This is awkward. State Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg, the incoming Democratic leader of the Florida House overseeing all House campaigns in the 2014 cycle, is a passionate antidrug crusader who for years has been trying to make illegal in Florida the sale of glass pipes, bongs and other "utensils of death," as he calls them, commonly used to ingest pot and other drugs.
Rouson is also an attorney who works for John "For the People" Morgan, who is leading the campaign to legalize marijuana for sick Floridians.
The outspoken Rouson disagrees with Morgan on the issue but has been evading questions on the matter since Morgan jumped to the forefront of the medical marijuana campaign.
Rouson couldn't avoid it in a Political Connections interview airing today on Bay News 9, but he did manage to tread lightly on a pet cause of his boss. Morgan's dad fought cancer and emphysema and found marijuana helped him.
"I'm not in favor of legalizing medical marijuana. Let me say this about my boss: He has spent his life and part of his fortune trying to feed the homeless, trying to help the hungry, trying to bring relief to the suffering - people who have debilitating injuries or illnesses," Rouson said in the interview airing at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. "While I might disagree with my boss' method at this moment, I can't disagree with the intent of his heart, and that is to bring relief to help suffering people."
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Quote of the week
"It's a great country. There are a lot of great families, and it's not just four families or whatever. There are other people out there that are very qualified, and we've had enough Bushes."
That's Barbara Bush, telling the Today show she does not want Jeb Bush to run for president (or, by implication, Hillary Rodham Clinton), even though, "He's by far the best-qualified man."
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Push for immigration
Jeb Bush's top political strategist and former chief of staff, Sally Bradshaw, is helping lead a new political committee trying to sell the Senate Gang of Eight's immigration reform bill to conservatives. Americans for a Conservative Direction is funded by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and has a TV ad featuring Sen. Marco Rubio touting the "toughest enforcement measures in the history of the United States" running in Florida and five other states (Texas, Utah, North Carolina, Iowa and Kentucky).
"Conservative leaders in Congress have put forward a bold plan with the toughest enforcement measures to secure our broken borders and hold those who have broken our laws accountable," said spokesman Rob Jesmer. "Americans for a Conservative Direction is committed to supporting this effort as Congress gets to work on the real solutions that will fix our broken immigration system, secure our borders and help grow our economy."
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Rubio under attack
Rubio's leadership on immigration reform has included aggressive outreach and push-back against conservative skeptics and critics accusing him of supporting amnesty for undocumented immigrants. It's too soon to know how effective he's been, but Republican pollster Frank Luntz lamented to Republicans at the University of Pennsylvania last week that conservative talk radio hosts are ripping Rubio apart. The liberal Mother Jones outlet obtained surreptitiously recorded audio. From the transcript:
"And they get great ratings, and they drive the message, and it's really problematic. And this is not on the Democratic side. It's only on the Republican side ... (inaudible). (Democrats have) got every other source of news on their side. And so that is a lot of what's driving it. If you take - Marco Rubio's getting his a--kicked. Who's my Rubio fan here? We talked about it. He's getting destroyed! By Mark Levin, by Rush Limbaugh, and a few others. He's trying to find a legitimate, long-term effective solution to immigration that isn't the traditional Republican approach, and talk radio is killing him. That's what's causing this thing underneath. And too many politicians in Washington are playing coy," Luntz said.
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Detert leaves legacy
State Sen. Nancy Detert , R-Venice, was surprised to find out there was an amendment to her bill to extend foster care until age 21, but she was brought to tears when she learned what it said. Thanks to Senate President Don Gaetz, the bill will be named the Nancy C. Detert Common Sense and Compassion Independent Living Act.
"It's a legacy and I thank you for putting my name on it," Detert said, later adding that "Anyone who has heard these kids is their champion."
SB 1036, which passed the Senate 38-0, would give teens who currently "age out" of the system at 18 a "safety net" and allow them to stay in foster care until age 21.
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Winner of the week
Florida TV stations. New campaign finance rules passed by the Legislature stand to increase even more the amount of money political campaigns and allied interest groups can raise and spend, with the campaign limit going from $500 to $3,000 and political committees being allowed to pay for more direct political communication. The only question is whether Gov. Rick Scott will veto the bill.
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Loser of the week
Uninsured Floridians. Whether you call it fiscal prudence or insanity, all but one House Republican - state Rep. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey - voted against a plan to accept billions of dollars in federal money to help hundreds of thousands of low-income Floridians obtain health insurance.
Alex Leary and Rochelle Koff contributed to this week's Buzz.