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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bill Nelson phones Hillary Clinton with a simple message: Run

A couple weeks ago, Sen. Bill Nelson was at home in Florida and decided to call up Hillary Clinton. She returned the call and Nelson, who was watching 60 Minutes with his wife, had a simple message:

Get in the race for president.

"It's time for a woman," Nelson said from the Capitol this week, recounting the coversation. "I'm all for Hillary."

Clinton is almost certainly going to run but the question now is when she'll announce.

"Florida will decide the election," Nelson said.

He spoke on the day Jeb Bush said he's actively exploring a run on the Republican side. Nelson was Florida treasurer for the first two years of Bush's first term as governor. "We had a very good personal and professional relationship," Nelson said. Asked to characterize how Bush ran the state, Nelson replied, "Reasonably so. That's when we had a number of hurricanes and so I was with him quite a bit."



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Fla Insider Poll: Those who know them best say Marco Rubio can't compete w Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush overshadows Marco Rubio in Florida

Tampa Bay Times

Jeb Bush overshadows Marco Rubio in Florida

Marco Rubio says Jeb Bush's move toward a presidential run will have no effect on his own presidential deliberations. But among more than 150 savvy political pros who know Rubio, Bush, and Florida politics best the answer is clear: Bush's candidacy presents a nearly insurmountable obstacle to Sen. Rubio.

Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed for the latest Tampa Bay Times Florida Insider Poll said Rubio would be unable to raise enough money to mount a competitive campaign if Jeb Bush was also running. One a quarter, predict Rubio will actually run now that Bush is poised to do so.

"Jeb still has the heart and soul of grassroots Republicans in Florida. There's no room for two or three Florida candidates. Marco knows that," one Republican said.

The Insider Poll of political consultants, lobbyists, fundraisers, political scientists and a few recovering political reporters is an unscientific and, almost by definition, biased exercise. Why? Because any list of top Republican political talent in Florida is guaranteed to be packed with former Bush staffers and money-raisers. …

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Jeb Bush leaving Barclays

Jeb Bush is leaving his position at Barclays, the Financial Times reports this morning.

The departure from his paid adivising position comes as Bush is actively exploring a run for president.

From the Financial Times: "Mr Bush, who served as an adviser to Lehman Brothers before its collapse during the financial crisis, has rarely spoken about his work at the British bank, which has been ensnared by scandals such as the manipulation of key benchmark interest rates and the mis-selling of payment protection insurance in recent years."

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Rubio takes aggressive turn as face of opposition to President Obama's Cuba decision

WASHINGTON — As President Barack Obama dropped the bombshell about Cuba on Wednesday, Sen. Marco Rubio was hurrying to the Capitol where a packed room of reporters awaited.The Florida Republican stood outside for a moment, reviewing notes then stepped to the podium and unloaded.

"This president is the single worst negotiator we have had in the White House in my lifetime," Rubio said, contending Obama "has basically given the Cuban government everything it asked for and received no assurances of any advances of democracy and freedom."

Rubio deemed it a victory for the "oppressive Cuban government" and "another concession to a tyranny" by the Obama administration. The president, he said, let the Cuban people down. He used words like "absurd" and "disgraceful and "outrageous." He vowed to do whatever possible to block the moves.

"This Congress is not going to lift the embargo," said Rubio, who will chair the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere when Congress reconvenes in January. …

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Gardiner talks about his session priorities and his take the issues

Andy GardinerSenate President Andy Gardiner laid out his priorities in an information meeting with reporters Wednesday and said he will be focused on implementing Amendment 1, bringing more tax relief to Floridians and finding ways to help special needs students get broader employment opportunities.

Gardiner, R-Orlando, who was sworn in for the two-year term as Senate president in November, touched on several high profile issues that are likely to become the focus of the 60-day session in March.

MEDICAID -- Gardiner, vice president of Orlando Health, said he is open to hearing details on a compromise health care reform plan pushed by a coalition of hospitals this month, that would help the state move toward expanding Medicaid under Obamacare to cover more of the uninsured.

ENVIRONMENT -- He said committees will conduct hearing in January to hear what the authors of Amendment 1 had in mind as the legislature works on how to implement the new constitutional provision to dedicate one third of the state’s documentary stamp taxes to land and water preservation.

CLAIMS --Unlike his predecessor Senate President Don Gaetz, Gardiner is open to giving a hearing to the 33 claims bills filed to require state or local government pay a settlement or legal liability.

TESTING -- He wants his education committees to review the amount of school tests required of Florida k-12 students. “The jury’s still out on if we are over-testing,’’ he said. On Common Core, however, he said there are legitimate concerns about the proposal “but I don’t support walking away from that accountability.”

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Gardiner says first Senate bill will be greyhound injury reporting

GreyhoundsSenate President Andy Gardiner said Wednesday he will revive the bill to require the greyhound racing industry to report animal injuries and have the measure sent to the House during the first week of the 2015 session.

“It’ll be named after Mrs. Gaetz,’’ he said, referring to Vicky Gaetz, the wife of former Senate President Don Gaetz who is an animal lover and worked to help persuade lawmakers to pass the bill last year. 

The bill died in the final week of the 2014 legislative session after it became entangled in pari-mutuel industry politics.

Unlike other states, Florida’s greyhound industry does not have to report when dogs are injured as a result of racing or training. The bill, SB 2, was filed Tuesday by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood. It imposes fines on track veterinarians who fail to report race-related injuries and follows a similar bill passed in 2013 that requires tracks to report greyhound deaths. In the first 9 months of 2013, 74 greyhound deaths were reported – more than one every three days. 

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Florida reaction to Cuba news

Reaction to the news that the U.S. is normalizing relations with Cuba and Alan Gross is being freed from a Cuban prison:

Sen.  Bill Nelson: “The success of this monumental development depends on Castro’s willingness to grant basic democratic freedoms for the Cuban people,” Nelson said. On more normal relations, Nelson said: “Let's see if Castro changes the behavior of a brutal police state and provides freedoms for the Cuban people.”

Sen. Marco Rubio "Today’s announcement initiating a dramatic change in U.S. policy toward Cuba is just the latest in a long line of failed attempts by President Obama to appease rogue regimes at all cost. Like all Americans, I rejoice at the fact that Alan Gross will be able to return to his family after five years in captivity. Although he is supposedly being released on humanitarian grounds, his inclusion in a swap involving intelligence agents furthers the Cuban narrative about his work in Cuba. In contrast, the Cuban Five were spies operating against our nation on American soil. They were indicted and prosecuted in a court of law for the crimes of espionage and were linked to the murder of the humanitarian pilots of Brothers to the Rescue. There should be no equivalence between the two, and Gross should have been released unconditionally.

"The President’s decision to reward the Castro regime and begin the path toward the normalization of relations with Cuba is inexplicable. Cuba’s record is clear. Just as when President Eisenhower severed diplomatic relations with Cuba, the Castro family still controls the country, the economy and all levers of power. This administration’s attempts to loosen restrictions on travel in recent years have only served to benefit the regime. While business interests seeking to line their pockets, aided by the editorial page of The New York Times, have begun a significant campaign to paper over the facts about the regime in Havana, the reality is clear. Cuba, like Syria, Iran, and Sudan, remains a state sponsor of terrorism. It continues to actively work with regimes like North Korea to illegally traffic weapons in our hemisphere in violation of several United Nations Security Council Resolutions. It colludes with America’s enemies, near and far, to threaten us and everything we hold dear. But most importantly, the regime’s brutal treatment of the Cuban people has continued unabated. Dissidents are harassed, imprisoned and even killed. Access to information is restricted and controlled by the regime. That is why even more than just putting U.S. national security at risk, President Obama is letting down the Cuban people, who still yearn to be free.

“I intend to use my role as incoming Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Western Hemisphere subcommittee to make every effort to block this dangerous and desperate attempt by the President to burnish his legacy at the Cuban people’s expense. Appeasing the Castro brothers will only cause other tyrants from Caracas to Tehran to Pyongyang to see that they can take advantage of President Obama’s naiveté during his final two years in office. As a result, America will be less safe as a result of the President’s change in policy. When America is unwilling to advocate for individual liberty and freedom of political expression 90 miles from our shores, it represents a terrible setback for the hopes of all oppressed people around the globe.”Full Story

Governor's office says DCF will honor child abuse settlement, won't say when

A spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott has indicated that the governor's office wants the Department and Children and Families to pay the settlement to the surviving Barahona twin whose sibling died after years of torture by their adoptive parents, but questions remain. 

"DCF will work with everyone involved to honor the agency's commitment to compensate the victim of this terrible tragedy,'' said Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz in an email to the Miami Herald late Tuesday.

It is unclear how DCF will honor the agency's commitment or how long it will take. The department's deputy general counsel has objected to a claim bill that has been filed to compensate Victor Barahona for the $3.75 million the state owes him and, as a result of those objections and additional concerns raised by the Senate's lawyer, the bill has been put on indefinite hold. …

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Who is Jeb Bush?

Who is Jeb Bush.

Correct, sir, for $200.

Tuesday evening on Jeopardy, the first question under the category "Picture the Politician" was a picture of Jeb Bush.

The contestant, a writer from New Orleans named Rooks, got it right, picking up $200.

-- Lucy Morgan

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Rand Paul takes early shots at Bush on Common Core

At the start of Tuesday, Sen. Rand Paul had this to say about Jeb Bush's news: "The more the merrier."

But Paul, who is no doubt eyeing a run for president too, dropped the nice talk as the day wore on. To reporters he questioned whether Bush's name would be a problem. Then his team leaked that it had purchased Google ads so when people search for Bush, Paul's website would pop up.

Tonight, on Fox not long ago, the Kentucky Republican implied that Bush was stale and had a major problem with Common Core. Asked by Megyn Kelly why Bush got in so early, Paul replied: “Maybe he has more ground he needs to gain. He’s been out of this a while so maybe he needs to get back in and practice up a bit.”

Paul said he would wait a few months to announce. …

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Latvala orders another round of growlers

It was one of the most spirited battles in the Legislature last year, pitting scrappy independent craft brewers against wealthy beer distributors intent on preserving their dwindling customer base.

On Tuesday, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, renewed the fight, filing a bill that would give microbreweries what they have long craved: half-gallon "growler" containers. Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, plans to file an identical companion bill in the Florida House.

SB 186  would allow local breweries to fill up the 64-ounce containers for customers to take home, which is currently illegal in Florida thanks to resistance from large beer distributors such as Anheuser-Busch. Brewers now can fill up containers that are 32 ounces or 128 ounces, but not those that are 64 ounces, which is the most popular size because it's large enough to satisfy and small enough to consume in one day (it goes flat soon after opening).

Mitch Rubin, the executive director of the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association, said his group doesn’t plan to oppose Latvala’s bill this time. …

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Lawyers ask court to intervene and enforce child abuse settlement with state

Lawyers for one of the surviving victims of the Barahona child abuse tragedy asked a judge on Tuesday to order the Florida Department of Children and Families to honor a settlement it agreed to last year and stop trying to delay the payments.

Neal A. Roth filed a "Motion to Enforce Settlement" with the 11th Judicial Circuit in Miami-Dade County Tuesday, suggesting that the agency's attempts to oppose legislation that authorizes payment to Victor Barahona and his new parents has "breached the settlement agreement and has completely undermined the settlement."

DCF last year agreed to pay $5 million for the rehabiliation of Victor Barahona, after he was found with chemical burns and near death alongside the body of his his twin sister, Nubia. The 10-year-old twins had been in the state's child welfare system their entire lives, including after they were adopted by Jorge and Carmen Barahona. Despite repeated warnings to the state's child abuse hotline, the twins suffered years of torture and sexual abuse from their adoptive parents as the state stood silent. …

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Upheaval at FDLE: Bailey forced out, Swearingen interim leader

One week after addressing the governor and Cabinet, Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday abruptly replaced Commissioner Gerald Bailey of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement with Rick Swearingen, director of the Capitol police.

No explanation was given for Bailey's departure and the news came as a shock to others in the law enforcement community.

Bailey is a respected professional with a 35-year career in law enforcement who has been FDLE commissioner since 2006 when Jeb Bush was governor. A terse announcement from the governor's office cited Swearingen's interim appointment and thanked Bailey for his service to the state. Scott's chief of staff, Melissa Sellers, declined to elaborate beyond the news release.

Throughout Scott's first term as governor, FDLE publicly shared in the credit for the steady decline in Florida's violent crime rate to a 43-year low. The governor's office and FDLE must have a close and trusting relationship since the agency provides round-the-clock travel and security protection for the governor and his family members. …

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Gov. Scott names new DMS chief, reappoints DBPR secretary

Gov. Rick Scott appointed leaders of two more state agencies Tuesday, naming Chad Poppell as the new secretary of the Department of Management Services and reappointing Ken Lawson as secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Poppell has been chief of staff to Secretary Jesse Panuccio at the Department of Economic Opportunity for the past two years. Before that, he worked for the city of Jacksonville, first as director of human resources under Mayor John Peyton and later as director of employee services for JEA, the city-owned utility. Poppell replaces Craig Nichols at DMS.

Lawson, a former assistant U.S. attorney, will remain in the post he has held since March 2011.

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Jeb Bush: I will 'actively explore' presidential run

WASHINGTON — Jeb Bush says he'll "actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States" in 2016, taking a decisive step that could shake up a large and eager Republican field.

The 61-year-old former Florida governor made the announcement Tuesday morning via a Facebook post, saying he talked with his wife Columba over Thanksgiving about their family and the future of the country.

"As a result of these conversations and thoughtful consideration of the kind of strong leadership I think America needs, I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States," Bush wrote. "In January, I also plan to establish a Leadership PAC that will help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation.

"The PAC's purpose will be to support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans. In the coming months, I hope to visit with many of you and have a conversation about restoring the promise of America." …

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