Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.15.18 – Florida Politics

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.15.18

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

A mother and father of two unrelated students slain in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting will announce runs for two separate seats on the School Board of Broward County at a news conference on Tuesday.

Lori Alhadeff, mother to the late Stoneman Douglas student Alyssa Alhadeff, is expected to enter the race for the District 4 post, which oversees the forever-changed Parkland high school. Ryan Petty, who lost his daughter Alaina Petty in the Feb. 14 shooting, is expected to run for the countywide At-Large Seat 8.

The seat sought by Lori Alhadeff is held by Abby M. Freedman and is on the ballot in 2018. Freedman, though, has yet to file for re-election. Nathalie Adams had filed to run for the seat, but she’s since withdrawn, according to the Broward County Supervisor of Elections website.

Ryan Petty will compete against Seat 8 incumbent Donna P. Korn and challenger Elijah Manley.

A news release sent out Monday afternoon alerted media that Lori Alhadeff and Ryan Petty would make a joint announcement at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday outside of the Broward County Governmental Center in Fort Lauderdale.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@Netanyahu: I met with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Senatorial delegation led by Lindsey Graham, and a Congressional delegation led by Joe Wilson. Today is an historic day that constitutes a milestone in the history of our people, our state, and our alliance.

@RosLehtinen: Woweee!! What an amazing honor to have been selected by @Israel as one of the 70 Americans who have made a unique contribution to the one and only #Jewish state.

—@RepCurbelo: We owe it to our service members, and their families, to better help them transition back to the civilian job market. #BATTLEact I intro’d w/ @RepStephMurphy is a positive step forward in achieving that goal & I’m glad to see it was included in the #NDAA we’ll be considering soon

@Fineout: So even though @richardcorcoran shot down the Corcoran to the Supreme Court tidbit last week it got circulated by “insiders” this morning. Any insider who knows Corcoran would know the idea of him taking a job where he would have to suddenly be silent is antithetical to who he is

—@JimRosicaFL: First text of the day: “Odds on which Florida legislator files first sports betting bill?”

—@MichaelSpag: And that is a wrap on wildfire season 2018! It got rough there for a bit but didn’t quite match last year thanks to more frequent cold fronts in April and this early start to the rainy season. Still a few dry spots on the detailed map but they will be eliminated soon.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Deadpool 2 release — 3; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 10; Memorial Day — 13; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in St. Petersburg — 25; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Miramar — 27; Time Warner/AT&T merger ruling — 28; 2018 FIFA World Cup begins — 30; Father’s Day — 33; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 38; Florida GOP Sunshine Summit starts — 44; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 54; MLB All-Star Game — 63; Deadline for filing claim bills — 78; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 78; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 79; Start of the U.S. Open — 104; Primary Election Day — 105; College Football opening weekend — 107; NFL season starts — 114; Future of Florida Forum — 134; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 161; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 162; General Election Day — 175; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 275; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 294.

— TOP STORY —

Gambling ruling not a winning ticket in Florida” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — A U.S. Supreme Court decision viewed as a major win for the gambling industry opened the door to sports betting in states across the country, but Florida almost certainly won’t be one of them — at least for now … The decision in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, a case the state of New Jersey brought as a challenge to a law known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, found that a federal ban on state-sanctioned sports betting is unconstitutional. As the Supreme Court considered the case, some states filed legislation to authorize lucrative sports betting in anticipation of the federal law being struck down. But in Florida, two major obstacles — a ballot initiative and the need for a special legislative session — stand in the way of joining states such as Mississippi and Pennsylvania, which have cleared the decks to allow gamblers to bet on professional and collegiate sports teams as soon as the NFL season begins in the fall. A proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot will allow Florida voters to decide if they want to control decisions about gambling, something now largely left up to the Legislature. If Amendment 3 passes, voters statewide would have to sign off on future gambling expansions. Sen. Bill Galvano, who has been a lead negotiator on gambling issues for several years, said the high court ruling won’t have an immediate impact on Florida, where sports betting is illegal. “The ruling does not automatically change the gaming landscape in Florida,” said Galvano. “I believe it will create more interest in pursuing some types of sports betting, on behalf of the pari-mutuels as well as the (Seminole) tribe and some independent entities. But all of that is overshadowed by the pending constitutional amendment, which may create tremendous obstacles for any type of sports betting to come into the state.”

Bill Galvano says the SCOTUS ruling on sports betting will not have an effect on gambling in Florida.

Joe Henderson: Cover your ears, the sports betting debate is about to begin” via Florida Politics — Here’s a little something to consider while Floridians work this out: Sports wagering in our state will continue whether it’s legal or not. It always has. It always will. The amount of money already wagered on sports is staggering, and most of it is done illegally. Forbes estimated that $93 billion — with a B — was ILLEGALLY wagered on college and pro football in 2015. Against that backdrop is a little thing called Amendment 3 that will in front of voters in November. It basically says that it passes, any future expansion of gambling would have to be approved by voter referendum. That almost assuredly will include sports wagering. Here’s where the noise will be the loudest.

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Bill Nelson hits Rick Scott for Israel trip as potential storm threatens Florida” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — “Scott is in Israel instead of minding the store at home,” Nelson said in a campaign email, referring to Scott’s presence at the controversial opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. “With a threat swirling in the Gulf, Rick Scott is using taxpayer dollars to promote his campaign, proving once again, he has abandoned his job as governor,” Nelson said. The National Hurricane Center has been monitoring an area of low pressure for potential development into a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico, with possible danger to the Panhandle. Scott’s campaign hit back quickly, with campaign director Ryan Patmintra calling Nelson’s accusation “highly insensitive and diminishes the global importance of the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem — not to mention to many Floridians.” “Is this really coming from a man who has been on 32 taxpayer-funded junkets over his half-century in office?” Patmintra said of Nelson.

While Rick Scott is in Israel, Bill Nelson is blasting him on storm preparedness.

Spotted: Nelson in this Washington Post story, Trump’s improved standing, energized GOP voters worry Democrats” — After months of confidence that public discontent with President Donald Trump would lift Democrats back to power in Congress, some party leaders are fretting that their advantages in this year’s midterms are eroding amid a shifting political landscape. Driving their concerns are Trump’s approval rating, which has ticked upward in recent weeks, and high Republican turnout in some recent primaries, suggesting the GOP base remains energized. What’s more, Republicans stand to benefit politically from a thriving economy and are choosing formidable candidates to take on vulnerable Democratic senators. One of their biggest sources of anxiety is the Senate race in Florida, where some Democrats fear that three-term Sen. Nelson has not adequately prepared to defend his seat against Gov. Scott, a well-financed former businessman hand-picked for the race by Trump. Scott and Nelson are close in early polls. “I’m concerned about the race. I think everybody is,” said Ione Townsend, the Democratic Party chair in Hillsborough County, home to Tampa. Townsend said it will “be hard to compete” with Scott’s money.

Rick Scott releases new Spanish language ad aimed at Puerto Rico community” via Stephen Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — The ad, “Presente,” starts off with footage of Gov. Scott walking in the April 28 Florida Puerto Rican Parade. In the 30-second spot, for which no information was yet available on spending or the ad buy, Floridians Jeannie Calderin and Kelvin Valle talk about the Florida governor’s response to Hurricane Maria and his economic record. “I’m supporting Gov. Rick Scott because the truth is that when Puerto Ricans needed the help, he was the first to be there,” Calderin says in the ad. Valle says Scott “has created jobs and he’s put people back into the labor force, and that’s why I support him.” To see the ad, click here.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Is Mike Pence keeping Trump from getting involved in Florida’s governor race?” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — The New York Times published a story on Vice President Pence‘s growing role in shaping the Republican Party heading into the 2018 elections … Apparently, he also encouraged Trump in April to stay out of Florida’s Republican primary for governor: “Pence weighed in to deter Trump from intervening aggressively in the race for governor of Florida. The president had endorsed Representative Ron DeSantis, a vocal defender of Trump and critic of Robert Mueller on Fox News, in a December tweet, and privately told DeSantis to expect a joint appearance this spring … Mr. DeSantis faces a contested primary against Adam Putnam, Florida’s agriculture commissioner and a former House colleague of Pence. After allies of Putnam appealed to the vice president, Pence — along with cautious White House aides — argued against further meddling in the race … Trump has yet to appear with DeSantis.”

It’ll play well on Fox: Republican Congressman and candidate for Governor Ron DeSantis attended the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem Monday. DeSantis was “recognized for his work in helping establish the symbolic diplomatic site,” his campaign said.

Under fire, Gwen Graham walks back talk of David Jolly as running mate” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Graham walked back her statement that she would consider a Republican running mate for governor by saying Monday that she would pick a Democrat who shares her values. “For lieutenant governor, I will choose a Democrat who reflects my progressive values: a woman’s right to choose, supporting public schools, raising the minimum wage, fighting climate change, expanding health care with a public option, and passing bold gun safety legislation,” Graham wrote. But Graham sounded more bipartisan last week when she appeared on the Strange Days podcast in Miami and specifically mentioned former Rep. David Jolly, a Republican who served with her in the House in 2015 and 2016, along with Democrat Patrick Murphy, who is mulling a bipartisan bid with Jolly as well. During the show, host Fernand Amandi asked if she would “consider a split ticket? Would you consider a Republican for lieutenant governor if it fit the criteria that you thought were good for Florida to unite Floridians?” After POLITICO reported her remarks Monday, the backlash against her began, especially from Andrew Gillum supporters. Before POLITICO ran its report, Graham’s campaign did not deny she was considering Jolly as a possible running mate and sources familiar with discussions between the two say his name has been specifically mentioned as part of an internal conversation about a bipartisan ticket, as she indicated in the Strange Days podcast.

—“Andrew Gillum supporters hanging onto every word Gwen Graham says” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat

Andrew Gillum using airport parking perks for campaign travel” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Since launching his campaign for governor last March, Gillum has used his free city airport parking pass 96 times — almost twice a week between March 2017 and April 2018. That’s almost four times as much as Gil Ziffer’s 26 uses and Curtis Richardson’s 24 uses of the parking pass. … Those uses include entry and exit to the parking lot at Tallahassee International Airport. … Most of the visits were for travel related to Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign, not official city business. But there’s no policy regulating the use of the airport-issued card. “The mayor’s kept up a robust travel schedule during his gubernatorial campaign, including trips to South Florida, and he’s used the parking system as the current rules allow,” campaign spokesman Geoff Burgan said. … Using a city perk for campaign-related activities doesn’t look good, said Ben Wilcox, research director for the nonprofit watchdog group Integrity Florida. “Nobody likes it when public officials get a free pass when other members of the public don’t benefit.” … Evan Power, chairman of the Leon County Republican Party, said it’s another example of Gillum using public resources for his own political gain.

Andrew Gillum is leaning heavily on airport perks for campaign travel.

Assignment editors — Democratic candidate for Gov. Chris King will kick off a statewide “Turning the Tide” tour on criminal justice reform. At noon, King will be at the Enoch D. Davis Center, 1111 18th Ave. S. in St. Petersburg. At 7 p.m., he talks with the North Pinellas County Democratic Club, Dunedin Scottish Arts Foundation, 1134 Douglas Ave. in Dunedin. At 8 p.m., King addresses the Pinellas Young Democrats, Pinellas County Democratic Party office, 2250 1st Ave. N. in St. Petersburg.

Assignment editors — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine speaks with members of the St. Petersburg chapter of AFSCME District 37 West Coast Retirees at their annual picnic, 1:30 p.m., War Veterans Memorial Park, 9600 Bay Pines Blvd., St. Petersburg. Later, Levine attends the screening of “Political Animals,” a new documentary about the 2012 Pets Trust initiative. Screening begins 7:30 p.m.; Levine speaks to attendees at 9:15 p.m., Actor’s Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables.

Adam Putnam says Florida must fix talent gap to keep jobs” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — “Florida needs to change the conversation surrounding career and technical education and realize the launchpad for the American dream is not built only on a four-year university degree,” said Putnam in an advance copy of remarks he made at campaign stops in Tampa and Panama City. “Students should not be told the only pathway to success is a college education, and they shouldn’t be forced into student loan debt for a degree they can’t use.” Putnam’s decision to focus on vocational education is a reflection that education is expected to be a top issue during this year’s wide-open race for governor. Putnam’s proposal calls for expanding apprenticeship programs for students and the types of technical education offered in high schools such as computer coding. He also wants students to be able to earn college credits for their vocational education, similar to Advanced Placement classes. Putnam also wants businesses to have more say on what types of courses are offered and make it easier to certify people to teach vocational and technical classes.

—“Sean Shaw clears $300K on hand for Attorney General bid” via Florida Politics

Joe Biden endorses Nancy Soderberg” via Stephen Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — “I’ve known Nancy for three decades since she first started her work in the Senate,” Biden said in a statement. “She is a lifelong public servant who has served at the highest levels of government. … She’s been tested, and she’s delivered.” Soderberg, a former ambassador to the United Nations and national security adviser under President Bill Clinton, is running as a Democrat in District 6, which includes Mount Dora and Volusia County. The seat is open because DeSantis decided to run for governor earlier this year. “I’m supporting Nancy because she’s a problem solver and will fight for the values of the 6th District: growing the middle class, creating jobs you can raise a family on, ensuring every family has access to affordable health care and every child can get an affordable education,” Biden said. “She has the knowledge and experience to make a difference and get things done for the people of the 6th District.”

Joe Biden gives the thumbs up to Nancy Soderberg.

—“Judson Sapp lands trio of endorsements for CD 3 bid” via Florida Politics

Ross Spano rolls out Polk, Hillsborough endorsements in CD 15 race — State Rep. Spano announced a dozen endorsements in his campaign for Florida’s 15th Congressional District, including numerous current and former elected officials from CD 15. Joining Rep. Sam Killebrew’s previous support of Spano’s campaign are Rep. Jake Raburn and former Rep. Rich Glorioso. The campaign also announced endorsements from Hillsborough County Tax Collector Doug Belden, Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham, former State Attorney Mark Ober and Polk County Commissioners George Lindsey and John Hall. Local endorsements are Plant City Mayor Rick Lott, Plant City Commissioner Bill Dodson, former Plant City Mayor Randy Larson and former Plant City Commissioner Billy Keel.

Wilton Simpson committee tops $182K in April” via the News Service of Florida — The committee, known as Jobs for Florida, had $2.36 million on hand as of April 30. Among its contributions in April were $25,000 from Florida Power & Light, $25,000 from a Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC and $20,000 from Duke Energy … If Republicans maintain control of the Senate, Simpson is in line to become president after the 2020 elections. He also is running for re-election this year in Senate District 10 and had raised $411,335 for his campaign as of April 30.

Happening tonight — Attorney Carrie Pilon holds her official campaign kickoff in her bid for Senate District 24, 6 p.m. at the Flying Boat Brewery Company, 1776 11th Ave. N., St. Petersburg. The guest list includes Betty CastorRene Flowers, state Sen. Audrey GibsonBill Heller, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, former St. Pete City Councilmember Karl Nurse, current Councilmember Darden Rice and more.

—“Keith Perry kicking off SD 8 campaign May 24” via Florida Politics

—“Doral mayor backs Manny Diaz in SD 36 race” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Nick Duran dominates April fundraising on his path to a second term” via Florida Politics — Duran raised nearly $40,000 last month between his campaign and political committee, Leadership for Miami-Dade. That leaves Duran with over six-figures on hand going into May, the last month of fundraising to be reported before Florida’s mid-June qualifying deadline for state candidates. Duran’s likely Republican opponent, Rosy Palomino — who he comfortably defeated in 2016 — raised just over $1,000, which has been roughly her average fundraising over the last three months of reporting. Palomino’s cash-on-hand at the end of April leaves her with barely enough money to pay the $1,800 filing fee due in June.

 —“Tracie Davis stocks away cash for primary clash with Kim Daniels’ former aide” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

— WHERE THEY STAND —

With a farm industry still reeling from Hurricane Irma’s devastation and another potentially dangerous hurricane season ahead, candidates for Agriculture Commissioner are making disaster-relief commitments to Florida growers.

The News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner asked each candidate what they’d do to make Florida’s “food chain more resilient before future natural disasters.”

Turner got responses from state Sen. Denise Grimsley, state Rep. Matt Caldwell, former state Rep. Baxter Troutman and Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter.

Grimsley: The Sebring Republican wants to build up the State Agriculture Response Team to the point that it’s working with local officials, “developing best practices, offering mitigation cost-share programs when appropriate, and routinely investing in equipment and supplies staged specifically for disaster response.”

Caldwell: The North Fort Myers Republican touched on storm prep and relief, but also brought up citrus-greening. He called for research and development on crops that fared better against the disease than others.

Troutman: The Winter Haven Republican “speaks of a need to strengthen roads, rails and ports, while fortifying utilities and keeping workers safe so they can quickly return to work.”

Porter: The Democrat called for proactivity in the Cabinet post. Not just with hurricanes, but with “fruit fly infestation that hit the agricultural community and floods and cold snaps.”

— STATEWIDE —

State braces for rank, flooding” via the News Service of Florida – The Florida Division of Emergency Management and Gov. Scott issued advisories about a severe weather system developing in the Gulf of Mexico that could bring rain and flooding to parts of the state. The system is getting extra attention as it has potential to develop into a subtropical or tropical storm and comes as the state prepares for hurricane season, which begins June 1. The National Hurricane Center said it anticipates the system to produce widespread cloudiness, showers and thunderstorms across much of Florida and southeastern Georgia.

Scott wants $1M from feds to fix Florida’s long-running gun background check loophole” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Under the state’s current system, staff shortages have led to up to 17 percent of mental health records entered late into a state database used to do gun background checks. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement admits this could lead to someone getting a gun who has a disqualifying mental health issue. Scott initially said that clerks should “prioritize their resources to resolve this issue as required by law,” when asked about the issue last week, but now he wants more federal money to boost staffing levels. FDLE already plans to request $94,880 to fund a pilot program with the Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts office, but Scott wants them to increase the request to $1 million to fund up to a dozen pilot programs. The money would help fund an additional position to process mental health records. Clerks offices are the local officials charged with processing the mental health records.

Assignment editors — Attorney General Pam Bondi is scheduled to make a “major announcement” about combating the national opioid crisis, 2 p.m., Riverside Recovery Center, 4004 North Riverside Dr., Tampa.

Judge denies anonymity in NRA suit against gun law” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A federal judge has denied the National Rifle Association’s request to shield a plaintiff’s name in litigation against the state’s new school safety and mental health law. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker on Sunday turned down the NRA’s request to use a “Jane Doe” pseudonym for the 19-year-old Alachua County woman, (who feared) “harassment, intimidation, and potentially even physical violence.” AG Bondi had opposed the move, saying the woman’s desire for anonymity was not justified … While acknowledging that false names may sometimes be used in litigation, the judge cited federal court rules that complaints “must name all the parties,” and referred to case law that lawsuits are “public events” and that the public has a “legitimate interest in knowing all of the facts involved, including the identities of the parties.”

Marion Hammer, NRA get a legal smackdown in the “Jane Doe” privacy case.

Advocates, lawmakers scramble to restore funding for DOC re-entry programs” via John Haughey of FloridaWatchdog.org — The Florida Department of Correction’s (DOC) unexpected announcement that it will slash contracts for substance abuse and mental health re-entry services by more than 40 percent has spurred demands that Gov. Scott and legislators take action to prevent the cuts from being implemented July 1. Among suggested options: A special session, using state reserve funds, negotiating a truncated contract with the DOC’s health care provider and convening a joint legislative commission authorized to make between-session budget decisions. In addition to cutting re-entry and post-release mental health and substance abuse programs, the DOC is also eliminating $20 million from its operations budget. If the cuts are implemented, 66 contracts held by 33 community providers, ranging from $38,000 to more than $3 million, will be cut or eliminated July 1, according to the DOC. Advocates maintain the cuts undermine the state’s $50 million effort to combat the opioid crisis.

Flags ordered at half-staff for Highlands County deputy — Gov. Scott has ordered flags at half-staff Tuesday to honor the Highlands County sheriff’s deputy killed on duty May 7. Deputy William J. Gentry Jr., 40, had served with the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office for nine years, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. Gentry was shot and killed “while responding to an animal abuse call … Gentry went to the suspect’s home, a convicted felon who lived next door … As he stood at the front door the suspect opened fire, shooting him in the head. The 69-year-old subject was taken into custody.” Scott directed the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff at the Highlands County Courthouse in Sebring, Sebring City Hall, the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office in Sebring, and the Capitol in Tallahassee from sunrise to sunset.

Deputies: videotape, text messages, surveillance indicate Hernando County Commissioner paid for sex and allowed others to at his Spring Hill home” via Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times — Last November, months before a domestic incident at his Spring Hill house turned the spotlight on Hernando County Commissioner Nick Nicholson, a sheriff’s deputy was parking out front, investigating what appeared to be prostitution. During the surveillance, several men walked into the residence on Tiburon Avenue with Valerie Surette, a woman living there, and closed the garage door, according to the investigative report. A mattress leaning against the wall was pulled down, apparently so she could conduct a sex-for-money “transaction,’’ the report said. The men left 11 to 23 minutes later, one handing Surette money in full view of the officer. The surveillance, prompted by neighbors concerned about the traffic and short stays, is detailed in the latest documents released by the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office regarding Nicholson. He was suspended by the governor on April 26 after deputies arrested him on one count of running a house of prostitution and two counts of prostitution.

Trauma drama continues as new law challenged” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Nicklaus Children’s Hospital filed a challenge in Leon County circuit court seeking an injunction to block a section of the law that would allow a competitor, Kendall Regional Medical Center, to operate what is known as a Level I trauma center. Nicklaus Children’s Hospital “is likely to suffer irreparable harm because any final approval of Kendall’s Level I status, and the significant damage flowing therefrom, cannot be undone,” attorneys for the facility wrote in the lawsuit. The filing added that “given the importance of trauma centers, Florida’s regulation of a unified trauma system should place the needs of trauma victims and citizens over private corporate interests.” With Kendall upgraded to a Level I trauma center, the lawsuit contends that pediatric patients will be diverted to Kendall instead of going to Nicklaus. The children’s hospital argued that the portion of the new law is unconstitutional because the Legislature didn’t follow proper procedures when passing what Nicklaus contends is a “special law” or a narrowly targeted local law that benefits Kendall Regional Medical Center.

A crane operator working on the FIU bridge left the deadly scene — in his crane” via Nicholas Nehamas, Charles Rabin and Andres Viglucci of the Miami Herald — No one seemed to notice when a large white crane that had been working at the doomed Florida International University bridge lurched away down Tamiami Trail shortly after the span collapsed. Here is what is known: Police don’t seem to believe the crane man fled the scene or caused the collapse, which independent engineers suspect was the result of structural and design flaws. They say the unidentified operator drove the crane a short distance away and stuck around to offer help — but for how long isn’t clear. Within minutes of the bridge coming down … the crane’s operator jumped out of the cab to untie a strand of caution tape that police coming from nearby FIU and Sweetwater had quickly anchored on the machine as they rushed to save lives. Then he started up his rig and rumbled west down Tamiami and out of sight. A lawyer for George’s Crane — which rents hydraulic cranes as large as 170 tons — offered an explanation to the Herald. Far from fleeing, the operator needed to move the lumbering contraption out of the way, said the attorney, Bryant Blevins. Rescuers had shown up right away.

Official: Lyft drivers at Disney World can join union” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board last week ruled about 60 drivers who pick up Disney World guests using the Lyft app can be represented by the Teamsters local in Orlando. The Lyft drivers are Disney World employees who earn extra money by driving guests around the resort that is roughly the size of the city of San Francisco. Disney had argued that the Lyft driver jobs couldn’t be covered by a union since the Teamsters waived their right to represent any workers not mentioned in its five-year contract. But regional NLRB director David Cohen wrote in his decision last week that the waiver doesn’t apply to the “Minnie Van” drivers since the Lyft job didn’t exist when the contract was negotiated.

“Minnie Van” Lyft drivers at Disney can now unionize.

Eight months later, Irma is still spreading misery in Keys canals and Florida Bay” via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald — Eight months after Irma slammed into the Florida Keys … only a fraction of the debris in more than 500 canals has been removed … Sustainability Director Rhonda Haag told the South Florida Water Management District governing board on Thursday … Only 16 canals and about 3,000 cubic yards of debris have been cleared, Haag said, leaving an estimated 97,000 cubic yards of awnings, roofs, downed trees, RVs, broken docks and other debris blocking canals not only for boats but manatees and other marine life. … “It’s a complicated process, which is why the canals were not cleared after Hurricane Wilma,” Haag said. “But now with Irma, this is countywide and we cannot afford to let the debris sit in the canals. We absolutely cannot.” … [FEMA] officials had initially agreed to provide additional money to clean canals … but only to about six feet to make them navigable for boats. After county officials objected … FEMA workers agreed to go deeper to more than 16 feet. … FEMA has also said it will only pay to remove debris left by Irma, further complicating the cleanup. “The physics of it don’t make sense,” board chairman Federico Fernandez complained. “To a native Floridian, it doesn’t seem practical or effective for how the federal government addresses our needs to get back on our feet.”

— ISLAND PREP —

It’s been just shy of eight months since Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, and now its inhabitants anxiously await another potentially catastrophic storm season.

Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times reports the Army Corps of Engineers is set to depart the island territory Friday, leaving thousands of Puerto Ricans in the dark and many with an unstable power supply.

In Las Piedras, Mazzei writes, the power is intermittent. One source tells her, “If a little bit of wind blows through, we will lose power.”

The Army Corps of Engineers is set to leave Puerto Rico this week. (Image via DOD)

PREPA ready?: According to Puerto Rico’s nonvoting Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón, the island’s utility is not prepared for another hurricane season.

Emergency management: FEMA sources tell Mazzei they’re learning and are “better positioned to respond.” But, “There is reason for skepticism: Local emergency managers are still meeting with key members of the private sector, like fuel distributors, to hash out hurricane plans.”

Dry runs: A series of exercises — including a “mass-casualty catastrophe” simulation — are planned for later in May. An exercise in mid-June will simulate a “full-scale disaster.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

Assignment editors — Sen. Marco Rubio speaks at the International Republican Institute’s freedom dinner and awards ceremony, honoring U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Rubio’s remarks begin about 7:15 p.m., The Willard Intercontinental (Grand Ballroom), 1401 Pennsylvania Ave., NW in Washington D.C. The speech will be live-streamed here.

Florida delegation holds hearing on oil drilling” via the News Service of Florida – VISIT FLORIDA President Ken Lawson and Brig. Gen. Evan Dertien, commander of the 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, are among scheduled panelists for a Florida congressional delegation hearing on drilling off the state’s coasts. Also scheduled to appear during the hearing in Washington are Mark Alderson, executive director of the Sarasota Bay National Estuary Program, and Ken Milito, director of upstream and industry operations for the American Petroleum Institute. The hearing comes amid continued debate over plans by the Trump administration to allow oil and gas drilling in federal waters off various parts of the country. The issue involves waters beyond the nation’s outer continental shelf – a jurisdictional term describing submerged lands 10.36 statutory miles off Florida’s West Coast and three nautical miles off the East Coast. Thursday’s one-hour hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building is set to begin at 8:30 a.m.

Gus Bilirakis in The Washington Post on “Congressional challengers [who] use bill backed by drug companies against incumbents” — Congress approved legislation in 2016 that hampered the Drug Enforcement Administration’s enforcement efforts against the opioid industry, which is spurring many candidates with a personal stake in the crisis to run for office. Bilirakis co-sponsored the bill. He held between $4,000 and $60,000 in Rite Aid stock, financial disclosures show, and accepted $77,500 from drug distribution and pharmacy companies. Chris Hunter is a first-time candidate vying for the Democratic nomination to face Bilirakis in the fall. He is a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor who is hitting hard at Bilirakis’s support of the legislation … In a statement, Bilirakis said he has since been working on a bill to rewrite the law and plans to “push it through the legislative process as quickly as possible.”

Former federal prosecutor Chris Hunter is preparing to blast Gus Bilirakis on his drug bill vote.

Florida Chamber leads delegation of job creators to D.C. — The Chamber is taking its advocacy efforts to Washington, D.C. this week, “emphasizing the importance of international trade, infrastructure and targeted tax reforms,” it said in a Monday news release. Its delegation includes “business leaders from across the state, representing small businesses and the state’s largest employers, and will include meetings with Florida’s Congressional Delegation, federal agencies and foreign dignitaries.” The “D.C. Fly-In” is occurring while the nation’s capital celebrates National Infrastructure Week and falls on the heels of the Florida Chamber’s reinforced undertaking of its long and steady infrastructure and growth leadership efforts through the Florida Chamber Infrastructure Coalition.

NFIB launches new brand, website — The National Federation of Independent Businesses unveiled a new brand and updated website that “reflect both its 75-year history of blazing paths and its commitment to advocating on behalf of small businesses,” a Monday news release said. The new brand and website launch as NFIB prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary in June. The organization, which has fought for the interests of small business on some of the most high-profile debates nationally and in the states, most recently celebrated a milestone victory during tax reform when it secured small business tax relief, including a provision in the tax code that provides a 20 percent deduction for pass-through businesses. The new brand and updated website can be found at www.nfib.com.

— OPINIONS —

Florida set to lose out on millions if census citizenship question stands” via Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Rene Garcia for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As elected officials representing the Miami-Dade County area, we know that Census 2020 is a high stakes operation for the Sunshine State, with the final count set to have a significant impact on our pocketbook and political clout in our nation’s capital for years to come. Opposition to a citizenship question that has not been tested in modern times has been widespread and swift among leaders from both Republican and Democratic Administrations, with two U.S. Commerce Secretaries, Carlos Gutierrez and Penny Pritzker, and six former Census Bureau Directors already voicing serious concerns over the addition. The state of Florida stands to lose out on millions of dollars in federal funding and as many as two additional congressional seats if the census question on citizenship moves forward and depresses response rates.

The false promise of term limits” via Jamelle Bouie of Slate — It’s ironic, but true, that the easiest play for any aspiring lawmaker is to run against Washington. It works if you’re new and it works if you’re a veteran of political life. It even works if you’re openly corrupt. Trump called for term limits in his presidential campaign, and Florida Gov. Scott is doing the same as he makes his bid for Senate. But there’s a problem: Term limits won’t deliver you to this promised land of functioning government. Term limits exacerbate all the worst features of American governance while improving little about our candidates or elections. The quality of lawmaking goes down, the influence of lobbyists goes up, and public-spiritedness erodes even further. In actual practice, term-limiting congresspeople is a cure far worse than the disease. Fifteen states have term limits on their legislatures, giving us a chance to compare performance. The results are unambiguous. “Term limits weaken the legislative branch relative to the executive. Governors and the executive bureaucracy are reported to be more influential over legislative outcomes in states where term limits are on the books than where they are not,” concludes a 2006 study on the subject.

— MOVEMENTS —

Florida Public Service Commission applications now being accepted — The Florida Public Service Commission Nominating Council announced Monday it’s accepting applications to fill two upcoming vacancies on the Public Service Commission. Terms are expiring for Commissioners Gary F. Clark and Julie I. Brown, both on Jan. 1, 2019. “Applicants must be competent and knowledgeable in one or more fields which include, but are not limited to: public affairs, law, economics, accounting, engineering, finance, natural resource conservation, energy, or another field substantially related to the duties and functions of the Commission,” a news release said. The annual salary for a PSC member is now $132,036. Gov. Scott will make the selections, subject to Senate confirmation. An electronic copy of the application packet is here. Completed applications must be received by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 12. Late applications will not be considered.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Ralph Arza, Mountain Moving Strategies: QuaverMusic. Com

David Bishop, Solaris Consulting: Jackson County School Board

Ron BookKelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: Dezer Development

Robert Boyd, Sachs Sax Caplan: Zaner-Bloser

Al Cardenas, Slater Bayliss, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Adjusters International Consulting

Paul MitchellMonte Stevens, Southern Strategy Group: The Florida House Experience, Spring Venture Group

What Eileen Stuart is reading — “Phosphate giant Mosaic is moving its headquarters to Hillsborough County” via Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The Mosaic Company will move its corporate headquarters from Minnesota to Hillsborough County … the company intends to move all its senior executives and their related functions to the new location once it’s determined. The Fortune 500 phosphate mining company currently headquarters in Plymouth, Minnesota. Mosaic already has its largest domestic presence in Florida, including in Tampa. The company employs 3,000 Floridians and another 3,000 contractors. The company’s 2017 economic impact in Florida included: $465 million in payroll; $307 million in capital expenditures; $41 million in land reclamation; $28 million in county tangible and real estate taxes; $40 million in state severance and sales taxes; $1.1 million to United Way organizations in Florida.

— ALOE —

SeaWorld’s water park Aquatica opens Ray Rush slide propelled by water jets” via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times — Ray Rush, a new slide with an open-air halfpipe that resembles a manta ray, opened a day earlier than expected. It’s the first in Florida to combine enclosed tube sections, a giant sphere and a drop into an open-air halfpipe, according to SeaWorld. Ray Rush is a 60-foot-tall, four-person raft slide that includes water jet launches. The height requirement is 42 inches. Ray Rush encompasses three slide elements in rafts that seat up to four riders. First, riders will be launched with powerful water jets designed to propel the rafts into the first of several enclosed tube sections. Next, riders enter a giant translucent sphere, rocking back and forth as waves of water swirl around them. Finally, riders will drop into the attraction’s signature element, an open-air halfpipe that resembles the shape of a manta ray.

SeaWorld’s Ray Rush opens a day early.

 

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

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