Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 214

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

Faulty sinkhole reporting becomes hard lesson on rushing to judgment

Big business is not automatically bad business.

The Tampa Bay Times learned a hard lesson about assumptions and the truth this week after publishing the opinions of two retired scientists who accused Mosaic Co. and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection of ignoring warnings of a growing sinkhole on Mosaic property.

While the allegations fed into a popular narrative of a nefarious corporation and government incompetence which led an environmental crisis, the claims were also something else.

They were simply not true.

An editorial from the Ledger of Lakeland admirably points out that the Times’ rush to judgment proves “how wrong such assumptions can be, and maybe the experience can teach us about the drawbacks of jumping the gun before making accusations.”

In other words, the Ledger editorial board notes, when “bad things happen” it does not mean all “big businesses corrupt and perpetually up to no good.” Nor does it suggest all government regulators are “incompetent, somehow in cahoots with companies, or unwilling to challenge them.”

Don Rice, a former hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, and his wife, Mary Hrenda, a former hydrologist with the Department of Environmental Protection in New Jersey, told reporter Craig Pittman that Mosaic failed to recognize something was “horribly wrong” at the company’s New Wales facility in Mulberry. The couple said data from on-site monitoring wells could have warned Mosaic a year before the sinkhole formed last summer. hey had, Mosaic could have proactively pumped off excess radiated water atop a stack of waste gypsum.

In addition to talking with the Times, Rice offered his conclusions in a news conference with environmentalists ahead of a vote to expand Mosaic’s mining operations in Manatee County.

Rice painted Mosaic and the Florida DEP as villains, allowing millions of gallons of contaminated water to enter the region’s water supply. Both scientists were supported by Suncoast Waterkeeper, an anti-mining group calling for state and federal officials to investigate Mosaic and the DEP.

Turns out, they were all wrong.

Mosaic and DEP responded by providing proof that Rice and Hrenda had misread the data. Readings from the well in question were shown to be from a massive 1994 sinkhole located on the opposite end of the company’s property. Changes in the Floridan aquifer Rice was talking about were, in fact, from remediation efforts.

After initially doubling down, Rice and Hrenda ultimately retracted their accusations.

“We made a mistake,” Rice told the Times. “We sincerely regret our error.”

Unfortunately, the Times did not elaborate further on the error.

Eileen Stuart, Mosaic Fertilizer vice president of public affairs/phosphates, in a letter to the editor Thursday, also pointed several red flags in Times’ misreported article, such as the incorrect location of the well in question, as well as the “unsurprising and expected” rise in water levels, which had been planned and reported to the DEP.

She also questioned the sources, saying that they were known opponents to the phosphate industry in Florida, and even cautioned Pittman against writing the story with the faulty data.

“Our concerns were disregarded,” Stuart says.

In the Times’ rush to print “without verifying the legitimacy,” Stuart wonders if a similar story would’ve been published if Mosaic was the only source.

“Likely not,” she says.

“We hope this incident creates a constructive dialogue within the newsroom in St. Petersburg,” Stuart concludes. “And that the result is a stronger adherence to the principles of responsible journalism.”

“They were right. I was wrong,” Rice later told the Bradenton Herald. “I made a mistake, Mary, too; and we regret the error.”

While the couple’s mea culpa may be admirable, it should serve as a warning for the Times and everyone — not every corporation is in it for themselves at the expense of the environment and people’s lives.

Yes, companies should always be held accountable when things go wrong, but accusations should be based on facts, not emotion. We have been conditioned to automatically assume a company is at fault, which leads to rushes to judgment as in the Rice-Hrenda episode.

While it may surprise some, Mosaic Co’s priority is doing the right thing for Florida’s water supply and its environment.

“But the overriding concern should be that our indictment of them must be fair and based on provable, readily understood facts,” the Ledger writes. “Which wasn’t the case here.”

Randy Fine letter warns Rick Scott to stop badmouthing his incentives vote

Freshman Republican Rep. Randy Fine warned Gov. Rick Scott not to badmouth him in his district in a sternly written letter sent Wednesday.

The letter comes after Fine and eight other Republicans on the House Careers and Competition Committee voted for a bill that would dismantle Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development arm, and Visit Florida, the agency responsible for promoting tourism in the Sunshine state.

Since then, Scott has made stops in the districts of lawmakers who voted for the bill to publicly call them out for not killing the bill in its infancy.

Fine, however, said he wouldn’t bite after Scott sent him an invite to a “hurriedly-arranged event” in Brevard County.

“Based on media reports I have read, I assume you are visiting to make your case for Enterprise Florida, Visit Florida and incentive programs,” Fine said in the letter. “I appreciate you recognizing how important my part of the state is to the Florida Economy. That said, while I won’t be able to be there and meet with you in person due to being in committee meetings in Tallahassee, I would welcome an invitation to meet one-on-one to discuss your position on economic development.”

Fine went on to say economic development “is not a concept to me, it’s something I’ve spent my career doing.”

The Brevard County businessman also pushed his own legislation, HB 17, which would pre-empt local regulations on businesses, a move Fine said would allow “businesses to grow, thrive and prosper.”

Funding for Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida has been high on Scott’s priority list throughout his tenure as governor, and in the lead up to each Legislative Session, he routinely asks lawmakers to approve large budgets for each.

Last year, Scott asked for $250 million in incentives money as part of his proposed “Florida Enterprise Fund,” but lawmakers only approved $23.5 million for Enterprise Florida. This year, the governor has asked lawmakers for $85 million in incentives money.

 

Sunburn for 2.16.17 – Beacoup lobbying $$$; Newest House video debuts; No bucks for Bucs; Trump to Fla. this wknd.

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

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

IT’S NICE WORK … IF YOU CAN GET IT

Call it déjà vu all over again … and again … and again … and again.

The Top 5 earners in registered legislative lobbying during the fourth quarter of 2016 were Ballard PartnersSouthern Strategy GroupRonald BookCapital City Consulting, and Greenberg Traurig.

If the list looks familiar, there’s a reason for that. Each of firms were ranked were among the Top 5 firms each quarter in 2016. And according to our friends at LobbyTools Legislative IQ, it appears the pentad of firms ended the year in the same spot on the earners’ list as where they started.

Ballard Partners and Southern Strategy Group led the pack in fourth quarter of 2016, reporting in median earnings of more than $2.2 million and $1.6 million respectively.

Book’s reported median earnings of more than $1.5 million, while Capital City Consulting posted median earnings of more than $1.4 million. Greenberg Traurig rounded out the Top 5 with reported median earnings of more than $1.1 million.

GrayRobinson, which reported earning $935,000; Corcoran & Johnston, which reported earning $862,000; The Rubin Group, which reported earning $846,000; Johnson & Blanton, which reported earning $780,000; and Metz Husband & Daughton, which reported earning $640,000 rounded out the list of Top 10 earners during the final three months of the year.

According to LobbyTools, those five firms rounded out the Top 10 list during the first quarter of 2016. However, unlike the Top 5 earners, those firms were ranked in a different order at the beginning of the year.

All told, legislative lobbying firms reported total median earnings of $31.75 million during the fourth quarter of 2016. That was on par with what they reported during the third quarter, and down from the median earnings of $35.7 million they reported during the first quarter of the year.

The Top 5 principals in terms of median payment were: AT&T at $250,000; United States Sugar Corp. at $219,000; Florida Power & Light at $165,000; Automated Healthcare Solutions at $155,000; and Dosal Tobacco Corp. at $150,000.

SPOTTED: Brian Ballard in POLITICO Influence about registering on behalf of Amazon, according to federal lobbying reports. Florida records show Ballard is registered to represent Amazon.com before the Legislature.

— “Pro-Trump lobbyists lands big clients for new D.C. office” via Fredrik Schouten of USA Today

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THE SILENT TREATMENT BETWEEN RICK SCOTT AND RICHARD CORCORAN via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – In the heated battle over job incentives and tourism money … are these two strong-willed Republicans actually talking to each other? No, and that’s rarely a good sign in Tallahassee. Corcoran spokesman Fred Piccolo said the speaker called Scott‘s cellphone late last week before the governor launched a statewide tour in which he has publicly criticized two GOP House members in their districts, Reps. Paul Renner … and Jay Trumbull, for supporting the elimination of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. “The speaker had reached out to the governor in the past week before the governor’s state tour,” Piccolo said. A phone conversation wouldn’t change either man’s mind, but the deepening rancor over incentives and tourism could easily spread to other policy areas, such as the budget, tax cuts and education. Scott’s office did not deny that he got the call from Corcoran, and spokeswoman Jackie Schutz did not directly address the question of Scott giving him the brush-off.

SCOTT TALKS EFI, VISIT FLORIDA IN RIVIERA BEACH via Florida Politics – Scott’s office Wednesday sent out a video of him chatting with “business, tourism and community leaders” in the north Palm Beach County city. Scott brought his “Fighting for Florida Jobs Roundtable” to town “to discuss the local economic impact of VISIT FLORIDA and Enterprise Florida and the need to fight job killing legislation in the Florida House.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will announce 2016 tourism numbers at 10 a.m. at the Brevard Zoo, 8225 N Wickham Road in Melbourne. From there, he’ll head to St. Cloud where he’ll hold a roundtable discussion with business owners, and economic development and tourism leaders at 2:30 p.m. at The Catfish Place, 2324 13th Street.

RANDY FINE WARNS SCOTT ABOUT HIS TACTICS via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Fine … said he knows Scott is heading to his area soon because he is one of 9 Republicans on the House Careers and Competition Subcommittee that voted for the bill. But Fine isn’t worried. Instead he sent a preemptive letter to the governor warning him against making enemies and encouraging him to speak with him in person, rather than taking shots at him in the media. “Economic development is not a concept to me, it’s something I’ve spent my career doing … But in my business, I always found the best outcomes come by sitting down in person and finding common ground. Rather than us talking at each other in the media, I’d prefer to talk to you in person.”

FLORIDA HOUSE SLAMS ENTERPRISE FLORIDA IN NEW VIDEO via Florida Politics – In a new three-and-a-half minute video, the House scorches the state’s beleaguered public-private economic development organization, using phrases like “no more corruption” and “no more taking taxpayers for granted.” The video starts by highlighting the Sanford Burnham debacle, continues with the Digital Domain failure, and brings up the $1 million secret deal for Miami rapper Pitbull to promote state tourism – all funded with public money. It also mentions the high salaries, bonuses and lavish expenses ushered in by former CEO Bill Johnson. It ends with a clip of President Ronald Reagan addressing Congress in 1981: “There are a number of subsidies to business … that I believe are unnecessary, not because the activities being subsidized aren’t of value, but because the marketplace contains incentives enough to warrant continuing these activities without a government subsidy.”

ASSESSING VISIT FLORIDA BENEFICIARIES’ ASSERTIONS, PREDICTIONS AND ANECDOTES via William Patrick of FloridaWatchdog.org – As the debate over whether to fund or eliminate Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida escalates at the Florida Capitol, it’s important to consider that those who directly benefit from the mostly taxpayer-funded organizations are among their most vocal supporters. It’s natural, and predictable. It’s also entirely appropriate that incentives and tourism marketing recipients have the opportunity to make their case for continued funding. But their appeals shouldn’t always be taken at face value. Take Amy Lukasik, director of tourism marketing for the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners. She was one of dozens of individuals who implored House lawmakers last week not to eliminate Visit Florida or its $76 million annual appropriation. Ken Lawson, Visit Florida’s recently appointed president and CEO, made rousing statements against the plan to kill his public-private corporation. Chris Hart, president and CEO of Enterprise Florida, did the same in his own way. What else were they going to say?

MARK WILSON CALLS HOUSE PUSH TO ELIMINATE ENTERPRISE FLORIDA ‘A POLITICAL CONVERSATION ABOUT IDEOLOGY’ via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Addressing what he called the “obvious elephant in the room,” Florida Chamber President Wilson criticized House members who backed an effort to end economic incentive programs, calling the move political. “I want to be blunt for a few minutes,” said Wilson. “This is not a Legislature trying to seek how to diversify the economy and how to grow trade. This is a political conversation about an ideology that frankly is silly.” Wilson made his comments during the 2017 International Days hosted by the Florida Chamber of Commerce … The House Careers & Competition Subcommittee last week voted 10-5 to approve a bill that would eliminate Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development organization; Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency, and a slew of economic incentive programs. “The Florida Chamber scores votes by legislators,” he said. “We are scoring every one of the votes in the Legislature and it will be factored into endorsements. That doesn’t make a lot of friends, but (we’re) fighting for free enterprise.”

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IMMINENT ARRIVAL – Sen. Lauren Book had to miss Wednesday’s meeting of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. She was getting ready to give birth. “She’s having twins, and she’s scheduled to have them tomorrow morning,” committee chairwoman Anitere Flores said. “But she’ll be back up here by the time session starts.” Book, a Broward County Democrat, wrote to Flores in January explaining that her doctors had restricted her travel.

DON GAETZ, CHRIS SMITH AMONG JOE NEGRON’S CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW PANEL PICKS via Florida Politics – Former Florida Senate President Gaetz and former Senate Democratic Leader Smith are among those tapped by current Senate President Negron to sit on the state’s Constitution Revision Commission. Negron … announced his list in a press release. Gaetz, a Niceville Republican in the Senate 2006-16, and Smith, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat who served 2008-16, were selected along with seven others. Under the constitution, Negron gets nine picks as the president of the state Senate. Besides Gaetz and Smith, they are: Anna Marie Hernandez GamezPatricia LevesqueSherry PlymaleWilliam “Bill” Schifino Jr., Bob SolariJacqui Thurlow-LippischCarolyn Timmann … former Florida Bar President Hank Coxe; former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner; and former federal prosecutor Roberto Martinez.

SENATE MAY BALK AT SCOTT’S PLAN TO HIT HOSPITALS OVER CHARITY CARE via Florida Politics – Scott’s proposal to cut Medicaid reimbursement payments to profitable hospitals that stint on charity care may run into trouble in the Senate. During hearings Wednesday before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, members including chairwoman Anitere Flores raised objections. “The governor’s office has made some assumptions, based on the fact that some hospitals are very profitable, that they can afford a cut,” Flores said … “I’m hearing very different things from our local hospitals,” she said. “I think you heard from other members that they have some concerns, as well.” Scott’s $83.4 billion spending plan would save $298 million “by eliminating arbitrary and inconsistent supplemental payments for hospitals that provide less charity.”

FLA. HOUSE PAGE PROGRAM MANAGER ARRESTED IN SOLICITATION STING via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat – The coordinator for the Florida House of Representatives page program was arrested after he allegedly left his 10-year-old son home alone to meet and have sex with someone he thought was a 14-year-old girl. Michael Chmielewski, who was Civics Program Coordinator with the state House of Representatives Page Program, faces one count of using a computer to solicit a minor and one count of traveling to meet a minor. After he was fired … he was banned from the Capitol grounds … Chmielewski, 37, ran the House’s page and messenger program, which attracts up to 300 teenagers, ages 13 to 18 every legislative session. He had served in that role since 2012. He was arrested after responding to an ad posted by an undercover officer posing as a 14-year-old girl.

“WHISKEY AND WHEATIES” BILL SQUEAKS OUT OF HOUSE PANEL via Florida Politics – House members served up a sour version of the “whiskey and Wheaties” bill Wednesday as it barely cleared its first committee. The Careers and Competition Subcommittee cleared the legislation (HB 81) by a vote of 8-7, with the panel’s chair, Monticello Republican Halsey Beshears, voting against it. This is the fourth year a version of the bill has been filed. It aims to repeal the Prohibition-era state law requiring businesses, such as grocery chains and big-box retailers, to have separate stores to sell liquor. Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles in Florida.

MOVE TESTING TO END OF SCHOOL YEAR, LAWMAKERS SAY via Leslie Postal and Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – To minimize class disruptions, Florida students should take the state’s standardized tests during the final three weeks of the school year, a trio of state lawmakers said … Their legislation would end Florida’s current testing season, which starts at the end of February, runs for a week, picks up again in early April and then runs through mid-May. Many educators have complained that schedule interrupts too many classes and unfairly tests students before they’ve been taught a year’s worth of lessons. The bills (HB 773, SB 926) would not eliminate any state exams, as some educators have urged, however. “Teachers are frustrated. They feel like they’re having to cram for a test, they’re having to teach to a test,” said Sen. Anitere Flores, the Senate sponsor.

HOUSE HEALTH PANEL SUBMITS TELEHEALTH, NURSE AUTHORITY PROPOSALS via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The House Health Quality Subcommittee submitted a proposed committee bill (PCB HQS 17-01) to address the shortage of health professionals through telehealth regulation and scope of practice changes for advanced nurses and physician assistants … The bill would authorize advanced nurses who meet certain criteria to practice independently, without the supervision of a physician … authorizes physician assistants to perform certain examinations that APRNs are authorized to perform under current law, such as those to detect child abuse, to file death registrations and certify a cause of death and to participate in the Public-School Volunteer Health Care Practitioner Program … A second component of the bill regulates telehealth …  It also allows out-of-state professionals to use telehealth, one sticking point in previous sessions.

UNANIMOUS JURY BILL UNANIMOUSLY OK’D IN HOUSE via Florida Politics A bill requiring a unanimous jury recommendation for a death sentence was unanimously cleared by a House panel Wednesday. The Criminal Justice Subcommittee OK’d the bill (HB 527) by Rep. Chris Sprowls. But the approval was after several public comments that the legislation didn’t go far enough to truly overhaul the state’s capital punishment system.

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BILL BLOCKING PUBLIC RELEASE OF DEATH RECORDINGS A SLIPPERY SLOPE FOR TRANSPARENCY, TRUTH via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics – I will give state Rep. Chris Latvala the benefit of the doubt that he believes he is doing the right thing by filing HB 661 – a measure that prohibits the public release of video and audio recordings of someone’s death. His reasoning: such video inspires terrorists … You know what else is harmful to the public? When governments aren’t accountable to the people they allegedly serve. That is particularly true, as we have seen in recent years, with officer-involved shootings. Would the person who took the video be liable for felony prosecution, which would be the penalty under this proposal, if they posted the video they shot on social media? Without contradicting video, we might just have to take the officer’s word for it that he or she felt their life was in danger. It’s an important check and balance. As far as the video inspiring terrorists, I think Latvala is using fear as a rationale to pull the covers a little tighter over transparency.

BILL WOULD ALLOW TWO OFFICIALS OF SAME BOARD TO MEET IN PRIVATE via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – Members of the same city council or local board would be able to have lunch or attend a ballgame together without worrying about violating the state’s open meetings law under a bill filed this week by Sen. Dennis Baxley … “This needs discretion, instead of zero tolerance,” Baxley said. “This is the Pop-Tart gun bill for public officials. It’s being interpreted beyond reason.” Baxley was referring to a 2014 law that prohibits schools from punishing children who play with fake weapons, passed after a Maryland 8-year-old was arrested for chewing a pop tart into the shape of a gun. If adopted, SB 914 would redefine a “meeting” as any discussion of public business between two or more members of the same board or commission. Current law defines a meeting as any discussion between two members of the same board.

LAWYERS FOR THE STATE TELL SENATE COMMITTEE THEY NEED PAY RAISES, TOO via Florida Politics – State attorneys and public defenders face off in court, but they agreed on one thing during a meeting of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice: Their staff attorneys need pay raises. Trouble is, committee chairman Aaron Bean isn’t convinced there’ll be enough money to pay for that, as much as he sympathizes. “The secret is that there’s just not going to be enough money to cover everybody’s requests,” Bean said following the hearing. “That’s why we triage.” Representatives of an array of state agencies that field attorneys begged the panel for pay raises. Other than state attorneys and public defenders, the committee heard from regional conflict counsel, the statewide guardian ad litem office, and capital collateral representative offices. Additional public-safety agencies also requested increases, including higher salaries.

SPEAKER SAYS “ZERO” CHANCE BUCS GET STATE SUBSIDIES THIS YEAR via Shadow of the Stadium – Speaker Corcoran, told me last week that there was “zero” chance the (Tampa Bay) Buccaneers get the roughly $10 million in state subsidies they’re seeking for their ongoing Raymond James Stadium renovations, even though they are the only professional team seeking money from the state this year … The “scheme” he’s referring to made it easier for pro sports teams to get multi-million-dollar tax breaks. Ironically, a conservative legislature has still denied the funding every year since the law changed. 2017 looks to be no different, thanks to Corcoran and some like-minded counterparts of his in the Senate.

LEGISLATIVE STAFFING MERRY-GO-ROUND via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools

On: Teri Cariota, formerly an aide to former Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, is now a legislative assistant to Miami Democratic Rep. Roy Hardemon.

On: Venusmia Lovely, formerly an aide to Sen. Dwight Bullard, is also a district assistant for Hardemon.

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The Civil Justice & Claims Subcommittee could take up a bill that would repeal the limit on the amount of money tobacco companies have to put up as appellate bonds during its meeting at 9 a.m. in 404 House Office Building; meanwhile the House Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee will consider a bill that would allow voters to submit affidavits before the election to resolve discrepancies if the signatures on their vote-by-mail ballot doesn’t match the signature on record when it meets at 9 a.m. in 17 House Office Building. Over in the Senate, the Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee will hear a presentation from the Florida State University Office of Urban and Regional Planning about autonomous vehicles and the environment when it meets at 9 a.m. in 110 Senate Office Building. The Joint Legislative Audition Committee will meet at 1 p.m. in 301 Senate Office Building to consider a request for an OPPAGA study of the Florida Municipal Power Agency.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Environment Florida Research & Policy Center will release a report at 8 a.m. addressing Florida’s efforts to protect kids from lead in school drinking water.

RATINGS FIRM: INSURERS FACE LOWER GRADES, LENDER EFFECT UNKNOWN via Charles Elmore of the Palm Beach Post – Ratings firm Demotech says its guidance on 57 Florida-based property insurers is under review in the wake of the 2016 storms and continuing water-claims problems. But officials are not saying publicly how many how many companies are likely to get lower financial safety grades in March. Ohio-based Demotech plays a key role in rating Florida-based insurers for mortgage lenders, including smaller insurance companies not necessarily rated by older, traditional agencies.

— ONE TOP SENATE STAFFER EMAILS – “This is huge. The rating could be lowered for as many as 17 of the 57 insurers in Florida … and many others will teeter on the brink of a downgrade. If they are downgraded, they can’t insure federally backed mortgages, so they effectively can’t participate in the homeowners’ insurance market. The entire reason for this is added cost of Assignment of Benefits on insurers. This will result in an increase in premiums this year across the board by most, if not all, of the 57 domestic admitted carriers in the state. If there wasn’t enough pressure to do something on AOB this year, this is making the issue something that can’t be ignored.”

DRIVE FOR ASSIGNMENT OF BENEFITS REFORM PICKS UP STEAM via Florida Politics – The prospect that a national rating firm might downgrade Florida insurance companies because of rising costs linked to assignment of benefits agreements has lit a fire under advocates of reforming those contracts. “This issue is having a real effect on the pocketbooks of working Floridians and it’s time we take steps to clean up the process,” state Rep. Ben Diamond said in a written statement … “Homeowners deserve a real, consumer-driven solution that ensures that legitimate claims are paid while putting a stop to the bad actors who are driving up the cost of property insurance for all Floridians.” He pointed to a report in the Miami Herald that Demotech Inc. was about to downgrade as many of 15 of the 57 Florida insurers it rates from “A” to “B” on financial stability. The move could put mortgages at risk for thousands of homeowner because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac require “A” ratings on insurance carried by its borrowers.

NEW GROUP SEEKS TO STEER MEDICAL MARIJUANA BETWEEN CONTROL, FREE MARKET via Florida Politics – Smart Medicine For Florida will be pushing for regulations that would assure quality, safety, and security while also seeking a market open enough to assure fair pricing and the voices of patients and doctors, said the new group’s leader, Brian Hughes. The new group will be emerging in coming weeks with details as the Florida Legislature begins in ernest to transition from the very limited, low-THC marijuana medicine production and distribution program that began in 2016 to the much broader one authorized when voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 2 in November, essentially legalizing all forms of medicines derived from marijuana. That legislative debate could Ping-Pong between interests that still want to regulate medical marijuana into non-existence, to rising advocacy for a free-market.

TRI-RAIL STICKING WITH, DEFENDING, CONTROVERSIAL $500M, ONE-BID CONTRACT via Florida Politics – “Right now, we’re moving forward. We followed a process, and we put the process in place,” said C. Mikel Oglesby, deputy executive director of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority. That process has Gov. Scott, the Florida Department of Transportation and state Sen. Jeff Brandes, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development, all threatening to cut Tri-Rail’s money. Their concerns are over how and why the regional transportation authority disqualified five lower bids before awarding the contract to Herzog Transit Services for $511 million for 10 years … all that’s at risk as the Authority goes forward with what Oglesby said was the fair, appropriate and legal outcome of a bidding process in which all the bidders but one failed to follow the rules. “We think that once they hear from us tomorrow, they’ll see that we followed the rules. I think they’ll have a better understanding about what we did and why we did it,” Oglesby said.

FRANK ARTILES OP-ED: A REVIEW OF THE FACTS — SFRTA GETS IT RIGHT for Florida Politics – Over the last few weeks, South Florida has seen criticism regarding the process used by the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) to award a contract to operate and maintain the South Florida Tri-Rail commuter rail system to Herzog Transit Services, Inc. … I made it my personal mission to delve into the details surrounding the process and draw my own conclusion on the integrity of the process. What I found was that the attacks on the process are not consistent with the facts surrounding this issue and do not divulge the entire story. The reality is that no other bid contemplates the full and complete cost of running the system, no other bid includes the fundamental cost components that will keep the trains running on time, and no other bid ensures that thousands of Tri-Rail passengers will get to and from work or their other destinations every day, as Herzog Transit Services did … after looking at the details surrounding this instance, I have full confidence that SFRTA acted with due diligence and correctly awarded the bid.

THE WORST STORY YOU’LL READ TODAY – ER DOCTOR CALLS LOXAHATCHEE TOT’S STARVATION DEATH WORST HE’S SEEN via Olivia Hitchcock and Hannah Winston of the Palm Beach Post – “My baby girl died,” Alejandro Aleman whispered into a cellphone outside a Palms West Hospital emergency room, according to Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office records. “This is why people throw their babies in dumpsters. … They harass you like this when accidents happen.” The ER doctor who tried to revive 13-month-old Tayla Aleman called her’s the worst starvation case he had ever seen … Tayla starved to death weighing barely 7 pounds, sheriff’s office records state. She was born weighing 9. Those recently released files in the death-penalty cases against Tayla’s parents, Aleman and Kristen Meyer-Aleman, describe the young girl’s lifeless body lying on a gurney in the emergency room, surrounded by the medical equipment doctors futilely used to revive her. A pink, animal-print onesie from Carter’s was underneath her, sheriff’s office records state. The onesie was sized for a 3-month-old.

BAD NEWS FOR OYSTERS, FISHING via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – A special master’s recommendation in the ongoing tristate water war could spell ecological and economic disaster costing billions of dollars for Florida’s panhandle, Apalachicola Riverkeeper Dan Tonsmeire said. “If Georgia has no cap and will continue to withhold and draw more water out of the basin then we have a dead end,” he said. But this Apalachicola apocalypse can be avoided if the Army Corps of Engineers starts considering the water needs of North Florida as well as Georgia, he said. The fight is over how water is allocated from Lake Lanier to the Apalachicola Bay and affects three rivers and their basins — the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint. Special Master Ralph Lancaster, appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court, found that Florida failed to show a need for a consumption cap in Georgia. Florida’s lawyers should have included the Corps in the lawsuit, Tonsmeire said. “If the Corps had been in the suit it would have been able to change the flow to help make that remedy,” he said after reading parts of the order.

HURDLES TO SCHOOL CHOICE REMAIN DESPITE FLORIDA’S OPEN ENROLLMENT LAW via Erin Clark of FloridaWatchdog.org – Florida has one of the most robust school choice programs nationwide, with 45 percent of pre-K-12 students in the state having exercised some type of choice option in the 2015-16 school year. A new law seems poised to amplify that even more … Under HB 7029, public schools are required to allow students to transfer in from anywhere else in the state, as long as they have the capacity to take them. Still, parents in counties across the state are finding out that getting children into a school that suits them is more complicated than one would expect of an open enrollment policy. In Seminole County, 1,000 elementary school students are being rezoned in August due to growing enrollment … parents in Seminole County have been told that district schools are at capacity next year and that no intra-district transfers will be allowed, except for diversity reasons. Next year the capacity at Keeth could shrink by 100 spots, leaving little availability to parents who want to stay put.

MANATEE COMMISSION VOTES TO APPROVE MOSAIC’S MINING REQUEST via Claire Aronson of the Bradenton Herald – Despite the majority of public comments voiced in opposition during the hearings, the commission, in two 5-2 votes, approved both a request to rezone 3,596 acres of Mosaic’s Wingate East property for mining, as well as the Master Mining Plan. The mining at Wingate East will be completed around 2034, with reclamation ending around 2042. “I don’t like mining,” said Commission Chairwoman Betsy Benac, who voted in favor of Mosaic’s proposal. “The fact of the matter is they have property rights. Mining is a specific listed property right.” In addition to Benac, voting in favor were commissioners Vanessa BaughSteve JonssonPriscilla Whisenant Trace and Carol Whitmore. Commissioners Robin DiSabatino and Charles Smith cast the dissenting votes.

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DAYS UNTIL: Start of 2017 Legislative Session – 19; Florida Capitol Press Corps Press Skits – 26; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die – 78; FSU vs. Alabama – when 98; Election Day 2017 – 260; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 301.

DONALD TRUMP TO RALLY IN MELBOURNE ON SATURDAY via Dave Berman of FLORIDA TODAY – He will appear at a rally that begins at 5 p.m. Saturday in the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport. Doors will open at 3 p.m. People seeking the free tickets are asked to provide their name, cellphone number, email address, state of residence and ZIP code. There is a limit of two tickets per cellphone number.

POLL: DONALD TRUMP TRAILS GENERIC DEMOCRAT, BUT NOT ELIZABETH WARREN, IN 2020 via Jake Sherman of POLITICO – Roughly a quarter of voters think he is the worst president in the past three-quarters of a century. Forty-three percent of voters are ready to vote for a nameless Democrat in 2020, while just over a third say they’ll vote for Trump. In the fourth week of Trump’s presidency, a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows that Democrats could be in trouble — and Trump could triumph — if they continue their lurch to the left. Despite the public’s increasing misgivings about Trump’s behavior and tactics in the White House, he still beats Sen. Elizabeth Warren… in a hypothetical matchup, 42 percent to 36 percent — a fairly impressive margin for a less-than-popular president against the prominent senator.

MEET THE WILDLY POPULAR BLOGGER CHRONICLING TRUMP ONE DAY AT A TIME via Melody Kramer of Poynter.org — Matt Kiser worked in news for many years, and now he works as a product manager at an algorithm startup in Seattle. But every day, Matt spends upwards of six hours working by hand on his single-subject blog, which launched in January. The concept of his blog was pretty simple: Matt simply wanted to log what he called “the daily shock and awe in Trump’s America” and make it easy for others to consume. Over the past three weeks, What the F*ck Just Happened Today? has grown immensely popular. Matt now has more than 48,000 newsletter subscribers (and an enviable open rate over 50 percent) and is on pace to receive more than 2.5 million page views in February.

AMBASSADOR JEFFREY LORIA? via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – The New York Post reports that Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is being floated by White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus as the next U.S. ambassador to France. “So far, Priebus has pushed — and won signoffs — for Miami Marlins owner Jeff Loria to head to France, GOP activist Georgette Mosbacher to Luxembourg, financier Lew Eisenberg to Italy and hedge funder Duke Buchan to Spain,” the Post reports.

BILL NELSON AGAIN TALKING THE ‘CENTRIST’ TALK REGARDING SUPREME COURT NOMINEE via Bob Sparks of Florida Politics – Nelson does a good job of talking the moderate, bipartisan approach in the U.S. Senate. In the end, he nearly always votes with the liberals in his party … Nelson, who is up for re-election in 2018, has a high-profile vote coming his way … the Senate will conduct hearings involving Judge Neil Gorsuch … Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court … Nelson and some of his colleagues will want to know where the judge stands on certain issues. He mentions voter suppression and “unlimited money in campaigns” as two issues most important to him. Bewilderment over the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in the Hobby Lobby case, in which Gorsuch participated, clouds Nelson’s opinion of the judge. As usual, he is saying the right things. Nelson telegraphed his intentions when asked whether he supported a filibuster against the nomination. “You bet I do,” he said. “The filibuster has always forced the political extremes to come to the middle to build consensus.” There is that “centrist” dialogue masking a liberal position again.

WILFREDO FERRER OUT AS SOUTHERN DISTRICT U.S. ATTORNEY – Ferrer announced Wednesday that he will step down as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida effective March 3. “There has been no greater honor than to serve and protect the same community that opened its arms to my parents when they immigrated to this country,” said Ferrer in a statement,” said Ferrer, a Hialeah native who has held the post since he was appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2010. During his 7 years on the job, Ferrer’s office has indicted more than 11,000 cases and charged more than 18,000 criminal defendants. Prosecutor Ben Greenberg will take over until President Donald Trump picks Ferrer’s successor. Candidates eying the job include former federal prosecutors Roy AltmanJohn CourielDaniel FridmanJon Sale and Carlos Castillo.

CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION VOWS TO TACKLE FLORIDA’S MANY WATER ISSUES via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida’s congressional delegation, which stretches from the far left to the far right, has successfully joined together to fight oil drilling efforts. Now the lawmakers are seeking common cause on a broader array of water quality issues facing the state. “Let’s get the politics out of this and make a difference,” said Rep. Vern Buchanan … co-chairman of the delegation. “We should be doing all we can to preserve the natural beauty of our state’s beaches and waterways. Coasts, lakes and rivers are key contributors to Florida’s thriving economy and serve as a vital habitat for plants and wildlife.” Attending the meeting was Buchanan, Neal DunnGus Bilirakis, Darren SotoJohn RutherfordFrancis RooneyCharlie CristAl LawsonTed YohoDebbie Wasserman SchultzFrederica WilsonBrian Mast and Lois Frankel.

REPUBLICANS MOCK CHARLIE CRIST AS A BOOZER via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – The big-hearted folks at the National Republican Congressional Committee today delivered a gift box to Crist … It included a bottle of Finlandia vodka – a reference to Politico report that he was spotted drinking Finlandia and OJ on an afternoon flight to Washington earlier this month – and a stop watch – since he missed one of his first votes this year because he mistimed his walk to the House floor. It’s a light-hearted attack … but Crist allies best hope he does not become better known for guzzling booze than those Red Bulls for which he is best known. Crist’s office responded cheerfully, sending out a photo of positive press clips apparently tacked to the gift box: “Team Crist appreciates the poster board material. And there’s nothing better than fresh Florida OJ. Cheers!”

FLORIDA INSIDER POLL: JOHN MORGAN WOULD BE STRONGEST DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE FOR GOVERNOR via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Here’s how the largely Republican group of Florida Insiders, including fundraisers, campaign professionals, lobbyists, academics and activists, came down on the question of the strongest Democratic nominee: John Morgan: 36 percent; Gwen Graham: 33 percent; Bob Buckhorn: 18 percent; Philip Levine: 6 percent; Andrew Gillum 5 percent; Other: 3 percent.

AGRICULTURE INDUSTRY LINING UP BEHIND DENISE GRIMSLEY FOR AG COMMISSIONER via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Grimsley is scheduled to hold a fundraising reception Florida’s Natural Grove House in Lake Wales Feb. 28. While the invitation notes a host committee is still being formed, the backers listed on the invitations reads like a who’s who of the Central Florida agriculture and political leaders. Among Grimsley’s supporters: Bob Behr, the former commissioner and CEO of Florida Natural; Ben Hill Griffin III, an industry leader and a member of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame; Ellis Hunt, the current chair of the Florida Citrus Commission; Marty McKenna, the former president of Florida Citrus Mutual; and John Barben, the current preside of Florida Citrus Mutual. The invite also lists Florida Citrus Mutual PAC, Florida Cow PAC, Polk County Farm PAC, and Southeast Milk, Inc. as backers.

GOP OFFICIAL QUITS AFTER RACIST FACEBOOK POST AND ‘DEATH PANEL’ UPROAR via CT Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times – Bill Akins said he resigned as secretary of the Pasco Republican Executive Committee because he spoke out of turn during a Saturday congressional town hall meeting by insisting the Affordable Care Act has “death panels”… But it wasn’t his comments about Obamacare that drew national scorn … He became the subject of widespread ridicule only after The Washington Post revealed his Facebook posts contained racist and fake news stories and memes. Pasco Party Chairman Randy Evans and Committeeman Bill Bunting said no one with the GOP asked him to resign, but they said it was those Facebook posts that likely contributed to his departure.

SAVE THE DATE:

PERSONNEL NOTE: KELLY QUINTERO JOINS LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS via Florida Politics – Quintero will be the organization’s registered lobbyist for the 2017 Legislative Session. She’s a native Floridian and is graduate of the University of Central Florida with a degree in political science. She has worked at the Orange County Tax Collector’s office, most recently as Deputy Communications Director. Quintero spearheaded bilingual media relations, digital media and community relations. She also served as Central Florida Political Director during the 2016 presidential campaign, coordinating activities throughout 11 Central Florida counties.

SOUTH FLORIDA BUSINESS JOURNAL NAMES VETERAN JOURNALIST JUDY MILLER AS MANAGING EDITOR via Brian Bandell of the South Florida Business Journal – In her role as managing editor, Miller will oversee newsroom operations under the direction of Editor-in-Chief Mel Meléndez. Her responsibilities include supervising and editing reporters, and the distribution of crucial business news across various publishing platforms such as online, mobile, email, print and social media. Miller worked at the Miami Herald from 1992 to 2006, starting as an assistant city editor in Broward County and rising to investigations editor and then managing editor. She led the team of Herald journalists that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999 for exposing voter fraud in the Miami mayoral election. She also co-led the Herald team that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Elián González raid. She was part of Pulitzer Prize finalist teams with the Herald for two other stories: the Columbia shuttle explosion and electrical flaws in South Florida bus shelters.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Dan Daley. And his hair.

House committee forwards faculty physicians bill that would help All Children’s Hospital

A bill that would allow All Children’s Hospital to have 30 medical faculty certificates cleared its first House committee Wednesday.

The medical faculty certificate is a special designation which allows a physician to practice medicine without sitting for a licensure examination, though their practice is limited to the teaching hospital they are affiliated with and its related clinical facilities.

Though All Children’s was folded into the Johns Hopkins Health System in 2011, it hasn’t been granted any medical faculty certificates.

HB 209 would put the St. Petersburg hospital on even footing with seven Florida universities and the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville which already have certificates to employ medical faculty.

The bill was approved by the Health Quality Subcommittee with a unanimous vote and only a slight language tweak by bill sponsor and first-term Republican Rep. Alex Miller.

HB 209 now moves on to the Health & Human Services Committee.

The Senate version of the bill, SB 496 sponsored by St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, has yet to be heard in committee.

Florida Dems troll House GOP’ers after invited speaker’s org named to hate groups list

House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz said Wednesday that it was “not at all surprising” that the Center for Immigration Studies is now listed as an “active hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Last month, five Democratic members of the House Children, Families, and Seniors Subcommittee walked out after the center’s head, Mark Krikorian, was invited to speak to the committee as an expert on immigration and refugees.

At the time, committee member and Fort Lauderdale Democratic Rep. Bobby DuBose said the Krikorian’s invitation was an “insult,” and called Krikorian a racist and his organization a hate group.

Cruz said CIS’s new designation as a hate group by SPLC vindicates the House Democrats’ choice to walk out of the committee meeting.

“As House Democrats made clear at the time, Mr. Krikorian’s invitation was unacceptable and a direct insult not just to the minority communities in our state, but to every Floridian who believes that all men and women are created equal,” Cruz said in a press release. “House Democrats will always stand up for the basic dignity of every Floridian and we will fight back against the further mainstreaming of hate within American society.”

SPLC cited the groups founder, white nationalist John Tanton, as one reason for the designation, but said that 2016 saw the group hit “a new low.”

“CIS commissioned Jason Richwine, a man who’s PHD dissertation endorses the idea of IQ differences between the races, to write multiple reports and blog pieces for the organization,” the group said.

Earlier this year, SPLC also blasted Krikorian personally for mocking U.S. Rep. John Lewis on social media, and a comment he made in the wake of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that the nation is “so screwed up because it wasn’t colonized long enough.”

Bill Nelson files bill to help Florida in ‘water war’ with Georgia

Democratic US Sen. Bill Nelson announced in a Wednesday press release that he had filed legislation to increase water flows into Apalachicola Bay.

Florida and Georgia have long been at odds over water rights to the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Rivers, with the most recent lawsuit by Florida dating to 2013.

Georgia has seen its reliance on the freshwater from the river basin explode along with the growth of Atlanta and other metros, leading to a drop in freshwater heading into Apalachicola Bay.

“The lack of freshwater flowing into Apalachicola Bay is having a devastating effect on the local oyster industry and local economy,” Nelson said. “The oystermen whose livelihood depends on having enough freshwater in the bay are relying on us to get this fixed.”

Nelson’s legislation comes one day after a judicial official denied Florida’s request to cap Georgia’s supply of freshwater from the river basin, and would require the Army Corps of Engineers to send an adequate amount of water into the bay and.

The third-term Senator tried to push through similar provisions as an amendment to an omnibus water bill back in 2013, but was unsuccessful in getting the language into the final bill.

A copy of Nelson’s bill can be found on his Senate website.

Ridesharing smoothing the roads in Florida

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber; it’s also no secret that I am NOT a big fan of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, a bully of a governmental entity applying 19th-century thinking to a 21st-century innovation.

The PTC’s blatant quest to stifle ridesharing while clinging to the outmoded taxi and limo industry has been as disgraceful as it is misguided. This should be the final nail in the coffin of the PTC, and, hopefully, the powers in Tallahassee will eliminate the PTC once and for all.

But there’s more involved here than just abolishing an outmoded, cumbersome and shady local commission. Ridesharing is a nationwide trend that extends far beyond just Hillsborough County — and the regulatory solution is one that should be addressed by state lawmakers.

Last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law statewide ridesharing legislation, making it the 38th state in the country to have a statewide framework in place. Florida is already several years behind in embracing ridesharing, and the sad PTC episode shows why it’s high time our Legislature adopted a uniform statewide set of regulations to encourage ridesharing throughout the Sunshine State.

The Hillsborough PTC’s Neanderthal attitude reminds me of the people who used to sell horse buggies — couldn’t believe anyone would fall for the scam of those newfangled horseless carriages. When times changed and proved them wrong, they were done. The taxi industry has behaved the same way, trying to ignore the inevitable. The PTC is a government entity that isn’t supposed to take sides, but it aligned itself squarely with the buggy salesmen.

If each of Florida’s 67 counties tried adopting its own approach to transportation network services, our state would be a hodgepodge of inconsistent regulations. Drivers wouldn’t be able to cross county lines without crashing into a new regulatory scheme, and passengers couldn’t be sure what they could get and where they could get it.

Some forward-thinking Florida legislators have filed bills that would eliminate this risk, by establishing a uniform set of reasonable statewide guidelines. The new rules would protect passengers while giving drivers and the ridesharing companies enough assurances that they would continue to serve the residents and tourists who enjoy their services.

Florida is one of just 12 states that do not have a statewide framework for ridesharing. Passage of this legislation would eliminate the confusing county-by-county patchwork of rules, creating an easier and more effective experience for passengers and drivers alike.

If the wisdom of that approach escapes you, I’ve got a horse and buggy I’d like to sell you.

Florida Chamber hosting ‘International Days’ today

Today is the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s yearly International Days event, in which “policy experts and business leaders from here in Florida and around the world” talk about all things business.

The issues range from “economic diversification and foreign investment to overseas business expansion,” according to a Chamber press release.

Speakers include legendary businessman Chuck Cobb, who was U.S. Ambassador to Iceland under President George H. W. Bush; U.S. Chamber of Commerce Director of International Policy Christopher Wenk; Secretary of Commerce and Enterprise Florida President and CEO Chris Hart IV, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Cissy Proctor and state Sen. Bill Galvano, who is in line to become Senate President.

Some highlights: Hart and Proctor headline a 9 a.m. roundtable on “The Importance of International Trade to Florida’s Economy.”

At 10 a.m., Galvano – an attorney with Grimes Goebel Grimes Hawkins Gladfelter & Galvano – sits on a panel on “Expanding International Business Opportunities.”

At noon, a panel convenes on the “Future of U.S. Trade Policy” and its impact on Florida, leading off with a video message from Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Syd Kitson, Chairman & CEO of Kitson & Partners and the Chairman of the Florida Chamber of Commerce will moderate, with Cobb and Eric Silagy, President & CEO of Florida Power & Light Company, as panelists.

“Trade has been at the forefront of not just the U.S. Presidential election but all around the world,” the program says. “This panel will explore what a Donald Trump presidency means for the future of trade.”

The full schedule is here. The event will be held at Florida State University’s Turnbull Center, 555 W. Pensacola St. in Tallahassee.

Sunburn for 2.15.17 – AFP Florida to the rescue; Budget raids; Times’ fake news; Trump to dine with Rubio; John Kennedy’s new gig

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

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

AFP COMES TO THE RESCUE

For days, Gov. Rick Scott has toured the state, holding round table discussions with business, tourism and community leaders about Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. Every stop has been in the district of a House member who voted for a bill to eliminate Enterprise Florida, Visit Florida and a slew of other economic incentive programs.

At each stop, he’s blasted House members for voting to kill the programs, and has racked up plenty of free press along the way, much of which included soundbites of him condemning members of his own party.

Now, Americans for Prosperity-Florida is fighting back, launching a direct mail this week in the districts of all of the Republican and Democratic members of the House Careers and Competition Subcommittee that voted in favor of eliminating the incentive program.

The campaign is meant to educate Floridians which members are standing on “Principles Over Politics,” and encourages residents to call their state representatives to “thank them for fighting against a rigged system.”

Residents living districts represented by Reps. Halsey Beshears, Dane Eagle, Randy Fine, Julio Gonzalez, Roy Hardemon, Shawn Harrison, Mike La Rosa, Alexandra Miller, Paul Renner, and Jay Trumbull should expect to see the advertisement in the coming days.

This likely won’t be the last time Florida voters hear from Americans for Prosperity-Florida as the debate over economic incentives and Visit Florida heats up. It has been vocal in its support of the House proposals, and encouraged supporters to sign a petition asking their representatives to support the bill so “we can finally stop corporate welfare in Florida.”

The conservative organization played a key role during the 2016 Legislative session in blocking Scott’s request for $250 million for economic incentives. Last year the group regularly sent mailers telling Floridians to call their representative to tell them to “keep holding strong.”

In one of those mailers to residents in then-Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran’s district, AFP-Florida encouraged voters to call the Land O’Lakes Republican and tell him “to keep saying NO to special interests and YES to fighting for taxpayers.”

They probably won’t need to send that mailer again this year. As Speaker of the House, Corcoran has equated economic incentives to corporate welfare.

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RICK SCOTT CONDEMNS JAY TRUMBULL ON VISIT FLORIDA AND EFI VOTE AT BAY COUNTY ROUNDTABLE via Tiffany Jackson of MyPanhandle.com – Scott was in town hosting a roundtable with local business owners, economic development leaders, tourism leaders, and community members. “This is about making sure everybody in this community has a job. In Tallahassee, there’s some politicians that don’t understand the importance of a job. I am shocked that Representative Jay Trumbull voted to abolish Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. I appreciate Senator Gainer for his complete support of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida because it’s about jobs for Florida families,” said Scott.

— “Alex Miller: Vote against Enterprise Florida protects tax dollars” via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

BOB BUCKHORN MEETS WITH SCOTT OVER JOB INCENTIVES via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – A day after attending a rally with Gov. Scott, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was in Tallahassee on Tuesday meeting with the governor yet again. Buckhorn and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, both Democrats, said they met with the governor to offer their help in protecting Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. “I’d be more than happy to go anywhere and speak to anyone about the importance of these incentives for us to be able to grow our economy,” Buckhorn said after his meeting with Scott.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will continue to hold round table with discussions with business, community and tourism leaders about the economic impact of Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida today. He’ll start the day at 10 a.m.with a round table discussion at Process Map, 1450 W. Sunrise Blvd., #160 in Sunrise. He’ll then head to Riviera Beach, where he’ll hold a round table at 1:45 p.m. at Sancilio & Co., 3874 Fiscal Court.

JIM BOYD CALLS SCOTT’S $618 MILLION IN TAX CUTS ‘A LITTLE BIT AMBITIOUS’ via Florida Politics – Gov. Scott may be overreaching with his plan to cut state taxes by $618.4 million, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee said Tuesday. “I would consider it a little bit ambitious, in light of our current financial situation,” chairman Jim Boyd told reporters. “We certainly share the goal of trying to cut as much as we can in taxes and keep the money in the taxpayers’ pockets,” the Bradenton Republican said. “Six hundred million dollars is pretty strong. … I’d love for his number to be correct, because that means we’re in better shape than we think we are in terms of the money that’s be available to us.”

SCOTT’S BUDGET WOULD RAID AFFORDABLE HOUSING TRUST FUNDS via Florida Politics – Scott’s proposed budget would shift nearly 77 percent of the $293.4 million earmarked for low-income housing next year to other state priorities. That works out to $224 million from state and local housing trust funds that won’t go for their intended purpose. “The governor has not been supportive of local and state trust funds in any of his budgets,” said Jaimie Ross, president and CEO of the Florida Housing Coalition and facilitator for the Sadowski Coalition, comprising an array of housing advocacy organizations. Last year, Scott wanted to sweep $237.5 million from the trust funds, of the nearly $276.6 million then available. The Legislature pared back his request, providing around $200 million for housing.

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ANITERE FLORES: ANYTHING SHORT OF FRACKING BAN DOA IN SENATE via Jim Ash of WFSU – This year, Flores is Senate Pro Temp – No. 2 in the political pecking order — and she’s co-sponsoring a statewide ban. She says the message should be clear — any call for further studies, or strict regulations, is dead in her chamber. “This is a bit of a black-and-white issue. And so I don’t really see a majority of the Senate moving backward from anything beyond a ban.” Republican Senator Dana Young, who served as House majority leader last year, is sponsoring the ban. But even though a Republican is sponsoring the House companion, Flores expects a tough fight.

DEMOCRATS TO RICHARD CORCORAN: TERRORISTS IN FLORIDA? PROVE IT via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News – House Democratic Leader Pro Tempore Bobby DuBose … sent the House Speaker a letter Tuesday demanding Corcoran release information proving the people of Florida were at risk. DuBose also had concerns over the comments since state lawmakers are scheduled to hear a bill withdrawing Florida from the refugee program this week. “The timely release of this information is vitally important as it could influence how members vote on HB 427,” DuBose wrote. Corcoran’s comments came during a weekend interview with CBS4’s Jim DeFede, who asked Corcoran if he believed some of the 1,200 Syrian refugees escaping to Florida last year were “harboring terrorist views.”

HOUSE PANEL TAKES ON IMPEACHMENT POWER, LOCAL GOVERNMENT ETHICS REFORMS via Florida Politics – The Public Integrity and Ethics Commitee, chaired by Yalaha Republican Larry Metz, OK’d proposals that would increase local officials’ financial disclosure, clamp down on potential conflicts of interest and create a Local Government Lobbyist Registration Trust Fund. Moreover, the committee continues to show an interest in the House possibly exercising its constitutionally-granted impeachment power. Metz had revealed last month he was looking into articles of impeachment against a Jacksonville judge before he quit the bench. His committee also on Tuesday heard a case study of a trial judge under investigation for three years for alleged attorney-ethical lapses before he became a judge. That’s despite a rule of judicial administration that encourages matters to be resolved within 180 days.

BILL FILED TO BAR ACCESS TO RECORDINGS OF PULSE-LIKE ATTACKS via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – Public access to video and audio recordings of someone’s death would be banned under a bill filed in the Legislature, attracting concerns from open government and transparency advocates who say it would squelch oversight of law enforcement. Rep. Chris Latvala … filed HB 661 last week. The bill cites the Pulse nightclub and Fort Lauderdale airport shootings as evidence the law needs to be changed. “The Legislature is gravely concerned and saddened by the horrific mass killings perpetrated at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The Legislature is concerned that, if these photographs and recordings are released, terrorists will use them to inspire others to perpetrate killings, attract followers, and bring attention to their causes,” the bill reads. The bill also is retroactive, meaning the future release of existing records would be banned.

SHARK-FIN TRADE IN FLORIDA TARGETED IN SENATE BILL via the Orlando Sentinel – A Northeast Florida senator has filed a bill that would crack down on the sale and possession of shark fins and shark tails, considered a delicacy in parts of Asia. The measure (SB 884), filed by Sen. Travis Hutson … would make it a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida to trade or offer for sale shark fins or shark tails. Commercial and recreational fishers found in violation would face a suspension or loss of their licenses or permits. The bill says sharks are critical to the health of the ocean’s ecosystems and calls Florida a market for shark fins.

LAWMAKERS TO UNVEIL TESTING LEGISLATION via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida Senate president pro tem Anitere Flores, Florida House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee chairman Rep. Manny Diaz, and House Judiciary committee chairman Rep. Chris Sprowls have announced plans to introduce a bill aimed at scaling back state-mandated student testing … The three are calling the bill the “Fewer, Better Tests” act, a nod to the direction of Jeb Bush‘s Foundation for Excellence in Education has taken since Florida’s parents have started fighting back against the state’s high-stakes testing model that Bush promoted while governor … the lawmakers’ goals are to: Improve and enhance state tests; move the exams to later in the year (a goal superintendents set forth weeks ago); Provide better student score reports (something the Department of Education said it did a year ago) and ensure teachers get results from local assessments early enough to inform their instruction (note it’s local, not state, results).

FLORIDA BAR WILL OPPOSE LEGISLATIVE “OVERRIDE” PROPOSALS viaFlorida Politics – The Board of Governors adopted the stance … It also disapproved a companion measure aimed at federal judges who interpret state laws. State Rep. Julio Gonzalez, a Venice Republican, filed the two pieces of legislation (HJR 121, HM 125) in December. Neither has had a hearing in the committee weeks that serve as a run-up to the 2017 Legislative Session that opens March 7. One would create a constitutional amendment to be approved by voters that allows the Legislature to review judicial rulings that declare legislative acts void. That means that if “the Supreme Court, (any) district court of appeal, circuit court or county court” overturns a law, the Legislature could salvage it with a two-thirds vote within five years of the ruling. The second measure urges Congress to propose a constitutional amendment to “deem a law that has been declared void by certain federal courts active and operational.” Such measures, if passed, are non-binding.

LOBBYIST MUSCLE WILL BE MAJOR FORCE IN MEDICAL MARIJUANA FIGHT via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – More than 150 lobbyists are registered to represent more than 100 different interest groups, according to lobbying disclosure data published for the first time this year by the Florida House … that means the loudest voices in setting cannabis policy are likely to be those of lobbyists and the groups they represent. Chief among them, six of the seven nurseries that currently hold licenses to grow and sell cannabis in Florida have lined up significant lobbying muscle. The dollar figures of these contracts are not yet available but expect big money to be spent lobbying the implementation of Amendment 2. This list does not include the many other interests at play: Patient groups, organizations for doctors and other medical professionals, cities and counties that want zoning and regulatory power under the new laws, and plenty of growers, dispensaries and testing facilities that lost out in the existing system.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Florida Society of Clinical Oncology will host a Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer Luncheon at 11 a.m.Wednesday on the 22nd floor of the Capitol. The event will include treatment and care-focused presentations from various cancer specialists from the Mayo Clinic Florida, Florida Cancer Specialists, and Tallahassee Memorial Cancer Center.

LEGISLATIVE STAFFING MERRY-GO-ROUND via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools

On and off: Tiffany Harrington has replaced Heather Williamson as House staff director of the Joint Select Committee on Collective Bargaining.

On: Natron Curtis is the new district secretary for Gainesville Democratic Rep. Clovis Watson.

Off: Melissa Ullery is no longer legislative assistant for Panama City Republican Sen. George Gainer.

Off and on: George Fossett is the new legislative assistant for Miami Gardens Democratic Sen. Oscar Braynon. Previously, Fossett served as district secretary for sunrise Democratic Rep. Katie Edwards.

Off and on: Patrick Steele replaced Riley Baldree as legislative assistant for Melbourne Republican Sen. Debbie Mayfield.

On: Marilyn Barnes returned from retirement to become legislative assistant for Tallahassee Democratic Sen. Bill Montford.

On: Debra Booth is the new legislative assistant for Kissimmee Democratic Sen. Victor Torres.

On: Paula Rigoli is now district secretary for Delray Beach Democratic Rep. Emily Slosberg.

On: Luis Callejas, previously district secretary, is now legislative assistant for Miami Democratic Rep. David Richardson.

On: Lindsay Graham is now district secretary for Orlando Republican Rep. Mike Miller.

On: Sharon Stewart is the new district secretary for Vero Beach Republican Rep. Erin Grall.

On: Nadie Charles is now legislative assistant and Elizabeth Casimir is district secretary for Fort Lauderdale Democratic Rep. Patricia Williams.

On and on: Rebecca McLaughlin is legislative assistant and Kathy Johnson, who was previously district secretary, is now legislative assistant for Orlando Republican Rep. Eric Eisnaugle.

Off and on: Charles Smith, who was previously district secretary, is now legislative assistant for Fort Lauderdale Republican Rep. George Moraitis.

On: Dennis Ragosta is the new district secretary for Ocala Republican Rep. Charlie Stone.

On: Mikhail Scott is now legislative assistant for Cutler Bay Democratic Rep. Kionne McGhee.

On: Nancy Bowers is the new district secretary for The Villages Republican Rep. Don Hahnfeldt.

On: Rebecca Zizzo is district secretary for House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

On: Jack Harrington is legislative assistant for Miami Republican Rep. Michael Bileca.

Off: Janine Kiray is no longer legislative assistant to Clearwater Republican Rep. Chris Latvala.

Off: Constance Baker is no longer district secretary for Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Kim Daniels.

On: Leota Wilkinson is district secretary for Palatka Republican Rep. Bobby Payne.

Off and on: John Love has stepped down as House administrative assistant for the Joint Select Committee on Collective Bargaining. Lisa Larson is replacing love.

Off and on: Lindsey Locke is replacing Michelle McCloskey as House administrative assistant for the Joint Committee on Public Counsel Oversight.

Off and on: Patricia Gosney is replacing Joel Ramos as legislative assistant in the Tallahassee district office for Democratic pro tem leader Sen. Lauren Book.

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

AIF WORKERS’ COMP FIX WOULD MAKE EMPLOYEES PAY THEIR OWN ATTORNEY FEES via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Associated Industries of Florida released its fix for rising workers’ compensation rates … proposed legislation would make injured employees responsible for their own attorney fees. The draft bill stipulates that “a claimant is responsible for payment of her or his own attorney fees” for litigation arising from a claim. “A judge of compensation claims may not award attorney fees payable by any carrier or employer,” the draft says. Compensation judges would have power to approve such fee agreements “as consistent with the Florida Bar’s rules of professional conduct … if any party should prevail in any proceedings before a judge or compensation claims or court, there shall be taxed against the nonprevailing party the reasonable costs of such proceedings, not to include attorney fees” … “This legislation will allow Floridians to avoid unnecessary, costly and time consuming litigation and to get benefits into the hands of injured workers as soon as possible,” AIF president and CEO Tom Feeney said.

FLORIDA LOSES APPEAL IN WATER WARS FIGHT – DESPITE SPENDING $98 MILLION ON LAWYERS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – A special master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Florida and in favor of Georgia in the 16-year water war over water rights to the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint River Basin. The ruling by Ralph Lancaster, Jr., a civil attorney from Portland, Maine, concluded that Florida failed to prove that new limits on Georgia’s water consumption were needed. He made the ruling after five weeks of hearings last summer and more than $98 million in attorney’s fees spent on the case by the state of Florida. The Florida House … has called into question the cost of the litigation as authorized by Gov. Scott, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Office of the Attorney General. It found that in the last two years, after Florida asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and the court appointed a special master to resolve the dispute, the state spent $54.4 million on legal help from four law firms.

TAMPA BAY TIMES ACKNOWLEDGES ITS RECENT STORIES ON MOSAIC SPILL ARE INACCURATE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Don Rice and Mary Hrenda told the Times that a full year before the incident, monitoring wells around the stack showed a sinkhole was developing, and that both Mosaic and the DEP should have been aware of the sinkhole at the time. The information was also presented at a news conference with environmental groups in Manatee County. “They should have seen this 2016 sinkhole coming,” Rice told the Times. “Alarm bells should have been going off — danger, danger!” Now the Times acknowledges that Rice and Hrenda have retracted their statements. “News organizations routinely cover disputes between two credible sides, and that’s what we did in our original story,” says Jennifer Orsi, managing editor of the Times, in an email. “Mosaic, which declined to discuss the allegations for that story, responded the next day, and we covered that as well. Now, the hydrologists quoted in our original story have retracted their findings and expressed regret, which we will cover in a story on the front page of Wednesday’s Tampa Bay Times. Stories evolve, and we routinely cover those steps as they happen.”

PROPUBLICA HIT PIECE WILL DELIVER ‘INACCURATE, UNTRUTHFUL’ ATTACK ON ORLANDO CHARTER SCHOOL via Florida Politics – One such target of journalistic bias is Accelerated Learning Solutions (ALS), an Orlando charter school program servicing at-risk Orange County students who have, for a variety of reasons, fallen off‐track for graduation … the ALS-run Sunshine High School … has found itself in the crosshairs of ProPublica, the New York-based investigative newsroom that seeks to produce deep-dive journalism in what they proclaim as the “public interest.” in the instance of Sunshine — which has been both transparent and forthcoming with ProPublica reporter Heather Vogell — such public interest may have fallen by the wayside, traded for a decidedly anti-charter agenda. A Jan. 26 letter from ALS President Angela Whitford-Narine lays it out in no uncertain terms. “Based on lines of questioning and statements to us and to Orange County District staff … we are expecting her story to be an inaccurate and inappropriate reflection of our schools and of our relationship with Orange County Public Schools … I am particularly disturbed that Ms. Vogell has totally misrepresented what the students said to her … that she failed to seek parental consent in speaking with and quoting minor students and refused to inquire about the success the students were having at our schools.” Feedback from 10 students interviewed by Vogell shows several factual inaccuracies, including one where the reporter cites a student by which no record exists showing neither enrollment nor attendance.

***The quality of nursing home care is better in states like Florida that use a certificate of need process. You can help protect Florida’s most frail seniors by urging legislators to keep CON for Florida’s outstanding skilled nursing centers. Learn more from the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) here.***

DOUBTS AMONG DEMOCRATS BEDEVIL BILL NELSON AGAINST SCOTT IN 2018 via Marc Caputo of POLITICO – Democratic concerns about 2018 — which Nelson backers dismiss as fanciful and ridiculous — can be heard among grassroots activists as well as during candid moments with Democratic insiders from Miami to Tallahassee to Washington. Nationally, Democrats are relying on Nelson to hold his own in the expensive state as they defend 23 seats in a narrowly divided Senate that Republicans barely control. Not only are Democrats worried that the 74-year-old Nelson might be out of step with the times, they fear the low-key centrist won’t be able to fire up progressives and grassroots activists if he ends up facing Gov. Scott and the tens of millions of dollars the independently wealthy Republican will spend if he runs. A faction of the Democratic Party … have become increasingly vocal about the need to campaign on more liberal values. But they haven’t yet been successful. … “Democrats are now using the tea party playbook and, yes, it worked for Republicans,” said Democratic consultant Eric Johnson, who advised Murphy in his Senate race. “But what Republicans did was primary their members and pull the GOP to the right. That would bring the house down if it happens on our side. What it will do is get rid of the people who want to get along.” Democratic fundraiser Ben Pollara, who ran a 2012 super PAC backing Nelson, said it’s “insane” that Democrats would want to challenge a tested incumbent in a year when they need to save their money and fight Republicans in open-seat Florida races for governor, attorney general, state chief financial officer and agriculture commissioner.

— “Florida Democrats announce Janet Reno Grant panel” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

FLORIDIANS DELIVER VALENTINE’S DAY CARD TO MARCO RUBIO CALLING ON HIM TO DEFEND OBAMACARE — Central Floridians signed and delivered a card to Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday with the message “Republicans are red, Democrats are blue, we all support ACA, and so should you.” The Valentine’s Day card was meant to encourage the Miami Republican to hold town hall meetings about the Affordable Care Act and hear from his constitutes on the issue. Republicans have vowed to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.

TONIGHT, RUBIO, DONALD TRUMP DINE AT WHITE HOUSE via the Palm Beach Post – Trump and first lady Melania Trump will host Rubio and his wife, Jeanette Rubio, for dinner at the White House tonight. The official White House schedule released Tuesday night says the dinner will be at 6:30 p.m. in the Blue Room.

TRUMP’S VISITS TO FLORIDA COSTING SHERIFF $1.5 MILLION IN OT via The Associated Press – Trump‘s visits to his South Florida estate since he was elected president have cost the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department $1.5 million in overtime costs. Sheriff Ric Bradshaw is confident the money his department has spent while assisting the Secret Service will be reimbursed by the federal government. “I do hope he is correct,” said Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker. The county sent letters to federal officials in December seeking reimbursement for the overtime security costs from Trump’s five-day visit to the estate called Mar-a-lago in November. Those costs were originally estimated at $250,000, but Bradshaw said the total will be closer to $300,000. Based on the revised number, the sheriff said told the newspaper the security costs are amounting to about $60,000 a day during Trump’s visits to the county.

A TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY RIGHT HERE? IT’LL BE THE BEST. BELIEVE ME. via Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post – The long-awaited Donald J. Trump Presidential Library opened today on the former site of the Palm Beach Jai-Alia fronton in Mangonia Park … Construction had been slowed for years due to work stoppages by unpaid contractors, the lack of willing labor after years of deportation sweeps in Florida, and a lawsuit by Trump against Palm Beach County over the flight path of planes over the museum. The 82-year-old former president, flanked by his fourth wife, Svetlana, a 25-year-old former supermodel from Uzbekistan, was on hand for the ribbon cutting. “People are telling me that this is the best presidential library in the history of presidential libraries,” the former president said. “That’s what I’m hearing.” Historians, architects and pundits already have had much to say about the Trump library, which features a removable roof, a Hall of Tweets, and an entire wing of courtroom depositions.

— “Jason Chaffetz wants Trump to answer questions about Mar-a-Lago security” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

TRUMP TAPS THREE PALM BEACHERS FOR AMBASSADORSHIPS via Jose Lambiet of Gossip Extra — President Donald Trump has offered ambassadorships to at least three friends from Palm Beach … Robin Bernstein, a long-time Trump friend whose Palm Beach-based insurance agency has done business with the billionaire for years without suing him; Patrick Park, the heir of an Ohio fortune who bankrolls several black-tie fundraising galas a year; and Brian Burns, another philanthropist who has hosted the Palm Beach Police Foundation Ball at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago. Bernstein is said to be getting the Dominican Republic job while Park told friends he’s getting Austria and Burns is first in line for the Ireland gig.

IVANKA TRUMP POSTS PHOTO OF HERSELF BEHIND OVAL OFFICE DESK via The Associated Press – Ivanka is getting a strong reaction online after posting a photo of herself seated at the Oval Office desk while her father, President Donald Trump, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, stood on either side of her. The first daughter posted the picture on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with the message, “A great discussion with two world leaders about the importance of women having a seat at the table!” While the picture earned Trump plenty of kudos from supporters of her father on social media, others said she hadn’t earned the right to sit behind the desk.

ON MSNBC, DAVID JOLLY WONDERS HOW SERIOUS DONALD TRUMP IS TAKING THE PRESIDENCY via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – On his latest appearance on MSNBC’s The Last Word (with guest host Joy Reid), the former (and possibly future?) congressman from Florida’s 13th District called Trump’s first month in office “his JV moment,” specifically referring to Stephen Miller’s performance on the Sunday morning shows. Miller is the 31-year old senior adviser to Trump who is reported to be working alongside Steve Bannon in crafting the president’s messaging. “The first month of the Trump administration has been his JV (junior varsity) moment,” Jolly said on MSNBC. “Get the 31-year-old sweaty kid off the TV, and bring in the steady senior hand” … “We will see turnover, and frankly, this 31-year old should not have been the voice of the president on Sunday morning TV when we’re in such a pivotal moment,” Jolly said.

UNIONS, OTHERS URGING DISNEY CHAIR BOB IGER TO QUIT TRUMP via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Organizers, who include Disney’s UNITE HERE union Locals 737 and 362 and Organize Florida, will announce the presentation of a petition with more than 300,000 signatures calling for Iger to step away from the White House and renounce immigration policies announced by Trump, said Local 737 President Jeremy Cruz-Haicken. The groups are part of a national campaign targeting the policy forum members. “This is an initial step in asking, along with the community, for Iger to do the right thing for the values of cast members, the values of the community and the values of the company,” Cruz-Haicken said.

STATE WIPES OUT INDEPENDENT PARTY OF FLORIDA via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel – The Independent Party of Florida, founded in 1992, was stripped of its official status because it didn’t use a certified public accountant to audit its finances in 2014. Ernie Bach, chair of the party based in Largo, vowed to reapply with the state Division of Elections and have its status returned. But even if that happens, the party will have to rebuild its base of more than 260,000 members entirely from scratch. The Independent Party of Florida, which originally grew out of Ross Perot’s run for president in 1992, is a “middle of the road” party, Bach said. It most recently made headlines in Florida by trying to get Evan McMullin, an independent conservative presidential candidate, on the ballot in Florida. Gov. Scott denied McMullin a spot, leading the party to ultimately endorse Hillary Clinton based on a survey of its members.

FLORIDA INSIDER POLL: AND THE NEXT CFO IS… via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Who will Scott appoint as chief financial officer to succeed Jeff Atwater as he steps down … Results of the unscientific survey (Rounded to nearest whole number): Pat Neal, 22 percent; Carlos Lopez-Cantera, 15 percent; Tom Grady, 15 percent; Joe Gruters, 12 percent; Tom Lee, 11 percent; Other: 8 percent; Lenny Curry, 7 percent; Jack Latvala, 6 percent; Will Weatherford, 4 percent; Jeff Brandes, 1 percent and Teresa Jacobs, 1 percent.

***The 2017 Florida Blue Foundation Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards are coming to Kissimmee April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. The two-day event – with the theme “Creating a Culture of Health” – will feature several Florida-based, regional and national health professionals. The symposium will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about health care culture, purpose built communities and communities of health. Discussions will center on health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Network with 400+ executives from a range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more. To view agenda and register, click here***

APPOINTEDPeter Matthew Brigham to the Fifth Judicial Circuit Court.

APPOINTEDJames Ferrara to the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Court.

APPOINTEDFabienne Fahnestock and Yael Gamm to the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court.

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

John Ariale, Ariale Strategy: Turbocombustor Technology, Inc. d/b/a Paradigm Precision

Brian BallardSylvester LukisMonica Rodriguez, Ballard Partners: Royal Caribbean Cruises LTD

Keith Bell Jr., Clark Partington Hart Larry Bond & Stackhouse: Peaden Brothers Distillery of Florida

Marsha Bowen, Robert Levy & Associates: Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce; Rails to Trails Conservancy

James Boxold, Capital City Consulting: Martin County; Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office

Kevin Cabrera, Southern Strategy Group: Florida Association of Court Clerks & Comptrollers; Town of Medley

David Custin, David R. Custin & Associates: Kaycha Holdings, LLC

Christopher Dawson, GrayRobinson: Florida Distillers Guild, Inc

Mark Delegal, Holland & Knight: Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America

Nelson Diaz, Southern Strategy Group: Well Child

Davison Frey Dunlap III, Dunlap & Shipman: Brandt Information Services, Inc

Thomas Griffin, Smith Bryan & Myers: MorphoTrust USA

Paul Hawkes, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Vertical Bridge Holdings, LLC

Nick IarossiAndrew KetchelChristopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: Spinal Associates d/b/a Michael W. Reed, MD, P.A.

Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick, The Mayernick Group: International Franchise Association

Jeff Littlejohn, Littlejohn Mann & Associates: Florida Drycleaners Coalition

Jim Magill, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: National Strategies, LLC on behalf of American Kratom Association

James McFaddin III, Southern Strategy Group: Concordia Care dba Concordia Behavioral Health

Mark Timothy Pruitt, The P5 Group: Charlotte Behavioral Health Care; Florida Association of Local Housing Finance Authorities; Florida Atlantic University Foundation, Inc.; Florida Crystals Corporation; Jupiter Medical Center, Inc.

Mary Ann Stiles, Quintairos Prieto Wood & Boyer: AmTrust Financial Services; AmTrust North America of Florida, Inc.; AmTrust North America of Florida, Inc.

Alan Suskey, Suskey Consulting: Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers

Jennifer Wilson, Adams and Reese: American Coatings Association

PERSONNEL NOTE: JOHN KENNEDY NOW WITH FLORIDA CHANNEL via Florida Politics – More evidence that you can’t keep a good man down: Kennedy, formerly The Palm Beach Post’s capital correspondentis now The FLORIDA Channel‘s newest on-air reporter. “We are very pleased that John’s solid, well-tested reporting skills will continue to help Floridians understand the workings of state government and the decisions made in Tallahassee,” Beth Switzer, its executive director, said Tuesday. Kennedy started this week.

PERSONNEL NOTE – MERCURY HIRES BRIAN SWENSEN AS SENIOR VP via Florida Politics – Swensen comes to the firm following his role as deputy campaign manager for the successful re-election of Sen. Marco Rubio, the latest in a series of key political victories in Florida and Louisiana … In his new role, Swensen will bring extensive experience in the political arena to provide solutions and winning strategies for the firm’s clients. He will be based in Mercury’s Miami office. Mercury Florida, now in its fourth year of operation, is led by partner Ashley Walker. Previously, Swensen managed the successful campaign of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, which helped set the tone for Florida Republicans in the 2016 cycle. Mercury provides a suite of services including federal government relations, international affairs, digital influence, public opinion research, media strategy and a bipartisan grassroots mobilization network in all 50 states.

HAPPENING THURSDAY – FCTA HOSTS OPEN HOUSE — The Florida Cable Telecommunications Association will host an open house at 5:30 p.m. at its newly renovated office, 246 E. 6th Avenue in Tallahassee. RSVP to marthaj@fcta.com.

HERALD TRIBUNE SERIES FINALIST FOR SELDEN RING AWARD via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Herald-Tribune’s December investigative series “Bias on the Bench” was a finalist for the 2017 Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism. … “Bias on the Bench,” which has sparked proposed state legislation, found judges throughout Florida sentence black defendants to harsher punishments than whites charged with the same crimes under similar circumstances. In recognizing the Herald-Tribune as a finalist, the Selden Ring judges wrote, “The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, for ‘Bias on the Bench,’ a data-driven series proving what many have always suspected — that race figures heavily in sentencing in Florida criminal courts, keeping African Americans behind bars for substantially longer than whites who commit similar crimes.” … Judges included Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times; Robin Fields, managing editor of ProPublica; Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post; Kevin Merida, editor-in-chief of ESPN’s The Undefeated; and 2015 Selden Ring winners Audra D.S. Burch and Carol Marbin of The Miami Herald.

ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA — On Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda, the bitter feud among top Republican lawmakers is already threatening to derail the upcoming legislative session. At the center of all the controversy is House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R- Land O’Lakes. Gomes talks Florida Times-Union Statehouse bureau chief Tia Mitchell about her exclusive interview with Corcoran, and his intentions of shaking up the way business is done in Tallahassee. Gomes also talks with Senator Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, about his plan to run for Governor in 2018.

GOVERNORS CLUB WEDNESDAY MENU – Wednesday’s Governors Club buffet menu comes from the Pacific Northwest with Washington State salmon bisque; Washington trio apple salad; spinach pear salad; seasonal green salad; Oregon herb rubbed tri-tip beef; California drunken chicken; potatoes & wild mushroom au gratin; lime asparagus; broccoli & cauliflower au beurre and peach cobbler for dessert.

State could wed whiskey and Wheaties, but at what cost?

Lost in the rush to get the “whiskey and Wheaties” bill over the finish line this year is the incredible toll it might take on independently-owned liquor stores.

The Senate bill (SB 106) that would tear down the “wall of separation” between hard liquor and other retail goods already zoomed through its committees and is now ready to be considered by the full chamber when the 2017 Legislative Session kicks off on March 7.

The House bill (HB 81) is teed up to be discussed by the Careers & Competition Subcommittee today (Wednesday).

A version of the bill has been filed for four years running, aiming to repeal the Prohibition-era state law requiring businesses, such as grocery chains and big-box retailers, to have separate stores to sell liquor. Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles in Florida.

Maybe it’s time to hit the brakes.

Take the story of Chuck Kelley, whose family owns four locations of Beach Liquors in Fort Walton Beach, Panama City Beach, Destin and Crestview in the state’s Panhandle.

The business started out as grocery stores, then added liquor stores next to the groceries, as required by current law.

“We got out of the grocery business because we saw Wal-Mart and others going into groceries and thought we just could not compete,” Kelley said.

But now three of the four Beach Liquors are in strip malls that have an “anchor tenant,” the big-box chain stores behind the push to remove the separation requirement.

“If this bill passes, those anchors can put liquor inside their stores, and all of a sudden, they have the traffic that will buy that liquor,” Kelley said. “Our business will be cut. I may not have the sales to justify staying open.”

That means the employees who work for Kelley will be out of jobs. Hmm, and here I thought we were all about “jobs, jobs, jobs” here in Florida.

Rory Eggers, president of the Florida Independent Spirits Association, adds that anchor tenants – the Wal-marts, Targets and others that are behind the push – almost always have a no-compete clause in their lease regarding certain items for sale.

That may include booze. And that means they very well could have the muscle to force out smaller liquor stores in their same shopping centers.

Eggers estimates there are about 260 independently owned stores in just such a situation, putting over 900 jobs at risk.

I’m all for competition and increased business, but at what cost? If I were Gov. Rick Scott, with his almighty veto pen, seems like snuffing out family-owned small businesses is a cost I wouldn’t want to bear.

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