Peter Schorsch – Page 2 – Florida Politics

Peter Schorsch

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

Disappointing Flûte & Dram — new Champagne bar in St. Pete — feels like a money-grab

It was the boughiest of First World problems.

All I wanted for my birthday was to splurge on some caviar. The delicious memory of a pre-theatre dinner at New York City’s Caviar Russe, enjoyed weeks earlier, still lingered in my senses.

But, this being St. Petersburg (and not Midtown Manhattan), the chances of finding a restaurant that served the delicacy were slim.

Turns out, there were none. At least none that could be easily found. Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa offers a robust selection of the fine black pearls, but there wasn’t a place in St. Petersburg proper which did.

So my wife, Michelle, turned to Goldbely, the online marketplace of artisanal foods, to save the day. She ordered a selection from Russ & Daughters, which delivered a hand-packed tin of the finest American Transmontanus. It even included traditional blinis and crème fraîche.

Happy birthday to me, indeed.

Now you can understand my excitement when reading that a bar specializing in Champagne and decadent food — including caviar — was to open on Beach Drive in St. Petersburg.

No more mail-order caviar for this guy.

Greg Haddad, the owner of Central Cigars and Ruby’s Elixir, and Gratzzi Italian Grille head chef and co-owner Tony Mangiafico were going into together to re-imagine a space once home to a frozen yogurt shop as an upscale bar.

A year ago, Haddad and Mangiafico’s project was envisioned as just “Flûte.” They told Creative Loafing they were inspired by a trip to New York City (perhaps to the real-deal Flûte Bar and Lounge in Midtown).

“Flûte is set to carry some non-bubbly, ports and a few beers, plus spotlight high-end Champagne by the glass and flight — not just by the bottle,” CL previewed in February 2017.

With a wife whose only real indulgence is Champagne, I eagerly anticipated the opening of St. Petersburg’s version of Flûte.

Somewhere along the way, however, Flûte became Flûte & Dram. In addition to bubbly offerings, the bar has made 75 to 100 brown spirits available, including such rare bourbons as Pappy Van Winkle.

Hmmm, so its now a Champagne and whiskey bar. Obviously, the owners can do whatever they want, but the new vision is not the same as a Flute-inspired Champagne bar.

But still … great bottles of Champagne … hard-to-find caviar … and right on St. Pete’s tony Beach Drive. What could be better to the discerning connoisseur?

A better question is: how did such a promising concept turn out so wrong?

Flûte & Dram has only been open for two weekends, so it’s probably unfair to render a final judgment. But the problems with the restaurant feel like they go to the core and will be difficult to resolve.

Why? Because the entire project feels like a money-grab.

It feels like two longtime local restaurateurs, perhaps a little tired of grinding it out away from Beach Drive, want their piece of the action.

And so they’ve shoehorned an upscale bar right next to Tryst, an upscale bar (sans caviar) that’s paid its dues this past decade and deserves to reap the rewards.

(The staff at Tryst and other nearby restaurants are none too pleased that Haddad’s new venture encourages guests to light up cigars in the patio along the sidewalk. The pungency of the cigars has ruined more than one meal, we’re told.)

It begs the question: how many Euro-ish bars can you fit on one half-block?

Flûte & Dram is as narrow as a subway car and almost as uninviting.

Haddad had promised that the bar’s “front-of-house staff (would) be well-versed in sparkling wine’s many forms and price points, ready to educate patrons as much, or as little, as they please on what’s in the glass.” Instead, Flûte & Dram is populated with a shaky staff that looked unfamiliar with even pouring Champagne, much less understanding it.

There were a couple of veteran waiters milling about, but we saw one serve his friends before addressing three other couples (including us) who were still waiting for service.

The Champagne selections, at least those by the glass, are the usual midscale picks found at several restaurants within an exploded cork’s distance from Flûte & Dram. Moët, Veuve, Taittinger. Good stuff, but standard fare. There’s no “we found this while in …” or “we just got this in” sense to anything on the menu.

Never mind that the bubbly is served in the kind of cheap glassware you’d probably find at Rental City. Is that a big deal? It is if you are trying to emulate a Manhattan Champagne bar where everything flows into Riedel stemware.

Corners seem as if they’ve been cut throughout Flûte & Dram. Cheap faux-candles on the table (why have anything on such small tables?) Blacked-out items on the menu (after just two weeks?)

Then again, Flûte & Dram wants to extract as much money as it can for the good stuff. One example: it marked up a bottle of hard-to-find Salon $200 over what other restaurants charge. Tsk, tsk.

And what about the caviar? Isn’t that what first drew my interest to Flûte/Flûte & Dram.

I’m not sure why it took thirty minutes to prepare twenty-five millimeters of the roe. Then again, you do get a creeping suspicion what appears on the plate is not the Osetra you ordered.

But finally, it arrived.

With crackers.

Michelle said they were Keebler crackers, like the ones we give our daughter. I am not a cracker aficionado, so I was not sure.

The roe had an appropriately nutty twang and deep swirls of color, so it was impossible to be disappointed with the roe (although the accouterments — chopped eggs, etc. — were limp).

Piling crackers probably purchased at GFS next to what we believed to be some decent Osetra caviar was, if nothing else, disrespectful to everything Flûte — not Flûte & Dram — promised to deliver.

That’s what this screed is all about: Flûte & Dram’s disrespect. Not to us as guests. But to the neighborhood and city writ large.

Its owners have wedged the restaurant into Beach Drive, in the hopes of printing money. It will cannibalize the success of the surrounding bars and restaurants, some of which, like Cassis and Parkshore Grill, endured the Great Recession. Flûte & Dram will both underwhelm and annoy, because it isn’t what it was first promised to be.

The same problems can be found in Jannus Live and along the First Avenue South side of the Sundial garage. There’s one too many bars. One too many restaurants. Less would be more.

There are silly food and dining enthusiasts, like the jesters at St. Petersburg Foodies, who write ridiculous things like, St. Pete “is certainly trending and holding its own with cities like San Francisco, Chicago, and dare we even say, New York?”

No, it’s not. Not in the least. And I say that as one of the loudest boosters of the ‘burg. People who hold themselves out as “foodies” should know better.

Instead, as St. Petersburg continues to mature as a dining and entertainment destination, it is increasingly important for protectors of its brand, of food and dining critics, of Yelp reviewers, to not simply gush over EVERY. SINGLE. OPENING.

We must resist the efforts of some from bastardizing what made Beach Drive and Central Avenue and the rest of St. Petersburg unique in the first place.

Florida Chamber video highlights Kissimmee River research

The Florida Chamber of Commerce released a video this week detailing Florida Atlantic University research on the Kissimmee River.

Securing Florida’s Water Future: Kissimmee River spotlights a study conducted by FAU research professor Brian Lapointe, who works out of the university’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.

The video focuses on several factors that affect the quality of water in the Kissimmee River basin, which extends south from Orlando to Lake Okeechobee and encompasses thousands of square miles.

It also delves into the Kissimmee Restoration Project, which aims to restore about 40 miles of the river’s original path as well as dozens of square miles of the basin’s historic floodplain-dependent ecosystem.

“Drainage projects, along with other human activities, have altered the quantity and quality of water flowing south to Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades and the downstream estuaries,” Lapointe said in a press release.

“This video series allows us to share information on the Kissimmee River restoration, as well as other strategies that are underway to protect these important water resources for future generations.”

The video explains that the Kissimmee River once stretched 103 miles from Orlando to Lake Okeechobee, but after severe flooding in 1947, Congress authorized the Army Corps of Engineers to deepen, straighten and widen it.

In the decades since, increased urbanization brought many septic tanks into the area, mainly near Orlando at the northern end of the river. The Chamber pointed to those tanks, which leach nitrogen and phosphorus into the waterway, as one of the larger challenges faced in the restoration.

“When it comes to securing Florida’s future, there are few issues more important than water,” said Florida Chamber president Mark Wilson. “With five million more people expected to call Florida home by 2030, science-based data is key to meeting the challenges Florida faces.”

The video also includes segments with Jeff Couch, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Paul Gray, Ph.D., Okeechobee Science Coordinator, Audubon Florida; David Childs, Partner, Hopping, Green & Sams; Ernie Barnett, Executive Director, Florida Land Council; Drew Bartlett, Deputy Secretary for Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration, Florida Department of Environmental Protection; and Bob Butler, Butler Oaks Farm.

The Kissimmee River video is below. Past water education videos produced by the Chamber are viewable on the group’s website.

Terrie Rizzo

Blue (money) wave: Florida Democratic Party bests Republican Party of Florida in Q1 fundraising

The Florida Democratic Party announced Tuesday that it had brought in more than $1.81 million during the first three months of the year, besting the Republican Party of Florida by more than $325,000.

The report represents party chair Terrie Rizzo’s first full quarter at the helm since she was elected to the position in late 2017.

“After twenty years of Republican rule in Tallahassee, Floridians are ready for change and want leaders who will fight for them. With an impressive number of candidates running and back to back special election victories in 2018, Florida Democrats are outorganizing, outraising, and outworking Florida Republicans,” Rizzo said in a news release.

“The FDP continues to speak to the issues that matter to Floridians, and we are investing in a state-of-the-art field, data, and digital program to propel our Democratic candidates to victory this fall. Democrats are creating momentum and energy, and our fundraising numbers are just the latest sign that our message is resonating across the state.”

The $1.81 million haul was balanced out by $1.67 million in spending, leaving the party with nearly $5.67 million in the bank heading into April.

The Q1 report is a slight dip from the last quarter of 2017 and is about $300,000 shy of what Florida Democrats raised during the first quarter of 2014, the previous midterm election year.

RPOF’s report shows $1.48 million in fundraising and $2.83 million in spending, putting the party coffers at about $14 million heading into Q2. Their report shows a $530,000 decrease compared to Q4 2017 and comes in substantially behind the $10.3 million raised during Q1 four years ago.

Both parties had top-line numbers that looked more robust, but included money that is considered “pass through” from statewide campaigns.

It’s a regular practice for political committees tied to high-profile candidates to give the statewide party a contribution, but the party quickly turns around and then provides in-kind contributions back directly to the campaign for things like staff and polling. The money appears to be a general contribution, but is sent specifically to one campaign, so not available for general party expenses or other races.

The biggest contribution to RPOF was $300,000 from the congressional account of Northeast Florida U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is now running for Governor. FDP’s top contribution for the quarter was a $250,000 check from a committee tied to former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who is also a candidate for governor. In both cases, that money will be used by the party to provide in-kind contributions to those gubernatorial campaigns.

On the whole, nearly $1 million of FDP’s first-quarter haul came in via pass-through money from its candidates.

Still, the party account isn’t the only fundraising vehicle for state Republicans.

The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, chaired by Senate President Designate Bill Galvano, brought in more than $1.26 million during Q1, with $2.28 million banked.

The Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, chaired by Senate Minority Leader Designate Audrey Gibson, brought in about a quarter of that sum, $317,750, and has about $400,000 banked.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.

Florida politicians reflect on the passing of Barbara Bush

Former U.S. first lady Barbara Bush, the only woman to see her husband and son sworn in as U.S. president, died on Tuesday, the Bush family said. She was 92.

Bush was the wife of the 41st president, George H.W. Bush, and mother of the 43rd, George W. Bush.

Here is a compilation of reactions from the nation and Florida’s elected officials and politicians:

President Donald Trump:

“It is with sadness that we add our voice to that of the many Americans expressing their admiration, love and support for Barbara Bush as we acknowledge her passing this evening. The former First Lady will always be remembered for bringing strength and dignity to the White House, the Presidency and America. She supported the 41st President as a wife and the 43rd President as a mother at times of critical change for our nation. Because of Mrs. Bush’s dynamic personality and devotion to her family, she will serve as an inspiration for future generations of Americans to come. Barbara Bush always approached her responsibilities with great integrity, and will also be remembered for her humility and understanding of the challenges of everyday Americans. On behalf of all of us, we pray for her and her family at this sad time.”

Former Governor Jeb Bush:

“Columba and I join every member of the Bush family in offering our sincere gratitude for the outpouring of love and support for my Mom in recent days, and throughout her remarkable life. I’m exceptionally privileged to be the son of George Bush and the exceptionally gracious, gregarious, fun, funny, loving, tough, smart, graceful woman who was the force of nature known as Barbara Bush. Thank you for your prayers, and we look forward to celebrating and honoring her life and contributions to our family and great nation in the coming days.”

Tweet, tweet:

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson:

“Barbara Bush was a remarkable woman and terrific first lady. We are all saddened by the news of her passing.”

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio:

“Our nation mourns the passing of former First Lady Barbara Bush. She was a great woman, whose commitment to God and country inspired all Americans. Her legacy will live on through her family. Jeanette and I are keeping the Bush family in our prayers.”

Governor Rick Scott:

“Our hearts are heavy to hear about the passing of First Lady Barbara Bush. She was an incredible First Lady, wife, mother, grandmother, and role model for all Americans. Sending our love, thoughts, and prayers to the Bush family during this time.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi:

“Heartbroken to learn of the passing of Barbara Bush. She was an American original and a fierce advocate for literacy. Many prayers are with my friends in the Bush family.”

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, via Twitter:

“Incredibly saddened to hear about the passing of Barbara Bush. She was an amazing First Lady and role model to so many. My heart is with @GeorgeHWBush, @JebBush, and their entire family.”

Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam:

“First Lady Barbara Bush was a force to be reckoned with. A selfless servant to our country and a champion for literacy. May the heavens lift her up and give her wings. Melissa and I extend our deepest condolences to the entire Bush family.”

First Lady Barbara Bush poses with her dog Millie in 1990. Photo via Associated Press.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, via Facebook:

“May God bless the Bush Family.”

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo:

“Sad to say goodbye to a wonderful woman and role model: #BarbaraBush. Condolences to my friends @JebBush @JebBushJr @georgepbush and the entire Bush Family. My family, our community, and the country mourns your loss and celebrates a beautiful life.”

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, via Twitter:

“Barbara Bush was a great American. She had a profound effect on so many Americans and always exemplified class and grace. RIP. Casey and I send our thoughts and prayers to the 41st President and the rest of the Bush family.”

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart:

“I am heartbroken to hear of the passing of former First Lady Barbara Pierce Bush. She was the matriarch of an upstanding, patriotic family, shaping her children into honorable men and women, two of which who would later serve our country as President and Governor. During her time in the White House, she focused on literacy initiatives, declaring that it was the ‘most important issue.’ Her innate propensity for kindness and passion to help others will continue to live on through her foundation, the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.  I offer my deep condolences to former President George H.W. Bush, their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Barbara Pierce Bush’s legacy is a blessing to our country.”

U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn:

“Former First Lady Barbara Bush said the most important things in life were faith, family, and friends. She embodied all that and more. She was smart, tough, sincerely patriotic, a wonderful mother, and always the classiest person in the room. Our faith renews us and reassures us that she will live on in the hearts of all who knew her and that we will all meet again on the other side of this mortal life. May she rest in peace.”

U.S. Rep. Louis Frankel:

“Very sad to hear that Barbara Bush passed away. My condolences go out to the entire Bush family. You are all in my thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.”

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, via Twitter:

“Barbara Bush made our country a better place. She touched countless lives, and always graced us with dignity and civility. My thoughts and prayers are with the Bush family, during this time of great sadness.”

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, via Twitter:

“I’m deeply saddened by the passing of First Lady Barbara Bush, and amazed by the life she lived. She was loving, wise, and strong; a woman of tremendous character and grace; and the rock of the Bush family. My thoughts are with her family tonight.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, via Twitter:

“Very sad to hear of First Lady Barbara Bush’s passing. She was a woman of great strength who dedicated countless hours of her own life improving the lives of others, and our nation is a better place because of her. Praying for the Bush family during this difficult time.”

U.S Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, via Twitter;

“An unabashed patriot and public servant, Barbara Bush was a smart and strong First Lady. She fiercely defended family and friends, and was a great advocate for literacy. My condolences go out to her entire family.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, via Twitter:

“Barbara Bush’s contributions to our nation will never be forgotten. From the family that she raised to her work with child literacy, the world is truly a better place because of her. Tonight, my family and I pray for the Bush family as they mourn.”

Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, via Twitter:

“I’m saddened by the passing of Barbara Bush. She was an amazing matriarch and is an American icon.”

State Sen. Aaron Bean, via Twitter:

“Abby & I are incredibly sad to hear about the passing of Barbara Bush. She was a role model, an inspiration, an enforcer, a proud American, and most importantly a wonderful wife, mother, & grandmother. Our hearts & prayers are with Gov @JebBush & the entire Bush family.”

State Sen. Rob Bradley, via Twitter:

“Reflecting on an incredible American life. Barbara Bush set so many standards for us to follow. Fierce, unconditional and warm love of her family, class with candor, sense of self, understanding of the blessings and responsibilities of citizenship. A beautiful American life.”

State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, via Twitter:

“Saddened to hear of the passing of First Lady Barbara Bush. She was a strong and graceful woman who improved the lives of so many Americans. My prayers are with the Bush family in this difficult time.”

State Sen. Denise Grimsley, via Twitter:

“First Lady Barbara Bush had class and integrity. She was a wonderful role model for all who followed. She will be missed. I pray for peace and comfort for @JebBush and the family.”

State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, via Twitter:

“Barbara Bush was admired across the country for her kindness, spirit and strength. She was a tremendous mother and First Lady, and we will always honor her legacy.”

State Rep. Chris Sprowls, via Twitter:

“Barbara Bush exemplified what we should aspire to be like as Americans. She was graceful, yet never lost her common touch, sharp, but never boastful, and deeply committed to her family and her Country. America lost one of its greatest daughters tonight. Mrs. Bush- thank you. RIP.”

State Rep. Jeanette Nunez, via Twitter:

“A beloved American who embodied elegance, compassion, and integrity. My heartfelt condolences to the Bush family. May former First Lady Barbara Bush rest peacefully.”

Tallahassee Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum:

“We’ve lost an honorable public servant & a voice for civility that is dearly needed in times like these. The country’s hearts are with her family & loved ones tonight.”

Former U.S. Rep. and gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham:

“Wife. Mother. First lady. Advocate for children. Our country benefited from Barbara Bush’s service. May she rest in peace.”

Former Miami Beach Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine:

“Barbara Bush was a voice of class and character who loved her country with as much heart and dedication as she did her own family. She will be sorely missed, but forever remembered. My thoughts and prayers today are with the Bush family and their loved ones.”

Gubernatorial candidate Chris King:

The nation mourns as one tonight. Barbara Bush’s memory will live on through her legacy of service for generations to come.”

Former Florida GOP Chairman Al Cardenas, via Twitter:

“May we all quietly reflect on the life of the former First Lady Barbara Bush and how her grace, strength and values impacted all of us for the better. May she Rest In Peace and may her family celebrate the joy that she brought into their lives.”

The Republican National Committee:

“We are heartbroken by the news of former First Lady Barbara Bush’s passing,” said Chairwoman McDaniel. “Barbara Bush was known for her immeasurable kindness and generosity as First Lady, mother, wife, grandmother, and great-grandmother. An entire nation loved her and admired her unfailing faith. Barbara Bush’s memory lives on through the love of her family. We at the RNC are praying for peace and blessings for the entire Bush family.”

The Republican Party of Florida:

“We will lift the Bush family up in prayer during this difficult time. First Lady Barbara Bush was a remarkable woman who left an indelible mark on our country. She will be greatly missed.”

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 4.18.18

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

It’s Debate Night in Florida.

Florida’s Democratic candidates will gather for the first televised debate of the 2018 election for governor: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum; former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, also of Tallahassee; businessman Chris King of Orlando, and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

“The stage is set”: The set is ready for the Democratic candidates for governor debate, to be recorded Wednesday at the Fox 13 Tampa Bay studios.

The debate will be recorded beginning at 3 p.m. at the studios of Fox 13 Tampa Bay.

Fox 13 Tampa Bay’s Mark WilsonKelly Ring and Craig Patrick will moderate.

It will be streamed live online at

Then, at 6:30 p.m., the debate will be broadcast in the Tampa Bay market, and streamed once again on the station’s website.

Of course, it’s the not the first debate between “candidates”: Gillum and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who has signaled his intent to announce a run, debated on immigration issues in Tallahassee in February.


— @RealDonaldTrump: Employment is up, Taxes are DOWN. Enjoy!

@JebBushJr: I think my Ganny would have wanted us to remember her by picking up a book and reading to our child, grandchild, or finding an opinion different then our own. I love her and miss her very much. She did it her way – with grace and class.

— @Kathrynw5: A source close to the Bush family tells CBS News’ Jenna Gibson that, while Mrs. Bush’s COPD makes it difficult for her to breathe, she is alert and was having conversations last night. She was also having a bourbon.

— @SenAudrey2eet#Starbucks should pay all costs for all legal costs for the records expungement of the two African American customers who now have a record & get them their own Starbucks cause records never die

— @RichardCorcoran: Not surprisingly, @realDonaldTrump‘s economic policies have awoken our economy. He was down in Miami yesterday celebrating the jobs that are being created right here in Florida, thanks to his #taxcut package.

— @DaneEagle: I was given a C+ by a group for my votes to protect the rights, privacy, and personal information of the citizens of this great state. Now that I’m aware of it, I’ll be working to correct it. Pushing for an F next year!

— @ArekSarkissian: Records requests are like gifts from a deadbeat parent — either you’re excited, crushed or annoyed you wasted the time.

— @NateSilver538: Some personal news … FiveThirtyEight is leaving ESPN … but not going very far. Our new home is ABC News! We’re super excited to work with @ABC and combine our strengths with theirs as we tackle the 2018 and 2020 elections and other news stories.


Avengers: Infinity War opens — 5; NFL Draft begins — 8; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 15; Mother’s Day — 25; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 37; Memorial Day — 40; Father’s Day — 60; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 65; Deadline for filing claim bills — 105; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debates — 105; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debates — 106; Start of the U.S. Open — 131; Primary Election Day — 132; College Football opening weekend — 136; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 188; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 189; General Election Day — 202; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 302; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 321.


Former first lady Barbara Bush dies at 92” via The Associated Press — The snowy-haired Mrs. Bush was one of only two first ladies who was also the mother of a president. The other was Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams and mother of John Quincy Adams. Mrs. Bush’s plain-spoken manner and utter lack of pretense made her more popular at times than her husband. She brought a grandmotherly style to buttoned-down Washington, often appearing in her trademark fake pearl chokers and displaying no vanity about her white hair and wrinkles. She married George H.W. Bush in 1945. They had six children and were married longer than any presidential couple in American history.



Democrats beef up elections complaint against Rick Scott” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — “As if there wasn’t already enough evidence that Scott has been breaking election law, a wave of new examples have surfaced in the several days. The amount of shady political tricks Scott will employ to advance his own political agenda is striking — and larger symbol for his tenure as governor,” said Adam Bozzi, communications director for End Citizens United. “In light of this new information, the FEC should investigate Scott immediately. Florida deserves better.” ECU, a Democratic-leaning group focused on fighting big money in politics, contends that Scott should have used a “testing the waters” committee to explore his long-expected U.S. Senate campaign. Instead, he improperly used the New Republican committee to raise and spend unlimited contributions to promote his candidacy. The group earlier this month filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, noting that the New Republican had hired multiple Scott campaign advisers before his Senate announcement and its website suddenly transformed into a pro-Scott group the moment Scott announced his candidacy.

Scott’s blind trust targeted in new ad campaign” via Florida Politics — Progressive advocacy group American Bridge announced Tuesday that it’s launched a new social media campaign Scott for not disclosing his net worth and how it’s invested. … “While Rick Scott’s been hiding his investments from Floridians as governor, his net worth has gone up $46 million. It’s time for Rick Scott to come clean and disclose his massive personal wealth,” American Bridge spokesperson Joshua Karp said. … American Bridge showed off two versions of the social media ads. One reads “Tell Rick Scott: Stop Hiding Your Wealth,” while the other reads “Reveal Your Conflicts of Interest, Rick Scott.” Both point to an online petition where those who click can “demand Rick Scott disclose his wealth.”

Assignment editors — Gov. Scott will host a campaign roundtable with business leaders in Jacksonville. Event begins 9:30 a.m., Vak Pak Inc., 1824 Phoenix Ave. in Jacksonville.

Possible Paul Ryan successor Kevin McCarthy to appear at DC fundraiser with Scott” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — House Majority Leader McCarthy — a possible successor to Paul Ryan — will appear at a fundraiser Wednesday for Scott’s Senate campaign. The event will be held at the home of former Florida Congressman Jeff Miller, an early backer of Donald Trump who now works for the lobbying firm McDermott Will & Emery. Ryan has endorsed McCarthy as the next House speaker, but others are angling for the job. On Thursday, Scott will raise money alongside heavy hitters such as Haley BarbourCharlie BlackMitch McConnell and John Cornyn. Scott does not plan public appearances during his visit.

Scott wants to end career politicians. So why are they fundraising for him? He won’t say” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Scott told a room of local businessmen and women that he wants to put an end to career politicians, a frequent mantra of his nascent Senate campaign. Yet in the 48 hours after his Tampa appearance, the Republican’s campaign will hold fundraisers with some of the most seasoned creatures on Capitol Hill. House Majority Leader McCarthy — the early front-runner to be the next Speaker of the House — is scheduled to appear at a D.C. fundraiser for Scott. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is headlining another fundraiser, this one with a suggested contribution of $5,000, which features a half-dozen other Senators and former elected officials. McConnell was sworn into the Senate in 1985 — a career that easily surpasses Scott’s proposal to cap a Senator’s tenure at 12 years. McCarthy was first elected to the House in 2006 after a long career in California politics, so this would be his last term in office if Scott’s idea were in effect. So how does Scott reconcile these two realities? Asked about it after his Tampa event, he didn’t really say.

Talking tax cuts on Tax Day: Gov. Scott held a campaign roundtable Tuesday with business leaders in Tampa.


After Parkland shooting: Youth activism is not showing up in voter registration numbers” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — In Tallahassee, the epicenter of the Florida protests, all the noise, speeches and carnivallike atmosphere have not produced a number of new young voters. The opposite happened. There now are fewer voters among the 18-25 age group than there were before the shooting. According to the Leon County Supervisor of Elections office, there has been a drop of 690 registered voters in Leon County since Feb. 14 among the youngest voting-age group. The number of vanishing youth voters grows larger the longer you look at voter registration rolls. Tallahassee, home to more than 63,000 students of two universities and a college has seen registration among younger voters drop by 4,673 since March 2017.

Disney contributions to anti-gambling measure pile up” via the News Service of Florida — Chipping in another $105,000 last month, Disney Worldwide Services, Inc. has contributed at least $4.655 million to try to pass a constitutional amendment that could make it harder to expand gambling in the state. Disney in March made the only cash contribution to the political committee Voters In Charge, which has spearheaded the proposed constitutional amendment … In all, the committee had raised about $6.74 million as of March 31. The committee last month also received in-kind contributions from the group No Casinos Inc. If approved by 60 percent of voters, it would change the Florida Constitution and give voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling” in the state.

Happening today — Denise Grimsley campaigns in North Dade — State Sen. Grimsley, who is running for Florida Agriculture Commissioner, is one of the scheduled speakers at a meeting of the Federated Republican Women of North Dade. Other guests include gubernatorial candidate Bob White and Carla Spalding, a candidate in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District. Meeting begins 6 p.m., 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant, 1395 N.W. 57th Ave. In Miami.

Republican Neil Combee announces he will run for Dennis Ross’ seat in Congress” via Gary White of the Lakeland Ledger — Combee will run as a Republican in District 15. That seat became open when Ross announced last week that he was dropping his re-election bid. Ross has served four terms. Combee joins a growing field of Republican candidates. Ed Shoemaker of Lakeland has said he will run, and Ross Spano, a member of the Florida House from Hillsborough County, has also announced plans to run in District 15. Combee resigned from the Florida House last year to take a position as state executive director for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service in Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In his announcement, Combee said Congress needs members who will support the agenda of President Trump. Five Democrats have filed to run in the District 15 primary. The primaries will be held Aug. 28Kelli Stargel announced over the weekend she would not join the race. Stargel is seeking re-election to the Florida Senate.

Tweet, tweet:

— “Danny Kushmer enters race for U.S. House District 15” via the Tampa Bay Reporter

Save the date — Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown is hosting an official kickoff Saturday, April 28, in his bid for Florida’s 5th Congressional District. Event begins 11:30 a.m. at the IBEW Local 177, 966 N. Liberty St. in Jacksonville. Doors open at 10:45 a.m. RSVP at

A second Republican emerges in the race to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Miami broadcast journalist Maria Elvira Salazar looks like she could force a competitive Republican primary in the race to replacing retiring Rep. Ros-Lehtinen. Former Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro was largely running a one-man money race among Republicans since he entered the primary shortly after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement, but Salazar bested his fundraising numbers in her first fundraising quarter since she officially jumped into the race in March. Salazar raised $303,115 from January 1 to March 31, and she has $287,612 left to spend, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. Barreiro raised $264,778, his best haul since entering the race shortly after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement last year. He maintains an on-hand cash advantage over his new rival, with $420,978 left to spend.

Bob Buesing exits SD 18 race, clearing way for Janet Cruz” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics – Buesing said Tuesday that he is ending his campaign to unseat Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young and throwing his support behind House Minority Leader Janet Cruz. The Tampa attorney announced his exit to the South Tampa Democratic Club … ending speculation of if or when he would step aside in favor of Cruz, who officially declared for SD 18 last week. … his exit leaves only Cruz and Young in the race for the Hillsborough County seat … Not having a primary challenger helps, though Cruz will still need a major fundraising boost to be competitive against Young, who has $950K in the bank in addition to the benefit of incumbency.

Tweet, tweet:

Rick Roth endorses Matt Spritz for HD 89” via Florida Politics — Loxahatchee Republican Rep. Roth is endorsing his bid to replace Rep. Bill Hager in House District 89. “I proudly endorse Matt Spritz for State Representative. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Matt in Tallahassee for some time, and I’ve seen firsthand his dedication to our community and his tireless work ethic,” Roth said. Spritz, a Boca Raton attorney, is one of five candidates running to replace Hager in HD 89. He faces Michael Caruso in the Republican Primary, while James Bonfiglio and Ryan Rossi are competing for the Democratic nomination. Unaffiliated candidate Deborah Gibson is also running for the seat. Roth’s endorsement follows other recent nods from former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux and former state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff. State Reps. Byron DonaldsRandy FineJason FischerJoe GrutersTom LeekBobby Payne and Bob Rommel have also endorsed Spritz.


After two years of examining “broken” U.S. politics, Jon Ward of Yahoo News offers a somewhat surprising conclusion: Weakened political parties and a “deeper issue” of many Americans not understanding “what institutions are and why they exist.”

— In America, a rise in populism has citizens truly wanting a fairer political system, but “anti-party reforms have gone too far and are now having a multitude of negative impacts.”

— This anti-party sentiment is “not exclusive to the left,” as Trump and his supporters are “just as anti-establishment, anti-elite and disdainful of political parties as Democrats.”

— “People blame dysfunction on the establishment and call for more reform,” Ward writes. “The reform further weakens the ability of parties and party leaders and increases dysfunction and chaos.”

— Ahead of the 2018 midterms and an eventual showdown with Trump in 2020, Democrats are resisting empowering party officials and are simply reducing the number of superdelegates in the primary.

— This anti-establishment attitude is “one of the most constant and dominant trends of the last half-century,” even as these institutions “protect us from the abuse of power.”


Greyhound owners plan legal challenge of dog racing ban” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The group that represents the state’s racing-greyhound breeders and owners will challenge a proposed constitutional amendment to outlaw dog racing, its spokesman and lobbyist told Florida Politics Tuesday. Jack Cory, who represents the Florida Greyhound Association (FGA), said former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and former appellate judge Paul Hawkes, who also now represent the group, are working on a brief to the Florida Supreme Court … On Monday, the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) approved the proposal … Barring court action, it will go directly on November’s statewide ballot, where it needs at least 60 percent approval to be added to the constitution. “We’re obviously very disappointed,” Cory said. “We don’t feel the proposal meets the requirements for ballot placement. We appreciate those who voted against it, but as we’ve seen, you only need a few lies to poison the well.”


Happening today — Revenue Estimating conference — The state’s Revenue Estimating Conference will hold what is known as a post-session “impact” conference beginning 9 a.m., Knott Building Room 117, The Capitol.

Florida lawyers to high court: Keep ‘legal cloud’ off McKay Scholarship program” via Travis Pillow of redefinEd — Florida’s school voucher program for special needs students is constitutional. If the state Supreme Court entertains arguments to the contrary, it will create an unnecessary “legal cloud” for thousands of families. That’s the argument lawyers defending the McKay Scholarship program made in court papers filed this week. The lawsuit also contended McKay Scholarships, vouchers that help the families roughly 30,000 special-needs children pay private school tuition, are unconstitutional. It’s the last surviving legal attack on a Florida private school choice program after courts declined to hear lawsuits targeting tax credit scholarships. When the 1st District Court of Appeal upheld McKay Scholarships, it cited, of all things, a suit that struck down a voucher program in 2006.

Florida wants to delay new test-score rules; educators still worry about graduation impact” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — The Florida Department of Education last month proposed new tests and higher scores for students who couldn’t pass Florida’s algebra and language arts tests and were using alternative exams to graduate. The department suggested the new rules be in force by Aug. 1 and apply to anyone who hadn’t yet graduated or met the old requirements by that date. That proposal alarmed educators across Florida as they feared it would prevent some students from graduating and argued it was unfair to change the rules for students already in high school. Many shared those concerns with the department, which is taking feedback on its website. More than 35,000 students in the class of 2017 graduated using the alternative exams, education department figures show. That’s about 20 percent of the more than 168,000 teenagers who earned diplomas last spring and summer.

Hero student Anthony Borges files first lawsuit in Parkland school shooting” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Alex Arreaza, the Borges family’s attorney, filed the suit electronically in Broward Circuit Court. The defendants are Nicholas Cruz, 19, the estate of Cruz’s late mother, Lynda, and James and Kimberly Snead, the Parkland couple who allowed Cruz to stay in their home from late November until Feb. 14, the day of the shooting. Also named in the suit are Henderson Behavioral Health, the Jerome Golden Center for Behavioral Health and the South County Mental Health Center, three facilities that treated Cruz for various mental health conditions. The lawsuit charges Cruz with assault and battery, while the remaining parties are charged with negligence. It is not clear whether Cruz has much in the way of assets to offer the victims of the Parkland school shooting … Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer is still weighing whether he has enough money to pay for a private lawyer.

Judge lifts stay in Joe Redner ‘home grow’ marijuana case” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A Tallahassee judge on Tuesday lifted an automatic delay of the effect of her earlier ruling that Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner can grow and make juice of his own medical marijuana. An attorney for the Department of Health said it would immediately appeal Circuit Judge Karen Gievers‘ decision to lift the ‘stay’ to the 1st District Court of Appeal. During a morning hearing, Redner attorney Luke Lirot reminded Gievers of her previous ruling that Redner has a constitutional right to possess growing marijuana plants. Redner did not attend but was listening in by phone. Redner is a lung cancer survivor who is in remission. His doctors say juiced marijuana is the “optimal” way to keep his cancer in remission.

Janitor charged in heist of Revenue Dep’t hard drives” via Florida Politics — A janitor who cleaned Department of Revenue offices and was looking for “video games” has been charged with taking external hard drives from the desks of workers … Andru Rae’sion Reed, 21, was charged with … third-degree felonies, after the department reported external hard drives had been stolen. Reed worked for a company that provided janitorial services to the department in Tallahassee’s Southwood office complex, an investigative report said. On March 30, agents spoke with Reed at his Tallahassee home and found four hard drives, which “contained confidential taxpayer information,” according to a news release. “Reed said he had connected the hard drives to his Xbox to download video games without knowing what was on the hard drives,” the release said. “It appears that the information on the hard drives was not used or further shared, but computer forensic examinations continue.” He was booked into the Leon County Jail Tuesday and later released on $2,500 bail, records show.

Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein won’t get a break on his 50-year prison sentence, judge rules” via Paula McMahon of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Rothstein, 55, pleaded guilty to orchestrating a $1.4 billion Ponzi scheme from his downtown Fort Lauderdale law firm after the massive fraud imploded in late 2009. Rothstein and his attorney have spent the past several months trying to persuade the sentencing judge to side with them and require federal prosecutors to recommend a cut in Rothstein’s punishment. The defense argued that prosecutors improperly withdrew their offer after Rothstein cooperated in the investigation, worked undercover for them and pleaded guilty to the federal charges. Prosecutors said that Rothstein, a disbarred attorney, violated the explicit terms of his plea agreement by lying to them and committing additional crimes after he signed the cooperation agreement … Senior U.S. District Judge James Cohn, the sentencing judge, filed a nine-page ruling that prosecutors were correct and Rothstein was wrong.

Dreaded ‘cone of uncertainty’ will shrink for the coming hurricane season” via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald — The National Hurricane Center plans to shrink the dreaded “cone of uncertainty” during the upcoming season based on an improving forecast record. The Miami-based center made the announcement Monday, along with a series of other changes intended to improve how hurricane forecasters convey warnings to the public. Along with the shrinking cone, forecasters will extend advisories, which include warnings and watches, to 72 hours in advance of a storm, providing a full additional day to prepare. Experimental graphics used last year to depict arrival times for dangerous winds will also become a permanent addition to forecasts. “The changes are to improve information contained in the hurricane center products and to provide it in (maybe) easier-to-understand formats,” said Dan Brown, a senior hurricane specialist in charge of warning coordination.


Donald Trump: World leaders want to meet at Mar-a-Lago” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The president kicked off two days of talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Palm Beach. Trump says he’ll be “sneaking out” for a round of golf with Abe. The two leaders are expected to discuss trade and North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. “Many of the world’s great leaders request to come to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach,” Trump said. “They like it. I like it. We’re comfortable.” One world leader who likely won’t be visiting Mar-a-Lago is North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un. Trump said five sites are under consideration for a meeting, but he shook his head and said “no” when asked if any of the locations are in the United States.

President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speak during a meeting at Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach.

Supreme Court split on whether online sellers must collect sales taxes across U.S.” via David Savage of the Tribune Washington Bureau — The Supreme Court took up a huge sales tax case with the expectation it was ready to bring online shopping under the same rules that apply to ordinary retailers. But that outcome was less certain after arguments. The justices were clearly divided but in unusual coalitions of conservatives and liberals. One side said Congress, not the courts, should set the rules for taxing interstate commerce. At issue is a 1992 ruling involving mail-order catalogs when the justices found that states may not require out-of-state mailers to collect sales taxes on behalf of their residents. Now, in the era of online shopping, that decision in Quill vs. North Dakota is said to cost states and municipalities between $8 billion and $13 billion a year in lost tax revenue. Chief Justice John RobertsSamuel Alito and Elena Kagan said Congress is better suited to devise a new system. Kagan added, “Congress can craft a compromise in a way that we cannot.” Sonia Sotomayor said she is worried that “overturning precedents will create a massive amount of lawsuits.” But Ruth Bader Ginsburg said it should not be left to Congress to grapple with the court’s previous decision. “If time and changing conditions have rendered (the Quill decision) obsolete, why should the court say: Well, we’ll let Congress fix it?” Anthony Kennedy agreed that the Quill ruling was “incorrect” and should be overruled. And Justice Neil Gorsuch said it was unfair to traditional retailers who must collect sales taxes. “Why should this court favor a particular business model that relies not on brick and mortar but on mail order?” he asked. Stephen Breyer, who could hold the deciding vote, asked questions about the costs and burdens of collecting sales taxes, but he did not signal he was leaning one way or the other.

FBI closer to finding answers on ‘health attacks’ in Cuba” via Nora Gámez Torres of the Miami Herald — The FBI is closer to finding answers about the mysterious attacks that caused health ailments in at least 24 U.S. diplomats, relatives and intelligence agents in Havana, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio told the Miami Herald. And the symptoms of some victims are so severe they will not be able to return to work. “I was briefed last Wednesday by the FBI. They have been investigating this, and they have made a lot of progress,” Rubio said in Lima, where he’d traveled to attend the eighth Summit of the Americas. According to the Florida Senator, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the FBI “has been able to rule out several theories in terms of the technology that was used, and I think there will come a time when we will know a little more.”

Assignment editors — North Carolina Republican Congressman Mark Meadows, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations, will hold a hearing on the tax-exempt private activity bonds (PABs) used for All Aboard Florida’s Brightline passenger rail system. Among those testifying will be Dylan Reingold, Indian River County Attorney; Dan Wouters, Division Chief of Martin County Fire Rescue; and Bob Crandall, CARE FL Steering Committee member. Committee meeting begins 10 a.m., 2154 Rayburn House Office Building, 45 Independence Ave. SW in Washington D.C.

Happening today — State talks safe seniors — Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Justin Senior, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson and former state Sen. Eleanor Sobel are the featured guest at a “Congressional Consortium for Safe Seniors” event. Among the issues for discussion are new requirements that nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have emergency power sources. The mandate came after the deaths of several seniors in a Broward County nursing home during Hurricane Irma. Meeting begins 10 a.m., Hollywood Beach Community Center, 1301 South Ocean Dr. in Hollywood.


Joe Henderson: Letting voters decide on greyhound racing is right call” via Florida Politics — The Constitutional Revision Commission voted in favor of placing an amendment before voters in November to ban the, well, what is it exactly? It’s not a sport, despite what its supporters say. I guess you’d call it an industry, but it is one that already has been outlawed in 40 states. Florida is one of only six states where greyhound racing remains active; four other states have no dog tracks but have not outlawed racing. My guess is that following the election, Florida will join the other four-fifths of the United States by phasing out what state Sen. Tom Lee, who sponsored the measure, called an “archaic tradition.” At the core of the argument for a constitutional amendment is the simple premise that the people of Florida should get to decide what kind of state they want to have. What people may once have seen as harmless entertainment now doesn’t seem that way after a look under the hood at what is really going on.


Rubio taps head of conservative group as chief of staff” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Rubio has hired Michael Needham, Chief Executive Officer for Heritage Action for America, to serve as his chief of staff … Earlier this year, Rubio fired former chief of staff Clint Reed, following reports that the aide had engaged in “improper conduct” with a subordinate. “Mike brings a wealth of policy, political and management experience that will greatly complement our office’s mission of serving the people of Florida and leading the effort to modernize the conservative movement in the 21st century. Mike understands and shares these goals, and I look forward to his contributions,” Rubio said in a news release.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Kenneth GrangerNick Iarossi, Capital City Consulting: Wise Outlook

— ALOE —

AAA: Florida could soon see the highest gas prices in more than three years” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News — AAA released a study which found prices stood, on average, at $2.68 per gallon, the highest they have been since the middle of September. Since Monday, prices have risen, on average, 5 cents a gallon across the state. A month ago, the average gas price in Florida stood at $2.53 per gallon. Mark Jenkins, a spokesman for AAA and the Auto Club Group, said that rising tensions in the Middle East are partially to blame for the increased prices. He also said he expected prices to continue to go up.

Icons of American West on display in new museum — in Florida” via Tamara Lush of The Associated Press — When you think of Florida, the colored stone walls of the Grand Canyon don’t come to mind. Neither do cowboys, wolves or Native American silver-and-turquoise jewelry. In downtown St. Petersburg, all of those icons of the American West are on display in a new museum. It’s called the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art, and it opened this month. The 80,000-square-foot space is two blocks from the glittering blue waters of Tampa Bay. There are 400 pieces on display, from large sculptures of Native Americans on horseback to pop-art conceptual paintings of the pioneer spirit. It’s unusually earthy and rustic fare, especially for a state that’s known for beaches, alligators and sanitized theme parks. Even the gallery walls are painted in earthy, Southwestern colors. All of the art was collected over decades by billionaire Thomas James, chairman emeritus of the Raymond Jones financial services company, and his wife Mary.

The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art, St. Petersburg’s newest art destination.

NASA, SpaceX targeting Wednesday launch of planet hunter after scrub” via James Dean of FLORIDA TODAY — SpaceX hopes to be ready Wednesday evening to launch a planet-hunting NASA science mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. A first attempt to launch a Falcon 9 rocket and NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, was scrubbed several hours before Monday’s planned 6:32 p.m.liftoff. SpaceX said it stood down to perform more analysis of the rocket’s guidance, navigation and control system. A Wednesday liftoff from Launch Complex 40 would be at 6:51 p.m. The weather forecast is excellent, with less than a 10 percent chance of violating launch rules.

Report: Crossroads at Disney could be leveled for I-4 construction” via Mark Lehman of — According to GrowthSpotter, the Florida Department of Transportation has made a $145 million offer for the Crossroads, which opened in 1988. If the deal goes through, the 29-acre property is scheduled to be demolished by the end of 2019. In its place would be a redesigned interchange between I-4 and State Road 535. Over its 30-year history, the Crossroads has seen a number of tenants come and go but has steadily remained a dining and shopping destination for tourists.

Happy birthday to the best health care reporter in the state and the best reporter in her household, Christine Jordan Sexton.

Last Call for 4.17.18 – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

Will a ruling for Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner, allowing him to personally grow and make juice of medical marijuana, give a boost to John Morgan’s separate lawsuit to allow it to be smoked by patients?

Redner’s attorney thinks so. The same circuit judge, Tallahassee’s Karen Gievers, presides over both suits.

She found that Redner, who wants to drink raw marijuana juice to keep his cancer in remission, has a right to do so under the state’s constitutional amendment on medicinal cannabis, passed by voters in 2016. The state is appealing that ruling.

“I think that the findings of this court that Amendment 2 does not … tell a patient how they can consume medical marijuana … will be very beneficial to Mr. Morgan,” said Luke Lirot, speaking after a Tuesday hearing in Redner’s case. (“Amendment 2” refers to its 2016 ballot placement.)

“I think this court will find that limiting the smoking of marijuana is also an unconstitutional deprivation,” he added.

Morgan, the Orlando personal injury attorney known for his ubiquitous TV ads and billboards, is suing after lawmakers forbade marijuana from being smoked. Morgan bankrolled and otherwise supported the marijuana amendment’s passage.

The grounds of the suits are similar: That the state shouldn’t get in between doctors and patients as to the best way to get ‘medically efficacious’ results from marijuana.

As for Gievers being on both cases, Lirot added: “Sometimes the random rotation of judges turns out in your favor.”

Evening Reads

IRS payment system crashes on last tax filing day” via Aaron Lorenzo of POLITICO

Top GOP super PAC books $48 million in ads for House races” via Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post

After Parkland shooting: Youth activism is not showing up in voter registrations numbers” via James Call for 10 News

Neil Combee: I’m running for Dennis Ross’s CD 15 seat” via Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News

Greyhound owners plan legal challenge of dog racing ban” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

Senators back hospitals on payment challenges” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida

Leon judge vacates stay on medical marijuana home grow ruling” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida

Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein won’t get a break his 50-year prison sentence, judge rules” via Paula McMahon of the Sun Sentinel

Coke Florida sues former president for breach of contract” via Margie Manning of the Tampa Bay Business Journal

Sunshine State added the third most new solar capacity last year” via Tom DiChristopher of CNBC

Quote of the Day

Pam Bondi “was wrong, and a modicum of research would have shown that … She has full access to any kennel in the state. She could see any abuse first hand, but she won’t, because there is none.” — Jack Cory, lobbyist for the Florida Greyhound Association, referring to the Attorney General’s remarks in favor of a dog racing ban during Monday’s Constitution Revision Commission session.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

The Florida Commission on Offender Review will hear numerous parole cases from across the state. That’s at 9 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.

The state Revenue Estimating Conference will hold what is known as a post-session “impact” conference. That’s at 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

Gov. Rick Scott, a candidate for U.S. Senate this year, will host a campaign roundtable with business leaders in Jacksonville. That’s at 9:30 a.m., Vak Pak Inc., 1824 Phoenix Ave., Jacksonville.

The state Reemployment Assistance Appeals Commission will meet. That’s at 9:30 a.m., Reemployment Assistance Appeals Commission, 101 Rhyne Building, 2740 Centerview Dr., Tallahassee.

Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Justin Senior, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, and former state Sen. Eleanor Sobel will take part in a “Congressional Consortium for Safe Seniors” event. That’s at 10 a.m., Hollywood Beach Community Center, 1301 South Ocean Dr., Hollywood.

The Able Trust continues its regional contests for the annual Jeannie Amendola Speech and Research Competition. They are tomorrow at 11:30 a.m, Goodwill of Central Florida, 7531 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, and Thursday at 11:30 a.m., Florida Southwestern State College, Rooms J-103 & 104, 7505 Grand Lely Drive, Naples.

A multidisciplinary health-care board will discuss rules to carry out a newly passed bill (HB 21) that seeks to help curb the state’s opioid epidemic. The conference call is expected to include representatives of the Boards of Dentistry, Osteopathic Medicine, Medicine, Nursing, Podiatric Medicine and Pharmacy. That’s at noon. The call-in number is (888) 670-3525 and the code is 7342425515.

The Agency for Health Care Administration will hold a meeting that will include a discussion with representatives of Medicaid managed-care plans, behavioral-health providers and advocates. That’s at 1 p.m., Central Florida Behavioral Health Network, 8920 Brittany Way, Tampa.

Florida’s Democratic candidates will gather for the first televised debate of the 2018 election for governor. The debate will be recorded at 3 p.m. at the studios of Fox 13 Tampa Bay and streamed live online at At 6:30 p.m., the debate will be broadcast in the Tampa Bay market and streamed once again on the station’s website.

Sen. Denise Grimsley, who is running for state agriculture commissioner, is slated to be among the speakers during a meeting of the Federated Republican Women of North Dade. Other speakers include gubernatorial candidate Bob White and Carla Spalding, a candidate in Congressional District 23. That’s at 6 p.m., 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant, 1395 N.W. 57th Ave., Miami.

Vern Buchanan

Florida’s congressional Republicans targeted in billboard blitz

A national progressive group announced Monday that 30 congressional Republicans nationwide would wake up to find unflattering billboards in their districts, including four in Florida.

The billboards, part of the “Not One Penny” campaign started last year by Tax March, blast Sarasota U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, Lakeland U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, Panama City U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn and Punta Gorda U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney for the tax breaks they’re set to receive under the plan passed by Congress late last year.

Both Rooney and Ross have announced they will not run for re-election in 2018.

“Congressional Republicans have given themselves tax breaks. This is textbook corruption: lining their pockets while raising taxes on the middle class,” said Not One Penny Spokesperson Tim Hogan.

“They need to be called out for putting themselves ahead of their constituents. Working families deserve better from their elected officials and will hold them accountable for voting to undermine the well-being of families across the nation.”

The billboards, part of a six-figure ad campaign, each list the tax cut a particular Congressman will receive, followed by the query “what did you get?” in all caps. The bottom line of the billboards points readers to

The site features an email signup sheet accompanied by the following statement:

“Despite enormous public opposition, Congress passed the GOP tax scam bill, which will raise taxes for 92 million middle-class families, rip health care away from 13 million people, and threaten life-saving programs — all to give tax breaks to millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations.


Buchanan is set to save the most of the four Florida targets, with his billboard saying he “voted for the tax law and gave himself up to a $2,131,750 tax break.” That windfall ranks second among the 30 advertisements listed in the Not One Penny release, coming behind only Indiana U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth.

Rooney’s billboard claims his tax break was up to $600,250, while Ross’ shows up to $100,000, and Dunn’s says $19,316.

The release announcing the billboards said the figures were based on a recently released study from the Center for American Progress, a progressive public policy research and advocacy group.

Images of the billboards are below.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 4.17.18

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

Florida was well represented at this year’s Pulitzer Prizes.

First up, the Pulitzer board disclosed Monday that the newspaper’s “Fight Club” series, by reporters Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch, was one of two finalists for the 2018 Investigative Journalism award. Finalists are not identified before the annual awards are given out.

The board said their exposé on the juvenile justice system, “prompted by the tragic death of a foster child and told in heartbreaking detail, spurred legislative reform intended to better protect that states’ young charges.” The other finalist was Tim Eberly of The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Virginia.

The award went to the staff of The Washington Post for its reporting on Roy Moore’s candidacy. The paper “changed the course of a U.S. Senate race in Alabama by revealing a candidate’s alleged past sexual harassment of teenage girls and subsequent efforts to undermine the journalism that exposed it.”

Post staff who reported those stories includes Beth Reinhard, a former Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post reporter.

But wait, there’s more.

— John Woodrow Cox of The Washington Post, formerly of the Tampa Bay Times, was a finalist in the Feature Writing category for “a gripping portfolio of stories rendered with keen observation and graceful yet simple writing that presents the horror of gun violence from an entirely new perspective: through the eyes of children.”

— Jack E. Davis, a professor of environmental history at the University of Florida, won the award in History for his book, “The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea,” a Florida-centric look at the “important environmental history of the Gulf of Mexico that brings crucial attention to Earth’s 10th-largest body of water.”

— Brett Murphy of USA Today Network was a finalist in the National Reporting category for “a graceful, data-driven narrative populated by the truckers who transport goods from America’s ports — spirited characters exploited by some of the country’s largest and best-known companies.” Murphy is an investigative reporter for the USA TODAY Network in Florida and previously covered courts for the Naples Daily News.


— @MarcoRubio: Just notified that due to brain injuries to diplomats in #Havana #Canada has designated embassy in #Cuba to ‘unaccompanied post’ & personnel will no longer be joined by family. Will also review all positions in Cuba to balance staff safety with need to deliver services on island

— @RepTedDeutch: The blackout in PR is the second longest in world history. The United States, the wealthiest country on this planet, is failing to provide for its people. Puerto Ricans are US citizens and we cannot continue to ignore their needs.

— @MrPurdon: This AM I was part of an intimate campaign stop with Gov. Scott. Second time I have seen him do an event in SWFL in just as many weeks. Something I noticed both times, No Notes. Gov. Scott has a little more swag or pep in his step than campaigns past

— @BSFarrington: Starting to figure out why the @FloridaCRC only meets every 20 years.

— @JKennedyReport: “There are no fundraisers tonight at the Governor’s Club for ethics,” sez @FloridaCRC‘s Don Gaetz, touting his 6-year ban on public officials lobbying their agencies.

— @MDixon55: .@PascoSheriff just called out the silliness of saying “with all due respect” before blasting someone’s idea. It’s the best thing that has been said all day. Just say what you mean, folks.

— @ShevrinJones: Thank you @richardcorcoran for showing up to #LibertyCity to meet with community leaders about the gun violence in our communities.

— @EmmersBrown: Marty Baron calls Pulitzer-winning work at The Washington Post — and The New York Times — a case study in why we need a free press in this country”

— @DeFede: Congratulations indeed. Great work. Nevertheless, I still believe that @MarbinMiller is long overdue for a @PulitzerPrizes win. No journalist in the country has done more to change laws and protect the children and the elderly in Florida than her.

— @ByRosenberg: One of today’s Pulitzer winners has already left the paper to run a brewery’s social media account. This is at least the 4th Pulitzer winner since 2015 who left for PR by the time they won. PR pays 2x more & has much more job security than journalism

— @KevinCate: We just won the #2018Pollies Award for Bilingual TV from the @TheAAPC! Check out our winning spot and some behind the scenes footage!


Avengers: Infinity War opens — 6; NFL Draft begins — 9; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 16; Mother’s Day — 26; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 38; Memorial Day — 41; Father’s Day — 61; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 66; Deadline for filing claim bills — 106; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debates — 106; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debates — 107; Start of the U.S. Open — 132; Primary Election Day — 133; College Football opening weekend — 137; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 189; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 190; General Election Day — 203; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 303; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 322.


Low going: Florida Bar exam results again under 60 percent” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The passage rate for first-time Florida Bar winter exam takers continues to stay in a ditch. Of 637 first-time takers in the February examination, 369 passed the bar, or 57.9 percent, according to a Monday release from the state’s Board of Bar Examiners. That’s only a 0.2 percent uptick from this time last year, when 57.7 percent of first-timers passed — 433 out of 751. The highest pass rate in recent years still is 80.2 percent from February 2013, when there were 819 first-timers.


Rick Scott’s super PAC gets first-quarter boost from financial services industry” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The committee, New Republican, was branded as pro-President Donald Trump, but included Scott‘s signature on its homepage, and a video featuring the two-term governor turned Senate candidate. The super PAC now has nearly $2 million in the bank as the race between Scott and incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson officially kicks off. It got its biggest cash boost last quarter from the financial services industry. It received a $300,000 contribution from Greg Lindberg, founder of Eli Global, a North Carolina-based investment firm that partners with entrepreneurs, and another $150,000 from Thomas McInerney, CEO of Bluff Point Associates, a Connecticut-based private equity firm. Another $40,000 came in from Christopher and Jude Reyes, brothers who lead Illinois-based Reyes Holdings, a food service wholesaler and distributor. Traditional state donors also chipped in. The committee received $50,000 checks each from a committee led by Pensacola developer Quint StuderLewis Bear, who owns Panhandle-based beer distributors; FCCI Insurance Group; and MCNA Health Care Holdings.

Scott campaign puts $2M behind first statewide Senate TV ad” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Scott’s newly minted Senate campaign is out with its first television ad, focusing on his push for federal term limits. “In Washington, they say term limits can’t be done. That’s nonsense,” he said. “We don’t work for them, they work for us.” Scott’s biggest policy push since entering the race April 9 has been term limits, which dovetails with his hit Sen. Nelson. He has been in elected office since the late 1970s, including a seat in the Senate since 2001. Scott’s campaign is putting $2 million behind the ad, which is running statewide.

Click on the image below to watch the ad:

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Possible Ryan successor Kevin McCarthy to appear at DC fundraiser with Rick Scott” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — a possible successor to Paul Ryan — will appear at a fundraiser Wednesday for Scott‘s Senate campaign. The event will be held at the home of former Florida Congressman Jeff Miller, an early backer of Donald Trump who now works for the lobbying firm McDermott Will & Emery. Ryan has endorsed McCarthy as the next House speaker but others are angling for the job. On Thursday, Scott will raise money along side heavy hitters such as Haley Barbour, Charlie Black, Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn. Scott does not plan public appearances during his visit.

5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Here are five areas that deserve close attention: Health care. Scott ran for governor in 2010 as an outspoken opponent of the Affordable Care Act, and he has not let up in his callous efforts to undermine it even as Florida has more residents — 1.7 million — who obtain coverage on the federal marketplace than any other state. Nelson voted for the Affordable Care Act and has argued Florida should join 32 other states that have expanded Medicaid. Transportation. In his first year in office, Scott foolishly rejected $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando that would have been a game-changer for Tampa Bay. Nelson supported the project … Environment. Scott’s sudden embrace of the environment and for spending millions in the coming year on restoring the Everglades and buying sensitive environmental land cannot cover up an abysmal record … Nelson’s environmental credentials are much stronger … Gun control. Scott signed into law a sweeping $400 million package that raises the age for buying all guns to 21 and spends more on mental health … Nelson supports a ban on the sale of assault weapons and tighter background checks. Cuba. Scott supports Trump’s wrongheaded efforts to unwind the commendable work by former President Barack Obama … Nelson continued to criticize the Castro brothers, but he supported Obama’s efforts on Cuba.


A quick trip down memory lane could dictate the U.S. Senate race, in which Gov. Scott hopes to unseat Sen. Nelson.

A recent National Journal story invites readers to examine Scott’s tenure as it relates to health care. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee wasted no time and sent the piece out to media and supporters.

Health care and Scott have a complicated history, one that certainly won’t be used for messaging by the term-limited Governor’s campaign — unlike his job growth talking point. Rest assured, it will continue to be highlighted by groups like the DSCC, which dubbed the subject a “political minefield.”

Trail talk: Scott shifted bigly on expanding Medicaid to the state under Obamacare. When coupled with his history in private practice, the “governor’s checkered past when it comes to health care is set to be a significant issue on the campaign trail.”

That’s sizable: If the state were to expand Medicaid, “more than 500,000 Floridians who are currently living in a coverage gap where Medicaid eligibility ends and marketplace health-insurance assistance begins would obtain coverage, according to analysis by the Florida Policy Institute, which has historically pushed for Medicaid expansion.”

Old folks: The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has endorsed Nelson. “Last year, [Scott] endorsed the Republican plan to block-grant Medicaid, which could lead to huge funding cuts and reduced eligibility — or loss of coverage — for 4.3 million low-income Floridians,” the group stated.


Andrew Gillum pledges to up corporate taxes to provide $1B more for public school” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — “When I’m governor, we’ll invest $1 billion in our public schools, students, and teachers and put the president’s disastrous tax giveaway to work. Under my ‘Fair Share for Florida’s Future’ Plan, we’ll ask our richest corporations to invest a fraction of their windfall under this new law into our state’s education and workforce,” Gillum stated in a news release. Gillum’s plan calls for an increase in the corporate income tax rate on large corporations to 7.75 percent, contending that few of them are paying taxes now, and those that do pay only pay 5.5 percent. Gillum’s plan would call for adding at least $100 million into the Public Education Capital Outlay Fund for public schools construction; at least $400 million to pay raises for public school teachers; at least $250 million in early childhood education programs; and at least $100 million for vocational training.

New Gwen Graham ad on gun safety focuses on Parkland, NRA” via Stephen Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — “What happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas is every parent’s worst nightmare,” says Graham in the video, entitled “It’s Time.” … “My heart breaks as a mom,” she says. “That’s how this issue resonates with me, not as someone running for office, but as a mom that never wants any parent to face what those parents faced. Time after time after time we have done nothing in the face of these horrific tragedies. This time will be different. This time must be different.” Graham also specifically called out Gov. Scott, Republicans and the NRA. “The gun lobby bears a significant responsibility but ultimately, it’s the Republicans in the Legislature that are allowing these pieces of legislation to go through and the governor for signing them,” Graham said. “It’s time we take common-sense gun safety steps, that even if they prevent one death — one death — it’s worth it.”

Click on the image below to watch the ad:

Ross Spano plans to skip AG race, run for House seat Dennis Ross is leaving” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Spano, 51, an attorney, is currently in his third term in the state House and one of four Republican candidates for state attorney general. Ross surprised the Tampa Bay area political world last week by announcing he won’t seek what likely would have been an easy re-election to his congressional seat. But Spano is only one of a number of prominent East Hillsborough and Polk County Republicans considering a run to replace Ross, including state Sen. Tom Lee. The qualifying period for federal offices is April 30-May 4.

Neil Combee teases big announcement” via Florida Politics — “Stay tuned HIGH NOON … we make a big announcement! I am forever grateful to the folks in my community, this region and most recently this country as a strong supporter of President Trump and his agenda for America,” Combee told Florida Politics in a statement. “Now, if we’re to keep America great, we need leaders who will stand with the President and his vision for restoring the promise of the American dream. I believe there is a more direct way I can help support the President and his vision and I plan on sharing tomorrow at noon.” Combee’s “more direct way” is almost certainly a run for Florida’s 15th Congressional District. Combee hinted at a possible run over the weekend: “Don’t ever sell your saddle. You never know what tomorrow brings.”

Alan Grayson raises $192K in first quarter, says ‘I am running for Congress’ … somewhere” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Democratic former U.S. Rep. Grayson said he definitely is running for Congress but insisted he still hasn’t decided where yet … “I am running for the U.S. House of Representatives.” But the decision as to which district, “gets answered during the qualifying period,” he added. Qualifying for the U.S. House of Representatives ballot opens April 30 and runs through May 4. In the latest reports, Grayson’s committee raised $192,018, including $71,358 in contributions so small that they need not be itemized, with more than 5,000 individual donations. The committee also spent $53,567 and entered April with $694,967 in the bank.

Scott Sturgill raises $211K in first quarter for CD 7 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Sturgill is reporting that his campaign raised $211,489 in the first quarter 2018, pushing the total raised to over a half-million dollars in Florida’s 7th Congressional District. He faces state Rep. Mike Miller, Vennia Francois, and Patrick Weingart. With the first quarter take, Sturgill now has raised $520,000 and finished March with about $366,000 in cash. They all aim to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, who has raised about $1.75 million and had about $1.2 million in the bank.

— “Mike Miller, Sturgill campaigns spar over fundraising numbers” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel

Julio Gonzalez leads Greg Steube in fundraising for District 17 congressional race” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Gonzalez put $150,000 of his own money into his congressional campaign in the first quarter of 2018 and raised another $83,705, giving him an early fundraising lead over state Sen. Steube in the GOP primary … Steube, a Sarasota attorney, kicked in $15,000 of his own money and raised another $48,550 during the three-month period. Gonzalez, a Venice orthopedic surgeon, collected much of his first quarter campaign cash from other medical professionals. A number of doctors gave Gonzalez the maximum $2,700 for the primary election. Among Steube’s biggest donors: The Mosaic Company’s political action committee, the United States Sugar Corporation and the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists.

Brian Mast, Lauren Baer raking in outside donations from high-profile donors” via Ali Schmitz of TCPalm — Since Jan. 1, incumbent U.S. Rep. Mast received nearly $888,000 while Democratic challenger Baer, a former foreign policy adviser in the Obama administration, received more than $450,000, according to Federal Elections Commission records released this week. Not surprisingly, both candidates received donations from their respective party leaders: Republicans who want to keep District 18 red and Democrats who want to turn it blue. Both also received donations from prominent business leaders who support their party’s policies. Where they differ is on donations from prominent corporations. Mast is accepting them while Baer signed a pledge to not accept them. She and other Democrats say they lead to special interests having too much power over politicians.

Committee touts Carlos Curbelo’s climate change record in new ad” via Florida Politics — The Alliance for Climate Solutions ad, published last week, includes aerial shots of the Everglades and South Florida beaches as well as shots of Curbelo in the field with farmers and speeding along on a boat with his daughter. “South Florida is like nowhere else on earth. It’s unique, beautiful. The sea, the sky, the people, but climate change is putting it all at risk. Never has there been more at stake,” the ad narrator states. “Our congressman, Carlos Curbelo, gets this. That’s why he’s working with Republicans and Democrats to find solutions to get things done. Carlos knows that for us, protecting the environment isn’t about politics, it’s personal. It is for him, too.” The 30-second ad flashes headlines from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Miami Herald and The Hill detailing the second-term congressman’s climate change-related work in Washington, D.C., before asking viewers to reach out to Curbelo on social media to “thank him for leading the fight against climate change.”

Click on the image below to watch the ad:

“A second Republican emerges in the race to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald – Miami broadcast journalist Maria Elvira Salazar looks like she could force a competitive Republican primary in the race to replacing retiring Rep. Ros-Lehtinen. Former Miami-Dade commissioner Bruno Barreiro was largely running a one-man money race among Republicans since he entered the primary shortly after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement, but Salazar bested his fundraising numbers in her first fundraising quarter since she officially jumped into the race in March. Salazar raised $303,115 from January 1 to March 31 and she has $287,612 left to spend, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. Barreiro raised $264,778, his best haul since entering the race shortly after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement last year. He maintains a cash on hand advantage over his new rival, with $420,978 left to spend.

Jason Pizzo sinks more money into Senate race” via the News Service of Florida — Trying to unseat Sen. Daphne Campbell in a Miami-Dade County district, Democrat Pizzo put another $50,000 of his money into the race in March … Pizzo lost a 2016 Democratic primary to Campbell in Senate District 38 and plans a rematch this year. With the $50,000 loan last month, Pizzo had loaned an overall total of $75,000 to the campaign as of March 31. He also had raised $66,679, including $16,510 in March, the finance report shows. Campbell had raised $77,434 as of March 31.

Happening tonight:

Save the date:


First responder, state college issues go on ballot” via the News Service of Florida — In a 30-7 vote, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission backed the proposal (Proposal 6002), which will appear as Amendment 7 on the Nov. 6 general-election ballot. Under the proposal, members of the Florida National Guard and active-duty members of the U.S. military stationed in Florida would also qualify for the death benefits if they are killed while performing their duties. The constitutional change would also require the state to waive tuition and other fees for surviving spouses or children attending universities or other postsecondary institutions. The ballot measure also would establish “a system of governance” for the 28 state and community colleges in the Constitution. It would mandate that each college is governed by a local board of trustees and that the entire system is supervised by the state Board of Education, which is how the system works now under its current statutory authority.

CRC advances bundled education proposal to November ballot” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Despite calls to treat each idea separately, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission has sent a proposal to voters that would set school board member term limits, require civic education in public schools, and allow for the creation of a state charter school authorizer. Commission member Roberto Martinez, a former State Board of Education chairman and key legal adviser to Jeb Bush, pressed the panel to unbundle the package [P 6003]. The portion to give control of some public schools to an entity other than a local school board would be a “game changer” that would radically alter public education governance, Martinez argued. Voters should have a clear understanding of the proposal and then decide on its own merits — not because it’s tied to another concept, he said. “These are three separate issues,” former state senator Chris Smith said in agreement. “I don’t even realize how I’m going to vote. I’m strong on some of it. I’m against some of it.”

Drilling, vaping bans headed to November ballot” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Voters will get a chance to decide this fall whether to ban nearshore oil and gas drilling and prevent people from vaping or using electronic cigarettes in many public places, under a proposed constitutional amendment approved Monday. Without debate, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission voted 33-3 to back a single proposed amendment (Proposal 6004) that includes the drilling and vaping issues. Commissioner Brecht Heuchan, chairman of the commission’s Style and Drafting Committee, said the drilling and vaping issues were linked because sponsors worked together with a moniker of “clean air, clean water” … “If anything went together, it was those two,” Heuchan said.

Voters now will decide on dog racing ban” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Statewide voters will decide whether to outlaw greyhound racing under a proposed constitutional amendment approved Monday. The proposal (P6012) was passed by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) on a 27-10 vote; it needed at least 22 votes. It will go directly to November’s statewide ballot, where it needs at least 60 percent approval to be added to the constitution. Commissioner Tom Lee, the amendment’s sponsor, tweeted: “My proposal to end dog racing just passed the @FloridaCRC! The amendment will now appear on the November ballot and voters will decide whether our state ends this archaic tradition.” The measure goes into effect Dec. 31, 2020, if passed, and bans dog racing itself and betting on dog races. It doesn’t, however, affect any other gambling now going on at dog tracks, such as card games.

Canine consideration: Attorney General Pam Bondi (at left) speaks in favor of a proposed dog racing ban before the Florida CRC. It eventually passed and will be placed on this November’s ballot.

Voters will decide on lobbying reform this fall” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — A proposed constitutional amendment that would mandate a six-year lobbying ban on all elected officeholders, agency heads and judges cleared the Florida Constitution Revision Commission in a 30-4 vote. If approved by 60 percent of voters in November, public officers will be barred from lobbying before local, state and federal governments for the duration of the ban, which begins when the officer leaves their post. The amendment (Proposal 6007) contains drafted language of the ethics provisions provided in Commissioner Don Gaetz‘ Proposal 39. Unlike other proposals, the ethics package will appear by itself on the ballot.

Panel rejects closing write-in loophole” via the News Service of Florida — The commission … came up three votes short of approving the primary-election change. The issue, which drew heavy debate, stemmed from a 1998 constitutional amendment that was designed to open primary elections to all voters, regardless of party affiliation, when all of the candidates in races are from the same party. But primaries become closed — available only to voters who are in the parties of the candidates — when write-ins sign up for the races. Critics have long argued that this write-in “loophole” has become a ploy for Republican and Democratic operatives to find nonviable candidates who they can use to close primaries. Commission member Lisa Carlton on Monday called the use of write-ins a “sham” and said it went against the intent of the 1998 constitutional amendment.

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Chamber of Commerce cheers failure of ‘E-Verify’ measure” via Florida Politics — The Florida Chamber of Commerce on Monday said the voting down of a constitutional amendment to create a ‘Florida E-Verify’ system “was a win for protecting Florida’s Constitution.” “Proposal 6010 would have placed an ineffective federal government system into Florida’s foundational document,” said Frank Walker, the Chamber’s vice president of Governmental Affairs. “The Florida Chamber of Commerce applauds Commissioners for standing on the side of facts and good policy.” … The idea was backed by Commissioner Rich Newsome, an attorney appointed by Speaker Corcoran.

Miami-Dade voters in favor of electing constitutional officers” via Florida Politics — The poll, commissioned by Constitutional Officer Resource Experts (CORE), found more than three quarters of likely voters in Miami-Dade County were in favor of electing constitutional officers such as county sheriffs or property appraisers, while just 10 percent were opposed. An earlier statewide poll, conducted in March, found 86 percent of voters were in support, with 6 percent opposed. The proposal is currently under consideration by the Constitution Revision Commission as Proposal 6005. It was originally contained in Proposal 13.


Kids are suing Gov. Scott to force Florida to take action on climate change” via the Miami Herald — Seven young Florida residents — the youngest is 10, the oldest is 20, and one is a University of Miami marine science student — are the named plaintiffs in a lawsuit that seeks to force a state extremely vulnerable to climate-driven sea rise to start work on a court-ordered, science-based “Climate Recovery Plan.” The group is represented by Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based organization sponsoring similar suits from children around the country at the state and federal level. The original case, Juliana vs. United States, was filed in 2015 against the federal government and goes to trial in October. Delaney Reynolds, an 18-year-old who attends UM’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, said she contacted the group when she heard about the case against the federal government and found the organization was already planning one against Florida. She agreed to join six other plaintiffs, including 10-year-old Levi Draheim.

Assignment editors — Gov. Scott attend the ribbon cutting ceremony for United Technologies’ (UTC) new facility in Palm Beach Gardens at 9:25 a.m., 13995 Pasteur Boulevard. At 1:30 p.m., the Governor will hold a campaign roundtable with business leaders, Associated Builders and Contractors, 2008 N. Himes Ave. in Tampa.

Scholarship formed in honor of late press secretary — Jeri Bustamante, who served as press secretary to Gov. Scott, passed away in a boating accident earlier this month. Scott and First Lady Ann Scott now have established a scholarship to support a graduate from her high school, Miami Beach Senior High, who plans to attend a Florida public college or university. Tax-deductible contributions can be made out to Jeri Bustamante Memorial Scholarship c/o Florida Board of Governors Foundation, 325 West Gaines St., Suite 1644, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0400. The scholarship will be overseen by the Board of Governors of the State University System.

’I needed to watch my back’: The warning that led an officer to seek cover in Parkland shooting” via Lisa Huriash of the Orlando Sentinel — Coral Springs Police Officer Tim Burton rushed to get to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High when he heard over his radio there was a gunman there. But when he got there, he found the school resource officer, Broward Deputy Scot Peterson, seeking cover behind a concrete column, he said. Peterson told Burton “I needed to watch my back,” Burton said in a report. So, Burton took cover in a parking lot. Burton’s firsthand account is among the reports released by Coral Springs police. Burton’s report stands out because he was both the first on-duty officer from the department to arrive. He also had an exchange with Peterson, who was criticized by the sheriff for his response. Coral Springs has been releasing reports piecemeal over the past two months, amid the ongoing criminal investigation into the Feb. 14 shooting.

Dreaded ‘cone of uncertainty’ will shrink for the coming hurricane season” via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald – The National Hurricane Center plans to shrink the dreaded “cone of uncertainty” during the upcoming season based on an improving forecast record. The Miami-based center made the announcement Monday, along with a series of other changes intended to improve how hurricane forecasters convey warnings to the public. Along with the shrinking cone, forecasters will extend advisories, which include warnings and watches, to 72 hours in advance of a storm, providing a full additional day to prepare. Experimental graphics used last year to depict arrival times for dangerous winds will also become a permanent addition to forecasts. “The changes are to improve information contained in the hurricane center products and to provide it in maybe easier to understand formats,” said Dan Brown, a senior hurricane specialist in charge of warning coordination.

Panel: Flagler Judge Scott DuPont ‘will not follow the law’” via Frank Fernandez of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission is sticking to its recommendation that the Florida Supreme Court boot embattled Circuit Judge DuPont from the bench … the JQC recommended he be removed after finding him guilty of several violations of the code of judicial conduct. DuPont’s attorney filed a response asking that he not be removed and stating that the JQC had not presented a single witness saying that DuPont was unfit to be a judge. That was correct, the JQC’s attorneys, Henry Coxe III and Michael Schneider, wrote in its response. “The FJQC did, however, prove that Judge DuPont abused his position and showed himself to be unfit by: ordering money taken from litigants unlawfully; intentionally violating judicial campaign rules in a way that caused permanent harm to private citizens; prioritizing campaigning for re-election over lawful performance of his duties; and announcing to the public that he would ignore his judicial oath. Furthermore, Judge DuPont’s testimony to the FJCQ was, at times, not worthy of belief.”

St. Pete Beach mayor says city won’t pitch in $1.5 million for proposed bus project” via Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is trying to identify creative funding sources to bridge a $1.5 million gap in local funding for the proposed Central Avenue Bus Rapid Transit route connecting downtown St. Petersburg to St. Pete Beach. PSTA is seeking a federal grant for a little more than $20 million to pay for nearly half of the total $42 million project. But under the Small Starts grant program, transit agencies must have firm commitments from local funding partners to guarantee a local match for the federal grant. PSTA’s federal request lists $1.5 million from St. Pete Beach through ad valorem property taxes, but the city hasn’t agreed to pay it. Most municipalities in Pinellas County assess a 0.075 millage rate on residents’ property taxes to fund public transit. If St. Pete Beach agreed to that assessment, which it does not currently, it would bring in about $1.7 million a year, according to PSTA. Instead St. Pete Beach enters into a contract each year with PSTA typically paying about $500,000 for service. “To be honest, there’s no way in hell I’m going to give them $1.5 million,” said St. Pete Beach Mayor Al Johnson. “As much as I’d like to have it, it’s just not worth it to us.”

Assignment editors — Medical marijuana dispensary Surterra Wellness will celebrate the grand opening of its Orlando Wellness Center at 2 p.m., 1743 South Orange Avenue (on the east side of South Orange Avenue one block north of Kaley Street).


White House braces for Donald Trump ‘cleanup duty’ at Mar-a-Lago” via Andrew Restuccia and Louis Nelson of POLITICO Florida — The president’s regular visits to Mar-a-Lago often bring out an even more unfiltered Trump — and people close to the president are bracing for a potentially tumultuous trip … Even before he departed, Trump was already fuming over former FBI Director James Comey‘s new book and the criminal investigation into his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Five days at Mar-a-Lago, where he often spends even more time watching cable news and talking to friends, could send his frustrations to new heights. “Someone should say a prayer for Sarah, Mercy and Raj because rest assured, Mar-a-Lago is the last place they want the president spending his time this week,” said one person close to the White House, referring to White House communications staffers Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Mercedes Schlapp and Raj Shah. “They have a lot of cleanup duty ahead of them.”

Trump in Palm Beach: Top aides join Trump before Japan summit” via George Bennett and Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post — Those spotted leaving the presidential plane at PBIA included White House chief of staff John Kelly, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, national security adviser John Bolton, chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and senior policy adviser Stephen Miller. Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan and U.S. Trade Representative — and Palm Beach resident — Robert Lighthizer will also be part of the U.S. delegation when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives for two days of meetings at Mar-a-Lago. The chief topic will be North Korea and its nuclear program ahead of Trump’s planned talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump and Abe played golf when Abe visited Palm Beach last year and when Trump visited Japan in November, but no golf outings are on the official schedule this week.

Presidential snub? Miami-Dade mayor doesn’t make the cut to greet Trump at airport” via Doug Hanks of the Miami Herald — Despite upending Miami-Dade’s immigration policy to mollify Trump in the early days of his presidency, Mayor Carlos Gimenez suggested through a spokeswoman he was snubbed by the White House during a rare visit to Miami by the president. The only municipal official there to greet Trump on the tarmac of the county airport that Gimenez oversees was the Republican mayor of Hialeah, Carlos Hernández, according to a pool report. … The apparent snub may be evidence of a lasting grudge between Trump and Gimenez, who tried to distance himself from his fellow Republican at a time when the 2016 presidential campaign overlapped with the mayor’s own reelection bid. During a televised debate with challenger Raquel Regalado in October of that year, Gimenez called on Trump to drop out of the race because of Trump’s lewd comments about women captured by an Access Hollywood recording.

President Donald Trump is greeted by Sen. Marco Rubio as Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez, left, and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart look on during Trump’s arrival on Air Force One at Miami International Airport. Photo credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais.

Nelson wants probe into FAA’s handling of Allegiant Air” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Following a hard-hitting “60 Minutes” report on Allegiant Air, which dovetailed previous reporting by the Tampa Bay Times, Sen. Nelson is calling for an investigation into the FAA’s enforcement actions. “The traveling public deserves to know whether the FAA is conducting thorough safety oversight of Allegiant. Anything less could lead to disastrous consequences,” Nelson wrote in a letter to the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation. “Unfortunately, this is not the first report of serious safety concerns with Allegiant’s operations,” Nelson wrote. “In 2016, the Tampa Bay Times and Washington Post separately reported on aborted takeoffs and unexpected landings due to mechanical failures on Allegiant’s aging aircraft … In response, I included language in the Senate FAA bill last year that would require the agency to report to Congress annually on all commercial airline safety incidents and the steps taken to address them. The Senate is expected to vote on that measure next month.”

Vern Buchanan says these are seven ways to attack opioid epidemic” via Hannah Morse of the Bradenton Herald — Buchanan has introduced a seven-part bill to tackle the opioid epidemic from multiple angles. The bill, called Opioid Emergency Response Act, is a multifaceted, bipartisan approach that addresses mental health treatment, beefs up screening of packages through the U.S. Postal Service and calls for harsher sentences for convicted dealers. Centerstone CEO Melissa Larkin-Skinner praised Buchanan’s efforts, saying he is at the “forefront of the fight.” Buchanan has sponsored a bill within the larger bill called Alternatives to Opioids Prescribing Act, which would incentivize hospital emergency rooms to use high doses of Tylenol or Advil instead of low-dose opioids. Manatee Memorial Hospital is already using this approach.

Opioid assault: U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, flanked by anti-drug experts in Southwest Florida, on Monday debuted a 7-point plan to address the growing drug epidemic.

GOP congressmen targeted in billboard blitz” via Florida Politics — A national progressive group announced Monday that 30 congressional Republicans nationwide will wake up to find unflattering billboards in their districts, including four in Florida … the “Not One Penny” billboards blast U.S. Reps. BuchananNeal Dunn, Tom Rooney and Dennis Ross for the tax breaks they’re set to receive under the plan passed by Congress late last year. … The billboards, part of a six-figure ad campaign, each list the tax cut a particular Congressman will receive, followed by the query “what did you get?” in all caps. … Buchanan is set to save the most of the four Florida targets, with his billboard saying he “voted for the tax law and gave himself up to a $2,131,750 tax break.”


Joe Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled there is a price for that obstruction, finding that in the absence of state regulations, Tampa’s Redner is legally entitled to grow his own pot for medical use. The ruling applies only to Redner, who has lung cancer. But it’s a victory for medical marijuana patients and their advocates who should not have to wait for a stubborn bureaucracy to get access to medical care that the Florida Constitution allows … the state has delayed making the drug easily available and arbitrarily tried to limit the ways patients can access it and the forms it can take. The foot-dragging is an affront to Floridians who voted overwhelmingly in favor of medical marijuana and a cruelty toward patients in pain. Redner’s victory in court heralds that the state’s stalling won’t work much longer.

The future of agriculture lies in Central Florida” via Darren Soto for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Agriculture has continued to be Florida’s second largest industry for many years now. Even so, the industry itself is still a mystery to many who live in Florida’s sprawling suburbia. Our citrus industry is amid a tremendous greening epidemic caused by a tiny Asian citrus psyllid that attacks trees’ roots. It has reduced our production by over 70 percent historically. In response, we have provided over $166 million in federal funds over the last five years for research, including at the University of Florida’s Extension Services in Lake Alfred. In addition, local growers have discovered the importance of trace fertilizer minerals in boosting the trees’ natural immune systems. I also successfully passed an amendment in the recent omnibus spending bill to secure an additional $1 million in funding for the Specialty Crop Pest Program to further assist in these efforts. These new technologies could increase yields and quality, provide more high paying jobs for our region and help reduce national hunger. With critical policy, funding and coordinated efforts, our district is well-positioned to be a technology center of excellence for the future of America’s agriculture.


Going somewhere 20 minutes away? That’s just enough time to digest the strikes on Syria and our state leaders’ responses while also getting an expert’s perspective on the 2018 election.

The latest episode of The Rotunda recaps current events per usual, but host Trimmel Gomes also takes a deep dive this week into Swamp politics with USF political science professor and Sayfie columnist Dr. Susan MacManus.

“This is going to be one of the most interesting election years that we have seen in a Florida midterm in decades,” MacManus said.

On Syria: Florida’s two U.S. Senators lauded Friday night’s assault. So did Gov. Scott. Gomes asks why the strikes were quickly labeled a success, echoing concerns from other leaders like Maine’s Independent Sen. Angus King, who’s sampled saying “I think it’s very difficult to say ‘mission accomplished’ if the mission is to deter the use of chemical weapons.”

Gov and Senate race: “The biggest challenge for candidates is what’s the best way to mobilize voters,” MacManus said. “Generational schisms” in the electorate is cause for nuanced concerns of budgeting media buys and physical appearances, she said.

Consultants beware: MacManus said every campaign can learn from Hillary Clinton’s overemphasis on television instead of grassroots efforts. Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis has spent a bit of time on Fox News. Democrat Philip Levine leads the pack in TV buys.


Everglades Foundation taps new COO, communications director” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Shannon Estenoz will be chief operating officer and vice president for policy and programs, and Rebeca Rose will be communications director. Estenoz has spent 21 years in environmental policy and advocacy, most recently at the U.S. Department of the Interior, where she served since 2010 as director of the Office of Everglades Restoration Initiatives and the executive director of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. Rose is a veteran Washington-based communications professional whose work has spanned federal agencies including the Navy, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Energy and, most recently, the Export-Import Bank, where she served as vice president of communications.

Appointed — Carol Kuntz to the Florida Commission on the Status of Women.

— ALOE —

Kendrick Lamar is the first rapper to win a Pulitzer Prize” via Mesfin Fekadu of The Associated Press — Lamar has won the Pulitzer Prize for music, making history as the first nonclassical or jazz artist to win the prestigious prize. The revered rapper — who will be performing at Tampa’s MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre May 22 — is also the most commercially successful musician to receive the award, usually reserved for critically acclaimed classical acts who don’t live on the pop charts. The 30-year-old won the prize for DAMN., his raw and powerful Grammy-winning album. The Pulitzer board said the album is a “virtuosic song collection” and said it captures “the modern African-American life.” He will win $15,000. Lamar has been lauded for his deep lyrical content, politically charged live performances, and his profound mix of hip-hop, spoken word, jazz, soul, funk, poetry and African sounds. Since emerging on the music scene with the 2011 album “Section. 80,” he has achieved the perfect mix of commercial appeal and critical respect.

SpaceX scrubs Tess launch, targets Wednesday attempt” via Paul Brinkmann of the Orlando Sentinel — SpaceX delayed the launch of NASA’s TESS satellite, tweeting that the company would be performing more analysis of the launch guidance, navigation and control. They are targeting Wednesday for another attempt. SpaceX founder Elon Musk dropped some hints on Twitter about new efforts to explore recovery of the upper stage of the Falcon 9 rocket — but that won’t be happening for the TESS launch. Still, Musk’s teaser about the second stage efforts provided some excitement, even with the scrub.

Happy birthday to state Rep. Ray RodriguesBill Dolan, Pinellas Commission candidate Barbara HaseldenTyler Payne, and Ms. Citrus, Shannon Shepp.

Last Call for 4.16.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

On the first day the state’s Constitution Revision Commission reconvened in full in Tallahassee since last month, the wheels started coming off the bus over “bundling.”

That’s another way to describe the grouping, or combining, of proposed changes. That’s so voters aren’t burdened with a plethora of individual amendments in November.

The issue on Monday was over what should go with what.

Commissioner Robert Martinez started with a motion to unbundle the very first revision of the day, dealing with crime victims’ rights, judicial retirement age and Chevron deference (if you don’t know, don’t ask).

That move ultimately failed, and the “bundle” was OK’d for the ballot as is.

The issue came up again with Revision 3, which combines term limits for school board members, ‘civic literacy’ education, and charter school approvals. A similar move also failed, and that amendment too was approved for the ballot.

The combinations were done by the commission’s Style and Drafting committee. Chair Brecht Heuchan was on the hot seat early and often about his panel’s decision making.

We’ll boil down what felt like hours of debate for you: Opinions on particular groupings are like a particular body part — everybody has one.

“Do I want civic literacy and (have to) give up local control of my schools? No,” said Commissioner Arthenia Joyner, a former Senate Democratic leader. “ … Why is this even before us? It does not belong in the Constitution.”

But the good news is, the panel had decided to finish all its business on the same day, even though it was scheduled to meet through next Friday. It was still meeting as of 6:45 p.m.

Evening Reads

White House braces for Donal Trump ‘cleanup duty’ at Mar-a-Lago” via Andrew Restuccia and Louis Nelson of POLITICO

Rick Scott, Cabinet seek to delay court over on felons’ voting rights” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Scott’s super PAC gets first-quarter boost from financial services industry” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Climate lawsuit supporters fire back at Scott’s response claiming it’s ‘political theater’” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida

Alan Grayson raises $192K in first quarter, says ‘I am running for Congress’ … somewhere” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

CRC advances bundled education proposal to November ballot” via Jeffrey Sohochek of the Tampa Bay Times

Miami-Dade voters in favor of electing constitutional officers” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

Report: Police moved past deputies to enter Parkland high school” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press

Tax Freedom Day comes seven days earlier in Florida” via John Hielscher of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Man said Hooters sign fell on his foot; video said otherwise” via The Associated Press

Quote of the Day

“There’s very little bipartisanship here.” — Tom Lee, a Constitution Revision Commission member and Republican state Senator from Thonotosassa, speaking in a CRC meeting Monday. Thirty-three of the Commission’s 37 members, including Lee, were appointed by elected Republicans.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

The Florida Department of Corrections will hold a hiring event in Columbia County. That’s at 9 a.m., Florida National Guard, Robert B. Harkness Armory, 490 N.W. Lake Jeffery Road, Lake City.

Staff members for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will hold “mobile” office hours in Miami-Dade and Leon counties. That’s at 10 a.m., Badia Senior Center, 25 Tamiami Blvd., Miami. Also, 10 a.m., LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library, 200 West Park St., Tallahassee.

Vance Aloupis, who is running in Miami-Dade County’s state House District 115, and Bruno Barreiro, who is running in Congressional District 27, are expected to speak during a meeting of the Old Cutler Republican Women’s Club. That’s at 11:30 a.m., Brio Tuscan Grille, 8888 S.W. 136th St., Miami.

The Able Trust will kick off its regional contests for the annual Jeannie Amendola Speech and Research Competition. The first is 11:30 a.m., Golden Eagle Golf & Country Club, 3700 Golden Eagle Drive East, Tallahassee. (The Tallahassee competition will be followed by regional competitions in Orlando Wednesday, April 18, and in South Florida, on Thursday, April 19.)

Gov. Scott will hold a campaign roundtable with business leaders. That’s at 1:30 p.m., Associated Builders and Contractors, 2008 N. Himes Ave. in Tampa.

State Rep. Kathleen Peters of South Pasadena will hold a fundraiser to support her bid for the Pinellas County Commission. Host committee includes entrepreneur Bill Edwards, former U.S. Ambassador Mel Sembler, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Pinellas County Court Clerk Ken Burke, North Redington Beach Mayor Bill Queen, St. Pete Beach Mayor Al Johnson, Treasure Island Mayor Larry Lunn and former Mayor Bob Minning, Redington Beach Mayor Nick Simons and Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters among others. That’s at 5:30 p.m., The Club at Treasure Island, 400 Treasure Island Causeway. RSVP with or (727) 851-9500.


CRC should think twice about putting drilling ban on the ballot

One can’t have a conversation about the 2018 elections nowadays without answering one not-so-simple question: How big will the “blue wave” be?

It’s no longer a debate about whether it exits.

We got our first hints, in Florida at least, with Annette Taddeo’s election to SD 40 last year. Margaret Good’s win in the February special for HD 72, a Trump plus-5 district, brought a little more intel. Even in SD 31, where Lori Berman’s victory was assured almost from the day she filed, was somewhat telling – she won by 50 points, more than doubling Clinton’s 2016 margin in the Democratic stronghold.

Looking at these victories, it’s no surprise Democrats think their odds are better than ever to retake the state Senate and possibly score a win in one or more of the statewide races on the ballot this year.

So, how big is the “blue wave?” That depends on a number of factors, none more influential than the Constitution Revision Commission.

The CRC could put upwards of a dozen proposals on the 2018 ballot – that’s in addition to other measures that made the cut via petition – and there’s at least one that could make the “blue wave” about 10 feet taller: an offshore drilling ban.

If the permanent drilling ban is placed on the ballot it’ll create an intense turnout mechanism for Democrats. Yes, many Republicans want it too, but not by near the margin of Democrats.

Heck, the ban itself might even fail if it makes the ballot. But that shouldn’t assuage any fears among Republicans up for re-election.

Giving Democrats – who are more energized this year than they were in 2016, let alone the last midterm cycle – another reason to show up at the polls could bring a lot more seats in the Legislature into play.

And we’re not talking known battlegrounds like SD 8 or SD 18. Think Kelli Stargel’s SD 22 seat, where a few months ago most would have said any Democrat running was on a fool’s errand.

For every reason Democrats in those “safe” Republican districts have to turn out – the Governor’s race, the U.S. Senate race, restoration of voting rights – you can slice another point off the Republican’s margin of victory.

If the CRC loads up the ballot with politically charged proposals, some GOP candidates will run out of cushion.

That’s looking past the dangerous precedent brought on by such a ban.

None of us know how energy is going to change and evolve in the coming years and we certainly don’t know what technology will be created that could make drilling more palatable. A permanent ban in our constitution strips future legislatures of the opportunity to address energy issues

In 2018, all it really does is give Democrats a significant rallying cry reminding everyone the GOP is the party of “Drill Baby Drill.”

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