Sunburn — The morning read of what's hot in Florida politics — 9.14.18 - Florida Politics

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.14.18

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

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

ICYMI: Talk of porn, ‘sex toys and science’ spur lawsuit against Florida State’s medical school

Jokes by a med school professor about porn, sex toys and the Zika virus led to a lawsuit against Florida State University, according to a complaint filed in Leon County this week.

Christina R. Goswick-Childers, formerly an academic program specialist at the school’s College of Medicine in Tallahassee, filed sexual harassment and retaliation claims after she reported incidents and was let go last February, her suit says.

But the university on Thursday denied any discrimination or retaliation against her, countering with a 60-page dossier.

It says the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated her case and was “unable” to find any “violations” of federal discrimination law.

It also says she was terminated for “multiple egregious performance issues” and notes that the professor she complained about — Dr. Gregg Stanwood — was never her direct supervisor.

Goswick-Childers said her troubles began in February 2016, when Stanwood — a developmental neuropharmacologist and behavioral neuroscientist — joked in front of two other co-workers he couldn’t give Goswick-Childers his credit card information.

That was because he feared “she may use the card to purchase porn or online sex toys and his wife may find out,” according to the complaint.

After she reported the remark about two months later, “the (work) environment became hostile and extremely stressful” as Goswick-Childers “believed she would face retaliation.”

She said she did the following January, after a guest speaker “made reference to sex toys in (a) presentation (on the) Zika virus,” the suit said.

Stanwood told her in front of four others that “he had made a bucket list item of being able to introduce a speaker that incorporated sex toys and science.”

The rest of the story is here.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@SenBillNelson: The president’s comments on the nearly 3,000 American lives lost in Puerto Rico are shameful. We deserve and expect more from someone who holds the highest office in our country.

@ScottforFlorida: I disagree with @POTUS — an independent study said thousands were lost and Gov. Rosselló agreed. I’ve been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand. The loss of any life is tragic; the extent of lives lost as a result of Maria is heart-wrenching. I’ll continue to help PR

@AndrewGillum: No death is partisan, and our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico deserved better from @realDonaldTrump before, during, and after the hurricane.

@CHeathWFTV: “Every morning there is something new that the president tweets,” says @CortesBob “I have no reason to doubt the number of 2,975 deaths in Puerto Rico”

@MahoneysTheName: In a statement, @RonDeSantisFL disagrees with Trump: “Ron DeSantis is committed to standing with the Puerto Rican community, especially after such a tragic loss of life. He doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated.”

@FrancesRobles: On the Oct. 3 day Mr. Trump threw paper towels at a crowd in Puerto Rico, 121 people died in Puerto Rico, compared to 82 who died on that day the year before. That’s an increase of 39 people, or 47 percent.

@BiancaJoanie: Written statement from @ricardorossello: “I ask the president to acknowledge the magnitude of Hurricane Maria … we cannot allow for the response efforts to be politicized.

@StephenLawsonFL: Former FBI agent on AndrewGillum NYC boat trip with undercover agents: “We’re not going to let anybody on that boat that we don’t think is worthy of a criminal investigation, if we can help it.”

@KevinsiDonohoe: FDP just got back all our Adam Putnam records requests. Interesting timing — I wonder why they waited?

@DeFede: I’m glad @FLGovScott and @SenBillNelson will debate. Debates are good. But it bothers me that they go to @CNN and @wolfblitzer — it feels disrespectful to folks in Florida and to Florida journalists. I hope the debates between @AndrewGillum and @RonDeSantisFL will be different.
— @MDixon55: State of Florida’s public pension fund boosted by 300% its stake in New Media, better known as @GateHouse_Media. Company has been gobbling up newspapers and gutting them, or shutting them down. That includes several papers in Jacksonville, just ask @TimesUnionGuild 

— DAYS UNTIL —

First general election mail ballots go out — 8; First day of fall — 8; Future of Florida Forum — 12; Government shutdown — 17; FSU vs. UM football game — 22; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 25; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 39; MLB World Series begins — 39; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 40; Halloween — 47; General Election Day — 53; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 67; Thanksgiving — 69; Black Friday — 70; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 74; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 151; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 173; 2020 General Election — 781.

— TOP STORY —

Rejecting Puerto Rican death toll, Donald Trump accuses Democrats of inflating it” via Eileen Sullivan, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Nicholas Fandos of The New York Times — Trump falsely accused Democrats of inflating the death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year, rejecting that government’s assessment that the storm had claimed nearly 3,000 lives. Trump said that the toll was only six to 18 dead after his visit following the storm, but that was at a time when the estimate of fatalities was changing. It rose to 34 in the hours after the president left the island. Trump said Democrats padded the death toll by including, for example, a person who died of old age “in order to make me look as bad as possible.” The National Hurricane Center, a federal agency, called the death toll “highly uncertain” in an April report and logged the official number at 65. The report noted: “Hundreds of additional indirect deaths in Puerto Rico may eventually be attributed to Maria’s aftermath pending the results of an official government review.” In August, after a thorough review, Puerto Rican officials accepted a revised estimate of the dead as 2,975. And lawmakers — Republican and Democrat — have accepted those findings.

Donald Trump suggested on Twitter that Democrats inflated the Puerto Rican death toll to make him look bad. Sad!

‘Mr. President. SHUT UP’: Florida Republicans pan Trump’s Puerto Rico conspiracy” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Florida Republicans are angered by Trump’s advancement of a conspiracy theory casting doubt on Hurricane Maria’s estimated death toll in Puerto Rico. They fear his comments will undo GOP inroads in the growing and increasingly influential Boricua community less than two months before Election Day. … “Mr. President. SHUT UP,” Alan Levine, a Republican appointed by Gov. Scott — a top Trump ally — to Florida’s university governing board, replied on Twitter. “Any death, whether one or 3,000 is a tragedy. That doesn’t mean you caused it, and it’s not about you. Show compassion for the families,” Levine wrote. “Learn what we can, so future response can improve. Honestly …”

Fact-checking the death toll estimates from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico” via Amy Sherman of PolitiFact — Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health relied on interviewing people and asking them about causes of death in their households. Researchers selected 3,300 randomly chosen households and found 38 deaths after the hurricane, including three from direct causes and 12 from interruption of necessary medical services. The Harvard researchers extrapolated based on that data about the number of “excess deaths” (the number of deaths compared with the same period during the previous year) and found a 62 percent increase in the mortality rate. The researchers concluded that there was a range of 793 to 8,498 deaths with a confidence interval of 95 percent. But it was that midpoint number of 4,645 “excess deaths” that drew most of the media attention. Since this story posted, another study attempting to approximate the death toll was commissioned by the government in Puerto Rico and published by the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. The study released in August 2018 analyzed death certificates and other mortality data and found an estimated 2,975 excess deaths between September 2017 through the end of February 2018. The team compared the total number of deaths during that time to the expected number based on historical patterns and found that the number was 22 percent higher than would have been expected.

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Bill Nelson, Rick Scott ads go at it over Scott’s ties to Trump, Nelson’s time in Washington” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — In a Spanish language ad released Wednesday, “Amigos,” Nelson’s campaign ties Scott to Trump and calls them “muy buenos amigos.” Scott was one of Trump’s earliest supporters but has noticeably distanced himself from Trump in past months, including not appearing at a Trump rally for U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in Tampa in July. Scott did not mention Trump in his speech at a luncheon for Vice President Mike Pence last week, though Pence said a Scott victory would help the Trump administration in Congress. The Scott campaign released a new ad, “Give ‘Em Hell,” designed to show Nelson as “a career politician.”

To view “Amigos,” click on the image below:

To view “Give ‘Em Hell,” click on the image below:

Lawsuit says Scott’s office won’t fulfill public records request” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — A lawyer who recently won a public records lawsuit against Gov. Scott sued his office again Thursday, accusing his administration of ignoring a separate request for public records needed in a pending legal case. “You must acknowledge the request and respond to the request in good faith,” Ryan Andrews said in a letter to Scott’s office included in a complained filed in circuit court. “Time is of the essence.” Scott’s office said its Office of Open Government did acknowledge the request. Andrews represents the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which recently lost a bid to renew a state health care contract. AHF protested the contract award, its case is pending before an administrative panel, and the case is set to conclude in less than three weeks. As part of its case, AHF wants records of communications between Scott’s office and dozens of health care lobbyists who represented rival vendors. The list of lobbyists includes Dean CannonAl CardenasMike CorcoranHayden DempseyNick IarossiFred KarlinskyLarry OvertonBill Rubin and Gerald Wester, among many others.

Assignment editors — Gov. Scott makes another stop on his statewide “Make Washington Work” bus tour. That’s at 8:30 a.m., Island Way Grill, 20 Island Way, Clearwater.

— GILLUM VS. DESANTIS —

What Andrew Gillum’s trip to New York City means in the FBI investigation” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Evidence shows that undercover agents organized the boat trip and other events in New York. Indeed, two agents were on the boat, unbeknown to Gillum. And if FBI agents organized the outing, it implies that their interest in Gillum had evolved into a “predicated” investigation, former agents told the Times/Herald. It would require the agents working the case to show their bosses that they have allegations or facts about criminal wrongdoing that would justify having Gillum aboard.

Gillum releases first TV ad recalling ‘grandmother’s voice’” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Gillum is out with his first TV ad of the general election titled, “My Grandmother’s Voice.” Gillum begins the minute-long ad recounting advice given to him by his grandmother. He then explains how those messages motivate his run to be the state’s next Governor. “I can still hear my grandmother’s voice,” Gillum begins. “She’d say, ‘Go to school. Mind your teachers. Get your lesson. And one day, bring that education home. Bring it home for your little brother and your little sister who don’t know what an education is yet.’”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

GOP launches first DeSantis TV ad in general, references Dunedin baseball years” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — When DeSantis was 12 years old, he and the Dunedin Nationals baseball team went to the 1991 Little League World Series. The ad opens with a TV news report from the time, showing the young baseball players in a celebratory dog-pile. “We were only 12, but we learned to dream big, work hard and swing away,” DeSantis says in the ad, while standing in a room full of old baseball memorabilia (including a Tampa Tribune article from the time). “And that’s my plan as governor.” The closing line? “From Dunedin to Tallahassee, I’ll always to go to bat for Florida,” he says.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

DeSantis resignation ends dormant ethics complaint that raised questions about donors’ ties” via Ana Ceballos of the Naples Daily News — The complaint, which alleged DeSantis rented out a Palm Coast beachfront condo at a “well below fair market value,” did not advance to the U.S. House Committee on Ethics, which reviews claims against congressional members if warranted. But it raised questions about the three-term congressman’s close ties to two campaign donors, who work as top executives at Total Military Management, a Jacksonville-based defense contractor that has spent more than $700,000 since 2012 lobbying the federal government. With DeSantis out of Congress, those entities have now lost jurisdiction over the complaint.

’You might be a racist if your name is Ron DeSantis,’ asserts American Bridge” via Florida Politics — Liberal activist group American Bridge slammed DeSantis with a provocative new video. The title: “You might be a racist … if your name is Ron DeSantis.” DeSantis, whose campaign began with a warning that electing Democrat Gillum would “monkey this up,” has struggled to deflect Democratic criticism on the grounds of racial insensitivity. The American Bridge video opens with that quote, calling it an example of using “racial bullhorns” (a quote from Gillum as the controversy broke). From there, the group reminds voters of DeSantis being an administrator of a “racist Facebook page,” then splices in reportage of DeSantis speaking at four different conferences organized by conservative provocateur David Horowitz. “David’s done such great work, and I’ve been an admirer of an organization that shoots straight and tells people the truth,” DeSantis said.

To view the ad, click on the image below

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Latest poll: Ashley Moody leading Sean Shaw 46-44 for Attorney General” via Florida Politics — Republican candidate Moody is leading her Democratic counterpart Shaw in the 2018 race for Attorney General, according to the latest survey from St. Pete Polls. When asked, “If the election for Attorney General were held today, who would you vote for: Republican Ashley Moody or Democrat Sean Shaw,” 46 percent said Moody and 44 percent said Shaw, with roughly nine percent undecided. The poll was commissioned as part of “Wellness Week,” a collaboration between Florida Politics, St. Pete Polls and Empowering Wellness. The takeaway: Moody seems to be the one Republican leading in these polls; all of the others had Democrats ahead.

Koch-backed Freedom Partners endorses voting restoration amendment” via Florida Politics — The Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, chaired by Koch Industries VP Mark Holden, said that it was behind a 2018 ballot amendment that would restore voting rights to nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences. “We believe that when individuals have served their sentences and paid their debts as ordered by a judge, they should be eligible to vote,” Holden said in a news release. “In the Sunshine State, Floridians are permanently excluded from voting because of a prior felony conviction — one of only four states with a lifetime ban. “If we want people returning to society to be productive, law-abiding citizens, we need to treat them like full-fledged citizens. We support the Florida Second Chances campaign, which would return the eligibility to vote to Floridians who have done their time and paid their debts in full. This will make our society safer, our system more just, and provide for real second chances for returning citizens,” he concluded.

Florida Dem slammed U.S. weeks after 9/11 attacks” via Brent Scher of the Washington Free Beacon — Less than a month had passed from September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and Lauren Baer, then a student at Harvard University, was calling the American response to the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 a “moment of hypocrisy,” attacking its “shameful history,” and hoping for a “more humble and humane” America to emerge. Baer, who went on to work in the Obama administration as a senior adviser in the State Department under both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry and is currently running for Congress, wrote a column every two weeks for the Harvard Crimson. Her October 10, 2001, column, “From Hypocrisy to Humanity,” was highly critical of the United States, criticizing some of those who responded to the attacks. “Some people speak of wanting an America to emerge from these events that is stronger and more proud,” Baer wrote. “I wish to see an America emerge that is humbler and more humane.” She also wrote that America had a “shameful history” of standing up for its values.

— DOWN BALLOT —

Florida Chamber endorses 16 more legislative candidates” via Drew Wilson of Florida PoliticsThe Florida Chamber of Commerce has put out its third wave of endorsements for state legislative seats … A handful of the Florida Chamber’s new endorsements are revisions reflecting a handful of surprise victories in the Aug. 28 primary election. “As we saw during the primary election, election outcomes can be unpredictable, but it’s our job to make sure that voters stay informed about the best possible candidates to move Florida forward,” said Marian Johnson. … Among those getting the nod in round three was state Rep. Gayle Harrell, who is running for SD 25 as well as incumbent Democratic Reps. David Silvers and Matt Willhite … Among the non-electeds earning the Chamber’s support were a pair of candidates who face tough battles in the fall: House District 69 candidate Ray Blacklidge and House District 93 candidate Chip LaMarca … Candidates getting the nod after their Chamber-backed rivals lost in the primary include HD 10 Republican Chuck Brannan, HD 51 Republican Tyler Sirois, and HD 73 Republican Tommy Gregory, who cruised in the primary after the Chamber’s first pick, Melissa Howardwithdrew from the contest after revelations she had faked a diploma from Miami University.

Jeff Brandes recalls ‘Right to Try’ law in new campaign ad” via Florida Politics — The new ad, titled “Right to Try,” features St. Petersburg osteopathic physician Rob Proietto speaking about Brandes’ role in passing a 2015 bill that authorized the use of experimental treatments and medications for terminally ill patients. “For a long time, patients fighting a life-threatening illness were also fighting a system that wouldn’t give them a chance,” Proietto says in the ad. “That’s why Jeff Brandes passed Florida’s ‘Right to Try’ law. Now, eligible patients with a serious medical condition can get access to experimental drugs or clinical trials. Critically ill patients have the right to try because Jeff Brandes is keeping hope alive.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Pam Dirschka calls out Rene Plasencia over skipping HD 50 forum” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Dirschka is calling out Plasencia for not committing to a candidates’ forum Monday and charging that he’s been avoiding face-to-face encounters with her, while Plasencia insisted he’s ready but that appropriate forums haven’t happened yet. “He’s a no-show,” Dirschka said. “I want a forum that is inside our district, where people who actually have an opportunity to vote for us can attend,” Plasencia responded. The Monday forum was set for Cocoa, outside of House District 50. Plasencia said he told organizers he would be willing to participate if the forum moved to a location inside HD 50. Hosting the forum is the League of Women Voters, Florida Today, and Eastern Florida State College. It is set for 7 p.m. at Eastern Florida State College’s Simpkins Center in Cocoa.

Frank Reddick crosses the aisle to back Shawn Harrison’s re-election bid in HD 63” via Florida Politics — Tampa City Councilors are chosen in nonpartisan elections, though Reddick is a Democrat and Harrison is a Republican. HD 63 is a swing seat that Harrison has held for three nonconsecutive terms. In 2018, he faces Democratic attorney Fentrice Driskell. “I have known and worked alongside Shawn Harrison for 12 years. Representative Harrison is a true bipartisan leader. He doesn’t just talk the talk. When Shawn was Chairman Pro-Tem of the Tampa City Council, he supported my efforts to make East Tampa a stronger community. When we asked for help to stop the evictions from Tampa Park Apartments, Shawn contacted HUD on our behalf, and together we were successful,” Reddick said.

Jennifer Webb passes Ray Blacklidge in total fundraising, cash on hand” via Florida Politics — The small-business woman raised about $7,900 from Aug. 24 through the end of the month, bringing her fundraising total to about $181,500 since she entered the race to succeed Peters late last year. That puts her ahead of her opponent by about $3,500 in campaign fundraising. “It’s clear that voters are attracted to our community-centered campaign, and they understand what’s at stake with this election,” Webb said in a news release. Thanks to one-time Democratic candidate Javier Centonzio stepping aside, Webb was able to make it through primary season without facing a challenger. Blacklidge wasn’t as fortunate.

Ben Diamond, Alex Andrade plan 2020 re-election bids” via the News Service of Florida — Diamond, who was first elected to the House in 2016, did not draw an opponent this year in Pinellas County’s House District 68. Andrade won an Aug. 28 primary over Republican Greg Merk and does not face a general-election opponent for an open seat in House District 2, which is made up of parts of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. Also this week, Republican Zane Christian Matter opened a campaign account to run in 2020 in House District 50, which is made up of parts of Orange and Brevard counties. Rep. Rene Plasencia, an Orlando Republican, currently holds the seat.

Bill Carlson cracks $50K raised for Tampa City Council bid” via Florida Politics — Carlson posted another five-figure finance report for August, putting him far in the lead in the three-way race to succeed exiting City Councilman Harry Cohen, who is running in the crowded race for Tampa Mayor. Carlson started his campaign for the District 4 seat with a bang in June, bringing in more than $31,000 for his bid and followed it up with a healthy $8,145 in July and another $10,640 in his most recent report. The new money included a $500 check from Southern Strategy Group of Tampa, $500 from Tampa banker Henry Gonzalez and $150 from Orlando-based architect CT Hsu of CT Hsu + Associates as well as numerous individual donors.

Melissa Howard expected to serve probation over fake diploma” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — An investigation by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has concluded that Howard “intended to defraud” when she touted a fake diploma from Miami University while running for the District 73 state House seat. Howard is expected to sign a deferred prosecution agreement that involves probation and community service. “The defendant Melissa Howard, intended to defraud and misrepresent her association and academic standing with Miami University,” wrote a Sheriff’s Office investigator. “Furthermore, the defendant produced the fictitious diploma and uttered it as being awarded to her as true, while knowing it to be false.” The deferred prosecution agreement allows Howard to avoid being formally charged with a crime if she does 25 hours of community service, pays certain costs and completes the terms of her probation.

— BLUE … SPIKE —

Whether a Democratic ‘blue wave’ will come in November is unknown.

But what’s certain is that more Democratic candidates are running for federal office this year than any party has put forth since 1980, reports Harry Stevens of Axios.

“The last time either party drew these many candidates was in 2010, when Tea Party rallies and grassroots opposition to President Obama brought a new generation of conservative Republicans to Congress,” writes Stevens.

Numbers: 1,706 Democratic candidates have been active this midterm cycle. The previous record since 1980 was in 2010, which saw 1,688 Republican congressional candidates registered with the FEC, according to Stevens.

Recent past: In 2016, there were more Republicans running than Democrats. That’s been the case since 2008, when the Democratic Party fielded 1,168 candidates, compared to the GOP’s 1,105.

Context: “The number of candidates in itself doesn’t guarantee election victories,” writes Stevens. “But it’s one more sign of how motivated Democrats are this year.”

— STATEWIDE —

Additional Florida utility crews head north to help with Florence recovery” via Florida Politics — “As Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolinas, Florida public power has prepared to respond by engaging our network of mutual aid,” said Amy Zubaly, executive director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association. “More than 200 crew members and equipment from 18 Florida public power communities are standing by to assist with power restoration efforts in North Carolina and South Carolina following the impacts of dangerous Hurricane Florence, which is expected to cause widespread power outages and massive property damage.” Also, Gov. Scott lifted weight limits on emergency vehicles headed north and placed Florida National Guard and Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers on standby to assist with the recovery.

Adam Putnam to ‘work hard’ until the end” via the News Service of Florida — Asked for the second time in a week what is next for him, Putnam, a longtime elected official despite being only 44, maintained his goal is to “work hard” in his current job “to the very end.” “I went back to work the next morning,” Putnam said, referring to the day after the primary. “There’s a lot to be done.” Asked about remaining in public service, he said he’s “focused on being Commissioner of Agriculture.”

Enterprise Florida seeks ‘back channels’ to DeSantis, Gillum” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — “Obviously, Enterprise Florida, where we go will have a great deal (to do) with who wins the Governor’s race,” Executive Vice President Mike Grissom, who made the back channels reference, said without expounding on just how each candidate could be expected to reshape the agency. Enterprise Florida President and CEO Pete Antonacci expressed a little more confidence that there won’t be dramatic changes regardless of the winner of the Nov. 6 gubernatorial contest. “I continue to be optimistic about people when they are exposed to a set of facts, a set of facts could be persuasive,” Antonacci, who was Scott’s general counsel at the end of the Governor’s first term, told members of the public-private agency’s executive committee. “I think we’ll be able to persuade the next Governor of the value that this board provides and the value of the organization.”

Enterprise Florida knows one of its strongest advocates is term-limited and hoping to ascend to the U.S. Senate.

Superintendents: School security transfer ‘not yet ripe’” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — In a letter addressed to Scott, the Florida Association of District Superintendents President Richard Shirley writes: “We believe that all of the funds for school safety should be used in the year in which they were appropriated. “The funds remaining in the Guardian Program should not revert to the state General Revenue Fund.” Scott has repeatedly urged the Legislature in recent weeks to revisit the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, a fund for school districts that opt to arm non-teacher faculty. According to the Department of Education, just $9 million of the $67.5 million appropriations has been used by schools. Scott wants lawmakers to convene a special panel to unlock the remaining $58 million. However, both House Speaker-designate Jose Oliva and Senate President-elect Bill Galvano have pushed back against Scott’s request.

Red tide is weaker, but still hanging around Anna Maria Island. Is the worst behind us?” via Samantha Putterman of the Bradenton Herald — Manatee beaches were reported to have medium to very low levels of the algae, according to Wednesday’s red tide report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The numbers followed a similar report from the previous week. While the bloom appears to be weaker locally, it still extends from Pinellas County to northern Collier County along 120 miles of coastline, the FWC says. “Persistent surface currents — before, during and after the passage of Tropical Storm Gordon — likely played a role in transporting cells of K. brevis to the Northwest,” the FWC report says.

Legal battles mount over marijuana licenses” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Five wannabe operators who got shut out of the state’s first round of medical-marijuana licenses three years ago and recently were shot down a second time are asking a judge for help. But first, Administrative Law Judge G.W. Chisenhall has to settle an even more basic argument: How many licenses are up for grabs? Florida Department of Health officials maintain only two licenses are available under a 2017 law aimed at implementing a voter-approved constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana. The 2017 law was also intended to curb litigation related to the highly sought-after licenses. But the rejected applicants contend that, if they meet eligibility requirements under the law, they should get licenses, no matter what the number. The five applicants have filed administrative challenges seeking to overturn health officials’ decisions to deny them licenses.

Brightline charges on despite efforts to stop the train” via Mike Synan of FloridaDaily.com — Brightline is already up and running from West Palm Beach to Miami. The eventual plan is to run a train from downtown Miami to the Orlando International Airport. The train will not be a true high-speed rail system like what is found in China. However, the train will make the trip from Orlando to Miami in around three hours. To accomplish this, the train will have to reach speeds of 110 miles per hour in some parts of the stretch between West Palm and Cocoa and as fast as 125 miles per hour as it approaches Orlando on new tracks that will be built beside the Beachline. Opponents of the train told the FDFC that taxpayers should not have to pay for maintaining these crossroads. Several counties and cities along the route have a federal lawsuit against the train which is still working its way through the courts. St. Lucie, Martin and Brevard counties are all considering whether or not to try and get Brightline stopped in the courts. The problem remains to balance the need for a faster trip from Miami to Orlando with the time it would take to add a stop for the train at one or more of those cities along the coast.

State Sen. Debbie Mayfield argues for scrutiny of those higher speeds.

David Beckham, Trump — and the push to make Miami-Dade parks profitable” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Budget pressures are nothing new for municipal parks, but Beckham helped bring the issue into sharper focus this year in the Miami area. The retired soccer star and his partners are promising millions of dollars of revenue to Miami in exchange for converting a city golf course into a one-million-square-foot commercial complex and professional soccer stadium surrounding 58 acres of traditional parkland. Melreese Golf Course, a privately run 131-acre course, is one of the largest properties in the city’s parks system and cost Miami’s budget an average of $88,000 annually over the last five years, according to a breakdown released this week by the city manager’s office. Months before he joined the 2016 presidential race, Trump was hoping similar concerns would give his resort company control of the county’s premiere 18 holes: the Crandon Park golf course on Key Biscayne. His company offered to spend $10 million fixing up the course and pledged at least $100,000 a year to the county for running a course that was losing money. “I WOULD LIKE TO MAKE IT GREAT!” Trump wrote in a March 2015 letter to Gimenez. That deal fizzled, weeks before Trump announced for president in June 2015. But there’s still interest in a possible private-sector boost for public golf courses.

Miami Beach could soon arrest people operating Airbnb-like rentals without a license” via Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald — Commissioners voted to criminalize operating a business without a license after the second offense. The violation is currently punishable by a $1,000 civil fine, but if the new proposal passes a final vote in October, violators could face up to 60 days in jail for a third strike. Each day operating without a license is considered a separate offense, so unlicensed short-term rental hosts could be arrested for renting a property for three days or more. Miami Beach prohibits rentals of six months or less in most residential areas. Mayor Dan Gelber, who proposed the measure, said that criminalizing a third violation would give the city an extra tool to go after the operators of any type of unlicensed business. The city’s existing ordinance criminalizes unlicensed operations only for continued violations of 30 days or more, which can be difficult to enforce.

State challenged over Pasco hospice approval” via the News Service of Florida — The state Agency for Health Care Administration, which approved Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care of Pasco County, received challenges from The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast and Compassionate Care Hospice of Pasco. The companies are challenging the preliminary decision to authorize Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care’s proposed $719,500 project and the state’s decisions to deny their license applications. Florida uses what is known as the “certificate of need” process to regulate new health care services and programs such as hospice. AHCA on March 30 published a need for one new hospice program in Pasco County beginning in July 2019. Ultimately, eight companies filed CON applications to provide the services.

Some of St. Cloud’s water is brown, but city says it’s safe to drink” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — The discoloring has been present in some St. Cloud homes since early last year. City officials blame it on a diminished polisher — which helps clean the water — at one of the city’s treatment plants, as well as issues with the resin used to filter out organic materials. Despite the water’s dingy tint, it’s safe to drink and use, officials said. “We recognize it’s inconvenient, but it’s safe,” public services director DiAnna Rawleigh said. The Osceola County city is moving forward with contracting repairs to the treatment plant to clean up the water and also is working with an engineering firm to ensure the facility is operating at peak efficiency, St. Cloud spokeswoman Krystal Diaz said.

UCF acknowledges misusing $38M in state funds for new building” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — The money was used to build Trevor Colbourn Hall, an academic building that opened last month. The matter came to the Board of Governors at a meeting in Sarasota. The state funds can be used for expenses like instruction and maintenance, but not new construction. The university says it has replaced the money with funds from other sources. School leaders are also reviewing all other projects to make sure no others relied on misspent money. The UCF Board of Trustees approved the new building in May 2014 but didn’t know the source of the money used for construction, according to the university.

UCF’s now-controversial Trevor Colbourn Hall.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Matt Gaetz hobnobs with an alleged Holocaust denier. Again.” via David Corn of Mother Jones — In January, Rep. Gaetz, a conservative Republican firebrand from Florida, invited right-wing troll Charles C. Johnson to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech. Johnson, a notorious social media figure accused of being a white nationalist, had been permanently banned from Twitter for declaring that he wanted to “take out” a leader of Black Lives Matter. And in early 2017, Johnson had come under fire for denying the Holocaust. Eventually, the controversy over Johnson attending the State of the Union passed. But two months ago, Gaetz and Johnson were together again — this time on a yacht in Newport Beach, California. The occasion was a July 20 fundraiser for Gaetz’s re-election campaign.

Matt Gaetz is hobnobbing (again) with noted white supremacist Charles Johnson.

— OPINIONS —

Pam Bondi: Bill Nelson is still dodging on Brett Kavanaugh” via the Washington Examiner — It is disappointing that Florida’s Democratic Senator, Nelson, has not made any good faith efforts to give a brilliant jurist the fair consideration he deserves from the U.S. Senate. Judge Kavanaugh is undeniably qualified for the Supreme Court bench. His professionalism has been commended by legal scholars, colleagues, and observers from both sides of the aisle. He has spent more than two decades in service to the American people, including in White House roles under former President George W. Bush. At first, Nelson said he would oppose the nominee before he even knew who it was. He later said he would hold off on deciding on Kavanaugh until actually meeting him. Yet he has even called Judge Kavanaugh a “right-wing extremist” in fundraising emails. Nelson and Senate Democrats have embarked on a senseless campaign to discredit Kavanaugh, despite finding nothing with which to discredit him.

Karen Halperin Cyphers: Does #MeToo reduce demand for a Bill Clinton endorsement?” via Florida Politics — I wanted to know how Floridians across the political spectrum would react to the question: Would an endorsement from the former president positively or negatively impact views toward the candidate he supports — with, and without, specific reference to #MeToo? It turns out that #MeToo matters — but not the same way for everyone. We found that a reference to the #MeToo movement: Dramatically increases negative views and decreases positive views among voters with no party affiliation (NPA). Has NO impact on the portion of Republicans who view a Clinton endorsement positively or negatively — not unexpected, given the low regard for Clinton among Republicans. Has NO impact on the portion of Democrats who would view a Clinton endorsement negatively. However, a large portion of Democrats do shift from positive feelings to “neutral” when the #MeToo movement is referenced. Interestingly, Democratic women have an even less negative response to the #MeToo reference than Democratic men. To me, these results suggest that Democrats are either in denial about the degree to which Clinton has “#MeToo-d” women, or it simply doesn’t matter to them.

— MOVEMENTS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations

Brett Bacot, Marnie George, Michael Harrell, Jim Magill, Kimberly McGlynn, Timothy Stanfield, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: U.S. Hemp Roundtable

Jim DeBeaugrine, RFJ Governmental Consultants: Servium Group

Eired Eddy, St. Petersburg College

Marti Coley Eubanks, PinPoint Results: David H. Melvin

Brian Jogerst, BH & Associates: Kadel Torres-Oliver

Rebecca Kapusta, Department of Children and Families

Mark Minck: National Center for Life and Liberty

Travis Moore, Travis Moore Relations: Qualified Reporting Services

Rhett O’Doski, Sean Stafford, McGuireWoods Consulting: Hilton

Foyt Tipton Ralston, Capitol Advocates: AgLogic

— WEEKEND TV —

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable with Republican lawyer Danny Alvarez, former Democratic CFO Alex Sink, Tampa Bay Times editorial writer Molly Moorhead, and commentator Barry Edwards.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: Joining Walker-Torres are Florida State Senator Linda Stewart, Florida State Representative Mike LaRosa, and John Sowinski of Voters in Charge. They will discuss Amendment 3 on the future of casino gambling throughout Florida.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: state Representative Ross Spano will discuss his campaign to represent U.S. House District 15; The latest from Tallahassee with Spectrum News Capitol Reporter Troy Kinsey; and PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate a claim by Ron DeSantis about Andrew Gillum.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon will speak with Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida and political consultant Beth Matuga.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams; Rick Mullaney, Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute; Matt Carlucci, former Jacksonville City Council President; and Earl Johnson Jr.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg will focus on the midterm elections and ballot; the powerhouse roundtable will take on the week’s news.

— ALOE —

Hurricane Florence evacuees flee to Disney World” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — With the threat of Hurricane Florence, some East Coast residents have evacuated to the Orlando area, making trip reservations within a day or two, the kind of planning that normally takes months. Nine Orlando-area Rosen Hotels and Resorts properties will offer reduced rates for people affected by Hurricane Florence, the company announced. The “distress rate” also includes free lodging for pets with guests. “Friends and Family in the Carolinas,” wrote travel agent Meredith Maki, who runs Inspirely Travel in Charleston, South Carolina, that specializes in Disney vacations, on her Facebook page. “Why not evacuate to DISNEY?!?”

What Joe York is reading — “AT&T boss writes script for HBO: more data, more money” via Drew Fitzgerald and Shalini Ramachandran of The Wall Street Journal —AT&T Inc.’s boss said the company may shift resources to HBO from other parts of its newly acquired Time Warner business to step up programming investments and use data on its customers’ tastes and habits to inform its content bets, part of a plan to compete with streaming giant Netflix Inc. Chief Executive Randall Stephenson also said the reams of data the telecom and television giant has — from the viewing preferences of its DirecTV subscribers to where customers take their phones — will help build up an advertising analytics business that could benefit the television industry more broadly, helping media companies compete with Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. “We think we have a couple of years window to stand this up and really make inroads,” Stephenson said in a wide-ranging interview. “I have yet to speak to a [chief marketing officer] or an advertiser who says, ‘I wish I could spend more money with Google and Facebook.’ That human being doesn’t exist.”

AT&T honcho Randall Stephenson.

Tamorrion Terry emerging into receiving threat Florida State needs” via Bob Ferrante of The Associated Press — “He’s a talented football player for us, a kid that can go up and attack the ball on one-on-one,” Florida State coach Willie Taggart said. “And a kid that can stretch the field for you as well. He had a great week of practice. And I think that’s why he had the game that he had, just his mentality where he went about practicing, and it paid off for him in the game. And hopefully a lot of our other guys learn from his example, come and locked into practice and you get the same results on the football field.” While the Seminoles (1-1) have struggled, generating just a field goal in the season-opening loss to Virginia Tech and needing a fourth-quarter rally to hold off Samford, the emergence of Terry is encouraging for a young receiving group that is still finding its way in Taggart’s Gulf Coast Offense. Florida State needs more performances like that from Terry and the rest of the receivers as the Seminoles look to jump-start the offense, beginning Saturday at Syracuse (2-0).

Happy birthday to Danny Martinez and the one and only Brian Pitts. Early birthday wishes to three good dudes, Brewster BevisChris Hudson, and Paul Seago.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog 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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