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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida Insiders: We'll find out soon whether Adam Putnam has a glass jaw

Florida Insider polls are unscientific surveys of Florida political operatives, money-raisers, lobbyists, political scientists, recovering journalists, activists, and the like

Tampa Bay Tomes

Florida Insider polls are unscientific surveys of Florida political operatives, money-raisers, lobbyists, political scientists, recovering journalists, activists, and the like

This month's Florida Insider Poll questions: Who would be the strongest Democratic/Republican nominee for governor? Whom do you expect will win the Democratic/Republican gubernatorial nomination? Which party do you expect will win the Senate District 40 special election? Do you expect Rick Scott to run for president some day?

We allow anonomous opinions in this rare case to encourage honest answers from people involved in the political process. Here's are the comments we received from our Florida Insiders:

Republican: With all the discourse in DC and Tallahassee business leaders will continue to find success at the polls and that includes the only businessman in the race for Governor on the Republican side, Jack Latvala and yes Rick Scott will be POTUS after Trump. …

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Gov. Scott vetoed a higher ed bill. Now he wants universities to spend their money wisely.

Gov. Rick Scott

Matias Ocner / Miami Herald

Gov. Rick Scott

When Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a major higher education reform bill last month, it didn’t strip away millions of dollars for Florida’s public universities that was already approved separately in the state budget but linked to that proposed policy.

Because the policy didn’t become law, the universities aren’t as limited now in how they can spend the money.

Scott sent letters to each of the 12 public universities this week urging them to use the dollars — more than $120 million among the individual institutions — to “focus on graduation rates” and encourage post-graduation career opportunities.

Full details here.

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Rubio confident GOP will pass health care bill

WASHINGTON - Sen. Marco Rubio says he's confident the GOP will eventually pass a health care bill.

"I still believe we're going to get something done. I want to get this done right but I also want to get it done in a timely fashion," he said Friday on Fox News.

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As Rubio avoids public settings on health care, disabled Tampa man's story gets attention

Michael Phillips at home in Tampa with his mother, Karen Clay

Times

Michael Phillips at home in Tampa with his mother, Karen Clay

Michael Phillips was hunting demons Monday night when the news broke: The Senate health care bill was dying.

He ditched World of Warcraft for MSNBC and texted his mom in the next room — "Yay!"

Phillips is severely disabled from a rare genetic disease that doctors thought would end his life before his first birthday. But the 36-year-old Tampa resident is one of the forces that upended the GOP's seven-year mission of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, his story carried on TV, social media and in the Capitol itself.

"I have to say, as a giant politics nerd, being mentioned on the Senate floor, being covered on CSPAN-2, was really f----- cool," Phillips wrote on his blog. "Yes, the circumstances are awful, but you have to take joy where you can get it."

Washington convulsed last week with stops and starts on health care and Republicans, though dealt a major setback Monday, are determined to press on.

"I won't feel safe until the GOP quits talking about destroying Medicaid and starts working on bi-partisan solutions to fix the ACA," Phillips told the Tampa Bay Times in an email. …

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Guerilla activist James O'Keefe to keynote Palm Beach GOP dinner

A booking photo provided by the U.S. Dept. of Justice shows James O'Keefe, then 25. O'Keefe was one of four people arrested by the FBI on  Jan. 26, 2010 and accused of trying to interfere with phones at Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in New Orleans. Charges were reduced to a misdemeanor and O'Keefe was sentenced to three years probation, a $1,500 fine and 100 hours of community service.

AP

A booking photo provided by the U.S. Dept. of Justice shows James O'Keefe, then 25. O'Keefe was one of four people arrested by the FBI on Jan. 26, 2010 and accused of trying to interfere with phones at Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in New Orleans. Charges were reduced to a misdemeanor and O'Keefe was sentenced to three years probation, a $1,500 fine and 100 hours of community service.

Remember ACORN? The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now was a consortium of progressive community-based organizations that advocated for low income and working class families. ACORN became the bête noire for conservatives in the 2008 presidential election, who linked Barack Obama's victory directly to the group

In short, ACORN became short hand for voter fraud. Even though cases of actual fraud were virtually non-existent, allegations against ACORN were so widespread that they inspired a library of fact checks on everything from the group benefiting from the federal stimulus (barely true), that the group got Mickey Mouse registered to vote in Florida (false), that Obama had been a lawyer for ACORN (half true -- he represented the group twice), that Obama's White House political director, Patrick Gaspard, once served as the right-hand man for the head of ACORN (false), that ACORN was eligible for $8.5 billion in tax dollars (false), and that ACORN was getting money to work for the Census Bureau (Pants on Fire).  …

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Trump again seeking foreign workers for Mar-a-Lago

Mar-a-Lago

The Associated Press

Mar-a-Lago

President Donald Trump’s Florida businesses are again in search of inexpensive foreign workers, raising questions during a week the White House has themed “Made in America.”

U.S. Department of Labor records posted Thursday show Mar-a-Lago is seeking 35 waiters and waitresses, 20 cooks and 15 housekeepers, with work to begin in October and run through the middle of 2018.

Trump has also sought 6 cooks at Trump National Golf Club Jupiter.

Mar-a-Lago has obtained more than 800 foreign workers under the H-2B visa program since 2006. Trump has defended the practice, saying he can’t find other others, a claim local officials say is not true.

There are currently 2,643 qualified candidates in Palm Beach County for hospitality positions, said Tom Veenstra, a senior director at CareerSource Palm Beach County. …

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Jack Latvala can win

Latavla

Tampa Bay Times

Latavla

From today's column:

...Much of Florida's political intelligentsia view him as a long shot, which makes sense. Latvala is old school, the kind of pragmatic, generally moderate Republican today's GOP primary electorate has shunned and pilloried in recent years. He looks more like a rumpled granddad who should lay off the ribeyes and ramp up his blood pressure meds than the sort of TV-primped candidate that usually wins statewide elections in Florida.

But don't discount him.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam remains the clear frontrunner for the Republican nomination, but even after some of Florida's most politically active corporations have pumped more than $15 million into his campaign he has failed to wrap himself in a cloak of inevitability. Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran raised $2 million in his first month as a potential candidate. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, a tea party favorite from northeast Florida with his own deep-pocketed supporters, looks increasingly likely to jump in, and many observers still see a strong possibility that a wealthy political newcomer could jump in late in the game, as Rick Scott did in 2010.

Therein lies the path for Latvala. …

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Rick Scott for President?

Rick Scott

Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott

Reubin Askew tried. So did Bob Graham. And Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. When you've shown an ability to win statewide elections in America's biggest swing state, you're almost automatically a credible contender for president.

Could Rick Scott be the Floridian who finally winds up in the White House?

We surveyed nearly 200 experienced Florida political experts for our July Florida Insider Poll, and nearly seven in 10 said they don't expect our 64-year-old two-term governor and likely 2018 Republican nominee for U.S. Senate to seek the presidency. That, of course, leaves nearly one in three who exect he will.

"Rick Scott running for President is certainly in the realm of possibility," said a Republican. "The uncertainty is timing.  He would be 70 years old when starting a campaign for 2024 and 72 when taking office.  He's young enough and healthy enough for that, but it's fair to imagine that he wouldn't do it at 76 years old, in 2028.  I'm saying that his window of opportunity is narrow."

"Rick Scott will probably run someday but he will not be a top tier candidate," offered another. "He lacks the charisma or the debating skills to be a viable candidate on the national level." …

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Frank Brogan to retire as Pennsylvania's chancellor

Frank Brogan is leaving his Pennsylvania job

Tampa Bay Times

Frank Brogan is leaving his Pennsylvania job

Nearly four years after he left his job as chancellor of Florida's state university system, Frank Brogan shocked Pennsylvania's state university system by announcing this week he'll retire Sept. 1. 

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Brogan informed the board of governors about his decision just before a report was to be released about a restructuring of the 105,000-student, 14-university system that Brogan manages. 

"While there is never a perfect time for a transition such as this, my family and I know we leave behind a system that is primed for the future," said Brogan, 63.

He started on Oct. 1, 2013. He earns nearly $346,000. The abrupt announcement comes amid news that the system is anticipating an enrollment decline this fall. It would need to raise tuition 3.5 percent to offset half a nearly $72 million shortfall for 2017-18, according to the Inquirer.

Brogan's resignation "stunned the university's faculty union, which has had brushes with Brogan, including a strike last fall over wages and working conditions."

Brogan will leave a system in flux. His departure came as five of the 14 university presidents retired or were planning to leave within the next year. …

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Gov. candidate Chris King: Climate change is biggest threat to Florida's economy

Winter Park businessman Chris King and his family

Chris King campaign

Winter Park businessman Chris King and his family

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King today made his case for how economic growth and fighting climate change go hand in hand. His rivals for the Democratic nomination, Gwen Graham,  Andrew Gillum and possibly Philip Levine, make climate change and environmental protection top priorities too.

From King:

...The costs that climate change could impose on our state’s economy are real and daunting.

Yet, our Republican leaders in Tallahassee — the party that is supposed to be all about economic growth — has refused to address climate change, this century’s biggest threat to our economy....

...Inaction is not an option for Florida. We cannot allow climate change to become a drag on our jobs, our technology, and our environment. We must choose to lead the country in the fight against climate change instead of letting ourselves fall further behind.

That’s why I have a clear plan for what I’ll do as Governor to help Florida move boldly into the future.

I will ban fracking and offshore drilling.

I will invest in renewable energy solutions.

I will support hurricane research and disaster relief funding. …

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Florida Insiders: GOP will win Senate District 40 race

Florida Insider Polls are uncientific measures of conventional wisdom among Florida's political elites

Tampa Bay Times

Florida Insider Polls are uncientific measures of conventional wisdom among Florida's political elites

Our latest Florida Insider Poll asked most of the smartest and most experienced politicos in Florida about the race to succeed former state Sen. Frank Artles in Miami-area Florida Senate District 40. Among the more then 190* participants (56 percent of them Republicans, 38 percent Democrats), more than two thirds expect the GOP to hold onto that competitive seat.

"The problem for Democrats in the SD40 Special is that the electorate that will show up will be disproportionally older Cuban compared to normal midterms or presidential cycles," said on Democrat. "This is a group that still votes GOP down ballot and has no trouble splitting their ticket."

We did not not ask for predictions for who will be nominated. Former state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla and attorney Lorenzo Palomares are running on the Republic side and state Rep. Ana Rivas Logan, and businesswoman Annette Taddeo on the Demoratic side. …

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A new 'Dream Act' lacks a prominent backer: Marco Rubio

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan plan to protect Dreamers from deportation was released Thursday but lacks an influential supporter: Sen. Marco Rubio.

“I’m not prepared to sign on to that legislation right now because I think there might be a better approach,” Rubio told the Tampa Bay Times.

The revised Dream Act released today by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., would protect some 800,000 immigrants brought to the country illegally by their parents. It would provide a path to citizenship.

So-called Dreamers have been shielded from deportation under an Obama-era program known as DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. But lawsuits have challenged the program and the Trump administration has sent mixed signals.

“I think DACA is unconstitutional and ideally would be replaced by a law that addresses this issue in a way that takes into account the reality of the situation that we face,” Rubio said Wednesday.

Yet the former Gang of 8 member said he wants to prevent against “unintended consequences.” …

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Investigation of Andrew Gillum emails now in prosecutor's hands

The Tallahassee Democrat reports:

The Leon County Sheriff's Office has concluded its investigation into Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum's use of political email software paid for by the city.

LCSO spokesman Lt. Grady Jordan said the report has been turned over to State Attorney Jack Campbell's office.

Jordan said the report makes no recommendations but is "merely a presentation of our investigation and the facts." Any decision to bring charges related to the investigation would be the decision of Campbell's office....

More here

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In Florida, prisons withhold more than freedom. Inmates often don't get toilet paper

Inmates wear threadbare shirts, pants with holes and rips and often aren't given basics like toilet paper, toothbrushes and toothpaste, state Rep. David Richardson has found.

Florida Department of Corrections

Inmates wear threadbare shirts, pants with holes and rips and often aren't given basics like toilet paper, toothbrushes and toothpaste, state Rep. David Richardson has found.

The four wings of Florida's Tomoka Correctional Institution’s E cell block is home to some of the prison’s most menacing inmates. They have arrived there because of administrative and disciplinary problems but, in addition to restricting them to confined, two-man cells, the prison also deprives them of society's most basic necessities.

Toilet paper.

In prison after prison over seven months, Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, reported that toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, pillows, sheets, shirts and soap were often withheld from inmates, especially those in confinement.

Richardson, who has been on a one-man mission to hold the state’s troubled prison agency accountable, first observed the toilet paper troubles during a Jan. 19 visit to Baker Correctional Institution in northern Florida. After finding dozens of inmates without toilet paper, toothbrushes and other supplies, he asked the prison warden to open the storage unit just feet away from the inmate dorms, and deliver hygiene products with him to more than 50 inmates.

“It is behavior that is intended to dehumanize them — treating them like an animal,’’ Richardson said. …

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Gov. Scott's ability to reshape SCOFLA could depend on Monday or Tuesday

Gov. Rick Scott wants to appoint the next three justices of the high court. A challenge awaits.

Scott Keeler, Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Rick Scott wants to appoint the next three justices of the high court. A challenge awaits.

The future of the Florida Supreme Court could all come down to Monday or Tuesday.

Gov. Rick Scott argued Wednesday in a late-afternoon response to a challenge by a group of left-leaning voting groups, that he alone has the power to appoint the next three justice of the state's high court because their terms expire on a Monday, while his expires on a Tuesday.

In a 38-page response to a lawsuit filed in June by the Florida League of Women Voters and Common Cause, Scott's lawyers argue that his term technically ends at the moment his successor takes the oath of office -- on the first Tuesday in January 2019 -- and the power to appoint the successors to Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince  continues until that very moment.

The justices, however -- who are scheduled to retire because they have reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 -- face six-year terms that expire "at the end of the first Monday in January," the governor argues.

Because Monday ends before Tuesday, Scott's lawyers argue, the lawsuit should be dismissed and the governor should be allowed to proceed with the appointment of the three justices. …

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