Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics - Page 2 of 299

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

Personnel note: Robert Hawken changing roles at FCCI

Robert “Hawk” Hawken, the director of legislative affairs for FCCI Insurance Group for the past 30 years, will transition to the lead role of a retained consultant and lobbyist for the company, it announced in a news release Thursday.

The change is effective May 1, 2018.

“FCCI is as committed as ever to our government affairs business,” said FCCI executive vice president Tom Koval.

FCCI Insurance Group provides commercial property and casualty insurance to clients in 19 states and Washington, D.C. The company is headquartered in Sarasota and has regional offices in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi and Texas.

“We see Hawk’s transformation as a benefit to FCCI by creating relationships outside of the insurance industry – essentially broadening and strengthening our reach.”

For three decades, Hawken “has been an extraordinary ambassador, always making progress to benefit the original vision of FCCI,” the release said.

“He will continue to be the face and voice of FCCI Government Affairs and strive to ensure all of our initiatives are even more successful.”

“Rest assured, Hawk and FCCI are fully committed to the company’s Government Affairs business,” Koval added. “In his on-going leadership role, Hawk will continue to maintain political operations out of Tallahassee.”

Southern Strategy Group’s David Browning sees the change as a great opportunity.

Hawken will still spearhead all of FCCI advocacy, Browning told Florida Politics, but it will also allow “expertise and years of knowledge to create additional opportunities. This is a great move for him.”

Fred Karlinsky, one of the leading insurance lobbyists in the nation and a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig, sees the move as a win-win for both FCCI and its strategic partners.

“This is an outstanding move for both FCCI and Hawk,” said Karlinsky, GT’s global co-chair of its insurance regulatory and transactions practice. “Hawk has done a great job leading the FCCI team and continuing in that role will help maintain FCCI and Hawk’s presence as a thought leader in the insurance arena in Florida and nationally. I look forward to working very closely with Hawk in his new role.”

FCCI, founded in 1959, has nearly 18,000 policyholders in a diverse set of industries, including agribusiness, construction, hospitality, manufacturing, restaurants, service providers, wholesalers and retailers.

The company has more than 800 employees, $2.2 billion in assets, a $1.6 billion investment profile and $787 million in direct written premium. It carries an “A” rating by A.M. Best.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 11.16.17

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

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

Some sobering news (no pun intended) from the state’s latest “Drugs in Deceased Persons” report, released Wednesday by the Florida Medical Examiners Commission:

“Of the 27,383 deaths investigated by Florida’s medical examiners (in 2016), toxicology results determined that the drugs listed below were present at the time of death in 11,910 deaths.”

That’s close to half (43.5 percent, to be more precise). Furthermore, the report says “the vast majority of the 11,910 deaths had more than one drug occurrence.”

In fairness, that doesn’t always mean drugs caused a given death, just that drugs were in the person’s system.

“Drugs,” meaning uppers, downers, hallucinogenics, inhalants, cocaine, pot, and of course opioids and even alcohol, the report says.

The highlights section keeps piling on the bad news: “Total drug-related deaths increased by 22 percent (2,126 more over 2015).”  

Drug-related deaths in Florida have skyrocketed.

Also, “5,725 opioid-related deaths were reported, which is a 35 percent increase (1,483 more). The opioids were identified as either the cause of death or merely present in the decedent.”

And “6,658 (24 percent more) individuals died with one or more prescription drugs in their system. The drugs were identified as either the cause of death or merely present in the decedent. These drugs may have also been mixed with illicit drugs and/or alcohol.”

A shocking kicker: “Occurrences of fentanyl increased by 80 percent and deaths caused by fentanyl increased by” — steady yourself — “97 percent.”

The latest findings are haunting. No doubt the report will come up as lawmakers continue to wrestle with the opioid epidemic and its depressing fallout.

“Nearly every Floridian has been impacted by substance abuse in one way or another, and the opioid epidemic continues to claim and destroy lives at an exponential rate,” Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said in a statement.

“Today’s report shows the grave reality of Florida’s opioid epidemic, and I applaud Gov. [RickScott for declaring a state of emergency in response to this crisis and his leadership in proposing aggressive measures to combat opioid abuse.”

Pam Bondi, state attorneys general call for more legal accountability in opioid crisis” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Bondi has joined more than 40 state attorneys general on a letter to congressional leaders urging them to repeal a 2016 law to restore the ability of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to hold drug manufacturers and distributors of opioids more accountable. “The opioid crisis is affecting families across our country and we need every tool available to combat this epidemic and save lives,” Bondi said in a press release. “To ensure the Drug Enforcement Administration is able to stop the oversupply of dangerous prescription opioids, Congress must repeal the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016.” Florida joined a bipartisan coalition of 41 state attorneys general who recently sent subpoenas and demanded additional information about potentially unlawful practices in the distribution, marketing and sale of opioids.


@BallardFirm: If Judge Moore is the GOP nominee let pray the Dem wins. Let’s go Alabama GOP get rid of this dirtbag.

— @SchmitzMedia: I asked Mast’s communications director if Mast believes Moore is a pedophile. Have not received a response.

— @Fineout: .@FLGovScott is out of the state for the next 2 days at the @The_RGA annual conference. Scott has already said he’s not seeking to be chairman of the organization during his final year in office — one of the multitude of signs that he will run against U.S. Sen. Nelson

@JebBush: Thanks to @RepJoseOliva and the Florida House for hosting me in Tallahassee today. Was great to talk #edreform and the future of Florida!

@Fineout: .@JebBush says his first impulse would be to stay on sidelines during GOP primary for governor. Calls Putnam and Corcoran his friends. “Is Latvala still a candidate? He’s a friend of mine.”

— @RichardCorcoran: If you believe in free-market health care, then join me in supporting HB37! We’re making it easier for you to access care and increasing the opportunities for affordable, quality care! #HB37

— @JamesGrantFL: Thanks to @JeffreyBrandes’ leadership from the outset, FL continues to be and focus on being a leader on autonomous.

— @TiaReports: As I embark on a new chapter of my career, I can only hope to make a difference the way @lucytimes has. That is my prayer

— @CraigTimes: To snag #alligator poachers, #Florida‘s @MyFWC set up a phony #alligator farm — and ran it with undercover officers for 2 years.

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John Morgan urges women to “come forward” on sexual harassment claims” via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times – John Morgan continues to be coy about whether he will finally declare a bid for governor … On the issue of sexual harassment, of which anonymous claims have endangered the political ambitions of another gubernatorial candidate, Jack Latvala, Morgan wasn’t as coy … “I believe if someone is going to be accused, the accuser should have to come forward,” he said. “Not to be able to confront your accuser to me does not seem to be just. I don’t know who they are, but I agree with Bondi. I don’t agree much with Bondi. But if somebody is gonna come back 5, 6, 10 years later and say this happened, it can’t be in the shadows. It has to be in the daylight.”

Banning sex ‘gifts,’ selective outrage … another week in Tallahassee” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — On the heels of accusations of sexual harassment in the Florida Legislature, Tallahassee has been a city full of indignation and calls for action. Florida journalists revealed a potential problem — and the politicians sprang into action. If you only read headlines from the past few weeks, you might think it always works that way. It does not. Not at all. Florida journalists uncover and spotlight scandalous, troubling and even deadly issues with great regularity. Often, legislators simply yawn. So why the difference? Why, when media reported largely anonymous allegations against Jack Latvala, did legislators immediately act on that report when they so often shrug? Maybe because legislators had personal or political reasons for wanting to pile on Latvala — who had been campaigning against Corcoran in a possible showdown for next year’s governor’s race and who had mounted a failed campaign against Joe Negron for Senate president. I suppose the non-cynic could argue that these men genuinely care about a harassment-free workplace — and that they just never knew such an environment existed before now.

Amid sexual harassment allegations, Latvala’s union mailer concerns AFSCME” via Marc Caputo and Alexandra Glorioso – The largest state workers union is expressing concerns that one of its members is featured on a gubernatorial race mailer issued by a Florida senator who faces accusations of groping women in the state Capitol. Bearing the headline “Public Employees have a champion in Senator Jack Latvala,” the flyer started hitting mailboxes this week and featured the Republican standing next to government workers, including a woman in a kelly green American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees shirt.

Senate President Joe Negron and embattled Sen. Jack Latvala; what makes this week in Tallahassee different? 

Property taxes likely to spur school funding fight” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — In his $87.4 billion budget proposal for 2018-2019, Gov. Scott called for a $770 million increase in funding for Florida’s kindergarten through 12th-grade education system. But nearly $7 out of every $10 of that increase would come from rising local property-tax revenue, much of it the result of increased property values with a stronger economy. Senate leaders support the governor’s plan, while House leaders remain firmly opposed to using the increased local property tax collections, arguing that such a move would represent a tax increase. The projected $534 million increase in local property tax revenue includes $450 million in “required local effort” taxes and $84 million in discretionary local school taxes. In an explanation of Scott’s budget, his office noted the school proposal does not change the required local property-tax rate, meaning “there is not tax increase.”

Tom Lee defends dog racing ban; Pam Bondi noncommittal” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — State Sen. Tom Lee fired off a tweetstorm Wednesday in support of his proposed constitutional amendment to ban greyhound racing in Florida. Lee — a Thonotosassa Republican, previous Senate president and current candidate for Chief Financial Officer — called dog racing “cruel and inhumane,” and added the “greyhound industry opposes any real reform.” He filed the proposal as a member of the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), which convenes every 20 years to review and propose changes to the state’s governing document. Meantime, Attorney General Pam Bondi — a Tampa Republican who regularly brings shelter dogs to state Cabinet meetings to get them adopted — declined to say whether she would support the amendment. Bondi also sits on the 37-member CRC. “As a member of the commission, I look forward to reviewing the more than one hundred proposals that have been filed,” Bondi said in a one-sentence statement.

“Lawmakers champion efforts to reform criminal justice system,” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics  – A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is pushing measures that aim to reduce the state’s prison by giving sentenced that “fit a just result.” They say that seeing the positive impact of criminal justice reform efforts in other states has given them new impetus to do the same. While Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, says more measure will roll in as Session nears, the effort is starting with two proposals. One that seeks to give judges’ discretion over mandatory minimum sentences in certain drug cases and raising the felony property theft threshold from $300 to $1,500. The group says the effort is a conservative one because it would save taxpayers’ money and it would reduce crime rates across the state.

Gambling expansion set to resurface next year” via the Daytona Beach News-Journal — The Voter Control of Gambling Amendment, pushed by the group Voters in Charge, has turned in and verified more than half of the 766,200 signatures required to get on the 2018 general election ballot. Almost 20,000 of those signatures came from Volusia County and more than 4,000 from Flagler County … Florida voters have been hostile to casino-gambling expansion. They turned down casino proposals in 1978, 1986 and 1994. Still, that was then, this is now, and attitudes toward gambling have softened. The latest person trying his hand at changing Florida gambling law is Sen. Travis Hutson, whose district includes Flagler County and northern Volusia County. He filed a bill last week that he characterized in a news release as “attainable reform.” Well, good luck with that. South Florida tends to welcome gambling expansion. North Florida opposes most gambling expansion. And Central Florida is a swing region, as it so often is.

It’s ‘good cop, bad cop’ for Christian Bax, director of the Office of Compassionate Use at the Florida Department of Health.

Legal challenges bog down medical cannabis process” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A litany of lawsuits continues to jam up the state’s medical marijuana licensure process, the state’s top marijuana official told House lawmakers Wednesday. Christian Bax, executive director of the state Health Department’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use, gave the House Health Quality Subcommittee an overview of his work, including the latest tally of legal challenges. “(Our) position is, we need to see whether a judge will stop this process prior to accepting applications,” Bax said. “We want to start accepting applications and move forward.”

Bill would help dentists work In underserved areas” via Daylina Miller of WUSF — But two bills filed in the Florida House and Senate would create a repayment plan for dentists who practice in areas with few dentists. HB 369 and SB 764, filed by Sen. Aaron Bean and Rep. Colleen Burton, would establish a dental student loan repayment program for eligible dentists who practice in a public health program that serves Medicaid recipients and low-income patients in dental health professional shortage areas or medically underserved areas of Florida. Participating dentists, who are graduating with student loan debt averaging from $250,000 to $400,000, may receive up to $50,000 per year to help repay those student loans and can serve in this program for up to five years.


Irma insured losses near $5.9 billion” via the News Service of Florida – A report posted online by the state Office of Insurance Regulation put estimated insured losses at $5,878,901,664. By comparison, a similar report in mid-October put estimated insured losses at $4.94 billion. The new report showed that 830,788 claims had been filed as of Monday, with 689,905 involving residential properties. Miami-Dade County had the largest number of claims filed, 108,513, while Broward County had 68,624, Orange County had 66,541 and Lee County had 62,078. Irma made landfall Sept. 10 in Monroe and Collier counties before barreling up the state.

Tab mounts to clean up Irma water debris” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Florida continues to spend about $2.4 million a week to clean up debris strewed across state waters during Hurricane Irma two months ago. Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary David Clark told members of the House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness that by early next year the state may use up the $36 million allocated to the agency for storm-debris cleanup: “At that pace, we’re going to run out of money by the time we get into session at the beginning of January or sooner.” Clark said the state has already spent about $12 million to clean up about 76,000 cubic yards of household goods, building materials and vegetation that ended up in state waters following the powerful and deadly storm.

— “Rick Scott proposes $100 million for Hurricane Irma aid programs” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics

— “SBA Irma loans in Florida top $500M” via Paul Brinkmann of the Orlando Sentinel

— “Orlando home sales rebound after Hurricane Irma” via Mary Shanklin of the Orlando Sentinel

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Tweet, tweet:

First on #FlaPol — “Tom Lee in no rush to declare CFO candidacy” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — While he remains “absolutely committed” to running for the 2018 Republican nomination for CFO, Lee said there is no rush to sign paperwork and officially declare his candidacy. “I had a practical conversation about all this with my campaign staff, and we don’t see a lot of urgency to jump into the race at this moment,” he said. “Unless I resign from the Senate and leave the Constitution Revision Commission, I can’t devote full time to campaigning. “The good news is that this is a down-ballot race and there won’t be much focus on it until the primary itself.” Lee said in August that he expected to announce his bid formally within a few months, but decided that his other requirements in Tallahassee take up too much time for now.

Sen. Tom Lee is in no rush to launch a campaign for CFO.

Victory Fund endorses Lauren Baer, David Richardson in CD 18, 27” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Baer and Richardson are both openly gay, marking the second consecutive congressional election cycle in which Floridians have two opportunities to elect the state’s first openly-gay member of Congress. As in the 2016 campaign, both face tough Democratic primary challenges first. Baer and Richardson are two of five congressional candidates nationally to earn the Victory Funds’ support in this first round of early endorsements. The organization backs its endorsed candidates with cash and in-kind campaign support. Victory Fund President Aisha Moodie-Mills praised Baer’s record of public service and her commitment to Victory Fund’s principles and goals. Another news release, issued by Richardson’s campaign, cited the Victory Fund for praising Richardson’s efforts in the Florida Legislature to remove a forty-year-old ban on gay adoption from Florida statute.

Emily’s List backs Mary Barzee Flores in Miami congressional race” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – “This open seat represents an opportunity for Floridians to send a message to Washington,” Stephanie Schriock, EMILY’s List president, said in a written statement. “Working families need a representative who will fight to protect basic women’s health care services, defend against the rolling back of environmental protections, and push to reform our broken immigration system.”

HD 58 Democratic contender announces endorsements Jose Vazquez Figueroa, the Democrat running in the House District 58 special election, says he’s gotten some high-profile backers this week. House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa is endorsing him, he says, as is Tampa House Democrat Sean Shaw and former state Rep. Hazelle Rogers, now mayor of Lauderdale Lakes. The previous incumbent, Plant City Republican Dan Raulerson, stepped down because of health problems. Vazquez will face Dover Republican Lawrence McClure in the Dec. 19 general election, along with Libertarian Bryan Zemina and non-party-affiliated candidate Ahmad Saadaldin. HD 58 is a Republican-majority district that includes Plant City, Temple Terrace, Dover, Mango, Seffner, Thonotosassa, and parts of Tampa and East Lake-Orient Park.

Joe West, long shot candidate for Tallahassee mayor (Photo via Tallahassee Democrat).

Disabled vet wants to be mayor to get rid of elected mayor, set term limits” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Not many candidates have the candor to admit they haven’t got a “snowball’s chance in hell” of winning an election, but then not many candidates are Joe West. “I’m not what anybody would envision to be mayor,” said West, 67, a former stand-up comic, recovering alcoholic and disabled Vietnam War veteran who filed to run for mayor of Tallahassee … But he is so outraged by the lack of ethics and unwillingness to act on obvious wrongdoing he sees at the City Commission, he decided to run for mayor if only to engage others in the voting process. “I never ran for office before. I don’t want to run now,” West said. “But I don’t like what’s going on. I don’t like the people that want that job. Everybody seems self-involved.” West claims no party affiliation but has been a regular guest on a local conservative radio program. He wants to help drive out the current members of the commission, set term limits and abolish the elected mayor’s office, returning it to a position appointed by the commission on a rotating basis.


Marco Rubio: Trump ‘needs to work’ on water drinking form via Cristiano Lima of POLITICO Florida — Rubio has some advice for President Trump on how to best quench his thirst. Trump taunted the Florida senator in 2013 for stopping to drink water while responding to former President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. Rubio got a chance to get back at the president when Trump paused while addressing reporters at the White House to open a bottle of water and take several sips. “Similar, but needs work on his form. Has to be done in one single motion & eyes should never leave the camera. But not bad for his 1st time,” Rubio tweeted. During his first public comments since returning from a diplomatic trip to Asia, Trump suddenly stopped while discussing his trade efforts in Japan. “They don’t have water. That’s OK,” Trump said. He initially ducked down beneath his lectern in search of a water bottle. After someone off-camera pointed to the Fiji bottle on a table, the president picked it up and, without looking away from the television cameras, unscrewed the top. He glanced away and lowered his mouth to the bottle, then tipped it back and took a sip. A few minutes later, Trump paused again to sip from the water bottle.

Rick Scott makes big dollar request from Congress to recover from Irma” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — In a letter penned to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Scott called on Congress to pass a disaster relief package for Florida agriculture; fund the work of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee and speed up the project so it can be completed by 2022; fund the federal share that the state is expected to spend to house; and educate the hundreds of thousands of Puerto Rican families who have been displaced by Hurricane Maria and emigrated to Florida. And, oh yes, why they’re at it, make sure to reform the National Flood Insurance Program. Damage caused by Irma compounded the yearslong citrus greening disease, an existential threat to Florida’s citrus growers. That’s why Scott proposed more than $21 million for citrus related issues earlier this month, as well as a $25 million Florida Citrus Emergency Loan Program. “While I continue to be 100 percent committed to helping citrus growers recover from the devastating impacts of Hurricane Irma, the state cannot do this alone,” Scott said in the letter.

What Brady Benford is reading – “Court tosses out verdict against tobacco companies” via the News Service of Florida — An appeals court ordered a new trial in a case in which tobacco companies were ordered to pay $12 million in the death of a smoker diagnosed with lung cancer at age 42. A three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal sided with Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., which argued in part that a Pinellas County circuit judge had improperly responded to a request from jurors to read back potentially critical testimony. The lawsuit was filed against the cigarette makers by the estate of Douglas Duignan, who began smoking at age 14 and was diagnosed in 1992 with a cancerous tumor in his lung. Duignan died after cancer was found elsewhere in his body, the 31-page ruling said. The jury ruled in favor of Duignan’s estate, awarding $6 million in compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive damages. But a key issue in the case was a contention by the tobacco companies that Duignan “smoked because he liked smoking rather than because he was addicted to nicotine or because he was misinformed about the risks,” the appeals court ruling said.

Orlando shooter’s wife wants testimony about his affairs” via the Associated Press – Attorneys for the wife of the gunman who killed 49 people at an Orlando nightclub want to introduce testimony that he frequently lied about visiting a friend to cheat on her … attorneys say the testimony is relevant because Omar Mateen told his wife, Noor Salman,  he was visiting his friend “Nemo” on June 11, 2016, hours before his rampage at the Pulse nightclub. Nemo, whose full name has not been released, told FBI agents Mateen frequently used him as a cover to visit women he’d met through dating websites. Prosecutors argue Mateen’s wife knew of her husband’s plans and charged her with obstruction of justice, which she denies.

‘Icky brown’ water is troubling Palm Beach County tourism officials.

Icky brown waters off Palm Beach County concern tourism leaders” via Kim Miller of the Palm Beach Post — Officials from the South Florida Water Management District and county agree the icky looking stew is the result of stormwater runoff from record rainfall and canal discharges necessary to keep communities from flooding. But beachgoers are dismayed, and tourism leaders are concerned, so much so that the Palm Beach County’s Tourist Development Council agreed last week to send a letter to Gov. Scott and legislative leaders about the water. County Mayor Paulette Burdick, who is chairwoman of the council, said she wants it known that water concerns aren’t just a Treasure Coast issue. Lawmakers were focused during the 2017 Session on finding a solution to the algae that clogs the St. Lucie estuary and can show up on Martin County beaches when too much Lake Okeechobee water is released.


Personnel note: Robert Hawken changing roles at FCCI“Hawk” Hawken, the director of legislative affairs for FCCI Insurance Group for the past 30 years, will transition to the lead role of a retained consultant and lobbyist for the company, according to a Thursday news release. The change is effective next May 1. For three decades, Hawk “has been an extraordinary ambassador, always making progress to benefit the original vision of FCCI,” the release said. Hawken will continue to be the face and voice of FCCI government affairs and strive to ensure all of our initiatives are even more successful. In his on-going leadership role, Hawken will continue to maintain political operations out of Tallahassee: “He’ll still be that same ‘go-to person’ advancing our most important causes now and into the future,” said Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Tom Koval.

Florida’s Turnpike chief joins New Jersey governor’s transition team” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — The executive director of Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise, Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, is advising the newly-elected Democratic governor of New Jersey on transportation issues. Gutierrez-Scaccetti is listed among 145 transition team members for Gov.-elect Phil Murphy, who was elected last week to succeed Republican Gov. Chris Christie. Before Gutierrez-Scaccetti came to Florida six years ago, she was executive director of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. She was hired in Florida by former transportation secretary Ananth Prasad.

Florida Turnpike Enterprise Executive Director Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti.

Appointed: Chief Melanie Bevan to the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking; state Rep. Larry Metz to Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame Council.

Spotted: ExcelinEd CEO Patricia Levesque was featured last week on the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s Flypaper blog, talking about parents’ “biggest testing bugaboos.”

New and renewed lobbying registrations

Sergio Abreu: TECO Energy

Barney Bishop III, Barney Bishop Consulting: Financial Casualty & Surety

Kimberly Broom: Florida Health Care Association

Kenneth Granger, Capital City Consulting: Uber Operations

Ron Greenstein: Emerald Coast Spa Academy

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

Adiba Ighodaro: Actis Advisers

Chris Spencer, GrayRobinson: City of St. Cloud

Michelle Strenth, Orlando Health: West Orange Health Care District dba Health Central

Screven Watson, Screven Watson & Associates: Florida Beer Wholesalers Association

Tonjua Williams: St. Petersburg College

More time for Prudential Productivity Awards nominations — Florida TaxWatch said Monday the deadline to send in nominations for the Prudential Productivity Awards is extended to Dec. 31. In the wake of Hurricane Irma, the nonprofit watchdog said it “wanted to allow ample time for state employees to send in their nominations.” The awards program publicly recognizes and rewards state employees and work units whose work significantly and measurably increases productivity and promotes innovation to improve the delivery of state services and save money for Florida taxpayers and businesses. Submit your nominations here.

What Stephanie Grutman is reading – “Sage owners opening Italian steakhouse restaurant in Ballard Building” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat – Sage restaurant, known for gourmet meals prepared with locally produced ingredients, is trying something new in what may become an iconic downtown corner … Business partners Terry White, the chef, and sommelier Craig Richardson will debut a high-end, Italian steakhouse on the ground floor of the nearly complete glassed, six-story building on Park Avenue and South Monroe Street owned by Brian Ballard … For months, the super lobbyist and close associate to President Donald Trumpvetted high-end national steakhouse chains, some of which made the short list. In the end, he wanted a hometown treasure … Sage restaurateurs haven’t decided on a name but hope to open sometime in late summer or early fall 2018. They’re ironing out design plans for the 7,000-square-foot, indoor-outdoor downtown location with Tallahassee-based Architects Lewis + Whitlo.

— ALOE —

Elon Musk: The architect of tomorrow” via Neil Strauss of Rolling Stone — What he has done is something that very few living people can claim: Painstakingly bulldozed, with no experience whatsoever, into two fields with ridiculously high barriers to entry — car manufacturing (Tesla) and rocketry (SpaceX) — and created the best products in those industries, as measured by just about any meaningful metric you can think of. In the process, he’s managed to sell the world on his capability to achieve objectives so lofty that from the mouth of anyone else, they’d be called fantasies. It is easy to confuse who someone is with what they do, and thus turn them into a caricature who fits neatly into a storybook view of the world. Our culture always needs villains and heroes, fools and geniuses, scapegoats and role models. However, despite opinions to the contrary, Elon Musk is not a robot sent from the future to save humanity. Nor is he a Silicon Valley savant whose emotional affect has been replaced with supercomputer-like intelligence. Over the course of nine months of reporting, watching Musk do everything from strategize Mars landings with his rocket-engineering team to plan the next breakthroughs with his artificial intelligence experts, I learned he is someone far, far different from what his myth and reputation suggest.

Elon Musk: Architect of the future?

Theme park expo offers preview of what’s new for 2018” via Terrance Harris of the Associated Press – This year’s theme park expo in Orlando, Florida, features the latest  trends in rides and the next big food items, which could be coming to an amusement park near you as early as next summer. The expo runs from is sponsored by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) … some of the exciting things to look forward to in 2018 and beyond are … the Time Traveler ride, which is debuting next summer at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. The ride drops you at a 90-degree vertical angle right out of the gate and it only becomes more intense from there … Skywarp, a 30-foot tall, 290-foot long coaster features two cars speeding around each other on double loops set to debut at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in summer 2018 … Infinity Falls, coming to SeaWorld Orlando next summer, is a rafting ride that begins with an elevator lift that launches eight passengers in a river and eventually sends them to a 40-feet drop … Aquaticar, currently in the concept phase, allows passengers to steer their way through a marine life experience at 130 feet per minute while submerged underwater with an oxygen-filled canopy covering their heads … A New Jersey-based company is shopping a pizza in a cone concept where pizza sauce, cheese and choice of toppings are stuffed into a cone-shaped crust and then baked.

Happy birthday to Johnson & Blanton’s Darrick McGhee, one of the best men in The Process, wait, scratch that … he’s one of the best men period.

Sixty Days for 11.15.17 — A prime-time look at the 2018 Legislative Session

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

The Last 24

A Florida court sided with Gov. Rick Scott that emergency generator rules for elder care facilities can stay in effect while they are in the appeals process.

Meanwhile, South Florida Democrats are aiming to improve nursing homes by encouraging greater use of electronic monitoring devices, also known as granny cams, by patients’ family members.

The state government operations budget would again get about $2 billion for 2018-19, under recommendations from Gov. Scott.

An appeals court ordered a new trial in a Pinellas County case in which tobacco companies were ordered to pay $12 million for the death of a smoker who was diagnosed with lung cancer when he was 42.

And the head Florida’s Department of Children and Families pitched a House committee for more money to hire more child protective investigators, calling them overworked and underappreciated.

Quote of the Day

“I believe if someone is going to be accused, the accuser should have to come forward … I don’t agree much with Bondi. But if somebody is gonna come back 5, 6, 10 years later and say this happened, it can’t be in the shadows. It has to be in the daylight.” — Orlando attorney John Morgan, agreeing with Attorney General Pam Bondi about sexual misconduct accusations against Sen. Jack Latvala.

Bill Day’s Latest

3 Questions

And now the tough work begins.

Sen. Rob Bradley, the Fleming Island Republican who currently chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, took the panel’s reins Wednesday, including moving a bill to replace a Confederate statue representing Florida in the U.S. Capitol with one of educator/activist Mary McLeod Bethune. Reporters caught up with Bradley after that hearing. (Questions and answers are edited for brevity and clarity.)

Q: What are your thoughts on Gov. Scott’s proposed state budget for 2018-19, released this week?

A: The governor’s budget is very promising. His priorities are in line with a lot of the Senate’s priorities, including the environment, as well as higher education. There are some policy disagreements between the Senate and the governor, but his overall financial commitment is something we are very comfortable with.

Q: Do you have any immediate concerns about his workforce development spending proposal?

A: I think it is incumbent on the Legislature to provide sufficient guide rails for taxpayer money that is spent. $85 million is a lot of money. I’ve previously expressed concern there are not enough guide rails. I continue to have those concerns. I am open to discussing that pot of money. We’re all open to discussion.

Q: The governor uses the ‘required local effort money for education, and the Senate has generally been in favor of that, but the House considers that a tax increase.

A: It’s not a tax increase; it’s just simply not. If I were to buy a lawnmower for $200 and then later buy the same lawnmower as a present for my brother for $230, there’ll be more tax owed on the $230 purchase. That’s not a tax increase. That’s the same tax rate being applied to a purchase that is a little higher than it used to be.

Lobby Up

Powerhouse firm Southern Strategy Group keeps bringing the heat with a bevy of new Florida signings:

Kevin Marino Cabrera, Edgar Castro and Nelson Diaz registered to lobby for Brightgray Solutions. “We are software developers dedicated to creating disaster preparation and evacuation technology. WatchPoint AtRisk Registry is our premier solution for at-risk patients, the medical care community, and emergency professionals,” its website says.

Mercer Fearington Jr. and Clark Smith registered to lobby for AZ Ocala Ranch, an Arizona developer that wants to build an “active adult community” in Marion County, and Gulfstream Natural Gas System.

— Fearington, Smith and David Browning registered to lobby for MMI Development, a Casselberry concern specializing in “large-scale projects.”

And the firm signed the cities of Palm Coast and Coral Gables.

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

The Senate Agriculture Committee will discuss the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, which helps protect rural land from development. That’s at 8:30 a.m., 301 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.

The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security Committee will take up a bill (SB 326) to help military veterans and their families get mental-health and substance-abuse services. That’s at 8:30 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.

The House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee will receive briefings on issues related to human trafficking at 9 a.m., 12 House Office Building, the Capitol.

The House Oversight, Transparency and Administration Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 359), to bar state agencies from investing money in companies that do business with the Maduro regime in Venezuela. That’s at 9 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building, the Capitol.

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

The House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness will take up a series of issues, including issues related to debris removal and agriculture. It’s at noon, 404 House Office Building, the Capitol.

The South Florida Water Management District will hold one in a series of meetings about a reservoir project in the Everglades Agricultural Area. The project, south of Lake Okeechobee, is a priority of Senate President Joe Negron. That’s at 6 p.m., district headquarters, 3301 Gun Club Road, West Palm Beach.

The Commissioner of Education’s African-American History Task Force convenes for its annual meeting, 6 p.m., Rosen Shingle Creek, 9939 Universal Blvd., Orlando.

interim Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister

Chad Chronister has $540K on hand for bid for full term as Hillsborough Sheriff

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister announced Oct. 2 he would run for election in 2018, and his first campaign finance report shows more than $300,000 in contributions.

The newly filed report shows $305,890 raised and $10,716 spent through his first 30 days on the trail, leaving him with $295,174 on hand.

Chronister, a Republican, has been with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office since 1992 and was a colonel before the retirement of longtime lawman David Gee earlier this year, which landed him the job as interim sheriff. He filed for election a day after he was sworn in.

Shortly after filing, he announced a fundraiser featuring a couple hundred names on the host committee, including dozens of Tampa Bay area politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Among his donors last month were mega-lobbyist Michael Corcoran, the GrayRobinson law-lobby firm, Brandon attorney Clifton Curry, and multiple checks from former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo and his businesses.

Among Chronister’s expenditures was an $7,964 payment to the Italian Club in Ybor City, where his fundraiser was hosted, with the remaining expenditures paying for toward checks from The Bank of Tampa and credit card fees through fundraising platform Anedot.

A committee backing Chronister, Law Enforcement For Responsible Government, has also been piling on cash. Through Oct. 31 it had raised $246,850 and had nearly all of that money on hand.

The DeBartolo family provided a big boost when the committee started in August, and in October Edward DeBartolo was the top donor after putting in another $20,000.

So far, he is the only Republican running for sheriff. Other candidates include Democrat Gary Pruitt, a retired Tampa Police Department corporal who now works in private security, and no-party candidate Juan Rivera, a retired Central Intelligence Agency officer.

Pruitt filed for the race last week, so has not yet posted a campaign finance report. Rivera filed in June and had raised $722 through the end of August.

Steve Andrews’ dismissive ‘girls’ quip isn’t helping Jack Latvala’s case

Steve Andrews could be just a little more helpful.

Andrews, the Tallahassee-based defense attorney, is representing Jack Latvala against allegations of sexual harassment.

Recently, he claimed a desire to work with the Florida Senate’s lead investigator, attorney Gail Holtzman of Tampa, to prevent any potential conflicts of interest in Latvala’s case.

“We want to work out the procedural process with her without getting the courts involved,” Andrews told Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics this week.

So far, so good.

“I think this girl will do a good job and she will be remembered,” Andrews added.

This “girl?”

While you may think it was a compliment, Steve, “girl” may not the best choice of words, particularly when you are defending a powerful state Senator accused of several counts of sexual harassment – with a workplace environment Latvala continues to insist he was not aware he was creating.

And that may be the problem.

Using dismissive language like “this girl” about a legal colleague – especially one that can make Latvala’s life a degree more difficult — is exactly what most women point to when they talk of an uncomfortable, sexually-charged workplace. It’s not only demeaning, but insensitive.

You’re not helping things, Steve. A word of advice; keep it professional.

Ridesharing legislation is bringing us to the future, so why are airports still stuck in the past?

There’s nothing more aggravating than seeing the Legislature finally do the right thing, only to see local authorities attempt to undermine that progress. Take, for instance, the maddening example of Florida airports and the extra fees they tack on when travelers try to leave the airport property.

Since the Legislature passed uniform regulations for ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber, you might think the state’s airports would have consistent fees for tourists who want to get a ride to their destinations — but you’d be wrong.

I suppose I can understand different airports across the state charging different fees – within reason. But an egregious exception is Orlando’s airport, where arriving travelers who want to use Lyft or Uber to get to their final destination see a charge – some would call it a tax – of $5.80 added onto the fare for each ride.

Not only is this $5.80 fee among one of the highest charged by any airport in the country, it’s also a huge leap above the $3.30 fee for travelers who choose to take a taxi. The $2.50 difference is tangible evidence of the leadership at the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority attempting to pick winners and losers in the transportation space.

This needs to stop.

Orlando is a major tourist attraction for the state. The airport alone receives 40+ million passengers every year and is one of the busiest airports in the nation – both with tourists and local residents. Coupled with the ongoing crisis in Puerto Rico, which has brought a significant influx of refugees to Central Florida, and it becomes even clearer that we need to ensure a reasonable and consistent level of fees for passengers regardless of which mode of transportation they choose.

Whether this substantial price difference is a result of Mears Transportation’s powerful influence in Central Florida, or just some airport execs trying to maximize profits on the backs of an emerging transportation option, remains to be seen. They claim it has to do with a subtle difference between a pre-arranged ride and one that is requested on the spot, but consumers don’t see that difference. Neither do I – sounds like a distinction without a difference. People just want to get where they need to go in the quickest, safest and cheapest way.

And airports don’t have a monopoly on outrageous fees and outdated rules. A story in WESH News last week shined a light on the excessive fees being charged to ridesharing drivers who go to pick up passengers at Port Canaveral. From the story, it seems like both ridesharing and taxicab drivers are unified in their opposition to costly rules that make it difficult and pricey for them to pick up passengers who arrive in the port after a cruise.

The fact is that lawmakers like Sen. Jeff Brandes, Rep. Chris Sprowls, and others worked hard – many for several years – to pass ridesharing legislation that gave these innovative companies the ability to operate across the entire state. While local governments are no longer able to charge these companies fees, airports and ports were specifically not preempted by the legislation that passed last year.

Regardless, in a time when lawmakers are carefully making sure that no company or industry gets a government-created handout or advantage, expect this issue to be something that draws attention over the coming months.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 11.15.17

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

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

Wasn’t yesterday nice?

Why was it so nice? Because for the first time in nearly three weeks, there wasn’t a new report about a lawmaker having an affair … or a lawmaker putting his hands where they didn’t belong … or a lawmaker finding a surveillance camera where it didn’t belong. Etc., etc.

Yes, there are some serious issues related to sexual harassment still in front of the Florida Legislature but yesterday was a much needed breath of fresh air. Committees met. Bill died. Fundraisers were held. Money was raised. Candidates preened. Lobbyists lobbied. Etc., etc.

Other than this blog post, nothing was written about Jack Latvala or Steve Andrews or Lizbeth Benacquisto. Marc Caputo did not publish a story. There were no crazy anonymous tweets. Bloggers blogged. Reporters reported. Editors edited. Etc., etc.

Yesterday was a perfect reminder to everyone working in the legislative process of how nice it would be to return to the (boring) days of Richard Corcoran running circles around the Florida Senate.

Programming note to SUNBURN readers in The Process: As Thanksgiving approaches, let us know what you’re thankful for. We will publish a selection of responses next week before the holiday.


@AODespair (David Simon): Let he among us who has not been banned from a shopping mall for harassing young girls throw the first coffee-maker.

@FrancesRobles: Dear Congress: Please stop mispronouncing the governor of Puerto Rico’s name.

@CarlosCurbelo: Regrettable that some @HispanicCaucus members are using my meeting with @RepLujanGrisham as an excuse to exclude me. At that meeting she stated that some Members had evidence that I was anti-Hispanic (crazy right?)… I responded explaining I am proud of my roots & sharing that I exclusively speak Spanish to my daughters. Somehow she was offended by this though no offense was intended. Later she was appalled at my feeling discriminated against… Dramatizing what happened at that meeting is a dishonest ploy to deflect attention from the fundamental question: Is the @HispanicCaucus open to all Members of Hispanic descent in Congress or is it only for certain Hispanics?

@RepTedYoho: Tonight, I voted to reform the National Flood Insurance Program. No longer can we allow this federal program to drain taxpayer dollars with no end in sight.

@Fineout: In his 1st year @FLGovScott recommended a $65.9 billion budget. In his final year Scott is asking legislators to approve a $87.4 billion budget

— @MDixon55: Current state budget is just over $82 billion. So, needless to say, this plan likely has something for everyone. For the holiday season, @FLGovScott unveils the Christmas Tree Budget

@MikeVasilinda: Strange to be in the middle of Jack Latvala and the Senate Leadership over an interview.

@DannyBurgess: Always look forward to @ #USFDATC! Keep up the great work! #GoBulls: Always look forward to @ #USFDATC! Keep up the great work! #GoBulls

— @FLGovScott: Spoke to Mayor @BobBuckhorn this afternoon. Florida continues to stand ready to offer any and all resources to help protect families in Tampa.

@CarlosGSmith: We did it! Together with patients, parents, + constituents, we convinced @OrangeCoFL Commissioners to UNANIMOUSLY support allowing medical cannabis dispensaries! @Mayor_Jacobs + BCC should be applauded!!! Full press statement!

— @JoeReedy: First time since 1959 #FSU and #UF have played in November and BOTH have had a losing record. (FSU was 3-5, UF 3-4-1)

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Budget roll-out: Gov. Scott visited Northern Tool+Equipment, an equipment supplier in Jacksonville, to debut his “Securing Florida’s Future” budget. Scott, facing his final year in office, harked back to his first year as governor when Florida still was recovering from the recession. In remarks, the former for-profit hospital chain executive laid claim to “turning around Florida’s economy.”

Click on the image below to watch footage from the event:

Gov. Scott gives up on one of his big promises” via Gary Fineout for his blog, The Fine Print – When he first ran for governor, Scott constantly touted his “7-7-7” plan that he said would lead to nearly 700,000 jobs if the plan’s seven steps were followed over seven years … A central plank of this plan to help the state’s economy was the elimination of Florida’s corporate income tax. Scott promised to completely get rid of it by 2018, starting with a $458 million reduction in year 1 and a $1 billion cut in year 2. Scott has tried to include further tweaks to the corporate income tax in his annual spending plans, but he has been unable to make any substantial progress on his initial pledge. And this year – ahead of a likely campaign for U.S. Senate – the governor didn’t even try. He recently rolled out a modest tax and fee-cutting package that includes tax holidays and a rolling back of driver’s license fees. His package was entirely targeted to residents and individuals and included no tax cuts for businesses … When pressed about it, Scott said recently that he still would like to cut the corporate income tax, but he did not express any disappointment that he was unable to achieve what once was a top goal.


Florida Democratic Party: “Governor Scott’s budgets have always reflected the same self-serving politics that have defined his career: slashing investment in our public schools, zeroing out funding for key environmental programs and cutting funding for veterans, healthcare and public safety – while giving huge handouts to his well-off and well-connected donors and friends. Today’s budget is more of the same – and more importantly, under Scott, Florida has cut investment in growth, leaving middle-class families with fewer well-paying jobs and fewer economic opportunities. At every turn, Scott is proving he’s only ever looking out for himself, and he can’t run away from seven years of budgets that have left hardworking Floridians worse off than when he took office.”

Adam Putnam: “I thank Governor Scott for his commitment to Florida’s first responders and for proposing pay raises for our department’s wildland firefighters and law enforcement officers. These proposed raises will help us recruit and retain the best law enforcement officers and wildland firefighters to keep Floridians and visitors safe.”

Joe Negron: “Governor Scott and I share many budget priorities, and I look forward to working with him this session. In particular, I appreciate Governor Scott’s leadership in ensuring that we make the best use of both state and federal tax dollars as we work to repair the Herbert Hoover Dike and build additional southern storage through the implementation of Senate Bill 10. These are important issues in my own district, as well as communities across South Florida, and I am grateful for the Governor’s continued focus on eliminating harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee. I am also pleased to see the Governor include funding to keep the Bright Futures Academic Scholarship funded at 100 percent of tuition and fees. In addition to the continued expansion of Bright Futures for our Academic Scholars, through Senate Bill 4 the Senate is also prioritizing expanding the Bright Futures Medallion Scholarship to cover 75 percent of tuition and fees as one component of comprehensive higher education legislation that makes the expansion of both the Academic and Medallion levels of Bright Futures permanent for the nearly 100,000 students who have earned this important scholarship.”

Richard Corcoran: “We appreciate the Governor’s recommendations on the budget and welcome working with him to do what is right for Florida taxpayers. We are confident that together with the Governor and Senate we can produce a budget that cuts taxes, imposes accountability and transparency and ensures the future fiscal health of the state.”

Janet Cruz: “Unfortunately for Floridians, every year can’t be an election year for Governor Scott. This year’s budget proposal from the Governor just continues his me-first attitude when it comes to running our state. When he was first elected, we got Tea Party-inspired budgets that he followed through on implementing that slashed billions from public education, gutted our environmental protections, and decimated our state workforce. Now that he’s apparently a candidate again, but in a different political climate, we get a proposal that seeks to hide all the harm he has already caused. There’s only one person politician Rick Scott is looking out for and it’s not the everyday Floridian.”

Andrew Gillum: “As Governor Scott closes out his second term and prepares to run for Senate, he’s desperately trying to cover up seven years of failed policies. No 11th hour budget proposal can cover up the facts that nearly half of our state’s households report struggling to make ends meet and many of our rural counties have lost jobs since 2007. Budgets reflect our values, and for seven years we’ve seen just what the Governor’s values are: cuts on top of cuts to programs that are critical for working families. As Governor, I’m going to put working families first from Day One with higher wages, paying teachers what they are worth, and expanding access to affordable health care.”

Gwen Graham: “Rick Scott can try to run from his record of education cuts, but the numbers don’t lie. In his first year as governor, Scott cut more than $1 billion from Florida’s schools and we still haven’t recovered from those massive cuts. Adjusted for inflation, per-student funding would still be less under Rick Scott’s new budget than it was when he took office. Budgets, whether they are made around a family’s kitchen table or in the Governor’s Office are a statement of priorities. As governor, I will prioritize education and work to restore our promise to public schools.”

Affordable housing crisis? Governor’s budget diverts $92 million elsewhere.” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – In the last budget proposal of his term, the governor wants to sweep money from the affordable housing trust funds and use $92 million of it for other priorities. If the Legislature agrees, it will be the 17th time since 1992 that millions of dollars intended to lower the cost of housing in Florida will be swept into the general revenue account to fund pet projects, other spending priorities and tax breaks. The governor’s budget includes $230.3 million for housing programs — the most he has proposed since he was elected in 2010. That includes $20 million steered to workforce housing in the Florida Keys, $96.3 million to pay for projects funded by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation and $34 million for the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program, which works with local governments.

Budget takes it easier on hospitals” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida –Scott‘s proposed $87.4 billion spending plan does not recommend replacing $50 million in state hospital funding that expires June 30 when the current fiscal year ends. Because the funding was matched with federal Medicaid dollars the total reduction hospitals face is $130 million … Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida Executive Vice President Lindy Kennedy said “it is a relief” to see that Scott didn’t recommend another steep round of cuts to Medicaid spending. “Currently, hospitals on average lose 40 cents on every dollar of care provided to patients enrolled in Medicaid,” Kennedy said in the statement. But Kennedy said her association will ask the Legislature to plug the potential hole. “To think Florida hospitals can continue to withstand these deep cuts without any workforce consequences or impact on services is shortsighted and wishful thinking,” she said. Scott’s budget also would approve upward of $1.5 billion in spending authority for the Low Income Pool program, which helps provide care for low-income and uninsured patients.

Blackjack cash bolsters state budget” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Gov. Scott built gambling money from the Seminole Tribe of Florida into his proposed $85 billion state budget for 2018-19. The Tribe and the state this summer settled a lawsuit over its ability to exclusively offer “banked card games” such as blackjack. Since then, “the payments associated with banked card games that the state has held in reserve ($233.8 million) have been released into General Revenue,” according to the governor’s budget website.


Gun bills could get jammed again in Senate” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida – Senate Judiciary Chairman Greg Steube said “at this time” he doesn’t plan to file two gun bills that have been among the more-controversial issues in recent sessions. One of those proposals would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry guns on university and college campuses. The other proposal would allow license-holders to openly carry handguns. Steube, a prominent gun-rights supporter, made the comments after his committee postponed two other firearm-related measures. One of the postponed measures (SB 274) would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry guns at private schools that are on the same property as religious institutions. Other than law-enforcement officers, people are now barred from carrying guns at schools. The second postponed bill (SB 148) would reduce penalties for people who inadvertently allow legally carried guns to be openly displayed.

Bill to tighten all aboard Florida rules gets approval – but so does train” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – A bill that would set tougher rules and safety requirements on the All Aboard Florida Brightline passenger rail train being developed along the East Coast got approval from the Florida Senate Transportation Committee … Most of them sounded like they like the train, or think it is inevitable, or needed for Florida’s future transportation. Still, the committee voted unanimously to support Senate Bill 572, which would require All Aboard Florida and the track owners, the Florida East Coast Railway, to adhere to state inspections, upgrade and maintain crossings, install security fencing and other restrictions that the railroads argue are covered by, and pre-empted by, federal law. The votes almost all came with assurances that the bill needs more discussion and more consideration, and that should happen down the line. Its next stops are at the Community Affairs and Appropriations committees.

The House media team is at it again, with a new clip on CRAs. Here’s the intro: “Ever heard of Community Redevelopment Agencies? Chances are you haven’t, but chances are you’re paying for one. Community Redevelopment Agencies, or CRAs, were meant to clean up slums and blighted neighborhoods. Instead they became another vehicle for local governments to take your money and spend it on their pet projects. That’s why your Florida House is is introducing legislation to bring accountability and transparency to CRAs in Florida.”

House starts moving again on ‘direct primary care’” via the News Service of Florida – A House health care panel approved a bill backing “direct primary care” contracts that would allow physicians to bill patients and collect payments in advance of providing care without having to obtain an insurance license. The proposal (HB 37), sponsored by Rep. Danny Burgess is being fast-tracked by House leaders. The House Health & Human Services Committee was the sole stop for the measure, which is now available to go to the House floor after the 2018 session starts in January. The bill would amend the insurance code to define direct primary-care contracts and allow physicians to enter the contracts with patients, patients’ guardians and businesses. The contracts typically would cover routine care and would cut out the role of insurers. The bill defines direct primary care and would make clear that the contracts could be canceled by the parties with 30 days’ notice.

House pressing on with workers’ comp reform” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – A ‘clean’ workers’ compensation bill is headed to the House floor after the Commerce Committee rejected a series of amendments pitched as worker-friendly Tuesday. The bill cleared the panel on a vote of 18-8. It closely follows legislation the full House approved during the spring Legislative Session, in that it encourages injured workers and carriers — and their attorneys — to attempt to resolve disputes amicably. But workers’ comp insurance premiums have fallen sharply since the spring’s panic over last year’s 14.5 percent increase in rates. The Office of Insurance Regulation approved a decrease of 9.5 percent just last week.

House AOB package clears committee despite some qualms” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – House assignment of benefits (AOB) legislation cleared its sole committee Tuesday and appears headed to the floor, despite reservations. Judiciary Committee members also expressed skepticism about insurers pressing policyholders to accept their preferred vendors before approving the bill (PCB JDC 18-01) on a 13-5 vote … Rep. Erin Grall … complained that it’s not clear the legislation would allow policyholders and legitimate repair contractors to secure legal representation against low-ball claims offers by insurance companies — or would even solve the problems it seeks to address. “The bad actors will be able to do the math in order to get paid at the end of the day. The insurance companies will be able to figure out the math to either pay claims or not pay claims,” she said.

Tweet, tweet:

Assignment editors – Right on Crime, joined by a coalition of conservative public policy organizations, including state Sens. Randolph Bracy and Jeff Brandes, will host a news conference at 12:15 p.m., in front of the Florida Senate Chamber on the Fourth Floor Rotunda of the Capitol. The group will address criminal justice reform, specifically the need to reform the state’s mandatory minimum sentencing and raise the property theft threshold.

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Assignment editors – Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam will take part in the Florida Association of Counties Legislative Conference, which will focus on hurricane preparation and response. Conference begins 9 a.m., remarks begin at 9:15 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota, Sarasota Ballroom, 1000 Boulevard of the Arts in Sarasota.

Gwen Graham goes nuclear over recovery fees, fracking fees” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The former congresswoman went nuclear denouncing the 2006 law that allowed Florida investor-owned utility companies to charge advance fees for nuclear power plants that were never built, something that the Florida Public Service Commission has allowed, to the tune of more than $3 million in fees, she said. She charged that the commission is out of control. “Floridians should not be forced to pay for nuclear power plants that are never built or for fracking exploration,” Graham stated in a news release. “For 20 years, the Republican politicians in Tallahassee have turned a blind eye to the Public Service Commission and utility companies as they’ve taxed seniors, small-business owners and families. That ends when I’m elected governor.”

Frank White makes financial splash in Cabinet race” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida –Bolstered by $1.5 million of his own money, state Rep. White in less than a month has made it a three-way race – in terms of money – among the Republicans seeking to replace Attorney General Pam Bondi next year. White posted $1.65 million in contributions in October, with $1.5 million of that coming from the candidate himself. White had $1.73 million on hand in his campaign account to begin November in a Republican primary contest that also includes Rep. Jay Fant of Jacksonville and Ashley Moody, a former Hillsborough County circuit judge. Besides his personal contributions, White picked up $51,000 from the Sansing family and their auto dealerships via 17 separate $3,000 contributions. The influx of cash put White’s fundraising total ahead of the $1.2 million collected the past five months by Moody for her campaign account and the political committee Friends of Ashley Moody.

Jimmy Patrons takes commanding fundraising lead in CFO race” via Florida Politics – Patronis added another $431,100 to his political committee last month surpassing his only major competitor, Margate Democrat Jeremy Ring, in cash on hand. Treasure Florida’s October numbers bring the committee to $653,850 raised since Patronis opened the account in August. Spending last month came in at just $2,306, leaving the committee with $642,639 on hand at the end of the month. That figure nearly doubles Ring’s on-hand total through six months in the race.

Lauren Baer raises big cash in October – but not from Florida donors” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Baer, a longtime Democratic activist, may not be a local face, but she’s got access to money, is willing to uproot her life to a new district and run for office. Her out-of-state connections haven’t dissipated since she stepped foot in Florida either – most of her contributions, according to recent data, are from out-of-state donors. Since announcing her candidacy for Florida’s 18th Congressional District in early October, Baer has turned heads. She has deep roots in the Democratic Party, with extensive connections among some of the country’s top Dems in recent years. Like any political campaign, money is likely to be a huge factor in the race – and Baer’s friends in New York have been quick to pitch in for her Florida-based bid. Last month, federal election reports found the new candidate raised $255,000 during October, with a significant chunk of that campaign cash coming from outside of Florida state lines.

Top Republican lawmakers scored big in October fundraising reports” via Florida Politics – Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson IS leading the pack with $645,000 raised. The Trilby Republican brought in 75 contributions through Jobs for Florida, including nine contributions of $25,000 or more. Topping the donor roll was the political arm of the Florida Manufactured Housing Association, which gave checks combining $67,500, followed by health insurer Florida Blue at $35,000. Following Simpson was Republican Rep. Chris Sprowls, who is set to become speaker in 2021. He raised $190,000 for his political committee, Floridians for Economic Freedom. Senate President-Designate Bill Galvano and House Speaker Designate Jose Oliva, both set to take command after the 2018 elections, also showed six-figure hauls for their political committees last month.

Is James Buchanan riding his father’s coattails? His logo sure is” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Being the son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan gives James Buchanan stronger name recognition as he seeks the District 72 state House seat covering much of northern Sarasota County. But it also opens Buchanan to criticism that he hasn’t earned the seat and is simply riding his father’s coattails. Buchanan’s first mailer in the District 72 race hints at the pros and cons of having a congressman father. Buchanan doesn’t mention his dad in the mailer, avoiding directly raising the legacy issue and the baggage that it brings. But he subtly reminds voters of his dad by mimicking his branding. James Buchanan employs the same logo style in his first mailer, including a very similar font. The last name “Buchanan” also is emphasized in larger type with “James” in smaller type above. And there’s a star over the “h” in Buchanan with wavy lines coming out of it. It’s a balancing act.

All about the Benjamins: Progressives take back endorsement of Margaret Good” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida – Florida Progressives are rescinding their endorsement of Good … Who is facing Democrat Ruta Jouniari in a special election primary Dec. 5. The winner of the match-up will face Republican James Buchanan — the son of Congressman Vern Buchanan — in a Feb. 13 special election. The candidates are vying to replace former Rep. Alex Miller, R-Sarasota, who resigned from the HD 72 seat earlier this year, citing family and business reasons. Good, who’s whopping Jouniari in the fundraising department, has nailed down a number of endorsements from prominent Dems. But the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida took back their support because of Good’s stand on the minimum wage: “Margaret Good supports much of DPCF’s platform, however, we misread and then misrepresented her position of the $15 minimum wage. Good’s campaign contacted us to clarify that she favors an incremental wage increase, but not to the $15 level.”

Javier Fernandez files for Daisy Baez’s House seat” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – Fernandez, a 42-year-old South Miami attorney, filed his candidacy to represent House District 114, and replace Baez. “I’m excited for this opportunity to bring much-needed change to Tallahassee, where priorities have become badly out of step with the voters,” said Fernandez, a first-time candidate.


Ruta Jouniari missteps show aimless, sure-to-lose campaign in HD 72

Jouniari is the second Democrat seeking the House District 72 seat vacated when Sarasota Republican Alex Miller abruptly resigned … But with a series of sloppy, rookie mistakes, it is becoming increasingly clear that Jouniari, a community activist, may not be ready to serve, suggesting she has little-to-no understanding of the process.

– Campaign materials she features prominently — shirts and literature, among others — have no corresponding financial records of expenditures listed either in her political committee or campaign account.

– On Nov. 2, Jouniari sent an email (poorly designed, at least from a visual standpoint) that expressly advocates her campaign — titled “Ruta Jouniari Democrat for House District 72” — making it a political advertisement as defined in Florida law, which requires all political advertisements paid for by a candidate to include one of the disclaimers – the “paid for by X” part. The email has no disclaimers.

– Further belying a political naiveté, Jouniari is quick to blast “establishment” support for fellow Democrat Margaret Good, a first-time candidate not tied to any major interest, party or otherwise.

All this goes to create a convincing portrayal: Ruta simply does not have her s**t together for winning the HD 72 race.


Right-leaning watchdog now wants judicial emails after ‘hot mic’ ” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A conservative watchdog says it’s filed a public records request for emails from Justice Barbara Pariente and Chief Justice Jorge Labarga after what it calls “the justices’ overt political bias.” The D.C.-based Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) late Monday released a copy of its request to the Florida Supreme Court. It asks for copies of emails to or from Pariente and Labarga “that contain the phrases ‘Judicial Nominating Commission’ or ‘JNC,’ or any names” of members of the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission. The two jurists had been caught on a ‘hot mic’ immediately after a Nov. 1 oral argument in a case over Gov. Rick Scott‘s judicial appointment power.

Judge OKs release of abuse reports to Tampa Bay Times” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A Tallahassee judge has agreed to the release of Department of Children and Families (DCF) records on home health care abuses to the Tampa Bay Times. Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers last week OK’d an agreement between the newspaper and the department that would allow Times investigative reporter Kathleen McGrory access to certain redacted investigative records … The newspaper has said it aims to publish a “data-driven … examination of Florida’s methods of investigating and preventing maltreatment of the Florida families who rely on in-home health care providers.” It does not seek the identities of victims of such abuse. Gievers’ order says “the number of (verified) allegations of abuse, neglect and exploitation … are necessarily matters of great public concern. DCF’s methods of investigating and dealing with verified maltreatment … warrant the significant scrutiny the Times and Ms. McGrory propose to conduct.”

Audit: No violations but ‘appearance of conflict’ in city contracts” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat – A special audit by city of Tallahassee Auditor Bert Fletcher into the awarding of nearly $450,000 in contracts to a firm that employs Commissioner Nancy Miller‘s brother-in-law found the appearance of a conflict of interest but no wrongdoing. The audit found that the awarding of work to DPB & Associates for city engineering services did not result in violations of state statutes or city policies. It also found no evidence that Miller’s husband, John Buss, the assistant general manager of Underground Utilities and Public Infrastructure, tried to secure a special benefit for his brother Rich Buss, who was part owner and managing engineer for DPB & Associates. “However, the approval of the award of work to DPB & Associates by (Buss) can be perceived as a conflict of interest by a reasonable person, due to the existing sibling relationship,” the audit says. “In order to preserve and encourage the public’s trust in the city, measures should be taken to avoid even the appearance of such conflicts in the future.”

FDOT could offer $6M in grants for driverless tech research” via Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal – Sen. Jeff Brandes filed legislation to create an incentive program to increase autonomous, connected and electric vehicle access and readiness throughout the state. The Florida Smart City Challenge Grant Program would provide three awards up to $6 million each to cities developing innovative mobility solutions to local transportation challenges. “Transportation technology is evolving at an astonishing pace. In order for Florida to keep up, we must create a prototype culture within our communities,” Brandes said. “The Smart City Challenge encourages cities to embrace the future by implementing technology solutions to some of our most pressing mobility challenges. Cities must continue to be laboratories of innovation, and this program will serve as a catalyst for bold solutions.”

Borinquen bound: Gov. Scott on Tuesday deployed 50 Florida Highway Patrol members to Puerto Rico in response to an emergency request from the Puerto Rico Police Department.


Keyna Cory: What have you recycled today?” via Florida Politics – Florida Recycling Partnership invites all Floridians to join us when we host Florida Recycles Day Wednesday, Nov. 15, beginning at 9 a.m. at the Florida Capitol – Plaza Level in celebration of America Recycles Day, a Keep America Beautiful national initiative. Florida has a recycling rate of 56 percent, which is ahead of the national average of 34 percent. Together, we can certainly recycle more and recycle right …  the Florida Recycling Partnership wants to thank you for your efforts to recycle – at home, at work or school, and on the go. Join us in our effort to make our state environmentally and economically healthier by recycling more and recycling right.

Nancy Smith: Will Barbara Pariente’s 2012 campaign speech disqualify her from ruling on Rick Scott’s appointment powers?” via Sunshine State News – In May 2012, during a retention campaign speech, Pariente told a gathering at Temple Emeth Delray Beach that “a vote yes will be a vote to retain me and the other two justices [Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince]. A vote no will give Governor Scott the right to make his appointments, which will result in partisan political appointments.” Pariente’s speech drew an immediate response from anti-judicial activists, but none more outraged than Jack Thompson of Coral Gables. Thompson fired off a letter of complaint to the Judicial Qualifications Commission accusing Pariente of misrepresenting the judicial retention and appointment process. ” … Her attacks on a coequal branch of government make it a narrow argument about herself,” he said. It is that 2012 speech that compelled the government watchdog group Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) to call for Pariente’s disqualification – along with Labarga’s – in the case deciding Scott’s appointment powers.


Personnel note: Katherine San Pedro joins Ballard Partners” via Florida Politics – Ballard Partners has hired San Pedro as its newest partner in the lobbying firm’s Tallahassee and Miami offices, according to a news release … San Pedro “will hone her extensive political, public relations and legislative experience to serve clients’ state government and issue advocacy needs,” the release said. She is joining the firm as its youngest Hispanic female partner.

New and renewed lobbying registrations

Jose Bermudez, Ellyn Bogdanoff, Jose Fuentes, Nicholas Matthews, Karen Skyers, Becker & Poliakoff: Univision Communications

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, WestCare Foundation

Jim Boxold, Capital City Consulting: The City of Venice

Matt Brockelman, Southern Strategy Group: Kinder Morgan

Kimberly Broom: Florida Health Care Association

French Brown IV, Gary Hunter, Hopping Green & Sams: Lakewood Ranch Stewardship District

Michael Corcoran, Jeffrey Johnston, Anita Berry, Matt Blair, Amanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: Jemmstone Group

Kimberly Fernandes, Kelley Kronenberg: Florida Justice Reform Institute

Marty Fiorentino, Joseph Mobley, Mark Pinto, The Fiorentino Group: Five Stars Veterans Center

Jennifer Green, Timothy Parson, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: Scent Evidence K9

Ron Greenstein, Ron Greenstein: Emerald Coast Spa Academy

Will McKinley, Angela Dempsey, Fred Dickinson, Erik Kirk, Sophie Smith, PooleMcKinley: Tribridge Holdings

Jenna Paladino, Paladino Public Affairs: Gulf Coast Canna Meds

David Powell, Hopping Green & Sams: Association of Florida Community Developers, Seaside Community Development

Gary Rutledge, Jonathan Costello, Diana Ferguson, Rutledge Ecenia: Cypress Creek Renewables

Samuel Verghese, Don Yaeger, Jeanette Yaeger, One Eighty Consulting: DCI Group AZ on behalf of Dell Technologies

More time for Prudential Productivity Awards nominations – Florida TaxWatch on Monday said the deadline to send in nominations for the Prudential Productivity Awards has been extended to Dec. 31. In the wake of Hurricane Irma, the nonprofit watchdog said it “wanted to allow ample time for state employees to send in their nominations.” The awards program publicly recognizes and rewards state employees and work units whose work significantly and measurably increases productivity and promotes innovation to improve the delivery of state services and save money for Florida taxpayers and businesses. Submit your nominations here.

— ALOE —

Florida State needs to win out for 36th straight bowl trip” via Joe Reedy of The Associated Press – In a season where not many things have gone right, Florida State (3-6) does catch a break. Its remaining games are against teams that are a combined 9-19. The stretch begins Saturday with Football Championship Subdivision foe Delaware State (2-8), followed by a Nov. 25 trip to Florida (3-6) and the Dec. 2rescheduled game against Louisiana Monroe (4-5). “We know there is a bowl streak and we don’t want to ruin that. It’s in the back of our minds,” center will that said. The Seminoles would need to win four straight to avoid their first losing season since 1976, which was Bobby Bowden‘s first year at the school.

Happy birthday belatedly to Debbie Millner (you should really go read the amazing message her husband, Mike, wrote about her on Facebook). Celebrating today are Wayne Bertsch, Trimmel Gomes, The Chairman Evan Power, Rodney Barreto, and Max Steele.

Ruta Jouniari missteps show aimless, sure-to-lose campaign in HD 72

Ruta Jouniari is the second Democrat seeking the House District 72 seat vacated when Sarasota Republican Alex Miller abruptly resigned after less than a year in office.

But with a series of sloppy, rookie mistakes, it is becoming increasingly clear that Jouniari, a community activist, may not be ready to serve, suggesting she has little-to-no understanding of the process.

These actions show an aimless campaign that cannot win — for instance, her political committee website is currently down — as well as some things that could be considered a violation of state election law.

Journiari’s basic competency comes under question when campaign materials she features prominently — shirts and literature, among others — have no corresponding financial records of expenditures listed either in her political committee or campaign account.

Also, the campaign issued official electioneering communications to voters without the proper legal disclaimer — the “Paid for by X” part — required of all candidates.

On Nov. 2, Jouniari sent an email (poorly designed, at least from a visual standpoint) through the MailChimp distribution service that expressly advocates her campaign — titled “Ruta Jouniari Democrat for House District 72” — making it a political advertisement as defined in Section 106.011(15) of Florida Statutes Section 106.143(1).

Florida law requires all political advertisements paid for by a candidate to include one of the disclaimers listed in Florida Statutes section 106.143(1)(a)1 or 2.

Jouniari’s email does not include either of the approved disclaimers, a clear violation of the state’s campaign law.

Unquestionably, these gaffes are a function of a campaign failed to raise the cash — taking in less than $7,500 to date — necessary to mount a serious campaign against Republican James Buchanan, a Realtor who has boosted his coffers as the son of influential Congressman Vern Buchanan.

Further belying a political naiveté, Jouniari is quick to blast “establishment” support for fellow Democrat Margaret Good, a first-time candidate not tied to any major interest, party or otherwise.

All this goes to create a convincing portrayal: Ruta simply does not have her s**t together for winning the HD 72 race.

Top Republican lawmakers scored big in October fundraising reports

Top Republicans in the House and Senate brought in saw huge committee fundraising gains in October, with Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson leading the pack with $645,000 raised.

Simpson, a  Trilby Republican, is likely to take over as Senate President for 2021-22, brought in 75 contributions through Jobs for Florida, including nine contributions of $25,000 or more.

Topping the donor roll was the political arm of the Florida Manufactured Housing Association, which gave checks combining $67,500, followed by health insurer Florida Blue at $35,000.

Coming in at the $25,000 level were auto company JM Family Enterprises, Florida Crystals, Q Link Wireless, Sunterra Florida, private prison business GEO Group, and the Voice of Florida Business, a political committee tied to the Associated Industry of Florida.

Simpson’s committee also spent $110,000, including $47,670 in payments to Capitol Finance Consulting, a $25,000 contribution to Liberty Florida, and another $20,000 to Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy, chaired by uber political consultant Anthony Pedicini.

Simpson closed out the month about $2.16 million in his committee account.

Following Simpson was Republican Rep. Chris Sprowls, who is set to become speaker in 2021. He raised $190,000 for his political committee, Floridians for Economic Freedom.

The committee’s top donors for the month were Wal-Mart and Florida Blue, which chipped in $20,000 each, followed Windermere attorney Kimberly Russo and RAI Services Company, the parent of company RJ Reynolds Tobacco, both of which gave $15,000.

Another eight donors gave $10,000 apiece, including Publix Super Markets, PepsiCo, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and USAA.

Spending came in at a modest $3,900, leaving Sprowls’ fundraising vehicle with $592,655 to work with heading into November.

Senate President-Designate Bill Galvano and House Speaker Designate Jose Oliva, both set to take command after the 2018 elections, also showed six-figure hauls for their political committees last month.

Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, brought in $121,500 through Innovate Florida, which at the end of the month had $427,552 on hand.

Wal-Mart gave $50,000 of that money in an Oct. 20 contribution, while publicly traded health insurance group Centene Management Company and public employee trade group AFSCME Florida gave $25,000 apiece.

A political committee tied to the Florida Transportation Builders Association gave $10,000, as did the Florida Chamber of Commerce, with convenience store chain Wawa chipping in $1,000 and Boeing tossing in $500.

Oliva’s committee raked in $145,000 with a similarly short donor list.

Conservative Principles for Florida took in five $25,000 checks for the month, one each from the Voice of Florida Business, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Florida Blue, Florida Power & Light and JM Family Enterprises.

After paying DRC Consulting $10,000 and spending another $5,000 to sponsor a Miami-Dade Republican Party event, the committee closed out the month with $559,998 in the bank.

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