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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 2.12.19

Good morning: Here’s your first look at the issues behind today’s Florida politics.

I am in Tallahassee today to deliver Girl Scout Cookies to those who ordered them from Ella and requested in-person delivery. The easiest way for me to get you your cookies is to connect with me at the Governors Inn. Otherwise, I will be shlepping them to you in my wagon.

I asked Michael Williams to do me a favor and deliver these four boxes to one of his CoreMessage colleagues. Who thinks all four boxes made it?

It should be a good time in the Governors Club tonight — Happy birthday to my friend, the senior Senator from Pinellas County, Jeff Brandes as well as to the “Marc-hitect” Marc Reichelderfer

The start of spring training gives hope to northern friends that warm days will eventually return. Yeah, in baseball, there’s a lot of hope mixed with nostalgia.

In Florida, though, it’s no game. It’s big business and vital to communities where teams come to get ready for the long season. According to the Florida Sports Foundation, spring training had a $687.1 million impact on the state last year.

Spring training in Florida brings hope, nostalgia and the promise to Northerners that warm days will return once again.

People escaping the cold, frozen North book more hotel rooms and fill restaurants.

The New York Yankees averaged 9,882 fans for 16 exhibition games in Tampa, the highest per-game average. The Boston Red Sox attracted 165,688 fans for 17 games in Fort Myers.

And where the Reds once trained at rickety old Al Lopez Field, since demolished, the spring training complexes of today costing amounts that couldn’t be imagined even 15 years ago.

The Atlanta Braves, for instance, will move full-time next spring into CoolToday Park in North Port. It cost more than $110 million to build.

Clearwater city officials are working with the Philadelphia Phillies on a $79 million upgrade to Spectrum Field.

The Toronto Blue Jays expect to complete by next year an $81 million upgrade to Dunedin Stadium and the team’s Englebert training complex. The team will pay only $20 million of that cost, plus overruns.

The original stadium opened in 1990 and cost $2.4 million.

Why are cities willing to pay so much to keep an industry that stays only a few weeks every spring? Because even in that brief time, baseball has a significant impact. The Florida Sports Foundation estimated spring training generated more than $296 million last year in direct spending.

This spring should be more of the same.

With every report of ice and snow blanketing northern cities, the likelihood of baseball fans trying to escape those frigid climes increases. What better way to do that than a trip to Florida?

Trades are part of baseball, right?

So, people trade snowbanks for shirtsleeves and box seats. They swap iced-over rivers and streams for sunny afternoons at the ballpark. Baseball gloves replace fur-lined gloves.

All it takes to draw them here is those magic words: pitchers and catchers report.

Play ball.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@MikeGrunwald: Rick Scott’s not-blind trust is one of those scandals, like most Trump scandals, that is somehow too huge and obvious to get traction.

@RepStephMurphy: The bond between the U.S. and Israel is strong & has always transcended political party. I will oppose any effort that tries to weaken it by using offensive anti-Semitic rhetoric. America will not waver in its strong support for one of our closest allies.

@RepHastingsFL: The line between respectful critiques of American foreign policy and the embrace of anti-Semitic tropes is not difficult to distinguish. Implying that Americans support Israel and the Jewish community because of money is offensive and cannot be tolerated.

@RepLoisFrankel: Support for the security of Israel has always been bipartisan & should not be a political football. Let’s work together respectfully toward a two-state solution where there is peace & prosperity for all in the region. I denounce anti-Semitism & all forms of religious bigotry.

@SkylarZander: Thank you @TomLeeFL for pushing through SB 414 today, and thank you Chairman @JoeGruters for hearing it and voting to advance this bill. This bill will end FL’s sports incentive program.

@BrittanyWallman: Text from my daughter, a Broward high school junior: “They were going to sell balloons for Valentine’s Day, but now balloons are banned on that day so that kids don’t get scared if they hear one pop … what a world.”

@DavidHogg111: I want to meet with the publisher of @USAToday and any other outlet who continues to print the name and face of mass shooters. It is time that this comes to an end. Stop making them famous. #NoNotoriety Email me: contactdavidhogg@gmail.com

@FLHouseDems: @FLHouseDems take allegations of verbal assault & harassment seriously. Leader @kionnemcghee plans to sit down with Reps. @RepOmphroy & @CarlosGSmith about this matter & will work to ensure that members feel comfortable discussing serious issues within the caucus

@SaraSClements: Is there any issue in public policy more divisive than education?

@RealJacobPerry: My dream would be to live in a nation where people understand that a “tax refund” simply means you gave the government an interest-free loan for the year.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Valentine’s Day — 2; Federal government runs out of funding (again) — 3; Fat Tuesday — 21; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 21; Tampa mayoral election — 21; ‘Captain Marvel’ release — 24; Players Championship begins — 30; St. Patrick’s Day — 33; Jacksonville municipal first election — 35; Scott Maddox corruption trial begins — 45; Major League Baseball season begins — 45; Final season of ‘Veep’ begins — 47; Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 61; Easter — 68; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 80; 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates begin — 115; 2019 General Election — 269; Iowa Caucuses — 353; 2020 General Election — 630.

— TOP STORY —

Woman lawmaker says Carlos G. Smith ‘bullied, threatened’ her” via Florida Politics — A House Democrat elected in November told her colleagues that fellow Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando “bullied, threatened and verbally assaulted” her over the weekend. State Rep. Anika Omphroy of Lauderdale Lakes made the accusations in an open letter to other House Democrats on Monday. She said the incident occurred Saturday, when the Florida Democratic Party was holding a meeting in Orlando … The nature of the apparent disagreement was not revealed in her letter. But Omphroy added that she also feared “retaliation” from Smith and his social media followers. He later denied the allegations, saying the “details in her letter are simply false (and) did not occur.”


— “House Democrats push back on early leadership vote” via Florida Politics

— THE NEW ADMINISTRATION —

Ron DeSantis, Marco Rubio, Rick Scott want $200M for Everglades restoration — Gov. DeSantis joined U.S. Sens. Rubio and Scott in requesting President Donald Trump include a sustained annual commitment of $200 million in construction funding for South Florida Ecosystem Restoration. … The trio signed a letter to Trump highlighting the importance of funding in the wake of recent algal blooms … “Enhanced federal funding to complement years of historic state funding levels would fast-track design and construction of the Central Everglades Planning Project and the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir to divert and clean Lake Okeechobee releases and increase water deliveries to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay,” the letter said. … DeSantis’ office noted that his budget included $625 million for Everglades Restoration and protection of water resources. … “By investing this amount each year, $2.5 billion will be invested by the end of his first term, which is $1 billion more than what was invested the previous four years; $360 million would be specifically dedicated to Everglades restoration,” his office said.

Marco Rubio, Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis have a big ask for the Donald Trump administration on Everglades restoration.

New AHCA Secretary looks to ‘move the needle’” via the News Service of Florida — Gov. DeSantis is committed to protecting the state’s Medicaid program for needy residents through evidence-based medicine, Mary Mayhew, his choice to run the Agency for Health Care Administration, said. Addressing members of the Senate Health Policy Committee, Mayhew said DeSantis “recognizes that far too often safety nets become frayed and the needs of our most vulnerable go unmet.” Mayhew said she would focus her efforts on ensuring that Medicaid provides incentives for evidence-based medicine and best practices. “That is clearly part of my vision, part of the governor’s vision, to move the needle to support high-quality care efficiently delivered,” she said. “And that’s not just a phrase, but that we have meaningful, objective data to support that we are providing that access and creating that accountability.”

Mary Mayhew [AP Photo - Robert F. Bukaty]

AHCA secretary Mary Mayhew says Ron DeSantis wants to ‘move the needle’ on protecting Florida’s Medicaid. (Image via AP)

— ROAD TO SESSION —

Stadiums strike out on state money” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, with little comment, backed the latest proposal (SB 414) by Sen. Tom Lee to repeal a controversial 2014 program that — despite never being used — lays out steps for the stadium money to become available. Lee said: “To use this process as cover for an appropriation from this Legislature for a facility that can’t prove economic benefit, to me is just kind of a ruse.” The stadium funding program makes available $13 million a year for stadium work, which Lee described as “found money” for the wealthy owners of professional sports franchises. However, regardless of the fate of Lee’s bill and a House version (HB 233) by Rep. Mike Beltran, no money will be awarded for stadium work this year.

Steee-rike: Tom Lee’s bill to repeal the sports stadium incentive money won universal approval by a Senate committee. Lee says the program was ‘kind of a ruse.’

— “AFP-FL backs sports incentives repeal” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

Doug Broxson’s attorney fee bill stalls in his own committee” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — The Senate bill to tighten access to Florida’s one-way attorney fee law faltered before the Banking and Insurance Committee. The panel was on the verge of voting on Chairman Doug Broxson’s legislation (SB 122) when Sen. Brandes moved to pass the measure temporarily. He acted in advance of what clearly would be a 4-4 tie preventing the legislation from advancing. “I think you could see the trajectory here,” Brandes — who supports the bill — said following the committee action. “Everybody needs to let’s go back to our individual corners and reassess,” The St. Petersburg Republican said. Broxson said he accepted the delay because the committee was hard up against its scheduled end.

Doug Broxson gets pushback on his one-way attorney fee reform bill — from his own Senate committee. Image via Colin Hackley.

Innocence Project back Jeff Brandes bill to record police interrogations” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Sen. Brandes has revived his effort to have police interrogations for serious crimes recorded on video. At a Senate Judiciary hearing on Monday, Brandes once again earned support for his legislation (SB 204) from the Innocence Project. The group, which advocates for wrongly convicted inmates and works on other criminal justice reform measures, supported last year’s version of the Brandes bill as well. “This legislation would protect against wrongful convictions involving false confessions, and also provide the best evidence of what was said and done during an interrogation,” said Seth Miller, Executive Director of the Innocence Project of Florida.

If you steal a $300 bike, it’s a felony? Lawmakers want to change that threshold” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — Stealing anything in Florida worth $300 or more is felony grand theft, a figure that hasn’t changed since 1986. Now, lawmakers are trying to boost that threshold to $1,500. St. Petersburg Republican Brandes has been trying to get that law changed for the past few years. His proposal to raise the level to $1,500 passed unanimously in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. “All it takes under current law is one bad decision, one dubious dare by a friend to steal one of these relatively commonplace items, and after that, you’re considered a felon with all the baggage that goes with it,” said Demetrius Minor of Americans for Prosperity, which supports the bill. The bill also is being backed by the Florida Police Chiefs Association. The legislation also calls for the thresholds for certain offenses to be adjusted every five years in an amount equal to the annual increases in the Consumer Price Index.

Committee approves bill to end statutes of limitations in sexual assault of minors” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Sen. Linda Stewart’s efforts to make the sexual assault of a minor a crime that can be prosecuted any time got a boost when the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice approved the bill unanimously. She introduced the bill after hearing the story of one of her constituents who was sexually assaulted at age 15 but couldn’t bring herself to pursue justice until decades later when she discovered the same man allegedly had abused other minors, but by then it was too late. But Stewart also gave a nod to the more infamous case emerging from recent news reports of South Florida financier Jeffrey Epstein. “If a victim is younger than 18 years of age, a prosecution for the violation may be commenced at any time,” Stewart said, explaining the crux of Senate Bill 130.

Jeffrey Epstein’s sweetheart plea deal is only one of the reasons Linda Stewart’s bill to end the statute of limitations in the sexual assault of minors received unanimous approval by a Senate committee.

New bill would treat anti-Semitism the same as racism” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A bill filed by Republican state Rep. Randy Fine would require Florida schools and law enforcement to treat anti-Semitism identically to racism. … Under HB 741, law enforcement would be required to determine whether anti-Semitism was a motivation in criminal investigations. If anti-Semitism were a factor, the violation would be treated as a hate crime in the same manner as racially motivated crimes. Discrimination based on religion would also be banned in Florida schools, joining race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability and marital status. … “We now live in a time where open anti-Semites are promoted in Congress, and companies discriminating against American Jews believe they can hold public offerings,” said Fine. “This is simply unacceptable. The State of Florida needs to make clear that anti-Semitism sits at the intersection of racism, sexism, and discrimination based on a disability or national origin.” … Fine’s announcement said state Sen. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, will file the Senate companion bill.

Bill guaranteeing hygiene products for women inmates clears panel” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Women inmates would be guaranteed access to hygiene products under legislation that was OK’d in its first committee. The measure (SB 332), filed by Sen. Jason Pizzo and reviewed by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, was approved unanimously. It’s the counterpart to legislation (HB 49) filed by state Reps. Shevrin Jones and Amy Mercado in the House. The legislation, dubbed the “Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act,” was filed in response to reports regarding the treatment of women inmates, particularly in light of the #MeToo movement. Pizzo’s measure ensures access to feminine hygiene products, as well as toothbrushes, soap and other items at no cost to the inmates.

Assignment editors — Democratic lawmakers, shooting survivors, advocacy groups and others will debut what they are calling a “comprehensive gun violence prevention agenda.” The event is organized by the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, 1 p.m., 4th-floor rotunda.

Today’s legislative committee meetings

The House Appropriations Committee will receive a presentation about debt, bonding, reserves and other issues that affect the state’s bond ratings, 8:30 a.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House Health & Human Services Committee will take up a bill that deals with a ban on smoking medical marijuana, 10:30 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Education Committee will take up a school-safety bill that would allow trained classroom teachers to carry guns as school “guardians,” 4 p.m., 412 Knott Building.

The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee will take up a bill that deals with a newly passed constitutional amendment that raised the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 75, 4 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee will take up a bill by Sen. Brandes that seeks to eliminate a ban on smoking medical marijuana, 4 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee will hold a workshop on a bill to make a variety of changes to state ethics laws, 4 p.m., 404 House Office Building.

The Revenue Estimating Conference will take up issues related to a revenue cap, 4 p.m., 117 Knott Building.

— GOVERNORS CLUB BUFFET MENU —

Tuesday, it’s black bean soup; mixed green salad; green pea and ham salad; “stay fit” salad; charcuterie, cheese and bread; fried chicken; pulled pork; big flounder; mashed potatoes and gravy; baked beans; grilled asparagus; and cheesecake for dessert.

— STATEWIDE —

Parkland families launch petition drive for 2020 assault weapons ban” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A proposed amendment to ban assault weapons moved a step forward, with Parkland families announcing a petition drive to place the measure on the 2020 ballot. Members of Do Something Florida gathered in front of the Broward County Governmental Center in Fort Lauderdale to formally announce the petition drive. That’s the same spot where Parkland parents Lori Alhadeff and Ryan Petty announced their respective bids for Broward County School Board last May. “Banning military-grade weapons, like the one which claimed 17 of my classmates and friends, would be a great step toward curbing our epidemic of mass shootings,” said David Hogg, who survived the Parkland shooting. “These types of bans have already been implemented in eight other states and D.C. It’s time for Florida to do something and lead the way for the rest of our nation.”

Parkland families formally announce their push for a ban on assault weapons in 2020.

For your radar — Tonight through February 17, the Florida Historic Capitol Museum will be lit up with orange lights each evening in honor of the seventeen victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School nearly one year ago. “I’m grateful and appreciative for Commissioner Fried’s continued advocacy and support of the Parkland victims and families — and of all families who have suffered due to gun violence,” said Fred Guttenberg, father of Parkland victim Jaime Guttenberg and founder of Orange Ribbons for Jaime. “This symbol of honor and respect is also a symbol of hope for the future, as we continue the important work of taking on America’s gun violence crisis and making our communities safer.”

Battle begins over ‘energy choice amendment’” via Florida Politics — The state’s revenue forecasters sounded skeptical of a proposed constitutional amendment to promote competition in the electricity market as business group representatives said the proposal would actually cost consumers more. “The outcome will not be positive,” said French Brown, a Dean Mead attorney representing the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Brown spoke at a Monday workshop of the Financial Impact Estimating Conference in The Capitol. Forecasters are considering an amendment for the 2020 ballot titled, “Right to Competitive Energy Market for Customers of Investor-Owned Utilities; Allowing Energy Choice.” All amendments need 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.

Harassment settlement is ‘cautionary tale’ for #MeToo movement” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida —A Department of Health employee settled a sexual harassment complaint against the state for $15,000, an agreement her attorney called a “cautionary tale” for victims. Lucille Alford, a medical disability examiner, had complained repeatedly since 2014 about her former manager, Charles Fete. Her lawsuit against the state was scheduled to go to trial this week, but her lawyer, worried that Alford would lose, settled for what he described as a “nuisance” amount. “People think that just because of the #MeToo movement that all of a sudden it’s opened the door for people to bring these claims,” said Patrick Frank, Alford’s attorney. “It’s shined the spotlight on the fact that there’s a lot more scumbags than we even knew who are doing stuff that they shouldn’t be doing. But as far as cleaning up the process, I don’t think it’s done much.”

Citizens Insurance denies sharing savings with water-loss review contractor” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — Citizens Property Insurance Corp. released documents refuting arguments that it pays incentives to the company that reviews its repair estimates on water losses. The documents include a letter from Lynx Services LLC’s North American manager, Ramon Suarez, refuting the charge. “Lynx has found no invoice or evidence that Lynx receives any type of commission or cut of the difference between the contractor’s original estimate and the lower negotiated payment for its review of water mitigation invoices,” Suarez wrote. “Although our contract with Citizens has a provision that allows for payments to Lynx based on flat fees and upon a percentage of the savings of the original invoice reviewed, the records reviewed indicate that Lynx has only been paid on a flat fee basis.”

Board of Medicine eyes plastic-surgery centers” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Members of the Florida Board of Medicine agreed to revisit rules allowing liposuction in physicians’ offices. Board of Medicine Vice Chairman Hector Vila asked that the board reopen its rules about liposuction and, specifically, the regulation of gluteal fat graftings, commonly called “Brazilian butt lifts.” The move was quickly and unanimously approved. Vila, a Tampa physician, noted that a number of plastic-surgery organizations, including the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, issued an advisory to members last year asking them to, among other things, provide patients with additional information about the procedures. “For those three groups to come together and issue a warning is really profound,” Vila said at a meeting in Orlando. “There’s something wrong with this.”

Firm asked justices to overturn insurance ruling” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Attorneys for Restoration 1 of Port St. Lucie filed a 45-page brief at the Supreme Court arguing that the 4th District Court of Appeal improperly backed restrictions placed on a policy by Ark Royal Insurance Co. in a St. Lucie County dispute involving water damage to a home. Restoration 1 of Port St. Lucie filed a lawsuit against Ark Royal Insurance Co after policyholders John and Liza Squitieri sustained water damage to their home. Liza Squitieri contracted with Restoration 1 of Port St. Lucie to do cleanup work and assigned the benefits to the firm. Ark Royal, however, refused to pay the full amount requested by the restoration firm, pointing to an insurance contract that required approval from the husband, wife and the Squitieri’s’ mortgage company, PNC Bank, for benefits to be assigned to the contractor. Restoration 1 claimed breach of contract but lost in circuit court and at the 4th District Court of Appeal.

Trulieve, Love’s Oven ready to bake for Florida patients” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Trulieve Cannabis signed a new deal with a Colorado baked goods company, signaling readiness to serve more edibles to Florida patients. The Tallahassee-based company announced an agreement with Love’s Oven, a company using THC and CBD extractions for food goods. “Love’s Oven specifically crafts their products to be the highest quality available on the market and is dedicated to helping patients achieve relief from everything from chronic pain to insomnia and other ailments,” said Kim Rivers, Trulieve CEO. Added Peggy Moore, CEO of Love’s Oven: “Our team is working with Trulieve on production to ensure our consistent and effective products are ready to be launched once regulatory approvals are in place.”

Happening today — The 1st District Court of Appeal will hear arguments in a dispute about whether Tampa businessman Joe Redner should be able to grow medical marijuana as part of his treatment for cancer, 2 p.m., 1st District Court of Appeal, 2000 Drayton Dr., Tallahassee.

— LOCAL —

First on #FlaPol —Shawn Harrison won’t run in HD 38 special election” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Harrison has been showing his proud dad cards in social media touting his son Ethan’s acceptance to the University of Florida. Harrison had been considering running in the special election to replace Danny Burgess who vacated the seat after Gov. DeSantis tapped him to head the state’s Department of Veterans Affairs. Harrison’s decision left Randy Maggard vying for the seat for as the lone GOP candidate, at least for a few hours. Though Harrison didn’t enter the race, Maggard’s run is facing a hurdle thanks to Dade City Republican David “Mac” McCallister, who opened a campaign account to run for the seat.

Happening tonight:

Happening Wednesday:

Save the date:

Jacksonville Sunshine Law inquest wraps” via Florida Politics — On Monday, 4th Circuit State Attorney Melissa Nelson announced findings in a Sunshine Law investigation involving members of the Jacksonville City Council … Nelson stopped short of filing formal charges against any Council members, [but noted] a pattern of communications among certain members that seemed to go beyond normal Council business. Involved in those communications: former Council President Anna Brosche … including “possible violations” related to Brosche [now running for Mayor] becoming Council President.

Will scooters help or hurt the way we get around in Tampa Bay? We’re about to find out.” via Caitlin Johnson of the Tampa Bay Times — While other cities have spent much of 2018 determining if and how to allow scooters into their downtowns, much of Florida has stayed out of the mix. That’s because many local governments interpreted current Florida law as prohibiting companies like Lime and Bird from entering their markets unless an ordinance exists. Tampa Bay could see its first electric scooters in April when Tampa launches its pilot program. The city will dispatch as many as 1,800 scooters in a 12-square-mile area around downtown and south of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Hillsborough County is researching a potential pilot. But along with that convenience comes a problem: People have been reckless about where they park. Some refuse to use the kickstand and drop the scooters when they’re done, blocking sidewalks, disability access ramps and parking garage entrances. But by many measures, the concept has proved to be a success.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Scott won’t put his wealth in a blind trust anymore” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Scott will report his assets to the public in annual financial disclosure forms required of all members of Congress. “I’m not going to have a blind trust,” Scott said during a Tampa visit. “What you do is just make the normal filings.” He didn’t elaborate further. His Senate office didn’t provide more details, including when he made the decision and why he took this step.

Ka-ching: Rick Scott plans to take his extensive wealth out of a blind trust.

— OPINIONS —

Dental care shortage warrants innovative strategy in Florida” via Holly Bullard and Sal Nuzzo for the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida is in the midst of a dental access crisis. There are too few dentists to go around, especially in rural, hard-to-reach and low-income communities. As a result, oral health suffers. And while Florida is far from the only state experiencing a shortage in dentists, we are not yet among those addressing the problem through dental therapy, an effective, safe and innovative solution proven to help increase access to care for underserved populations. The 2019 Florida Legislature will consider proposals to authorize a new category of oral health practitioners called “dental therapists,” an effort spearheaded by Reps. Rene Plasencia and Juan Fernandez-Barquin and Sen. Brandes. Dental therapists provide routine preventive and restorative care services such as filling cavities or placing temporary crowns. They are hired and supervised by dentists and able to practice outside of dental offices in community-based locations.

— MOVEMENTS —

General Motors hires Ballard Partners — Car manufacturer GM now counts Brian Ballard’s firm as one of its Washington lobbying firms. Ballard himself, his new employee and former state Attorney General Pam Bondi, Susie Wiles and Sylvester Lukis will focus on labor and fuel issues, a new lobbying disclosure shows.

Scoop — Personnel note: Adam Hollingsworth to help boost Baptist churchesHollingsworth, one of many chiefs of staffs for former Gov. Scott, now is taking on the role of chief marketing officer at the North American Mission Board (NAMB), the domestic missions agency of the Southern Baptist Convention. The group is “primarily focused on helping start new churches and encouraging compassion ministry across North America,” according to a release announcing the move. NAMB was the first client of Ergon Strategies, a consultancy firm Hollingsworth founded in 2015. “God is stretching me, pulling me, growing me,” he said of his new role. “He is giving me the opportunity to use the gifts He gave me to serve his Kingdom. The skill sets are the same: impactful communications, organizational and strategic clarity and the management of high-quality professionals. But, and here’s the great part, the results will be eternal!”

A glutton for punishment — Kevin Donohoe emails: “Wanted to let everyone know that I’m back at the Florida Democratic Party working with Caroline Rowland through session. I’ll be based in Tallahassee. Glad to be back and looking forward to working with everyone!”

— ALOE —

AAA: Gas prices in Florida drop after 8 cent jump last month” via Roxie Tyler of News4Jax — The Auto Club Group reports the average price per gallon has declined by 5 cents after rising 8 cents two weeks ago. Florida now ranks 23rd for most expensive gas prices among all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Despite hovering above $2.20 per gallon during the past 26 days, the state average remains 40 cents less than this time last year. The most expensive gas prices in the state is found in West Palm Beach, Panama City, and Naples. Jacksonville joins Pensacola and Punta Gorda for having the least expensive gas prices in Florida.

Walmart deploying robots to scan Florida store shelves” via Sara DiNatale of the Tampa Bay Times — The robots — the mega-chain prefers to call them “autonomous scanners” — have been deployed in Jacksonville to alert employees about items that need restocking. Director of corporate communications Phillip Keene said that after successful trials, the chain plans to implement the scanners soon to a store near you. And America’s largest retail chain and grocer is likely feeling the pressure to keep things modern. The robots — not quite R2D2, but more like rectangle boxes on wheels — travel the aisles to scan inventory with a long arm that extends to the heights of the shelves. It takes in prices and the number of items available. That’s a job managers usually have to do with handheld scanners.

Walmart is feeling the pressure to stay ahead of the game and is introducing a futuristic scanning robot to help alert employees when products need to be restocked. Image via Walmart.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday  to the City of St. Petersburg’s lobbyist, John Rodriguez, and Gil Ziffer.

Today’s Sunburn was written by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Joe Henderson, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

Written By

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 Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the 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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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

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