Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD two beautiful babies, the son and daughter of state Sen. Lauren Book. Kennedy Grace and Hudson Lee were born just three minutes apart. Babies are healthy. Mom and dad are doing great, I am told.
Now, on to politics…
REPUBLICAN FAMILY FEUD
We’ll let our colleague, Gary Fineout of the Associated Press, lead off Sunburn today:
What started out as a disagreement over taxpayers footing the bill for a version of Pitbull‘s “Sexy Beaches” video is now turning into a full-blown public relations war between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP-controlled Florida House.
The two sides are at odds over whether Florida should spend money on tourism marketing and luring businesses to the state. In the past week, their feud has continued to escalate. The House is currently moving a bill that would shutter the two agencies that receive millions to pay for these efforts.
Scott in the last few days has barnstormed the state where he has called out GOP House members by name for supporting the legislative proposal. On Thursday, he also announced that the Sunshine State attracted a record number of nearly 113 million tourists last year despite two hurricanes, the outbreak of the Zika virus and the Pulse nightclub attack.
“I don’t understand how anyone can look at Florida’s booming tourism industry, and the more than 1.4 million jobs it supports, and vote to kill it,” said Scott in a statement. “The legislation the Florida House is pushing puts more than 1.4 million jobs at risk and we cannot let that happen.”
Scott’s political committee Let’s Get to Work in the last few days has also paid for phone calls telling voters in a handful of GOP districts that their legislator was in favor of a bill that would “destroy our economy and lead to higher taxes.”
The Florida House has responded by releasing a scathing new video to YouTube that trashes Visit Florida, the agency that promotes tourism, and Enterprise Florida, the economic development organization that uses taxpayer money to offer incentives to companies that move to the state or expand their operations.
The video mentions the secret $1 million deal Visit Florida signed with rap star Pitbull which included him filming a new video of his “Sexy Beaches” song that included footage of Florida hotels and beaches. The House video also criticizes several economic development deals that went bust included the high-profile bankruptcy of Digital Domain, a visual effects studio that received $20 million of support. The Digital Domain deal was approved before Scott become governor.
The video includes captions that say “no more foolish spending,” ”no more handouts” and “no more corruption.”
GOP House members first saw the video Wednesday night during a closed meeting at a Tallahassee restaurant. House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues initially said the meeting would be strictly social and that no policy would be discussed.
Fred Piccolo, a spokesman for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, defended the meeting. He said it did not violate state laws that block legislators from meeting privately to discuss pending legislation. The private meeting was paid for the Republican Party of Florida. Over the last two years Scott has refused to raise money for the party.
— “Richard Corcoran takes his fight with Rick Scott behind closed doors” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will highlight 2016 tourism numbers at Sun Harvest Citrus in Fort Myers. Event begins 8:30 a.m., 14601 6 Mile Cypress Pkwy.
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HOUSE DEMOCRATS CALL OUT REPUBLICANS’ CLOSED-DOOR MEETING via Michael Auslen and Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – House Minority Leader Janet Cruz responded to (the) closed-door caucus meeting held by Republicans. … “Transparency when conducting the people’s business is of the utmost importance and that’s why our caucus room is always open to the public,” Cruz said in a statement.
MARK WILSON CALLS HOUSE PUSH TO ELIMINATE ENTERPRISE FLORIDA ‘A POLITICAL CONVERSATION ABOUT IDEOLOGY’ via Florida Politics – Addressing what he called the “obvious elephant in the room,” Florida Chamber President Wilson criticized Florida House members who backed an effort to end economic incentive programs, calling the move political. “I want to be blunt for a few minutes,” said Wilson. “This is not a Legislature trying to seek how to diversify the economy and how to grow trade. This is a political conversation about an ideology that frankly is silly.” Wilson made his comments during the 2017 International Days hosted by the Florida Chamber of Commerce … The House Careers & Competition Subcommittee last week voted 10-5 to approve a bill that would eliminate Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development organization; Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency, and a slew of economic incentive programs. “The Florida Chamber scores votes by legislators,” he said. “We are scoring every one of the votes in the Legislature and it will be factored into endorsements. That doesn’t make a lot of friends, but (we’re) fighting for free enterprise.”
— “One more plea to spare Visit Florida” via Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News
SENATE KEEPS DC LAW FIRM HIRED TO FIGHT REDISTRICTING—TO FIGHT THE FLORIDA HOUSE via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Why would Florida’s Senate president spend $71,600 on a Washington D.C.-based legal firm with no offices in Florida to represent them in legal battles with the Florida House? That’s the obvious question for Senate President Joe Negron, who has signed two contracts, and assumed a third, from former Senate President Andy Gardiner, with Sidley Austin, a mega-firm in D.C. with offices across the globe — except Florida. “This is a very unique area of the law given that it is unprecedented for one chamber to promulgate rules that would purportedly control the actions of another chamber,” Negron told the Herald/Times said. “Those are issues we can look to precedence from the United States Supreme Court and to Florida courts.” He said he has authorized Sidley Austin to advise the Senate on the House rule relating to the appropriations process and it is “looking at the legal relationship and separation of powers.”
TRI-RAIL DEFENDS ITS $500M CONTRACT BEFORE SENATE COMMITTEE via Florida Politics – The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority took its best shot at defending its decisions to throw out five proposals and accept the remaining one for a $511 million contract, a move that has drawn stern criticism from several state leaders including Gov. Scott. Among the biggest critics has been state Sen. Jeff Brandes, and authority Executive Director Jack Stephens came before Brandes’ Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development to argue that his agency did exactly what it was legally and ethically supposed to do. His bottom line: the process left SFRTA with just one qualified proposal to consider; and the proposal was deemed acceptable; and the contract was awarded; even though the five rejected proposals all appeared to be for less money, as much as $115 million less over 10 years. The key is the rejected proposals’ bottom lines did not appear solid.
HOUSE GAMBLING BILL TEED UP FOR NEXT WEEK via Florida Politics – As expected, the 81-page bill (PCB TGC 17-01) includes a renewed blackjack deal, or “compact,” between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, as first struck by Gov. Scott. But the House already is at odds with the Senate’s 112-page measure (SB 8), which is set for its second and last committee hearing next week before the Appropriations panel. In one significant example, the House bill outlaws designated-player card games, but the Senate would let “all cardroom operators … offer designated player games.” In banked card games, players bet against the “house,” or the casino, and not each other. In traditional poker, people play against each other for a pot of money. Designated-player games are a hybrid, where the bank is supposed to revolve among the players.
TWEET, TWEET: @NoCasinos: #WhatToLikeAboutHouseGamblingBill Bans non-tribal slots outside Miami-Dade & Broward … Stops casinos from spreading throughout Florida … No New Gambling Licenses … Stops portability of gambling licenses … Fixes DBPR debacle re: banked card games
HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE VOTES TO PULL FLORIDA FROM FEDERAL REFUGEE PROGRAM via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The House’s Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee voted 9-5 along party lines for legislation (HB 427) to pull out of the refugee program. Similar legislation has not been filed in the Senate, indicating it may have limited possibility to become law. With refugees at the center of national debate on President Trump’s travel ban, pulling out of the program has been called a political move. Doing so would not end the flow of refugees to the state. Rather than state officials coordinating a $250 million federal program in Florida, the feds would partner with nonprofits in the state.
HOUSE COMMITTEE PASSES LEGISLATION FOR COMPETITION IN HEALTH INDUSTRY via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The House is bringing a little more free market to Florida’s health care system. HB 145, which unanimously passed the House Innovation Subcommittee, increases how long a patient can stay at an ambulatory surgical center (ASC) to 24 hours. ASCs, which mainly provide elective surgeries, currently cannot keep patients overnight. It also creates “recovery care centers” for post-surgical nursing care to handle uncomplicated cases not needing hospitalization, and keep patients 72 hours. Also approved was HB 7, repealing the so-called “certificate of need” requirement. Right now, Florida must determine a need before any health facilities can be constructed or expand. HB 7 passed on 11-5 party-line vote.
CRITICS SAY BILL WOULD ‘OBLITERATE’ SUNSHINE LAW via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – A bill filed this week by Rep. Byron Donalds of Naples would allow two members of any board or commission with five or more members to meet in private to discuss business and policy issues before their board. The idea for HB 843 came from attending a legislative training session in the fall when Donalds learned the Legislature operates by different rules than local public officials … Sen. Dennis Baxley filed a companion bill in the Senate … “To be frank, local officials should have the same flexibility as legislators,” Donalds said. Current law prevents two members of a board or commission from meeting and discussing board business. Any time two or more members get together it is considered a meeting under current law and must be properly noticed. If adopted, HB 843 would seriously undermine the state’s sunshine law, said Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation. “To say this obliterates our right to oversee government and hold it accountable is an understatement,” Petersen said. “This would allow daisy chaining by members of a board.”
NEW LAW WOULD GIVE THOUSANDS OF FOSTER CARE TEENS BIG BOOST IN ACQUIRING DRIVER’S PRIVILEGES via Florida Politics – Teens in the Florida foster care system will get a little taste of autonomy. Lawmakers unanimously approved “Keys to Independence” – a three-year pilot project to give, by helping them obtain driver’s licenses. HB 217, sponsored by state Reps. Ben Albritton and Jennifer Sullivan, removes some of the obstacles facing foster care children: allows them to get into driver’s ed classes (even when full), and reimburse them for fees for learners and driver’s licenses, testing, substance abuse courses, monthly insurance premiums and deductibles.
JASON FISCHER CO-SPONSORS BILL OBJECTING TO U.N. CONDEMNATION OF ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS via Florida Politics – Fischer joined an ever-growing list of sponsors of House Bill 231, a bill filed in January objecting to a 2016 United Nations resolution condemning Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory. The Florida House bill demands a repeal or an edit of the U.N. Security Council resolution — an unlikely outcome. That U.N. resolution proved especially controversial stateside, as the United States abstained from the vote — a move widely seen as one last tweak from the Obama White House to Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu. Samantha Power, on behalf of the U.S., asserted that the American abstention was rooted in the resolution being focused too narrowly on settlements, even as she noted President Ronald Reagan‘s assertion that further settlements were not necessary for Israeli security.
GOP LAWMAKERS DEFEND FLORIDA HOUSING FINANCE CORP.’S EXPENSES via Florida Politics – The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee formally heard … the audit of the Florida Housing Finance Corp. (FHFC), steward of both state and federal affordable housing money, was released in December. Lawmakers focused on lavish events thrown for lenders and board members, including a $52,000 dinner with broiled lobster and filet mignon, and another that featured a $420 Spanish charcuterie station. State audit manager Christi Alexander told the panel such expenses “did not appear to be clearly necessary” to the function of the agency. But state Rep. Dan Raulerson, the panel’s vice chair and a CPA, said the first event was partly funded by corporate sponsorships, bringing its actual cost down to $36,000. “I want us to make sure … we’re using common sense and good judgment,” said Raulerson, a Plant City Republican, but added that the dinners were to show appreciation for those helping the agency and furthering its affordable housing mission.”
NO REPORTS OF INCIDENTS WITHIN HOUSE PAGE PROGRAM via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat – With the man who oversees hundreds of teens in the Florida House page program each Legislative Session accused of soliciting a minor online, state officials say they have no indication anything nefarious happened within the halls of the Capitol. Michael Chmielewski, who was Civics Program Coordinator with the state House of Representatives Page Program, faces one count of using a computer to solicit a minor and one count of traveling to meet a minor after he was arrested in connection to a law enforcement sting. After he was fired Monday, he was banned from the Capitol grounds … Chmielewski, 37, ran the House’s page and messenger program, which attracts up to 300 teenagers, ages 13 to 18, every legislative session. He had served in that role since 2012 … there have been no reports that Chmielewski acted inappropriately in his capacity as the page program manager.
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FLORIDA ABORTION WAITING PERIOD LAW TEMPORARILY BLOCKED via The Associated Press – A state Supreme Court order blocking enforcement of Florida’s 24-hour abortion waiting period will remain in place while a lower court determines whether the law is constitutional. The court said there’s a strong likelihood that a lower court will determine the law is unconstitutional and the state provided no evidence that the law addresses a compelling state interest.
DOCTORS CAN ASK PATIENTS ABOUT GUNS via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press – A federal appeals court ruled that Florida doctors can talk to patients about gun safety, declaring a law aimed at restricting such discussions a violation of the First Amendment’s right to free speech. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the law does not trespass on patients’ Second Amendment rights to own guns and noted a patient who doesn’t want to be questioned about that can easily find another doctor. “The Second Amendment right to own and possess firearms does not preclude questions about, commentary on, or criticism for the exercise of that right,” wrote Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan in one of two majority opinions covering 90 pages. “There is no actual conflict between the First Amendment rights of doctors and medical professionals and the Second Amendment rights of patients.” The law was passed in 2011 and signed by Gov. Scott with strong support from the National Rifle Association. It was the only one of its kind in the nation, although similar laws have been considered in other states.
SUPREME COURT LIMITS INFORMATION INSURERS MAY DEMAND UNDER PIP POLICIES via Florida Politics – The Florida Supreme Court has taken a narrow view of the amount of evidence hospitals and other health care providers are obliged to turn over to insurance companies concerning the reasonableness of personal injury protection claims. In a unanimous ruling, the court sided with the 1st District Court of Appeal over the 4th District Court of Appeal, which had issued conflicting interpretations of Florida’s PIP statute. “We conclude that discovery is limited to the production of a written report of the history, condition, treatment, dates, and costs of such treatment of the injured person and why the items identified by the insurer were reasonable in amount and medically necessary, together with a sworn statement, as well as the production, inspection and copying of records regarding such history, condition, treatment, dates and costs of treatment,” Chief Justice Jorge Labarga wrote. “Furthermore, we agree that (the statute) provides limited pre-litigation discovery into specified information about the treatment and charges for treatment provided to an injured party, and that the discovery tools found in the rules of civil procedure … are not triggered until litigation over the reasonableness of those charges has ensued.”
APPEALS COURT RULES FOR PERRY THURSTON IN MATCHING FUNDS CASE via Florida Politics – State Sen. Thurston won the latest round in a court battle over state matching funds for his failed 2014 Attorney General campaign. A unanimous three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach reversed the decision of the Florida Division of Election denying Thurston matching funds for the race. Thurston applied to the Election Campaign Financing Trust Fund, but “some of the documents—photocopies of checks—because necessary information contained on the face of the documents could not be read.” After his primary loss, Thurston submitted new, legible documents, which the Division declined to review. The state now must “determine whether Thurston met the threshold for distribution of matching funds. If so, the Division shall distribute the funds.”
FIRST IN SUNBURN – STATE’S CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER LEAVING FOR LOBBYING JOB via Florida Politics – Sources tell us Jason Allison, head of the Agency for State Technology, is leaving state government for a government consulting gig with the Foley & Lardner law firm. He’s now the second appointee of Gov. Scott to jump ship for Foley this year: Jon Steverson, secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, quit last month to join the firm. Another Foley alum, Jesse Panuccio, just took a job in the Donald Trump administration. All told, Allison’s departure to Foley is another sign that Foley continues to position itself as the ‘expertise firm’ on Adams Street.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will be in Polk County to tour the Hwy. 630 fire, which burned approximately 2,000 acres in the Indian Lakes Estates area. Media availability begins 9:30 a.m. at the Indian Lake Estates Golf & Country Club, 95 Red Grange Blvd.
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HAPPENING THIS WKND – DONALD TRUMP HOLDING CAMPAIGN RALLY IN FLORIDA via Julie Bykowicz of The Associated Press – Trump is holding a campaign rally Saturday in politically strategic Florida — 1,354 days before the 2020 election. The unusually early politicking follows a pattern: Trump filed his paperwork for re-election Jan. 20, Inauguration Day. By comparison, President Barack Obama didn’t make his re-election bid official with the Federal Election Commission until April 2011.
TRUMP SAYS HIS CUBA VIEWS ARE ‘VERY SIMILAR’ TO MARCO RUBIO’S via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – “We had dinner with Senator Rubio and his wife, who was by the way, lovely, and we had a very good discussion about Cuba, because we have very similar views on Cuba,” Trump told journalists. “Cuba has been very good to me, in the Florida elections, you know, the Cuban people, Americans,” he added in reference to the support of Cuban American voters. Former rival Rubio and his wife had dinner with Trump and first lady Melania … after the president received Lilian Tintori, the wife of the Venezuelan political prisoner Leopoldo López in the White House. A smiling Rubio posed for a photo with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Tintori.
PRO-TRUMP SUPER PAC CHAIRED BY RICK SCOTT DEALING WITH FEC ON REPORTING ISSUES via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Rebuilding America Now, Scott’s Super PAC that was established to elect Trump, is being scrutinized by the Federal Elections Commission for inadequate reporting in the third quarter of last year. On Jan. 11, the FEC sent a Request for Additional Information (RFAI) regarding two items for that October quarterly report. One of the items noted is the listing of a negative entry for $10,800 for return of a list rental fee to Castleblack, Ltd in Alexandria, Virginia. “This method of reporting would clarify for the public record the total amount of receipts and more accurately disclose the cash-on-hand amount,” reads the letter written by the FEC’s Kaitlin Seufert, Senior campaign Finance & Reviewing Analyst in the Reports Analysis Division. The other item noted by the FEC was an expenditure of $1,344,000 to Multi Media Services Corporation, a political media planning and buying agency in Alexandria, Virginia.
WH DISMISSES CAROLINE WILES, FIVE STAFFERS FOR FAILING BACKGROUND CHECKS via Lisa Hagan of The Hill – Staffers were escorted from the building after they didn’t pass Form SF86, the “Questionnaire for National Security Positions.” A successful response to the form is required for a security clearance. One of the dismissed staffers includes Caroline Wiles, director of scheduling, the daughter of President Trump’s Florida campaign manager. She will instead get a job at the Treasury Department.
BRIAN BALLARD SIGNS FOUR MORE CLIENTS via POLITICO Influence – Ballard Partners, the Trump-connected firm that added 10 new clients earlier this week, has signed four more: American Airlines, Dish Network, Leon Medical Centers and Univision Management Co.
***The 2017 Florida Blue Foundation Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards are coming to Kissimmee April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. The two-day event – with the theme “Creating a Culture of Health” – will feature several Florida-based, regional and national health professionals. The symposium will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about health care culture, purpose built communities and communities of health. Discussions will center on health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Network with 400+ executives from a range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more. To view agenda and register, click here***
WILL BOB BUCKHORN RUN FOR FLORIDA GOVERNOR? DOUBTS GROWING via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – “I’ve got to figure out if it’s something I want,” Buckhorn, 58, told the Tampa Bay Times. “If I don’t want to be the governor as much as I wanted to be mayor, I’m not going to run.” Close friends believe Buckhorn genuinely has not made up his mind. As a popular, high-profile mayor in Florida’s biggest media market, he has more flexibility than other would-be candidates in deciding when to seriously start building a statewide campaign. “In doing my job every day, I have a pulpit and a profile that no one else in this race has,” Buckhorn said. “Some of the others in this race don’t even have a job.” The clock is ticking fast.
FLASHBACK: “Bob Buckhorn is on the clock” via Peter Schorsch on January 3, 2017; “If he wants to run of governor, Bob Buckhorn’s opening is now” via Peter Schorsch on January 22, 2017.
FIRST IN SUNBURN – EX-DAVID JOLLY STAFFER PRESTON RUDIE NOW CONSULTING FOR JACK LATVALA via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The Clearwater lawmaker is the most high-profile client for Rudie since he’s gone into the consulting business. He says that with the Catalyst Communications Group, he’ll be working with both private companies and elected officials. Rudie was an award-winning television reporter with more than 20 Emmy’s and 6 Edward R. Murrow awards to his name while working at WTSP 10 News from 2002-2014. Rudie left journalism to serve as Jolly’s communications director, working in both Pinellas County and Washington D.C. Latvala is also singing his praises … “Preston Rudie is the top communications professional in the Tampa Bay Area. I am proud to add him to our team.”
RE-UPPING – JD ALEXANDER HOSTING FUNDRAISER TODAY FOR DENISE GRIMSLEY via Florida Politics – Not only is Alexander not running for Commissioner of Agriculture, he’s thrown his support behind state Sen. Denise Grimsley‘s bid for the office. Alexander, who was term limited out of the Florida Senate in 2012, is even hosting a “fundraising reception” for Grimsley at his Lake Wales home. The longtime lawmaker who spearheaded the creation of Florida Polytechnic University had been the subject of rumors that industry heads were pushing him to consider running for the statewide office. “I have been honored by several calls from agriculture leaders, but I am very happy spending time with my family and business associates,” said Alexander.
TWEET, TWEET: @AllisonNielsen: FL CFO news: Possible candidate Tom Grady passed up for @presidency. Now he’s got an open path to CFO-dom
PERSONNEL NOTE: CHELSEA MURPHY GETS “RIGHT ON CRIME” via Florida Politics – Murphy has been named Florida State Director for The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Effective Justice, “Right on Crime.” The Right on Crime initiative is in its seventh year “working to reform America’s criminal justice system state-to-state and across the country,” a press release said. It’s backed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, Right on Crime has been a part of reforms being implemented in over 40 states. Murphy has advocated on issues from aerospace, local government, to criminal justice and most recently was an associate with Adams St. Advocates where she focused on health care, technology, and trade associations. She will remain in Tallahassee.
LOBBYIST’S BLOG POST GETS TONGUES FLAPPING AMONG TALLAHASSEE’S LOBBYIST SET via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – A blog post by a widely-respected lobbyist accused a lobbyist for Demotech Inc. of posing as that “concerned citizen” to praise the ratings agency during a conference call. The post said “most industry professionals” believe the caller was Lisa Miller, of Lisa Miller & Associates, who flatly denied it. … “Let me assure you that if this occurred, no one at Demotech coordinated it or scripted it,” Demotech president Joe Petrelli said by email. Did Demotech organize any such thing? “No,” Petrelli said. Jeff Grady, president and CEO of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents, posted the blog … he described Demotech as “practically the only ratings agency that matters to many insurers and banks that fuel residential real estate lending in our state.” But he added that problems attending a recent conference call to discuss the prospect that the agency would downgrade some Florida insurers demonstrated that “Demotech isn’t quite ready for the big leagues.” One reason was a comment by that concerned citizen, who identified herself as “Mary Beth Wilson” on the call, and praised Demotech and Petrelli.… a comment by that concerned citizen, who identified herself as “Mary Beth Wilson” on the call, and praised Demotech and Petrelli. “Although no official record of the call is available, it is practically undeniable that Mary Beth Wilson is not who she said she was,” Grady wrote.
SPOTTED at the FCTA open house at its newly renovated office on E. 6th Avenue: Jim Boxold, Dominic Calabro, Tom DiGiacomo, J.C. Flores, Marva Johnson, Adam Roberts, Liz Shawen, Justin Thames. And, of course, Brad Swanson.