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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott has lunch with Trump at White House

WASHINGTON -- Gov. Rick Scott had lunch today at the White House with President Trump and Gov. Scott Walker.

The White House has not yet provided details of the gathering, which was not on Trump's schedule.

Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio had dinner with Trump.

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Attempt to delay and deny production of records leads to mega fine for Martin County

A company that sued Martin County for allegedly reneging on a contract to use land to clean polluted water from Lake Okeechobee has won a major public records lawsuit accusing county commissioners of denying they conducted public business on private email accounts, delaying producing the accounts once they were discovered and, in one case, destroying the record trail.

Maggy Hurchalla

The county has agreed to pay Lake Point LLC, a company that operates a rock mine in western Martin County, more than $371,800 in attorneys’ fees and establish a new policy for how to handle public business on private email accounts.

Photo by Miami Herald: Former Martin County Commissioner Maggy Hurchalla turned over emails between her and county commissioners, igniting a public records lawsuit that now has led to a $371,800 fine. 

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Rick Scott gets post that could elevate national profile

Gov. Rick Scott

AP

Gov. Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott will be second-in-command of a Republican organization that played a huge financial role in his re-election.

On Friday the Republican Governor's Association named Scott their vice chairman, replacing South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who resigned and was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the chairman of the group, made the announced in a statement to the media.

“I am honored to serve in this new role for the RGA and help build upon our momentum that led to today’s near-century high of 33 Republican governors," Scott said. "The RGA has proved time and again that it is the most effective political organization in the country and I look forward to helping the RGA continue that tradition.”

The RGA has also proven to be a big supporter of Scott in the past. In 2014, the RGA spent over $18 million to help Scott win his re-election over Democrat Charlie Crist.

"Governor Rick Scott’s leadership and electoral experience will be a tremendous asset to the RGA as we recruit candidates, fundraise, and continue to build a solid foundation of resources for 38 gubernatorial elections over the next two years," Walker said. 

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Marco Rubio set to meet with Corcoran and Negron in D.C.

The top leaders of the Florida Legislature are going to Washington, D.C. next week for a series of meetings with Congressional leaders and a lengthy discussion with Sen. Marco Rubio over federal issues.

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron are confirmed to be part of a contingent that has meetings scheduled with Rubio on Monday and Tuesday.

Corcoran said Rubio invited leaders of the Legislature to go over federal transportation, health care and environmental issues and how they might after Florida.

A spokeswoman for Rubio said the meetings are to make sure there is an open line of communication as the state Legislature prepares to start its new session on March 7.

Rubio’s office said they have invited 17 leaders of the Florida House and Senate to the meeting including Democratic leaders of both chambers.

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Andrew Gillum 'seriously considering' 2018 governor's race

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum talks to reporters outside the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee in January 2017. Gillum, a Democrat, said Feb. 24 that he was "seriously considering running for governor" in 2018.

CateComm

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum talks to reporters outside the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee in January 2017. Gillum, a Democrat, said Feb. 24 that he was "seriously considering running for governor" in 2018.

It’s been no big secret that Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has had his eye on the Florida governor’s mansion, but now the Democrat is acknowledging it out loud.

Speaking Friday at the Central Florida Urban League’s Cornerstone Awards in Orlando, Gillum announced officially that he is “seriously considering running for governor.”

The announcement is not unlike recent ones by those of fellow Democrats, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former Tallahassee Congresswoman Gwen Graham — who also have all-but-announced formal campaigns for 2018.

“I feel strongly that the direction our state government has gone these last 20 years is out of step with the majority of Floridians, from the environment to wages, to education and job creation,” Gillum said, according to prepared remarks. “I believe this is a moment that requires not just people who quietly agree on these issues, but people who are going to be champions, who will get out and lead on them.” …

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Rubio defends town hall stance, says people on both sides get 'rude and stupid'

Activits didn't give up on Sen. Marco Rubio after seeing him yesterday at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and challenging him to hold a town hall. Later that day came this exchange in which Rubio explains that "people get rude and stupid, on both sides."

"Let him tape it," Rubio says to an apparent aide. He explains that he ran for office in opposition to Obamacare and it would be unfair to those who voted for him to change his opinion. 

We finally caught up with Senator Marco Rubio at @FIU. He told us that he won't host a townhall because people act "rude and stupid." pic.twitter.com/DrefDkvrFD

UPDATE: Rubio's office provided a transcript and context that Rubio was teaching at FIU.

Protester [Rafael Velasquez, a member of the FL Democratic Party’s Board of Trustees]: I just wanted to give you this check… [holds supersized blank check made out to “Senator Marco Rubio” that reads “protect Affordable Care Act Social Security & the environment”]

[crosstalk]

Rubio: Listen, I’m not-- Do me a favor, be respectful.

Protester: No, I am, I am.

Rubio: That’s silly. [gestures at check]

Protester: Are you going to do a town hall for us and hear your people? …

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The state of Florida's shrinking and revolving-door work force

How Florida compares to all other states in the number of state employees

Florida Department of Management Services

How Florida compares to all other states in the number of state employees

The state government workforce continued to get smaller Gov. Rick Scott over the past year, and Florida has the fewest full-time state workers in proportion to its population of any state, according to a report released Friday.

The annual workforce report, produced by the state Department of Management Services, includes these findings:

* The total number of full-time state worker positions at the end of the last fiscal year was 97,700, compared to 104,134 in 2012, which was a year after Scott became governor. The actual number of employees was 88,991, which is 5.6 percent below the number in 2012.

* Florida had 101 full and part-time employees per 10,000 residents in 2016, the fewest of any state. The national average is 209.

* The state had 87 full-time employees per 10,000 residents, also the fewest of any state. The national average is 169.

* Employee turnover among career service workers, who make up the largest chunk of full-time state workers, was 11.8 percent last year, the highest percentage since Scott became governor in 2011 and the first time the turnover rate reached double digits. …

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Richard Corcoran and Joe Negron see cities and counties' role differently

Then-Rep. Richard Corcoran, R- Land O' Lakes, shares a laugh with then-Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, before the start of the 2016 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Then-Rep. Richard Corcoran, R- Land O' Lakes, shares a laugh with then-Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, before the start of the 2016 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee.

When it comes to telling local governments what they can and cannot do, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron are taking markedly different positions.

The issue will play out in the upcoming legislative session in the form of broad House legislation (HB 17) that would ban all local government regulation of business without state permission, which could throw out ordinances ranging from mandatory bar closing hours to protection of LGBTQ Floridians. A narrower Senate bill (SB1158) filed Thursday would prevent regulation of "commerce, trade and labor."

Where Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, sees preempting local laws as a priority, Negron, R-Stuart, feels differently.

"For me, the general rule is to allow local governments to operate in their lane without the state interfering," Negron said. "That being said, I believe there are certain policy issues (where the state should step in) and so there's a delicate balance here, and it depends on what the issue is." …

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Rep. Charlie Crist divorcing his wife, Carole

Charlie Crist and Carole Rome Crist speak to reporters outside the First United Methodist Church in downtown St. Petersburg after their wedding on Dec. 12, 2008.

CHRIS O'MEARA | Associated Press

Charlie Crist and Carole Rome Crist speak to reporters outside the First United Methodist Church in downtown St. Petersburg after their wedding on Dec. 12, 2008.

After more than eight years of marriage, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist has filed for divorce.

"I think the world of Carole. She's an amazing person. It just didn't work out for us," the former governor told the Tampa Bay Times. "I wish all the the best for her." 

Crist, 60, said the divorce should have no impact on his service.

He and Carole, 47, own a Parkshore condo in downtown St. Petersburg, and details about whether he will continue to live there have yet to be worked out.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Meet Carole Rome, the governor's fiancee

Crist met Carole, a glamorous fixture on the New York and Hamptons social circuit, in the fall of 2007. They got engaged in July 2008 when he was a Republican governor widely seen as a top contender to be Sen. John McCain's vice presidential running mate.

The Crists married in December 2008, and together they worked through a tumultuous period in Crist's political career: An unsuccessful campaign for U.S. Senate as both a Republican and then independent in 2010 and then an unsuccessful campaign for governor as a Democrat in 2014. In November, he was elected to the U.S. House, representing much of Pinellas County.

FULL STORY HERE.

 

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Charlie Crist invites 8th grader and advocate for Syrian refugees to attend Donald Trump speech

A St. Petersburg eighth grader trying to help Syrian refugees will be the guest of U.S. Rep.Charlie Crist at Tuesday's address to Congress by President Donald Trump, who is barring Syrian refugees from America.

Crist, D-St. Petersburg, said he invited Oliver Hess of Shorecrest Prepatory School after reading a letter from Hess about his efforts to help a Syrian refugee family fleeing persecution resettle in Florida as part of his school’s annual “passion project.”

"Young Mr. Hess is setting an example for all of us, that for our country to continue to be great, we must also continue to be a beacon of hope and light to rest of the world. For refugees seeking asylum from war and terror, America is often their only hope," Crist said in a statement. "I commend Oliver's conscientiousness, and commitment to freedom and justice. I look forward to having him join me in Washington next week to bring greater attention to helping refugees in need."

Hess, also a member of Boy Scout Troop 219, wrote in his letter to Crist that he wanted to work on a project that did not merely benefit himself.  …

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"We have an epidemic. And nobody is doing anything about it."

Gun shoppers browse the Florida Gun Show’s booths at the Florida State Fairgrounds in December. Legal firearm sales are on the rise. Background checks, which are required to buy firearms from licensed gun dealers, jumped 66 percent between 2010 and 2015, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

John Pendygraft | Tampa Bay Times

Gun shoppers browse the Florida Gun Show’s booths at the Florida State Fairgrounds in December. Legal firearm sales are on the rise. Background checks, which are required to buy firearms from licensed gun dealers, jumped 66 percent between 2010 and 2015, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Gun injuries are a growing problem for Florida’s children, rising along with the increasing availability of firearms across the state, the Tampa Bay Times has found.

To determine how many kids are shot each year — accidentally, intentionally or during the commission of a crime — the Times looked at millions of hospital discharge records for patients across Florida, as well as data collected by the state’s 24 medical examiners.

The analysis found that, between 2010 and 2015, nearly 3,200 kids 17 and younger were killed or injured by firearms. Put another way, a child in Florida was shot, on average, every 17 hours.

From 2010 through 2015, the number of kids killed in gun-related incidents rose nearly 20 percent. Injuries from guns jumped 26 percent from 2014 to 2015 alone.

“That’s a very rapid increase,” said Dr. Garen J. Wintemute, who runs the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California Davis School of Medicine.

Firearms killed 475 kids during that six-year span — slightly less than cancer, but more than cardiovascular, infectious or respiratory diseases. …

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House and Senate prepare for negotiations

Florida House and Senate committees on Thursday gave approval to vastly different approaches to the future of gambling in Florida, with the Senate opening the door to massive expansion of slot machines and Indian gaming, while the House attempts to retract gaming and preserve protected markets for horse and dog racing and tribal gaming for another 20 years.

The House bill, PCB TGC 17-01, "reaffirms our commitment to a limited gaming footprint," said Rep. Michael LaRosa, R-St. Cloud, chair of the Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee which passed its bill 10-5.

Gambling

"It also keeps the Legislature in charge" of the future of gaming, he said, an attempt to halt the expansion of gambling that has occurred in recent years as lawmakers failed to close loopholes and clarify the law in the face of court rulings.

By contrast, the Senate bill would give Miami-Dade and Broward counties each an additional slot casino, the Seminole Tribe would have seven full-scale casinos, and horse and dog tracks in at least eight counties would get new slot parlors. …

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Rubio outlines what he did in Europe

Sen. Marco Rubio's office, which for days declined to detail his trip to Europe, outlined his travels.

From his website:

On Monday in Germany, he received a country briefing at the U.S. embassy and met with American foreign service officers and intelligence officials stationed in Berlin. He also met with German officials, including Ursula von der Leyen, Defense Minister; Dr. Christoph Heusgen, National Security Advisor and Head of Foreign Relations, Global Affairs, and External Security; and Markus Erderer, State Secretary.

On Tuesday in France, he received a country briefing at the ambassador’s residence and met with American intelligence officials and foreign service officers stationed in Paris.

The purpose of the trip was to discuss with our European allies and American officials on the ground the future of the U.S./EU relationship, NATO operations, counter-ISIL activities, foreign assistance programs and Russian aggression, including meddling in foreign elections. Senator Rubio reiterated his commitment to the transatlantic alliance and efforts to strengthen U.S.-European relations. …

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Plasencia: 'No one actively lobbying against' daily recess mandate

State Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and state Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, speak at a press conference on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 about their legislation to require 20 minutes of recess daily in Florida's public elementary schools.

Kristen M. Clark / Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

State Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and state Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, speak at a press conference on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 about their legislation to require 20 minutes of recess daily in Florida's public elementary schools.

State Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, told reporters Thursday that "there's no one that's actively lobbying against" efforts to require mandatory daily recess in Florida's public elementary schools.

There has so far been no obvious or outspoken public opposition to the measure, but district administrators quietly have voiced concerns about requiring all schools to have recess -- citing a potential lack of time in the existing school day. (A few lawmakers, like House Education Committee chairman Michael Bileca, R-Miami, also don't like the idea of imposing another statewide mandate.)

Although there was resounding support for the statewide daily requirement last session in the House, only one school district -- Orange County -- took action to fall in line with what lawmakers had sought to do. Miami-Dade County did revise its existing policy to encourage more time for recess, but it's still not required daily.

IN-DEPTH: “Quest for daily recess: Moms renew fight for more free play in Florida Legislature”

Plasencia said he's spoken with many school districts, and "what they're trying to do is have some input so they can integrate it in a much more productive way into their school days." …

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No firebrand, but Joe Negron says he's just as committed to principles

Senate President Joe Negron

AP

Senate President Joe Negron

Florida Senate President Joe Negron is never going to be mistaken for a fiery ideologue who draws unwavering lines in the sand. But the Republican from Stuart said his temperament and willingness to work out policy differences shouldn’t be seen as a sign of weakness.

“How you say something is not a reflection of how committed you are to it,” Negron told the Times/Herald during an interview Thursday.

Negron declared that the art of working out policy differences through compromise is a healthy part of the process that past legislative leaders have demonstrated works. The attorney first elected to the Florida House in 2000, said he believes that even the biggest issues can be resolved in a way that people don’t have to compromise their values and principles. At some point the process requires everyone to work together in good faith to resolve their differences, he said.

“I find it to be an act of hubris to suggest that we cannot do that,” Negron said. …

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