Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
Days until the 2015 Election: 237; Days until the 2016 Election: 608
Today’s SachsFact is brought to you by the public affairs, integrated marketing and reputation management experts at Sachs Media Group: Next time you long for a special cookie, let your taste buds drift toward Tallahassee – specifically, capital city native Wally Amos, creator and namesake of Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookies. While working as a talent agent in Manhattan, Amos sent prospective clients home-baked cookies along with an invitation to visit him. The approach clearly worked, and he soon represented such superstars as the Supremes and Simon & Garfunkel. But the lure (and business potential) of fresh-baked cookies proved too strong, and Amos launched his Famous business in 1975. That’s something to sink your teeth into!
Now, on to the ‘burn…
10THNGS I THINK I THINK ABOUT LAST NIGHT’S PRESS SKITS
1. Tia Mitchell rocks. 2. More Tia Mitchell, less Troy Kinsey (and, certainly, no more Charlie Crist impressions for a while). 3. Kind of a stretch for Steve Bousquet to say p*ssy and Mary Ellen Klas to say f*ck to get laughs; longtime friends were surprised those two went that far for a laugh. 4. Jokes and skits about John Morgan are less funny than you’d think. 5. Matt Dixon as Melissa Sellers surprisingly worked.
6. Press Corps should send thank-you notes to the Cabinet, Florida Senate, and Florida House for producing the hilarious videos which all but saved an otherwise mediocre event. 7. Florida Senate video may have been as funny as Florida House’s video 8. Jose Oliva’s Lincoln Car Commercial = Brilliant. 9. If they’re not laughing with you, Chris Dorworth, they’re laughing at you. 10. Ruth Herrle has some pipes.
Bonus: Other than Mitchell, the big winner of the night? Jeff Atwater because of #BallsToTheWall and …
IF MARCO RUBIO RUNS FOR WHITE HOUSE, ATWATER LOOKS LIKE POTENT CONTENDER, POLL SHOWS via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post
A new poll shows U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in good shape if he runs for re-election next year — but Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater a strong candidate to succeed him if Rubio makes good on a White House bid.
Mason-Dixon Polling & Research found Rubio leading Democratic U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Patrick Murphy by wide margins if he runs for a second term. Rubio leads Wasserman Schultz 53 percent to 36 percent and Murphy 50 percent to 38 percent in head-to-head matchups.
But if Rubio leaves office, Atwater, a former North Palm Beach legislator first elected to the Cabinet in 2010, also could top both of these Democratic rivals.
Atwater holds a 45 percent to 35 percent advantage over Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, and a 46 percent to 32 percent lead over Murphy.
The survey shows Atwater is helped by having a low negative rating among Florida voters — with only 5 percent saying they have an unfavorable opinion of him. After two statewide runs, that reflects well on Atwater, but may also suggest the CFO’s job draws little attention among voters.
Murphy also is seen as something of a blank slate. But that can be good, the survey shows.
Wasserman Schultz draws a 36 percent unfavorable rating from Florida voters, according to Mason-Dixon. Murphy has only a 3 percent negative rating.
TWEET, TWEET: @MarcACaputo: In open Sen seat, @JeffAtwater over DWS 45-35% & over Murphy 46-32%. Shocking #: Atwater unfav=5%. He won more FL votes in 10, 14 than any1 … to clarify: the 5% unfav for @JeffAtwater is shocking because it’s so low in such a divided state.
TWEET, TWEET: A speculative poll about 2016 #FLSen race that DOES NOT include @WIllWeatherford is a waste of time (but we’ll still write about it.)
IT WAS A SLOW JEB NEWS DAY, BUT HERE ARE A COUPLE OF QUICK READS…
JEB RALLIES DONORS via Anna Palmer of POLITICO
Bush held a conference call … to rally his national finance committee members before the first quarter fundraising deadline. Bush, who has been crisscrossing the country raising money and trying to build national support for a likely 2016 bid, told supporters that he’s been fine-tuning his message and that his positions were starting to gel.
JEB BUSH, ANTI-DRILLING CRUSADER via Andrew Restuccia of POLITICO
As the governor of the tourist mecca, Bush fought to maintain Florida’s status as the only Gulf Coast state with no offshore oil and gas production — opposing even the administration of his brother, President George W. Bush, when it sought to open new waters to drilling. Nowadays, the GOP presidential prospect sounds largely in lockstep with his party’s support for fossil fuels: He favors building the Keystone XL oil pipeline, for example, and has drawn media attention as an advocate of fracking.
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RICK SCOTT AND CABINET AGREE TO PUBLIC PROCESS IN FIRING AGENCY HEADS via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times
Gov. Scott and the Cabinet agreed … the firing of a Cabinet-level state agency head can only be done in public — a step they avoided in the hotly-disputed removal of a state police official three months ago.
The four powerful statewide elected officials, all Republicans, also agreed to take a two-hour refresher course on state open meetings and public records laws that are at the heart of a simmering political and legal battle.
The absence of a public vote before the Dec. 16 removal of Commissioner Gerald Bailey of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has forced Scott and Cabinet members to conduct a detailed self-examination of their own operations.
It spawned an ethics complaint against Scott and a lawsuit by news outlets across the state, accusing all four officials of breaking the law by orchestrating Bailey’s removal without a public discussion or vote.
Scott and the Cabinet … also adopted new guidelines for establishing missions for the 10 agencies that jointly report to them. But Cabinet members slammed the brakes on Scott’s call for new performance measures for three Cabinet-level agency heads he wants to replace, with (CFO Jeff) Atwater saying he was “a little surprised” that Scott wanted to impose the new measures without more input from the agency heads themselves.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott visits Palmetto to promote expansion of Berth 14 and job creation by Air Products at Port Manatee. Press conference begins 8:30 a.m. at the Port Manatee North Gate Access Control Center, 13604 Reeder Rd. in Palmetto.
SCOTT, BLACK LAWMAKERS FIND LITTLE COMMON GROUND via William March of the Associated Press
In what one legislator called a “long-delayed meeting,” Gov. Scott and the Florida Legislative Black Caucus discussed race relations, economic deprivation and health care in sometimes confrontational language Tuesday, finding little common ground.
Sen. Dwight Bullard said afterward he heard “non-responses” from Scott.
“The blood of the community is boiling” over police shootings in Florida and elsewhere,” Bullard told reporters after the meeting.
He told Scott caucus members are working in their districts to “quell those problems before they get to the level of national attention” as have police-involved deaths in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York.
But Scott said members of the caucus had failed to contact him in the past when they had concerns over the issues they were raising, and that his administration is taking the right approaches to solving the problems the legislators raised.
“I can’t think of one person in here that has called me to complain” about police or state agency actions, he said. “I can’t solve problems I don’t know about.”
The legislators asked Scott about continued high unemployment in largely black communities; about whether he will support using federal money to expand the state’s Medicaid program; and about what Bullard called “lack of diversity in both your office and in your appointments.”
He said that has led to “a non-sympathetic culture” in the administration “perceived by our constituents as malice toward black people.”
FLA. SCIENTIST TOLD BY SCOTT ADMIN TO REMOVE WORDS ‘CLIMATE CHANGE’ FROM STUDY ON CLIMATE CHANGE via Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post
Elizabeth Radke … had already graduated from the University of Florida, where she had gotten her PhD in epidemiology. … And a paper from her time there, which looked at how climate change in Florida had affected ciguatera — a commonly reported marine food-borne illness — was getting closer to publication.
But then, on Jan. 27, a message popped into her inbox. Subject: “Paper Review.” And Radke realized she wasn’t through with Florida yet … dragged into what has now become a national scandal over an alleged “unwritten policy” among some Florida state environmental offices that forbids the use of terms such as “climate change” and “global warming” in official correspondence.
Scott and his office pushed back against the report … pressed hard by reporters. “It’s not true,” Scott said … declining to get into specifics. He declined to say whether he thinks global warming is real, whether he’s concerned by it or whether he’s preparing for it.
Radke … got an e-mail from her co-author, a program coordinator with the Florida Department of Health, casts a degree of uncertainty on Scott’s assertions. Before publication, their study needed clearance from the Health Department in Tallahassee. So Sharon Watkins, chief of the department’s Bureau of Epidemiology, marked up the paper, homing in on the phrase “climate change.” It was used four times in the 27-page paper, according to a copy provided to The Post. Each one was underlined.
“Come talk to me,” Watkins wrote in the margins in an apparent reference to the first use of the term “climate change.”
“Let’s discuss over the phone soon,” wrote Radke’s co-author, whom Radke asked The Post not to identify for fear of retribution. The conversations that came next, Radke said, were over the phone. Her co-author, she said, told her they had to expunge the term “climate change” from the paper, per Watkins’s directive.
“We had to submit the paper to the state Department of Health for clearance, and one of the comments we got back was that we couldn’t use that phrase,” Radke said … she wasn’t sure if they could even get away with using the word “climate.” She was aware of times the state had rejected it.
GROUP WANTS PROBE OF WHETHER SCOTT BANNED CLIMATE-CHANGE TALK via Jason Dearen of the Associated Press
Did Scott’s administration ban state environmental scientists from using the terms “climate change” and “global warming” in their work?
Scott says no, but some former employees say supervisors forbade them from using the terms – a striking charge in a U.S. state considered by climate scientists to be one of the most at risk of damage due to sea rise and stronger storms in a warming climate.
Now, an environmental group is asking for a state investigation to get to the bottom of it.
Florida members of the group Forecast the Facts filed a complaint … with the Department of Environmental Protection’s inspector-general, asking for the investigative arm of the agency to find the truth.
HOW ITS PLAYING: SCOTT’S “CLIMATE CHANGE” BAN
Newsweek, Under Rick Scott, Florida Environment Officials Said to be Barred From Saying ‘Climate Change’. Raw Story, Florida officials banned from saying ‘climate change’ because Gov. Rick Scott doesn’t think it’s real. Time, Florida Reportedly Bans Environment Officials From Mentioning Climate Change. Reuters, Florida bans use of ‘climate change’ by state agency, report. The Daily Beast, Florida Quietly Bans the Words ‘Climate Change’ in Environmental Protection Docs. MSNBC, Florida officials barred from mentioning climate change. CNN, On climate change, Florida officials told to speak no evil. New York Magazine, Florida Officials Say They Were Banned From Using the Term ‘Climate Change.’ Washington Post, Throw Florida’s apparent rejection of the phrase ‘climate change’ onto the pile of anti-climate politics. Huffington Post, Florida Officials Were Barred From Using The Term ‘Climate Change’ Once Rick Scott Took Power. Mashable, First rule of climate change in Florida, don’t mention climate change. Bloomberg, Florida Officials Say They Were Banned From Saying ‘Climate Change’ and ‘Global Warming.’ US News and World Report, Florida Muffles Climate Change Talk. Chicago Sun-Times, In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott, bans use of ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ in reports. Fusion, Report: Florida officials banned from using the term ‘climate change.’ USA Today, Fla. Gov. bans the terms climate change, global warming. The Hill, Fla. officials banned from using ‘climate change’? New Orleans Times-Picayune, ‘Climate change,’ ‘global warming’ terms banned by Florida environmental agency, newspaper reports. Wonkette, Florida Sees, Hears, And Speaks No Climate Change. Also, Sinks Into The Sea. Esquire, Here’s Some Stupid For Lunch. The Atlantic, Politics and the Floridian Language. FCIR, In Florida, Officials Ban Term ‘Climate Change.’ WTSP, Florida to Workers, Don’t Say ‘Climate Change.’ Slate, Florida Bans State Environmental Workers From Using the Term Climate Change. The Guardian, Florida banned state workers from using term ‘climate change’ – report.
RANDOM STORY OF THE DAY — RESIDENTS OF FLORIDA CITIES HAVE HIGH RATES OF REMARRIAGE via Mike Schneider of the Associated Press
A large number of Florida residents like to go down the wedding aisle more than once. New figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday shows that Florida has among the highest rates for residents who have married two or more times.
The rate for Florida men was 30.5 percent in 2012, and the rate for women was 29.4 percent.
Nationally, just under a quarter of U.S. residents have been married twice or more.
Only Alabama, Arkansas, Nevada, Oklahoma and Tennessee had higher rates.
Three Florida cities are among the top 20 metro areas when it comes to the rates of residents who have been married twice or more. Those metro areas are Punta Gorda, Panama City and Ocala, and they all have remarriage rates higher than 36 percent.
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DOC INSPECTORS SPEAK OUT, BLISTERING PRISON AGENCY FOR CORRUPTION AND COVER-UPS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald
Breaking their silence about Florida’s troubled prison system, several current and former prison inspectors told lawmakers … that their bosses repeatedly told them to ignore evidence of possible criminal wrongdoing by corrections officers fearing it would give the agency a “black eye.”
The inspectors, who testified under oath before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, told the committee that corruption and cover-up is so rampant that the department has neither the staff nor the desire to weed out even a fraction of inmate abuse, medical neglect, gang violence and organized crime.
Several current and former prison inspectors directed their criticism to the inspector general’s office, whom they said would suppress criminal charges and interfere investigations of high-ranking prison officials.
“We are at the point where we can no longer police ourselves,” said John Ulm, a veteran law enforcement officer who works in the inspector general’s office. He said the atrocities he has observed on the streets of America pale in comparison to the human rights violations occurring in the Florida prison system.
Senate Committee Chairman Greg Evers … said the testimony was the last chance his committee may have to expose evidence of troubles within the agency during the two-month session. He suggested that DOC Secretary Julie Jones, and the inspector general’s office, were “dragging their feet” in their promises to reform the agency and said it may be time for a special legislative committee to be assembled to further investigate the claims of employees.
“Apparently we can stumble across more than what the investigations have found in the past few years by just asking the questions of the right people,’’ Evers said after the meeting. “Yes, we’ve got a crisis.”
DHSMV REVIEW OF RED-LIGHT CAMERAS FAILED TO INCLUDE CRASH INCREASES Full story here
Red-light cameras appear to have little or no effect on safety in many areas in Florida, according to a new report by WTSP 10 Investigates. … But the state failed to include that information in its annual review of the program.
Most of Florida cities and counties with the controversial RLC-monitored intersections have reported crash statistics that have remained either steady or increased since putting in cameras. … The Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) compiled the unflattering data in 2014 … the agency chose not to include the increases as part of its annual evaluation of the state’s RLC program, calling it “inconclusive.”
… Public records show the agency actually did perform the analysis, and simply chose not to include it in reports.
Twenty-four of 49 cities and counties recording crash stats last year reported “sideswipe” crashes increased at RLC intersections since installing the cameras. Five municipalities reported no change, while only 20 reported decreases since installing the cameras.
In addition, 30 of 47 municipalities reported “rear-end” collisions actually increased at RLC intersections after installing cameras; only 14 reported a decrease, and three reported no change.
Meanwhile, most cities and counties reported that crashes at their intersections not monitored by cameras have dropped in recent years.
In the past two years of RLC programs, journalists discovered many local governments simply failed to provide data. A few – such as Lakeland – ignored the mandated state surveys altogether, without consequences. … All the while, those cities continue to ticket tens of thousands of motorists every year.
HOUSE PANEL KILLS BILL TO CHANGE MEDICAID DENTAL PROGRAMS FOR CHILDREN Full story here
A House panel killed a bill attempting to overhaul the Florida Medicaid program that provides dental care to children. With a 6-6 tie, the House Health Innovation Subcommittee shelved HB 601, filed by Tequesta Republican Rep. MaryLynn Magar.
In the state’s new Medicaid managed-care structure, HMOs and other plans are responsible for offering dental care services to children in the system.
HB 601 sought to take pediatric dental services away from the broader Medicaid managed-care program, and move it to a system of prepaid dental plans. Supporters of Magar’s bill claimed changing the system improves dental care and expands the number of dentists treating children on Medicaid.
Ormond Beach Republican Rep. Fred Costello, who is also a dentist, told the committee that the bill is “about taking care” of kids.
Opponents of the bill, which include Medicaid HMO representatives, argued against taking dental services from a comprehensive Medicaid managed-care system. The change could open the door for removal of other services from the Medicaid system.
BILL TO BAN KRATOM PASSES THROUGH SENATE CRIMINAL JUSTICE COMMITTEE via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News
Is the Southeast Asian herb kratom the answer to relieving the pain from life’s many ailments?
If it is, it might not be legal for too much longer — a proposal put forth by Sen. Greg Evers … would try to put an end to the use of the substance by making it illegal in the Sunshine State.
Many say kratom is a dangerous substance, calling it as addictive as other opiates. The herb is popular in kava bars where patrons will drink the substance, often producing a relaxing effect.
SB 764, filed on the heels of Rep. Kristin Jacobs’ … original legislation, would have classified kratom as a Schedule I substance, making possession, selling or possessing with the intent to sell a third-degree felony offense in Florida.
An amendment proposed by Sen. Jeff Clemens … however, would mitigate the crime from a felony to a misdemeanor. Clemens’ amendment passed.
Representatives from sheriffs’ offices around the state spoke in favor of the bill, saying the herb produces opiate-like, addictive effects with little regulation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Kratom isn’t totally off the FDA’s radar, however. In October, the administration ordered U.S. Marshals to seize 25,000 pounds of the substance in California.
HOUSE PANEL APPROVES MEASURE TO SHIELD APPLICANTS IN UNIVERSITY, COLLEGE PRESIDENTIAL SEARCHES via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of the Naples Daily News
Proponents call it a confidentiality bill, one that would help attract some of the nation’s best university presidents to Florida. Opponents call it a secrecy act, one that would take stakeholders out of the presidential process.
A House education panel approved a measure (HB 223). If it becomes law, the measure would shield applicants for president, provost or dean positions at public universities and colleges from the state’s public records law.
The measure – which passed the House higher education and workforce subcommittee 9-1 – also creates an exemption for meetings held for identifying and vetting applicants. Under the House measure, once a group of finalists is selected, their names would be released under the state’s public records law and all meetings related to the final selection would be public meetings.
But opponents said the measure promotes secrecy.
A similar Senate bill (SB 182) has already cleared two Senate committees. The House bill, sponsored by Rep. Neil Combee … now heads to the House government operations subcommittee.
UBER BILL GREENLIGHTED BY HOUSE TRANSPORTATION PANEL via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics
State Rep. Matt Gaetz has successfully steered legislation to formally legalize “transportation network services” like Uber through the House Transportation & Ports Subcommittee.
Debate on the bill — heated at times — lasted about an hour and featured an unusual aspect identified by committee Chairman Tom Rooney:
“This has got to be the first bill in five years that I’ve seen where every member debated the bill,” he said, just before putting the bill to a question. The bill passed by a 9-4 vote, with the panel’s Democrats, including Ranking Member Bobby Powell, withholding their support.
That lively and contentious debate was as it should be, according to Gaetz.
“This ought to be the way committees are run,” said the third-term representative, before going on to recap the committee members’ valid concerns about his bill’s language — and dismissing what he saw as invalid concerns.
MY TAKE ON SESSION SO FAR — RICHARD CORCORAN HAS US ALL RIGHT WHERE HE WANTS US Full blog post here
Fast-forward two months and envision Corcoran speaking to some Republican club in Pasco County. It’s very likely Corcoran (and other House Republicans) will be able to tell his constituents:
We stood up to those RINOs in the Senate and blocked Obamacare (by not expanding Medicaid).
We protected Florida’s family values by not going along with any plan to increase the gambling industry’s footprint in the state (even if that means defeating their own Majority Leader’s legislation).
And we did not give away millions to billionaires (by not doling out subsidies for sports facility development or film production).
This is not say I agree or disagree with any of that. Nor is it a prediction of how things will eventually turn out. But it is the direction Session appears to be heading. If all of that does hold — Medicaid is not expanded, gambling is not expanded, and taxpayer subsidies are not given — that would make Corcoran the undisputed winner this year.
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HAPPENING TONIGHT — REPS. MATT GAETZ, ALAN WILLIAMS ARE “DUELING BARTENDERS” FOR CHARITY
A pair of Florida legislative leaders will be taking a break from official business to act as “dueling celebrity bartenders” for charity at … the inaugural Red Dog/Blue Dog Bipartisan Celebrity Bartender event, beginning 6:30 p.m. at Madison Social.
Until 8 p.m., Fort Walton Beach Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz and Democratic Rep. Alan Williams of Tallahassee will tend bar, competing for tips. The pair will be working cash registers, mixing and serving drinks. Proceeds for the event go to animal advocacy non-profits in the Tallahassee-Leon County area by way of the Animal Shelter Foundation. The money will go towards helping homeless pets.
Madison Social is at 705 S. Woodward Ave. #101 in Tallahassee.
JACK LATVALA’S FUNDRAISING NUMBERS SUGGEST SENATE PRESIDENT RACE MAY NOT BE OVER Full story here
If the race to be the next president of the Florida Senate is only a special election in Senate District 6 from being over, don’t tell that to Jack Latvala’s fundraising numbers.
The Pinellas lawmaker has posted a head-turning fundraising report for the month of February … one that suggests, at the very least, that Latvala is not going down without a fight.
According to the Florida Division of Elections, Latvala’s Florida Leadership Committee raised $498,949 in February and expended just $54,273. That leaves the committee with $924,065 cash-on-hand — more than enough money to play in 2016’s legislative primaries.
Meanwhile, Latvala’s rival for the Senate presidency, Joe Negron raised just $137,750 for his Treasure Coast Alliance committee, while expending $130,412. This leaves Negron’s committee with $463,820.
The takeaways: Latvala out raised Negron by nearly 4 to 1 in February and Latvala raised more during the last month than Negron has money left in the bank.
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Jessica Baker, Ballard Partners: Max Planck Florida Foundation, Inc.
Brian Ballard, Ballard Partners: Silver Airways Corp., a Florida Corporation
Melanie Becker: Universal City Development Partners, LTD dba Universal Orlando
Laura Boehmer, David Shepp, Southern Strategy Group: American Compliance Technologies, Inc.
Ron Book, Rana Brown, Kelly Mallette: Correct Care Solutions
Paul Bradshaw, Jerry McDaniel, Southern Strategy Group: Locust Branch, LLC
Deborah Ann Brown, Pharmacy Consulting, LLC: Florida Society of Health System Pharmacists, Inc.
Brad Burleson: Florida Transportation Builders Association, Inc.
Bradley Cornell: Audubon of the Western Everglades
Edgar Fernandez, Anfield Consulting: Palm Beach County Government
Danny Jordan, Jeanette Yaeger, One Eighty Consulting: Promethean, Inc.
Eli Nortelus, David Roberts, Akerman LLP: Pure Analytics
CONTEXT FLORIDA: BANNED PHRASES, REPEATING HISTORY, POLLUTED WATER AND HIGH-STAKES CHEATING
On Context Florida: In light of Gov. Rick Scott banning use of the phrases “climate change” and “global warming” by Department of Environmental Protection staff, Daniel Tilson offers a “Top Ten” list of terms not to use in any form if working for the governor. Sal Nuzzo has often heard the saying that “those who refuse to study history are destined to repeat it.” What about those who refuse to examine the present, he asks. Only two months into the New Year and Eric Eikenberg notes that already the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has started to release polluted water from Lake Okeechobee, resulting in water flowing into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, and the Indian River Lagoon. The release should continue over the coming weeks and months. Jac VerSteeg says high-tech, high-stakes tests creates pressures and procedures for high-tech cheating. While the biggest cheating scandals so far have involved school officials manipulating data, new opportunities for individual students to cheat might be emerging.
TODAY’S GOV’S CLUB BUFFET MENU: Beef Barley Soup, Cold Cut Combo Sandwich Board with Chips, Chef Salad with Toppings, Tuna Salad, Chicken Salad, Chips and Salsa, Barbeque Beef Ribs, Herb and Panko Encrusted Flounder with Lemon Sauce, Chicken Curry, California Mixed Vegetables, Basmati Rice, Cherry Cobbler, Assorted Mini Dessert