Florida State University's Board of Trustees picked an interim president and named members to an advisory committee to name a successor for Eric Barron, who is leaving next month. Board members said that despite the buzz about Sen. John Thrasher wanting the job, they have an open mind and there is no front runner.
Here is more from Saturday's paper:
Sen. John Thrasher's name is on the tip of many tongues speculating about who will become the next Florida State University president.
But members of the school's Board of Trustees say they'll conduct a careful national search to find the best leader.
Friday, the group met to appoint an interim president who will take over once President Eric Barron leaves for Pennsylvania State University next month. They named 27 people to a search advisory committee, including high-profile political figures and FSU supporters.
Among them is Board of Trustees chairman Allan Bense, a former House speaker who served alongside Thrasher. He insisted there is no front-runner.
"I want to make sure that we get a good pool," Bense said. "And I think if I all of a sudden say I think it's John Smith or whoever, I think that shrinks the pool of applicants." …
Florida’s governor would have new powers to pack the state’s Supreme Court under a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow him to make prospective appointments to the bench even if a vacancy occurs the day the governor is leaving office.
Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince — the court’s liberal wing — will all turn 70 some time during the next governor’s term, and their six-year terms will all end on the same day as the a new governor is inaugurated.
The state constitution is unclear about whether the incoming or outgoing governor should make the appointment when the vacancy occurs on inauguration day. The proposal is designed to put some certainty into the law by giving governors a “prospective appointment” as part of the state’s merit selection system used for appellate courts. …
From the Associated Press: Investigators in Florida are not charging U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson over a domestic incident with his estranged wife.Officials with the Orange County Sheriff's Office in Orlando said Friday that probable cause didn't exist to support the allegation by Grayson's wife that he had pushed her against the front door of their home.
A judge granted Lolita Grayson a restraining order against the Democratic congressman from Orlando earlier this week after she alleged that Grayson pushed her against the front door of their home last Saturday when he stopped by the house.
Grayson's wife, Lolita, filed for divorce in January. On Wednesday, she asked a judge to enter a default judgment, claiming Grayson had failed to respond to her petition in a timely manner.
From Grayson spokeswoman: "Today the Orange County Sheriff’s Department confirmed what we have known all along: Congressman Grayson did nothing wrong. We are relieved that this ridiculous ordeal is over, and that the Congressman can continue to focus on taking care of his family and serving his constituents.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry addressed CPAC today with an energizing speech that had the crowd fired up. About 3:40 into this video, Gov. Perry takes aim at former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, the likely November opponent of his would-be BFF, current Gov. Rick Scott.
"And under Rick Scott, Florida's unemployment rate has dropped for three straight years, when just four years ago, four years ago, his predecessor presided over the loss of more than 800,000 jobs and now that guy wants his job back. And with a record like that, appropriately, he is running this time to seek it as a Democrat."
For the first time since he announced in November that he was running for governor, Charlie Crist’s political committee raised more money in a month than the campaign committee of his opponent, incumbent Rick Scott.
The “Charlie Crist for Governor Committee” raised $827,350 in February, nearly five times the $184,257 raised during the same period by Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” committee.
Surpassing Scott’s fundraising behemoth is at least an indication that Crist can compete financially.
But it falls far short of providing solid proof that Crist still won’t be blown out in the months to come or at least catch up so he can compete.
Consider the many caveats to February’s numbers. …
MIAMI (AP) - A former law partner of convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein was charged Friday with conspiring to violate federal campaign contribution laws involving thousands of dollars donated to the campaigns of John McCain and Charlie Christ.
Court records show the charges were filed against Russell Adler, who was a principal in the now-defunct Fort Lauderdale law firm Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler, or RRA. The firm was liquidated after Rothstein's $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme was exposed in fall 2009.
Adler is charged with helping orchestrate thousands of dollars in bundled contributions from the firm's employees and attorneys to McCain's 2008 campaign for president with running mate Sarah Palin and Charlie Crist's run for the U.S. Senate. The contributions were illegally reimbursed by the law firm, federal prosecutors said.
There is no indication that McCain or Crist, or their campaigns, knew of the illegal scheme. Adler has consistently denied wrongdoing in the Ponzi scheme, which involved investments in phony legal settlements. Rothstein is serving a 50-year prison sentence for the scheme. …
Lawmakers generally don't much care for being placed on the losing side of annual end-of session lists of winners and losers. But this may be an exception:
The state Capitol’s own “Biggest Loser” competition has begun, hosted by Senate Health Policy Committee Chair Aaron Bean (shown here bravely weighing in on Thursday) and House Health and Human Services Committee Chair Richard Corcoran.
“The ‘Biggest Loser’ competition is a great way to make healthy weight a team sport,'' said State Surgeon General John Armstrong, who's been plugging Healthiest Weight Florida, a public-private collaboration to promote healthy eating and active living.
It's open to all legislators, plus Capitol staff and agency employees. No word on whether we'll be treated to public weigh-ins and scoldings from personal trainers, a la TV's "Biggest Loser.''
As of today, about 113,000 ballots have been cast in Pinellas County's special electon for Congressional District 13, and Republicans have cast 3,756 more ballots than Democrats. We've heard some chatter from Jolly backers about a dramatic surge in Republican mail ballot returns in the closing week of the campaign. Republicans are definitely expanding their lead but not yet by enough to be confident. (Since Feb. 28, Republicans cast 10,121 ballots, Democrats 8,341, and others cast 4,430.
For all the talk about an energized, anti-Obama Republican base in this off-year special election, the key to victory on Tuesday - no surprise for a swing district in the swing state of Florida - once again comes down to swing voters and independents.
Republican David Jolly wins if he can keep Democrat Alex Sink from peeling away too many Republicans and from beating him too heavily among the nearly one in five voters registered to neither major party. …
The House and the Senate would agree on the proposed expansion of the school voucher program, were it not for one sticking point.
Senate President Don Gaetz is insisting that children who receive the private-school scholarships take the statewide assessments or something similar. Gaetz also wants the private schools held accountable for the results.
But House leaders say that kind of testing provision is unnecessary. They point out that scholarship students are already required to take some form of standardized test, though the statewide assessment is not mandated.
This debate goes back to 2008, when Gaetz was sponsoring legislation to expand the voucher program. His original Senate bill would have encouraged participating private schools to have their scholarship students take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests. But the House stripped the language out of its proposal, ultimately forcing the Senate to go along.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, made her way across the bay Friday to meet with constituents just before a crucial election in her neighboring congressional district.
Castor, whose district includes a carved-out portion of downtown and south St. Petersburg, paid a visit to the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club.
Before taking questions, Castor gave an introduction that included her time in Congress from the middle of the Iraq war in the Bush era through the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to the upcoming election in Congressional District 13.
“The eyes of the nation are upon our community,” she said.
Castor spent the rest of the event fielding questions from the crowd. She touched upon Congress’ perception of its staggering low approval rating, what the government ought to not stick its nose and fingers in, and how she would “bring home the bacon” to her portion of Pinellas County.
She said Congress is “not addressing challenges that face our country right now. They continue to be economical.”
Castor said she is pushing for Congress to focus on raising the minimum wage, immigration reform and fair pay for women. …
Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio helped defeat a bill that would remove military leaders from deciding whether to prosecute sexual assault cases.
The bill, pushed by New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, did not get the 60 votes needed to proceed, a defeat for advocates of abuse victims in the military
"Sen. Nelson has been at the forefront of this issue for a number of years now - since the hearing he held years ago investigating sexual assaults involving military contractors," spokesman Ryan Brown said. "That said, he favors Sen. McCaskill's bill over Sen. Gillibrand’s version. The former increases accountability for military commanders and makes it easier for prosecution of such crimes in various ways including eliminating an accused's good military character from being considered part of his defense. The latter legislation could have allowed a number of crimes, not just sex assaults, to be handled outside the chain-of-command."
Rubio, who kept his views silent before the vote, put a statement on his website that tried to accommodate both views. …
A letter to the FEC from Congressional Leadership Fund, a Super PAC with ties to John Boehner, says there is “strong and ample reason to believe that House Majority PAC, the (Democratic) party and the Sink campaign” violated election rules.
Back in 2010, Rick Scott featured his mom in TV ads to convince Florida voters that he was more than the cold, Medicare defrauder that Democrats were portraying him as. He went on narrowly defeat Alex Sink, who kicked off her own congressional campaign in Pinellas County with ads featuring her charming 90-year-old father, Kester Sink, of Mt. Airy, N.C.
Better than that actual ad, though, are these outtakes, which may help explain why Kester is a legendary ladies man around Surry County, N.C.
"It's time to support those who fight for liberty in Venezuela," Scott tweeted to @barackobama in Spanish.
It contains a fun Vine of Scott trying real hard to speak Spanish. Played on a loop all day, it's mesmerizing. There's a mute button in the upper-left corner of the picture, so click on it if you want sound.
Medical marijuana enjoys broad backing in Florida, with polls in the past year indicating that 65 to 70 percent of voters support the idea.
But passing a constitutional amendment to legalize medical pot may not be the cakewalk that such numbers suggest.
Florida requires a 60 percent majority to amend the state Constitution. Older voters — who usually dominate turnout — favor medical marijuana, but not as strongly as younger voters do.
Most important, experts say, amendments historically lose support as campaigns heat up and opposition weighs in.
"What I tell clients is that you want to poll at least about 10 percent higher (than the 60 percent threshold) out of the gate,'' said Orlando consultant John Sowinski, one of Florida's ballot initiative gurus. "It's like you are cut and bleeding on day one, and it depends on whether or not you are a big bleeder.''
Tallahassee consultant David Johnson, who generally works for Republicans, found 65 to 70 percent support for the amendment in his own personal polling but thinks that will dwindle.
For Florida political news today, the Buzz is your can't-miss-it source. Tampa Bay Times writers offer the latest in Florida politics, the Florida Legislature and the Rick Scott administration. Keep in mind: This is a public forum sponsored and maintained by the Tampa Bay Times. When you post comments here, what you say becomes public and could appear in the newspaper. You are not engaging in private communication with candidates or Times staffers.