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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Hillary Clinton bars press from her Tampa 'conversation'

From William March:

Organizers are expecting a crowd of more than 200 at the “Conversation with Hillary Rodham Clinton” Wednesday at the home of Alex Sink, Clinton’s first campaign event in Tampa in this race, but they won’t include any reporters.

“They aren’t allowing any press,” Sink said in response to a request from a Times reporter to attend.

“Tampa fundraiser is closed to the press,” confirmed campaign spokesman Tyrone Gayle.

Former Mayor Sandy Freedman said the campaign told her a week ago there were more than 200 RSVP’s for the event, and the number likely has increased since.


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After Colorado shooting, Florida group cancels anti-abortion rally

After a shooting at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs last week, anti-abortion activists in Florida are cancelling a rally planned at the state Capitol next week.

The Florida Family Policy Council, which was going to bus supporters from Miami and Orlando to picket the governor's office Dec. 7, has decided to push back the rally to the spring in response to the shooting that left three dead on Friday.

“This violent and horrifying act by someone who has a troubling and violent past, is in complete opposition to the pro-life cause,” said the group's president, John Stemberger, in a statement Monday. “We believe that we must continue promoting the pro-life message and reiterate the concern we have for every human life including the victims of this tragedy."

Stemberger and his supporters have been calling on Gov. Rick Scott to cancel contracts with Planned Parenthood that require the state to match some federal Medicaid funds. …

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White House offers Gov. Scott more information on Syrian refugees

Letter to Gov. Rick Scott


Letter to Gov. Rick Scott

The White House sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott today defending the vetting process for Syrians and offering “more regular access to refugee resettlement information.”

“This proposal responds to governors’ input while protecting the privacy of refugee families,” Whitehouse Chief of Staff Denis McDonough wrote in the letter.

Scott has joined numerous other governors in opposing the resettlement of more refugees. Secretary of State John Kerry previously sent a letter to Scott explaining the vetting process as “extraordinarily thorough and comprehensive" -- language McDonough stood by today.

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Disabled veterans get free parking at Tampa International

Disabled veterans will not have to wait for the Legislature to pass a new law to get free parking at Tampa International Airport.

Airport officials have already changed their policies to now allow any driver with a special disabled veterans license plate issued by the state to park for free up to a week.

The move comes after the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau reported that the Florida Legislature was considering a bill to make all airports give disabled veterans free parking, which some airports already provide as a courtesy. Some legislators thought they had already provided that in a law passed earlier this year. But some veterans with the disabled license plate reported that they were still being denied the free parking by airports that were citing a loophole that exempted them from the law. The law only allowed disabled veterans with ramps and lifts to have the free parking. Disabled veterans without that equipment were being charged full price for parking by many airports.

Florida has about 41,000 veterans who have the special disable veteran license plate. …

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RPOF names presidential primary candidates

Letter to Secretary of State


Letter to Secretary of State

The Republican Party of Florida on Monday formally named the candidates for next March's presidential primary ballot.

There has been concern the winner-take-all status of the primary and homestate favorites Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush would keep other candidates away. But the dynamics of the race continue to evolve and the state looks more competitive.

Candidates who appeared at the recent Sunshine Summit were granted ballot access. Missing from the list is George Pataki, who did not attend the Orlando summit and missed the deadline to get on the ballot. "He will not be on the Florida ballot," RPOF spokesman Wadi Gaitan said.

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Florida cities 'on alert', seeking to kill election date change idea

The Florida League of Cities is mobilizing opposition to kill a legislative proposal to revamp the state's elections timetable in advance of a House vote this week.

The House State Affairs Committee is scheduled to vote Thursday on a bill that would shift city elections to the same date as statewide November general election dates in even-numbered years and to similar dates in odd-numbered years. Most cities hold elections in the spring when they often have the ballot all to themselves. The change is being pushed by Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers, the panel's chairman, who says his goal is to inprove voter turnout in city elections. …

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Darrell Issa endorses Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio continues to pick up endorsements from Congress after a slow start on that front. Today, Rep. Darrell Issa was on Fox News.

Issa praised Rubio for fighting Obamacare and was asked about his difference with Rubio over the NSA's data collection.

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Rubio super PAC up with new ad

The super PAC supporting Marco Rubio is going up with this ad in Iowa and New Hampshire.

"He took on the Republican establishment and won," the ad begins, invoking Rubio's 2010 U.S. Senate win. Conservative Solutions PAC said the ad would begin Dec. 1.

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Dan McLaughlin, spokesman for Bill Nelson, to retire

Sen. Bill Nelson's longtime spokesman, Dan McLaughlin, will retire at the end of the year.

Nelson announced the news to staff today.

Dan McLaughlin, our Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director, is retiring at year's end after more than 21 years of outstanding public service, the last 15 of which were in the U.S. Senate.  He has decided to pursue opportunities in the private sector, including his passion for oil painting and Florida art. Dan has been my confidant and friend all these years, and is recognized in both journalism and communications as one of the best.

He is succeeded by Ryan Brown who, as Director of Communications, is hitting the ground running.

McLaughlin was a formidable reporter for the Tampa Tribune before entering politics. He was not shy about telling reporters where he thought a story was to be found -- or if he thought a story was bull. His art has become an increasing focus.

McLaughlin's decision follows recent news that Nelson's chief of staff, Pete Mitchell, is retiring -- but not before laying the groundwork for Nelson's 2018 re-election campaign.

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Alan Grayson ready to sue over Ted Cruz's eligibility to be prez

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was born in Canada to a Cuban father and American mother, That American mother, many legal scholars say, makes Cruz an American citizen, but the question of whether being born in Alberta, Canada disqualifies Cruz for president has dogged him for years. In May, 2014, he even formally renounced his Canadian citizenship.

PolitiFact is looked at this question repeatedly.

Now Florida's Alan Grayson is weighing in, saying he's prepared to go to court to challenge Cruz's eligibility.

"The Constitution says 'natural born American.' So now we're counting Canadians as natural born Americans? How does that work. I'm waiting for the moment that he gets the nomination and then I will file that beautiful lawsuit saying that he's unqualified for the job, he's ineligible," Grayson said the other day on “The Alan Colmes Show" on Fox News Radio.

"Call me crazy but I think the President of America should be an American," said Grayson, whose main rival for the Democratic U.S. nomination is fellow U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter. "Even the anchor babies actually were born here. He doesn't even meet that qualification."

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What Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are up to the week of Nov. 30

What Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are up to the week of Nov. 30:

Rubio on Monday is campaigning in New Hampshire. Tuesday he does the same in South Carolina and has a rally in Guntersville, Ala. Wednesday he is fundraising in Louisiana and Georgia. Thursday, Rubio is at the Republican Jewish Coalition's presidential candidate forum in Washington and raises money in New York. Friday, he's back in New Hampshire.

Bush on Monday attends the Clinton County (Iowa) Republicans' 43rd Annual Fall event in Goose Lake. Tuesday morning he attends a "coffee and donuts with Jeb" event at University of Dubuque. At noon Bush will hold a town hall in Waterloo and that evening, another in Newton. On Wednesday morning he remains in Iowa for fundraising. Thursday, Bush will speak at the Republican Jewish Coalition's presidential candidate forum in D.C.

Previous week here.

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Jolly looks to hinder Obama on Gitmo

Rep. David Jolly is highlighting his role in securing a measure in the sweeping defense bill that hinders President Obama’s ability to close the military base at Guantanamo Bay.

“Gitmo is a critical asset to our country’s national security, providing a persistent U.S. presence and immediate access to the region, as well as supporting a layered defense to secure the air and maritime approaches to the United States,” Jolly said in a release to be released Monday morning.

Jolly, a Republican running for U.S. Senate, introduced the Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Protection Act (H.R. 654) in February, “just days after Cuban President Raul Castro said normalized relations would not be possible without transferring the base to the Cuban government,” his staff said, noting the language was added to the must-pass defense bill.

Obama has been seeking ways to depopulate the prison, over objections from Republicans. Jolly’s bill pertains to the facility.

“Preservation of our assets in Cuba is just common sense. Again, there is no reason to relinquish a Department of Defense asset critical to our national security,” Jolly said in the release.

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Gambling talks continue over how to limit gambling, while allowing some to expand options

Resortcasino0625 arg epfThe deadline has passed for the Seminole Tribe to complete its negotiations with the state over whether it will be allowed to continue operating lucrative blackjack games at its Hard Rock casinos but the cards are still on the table.

The stakes are so high for all the parties involved in Florida’s complicated gaming landscape that legislators and the governor’s office are trying to negotiate a way to turn a deal on the card games into a blueprint for gaming across the state by the onset of the legislative session on Jan. 12.

Among the issues: the prospect of another slots casino in Miami, slot machines in Palm Beach and Fort Myers, a requirement that future gambling licenses get statewide voter approval, and the promise of $3 billion in gaming proceeds directed into the state treasury over the next 7 years.

“We’re still talking, still hashing,” said Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, the Senate’s lead negotiator who, along with the House’s negotiator, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, has been meeting with the governor’s general counsel, Tim Cerio, and lawyers for the Seminole Tribe. …

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Winner and loser of the week in Fla politics

Winner of the week

Bill Nelson. Florida's senior U.S. senator showed some backbone, calling out CentCom in Tampa over allegations that intelligence officials there presented an excessively rosy picture of America's progress in defeating the Islamic State. "If the inspector general finds out that the New York Times report is true, then people ought to be fired. Immediately," the Florida Democrat told the Buzz.

Loser of the week

Gov. Rick Scott's budget. The governor's spending plan looks dead on arrival in the Legislature, but that hasn't stopped a river of complaints: Not enough money to clear a backlog of 10,000 untested rape kits. No raises for state workers. Just half the new prison guards the Department of Corrections asked for. And after a Tampa Bay Times and Sarasota Herald-Tribune investigation highlighted violence in understaffed state mental hospitals, Scott included no money for additional workers. His alternative? Security cameras.

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Jeb Bush: 'In these serious times, (Trump's) not a serious leader'

Appearing on Face the Nation, Jeb Bush continued to press his plans for taking out the Islamic State and drew a contrast with Donald Trump.

“In these really serious times, he’s not a serious leader,” Bush said of Trump.

”I have great doubts about Donald Trump's ability to be commander in chief. If you listen to him talk, it's kind of scary to be honest with you, because he's not a serious candidate."

Bush also said Trump was working the news media. "He knows what he's saying. He's smart. He's playing you guys like a fiddle, the press, by saying outrageous things and garnering attention."

In Sarasota on Saturday, Trump said Bush's campaign was "down in the tubes."

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