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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gaming bills are headed to conference

Fantasy sports companies DraftKings Inc. (the app is shown) and FanDuel Inc. (website) would be treated differently in pending House and Senate gambling bills.

Bloomberg

Fantasy sports companies DraftKings Inc. (the app is shown) and FanDuel Inc. (website) would be treated differently in pending House and Senate gambling bills.

So why would a House committee meet for 10 minutes Tuesday for the sole purpose of passing a bill clarifying that fantasy sports leagues are not gambling? 

The ice has thawed on the gambling impasse.

House and Senate leaders have agreed to pass their respective bills off the floors of their chambers to set up a gaming conference for as early as next week. It's not a sign that there is a deal. But it is a sign that they're taking the issue of shoring up their gaming revenues seriously as they head into discussions over the budget.

The recent decision by a Leon County Circuit Court that determined slot machine look-alikes found in bars across the state are not illegal gambling devices. The decision was noticed by parimutuels, convenience stores and gaming centers across the state who signaled an interest in installing the machines without having to seek a gaming license. …

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Fla Dem chair says GOP will lose at least three Fla Senate seats in '18

From the News Service of Florida:

Despite "disheartening" losses in November that left Republican in control of the White House and the U.S. Senate, Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel said this week his party will bounce back --- including winning state Senate seats in 2018.

Speaking to the Leon County Democratic Executive Committee on Monday, Bittel said Democrats next year "absolutely" will win state Senate seats held by Hialeah Republican Rene Garcia, Miami Republican Frank Artiles and Tampa Republican Dana Young. Garcia cannot run again because of term limits, while Artiles and Young are freshman members of the Senate. Also, Bittel said if the national mood sours further toward President Donald Trump, Democrats could pick up five state Senate seats, bringing them to parity for the first time since the 1990s. …

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'Racist, bigoted' bills in Florida Legislature condemned by immigrant advocates

Dozens of immigrant advocate groups gathered at the Florida Capitol for a press conference on Tuesday, March 28, 2017 to oppose anti-immigrant bills lawmakers are considering this spring.

Kristen M. Clark / Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Dozens of immigrant advocate groups gathered at the Florida Capitol for a press conference on Tuesday, March 28, 2017 to oppose anti-immigrant bills lawmakers are considering this spring.

Dozens of immigrant advocates, including many from South Florida, descended on the Florida Capitol on Tuesday to send a message to the Republican-led Legislature: Back off.

“We are tired of having the same conversation with our legislators, as if we — as immigrants — do not contribute to the state of Florida,” said Francesca Menes, policy and advocacy director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “We contribute economically to the state of Florida. Our families are here, and we are here to stay.”

Representatives from the coalition and several other immigrant advocacy groups came together at a press conference, where they were joined by dozens of supporters, including Democratic lawmakers.

“[We are] standing here, demanding that we stop all of this, because our families are sick and tired of being threatened of being separated,” Menes said.

Menes blasted President Donald Trump for being a “bully who is threatening to take away our funding.” (Trump signed executive orders earlier this year ordering the Department of Homeland Security to stop funding communities that were deemed “sanctuaries” for undocumented immigrants.) …

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Poll: 74% of Floridians think independent should vote in party primaries

Party leaders say they are private associations, but open primary advocates note that all taxpayers foot the bill for these 'private' elections

Tampa Bay Times

Party leaders say they are private associations, but open primary advocates note that all taxpayers foot the bill for these 'private' elections

A newly released robo poll by funded by several election reform groups found that nearly three in four Floridians, 74 percent, think independent voters should be allowed to vote in the primary elections. Voters not affiliated with a political party account for about 27 percent of the Florida electorate, but are currently barred from participating in taxpayer funded primary elections.

“If the Constitution Revision Commission is listening to Florida voters, they will put a referendum on the 2018 ballot for open primaries. The big question is will they listen. There is a growing sense among voters in Florida and across the country that no one is really listening,” said John Opdycke, President of Open Primaries.

Progress For All, Florida Fair and Open Primaries, and Open Primaries funded the survey by the Democratic-leaning firm, Public Policy Polling. Other findings:

**70 percent of Florida voters, and  74 percent of Hispanics, favor a top-two open primary where all candidates appear on the same ballot, regardless of party affiliation, and all voters are able to vote for any candidate, with the top two candidates moving on to the general election. …

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Florida House's school recess bill no longer requires daily recess

Kindergarten students head out to the playground for recess at Citrus Grove Elementary School on Thursday, February 9, 2017. Florida lawmakers are again considering a statewide mandate for daily recess in public elementary schools.

Patrick Farrell / Miami Herald

Kindergarten students head out to the playground for recess at Citrus Grove Elementary School on Thursday, February 9, 2017. Florida lawmakers are again considering a statewide mandate for daily recess in public elementary schools.

Florida parents seeking more recess time for their children suffered a setback Tuesday, when state lawmakers significantly watered down a proposal that was supposed to require 20 minutes of daily recess for all public elementary students.

Members of a House subcommittee were willing to give students more recess time during the school week — but not nearly to the extent that parents have fought for for more than a year and that many lawmakers previously supported.

The original bill — which remains intact in the Senate — called for “at least 100 minutes of supervised, safe, and unstructured free-play recess each week,” 20 minutes per day, for the nearly 1.3 million Florida children in kindergarten through fifth grade.

But under the House’s amended bill, recess would be legally required at most two days a week, and a third of all elementary students — 430,000 fourth- and fifth-graders statewide — won’t have any guarantees of recess. …

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Hospitals face Medicaid cuts in first drafts of state budget

Reps. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, and Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Reps. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, and Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford.

Florida state lawmakers on Tuesday proposed cuts to Medicaid that could take as much as $621.8 million away from hospitals next year.

The proposals, put forward by the House and Senate health care budget subcommittees are meant to reduce the state budget, but they have hospitals on edge.

In the House, Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, recommended cutting the state’s share of Medicaid by $238.6 million. However, Medicaid is mostly funded by the federal government, so every dollar the state cuts has more than double the impact. The House proposal would take $621.8 million total from hospitals.

Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, recommended more modest cuts in the Senate: $99.3 million from the state budget, or a $258.6 million total hit.

A ray of hope that the Senate is counting on but which the House is not: That the federal government might reinstate a pool of money meant to reimburse hospitals for unpaid care given to people who have no health coverage. Flores said she thinks it is “more likely than not” that the feds will give Florida $607 million for the Low Income Pool. …

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Look at the Floridians landing the best Trump administration jobs

Jesse Panuccio has the number three job at Justice

Tampa Bay Times

Jesse Panuccio has the number three job at Justice

Most Florida political junkies assumed Attorney General Pam Bondi would wind up with a plum, high-profile job in the Trump administration, a reward for her early endorsement of the New York billionaire and part-time Floridian. Turns out, however, that the Floridian who so far has landed the most influential administration gig is someone who struggled to get confirmed by fellow Republicans in the Florida Senate.

Jesse Panuccio, Gov. Rick Scott's former general counsel and jobs chief, is acting associate attorney general of the United States, the third highest ranking official at the Department of Justice.

Quite a few Floridians have landed jobs in President Donald Trump's administration including former senior adviser to Gov. Scott Mary Anne Carter, now serving as a senior White House adviser to the National Endowment for the Arts, and former Hillsborough GOP Chairwoman Deborah Cox Roush, who is at the Department of Education's public affairs office....

More here

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Over city and county protests, vacation rentals bill gains ground

Despite intense opposition from Miami-Dade County, the city of Miami and several beach communities, a second House subcommittee passed a bill Tuesday that blocks cities and counties from adopting new restrictions on the use of private homes for vacation rentals. But ordinances that were in effect as of June 1, 2011, are grandfathered and can stay in effect.

The 9-6 vote in the Careers & Competition Subcommittee sends the bill to the full Commerce Committee, a 30-member panel that is top-heavy with members from South Florida, one of the nation's hottest tourist destinations and where passions on both sides of the short-term rental controversy run very high.

The sponsor of the bill (HB 425), Rep. Mike LaRosa, R-St. Cloud, accused local governments of an "overreach" that violates the private property rights of homeowners.

 

 

 

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After DUI charge, Pigman steps down from committee chair

Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park

[Florida House of Representatives]

Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced Tuesday that Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park, was stepping down as chair of the House's Health Quality Subcommittee.

It comes less than a week after Pigman, an emergency medicine physician, was charged with driving under the influence. A state trooper stopped Pigman's Jeep early Friday on Florida's Turnpike in St. Lucie County and a Breathalyzer test showed that his blood alcohol level was .15, nearly twice the legal limit.

“Having spent a career fighting for and defending this country, Dr. Pigman knows that it is honorable to take responsibility for one's actions," Corcoran said in a statement sent by his spokesman, Fred Piccolo. "It is the honorable thing to do.  Dr. Pigman has done both by informing me that he wishes to step down as chairman of the Health Quality Subcommittee."

Corcoran named Rep. Jeanette Nunez, R-Miami, as the committee's acting chair.

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Rubio blasts Democratic moves to filibuster Gorsuch

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Marco Rubio today blasted the growing possibility of a Democratic filibuster against Neil Gorsuch, a preview of the next round of fighting to reach Capitol Hill.

"Not even divisive Thomas nomination filibustered," Rubio wrote on Twitter. "Truth is D's will filibuster anyone @POTUS nominate."

On Monday, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said he'd join a filibuster, which would force Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to change the rules for a simple majority. Nelson in 2006 opposed a filibuster of Sameul Alito, though voted against him.

Democrats counter GOP criticism with two words: Merrick Garland.

Gorsuch filibuster would be 1st ever.Not even divisive Thomas nomination filibustered.Truth is D's will filibuster anyone @POTUS nominates

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Pam Bondi fuels speculation with visit to White House

Pam Bondi was the first statewide elected official in Florida to endorse Trump

Tampa Bay Times

Pam Bondi was the first statewide elected official in Florida to endorse Trump

Attorney General Pam Bondi may or may not wind up with a Trump administration job that months ago was widely assumed by her friends and allies to be imminent, but on Wednesday she will moderate President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump’s Women’s Empowerment Panel at the White House. 

Panelists include U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Administrator of the Small Business Administration Linda McMahon, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma.

“As Florida’s first female attorney general, I am honored to moderate this panel with such remarkable and accomplished leaders,” said Attorney General Bondi.

Also, according to Politico, Bondi also used the opportunity to "talk about children's issues" in a meeting with Trump, DeVos and Dr. Ben Carson, secretary of housing and urban development.

She even took time to pose for a photo with Trump in the Oval Office. She was accompanied by former Tampa Bay Bucs coach Tony Dungy and fellow All Pro Dads advocate Mark Merrill, and Derrick Brooks, former Buc and co-founder of Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High School in Tampa.

 

 

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Tallahassee group hurting Breitbart News' bid for congressional press credentials

WASHINGTON — A Tallahassee-based research group started by Steve Bannon is causing problems for Breitbart News’ attempts to get permanent congressional credentials.

The Standing Committee of Correspondents on Monday cited the Government Accountability Institute as a reason for delaying a decision because two Tallahassee-based officials with the group also work for Breitbart.

“Even if Bannon is no longer involved in GAI, top editors are involved in this other group, an advocacy group,” chairman Billy House of Bloomberg News said, according to a Politico report.

“It’s not that unusual that an Arianna Huffington, or Michael Bloomberg, these people are engaged in political activities. But it’s when the editorial masthead is full of people with dual roles who are also doing advocacy, that is a problem,” said committee secretary Joseph Morton of the Omaha-World Herald.

The GAI-Breitbart figures are Peter Schweizer and Wynton Hall, both whom did not respond to multiple interview requests from the Tampa Bay Times for a recent story on Bannon’s Florida ties. …

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West Palm Beach officials worry Trump visits make city a target

The following is from the Sun-Sentinel:

Hackers have attempted to breach West Palm Beach's computers, and President Donald Trump's visits to the Weekend White House could continue to make the city a target, Mayor Jeri Muoio said Monday.

The FBI is investigating, and more than $150,000 has been spent on the city’s information technology system so far in response to the attempted breaches, she said.

"We have had unknown entities attempting to breach our system, which has been very concerning," Muoio said.

FBI spokesman Jim Marshall would neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation, and Muoio declined to release specifics about the attempted breaches.

But she said she fears Trump's regular presence at his oceanfront estate Mar-a-Lago — less than a mile from West Palm Beach — could put her city at a greater risk for cyberattacks and terrorism.

“Because we are in the spotlight … it brings more attention to us,” she said.

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Cities and counties battling Florida Legislature over home rule

The downtown Miami skyline

Miami Herald

The downtown Miami skyline

You really can fight City Hall. Especially if you're in the Florida Legislature.

Cities and counties are furious over what they see as a power grab by Tallahassee politicians, but House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, says local governments have used the cloak of "home rule" to enact what he sees as "runaway regulations. Story is here.

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'This is an abomination,' senator says of political games surrounding testing reforms

A student practices for Florida’s standardized tests. Florida senators are considering two competing proposals to reform the state’s standardized assessments, but Republican leaders are being accused of “stealing” a more popular Democratic measure so they can take credit.

Miami Herald file photo

A student practices for Florida’s standardized tests. Florida senators are considering two competing proposals to reform the state’s standardized assessments, but Republican leaders are being accused of “stealing” a more popular Democratic measure so they can take credit.

Efforts by the state Senate to address too much standardized testing in Florida’s public schools this year are on the rocks after a key proposal was abruptly postponed Monday when one senator objected to what he called an “abomination” of the legislative process.

After forcing the delay, veteran Republican and former Senate President Tom Lee blasted his own party leaders for last-minute political tactics and for “stealing” components of a popular Democratic bill in order to salvage a separate reform proposal from Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores, who is No. 2 in the chamber behind Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart.

“There’s right and there’s wrong, and just because Sen. [Bill] Montford is a member of the minority party — that’s the only reason his legislation isn’t up,” Lee, of Thonotosassa, told reporters. “This guy gets run over by the majority party just because they don’t want him to get credit for a meaningful, thoughtful piece of legislation that’s been worked on for a year.” …

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