Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
As state lawmakers dashed for last-minute campaign cash and the University of Alabama’s DeVonta Smith dashed to the end zone with the championship-winning touchdown, a website domain splashed into public view and became the talk of the town in Tallahassee on the eve of the annual legislative session.
The domain — which can be found here, but will not be explicitly mentioned (yet) because what it alleges in its name is unproven and, as of now, does not deserve to be memorialized on search engines, etc. — is only that: a domain name alluding to an affair between two married state lawmakers.
All that’s on the website is a “coming soon” message.
But the domain name is a public mention of a rumor which has long circulated in the capital. The velocity of the story increased during the scandal and downfall of state Sen. Jack Latvala.
At this stage, it’s impossible to know who is behind the domain name. Its marked private on ICANN WHOIS.
The source who alerted Florida Politics to the existence of the domain name says they believe that the looming website is the work of disgraced former Sen. Frank Artiles, who, privately, has threatened to expose the two lawmakers referenced in the domain name. Others suggest this is the first of what could be many clandestine efforts by Latvala to exact revenge on his former colleagues.
Of course, nothing may ever come of the domain name. A website may never be completed. Perhaps the owner of the domain name is receiving exactly what they want by just having the website address mentioned in a publication like this.
Regardless of who is behind the domain name, it serves as a reminder that there are still gaping scars in the capital city as lawmakers convene for their sixty days of lawmaking. It was clear Monday evening — at popular watering holes near the Capitol, in private conversations, and at the massive shindig hosted by Associated Industries of Florida — that many in The Process are still walking on eggshells while they wait for another shoe to drop.
FDLE continues to review Latvala case — Session has started, and Sen. Latvala is out of the picture in the Senate, but his case continues to be reviewed by the state’s law enforcement agency. After two separate Senate investigations concluded that the former Senate budget chairman sexually harassed women in his orbit and may have traded votes for a sexual encounter, the Senate turned over documents to FDLE officials for review. Officials in the department say they continue to review the case, which includes conducting more interviews and obtaining additional information that could potentially lead to charges.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— @#: After months of investigation, new FBI report says no evidence of “sonic attacks” in
— @RichardCorcoran: The 2018 legislative session will be about less talk and more action. Just watch! #OnWeekOne
— @Fineout: Less than 1 year ago the night before Session — Jack Latvala hosted his own pre-session party at Oven Park. @was there, so was @ & most of the Fla. Senate.
— @JeffSchweers: Adam Corey, lobbyist at heart of FBI probe into Tallahassee business dealings, puts $1.3 million office/condo on market
— @GBennettPost: Breaking: Entire Florida Senate replaced by floral arrangements.
— @BSFarrington: There are some nights when someone looks at me at a bar and says “I follow you on Twitter” and I panic. Tonight was not one of those nights.
— @Kriseman: Sad to learn about the passing of a City Hall fixture, Gene Smith — often called the 9th council member. He knew the issues well, helped us move forward on our new pier, and was always respectful. He will be missed.
— @RichEisen: In the last 11 months, @and @ have blown an average lead of 19 points in second-halves of championship games. Sincere condolences to the no doubt large group of desolate fans with overlapping fan interests.
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— CAPITOL DAYS —
The Legislature’s in town, which means it’s time for the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 “Capitol Days.” Expect a who’s who of Florida’s business leaders, lawmakers and Cabinet members.
Events include the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Economic Outlook Summit “to unveil 2018 job growth projections.” That’s at 10 a.m. today.
“During this event you will be able to connect with leaders and CFOs from around the state, hear state economic projections and from the Chamber Foundation’s Council of Business Economists, receive updates on Florida’s international and global trade status, and engage in conversations about the future of Florida’s leading and emerging industries,” the group said in a release.
Tuesday’s speakers include Gov. Rick Scott; CFO Jimmy Patronis; Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam; as well as Adrienne Johnston, Chief of the Bureau of Labor Market Statistics, Department of Economic Opportunity; Dr. Jerry Parrish, Chief Economist of the Florida Chamber Foundation; Christopher Oakley, Vice President and Regional Executive, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta-Jacksonville Branch, and Mark Howard, Executive Editor of Florida Trend magazine.
Moving on to Wednesday, speakers include Patronis, Putnam, Deputy Chief Judge David Langham; Joe Pickens, President of St. John’s River State College; Jim Saunders, editor of the News Service of Florida; and Gray Swoope, President & CEO of VisionFirst Advisors and former Florida Secretary of State.
— CAPITOL INSIGHT —
“Women say #TimesUp with plan to open legislative session dressed in black” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — When Florida legislators open their annual session on Tuesday, many women will be wearing black to send the same message of solidarity with the #MeToo movement as Hollywood stars did at the Golden Globes. The initiative is expected to cross party lines and position, including Democrats and Republicans, elected officials and lobbyists, agency and legislative staff and members of organizations, said Pamela Goodman, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “A common message of strength and transparency.”
Progressive Awake the State speech to follow State of State — After Gov. Scott’s State of State speech on Tuesday, local and state leaders will call on Scott and the Legislature to pass a budget that invests in hardworking Floridians instead of doling out more corporate giveaways. The event, dubbed Awake the State, will take place immediately after Scott’s speech, which should end around 12 p.m. on Tuesday, at the fourth-floor rotunda in the Capitol building. Speaking will be FAMU student and Planned Parenthood volunteer Crishelle Bailey, We Are Florida and Florida Immigrant Coalition organizer Julio Calderon, Florida NOW lobbyist Barbara DeVane, Florida Conservation Voters Executive Director Aliki Moncrief, Florida AFL-CIO legislative and political director Rich Templin, and Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy Executive Director Karen Woodall.
“House ready to take up hot-button issues” via the News Service of Florida — The House this week plans to take up 16 bills, including controversial measures aimed at ending “sanctuary cities,” turning off red-light cameras and repealing the no-fault auto insurance system. A list of the bills posted online Monday includes a plan (HB 9), filed by Rep. Larry Metz, that targets “sanctuary cities.” In part, it would require state and local agencies to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement and would bar “sanctuary” policies. Also on the agenda is a bill (HB 6001), sponsored by Rep. Bryan Avila and Rep. Blaise Ignoglia that would repeal a state law allowing red-light cameras. Also, the House will consider a proposal (HB 19), filed by Rep. Erin Grall that would end the no-fault insurance system, including a requirement that motorists carry personal-injury protection, or PIP, coverage.
The Florida Senate this week is expected to quickly pass a plan by President Negron to make wide-ranging changes in the state’s higher-education system. The full Senate will begin taking up bills Thursday, two days after the start of the Session. Senators will consider a proposal (SB 4) that would expand Bright Futures scholarships and need-based aid. The bill, a top priority of Joe Negron, also would make a series of other changes, including holding universities to a four-year graduation standard in performance funding. Also Thursday, the Senate is scheduled to take up a proposal (SB 88), filed by Education Chairwoman Dorothy Hukill that would require high-school students to pass a financial-literacy course before graduation.
“Florida’s tight finances could spark budget battle this year” via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press — “I think there’s a way for everyone to achieve success in the budget arena,” said Senate President Negron. In a year when Scott and other top Republicans are expected to be on the ballot, there will be greater pressure to wrap up work on time and avoid a messy outcome. But the state’s finances have tightened up. The annual budget forecast projected that after setting aside money for Medicaid and schools and other recurring expenses that the state would have a surplus of just $52 million during the fiscal year that starts in July 2018. That forecast came before Hurricane Irma ripped across the state. While Florida expects to get reimbursed from the federal government, the state has been forced to pay nearly $1 billion storm-related expenses. Scott has asked for a nearly $87.4 billion budget — roughly 25 percent larger than the one passed during Scott’s first year — that calls for spending more on nearly everything from schools to the environment. Some of the governor’s recommendations, however, could spark a tug-of-war with the Legislature. Scott wants to boost the amount spent on each public-school student by nearly 3 percent, or $200 more a year and he is advocating a $100 increase to each teacher to help pay for school supplies.
“Kevin Rader files bill to legalize steroids in racing dogs” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A Democratic state Senator from South Florida has filed legislation expressly allowing dog trainers to give anabolic steroids to racing greyhounds. The bill (SB 1774) was filed by Kevin Rader of Delray Beach. The measure otherwise bans steroid use on dogs “unless such steroids are used for birth control for the greyhound or the steroids are otherwise prescribed by a veterinarian licensed in this state who used the steroids to treat an injury or an illness, and the veterinarian is not employed by a greyhound permitholder.” State regulators already permit steroids; Rader’s bill would put using steroids as a form of birth control into state statute, if passed. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 12 tracks.
“Bills to end no-fault car insurance poised for early play in session” via Charles Elmore of the Palm Beach Post — Repealing PIP could save Florida drivers 6.7 percent on their overall insurance bills, an actuarial study commissioned by the state in 2016 found. That is after an expected bump in premiums for bodily-injury liability coverage, which would be required at $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. The House bill, HB 19, offers the most significant chance for responsible drivers to save up to $81 per car and close to $1 billion collectively each year. That bill, sponsored by Rep. Grall could come up for a vote on the House floor as early as Thursday. A similar bill passed the House by a wide margin last spring, though the Senate never acted on it. The savings would be largely negated under the Senate plan, SB 150, however. The average premium would actually rise slightly from $1,209.51 to $1,213.69 once the full requirements were in place, according to a Senate staff analysis. That’s because SB 150, which could be heard in the Senate banking and insurance committee Wednesday, repeals PIP and requires bodily injury liability coverage — but also requires drivers to pay for $5,000 of medical payments coverage.
“Fight brews about nursing home lawsuits” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — The Florida Health Care Association held a news conference to outline priorities for the 2018 legislative session … Head lobbyist Bob Asztalos included the nursing-home group’s opposition to legal changes supported by the Florida Justice Association trial-lawyers’ organization. Also in the list is a push for upward of $50 million in increased state funding for nursing homes. When matched with federal money, that request would result in a more than a $130 million increase in payments for nursing homes. Asztalos said trial attorneys have backed off agreements to limit nursing home litigation that was made in 2001 and again in 2014. Proposals include eliminating a cap on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded in nursing home lawsuits.
“Local college presidents: Poor, minority students ‘overlooked’ in Senate higher ed agenda” via Jessica Bakeman of WLRN Miami — The leaders of Miami Dade College, Broward College and Palm Beach State College — whose schools enroll about half of all community college students in Florida — are teaming up to oppose Senate Bill 540, a chief priority of Republican Senate President Negron. The 247-page bill is a resurrected and revised version of Negron’s priority higher education legislation that was vetoed last year by Gov. Scott. In part to address Scott’s concerns that the bill unnecessarily punished community colleges, Negron eased some of the provisions that the schools found most problematic. Apparently, the changes weren’t enough to appease the schools’ leaders, who warn it would lead to unintended consequences if enacted. “The low-income, working-class people [who] are at our institutions sometimes … are just overlooked,” Broward College President David Armstrong told the Miami Herald editorial board.
Assignment editors — House Democrats will hold a pre-Session caucus meeting at 9 a.m. in the Democratic Office, Room 316 (Large Conference Room) of The Capitol.
Assignment editors — State Rep. Bob Cortes, Speaker of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives Carlos J. “Johnny” Méndez Núñez and Puerto Rican House members will hold a media availability at 8:30 a.m. in Room 333 of the House Office Building to express gratitude to the State of Florida’s response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria and offer their perspectives on recovery.
Governors Club Tuesday buffet menu — As Session begins, the Governors Club buffet returns with a breakfast club menu of scrambled eggs, crisp bacon, Bradley’s country sausage links, fresh-cut seasonal fruit, biscuits, warm grits, coffee and assorted juice. For lunch, the buffet is mixed green salad with assorted dressings, marinated mushroom salad, corn salad, potato leek soup, barbecue beef brisket, Southern fried chicken, blackened snapper, mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy, green bean casserole, glazed carrots, with apple cobbler for dessert.
***Don’t clutter the Florida Constitution with things that don’t belong there! Trial lawyers want more flexibility to sue nursing homes and drive up the costs of long-term care for our state’s seniors. State and federal laws already ensure residents’ rights, and hundreds of thousands of hardworking professionals dedicate their lives to serving those in their care. Urge the Constitution Revision Commission to vote NO on misleading Proposal 88 here.***
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
Assignment editors — Former Miami Beach Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine will kick off his 10-day “Living Rooms” bus tour in Orlando at 10:45 a.m., 3998 Irma Shores Dr. then, at 3 p.m., Levine will be at the University of Florida Chabad Jewish Center, 2021 NW. 5th Ave. in Gainesville.
“Putnam has raised $22M so far for gubernatorial bid” via Florida Politics — Republican candidate for Governor Putnam has posted over $22.5 million in his quest to be the state’s next chief executive, according to a Monday morning email. Putnam’s campaign and political committee, Florida Grown, now have raised a combined $22.55 million to date, spokeswoman Amanda Bevis said. They’re left with $16.25 million in combined cash on hand at the end of December.
“Andrew Gillum’s campaign draws another $100K from George Soros” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The New York Democratic financier donated $100,000 to Gillum’s Forward Florida Political Committee Dec. 29 … That contribution helped the committee turn its first six-figure month since March, a month that was bolstered in part by an earlier Soros $100,000 check. Forward Florida also reported receiving $31,000 in December from a research and education organization called Collective Future of Washington D.C. Last week Gillum’s campaign announced that the committee raised $167,000 in December, its best month since last spring.
“Gwen Graham pays $1,200 to get Hollywood Hills records request” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — Graham on Monday wrote a $1,200 personal check to the governor’s Office of Open Government, saying it is a “small price to pay” for information on the 12 Hurricane Irma-related deaths at a Hollywood nursing home. The governor’s office said Graham got the hefty bill because her request was the first to be made, which launched staffers to work 100 hours to find, review and redact the information she wanted. Graham said that if Scott’s private phone voicemails are not included in her request, she will take “appropriate legal action.”
>>>Email I didn’t open via the Republican Governors Association: “Profiles In Hypocrisy: Florida Dem Gov Candidate Gwen Graham Fails Her Own Transparency Tests“
“Frank White crosses $2 million mark in 2017” via Florida Politics — Topping the year in review was a declaration that the campaign hit $2.05 million in total fundraising last year, including $100,025 in December, which it believes will allow White to hold the top spot in the money race comfortably. While much of that money came from White’s own pockets, that’s a safe bet barring an unprecedented fundraising month from one of the four other candidates vying to replace termed-out AG Pam Bondi. White’s infographic also showed off the 20 endorsements he’s pulled in since declaring in October, with top billing going to Okaloosa Sheriff Larry Ashley, Santa Rosa Sheriff Bob Johnson, Escambia Sheriff David Morgan, and U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, himself a former sheriff of Duval County.
“Gambling amendment crosses 725K valid signatures” via Florida Politics — Voter Control of Gambling in Florida had 725,942 valid signatures out of the 766,200 it needs to make the ballot. That number pegged to 8 percent of the turnout in the most recent presidential election. Amendments also need to hit signature quotas in 14 out of the state’s 27 congressional districts. As of Monday, the amendment had hit the mark in 12 seats, with CD 17 and CD 22 each about 5,000 signatures shy of the quota. The committee backing bill, Voters in Charge, has said it would need to gather 1.1 million signatures in total before it exceeds the verified signature requirement. By November, the group had collected a million. Voters in Charge had also spent nearly $5 million pushing the amendment as of the end of November, with the bulk of that money coming from Disney. The Seminole Tribe of Florida, which has its own gaming interests, has also put in $1 million to back the effort.
“Lauren Baer reports reaching $575K in CD 18 campaign” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Baer‘s campaign reported that it raised more than $325,000 in the fourth quarter of 2017, bringing their total contributions to $575,000 in her bid to be elected to Congress in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. Bauer’s campaign stated that it received more than 2,000 individual contributions during October-December 2017. She seeks to oust Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast of Palm City in the Treasure Coast district. First Baer, of Palm Beach Gardens, must get through a Democratic primary contest with Pam Keith, also of Palm Beach Gardens. At the end of the third quarter, Baer’s campaign had reported raising $252,000, and had finished September with $236,000 left in the bank. Keith’s campaign said she had raised $150,000 through the first three-quarters of 2017, and ended September with $63,000 in cash. Mast’s campaign reported he had raised almost $1.6 million through the first three-quarters, and finished September with $921,000 in the bank.
“Rob Bradley committee reports blockbuster December fundraising” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — In December, Bradley’s Working for Florida’s Families set an internal record level of fundraising for the second straight month. The committee hauled in $173,000, with significant buy-in from U.S. Sugar, Walmart, Florida Blue, Associated Industries of Florida and the associated Florida Prosperity Fund. All told, the committee has over $720,000 on hand.
Happening today — State Sen. Denise Grimsley will be holding a 7:30 a.m. fundraiser in her bid for the state’s Agriculture Commissioner at Florida Financial Strategies, 111-B East College Ave. in Tallahassee. Hosting Grimsley’s event is Senate President Negron, President-Designate Bill Galvano and Majority Leader Wilton Simpson.
“Anna Eskamani gets Orlando firefighters’ union endorsement in HD 47” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Local 1365 of the International Association of Fire Fighters represents more than 500 firefighters and communication specialists in the Orlando Fire Department. “Anna has shown a willingness to stand up for firefighter’s issues and the challenges we face as first responders. Anna will bring a fresh, new perspective to the Florida House that we believe will positively shape Orlando’s future for years to come. The Orlando Professional Firefighters are proud to call her our friend and endorse her candidacy for Florida House District 47,” Ron Glass, president of the Orlando Professional Firefighters, IAFF Local 1365, stated in a news release from Eskamani’s campaign.
“Vito Sheeley picks up four endorsements in run for House District 70” via the Tampa Bay Reporter — They are Pinellas County School Board Chair Rene Flowers, County Commission Chair Ken Welch, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and St. Petersburg Council Chair Lisa Wheeler-Bowman … Flowers said, “District 70 is in need of like-minded representation … The continued attacks aimed at diminishing our education system is besieged with unfunded mandates, and any sense of integrity has eroded daily, we need representation in line and in tune with the needs of District 70.” Kriseman said, “Vito’s track record speaks for itself. I’ve known Vito for years, and know his heart and how hard he will work on behalf of the people of his District and this community. We need Vito’s leadership in District 70.” Sheeley is facing incumbent Wengay Newton in the Democratic primary. No Republicans have announced for the HD 70 seat.
— STATEWIDE —
“Florida gets legal win on satellite TV taxes” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Ending years of legal battling about the issue, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up a challenge to the constitutionality of a Florida law that sets different tax rates for satellite and cable-television services. The U.S. Supreme Court, without explanation, turned down Dish Network’s appeal of a ruling last year by the Florida Supreme Court that upheld the law. The state’s communications-services tax is 4.92 percent on the sale of cable services and 9.07 percent on the sale of satellite-TV services. Local governments also can impose communications-services taxes on cable, with rates varying. Dish Network contended the different state tax rates on satellite and cable are a form of protectionism that violates the “dormant” Commerce Clause, which bars states from discriminating against interstate commerce. But Attorney General Bondi’s office, which represented the Florida Department of Revenue, argued in a brief that a federal telecommunications law prevents local governments from taxing satellite services. As a result, the brief said, the state set a higher tax rate for satellite services and shares part of the money with local governments. Meanwhile, local governments can tax cable services.
Assignment editors — Marco Rubio, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights and Global Women’s Issues, will convene “Attacks on U.S. Diplomats in Cuba: Response and Oversight.” The hearing begins at about 10 a.m. in SD-419 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a livestream will be available on foreign.senate.gov.
“GOP congressmen say Paul Ryan to push permanent moratorium on eastern Gulf drilling” via Matt Dixon and Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida — With Donald Trump proposing an expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling, two Republican Florida congressmen say they have received assurances from House Speaker Ryan that he will push for a permanent moratorium on drilling in the waters of the eastern Gulf of Mexico. “There is a governmental funding bill that has to be passed later this month,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz. “Francis Rooney and I had a conversation about this with Speaker Ryan, who gave Rooney and I a commitment that eastern Gulf moratorium language will be in the must-pass bill.” Both Gaetz, who is from Shalimar, and Rooney, a Republican from Naples, represent districts that border the Gulf of Mexico and are staunch Trump supporters. Like other elected officials in Florida, the two oppose the administration’s plan, unveiled last week, to include Florida in expanded offshore drilling, but hope language creating a permanent moratorium on eastern Gulf of Mexico drilling will ease concerns. Rooney said he was personally working on such language, with the aim of making sure the current drilling moratorium does not expire.
— OPINION —
“Lawmakers must confront opioid crisis” via Nick Duran for the Miami Herald — (T)hree proposals — reinstating the Office of Drug Control, requesting a Medicaid waiver to cover a broader range of addiction treatment and allowing the syringe exchange pilot to expand from Miami-Dade County — are relative drops in the bucket of Florida’s roughly $80 billion annual budget. Reinstating the ODC would cost roughly $500,000 a year, a Medicaid waiver would mean a marginal increase in state spending on existing recipients (with the federal government covering 60 percent), and syringe exchange programs, by law, must be privately funded. The 2018 Session must be one in which we finally start to claw back from the destructive scourge of opiates. These bills attempt to strike at various parts of the greater problem, while costing our state little. They deserve the full consideration of the Florida Legislature this session.
— MOVEMENTS —
Personnel note: Lauren Bankert and Caylee Underwood join On3PR — Bankert and Underwood are the newest members to join the woman-owned On 3 Public Relations firm. “Their experience both in the public and private sectors, with skill sets in design as well as communications, will strengthen the services we provide clients in public relations, grassroots advocacy, coalition building and crisis communications,” President Christina Johnson announced Monday. Johnson said Bankert would serve as an account manager and Underwood will work as an account coordinator for the decade-old public relations firm.
Personnel note: Manny Reyes starts own firm — The veteran South Florida lobbyist announced on Twitter he had opened his own lobbying and consulting shop, after 20 years with Gomez Barker Associates, which was recently sold. Pereira Reyes Consulting will specialize in state and local lobbying and strategic planning. Reyes has a background in a variety of areas, including transportation, regulated industries and education. He also has worked on various political campaigns. He has served as an advisor to many charities and for his alma mater, Christopher Columbus High School in Miami. Reyes currently serves on the President’s Cabinet of Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Foundation.
New general counsel at FRLA — The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association announced Monday the recent addition of Samantha Padgett as General Counsel. Padgett joins FRLA’s Governmental Relations team, currently led by Richard Turner, who will assume a new title as Senior Vice President of Legal and Legislative Affairs. Padgett will perform legal functions, provide legal advice and strengthen the association’s advocacy efforts at the state and local levels. “We’re extremely proud to have Samantha H. Padgett join our team. Padgett is a well-respected professional in Tallahassee circles and across the state. I’m confident her legal expertise and experience will enhance the Florida hospitality industry’s presence,” said Carol Dover, President and CEO of the FRLA.
Happy birthday to Mike Fasano‘s right-hand-man, Greg Giordano. Also celebrating today is Mary Beth Wilson, err, Lisa Miller.