Summer gaming session coming? — Bondi takes on Facebook — GOP tax plan boosts Heritage’s bottom line — ‘Uneducated’ gaffe continues

By Marc Caputo (; @MarcACaputo) and Matt Dixon (; @Mdixon55), with Emily Goldberg (; @ejgold94) and the staff of POLITICO Florida

Good Friday. The week ends with the now-open speculation that lawmakers will be brought back to Tallahassee in the middle of election season for a special session on gaming. If they come back, it means a deal has been reached — and the state can tap a revenue vein flowing with gambling cash. That we know. What we also know is that the prospect of a gaming deal ahead of the likely passage of a ballot amendment that will make expansion much tougher is on everyone’s minds. It will almost certainly prompt gaming interests to open their political checkbooks to help get what they see as a last chance for a deal.

There are new pressures tied to the amendment (which is polling well), but there is also a normalcy to the regular murmur of gaming special session rumors. It reminds me of walking into the Capitol a few years ago with a longtime gaming lobbyist who will remain unnamed. Once again, gaming special sessions were floating through the hallways. I asked him about the rumors, and how things were going.

His reply?

“Feel like I’ve been doing this same thing for 20 years.”


THEY’RE BACK? — “Financial, political pressure prompt open talk of gaming special session,” by POLITICO Florida’s Arek Sarkissian and Matt Dixon: With the regular legislative session barely in the rearview mirror, there are public murmurings that a special session for gaming could be in the works, a decision that would have both far reaching political and policy consequences. Both chambers would like to hammer out a deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which could bring in much-needed state revenue, but the House and Senate have had vastly different ideas on how to move forward. State Rep. Jose Oliva (R-Miami Lakes) said he and state Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), both incoming presiding officers, have already made plenty of headway toward a delicately balanced deal that also passes muster with the Seminoles. Much of this work will influence the draft bill that lawmakers will consider if they are ordered back to Tallahassee. Read more

NOT THE NORM — “Florida an outlier on restoring felons’ rights,” by Ocala Star Banner’s Dara Kam: “Florida voters this fall will get to decide whether convicted felons who’ve served their time and paid restitution should automatically have voting rights restored. But in the meantime, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet have a month to revamp what U.S. District Judge Mark Walker called the state’s “fatally flawed” current rights-restoration process. Walker issued an order late Tuesday that was the latest salvo in the battle over voting rights in Florida, one of just a handful of states that don’t have some sort of automatic restoration of the right to vote for ex-felons.” Read more

GOOD GIG — “Florida lawmakers’ wives on new charter school boards,” by the Tampa Bay Times’ Emily L. Mahoney: “Though far removed geographically from each other, two new Florida charter schools share an uncommon feature: They both have a board member who is married to a state lawmaker heavily involved in crafting state policy on charter schools. Anne Corcoran, the founder of a charter school in Pasco County, is assisting with a new Tallahassee school. She’s married to Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes. Erika Donalds, the founder of a charter school in Collier County, is leading the effort to open a new Martin County school. Her husband is Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, who shepherded Speaker Corcoran’s bill on vouchers for bullied students through the House.” Read more

SHOWDOWN — “Florida attorney general wants in-person meeting with Facebook,” by the Tampa Bay Times’ Lawrence Mower: “One of Attorney General Pam Bondi’s top deputies is demanding an in-person meeting with executives at Facebook to talk about the release of more than 50 million users’ personal information. In a Wednesday letter to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Bondi’s Privacy Bureau chief, Patrice Malloy, wrote that she expects a meeting set up by the end of the week.” Read more

EDUCATION POLITICS — “The frontrunners for Florida governor are still a question mark but the many education issues that will play big in the race are not,” by The 74’s David Cantor:“In the summer of 1996, a veteran advocate for Miami’s black community and his colleague, an affluent white real estate developer and failed conservative candidate, received important news: their proposal for a charter school, the first in Florida, had been approved by the Dade County school board just weeks after Gov. Lawton Chiles signed a bill that allowed charters. The founders of the new school, which would serve one of Miami’s most troubled neighborhoods, spoke about changing the mindset they’d seen in traditional schools. ‘When 35 of 37 kids in a class flunk, we don’t challenge the abilities of the teacher,’ said T. Willard Fair, president of the Urban League. Fair was a co-sponsor with the most influential advocate of the new charter law and the man Chiles defeated two years earlier: Jeb Bush.” Read more

SORTING FACT FROM LIES — “Fact-checking claims about the Parkland students and gun violence,” by PolitiFact: Since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead, students from Parkland, Fla., have taken to the airwaves and mounted protests asking Congress to take action against gun violence. The student activists are now facing a backlash, and PolitiFact has spent the last week fact-checking claims against them — many of them pants-on-fire wrong. Read more here

WINNING — “Trump’s tax plan saves Heritage insurance $21.3 million,” by POLITICO Florida’s Alexandra Glorioso: President Donald Trump’s new tax law is saving Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance $21.3 million, according to its recent Security and Exchange Commissionfiling. "The Company has completed its accounting for the impact of the effective tax rate change from 35 percent to 21 percent. As a result, the Company recorded a $21.3 million benefit to operations for the reduction in the deferred tax liability as of December 22, 2017," the filing states. Read story here


#METOO CANDIDATES — “Women seize on their past abuse to fuel political ambition,” by CNN’s Kyung Lah and Alberto Moya: “Hell yeah!” said Mary Barzee Flores, as she weighed whether to run for Congress. In Florida’s 27th congressional district, Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was retiring, making the diverse district a likely gain for Democrats. In a crowded field, Barzee Flores, a first time candidate, needed to introduce herself to voters. She chose to begin with an on-the-job assault by her manager when she was just 17 years old.

Barzee Flores was working at a Pizza Hut near her home, a job she desperately needed in the months that followed her father’s sudden death. She had discovered the Pizza Hut manager’s wife was stealing money and reported the theft. When the woman was fired, Barzee Flores was promoted to the job formerly held by the wife of the manager. Read more

ON SECOND THOUGHT — “Rubio changes tune on philosophers,” by Inside Higher Ed’s Paul Fain: “Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, repeatedly criticized the academic discipline of philosophy during his campaign to become the GOP’s presidential candidate in 2016. “I don’t know why we have stigmatized vocational education,” Rubio said during one debate. ‘Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.’ That statement in some ways anticipated recent comments by President Trump, who has suggested that community colleges change their names to vocational schools. Rubio, however, has changed his tune — partially, at least.” Read more

WALKING BACK — “Are most people in this Congress district ‘uneducated?’ Candidate says she misspoke,” by Miami Herald’s David Smiley: “Most people living in the congressional district represented by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen are ‘uneducated,’ a Miami Beach commissioner seeking the seat said this week during a candidates’ forum. ‘There’s a perception that this is a very wealthy district. Out of the 740,000 people, only about 190,000 have college degrees, 90,000 have graduate degrees,’ said Kristen Rosen Gonzalez. ‘But the vast majority of people in this district are uneducated.’ Rosen Gonzalez, one of eight Democrats seeking the party’s nomination in August, made the comment during a Tuesday evening forum for the women seeking to represent Florida’s 27th congressional district. The event was moderated by Nancy Ancrum, editor of the Miami Herald Editorial Board, which quoted the latter part of the candidate’s statement on its Twitter account. Read more

THE POCKETBOOK — “Advertisers pull ads from Fox’s Ingraham after her jab at Parkland student,” by POLITICO’s Cristiano Lima: At least two companies will heed calls from a survivor of the Florida high school shooting to drop their advertisements on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News program after the host mocked the student on Twitter. Nutrish, celebrity cook Rachael Ray’s dog food company, announced on Thursday that it was “in the process of removing ads from Laura Ingraham’s program.” TripAdvisor, the American travel website, told POLITICO that it had “made a decision to stop advertising on that program.” “We believe strongly in the values of our company, especially the one that says, ‘We are better together,’” a TripAdvisor spokesperson said in an email. “We also believe Americans can disagree while still being agreeable, and that the free exchange of ideas within a community, in a peaceful manner, is the cornerstone of our democracy.” Read story here

MAKING MOVES — “King cuts digital ad pledging assault weapons ban,” by POLITICO Florida’s Sergio Bustos: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King’s campaign today unveiled a new digital ad, "March On," to promote his promise to ban assault weapons and support universal background checks to reduce gun violence in Florida. The ad, which is aimed at Democratic Florida voters on Facebook, features footage of the Winter Park businessman at last Saturday’s "March for Our Lives" event in Orlando. Read story here

MORE WORK AHEAD — DeVos: There’s ‘much more to be done’ to keep schools safe despite declining crime,” by POLITICO’s Benjamin Wermund: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Thursday morning there is “much more to be done” to keep schools safe, despite new federal data showing crimes on campus have declined sharply over the past two decades. "While there are positive trends in the annual report on crime and school safety, we know — and tragically have been reminded in recent weeks — there is much more to be done to keep our nation’s students and teachers safe at school," DeVos said in a statement. “The Federal Commission on School Safety is committed to working quickly to identify and highlight best practices and solutions that state and local leaders can implement to improve school safety.” Read story here

CENSUS FLAP — “Marco Rubio doesn’t see a problem with Trump Census. Emma Gonzalez probably does,” by WLRN’s Tim Padget: Read more

INFRASTRUCTURE WEEK! — “Trump talks infrastructure, North Korea — not Stormy Daniels — at Ohio rally,” by The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker: Read more

HE’S BACK — “Trump headed back to Mar-a-Lago,” by the Tampa Bay Times’ Alex Leary: Read more


OUT — “UCF student to be deported after ‘disturbing behavior,’ high-powered rifle purchases,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Michael Williams: “An international student at UCF, who owned high-powered rifles and alarmed police with his ‘disturbing behavior,’ is being deported to China after a judge found him to be out of compliance with his visa, officials said. Wenliang Sun, 26, came to the attention of UCF police after university staff reported a ‘dramatic change’ in his appearance and behavior — including spending nearly $70,000 cash on a new car ‘out of the blue’ — the university said in a news release. Officials acknowledged Thursday that Sun never made threats against the university or student body. Instead, police became concerned after noticing several ‘red flags’ about his behavior, UCFPD Chief Richard Beary said.” Read more

— “Huizenga remembered by family, colleagues and community at Fort Lauderdale public service,” by Sun Sentinel’s Marcia Heroux Pounds: Read more

— “Community invited to discussion on race,” by Tyra Jackson: Read more


— “Gulf wildfire tops 8,000 acres; no homes endangered,” by Panama City News Herald’s Stephanie Nusbaum: Read more

— “Hazing suspect surrenders ahead of plea agreement,” by Tallahassee Democrat’s Karl Etters: Read more

— “FAMU trustee faces BOG after $1 million in ‘unbudgeted’ athletics expenses,” by Tallahassee Democrat’s Byron Dobson: Read more

— “JEA committee survives, but speakers won’t swear oaths,” by The Florida Times-Union’s David Bauerlein: Read more

— “FSU lifts alcohol ban on student groups,” by AP: Read more

— “Jackson CEO gets $100K pay raise to run Miami public hospital system,” by Miami Herald’s Daniel Chang: Read more

— “Florida high school shooting suspect’s brother pleads no contest to trespassing,” by AP: Read more

— “Feds order Deltona firm to stop selling sexual dysfunction, diet drugs,” by The Daytona Beach News Journal’s Frank Fernandez: Read more

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