Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.
Andrew Gillum leading Ron DeSantis for Governor?
Rick Scott’s lead over Bill Nelson shrinking?
What is happening in Florida Politics?
A new survey from Reuters/Ipsos/UVA Center for Politics shows Gillum with a six-point lead over his Republican opponent, DeSantis.
The results showed Gillum earning 50 percent of the vote, with DeSantis sitting at 44 percent.
What should worry the GOP: That lead is outside the survey’s four-point “credibility interval,” indicating Gillum’s lead is legitimate.
Wait, there’s more: The newest poll from the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative shows Gov. Scott up by less than a percentage point in the race to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Nelson.
That’s a drop from Scott’s six-point lead in the previous FAU BEPI poll. The latest version of the group’s survey has the Republican Scott earning 42 percent of the vote while Nelson, a Democrat, nabs just over 41 percent.
The same survey also showed Gillum ahead in the race to be Florida’s next Governor. The poll shows Gillum with 41 percent; DeSantis with 38 percent.
As Yeats wrote, “Surely some revelation is at hand …”
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@SenFeinstein: President Trump, Dr. Blasey Ford did not want her story of sexual assault to be public. She requested confidentiality and I honored that. It wasn’t until the media outed her that she decided to come forward. You may not respect women and the wishes of victims, but I do.
—@ChrislHayes: In the last 24 hours many conservatives have seem to have convinced themselves that Blasey Ford’s reticence to testify one-on-one w [Brett] Kavanaugh on Monday means she’s lying.
—@ScottForFlorida: Disgusting #SaltBae served a lavish steak dinner to [Nicholas] Maduro and his thugs. Since Maduro has become President, meat consumption is down over 25% in Venezuela, and millions are starving. This is what happens under socialism.
—@Fineout: @ByDaveBerman reports that during a Titusville campaign stop that @FLGovScott is now calling both @SenBillNelson & @AndrewGillum “socialists.” Says they both want “big government and socialism.” Apparently, Scott did not really explain what he meant by the comment.
—@Fineout: Not yet released on his schedule, but @FLGovScott will be in DC on Friday where he is scheduled to speak at the Values Voter Summit. Schedule has him going on right after Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway.
—@MeredithMBeat: .@AndrewPollackFL: “It is absolutely disgraceful that @AndrewGillum would campaign with Sheriff [Scott] Israel. Gillum is siding with Sheriff Israel above the interests of our students and citizens, making our schools and communities less safe.”
—@GrayRohrer: Reminder: Last FAU poll before primary had Gillum tied for third w/[Jeff] Greene at 11 pct; and a “dead heat” in GOP gov primary. DeSantis won by 20 pts.
—@PatriciaMazzei: So here we are. Dems thought they had FL27 in the bag and a likely pickup in FL26. Now they have work to do in FL27 and Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo appears to be leading in FL26. Florida rarely conforms to easy political narratives.
—@CarlosGSmith: This week, our office joined @Vamos4PRAction to help 22 Puerto Rican families displaced by #HurricaneMaria apply for desperately needed services. One year later, many families live in motels, without stable housing or income. We will NOT leave them behind. Seguimos pa’lante!
— DAYS UNTIL —
First general election mail ballots go out — 2; First day of fall — 2; Future of Florida Forum — 6; Government shutdown — 10; FSU vs. UM football game — 16; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 19; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 33; MLB World Series begins — 34; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 35; Early voting begins — 37; Halloween — 41; General Election Day — 47; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 61; Thanksgiving — 63; Black Friday — 64; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 68; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 145; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 166; 2020 General Election — 775.
“Yard signs: Florida Realtors announce general election endorsements” via Florida Politics — Republican gubernatorial nominee DeSantis … state Rep. Matt Caldwell for Agriculture Commissioner … CFO Jimmy Patronis, the only incumbent Cabinet member, remains the Realtor-backed pick for the general election, as does Republican Attorney General nominee Ashley Moody … “As Realtors, we pride ourselves on our long-standing efforts to defend private property rights, promote community prosperity and preserve a professional climate that ensures the economic growth of Florida,” said Florida Realtors PAC chair Ann DeFries. Further down the ballot, the Republican nominees in the most competitive state Senate districts — Sen. Keith Perry in SD 8, former state Rep. Ed Hooper in SD 16, Sen. Dana Young in SD 18, Sen. Kelli Stargel in SD 22 and state Rep. Manny Diaz in SD 36 — all retained their endorsements from July.
“Mail ballots have higher rejection rates, and they vary widely by county” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — A study of Florida’s past two presidential elections finds that mail ballots were more likely to be rejected than votes cast at early voting sites or on Election Day. The study also found that mail ballots cast by youngest voters, blacks and Hispanics were much more likely to be rejected than mail ballots cast by white voters, and that those voters are less likely to cure problems with their ballots when notified by election supervisors than other voters. About 1 percent of all mail ballots cast are rejected and not counted … that rate is about 10 times higher than for voters voting either at an early site or on Election Day. Pinellas, the county where voting by mail is promoted more than anywhere else, also had one of the lowest rejection rates in Florida in 2016.
“ACLU wants more rules in review of mail-in votes” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The civil rights group also warned that young voters and minorities appear to have a greater chance of having their mail-in ballots rejected, according to a report based on the 2012 and 2016 elections. The ACLU is asking the county elections supervisors to agree to a single set of guidelines to address the issue of ballots that have been rejected because of mismatched signatures. The group wants to ensure that the ballots get counted. The ACLU’s request is grounded in a report that found a higher rejection of ballots cast by mail in the 2012 and 2016 elections than ballots cast by voters at an assigned precinct or early voting location. The report, titled “Vote-By-Mail Ballots Cast in Florida,” found county supervisors don’t all use the same coding to document the reasons a vote-by-mail ballot was rejected.
— DESANTIS VS. GILLUM —
“Ron DeSantis says nothing has changed with Donald Trump” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — “I don’t think anything has changed. I think we’re good,” the Republican nominee for Governor said. POLITICO reported that insiders say the president was furious with the congressman, calling him disloyal for backing Trump’s claims that his political enemies are exaggerating Hurricane Maria death tolls. Last week, DeSantis tweeted he saw no reason to dismiss estimates that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the massive hurricane one year ago, as well as during the long recovery for much of the year in which parts of the island were without power, clean running water and health care services. When asked if he thought Trump would still campaign for him, DeSantis replied with one word: “Sure.”
“Parkland dad rips Andrew Gillum for taking support from Broward Sheriff Scott Israel” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Andrew Pollack, the father of slain Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Meadow Pollack, is ripping gubernatorial candidate Gillum for accepting financial support from Broward Sheriff Israel. Following a Sun-Sentinel report that Israel is among a group of Broward politicians fundraising for the Democratic nominee Friday in Fort Lauderdale, Pollack issued a statement through the Republican Party of Florida in which he partially blamed Israel’s “leadership” for his daughter’s death. Israel has been the subject of public and political scorn amid scrutiny of the law enforcement response to the Feb. 14 mass shooting at the Parkland high school, during which communications broke down, and a BSO deputy waited outside the building where the attack occurred instead of entering and trying to stop the shooter.
“Madea cuts a check: Tyler Perry slides Gillum $100K” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — For actor, playwright and filmmaker Perry, the six-figure check amounts to a rounding error in his personal finances. The man behind the commercially reliable Madea character was worth $600 million, according to Bankrate.com, as of last year. What’s clear: Gillum’s inspirational story, along with his presence and viability as a candidate, resonate with deep-pocketed celebrities just as they do the George Soros– and Tom Steyer-types who played a major role in pushing the Tallahassee Mayor to a primary victory that few pundits saw coming.
“Corey Booker, Phil Murphy to raise cash for Gillum” via Matt Friedman and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Gillum will be the “special guest” at a Sunday fundraiser in Edison, New Jersey with a host committee that includes Sen. Booker, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and U.S. Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman and Donald Milford Payne, both New Jersey Democrats. The fundraiser at the Pines Manor party venue benefits Gillum’s political committee, Forward Florida. Tickets range from $250 to $5,000, according to the invitation.
“FEA committee spends $100,000 to back Gillum” via the News Service of Florida — The Florida Education Association Advocacy Fund sent $100,000 to a Gillum political committee known as Forward Florida … Gillum and DeSantis launched competing education plans Wednesday. Gillum, in part, wants to provide a minimum starting salary of $50,000 for teachers and would boost the state’s corporate income tax to fund it. DeSantis, meanwhile, released a plan that includes requiring 80 percent of school funding to be spent in classrooms and not on administration. He said the plan could help boost teacher pay. But the FEA, the state’s major teacher’s union, was highly critical of DeSantis’ plan.
Assignment editors — DNC Chair Tom Perez, Lt. Governor nominee Chris King, Congressman Darren Soto, Haines City elected officials and community leaders will appear at a Florida Democratic Party “Rural Tour” stop, 11 a.m., Lake Eva Community Center, 555 Ledwith Ave., Haines City.
— SCOTT VS. NELSON —
“Bill Nelson disputes ‘vulnerable’ claim, says he’s ‘going to win’ ” via Florida Politics — Sen. Nelson is vying for his fourth term in office; however, one national outlet rates him as the “most vulnerable” Senate incumbent. Per Nate Silver‘s FiveThirtyEight, Nelson is the “most vulnerable” Democratic senator on the 2018 ballot, plagued by “a very good challenger in Florida: Gov. Rick Scott,” a Naples Republican. We asked Nelson on Wednesday if he was vulnerable, given the bleak FiveThirtyEight assessment. “FiveThirtyEight also says I’m going to win,” Nelson said, drawing laughter from those around him.
“Hounded by protesters, Rick Scott moves on red tide” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Two days after protesters angry over red tide led Scott to cancel a campaign event, the governor unveiled a plan to work with scientists to combat the algae plaguing the Gulf Coast and killing off marine life. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will work with scientists from the University of South Florida and the Mote Marine Laboratory, a Sarasota-based nonprofit research outfit, to conduct experiments using forms of clay designed to counter red tide’s effects. “In Florida, when we are faced with challenges, we take action to engage innovative solutions that best fit our needs — and our fight against red tide is no different,” Scott said in a released statement. “This partnership of world-renowned scientists is an important step forward as we look for ways to mitigate the impacts of red tide and help our impacted communities quickly recover.”
“Major Ashley Moody donor charged in pump-and-dump scheme” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — According to a complaint brought against Barry Honig, he and a ring of South Florida investors orchestrated a classic pump-and-dump scam. Moody campaign officials say they are refunding Honig’s contributions and disassociating from him completely, but the micro-cap fraud case draws fresh questions how Moody as attorney general might treat white collar crime should more donors come under scrutiny. SEC officials say Honig and other investors arranged the discount purchase of stock in three different companies, then engaged in deceitful trading to create the illusion of market activity. The group of investors sold the stock at inflated prices, reaping millions at the expense of duped investors. Only Honig donated to the Friends of Ashley Moody committee. In the past, he has given to congressional campaigns for former Republican U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite and retiring GOP U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
“Sean Shaw announces general election finance team” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Shaw announced more than 20 names for his newly formed General Election Finance Committee … The campaign’s senior adviser, Dan Newman, will lead the finance committee efforts with Capital City Consulting’s Justin Day, Merlin Law Group founder William Merlin and former CFO Alex Sink serving as co-chairs … “I am thrilled to have this impressive list of Floridians supporting my campaign and helping to push us toward a historic victory,” Shaw said. The remainder of the list consists of business leaders, attorneys, and elected officials, including former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy and St. Petersburg state Rep. Ben Diamond … Shaw faces Republican nominee Moody, a former circuit court judge, in the general election.
“Democrats just spent another six-figure sum on an ad about Vern Buchanan’s yacht” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — A Democratic-leaning SuperPAC, Change Now, began airing a new television spot in Tampa highlighting Buchanan‘s purchase of a luxury boat on the same day he voted for the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. “He helped write the new tax law — that’s a windfall for himself,” the narrator in the ad, which is part of a six-figure buy, says. “Hours after the bill passed, Vern Buchanan bought himself a new yacht.” According to an Axios report, Change Now is funded by a coalition of labor, environmental and other Democratic-leaning groups. The League of Conservation Voters and the Service Employees International Union are two primary contributors to the group.
To view the ad, click on the image below:
“Francis Rooney’s opponent says he’s within striking distance in deep-red CD 19” via Florida Politics — Long odds haven’t crushed Democratic nominee David Holden’s hopes of flipping the district. In a news release, his campaign touted a new online poll conducted by Change Research showing him trailing Rooney by a single point and calling on the incumbent to join him in a public debate. “We have the strongest grassroots movement Southwest Florida’s seen in decades,” Holden said. “We’re going to close that 1-percent gap and then some. We’re less than 50 days out from Election Day and with the momentum we’ve built up to this point, we’re going to flip Southwest Florida and implement the solutions our community needs.” Holden’s campaign didn’t include the full results of the Change Research poll … With a sample size of 468 registered voters in the district with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
“Donna Shalala in tight congressional race, new polls show” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A pair of internal campaign polls obtained by POLITICO suggest a surprisingly close race in Florida’s 27th Congressional District. The race has long been considered one of Democrat’s best pickup opportunities in 2018. Those chances were seemingly strengthened when Shalala won the crowded Democratic primary last month. But a new internal poll from Republican Maria Elvira Salazar shows Shalala trailing by nine points. A separate internal from Shalala’s own campaign bodes somewhat better for the Democrat. It shows Shalala ahead by four points.
“Florida Democrats say their state Senate map is still expanding” via Florida Politics — Despite recent public polls showing Democratic candidates down by a hair in some of the Florida Democratic Party’s major state Senate targets, the party is pointing to new measures that show another three more chances to overtake Republican-held districts. “While the focus has been on the State Senate Districts most affected by the Fair Districts Amendments, new polling from Change Research shows that a Blue Wave is forming across Florida that could propel Democrats to the majority in 2018,” a Wednesday FDP email reads. FDP says voters have soured on Trump, whose brief tenure has been “continually defined by his pettiness, inability to govern, rampant sexism, and general air of incompetence.” When it comes to the Republican stranglehold on the state government, FDP is betting voters are just as weary.
Janet Cruz nabs gun violence prevention endorsement — The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence endorsed Cruz in her bid to unseat Sen. Dana Young in the Tampa district. The group criticizes Young for not supporting legislation banning assault weapons and praises Cruz for her leadership on “sensible gun reform. The campaign is the nation’s longest-serving gun safety organization and is affiliated with the Million Mom March.
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL, PART 2 —
“Wilton Simpson funnels $550,000 to Senate GOP committee” via the News Service of Florida — Majority Leader Simpson’s political committee, known as Jobs for Florida, sent $550,000 last week to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee … Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano chairs the committee, which is pouring money into efforts to elect Republican candidates in November. Galvano is slated to become president after the November elections, with Simpson expected to follow in 2020 if the GOP maintains control. Simpson’s Jobs for Florida committee also raised $130,000 last week and had about $1.57 million in cash on hand as of last Friday, the report shows. Contributions included $50,000 from United States Sugar Corp. and $25,000 from the tobacco company Altria Client Services.
“Florida Senate candidate touts honors from Trayvon Martin Foundation — but misspells name” via Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — Mariana “Marili” Cancio has long been a supporter of local anti-violence groups, financially funding hotel rooms and T-shirts while successfully advocating for a witness protection law last year. The Republican candidate for the Florida Senate District 40 race touted that work on a recent mailer. On one side … the mailer said Cancio’s efforts were recognized by Sears’ organization and the Trayvon Martin Foundation. But the foundation’s namesake, who was from Miami and became the face of the #BlackLivesMatter campaign when his murder was publicized in 2012, was misspelled on the mailer. Trayvon was spelled with an “e.” “That’s definitely not the spelling,” said Kat Tynes, spokeswoman for the Trayvon Martin Foundation based out of Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens. “it just takes a few seconds to do some research just to make sure the research is accurate.”
“GOP ad rips Florida House Democratic hopeful Anna Eskamani for ‘extremely vulgar’ language” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — The ad, funded by the Republican Party of Florida, depicts Eskamani hoisting a megaphone and quotes her saying “I don’t take [expletive] ever,” “Look at the [expletive] we have to put up with,” and “[Expletive] the patriarchy.” It also questions if Eskamani “is the example our leaders should be setting for our children?” and says, “she’s everything wrong with politics today.” … “It won’t work, but this mailer has some truth to it, because I refuse to back down when it comes to fighting for the hardworking families of Orange County, and I’m not going to take advice from [opponent Stockton] Reeves or the entrenched lobbyists who back him,” Eskamani said in an email to supporters.
“Unfriended: Former candidate sues over fib to get access to his Facebook posts” via Florida Politics — David Vogel, a former Democratic candidate for the Florida House who ran unsuccessfully against state Rep. Chris Latvala, is suing a former Latvala campaign staffer, the Tampa Bay Times and a Times reporter. That’s after the campaign worker convinced Vogel to accept a friend request on Facebook by telling him falsely she had never heard of her then-boss. Latvala’s campaign later shared and the Times published demeaning posts Vogel made, calling Republicans names and insulting Trump supporters and religious followers. Vogel is suing for an unspecified amount of damages. Latvala called the suit frivolous and said Vogel was a sore loser.
Happening tonight — Candidates Will Robinson, Ray Pilon and Tommy Gregory will appear at a meeting of the Sarasota Republican Club, 6 p.m., Marina Jack, 2 Marina Jack Plaza, Sarasota. Robinson is running for an open seat in HD 71; Pilon is challenging Democratic Rep. Margaret Good in HD 72, and Gregory is running for an open seat in HD 73.
Happening tonight — Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez hosts a fundraiser in her bid for House District 105, 6 p.m., Biscayne Brewing, 8000 NW. 25th St., Suite 500, Doral.
“Appeals court ready to consider pregame prayer” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Nearly three years after Christian schools from Tampa and Jacksonville squared off in a high school football championship, a federal appeals court is poised to hear arguments about the constitutionality of a decision that prevented the schools from offering a prayer over the stadium loudspeaker before kickoff. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in a case filed by Tampa’s Cambridge Christian School against the Florida High School Athletic Association. A federal judge last year upheld a decision by the association to prevent a prayer over the loudspeaker at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium before a December 2015 championship game between Cambridge Christian and Jacksonville’s University Christian School. Cambridge Christian appealed, arguing the decision violated First Amendment rights. But the association, which governs high school sports in Florida, said it is a “state actor” and that the “nature of speech occurring over the public-address system is government speech.”
“Committee raises money to fight tax amendments” via the News Service of Florida — A union that represents government workers has sent $200,000 to a newly formed political committee that opposes two tax-related constitutional amendments on the November ballot. The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees contributed the money Sept. 7 to the committee Floridians for Tax Fairness … Floridians for Tax Fairness filed initial paperwork with the state on Sept. 5 and indicated it would oppose Amendment 1 and Amendment 5. Those amendments, placed on the Nov. 6 ballot by the Legislature, would lead to a $25,000 increase in the homestead tax exemption and would require two-thirds votes of the House and Senate to raise taxes or fees in the future.
“Groups seek to lift stay in conservation money case” via the News Service of Florida — Arguing that time “is of the essence,” environmental groups requested that a judge lift a stay of a ruling that found state lawmakers did not properly carry out a 2014 constitutional amendment that requires spending on land and water conservation. Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson in July ruled in favor of groups such as the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Florida Defenders of the Environment, which filed a lawsuit arguing that lawmakers had improperly diverted money to purposes other than conservation. But the state quickly appealed, a move that led to an automatic stay of Dodson’s ruling. The environmental groups said they filed a motion in Leon County circuit court arguing that the automatic stay should be vacated and pointed to issues such as an outbreak of toxic algae in waterways in Southeast and Southwest Florida.
“Obamacare had little effect on timing of workers’ comp claims, study says” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — An insurance industry analysis undermines any assumption that employees delay reporting weekend injuries into the workweek to take advantage of workers’ compensation benefits. Were that true, one might expect the number of workers’ comp claims filed during the workweek to have declined since the Affordable Care Act brought 8 million people into the ranked of the insured. That didn’t happen, according to an analysis by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, or NCCI — an industry data clearinghouse that recommends premium levels in states including Florida. The study did find a slightly higher number of claims reported on Monday than any other day of the week. But there was no noticeable change after the ACA took effect — not any day of the workweek.
“JEA wants federal regulators to intervene on Plant Vogtle dispute” via Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union — It’s not clear if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will agree to hear JEA’s case. The federal agency regulates the sale and transmission of electricity across state lines and reviews some corporate transactions and activities. But it does not oversee the construction of power plants or the operation of nuclear facilities, nor does it regulate municipal power agencies like JEA and the Georgia agency it’s feuding with. Alan Howard, the chairman of the JEA board of directors, told his counterpart at the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia in a Tuesday letter that a hearing by the regulatory commission would place the burden on MEAG to prove its purchase-power agreement with JEA has reasonable terms and conditions. He “We do not believe MEAG can meet this burden,” Howard wrote.
“Memo to City Attorney: personal use of airport parking pass a no-no for VIPs” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Parking passes issued to city, county and other officials for the Tallahassee International Airport can only be used for official government business, the Independent Ethics Board advised in an email to the City Attorney. “If the passes are utilized for other purposes, they may be considered a gift and treated accordingly,” Julie Meadows-Keefe wrote to Cassandra Jackson. The issue came up after the Tallahassee Democrat reported that Mayor Gillum had used his free airport parking pass 96 times — almost twice a week between March 2017 and April 2018. He didn’t report the use of the parking passes as gifts.
“Miami-Dade County adds early voting site at FIU” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Miami-Dade voters looking to skip the line on Election Day just got some good news, as Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Wednesday announced the creation of a new early voting site on the campus of Florida International University. Previously, campuses were barred from serving as early voting locations. That ban was struck down in July. Though the new site at FIU will make it easier to vote for the more than 50,000 students enrolled there, as well as faculty and staff, the site will be open to all voters in the county. The polling place will be located at the Student Access Center at FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique campus.
“UCF leader responsible for misspent $38M on academic building received glowing reviews” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Former University of Central Florida President John Hitt rated his chief financial officer as “outstanding” in nearly every area of his annual evaluation, as he had for each of the last 12 years. “He enjoys my full trust and confidence,” Hitt wrote in February 2008, the most recent time he provided written comments in Bill Merck’s review. But last week, Merck resigned after taking “full and immediate responsibility” for the misuse of $38 million from state funds designated for operating expenses on the construction of a new academic building, according to UCF President Dale Whittaker, the former provost who succeeded Hitt in July. The university’s Board of Trustees will meet Thursday with an Atlanta-based law firm hired to untangle the mess. Merck, 73, consistently received outstanding marks in his annual evaluations, according to his personnel file, which the university released.
“Pinellas County strikes bed tax deal with VRBO, HomeAway and other Airbnb competitors” via Sara DiNatale of the Tampa Bay Times — The bed tax is a 6 percent charge to visitors on their room stays. The bulk of the bed tax Pinellas County collects comes from hotels, but Airbnb remitted close to $1.9 million to the county last year. “We have pursued agreements for years, and recently, these online companies realized how much of a benefit it is to the property owners if those owners do not have to handle the taxes themselves,” tax collector Charles Thomas said in a statement. The new agreement means Pinellas County users of TripAdvisor and Expedia’s subsidiaries — HomeAway.com, VRBO.com, FlipKey.com, VacationHomeRentals.com, VacationRentals.com, HouseTrip.com, HolidayLettings.co.uk, and Niumba.com — all will have taxes remitted for them.
What Mike Griffin is reading — “USF students petition to change the school’s new logo” via Kelsey Sunderland of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — It may not be what University of South Florida administrators had in mind when they launched the new slogan “Be Bullish,” but students are making their voices heard in an attempt to change the school’s freshly unveiled logo. Garnering more than 1,800 signatures by Wednesday afternoon, a Change.org petition directed toward USF’s president Judy Genshaft asks the school to return to its previous logo. Complaints were varied across social media, with comments on everything from the less-than-traditional colors to the design of the school’s bull mascot, which was compared to that of wealth management company Merrill Lynch.
— FLORIDA WATER WOES —
“Following fertilizer leads to farms, golf courses, landscaping amid algae blooms” via David Dorsey of News-Press.com — One of the suspected culprits of the toxic algae blooms that have plagued South Florida waterways since June can be traced to farms and groves, lawns and golf courses, landscaping and Orlando theme parks. Even local governments may be feeding the blooms. Septic tank leakage has factored as well. And, environmental experts said, climate change behind fiercer storms and increased heat can bear some blame. But the trail to the truth, like the polluted water itself, appears murky. Following the fertilizer leads to asking: What’s the line between having healthy farms and grass with having healthy waterways? “The answer to that is you get phosphorous in the soil down to moderate amounts that are adequate for crops but not so high that they pollute the water,” said Steve Carpenter, who studies soil at the University of Wisconsin.
“Alico water farm gets South Florida Water Management District permit for $124M project” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm — The South Florida Water Management District approved a permit for a controversial 35,192-acre water farm that will cost taxpayers $124 million over 11 years. The water farm on Alico Inc. land in Hendry County is designed to prevent water from the Caloosahatchee River from polluting the estuary near Fort Myers, much like the Caulkins water farm does for the St. Lucie River in Martin County. A TCPalm investigation in December 2015 found the Alico project would cost much more per gallon of water than Caulkins. The Caulkins project costs taxpayers $233 for every 1 million gallons of contracted water storage; Alico’s 2014 contract would cost $356 for the same amount of water. Storing 1 million gallons on publicly owned land costs less than $25, according to an audit of the district’s Dispersed Water Management Program.
“State loses millions when water farms cease” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm — Florida already has spent $3 million on three pilot water farms, despite a state auditor urging they be sited on public lands, not private. If legislators examined two particular projects — Caulkins Citrus Co. in western Martin County and Alico Inc. in Hendry County — they’d find their costs and effectiveness vary, as the state negotiates contracts individually rather than having set standards … critics rail against Alico’s proposed water farm, calling it a $124 million boondoggle. The district is only just now vetting the project’s technical details — such as making sure it can hold all the water Alico officials say it can — a year after approving the 11-year contract.
— SWEPT AWAY —
A lost beach is the subject of the first installment of a three-part series from the Orlando Sentinel examining Hurricane Maria, which made landfall in Puerto Rico one year ago today.
“The surf town of Rincón wasn’t the hardest-hit municipality in Puerto Rico,” writes Sentinel reporter Bianca Padró Ocasio. “ … But the storm has hastened Rincón’s steady loss of something fundamental to its community: the beach.”
Nearly half of the 8-mile stretch of sand was eroded during the storm. “We used to play baseball with four bases on those beaches,” recalls one source to the Sentinel.
Oceanfront woes: Tres Sirenas, a boutique hotel on the beach, closed for 10 months. “Insurance paid only half of the damage they claimed. They had to take out a small business loan and invest tens of thousands of dollars of their own money.”
‘Dr. Beach’: A nickname for Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a coastal expert at Florida International University. He calls the eroded coastline in Puerto Rico a ‘cautionary tale’ for anywhere else.
Florida connection: Similar erosions in the Sunshine State occurred in Big Pine Key in South Florida after Hurricane Irma tracked across the state, a source tells the Sentinel.
— OPINIONS —
“What candidates aren’t saying about Lake Okeechobee crisis” via Randy Schultz for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As candidates try to blame someone else for the Lake Okeechobee algae crisis, here are two truths: Florida can’t fix this recurring problem without a massive public investment, and Gov. Scott’s solution is the worst idea. When rain fills the lake high enough to threaten the Herbert Hoover Dike on the southern side, the Army Corps of Engineers releases water east and west. The water carries pollutants and slams coastal estuaries that support marine life and water-related businesses, including real estate. To understand the challenge, you need to understand that Lake Okeechobee is the midpoint of a hydrological system. It starts south of Orlando, at the headwaters of the Kissimmee River, and ends in the Keys, at Florida Bay. Water quality has become a major issue in the races for governor and Senate. DeSantis, who hardly mentioned Florida during the Republican gubernatorial primary and never championed environmental issues in Congress, visited the Everglades last week.
“$5 million of your taxes spent on Florida campaigns … so far” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — That’s enough to hire 140 new teachers. Or the same number of highway troopers. Either cause seems nobler than helping candidates beat the snot out of each other. Yet that’s what’s allowed by Florida’s “Public Campaign Finance” system … trough-gorging is a bipartisan affair. And the candidates are on track to suck up a record number of your tax dollars this cycle. It was envisioned as a way to encourage candidates to limit their fundraising and rely upon donations from individual Floridians, providing matching money of up to $250 for each donation. But the system jumped the rails. Now candidates can raise up to $25 million — plus take unlimited donations in separate committees — and still qualify for matching public assistance. It’s like providing food stamps to tycoons.
— MOVEMENTS —
Personnel note: Beau Beaubien joins DeSantis campaign — Beaubien has left the Attorney General’s Office to become political director for Republican former Congressman DeSantis‘ campaign for Governor. From DeSantis adviser Brad Herold: “From grassroots advocacy to election law to legislative affairs, Beau is an effective and proven operative. Beau’s extensive relationships in Tallahassee and throughout our state will prove immensely valuable and we are excited to have him onboard.” Beaubien had been Special Counsel for Attorney General Pam Bondi since January. Before that, he was an associate at the Coates Law Firm in Tallahassee, focusing on ethics and elections law. He’s been a Legislative Intern at the Florida House of Representatives and a Florida Gubernatorial Fellow at the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. Beaubien got his undergraduate degree from the University of Florida in 2005, and a law degree from Florida State University in 2012.
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Melissa Akeson, The Rubin Group: OX Bottom Mortgage, Sandco
Brian Ballard, William Turbeville, Ballard Partners: GreenPointe Holdings
Robert Beck, Tanya Jackson, PinPoint Results: The Arcanum Group
Paul Bradshaw, Matt Brockelman, Chris Dudley, Allyce Heflin, Jerry McDaniel, Seth McKeel, Southern Strategy Group: Association of Florida Colleges, Palm Beach State College Foundation
Michael Brawer: Association of Florida Colleges
Chip Case, Capitol Advocates: American Houndsmen Federation
Hayden Dempsey, Greenberg Traurig: Town of Jupiter Island
Charles Dudley, Floridian Partners: Capital Wealth Advisors
Michael Gugig: Transamerica Life Insurance Company
Dan Lopez: Best Buy
Robert Schenck, The Legis Group: Baltimore Orioles
— ALOE —
“Tervis to give away 10,000 free tumblers in Florida” via WFLA — Florida-based Tervis is giving away 10,000 exclusive reusable tumblers on Thursday, Sept. 27. What’s the catch? All you have to do is sign the #TakeYourTervis pledge to stop using disposable cups and receive one free tumbler (while supplies last). Tervis says it “is committed to making a positive impact on our oceans and environment by reducing waste.” The offer is available at all Florida stores and online: Tampa — 2223 N. West Shore Blvd, Suite 105. Sarasota — 319 John Ringling Blvd, St. Armand’s Circle. Osprey — 928 S. Tamiami Trail. The Villages — 1109 Main St.
Happy Birthday to state Sen. Dorothy Hukill and state Reps. James Grant and Frank White.