Sunburn for 10.13.17 — Mike Pence to keynote RPOF event; House subpoenas VF show $; Debris removal politics; Tom Lee raises serious coin; Happy b'day, Cesar F. - Florida Politics

Sunburn for 10.13.17 — Mike Pence to keynote RPOF event; House subpoenas VF show $; Debris removal politics; Tom Lee raises serious coin; Happy b’day, Cesar F.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

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First on #FlaPol –Mike Pence to keynote Republicans’ conference in Orlando” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics –Pence – with “special guest” U.S. Sen. Rubio –  is to highlight the dinner set for Thursday, Nov. 2, at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, kicking off the two-day conference. Also billed for the kickoff dinner to the quarterly party meeting are three of the four members of the Florida Cabinet, though not Gov. Scott. The other advertised guests include Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Attorney General Pam Bondi, chief financial officer Jimmy Patronis, Florida Senate President Joe Negron, and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran. General tickets are $200 for the dinner, with executive committee members and College Republicans getting discounts.

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— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Fraud concerns prompt House subpoena of VISIT FLORIDA show finances” via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News – House investigators said Tallahassee-based MAT Media did not respond to repeated requests for information during their investigation into the television contracts, which produced a cooking show with celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. Members of the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee voted unanimously to demand documents from the producer detailing how it spent the money on the VISIT FLORIDA contracts. “During the course of the House investigation, we uncovered these contracts that raised questions about whether the state has been the victim of possible fraud,” Fred Piccolo, House spokesman, said … “Although this was not the subject of our original investigation, the Florida House will chase down any fact and follow every lead in order to protect the taxpayers’ money.” House General Counsel Adam Tanenbaum told committee members he asked Pat Roberts, owner of MAT Media, for information over the phone and in writing. “What we got was silence,” Tanenbaum said. “We made phone calls and sent letters. Nothing.”

“Leery senators say Rick Scott is stepping on their budget turf” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – (Rob) Bradley is among a group of Senate leaders who this week, during the first committee week of the 2018 legislative session, took shots at some of the Scott administration’s spending decisions in the wake of Hurricane Irma and through a yet untapped $85 million spending pot for infrastructure approved by lawmakers as part of a last-minute budget deal last session. … Senate leaders discussed the issue of sending a strong early budget message after last session, when they were largely cut out of final negotiations that helped finish a contentious 2017 legislative session. “There have been discussions to that regard,” said state Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), the incoming Senate president, of discussions in his chamber about sending a stronger message on the budget.

Irma confounds already straightened state budget prospects, committee learns” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Florida’s tax structure will produce only $52 million in gains on existing state spending during the coming fiscal year, and will leave lawmakers more than $1 billion in the hole during each of the two budget years after that. That doesn’t count what the state needs to spend to recover from Hurricane Irma. The news came as the Senate Appropriations Committee began sorting through the many demands on the government’s pocketbook. It’s grim,” Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala said. “We don’t really have any extra money. We’ve had some money spent on our behalf lately that’s even making it a little tighter … There’ll probably have to be a cut exercise, just like always.”

House ethics panel sets trial in Daisy Baez residency case” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The House’s ethics panel on Thursday scheduled a Dec. 4 hearing on a charge that Democratic Miami-Dade Rep. Baez doesn’t live in the district she was elected to represent. The Public Integrity and Ethics Committee will conduct an evidentiary hearing “somewhat like a court trial,” said chair Larry Metz, a Yalaha Republican. “You’re trying to find what the facts are and make a conclusion.” The hearing will be the first time in modern memory that the House tried a member on a conduct violation related to residency. The committee’s verdict will then go to the full House of Representatives, two-thirds of which would have to vote to expel her.

House insurance chairman hopes to take up AOB, workers’ comp reform again” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Hurricane Irma recovery clearly will dominate the 2018 Legislative Session, but the chairman of the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee hopes to find time to address a few of the state’s other problems. Like assignment of benefits abuse, for example. “I fully expect that to be a policy discussion,” Rep. Danny Burgess said following an extended briefing on Irma response. At last count, Irma had generated 703,671 claims with an estimated value of nearly $4.6 billion — and both numbers will increase in the months ahead, Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier told Burgess’ committee. With that many claims, and legions of repair contractors in the field, the potential for AOB abuse seems clear. “We’re still waiting to get a lot of the numbers in relation to Hurricane Irma, and seeing if the AOB issue has increased, as some of us maybe expect it will,” Burgess said. He foresees moving an AOB bill off the floor in 2018, as the House did during the 2017 Legislative Session.

Proposal calls for elected Secretary of State” via the News Service of Florida – A proposal to make the secretary of state an elected Cabinet position, eliminating the governor’s power to appoint Florida’s highest elections official, has returned in the Senate. Sen. Aaron Bean filed a proposed constitutional amendment (SJR 506) that would undo a change approved by voters in 1998 that reduced the size of the Cabinet to three members. As a result of the 1998 ballot measure, the positions of secretary of state and education commissioner became appointed in 2002, and the Cabinet posts of comptroller and treasurer were eliminated. To get on the 2018 ballot, Bean’s proposal would have to be approved by three-fifths of both legislative chambers and would ultimately need approval from 60 percent of voters.

Joe Negron: ‘Nothing nefarious’ in Gary Farmer’s reassignment” via Florida Politics – Farmer was taken off the chamber’s Banking and Insurance Committee, but Senate President Negron told Florida Politics there was “nothing nefarious” about the removal. Capitol insiders buzzed that Senate leadership was looking to exact revenge on the trial bar because of its financial support of Annette Taddeo, the Democratic opponent of popular Republican Jose Felix Diaz, in a special election. Farmer, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, is a trial lawyer. Negron says that’s not the case. Indeed, newly elected Sen. Taddeo made a “compelling” case that she should be added to the committee, Negron said.

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— STORMS —

Dennis Baxley apologizes for nursing home death comments” via the News Service of Florida – State Sen. Baxley issued an apology for questioning whether the deaths of residents of a Broward County nursing home were related to Hurricane Irma or were an inevitability given their advancing ages. “As a funeral director and ordained elder of my church, I have spent my entire adult life working with families who are grieving the loss of a loved one. In addition to my faith, working in this field has shown me day in and day out that the life of each and every member of our society is special and worthy of respect. Many of the funeral services we coordinate involve elder members of our community, and I take great pride in the opportunity to ensure their lives are honored and celebrated. No family member should have to fear that their loved one is suffering in a nursing home, particularly during a natural disaster,” Baxley, an Ocala Republican, said.  But Jeff Nova, whose 71-year-old mother, Gail Nova, died Sept. 13, isn’t comforted by the prepared apology from the senator. “His first comments were the real comments. That’s what he thought of, and naturally that’s what you’re going to take to heart,” Nova said in a telephone interview. “You can say you are sorry, but it doesn’t take back what you actually said because it’s committed to memory now and it’s in print.”

Marco Rubio calls for congressional investigation of nursing home” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Rubio wants a congressional investigation into a troubled Florida nursing home where 14 residents died after Hurricane Irma knocked out power last month and shut off the facility’s air conditioning. “This has shocked the state of Florida, and rightfully raised questions about the oversight of nursing homes, particularly the enforcement of existing emergency preparedness requirements,” Rubio wrote in his letter … The letter calls for an investigation by the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees Medicare and Medicaid, and by extension nursing home funding. Rubio said the committee should examine what happened in nursing homes across Florida as well as Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria. But the thrust and substance of his letter revolve around the events at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills after Hurricane Irma hit Florida … “While this terrible tragedy is currently under investigation, it has been widely reported that these individuals were left in sweltering conditions,” Rubio wrote.

Adam Putnam warns agriculture loss is ‘still unfolding ” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics – Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said he worried that the feds’ citrus forecast wouldn’t accurately reflect the devastation to the state’s citrus crop after Hurricane Irma. “I am concerned about what that forecast may be, given that so many of the circumstances that are fundamental to having an accurate forecast have changed,” Putnam said in a news conference. Groves are still underwater and fruit is falling to the ground weeks after Irma plowed up the peninsula.

Victor Torres blasts federal response, Donald Trump tweets on Puerto Rico” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Torres, an Orlando Democrat who’s been active in the Florida-side of the relief efforts since Hurricane Maria devastated the island three weeks ago, also criticized Trump‘s tweet that had declared federal relief agencies cannot stay in Puerto Rico forever. Torres, a former Marine who is Puerto Rican, blamed a lack of coordination between the U.S. Military, working with FEMA and government officials in Puerto Rico in transporting and delivering the relief supplies, and called the preparation and response to the disaster by the federal government “inadequate” … “Americans are dying as we speak,” Torres said. “While fellow Americans have generously rallied to donate relief supplies and money to support recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, the federal government has been too slow to respond to this disaster and there is a total failure of coordinated relief efforts to provide supplies and support to the island.”

Robert Asencio to head Miami-Dade committee for Maria relief” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – The Miami-Dade County Legislative Delegation announced the formation of the Puerto Rico/Caribbean Hurricane Relief and transition committee to help coordinate relief efforts for the islands which were devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria last month. Rep. Asencio, a Miami Democrat, will serve as chairman of the committee. “As a legislator of Puerto Rican descent, I am honored to be given the opportunity to help my fellow Boricua and our fellow Americans in the USVI in their time of need as they make the transition to the mainland,” said Asencio … Miami-Dade County is expected to see an influx of thousands of evacuees fleeing Puerto Rico in the coming months due to its geographical proximity to the island.

— DEBRIS DEBACLE —

CBS Miami’s Jim Defede is reporting that Gov. Scott awarded major contracts for debris removal in the Florida Keys to firms that charged exorbitantly more than other firms with pre-negotiated contracts. Under the governor’s emergency contracts, taxpayers are paying anywhere from three to ten times more to remove debris in the Florida Keys.
This revelation comes after Scott repeatedly emphasized the importance of fair contracts and said, I’m always going to stand on the side of taxpayers and consumers, not on the side of somebody who wants to make extra money after a disaster.
Democrats are pouncing: “This is corruption plain and simple, and Florida taxpayers shouldn’t be fronting the cost of Rick Scott’s corruption. These actions demand an immediate investigation into the governor’s office and his department of transportation.” said Florida Democratic Party spokesperson Johanna Cervone.
Scott’s office is pushing back, saying the claim that the state misused tax dollars to remove debris “false.” More: “Following a request for assistance from Monroe County, and because it was absolutely critical to clear roadways in the Florida Keys so families could begin to rebuild their lives, the Governor directed the Department of Transportation to immediately begin debris removal in Monroe County and activated 400 National Guard members for the same purpose. Through this process, FDOT entered into emergency debris removal contracts, which they must do to have the personnel and equipment to clear roads. Although not required to do so due to the state of emergency, FDOT went above and beyond emergency procurement requirements to competitively solicit multiple bids from pre-qualified vendors that could safely and efficiently respond to Monroe County’s immediate debris removal needs.”

— STATEWIDE —

A year after Hurricane Matthew, counties ask Rick Scott: Where’s our money?” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – As the costs of Irma’s Category 4 fury are still being calculated, North Florida cities and counties hammered by Hurricane Matthew a year ago are still waiting to be paid for the cost of debris removal, road repair and police overtime. Strangled in red tape, counties fault the state for persistent delays, noting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has authorized tens of millions in reimbursement dollars that Scott’s administration still has not yet distributed. “It’s a bottleneck,” said Larry Harvey, chairman of the Putnam County Commission in Palatka. “We don’t have the resources to float these types of losses.” It will get worse. The county now projects unplanned costs of $1.4 million more for Hurricane Irma recovery, and $300,000 from another storm, a nor’easter that blew through the county two weeks later. Like other cash-strapped counties awaiting payment, out-of-the-way Putnam has a very slim property tax base, scarce rainy-day cash reserves and few new jobs on the way.

After traffic headaches during Irma evacuation, Scott orders FDOT to review I-75” via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – A month after Irma blew through, Scott is now asking state transportation officials to explore ways to better expedite the outbound traffic next time … he wants the Florida Department of Transportation to specifically look at ways the state could speed up the section of northbound I-75 from the interchange in Wildwood — where the Turnpike merges with the interstate — to the Florida-Georgia line. The 144-mile stretch takes about two hours to drive under normal circumstances, but during the Irma evacuation, motorists reported being stuck for hours in gridlock.

Assignment editors: Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis will join firefighters from across Florida to honor those who lost their lives in the line of duty. The yearly “Florida Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service” will be 9:30 a.m., Florida State Fire College, 11655 NW Gainesville Road, Ocala.

Supreme Court won’t reconsider indigent care fight” via the News Service of Florida – A divided Florida Supreme Court declined to reconsider a decision in a dispute about paying for indigent health care in Sarasota County. Justices, in a 5-2 ruling, rejected a request by Sarasota County for a rehearing in the case, which could involve hundreds of millions of dollars. The ruling kept intact a July decision upholding a state law that directed Sarasota County to reimburse private hospitals for providing care to indigent patients. In the July decision, justices overturned an appeals-court ruling that said part of a 2003 law was unconstitutional because it singled out private hospitals in Sarasota County. The 2003 measure was passed as what is known as a “special law,” dealing only with Sarasota County, rather than a general law that would apply to hospitals throughout the state. The Supreme Court agreed with arguments by private hospitals that the 2003 law did not violate the Florida Constitution because it also applied to reimbursements to a Sarasota County public hospital district.

University of Florida, Gainesville brace for Richard Spencer speech” via Susan Washington of Florida Politics – “This is our moment to rise up and show the rest of the world who we are as a community,” Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe, brows furrowed, said in a 3-minute-long video titled, “Responding to Hatred in a Welcoming City,” posted on Facebook. “Free speech stops when it becomes dangerous conduct,” Poe said in the video. “We have an obligation to protect our residents’ health and safety and to protect property.” During Spencer’s address on the UF campus … local law enforcement will “stand ready to safeguard that Gainesville does not become another Charlottesville,” Poe said in the video, referring to violent demonstrations that erupted in another college town, Charlottesville, Virginia, home to the University of Virginia, when Spencer spoke there in August … the university’s largest performing arts hall, which seats more than 1,700, has been made available to Spencer and the National Policy Institute that he directs. The fee for the rental is what the university … describes as “the allowable costs of $10,564 to rent the facility and for security within the venue.”

Aramis Ayala moving on after losing death penalty battle” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – Speaking with a gathering of journalists … the controversial, still-new state attorney for Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, covering Orange and Osceola counties, said she was settling in to pursue her judicial reform agenda, she was pursuing justice, and she was happy. “I enjoy my office. I enjoy life. Generally, I’m just a happy person. I don’t say that lightly. I enjoy doing what is right,” Ayala said. If she had any regrets about the consternation her previous position or her six-month battle with Gov. Scott and others had caused for anyone, including the families of murder victims, she wasn’t sharing them. “I had an interesting start,” she said. “The day I took office we were dealing with the death penalty. And unfortunately, a lot of people only know me for that. But there certainly is more to me as a person, as a lawyer, as prosecutor that deals with that.”

Man charged with illegal deer hunting” via Ryan Callihan of the Bradenton Herald – Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers in Manatee County arrested a man who they say entered private property with two firearms in his possession while trying to hunt deer during closed season Oct. 1. Terry Gibson, 43, was spotted by three officers who had set a robotic deer replica in the field as bait. When they tried to apprehend him, Gibson attempted to hide his firearms in a field, according to an arrest report. Gibson admitted that he was going to kill the deer for its meat, according to the affidavit.

Florida reports first local Zika case for 2017” via The Associated Press – Florida’s Department of Health said a Manatee County couple traveled to Cuba. One of them contracted Zika while on the Caribbean island and was bitten by a mosquito after returning home. That mosquito then bit and transmitted the virus to the other partner. Officials wouldn’t identify the sex of the couple, citing privacy laws. Officials say there’s no evidence of ongoing, active transmission along Florida’s Gulf coast, or anywhere in the state. Florida reported 296 locally acquired Zika infections last year, mostly in South Florida where a Zika alert was issued.

— NOTES FROM CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

The latest from the Caputo Primary –Free Lolita! Killer whale politics and Levine’s possible bid for governor” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO – Likely gubernatorial candidate and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine wants his city commission to pass a resolution next Tuesday calling on the Miami Seaquarium to release the orca “Lolita” — and the Democrat says he doesn’t care if he’s accused of figuratively riding the killer whale to the governor’s mansion. “People are going to say what they say, but this is the right thing to do,” Levine told POLITICO Florida when asked about the inevitable charges that he’ll be accused of political opportunism.

Voting restoration amendment clears 200,000 signatures” via Florida Politics – And while that’s just the number of confirmed petitions, Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, says 600,000 signed petitions have been gathered and that he expects the organization to have all the petitions it needs by December. The Voting Restoration Amendment wouldn’t apply in the case of murder convictions or sex crimes, but all other Florida felons would be eligible once they exit state custody and finish out parole or probation and pay any restitution owed. To make the ballot, initiatives need to have 766,200 confirmed signatures. Rules require those signatures be spread across Florida’s 27 congressional districts, with the total number due pegged to voter turnout in the most recent presidential election. Former state Senate Democratic leaders Arthenia Joyner and Chris Smith have also filed the proposal with the Constitution Revision Commission, which has the power to put it on the ballot.

As he weighs CFO bid, Tom Lee raised $253K in September” via Florida Politics – Lee has been somewhat open about his intent to run for chief financial officer next year and his committee, The Conservative, just posted its first big fundraising report since the end of the 2017 Legislative Session. The new report, covering September, saw the former Senate President bring in $253,250 in committee cash while only spending $8,500. The Conservative opened up in 2013 and through the end of the month had raised more than $3 million in its lifetime. It currently has about $2.1 million on hand. By far the biggest donor in September was Pepin Distributing Company, a Tampa-based Anheuser-Busch-Inbev distributor, which chipped in an even $100,000.

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods adds name to growing support for Ashley Moody – “Over his tenure in law enforcement, Sheriff Woods has been on the front-line of public safety and is a respected leader within his community. I’m proud to have the endorsement of such a beloved and decorated Sheriff and I will continue to work hard to deserve this great honor,” Moody said.

John Ward jumps into race to replace Ron DeSantis” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – With DeSantis expected to run for governor, businessman and Navy veteran Ward jumped in the race to replace him. “I’m a Ronald Reagan Republican and I’m running for Congress because I believe that Washington needs more ‘Get-It-Done Outsiders’ who will fight for individual liberties and protect our freedoms, so that this generation and future generations can live in peace, prosperity and liberty,” Ward said as he kicked his campaign off. “If we want to make America great again we need to send leaders to congress who have a better vision, a better plan and a better way forward. I want to end the do nothing, business as usual ways of Washington so that Florida’s forgotten families can win again.” The new candidate also unveiled a web video as he begins his campaign. Sources close to Ward insisted he will have $1 million raised by the end of the year and noted he would support President Trump on the issues, including on tax reform.

Nancy Soderberg touts raising $336K in Q3 for CD 6 bid” via Florida Politics – “I’m honored by the outpouring of support our campaign has received. That energy is a vivid testament to how ready people are for a change from Washington’s broken politics and toward real results from their representative in Congress,” Soderberg said. Soderberg was an ambassador to the United Nations during the Clinton administration, and is the founder and director of the University of North Florida‘s Public Service Leadership Program. She filed to run in CD 6 in July. The seat covers St. Johns, Flagler, and Volusia counties and is a solidly Republican district, producing a double-digit win for President Donald Trump in July.

Cliff Stearns uses campaign account to pay personal expenses — five years after leaving Congress” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Former Rep. Stearns‘ congressional campaign committee has evolved into an investment account that he uses to fund a host of personal expenses that may raise legal questions … Since losing his seat in 2012, the 12-term congressman has kept his campaign committee open and used it to make investments that have netted nearly $300,000. That money has stayed in the committee, which still has $1.5 million cash on hand. The committee has funded contributions to other members, a monthly cellphone bill, trips to the annual conservative conference Awakening, membership dues at the Capitol Hill Club and payments to his wife, Joan, among other expenditures. The Capitol Hill Club was a longtime favorite fundraising locale for Stearns and many other congressional Republicans, “That to me seems flat out illegal,” said Adav Noti, a former attorney with the Federal Election Commission, in reference to the Capitol Hill Club membership expense. “I’m racking my brain to think of a legal use here.”

— MOVEMENTS —

Ballard Partners brings in more clients: report” via Florida Politics – New adds: Advanced Roofing, Inc., Crowley Maritime Corporation and Hawkers USA. Ballard, which opened a Washington DC office after President Donald Trump won the election, has been busy — signing 47 new clients … Ballard’s next move seems to be into the global sphere; the government-affairs firm has formed a “strategic alliance” with Alber & Geiger, one of the most significant lobbying firms in the European Union.

Nicole Stookey Albers: Florida Municipal Electric Association

George Anderson, Southern Strategy Group: Airbnb, Boyd Development

Ron Book, Rana Brown, Kelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: City of Margate

Dean Cannon, Kirk Pepper, Robert Shave, GrayRobinson: Hendry County Board of County Commissioners

Kenneth Granger, Dean Izzo, Capital City Consulting: Tallahassee Retail Ventures

Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: MLU Serivces

Ron LaFace, Capital City Consulting: Florida Fuel Connection

James Smith, Southern Strategy Group: International Speedway Corporation

Alan Suskey, Suskey Consulting: Optimum Software Solutions; QlikTech; Wholesale & Specialty Insurance Association

Mike Yaworsky: Office of Insurance Regulation

— WEEKEND TV —

Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: James will discuss “Tax Cuts and the Federal Budget” with political analyst Dr. Lawrence A. Miller.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues that affect the area’s citizens.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion on the contributions and celebrations of Hispanic culture during National Hispanic Heritage Month; addressing the Puerto Rico crisis due to Hurricane Maria. Guests include Rep. Darren Soto, state Reps. Amy Mercado and Bob Cortes; National VP Southeast, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Lydia Medrano; Immigration attorney and Stetson Law professor Art Rios; and President/CEO, National Puerto Rican Leadership Council Education Fund Carlos Guzman.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A discussion about new online voter registration procedures and the threat of voter fraud with Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Michael Ertel. Also, there will be a discussion of the Wisconsin gerrymandering case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court with UCF associate professor of Political Science Dr. Aubrey Jewett; PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter rates a claim regarding Florida’s infrastructure and its storm-readiness.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests are Sen. Latvala and Dr. Michael Binder of the UNF Public Opinion Research Laboratory.

— ALOE —

Airbnb, developer partner on home-sharing apartments” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel – Developer Harvey Hernandez wouldn’t reveal exactly where the 324-unit building is but said it’s a few minutes from the theme parks in the Kissimmee area. He said he expects it to open in the first quarter of 2018. Osceola officials said they didn’t know about the project, called “Niido Powered by Airbnb.” “Niido is a community where we embrace home sharing for the benefit of our tenants,” said Hernadez, CEO of Newgard Development … Niido would allow renters to make income by leasing out their unit on Airbnb for up to 180 days per year. Any money earned would be shared between the renter and Niido, said Jaja Jackson, an official with Airbnb.

What Alan Suskey is reading – Tricked out: pickup trucks get more luxurious” via Dee-Ann Durbin of The Associated Press – At the State Fair of Texas this month, Ford Motor Co. is displaying its most expensive pickup yet: The F-Series Super Duty Limited, a luxury heavy-duty truck with a starting price of $80,835. It has custom two-tone leather seats, a heated steering wheel wrapped in hand-stitched leather and high-tech features like a 360-degree camera system that guides drivers when they’re hitching up a trailer. A fully-loaded F-450 — the biggest version of the Super Duty — will top out at $94,455. It’s capable of towing an Air Force F-35 fighter plane, but it also has massaging seats. Fiat Chrysler’s Ram brand is also showing luxury pickups at the fair. The 2018 Laramie Longhorn Southfork edition has a walnut-trimmed steering wheel and 4G Wi-Fi capability. The Heavy Duty Lone Star Silver — sold only in Texas — has a luxurious bright chrome grille. Both start around $50,000 and will be available later this fall. On a recent visit to the fair, some visitors balked at the prices. One said he’s rather buy a Mercedes S-Class if he had $80,000 to spare. But others took the high prices in stride.

Happy birthday to my protege, Cesar Fernandez.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, Florida Politics, Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of the quarterly INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, SaintPetersBlog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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