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.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Carlos Beruff’s ‘constitutional’ angst

The head of the panel now eyeing the state’s constitution for changes says “more than 50 percent of the 103 proposed constitutional revisions filed by (its) commissioners represent public ideas.”

Carlos Beruff, chair of the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), this week recounted how his board “traveled the state listening to Floridians and reviewed thousands of public proposals and comments.”

“Much like the previous CRC in 1997-98 advanced ‘general concepts’ based on public input, we identified general themes and ideas that were submitted by Floridians and then crafted proposals in the appropriate legal language,” he said in a statement.

“More than 50 percent of the 103 proposed constitutional revisions filed by (its) commissioners represent public ideas,” says CRC chair Carlos Beruff.

Sounds like Beruff still is smarting from a Miami Herald story last month that dinged the commission for accepting only “a few” ideas from the public to improve Florida’s governing document.

“In a swift, 20-minute meeting, the panel … rejected all but a few of the 2,012 public proposals submitted …, advancing only six of them, after months of encouraging the public to submit ideas,” that story began.

Beruff isn’t having it.

“Altogether, more than 740 public proposal submissions are represented by commissioner proposals,” he said. “If you also consider the Commissioner proposals inspired by ideas presented by Floridians at CRC public hearings, this representation is even higher.

“Proposals are now being referred to CRC committees for further review and consideration. We encourage Floridians to stay engaged in the CRC process as we move forward.”

The commission is formed every 20 years to review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document. Any amendments it places directly on the 2018 statewide ballot still must be OK’d by 60 percent of voters to be added to the constitution.

A spreadsheet organizing the topics can be viewed at flcrc.gov/Reference.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jim Rosica, Ana Ceballos, Michael Moline, Andrew Wilson, Danny McAuliffe and Peter Schorsch.

But first, a program note: Takeaways will not appear next week because of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Now, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Bittel out at FDP — Less than a year after taking office, Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel resigned following mounting pressure for him to step down. This was after reports he would belittle and make suggestive remarks to women in the workplace. Allison Tant, the state party’s immediate past chair, told Florida Politics that at least seven women complained to her about the inappropriate and demeaning behavior they endured while he was at the helm. Tant said several women left their jobs because of his behavior. Bittel said in a statement, “When my personal situation becomes distracting to our core mission of electing Democrats and making Florida better, it is time for me to step aside.” The millionaire South Florida developer apologized for his behavior and did not deny the accounts of six unnamed women who called him “creepy” and “demeaning” in a POLITICO Florida report.

Job numbers looking good — After an uncharacteristically subdued release of September job numbers after Hurricane Irma, Gov. Rick Scott was able to thump his chest with October numbers. The top-line takeaway: Unemployment down to 3.6 percent, the lowest number in a decade. Florida added more than 127,000 private sector jobs in October; all told, 1.4 million jobs have been added under Scott’s administration. “I am proud to announce today that Florida’s unemployment rate has reached a more than 10-year low of 3.6 percent and that more than 127,000 private-sector jobs were created in October. While Hurricane Irma was a devastating storm,” Scott said in a statement, “we have worked day after day to help communities recover and send a message across the world that Florida is open for business.”

Senate hires outside lawyers — As Sen. Jack Latvala faces sexual harassment allegations under a Senate investigation, Senate President Joe Negron hired a legal team to represent the chamber through the proceedings. Weeks after Senate general counsel Dawn Roberts recused herself, Negron hired three attorneys from the politically connected GrayRobinson law firm. Among those is George Meros, who has worked on several high-profile state government cases in recent years. He also represented then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential recount. The Senate agreed to pay the attorneys — at taxpayers’ expense — on an hourly rate. Attorney Brian Bieber will earn $600 an hour; Meros will make $550 an hour; and Allison Mawhinney will charge $345 an hour, according to the contract.

Hurricane committee hunkers down — It’s turkey time for some lawmakers, but crunchtime for those charged with addressing hurricane readiness. The House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness met for the fifth time this week. Now equipped with info on the statewide woes of the 2017 hurricane season, the committee transitions to its final job: Policy recommendations. “This is it for our fact-finding mission and our education phase of our work,” Chair Jeanette Nuñez said. She expects there will be two committee meetings in December, where “the rubber hopefully will meet the road.”

Confederate statue’s time dwindling? — A likeness of educator and civil-rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune is one step closer to replacing a statue of a Confederate general as one of Florida’s two representatives in the U.S. Capitol. The Senate Appropriations Committee cleared a bill to replace the statue of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith with Bethune, who lived 1875-1955. Each state has two statues on display in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. Florida’s other statue, a marble rendering of scientist-inventor Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola, a pivotal figure in the invention of air conditioning, will remain. The move to replace Smith’s statue came after a renewed debate in recent years about Confederate symbols, including the battle flag ubiquitous in the South.

Volunteer firefighters weekend back on

The 12th annual Northwest Florida Volunteer Firefighter Weekend, postponed from September because of Hurricane Irma, will take place this weekend, Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis announced.

More than 200 volunteer firefighters registered for the rescheduled event, which offers free classroom and field training courses to volunteer firefighters.

Northwest Florida Volunteer Firefighter Weekend offers free classroom and field training courses to volunteer firefighters.

Hosted at the Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, the event is open to all volunteer firefighters, EMS, law enforcement, and military in Florida and all southeast states.

“Volunteer fire departments offer lifesaving services to our communities, oftentimes operating on very low budgets,” Patronis said in a statement. “We must do everything we can to ensure that our firefighters have every bit of the training and expertise they need to safely perform their jobs.”

Active shooter response and animal first aid courses, as well as live burn classes, will be available.

Pam Bondi urges action on ‘opioid oversupply’

Attorney General Bondi joined 43 other attorneys general last week to send a National Association of Attorneys General policy letter to congressional leaders, according to a news release.

They urged the repeal of a 2016 federal law to restore the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to hold drug manufacturers and distributors of opioids accountable.

“The opioid crisis is affecting families across our country, and we need every tool available to combat this epidemic and save lives. To ensure the Drug Enforcement Administration is able to stop the oversupply of dangerous prescription opioids, Congress must repeal the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016,” Bondi said.

Pam Bondi signed on to a letter urging the DEA to take more action on ‘opioid oversupply.’

The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016 severely limit the DEA’s response to the opioid crisis. In 2016, more than 2 million Americans had an addiction to prescription or illicit opioids. Since 2000, more than 300,000 Americans have died from overdoses involving opioids.

According to the NAAG letter, the Act effectively strips the DEA’s ability to issue an immediate suspension order against a drug manufacturer or distributor whose unlawful conduct poses an immediate danger to public health or safety.

Florida is one of the states leading an extensive multistate investigation into major manufacturers and distributors of opioids. As part of this effort, the bipartisan coalition of 41 state attorneys general recently sent subpoenas and demanded additional information about potentially unlawful practices in the distribution, marketing and sale of opioids.

Leaders talk about improving workforce educational attainment

A nationwide campaign to bolster the state’s workforce with adults that have a degree, industry certification or an education certificate by 2025 is in motion.

The campaign, called RISE to 55 and led by Florida’s Higher Education Coordinating Council, is partly in response to a study saying that by 2025, the state will have more jobs requiring postsecondary education but that workers will be ill-equipped to fill those positions.

By 2025, Florida will have more jobs requiring postsecondary education but that workers will be ill-equipped to fill those positions.

To address this issue, leaders in business, government and economic development representing 15 counties from across the Gulf Coast gathered this week to debate the importance of increasing the current 47 percent threshold of working-age adults with postsecondary education to 55 in the next seven years.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Patronis, Florida College System Chancellor Madeline Pumariega, who is spearheading the campaign, and local leaders in higher education led the discussion at Florida State University, Panama City.

“For Florida to reach 55 percent attainment, we need buy-in from every community to make postsecondary education part of our culture,” said Pumariega. “Championing higher education is championing a sustainable Florida economy.”

Instagram of the week

Governor. Senator. Dad.

A post shared by Gwen Graham (@gwengrahamfl) on

The week in appointments

Metz returning to vets’ panel — Gov. Scott reappointed state Rep. Larry Metz to the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame Council.

Metz, a Yalaha Republican, has served in the Florida House of Representatives since 2010 and has practiced with the Metz Law Firm P.A. since 2007.

He also was in the U.S. Marine Corps 1976-82, including active duty until 1980.

Metz received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and a law degree from Florida State University.

He is appointed for a term beginning Nov. 15 and ending June 30, 2020.

Top cop named to trafficking board — Scott appointed of Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan to the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking.

Bevan, 52, of Bradenton, is a 31-year veteran law enforcement officer who most previously served as Assistant Chief at the St. Petersburg Police Department.

She received her bachelor’s degree from Saint Leo University, her master’s degree from Troy State University, and her doctor of education degree from Argosy University.

Bevan fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning Nov. 15, and ending June 30, 2018.

Rick Scott appoints two to Medical Examiners Commission — Scott announced the appointment of Sheriff James Reid and State Attorney Jeffrey Siegmeister to the Medical Examiners Commission.

Reid, 70, will fill a vacant seat due to the resignation of Sheriff Paul Beseler. His term began Nov. 14 and will end Aug. 21, 2021.

Siegmeister, a 45-year-old State Attorney from Live Oak, will replace Angela Corey following her resignation. His term also began Nov. 14 and will last until July 1, 2019.

Republicans lead bills placed on House committees

From the total 60 measures that have been put on committee agendas in the Florida House, as of Nov. 6, the vast majority has been sponsored by Republicans.

According to a weekly roundup by the House Democratic Caucus, 66 percent of the bills were sponsored by Republicans; nine of those were introduced by Democrats and 11 proposals have bipartisan cosponsorship.

The report is released every week in “commitment to openness and transparency,” the report says.

Heavy duty

Did Jay Trumbull miss the meeting when the House leadership doled out responsibility for carrying this year’s assignment of benefits package?

That’s often how one “volunteers” for a thankless job. (Or as Tampa Republican Jamie Grant put it this week in another committee, getting “voluntold.”)

Jay Trumbull pulls some heavy duty.

“I got a call from the chair a couple of Fridays ago that said we’re going to run assignment of benefits out of Judiciary and he’d like me to run it,” said Trumbull, a Panama City Republican.

He spoke right after the bill (PCB JDC 18-01) cleared the full committee.

Trumbull is well acquainted with the issue, having sat through lengthy hearings before the Commerce Committee during the spring Legislative Session.

He must know all about it, right?

“I wouldn’t say all about it,” he demurred. “I’m still learning a pretty good bit.”

Sean Shaw to host minority transportation forum

State Rep. Shaw, a Tampa Democrat, will host a transportation forum to help citizens connect with transportation leaders Wednesday.

The speakers will include various leaders representing various transportation and transit entities that keep Tampa moving, and they will help clear up questions about transportation issues impacting the area.

Sean Shaw is looking to help citizens connect with transportation leaders.

It will also be an effort to open the door to those who want to get involved with the effort to better transportation in the region.

“Transportation improvement and transit innovations are coming to Tampa, and it is important that all residents are able to express their concerns, questions and ideas,” Shaw said.

The forum will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Children’s Board-Hillsborough, located at 1002 E. Palm Avenue.

Robert Asencio files apprenticeship bill

Rep. Asencio, a Miami Democrat, wants school districts, colleges and universities to encourage the expansion of apprenticeship programs.

Asencio filed legislation (HB 711) this week that would create a ‘Earn to Learn Grant Program” within the Department of Education, which would be tasked with developing an application process for students eligible for grants.

Robert Asencio filed legislation to create a ‘Earn to Learn Grant Program,” for an application process for students eligible for grants.

“By allocating our resources to develop the next generation of Florida workers, we’re giving them a chance to get a high wage, permanent job here at home,” Asencio said.

The bill would also create a Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion to study ways to grow these opportunities.

Janet Cruz touts help for small business

Last session, House Democratic Leader Cruz of Tampa offered an amendment to legislation aimed at reforming and increasing transparency at VISIT FLORIDA that would create a Targeted Marketing Assistance Program (TMAP) for minority, rural and agritourism businesses.

That amendment was adopted during the regular session and became a part of the final legislation that was passed during the special session and was signed into law by Gov. Scott.

Janet Cruz is looking to help small businesses in Florida.

Under the new program, small, minority, rural, and agritourism businesses with gross income not exceeding $500,000, or a 501(c)(3) under IRS guidelines, can apply for increased aid from VISIT FLORIDA in helping to get the word out about their organization.

If accepted into the program, all of the assistance is offered free of charge, with a discounted rate to join the Small Business Partnership to receive additional benefits.

“The goal of my amendment last year was to ensure that we’re not just focusing on the needs of our largest corporations, but that we are giving our mom and pop shops the resources they need to succeed,” Cruz said in a statement.

Loranne Ausley named finalist in ‘Ideas Challenge’

State Rep. Ausley is a finalist in the 2017 New Ideas Challenge, a competition among “rising and innovative state and local policymakers to identify effective ways to address the anxieties facing many Americans in the new economy,” according to a news release.

Ausley’s “Whole Child Leon” initiative was a finalist in the “Future of Families” category. “Whole Child Leon has brought together public, private and nonprofit partners, business leaders, elected officials, educators, health care providers, parents and caregivers to work together toward systemic change.

Loranne Ausley is being lauded for a ‘New Idea’ in Tallahassee.

“Key initiatives include the monthly Professional Network Community Conversation, Early Childhood Developmental Screenings, and the Pediatric Behavioral Health Navigator, which provides integration of quality behavioral health services for all children and families through referrals from area pediatricians, the Early Learning Coalition, and community partners,” the release said.

“I am thrilled to be included in this group of talented and innovative leaders from across the country,” Ausley said in a statement. “This is an exciting opportunity to share the work we have done with Whole Child Leon in our community and to learn from other outstanding work being done to help more Americans get ahead. I look forward to bringing these ideas back to Tallahassee to help everyday Floridians and their families.”

Florida Workers’ Advocates responds to workers’ comp vote

As lawmakers try to pass workers’ compensation legislation, some industry groups are not too pleased with what is being pushed so far.

Mark Touby, the president of Florida Workers’ Advocates, said the bill passed by the House Commerce Committee this week would “turn workers’ compensation grand bargain to protect injured workers into a grand illusion.”

“Lawmakers have an opportunity to provide a constitutional approach to workers’ compensation reform that would bring rate stability to the market, increase transparency in ratemaking, spur free-market competition among insurers and enhance benefits for injured workers,” Touby said.

The bill would revise workers’ compensation law to include direct payment of attorneys by or for claimants and increasing the total combined temporary wage replacement benefits from 104 weeks to 260 weeks.

DEP launches recycling initiative

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection wants Floridians to know more about recycling.

The department launched a public education campaign, titled “Rethink. Reset. Recycle,” this week with Waste Management, MARPAN, Waste Connections and Single Stream Recyclers, LLC. The website is FloridaRecycles.org.

Floridians will soon be learning more about recycling.

The campaign seeks to teach Floridians the basics when it comes to recycling. Right now, about 30 percent of household materials recycled in Florida are actually not recyclable, which shuts down processing centers for hours at a time.

“With the increased popularity of curbside recycling across Florida’s 67 counties, we’ve seen a big increase in participation — but many items ending up in the bins aren’t actually recyclable at curbside,” Joe Ullo, DEP division director, said in a statement.

According to DEP, eliminating contamination of recycling could lead to about $100 million in savings each year.

FSU professor recognized

Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice professor Eric Stewart has been named a fellow of the prestigious American Society of Criminology.

Stewart joined just three other highly distinguished criminologists honored during the society’s annual conference Nov. 15 in Philadelphia.

Criminologist Eric Stewart.

The honor distinguishes those who have made significant contributions to the discipline, contributed to the career development of other criminologists or participated in organizational activities within the society.

“I’m definitely humbled and honored,” Stewart said. “The American Society of Criminology is the premier flagship professional organization for criminologists.”

Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge tours Japan

After being selected as the representative for the National Association of Counties (NACo), Leon County Commissioner Desloge headed to the Land of the Rising Sun.

He began participating in the Local Government Exchange and Cooperation Seminar 2017 organized by the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR), which includes a seminar in Tokyo and a study tour of Rikuzentakata City, the local authority in regional Japan, according to a news release.

Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge.

The program will last until Nov. 15. Desloge is Immediate Past President of NACo.

“During my time as the president of the National Association of Counties, I had the opportunity to share best practices and learn from the best-of-the-best in county government across the nation,” Desloge said in a statement.

“I am eager to share what I have learned with government representatives here in Japan, and I look forward to the opportunity to exchange ideas, best practices, and so much more with the local government employees of Rikuzentakata City and beyond.”

Rikuzentakata City was one of the areas most affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. The disaster claimed 1,700 lives and destroyed more than 3,000 buildings. Desloge will see how local governments can promote town planning, even after a disaster, “to live a comfortable and secure life,” the release said.

Leon County Commission reorganization set

A reorganization ceremony for the Leon County Board of County Commissioners will be held Tuesday, Nov. 28, in the Commission Chambers, fifth floor of the Leon County Courthouse, 301 S. Monroe St.

The ceremony will begin at 3 p.m. and will be presided over by Clerk of Courts Gwen Marshall.

During the ceremony, the commission will elect a chairman and vice chairman for the 2017-18 year and the newly elected chairman will take the oath of office. After the formality, the Board will reconvene for the regularly scheduled board meeting.

Lecture series looks inside CRC

The Leon County Library Lecture Series returns with “The Room Where it Happens: An Insider’s View of the Constitution Revision Commission,” presented by G.C. Murray Jr.

Murray is the Florida Justice Association’s deputy general counsel and works with the legal, political and legislative teams.

The lecture will be held at the LeRoy Collins Leon County Main Library, 200 W. Park Ave. in downtown Tallahassee, 7 p.m. Nov. 27.

Once every 20 years, the Constitution Revision Commission convenes to conduct a thorough review and propose amendments to the Florida Constitution. This lecture will discuss the history and importance of the Constitution Revision Commission, the major players, the background noise, and predictions of what will change in Florida’s Constitution.

All Leon County Library Lecture Series events are free and open to the public.

Tallahassee airport upgrades completed

Thank goodness for small favors: The Tallahassee International Airport (TLH) announced the “completion of upgrades to the airport security checkpoint … in time for the busy holiday travel season.”

“Completion of this work restores two passenger processing lanes and paves the way for future growth and development,” a news release said.

Tallahassee International Airport completed upgrades to the security checkpoint … just in time for the holiday travel season.

“Passengers will notice several upgrades designed to enhance the overall travel experience and increase operational efficiencies.”

The airport is owned and operated by the City of Tallahassee, with daily flights to Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas-Fort Worth, Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale and Washington, D.C. (effective Feb. 15).

Thanksgiving #1 day for home cooking fires

CFO and State Fire Marshal Patronis is advising Floridians to be safe in the kitchen this Thanksgiving.

“Every year, hundreds of avoidable cooking accidents happen,” he said in a statement. “In fact, the National Fire Protection Association reports that Thanksgiving is the No. 1 day of the year for home cooking fires. Anything from turkey frying gone wrong to a pot left on the stove too long can cause a fire, and there’s nothing that will ruin a holiday faster.”

So what is there to do?

“Simple steps like turning in the handles of your pots and pans and keeping your kitchen floors free from toys and pets can help make sure your holiday goes off without a hitch,” Patronis said.

Moreover, “fried turkeys have become a hit, but they can become incredibly dangerous if proper attention is not paid.

“Make sure your bird is completely thawed and take your turkey fryer to the furthest place from your home possible. Never fry at the edge of your garage because any stray spark might light the house in flames.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

Kiran Patel is no longer ‘anonymous’ as a Tampa Bay Times investor

Dr. Kiran Patel, Tampa’s renowned entrepreneur and philanthropist, has confirmed he was one of the previously anonymous investors in the Tampa Bay Times.

Patel, 68, and his wife Dr. Pallavi Patel, 62, are former cardiologists, and natives of India. Kiran Patel is also a health care executive and a real-estate developer.

In September 2017, the Patel’s announced they would spend $200-million to create a Clearwater campus for Nova Southeastern University.

In July 2017, the Tampa Bay Times announced that a group of eight local investors had agreed to lend the newspaper $1.5-million apiece through an entity called FBN Partners. The $12-million loan was secured by a mortgage on “the buildings and 27 acres of land at the newspaper’s printing facilities” in St. Petersburg.

On Nov. 10, Patel told local legal website Baylawsuits that Tampa Bay Times chairman and CEO Paul Tash approached him about investing. Patel said it was an easy decision, made “five minutes” after Tash began his pitch.

FBN’s investment — which the Times said could grow to as much as $15-million, provided the paper found two more investors — helped the Times refinance some higher-interest loans.

Afterward, the Times published the names of four of the eight investors — Tampa business executive Frank Morsani and his wife Carol, Tash and his wife Karyn, developer Ted Couch, and investment company chair (and part owner of the Washington Redskins) Robert Rothman — but the remaining investors wished to remain anonymous.

A short time later, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik identified himself as an FBN member, leaving three investors unidentified.

One of those three was Kiran Patel, who was among the $1.5-million FBN Partners investors. Baylawsuits did not ask if Pallavi Patel another in the group.

While there the investment did carry some risk, Kiran Patel said investing always involves risk. However, in the case of FBN Partners, there is collateral — the Tampa Bay Times and its holdings.

More important for Patel was the opportunity to support his local newspaper, which he said is an important institution in large metropolitan areas.

Understanding that the Times (and other papers) are struggling to secure conventional loans, Patel knew of the need to pursue innovative alternatives. He told Baylawsuits the only reason he asked for anonymity was because he did not like to flaunt his wealth.

Among those approached who did not join the FBN investment group were husband and wife Leslie Muma and Pamela Muma, also well-known as Tampa Bay-area philanthropists. Les Muma, 73, earned his fortune as president and CEO of Fiserv, a Wisconsin-based financial services company.

Earlier this month, the Muma’s announced they were donating an additional $15-million to the University of South Florida, bringing their total donations to the school to more than $56-million.

University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft was in charge of the school when both the Patels and the Mumas made their substantial contributions.

In an interview, Mumas said: “I don’t think newspapers are a real sound investment. I think they’re going backward, and it just didn’t make sense to me.”

As with Kiran Patel (and others interviewed for this report), Muma was also approached by the Times’ Paul Tash.

 

The Delegation for 11.17.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Floridians join with tough questions for Attorney General

This week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions made yet another appearance on Capitol Hill. This time it was before the House Judiciary Committee.

Normally agency heads will see supporting comments or questions from members of their own party after taking a beating from a committee member of the opposition party. Sessions saw little relief Tuesday.

He was lambasted by Democrats about the truthfulness of his earlier responses about whether or not he met with Russians. For their part, Republicans are unhappy Sessions has not appointed a special counsel to look into the Uranium One deal and the facts surrounding the so-called Trump Dossier.

Members of Florida’s delegation — both Republican and Democrats — grilled Jeff Sessions this week.

Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz focused on Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation, while Jacksonville Republican John Rutherford asked about law enforcement programs.

GOP members also want action on the damaging leaks to the media.

Two of the hearing’s quotes came from other Floridians on the committee.

Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch expressed his concern that if the Congressional and special counsel investigations get too close to harming President Donald Trump, he may issue pre-emptive pardons or worse, fire Robert Mueller and others. Deutch went back to a dark moment in Watergate history.

“What you’ve told us today, in just this exchange, what we should all be concerned about is another Saturday Night Massacre, if you can’t tell us that the President may be able to pardon in advance all of those who are being investigated” Deutch expressed to Sessions. “We should be worried about the pursuit of the rule of law.”

Ponte Vedra Republican Ron DeSantis was focused on Uranium One, but also asked questions on prosecuting those who engaged in leaking. He asked Sessions whether anyone has been “held accountable criminally or administratively for leaking information against the administration with a political motive.”

Sessions revealed the existence of 27 ongoing investigations since Trump took office, adding “before there were only three per year or 9 before; that’s three times as many this year as there was in the three years before (Trump became president).”

Will Sessions’ future depend on Department of Justice of special counsel investigations sought by the GOP? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested Sessions as a write-in candidate in an effort to defeat the beleaguered Roy Moore, the GOP nominee for Sessions’ old Senate seat.

While that is unlikely, perhaps there is a message in there that Republicans would prefer Sessions in his old job and find a far more aggressive prosecutor for his current job. Trump has made no secret that Sessions’ job evaluation is an ongoing process.

Nelson: Schools need more funding to absorb storm-displaced students

Another side effect of Hurricane Irma and Maria on Florida and other states has the attention of the three-term Democrat and some of his colleagues. With the devastation in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Texas and Florida so immense, tens of thousands of displaced students are enrolling in other schools.

Florida is directly impacted and Nelson and five of his colleagues are seeking more funds to make sure those schools are prepared to absorb the increased enrollment.

Bill Nelson (shown fellow Senator with Marco Rubio) is calling for Florida schools to absorb more storm-displaced students.

“We need to make sure these schools have the funding they need to handle this influx of students and provide them the quality education they deserve,” Nelson said.

In a letter to the chairman and ranking member of both the Senate Appropriations Committee and the subcommittee responsible for education appropriations, Nelson and his colleagues seek to avoid having schools not prepared to handle the increased student population.

“As many students are forced out of their schools as a result of these disasters, it is critical to think about the areas both directly affected by the natural disasters, as well as the areas that are enrolling displaced students,” they wrote.

Nelson was joined in the letter by Christopher Murphy and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California.

Rubio sharing credit with Ivanka for bump in Child Tax Credit

While he is not getting much of the early credit, Florida’s junior Senator has achieved one of his top priorities, at least for now. On Tuesday night, the Senate Finance Committee released details of several provisions surrounding their version of tax reform, including raising the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $2,000.

Marco Rubio and Ivanka Trump are allies in raising the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $2,000.

This has been a passion for not only Rubio and Utah Republican Mike Lee, it has another champion in the name of Ivanka Trump. Early news reports were crediting the president’s daughter more than the two lawmakers, who have advocated for the change for more than two years.

“Encouraging to see progress every day toward pro-family #TaxCuts,” Rubio tweeted. “More work remains, but the trend is good.

The child provision, like several others in the GOP plan, would sunset in 2025. The cut in the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent, would be permanent.

House Blue Dogs pan GOP tax bill

Any hope Republicans had for obtaining individual or a bloc of Democratic votes for their tax reform bill died on Wednesday afternoon. The Blue Dog Coalition, a group of 18 fiscally-conservative Democrats, gave the bill thumbs down as the final vote approached on Thursday.

Among the group’s 18 members are first-term representatives Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park and Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg. Murphy asked for feedback from her constituents, while Crist said: “This is not true tax reform — and the American people know it.”

“We simply cannot support a bill that, by every measurement, has been determined to add over $2 trillion to the deficit at the expense of middle-class Americans,” said co-chairmen Jim Acosta of California, Henry Cuellar of Texas and Daniel Lipinski of Illinois. “It’s a fact that some middle-class Americans will see their taxes go up and small business owners will face a more complex tax system under this bill.”

During a Fox News town hall on Tuesday night, Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, told the audience “We believe everybody will benefit.”

Republicans were confident heading into Thursday’s vote. Even with the bill’s approval, the GOP faces similar difficulties in the Senate as they faced with the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Already, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson said he could not support the bill as currently written. Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is a firm “no” while Republican Marco Rubio is now likely to vote “yes” after the Senate doubled the Child Tax Credit for $1,000 to $2,000 as he sought.

Delegation votes with majority to pass military spending bill

The House passed a compromise military spending bill this week. The 1,264-page, $700-billion bill sailed through on a bipartisan 356-70 vote.

The entire Florida delegation voted in favor.

“This bill delivers on our promise to rebuilt the military,” said Panama City Republican Neal Dunn. “We have not made necessary investments in assets and personnel over the last decade.”

John Rutherford joined the entire Florid delegation to pass a  compromise military spending bill.

Jacksonville Republican John Rutherford added: “This bill gives our troops their largest pay raise in 8 years and provides funding to increase the size and strength of our military.”

The bill exceeds the $603 billion requests from the Trump administration. It also far exceeds the $549 billion cap on military spending set by the Budget Control Act.

With funding containing items benefiting MacDill Air Force Base and her district overall, Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor pointed to other areas that also require additional funding.

“I oppose efforts to raise the caps only for military spending, but not for other crucial priorities like education, medical research, environmental protection, infrastructure, law enforcement, diplomacy and more,” she said in a newsletter to constituents. “Congress must address the budget caps in a way that does not add to the debt or pit national priorities against each other.”

The bill now moves to the Senate, where it is expected to also pass and be forward to Trump for his signature.

Delegation split on flood insurance reauthorization

Flood insurance doesn’t rise to the level of importance in landlocked states as it does in Florida. With coastal areas often rocked by flooding, Floridians account for more than one-third of all policies issued through the National Flood Insurance Program.

With the program expiring, the House voted to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program this week for five years. In the end, some bipartisanship showed up in the final vote.

The vote tally was 237-189 with the 14 Republicans voting “no” offset by 15 Democrats voting “yes.” All delegation Democrats voted against the measure and were joined by South Florida Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart.

Dennis Ross was one of the delegation Republicans all in on flood insurance reform.

Lakeland Republican Dennis Ross was all-in for supporting the 21st Century Flood Reform Act. Among his remarks from the House floor, Ross addressed the bill’s positives, especially expanding the insurance marketplace.

“Giving consumers choice in a competitive marketplace will not only drive down costs, but also help us reduce the unacceptable number of homes that are not protected by flood insurance,” he said. “We’re getting rid of the top-down, single-payer approach to insurance where we pretend there’s no danger until there is a tragedy.”

Democrats such as St. Petersburg’s Charlie Crist spoke out strongly against the bill. During his remarks on the House floor, Crist spoke on rising premium costs.

“We must get flood insurance right, and that starts with affordability,” he said. “If families can’t afford insurance, they simply will not buy it. In my home state of Florida, the number of NFIP policies has dropped 15 percent since 2012 when Congress started raising premiums.”

Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch also strongly opposed the measure by saying “we need a sensible flood insurance program that will actually protect us from the exorbitant costs of flooding.”

Crist and several Democrats favor the SAFE NFIP Act, a bipartisan bill still alive in the Senate. Both Florida Senators are among the bill’s 9 co-sponsors.

Gaetz touts funding for test range enhancements

The Fort Walton Beach Republican is celebrating the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for what it means for military ranges, including the Gulf Test Range. The bill provides for a $30 million increase in funding for the ranges.

The Gulf Test Range spans the coastline of Gaetz’ First Congressional District and covers 120,000 square miles of overwater air space. It is used for high altitude, supersonic air combat training, as well as air-to-air missile testing, drone targeting, hypersonic weapons testing, and space launches.

Matt Gaetz is celebrating the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act.

Additionally, the Air Force Special Operations Command, the 96th Test Wing, the 33rd Fighter Wing, and others all train on the Gulf Test Range.

“At the Gulf Test Range, over 80 training flights per year have been canceled because of congestion and airspace limitations,” Gaetz said in a release. “Increased funding for test ranges will give the men and women of our armed forces the space and resources they need, and I am glad that my colleagues recognized the vital importance of training ranges for America’s national security.”

Yoho to join Dinesh D’Souza for Benghazi remembrance

The Gainesville Republican will be in Jacksonville on December 3 for a memorial tribute to the four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, who were murdered in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012. Yoho and conservative filmmaker/author Dinesh D’Souza will be among the keynote speakers.

D’Souza is known for films such as 2016: Obama’s America and America: Imagine the World Without Her. His most recent book is The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left.

Dinesh D’Souza joins Ted Yoho for a Benghazi remembrance.

The event is billed as America at a Crossroads and will include a memorial tribute with military honors to remember the lives of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Information Officer Sean Smith and former Navy SEALS Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

The event is organized by the Northeast Florida Benghazi Tribute Team, an organization dedicated to honoring “the abandoned U.S. Ambassador and the U.S. Veterans of the Battle of Benghazi.” It is made up of conservative organizations and individuals, including many veterans.

“This is your chance to find out what’s really happening all over the country today from some of the most knowledgeable experts in America,” said Northeast Florida Team Leader Beth Heath.

The event begins at 3 p.m. in the Riverfront Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Jacksonville.

DeSantis, Knesset colleagues want U.S. Embassy moved

The Republican from Ponte Vedra has been a committed and vocal supporter of moving the United States Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This week he welcomed like-minded members of the Israeli Knesset to Capitol Hill to discuss the matter.

During a sit-down with fellow legislators Oded Forer and Avraham Neguise, DeSantis talked about ways to advance the United States-Israel relationship under the Trump administration and achieving peace in the Middle East. Moving the embassy was a key topic.

Oded Forer of the Israeli Knesset.

“We agree that the greatest obstacle to peace is the refusal of Palestinians to acknowledge Israel is the legitimate national home of the Jewish People,” he said in a statement. “America can help remove that obstacle by relocating our embassy to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel and a symbol of the Jewish People’s historic connection to the land.

DeSantis, Chairman of the National Security Subcommittee, went on to say he was “encouraged by President Trump’s promise that it is a question of when, not if” the embassy will be moved.

In June, DeSantis was unhappy with Trump for not taking action to move the embassy at that time, stating it was “deeply disappointing that the President has decided not to do so.”

Before Trump was sworn in, DeSantis and 101 of his colleagues wrote to the president-elect asking for the relocation. Among the signees were Republicans Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, Carlos Curbelo of Kendall, freshly sworn-in Brian Mast of Palm City, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, and Ted Yoho of Gainesville.

Nat’l Republicans blasting Crist’s vote against CHIP reauthorization

Earlier this month, the U.S. House voted to reauthorize federal funding to maintain the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides coverage to 8.9 million children and 370,000 pregnant women.

In a new digital ad, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is blasting St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist for voting against the measure.

The Healthy Kids Act extends CHIP’s federal funding for five years and funding for federally qualified health centers for two years. Federal funding for those facilities lapsed on Sept. 30, the same day CHIP lost its funding.

While most House Republicans voted for the measure, most Democrats were opposed. That’s because they said the bill charged higher Medicare premiums to seniors earning more than $500,000, shortened the grace period for people who don’t pay their Affordable Care Act marketplace premiums from 90 days to 30 days, and also redirected money from the ACA’s prevention and public health fund to community health centers.

Try telling that to the voters, charges the NRCC.

“Self-serving, flip-flopping, politician Charlie Crist voted ‘no’ to providing health care for kids, and ‘yes’ to protecting the wealthiest one-percent,” said the NRCC’s Maddie Anderson. “Unfortunately — unlike the rest of his political career — he can’t flip-flop on this vote. Simply put — Charlie Crist does not belong in Congress.”

Erin Moffett, a spokesperson for Crist, said, in fact, the congressman “strongly supports” the CHIP program and community health centers, but voted against it because of the higher Medicare premiums.

Buchanan loses longtime staffer to USDA

The Sarasota Republican is in the market for a new Director of Operations for his Congressional Office. The opening occurred when Sydney Gruters was appointed as Rural Development State Director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Gruters, who has been with Buchanan for more than 10 years, will be responsible for helping implement USDA policies in planning, organizing and administering Farm Service Agency programs in Florida. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue previously announced the appointment of state Rep. Neil Combee as Farm Service Agency State Director.

Joe and Sydney Gruters.

“These state directors will help ensure that USDA is offering the best customer service to our farmers, ranchers, foresters, and agricultural producers across the country,” Perdue said. “FSA and RD both play a critical role in helping the people of agriculture, and are able to connect with people in their home states.”

Gruters is the wife of state Rep. Joe Gruters, who was the Trump campaign co-chair in Florida. During her decade with Buchanan, she was the Congressman’s liaison regarding all USDA issues that affect rural development.

City of Clearwater searches for federal lobbyist

The City of Clearwater is advertising a “request for proposal” for “federal lobbying services.”

The city’s ad says it’s accepting sealed proposals till 10 a.m. Dec. 19: “The City of Clearwater seeks an experienced lobbyist (person, firm or entity) to represent the City before Congress and the executive branch of the federal government.”

“The City of Clearwater seeks an experienced lobbyist (person, firm or entity) to represent the City before Congress and the executive branch of the federal government.”

The contract is from February 2018 through January 2022.

Applicants must “demonstrate experience providing federal lobbying services with local governments and/or organizations” and provide references. Minimum qualifications include “ongoing relationships with members of the Florida Congressional Delegation,” “ongoing relationships with key members and Congressional Committee staff, executive branch agency staff, and describe how these relationships may be of assistance to the City.”

Applicants also “must demonstrate familiarity with federal agencies and a record of a successful working relationship with these agencies.”

Trump to issue pardon, then head for Florida

Some Democrats are concerned Trump will pardon those already, or soon to be, indicted in the Robert Mueller Russia probe. In reality, his next two pardons will come in the coming week … and met with broad approval.

Next week, the president will do the annual pardoning of a pair of lucky turkeys at the White House before jumping onto Air Force One and head to Florida. Neither is named Manafort.

Donald Trump will issue a pardon to two turkeys … neither named Manafort.

On Tuesday, he will fly to his Mar-a-Lago mansion in Palm Beach County for the Thanksgiving holidays before returning to Washington.

That will mean tons of overtime for local law enforcement protection and traffic details. Trump will need to pardon local officials if they are less than thankful he will be spending 5 days in the community.

West Palm Beach Democrat Lois Frankel has for months sought reimbursement for security costs borne by local law enforcement. Last month, the federal government reimbursed Palm Beach $1 million for costs incurred when Trump visited Mar-a-Lago while president-elect, while the trips as president are still pending.

Although the meter is still running, at least the first million reasons to be thankful have arrived.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 11.17.17

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

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

Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel has been accused of creating a hostile workplace environment for women by making constant inappropriate comments and suggestion, according to six unnamed women who talked to POLITICO Florida.

While the women told POLITICO that they were never inappropriately touched, they said Bittel’s  suggestive remarks, invitations to go on his private plane and even his possession of a breast-shaped stress squeeze-ball kept at his desk made them uncomfortable

“The biggest thing I will say is that it became a policy that women, especially junior staff, were never to be left alone with him in his office, plane or house,” a former party staffer told the news outlet.

Bittel, a millionaire South Florida developer, has apologized for his behavior and did not deny the accounts of the women who talked to POLITICO Florida.

“Every person, regardless of their gender, race, age or sexuality should be treated with respect and valued for their hard work and contributions to our community and if any of my comments or actions did not reflect that belief I am deeply sorry,” Bittel said.

A woman told POLITICO that Bittel’s constant remarks belittling women prompted her to leave her job.

“There is a reason I left,” one woman told POLITICO. “He’s very demeaning. He’s inappropriate in his comments he makes to women.”

These accounts by these women — identified as former FDP staffer and consultants — come after stories of alleged sexual misconduct by powerful men in the Florida Senate, including Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican running for governor, who is accused by six unnamed women of sexually groping and harassing them. Latvala is currently under investigation by the Senate.

“I have much to learn, but my goal is and has always been to make sure every member of our party has a safe environment in which to succeed. It seems I’ve not been successful in that goal, and I will do better,” Bittel said.

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— L’AFFAIRE LATVALA — 

“Why aren’t women going public with sexual harassment claims in Tallahassee?” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald  – Women have not yet publicly accused Sen. Latvala of sexual harassment, and the attorney representing one of his anonymous accusers says it is because they are being intimidated. While Latvala maintains the claims are politically motivated. Meanwhile, Senate Rules Committee Chair Lizbeth Benacquisto says she is working on revising the sexual harassment policy to include anti-harassment training and more clarity in how complaints can be addressed. Gail Holtzman, the lead investigator in the Senate probe, said she has yet to interview the one woman who has filed a complaint against Latvala due to scheduling conflicts.

Senate lawyers up for sexual harassment, but targets only Jack Latvala” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Latvala will be the only senator to be investigated for sexual harassment claims by an outside law firm, according to the contract signed Nov. 13 by the Office of Legislative Services and the Tampa-based firm hired by the Florida Senate to conduct the probe. The limited scope of the investigation by the Jackson Lewis law firm is laid out in a letter attached to the contract from the lead lawyer, Gail Golman Holtzman. “We will represent OLS with its investigation of sexual harassment claims by six unnamed individuals who have alleged claims in media reports against Senator Latvala,” Holtzman wrote under the “scope of services.”

Latvala probe may take up to a month to complete as Senate hires its own attorney” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Negron’s office, though, has also hired its own outside attorney because of Roberts’ recusal. Under a contract inked last week, a trio of attorneys from Gray Robinson will represent the Senate in the matter, including George Meros, a shareholder in the firm’s Tallahassee offices who has represented high-profile Republican clients in the past. In a letter to Negron, Holtzman said she began her investigation and expects it to take three to four weeks, which means she could complete it before start of the 2018 legislative session in January. “The firm understands that time is of the essence regarding this investigation,” Holtzman wrote in the letter to Senate staff.

Chris Latvala, Kathleen Peters lack ‘integrity,’ lawyer says” via Florida Politics – Latvala and Peters have not shown “integrity” or acted “in the public interest” in how they have publicly responded to accusations of sexual harassment against Latvala, according to a lawyer for one of his accusers. Tallahassee attorney Tiffany R. Cruz wrote a letter to House Speaker Richard Corcoran to complain about the two Republican lawmakers. Cruz specifically blamed the two House members for “condemn(ing)” Latvala’s accusers on social media for the purpose of “intimidation.” Cruz also said she did not expect the two to be punished, but told Corcoran she wanted him to be aware of their “abhorrent conduct.”

Steve Andrews’ dismissive ‘girls’ quip isn’t helping Jack Latvala’s case” via Florida Politics – Andrews, the Tallahassee-based defense attorney, is representing Latvala against allegations of sexual harassment. Recently, he claimed a desire to work with the Florida Senate’s lead investigator … to prevent any potential conflicts of interest: “We want to work out the procedural process with her without getting the courts involved …” So far, so good. “I think this girl will do a good job and she will be remembered,” Andrews added. This “girl?”

While you may think it was a compliment, Steve, “girl” may not the best choice of words … Using dismissive language like “this girl” about a legal colleague – especially one that can make Latvala’s life a degree more difficult — is exactly what most women point to when they talk of an uncomfortable, sexually-charged workplace. It’s not only demeaning, but insensitive.

— CAPITOL INSIGHT — 

Florida Senate’s new budget chair weighs In on Gov. Scott’s budget proposal” via Sascha Cordner of WFSU – For the most part, Scott’s $87.4 billion budget proposal appears very promising. That’s according to the Florida Senate’s new budget chairman, Sen. Rob Bradley … “His priorities align with a lot of the Senate priorities, including the environment as well as higher education,” said Bradley, speaking to reporters. “There are some policy disagreements between the Senate and the governor on higher education. But, his overall financial commitment is something that we’re very comfortable with and we’re excited to work with him.”

House members seek money for hundreds of projects” via the News Service of Florida – House members have filed nearly 400 proposals, worth more than $673 million, for local and regional projects to be considered during the 2018 legislative session. And while House leaders have put a priority on proposals geared toward hurricane relief and projects that prepare for future disasters, many of the requests don’t appear to fit those parameters. Overall, Republicans had submitted 274 projects worth a combined $499.2 million … Democrats had 108 proposals on file worth a combined $173.8 million.

Hurricane committee to start ‘policy phase’ via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics – The Select House Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness met for the fifth time … marking their last ‘educational’ committee meeting. The committee’s duties were originally split into three phases: gather information, solicit ideas for improvement and make recommendations to Gov. Scott and the Legislature. Now equipped with the statewide woes of the 2017 Hurricane Season, the committee transitions to the final part: policy recommendations. “This is it for our fact-finding mission and our education phase of our work,” Chair Jeanette Nuñez said. She expects there will be two committee meetings in December, where “the rubber hopefully will meet the road.”

Lawmakers push bill banning state from investing in Venezuela” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – In a further attempt to starve President Nicolas Maduro’s government from money, state lawmakers want to make sure state agencies are barred from investing on companies that do business with Venezuela. “We cannot as a state and should not prop up the Maduro regime, which inflicts misery upon its people,” Nunez said. The bill (HB 359) filed by Nunez and Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. would turn a resolution passed by Gov. Scott and the Florida Cabinet in August into state law. Under the bill, sanctions could be waived if there is a “collapse of the government or if there is a humanitarian crisis or need for immediate aid to Venezuela,” Nunez said.

Jennifer Sullivan to take over Neil Combee’s chairmanship” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – Sullivan will be taking over his chairmanship at the Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee. “Be kind, be generous and do a good job,” Combee told teary-eyed members of the panel. Sullivan, a Republican from Mount Dora, became the youngest female legislator in Florida history when elected in 2014. This is the first committee she will chair.

The best story you’ll read today –Jeff Brandes returns from China with new adopted daughter” via the News Service of Florida – Brandes, his wife Natalie and their eldest daughter Charlotte … spent the past week in the sprawling port city of Guangzhou – outside Hong Kong – wrapping up the yearlong adoption of a new daughter. The trip was their first time in China since they began the adoption process. “You meet them on a Monday, you go back to the consulate on a Tuesday, they ask if you still want this child,” Brandes said, back in the Capitol Wednesday. “You promise not to abandon her and everything else. Then it’s about a weeklong process.” Elizabeth is the fourth child for the couple married just over a decade … the first they’ve adopted. Brandes, known for pushing legislation about new technologies, said he was able to follow the latest Capitol intrigue via tweets and admitted: “it was a good week to be away” … “I walked in the lunchroom today, I said, `Sorry guys I’ve been gone a week. Anything happen while I was gone?’”

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— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Is Rick Scott distancing himself from Donald Trump?” via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times – During this week’s Republican Governors Association meeting in Austin, Scott is being uncharacteristically non-committal about what Trump could mean for his political fortunes … when asked if Trump will help or hurt candidates on the campaign trail, Scott replied “We’ll see what happens in 2018.” When asked if he would want Trump to campaign with him during an expected run against U.S. Senator Bill Nelson next year, Scott replied “I don’t know if I’m going to be a candidate. We’ll worry about that next year.” Worry about Trump’s support? Asked if Trump could help other Republicans on the 2018 ballots, Scott said only “You’d have to ask them.” And THIS is from the chair of Trump’s super PAC?

Assignment editors – Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam will join supporters in Boca Raton for a “Up & Adam” breakfast beginning 8 a.m. at The Griddle, 475 NE Spanish River Blvd. in Boca Raton.

First TV ad released in Florida’s 2018 race for governor” via The Associated Press – Democratic Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine‘s political committee released the ad … The committee is spending $800,000 on the 30-second spot, which shows highlights from the speech Levine made earlier this month announcing his candidacy. In the clips, Levine mentions the need to address climate change and raise the minimum wage. It contains images of Martin Luther King Jr. and President John F. Kennedy.

Click on the image below to watch the ad:

Ben Diamond endorses Gwen Graham for Governor – “Gwen Graham has shown she is not afraid to take on the special interests or status quo. Gwen understands that hardworking Floridians should not have to pay investor-owned utilities for nuclear power plants that are never built or for fracking exploration,” said Diamond, a Democrat who represents House District 68. “As governor, Gwen will stand with Florida’s families over Tallahassee special interests.” Diamond also applauded Graham’s outspoken support of Florida Forever and her commitment to protecting Florida’s environment.

John Morgan: Set your watch to first quarter of 2018” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Watchers have been wondering as Morgan has toured the state speaking to Tiger Bay Clubs and elsewhere about his Democratic vision for Florida, and the state’s Democratic field has expanded with candidates not quite raising excitement: how long will this go on? “I will decide in the first Q,” Morgan replied by email to such a question from Florida Politics. That was a follow-up to a post he put on Facebook in which he set six months of campaigning as the optimum. The Democratic primary is Aug. 28, 2018. Six months earlier would be Feb. 28, 2018. “Sometimes less is more. People are sick of campaigns that go on forever with endless money grubbing,” Morgan posted. “Why do in two years what you can do in six months? The road goes on forever, but the party never ends.”

Al Franken ‘no longer available’ for Bill Nelson fundraiser” via Florida Politics – How do you solve a problem like Al Franken? Tell him to stay away. Far, far away. The boob-groping (not “allegedly,” by the way, because there’s – yipes – a photo) Democratic senator from Minnesota was set to headline a fundraiser this Saturday for Florida’s Bill Nelson at the Thonotosassa home of former state CFO Alex Sink. But – awkward – Leeann Tweeden, a news anchor for a Los Angeles radio station, says Franken kissed and groped her without her consent in 2006 … Nelson spokesman Ryan Brown added: “As for the events this weekend, Sen. Franken is no longer available. The campaign events will continue as scheduled.”

Ross Spano files to run for Attorney General” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – Asked why he’s entering what promises to be a tough primary with three other well-known candidates, one from his own home turf, Spano said he believes he stands out in the field. “If I felt the right person was already in the race I wouldn’t have chosen to run,” he said. “I’m the only one that has legislative experience, the conservative values and the actual courtroom experience, plus I’m the only one with substantial criminal justice experience.” Spano is an estate planning and probate attorney, but has served on the House criminal justice subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, currently as chairman. “I’m confident that people will support me because of what I bring to the table,” Spano said of the financial race. “I’m confident we’ll have what we need to be successful. I don’t come from a wealthy family and I’m not a millionaire, but I don’t think I should be ruled out from running because of that.”

– “Spano announcement opens HD 59 seat in 2018” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Firefighters union endorses Jeremy Ring for Chief Financial Officer – The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) announced their 2018 election endorsement at a statewide conference … Breaking with past precedent and moving their general election endorsement process forward represents a significant victory for Ring. The IAFF previously offered their Democratic primary endorsement to Ring in June 2017. Among the CFO’s core responsibilities are fiduciary oversight of the state’s public retirement system, regulation of the insurance industry and serving as statewide fire marshal.

DCCC attacks Carlos Curbelo on DREAM act en Español” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – At issue is Curbelo’s insistence that he would vote for the legislation at the same time he refuses to co-sponsor it. He has an alternative bill to protect people who were illegally brought or kept in this country as kids through no fault of their own. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee promptly released a Spanish-language digital ad and website targeting Spanish-speaking voters in his seat, Florida’s 26th Congressional District, which is 61 percent Hispanic. “POLITICO: CURBELO ‘INSTE A SUS COLEGAS REPUBLICANOS A NO APOYAR’ EL DREAM ACT,” says the DCCC website, which translates as “POLITICO: Curbelo ‘urges Republican colleagues not to support’ the DREAM Act.” But the DCCC’s snippet is misleading, if not lost in translation.

Curbelo in serious trouble, Dem-sponsored poll shows” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – A Public Policy Polling survey of registered voters taken last week shows the Republican incumbent with an approval rating of only 37 percent; 46 percent disapprove of the job he is doing. According to the poll, a hypothetical “Democratic opponent” leads Curbelo 53 to 39 percent. As for tax reform, to the extent that people know what’s in the bill being negotiated by congressional Republicans and President Trump, a slight majority (52 percent) indicated that they would be less likely to support Curbelo if he voted for the plan. In CD 26, Trump’s numbers are even worse. The president gets the same anemic 37 percent support as Curbelo, with 59 percent disapproving his performance.

Vance Aloupis sustains firm fundraising lead in crowded HD 115 field” via Florida Politics – Aloupis added another $10,175 to his campaign account last month, maintaining his lead in the three-way primary race to take over for term-limited Republican Rep. Michael Bileca. Aloupis’ October fundraising report shows him with a to-date fundraising total of $192,634. It also showed $2,036 in spending, leaving him with $173,640 on hand heading into November. The Miami Republicans’ donor roll included $1,000 checks from AT&T South Florida and Publix Super Markets VP Hoyt Barnett and his wife Carol Barnett, the daughter of Publix founder George Jenkins.

— STATEWIDE —

American Bridge, WPLG Miami blast Rick Scott for ‘lax’ nursing home regs

A new email from progressive group American Bridge 21st-Century cites an “explosive investigation” by WPLG Miami on Gov. Scott and his regulation of nursing homes.

– Lax regulation has persisted despite the deaths of 14 seniors at a nursing home following Hurricane Irma, WPLG reveals.

Bob Norman of WPLG has an answer for Scott’s “unconscionable deregulation” of nursing homes: campaign cash.

Click on the image below to watch the video.

All Aboard Florida wins again in water district dispute: permit cleared” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The South Florida Water Management District rejected final challenges brought by the private passenger train developer’s critics along the Treasure Coast. The water district denied 17 exceptions filed by Martin and St. Lucie counties and entered a final order to issue an environmental resource permit to Brightline, All Aboard Florida’s train system. The district also adopted the recommended order of a Florida administrative law judge which earlier had denied the counties’ initial challenge to the permit. That clears the final legal challenges pending for All Aboard Florida, though appeals are always a prospect. The company said there are no other outstanding legal challenges.

Disney employees laid off amid restructuring at parks and resorts” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel – More than 145 Disney employees were notified they are being laid off amid restructuring at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts … Disney said the restructuring involved more than 0.1 percent of the division … The cuts were made to the human resources, finance, marketing and sales and operations departments for the global division of more than 145,000 employees at 12 theme parks and 52 resorts in North America, Europe and Asia. Notices were not seen on a state website where large-scale layoffs must be posted in Florida. The employees let go did not have primary duties dealing directly with customers, so Disney said it did not expect visitors to experience any changes visiting the theme parks or hotels. Disney is helping employees who lost their jobs find other work internally or find work outside the company.

— WALKING WHILE BLACK —

Is “walking while black” a crime in the Bold New City of the South?

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office disproportionately issued pedestrian citations to blacks—almost all of them in the city’s poorest neighborhoods—in the last five years, according to a ProPublica and Florida Times-Union investigation published Thursday. Here are the story’s highlights:

— Blacks received 55 percent of all pedestrian tickets in Jacksonville, while only accounting for 29 percent of the population. And blacks account for a higher percentage of tickets in Duval County than any other large county in the state.

— In the last five years, there were 658 citations issued in Jacksonville for people crossing the street while not in a crosswalk. More than half those tickets were issued in error, and 48 percent of those erroneous tickets were issued to blacks.

— The Sheriff’s Office said Jacksonville’s use of pedestrian violations to stop suspicious people could not be compared to New York’s stop-and-frisk program.

But the reporting found that black men, who said they were issued a ticket, were searched and left enraged when the officers found nothing.

— OPINIONS —

Joe Henderson: let’s hope Stu Sternberg was joking” via Florida Politics – I assume Tampa Bay Rays owner Sternberg was trying to make a joke hen he said his organization might come up with $150 million to help pay for a new ballpark in Tampa’s Ybor City that will cost a lot more than that. I say that because I literally started laughing as I read his quotes in the Tampa Bay Times. My guesstimate is that with a stadium to replace decrepit Tropicana Field hypothetically priced at $800 million, give or take a luxury suite or two, Sternberg and Major League Baseball can’t be seriously thinking of asking/demanding taxpayers to pay the $650 million difference. What Sternberg offered up sounded more like an extortion note than a pitch for serious public-private partnership. I believe Sternberg knows that, too. He is a smart man.

Brecht Heuchan: FHCA ‘wrong on all’ counts” via Florida Politics – The Florida Health Care Association (FHCA), a nursing home industry trade association, recently attacked my proposed “Resident’s Bill of Rights” amendment to the state constitution saying that it does not belong there, that it “weakens protections for residents,” and that it is “glaringly bad.” Unfortunately, they offered nothing in the way of evidence to support these claims and are wrong on all. Here is my take: I cannot count the number of times I have been told one issue or another does not belong in the constitution. When it comes from the mouths of special interest groups it is code for something else. What they really mean is: 1. they think they have other forums wired in their favor, and 2. they know if voters have a chance to consider the proposal, it would pass. Make no mistake—rights for residents belong in the Florida Constitution.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: Southern Strategy Group gets its steel magnolia” via Florida Politics – Rachel Cone, a veteran of state and local governments and early hire of Gov. Scott‘s administration, is joining top Tallahassee lobbying firm Southern Strategy Group. In the run-up to Scott’s 2014 re-election campaign, she was one of the go-to senior staffers who was known for doing her homework, being a straight shooter and maintaining relationships in a town where that’s hard to do. Florida Politics recently named Cone of the 2017 Session winners, and she served as interim Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation in what was one of the most divisive legislative sessions on record.

Alexander Anderson: Department of Education

George Anderson, Southern Strategy Group: City of Sanford, Sanford Airport Authority

Robert Beck, Tanya Jackson, PinPoint Results: Independent Living Systems

Gregory Black, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Broward College Foundation

Michel Bjorklund: Florida Electric Cooperatives Association

Jim Boxold, Capital City Consulting: The City of Venice

Matt Bryan, David Daniel, Thomas Griffin, Jeff Hartley, Lisa Hurley, Jim Naff, Smith Bryan & Myers: Baptist Health Care Corporation

Erica Chanti, The Rubin Group: AFSCME Florida, Florida East Coast Industries, HCA Healthcare, University of Miami

Kevin Doyle, Wexford Strategies: Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan

Anthony Glover, Glover Law: GREY2K USA Worldwide

Robert Hosay, Foley & Lardner: U.S. Imaging Network

Robert Reynolds, Robert R. Reynolds & Associates: Susan B. Anthony Revocery Center

Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: Cornerstone Hospice & Palliative Care

— WEEKEND TV —

Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: “Trump’s presidency continues to be an abject lesson in the persistence of systematic racism, and a recent FBI report shows how little this administration regards black people” with political analyst Dr. Lawrence Miller.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: Guests are Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham and former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Panelists this week include journalist Brendan McLaughlin; Katie Sanders, deputy editor of PolitiFact; political consultants Mark Proctor and Victor DiMaio.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion on posttraumatic stress disorder among first responders, and how the state’s responding. Guests include state Sen. Victor Torres, state rep. Mike Miller, former state rep. Mike Clelland, UCF RESTORES Director Dr. Deborah Beidel and Jessica Realin, the wife of a first responder with PTSD.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: An exclusive interview with state Sen. Jack Latvala on the current sexual harassment and misconduct investigation in Tallahassee, and whether he will drop out of the race for Governor. Also, there will be an analysis of the Tallahassee political climate today with analysts Michelle Ertel and Dick Batchelor.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Hosts Gary Yordon and Steve Vancore will speak with News Service of Florida political reporter Dara Kam.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests are House Speaker Richard Corcoran; Rick Mullaney of the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute and former U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, author of “Dead Center.”

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg hold a weekly roundtable with newsmakers.

— ALOE —

FSU plans robust homecoming parade, despite absence of Greeks” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat – With 75 registered participants as of Thursday, the university is promising an exciting event that is expected to attract about 5,000 people along the parade route … Missing will be the numerous colorful and creative floats usually assembled by many of the 54 fraternity and sorority chapters at FSU. On Nov. 6, FSU President John Thrasher suspended all Greek activities following the death of Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi fraternity pledge. It is believed to be alcohol-related. The sweeping suspension prohibits Greek-letter organizations from holding new member events, council or chapter meetings, organized tailgates, events – and organized participation in Homecoming. This year’s theme is “Spirit of Unity.” It was chosen before the death of Coffey, whose funeral is Saturday in Pompano Beach.

Happening Saturday – State Rep. Danny Burgess is hosting annual East Pasco Food Giveaway, to distribute free fresh food for families in need. Food will be given out first-come-first-served, with a maximum of three families per vehicle. Giveaway begins at 9 a.m. at the Dade City Business Center (Front Parking Lot), 1500 Citrus Country Dr. in Dade City.

Happy birthday to AG Pam Bondi, Bill Nelson, Jr., and journalist Alan Snel.

Sixty Days for 11.16.17 — A prime-time look at the 2018 Legislative Session

Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2018 Legislative Session

The Last 24

Senate President Joe Negron has hired the GrayRobinson law firm to represent the chamber in the investigation into the sexual harassment claims against Sen. Jack Latvala.

In a related story, a lawyer for one of the accusers said state Reps. Chris Latvala and Kathleen Peters have not shown “integrity” or acted “in the public interest” in how they have publicly responded to sexual harassment claims against Sen. Latvala.

In the House, Jennifer Sullivan will take over the chair of the Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee after Neil Combee leaves for a USDA job.

Dorothy Hukill and Erin Grall filed legislation to increase the property tax exemption from $500 to $5,000 for widows, widowers, the blind, and the totally and permanently disabled.

And, in a further attempt to starve President Nicolas Maduro’s government of money, lawmakers want to make sure state agencies are barred from investing in companies that do business with Venezuela.

Quote of the Day

“[When I was writing about] the ‘Taj Mahal,’ the fancy courthouse, they had about six meetings to decide what to do about my public records requests … They produced two big boxes, and the paper shipped them up to me in North Carolina. … Someone had gone to the trouble to take every staple out of every document, and had mixed the papers together.”

Lucy Morgan, retired St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times) Tallahassee bureau chief. She spoke Wednesday night at an event honoring her with the creation of a “Lucy Morgan Award for Open Government Reporting” by the First Amendment Foundation. Morgan referred to her investigation of the planning and building of Tallahassee’s 1st District Court of Appeal courthouse.

Bill Day’s Latest

3 Questions

Robert “Hawk” Hawken, the director of legislative affairs for FCCI Insurance Group for the past 30 years, will be transitioning to the lead role of a retained consultant and lobbyist for the company. The change is effective May 1, 2018. Publisher Peter Schorsch had a quick chat with Hawken about the future.

Q: What precipitated the announcement that you will be leaving FCCI?

A: I have had a very unique situation compared to most others in town. While I have been a direct employee of FCCI for 30 years I’ve also had other clients via a separate consulting firm. Frankly, that unique arrangement doesn’t fit in today’s business climate.

Q: How will this effectuate your relationship with FCCI?

A: Both FCCI and I agree that you don’t build a program like this from scratch and just walk away. I will continue to lead the FCCI team and be their point person in all aspects of The Process in conjunction with serving other clients.

Q: Looking back, what are you most proud of from all your years in Tallahassee?

A: Well first of all, it doesn’t seem like 30 years and I have plenty of gas in the tank. But I would say the relationships that have been built and nurtured from across the spectrum is what I value the most.

Lobby Up

Lobbyists with Poole McKinley have registered to lobby for Orlando After-School All-Stars.

The firm’s Angela Dempsey, Will McKinley and Sophie Smith will be the reps on record, registration reports show.

“Our mission: Provide comprehensive after-school programs that keep children safe and help them succeed in school and in life,” the group’s website says.

The program “serves over 2,600 middle school students and their families annually,” it adds. “All programs are school-based … including academics enrichment, athletics and service learning.”

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

The Board of Dentistry is scheduled to meet in Central Florida at 7:30 a.m., Radisson Resort Orlando-Celebration, 2900 Parkway Blvd., Kissimmee.

The Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine is scheduled to meet in Duval County at 9 a.m., Crowne Plaza Jacksonville Airport, 14670 Duval Road, Jacksonville.

The Florida Board of Optometry is scheduled to hold a conference call at 9 a.m. The call-in number is (888) 670-3525 and the participant code is 7342425515.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity will release October unemployment figures at 10 a.m.

Republican U.S. Rep. John Rutherford is scheduled to speak during a meeting of the First Coast Tiger Bay Club starting 11:30 a.m., Epping Forest Yacht and Country Club, 1830 Epping Forest Dr., Jacksonville.

The Statewide Drug Policy Advisory Council is scheduled to hold a conference call at 1 p.m. The call-in number is (888) 670-3525 and the participant code is 164 869 6226.

Tampa Family Health Centers providing health care to displaced Puerto Ricans

In the weeks since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, knocking out power, killing hundreds and leaving many without homes, Tampa Family Health Centers has stepped up to provide medical care to the thousands of Puerto Ricans who fled to the Sunshine State.

“At Tampa Family, it is our philosophy that everyone deserves access to quality healthcare, regardless of their ability to pay,” TFHC CEO Charles Bottoms said. “We are committed to supporting our brothers and sisters from Puerto Rico and welcome them to our centers.  We are here to help those seeking aid with medical treatment.”

The health center network includes 15 locations in Hillsborough County, and while TFHC asks for an ID and insurance card from prospective patients, it will not turn away those who show up without insurance.

“When a disaster like Hurricane Maria strikes U.S. Territory and surrounding countries, we become one community and it is TFHC’s goal to provide for the community as much as we can,” Bottoms said.  “We want to make sure that those arriving in Hillsborough County know we are here and that they can come to one of our centers and get the care they deserve.”

Those seeking medical care can find information on TFHC’s locations through their website. All locations are open Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 5 PM, while three locations have extended hours and Saturday appointments available.

Patients can book an appointment online or by calling TFHC at (813) 397-5300.

Al Franken ‘no longer available’ for Bill Nelson fundraiser

How do you solve a problem like Al Franken? Tell him to stay away. Far, far away.

The boob-groping (not “allegedly,” by the way, because there’s – yipes – a photo) Democratic senator from Minnesota was set to headline a fundraiser this Saturday for Florida’s Bill Nelson at the Thonotosassa home of former state CFO Alex Sink.

But – awkward – Leeann Tweeden, a news anchor for a Los Angeles radio station, says Franken kissed and groped her without her consent in 2006.

The Franken-Nelson Show is off, a spokesman now says.  

“Sexual harassment is never acceptable. The Senate Ethics committee will fully investigate this troubling incident, as I believe they should,” Nelson said in a statement.

Nelson spokesman Ryan Brown added: “As for the events this weekend, Sen. Franken is no longer available. The campaign events will continue as scheduled.”

Here’s the skinny from Axios: “Tweeden says she met Franken, who was a comedian at the time, on a trip abroad to entertain the troops. Tweeden says Franken wrote a special part for her in his script, in which the two were meant to kiss. While rehearing their lines one last time before the show, Tweeden wrote that Franken repeatedly insisted they practice the kissing scene, to which she objected.”

There’s also a picture of Tweeden asleep while Franken jokingly appears to fondle her breasts.

Franken, who shot to fame on Saturday Night Live starting in the 1970s, has since issued a lengthy response:

Sink told one of our reporters she had not been following the story and offered no immediate comment.

But Katie Martin, comm’s director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, soon issued this statement: “After today’s shocking revelations regarding Senator Al Franken’s behavior towards women, Bill Nelson must denounce his Democrat colleague and return campaign donations he has received from him.

“Franken has been a longtime supporter of Nelson, donating $20,000 to his campaigns. If Nelson won’t immediately denounce Franken and return his donations, it will be clear he puts partisan politics over basic decency.”

Personnel note: Southern Strategy Group gets its steel magnolia

Rachel Cone, a veteran of state and local governments and early hire of Gov. Rick Scott‘s administration, is joining top Tallahassee lobbying firm Southern Strategy Group.

In the run-up to Scott’s 2014 re-election campaign, she was one of the go-to senior staffers who was known for doing her homework, being a straight shooter and maintaining relationships in a town where that’s hard to do.

“Rachel has been a superstar in Governor Scott’s administration and brings the same problem-solving skills to the private sector.  She’s a skilled advocate who will perfectly mesh with our team and clients,” SSG founder Paul Bradshaw said.

Florida Politics recently named Cone of the 2017 Session winnersand she served as interim Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation in what was one of the most divisive legislative sessions on record.

One fan of Cone is state Sen. Jeff Brandes, one of the Legislature’s leaders on all issues transportation-related.

“Rachel is an incredible leader with an impressive background,” Brandes said. “When she took on the role of interim Secretary at FDOT, she did so with ease, and I truly enjoyed working with her during her time there.”

Continued Brandes: “I know she will continue to be successful in the next chapter of her career.”

Since January 2015, she has served on FDOT’s executive leadership team, managing the department’s $11 billion work program, and overseeing the offices of procurement, technology, budget, public-private partnership financing, human resources and other administrative units.

Cone joined the administration in 2011 to direct communications strategies for the Department of Environmental Protection and the state’s water management districts. She then joined the governor’s office as a deputy chief of staff managing a broad portfolio of agencies primarily in the transportation, economic development, tourism, procurement and environmental areas.

She also served in the administration of Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton. Cone began her career as a reporter at the Florida Times-Union.

At SSG, Cone will certainly have her hands full.

Among the group’s long advocacy list include transportation-related clients American Traffic Solutions; highway construction firm Anderson Columbia Co.; Central Florida Expressway and Central Florida Regional Transportation authorities; Cruise Lines International Association; the Florida Trucking Association; Okaloosa County’s Mid-Bay Bridge Authority and Sunshine Gasoline Distributors in Doral.

Chris Latvala, Kathleen Peters lack ‘integrity,’ lawyer says

State Reps. Chris Latvala and Kathleen Peters have not shown “integrity” or acted “in the public interest” in how they have publicly responded to accusations of sexual harassment against state Sen. Jack Latvala, according to a lawyer for one of his accusers.

Tallahassee attorney Tiffany R. Cruz wrote a letter to House Speaker Richard Corcoran to complain about the two Republican lawmakers.

The Latvalas are son and father; Peters is an ally of Jack Latvala, a fellow Pinellas Countian.

Cruz specifically blamed the two House members for “condemn(ing)” Latvala’s accusers on social media for the purpose of “intimidation.”

Cruz also said she did not expect the two to be punished, but told Corcoran she wanted him to be aware of their “abhorrent conduct.”

The one-page letter, dated Wednesday, is below:

We’ll provide comment from Peters when we receive it.

In an email to Florida Politics, the younger Latvala said: “I have known Tiffany for about 10 years. We were aides together. I have no idea what she is referring to. I have purposefully not engaged in social media as it relates to this matter but I believe any accuser has a right to face those who anonymously accuse them, so as to not ruin their career and life for political purposes.”

A spokesman for Corcoran on Thursday said he had no immediate comment to the letter.

Adam Putnam widened fundraising lead in October, while Phil Levine made a splash

Gubernatorial candidates raised big bucks last month, none more so than Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam who added $1.2 million between his campaign and committee accounts.

Putnam raised $571,932 of that sum through his campaign account and another $616,235 through his political committee, Florida Grown.

The former congressman and state lawmaker spent a combined $466,801 from the two accounts to leave him with nearly $14.7 million in the bank with a to-date fundraising total of $20.4 million.

Putnam’s campaign account received dozens of checks for $3,000, the maximum contribution for statewide races, with several donors doubling down with checks through their company’s subsidiaries or from their family members.

The October donor roll includes a political committee tied to Florida Transportation Builders Association, the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and insurance company GEICO, among many others.

Florida Grown, which passed $17 million raised last month, picked up a $150,000 check from the Associated Industries of Florida on the last day of the month as well as $50,000 contributions from California Republican David Jenkins, Dallas-based Tenet Health, real estate group Rayonier Inc., and GMRI, an Orlando-based subsidiary of Darden Restaurants.

Among the expenditures were $115,755 in payments to Harris Media for digital advertising and web development, 17 payments combining to over $75,000 for Lakeland-based Silloh Consulting, and $43,430 to Tallahassee-based Forward Strategies for fundraising consulting.

As reported last week, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine brought in nearly $1 million for his political committee, All About Florida. With all candidate reports in, that total puts him in second place behind Putnam for October.

Levine filed as a candidate on Nov. 1, so he has yet to file a finance report for his campaign. His committee account is flush, though, due to him plunking down $2.6 million of his own money.

The committee had about $5.4 million socked away at the end of the month, earning Levine the No. 2 spot in cash on hand.

Embroiled Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala’s October numbers came in at $513,101 raised between his campaign and political committee, Florida Leadership Committee, putting him in a distant third place among the declared major-party candidates.

The new money was offset by $152,147 in spending, leaving Latvala with a little over $5 million in the bank, good enough to put him in third place for cash on hand as well.

Campaign donors included a committee tied to the Florida Automobile Dealers Association, hotel company Marriott, and North Palm Beach attorney James Williams Jr. and his wife, Maureen Williams.

On the committee side, Latvala picked up $25,000 checks from American Traffic Solutions, a political committee tied to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Sugar and public employee trade association AFSCME Florida.

Expenditures included a $50,000 contribution to the Republican Party of Florida, which paid that back with more than $60,000 worth of “in-kind” contributions last month, $30,000 to Champion Digital Media for advertising, and $20,000 to St. Pete mayoral candidate Rick Baker’s political committee. Baker lost that election to incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman earlier this month.

Former congresswoman Gwen Graham, who touted her fundraising efforts earlier this month, came in behind Latvala with $346,573 raised between her campaign and committee, Our Florida. Heading into November, the North Florida Democrat had raised more than $4 million between her campaign and committee and had $2.66 million of that money on hand.

Winter Park businessman Chris King, running as a Democrat, tacked on $151,834 through his campaign and committee, Rise and Lead Florida, while Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum came in last place among the major candidates. His campaign announced last week that it had raised $80,107 in October, though his committee, Forward Florida, saw negative fundraising last month.

King’s fundraising total to-date clocks in at about $2.7 million, with about $1.7 million on hand. Gillum has raised nearly $1.6 million to date, and had $557,571 on hand at month’s end.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who has not officially declared for governor, brought in $267,200 in October through his political committee, Watchdog PAC, making it the committee’s slowest month yet.

AIF’s Voice of Florida Business political committee gave the Land O’ Lakes Republican $50,000 last month, while Auto Glass America, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and a couple other donors chipped in with $25,000 apiece.

His $4 million on hand total would currently put him in the No. 4 position if he were to enter the race.

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