Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.
Consumers are expected to spend billions this weekend showering the mothers in their lives with gifts both sweet and sparkly according to a new survey from the National Retail Federation.
The retail trade group said 86 percent of Americans plan to do some shopping for Mother’s Day, whether in-store or online, with per person spending expected to hit $180. That comes out to $23.1 billion nationwide, a total only surpassed by 2017’s record-setting $23.6 billion total.
“Mothers play such a vital role in our society, and it’s wonderful to see that they’ll be receiving plenty of gifts this year as people feel more and more comfortable with their own finances,” said R. Scott Shalley, who heads the NRF-affiliated Florida Retail Federation. “A healthy economy with more Floridians employed should lead to increased spending and a great opportunity for retailers to take advantage of this by showcasing sales and discounts on the more popular items.”
Topping that list of popular items is a “hallmark” of proper gift-giving: Greeting cards. More than three-quarters of those surveyed said they’d pick one up and NRF estimates they’ll contribute $813 million toward the Mother’s Day total. Nearly 70 percent of saying they’d snag an always-welcome bouquet, which will lead to a $2.6 billion payday for florists.
Jewelry will make up the biggest slice of total spending at $4.6 billion, but not every mom can expect something precious, unless new pieces of fridge art count. About a third of shoppers plan to swing by the jeweler for their Mother’s Day gift. Additionally, more than half said they’ll spare mom from eating their own cooking by taking her out to eat, and they’ll spend $4.4 billion doing so.
Also on the list are gift cards at $2.5 billion, clothing and consumer electronic at $2.1 billion each and just shy of $1 billion on housewares or gardening tools.
About 30 percent of moms say they’d rather a gift they can experience than one they can hold, and a quarter of givers – most of them millennials – are taking the hint and purchasing spa days, concert tickets or gym memberships as their Mother’s Day centerpiece. That category will make up $1.8 billion in spending.
The survey, conducted April 4 through April 12 asked 7,520 consumers about their Mother’s Day plans. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
–@CahnEmily: The way the many in the Republican Party are treating John McCain is hard to watch. Zero respect.
—@LearyReports: Interior Sec. Zinke was asked at Senate hearing today if Florida still off table for drilling. “Yes,” he replied. “I’m committed to … no new oil and gas platforms off the coast of Florida. They are still in the process legally, but I’m committed to that.”
–@SenBillNelson: The state of Florida is trying to cut $100 million from Medicaid. That’s unacceptable. And that’s why @USRepKCastor and I have joined forces today in calling on the federal government to block the state’s outrageous plan.
@christinesexton @fineout I’m hearing this from hospitals across Florida. Gov Rick Scott targets health care of Floridians in an insidious, misguided way. Scott believes health care is only for privileged few, but he is wrong and will cost everyone more in the long run
—@SchmitzMedia: I’ve been waiting to make a “Punch Foley for Joe” reference since I accepted this job, and today is the day it finally happened.
—@NoahPransky: The concept that local governments should own and pay upkeep on pro stadiums because they are public resources is a fallacy. When the team is done profiting there & leaves for another venue, the stadium is a burden on taxpayers, not an asset.
—@JoseFelixDiaz: Nothing like a graduation in #OurMiami. Parents, you don’t need to shout out your kids name. They know their names already. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be graduating
— DAYS UNTIL —
Mother’s Day — 2; Deadpool 2 release — 7; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 14; Memorial Day — 17; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in St. Petersburg — 29; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Miramar — 31; Time Warner/AT&T merger ruling — 32; Father’s Day — 37; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 42; Florida GOP Sunshine Summit starts — 48; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 58; MLB All-Star Game — 67; Deadline for filing claim bills — 82; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 81; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 83; Start of the U.S. Open — 108; Primary Election Day — 109; College Football opening weekend — 111; NFL season starts — 118; Future of Florida Forum — 138; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 165; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 166; General Election Day — 179; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 279; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 298.
— TOP STORY —
“How Russia-linked propagandists tried to stoke racial and political division in Florida” via Alex Leary and Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Aimed at Facebook users in Florida and other states … thousands of ads linked to Russia sought to stoke racial and political animosity in the U.S. ahead of the presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. House Democrats released more than 3,500 Facebook ads that reveal the depth of the propaganda effort. Many sought to stir up both sides on issues ranging from guns and immigration to the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality. Ads mentioned Trayvon Martin and sought to emphasize the sexual orientation of Orlando Pulse nightclub victims. Many of them didn’t get much attention. But others gained widespread attention, the collective effort at once simple and sophisticated. Nationally, more than 11.4 million Americans were exposed to the ads. Many more millions saw content created on Facebook pages set up by the internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm, and its operatives, according to House Democrats.
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“Backlog that could allow mentally ill Floridians to buy guns emerges as Senate campaign issue” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — U.S. Sen. Nelson accused Republican challenger Gov. Scott of failing to address a persistent problem of the state’s court clerks taking too long to put mental health records in a database that is supposed to stop unstable people from buying guns. The South Florida Sun Sentinel examined the issue in an investigation … finding that clerks were taking up to three years to input thousands of names into the database used for gun-purchase background checks and entering incorrect information for hundreds of others. A Scott spokesman says the governor’s office was unaware of the problem until now. “The clerk’s office never brought it to our attention,” said McKinley Lewis, a spokesman for the governor’s office. “The Clerks of Court in Florida are locally elected and the Governor expects them to prioritize their resources to quickly resolve this issue.” But agency spokeswoman Jessica Cary said FDLE, under the governor’s authority, has been working to secure funding to reduce the backlog.
— “Congratulations, Scott Pruitt, you’ve just made a campaign ad in Florida” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times
Assignment editors — U.S. Senate candidate Scott will highlight the second proposal of his “Make Washington Work” Plan requiring a supermajority vote of each house of Congress to approve any tax or fee increase with two events. At 9 a.m., Scott will be at Coastal Industries, 3700 St. Johns Industrial Pkwy. W., Jacksonville. Then, at 1:45 p.m., the Governor will be at Pelican Wire, 3650 Shaw Blvd., Naples.
Happening Saturday — Gov. Scott will speak at the Seminole County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner at 6 p.m., Hilton Orlando Altamonte Springs, 350 Northlake Blvd., Altamonte Springs.
“’Skank’ and racism: Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial primary gets ugly” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — The flare-up began when an African-American woman who supports Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum called former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham a “skank” on Twitter. Graham surrogates then called on Gillum to denounce the comments from his supporter, Leslie Wimes, who amplified the slur in a column she writes for a conservative publication, the Sunshine State News, that bore the headline “Skank, Oh, My!” By noon, the group EMILY’s List, which backs women abortion-rights Democrats, called on Gillum “to make clear to his supporters that negative, gendered attacks have no place in political discourse.” EMILY’S List also criticized Gillum over the primary’s first new negative ad campaign, launched by a pro-black super PAC called The Collective, that casts Graham as a phony progressive. And that’s when race entered the picture. “It’s all about race,” Wimes said, noting the difference in EMILY’s List’s involvement in this race compared to its neutrality in the 2014 gubernatorial Democratic primary when longtime abortion-rights liberal, former state Sen. Nan Rich, ran against former Gov. Charlie Crist, who had been a self-styled “pro-life” Republican before leaving the GOP. Wimes pointed out that, in 2014, Graham ran for Congress as a “very conservative Democrat” and was not the “progressive” that EMILY’s List calls her. “So when a true progressive runs against a fake Democrat, EMILY’S List does nothing. But when someone who described herself as a ‘very conservative Democrat’ runs against a black man who’s a true progressive, they jumped in waist deep for her,” Wimes said.
“Chris King adds campaign staff for Tampa Bay, Central Florida” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — King is expanding his campaign’s presence in the I-4 corridor with the appointments of regional directors from Tampa Bay and Brevard County … Lisa Perry, a leader in Tampa Bay area progressive activism, will serve as the King campaign’s Tampa Bay regional director. Before joining the King campaign, Perry served as Pinellas County chair for Women’s March Florida, mobilizing thousands of volunteers and activists around key progressive issues. Perry also organized for the Florida Immigrant Coalition and the “Fight for $15” movement. Tess Martin, a grassroots organizer for progressive causes and organizations across Florida, will serve as Central Florida regional director. Martin is co-founder and president of “Speak Out Brevard” and managed Sanjay Patel’s congressional campaign in CD 8 earlier this year.
“Philip Levine’s company signed trade agreement after Alaska complaints of ‘kickbacks’” via David Smiley of the Tampa Bay Times — Royal Media Partners, created by Levine in 2011, was among three cruise line contractors that signed a legal agreement laying out appropriate business practices and enforcement efforts in 2013. The agreements, entered into court as consent judgments, were preceded by complaints from local retailers that cruise line contractors were forcing local shops to pay fees and commissions in order for port lecturers to steer passengers into their stores. Royal Media Partners and Onboard Media — founded in 1990 by Levine and sold in 2000 — signed agreements. The companies, contractors for the majority of the cruise lines that docked at Ketchican and other port cities, provided guides for the ships, as well as promotional materials and informational pamphlets. Retailers who didn’t participate complained that they were disparaged by port lecturers. Some referred to the business model as “kickbacks.” The contractors admitted no wrongdoing when signing the consent judgments, which were reported in Alaska by the media at the time.
Assignment editors — Levine will be touring the Cape Canaveral Spaceport followed by an Aerospace Industry Roundtable, hosted by the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast. Roundtable begins at 2:45 p.m., Radisson Resort at the Port, 8701 Astronaut Blvd., Cape Canaveral. Later, Levine will speak at the Brevard County Democratic Party’s Big Blue Bash Gala, 8 p.m., Eau Gallie Civic Center, 1551 Highland Ave., Melbourne.
“Jimmy Patronis gets boost from insurance, real estate firms” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Chief Financial Officer Patronis, with the field cleared of a potential big-name primary challenger, pulled in more than $400,000 last month for his election effort, with nearly half of the money coming from the insurance industry. Patronis also drew more than $35,646 from the health care industry, $22,296 from Realtors and real estate agencies and $13,092 from the financial-services field … In all, he brought in a total of $418,000 in April. Among the $216,046 the campaign and committee received from insurance agents and companies, Insurance Administrative Solutions of Clearwater, State Mutual Insurance of Rome, Ga., and Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance of Clearwater each gave $50,000, and FCCI Services of Sarasota put up $25,000. Also last month, Patronis’ election effort received $25,000 from Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets, and $3,000 checks from Walt Disney Travel, Disney Vacation Development, Magic Kingdom, Inc., The Celebration Company and Disney Destinations.
“Jeremy Ring boosts CFO campaign with $50K loan” via Florida Politics — Ring’s April reports show $76,565 raised for his campaign, including the loan, and another $26,250 for his political committee, Florida Action Fund PC. Ring has now raised just over $1 million for his statewide bid. Outside of the loan, Ring shows 80 contributions for the month including two maximum contributions. Those $3,000 checks came in from Miami attorney Philip Golf and Ft. Lauderdale attorney Hamilton Collins Foreman Jr., who originally chipped in $3,300 before the Ring campaign refunded the excess. Disney topped the committee report with a $10,000 check, followed by a $7,500 contribution from the firm of Pensacola attorney Levin Papantonio and $5,000 from Coral Springs retiree Robert Greenberg. The two accounts combined to spend $31,110.
“Gambling amendment supporters steaming ahead” via Florida Politics — The political committee behind a proposed constitutional amendment limiting gambling Wednesday said it “continues to gain momentum in critical areas of the effort, including fundraising, grassroots and social media.” Voters In Charge sponsored the “Voter Control of Gambling” amendment, which will appear on the November ballot as Amendment 3. The amendment would tie the hands of the Legislature by “ensur(ing) that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling,” according to the ballot summary. It needs at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.
“John Morgan pours another $154K into minimum wage drive” via the News Service of Florida — Setting the stage for a possible ballot proposal in 2020, Morgan last month put more than $154,000 into an effort to raise Florida’s minimum wage … The $154,230 contribution from Morgan’s firm, Morgan & Morgan P.A., went to the political committee Florida For A Fair Wage. Since December, the Morgan firm has funneled $478,158 to the committee — all the money the committee has raised. The committee, which is chaired by Morgan, is backing a proposed constitutional amendment that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $10, effective Sept. 30, 2021, and then raise it $1 a year until it is $15 on Sept. 30, 2026.
“Alan Grayson gets backing of Blue America PAC in CD 9 Democratic race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The national progressive organization dedicated to replacing “to replace the bipartisan Conservative Consensus in Congress with a strong and activated progressive movement,” endorsed Grayson while blasting the elections of “more Blue Dogs and New Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party.” Grayson was a leader of that caucus and is running as he always has, as an unabashed progressive Democrat. “I’m running for Congress because our progressive goals — justice, equality and peace — need a champion in Congress,” Grayson stated in a Blue America PAC statement. “Think about it. Who can you think of, in the U.S. House of Representatives, whom you would call a champion for progress? On a good day, one or two or three of them. On a bad day, none.”
Neil Combee rolls out first Polk County endorsements — State Reps. Ben Albritton, Mike LaRosa, and Josie Tomkow, former state Rep. John Wood, along with the mayors of Auburndale and Polk City, Tim Pospichal and Joe LaCascia, have announced their support of Combee for Florida’s 15th Congressional District. “Neil is a natural born leader. I’ve never seen him back away from a fight to protect conservative principles and our Constitution,” Albritton said. Tomkow added: “There is no one who will fight harder for our area than him. He is fair, honest and humble. He means what he says, and his word is as good as gold. He is the only one in this race who will work to continue making America great again.” … “Washington won’t change him, he will change Washington,” LaCascia said.
“Vote for me or I’ll sue” via the News Service of Florida — Progressive Tim Canova is still fuming about his 13-percentage point loss in a Democratic primary in 2016 to U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and — more so — that the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office destroyed paper ballots from the contest. Now, Canova is launching a new bid against Wasserman Schultz, this time without a party affiliation. The move allows the Bernie Sanders ally to take on the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman in November when all voters, not just party faithful, will decide. Canova is also preparing to challenge the results. At least, if he doesn’t win. “We are prepared to bring a lawsuit even if we lose the race by one vote or by 10,000,” Canova said while in Tallahassee after qualifying to run for the office.
“Keith Perry outraised threefold in April” via Florida Politics — Perry’s April fundraising reports lagged behind those of Democratic challenger Kayser Enneking, who reported her best-ever totals earlier this week. The first term Senator brought in $27,700 in campaign funds last month and tacked on another $2,000 through his political committee, Building a Prosperous Florida. Perry, a roofer by trade, brought in the much of the April haul from those in the same line of work. Of the 44 contributions he received last month, 13 came from roofing companies and trade associations. Those contributions totaled nearly $10,000. Also showing up in the reports were Disney, Data Targeting head Pat Bainter and a political committee tied to exiting Senate President Joe Negron. Each chipped in $1,000.
“Janet Cruz raises a lot of money in first weeks of campaign for Senate but Dana Young raises more” via Florida Politics — House Majority Leader Cruz nearly matched Tampa Republican Young in April fundraising despite joining the Senate District 18 race 10 days into the month. Cruz said her April campaign and committee reports will show $146,600 in contributions for the 21 days she was a candidate last month, putting her just a few thousand dollars shy of Young’s $152,500 effort for the whole of April. About $31,600 of the new money came in through Cruz’ campaign account. While Cruz ceded little ground in her first month, she is far from matching Young’s overall totals of $1.45 million raised and $1.1 million on hand.
—“Unopposed Aaron Bean nears $180K cash on hand for Senate run” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics
—“Anna Eskamani hits $250K raised for HD 47 bid” via Florida Politics
—“Henry Parrish gaining ground on Tyler Sirois in HD 51 primary” via Florida Politics
—“April sees Matt Spritz pulling nearly $19K in HD 89” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics
—“Michael Gottlieb leads big April fundraising month in HD 98” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics
—“HD 118 challenger Anthony Rodriguez surpasses $100K raised” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics
— YEAR OF THE WOMAN —
At least one study is showing a lot of women are contributing to candidates, more so than ever before.
Research conducted by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics concludes women make up 31 percent of fundraising for House candidates so far. That’s the demographic’s largest share ever, reports Fredreka Schouten of USA Today.
A Center representative tells Schouten, “These are record numbers, and it’s consistent with the sense that there’s rising momentum for women on a number of fronts in this election cycle.”
More records: The unprecedented contribution share correlates with a record number, 391, of female candidates. For what it’s worth, there also are 43 female gubernatorial candidates, another record, in 2018.
Wake-up call: A source from Emily’s List says if Donald Trump secured the presidency, then female activists are saying, “I can definitely run for the school board.”
Meanwhile: Men still overwhelmingly dominate politics. Schouten notes about 1,300 men are running for House seats, and the gender gives far more in individual contributions; the top 10 political donors so far are all men.
— STATEWIDE —
“It was supposed to show who profited from public money. But the rule wasn’t enforced” via Elizabeth Koh of the Miami Herald — If you want to know how much your local government is spending on private lobbyists to lobby the Legislature, the Florida House has a webpage devoted to disclosing it. But though House Speaker Richard Corcoran promised the webpage would provide “transformational” transparency, the House forgot one thing: to post all the data … despite an ethics rule that requires lobbyists for taxpayer-funded entities submit lobbying contracts to the Florida House, that rule has not been enforced. The House’s much-vaunted webpage was not updated for a year and some lobbyists neglected for months to comply with the required disclosures.
“Key lawmakers says no plans to fill prison budget hole” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Budget chief Rob Bradley indicated corrections health care problems may spur lawmakers to consider criminal-justice reforms that have failed to gain traction in previous years. Corrections Secretary Julie Jones is slashing contracts with nearly three dozen substance-abuse and re-entry providers — programs considered integral to reducing recidivism and helping inmates transition back into society — by at least 40 percent because the money is needed to cover the cost of a contract for prison health services. Lawmakers will begin working after the November elections to prepare for the 2019 Legislative Session. “What I would encourage our partners who are facing these cuts to do is to double-down on their efforts to find efficiencies and understand that, when we return in November, this is going to be something that many of us are eager to address,” Bradley told The News Service of Florida.
“State senator claimed she had a ‘Sick Mom’ during Irma despite her mom being dead” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times – In a 2016 clip uploaded to YouTube, North Miami’s Democratic state Senator, Daphne Campbell, told an interviewer that her mother and father were dead. She added that her husband’s parents were also dead. In fact, she said basically everyone close to her either was deceased or lived far away. “His father and his mother died,” she says just after 2:15 in the clip above. “My father and my mother died. I don’t even have one family [member] in Miami here.” One year later, Campbell sent a text message that became infamous. Soon after Hurricane Irma ripped through Miami-Dade, cutting off electricity to tens of thousands, she typed a note to a Florida Power & Light lobbyist begging him to help turn the power back on at her house. The reason: Her “sick mother” needed care.
“Health plans mounted challenges over Medicaid contracts” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Twelve managed-care companies challenging the state’s award of tens of billions of dollars in Medicaid contracts have spelled out their arguments about why Florida officials were wrong in the handling of the coveted multiyear deals. The filings allege a long list of errors by the Agency from Health Care Administration ranging from math mistakes, to not finishing reviews on time, to awarding a contract to a vendor that submitted the wrong bid. In some cases, the petitions allege wrongdoing by rival health plans. If the initial contracting decisions stand, some companies will be shut out of the managed-care program for the next five years.
“Lawsuit: You can’t use our radio towers, Harris Corp. tells state” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Harris Corp., already fighting its loss of a more than half-billion-dollar state radio contract, now is suing over allowing winning bidder Motorola to use its radio towers. The Melbourne-based communications company filed suit Wednesday afternoon in Leon County Circuit Civil court against the Department of Management Services (DMS) and the Agency for State Technology — one day after its bid protest hearing started before an administrative law judge in Tallahassee. Its filing says Harris bought radio towers from the state when it first got the contract to manage the state’s Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System, or SLERS, in September 2000 … Even though the state kept a “limited right” to use the towers, the suit adds that it now can’t let Motorola Solutions use those same towers without Harris’ consent, which the suit explained the company isn’t willing to give.
“Only in Florida: Battle over water, free speech pits billionaire vs. activist” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times — The most important aspect of this story is about Florida’s water supply and how a lawsuit involving a company called Lake Point Restoration may upend a fundamental rule about Florida water — namely, that water belongs to the public, not wealthy businessmen. One of the participants contends that what happened in that yearslong suit will open the door for big companies to jump into the water business, driving up prices and starving the environment. Sugar companies, citrus growers and phosphate miners could start commandeering the water on their land and selling it. Right now, Florida law says fresh water is “a public resource benefiting the entire state,” not just big corporations and their owners, said Cynthia Barnett, Environmental Fellow in Residence at the University of Florida’s Bob Graham Center for Public Service and the author of three books on water policy. The law also says water “must be managed in a manner to ensure its sustainability.” No one is allowed to sell water he or she happens to find, not without proving to state officials that doing so is in the public interest, she said. But that, say water experts, may be changing, thanks in part to this case.
No foul stuff in our flushes, gambling cruise operator says — The operator of gambling cruises offering a “Las Vegas-style casino experience” is asking state environmental regulators for a 5-year reprieve from “water purity requirements.” Victory Casino Cruises runs the “Victory I Casino Vessel” out of Port Canaveral. Its petition to the Department of Environmental Protection asks for an exemption because of “a marine waste treatment system that produces sterile, clear, and odorless reuse water without generating solid waste, (which) eliminates the need to pump out or dump waste.” The department has not yet acted on the request, records show.
“Papa Johns asks state regulators for sauce help” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The national pizza chain is asking Florida health regulators for a variance from state law that would allow them to keep their pizza at room temperature — that’s 85 degrees — for 10 hours. The request comes with a (largely redacted) 30-page explanation of the company’s process and methods. But if you’re not the science type, the argument boils down to appearance. “If the dough draws up or shrinks due to cold sauce, the overall appearance is not pleasing to our customers,” wrote Rita Palmer, the company’s director of North American QA Regulatory in a petition to the Florida Department of Health.
— HEADACHES —
When the Legislature crafted the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, it basically left the minutiae to the local governments.
And now local councils and commissions across the state are figuring out what they’ll implement and how they’ll do it — a task that’s proved to be arduous, and in at least one case has brought trouble.
For example, in Southwest Florida, school districts are under scrutiny for not releasing safety reports other districts already have.
In Pinellas: The county school district has opted to increase its police force. And a separate city council will provide the cash to hire added school resource officers mandated by SB 7026. Northern Citrus County will provide as much cash as needed to the sheriff’s office to keep SROs at each school.
In Brevard: The county school district will hire armed specialists who do not already work in the school.
In Manatee: The school district was rejected more money for officers, and instead might consider arming security personnel.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Trump considering Army veteran Brian Mast for VA secretary” via Zeke Miller and Hope Yen of The Associated Press — A White House official said Rep. Mast of Florida, who was elected to the House in 2016, was among the list of candidates for the job heading an agency of 360,000 employees serving 9 million veterans. The White House official would not say if Mast is the leading candidate for the VA position. Mast, 37, has often voted along with Trump on key issues in Congress, more recently announcing he supported an assault-weapons ban following the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland. White House officials have met with former Florida Rep. Jeff Miller, a Republican who once led the House Veterans Affairs Committee and Ron Nichol, a senior adviser to The Boston Consulting Group, who helped organize the president’s transition.
“Paul Ryan rejects effort to force DACA vote” via Rachael Bade of POLITICO Florida — The Wisconsin Republican told reporters he would like to have an immigration vote “before the midterms,” but wants a bill that will “make it into law.” And that won’t happen unless Trump endorses a proposal to codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “I don’t want show ponies,” Ryan said, arguing that votes on legislation the president has not agreed to would amount to a distraction. “That means the White House will need to be a part of this and we’ll need a bill the president will sign.” A small group of centrist Republicans filed a discharge petition that would trigger a series of floor votes on different immigration proposals if 218 lawmakers sign on. If every Democrat gets on board, 25 Republicans would have to defy GOP leadership to force a floor debate. Ryan is urging his colleagues not to sign the petition, and said the exercise was pointless.
“Bill Nelson, Democrats blast proposed Medicaid cut” via the News Service of Florida — Nelson and Democratic U.S. House members called for the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to reject a move by Gov. Scott’s administration to cut $98 million by trimming the length of time people have to apply for the Medicaid program. “I rise here today because the state of Florida has again proposed to harm thousands of seniors and folks with disabilities who rely on Medicaid for their health care,” Nelson said on the Senate floor. Nelson, along with U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and 10 other Democratic members of Florida’s congressional delegation sent a letter to CMS Director Seema Verma urging her to reject a proposed amendment to a state Medicaid “waiver” that would exempt Florida from a federal requirement that gives people up to 90 days following a health problem to apply for Medicaid coverage. The Scott administration proposed — and the Republican-led Legislature agreed — to require people to apply for Medicaid during the same month of the health event. “Retroactive eligibility is designed to protect Medicaid beneficiaries — including seniors, pregnant women, individuals with disabilities, and parents — and their families from the steep costs of medical services and long-term care.
— OPINION —
“Rick Scott sinks to new low on cronyism at Revenue Department” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — The Florida Department of Revenue is one of those arcane state agencies that quietly keeps the wheels of government turning. It should be led by seasoned experts in tax law and property valuations, but now its top ranks have been compromised by young, inexperienced, unqualified hires who have friends in high places, particularly Scott. This is political patronage at its worst and a shamelessly political scheme by the lame duck governor. Over the last month, Leon Biegalski, the head of DOR, pushed out several of the office’s leaders and replaced them with newbies whose only apparent qualification is blind loyalty to a governor who could care less about the inner workings of government. Putting these loyalists in the Office of Property Tax Oversight was especially shrewd because DOR answers to both the governor and the state Cabinet. So the next governor won’t be able to unilaterally fire these unqualified hires. But it’s a transparently terrible way to operate a state agency, about as swift as having your next-door neighbor do your taxes. He’s not an accountant, but he comes to all of your barbecues.
— MOVEMENTS —
“Donald Trump taps Maria Chapa Lopez as U.S. attorney” via the News Service of Florida — Longtime federal prosecutor Chapa Lopez has been selected to serve as U.S. attorney in the sprawling Middle District of Florida … Chapa Lopez worked as an assistant U.S. attorney from 2000 to 2016, before a nearly two-year stint as a Department of Justice deputy attache in the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. She currently serves as interim U.S. attorney in the Middle District, which stretches from Fort Myers to Jacksonville and includes Orlando and Tampa. Her selection is subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Jason Allison, Robert Hosay, Foley & Lardner: Mainline Information Systems
David Browning, R. Paul Mitchell, Monte Stevens, Southern Strategy Group: Public Trust Advisors
Megan Fay, Capital City Consulting: Aetna, Ajax Building Corp, CIGNA, CVS Health, Florida Association of Orthotists and Prosthetists, LogistiCare Solutions, Oportun, University of Florida Student Government Association
George Feijoo, Floridian Partners: Liberty Mutual Group
Richard Fidei, Greenberg Traurig: National Health Solutions
Seth McKeel, David Shepp, Southern Strategy Group: Harvest Florida
Timothy Meenan, Karl Rasmussen, Joy Ryan, Meenan: Pharma Cann
Jonathan Alexander Setzer, Florida Alliance Consulting: Seminole County Board of County Commissioners, The Grove Counseling Center
— ODE TO THRASHER —
A quick peek at John Thrasher’s resume would tell you he’s not an ‘academic.’
That’s one of the reasons for the faculty criticism that followed Florida State University’s decision to hire him as its president in 2014. But, writes FSU physics professor and Faculty Senate President Todd Adams in The Chronicle of Higher Education, most faculty members now support the former state House Speaker and state Senator.
“Academe is a unique place to work, and it is natural to fear that a leader who hasn’t been steeped in its traditions will be a bad fit for an institution,” writes Adams. “But a president who is willing to learn and a faculty that is open to change can lead to great success.”
Willingness to learn: Adams lauds Thrasher for his openness. In the presidential search process, Thrasher met with faculty members to discuss concerns. Those one-on-one meetings persist, Adams adds.
Crisis control: Adams lauded Thrasher for his response to the 2014 Strozier Library shooting, which occurred during Thrasher’s first semester, along with the alcohol ban he implemented in the wake of a fraternity pledge’s death in 2017. “These quick responses have been key to the significant improvements in faculty opinion of the president,” writes Adams.
Successes: Don’t just take Adams’ word, look at the data. Adams notes steady increases in rankings, fundraising records, application records, and increases in salaries — all under Thrasher’s leadership.
— WEEKEND TV —
Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: Mary Barzee Flores, a Democratic congressional candidate running against U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.
Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable with attorney Brian Willis, independent journalist Mike Deeson, WUSF Radio News Director Mary Shedden and former Republican Congressman David Jolly.
In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion on what is being done to prepare students in Tampa and Central Florida for competitive STEM fields. Joining Walker-Torres are Doug Wagner, executive director, Adult, Career and Technical Education, Manatee County School District; Jill St. Thomas, co-executive director, Tampa Bay Tech; Scott Brooks, general director, Career, Technical and Adult Education, Hillsborough County Schools; Kathleen Schofield, executive director, Northeast Florida, STEM2 Hub.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran is now endorsing Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam for Governor, a discussion of why he decided to leave the race. An in-depth look on the Iran nuclear deal decision by Trump. PolitiFact will rate a Trump claim about trade with China.
The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon speaks with pollster Steve Vancore, News Service of Florida reporter Dara Kam, and attorney Sean Pittman.
This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests are Agriculture Commissioner candidate Col. Mike McCalister; state Sen. Audrey Gibson, the incoming Senate Minority Leader; and Duval County Schools Board Chair Paula Wright.
This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg hold a roundtable of the week’s latest political issues affecting South Florida.
“Apple plans to sell video subscriptions through TV app” via Lucas Shaw, Gerry Smith and Mark Gurman of Bloomberg — For the first time, Apple plans to begin selling subscriptions to certain video services directly via its TV app, rather than asking users to subscribe to them through apps individually downloaded from the App Store. This would simplify the process and bolster Apple’s TV app on Apple TV, iPhones and iPads, making it a central place for people to find, watch, and buy content. It would also be another way for Apple to keep boosting its services business, which it expects to generate $50 billion a year in revenue by 2021.
“Formula One is Coming to Miami” via Jason Tesauro of Bloomberg — With a vote of 5-0, the flags will once again be waving in South Florida … the Miami City Commission approved Resolution No. 22 to “bring the Formula 1 Racing Circuit to the City of Miami for the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix from 2019 to 2028.” A U.S. expansion of the famed European racing league has been variously attempted for years; it’s a top priority for Liberty Media Corp., the new F1 owner. Las Vegas and New York (technically, New Jersey) have also been discussed. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said after the vote: “My dad was mayor, and he has this really cool picture of him and my mom and me in the middle in the Pace Car of the Miami Grand Prix back in the 1980s. It was a Jaguar convertible, and I’ll never forget that. Now, my son is four, and I have a chance to repeat that moment.”
Happy birthday to our buddy, Alan Suskey, as well as Ashley Ligas and Alison Morano.