Good morning. It’s the third day of Session and the second day of Lent.
Jim King to be remembered at yearly happy hour — Continuing a tradition, friends and colleagues of the late Senate President will celebrate his love of The Process and his humor with a happy hour on Thursday. “We will have some laughs, a drink or two and remember him as he asked us to do,” said Sarah Bascom, who was his communications director. King, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2009, was a fixture around the Capitol for 23 years. The Jacksonville Republican was first elected to the House in 1986 and became one of the most powerful politicians in the state, serving as Senate President 2003-04.
— “Years after his passing, Jim King is gone, but not forgotten” via Peter Schorsch for SaintPetersBlog
Save the date — Dine with Jimmy Patronis, Nikki Fried for charity — Florida’s CFO and Agriculture Commissioner will be the special guests at an exclusive intimate dinner event featuring Maine-based chef Jackson Yordon. Natalie Kato and Paul Mitchell from Southern Strategies will co-host the event — Monday, March 11 at 6:30 p.m. — and proceeds will benefit Whole Child Leon, a nonprofit which arose from the Lawton Chiles Foundation. Space is limited, with 25 tickets available at $1,000 each.
First in Sunburn — Amy Maguire joins Shumaker Advisors — Maguire’s résumé includes more than two decades of experience and a long list of specialties, including nearly 15 years working in government relations for Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, rising to the rank of vice president. In 2016, she moved over to Coca-Cola Beverages Florida, where she held the same title. Her addition to the Shumaker Advisors roster comes the same day as the firm announced it’s bringing on longtime political strategist Mike Hamby and communications expert Madeline Sullivan. “The depth and breadth of experience, relationship and focus on customer service are unparalleled,” said firm President Ron Christaldi. “We are honored to welcome our new leaders and look forward to expanding services to our clients and to be even more involved in our community.”
First in Sunburn — CoreMessage hires Kat Bustamante — Bustamante is being brought on as a new account manager for the full-service public relations and grassroots advocacy firm. In that role, she’ll help realize communications goals for CoreMessage’s varied corporate, political and government clients. Bustamante comes to CoreMessage after six years with the Florida Chamber Foundation. There, she worked on multiyear integrated strategic communications, marketing and engagement plans. “Her experience at the Florida Chamber Foundation and exceptional professional skills will be tremendous assets to both our clients and team members,” said Cory Tilley, president of the firm.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@Pontifex: The Lenten journey begins today, Ash Wednesday. I invite each of you to live this time in an authentic spirit of penance and conversion, like a return to the Father, who awaits us all with open arms.
—@RealDonaldTrump: Democrats just blocked @FoxNews from holding a debate. Good, then I think I’ll do the same thing with the Fake News Networks and the Radical Left Democrats in the General Election debates!
—@MarcoRubio: More than 5,000 children live in
#Venezuela but study across the border in #Cúcuta #Colombia. For 12 days now the #MaduroRegime has physically blocked them from crossing the border & going to school. Today they fired warning shots into the air.
—@MaryEllenKlas: Question for @FLGOPMajority and @FLSenate: Are you relying on the most recent data to inform your education, housing and econ dev policies? If so, you’ve seen the http://OpportunityAtlas.org and this telling data from http://OpportunityInsights.org. Beware Florida’s #downwardmobility zones.
—@BryanAvilaFL: Many thanks to the Florida House Ways & Means Committee for their unanimous support of #HB385. We’re one step closer to repealing @MDXway, reforming the 1/2 penny transit surtax and reshaping our county’s future.
—@VoteforJennifer: I had a great time tasting all the incredible food from around Florida at the Taste of Florida Reception hosted by Florida Farm Bureau Federation and Fresh From Florida this evening! Thank you both for an awesome event!
—@MDixon55: There should be a tournament to determine the person who is best at keeping a very friendly demeanor when testifying in a hostile committee when in reality they just want to start launching bombs Have to be folks who do it often (lobbyist/advocate etc). It’s an art form.
—@WCSOFL: Spring Break has sprung. We don’t want to ruin your fun. So do us a favor and if you’re under .
—@GeoffreyFowler: #1 reason to be suspicious of [Mark] Zuckerberg’s privacy manifesto today: It doesn’t say how Facebook is going to make money in a world where it respects our privacy.
—@KenJennings: I’ve said this before but Alex Trebek is in a way the last [Walter] Cronkite: authoritative, reassuring TV voice you hear every night, almost to the point of ritual.
— DAYS UNTIL —
‘Captain Marvel’ release — 1; Players Championship begins — 7; St. Patrick’s Day — 10; Jacksonville municipal first election — 12; Major League Baseball opening day — 21; Scott Maddox corruption trial begins (maybe) — 21; Final season of ‘Veep’ begins — 24; Masters Tournament begins — 35; Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 38 Easter — 45; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 57; Mother’s Day — 66; Memorial Day — 81; 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates start — 92; 2019 General Election — 246; Iowa Caucuses — 333; 2020 General Election — 607.
— TOP STORY —
“Nikki Fried may soon target stores selling CBD oil” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The state’s Agriculture Commissioner may soon try to shut down sales of CBD products in Florida. After reports Wednesday that Fried‘s office was getting ready to send ‘cease and desist letters’ to retailers who sell CBD oil and other products, spokesman Max Flugrath said none had yet been issued. “However, the Commissioner has made clear her position that the sale of CBD products is not currently legal in Florida until state hemp legislation is passed,” he said. In Florida, however, scores of over-the-counter products claiming CBD as an ingredient are now on shelves in independent pharmacies, specialty shops, and even supermarkets.
Meanwhile … “Hemp clears Senate panel” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — On Wednesday, a Senate panel approved a bill that would create a state hemp program overseen by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The legislation … moves on to Agriculture, then Rules … Rule-making processes, similar to those on medical cannabis, will address issues like acreage and grower regulations for what sponsor Rob Bradley calls “agricultural product” from an “emerging industry.”
— THE ADMINISTRATION —
“Ron Bergeron’s appointment to water board ‘under review’ after $25 million contract comes to light” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm — Bergeron signed a $25 million no-bid construction contract with the South Florida Water Management District more than a week after Gov. Ron DeSantis tapped him for the district’s board. Bergeron signed the contract calling for Bergeron Land Development Inc. to complete the district’s work on a stormwater treatment area in western Martin County on Feb. 6. DeSantis said he “would like to appoint” Bergeron to the district board. Bergeron’s appointment is still “under review” to determine whether he “has any conflict of interest that might impede the work he would need to do” on the board, DeSantis spokeswoman Helen Ferre said.
“Ron DeSantis nears making appointments” via the News Service of Florida — DeSantis plans “pretty soon” to start filling seats on state boards and commissions that opened when he rescinded more than 200 appointments made by former Gov. Rick Scott. DeSantis said appointments to the state university system Board of Governors and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are coming “relatively soon” and in two to three weeks “we’re going to have a lot of them.” In January, DeSantis rescinded 45 appointments Scott made during the former governor’s final days.
“Condo concerns voiced during Halsey Beshears confirmation hearing” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) Secretary Beshears’ confirmation process has encountered some conflict. During a Senate committee hearing Wednesday, state Sen. José Javier Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat, voted against Beshears, a Republican former House member from Monticello. Rodriguez, explaining the vote, cited inaction on problems surrounding condominium complaints. “It’s simply because this condo-enforcement issue is just so important and critical particularly to me and my constituents,” Rodriguez said, adding that he could “certainly be a ‘yes’ vote on the floor” when a plan to address the issue is put in place. The nine other members of the committee — three Democrats and six Republicans — supported Beshears during the hearing.
“DeSantis weighing in on insurance changes” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — “I hope the Legislature passes legislation to reform the issue of AOB, which has really degenerated into a racket,” DeSantis said during the State of the State address. Later, DeSantis said the AOB issue, coupled with storms that have hammered the state, likely will lead to higher insurance premiums. “I would like to see the abuses pared back,” he said. “I think it’s going to drive insurance rates up. I think the fact that we’ve had bad storms lately, that is going to cause insurance rates to go up. This, I think, just fuels that, and I want to help the insurance market.”
Thank you to @TheFGA for hosting me today to discuss ways we can continue to hold government accountable. A public office is a public trust, so we owe it to the citizens of our state and our country to ensure that government works for them, not the other way around. pic.twitter.com/qQ6MarNZwG
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) March 6, 2019
Personnel note: Fried hires Shahra Lambert, Erin Moffet — Lambert will be Federal Affairs Director for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; Moffet will be Deputy Federal Affairs Director. “Shahra and Erin have extraordinary records of service to Florida’s congressional delegation and strong experience in federal government, and I’m confident they will deliver results for our Department and the people of Florida,” Fried said. Lambert previously served as statewide African-American Outreach Director for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. Moffet has been Communications Director and Policy Advisor for U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, whom she advised on cannabis policy.
“Resignation accepted? Cabinet aides start looking for new DOAH head” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — In a letter earlier this week to DeSantis, the state’s chief administrative law judge didn’t quit but said he was “ready to step aside” if needed. Aides to the Governor and Cabinet members who met Tuesday, however, took Chief Judge Robert S. Cohen‘s two-page missive as a resignation, discussing the next steps … It’s not clear whether DeSantis is interested in gaining the power to appoint administrative law judges (ALJs). That would essentially give him control over the judges who decide whether his agencies are acting properly.
— 2019 SESSION —
— Please take a moment to read my latest blog post about Miami Dade’s needle exchange program and its chances of statewide expansion.
“Bill to eliminate FTC waitlist clears committee hurdle” via Fox Geoff of redefinED — In a 5-3 party-line vote, the Senate Education Committee approved a bill that would eliminate a waiting list for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship for lower-income families. The bill, SB 7070, creates the Family Empowerment Scholarship program. It includes other provisions related to a teacher bonus program and funding for social services at public schools. “What we’re doing is trying to find common balance and make sure all students have the best education possible,” said committee Chair Manny Diaz. Diaz expressed concern that the definition of public education “keeps getting twisted.”
“Records exemption moves quickly on mass killings” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The Senate Rules Committee unanimously approved a proposed public-records exemption (SB 186) that would keep under wraps photographs, video and audio recordings in incidents in which three or more people, not including the killer, are slain. The proposal would make it a third-degree felony to violate the proposed records exemption. The House State Affairs Committee, with limited discussion, unanimously backed a similar proposal (HB 7017). The bills are positioned to go to the full Senate and House. While they supported the bill, Sens. Gary Farmer and Rodriguez said they will oppose the measure if no changes are made when it comes up on the Senate floor.
“Senate panel wants bigger role for National Guard in hurricane response” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — After hearing how the Florida National Guard quickly mobilized more than 3,000 citizen soldiers and took lead roles in Hurricane Michael response and recovery, state Sens. Doug Broxson, George Gainer, and Gayle Harrell focused the Senate Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs and Space on failures after the storm that included widespread areas where there was limited communication or open roads and all power lines were down, effectively cutting off people for weeks. “Your men were phenomenal,” Broxson told Florida National Guard Brig. Gen. Rafael Ribas, dual-status commander of the Hurricane Michael mobilization. “But the history that will be written about that storm will not be good in terms of response, and it continues to be poor, frankly.”
“Health care dominates prison priorities” via the News Service of Florida — Florida Department of Corrections officials asked Senate criminal justice budget writers for $206 million to fund the agency’s priorities, which are heavily focused on providing inmates with health care as a result of litigation. Between the rising costs of medication and court orders regarding the treatment of inmates with hepatitis C and mental illness, 86 percent of the budget priorities have to do with providing health care to prisoners. The priority funding is part of the corrections department’s $2.4 billion annual budget request. The focus on health care frustrated Senate Appropriation Subcommittee on Criminal Justice Chair Jeff Brandes, who noted that Florida’s prison wardens’ top concern, expressed recently to the committee, was not even mentioned in the priority list.
“Right to grow front-yard veggies gets green light for Senate floor” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — Sen. Bradley’s bill to ban local governments from banning vegetable gardens is headed to the Senate floor. The Senate Rules Committee — the bill’s last stop — voted unanimously to advance the proposal. Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff has filed the House version (HB 145), which is identical in language. “Freedom is at stake,” Bradley, the Senate budget chair said. In January, the Senate Community Affairs Committee unanimously backed the measure which prohibits a county or municipality from regulating vegetable gardens on residential properties and voids any existing ordinance of that nature.
“House panel says fees are taxes” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — State charges on cigarettes and rental cars, along with several local government fees, would officially be named as “taxes,” under a measure advanced out of a House committee. House Ways & Means Chair Bryan Avila, who sponsored the proposal, said the intention of the bill is “transparency.” “This renaming is a reflection of the fact that these levies are often government exactions of money to pay for governmental goods or services that are either unrelated to or only distantly related to the activity, person or entity being charged,” Avila said. The committee approved the measure (PCB WMC 19-01) with a 14-4 vote, with Democratic Reps. David Silvers and Al Jacquet joining the Republican majority on the panel.
“House panel makes quick work of ‘alternate pathways’ to graduation bill” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — The House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee set aside three hours to tackle a signature education bill aimed at achieving a goal both candidates for Governor campaigned upon. It needed just 15 minutes to win unanimous approval for a series of proposals aimed at amplifying the role of career education in teens’ efforts to graduate from high school. The committee bill would require middle school students to take a career planning course that includes the creation of a personalized academic and career plan. It would allow high school students to substitute certain industry certifications for their math graduation requirements, and computer science courses for up to one math credit and up to one science credit.
— MORE SESSION —
“Joe Gruters, Keith Perry lead session in number of bills filed” via Matthew Arrojas of the Fresh Take Florida News Service — Gruters led his colleagues with 69 bills, plus an additional three he co-sponsored. This is Gruters’ first session in the Senate, and he previously served one term in the House. On the Democratic side, Sen. Lauren Book leads with 43 sponsored bills. She co-sponsored 14. Some Senators prioritize co-sponsoring bills, and Perry leads the pack with 26. That’s 11 more than Sens. Annette Taddeo and Lori Berman who tied for the second-highest number of co-sponsored bills. Perry chairs the Criminal Justice Committee. He introduced 39 bills on his own, bringing his total to 65, which puts him just behind Gruters’ volume.
“Here’s a look at an alternate ‘New Sunshine Deal’ state budget proposed by the Legislature’s Democrats” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of Florida Phoenix — What if Democrats ran the Florida House of Representatives? It would mean support for a new state budget that would provide: A 13 percent raise for schoolteachers. Expanding Medicaid to cover an additional 700,000 Floridians. Full funding for affordable-housing programs. A tax rebate in the range of $500 for working families with low or moderate income. $300 million for the state’s major environmental land-buying program. A $1,000 raise for state workers. That’s according to the “New Sunshine Deal” spending plan outlined by House Democrats. It is their counter to Gov. DeSantis’ $91.3 billion budget proposal for 2019-20.
“Joy Goff-Marcil wants voters to decide ‘home rule’ question” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Maitland Democrat filed a resolution (HJR 1273) to put the question to voters whether Tallahassee should pre-empt local legislation and hand down business regulations. Should voters approve Goff-Marcil’s proposed constitutional amendment, it will take a two-thirds majority for the Legislature to hand down such mandates. “Coming from local government, I’ve seen firsthand the negative impact of a state government too big and reckless in its attack on home rule,” the former Maitland City Councilwoman said. “Local communities are already prohibited from taking on important issues from housing costs to gun-safety.”
Insurance group explains AOB in new radio campaign — The Personal Insurance Federation of Florida is launching a 60-second radio ad explaining how assignment of benefits, or AOB, “rewards few at the expense of many.” PIFF and other insurance groups are hoping the Legislature changes the law to significantly curb AOB lawsuits, which stem from policyholders signing over their insurance benefits to attorneys or contractors in exchange for a quick repair. Those parties often attempt to collect inflated repair fees through the courts. “Floridians who have been impacted by a storm don’t deserve to be victimized a second time by shady home repair contractors and lawyers out to make a buck,” the ad says. “To the contractors doing it right, thank you. But we need to put an end to the exploitation of a loophole in Florida law that motivates bad actors to line their pockets and scam Floridians. It’s called assignment of benefits abuse.”
Today’s legislative committee hearings:
The Revenue Estimating Conference will analyze “ad valorem” property taxes at 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building.
The Senate is scheduled to hold a floor Session and could begin considering bills, at 1:30 p.m.
House Health Market Reform Subcommittee at 9 a.m., 306 House Office Building.
House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee at 9 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.
House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee at 9 a.m., 404 House Office Building.
House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee at 9 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee at 9 a.m., 212 Knott Building.
House Workforce Development & Tourism Subcommittee at 9 a.m., 12 House Office Building.
Senate Appropriations Committee at 10 a.m., 412 Knott Building.
House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee at noon, Morris Hall, House Office Building.
House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee at noon, Reed Hall, House Office Building.
House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee at noon, 404 House Office Building.
House Education Committee at 2:30 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.
House Health & Human Services Committee at 2:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
House Judiciary Committee at 2:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building.
House Rules Committee at 5 p.m., 404 House Office Building.
Senate Special Order Calendar Group, 15 minutes after Senate Session ends.
— AFP LAUNCHES CON REPEAL CAMPAIGN —
AFP-FL is pushing for a repeal of Florida’s certificate-of-need laws with a new direct mail campaign targeting the districts of Senate Health Policy and Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services members. “CON laws protect entrenched interests at the expense of both health care providers and patients. The debate over how to fix health care should focus on how to make health care affordable, accessible and better,” said AFP-FL state director Skylar Zander. Sample direct mail ads heading out in Senate President Galvano’s and Sen. Aaron Bean’s districts say “it’s time to repeal certificate of need regulations” in a bold-faced font. The mailers then ask for recipients to call their lawmakers and ask them to support the Senate CON repeal bill, SB 1712.
— GOV. CLUB BUFFET MENU —
Tomato-basil bisque; mixed green salad; cucumber, tomato, red onion and feta salad; macaroni salad; deli board, cheeses, lettuce, tomatoes and breads; apple cider brined boneless pork chops and cranberry Cabernet sauce; smoked chicken thighs; pan-seared snapper with lemon caper butter; Majestic rice; zucchini, squash and tomato sauté; broccoli florets; and Oreo trifle for dessert.
— THE TRAIL —
“Bob Buckhorn backs his former police chief Jane Castor in race for Mayor” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — Why did Buckhorn wait to issue his endorsement in a months-long race that drew seven candidates? “It’s important that we sorted out the field,” he said during a news conference. “I had no doubt that Jane would be in the runoff.” Castor received 48 percent of the vote, just shy of the 50 percent plus one that would be needed to win the election outright. She faces an April 23 runoff election against the No. 2 finisher, philanthropist and retired banker David Straz. Straz received 15.5 percent of the vote. Buckhorn, who is leaving office because of term limits, said Castor, 59, is the only candidate in the race who can continue the path he has set for the city.
“Two veteran Miami Beach politicians file to run for City Commission” via Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald — Former Miami Beach City Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez didn’t stay away from local politics for long. Two months after stepping down from the commission, Rosen Gonzalez filed to run for her old seat. She was forced to submit her resignation last year when she ran for Congress to comply with an expanded state resign-to-run law, but she did not have to leave office until January. Former state Rep. David Richardson is also jumping back into local politics. Richardson filed to run for the City Commission seat currently held by John Elizabeth Alemán, who recently announced that she will not run for re-election.
— STATEWIDE —
“Jeb Bush involved in ‘outreach’ two days before UCF President Dale Whittaker offered resignation” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Bush phoned Chairman Robert Garvy, a major Republican donor, to discuss the ongoing controversy surrounding the university’s construction spending, the subject of a committee meeting scheduled for Feb. 19. “Thanks for your call. The most useful outcome from your outreach we did last night would be to delay the hearing for a while,” Garvy wrote to Bush in a text message. “This would provide time to balance the scales and give key people in Tallahassee an opportunity to understand that President [Dale] Whittaker owns the fix to the failures at UCF.” Garvy contacted the former governor “to discuss the issues at the university.” Around the same time, Garvy also sought guidance from another former state leader, Steve Crisafulli.
“Florida Supreme Court reprimands Miami-Dade judge over free hotel stays” via CBS Miami — With Chief Justice Charles Canady describing it as a “sad day,” the Florida Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a Miami-Dade County judge after an investigation into free hotel stays in Miami Beach, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico. Judge Maria Ortiz stood quietly as Canady read the reprimand, which stemmed from a probe by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission. Ortiz also agreed in a settlement to pay a $5,000 fine and to be suspended for 90 days without pay. “As rule enforcers, we must be rule followers,” Canady said. The case centered on allegations that Ortiz failed to properly report hotel stays in 2015 and 2016 on financial-disclosure forms.
“Lawyer sues Florida’s top legal officials over prosecution” via The Associated Press — Attorney Kelly Mathis filed the federal lawsuit against former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, statewide prosecutor Nicholas Cox and officials in the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office outside Orlando, including the former sheriff. Mathis was an attorney for Allied Veterans of the World. Investigators said the charity ran internet cafes that featured computerized slot machine-style games. The fallout from the case led to the 2013 resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll. The Attorney General’s Office says it’s not a party in the lawsuit but may be involved in defending current and former attorneys.
“Virgin Trains’ financing request booted to another meeting” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Two hours of testimony turned out to not be enough and the Florida Development Finance Corporation was forced to recess its review of Virgin Trains USA’s request for $2.7 billion in private activity bonds to build a private passenger railroad until another meeting. The train company is seeking to increase its authority to sell the low-cost bonds by another $950 million over the last time the state’s private financing agency gave it a go-ahead. It needs the money to extend its higher-speed, private, passenger rail operation from South Florida to Orlando.
— LOCAL —
“News 13 makes Jason Brodeur analyst for DeSantis address” via Hal Boedeker of the Orlando Sentinel — Viewers may have been surprised to see former state Rep. Brodeur as a Spectrum News 13 analyst for DeSantis’ State of the State Address. Brodeur is running for the state Senate in 2020. He wasn’t identified that way on the air, but such exposure would help a candidate. A Charter spokesperson said: “We invited former Florida State Rep. Jason Brodeur to be part of our panel to discuss the State of the State address, and we identified him as such on the air. Although he has filed an intent to run for the Florida Senate in 2020, at this time he is not considered a qualified candidate by the Florida Department of State.”
“MedMen marijuana dispensary may replace controversial Midtown parking garage proposal” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Gardiner & Theobold, a property consultant and construction firm representing MedMen, contacted the city of Tallahassee last year and was informed the business would be allowed at the 1126 Thomasville Road location. The parcel is owned by the EMO Family Trust. The project is in the very early stages. The roughly half-acre parcel was part of a proposal to build a 312-car garage with 50,000 square feet of commercial space for restaurants, shops and a high-end hotel on top of the five-story structure. The garage plans buckled under pressure from residents who voiced strong opposition to the plan. Several Midtown business owners, however, said creating parking for customers was critical to their survival.
“Pasco School Board rejects pressure to change rules for transgender students” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Board members rejected the idea of requiring parental permission slips for students to join school clubs, a request aimed directly at participation in Gay-Straight Alliance chapters. They also made clear they will not address demands by some to regulate restroom and locker room use based on a student’s birth certificate gender. The board heard no staff proposals on those issues as it met in a workshop to discuss policies, and members did not ask for any policy amendments. The board heard no staff proposals on those issues as it met in a workshop to discuss policies, and members did not ask for any policy amendments.
“Estero Village Council removes Patty Whitehead from Design Review Board” via Maryann Batlle and Brittany Carloni of the Naples Daily News — Village councilors voted to remove Whitehead from the appointed board — which makes decisions on landscaping and building plans in Estero — because of obscene posts on her personal Facebook account that criticized President Trump, Gov. DeSantis and Sen. Scott. Whitehead served on the Design Review Board since 2015. Her term on the volunteer village board was set to expire at the end of March.
“Windermere voters to decide if town can borrow for new police headquarters” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Quaint but thin-walled and not bulletproof, Windermere’s police headquarters is part of an aging town office complex, originally designed as a schoolhouse more than 80 years ago in the small, affluent town 14 miles west of Orlando. In addition to picking candidates to fill three Town Council seats, voters will go to the polls to decide whether to let the town build a sturdier, more secure police station. That proposal is included in a referendum asking voters whether the town should borrow up to $5.2 million to also build a public works facility and administrative office. The poorly vented current police building reeks of weed after marijuana busts, Police Chief David Ogden said.
“Wedding-day beach fight lands Boynton man in jail” via Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post — Jeffery Alvord, 27, was arrested by Ocean Ridge police and spent his planned wedding night in the Palm Beach County Jail after he allegedly punched and broke the nose of another man at Oceanfront Park, according to a police report. The 24-year-old victim was struck after he refused offers of money to move so that wedding-party pictures could be taken, the report said. Alvord told police the altercation occurred 15 minutes before the wedding was scheduled to take place. The victim was offered as much as $50 to move, but refused and became “very belligerent,” Alvord said. When the man stood up in an “aggressive manner,” Alvord said he felt threatened and punched the man in the face.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Marco Rubio says Saudi crown prince has gone ‘full gangster’” via Nahal Toosi of POLITICO — Rubio accused Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince of going ‘full gangster’ and urged the Trump administration’s nominee for ambassador to Riyadh to hold the country accountable for human rights abuses. The comments by Rubio drew agreement from others on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and underscored the ongoing bipartisan frustration among U.S. lawmakers with the oil-rich Arab kingdom. … The ambassadorial nominee, retired Army Gen. John Abizaid, stressed that the U.S. relationship with the Saudis was bigger than the crown prince and that the best way to change conditions in the Arab kingdom was through engagement.
“Rubio, Rick Scott, Vern Buchanan seek year-round daylight saving again” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The three Republicans have filed “Sunlight Protection Act” bills that would enable that on the federal level, as needed. Rubio filed a similar bill last year. “I was glad to sign legislation as Governor to continue daylight saving time year-round for Floridians, and now join Sen. Rubio to lead this effort in Congress,” Scott said. “The Sunshine Protection Act will allow Floridians and visitors to enjoy our beautiful state even later in the day, and will benefit Florida’s tourism industry, which just celebrated another record year.” Their measures would do more. The proposal doesn’t apply just to Florida, but to all states that use daylight saving time unless the states specifically exempt themselves from the measure.
“Debbie Mucarsel-Powell wants scholarships for DACA kids” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Mucarsel-Powell suggested Florida may benefit economically by allowing DACA recipients to receive state aid and scholarships. Her comments came during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on the program’s potential repeal. The Miami Democrat stressed her own status as an Ecuadorian immigrant following testimony by several of the program’s beneficiaries. “You have placed roots here in this country,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “As far as I’m concerned, you are as American as any one of us.”
Donna Shalala opens new district office in Kendall — U.S. Rep. Shalala is opening a new office inside Florida’s 27th Congressional District. The office will be located at 7700 North Kendall Drive. Shalala released a statement along with the announcement, encouraging her constituents to reach out. “Each day reminds me of why it is such an honor to represent Florida’s 27th District,” Shalala said. “That said, I want to know how we can do better, so please don’t hesitate to contact my office with your comments, questions, and concerns regarding the federal government or how I can work to better serve our community.”
— OPINIONS —
“Give all those bad teachers a gun — what could go wrong?” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times — We have had some teachers who made headlines because they didn’t get along with their students — say, mocking them as both stupid and ugly. We had others who made headlines by getting along with their students a little too well, if you know what I mean (buying them alcohol, teaching them about twerking and so forth). How many bad teachers do we have in Florida? Nobody knows because the state Department of Education refuses to pay attention to this problem. Now think about this as the Legislature pushes to add one more thing to this mix: Guns. Nobody knows how many are “interesting” teachers and likely to misuse those guns in some way. Gee, what could possibly go wrong?
“Lawmakers must fix the assignment of benefits crisis” via the Palm Beach Post editorial board — AOB is wreaking havoc on Florida consumers. Even worse, it’s forcing home and auto insurance rates to skyrocket. That’s because contractors and vendors far too often submit inflated repair bills to the insurance company, setting it up to deny the claim because of the overpriced estimates. When the claim is denied, the contractor or vendor teams up with a trial lawyer to sue the insurance company in the name of the policyholder. If they win even $1 more than the insurer’s original offer, lawyers can charge their fees directly to the insurance company. This gives them a powerful incentive to submit as many inflated claims as possible and dare insurers to challenge them.
“Lee Hinkle: When a timeshare dream turns into a nightmare” via Florida Politics — To assist consumers trapped by predatory timeshare companies, a number of third-party companies have emerged to help owners escape the trap of a bad investment. These timeshare exit companies, which are subject to appropriate state regulations, give consumers an important option — so, predictably, timeshare operators want to shut them down. Legislation under consideration by Florida lawmakers would effectively put these helpful companies out of business in the state. That would be bad for consumers, bad for free choice, and bad for Florida. The only ones it would be good for are the timeshare companies themselves. It’s time to help consumers end their personal timeshare nightmares. The Florida Legislature should reject this anti-consumer legislation.
— MOVEMENTS —
“John McKay leaves Citizens board” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The former Senate President has stepped down from the board of governors of Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-run insurer of last resort. Citizens President and CEO Barry Gilway announced the resignation, effective March 31, to the other board members in an email. McKay’s “experience and insight will be greatly missed,” Gilway wrote. “Join me in expressing our gratitude for John’s service from 2017-2019. His efforts and service to our company and all Floridians is very appreciated.”
“Ballard Partners signs Zimbabwe” via Theodoric Meyer of POLITICO Influence — It is the first firm to lobby on the country’s behalf in more than a decade. Brian Ballard and the firm’s other lobbyists will counsel Zimbabwe on “communication with U.S. government officials, U.S. business entities, and nongovernmental audiences.” “In as much as the government of Zimbabwe has been denied access to international financial institutions and been under intense diplomatic pressure from Western countries, it shall be the main objective of the firm to encourage a re-examination of Zimbabwe by the State Department.” the firm’s contract states. The contract is worth $500,000 a year.
“Former top lobbyist for 21st Century Oncology suing for $9 million in back pay” via Frank Gluck of the News-Press — A former top lobbyist for 21st Century Oncology has filed a federal lawsuit seeking $9 million in back pay he claims he’s owed for helping to deliver government regulations favorable to the cancer-care giant. Andrew L. Woods, who is chairman of the prominent Washington, D.C. lobbying firm, Liberty Partners Group, also alleges that the financially challenged company’s top leadership conspired to fire him in 2016 to avoid paying him.
New lobbying registrations:
Keaton Alexander, Silver Palm Consulting: Energy Fairness
Brian Ballard, Chris Hansen, Stephanie Zauder, Ballard Partners: Autism Speaks, Rubenstein Law
Davis Bean, John Delaney, Shannan Schuessler, The Fiorentino Group: Marcus Button, Vulcan Materials Company
Jeff Sharkey, Taylor Biehl, Capitol Alliance Group: ClickAClinic, Florida Blockchain Foundation, Record Buck Farms
Ellyn Bogdanoff, Mike Grissom, Nicholas Matthews, Becker & Poliakoff: Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists, Institute of Regenerative Medicine
Jeff Cook-McCormac: LPPE LLC
Michael Corcoran, Jeffrey Johnston, Anita Berry, Matt Blair, Amanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: Adelanto HealthCare Ventures
Carlos Cruz, Lauren DePriest, Jonathan Kilman, Paul Lowell, Converge Government Affairs of Florida: Shark Allies, City of West Miami
James Daughton, Warren Husband, Douglas Bell, Patricia Greene, Allison Liby-Schoonover, Aimee Diaz Lyon, Andrew Palmer, Pierce Schuessler, Metz Husband & Daughton: bluebird bio
Christopher Dawson, John Harris, GrayRobinson: CORE Construction Services of Florida, St. Augustine Distillery
Ralph DeMeo, Baker Donelson: The Florida Bar Animal Law Section
Michael Goldie: FCCI Insurance Group
Robert Hawken, Meredith Snowden, Leath Consulting: National Council on Compensation Insurance
Kari Hicks, Sunshine State Consultants: BGD Zellwood
Nick Iarossi, Jim Boxold, Kenneth Granger, Dean Izzo, Andrew Ketchel, Daniel Newman, Scott Ross, Chris Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: Florida Surplus Lines Association, RiverCaddis Development, NTT Data
Brian Jogerst: Associated Industries of Florida
Michael Kesti, Government Relations Group: Aegis FinServ Corp
Beth Labasky, Beth Labasky & Associates: Florida Impact
Nikolas Nartowicz: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Rhett O’Doski, Sean Stafford, McGuireWoods Consulting: Council For the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, Energy Fairness
Nicola Lee Powell, Ryder Rudd, Don Yaeger, One Eighty Consulting: Adobe Systems Incorporated, BMC Software, BrightBytes
Teye Reeves, Smith Bryan & Myers: Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition, Johnson & Johnson Services, Veritec Solutions
Woodrow Simmons, Hopping Green & Sams: JEA
Christopher Smith, Tripp Scott: Broward County Clerk of Courts
Nancy Veasey: JEA
James Wylie, Professional Consultants: Florida Association of Christian Child Caring Agencies
— ALOE —
“Busch Gardens building world’s fastest hybrid coaster” via The Associated Press — The Florida-based theme park said that the 200-foot (60-meter) coaster also will be North America’s tallest hybrid roller coaster when it opens next year. A hybrid roller coaster has a mixture of wood and steel building materials. The coaster is a reincarnation of the park’s Gwazi ride, an old wooden roller coaster that closed in 2015.
“SeaWorld ditches polystyrene-foam dinnerware from all its parks” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — The foam bowls, plates and trays — which are not biodegradable — have been replaced with items made from 100 percent recycled material, SeaWorld said. The company estimates that it has been using 14 million pieces of polystyrene foam dinnerware a year. The ban keeps those products out of local landfills, the ocean and other animal habitats. “This achievement is another step toward becoming greater stewards of our oceans, their animals and our planet,” said Andrew Ngo, corporate vice president of in-park revenue.
“The quiet slice of paradise luring visitors back to the Florida Keys” via Abigail Williams of Travel + Leisure — In the year since Hurricane Irma, the region has rebounded with its customary charm and verve. Baker’s Cay, named one of the best new hotels to book this year by Travel + Leisure, is in many ways a culmination of the Keys’ enormous rebuilding effort. Located on the site of a former pineapple plantation in Key Largo, the 200-room luxury resort is designed with its verdant setting in mind. Airy suites open up to expansive bay views, walking trails weave through mangrove trees, and the property’s restaurants overlook the water. “That’s one thing you get from working in movies,” said Baker’s Cay designer Dayna Lee, who has previously worked in film production design. “Sightlines are incredibly important.”
What Bob Buckhorn is reading — “Why the Lightning’s Jeff Vinik is the best owner in North American pro sports” via Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune — Vinik ensconced himself in Tampa, brought in Steve Yzerman to run his hockey operation in May 2010, and has started rebuilding the dilapidated area that surrounds the Lightning’s Amalie Arena with a $3 billion-plus Water Street development. It’s so big that a Bill Gates company is in on it. The owner also started an all-time great community outreach program in October 2011: A check for $50,000 is presented at every home game to a grassroots person doing good works in the area. They are billed as “Community Heroes” and the check goes to their favored charity. Another part of the Lightning’s community outreach is this: terrific teams.
— HE SAID, SHE SAID —
On the latest episode of “He Said, She Said,” Michelle and Peter take a break from pop culture to deep-dive into the Legislative Session. They talk about the demands of the eight-week session, the renewed energy in Tallahassee, and the DeSantis administration. They break down the Top 10 issues to watch during Session, including school safety, school choice, medical marijuana, health care, and the budget. CFO Jimmy Patronis join Michelle and Peter to discuss the forgotten devastation of Hurricane Michael and what the Legislature and everyday Floridians can do to help with ongoing recovery efforts.
He Said, She Said is available each Wednesday via iTunes.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to food critic Rochelle Koff. Look for her review of Il Lusso in the forthcoming edition of INFLUENCE Magazine. Also celebrating today is state Rep. Joe Geller.
Today’s Sunburn was written by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.