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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Trump golfed more than a 'couple' holes in Florida

The WHite House today acknowledged that President Trump played more than a "a couple" holes of golf yesterday in Florida.

"As stated yesterday the President played golf. He intended to play a few holes and decided to play longer," spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. "He also had a full day of meetings, calls and interviews for the new NSA, which he is continuing today before returning to Washington, D.C. Tonight."

Turns out Trump was golfing with Rory McIlroy. Trump also played Saturday, though his spokeswoman described it as "a couple" holes and would not identify his partners.

Trump has been in Florida since Friday -- his third consecutive weekend visit to Mar-a-Lago.

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Military jets buzz planes that violated restricted airspace while Trump in Florida

The following is from the Palm Beach Post:

At least nine planes violated temporary flight restrictions through Monday morning for President Donald Trump’s Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago stay, with at least two of those having the unique experience of being buzzed by military jets, federal officials confirmed this morning to The Palm Beach Post.

Eight of those crossed the line on Friday alone, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.

Hawaii dealt with its own flight restriction hassles when President Obama visited.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said F-15s from Homestead intercepted one pilot around 7 p.m. Friday and another around noon Sunday.

Friday’s encounter “required the Air Force F-15s from Homestead Air National Guard Base to travel at supersonic speeds, a sound noticed by area residents,” NORAD said in a release.

Full story here.

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Disparities in school recess revealed by Legislature's research survey

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.

For more than a year, whenever a “recess mom” has come to the Florida Capitol and pleaded with lawmakers, they have told stories of their child’s lack of access to daily recess — offering anecdotes from their child’s school or school district to showcase the inequities of unstructured playtime offered in Florida’s public schools.

Informal surveys of parents in some counties, like Pinellas or Miami-Dade, have seemed to support their assertions.

IN-DEPTH: “Quest for daily recess: Moms renew fight for more free play in Florida Legislature”

But if lawmakers need official, solid evidence of the disparities in school recess, they need look no further than the findings of their own research analysts.

The Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability (OPPAGA) last fall surveyed all 67 county school districts about their recess policies and also sought responses from 2,900 public elementary and middle schools.

The results revealed broad inconsistencies in whether school districts and specific schools actually offer daily recess, and if they do, how frequently and for how long. …

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Liberal activists plan 'empty chair' town hall for Rubio in Tampa

Liberal activists in Tampa on Wednesday will hold an “empty chair” town hall on behalf of Sen. Marco Rubio, part of an ongoing campaign that borrows from tea party tactics.

“Join fellow Tampa Bay constituents as our invited (yet unconfirmed) guest Senator Marco Rubio hears and responds to constituent questions, concerns and issues brought forth in a format of an organized Q&A style evening,” reads a Facebook notice from Indivisible Tampa.

Rubio won’t be anywhere near Tampa, Miami or Washington. He’s in Europe this week.

The Republican has been the target of regular protests outside his Tampa office (and elsewhere around these state) and detractors say he’s not paying attention to Florida or being responsive to constituent concerns.

Rubio’s Tampa staff is meeting with a small group before Wednesday, according to a message one activist left for the Tampa Bay Times. But organizers say Rubio himself should be available.

A Rubio spokesman last week was dismissive of the tactics and said staff had met with “dozens of these liberal activists.”

"Their goal is to flood offices with calls and emails and then go to the press and claim they aren't getting a response," a statement read. …

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As Rick Scott and House wage war, Senate steps back

Gov. Rick Scott


Gov. Rick Scott

Almost three weeks have passed since open warfare erupted between Florida House Republicans and Gov. Rick Scott over a major philosophical - but increasingly personal - disagreement over the role of government when it comes to business recruitment and tourism.

But while the House and Scott are in full crisis mode and threatening one another politically, the Florida Senate has been restrained in their reaction and seemingly avoiding being drawn directly into the fire.

Initially, Sen. Jack Latvala was quick to call the House idea of completely eliminating Enteprise Florida and Visit Florida the “dumbest thing” he had heard, but even the outspoken Clearwater Republican has been unusually restrained.

Scott's even tried to draw Senators into the crossfire. Last week while ripping House Republicans during a statewide tour, Scott was sure to specifically praise Latvala and Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, for their support of Enterprise Florida. And in one stop in Panama City, Scott has Sen. George Gainer, R-Panama City, by his side. Still, Senators have been largely outside of the fray.

What gives? …

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Rubio in Europe this week for talks on 'Russian aggression'

Sen. Marco Rubio will be in Europe this week for "multiple bilateral meetings" with German and French officials, according to Rubio's office.

The trip comes as Congress is on recess.

"Senator Rubio is traveling overseas this week to attend multiple bilateral meetings with heads of state and senior government officials in Germany and France, two countries with upcoming elections who are facing concerns about Russian interference," reads a note posted on Facebook.

"As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Appropriations Committee, and Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator Rubio is conducting this official oversight trip to discuss the U.S./E.U. relationship, NATO operations, counter-ISIS activities, foreign assistance programs, and Russian aggression in Europe."

Rubio did not attend the Munich Security Conference over the weekened, his staff said, due to "extended Senate business on Friday."

He'll be traveling with his wife, Jeanette.

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PolitiFact Florida: Rick Scott's defense of agencies off the mark

Gov. Rick Scott

[Andrew Wardlow/News Herald via AP]

Gov. Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott is painting fellow Republicans as job-killers for their support of a bill that would decimate the state's agencies for tourism promotion and business incentives.

Scott has escalated his feud with House Speaker Richard Corcoran by calling out legislators on their own turf for votes in committee to dismantle Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida. Scott credits these two groups for helping usher 1.2 million private-sector jobs into the state since he was elected.

In his view, a vote to eliminate the agencies is a vote against jobs.

At a stop of the "Fighting for Florida's Jobs" tour in Flagler Beach, Scott targeted the bill's sponsor, Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast.

"Your politicians in Tallahassee today are saying, in your area, that they don't need any more jobs," Scott said Feb. 13 to business leaders and constituents at Vessel Sandwich Co. "That is exactly what Rep. Paul Renner said."

Scott continued, "He said, 'I will sponsor the bill to eliminate marketing for tourists.' He sponsored the bill to do that and to get rid of Visit Florida."

Scott is using the jobs argument a lot lately (though not for the employees who work at the agencies). …

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Tampa Bay Democrats follow tea party playbook to take on Trump era

Sandra Duenas joined about 150 protesters from a variety of local groups for a demonstration Tuesday in front of the Tampa district office of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on West Kennedy Blvd. Groups challenging President Trump have coalesced, locally and nationwide, through a how-to manual titled "The Indivisible Guide.

James Borchuk

Sandra Duenas joined about 150 protesters from a variety of local groups for a demonstration Tuesday in front of the Tampa district office of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on West Kennedy Blvd. Groups challenging President Trump have coalesced, locally and nationwide, through a how-to manual titled "The Indivisible Guide.

From Tony Marrero:

The married couple stood on the sidewalk in front of the gleaming high rise, clutching pink posters as traffic zoomed by on West Kennedy Boulevard.

It was Valentine's Day, and Andrea Beley and Gaston Naranjo of Tampa had joined about 150 other demonstrators to send a message to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. This day, the group was largely focused on getting Rubio to hold a town hall meeting.

"I don't feel like I have a senator," said Beley, a 64-year-old retired university professor, as she held a holiday-inspired sign that read, "Rubio, Wherefore Art Thou?" "He seems like he's disappeared."

The weekly demonstrations at Rubio's Tampa office are among the most visible signs of a national grassroots movement taking hold in Tampa Bay. The goal: Block President Donald Trump's agenda by pressuring members of Congress at home. …

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'A tough spot': 20 more House Republicans have to choose between Rick Scott and Richard Corcoran

It's robo-call time for 20 more Republicans in the Florida House. They are the GOP members of the House Appropriations Committee who are set to vote Tuesday on one of Speaker Richard Corcoran's top priorities: a bill dismantling Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida (HB 7005).

This is the issue that has created a major rift between Corcoran and Gov. Rick Scott, who supports retaining the two programs that Corcoran calls "corporate welfare" and "the government picking winners and losers." Scott has aggressively turned up the heat on the bill's supporters, including robo-calls to their constituents, a tactic usually seen in the heat of an election campaign.

FullSizeRender(13)Eleven of the 20 GOP members on Appropriations are from South Florida or Tampa Bay, including Reps. George Moraitis, R-Fort Lauderdale; Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo; Larry Ahern, R-Seminole; Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami; and Jose Felix "Pepi" Diaz, R-Miami (in photo), who said Tuesday's vote will simply keep the debate going. …

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Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics

Winner of the week

Andrew Gillum. The little-known 37-year-old mayor of Tallahassee may seem like a longshot for governor, but as the crowd of white Democrats looking at running grows (Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Orlando businessman Chris King, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, lawyer John Morgan of Orlando, among them) the odds of anAfrican-American candidate winning the primary where 30 percent of the voters are black seems not so bleak.

Loser of the week

Richard Corcoran. The problem for politicians holding themselves as holier-than-though ideological purists is that they tend to be vulnerable to hypocrisy charges. So when Florida House Speaker Corcoran -- the ultimate Tallahassee political insider casting himself as a warrior against Tallahassee insiders -- bars the public and press from attending a meeting of Republican legislators viewing a taxpayer-funded video, his claim to be a champion of transparency rings hollow.

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Trump welcomes a super fan onto the stage in Melbourne

President Donald Trump in Melbourne

Screen capture

President Donald Trump in Melbourne

Donald Trump dismissed security concerns and welcomed a man onto the stage in Melbourne on Saturday, a splash of showmanship in a rally that made you think the campaign was still going.

"I'm only worried he's going to give me a kiss," Trump joked. "Come on up."

The man is Gene Huber of Boynton Beach, per the Palm Beach Post's George Bennett. Media reports indicated Huber had been on line many hours before the rally.

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A billionaire for Florida governor?

Jeff Greene

Tampa Bay Times

Jeff Greene

Add another potentially game-changing name to the prospective Democratic candidates for governor in 2018. Billionaire Palm Beach resident and former U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Greene.

"I've been approached by a lot of people, and I've had conversations with people that have approached me," said Greene, who lost the 2010 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate to Kendrick Meek after spending about $23 million of his own money.

Though we hear Greene has been talking to political consultants about a potential run, Greene downplayed his interest to The Buzz and said he is not actively looking at it.

Greene said he is largely focused on his "Closing the Gap" conference set for April in Palm Beach. It will explore how to improve opportunities for all of society. Scheduled speakers include former British Prime Minister David Cameron, former Apple CEO John Sculley, columnist Thomas Friedman, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

"It's certainly something that I haven't ruled out if it made sense," Greene said. …

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Trump calls the news media 'enemy of the American people'

Trump tweet


Trump tweet

President Trump on Friday leveled his most acerbic attack on the news media, calling the free press "the enemy of the American people."

Trump launched the salvo after arriving at Mar-a-Lago, his third visit in as many weeks.

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It could be a long legislative session for Shawn Harrison

Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa

[Special to the Times]

Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa

Here's the latest from William March: 

State Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, is "caught between a rock and a hard place," as Mayor Bob Buckhorn put it, in the internecine GOP feud over business incentives and tourism marketing.

That probably makes prospects dim for Harrison to push through appropriations he wanted for University of South Florida, and projects for New Tampa and the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority.

The rock: Gov. Rick Scott, who wants to continue funding the Enterprise Florida Inc. and Visit Florida and has the option of vetoing appropriations requested by legislators who don't go along.

The hard place: House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who adamantly opposes Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida and can squash any House member's legislative initiatives.

In the coming legislative session, Harrison had hoped to seek $500,000 to expand the TBARTA van pool program; $6.5 million for a New Tampa Cultural and Emergency Center; and $9 million for a science teaching and research facility at USF. …

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Rick Scott ratchets up feud with House Republicans

Gov. Rick Scott


Gov. Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott isn't done singling out Republicans in the Florida House of Representatives who voted against one of his biggest priorities.

Following a week that he toured the state publicly calling out Republicans for voting to kill Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, Scott is now using a political action committee he controls to launch automated telephone calls to voters in 9 key House districts to complain about those legislators even more.

"Unfortunately your state Rep - Paul Renner - is playing politics with Florida jobs," Scott said on the recorded phone call in Jacksonville. "He voted to kill our state tourism and jobs program and that will destroy our economy and will lead to higher taxes."

The ad is paid for by Let's Get to Work, the governor's political committee. …

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