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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bobby Jindal endorses Marco Rubio

Bobby Jindal is the second former 2016 presidential candidate to endorse Marco Rubio this week.

"He can unify the party," Jindal said on Fox News. "He can win this election in November."

Jindal's endorsement follows Rick Santorum, who failed to name an accomplishment of Rubio's. The fomer Louisiana governor may have to explain this line from October 2015: "We've got a first-term senator in the White House. We need somebody with a proven track record."

But is shows how the GOP is beginning to unite around Rubio.

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House, Senate proposed budgets include millions for Tampa Bay projects

Tens of millions of dollars for libraries, museums, parks and theaters in Tampa Bay have survived the first cut and are in the initial state budget proposals.

Funding for Lowry Park Zoo, the Florida Aquarium, Blind Pass Road in St. Pete Beach, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in St. Petersburg and a new transit study to move people from south Hillsborough to downtown Tampa are all tucked within more than 800 pages of budget documents that passed through House or Senate budget committees this week.

Some of the bigger-ticket items for Tampa Bay are not among the four dozen area projects in the $80 billion budget yet. Like most education construction projects, it will be weeks before the region knows the fate of a $22 million request to move USF's Morsani College of Medicine to downtown Tampa to serve as a key cog of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeffrey Vinik's revitalization plan.

While there is no guarantee any listed projects will be in the final state budget, it's a key starting point to keep many of them even at the negotiating table.

 

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Attention, parents: Sample score reports unveiled for 2016 statewide assessments

The Florida Department of Education released Friday samples of its new, redesigned score reports for the Florida Standards Assessments.

Florida Department of Education

The Florida Department of Education released Friday samples of its new, redesigned score reports for the Florida Standards Assessments.

State education officials are letting teachers and parents know what the new, redesigned score reports will look like for this year's Florida Standards Assessments, which students will take this spring.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart first discussed the new score reports with the State Board of Education in early January, and her department rolled them out officially Friday afternoon so parents will know what to expect when they get their children's scores.

There's also a new website to help teachers, parents and students understand the information presented on the score reports.

“Our goal is to ensure Floridians have access to an education system that prepares all students for future success," Stewart said in a statement. "The standardized statewide assessments and the corresponding score reports are critical to achieving that goal because they provide students, parents and educators insight into what students have learned."

"By knowing how well students grasped the information they are expected to know in each grade level, these individuals can work together to make adjustments that will lead to greater success in the future," Stewart said. …

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Florida superintendents, Rep. Erik Fresen spar over school construction costs

Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami

The Florida Channel

Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami

Earlier this week, Florida's superintendents sought to correct what they described as inaccurate and flawed information discussed by the Florida House Appropriations Committee a couple of weeks ago, and that response has now ignited a letter feud between the superintendents and the man who controls school funding in the Florida House.

In late January, the Appropriations Committee held a lengthy discussion -- led by House education budget chairman Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami -- about what Fresen and House leaders called a “disturbing pattern” of cost-overruns on public school construction projects paid for, at least in part, with state funding.

Because of those alleged abuses, Fresen said he's prepared to propose limits on how districts use the fixed-capital outlay dollars they get, as well as penalties, should they exceed spending caps. (More here on that meeting.)

The Florida Association of District School Superintendents responded with a two-page letter on Monday -- penned by president Barbara Jenkins, Orange County schools superintendent -- detailing why they felt Fresen's conclusions were "not sound" and didn't show the full picture of the circumstances schools face. …

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Jeb Bush ad uses Santorum failure to name a Rubio accomplishment

Jeb Bush's campaign is out with a new TV ad in New Hampshire that seizez on Rick Santorum's failure to name a single accomplishment of Marco Rubio.

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Donald Trump heading to Tampa

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally Thursday at Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth, N.H.

[Associated Press]

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally Thursday at Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth, N.H.

Donald Trump is planning a rally at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa next Friday, Feb. 12. That's three days after New Hampshire's primary, so we should have a better sense then of how much competition Trump will face in Florida's March 15 primary from homeboys Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.

Details to come. The Trump campaign has not announced the event officially yet. The arena can seat over 10,000 people.

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George W. Bush appears in ad for Jeb

Here's the Jeb Bush super PAC ad featuring his brother, former President George W. Bush. It's airing in South Carolina.

Jeb Bush last night on Fox News confirmed that his brother will campaign for him there, too.

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Jeb Bush: Marco Rubio, nice guy, has done nothing

Jeb Bush was on Morning Joe to continue to press his case against Marco Rubio as unaccomplished. Rubio has had a tough 24 hours after Rick Santorum failed to name something Rubio has achieved, putting a media spotlight on the Florida senator's record. 

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In historical move, Jorge Labarga to remain as Florida Supreme Court chief justice for second term

Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga

Florida Supreme Court

Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga

Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga continues to break historical records.

Two years ago, he became the first Hispanic person to lead the state's judicial system. On July 1, he'll begin his second term in that role -- becoming the first chief justice to succeed himself since the end of the Civil War and the first in four decades to serve more than one term.

The court announced this morning that the six other justices chose Labarga to serve for another two-year term as chief justice.

The Supreme Court has long followed a custom of rotating the chief justiceship to the next most senior member who has not yet held the post.

But in this case, Justice James E.C. Perry normally would have received the rotation in 2016, and he will be forced to retire due to age only a few months later. He chose not to stand for election, the court said.

As chief justice, Labarga leads the state's top bench and also serves as the administrative head of the state's judiciary. …

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Capitol Buzz: Things to watch today in Tallahassee

After a week talking guns and budget plans, Florida's lawmakers get a break today.

There are no House or Senate floor sessions nor committee meetings scheduled, so members are headed back to their home districts for the weekend.

Here in our bureau, we're wrapping up some deeper stories about the details within the budget proposals that the House and Senate will consider on the floor next week. Watch for those stories later today and this weekend.

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Rubio jumps into second in New Hampshire, new poll shows

Marco Rubio holds a town hall at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., on Feb. 4, 2015.

Alex Leary | Times

Marco Rubio holds a town hall at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., on Feb. 4, 2015.

Marco Rubio has moved into second place in New Hampshire, according to a poll released Friday morning.

The Florida Republican trails only Donald Trump, though Trump retains a big lead, taking 30 percent of the likely Republican voters vs. Rubio's 17 percent.

But Rubio edges Iowa caucus winner Ted Cruz, who has 15 percent of the vote, according to the NBC News/WSJ/Marist poll conducted after the Iowa results.

The race remains competitive and it's worth remembering how late Iowa polls were inaccurate.

John Kasich is at 10 percent, Jeb Bush at 9 percent and Chris Christie at 4 percent.

Prior to the Iowa finish, Trump held 31 support of GOP support in New Hampshire, followed by Cruz with 12 and Rubio 11, Kasisch 11, Bush 8 and Christie 7.

The poll was conducted Feb. 2-3 of 653 likely Republican primary voters, which has a margin of error of plus-minus 3.8 percentage points.

A second place finish in New Hampshire would be another momentum shot for Rubio, giving him a firmer grasp as the mainstrem Republican alternative to Trump and Cruz, who party leaders fear would lose the general election.

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Barbara Bush says Jeb Bush is 'everything we need in a president'

Barbara Bush, mother of Republican presidential candidate former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, introduces her son at a town hall meeting at West Running Brook Middle School in Derry, N.H., on Thursday.

Jacquelyn Martin | Associated Press

Barbara Bush, mother of Republican presidential candidate former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, introduces her son at a town hall meeting at West Running Brook Middle School in Derry, N.H., on Thursday.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush says her son, Jeb, is "decent and honest, and everything we need in a president."

She spoke Thursday night before a crowded town hall at a local school in Derry, N.H., receiving a standing ovation when she was introduced by former New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg.

Before speaking of her son, she heaped praise Gregg and his state, saying the Bush family shares the "values and beliefs" of the people of New Hampshire.

Barbara Bush took a shot at Donald Trump, without saying his name, noting her son "is not a bragger. We don't allow that."

Jeb Bush noted his mother's popularity, joking he had not seen such a large crowed at his previous town halls.

Bush could use the boost from his mother because his campaign is struggling in New Hampshire. He says he hopes voters "reset" the race and give him some momentum before the Republican contest shifts to South Carolina.

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Dozens of death row inmates expected to challenge sentences

TALLAHASSEE - They live on death row, convicted of some of the worst crimes in Florida.

A Miami man stabbed an elderly woman 58 times in her Little Havana apartment. A Broward teenage gang member randomly executed a man walking down the street in a "body count contest." A Pasco County lawn man raped and murdered a woman who was 94 years old.

They are among dozens of condemned inmates whose sentences could be reduced to life without parole or who could get new sentencing hearings in the first wave of legal challenges to a Florida death penalty sentencing system struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Read the full story here 

 

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Florida House member 'mortified' by 'mistake' on campus-carry vote

Rep. Joseph Geller, D-Aventura, speaks on the House floor during the 2015 session.

The Florida House

Rep. Joseph Geller, D-Aventura, speaks on the House floor during the 2015 session.

Rep. Joseph Geller, D-Aventura, says he's "mortified" and "very embarrassed" today by what he calls an honest mistake Wednesday night.

As the House was called to vote on a controversial measure to allow concealed handguns on Florida's public college and university campuses, Geller said he pressed the wrong button -- not only for himself, but for his seatmate, Rep. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando.

That's why the two Democrats came in as "yes" votes in the 80-37 result, which passed the bill out of the chamber. (The only Democrat to intentionally vote for it was Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, who co-sponsored the bill.)

"It was absolutely a mistake. I just hit the wrong button and they locked the machine too quickly for me to fix it," Geller told the Herald/Times.

The voting board was open for nine seconds, during which time members could cast their votes.

During House floor speeches earlier in the night -- and the night before when amendments were considered -- Geller had railed against allowing guns on campuses, so his "yes" vote raised a few eyebrows.

@TIAreports As Rep. Geller's LA I can confirm that it was an accident. …

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Rubio super PAC hits Jeb Bush for relying on family

As former First Lady Barbara Bush campaigns in New Hampshire for her son, a radio ad from the super PAC supporting Marco Rubio knocks Jeb Bush's reliance on his family.

"Jeb Bush keeps talking about the past, about his brother, his father, his mother. All good people, respected. But their time has passed. ... It's time for a new generation of leadership. It's time for Marco Rubio." (h/t to Bloomberg's Michael Bender, who first secured the ad)

Conservative Solutions PAC also launched a TV ad today against Bush.

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