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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Senate warns that intervention by Gov. Scott would be 'paternalistic'

The sudden shutdown of the Florida House that derailed the 2015 session Tuesday makes it even more difficult for the Legislature's presiding officers to agree on the framework for a special session. The ugliness between House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner won't easily subside, and Gov. Rick Scott has already said he would consider calling a special session if the Legislature's leaders can't pull it off.

If it's possible for things in Tallahassee to go from very bad to worse, here's how: Scott unilaterally calls the Legislature back into special session without any consensus among legislative leaders on how to break their budget impasse.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon, said that would be a mistake. Speaking to reporters Monday night, before the House went home, Lee said Scott should stay on the sidelines and let lawmakers try to resolve their differences on their own. …

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Scott Walker dominates in Iowa but Rubio bounce evident

The following is a PPP news release:

PPP's newest Iowa poll finds Scott Walker well ahead of the rest of the Republican field in Iowa, getting 23% to 13% for Marco Rubio, 12% for Jeb Bush, 10% each for Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul, 8%

for Ted Cruz, 7% for Ben Carson, 5% for Chris Christie, and 4% for Rick Perry.

Walker has the highest favorability out of anyone in the field, with 59% of voters viewing him favorably to 13% who have an unfavorable view. The key to Walker's success is that he's winning both among voters who are most concerned about electability in the general election and among voters who are most concerned with having the most conservative candidate. Among voters who say being able to win in the general is their top priority,

Walker gets 21% to edge out Marco Rubio (20%) and Jeb Bush (17%). His lead is much more emphatic among voters saying conservatism is their top priority- with them he gets 29% to 14% for Cruz, 12% for Paul, and 10% for Huckabee. …

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Florida House abruptly ends regular session

The Florida House has abruptly ended the regular session, setting the stage for a special session to resolve the budget impasse.

Follow The Buzz and here for updates.

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Lobbyist gift ban fix passes House, heads to Gov. Scott's desk

The House gave final passage Tuesday to a bill that creates a narrow exception to the notorious 2006 lobbyist gift ban. The bill (SB 984) by Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, clarifies the law that a legislator using a public facility for a public purpose such as a town hall meeting is not a violation of the lobbyist gift ban. A number of legislators also have rent-free office space from cities or counties that lobby the Legislature.

The Senate rules and the House administrative policy manual both require approval by the Senate president or House speaker before a legislator can use government property. The bill removes the requirement.

The House vote was 119-0. The bill now goes to Gov. Rick Scott.



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Environmentalists seeing green on U.S. Sugar land

Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, holds up a bottle of water collected Monday from the St. Lucie River, where he said a blue-green algae bloom was caused by excessive amounts of nutrients from agricultural runoff and human waste. Members of the Everglades Trust delivered the bottles with 20,000 petition signatures to members of the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday to highlight the consequences of not using Amendment 1 funds to purchase lands owned by U.S. Sugar south of Lake Okeechobee to protect the Everglades and drinking water sources. Draper spoke to reporters Tuesday outside the Capitol.


Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, holds up a bottle of water collected Monday from the St. Lucie River, where he said a blue-green algae bloom was caused by excessive amounts of nutrients from agricultural runoff and human waste. Members of the Everglades Trust delivered the bottles with 20,000 petition signatures to members of the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday to highlight the consequences of not using Amendment 1 funds to purchase lands owned by U.S. Sugar south of Lake Okeechobee to protect the Everglades and drinking water sources. Draper spoke to reporters Tuesday outside the Capitol.

Green algae just might be the best lobbying tool environmentalists have in making their case that the state should buy land owned by U.S. Sugar.

Last week, a bloom of toxic blue-green algae in water adjacent to Lake Okeechobee led to the suspension of water pumping that had been ordered by the Army Corps of Engineers. Environmentalists want to purchase about 46,000 acres of U.S. Sugar land that could be used to build a reservoir to capture the dirty discharge, purifying the water that drains into the Everglades, a case that was bolstered by last week’s bloom.

On Tuesday, the green algae was on full display during a news conference on the steps of the Capitol.

“The U.S. Sugar land gives us the opportunity to treat the water and send it south where it belongs rather than dumping it on those poor people on the coast,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, holding a bottle filled with dark green water that ostensibly came from Lake Okeechobee. “If they don’t buy the U.S. Sugar land then the people downstream from Lake Okeechobee can expect to continue to get this type of green, slimy, toxic algae water dumped on them on a continuous basis.” …

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House tweaks online voter registration bill, sends back to Senate

The Florida House on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill to create an online voter registration portal by 2017, and added a wrinkle that delayed final passage. The House vote was 109-9, and followed an equally lopsided 34-3 Senate vote on Monday.

Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, added a "data security" amendment to the bill that requires the state to test the system before implementing it and to conduct a new test every two years. Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley said Grant's amendment was not necessary because those precautions would be imposed bureaucratically. "In short, not needed," Corley said in text messages to legislators.

But Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, sponsor of the bill (SB 228), told reporters he supported the House amendment and that the Senate would agree to it, sending the bill to the governor for his signature.

"It provides more security so I'm fine with it," Clemens said. "There are some members in the House who have some reservations about how we've run technology in this state, and they just want to give a little more assurance to getting it done properly." …

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Jeb Bush given warm reception in Puerto Rico

UPDATE: The report below does not include some questions Bush fielded from reporters, including whether he would attend a gay wedding.

"If the people that I care for were going to be married, of course I would go, if they asked me to go," Bush said. But he added, "I believe in traditional marriage ...that's worked pretty well for our country and western civilization."

SAN JUAN (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — Jeb Bush's fluency in Spanish is going over well in Puerto Rico.

The former Florida governor opened a speech on economic opportunities with several minutes of Spanish on Tuesday, and his audience responded with hearty applause. Bush is fluent in the language, and often uses it in Florida, but it's rarely heard in Republican presidential campaign politics.

In his speech, Bush noted how he came to Puerto Rico to campaign for his father in the island's first presidential primary.

"For three months, I think I may have become a resident of Puerto Rico, and my dad won, which is a by-product of a great experience," he said.

During the speech — titled "Economic Opportunity - the Right to Succeed" — Bush also spoke about immigration and its importance for the United States. …

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PolitiFact Florida: Fact-checking claims about same-sex marriage

The U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments today about cases involving same-sex marriage, and PolitiFact has been fact-checking the public debate. We've fact-checked claims related to previous court rulings, the cost to couples who can't marry and a proposal in Texas to strip salaries from clerks who issue same-sex marriage licenses.  We've also looked at the views of President Barack Obama; U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Read PolitiFact Florida's primer for fact-checks about same-sex marriage.

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Clerk's manuals -- just in time for special session

It's here, just in time!

Michael Auslen

It's here, just in time!

If you’ve spent the whole session reminding yourself which one’s Rep. Bob Cortes and which one’s Rep. John Cortes, good news: Clerk’s manuals are in.

That’s right, just in time for the last four days of the regular session, and you can get your very own for $8.50 down in room 326.

Finally, you can learn which freshman lawmaker likes growing vegetables and NASCAR. Or figure out the difference between Travis Hutson’s House and Senate bios.

But the real value of these bad boys will be the special or extended session waiting for us down the road. That’s the moment the Capitol’s newcomers will really shine.

So if you’re asking yourself, who’s Steve Crisafulli? Check the manual. Andy Gardiner? He’s in there too.

(Oh, and John Cortes is a Kissimmee Democrat; Bob Cortes is an Altamonte Springs Republican.)

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Florida lawmakers line up on opposite sides of 'friend-of-the-court' briefings on gay marriage

Members of Florida’s delegation in Washington lined up on opposite sides of gay marriage as the Supreme Court begins oral arguments today.

Most Democrats signed a friend-of-the-court petition: Bill Nelson; Kathy Castor; Ted Deutch; Lois Frankel; Alan Grayson; Alcee Hastings; Patrick Murphy; Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Frederica Wilson.

Not signing: Corrine Brown and Gwen Graham.

Separately Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen signed a brief put together by Republicans.

On the side of opponents, only two Florida Republicans — Jeff Miller and Ted Yoho signed on to a petition that carried the name of 57 congressional Republicans.

Notably absent is Marco Rubio.

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Speaker Steve Crisafulli pens op-ed: Why the Florida House opposes Medicaid expansion

Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island.


Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli writes an op-ed column exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times explaining why the Florida House opposes Medicaid expansion. An excerpt:

We oppose expanding Medicaid because it is a broken system with poor health outcomes, high inflation, unseverable federal strings, and no incentive for personal responsibility for those who are able to provide for themselves. Under current law, Florida provides for our most vulnerable: low-income children, pregnant women, the elderly and disabled people.

Under federal law, other low-income Floridians have access to health care subsidies to buy private insurance for less than the average cost of a wireless phone bill. In fact, if we choose Obamacare expansion, 600,000 will lose eligibility for their subsidies, of which 257,000 would be forced into Medicaid. …

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Rubio cites Florida fisherman's case as reason for criminal justice reform

Joining other leading political figures in calls for criminal justice reforms, Sen. Marco Rubio cites the case of a Florida fisherman who saw his case reach the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year.

“John Yates going to jail for red grouper highlights a fundamental problem in American criminal law today. Lawmakers have increasingly turned to criminal law as a form of regulation. Recklessly passed, duplicative, conflicting, and vague laws have turned criminal law into a trap for the unwary,” Rubio wrote in an essay published by the Brennan Center for Justice.

Others who wrote on reforms include Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.

But unlike fellow Republican Paul and presidential rival, Rubio does not seem as ready to look at drug laws.

“There is an emerging consensus that the time for criminal justice reform has come,” Rubio writes. “A spirited conversation about how to go about that reform has begun. Unfortunately, too often that conversation starts and ends with drug policy. That is an important conversation to have. …

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In Puerto Rico, Jeb Bush returns to formative political experience

Jeb Bush in 1980 interview from Puerto Rico.


Jeb Bush in 1980 interview from Puerto Rico.

Jeb Bush didn’t sound like he cared much about politics.

“It’s not something that I would like to do the rest of my life, no. I get nervous at first. It’s just, I’m not a politician,” he told NBC News in February 1980.

He was in Puerto Rico to help his father run for president. Today, the two-term former Florida governor is back in Puerto Rico for his presidential campaign in waiting.

Bush has several events: A "conversation" at Universidad Metropolitana de Cupey in San Juan; a town hall in Bayamon; and a fundrasiser.

Bush was in Puerto Rico in 1979-80 as his father campaigned for president. George H.W. Bush eventually joined Ronald Reagan’s winning ticket and eight years later, won the presidency himself.

BuzzFeed, which looked at Jeb Bush's time there, said he "became affectionately known as 'el joven Bush' — 'the young Bush.' " …

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Rubio signs the tax 'Pledge' again; Bush never will

He signed it as a Florida House speaker. He signed it as a U.S. Senate candidate.

Now Marco Rubio, presidential candidate, has signed Grover Norquist's "Pledge" again.

"By signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to the American people, Senator Rubio continues to protect American taxpayers against higher taxes," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. "Senator Rubio understands that government should be reformed so that it takes and spends less of the taxpayers' money, and will oppose tax increases that paper over and continue the failures of the past."

PolitiFact Florida determined that Rubio has, in fact, supported tax increases.

During the 2012 presidential election every Republican candidate signed the pledge, except Jon Huntsman. Norquist can count on at least one candidate refusing to sign it this time, Jeb Bush.

“If Governor Bush decides to move forward, he will not sign any pledges circulated by lobbying groups,” spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said earlier this year. “His record on tax cuts is clear. He didn’t raise taxes.” …

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Capitol Buzz: Things to watch today in Tallahassee

It's the 57th day of session, which usually means lawmakers are nearing the finish line on the budget. Alas, we're nowhere near that with the House and Senate looking at, in the words of Senate Appropriations Chair Tom Lee, "an unbridgeable gap." So Tuesday has the potential to be another slow day in the Florida Legislature.

* The Senate will take final action on a proposal aimed at reforming Florida's guardianship system (HB 5). The bill was prompted by a Sarasota Herald-Tribune investigation that showed how elderly people have been denied due process.

* Senators will also vote on a proposal that would let terminally ill patients try experimental treatments (HB 269) and a pair of bills that would create a regulatory framework for fracking (HB 1468 and HB 1582).

* Another possible conversation starter: a plan requiring local governments to purchase flags made in the United States (SB 590).

* The House, meanwhile, will take final action on a measure that would ban drones from snapping pictures on private property (SB 766). The House is also expected to pass a bill that would allow online voting (HB 7143/SB 228).


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