Florida Five: Florida kicks NY to the curb, Satanic temple’s Capitol display damaged

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

The-Sunshine-StateFlorida overtakes New York as third most populous U.S. state – Florida has leapfrogged New York to rank as the third most populous U.S. state, the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday, reflecting demographic trends that are reshaping American politics and culture, along with state bragging rights. With 19.9 million residents, Florida surpassed New York by a slim margin to rank behind two other warm-weather states: California, population 38.8 million; and Texas, 27 million. New York, while still growing, dropped to fourth with 19.7 million residents, the July 2014 tally found, continuing the state’s longtime slide from the top of the national rankings. Read more

Satanic temple’s Capitol display damaged – A woman was charged with criminal mischief Tuesday after the Satanic Temple’s holiday diorama in the Florida Capitol was damaged. Susan Hemeryck, 54, of Tallahassee, entered the Capitol at 11:23 a.m. and told an on-duty police officer that “she was sorry and had to take the Satanic display,” according to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement probable-cause affidavit. When the woman was advised not to remove the temple’s fallen-angel display from its table, the affidavit said Hemeryck “reached forward and began to rip apart the display.” The first-floor display is set up in the middle of the hallway leading toward the offices of Attorney General Pam Bondi and Gov. Rick Scott, feet from a post where Capitol police work at metal detectors. Read more

In 2008 Obama said normalization with Cuba would require Democratic reforms, Mario Diaz-Balart says – President Barack Obama’s announcement that the United States and Cuba would proceed toward normalized relations put Miami’s Cuban-American GOP Congressional delegation in the national spotlight. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Reps Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen held a press conference Dec. 18 to bash Obama’s announcement. Diaz-Balart characterized Obama’s position as a significant change from what he said during the 2008 campaign. Back in 2008, during Obama’s first White House bid, the future president said that “before normalization would take place, there would have to be liberation of all political prisoners and some basic steps toward freedom, including freedom of the press, political parties, labor unions, etc.,” Diaz-Balart said at the press conference. Read more

The Buzz: Senate President Gardiner talks about his priorities – Senate President Andy Gardiner laid out his session priorities in an informational meeting with reporters last week and said he will be focused on implementing Amendment 1, bringing more tax relief to Floridians and finding ways to help special-needs students get broader employment opportunities. Gardiner, R-Orlando, who was sworn in for the two-year term as Senate president in November, touched on several high-profile issues that are likely to become the focus of the 60-day session in March. Read more

State sues Naples businessman, saying he bilked elderly people out of millions – State Attorney General Pam Bondi has sued a Naples businessman on racketeering and fraud charges, alleging he stole millions of dollars from victims nationwide — many of them elderly — by making false promises and offering stocks that turned out to be worthless. The state’s lawsuit alleges that since 2003, David Locke Gothard and his companies engaged in racketeering and other illegal activity in Florida that continues today. The defendants transferred patents between themselves, solicited investors by using false representations about patents, their “alter ego” companies and products, which produced no sales, the lawsuit says, alleging they then created bogus documents to operate a “patent assertion entity,” collecting millions in illegally-obtained funds. Read more

Jeb 2016 watch: Chris Christie says — what else? — Jeb Bush won’t factor in presidential decision

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