Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.
Florida was well represented at this year’s Pulitzer Prizes.
First up, the Pulitzer board disclosed Monday that the newspaper’s “Fight Club” series, by reporters Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch, was one of two finalists for the 2018 Investigative Journalism award. Finalists are not identified before the annual awards are given out.
The board said their exposé on the juvenile justice system, “prompted by the tragic death of a foster child and told in heartbreaking detail, spurred legislative reform intended to better protect that states’ young charges.” The other finalist was Tim Eberly of The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Virginia.
The award went to the staff of The Washington Post for its reporting on Roy Moore’s candidacy. The paper “changed the course of a U.S. Senate race in Alabama by revealing a candidate’s alleged past sexual harassment of teenage girls and subsequent efforts to undermine the journalism that exposed it.”
Post staff who reported those stories includes Beth Reinhard, a former Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post reporter.
But wait, there’s more.
— John Woodrow Cox of The Washington Post, formerly of the Tampa Bay Times, was a finalist in the Feature Writing category for “a gripping portfolio of stories rendered with keen observation and graceful yet simple writing that presents the horror of gun violence from an entirely new perspective: through the eyes of children.”
— Jack E. Davis, a professor of environmental history at the University of Florida, won the award in History for his book, “The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea,” a Florida-centric look at the “important environmental history of the Gulf of Mexico that brings crucial attention to Earth’s 10th-largest body of water.”
— Brett Murphy of USA Today Network was a finalist in the National Reporting category for “a graceful, data-driven narrative populated by the truckers who transport goods from America’s ports — spirited characters exploited by some of the country’s largest and best-known companies.” Murphy is an investigative reporter for the USA TODAY Network in Florida and previously covered courts for the Naples Daily News.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— @MarcoRubio: Just notified that due to brain injuries to diplomats in # # has designated embassy in # to ‘unaccompanied post’ & personnel will no longer be joined by family. Will also review all positions in Cuba to balance staff safety with need to deliver services on island
— @RepTedDeutch: The blackout in PR is the second longest in world history. The United States, the wealthiest country on this planet, is failing to provide for its people. Puerto Ricans are US citizens and we cannot continue to ignore their needs.
— @MrPurdon: This AM I was part of an intimate campaign stop with Gov. Scott. Second time I have seen him do an event in SWFL in just as many weeks. Something I noticed both times, No Notes. Gov. Scott has a little more swag or pep in his step than campaigns past
— @BSFarrington: Starting to figure out why the @only meets every 20 years.
— @JKennedyReport: “There are no fundraisers tonight at the Governor’s Club for ethics,” sez @‘s Don Gaetz, touting his 6-year ban on public officials lobbying their agencies.
— @MDixon55: .@just called out the silliness of saying “with all due respect” before blasting someone’s idea. It’s the best thing that has been said all day. Just say what you mean, folks.
— @ShevrinJones: Thank you @richardcorcoran for showing up to #LibertyCity to meet with community leaders about the gun violence in our communities.
— @EmmersBrown: Marty Baron calls Pulitzer-winning work at The Washington Post — and The New York Times — a case study in why we need a free press in this country”
— @DeFede: Congratulations indeed. Great work. Nevertheless, I still believe that @is long overdue for a @ win. No journalist in the country has done more to change laws and protect the children and the elderly in Florida than her.
— @ByRosenberg: One of today’s Pulitzer winners has already left the paper to run a brewery’s social media account. This is at least the 4th Pulitzer winner since 2015 who left for PR by the time they won. PR pays 2x more & has much more job security than journalism
— @KevinCate: We just won the #2018Pollies Award for Bilingual TV from the @TheAAPC! Check out our winning spot and some behind the scenes footage!
— DAYS UNTIL —
Avengers: Infinity War opens — 6; NFL Draft begins — 9; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 16; Mother’s Day — 26; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 38; Memorial Day — 41; Father’s Day — 61; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 66; Deadline for filing claim bills — 106; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debates — 106; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debates — 107; Start of the U.S. Open — 132; Primary Election Day — 133; College Football opening weekend — 137; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 189; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 190; General Election Day — 203; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 303; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 322.
— TOP STORY —
“Low going: Florida Bar exam results again under 60 percent” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The passage rate for first-time Florida Bar winter exam takers continues to stay in a ditch. Of 637 first-time takers in the February examination, 369 passed the bar, or 57.9 percent, according to a Monday release from the state’s Board of Bar Examiners. That’s only a 0.2 percent uptick from this time last year, when 57.7 percent of first-timers passed — 433 out of 751. The highest pass rate in recent years still is 80.2 percent from February 2013, when there were 819 first-timers.
— NELSON VS. SCOTT —
“Rick Scott’s super PAC gets first-quarter boost from financial services industry” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The committee, New Republican, was branded as pro-President Donald Trump, but included Scott‘s signature on its homepage, and a video featuring the two-term governor turned Senate candidate. The super PAC now has nearly $2 million in the bank as the race between Scott and incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson officially kicks off. It got its biggest cash boost last quarter from the financial services industry. It received a $300,000 contribution from Greg Lindberg, founder of Eli Global, a North Carolina-based investment firm that partners with entrepreneurs, and another $150,000 from Thomas McInerney, CEO of Bluff Point Associates, a Connecticut-based private equity firm. Another $40,000 came in from Christopher and Jude Reyes, brothers who lead Illinois-based Reyes Holdings, a food service wholesaler and distributor. Traditional state donors also chipped in. The committee received $50,000 checks each from a committee led by Pensacola developer Quint Studer; Lewis Bear, who owns Panhandle-based beer distributors; FCCI Insurance Group; and MCNA Health Care Holdings.
“Scott campaign puts $2M behind first statewide Senate TV ad” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Scott’s newly minted Senate campaign is out with its first television ad, focusing on his push for federal term limits. “In Washington, they say term limits can’t be done. That’s nonsense,” he said. “We don’t work for them, they work for us.” Scott’s biggest policy push since entering the race April 9 has been term limits, which dovetails with his hit Sen. Nelson. He has been in elected office since the late 1970s, including a seat in the Senate since 2001. Scott’s campaign is putting $2 million behind the ad, which is running statewide.
Click on the image below to watch the ad:
Scott’s first round of fundraising numbers not yet public, but must be impressive. There is $2m behind this ad. By comparison, @SenBillNelson raised $3.2 million during Q1, which is one of the biggest quarters of his career.
Scott’s more than $2 million apparently came in 1 week
— Matt Dixon (@Mdixon55) April 16, 2018
“Possible Ryan successor Kevin McCarthy to appear at DC fundraiser with Rick Scott” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — a possible successor to Paul Ryan — will appear at a fundraiser Wednesday for Scott‘s Senate campaign. The event will be held at the home of former Florida Congressman Jeff Miller, an early backer of Donald Trump who now works for the lobbying firm McDermott Will & Emery. Ryan has endorsed McCarthy as the next House speaker but others are angling for the job. On Thursday, Scott will raise money along side heavy hitters such as Haley Barbour, Charlie Black, Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn. Scott does not plan public appearances during his visit.
“5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Here are five areas that deserve close attention: Health care. Scott ran for governor in 2010 as an outspoken opponent of the Affordable Care Act, and he has not let up in his callous efforts to undermine it even as Florida has more residents — 1.7 million — who obtain coverage on the federal marketplace than any other state. Nelson voted for the Affordable Care Act and has argued Florida should join 32 other states that have expanded Medicaid. Transportation. In his first year in office, Scott foolishly rejected $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando that would have been a game-changer for Tampa Bay. Nelson supported the project … Environment. Scott’s sudden embrace of the environment and for spending millions in the coming year on restoring the Everglades and buying sensitive environmental land cannot cover up an abysmal record … Nelson’s environmental credentials are much stronger … Gun control. Scott signed into law a sweeping $400 million package that raises the age for buying all guns to 21 and spends more on mental health … Nelson supports a ban on the sale of assault weapons and tighter background checks. Cuba. Scott supports Trump’s wrongheaded efforts to unwind the commendable work by former President Barack Obama … Nelson continued to criticize the Castro brothers, but he supported Obama’s efforts on Cuba.
— IT’S COMPLICATED —
A quick trip down memory lane could dictate the U.S. Senate race, in which Gov. Scott hopes to unseat Sen. Nelson.
A recent National Journal story invites readers to examine Scott’s tenure as it relates to health care. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee wasted no time and sent the piece out to media and supporters.
Health care and Scott have a complicated history, one that certainly won’t be used for messaging by the term-limited Governor’s campaign — unlike his job growth talking point. Rest assured, it will continue to be highlighted by groups like the DSCC, which dubbed the subject a “political minefield.”
Trail talk: Scott shifted bigly on expanding Medicaid to the state under Obamacare. When coupled with his history in private practice, the “governor’s checkered past when it comes to health care is set to be a significant issue on the campaign trail.”
That’s sizable: If the state were to expand Medicaid, “more than 500,000 Floridians who are currently living in a coverage gap where Medicaid eligibility ends and marketplace health-insurance assistance begins would obtain coverage, according to analysis by the Florida Policy Institute, which has historically pushed for Medicaid expansion.”
Old folks: The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has endorsed Nelson. “Last year, [Scott] endorsed the Republican plan to block-grant Medicaid, which could lead to huge funding cuts and reduced eligibility — or loss of coverage — for 4.3 million low-income Floridians,” the group stated.
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“Andrew Gillum pledges to up corporate taxes to provide $1B more for public school” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — “When I’m governor, we’ll invest $1 billion in our public schools, students, and teachers and put the president’s disastrous tax giveaway to work. Under my ‘Fair Share for Florida’s Future’ Plan, we’ll ask our richest corporations to invest a fraction of their windfall under this new law into our state’s education and workforce,” Gillum stated in a news release. Gillum’s plan calls for an increase in the corporate income tax rate on large corporations to 7.75 percent, contending that few of them are paying taxes now, and those that do pay only pay 5.5 percent. Gillum’s plan would call for adding at least $100 million into the Public Education Capital Outlay Fund for public schools construction; at least $400 million to pay raises for public school teachers; at least $250 million in early childhood education programs; and at least $100 million for vocational training.
“New Gwen Graham ad on gun safety focuses on Parkland, NRA” via Stephen Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — “What happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas is every parent’s worst nightmare,” says Graham in the video, entitled “It’s Time.” … “My heart breaks as a mom,” she says. “That’s how this issue resonates with me, not as someone running for office, but as a mom that never wants any parent to face what those parents faced. Time after time after time we have done nothing in the face of these horrific tragedies. This time will be different. This time must be different.” Graham also specifically called out Gov. Scott, Republicans and the NRA. “The gun lobby bears a significant responsibility but ultimately, it’s the Republicans in the Legislature that are allowing these pieces of legislation to go through and the governor for signing them,” Graham said. “It’s time we take common-sense gun safety steps, that even if they prevent one death — one death — it’s worth it.”
Click on the image below to watch the ad:
Ross Spano plans to skip AG race, run for House seat Dennis Ross is leaving” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Spano, 51, an attorney, is currently in his third term in the state House and one of four Republican candidates for state attorney general. Ross surprised the Tampa Bay area political world last week by announcing he won’t seek what likely would have been an easy re-election to his congressional seat. But Spano is only one of a number of prominent East Hillsborough and Polk County Republicans considering a run to replace Ross, including state Sen. Tom Lee. The qualifying period for federal offices is April 30-May 4.
“Neil Combee teases big announcement” via Florida Politics — “Stay tuned HIGH NOON … we make a big announcement! I am forever grateful to the folks in my community, this region and most recently this country as a strong supporter of President Trump and his agenda for America,” Combee told Florida Politics in a statement. “Now, if we’re to keep America great, we need leaders who will stand with the President and his vision for restoring the promise of the American dream. I believe there is a more direct way I can help support the President and his vision and I plan on sharing tomorrow at noon.” Combee’s “more direct way” is almost certainly a run for Florida’s 15th Congressional District. Combee hinted at a possible run over the weekend: “Don’t ever sell your saddle. You never know what tomorrow brings.”
“Alan Grayson raises $192K in first quarter, says ‘I am running for Congress’ … somewhere” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Democratic former U.S. Rep. Grayson said he definitely is running for Congress but insisted he still hasn’t decided where yet … “I am running for the U.S. House of Representatives.” But the decision as to which district, “gets answered during the qualifying period,” he added. Qualifying for the U.S. House of Representatives ballot opens April 30 and runs through May 4. In the latest reports, Grayson’s committee raised $192,018, including $71,358 in contributions so small that they need not be itemized, with more than 5,000 individual donations. The committee also spent $53,567 and entered April with $694,967 in the bank.
“Scott Sturgill raises $211K in first quarter for CD 7 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Sturgill is reporting that his campaign raised $211,489 in the first quarter 2018, pushing the total raised to over a half-million dollars in Florida’s 7th Congressional District. He faces state Rep. Mike Miller, Vennia Francois, and Patrick Weingart. With the first quarter take, Sturgill now has raised $520,000 and finished March with about $366,000 in cash. They all aim to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, who has raised about $1.75 million and had about $1.2 million in the bank.
— “Mike Miller, Sturgill campaigns spar over fundraising numbers” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel
“Julio Gonzalez leads Greg Steube in fundraising for District 17 congressional race” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Gonzalez put $150,000 of his own money into his congressional campaign in the first quarter of 2018 and raised another $83,705, giving him an early fundraising lead over state Sen. Steube in the GOP primary … Steube, a Sarasota attorney, kicked in $15,000 of his own money and raised another $48,550 during the three-month period. Gonzalez, a Venice orthopedic surgeon, collected much of his first quarter campaign cash from other medical professionals. A number of doctors gave Gonzalez the maximum $2,700 for the primary election. Among Steube’s biggest donors: The Mosaic Company’s political action committee, the United States Sugar Corporation and the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists.
“Brian Mast, Lauren Baer raking in outside donations from high-profile donors” via Ali Schmitz of TCPalm — Since Jan. 1, incumbent U.S. Rep. Mast received nearly $888,000 while Democratic challenger Baer, a former foreign policy adviser in the Obama administration, received more than $450,000, according to Federal Elections Commission records released this week. Not surprisingly, both candidates received donations from their respective party leaders: Republicans who want to keep District 18 red and Democrats who want to turn it blue. Both also received donations from prominent business leaders who support their party’s policies. Where they differ is on donations from prominent corporations. Mast is accepting them while Baer signed a pledge to not accept them. She and other Democrats say they lead to special interests having too much power over politicians.
“Committee touts Carlos Curbelo’s climate change record in new ad” via Florida Politics — The Alliance for Climate Solutions ad, published last week, includes aerial shots of the Everglades and South Florida beaches as well as shots of Curbelo in the field with farmers and speeding along on a boat with his daughter. “South Florida is like nowhere else on earth. It’s unique, beautiful. The sea, the sky, the people, but climate change is putting it all at risk. Never has there been more at stake,” the ad narrator states. “Our congressman, Carlos Curbelo, gets this. That’s why he’s working with Republicans and Democrats to find solutions to get things done. Carlos knows that for us, protecting the environment isn’t about politics, it’s personal. It is for him, too.” The 30-second ad flashes headlines from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Miami Herald and The Hill detailing the second-term congressman’s climate change-related work in Washington, D.C., before asking viewers to reach out to Curbelo on social media to “thank him for leading the fight against climate change.”
Click on the image below to watch the ad:
“A second Republican emerges in the race to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald – Miami broadcast journalist Maria Elvira Salazar looks like she could force a competitive Republican primary in the race to replacing retiring Rep. Ros-Lehtinen. Former Miami-Dade commissioner Bruno Barreiro was largely running a one-man money race among Republicans since he entered the primary shortly after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement, but Salazar bested his fundraising numbers in her first fundraising quarter since she officially jumped into the race in March. Salazar raised $303,115 from January 1 to March 31 and she has $287,612 left to spend, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. Barreiro raised $264,778, his best haul since entering the race shortly after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement last year. He maintains a cash on hand advantage over his new rival, with $420,978 left to spend.
“Jason Pizzo sinks more money into Senate race” via the News Service of Florida — Trying to unseat Sen. Daphne Campbell in a Miami-Dade County district, Democrat Pizzo put another $50,000 of his money into the race in March … Pizzo lost a 2016 Democratic primary to Campbell in Senate District 38 and plans a rematch this year. With the $50,000 loan last month, Pizzo had loaned an overall total of $75,000 to the campaign as of March 31. He also had raised $66,679, including $16,510 in March, the finance report shows. Campbell had raised $77,434 as of March 31.
Save the date:
— CRC WATCH —
“First responder, state college issues go on ballot” via the News Service of Florida — In a 30-7 vote, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission backed the proposal (Proposal 6002), which will appear as Amendment 7 on the Nov. 6 general-election ballot. Under the proposal, members of the Florida National Guard and active-duty members of the U.S. military stationed in Florida would also qualify for the death benefits if they are killed while performing their duties. The constitutional change would also require the state to waive tuition and other fees for surviving spouses or children attending universities or other postsecondary institutions. The ballot measure also would establish “a system of governance” for the 28 state and community colleges in the Constitution. It would mandate that each college is governed by a local board of trustees and that the entire system is supervised by the state Board of Education, which is how the system works now under its current statutory authority.
“CRC advances bundled education proposal to November ballot” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Despite calls to treat each idea separately, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission has sent a proposal to voters that would set school board member term limits, require civic education in public schools, and allow for the creation of a state charter school authorizer. Commission member Roberto Martinez, a former State Board of Education chairman and key legal adviser to Jeb Bush, pressed the panel to unbundle the package [P 6003]. The portion to give control of some public schools to an entity other than a local school board would be a “game changer” that would radically alter public education governance, Martinez argued. Voters should have a clear understanding of the proposal and then decide on its own merits — not because it’s tied to another concept, he said. “These are three separate issues,” former state senator Chris Smith said in agreement. “I don’t even realize how I’m going to vote. I’m strong on some of it. I’m against some of it.”
“Drilling, vaping bans headed to November ballot” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Voters will get a chance to decide this fall whether to ban nearshore oil and gas drilling and prevent people from vaping or using electronic cigarettes in many public places, under a proposed constitutional amendment approved Monday. Without debate, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission voted 33-3 to back a single proposed amendment (Proposal 6004) that includes the drilling and vaping issues. Commissioner Brecht Heuchan, chairman of the commission’s Style and Drafting Committee, said the drilling and vaping issues were linked because sponsors worked together with a moniker of “clean air, clean water” … “If anything went together, it was those two,” Heuchan said.
“Voters now will decide on dog racing ban” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Statewide voters will decide whether to outlaw greyhound racing under a proposed constitutional amendment approved Monday. The proposal (P6012) was passed by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) on a 27-10 vote; it needed at least 22 votes. It will go directly to November’s statewide ballot, where it needs at least 60 percent approval to be added to the constitution. Commissioner Tom Lee, the amendment’s sponsor, tweeted: “My proposal to end dog racing just passed the @FloridaCRC! The amendment will now appear on the November ballot and voters will decide whether our state ends this archaic tradition.” The measure goes into effect Dec. 31, 2020, if passed, and bans dog racing itself and betting on dog races. It doesn’t, however, affect any other gambling now going on at dog tracks, such as card games.
“Voters will decide on lobbying reform this fall” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — A proposed constitutional amendment that would mandate a six-year lobbying ban on all elected officeholders, agency heads and judges cleared the Florida Constitution Revision Commission in a 30-4 vote. If approved by 60 percent of voters in November, public officers will be barred from lobbying before local, state and federal governments for the duration of the ban, which begins when the officer leaves their post. The amendment (Proposal 6007) contains drafted language of the ethics provisions provided in Commissioner Don Gaetz‘ Proposal 39. Unlike other proposals, the ethics package will appear by itself on the ballot.
“Panel rejects closing write-in loophole” via the News Service of Florida — The commission … came up three votes short of approving the primary-election change. The issue, which drew heavy debate, stemmed from a 1998 constitutional amendment that was designed to open primary elections to all voters, regardless of party affiliation, when all of the candidates in races are from the same party. But primaries become closed — available only to voters who are in the parties of the candidates — when write-ins sign up for the races. Critics have long argued that this write-in “loophole” has become a ploy for Republican and Democratic operatives to find nonviable candidates who they can use to close primaries. Commission member Lisa Carlton on Monday called the use of write-ins a “sham” and said it went against the intent of the 1998 constitutional amendment.
— Dave Aronberg (@aronberg) April 16, 2018
“Chamber of Commerce cheers failure of ‘E-Verify’ measure” via Florida Politics — The Florida Chamber of Commerce on Monday said the voting down of a constitutional amendment to create a ‘Florida E-Verify’ system “was a win for protecting Florida’s Constitution.” “Proposal 6010 would have placed an ineffective federal government system into Florida’s foundational document,” said Frank Walker, the Chamber’s vice president of Governmental Affairs. “The Florida Chamber of Commerce applauds Commissioners for standing on the side of facts and good policy.” … The idea was backed by Commissioner Rich Newsome, an attorney appointed by Speaker Corcoran.
“Miami-Dade voters in favor of electing constitutional officers” via Florida Politics — The poll, commissioned by Constitutional Officer Resource Experts (CORE), found more than three quarters of likely voters in Miami-Dade County were in favor of electing constitutional officers such as county sheriffs or property appraisers, while just 10 percent were opposed. An earlier statewide poll, conducted in March, found 86 percent of voters were in support, with 6 percent opposed. The proposal is currently under consideration by the Constitution Revision Commission as Proposal 6005. It was originally contained in Proposal 13.
— STATEWIDE —
“Kids are suing Gov. Scott to force Florida to take action on climate change” via the Miami Herald — Seven young Florida residents — the youngest is 10, the oldest is 20, and one is a University of Miami marine science student — are the named plaintiffs in a lawsuit that seeks to force a state extremely vulnerable to climate-driven sea rise to start work on a court-ordered, science-based “Climate Recovery Plan.” The group is represented by Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based organization sponsoring similar suits from children around the country at the state and federal level. The original case, Juliana vs. United States, was filed in 2015 against the federal government and goes to trial in October. Delaney Reynolds, an 18-year-old who attends UM’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, said she contacted the group when she heard about the case against the federal government and found the organization was already planning one against Florida. She agreed to join six other plaintiffs, including 10-year-old Levi Draheim.
Assignment editors — Gov. Scott attend the ribbon cutting ceremony for United Technologies’ (UTC) new facility in Palm Beach Gardens at 9:25 a.m., 13995 Pasteur Boulevard. At 1:30 p.m., the Governor will hold a campaign roundtable with business leaders, Associated Builders and Contractors, 2008 N. Himes Ave. in Tampa.
Scholarship formed in honor of late press secretary — Jeri Bustamante, who served as press secretary to Gov. Scott, passed away in a boating accident earlier this month. Scott and First Lady Ann Scott now have established a scholarship to support a graduate from her high school, Miami Beach Senior High, who plans to attend a Florida public college or university. Tax-deductible contributions can be made out to Jeri Bustamante Memorial Scholarship c/o Florida Board of Governors Foundation, 325 West Gaines St., Suite 1644, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0400. The scholarship will be overseen by the Board of Governors of the State University System.
“’I needed to watch my back’: The warning that led an officer to seek cover in Parkland shooting” via Lisa Huriash of the Orlando Sentinel — Coral Springs Police Officer Tim Burton rushed to get to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High when he heard over his radio there was a gunman there. But when he got there, he found the school resource officer, Broward Deputy Scot Peterson, seeking cover behind a concrete column, he said. Peterson told Burton “I needed to watch my back,” Burton said in a report. So, Burton took cover in a parking lot. Burton’s firsthand account is among the reports released by Coral Springs police. Burton’s report stands out because he was both the first on-duty officer from the department to arrive. He also had an exchange with Peterson, who was criticized by the sheriff for his response. Coral Springs has been releasing reports piecemeal over the past two months, amid the ongoing criminal investigation into the Feb. 14 shooting.
“Dreaded ‘cone of uncertainty’ will shrink for the coming hurricane season” via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald – The National Hurricane Center plans to shrink the dreaded “cone of uncertainty” during the upcoming season based on an improving forecast record. The Miami-based center made the announcement Monday, along with a series of other changes intended to improve how hurricane forecasters convey warnings to the public. Along with the shrinking cone, forecasters will extend advisories, which include warnings and watches, to 72 hours in advance of a storm, providing a full additional day to prepare. Experimental graphics used last year to depict arrival times for dangerous winds will also become a permanent addition to forecasts. “The changes are to improve information contained in the hurricane center products and to provide it in maybe easier to understand formats,” said Dan Brown, a senior hurricane specialist in charge of warning coordination.
“Panel: Flagler Judge Scott DuPont ‘will not follow the law’” via Frank Fernandez of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission is sticking to its recommendation that the Florida Supreme Court boot embattled Circuit Judge DuPont from the bench … the JQC recommended he be removed after finding him guilty of several violations of the code of judicial conduct. DuPont’s attorney filed a response asking that he not be removed and stating that the JQC had not presented a single witness saying that DuPont was unfit to be a judge. That was correct, the JQC’s attorneys, Henry Coxe III and Michael Schneider, wrote in its response. “The FJQC did, however, prove that Judge DuPont abused his position and showed himself to be unfit by: ordering money taken from litigants unlawfully; intentionally violating judicial campaign rules in a way that caused permanent harm to private citizens; prioritizing campaigning for re-election over lawful performance of his duties; and announcing to the public that he would ignore his judicial oath. Furthermore, Judge DuPont’s testimony to the FJCQ was, at times, not worthy of belief.”
“St. Pete Beach mayor says city won’t pitch in $1.5 million for proposed bus project” via Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is trying to identify creative funding sources to bridge a $1.5 million gap in local funding for the proposed Central Avenue Bus Rapid Transit route connecting downtown St. Petersburg to St. Pete Beach. PSTA is seeking a federal grant for a little more than $20 million to pay for nearly half of the total $42 million project. But under the Small Starts grant program, transit agencies must have firm commitments from local funding partners to guarantee a local match for the federal grant. PSTA’s federal request lists $1.5 million from St. Pete Beach through ad valorem property taxes, but the city hasn’t agreed to pay it. Most municipalities in Pinellas County assess a 0.075 millage rate on residents’ property taxes to fund public transit. If St. Pete Beach agreed to that assessment, which it does not currently, it would bring in about $1.7 million a year, according to PSTA. Instead St. Pete Beach enters into a contract each year with PSTA typically paying about $500,000 for service. “To be honest, there’s no way in hell I’m going to give them $1.5 million,” said St. Pete Beach Mayor Al Johnson. “As much as I’d like to have it, it’s just not worth it to us.”
Assignment editors — Medical marijuana dispensary Surterra Wellness will celebrate the grand opening of its Orlando Wellness Center at 2 p.m., 1743 South Orange Avenue (on the east side of South Orange Avenue one block north of Kaley Street).
— D.C. MATTERS —
“White House braces for Donald Trump ‘cleanup duty’ at Mar-a-Lago” via Andrew Restuccia and Louis Nelson of POLITICO Florida — The president’s regular visits to Mar-a-Lago often bring out an even more unfiltered Trump — and people close to the president are bracing for a potentially tumultuous trip … Even before he departed, Trump was already fuming over former FBI Director James Comey‘s new book and the criminal investigation into his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Five days at Mar-a-Lago, where he often spends even more time watching cable news and talking to friends, could send his frustrations to new heights. “Someone should say a prayer for Sarah, Mercy and Raj because rest assured, Mar-a-Lago is the last place they want the president spending his time this week,” said one person close to the White House, referring to White House communications staffers Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Mercedes Schlapp and Raj Shah. “They have a lot of cleanup duty ahead of them.”
“Trump in Palm Beach: Top aides join Trump before Japan summit” via George Bennett and Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post — Those spotted leaving the presidential plane at PBIA included White House chief of staff John Kelly, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, national security adviser John Bolton, chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and senior policy adviser Stephen Miller. Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan and U.S. Trade Representative — and Palm Beach resident — Robert Lighthizer will also be part of the U.S. delegation when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives for two days of meetings at Mar-a-Lago. The chief topic will be North Korea and its nuclear program ahead of Trump’s planned talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump and Abe played golf when Abe visited Palm Beach last year and when Trump visited Japan in November, but no golf outings are on the official schedule this week.
“Presidential snub? Miami-Dade mayor doesn’t make the cut to greet Trump at airport” via Doug Hanks of the Miami Herald — Despite upending Miami-Dade’s immigration policy to mollify Trump in the early days of his presidency, Mayor Carlos Gimenez suggested through a spokeswoman he was snubbed by the White House during a rare visit to Miami by the president. The only municipal official there to greet Trump on the tarmac of the county airport that Gimenez oversees was the Republican mayor of Hialeah, Carlos Hernández, according to a pool report. … The apparent snub may be evidence of a lasting grudge between Trump and Gimenez, who tried to distance himself from his fellow Republican at a time when the 2016 presidential campaign overlapped with the mayor’s own reelection bid. During a televised debate with challenger Raquel Regalado in October of that year, Gimenez called on Trump to drop out of the race because of Trump’s lewd comments about women captured by an Access Hollywood recording.
“Nelson wants probe into FAA’s handling of Allegiant Air” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Following a hard-hitting “60 Minutes” report on Allegiant Air, which dovetailed previous reporting by the Tampa Bay Times, Sen. Nelson is calling for an investigation into the FAA’s enforcement actions. “The traveling public deserves to know whether the FAA is conducting thorough safety oversight of Allegiant. Anything less could lead to disastrous consequences,” Nelson wrote in a letter to the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation. “Unfortunately, this is not the first report of serious safety concerns with Allegiant’s operations,” Nelson wrote. “In 2016, the Tampa Bay Times and Washington Post separately reported on aborted takeoffs and unexpected landings due to mechanical failures on Allegiant’s aging aircraft … In response, I included language in the Senate FAA bill last year that would require the agency to report to Congress annually on all commercial airline safety incidents and the steps taken to address them. The Senate is expected to vote on that measure next month.”
“Vern Buchanan says these are seven ways to attack opioid epidemic” via Hannah Morse of the Bradenton Herald — Buchanan has introduced a seven-part bill to tackle the opioid epidemic from multiple angles. The bill, called Opioid Emergency Response Act, is a multifaceted, bipartisan approach that addresses mental health treatment, beefs up screening of packages through the U.S. Postal Service and calls for harsher sentences for convicted dealers. Centerstone CEO Melissa Larkin-Skinner praised Buchanan’s efforts, saying he is at the “forefront of the fight.” Buchanan has sponsored a bill within the larger bill called Alternatives to Opioids Prescribing Act, which would incentivize hospital emergency rooms to use high doses of Tylenol or Advil instead of low-dose opioids. Manatee Memorial Hospital is already using this approach.
“GOP congressmen targeted in billboard blitz” via Florida Politics — A national progressive group announced Monday that 30 congressional Republicans nationwide will wake up to find unflattering billboards in their districts, including four in Florida … the “Not One Penny” billboards blast U.S. Reps. Buchanan, Neal Dunn, Tom Rooney and Dennis Ross for the tax breaks they’re set to receive under the plan passed by Congress late last year. … The billboards, part of a six-figure ad campaign, each list the tax cut a particular Congressman will receive, followed by the query “what did you get?” in all caps. … Buchanan is set to save the most of the four Florida targets, with his billboard saying he “voted for the tax law and gave himself up to a $2,131,750 tax break.”
— OPINIONS —
“Joe Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled there is a price for that obstruction, finding that in the absence of state regulations, Tampa’s Redner is legally entitled to grow his own pot for medical use. The ruling applies only to Redner, who has lung cancer. But it’s a victory for medical marijuana patients and their advocates who should not have to wait for a stubborn bureaucracy to get access to medical care that the Florida Constitution allows … the state has delayed making the drug easily available and arbitrarily tried to limit the ways patients can access it and the forms it can take. The foot-dragging is an affront to Floridians who voted overwhelmingly in favor of medical marijuana and a cruelty toward patients in pain. Redner’s victory in court heralds that the state’s stalling won’t work much longer.
“The future of agriculture lies in Central Florida” via Darren Soto for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Agriculture has continued to be Florida’s second largest industry for many years now. Even so, the industry itself is still a mystery to many who live in Florida’s sprawling suburbia. Our citrus industry is amid a tremendous greening epidemic caused by a tiny Asian citrus psyllid that attacks trees’ roots. It has reduced our production by over 70 percent historically. In response, we have provided over $166 million in federal funds over the last five years for research, including at the University of Florida’s Extension Services in Lake Alfred. In addition, local growers have discovered the importance of trace fertilizer minerals in boosting the trees’ natural immune systems. I also successfully passed an amendment in the recent omnibus spending bill to secure an additional $1 million in funding for the Specialty Crop Pest Program to further assist in these efforts. These new technologies could increase yields and quality, provide more high paying jobs for our region and help reduce national hunger. With critical policy, funding and coordinated efforts, our district is well-positioned to be a technology center of excellence for the future of America’s agriculture.
— FOR YOUR RADAR —
Going somewhere 20 minutes away? That’s just enough time to digest the strikes on Syria and our state leaders’ responses while also getting an expert’s perspective on the 2018 election.
The latest episode of The Rotunda recaps current events per usual, but host Trimmel Gomes also takes a deep dive this week into Swamp politics with USF political science professor and Sayfie columnist Dr. Susan MacManus.
“This is going to be one of the most interesting election years that we have seen in a Florida midterm in decades,” MacManus said.
On Syria: Florida’s two U.S. Senators lauded Friday night’s assault. So did Gov. Scott. Gomes asks why the strikes were quickly labeled a success, echoing concerns from other leaders like Maine’s Independent Sen. Angus King, who’s sampled saying “I think it’s very difficult to say ‘mission accomplished’ if the mission is to deter the use of chemical weapons.”
Gov and Senate race: “The biggest challenge for candidates is what’s the best way to mobilize voters,” MacManus said. “Generational schisms” in the electorate is cause for nuanced concerns of budgeting media buys and physical appearances, she said.
Consultants beware: MacManus said every campaign can learn from Hillary Clinton’s overemphasis on television instead of grassroots efforts. Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis has spent a bit of time on Fox News. Democrat Philip Levine leads the pack in TV buys.
— MOVEMENTS —
“Everglades Foundation taps new COO, communications director” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Shannon Estenoz will be chief operating officer and vice president for policy and programs, and Rebeca Rose will be communications director. Estenoz has spent 21 years in environmental policy and advocacy, most recently at the U.S. Department of the Interior, where she served since 2010 as director of the Office of Everglades Restoration Initiatives and the executive director of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. Rose is a veteran Washington-based communications professional whose work has spanned federal agencies including the Navy, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Energy and, most recently, the Export-Import Bank, where she served as vice president of communications.
Appointed — Carol Kuntz to the Florida Commission on the Status of Women.
— ALOE —
“Kendrick Lamar is the first rapper to win a Pulitzer Prize” via Mesfin Fekadu of The Associated Press — Lamar has won the Pulitzer Prize for music, making history as the first nonclassical or jazz artist to win the prestigious prize. The revered rapper — who will be performing at Tampa’s MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre May 22 — is also the most commercially successful musician to receive the award, usually reserved for critically acclaimed classical acts who don’t live on the pop charts. The 30-year-old won the prize for DAMN., his raw and powerful Grammy-winning album. The Pulitzer board said the album is a “virtuosic song collection” and said it captures “the modern African-American life.” He will win $15,000. Lamar has been lauded for his deep lyrical content, politically charged live performances, and his profound mix of hip-hop, spoken word, jazz, soul, funk, poetry and African sounds. Since emerging on the music scene with the 2011 album “Section. 80,” he has achieved the perfect mix of commercial appeal and critical respect.
“SpaceX scrubs Tess launch, targets Wednesday attempt” via Paul Brinkmann of the Orlando Sentinel — SpaceX delayed the launch of NASA’s TESS satellite, tweeting that the company would be performing more analysis of the launch guidance, navigation and control. They are targeting Wednesday for another attempt. SpaceX founder Elon Musk dropped some hints on Twitter about new efforts to explore recovery of the upper stage of the Falcon 9 rocket — but that won’t be happening for the TESS launch. Still, Musk’s teaser about the second stage efforts provided some excitement, even with the scrub.
Happy birthday to state Rep. Ray Rodrigues, Bill Dolan, Pinellas Commission candidate Barbara Haselden, Tyler Payne, and Ms. Citrus, Shannon Shepp.