Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics - Page 2 of 238

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.

Sunburn for 5.23.17 – #PrayersforManchester; To veto or not veto; Trouble in Adam Putnam world; Josh Cooper is a world champ!

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

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

A somber good morning from the decks of the Disney Magic, which is sailing into the Isle of Portland and, as we learned late last night, a nation rocked by the deadliest terrorism episode to strike Britain since the 2005 London transit bombings. That the attack took place at a concert performed by Ariana Grande, who grew up before our eyes as a member of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, has only served to further shake-up some of my fellow passengers.

At least 22 are dead, some adolescents, and more than 50 are injured.

And, yet, as we cross the English Channel into this place (Dover) and at this time (days away from the 77th anniversary of the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’), there is no doubt that our English brothers and sisters will, as they always have, endure and prevail.

On some days, it’s just a slogan on a mouse pad or T-shirt, but today, we will all do our best to ‘keep calm and carry on.’

— NO WIN SITUATION —

Could Attorney General Pam Bondi soon be drawn into the never-goes-away issue of what is (or isn’t) illegal gambling?

According to FlaglerLive, the Bunnell City Commission in Flagler County could soon ask for an opinion from her office on the legality of electronic instant bingo machines.

Shamrock Bingo, as was the non-profit Flagler Cats before it, have been fighting being labeled as a gambling hall, specifically “operating slot machines in violation of state law,” as the website says.

The bingo parlor at the heart of the issue is located in the Atlantis center in Bunnell.

In 2013, lawmakers generally outlawed Internet cafes, a sort of strip mall casino. Florida now prohibits any “device or system or network of devices” that plays like a slot machine.

The question is how close are instant bingo machines to slot machines.

Legislation filed this year would have allowed certain veterans’ organizations to “conduct instant bingo” using Class II gambling bingo-style slot machines. It died before Session’s end.

The bingo hall’s lawyer, “conceding the complexity in state law, … suggested either to have the city write an ordinance … or ask for an attorney general’s opinion on the matter,” the site reported.

“Even if the attorney general finds the machines legal, the city would not necessarily be under obligation to allow the machines,” it added.

The city commission voted to “seek out” an attorney general’s office opinion, pending a memo from the bingo hall’s attorney “of a more detailed rationale for electronic bingo’s legality.”

Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray said the office had not yet received a request as of Monday.

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

— TO VETO OR NOT VETO —

If Rick Scott vetoes public school budget, here’s what happens” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – A Scott veto would make him the toast of Florida educators — for the moment, anyway — and how could Democratic politicians or the teachers’ union fault him for demanding more money for schools? But Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, the two main architects of this budget, won’t like being portrayed by Scott as secretly plotting to punish innocent children, so it’s a safe bet that tensions in Tallahassee would get worse. Maybe a lot worse … if Scott is willing to go that far, why not go all the way and veto the whole thing?

His sweeping veto would remind people who’s in charge, and if Republicans try to override his veto by two-thirds votes (likely in the House, less likely in the Senate), Scott has a new reason to campaign against “those politicians in Tallahassee,” one of his favorite sound bites. Words matter in politics. Scott has spent weeks traveling the state on a “Fighting for Florida’s Future” tour, criticizing every aspect of the Legislature’s budget. How can he now possibly sign a budget he has spent so much time condemning? For the governor, it will soon be put-up-or-shut-up time. If Scott doesn’t veto the budget, what’s he been fighting for?

Op-ed – “Vetoing HB 7069 would hurt special needs children” via Lee Anne McGee for the Lakeland Ledger – Our youngest daughter, Emily, is 13 and in fifth grade. She has autism. She struggles with reading and speaking, and like many kids with autism, needs to work on social skills. We found a small, private school that specializes in reading. We applied and qualified for the new Gardiner Scholarship, which is already helping 7,500 students with special needs. We thought we were set. But suddenly, everything’s in limbo. State lawmakers included an additional $30 million for the Gardiner Scholarship this year, enough to help Emily and more than 2,000 other newly qualified students. But House Bill 7069, the bill that includes the bump in funding, is at risk of being vetoed. Some groups want Gov. Scott to kill the bill because of other provisions they claim will hurt students. But if they succeed, there’s no doubt students like my daughter will be hurt. Maybe Emily would do fine in a big, public middle school. Maybe she’d toughen up. Maybe she’d be forced to progress faster on her social skills. But the opposite is also possible: that she’d be teased and bullied for being a little bit different. We don’t want to take that chance. The school we’ve picked out aims to help its students socially as well as academically. Building confidence is part of its mission.

LIBRE Initiative urges Scott to sign education bill — The national, conservative organization, kicked off a bilingual direct mail campaign Monday. The campaign targets voters living in 18 districts, including those living in districts represented by Speaker Corcoran, Rep. Manny Diaz, and Rep. Michael Bileca, President Negron, Sen. Bill Galvano, and Majority Leader Wilton Simpson

Mailers paid for by the Koch brothers-aligned LIBRE Initiative thank lawmakers for voting in favor of the wide-sweeping education bill and encourage Floridians to call Gov. Scott to sign the bill into law.

“A better education has the power to change the trajectory of a student’s life and build stronger communities across the Sunshine State,” said Cesar Grajales, the LIBRE Initiative’s coalitions director, in a statement. “We urge Gov. Scott to quickly sign this bill and remove unnecessary barriers to new charter schools so our students don’t have to remain stuck in schools that are failing to provide a quality education.”

Assignment editors – Miami-Dade public schools host town halls on the Legislature’s K-12 spending plan at 6 p.m. at Miami Palmetto Senior High School, 7460 SW 118th St. in Pinecrest and at 7:30 p.m. at John A. Ferguson Senior High School 15900 SW 56th St. in Miami.

Sorta related Facebook status of the day:

— MORE CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Bill watch – Gov. Scott was sent all 31 of the local bills that passed this Legislative Session. He has until Tuesday, June 6 to act on these. They include HB 647, which would dissolve the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission. Eighty-six bills are now on his desk.

Cabinet meets today – The Governor and Cabinet meet to hear reports from state departments at 9 a.m. in the Cabinet Meeting Room. Among the issues to be decided include the selection of a new Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. Noah Valenstein, currently the executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District, is the only candidate slated to be interviewed for the position.

Eric Eisnaugle makes departure official – The Republican from Windermere announced his resignation would come on the last day of the 2017 Legislative Session to accept an appointment to Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals, but delayed the actual departure until late last week. With his now official resignation — spelled out in a letter last Thursday to Speaker Corcoran — Eisnaugle officially opens the way for the Florida Division of Elections and Gov. Scott to set dates for special elections in House District 44, covering western Orange County.

— POT, INC. — 

Was it actually John Morgan who had financial conflicts in marijuana implementation?” via Florida Politics – Morgan was at his Trumpiest earlier this month when he took to social media to savage his longtime aide-de-camp, Ben Pollara, over the failure of legislation implementing medical marijuana this Session … The ugly, public split … has left many observers asking what the real story was behind the breakup.

When asked directly, John acknowledged a business plan to acquire an existing grower, but when FloridaPolitics.com asked for more details he demurred, with a cryptic, barely-denial denial. The ownership structure of existing medical marijuana license holders is shrouded in secrecy — so public records won’t answer the question.

But here’s what we do know about Morgan’s connections to Florida’s authorized marijuana distributors: The Morgan-Pollara rift began on the last week of session, when Morgan called Pollara on three-way with Jake Bergmann, CEO of Surterra, one of the seven license holders. Representing Surterra is Michael Corcoran, the Speaker’s brother, who Morgan has described as a friend. Their other lobbyist is Billy Rubin, someone who Morgan has known since college.

The Morgan-Bergmann-Pollara call concerned the very issue that doomed medical marijuana this Session: retail caps. This issue divided medical marijuana interests into two camps: the “cartels,” i.e., existing licensees; and the “Have Not’s,” those that wanted access to the Florida market.

John hinted to FloridaPolitics.com — but stopped short of outright saying — that he was looking at potentially investing in or purchasing one of the current license holders.

Now all the above is highly circumstantial … but certainly suggestive.

Consider this final point: John is a capitalist. His bread and butter might be the law business, but this guy owns an advertising firm, billboards, hotels, amusement parks and has all sorts of other entrepreneurial ventures. Think about the pitches that come across his desk daily … consider how many of those over the past few years must have been marijuana related.

Meanwhile… “Drug Free America Foundation wants marijuana Special Session via Florida Politics – The Drug Free America Foundation is adding its voice to those calling for a Special Session on Medical Marijuana Implementation, according to a press release. “It is critical that our leaders call a special session to complete the unfinished business of implementing Amendment 2,” said Calvina Fay, executive director of the Foundation. “Moreover, it is short-sighted to think that the lack of legislation to implement Amendment 2 will stop the marijuana industry from operating.”

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Florida Democratic Party announces staff changes – Stephen Bittel, the chairman of the state party, announced several key staffing changes, including the promotions of Roosevelt Holmes and Johanna Cervone, Monday.

Bittel Holmes has been promoted to the state party’s political director, while Cervone has been promoted to the organization’s director.

Other staff changes announced Monday:

— Georgette Brammer will serve as deputy finance director.

— Amir Ahmadiavin will serve as a communications specialist.

— Erika Ann Grohoski Peralta will serve as a field specialist.

Adam Putnam’s campaign endures first shake-up” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – In an unexplained campaign shakeup, Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign parted ways with its newly named campaign manager and political director. The departure of campaign manager Kristin Davison and political director Jared Small came as a surprise following Putnam’s well-covered and expertly staged 10-day, 22-stop bus tour through Florida.

— Throughout Monday, Republicans began buzzing with word of internal divisions between Davison and Bevis, who worked for Putnam before the campaign, that led to the shakeup.

— Davison has a hard-charging style that didn’t mesh with the more feel-good nature of Putnam’s longtime circle of advisers and supporters, according to Republicans familiar with the dispute.

>>>Bottom-line question: Why did Putnam — who has built a genuine brand as ‘fresh from Florida’ — hire an out-of-state political operative to manage his campaign in the first place?

More than 600 backers joined Putnam for Suwannee Valley BBQ — Putnam wrapped up his 10-day, 22-city bus tour the same way he started it: with a barbecue. More than 600 people attended grassroots BBQ at the Gaylard Family Farm in O’Brien on Saturday, according to the Putnam campaign. “This is the heart and soul of the state of Florida,” said Putnam in a statement. “Hardworking families who have a lot going on this Saturday came out and brought their children out here to join our movement. This is what this campaign is all about. It’s a grassroots, conservative movement.” 

Supporters from all over Florida came to welcome Adam Putnam off the bus after 10 days traveling through the state. On the menu was BBQ chicken, green beans, potatoes, rolls, and ice cream.

Julian Castro backs Andrew Gillum for Governor — Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro has endorsed Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the race to replace Gov. Scott in 2018. Castro, who served as the Housing and Urban Development from 2014 to 2017 under President Barack Obama, said Gillum has “worked hard to achieve his own dreams — and he’s worked just as hard to ensure that Floridians from every walk of life can achieve theirs.” In a statement provided by the Gillum campaign, Castro, who served as the mayor of San Antonio before becoming HUD Secretary, continued: “When Andrew is Governor, he will fight so that every child in Florida has the opportunity to grow and succeed in the Sunshine State. He is the candidate Democrats can best trust to stand with the courage of conviction, even when it’s not politically convenient.” Castro and Gillum will host a fundraiser in South Florida on June 3, according to Gillum’s campaign.

Republican Liberty Caucus Chairman Bob White jumps into gubernatorial race” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – White, who also leads Republican Liberty Caucus of Central East Florida (RLCCEF) and the founder of the Liberty Catalyst Fund (LCF) which works “to educate voters on issues of liberty, freedom, constitutional integrity and limited government” and “promote candidates that demonstrate a commitment to these principles and oppose candidates that do not,” has been active in recent months, opposing Scott’s call for more funding for Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. “I’m running for Governor because I love Florida. I’ve been a Floridian since the day I was born. I can’t imagine living anywhere else,”

White wrote in an open letter to Floridians announcing his candidacy. “I grew up in Polk County, in the heart of the Florida citrus industry …  the reality is that times have changed. Florida is now the third largest state in the nation and is experiencing every advantage and disadvantage that kind of population growth inevitably brings. Growth presents opportunities and challenges. We need a government in Tallahassee that embraces the opportunities and rises to the challenges! Sadly, that’s not what we’ve been getting. I aim to change that.”

Best story of the day –Veteran Tallahassee shoe shiner files for gubernatorial run” via Troy Kinsey of Bay News 9 – Running up the middle … is an unassuming entrant who’s been walking the Capitol’s halls of power longer than any of his opponents: Tony Knox, a veteran shoeshiner about to mark his 30th year servicing the footwear of governors, legislative leaders and lobbyists. Knox filed to run for governor as a no party affiliation candidate last week. With no party, no political experience and no campaign funds – not yet, anyway – he would appear to be an underdog, multiple times over. However, over the course of thousands of shoe shines, he argues he’s learned more about state government than anyone else in the race, and he has a campaign platform he predicts will resonate with voters. “As Governor Knox (would) say, ‘I’m going to roll up my sleeves and teach you how to work,'” Knox said, in a riff on Scott’s ‘let’s get to work’ slogan. “I have a vision for the state that, No. 1, you’ve got to go to work. And the way you go to work is you shut down anything free for able-bodied people.”

Jose Felix Diaz to resign from House as part of SD 40 bid” via Florida Politics — The Miami Republican sent a letter to the Division of Elections on May 17 resigning from the Florida House effective Sept. 26. Diaz, who is running in the special election to replace Frank Artiles in Senate District 40, sent similar letters to Gov. Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner. Scott announced earlier this month the dates for the special election to replace Artiles, who resigned in April after he made national news after he accosted two black colleagues at a private club in Tallahassee. The special primary election is July 25, with a special general election on Sept. 26.

— Gov. Scott on Monday signed an executive order calling for a special election to fill the House District 116 seat being vacated by Rep. Jose Felix Diaz. The special primary is scheduled for July 25, with the special general on Sept. 26 — the same days as the special Senate District 40 primary and general elections.

“Fourth Republican enters HD 44 race” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — Republican businessman Bruno Portigliatti announced his candidacy for what will be a special election this summer for House District 44 in the Orlando area. The 29-year-old Orlando resident is chief executive officer of Excellence Senior Living, a developer of luxury assisted living facilities for seniors, and executive vice president of Florida Christian University, a global online university. He also helps manage real estate enterprises for his family’s Portigliatti Group LLC. He enters a race that already features Republicans Bobby Olszewski of Winter Garden, John Newstreet of Orlando and Dr. Usha Jain of Orlando. The Democrats are running Paul Chandler of Orlando.

— STATEWIDE —

Justices reject Florida appeal over death penalty” via the Associated Press – The Supreme Court has left in place a lower court ruling that said imposing a death sentence in Florida requires a unanimous jury. The justices on Monday turned away an appeal from Florida officials seeking to overturn the ruling last year from the state’s highest court. The Florida Supreme Court had struck down a newly enacted law allowing a defendant to be sentenced to death as long as 10 out of 12 jurors recommend it. That ruling concluded that Timothy Lee Hurst — convicted of a 1998 murder at a Pensacola Popeye’s restaurant— deserves a new sentencing hearing.

“Hackers may have names of thousands of Florida gun owners” via the Associated Press – The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced Monday they had discovered a data breach of the online payment system that processes payments for applications and permits. Agriculture Commissioner Putnam has ordered a review of the department’s cybersecurity measures. State law enforcement is investigating the breach, which authorities suspect originated from overseas. The agency stated that no financial information was obtained.

— The department also warned that the breach may have revealed the social security numbers of 469 customers. The agency plans on offering free credit protection for one year to these individuals.

KPMG breaks ground on global training center: Announces new jobs” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Gov. Scott came to town to welcome the $400 million KPMG global training center, which will join other corporate giants in one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. KPMG CEO Lynne Doughtie announced that the firm is bringing in an additional 250 jobs during the next three years to Florida in an expansion of their global tax and audit business. That’s in addition to the 80 new jobs that will be needed to run KPMG’s Learning, Development and Innovation Facility in Lake Nona. “It’s a big day in our state,” said Scott, who gave Doughtie an award for bringing more jobs to Florida. “Every job is important to a person, and these 330 jobs will change lives.”

Rick Scott makes like he knows how to use a shovel at the groundbreaking of KPMG’s new 55-acre facility in Orlando.

I-395 signature bridge standoff is political palanca at its best” via Elaine deValle of Political Cortadito – Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and his pals on the County Commission are trying to sell us a bridge. Not just any bridge. His buddy’s bridge. Recent hand-wringing over the selection of a firm to design and build an iconic, new signature bridge over Biscayne Boulevard along I-395 has cast a spotlight on just how Gimenez uses the office of county mayor to benefit his friends and family members. The beneficiary this time (again) is Pedro Munilla, who is cousins (or something) with the mayor’s wife and CEO of Munilla Construction Management … MCM was one of five firms that bid on the $800 million “signature bridge” project, in partnership with Fluor Enterprises. But it was ranked second by a Florida Department of Transportation selection committee after a process that has taken, on and off, about 25 years. Archer Western/De Moya was ranked first. One week later, Gimenez wrote a letter asking the FDOT, which is providing $600,000 and overseeing the project, to delay the contract so that the county could weigh in (read: so that Munilla can get a second chance). And he’s using some of his pocket commissioners, like Sally Heyman — well, to be honest, the Munillas write a lot of checks — to try slow the process down.

— MOVEMENTS —

The latest on Ballard Inc. via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida– Trump’s longtime Florida lobbyist, Ballard, has expanded his practice globally and just signed a $1.5 million contract with the government of Turkey, which will be represented by the firm’s new big hire, former Florida Congressman Robert Wexler. Ballard Partner’s Turkey contract comes on the heels of two other international clients signed by the firm: A March 6 $900,000 contract with the Dominican Republic and an April 1 $240,000 contract with the Socialist Party of Albania, the ruling party in the Balkan nation. “I’m excited about the firms growing international practice and look forward to working with this important US and NATO ally,” Ballard, who still speaks to Trump on occasion after representing the Trump Organization for years in Tallahassee, said in a brief written statement. The contract with Turkey is the firm’s highest profile foreign client and could be its most controversial amid unrest in the nation under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Josh Cooper, the Swinos big winners at World Champion Barbecue Cooking Contest — Cooper, the founding partner of Strategic Information Consultants and a competitive barbecue chef, and his competition BBQ team The Swinos took home first place in the “exotic” division for their Oscar-style, bacon wrapped bison center cut filet at the World Champion Barbecue Cooking Contest during Memphis in May. The team also took home sixth place in the seafood division, 13th in the chicken division, and 19th in the mustard sauce division, said Cooper in a message. Cooper, who is set to compete on MasterChef when it premieres May 31, was joined by David Lee, a partner at Fabrizio, Lee & Associates and a few others.

Josh Cooper celebrates his win for his entry in the “exotic division” of the World Champion Barbecue Cooking Contest.

Personnel note: Jerry Parrish joins FloridaMakes board – The industry-led nonprofit “aimed at strengthening the state’s manufacturing sector” announced the addition. Parrish is the chief economist and director of research for the Florida Chamber Foundation. In that role, he is the lead on TheFloridaScorecard. org, an online database that provides Florida leaders and local stakeholders with the data needed to measure progress. He is also responsible for conducting in-depth analyses on economic trends, Florida’s industry clusters and on solutions to help secure Florida’s future. He has many years of experience in management roles at international manufacturing companies.

On this week’s edition of The Rotunda —  On Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda, both Gov. Scott and former Lieutenant Gov. Jennifer Carroll share a strong support for President Trump. Despite their connection, Carroll tells Gomes she has still not heard a word from Scott following her first resignation, but she would accept Scott’s apology when or if he decides to give one. Carroll also talks with Gomes about Trump’s first official trip abroad as president, and she compares her missteps with the press to Trump’s battle with “fake news.” Gomes also talks Greenberg Traurig Government Law & Policy Director, Leslie Dughi about how the insurance industry fared during Florida’s 2017 Legislative Session.

Happy birthday to our friend, Rob Johnson, of The Mayernick Group and Kevin Reilly.

Was it actually John Morgan who had financial conflicts in marijuana implementation?

John Morgan was at his Trumpiest earlier this month when he took to social media to savage his longtime aide-de-camp, Ben Pollara, over the failure of legislation implementing medical marijuana this Session.

Labeling him “Fredo,” (from the Godfather trilogy) and telling FloridaPolitics.com that Ben “f**ked the patients,” Morgan accused Pollara of putting the interests of wannabe medical marijuana businesses over the larger cause.

Pollara emphatically denied those charges, but admitted in an email to supporters that issues of patient access, “tended to align with businesses that wanted entry into the Florida market, and were kept from doing so …”

The ugly, public split between what POLITICO Florida called the “Batman and Robin of … Florida medical marijuana” has left many observers asking what the real story was behind the breakup. Some of the details that have been reported have led to further questions about what, exactly, Morgan’s interests and motivations were in this fight.

Morgan called Pollara a “sellout,” but was that actually a Trump-style red herring? Was it, in fact, John Morgan who had the financial conflict on implementation?

I don’t know.

When asked directly, John acknowledged a business plan to acquire an existing grower, but when FloridaPolitics.com asked for more details he demurred, with a cryptic, barely-denial denial.

The ownership structure of existing medical marijuana license holders is shrouded in secrecy — so public records won’t answer the question.

But here’s what we do know about John Morgan’s connections to Florida’s authorized marijuana distributors:

— Numerous session post-mortems had reported that the Morgan-Pollara rift began on the Tuesday night of the last week of session, when Morgan called Pollara on three-way with Jake Bergmann, CEO of Surterra, one of the seven license holders. Representing Surterra is Michael Corcoran, the Speaker’s brother, who Morgan has described as a friend. Their other lobbyist is Billy Rubin, someone who Morgan has known since college.

— The Morgan-Bergmann-Pollara call concerned the very issue that doomed medical marijuana this Session: retail caps. This issue divided medical marijuana interests into two camps: the “cartels,” i.e., existing licensees; and the “Have Not’s,” those that wanted access to the Florida market. Pollara had been viewed throughout the Session as the leader of the Have Not’s (with Sen. Jeff Brandes as their patron saint); Morgan’s position tended to line up squarely with the cartels. The positions also ended up dividing between the House (cartel position) and Senate (Have Not position). Before the call, Morgan had been noticeably absent throughout the Session, while Pollara had been a near constant presence in Tallahassee, testifying at every committee, including speaking for retail caps in Senate HHS Appropriations.

— After implementing legislation failed, and during his social media rampage against Pollara, Morgan and Speaker Corcoran had a veritable love fest on Twitter. They thanked each other, Corcoran threw shade at Pollara, and Morgan went after Negron.

— In April, from Anguilla, Morgan posted a photo on his Facebook page of medical marijuana products produced by Knox Medical, another of the seven licensed Florida marijuana growers. The post has subsequently been deleted.

— John hinted to FloridaPolitics.com — but stopped short of outright saying — that he was looking at potentially investing in or purchasing one of the current license holders. Other sources have heard that Morgan recently hosted an investor pitch at his office for that very same licensee. According to the sources, Morgan was very much present at the meeting, but it was less than clear what his involvement with the business was (if any).

Now all the above is highly circumstantial … but certainly suggestive.

Consider this final point:

John is a capitalist. His bread and butter might be the law business, but this guy owns an advertising firm, billboards, hotels, amusement parks and has all sorts of other entrepreneurial ventures. Think about the pitches that come across his desk daily.

Now, consider how many of those over the past few years must have been marijuana related.

The opportunity was certainly there, should Morgan have decided to take it. Only he can answer that, although he is under no obligation to do so publicly.

But John Morgan is not exactly a shrinking violet. He’s still very much contemplating a run for Governor. And he’s said if there’s a special session on medical marijuana, he’ll be coming to Tallahassee this time.

John’s put himself in a position where, sooner or later, he’s going to have to answer this question. Without doing so effectively, his credibility on medical marijuana could go up in smoke.

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Sunburn for 5.22.17 – Decision time for Rick Scott; Speaker’s race drama; Phillip Levine floats indy run; Fla Dems circular firing squad; Laura Lenhart’s new gig

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

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

Good morning from the Promenade Bar on Deck 3 of the Disney Magic. Current location is 46.20.36 N, 10.42.59 W. Course is 48 degrees. The nearest land is Brest, France. On Saturday, we visited the Azores, which is simply one of the most beautiful places on this Earth. The highlight of the exclusion was taking a 4×4 along the rim of the dormant volcano overlooking Lagoa das Sete Cidades – two small, ecologically different lakes connected by a narrow strait.

Lagoa das Sete Cidades. Lagoon of the Seven Cities.

The legend of how Lagoa das Sete Cidades came to be (which some believe finds its origins with the fall of Atlantis) is worth reading. It’s a day at sea before arriving Tuesday in the Isle of Portland, home to Stonehenge.

— DECISION TIME —

Gov. Rick Scott has some decisions to make this week.

Should he he codify a prohibition against shark finning established by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and OK a proposal making it easier for cottage food operations to sell and accept payment for goods over the internet? And will this be the week he finally pulls out his veto pen?

The Governor has until Tuesday to act on nine bills, including a bill (HB 185) to provide foster families free annual passes to Florida State Parks; and legislation (HB 711) that reduces state vessel registration fees for vessels equipped with an emergency position-indicating radio beacon. Scott needs to act on eight more bills — including a bill (SB 18) to compensate Victor Barahona $3.75 million in an abuse case that took the life of his twin sister, Nubia — by Wednesday.

Gov. Rick Scott is applauded as he speaks in the House of Representatives for the joint session on opening day of the 2017 Florida Legislative Session at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee.

Scott also needs to act on a bill (SB 106) that would remove the ‘wall of separation’ between hard liquor and other goods by Wednesday. The oft-referred to “whiskey and Wheaties” bill passed by slim margins in the House and Senate, and opponents to the measure have spent weeks urging the Naples Republican to veto the bill.

With so many people lining up against the bill, it remains to be seen whether Scott will act on the bill. Opponents, including independent liquor stores, are calling the proposal a job killer, something that could sway Scott, the “jobs” governor, to pull out his veto pen.

So, what will it be: With he sign it into law, veto it or just let it become law without his signature?

Tick tock, Gov. Scott.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will attend a groundbreaking at 10 a.m. for KPMG Learning, Development and Innovation Facility on Lake Nona Boulevard in Orlando. He’ll then highlight job growth at 2 p.m. at  Sunoptic Technologies, 6018 Bowdendale Avenue in Jacksonville.

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

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

“Is the Florida Legislature broken?” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald: It was 9 p.m. on the night after the Legislative session was supposed to have ended and Sen. Tom Lee got a phone call. ‘What have you done?’ asked a former chairman of the board of governors for the University of South Florida.

The Republican from Thonotosassa and former Senate president who had helped broker negotiations with the House over a K-12 education reform was perplexed by what he heard. He had no idea that Senate President Joe Negron had consented the day before to making it harder for USF, Lee’s hometown school, to become the state’s third ‘preeminent’ university by imposing strict new graduation standards. The changes were part of a budget deal Negron had reached with House Speaker Richard Corcoran the day before, and, while it was pivotal to resolving the impasse that had sent the session into overtime, it could cost USF millions of new dollars each year. …

So began the fallout over what has become another controversial ending to a legislative session in which the House speaker and Senate president exploited a loophole in the rules and dictated the terms of 15 take-it or leave-it policy bills that would be subject to no amendments. As legislative leaders lurched from representative democracy to autocratic control, the strategy raises questions about whether the system on which the Florida Legislature is built is flawed or broken.

>>> To answer Mary Ellen’s question, no, the Legislature is not broken. Her story is only the latest example of her letting her bias seep into her reporting. She doesn’t like conservative Republican policies and she frames her reporting from that perspective.

Most of public wants veto of HB 7069, Gov. Scott’s office indicates” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – By a margin of at least 3-to-1 so far, Floridians are telling Gov. Scott they want him to veto a controversial $419 million K-12 public schools bill House Republicans pushed through at the end of session, according to information requested from Scott’s office … In the 10 days since lawmakers approved HB 7069, the state’s Republican governor has been inundated with roughly 10,000 emails, phone calls, letters and petition signatures urging him to either sign or reject the bill. Both sides have been vocal, but the cries from the opposition — advocates of traditional public school — have been greater in number so far, based on tallies provided by Scott’s office.

Rick Scott on schools bill: ‘If people want to get involved, get involved’” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Scott said he had not yet heard that two charter schools in Hialeah were offering parents an incentive in exchange for letters supporting a massive K-12 public schools bill. “I was not informed somebody was doing it that way, but if people want to get involved, get involved,” said Scott, who added that he encourages constituents to engage with elected officials. Asked more broadly for his take on HB 7069, Scott said he wants “to make sure every child has the opportunity to get the education they deserve, whether you go to a traditional public school or a charter school.” Scott has not yet given any inkling as to his plans for vetoing parts or all of the budget.

Neither HB 7069 nor the main budget act have yet reached Scott’s desk. Once they do, he’ll have 15 days to either sign them, veto them or let them become law without his signature.

All aboard the gambling gravy train” via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – It wasn’t their intention, but Florida Supreme Court justices’ Gretna decision sure started the engine on the Legislature’s 2018 gravy train. When the high court affirmed that the Legislature, not the voters, have the authority to decide whether pari-mutuels can add lucrative games … All of a sudden, it’s Happy Hour for President Negron, House Speaker Corcoran, Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala, House Government Accountability Chair Matt Caldwell, not to mention the next President and Speaker waiting on deck — in fact, any legislative leader chasing cash for a higher-office run in 2018. Gaming interests are the gravy train. Period. Gambling bills die so legislators and lobbyists can resurrect them, inviting the roar of special-interest campaign donations for their political committees in an election year. At the end of the session, when lawmakers fail to enact anything, the gravy train turns from a train into a cruise to nowhere.

Big-box chains, others make one last push for ‘whiskey & Wheaties’” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Costco now is joining Wal-Mart, Target and others in one last push to get Gov. Scott to sign a bill to remove the ‘wall of separation’ between hard liquor and other goods. Their Floridians For Fair Business Practices coalition released a tranche of letters sent to Scott encouraging him to OK the legislation (SB 106) … They also include representatives of Whole Foods Market, the Distilled Spirits Council and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association. It could be an uphill fight—as of Wednesday, the Governor’s Office reported 2,649 emails opposed to the bill and 315 supporting, as well as 3,245 people who signed a petition against the bill. The office also took 177 calls against and 123 for, and 569 printed letters opposed and seven letters in favor—all from pro-bill coalition members, spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said.

Susie Plakon honored for role in passing HB 883 for memory disorder clinic” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Plakon, wife of state Rep. Scott Plakon, was honored Thursday for inspiring HB 883 for the creation of a memory disorder clinic at Florida Hospital – a victory for a woman who is herself battling Alzheimer’s disease. The Florida based hospital unveiled a plaque declaring, “Florida Hospital proudly honors Susie Plakon for her courage and inspiration to help pass HB 883. The Maturing Minds Clinic was created to address the growing need for care of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia.” … “That was a really nice moment this morning,” said Scott Plakon.

— WHO WANTS TO BE A SPEAKER-AIRE? —

A majority of GOP freshmen met this weekend at a Central Florida law firm to discuss the 2022 Speaker’s race.

Held at Vose Law Firm in Winter Park, the meeting gave members in attendance a chance to hear from four likely candidates — Reps. Byron DonaldsRandy FineJamie Grant, and Paul Renner — ahead of a June 30 vote to decide the class leader. The meeting, according to a House member present, was called by Rep. Bob Rommel, a Naples Republican, who wanted to have a candidate forum ahead.

— Each candidate was given 15 minutes to speak, before the floor was opened up to questions from members.

— Matt Dixon reported that Reps. Frank WhiteJayer WilliamsonAlex MillerJackie ToledoErin Grall and Don Hanhfeldt were not in attendance.

— The class agreed to vote by secret ballot, and a proposal to knock out the lowest vote-getters if more than two candidates are running, essentially survivor-style balloting, appears to still be under consideration, according to a House member in attendance.

— Some members indicated Grant and White, who was believed to be considering a run for Speaker, could be in trouble because of what has become known in the caucus as “text-gate.”

— Speaker Corcoran told Dixon he did not believe the meeting violated the Republican caucus rules. “While I was not in Orlando, my expectation is that the members of the freshman class conducted themselves In a manner consistent with the letter and spirit of our Republican Conferee rules.”

Bottom line: Grant and White need lock themselves in a room until they determine which of them has the best chance to be Speaker.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

“Patrick Murphy raises cash, but undecided about political future” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Former U.S. Rep Patrick Murphy has continued to raise campaign cash amid speculation about his political future, but he says he’s made no concrete decisions. “I want to stay involved to do what I can to stay involved and help like-minded Democrats,” Murphy told POLITICO Florida Thursday. “I miss public service, but I don’t miss the House much, especially with Trump and all.” … Despite uncertainty about his political future, Murphy has again started raising money for PEM PAC, a political action committee that uses his initials as its title. The committee has not raised any money since the 2016 election cycle ended, but is again sending fundraising emails.

Adam Putnam, Jack Latvala make public appearances in Pensacola” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News-Journal – Putnam met with small-business owners … at Dog House Deli in downtown Pensacola. Meanwhile,  Latvala told the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club during a lunch at Skopelos at New World Landing that he was considering stepping into the governor’s race and would make a decision by August. “I’m leaning in the direction of running,” Latvala told the News Journal after the lunch. “But I have some other people I want to talk to before I decide and go out on the road and meet with people.” Both Latvala and Putnam said they were unhappy with the cuts to education spending that passed the Legislature during the 2017 session. “I feel 95 percent positive the governor will veto that bill,” Latvala said. “I’ve asked him to veto that bill. Then we start over with the House on the defensive because it’ll be their priority that got beat.”

Shot – Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times reported over the weekend that a political committee the Clearwater Republican runs was to meet on Treasure Island with a group of top political consultants.

Chaser – A source going to the dinner described the dinner as “no big deal” and just a dinner with Latvala and five of his consultants and employees.

The real story – Senator Latvala’s mother passed away peacefully Saturday night and the dinner, whatever its purpose, was canceled.

Adam Putnam hosted a roundtable discussion with small businesses in Pensacola. Later, he greeted supporters in Destin and headlined the Jackson County Republican Party’s Reagan Day Dinner.

Philip Levine opens door to running as independent for governor” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Maybe Levine was just trying to be provocative, earn a little extra attention as he mulls a run for governor. Maybe he was just spitballing an unlikely idea before the Tampa Tiger Bay luncheon … But the Miami Beach Mayor and close friend of Bill Clinton said he is keeping the door wide-open to running for governor as an independent candidate. “There’s one assumption that you made there – that somehow if I ran for governor I would be a Democratic governor,” Levine, a Democrat, responded when asked how he would work with a GOP-dominated Legislature. “Too much is about Democrat and Republican. It needs to be about the people. … Maybe possibly it’s time we do something different.”

— Levine has been one of the biggest Democratic fundraisers and donors in the state, but he describes himself as a “radical centrist” and noted that successful mayors usually don’t govern based on partisanship but on getting things done.

— Key Levine quote: “I’m a Democrat right now, and I hope that I stay in the Democratic Party. I love the Democratic Party. But you know what’s interesting? I actually like the Republican Party, and I like a lot of Republican ideas, and I like a lot of the people in the Republican Party as well. I think that’s where we need to go as a country – and start in a state like Florida and make that decision that we’re going to change and do it the right way.”

Simone Marstiller considers run for Attorney General” via John Lucas of the Capitolist – Calling it her “dream job,” the former 1st District Court of Appeal Judge says she is “weighing her options” for a possible candidacy for Florida Attorney General. “I am a public servant at heart and am exploring ways to continue serving the State of Florida,” Marstiller said. “But I’m not at a decision point yet.” The Tallahassee Republican began her legal career working for the state in 1996 in various legal capacities after graduating from Stetson University College of Law. In 2001, she was named assistant general counsel to Gov. Jeb Bush. After leaving to work as general counsel and later interim secretary for the Department of Management Services, Marstiller returned to the Governor’s Office to serve as deputy chief of staff for Bush and later as the state’s chief information officer. Marstiller is no stranger to the Office of Attorney General. Former Attorney General Bill McCollum appointed her associate deputy attorney general in 2007. Three years later, while serving as the executive director of the Florida Elections Commission, Gov. Charlie Crist tabbed Marstiller to serve on the 1st District Court of Appeal. She served on the appeals court for six years.

“Daisy Baez leaves Democratic race for Florida Senate” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — State Rep. Daisy Baez’s short-lived candidacy for the Florida Senate came to end Friday, doomed politically by a crowded Democratic primary and the likelihood that she’d be attacked as a carpetbagger. Baez dropped out of the race for Senate District 40 just 19 days after it began, citing her ailing mother’s deteriorating health. “My life today is a direct reflection of my mother’s decision to immigrate to this country and work multiple jobs to ensure that I could live the American Dream,” Baez, who is Dominican-American, said in a statement. “Just after announcing my intention to run for the Florida Senate, my mother’s health deteriorated and it became clear to me that spending time with her now is of the utmost importance. As her daughter, caring for her is my number one priority. Therefore, I will not pursue a campaign for the Florida Senate.”

Robert Asencio won’t run in SD 40 either — Asencio announced  he would not be throwing his hat in the race to replace Frank Artiles in Senate District 40. While Asencio called the special election a “tremendous opportunity,” he said he needed to be “cognizant of the fact (he has) only recently been elected to state office.” He went on to say there are many critical issues in the Florida House he wants to tackle. “Despite having passed several bills in the House as a freshman and the overwhelming support to run for Senate, I am dedicated to this office and to fighting for the people of House District 118,” he said in a statement. “This is my community, my home, and I am proud to continue to serve as their Representative in the Florida House.”

“Scott Boyd declines HD 44 race, backs John Newstreet” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – The special election race for Florida’s House District 44 became clearer Friday morning when former Orange County Commissioner Scott Boyd said he has decided to not run and will back Republican John Newstreet instead. “Solid guy, absolutely the best qualified individual for this position,” Boyd declared of Newstreet in a message to Orlando-Politics.com. Newstreet, the chief executive officer of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce, entered the race Thursday, challenging former Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski for the Republican nomination.

Bobby Olszewski fundraisers set for Orlando, Miami in HD 44 racevia Scott Powers of Orlando Rising

“Citing ‘assault on home rule,’ Kathleen Peters won’t seek fourth term” via SaintPetersBlog — Citing Tallahassee’s battle against home rule, Treasure Island Republican Kathleen Peters has decided against a fourth term in the Florida House, opting instead to seek the District 6 seat on the Pinellas County Commission. “After the legislature launched an all-out assault on local government and home rule this year,” Peters said in a statement. “I found myself reflecting on my community priorities and where I feel I can have the greatest impact. … After long consideration, I have decided to change course and run for County Commission, District 6.” A former mayor, Peters was initially elected to House District 69 in 2012, representing Gulfport, South Pasadena, and several South Pinellas County beaches. She had campaigned on reforms to the Florida mental health system and repairs and improvements to Pinellas County’s failing sewer system.

More legislative hopefuls file to run in 2018 — LobbyTools’ Legislative IQ reports several candidates filed to run for House and Senate in 2018. Republican Brigitte Smith, a longtime nurse and Army veteran, has challenged Ocala Republican Rep. Charlie Stone in House District 22. Smith unsuccessfully ran for Marion County Commission in 2016. Stone was first elected in 2012. Democrat James Schulman has filed to replace Rep. Michael Bileca in House District 115. Schulman is the co-founder and managing partner of The Found Gen, a Coral Gables-based marketing firm. He joins Republicans Vance AloupisCarlos Gobel, and Carmen Sotomayor in the race to replace Bileca, who can’t run again because of term limits. Republican Lorenzo Palomares-Starbuck, a lawyer at Miami-based Palomares-Starbuck & Associates, has filed to run in the special election to replace Artiles in Senate District 40.

— STATEWIDE — 

Marco Rubio has little to say about Donald Trump, but a lot about the media” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The Florida senator, who turns 46 next weekend, was considered a possible nominee for President of the United States less than 15 months ago, but he’s now just a sideshow in the circus that is the Trump presidency, and he’s getting frustrated about it. Speaking at the Pinellas County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner, Rubio touted his bill to reform the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs … gaining some momentum in the Senate. He said it simply wasn’t sexy enough, without mentioning why the national press is so focused on what Trump has been saying and tweeting, and what his staff is telling the press every day. “It’s not being posted because nobody clicks on those stories, because the stories that get all the clicks are the stories about something controversial and explosive,” he said, adding that, “I’m not here to beat up the press but just because somebody told you something doesn’t mean that’s what happened.”

Spotted: Florida GOP Chairman and state Rep. Blaise Ignoglia in the Oval Office for a meeting of Republican swing state party chairs with President Donald Trump

Andrew Gillum takes swipe at top FDP staffer as campaign eyes anti-establishment lane” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Gillum issued a blistering statement hammering Florida Democratic Party President Sally Boynton Brown for her remarks this week about the Democratic party base in Florida. Brown said that “this is not going to be popular, but this is my belief of the time and place we’re in now: I believe that we’re in a place where it’s very hard to get voters excited about ‘issues,’ the type of voters that are not voting.” Responding, Gillum said that “for too long, we’ve been guided not by principle but by the so-called politically practical — a belief that we need to avoid issues, sprint to the center, and be a blank slate that shirts with the wind. … That’s why we keep losing.” When asked about Gillum’s statement, Boynton Brown, who was hired in April from the Idaho Democratic Party, issued her own statement apologizing. She said she did “not articulate” her thoughts correctly. “I apologize for my comments and I in no way meant to demean voters in Florida,” she said. “Issues are the backbone of our democracy and the Democratic Party.”

Cue the Democratic circular firing squad:

— “Analysis of the Sally Boynton Brown Controversy” via Sean Phillippi of the Florida Squeeze

— “The Democrats Elitism and Obsession With Identity Could Kill the Party’s Chances For Revival” via Kartik Krishnayer of the Florida Squeeze

— “Sally Boynton Brown, Rich AND Poor Democrats care about issues” via Leslie Wimes for Sunshine State News

***Smith, Bryan & Myers is an all-inclusive governmental relations firm located in Tallahassee. For more than three decades, SBM has been working with our clients to deliver their priorities through strategic and effective government relations consulting that has led us to become one of Tallahassee’s premier governmental relations firms today.***

Gainesville considers renaming Corrine Brown transit center” via The Associated Press – Gainesville city leaders are considering removing the name of former U.S. Rep. Brown from a transit facility in the town following her conviction on federal fraud charges … the Gainesville City Commission considered whether to remove Brown’s name from a Regional Transit System facility, but decided to consider the move at a later meeting. Brown helped secure federal funding for Regional Transit Center in Gainesville, and the facility was named in her honor.

Did panel members’ Facebook chat about reservoir break Florida Sunshine law?” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm – Facebook conversations about a proposed Lake Okeechobee reservoir appears to violate Florida’s sunshine laws because it involved three members of a South Florida Water Management District advisory board …  Nyla Pipes of Port St. Lucie, Newton Earl Cook of Tequesta and Mikhael Elfenbein of Englewood — all members of the Water Resources Advisory Commission (WRAC) — talked to each other about the reservoir in posts, comments and replies on Pipes’ Facebook page in April and May. Only a court can decide whether they broke the law, “but this definitely appears to be a violation,” said Barbara Petersen, head of the First Amendment Foundation … “If they’re talking back and forth about an issue, that’s a meeting; and by law, it has to be announced beforehand and be open to the public.” They can express their opinions on social media, she said, but “they just can’t talk with each other on Facebook about commission business.” State law forbids two or more members of an elected or appointed board from discussing matters that may come before them for action outside of a public meeting that has been announced in advance. The law includes advisory panels like the advisory commission; and according to a 2009 Florida Attorney General’s opinion, it includes Facebook conversations.

Officials worry about drug overdoses at hurricane shelters” via The Associated Press – Local officials are raising concerns about drug use at hurricane shelters, saying they aren’t equipped to care for addicts, unaccompanied minors and others with other medical needs. Nearly 16,000 people in nine counties from Indian River to Miami-Dade evacuated to shelters during Hurricane Matthew. Six evacuees seeking refuge at a Delray Beach high school during Hurricane Matthew overdosed on drugs as the dangerous storm approached South Florida. Bags brought to shelters by evacuees are typically not searched. In another county, a bus full of teenagers from a residential addiction-treatment center was left at an American Red Cross-run shelter without adult oversight. “Many of the people from sober homes came with supervision, but some came and were just dropped off,” Delray Beach Fire Rescue Capt. Kevin Saxton, [said]. “There were witnesses seeing people shoot up.”

“Tobacco decision cheers one former judge” via Takeaways from TallahasseeA U.S. appeals court ruling that federal law doesn’t bar smokers from using a landmark Florida Supreme Court decision from proving damages gave a smile to one former Florida judge … The appellate decision included a 226-page dissent from Judge Gerald Tjoflat … That had former 1st District Court of Appeal judge Simone Marstiller (mentioned above as a possible AG candidate), now in private practice, tweeting, “#DissentsIWontBeReading.” … In 2010, Marstiller wrote the opinion in a case against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR) that was “the first so-called ‘Engle progeny’ case to reach a district court of appeal following the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Engle v. Liggett Group.” Marstiller’s holding: “We find the trial court correctly applied Engle and Mrs. Martin produced sufficient independent evidence to prove RJR’s liability for her husband’s death.”

— MOVEMENTS —

First on #FlaPol – “Tom Delacenserie to resign as Florida Lottery Secretary” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics Delacenserie is resigning effective the beginning of June… The move was confirmed by the Governor’s Office, which provided a copy of his resignation letter. The letter did not mention his plans but Delacenserie wrote that he “enjoyed all of my 17 years with the Florida Lottery but none more than the time spent under your leadership.” Delacenserie has overseen the growth and escalating sales of Lottery products, leading to the “strongest start ever to the final quarter of the fiscal year, with record sales for the month of April totaling more than $528 million,” a recent press release said. The Lottery’s profits go into the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which among other things pays for Florida Bright Futures Scholarships.

“Jon Wheeler to retire as 1st DCA clerk” via Florida PoliticsWheeler, clerk of the Tallahassee-based 1st District Court of Appeal, will retire this October, the court announced Friday. The 73-year-old began as the court’s clerk in December 1990, the third person to hold the position. The court was one of the original three state appellate courts created by the Legislature in 1957; until then, the state Supreme Court handled all appeals. The job is daunting: The 1st DCA is “one of the largest appellate courts in the country both in terms of number of judges (15) and number of cases filed annually (6,011 in 2014-15),” and its “geographical jurisdiction (32 counties in north Florida) is the largest in the state,” its website says. “I’ll be trying to spend some time with my wife (of 51 years, MaryLynn,) after spending all my time in my profession,” said Wheeler, a licensed attorney, in a phone interview. “I need to give back to her.”

Appointed – Nicole Attong and Patricia A. Lipovsky to the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Ralph Arza, Mountain Moving Strategies: Lincoln Marti Community Agency

Leonard Collins, Broad and Cassel: U.S. Submergent Technologies

Personnel note: Laura Lenhart joins Frontier Communications — Lenhart will serve as head of government and regulatory affairs operations for Florida, the company announced last week. “We are delighted to welcome Laura as a strong addition to the Frontier team,” said Allison Ellis, Frontier’s senior vice president for regulatory affairs, in a statement. “As we continue to execute our growth strategy in Florida, Laura’s regulatory and government affairs expertise will be a valuable asset in ensuring that state and local policies continue to encourage investment in and expansion of critical telecommunications products and services.” Lenhart previously worked as a public affairs strategist at the Moffitt Cancer Center for nearly three years and as the governmental affairs coordinator for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. She has both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Florida State University. Lenhart will be based out of Tampa.

— ALOE — 

Congrats to Mackenzie and Taylor Biehl on their weekend nuptials. Michelle and I were sorry to have missed the wonderful occasion.

Mackenzie Hellstrom and Taylor Biehl.

Fans thankful to see ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ a final time” via Tamara Lush of The Associated Press – This weekend, the most famous American circus ends its 146-year reign as one of the world’s biggest big tops. Ringling’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced in January it would take its final bow this year. On Saturday afternoon, under cloudy skies, fans streamed into the Nassau Coliseum in suburban New York to pay their last respects to the iconic show. “I am sad that it’s going to be over,” said Melissa Angevine of Walton, New York. She and her husband drove four hours with their two kids Saturday to see the show “It’s a pastime that no longer anybody gets to enjoy anymore, unfortunately. Everybody’s in their tablets and not really going out and seeing different kinds of entertainment anymore.” Saturday evening’s circus was an extravaganza of big cats, motorcycle stunts, clowns performing death-defying stunts, ice skaters, buckets of popcorn and Mongolian contortionists — and that was just the first half of the show. “I’m becoming an adult today,” said 46-year-old Heather Greenberg, of New York City. “I can’t go to the circus with my daddy anymore.”

This weekend, the Ringling Bros & Barnum and Bailey Circus ended its 146-year history as an iconic live circus extravaganza. Fans attended one of the Ringling Bros. final performances Saturday afternoon at the Nassau Coliseum in New York.

***Capital City Consulting, LLC is a full-service government and public affairs firm located in Tallahassee, Florida. At Capital City Consulting, our team of professionals specialize in developing unique government relations and public affairs strategies and delivering unrivaled results for our clients before the Florida Legislature and Executive Branch Agencies. Capital City Consulting has the experience, contacts and winning strategies to help our clients stand out in the capital city. Learn more at www.capcityconsult.com.***

SeaWorld Orlando to develop new Sesame Place land by 2022” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising –Orlando provides a prime opportunity for the family-friendly addition, which will be a renovation of Shamu’s Happy Harbor play area. SeaWorld admission and revenues have been on the decline since the release of the documentary “Blackfish,” which criticized the park’s care of its animals. The new land is an attempt to boost those numbers. “We share Sesame’s goal of educating and entertaining generations of children, and the extension of our partnership furthers SeaWorld’s mission to provide guests with experiences that matter,” said Joel Manby, president and CEO of SeaWorld … “We are thrilled to be able to grow the presence of Sesame Place theme parks in the U.S. and help our company diversify its brand portfolio and expand into new areas.” The new license agreement extends SeaWorld’s 37-year partnership as Sesame Workshop‘s exclusive theme park partner in the United States through 2031, with a second Sesame Place theme park scheduled to open no later than mid 2021 in the U.S.

Happy birthday belatedly to U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, Speaker Tom Feeney, William Arnold, James Blair, Matt Brockelman, Matt Mitchell, Tampa Councilman Mike Suarez, and Steve Uhlfelder. Celebrating today is Rep. Dane Eagle and the amazing Eileen Stuart.

Speaker’s race heads toward June 30 vote after weekend meeting

Freshman House Republicans are inching closer to picking their leader, holding a weekend caucus meeting to hear from candidates.

A majority of GOP freshmen met this weekend at a Central Florida law firm to discuss the 2022 Speaker’s Race. The meeting, which was first reported by Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, comes about a week after an attempt to adopt rules for the 2022 Speaker’s failed, seemingly throwing the leadership battle into chaos.

Held at Vose Law Firm in Winter Park, the meeting gave members in attendance a chance to hear from four likely candidates — Reps. Byron DonaldsRandy FineJamie Grant, and Paul Renner — ahead of a June 30 vote to decide the class leader. The meeting, according to a House member present, was called by Rep. Bob Rommel, a Naples Republican, who wanted to have a candidate forum ahead.

Each candidate was given 15 minutes to speak, before the floor was opened up to questions from members.

Dixon reported that Reps. Frank WhiteJayer WilliamsonAlex MillerJackie ToledoErin Grall and Don Hanhfeldt were not in attendance.

Some members indicated Grant and White, who was believed to be considering a run for Speaker, could be in trouble because of what has become known in the caucus as “text-gate.”

Earlier this year, Rep. Alex Miller reportedly sent a text message that essentially said the race was narrowing to a choice between Rep. Ralph Massullo and Grant. That text message, and the impression that it violated House GOP rules, has apparently left a bad taste in several freshmen’s mouth, leaving many to wonder if Grant or White could get enough votes to pull out a win.

According to House Republican Conference Rules adopted last year, Speaker candidates can officially begin accepting pledges of support after June 30.

“The new conference rules were put in place to protect members from being pressured  by special interest politics into making decisions on their future leaders before having the opportunity to see them lead,” said House Speaker Richard Corcoran said in a statement.  “While I was not in Orlando, my expectation is that the members of the freshmen class conducted themselves in a manner consistent with the letter and spirit of our Republican Conference rules.”

The class agreed to vote by secret ballot, and a proposal to knock out the lowest vote-getters if more than two candidates are running, essentially survivor-style balloting, appears to still be under consideration, according to a House member in attendance.

One member, who asked to remain anonymous, said they believe a secret ballot could hurt Grant the most, since many of the smaller candidates who can score with a blind ballot — like White and Masullo — would come from Grant’s support group. An open race, meanwhile, would have two candidates battling it out.

Renner could also have a hard time at getting the necessary votes. The text-gate scandal was believed to be prompted by an anti-Renner mood.

The discourse between the Grant and Renner camps could prove beneficial to Fine, who made the case that he is could be a consensus candidate. The Brevard County Republican said that he would work with other Speaker hopefuls, and touted his business experience when discussing his qualifications, according to a House member familiar with Fine’s speech.

A vote will be held June 30, with Rep. Larry Metz counting the ballots.

cigarettes

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Tobacco decision cheers one former judge

A U.S. appeals court ruling that federal law doesn’t bar smokers from using a landmark Florida Supreme Court decision from proving damages gave a smile to one former Florida judge.

The 11th Circuit on Thursday said plaintiffs and their survivors can use the “Engle tobacco class action’s jury findings to establish strict liability and negligence claims,” Law360 reported.

Such suits are known as Engle progeny cases, after a monumental 1994 class action, in which individual smokers with claims against tobacco companies each sue for their own damages.

(On a related note, a bill died this Legislative Session that would have repealed the cap on the amount of money tobacco companies have to put up as appellate bonds. The state’s trial lawyers, who backed the change, said it would have forced settlements and end decades-long litigation over plaintiffs’ claims of irreversible illness or early death from smoking.)

The appellate decision included a 226-page dissent from Judge Gerald Tjoflat that ended with the kicker, “If one lesson can be learned from this chaotic poker game it is that we should stick to our day jobs…

“Rather than act as advocates for the plaintiff, we should saddle him with the burden the law tasks him with carrying, and assess, impartially, whether the plaintiffs have established the elements of proving preclusion in the manner the law demands,” he wrote.

That had former 1st District Court of Appeal judge Simone Marstiller, now in private practice, tweeting, “#DissentsIWontBeReading.”

A tweet also came out under her law firm’s Twitter account, @MarstillerFirm: “The tobacco companies have tried several ways to undo #SCOFL’s Engle decision with no success.”

In 2010, Marstiller wrote an opinion in a case against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR) that was “the first so-called ‘Engle progeny’ case to reach a district court of appeal following the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Engle v. Liggett Group.”

The case was brought by Matilde Martin, widow of smoker Benny Martin.

Marstiller’s holding: “We find the trial court correctly applied Engle and Mrs. Martin produced sufficient independent evidence to prove RJR’s liability for her husband‟s death.”

She went on: “The punitive damage award ($25 million) overcomes the presumption of excessiveness in (Florida law) and satisfies due process in view of the evidence of decades-long wanton conduct by RJR and because the award does not financially devastate the company.”

When teased about her tweets Thursday, Marstiller responded on Twitter: “Hey … I gotta have SOME fun!”

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

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

Vacation land — If you thought there were more people in Florida this winter, you were right. Gov. Rick Scott announced this week that 31.1 million tourists came to Florida in the first three months of 2017, a 2.5 percent increase over the same period in 2016. According to Visit Florida, the state saw more than 27 million domestic tourists, a 3.2 percent increase over the first quarter of 2016. Despite the overall increase in visitors, there was a decrease in overseas and Canadian tourists during the first quarter. The governor used the record numbers to take a swipe at state lawmakers for cutting funding to Visit Florida. “Now is not the time to take our foot off the gas,” said Scott in a statement. “In business, you would never stop marketing when you start to see great results. Instead of decimating funding to VISIT FLORIDA, we should be investing in tourism marketing so we can continue to bring record visitors to our state.”

More than 31.1 million tourists visited Florida communities — including Tampa, shown here from the airport — during the first quarter of 2017.

Right hand (wo)man — After 28 years working for the state of Florida, Kim McDougal is getting ready to say good-bye. Gov. Scott announced this week McDougal, who has served as his chief of staff since April 2016, was leaving her post effective July 1 to pursue opportunities in the private sector. “Kim has proudly served Florida families for nearly three decades and her years of experience will be missed in my office,” said Scott in a statement. “I know she will continue to do great things for our state.” Scott wasted no time in naming McDougal’s replacement, announcing this week that Jackie Schutz Zeckman will take over as his right hand woman beginning July 1. Zeckman has been with the Governor’s Office since 2011, serving most recently as the communications director. “Jackie has been on my team since my first year in office and has done a great job leading my communications efforts and conveying my vision of Florida as the best destination for families and businesses,” said Scott. “I have full confidence that she will do an outstanding job as my Chief of Staff.”

No news on special session — While plenty of state lawmakers have come out on social media calling for a special session to tackle medical marijuana, Senate President Joe Negron has yet to join House Speaker Richard Corcoran in calling for a Special Session. Earlier this week, a spokeswoman for Negron said the Stuart Republican was still in the process of having discussions with senators about a memo he sent seeking input. A state law provides that the “President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, by joint proclamation duly filed with the Department of State, may convene the Legislature in special session.” Rank-and-file lawmakers can also call a special session. If 32 members ask for a special session, the Department of State is required to poll the entire Legislature. If three-fifths of each chamber agree, then a call is issued. Sen. Darryl Rouson has urged his colleagues to take this route to call a special session, sending his own letter asking for a special session.

Senate President Joe Negron hasn’t yet joined  House Speaker Richard Corcoran in calling for a special session to implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment. (Photo by Phil Sears)

No slots for you — The Florida Supreme Court ruled against a North Florida racetrack seeking to add slot machines. The 20-page decision means gambling facilities in Gadsden County’s Gretna and in seven other counties that passed local referendums allowing slots also will be unable to offer them. At issue, was “whether local voters can authorize the operation of slot machines in counties outside of Dade and Broward.” Statewide voters in 2004 approved a constitutional amendment legalizing slots at existing jai-alai frontons and horse and dog racetracks only in those counties and only if voters there OK’d it in referendums there. Since then, voters in Brevard, Duval, Gadsden, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Washington counties approved slots. But the opinion, authored by Justice Charles Canady, found that “nothing in (state gambling law) grants any authority to regulate slot machine gaming to any county.” Lawmakers failed to agree on a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s gambling laws this Legislative Session.

Low, low, low — The state Department of Economic Opportunity announced this week that the unemployment rate dipped to 4.5 percent in April, down from 4.8 percent one month earlier. The drop marks one of the lowest rates since September 2007, and is only slightly higher than the national unemployment rate of 4.4 percent. “Florida businesses have excelled over the past six years thanks to the policies of Gov. (Rick) Scott and his administration,” said Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the DEO, in a statement. “Unemployment continues to drop, private sector jobs are on the rise and Florida families are flourishing. We must not give up on our efforts to make Florida the best place to start and grow a business.”

Stark warns of lawsuits if Scott signs ‘religious liberties’ bill

Rep. Richard Stark is not up on the so-called religious liberties bill that cleared the House in the final hours of the 2017 Legislative Session.

Stark, who served as co-chair of this year’s legislative fellowship prayer group, said the proposal (SB 436) was couched in terms of a student’s freedom for religious expression, and was promoted by Democrats in the House, who “firmly believe that students did not have enough freedoms in expressing their religion.”

Stark said he and Rep. Joseph Geller worked a lot this session to make sure the bill was “re-worded so that it was more presentable, and would define a student’s right to religious expression without expanding school prayer.” However, the amended version of the bill was overturned in the final hours of the Session by” the House Speaker and Senate President.”

Currently students can pray before or after instructional time outside of the class room, on the field before a ballgame, or in an after-school club. The prayer cannot be initiated by parents or teachers, or be part of a forum such as a school assembly. This bill could change all or part of that,” said Stark in a statement. “Unintended consequences could be a commencement speech by an atheist who could berate religion, and the audience would have to listen, or even Muslim prayers to an Islamaphobic group.  After bringing this up in debate, I was followed by another Representative who said I was speaking in hypotheticals, and that this was a good bill.”

Stark said if Gov. Scott signs the bill the state could “look forward to lawsuits and agitation by disgruntled parents at schools.”

The bill has not yet been sent to Scott for his consideration.

Ausley named FAAST ‘Legislator of the Year’

Kudos, Rep. Loranne Ausley!

The Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology (FAAST) presented the Tallahassee Democrat with the Dr. Frederick Haynes FAAST Legislator of the Year Award. The organization presented Ausley with the award for her work on behalf of Floridians with disabilities. “Representative Ausley is an incredible advocate for those with disabilities in Florida, so we were proud to name her our Legislator of the Year,” said Michael Daniels, the executive director of FAAST in a statement.

Ausley was recognized for her sponsoring a bill (HB 371) that would make it easier for students with disabilities to retain and use assistive technologies when they switch schools. The bill also allows for coordination with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation so that assistive technology can be used in the employment or post-school environment.

Rep. Loranne Ausley was named the FAAST “Legislator of the Year” because of the work she did on behalf of persons with disabilities during the 2017 Legislative Session. (Photo via the Florida House)

“Her bill will have a material impact on the lives of many students in schools across the state, providing easier and broader use of assistive technology while in school, at home and while working,” said Daniels.

The award is named after Dr. Frederick Haynes, a longtime champion for those with disabilities who died in September.

“I am honored to receive this award from the Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology,” said Ausley in a statement. “I have always worked to remove barriers to access to assistive technology for Florida’s students, and I am proud to have sponsored another bill that will accomplish that goal.”

More wins, losses from the 2017 Session

AFSCME sees ‘clear and meaningful victories’ — The 2017 Legislative Session was filled with contrasts, yet AFSCME Florida said this week it could point to “some very clear and meaningful victories” that were made possible thanks to lawmakers in the House and Senate “who understand the value that AFSCME Florida adds to the community, respects the work our members do, and were willing to stand with us.”

The labor organization pointed to the $183 million the Legislature included in the budget for pay raises for state employees. Noting the money isn’t for “a one-time bonus” and isn’t off-set by “takeaways or some other gimmick,” the union called the 3- to 4-percent raised a “huge step forward.”

It also applauded efforts to stop what was often referred to as “union-busting legislation” in the Senate. The bill (HB 11) passed the House, but failed to advance in the Senate, largely due to education efforts and negotiations of AFSCME.

The group also worked with allies to stop preemption legislation that would strip local governments of their ability to pass living wage ordinances and worked to stop legislation allowing the open carry of firearms.

Florida Press Association has mixed luck — The Florida Press Association might not have a lot to celebrate, but there isn’t a lot to mourn either.

While several of the bills the association was watching or actively opposed — including a bill (HB 897) that would have allowed cities and counties to place notice of various actions, like budget amendments, on websites instead of in the newspapers — didn’t survive the 2017 Legislative Session, other bills are now headed to the Governor’s Desk.

One such bill prohibits publications from charging to remove arrest booking photographs, and requires them to be taken down upon request. It also allows for a lawsuit and civil penalties if it isn’t removed. While the Florida Press Association was neutral on the bill (SB 118), it opposes language added late in the process that requires the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to administrative seal arrest records of those people whose charges are dismissed. The Florida Press Association is now working with the First Amendment Association to urge Gov. Scott to veto the bill.

Florida on fire

The latest wildfire report remains dire.

The Florida Forestry Service reports 2,163 fires have burned more than 170,000 acres in Florida this year, and there were 100 fires were still burning as of Thursday.

“Even with rain across large parts of Florida over the weekend, Florida is still experiencing drought conditions and elevated wildfire danger – and will continue to for some time,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in a statement this week. “Residents and visitors need to pay attention to and comply with local burn bans and should take every precaution to help prevent wildfire.”

Gov. Scott issued an executive order on April 11 directing resources to fight the wildfires. The last time a similar order was issued was in June 2011.

More than a dozen Florida counties have instituted burn bans, and much of the state was had a moderate to high risk of fire danger.

Nursing homes get a nod

Tip your hat to nursing homes — and the staff, volunteers and communities that support them.

Established by the American Health Care Association in 1967, this week marked National Nursing Home Week. The annual event is a chance for residents and their families to recognized the skilled nursing care centers for the work they do on behalf of seniors and people with disabilities.

“Nursing homes care for many of our state’s most vulnerable residents, and I am thankful for their commitment to improving the quality of life for Floridians,” said Justin Senior, head of Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, in a statement. “When our staff visit facilities around the state, we are often amazed at the level of care and service that nursing home staff and administrators provide for their residents.”

Senior used the annual event as a chance to remind Floridians about tools available to people looking for a nursing home. The state’s Nursing Home Guide includes a nursing home comparison tool, inspection reports, and information about nursing homes across the state.

Nature Conservancy staffing up

The Nature Conservancy’s Florida arm has been on a recruiting drive that has added experts with years of experience to fundraising, lobbying and field operations.

“Our strength as an organization comes from the expertise of our staff, whose unique combination of scientific knowledge, policy, fundraising, land management, outreach, and effective project management enable us to do breakthrough work across the organization,” said Temperince Morgan, the group’s executive director.

The organization announced recently it hired Megan Wenrich to serve as its new director of philanthropy, rounding up donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations. Assisting her will be Peter Lefferts as senior associate director and Ali Rieck as philanthropy writer.

Garrett Wallace has been tapped to serve as its new government-relations manager, and Lindsay Stevens will oversee the state chapter’s land-protection efforts.

Cristin Krasco is the new manager of the Blowing Rocks Preserve, a 73-acre environmental reservation on Jupiter Island. Tiffany Howard oversees invasive species control at the Disney Wilderness Preserve.

Sonia Succar Rodríguez oversees the conservancy’s urban conservation program in Miami.

Lobby Up

Big money for legislative lobbyists — It’s fair to say it was a good first quarter for legislative lobbyists.

The latest quarterly compensation reports, due earlier this week, showed legislative lobbyists earned a median sum of $35.7 million between January and March. The reports captured roughly the first half of the 2017 Legislative Session, as well as the two months leading up to it.

While state law requires lobby firms to report revenue, it only requires them to do so in general range — not exact amounts.

The Top 5 earners during the three-month period, according to data compiled by our friends at LobbyTools, were Ballard Partners, Southern Strategy Group, Ronald L. Book PA, Capital City Consulting, and Greenberg Traurig. The five firms started the year in the same spots they ended 2016.

Ballard Partners and Southern Strategy Group led the pack, reporting median earnings of more than $2.4 million and more than $2.3 million respectively. Book’s firm reported median earnings of more than $2 million; followed by Capital City Consulting with more than $1.6 million in median earnings; and Greenberg Traurig with more than $1.2 million in median earnings.

Lobbyist Clark Smith, right, with the Southern Strategy Group and Patrick Bell talk on the 4th floor rotunda while the Florida House of Representatives floor debate in the final days of the 2017 Legislative Session. Southern Strategy Group was one of the top earning legislative lobby firms during the first quarter of 2017. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser)

Workers’ comp cash — FCCI Insurance Group invested heavily in legislative lobbying, to the tune of $383,000, during the first quarter of 2017.

State records indicated the Sarasota insurer paid 11 lobbying firms for legislative work during the first three months of the year. Floridian Partners took home the biggest paycheck; it reported earning $70,000 between January and March; followed by Southern Strategy Group, which reported earning $53,000; and Silver Palm Consulting, which reported earning $50,000.

The National Council on Compensation Insurance, which was at the heart of the workers’ compensation debate, hired Floridian Partners and reported paying the firm $5,000.

But all that cash didn’t buy workers’ compensation reform. The House and Senate couldn’t agree on a fix sought by insurers, including FCCI, and ended the 2017 Legislative Session without addressing the issue.

Pot money — Protecting your turf doesn’t come cheap, just ask San Felasco Nurseries.

The Alachua County nursery reported paying at least $164,000 to legislative lobbyists during the first quarter of 2017. The nursery is one of seven companies in the state that is currently licensed to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana.

State records show San Felasco hired at least 10 firms to represent it during the first quarter, including Igniting Florida, which reported earning $54,000; Foley & Lardner, which reported earning $35,000; and PooleMcKinley, which reported earning $25,000.

San Felasco wasn’t the only grower that spent big in the first quarter. Records show Surterra Holdings spent at least $75,000 on three legislative lobbying firms; while Trulieve spent at least $55,000 on five firms between January and March. Lobbyists hired by Modern Health Concepts and Knox Nursery did not report earnings in the first quarter.

Legislation to implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment failed to pass during the 2017 Legislation Session. One of the sticking points: Caps on the number of retail locations licensed growers could have.

Appointed

Welcome to the board!

Gov. Scott announced this week he appointed Samuel Garrison to the St. Johns River State College District Board of Trustees.

An attorney at Kopelousos, Bradley and Garrison, the 40-year-old Fleming Island resident previously served as an assistant state attorney for the 4th Judicial Circuit of Florida. He has his bachelor’s degree from Samford University and his law degree from the University of Illinois College of Law. He succeeds Cranford Coleman and is appointed to a term ending May 31, 2018.

The governor also announced David “Hunt” Hawkins will serve on the Florida State College at Jacksonville District Board of Trustees. Hawkins, a 58-year-old Jacksonville resident, is the CEO of Stein Mart and previously served as a member of the program advisory council to DECA, Inc. He succeeds Thomas Bryan. Scott also reappointed Thomas “Mac” McGehee, Jr. to the board. The 57-year-old Jacksonville resident is the executive vice president at Mac Papers. Both men serve terms ending May 31, 2019.

Gary Wendt has been appointed to the Florida Polytechnic University Board of Trustees, the Governor’s Office announced this week.

The 75-year-old Fort Lauderdale resident currently serves as the chairman of Deerpath Capital Management. He previously served as the CEO of GE Capital from 1986 to 1998. Wendt fills a vacant seat, and is appointed to a term ending June 30, 2017.

Francisco Pines will keep his seat on the Florida Citrus Commission, the governor announced this week.

The 41-year-old Miami resident is the co-owner of Pines Ranch and a managing partner at Francisco J. Pines PA. He was reappointed to a term ending May 31, 2019.

Randy Schwartz, meanwhile, will join the Florida Real Estate Commission. Scott appointed the 67-year-old Winter Springs resident to a term ending Oct. 31, 2020.

The appointments are subject to confirmation by Florida Senate.

Scott reappointed Peter Wish and John Stafford to the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority.

Wish is the president of Gulfcoast Healthstyle Corp. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami and his Ph.D. in psychology from Boston College. Stafford is the former chairman of FCCI Mutual Insurance Company, and previously served on the Suncoast Foundation for Handicapped Children. Both men were appointed to a term ending Nov. 17, 2020.

Nicole Attong and Patricia Lipovsky were appointed to the Rehabilitation Council for the Blind.

Attong, a 50-year-old Miami resident, is the director of Florida International University Embrace, a university-wide initative to promote health, wellness and overall functioning for adults with development disabilities. Lipovsky, a 67-year-old Daytona Beach resident, is a self-employed property manager. Both were appointed to terms ending Aug. 31, 2019.

#BringABook

Headed to the annual Leadership Florida meeting? Better stop by your local bookstore on the way.

Leadership Florida and Volunteer Florida announced this week they will host their second annual #BringABook service initiative in conjunction with Leadership Florida’s 2017 annual meeting at The Breakers in Palm Beach.

Volunteer Florida and Leadership Florida collected more than 400 books during their inaugural #BringABook service drive at the 2016 Leadership Florida annual meeting (Photo via Volunteer Florida)

Volunteer Florida and Leadership Florida officials are asking attendees to bring new or gently-used books for elementary school students to the annual meeting. Books will be collected at the registration area from June 29 through July 1. The book drive will benefit the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County and the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County, and Volunteer Florida partners distribute the books to students in low-income schools in the region.

“Leadership Florida values education, and the #BringABook service initiative is one of the many ways our members work to ensure Florida students achieve their highest potential,” said Wendy Spencer, president of Leadership Florida.

Job city, Fla.

The best place to start a career in the Sunshine State might just be the City Beautiful.

A new report from WalletHub found Orlando is the second best place in the nation to start a career. The personal finance website ranked the country’s 150 largest markets based on 23 indicators of career-friendliness, including the availability of entry level jobs, monthly average starting salary, and housing affordability.

The city came in first when it came to the number of entry-level of jobs per 100,000 working-age people and sixth in the projected population growth.

While WalletHub’s rankings aren’t known for being exactly scientific, it’s placement of Orlando  as a top place for job-seekers might be right-on. Orlando led the state in April when it came to job creation, adding 42,700 new private-sector jobs over the year. It also had the second highest demand for high-skill, high-wage STEM occupations, and was ranked second in the state when it came to job demand.

The WalletHub report ranked Miami as the 7th best place in the nation to start a career. Tampa landed in the No. 19 spot, followed by Fort Lauderdale at No. 24, Tallahassee at No. 36, St Petersburg at No. 54, Cape Coral at No. 78, and Jacksonville at No. 90. Also on the list were Pembroke Pines (No. 105), Port St. Lucie (No. 122), and Hialeah (No. 134).

This Bud’s for you

Anheuser-Busch’s Metal Container Corp. newest facility is open for business.

Gov. Scott and a slew of Jacksonville-area lawmakers attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new aluminum bottle line at the company’s new facility in Jacksonville this week. The expansion invested $175 million into the local community and created 75 new jobs, according to the Governor’s Office.

“Anheuser-Busch is a national company that chose to invest $175 million in Northeast Florida because we used our entire toolkit, including incentives, to outcompete every other potential location,” said Scott, who said the project wouldn’t have been possible without work of Enterprise Florida, in a statement. “I look forward to seeing Anheuser-Busch’s ongoing success in Florida as we continue to fight to bring more important jobs wins like this to our state.”

Gov. Rick Scott and other elected officials attend the ribbon cutting for the new Anheuser-Busch’s Metal Container Corp. facility in Jacksonville. (Photo via the Governor’s Office.)

“Anheuser-Busch and MCC have been proud members of the Jacksonville community for nearly 50 years, and we are pleased to celebrate the grand opening of this new aluminum bottle line, which has not only given us the ability to increase production of the popular aluminum bottle, but has allowed us to employ even more Floridians,” said Richard Pyle, the Jacksonville plant manager in a statement.

The new facility, according to the Jacksonville Business Journal, will produce both aluminum bottles and cans, and will turn out about 9 million units each day. Aluminum bottles have been a hit with consumers, in part, company officials said, because they are recyclable, lightweight weight and have twist off tops.

State Farm gives $50K grant to Florida Education Foundation

State Farm wants to make sure Florida kiddos are getting the best education possible.

The insurance company announced this week it awarded a $50,000 grant to the Florida Education Foundation. Half of the grant will fund the “Florida Reads Best” initiative, while the other half will fund the Dr. Brian Dassler Leadership Academy, formerly known as the Commissioner’s Leadership Academy.

“We are incredibly grateful for State Farm’s continued partnership with the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Education Foundation as we continue working toward our goal of Florida being the best place in the world to receive an education,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart in a statement “State Farm’s work with education in our state has a common theme, student achievement, and we look forward to celebrating improved outcomes as a result of this generous contribution for Florida’s students.”

The State Farm grant has funded the participation of 353 school leaders in the leadership program, which is designed to improve the capabilities of school leaders in evaluating classroom instruction and in coaching teachers toward continuous improvement. This year’s grant will fund another class of school-based leaders in the program.

The State Farm grant helped bring together reading leaders from school districts, early learning organizations, universities and community organizations to plan strategies for reading improvement as part of the “Florida Reads Best” program. This year’s grant, according to the Department of Education, will help continue the professional development work of the team.

“State Farm’s goal is to help build safer, stronger and better educated communities,” said Jose Soto, State Farm’s community affairs specialist, in a statement. “The work that the Foundation and the Florida Department of Education are doing to improve student achievement is well worth the investment, and we are delighted to contribute to their success.”

All aboard

Florida’s seaports are in ship shape.

That’s according to a new report from the Florida Ports Council. The annual report — Florida Seaports: High Performance – 2017-2021 Five-year Florida Seaport Mission Plan — provided updated figured on international trade, cargo data, and cruise activity at the seaports throughout the state.

In 2016, Florida’s waterborne international and domestic cargo increased 4.2 percent, from 103 million tons to 107.2 million tons. Domestic cargo tonnage jumped 16.1 percent to 50.6 million tons, representing 47.1 percent of all cargo moved through Florida seaports.

Gov. Rick Scott toured JAXPORT in February as part of his “Fighting for Florida’s Future” budget tour. Florida’s waterborne international and domestic cargo increased 4.2 percent in fiscal 2015-16. (Photo via the Governor’s Office)

“Clearly, port infrastructure investments by Governor Scott and the Legislature are paying off as Florida further establishes itself as a key player in the global marketplace,” said Doug Wheeler, the president and CEO of the Florida Ports Council.

The ports weren’t just used for moving goods in 2016. The cruise industry also saw gains in 2016. Seaports handled 15.5 million passengers in 2016, up 14 percent from the previous year. The state is home to the Top 3 cruise ports in the world, with 62 percent of all U.S. cruisers sailing through a Florida seaport.

According to the report, five of the seven active cruise ports saw overall increases in passenger counts.

New programs to help vets

The next ‘Magnum, PI‘— Thinking of becoming a private investigator? It just got a little bit easier for Florida veterans.

Agriculture Commissioner Putnam announced this week that Florida veterans will receive credit for relevant military training or education when they apply for a private investigator and security guard licenses with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“The men and women who have served and sacrificed for our country deserve all of the support we can provide,” said Putnam in a statement. “If a veteran received military police or security training, we should give them credit for it when they apply to be a private investigator or security guard.”

To receive credit for relevant military training or education, applicants must submit a DD Form 21 at the time of applications. The department will also consider joint service transcripts, training certificates, job evaluation reports, or a letter from a commanding officer describing particular training or exercise and the number of hours dedicate to its performance.

Protection for military consumers — Attorney General Pam Bondi announced this week her office was launching a new consumer protection program meant to serve the unique needs of military and veteran communities across the state.

“To the men and women who have put on a uniform to protect our country, we will continue to do everything we can to protect you from these scammers,” said Bondi in a statement. “As Memorial Day approaches at the end of this month, I am honored to have the opportunity to assist the heroes who lay their lives on the line to keep us safe.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi announces the launch of the Military and Veterans Program during an event in Tampa this week.

Members of the Military and Veterans Assistance Program will provide resources and information to base JAG officers, county veteran services officers and other organizations to help service members and veterans learn how to protect themselves.

They’ll also partner with military and veteran leadership to provide information about emerging scams targeting military and veterans; connect those in need with legal aid; and foster open communication to ensure complaints are being handled by the correct organization.

DCF works to fight opioid epidemic

The state has allocated more than $17 million of the $27 million opioid crisis grant, officials with the Florida Department of Children and Families announced this week.

According to DCF, more than $17.7 million has been allocated to seven managing entities across the state. The money will be used to provide direct treatment and services to individuals with opioid use disorder.

Nearly $3.8 million will go toward expanding Vivitrol treatment in local communities through the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association. And the department is in the process of purchasing the first batch of more than 3,600 Naloxone kits to distribute to local treatment centers statewide.

Gov. Scott on May 3 declared a statewide public health emergency, and directed the immediate draw down of grant funds through the federal State Targeted Response the Opioid Crisis Grant.

“Following Governor Scott’s Executive Order, DCF staff have worked diligently to ensure this important funding is allocated to communities and services are available to individuals as soon as possible,” said DCF Secretary Mike Carroll in a statement. “We are hopeful that the services this grant will make available will save and change lives throughout the state, and that the programs it establishes over the next two years will help end the tragic opioid epidemic.”

Skeeter season approaches

The rainy season is just around the corner, and the Department of Health wants to make sure health care professional across the state have up-to-date information about the Zika virus.

The health department held a conference call this week with more than 100 OBGYNs, pediatricians, family physicians, and other health care providers to offer clinical guidance for Zika-infected pregnant women and children. While there are currently no areas of ongoing, active Zika transmission in the state, Surgeon General Celeste Philip warned that the mosquito-borne virus “remains a threat for Floridians, especially pregnant women and their infants after they are born and women who will become pregnant.”

The call gave health care providers a chance to hear from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the University of Miami, and Jackson Memorial Hospital about Zika testing for pregnant women, the risk of sexual transmission, and prenatal care and delivery planning.

“Clinicians are on the front lines in our fight against Zika,” said Philip in a statement. “This call allowed those who provide care to pregnant women and infants to stay up-to-date with the most current guidance and protocols to ensure that they can provide the best care to their patients.”

Keeping it safe

Floridians for Safe Communities is making the most of Florida Building Safety Month, releasing a public safety announcement this week to highlight the importance of strong building codes.

“Ensuring safety for lives, properties and investments in a hurricane-prone state like Florida is essential,” said Craig Fugate, former FEMA administrator and chairman of Floridians for Safe Communities. “And, this video does a great job of laying out why current, strong building codes are the best way of protecting our homes and communities.”

The 3-minute and 20-second video aims to celebrate all aspects of building safety and recognize “the important role code officials, inspectors, fire services, builders and tradesmen play in public safety,” said Fugate.

May is Building Safety Month. The month-long event is meant to reinforce the need to adopt modern model building codes, a strong and efficient system of code administration, and a well-trained professional staff to maintain the system.

“This month allows us to reflect on the importance of disaster preparedness and how adopting strong building codes and increasing effective code administration allows us to proactively protect our Florida communities from natural disasters, preserving our health and safety, and safeguarding our economic investments,” said Fugate in a statement.

Nominees sought for Agriculture Hall of Fame

Know a stellar member of the state’s agriculture community? Agriculture Commissioner Putnam wants to hear from you.

The Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame is now accepting nominations for the Class of 2018. The Hall of Fame honors men and women who have helped advance the industry and ensure it continues to thrive. Since 1980, the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame has honored 144 inductees.

In 2017, inductees were Eugene Badger, who led state Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (now known as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Service Agency) under President George W. Bush; William Cook, who was instrumental in the creation of the Florida Forestry Foundation; Joe Marlin Hilliard, who, among other things, helped form the South Florida Agricultural Council; and W. Bernard Lester, who spent nearly 20 years with the Florida Department of Citrus.

Nominations for the Class of 2018 must be submitted by Sept. 1.

Biz leaders highlight importance of immigrants

There’s nearly 4 million immigrants living in the Sunshine State, and a coalition of business and civic leaders are on a mission to highlight the role immigrants play in Florida’s economy and the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

According to a report by the New American Economy, there are more than 3.9 million immigrants living in Florida. With immigrants making up about 20 percent of the state’s population, Roly Marante, the chairman of government relations for the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said Florida could be considered “the new Ellis Island.”

Marante and other business and civic leaders are traveling the state meeting with local stakeholders about the role immigrants play in the economy. Earlier this week, the group held an event in West Palm Beach to discuss the contributions of the county’s foreign-born population when it comes to tax contributions, home ownership and spending power.

“What we’re doing is going throughout the state to educate local stakeholder to get involved,” said Marante. “We’re contributors to the American economy.”

Statewide, immigrants paid $23.4 billion in taxes in 2014. That same year, their spending power was about $73.1 billion.

When it comes to housing, the New American Economy report found immigrants are “actively strengthening the state’s housing market.” The report found 906,922 immigrants are homeowners. Immigrants paid $727.7 million in rent, according to the report.

The New American Economy report found there were more than 338,000 immigrant entrepreneurs in the Sunshine State; and immigrant-owned firms employ more than 506,700 people. Marante said nationwide 1 in 10 American workers are employed by companies founded by immigrants.

Bear aware

Be on the lookout for bears.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wants Floridians to remember that bears are more active as the temperatures rise, and they should take steps to reduce negative interactions with the state’s largest land mammal.

“Now is the time to expect bears to show up looking for food,” said Dave Telesco, who directs the FWC’s bear management program. “If they can’t find food in your neighborhood, they’ll move on.”

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission is reminding Floridians to be aware of bears, which are starting to come out of their winter habitats now that the temperatures are rising. (Photo via FWC)

To keep bears away, the FWC suggests Floridians to secure household garbage in a sturdy shed, garage or wildlife resistant container; put garbage out on the morning of pick-up rather than the night before; and remove wildlife feeders or make them bear-resistant.

June marks the start of black bear mating season in the Sunshine State, meaning bears will be more active as they search for potential mates.

TaxWatch honors state workers

State employees who work to reduce costs and improve services are getting a round of applause from Florida TaxWatch.

The government watchdog announced the winners of the 2017 Prudential Productivity Awards during an event this week. The program, now in its 29th year, is designed to highlight and reward state workers who innovatively reduce costs and improve services for Florida taxpayers.

“State workers are critical to the functions of Florida’s government and hardly get the praise and honor they deserve for a job well done,” said Dominic Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, in a statement. “This program has ensured that they taxpayers are noticing the contributions of hard-working state employees. They work behind the scenes, coming to serve every day to make sure that Florida continues to be the best place to live, work and play.”

TaxWatch awarded 203 awards to state employees and teams from across the state for their achievements and efforts. Since 1989, thousands of individuals, teams and partnerships have produced more than $9 billion worth of added values as a direct result of award winners’ achievements.

“The commitment of these incredible public servants to work together to build a better Florida means that state government can direct taxpayers’ hard-earned money to the vital services that make the Sunshine State a great place to live and raise a family,” said Michael McCann, the vice president for external affairs at Prudential, in a statement.

Sponsored by Prudential, the Florida Lottery and AvMed Health Plans, as well as the Florida Council of 100 and the state, the program travels around the state to recognize winners in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando and Miami. Regional luncheons will be head across the state throughout June.

Challenge accepted

Attention, lionfish hunters: It’s time for the 2017 Lionfish Challenge.

The annual challenge kicks off Saturday, and coincides with Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day and the Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival at Plaza de Luna in Pensacola, which runs through Sunday.

The 2017 challenge rewards recreational and commercial lionfish harvesters for their removal efforts with prizes and incentives. Rewards for participants include a commemorative coin to validate membership, an event T-shirt, and Lionfish Hall of Fame recognition on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website. Hunters who qualify before July 26 also get the opportunity to take an additional spiny lobster per day during the 2017 sport season.

Participants may also qualify for additional prizes such as a reusable lionfish sting heat pack, customized neck gaiter, customized tumbler, and pole spear with grip kit.

Recreational and commercial harvesters who check in the most lionfish will be crowned Florida’s Lionfish King or Queen and Florida’s Commercial Champion, and both will be recognized at the 2017 Lionfish Safari Sept. 10 in St. Petersburg.

Farm Share distributions planned

Farm Share is partnering with several state lawmakers this week to feed hungry Floridians throughout the state.

The organization will partner with Rep. David Richardson and Mayor Tomas Regalado to feed more than 1,000 households in Miami-Dade County on Saturday. The organization will be distributing fresh food at Jose Marti Park, 351 SW 4th Street in Miami from 9 a.m. to noon.

That isn’t the only South Florida Farm Share distribution scheduled for Saturday. The hunger organization is teaming up with Rep. Daisy Baez for a food distribution event at in St. Johns AME Church parking lot, 6461 SW 59th Place in Miami from 9 a.m. to noon.

Farm Share has also partnered with Rep. Mike La Rosa to host a food distribution event from 10 a.m. to noon in the Lake Wales Charter Schools parking lot, 130 East Central Avenue in Lake Wales. Lake Wales families in need will be provided with seasonal fresh produce and shelf-stable goods.

A food distribution event is also scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon at the EPPS Christian Center, 2300 N. Pace Blvd in Pensacola, according to Farm Share’s website.

In 2016, Farm Share distributed nearly 40.5 million pounds of food to hungry families, children, seniors and veterans in Florida.

Here’s this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

By the numbers, Adam Putnam’s campaign off to a successful start

Adam Putnam has now spent a week on the road after his launching a 10-day, 22-city bus tour through Florida, kicking off his bid for governor.

So far, the campaign says the response has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

The state’s Agriculture Commissioner, in a series of “Up & Adam” events, has met with a wide variety of residents, grassroots supporters, small businesses, veterans, and first responders through the state.

As proof of the success of Putnam’s launch, the campaign offers some impressive (and a few lighthearted) numbers racked up during the first week of the tour:

— 2,161: Miles traveled on bus tour thus far

— 2,063: Number of attendees to May 10 announcement in Bartow

— 1,881: Number of bus tour stop attendees who committed to vote for Putnam thus far

— 1,007: Number of bus tour stop attendees who signed up to volunteer thus far

— 160: Average number of attendees per bus tour stop

— 100: Silver Sharpies purchased for supporters to sign the bus

— 99: Silver Sharpies out of ink [Campaign Note: Buy more Sharpies at the next stop!]

— 53: Cups of coffee brewed on campaign bus

— 17: Cities visited on the bus tour thus far

— 7: Days spent on the bus tour thus far

— 5: Cities left on the bus tour

— 3: Days left on the bus tour

The tour will continue through the Panhandle in Panama City, Pensacola, Destin and Graceville. The bus tour concludes Saturday at a BBQ in O’Brien. Details, photos and more information is at AdamPutnam.com.

David Jolly takes a page from former President Selina Meyer

On Thursday, former U.S. Representative and lobbyist David Jolly emailed to express how “excited” he was to “announce the launch of Brighter Future Florida,” a non-profit organization designed to promote policies and issues he believes are important to Pinellas County.

Never mind that Jolly soft opened BFF (what a perfect acronym for an organization connected to the unceasingly polite Jolly) in March. The Republican — currently ubiquitous on MSNBC as a critic of the Donald Trump administration — is following through on his pledge to not ‘step away from the work we started together.’

About that work…

The BFF certainly has a broad portfolio. According to Jolly’s email, the non-profit will focus “on issues important to Pinellas County, Tampa Bay and the State of Florida, including veterans care, early childhood education, economic drivers for small businesses, our state fisheries and environment, and community healthcare solutions.”

In other words, Brighter Future Florida will focus on every issue except for where to build the new Tampa Bay Rays baseball stadium.

I’m not trying to throw cold water on Jolly’s noble ambitions. Veterans do need better care. And children need earlier and better education. And, I guess, fisheries need something. And Jolly’s background as a (fill in the blank) makes him the right person to lead the community in search of healthcare solutions.

(Another never mind her for not pointing out how a campaign which said it was running on fumes actually had enough left in the tank to pay for staff salaries at a non-profit.)

But doesn’t this roll-out sound a little like fictional former president Selina Meyer‘s launch of her foundation, The Meyer Fund for Adult Literacy, AIDS, and the Advancement of Global Democracy? That mouthful of a non-profit got that way because the VP-turned-prez couldn’t resist adding causes du jour. Of course, the show-runners of Veep are using the storyline about The Meyer Fund to poke fun at the occasional ridiculousness of pompous philanthropy.

While there’s nothing pompous about what the soft-spoken Jolly is doing, it remains to be seen if BFF will be a worthwhile non-profit or just a vehicle for Jolly’s political ambitions.

Let’s hope Jolly found inspiration in President Meyer’s bold words, “If not this, what? If not me, who?” Or, rather, “whom?”

What is really happening with community input for the I-395 Project

Bridges are about connections, hence the word “bridge.”

But a Miami-Dade plan to design a “signature bridge” — an $800 million proposal for rebuilding the I-395 overpass — is doing more to divide than connect.

Adding to the confusion is the Miami Herald, where some argue has been slanting coverage to favor one bidder over another on the Florida Department of Transportation project.

While the Herald has given significant coverage to the I-395 Signature Bridge Project — over 25 years in the making — many facts have not been reported correctly.

On May 16, the Herald’s Douglas Hanks reported that Miami-Dade officials were urging the FDOT to postpone the award of the I-395 project.

“Florida agreed to let local leaders help pick the design of a ‘signature bridge’ overpass by the Adrienne Arsht performing arts center,” Hanks writes, “but selected the proposal that received lower scores from the local panel.”

According to the Herald, Sally Heyman, who sponsored the resolution calling the FDOT to postpone handing winning bidder Archer Western the contract, arguing the state “should be more interested in hearing from the public.”

“They’re asking for the public input,” Heyman said. “Why not respect it?”

But that’s not quite accurate.

In 1996, after community opposition initially blocked the project, little attention had been paid to the adjoining Overtown neighborhood. By 2004, the project directive had changed to not only provide traffic solutions but also to promote the revitalization of surrounding communities, including Overtown, which surrounds the I-95/I-395 exchange.

After that, between 2004 and 2009, the FDOT conducted approximately 150 presentations, involving over 2000 community members — earning a national award just last year for its outstanding public input process on the project.

As a result, public support for the I-395 project rose from 20 percent to a high of 80 percent as of the official public hearing held Aug. 25, 2009.

The broader vision was for a signature bridge, reconnecting neighborhood streets and development of a green community space underneath the expressway.

FDOT continued to hold advisory meetings until 2013, with the formation of the local Aesthetics Steering Committee (ASC), with stakeholders taken from the County, City, FDOT, the Miami Downtown Development Authority, and the Performing Arts Center.

For the next two years, the ASC was the driving force behind the aesthetic review criteria of the request for proposal (RFP). In February 2016, the FDOT issued the RFP, which set off a so-called “cone of silence” to check possible influence and keep politics out of the selection process.

In August 2016, another local Aesthetic Review Committee, chaired by County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, (on its own) approved 7 of 18 signature bridge design submissions.

Those designs would then be forwarded for scoring by the full selection committee — taking in account technical and aesthetic qualities, construction timetable and price.

Once again, the ASC added input and scored the visual elements of each design, with Edmonson eventually giving the winning design an “excellent” score.

In the process, the joint-venture team of Archer Western and the de Moya Group was ranked Best Valued Proposer. While the Herald incorrectly claims Archer Western was the lowest score, it was, in fact, ranked second in aesthetics out of four.

Also, the group came in first overall on technical design, as well as aesthetics, time to build and price.

With any aesthetic design, there will always be critics — everyone has an opinion — but that does not mean the process was “Jerry-rigged” to secure a “narrow win” as suggested in the Herald.

Local leaders had a seat at the table, and the overall best value bidder based on RFP scores was selected. It’s that simple.

After reviewing all the facts, any claim that community input was ignored is both false and disingenuous.

FDOT, spending as much as $800 million on the rebuild of I-395 — a combination of Federal and State dollars — allowed a committee of local officials set the aesthetics criteria, shortlist the designs and score final proposals.

One design winning over another is not due to a “lack” of local input, by any objective measure.

The I-395 project is a quarter century old, and it is a bridge in every sense of the word — connecting communities and varying interests.

It is time to put aside the petty differences, look to the future and fix the I-395 traffic mess.

Sunburn for 5.19.17 – No slots for you! No money for you, elex supervisors! HD 44 spec. election heating up; Scott Plakon did what?

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

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

Good morning from Cove Cafe on Deck 9 of the Disney Magic. The WiFi is strong here and so is the coffee, which is much needed after a late Pirate Night. Current location is 36.40.65 N, 31.30.78 W. Course is 80 degrees. The nearest land is Horta. The ship is 286 nautical miles from Ponta Delgado. It’s our sixth straight day at sea — the last before our first excursion.

— ‘YOU BLEW IT’ —

Senate leadership’s response to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Gretna racetrack slot machine case yesterday brings to mind a scene from the 1997 flick, “Cop Land.”

Poor Sheriff Freddy Heflin (Sylvester Stallone) is practically begging NYPD internal affairs investigator Moe Tilden (Robert De Niro) to reopen the IA case into corrupt cops who control his sleepy New Jersey town just across the Hudson River.

De Niro’s character ain’t having it: “Listen … I offered you a chance when we could have done something, I offered you a chance to be a cop, and you blew it! You blew it.”

Lawmakers blew it this year when they missed an opportunity to finally wrap their arms around gambling in the state and pass a major overhaul.

But in the Bizarro World that is the Capitol, Senate President Joe Negron and Sen. Bill Galvano, the presumptive president for 2018-20, don’t see it that way.

Senate President Joe Negron confers with Sen. Bill Galvano during a budget conference in the Knott Building Friday, May 5, 2017 at the Capitol. Photo credit: Phil Sears.

Indeed, Thursday’s decision denying slots to Gadsden and other counties that passed local slots referendums “upheld the authority of the Legislature to determine the future of gaming in Florida,” their statement said.

Yes, the same Legislature that suffers from a history of fail when it comes to gambling. Every year, lawmakers tee up some gambling law overhaul, and every year it dies.

Including this year, when the Senate wouldn’t back down on its insistence that slots should be expanded to pari-mutuels in counties that approved them in referendum votes. The House, under the leadership of Speaker Richard Corcoran, opposed such a move.

The statement also took pains to pay homage to the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which has a gambling deal that could have allowed them to reduce or eliminate payments to the state if their exclusive right to offers slots outside South Florida was broken.

“The Legislature now has every opportunity to shape gaming policy for our state in a manner that respects both the authority of local referendums and the ongoing relationship with the Seminole Tribe, without the underlying concern that a court ruling could suddenly upend productive negotiations,” Negron said.

Added Galvano, also president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States: “This confirmation of legislative authority removes a significant obstacle in our negotiations with the Seminole Tribe, providing clarity that as we move forward the Legislature, rather than the Courts, will determine what expansion looks like and where it takes place.”

That is, unless a proposed constitutional amendment gets on the ballot that would give voters exclusive control of gambling expansion in the future. But that’s another story.

For now, guys, you had the chance. You blew it.

“Florida Supreme Court rules against Gretna track, slots expansion” via Jim Rosica of Florida PoliticsA unanimous Florida Supreme Court ruled against a North Florida racetrack seeking to add slot machines. The 20-page decision, released Thursday, means that gambling facilities in Gadsden County’s Gretna and in seven other counties that passed local referendums allowing slots also will not be able to offer them. In doing so, the court upheld a decision by the 1st District Court of Appeal that agreed with state gambling regulators who denied the track a slots permit. In sum, the ruling comes as a loss for the state’s pari-mutuels and a win for gambling expansion opponents. If it had gone the other way, the decision might have led to the single biggest gambling expansion in the state.

Gretna considering its next move via Creek Entertainment spox Sarah Bascom: “We are disappointed the Florida Supreme Court did not agree with our interpretation of the law and because of this ruling, we are now unable to create new jobs. We are considering our options on how to proceed.”

No Casinos gets to crow via John Sowinski: “We scored a partial victory with this ruling today and intend to score a complete victory with the Voters in Charge initiative in 2018. The people of Florida should have the final say on whether or not to legalize casino-style gambling. Our state’s history shows that without this bright line, the result will be more of what we have been seeing in recent legislative sessions – gambling interests will continue spending unprecedented sums on lobbyists, lawyers and campaign contributions in an attempt to turn Florida into the next Atlantic City.”

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

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will announce April job numbers and highlight job growth at 1 p.m. at LATAM Airlines, 6500 NW 22nd St. in Miami. Scott is then scheduled to present Cuban dissidents Sirley Avila Leon and Pedro Corzo with the “Governor’s Freedom Award” at 5:30 p.m. at The American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora, 1200 Coral Way in Miami.

Bill watch – Thirty-seven bills were sent Thursday to Gov. Scott, including HB 141 on craft distilleries, HB 299 on the Central Florida Expressway Authority, and HB 6515, a claim bill related to FSU football player Devaughn Darling, who died in 2001 during preseason training. The Governor now has till June 2 to sign or veto them, or let the bills become law without his signature. Counting Thursday’s measures, Scott now has 55 bills on his desk.

House Speaker hopes Governor won’t veto controversial education bill” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald – Corcoran visited the Miami-Dade Legislative Delegation and said he was hopeful the bill will survive Scott’s veto pen. “I haven’t spoken to him, but I don’t know, there’s still a lot of time,” said Corcoran after a meeting at Florida International University. “Hopefully it’ll go well.” The massive K-12 public schools bill, which drew sharp criticism from the Florida Association of District School Superintendents … is part of the 2017-18 budget. It includes a $234 million bonus package for most teachers and some top principals and a $140 million “Schools of Hope” program to help struggling traditional public schools and bring in private charter schools to give parents in these areas an alternative. “I know a lot of these superintendents, they’re good guys, but I wish they would focus more on not building $20 and $40 million Taj Mahal buildings,” Corcoran said. “What’s more important than beautiful buildings is beautiful minds, and this bill is about building beautiful minds. And to the extent that they can cut those buildings down in size and take that money and pour it into the classroom, which is what this bill does, I would love to have their support.”

Richard Corcoran: Miami lawmaker ‘crashed against gates of hell’ by supporting schools bill” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Miami Democratic Rep. Roy Hardemon had an unlikely and influential ally showering him with praise in his legislative district: Speaker Corcoran. “He [Hardemon] doesn’t care who’s got power. He doesn’t care what the status quo is. He doesn’t care whether he gets elected,” Corcoran said in brief remarks onstage for the groundbreaking of the Liberty Square redevelopment project, with Hardemon at his side. Hardemon was the only Democrat in either the House or Senate to vote in favor of HB 7069. “He doesn’t fear. What he cares about is his community,” Corcoran said, before touting a key provision of HB 7069 that’s meant to help neighborhoods like Liberty City.

Talk about a nothing burger story – “Corcoran’s brother is lobbyist for marijuana grower opposing dispensary caps” via Michael Auslen and David Smiley of the Tampa Bay Times – Surterra, one of Florida’s largest medical marijuana growers, is banking on opening 55 dispensaries in the next five years as part of a plan to bring in more than $138 million in sales by 2021 … To push its agenda in Tallahassee, Surterra hired three lobbying firms this year. One of their lead lobbyists is Michael Corcoran, brother to House Speaker Corcoran …

— Corcoran says he was never once lobbied by his brother on the marijuana bill.

— Asked if he ever had a conversation with his brother about the caps, Corcoran was blunt: “No. Nope.”

Money quote from the Speaker: “Why don’t you write about how Richard killed the gaming bill and his brother has a gaming client? Why don’t you write about how Richard took it to the hospitals and his brother has a hospital client? … I don’t care who lobbies me. I’m going to always do the right thing and damn the consequences.”

Election experts begged lawmakers for new tool to fight voter fraud, but got nothing” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Ignoring pleas from county election experts across the state, lawmakers ended the 2017 session last week without passing a law that would improve the reliability of voter rolls by making it easier to find voters who are registered to vote in Florida and another state or who are registered in Florida and died in another state. “It’s a shame, with all of the concern about the accuracy of the voter rolls,” said Chris Chambless, supervisor of elections in Clay County and president of a statewide supervisors’ association. Their priority was a three-page bill to let Florida become the 21st state to join a national compact known as the Electronic Registration Information Center or ERIC. The bill breezed through the House without opposition, then stalled and died in the Senate.

Carlos Guillermo Smith, Amy Mercado say special session needed to end cannabis legal limbo” via Scott Powers via Orlando Rising – “We are here because 71 percent of Florida voters approved the constitutional right to medical canabis. But we also are here because unfortunately once again Tallahassee politicians have thwarted the will of the people and they have refused to implement Amendment 2, medical cannabis,” said Smith, of Orlando. “They should be ashamed … While the out-of-touch, old-fashioned, conservative majority in Tallahassee continues its hand-wringing over whether or not cannabis is actual medicine… or whether they can actually get over themselves and listen to the voters, qualified patients are dying, qualified patients are waiting,” he continued. “And there is no question that the governor, the Senate president of the senate and the speaker of the House need to be leaders and officially call for a special session and demand that the Legislature implement the will of the voters immediately.”

“Florida League of Cities slams telecom bill” via Florida PoliticsThe Florida League of Cities on Thursday asked Gov. Scott to veto a measure it says will “deprive cities of their authority to regulate the use of public rights of way.” The bill (HB 687), sponsored by St. Cloud Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa, pre-empts to the state the regulation of telecommunications companies putting “small wireless facilities in rights of way.” Such equipment, including antennas and related equipment, can be as big as a kitchen refrigerator. “The bill may leave local governments minimal ability to control the aesthetics of their public rights of way, but it effectively hands significant control to the wireless industry,” League Executive Director Mike Sittig said in a press release.

Sean Shaw bill for 2018 would stop raiding of Sadowski Housing Trust Fund” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Shaw says he will file legislation … to block what has become an annual ritual of the Legislature, even if the likelihood of the bill’s passage is dubious. “I’m willing to dedicate one of my six slots to that, just to have the discussion,” he says, referring to the rule that House members can only file six bills in a legislative session. The Sadowski funds come from a locally collected doc stamp on real estate sales transactions that is sent to the state. Seventy percent of that is sent back via the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) to all 67 counties, based on population, to primarily aid low-to-moderate-income residents with buying a home. The other 30 percent goes to the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL), which the state uses as an incentive for developers to build affordable apartments. Last year, lawmakers took $200 million out of the trust, cutting Scott’s original proposal of almost $240 million. The year before, the Legislature allocated $175 million of the $255 million that should have been spent on affordable housing. “The Sadowski Fund isn’t the only one that gets swept,” Shaw said. “It’s the one that means the most to me, but there are tons of funds that get swept into general revenue that are taken for specific amounts of money.”

Polk County commissioners snub local legislators” via John Chambliss of the Lakeland Ledger – Who needs Tallahassee? In a slight directed at local legislators, Polk County commissioners voted 5-0 … to not have the annual Polk County Day in the Capitol. The proposal was made by County Commissioner Todd Dantzler, who added in the motion that county commissioners will not ask for a joint legislative-delegation meeting before the session begins. The vote comes after a session in which legislators supported a broader homestead exemption. It will give voters the opportunity to increase the property-tax exemption from $50,000 to $75,000. But if it passes, cities and counties may be forced to cut services, raise taxes or a combination of both.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Here are the biggest financial backers of candidates running for Governor in 2018” via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Adam Putnam’s Top 5: $605,000 – The Voice of Florida Business; $587,060 – Florida Power & Light; $550,000 – Florida Jobs PAC, a committee run by the Florida Chamber of Commerce; $525,000 – Associated Industries of Florida PAC; $465,000 – U.S. Sugar Corporation and South Central Florida Express Inc. Chris King’s Top 5: 1,062,000 – Chris King; $179,000 – Paul Morgan, a principal with King-founded Elevation Financial Group; 166,000 – David King, Attorney and Chris King’s father; $47,000 – Thomas Beck, accountant from Winter Park; $25,000 – Debbie Lawton of Winter Park. Gwen Graham’s Top 5: $250,000 – Graham for Congress campaign account; $50,000 – James Finch, former NASCAR racing team owner and construction company owner; $50,000 – Michael Singer, founder of the Temple of the Universe, a yoga and meditation center outside of Gainesville; $50,000 – Wayne Hogan, Jacksonville attorney and 2002 candidate for Congress; $25,000 – Five donors gave this amount. Andrew Gillum’s Top 5: $100,000 – George Soros, billionaire financier; $50,000 – Norman Lear, television producer and writer; $50,000 – Alex Soros, philanthropist; $50,000 – Tarra Pressey, Palm Beach Gardens; $45,000 – Attorney Sean Pittman, his law firm and investment company he runs.

Joe Abruzzo backs Andrew Gillum for Governor — Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum announced Thursday scored the endorsement of former state senator and current Rep. Joseph Abruzzo in his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor. “Only a few times in a generation do we have the opportunity to elect a leader like Andrew Gillum. He brings the integrity, experience, and energy to ignite the Democratic base,” said Abruzzo, who serves as the House Democratic Whip, in a statement. As Democratic House Whip, I can attest that Andrew has worked with the Democratic Caucus and will be ready to lead as Governor from Day One. He is the Democrat in this race who can rebuild our economy so that it works better for everyone in Palm Beach County and the Sunshine State.”

Third Gainesville City Commissioner endorses Gillum — City Commissioner David Arreola has endorsed Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Arreola joins Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe and Commissioners Adrian Hayes-Santos and Harvey Ward in backing Gillum. “I’m proud to add my voice to the growing chorus of local leaders in Gainesville and Florida who endorse Andrew Gillum for Governor,” said Arreola in a statement. “Mayor Gillum, a native of Gainesville, has shown us that fresh approaches to governing are just what Florida needs to move forward.”

Op-ed you won’t read in Sunburn –John Lewis endorses Gwen Graham, and that means what?” via Leslie Wimes for the Sunshine State News. Is Wimes’ job simply to dog the moderate, electable Democrat in any race where Republicans feel threatened?

— “Adam Putnam pitches ‘Florida exceptionalism’ in Jax Beach” via Florida Politics

On the road, Adam Putnam and his son, Hughes, stopped at Dreamette in Jacksonville for shakes and freezes.

Assignment editors: Putnam will continue his 10-day, 22-city bus tour with a small business roundtable at 9:50 a.m. (CST) at Dog House Deli, 30 South Palafox Place in Pensacola. He’ll then attend a meet-and-greet with supporters at noon (CST) at Brotula’s Seafood House and Steamer, 210 Harbor Boulevard in Destin. He’ll wrap up his day at 6 p.m. (CST) at the Jackson County Lincoln Day Dinner at the Graceville Civic Center, 5224 Brown Street in Graceville. Putnam will wrap up his 10-day bus tour on Saturday at noon at the Suwannee Valley Grassroots BBQ at Gaylard Family Farm, 7182 240th Street in O’Brien. Media interested in attending the BBQ should email amanda@adamputnam.com by 8:00 p.m., May 19.

Assignment editors: Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine will speak at noon at Tampa Bay Tiger Bay Club at the Chester H. Ferguson Law Center, 1610 N. Tampa Street in Tampa.

***Smith, Bryan & Myers is an all-inclusive governmental relations firm located in Tallahassee. For more than three decades, SBM has been working with our clients to deliver their priorities through strategic and effective government relations consulting that has led us to become one of Tallahassee’s premier governmental relations firms today.***

Matt Caldwell was in Kevin Sweeny’s territory on Friday:

Ryan Yadav mulling Democratic run for AG” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — The Winter Park attorney said this week he is contemplating a Democratic run for Florida attorney general. “I have recently been contacted by people throughout the State encouraging me to run for Attorney General in 2018. I am seriously considering the venture and will make a decision over the summer,” Yadav declared in a message to Orlando-Rising.com. “Based upon my qualifications, trial experience, and fire in the belly — If I run I will win!” Yadav ran unsuccessfully last year for the House District 30 seat. Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes won re-election, beating him, 53 to 47 percent.

Now we have a race – “Kissimmee chamber chief John Newstreet enters HD 44 contest” via Scott Powers of Orlando RisingNewstreet, chief executive officer of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce and a former aide to U.S. Sens. Mel Martinez and Marco Rubio, announced he’s entering the House District 44 race going to a special election this summer. “I believe I’m prepared and qualified to successfully champion the conservative values that will grow our economy, strengthen our schools, keep our taxes low, cut job-killing regulations and protect our Second Amendment rights.” Newstreet enters a race in which former Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski had established himself as the early front-runner, even before Republican state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle resigned early this month to take an appointment from Gov. Rick Scott as a judge on Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals.

Legislative hopefuls eye 2018 — LobbyTools’ Legislative IQ reports several candidates have filed to run for state House and Senate races in 2018. Democrat Ryan Rossi has filed to replace Rep. Bill Hager in House District 89. Rossi is a sales associate with William Raveis Real Estate Mortgage & Insurance, and studied political science and international relations at Florida Atlantic University. Hager, a Republican, can’t run again because of term limits. Democrat Stephanie Myers has joined the race to replace Rep. George Moraitis in House District 93. Myers is the director of the Broward County ACLU and a member of the Broward Progressive Caucus. She joins Jonathon May, who has already announced a run. Moraitis can’t run again because of term limits. In House District 109, Democrat Cedric McMinn has thrown his hat in the race to replace Rep. Cynthia Stafford. McMinn is a former Miami-Dade Democratic Party official and worked as an outreach director for former Gov. Charlie Crist. McMinn joins former state Rep. James Bush III in the Democratic primary. Stafford can’t run again because of term limits. LobbyTools’ Legislative IQ also reports Libertarian Spenser Garber has dropped his bid for House District 3. Garber was challenging Rep. Jayer Williamson, who will still face Democrat Preston Bartholomew Anderson in 2018.

— STATEWIDE —

Scott doesn’t let politics get in way of investing in firm that believes in climate change” via Dan Christensen of the Florida Bulldog – When Scott ran for Governor in 2010, he told a reporter he wasn’t convinced that global warming was real. In 2015, the Scott administration was reported to have told state employees to lay off using ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ in official communications. Today, the governor’s office dodges questions about Scott’s position on the use of those terms, saying instead, “Governor Scott is focused on real solutions to protect our environment.” Still, the ultra-wealthy Scott hasn’t let his politics get in the way of making money. Through first lady Ann Scott, the governor has a substantial financial stake in a sizable mosquito control company that recently declared on its Facebook page that “mosquitos will only get worse thanks to #climatechange and ‘#globalwarming.”

Florida’s hurricane fund remains strong heading into season” via The Associated Press – Estimates prepared by Raymond James show the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund will have $17.6 billion available this year. This marks the second year in a row that the fund has more money than it would need to pay out if storms racked the state. The financial health of the fund is important because the state can impose a surcharge on most insurance policies to replenish it if the money runs out. Some critics have called the surcharge a “hurricane tax.” The fund has grown because Florida has avoided major hurricanes since 2005.

Citrus budget would restore tax cut” via Kevin Bouffard of the Lakeland Ledger –The first draft of the 2017-18 Florida Department of Citrus budget proposes eliminating a 3-cent tax abatement, getting a chilly reception from members of the Florida Citrus Commission. Executive Director Shannon Shepp told the commission, the department’s governing body, the 3-cent tax increase per box of juice oranges and grapefruit represented the end of a “tax abatement” commissioners agreed to a year ago. The First draft gave the commission a chance to discuss the budget in public. A final budget, which may or may not include the elimination of the abatement — what some see as a 43 percent tax increase — will be proposed in October.

Mute Constitution Revision Commissioners hear from Tampa Bay” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – People asked for less gun control and more. Open primaries to empower nonpartisan voters. A change to the constitution’s privacy clause so that it no longer thwarts abortion restrictions, and no change to that clause. They asked for protections for black bears and protections for public schools against charter schools siphoning money away. They asked for more transparency from the CRC, which is still grappling with how much to embrace Florida’s Sunshine Laws, more solar power, and less opportunity for expanded gambling. The commissioners remained mostly mute throughout the evening, many of them quietly pecking away on their laptops and phones as the testimony continued. Chairman Carlos Beruff was particularly hostile to occasional applause from the audience at the start, so the crowd — seemingly dominated by progressive-leaning citizens — waved green cards when they heard something they liked and a red card for something they disliked.

Floridians make their voices heard at Hillsborough Community College’s (HCC) Dale Mabry Campus in Tampa.

— OPINIONS —

School choice will lift up black community” via T. Willard Fair for USA TODAY – We know that far too many black children are sitting in classrooms where they are not learning. We know their schools have fewer resources. We know their teachers, on average, are less qualified. We know expectations for these children are set lower than the expectations for students in more affluent suburban schools. This reality is what led me, along with other civil rights leaders, to go in a different direction — to advocate for giving parents the power to pursue better options for their children. I saw the devastating impact that powerlessness had on the black community in the 1950s and 60s. And I see that same dynamic at play for black parents today. Once we were told where we could live and work, play and pray, eat and gather. I find it no more acceptable that today we are told where our children can go to school. Give them the power, and give them options from every sector of education — be it public or private.

What Michael Van Sickler is reading –Editorial: Terrible budget for public education deserves Scott veto” via the Palm Beach Post – Scott should use his power. Because there’s plenty concerning education in the $82.4 billion budget to dislike.  The last time a budget offered so small an increase in overall funding for public schools (just 1.2 percent), it was 2011-2012 and the state was pulling out of the recession. Palm Beach County schools, like others in the state, is to get just one-third of 1 percent more in per-student funding. For another year, look for Florida near the bottom in state rankings. The budget also clips $25 million from the state colleges, like Palm Beach State College. That’s hardly wise at a time when more adults are heading to school for long-delayed degrees or job retraining. There’s more bad news in the accompanying “Schools of Hope” bill (HB 7069), mashed together behind closed doors … with no input from educators or the public. The measure, a Corcoranfavorite that barely passed the Senate, allocates $140 million to entice out-of-state, for-profit charter school companies to set up shop near struggling traditional public schools, theoretically to give kids a better chance to succeed — theoretically, that is, because the record on charter school performance is mixed.

— WE DIDN’T WANT THIS STORY TO GO VIRAL —

Scott Plakon shares Facebook post from neo-Nazi site, insists he had no idea what it was” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The headline may have been funny, even in a bipartisan way: “Breaking: FBI Uncovers Evidence that 62 Million Trump Voters are All Russian Agents.” But the source and the link embedded in a Facebook post Plakon shared Wednesday night was neo-Nazi and white supremacist. When alerted that he shared a link to a notorious neo-Nazi site, Plakon expressed shock, immediately took down the post, and declared that he had no idea. He said never followed the link on his own Facebook post, and he said he had never looked at the site before he was alerted … “Wow,” he said after glancing at the site, dailystormer.com. “First, I apologize to those that were offended by my careless post. Second I detest and condemn the disgusting ideas that are represented by that site.” The site, run by Andrew Anglin, is universally described in mainstream media as a neo-Nazi, white-supremacist site that specializes in sending out memes and trolls throughout social media. Earlier this year, the Southern Poverty Law Center declared the site to be “the top hate site in America.” “I had no idea,” Plakon insisted.

***Capital City Consulting, LLC is a full-service government and public affairs firm located in Tallahassee, Florida. At Capital City Consulting, our team of professionals specialize in developing unique government relations and public affairs strategies and delivering unrivaled results for our clients before the Florida Legislature and Executive Branch Agencies. Capital City Consulting has the experience, contacts and winning strategies to help our clients stand out in the capital city. Learn more at www.capcityconsult.com.***

— MOVEMENTS —

Scoop from the decks of the Disney Magic –Office of Insurance Regulation veteran Belinda Miller announces retirement” via Florida Politics — Belinda Miller, a stalwart of Florida’s insurance regulation efforts since 1985, will retire on July 2, but plans to keep her hand in the industry via consulting work. “I’m going to retire from the state,” Miller said during a telephone interview Thursday. “It’s just time. I’ve been there a long time, so I’m going to play a little bit.” She expects to do some work for Celtic Global Consulting, the firm former Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty set up after he left office last year. …  She was a candidate to replace McCarty, but the job when to David Altmaier. …  Not getting the top job had nothing to do with her departure, Miller said. “I’m happy that David is the commissioner,” she said. “He is very good. I worked with David for maybe nine years now. We have a good team. I hate to leave that group of people. They’re wonderful.”

Top Latino political group hires former FDP political director” via Maxwell Tani of Business Insider – Latino Victory Project, a top Democratic group backing Latino candidates and progressives, is staffing up as it prepares for the 2018 midterm elections … the group announced it hired Mayra Macias, the former political director at the Florida Democratic Party, to head up the organization’s political operation as it begins launching affiliates in states like Georgia, New York, Arizona, and Florida, which have large Latino populations disproportionate to Latino representation in government. “This past election cycle showed the country the power of the Latino vote and the potential to grow this electorate,” Macias said in a statement. Founded in 2014 by actress Eva Longoriaand Democratic National Committee treasurer Henry Muñoz III, the group recently refocused as a progressive organization after initially casting itself as more middle-of-the-road, occasionally backing Republican candidates. But following the 2016 election, the group decided that the leaders of the Republican Party were openly hostile to policies that would benefit Latinos.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Jon Costello, Gary Rutledge, Rutledge Ecenia: 3M and Its Affiliates

Mercer Fearington, Clark Smith Southern Strategy Group: 3M and Its Affiliates

Rob Fields, Suskey Consulting: TmaxSoft

Rebecca Roman, Adams St. Advocates: DataLogic Software

— ALOE —

A history of Ringling Bros. circus, soon to close forever” via The Associated Press – The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is drawing to a close this weekend after 146 years of performances and travel that at times have been marred by tragedy and celebrated in film, but also constant. The circus has its roots in a spectacle that began two decades before the U.S. Civil War, equal parts freak show, zoo and museum. Traveling performances began in 1871, and 10 years later it officially became the circus that generations grew up watching. It has evolved over the years, most recently with its decision to retire its elephant acts.

What Twitter’s privacy changes mean to you” via The Associated Press – Twitter was already tracking users. For example, if you visited a webpage that had an embedded tweet or a button to share something on Twitter, you could be tracked and targeted. With the changes, Twitter expands the pool of people it can track and lets the company collect more data about those people when they are visiting sites around the web. In addition, Twitter will no longer honor the “Do Not Track” option that let people say no to being tracked by the likes of ad and social networks. Many such networks no longer honor that option anyway. Polonetsky said Twitter had been “one of the rare prominent brands that respected Do Not Track.”

Happy birthday to Sens. Daphne Campbell, Greg Steube, and Kathleen Passidomo.

The Delegation for 05.18.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Great Flood of 2017 rocks Washington

Some political wordsmiths might call it the Great Flood of 2017 in Washington. No, the Potomac has not crested its banks. No water main has ruptured.

This is all about what began as occasional damaging leaks to the media involving President Trump. Those leaks have turned into a tsunami of stories and narratives that is paralyzing the executive and legislative branches.

Just this week alone, leakers set the detonators for two bombshells. On Monday, it was the Washington Post reporting on information slipped to them that Trump had given “highly classified information” to Russian officials.

Delegation Democrats voiced their outrage, while Republicans did not excuse the alleged breach, but were much more circumspect.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported, via another leak, that Trump had asked former FBI Director James Comey to end the investigation against former national security advisor Michael Flynn. Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch offered comments reflective  of the mood within his party.

“The President asked the FBI Director to shut down one investigation, then fired the FBI Director in order to shut down another investigation,” Deutch said in a statement as he further repeated the call for an independent investigation.

Everyone, Republican and Democrat, can agree the leaks have elevated the regular media revelations to flood stage. The trouble began with leaked information on Flynn’s call to Russian officials, as well as Trump’s conversation with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, to name just two.

Back-to-back, cycle-dominating leaked stories like never seen before leads to another analogy. Trump is being compared to Richard Nixon, who was desperate to stop the leaking within his administration.

History tells us how Nixon’s “plumbers” helped turn an uncomfortable situation into a catastrophe. His ultimate fate was determined by testimony before Congress and an aggressive special counsel.

With the appointment of respected former FBI Director Robert Mueller to that role late Wednesday, the leaks should slow to a trickle. For those that perpetrated illegal leaks of unmasked surveillance subjects, it would be in their best interests to turn off the spigot.

Meanwhile, here are this week’s insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State.

Delegation reacts to Trump’s revelations to Russians

Several of Florida’s delegation, mostly Democrats, reacted with disbelief to news reports — and later tweets from President Trump himself — that he shared classified, high sensitive ISIS information with Russian diplomats last week.

— “If the story is true, this is a serious breach of security and will have lasting and dangerous consequences for the U.S.” – Sen. Bill Nelson.

— “Reports of President Trump sharing highly sensitive information with Russian officials is extremely concerning. This underscores the need for a Special Prosecutor to investigate this administration’s ties to Russia.” – Rep. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat in a Facebook post

— “Trump betrays our country & allies when he leaks classified info to Russia.” – Rep. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat, in a Tweet

— “If these allegations are true, they are inexcusable and deserve immediate action from Congress. In leaking this kind of intelligence, the President would be putting lives in danger. Our allies need to know that they can trust us.” – Rep. Val Demings, an Orlando Democrat

— “The news that the president gave highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador in the Oval Office is deeply, deeply disturbing. His actions are indefensible. They delivered a self-inflicted wound to our national security, imperiling secret, sensitive operations overseas battling ISIS, putting the lives of our operatives in grave danger. Congress must exercise its oversight responsibilities immediately. The repercussions of the disclosure, and measures to prevent the President from repeating such a serious error, must be weighed.” – Rep. Charlie Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat

— “When you betray the trust of our allies and national security partners, it jeopardizes our safety and future intelligence sharing. As the former vice chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I can’t stress enough how serious of a blunder this is. It is imperative that Congress is given a full briefing on the extent of the damage that President Donald John Trump has caused in compromising highly classified code-word intelligence to the Russians.” – Rep. Alcee Hastings, Miramar Democrat

— “It is shocking that President Trump shared classified information reportedly obtained by Israel with the Russians. Not only does this endanger Israel’s intelligence network, but it puts highly sensitive information into the hands of Russia – a partner of Israel’s enemies Syria, Iran, and its proxy Hezbollah. Intelligence cooperation between the United States and Israel has always been a cornerstone of our relationship, and to jeopardize this while boasting to the Russians puts America’s national security and Israel’s security at serious risk.” – Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, shown here in January 2016, said the disclosure of highly classified material would be “gravely dangerous.” (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

— “If true, news reports indicate that President Trump compromised America’s intelligence gathering operations and security, and possibly harmed a relationship with a key ally and put lives at risk. His disclosure would be a gravely dangerous compromise of classified information with an adversary. Congress needs an immediate and full briefing on what damage has been done.” – Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat

— “As president, Trump has the right to declassify anything he wants, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. Russia is not our friend, and the sooner he realizes that, the better off our country will be.” – Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Miami Gardens Democrat

— “Putin and the Russian regime are dangerous players in the global arena. They are not our allies and cannot be trusted with sensitive, classified information.” – Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican

— “No one should share classified information with nations like #Russia that have interests adverse to ours.” – Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican in a Tweet

Not all the responses were critical of Trump, though. Rockledge Republican Rep. Bill Posey argued that if the concerns are real and serious, the sources who brought the story forward need to be taking their concerns to Congress, not offering unnamed source tips to the media.

“The President has the authority to make decisions regarding our national security and work with other nations to combat international terrorism,” he said. “It’s time for these unnamed sources to come forward and inform Congress and the public of any specific allegations.”

Florida think tank urges Nelson, Rubio to reject GOP health care bill

A Florida-based think tank is warning the Republican-supported health care bill will severely harm those on Medicaid if enacted. The Florida Policy Institute touts a recent study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that claims if the American Health Care Act (AHCA) becomes law, 2.35 million women and girls would be harmed.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation by four votes on May 4. The Senate is now contemplating changes or a possible re-write.

“It’s not enough for the U.S. Senate to simply reject the House’s version of the ‘repeal and replace’ American Health Care Act – they need to reject any bill that does not preserve Medicaid expansion, institutes per capita caps or block grants or eliminates protections for essential benefits and people with pre-existing conditions,” said Joseph Pennisi, executive director of the FPI, in a news release.

Citing the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, FPI makes the case that Medicaid “covers 63 percent of all deliveries in Florida.” Of the women and girls on Medicaid, 37 percent are white, 33 percent are Hispanic and 25 percent are African-American.

“It is crucial for the U.S. Senate to protect this program, not cut it or radically restructure it,” said Pennisi. “I urge Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio to protect the health of their constituents and accept only legislation that does not cap or cut Medicaid, fully protects vulnerable populations and preserves expansion.”

Crist, Rubio team up to unite Florida family

Last week, Florida’s junior senator tweeted out a story from the Tampa Bay Times about a St. Petersburg business owner struggling to get her son-in-law into the U.S. from Vietnam. The article, “Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio: A love story” was enough to attract political names when the words Rubio, Crist and love were used in the same sentence.

Working on behalf of the same constituent, both Crist and Rubio’s Orlando office helped facilitate the arrival of the son-in-law. Rubio learned of the collaboration at the first meeting of the full delegation in January, which was held in the Senator’s office.

Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Charlie Crist, once political nemeses, worked together to help bring a St. Petersburg business owner’s son-in-law into the United States from Vietnam.

“You may not know this, but your office in Orlando and I are working on getting a Vietnamese husband to be with his wife,” Crist told Rubio at the end of the delegation meeting.

Rubio’s office pressed harder and the family sent photos taken with Crist to Vietnam. One month later, the husband was in Florida.

“ ‘Good news’ story in turbulent time,” Rubio tweeted with a link to the story. “Neither party nor politics should keep us from helping Floridians.”

 

Local governments offer support for Gaetz’s military budget request

Rep. Matt Gaetz, the freshman Republican from Fort Walton Beach, has gained the support of five county governments on one of his signature issues. Gaetz is seeking $30 million to expand the training area of the northern portion of the Gulf Test Range, which is currently limited to a portion of the Gulf of Mexico due south of Eglin Air Force Base.

According to Gaetz, the resulting congestion has prevented numerous training missions and fighter aircraft from “undertaking mission-relevant training.” Last week the County Commissions in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton and Holmes County signed resolutions supporting Gaetz’s efforts. All five counties are in the First Congressional District represented by Gaetz.

“We must expand and modernize the Gulf Test Range, so we can better train America’s next generation of heroes,” Gaetz said in a statement. “The more they prepare on the training field, the more effective they will be on the battlefield.”

While thanking the counties for their support, Gaetz added his commitment to the members of the military, many of which he represents in Congress.

“The brave men and women in our military don’t stop working until the job is done,” he said. “Neither will I.”

Dunn joins colleagues in urging repeal of sequestration

The Panama City Republican believes the time is now to end the defense budget restraints known as sequestration. Dunn joined with 140 of his colleagues in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan calling for an end to the budget practice.

“Sequestration diminishes our military’s readiness, impedes our ability to deter adversaries effectively, and ravages our defense communities across the country,” the letter said.

Among those joining Dunn in signing the letter were Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, Dennis Ross of Lakeland, Bill Posey of Rockledge and Brian Mast of Hutchinson Island.

The Republican lawmakers indicated sequestration is set to reduce national defense spending by $500 billion over the course of a decade. Dunn made his own case in a recent op-ed.

“We have hollowed out our armed forces, leaving them with tools and weapons that are decades old at a time when technology is leaping forward faster than ever,” he wrote. “Their vehicles, aircraft, and weapons systems were designed for another time, and they have been used relentlessly in battle, long past their designed lifespan.”

The lawmakers urged Ryan to schedule a vote on repeal.

After threats, Yoho’s Gainesville office changing procedures

Since the Gainesville Republican voted in support of the American Health Care Act, the congressman and his district staffers have been on the receiving end of hundreds of angry phone calls and threats, his spokesman says.

The Ocala StarBanner reports some constituents are said to have left piles of dog feces at the front door of his Gainesville office and even vandalized a staff member’s car. As a result, Yoho’s Gainesville office temporarily stopped allowing walk-ins, and his staff is now meeting with constituents on an appointment-only basis.

“We completely get the emotion involved in legislation,” said Brian Kaveney, a Yoho spokesman. “But when it starts getting to the point where you feel you’re in danger, you have to take precautions.”

Kaveney said the change only applies to the Gainesville office and was recommended by federal police. Anytime a member of Congress or their staff is threatened, Capitol Hill police must be notified, he said. Yoho’s Orange Park, Palatka and Marion County offices will maintain normal business hours and allow walk-ins.

According to Kaveney, some of the threats and vandalism include paint on a staff member’s car, the dog poop, a direct threat to a staffer and a chalk outline of a body outside the Gainesville office.

Paulson’s Principles: The jury delivers a fatal blow to Corrine Brown

In 1992, Corrine Brown was one of three blacks elected to the Florida congressional delegation, the first black members of Congress since the end of Reconstruction in the 1880s.

For 28 years, Congresswoman Brown’s campaign theme was “Corrine Delivers.” This time, it was a federal court jury that delivered a fatal blow to Brown’s political career. Combined with her electoral defeat in November, 2016 to Al Lawson of Tallahassee in a newly drawn district, there is little doubt that Brown has reached the end of along career.

The jury found Brown guilty of 18 of the 22 counts and potentially faces hundreds of years in prison and millions in fines. U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan did not set a sentencing date, but it will be handed down within 120 days.

Brown was accused of raising over $800,000 for her One Door Educational Foundation. Donors believed the Foundation was a properly registered 501(c)(3) non-profit. It was not.

In fact, only one $1,200 scholarship was handed out. Over $300,000 of the funds were used to promote Brown at concerts, football games and magazine ads. Another $141,000 in untraceable cash was funneled to Brown over the years. Funds were removed from the One Door account and deposited into Brown’s personal bank account.

Even with her $175,000 congressional salary and her Florida legislative pension, prosecutors showed that Brown was spending $1,438 more each month than she was earning.

Acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow said Brown “chose greed and personal gain over the sacred trust given to her by the community that she served for many years.”

FBI agent Charles Spencer of Jacksonville noted that “corrupt public officials undermine the integrity of our government and violate the public’s trust, and that is why investigating public corruption remains the FBI’s top crime priority.”

Brown has long had the reputation of playing the victim. She called the charges and the trial a “half-truth witch-hunt.” She accused the U.S. Justice Department of racism in bringing the charges. With Obama in the White House and Eric Holder as the first black attorney general, the charge lacked credibility.

Brown’s attorney, James Smith, announced that “this is just the first quarter and there is plenty of time left.” Many would argue the clock has run out for Brown. Smith has promised to file a motion for a new trial, but Brown had to sell her beach house to pay for legal expenses for this trial.

Brown did deliver for Jacksonville and her Congressional District for 28 years. Former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney, a force in Republican Party politics, said a Lawson electoral victory or a Brown loss in her criminal case would be devastating for Jacksonville. “Lawson’s all about Tallahassee,” he said.

Brown lost her congressional campaign and criminal case and now may lose her personal freedom. Corrine may have “delivered” for Jacksonville for decades, but a federal jury delivered the death blow for Brown’s political career.

DeSantis wants IRS Commissioner to follow Comey out the door

The Republican from Ponte Vedra Beach weighed in on the controversial firing of FBI Director James Comey last week. While he agrees with President Trump on that high profile personnel move, he makes the point that one other high-level agency head should be on his way out as well.

After Comey’s ouster, Rep. DeSantis wonders why Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen is still at his desk. Despite “arrogance” and “incompetence,” Koskinen’s removal should have been “a no-brainer,” DeSantis argues.

“After all, this is the guy who presided over the stonewalling of the IRS targeting investigation and who made a number of false statements before Congressional committees,” DeSantis said in an email to constituents.

Despite his total agreement in the firing of Comey, with concurring opinions by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, DeSantis believes there is a fundamental difference between the two cases.

“Unlike Koskinen, Comey has been effective in a number of areas, such as his support of law enforcement,” DeSantis said.

Soto wants to declare Kissimmee River ‘Wild and Scenic’

Rep. Soto said he plans to sponsor legislation to protect the Kissimmee River with a designation under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

If approved, it would enact broad protections for the river, which starts in Osceola County’s Little Lake Tohopekaliga and, at least in its original bed, meanders 103 miles before emptying into Lake Okeechobee, and providing the Everglades with one of its largest sources of water.

Soto, speaking at a town hall meeting in Orlando focusing on environmental issues, called for widespread actions to address Florida’s natural environment, particularly the Everglades, and announced that as part of that he will introduce a bill to put the Kissimmee River into the class of the nation’s most protected and revered rivers.

“The Kissimmee River has an unusual windiness to us which allows the water to be cleaned. If it’s a Wild and Scenic River, that’ll limit what activities can be done on there, primarily recreational,” Soto said. “Right now there’s not much other than recreational happening there. But there is nothing in the law to stop that. So we want to enshrine it into law. And then we’ll be able to get federal funds.”

The Wild and Scenic River Act of 1972 has three designations: wild, scenic and recreational, with varying degrees of restrictions. Nationally more than 200 rivers are in the system, covering about 12,700 miles, representing less than one half of one percent of the nation’s rivers, according to the U.S. National and Wild Scenic Rivers Office.

In Florida, just two rivers are enrolled, the Wekiva River in Central Florida, and the Loxahatchee River along the Treasure Coast.

Demings, Ros-Lehtinen spend Mother’s Day with female troops in Middle East

The Orlando Democrat and Miami Republican made a week-long visit to visit troops in Afghanistan and Iraq this week, including a Mother’s Day visit at which Rep.  Demings was able to deliver cards from students in her Florida’s 10th Congressional District.

Demings and Rep. Ros-Lehtinen were part of a bipartisan group of members of Congress to make the tour to conduct oversight of U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Iraq with a focus on the contribution, efforts, and concerns of women in the United States Armed Forces and local women.

Reps. Val Demings and Ilena Ros-Lehtinen pose with military moms during a recent stop in Afghanistan.

“This was my first trip to Afghanistan and Iraq, and it was such an honor to meet with our female troops and commanders, and see firsthand the difference they are making in Afghanistan and Iraq all while protecting our homeland,” Demings stated in a news release issued by her office.

The delegation met with U.S. female service members, toured local businesses, participated in roundtables with Afghan Female Police and Soldiers, met with Iraqi women leaders, and humanitarian leaders. Others in the group in clouded U.S. Reps. Martha Roby, an Alabama Republican; Susan Davis, a California Democrat; Susan Brooks, an Indiana Republican; and members of the House Armed Services Committee.

Bilirakis makes futile plea to Trump to focus on Turkish human rights

Rep. Bilirakis had a request for President Trump before the latter met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House Tuesday. The Palm Harbor Republican called on the president to bring up the deteriorating state of human rights in Turkey during their sit-down talks.

“As it is a critical moment for Turkey and the U.S.-Turkish relationship, the United States must be candid and consistent in our support of democratic values and respect for human rights for the sake of Turkey’s future, as well as the long-term interests in the region of both the United States and our NATO allies,” Bilirakis and a bipartisan collection of colleagues said in a letter made available Tuesday afternoon.

“We, therefore, urge you to make support for Turkish democracy a priority, both in your meetings with President Erdogan and in U.S. policy toward Turkey thereafter.”

Also signing the letter, cc’d to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, was Jacksonville Republican John Rutherford, Orlando Democrats Darren Soto and Stephanie Murphy, Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch, Gainesville Republican Ron DeSantis, and Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

Either Trump didn’t get the message or he ignored it. The Independent (U.K.) reports Trump “made no mention of human rights during a friendly press conference” with Erdogan.

After the talks, Turkish security staff roughed up protestors outside the country’s embassy in Washington. Some were left bloodied.

Bilirakis is the co-chair of the House Hellenic Caucus.

T. Rooney target of ethics complaint

The Okeechobee Republican drew the attention of a liberal interest group for publicly calling for the defeat of Sen. Bill Nelson. The American Democracy Legal Fund filed a complaint against Rep. Rooney with the House Office of Congressional Ethics for issuing a statement saying, in part, “I hope Florida voters replace (Nelson) next year in the 2018 election.”

“Rep. Rooney violated the House’s prohibition on the use of official resources when he issued a press release on his official House website announcing his opposition to Florida Senator Bill Nelson’s reelection and condemning his decision not to support cloture for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch,” the group said in announcing their action.

The American Democracy Legal Fund is a Washington, DC-based advocacy group founded by David Brock. Brock is well-known as the founder of the conservative media critic site Media Matters.

Rooney responded to the complaint when asked about it by the Tampa Bay Times.

“I in no way, shape or form endorsed any candidate,” Rooney said. “I merely said that Bill Nelson, in my opinion, for political reasons opposed a guy he supported 10 years ago and nothing has changed with (Gorsuch’s) judicial acumen or character, which is the standard by which senators are supposed to confirm Supreme Court justices.”

In the end, Rooney said “maybe I shouldn’t have used the word ‘election’ and maybe we should change it to ‘I hope he’s no longer the Senator if he is going to act in such a political way.”

Rooney has said he will not be a candidate for the Senate in 2018, but may run in the future.

House Majority PAC targets Mast in new ads

Rep. Brian Mast is among six Republicans being targeted by the House Majority PAC, a political committee aimed at helping Democrats win seats in the U.S. House.

The 30-second digital spot focuses on his vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, with the American Health Care Act. The ad claims the measure could allow insurance companies to charge older people five times as much as they charge younger people for premiums, citing an AARP report.

“It is critical that we expose House Republicans for their dreadful plan that includes an ‘age tax’ – charging people over 50 years old up to five times more for their coverage. All the while, these same House Republicans have taken six-figures or more in campaign contributions from insurance and financial interests,” said Charlie Kelly, executive director of House Majority PAC, in a statement. The American public deserves to know the truth about the House Republican plan, and we intend to hold them accountable delivering a clear and effective message in districts around the country over the coming weeks and months.”

Similar ads will air in districts targeting Reps. Dana Rohrabacher of California, Erik Paulsen of Minnesota, Lee Zeldin and John Faso of New York, and John Culberson of Texas.

Deutch, Curbelo have joint praise for Rex Tillerson

It’s not the kind of headline readers expect to see very often, but the two south Florida lawmakers had kind words for the Secretary of State after he signed an international agreement acknowledging the threat posed by climate change to the Arctic region.

At a meeting of countries in the region, called the Arctic Council, Tillerson signed the agreement called the Fairbanks Declaration. The document notes that among other things, the Arctic region is “warming at more than twice the rate of the global average” and “resilience and adaptation to climate change are important to Arctic communities and ecosystems.”

“I’m surprised and cautiously pleased by the Secretary’s move,” said Rep. Ted Deutch said in a joint release. “If the administration is signaling that it is ready to get serious on climate change, the President should unequivocally reaffirm our pledge to the Paris Agreement and follow through with climate-friendly policies.”

“American leadership on climate stewardship is essential to reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and by keeping a seat at the table, we have an opportunity to ensure our research, ingenuity, and innovation are part of global conversation and initiatives,” said Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

Deutch and Curbelo are co-chairs of the House Climate Solutions Caucus.

In response to a question, Curbelo talks impeachment, obstruction of justice

The Republican from Kendall became one of the first among his party to discuss “impeachment” when responding to questions surrounding this week’s revelations concerning President Trump. Curbelo did not call for impeachment, but left open the possibility.

“Obstruction of justice in the case of Nixon, in the case of Clinton in the late 90’s, has been considered an impeachable offense,” Curbelo said on CNN this week.

He did not say Trump was guilty of obstruction of justice or any wrongdoing. “It may be very serious, it may be nothing,” Curbelo said. The key, Curbelo believes, is James Comey.

“We have to hear from Director Comey,” Curbelo told CNN’s Don Lemon.

Many of Curbelo’s Florida colleagues agreed for the need to have Comey testify.

Graham snags big endorsement in run for Governor

The former Congresswoman from the 2nd District picked up a huge endorsement in her run for the Democratic nomination for governor of Florida. Civil rights icon John Lewis is backing his former colleague.

“Only one Democrat for Governor of Florida —my good friend Gwen Graham — has the passion and commitment, the track record and the leadership skills to stand up, speak out, protect our priorities, and get things done,” the Georgia Democrat said in a statement. “Gwen is a champion for the progressive values so many of us share, and I am proud to give Gwen Graham my strongest endorsement for Governor of Florida.”

Graham marched with Lewis and President Barack Obama across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to mark the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, joined him and other House Democrats in a sit-in to demand commonsense gun safety, and co-sponsored legislation to protect voting rights while in Congress.

“Congressman John Lewis’s support and friendship mean the world to me. Marching with him to mark the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, sitting in with him to demand commonsense gun reform, and fighting for voting rights with him are among my proudest moments while representing Florida in Congress,” the former congresswoman said in a statement.

Graham, the daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham, is one of three Democrats running for governor in 2018. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King are also running.

Laura Bush returns to D.C. to push for women’s museum

The National Women’s History Museum tipped its hat to former First Lady Laura Bush, who said Americans need to redouble their efforts to “make sure there’s a women’s museum right here in our country,” reports Juliet Eilperin with the Washington Post.

The museum hosted its annual Women Making History Awards at the Carnegie Institute of Science this week. The 2017 event honored Bush, and featured a video introduction from former Secretary of State (and a former First Lady herself) Hillary Clinton.

Both women expressed the need for a museum on the mall. In her video remarks, Clinton, who ran for president in 2016, said she looks forward to a time when her grandchildren can visit the museum and “come away feeling a little braver, walking a little taller, knowing they stand on the shoulders of generations of history makers and trailblazers.”

“It’s really important to have a museum that focuses on women because half of the population is left out from American History,” said Bush. “We need to figure out how we can encourage women to run for office—and to run for President.”

The event also honored Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden (USMC, Retired), the 12th NASA Administrator and Henry Blackwell Award recipient; Dr. Faye Laing, a pioneering radiologist and professor; Diane Rehm, the former host of The Diane Rehm Show; the Honorable Rosie Rios, the 43rd Treasurer of the United States; and Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught (USAF, Retired), the founding president, of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.

“We all know there is a story that needs to be told to girls and boys,” said Rep. Ed Royce, who co-sponsored the bill to create the women’s history museum. “A national museum that focuses on women’s history is the best way to tell that story.”

 

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