Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Ana Ceballos, Joe Henderson, Daniel McAuliffe, and Jim Rosica.
As much as we’re anticipating the Great Debate tonight between House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Tallahassee Mayor (and gubernatorial candidate) Andrew Gillum, there is another showdown we would like to see more.
A faceoff between Corcoran and Florida Education Association president Joanne McCall could be one of the great confrontations in state political history.
And you know what? We bet both of them would jump at the chance to go eyeball-to-eyeball and talking-point-to-talking-point over the future of public education in our state.
The public would be the clear winner — especially given the widespread expectation Corcoran will be a candidate for governor later this year.
Joe Henderson sat with Corcoran last November for a lengthy chat about his vision for Florida, and he got really worked up when the subject of education came up. He believes he is 100 percent correct to settle for nothing less than a major overhaul in the way our children — particularly the most vulnerable — are prepared for adulthood.
OK then. How about we get this party started right after Gillum and Corcoran finish their showdown on immigration and sanctuary cities tonight?
McCall certainly sounds like she would be up for the fight. Her organization represents teachers throughout the state and just opened a campaign demanding that Republican lawmakers stand up to Corcoran and his cherished HB 7055 — his latest move to change public education.
A mailer targeting select Republicans calls the bill a “monstrosity” and questions whether party members have the guts to stand up to Corcoran and vote against passage.
“Don’t be a coward,” the ad admonishes.
Of course, Corcoran has his own ad going these days — a TV spot where a hooded Latino man shoots a white woman to death. Corcoran says we have to confront sanctuary cities and illegal immigration.
He and Gillum will settle that issue face to face.
But when that’s done, we have no doubt the Speaker will have enough gas left in the tank to confront his harshest critics on education and let the chips fall where they will.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— @AnaNavarro: 6 US citizen children -including one who is fighting leukemia- are going to be without their father and provider. Their father was brought to America 29 yrs ago, when he was 1. Cuz “family values” …
— @LedgeKing: .@calls @ budget a “non-starter. If we’re ever going to get to Mars … we need a larger funding increase for NASA. Turning off the lights & walking away from our sole outpost in space at a time when we’re pushing the frontiers of exploration makes no sense.”
— @AdamPutnam: When I’m Governor, we are going to make
#FloridaFirst in … speed skating!
— @RonLittlepage: It doesn’t appear that Anna Broche and Lenny Curry will be exchanging Valentine cards Wednesday. I hope they didn’t spend a lot of time decorating those shoe boxes.
— @OGHC3 (Frank Collins): I’m not a germaphobe, but until the flu is done with Tallahassee I will only be acknowledging folks with either a thumbs up or a wave. Please don’t make it awkward by going for the handshake.
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— DAYS UNTIL —
Days until: Valentine’s Day — 1; Black Panther premier — 3; Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony — 12; Last day for regularly scheduled legislative committee meetings — 14; Disney Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival — 16; Last day to take up Special Order Calendar — 20; Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program termination begins — 20; Sine Die (maybe) — 24; St. Patrick’s Day — 32; Major League Baseball Opening Day — 46; Easter — 47; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 99; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 129; Primary Election Day — 196; General Election Day — 266; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 364.
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“Republicans worried about immigration, crime; Democrats, Indies, not so much” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — In the statewide poll conducted by University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab, a quarter of surveyed Republican registered voters (25.7 percent) listed immigration as the most important problem facing Florida today, while only one in 14 Democrats said it is, and only one of every 11 unaffiliated voters think so. Another 19 percent of Republican voters listed crime as the most important problem, the second-most popular choice, while few Democrats or independent voters listed crime as a top problem. Democrats and independent voters both picked education as the most important problem. Democrats next two concerns were health care and the economy, while unaffiliated voters followed education with the economy and health care.
“Rick Scott continues committee spending spree” via Florida Politics — Let’s Get to Work took in a pair of $5,000 contributions, one from Illinois-based Covenant Aviation Security and another from Kansas City-based HNTB Holdings PAC. A good chunk of the spending, $26,606, went to Maryland-based OnMessage. Scott has used the company for media production and consulting for years and has paid the company more than $2.5 million for its services since the political committee was formed in 2014. Contribution Link received $16,000 last month for database services, while former Republican Party of Florida Finance Director Debbie Aleksander received nearly $19,500 for consulting and expenses and Robert Manders received $6,400 for finance consulting.
New poll shows surprising lack of name recognition in Governor’s race — A University of North Florida poll of registered voters found a surprising lack of name recognition for gubernatorial candidates Gillum, Gwen Graham, Phillip Levine, Corcoran, Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam. As for Democrats, the percentage of respondents who had never heard of them ranges from 73 percent for Levine to 81 percent for Gillum. Graham had the highest favorability of the Democrats, with 11 percent viewing her favorably and 4 percent unfavorably, while 78 percent had never heard of her. Republicans didn’t fare any better — 67 percent never heard of Putnam, 72 percent never heard of DeSantis and 78 percent never heard of Corcoran. Putnam received the highest favorability among Republicans, with 14 percent viewing him favorably and 7 percent unfavorably. “It’s a little surprising that so few people have heard of the candidates, particularly Adam Putnam who has won two statewide races, and Gwen Graham, who is a former member of Congress and the daughter of former Gov. and Sen. Bob Graham,” said Dr. Michael Binder, faculty director of the UNF Public Opinion Research Lab. “These results highlight both the opportunities for the candidates to shape the voters’ perception of them and the challenges they face in getting out their message.”
More mayors endorsing Graham — Hawthorne Mayor and past president of the Florida League of Cities Matt Surrency, former Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner, and former Monroe County Mayor Shirley Freeman — are the latest among those from across the state to support Graham. “As governor, Gwen Graham will respect cities and counties and work with them to do what is best for their local communities,” Surrency said. “She has fought alongside local governments to protect our clean water from fracking, supports returning management of our classrooms and schools to teachers and parents, and will defend home rule.” Lerner added: “Gwen is committed to sustainability and will usher in a green economy that works for every Floridian.” Freeman said: “Gwen has a proven record of always fighting offshore drilling and an unwavering dedication to protecting Florida’s environment.”
“Philip Levine surpasses $4M in TV spending amid primary money gap” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Levine is up with another new television ad, one that hits Speaker Corcoran‘s hard-line immigration stance — and underscores a growing divide between the Democratic gubernatorial primary’s haves and have-nots. Between his campaign and political committee, Levine has spent just over $4 million so far on airtime, and likely will remain on air through the August primary. That’s a huge sum this early in the election cycle, and it’s left his primary foes, including Gillum, in the unenviable position of having to scramble for attention and react to Levine’s ad buys to get attention. Levine’s newest buy is $250,000 in Tallahassee, Miami, Orlando, Tampa, West Palm Beach and the Washington media markets. The ad targets a Corcoran-funded television ad that blasts so-called sanctuary cities.
Click on the image below to watch the ad:
“Jimmy Patronis: DeSantis’ vow to drain the Tallahassee swamp is ‘campaign rhetoric’” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Patronis, when asked which gubernatorial candidate would be best at carrying on the legacy of Gov. Rick Scott, was noncommittal. “All those gentlemen have fantastic leadership abilities,” Patronis said. “They all bring a different skill set that complements what the state of Florida needs right now. All three of those gentlemen have that ability … But the campaign is a great test of leadership, ideas and skills. There will be mishaps, falls, but there will be opportunities,” Patronis added. Patronis, on whether he thought Tallahassee was swampy, and if so, how swampy: “I think Congressman DeSantis is having some fun with the rhetoric that we all see in Washington.”
Assignment editors — Republican gubernatorial candidate Putnam will host an “Up & Adam” breakfast beginning 8:30 a.m. at Mel’s Diner — Fort Myers, 4820 S. Cleveland Ave. in Fort Myers.
“Jack Latvala begins refunding money to gubernatorial campaign contributors” via Florida Politics — Contributors to Latvala’s gubernatorial campaign will receive a refund for approximately one-half of their original contribution, says a source familiar with Latvala’s exit strategy. According to Latvala’s January campaign finance report, his campaign has made 12 — $1,500 refunds, beginning Jan. 23. Contributors are receiving pro rata refunds because Latvala’s been spending some of his campaign funds on legal fees to defend himself in the scandal.
“Alan Grayson says he’s running for Congress, but won’t say where” via Matt Dixon and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Grayson says he wants to return to Congress in 2018 but is not yet saying which seat he’s running for. “Yes, this cycle is what I’m looking at,” Grayson told POLITICO Florida in a telephone interview Monday. “But Florida law says I can run anywhere.” When pressed for specifics, he said: “TBD.” The Orlando Democrat has never stopped accepting online contributions since leaving Congress in 2016 to run for the U.S. Senate. He has $556,000 cash-on-hand and has continued receiving small-dollar contributions since his loss in the Democratic primary to Patrick Murphy. … Central Florida Democrats for more than a month have been buzzing with talk that Grayson might run against his Democratic successor, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, who beat Grayson’s wife and his former aide in the 2016 Democratic primary when the former congressman decided to run for U.S. Senate. Grayson has done nothing to quiet those rumors about challenging Soto.
“State Senators amend campaign documents that listed donations after state of Session” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Two Florida Senators amended their campaign finance reports Monday morning after the Miami Herald inquired about why their fundraising records suggested they’d accepted donations after the start of the legislative session, in violation of chamber rules. Daphne Campbell and Wilton Simpson both filed treasurer’s reports for January reporting campaign donations after the start of the 2018 legislative session. Campbell, a Democrat, showed $13,000 after Jan. 9, and Simpson, the Republican majority leader, showed nearly $11,000. Both senators, however, said through surrogates that their reports were inaccurate, and quickly amended the documents. Simpson, through spokeswoman Erin Isaac, said the checks in question, dated as late as Jan. 11 in Simpson’s contribution report, had been mailed to CPA Randy Woodruff on the first day of Session. Issac said they were mistakenly documented as having been received on the date they were deposited in the bank, and she provided a Jan. 9 FedEx receipt to the Miami Herald.
“Email insights: Javi ‘Lobby’ Fernandez” via Florida Politics — A newly formed political committee sent out an email Monday poking at Democrat Fernandez — or “Javi Lobby” — for working as a lobbyist. The People for a Progressive Florida message, titled “I am a lobbyist” is written as if the House District 114 candidate was behind the keyboard. “The subject line says it all — I’m a lobbyist. If you don’t believe me, The Miami Herald reported on it last week. And as you can see below, I’m willing to represent anyone,” the email reads. “My specialty includes lobbying for all-nude strip clubs near residential neighborhoods like Candie’s Cabaret and sex toy shops like Miami Playground.” The email goes on to paint Fernandez as one of the more unscrupulous advocates in the Miami area, describing a lobbying ban handed down to Fernandez in Miami Beach as well as an $8,500 fine levied against him by the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission.
— LATEST FROM HD 72 —
Final early vote numbers: Dems 2,825, GOP 2,541, NPA 1,145; Overall numbers: Dems 11,651, GOP 11,796, NPA 3,602.
“Voter turnout in Sarasota state House race may be a record” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner researched voter turnout results in the state archives. The turnout figures only go back to 2003, but since then the largest voter turnout for a state House special election was 22 percent in 2008. Turnout in the District 72 race already is at 22.8 percent … and that’s only from absentee and in-person early voting. The unusually high turnout stems from how competitive the race has become, and the amount of resources being poured into the contest, which is generating national attention because the parties view it as a bellwether race that will send a message about the political atmosphere heading into November. The national interest has amped up local interest, and it also helps that the race is the only one on the ballot right now, Turner said.
The final poll — indicates that an upset is in the making — if Margaret Good beating James Buchanan can be viewed as an upset. However, the race is still very close and the Republicans could pull it out with a strong turnout on Election Day. St. Pete Polls has the race at Good 48 percent, Buchanan 45 percent, with Foxall taking four percent and “unsure” coming in at 3 percent. That’s a six-point swing for Good since January 24, when Buchanan led her 49 to 46 percent. Diving into those numbers, it gets interesting. Good is crushing Buchanan among those who say they have already voted, 57 to 39 percent, but the opposite is true among those who say they plan to vote, with Buchanan leading that cohort 53 to 38 percent. Fifty-three percent of voters say they’ve already voted, while 47 percent said they still planned to vote.
“Good campaign fueled by Democrats across the U.S.” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — Not only has Good received campaign contributions from around the nation — especially liberal redoubts like New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. — but groups from some of those same communities were also phone-banking for her less than 24 hours before the polls open. What’s considered surprising (by some) is that Good outraised Buchanan in campaign contributions, taking in $484,372 to $353,320 for the Republican. In the final fundraising report issued Friday, Good reported 2,977 individual contributions — with a vast majority less than $100 — from all across the country.
Fun afternoon knocking on doors and talking to voters in Sarasota about my friend @GoodforFlorida. Exciting that such a great person, leader and Democrat is on the ballot tomorrow for the Florida House! Let’s win this! #HD72 #FlipItBlue pic.twitter.com/BIpSpHx8hj
— Ben Diamond (@BenDiamondFL) February 13, 2018
— CAPITOL INSIGHT —
“Double or nothing? Senate gambling bill clears latest panel” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Sen. Travis Hutson says he believes “there’s a way for us to get there” when asked about gambling legislation finally passing the Legislature this year. The Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax on Monday unanimously approved his 90-page rewrite of the Senate’s gaming bill (SB 840) for 2018. It now includes a House provision: A renewed 20-year deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida for $3 billion in revenue over seven years in return for exclusive rights to blackjack and slot machines outside South Florida. But the Senate also allows the Seminoles to add craps and roulette, expressly authorizes designated player games, which the House opposes; and exempts fantasy sports from gambling regulation, a move opposed by the Tribe. Overlaying all of that is Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s position that any bill the House agrees to must be “an absolute contraction” of gambling in the state — though he hasn’t specifically defined that term. “I would argue this is a contraction all day long,” Hutson, chair of the Regulated Industries Committee, told reporters after the hearing.
“Human trafficking bill allowing victims to sue hotels moves ahead” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — The bill, sponsored by Sen. Lauren Book, intends to give victims more litigation power to recoup economic damages as well as the cost for medical and mental health expenses they amassed following their time of the abuse. “We can’t stop all these crimes from occurring, but it would be my hope that in an ecosystem like a hotel, there are people spotting and reporting those things to help those individuals,” Book said. In cases where human trafficking is going on in a hotel, the bill provides language that protects business from lawsuits if employees are trained to recognize the signs of trafficking and if management has a plan set up to report suspicious activity. … As amended, the bill now heads to the Rules Committee, its last committee stop before it can hit the full floor. The effort in the House has stalled, though. The House bill, sponsored by state Rep. Ross Spano, was temporarily postponed in its last committee stop early this month.
“Changes debated in university performance money” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — The House is taking another look at performance standards for state universities, after supporters of some schools, including Florida A&M University, say they are being shortchanged in a system that denies extra funding to the “bottom three” universities. The funds totaled $245 million this academic year. And the money can provide a significant boost to schools that qualify. The University of Florida, which topped the rankings, earned $55 million. The top schools split the money based on a formula, but the bottom three do not receive any state performance funds. Florida Polytechnic University, the state’s newest school, does not yet participate. Finishing in the bottom three meant FAMU, which earned $11.5 million in 2016-2017, and Florida Gulf Coast University, which earned $8 million, as well as the University of North Florida, did not receive any state performance funds this year. Rep. Ramon Alexander, a Tallahassee Democrat and former FAMU student body president, said the ranking system is unfair, pitting vastly different institutions, like the University of Florida, a major research university, against New College, a small liberal arts school.
“State Senator’s employer, Shands Jacksonville Hospital, got funding boost in proposed Senate budget” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida — The hospital where state Sen. Aaron Bean works as a “relationship development officer” got a special funding boost of $12 million in this year’s proposed Senate budget, right after Bean’s brother-in-law, Rob Bradley, became the new Senate Appropriations Committee chair. When POLITICO noted to Bradley the extra money tucked into Florida Senate budget documents for Shands Jacksonville Hospital, the Fleming Island Republican said staff made an error that he was unaware of and vowed to fix the problem by removing the extra money from the budget. … Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican who was cleared in an unrelated ethics complaint last year over a budget item, said he didn’t request the appropriation but voted for it and would do it again. He also refused to say whether he knew of the special money for Shands Jacksonville before the budget vote.
“Everybody loves ‘DST’: Daylight Saving Time all the time wins over committee” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — “The Sunshine Protection Act,” sponsored by Sarasota Republican Greg Steube (SB 858), would call on Congress to allow Florida to make Daylight Saving Time permanent year-round. Under federal law, the U.S. Department of Transportation is charged with setting time zones, but the agency permits states to exempt themselves from Daylight Saving Time if Congress approves. The committee passed the bill unanimously. The legislation originally called for moving the western part of the state, which currently is in the Central time zone, to the Eastern time zone. However, Steube said that after hearing from Panhandle area legislators, he amended the bill to put that area back on Central time. “Northern Florida people in the Central time zone overwhelmingly want to stay where they are,” said committee Chairman Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat whose sprawling 11-county district includes areas in each time zone.
“Proposal would lead to more kids on school buses” via News Service of Florida — Despite concerns from school districts and lawmakers about the projected costs, a Senate committee Monday approved a bill that would lead to more students being able to take school buses. The bill (SB 188), filed by Sen. Greg Steube would require that buses be available for students who live more than 1.5 miles from school — down from the current standard of two miles. It also would make other changes, such as ensuring that buses would be available to all students who encounter “hazardous walking conditions” going back and forth to school. The Senate Education Committee voted 8-1 to approve the bill, which Steube said was aimed at helping keep children safe.
Defending Florida’s franchise owners — A bill that would offer greater protections for Florida’s small business franchise owners is being considered in the Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon. The “Small Business Parity Act” would prevent corporate franchisors from taking advantage of the local business owners who employ over 400,000 Floridians. The only other stop for the bill in the Senate would be the Rule Committee before it hits the floor, while the House companion has yet to gain traction.
STEM Day comes to the Capitol — Technology displays and science demonstrations, featured throughout the Capitol until 3 p.m., will be a chance for lawmakers and others to discover the important role science centers and museums play in facilitating STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). It’s helping to “build tomorrow’s technology workforce,” according to a news release. “Science Centers and museums light the spark of curiosity, promoting STEM careers and instilling important 21st Century skills through engaging hands-on programs.” Representatives from science centers, museums and other educational institutions across the state expected to attend include JoAnn Newman, President & CEO, Orlando Science Center; Matt Blakely, Director, Motorola Solutions Foundation; Russell S. Daws, President & CEO, Tallahassee Museum. A news conference will be held at 11 a.m.
#SuitsForSession is back — Gently worn professional attire will be accepted from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at the Capitol and participating state agencies. In Leon County, Uber also will take bagged clothes to drop off points free of charge. According to Volunteer Florida, #SuitsForSession collected more than 3,200 donations last year. Items this year will be donated to the Chapman Partnership in Miami, Dress for Success Tampa Bay, ECHO Outreach Ministries in Tallahassee, Bridges of America in Orlando, and the Florida State University Unconquered Scholars program. Accepted donations include blazers/jackets, full suits, blouses/shirts, dresses/skirts, pants/trousers, shoes, ties, and handbags.
Governors Club Tuesday buffet menu — It’s all-Americana at the Governors Club with mixed green salad with assorted dressings; tomato, parsley and red onion salad; egg salad; broccoli cheese soup; Southern fried chicken; chicken-fried steak; sausage gravy; mashed potatoes; green bean casserole; cut corn; with tapioca pudding for dessert.
— FIXING PIP —
Florida’s no-fault auto insurance system needs reform, but some question whether current bills addressing the issue will actually change anything.
In an interview with Florida Politics, William Large, president of the Justice Reform Institute, said state legislation that would repeal Florida’s personal injury protection, or PIP, mandate is “a bad idea in its current form.”
Large contends that the system won’t change unless legislation is passed to rewrite the laws governing third-party bad-faith litigation. House and Senate bills currently moving through Session would repeal PIP and instead require motorists to carry certain levels of per person and per accident insurance. “It’s going to be very similar to the old PIP regime,” Large said. “You’ll see litigation over low-dollar amounts, and you’ll see high attorney fee awards fighting over those low-dollar amounts.”
The bombshell study: Driving much of the criticism of PIP legislation this year is a study published by the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America in late January. Analysis showed PIP repeal would drive the cost of coverage up by 5.3 percent, or $67 per year.
Suggested fixes: Large said there are three reform measures that would change bad-faith practices in the industry. Those include: “An objective measure of time, such as 45 days, before an insurer can be held in bad faith, … a mandate that the third-party plaintiffs and their attorneys act in good faith in handling the claim … and interpleader reform (clarifying apportionment of payments between, say, four people, with diverging injuries and medical costs, hurt by a covered driver).”
Change is doubtful (this year): “It’s a difficult road ahead of us,” Large said. “We’ve made our position known at every committee stop and we’ve asked the sponsors to include [bad-faith reform]. As of this date, that hasn’t happened.”
— STATEWIDE —
“Scott and Cabinet want sole power to change felon voting rules” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Scott and the Florida Cabinet told a federal judge that the four Republican officials should decide themselves how to change a vote-restoration system for convicted felons that the judge ruled unconstitutional. But a national voting rights advocacy group that persuaded the judge to strike down the current system earlier this month wants the judge to restore the right to vote for all felons after they complete any “waiting period of a specified duration of time.”… “Such an order,” the Fair Elections Legal Network said in its filing, “will effectively eliminate the requirement for ex-felons to affirmatively apply for restoration and eliminate the state’s obligation to investigate each ex-felon in the state of Florida.” … “This court should not issue an injunction prohibiting the state from exercising its right to choose a particular course, so long as its course is compatible with the requirements of federal law,” the state argued in a brief filed by Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s solicitor general, Amit Agarwal.
Choose your news …
“Expedited Herbert Hoover Dike repair confirmed in White House budget” via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News — Donald Trump kept his promise to Gov. Scott and the people of Florida by including in his fiscal 2019 budget expediting rehabilitation of the dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee and provides flood protection for South Florida. Page 100 of the budget proposes “to accelerate repairs of the Herbert Hoover Dike through an innovative partnership between the federal government and the State of Florida using a combination of appropriations from the federal government and the State of Florida.” The dike simply qualified. Trump wanted emphasis on investing in ongoing, rather than new construction projects, projects with “high economic or environmental returns while addressing public safety.” According to the budget language, “By proposing to not start any new construction projects, the budget enables the Corps to focus on completing these ongoing priority projects faster for less cost, allowing the affected communities to see their benefits sooner.”
“Florida may be on hook for speeding up Lake O dike repairs in Trump budget” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida — President Trump on Monday proposed a fiscal year 2019 federal budget that appears to require a $200 million commitment from Florida to speed up repairs of the dike around Lake Okeechobee. The president’s budget proposal describes an “innovative partnership” with Florida, but the request falls short of the $212 million that the Army Corps of Engineers said was needed in fiscal 2019 to accelerate work on the federal project. Instead, Trump’s request provides $96 million for the dike repairs plus $66 million to accelerate work contingent upon the Florida Legislature providing another $50 million in the 2018-19 state budget, according to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers budget overview.
“Florida plans to boost Israel Bond holdings to a record $50 million” via David Lyons of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s Department of Financial Services said it is increasing its investment in Israeli debt securities to “an unprecedented” 50 million for 2018. The announcement came one day after the Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds launched its annual U.S. sales campaign with a dinner in Miami Beach, drawing a sellout crowd of 500 people. In the past five years, the campaign has raised more than $1 billion annually in the United States. The state of Florida, through the Department of Financial Services, Division of Treasury, currently holds $40 million in the debt securities, which are two-year bonds yielding 2.77 percent. Moshe Kahlon, Israel’s finance minister, said the state’s move “tells the world that Florida and Israel are not only friends but have shared economic interests.”
“State dispatches nine experts to probe Hillsborough’s foster care troubles” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — DCF has assembled a team of nine child welfare experts to identify “systemic issues,” including why the county removes more children than any other and how it cares for difficult-to-place older teens. Eckerd Connects, the county’s lead agency, last week fired nonprofit group Youth and Family Alternatives after finding instances of staff leaving older foster children alone. Eckerd Connects reported the agency to the state’s abuse hotline and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. “We will hold anyone who has failed our children fully accountable,” said DCF Secretary Mike Carroll. The new review will look at all levels of the child welfare system, including child protective investigations, counseling and other services being offered to families, the number of foster beds available and the number of children removed from homes.
“Abuse, lies, videotape: A star employee at Miami’s juvenile lockup confesses to misconduct” via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald — Symon Gooding had been on the fast track at the Department of Juvenile Justice, having been promoted twice in as many years. But in her upward climb in law enforcement, Gooding applied for a higher-paying job at the Miami Gardens Police Department that required a polygraph test. She told the truth. It not only cost her the city job, it got her fired by the state … Gooding said she had lied and falsified records many times at the Miami-Dade juvenile detention center, sometimes to cover up abuse of detainees. And that she had coerced kids there into doing the same. Miami Gardens police waited three months before telling juvenile justice administrators about Gooding’s disclosures. When they did Jan. 25, DJJ opened an internal investigation into allegations that its long-troubled Miami lockup has sustained a culture of lies and cover-ups. It’s the same facility where 17-year-old Elord Revolte was beaten to death by detainees in 2015 — at the urging of a still-employed staffer, according to two youths.
“Orlando City Council votes to allow home sharing vacation rentals” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The move, approved 6-1, takes effect July 1, ending what has effectively been a 26-year ban on vacation rental homes that predated the rise of the Airbnb-style, online, home-sharing industry. Orlando’s law even predated the term “vacation rental,” covering it in city zoning codes with the term “commercial dwelling units,” a code quirk that some had suggested might make the city’s law potentially vulnerable to legal challenge, though it has not been so challenged successfully. Orlando is among a handful of cities and counties that had laws restricting or prohibiting vacation rentals already on the books in 2011 when the Florida Legislature began pushing to reduce such local laws and regulations. Orlando’s and the other pre-2011 laws were grandfathered in.
“What happens if Scott Maddox vacates his commission seat?” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — His fellow commissioners would appoint his successor to serve until the next election. Whether that election would be held this year or in 2020 depends on when a vacancy might occur, according to Interim City Attorney Cassandra Jackson and Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley. If a vacancy were to happen before candidate qualifying in June, candidates could run for the seat this fall, with the winner serving out the remainder of his term through November 2020. If the vacancy were to happen after qualifying, the election would happen in 2020, with the winning candidate serving a full four-year term. Either way, city commissioners would have only 20 working days to appoint someone to Maddox’s seat or the appointment would fall to Gov. Scott to make.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Time is running out for Puerto Ricans sheltering in hotels” via Rick Rojas and Luis Ferré-Sadurní of The New York Times — The desperation that followed Maria’s devastation and the stumbling response has given way to uncertainty for many Puerto Ricans throughout the country. Some who left for the mainland United States have returned home, while others have laid roots in new places, finding jobs and securing permanent housing. Yet thousands of other families remain in limbo and have been relying on hotel rooms provided by FEMA as they decide whether to go back or forge ahead elsewhere. Many people staying in the hotels have described confusion over where their cases stand and anxiety about whether they will be able to stay as deadlines rapidly approach — for some, as soon as this week. “It has me on pins and needles,” said Wanda Arroyo, 56, who has been living in a hotel in Queens. “It has gotten to the point that I don’t even pick up the letters slipped under my door because of the expectation that one will say I’m being kicked out.”
— OPINIONS —
“Annual percentage rates: A bogus measure of short-term lending” via Florida Politics — APR isn’t applicable in the context of this kind of loan, and all terms of the loan are clearly communicated to customers beforehand, as required by Florida law. According to a study by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), for example, simple bank overdraft fees — when expressed as an APR — can reach a staggering 3,520 percent. Now consider that the fees associated with a short-term loan are typically less than the cost of two overdrafts (not to mention the late fees, merchant return fees, and reconnect fees that can go along with a bounced check). Anyone who takes out a small-dollar loan to avoid bouncing a couple of checks is actually saving money — no matter what the critics try to say about the supposed interest rate. Consider if you withdraw $100 from an ATM that isn’t part of your bank. Typically, you’ll be charged a $3.00 fee for this out-of-network transaction — in essence, the other bank is giving you a one-day cash advance, knowing it will get the money from your bank the next day. The $3 fee for that one-day advance translates into an APR of 1,095 percent. In contrast, the theoretical APR on Florida’s existing 30-day small-dollar loan product — and the 60-90 day small-dollar loan product in the legislative proposal — is about 200 percent.
— PYEONGCHANG —
“Are Winter Olympics athletes paid? It’s complicated, unless you’re Shaun White” via Kevin Skiver of CBS Sports — It takes external sources for a U.S. Olympian to get rich. It could be endorsements or prize money, but to get truly wealthy, Olympians need to exceed all expectations and get a combination of both. That isn’t to say that there’s no money in the Olympics. Lindsey Vonn and Shaun White have crazy endorsement deals, and after this year’s Olympic Games, Chloe Kim will likely find herself in good shape economically. However, Vonn and White didn’t just compete in the Olympics. They built a brand. And to build a brand, they were on top of their respective sports for over a decade. Just competing, however, isn’t enough. Take the biathlon team, for example. In an interview with NPR, U.S. athletes talked about how they “get by.” Lowell Bailey, a leader on the team, said that the biathlon team doesn’t even turn a profit.
“Welcome to peak Olympics” via Stuart Thompson of The New York Times — We’ve been spoiled by generations of athletes getting faster. But during the past several decades, progress has virtually come to a standstill in many sports. Athletes don’t really smash records anymore. They just squeak by them. Researchers have found plateaus in shot put, high jump and the 800-meter run, and signs of plateaus in cycling, weightlifting and swimming. At the Winter Olympics, it’s found in speedskating. There have been only a few record-breaking finishes in speedskating since 2005, and those records were made by the thinnest margins. Spectators are used to steady progress. But this progress was largely a symptom of changes in nutrition and training throughout the 20th century. Healthier kids turned into taller, more athletic adults. Sports performance improved. But, in the Western world, average height eventually stopped increasing. Without as much of a physical edge over previous generations, athletes found gains using a new weapon: technology. This is clear in speedskating, where bodysuits and skates play a major role in reducing drag and improving speed.
“Online, a diverse Winter Olympics. But on the ground?” via Talya Minsberg of The New York Times — Looking across social media as the Games pick up, some of the biggest stars have been an unexpectedly diverse group. With viral videos, trending topics and plenty of gifs, the internet has crowned some of the early fan favorites as the American speedskater Maame Biney, the Jamaican women’s bobsled team and, adding to momentum they built up long before the opening ceremony, the Nigerian women’s bobsled team (not to mention the shirtless Tongan competing improbably as a cross-country skier after flaming out in taekwondo at the 2016 Summer Olympics.) They are not necessarily medal contenders, nor underdogs. And their outsize presence on social media belies the reality on the ground here of an overwhelming white population of athletes. The undeniable advantage in the Winter Games has long gone to nations with the strongest national governing bodies, which are the biggest financing system for athletes in training.
“South Korea’s Olympic bet is unlikely to pay off, economics professor says” via Andrew Wong of CNBC — Pyeongchang has already racked up a $13 billion bill for the Winter Olympics this year, and that mean bad news for South Korea given lukewarm ticket sales, said Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics. Smith College’s Zimbalist said the only way to justify such a massive investment was to ensure returns are seen in the long run. But that hasn’t been the case for most cities that have hosted the Winter Games, according to him: “At the end of the day, they’ve spent $13 billion and they’ll get back about $2.5 billion. The only way you can justify that kind of a terrible balance is if, in the long run, it’s going to promote tourism, promote trade and promote foreign investments … There’s no evidence from other Olympics that that happens.”
— MOVEMENTS —
“Money spent on lobbying skyrocketed during tax overhaul” via Richard Lardner of The Associated Press — Money spent on lobbying by corporations, trade associations and special interest groups spiked during the final three months of 2017 as they battled for the biggest breaks possible in the most dramatic tax overhaul in more than 30 years. The figures for the heavyweights are eye-popping. The National Association of Realtors tallied $22.2 million between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, according to newly filed disclosure reports. That’s double what the organization spent in the third quarter on lobbying activities. The Business Roundtable spent $17.3 million in the fourth quarter, nearly quadruple the amount over the three previous months, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported spending $16.8 million, a $3.7 million increase.
“PolitiFact gains nonprofit status with move to the Poynter Institute” via Aaron Sharockman of PolitiFact — The move will allow PolitiFact to function fully as a not-for-profit national news organization, putting it more squarely on footing with other nonprofit newsrooms like ProPublica and the Center for Public Integrity. Poynter already is home to the International Fact Checking Network, an organization that supports fact-checkers around the world. The transition by PolitiFact also means that contributions to PolitiFact’s membership program, called the Truth Squad, will be tax deductible in 2018, as allowed by law. PolitiFact launched the Truth Squad in 2017, and the website reported raising more than $200,000 in donations in its first year. PolitiFact’s eight journalists become employees of the Poynter Institute, and PolitiFact will retain its presence both in Washington, D.C, and in St. Petersburg.
— ALOE —
“Arkansas State considering suing UM over game canceled ahead of Hurricane Irma” via Christy Chirinos of the Miami Herald -Miami’s decision to cancel its Sept. 9 football game at Arkansas State could lead to a potential lawsuit, according to documents obtained by KAIT Region 8 News, an ABC affiliate in Arkansas. The documents detail how Arkansas State is seeking a $650,000 payment from Miami in wake of the canceled game and the two schools’ inability to agree on a date to reschedule the game. In a letter dated Feb. 12 and sent to University of Miami attorney James D. Rowlee, Arkansas State University attorney Brad Phelps wrote that ASU had “suffered significant disruption and damages” and was seeking compensation under the contract the two schools signed in 2013.
What Shannon Shepp is reading — “Flu fears halt a long decline in orange juice sales” via Julie Wernau of The Wall Street Journal — Orange juice sales rose 0.9 percent to 38.66 million gallons in the four weeks ended Jan. 20. That uptick marked the first year-over-year increase in nearly five years, according to Nielsen, though analysts don’t expect this trend to last much beyond flu season. Consumption has been dwindling over the past decade for a number of reasons. Greater public awareness of orange juice’s high sugar content has dented its image as a healthy drink. But the most severe flu outbreak in the U.S. in at least eight years has those worried about getting sick turning to this traditional source of vitamin C, helping boost sales for the first time since April 2013.