Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for March 4 – Happy “House of Cards” Day!

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Ryan Ray, and Jim Rosica

PROGRAMMING NOTE — I’ll be the featured speaker today at the Capital Tiger Bay Club meeting. The event begins at 11:30 and takes places at  the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center.

THE MOST IMPORTANT POLITICAL NEWS OF THE DAY: HOUSE OF CARDS IS BACK (AND AS FRUSTRATING AS EVER) via Lisa Weidenfeld of Slate’s AV Club — (N)ew challenges hang over season four. The blend of power, loyalty, and ambition twisted into the marriage of Frank and Claire remains the show’s most fascinating well of drama, and it gets a significant workout this year. Season three ended with them firmly at odds, and the new season does not tie a bow on that conflict. Is Claire Frank’s only true nemesis or his only true friend?

This means a lot of work for Robin Wright as the perpetually opaque Claire, a policy that both works and doesn’t. Claire is a fascinating character, but too much of what works in her character is wrapped up in how much of a mystery she remains, even four seasons in. Is there another series lead anywhere who is more of an enigma to viewers? The new season establishes some background on who Claire Underwood is, but somehow it doesn’t add up to a clearer sense of her. Fans of Wright’s steely intensity will have much to enjoy, but the central mystery of who she is remains frustratingly vague, even with a little more information.

At this point, we know who Frank is. But as the show has moved him into greater and greater positions of power, it’s had to invent challenges for him to struggle against, because the whole point of his character is endless ambition. To what end? What has Frank ever even wanted to do with the presidency? He’s there now, but there’s so little to be done with a Frank Underwood presidency that he spends the whole time drawn into petty conflicts, with old enemies nipping at his heels. The new season does little to fix this issue.

He’s also on the campaign trail this season, which could have allowed the show to try to reflect the real world, given that it premieres in the heart of the real-world primaries. But House Of Cards has so little connection to reality, and the writers choose not to say anything insightful about the actual 2016 presidential election. Its campaigns are old-fashioned races to battleground states and constant press conferences with each candidate criticizing the other, with no real reflection on what inspires people to vote for a candidate. The electorate is a faceless mass swayed only by whose scandal is currently getting more play in the press.

The question of how people make their election decisions has taken on unusual weight in this campaign season, given the unexpected ways in which both parties’ primaries are playing out. If you’re one of the people who is already tired of campaign season (so, basically everyone except the hopelessly wonkish), you can watch the latest round of House Of Cards without worry, because this show is not interested in saying much about real politics. But it’s hard not to wish that one of our most popular shows about politics cared more about the real world.

HOUSE OF CARDS AUTHOR: ‘ALL POLITICIANS GET PUSHED IN THE END’ via Elizabeth Grice of the (UK) Telegraph – You wouldn’t call [HOC author] Michael Dobbs puffed up exactly, but his glow of pride does seem to raise the temperature of his office in the House of Lords. The President of China, he says, talks to him about House of Cards. The Prime Minister of Kazakhstan is intrigued by the finer points of political conniving. And the President of the United States has been known to tweet about the hit television series, first a gripping yarn of Whitehall power games but now reborn as a sensational White House thriller. “None of this was planned,” Dobbs protests. “It was all a bit of a joke, an accident. I had no intention of being a writer, or even finishing the book. It was just a holiday distraction.”

ALL THE WAYS HOUSE OF CARDS BORROWED FROM – AND INFLUENCED 2016 via VH1 – CLAIRE…CLINTON? Even casual viewers of the show will see many parallels between Hillary Clinton and First Lady Claire Underwood. During season three, Claire is advised to dye her hair in order to help her husband’s electability. Maddening as that may seem, a similar scenario existed for Clinton during her time in Arkansas. After then-Governor Bill Clinton lost re-election in 1980, much of the criticism surrounded his feminist wife who refused to take his last name.

… DONALD TRUMP IS RAYMOND TUSK – As a billionaire with low levels of empathy and high amounts political clout and ambition, it’s becoming hard to describe the differences between Trump and Tusk. Trump has had political ties that date back throughout his career with expansive and diverse international interests, just like Tusk. Unlike Tusk, he’s actually running to be the leader of the free world, rather than puppeteering.

‘HOUSE OF CARDS’ GETS OWN EXHIBIT AT SMITHSONIAN via Agence France-Presse – [T]he Smithsonian Institute’s National Portrait Gallery houses the likenesses of all of the country’s great leaders – George WashingtonThomas JeffersonAbraham Lincoln and…. Francis Underwood? Underwood, Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey‘s cunning fictional president… sits cross-legged at a desk – his Oval Office, of course.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Bright House Networks for Business, your trusted provider of industry leading communications and networking services for any size business – from startup to enterprise, and everything in between. We offer a full portfolio of products and services, including Business Phone and cloud-based Hosted Voice, Business Internet at speeds up to 350 Mbps to fiber-based Dedicated Internet Access, several tiers of high-quality HD Video programming, and an array of advanced cloud and managed IT services. Our solutions are customized to fit your business, your budget, and your industry. We own, manage and maintain our network, which means we are 100% accountable; and we’re locally based, which allows us to be immediately responsive to our customers. Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Bright House Networks. Learn more.***

DEBATE ANALYSIS: MARCO RUBIO, TED CRUZ FORGE LOOSE ALLIANCE TO BLOCK DONALD TRUMP — For months, Cruz and Rubio tried to tear each other down in a bid to become Trump’s top challenger. The senators are now unlikely allies in an effort to stop Trump’s march toward the Republican nomination.

The strategy shift was on full display in Thursday’s GOP debate. Rubio and Cruz ignored each other almost entirely, choosing to instead fully focus their attention on the billionaire businessman whose surprising dominance of the 2016 race has shaken the Republican Party to its core.

Cruz and Rubio’s moves underscore the desperate situation in which they find themselves. A clear path to winning the nomination through the traditional primary process seems increasingly out of reach. Instead, they’re eying a deeply complicated, long-shot plan to stop Trump at a contested convention.

It’s a blueprint that probably only works if Rubio and Cruz, along with Kasich, stay in the race, siphoning delegates away from Trump as the primary process weaves its way across the country for months to come.

So when Rubio and Cruz took the stage in Detroit in Thursday, they shelved their well-practiced attacks on each other’s immigration policies, national security views and campaign tactics.

Instead, Rubio hammered Trump for manufacturing his branded clothing in China and Mexico, not the United States, and challenged the practices of a Trump-branded educational company that’s facing lawsuits. Cruz questioned why the Republican front-runner had donated to Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, and accused him of having “used government power for private gain.”

“Do you understand the principles that made America great in the first place?” Cruz asked Trump, knocking the billionaire’s now-famous campaign slogan.

At several points during the two-hour debate, Trump appeared to be trying to pivot toward the general election, a strategy often employed by a party’s presumptive nominee. He never flinched when asked about his campaign contributions to Clinton, embraced a “softening” of his position on allowing visas for highly skilled overseas workers, and suggested he would be willing to negotiate on his broader immigration policy, as well as on other areas.

“You have to show a degree of flexibility,” Trump said. “If you’re going to be one way and you think it’s wrong, does that mean the rest of your life you have to go in the wrong direction because you don’t think you want to change?”

If Rubio and Cruz succeeded at anything Thursday with their constant barrage of attacks, it was blocking Trump from fully evolving into a more palatable general election candidate. Their needling rattled the first-time candidate, sending him back to his deep reserve of biting personal insults.

He repeatedly belittled “Little Marco” and “Liar Ted.” And in a stunning moment on a presidential debate stage, he rebuffed Rubio’s mocking of his hand size — widely viewed as an insult about his sexual prowess — by declaring, “I guarantee you, there’s no problem” in that area.

11 MOST INTERESTING MOMENTS OF THE DEBATE via Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — During one of a series of sustained attacks, Rubio went after Trump‘s clothing line, which he said is largely made abroad. Trump didn’t exactly deny it – but said of Rubio, “This little guy has lied so much about my record.” More on that, and other key events from Thursday night’s debate.

TRUMP ON SMALL HANDS: I GUARANTEE YOU THERE’S NO PROBLEM via Nick Gass of POLITICO — Responding to Rubio’s taunts about the size of his hands (and other measurements), Trump reassured the world: “I guarantee there’s no problem.” But, post-debate, he wanted to be very clear: Only you, dear reader, thought of anything else. He only means his “big powerful hands.”

YES, TWO GIRLS WERE DABBING BEHIND MEGYN KELLY — As Kelly spoke, a pair of girls appeared to “dab” behind her. Given the tone, not sure how out of place it really was. Watch here.

STAT OF THE NIGHT27:54. That’s how long Trump spoke at the Detroit debate – almost 13 minutes more than Rubio, who spoke the least.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Jamestown Associates, winner of eight 2016 Reed Awards and 60 industry awards overall. Jamestown’s TV, radio, mail and digital advertising helps clients in Florida and across the nation perfect their message, create powerful ads, micro-target the media buy and WIN. See how Jamestown Associates wins tough campaigns at***

TRUMP TO CAMPAIGN AT UCF ON SATURDAY; STUDENTS ORGANIZE PROTEST via Steven Lemongello and Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel – Trump is scheduled to appear at the CFE Arena at noon … Free tickets were available at his website … UCF Police Chief Richard Beary said he estimated the Trump event will require about 35 police officers to assist Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the United States Secret Service … CFE Arena, located at 12777 Gemini Boulevard North on the UCF campus, can hold more than 10,000 people. There could also be people protesting Trump outside, Beary said. On Facebook, “a civil protest of his candidacy and his support” was organized by students shortly after the event announcement. “There’s going to be a large number on both sides of the house,” Beary said.

CALL ME MR. TRUMP via Gail Collins of the New York Times – The gold-plated candidate with no first name”: “Let’s consider the fact that in his introduction [at Tuesday night’s presser], Christie called the candidate ‘Mr. Trump.’ To which Trump responded, ‘Chris, thank you very much.’ Then he congratulated ‘Ted’ for winning Texas and looked forward to taking on ‘Hillary.’ … [T]his goes way back – on his reality show, all the would-be apprentices, including the celebrity ones, called the host ‘Mr. Trump,’ even when he wasn’t in the room.

ANTI-TRUMP REPUBLICANS CALL FOR A THIRD-PARTY OPTION via Alexander Burns of the New York Times – While he has gained intense popularity on the right, Trump has alienated key blocs in the Republican coalition with his slash-and-burn campaign. For many, his initial refusal last weekend to disavow an endorsement from David Duke, the white supremacist, was a breaking point. Two top Republicans, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, said this week that they would not vote for Trump in November. William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine, said he would work actively to put forward an “independent Republican” ticket if Trump was the nominee, and floated Sasse as a recruit. “That ticket would simply be a one-time, emergency adjustment to the unfortunate circumstance (if it happens) of a Trump nomination,” Kristol wrote in an email. It “would support other Republicans running for Congress and other offices, and would allow voters to correct the temporary mistake (if they make it) of nominating Trump.”

THE TRUMPMARE: CAN THE REPUBLICANS SAVE THE SENATE? via Larry Sabato and Kyle Kondik of Sabato’s Crystal Ball – Obviously, the map gets much worse for Republicans. This moves four additional Senate races — Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania — toward the Democrats, and others would become more competitive. Ohio would be a toss-up, while Democratic odds could also improve in places like Indiana, Missouri, and North Carolina. As unlikely as it seems at present, perhaps even a Senate institution, Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, could find himself in unexpected trouble, particularly if Republicans find their opposition to holding a vote, or even hearings, on President Obama’s eventual nominee to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is unpopular. Under this scenario, we could see the Democrats winning at least 51 Senate seats, with several others in the realm of the possible. The Republican ‘Trumpmare’ is a Democratic Senate to go along with a third straight Democratic term in the White House.

SMART POLITICS REPORT SHOWS TRUMP-LED TICKET COULD SPELL DOWN-BALLOT GOP TROUBLE IN FLORIDA via Florida Politics – If Trump becomes the nominee, states holding U.S. Senate races – Florida is among them – could see trouble for Republicans and the future of the GOP-controlled Senate. A new Smart Politics report shows that rarely – or never – does a state vote for a Republican U.S. Senator and elect a Democratic presidential nominee. Of the 18 states voting for a Democratic presidential nominee with a Republican U.S. Senate candidate in the same election cycle, 11 will hold Senate races in 2016, including five crucial battlegrounds: Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Arizona, and Indiana. Of course, Trump or Cruz at the top of the ticket in November does not automatically mean Republicans will lose down-ballot. But Smart Politics reports that in Florida, it would be a first. In those five states with a Democratic winner in over 35 election cycles that also had U.S. Senate races, Republicans lost all 35: 10 times in Florida, nine each in North Carolina and Wisconsin, five times in Arizona and twice in Indiana. Conversely, Kansas is the only state never to split the ticket the other way; that is, electing a GOP nominee for president and a Democrat for U.S. Senate.

BEST TRUMP STORY OF THE DAY — TRUMP SUES GOLF COURSE NEIGHBORS, CLAIMS THEY CUT DOWN TREES via The Associated Press — Trump is suing eight residents whose properties back up to his South Florida golf course, alleging they are cutting down trees he planted to make the course more private for golfers. Residents say the landscaping that was part of Trump’s $200 million renovation of the signature Doral course is blocking their serene fairway views and damaging their home values. Some of the homes are worth $500,000 or more, but Trump says some of the properties are in disrepair and residents played music too loud, hung underwear on clotheslines and drank too much alcohol. He said the behavior is not up to the standards of a world class golf course.

SUPER TUESDAY DELEGATE MATH: RUBIO IS IN DEEP TROUBLE via Andrew Prokop of Vox  – Super Tuesday was bad for Rubio, but the political world still hasn’t absorbed just how bad it was. According to our delegate count estimate, it was absolutely brutal … With about 29% of delegates already allotted, Rubio is so far behind that it’s hard to see how he can win the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination on the first ballot. Indeed, he’d need to win nearly two-thirds of all remaining delegates to pull that off — a highly implausible feat.

— “A wounded Marco Rubio falls back to Florida” via The New York Times

RUBIO FOCUSES ON AMERICAN DREAM IN NEW VIDEO via Jenna for-Foerster of Florida Politics – “Because we did what needed to be done, our children became the freest and most prosperous Americans that ever lived,” he is heard saying in the video. “Because we did what we needed to be done, the American Dream didn’t just survive, the American Dream reached more people and changed more lives than ever before.” The 60-second video features images of children and families, as music plays in the background. “Because we did what we needed to be done, our children became the freest and most prosperous Americans that ever lived,” the Florida senator is again heard saying in the video. “And because we did, we were the authors of the greatest chapter of America and the 21st century became a new American Century.”

SUSANA MARTINEZ ENDORSES RUBIO via CBS News — The New Mexico Gov. announced her endorsement of Rubio on Thursday, calling him “a compelling leader who can unite the country around conservative principles that will improve the lives of all Americans.”

RUBIO TO RALLY IN JACKSONVILLE SATURDAY via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel – [Rubio] will appear with New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez at the Morocco Shrine Auditorium. “Marco Rubio is a compelling leader who can unite the country around conservative principles that will improve the lives of all Americans,” Martinez said in a statement. “The stakes for our great country are too high – and the differences between the candidates too great – for me to remain neutral in this race.” The rally is set for 2:30 p.m. Rubio’s campaign … canceled appearances in Kentucky and Louisiana in advance of Saturday’s Kentucky caucuses and Louisiana primary.

EXCITEMENT (AND SOME CONCERN) AS HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN OPENS OFFICE IN TAMPA via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – “You are standing in ground zero of American politics,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn declared while standing atop the steps of the building’s north side. “This is where Presidents get picked, right here in Ybor City, right here in Tampa, right here in the I-4 corridor, and once again, we will be battling house by house, voter by voter to win this election” … “We can’t underestimate anybody,” added Alan Clendenin, vice chair of the Florida Democratic Party and a Democratic National Committeeman. “I think that anybody assumes that running against Donald Trump will be a cakewalk is delusional.” Democrats maybe should be concerned when it comes to voter intensity. Republican turnout in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada is up 27 percent compared to 2012. By contrast, Democrats’ turnout is down 25 percent compared to their record-setting 2008 campaign.

SCHOOLS FIND PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN TALK CONFLICTS WITH NO BULLIES MESSAGE via Carolyn Thompson of the Associated Press – “If students are following this election – and they should be – we have a lot of re-educating to do,” Buffalo school administrator Will Keresztessaid. Much of the rhetoric would violate not only the district’s code of conduct, he said, but the state’s Dignity for all Students Act. The conflict landed on Sioux City, Iowa, Superintendent Paul Gausman’s doorstep after Trump decided to hold a campaign rally in a school building. The move sparked a protest from some students – who cited their own anti-bullying rules in trying to stop it. “He makes people at his events think that saying the kinds of things he does to other people is OK. It’s not OK,” protest organizer Ismael Valadez of neighboring South Sioux City, Nebraska, said at the time. In the end, it was the idea of free speech, the right to assemble and policies against discriminating based on something someone said or did that prevailed, Gausman said this week. This is not the first campaign to get ugly, but educators, parents and students say this one is particularly challenging because often the biggest applause lines and headline-grabbers fly in the face of appeals for students be respectful and kind.

***Florida hospitals are on a mission. A mission to increase access to health care, improve the quality of care and reduce costs for patients. Find out more about the Florida Hospital Association’s “Mission to Care” and its new website that provides hospital prices and quality ratings in a consumer-friendly, searchable format.***

BEN CARSON ADVISOR POURS COLD WATER ON SENATE RUMORS via Alex Pfeiffer of The Daily Caller – Armstrong Williams shut down rumors that Carson will drop out of the presidential race and run for the open U.S Senate seat in Florida. “You’re hearing something we don’t know about, that’s why we call them rumors,” Williams told The Daily Caller. “You can quote me on this, ‘When Dr. Carson decides to end this presidential race, when that times comes, that will be his first and only stint in politics at any level … He doesn’t need to do this anymore, there are other ways you can serve the country.”

FLORIDA EARLY BALLOT VOTE UPDATE — As of Thursday, 10 a.m.: 751,754 votes have been cast – 390,330, Republican; 330,862, Democrat; 30,562, Other. Requested mail ballots: 1,854,918 — 852,806, Republican; 735,645, Democrat; 266,467, Other. Early voting: 60,207 – 29,575, Republican; 28,374, Democrat; 2,258, Other. Total EAV: 811,961 – 419,905, Republican; 359,236, Democrat; 32,820, Other.

RICK SCOTT DECLINES TO ENDORSE IN GOP PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The Naples Republican said he would not endorse a candidate before the March 15 Republican primary. In a statement on his Facebook page, Scott said he has made it his practice “not to get involved in primaries because picking the Republican candidate is the voters’ job … The political class opposed me when I first ran for office, they did not want a businessman outsider, but the voters had other ideas,” he wrote. “I trust the voters, so I will not try to tell the Republican voters in Florida how to vote by endorsing a candidate before our primary on March 15. I believed in the voters when I first ran for office, and I still believe in them today.” Scott has long been rumored to be on the verge of endorsing Trump. As Trump held a news conference in Palm Beach County as Super Tuesday results rolled in, some reporters speculated that Scott was on hand to throw his support behind the New York businessman.

SPOTTED: Gov. Scott and traveling staff at a Naples taqueria on ThursdayFP’s Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster says the place is known for authentic tacos, awesome salsa and beer.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will visit Marco Island Academy, 2255 San Marco Road on Marco Island at 10 a.m. to recognize teachers with Shine Awards.

WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE IS READING — HIGHFLYING FLORIDA GDP DOWNSHIFTS IN LATEST QUARTER BEHIND 29 OTHER STATES via Robert Trigaux of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida’s once soaring gross domestic product fell back to earth in the third quarter of 2015, dropping to a 2 percent growth rate from 5.1 percent in the second quarter of last year … Where Florida enjoyed the seventh fastest growing economy among states in the second quarter, slower growth dropped it to 30th in the third quarter. Still, Florida’s 2.1 percent growth outpaced the nation’s 1.9 percent growth in the quarter. Florida’s GDP in the third quarter rose to $893.2 billion, up from $883.7 billion in the previous quarter and $845.8 billion in the third quarter of 2014. That GDP size ranks Florida fourth in the nation, well behind No. 1 California ($2.4 trillion), No. 2 Texas ($1.6 trillion) and New York ($1.4 trillion).

SCOTT’S TEAM EYEING UF TRUSTEE JASON ROSENBERG AS NEW HEALTH CHIEF via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — With Dr. John Armstrong‘s confirmation as health secretary in deep trouble in the Senate, Scott may need to find a replacement in a hurry … Scott’s top advisers have found their likely replacement. He is Dr. Jason Rosenberg, a plastic surgeon in Gainesville who has received two high-profile appointments from the governor to the statewide Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding and to the board of trustees at his alma mater, the University of Florida. Rosenberg holds three degrees from UF. Like Armstrong, he also has a military background. The fact that Scott’s advisers have identified a replacement is another sign of Armstrong’s uncertain future in his dual roles as state surgeon general and secretary of the Department of Health.

***HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS – Celebrating 90 years of providing smiles, sportsmanship and service to millions of people worldwide, the world famous Harlem Globetrotters will bring their unrivaled family show to the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, March 3, 2016, at 7 p.m., during their 90th Anniversary World Tour. Tickets are on sale now at!***

DETAILS EMERGE ABOUT FAILURE OF SCOTT’S ECONOMICS INCENTIVES PRIORITY via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The talks that takes place between House and Senate budget-writers as they negotiate the outline of a proposed state spending plan usually remain shrouded in secrecy, but details are starting to emerge about how the Legislature built a budget with zero dollars for Gov. Scott’s top priority. … “We had offered up to $200 million at one point,” Crisafulli told reporters during a Wednesday availability. … The announcement came as a surprise to many. The House has publicly been opposed to taxpayer-funded incentives that go directly to companies, and its original budget proposal had none.

FLASHBACK to my column on Monday: “Here’s what happened behind-the-scenes explaining why the House zeroed out the incentives money. Despite a deep philosophical objection of many House members to set aside money to lure new businesses to Florida, the House was prepared to accept giving some money to EFI. But then it became clear to House leadership that to the Governor’s Office the incentives money was a binary issue: All or none. Well, not even all or nothing, just all or all. Anything less than all meant Scott would punish lawmakers with vetoes of their budget projects.”

HEALTH CARE BUDGET FINALIZED via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – Social services spending for the upcoming fiscal year was resolved after House budget negotiator Rep. Richard Corcoran and Senate budget chief Tom Lee met late Thursday night. … The chief budget negotiators agreed to resolve a problem with the $607 million proposed Low Income Pool plan by saying that the detailed spread sheets that show how much supplemental Medicaid dollars Florida hospitals will receive, as well as how much local money some hospitals will contribute to help fund the program, are for “demonstration purposes only and are not binding.

WEEKEND SALES-TAX HOLIDAY TUCKED INTO LEGISLATURE’S $400 MILLION TAX-CUT PLAN via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post – The $400 million tax-cut package being wrapped up by state lawmakers is highlighted by a property-tax cut for homeowners and businesses — but also fleshed out with a modest sales-tax holiday. The property tax proposal eats up $290 million of the proposal — which is dramatically different than the $1 billion in business-oriented cuts sought by Scott, who campaigned for months for the reduction plan. Instead, the Senate Appropriations Committee … advanced a package that reduces the property-tax rate for schools by about 6 percent, plugging in state money as a replacement. The tax-holidays shaping up include a back-to-school clothing costing $60 or less and supplies $15 or less.

JACK LATVALA, DON GAETZ SPAR OVER TOURISM TAX AMENDMENT via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Latvala and Gaetz … have clashed several times publicly in recent years as part of a simmering Senate presidency race between Latvala and Sen. Joe Negron. With that race over, however, the feud has continued. This time the fight came over an amendment Gaetz filed to the Senate’s tax package. The $400 million plan was a “compromise” agreed to by the House. Gaetz’s plan would allow up to 10 percent of taxes generated by tourists to flow to things like emergency medical services, or law enforcement related to tourism boosts. The bill applies only to Okaloosa, Bay and Walton Counties, which are in Gaetz’s district, and ground zero for the race to replace him. In order to divert the tourist taxes, the local county commissions and tourism councils would have to sign off on the plans. The issue of diverting tourism taxes has been a contentious one all session. The tourism and hospitality industries oppose any diversion because the money is currently used for marketing efforts to attract tourists. Latvala said he opposed the bill because he said there are other revenue sources that can be used, and because of the process by which the amendment was filed. It came just nine minutes before the start of the Senate Appropriations Committee where it was considered. “This amendment we are voting on was filed at 7:51 this morning,” said Latvala in a clearly annoyed tone. “Less than nine minutes before this committee is starting.”

TUG OF WAR OVER TAX PACKAGE KILLS BILLS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A squabble over tourist taxes, a last-minute amendment to the Senate’s tax cut package, sucked up about half of the 2016 Legislative Session’s last Senate Appropriations meeting, killing bills left hanging on the agenda. The panel OK’d the House plan (HB 7099) after amending it with the Senate’s own tax package. The legislation promises about $129 million in tax relief, far less than the $1 billion asked for by Scott. For instance, it scales back Florida’s back to school sales-tax holiday from 10 days to three days in August.  The amendment in question was eventually approved 11-8, and the tax relief package itself later cleared the committee, though not before budget chief Tom Lee let off a little steam. Because of the tourist tax fight, the Brandon Republican warned the panel “legislation is already dead on this agenda.” The infighting highlighted the breakdowns that start piling up in the waning days of a legislative session.

LEGISLATURE OVERHAULS DEATH PENALTY IN BID TO RESUME EXECUTIONS via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – The Legislature sent to Gov. Scott a bill that would require that at least 10 out of 12 jurors recommend execution in order for it be carried out. Florida previously only required that a majority of jurors recommend a death sentence. … Legislators were initially divided over whether they should require a unanimous jury recommendation in death penalty cases. Florida is one of only a handful of states that does not require a unanimous decision by the jury. State senators agreed to switch to 10 jurors as part of a compromise with the House, but some legislators have warned that the decision could result in the law being challenged once again. The bill sent to Scott does not apply to the 389 inmates now sitting on Florida’s death row. The state Supreme Court has been asked to decide whether the U.S. Supreme Court ruling should apply to those already sentenced to death.

GAETZ BACKS OFF ATTEMPT TO REVIVE OPEN CARRY PROPOSAL via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – The Niceville Republican had wanted to amend his plan on to a different concealed weapons bill that senators heard on the chamber floor …  But the attempt was short-lived. Ever since Gaetz filed the proposed amendment … Some senators had been coordinating to thwart Gaetz by citing Senate rules. Heading into the Senate session … Gaetz acknowledged the opposition but said “we’ll give it a try.” But when SB 612 came up early this afternoon, Gaetz said he’d been advised by Rules Chairman David Simmons … that his amendment was “out of order,” because it was the subject of his standalone bill that stalled in committee. Gaetz said “in deference to Senate rules” he would withdraw the open-carry amendment.

ALIMONY BILL HITS SENATE FLOOR via Florida Politics – Among other things, the bill changes the way Florida judges can award spousal support with an eye to get rid of what critics call “forever alimony.” The proposal (SB 668) allows the courts to modify alimony payments if there is a “substantial change in circumstances.” That could mean the unemployment of the person paying or the person getting paid reaching the age to receive full Social Security benefits. In questions, Democrats continued to pick at the bill, suggesting it’s unfair especially to women.

GUARDIANSHIP BILL HEADS TO SCOTT’S DESK via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – The legislation (SB 232), sponsored by Sen. Nancy Detert and Rep. Larry Ahern will allow the state Department of Elder Affairs to expand its public guardianship office to include private, or professional, guardians, who are paid to manage the affairs of seniors deemed by the courts as too frail or mentally challenged to care for themselves ,,, the House approved the measure 115-2 and sent it to Scott. The bill, which Scott is expected to sign, will allow the newly renamed Office of Public and Professional Guardians to establish standards for public and private guardians, register guardians, investigate complaints, develop procedures for discipline and set penalties for guardians found in violation.

SENATE TEES UP CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE BILL FOR FLOOR VOTE via Florida Politics – The proposal – SB 1044 by Sen. Jeff Brandes – got a final tuneup before heading to the Senate floor for a full vote … The amendments clarify: There must be a “rational nexus” between the arrest and the seizure of any property, with some limited exceptions; Require the seizing agency (i.e. the police) to cover the costs of storing seized property and paying for any damage to it; and That any bond issued regarding confiscated property shall be paid to the claimant unless otherwise agreed to.

SENATE SUPPORTS STARTING 2018 LEGISLATIVE SESSION IN JANUARY via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Senators did not debate the measure prior to approving it by a 27-11 vote. But they had a short discussion … When Sen. Jeff Clemens … Questioned the cost of and need for having an earlier session. “When you’re on spring break with your kids this year, you’ll understand the significance of it,” Senate President Andy Gardiner said, cracking a smile. The House has yet to sign off on moving the start date for the 2018 session.

***In Marion County alone, the horse industry’s annual economic impact is $2.62 billion and nearly 20,000 jobs–completely dwarfing any Seminole Compact estimates.  Totally opposed by horsemen, the “partial decoupling” plan now in play would put horsemen on forced welfare with an artificial “set aside purse pool,” wiping out free enterprise and Florida’s ability to compete for horse racing business with other states.  United Florida Horsemen want legislators to know that “Partial Decoupling” is being peddled by casino-only interests, the goal of which is to channel money directly into their corporate bottom lines that would have normally been circulated into Florida’s economy.***

FANTASY SPORTS BILL’S ODDS ARE LONG, BUT SENATOR CONTINUES PUSH via Jeremy Wallace of the Miami Herald – Undaunted, the state legislator pushing a bill to legalize daily fantasy sports games in Florida, said he still sees a shot to get his legislation through before the Legislature’s annual session ends next week. Sen. Joe Negron proposed a bill … to allow daily fantasy sports companies like FanDuel and DraftKings to operate in Florida as long as they register with the state and abide by a host of new regulations. When the bill hit roadblocks in the Senate, Negron turned to amending a statewide gaming bill to include the wording to declare fantasy sports games legal. Alas, that bill essentially died in the Senate Appropriations Committee this week. But Negron said he’s not done yet. “I still think it’s in play,” Negron said … He said his best opportunity to get the language through may rest with the Florida House, where a statewide gambling bill includes much of what he had sought. The trick is whether that bill gets heard by the full House, passes and then makes its way to the Florida Senate for consideration.

ALAN WILLIAMS WANTS TO END FSECC FOR NOW via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat – Williams said a measure he’s sponsoring will be taken up on the House floor on Friday to strike the campaign, the state’s official employee charity effort, from statutes. As part of the amendment, the Florida Department of Management Services would conduct a study, due Oct. 1, on how best to move it forward. … “The intent is to eliminate it, repeal it from law, and get a report for recommendations on what we should do next,” said Williams. “Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is add transparency and bring about accountability as we address charitable giving by state employees in the future.”

***Wind down after a busy day at work by brightening up your dinner plans at The Edison. Enjoy dishes from our internationally-inspired menu and choose from our top-rated wine selections to create a mouthwatering combination. Plus, if you stop by on weekdays from 3 – 6 p.m. you can enjoy Happy Hour in the Beer Garden! Book your reservation.***

TWEET, TWEET: @TIAreports: I’m pretty sure Sen. Richter is the coolest cat in the Legislature. Going to miss his laid back swagger.

LEGISLATIVE SKED via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools

REVENUE ESTIMATES – The legislative Revenue Estimating Conference will meet to consider proposed legislation 9 a.m. in Room 117 of the Knott Building.

SENATE, HOUSE IN SESSION – Senate floor session begins 10 a.m.; House session starts 10:30 a.m.

#CATESINEDIE via Kevin Cate: “According to the best guesstimates from lawmakers, reporters, and insiders, the 2016 Florida Legislative Session will hanky down Sine Die at 6:11 p.m. on March 11, 2016. That is the median prediction from the fourth annual #CateSineDie spectacular. … If you are into math, the average is Friday 10:45 PM and the mode is Friday 6:40 PM.”


Thomas Arnold, Christopher Dudley, James McFaddin III, Southern Strategy Group: Senior Housing Properties Trust

Jerald Paul, Capitol Energy Florida: All Star Children’s Home

Ryder Rudd, Advantage Consulting Team: Latt Maxcy Corporation

Gary Rutledge, Rutledge Ecenia: The Florida Bar, Family Law Section


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James  on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: Political analyst Dr. Lawrence Miller on the winnowing of the GOP field following Super Tuesday.

Facing Florida with Mike Vasilinda: Cancer survivor Marty Monroe and former police officer Tim Franklin.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Former Rep. and Hillsborough GOP chair Deborah Tamargo, attorney Elvin Martinez Jr., USF-St. Pete professor emeritus Darryl Paulson, and Tony Marrero of the Tampa Bay Times.

On Point with Shannon Ogden on WFCN in Jacksonville: Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union, cartoonist Ed Hall, and a preview of the 2016 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, plus a recap of Super Tuesday.

Political Connections on Bay News 9 in Tampa Bay: Host Al Ruechel appraises the 2016 race by the numbers, and Ybeth Bruzual sits down with Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera to talk about his run for the U.S. Senate. Plus PolitiFact rates a claim made by Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Shultz about the scheduling of the Democratic presidential debates.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Ryan Nobles sits down with Kasich on the campaign trail and the meaning of Super Tuesday’s results. Bruzual talks with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who was recently in town to endorse Val Demings for Congress.  Plus a new bipartisan segment with former CFO Alex Sink and  analyst Chris Ingram debut a new segment called “Common Ground.” They’ll discuss immigration reform and try to find points both sides of the aisle can agree on.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon, Steve Vancore, Peter Schorsch, and Dr. Ed Moore on “The gift” of Mitt Romney vs. Donald Trump.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: U.S. Senate candidate Todd Wilcox; Judge Charles Cofer, who is running for Public Defender against incumbent Matt Shirk in the 4th Judicial Circuit; plus Meredith O’Malley Johnson, Keith Walters, and Kemal Gasper of the Jax Young Voters Coalition.

***Capital City Consulting, LLC is a full-service government and public affairs firm located in Tallahassee, Florida. At Capital City Consulting, our team of professionals specialize in developing unique government relations and public affairs strategies and delivering unrivaled results for our clients before the Florida Legislature and Executive Branch Agencies. Capital City Consulting has the experience, contacts and winning strategies to help our clients stand out in the capital city. Learn more at***

REST IN PEACE — FORMER ST. PETE TIMES SPORTS COLUMNIST HUBERT MIZELL DIES AT 76 via Gary Shelton of Florida Politics – For 27 years, Mizell was the most recognizable face in the employ of the St. Petersburg Times. In a time before the Internet or cable TV channels, his was the voice that guided Tampa Bay through the arrival of hockey and baseball, through the days when the Bucs became presentable, through the great seasons of Florida and FSU. Few others cast a shadow as large as his in the press boxes of Tampa Bay. Mizell, 76, died Wednesday from cancer of the blood, kidney failure and congestive heart failure. In a career of writing, Mizell knew most of the greats: Bobby Knight was a favorite. So were Steve Spurrier and Bobby Bowden and Don Shula. He covered 42 college bowl games, 33 Masters golf tournaments, 10 Olympics and eight Wimbledons. Mizell went about his job, crafting every day. He left once to go to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution — he covered Princess Diana‘s wedding — then came back. (I joined him on staff in 1990 and as a co-columnist in 1992). He was boisterous, proud of his position on the staff and in the state. There were not many columnists who mattered more.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY this weekend to the man who is everywhere, Steve Gately.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, 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.

Latest from Statewide

Go to Top