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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Meet the Republicans eying Fla attorney general's office

Yesterday we noted some the the Democrats seen as contenders to succeed Pam Bondi as attorney general in 2018. What about the Republicans, you ask?

Well, the Florida GOP has a deeper bench than the Democratic party, and quite a few credible Republicans are in the mix for a potentially crowded primary. Among them: State Rep. Richard Corcoran of Wesley Chapel; state Sen. Joe Negron of Stuart; State Sen. Rob Bradley of Orange Park; state Rep. Dana Young of Tampa; U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney of Okeechobee.

We've also heard Buzz about state Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach, but he tells us he's focucused on state senate in 2016 -- and also that he's long viewed the attorney general job as the best public office in Florida.

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Key Cabinet member urges 'time out' on driver's license revamp

Two influential members of the Florida Cabinet on Tuesday sided with critics of a proposed revamping of the state system of issuing driver's licenses from a county-by-county over-the-counter system to a centralized issuance system by mail that's used in most states.

Under the current system, drivers get their licenses immediately. Under a revamped system, they could wait up to two weeks to get them in the mail.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, reacting to a Times/Herald report on the proposal, said the county tax collectors who currently issue licenses and license tags are doing a good job, and both voiced skepticism about change.

"These local players have been the delivery channel," Atwater said. "All of us want to go put it to bed immediately. My wife says, 'My license expired. I want it solved today.' So the local players, the tax collectors, did the right thing by saying, 'Time out.' "

"It's an idea worth exploring, but only in coordination with our tax collectors," Putnam said. The agriculture commissioner works closely with tax collectors, who also can issue concealed weapons licenses in Florida.  …

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PolitiFact Florida: Can Jeb Bush claim he's released all his emails?

As the other presidential candidate with a private email server, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is trying to contrast himself with Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"My email address, write it down, and send me your thoughts, jeb@jeb.org," he’s shown telling a crowd in an Aug. 27, 2015, campaign video (the clip is from the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines on Aug. 14). "By the way, I just gave out my email address. It’s exactly what I did when I was governor of the state of Florida. I released all my emails; I’m writing an e-book about my emails."

Bush and Clinton have drawn criticism from campaign rivals because they both used private email accounts and servers for their government jobs. But can Bush claim he’s released all of his emails as a way of drawing a distinction between himself and Clinton? No, in reality, he's done exactly what Clinton has done. Bush says he has turned over and made public all the emails he was required to. That's the same argument Clinton is making.Full Story

Advocates for solar power amendment plead case in Supreme Court

Arguing in the Supreme Court Tuesday over whether a solar power constitutional amendment is valid, supporters of Floridians for Solar Choice and opponents backed by utility companies didn’t pull punches.

“What has really chilled the regulatory environment currently is a solar energy device that a person would have, they’re not allowed to sell that to someone else without falling into the regulatory scheme of the Public Service Commission,” said Bob Nabors, lawyer for Floridians for Solar Choice.

But Barry Richard, a lawyer representing four utility companies, including Duke and Florida Power and Light, called the proposed language misleading. So did a laywer for electricity cooperatives in rural parts of the state and Solicitor General Allen Winsor.

“You can’t make voters believe that there’s a problem when you have no basis for saying that,” Richard told the justices.

The proposed constitutional amendment would stop the state and local governments from treating “local solar electricity suppliers” as utilities, effectively removing them from regulation. These companies install solar panels on a home or business and then sell the power they generate to consumers. …

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David Jolly adds to support in Tampa Bay

David Jolly is moving to lock down support in vital Tampa Bay as he faces a tough GOP primary for U.S. Senate. Today, Jolly announced the endorsement of his third area lawmaker, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor.

“As a Tampa Bay native, David is keenly aware of the issues facing Floridians at both the local and national levels," Bilirakis said. "His command of the legislative process and institutional knowledge will no doubt serve as a benefit to the people of Florida, especially our Veterans. I look forward to fostering an even stronger Tampa Bay leadership presence in Congress with a great partner and friend in the U.S. Senate.”

While endorsements can be overstated they are a sign of support, and Jolly already had secured backing from Reps. Dennis Ross of Lakeland and Richard Nugent of Spring Hill.

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Marco Rubio's ice cream run with Chris Christie, Mitt Romney

Chris Christie shares a lighter moment from his recent sleep-over at Mitt Romney's with Marco Rubio.

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Hope 3.0: Jeb Bush 'fired up' but not angry

A Fox News host this morning asked Jeb Bush if he has fire in the belly:

“I’m fired up about this and I’m excited about it. But I’m not going to run a campaign based on angst; I’m going to run a campaign based on hope. Because this still is the greatest country on the face on the earth. And we just need to start acting like it again.”

More from the Fox interview:

On his new advertisement criticizing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump:

“Look, the simple fact is our ad simply uses his own language, his own words to say that he is more a Democrat than a Republican – that he is for higher taxes rather than cutting taxes. That he believes in a single payer system, that he’s not only pro-choice, but he believes in partial birth abortion. Those are his words not mine. I didn’t exaggerate a single thing.”

On whether he stands by his comments that immigrants come to the U.S. as an “act of love”: …

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Ron DeSantis seeks to inject Iran deal into U.S. Senate race

Coming to a U.S. Senate debate stage: The Iran nuclear deal, good or bad?

Yesterday, Democrat Patrick Murphy announced his support for the “flawed” deal and portrayed it as a way to stop war. Ron DeSantis, one of a handful of Republicans running for the nomination, went after Murphy today.

"Patrick Murphy's decision to support a deal that infuses the world's leading state-sponsor of terrorism with $150 billion, confers international legitimacy on Iran's expansive nuclear program, and even allows Iran to inspect its own military sites demonstrates a lack of judgment and inexperience in matters of national security,” DeSantis said in a news release. "While Murphy thinks this deal will lead to 'peace in our time,' the Iran agreement will make the Middle East more volatile, increase the likelihood of war, and undermine the security of the United States." …

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Jeb Bush wants you to know 'the real Donald Trump'

Jeb Bush continues to punch back at Donald Trump, and this morning released a video compilation of things Trump has said in the past about abortion and Hillary Clinton.

So far, Bush's counter effort hasn't shown much results. But as Trump's No. 1 target, Bush has reasoned he has no other choice. His campaign called out rivals. "Jeb takes on Trump as the rest of the Unintimidated™ field cowers," a staffer wrote on Twitter.

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Prisons chief asks top deputies of prison system to reapply to stay on job

In a move that has the potential to either shake up the Department of Corrections or validate the status quo, prisons chief Julie Jones has asked for the 12 top officials in charge of prisons and probation to reapply for their jobs by Tuesday as part of a major realignment designed to centralize power at the agency.

The officials, each of them high-ranking officers who have spent most of their career rising through the ranks of the department, may seek their old job or apply for any of the openings in one of the three existing regions or seek the open posts at a newly added fourth region.

The move opens to competition the top jobs in the state’s prison system. Having to apply to stay employed are three directors and three assistant directors of the three current regions and two regional directors and four assistant directors of the two community corrections regions. Applicants — including current regional chiefs Sam Culpepper, Eric Lane and Randy Tifft — will be judged based on a new set of accountability measures imposed by an executive order of the governor in May, said DOC spokesman McKinley Lewis.

“We want to put the right people in the right seats,” he said. …

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On the road again: Gov. Scott and Cabinet head to St. Augustine

America's oldest city welcomes the Gang of Four Tuesday.

Gov. Rick Scott and the three Cabinet members gather in St. Augustine in conjunction with the city's 450th anniversary that begins Friday and runs through Labor Day weekend. The top state officials will adopt measures to evaluate the job performances of FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen and Terry Rhodes, executive director of the highway safety agency, and a five-year plan for land acquisition under the Florida Forever program.

Cabinet members arrived early. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam did a news event Monday with St. Johns County Tax Collector Dennis Hollingsworth on expanding services for people seeking concealed weapons licenses.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater toured a city distillery in St. Augustine. Attorney General Pam Bondi went to a concert featuring '80s rocker Rick Springfield ("Jessie's Girl," No. 1 in '81), and posted a picture from the event on her personal Twitter account. Scott plans a Tuesday afternoon jobs announcement at Anheuser-Busch in Jacksonville. …

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Clinton emails show interest in Florida

Tracking Kendrick Meek

State Dept.

Tracking Kendrick Meek

The State Department kept tabs on U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek when he made a trip to Haiti following the devastating 2010 earthquake, according to Hillary Clinton emails released late Monday.

“Planning on going out with S. Florida search and response teams,” a State Department official wrote to colleagues on Jan. 17, 2010. The message made its way to Huma Abedin, Clinton’s top aide, who shared it with her boss with a simple “Fyi.”

Meek’s trip came during his 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate. and was cast by reporters at the time as an image-boosting trip. Meek’s Miami district was home to many Haitians.

Take a spin through other Florida-related emails in the Clinton archive.

There’s one in which Clinton is extremely happy that Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, praised her on Haiti. “That’s very nice—high praise indeed, and in the Cong Record for prosperity!” Clinton wrote, meaning posterity.

And there’s a humorous exchange about a "hold" Sen. George LeMieux placed on President Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to Brazil. “What took them so long? Did you promise your first born?” Clinton writes to an aide.

His reply: "Yes, I sold my soul to George Lemieux today. I am not proud of it." …

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Medical marijuana amendment hits milestone for court review

A constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana in Florida has reached a key milestone in its petition drive, triggering required reviews by Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Florida Supreme Court.

The proposal has gotten 73,713 signatures, according to Florida Division of Elections data. Bondi has 30 days to review the ballot language and send it to the Supreme Court, which will determine if it's constitutional.

The amendment would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for medical purposes and allow the state Department of Health to regulate marijuana growth and sale. In the 2014 election, it fell just short of the 60 percent required to amend the state constitution.

But backed by lawyer John Morgan, the amendment has already raked in over $1 million in contributions for the upcoming election cycle. …

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Senator Nelson calls for independent redistricting commission for Florida

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, tells reporters in Tallahassee that the Legislature's inability to reach a deal on redistricting shows the state needs an independent redistricting commission to do the work.

Jeremy Wallace

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, tells reporters in Tallahassee that the Legislature's inability to reach a deal on redistricting shows the state needs an independent redistricting commission to do the work.

The repeated failures of the Florida Legislature to redraw the state’s congressional districts is a sure sign that Florida needs to create an independent commission to do the work, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said during a stop in Tallahassee on Monday.

“Seems to me we need an independent commission for future reapportionment so that you stop this self-serving process of drawing districts for your own self interest,” said Nelson, a Democrat.

Nelson’s comments come 10 days after the Florida Legislature ended its 12-day special session without producing a redistricting map that both the House and Senate could agree to for the state’s 27 congressional districts.

Nelson said other states – like Arizona and California - have created commissions to draw congressional districts and Florida needs to explore the same idea to keep the map drawing out of the hands of the self-interested.

“Seems to me that common sense says put it in the hands of as independent of a commission as you can make it,” Nelson said.

Nelson said the Legislature’s failures have created chaos and an uncertainty where people interested in running for office cannot file because they don’t know what district they are in. …

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Patrick Murphy comes out in support of Iran nuclear deal

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy says he can back the Iran nuclear deal, call it "flawed" but "the best available option to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon."

Murphy is running for U.S. Senate and his Democratic primary rival, Rep. Alan Grayson, has not said if he can support the deal. A number of other Florida Democrats remain undecided, including Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Sen. Bill Nelson is on board with the Obama administration.

Murphy issued this statement:

"I have promised Floridians that they can have faith in me to listen to them, to listen to my conscience, and to deeply study every bill. With the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran on my desk, I have taken my promise more seriously than ever. This has been the toughest decision of my time in Congress.

"I have listened to the strong cases made by advocates on both sides of this debate, which at times has become unfortunately rancorous. I have carefully studied the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, its appendices, and the classified reports from the negotiations, and have sought answers from both supporters and opponents. …

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