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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida reaction to Trump's speech


Rep. Al Lawson

We heard a lot from President Trump tonight, but the numbers speak for themselves. Forty days after his inauguration, we still have yet to see President Trump and the Republican Congress lift a finger to create jobs or help hard-working Americans. Instead, we have a leader who is alienating Americans instead of bringing people together. Trump and his administration are in a hurry to repeal the Affordable Care Act even if it makes America sick again and leaves 30 million people without life-saving health insurance. That is unacceptable. Our country deserves better than a bunch of broken promises from our President. Now is the time for all of us in Congress to roll up our sleeves and figure out a way to work together in order to improve our economy, create more jobs, and do right by the people who sent us here to bring civility back to our government.

Rep. Stephanie Murphy …

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Democratic lawmakers move to repeal "Docs vs. Glocks"

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith

Courtesy of Carlos Guillermo Smith

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith

Two Democratic lawmakers are pushing to have Florida's controversial "Docs vs. Glocks" law taken off the books.

The 2011 law sought to ban physicians from discussing gun ownership with patients unless the information was "relevant to the patient's medical care." Physicians who violated the law would have been subject to disciplinary action.

The hot-button measure sparked a years-long court battle that has drawn national attention. Most recently, the law was struck down by a federal appeal court, which ruled it violated doctors' constitutional right to free speech. But that decision could still be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, filed a proposal (HB 6033) to remove the language from Florida statutes.

In presenting his proposal, Smith referred to a Tampa Bay Times report that found nearly 3,200 kids 17 and younger were shot in Florida between 2010 and 2015. The report also found that the number of children killed in gun-related incidents rose 20 percent over that period, while the number of children injured jumped 36 percent. …

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Trump to talk school choice in Orlando on Friday

WASHINGTON - President Trump will visit a Catholic school in Orlando on Friday, the White House says.

It's also likely he will then move on to Mar-a-Lago, marking his fourth visit to the estate since becoming president. 

In Orlando, Trump will visit Saint Andrew Catholic School for a "listening session" on school choice. It's part of a road tour to sell ideas he'll talk about tonight in his address to a joint session of Congress.

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Pam Bondi has been hanging with Donald Trump a lot lately

Bondi and Trump


Bondi and Trump

Remember when everyone thought Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi would get hired real quick by President Donald J. Trump?

That seems so long ago. And still no job with Trump's administration.

But don't despair Bondi and Trump watchers. The two appear to be getting along great.

On Monday, Bondi tweeted a photo of herself and Trump in the Oval Office. "Love your new office and look forward to introducing you to all other AGs tomorrow!"

And on Feb. 18, she tweeted a photo of her and Trump and Melania, too.

Enjoyed being w/@FLOTUS and @POTUS @realDonaldTrump tonight. Melania Trump is stunning and so incredibly nice. #bestdressedfirstlady

So maybe we'll hear soon?

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Pam Bondi joins Donald Trump at the White House

President Donald Trump speaks during a group photo with members of the National Association of Attorneys General, in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday. Next to Trump in black is Pam Bondi, Florida's attorney general.

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

President Donald Trump speaks during a group photo with members of the National Association of Attorneys General, in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday. Next to Trump in black is Pam Bondi, Florida's attorney general.

WASHINGTON - Attorney General Pam Bondi was at the White House today and got face time with President Trump.

Trump met with about 25 members of the National Association of Attorneys General. "Some great people, some great people," he said. "And up here," he added, looking around next to him.

Bondi, standing to his left, responded: "Thank you, Mr. President."

It's still unclear whether Bondi will take a job in the administration, as had been widely assumed.

Details taken from a press pool report by McClatchy's Anita Kumar, a Tampa Bay Times alum.

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Rubio wants Social Security, Medicare to be part of budget talks

WASHINGTON — Sen. Marco Rubio said Tuesday that President Donald Trump's proposed defense spending increase doesn't go far enough but he expressed concern about cuts to other areas of the budget and said changes to Social Security and Medicare should be on the table.

"I don't expect you're going to hear that tonight," the Florida Republican said hours before Trump's speech to Congress, "but I think in the months to come as the reality sets in, we'll have to accept that."

Rubio has long called for changes to Social Security and Medicaid, but not for current recipients.

"I'm against anything that is bad for my mom," he told reporters. "I'm talking about me … our generation. It's either going to be bankrupt or it's going to work differently. What are we talking about in some cases? I'm going to have to retire at 68½ instead of at 68. These are not unreasonable requests to add some longevity and stability to these programs."

Rubio also discussed Obamacare and the Russian probe. Read more here.

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Florida lawmakers line up guests for tonight's Trump speech

Sen. Marco Rubio is bringing Florida Senate President Joe Negron as his guest for tonight's address to congress by President Trump. Sen. Bill Nelson is bringing his wife, Grace.

Some Florida House members are looking to make a statement with their guests.

Rep. Val Demings, D-Orlando, is bringing Christine Leinonen, the mother of Christopher Leinonen, who was one of the 49 victims killed in the Pulse Night Club shooting in Orlando.

Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Winter Park, invited Dr. Marc Levy, a surgeon who saved the lives of Pulse victims.

Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, is bringing Oliver Hess, a St. Petersburg eight grader who tried to help a Syrian refugee family resettle in Florida as part of his school’s annual “passion project.”

Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, will go with Kathy Palmer, an Affordable Care Act consumer who is a single parent and works two, part-time jobs. She went without insurance for years until the Affordable Care Act was available, Castors office said.

Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, is brining an immigrant "Dreamer" named Jose (whose last name was not revealed).

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Roads named for celebrities are OK, but not laws named to honor the people who inspired them

Mayra Capote, 15, and two high school students died in a car accident in 1999 while coming back to school from an open-lunch break. Hialeah Republican Sen. René García this year wanted to name a proposed state law after the younger Mayra, but the 15-year-old’s name was taken out of his bill at Senate President Joe Negron’s request.

Miami Herald file photo

Mayra Capote, 15, and two high school students died in a car accident in 1999 while coming back to school from an open-lunch break. Hialeah Republican Sen. René García this year wanted to name a proposed state law after the younger Mayra, but the 15-year-old’s name was taken out of his bill at Senate President Joe Negron’s request.

Mayra Capote was a 15-year-old freshman at Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School when she and two other students were killed in a car accident in September 1999 as they rushed back to school from an open-campus lunch break.

In the weeks afterward, Miami-Dade public schools changed district policy to prevent students from leaving school grounds during the lunch hour. And in the nearly 18 years since, Hialeah Republican Sen. René García has tried several times to prevent future tragedies statewide by seeking a Florida law affecting all public high schools.

With his most recent attempt this year, García sought to name the proposed law directly in honor of Mayra.

But her name was abruptly deleted from the bill last week — at the request of Senate President Joe Negron.

Full story here.

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Rubio to meet for second day with state lawmakers

WASHINGTON — For the second consecutive day, top members of the Florida Legislature will meet behind closed doors Tuesday with Sen. Marco Rubio.

An itinerary obtained by the Tampa Bay Times shows topics Monday included flood insurance, the Affordable Care Act then a “social hour” and dinner with Rubio and Rep. Vern Buchanan.

Tuesday brings a “working breakfast” at Rubio’s office to discuss water issues, including the Everglades, followed by tax reform. Then state lawmakers will have individual meetings with congressional members and staff.

Rubio’s office would not say why the meetings, being attended by House Speaker Richard Corcoran and other lawmakers, are closed. Reporters this morning have been offered the opportunity to briefly see the group but not listen in.

UPDATE: That said, Rubio and the others did speak with reporters. Below is a description of the meeting as provided by Rubio's office.

The participants included Florida Senate President Joe Negron, Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Richard Corcoran, Senator Bill Galvano, and Representatives Michael Bileca, Jose Felix Diaz, and Carlos Trujillo. …

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Florida woman close to Jeb Bush to be Trump's guest at speech tonight

A Florida woman who became an ally of Jeb Bush on school reform will be a guest of President Donald Trump's for the Tuesday night address to a joint session of Congress.

Denisha Merriweather of Jacksonville was named in a White House news release. "After struggling with coursework as a child and switching schools often, Denisha moved in with her godmother and enrolled in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program," the description reads. "She began going to a private school, Esprit de Corps Center for Learning, and would go on to be the first member of her family to graduate from high school and college."

Merriweather's success was championed by Bush, and he frequently invoked her on the campaign trail.

Trump's other guests are below:Full Story

House backs off plan to decimate Visit Florida -- a little

Future Visit Florida advertising on race cars would get more oversight from the Florida Legislature in the future, under a bill moving in the Florida House.


Future Visit Florida advertising on race cars would get more oversight from the Florida Legislature in the future, under a bill moving in the Florida House.

It is hardly a reprieve, but Republican leaders in the Florida House took a symbolic step that might keep the doors to the embattled Visit Florida around for years to come.

Three weeks ago, GOP leaders filed a bill that would completely eliminate that tourism marketing agency and Enterprise Florida, the state’s primary economic development agency. Then last week, they changed course and agreed on a new version of the bill to keep Visit Florida, but were ready to force it to survive on a $25 million budget - a more than $50 million cut in programs that would have decimated the agency. …

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Best buds: Rick Scott and Donald Trump hang out in Washington

WASHINGTON – In Tallahassee, a battle looms with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, but here, Gov. Rick Scott has had a remarkable few days.

On Friday Scott was elected vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Saturday, he had lunch with President Trump and watched La La Land at the White House then went out to dinner with commander-in-chief at Trump International Hotel. 

Great meeting with my friend @realDonaldTrump today on reinventing great health care in our nation!

Sunday night, Scott was taking selfies with Ivanka Trump at the White House Governors’ Ball.

Great to see @IvankaTrump last night at the White House for the Governor's Ball!

“For a guy that grew up in public housing, to be able to have lunch at the White House and watch a movie at the White House and then go to dinner with the president, it’s pretty amazing,” Scott told reporters Monday afternoon.

Amid the socializing, Scott said he spoke with Trump about getting rid of Obamacare, deeming it an “absolute mess.” He again called for flexibility with Medicaid. …

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Carole Crist: I will always love Charlie

Carole Crist

Special to the Times

Carole Crist

Former Florida First Lady Carole Crist sent us a statement this morning about U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, filing for divorce Friday. She and the former governor were married for more than eight years.

While I am deeply saddened with how things turned out, Charlie seems happy and I love him for that. I am so grateful for our time together in the last ten years and I will always love Charlie and wish him the very best in the future!



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Corcoran, Negron to discuss flood insurance, Obamacare with Rubio

WASHINGTON - House Speaker Richard Corcoran and other legislators are in Washington today and tomorrow for a series of meetings and social gatherings with Sen. Marco Rubio and others.

Though the parties are keeping details close — for reasons that aren’t clear — the Buzz has obtained an itinerary.


1-2 p.m. Working lunch flood insurance
2-5 p.m. Affordable Care Act and impact on Florida
5-6 p.m. Social Hour
6-8 p.m. - Dinner with Rubio and Rep. Vern Buchanan


9-11 a.m. Breakfast - water issues
11-1 p.m. Tax reform
1-3 p.m. Meetings with individual members of Congress.

Rubio’s office said Friday that the meetings are “to make sure we are providing open lines of communication and be a resource as it relates to federal activity and how it impacts Florida as they head into legislative session.”

Here is a list of those invited:

Speaker Richard Corcoran
President Joe Negron
Rep. Jeanette Nunez
Rep. Jose Oliva
Rep. Jose Felix Diaz
Rep. Michael Bileca
Rep. Janet Cruz
Rep. Ray Rodrigues
Rep. Bobby DuBose
Rep. George Moraitis
Rep. Carlos Trujillo
Sen. Wilton Simpson
Sen. Anitere Flores
Sen. Bill Galvano
Sen. Jack Latvala
Sen. Oscar Braynon
Sen. Lauren Book …

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'Great to see Ivanka Trump last night'

Ivanka Trump and Gov. Rick Scott


Ivanka Trump and Gov. Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott this morning tweeted a photo of him and Ivanka Trump from last night's Governors' Ball at the White House.

Scott, who had lunch with Trump on Saturday, remains in Washington. This morning he and other governors attended a meeting at the White House and at 12:30 p.m., Scott is to meet with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos followed by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

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