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,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been 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.

Which came first, Donald Trump’s “America First” or Adam Putnam’s “Florida First?”

Since announcing his presidential run two years ago, Donald Trump has kept a focus on “America First” – strong national interests in global security, foreign policy and trade.

Just as “America First” propelled Trump to the White House, Adam Putnam hopes a similar theme will help drive him to the Governor’s Mansion.

That could explain why the new header of Putnam’s Twitter profile boasts a bright red background, emblazoned with the words “#FloridaFirst.”

Hey, it worked for Trump; why not go with a winner?

So, we wondered – which “first” came first.

Wait a minute, says Putnam’s campaign; the former U.S. Representative and current Agriculture Commissioner used “Florida First” for several years before Trump declared “America First,” and well in advance of his presidential campaign.

More than 2,000 supporters heard Putnam proclaim Florida First when announcing he was entering the governor’s race May 10. That same day, the phrase took a prominent role in visuals at a rally in downtown Bartow, Putnam’s hometown, as well as at events throughout his statewide bus tour.

Florida First was also clearly visible in the background of Putnam’s Facebook Live Q&A from Pensacola May 19.

Nevertheless, that was far from the first time Putnam used the term Florida First, says a campaign spokesperson. It has been on campaign and other materials as early as 2012, years before Trump entered politics.

In fact, the state’s official 2012 Collector’s Edition Christmas Ornament (in the pre-Trump era, when Putnam was Ag. Commissioner) was also titled “La Florida First,” celebrating the “innovation and discovery since Spanish explorers first stepped ashore in 1513,” which was REALLY before Trump.

In poll of St. Pete’s mayoral race, Rick Baker holds 5 point lead over Rick Kriseman

Former two-term St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker holds a five-point lead over incumbent first-term Mayor Rick Kriseman according to the first survey of St. Petersburg’s mayoral race since candidate qualifying.

And as much as the race is defined as a showdown of the two Ricks, it appears the race could be headed to a run-off in November.

Baker is at 44 percent, while Kriseman is at 39 percent. That’s a tighter margin than the May 17 St. Pete Polls survey which gave Baker a double-digit lead over Kriseman. (Of course, it’s somewhat a comparison of apples to oranges by putting a head-to-head poll up against a multi-candidate survey.)

But this survey includes the five tomato cans – Ernisa Bardwell, Anthony Cates, Paul Congemi, Jesse Nevel, and Momma Tee Lassiter – who qualified earlier this month to be on the same ballot as Baker and Kriseman.

There’s little chance any of these five candidates reach double-digits in the polls, much less win the race, but they are likely to keep Baker or Kriseman from reaching the terminal velocity necessary to escape a run-off.

Lassiter drew 3 percent support, while Cates, Congemi, and Nevel each received 2 percent support.

Nine percent of those surveyed said they were undecided.

Doing the math, so long as the tomato cans continue to receive a combined 9 or 10 percent of the vote and Baker and Kriseman evenly split the undecideds, the winner of the primary would fall just short of the 50 percent threshold necessary to avoid a run-off.

While the St. Petersburg race is non-partisan, Baker enjoys strong support from Republicans, with 68 percent of Republicans backing him.

Only 54 percent of Democrats back the “proud Democrat” Rick Kriseman.

It’s likely that black Democrats are the ones breaking Baker’s way. He received 38 percent of black voters support in this survey, while Kriseman received 36 percent.

There doesn’t appear to be a gender gap in this race as Baker is narrowly leading Kriseman with both men and women voters.

The poll also surveyed two of the City Council races.

In the District 2 race, in which Barclay Harless and Brandi Gabbard are squaring off, Gabbard has a 16 point lead (30 percent to 14 percent), although “unsure” dominates the field there.

And there’s a little bit of a surprise in District 4, where incumbent Darden Rice is facing political neophyte Jerick Johnston. Rice “only” leads him by 14 points, which is shocking giving Rice’s incumbency, fundraising advantage, and generally positive presence in the local media.

The poll was conducted June 27 and received 754 responses from registered voters in the city. The poll has a margin of error of 3.6 percent.

Sunburn for 6.28.17 – Heath care politics; Bill Nelson knocks Rick Scott; $1.5 mil for the Crist view; Airbnb ponies up; The Kim McDougal sweepstakes

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.


In a bruising setback, Senate Republican leaders are delaying a vote on their prized health care bill until after the July 4 recess, forced to retreat by a GOP rebellion that left them lacking enough votes to even begin debating the legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delivered the message to GOP senators Tuesday at a private lunch also attended by Vice President Mike Pence and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.

Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. walks from his office on Capitol Hill in Washington.

McConnell had hoped to push the measure through his chamber by week’s end, before an Independence Day recess that party leaders fear will be used by foes of the legislation to tear away support.

The bill, which would roll back much of President Barack Obama’s health care law, has been one of the party’s top priorities for years, and the delay is a major embarrassment to Trump and McConnell. At least five GOP senators — conservatives and moderates — have said they would vote against even beginning debate, and the bill would be derailed if just three of the 52 Republican senators voted against it.

GOP defections increased after Congress’ budget referee said Monday the measure would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026 than Obama’s 2010 statute.

Marco Rubio still undecided on health care bill, but liking what he sees” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – In his new 16-minute video released through Facebook Live, Rubio defended the bill’s Medicaid provisions – nationally universally criticized by Democrats, some Republicans and many major health care advocates for cutting Medicaid money – because he argued the cuts are not uniform across all states, and that he believes Florida actually could wind up with more money than before, while other states take the big hits. He expressed less confidence in what the bill could do to overhaul the individual marketplace for health care insurance, saying that remains uncertain, and he is still studying it. “I did not decide if I can support it yet,” Rubio said of the Senate bill. “We still need to run the numbers. We still need to see what this actually means for Florida. But there is the potential, we should know more later today, that for Florida, with this proposed change, that could actually mean more money, not less money. Maybe not a lot more, but certainly not a cut,” Rubio said.

GOP get-together: Gov. Rick Scott met Tuesday with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in advance of the Senate’s vote on its Obamacare repeal and replacement, now postponed. Photo credit: George Bennett.

Rubio and Rick Scott crisscross the Capitol as Obamacare repeal bill stalls in Senate” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald – Minutes after he delayed a vote on a bill to repeal Obamacare when a number of Republican senators said they could not support it as written, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell retreated to his office. Scott and Rubio were waiting for him. The pair met with McConnell for a half-hour, and after the meeting Rubio said the vote delay was “helpful to us.” “I’m going to view this entirely through the lens of what this means for Florida,” Rubio said. “The one unique advantage that we have being from Florida is that we have done what this law is going to … encourage other states to do.” Rubio and Scott never publicly opposed the bill, which stalled after a number of senators told McConnell that they could not vote for the legislation in its current shape. But their tepid response, with Rubio summoning health care staffers from Tallahassee to review the bill and Scott declining to say how he would vote for it if he could, is evidence of the work Senate leaders need to do to get a bill passed.

Tweet, tweet:

Bill Nelson knocks Scott over health bill” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – “Rick Scott is supporting and urging Republican senators to vote for a bill that makes huge cuts to Medicaid, takes coverage away from 22 million people and allows insurance companies to hike rates for older Americans,” Nelson said. “If he really cared about the people of Florida, he’d be doing the exact opposite of what he’s doing now.”

Nelson: Talk to this Florida mom before you call Obamacare a failure” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay TimesNelson spoke on the Senate floor about the health care reform debate, sharing the story of a single Florida mother trying to keep alive her daughter, kindergarten teacher Megan Geller, who died at age 28 in 2015 after a two-year battle with leukemia. “The mom of this girl, had she been faced with this without insurance coverage, she would be bankrupt. She wouldn’t have been able to even afford the first transplant, much less the two years of extra life that her daughter had fighting for her life. And anybody who goes through something like Elaine and her daughter Megan did knows that every second counts. That’s what this health care debate is really about, giving people peace of mind, giving them that financial security, that certainty, putting people’s health ahead of other things, like company profits.”

Click on the image below to watch the video of Nelson’s speech.

Andrew Gillum proposes constitutional amendment on health care” via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida — The Democratic gubernatorial hopeful wants Floridians to have guaranteed access to affordable health care. Gillum announced Tuesday his support for a proposed constitutional amendment that would declare affordable health care is a fundamental right of all Floridians and direct the Florida Legislature to make health care a priority when building its budget. … “When healthcare is under attack in Washington, we’re going to lean into the challenge of healthcare in the Sunshine State and live our values,” he said.

Gwen Graham denounces Senate repeal bill” via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – Citing the CBO estimates … Graham noted that 22 million people will lose insurance coverage in the next 10 years and that Medicaid would be reduced by $774 billion under the Better Care Reconciliation Act being debated in the Senate. “These cuts to Medicaid would be devastating for Florida working families and seniors and those who depend on long-term care,” she said, adding the state should be expanding Medicaid as allowed under the existing health care overhaul … “I do not know how our Florida legislators sleep at night. I don’t know how they put their heads on their pillow knowing that the decisions they have made have caused people to die,” she said referencing the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Graham delivers health care petitions to Rubio’s office — The former U.S. representative delivered thousands of petitions signed by Floridians opposed to Senate Republicans’ health care proposal to Sen. Marco Rubio’s office on Tuesday. “This bill is heartless,” she said in a statement. “I’m calling on Senator Marco Rubio to listen to the thousands of people across our state who signed our petition opposing TrumpCare. Marco needs to be reminded he’s a Floridian first — not a partisan politician.” Tabitha Frazier, whose son was born with a congenital heart defect, and Tallahassee pediatrician Dr. Louis St Petery joined her in delivering the petitions.

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VISIT FLORIDA Vice President quits” via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily NewsAlfredo Gonzalez, VISIT FLORIDA’s Vice President of Global Meetings and Trade, will officially quit his job July 7. His $179,313 salary makes him the highest-paid employee at an agency that faced heavy scrutiny this year from Gov. Scott and the Florida House for bloated salaries, secretive spending and questionable contracts. Gonzalez’s departure leaves a hole in VISIT FLORIDA’s campaign to market the state’s tourism industry in lucrative markets such as the United Kingdom, Germany and the Middle East. He followed International Marketing Program Director Shari Bailey, who resigned Saturday.

Charlie Crist and estranged wife Carole put Beach Drive condo on the market” via Susan Taylor Martin of the Tampa Bay Times – … for $1.5 million. The St. Petersburg Democrat is looking to sell the $1.5 million waterfront home he owns with his estranged wife, Carole. The couple bought the three-bedroom, three-bath condo in July 2015 for $1.036 million … it was during a time when Crist was first considering a U.S. House run. At the same point, amid Florida’s legal battle over congressional redistricting, the couple also bought a house on St. Pete Beach, which sold earlier this year for $1.030 million. According to the listing, the Beach Drive condo has: “Sprawling views of the waterfront and downtown St. Petersburg,” an area that continues to be a strong seller’s market. In the past six months, 30 condos have sold for $1 million or more, with one going for $3.725 million in early June.

This is the view from the Beach Drive condo in Parkshore Plaza owned by the Crist’s. The condo is on the market for $1.5 million. Photo credit: Amy Lamb.

Man accused of threatening lawmaker on Facebook says he was ‘fed up’ with Republicans” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald – After someone threatened his life on his Facebook page, state Rep. Jose Felix Diazinformed police … Northwest Miami-Dade resident Steve St. Felix, 33, was arrested and charged with written threats with intent to do bodily injury. Police said St. Felix was “fed up” with the Republican Party — and that he hadn’t taken his meds when he posted the threat. It’s unclear what condition the medications were treating.

Spotted: Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg talking about sober homes on Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly

Airbnb says county agreements should lead it to equal 2016 tax payments in first six months” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The company announced that its five-month totals in sales and tourist taxes paid to the state and individual counties surpassed $18 million through June 1, so it expects to clear $20 million by July 1. Last year the company’s combined total for the entire state and all of its counties was $20 million … Airbnb reported that in the first five months of 2017 it had delivered $14.6 million in new sales tax revenue to the Florida Department of Revenue. Among individual counties, Airbnb reported the following bed tax payments through the first five months of 2017: Pinellas, $774,500; Orange, $700,500; Miami-Dade, $522,000; Polk, $192,000; Hillsborough, $182,000; Broward, $191,000; Brevard, $165,000; Lee, $153,000; Okaloosa, $144,000; Sarasota, $86,500; and Santa Rosa, $32,000.


You know you’re a favorite when Gov. Scott throws you your own reception when you leave his employ.

That’s what Scott did Monday to see off his latest former chief of staff, Kim McDougal, headed off for greener pastures in the private sector, no doubt.

Where she goes next is still a water-cooler conversation in the Capitol and among the tony office suites of Adams Street. Her professionalism precluded her from shopping herself while still drawing a state paycheck.

But we think her services and institutional memory will be in high demand, especially because of her education policy background.

Probably not Ballard Partners, Southern Strategy Group or Capitol City Consulting; they have their own education specialists in place.

So who? Bill Rubin? Dean Cannon at GrayRobinson? Or Trey Traviesa‘s education policy-focused shop?

Lord knows Scott chiefs of staff haven’t had the easiest of times transitioning, compared to those of days gone-by. Just look at Adam Hollingsworth.

But they weren’t Kim McDougal. We have to expect a leak some time soon, telling us of her next workplace. Stay tuned…

“Personnel note: Megan Fay, Craig Carbone get new titles in EOG” via Florida Politics – Two Executive Office of the Governor officials have been named deputy chiefs of staff, according to a new organizational chart posted Monday. They are Megan Fay, who had been director of policy, and Craig Carbone, deputy director of policy. Karl Rasmussen, another deputy chief of staff, recently departed the Governor’s Office for a lobbying job at the Meenan Law Firm. Deputy chiefs Brad Piepenbrink and Kristin Olson are still with the office.


Associated Industries of Florida announced Tuesday their 2017 “Champion for Business” awards. Handed out each year, the awards recognize elected officials who provided leadership on key legislation for the success of Florida’s business community.

AIF presented Gov. Scott with his fourth “Champion for Business” award. The group applauded Scott for his work on maintaining the state’s economic incentive programs, like Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.

“Each year, AIF is proud to honor elected officials who take risks for his or her belief in the free-enterprise system, who defies the status quo when it is harmful to our state’s competitive climate, and who faces down opponents to the growing prosperity of Floridians,” said Tom Feeney, the president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida. “This year, we selected Governor Scott and six lawmakers who we deem are strong and forceful advocates for the business community, and who are the epitome of what a ‘Champion for Business’ should be.”

Rep. Jim Boyd also received his fourth “Champion for Business” award. The group saluted Boyd for leadership in reducing taxes for families and businesses. First time honorees are Sen. Keith Perry, Sen. Kelli Stargel, Rep. Ben Albritton, Rep. Jay Fant, and Rep. Danny Burgess.


Andrew Gillum: ‘Ultimate judgment’ of his leadership for others to decide” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee DemocratGillum declined to comment on how Tallahassee’s high crime rate and an FBI investigation into the city’s redevelopment agency reflect on his leadership. “I think others will have to make the ultimate judgment on that,” said Gillum … He didn’t want to conflate the latest FDLE crime rate report that Tallahassee had the highest crime rate for a third year in a row with the ongoing investigation into several high-profile developers and their work with the Community Redevelopment Agency. Asked whether the FBI investigation reflects badly on the city and the CRA, Gillum said, “I don’t know that we can draw conclusions that this investigation is about the CRA based on the requests made. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves about what this investigation is doing … I want them to be able to successfully conclude their investigation without interruption from folks like me.”

House GOP-backed PAC pledges anti-Nancy Pelosi campaign in Carlos Curbelo’s Miami district” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Congressional Leadership Fund, a political committee backed by the House Republican caucus, pledged to devote serious cash next year to running against Pelosi, the House Democratic leader. The group says it’s polled 11 competitive congressional districts — including FL-26 — over the past 60 days and found Pelosi is disliked. Her leadership came under political fire last week after Democrat Jon Ossoff lost a special election in Georgia. A defiant Pelosi, a Democratic fundraising machine, made clear she’s sticking around. According to Congressional Leadership Fund, 45 percent of poll respondents in FL-26, which is represented by Miami Republican Rep. Curbelo, view her unfavorably, compared to 37 percent who view her favorably.

Save the date: Sen. Travis Hutson will host an inaugural golf invitational at the World Golf Village, 500 S. Legacy Trail in St. Augustine on July 27 and July 28. The two-day fundraiser includes a dinner at the World Golf Hall of Fame Towner and golf at the Slammer & Squire Course.

Four members of Florida Citrus Commission back Ben Albritton in SD 26 — Citrus leaders are throwing their support behind Ben Albritton in his bid to replace Sen. Denise Grimsley in Senate District 26. The Albritton campaign announced Tuesday four members of the Florida Citrus Commission, including Chairman Marty McKenna and Vice Chairman Mike Garavaglia, have endorsed Albritton in his Senate District 26 bid. “Citrus is the heart of District 26, and as a grower and former board member, Ben Albritton has a unique understanding of the importance and needs of our industry,” said McKenna in a statement. Garavaglia called Albritton a “champion of Florida agriculture” and said he will “continue to be an effective advocate for citrus and the entire agriculture industry in the Senate.” Florida Citrus Commission members V.C. Hollingsworth III and Ned Hancock also endorsed Albritton. “We know Ben Albritton to be a man of his word. He is a passionate and enthusiastic representative of Florida agriculture and deeply enjoys serving our state and its people,” said Hollingsworth and Hancock in joint statement. “We look forward to his continued leadership in the Florida Senate.”

SEIU Florida, AFSCME Florida back Annette Taddeo — Two of the state’s unions announced Tuesday they were endorsing Democrat Annette Taddeo in the special election to replace former Sen. Frank Artiles in Senate District 40. “We have a great opportunity to elect Annette Taddeo who has a proven track record of being a passionate and determined voice for the residents of Senate District 40,” said Monica Russo, president of SEIU Florida in a statement. “Annette brings both grace and grit to this crucial race. She is a fighter and a negotiator. Should she win, expect Annette Taddeo to go toe-to-toe with the power structure to fight for the rights of working folks.” Representing more than 6,000 workers in Senate District 40, the two labor organizations said they will run an aggressive joint program focused on the needs and aspirations of their members and working class families in the district. “At a time when Tallahassee is in desperate need of new ideas and a commitment to transparency, Annette Taddeo is the leader we need,” said Andy Madtes, executive director of AFSCME Florida, in a statement. “SEIU and AFSCME stand united in Florida to make sure the voice of the working men and women is heard loud and clear in this important special election.”

Miami Young Republicans back Mallea in HD 116 — Miami Young Republicans announced Tuesday it was endorsing Jose Mallea in the special election to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in House District 116. “Jose Mallea is one of the most qualified legislative candidates South Florida has ever seen,” said Rey Anthony Lastre, board member of the Miami Young Republicans. “As an entrepreneur and founder of the Biscayne Bay Brewing Company, he understands the needs of small businesses and the challenges that regulations create for our economy.” Mallea faces Daniel Anthony Perez in July 25 GOP primary to replace Diaz. “I am honored the Miami Young Republicans are supporting our campaign,” said Mallea in a statement. “They know me well, and I highly value and respect their energy and leadership in our area. I look forward to working with them to keep conservative policies working for our community.”

More legislative hopefuls file to run in 2018 LobbyTools’ Legislative IQ reports several legislative hopefuls have filed to run for office in 2018. Libertarian Kyle Baker has filed to run in House District 26. He is the third candidate to enter the race, joining Democratic Rep. Patrick Henry and Republican Michael Cantu. Henry is seeking re-election. Democrat Babar Ahmed filed to run against Democratic Rep. Loranne Ausley in 2018. Ausley, who served in the House from 2000 until 2008, was elected in 2016 and is seeking re-election.


“Personnel note: Jonathan Zachem appointed DBPR secretary” via Florida PoliticsGov. Scott on Friday appointed Zachem as the new Secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). Matilde Miller, who had been serving as interim secretary since January, has accepted the job of Vice President of Compliance for VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s public-private tourism marketing agency. Zachem was the department’s deputy secretary. Before that, he was chief attorney and then director of DBPR’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.

“Personnel note: Mark Pafford joins state League of Women Voters board” via Florida PoliticsPafford, the former House Democratic Leader, has joined the board of directors of the League of Women Voters of Florida, the organization announced Tuesday … Pafford, a West Palm Beach Democrat, served in the House 2008-16, when he was term limited. He rose to Leader for the 2015 and 2016 Legislative Sessions after being Deputy Whip and Democratic Policy Chair. The League also announced other new board members: Stephanie Owens, founder of St. Petersburg’s Dolphin Strategies consulting firm; Marty Sullivan, co-Chair of the League’s Natural Resources Committee; and Maggie Lawrence, media buyer and project manager with Tallahassee’s SalterMitchell PR firm.

“Personnel note: Shannan Schuessler now DOT chief of staff” via Florida Politics – With former Chief of Staff Mike Dew’s ascension to Secretary of the department, Schuessler was named the next staff chief, according to a new organizational chart. Schuessler was legislative affairs director, the top in-house lobbyist job at the department, after being deputy LA director. Before that, she was a legislative coordinator for the Lewis, Longman & Walker law firm, according to her LinkedIn page.

Appointed – Dr. Michelle Mendez to the Board of Osteopathic Medicine; Dr. Kay Tasso to the Board of Physical Therapy Practice.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Hayden Dempsey, Greenberg Traurig: Eagle Pharmaceuticals

Jonathan Kilman, Foley & Lardner: Starsky Robotics

Frank and Tracy Maynerick, The Mayernick Group: Aviat U.S., Inc

Happy birthday to Sen. Wilton Simpson, Walt Disney World’s Leticia Adams and the Associated Press’ Brendan Farrington.

Sunburn for 6.27.17 – A final Scott veto?; Scott vs. Oranges; Kellyanne Conway speaks to Miami GOP; More negative mail in SD 40; Donald Trump at Hall of Presidents

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

As a reader of Sunburn, you are probably aware that you can read even more about state politics at our flagship site and at But have you checked out our project covering Central Florida politics, Veteran reporters Scott Powers and Terry Roen are on-the-ground covering everything from the new members of the congressional delegation to the special election in House District 44. Just last week, Powers scooped that state Rep. Mike Miller is considering a run in CD 7, while Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs could be eyeing a run for CFO. There’s also extensive coverage of Orlando and Central Florida’s booming economic development and tourism sectors. Please add Orlando-Rising to your bookmarks.


A House bill aimed at shaking up the state’s Agency for State Technology has been vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Sources had told Florida Politics the measure (HB 5301), backed by state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, would fall to the Governor’s veto pen.

Rules & Policy Committee Chair Jose R. Oliva and Rep. Blaise Ingoglia confer on the House floor April 5, 2017. Photo credit: Florida House.

It passed both chambers this Legislative Session with only 13 total votes against it. In part, Ingoglia had complained the state’s data center costs were “escalating out of control.”

But James Taylor, executive director for nonprofit Florida Technology Council, criticized an earlier version of the bill in a story this April.

“The only thing this truly does is put Florida further behind,” Taylor said. “When you’re trying to fix something, it is always more expensive in the beginning. And that’s where we’re at right now.”

The House had earlier angled for a major overhaul, even doing away with the agency, but agreed to keep it intact during budget negotiations.

The agency came under fire in January after a report by Florida Auditor General Sherrill F. Norman’s office laid out a laundry list of security and other problems at the relatively new agency.

Jason Allison resigned as Chief Information Officer in February. He joined the Foley & Lardner law firm as a “director of public affairs” in the Tallahassee office.

Jason Allison, former head of the Agency for State Technology, now works for the Foley & Lardner firm in Tallahassee.

The agency, which replaced the predecessor Agency for Enterprise Information Technology, was created by lawmakers in 2014. Allison was appointed its head that Dec. 9. He was paid $130,000 a year.

Among the audit findings: The AST failed to “review user access privileges for the mainframe, open systems environments, and the network domains,” kept an inaccurate “inventory of IT resources at the State Data Center,” and “State Data Center backup tape records were not up-to-date and some backup tapes could not be located and identified.”

Ingoglia, a Spring Hill Republican, previously explained that the agency won’t be abolished: It “is going to stay,” he said.

The bill reduces the agency’s “top-heavy” management structure, eliminating “the deputy executive director, chief planning officer, chief operations officer, and chief technology officer.”

It also requires the agency head, the state’s Chief Information Officer, to have 10 years of “executive management experience.”

A provision to move more information to cloud computing earned criticism from Government Technology this May. The website said it “cripple(s) the enterprise structure, allowing data center customer agencies to unilaterally move to cloud solutions.”


Scott vetoed four other bills on Monday, including one (HB 937) that would have required warning labels on lottery tickets.

That bill—sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, a Mount Dora Republican—mandated six rotating warnings on Florida Lottery tickets and advertisements.


The bill also said the warning must “occupy no less than 10 percent of the total face of a lottery ticket” or advertisement. But a fiscal analysis by the Lottery, which reports to Scott, said it could “impact sales of Lottery products” by up to $50 million lost.

Lottery revenue goes into the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund that pays for public education, including Florida Bright Futures Scholarships.

In a veto letter, Scott cited the potential loss to education funding and added that the bill “imposes burdensome regulations on the Lottery and its retail partners.”

In other action, the governor also vetoed:

— A bill (HB 277) allowing wills to be ‘signed,’ witnessed and notarized remotely on computers instead of in person and on paper.

The governor said he had several concerns about the “Florida Electronic Wills Act,” including notaries being able to properly authenticate people’s identities remotely. In Florida, notaries are public officers who are appointed and commissioned by the governor.

— A condominium bill (HB 653) that would have, among other provisions, exempted buildings from “retrofitting a fire sprinkler system or engineered life safety system.”

Scott noted this month’s Grenfell Tower tragedy in London, a high-rise public housing fire that killed as many as 79 people, saying it “illustrates the importance of life safety protections.”

— A deregulation bill (HB 747) for securities dealers and investment advisors.

But Scott said it also increased mortgage regulation such that a parent who wanted to lend a son or daughter money to buy a home would need a state license to do so. The governor called that “overly burdensome.”

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Gov. Scott made it official Monday, formally announcing former state Rep. Patronis will serve as the state’s next Chief Financial Officer.

The announcement — which took place at Captain Anderson’s Restaurant, the Patronis’ family restaurant, in Panama City — puts an end to months of speculation about who would replace outgoing CFO Jeff Atwater, who is leaving June 30 for a job at Florida Atlantic University.

“The biggest legacy you have as governor is the people you get to work with,” said Scott. “I think today is going to continue the Jimmy Patronis legacy of if you … stand up for the right things, if you work your tail off, every opportunity is afforded to you. This is a great day for the Panhandle, and it’s a great day for our great state.”

Scott appointed Patronis to a four-year term to the Public Service Commission in 2015. And earlier this year, the governor appointed Patronis to the Constitution Revisions Commission. Patronis submitted his resignation to the Public Service Commission, and told reporters Monday he had already submitted his resignation to the CRC.

It’s official: Gov. Rick Scott shows off his CFO pick, former PSC commissioner and state representative Jimmy Patronis, on Monday. Photo credit: Matt Farrar.

Patronis said was honored the governor selected him for the post, and said he has spent his life trying to give back to his community.

“I truly believe every family that every family, from Pensacola to Jacksonville to Miami to the Florida Keys, should have every opportunity to succeed here,” said Patronis. “That is in my heart, that is what I believe, that’s my commitment to all of you in the room; that’s my commitment to you, governor; and that’s my commitment to the people of Florida. I take this honor tremendously seriously, and I really look forward to serving as your next CFO of this state.”

Patronis, an early supporter of Scott, was long believed to be a top contender for the post. However, Steve Bousquet with the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau reported that Patronis said he did not actively seek the appointment and the first time Scott contacted him about it was during an afternoon phone call Sunday.

While Patronis will serve out the remainder of Atwater’s term, he was tight-lipped about whether he planned to run for the statewide in 2018, telling reporters Monday “there will be plenty of time to talk about politics later.”

“Right now, I’m just focused on doing the best job I can as CFO for the state,” he said.

Patronis will be sworn in Friday during a ceremony in Tallahassee.

Don Gaetz likes Patronis as CFO — but really likes Tom Lee” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald Gaetz has a unique perspective. Gaetz is business partners with the other likely candidate in the race, Democrat and former state senator and Yahoo executive Jeremy Ring but hints that he’d prefer another person — who is not an announced candidate — former Senate President Lee. “If the governor doesn’t appoint Jimmy as a caretaker and chooses not to run — even though Jeremy is a great friend of mine — I would certainly be supporting Tom Lee,” Gaetz said. He said he hasn’t spoken to Lee about the job but would like him to consider it. “I’ve had the chance to see Tom operate as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and also as a highly successful business owner and I think Tom Lee would be an outstanding CFO,” Gaetz said. “He has the experience, the maturity and understanding of how government should work That would make him a great CFO.”

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

Debbie Downer:


Spotted at the Governor’s reception honoring outgoing Chief of Staff Kim McDougal: Slater Bayliss, Nick Iarossi, Darrick McGhee, Kathy Mears, Dan Nordby, Kristin Olson, Brad Piepenbrink, Jackie Schutz, Noah Valenstein.

Tweet, tweet:

“Scott says citrus veto is constitutionally valid” via Florida PoliticsGov. Scott responded Monday to a lawsuit brought by homeowners whose healthy citrus trees were torn down by the state. He said his veto of reimbursements to homeowners was “consistent with his constitutional authority.” The homeowners have asked the Florida Supreme Court to undo Scott’s veto of more than $37 million. In a 26-page response by Scott general counsel Daniel Nordby, the governor said the petition “should be dismissed or denied” in part because, under the state constitution, Scott “may exercise his veto power for any reason whatsoever.” It goes on to say there’s “no basis for the exercise of this Court’s jurisdiction and … there is no legal merit to the (homeowners’) claims.” Specifically, they have no “clear legal right to the requested relief,” mentioning lower court action still pending.

“Scott approves 5G wireless bill over League of Cities’ opposition” via Florida PoliticsA 5G wireless technology bill that was vigorously opposed by the Florida League of Cities was nonetheless signed into law Friday by Gov. Scott. The bill (HB 687), sponsored by St. Cloud Republican Mike La Rosa in the House, pre-empts to the state the regulation of telecommunications companies putting “small wireless facilities in rights of way.” The League asked Scott to veto the measure, saying it will “deprive cities of their authority to regulate the use of public rights of way.” Such equipment, including antennas and related equipment, can be as big as a kitchen refrigerator … Brewster Bevis, senior vice president of state and federal affairs for Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), applauded the bill’s signing. “This new law … will make faster wireless communications, connected cars and smart cities a reality for Floridians sooner rather than later,” he said.

“Governor signs drone regulation bill” via Florida PoliticsGov. Scott on Friday approved the Legislature’s “Unmanned Aircraft Systems Act,” which gives the state authority to regulate “personal delivery devices (PDDs) and unmanned aircraft systems.” A “personal delivery device” is a machine for use on sidewalks, usually not traveling more than 10 miles per hour … The bill was backed by Republicans Dana Young of Tampa in the Senate and Clay Yarborough of Jacksonville in the House. “This bill adds important protections to Florida’s critical infrastructure and provides certainty and clarity to law enforcement,” Young said in a statement. “I’m delighted that Gov. Scott signed it into law.”

Scott signs nursing education bill” via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools Scott signed (HB 543) to return some state oversight to nursing education programs … Any nursing program on probation must notify students of its status in writing and gives the Board of Nursing more oversight authority, under the new law. It also made a series of tweaks to medical quality assurance statutes.

“Craft distillers to get fee break under new law” via Florida PoliticsCraft distillers got another win in legislation approved by Gov. Scott on Friday. The governor signed into law a wide-ranging bill (HB 689) that changes the state’s alcoholic beverage laws. Among the changes taking effect Saturday, the first day of the new budget year, it cuts the “annual license fee for a craft distillery from $4,000 to $1,000.” … “We’re grateful for the legislation and to Rep. Colleen Burton and Sen. Keith Perry,” who sponsored the bills in the House and Senate respectively, said Philip McDaniel, co-founder and CEO of St. Augustine Distillery. “This will allow more start-up distilleries to compete and become more profitable, more quickly.”


Assignment editors: Kellyanne Conway, an adviser to President Donald Trump, will address the Miami-Dade County Republican Lincoln Day dinner at 7:30 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Miami Airport, 711 N.W. 72nd Avenue in Miami.

“Leon County GOP head calls Andrew Gillum ’embarrassing’ ” via Florida PoliticsThe chair of the capital area’s Republican Party is firing back after Democratic candidate for governor Andrew Gillum ignited a partisan firestorm this weekend over recent subpoenas into city-backed redevelopment deals. “I think I would say the Republicans are terrified,” Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee since 2014, told the Tampa Bay Times. “And I believe that they are intent on … trying to put as much dirt on me as they can.” Leon County Republican Party Chairman Evan Power, in a Monday statement, called it “embarrassing that Mayor Gillum would try to point to me and my fellow Republicans as the source of the problems in his campaign.”

Patrick Henry backs Gillum for governor — Rep. Patrick Henry, a first-term Democratic state representative from Daytona Beach, announced Monday he was endorsing Gillum for Governor. “Mayor Gillum will bring bold and needed leadership to our state’s most pressing issues including a stagnant economy that produces too many low-wage jobs, a health care system that leaves too many behind and a chronically underfunded education system,” he said in a statement. 

Victor Torres backs Gwen Graham for governor — State Sen. Torres announced he was endorsing former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham in her bid for governor. “As someone who has lived a full life full of hard work, I can tell you nothing provides more insight into what Floridians need than real life experiences. Raising three children, volunteering in the PTA and working for her local school district, Gwen Graham has the knowledge and common sense solutions to renew Florida’s public schools,” he said in a statement. Torres’s daughter, state Rep. Amy Mercado, who succeeded him in his house seat, already has endorsed Graham. “For too long Tallahassee politicians have had the wrong priorities for the wrong people. Too many Floridians in our growing state have been ignored. We must put an end to businesses as usual and extinguish the status quo,” said Graham in a statement. “When I’m elected governor, our state will support every community as we renew our promise to public education, expand health care and create good-paying jobs, right here in Florida.”

Ed Hooper earns Jack Latvala’s support to replace him” via Florida Politics — Term-limited state Sen. Latvala is endorsing Hooper as his successor in Senate District 16. “We need someone to represent us in Tallahassee who is qualified, experienced, and a committed public servant who will always keep the citizens at the forefront of every discussion,” Latvala said. “Ed Hooper and I have worked together for a long time. He will follow through on the priorities for our area that I hold dear.” … Throughout most of his political career, Hooper has been seen as a strong ally of Latvala, the veteran lawmaker he hopes to succeed. “I am incredibly humbled to have the endorsement of Senator Latvala,” Hooper said. “Jack has been a political mentor and friend for years, and his support means a lot to me.”

“Ed Hooper and I have worked together for a long time,” said Jack Latvala. “He will follow through on the priorities for our area that I hold dear.”

Associated Industries backs Jose Felix Diaz in SD 40 — Associated Industries of Florida Political Action Committee announced Monday it was endorsing Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in the special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles in Senate District 40. “AIF and our members are proud to endorse Representative Diaz in his race for Senate District 40. Representative Diaz has been a proven leader for his district and the State of Florida, focusing on issues that matter most to Florida businesses and families, including tax relief, job growth and burdensome regulation reductions,” said AIF President & CEO Tom Feeney. “Currently representing a portion of this district in the Florida House, Representative Diaz is a natural fit for this seat, as he is keenly knowledgeable of the Miami-Dade community and the needs of his fellow Floridians.” 

In bitter Miami Senate primary, Republican attacks Republican in first TV ad via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — The bitter state Senate primary between Republicans Jose Felix Diaz and Alex Diaz de la Portilla has spilled onto the television screens of Miami’s District 40 voters, with a new Spanish-language ad funded by Rep. Diaz criticizing Diaz de la Portilla’s legislative and personal history. … The ad, which claims Diaz de la Portilla is facing foreclosure and that he supported tax increases and new taxes while in office, is part of a quarter-million-dollar TV campaign paid for by Rebuild Florida, Diaz’s political committee, POLITICO Florida first reported. The committee shelled out $260,000 in the past two weeks to a consulting firm run by Diaz’s political consultant David Custin, according to the committee’s most recent expenditure filings.

New mailers target Alex Diaz de la Portilla in SD 40 —Making a Better Tomorrow is once again targeting Diaz de la Portilla, including releasing a mailer that calls Senate District 40 voters to tell the former state senator they “don’t need his predatory politics.” The new mailers are the latest in a series of mailers from the Venice-based political committee attacking Diaz de la Portilla in the special election in Senate District 40. In one mailer, the group calls on Diaz de la Portilla out for voting to raise taxes, cut funding to education, and cut funding for senior programs. It calls him a “cut-throat career politician,” who “can’t hide his true nature from us.” … The second mailer focuses on education, and claims the Miami Republican doesn’t want “our kids to have a bright future.”

Matt Spritz announces HD 89 bid Spritz, a Boca Raton attorney, announced he plans to run for the House District 89 seat currently held by Rep. Bill Hager. “I want to build upon his hard work and continue to keep our area safe, our beaches healthy, and our taxes low. Our best days are ahead of us if we can build a vibrant economy that promotes growth and creates jobs,” said Spritz in a statement. “I’m excited about the opportunity to serve our district, and over the next 14 months I’ll work hard to build the trust and support of neighbors from north to south across this beautiful area.” Born and raised in South Florida, Spritz practiced corporate and business law in New York City and in South Florida. He recently served as a legislative aide in the Florida House. Hager can’t run for re-election because of term limits.

Here is who’s behind the mailer in HB 116 race against Jose Mallea” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The mailer by Conservative for Truth PC accuses Republican candidate Mallea of “raising taxes” because he worked as a staffer for two years with former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz. Somebody appears to have messed up because, according to the Division of Elections, Conservatives for Truth PC was disbanded Oct. 3. The registered agent, Jose Riesco, revived a new committee June 21 called Conservatives for Truth … Conservatives for Truth PC raised $466,000 last election cycle — $306,000 came from Citizens Alliance for Florida’s economy, the political committee run by Anthony Pedicini, the consultant aligned with House Speaker Richard Corcoran and heavily financed by the state trial lawyers. Conservatives for Truth in 2016 raised another $50,000 came from the trial lawyers’ Florida Justice PAC and $100,000 came from Rebuild Florida (Pepi Diaz’s political committee.) Mallea faces Daniel Anthony Perez, a 29-year-old lawyer, who appears to have the support of the Corcoran/Trujillo contingent in the House.

Florida Realtors PAC backs Mallea in HD 116 — The Florida Realtor Political Advocacy Committee announced it has endorsed Mallea in the special election to replace Rep. Felix Diaz in House District 116. “As a successful small business owner, Jose has a keen focus on jobs and the economy – two vital components to safe and thriving communities,” said Steven Moreira, chair of the Florida Realtors PAC Trustees. “He also understands the importance of protecting people’s property rights and curtailing rising property taxes before they can chase the dream of homeownership away from deserving Floridians.” Mallea faces Republican Daniel Anthony in the July 25 special primary.

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Big mystery: What black farmers actually qualify to grow medical marijuana?” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Florida is looking to even the playing field for farmers of color when it comes to growing medical marijuana, but the reality is, not many farmers — let alone black farmers — may qualify to become a new licensee under strict requirements to even be considered for a spot on the medical marijuana growing roster. Under SB 8A, at least one of the state’s new medical marijuana licensees will be a class member of the Florida Chapter of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association. To be a qualifying class member, farmers must have participated in the Pigford v. Glickman case, a lengthy lawsuit which began in 1981 and spanned 18 years. Now, to cash in on medical marijuana, black farmers must meet an extremely narrow set of criteria that could shut many of them out completely. In order to be a class member of the Pigford v. Glickman case, black farmers must have been in operation over 30 years ago and must have participated in the case. That means they’d have to still be around to apply for a license to grow medical marijuana in 2017. The exact number of black farmers who actually qualify is a mystery. USDA data show only 284 claims prevailed in the Pigman case. Other states, like Alabama and Mississippi, had more than 3,000 prevailing claimants each.

Debbie Mayfield to push audit of Palm Bay finances” via Dave Berman of FLORIDA TODAYMayfield has agreed to push for a special state financial audit of Palm Bay. The action follows up on a request from Florida Rep. Randy Fine, who said he is concerned by recent developments in Palm Bay, Brevard County’s most populous city. That includes concerns over the city’s handling of federal and state grants, as well as ongoing FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigations of the city. In a letter to Fine, Mayfield said: “I am in receipt of your letter requesting the auditor general to conduct a comprehensive audit of the city of Palm Bay. As chairman of the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, I have asked Kathy Dubose, JLAC coordinator, to place this request on the list for our committee to review during the upcoming committee weeks.”

Joe Gruters announces “merger,” omits key details” via Tom Lyons of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – When he got two unexpected letters in the same envelope last month, one from his Sarasota accountant and the other from another CPA firm he had never dealt with, Sandy Fishbein … was more focused on what the heck was going on with his accountant, Brian Strand, who he says was “my trusted CPA” for well over a decade. The letters both said Strand’s firm was merging with one owned by certified public accountant Gruters. Strand’s letter said Gruters “shares my values,” and Gruters’ letter said, “I’m deeply honored and proud to serve you in both my CPA role and my other job as an elected member of the Florida House of Representatives.” “As most of you know,” the Strand letter said, “I have had some health and personal issues that now make it impossible for me to continue practicing on my own.” Like a lot of Strand’s clients, Fishbein had no clue about the health or personal problems Strand might be referring to, even though he had just been in Strand’s office the previous month. Fishbein … eventually got Gruters on the phone. He says Gruters kept giving him reassuring but vague statements and calling Strand a nice guy. Feeling both mistrustful and frustrated, Fishbein pushed and pushed for more information about Strand. Finally, he says, Gruters just said it. “He’s in jail.” Strand was on his way to prison, actually, to serve a three-year sentence. Strand had kept it pretty quiet, it seems, but he lost his CPA status in 2015 when he was charged with exploiting the elderly by taking more than $100,000 from the trust accounts of a client in her 90s.

Space Florida ‘disappointed’ in Blue Origin decision to build BE-4 elsewhere” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel – A decision by the space company Blue Origin to build the engine of its upcoming rocket in Huntsville, Alabama, was disappointing but not unexpected … Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello said the decision had been anticipated for months. Still, that preparation did not completely take the sting out of the announcement … “While I’m disappointed, I’m not disheartened,” said DiBello, who has led Space Florida since 2009. “We are not going to win them all. That’s the name of the game.” Although he did not share details, DiBello said the Space Coast put together an “aggressive” package, as it tried to lure Blue Origin’s rocket-production facility. Alabama’s history in aerospace manufacturing contributed to the decision, Blue Origin President Robert Meyerson said.

Blue Origin’s BE-4 rocket engines are currently produced at the company’s facility in Kent, Wash. Photo credit: Blue Origin.

Summer kicks off with lower gas prices in Florida” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – So far, in June, gas prices across the Sunshine State have averaged $2.31, the lowest for the month of June since 2005 and just under the national average of $2.33. As the month has gone on, prices at the pump have dropped, with an average of $2.21 Sunday, the lowest Florida has seen since December 2016. Gas prices in Florida averaged $2.21 Sunday, yet motorists are beginning to find prices under $2 a gallon at various service stations throughout the state.


Darryl Paulson: Midterm elections boost Democratic chances” via Florida Politics – Democrats hope to pick up anywhere between one and four seats in Florida with the seat of retiring Republic Ileana Ros-Lehtinen their top priority. Other Republican targets include Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Brian Mast. A three-seat switch would give Democrats majority control of the Florida delegation. A big plus for Democrats is that the party controlling the White House has lost an average of 30 House seats and four Senate seats in the past 21 midterm elections. If the Democrats can achieve the average midterm gains, they will take control of both houses … Democrats should not be over-optimistic even though almost all political factors favor them. Likewise, Republicans should not be optimistic because of their success in special elections.

Manley Fuller: FL wildlife crossings work; safety for animals, people” via Florida Politics – So far this year, vehicle collisions killed an average of two endangered Florida panthers a month. And for bears, the toll is worse: About 20 black bears die every month on roadways as they travel the state looking for food and mates. And we all see many other dead creatures — deer, squirrels, opossums, bobcats, birds, reptiles and more — along our roadsides. This hurts people too: An estimated 200 people are killed and 29,000 injured yearly in the U.S. when their cars collide with animals. The good news is that we can prevent this, and we have proven technology to do it. Building safe crossings for wildlife can reduce the carnage to nearly zero. Wildlife crossings take a number of different forms — expanded culverts, special ledges built along rivers or canal banks under highway bridges, or full-blown landscaped overpasses, like the striking forested Cross Florida Greenway Land Bridge over Interstate 75 near Ocala.

— ALOE —

Trump to have speaking role at Disney’s Hall of Presidents” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – The attraction features audio-animatronic figures of all U.S. presidents. It was one of the original attractions at the Magic Kingdom, which opened in 1971. Disney has added the new president after every election and will continue that tradition, according to Jacquee Wahler, vice president of communications at Disney. “The same thing that we’ve done with other presidents, is the same plan we have for President Trump,” Wahler told News13. A online petition called for Trump to remain silent. It gathered 14,706 signatures but did not convince the theme park giant to squelch the sitting president. The attraction has been closed since Jan. 17 for renovation and is scheduled to reopen by the end of the year.

CNBC’s Marcus Lemonis joins Jeb Bush and Tagg Romney in bid for Miami Marlins” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami HeraldLemonis said he was recruited by former Florida governor Bush to join the ownership group that’s now made up of former rivals in the Marlins hunt. Bush united with Tagg Romney, son of another former GOP presidential candidate, Mitt Romney and New York-based investor Wayne Rothbaum, to pursue the baseball franchise. Bush, Romney and Rothbaum were previously competing against each other for the Marlins, but now are part of a single group trying to buy the team. Lemonis, whose CNBC show “The Profit” chronicles his attempts to rescue failing businesses, said key to a Marlins turnaround would be engineering a local embrace of a team that moved from Miami Gardens to a new ballpark in Little Havana five years ago but still struggles with attendance.

Gators look to write new CWS history in Game 1” via Bob Sparks of Florida Politics – The College World Series finals begin featuring two teams from the same conference, but two distinctly different histories in Omaha. The SEC regular season co-champion LSU Tigers, gunning for their seventh national crown, face the co-champion Florida Gators, who are looking for their first national title. The Gators are in Omaha for the 11th time. They have twice made the championship round, losing to Texas in 2005 and to South Carolina in 2011 in another all-SEC final. They have yet to win a finals game. Beginning Monday night, all of the past history is meaningless. Gators’ Coach Kevin O’Sullivanbelieves Florida’s two-of-three series win against the Tigers in March is also irrelevant. “I’ve always said it’s not who you play in your league, it’s when you play them, because we all go through ups and downs” said O’Sullivan. “And that weekend has absolutely no bearing on what is going to happen over in the next few days.”

Florida leads nation in lightning strike fatalities” via The Associated Press – 52 people have been killed by lightning since January 2007, which is the most in the nation according to an analysis of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather data … the 52 Florida fatalities include a woman hit by lightning while driving in Jacksonville, a man killed while picking blueberries in Santa Rosa County and a woman taking shelter under a Sarasota park gazebo.

Happy birthday to Rep. Lori Berman, Brian Bailey, former mayor Rick Baker, Steve Beste, and my bannerman Tony DeSisto.

Ed Hooper earns Jack Latvala’s support to replace him

Jack has got Ed’s back.

Term-limited state Senator Jack Latvala is endorsing Ed Hooper as his successor in Senate District 16.

“We need someone to represent us in Tallahassee who is qualified, experienced, and a committed public servant who will always keep the citizens at the forefront of every discussion,” Latvala said. “Ed Hooper and I have worked together for a long time. He will follow through on the priorities for our area that I hold dear.”

A former firefighter who served four terms in the Legislature before being term-limited from the House, Hooper, 68, lost a contentious race in 2014 for the Pinellas County Commission to Democrat Pat Gerard, but since then has maintained a public profile.

During his final year in the Legislature, Hooper was chair of the Transportation & Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee. He also received numerous “A” ratings from the Florida Chamber of Commerce Honor Roll, Florida Education Association, and the Florida Home Builders Association.

Throughout most of his political career, Hooper has been seen as a strong ally of Latvala, the veteran lawmaker he hopes to succeed.

“I am incredibly humbled to have the endorsement of Senator Latvala,” Hooper said. “Jack has been a political mentor and friend for years, and his support means a lot to me.”

Latvala has served twice in the Florida Senate, 1994-2002 and 2010 to the present. He currently chairs the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and is considering a campaign for the Republican nomination for Governor in 2018.

Senate District 16 includes northern Pinellas and part of southwestern Pasco County.

The Shark Tank blogger Javier Manjarres may run for Congress? Good luck with that!

Javier Manjarres, known in political circles as the publisher of The Shark Tank blogannounced Sunday that he is considering a run for Congress.

Manjarres, who was named top national conservative blogger by the Conservative Political Action Committee in 2011, said he would continue to operate The Shark Tank while exploring a candidacy.

Whether Manjarres actually pulls the trigger on running — and Javier does have a propensity for pulling the trigger — he’s already won.


Because we’re talking about Javier. The prospect of Manjarres becoming the Hispanic version of Jonah Ryan was written about in POLITICO, the Tampa Bay Times, the Palm Beach Post, and in several other outlets. So instead of stories about Manjarres’, um, checkered past sitting atop Google, reports about his exploring a run for the U.S. House (however a long-shot it may be) is what’s there.

Instead of automatically seeing his mugshot, now you see a photo of Manjarres in a chic suit.

Now, imagine if Manjarres actually does get in the race against popular Democrat incumbent Ted Deutch. What a score that will be for The Shark Tank.

“What if I am able to raise $1 million and spend $1 million in the district?” Manjarres told the Miami Herald.

District 22 includes Boca Raton and Highland Beach in Palm Beach County coastal Broward County from Fort Lauderdale north. The district voted 57 percent for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016.

And guess where that $1 million will go? To Manjarres’ political allies, as it should. Suddenly the blogger you paid to not give you any shit is paying you to produce direct mail and TV.

Everybody wins.

Because I’ve been such an outspoken critic in the past of Manjarres, there was an expectation that my head would explode upon hearing the news about Manjarres’ exploratory efforts.

But just as game respects game, hustle respects hustle.

Do I think Manjarres is an effective blogger? Not really. Not anymore at least. Most of what he writes is a loose aggregation of what he read in that day’s POLITICO Playbook. He does score some noteworthy, exclusive videos with Florida politicians. And, every now and then, he’ll catch lightning in a bottle.

But, no, he’s no longer a competitor in the blogosphere. You can just look at the ads up on The Shark Tank — or lack thereof — to know that.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect his hustle. And that’s what this is.

The blog business is slowing down for him, so why not take that shiny face and put it on a billboard?

Look at how Manjarres was able to get three prominent Florida Republicans — U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis, Matt Gaetz, and Mario Diaz-Balartto go on the record in support of his possible candidacy.

Deutch would beat Manjarres by thirty points but for Mr. Shark Tank, this is what winning looks like.

Sunburn for 6.26.17 – Captain Anderson’s owner to be named CFO; Rick Scott to D.C.; Jack Latvala makes the rounds; Andrew Gillum blames the GOP; Seaward dogged; Weatherford hearts Gaetz

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

Independence Day is a week from tomorrow. This should be a slow period in state politics. But 2017 continues to move at a breakneck pace. And it’s Rick Scott who is setting the tempo. He will name a new CFO, travel to Washington, D.C., to lobby on health care, deal with the final bills of the 2017 Session, and his lawyers will square off versus Aramis Ayala.

These are not the dog days of Summer.


Scott on Monday will announce he’s appointing Republican Jimmy Patronis to replace Jeff Atwater as Chief Financial Officer. Atwater, who was first elected to the post in 2010, is resigning from the job before his term is over to become a vice president at Florida Atlantic University, reports Gary Fineout of the Associated Press.

“As a small business owner, Jimmy has been a successful job creator and has helped grow Panama City’s economy,” Scott said in a statement Sunday. “I know that he will bring his wealth of private sector experience with him to Tallahassee.”

By turning to Patronis, Scott tapped someone who is expected to be a strong supporter of the governor. Patronis, 45, backed Scott during his initial run for governor seven years ago when many in the GOP establishment were supporting then-Attorney General Bill McCollum in the primary.

Patronis in a statement said he was “honored” by the appointment.

“As Florida’s next CFO, I want Florida to be the place where government does its job fairly and predictably so workers can find great jobs at great businesses,” Patronis said.

Scott is announcing the appointment at Captain Anderson’s, the restaurant run by the Patronis family for 50 years. Patronis will be officially sworn into the job on Friday.

A big question is whether Patronis will be able to run for the job in 2018 with no other Republican opposition. Former State Sen. Jeremy Ring, a former executive at Yahoo and a Democrat, has already started running for the job.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will hold a press conference at 8:30 a.m. (CDT) at Captain Anderson’s Restaurant, 551 North Lagoon Drive in Panama City to announce the Patronis appointment. Scott will then hold a press conference at 10:45 a.m. (CDT) at Wayside Park on the west side of U.S. 98 in Pensacola. He will end the day with a press conference at 2:45 p.m. (EDT) at Aero Simulation, 4450 East Adamo Drive, Suite 501 in Tampa.

Facebook Status of the Day via Matt Farrar:

Why you read Sunburn: We first reported that Scott would select Patronis on June 15.

Why you read, um, The Capitolist: Brian Burgess was the first to mention that Patronis was under consideration way back on May 9.

Why you should listen to Brian Hughes: He privately predicted to me that Patronis would get the appointment on May 6!

Why you should always do whatever you can to remain in the game, rather than make a political move that forces you to the wilderness: Remember in 2013 when Matt Gaetz muscled Patronis out of a state Senate primary? Instead of lose badly to Gaetz, Patronis preserved his brand and now he’ll be CFO.

Meanwhile …Tom Grady asked Gov. Scott to take him off shortlist for Florida CFO” via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News —  … because he is having too much fun making money. Grady said his financial consulting through Grady Law increased “dramatically” after Trump was elected in November. He since has invested in money management company Naples Global Adviser and two Silicon Valley startups. The startups are an online human resources company called Rippling and a job-networking business called Door of Clubs. A Naples businessman and lawyer, Grady is a minority stakeholder in all the enterprises.

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Gov. Scott is expected to travel to Washington, D.C. this week to meet with congressional leaders to discuss the Senate’s proposed health care bill.

The Governor’s Office announced Scott’s upcoming trip on Friday, one day after Senate Republicans unveiled their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare. In a statement, Scott said he planned to meet with congressional leaders to “provide input on how we can make the bill better for Floridians.”

Gov. Rick Scott addresses members of the media in Washington, D.C. in May. Photo credit: YouTube.

“First, all states must be treated equitably. Florida taxpayers deserve the same treatment as every other state under the Medicaid program,” said Scott in a statement. “Second, every American, including those with pre-existing conditions, should have the ability to buy any kind of insurance they want. This will drive down costs and give people the flexibility and power to determine what they want to buy.”

The governor went on to say he looked forward to “traveling to Washington to fight for Florida families and ensure a health care proposal that dismantles the terrible, expensive mess of Obamacare.”

Details of Scott’s trip were not immediately available.


In a “score card” produced by the Florida Society of News Editors and based on information provided by Florida’s First Amendment Foundation — which tracked a priority list of public records exemptions — the 160 legislators totaled three Fs, 77 Ds, 71 Cs, and 9 Bs.

The 2017 Legislature created 26 exemptions and expanded another, then instituted yet one more exemption during its special session. Should Gov. Rick Scott approve all of the 28 new exemptions, the grand total over the years would be 1,150.

The single lowest score went to Rep. Bob Rommel, who sponsored House Bill 351, which would have made secret records of public college president searches; and House Bill 843, which would have allowed two members of a government board to meet privately. Both bills failed. Rommel also voted on the House floor against government openness in five of seven cases.

Rommel was joined in drawing an F by Rep. Byron Donalds, another Naples Republican; and Kimberly Daniels, a Jacksonville Democrat.

No legislator earned an A in the same way the others got the Fs. Rep. Joseph Geller, voted for government openness in six of seven floor votes and earned a B-plus, the same grade given to Rep. Lori Berman.

— Scores in the House were much more likely to be lower than those in the Senate. Some of that may be because of HB 111, which drew nearly two dozen sponsors and co-sponsors in the House. The bill, which hides information about witnesses to murders, was signed by Scott in May.

— Where does your legislator rank? See the scorecard.

— Pushback:

>>>Fred Piccolo, a spokesman for House Speaker Richard Corcoran — who scored a D-plus — called inclusion of HB 111, the witness identity bill, in the scorecard, “just plain silly.”

>>>Chris Latvala said, “If I have to vote on that bill 100 more times, I will vote 100 more times for that bill.”

>>>“It’s not that hard of a reach to say this law will keep others from being murdered,” said Rep. Evan Jenne, who earned a C-minus. ” I realize they (the First Amendment Foundation) are a one-issue, one-note organization. But at a certain point, reality comes crashing into any philosophy.”


Sen. Jack Latvala is hitting the road, making appearances in several cities throughout the state this week.  

The Clearwater Republican will kick off his swing at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday when he is scheduled to take part in the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce’s breakfast meeting at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 111 North McMullen Booth Road in Clearwater. Latvala, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is expected to be joined by Reps. Larry Ahern, Ben Diamond, Chris Sprowls, Jamie Grant, Chris Latvala, Wengay Newton and Kathleen Peters for that presentation.

Don’t expect him to linger too long after the meeting, though. Latvala is scheduled to discuss the 2017 Legislative Session during a meeting of the Tiger Bay Club of Southwest Florida at noon at the Marina at Edison Ford, 2360 West First Street in Fort Myers.

Jack Latvala accepts the Dr. Lewis Earle Legislative Service Award from the Florida Dental Association’s Dr. Terry Buckenheimer.

Palm Beach County residents will likely spy Latvala in their neck of the woods on Friday. Latvala is slated to receive an award from the Florida Association of Counties during its annual conference at the Palm Beach Convention Center, 650 Okeechobee Blvd. in West Palm Beach.

On Saturday, Latvala is scheduled to speak at 8 a.m. at the American Legion statewide convention at Orlando World Center Marriott, 8701 World Center Drive.

Latvala: Potential GOP rivals for governor are ‘government animals’” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Would Latvala make a better governor than Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam? “Oh, absolutely,” Latvala told WFOR-CBS 4’s Jim DeFede on “Facing South Florida.” “Because I’ve actually made a payroll. I’ve actually paid workers comp claims. I’ve been in business all these years, while Adam has been in elected office since he was 22 years old.” What about House Speaker Corcoran, another possible contender? “Richard is a trial lawyer at heart,” Latvala declared. “That’s his background: He’s a lawyer with a law firm that lobbies now. I don’t know how much he actually works and practices law. He’s basically a government animal as well.” Latvala, who said he’ll make a decision about whether to run in August, pitched himself as a practical alternative. “I’m an old-fashioned Republican from the standpoint that I think government ought to stay out of our lives — and that includes our personal lives. Some people think that makes me a moderate. Let them think what they want.”

Click on the image below to watch a video of the interview.


Scott signs marijuana amendment into law” via Joe Reedy of The Associated Press — Patients who suffered from epilepsy, chronic muscle spasms, cancer and terminal conditions were allowed under laws Scott signed in 2014 and 2016 to receive either low-THC cannabis or full strength medical marijuana. This law adds people with HIV and AIDS, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and similar conditions. The legislation also paves the way for 10 more medical marijuana treatment centers by Oct. 3, which is the deadline for the rules to be enacted, in addition to the seven already operating. Five that applied in 2015 but were not selected will be licensed by August. The other five licensees include one set aside for a group of black farmers. The bill still bans smoking the marijuana, despite amendment supporters saying it is written in the language. medical marijuana products can be sold as edibles, vaping, oils, sprays or tinctures. Patients may receive an order for three 70-day supplies before having to visit a doctor again to get re-examined.

VISIT Florida is ‘cleaning up their act’ says House Speaker” via Ann Howard of The Capitolist — “It’s clear that VISIT Florida has heard us loud and clear and are beginning the process of cleaning up their act and ceasing the waste of taxpayer money,” said Corcoran. For months Corcoran and Gov. Scott have battled it out about VISIT Florida, as Corcoran called for more transparency and massive cuts to the VISIT Florida budget that was more than $80 million. By the end of Special Session, the VISIT Florida budget was cut down, but not by much, to $76 million. VISIT Florida contracts valued at $500,000 are now required to be posted online. Contracts for more than $750,000 will now go before the Joint Legislative Budget Commission with the possibility it could be killed within 14 days by the House speaker or Senate president.

Cancer treatments behind her, Dorothy Hukill tells constituents: ‘I’m back’” via Allison Shirk of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — The Port Orange Republican said she is finished with treatment now, cancer-free and gearing up for next year when the next regular session begins in January, two months before the usual starting time. Hukill addressed members of the Southeast Volusia Chamber of Commerce at a luncheon about the session she watched via Florida Channel. “Guess what?” she said to the room. “I’m back,” Hukill said after the event that she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support during her treatments, saying she was offered more support than she could possibly ever need. Hukill said she would have rather been in Tallahassee during the session, calling it “painful” to have been away, but that watching the House and Senate members debate from afar made her more aware of body language and reactions — things she would have missed if there in person, she said.

Spotted on the front page of Sunday’s Indian River Press Journal: state Rep. Erin Grall — “GOP ready to have 1st woman as speaker?

Happening tonight — House Majority 2018, Speaker Corcoran, and Speakers-to-be José Oliva and Chris Sprowls host a fundraiser for Grall in her House District 54 re-election bid. Event begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Quail Valley River Club, 2345 Highway A1A in Vero Beach.


Florida Democrats surging with grass roots enthusiasm, but 2018 reality is grim” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – The unprecedented surge in grass roots energy and activity should bode well for downtrodden Florida Democrats heading into the 2018 midterms, but it belies a grimmer reality: The state party that won one of the past 13 Florida Cabinet races and zero of the past five governor’s races, remains as much of a dark horse as ever, with fundamental questions about resources and competence … look at Florida’s all-important I-4 corridor. Since Election Day, the Republican voter registration lead over Democrats in the Tampa and Orlando media markets has risen by more than 41,000 voters. It might seem that Democrats could not sink lower in Florida than they already have … But they could sink lower in 2018. With a U.S. Senate seat on the line and open seats for every statewide Florida office, this is a potentially game-changing election cycle. Florida Democrats won’t have an opportunity like this for at least eight more years, and they can’t afford to wait to build the kind of campaign machinery that wins close races in battleground Florida. The good news for Florida Democrats? Two-thirds of those surveyed expect President Donald Trump to be a drag on the Republican ticket in 2018, and 70 percent expect higher Democratic turnout than usual in midterm elections.

Amid FBI probe of Tallahassee, Andrew Gillum says GOP trying to ‘put as much dirt on me as they can’” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – Gillum hinted at political motives behind early problems for his campaign, which include the investigation … he wasn’t accusing the FBI of any political motivation: “It’s the FBI’s job to get to the bottom of exactly what’s gone on. If something illegal or untoward has occurred I’m going to do everything I can to assist them in bringing resolution to that situation.” Gillum also proclaimed his innocence of any wrongdoing, and said the Tallahassee FBI field office approved a statement he released saying he is not a target or subject of the investigation. Discussing the investigation and other problems that have affected the opening months of his campaign, Gillum said: “I just know that based on the way they have come after me ever since — prior to my jumping into this race, back during Hurricane Hermine … all I can tell you there’s enough on the record” to suggest Republicans would like to sabotage his campaign. Asked whether he was comparing the investigation to the political scrap over Hermine, Gillum repeated, “I think I would say the Republicans are terrified. And I believe that they are as intent on … trying to put as much dirt on me as they can.”

Evan Power, chairman of the Leon Co. GOP pushes back: “It is embarrassing that Mayor Gillum would try to point to me and my fellow Republicans as the source of the problems in his campaign. We did not tell him to turn down help during hurricane hermine, to create a political email system with tax dollars, or generate the FBI probe of Tallahassee. It is sad that when people start hearing the real record of Mayor Gillum he has to grasp at such fantastical straws. Tallahassee and the State of Florida deserve much better than the failed leadership of Mayor Andrew Gillum.”

Phillip Levine says his authenticity is a quality voters want from their leaders” via Mitch Perry of Florida PoliticsLevine is currently in the “testing the waters” phase of a potential gubernatorial candidacy … he surprised much of the Florida political establishment last month when he announced at a Tampa Tiger Bay meeting that he was considering a run as an independent.

“I tell everyone, I’m a Democrat, but I’m a radical centrist, I’m an American before I’m anything, and that’s the most important thing,” Levine said when asked about his gubernatorial aspirations. “I’m not left or right, I’m forward. If that’s a Democratic hat, great? If not, we’ll see, and I haven’t made any decisions.”

Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine and POLITICO Florida’s Marc Caputo.

“You learn in this game of politics that people love to grandstand, they like to go after you for different things,” he said. “I came in with a thinner skin. My skin now is kind of like alligators.”

“I can’t vouch whether it’s well run, well-funded, it should be changed, but I know the concept is good,” he said of Enterprise Florida, which ultimately received $85 million in state funding in the FY 2018 budget. “It’s unfortunate that the governor was caught in a situation where folks were playing politics with him,” he said, adding that he felt the same about VISIT Florida. “One thing that people are sick of is people playing politics with good things, and the only one who suffers in the people.”

Ashley Moody adds a political committee to her Attorney General bid arsenal” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Former Hillsborough Circuit Judge Moody, who filed in the Republican Primary for Attorney General this month, also launched a political committee. The name: “Friends of Ashley Moody.” Moody has certain tailwinds behind her, including backing by current Attorney General Pam Bondi, who basically endorsed Moody even before she entered the race. Moody has one opponent on the GOP side thus far: Jacksonville state Rep. Jay Fant.

Teresa Jacobs not talking about possible CD 7 run, but expresses a glimmer of interest in CFO run” via Scott Powers of Orlando RisingJacobs, who is term-limited out at the end of 2018 from the mayor’s position, has been widely viewed as a Republican with higher office potential in her future, and in recent weeks has been widely rumored to be a possible candidate in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, the northern Orange and Seminole counties district where Murphy won an upset over 12-term Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica last fall. On Friday … she dismissed any immediate ambitions and insisted she has not decided yet what she would like to do after her mayoral term expires. “I’m not asking around. I haven’t made any decisions at this point about what I mean to do when I leave,” Jacobs said. What about CFO in 2018? “I’m not certain. I haven’t ruled that out, but the only thing that I know is whatever I do whether it’s public sector or private sector, my goal is to do something that is meaningful,” Jacobs said. “I mean, I had a job for ten years (in banking) in the private sector; paid well, but I didn’t come home at night feeling I was having a positive impact on people’s lives. And that’s what I’ve been able to do for the last seven years.”

Run, Javi, run –Javier Manjarres explores Congressional run” via Samantha Leff of the Shark Tank – “After speaking with my trusted colleagues, friends and family about future career opportunities, I have decided to explore the possibility of running for the U.S. Congress in Florida’s 22nd Congressional District. It was clear that after the historic 2016 elections, Americans rejected the agenda and policies of the outgoing Obama Administration that they believe were threatening the American way of life. Even with Republicans in control of Congress, it is of the utmost importance that Republicans continue to win the public’s trust and reform all aspects of the federal government.”

Last day to register to vote for SD 40, HD 116 primaries — Monday is registration deadline for voters hoping to cast a ballot in the special primary elections in Senate District 40 and House District 116. Florida is a closed primary state, which means only registered Democrats and Republicans can vote in their party’s primary. Both primaries are scheduled for July 25.

Democratic Progressive Caucus endorses Annette Taddeo in SD 40 special election” via Florida Politics — The Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida is backing Miami businesswoman Taddeo in the Senate District 40 special election, saying she will be a “progressive champion” who will represent the interests of everyday Floridians in the Florida Legislature. “DPCF’s endorsement questionnaire covers a wide variety of topics, including charter and voucher school accountability, gun safety, state pre-emption of local control, and access to affordable health care,” said DPCF President Susan Smith. “The caucus is committed to implementing progressive policies in Florida as a way to enhance quality of life and we cannot do that without legislative leaders like Annette Taddeo. Residents of SD 40 deserve a senator who will fight for them and not special interests.”

New mailer targets Jose Mallea over tax increasesMallea is the target of a new mailer, which claims he helped usher in a massive tax increase during his time in city government. The mailer — which appears to be from Conservatives for Truth PC, a Coral Gables political committee — claims Mallea, who served as chief of staff to former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz played a role in “increasing taxes by $74 million on Miami residents.” … “This massive tax increase was very damaging to many of us in the Miami area. Mallea stood by and watched a 41 percent increase in taxes bleed many in our community dry. 

Miami legislators to hold fundraiser for Speaker Corcoran” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald — Miami Republican State Rep. Michael Bileca is hosting a fundraiser for Corcoran‘s Watchdog PAC at his home Wednesday night. Also on the host committee: state Reps. Ray Rodrigues, Jeanette Nuñez, Carlos Trujillo, Bryan Avila and Manny Diaz, Jr. The suggested contribution is $1,000.

HD 44 special election candidates debate health care, education, marijuana, tourism support” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Stark differences of policy positions were clear between the one Democrat and three of the four Republicans running to fill the open Florida House District 44 seat but the differences between the Republicans proved more subtle in a debate, boiling down to who claimed the strongest ownership of particular GOP positions. The debate sponsored by the West Orange Chamber of Commerce in Ocoee, pitted Democrat Paul Chandler and Republicans Usha Jain, John Newstreet and Bobby Olszewski, while Republican Bruno Portigliatti sent his regrets. With a question asking how they expected to address the estimated 13 percent of Floridians who are without medical insurance as the Affordable Care Act faces repeal, Olszewski said the state needs to focus on “smart business principles.” The four all pledged support for public education and insisted they consider education critical, with Olszewski and Newstreet pointing out they are the sons of teachers and are married to teachers, and Chandler pointing out he used to be a teacher.

Florida politics lopsided despite required fair districts” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press – While it would be easy to say Republicans built their power because they draw the political boundaries for Congress and the Legislature, it’s not as simple as that. Yes, observers note, it has contributed to the lopsided political numbers in a state where presidential elections are often seen as a tossup … Republicans are at this point just better at raising money, recruiting candidates and winning races in districts that should be more competitive. The Associated Press analyzed all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly elections last year … Florida Republicans’ advantage in Congress was slightly more than should’ve been expected, it wasn’t to the point that clearly indicated gerrymandering. “Republicans really put their foot on the gas when Bush got elected,” said Steve Schale, a Democratic political consultant … Republicans drew maps with highly concentrated Democratic districts so that they could create more Republican-strong districts that weren’t as concentrated. As a result, Schale said, districts seen as competitive still have a slight Republican edge: “Even the places that are competitive aren’t truly like jump balls.”

*** For your moderate-to-severe messaging problem, try the On 3 Public Relations team. WATCH our new video here.***


Former Florida Supreme Court justice dies at age 93” via The Associated PressParker Lee McDonald died Saturday at his home in Tallahassee. McDonald, who was born in Sebring, was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 1979 by then-Gov. Bob Graham. McDonald served 15 years on the court and retired from the court after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70. He authored the decision regarding jurors in 1984. He was nicknamed the “Whistling Justice” because a security guard stopped him on his first day and told him no whistling was allowed in the court building. McDonald told the guard he could do what he wanted since he was a justice.

“Governor orders flags at half-staff for FHP Sgt. William T. Bishop” via Florida Politics – The governor ordered flags at half-staff to honor the late Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Bishop, who was hit by a car on Interstate 75 … Scott directed the U.S. and Florida flags at half-staff at the Columbia County Courthouse in Lake City, the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles headquarters in Tallahassee, the Troop B Station in Lake City, and at City Hall in Lake City from sunrise to sunset this past Friday. “We are heartbroken over the death of 30-year veteran FHP Sgt. William Trampas Bishop,” Scott said in a statement. “Ann and I are praying for Sergeant Bishop’s family and loved ones during this very difficult time.”

Collapse? Six insurers eye return to Florida’s 2018 Obamacare market” via Charles Elmore of the Palm Beach Post — A total of nine insurers filed rates for individual plans compliant with the health law, on or off the exchange, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. The average requested rate increase for the nine companies is 17.8 percent, slightly below last year’s approved average hike of 19.1 percent. For the six companies on the exchange, it’s 17.3 percent, officials said … about nine in 10 of Florida’s approximately 1.5 million marketplace customers saw their monthly premiums barely change at all from an average of about $84 because of government subsidies that lower what they actually pay. Customers who make too much money to qualify for government aid face the full impact of the rate increases.

“DEP doles out nearly $3 million in water grantsvia Florida PoliticsThe Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently awarded almost $3 million for six stormwater projects to communities across Florida, it announced in a Friday news release. “Funded through annual appropriations from the Florida Legislature, Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) grants support projects designed to improve water quality in impaired springs, rivers, lakes and estuaries, which need help meeting Florida’s stringent water-quality standards,” the release said. “The department is eager to partner with communities to improve water quality in coastal estuaries,” said Drew Bartlett, DEP’s deputy secretary for ecosystems restoration, in a statement. “Healthy waterways are a top priority for Florida’s residents and visitors.”

How the hotel lobby planted an Airbnb question at the mayors’ opening news conference” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Signing up as the main sponsor of a convention brings significant perks: branding exposure on all materials, prime speaking spots on panels, and generally VIP treatment for the getaway. Then there was Friday in Miami Beach for Airbnb, the title sponsor of this weekend’s U.S. Conference of Mayors gathering … During the event’s opening news conference, the final question came from Sean Kelly and a cameraman wearing a “PRESS” badge. “Mayor,” Kelly asked Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, who is president of the Conference, “who is in the best position to deal with the sharing economy when it comes to short-term rentals: local government or state government?” If the question seemed teed up to the hotel lobby’s opposition to Florida and other states blocking local crackdowns on Airbnb, it was. Kelly works for Align, an Orlando public affairs firm hired by the hotel lobby and the group it backs to fight short-term rentals, called Airbnb Watch.

How the Amazon deal might affect Publix” via Kevin Bouffard of the Lakeland Ledger — The merger announcement came just nine days after Publix announced it would expand a pilot program with San Francisco-based Instacart to all 1,148 Publix stores in six states by 2020. Instacart takes online orders for Publix products, fulfills them through its own store-based shoppers and delivers the order to the customer’s home for a fee. Amazon does much the same for a variety of consumer products. Until the Whole Foods announcement, Amazon dabbled with delivering food products, and the merger signals its intention to go all in with a wider range of grocery products from more than 460 Whole Foods outlets. Amazon’s entry into the grocery market likely will spur Publix to speed up the Instacart alliance to all its stores.

Publix is fighting back on the Amazon/Whole Foods merger.

Under investigation, SeaWorld subpoenaed for executives’ comments on ‘blackfish’ doc” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — In June, the U.S. Department of Justice subpoenaed the theme-park company as part of its investigation into “disclosures and public statements” that were made about the movie’s impact and trading in SeaWorld’s securities, the filing said. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also subpoenaed SeaWorld in connection with the comments although it was unclear if they were also issued this month. “Blackfish” is the 2013 anti-captivity documentary that painted a damning portrait of SeaWorld. “The Company has cooperated with these government inquiries and intends to continue to cooperate with any government requests or inquiries,” the filing said adding the company’s board of directors put together a committee with counsel to deal with the government’s inquiries.


Don Gaetz deserves credit for Triumph” via Will Weatherford for the Pensacola News-Journal — The eight counties that were hit the hardest as a result of the Deep Horizon Oil Spill are now the primary recipients of a fund that was conceived by a visionary leader and preserved by sheer will and determination. All who know Don Gaetz recognize that he is a man of action … he aggressively channeled his intellect and political prowess to create both short-term and long-term plans of action. Don wanted to make sure that no one forgot the Panhandle when it came time to pay for mistakes. With unstoppable will and grit, Don created the Triumph Gulf Coast Corporation, and entity represented solely by the impacted communities. I watched Don in real time as he negotiated with forces in and outside of government to ensure that the vast majority of the recovery funds would be brought home to the Panhandle. It’s a great reminder for all of us that leadership matters, vision matters, and Senate President Don Gaetz made sure that Northwest Florida mattered in its time of need.


“Jorge Labarga names Council of Business Partners members” via Florida PoliticsChief Justice Labarga on Friday announced the first members of a panel to advise the Florida Supreme Court‘s commission on helping the state’s poor and working poor get legal help. The Council of Business Partners will advise the Commission on Access to Civil Justice, created by Labarga in 2014. “Employers, too, have a stake in this,” Labarga said in a statement. “Employees who have challenges accessing justice have higher absenteeism and reduced productivity … It is in all our interests to address access to justice,” he added.

Appointed — Dr. Mark Williams (reappointed) and Tina Pike to the Florida State Boxing Commission.

New and renewed lobby registrations: Gary Perko, Hopping Green & Sams: Natural Therapeutics of Florida

— ALOE — 

Orlando may make pitch for 2019 Major League Soccer All-Star Game” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Orlando is readying a pitch … but organizers could need $350,000 in backing from public funds and if they get that they’ll have to do it Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs‘ way. At Friday’s Tourist Development Council meeting, which Jacobs chairs, she lashed out at organizers for coming in late and through what she described as inappropriate protocol seeking county tourism tax support for the bid. The bid must be filed with the league by Aug. 25. Instead, she worked out an alternative way the county could offer tourist tax guarantees to cover any possible losses up to $350,000, and the council voted unanimously to encourage the county commission to “take whatever actions deemed appropriate and necessary to bring the MLS All-Star Game for 2019 here to Central Florida.”

Millennials are making it luxe to be more ethical and environmentally aware” via Marc Bain of Quartz —  Luxury goods are rarely just about the product. Often, it’s the subtle conveyance of good taste, access and wealth. And increasingly, that high status is suggested in the language of conscious consumerism: “organic,” “sustainable,” “ethical.” The luxury industry is waking up fast to this reality, and responding with a slew of products and services geared to what the sociologist Elizabeth Currid-Halkett has called the “aspirational class”— those who “earnestly buy organic, carry NPR tote bags, and breastfeed their babies.” Sustainability is a growing priority for these customers, and an urgent imperative for upscale labels — and one that will only become more critical as they increasingly look to younger customers who grew up steeped in “aspirational” culture.

Luxe products aren’t just about goods, Millenials want them to be sustainable, too. 

These charts show who you’ll spend your time with across your lifetime” via Corinne Purtill and Dan Kopf of Quartz — Time with friends, colleagues, siblings, and children diminishes over the course of a lifetime. The older we get, the person we spend the most time with is the one we see in the mirror. That’s the conclusion of a recent, fascinating analysis of data from the American Time Use Survey, an annual census by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics of how Americans spend their hours. Time with friends drops off abruptly in the mid-30s, just as time spent with children peaks. Around the age of 60 — nearing and then entering retirement, for many — people stop hanging out with co-workers as much, and start spending more time with partners … Others are more surprising. Hours spent in the company of children, friends, and extended family members all plateau by our mid-50s. And from the age of 40 until death, we spend an ever-increasing amount of time alone.

Happy birthday to Lydia Claire Brooks and Eric Carr.

Richard Corcoran, Ron DeSantis, Jose Oliva attend Koch brothers retreat in Colorado Springs

Three of Florida’s top conservative lawmakers — including two potential Republican candidates for Governor — attended a Colorado retreat this weekend hosted by the influential Koch network.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and state Rep. Jose Oliva are listed among the big-name Republican politicians and donors at a three-day event held this weekend in Colorado Springs.

Presenting the conference is the Seminar Network, one of the satellite organizations of billionaires Charles and David Koch. The goal of the weekend is to strategize ahead of the 2018 election cycle.

In January, at a similar gathering in California, Seminar announced the Koch organization will invest as much as $400 million in the 2017-18 election cycle, up from about $250 million spent in the 2016 campaign. The spending boost, according to The Washington Post, makes it clear “they intend to deal with [Donald] Trump and congressional Republicans as they have every other administration — which could mean an impending confrontation with GOP leaders.”

“This weekend our focus will be on how to expand opportunity for those most in need and applying the principles of a free and open society to take on some of our nation’s biggest challenges,” said Seminar Network co-leader Mark Holden in a statement to The Denver Post. Holden also serves as general counsel for Koch Industries.

Held in the exclusive Broadmoor resort at the base of Pikes Peak, the annual event draws hundreds of the nation’s top conservative donors and marquee Republicans.

At last year’s Colorado Springs Koch event, the featured guest was U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan. This weekend, the guest list includes Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas, Matt Bevin of Kentucky, Doug Ducey of Arizona, and Eric Greitens of Missouri. Also in attendance were such Republican heavyweights as U.S. Sens. John Cornyn, Corey Gardner, Jeff Flake, Ben Sasse, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz.

In addition, Vice President Mike Pence — a noted Koch ally — stopped by Colorado Springs Friday for a series of fundraisers. The following day, a motorcycle cop was injured in a crash escorting Pence’s motorcade to the airport.

With Corcoran and DeSantis mingling among the GOP elite in Colorado, it only adds fuel to speculation on their future ambitions — most notably in the Florida Governor’s race.

In May, Corcoran launched a new political committee, Watchdog PAC, which some speculate could help fund a campaign for Governor in 2018.

Americans for Prosperity Florida, the state chapter of the Koch-funded activist network, had been big supporters of Corcoran’s push in the Florida House in 2017 to end a pair of Gov. Rick Scott‘s favored job incentive programs, which they called “corporate welfare.”

“Those are the only two choices — Governor or not run for office,” the Land O’Lakes Republican said about his new fundraising arm to the Tampa Bay Times in April. “If I can’t raise the money, I can’t raise the money, and if I raise the money and I don’t want to run for governor, I don’t run for governor.”

At the same time, DeSantis is also hearing rumblings calling him to run.

The Miami Herald reported in April that the conservative group Madison Project, which backed the Ponte Verde Beach Republican’s short-lived U.S. Senate campaign in 2016, issued a statement urging DeSantis to consider a bid for Governor. The declaration appeared on The Resurgent, a popular conservative website by political commentator Erick Erickson.

On April 12, The Resurgent ran results from a poll, conducted by Republican pollsters WPA Intelligence, showing DeSantis could fare well statewide against Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is now raising money in his own race for Governor.

“While DeSantis may trail Putnam at this early date,” post said, “with 52 percent of voters undecided — and 51 percent not knowing who he is — this race is wide-open.”

Corcoran spokesperson Fred Piccolo suggested not to read too much into the Speaker’s appearance at the Colorado event. It was simply to honor Florida’s recent conservative legislative wins.

“The Speaker is a conservative,” Piccolo told “The gathering was a chance to share the conservative successes we’ve had in Florida and get ideas for the future.”

Gov. Scott to appoint Jimmy Patronis as state’s Chief Financial Officer

Public Service Commissioner and former state Rep. Jimmy Patronis will be named state Chief Financial Officer to replace the outgoing Jeff Atwater, the Governor’s Office confirms.

An announcement will be made Monday in Panama City.

The Panama City Republican and ally of Gov. Rick Scott beat out state Rep. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican and another friend of Scott, for the interim position.

“CFO successor has been identified and known since Atwater originally resigned,” a source familiar with the workings of the EOG told this week. “Has only been one name the entire time, regardless what others have said, reported, or assumed.”

Atwater, first elected in 2010, is leaving office early to become chief financial officer of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. His home and family are in Palm Beach County. His last day with the state is June 30.

Atwater’s background was in finance—he was president and CEO of Florida’s Barnett Bank, acquired by NationsBank in 1997—while Patronis is a small businessman. With his brother Johnny, he owns the Capt. Anderson’s restaurant in Panama City Beach.

According to his online bio, Patronis also has been “a bank director, hospital trustee, as well as a board member for many charitable and nonprofit organizations.”

As CFO, Patronis will oversee the Department of Financial Services, be the State Fire Marshal and sit as a member of the Florida Cabinet. The department also includes the state’s insurance department and treasury.

Scott appointed Patronis, who was term-limited out of the House in 2014, to the Public Service Commission, the body that regulates the state’s investor-owned utilities. He joined the panel in 2015 for a four-year term.

He has served on the Florida Elections Commission and Bay County-Panama City International Airport and Industrial District.

Patronis also was appointed by Scott this year to the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, which convenes every 20 years to review the state Constitution and consider possible amendments.

The Bay County native got his undergraduate degree in political science from Florida State University.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — That time Aaron Bean ‘chickened out’

State Sen. Aaron Bean was at his carnival-barker best this week—including some surprises—when he spoke to teens attending this year’s American Legion Boys State at Tallahassee’s Civic Center.

The idea of the non-partisan event is to “gain hands-on experience to leadership by taking part in the political process through role-play civic exercises,” its website explains. VISIT FLORIDA CEO Ken Lawson also was there just before Bean spoke.

Bean, a licensed auctioneer, is a Boys State alum, as are all three of his sons, including Walker, who attended this year.

After some thunderous applause, the Republican state Senator from Fernandina Beach told the teens about his experience in running for office—with a couple of revelations. He previously was a state Representative, city commissioner and mayor.

While knocking on some “45,000 doors” running for office, he mentioned that some homes had ‘no soliciting’ signs.

“I knocked,” he admitted. “Of course, I’m all in! I’m knocking.”

It “worked out well,” he added, saying of one man who had a sign, “We got him as a voter. He was cranky, sure, but we got him.”

Bean later mentioned a time he got cold feet during a candidates’ forum.

Sen. Aaron Bean told Boys State attendees he once “chickened out” of a candidates’ forum. “There’s hope for everybody,” the usually enthusiastic state senator told the boys, ‘so if you’re not comfortable speaking (in public), I was right there with you.” (Photo by Phil Sears)

“I started getting very nervous about speaking,” he said. “So much so I got physically nauseated while waiting … What do you do? Fake an illness. That’s exactly what I did … I chickened out. And I have to live with that forever.”

“I use that regret, that sorrow now, so that whenever there’s an opportunity to speak, I’m going to do it and I get stronger every day,” he added. “There’s hope for everybody, so if you’re not comfortable speaking (in public), I was right there with you.”

He also addressed those who might not have the political “bug” to serve in the Legislature.

“You might not be into the Legislature, but the Legislature is really into you,” he said. “(It) controls virtually everything in the state of Florida, from the speed limits to the schools, the fertilizer that you put on your grass, to how we take water from aquifers … There’s something for everybody.”

Girls State was held earlier this month, also in Tallahassee.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Jim Rosica, and Peter Schorsch.

But first the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Subpoena me this… — The feds are looking into … well, we’re not clear exactly what they’re looking into, but they have subpoenaed the City of Tallahassee over a series of development deals involving some of the city’s biggest business names. Caught up in the investigation are political allies of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democrat now running for governor, and former mayor and current City Commissioner Scott Maddox. He’s also the former chair of the Florida Democratic Party. As one person involved with the investigation told Florida Politics’ Jim Rosica, “This is serious. Very serious. I’m sure that everyone named in those subpoenas has lawyered up. I won’t be surprised if charges are filed in the next few months.”

Pack your bags — Gov. Rick Scott had a message for the people of Connecticut: give up and just move to Florida already. The Naples Republican traveled to Connecticut this week to try and convince businesses to move to Florida, pitching businesses on a state with “lower regulations, less regulations … good universities, (and) is less expensive.” The visit came after Aetna announced it was searching for a new headquarters. But Connecticut wasn’t crazy about Scott’s visit. The Hartford Courant wrote a scathing editorial this week, telling Scott to go back to Florida for good. “What, exactly, makes Florida a better place to live? Is it the alligators? The suffocating humidity” the editorial read. The higher rates of poverty and violent crimes? The traffic? Is it Mickey Mouse?”

Broken promises — LGBTQ advocates criticized Gov. Scott this week, saying the governor promised to sign an executive order banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in state hiring and contracting but didn’t follow through. Leaders of Equality Florida said they met with the governor’s staff days after last year’s Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando, and were told staff “needed a few weeks” to draft the language. Nothing happened. “It seems if there was ever a moment for him to issue an executive order, it was then, and by failing to do so, we now want to publicly hold him accountable for not taking meaningful action to protect LGBTQ people in Florida,” said Hannah Willard, a public policy director for Equality Florida. A spokeswoman for the Governor’s Office said the state “does not tolerate discrimination of any form,” and that the office will continue to review ways it “can work to eliminate discrimination of any kind.”

LGBTQ activists criticized Gov. Rick Scott this week, saying the governor failed to deliver on a promise in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting to sign an executive order to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in state hiring. Forty-nine people, most of whom were LGBTQ and Latino, died in the shooting and dozens other were injured. (Photo via the Associated Press)

Them’s the rules — The Department of Health is moving forward with rule-making to govern the use of medical marijuana. The department recently published a notice of proposed regulation, the next step in the rule-making process. Under the amendment passed by voters last year, the Department of Health has until July 3 to pass rules to implement the medical marijuana constitutional amendment. Meanwhile, state lawmakers sent the recently approved implementing bill (SB 8A) to Gov. Scott for his consideration on Monday. Scott signed the bill Friday. That likely won’t be the end of the road, though. John Morgan, the Orlando attorney who helped write the amendment, has said he plans to sue over the smoking ban, and tweeted this week he will be filing his “lawsuit for smoke as soon as it goes into law.”

Confederate battles — It seemed like the Confederacy, and its roots in Florida, spent a significant amount of time in the headlines this week. Orlando officials agreed to move a Confederate memorial at Lake Eola Park to Greenwood Cemetery. But during the process of preparing to move it, workers discovered a time capsule hidden in the base, weighing about 3 pounds. The United Daughters of the Confederacy, which commissioned the statue in 1911, has asked that the time capsule be returned to the local chapter. A few hours away, Hillsborough County officials voted 4-3 not to remove a Confederate memorial in front of the courthouse. And in South Florida, Rep. Shevrin Jones took to Twitter to tell Floridians about the racial epithets that were hurled at him, after he attended a rally to call on local lawmakers to rename the streets named after Confederate generals, which run through a predominately black neighborhood. “These signs commemorate Confederate generals and serve as a chronic and tormenting reminder of atrocities committed against black communities,” said Jones in a statement earlier this week.

Rep. Shevrin Jones called for Floridians to “stand united, not divided,” after pro-Confederates hurled racial slurs at him after a rally in Hollywood to denounce the city’s Confederate street names, which run through a predominately black neighborhood. (Photo via the Florida House.)

Jobs, jobs, jobs

That was fast — When it comes to job growth, Florida is moving at the speed of lightning.

The Governor’s Office announced this week that Florida added jobs at a faster rate than the 10 largest states in the nation over the past year. The state, according to the Governor’s Office, had the second-fastest annual private-sector job growth rate out of all states, second only to Utah.

“Florida’s astounding job growth across multiple industries proves that our business-friendly focus is working,” said Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity, in a statement. “We have fostered an environment that sets hardworking Floridians up for success. Our state continues to beat the nation so that Florida families can flourish.”

The state’s private-sector job growth rate is at 3 percent, outpacing the nation’s rate of 1.8 percent, according to the Governor’s Office.

Post-grad plans — Florida graduates have a good chance of finding a gig after graduation, according to the latest Board of Governors’ annual baccalaureate follow-up study.

The study found 92 percent of students who graduated from the state university system in 2015 were working within one year of graduation. Nearly three-fourths of graduates, according to the report, who worked were working full-time; while one out of every four graduates who were working were also continuing their education at the same time.

“The Board of Governors’ top focus is student outcomes, and this study offers a comprehensive look at what our students’ experiences are one year out,” said Tom Kuntz, the chairman of the Board of Governors, in a statement. “Overall, the takeaway is very positive: Students are employed, furthering their educations, or doing both at the same time.”

The report found the estimated median annual wage for graduates who worked full-time one year after graduation was about $39,100; up from $36,300 from the previous report. When it comes to salaries, engineering graduates fared the best, earning a median of $58,600.

Welcome to Hendry County — ATIO USA is opening up shop in Southwest Florida.

Gov. Scott announced this week the aluminum recycling and manufacturing company will open a new facility in Hendry County. The project, according to the Governor’s Office, will create 39 new jobs at an average of more than $42,000 a year. It is expected to result in a $26 million investment in the local community.

“We are really happy to make Hendry County the Home of ATIO USA, and look forward to actively supporting this community,” said Lucio Medolago, the company’s CEO, in a statement. “This is just the beginning of a successful operation that is the result of an excellent coordination between Enterprise Florida, the Hendry County EDC, county commission and partners in the community.”

The project, according to the Governor’s Office, was a collaborative effort between Enterprise Florida, Hendry County, the Hendry County, the Hendry County Economic Development Council, Clades County and other local partners. The company has committed to hiring local talent, by partnering with the Hendry EDC, local vocational training partners and CareerSource Southwest Florida.

“The commitment to operate in a rural area, provide living wages, and strong emphasis on infusing modern manufacturing technology that is both environmentally friendly and sustainable, in addition to committing to hire local talent, is a project any community would benefit from,” said Brent Kettler, the executive director of the Hendry County EDC.

Bug off

Florida food banks want to make sure residents are protected from Zika.

Feeding Florida announced this week it will distribute 480,000 units of OFF! Mosquito repellent to Florida communities to assist in the reducing the possibility of Zika transmission. The mosquito repellent was donated by SC Johnson and will be distributed at food distribution events throughout south, central and north Florida.

“The Feeding Florida statewide network of food banks are critical in mobilizing the necessary resources tailored to meet the needs of each community,” said Robin Safley, executive director of Feeding Florida. “We are excited to partner with SC Johnson to provide our communities with the education and prevention tools necessary to protect families from mosquitoes and reduce the spread of Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases.”

About 300 families received mosquito repellent during a Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida mobile drop at the Apostolic Church of Jesus in Altamonte Springs this week. The drop was part of Feeding Florida’s effort to distribute mosquito repellent to families in need. (Photo via the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.)

The donation from SC Johnson meets their commitment to donate at least $15 million in OFF! products and financial donations to combat the rising outbreak of mosquito-borne diseases.

“SC Johnson is pleased to provide this donation to Feeding Florida, with the goal of helping protect families from mosquitoes that may carry mosquito-borne diseases including Zika,” said Kelly Semrau, senior vice president of global corporate affairs, communication and sustainability at SC Johnson. “Their statewide network of food banks has the ability to quickly and efficiently get OFF! personal repellent into the hands of individuals and families in need.”

In 2016, there were 1,325 Zika cases reported in Florida. So far in 2017, there are four locally acquired cases in Florida, according to the Department of Health.

Manufacturers marketplace

Associated Industries of Florida and the National Association of Manufacturers are teaming up.

The two organizations announced this week they’ve launched “Manufacturers Marketplace,” a new digital marketplace featuring interactive listings on more than 300,000 leading U.S. manufacturers, including nearly 18,000 in Florida.

“Manufacturers in the United States need the best tools available to compete and win — and the Manufacturers Marketplace is unlike any resource the industry has to create new business and support more American jobs,” said Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the NAM. “What Google and Yahoo did for online searches, Manufacturers Marketplace will do for buyers and sellers in the manufacturing economy — whether they’re large or small firms. As only the NAM and our state partners can do, we’ve created the most comprehensive, simple to use and innovative industry network in the market.”

The website works by including large and small businesses in the marketplace, whether they are a member of the National Association of Manufacturers or a leading state manufacturing association. Registered users are prompted to expand their listings with detailed information, including additional locations, certifications, equipment, capacity and more.

“The Manufacturers Marketplace is a valuable tool for manufacturing businesses in Florida,” said Tom Feeney, president and CEO of AIF. “Whether Florida businesses are looking for partners down the street or across the country, the Marketplace will quickly help companies find the perfect partners to meet their business goals.”

Pitch a tent

Thinking of going camping this summer? The Florida Forest Service is making pitching a tent a bit easier.

The Florida Forest Service announced that residents and visitors can reserve campsites at all of Florida’s state forests online. The state’s forests offer a variety of camping options, from developed campsites with electricity, water and centralized restrooms with showers, to primitive campsites that offer a backcountry experience in remote settings with no amenities.

“Florida’s natural attractions are second to none, and visitors and residents alike can now conveniently plan their trips to one of Florida’s 37 states forests and reserve their campsites online,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

The online service, according to the Florida Forest Service, allows visitors to search for camping options across the state. Campers just need to create an account to start planning their trip.

The forest service manages more than 1 million acres of public forest land across 37 state forests.

Closer look

Rep. Randy Fine is calling for an audit of the “operational practices and managerial oversight” in Palm Bay.

The Brevard County Republican, sent a letter to Sen. Debbie Mayfield, the chairwoman of the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, asking for the audit after receiving numerous calls from his constituents in response to media reports regarding concerns at City Hall.

According to the letter to Mayfield, Fine said constituents are concerned “City Council may not be acting in accordance with the City Charter.” Fine said constituents are concerned the mayor, who under the charter is a councilman and meeting moderator, “appears to be operating in a ‘strong mayor’ form of government.”

Rep. Randy Fine, a member of the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, is asking for an audit into the “operational practices and managerial oversight” in Palm Bay. (Photo via Mark Wallheiser.)

Fine also said constituents are concerned that the “resulting dysfunction at the Council level has led to inadequate controls and supervision amongst senior city managers, both by the Council and individual managers.”

In his letter, Fine said as a new member of the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, he was impressed by the thoroughness the Auditor General brought to the special audit of the city of Archer, and felt Palm Bay “requires a similar outside, top-to-bottom, review.”

“Cities in the State of Florida are the creation of the State, which has granted them Charters to operate. As our creation, we have an obligation to ensure that they are operating appropriately and protecting our constituents from out-of-control local governments,” wrote Fine. “All indications are that Palm Bay is in crisis, and it is my hope that an independent, non-criminal audit can help them remedy these failings so they can administer their locality as designed by our Constitution and the Legislature.”

Awards Season

Five honored as “FSA Legislative Champions” — The Florida Sheriffs Association tipped its hat to five state lawmakers — three representatives and two state senators — this week, honoring them for their significant contributions during the 2017 Legislative Session.

“The Florida Sheriffs Association is honored to recognize these legislators for their commitment to public safety,” said Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, the president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, in a statement.

Sen. Greg Steube was one of five state lawmakers — along with Sen. Jack Latvala, and Reps. Jim Boyd, Jamie Grant, and Chris Sprowls — honored by the Florida Sheriffs Association as an FSA Legislative Champions for their work during the 2017 Legislative Session. (Photo by Phil Sears)

The organization named Reps. Jim Boyd, Jamie Grant, and Chris Sprowls, and Sens. Jack Latvala and Greg Steube as the FSA Legislative Champions. Demings said Boyd and Steube were recognized for their “dedication and leadership in passing comprehensive legislation to address Florida’s heroin and Fentanyl epidemic.”

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the FSA’s legislative chair, said Latvala and Grant were honored because they “made addressing the problem of a lack of accountability among repeat juvenile offenders a priority with the passage of the prolific juvenile offender bill (SB 7059).” Sprowls was honored for his work on that bill, as well as “numerous other public safety issues that had to be addressed throughout Session.”

22 honored as “Friend of the Sheriff” — Nearly two dozen state lawmakers can proudly call themselves a “Friend of the Sheriff.”

The Florida Sheriffs Association announced 22 lawmakers would receive the award, which is given to lawmakers who support legislation that would have had a positive impact on public safety, this week.

This year, the FSA acknowledged 18 senators — Dennis Baxley, Aaron Bean, Lizbeth Benacquisto, Lauren Book, Rob Bradley, George Gainer, Bill Galvano, Rene Garcia, Denise Grimsley, Travis Hutson, Tom Lee, Debbie Mayfield, Kathleen Passidomo, Keith Perry, Darryl Rouson, David Simmons, Wilton Simpson, and Kelli Stargel — who supported a motion to recede from an amendment on the final day of session, and who, along with Latvala and Steube, voted in favor  of a bill (HB 477) enhancing penalties for crimes dealing with opioids.

Sen. Darryl Rouson was one of 18 senators honored by the FSA as a “Friend of the Sheriff” this week. The statewide association also honored Attorney General Pam Bondi, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and Reps. Jason Fischer and Joseph Abruzzo. (Photo by Phil Sears)

The FSA also honored Attorney General Pam Bondi, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and Reps. Jason Fischer and Joseph Abruzzo with the award.

“Without the aid of these important state legislators, and Attorney General Bondi, the Florida Sheriffs Association would not be able to serve the citizens of Florida to the best of our ability,” said Steve Casey, the group’s executive director. “On behalf of the entire Florida Sheriffs Association, I would like to honor these men and women for doing their part to help keep Floridians safe.”

Culture matters

Culture in Florida is big business.

Just how big? Well, according to a new report from the Americans for the Arts, the nonprofits arts and culture industry in Florida generates $4.68 billion in total economic activity, supports 132,366 full-time jobs, and delivers $492.3 million in local and state government revenue.

“At the Florida Department of State, we believe that Culture Builds Florida, and this report sends a strong signal that supporting the arts and culture industry helps to build Florida’s economy and strengthen our state’s identity as the best place to live, work and play in the United States,” said Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

The report found that spending by nonprofit arts and cultural organizations totaled $2.29 billion during fiscal 2015. That same year, 121,264 volunteers donated more than 6.5 million hours to nonprofit arts organizations in Florida, which equals an estimated value of more than $153.6 million in donated time.

Researchers estimated nearly 85 percent of the 70 million non-profit arts attendees were residents, while 15 percent were visitors. Nonresident attendees spent an average of 93 percent more per person than local attendees.

The last economic impact study of arts and culture was conducted in 2009, which found arts and culture generated $3.1 billion in economic activity.

“Thanks to the support of Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature, the Department provides funding, programs and resources, including grants, to help promote and grow Florida’s arts and cultural industry at the local and state level, and we encourage arts and cultural organizations to reach out to us so we can be of service,” said Detzner in a statement.

Schoolhouse news

New (wo)man in charge — Out with the old, in with the new.

The Florida School Boards Association announced this week it elected April Griffin to serve as the president of the statewide association.

Griffin, along with four other school board members, was sworn in as the executive officers for the 2017-18 term during the annual meeting this week.  Jerry Taylor, a Suwannee County school board member, will serve as the president-elect; Ida Wright, a Volusia school board member, will serve as vice president, Milton Brown, a Washington school board member, and will serve as treasurer. Tim Harris, a Polk County school board member, will serve as the immediate past president.

“By the end of this year I am hoping that we will begin changing the conversation, looking forward, and finding solutions instead of excuses,” she said.

Best ‘Pals — Kudos, Rachel Shelley!

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart announced this week that Shelley, a Sarasota County principal, has been named the 2017 Principal of the Year. Stewart also announced Kelly Stedman, a Lee County assistant principal, was the 2017 Assistant Principal of the Year.

“School leaders set the tone for educators, students, parents, and community members, and they are integral to student success,” said Stewart in a statement. “Dr. Rachel Shelley and Kelly Stedman have demonstrated unwavering dedication to Florida’s students, and I am honored to recognize them with this prestigious award. The exceptional leadership that they and their colleagues throughout Florida offer is essential to ensuring students receive a world-class education.”

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart announced Rachel Shelley was selected as the 2017 Principal of the Year. (Photo via the Department of Education.)

Shelley, a principal at Booker High School in Sarasota County, has more than 28 years of experience in K-12 education. She has been praised by her colleagues for dedication to helping students succeeds and for relationship-based leadership. As a winner of the 2017 award, she will receive a cash prize of $5,000 and $1,000 for her school.

Stedman is the assistant principal at James Stephens International Academy in Lee County. According to the Department of Education, her colleagues expressed appreciation for her passionate support of students and the way she works to help teachers grow. She will receive a cash prize of $2,500 and $500 for her school.

Virtual reality — The Florida Virtual School Board of Trustees has a new chairman.

The board elected Robert Gidel, Sr. to serve as chairman, replacing Dhyana Ziegler, who served a two-year term as the board’s chair.

“We are grateful to Dr. Ziegler for her leadership and guidance over the last couple of years and her strong dedication to educational excellence,” said Ronald Blocker, president and CEO of Florida Virtual School. “Under Mr. Gidel’s leadership, the FLVS Board of Trustees is positioned to continue that path of excellence with a strong strategic commitment to serving Florida’s youth.”

Gidel has been on the board since September 2015, and is the managing partner of Liberty Capital Advisors. A graduate of the Warrington College of Business at the University of Florida, he was elected a life member of the Board of Directors of the Florida Foundation and was a past chairman of the Finance Committee.

“I am honored to be named Chair of the Board of Trustees for Florida Virtual School,” said Gidel. “I look forward to continuing our work in positioning FLVS at the forefront of this ever-changing educational landscape.”

Dig in

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wants to hear from you.

Who? You — on the development of species conservation measures and permitting guidelines for the Florida burrowing owl.

The FWC will hold a meeting in July at the Central Broward Regional Park & Stadium Field House in Lauderhill to gather input on the process for developing permitting guidelines and on interim permitting processes for Florida burrowing owls in urban areas.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is seeking input on development rules when it comes to the Florida burrowing owl. (Photo via FWC)

While the owls’ habitat was once native dry prairies, it is now likely to be found in open areas of urban and suburban landscapes. They dig their own burrows, but move into the burrows of other species, like gopher tortoise, or inhabit man-made structures like pipes and drains.

The Florida burrowing owl is the only owl east of the Mississippi River.

In January, the status of the Florida burrowing owl changed from species of special concerned to state threatened, as part of rule changes implementing the FWC’s imperiled species management plan approved in November.

Red pen action

A planned advisory council for the Capitol Complex fell victim to Gov. Scott’s veto pen this week, after the governor said it would add an “unnecessary layer of red tape bureaucracy.”

Scott vetoed a bill (SB 2512) that would have created the Capitol Advisory Council within the legislative branch. The council, among other things, would have been able to make recommendations on the operation, maintenance, preservation and protection of the structures and grounds of the Capitol Complex.

In his veto letter, Scott wrote it was “vitally important that all building repairs and maintenance be made in the most cost-effective and efficient manner.” However, the governor said the bill would create “requirements that are duplicative of current processes and would add an unnecessary layer of red tape and bureaucracy.”

Lawmakers pushed the idea of a council after emergency repairs to two underground parking garages at the Capitol were announced last year. The building also underwent upgrades to its main entry plaza.

Surging sales

The housing market is hot, hot, hot.

That’s according to the latest housing data released by the Florida Realtors, which showed sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 27,850 in May, up 7.6 percent compared to May 2016.

The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes last month, according to the new data, was $239,000, up 7.7 percent from the previous year. The median price for townhouse-condo properties in May was $178,000, up 8.1 percent from a year ago.

According to the National Association of Realtors, the national median sales price for existing single-family homes in April was $246,100, up 6.1 percent from the previous year. The national median sales price for condo prices was $234,600.

On the board

Welcome back, Joel Anderson and Richard Scanlon.

Gov. Scott announced this week he reappointed Anderson and Scanlon to the Continuing Care Advisory Council.

Anderson, a 46-year-old Sarasota resident, is the chief executive officer of Village on the Isle. He was reappointed to a term ending Sept. 30, 2019. Scanlon, a 58-year-old St. Petersburg resident, is the managing director of B.C. Ziegler and Company. He was reappointed to a term ending Sept. 30, 2018.

Scott also reappointed Kymberlee Curry Smith, a 36-year-old Cooper City resident, to the Florida Elections Commission. She was reappointed to a term ending Dec. 31, 2020.

Syd Kitson and Darlene Jordan have been reappointed to the Board of Governors of the State University System, the governor announced this week.

Scott reappointed Kitson, the 58-year-old CEO of Kitson and Partners, and Jordan, the 50-year-old executive director of the Gerald R. Jordan Foundation, after the Senate failed to consider them for confirmation before adjourning the 2017 Legislative session sine die. Scott also announced he reappointed Alan Levine, the 49-year-old president and CEO of Mountain States Health Alliance, to the board. All three were reappointed to a term ending Jan. 6, 2024.

Ted Feaster is heading back to the Construction Industry Licensing Board. The governor announced he was reappointing the 63-year-old Ocala resident to the board after the Senate failed to confirm him before the end of the 2017 Legislative Session. He was appointed to a term ending Oct. 31, 2019.

The Florida Building Commission will welcome back Diana Worrall, a 70-year-old Naples resident. Scott announced he reappointed Worrall, the former Americans with Disabilities Act director for Miami-Dade County, to the board for a term ending Feb. 7, 2021

Scott appointed Jason Robbins, a 44-year-old Merritt Island attorney, to the Workers’ Compensation panel. He fills a vacant seat, and fills a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. The governor also announced the appointment of Raja Shekhar Komuroji to the Board of Employee Leasing Companies for a term ending Oct. 31, 2020.

The appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

Help wanted

Attention Floridians: Florida Fish & Wildlife needs your help.

The state wildlife agency is asking Floridians to help in monitoring fish health by tracking marine and freshwater fish kills in the Sunshine State.

“The public’s involvement is critical to locate, monitor and understand the extent of fish kills,” said Theresa Cody, an associate research scientist with FWC. “Reporting observations to the hotline ensures a coordinated response to incidents and alleviates public concerns.”

A necropsy, an autopsy on an animal, is performed on a fish by FWC staff. FWC is asking for the public’s help when it comes to reporting fish kills. (Photo via FWC.)

Several factors can contribute to fish kills, including sudden temperature fluctuations or extreme temperatures. Heavy rains can compound the situation by suspending sediments in the water column, and by washing vegetation, like leaves and grass clippings, into the system.

The public is encouraged to report fish kills to FWC by calling the Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511. All of the data collected from fish kill events, Cody said, are used in conjunction with “directed research to further understand the causes of fish kills and disease incidences.”

Operation Outdoor Freedom

Lobster hunting, scalloping and even kayaking …

Those are just a few of the events veterans can apply to take part in as part of Operation Outdoor Freedom, an initiative run by the Florida Forest Service that provides recreational opportunities to wounded veterans.

More than 3,000 wounded veterans have participated in more than 400 hunting, fishing, boating and other recreational events at no cost since the program was launched in 2011.

“Operation Outdoor Freedom is a special way of connecting the natural resources and beauty our state is blessed with to the men and women of our armed services who have courageously sacrificed for our nation,” said Agriculture Commissioner Putnam. “It’s the least we can do for those who have done so much for us.”

The program offers two types of events — guided events, which are complete with guided services, housing and meals, and unguided events, which provide the area to be used, primitive campsites and portable restroom facilities.

Veterans are encouraged to apply to take part in the mini-season lobster hunt, a scalloping and fishing event in the Perry district; and a Chipola River kayak event.

This week’s edition of Capitol Directions

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