Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.
It’s the state procurement version of the “Thrilla in Manila.”
After losing the contract for Florida’s first responder radio system, lawyers for Harris Corp. and Motorola Solutions will duke it out in a bid protest before an administrative law judge, starting Tuesday.
On March 14, the state signaled its intent to go with Motorola over Melbourne-based Harris, which held the contract since September 2000. It’s been estimated to cost the state upward of $18 million a year, funded through a $1 fee tacked on to vehicle registrations.
The system, known as the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System, or SLERS, is “a single, unified digital radio network that meets the radio voice communications needs of state law enforcement officers and other participating agencies,” as the Department of Management Services (DMS) explains it.
The awarding of the deal concluded almost three years of bureaucratic and legislative infighting, with some lawmakers — often benefiting from political contributions — backing one side over the other.
The parties previously agreed on a protective order covering “confidential” and “restricted” information as it pertains to filings in the case. The order, signed by Administrative Law Judge J. Bruce Culpepper, is here.
The first round, as it were, starts at 9:30 a.m. at the Division of Administrative Hearings in Tallahassee.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@RealDonaldTrump: I will be announcing my decision on the Iran Deal (today) from the White House at 2 p.m.
–@NickKristof: It’s staggering that some powerful men resign or are prosecuted after abuse allegations are aired, while another man who is a veteran of many years of such allegations is in a position to grant pardons.
—@NateSilver538: People may say Eric Schneiderman was a showboat who didn’t accomplish very much, but they forget that he saved New York state from the scourge of daily fantasy football for several weeks in late 2015.
—@MarcoRubio: I was repeatedly told that the Parkland shooter was never in the Promise Program I was asking questions about. Now it turns out that in fact he was.
—@RepCurbelo: Saluting @MiamiHerald @HeraldOpEd and other Florida newspaper editorial boards for their commitment to raising awareness on #climatechange and #sealevelrise. These are serious challenges requiring every citizen to engage in order to build consensus for meaningful action
—@RosLehtinen: As a former # certified teacher, I want to thank all the educators who shape the lives of our # children every day.
—@JohnStemberger: The story is ridiculous & misleading because it is the lead of the story instead of the footnote and makes it seem much bigger than it was when it only involved 1 or 2 people. None of my 27 staff or volunteers could even verify they saw it. Hairs on dogs tail wags dog here.
—@AndrewGillum: Graduation is a milestone for anyone who walks across that stage, and ALL people should be allowed to celebrate openly and respectfully.
—@Conarck: Every time I pay for a @public records request, I have to go to Publix for a money order. Every time I go to Publix, I have to get a pub sub. This is the rarely discussed public records sandwich industrial complex.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Mother’s Day — 5; Deadpool 2 release — 10; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 17; Memorial Day — 20; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in St. Petersburg — 32; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Miramar — 34; Time Warner/AT&T merger ruling — 35; Father’s Day — 40; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 45; Florida GOP Sunshine Summit starts — 51; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 61; MLB All-Star Game — 70; Deadline for filing claim bills — 85; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 85; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 86; Start of the U.S. Open — 111; Primary Election Day — 112; College Football opening weekend — 114; NFL season starts — 121; Future of Florida Forum — 141; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 168; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 169; General Election Day — 182; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 282; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 301.
— TOP STORY —
“Backlash follows revelations that Parkland shooter was referred to PROMISE program” via David Smiley and Jessica Bakeman for the Miami Herald — After denying for months that Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz had any connection to a program created to soften school punishment and reduce student arrests — and characterizing assertions to the contrary as “fake news” — the Broward County school district is now acknowledging that Cruz was in fact referred to its PROMISE program. On Sunday, district spokeswoman Tracy Clark told Miami Herald news partner WLRN that Cruz was referred to the program in 2013 after he vandalized a bathroom at Westglades Middle School, located just down the road from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Clark’s admission was followed by swift reaction from Parkland parents and politicians who had been assured repeatedly that Cruz never had contact with the PROMISE program. Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina Petty was killed in the shooting, slammed the district for a “stunning revelation … that flies in the face of previous statements.” He argued that the news was part of a string of gaffes and failures, and said teachers have been sharing stories about “perverse” and contradictory disciplinary programs that are creating conflicts in schools.
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
Happening today — Gov. Rick Scott will be raising money in Texas at a private reception in the home of billionaire businessman Robert B. Rowling, 3832 Beverly Dr. in Dallas. Tickets are $500 per person, $2,700 to sponsor, $5,400 to co-host and $10,800 to host.
“Ron DeSantis: I would not disinvite Dinesh D’Souza” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — In a video clip sent to media from progressive advocacy group American Bridge 21st Century, DeSantis is seen speaking with media. When one reporter asks DeSantis for comment on summit guest D’Souza, who mocked on Twitter students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were murdered during a February mass shooting, the congressman responds: “I disagree with what [D’Souza] tweeted but I would not disinvite him.” DeSantis’ rationale is that condemnations and revoking invitations are actions that disproportionately affect those with conservative views. He said there are imbalances in “scrutiny” if “you go down this road.” Specifically, it “comes down” on people on “the right.”
“Gwen Graham to Pam Bondi: Where’s the opioid lawsuit?” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida – Graham is blasting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi for failing to file a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers after promising to do so more than a month ago. Bondi told reporters on April 5 that she would not be joining the massive federal lawsuit against the drug companies, but would, instead, have Florida go at it alone. … Bondi’s office confirmed on Monday that she had yet to select an attorney to handle the suit. “We are in the final round of interviews with attorneys to assemble the best team possible to protect Florida interests,” Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray wrote in an email. Ray confirmed Bondi’s office would be filing a suit in state court, indicating that Florida will in fact not join the federal lawsuit. But he didn’t respond to a follow-up question asking for a timetable on when they would file their own suit. Graham is now calling on Bondi — who is completing her last term in office — to pick up the pace.
“Philip Levine campaign announces $2 million raised in April” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — It’s the fifth straight month that his fundraising totals have surpassed $1 million. The totals … include contributions and self-loans to both Levine’s personal campaign account and his political committee, All About Florida. The numbers include matched contributions by Levine, who through the end of March had already poured roughly $5.5 million into his campaign to claim the Democratic nomination to become Florida’s next governor. The latest donations boost his overall fundraising to $13 million, according to senior political adviser Christian Ulvert, and suggest there will be no let-up to the advertising blitz that Levine unleashed almost as soon as he got into the race in November. Levine’s fundraising totals — and his ability to match them dollar for dollar — have given him an advantage so far.
Assignment editors — Levine joins leaders from government, nonprofit and relief groups, as well as hotel executives and others for a roundtable conversation on Puerto Rico relief beginning 3 p.m., 7217 E. Colonial Dr. in Orlando.
“Andrew Gillum ramps up money game, adds $447K in April” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Can we call it “Gillumentum” yet? Tallahassee Mayor Gillum announced Monday that his gubernatorial campaign raised $447,711 last month, beating his March total by more than $100,000. “With a little less than four months to go in the Democratic Primary to go, our campaign is catching fire at the right time,” campaign spokesman Geoff Burgan said. “Andrew’s strong performance in the FOX13 debate, coupled with growing grassroots enthusiasm, make this month’s fundraising total particularly telling for our momentum. We’re on track to have the resources we need to communicate to voters and win in August and November.”
Meanwhile … “Richard Corcoran continues to hemorrhage cash as political speculation builds” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — During April, Corcoran’s political committee brought in roughly $50,000, with half from from one donor, while spending more than $300,000. It’s a continuation of a trend since the state’s legislative session adjourned in early March. Last month, he raised just under $250,000, while spending nearly $820,000. The committee, called Watchdog PAC, now has less than $2 million cash on hand, which would put him a distant third behind Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the GOP primary front-runner, and Rep. RonDeSantis, both of whom have been bringing in far more than they spend. For months, many took for granted he would get in the race and be a viable contender for the Republican nomination, but as time ticks off the clock and his cash on hand sinks, there are few left who think the once-feared speaker has time to raise the money for a viable statewide campaign. “First we were interested. Then we were very curious,” one longtime GOP consultant said. “Now we are very bored. No one fears the one they are laughing at.”
“Attorney General candidates split on felons’ rights” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Democrats seeking the state Cabinet post oppose Pam Bondi’s handling of the legal battle and support a proposed constitutional amendment that, if approved by voters in November, would automatically restore voting rights to felons who have served their sentences. The Republican primary for attorney general, pitting state House members Frank White and Jay Fant and former Hillsborough County Judge Ashley Moody, has been more contentious than the Democratic contest. But White and Moody made clear they agree on supporting an effort led by Bondi and Gov. Scott to fend off a federal lawsuit that would require an overhaul of Florida’s process to restore felons’ voting rights. White said Bondi, who has been a key supporter of policies that have made it harder to restore felons’ rights, should be “commended for defending our Constitution.” In supporting Bondi, Moody echoed White, calling the lawsuit “another example of activists inappropriately attempting to use our judicial system to overturn decisions by our elected officials.”
“Pride Fund, Rosie O’Donnell backing Lauren Baer in CD 18” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Baer has received the backing of the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence PAC … “I am honored to have the endorsement of the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence and look forward to working with them to advance their twin aims of sensible gun policy and LGBT equality,” Baer, who is openly gay, stated in a news release … The Pride Fund was begun in 2016 after the massacre at Pulse and has grown into one of the largest gun-control political action committees in the country, combining its focuses on gun legislation and protections and support for the LGBTQ community. Baer also got another big, national backing Sunday evening when comedian, actress, political activist O’Donnell threw support behind her with a tweet urging people nationally to go to ActBlue, the Democrats’ national fundraising portal, and contribute to her campaign. O’Donnell’s tweet went out to more than 1 million followers on Twitter.
“Anna Eskamani grabs Jerry Demings’ endorsement” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Demings also is a Democrat, and Eskamani faces two Republicans in her quest to win HD 47, which is being vacated by Republican state Rep. Mike Miller, who is running for Congress. Demings is running for Orange County mayor against two Republican candidates, though that office officially is nonpartisan. “I have known Anna since her days as an officer of the College Democrats at UCF. That was nearly 10 years ago, and it has been incredible to watch her grow into the community leader she is today,” Demings stated in a news release issued by Eskamani’s campaign. “Anna is someone who gets it — she works hard, takes time to understand the issues, and is always looking for common ground. She cares deeply about public safety and our first responders too. We will be in good hands with Anna as our next State House representative.”
— YEAR OF THE WOMAN —
In primaries nationwide, women are outperforming expectations.
The trend, as reported by BuzzFeed News’ Ruby Cramer, is likely tied to cultural phenomena. “Everything from the Women’s March to #MeToo and #TimesUp to watching the incredibly powerful women gymnasts call out Dr. Larry Nassar means what we’re seeing is women stand up and demand to be heard,” Christina Reynolds told Cramer. Reynolds is the vice president of communications at Emily’s List, a group dedicated to electing pro-choice women.
According to Cramer, “Women candidates … are benefiting from a built-in advantage unlike any previous election cycle. Not only are women running for office in record numbers — they’re securing top spots in crowded primaries against male rivals who are better known and have spent more money.” Though, the general election is still anyone’s guess.
Scoreboard: In Texas’ 7th Congressional District, Laura Moser and Lizzie Pannill Fletcher defeated two male candidates and advanced to a runoff. Eleven of the 15 Virginia state legislative seats flipped by Democrats were overturned by women up against male incumbents. So far, Emily’s List has backed 53 U.S. House candidates and 36,000 women have reached out to the group to run — the previous record number was 920.
Exceptions?: Right now, it’s California. There, both women vying to challenge Republican Dana Rohrabacher have dropped out. Women candidates also aren’t expected to make it to the ticket to replace two retiring California GOP Reps.
Florida: There’s no mention of Gwen Graham in the article; it focused on races for federal seats. But if the trendline holds true, it could be bad news for Andrew Gillum, Philip Levine and Chris King.
“Cracks where FIU bridge buckled may have signaled ‘imminent failure’” via Andres Viglucci, Nicholas Nehamas and Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald — Documents show that FIU’s construction and engineering team discovered potentially problematic cracks in the bridge earlier than officials have previously acknowledged. The cracks were found in late February at the base of a diagonal support member at the north end of the span. Independent engineers have identified that as the point where the structure shattered on March 15 while under construction, sending the 950-ton bridge crashing onto the roadway below and claiming six lives. Three independent engineers who examined the photos, records and bridge blueprints at the Herald’s request concurred the cracks were a red flag signaling potentially critical structural problems. Outside experts have zeroed in on that truss member, identified in plans as No. 11, as being “under-designed” — that is, not strong enough to withstand the pressure from the weight of the bridge it was supposed to hold up.
“Jimmy Patronis wants you to help stop arsons” via Florida Politics — CFO and State Fire Marshal Patronis is calling “on all Floridians to report suspicious activity and be on the lookout for those who attempt to commit arson-related crimes,” according to a Monday news release. National Arson Awareness Week is this week. “Arson-related crimes can destroy property, put lives at risk, and arson-for-profit schemes are one of the factors that can drive up insurance rates,” Patronis said in a statement. “In 2017 alone, 1,004 of the 3,695 fires my office responded to were arson-related. These fires caused 62 injuries, 38 fatalities, and approximately $23.4 million in property damage. Community awareness and engagement is essential in our fight against this deadly and costly crime.”
Assignment editors — Patronis holds a Tampa press rally Wednesday beginning 10:30 a.m., La Segunda Central Bakery, 2512 N. 15th St. in Ybor City.
“State objects to woman’s anonymity in NRA case” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Dismissing the potential danger feared by a 19-year-old who wants to join a legal challenge filed by the National Rifle Association, lawyers for Attorney General Bondi asked a federal judge to deny a request to keep the young woman’s identity private because they said her desire for anonymity was not justified. Lawyers for the NRA late last month asked U.S. District Judge Mark Walker to keep the identity of “Jane Doe” secret, based in large part on a declaration filed by the gun-rights group’s Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer, who detailed threatening emails she had received featuring derogatory words for parts of the female anatomy. But attorneys for Bondi, a defendant in the lawsuit who also represents the state, asked Walker to reject the NRA’s motion to use the Jane Doe pseudonym for the 19-year-old, portrayed in court documents as an Alachua County woman seeking to remain anonymous due to fear that public exposure could result in “harassment, intimidation, and potentially even physical violence.”
“Democrats say Medicaid cut information wrong” via the News Service of Florida — Incoming Florida Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson sent a letter to the federal government accusing Gov. Scott’s administration of falsifying the record to show support for a $98 million Medicaid reduction and asked for a “thorough review” of the proposed cut, which would impact an estimated 39,000 people. “I felt compelled to ensure (the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) has no misunderstanding as to opposition on this ill-advised move targeting seniors and families facing catastrophic health care emergencies,” Gibson wrote to CMS Administrator Seema Verma. Florida is asking the federal government to approve limiting the length of time people have to qualify for the Medicaid program. The issue is known as Medicaid retroactive eligibility. Federal law has long required states to give people 90 days to apply for the program following a health issue. At the behest of the Scott administration, the Legislature during the 2018 Session approved requiring adults who aren’t pregnant to apply for the Medicaid program the month they required the health services.
“Florida Chamber announces ‘first round’ of legislative endorsements” via Florida Politics — Though the bulk endorsement covers more than half the 105 incumbents running for re-election in 2018, and more than two-fifths of legislative races overall, the Chamber said its endorsements were merely the “first round” and to expect more in the coming weeks. All Republican Senators up for another term got the nod except for Thonotosassa Sen. Tom Lee, who has been unclear on whether he will or will not run for re-election to Senate District 20. Additionally, Republican Reps. Ben Albritton, Manny Diaz Jr. and Joe Gruters were endorsed in their respective campaigns to move up to the Senate … other endorsements went to 45 of 53 Republicans running for re-election to the Florida House, while St. Petersburg Rep. Ben Diamond was the only Democrat included in the Chamber’s list.
“Justices asked to consider dismissed tobacco cases” via the News Service of Florida — About three months after an appeals court upheld the dismissal of 73 lawsuits against tobacco companies, plaintiffs’ attorneys are asking the Florida Supreme Court to take up the dispute. The attorneys filed a notice as a first step in seeking Supreme Court review … The 1st District Court of Appeal in February backed the dismissal of the lawsuits and refused to allow attorneys to amend the complaints because the clients had died before the cases were filed. The lawsuits stemmed from a 2006 Florida Supreme Court ruling that established findings of a series of issues including the dangers of smoking and misrepresentation by cigarette makers. The ruling helped spawn thousands of lawsuits in state and federal courts, with plaintiffs able to use the findings against tobacco companies — lawsuits that have become known as “Engle progeny” cases.
ICYMI: “Money from Broward courts can’t be used for other state programs, judge rules” via Larry Barszewski of the Sun-Sentinel — Broward’s Clerk of Courts has reduced customer service hours, cut back on staffing and struggled to meet the county’s judicial needs because the state hasn’t lived up to its constitutional funding obligations, a judge has determined. Based on her findings, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers ordered the state to stop diverting court filing fees collected in Broward County to other state programs. The ruling could have statewide ramifications as other clerks have complained of insufficient funds coming from the state despite the amount of fees their offices are generating. The court fees — which include money the public pays for traffic citations and other fines, as well as fees to file civil cases and other litigation — are the main source of revenue for the state’s court system. (Florida Politics’ story when the case was first filed in 2016 is here.)
“Pay up: Joe Redner seeks costs after winning ‘home grow’ lawsuit” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Redner now wants a court to order the state to reimburse his legal costs — including $16,000 for PowerPoint presentations — after he won a lawsuit to start growing and juicing his own medical marijuana. The Tampa strip club mogul last week filed a motion with Circuit Judge Karen Gievers, seeking more than $45,000 to pay for court fees, transcripts, and travel and lodging, among other things. The PowerPoint displays used at trial should be reimbursable, attorney Luke Lirot argued in the motion, because they “were admitted into evidence” … In a decision now under appeal, Gievers last month ruled that Redner — a 77-year-old lung cancer survivor — has an immediate right to ‘home grow.’
“George Zimmerman accused of stalking, threatening private investigator” via Gal Tziperman Lotan of the Orlando Sentinel — Zimmerman has been charged with stalking a private investigator who contacted him about a documentary series on Trayvon Martin produced by the rapper Jay Z, court records show. The private investigator told Seminole County deputies that he had contacted Zimmerman in September on behalf of the series’ executive producer, Michael Gasparro, and gave Zimmerman his information. The private investigator told deputies he did not hear from Zimmerman again until December. Gasparro called him and said Zimmerman was “extremely agitated” and sending Gasparro threatening messages, deputies wrote in the request for a warrant. Between Dec. 16, 2017, and Christmas Day, the private investigator told deputies he got 55 phone calls, 67 text messages, 36 voicemails and 27 emails from Zimmerman, records show. Zimmerman is scheduled for an arraignment May 30 at 9 a.m. in the Seminole County Courthouse.
“FBI got tax records last year for Maddox-related firms” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — A federal grand jury last year demanded the state of Florida hand over tax filings of companies connected to Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox, his longtime friend and business partner Paige Carter–Smith and other figures in the FBI’s long-running investigation into public corruption. The Tallahassee Democrat obtained copies of the subpoenas in March through a public records request … the October subpoena to FDOR marks the first time the name of one business, The Big Production, has surfaced in connection with the probe. The company, owned by Carter-Smith, served for years as Maddox’s in-house campaign advertising firm. From 2012 through 2016, Maddox paid The Big Production more than $210,000 for media and ad buys, according to campaign finance records. The firm got $50,000 alone for Maddox’s 2016 bid for school superintendent, which he ultimately abandoned.
Service for John Vogt set — A memorial service for Vogt, a former Senate President, will be held next Monday. The service will be at 10 a.m., Good Shepherd Catholic Church, 4665 Thomasville Road, Tallahassee. Vogt died March 21 at the age of 81 in Fort Mill, South Carolina. He served 16 years in the Senate, including as president of the chamber in 1986-88.
“Senate parking garage repairs on schedule — should reopen in August” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — In less than a hundred days there will be an additional 210 parking spaces for Florida Senate workers. Twenty-eight million dollars of repairs to the garage that sits underneath the Senate Office Building plaza along Madison Street will be complete by the end summer. The Department of Management Services said the Senate garage will reopen in August with all spaces assigned by September. The garage was closed May 2016 when its main support girder provoked “life safety” concerns for an architectural consultant. Once the Senate garage is reopened a $30 million repair to the House parking garage will begin.
— PARKLAND EFFECT —
Some lives have changed significantly since the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — despite not being remotely related to those involved in the Feb. 14 shooting.
Among them: Emma Jane Gonzalez. Not the Parkland student leading the charge against gun violence, but the vegan chef from Brooklyn, reported Danielle Paquette of The Washington Post.
The Gonzalez featured in this story has suffered accusations that she is a crisis actor, calls to her work, and even personal encounters with conspiracy theorists from the internet who believed her to be helping ‘stage’ the shooting in South Florida.
You’re real: A man with an Instagram account named @911NoPlaner followed Gonzalez on social media. Because he lived nearby, he went to her place of work and noticed she was much different from the Emma from Parkland.
Context: Sandy Hook survivors have suffered similar troubles. So much so they’re suing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of Infowars. Jones is a source of news for @911NoPlaner.
Ouch: Others have reached out to Gonzalez or publicly discussed how she could be a crisis actor, though such talk has dwindled recently. Still, when she walks home alone she places her keys between her fingers. “She wants to be ready if a stranger with worse intentions shows up.”
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Donald Trump’s GOP ‘warriors’ lead charge against Robert Mueller” via Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — “Look, we have some absolute warriors,” Trump told Fox News when asked about his relationship with Congress, name-checking “Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows and Matt Gaetz and [Ron] DeSantis.” The 39-year-old DeSantis, who last week called for criminal investigations of former FBI director James Comey and his former deputy Andrew McCabe, won Trump’s early endorsement in Florida’s contested GOP primary for governor. He has also proposed cutting off funding for Mueller’s investigation. Jordan, Gaetz and DeSantis sit on the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Justice Department. Meadows, Jordan and DeSantis are also on the House Oversight Committee, which has broad authority to question the executive branch and has probed the FBI’s handling of the 2016 Clinton investigation and other decision-making by the bureau as the Trump-Russia probe was launched.
“Marco Rubio applauds idea of election security consultants but again warns of risks” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Rubio, who’s raised alarms about Russian meddling in coming elections, praised a move by Gov. Scott to hire security consultants. But Rubio said that many state election officials “are underestimating the threat we face from Putin interference.” In a recent appearance before county officials, Rubio outlined a scenario where voter registration could be altered, leaving people unable to vote and creating chaos on Election Day. “I cannot emphasize enough the vulnerability,” the Florida Republican and Intelligence Committee member said.
Assignment editors — Rubio will deliver remarks at the 48th annual Washington Conference on the Americas, an event co-hosted by the U.S. Department of State and the Council of the Americas. Rubio’s speech begins about 6 p.m., State Department, 2201 C Street Northwest in Washington D.C.
“Scott Pruitt loses his fourth EPA aide this week — and more might be on the way” via Emily Holden and Daniel Lippman of POLITICO — John Konkus, the second-in-command on the public affairs team, is leaving for a top communications job at the Small Business Administration. Before joining the Trump administration, Konkus was well-known in Florida political and state government circles. He served as the chief of staff to former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, then worked in Florida for Washington-based Republican consulting firm Jamestown Associates. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Konkus was chair of Trump’s Leon County operation. The news comes just a day after EPA’s top spokeswoman, Liz Bowman, announced she was heading to a job on Capitol Hill … Pruitt‘s lead security agent and Superfund task force head both quit. Policy chief Samantha Dravis left last month, and before that agriculture adviser Jeff Sands departed. The raft of departures comes just a week after Pruitt sat through a day of grilling in front of two House subcommittees in which he blamed staff for many of the controversies surrounding his penchant for first-class travel, his spending on a round-the-clock security detail and a $43,000 soundproof phone booth and the $50-a-night Capitol Hill condo lease he secured last year from the wife of an energy lobbyist.
— OPINIONS —
“President Trump should nix the Iran nuclear deal” via Marco Rubio for Fox News – President Donald Trump will decide Tuesday whether or not to quit the Iran nuclear deal. He should not hesitate to nix this flawed and dangerous agreement that is beyond fixing. The deal’s first major flaw is that it enriched Iran and empowered it to destabilize the Middle East. The deal’s second major flaw is that it paves the path for the Iranian regime—whose leaders have repeatedly vowed to destroy Israel—to eventually get nuclear bombs. Perhaps the nuclear deal’s most unforgivable flaw is that its original architects chose to stand with and empower Iran’s mullahs over the Iranian people, whose opposition to their corrupt and criminal government continues to grow. Proposed “fixes” would do little to nothing to stop Iran’s development of regional-range missiles that can deliver nuclear warheads against U.S. troops in the Middle East, as well as against Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and other U.S. partners. President Trump should nix the flawed Iran deal and impose crippling economic and financial sanctions against the Iranian regime.
“Adam Putnam ensures abortion will be major campaign issue” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — At a Republican campaign forum, Putnam said that if he is elected this fall and a so-called heartbeat bill reaches his desk, “I will sign it. That life is real. It should be protected. It should be defended.” That’s not an example of campaign pandering to friendly voices. That’s a core belief for Putnam and many conservatives, and there is no compromise. To them, Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, is one of the darkest days in the history of the United States. So, if Republicans keep control of the Governor’s Mansion and the Florida Legislature, we probably should expect that “heartbeat bill” Putnam alluded to will show up here in some form. And we also should expect opponents will pull out every legal or political means to block passage of such a law … saying he would sign a heartbeat bill, Putnam just raised the stakes in a campaign that already was assured of contentious and bitter. Compromise? On this issue? Forget about it.
“Florida needs to get medical marijuana right” via the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board — Of the roughly 1,400 doctors who have signed on to the program, nearly one in five has a tarnished professional history … That’s a gross disservice to patients suffering from cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and a host of other maladies, and an affront to Floridians who voted for a safe and efficient medical cannabis program. Under the state’s emerging framework, doctors in the program must complete only two hours of training and pay a $250 fee to be able to recommend medical use of marijuana for patients diagnosed with certain chronic, debilitating conditions. While setting that low barrier to entry, the state makes participation unattractive to good doctors. The recommendations they must write too closely resemble prescriptions — and prescribing marijuana is illegal under federal law. One in five doctors who can recommend medical marijuana in Florida has a blemish in their past. That’s too high a ratio in a medical industry that is only going to grow.
“Why should Citizens policyholders need their state lawmaker to get claims resolved?” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Citizens Property Insurance wisely ended its long-running fight with a Palm Harbor condominium association with a good resolution that finally will allow the homeowners to make needed sinkhole repairs. But the settlement only came about because an influential Pinellas state lawmaker [Rep. Chris Sprowls] intervened and persuaded Citizens’ CEO to view the property himself. Resolving legitimate claims should not take such extraordinary measures, and property owners should not be bullied by any insurance company, much less one that is state-run. Citizens’ contention that insurance payouts should always be used to fixed damaged homes is certainly correct, and statutory reforms that helped contain the runaway train of sinkhole claims were good for Florida taxpayers. Still, Citizens’ treatment of its own customers who just wanted to get their homes fixed was unacceptable. Citizens policyholders should not have to rely on their state legislator to get fair treatment from their insurer.
“Tampa airport ignores ride-sharing trend, taxpayers beware” via Chris Hudson of Florida Politics — Several months behind schedule and more than $1 billion later, the shiny new rental car facility at Tampa International Airport opened earlier this year to decidedly mixed reviews. The rental car terminal is just the first phase of a $2 billion three-phase airport expansion and its completion gives Floridians a chance to see how our tax dollars have been spent so far. There is cause for concern. Tampa Airport has financed its expansion with a $195 million grant from the state and nearly $800 million in new bond debt that is supposed to be funded through existing sources of revenue, like airline ticket fees, as well as parking rate hikes and new rental car fees. Not a problem in 2011. In 2018 however, when ride-sharing services are taking over the market, this plan has holes. Nationally, Uber and Lyft now account for nearly 70 percent of ground transportation. Taxi cabs have fallen below 10 percent and rental cars are also on the decline … airport planners were caught flat-footed by the trend. Here’s the issue in a nutshell: Taxpayers were tapped to pay for the new rental terminal and SkyConnect train, but the airport isn’t bringing in as much money as it shortsightedly expected from rental cars and parking fees. So, now taxpayers will be hit up a second time on their ride to or from the airport.
— FOR YOUR RADAR —
“Deer hunting, camping and weddings may come to Loxahatchee wildlife refuge” via David Fleshler of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, which covers an area the size of Chicago, has begun exploring opening itself up to a range of new activities, plans that leave environmentalists wary they could detract from the refuge’s principal mission of protecting nature. The refuge sprawls across 230 square miles of Everglades marsh and cypress swamp west of the county’s suburban fringes, from Boca Raton to West Palm Beach … the refuge currently supports bicycling, fishing and hiking, as well as limited hunting for alligators and ducks. But ideas under consideration by its management would add many more activities. These include hunting for deer, hogs and small mammals. They include camping, walking leashed dogs, more trails for hiking, biking and canoeing, a new fishing pier and an expansion of current hunting for waterfowl and alligators. They include outdoor weddings and yoga.
— ALOE —
What Richard Reeves is reading — “For those still hungering for ‘Hamilton,’ a new indulgence” via Michael Paulson of The New York Times — Here comes another way to indulge your “Hamilton” mania: a high-tech, interactive, traveling exhibition. The musical’s creative team, following other pop culture phenoms from “Star Wars” to “Downton Abbey,” has created “Hamilton: The Exhibition,” which will open in November in Chicago, where the musical has been running since 2016, and then move to other cities. The project differs from other brand-extending entertainment-industry gallery ventures in one key respect: Because this musical is a work of nonfiction, based on Alexander Hamilton’s life, the museum-style exhibition aspires to historical accuracy and has been developed in consultation with experts at Yale and Harvard. The exhibition’s creators — much of the same team that put together the musical — say they are seeking to answer questions asked by the show’s fans.
What Matt Florell is reading — “It’s not just you: those calls you’re ignoring are increasing” via The New York Times — Though automated calls have long plagued consumers, the volume has skyrocketed in recent years, reaching an estimated 3.4 billion in April, says YouMail, which collects and analyzes calls through its robocall blocking service. That’s an increase of almost 900 million a month compared with a year ago. Federal lawmakers have noticed the surge. The House and Senate held hearings on the issue in the past two weeks, and each chamber has either passed or introduced legislation aimed at curbing abuses. Federal regulators have also noticed, issuing rules in November that give phone companies the authority to block certain robocalls.
What Bill Carlson is reading — “Politics collides with art as Kennedy Center prepares for Cuban culture festival” via Mimi Whitefield of the Miami Herald — Despite the frost on U.S.-Cuba relations, the biggest Cuban cultural extravaganza ever held in the United States will get underway next week at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Almost every space of the performing arts center on the banks of the Potomac will be devoted to some aspect of Cuban and Cuban-American culture, with more than 50 events scheduled during Artes de Cuba’s May 8-20 run. Over the course of two weeks, 420 performers — 242 from the island and 178 from the Cuban diaspora — will serve up a rich Cuban stew of music, dance, theater, art, film, graphic arts and fashion. Among the performers: the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, which made its U.S. debut at the Kennedy Center 40 years ago; 87-year-old Omara Portuondo, the diva of the Buena Vista Social Club; the Havana Lyceum Orchestra; Teatro El Público; jazz pianists Aldo López-Gavilán and Jorge Luis Pacheco; drummer Yissy; Los Van Van; Afro-Cuban jazz musician Yosvany Terry, who now lives in New York, and Miami-based Aymée Nuviola, a multi-genre singer who glides from timba to ballads.
What Ashley Bauman is reading — “Tampa’s version of Central Park gets its finishing touches before Friday’s debut” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — Dozens of other little details remain for construction workers to complete in the final days before Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park opens to the public … Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the signature public works project of his two-term administration was 99 percent ready to go for its Mother’s Day weekend debut when concerts are scheduled by the Florida Orchestra, the U.S. Navy Band and pop act Third Eye Blind … But attracting millennials from downtown and Seminole Heights to the west side of the Hillsborough River is serious business for the city, which helped pay for the $35.5 million project with about $15 million from Tampa’s settlement with BP over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The public investment in the park is already spurring private redevelopment in North Hyde Park, the mayor said, adding that its presence will activate the west side of the river.
Happy birthday to wonderful person and, arguably, the brightest mind in Florida Democratic politics, Ashley Walker. Also celebrating today are Juan Del Cerro, Michelle Merrell, Libby Pigman, and our favorite Cate, Elizabeth Ray.