Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — March 30

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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: “Organized” may not be the most likely way to describe Florida government today, but on this date 193 years ago Florida became an “incorporated and organized” territory of the United States. Florida had been under military authority since the U.S. acquired it from Spainthree years earlier, but it officially became part of the United States, with a territorial civilian government, on March 27, 1822. Twenty-three years later, it became the 27th state in the Union, with a massive population of … 66,500!

Now, on to the ‘burn…

DAYS UNTIL Sine Die – 33; Special Election in SD 6, HD 17 & 24 – 7; Special Election in  HD 64 – 22: Jacksonville’s Mayoral Election – 50; Florida’s Presidential Primary: 351; Florida’s 2016 Primary Election: 519; Florida’s 2016 General Election: 589.

PERSONNEL NOTE — AWARD-WINNING SPORTS WRITER GARY SHELTON JOINING SAINTPETERSBLOG.COM Full story here

Extensive Enterprises Media is proud to announce the addition of award-winning sports columnist Gary Shelton, who joins the new media group to provide unique insight on the intersection of sports and politics.

The Tampa Bay Rays’ stadium saga; the Florida Legislature’s debate over subsidizing sports stadiums; progress on new soccer teams in the state; referendums to attract sports teams to Florida communities; athlete involvement in political campaigns … all of these issues, and many more, will be part of Shelton’s wide-ranging wheelhouse.

Founded by Peter Schorsch, Extensive Enterprises Media is the publisher of SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn.

“Having Gary join us is about more than an accomplished writer coming aboard,” Schorsch says. “This is about a longtime fan of Gary’s — me — getting to work with someone I woke up and read almost every day. I could not be more excited.”

For nearly 25 years, Shelton was the cornerstone of the Tampa Bay Times’ sports reporting. He began at the Times in 1990 after a six-year stint at the Miami Herald, reporting on the Dolphins, the NFL and the University of Florida. In Tampa Bay, his column became a respected voice during much of the area’s rise as a sports powerhouse: the Buccaneers, the Lightning, the Rays and a wide range of college football and basketball teams.

“I’m thrilled to be joining a terrific news staff,” Shelton said. “This is the future of journalism, untied to deadlines, a living series of works in progress. I think we’re going to have fun. I hope the reader will, too.”

Few people have the range of Shelton’s sports-writing experience. He has covered nearly 30 Super Bowls (including the 2002 Bucs win), 10 Olympics, seven Masters and 11 Final Four events.

APRIL 13 PRESIDENTIAL ANNOUNCEMENT DAY FOR MARCO RUBIO? via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Marco Rubio has reserved the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami for an undisclosed event April 13, which appears to be a potential, if not likely, spot for Florida’s junior senator to announce his candidacy for president.

A Rubio adviser stressed nothing has been nailed down for any kind of announcement, but the timing makes sense: Likely presidential candidate Rand Paul is expected to make his candidacy official on April 7, followed by a five-day, five-state announcement tour, so Rubio presumably would not want to share the spotlight during that period.

All-but-announced candidate Jeb Bush appears to be in no rush to shift more formally into campaign mode, but Texas Sen. Ted Cruz made his announcement this week, and Democrat Hillary Clinton is expected to make her campaign announcement in April as well, though nothing has been set.

Rubio, 43, has been preparing for a potential presidential run for at least a year. While behind in most early polls, he has generated considerable early buzz as a top-tier contender who offers the party a fresh face, foreign policy experience, charisma, and substance.

The Freedom Tower, a Mediterranean Revival landmark beside Biscayne Bay, is apparently one of several venues under consideration by Rubio, but it could be an ideal postcard setting to kick off a presidential campaign promoting the promise and greatness of America by the son of Cuban immigrants.

RUBIO AND JEB BUSH MIGHT SWING FLORIDA FOR THE GOP. IT PROBABLY WOULDN’T MATTER, THOUGH via Scott Clement of the Washington Post

Almost three-quarters of presidential candidates have received a home-state bump, and in 11 elections those advantages proved decisive in swinging states in their favorite sons’ direction, according to Devine and Kopko.

And that home-state bump could indeed make a pretty sizable difference come 2016. A typical 3.5-point bump would push Rubio or Bush above the 50 percent mark when compared to Republican candidates’ 49.5 percent average in the last five cycles. The same home state advantage would also be enough for Kasich to flip Ohio compared to Republicans’ 49.1 percent average in recent elections. Wisconsin would be a bigger lift for a home-state edge to matter, but a typical 3.5-point edge would barely be enough to swing the Badger State for Walker. Other Republican hopefuls come from states where a typical home-state boost would not be enough to change the outcome (i.e. Chris Christie in New Jersey, Bobby Jindal in Louisiana, etc.).

Florida is a good example of the difficulty of a home-state advantage swinging an election. Despite its massive 29 electoral votes — by far the biggest swing state — just six of 40 elections since 1856 have been decided by a margin of that size or smaller. Divide that by two, since swinging Florida would only matter if the home-state candidate was trailing, and there’s a 7 percent chance a Florida-sized swing will matter.

Put together the chance of a home-state swing and the likelihood of it being decisive, and there’s a 5 percent chance a Florida home-state advantage for Bush/Rubio would swing the presidency in 2016. That dips to 4 percent for Ohio and 2 percent for Wisconsin. This estimate is rough and might be an underestimate, since two of the closest four elections have occurred recently. But even if we look at competitiveness of six elections since 1992, the chance of a Florida or Ohio home state bump swinging the presidency rises to 11 percent — a one in nine shot.

TOP OP-ED — READY FOR 45? via Maureen Dowd of the New York Times

James Baker can take credit for two presidencies and one vice presidency in the Bush family … So it’s a tad ungracious for a Bush to take Baker to task.

At first, Bush tried to distance himself from Baker distantly. He had his spokeswoman, Kristy Campbell, send an email to reporters the day after Baker — one of his foreign policy advisers and his dad’s best friend, campaign manager and secretary of state — gave President Obama some bipartisan backup on Israel. Speaking to the liberal Israel advocacy group, J Street, Baker faulted the “diplomatic missteps and political gamesmanship” surrounding Benjamin Netanyahu. Baker’s criticism of the abrasive Israeli leader he once banned from the State Department sparked a furor among Republicans who want a loyalty oath on support for the Jewish state.

Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard and one of the neocon enforcers who agitated for W.’s blighted invasion of Iraq, threw down the tweet gauntlet the next morning: “Whether Jeb disavows James Baker, & how quickly and strongly, could be an oddly important early moment in GOP race.”

An email from Jeb’s nascent campaign crew based here in Florida was not going to cut it. So Jeb personally groveled to his skeptical base in Texas, Meerkatting himself, telling Brian Kilmeade on Fox News Radio that Baker “has a different view. I did not believe it was appropriate to go speak to J Street, a group that basically has anti-Israeli sentiments, but I have a vast array of people advising me, and I’m honored that Jim Baker is doing so. The fact that I have people that I might not agree with on every subject advising me shows leadership, frankly. I don’t think we need monolithic thinking here.”

This is interesting — and a bit incoherent — on two notes. Is Jeb aware that he tendentiously mischaracterized J Street as having “anti-Israeli sentiments?” Opposing Netanyahu’s policies toward the Palestinians does not disqualify it as a pro-Israeli organization. On the contrary, many polls show that its views reflect the majority of American Jewish opinion.

Jeb, or “45,” as he is already being called, hasn’t even announced, and we’re already trapped in the byzantine psyche of Bushworld. Middle East policy was one of several ways W. proved he was his “own man” by using his father as a reverse playbook. H.W. and Baker sensibly avoided occupying Iraq and then tried to leverage the gratitude of Arab countries to make a deal at the Madrid peace conference. When Israel rebuffed them, they stood tough on settlements, even though President Bush’s support among American Jews nose-dived.

JEB READS

Jeb and God” — “It has all landed Bush in a strange, probably unprecedented, spot: He’s a natural candidate of religious conservatives who’s so far being overlooked by that influential voting bloc.” — via The National Journal

“Jeb Bush and Scott Walker Point GOP to Contrary Paths” — “Mr. Bush and Mr. Walker are becoming prominent exponents of dueling visions of how a Republican can retake the White House: by extending its reach, or by energizing the base.” — via the New York Times

WHAT BUSH AND RUBIO ARE UP TO THIS WEEK via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio is in New York today for fundraising and he’s also going to appear on Fox News at 5 p.m. He and his staff are also finalizing plans for his campaign announcement, which could happen April 13 in Miami.

Bush will be fundraising most of the week in California, with stops in Newport Beach, Bel-Air and San Francisco.

HAPPENING TODAY — RAND PAUL VISITS FLORIDA PANHANDLE FOR EVENT Full story here

Republican Rand Paul visits the Florida Panhandle as the special guest of a dinner reception this evening.

Organizers describe the $250-a-plate fundraiser as a “small get together for just a few people” to meet the Kentucky Senator, who is a prospective presidential candidate for 2016.

The event begins 6 p.m. at Mama Clemenza’s, 12273 Emerald Coast Parkway West, Suite 102 in Miramar Beach. To sponsor the event is $500; hosting will set supporters back $1,000.

HAVEN’T WE READ THIS BEFORE? — FLORIDA DEMOCRATS LOOK FOR A WAY TO END ELECTION WOES via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press

President Obama has proven Democrats can carry Florida in presidential elections, but other than Sen. Bill Nelson, who is serving his third term, Democrats have failed miserably in statewide races. They’ve lost the last five governor’s races and 13 of the last 14 Cabinet races. The Senate seat once held by Democrat Bob Graham, Gwen Graham’s father, was captured by Republican Mel Martinez in 2004 and later won by Republican Marco Rubio in an election in which Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek only received 20 percent of the vote.

The lone recent bright spot for Democrats was when Alex Sink was elected chief financial officer in 2006. She then ran for governor in 2010 and lost to (Rick) Scott.

The hope for Democrats now is that one of their big city mayors or a member of their congressional delegation will be able to make a competitive run for statewide offices.

“On the congressional delegation, you have four or five of them who can be very viable candidates. My job would be to keep them from all killing off each other,” said Nelson, who listed U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, both of South Florida, and Gwen Graham, who won in the conservative Panhandle, as potential 2018 statewide candidates. He also praised U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a second-term congressman from Palm Beach County, who recently announced he will seek Rubio’s Senate seat next year. Congressman Alan Grayson of Orlando is also considering a 2016 Senate run.

Among other names bandied about as potential Cabinet or gubernatorial candidates in 2018: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn; Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler; Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer; Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown; Palm Beach County State Attorney David Aronberg; state Rep. Katie Edwards; and Annette Taddeo, who was Crist’s running mate last year.

But whoever steps up will probably have to face a better-known, better-funded Republican. Scott, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Attorney General Pam Bondi are considering Senate runs and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is a likely candidate for governor. And if Rubio gives up his Senate seat to run for the presidency next year, he could be a potential gubernatorial candidate if he fails to reach the White House.

PATRICK MURPHY SHOWS DEMOCRATS’ CENTRIST BENT via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

For the second time in as many election cycles, Florida’s Democratic Party could be turning to a recent former Republican to boost their chances in a statewide election.

Last year, Crist narrowly lost to Gov. Scott, a Republican, in the governor’s race. Now comes U.S. Rep. Murphy, a Republican-turned-Democrat from Jupiter, who announced on Monday that he is going to run for the U.S. Senate.

Murphy, who turns 32 (Sunday), changed his party registration in early 2011 before winning his seat in Congress in 2012.

“I’m a consensus-builder who is working to boost the economy by cutting waste in government, raise the minimum wage, strengthen Social Security and Medicare, and protect the Everglades,” Murphy said in his Senate campaign announcement last week.

Murphy has a track record in Congress of voting with Republicans far more often than most Democrats. It’s that type of moderate background that political insiders say will make Murphy a strong statewide candidate in the mold of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a three term Democrat who has brandished a far more moderate voting record than many of the current Senate Democrats.

Murphy is the only major Democrat to file to run for the seat so far. Crist, favored by some Democrats, has already endorsed Murphy.

FIRST IN SUNBURN >>> Look for U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel to endorse Murphy today, giving him a trifecta of endorsements — Frankel, Deutch, and Alcee Hastings — from the liberal wing of the party.

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WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE IS READING — FLORIDIANS REMAIN POSITIVE ABOUT ECONOMY, CONSUMER CONFIDENCE BEST IN DECADE Full story here

Floridians are feeling good about the economy’s future. The best in a decade, in fact.

Consumer sentiment among Floridians rose in March by more than 3 points to 96.8, the highest reading in 10 years, according to the monthly University of Florida survey.

Sentiment increased in all five components that make up the index.

“Florida consumers are particularly optimistic about the future,” said Chris McCarty, director of UF’s Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research. “The three components that are forward-looking are much higher than they have been for quite some time.”

Expectations of personal finances a year from now increased 2.4 points to 103.6, the highest level since August 2004. Perceptions of U.S. economic conditions over the next year rose 1.2 points to 94.6, while expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next five years increased 3.4 points to 93.6, the highest since July 2004.

On the question of whether now is a good time to buy big-ticket items such as a car or appliance, March saw an uptick of 7.4 points to 106.1.

“Overall the index reflects a Florida consumer who is really feeling a recovery,” McCarty said.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will honor Florida veterans at a veterans honor medal ceremony beginning 9:30 a.m. at The Eisenhower Center, 3560 Buena Vista Boulevard in The Villages.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott visits Jacksonville for the deployment of the 125th Fighter Wing of the Florida Air National Guard to Europe. Event begins 3 p.m. at Jacksonville International Airport, 125th Fighter Wing, 14300 FANG Drive.

SPOTTED at the Pinellas County Lincoln Day Dinner: CFO Jeff Atwater, giving a “Reaganesque” speech, according to reporter Mitch Perry.

EDITORIAL — SCOTT MIA ON HEALTH POLICY, OTHER KEY ISSUES via the Orlando Sentinel

Governors need to pick their battles, of course, and let legislators take the lead on legislating. They can’t dig into the details of every bill.

But on an issue that could make or break the state budget, and would affect the lives of millions of Floridians, Scott’s low profile is inexcusable.

There are other key issues dividing the Senate and House where Scott’s intervention could be crucial.

To cite just one additional example, the Senate is proposing to spend only $2 million to buy environmentally sensitive land next year; the House is calling for just $10 million. Scott proposed $100 million. Will he fight for his position?

Last year, when legislators were at loggerheads over in-state tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants, Scott weighed in belatedly under the prodding of former Gov. Jeb Bush. The measure passed.

In an interview with the Sentinel Editorial Board before this year’s session began, Senate President Andy Gardiner said Scott’s involvement on issues could be decisive. “Any governor weighing in, and weighing in heavily on anything, is going to have a significant impact,” the Orlando Republican said.

It’s time for Scott to join the battle for better health care in the Capitol.

JOINT TASK FORCE URGES COMPETITIVE PROCUREMENT PROCESS FOR STATEWIDE POLICE RADIO SYSTEM via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics

At a state governmental office complex in Tallahassee, a panel including representatives from the state’s law enforcement agencies recommended that that the Florida Department of Management Services open its critical radio services contract to a competitive bidding process.

States across the nation, including Florida, aim to upgrade their statewide law enforcement radio systems. Modern technology would allow thousands of state law-enforcement officers, firefighters and first responders to communicate seamlessly during emergencies.

The Joint Task Force on Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System heard public testimony from a former state trooper and vendors eager to create a next-generation radio system that could eventually cost more than a billion dollars to build and operate.

In January, the task force released a business case that put the cost of a system upgrade near $1 billion over a 19-year period. However, Task Force Chairman Mark Perez equated the business case’s high estimate to the most expensive model of a car with all the bells and whistles.

According to Perez, the JTF asked that the business case include every feature and function. However, a competitive procurement issued by the state would provide the opportunity to determine what features and functions are essential to meet the state’s needs and then ask vendors to compete for the state business. The rest of the JTF board concurred with the chairman’s remarks.

Perez was clear about his department’s opinion about the future direction of the radio system, employing a metaphor of a car that at one time was top-of-the-line brand new, but had depreciated as time moved on and technology advanced.

The procurement comes as the state looks to upgrade its radio network to allow for interoperability — the ability to connect officers from multiple jurisdictions on a common band. It also would use encrypted signals that would prevent interlopers from eavesdropping on tactically sensitive operations, such as hostage situations or raids.

FLORIDA ADMINISTRATORS GROUP DROPPING OUT OF SCHOOL CHOICE LAWSUIT via Travis Pillow of redefined.com

One of the original groups that signed on to the lawsuit last August challenging Florida’s tax-credit scholarship program has announced it will no longer be a party to the case.

The Florida Association of School Administrators announced its decision to withdraw in a statement posted on its website … “Having made our position clear with regards to tax credit scholarships through our participation in the lawsuit thus far, it is time to dedicate the resources of our 5,000 members on the priorities that are the heart of our organization.”

The group’s executive director, Juhan Mixon, said the organization’s “core mission” is to provide professional development to school officials around the state, and that litigation is “not our thing.”

“Our main priorities are teaching and learning,” he said, and the organization’s board, which oversees training for thousands of principals and other school officials, as well as a major digital learning initiative, decided it would be best not “to take resources of our association away from our priority.”

The development was hailed … by Rev. H.K. Matthews, a Pensacola civil rights leader and supporter of a campaign to have the lawsuit dropped.

“Hallelujah. I tip my hat to Dr. Mixon and the board of the Florida Association of School Administrators,” Matthews said in a statement. “This scholarship helps 70,000 of the state’s most underprivileged children, and there is no reason that school principals should be working against their interests. This kind of program strengthens public education, which is why this lawsuit is such a mistake.”

IN CASE YOU MISSED THESE SUNDAY READS…

A FATHER’S FIGHT TO TURN POOL TRAGEDY INTO LEGISLATION via Kathleen McGrory of the Miami Herald

On a warm day last April, exactly one week after his seventh birthday, Calder Sloan plunged into the pool behind his North Miami home. He raced underwater toward the light in the deep end, as he had done dozens of times before. But when he reached out his arm and touched his target, an intense electrical current shot through his body, springing him airborne and stopping his heart.

One year later, the boy’s father is on a quest to ensure Florida law prevents similar tragedies.

Chris Sloan arrived in Tallahassee this month intent on passing legislation that would ban high-voltage lights from backyard swimming pools. He was told his bill had no chance — only to find it revamped and thrust back in play last week.

Since then, a handful of powerful lobbyists and South Florida lawmakers have rallied around his proposal, giving it new momentum.

That summer, Sloan teamed up with Miami-Dade Commissioner Audrey M. Edmonson. Inspired by a WFOR-CBS 4 investigation into electrical failures in and around swimming pools, they passed an ordinance banning high-voltage lights from new pool construction. (Sloan didn’t have a high-voltage light in his pool, but thought it was a good first step to prevent electrocutions.)

Broward County passed a similar ordinance in the fall.

The news caught the eye of state Rep. Richard Stark, D-Weston, who thought the regulations ought to be written into state law, too.

Stark connected with Sloan and drew up a plan for passing legislation in Tallahassee. Sen. Eleanor Sobel … signed on as the sponsor in the Senate. The lawmakers filed HB 795 and SB 926, banning 15-volt lights or anything more powerful from private pools, and requiring county health departments to perform electrical inspections on all public pools.

PILL MILL CRACKDOWN MAKES GETTING MEDS DIFFICULT FOR ‘LEGITIMATE’ PAIN PATIENTS via Skyler Swisher of the Daytona Beach News-Journal

Roger Accardi faces a dilemma every time a chronic pain patient walks up to his counter to get a prescription filled.

The Orange City pharmacist has a limited supply of powerful pain medication to dispense and is under immense pressure from federal and state authorities to ensure those drugs don’t fall into the wrong hands.

Florida needed to do something about prescription painkiller abuse, but the crackdown on pill mills has produced unintended consequences, said Accardi, owner of Accardi Clinical Pharmacy. The new challenges for pain patients come after federal and state officials acted to combat an epidemic of prescription drug abuse that claimed eight lives a day in Florida.

About five years ago, Florida earned the reputation as the pill mill capital of the United States. Unscrupulous pain management doctors set up storefront clinics and freely handed out pain pills with little to no medical justification.

These powerful drugs included oxycodone, hydrocodone, dilaudid and other narcotics effective at stopping pain but also highly addictive and prone to abuse. Overdoses increased by 61 percent from 2003-2009, and, on average, eight Floridians died of an overdose every day. People flocked to the Sunshine State to buy the drugs.

Lawmakers acted. They barred pain management clinics from dispensing pain pills from their offices. They implemented a prescription drug database that keeps records on how many pain prescriptions a patient has.

But these enforcement actions and new regulations also carried unintended consequences, said Michael A. Jackson, executive vice president and CEO of the Florida Pharmacy Association. Pharmacies and physicians are sometimes scared to provide pain medication to people who legitimately need it, including terminally ill cancer patients, he said.

HALFWAY THROUGH SESSION, LAWMAKERS RESOLVE NEXT TO NOTHING via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel

Nearly halfway through Florida’s legislative session, consensus remains elusive on nearly every major issue: health care, conservation, school testing, the budget and tax cuts.

The only substantive bill that has been passed so far moves the presidential-primary date in 2016 to March 15.

It’s not unusual for the Legislature to leave most of the large issues until late in the session, but with the House and Senate sharply divided on major bills and the uncertainty surrounding the budget, little else has been accomplished so far this year either.

FLASHBACK to my op-ed on January 5: “The Florida Legislature will pass the fewest bills in its history in 2015 as lawmakers punt to an early 2016 session.”

A LOW PROFILE PUSH FOR CHILD WELFARE via William March of the Tampa Tribune

In a state legislative session preoccupied with gambling, guns, booze and tax cuts, the Children’s Movement of Florida is pushing a cause that gets little attention: health care and early education for children from poor families.

It may not draw high-powered lobbyists to the Capitol rotunda, but Vance Aloupis, director of the group, said it’s about the future.

“Way too often these issues that are truly foundational to the future of our state are going unnoticed,” he said. “Every year we drag our feet, a child gets a year older.”

In this legislative session, which ends May 1, the Children’s Movement hopes to make children of legal immigrants eligible for state health coverage; increase pre-kindergarten spending; and expand the School Readiness program that prepares children for kindergarten while low-income parents are working or training for jobs.

Former Miami Herald publisher David Lawrence, one of the group’s founders, said he sees more interest in these issues now than in his 16 years in the field.

“There are now champions in the Legislature in a way there have not been,” and Gov. Rick Scott is more interested than when he took office, Lawrence said.

ALIMONY REFORM MOVING FORWARD via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

A renewed effort to fundamentally change Florida’s alimony system is gaining momentum as lawmakers head into the second half of their 2015 session.

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a bill (SB 1248), sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel … that would end permanent alimony, create a formula for determining the length and amount of alimony and provide a “50-50” child-sharing arrangement.

A similar bill (HB 943), sponsored by Reps. Colleen Burton and Ritch Workman is moving through the House.

Lawmakers have seen a version of this legislation before. A divided Legislature approved an alimony reform bill in 2013 only to see it vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott and opposed by some legal advocates and women’s groups.

But there are several key differences this year that could make the alimony bills more viable.

For one, Stargel said the current legislation would not apply “retroactively” to divorce cases already settled. Scott listed the retroactivity provision as the major reason why he vetoed the 2013 legislation, saying it could bring “unfair and unanticipated results” to spouses who had built their post-divorce lives on the alimony agreements.

Secondly, Stargel said she did not use the 2013 bill as the starting point for the new legislation. Rather she sought a “complete rewrite” of the alimony laws, working with both supporters of the 2013 measure as well as opponents. As a result, some key opponents of the 2013 bill, like the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar, are largely in support of Stargel’s latest effort.

BILL GIVES HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETES OPTIONS ON WHERE TO PLAY via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun Sentinel

High school athletes could act almost as free agents if a bill that reforms the Florida High School Athletic Association passes through the Legislature.

The bill would allow students whose schools have no team in a given sport to attend a different school in their county for athletic purposes only. The option also would apply to students who are home-schooled or attend virtual schools.

That has raised concerns that some marquee athletes may use the option — or be lured to use it — to be able attend a school with a premier sports program.

The scenario critics fear: Johnny is an outstanding football player but he lives in a school zone with a football team that traditionally has a losing record. He instead decides to attend a charter school with no athletic program — allowing him then to choose to play for a school with a winning football record.

While Democrats in the Legislature voiced concern over allowing students to choose a school for athletic purposes, Republicans argued the open enrollment policies of charter schools, magnets and private institutions already offer athletes many choices.

Written and approved by the House Education Committee, the bill would also: Allow student athletes who are declared ineligible to continue playing pending an appeal; have a neutral third party selected by parents make the final resolution of a student’s eligibility. Appeals are now handled by the Florida High School Athletic Association, which declared the student ineligible in the first place. Eligibility hearings would have to occur within 30 days of a student being declared ineligible and could be conducted by teleconferencing. Now, the final appeal takes place in person in Gainesville.

PROPOSED BILL WOULD ALLOW SELECT TEACHERS TO CARRY GUNS via Nick Tomcek of the NWF Daily News

Two bills that would allow superintendents to designate a person or persons to conceal and carry a weapon or firearm in district schools are gaining legislative speed.

House Bill 19 and Senate Bill 180, named “School Safety,” are moving through the committee process, inching closer to Gov. Scott’s desk for approval.

The companion bills give school superintendents, with school board approval, the option to appoint a designee with previous experience in law enforcement or the military to carry a weapon or firearm, which must be concealed.

The bill states that the designee must go through state and federal background checks, as well as training provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

If passed, the designee would be under the direction of the school resource officer in active shooter situations.

HB 19 has received favorable referrals from both the K-12 Subcommittee and the Appropriations Committee and is awaiting consideration by the Judiciary Committee.

SB 180 has been referred out of the Criminal Justice Committee and will next be considered in the Education Pre-K-12 Committee.

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ANDREW KORGE KICKS OFF STATE SENATE CAMPAIGN WITH POL-STUDDED FUNDRAISER via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics

In what is shaping up to be an expensive battle to succeed former Senate President Gwen Margolis in District 35, Andrew Korge starts his campaign with a fundraiser with an impressive roster of supporters filled with major Democratic contributors and elected officials from all over Miami-Dade.

Former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, Cutler Bay Mayor Peggy Bell, South Miami MayorPhillip Stoddard and Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg are among the 25 current and former electeds on the host committee, which is still in formation.

Hard and soft money combined, he aims to raise $100,000 from the event. That figure would double what Richardson has raised during the same period of his declared 2016 candidacy.

Korge and Rep. David Richardson have been engaged in something of a standoff involving District 35. While both claim some level of support on the part of Margolis, many saw Richardson’s recent move to file paperwork for the seat in 2016 as disrespectful to the Dean of the Senate.

Korge’s campaign account is currently opened for the seat in 2020, but should Margolis pivot after Session and decide to retire, he would be well-positioned to pursue the seat.

MAYORAL RACE TIGHT IN FIRST POLL ANALYSIS OF JACKSONVILLE RUNOFF ELECTION via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

A new automated phone poll of 1,076 likely voters from St. Pete Polls is the first to address the 2015 Jacksonville runoff election for sheriff and mayor. The poll, with a 3 percent margin of error, shows a tight mayoral race with incumbent Democrat Alvin Brown very slightly ahead of Republican Lenny Curry. It also shows that Democratic sheriff candidate Ken Jefferson is ahead of Republican Mike Williams in the very early going.

The poll has Brown ahead of Curry, 49.4 percent to 46.1 percent, showing that in a binary race there already is a slight skew to Curry. The poll was taken before the city pension deal was spiked Wednesday night on the floor of the Jacksonville City Council.

This margin is just outside the margin of error.

Both men enjoy strong support within their own parties in the poll. Brown is just above 79 percent with Democrats; Curry holds 77 percent of Republicans. There is an almost even split among independents, with both men near 47 percent. (Figures are rounded to the nearest whole number for the sake of readability).

When the universe of respondents is broken down by race, Curry has the advantage with white voters (about 63 percent to 33 percent), while Brown enjoys a lead with black voters (89 percent to 6 percent). Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander voters likewise skew Brown’s way by comfortable margins.

In good news for Brown and Curry, both have net favorable ratings. Brown has a 52.2 percent favorable rating (and 34.3 percent unfavorable); Curry is at 46.5 percent favorable and 39.8 percent unfavorable. Both men have a significant proportion of voters who are unsure (13.7 percent for Curry; 13.5 percent for Brown).

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Pete Antonacci, GrayRobinson: JP Morgan Chase Bank

Roberto Ricardo Beltran: Southwest Florida Water Management District

Jeff Johnston, Matthew Blair, Michael Cantens, Corcoran & Johnston: Guardianship of L.T./Richard Filson; Spirit Airlines

Jeffrey Sharkey, Taylor Biehl Capitol Alliance Group: Shabooms Incorporated

Travis Blanton, Jon Johnson, Melanie Brown, Darrick McGhee, Johnson & Blanton: Motorola Solutions; Correct Care Solutions; Florida Society of Interventional Pain Physicians

Matt Bryan, David Daniel, Jeff Hartley, Andrea Reilly, Smith Bryan & Myers: United Airlines

Dean Cannon, Capitol Insight: The Morganti Group

Justin Day, Cardenas Partners: CHSPSC

Adam Giery, Jonathan Menendez, Strategos Public Affairs: Acceleration Academies; Priatek

Susan Goldstein, Susan Goldstein Consulting: In God We Trust Foundation

Jason Gonzalez, Shutts & Bowen: DaVita, Inc.

Michael Harrell, Timothy Stanfield, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Florida Police Chiefs Association; Neal Communities of Southwest Florida; Avis Budget Group; City of Palm Coast; Leukemia & Lymphoma Society; Westcor Land Title Insurance Company

William Helmich, Helmich Consulting: Gomez Barker Associates; Global Games LLC

Bob Harris, Mark Herron, Messer Caparello PA: Florida Barber Academy

James Horne, Strategos Public Affairs: Acceleration Academies

Allison Hunt, Hunt-Watters: Florida Association of Community Health Centers; Northside Mental Health Center; Suncoast Community Health Centers

Jonathan Janeiro: Dade Medical College

Bill Johnson: Enterprise Florida

Marc Reichelderfer, LandMarc Strategies: Beer Industry of Florida

Cameron Yarbrough, Yarbrough Consulting: Tampa Greyhound Track

TALLYMADNESS UPDATE — FIRST ROUND VOTING ENDS TUESDAY NIGHT

After four days of voting in 2015’s TallyMadness tournament, #16 seed Jon Costello is running better than even with Goliath-esque favorite Brian Ballard who is yet again one of four number one seeds this March.Costello so far has garnered 50.6 percent of the vote to Ballard’s 49.4 percent.

Costello’s colleague at Rutledge Eucenia Gary Rutledge is down by a 38 to 62 margin against Rich Heffley of Heffley and Associates.

#3 seed Mark Delegal is in late-round shape in the early going, putting up gaudy numbers in his Round of 64 matchup against #14 seed Albert Balido.

Delegal has not only jumped out to a lead of nearly 95 percent to 5 percent, but has organized a legion of voters that have garnered the Holland & Knight lobbyist almost 2,000 votes more than any other contender.

Balido could no doubt still mount a comeback with the help of his comrades at Anfield Consutling – including Lori Killinger who is narrowly trailing Ron LaFace of Capital City Consulting, 56 to 44 – but it be one of most dramatic turnarounds in recent TallyMadness history. The weekend is both competitors’ oyster.

The tenth-seeded Mac Stipanovich is out to a narrow lead over #7 seed Katie Webb in the first round of this year’s TallyMadness online voting tournament. The wily veteran is up 51.2 percent to 48.8 in the early going, two days after polls first opened.

Jim Magill staying close with #2 seed David Ramba

Despite a number 15 seeding this year Jim Magill is hanging around in a close contest with David Ramba in 2015’s TallyMadness – the online voting competition to determine Florida’s “best” lobbyist.

Magill, a regular in the pantheon of TallyMadness late-round contenders, has so far won 45.1 percent of the vote to Ramba’s 54.9 in a highly trafficked Round of 64 matchup.

Ramba’s colleague at his eponymous lobbying firm Allison Carvajal is also leading her matchup in the early going, topping Gary Guzzo – Ramba’s second-round opponent in TallyMadness ’13 – by a count of 59 to 41.

Voting continues at TallyMadness.com from now until midnight on Tuesday, March 31. Like back in old Tammany Hall, vote early and vote often!

CONTEXT FLORIDA: SURPRISE FDLE VISIT, MEDICAID, FLORIDA FOREVER AND PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY

On Context FloridaDaniel Tilson recounts a surprise visit from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which claims received an anonymous tip on an alleged threatening Facebook comment about Gov. Scott. Tilson posted a link to an earlier Context Florida column about Scott’s tax-cutting propaganda gimmick this week, playfully (mockingly) titled Rick Scott’s Magical Mystery Tax Cut Calculator. The uncertain future of Medicaid financing has received much attention during the past few weeks of the legislative session, says State Sen. Rene Garcia. Adding to that uncertainty is an unhealthy dose of speculation and misinformation about the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and federal reliability. Words matter, or they should – at least for journalists. But not necessarily for politicians, according to Bruce Ritchie. The first Florida presidential primary that ever mattered was intended to enhance Sen. Edmund Muskie’s campaign for the Democratic nomination. It dealt him a staggering defeat instead, notes Martin Dyckman. Florida Republican leaders might want to consider that example before structuring next year’s primary as a winner-take-all clincher for former Gov. Jeb Bush or Sen. Marco Rubio.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Chris Korge. Celebrating today is solar dude Tory Perfetti and our friend Dywan Washington.

SPOTTED at Kate Bascom’s 7th birthday party: Tracy and Frank Mayernick, Alia and Rob Johnson, Katie Webb, and Crystal Stickle, Queen Elsa and Princess Anna.

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.