Florida Five: Parents fight for scholarship program, Rubio banned

Five of today’s top Florida political stories at your fingertips:

Rubio-SenateFloorNicaragua bans Marco Rubio, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from travel over Venezuela sanctions – Nicaragua’s president says he is banning U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from traveling to the Central American country because, he says, he is protesting the Venezuala sanctions the Republican lawmakers helped pass Wednesday in Congress, according to The Tico Times. “Just like they [U.S. officials] have their lists, we can make our own lists in Latin America of those who shouldn’t enter our country,” Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega told The Tico Times during a meeting with Venezuelan officials in his country. Rubio, via Twitter, mocked Ortega’s decision: “Oh no! My summer vacation plans are ruined!” Read more

Parents fight suit trying to shut down scholarship program — In private school, the daughters of Cheryl Joseph are at least one grade level ahead of their peers. They learn in small classes; study karate, chess and gardening during the day; and they enjoy going to school. Joseph, a single mother of four, says she can only send her children to Academy Prep Center of Tampa because of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Under the program, companies fund private-school scholarships for poor children then get tax credits equal to their donations. Joseph is one of 15 parents across the state who are pushing back against a new lawsuit that calls the program unconstitutional and aims to shut it down. Read more

Gov. Scott’s newest appointments winning praise – Gov. Rick Scott is reshaping his administration for a second term and is surprisingly winning accolades from some of his critics for his choices to lead key state agencies over the next four years. It may be a sign of experience that Scott, a political outsider who came to Tallahassee four years ago vowing to end business as usual in the state government, has gained after four years in office. And it may reflect the realization that it is easier to change large, complicated state programs by relying on administrators who are well versed in the intricacies of those agencies. Read more

Federal prosecutors in Florida’s Middle District collect record cash — In addition to putting bad guys behind bars, federal prosecutors are responsible for getting back money cheated from U.S. taxpayers and victims of federal crime. Lately, they’ve been retrieving a lot of money. This past fiscal year, the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Middle District of Florida had its best year ever, collecting more than $367 million in civil and criminal penalties and seized assets, officials said. “Our office works very efficiently,” said U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley, who noted the entire budget for the office is about $23 million. Read more

Gov. Scott visits New York City on recruitment trip – Florida Gov. Rick Scott is visiting New York City to try to recruit businesses and jobs to his state. A spokeswoman said Scott was scheduled to arrive Sunday. His schedule will include a visit with Motorola officials as well as visits with financial institutions. Scott is also scheduled to appear on CNBC on Monday. Scott made job growth a centerpiece of his re-election campaign. Read more

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