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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Another Bright Futures boost? Florida lawmakers propose higher ed expansions

Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, in Tallahassee during a Senate committee meeting.

Scott Keeler | TIMES

Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, in Tallahassee during a Senate committee meeting.

Veto be darned.

Gov. Rick Scott may have nixed a huge higher education bill in June, but Florida lawmakers are already renewing their push to overhaul the state's higher education system in the coming legislative session, starting with the tuition bills of top students.

Proposed legislation filed by Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, would make permanent the Bright Futures boost that rewards more than 46,500 high-achieving Florida students by paying 100 percent of their tuition and fees at state universities.

Galvano and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, pushed for that expansion this past session, but the provision was lost with the veto. Students still benefited because money was set aside in the budget. Now Galvano and Negron want to make the change permanent.

They also have their sights set on another Bright Futures expansion, this time benefiting the second-tier Florida Medallion Scholars who could see 75 percent of their tuition and fees paid by the state. …

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Betsy Devos will be in Tallahassee today

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a controversial champion of school choice, is making another trip to the Sunshine State with plans to visit two schools in the state capital on Tuesday, one public and one private.

DeVos will spend the morning at Holy Comforter Episcopal School, a private Christian school that opened in 1955, before visiting Florida State University High School, an “A”-rated public charter school that’s known as “Florida High” and is affiliated with FSU’s College of Education.

Additional details about her trip, such as if she would be meeting with any elected officials while in town, were not released Monday afternoon.

DeVos — a billionaire Republican donor from Michigan who came in to the secretary’s job lacking experience in public education — has made several trips to Florida since she was narrowly confirmed by the Senate in February.

More here.

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Latvala asks Scott for $20M more to fight opioid crisis

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater

Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater

The budget chairman of the Florida Senate is calling on Gov. Rick Scott to allocate another $20 million from state reserves toward the ongoing opioid crisis.

Calling the health emergency an “existential threat to the people of our state,” Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala wrote in a letter to Scott on Monday that Floridians cannot wait until the Legislature passes the next state budget in March before more state resources are funneled to address the crisis.

Opioids were the direct cause of death of 2,538 Floridians and contributed to an additional 1,358 deaths in 2015, the last year data is available. Citing death trends for this year, Latvala cautioned that “by the time the Legislature passes a budget in March 2018, over 2,700 more Floridians could die.”

“We must provide the proper financial resources to those communities across Florida that have been struggling with this crisis for many years and join together to help end the stigma of addiction,” wrote Latvala, who is a 2018 candidate for governor. “I urge you in the strongest terms to continue to lead on this issue.” …

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Bondi applauds Trump move to give surplus military equipment to local law enforcement

Attorney General Pam Bondi welcomed President Trump's order lifting a ban on local law enforcement from obtaining surplus military equipment.

"This executive order will help ensure our brave law enforcement officers have the gear they need to combat terrorism, drug cartels, gangs and other threats to public safety," Bondi said in a statement Monday. "This order will give our law enforcement officers access to billions of dollars’ worth of equipment such as armored vehicles, ammunition and other military gear that will help in disaster related situations like we are seeing in Texas with Hurricane Harvey—as well as terrorism-related cases such as the Pulse nightclub attack, where a military-style helmet stopped a bullet, saving an officer’s life, and San Bernardino, where this type of equipment protected law enforcement officers as they pursued terrorists.

“I want to thank President Trump for standing up for law enforcement and signing this order to give officers access to more lifesaving tools. Equipment like this could help Florida law enforcement officers respond to hurricanes and the destruction left in the aftermath.”

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Charlottesville questions continue to trail elected officials in Florida

Elected officials continue to face questions over race and violence following the events in Charlottesville and Florida Rep. Brian Mast became the latest to echo President Trump's "both sides" argument.

"There were multiple people from multiple sides that came out there with the intent of clashing with one another. That’s just the fact," the freshman Republican said during a town hall last week in Port St. Lucie.

Challenged by a woman in the audience, Mast said of Trump: "Our president is not a racist."

"Sit down, go home!" a man in the audience shouted at the woman and the forum came to an end.

She began by saying there are no two sides. "There are the Nazis and the KKK and there’s the rest of the people that were standing up against them."

Mast interjected, "Ma’am, were there two groups that came out there with the intent on violence?"

Meanwhile, in Jacksonville, Mayor Lenny Curry has drawn notice for ducking a debate about Confederate monuments. From the Times-Union, which notes Curry denounced white supremacists: …

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We're unveiling a new look for The Buzz

The Buzz on Florida politics is getting a new look on Tuesday morning.

Times staff

The Buzz on Florida politics is getting a new look on Tuesday morning.

The Buzz on Florida Politics is the most popular blog on tampabay.com with a loyal following of millions of readers across the state.

Our political reporters work around the clock reporting the latest news, insider information and analysis.

We’re giving the Buzz a new look to capitalize on this first-rate reporting and help you feel even more like the insider you are.

You’ll get quicker posts. More photos. An updated dashboard of the very latest political stories. And be able to follow your favorite writers like Adam C. Smith and Alex Leary.

Take a look Tuesday morning at www.tampabay.com/buzz . Bookmark the new page. And definitely let me know what you think.

Email me at [email protected].

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Appointed to U.N. post, Trujillo won't resign from Florida Legislature

Trujillo and Trump

[Special to the Times]

Trujillo and Trump

Miami Rep. Carlos Trujillo said Sunday he won't resign his seat in the Florida Legislature if the U.S. Senate confirms him to a post in the Trump administration.

On Friday, the White House nominated Trujillo, a Republican, to be a United Nations representative under Ambassador Nikki Haley

Trujillo said he confirmed over the weekend that the position would not require him to abandon his elected office. He is term-limited from the state House next year. That would avoid a special election to replace him in House District 105, a Republican-leaning seat.

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Campaign launching to add victims' bill of rights to Florida Constitution

A newly created crime victim's group, Marsy’s Law for Florida, is launching a campaign to codify in the state constitution specific rights for crime victims. Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco and state Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation plan to submit language for the Florida Constitution Revision Commission to place on the 2018 ballot. 

Florida is one of 15 states that does not enumerate victims' rights in its constitution, and since California in 2008 enacted Marsy's Law, the California Victims' Bill of Rights Act of 2008, several states have followed suit. Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. A week after her death, Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, walked into a grocery store and saw the accused murdered who had been released on bail unbeknownst to the victim's family. Nicholas, a tech billionaire, has been leading the effort to expand Marsy's Law throughout the country, succeeding so far in California, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Illinois. …

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How Richard Corcoran prepares for possible run for governor

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Rep. Kim Daniels at a Jacksonville community event in July.

Steve Bousquet - Times

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Rep. Kim Daniels at a Jacksonville community event in July.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran says he won't announce whether he'll run for governor until seven months from now, after the 2018 legislative session. But the Pasco County Republican is laying the groundwork for a candidacy in a field where Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has a big head start and where Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, has joined the fray.

He may run and he may not, but Corcoran, 52, who began his rise through Republican ranks as a campaign strategist, has the instincts of an operative and the travel schedule of a full-time candidate. Whether dining with donors at Tampa's Capital Grillle or borrowing lobbyist friend Bill Rubin's Fort Lauderdale conference room to huddle with consultants, Corcoran keeps much of his political activity under the radar and does not publicize what he's doing. Here are four signs of a budding candidacy: …

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Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics

Winner of the week 1

Rick Kriseman. Barack Obama formally and publicly endorsed the St. Petersburg mayor's re-election Friday, which would have been unlikely if Democrats thought Kriseman had failed to narrow the gap with challenger Rick Baker. Kriseman has to wish Obama had done so weeks ago, rather than waiting until most of the votes have been cast — and that Donald Trump would publicly endorse Baker.

Winner 2: Miami State Rep. Carlos Trujillo received a big thank you from Donald Trump for his early support in the presidential race. Trump appointed Trujillo as a representative to the U.N. General Assembly.

Loser of the week

Aramis Ayala. The Orlandoarea prosecutor has said she will not seek the death penalty, so less than 24 hours after the arrest of a man accused of shooting and killing two Kissimmee police officers, Gov. Rick Scott transferred the case to an Ocala-based state attorney.

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Trump appoints Carlos Trujillo to U.N. post

Then-candidate Donald Trump received a classic linen guayabera last September from Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Trujillo.

C.M. GUERRERO EL NUEVO HERALD

Then-candidate Donald Trump received a classic linen guayabera last September from Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Trujillo.

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Trujillo has been tapped to serve in the United Nations, the White House announced Friday.

President Donald Trump intends to nominate Trujillo to the role of representative to the UN general assembly. The position would make the powerful Florida House budget chief one of UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s four deputies.

Trujillo, an attorney, would take Haley’s place in meetings and assemblies when she’s unavailable. He would also get the title of “ambassador.”

His nomination has been in the works for months. Trujillo was an early Trump supporter who attended the inauguration January. He missed a budget committee hearing in April amid rumors he was in Washington, interviewing for a possible ambassadorship to Argentina or Panama. He was later said to be under consideration for an appointment to the Organization of American States.

Trujillo, the 34-year-old son of Cuban immigrants, is bilingual.

Trujillo’s departure would force Gov. Rick Scott to schedule a special election for his House District 105 seat. The district stretches from western Miami-Dade County into Collier County. Trujillo is term-limited next year. …

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Richard Corcoran has tough words for a dozen local tourism councils

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, sent letters Friday to a dozen local tourism councils that have cut ties with Visit Florida, saying all 12 are under the "false presumption" that doing so would shield them from legislative oversight.

The tourism boards, in Tampa Bay, South Florida and throughout the state, expressed concern with various provisions of a new state law, championed in Tallahassee, that imposes new accountability provisions on how tourism money is spent in Florida.

"If you spend one dime of taxpayer money you will do it in a transparent and accountable way," Corcoran told the tourism leaders, including Visit Tampa Bay and the Greater Miami Tourism and Convention Bureau. The speaker said taxpayers should be alarmed that the tourism boards "made the choice to hide from transparency rather than embrace it."

The background on the tourism leaders' decision can be found here. In response to Corcoran's missive, Visit Florida spokesman Stephen Lawson said: "Visit Florida is unequivocally committed to transparency and accountability."

 

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As Rubio applauds Trump's move on Venezeula, Nelson says sanctions fall short

Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio

The Associated Press

Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio

Here’s something you don’t see: Bill Nelson getting to the right of Marco Rubio.

Nelson, up for re-election next year, today said the new sanctions against Venezuela are inadequate.

“These new sanctions are a step in the right direction, but they don't go far enough,” Nelson said in a statement. “The administration needs to ban at least some of the Venezuelan oil being imported into the U.S., until constitutional democracy has been restored in Venezuela.”

Rubio had this to say: “I commend the Trump administration for taking decisive and significant action to prevent the Maduro regime from using Wall Street to finance its repression and tyranny. The United States remains committed to supporting the cause of freedom and democracy in Venezuela.”

Rubio might also share Nelson's thinking, of course, but the official statements present a contrast.

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Miami Republicans tell Trump to save DACA

A letter to President Trump

Times

A letter to President Trump

With DACA on the ropes, members of Congress aren't racing to find a legislative fix. But two Florida Republicans are urging President Trump to maintain the program.

"Children brought to the United States at a young age did not have a choice in the matter,” reads a letter sent to Trump and signed by six House members, including Miami Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo. “For many, the United States is the only country they know or remember.”

The lawmakers say targeting Dreamers “would divert massive resources away from enforcement actions against criminals who pose the greatest threat to law and order.”

More here on the issue.

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Once a bitter rival, Marco Rubio continues to enjoy a relationship with Donald Trump

Debate rivals Marco Rubio and Donald Trump

The Associated Press

Debate rivals Marco Rubio and Donald Trump

For all their shared vitriol on the campaign trail, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump have enjoyed a productive relationship and today, the Florida senator applauded the president yet again.

“I commend the Trump administration for taking decisive and significant action to prevent the Maduro regime from using Wall Street to finance its repression and tyranny,” Rubio said moments after new sanctions were announced. “The United States remains committed to supporting the cause of freedom and democracy in Venezuela.”

Rubio has played a role in highlighting the situation in Venezuela — he noted in Doral this week that he’d spoken repeatedly to the administration — and he used his standing to shape Trump’s position on Cuba.

While Rubio once said he’d drive around the country to prevent “con man” Trump from becoming president, he’s finding it more advantageous to largely avoid jumping on every controversy. (A notable exception: Rubio’s comments on Charlottesville, though earlier this week he adopted Trump’s “both sides” sentiment.) …

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