Make us your home page

The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Obama to visit National Hurricane Center in Miami

President Obama will visit the National Hurricane Center next Thursday, the White House said, to receive the annual hurricane season outlook and preparedness briefing.

The stop follows fundraisers he'll do in Coconut Grove on Wednesday.

Full Story

This time, Rubio doesn't stand with Rand

Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio

file photos

Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio

WASHINGTON – The last time Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky staged a marathon protest on the Senate floor, over the government drone policy, fellow Republican Sen. Marco Rubio rushed to stand by his side.

Wednesday, Paul tried to recapture that spirit, inveighing for 10.5 hours against the National Security Agency’s data collection program – and tried to give life to his stagnating presidential campaign.

Toward the end, Rubio slipped into the chair presiding over the chamber. But he was just watching. He and Paul are complete opposites on the issue, illustrating the Republican schism over the balance between individual privacy and national security.

It showed, too, growing public concern over the Islamic state, Iran’s nuclear capability and other threats abroad since Paul’s 2013 showdown over drones.

Rubio once wanted to be at least associated with Paul, who in 2013 was riding a less interventionist mood and garnering loads of attention from the news media. (In reality, Rubio supported drones.) Now the Floridian is competing for the GOP presidential nomination and positioning himself as the ultimate hawk. …

Full Story

House releases tentative special session schedule

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli today released an anticipated calendar for the June 1-20 special session, during which lawmakers expect to hammer out a state budget.

He also noted that lawmakers' requests to be excused from the special session aren't guaranteed to be okayed by leadership.

Monday, June 1

            1:00 p.m.        Special Session convenes

            3:00 p.m.        Workshop on the substance of CS/SB 7044 (2015)

                                       All members will be invited to this workshop hosted by the House Health and Human Services Committee

Tuesday, June 2

            9:00 a.m.      Finance and Tax Committee hearing on PCB tax package

Wednesday, June 3

            TBD               Rules Committee meeting to set the Special Order


Thursday, June 4           

            TBD                 The House will be in Session

Friday, June 5

            TBD                Joint Conference Committee kickoff

            TBD                The House will be in Session

Saturday, June 6 

            TBD                 Budget Conference Meetings

Sunday, June 7 

            TBD                 Budget Conference Meetings

Monday, June 8   …

Full Story

Scott signs 44 bills into law, including concealed carry, body camera legislation

Gov. Rick Scott signed 44 bills into law Thursday afternoon, including one allowing concealed weapons to be carried without a permit during emergency evacuations and another that will shield police body camera videos from public record laws.

The concealed carry bill is a favorite project of Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who says the change in law will allow lawful gun owners to avoid criminal citations for simply carrying their belongings with them while evacuating from a hurricane or other disaster.

Opponents have said there should be fewer guns on the streets during emergencies, not more.

The body camera legislation, sponsored by Sen. Chris Smith, R-Ft. Lauderdale, is intended to protect people’s privacy when police officers enter homes, hospitals, mental health institutions and anywhere else where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Open-government advocates say that law enforcement agencies can use the language to shield video that is in the public interest, particularly now that video is being used more frequently in broader debates over the role of police in society.

But supporters argue that privacy protections will encourage more agencies to use body cameras. …

Full Story

Scott's draft of session agenda banned Medicaid expansion talk

While the Senate and House scrambled last week to agree on terms of a proclamation for a special session, Gov. Rick Scott had followed through on a threat to draft his own proclamation -- and on his terms.

Those terms specifically excluded any discussion of Medicaid expansion that the Senate wants. Scott's document said "specifically excluding legislation expanding Medicaid eligibility." The Senate would never agree to such a blanket restriction, and besides, lawmakers didn't want Scott setting the agenda for a session that will be dominated by the development of a budget that is a legislative duty. Here's Scott's special session draft proclamation.

Full Story

Sen. Bill Nelson: Republican oil drilling proposal puts Florida 'under siege'

A proposal from a Louisiana Republican senator to move oil drilling closer to the Florida coast has met staunch opposition from Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

“Florida is under siege,” Nelson said in a release. “At some point, folks need to ignore Big Oil's greed and simply do what’s right.”

The bill, written by Sen. Bill Cassidy and co-signed by four senators from the Gulf Coast states of Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana, proposes an end to the ban on drilling within a certain distance of the Florida coastline. Current law prohibits drilling within at least 125 miles of the coast, in some areas reaching as far out as 235 miles.

Without the legislation, the freeze on drilling would expire in 2022.

Nelson, the top ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, proposed a countermeasure extending the ban another five years, until 2027. He cited his desire to protect the Florida environment and tourism industry.

Cassidy’s proposal comes in the wake of opposition from a bipartisan Florida delegation over seismic testing for future drilling.


Full Story

Change of command coming to FHP as Col. Brierton is retiring

The "black and tan" are about to get a new leader.

Col. David Brierton is retiring after a 32-year career at the Florida Highway Patrol, including the past four as its director, and he will officially leave the state payroll on May 31. Brierton attended his last trooper graduation ceremony Wednesday in Tallahassee and had some inspiring words for the latest crop of state troopers patrolling Florida's highways.

"I sat where you're sitting," he told the 130th recruit class graduation, recalling the pride he felt at wearing the FHP uniform that's familiar not just to Florida motorists, but to college football fans everywhere, as troopers serve as bodyguards to head football coaches at Florida State and the University of Florida.

"Never lose that sense of pride in what you've accomplished, and in the patrol. If you ever lose that, you need to ask why," Brierton told them. …

Full Story

Feds: Florida needs $1 billion for hospital funding

TALLAHASSEE — The federal government told Florida on Thursday that the state will need $1 billion next year to maintain a hospital payment program that's at the center of a political stalemate preventing passage of a new state budget.

In a letter to state health officials, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services said the $1 billion would "maintain stability while the system transitions" to new ways of compensating hospitals for the high cost of treating poor patients, a program known as LIP or low income pool.

Tampa General Hospital, All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Miami's Jackson Health System and Broward Health are among Florida's largest recipients of LIP money. In the current year, those hospitals were promised a total of $731 million in supplemental payments, provided through a blend of federal and local tax money that totals nearly $2.2 billion.

In their letter, the feds did not promise any LIP money. But a House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, told lawmakers that the news is a "clear indication (that) Florida will receive a significant level of LIP funds, which will help us in our efforts to finish the budget by the July 1 deadline." …

Full Story

Rubio to hold Florida fundraisers for Iowa's Chuck Grassley

To court Iowa, Marco Rubio plans to host three events next week for Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley -- in South Florida.

Grassley will hit three counties on Tuesday: Miami-Dade for breakfast, Broward for lunch and Palm Beach for dinner, according to an invitation emailed Thursday to some of Rubio's local political donors

Breakfast will take place at the Coral Gables office of Jorge Luis Lopez, an attorney and lobbyist; lunch at the Pompano Beach headquarters of Allegiance Crane & Equipment, an equipment-rental company whose chief executive is Jim Robertson; and dinner at the Palm Beach home of Amanda and Chuck Schumacher, an auto dealer.

Donors will have to fork over $1,000 each -- or $2,700 to get more access -- for the breakfast and lunch. Dinner with Grassley requires a $10,400 contribution, though $2,700 will get donors into a larger reception. The money will go to Grassley Hawkeye Fund, the senator's political committee.

"Chairman Grassley -- U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee -- has been very supportive of our friend and Miami's native son, Marco Rubio in Iowa and we proudly want to reciprocate," Lopez wrote in an email to supporters Thursday. …

Full Story

Jeb the quote

Jeb Bush, who continues a two-day swing through New Hampshire today, was a quote machine on Wednesday.

On his family: "I love my mom and dad. I love my brother, and people are just going to have to get over that. That's just the way it is. ... I have a life journey, my own — one that sets me apart in some ways."

On climate change: "For the people to say the science is decided on this is really arrogant, to be honest with you. It's this intellectual arrogance that now you can't have a conversation about it, even. The climate is changing. We need to adapt to that reality."

On Iraq: The focus ought to be on knowing what you know now, Mr. President, should you have kept 10,000 troops in Iraq? ...ISIS didn't exist when my brother was President. Al Qaeda in Iraq was wiped out when my brother was president. There were mistakes made in Iraq, for sure, but the surge created a fragile but stable Iraq that the President could've built on and it would've not allowed ISIS."

Bush has made himself widely accessible to reporters on the campaign trail and has made a point to contrast himself with Hillary Clinton, who has kept the press at a distance.

Full Story

Rapper Pitbull appreciates Jeb Bush's 'slick' joke

Recording artist Pitbull performs onstage during the 2015 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 17 in Las Vegas.

Getty Images

Recording artist Pitbull performs onstage during the 2015 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 17 in Las Vegas.

Miami rapper Pitbull says Jeb Bush is “pretty slick’’ when it comes to jokes.

Appearing Tuesday on Howard Stern’s SiriusXM radio show, the singer, whose real name is Armando Christian Perez, shared an anecdote about Bush asking how he came to be called Pitbull.

“I said, ‘Well, I was on the way to a pitbull fight, and a Dominican friend of mine was like, ‘Yo, that should be your name — you're always out here fighting these guys and battling in rap and this,’ ” the singer told Stern.
Pitbull goes on, “And Jeb goes, 'Well, good thing you weren't on the way to a cockfight.’ ”

“I was [like,] ‘Jeb, that was pretty slick!’ ” Pitbull exclaimed.

The entertainer, who has been called a friend by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, is not endorsing any politician for president right now, however. He said his grandmother and mom “always say there’s two things you don’t speak about, which is politics and religion.”

Hat tip to The Hill for first reporting this.

Full Story

Liberal group files third FEC complaint against Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush’s retracted flub about running for president has earned him another complaint before the Federal Election Commission.

The liberal American Democracy Legal Fund, which has already filed two complaints against Bush for his coordination with a Super PAC, says, “it was clear before, but it is now crystal clear that Mr. Bush and Right to Rise Super PAC, Inc. have violated the Act in the following ways: …

Full Story

Florida Republicans urge Obama to reconsider LIP

Letter to President Obama

Rep. Vern Buchanan's office

Letter to President Obama

WASHINGTON - A group of Florida Republicans wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to reverse a decision to end the Low Income Pool program in Florida, arguing it "has been working to help low-income families in our state."

The request won't go anywhere, but represents the call to arms that Gov. Rick Scott sent up during a trip to Washington last week.

The letter was signed by Marco Rubio; Vern Buchanan; Jeff Miller; John Mica; Dennis Ross; Gus Bilirakis; Ron DeSantis; Ted S. Yoho; Rich Nugent; Mario Diaz-Balart; Carlos Curbelo; and Tom Rooney.

Full Story

Kick-off for Rick Scott's hospital commission focuses on just understanding data

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off the first meeting of his Commission on Healthcare and Hospital funding with a simple charge: Government funding of health care should be high in quality and low in cost.

"There's so much taxpayer funding that goes into healthcare...We've got to return those investments because those are somebody's hard-earned dollars," the governor said via a phone call to the nine commission members.

But while Scott's goal for the commission may be straightforward, it quickly became clear that meeting that goal likely won't be.

In the first hour and a half of a four-hour commission meeting, members focused on trying to understand data available from the Agency for Health Care Administration and request additional information moving forward.

Some highlights:

"Over 70 percent of all hospital payments are done by a government entity in the state of Florida?" asked surgeon Jason Rosenburg, the only doctor on the commission. "Wow."

"We need to get tot what it costs per patient per day per procedure ... That with the quality of care will at least begin to give us an idea of what the cost should be," said commission Chair Carlos Beruff. …

Full Story

So that's what Carlos Lopez-Cantera does for $125K

Carlos Lopez-Cantera and his boss

Tampa Bay Times

Carlos Lopez-Cantera and his boss

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera appears likely to run for U.S. Senate in 2016, which means before long hard-working Floridians - or at least some reporters - will be exploring the ever-mysterious question of what a lieutenant governor in Florida actually does. Remember, the job paying about $125,000 annually has no formal responsibilities established in the state constitution or statutes. …

Full Story