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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida GOP wants to pony up big money for re-elected chairman

Blaise Ingoglia


Blaise Ingoglia

To the victor go the spoils.

Shortly after overwhelmingly re-electing state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, the party's board members this weekend voted behind closed doors to reward him financially as well. Ingoglia had forgone a salary as party chairman after winning election in 2015, but board members voted Saturday that he should not only receive the $115,000 annual pay in 2017 and 2018, but also receive $230,000 in back pay for 2015 and 2016.

"We did the impossible by Republicans taking Florida. All the way down the line we were successful, and it was because of all the programs that Blaise put together over the last two years," said Nancy Riley, a state committeewoman from Pinellas said of the vote.

Just because the party authorized the money doesn't mean he'll accept it, Ingoglia told The Buzz.

"While I am thankful that my executive board recognized my hard work and dedication to our party this past election cycle in wanting to give me back pay for deferring my salary, I have not yet made a decision whether to take it," he said in a text. …

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Gov. Scott to meet with lawmakers, Trump officials tomorrow in Washington

WASHINGTON - Gov. Rick Scott will meet with lawmakers and Trump officials tomorrow and hold a media availability, a spokeswoman said.

The meetings come before the Florida Sunshine Ball, which the governor is hosting with his wife, Ann.

On Thursday, Scott will participate in a roundtable discussion with Senators about the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

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Jeb Bush calls Betsy DeVos an 'inspired' choice

Jeb Bush has a piece in USA Today this morning calling for confirmation of Betsy DeVos as education secretary.

“While the vast majority of K-12 spending is done by state and local governments, the bulging layers of bureaucracy that administer education policy are the direct result of federal overreach into our education system. As a result, too many education dollars are wasted on bureaucrats and administrators instead of being driven down into the classroom where they could make a bigger impact on learning.

“Instead of defending and increasing Washington’s power, Betsy will cut federal red tape and be a passionate advocate for state and local control of schools. More importantly, she will empower parents with greater choices and a stronger voice over their children’s education. In the two decades that I have been actively involved in education reform, I have worked side-by-side with Betsy to promote school choice and put the interests of students first. I know her commitment to children, especially at-risk kids, is genuine and deep.”

Full column here. DeVos had sat on the board of Bush's education foundation.

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U.S. Reps. Hastings, Soto skipping Trump inaugural

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar., left, confers with House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, during a hearing last March.

Associated Press

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar., left, confers with House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, during a hearing last March.

WASHINGTON - At least two Florida members of Congress are skipping Donald Trump's inauguration out of protest.

Reps. Alcee Hastings and Darren Soto will not attend, according to their offices.

"I have a long history of working across the aisle and will continue to do so in Congress," Soto said in a statement. "However, I am deeply disappointed with President-Elect Donald Trump's attacks against civil rights hero Congressman John Lewis and will not be attending the Inauguration as a result."

Hastings said:

“I have decided to boycott the Inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump and remain in my Congressional district in Florida. This decision is not a protest of the results of the Electoral College, but rather, an objection to the demagoguery that continues to define the incoming administration. …

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State begins medical marijuana rule process

Associated Press

State health officials have started the process that will ultimately allow Floridians with debilitating conditions to buy and use medical marijuana.

Tuesday morning, the Florida Department of Health published its initial proposed rules for a statewide medical marijuana program and announced public hearings. But the rules essentially merge new patients into an existing, small medical cannabis program already functoning in the state, diverging from some of the key ideas pushed during the November election by backers of Amendment 2, the constitutional amendment that expanded medical marijuana.

Under the proposed rule, only patients with one of 10 specific medical diagnoses, including cancer, HIV and post-traumatic stress disorder, would have access to the drug, unless the Florida Board of Medicine specifically identifies additional debilitating conditions. Amendment 2, however, gives doctors the power to recommend marijuana to patients with any debilitating condition if "a physician believe sthat the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks."

It's likely the rules will change from DOH's initial proposal. …

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Who's going to Trump's inauguration? Gov. Scott, for starters

President-elect Donald Trump at an Orlando stop on his victory tour in December.


President-elect Donald Trump at an Orlando stop on his victory tour in December.

Several leading Florida Republicans are making the trek to Washington, D.C., this week to see Donald Trump take the oath of office and officially become president of the United States.

Gov. Rick Scott, who campaigned for Trump and chaired a super PAC that supported his presidential bid, will leave the state Tuesday evening ahead of an inaugural ball sponsored by his Let’s Get to Work political committee the next night. Scott will attend the inauguration and be seated with other Republican governors, according to his office. He returns to Florida Saturday.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, will attend the inauguration, his office said. Corcoran -- who initially backed former Gov. Jeb Bush, then Sen. Marco Rubio and finally Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for the Republican nomination -- was a reluctant supporter of Trump.

Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, will be there. Unlike his counterpart in the House, Negron was quicker to back Trump and served as a member of the electoral college, which gave the president-elect Florida's 29 electoral votes in December. …

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Rubio: Cuban Adjustment Act faced change 'one way or another'

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio confirmed Monday that he won't try to bring back the special immigration status for Cubans that President Barack Obama eliminated last week in a surprise move.

"Wet foot/dry foot -- and the Cuban Adjustment Act in general -- was in danger," Rubio told reporters in Miami. Obama's reestablishing of diplomatic relations with Cuba undermined "the very essence and the purpose of the law, its justification."

"There's been well-documented abuses of the program," added the Florida Republican, who had filed legislation to tighten federal benefits for recent Cuban arrivals. "In my view, the Cuban Adjustment Act was going to be changed one way or another.

He even predicted there would be enough votes in Congress to repeal the law altogether.

The Cuban Adjustment Act still stands, but Obama's actions Thursday effectively gutted it, making it much more difficult for Cubans to remain legally in the U.S. and qualify under the act's protections. …

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Cubs manager Joe Maddon says people should respect the presidency

Joe Maddon of the Chicago Cubs at the White House on Jan. 16, 2017

Alex Leary | Times

Joe Maddon of the Chicago Cubs at the White House on Jan. 16, 2017

WASHINGTON – Freshly fêted by President Obama for the Chicago Cubs’ World Series triumph, manager Joe Maddon faced a swarm of reporters and got an inevitable question about Obama’s replacement, Donald Trump.

“I’m not going to go anywhere close to that,” Maddon said to laughter. “I will say this: I have a lot of respect for the office. …

“And regardless of your political persuasion, my point would be to encourage people to really respect the office. And let’s see what we get then over the next four years.”

Maddon, who managed the Tampa Bay Rays from 2006-14, called the ceremony “magnificent” and said it carried extra importance coming on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as Maddon reveres the groundbreaking Jackie Robinson.

“It’s a powerful moment. It’s a really humbling moment to be part of this segment of Cubs history,” he said, with first baseman (and Broward County native) Anthony Rizzo and team president Theo Epstein looking on.

Maddon, who joked he was the only to show up without a tie, was asked about the 2017 season and gave a very Maddon answer.

“A mind once stretched has a very difficult time going back to its original form,” he said. …

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In Miami, Lewis responds to Trump: 'Never, ever hate.'

U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, a civil-rights icon who was criticized over the weekend by President-elect Donald Trump after Lewis questioned the legitimacy of Trump's election, spoke at the 5000 Role Models of Excellence breakfast at Jungle Island on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

[Emily Michot | Miami Herald]

U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, a civil-rights icon who was criticized over the weekend by President-elect Donald Trump after Lewis questioned the legitimacy of Trump's election, spoke at the 5000 Role Models of Excellence breakfast at Jungle Island on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Perhaps, in U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ prepared speech to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Miami, there was a direct response to President-elect Donald Trump over the political feud between the two men over the past three days in TV interviews and on Twitter.

But when Lewis took the microphone Monday, he put his script aside.

“I prepared a speech, but I’m not going to use it,” he told hundreds of people assembled at Jungle Island’s treetop ballroom. “I’ve been deeply inspired by being here.”

And so Lewis launched into a rousing, 32-minute oration — which at times felt like a church-pulpit sermon — about his remarkable life of civil-rights activism, the heroes that inspired him and the faith that a younger generation will succeed them.

He didn’t mention the end of the first black presidency, or the start of new presidency headed by an executive who paints many African Americans as residents of inner-city “hell.” But it was impossible to ignore the political context of Lewis’ remarks. …

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Rep. John Lewis, target of Donald Trump, on PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington at the confirmation hearing for Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 11.

Associated Press

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington at the confirmation hearing for Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 11.

Civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who sparked Donald Trump's ire when he said he doesn't view Trump's presidency as "legitimate" is the keynote speaker today at the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence event in Miami.

Trump fired back on twitter saying that the Georgia 5th congressional district, represented by Lewis, is "in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested)."

PolitiFact ruled that claim Mostly False. The district isn’t in as terrible economic shape as Trump suggests. While it has higher unemployment and poverty rates than the national average, it still has a thriving economic hub in Atlanta and higher educational attainment. Atlanta does have a much higher crime rate than the national average, but like most major cities, that has been in decline. (Read Linda Qiu's fact-check here.)

Here's a look at Lewis' Truth-O-Meter record including his claims about black children and school discipline, crime and prison statistics and the costs associated with the Voting Rights Act.

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Gov. Scott praises Betsy DeVos as school choice advocate

Gov. Rick Scott's letter supporting Betsy DeVos


Gov. Rick Scott's letter supporting Betsy DeVos

Gov. Rick Scott is adding support for Donald Trump's education secretary pick, Betsy DeVos.

In a letter to Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Scott says DeVost has "dedicated her life" to improving education, and Scott singles out her advocacy for school choice.

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Marco Rubio still mulling vote on Tillerson confirmation

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said Monday he has yet to decide whether to vote to confirm former Exxon Mobil chief Rex Tillerson as President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary of state.

The Florida Republican said he’s awaiting responses to written questions to Tillerson following last week’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

“We’re going to go through the transcripts of the hearing, which I’ve begun to do,” Rubio told reporters in Miami. “We need to have a foreign policy that while always acting in the national interest of the United States is always rooted in our values as a nation.”

Rubio was the toughest Republican to question Tillerson on Trump’s foreign policy, which is unspecific and often at odds with Rubio’s hawkish views.

Over the weekend, Trump told the German newspaper Bild that NATO is “obsolete," though he added that the alliance is still "very important to him."

“NATO is not obsolete,” Rubio said Monday. “It most certainly needs to be reinvigorated, given the new challenges of the 21st century.”

“Mr. Tillerson said, by the way, that he does believe in NATO’s importance,” Rubio added. …

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Miami congresswoman to Donald Trump: ‘Please do not tweet anymore’

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson plans to skip Friday’s inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump – but not because she’s boycotting it, exactly.

The Miami Gardens Democrat never intended to attend, because her goddaughter’s getting married Saturday. A handful of Democratic members of Congress have said they won’t go to the inauguration in protest of Trump.

“My constituents have been calling and emailing me, asking me not to go to the inauguration,” Wilson told reporters in Miami on Monday. “They’re disturbed.”

Wilson said after Trump became the Republican nominee, she steeled herself to work with him – despite their ideological disagreements – on criminal justice issues. But Trump’s appointments have made her question her resolve.

“I’m wondering, ‘How can I work with him?’” she said.

Wilson spoke at a breakfast for her signature mentoring program, 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project. Her invited guest for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day event was U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who said Friday Trump isn’t a “legitimate president” because of Russian interference in the election. Trump followed up by slamming Lewis, a leader of the civil-rights movement, on Twitter. …

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These are the gun law changes Florida lawmakers could take up in 2017

The Florida House

Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

The Florida House

Legislators have proposed several law changes for the upcoming 2017 session that would either expand or restrict gun ownership and possession.

None of the proposals have yet been vetted by lawmakers or are on the calendar to be heard in legislative committees, although at least a few are likely to be taken up. Companion bills typically need to be filed in both the House and the Senate in order for a proposal to have a chance at becoming law.

Find the full list of 2017 gun bills here. (Note: This list will be updated if and when more bills are filed.)



-- What gun rights supporters want: Read here.

-- What gun safety advocates want: Read here.

-- How the NRA and Republicans control the debate in Florida: Read here.

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Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics

Winner of the week 1

Political establishment -- Insurgent candidates for chairmen of the Democratic and Republican parties were overwhelingly shot down Saturday, as Republicans re-elected Blaise Ingoglia and Democrats elected top fundraiser Stephen Bittel. About the only time the establishment lost such an election in modern history? When Ingoglia won his first term over the wishes of Rick Scott.

Winner of the week 2

Marco Rubio. Florida's junior senator lived up to his vow months ago to be a check on whoever won the presidency with his tough questioning of Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson. We'll see whether Rubio reverts to his normal play-it-safe mode and votes Tillerson out of committee, setting up a decision for the full Senate.

Loser of the week

Cuban migrants. President Barack Obama ended the "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy that enabled Cubans to stay and become legal residents of America far easier than people from other countries. Reversing the order could be tough for Donald Trump given his calls for tougher immigration policies.

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