Peter Schorsch – Page 3 – 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.

New poll shows Jane Castor dominating rest of the field in race to succeed Bob Buckhorn

It’s Jane Castor‘s city. The rest of y’all are just living in it.

That’s the reality of the campaign to succeed Bob Buckhorn as Tampa’s next mayor according to the first poll conducted since all five of expected major candidates filed to run.

Castor, the city’s former police chief, dominates the rest of the field, capturing just over 47 percent of the vote when Tampa voters are asked who they will vote for in 2019. The other four candidates — Ed Turanchik, David Straz, Mike Suarez, and Harry Cohen — are all in single digits. Two other candidates — businessman Topher Morrison and Michael Hazard — were not included in the poll.

This latest poll’s findings are even more impressive for Castor than a survey taken in June 2017 which showed Castor winning a third of voters’ support in a five-way field.

If there’s any storyline among the other four candidates, it’s that Turanchik, a progressive former member of the Hillsborough County Commission, is in second place ahead of Straz, the wealthy philanthropist who has spent the better part of the last year preparing to enter the race.

Castor’s lead is so large, she dominates all demographic breakdowns of the survey. However, it’s noteworthy that she particularly dominates the sampling of responses from black voters. She’s the early choice of 57 percent of this demo. Castor has been criticized for a program meant to make high-crime areas of the city safer when it ticketed more black bicyclists than anyone else. Castor told the Tampa Bay Times that those citations were a mistake.

Castor announced earlier this week she eclipsed the $250K-raised mark for her campaign. Both Straz and Turanchik have also demonstrated an ability to raise serious funds for their bid.

St. Pete Polls conducted the survey Thursday, May 10; it was commissioned by Florida Politics to set a baseline for future surveys of the race. Florida Politics expects to poll the field once a month between now and Election Day.

The survey had a sample size of 424 respondents, with a 4.8 percent margin of error.

Tampa voters will head to the polls March 5, 2019.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 5.11.18

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

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

Consumers are expected to spend billions this weekend showering the mothers in their lives with gifts both sweet and sparkly according to a new survey from the National Retail Federation.

The retail trade group said 86 percent of Americans plan to do some shopping for Mother’s Day, whether in-store or online, with per person spending expected to hit $180. That comes out to $23.1 billion nationwide, a total only surpassed by 2017’s record-setting $23.6 billion total.

“Mothers play such a vital role in our society, and it’s wonderful to see that they’ll be receiving plenty of gifts this year as people feel more and more comfortable with their own finances,” said R. Scott Shalley, who heads the NRF-affiliated Florida Retail Federation. “A healthy economy with more Floridians employed should lead to increased spending and a great opportunity for retailers to take advantage of this by showcasing sales and discounts on the more popular items.”

Topping that list of popular items is a “hallmark” of proper gift-giving: Greeting cards. More than three-quarters of those surveyed said they’d pick one up and NRF estimates they’ll contribute $813 million toward the Mother’s Day total. Nearly 70 percent of saying they’d snag an always-welcome bouquet, which will lead to a $2.6 billion payday for florists.

Jewelry will make up the biggest slice of total spending at $4.6 billion, but not every mom can expect something precious, unless new pieces of fridge art count. About a third of shoppers plan to swing by the jeweler for their Mother’s Day gift. Additionally, more than half said they’ll spare mom from eating their own cooking by taking her out to eat, and they’ll spend $4.4 billion doing so.

Also on the list are gift cards at $2.5 billion, clothing and consumer electronic at $2.1 billion each and just shy of $1 billion on housewares or gardening tools.

About 30 percent of moms say they’d rather a gift they can experience than one they can hold, and a quarter of givers – most of them millennials – are taking the hint and purchasing spa days, concert tickets or gym memberships as their Mother’s Day centerpiece. That category will make up $1.8 billion in spending.

The survey, conducted April 4 through April 12 asked 7,520 consumers about their Mother’s Day plans. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.


–@CahnEmily: The way the many in the Republican Party are treating John McCain is hard to watch. Zero respect.

—@LearyReports: Interior Sec. Zinke was asked at Senate hearing today if Florida still off table for drilling. “Yes,” he replied. “I’m committed to … no new oil and gas platforms off the coast of Florida. They are still in the process legally, but I’m committed to that.”

–@SenBillNelson: The state of Florida is trying to cut $100 million from Medicaid. That’s unacceptable. And that’s why @USRepKCastor and I have joined forces today in calling on the federal government to block the state’s outrageous plan.

–@USRepKCastor: Yes, @christinesexton @fineout I’m hearing this from hospitals across Florida. Gov Rick Scott targets health care of Floridians in an insidious, misguided way. Scott believes health care is only for privileged few, but he is wrong and will cost everyone more in the long run

—@SchmitzMedia: I’ve been waiting to make a “Punch Foley for Joe” reference since I accepted this job, and today is the day it finally happened.

 —@NoahPransky: The concept that local governments should own and pay upkeep on pro stadiums because they are public resources is a fallacy. When the team is done profiting there & leaves for another venue, the stadium is a burden on taxpayers, not an asset.

@JoseFelixDiaz: Nothing like a graduation in #OurMiami. Parents, you don’t need to shout out your kids name. They know their names already. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be graduating


Mother’s Day — 2; Deadpool 2 release — 7; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 14; Memorial Day — 17; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in St. Petersburg — 29; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Miramar — 31; Time Warner/AT&T merger ruling — 32; Father’s Day — 37; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 42; Florida GOP Sunshine Summit starts — 48; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 58; MLB All-Star Game — 67; Deadline for filing claim bills — 82; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 81; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 83; Start of the U.S. Open — 108; Primary Election Day — 109; College Football opening weekend — 111; NFL season starts — 118; Future of Florida Forum — 138; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 165; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 166; General Election Day — 179; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 279; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 298.


How Russia-linked propagandists tried to stoke racial and political division in Florida” via Alex Leary and Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Aimed at Facebook users in Florida and other states … thousands of ads linked to Russia sought to stoke racial and political animosity in the U.S. ahead of the presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. House Democrats released more than 3,500 Facebook ads that reveal the depth of the propaganda effort. Many sought to stir up both sides on issues ranging from guns and immigration to the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality. Ads mentioned Trayvon Martin and sought to emphasize the sexual orientation of Orlando Pulse nightclub victims. Many of them didn’t get much attention. But others gained widespread attention, the collective effort at once simple and sophisticated. Nationally, more than 11.4 million Americans were exposed to the ads. Many more millions saw content created on Facebook pages set up by the internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm, and its operatives, according to House Democrats.


Backlog that could allow mentally ill Floridians to buy guns emerges as Senate campaign issue” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — U.S. Sen. Nelson accused Republican challenger Gov. Scott of failing to address a persistent problem of the state’s court clerks taking too long to put mental health records in a database that is supposed to stop unstable people from buying guns. The South Florida Sun Sentinel examined the issue in an investigation … finding that clerks were taking up to three years to input thousands of names into the database used for gun-purchase background checks and entering incorrect information for hundreds of others. A Scott spokesman says the governor’s office was unaware of the problem until now. “The clerk’s office never brought it to our attention,” said McKinley Lewis, a spokesman for the governor’s office. “The Clerks of Court in Florida are locally elected and the Governor expects them to prioritize their resources to quickly resolve this issue.” But agency spokeswoman Jessica Cary said FDLE, under the governor’s authority, has been working to secure funding to reduce the backlog.

— “Congratulations, Scott Pruitt, you’ve just made a campaign ad in Florida” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Assignment editors — U.S. Senate candidate Scott will highlight the second proposal of his “Make Washington Work” Plan requiring a supermajority vote of each house of Congress to approve any tax or fee increase with two events. At 9 a.m., Scott will be at Coastal Industries, 3700 St. Johns Industrial Pkwy. W., Jacksonville. Then, at 1:45 p.m., the Governor will be at Pelican Wire, 3650 Shaw Blvd., Naples.

Happening Saturday — Gov. Scott will speak at the Seminole County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner at 6 p.m., Hilton Orlando Altamonte Springs, 350 Northlake Blvd., Altamonte Springs.

’Skank’ and racism: Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial primary gets ugly” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — The flare-up began when an African-American woman who supports Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum called former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham a “skank” on Twitter. Graham surrogates then called on Gillum to denounce the comments from his supporter, Leslie Wimes, who amplified the slur in a column she writes for a conservative publication, the Sunshine State News, that bore the headline “Skank, Oh, My!” By noon, the group EMILY’s List, which backs women abortion-rights Democrats, called on Gillum “to make clear to his supporters that negative, gendered attacks have no place in political discourse.” EMILY’S List also criticized Gillum over the primary’s first new negative ad campaign, launched by a pro-black super PAC called The Collective, that casts Graham as a phony progressive. And that’s when race entered the picture. “It’s all about race,” Wimes said, noting the difference in EMILY’s List’s involvement in this race compared to its neutrality in the 2014 gubernatorial Democratic primary when longtime abortion-rights liberal, former state Sen. Nan Rich, ran against former Gov. Charlie Crist, who had been a self-styled “pro-life” Republican before leaving the GOP. Wimes pointed out that, in 2014, Graham ran for Congress as a “very conservative Democrat” and was not the “progressive” that EMILY’s List calls her. “So when a true progressive runs against a fake Democrat, EMILY’S List does nothing. But when someone who described herself as a ‘very conservative Democrat’ runs against a black man who’s a true progressive, they jumped in waist deep for her,” Wimes said.

Chris King adds campaign staff for Tampa Bay, Central Florida” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — King is expanding his campaign’s presence in the I-4 corridor with the appointments of regional directors from Tampa Bay and Brevard County … Lisa Perry, a leader in Tampa Bay area progressive activism, will serve as the King campaign’s Tampa Bay regional director. Before joining the King campaign, Perry served as Pinellas County chair for Women’s March Florida, mobilizing thousands of volunteers and activists around key progressive issues. Perry also organized for the Florida Immigrant Coalition and the “Fight for $15” movement. Tess Martin, a grassroots organizer for progressive causes and organizations across Florida, will serve as Central Florida regional director. Martin is co-founder and president of “Speak Out Brevard” and managed Sanjay Patel’s congressional campaign in CD 8 earlier this year.

Philip Levine’s company signed trade agreement after Alaska complaints of ‘kickbacks’” via David Smiley of the Tampa Bay Times — Royal Media Partners, created by Levine in 2011, was among three cruise line contractors that signed a legal agreement laying out appropriate business practices and enforcement efforts in 2013. The agreements, entered into court as consent judgments, were preceded by complaints from local retailers that cruise line contractors were forcing local shops to pay fees and commissions in order for port lecturers to steer passengers into their stores. Royal Media Partners and Onboard Media — founded in 1990 by Levine and sold in 2000 — signed agreements. The companies, contractors for the majority of the cruise lines that docked at Ketchican and other port cities, provided guides for the ships, as well as promotional materials and informational pamphlets. Retailers who didn’t participate complained that they were disparaged by port lecturers. Some referred to the business model as “kickbacks.” The contractors admitted no wrongdoing when signing the consent judgments, which were reported in Alaska by the media at the time.

Assignment editors — Levine will be touring the Cape Canaveral Spaceport followed by an Aerospace Industry Roundtable, hosted by the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast. Roundtable begins at 2:45 p.m., Radisson Resort at the Port, 8701 Astronaut Blvd., Cape Canaveral. Later, Levine will speak at the Brevard County Democratic Party’s Big Blue Bash Gala, 8 p.m., Eau Gallie Civic Center, 1551 Highland Ave., Melbourne.

Jimmy Patronis gets boost from insurance, real estate firms” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Chief Financial Officer Patronis, with the field cleared of a potential big-name primary challenger, pulled in more than $400,000 last month for his election effort, with nearly half of the money coming from the insurance industry. Patronis also drew more than $35,646 from the health care industry, $22,296 from Realtors and real estate agencies and $13,092 from the financial-services field … In all, he brought in a total of $418,000 in April. Among the $216,046 the campaign and committee received from insurance agents and companies, Insurance Administrative Solutions of Clearwater, State Mutual Insurance of Rome, Ga., and Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance of Clearwater each gave $50,000, and FCCI Services of Sarasota put up $25,000. Also last month, Patronis’ election effort received $25,000 from Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets, and $3,000 checks from Walt Disney Travel, Disney Vacation Development, Magic Kingdom, Inc., The Celebration Company and Disney Destinations.

Jeremy Ring boosts CFO campaign with $50K loan” via Florida Politics — Ring’s April reports show $76,565 raised for his campaign, including the loan, and another $26,250 for his political committee, Florida Action Fund PC. Ring has now raised just over $1 million for his statewide bid. Outside of the loan, Ring shows 80 contributions for the month including two maximum contributions. Those $3,000 checks came in from Miami attorney Philip Golf and Ft. Lauderdale attorney Hamilton Collins Foreman Jr., who originally chipped in $3,300 before the Ring campaign refunded the excess. Disney topped the committee report with a $10,000 check, followed by a $7,500 contribution from the firm of Pensacola attorney Levin Papantonio and $5,000 from Coral Springs retiree Robert Greenberg. The two accounts combined to spend $31,110.

Gambling amendment supporters steaming ahead” via Florida Politics — The political committee behind a proposed constitutional amendment limiting gambling Wednesday said it “continues to gain momentum in critical areas of the effort, including fundraising, grassroots and social media.” Voters In Charge sponsored the “Voter Control of Gambling” amendment, which will appear on the November ballot as Amendment 3. The amendment would tie the hands of the Legislature by “ensur(ing) that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling,” according to the ballot summary. It needs at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.

John Morgan pours another $154K into minimum wage drive” via the News Service of Florida — Setting the stage for a possible ballot proposal in 2020, Morgan last month put more than $154,000 into an effort to raise Florida’s minimum wage … The $154,230 contribution from Morgan’s firm, Morgan & Morgan P.A., went to the political committee Florida For A Fair Wage. Since December, the Morgan firm has funneled $478,158 to the committee — all the money the committee has raised. The committee, which is chaired by Morgan, is backing a proposed constitutional amendment that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $10, effective Sept. 30, 2021, and then raise it $1 a year until it is $15 on Sept. 30, 2026.

Alan Grayson gets backing of Blue America PAC in CD 9 Democratic race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The national progressive organization dedicated to replacing “to replace the bipartisan Conservative Consensus in Congress with a strong and activated progressive movement,” endorsed Grayson while blasting the elections of “more Blue Dogs and New Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party.” Grayson was a leader of that caucus and is running as he always has, as an unabashed progressive Democrat. “I’m running for Congress because our progressive goals — justice, equality and peace — need a champion in Congress,” Grayson stated in a Blue America PAC statement. “Think about it. Who can you think of, in the U.S. House of Representatives, whom you would call a champion for progress? On a good day, one or two or three of them. On a bad day, none.”

Neil Combee rolls out first Polk County endorsements — State Reps. Ben AlbrittonMike LaRosa, and Josie Tomkow, former state Rep. John Wood, along with the mayors of Auburndale and Polk City, Tim Pospichal and Joe LaCascia, have announced their support of Combee for Florida’s 15th Congressional District. “Neil is a natural born leader. I’ve never seen him back away from a fight to protect conservative principles and our Constitution,” Albritton said. Tomkow added: “There is no one who will fight harder for our area than him. He is fair, honest and humble. He means what he says, and his word is as good as gold. He is the only one in this race who will work to continue making America great again.” … “Washington won’t change him, he will change Washington,” LaCascia said.

Vote for me or I’ll sue” via the News Service of Florida — Progressive Tim Canova is still fuming about his 13-percentage point loss in a Democratic primary in 2016 to U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and — more so — that the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office destroyed paper ballots from the contest. Now, Canova is launching a new bid against Wasserman Schultz, this time without a party affiliation. The move allows the Bernie Sanders ally to take on the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman in November when all voters, not just party faithful, will decide. Canova is also preparing to challenge the results. At least, if he doesn’t win. “We are prepared to bring a lawsuit even if we lose the race by one vote or by 10,000,” Canova said while in Tallahassee after qualifying to run for the office.

Keith Perry outraised threefold in April” via Florida Politics — Perry’s April fundraising reports lagged behind those of Democratic challenger Kayser Enneking, who reported her best-ever totals earlier this week. The first term Senator brought in $27,700 in campaign funds last month and tacked on another $2,000 through his political committee, Building a Prosperous Florida. Perry, a roofer by trade, brought in the much of the April haul from those in the same line of work. Of the 44 contributions he received last month, 13 came from roofing companies and trade associations. Those contributions totaled nearly $10,000. Also showing up in the reports were Disney, Data Targeting head Pat Bainter and a political committee tied to exiting Senate President Joe Negron. Each chipped in $1,000.

Janet Cruz raises a lot of money in first weeks of campaign for Senate but Dana Young raises more” via Florida Politics — House Majority Leader Cruz nearly matched Tampa Republican Young in April fundraising despite joining the Senate District 18 race 10 days into the month. Cruz said her April campaign and committee reports will show $146,600 in contributions for the 21 days she was a candidate last month, putting her just a few thousand dollars shy of Young’s $152,500 effort for the whole of April. About $31,600 of the new money came in through Cruz’ campaign account. While Cruz ceded little ground in her first month, she is far from matching Young’s overall totals of $1.45 million raised and $1.1 million on hand.

—“Unopposed Aaron Bean nears $180K cash on hand for Senate run” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

—“Anna Eskamani hits $250K raised for HD 47 bid” via Florida Politics

—“Henry Parrish gaining ground on Tyler Sirois in HD 51 primary” via Florida Politics

—“April sees Matt Spritz pulling nearly $19K in HD 89” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

—“Michael Gottlieb leads big April fundraising month in HD 98” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

—“HD 118 challenger Anthony Rodriguez surpasses $100K raised” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics


At least one study is showing a lot of women are contributing to candidates, more so than ever before. 

Research conducted by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics concludes women make up 31 percent of fundraising for House candidates so far. That’s the demographic’s largest share ever, reports Fredreka Schouten of USA Today. 

A Center representative tells Schouten, “These are record numbers, and it’s consistent with the sense that there’s rising momentum for women on a number of fronts in this election cycle.” 

More records: The unprecedented contribution share correlates with a record number, 391, of female candidates. For what it’s worth, there also are 43 female gubernatorial candidates, another record, in 2018. 

Wake-up call: A source from Emily’s List says if Donald Trump secured the presidency, then female activists are saying, “I can definitely run for the school board.”

Meanwhile: Men still overwhelmingly dominate politics. Schouten notes about 1,300 men are running for House seats, and the gender gives far more in individual contributions; the top 10 political donors so far are all men. 


It was supposed to show who profited from public money. But the rule wasn’t enforced” via Elizabeth Koh of the Miami Herald — If you want to know how much your local government is spending on private lobbyists to lobby the Legislature, the Florida House has a webpage devoted to disclosing it. But though House Speaker Richard Corcoran promised the webpage would provide “transformational” transparency, the House forgot one thing: to post all the data … despite an ethics rule that requires lobbyists for taxpayer-funded entities submit lobbying contracts to the Florida House, that rule has not been enforced. The House’s much-vaunted webpage was not updated for a year and some lobbyists neglected for months to comply with the required disclosures.

Key lawmakers says no plans to fill prison budget hole” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Budget chief Rob Bradley indicated corrections health care problems may spur lawmakers to consider criminal-justice reforms that have failed to gain traction in previous years. Corrections Secretary Julie Jones is slashing contracts with nearly three dozen substance-abuse and re-entry providers — programs considered integral to reducing recidivism and helping inmates transition back into society — by at least 40 percent because the money is needed to cover the cost of a contract for prison health services. Lawmakers will begin working after the November elections to prepare for the 2019 Legislative Session. “What I would encourage our partners who are facing these cuts to do is to double-down on their efforts to find efficiencies and understand that, when we return in November, this is going to be something that many of us are eager to address,” Bradley told The News Service of Florida.

State senator claimed she had a ‘Sick Mom’ during Irma despite her mom being dead” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times – In a 2016 clip uploaded to YouTube, North Miami’s Democratic state Senator, Daphne Campbell, told an interviewer that her mother and father were dead. She added that her husband’s parents were also dead. In fact, she said basically everyone close to her either was deceased or lived far away. “His father and his mother died,” she says just after 2:15 in the clip above. “My father and my mother died. I don’t even have one family [member] in Miami here.” One year later, Campbell sent a text message that became infamous. Soon after Hurricane Irma ripped through Miami-Dade, cutting off electricity to tens of thousands, she typed a note to a Florida Power & Light lobbyist begging him to help turn the power back on at her house. The reason: Her “sick mother” needed care.

Health plans mounted challenges over Medicaid contracts” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Twelve managed-care companies challenging the state’s award of tens of billions of dollars in Medicaid contracts have spelled out their arguments about why Florida officials were wrong in the handling of the coveted multiyear deals. The filings allege a long list of errors by the Agency from Health Care Administration ranging from math mistakes, to not finishing reviews on time, to awarding a contract to a vendor that submitted the wrong bid. In some cases, the petitions allege wrongdoing by rival health plans. If the initial contracting decisions stand, some companies will be shut out of the managed-care program for the next five years.

Lawsuit: You can’t use our radio towers, Harris Corp. tells state” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Harris Corp., already fighting its loss of a more than half-billion-dollar state radio contract, now is suing over allowing winning bidder Motorola to use its radio towers. The Melbourne-based communications company filed suit Wednesday afternoon in Leon County Circuit Civil court against the Department of Management Services (DMS) and the Agency for State Technology — one day after its bid protest hearing started before an administrative law judge in Tallahassee. Its filing says Harris bought radio towers from the state when it first got the contract to manage the state’s Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System, or SLERS, in September 2000 … Even though the state kept a “limited right” to use the towers, the suit adds that it now can’t let Motorola Solutions use those same towers without Harris’ consent, which the suit explained the company isn’t willing to give.

Only in Florida: Battle over water, free speech pits billionaire vs. activist” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times — The most important aspect of this story is about Florida’s water supply and how a lawsuit involving a company called Lake Point Restoration may upend a fundamental rule about Florida water — namely, that water belongs to the public, not wealthy businessmen. One of the participants contends that what happened in that yearslong suit will open the door for big companies to jump into the water business, driving up prices and starving the environment. Sugar companies, citrus growers and phosphate miners could start commandeering the water on their land and selling it. Right now, Florida law says fresh water is “a public resource benefiting the entire state,” not just big corporations and their owners, said Cynthia Barnett, Environmental Fellow in Residence at the University of Florida’s Bob Graham Center for Public Service and the author of three books on water policy. The law also says water “must be managed in a manner to ensure its sustainability.” No one is allowed to sell water he or she happens to find, not without proving to state officials that doing so is in the public interest, she said. But that, say water experts, may be changing, thanks in part to this case.

No foul stuff in our flushes, gambling cruise operator says — The operator of gambling cruises offering a “Las Vegas-style casino experience” is asking state environmental regulators for a 5-year reprieve from “water purity requirements.” Victory Casino Cruises runs the “Victory I Casino Vessel” out of Port Canaveral. Its petition to the Department of Environmental Protection asks for an exemption because of “a marine waste treatment system that produces sterile, clear, and odorless reuse water without generating solid waste, (which) eliminates the need to pump out or dump waste.” The department has not yet acted on the request, records show.

Papa Johns asks state regulators for sauce help” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The national pizza chain is asking Florida health regulators for a variance from state law that would allow them to keep their pizza at room temperature — that’s 85 degrees — for 10 hours. The request comes with a (largely redacted) 30-page explanation of the company’s process and methods. But if you’re not the science type, the argument boils down to appearance. “If the dough draws up or shrinks due to cold sauce, the overall appearance is not pleasing to our customers,” wrote Rita Palmer, the company’s director of North American QA Regulatory in a petition to the Florida Department of Health.


When the Legislature crafted the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, it basically left the minutiae to the local governments. 

And now local councils and commissions across the state are figuring out what they’ll implement and how they’ll do it — a task that’s proved to be arduous, and in at least one case has brought trouble. 

For example, in Southwest Florida, school districts are under scrutiny for not releasing safety reports other districts already have. 

In Pinellas: The county school district has opted to increase its police force. And a separate city council will provide the cash to hire added school resource officers mandated by SB 7026. Northern Citrus County will provide as much cash as needed to the sheriff’s office to keep SROs at each school.

In Brevard: The county school district will hire armed specialists who do not already work in the school. 

In Manatee: The school district was rejected more money for officers, and instead might consider arming security personnel. 




Trump considering Army veteran Brian Mast for VA secretary” via Zeke Miller and Hope Yen of The Associated Press — A White House official said Rep. Mast of Florida, who was elected to the House in 2016, was among the list of candidates for the job heading an agency of 360,000 employees serving 9 million veterans. The White House official would not say if Mast is the leading candidate for the VA position. Mast, 37, has often voted along with Trump on key issues in Congress, more recently announcing he supported an assault-weapons ban following the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland. White House officials have met with former Florida Rep. Jeff Miller, a Republican who once led the House Veterans Affairs Committee and Ron Nichol, a senior adviser to The Boston Consulting Group, who helped organize the president’s transition.

Paul Ryan rejects effort to force DACA vote” via Rachael Bade of POLITICO Florida — The Wisconsin Republican told reporters he would like to have an immigration vote “before the midterms,” but wants a bill that will “make it into law.” And that won’t happen unless Trump endorses a proposal to codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “I don’t want show ponies,” Ryan said, arguing that votes on legislation the president has not agreed to would amount to a distraction. “That means the White House will need to be a part of this and we’ll need a bill the president will sign.” A small group of centrist Republicans filed a discharge petition that would trigger a series of floor votes on different immigration proposals if 218 lawmakers sign on. If every Democrat gets on board, 25 Republicans would have to defy GOP leadership to force a floor debate. Ryan is urging his colleagues not to sign the petition, and said the exercise was pointless.

Bill Nelson, Democrats blast proposed Medicaid cut” via the News Service of Florida — Nelson and Democratic U.S. House members called for the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to reject a move by Gov. Scott’s administration to cut $98 million by trimming the length of time people have to apply for the Medicaid program. “I rise here today because the state of Florida has again proposed to harm thousands of seniors and folks with disabilities who rely on Medicaid for their health care,” Nelson said on the Senate floor. Nelson, along with U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and 10 other Democratic members of Florida’s congressional delegation sent a letter to CMS Director Seema Verma urging her to reject a proposed amendment to a state Medicaid “waiver” that would exempt Florida from a federal requirement that gives people up to 90 days following a health problem to apply for Medicaid coverage. The Scott administration proposed — and the Republican-led Legislature agreed — to require people to apply for Medicaid during the same month of the health event. “Retroactive eligibility is designed to protect Medicaid beneficiaries — including seniors, pregnant women, individuals with disabilities, and parents — and their families from the steep costs of medical services and long-term care.


Rick Scott sinks to new low on cronyism at Revenue Department” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — The Florida Department of Revenue is one of those arcane state agencies that quietly keeps the wheels of government turning. It should be led by seasoned experts in tax law and property valuations, but now its top ranks have been compromised by young, inexperienced, unqualified hires who have friends in high places, particularly Scott. This is political patronage at its worst and a shamelessly political scheme by the lame duck governor. Over the last month, Leon Biegalski, the head of DOR, pushed out several of the office’s leaders and replaced them with newbies whose only apparent qualification is blind loyalty to a governor who could care less about the inner workings of government. Putting these loyalists in the Office of Property Tax Oversight was especially shrewd because DOR answers to both the governor and the state Cabinet. So the next governor won’t be able to unilaterally fire these unqualified hires. But it’s a transparently terrible way to operate a state agency, about as swift as having your next-door neighbor do your taxes. He’s not an accountant, but he comes to all of your barbecues.


Donald Trump taps Maria Chapa Lopez as U.S. attorney” via the News Service of Florida — Longtime federal prosecutor Chapa Lopez has been selected to serve as U.S. attorney in the sprawling Middle District of Florida … Chapa Lopez worked as an assistant U.S. attorney from 2000 to 2016, before a nearly two-year stint as a Department of Justice deputy attache in the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. She currently serves as interim U.S. attorney in the Middle District, which stretches from Fort Myers to Jacksonville and includes Orlando and Tampa. Her selection is subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Jason Allison, Robert Hosay, Foley & Lardner: Mainline Information Systems

David Browning, R. Paul Mitchell, Monte Stevens, Southern Strategy Group: Public Trust Advisors

Megan Fay, Capital City Consulting: Aetna, Ajax Building Corp, CIGNA, CVS Health, Florida Association of Orthotists and Prosthetists, LogistiCare Solutions, Oportun, University of Florida Student Government Association

George Feijoo, Floridian Partners: Liberty Mutual Group

Richard Fidei, Greenberg Traurig: National Health Solutions

Seth McKeel, David Shepp, Southern Strategy Group: Harvest Florida

Timothy Meenan, Karl Rasmussen, Joy Ryan, Meenan: Pharma Cann

Jonathan Alexander Setzer, Florida Alliance Consulting: Seminole County Board of County Commissioners, The Grove Counseling Center


A quick peek at John Thrasher’s resume would tell you he’s not an ‘academic.’

That’s one of the reasons for the faculty criticism that followed Florida State University’s decision to hire him as its president in 2014. But, writes FSU physics professor and Faculty Senate President Todd Adams in The Chronicle of Higher Education, most faculty members now support the former state House Speaker and state Senator.

“Academe is a unique place to work, and it is natural to fear that a leader who hasn’t been steeped in its traditions will be a bad fit for an institution,” writes Adams. “But a president who is willing to learn and a faculty that is open to change can lead to great success.”

Willingness to learn: Adams lauds Thrasher for his openness. In the presidential search process, Thrasher met with faculty members to discuss concerns. Those one-on-one meetings persist, Adams adds.

Crisis control: Adams lauded Thrasher for his response to the 2014 Strozier Library shooting, which occurred during Thrasher’s first semester, along with the alcohol ban he implemented in the wake of a fraternity pledge’s death in 2017. “These quick responses have been key to the significant improvements in faculty opinion of the president,” writes Adams.

Successes: Don’t just take Adams’ word, look at the data. Adams notes steady increases in rankings, fundraising records, application records, and increases in salaries — all under Thrasher’s leadership.


Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: Mary Barzee Flores, a Democratic congressional candidate running against U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable with attorney Brian Willis, independent journalist Mike Deeson, WUSF Radio News Director Mary Shedden and former Republican Congressman David Jolly.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion on what is being done to prepare students in Tampa and Central Florida for competitive STEM fields. Joining Walker-Torres are Doug Wagner, executive director, Adult, Career and Technical Education, Manatee County School District; Jill St. Thomas, co-executive director, Tampa Bay Tech; Scott Brooks, general director, Career, Technical and Adult Education, Hillsborough County Schools; Kathleen Schofield, executive director, Northeast Florida, STEM2 Hub.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran is now endorsing Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam for Governor, a discussion of why he decided to leave the race. An in-depth look on the Iran nuclear deal decision by Trump. PolitiFact will rate a Trump claim about trade with China.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon speaks with pollster Steve Vancore, News Service of Florida reporter Dara Kam, and attorney Sean Pittman.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests are Agriculture Commissioner candidate Col. Mike McCalister; state Sen. Audrey Gibson, the incoming Senate Minority Leader; and Duval County Schools Board Chair Paula Wright.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg hold a roundtable of the week’s latest political issues affecting South Florida.


Apple plans to sell video subscriptions through TV app” via Lucas Shaw, Gerry Smith and Mark Gurman of Bloomberg — For the first time, Apple plans to begin selling subscriptions to certain video services directly via its TV app, rather than asking users to subscribe to them through apps individually downloaded from the App Store. This would simplify the process and bolster Apple’s TV app on Apple TV, iPhones and iPads, making it a central place for people to find, watch, and buy content. It would also be another way for Apple to keep boosting its services business, which it expects to generate $50 billion a year in revenue by 2021.

Formula One is Coming to Miami” via Jason Tesauro of Bloomberg — With a vote of 5-0, the flags will once again be waving in South Florida … the Miami City Commission approved Resolution No. 22 to “bring the Formula 1 Racing Circuit to the City of Miami for the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix from 2019 to 2028.” A U.S. expansion of the famed European racing league has been variously attempted for years; it’s a top priority for Liberty Media Corp., the new F1 owner. Las Vegas and New York (technically, New Jersey) have also been discussed. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said after the vote: “My dad was mayor, and he has this really cool picture of him and my mom and me in the middle in the Pace Car of the Miami Grand Prix back in the 1980s. It was a Jaguar convertible, and I’ll never forget that. Now, my son is four, and I have a chance to repeat that moment.”

Happy birthday to our buddy, Alan Suskey, as well as Ashley Ligas and Alison Morano.

Last Call for 5.10.18 — 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

Lawyers for the company behind “pre-reveal” games have requested oral argument in an appeal of a trial judge’s ruling that the games are illegal slots.

The video game consoles found in bars look, play and pay out like slot machines, but Gator Coin II — the Jacksonville company that distributes the games — says they’re perfectly legal. The games “preview” certain outcomes as to their winning or losing status.

A request filed with the 1st District Court of Appeal this week by Gator Coin II’s lawyers says the case “presents important and unique issues regarding construction of Florida’s slot machine statute and what is considered gaming in Florida.”

“Additionally, this case has garnered great interest from the Seminole Tribe of Florida and from legislators,” it adds. The Legislature considered measures this past Session to outlaw the games, but those efforts failed.

The lawyers also said having an actual “machine present for the Court to review and examine would be helpful to the Court in reaching its decision in this case.” (We’ll just imagine trying to get that through courthouse security.)

The case got started when Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) agents found one of the games in a Jacksonville sports bar and told the proprietor the machine was an “illegal gambling device.”

After first deciding “pre-reveal” games aren’t slots, Circuit Judge John Cooper of Tallahassee reversed himself last year, saying he had “(gotten) it wrong the first time.”

Cooper changed his mind after a hearing in which Barry Richard, a lawyer for the Tribe, told him the machines violate the Tribe’s exclusive right to offer slot machines outside of South Florida, imperiling the state’s future cut of its gambling revenue by “multibillions of dollars.”

The judge, however, said his reversal was based on further evidence on how the pre-reveal, or “no chance,” games — as its software maker prefers to call them — actually play. Other states, including Indiana and North Carolina, have found pre-reveal games to be illegal gambling.

Evening Reads

Donald Trump considering Brian Mast for VA Secretary” via Zeke Miller of The Associated Press

Paul Ryan rejects effort to force DACA vote” via Rachael Bade of POLITICO

Of the top 25 American cities most vulnerable to coastal flooding, 22 are in Florida” via NBC News

Andrew Gillum campaign denounces name calling after supporter calls Gwen Graham a ‘skank’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Jimmy Patronis refused to meet with banking regulator, citing sunshine concerns” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times

Background check gap could allow Florida mentally ill to buy guns” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Gun control might not be top issue in 2018 elections, Florida poll finds” via Anthony Man of the Sun-Sentinel

It was supposed to show who profited from public money. But the rule wasn’t enforced.” via Elizabeth Koh of the Times/Herald

Battle over water, free speech pits billionaire vs. activist” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times

Video: Florida deputy saves life of unresponsive baby” via 10 News Staff

Quote of the Day

“I am disgusted that Andrew Gillum would allow a secret-money group to run a false attack against a fellow Democrat.” — Democratic candidate for Governor Gwen Graham, in a news release.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

Gov. Rick Scott, as part of his U.S. Senate campaign, continues to highlight a proposal of his “Make Washington Work” Plan that would require a two-thirds vote of each chamber of Congress to approve any tax or fee increase. The first event is 9 a.m., Coastal Industries, 3700 St. Johns Industrial Parkway West, Jacksonville. The second is at 1:45 p.m., Pelican Wire, 3650 Shaw Blvd., Naples.

Staff members for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will hold “mobile” office hours in Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Orange counties. That’s at 10 a.m., Spring Into Wellness Fair, Stephen P. Clark Government Center, 111 N.W. First St., Miami. Also, 11 a.m., Westwind Senior Center, 6805 S.W. 152nd Ave., Miami. Also, 11 a.m., North County Senior Center, 5217 Northlake Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens. Also, 2 p.m., United Against Poverty Orlando, 150 West Michigan St., Orlando.

Forums will be held across the state for judicial candidates to discuss ethical standards in judicial races. The panels are organized by the Florida Supreme Court and The Florida Bar Board of Governors in conjunction with trial-court chief judges and the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee. That’s at 1 p.m., Leon County Courthouse, 301 South Monroe St., Tallahassee. Also, 1 p.m., Alachua County Criminal Justice Center, 220 South Main St., Gainesville. Also, 1 p.m., Orange County Courthouse, 425 North Orange Ave., Orlando. Also, 1 p.m., Broward County Judicial Complex, 201 S.E. Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale. Also, 1 p.m., Lee County Justice Center, 2075 Martin Luther King Blvd., Fort Myers.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine will be campaigning on the Space Coast. Following a roundtable conversation with aerospace industry leaders, Levine will host a media availability. That’s at 2:45 p.m., Radisson Resort at the Port, 8701 Astronaut Blvd, Cape Canaveral. He will also speak at the Brevard County Democratic Party’s Big Blue Bash Gala. That’s at 8 p.m., Eau Gallie Civic Center, 1551 Highland Ave, Melbourne.

Looking Ahead

Gov. Scott will speak during the Seminole County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner. That’s Saturday, 6 p.m., Hilton Orlando Altamonte Springs, 350 Northlake Blvd., Altamonte Springs.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.10.18

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

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

With apologies to William Shakespeare…

Friends, Floridians, countrymen, lend me your ears;

I come to bury Corcoran, not to praise him.

The evil that Speakers do lives after them;

The good is oft interred with their bones;

So let it be with Caesar. The noble press corps

Hath told you Corcoran was too ambitious;

If it were so, it was a grievous fault,

And grievously hath Corcoran answer’d it.

Here, under leave of Dixon and Fineout and the rest –

For the press corps is an honorable group;

So are they all, all honorable people

Come I to speak in Corcoran’s funeral.

Marlon Brando as Marc Antony.

He was my friend, faithful and just to me:

But the press corps said he was too ambitious

And the press corps is an honorable group.

He hath brought forth many investigations

Whose ransoms did the generals coffers fill:

Did this in Corcoran seem too ambitious?

When that the taxpayers have cried, Corcoran hath wept:

Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:

Yet the press corps said he was too ambitious;

And the press corps is an honorable group.

You all did see he over the last week

He was presented a chance to run for AG,

Which he did strenuously refuse: was this ambition?

Yet the press corps says he had become annoying;

And, sure, Matt Dixon is an honorable man.

I speak not to disprove what the press corps spoke,

But here I am to speak what I do know.

You all did like him once, not without cause:

What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?

O judgement! thou art fled to brutish beasts,

And the press corps has lost its reason. Bear with me;

My heart was at the podium there with Corcoran,

And I must pause till it come back to me.


@SenBillNelson: I am joining 48 of my colleagues in forcing a Senate vote to restore these essential #NetNeutrality rules that ensure a free and open internet.

—@Jason_Garcia: Having two future House speakers owe you for orchestrating their wins and a chip down with the front-runner for governor seems like a pretty good pace to be tbh.

–@NoahPransky: While the state budget has grown 39 percent since Gov. Scott took office in 2011, the DOC’s budget has grown just 3 percent.

–@MarcACaputo: Way back when while I worked at the Miami Herald & we combined state Capital bureaus with the Tampa Bay Times, we talked about having a joint blog. I wanted to name it The Shaft, both for the Florida Capitol’s design and for what happens to people when they deal with govt.

@Fineout: This will be a semiregular tweet where I note that unlike DC that Tallahassee was not built on swampland but is, in fact, a collection of hills.

–@AnthonyPedicini: Asking all ppl involve in #FlaPol to keep @Gayle_Harrell and her husband, Doc in their prayers today.

@MacStipanovich (replying to Matt Gaetz): As the GOP’s prodigal sons and daughters slowly recover from their right wing populist bender, there will fewer and fewer people out on that limb with you.

–@SteveSchale: Dear Fellow Floridians: As we think about Mother’s Day, remember someone is the mother of the child who grew up to invent turn signals. Honor that mother and all mothers by using yours.


Mother’s Day — 3; Deadpool 2 release — 8; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 15; Memorial Day — 18; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in St. Petersburg — 30; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Miramar — 32; Time Warner/AT&T merger ruling — 33; Father’s Day — 38; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 43; Florida GOP Sunshine Summit starts — 49; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 59; MLB All-Star Game — 68; Deadline for filing claim bills — 83; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 83; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 84; Start of the U.S. Open — 109; Primary Election Day — 110; College Football opening weekend — 112; NFL season starts — 119; Future of Florida Forum — 139; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 166; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 167; General Election Day — 180; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 280; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 299.


Why Richard Corcoran failed in his bid for Florida governor” via Mary Ellen Klas and Emily Mahoney of the Times/Herald – As Speaker, Corcoran’s zeal for policy, cunning Legislative tactics and ability to cultivate loyalty in his party made him a powerhouse, but his aggressive pursuit of stronger ethics rules, budget transparency and controversial education reform and his conservative hard line on health care won both friends and enemies. Rep. Janet Cruz, the Democratic House minority leader from Tampa, said that Corcoran’s refusal to expand Medicaid in 2015 as well as his school choice crusade weakened his leadership.

After session, Corcoran again delayed a decision as House and Senate leaders considered convening a special session on gaming. As the clock ticked, rumors surfaced that he might consider switching to run for attorney general. “The uncertainty gave the donor class hesitation,” said Nick Iarossi, a prominent Tallahassee lobbyist and fundraiser. “He was kind of left without a chair when the music stopped.”

Now that his political career is winding to an end — at least for now — a look back at Corcoran’s legacy as speaker portrays a passionate leader who took credit for helping to “transform” state government with an aggressive agenda aimed at trying to keep legislators from the corrupting influences of the system.


Donald Trump campaign rolls out new ad pumping up tax cuts” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The ad highlights benefits felt by the “Shortway Brewing Company,” based in North Carolina. The owners, Matt and Lindsay Shortway, say the tax cuts have been a boon for their business. “The president’s policies are helping our small business grow,” said Matt. “With President Trump’s agenda and the way that the country is moving right now, I am very optimistic about the future of this country.” The Trump campaign and the GOP hope ads like this which showcase the effects on small business can help turn that sentiment around. It may pay off, as Trump’s approval ratings have steadily been rising. That could give hope to Republicans in November. You can view the ad by clicking here.

Assignment editors — Gov. Rick Scott will roll out the second proposal of his “Make Washington Work” plan to require a two-thirds supermajority of Congress to approve any tax or fee increase. The event begins 2 p.m. at Dusobox, 2501 Investors Row, Suite 900, Orlando.

Gwen Graham clears $1M in April, has $4.7M on hand” via Florida Politics — Graham’s gubernatorial campaign announced its April fundraising efforts yielded more than $1 million — her best total since filing for the race one year ago … her campaign said it ended the month with more than $4.7 million in the bank between her campaign and committee, Gwen Graham for Florida. That’s a $700,000 increase from her on hand total at the end of March, when the North Florida Democrat brought in $660,000. The new numbers put her total fundraising close to the $7.5 million mark. According to the announcement, Graham brought in more than $330,000 for her campaign and more than $670,000 for her committee.

Assignment editors — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine will speak to the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club, 11:30 a.m., St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 11 Central Ave. in St. Pete.

Six-figure take buoys Denise Grimsley’s Ag. Commissioner bid” via Florida Politics – Grimsley topped the field last month with nearly $190,000 raised between her campaign and committee … her campaign said $110,985 of the April haul came in through her campaign account, while the remaining $78,500 was raised via her committee, Saving Florida’s Heartland. The campaign didn’t say how much the accounts had at the ready – they combined to $870,000 banked at the end of March – but it did add another milestone to the brag board: With April in the books, Grimsley has received contributions from more than 1,700 unique donors, which Grimsley’s team says is more than any of her challengers can boast.

It’s official: Amanda Murphy is running for state Senate” via Florida Politics — Murphy said she would run for Senate District 16 last week, and she made it official by filing her paperwork with the Florida Division of Elections. “I am running because the people of Pasco and Pinellas counties need someone who will put them first, someone who knows what it means to get up every morning, go to work and earn a living, someone who is not beholden to Tallahassee politicians and their special interest handlers,” Murphy said in a news release. “I know how to fight — and win — for the hardworking people of this region, and I am ready to fight for them every day.” Murphy, who represented HD 36 from 2013 through 2016, joins Bernie Fensterwald in the Democratic Primary. Her true test, however, will be former Clearwater Republican Rep. Ed Hooper, who has been in the race and piling on the campaign funds for nearly two years.

—“Jeff Brandes clears $550K on hand for re-election bid” via Florida Politics

MaryLynn Magar won’t challenge Harrell, Keiser in SD 25” via Florida Politics – Magar said Wednesday that she won’t enter the special election to replace exiting Senate President Joe Negron and will instead to stay put in the Florida House. Magar was the only other major candidate thought to have her sights set on Senate District 25, and with her announcement, it looks like the special Republican Primary will be a two-way race between Stuart Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell and Keiser University Vice-Chancellor Belinda Keiser.

Hialeah mayor endorses Manny Diaz in SD 36 contest” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez is endorsing state Rep. Diaz for the Senate District 36 seat. “Manny Diaz is a proven leader and will be an outstanding senator,” Hernandez said. “Throughout his time in the Florida House, he has been a solid advocate for our community, and we need his forward-thinking leadership in the Senate. I look forward to continuing our strong working relationship as we work on a range of issues that make a difference in the lives of our constituents.”

Happening today — Maitland Democrat Joy Goff-Marcil holds a campaign kickoff in her bid for House District 30. Goff-Marcil hopes to unseat Rep. Bob Cortes in the district covering parts of Orange and Seminole counties. The event begins 5 p.m., An Tobar Irish Pub, 600 North Lake Destiny Road, Maitland.

Save the date:

—“Karen Skyers’ first finance report puts her atop HD 61 field” via Florida Politics

—“Former lawmaker Lisa Carlton endorses Tommy Gregory in HD 73 race” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics


Call it the calm before the storm. 

Tampa Bay Times’ William March recently caught up with Scott as he approaches his last hurricane season, one that could be a doozy. 

In the brief Q&A, Scott stressed preparedness, urging Floridians to “have your supplies, three days of water, three days of food, have your medicine, make sure you know your evacuation route … If you might have to go to a shelter, make sure you know where your shelter is.” 

The Governor also provided a few more insights. 

Nursing homes: Old folks are better equipped, thanks to the Legislature and Scott’s encouragement. The Governor signed legislation mandating nursing homes have generators and fuel at the ready. The tragedies and missteps at nursing homes in 2017 were Scott’s “biggest” frustrations, he said.

Statewide: Florida is spending a lot on infrastructure improvement, Scott said. He wants other agencies to have more synergy.

Looking ahead: The Governor told March there would be a “hurricane conference” in the next two weeks. March noted, “forecasters predict” the 2018 hurricane season could be “above active.”


Scott, Cabinet eye land conservation projects” via the News Service of Florida — Gov. Scott and the Cabinet are expected to consider whether to spend nearly $11 million to help limit future development on four ranches and farms in four counties. The proposals would add 8,388 acres to the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program … a 4,476-acre project in Highlands County known as Goolsby Ranch, with a cost of $7.63 million; a 929-acre project in Manatee County known as Howze Ranch, with a cost of $1.5 million; a 1,400-acre project in Madison County known as Sampala Lake Ranch, with a cost of $1.26 million; and a 1,583-acre project in Putnam County known as Rodman Plantation, with a cost of $540,000. State staff members have recommended approval of all four projects.

Honoring the fallen: Gov. Rick Scott attended the annual Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Law Enforcement Memorial Service on Wednesday to honor those who died in the line of duty.

Assignment editors — Gov. Scott will attend a groundbreaking in The Villages to kickoff construction of the Center for Advanced Healthcare at Brownwood, 10 a.m., Publix Grand Traverse Plaza, 2925 Traverse Trl., Wildwood.

Deputies who took cover at Parkland massacre lacked recent active shooter training” via Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald — Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies … had not been through their department’s active shooter training since 2015 or 2016, according to their training files. Several deputies took cover behind their cars while gunfire raged inside the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School building … At least one deputy seemed to know where the shooter was. One possible explanation for the difference in response: BSO says it hasn’t done an active shooter training cycle since 2016. In contrast, most of the first Coral Springs officers to arrive went through active shooter training in 2017. Coral Springs, a smaller department, says its officers do active shooter training drills every year.

Constitution Revision Commission turns in its work — The commission, formed every 20 years to review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document, formally submitted its proposed amendments to Secretary of State Ken Detzner on Wednesday — one day ahead of the deadline. “The final report contains eight CRC revisions that will appear as constitutional amendments on the 2018 General Election ballot for voter consideration,” according to a news release. “The CRC is giving Floridians the opportunity to vote ‘yes’ on several important issues including ethics reform in government, rights for victims of crime, prohibiting oil drilling in state waters, and necessary education reforms,” Chairman Carlos Beruff said in a statement. “I commend my fellow Commissioners for their service, and we thank all Floridians who participated in this historic process.” The amendments must each gain at least 60 percent voter approval to be added to the state constitution.

Tiger Bay puts CRC officers on hot seat over bundling ‘poison pills’ and ‘SweeTARTs’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — If the members of the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida reflect the views of regular people, then the eight proposals the Florida Constitution Revision Commission put on the November ballot last month could be in trouble. After Brecht HeuchanFrank Kruppenbacher and state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez defended the commission’s decision to bundle multiple law changes into single amendment proposals, the members of the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida largely rejected their explanations at a forum in Orlando. “I think everyone in this room understands that the rationale of lengthy ballots and voter fatigue are bull,” said Jason Johnson, a lawyer and past president of the club. “Your argument that someone’s poison pill is another person’s SweeTART is making the point, for people who are against grouping, that you’re just doing it to get poison pills passed by getting people to vote for the SweeTARTs,” he continued. “Why not just separate them all and let the chips fall where they may?”

Criminal justice reform advocates call for lawmakers to reconsider prison budget cuts” via Laura Morel of the Tampa Bay Times — After learning last week that the Department of Corrections slashed $28 million in funding for rehabilitation programs, Kim Lawrance of Winter Haven is worried about her daughter’s ability to transition back into society when she’s released. “My daughter has until 2025, and with these budget cuts, she and a lot of others will have a lot of idle time on their hands,” Lawrance said Wednesday. “How will my daughter adapt when she comes home?” Lawrance spoke at a news conference organized by the Florida Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform, where stakeholders from several organizations, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, called on Gov. Scott and lawmakers to find funding for these programs … the Legislature passed a budget that was $28 million short in prison funding. To cope with the lack of resources, Corrections Secretary Julie Jones announced the agency is making cuts to substance abuse, mental health treatment, re-entry and work release programs.

‘False advertising’ lawsuit against John Morgan dismissed — A federal judge in Philadelphia has closed a lawsuit over a false advertising claim against Morgan and his Orlando-based Morgan & Morgan law firm. The order for dismissal did not include any terms of a settlement. Court records show a settlement conference that had been scheduled for May 22 was canceled. A complaint was filed last September by the competing Rosenbaum & Associates personal injury firm. Its suit said Morgan’s well-known advertisements, also running in southeastern Pennsylvania, were “misleading” potential clients. The suit said the ads, ubiquitous on billboards and buses in the Sunshine State, wrongly give the impression that the firm “actively litigate(s) claims in Pennsylvania” when its personal-injury practice there is actually “nonexistent or minimal.” In a statement last year, Morgan called the lawsuit “utter nonsense,” adding, “This guy (Rosenbaum) doesn’t like competition. Sorry, it’s the American way.”

Court sides with church in priest defamation fight” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Saying judges cannot become entangled in church administrative decisions, an appeals court Wednesday blocked a Catholic priest’s defamation lawsuit against the Diocese of Palm Beach. The lawsuit, filed by priest John Gallagher, came after series of events that started with allegations in early 2015 that another priest at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in West Palm Beach had shown child pornography to a 14-year-old boy. The other priest … pleaded guilty and was ultimately deported … After the incident … Gallagher was not offered the job of the pastor of Holy Name … He alleged that the diocese tried to cover up the child-pornography incident and that he was reassigned for not going along … diocese officials made critical comments about Gallagher, who alleged that he had been defamed … the appeals court sided with the diocese, at least in part because the court said judges could not get involved in church decisions about issues such as employment.

Whistleblower priest John Gallagher says he was punished by Catholic Church. (Image via Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

What Hard Rock chairman Jim Allen is reading: “Hard Rock Granted Casino License in Atlantic City” via AP — Hard Rock had an easy time with New Jersey gambling regulators on Wednesday, gaining a license to reopen a casino and begin Atlantic City’s recovery from a string of gambling hall closures on a property that President Donald Trump once hailed as “the eighth wonder of the world.” The Casino Control Commission granted a license to Hard Rock, the worldwide hotel, gambling and entertainment company owned by Florida’s Seminole Indian tribe. It is reopening the former Trump Taj Mahal. The casino is set to reopen on June 28 — the same day as another shuttered Boardwalk casino, the former Revel property, that will open as the Ocean Resort Casino. Together, the new casinos will restore as many as 6,500 of the 11,000 jobs Atlantic City lost when five of its 12 casinos went out of business since 2014. Casino officials say Hard Rock has received 50,000 applications for 4,000 jobs.

This firm would like to release GMO mosquitoes in the Keys. The EPA wants your thoughts.” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — The Environmental Protection Agency has extended the public comment period on an application received from a British company in December seeking to release millions of genetically modified mosquitoes somewhere in the Florida Keys. The deadline for comments is June 7. The lab-grown Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are almost all male and are designed to mate with females. Their offspring, according to the research by the biotech company Oxitec, which is seeking the release of the GMO mosquitoes, will not survive into adulthood because of a self-limiting gene bred into the males. The aim is to wipe out, or significantly reduce, the local population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which spread deadly viruses like dengue fever and Zika.


Former state Rep. Bev Kilmer turns to actingKilmer, a former Republican House member from the Panhandle, reports that she will be “debuting as ‘Bunny,’ (one of) ‘The Bad Girl of Eden Falls,” in a community theater production of “The Hallelujah Girls.” The show starts next month at Chipley’s Spanish Trail Playhouse. The play is by three of the writers for “The Golden Girls,” which aired on NBC in 1985-92. “Hilarity abounds when the feisty females of Eden Falls, Georgia, decide to shake up their lives,” the theater’s website explains. “The action in this rollicking Southern comedy takes place in SPA-DEE-DAH!, the abandoned church-turned-day-spa where this group of friends gathers every Friday afternoon.” Performances are June 1-3, with tickets available online. “It is hilarious,” Kilmer says.

Fledgling actor Bev Kilmer.


Bill Nelson, Democratic congressional members urge state lawmakers to repeal statewide gun law” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida — Nelson and 11 Democratic congressional members from Florida urged the Republican leadership in the Legislature to repeal a law that prohibits local governments from regulating guns. “This law not only prevents localities from enacting any kind of firearm measure but also subjects a violating locality or local official to a civil fine — a provision that we believe is unconstitutional given that legislators are immune from civil liability for legislative activities,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter sent to House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron. “Allow local officials to enact reasonable firearm measures that best reflects the view of their constituents,” they wrote. Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano told POLITICO the letter was “a publicity stunt.”

Republicans move to force DACA vote in defiance of Paul Ryan” via Rachael Bade of POLITICO — Reps. Carlos Curbelo … Will Hurd of Texas, and Jeff Denham and David Valadao of California filed a discharge petition that would trigger a series of votes on different immigration bills if 218 members sign on. If every Democrat supports the idea, which sources said is likely, 20 Republicans would have to break ranks and join them to trigger the votes. Two sources intimately involved in the effort say at least 15 Republicans are ready to join. This week they picked up a significant GOP voice on immigration, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who had been working hand in hand with Ryan and the White House on immigration. Diaz-Balart has wanted Congress to codify Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals but had been unwilling to go against the speaker until now. His support is likely to sway other centrist Republicans frustrated by the lack of action on Dreamers to sign the petition.


Peter Hamby: What John Edwards should teach the media about covering Donald Trump” via Vanity Fair – Aggressive, always-on skepticism: it must be the media’s enduring posture with the Trump administration and its allies and its attempts to diminish what’s under investigation. For the public and the press, our north star, even in moments of doubt, has to be the knowledge that it’s all probably worse than we think it is. That’s always how political scandals work. To take Raelyn Johnson’s analogy a step further: where there is smoke, there is fire. What about when there are four dozen fires, all burning simultaneously in the same house?

Joe Henderson: We haven’t seen the last of Richard Corcoran” via Florida Politics — While it unquestionably is the right time for Corcoran to go home to Land O’Lakes, as he promised to do if he didn’t run for governor, that doesn’t mean he will stay there. At age 53, Corcoran has a lot of hop left on his political fastball. I would be stunned if we don’t see him in a significant role if Putnam is elected governor this fall. It became clear in recent weeks that a Corcoran candidacy was attracting stifled yawns from the electorate. I’ll give him credit for seeing the landscape as it really was and not pushing a losing hand. Aligning with Putnam was the smart play for him, and we’ll see how that plays out. And while pundits are combing through the story of Corcoran’s gambit looking for deeper meaning, I doubt it will have much impact on the Republican primary or general election … even though he won’t be on the ballot this time or maybe ever again, we haven’t seen the last of Corcoran. It’s up to the individual to decide if that’s good news or ill.


Gregory Haile named president of Broward College” via The News Service of Florida – A new president was named Wednesday for Broward College, the second-largest institution in Florida’s 28-member state college system. The college’s board of trustees unanimously picked Gregory Haile, the school’s general counsel, to replace outgoing President David Armstrong, who will step down in late June. The college, which has some 63,000 full- and part-time students, started with an initial list of 22 candidates recommended by consultants in a nationwide search. John Benz, chairman of the trustees, said the board determined that Haile, who has been at the school since 2011 and has a law degree from Columbia University, “was both the best qualified and best fit.”

Personnel note: Dawn Jiménez promoted to LeadingAge Florida VPJiménez started at the organization nearly four years ago, and now will be Vice President of Operations, according to a Wednesday news release. “In her new role, she’s responsible for overseeing and improving our overall operations, (and) oversees our convention exhibits and annual sponsorships.” She’s a native of the San Francisco area, where she began her career in finance with Ford Motor Co. She later was at Triad Systems Corp. (now Epicor), where she was a National Account Manager and the Western Area Education Manager. LeadingAge Florida was formerly known as Florida Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, founded in 1963, and represents continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), nursing homes and assisted living facilities, among others.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Jose Davila: Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund

John Forehand, Robert Craig Spickard, Kurkin Forehand Brandes: Florida Automobile Dealers Association

Darrick McGhee, Johnson & Blanton: United Data Technologies

Timothy Meenan, Karl Rasmussen, Joy Ryan, Meenan: Pharma Cann

Robert Pritt, Roetzel & Andress: Upper Captiva Fire Protection and Rescue Service District


Interview: After historic James Beard win, St. Pete native Edouardo Jordan reflects” via Laura Reiley of the Tampa Bay Times — The 1998 graduate of Boca Ciega High School grew up around food, Sunday suppers at his grandma’s house, Southern staples like collard greens, chitlins, black-eyed peas and cornbread, as well as more exotic options like possum, raccoon and snapping turtle. Still, he didn’t see a career for himself in the restaurant industry, earning dual degrees from the University of Florida in sports management and business administration. He dabbled with a food blog, which led him to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Orlando and then a job at Marty Blitz’s Mise en Place in Tampa. He made friends with Tampa’s food powerhouses, like Ferrell Alvarez, now co-owner of Rooster & the Till. He shared dreams of one day working at the elite French Laundry in Napa Valley. Jordan fulfilled his dream of working with Thomas Keller at the Laundry, then bounced around California and New York, eventually settling in Seattle, a city he says was striving to become a top food destination.

— ALOE —

Airbnb, Puerto Rico, announce partnership initiatives to foster tourism” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Initiatives will include promotions of Puerto Rico through Airbnb, the launch of an “Experiences” program, essentially private package tours to what Airbnb calls authentic Puerto Rican activities, and the agreement to give three months of fees for homes and tours to nonprofit organizations helping with Hurricane Maria relief efforts on the island. The company also pledged to increase marketing efforts to promote Puerto Rico tourism. “The future is bright for the tourism sector of Puerto Rico. Leveraging the power of the Airbnb platform, we have the opportunity to increase the visibility of the Island as a travel destination, making it more sustainable, more diverse, and allowing more residents to benefit from the economic opportunities that tourism provides,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló stated in a news release.

We had nothing to do with this —LAPD investigating disappearance of Iron Man suit used in Marvel’s ‘Avengers’ films” via James Queally of the Los Angeles Times — The costume, valued at $325,000, vanished from a prop storage warehouse sometime between February and late April … The famous red and gold suit, which first flashed across movie screens in the 2008 “Iron Man” film that kick-started Marvel’s movie empire, was reported missing … Employees at the warehouse “just happened to check” on Tuesday and noticed the costume was gone. It was not immediately clear who reported the costume stolen, and an LAPD spokeswoman declined to say who owns the warehouse. No other items were reported missing. The LAPD’s Foothill Division are investigating the incident.

Missing: The original Iron Man suit.

What Jeremy Susac is reading — Amazon’s Alexa will be built into all new homes from Lennar” via Elizabeth Weise of USA TODAY — Lennar announced that standard features in its new homes will include built-in Wi-Fi, smart locks, doorbells, thermostats and lights — all controlled by Alexa, Amazon’s voice-activated digital assistant. Each house will come with two Alexa-enabled smart speakers, an Echo Show and an Echo Dot. New homeowners will also get a free visit from an Amazon technician to help set everything up and teach them how to use it. “This will be the hallmark of why we buy a new home,” said David Kaiserman, president of Lennar Ventures. “It’s an important step in the mass adoption of all these technologies.”

Happy birthday to the pride of Pensacola, Ryan Wiggins. Also celebrating day is Tom DiGiacomo.

Report: State agency clearing out jobs for Rick Scott employees

A newspaper is reporting that a Florida state agency removed top employees and kept positions vacant in order to make room for employees who worked for Gov. Rick Scott.

The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald reported Tuesday that Department of Revenue officials replaced employees with people who have little experience in tax administration. Scott is leaving office due to term limits, and people who work directly for the governor could be replaced by the next governor.

Leon Biegalski, the head of the Department of Revenue, refused to grant an interview to answer questions about the personnel decisions. He instead issued a statement saying he had high standards for his employees.

McKinley Lewis, a spokesman for Scott, said the governor’s office had no involvement in the hiring and firing of the individuals.

Last Call for 5.9.18 – 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

The battle over Amendment 13, the proposed state constitutional amendment to ban greyhound racing, has begun in earnest.

A new campaign to get out the vote called “Protect Dogs-Yes on 13” announced Wednesday it is working with the nationally recognized firm of Trippi Norton Rossmeissl (TNR).

The Democratic-aligned team has worked on Doug Jones‘ U.S. Senate victory in Alabama, the “first Democrat to win the U.S. Senate in Alabama in 25 years,” the group noted.

TNR also “helped guide the Massachusetts ‘Yes on 3’ ballot initiative, preventing farm animal confinement, to the largest margin of victory for an animal protection initiative in history,” the campaign said in a statement.

The “Protect Dogs-Yes on 13” campaign “will encompass campaign strategy, online, and grassroots advocacy.” Greyhound owners and breeders, whose livelihood is at stake, have promised to fight against the measure in the coming months.

“I’m proud to be part of the campaign to end greyhound cruelty in Florida. We have the chance to make history for dogs,” firm principal Joe Trippi said in a statement.

Carla Wilson, Grassroots Field Director for the campaign, added the Committee to Protect Dogs, the political committee behind the campaign, was “fortunate to have the experience of this team.”

The committee’s lone contribution to date is $250 from GREY2K USA Worldwide, an organization that seeks to end dog racing.

“This is an important moment for our movement to protect Florida greyhounds, and I am confident we have the talent and momentum to win this November,” Wilson said.  

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), formed every 20 years to review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document, is on track to submit the amendment and seven others to Secretary of State Ken Detzner by 5 p.m. Thursday, spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice said.

The eight CRC amendments and five others by the Legislature and citizen initiatives are slated for the November statewide ballot. Once the CRC revisions are received, “the Division of Elections will assign ballot numbers in accordance with” state regulations, Department of State spokeswoman Sarah Revell said. (As it stands now, the racing ban should be numbered ‘13.’)

Amendments need 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.

Evening Reads

Trump campaign attorney sends cease-and-desist letter to Palm Beach County booster club” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

CNN poll: Democrats’ 2018 advantage is nearly gone” via Jennifer Agiesta of CNN

Gina Haspel appears to have support of both Florida senators” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott, Cabinet eye land conservation projects” via the News Service of Florida

Source: DOC should’ve kept closer watch on accused Highlands Co. deputy-killer” via Noah Pransky of WTSP

Florida’s second most powerful Republican just passed on the governor’s race and endorsed Adam Putnam” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times

Gifford gun-control group targets Vern Buchanan with ad” via Skyler Swisher of the Sun Sentinel

It’s official: Amanda Murphy is running for state Senate” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

Karen Skyers’ first finance report puts her atop HD 61 field” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

The first Miami Waffle House was not open quite yet, but dozens of people couldn’t wait” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald

Quote of the Day

“I’m proud to say that decision is, thoroughly, we’re going home.” —House Speaker Richard Corcoran, speaking of his decision to ‘go big or go home’ in considering a run for governor. Corcoran opted out, and endorsed Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

Mike Shannon, District 5 secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation, is slated to speak during a Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce breakfast. That’s at 7:30 a.m., LPGA International Golf Course, 1000 Champions Dr., Daytona Beach.

The Florida Department of Financial Services will hold one in a series of “Be Scam Smart” workshops to help seniors avoid financial scams. That’s at 10:30 a.m., Your Plate Health and Wellness Center, Treasure Coast Food Bank, 1203 Orange Ave., Fort Pierce.

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

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine will speak during a meeting of the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club. That’s at noon, St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 11 Central Ave., St. Petersburg.

Democrats Stephen Sevigny, Nancy Soderberg and John Upchurch, who are running in Congressional District 6, are slated to speak to the Tiger Bay Club of Volusia County. The candidates are seeking to replace Republican Ron DeSantis, who is running for governor. That’s at noon, LPGA Clubhouse, 1000 Champions Dr., Daytona Beach.

Forums will be held across the state for judicial candidates to discuss ethical standards in judicial races. The forums are organized by the Florida Supreme Court and The Florida Bar Board of Governors in conjunction with trial-court chief judges and the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee. (Thursday, 1 p.m., M.C. Blanchard Judicial Building, 190 Governmental Center, Pensacola. Also, 1 p.m., Duval County Courthouse, 501 West Adams St., Jacksonville. Also, 1 p.m., Lawson E. Thomas Courthouse Center, 175 N.W. First Ave., Miami. Also, 1 p.m., George Edgecomb County Courthouse, 800 East Twiggs St., Tampa. Also, 1 p.m., Palm Beach County Courthouse, 205 North Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach.)

Gov. Scott, as part of his U.S. Senate campaign, will highlight a proposal of his “Make Washington Work” Plan to require a two-thirds vote of each chamber of Congress to approve any tax or fee increase. That’s at 2 p.m., Dusobox, 2501 Investors Row (Suite 900), Orlando.

Duke Energy Florida will hold a public meeting in Polk County about plans to build a new transmission substation at the utility’s Osprey Energy Center and two 230-kilovolt transmission lines. That’s at 4 p.m., Northridge Church, 2250 State Road 17 South, Haines City.

Maitland Democrat Joy Goff-Marcil, who is running in state House District 30, will hold a campaign kickoff event. Goff-Marcil hopes to unseat Rep. Bob Cortes, an Altamonte Springs Republican, in the district, which includes parts of Orange and Seminole counties. That’s at 5 p.m., An Tobar Irish Pub, 600 North Lake Destiny Road, Maitland.

Rep. Wengay “Newt” Newton, a St. Petersburg Democrat, will host a town hall meeting and legislative wrap up, focusing on issues affecting local government, community development block grants, community redevelopment agencies and the school safety package. That’s at 5:30 p.m., Rubonia Community Center, 1309 72nd St. East, Palmetto.

Former Barnett Bank President Allen Lastinger and Lumina Foundation state policy consultant Nicole Washington will be honored during an annual gathering of the University of Florida’s Bob Graham Center for Public Service. That’s at 6 p.m., Rosen Shingle Creek, 9939 Universal Blvd., Orlando.

Candidates for Agriculture Commissioner are expected to take part in a meeting of The Villages Republican Club. That’s at 7 p.m., The Savannah Center, 1575 Buena Vista Blvd., The Villages.

State political candidates and committees face a Thursday night deadline for filing reports showing finance activity through April 30.

Tampa mayoral race begins as a ‘tale of two regrets’

For the city of Tampa, it is the best of times.

Yet, for Mayor Bob Buckhorn, it’s almost time to go.

By this time next year, his successor will have been sworn in and he will be a non-lawyer consultant for Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, the law firm where Hizzoner’s friend, Ron Christaldi – the driving force behind the effort to bring the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team to Ybor City – is a partner.

This week is a special time for Buckhorn. The signature public works project of his two terms in office, the Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, will open just in time for Mothers Day. Before that happens, he will deliver his final State of the City speech.

As a big fan of Buckhorn, both personally and politically, forgive me in advance if I get a little misty Friday morning.

Predicting who will succeed Buckhorn is almost as hard as figuring out how Tampa will pay for that new Rays stadium.

As I size up next year’s mayoral candidates (admittedly from across the bridge in St. Petersburg), the race is getting off to an awkward start. That’s because the two leading candidates, former Police Chief Jane Castor and philanthropist David Straz, have had to first apologize for glaring sins in their political pasts.

During her time as chief, Castor put in place a program that had officers disproportionately targeting black bicyclists for minor violations. The Tampa Bay Times determined that over a three-year span Tampa police issued 2,504 bike tickets, which was more than Jacksonville, Miami, St. Petersburg and Orlando combined.

A U.S. Justice Department review requested by Castor would determine that the disproportionate ticketing of black bicyclists was unfair and often perceived as harassment even if that wasn’t intended.

Although she defended the policy at the time, Castor now says the biking-while-black ticketing was wrong.

“The bicycling citations were done with good intentions,” Castor said. “Unfortunately the result was is that it caused tension in the very neighborhoods we were working to make safer.

“In hindsight I wouldn’t do that initiative again.”

Just as hindsight is 20/20 for Castor, so too is it for Straz, who now says he regrets voting for Donald Trump in 2016.

“I’m happy to admit I make mistakes,” Straz told Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times. “I wouldn’t vote for him again.”

In a Democratic city like Tampa, Straz would have been better off saying he’s rooting for the Washington Capitals to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning than to cop to voting for Trump.

As St. Petersburg voters witnessed (perhaps ad nauseum) in 2017, when Trump was hung around Rick Baker‘s neck like a fifty-pound weight, even the slightest association with Trump can be fatal. And here Straz said he voted for him!

The direct mail writes itself.

Rarely do you see political candidates having to launch their campaigns by embarking on an apology tour. But that seems to be the case for Castor and Straz. In almost all of the media about their entrances into the race, their individual regrets are featured prominently.

Castor and Straz have already moved past these blips, but they do offer strategic openings to the rest of the announced field, which includes City Councilmembers Harry Cohen and Mike Suarez and former County Commissioner Ed Turanchik.

Of the two, I believe Straz has the most to worry about. A vote for Trump is unforgivable to a large swath of the electorate.

Moreover, Straz’s announcement on Tuesday that he was entering the race was … well … it just whelmed. His press release and video were under-produced, especially for all of the money he has already raised for his campaign.

He also told the Tampa Bay Times that the city should spend about $100 million to help build a new ballpark for the team. A campaign official later had to walk back Straz’s premature proffer.

But a debate about the amount of money the city should spend on a new stadium isn’t the issue. What is (still mildly) concerning is the walk-back coming right on top of Straz’s less-than-dazzling announcement.

It reminded this resident of the ‘burg of the 2011 campaign of Dick Greco – a campaign filled with regrets.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.9.18

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

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

As Florida Politics first reported, House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Wednesday morning will throw his support to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s bid to be the next governor of Florida.

The same political reporters who last week were telling you that Tom Lee would run for Congress and that a Republican would win the special election in House District 114 will now attempt to tell you Corcoran’s decision to back Putnam doesn’t matter.

Don’t buy into that conventional wisdom.

Corcoran dropping out and supporting Putnam matters because three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust is the Polk Republican’s only path to the GOP nomination. He’s not going to be on Fox News each night. Donald Trump isn’t going to call him one of his “warriors.”

No, the only way Putnam holds off U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is by barbecuing his way to victory. This BBQ strategy involves winning as much institutional support as possible, even in the current drain-the-swamp political environment.

Inch by inch, Putnam has to grind his way to the nomination. Last week, it was receiving the full-throated support of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. This week it’s getting Corcoran’s backing. Next week, it’ll be another endorsement, another fish fry, another fusillade of television ads.

Also, don’t underestimate just how much Team Florida Grown wanted Corcoran out of the race so that it could take on DeSantis one-on-one.

DeSantis own internal polling shows that Corcoran’s lean support goes to Putnam without the Speaker in the race. This is contrary to the easy assumption that Corcoran would have pulled votes from the same right-wing voters with which DeSantis is strong.

Corcoran wasn’t faring well in the polls, but he knows how to create mischief and, just as Andrew Gillum is doing in the Democratic primary, he would have been able to garner earned media and take the focus off the genuine front-runners. He also knows Putnam’s weak spots better than DeSantis.

Putnam’s folks also point to last week’s gubernatorial forum as an example of what the race will look like if its just Putnam vs. DeSantis. Even though the two men were never on stage together, Putnam, who actually outflanked DeSantis on his right, emerged from the Florida Family Policy Council event as the clear winner. Putnam boosters think they can repeat that kind of performance again and again between now and the primary election.

As for what Corcoran does next, that’s still anyone’s guess. Perhaps a glass or two of Caymus and an Oliva cigar will help him make his decision about his future.


—@BRhodes: Beyond the potentially catastrophic consequences with Iran, Trump’s decision is devastating to U.S. credibility globally. After this, why would anyone trust an international agreement that the U.S. negotiates?

—@HotlineJosh#FLSEN will be one of the few races where withdrawing from the Iran deal could be a key issue.

—@AlbertBrooks: Breaking News: Trump to back out of Louisiana Purchase.

@SunshineEmpire: It’s fascinating how the press corp sees Rick Scott’s spending at an “early, aggressive pace,” and Phil Levine’s spending as a gigantic waste.

@CarlosGSmith: OH MY GAWD! We spent SO MUCH TIME in the House passing unconstitutional bills only to prop up a campaign that never got off the ground?! Somehow, even I feel cheated. How do we get our 2018 session back? 2017 is calling to ask the same thing.

@PPinesPD: There have been several monkey sightings in the Broward County area over the past two months, including in Pembroke Pines. If you see these monkeys do not attempt to feed them, approach them, or trap them. Report any sightings to the Vervet Project;

@PatriciaMazzei: Today in a reporter’s struggles in translation: There is no exact English equivalent for “damnificado.”


Mother’s Day — 4; Deadpool 2 release — 9; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 16; Memorial Day — 19; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in St. Petersburg — 31; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Miramar — 33; Time Warner/AT&T merger ruling — 34; Father’s Day — 39; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 44; Florida GOP Sunshine Summit starts — 50; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 60; MLB All-Star Game — 69; Deadline for filing claim bills — 84; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 84; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 85; Start of the U.S. Open — 110; Primary Election Day — 111; College Football opening weekend — 113; NFL season starts — 120; Future of Florida Forum — 140; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 167; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 168; General Election Day — 181; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 281; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 300.


Gov. Rick Scott has a 4-point lead over U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in the Senate race according to a new poll out from FAU.

There’s only one caveat: Culling the sample down to likely voters puts the second term governor in a statistical tie with Nelson, 45-45.

But, as the saying goes, “it’s not the top-line, it’s the trend.” And there’s a couple trends that likely have Scott supporters feeling dandy and the Nelson campaign feeling like they took a punch to the gut.

First, Scott’s standing has only gone up since FAU’s February survey, when he trailed Nelson 40-38. After a month on the trail and $5 million in ad spending, Scott is surging and Nelson is coming off exactly how the Scott campaign has framed him: Flat.

Ron DeSantis and Philip Levine are (barely) leading in a new FAU poll.

Second, and possibly more troubling for Nelson, is that Donald Trump might not be as big an anchor around Scott’s neck as Democrats want him to be. Despite increasing coverage of the president’s flaws and foibles, Florida voters like him more by the month — he’s gone from a minus-6 job approval rating last year to a minus-2 today.

That data point will also go over nicely with Ron DeSantis, the Trump-backed Congressman who in the same poll was found with a 1-point edge, 16-15, over Adam Putnam in the Republican Primary for governor.

On the Democratic side, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine leads former Congresswoman Gwen Graham by the same margin, 16-15, with 42 percent unsure. But the real shocker isn’t Levine being on top — he’s been there for weeks — it’s Chris King.

Poll after poll has shown the Orlando-area businessman on the bottom shelf in the four-way race, but the FAU poll put him in the double-digit club with 10 percent support among primary voters. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum rounded out the pack with 6 percent support.

Both primary polls showed more than 40 percent of voters are undecided, so there’s plenty of campaign left to do before the Aug. 28 primary election.


It’s never a good sign when a candidate profile begins by detailing a possible case of fraud traced back to said candidate’s company. 

That’s how Daniel Rivero’s piece in the Miami New Times on former Miami Beach Mayor Levine begins, setting the stage for a critical but balanced deep dive into the Democratic gubernatorial early front-runner.

The opening anecdote tells of an elderly woman who was ripped off on a cruise trip to Mexico in 2014. Levine’s company, Royal Media Partners, pressured her to buy a used luxury watch. Rivero wrote, “The episode offers a dark glimpse into the world from which Levine emerged.” 

Philip Levine’s Royal Media Partners is under scrutiny in a new profile.

The bad: Levine’s company and similar businesses have had a conflict with Alaska’s state government after being accused of using questionable tactics to court local businesses into using their services. Notes Rivero, “If Levine were elected governor of Florida, where the largest cruise companies are headquartered, his new position could pose some conflicts of interest.” 

The ugly: Rivero examines Levine’s history of campaigning off climate change. Once elected mayor, he expedited pump projects tailored to fight rising water levels. It’s been reported, however, that those projects helped Levine’s properties, and a report from local universities suggested the pumps could be dumping raw sewage into Biscayne Bay. 

The good: Rivero’s piece dedicates a bit of prose to the former mayor’s childhood and early life. While by no means is Levine’s bio a ‘rags to riches’ story, the context shows Levine at least came from humble beginnings and spent a great deal of time in the state he seeks to lead. 


Deep in the heart of Rick Scott’s Texas connections” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Scott has many ties to Texas. He attended law school at Southern Methodist, worked as a mergers-and-acquisitions lawyer in Dallas and co-founded Columbia Healthcare there in 1987 by buying 50 percent shares of two hospitals in El Paso … Others helping Scott raise money in Dallas are Tom Hicks, former owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team (Scott himself was once a minority owner); H. Ross Perot Jr., son of the former third-party presidential candidate; and Dallas businessman Doug Deason. Deason gave $3.5 million to the SMU law school for new criminal justice research, a gift matched by the Charles Koch Foundation that supports an array of conservative causes. The Kochs and their political arm, Americans for Prosperity, have supported Scott despite AFP’s criticism of Enterprise Florida Inc. (EFI) for giving “corporate welfare” to businesses with tax breaks.

Sarasota Democrat files election complaint against Scott” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Sarasota County Democratic Party Chairwoman JoAnne DeVries has filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission alleging Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign violated federal election law. DeVries alleges Scott’s campaign was raising money before then and did not properly disclose the donations by filing a first-quarter campaign finance report with the FEC. DeVries alleges that Scott’s campaign sent out a fundraising email “at least as early as March 29.” The email asks for checks payable to “Rick Scott for Florida” and notes the maximum contribution amount. “Assuming even one person responded to that ask, Mr. Scott raised over $5,000 on that date, triggering candidacy … Yet Mr. Scott did not file on April Quarterly Report,” DeVries writes.

JoAnne DeVries (center) is targeting Rick Scott for election law violations.

— “Florida Democrats’ latest attack on Scott is dumb, even for them” via Sarah Rumpf of The Capitolist

Andrew Gillum’s coal connection starting to raise eyebrows” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist – …regardless of Gillum’s stated public positions on coal, he is more deeply linked to the coal industry than he’d care to admit. His financial dependence on liberal mega-donor George Soros (yes, that one) or members of the Soros family have given Gillum well over half a million dollars in political contributions so far this cycle. … Then there is Gillum’s moonlighting salary that he’s collected over the years from People for the American Way, a liberal activist group that has also received big donations from Soros. Gillum has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from the group in salary. … There are other, more shadowy links to Soros as well, including a dark-money PAC called “The Collective,” which took in $70,000 from Soros and is the sister organization to the Collective Future … Gillum’s problem isn’t Soros himself, but rather his dependence on Soros’s investments in the coal industry. … To many Democrats, including Gillum’s opponent in the Democrat primary, it appears that Gillum is ducking the issue.

PAC for African-American candidates boosts Gillum in $211K ad buy” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – A national political group dedicated to helping African-American candidates has placed a $211,000 television ad buy to boost Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s stalled gubernatorial campaign, the first air support for a Democrat polling in the single digits. The Collective PAC’s ad buy, which is to run in the West Palm Beach broadcast TV market from Thursday through the end of the month, is the latest in a tranche of outside support that’s keeping Gillum’s campaign afloat. The Collective’s affiliated nonprofit political committee, Collective Future has pumped an additional $231,000 into Gillum’s campaign and political committee, Forward Florida. That’s about 30 percent of his March fundraising haul, yet the dark money group doesn’t have to disclose its donors because it’s a political nonprofit. A spokesman for the group couldn’t be reached for comment.

King pumps up campaign fund with $405,000” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The April haul, which included $109,623 from individual donors, was split between King’s official campaign account, which took in a total of $416,773 in April, and his political committee, Rise and Lead, which brought in $97,850. King’s total raised to date is $4,626,237, and he ended April with $2,476,895 cash in hand … King had previously contributed more than $1.76 million to his campaign.

Bill Galvano endorses Jimmy Patronis for CFO — Senate President-designate Galvano backs Patronis for a second term: “In the short amount of time Jimmy has been CFO, he has quickly proven that he is the right leader to manage Florida’s financial services and continue to serve our state in this capacity … Jimmy’s experience in the private sector, his dedication to public service, and his unwavering dedication to our first responders make him a uniquely qualified leader and an exceptional CFO.”

Assignment editors — The Florida Chamber of Commerce will make a “special announcement” with Patronis at 10:30 a.m., La Segunda Central Bakery, 2512 N. 15th St. in Tampa.

’Amendment 2 is for Everybody’ gets another $200K from Florida Realtors” via Florida Politics — The political committee backing a ballot amendment to make a 10 percent cap on annual non-homestead property tax increases permanent brought in another $200,000 in April. Amendment 2 is for Everybody raised that cash with a single contribution from The Florida Association of Realtors, which has now funded the committee to the tune of $660,000 — all but $100 of its total fundraising since the committee was formed in June. The ads rolled out by the committee pitch Amendment 2 as “protecting all Floridians” and “keeping communities whole.”

Greyhound racing ban will be ‘Amendment 13’ on November ballot — Whether you have triskaidekaphobia or not, a proposed constitutional amendment banning greyhound racing will almost certainly be on the fall ballot as “Amendment 13.” Sarah Revell, a spokeswoman for the Department of State, suggested 13 would not be skipped when the department numbers the amendments from the Constitution Revision Commission for ballot position. Revell said there’s no authority in state law or rules to skip a number, referring to a regulation on “Constitutional Amendment Ballot Position” that says, “Revision proposals and proposed amendments shall be assigned designating numbers in consecutive ascending numerical sequence …” That means the proposed dog racing ban, backed by state Sen. Tom Lee, should be “Amendment 13” on the November statewide ballot.

Happening tonight: 

Belinda Keiser files to run for Joe Negron’s state Senate seat” via the Sunshine State News — She will face state Rep. Gayle Harrell in the Republican primary. Negron is backing Harrell to replace him. Keiser is a familiar figure in Tallahassee from her work with the Florida Council of 100, the Florida Government Efficiency Task Force and Workforce Florida which she chaired, on the board of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Gov. Scott naming her to the board of Enterprise Florida and Space Florida. She also launched the Keiser Mills Foundation to offer “unique scholarship and learning opportunities to students seeking international, entrepreneurial, leadership and civic engagement experiences as part of their college education in Florida and globally.” Last year, Scott named Keiser to the Florida Constitution Revision Commission.

— “Shawn Harrison hits $215K on hand with April fundraising reports” via Florida Politics

— “Berny Jacques posts $13K haul in HD 66 race” via Florida Politics

— “In face of possible challenge, Chris Latvala added more than $43K in April” via Florida Politics

— “Rob Panepinto puts in $50K, raises $50K in Orange County mayor’s race” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising


Forums will be held across the state for judicial candidates to learn about ethical standards in judicial races. The forums are organized by the Florida Supreme Court and The Florida Bar Board of Governors, in conjunction with trial-court chief judges and the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee. All forums will be held at 1 p.m.

— On Thursday: M.C. Blanchard Judicial Building, 190 Governmental Center, Courtroom 501, Pensacola; Duval County Courthouse, Chief Judges Chambers, 501 West Adams St., Jacksonville; Lawson E. Thomas Courthouse Center, 11th-floor Conference Room, 175 N.W. First Ave., Miami; George Edgecomb County Courthouse, 6th-floor Judicial Conference Room, 800 East Twiggs St., Tampa; Palm Beach County Courthouse, Judicial Conference Room, 205 North Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach.

— On Friday: Leon County Courthouse, 301 S Monroe St., Courtroom 3G, Tallahassee; Alachua County Criminal Justice Center, Jury Assembly Room, 220 South Main St., Gainesville; Orange County Courthouse, 425 North Orange Ave., Suite 2310 (Gene Medina Conference Room), Orlando; Broward County Judicial Complex, Courtroom 15150, 15th Floor, 201 SE Sixth St., Ft. Lauderdale; Lee County Justice Center, 2075 Martin Luther King Blvd., Courtroom 4-B, Fort Myers.


Marco Rubio challenges Florida schools with Confucius institutes via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida – In a letter to three Florida colleges that operate partnerships through Chinese government-funded programs called Confucius Institutes, Sen. Marco Rubio this week challenged the schools to hold open discussions about ugly truths in the modern human rights history of China. The letter sent this week is a follow-up to a letter Rubio sent in February urging Miami Dade College, the University of North Florida, the University of South Florida, the University of West Florida and Broward County’s Cypress Bay High School to end their programs. “Given China’s aggressive campaign to ‘infiltrate’ American classrooms, stifle free inquiry, and subvert free expression both at home and abroad, I respectfully urge you to consider terminating your Confucius Institute agreement,” Rubio wrote at the time. The University of West Florida responded by noting it had already planned to cut ties due to a lack of student interest.

Scott loyalists are finding new state government jobs” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — The Florida Department of Revenue has ousted top employees and kept positions vacant for months to make room for many of Scott’s loyal staffers who will be out of their jobs when he leaves office this year, even though none of them have any experience in that department’s main responsibility: tax administration. The shake-up was managed by Leon Biegalski, the governor’s surprise pick to head the Department of Revenue in March 2016, and key jobs were given to former staff at the governor’s Office of Policy and Budget (OPB). DOR is overseen by Scott and three independent Cabinet officers, making it a safer place to guarantee job security than the governor’s budget office, which will get a new chief executive after the November elections. In the last month, Biegalski has replaced most of the division’s top staff with people close to him or the governor. When asked for an explanation, he issued a statement and refused an interview.

Assignment editors — Gov. Scott will attend the annual Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Law Enforcement Memorial Service to honor officers killed in the line of duty. Ceremony begins 8:30 a.m., Malcolm E. Beard Sheriffs Operations Center, 2008 E. 8th Ave., Tampa. Later, the Governor shifts to U.S. Senate candidate mode to highlight the second proposal in his “Make Washington Work” plan, which will require a supermajority vote of two-thirds of each house of Congress to approve any tax or fee increase. News conference begins 3:30 p.m., PGT Innovations, 1070 Technology Dr., North Venice.

Assignment editors — Ag. Commissioner Putnam will deliver the commencement address at Palm Beach State College beginning 2 p.m. at the South Florida Fairgrounds Expo Center, 9067 Southern Blvd., West Palm Beach.

State Cabinet meeting called off” via the News Service of Florida — The Florida Cabinet won’t hold a scheduled meeting May 15, as Gov. Scott plans to attend the funeral of Highlands County Deputy William Gentry … Gentry died a day after being shot while responding to a disturbance between neighbors in Lake Placid. All items on the May 15 Cabinet agenda are now set for a June 13 meeting.

Deputy William Gentry (right) was killed in the line of duty Monday.

Court to hear felons’ rights fight in July” via the News Service of Florida — A federal appeals court has tentatively scheduled oral arguments in July in a constitutional battle about Florida’s process for restoring the voting rights of felons. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to hear arguments the week of July 23 in Atlanta … In an order filed late last month, the appeals court said it was expediting consideration of the case, a move that included speeding up deadlines for attorneys to file briefs. The case went to the Atlanta-based appeals court after U.S. District Judge Mark Walker declared unconstitutional Florida’s process for restoring the voting rights of felons who have served their sentences.

At height of opioid crisis, some Florida treatment programs face deep cuts” via John Kennedy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Florida Corrections Department is reducing operating costs and slashing 66 contracts held by 33 community providers to free $50 million it can use for prison health and pharmacy services, which the state is legally obligated to provide. But the state’s balancing act is drawing outrage from many advocates. “This makes absolutely no sense,” said Lori Costantino-Brown, CEO of Bridges of America, which must decide whether to endorse a new contract that cuts 300 beds from substance abuse centers in Jacksonville, Bradenton, Orlando, Pompano Beach and Auburndale. Losing roughly $4 million in DOC contracts — possibly within 30 days — could force several Bridges facilities to close, said Costantino-Brown. More than 200 staff members would lose jobs, she said.

Lawmakers fire another warning shot over medical marijuana rules via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A legislative panel is again taking the state’s medical marijuana regulators to task, asking whether they are “refusing to modify the rules” governing the drug. Kenneth Plante, coordinator of the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee (JAPC), fired off a letter Tuesday to Department of Health general counsel Nichole Geary. In it, he said the department’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use had failed to address the committee’s prior objections in its proposed rules issued May 1 … Among other things, medicinal cannabis regulators didn’t respond to objections earlier this year over a $60,000 “nonrefundable application fee” to become a marijuana provider, and a provision for “contingent” licenses, saying they weren’t in state law. “I think it is fair to say that the Department’s failure to address the Committee’s objections … is not indicative of a good faith effort” to work with lawmakers, Plante wrote.

Medicaid official acknowledges opposition to cut” via the News Service of Florida — Beth Kidder, deputy secretary for Medicaid at the state Agency for Health Care Administration, said in a letter that some legislators voiced objections to the proposed $98 million cut, which was contrary to information the state had previously submitted to the federal government. Florida is asking for the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to approve a change to eligibility rules used for the state’s main safety-net health program, resulting in the proposed cut. Kidder wrote the letter after incoming Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson slammed the Scott administration for failing to note that Senate Democrats raised questions about the proposed cut during debate over this year’s state budget. “We apologize for the oversight,” Kidder said in the letter, which added that she planned to apologize to the Jacksonville senator.

Citizens Insurance board OK’s $1 billion-plus reinsurance plan” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — Citizens Property Insurance Corp. will transfer $1.42 billion in risk to the reinsurance and capital markets — a move its leadership said would leave it with reserves sufficient to cover a major storm. The policy, adopted unanimously during a telephone conference call of Citizens’ board of governors, “will allow us to face the upcoming wind season for the fourth consecutive year with no potential assessment risk in a one-in-100-year storm,” chairman Christopher Gardner said. Notwithstanding $1.8 billion in losses to Hurricane Irma, a “substantial surplus has been accumulated in all accounts to pay for future claims,” according to an executive summary.

Chris Gardner (left), chairman of the Citizens board, with president Barry Gilway. (Image via Palm Beach Post)

New power plants get key state approval” via the News Service of Florida — The Florida Public Service Commission unanimously backed “determinations of need” for a 1,122-megawatt plant in Putnam County proposed by Seminole Electric Cooperative, Inc., and a 573-megawatt plant in Pasco County proposed by Seminole Electric and Shady Hills Energy Center, LLC. While approving the plans, commissioners expressed a need to be more cognizant of Florida’s increasing dependence on natural gas for its energy needs. Commissioner Donald Polmann said regulators might need to take a wider view of the state’s energy sources, rather than tackling the issue on a case-by-case basis. Receiving determinations of need are key approvals for the new facilities, which are expected to begin operating in Pasco County in December 2021 and Putnam County in December 2022. Seminole Electric contends the new facilities are the most cost-effective way to meet the future energy needs of customers of cooperatives.

Technology, towers at issue in state radio system bid protest” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Motorola’s bid for a statewide law enforcement radio system is based on an “unknown design,” one that “no one knows what it’s going to look like” and that it “may never be able to deliver,” an attorney for Harris Corp. told an administrative law judge Tuesday. Furthermore, the state’s decision to go with Motorola is “based on an unspecified and unknown true price,” Holland & Knight attorney Karen Walker said — referring to a deal worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Lawyers delivered opening statements in a bid protest before Administrative Law Judge J. Bruce Culpepper in Tallahassee. The Melbourne-based Harris is challenging the Department of Management Services’ (DMS) award to Motorola Solutions this March to take over the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System, or SLERS, which Harris had since September 2000 and lost.

Gambling rule takes aim a controversial card games” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — A new rule floated by Florida gambling regulators holds a price tag of $50 million a year and could cost hundreds of jobs, according to a lawyer representing several of the state’s card room operators. The regulation in question, proposed by the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, would make a number of changes and effectively do away with controversial “designated player” card games that have been lucrative for pari-mutuel facilities across the state … would require designated players to “compete and compare their cards against each other to determine the winner(s) of each game.” It would effectively negate the designated-player games. The new language would “ensure that players compete and compare their cards against each other to determine the winner(s) of each game,” which would end a current practice that allows gamblers to play against a designated player who acts as “the house.”

Court backs air ambulance firm in ‘PIP’ fight” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — In a case stemming from a child getting rushed to a hospital after a traffic accident, a federal appeals court backed an air-ambulance firm in a dispute about whether the amount paid for helicopter services should be limited by Florida’s no-fault auto insurance law. A panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the air-ambulance firm, Air Methods Corp., should be able to bill the father of accident victim Lemar Bailey for costs that exceeded limits in the state’s no-fault system. The ruling, which upheld a lower-court decision, said a federal airline deregulation law bars states from restricting prices charged by air carriers. The air-ambulance firm is considered an air carrier under federal law. Florida’s no-fault system requires motorists to carry $10,000 in personal-injury protection, or PIP, coverage to help pay for medical expenses after accidents. As part of the system, medical costs were billed in the Bailey case under a schedule of fees. In such circumstances, medical providers typically are prevented from billing insurance policyholders for excess amounts — an issue known in the insurance and health care worlds as “balance billing.”

Three years after corruption conviction, this former mayor is finally put behind bars” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald – For more than three years, ex-Homestead mayor Steven Bateman remained free on bond as his lawyer fought to overturn his conviction for corruption. On Tuesday, with his conviction intact, Bateman had no choice but to surrender to a Miami-Dade court to begin serving a 22-month prison sentence. … Bateman was convicted of using his influence while secretly on the payroll of a company needing his help to build a clinic in downtown Homestead. … First elected in 2009, Bateman had a stormy and scandal-plagued tenure, often clashing with elected leaders and staff at Homestead’s city hall. He was initially arrested and charged in August 2013 as he was running for reelection, a campaign he eventually lost. … After his conviction, Bateman was allowed to remain free on bond while he took his case to Miami’s Third District Court of Appeal. In December, judges upheld the conviction.

Ex-police chief: Officer’s actions led to motorist shooting” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — A former police chief told a judge that a fired police officer’s fatal shooting of a stranded black motorist was “unjustified” and resulted from the officer’s “lazy and reckless” tactics as he approached the victim’s broken down SUV on a darkened highway off-ramp. W.D. Libby, a former Punta Gorda police chief, testified that ex-officer Nouman Raja violated numerous protocols in October 2015 when in plainclothes he drove an unmarked van the wrong way up the off-ramp, exited directly in front of Corey Jones’ SUV and didn’t identify himself as a police officer. Libby said given the circumstances, Jones, who had a concealed-weapons permit, likely thought he was about to be robbed or carjacked and pulled his handgun. Raja told investigators he opened fire when Jones pointed his gun at him. “If I was sitting there (like Jones), I would have had my gun out,” Libby told Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer. Libby, now a consultant, testified for prosecutors.


Mitch McConnell campaign taunts Don Blankenship – with a little help from Netflix’s ‘Narcos’” – McConnell is known as a dour all-business Washington power player. But on Tuesday night, McConnell’s campaign landed a gag at the expense of a Senate candidate who has been taunting the majority leader in recent weeks. It had been a day in which West Virginia voters turned out for the Republican U.S. Senate primary, a closely watched race featuring three contestants. Although state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey topped the vote count, earning the right to take on incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin III in November, the candidate who caught the most national attention was Don Blankenship. The former coal-mining executive pitched his campaign — in Trumpian fashion — as an anti-swamp attack on the GOP establishment, fixing much of his rhetoric in speeches and ads on McConnell. Blankenship was already a controversial candidate after spending a year in prison for his role in a deadly West Virginia mine explosion. Following Blankenship’s third-place finish, McConnell’s team fired back Tuesday night. The Team Mitch twitter account, the “Official account of Mitch McConnell for Senate,” posted a meme following the election results. “Thanks for playing, Don,” the text said before tagging Blankenship.


Politicos want you to stink up the Florida Constitution” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel – If I offered you a lump of cat poo, you’d probably say: Um, no thanks. But what if I offered you a lump of cat poo wrapped in a hundred-dollar bill? Maybe, right? That’s essentially the deal that a bunch of political appointees are offering you this fall. … Take civics classes, for instance … the state’s Constitution Revision Commission drafted an amendment that calls for “the promotion of civic literacy.” Sounds good (if nebulous), right? Except the only way you can vote for “civic literacy” is if you also agree to exempt some publicly funded charter schools from local regulations and accountability. … One thing has nothing to do with the other. Honest brokers would let citizens vote on each issue separately. That way, you could vote for the civics classes (the C-note) and against the anti-accountability policy (the poo). … And that’s just one of several bad examples.

George Zimmerman proves that he’s an angry man who got away with murder” via Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald – … The Trayvon Martin murder case has always been about prejudice and rage – and the deadly results when the two combine. But it was tough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a Central Florida jury that George Zimmerman harbored those feelings and acted upon them when he stalked, confronted, and shot to death a teenager minding his own business, being where he belonged, in his father’s neighborhood. … All of these years, Zimmerman has been showing us that he’s an angry, prejudiced man who got away with murder. … He has been involved in road rage and domestic violence acts against the women in his life, who, scared to death, later failed to follow through and charges were dropped. … He stalked Trayvon, and now, he has been charged with stalking and harassing private investigator Dennis Warren, hired by the company Cinemart Productions to track down people to participate in a documentary about Trayvon’s death.


Jacksonville revamps lobbying team, Jordan Elsbury to replace Ali Korman Shelton” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Jacksonville’s director of intergovernmental affairs, Korman Shelton, is leaving her position at the end of next week. Elsbury, a previous “30 under 30 rising star of Florida politics” honoree, will take over for Shelton. Leeann Krieg, the Council assistant for Greg Anderson, and Chiquita Moore, the assistant (and 2015 campaign manager) for Sam Newby, will be moving over as coequal “Council liaison” positions.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Kevin Cabrera, Southern Strategy Group: Florida Blue

Leslie Dughi, Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: National Health Solutions

Martin Fiorentino, Joseph Mobley, Mark Pinto, The Fiorentino Group: U.S. Security Associates

Kenneth Granger, Capital City Consulting: RELX

Darryl James Henderson: Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce

Alisa LaPolt, Topsail Public Affairs: Alliance Financial Network

Dan McCrea: Florida Voters Coalition,

Lawrence Sellers, Holland & Knight: Florida Electric Cooperatives Association


His death last week marked the loss of a corporate leader, journalist, education administrator, lawyer, civic leader, consultant, volunteer and benefactor. His impact on the Sunshine State, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen decided, merited a farewell on the House floor, which she delivered Monday night. 

Jollivette, 71, was likely best known in political circles for his executive role at Blue Cross and Blue Shield. But his life was filled with other accomplishments. 

RIP Russ Jollivette.

Miami Times: An Overtown native, Jollivette cared deeply about the Miami area, along with Jacksonville. He spent six years as managing editor of The Miami Times, a highly regarded black newspaper. He also spent nearly a decade producing for Miami television media. 

University of Miami: Jollivette dedicated a bulk of his career to serving as executive assistant to UM President Tad Foote and as the school’s vice president for government relations at a time when the school experienced immense growth.

In Jacksonville: His time in Northeast Florida was spent giving back to the community. He chaired the philanthropic Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Foundation, now valued at $250 million, and was involved in numerous charitable groups in the Bold city. 

— ALOE —

SeaWorld showing signs of comeback” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — Across SeaWorld Entertainment’s parks in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio, as well as other properties like Busch Gardens Tampa, attendance was up 14.9 percent, or 3.2 million guests overall, compared to the first three months of 2017. Other positive signs were a 16.5 percent increase in revenue, a 10 percent jump in sales of season passes and a 6.4 percent increase for in-park per capita spending, a measure of what guests spend once they’re inside the park. The numbers represent quite the turnaround from the company’s 2017 results, when it reported a 5.5 percent decline in attendance compared to 2016. The fact such results came for the period covering January through March make them even more remarkable. This is typically SeaWorld’s worst quarter since only five of its 12 parks are open during the entire three-month period.

St. Petersburg chef Edouardo Jordan garners two James Beard award honors” via Carl Lisciandrello of the Tampa Bay Times — Jordan’s love for cooking has taken him from Boca Ciega High School, to the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Orlando, and to fine restaurants in New York, California and Washington State. But it is in Seattle where the acclaimed chef is perfecting his craft, as evidenced by his two historic wins at the James Beard Awards … Jordan, founding chef of JuneBaby in Seattle, became the first African-American to earn the honor of Best New Restaurant … doubled up by being named Best Chef in the Northwest for his first restaurant in Seattle, Salare. JuneBaby also was named Best Restaurant of the Year by Food & Wine magazine this year, and in 2017 was named top restaurant by the website Eater.

Uber unveils flying taxi prototype ahead of annual Elevate Summit” via Shawn Knight of Techspot — Uber, ahead of its second annual Uber Elevate Summit in Los Angeles, has unveiled a prototype for its autonomous flying taxi of the future … Uber’s prototype looks a lot like the concept sketches the company shared publicly last year. It’s more or less a giant drone with a cockpit for passengers that’ll be powered by a series of rotors and propellers … they’ll fly 1,000 to 2,000 feet above ground and be quieter than a traditional helicopter. Early iterations will be piloted but eventually, Uber aims to let the aircraft fly autonomously. Future skyports will be able to conduct 200 takeoffs and landings per hour, or one every 24 seconds. Uber has partnered with NASA to develop technology to control air traffic and prevent crashes.

Uber to unveil its drone/taxi concept this week in Los Angeles.


Richard Corcoran to forego statewide run; will back Adam Putnam for Governor

Onlookers have been wondering for weeks when House Speaker Richard Corcoran would do the expected and put his name in the hat to be Florida’s next governor.

After millions raised and millions spent testing the water for a potential statewide run, his announcement is sure to be a shocker: He isn’t running, he’s endorsing Adam Putnam.

Several sources close to one or both men confirm Corcoran’s decision.

Corcoran will join Putnam at a press conference at the Florida Association of REALTORS® at 9:30 a.m.

Supporters of Putnam are already excited by the news of the Speaker backing the Polk Republican’s bid.

“The Speaker has long been identified as closer in ideology with Ron DeSantis, so for him to join our team is a very big win,” said one Putnam booster.

Brad Herold, an adviser to the DeSantis campaign, had a different take.

“Career politician Adam Putnam will now get the two-man race he’s been fearing for a year,” he said. “A conservative Iraq veteran endorsed by Donald Trump versus a Never Trump career politician who supported amnesty for illegal aliens. I like our odds.“

Florida Democrats took it a step further, saying the Corcoran endorsement was “the swamp creatures of the world” uniting, and claiming that Corcoran’s policy positions “which include selling out students to the charter school industry, demonizing immigrants, and vehemently opposing Medicaid expansion” would no nothing but hurt Putnam.

“With the candidates now set, the Republican gubernatorial primary will be a brutal contest between the worst of Washington and the worst of Tallahassee. This is going to be one of the ugliest, hottest summers Florida Republicans have ever seen — and whoever emerges as the eventual nominee will be deeply damaged,” said Florida Democratic Party spokesperson Kevin Donohoe.

The endorsement ends months of speculation that Corcoran would seek the Governor’s mansion by running to the right of DeSantis, a northeast Florida congressman who has earned the backing of President Donald Trump and numerous GOP rainmakers, including Sheldon Adelson and Robert Mercer.

Putnam would be considered the more moderate candidate if he, Corcoran and DeSantis were the triumvirate Republican voters had to choose from.

For a while, it seemed as if Corcoran was going to go through with a far-right primary campaign.

His opening salvo in the race to replace termed out Gov. Rick Scott was a controversial commercial that highlighted the story of Kate Steinle, a San Francisco woman who was killed by an undocumented immigrant who was later acquitted of murder.

His focus on banning so-called “sanctuary cities” in both the ad and in his role has House Speaker led to a debate against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democratic candidate for governor.

At the time, Corcoran had been announcing six-figure fundraising hauls and ad buys month in and month out, so one could be forgiven for thinking the stunt was a preview ahead of a possible general election showdown.

Corcoran had long said he’d announce his future plans after the 2018 Legislative Session, which was Scott’s plan as well, but in the nearly two months since he last banged the gavel as House Speaker he’s gone radio silent.

In the meantime, DeSantis has blown by him in fundraising and Putnam shows no sign of letting up on that front either.

Corcoran’s viability in that three-way race has diminished with each passing week he’s been on the sidelines, leading some to speculate that if he were to run, his campaign would be more to spoil DeSantis’ chances than to succeed Scott.

That theory gets the end goal right, it seems. As far as what’s next for the Land O’ Lakes Republican, that’s anyone’s guess. At least until tomorrow morning.

This story is developing.

Remembering Russ Jollivette, an extraordinary life

Florida lost a Renaissance man last week with the passing of Cyrus “Russ” Jollivette. It’s not just anyone whose death merits a testimonial from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Jollivette lived one of those extraordinary lives that was hard to categorize. Corporate executive. Journalist. University administrator. Lawyer. Civic leader. Consultant. Community volunteer. Benefactor.

In his 71 years, Jollivette may have been best known to Florida’s political crowd as an executive at Florida’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield company, including as senior vice president based in Jacksonville and later in Washington. But that came only after a full career as executive assistant to University of Miami President Tad Foote during a period of tremendous growth for the private school. Before that, he spent six years as managing editor of The Miami Times, the outstanding black-oriented newspaper founded by his grandparents, and nearly a decade producing and as an on-air commentator for two Miami TV stations.

When Jollivette was getting started, corporate suites in Florida didn’t always offer abundant opportunity for men of color. Yet he ascended to the point where he became chairman of the philanthropic Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Foundation, now among the state’s largest corporate foundations at more than $250 million.

He joined the Blues only after his retirement didn’t “take” after 24 years at the University of Miami, where he was VP for government relations in addition to his direct role as President Foote’s executive assistant. He oversaw the university’s public affairs, government relations and more.

Born in Miami’s Overtown section, Russ Jollivette was devoted to both his hometown and, later, his adopted home in Jacksonville. His list of civic activities was seemingly endless, but highlights included service in Miami as a trustee at St. Thomas University, a board member of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami, a member of the Orange Bowl Committee, and chairman of the United Way of Northeast Florida.

Not content to rest on his laurels after taking the Florida Blue job in Jacksonville, he served as a trustee at Jacksonville University, was chairman of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, was on the Jacksonville Host Committee for the 2005 Super Bowl and served as chairman of the United Way of Northeast Florida.

Oh, and he also found time to serve as a director of Enterprise Florida.

All this and more is why U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen bid a sad farewell to Jollivette on the floor of the House Monday night. Jollivette, she said, was “an important and revered leader in education, health and philanthropy — and someone Dexter and I proudly called our friend.”

Russ Jollivette earned a bachelor’s degree from C.W. Post College of Long Island University, an MBA from Long Island University, and a law degree from the University of Miami School of Law. He is survived by a daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren.

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