Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS!
In Florida, odd number years are just as busy as even numbered ones.
There’s big city municipal elections; a never-ending legislative session; and turmoil in the state’s political parties. And with major statewide elections coming up in 2018, every day could be the next governor could announce his (or her) candidacy.
Want to be in the know? Here’s a few key dates to help you get through 2017 (and help you plan for 2018):
Jan. 14 — The fight for the future of the Florida Democratic Party could come to an end (or at least put on pause) when the state party meets in Orlando to elect its next chair.
Jan. 20 — Hail to the chief! President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. Don’t worry, it’s unlikely he’ll give up his title as tweeter-in-chief once he takes the oath of office.
Jan. 27 — The Senate deadline to submit requests for drafts of general bills and joint resolutions. It’s also the deadline for House member bill request submissions subject to opening day filing (except for appropriations project bills).
February — More money, more problems? Gov. Rick Scott must submit his budget recommendations at least 30 days before the start of the annual 60-day legislative session.
Feb. 14 — Want to know how much lobbying firms made in the fourth quarter of 2016? Firms have until 11:59 p.m. to file the quarterly compensation reports with the state. [And if you don’t want to land in the doghouse with your loved one, don’t forget it’s also Valentine’s Day.]
Feb. 17 — The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy will host its 17th annual Celebration of Reading at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa in Bonita Springs. Last year was one of the first years former Gov. Jeb Bush (who along with wife, Columba, founded the event) missed the celebration. With no primary in New Hampshire to worry about, will he be on hand for this year’s festivities?
March 6 — Every 20 years, Florida’s Constitution gets a makeover and 37 Floridians get a chance to help give it a face-lift. Expect appointments to the Florida Constitution Revision Commission to be made by today.
March 7 — It might be one of Tallahassee florists’ favorite day of the year, the start of the annual 60-day Legislative Session. The 2017 Legislative Session convenes at noon.
March 21 — Welcome to the Florida Capitol! The Florida Chamber of Commerce will host its annual Florida Chamber Capitol Days. The event runs through March 23.
April 15 — Federal candidates need to turn in their campaign finance reports covering the first quarter of 2017. (It’s also Tax Day, so make sure your taxes are in the mail).
April 25 — Ten days left until the end of the legislative session. If your bill isn’t bound for a floor vote by now, it’s unlikely it will pass.
May 5 — Drop that hanky, it’s Sine Die.
May 15 — Want to know how much lobbying firms made in the first quarter of 2017? Firms have until 11:59 p.m. to file the quarterly compensation reports with the state.
June 30 — Thinking of running for Republican Leader-designate? Under new House rules, candidates can’t directly or indirectly solicit or accept “formal or informal pledges of support” before June 30 of their first full term of office.
July 1 — The 2017-18 fiscal year begins.
July 4 — Bring on the fireworks! It’s time to wish the United States “happy birthday.”
July 15 — Federal candidates need to turn in their campaign finance reports covering the second quarter of 2017.
Aug. 14 — Want to know how much lobbying firms made in the first second of 2017? Firms have until 11:59 p.m. to file the quarterly compensation reports with the state.
Aug. 29 — St. Petersburg voters will head to the voting booths for municipal primaries.
Sept. 2 — Are you ready for some football? Florida State University will face the University of Alabama at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Home games more your thing?
Oct. 15 — Federal candidates need to turn in their campaign finance reports covering the third quarter of 2017.
Nov. 7 — Voters in St. Petersburg, Orlando, Miami, Miami Beach, head to the polls for municipal general elections. Also of note: Nov. 7 is one year out from the 2018 general election (Election Day 2018 is Nov. 6). Why is that important? Well in 2013, former Gov. Charlie Crist announced his plans to run for governor as a Democrat exactly one year out from the 2014 gubernatorial election.
Nov. 14 — Want to know how much lobbying firms made in the third quarter of 2017? Firms have until 11:59 p.m. to file the quarterly compensation reports with the state.
September through December — With the 2018 Legislative Session scheduled to start in January, expect the fall calendar to be filled with committee meetings.
Dec. 31 — Say goodbye to 2017, and hello 2018. The big question we’ll be asking as we countdown to midnight: Who has (or hasn’t) declared a 2018 run, and is it too late for them to jump in?
***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Business. Bright House Networks Business Solutions is now Spectrum Business, and we are committed to delivering your business with superior business Internet, Phone, and TV services to help power your success. We offer the best value in business with the fastest Internet for the price, advanced phone with unlimited long distance, cloud-based Hosted Voice, and reliable TV – all delivered over our reliable, state-of-the-art, fiber-rich network. Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Spectrum Business. Learn more.***
— TERROR IN FT. LAUDERDALE —
HOW IT UNFOLDED: CNN, Airport shooting suspect used gun once seized by police, confesses – “When Esteban Santiago was in an Alaska FBI office in November, saying his mind was being controlled by US intelligence, he left two things in the car: a gun and his newborn child … concerning enough for authorities to take away his gun and order a mental health evaluation. But it wasn’t enough to get him mentally adjudicated, which would have prohibited Santiago from owning a firearm.” The Washington Post, Fort Lauderdale suspect claimed government was controlling his mind months before shooting – “Santiago showed signs of violence and what authorities called ‘erratic behavior’ in the months before … Police held his gun for a month, and then gave it back to him … ” USA TODAY, Alaska neighbors say shooting suspect mostly amicable – “Two Anchorage, Alaska, neighbors … say the Iraq War veteran was generally amicable for the few years he lived near them with his girlfriend … and their children … they did notice a change last October.” ABC News, Victims of Fort Lauderdale Attack Include ‘Joyful’ Great-Grandmother and Globe-Trotting Husband – “Olga Woltering, 84, a great-grandmother from Marietta, Georgia, and Michael Oehme, 57, a land surveyor from Council Bluffs, Iowa, who owned his own business, Boundaryline Surveys.” Washington Examiner, Fort Lauderdale gunman could face death penalty – “The statutory charges authorize a maximum penalty, upon conviction, of death or imprisonment for life or any term of years.” ABC/Local10News.com, Father celebrating birthday dies in Fort Lauderdale airport shooting – “Terry Andres started celebrating his 62nd birthday Friday. He was getting ready to go on a 16-day cruise …” AOL News, A 7-year-old at the Fort Lauderdale airport Friday found herself in a second brush with an active shooter – “Cheyenne Crist … Cheyenne’s mother, Alicia Crist … said her husband is in the Army and was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, when the most recent shooting occurred in May 2016. Her daughter also was present.” Miami Herald, Hero shields mother of two from Fort Lauderdale airport shooter – “Annika Dean … prayed fervently that she would survive and that her two children would not be left without a mother. Then a man dropped down and lay on top of Dean, quietly telling her that he would protect her. The shooter walked over to them … and began to shoot over them.” The Associated Press, What happens next in Florida airport shooting legal case? – “Does Santiago have a defense? Uphill at best. There are dozens of witnesses to the shooting and the FBI said in an affidavit that he told agents in a post-arrest interview how he planned the attack, what weapon he brought with him to Florida, how he loaded the gun from his checked luggage in an airport bathroom and came out firing.”
VIDEO: FIRST SHOTS IN SHOOTING via TMZ.com – The Ft. Lauderdale Airport shooter walked casually through baggage claim before suddenly pulling his gun out and wreaking havoc. You see the shooter, 26-year-old Esteban Santiago, with a 9 mm handgun tucked inside his waistband, and then pulling it out and beginning to shoot.
ALASKA COPS RETURNED GUN TO AIRPORT SHOOTER via Patricia Mazzei, David Ovalle and Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald – On Nov. 7, Santiago parked at an FBI office in Anchorage, Alaska — leaving his newborn son and his gun in the car — and told agents the CIA was trying to control his mind, pushing him to watch Islamic State terrorist videos. The feds called local police, who took Santiago into custody and sent him to get a psychiatric evaluation … The cops took the gun — and a loaded magazine Santiago carried on him. He got the gun back 31 days later. Twenty-nine days after that, one-way plane ticket in hand, Santiago hopped on a flight that brought him to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. He picked up a Walther 9 mm gun he’d checked in as luggage, loaded it in a men’s room stall, and shot 11 people, five of them to death. Santiago “shot the first people he encountered,” according to investigators who interrogated him. He emptied the two magazines, firing 10-15 bullets, “aiming at his victims’ heads.”
— “Esteban Santiago planned airport killings, investigators say” via Paula McMahon of the South Florida Sun Sentinel
— “As bullets flew around her, a stranger whispered, ‘I will protect you’” via David Fleshler, Diane C. Lade, Adam Sacasa and Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun Sentinel
— “Man who shielded Broward teacher from Fort Lauderdale shooter a ‘humble’ hero” via Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald
EDITORIAL: WHY DIDN’T THE FBI DIG DEEPER INTO ESTEBAN SANTIAGO’S STORY? via the Miami Herald – Now, even as Americans learn more about Santiago and his long, unfortunate journey from Alaska to South Florida, the questions remain practically endless. He had a domestic-violence charge lurking in his background, as well as a “general discharge” from the Alaska National Guard for “unsatisfactory performance.” It is imperative that the FBI, the Alaska police department, aviation authorities and — to the degree that they can given confidentiality laws — the psychiatric professionals who encountered Santiago must respond quickly and forthrightly. Unfortunately, it appears that almost everyone did everything according to law, which makes the airport shootings even more tragic. Even though Santiago was alarmed at his own state of mind and told the FBI he was considering fighting for ISIS, he was put on neither a no-fly list, which would have prevented him from flying internationally if that truly was his plan, or the Terrorist Watch List, which would have triggered other alarms. We need to know why all this happened. More urgent, we need to know that it won’t happen again. It’s very possible that Santiago is one “lone wolf” that could have been snared.
— “FBI owes better answers on Fort Lauderdale airport shooting” via the South Florida Sun Sentinel
IDS, PHONES, BAGS AMONG 25K ITEMS LOST IN AIRPORT RAMPAGE via Kelli Kennedy and Terry Spencer of The Associated Press – The shooting … which killed five people and wounded six, also stranded about 12,000 outgoing and incoming travelers, many returning from cruises or arriving ahead of the usual Saturday departures of the massive ships based in the tourism hub’s Port Everglades terminal. Some travelers were kept on planes for more than seven hours while police put the airport on lockdown; others scrambled to protected corners or were hustled out onto the tarmac … The Florida Highway Patrol sent computer-equipped buses to the airport Saturday afternoon to issue temporary ID cards to help travelers get out of state and even abroad. “We are doing what we can to help,” Sgt. Mark Wysocki said. Airport spokesman Greg Meyer said most bags won’t be available until [today]. The airport hired an outside firm to collect discarded bags and sort them by where they were found so they can be identified by their owners. Those with lost luggage were told to call a toll-free number.
FRUSTRATED PASSENGERS FLAG DOWN RICK SCOTT TO HELP FIND MISSING LUGGAGE via Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald – After the mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale’s airport, authorities have an unusual problem: More than 20,000 pieces of personal items were abandoned on the scene, leaving passengers desperate to retrieve their luggage, cellphones and purses. On Saturday morning … Scott did his best to find four suitcases. Passengers Ronald Mackey and Charod Oliphant of Maryland saw the governor walking through Terminal 2 after a news conference and approached him. Mackey said he was getting the run-around from Delta representatives about their four bags … until he handed the phone to the governor. “They told me it was a crime scene and it would be at least three or four days before they release our bags,” Mackey said. Scott took the phone and spoke with a Delta rep as he leaned against a railing near several potted plants. After an unexpected conversation with the governor, a Delta rep said she would arrange to have Mackey and Oliphant’s bags sent to Aruba, their first port of call — and would approve an allowance for them to buy toiletries and undergarments.
SENATOR: SHOOTING SHOWS NEED TO REPEAL GUN FREE ZONES via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat – Sen Greg Steube is the sponsor of SB 140 which would eliminate most gun-free zones in Florida. The proposal allows concealed weapons permit holders to openly carry handguns in most public places, including airport passenger terminals. “My first thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims,” Steube said … “But this goes back to the fact why I’ve been working against gun free zones for the past three years.” In that time, Steube noted Florida has experienced shootings at Florida State University, the Pulse nightclub and now a South Florida airport. “Gun-free zones don’t prevent criminals from breaking the law and killing innocent victims,” said Steube. “All that law did was prevent law-abiding citizens who have a concealed-carry permit from carrying their firearm in defense of themselves and others.”
— “Bloodbath shows why guns should be allowed in airports, lawmakers say” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald
BILL HAGER ‘DUMBFOUNDED’ HIS FLIGHT LANDED DURING FORT LAUDERDALE AIRPORT SHOOTING via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – “We are on an active runway. I’m on a JetBlue aircraft that landed here at about 1:30,” said the Boca Raton Republican. “We are in view of much of the events unfolding.” “We are looking at what I believe to be terminal 3,” he added. “There are hordes of people just standing out in front of it. People are not physically moving; they are just standing around the jetway.” Hager said that passengers on his flight from Washington’s Reagan National Airport knew roughly one hour before landing that there was an active shooter situation at the airport. When pilots addressed passengers after landing, they told passengers they were not aware of the situation on the ground, he said. “We were dumbfounded. The passengers knew an hour, give or take, before landing that there was an active shooter scene unfolding here,” he said. “We were dumbfounded that JetBlue nonetheless made the decision to land here and not in [Palm Beach] or Miami.”
***On 3 Public Relations, an award-winning and woman-owned full service PR and communications firm, is your one stop shop for coalition development, grassroots advocacy and corporate communications. It’s a new year, with new stories. Let us tell yours! #storytellingexperts***
MARK HAMILL READS DONALD TRUMP’S TWEET AS THE JOKER via Madeline Farber of Time magazine – In an audio clip Hamill posted to social media, the Star Wars actor is heard reading Trump’s holiday tweet in the voice of the DC super-villain. Hamill first voiced the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series and has continued to perform the role in Batman video games and television shows for decades. “With a little help [from daughter Chelsea Hamill and wife Marilou Hamill] Got the app to send out my 1st soundbite,” he tweeted … “Stay Tuned…for I am #TheTrumpster!”
PAM BONDI STILL MUM ON WORKING FOR TRUMP via Tamara Lush of The Associated Press – Bondi kept mum when asked if she would take a position in Trump’s administration, saying she would “not discuss anything confidential.” … “I’m very happy being the Attorney General of the state of Florida right now,” she said, grinning and deflecting the report in Bloomberg News that said she would be tapped for an administration post. Bondi’s critics say she let Trump off the hook over his controversial Trump University, featuring his get-rich-quick real estate seminars.
— “Bondi announces website to spread awareness of human trafficking in Florida” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics
TWEET, TWEET: @KBradshawCL: I’m hearing that @AGPamBondi was being considered for the top spot in US DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs.
JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS EXPIRE; FLA. NOMINEE LIKELY OUT via Larry Hannan of the Florida Times-Union – With the election of Trump, Jacksonville U.S. Magistrate Patricia Barksdale appears unlikely to be sworn in to the federal bench anytime soon. Nominated in April by President Barack Obama, that nomination expired in December when the previous Congress adjourned without voting on her. Barksdale would only get on the bench in the unlikely event Trump reappointed her. Barksdale was appointed to fill one of two vacancies in the Middle District of Florida that runs from Jacksonville to Naples. Tampa attorney William Jung got the other nomination and also didn’t get a vote before the previous Congress adjourned. The issue is occurring throughout the country.
CHARLIE CRIST EXPLAINS WHY HE MISSED VOTE SUPPORTING ISRAEL via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Crist said missed an important vote last night because he didn’t give himself enough time to walk from his office to the Capitol and was “detained” by people in the halls wanting to chat. “I’m sorry. It happens. Now I know better. I have to give myself more time,” the rookie Democrat [said] … The vote condemning a U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem took place at 7:05 p.m., according to the House Clerk website, and was the first in a series of votes, which Crist did make. Asked about speculation he may have been fundraising Crist replied, “No, no, that’s not the case.”
OP-ED FLORIDIANS HAVE MUCH TO LOSE IF OBAMACARE IS REPEALED via Ted Deutch for the South Florida Sun Sentinel – In the years since, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has tilted our health care system toward justice by prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, guaranteeing preventive checkups without a dime coming out of pocket, eliminating annual and lifetime limits to ensure that getting sick won’t mean going broke, and reducing uninsured rates to historic lows. Who benefits from these protections? It’s not just the 20 million Americans newly covered by plans on Healthcare.gov; the law also improved coverage for the 150 million Americans enrolled in plans through their employer, the 55 million disabled Americans and seniors covered by Medicare, and the over 74 million low-income families enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. What could repeal of the health care law mean? It could mean that your grandmother will pay more for her prescription drugs, or that your niece in graduate school on a limited budget will no longer be able to afford contraceptives, or that your friend’s cancer treatment will be interrupted when coverage is pulled because of her pre-existing condition. It could undermine our efforts to stop the onslaught of drug overdose deaths claiming six lives every week in Broward County by allowing insurance companies to arbitrarily refuse to cover mental health and substance abuse services.
IN LETTER TO CONGRESS, RICK SCOTT ASKS FEDS TO INCREASE MEDICAID FUNDING via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – In a 5-page letter to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Scott said he would like the federal government to reimburse the state 90 cents on the dollar for Florida’s “most vulnerable populations.” Under traditional Medicaid, Florida receives about 61 cents. The 90-cent match is a feature of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” Scott said the increased match could encourage states to develop home and community-based programs to care for the most vulnerable. Scott also said that Florida needs flexibility to run its own Medicaid program and that he would use the “successful” managed care Medicaid program already in place, but would like to begin charging copayments for inappropriate emergency room use. Scott also said that Congress should allow a Medicaid waiver to become permanent. Currently, a waiver must be renegotiated with the federal government, a process deemed burdensome by states.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will announce new jobs at KPMG, a global network of professional firms providing Audit, Tax and Advisory services. News conference begins 10 a.m. at the Lake Nona Town Center, 6900 Tavistock Lakes Blvd. in Orlando. At 6 p.m., the governor will attend the Florida Police Chiefs Association Mid-Winter Conference at the Rosen Centre Hotel, 9840 International Dr. in Orlando.
SCOTT’S DIVISIVE INCENTIVE FUND ATTRACTS BIG DEALS, AND ITS SHARE OF CRITICS via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Last year, the Quick Action Closing Fund, which offers cash incentives to close economic development deals, was zeroed-out by then-House Budget Chief Richard Corcoran and his top allies. That move sparked a clash with Scott, a passionate defender of using taxpayer-funded incentives to goose the economy … House Republicans call the incentive strategy “corporate welfare,” while Scott says it’s an imperative tool to spur job creation. The debate over its effectiveness will spill over into the 2017 legislative session, but what is clear is that the Quick Action Closing Fund has been a tool used in some of the state’s most recent and biggest economic development deals. On average, a company involved in a Quick Action Closing Funding deal promised to create 340 jobs compared to an average of 99 for deals that did not involve the fund, according to state data. The Department of Economic Opportunity, the Scott-controlled agency that oversees incentive programs, says they are geared toward companies of all sizes. Corcoran, now the Speaker of the House, said the state can attract new companies without incentive programs like the Quick Action Closing Fund.
MUST-READ OP-ED – PLAIN TALK ON PITBULL: DITCH MARKETING HOOEY AND STICK TO THE FACTS via Rep. Mike Miller for the Orlando Sentinel – While I fully understand and respect differing opinions, I view a contract financed 100 percent by the taxpayer as a public record, period. It seems others see confidentiality as a cost of doing business, even if it leaves taxpayers in the dark. We can debate which position is better — I lean toward openness and transparency — but let’s stick with what we know, and deal in facts, not speculation. In 2000, before Pitbull first appeared on Luke Records, Florida had 73.2 million visitors. In 2001, after Pitbull hit the airways, Florida had 68 million visitors. The truth is “Mr. 305” is an entertainer whose impact on Florida tourism — for better or worse — is negligible, and certainly not worth $1 million from taxpayers … our job as Florida legislators is not to look out for Mr. 305. Our job is to represent and stand with “Mr. and Ms. 407″ and the residents in every other area code in the state. The Florida House will continue to do this because we, like you, #LoveFL.”
— “4-year-old helps school politicians on economic impact reports” via Noah Pransky of WTSP
COULD KEN LAWSON NEXT BE TAPPED TO HEAD VISIT FLORIDA? via Florida Politics – Smart money in Tallahassee now is betting on Scott to move Lawson, his secretary of Business and Professional Regulation, to head VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s “official tourism marketing corporation.” First, he’s a loyal Scott soldier, and has “has held numerous regulatory positions within the private sector and federal government,” according to his official bio. He also knows how to take hits: Bulldog reporter Gary Fineout … shellacked him with questions in October on the last day of trial on whether the Seminole Tribe of Florida should keep offering blackjack at its casinos. Lawson, who had been in the courtroom, was even asked if he planned to resign should the judge rule for the tribe. (The department also regulates gambling.) He smiled but didn’t answer. The state lost—and Lawson’s still in his job.
***SUNBURN is brought to you in part by Sachs Media Group, Florida’s dominant public affairs communications firm. They thrive on high-stakes challenges in the relentless pursuit of excellent outcomes. To help you win in the corridors of power, let them score for you in the court of public opinion. Visit www.sachsmedia.com to learn more.***
SENATE LEADER’S AMBITIOUS EVERGLADES PLAN FACES UPHILL BATTLE via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News – Environmentalists are aggressively rallying behind Senate President Joe Negron’s plan to purchase 60,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee. “This year, we must unite around the opportunity to buy 60,000 acres of land to send water south,” said Cara Capp, the National Parks Conservation Association’s Everglades Restoration Program Manager … While the plan has already come under attack from the environmentalists’ longstanding foe, the sugar industry, Capp reminded the more than 250 attendees that they were their own kind of a political force with a history of success. “We know the job that needs to be done this year. Remember, that our community is powerful,” Capp said.
SENATE LOOKING FOR WAYS TO STREAMLINE FLORIDA SCHOOL TESTING via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – Sen. David Simmons, who chairs the Education Appropriations Committee, has scheduled his panel’s first session of the new year Wednesday to explore ways to reduce the scope and cost of Florida testing. He plans to address: Testing methods. Simmons suggested a return to paper-pencil testing, noting many superintendents say their schools lack sufficient computers to administer exams efficiently. The number of tests. Simmons stressed he does not want to eliminate all tests, but said educators and others have pointed out that many are redundant. In some instances, he added, nationally accepted alternatives could suffice. Time spent on testing. Teachers need to be teaching, Simmons said, not preparing students for tests and delaying lessons during testing.
WHAT HENRY KELLEY IS READING – KEY SENATORS WILL FIGHT TO PROTECT NORTHWEST FLORIDA BP DOLLARS via Tom McLaughlin of NWFDailyNews.com – Sen. Jack Latvala, who as chairman of the upper chamber’s Appropriations Committee holds great sway over how Florida’s dollars are spent, said he and Senate President Joe Negron want to see BP lawsuit settlement dollars spent primarily in Northwest Florida. Microphone off what’s that “I’m committed and the Senate President is committed and will fight, with Sen. Broxson and Sen. Gainer, as well as the local House delegation, to make sure the money gets spent the way it was intended” … what he meant by “intended” was that the $400 million the state has thus far received from BP should be doled out as designated in the 2011 Oil Spill Economic Recovery Act. The law … dictated that 75 percent of the total BP dollars received in a legal settlement would go to eight Panhandle counties deemed “disproportionately affected” by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. That would be $300 million of the $400 million that arrived last summer as a first installment of a 20-year, $2.1 billion payout. Those counties are: Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton, Escambia, Bay, Gulf, Wakulla and Franklin.
JEFF BRANDES TO FILE DRIVER LICENSE SUSPENSION BILL — Sen. Brandes is expected to file a bill Monday that would, among other things, prevent a person’s driver license from being suspended for not paying a fine. According to draft of the proposal, “a person’s driver license may not be suspended solely for failure to pay a penalty if the person demonstrates to the court, after notice of the penalty and before the suspension takes place, that he or she is unable to pay the penalty.” A person would be considered unable to pay if they can show they are: receiving unemployment compensation, disabled and incapable of self-support, receiving temporary cash assistance, or determined indigent after filing an application with the clerk. Sen. Darryl Rouson is expected to be a co-sponsor of the bill.
LAWMAKERS SET TO TAKE ANOTHER STAB AT FIXING INSURANCE CLAIMS ABUSES via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel – Banking and insurance panels from the state Senate and House will kick off this year’s efforts to solve the “assignment of benefits” problem that home insurers say will trigger annual insurance rate hikes for South Florida homeowners indefinitely if not resolved. Officials from state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation plan to address the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on the issue Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Senate Office Building. The next day, the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee plans a discussion Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. at the House Office Building.
‘BREACH OF THE PEACE’ MAY BE A RELIC OF THE PAST UNDER NEW LEGISLATION via Florida Politics – Florida Statute defines “breach of the peace” with language from a bygone era, describing it as “acts … of a nature to corrupt the public morals, or outrage the sense of public decency, or affect the peace and quiet of persons who may witness them.” Rep. Cord Byrd … filed a bill to amend relevant statute to remove that dated term … and to offer recourse for gun owners who had weapons seized by law enforcement and have been frustrated in recovering their property because statutory language allows law enforcement to keep weapons seized in an investigation unless a court order is issued. House Bill 6013 excises the “breach of the peace” language in statute, reframing offenses like brawling and fighting as “disorderly conduct.” Byrd asserted that “breach of the peace is used as a mechanism to deny people their firearms.”
BILL FILED IN HOUSE TO MAKE KRATOM A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE via Florida Politics – Rep. Kristin Jacobs filed … House Bill 183 [to] add Mitragynine and Hydroxymitragynine, constituents of Kratom, to the schedule of controlled substances, offering an exception for any FDA approved substance containing these chemicals. Selling, delivering, manufacturing, or importing these Kratom chemical constituents into Florida would be considered a misdemeanor of the first degree, should the law go into effect. Kratom has been used as herbal medicine in Southeast Asia for centuries, serving as a palliative and an alternative to opiates, though it only recently has become popular in the United States.
— “Randolph Bracy’s SB 276 would give tax credits to businesses for hiring felons” via Larry Griffin of Florida Politics
— “Senate bill offers redress for hurricane-damaged homes” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics
JOE FOLLICK DEPARTS FLORIDA TAXWATCH via Florida Politics – Follick is leaving the government watchdog as of today to join the Jeb Bush-founded Foundation for Excellence in Education as its State Communications Director. He had been TaxWatch’s Director of Communications and External Relations. Follick brings more than two decades of communication and media experience, having served as communications director for the Florida Department of Education and worked for the Department of Children and Families. He also spent 17 years in newspapers, including the now-defunct New York Times Regional Newspapers and Tampa Tribune, both in their Tallahassee bureaus.
PERSONNEL NOTE: DALE PATCHETT MOVES TO JOHNSON & BLANTON via Florida Politics – Veteran lawmaker and lobbyist Dale Patchett is joining the Johnson & Blanton lobbying firm. “Dale Patchett brings an incredible history and perspective to our firm,” firm founder Jon Johnson said. “He has seen government operate from every angle as both an elected legislator and appointed official. He was Republican in Florida before it was fashionable… ” Patchett was elected seven times to the Florida House of Representatives (1976-90), serving as Republican Leader in 1984-90 in the days before term limits and a GOP majority. He represented Indian River, St. Lucie, Brevard, Osceola, and Okeechobee counties throughout his tenure.
PERSONNEL NOTE: JONATHAN REES JOINS ANHEUSER-BUSCH via Florida Politics – Rees, a member of the 2016 class of FloridaPolitics.com’s “30 Under 30,” will be joining Anheuser-Busch as the state affairs manager for Florida, effective today. He will be responsible for leading Anheuser-Busch’s legislative agenda, political giving and stakeholder engagement in Florida. The company brews more than 100 brands in the United States, including its flagship brands, Budweiser and Bud Light, and holds a 45.8 percent share of the beer market. Rees also will continue to highlight the company’s commitment to Florida, including its nearly 1,000 employees in the state, its Jacksonville brewery and tour center, and the $180 million expansion of Anheuser-Busch’s Jacksonville can plant that’s expected to be completed in 2017.
CITIES CAN’T SAY HOW MUCH THEY PAY UBER via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel – When Maitland, Lake Mary, Sanford, Altamonte Springs and Longwood reached the deal with the ride-sharing giant last year, they agreed not to disclose Uber’s ridership information. That includes dates of rides, total trips and total fares. Although the cities have the information, Uber considers it a “trade secret,” which shields it from Florida’s broad public records laws. While the vast majority of government records are available for the public’s review, information that gives businesses an advantage is protected under Florida’s trade secret exemption. First Amendment Foundation President Barbara Petersen said much of the data shouldn’t be exempt and governments shouldn’t have agreed to the provision.
WHAT MATT FLORELL IS READING – ACTUALLY, CRASH DATA SHOWS MIXED BAG via Florida Politics – As Florida lawmakers gear up for battle once again over the use of red light cameras statewide, a new report by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles offers a decidedly mixed bag for both sides of the debate … a (slightly) deeper dive into the numbers reveals something a little different. According to the figures, the rate of accidents is down at the red-light camera intersections themselves … the DHSMV report gathered data by pulling crash reports from a statewide database – and importantly – from within 250 feet of RLC intersections, which pulls in a lot of accidents unrelated to real red light running. This 250-foot radius would include accidents unrelated to RLC’s: For example, those from a car pulling out onto the road from an adjacent McDonalds, or switching lanes while approaching the intersection, etc. When further breaking down trends in reported crashes, only red-light running crashes and those involving pedestrians – which are both down – are the accidents certain to occur in an actual intersection/crosswalk; these are most likely attributable to running a signal light.
TWO BOUTIQUE LOBBYING FIRMS PURCHASE HISTORIC DOWNTOWN TALLAHASSEE BUILDING via Florida Politics – Liberty Partners of Tallahassee and RSA Consulting have purchased a property just steps from the Capitol. The firms, however, will remain separate businesses. “Tallahassee has been my home for over 25 years and since I don’t see the Capitol building moving anytime soon, this was an easy long-term business decision,” said Jennifer Green, co-owner of Frog Dog Real Estate Holdings and President of Liberty Partners of Tallahassee. “This type of real estate opportunity does not come up frequently and gave us the ability to diversify our business portfolios while continuing to expand our current consulting firms,” said co-owner of Frog Dog Real Estate Holdings and President of RSA Consulting, Ron Pierce. The building, on College Avenue, was built in 1930, has 17,000 square feet, four stories, fully finished basement with offices, kitchen, etc.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Rep. Rene Plasencia, Ron Bilbao, Evan Ross, and Meagan Salisbury. Happy birthday to the effervescent Rachael Bjorklund, Mike Fasano‘s guy Greg Giordano, and Lisa Miller.
IN MEMORIAM – Our condolences to Celeste Lewis of the House Speaker’s Office, whose husband, Mitch Lewis, passed away this weekend.