG USE OR DISPOSAL via Bruce Ritchie of Florida Politics

Despite objections from environmentalists, a Senate subcommittee amended a state lands bill to require that state parks be reviewed to determine whether could be used by “low impact agriculture” or whether the state still needs them.

SB 7086 is preferred by environmental groups compared to the House version of the bill, which would allow the Cabinet to give away parks and other state lands to adjacent landowners who agree to conserve it.

Both bills also would establish low impact agriculture as a management goal for state lands along with recreation and protection of wildlife species habitat. Low impact agriculture is defined as an activity that is consistent with the land management plan and does not impede recreation or contribute to water quality violations.

A bill amendment (882000) offered Tuesday by Sen. Alan Hays, a Republican from Umatilla, required that state parks be included in the review provided in the House bill. He pointed out that limited agricultural use already is allowed at state parks.

“This will restore the activities that are there — very good land management,” Hays told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government, which he chairs.

But representatives of environmental groups said requiring the statewide review is unnecessary when many state parks are at beaches and other locations where agriculture is inappropriate.

RED-LIGHT CAMERA CRACKDOWN STALLS IN SENATE, GETS GREEN LIGHT IN HOUSE via James Call of Florida Politics

Efforts to put the brakes on the use of red-light cameras by municipalities stalled in the Florida Senate on Tuesday, but is continuing to cruise in the House.

Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Brian Avila say the money the cameras raise in fines should be used for public safety programs. An OPPAGA report found that most of the revenue generated by the fines, $119 million in 2013, is used as part of local governments’ general revenue fund.

“If public safety is the purpose then we should be backing it up with the funds,” said Rep. Frank Artiles in support of Avila’s bill when it came up in the House Economic Affairs Committee.

The measure would withhold red-light-camera fines from local governments until they comply with the mandate. It would also require local governments to consider safety alternatives to cameras, allow the Department of Transportation to inspect red light cameras and to compile reports on their use.

The Committee approved the bill, now it heads to the House floor.

LEGISLATORS RAKED IN CAMPAIGN CASH BEFORE START OF SESSION via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics

It seems lawmakers hit the annual “drink, drop and dash” scene exceptionally hard this year. In the run up legislative Session in Tallahassee, when legislators are prohibited from raising campaign funds, statehouse pols pulled in around $1.3 million dollars in eleventh-hour contributions, much of that coming from lobbyists and business interests who do business with the state and seek to do more.

According to recently-released donation figures from the Florida Division of Elections, incumbent lawmakers were by far the primary recipients of the last-minute flurry of campaign cash.

A disproportionately high amount went to Senate candidates – including those not on the ballot until 2018 – who raked it in to the tune of $600,000. House candidates pulled in a healthy $710,000 in the period between March 1 and March 3 when Session began, but that amount was divided many more ways in the 120-member House delegation.

Always an exception to the rule, Speaker Designate Corcoran raised $53,000 on March 2, an amount that stacks up to some of the heaviest line items in the Senate fundraising blitz.

Only Sen. Denise Grimsley managed to outdo that figure, with a total of $69,950 in the days and hours leading up to the annual lawmaking period.

Legislators got a boost from many of the usual suspects of the Adams Street corps, as Disney-related ventures, the Florida Justice Association, the Florida Medical Associaton and U.S. Sugar rained down a deluge of contributions on state lawmakers.

CORRECTION: On Monday, we reported that Travaris McCurdy had left Sen. Geraldine Thompson’s office. He, in fact, is still on the legislative merry-go-round.

LEGISLATIVE SCHEDULE HIGHLIGHTS

SENATE CONSIDERS EXPANDING LOBBYIST REGISTRATION RULES

A bill (SB 1372) in front of the Senate Rules Committee would require lobbyists to register for a wider-range of government agencies. The bill, filed by Niceville Republican Don Gaetz, requires lobbyist registration in hospital districts, children’s services districts, expressway authorities, port authorities and independent special districts that levy property taxes and have annual revenue up t $5 million. Meeting is 9 a.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

SENATE LOOKS AT NEEDLE EXCHANGE PROGRAM 

Among the numerous bills for consideration by the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee are a proposal (SB 1040), from Miami Gardens Democrat Oscar Braynon, to create a Miami-Dade County pilot needle exchange program. The program allows drug addicts to exchange used needles and syringes for clean ones, which help prevent spread of diseases. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., 412 Knott Building.

HOUSE FLOOR SESSION

The House holds a floor session beginning 10:30 a.m. in the House chamber.

LIZ DUDEK CONFIRMATION HEARING

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee discusses the confirmation of Liz Dudek as secretary of the state Agency for Health Care Administration. Also on the agenda is the confirmation of appointees to the State Board of Education, the Florida Citrus Commission the Florida Board of Medicine, among others. Meeting is 1:30 p.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

ABORTION WAITING PERIOD ADDRESSED

The Senate Judiciary Committee examines proposal SB 724, from Miami Republican Anitere Flores requiring a 24-hour waiting period before a woman gets an abortion. Meeting is 1:30 p.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

OTHER SCHEDULED LEGISLATIVE MEETINGS

9 a.m.: Senate Transportation Committee meets in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

10 a.m.: Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee meets in Room 301 of the Senate Office Building.

4 p.m.:

>>> Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee meets in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

>>> Senate Regulated Industries Committee meets in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

5 p.m.: Senate Education Pre-K-12 Committee meets in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The James Madison Institute hosts Public Citizen and The Heritage Foundation Public Citizen a debate titled “Money, Politics and the IRS: What’s the Future of Your Charitable Giving?” The event is from 6:30 – 8 p.m. at the Augustus B. Turnbull III Florida State Conference Center, 555 W. Pensacola St. in Tallahassee.

JAGUARS OWNER SHAD KHAN CONTRIBUTES $100,000 IN MARCH TO SUPPORT MAYOR’S RE-ELECTION BID via David Baeurlein of the Jacksonville Times-Union

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan put up $100,000 for Mayor Brown’s re-election bid last month, bringing Khan’s total support for Brown to $200,000 in the high-spending battle for mayor, according to the latest campaign finance reports.

Total campaign contributions from all donors have topped $5 million for Brown and challenger Lenny Curry combined. The amount for Brown’s re-election is $2.53 million through the end of March, and the amount for Curry is $2.5 million through March 27, putting them in a virtual dead heat in fundraising.

Khan is the top-dollar contributor in the hard-fought contest between Brown, the Democratic incumbent, and Curry, the Republican.

“As someone who is committed to Jacksonville, as a citizen, businessperson and owner of the Jaguars, I am going to be active in the political process here,” Khan said in a statement. “I believe in Mayor Brown and am proud to support him.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Jennifer Ashton, Colodny Fass: First Protective Insurance Company

Brian Ballard, Jessica Baker, Ballard Partners: Investment Corporation of Palm Beach

Paul Bradshaw, Electra Bustle, Sarrah Carrol, Christopher Dudley, Jerry Lee McDaniel, Southern Strategy Group: Glades County Sheriff’s Office

Edward Briggs, RSA Consulting Group: Associated Builders & Contractors Florida Gulf Coast Chapter; The Diversity Initiative

Rana Brown, Ronald L. Book PA: Concerned Waterfront Homeowners Association

James Andrew McKee, Foley & Lardner: Tampa Bay Downs

CONTEXT FLORIDA: MARCO RUBIO’S ASPIRATIONS, SHOULD JEB STEP ASIDE AND RIGGED TO FAIL

On Context Florida: In the political hothouse that is Florida, Jack Stevenson says the number of people who actually believe that Marco Rubio would be a better president of the United States than Jeb Bush would fit into, well, Freedom Hall in Miami. Nevertheless, the political cognoscenti who fear Marco’s presidential candidacy is just the opening gambit in a run for governor in 2018, a race he might actually be able to win, would fill a much larger venue. Little more than midway through his first term as Florida’s junior U.S. senator, Marco Rubio wants to move on up to the Oval Office. Daniel Tilson notes that in his announcement, his second short sentence (after “Thank you”) used “I” three times. Turns out at 43 years old – with a weak-kneed congressional presence, meager legislative accomplishments and a penchant for veering as far right as political calculations deem necessary – Rubio thinks he is well suited to be our next president. Brian Crowley asks if Jeb Bush should stay in – or step aside for Marco Rubio. Bush is 62. Most of his campaign has been a rehash of the same ideas he was talking about in 1994. With four children at home, Calvin Fondeur knows a thing or two about how to have fun. The Alliance for a Just Society recently released a report, called “Rigged to Fail,” that examines state policies in Florida and how they are failing to support working families like his. Without strong policies and supportive legislation, Florida is failing workers.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

NEWSPAPER REPORTER IS ‘THE WORST JOB OF 2015′ via Jim Romenesko

Newspaper reporter lands on the bottom of CareerCast’s Jobs Rated list for 2015. Last year, it was #199 out of 200 occupations. The press release says:

“Newspaper reporter, which displaced lumberjack as the worst job of 2015, has a negative growth outlook of -13.33% and an average annual salary of $36,267. Broadcaster and photojournalist, with mid-level annual salaries of less than $30,000, also ranked at the bottom of the list. However, those with good writing skills often can find new employment in public relations, marketing, advertising and social media, where the outlook may be brighter.”

Other rankings for 2015: Broadcaster, 196 (of 200 jobs); Photojournalist, 195; Author, 153; Public Relations Executive, 121; Publication Editor, 137; and Social Media Manager, 101.

A few years ago, I called CareerCast publisher Tony Lee and told him it was a brilliant move to put reporter on the bottom of his list. He swore he didn’t tweak the rankings to get more attention. (He did admit, thought, his website traffic was up ten-fold.)

“The data is the data,” said Lee. “We didn’t manipulate it in any way. I can walk you through why newspaper reporter ended up at the bottom. …We take a very analytical approach. We try to remove all subjectivity.”

TODAY’S GOV CLUB BUFFET MENU: Roasted Tomato Soup with Rice, Antipasti Flatbread Sandwich Board; Salad Bar with Caprese & Italian Salads; Sliced Beef Brisket with a Green Peppercorn Sauce; Chicken Saltimbocco; Baked Flounder with Tomato Caper Butter Sauce; Fried Calamari & Shrimp; Italian Vegetables; Parsley Roasted Potatoes; Assorted Mini Desserts

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.