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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

PolitiFact Florida focuses on Jeb Bush three times over the past week

PolitiFact Florida has been checking all sorts of statements by and about former Gov. Jeb Bush in the last week, ranging from state spending to the history of the Iraq War to the VA care scandal.

At a town hall meeting in Reno, Nev., Bush said, "We had an agreement that the president could have signed that would have kept 10,000 troops" in Iraq. We rated that Mostly False. Read that item here.

Emily's List president Stephanie Schriock said in an essay that Bush "once held $1 million in family planning grants hostage until the programs receiving the money agreed not to discuss birth control at all." We called that Mostly False. To read why, click here.Full Story

Jeb Bush: Republicans need to 'get outside of our comfort zone'

Jeb Bush played up his reputation as “Veto Corleone” in a speech today and said Republicans need to “get outside of our comfort zone” and reach Hispanics, African-Americans and college students.

“I think we need to get beyond preaching to the choir,” the former Florida governor said at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma. “Get outside of our comfort zone,” and into the Latino barrios, black churches and college campuses.

Bush also said he supports reauthorization of the Patriot Act, now before the U.S. Senate, saying there is “ample evidence” it has protected Americans.

In touting his record as governor, Bush is attempting to show Republican voters that he has accomplished things and draw a contrast with elected officials in Washington. He mentioned how he vetoed projects sought by Democrats and Republicans.

One of those projects explains why billionaire Norman Braman of Miami loathes Bush, and loves Marco Rubio.

In 2004, Bush vetoed $2 million for the Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute at the University of Miami. “I wasn’t too happy with that veto,” Braman recently told our colleague Patricia Mazzei. …

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Will Republicans finally make big inroads with Fla. Jews? Probably not

TAMARAC — Republicans can't win the White House without winning Florida, so every presidential election cycle they look longingly at Florida's Jewish voters.

It's such a tantalizingly obvious key to locking down 29 electoral votes: hundreds of thousands of Florida Jews who overwhelmingly vote Democratic.

Just reason with them, the thinking goes. They are disproportionately affluent and well-educated. Surely these Floridians can be persuaded that voting Republican is more in their self-interest, through lower taxes and unwavering support for the conservative government in Israel.

The difference between three-quarters of Florida Jews voting for the Democratic nominee and two-thirds voting Democratic could be 50,000 votes — enough to decide the election.

"We're looking to do whatever we can," said Mark McNulty of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which spent $6.5 million in 2012 trying to sow doubts with Jewish voters about President Barack Obama's commitment to Israel. "In places like Florida and Ohio with substantial Jewish populations, a couple percentage points can mean the difference in an election." …

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Fox News host says of Rubio's finances: 'Who cares?'

Fox News host Neil Cavuto accused the news media of beating up on Marco Rubio for writing about his personal finances, and revelation Rubio cashed in a retirement account to pay for a refrigerator and other things.

“Who cares?” the host asked during a segment Thursday. (Apparently another Fox News host, among others.)

Cavuto and a guest said reporters were essentially doing an inverse version of the scrutiny paid to Mitt Romney’s wealth.

“If you’re going to go after that, go after it,” Cavuto said. “Regardless of party just have at it, but be consistent about it.”

Rubio’s financial disclosure, filed last Friday, did generate stares. It showed he cashed in an ABA Retirement Funds account on Sept. 1, 2014, netting him $68,241. On Sunday Fox News host Chris Wallace asked Rubio about that

“It was just one specific account that we wanted to have access to cash in the coming year, both because I'm running for president but also my refrigerator broke down, that was $3,000,” Rubio said. …

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Florida unemployment rate falls to 5.6 percent

A Times staff report:

Florida's unemployment rate fell to 5.6 percent in April as the state added 25,800 private sector jobs.

The jobless rate was at 5.7 percent in March and stood at 6.4 percent in April 2014.

The state's unemployment rate still lags behind the nation's, which is 5.4 percent.

Hillsborough and Pinellas counties reported a jobless rate of 4.8 percent, down from 5.1 percent the previous month. Pasco reported a 5.6 percent jobless rate, down from 6 percent the previous month, while Hernando had a 6.6 percent unemployment rate, a drop from 7 percent in March.

The four-county area gained 39,100 jobs year-over-year, led by leisure, hospitality and trade jobs that tend to be low-paying.

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Jeb Bush finds a way to distance himself from W

On Wednesday in New Hampshire Jeb Bush embraced his family. On Thursday he gently put some distance between him and brother George, saying the former president spent too much money.

Spending did accelerate under Bush, helping lay the foundation for the tea party (which really took off after Barack Obama was elected)

“I think that in Washington during my brother’s time, Republicans spent too much money,” he told a questioner in Concord. “I think he could have used the veto power. He didn’t have line-item veto power, but he could have brought budget discipline to Washington, D.C. That seems kind of quaint right now given the fact that after he left, budget deficits and spending just like lit up astronomically. But having constraints on spending across the board during his time would have been a good thing.”

He went on: I don’t feel compelled, though, to go out of my way to criticize Republican presidents. Call me a team player here. It just so happens the last two Republican presidents happened to be my dad and my brother. But you’ll never hear me complaining about Ronald Reagan, either.”

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Florida Speaker Crisafulli: federal money 'should not be tied to' Medicaid expansion debate

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said in a statement Friday that the announcement that Florida could see up to $1 billion in federal LIP money would "greatly" help the Legislature finalize a budget during the special session set to begin June 1. 

However, Crisafulli said the federal money does not completely relieve the pressure on budget talks.

"From the beginning, the House has maintained the...LIP should not be tied to the Medicaid expansion debate," he said. "I appreciate CMS providing this information in a timely manner for Special Session and for separating LIP funding from Medicaid expansion."

The Florida House of Representatives adjourned its annual session three days early April 28 after a weeks-long impasse between Senate and House Republicans over Medicaid expansion. 

The Budget Committee is set to meet June 6 through June 10, according to a tentative schedule released by the Legislature. 

Here's the full statement from Crisafulli:  …

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Obama to visit National Hurricane Center in Miami

President Obama will visit the National Hurricane Center next Thursday, the White House said, to receive the annual hurricane season outlook and preparedness briefing.

The stop follows fundraisers he'll do in Coconut Grove on Wednesday.

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This time, Rubio doesn't stand with Rand

Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio

file photos

Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio

WASHINGTON — The last time Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky staged a marathon protest on the Senate floor, over the government drone policy, fellow Republican Sen. Marco Rubio rushed to stand by his sid.

This week, Paul tried to recapture that spirit, inveighing for 10.5 hours against the National Security Agency's data collection program — an effort that also attempted to boost his presidential campaign.

Toward the end of the session that went late into Wednesday, Rubio slipped into the chair presiding over the chamber. But he was just watching.

Rubio and Paul are polar opposites on the issue, which could come to a vote today or Sunday, illustrating the Republican schism over the balance between individual privacy and national security.

Rubio once wanted to be at least associated with Paul, who in 2013 was riding a less interventionist mood and garnering loads of attention. Now the Floridian is competing for the GOP presidential nomination and positioning himself as the ultimate hawk — a position solidified by growing public concern over the Islamic State, Iran and general threats abroad. …

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House releases tentative special session schedule

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli today released an anticipated calendar for the June 1-20 special session, during which lawmakers expect to hammer out a state budget.

He also noted that lawmakers' requests to be excused from the special session aren't guaranteed to be okayed by leadership.

Monday, June 1

            1:00 p.m.        Special Session convenes

            3:00 p.m.        Workshop on the substance of CS/SB 7044 (2015)

                                       All members will be invited to this workshop hosted by the House Health and Human Services Committee

Tuesday, June 2

            9:00 a.m.      Finance and Tax Committee hearing on PCB tax package

Wednesday, June 3

            TBD               Rules Committee meeting to set the Special Order


Thursday, June 4           

            TBD                 The House will be in Session

Friday, June 5

            TBD                Joint Conference Committee kickoff

            TBD                The House will be in Session

Saturday, June 6 

            TBD                 Budget Conference Meetings

Sunday, June 7 

            TBD                 Budget Conference Meetings

Monday, June 8   …

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Scott signs 44 bills into law, including concealed carry, body camera legislation

Gov. Rick Scott signed 44 bills into law Thursday afternoon, including one allowing concealed weapons to be carried without a permit during emergency evacuations and another that will shield police body camera videos from public record laws.

The concealed carry bill is a favorite project of Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who says the change in law will allow lawful gun owners to avoid criminal citations for simply carrying their belongings with them while evacuating from a hurricane or other disaster.

Opponents have said there should be fewer guns on the streets during emergencies, not more.

The body camera legislation, sponsored by Sen. Chris Smith, R-Ft. Lauderdale, is intended to protect people’s privacy when police officers enter homes, hospitals, mental health institutions and anywhere else where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Open-government advocates say that law enforcement agencies can use the language to shield video that is in the public interest, particularly now that video is being used more frequently in broader debates over the role of police in society.

But supporters argue that privacy protections will encourage more agencies to use body cameras. …

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Scott's draft of session agenda banned Medicaid expansion talk

While the Senate and House scrambled last week to agree on terms of a proclamation for a special session, Gov. Rick Scott had followed through on a threat to draft his own proclamation -- and on his terms.

Those terms specifically excluded any discussion of Medicaid expansion that the Senate wants. Scott's document said "specifically excluding legislation expanding Medicaid eligibility." The Senate would never agree to such a blanket restriction, and besides, lawmakers didn't want Scott setting the agenda for a session that will be dominated by the development of a budget that is a legislative duty. Here's Scott's special session draft proclamation.

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Sen. Bill Nelson: Republican oil drilling proposal puts Florida 'under siege'

A proposal from a Louisiana Republican senator to move oil drilling closer to the Florida coast has met staunch opposition from Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

“Florida is under siege,” Nelson said in a release. “At some point, folks need to ignore Big Oil's greed and simply do what’s right.”

The bill, written by Sen. Bill Cassidy and co-signed by four senators from the Gulf Coast states of Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana, proposes an end to the ban on drilling within a certain distance of the Florida coastline. Current law prohibits drilling within at least 125 miles of the coast, in some areas reaching as far out as 235 miles.

Without the legislation, the freeze on drilling would expire in 2022.

Nelson, the top ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, proposed a countermeasure extending the ban another five years, until 2027. He cited his desire to protect the Florida environment and tourism industry.

Cassidy’s proposal comes in the wake of opposition from a bipartisan Florida delegation over seismic testing for future drilling.


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Change of command coming to FHP as Col. Brierton is retiring

The "black and tan" are about to get a new leader.

Col. David Brierton is retiring after a 32-year career at the Florida Highway Patrol, including the past four as its director, and he will officially leave the state payroll on May 31. Brierton attended his last trooper graduation ceremony Wednesday in Tallahassee and had some inspiring words for the latest crop of state troopers patrolling Florida's highways.

"I sat where you're sitting," he told the 130th recruit class graduation, recalling the pride he felt at wearing the FHP uniform that's familiar not just to Florida motorists, but to college football fans everywhere, as troopers serve as bodyguards to head football coaches at Florida State and the University of Florida.

"Never lose that sense of pride in what you've accomplished, and in the patrol. If you ever lose that, you need to ask why," Brierton told them. …

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Feds: Florida needs $1 billion for hospital funding

TALLAHASSEE — The federal government told Florida on Thursday that the state will need $1 billion next year to maintain a hospital payment program that's at the center of a political stalemate preventing passage of a new state budget.

In a letter to state health officials, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services said the $1 billion would "maintain stability while the system transitions" to new ways of compensating hospitals for the high cost of treating poor patients, a program known as LIP or low income pool.

Tampa General Hospital, All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Miami's Jackson Health System and Broward Health are among Florida's largest recipients of LIP money. In the current year, those hospitals were promised a total of $731 million in supplemental payments, provided through a blend of federal and local tax money that totals nearly $2.2 billion.

In their letter, the feds did not promise any LIP money. But a House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, told lawmakers that the news is a "clear indication (that) Florida will receive a significant level of LIP funds, which will help us in our efforts to finish the budget by the July 1 deadline." …

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