Florida Five: Rand Paul wows Sarasota, Mayor working to raise statewide profile

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

Sen. Rand Paul honored by Sarasota County Republicans at an airport rally on Saturday – Sounding more and more like a candidate for the Republican nomination for president next year, Kentucky’s independent-minded, constitutionally conservative junior U.S. Senator, Rand Paul, jetted into Sarasota on Valentine’s Day evening to accept an award as Republican of the Year from the Sarasota County Republican Party. Paul spoke briefly Saturday to a rally of supporters and well-wishers at the Dolphin Aviation facility on the grounds of the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, followed by a private fundraising dinner at the Bobby Jones Golf Complex in Sarasota. Read more

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn working to raise statewide profile – City elections are less than three weeks away, but Bob Buckhorn is looking a lot farther into the future than March 3. The first-term mayor faces only token opposition for re-election to the nonpartisan job — a write-in candidate who once tried to run for the Legislature while in prison. Still, he has burned through half of the $396,000 his campaign has raised by running television ads and funding robocalls. But the real campaign-style work the moderate Democrat has been engaged in is outside Tampa, including a regular gig on a Miami talk-radio station and a new political action committee with a decidedly statewide name, One Florida. Read more

Bill would give Florida more education funding – The White House is criticizing a Republican bill that would raise — by about $30 million — the amount of money going to schools with low-income students. President Barack Obama’s proposed fiscal 2016 budget includes an increase of more than twice that amount: from about $775 million this year to about $840 million next year.  Money isn’t the only reason the administration doesn’t like the GOP’s Student Success Act, a re-authorization of broad education programs passed by the House Education and the Workforce Committee Wednesday. Read more

Arrests made after hundreds of teens cause riot at Florida movie theater – Orange County deputies are trying to figure out why hundreds of teenagers suddenly rushed into the movie theater at West Oaks Mall in Ocoee Saturday night. Deputies said as many as 900 kids, described as being in middle or high school, attempted to rush the theater at once. “My anxiety hit the roof. I was like, ‘How do we get out?’” said moviegoer Jessica Weckerly. Nearly 300 teenagers were able to get in before the security gates were closed. Police said a group of about 100 rushed into the theater and continued causing a disturbance. Read more

Fla. House bill targets outdoor gun ranges— A homemade outdoor shooting range stirred tension in a Tampa Bay neighborhood that has rippled clear to the Legislature and a debate over whether Floridians should be allowed to fire guns on their own property. Some were surprised to learn, through news reports this month about a St. Petersburg man’s firing range of sand and wooden pallets, that state law allows people to shoot pistols and rifles outside their homes. Joseph Carannante, who lives in the Lakewood Estates neighborhood, took down the setup before firing a shot, but that was enough for state Rep. Darryl Rouson to file a bill (HB 623) outlawing them. Read more

2016 Watch: Barbara Bush changes tune on electing another President Bush

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