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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Obama's big carbon footprint celebrating Earth Day in Fla

President Obama will visit the Everglades Wednesday, Earth Day, to call attention to global warming and the administration's efforts to cut carbon pollution across the globe. CBS News reporter Mark Knoller raised an intervesting question with honorary Floridian and former Jim Davis adviser Josh Earnest at the press secretary's daily briefing today. Here's a transcript of the exchange: …

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House Republicans to meet Tuesday, public need not attend

House Republicans plan to meet Tuesday before the 11 a.m. regular floor session, but they won’t allow the public to attend.

With the House and Senate at an impasse over what to do about Medicaid expansion, the Low Income Pool and the overall state budget, not everyone is pleased with the decision.

“We have a crisis in this state and they don’t want us there,” said Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation. “There’s nothing more important this session than Medicaid expansion, LIP and getting a budget passed, and they’re kicking us out.”

The 80 House Republicans will meet in the Majority Office conference room at 322 in the Capitol. Michael Williams, spokesman for House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said the meeting will be closed.

In a Monday e-mail, Williams cited Article III, Section 4(e) of the Florida Constitution that provides that “all pre-arranged gatherings, between more than two members of the Legislature,...the purpose of which is to agree upon formal legislative action that will be taken at a subsequent time,...regarding pending legislation or amendments, shall be reasonably open to the public.” …

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Senate panel makes changes to abortion bill

A Senate proposal that would require women to wait at least 24 hours before having an abortion (SB 724) looks a little different after an emotional hearing Monday. 

The Senate Fiscal Policy Committee approved an amendment that would waive the controversial requirement for women who can prove they are victims of rape, incest, domestic violence or human trafficking.

The discussion began when Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami, proposed an amendment to waive the waiting period for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest. Her original language did not require proof.

"Women are in very bad shape when they are raped and they are very emotional," she said. "Lots of things can happen that are medical things. I really feel that they need to be taken care of in the hospital immediately."

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, did not support Margolis's amendment. But she proposed a compromise: an exception for women who could prove they had been victims by providing a restraining order, police report, medical record or some other documentation.

The committee approved both the change and the amended bill.

After the party-lines vote, Flores and Margolis hugged. …

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New Mexico is latest state to pass online voter registration law

Add New Mexico to the list of states with a new law that allows voters to register or update their voting information online. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez signed the "paperless registration" bill into law after it passed the state Legislature without a single dissenting vote.

In Florida, a similar proposal has nearly unanimous support in the Legislature, but Gov. Rick Scott's chief elections official, Ken Detzner, is fighting efforts to create the system by October 2017. Gov. Scott is considering running for the U.S. Senate in 2018. 

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Senate panel delays bill allowing adoption agencies to deny gay parents

A Senate panel Monday delayed voting on a “conscience clause,” allowing adoption and foster-care agencies to deny parents on the basis of religious convictions.

After running out of time, Rules Committee Chair David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, said he would work with Senate President Andy Gardiner to find a way to hear the bill moving forward.

At this point in the process, committees can only meet with special permission, and the Monday hearing was the first in the Senate for HB 1117.

Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, started pushing the bill after the House voted to remove an existing state ban on gay parents adopting in Florida.

Five years ago, a judge struck down that law. Still, religious groups have raised concerns that they could face a tough choice: work with gay, lesbian or transgender parents despite deeply held beliefs; or shutter their doors in fear of lawsuits.

But opponents have argued that adding a conscience clause would make it easy for groups to refuse service based not just on sexual orientation but also race, marital status or religion. …

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Lindsey Graham says, unlike Rubio, he's sticking by Senate immigration work

Sen. Lindsey Graham says he's not going to back away from the Senate's comprehensive immigration bill the way fellow author Marco Rubio has.

“I believe in what I did or I wouldn’t have done it. So what good am I to anybody if I don’t believe in my own work product?" Graham told Beth Reinhard of the Wall Street Journal. "Sen. Rubio will be president one day. I don’t know if it will be 2016 …. I think I am a stronger Republican today because on occasion I’ve disagreed with my own party. I have nothing but positive things to say about what [Mr. Rubio] tried to do. Why he’s separated I don’t know. I’ll leave that up to him, but I’m not going to back off.”

Rubio began to distance himself from the bill even before it came up for a vote (he did vote for it) and spent much of 2014 explaining that it was a mistake to take a sweeping approach over an incremental one that starts with border security.

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Mmmmm, pie

The Washington Post has the video of Jeb Bush breaking his diet for a slice of blueberry pie in New Hampshire. "Slow news day," Bush said of the reporters hovering around him.

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Jeb Bush to travel to Germany, Poland and Estonia

Jeb Bush will travel to Germany, Poland and Estonia in early June, his campaign said Monday, as he looks to establish his presidential credentials.

In Germany, Bush will speak before the CDU Economic Council. In Poland and Estonia, in addition to meetings with government and business leaders, Bush will be meet with leaders of civic and non-governmental organizations.

“In all three countries Governor Bush will be meeting with policy experts, business leaders and government officials to discuss the opportunity to pursue pro-growth policies, encourage innovation, and develop technologies that address the changing global economic environment and that will bolster our economies and help create more prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic,” according to the campaign. “He will also be listening to their perspectives on growing security challenges in the region.”

Bush has taken 89 foreign trips to 29 countries and six continents, according to an aide. The trip was first reported by Reuters.

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Fla's testing flops again, suspended across the state

Florida's computerized testing system ran into a new round of problems Monday, following a trouble-free week that had officials optimistic the system was on solid footing.

Districts across the state reported that students were unable to begin taking their Florida Standards Assessments in language arts and math on Monday morning.

The Florida Department of Education announced shortly before 11 a.m. that the problem had been corrected. But it was too late for some districts — including Pinellas, Miami-Dade, Broward and Leon counties — which already had canceled all testing and would try again Tuesday. Hillsborough and Pasco were among the districts that continued to test Monday.

More here

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Politicking, negotiations continue over Low Income Pool

Florida has officially petitioned the federal government to renew a $2.2 billion program for hospitals that treat low-income patients, the state Agency for Health Care Administration said Monday.

State health officials are asking the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to continue the so-called Low Income Pool program through June 30, 2017. They have submitted a plan created by the Florida Senate that would distribute the funds more broadly than in the past.

"We are expediting our submission of this LIP model in order to help CMS speed up their decision," Secretary Liz Dudek said in a statement. "CMS knows that our budget depends on their rapid response to this model."

The agency will allow members of the public to submit comments on the plan from April 21 through May 22, and will hold public meetings in Orlando (4/29), Miami (4/30) and Tallahassee (5/1).

The uncertainty surrounding the Low Income Pool has brought the budget building process to a virtual halt in Tallahassee. It has also become part of a larger debate on whether to extend subsidized health care coverage to more than 800,000 low-income Floridians. …

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Move over S.C., Fla. picks the GOP nominee

South Carolina Republicans used to love boasting about their track record for picking Republican presidential nominees in modern modern, but that went out the window 2012 when Newt Gingrich won the Palmetto state only to quickly crash to the ground in Florida.

The good folks at Smart Politics, the politics site from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, has a new report examining how each state has fared over the last 40 years in voting for the eventual Republican presidential nominee. Just nine --  Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, and Wisconsijust nine have backed the eventual Republican nominee in primaries or caucuses each time -- and, Florida is the biggest standout.

Here's the full report, and here's an excerpt:

Florida is the most notable of these states as it has tended to hold its primary while the GOP nomination was still in doubt - particularly in recent cycles. …

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Tom Rooney rules out U.S. Senate run

Scratch another Republican off the list of potential Republican candidates for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat: U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney of Palm Beach County ruled it out today, the Herald-Tribune reports:“While I feel like I could mount a successful statewide campaign, the toll I believe the process would take on my family is something I cannot put them through,” Rooney said. “There is no greater responsibility I have than the upbringing of my three young sons. Therefore, I will not seek the Republican nomination for Senate in 2016.”
 

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Fla Poll: Rubio, Bush both lead Clinton

An April 14-16 Mason-Dixon poll of Florida voters (MoE +/- 4 percent) finds both Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush leading Hillary Clinton with registered voters. Rubio had trailed Clinton in Florida in Mason-Dixon's January survey but now leads her 49to 43 percent, while Bush leads 47 to 43 percent. Both Republicans lead comfortably among independent voters.

"Clinton’s early campaign struggles have made some Democratic leaders nervous and there is evidence to support that it has trickled down to rank and file party voters," pollster Brad Coker noted. "Among registered Democrats, only 39% said they will definitely vote for her in the primary election, while 40% would give strong consideration to another Democratic candidate and 12% would definitely vote against Clinton in the primary."

Here are their favorable/unforavorable ratings:

Bush: 45/31

Rubio: 46/27

Clinton: 41/39

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A dozen of Gov. Scott's agency heads remain stuck in Senate

In the eighth week of the nine-week legislative session, the Florida Senate has not yet confirmed a dozen of Gov. Rick Scott's agency heads. All 12 remain bottled up in the Senate Ethics & Elections Committee, which is not scheduled to meet again before the scheduled end of the session May 1.

Holding up confirmation of the governor's appointees to state agencies, boards and commissions is a time-honored way for senators to express their displeasure with the executive branch, and the Senate GOP's inner circle is displeased with Scott's public opposition to its plan for a modified form of Medicaid expansion.

Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, chairman of the ethics and elections panel, said Monday that appointees would be moved to the Senate's floor calendar as time permits in the closing days. Richter said he did not think appointees should be worried that they won't be confirmed. …

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Florida Channel says it agreed to mute name of inmate during Senate hearing

The Florida ChannelThe state-run public television channel agreed to remove the name of an inmate from the audio file of a Senate hearing in which a Department of Corrections whistle-blower alleged that potential criminal activity was ignored or cover-up at the agency, the executive director of The Florida Channel told the Herald/Times.

Doug Glisson, an inspector with the Department of Correction’s Office of Inspector General, testified under oath at the March 10 meeting of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee that the agency covered up potentially negligent medical care, criminal activity and sabotaged investigations to protect high ranking officials within the organization.

Among the examples Glisson cited was the case of inmate Quintin Foust, whose death was listed as “suspicious” by the medical examiner. Glisson said Foust was “undergoing medical care” at Jefferson Correctional Institution but did not provide any details about his medical condition or ailments. He said Foust “started having seizures” and “wound up dying.”   …

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