Florida Five: Fla. politicians’ reactions to SOTU, ‘Charter’ school district idea revived

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

Compilation of Florida politicians reactions to the State of the Union – Refusing to bend to the new Republican Congress, President Barack Obama unveiled Tuesday night an ambitious State of the Union agenda steeped in Democratic priorities, including tax increases on the wealthy, education and child care help for the middle class and a torrent of veto threats for the GOP’s own plans. In a shift from tradition, Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress was less a laundry list of new proposals and more an attempt to sell a story of a national economy emerging from the “shadow of crisis.” He appealed for “better politics” in Washington and pledged to work with Republicans, but he showed few signs of curtailing or tweaking his own plans to meet the GOP’s platform. Here is a compilation of Florida politicians’ reaction to the speech. Read more

In Spanish, GOP rebuttal to State of the Union mentions Cuba – but not in English – Newly elected Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo was given the (generally thankless) task Tuesday of delivering the Republican Party’s Spanish-language rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst responded in English. The two freshmen’s remarks were mostly the same. They differed, as expected, on matters of biography: Ernst spoke about having a single pair of shoes growing up in Iowa winters, Curbelo said he grew up “in Miami, one of the country’s most diverse cities.” Read more

Scott and Atwater
Photo credit: Tampa Bay Times

Atwater breaks with Gov. Scott who suggests he’s cleaning house – Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater became the first Cabinet member to fully break with Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday in calling for the reopening of the search for a new commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Two other Cabinet members, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, said they were reviewing their options, and it was the strongest sign yet that all three elected officials, under fire for not questioning the forced resignation of former FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey, are distancing themselves from Scott, now engulfed in a full-blown crisis barely two weeks into his second term. Just last week, Atwater, Bondi and Putnam — all Republicans — unanimously supported Scott’s appointment of Rick Swearingen as the new FDLE commissioner. Read more

Florida lawmaker revives old idea of ‘charter’ school districts – Back about 15 years ago, the Florida Legislature gave school districts the opportunity to apply for charter status, freeing them from many of the rules and limitations that the state imposes on public education. Hillsborough County won the label. So, too, did Volusia and Palm Beach counties. The districts tinkered around the edges of the rules for some years, finding some ease of restrictions in areas such as purchasing. They had to apply for state waivers from the rules, and lost perhaps as many as they won. After a while, with nothing really to show for the effort, the pilot project quietly died off. Read more

Scott calls for consumer-tax cut for phones, TV service – Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday proposed a $470 million cut to a state tax that consumers pay on cellphones, land lines and TV services. The Governor’s Office said a family spending $100 a month on cellphones and cable or satellite TV would save about $43 annually from the reduction. “As we put money back in families’ hands — guess what? — they can pay the rent, they can buy a car, help keep our economy going, maybe even start a business,” Scott said during a news conference at the Seminole County Chamber of Commerce. The governor called on lawmakers to slash the tax during the upcoming regular session that starts March 3. Read more

Bonus 2016 watch: Hiaasen: Jeb could ruin Hillary’s political run

For more Florida political news, visit BPR’s FLORIDA NEWS page

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