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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Fla Q poll: Bush 45%, Clinton 42%; Clintin 46% to Rubio 444%

Quinnipiac released a new batch of swing state polls today. From the release on their Florida results:

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Capitol Buzz: 5 things to watch today in Tallahassee

It’s the last committee-heavy day of the week in Tallahassee before lawmakers zero in on the budget in floor sessions. Here are five things worth watching today:

* The Cabinet’s starting the day with a conference call about hiring outside attorneys for the lawsuit alleging Sunshine Law violations in the forced resignation of Gerald Bailey as commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. They’ll have the call audio set up in the Cabinet Meeting Room so members of the public can tune in. (8 a.m.)

* One of several bills relating to guns and education has a hearing in the Senate Pre-K-12 Education Committee. The bill (SB 180) by Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, allows school boards and superintendents to appoint a person in each school to carry a concealed weapon. (1:30-3:30 p.m., 412 Knott)


* The Senate Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities Committee takes up four bills related to texting while driving (SB 192, 246, 270 and 492). Currently, texting while driving is a secondary offense, but some senators hope to make it more easily enforceable by allowing police to pull people over for texting. (4-6 p.m., 301 S)


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Jeb Bush praises Indiana law under attack as anti-gay, and pro-discrimination

On Hugh Hewitt's radio show today, Jeb Bush stood behind Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which has been attacked by critics - including corporate leaders in Indiana -- for potentially allowing discrimination. Here's an except of Bush's interview:

HH: All right, now I’m going to go abroad in a moment, but first, I want to do a domestic political story. Earlier today, I watched Peter Hamby on CNN, which is on over your head, say that, and I want to quote him correctly, you don’t see a lot of Republicans rallying to Mike Pence’s defense right now. That’s a direct quote from Hamby. He’s a great reporter talking about the Indiana Religious Freedom Act. What do you make of the controversy? Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, great company, had a blast at it in the Washington Post yesterday. What do you think? …

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Lawmakers advance plan to curb youth arrests

A Florida House panel on Monday gave its overwhelming support to a proposal seeking to reduce youth arrests by expanding civil citation programs.

The 11-1 vote in the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee came on the same day St. Petersburg city officials rolled out a new "Second Chance" program to steer young people away from the criminal justice system.

"It appears to me that all across this state, people are realizing we should not criminalize, we should not have knee-jerk reactions and make arrests when there are more appropriate consequences," said state Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg.

Civil citation programs, which exist in 59 of Florida’s 67 counties, provide police officers with an alternative to arresting young people.

Under current law, officers can issue a civil citation or prescribe community service to young people who are first-time misdemeanor offenders. The proposal under consideration (HB 99) would extend the program to young people who have already been in trouble. It would also give officers the option to call the young person’s parent or give a verbal warning instead.

Read more here.

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Legislators open door for for-profits to bid on mental health services

The data on Florida’s mental health problem tells the story: People whose mental illness goes untreated are more likely to be addicted to drugs, have children in the state’s child welfare system, draw unemployment checks, and land in prison.

The total cost to taxpayers is unknown but, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Florida ranks 49th in terms of per capita spending on mental health.

After another year of tragic headlines, Florida legislators have proposed at least 22 bills that make the most dramatic changes to the state’s mental health delivery system in decades.

The proposals would change everything from the way the mentally ill are treated by law enforcement, doctors, child welfare workers and courts to the way the state matches federal mental health money. If successful, the state also would get $40 million more in federal Medicaid funds to cover mental health services for uninsured Floridians.

But there is a catch: The reform effort would also end the system’s dependence on not-for-profit managed care providers and would open the door to for-profit managed care companies to compete for the $506 million in state business. …

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Rubio confirms April 13 announcement

A screenshot of Marco Rubio's website


A screenshot of Marco Rubio's website

Sen. Marco Rubio announced just now on Fox News that he will announce his presidential decision on April 13.

Rubio would not say he is running for president -- clearly, he is -- or name the exact location. "We haven't reserved a specific site yet ... but I will announce on April 13 what I am going to do next in terms of running for president or the U.S. Senate."

As the Tampa Bay Times reported Friday, Rubio is looking at the Freedom Tower in Miami. He also pointed viewers to his website, which teased a "big announcement" and asked them to signup for tickets.

"We are working on finalizing those details now," the website reads, "but plan on being in the Miami area on Monday afternoon, April 13. Don’t worry, we’ll let everyone know as soon as details are confirmed."

Rubio, 43, alluded to the generational appeal his campaign would make. …

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Americans for Prosperity goes after Gardiner on Medicaid expansion

Mailer from AFP

Americans for Prosperity

Mailer from AFP

The Florida branch of Americans for Prosperity is targeting Senate President Andy Gardiner over his openness to exploring Medicaid expansion in Florida.

The group, backed by the Koch brothers, said it is "launching a major grassroots and mail effort to educate Floridians about which state senators are supporting Medicaid expansion."

It also released a mailer being sent to Gardiner's Orlando-based district. AFP said other senators would be hit with mail pieces.

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Appeals court weighs workers comp law

From our friends at News Service of Florida: …

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How Marco Rubio's big Miami announcement could make him look like a hypocrite and Jeb Bush like a principled conservative

As we reported the other day, Marco Rubio and his advisers are looking at announcing his candidacy for president on April 13 at Miami's Freedom Tower, which for years served as a processing center for Cuban refugeees. Though Miami-Dade College officials have alterted board members that a Rubio event may be held at the 1925 landmark, Rubio's advance team is still scouting a number of locations so nothing is final.

Freedom Tower symbolically would highlight not only the promise and greatness of America - but also Rubio's history of inconsistency when it comes to fiscal conservatism.

Rewind the clock to 2003. …

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FDLE says incident with anti-Scott blogger wasn't handled right

Daniel Tilson, a liberal South Florida blogger and filmmaker, was trying to be funny and witty -- at Gov. Rick Scott's expense. Tilson thought Scott's two-day roll-out of a tax cut calaulator in the Capitol last week was so fanciful, he likened it to the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour, a song that contains the lyric: "They're coming to take you away, coming to take you away."

But the laughing stopped when a special agent from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Miami office knocked on the door of Tilson's house in Boca Raton last week to ask him some questions.

Tilson wasn't home at the time, and he later had a five-minute phone conversation with the agent. His first-person account of the incident on the blog Context Florida ignited a social media firestorm. On Monday, FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen -- as if he didn't have enough more important stuff to worry about -- conceded his agency overreacted. …

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Jeb Bush leads national poll

CBS News poll

CBS News poll

Jeb Bush is the top choice among Republicans nationally, according to a new CBS News poll.

Fifty-one percent of Republicans said they would consider voting for Bush, followed by Mike Huckabee with 42 percent and Rand Paul and Marco Rubio each with 39 percent. Ted Cruz got 37 percent, a big jump from the 23 percent in February.

Scott Walker, considered the top competitor to Bush at the moment, came in at 35 percent but his support has been growing.

From CBS News:

Education policy and Common Core - a new set of teaching standards - have drawn particular attention from the potential candidates recently. While more than half of Americans don't know enough about Common Core to have an opinion, more say it is a bad idea than a good one. This is particularly true among Republicans: 38 percent say Common Core is a bad idea; while just 10 percent think it is good.

Most Americans support legal status for illegal immigrants currently in the U.S., including 56 percent who favor a path to citizenship. Republicans divide: 44 percent think illegal immigrations should be required to leave the U.S., while half favor legal status, including 41 percent who support a path to citizenship.

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DC official: Rubio using gun bill to tout 'ultra conservative' cred

The District of Columbia's voice in Congress continued Monday to press back against a bill Sen. Marco Rubio filed last week to ease gun laws in the capital city.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton "challenged" Rubio and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, to "travel in their own lane" and introduce legislation that would allow guns in post offices, Social Security offices and other federal buildings in their home states.

“Senator Rubio and Representative Jordan claim to profess a desire to allow District residents to protect themselves, but they have completely ignored the fact that their constituents are prohibited from bringing a firearm into federal buildings in their home states,” Norton said in a news release. “Congress is charged with governing the national interests of the United States, not with writing local laws for local jurisdictions like the District of Columbia. …

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PolitiFact Florida: Marco Rubio on defense spending declines

Even with combat in Iraq and Afghanistan officially over, potential presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio is calling for a reversal of a shrinking defense budget. "Inflation-adjusted defense spending has declined 21 percent since 2010, and even if we discount the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has still declined by a dangerous 12 percent," Rubio said. PolitiFact Florida looked at those numbers and found that Rubio was largely accurate, though it's important to understand the full context of trends in defense spending. See the full report.

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A grieving father's quest to change Florida law

Pool2On a warm day last April, exactly one week after his seventh birthday, Calder Sloan plunged into the pool behind his North Miami home.

He raced underwater toward the light in the deep end, as he had done dozens of times before. But when he reached out his arm and touched his target, an intense electrical current shot through his body, springing him airborne and stopping his heart.

One year later, the boy's father is on a quest to ensure Florida law prevents similar tragedies.

Chris Sloan arrived in Tallahassee this month intent on passing legislation that would ban high-voltage lights from backyard swimming pools. He was told his bill had no chance — only to find it revamped and thrust back in play last week.

Since then, a handful of powerful lobbyists and South Florida lawmakers have rallied around his proposal, giving it new momentum.

He doesn't know if the bill will become law, or if it will end up among the hundreds of ideas that are discarded at the end of every legislative session. He just wants to honor his son’s memory.

"It's so important that his life mean more than seven years," Sloan said. Read more here.

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Capitol Buzz: 5 things to watch today in Tallahassee

The weekend’s over, so it’s time to stop watching the NCAA Tournament and get back to watching the legislative session. There’s not much on tap this fine Monday, but brace yourself on for a busy week ahead.

* The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee meets in the morning. The committee is expected to interview and appoint the next auditor general. (9 a.m., 117 K)

* Juvenile justice is the name of the game in the House Justice Appropriations Committee. Representatives will take up bills to let minors get off with civil citations for some misdemeanors, rather than being arrested for petty crimes (HB 99), hold parents accountable for restitution (HB 235) and reform expungement policies for on-habitual young offenders (HB 7105). (12:30-2:30 p.m., 17 H)

* Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami, wants to join other states that have banned powdered alcohol — which is exactly what you think it is — ahead of its commercial release. Follow that bill (SB 998), insurance regulation and changes to public records law around trade secrets in the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee. (4-6 p.m., 110 S) …

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