Adam C. Smith: "Inside the Washington Beltway and among Republican activists across the country, it often sounds like there's only one home run pick for vice president — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida."
But what about the politicos who know Rubio best? The latest Tampa Bay Times Florida Insider Poll found significant skepticism about putting Rubio on the presidential ticket."Among Florida politicos, skepticism for Marco Rubio as VP".
Among more than 100 Florida lobbyists, activists, political operatives and fundraisers who participated in the survey, Rubio was most frequently named as the best pick for vice president, regardless of the nominee.
Still, three-quarters of respondents did not name Rubio and only 37 percent said he would be a safe pick.
These are Florida politicos who paid close attention to Rubio's tenure as Florida House speaker. They are more likely to be acquainted with the baggage that surfaced in his 2010 Senate race — using Republican Party credit cards to pay for personal expenses, sometimes messy personal finances and sloppy adherence to financial disclosure requirements.
Short term thinking
"Abortion opponents admit they're doing everything they can to make the procedure more difficult for women in Florida to obtain." "For GOP, anti-abortion focus has benefits now, risks in November".
"Haridopolos' top deputies attempted to orchestrate a coup"
"When Mike Haridopolos was elected Senate president, he vowed to make the traditionally moderate chamber more conservative — in his own image. But the University of Florida history instructor miscalculated one thing: The Senate by its very nature moderate. Haridopolos and Senate leaders attempted to push several controversial conservative issues in the past year only to have the Senate hit the ideological reset button and vote them down."
The conflict played out again last week, when Haridopolos’ top deputies attempted to orchestrate a coup to designate the Senate president for 2014 and 2016."Haridopolos learns the hard way about running the state Senate".
Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher and Sen. Joe Negron had each pledged to support Sen. Andy Gardiner, an Orlando Republican, but they viewed him as being vulnerable to rival Republican Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater.
So on Tuesday, a week after Latvala had helped defeat the prison privatization plan, Thrasher and Negron called in Gardiner’s supporters and told them Gardiner was dropping out. They presented the senators with two pledge cards and asked them to sign: one to elect Thrasher of St. Augustine Senate president in 2014, and the other to elect Negron of Stuart in 2016.
Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, politely gathered the pledge cards for “safe keeping” and then sought out Gardiner. When Gardiner told him he had no intention of dropping out, his supporters revolted against Thrasher and Negron, angered by their heavy-handed approach.
“I didn’t come here to relive Julius Caesar,” recalled Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico. She wouldn’t say who played Brutus.
Within two days of the attempted coup, Latvala had seized the opportunity, formed a coalition with Gardiner, and the two agreed to join forces to support a Gardiner candidacy in 2014. Several of Gardiner’s supporters returning in 2016 have also pledged to support Latvala for Senate president, as have a handful of House members who are candidates running for a Senate post.
“The arrogance level of some of the people who lead the Senate led them to do what they did this week,’’ Latvala said when it was over. “They are so used to being able to tell the body what to do, they thought they could do it in the president’s race and it backfired miserably. That’s going to be a good lesson.”
Time for diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba
Kingsley Guy is sure to upset some of his fellow country clubbers with this column: "The U.S. government restricts drilling off Florida's Gulf and Atlantic coasts, but not so the Cuban government, and recently an exploratory well began operations just 55 miles from Key West. Cuban officials think the country may be sitting on billions of barrels of oil, and exploiting the resource could give Cuba energy independence and a commodity it could export for hard currency."
Cuba doesn't possess the technology or expertise to drill into the seabed a mile or more from the surface, so it has contracted with the Spanish firm Repsol to do the job. The company has a good safety record, but as the Deepwater Horizon blowout demonstrated, there's no fail-safe method of preventing a massive spill. As the rigs in Cuban waters proliferate, so will the chances of a disaster that could affect Florida and other U.S. states."Embargo could risk drilling safety".
It's in Cuba's interest to stress drilling safety. An oil spill would threaten its tourist industry as much as it would Florida's. But unfortunately, there's something that's getting in the way of safety, and that's the United States' 50-year-old embargo of Cuba.
Among other things, it restricts trade in state-of-the-art drilling-safety equipment and inhibits communication between the two nations.
There's certainly some interaction across the Florida Straits, but should an emergency erupt, legal restrictions and bureaucratic inertia would disrupt cooperation between Cuba and the United States, and this could lead to a disaster for both countries.
It's time for U.S. and Cuban officials to put politics aside and make concrete arrangements on how they will respond to an oil spill. Those arrangements could, and should, include the lifting of all restrictions on the export of oil-well safety equipment from the United States. The next step might even include allowing U.S. firms to bid on Cuban oil leases and conduct the drilling themselves. Repsol's reaping financial rewards by doing so, and American drillers should be able to do the same.
Forty years ago this month, President Richard Nixon traveled to Communist China, which opened the way to diplomatic and trade relations with that country. It's long past time for the U.S. to pursue a similar course with Cuba, and the oil drilling issue could provide the opening to do so.
"Sweeping the vestiges of union and trial-lawyer influence out of the Capitol"
Aaron Deslatte: "Mark Wilson gets a report on his desk every morning at the Florida Chamber of Commerce headquarters on expected vote counts and opposition to the 60 bills his team of three dozen lobbyists tracks in the Legislature."
Next door to his office, a political operation staffed by former Jeb Bush and Ronald Reagan campaign hands is recruiting and researching legislative candidates — for the 2016 election."What Florida's top power broker is planning next".
While lawmakers a few blocks away are debating limits on injury lawsuits, the chamber is polling voters on the issue in two proposed new Senate districts to decide how potential votes this session can be used in the fall campaigns.
Wilson, the chamber's president and chief executive, is paid $308,000 — more than the governor's agency heads and many university presidents — to run what has become the most influential business group in Florida, thanks to an alignment of political stars and hefty campaign financing from major corporations such as Disney, Publix and Florida Power & Light.
And he's eyeing a massive goal ahead: using term limits and the once-a-decade redistricting process to preserve a GOP supermajority in the Legislature and sweep the last vestiges of union and trial-lawyer influence out of the state Capitol.
"Forking over taxpayer money to high-profile employees"
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "The former Hillsborough County administrator who surreptitiously boosted her pay while cutting other government services didn't commit a crime, a Florida circuit court judge ruled last week. Now county taxpayers are on the hook to pay Pat Bean another $316,465 in severance and legal costs, just the latest outsized payout to a local government official who was fired but still cashed in. If there is an upside in the end of this two-year debacle, it is that at least Florida has a new state law to prevent it from happening again. Call it the 'Pat Bean Rule.'"
In the eyes of the law, Bean may not have committed an illegal act. Padding her paycheck without regard to proper County Commission oversight was clearly an unethical, if not arrogant, abuse of Bean's authority. But the real crime may have been the incredible golden parachute the elected County Commission had agreed to in her contract."Making officials' severance less golden".
In all, including money already paid to her and other perks, Bean's total compensation package walking out the door after her 2010 firing amounts to $455,000 from a job that paid $224,120 annually. And the Hillsborough County Commission is far from alone in Tampa Bay in forking over taxpayer money to high-profile employees who don't measure up.
Fired Pinellas County school superintendent Julie Janssen collected more than $400,000 in pay and benefits. Bean's compatriot in the paycheck-padding scandal, then-Hillsborough County attorney Renee Lee, negotiated a $156,000 severance package. HART chief executive David Armijo walked away with a $90,000 severance package, as did Hernando County administrator David Hamilton. Even little Madeira Beach forked over $78,000 in pay and benefits for City Manager W.D. Higginbotham Jr. after he asked to be fired.
That's rich, Scott whines about "fraud"
"Gov. Rick Scott met with top law-enforcement officers from across Central Florida on Saturday in a push to reform the state's no-fault auto insurance, a system he says is loaded with fraud and causing insurance rates to soar." "Gov. Scott tells cops PIP abuse is 'devastating'".
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Get PIP reform on road".
Public embarrassment for Haridopolos, Gaetz, Thrasher and JD Alexander
Lucy Morgan: "What are things in the Florida Legislature coming to when one senator needs protection to walk on the Senate floor?"
• The debate over privatizing much of Florida's prison system last week probably marks one of the few times a couple of senators provided an escort for one of their colleagues — from the opposing political party, no less. "Bullard ultimately withstood the pressure and voted against the bill. The 21-19 vote against privatizing South Florida prisons was a rare defeat for the Senate leadership."
• It attracted little attention last week when Sens. Charles Dean, R-Inverness, and Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, walked onto the Senate floor before the debate on privatizing prisons with Sen. Larcenia Bullard, D-Miami, between them.
• Bullard, who has been seriously ill with a recurring heart condition, had been in tears after days of pressure from Senate leaders and lobbyists who wanted her to be the deciding vote in favor of a bill that would have privatized 27 South Florida prisons.
This defeat was a particular public embarrassment for its supporters, who included Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne; incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville; Rules chairman John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine; and Budget Committee Chairman JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales."In Tallahassee, strong arms, strong stands".
They don't take defeat well. It's probably no coincidence that this week Gaetz and Thrasher unsuccessfully tried to seize control of a battle over who will follow Gaetz as Senate president. One of those contestants happens to be Latvala, one of the key opponents of the prison privatization bill.
The Senate vote on prison privatization followed weeks of intrigue.
Obama has 12 offices up and running in Florida
"The Obama campaign now has 12 offices up and running in Florida, and last week campaign leaders moved into their new state headquarters, 1215 E 6th Ave., in Tampa's Ybor City neighborhood. The previous headquarters at 1702 N 14th Street will serve as a field office base for volunteer activities and voter outreach." "Different than 2008".
Grayson the early front-runner
"State legislators this year have carved out an Orlando-area congressional district, District 27, essentially designed to ensure Florida's fast-growing Puerto Rican population has representation in the state's congressional delegation. So far, though, Democrats have no Hispanic candidate for the Democratic-leaning district, where well-funded liberal firebrand Alan Grayson looks like the early front-runner." "Slow start for Dems".
Republican Women like LeMieux
"Straw polls are often meaningless exercises, but this one feels potentially significant: The Florida Federation of Republican Women, after putting questions to the leading Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, last weekend held a straw poll vote where George LeMieux won the most votes, followed by Mike McCalister, then front-runner Connie Mack." "Mack's bad poll".
Fabiola Santiago wonders "What was Steinberg thinking?"
School grading formula criticized
"Teachers, superintendents and parents of special needs students urge the state Board of Education to reconsider a proposed grading formula, which is set for a vote Tuesday." "New formula for grading schools criticized".
Unlike the Florida Senate things are going smoothly in the House
"Amid all the turmoil in the Florida Senate about future leadership, it's easy to overlook how smoothly things are going in the Florida House. We hear Speaker-designate Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has brought on a pro — former Jeb Bush chief of staff Sally Bradshaw — to help him with the transition into the role." "A little help".
"Voting-rights issues echo 60 years later"
"Blacks' voting-rights issues echo 60 years later".
"Inner workings of seedy clinics"
"Nearly 200 pages of court records detail the hustle-and-bustle of a massive Orlando pill-mill operation." "Records reveal the inner workings of seedy clinics".