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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Capitol Buzz: 5 things to watch today in Tallahassee

Most members of the Senate will be back in their home districts Friday, but the House is in session at 10 a.m. The lower chamber will take up several high-profile education proposals.

Here are five bills to watch on the House floor:


* HB 7043: This proposal by House K-12 Education Committee Chairwoman Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, encourages school districts to adopt mandatory school uniform policies for children in grades K-8. Districts that do could receive up to $10 per student to spend as they see fit.


* HB 7037: This bill by Rep. Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs, would create the Florida Institute for Charter School Innovation to provide support to new charter school applicants and the school districts that sponsor them. The bill includes a controversial provision that would require school districts to share some of their capital outlay dollars with charter schools.


* HB 357: This bill by Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr., R-Miami, creates the Principal Autonomy Pilot Program Initiative, or PAPPI. The program would give certain school principals more autonomy over their budgets.

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Jeb doesn't read the NYT? Come on

The formerly Old Gray Lady

New York Times

The formerly Old Gray Lady

Jeb Bush said today he doesn't read the New York Times, a dubious statement, at best.

Bush made the remark during a Fox News radio interview and, as expected, Twitter lit up with commentary,

How Bush -- the former governor, policy wonk and smartest guy in the room -- could not read the most influential news source in the country suggests there are limits to his pledge not to pander.

It took us about 60 seconds to find 12 New York Times citations in the footnotes of Bush's 2013 book Immigration Wars, which was co-authored by Clint Bolick.

The radio interview is here. And here's our report on what he had to say about Guantanamo Bay.

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House committee begins gaming debate but no end is in sight

The odds of passing a sweeping rewrite of the state’s gambling laws appeared to dim Thursday as a House committee began debate on a draft proposal to expand gambling in Florida and ended with no commitment to take up the bill for a vote.

Meanwhile, progress appeared to be occurring on another gambling debate -- behind closed doors – as key lawmakers confirmed they continue to talk about renewing the portion of the gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe that expires in July.

“I would describe our discussions as having been more detailed than they have perhaps been in the past,’’ said Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, the chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee.

He said that he has been in meeting with tribal negotiators “over the past several days” as the Seminoles discuss renewing their exclusive agreement with the state to operate black jack and other banked card games in return for an estimated $136 million in revenue sharing each year.Full Story

Rick Scott raised $710k in March and spent $410k

From our friends at News Service of Florida:

Gov. Rick Scott's "Let's Get to Work" political committee has raised more than $700,000 this month as it has sought to highlight the governor's record, according to a list of contributions on the committee's website. The contributions, totaling $710,000, included $250,000 from the Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC and the chamber's Florida Jobs PAC. Also, the Scott committee received $100,000 from the Voice of Florida Business Political Action Committee and Floridians for A Stronger Democracy, which are linked to Associated Industries of Florida. Other contributions included $25,000 from the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association PAC and $20,000 from The Villages development in Central Florida, according to the website. Let's Get to Work, which played a pivotal role in Scott's 2014 re-election campaign, started running television ads early this month touting the governor's record and his effort to cut taxes. The website also lists about $411,000 in advertising expenses in March.

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Poll: Medicaid expansion remains 'very popular' in Florida

The following is from Public Policy Polling:

Even after being narrowly reelected in November, Rick Scott continues to have a negative approval rating. 42% of voters think he's doing a good job to 46% who disapprove. Those numbers speak to Scott's victory having more to do with driving Charlie Crist's favorability numbers into the ground than to doing much to become popular in his own right. There's been some talk of a 2018 dream Senate contest between Scott and Bill Nelson- at this point Nelson leads such a hypothetical contest 47/43. Nelson has a 43/31 approval rating which makes him the state's most anonymous key politician despite having been on the scene far longer than Scott or Marco Rubio.

-A second try at a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Florida would start out within striking distance of the 60% needed for passage. 58% of voters say they would support it to 35% who are opposed. With a younger and more progressive Presidential year electorate it seems like it would have a pretty good chance at hitting 60% support on the second go around. …

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St. Pete-area biz leaders hear predictions of overtime session

A visiting delegation of local business leaders from Pinellas County got insights Thursday on where the 2015 session might be headed. The Pinellas Chambers Legislative Coalition heard Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater predict that a "vast gap" between the Senate and House over health care spending will force the session into overtime.

"My prediction is we won't get done on time this year," said Latvala, in his 13th year in the Legislature. "I think the Senate is pretty committed to properly funding health care, and I think the House is pretty committed to their position of whatever we do has got to be done with just state funds." He added: "I'm not making any plans for the month of May to do anything other than to be here."

The coalition's priorities include dedicating part of the new Amendment 1 money to beach renourishment; exempting business rents from the sales tax; reducing the state's emphasis on standardized testing for K-12 students; expanding the use of federal health care money to cover uninsured Floridians; and a series of local transportation projects, including widening the Howard Frankland Bridge from 10 to 12 lanes to accommodate projected population growth.

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Jeb Bush: 'Stay the course' on Gitmo

Jeb Bush just wrapped up an interview with a Fox News radio host and said the U.S. should not close the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.

The discussion began when the host asked Bush about the desertion charges facing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

"To try to bring back someone who turns out to have been a deserter is just heartbreaking," Bush said, speaking from a cell phone on the road in Texas, while an aide in the back seat streamed the interview on Meerkat. "The president is totally focused on closing Guantanamo as an organizing principle. And it's all based on politics. It's not based on keeping us safe, which should be his first obligation. We shouldn’t be closing down Guantanamo. We shouldn’t be releasing Taliban that are openly organizing once again to attack us." …

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Have lawmakers flushed the transgender bathroom bill?

There just wasn’t time Monday to hear the Senate counterpart to a bill by Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, that would ban transgender people from using restrooms for the sex they identify as, unless it’s on their driver’s license.

But other bills that weren’t heard in this week’s Criminal Justice Committee meeting are scheduled for hearings next Monday by the panel, chaired by Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker. Among them: a plan to penalize sexting, which was inadvertently decriminalized.

Without a first committee hearing before the sixth of nine weeks in the legislative session, the Senate bathroom bill (SB 1464) by Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, could be dead. Without a Senate version moving forward, so could Artiles’.

It’s worth noting that Dean’s bill doesn’t address gender, the main source of controversy surrounding the House proposal, which critics say would require transgender men and women to use the restroom they don’t identify with, possibly putting them at risk. …

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Jeb Bush leads in New Hampshire, new poll shows

Jeb Bush leads the GOP field in New Hampshire, but Scott Walker is close behind and the field remains open, according to a new poll from Suffolk University.

Bush got 19 percent of the votert followed by Walker with 14 percent and Rand Paul with 7 percent. Donald Trump got 6 percent, ahead of Ted Cruz and Chris Christie, both with 5 percent. Marco Rubio was down at 3 percent along with Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson.

“The single-digit candidates need to go to New Hampshire and make a personal appeal to likely Republican voters there if they want to become the Republican alternative to Jeb Bush,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “There are still plenty of undecided voters who might be won over if they make their case.”

From the polling release: …

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Warning signs were ignored in Broward child's short, 'painful' life

Ahizya OsceolaThe purple bruises on either side of Ahizya Osceola’s jaw were telltale signs: Someone, a child abuse expert said, had grabbed the 3-year-old’s face forcefully enough to leave fingerprints.

But Ahizya’s bruised jaw was only a small part of what the boy faced. The state’s abuse hotline received a report on April 21, 2014, that he had scratches on both sides of his neck, and a “large bruise and bump” on his forehead. Two weeks earlier, teachers saw a “pinch mark” on one ear, a bruise behind the other and two bruises on his face.

Two weeks before that, Ahizya had a busted lip, another scratch on his face, a bruise on his shoulder blade and pinches and bruises on his ears. Ahizya told his preschool teacher that “daddy” hit him with a belt. His father, Nelson Osceola, instead described an active and clumsy toddler who frequently injured himself in run-ins with furniture, walls, a toilet and other children during an Easter party. …

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Census: six of 20 fastest growing metros are in Florida; The Villages is tops again

For the second year in a row, The Villages in central Florida is the fastest growing metro area in the country, according to U.S. Census data released Thursday.

The popular retirement mecca grew at a 5.4 percent clip between July 1, 2013 and July 1, 2014 to reach a population of about 114,000.

Six Florida metros were in the top 20 among the fastest-growing. Joining The Villages were Cape Coral-Fort Myers (sixth); Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island (10th); Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford (16th); North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton (18th); and Panama City (19th).

Florida has formally retaken his status as a top growth state, accounting for seven of the 50 metros that added the most residents during that timespan, the Census data showed. …

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Jon Stewart: No 'climate change' for Scott but how about a 'surprise pool party'?

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, got some national TV airtime last night — but maybe not for what he’d like.

In a Daily Show segment on Gov. Rick Scott’s alleged ban on the phrase “climate change,” Jon Stewart showed last week’s Senate committee meeting, chaired by Latvala, when lawmakers gave Bryan Koon, chief of emergency management, a ribbing for refusing to say...those words.

Said, Stewart, focusing in on Latvala, who almost fell out of his chair from laughter: “I think that one guy needs the Heimlich!”

But don’t worry, Gov. Scott, Stewart has some suggested phrases to replace “sea level rise” in the Florida vernacular: Let’s try “moisture inconvenience,” “statewide jacuzzi-fication” or maybe get ready for a “surprise pool party.”

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Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,The Daily Show on Facebook,Daily Show Video Archive

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Capitol Buzz: 5 things to watch today in Tallahassee

The 24th day of the 60-day Legislative Session could have been a lot busier had not the Senate cancelled its appropriations meeting. But it will still be plenty busy.


* The House Regulatory Committee will hold a four-hour workshop on gaming starting at 8 a.m. The agenda includes a discussion on the gambling agreement between the state and the Seminole Tribe that's set to expire in July.


* The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee will meet at 9 a.m. to consider a plan to expand Florida's civil citation program, which allows police officers to prescribe community service to young people who commit minor crimes instead of arresting them  (SB 378).


* Also at 9, the Senate’s Transportation Committee meets to discuss a bill that perhaps should have passed many years ago. SB 908, sponsored by Sen. Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, seeks to increase the safety of “vulnerable users of public-right-of-way.”  The bill would do a number of things, but one stands out: “Prohibits harassing, taunting, or throwing an object at a person riding a bicycle.” …

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Will the House follow the Senate's lead on testing?

Florida lawmakers may have found a middle ground on the controversial subject of student testing.

A Senate panel tweaked its testing bill Wednesday so that the results of this year’s Florida Standards Assessments would not be used to determine whether third-grade students can be promoted to the fourth grade, or high-school students can graduate until an independent review of the exam is conducted.

The amendment was intended to be a compromise between Republican lawmakers who have vowed not to retreat on school accountability, and the parents and educators who have asked for a pause while Florida transitions to new academic standards and assessments. Their outcry has only grown louder since the state botched the roll-out of the online writing exams earlier this month.

"We want to do two things," said Senate Rules Chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, who proposed the amendment. "We want to make sure students are being tested but not overtested, and whatever test instrument is used is reliable and valid." …

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Obama headed to Florida on Saturday

President Barack Obama will travel to Palm City on Saturday, the White House said. He has no public events ... So golf?

The ever tight-lipped WH press office would not say. He will return to Washington on Sunday.

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