Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics

Peter Schorsch

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

Reliable communications play crucial role in response to hurricanes, natural disasters

For most Americans, Labor Day signals the end of summer and the beginning of the school year.

But for first responders and public service workers throughout the South and East Coast of the United States, Labor Day has the potential to be the most dangerous time of year, highlighted by regular threats of severe weather.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season is in full force through Nov. 30, and residents of coastal states must stay alert and prepared.

Over the last several weeks, three major hurricanes have made landfall in the mainland U.S. and Caribbean territories.

First was Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 130 mph that ravaged Texas Gulf Coast Aug. 25. Soon afterward, Hurricane Irma, at one point a Category 5 storm with sustained winds of 180 mph, which hit South Florida after devastating islands in the Caribbean. Then, Hurricane Maria, a massive Category 5 storm which caused unprecedented destruction to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Ahead of any significant weather event — particularly ones that potentially threaten life and property — the need for reliable communications is at its highest; emergency responders, law enforcement, and public utilities must be able to communicate quickly and efficiently, identify areas of need to keep the public safe.

In such situations, every moment counts.

Radio systems using microwave technology provide a high degree of reliability, allowing first responders and public utility workers to perform lifesaving jobs without the burden of technical difficulties.

Aviat supplies its public service customers with radio system designed to be both weather-resistant and reliable in severe high wind and flooding conditions. But the success of those systems is not only found during an active weather event but in the period before storm clouds arrive.

Preparations include moving shelters to higher ground, incorporating wind-resistant designs, and creating redundant systems to minimize disruptions when a site or even one radio is out of commission.

High-power radios offer even higher reliability, with stronger signals broadcast over greater distances using a smaller antenna. Severe weather is likely to have less of an impact on receivers with smaller antennas. And even if the wind blows a small antenna out of alignment, high-power radios can still send out a signal without interruption.

Preventive maintenance is also essential, keeping microwave systems and radios in top working order and ready for action.

This requires an equally reliable partnership between vendors, state and local agencies and utilities in a proactive effort to keep systems at their peak. Network Operations Centers are available among suppliers to help identify potential issues before they become real problems.

Aviat, with its U.S.-based employees, assisted agencies both before and after an event to guarantee communications systems work correctly, so that first responders can stay focused on the job at hand —  saving lives and protecting the public.

After Harvey, Aviat offered backup support to a Houston utility with added microwave technology so it could recover quickly after severe wind and flooding damage, allowing personnel to communicate as they began the job of rebuilding.

As Hurricane Irma approached Florida, preventive measures helped keep radio communications available during the storm, as well as in the critical days afterward. Collaborating with local governments and municipalities, Aviat’s local Florida teams also continued to make themselves available for support.

As the nation recovers from Harvey, Irma and Maria, Aviat salutes the bravery of first responders and volunteers who sprang into action, selflessly rendering aid to millions of victims in need.

Sunburn for 10.20.17 – Richard Spencer comes and goes; John Kelly vs. Frederica Wilson; R. Corcoran cool with utility cash; Dana Young says ‘do not call’; Happy b’day Tony C.

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

Call it a tale of the tweets—or lack thereof.

As white nationalist Richard Spencer readied to take the stage at the University of Florida Thursday, some gubernatorial hopefuls spoke out. Some did not.

Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala, a declared candidate, said: “Hate has no place @UF or in the state of Florida. I hope Richard Spencer speaks to an empty auditorium.”

Spencer’s “hatred and racism is the antithesis of what makes America great,” tweeted GOP House Speaker Richard Corcoran, widely expected to declare his candidacy after the 2018 Legislative Session. “Florida is united in opposition.”

From the leading Democrats: Businessman Chris King attended the “No Nazis at UF” protest, while former Congresswoman Gwen Graham tweeted, “Richard Spencer and his hatred have no place in our state.”

From left, Bishop Allen Wiggins, of The Hope Church of Orlando, and Chris King, a Democrat candidate for Florida governor and a graduate of the University of Florida law school. Photo credit: Susan Washington.

And Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum tweeted: “Standing with #Gainesville today! ‘Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.’ – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Contrast that to Republican Adam Putnam, whose most recent tweet as of Thursday afternoon was, “NFL owners have decided NOT to address the national anthem protest. Tell us what you think of their decision.” A similar post was on his Facebook page.

Putnam communications director Amanda Bevis reached out to Florida Politics after we criticized Putnam on Twitter for remaining silent. It is worth noting that throughout the week Putnam did condemn Spencer (here, here, and here). And late Thursday, the Bartow Republican did take to Twitter to reiterate his criticism.

But those tweets — coming hours after Spencer had come and gone from Gainesville — actually beg the original question: Why was Putnam tweeting click-bait about the NFL-national anthem controversy instead of forcefully condemning Spencer, as almost every other Florida politician did?

Florida Politics has reported that the firm handling Putnam’s social media is the same agency behind the recent win for Germany’s far-right populist party. Some thought we were just taking a shot at Putnam when we connected the dots linking Putnam with this firm, but that isn’t the case. Who a candidate hires to, say, run their Twitter account says something about them.

And on Thursday, when a state of emergency was declared at Putnam’s beloved alma mater, it said a lot about the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for governor.

Richard Spencer at UF: Thankfully, no Charlottesville today” via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – On the whole, with a strong police presence, the afternoon was relatively violence-free. Spencer seemed to revel in the attention. He held a pre-speech news conference in which he denied being a white supremacist and compared his vision of an “ethno state” to the pursuit of Israel as a Jewish state. He also parried reporters’ questions with condescending answers, calling them “dumb,” “not smart enough,” and compared them to preschoolers. And he described his supporters as being oppressed by “politically correct” opponents. He called the event a victory, proof “that we are persevering.” When time came for the speech, Spencer — introduced as a “spokesman for white people everywhere” — was met with a chorus of boos and chants from protesters in the audience. He called them “a mob” and accused them of “attempting to turn your academic community into a stifling place.” Through it all, Spencer persisted with his message of white nationalism and freedom of speech, no matter how offensive. Florida law enforcement was prepared. Protesters on each side of the issue rarely were allowed to get close to each other. Law enforcement sectioned off one area for pro-Spencer protesters and another area for anti-Spencer protesters, about 50 yards apart.

Jennie Richards of Jacksonville holds a sign that pretty much sums up the Univ. of Florida’s reaction to Richard Spencer speaking on campus. Photo credit: Twitter.

Gary Farmer calls Richard Spencer a ‘lowlife … filthy’ ” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Democratic state Sen. Farmer of Fort Lauderdale says white nationalist Richard Spencer is a “closed-minded coward” in a statement released Thursday. … “This ignorant and spiteful man believes himself to be better than the rest of us. He attempts to pass off his shallow mindedness for righteousness, and in doing so has exposed America to the seedy underbelly of our politics,” Farmer said … “While this lowlife may have the right to promulgate his filthy ideology, we also have an obligation to affirm that he does not represent the vast majority of our society.”

’Wicked hatred’: Jewish lawmakers condemn Spencer” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The Florida Legislative Jewish Caucus called white nationalist Spencer, [who spoke] at the University of Florida, a “a vile, racist, carnival barker.” Spencer’s “traveling circus of ignorance-fueled hatred is inhabited by insecure clowns unable to come to terms with a changing world,” according to a statement. “His ideology is that of a cowardly, small man, based on discredited nonsense and abject fear of those different from himself.” The statement was signed by Rep. Richard Stark, the caucus chair, and by Rep. Lori Berman; Sen. Lauren Book, Rep. Ben Diamond, Rep. Katie Edwards, Rep. Joseph Geller, Rep. Jared Moskowitz, Sen. Kevin Rader, Rep. Emily Slosberg, and Sen. Annette Taddeo.

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— D.C. MATTERS —

John Kelly: I was ‘stunned’ and ‘heartbroken’ to see Miami congresswoman attacking Donald Trump for widow call” via Nolan McCaskill of POLITICO –  “I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning and brokenhearted at what I saw a member of Congress doing,” Kelly told reporters at a White House press briefing. “A member of Congress who listened in on a phone call from the president of the United States to a young wife — and in his way tried to express that opinion that he’s a brave man, a fallen hero” … “He knew what he was getting himself into because he enlisted,” Kelly continued, referring to slain Sgt. La David Johnson. “There’s no reason to enlist. He enlisted, and he was where he wanted to be, exactly where he wanted to be with exactly the people he wanted to be with when his life was taken. That was the message.” Kelly said he initially advised Trump against making calls to the families of the four soldiers who were killed earlier this month in an ambush in Niger. “If you elect to call a family like this, it is about the most difficult thing you could imagine. There’s no perfect way to make that phone call,” said Kelly, a former Marine general whose son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. “When I took this job, and talked to President Trump about how to do it, my first recommendation was he not do it. Because it’s not the phone call that parents, family members, are looking forward to.”

Florida Democrat calls Niger ambush ‘Trump’s Benghazi’” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO – Frederica Wilson said Trump was slow to speak publicly about the ambush before her “dust-up” with the president, when she accused him of being insensitive during a phone call with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, saying Trump said Johnson “knew what he signed up for.” Trump denied that he said that; White House chief of staff John Kelly said that the president’s words were similar to Wilson’s recounting but that she had the context wrong. Wilson, calling Trump a “jerk” and a “liar,” said in an interview in Miami she believed the ambush that led to four deaths two weeks ago resembled the 2012 attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that also left four dead, including a U.S. ambassador. “The circumstances are similar,” Wilson said. She said in Niger, the four soldiers providing counterterrorism training “didn’t have appropriate weapons where they were. They were told by intelligence there was no threat. They had trucks that were not armored trucks. They were particularly not protected. Just like in Benghazi, they were given the impression that everything was fine.”

Frederica Wilson spent years consoling constituents before Donald Trump challenged her” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald – It wasn’t a coincidence that Wilson was in the car with the family of Sgt. Johnson when Trump called. Wilson … has spent years consoling and advocating for victims of gun violence in her overwhelmingly Democratic-leaning district in north Miami-Dade and southern Broward counties. While Johnson’s death during an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger was different from the dozens of young people who have died from gunfire in Wilson’s district, her hands-on approach toward constituents who are dealing with heartache has been a priority for the former elementary school principal for years. “When residents of her district are killed she is there to help the family… she is there to help the community cope,” said state Sen. Oscar Braynon, whose Miami Gardens-based district overlaps with much of Wilson’s. “She does what many people ask Donald Trump to do, which is to be a consoler -in-chief.”

— “Florida Democrat Wilson no friend of veterans, vote record shows” via Lukas Mikelionis of Fox News

Jaguars owner Shad Khan: Trump ‘jealous of’ NFL” via Jarrett Bell of USA TODAY – “This is a very personal issue with him,” Khan, the Jacksonville Jaguars owner, [said] as NFL owners wrapped up two days of meetings in Lower Manhattan. The league and its owners generally have had little public response to Trump, though New York Giants co-owner John Mara said, facetiously, “I’m shocked,” when asked for a response to the president’s tweet. But Khan didn’t hold back. “He’s been elected President, where maybe a great goal he had in life to own an NFL team is not very likely,” said Khan, who bought the Jags in 2011 for $760 million. “So, to make it tougher, or to hurt the league, it’s very calculated.” He reiterated a description he’s used before in characterizing Trump, calling him “a divider, not a uniter.”

Tweet, tweet: 

Marco Rubio on Bible tweets: ‘I’ll continue to do it’” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Rubio won’t give up the habit. “I’ll continue to do it,” he said in an interview with CBN News. “Twitter is voluntary. People sign up to follow me on Twitter. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to follow me.” Rubio was asked about the bipartisan deal to shore up Obamacare, which initially looked as though it had Trump’s support. “I haven‘t looked at it carefully. I’m just cynical in nature about anything that’s designed to ‘fix’ Obamacare. I think it’s so broken it needs to repealed and replaced. But we’ll be opened minded and look at it and see if it makes sense.”

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio met with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló to discuss recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria. “They have some challenges in just keeping the government functioning,” he told reporters.

’Days were lost’: A month later, Puerto Rico still suffers after slow response to Maria” via Patricia Mazzei and Omaya Sosa Pascual of the Miami Herald – A month has passed since Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, and the island continues to operate in emergency mode, struggling to do even the basics: save lives, protect property, provide drinking water, turn on the lights … a catastrophe born from the worst storm to cross Puerto Rico in 85 years — and of a slow recovery by the federal, state and local governments. The blame for the unsatisfactory response … lies with bureaucracies that were unprepared for a collapsed communications system and overwhelmed by the logistical challenges of aiding an island left with no corner unharmed. Even the White House appeared indifferent to the needs of 3.4 million American citizens 1,000 miles from its shores. Above all, strapped finances that plunged the island into an economic tailspin long before any winds arrived left the state government so thinly stretched it could not maintain its power grid or afford extensive preparations for a monster storm –– much less pay for the sort of recovery that would be demanded in the mainland U.S.

Ex-Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka weighs in on Florida GOP post” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – Gorka, the frequent Fox News guest and former adviser to Trump, is endorsing West Palm Beach resident and former Trump Florida campaign director Karen Giorno for the committeewoman post. Gorka’s endorsement statement says Giorno is “the only candidate for Florida National Committeewoman who worked on the campaign to elect Donald Trump the 45th President of the United States and the only one who truly understands that the MAGA agenda is the people’s agenda. Karen as your National Committeewoman puts the Republican Party of Florida in the best position to win majorities and elections in 2018 and beyond. As someone committed to the ultimate success of the president’s MAGA agenda, I support Karen Giorno.”

Happening Saturday – Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio will keynote the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party’s “Blue Gala” beginning 7 p.m. At the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, 1101 Biscayne Blvd. in Miami.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Adam Putnam Tiger Bay Orlando campaign stopPutnam will speak to the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida 9 a.m. At the Country Club of Orlando, 1601 Country Club Drive in Orlando.

Campaign cash from utilities? ‘I’ll accept it,’ Richard Corcoran says” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Corcoran has accepted campaign contributions from the investor-owned utilities in the past, and he hopes to in the future. “I’ve accepted in the past, as has Senator Latvala, and I’ll accept it in the future,” he said to reporters following a news conference in Tampa. “And my record speaks for itself in fighting for consumers in utility fights.” Corcoran added that he’ll take contributions from virtually any group. “My point to anybody is, anybody can donate to my campaign for the most part. I’m Richard Corcoran, this is what I stand for, and that’s what I’m going to fight for. And if you don’t like it, don’t donate.”

“Corcoran urges Congress to back Trump tax cuts” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – “What our message was to our congressional delegation — go out there and support meaningful tax reform, make our economy great again,” Corcoran said in a news conference after a closed-door discussion with about a dozen local business owners. The details of Trump’s tax proposal still haven’t been nailed down, but Corcoran spoke of a $1.5 trillion cut over 10 years — a figure included in recent U.S. Senate budget proposals. He flatly rejected the idea that such a reduction would increase the federal debt, which recently topped $20 trillion. Corcoran said the tax cut would increase economic growth from the 1.9 percent a year now projected to 3.2 percent, thereby producing $2.5 trillion in extra government revenue. “So that more-than pays for the tax plan and at the same time, all these folks are getting jobs, all this capital’s back in America.”

Andrew Gillum has violent crime wave to contend with as he runs for governor” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – “Why is our mayor running for governor and our communities need our mayor right now? So I’ve asked the mayor to suspend his campaign for governor,” Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor said during a news conference. “Stop running for governor and just be our mayor for the next month or so.” Gillum’s campaign communications director Geoff Burgan told the Tallahassee Democrat the mayor is aware of the problem but halting the campaign won’t help. Last weekend, shootings left six people hospitalized and already 18 people have been killed in Leon County this year, a record.

Gillum visits Panhandle Tiger Bay – Gillum will appear at the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club beginning noon at Skopelo’s at New World, 600 South Palafox St. in Pensacola.

‘All About Florida’ adds national consultants – Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine’s political committee announced it has added three new national consultants, fueling speculation that the Democrat is readying a bid for governor in 2018. The additions are Pivot, a strategic political communications firm; EMC Research, which does polling and focus groups; and MDW Communications, a political marketing firm “specializing in digital strategy.” They join veteran fundraiser Courtney Whitney, who recently signed on as finance director. Levine “and our growing team of talented advisors and consultants are excited about the path forward,” said Christian Ulvert, senior advisor and spokesman for All About Florida. “The addition of top national talent … ensures that the progressive drive for results-focused leadership is front and center.”

Ashley Moody gets endorsement from Carlos TrujilloTrujillo, a former state representative and now a U.N. ambassador, Thursday announced his endorsement of Moody for Attorney General. “Ashley Moody’s experience as a federal prosecutor, judge, wife and mother, coupled with her conservative principles, makes her the right candidate to be our next attorney general,” Trujillo said in a statement. Moody, a former Hillsborough County Circuit judge, is running as a Republican in 2018. Current AG Pam Bondi, also a Republican, is term limited next year.

No, a John Delaney run for State Senate isn’t happening in 2018” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – Since University of North Florida President Delaney left the Jacksonville Mayor’s Office, speculation has swirled seemingly every political season about his next move. Citing a surfeit of “real leadership and lawmakers in positions of power,” Delaney discussed a potential next move, and it was driven by a concern about Jacksonville’s diminished clout in Tallahassee since the Jim King/John Thrasher eras. “We have Paul Renner in the House now, and that’s great, but I’m looking at possibly the Senate,” he said. This led the Daily Record writer to note that, in 2018, Delaney could face either Aaron Bean or Audrey Gibson — both functionally unopposed incumbents. Delaney, who lives at the beaches, is in Bean’s district. But he told us that he wasn’t running again Bean. “Aaron is a buddy,” Delaney said, “so that won’t happen.”

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— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Bill Cotterell: Does the spirit of Harvey Weinstein lurk in our Legislature?” via the Tallahassee Democrat – Real-life matters of sex and power have taken center stage in the two weeks since the Weinstein scandal burst from the pages of The New York Times. A lively discussion has ricocheted around social media, most notably in a “Me, too” Facebook campaign in which women have shown how prevalent the problem really is. Many have also called for men to speak out, to no longer silently look away – and to consider their own conduct. It’s not a comfortable discussion, even in your own mind. My friend Peter Schorsch, the St. Petersburg blogger on all things involving Florida government, posted a piece wondering if there are mini-Harveys in the Legislature. Responses were fast and numerous, some citing experiences and others just saying, “Oh, yeah.” … some women said all men do it. Nobody said, “Oh, hell no, that stuff never happens in Tallahassee.” Of course, it happens. There are many legislators who never let power go to their heads, or other regions, no matter how important they get. And then, there are others … a simpler question for a public figure might be, “Would I say this to her, or do this, if I thought everybody would find out?”

Huh?

Dana Young wants to add voicemails to ‘Do Not Call’ list – The Republican state senator from Tampa filed a bill to define canned voicemails as “telephonic sales calls” that Floridians could ask not to receive. The legislation (SB 568) was filed Thursday. It would include voicemails “made by or on behalf of (a) seller whose goods or services are being offered, or (by) a charitable organization for which a charitable contribution is being solicited.” The state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services maintains the “Florida Do Not Call List” for residents “who do not wish to receive sales calls or texts.” The list has “grown to include more than 1 million phone numbers since Commissioner Adam Putnam worked with the Legislature in 2012 to remove the fee to join,” his website says.

Bill would allow local smoking regulations in parks” via the News Service of Florida – A Senate Republican wants to allow cities and counties to be able to regulate smoking in public parks. State law currently gives authority to the state to regulate smoking — a concept known as preemption of local authority. But the bill (SB 562), filed by Sen. Debbie Mayfield would allow cities and counties to “further restrict smoking within the boundaries of any public parks they own.”

Fearless…

Sen. Lauren Book spent Thursday with FWC officers, conservationists & Python wranglers as part of an effort to learn more about conservation and managing invasive species. She even caught and bagged a snake.

Daphne Campbell files patient protection bill – The Democratic Miami-Dade state senator has filed legislation “designed to beef-up patient protections,” according to a Thursday news release. The measure (SB 558) “would apply to all medical facilities housing patients overnight, including assisted living facilities and nursing homes” and require them “to have an operational generator and fuel supply sufficient to sustain emergency power for a minimum of 4 days/96 hours.” Generators “must provide enough electricity to maintain day-to-day living conditions throughout the entire facility.” The bill is in response to 14 deaths of elderly residents at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, which lost air conditioning during Hurricane Irma.

Joe Geller files bill on National Popular Vote Interstate Compact – Geller, a Democratic state representative from Aventura, backs a move to “mandate that the state’s electoral votes be given to the candidate who wins the nationwide popular vote,” he said in a statement. His measure (HB 367) would require Florida to join 11 other states already in the compact. “The compact would not take effect until the number of states (and the District of Columbia) with votes that amount to a majority of the 270 electoral votes necessary to be elected president, have signed on,” a release said. Donald Trump became president by capturing 304 Electoral College votes to Hillary Clinton‘s 227, though Clinton won the popular vote by almost 2.9 million votes.

We knew him when…

Miami-dade state Rep. and also Ambassador Carlos Trujillo delivers a speech before the UN General Assembly this week.

Flagler, Duval Delegations prepare for 2018 – The Flagler County delegation – State Sen. Travis Hutson and Rep. Paul Renner – host a public meeting ahead of the 2018 Legislative Session beginning 4 p.m. at the Palm Coast Council Chamber, 160 Lake Ave. in Palm Coast. At 1 PM, The Duval County legislative delegation – state Sens. Aaron Bean and Audrey Gibson, state Reps. Cord Byrd, Clay Yarborough, Tracie Davis, Kimberly Daniels, Jay Fant and Jason Fischer – will hold its local-bill hearing ahead of the 2018 Session at the Jacksonville City Council chamber, 117 West Duval St. in Jacksonville.

— STATEWIDE —

Rick Scott touts $1M proposal to secure Jewish centers” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Immediately surrounded by 50 shades of cuteness but more broadly surrounded by deep worries about anti-Semitic violence and growing anti-Semitic sentiment, Gov. Scott pushed his proposal to include $1 million in his 2018 budget proposal to help Florida’s Jewish community centers, schools and day care centers further secure against attacks. Scott’s visit to the Roth Family Jewish Community Center in Maitland … His visit also came in a year in which the Roth Family Center, as well as numerous other Jewish centers throughout Florida and nationally, were hit with multiple bomb threats, forcing the centers, the families, the communities, and the state to re-assess the prospects of violence, especially in an era where supremacists and discriminatory hatred appear to be on the rise. This year’s Florida budget included $654,000 to help Jewish centers shore up security. For next year Scott said he is proposing an additional $1 million, a plan he first introduced earlier at Boca Raton.

Scott suspends Jefferson County clerk from office” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat – Scott suspended Jefferson County Clerk Kirk Reams from office over his arrest on petty theft charges and allegations he took naked photos of his then-girlfriend in a judge’s chambers at the courthouse in Monticello. Scott issued an executive order suspending Kirk for “malfeasance and/or misfeasance in the abuse of his position of public trust through the improper acts” uncovered by a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation. The executive order became public about an hour before the Jefferson County Commission was set to go into emergency session to discuss Reams’ arrest. Commissioners were planning to vote on sending a letter to Scott and Senate President Joe Negron asking them not to suspend him.

Florida utility companies send in drones to speed up power restoration” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – The unmanned aircrafts weigh around 10 pounds and can fly for about 20 minutes at a time, allowing power companies to get a bird’s eye view of power lines and identify any problems keeping the lights on. Two years ago, the Federal Aviation Administration gave the green light to Florida utility companies like Florida Power and Light and Gulf Power to operate the drones, which have high-quality video cameras capable of taking quick photos and video of hard-to-reach areas. Since then, power companies have embraced the technology as a way to make electricity restoration safer, less expensive and all-around a more efficient experience than ever before. At $6,000 a pop, drones aren’t cheap, but the pros outweigh the cons for power companies like Gulf Power, which say the unmanned aircrafts make workers’ jobs less dangerous and easier.

Feds: Inspections show Lake Okeechobee’s dike sound” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press – The Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the Herbert Hoover Dike, said Thursday that recently activated daily inspections show that while there is some increased seepage as the water level now exceeds 17 feet, the barrier’s integrity has not been compromised. The lake’s water level seems to have finally stabilized five weeks after Hurricane Irma dumped heavy rains as it raked across Florida, causing a 3.5-foot increase in the lake. The record is 18.5 feet. Almur Whiting, the corps’ regional dam safety officer, said if the dike were built today, better material would have been used and it would have been packed tighter. He showed a group of reporters what inspectors look for. While there has been seepage and even some flowing water coming through the dike, the water has not been carrying material from inside the barrier. That would be a sign of possible weakening, he said.

Historic Florida Keys district welcome sign stolen a month after it was blown over by Irma” via David Goodhue of the FLKeysNews.com – Days after the “Welcome to Key West” sign was returned — stolen right after the Sept. 10-11 Category 4 storm left the island chain — thieves absconded with the welcome sign to the Upper Keys historic district of Tavernier. It’s the only designated historic district in the Keys outside of Key West. Specifically, the large wooden sign on the northbound side of U.S. 1 at mile marker 91 at the end of the Tavernier Creek Bridge is gone. It was blown off its post during Irma, but volunteers leaned it up right until it could be reposted. It disappeared over the weekend. “If someone knows where it is and who took it, we’d really like it back,” said Jerry Wilkinson, president of the Tavernier Community Association.

Increased attorney fees backed by Supreme Court” via Jim Saunders of the Sunshine State News – A divided Florida Supreme Court ruled that an attorney was entitled to receive stepped-up fees for representing homeowners against an insurance company. The court’s majority overturned a decision by the 5th District Court of Appeal that would have prevented attorney Tracy Markham from receiving what is known as a “contingency fee multiplier” for work representing St. Johns County homeowners William and Judith Joyce in their claim dispute with Federated National Insurance Co. Justice Barbara Pariente, writing for the court majority, said the appeals court had improperly ruled that such multipliers are only available in “rare” and “exceptional” circumstances. Pariente wrote that the possibility of increased fees can be important in getting attorneys to take cases on a contingency basis. The underlying legal dispute began after Federated National Insurance Co. denied coverage for water damage to the Joyces’ home. The Joyces hired Markham on a contingency-fee basis because they could not afford to hire an attorney at an hourly rate … The case was settled after months of litigation, with agreement that the Joyces could recover attorney fees. The Supreme Court described a two-step process in which a judge calculated that Markham should be paid a basic amount of $38,150 because of the amount of hours worked and a reasonable hourly rate. The judge then applied a contingency-fee multiplier that doubled the total to $76,300 … The insurance company appealed the fees. While the 5th District Court of Appeal upheld the basic amount of $38,150, it rejected the contingency-fee multiplier.

More than 1,000 Disney workers rally for higher wages” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – The Service Trades Council Union, which represents 38,000 employees, sponsored the rally at the Crossroads entrance to Walt Disney World. Some employees arrived after work still wearing their Disney uniforms. Others wore bright red Unite Here T-shirts at the biggest rally since the six unions began negotiating with Disney in August. The Services Council, which includes six local unions, is asking for the first raise since 2014 when the theme park raised the starting pay from $8.03 to $10.00 per hour. Their next negotiation session is scheduled for Tuesday. Disney union workers lined both sides of State Road 535 at Hotel Plaza Boulevard holding picket signs and chanting slogans, like, “Disney workers need a raise” and We eat, we sweat, we need a raise to pay the rent.” Disney has stated that they will offer a “fair and equitable” wage. Their initial offer was for a 25-cent raise and that was raised to 30 cents an hour after the first negotiation session.

— NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS —

Nicole Stookey Albers: Florida Municipal Electric Association

Robert Beck, Bryan Cherry, Tanya Jackson, PinPoint Results: Aspire Health Partners

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: East Point Towers Condominium, Edgewater Arms

Ron Book, Rana Brown, Kelly Mallette: City of Pembroke Pines, Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency

Rosanna Catalano, Capitol Energy Florida: Charlotte County Airport Authority, Lee Memorial Health Systems

Michael Corcoran, Jeff Johnston, Anita Berry, Matt Blair, Amanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: FRS Environmental Remediation (d/b/a The FGS Group)

Andreina Figueroa, ADF Consulting: Jack and Jill Children’s Center

Christopher Hansen, Stephanie Grutman Zauder, Ballard Partners: Broward College Foundation

Carly Hermanson: Castle Key Insurance Company

Douglas Holder, The Legis Group: 1307 Mosso

Scott Howell: Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Christian Minor: Florida Juvenile Justice Association

Robert Schenck, The Legis Group: Jacksonville School for Autism

Chris Spencer, GrayRobinson: Associated Builders & Contractors of Florida

— ALOE —

Hollywood Studios adds a visit to remote Star Wars planet” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – The destination will be added Nov. 22 to hype the opening of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Episode 8 in the Star Wars movie series debuts Dec. 15. Crait is located in a remote, uncharted section of the galaxy that hosted a Rebel Alliance outpost during their early rebellion against the Galactic Empire. The planet is a prominent part of the new movie.

Mario Andretti on Orlando expansion: ‘I’m pinching myself’” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel – It was Andretti Day, figuratively and literally … Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs proclaimed it so as Mario Andretti and his famed racing family gathered in Orlando for a grand-opening/VIP event for the Andretti Indoor Karting and Games establishment now open near International Drive. It’s the third such center for the family (the first two are in metropolitan Atlanta), and it’s a growing part of the family business. Here’s some of what Mario Andretti, now 77, had to say about joining the crowded entertainment field in Orlando: “This is the center of entertainment. Are you kidding? This is phenomenal. … We want to be a good neighbor and an asset to the community.”

Social media helping college teams start new traditions” via Steve Megargee of The Associated Press – As is customary, Gator fans sing “We Are The Boys From Old Florida” at the end of the third quarter. Now they follow that up by singing along as the public-address system plays “I Won’t Back Down” by Gainesville, Florida, native Tom Petty, who died Oct. 2. The “We Are The Boys From Old Florida” singalong has been going on for decades. The decision to play Petty’s song right afterward arose following Petty’s death, but fans knew what was planned because Florida announced its intentions beforehand. Just like that, a potential new tradition was born. “To see that after ‘We Are The Boys,’ to hear that place (sing) in unison, it was special,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “Credit goes to the people who put it together, and more than that, the response of the fans. And, ultimately, ‘I won’t back down’ — it kind of hits home for me.” The quick turnaround of Florida’s Petty project highlights the potential for social media to impact tradition making. For example, when a school wants to “stripe” its stadium in school colors, as West Virginia did last week before its game with Texas Tech, school officials merely remind fans on Twitter which color to wear based on where they’ll be sitting.

Happy birthday to former First Lady Carole Crist, Dustin Daniels, and Bruce Denson. Early birthday wishes to the smartest guy in whatever room he’s in, Tony Carvajal.

Last Call for 10.19.17 – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

More bad news for kids: In Florida, 52 percent of those under 18 “have had at least one Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE), significantly higher than the national average,” according to a Thursday press release.

The news is from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health and an analysis conducted by the Child & Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (CAHMI) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

“ACEs can have serious, long-term impacts on a child’s health and well-being by contributing to high levels of toxic stress,” the release said.

Thirty-three percent of U.S. children with two or more ACEs have a chronic health condition involving a special health care need, compared to 13.6 percent of children without ACEs, it said.

“A loving home, a good school, a safe neighborhood—these things are the foundation for a long and happy life, yet too many children don’t have them,” said Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “… With policies that help families raise healthy children and the consistent presence of caring adults in their lives, we can reduce the impact of trauma on children’s health and help them thrive in the face of adversity.”

National and state data, along with an issue brief and maps, can be found at www.cahmi.org.

Evening Reads

Frederica Wilson spent years consoling constituents before Trump challenged her” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald

Campaign cash from utilities? ‘I’ll accept it,’ Richard Corcoran says” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Meet Philip Levine’s newest campaign hires” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

As white nationalists converge, lawmakers propose removing Confederate monuments and holidays” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald

Does the spirit of Harvey Weinstein lurk in our Legislature” via Bill Cottrell of the Tallahassee Democrat

‘Wicked hatred’: Jewish lawmakers condemn Richard Spencer” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

U.S. government: Inspections show Lake Okeechobee’s dike sound” via Terry Spencer of the Associated Press

Historic Florida Keys district welcome sign stolen a month after it was blown over by Irma” via David Goodhue of the KeysReporter.com

The Florida Project has the most perfect ending of any movie in years” via Corey Atad for Slate.com

Disney is making a huge change to its most iconic Star Wars attraction” via Bailey Bennett of Travel and Leisure

Quote of the Day

“It would be a much more peaceful world, (a) better, more beautiful world, if people like me were in power.” — Richard Spencer, speaking at the University of Florida Thursday, as reported by the News Service of Florida’s Dara Kam.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early

Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, is slated to speak to the Rotary Club of Amelia Island Sunrise. That’s at 7:30 a.m., Fernandina Beach Golf Club, 2800 Bill Melton Road, Fernandina Beach.

The Florida Commission on Ethics is scheduled to meet at 8:30 a.m., 1st District Court of Appeal, 2000 Drayton Dr., Tallahassee.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican candidate for governor, is scheduled to speak to the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida. It’s at 9 a.m., Country Club of Orlando, 1601 Country Club Dr., Orlando.

The St. Johns County legislative delegation will meet in preparation for the 2018 session. That’s at 9 a.m., St. Johns County Auditorium, 500 San Sebastian View, St. Augustine.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is scheduled to release September unemployment numbers at 10 a.m.

Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican, is expected to discuss the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions during a luncheon meeting of the Port Orange South Daytona Chamber of Commerce. That’s at noon, Riverside Pavilion, 3431 South Ridgewood Ave., Port Orange.

Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is slated to speak to the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club. It begins at noon, Skopelo’s at New World, 600 South Palafox St., Pensacola.

Kent Hiteshew, a former Treasury Department official who managed the response to the fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico, will speak to the Economic Club of Florida. That’s at noon, FSU Alumni Center, 1030 West Tennessee St., Tallahassee.

The Tiger Bay Club of Tampa will host a panel discussion titled “Choices in Education” at noon, Ferguson Law Center, 1610 North Tampa St., Tampa.

The Statewide Drug Policy Advisory Council is scheduled to hold a conference call at 2 p.m. The call-in number is (888) 670-3525 and the participant code is 164 869 6226.

The Flagler County legislative delegation will meet in preparation for the 2018 session at 4 p.m., Palm Coast Council chamber, 160 Lake Ave., Palm Coast.

Sunburn for 10.19.17 – State of emergency

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry, Jim Rosica, and Joe Henderson, who has our lead:

Richard Spencer is clean cut, casual but professional, a disarming look for one of the most prominent faces in what is becoming a crowded field of racism in the United States.

His scheduled appearance today at the University of Florida prompted Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency, in case things get out of hand. That tends to happen when Spencer is involved.

He was a leader at the Charlottesville, Va. white supremacist rally that ended with a nationally televised riot where there was one death and multiple injuries.

Spencer admits he chooses a dress shirt, coat and tie over a white hood and robe because he doesn’t want to scare people while talking about things like  “a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans… based on very different ideals than, say, the Declaration of Independence.”

Too late.

Noting that wardrobe ruse, Spencer was described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “a kind of professional racist in khakis.”

Racists can be smart, and Spencer certainly qualifies. He was educated at the University of Virginia and was in a Ph.D. program at Duke before dropping out to lead the American Policy Institute, described as a think tank for the alt-right.

In a column for API in 2014, Spencer dismissed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as “a fraud and degenerate in his life, (who) has become the symbol and cynosure of White Dispossession and the deconstruction of Occidental civilization. We must overcome!”

He told CNN that, despite multiple reports to the contrary, he never called for a “peaceful ethnic cleansing.” In the same interview though, he told the network, “We have experienced this mass migration of people (into the United States). Therefore they could go home, you can go home again. … They came here peacefully. They could leave peacefully.”

Well, he could leave too. Alas, UF president Kent Fuchs said he is lawfully required to allow Spencer to speak on campus. That doesn’t mean he has to like it. In his Twitter account, Fuchs urged students to “avoid the event.”

Spencer and those who support his pathetic views represent a special challenge to the ideals of America. The right of free speech is central to who we are as a nation, even when it is as potentially destructive as Spencer’s.

He has turned the First Amendment into a kind of Trojan Horse, demanding – and lawfully receiving – a platform to spew hate-filled garbage that tears at the core of a nation he essentially is trying to destroy.

The Founders realized the danger making laws to prohibit free speech and counted on people being able to filter and reject nonsense like this. That ideal is under attack on an almost unprecedented basis for this country by President Trump and Steve Bannon, who, like Spencer, is a devotee of the alt-right movement.

Trump declared the media is the “enemy” of the American people.

Bannon went so far as to tell the New York Times, “You’re the opposition party.” Not the Democratic Party. You’re the opposition party. The media’s the opposition party.”

Well, if that means calling out racism and lies when we see it, sign me up for extended duty.

Spencer and those like him need to be heard by everyone, and then robustly shouted down with words and actions in every corner of this country. I believe millions more Americans than not are horrified by Spencer’s kind of overt racism and will realize they need to get in the game.

The bad guys are playing to win.

That’s the real emergency we face.

>>>Counterpoint via the Washington Post: Richard Spencer is not an emergency – “But the problem with all of this is that it risks giving Spencer more dignity than he deserves … After all, no one wanted him to come to the University of Florida campus. (Truly! No one invited him!). Richard Spencer isn’t an emergency, he’s an irritant. He should be treated as such.”

How it’s playing: Richard Spencer at UF: USA TODAY, Activists want classes canceled ahead of Richard Spencer’s Florida visit – “’Students shouldn’t be forced to be in harm’s way to pursue their education,’ said Shreyas Amol Jethwani, political director for the University of Florida College Democrats. ‘It’s tense. And you can feel that it’s tense. Professors are encouraging students to not come to campus, or to go home to their families if they can.’” HuffPost, The University of Florida really does have to let Richard Spencer speak – “Spencer … put the blame for the security costs on counter-protesters. That money, he said, is ‘not to protect the university from me or anyone on the ‘alt-right.’ Instead, it’s himself and supporters who need protection from leftist groups like Antifa.” Miami Herald, No masks or water bottles: What to know ahead of Richard Spencer’s speech at UF – “Some items are obvious — no weapons, torches or baseball bats — but others are less so — backpacks, water balloons and umbrellas … Another hotly contested item on the banned list: masks.” Gainesville Sun, Latest on Spencer event: City bans weapons, shields downtown – “The ban is in effect from 4 to 11:30 p.m., and prohibits possession outdoors in a public place of the following items: weapons, shields, bats and clubs … Anyone violating the order and anyone who ‘willfully fails or refuses to comply’  with police could be arrested. Violating the order is a second-degree misdemeanor.” Washington Post, Hundreds of police to be deployed for Richard Spencer event – “UF president W. Kent Fuchs said he believes Spencer benefits from demonstrations. ‘I really believe that the protests are the oxygen on which the white nationalists and white supremacists survive … I want the protesters to not give them what they seek. We need to speak up on our own platform, not [Spencer’s].’” Gainesville Sun, Jewish center extends hours, hosts Good Deed Marathon – “The Lubavitch-Chabad Jewish Student Center will be open for extended hours Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to give students with a safe place … The Jewish center will also host a Good Deed Marathon to ‘counter hate with love.’”

University chief: Security cost for Richard Spencer speech ‘unfair’” via Jason Dearen of The Associated Press – UF President Fuchs … said Spencer is “hijacking” public universities — which are compelled by the First Amendment to provide a speaking forum — and forcing taxpayers to pay the resulting security costs. “I fully understand freedom of speech cannot be burdened legally with the full cost of this, but on the other hand we’re being burdened,” said Fuchs, sitting in his office on campus in Gainesville. “So, taxpayers are subsidizing hate speech.”

Tweet, tweet:

Meanwhile … “Hollywood is replacing 3 Confederate street names with universal concepts” via David Neal of the Miami Herald – Three streets in Hollywood named for Confederate leaders will be renamed for universally admired concepts — Freedom, Hope and Liberty — under a plan discussed Wednesday. The city commission will take a final vote on the new names next month. “It’s been a long road — it’s taken 15 years,” said Benjamin Israel, the Hollywood resident who led the charge to change the names, according to the Sun Sentinel. “I’m elated with what has taken place today.” The names for the streets, which run through predominantly black neighborhoods, came from Confederate Army commander General Robert E. Lee; Confederate General John Bell Hood, who led the southern forces at the Battle of Gettysburg; and Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate lieutenant who was an early Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard whose later racial views have been debated by historians.

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— D.C. MATTERS —

Donald Trump: Democratic congresswoman ‘totally fabricated what I said’ to soldier’s widow” via Louis Nelson of POLITICO – Trump accused a Democratic congresswoman of having “fabricated” an account of what he told the widow of a fallen soldier — that her husband “knew what he signed up for” — escalating the furor over the proper treatment of Gold Star families. “Democrat congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!” Trump posted on Twitter … The congresswoman, Frederica Wilson, told reporters that Trump, speaking to the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, said that “he knew what he signed up for … but when it happens, it hurts anyway.” Wilson said she heard part of the widow’s conversation with Trump via speakerphone and specifically heard that remark. “Yeah, he said that. To me that is something that you can say in a conversation, but you shouldn’t say that to a grieving widow,” Wilson said. “And everyone knows when you go to war, you could possibly not come back alive. But you don’t remind a grieving widow of that. That’s so insensitive.” It’s unclear what Trump was referring to in his tweet when he said he has “proof” of his comments.

AFP ad: Bill Nelson is standing in the way of a simple, fair tax system” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Americans for Prosperity is including Nelson, through its Americans for Prosperity-Florida affiliate, as a target in a nationwide, multimillion dollar advertising buy that targets a handful of U.S. Senators, including Republicans, who’ve shown some interest in tax reform but appear unlikely to support the Republican budget plan that includes language-making sweeping tax reform possible. Among others being targeted: U.S. Sens. Tammy BaldwinClaire McCaskill and John McCain. The new ad features a woman talking into the camera, saying, “People are sick of politics. I am too. But fixing our broken tax system isn’t about politics – it’s about helping people. It means the powerful, the well-connected, the politicians — they’ll stop benefiting from a rigged system. It means everyday Americans will have more to spend on what’s important to them. That’s what tax reform will do. So, what’s stopping us?”

Click on the image to watch the video:

U.S. Senate committee to investigate Florida nursing home deaths” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – The Senate Finance Committee will investigate the hurricane-related deaths of 14 people at a South Florida nursing home. The top members of the committee, Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden, questioned the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about its new nursing home emergency preparedness requirements and have requested responses from state agencies in Florida and Texas regarding their preparations and responses to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. “We are writing to request information from Florida about its preparations for and responses to Hurricane Irma as it relates to nursing homes and other similar facilities,” the senators wrote in a letter to Florida’s Secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, Justin Senior. “The Senate Committee on Finance has jurisdiction over both the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs. As part of our oversight responsibilities, we want to ensure the safety of residents and patients in nursing homes and other similar facilities during natural and man-made disasters.” The action follows a call for investigation from Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, a member of the committee, and that was echoed by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

Charlie Crist at ribbon-cutting ceremony – The St. Petersburg Democrat will be at the ChenMed Dedicated Senior Medical Center ribbon cutting event beginning 10:15 a.m. at 901 22nd Ave. South in St. Petersburg.

Francis Rooney speech to Cape Coral GOP women – Congressman Rooney will speak at a meeting of the Republican Women of Cape Coral, Federated beginning 6 p.m. at the Personal Touch Banquet & Catering, 1530 Santa Barbara Blvd. in Cape Coral.

Carlos Curbelo fundraiser – A Palm Beach County fundraiser for Republican U.S. Rep. Curbelo begins 6 p.m. at 303 Evernia St., Suite 300 in West Palm Beach.

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— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Andrew Gillum puts Trump-Gold Star widow controversy into governor’s race” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – Gillum put out a statement saying Trump has “disgraced his office.” The statement appears on a page on his campaign website that includes a link to donate to Gillum’s campaign. “No decent person can defend what this President did yesterday. He disrespected a fallen soldier, traumatized his widow, and called a Member of Congress who was grieving with the family a liar. This President has shown with each passing day that he intends to govern without a shred of moral dignity or empathy. He has disgraced his office with this latest episode.”

Statewide candidates visit Gold Coast –Jack Latvala and Attorney General candidate Jay Fant will appear at the Gold Coast Republican Club beginning 6 p.m.at Galuppi’s, 1103 North Federal Highway in Pompano Beach.

Michael Chitwood endorses Ashley Moody In a long line of law enforcement endorsements, Volusia County Sheriff Chitwood now has thrown his support to the Republican Moody, a former Hillsborough circuit judge running for Attorney General. “Ashley Moody is an inspiring leader who has the ability to connect with people and find innovative approaches to complicated issues,” Chitwood said in a statement. “Coupled with her strong background as a prosecutor and judge, Ashley Moody is the epitome of what is needed in politics today.”

Frank White gets endorsements from N.W. Fla. lawmakers” via Florida Politics – Three GOP lawmakers from Florida’s Panhandle are lending their support to fellow state Rep. Frank White to become the state’s attorney general, the campaign announced. Reps. Brad Drake of Eucheeanna, Jayer Williamson of Pace, and Mel Ponder of Destin endorsed White, of Pensacola, on Wednesday … White said, “I am honored to have the support of my fellow conservatives here in Northwest Florida.” White, a general counsel and chief financial officer for a group of auto dealerships, was first elected to the House last year. 

Matt Caldwell locks up more endorsements – State Rep. Caldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican running for Commissioner of Agriculture, announced endorsements of returning GOP House members from Northeast Florida, the third wave of legislative endorsements announced by the campaign. It follows unanimous support of House members from the Panhandle and Southwest Florida delegations, the campaign said. “I will continue to work hard to earn the trust and support of voters across the Sunshine State, who deserve a Commissioner that has the leadership and policy experience to lead in Tallahassee on day one,” he said. Those in the latest round are: Rep. Cord Byrd, Rep. Travis Cummings, Rep. Jason Fischer, Rep. Bobby Payne, Rep. Paul Renner, Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, Rep. Clay Yarborough.

Vern Buchanan draws prominent Democratic opponent” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune –Siesta Key attorney David Shapiro will challenge Buchanan in 2018, giving Democrats a well-connected candidate who once came within 750 votes of winning a solidly Republican state House seat. Shapiro, 58, could present Buchanan with his toughest re-election test in years. A civil litigation attorney who focuses on personal injury law, Shapiro has decades of trial law experience and community involvement. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has long had an interest in Shapiro and encouraged him to run for Buchanan’s seat. He recently was in Washington, D.C., for candidate training and has hired a campaign manager.

Is Ken Russell running for CD 27? The answer is a six-figure affair” via Florida Politics – Perhaps Russell, a well-known toy enthusiast, is being as thoughtful and deliberate about his decision to seek Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat as he is choreographing epic yo-yo routines. What else can explain the three-month process, raising over $300,000, and spending over $100,000, all to “explore” a run for Congress … almost $2,500 on travel, as well as more than $20,000 with The Kitchens Group, a longtime Florida-based pollster … what about the other $75,000 to “decide” if he will run for Congress as Democrat? Much of the money went to Republican consultants. Florida’s 27th Congressional District is no bastion of ultra-liberalism. Hillary Clinton won the district 2-1 over Bernie Sanders, as she did the state. Russell may be able to Split the Atom; he may even know the secrets of Cold Fusion. But you don’t need to go Around the World to know that Democratic voters aren’t longing for a congressional candidate surrounded by Republicans.

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Assignment editors – Gov. Scott will visit The Roth Family Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando at 10 a.m. to highlight his proposal for $1 million in security funding for Jewish Day Schools in his 2018-2019 recommended budget. Location is 851 N. Maitland Ave. in Maitland.

Assignment editors Jack Latvala will speak at the annual conference of the couple’s redevelopment Florida redevelopment Association. The Clearwater senator’s plenary session begins at 11 a.m. and covers the upcoming Legislative Session. The event is at the Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort, 100 N. Atlantic Ave. in Daytona Beach.

Darryl Rouson files constitutional amendment extending lobbying ban” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – State Sen. and Constitution Revision Commissioner Rouson has filed a proposed constitutional amendment extending the state’s lobbying ban on former lawmakers and other elected officials from two to six years. The amendment language was posted late Wednesday on the commission’s website … If added to the state constitution, a 6-year lobbying ban would be the longest in the nation … Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat, is one of GOP House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s nine appointees to the commission, which convenes every 20 years to review and suggest changes to Florida’s governing document. Rouson was elected to the Senate last year after serving in the House of Representatives from 2008-16. Extending the lobbying ban has been a priority of Corcoran’s since his September 2015 designation speech.

Paul Renner refiles recovery care center legislation for 2018” via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Rep. Renner has again filed HB 23 to create “recovery care centers” that would keep postsurgical patients up to three days. Those facilities would provide care for patients who reasonably expect an uncomplicated recovery and hospitalization is not required. Renner’s plan also includes language from SB 250 to allow ambulatory surgical centers, which primarily provide elective surgeries, to keep patients up to 24 hours. Currently, ASCs must admit and discharge patients within the same working day. But the Senate plan does not include the creation of recovery centers, a sticking point in past Legislative Sessions.

Tobacco bond cap repeal teed up again in Legislature” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Legislation that would do away with the limit on the amount of money tobacco companies have to put up as appellate bonds has again been filed, this time for the 2018 Legislative Session. The one-line bill (SB 124) simply repeals the section of state law requiring the bonds. But once more, the measure sets up another potential Session ‘food fight’ between tobacco companies, who have opposed a repeal, and the state’s trial lawyers, who back it. An attempt last year died during the committee weeks leading up to the 2017 Legislative Session. Here’s how it works: Tobacco companies are required to put up bonds before they appeal unfavorable damages awarded to former smokers, but the state places limits on how much those bonds are.

Former lawmaker honored” via the News Service of Florida – Gov. Scott on Wednesday ordered flags to be flown at half-staff to honor former state Rep. Jim Tullis, a Jacksonville Republican who died Saturday. Tullis, 75, served in the House in 1999 and 2000 after a lengthy stint on the Jacksonville City Council, including serving as City Council president. Scott ordered flags to be flown at half-staff Thursday at the state Capitol, the Duval County Courthouse and Jacksonville City Hall. A funeral service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral in Jacksonville, according to obituary posted on The Florida Times-Union website.

— STATEWIDE —

Florida Disaster Fund grants awarded” via Florida Politics – Gov. Scott and Volunteer Florida on Wednesday announced the first round of Florida Disaster Fund grant awards for organizations providing disaster relief following Hurricane Irma, according to a press release. Each recipient organization is receiving $25,000 for disaster response activities.  Examples include financial assistance with rent, mortgage and utilities; food, clothing and replacement of household items; sheltering for those who have experienced loss of their homes; individual case management; crisis intervention counseling and hotline services to assist those experiencing psychological distress; assistance for displaced families with pets; muck-out for flooded homes, and removal of dangerous debris.

Eleven Florida turnaround schools awarded ‘Schools of Hope’ grants” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – … up to $2,000 per student to help them implement improvement plans. State lawmakers set aside about $52 million to support as many as 25 district schools required to turn around their low performance on state tests. The Legislature added the money to HB 7069 to offset criticism that the measure would set aside millions to establish charter schools to compete with those same struggling district schools. The schools awarded the funds are Lucillle Moore and Springfield elementary schools in Bay; Homestead Middle, Lorah Park Elementary, Miami Carol City Senior High, West Homestead K-8 and Toussaint L’Ouverture Elementary in Miami-Dade; Gove Elementary, West Riveria Elementary and Palm Beach Lakes High in Palm Beach; and Idyllwilde Elementary in Seminole County.

Tampa Bay Times seeks court order for DCF investigations” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The company that publishes the Times is asking a Tallahassee court to order the release of records on “abuse, neglect or exploitation of vulnerable adults by providers of home health care services” from the state’s Department of Children and Families (DCF). The petition, agreed to by the department, was filed this week by Times Publishing Co. and Times investigative reporter Kathleen McGrory in Leon County Circuit Civil court. The newspaper aims to publish a “data-driven … examination of Florida’s methods of investigating and preventing maltreatment of the Florida families who rely on in-home health care providers.” “Such an examination furthers the Legislature’s express intent ‘to encourage the constructive involvement of families in the care and protection of vulnerable adults,’ ” including senior citizens and the disabled, the Times’ filing says.

Court upholds $35 million verdict in smoker’s death” via the News Service of Florida – A South Florida appeals court upheld a $35 million verdict – including $25 million in punitive damages – in a lawsuit filed against two cigarette makers over a lung-cancer death. The Miami-Dade County case, filed by the estate of Patricia Mary Ledoux, is one of thousands that have targeted cigarette makers in Florida during past decade. The cases – known as Engle progeny cases – stem from a 2006 Florida Supreme Court ruling that established critical findings about issues including the dangers of smoking and misrepresentation by cigarette makers. In the Ledoux case, a jury ruled against Philip Morris USA, Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, awarding $10 million in compensatory damages and saying each company should pay $12.5 million in punitive damages. The companies appealed and raised a series of issues, including that a plaintiff’s attorney made improper statements during closing arguments and that the $10 million in compensatory damages was excessive.

Four of five Keys county commissioners violated ethics rules, fined $20K in total” via David Goodhue of FLKeysNews.com – Four of the five elected Monroe County commissioners agreed to pay a total of $20,000 in fines to the state Commission on Ethics for misreporting income, investments and net worth on financial disclosure forms that elected officials in Florida are required to complete each year. All four told an Ethics Commission investigator that the misreporting was done in error and not to deceive, and they each submitted amended disclosure forms before agreeing to the fines. The complaints against them were filed by a Key West man who states in each filing he’s angry at the commission for conducting an audit of a Marathon-based animal shelter that ended the nonprofit’s contract with the county for handling animal control services in the Middle Keys.

Nude photos lead to Jefferson clerk’s arrest” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat – An investigation into a nude photo shoot at the Jefferson County Courthouse led to the arrest of Kirk Reams, the long-serving clerk of courts, on a loosely related charge of petty theft. Reams, 40, turned himself in at the county jail early Monday evening and was released on his own recognizance. The small-town political scandal began to unfold late last year, after Reams’ former girlfriend, Brittany McClellan, told the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office that Reams took naked photos of her inside the circuit judge’s chambers, located upstairs from Reams’ office. The investigation found they did not amount to a crime. She told investigators that in early 2013, Reams gave her a county-owned laptop, which he said no one was using. McClellan said she used the laptop to order cosmetics for her hair salon in downtown Monticello. She borrowed Wi-Fi with the blessings of a business next door, Vintage Treasures. “In doing so, (Reams) temporarily deprived the Jefferson County Commission of the aforementioned HP 625 laptop, in violation of (Florida statutes), a first-degree misdemeanor,” the probable cause affidavit says.

Too soon to know? Regulators weigh worker’s comp rates” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Regulators pressed representatives of a workers’ compensation insurance rating service about whether two Florida Supreme Court rulings had in fact increased the cost of administering claims, as many had feared. The answer: Still too soon to say. Nor is it clear that carriers adjusted their reserves or other practices in response to the rulings to any degree of consistency. “At this point, the data is too immature,” said Jay Rosen, senior actuary for the National Council on Compensation Insurance, which proposed rates for around 240 Florida carriers. “Not much of the data that has been impacted by these court decisions has been reported to NCCI, and therefore it is not reflected in this particular rate filing,” Rosen said. Rosen and other NCCI representatives said the 9.3 percent average premium rate drop the council has proposed is mostly driven by a downward trend in payouts to injured workers. In other words, notwithstanding the court, workplaces have been safer.

Report: Solar permits surge in Florida” via Trimmel Gomes of the Public News Service – A new report by the solar industry publication PV Magazine showed the Sunshine State leading the nation in solar growth, with a 110 percent increase in new residential solar permits granted last year over the previous year. Deirdre Macnab, solar chair at the League of Women Voters of Florida, said she credits the growth to the League’s statewide partnerships with co-ops. Homeowners and businesses are taking advantage of some of the lowest prices in solar through programs like the Solar United Neighbors of Florida. Plus, she said restrictions around solar use are slowly starting to relax as utility companies continue to show interest in harnessing energy from the sun. Macnab said cities across the state are now funding and hiring Solar United Neighbors of Florida coordinators to help organize community cooperatives to further lower the cost of solar installations for residents. Co-ops have launched in Alachua, Brevard, Sarasota, Seminole, Volusia and other areas.

Spotted in Business Insider – Florida’s 15,000-strong Union County, about an hour southwest of Jacksonville, ranked as the least healthy in the county. Call us crazy, but maybe it’s (partly) because “Union County has the second-highest smoking rate in the state”? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

— OPINION —

Support the Tax Credit Scholarship to protect Florida’s families” via Robert McClure of The James Madison Institute –The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program provides families with the power to choose a school offering the most appropriate learning program for their children. Currently more than 100,000 students, from families making $24,000 a year on average, are empowered to attend a school that better fits their needs. Over 70 percent of these students are minorities, and they are the students struggling in public schools when they leave with the scholarship. Because of this program, families are lifted from the cycle of poverty and provided a vital escape hatch from schools that were not a good fit for them. It is a shame that in the face of a successful program such as Step Up, in a society which prides itself on a commitment to innovation, objective results and scientific advancement, that we must continue to oppose a status quo that would rather protect adults who run the system rather than students who are stuck in the system. These tactics are the last gaps of an establishment on the wrong side of history.

UF can set example for free speech” via the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board – White nationalist Richard Spencer is bringing his racist message to the University of Florida in a legitimate, if utterly repugnant, display of the First Amendment at work. As a public university, UF has little choice but to allow Spencer’s speech to take place. Now the university and the broader community has an opportunity to show the nation it can safely host even the most repulsive speaker, provide an opportunity for others to offer opposing views and reaffirm the commitment to free speech. Richard Spencer is not the kind of nationally known speaker UF officials like to showcase. His espousal of white identity and separation of the races doesn’t reflect the values of the university or this diverse state. But like all Americans, he is free to express himself. By accommodating him, UF has demonstrated that the right to free speech applies to everyone. By responding with peaceful protests and refusing to be provoked into violence, UF and the Gainesville community can provide a powerful repudiation of Spencer’s hateful message.

— LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS —

Ron Book: City of Pembroke Pines

Michelle Branham: Alzheimer’s Association

James Card, Larry J. Overton & Associates: University of Miami

Rosanna Catalano, Capitol Energy Florida: Charlotte County Airport Authority, Lee Memorial Health Systems

Kevin Cabrera, Edgar Castro, Southern Strategy Group: Brightgray Solutions

Al Cardenas, Slater Bayliss, Stephen Shiver, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Plexos Group

Hayden Dempsey, Greenberg Traurig: The Unlimited Path

Mercer Fearington, James Smith, Southern Strategy Group: AZ Ocala Ranch

Mike Haridopolos: Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries, MJS Capital Holdings

Timothy Meenan, Karl Rasmussen, Joy Ryan, Meenan: Brighthouse Financial

Travis Moore, Moore Relations: American Hotel and Lodging Association

Jerry Paul, Capitol Energy Florida: Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Richard Perez, Holland & Knight: Harris Corporation

— ALOE —

Another tough day for SeaWorld employees” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment announced is cutting 350 positions in its Orlando and San Diego parks … “It’s been a tough day,” said Aimee Jeansonne-Becka, SeaWorld representative. Employees who lost their jobs are being notified today. They will receive severance pay and assistance finding new jobs. Jeansonne-Becka declined to give the number of jobs cut in Orlando. The cuts are part of a companywide cost initiative to save $40 million. Money saved by the cuts will be used to market SeaWorld and increase park attendance.

Disney’s Star Wars hotel could be pricy” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Disney’s one-of-a-kind Star Wars hotel may bring prices of $500 a night to sleep in the immersive experience. Disney has targeted a 2019 opening date to coincide with the opening of Star Wars: Galactic Edge at Hollywood Studios. Everything from the décor in the lobby to the furniture in the rooms will follow the theme. Even the guest room windows will offer views of planets, stars and asteroids. Disney renderings of the rooms show children’s bunk beds and adult-sized beds in the style of Star Wars bunkers. The size looks similar to deluxe Disney properties, which the Theme Park Tourist blog speculates the rooms will cost up to $1,000 for two nights. While Disney has not announced a location … the hotel may be the first in Walt Disney World’s 45-year history to be placed inside a theme park.

Florida retailers can expect a record setting Halloween” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – Across the nation, Americans are expected to spend $9.1 billion on Halloween, up from $8.4 billion last year. In 2016, the average American spent $82.93 on average on Halloween and projections showing that number increasing to $86.13 this year. Almost half of Americans–48 percent- plan to dress up and spend $3.4 billion on costumes while 71 percent of Americans will spend $2.7 billion on candy. Halloween decorations will also lead to $2.7 billion in spending as 49 percent of Americans plan to decorate their home or yard for Halloween. Discount stores will receive a boost over Halloween as 47 percent of shoppers plan to buy costumes and other supplies store. More than a third of Americans–38 percent–will hit Halloween and costume stores while 25 percent intend to buy supplies at supermarkets. Skittles rule the Sunshine State according to Candystore.com with almost 631,000 pounds of that fruit flavored candy sold. Snickers bars take the silver in Florida with more than 587,000 pounds of that candy sold in the state while Reese’s Cups place third with almost 225,000 pounds of it sold in Florida.

Happy birthday to our friends Tiffany Carr and Rick Lindstrom.

Last Call for 10.18.17 – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

The state’s ‘welcome center’ on I-95 will get a sprucing up.

The Marketing Council Steering Committee of VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing agency, announced the renovations during a conference call Wednesday.

The work on the 21-year-old building includes a new roof, air conditioning system, and landscaping.

Lawmakers set aside $750,000 for the repairs, according to VISIT FLORIDA spokesman Stephen Lawson.

The welcome centers also served a vital role after Hurricane Irma as residents who fled the storm came back into the state, officials said. The I-95 center reopened after being closed for five days around the time of the hurricane.

The centers, also on Interstates 10, 75 and U.S. 231, have long been known for greeting tourists and others with a complimentary cup of orange or grapefruit juice.

The first one opened in 1949

Evening Reads

George Soros transfers $18 billion to his foundation, creating an instant giant” via Juliet Chung and Anupreeta Das of the Wall Street Journal

AFP ad: Bill Nelson is standing in the way of a simple, fair tax system” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Andrew Gillum puts Trump-Gold Star widow controversy into Florida governor’s race” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

A Florida county of 15,000 people is the least healthy place in America — here’s why” via Chris Weller of Business Insider

Senate committee to investigate Florida nursing home deaths” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Support the Tax Credit Scholarship to protect Florida’s families” via Robert McClure for Sunshine State News

University chief” Security cost for Richard Spencer speech ‘unfair‘ ” via Jason Dearen of the Associated Press

Hollywood is replacing 3 Confederate street names with universal concepts” via David Neal of the Miami Herald

Too soon to know? Regulators weigh worker’s comp rates” via Mike Moline for Florida Politics

Report: Solar permits surge in Florida” via Trimmel Gomes of Public News Service

Quote of the Day

“Politics is seldom ever so clear cut, but this is truly a moment of moral clarity. Richard Spencer is a neo-Nazi, and his supporters are neo-Nazis … Make no mistake, they are coming to incite violence.” — Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel, on white nationalist Richard Spencer’s planned speech at UF on Thursday.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

The Florida Defense Support Task Force, which works on issues related to military bases and missions, will hold a conference call. It starts at 9 a.m. Call-in number: 1-800-501-8979. Code: 1869945.

Congressman Charlie Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, will participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new ChenMed Dedicated Senior Medical Center. That’s at 10:15 a.m., 901 22nd Ave. South, St. Petersburg.

The Florida Supreme Court is expected to release weekly opinions at 11 a.m.

State Sen. Jack Latvala, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, is set to speak on community redevelopment issues during the annual conference of the Florida Redevelopment Association. That’s at 11 a.m., Hilton Daytona Beach Ocean Front Resort, 100 North Atlantic Ave., Daytona Beach.

The Marion County legislative delegation will meet in preparation for the 2018 session. That’s at 1 p.m., College of Central Florida, Klein Center, 3001 S.W. College Road, Ocala.

The Agency for Health Care Administration will hold a working group meeting about changes in Medicaid nursing-home funding. The changes involve moving to what is known as a “prospective payment” system. It’s at 1 p.m., Agency for Health Care Administration, 2727 Mahan Dr., Tallahassee.

White nationalist Richard Spencer, the leader of the National Policy Institute, will speak at the University of Florida. His remarks begin at 2:30 p.m., University of Florida, Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 3201 Hull Road, Gainesville.

Republican U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney is set to speak to the Republican Women of Cape Coral, Federated. That’s at 6 p.m., Personal Touch Banquet & Catering, 1530 Santa Barbara Blvd., Cape Coral.

Latvala and Attorney General candidate Jay Fant are expected to appear at the Gold Coast Republican Club. That’s at 6 p.m., Galuppi’s, 1103 North Federal Highway, Pompano Beach.

Rep. Julio Gonzalez, a Venice Republican, is expected to speak to the Sarasota Republican Club. He should begin at 6 p.m., Marina Jack Restaurant, 2 Marina Plaza, Sarasota.

A fundraiser is planned in Palm Beach County for Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo at 6 p.m., 303 Evernia St., Suite 300, West Palm Beach.

Republican U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis is expected to speak to the North Pinellas Republican Club at 6 p.m., Leo’s Restaurant, 33286 U.S. 19 North, Palm Harbor.

The Pasco-Hernando State College Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m., Pasco-Hernando State College, West Campus, 10230 Ridge Road, New Port Richey.

Journalist Sharyl Attkisson will speak at a Capital Tiger Bay dinner event beginning 6:45 p.m., Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, 505 West Pensacola St., Tallahassee.

Is Ken Russell running for CD 27? The answer is a six-figure affair

Is Ken Russell running for Congress?

For the Miami City Commissioner, it’s more than a simple yes/no question. It is a six-figure affair.

Perhaps Russell, a well-known toy enthusiast, is being as thoughtful and deliberate about his decision to seek Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat as he is choreographing epic yo-yo routines.

What else can explain the three-month process, raising over $300,000, and spending over $100,000, all to “explore” a run for Congress, even though it seems a foregone conclusion?

Indeed, in the increasingly crowded Democratic primary — now at seven candidates — Russell spent more than any of them: $100,866 in the last quarter.

On October 5, days after the close of the reporting period, Russell told the Miami Herald he was still “seriously considering [a run for Congress] in my heart.” Russell also told the Herald the exploratory committee raised enough money to “go to Washington and conduct polling.”

In the last three months, Russell spent almost $2,500 on travel, as well as more than $20,000 with The Kitchens Group, a longtime Florida-based pollster. So, that accounts for $25,000 — what about the other $75,000 to “decide” if he will run for Congress as Democrat?

For Russell, much of the money went to Republican consultants.

Over $47,000 in expenditures went to his campaign’s general consultant/manager, Fernando Diez. Diez is a Miami Beach-based consultant and lobbyist who helped manage Russell’s surprising victory in the Miami City Commission race.

It should be noted that on Facebook, Diez self-identifies as a Republican; before launching his own firm, he worked for prominent Republican consultant Steve Marin.

Russell’s high-priced “exploration” also included an $8,620 payment to Miami-Dade County fundraising guru, Brian Goldmeier.

While Goldmeier is a registered Democrat and veteran of Alex Sink’s 2010 run for governor, he’s mostly known these days as the money man behind Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, a Republican. In recent years, Goldmeier also raised money for Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Francis Suarez, neither regarded as progressive champions.

Florida’s 27th Congressional District — like Florida writ large — is no bastion of ultra-liberalism. Hillary Clinton won the district 2-1 over Bernie Sanders, as she did the state. But even 2-1 means a third of the district was “feelin’ the Bern.” And just because a Democrat voted for Hillary does not automatically mean they will be OK with a Republican-lite candidate.

Remember, this is a closed Democratic primary in a district Hillary not only won, but took by 20 points.

Russell may be able to Split the Atom; he may even know the secrets of Cold Fusion. But you don’t need to go Around the World to know that Democratic voters aren’t longing for a congressional candidate surrounded by Republicans.

Frank White gets endorsements from N.W. Fla. lawmakers

Three GOP lawmakers from Florida’s Panhandle are lending their support to fellow state Rep. Frank White to become the state’s attorney general, the campaign announced.

Reps. Brad Drake of Eucheeanna, Jayer Williamson of Pace, and Mel Ponder of Destin endorsed White, of Pensacola, on Wednesday.

White “will be the Attorney General Florida needs,” Drake said in a statement. “Frank has the work ethic, leadership skills, and values to make for an effective and outstanding Attorney General. I’m proud to endorse a consistent conservative in Frank White.”

Williamson added: “I couldn’t be more proud to endorse Frank White, a committed conservative and principled candidate for Attorney General. Frank has demonstrated an upmost dedication to the values we in Northwest Florida hold dear: The strongest commitment to family, faith and freedom.”

And Ponder said Florida “needs a conservative Attorney General with great character and integrity. I’m honored to endorse such a candidate in Frank White.

“I’ve had the privilege of working alongside Frank in the legislature, where he has exemplified exceptional leadership, character, and values,”Ponder said. “Florida couldn’t ask for a greater conservative champion for Attorney General than Frank White.”

After receiving the endorsements, White said, “I am honored to have the support of my fellow conservatives here in Northwest Florida.”

White, a general counsel and chief financial officer for a group of auto dealerships, was first elected to the House last year. He joins a GOP primary battle that includes state Rep. Jay Fant of Jacksonville and former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody.

The Cabinet post is open next year because term limits prevent current Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Tampa Republican, from seeking re-election. Democrat Ryan Torrens, an attorney from Hillsborough County, also has filed to run for the seat.

Background from the News Service of Florida, republished with permission. 

Other state capitals begin hunts for their Harvey Weinsteins; will Tallahassee follow suit?

Legislators, aides and lobbyists in California, Rhode Island, and South Dakota are responding to the sexual predation of film producer Harvey Weinstein by saying they will no longer tolerate harassment in the political establishment.

For those working in Florida politics, the question now is, will the power-brokers here follow suit?

More than 140 women in California politics on Tuesday launched a campaign called “We Said Enough,” to denounce what they describe as pervasive sexual misconduct by powerful men in the nation’s most influential legislature, according to the New York Times.

“Each of us has endured, or witnessed or worked with women who have experienced some form of dehumanizing behavior by men with power in our workplaces,” the women wrote. “Men have groped and touched us without our consent, made inappropriate comments about our bodies and our abilities. Insults and sexual innuendo, frequently disguised as jokes, have undermined our professional positions and capabilities.

“Men have made promises, or threats, about our jobs in exchange for our compliance, or our silence. They have leveraged their power and positions to treat us however they would like.”

Political leaders in Rhode Island were among the thousands of women across the country posting ‘MeToo’ on social media alleging sexual harassment and assault. One lawmaker even went on record with the Providence Journal to say, “I have been told sexual favors would allow my bills to go further.”

On Monday, I wrote that the Harvey Weinsteins of Florida politics were hiding in plain sight. The reaction to that piece has been overwhelming. On Facebook, I highlighted my ‘Harvey Weinstein’ column and challenged my friends to tell me if I was wrong about them hiding in plain sight.

I’ve probably heard from a hundred women engaged in Florida politics—state Senators and Representatives, powerful lobbyists, staffers, fundraisers—and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM has said I’m not wrong.

Several women have described on social media how they have been sexually harassed. Offline, the stories shared with me have been even more powerful.

One senior legislative aide shared, “The one and only time I came forward, the House Sergeant told me that I should get better security at my home (where the elected official was showing up uninvited and unwelcome) and that I should think about resigning if it was ‘really that bad.’ ”

No wonder women in Florida’s political process have yet to do what their counterparts in California have done!

Not that I am any more courageous. I haven’t named the lawmaker who described my wife’s breasts as “Monique and Unique.” I haven’t named the former lawmaker who stalked her from bar to bar.

(Let’s not forget the, ahem, unique look of the Florida Capitol’s tower and chamber domes, making it the winner of a 2003 readers’ poll by Cabinet magazine as “the world’s most phallic building.”)

What I’ve learned is, there is a difference—maybe not a bright line—but a difference in those who sexually harass women in The Process.  These men can be dividing into the following groups.

— The “predators”: Legislators who actively seek out young females and coerce them into sex. I would also include those who know and don’t stop young females from allowing themselves to be used.

— The “frat boys”: They treat Session like spring break. Several sources have confided hearing about a group of mostly younger members keeping score of who slept with female lobbyists.

— The “dinosaurs”: Lawmakers and lobbyists who are stuck in the ’70s and have an Archie Bunker view of gender equality. Fortunately, this is a diminishing group.

— The “negotiators”: Those who reward affection with access to inside information and behind the scenes help.

The dilemma that many women face when sexually harassed or essentially groomed into stroking a member’s ego and accepting crude comments about their physical assets is that they fear being cut out of the inner circle, a place which is essential in The Process.

That’s why I doubt this issue will reach a critical mass like it has in Sacramento and Providence.

It will take someone braver than me to light the match that would burn the house down.

Even if that person does not come forward, the upside of this discussion is that it hopefully creates an atmosphere where women—aspiring and established—are appreciated and who advance professionally for their hard work, intellect and character, and not subjected to degrading behavior and groomed into thinking their greater value is in their body.

Sunburn for 10.18.17 — Do it, Pam Bondi; Karen vs. Blaise; Jaguars apologize for kneeling; John Morgan ready to write a check; Tom Lee doesn’t like the dogs

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

What’s old is new again, as rumors re-emerge that Attorney General Pam Bondi could have a job in the Trump administration.

With a new twist in the nomination for the nation’s drug czar, Bondi returns to the spotlight, amid renewed speculation she could be headed to Washington.

U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, President Donald Trump‘s drug czar nominee, withdrew from consideration this week following reports that he played a key role in weakening the federal government’s authority to stop companies from distributing opioids.

There is a good argument to be made for Trump to put Bondi at the top of the list: Her record on fighting drugs in Florida, and her overwhelming success in shutting down the state’s pill mills.

After Trump’s victory, many considered Bondi a sure bet to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy, commonly known as the drug czar.

As a friend of the president, Bondi had a role on Trump’s transition team. Earlier this year, the president appointed her to a White House panel on drug abuse – one of Bondi’s passions as attorney general.

But then, later in the day, came this twist: The Attorney General said she wasn’t sure the country even needed a drug czar.

“I don’t know,” she told reporters after a Florida Cabinet meeting. “I’m in D.C. a lot. I can tell you the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) is doing great, all the executive offices are doing great … Everybody works well together.

“Whether that exact position is needed? I don’t know.”

One thing’s sure: Bondi will be back in Washington Friday for a meeting of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

— @MarcoRubio: Reminder situation in #PuertoRico remains dire as our fellow Americans struggle to find safe drinking water

— @JKennedyReports: Debris hauler Ashbritt boss Randy Perkins, a D who ran for Congress last yr, helped w/angry letter from Fla Cong D’s in battle w/@FLGovScott

— @JeffClemens: Florida SNAP event in John Prince Park today is an absolute nightmare. Traffic backing up for miles in all directions, and onto the highway. Feds, state totally unprepared for crowds.

— @MDixon55: .@Adamputnam wonders why he should take storm advice from @JackLatvala, who questioned if gov was being overly cautious ahead of Irma. Comment came post-Cabinet when asked by reporters. Latvala has been critical of those (Putnam) accepting campaign $ from utilities. Putnam also noted that Latvala has taken utility $ over his 16-year political career. Was most aggressive form of Putnam I’ve seen to date

— @LedgeKing: .@SunStateSurvey finds the environment among top 5 issues facing FL w/most pressing concerns being loss of land for wildlife (20%), invasive species (17%), water-related problems (16%), rising sea levels (15%), & hazardous waste/landfills (11%).

@AdamSmithTimes@FlaDems will hold “Nasty Women and Bad Hombres” Hallown Party at their state conference w @JulianCastro @keithellison, @JasonKander,

— @JeffSchweers: Tallahassee ethics board votes 4-1 to write letter admonishing City Manager for getting discount on daughter’s wedding reception.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***

— D.C. MATTERS —

Marco Rubio, Gus Bilirakis co-sponsored now-controversial drug bill” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Millions of TV viewers learned Sunday of a successful attempt by the drug industry to weaken federal regulations just as the opioid crisis was reaching its peak — and two Florida Republicans played a supporting role. Rep. Bilirakis and Sen. Rubio were among a handful of co-sponsors of the legislation, which sailed through Congress last year … signed into law by President Barack Obama. “The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market,” The Washington Post reported in conjunction with 60 Minutes. “Congressman Bilirakis hoped that this legislation would bring stakeholders at all levels together to discuss ways they could work together to prevent abuse while allowing really sick people like cancer patients, seniors, Veterans, and others with significant pain to get the relief they need with a legitimate prescription,” spokesman Summer Robertson wrote.

Gus Bilirakis and Marco Rubio are under fire for helping weaken regulation of the drug industry, just as the opioid crisis began to peak nationwide.

How a group of Florida tomato growers could help derail NAFTA” via Caitlin Dewey of The Washington Post — Emboldened by the Trump administration’s hostility toward foreign trade, a group of Southeast growers are pushing for tough new protectionist measures against their Mexican rivals — so tough, in fact, that their demands threaten to wreck the negotiations. Those include the demands of the Florida tomato growers, who say Mexico is selling tomatoes in the United States at artificially low prices … Florida producers are pushing for stronger anti-dumping measures — an idea that has been soundly rejected by the Mexicans. The problem, in a word, is humidity. Florida has a whole lot of it … growers can’t use greenhouses, which better protect the vegetables, and they have severe problems with pests and diseases … the Mexican greenhouse industry has taken off, they argue, only because the state helped subsidize it.

Charlie Crist dropped by Salomon Melgen’s house, Melgen’s wife testifies” via Matt Friedman of POLITICO — In 2010, then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist was an uninvited house guest of Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen. That’s according to Melgen’s wife, Flor Melgen, who told the unusual story of how Crist showed up at her house unannounced during her testimony in the corruption trial of Melgen and Sen. Robert Menendez. “He was looking for my husband. He knew that my husband was Bob’s [Menendez] friend, and he was wondering if he might be with him,” Flor Melgen testified. “I didn’t know he was going to spend the night at my home and I wasn’t prepared.” The Crist visit happened on the weekend of Oct. 9, 2010 … Crist didn’t even see Melgen until later that night. Instead, he dined with Flor Melgen, her daughter and son-in-law … she had to pick up food from The Capital Grille. The next day, Crist wrote the Melgens a $100 check to cover his visit.

In 2010, then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist was an uninvited house guest of the wife of Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, who is now on trial for corruption with Sen. Robert Menendez. Crist paid for dinner.

State RNC committeewoman candidate claims ‘Never Trumpers’ within RPOF are undermining her campaign” via John Lucas of The Capitolist — Karen Giorno believes she has the record to be Florida’s next Republican National Committeewoman. “I know the Trump base better than anyone. I am the only MAGA candidate for national committeewoman in this race,” said Giorno. But, the West Palm Beach resident accuses state party leaders, specifically Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, of trying to undermine her candidacy because she is a Trump supporter. “There is a strange dynamic going on here which we saw throughout the campaign, in the primary process, in the post-primary process, going into the convention and then post-convention, and that there are still elements within the Republican Party who are ‘Never Trumpers,’” Giorno said. She claims that “dynamic” is alive in the leadership of the state party.

Jaguars apologize to military for protest during anthem in London” via Jay Busbee of Yahoo Sports — The Jacksonville Jaguars have sent a letter to Bill Spann, director of Jacksonville’s military affairs and veterans department, apologizing for the team’s demonstration. The team, including owner Shad Khan, locked arms during the anthem, with several players kneeling. Jaguars president Mark Lamping said the team was “remiss in not fully comprehending the effect of the national anthem demonstration on foreign soil has had on the men and women who have or continue to serve our country.” Lamping added, “This was an oversight and certainly not intended to send a message that would disparage you, our flag or our nation.” Jacksonville has a significant military presence, with this letter clearly aimed at bridging whatever rifts may have formed between the team and local military.

— STORMS —

Desperate Puerto Ricans line up for water — at a hazardous-waste site” via Arelis R. Hernández and Brady Dennis of The Washington Post — Fencing around the area had been torn open, and a red and white “Peligro” sign, warning of danger, lay hidden beneath debris and dense vegetation. One after another, people attached a hose to draw water for bathing, washing dishes and, in some cases, drinking. They filled buckets, jugs, soda bottles. What many didn’t realize is that the well is one of nearly a dozen that are part of the Dorado Groundwater Contamination Superfund site — designated last year by the Environmental Protection Agency as among the nation’s most toxic sites … Hurricane Maria has brought desperation in many forms. In this corner of the island, many residents still have no reliable source of water and search for access wherever they can.

 

 

After Maria, Puerto Rico citizens are lining up for water wherever they can find it … even at a Superfund site.

Tweet, tweet:

— “Pasco delays Irma food distribution after problems elsewhere” via CT Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times

Debbie Wasserman Schultz continues to seek answers from Rick Scott about debris removal” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Wasserman Schultz, who last week confronted Scott in person over slow debris removal in Florida, today sent a letter amplifying those concerns. The letter, signed by several other Florida Democrats, involves Scott’s refusal to pass along to FEMA debris removal contracts at higher rates than had been negotiated before Hurricane Irma. Companies have been going with the most favorable rates. “Given these concerns, and your office’s unsatisfactory response to them, we were dumbfounded by reports that your administration, following nonpublic bidding, entered into contracts for debris removal in Monroe County at rates far higher than those negotiated before the hurricane,” the letter reads. “This action is clearly inconsistent with your office’s refusal to facilitate reimbursement of contracts at higher rates negotiated by local jurisdictions.”

Disasters could push up insurance rates” via the News Service of Florida – Florida’s insurance commissioner said homeowners’ policies could face some “upward pressure,” as he was asked about the impact on rates from this year’s series of natural disasters. Commissioner David Altmaier said the state Office of Insurance Regulation hasn’t seen any indications that insurers are unable to meet claims from Hurricane Irma … But he said with Irma, Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and devastating wildfires in California, there may be a trickle-down effect from companies that provide backup insurance to insurers. “We would expect some upward pressure on reinsurance rates that might impact the direct rates that Floridians pay, but at this point in time the precise number is a little early to predict,” Altmaier told Scott and the Florida Cabinet.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Adam Putnam throws elbow at Jack Latvala — The two rivals in the GOP primary for governor have smacked each other around the past few weeks, with the most recent hook coming from the Latvala camp. The Pinellas Republican chided Putnam for utility money accounting for much his massive campaign and committee accounts and said that his own campaign for governor, as well as his political committee, would refuse any money from the literal power brokers. Latvala’s son, Rep. Chris Latvala, got a little more aggressive and was a little more direct in going after Putnam for his donor roll via social media. Putnam’s response: “For 16 years he has accepted their money, I’m not sure he is choosing to send all of that back.” Latvala has received about $100K from utilities since the 2012 cycle, during which Putnam collected more than $800K from the industry. In reality, Putnam’s total could be well into the millions due to many of the committees backing him forking over huge sums conspicuously soon after cashing a fat check from utilities.

Blasting Adam Putnam is a family affair for Jack and Chris Latvala.

John Morgan pledges $1M for ‘living wage’ fight” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO – A possible Democratic candidate for governor in 2018, Morgan said he understands that critics will say he’s using the “living wage” proposal to further his potential candidacy. Morgan, though, said he’s not sure he’ll run for governor, but he definitely wants a minimum wage increase on the 2020 ballot. … On Oct. 13, Morgan’s newly formed Florida for a Fair Wage political committee engaged University of Florida law professor Jon Mills to begin drafting a proposed “living wage” constitutional amendment. Mills drafted the medical marijuana initiative for Morgan previously.

David Jolly wonders if ‘the Republic’ would be safer with Democrats taking House” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Jolly on MSNBC suggested the “Republic” might be safer if Democrats take control of the House in 2018 — therefore providing more of a check on President Trump. Jolly … is known for his open criticism of Trump but has gotten increasingly vocal about what he views as the GOP’s unwillingness to confront the president. Some Republicans scoffed at the remarks. Rob Simms: new quote This is a big deal from him? Same member who assisted 60 Minutes expose of colleagues. Even by DC standards, the self-serving is stunning.”

Brian Mast to appear at GOP HQ opening — The Palm City Republican is scheduled to attend the grand opening of the new Republican Party of Palm Beach County headquarters. Event begins 6 p.m. at 1555 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., Suite 500, in West Palm Beach.

Carlos Curbelo outraises Debbie Mucarsel-Powell” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Curbelo raised $431,580 from July 1 to Sept. 30 while Mucarsel-Powell raised $177,048 … The latest quarter is Mucarsel-Powell’s first fundraising total since announcing her bid for Curbelo’s Miami-to-Key West seat in August. Curbelo’s fundraising numbers were down this quarter, as many South Florida politicians chose to suspend fundraising for weeks due to Hurricane Irma. Last quarter, Curbelo raised $705,026. His campaign has raised over $1.7 million in the 2018 cycle so far … Curbelo, a second-term Republican, has garnered financial support from some local Democrats and is one of his party’s leading voices on climate change. Mucarsel-Powell has $161,762 cash on hand while Curbelo has $1.3 million.

— “Lauren Baer Raises $250K, Pam Keith $150K For CD 18 Primary” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

— “CD 27 Scramble Already Draws $2 Million In Campaign Donations” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Spotted on the Republican State Leadership Committee’s list of endorsed candidates: Daniel Perez, a Miami-Dade Republican who defeated Democrat Gabriela Mayaudón to replace state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz.

***AGRiMED Industries is a leading medical cannabis company committed to improving the health and wellness of ailing patients. With state-of-the-art greenhouse facilities and over 200 years of collective experience in the agricultural and health care fields, AGRiMED produces high-quality agricultural medicine with tremendous health benefits. Learn more at AGRiMEDIndustries.com.***

— CAPITOL INSIGHTS —

Cabinet approves protecting Okeechobee ranch land” via the News Service of Florida —  Gov. Scott and the state Cabinet agreed Tuesday to spend about $5.7 million to conserve more than 2,500 acres of ranch land in a deal that nearly depletes this year’s funding for a program used to keep the agricultural property from development. The deal — known as purchasing a conservation easement — allows the owners of the Corona Ranch in Okeechobee County to continue using the land for cattle, but it prevents future development of the property, which drains into the Kissimmee River. Owned by the Corona family, the land, which is less than 5 miles south of Kissimmee Prairie State Park, houses species such as gopher tortoises, fox squirrels, and burrowing owls and has had three recent Florida Panther sightings … About 34 percent of the land is considered wetlands.

Florida school districts file formal challenge to constitutionality of HB 7069” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — 13 Florida school boards including Pinellas County filed suit in Leon County court, challenging the constitutionality of several provisions of the law created by HB 7069. It argues that local school boards have authority over taxation for local schools, which the Legislature attempted to subvert by making requirements for how to use the revenue. It further contends that local school boards are charged with operating, controlling and supervising all free public schools within their districts, and that system of free public schools must be “uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality” … “By creating independent charter ‘Schools of Hope’ in HB 7069, the State is fostering plural, nonuniform systems of education in direct violation of the mandate for a uniform system of free public schools.”

– “Pinellas makes last-ditch plea to legislators to fix HB 7069” via Colleen Wright of the Tampa Bay Times

Speaker demands Port Tampa Bay execs’ expense and travel reports” via the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Speaker Richard Corcoran has formally asked Port Tampa Bay to provide a voluminous amount of information about its expense and travel activity dating back several years.

Richard Corcoran is asking Port Tampa Bay for a full accounting of expense and travel activity going back several years.

Tom Lee may file constitutional amendment to ban dog racing” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — State Sen. Lee, who also sits on the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), has been gauging support for a constitutional amendment to end greyhound racing … Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican running for state Chief Financial Officer in 2018, has called some of the state’s dog track owners to “take their temperature,” said one industry lobbyist, who asked not to be named. “There’s not many people that know about that,” Lee confirmed after a CRC meeting Tuesday. “It’s something that has been on my mind … There’s no question I’m considering it.”

Florida Bar aims to engage Floridians in constitutional review” via Florida Politics — With most Floridians not knowing what the Constitution Revision Commission is or does, The Florida Bar is trying to change that. The Bar launched “Protect Florida Democracy: Our Constitution, Our Rights, Our Courts,” a statewide public education program to fill the void in Floridians’ awareness of constitution revision and engage Floridians in this critical process, according to a news release. “Florida’s constitution determines how much power we the citizens give to our state government and what form that takes,” said Michael J. Higer, president of The Florida Bar. “It is therefore important that we all tune in, stay informed and educated as to any process to amend Florida’s Constitution. It is critical we stay engaged to make sure that we exercise great caution as to any proposed amendment.”

Jason Fischer, Jeff Brandes introduce self-driving cars bill” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — HB 353 would allow for the safe and legal operation of “autonomous vehicles.” The bill also calls for updating sections of Florida’s motor vehicle laws that “require or presume” there’s a human behind the wheel. Fischer stressed the safety that autonomous vehicles would bring to Florida. “Every year in the United States, tens of thousands of people are killed in motor vehicle-related crashes, and more than 90 percent of those crashes are caused by human error,” he said. “Because autonomous vehicles have the potential to significantly reduce or even eliminate this error, I plan to do everything in my power to bring these lifesaving technologies to the Sunshine State.” The bill is being sponsored in the Senate by St. Petersburg Republican Brandes, who has been a champion for AV technology.

— “Self-Driving cars could ease traffic, but increase sprawl” Via Matt O’Brien Of The Associated Press

St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes has been a champion for AV technology.

Jeanette Nuñez, Rene Garcia file bill to ban state from investing in businesses with ties to Maduro regime” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – SB 538/HB 359 come on the heels of an announcement Scott made this summer when he threatened to introduce an agenda item before the Trustees of the State Board Administration in August which would prohibit the Sunshine State from doing any business with organizations supporting the Maduro regime. The SBA eventually voted unanimously to approve Scott’s proposed resolution — and now it’s headed to the Florida Legislature for another round of approval. Nunez and Garcia said proposals like theirs would be pivotal in helping bring a light of hope to the Venezuelan people. “This important legislation shows that Florida continues to stand strong against the brutal Maduro regime and any business that supports their oppressive leadership,” Garcia said. “We will continue fighting for human rights and democracy for our friends in Venezuela.”

Tahirih Justice Center thanks lawmakers for bills banning child marriage” via Florida Politics — Republicans Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto and Reps. Jeanette Nuñezand Frank White filed identical bills in the House and Senate — HB 335 and SB 140 — that would outlaw marriage for anyone under 18. Democratic Rep. Daisy Baez filed a similar measure, HB 71, earlier this year in response to news reports of a Cutler Bay man who committed suicide rather than face possible legal repercussions for sexually abusing multiple girls — one of whom he married — lured into his home as foreign exchange students. “Allowing children to marry robs them of a childhood and forces them into mature situations for which they are not physically, emotionally or financially prepared,” said Jeanne Smoot, the senior counsel for policy and strategy at Tahirih.

Broward Delegation public meeting, votes on leaders — In a public hearing ahead of the 2018 Legislative Session, the Broward County Legislative Delegation choose its leaders. Meeting begins 9 a.m. At the Sunrise Civic Center, 10610 West Oakland Park. in Sunrise.

Lee County Delegation holds public meeting — State Sens. Lizbeth Benacquisto of Fort Myers, Kathleen Passidomo of Naples and Denise Grimsley of Sebring, will join Reps. Matt Caldwell of North Fort Myers, Dane Eagle of Cape Coral, Heather Fitzenhagen of Fort Myers and Ray Rodrigues of Estero for a meeting in preparation for the 2018 Session. Meeting begins 9 a.m. at the Florida Southwestern State College Nursing Building, 8099 College Parkway in Fort Myers.

— STATEWIDE —

State says law enforcement ready for UF speech” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said authorities are prepared to handle people who commit or encourage violence when a white-nationalist leader speaks Thursday at the University of Florida … Gov. Scott got backing from Cabinet members for the state of emergency he declared in Alachua County … issued at the request of Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell, included putting the Florida National Guard on standby, in advance of the appearance by “alt-right” leader Richard Spencer. Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen intends to be in Gainesville. “Those who show up to exercise their constitutional rights under the First Amendment, they will have no issues,” Swearingen said. “Those who show up to engage in or encourage violence, they are going to have problems. We will be prepared to deal with those folks.”

The head of Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement intends to be in Gainesville for Richard Spencer’s speech.

State targets pharmaceutical company in stock case” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — In a rare move, Florida is considering taking on a large pharmaceutical company, alleging the state’s pension fund lost some $127 million in stock value because of federal security violations by the company. The State Board of Administration … will decide next month whether to hire a New York-based law firm to pursue a “direct action” case against Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., rather than joining a class-action lawsuit against the company. Valeant has been accused of violating federal securities regulations by marking up drug prices and then selling the drugs through a pharmacy network, without disclosing the full scope of the transactions to the stockholders. “In my view, if the SBA files a direct action, the SBA may be able to enhance its recovery above the class action recovery by double-digit millions of dollars,” Ash Williams, head of the State Board of Administration, said in a memorandum.

Florida minimum wage rising 15 cents amid calls for $15 hourly” via Paul Brinkmann of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s minimum wage will rise by 15 cents, to $8.25, starting in January, but it will have little impact on Central Florida because theme parks and many national chains — including Disney World and Target — are increasing minimum hourly pay to $10 and $11 this year. Target pledged to raise the minimum by 2020 to $15 hourly. A union coalition representing Disney workers also is aiming for that figure in ongoing negotiations — saying it represents a “living wage” that would also help boost the economy by sparking more consumer spending. But about 150 businesses in Florida said they would need to cut staff if the minimum wage rises to $15, among 300 businesses surveyed recently by the Employment Policy Institute. “Many companies are choosing to raise wages voluntarily. We’d argue that this suggests the lack of need for a broad mandate that some small businesses cannot absorb,” said Justin Bruneau, a spokesman for the institute.

PSC regulators say no to FPL nuclear fees without financial analysis” via Susan Salisbury of the Palm Beach Post — Without a required feasibility analysis to show that two new proposed nuclear reactors are a good deal for customers, Florida Power & Light Co. cannot collect costs incurred after 2016, the Florida Public Service Commission decided …  PSC commissioners unanimously agreed with a staff recommendation that because FPL failed to submit a required financial analysis, costs incurred for the two reactors from Jan. 1, 2017, going forward cannot be collected through nuclear power-related fees customers pay. Since 2009 Juno Beach-based FPL has sought an operating license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the proposed 2,200-megawatt Turkey Point 6 and 7 reactors which could cost as much as $21.8 billion. They might never be built, or no sooner than 2031, at the same facility where FPL already has two operating reactors overlooking Biscayne Bay south of Miami.

Happening today — Workers’ compensation rate reduction discussed — The Florida Office Of Insurance Regulation will consider a proposal by the National Council On Compensation Insurance to reduce the rates of workers’ compensation insurance In 2018. Meeting begins 1 p.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building in the Capitol.

Fentanyl fuels rise in drug deaths in South Florida” via Ryan Van Velzer of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — County medical examiners have compiled statistics for Florida’s upcoming report on 2016 drug overdoses, showing the cause of death from certain drugs doubled, tripled and, in some cases, quadrupled the number of fatalities in 2015, records show … Deaths from fentanyl leapt in Palm Beach County from 80 in 2014 to 324 in 2016. Broward County saw a similar rise, increasing from 44 in 2014 to 180 in 2016. Cocaine-fueled overdose deaths doubled in both counties last year, killing 214 in Palm Beach and 265 in Broward last year, records show. County medical examiners listed two or more drugs as the cause of death in about two-thirds of all overdose cases in Palm Beach and Broward counties in 2016. Often the death is listed as the “combined toxic effects” of drugs including fentanyl, heroin, morphine, cocaine, alcohol, oxycodone and alprazolam (an anti-anxiety medication commonly referred to by the brand name Xanax).

Carlos Beruff has entered the fray to lure a new Amazon corporate headquarters to Manatee County.

Look what Carlos Beruff is up to — “Manatee County homebuilder submits Amazon headquarters bid” via Mark Gordon of YourObserver.com — … a project that would include up to 50,000 employees and some $5 billion in capital investments. The bid, officially submitted by FedEx to Amazon’s original Seattle headquarters, comes from Sarasota-Manatee homebuilder Carlos Beruff. The site he proposed is 935 acres in north Manatee County, on the Manatee-Hillsborough County line, just off Interstate 75. Beruff, the founder of Medallion Homes, bought the land for about $5 million in 2013. “We can build a city for them here,” Beruff said. “They will have a blank palate.” Manatee County wasn’t in the national conversation until Beruff chatted with Sarasota County Commissioner Mike Moran, a longtime friend. Moran mentioned the Manatee land Beruff owned, and he put the builder in touch with Sarasota area urban planner Shay Atluru, president and CEO of engineering consulting firm DTC. Atluru, in turn, worked with planning firm Looney Ricks Kiss on the initial Manatee County-Amazon HQ2 proposal for Beruff and his team.

— OPINIONS —

Tom Rooney: Still time for Senate to save Florida citrus” for The Hill — For the past decade, Florida’s citrus growers have been on the ropes battling a disease that causes their trees to produce yellowing leaves and small fruit … Greening has now spread to virtually every grove in the state and has decreased crop production dramatically. Over this past year, state and federal funding for greening research coupled with growers’ own investments in HLB therapies began to show promise. Growers’ trees were looking healthier, there was less fruit on the ground, and many longtime growers were projecting a rebound. It finally looked like they had turned a corner. That all changed when Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida. This storm is a potential deathblow to the Florida citrus industry. However, all hope is not lost. The federal government can provide Florida’s agriculture industry the lifeline it needs to survive this storm. One thing must be made clear: if the federal government does not do something immediately, I am afraid this crop, this way of life, this state treasure, could become a thing of the past. We must not let that happen.

Carol Dover: Protect Florida tourists, neighborhoods by stopping illegal hotel operators” via Florida Politics – Far from the concept of “home sharing,” where homeowners welcome a guest into their residence on an occasional basis, this new phenomenon involves commercial operators acquiring and listing multiple units in the same residential neighborhood and/or listing these units in a “revolving door” fashion. In other words, these real estate speculators are operating de facto hotels without adhering to the common-sense regulations and tax obligations every other hotel or inn in the State must follow. As a practical matter, this means that when a short-term rental goes awry — by becoming a year-round party house in a sleepy residential neighborhood, or the site of a bedbug outbreak — impacted consumers and neighbors have little recourse, and the unscrupulous landlord can continue to operate their short-term rentals unchecked. Our lawmakers must take this new and growing trend seriously, as they will ultimately make the tough decisions on how to respect the property rights of homeowners while reining in those commercial operators operating outside of current law.

— MOVEMENTS —

John Thrasher among veterans named to Hall of Fame” via the News Service of Florida — Florida State University President Thrasher, a former state House speaker who served in the Vietnam War, is among 20 members of the 2017 class of the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame. Gov. Scott and the Florida Cabinet approved the class recommended by the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame Council. A display of hall of fame members is on a wall near the east entrance of the Florida Capitol. An induction ceremony is being planned for the week after Thanksgiving.

Reappointed Mario Bailey to South Florida Regional Planning Council.

New and renewed lobbying registrations

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Ocean Park Condominium Association, American Clinical Solutions

Ron BookRana BrownKelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency

Jennifer BraistedMichelle BranhamCyrena DuncanEvan Holler: Alzheimer’s Association

Kevin CabreraEdgar CastroNelson Diaz, Southern Strategy Group: Brightgray Solutions

Rosanna Catalano, Capitol Energy Florida: City of Punta Gorda, Poseidon Resources

Jonathan Costello, Rutledge Ecenia: US Iron

Gabrielle Craft, Ard Shirley & Rudolph: Florida Cattlemen’s Association, Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association, Hialeah

Hayden Dempsey, Greenberg Traurig: The Unlimited Path

Mercer FearingtonJim Smith, Southern Strategy Group: AZ Ocala Ranch, Gulfstream Natural Gas System

Susan Goldstein, The Legis Group: Jacksonville School for Autism, Mix’d Greens

Nicholas IarossiKen GrangerDean IzzoChristopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: Rick Staab

Mike Haridopolos: MJS Capital Holdings

Carly Hermanson: Allstate Insurance Company, Castle Key Insurance

Lisa Miller, Lisa Miller and Associates: Pier Associates

Allen MorthamSandra Mortham, Mortham Governmental Consultants: Sunstate Academy

Greg Parks, Parks Advocacy Group: BrightGray Solutions

Kirk Pepper, GrayRobinson: Florida Nurses Association

Joy Ryan, Meenan: Brighthouse Financial

Craig Wright: Office of Insurance Regulation

— ALOE —

Alligators are out there eating sharks, no big deal” via Amy Wang of The Washington Post — The American alligator has long been known as a fierce apex predator, easily capable of taking down its typical freshwater prey — fish, crustaceans, wading birds — and very occasionally going after humans. But its diet may extend further than previously thought. When given the chance, these gators will travel into saltwater environments and feed on marine animals such as stingrays and sharks, according to a new study published in the journal Southeastern Naturalist. James Nifong, the lead author of the study, spent nearly a decade observing American alligator populations along the coasts of Florida and Georgia … Nifong and the teams he worked with temporarily caught more than 500 alligators and pumped their stomachs using a hose, a pipe and something of a Heimlich maneuver … alligators had consumed three new species of sharks and one new species of stingray, Nifong said. He estimated that the largest sharks eaten were 3 to 4 feet long, while the largest stingrays consumed were probably 2 to 3 feet long.

Happy birthday to GrayRobinson’s Tim Cerio, INFLUENCE 100 alum Marcus Jadotte, and the awesome Monica Rodriguez of Ballard Partners.

Pulling back the curtain on “Families for Better Care”

Since the dawn of time, trial lawyers and medical groups have been at war, locked in a battle over legislation to give one an advantage over the other.

Nearly everyone in The Process knows this, and it’s not likely to change anytime soon.

What’s not widely known are the direct ties between certain so-called “patient advocacy groups” and trial lawyers with dollar signs in their eyes, looking to capitalize on potentially lucrative opportunities.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, all this has bubbled back to the surface. There are lots of conversations on what could have been done better — in fact, House Speaker Richard Corcoran created a select committee to investigate how the state and private sectors can be better prepared for the next major storm.

The poster child for what went wrong during Irma was the preventable tragedy of 14 elderly residents who died at the Hollywood Hills Nursing Center. Lawyers on both sides will thrash through what happened, but just about everyone can agree there were significant mistakes made.

One isolated catastrophe does not mean the state must step in and set up regulation after regulation that would affect each of the 600+ nursing homes in Florida — not when the tragedy was confined to one home.

Yet even before the hurricane debris is off the streets, attorneys and lawmakers were hard at work trying to ride the media wave to pass legislation that would change the dynamic between nursing homes and trial attorneys.

There are entire law firms that focus solely on nursing home-related cases. Some of those cases are absolutely warranted as the Hollywood Hills case appears to be. But oftentimes the cases are clearly attempting to reap a huge payday and rack up high-dollar legal fees.

One of the groups purporting to “advocate for quality nursing home care” goes by the upbeat name Families for Better Care. Brian Lee, who previously headed Florida’s long-term care ombudsman program, leads the group.

Lee’s seemingly independent organization is advocating for more regulations and restrictions on nursing homes — and possibly changes to tort law — to make it easier to sue these homes.

It turns out, he has a good reason. Law firms make up a very significant portion of the contributions to Lee’s group.

For instance, from 2011 to 2015, Tampa-based law firm Wilkes & McHugh — whose website touts its experience suing nursing homes — gave more than a half-million dollars to Families for Better Care. That number doesn’t even include contributions from the last couple years.

In an interview with Sunshine State News in 2014, Lee described his relationship with the law firm: “I have to admit, we wouldn’t be able to exist without Wilkes & McHugh.”

While the folks at Wilkes & McHugh might explain it away as simply supporting a good cause, the reality is that Families for Better Care will almost certainly be a vocal advocate for legislation benefiting trial attorneys — particularly firms making a living by suing nursing homes and assisted living facilities statewide.

From now through Sine die in (hopefully) March, lawmakers need to take a close look at nursing home regulations. Things like requiring generators — with a reasonable timeline for implementation — seem like a good idea. But legislative leaders need to use a scalpel to modify the laws we already have on the books, not a hatchet to wipe away years and years of well-reasoned policies.

Regardless, as this issue — with its limitless “proposed solutions” — makes its way through the legislative process, follow the money and keep an eye out for groups purporting to be on the side of the consumer.

It’s entirely possible they’re really just looking to score a big payday for a handful of law firms.

 

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