Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 237

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.

Seriously? Rick Scott’s New Republican web videos stumble on details

Sometimes, the devil is truly in the details.

Consider the latest video campaign from New Republican, the super PAC chaired by Rick Scott, presumably formed in advance of the Governor’s all-but-certain bid for U.S. Senate in 2018.

A pair of slickly produced YouTube videos – “If You Open Education” and “If You Open Opportunity” – talk about “opening up” education and small business. The campaign seeks to extol the New Republican agenda – to “rebrand and reinvent the Republican Party” – favoring an “open” economy, “open” education system, “open” health care system, among others.

But after looking at both videos, each shot in glorious art-house black-and-white, a few details (if you’re paying attention) also open the door for a few questions.

For example, “Opportunity” starts off with the line: “no more insider deals.”

Seriously?

It is a statement that rings more than a little ridiculous, considering Scott’s current budget battle with the Florida Legislature over the future of Enterprise Florida, the state’s business incentive program.

Using taxpayer money to lure businesses to Florida? Some would argue that is the definition of an “insider deal.”

New Republican is staffed by some top Scottworld veterans. Melissa Stone, Scott’s chief of staff and 2014 re-election campaign manager, is the executive director; finance director is Taylor Teepell, a longtime Scott staffer who also worked with former governors Haley Barbour and Bobby Jindal.

This is a group of real pros, people not prone to unforced errors.

So, it would be reasonable to assume that Scott, Castellanos, et. al. would know better than not secure music rights before releasing a big-time super PAC campaign.

Why? If the background music in both videos sounds more than a little familiar, it should. It’s lifted nearly wholesale from Alan Silvestri’s Forrest Gump soundtrack.

Seriously?

According to the New Republic website, the groups talking points includes “doing things differently” to “appeal to and targeting young voters.”

Because nothing appeals to Millennials more than a video sampling unlicensed music from a 90s movie classic.

 

Vaping whole flower is a big deal? Oh, please!

Oh. My. God.

One of the medical cannabis licensees is now selling a product – meant for a vaporizer and consistent with similar products ALREADY on the market – that some say is smokable.

It may be. It probably is. So, what?

The truth is, so is most everything exiting the doors of any and all dispensaries currently operating in Florida. The truth is also that if you light it on fire and inhale it, that makes it smokable (kind of). You can take drops and put them on some leafy product and burn it while inhaling the smoke. You can break open a vape cartridge and smoke the contents. You can take a pill, remove the husk, and also smoke it. Not my bag, but if that’s what you want to do, so what?

Is it legal? I don’t know but I’m not going to suggest the state raid the home of some very sick people to see if they are doing this in the privacy of their homes or hospice beds.

How big of a deal is this?

Let’s step back for a moment and identify exactly what Trulieve is now selling. They are selling “whole flower” in a vape cartridge, clearly and unequivocally meant for a vaporizer. What you do when you get it home is your business. This has not changed since last week, before this product went on the market!

Is that allowable?

I am not practicing law here but embedded in our State Constitution is this language:

(4) “Marijuana” has the meaning given cannabis in Section 893.02(3), Florida Statutes (2014),

And state Statute Section 893.02(3) says;

“Cannabis” means all parts of any plant of the genus Cannabis, whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant or its seeds or resin.

“All parts.”

So, let’s boil this down. Trulieve is selling marijuana flower. That’s part of the “all parts” part.

Some people – some very sick people suffering from Parkinson’s disease, epileptic seizures, Multiple Sclerosis or from terminal cancer – may want to remove it from its vape cartridge and smoke it.

And this is news?

What I find interesting, is this product is WAY less expensive – by some measures as much as 60 percent less expensive – than comparable products.

We’ve heard a lot about competition and free markets related to the implementation of Amendment 2. One could argue this is the beginning of some soon-to-come price wars.

Now THAT is news!

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 5.12.17

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

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

FloridaPolitics.com received three honors in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Green Eyeshade Awards, highlighting the best journalism of 2016 throughout 10 states of the southeast United States.

I would have never thought when I launched my local political blog that one day we would be competing with the major traditional news organizations, especially in categories like business reporting.

Congrats to:

Martin Dyckman who received a second-place award for online serious commentary for his columns exploring the problems with Florida’s death penalty laws.

Jim Rosica who received a third-place award for online business reporting for his stories on gambling in Florida.

Scott Powers who received a third-place award for online political reporting for his stories on Central Florida politics.

— GATA GOING AWAY —

The enduring image of Corrine Brown the day she was found guilty of 18 counts in her fraud trial was not the congresswoman in the courtroom, where she was stoic.

Rather, it was afterward.

Wearing a slightly-out-of-season dress and jacket, Brown was walked to a waiting black Mercedes coupe. Parting a phalanx of cameras and microphones like Moses parting the Red Sea, it was her last public act of transfiguration.

Yet no miracles await a former congresswoman nailed on all but four of the 22 counts she faced.

Brown, on way to a phalanx of guilty verdicts, was rolled on and betrayed by co-conspirators … all of whom said they couldn’t tell Corrine no; she was queen of the whole One Door for Education scheme.

Brown’s lawyer, Orlando barrister James Smith, once more put on his game face for the press, saying the game wasn’t over …  this was just the “first quarter” … more motions would be filed.

Maybe. It’s an open question as to how much more lawyerin’ Brown can afford, given she had to sell her beach house to pay her defense.

Also a given — she will soon enough be without her congressional pension.

The trial was tough to watch – Brown’s defense dug in their heels in an attempt to find some small sliver of plausible deniability. Common sense obliterated that.

If Brown hadn’t worked these donors first, would they have given to One Door?

Also tough to watch – people at the trial. With many of the daily regulars, there was a randomness at best and a sordidness at worst; a generally unhygienic lot gleeful in wanting to watch Corrine Brown get what they thought was coming to her. That is,  until they realized that they were watching a deadly-dull trial about “pass-through” checks and tax omissions and elisions, with donor testimony having all the color of product warranties.

Now Queen Corrine is deposed, once and for all.

Indicted by a grand jury in July, Corrine Brown was convicted of 18 of 22 separate criminal counts Thursday.

Jacksonville lost Brown’s Congressional seat, possibly once and for all, as well. And the Corrine Brown machine – with all of its messiness – that’s gone too.

What’s left? A Duval Democratic Party that doesn’t win much, lacking a single charismatic figure who can draw crossover votes.

Corrine is gone, likely headed to prison, with no successor, no heir.

It is an ultimate tragedy, perhaps, one with effects that could very well outlive Corrine Brown herself.

— “Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown violated the public trust, the honor of her position, and the integrity of the American system of government when she abused one of the most powerful positions in the nation for her own personal gain. She shamefully deprived needy children of hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have helped with their education and improve their opportunities for advancement, and she lied to the IRS and the American public about secret cash deposits into her personal bank accounts,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco. “The Department of Justice is committed to fighting corruption and fraud wherever we find it, at all levels of government, regardless of their power and influence.”

— “Former Congresswoman Brown chose greed and personal gain over the sacred trust given to her by the community that she served for many years,” said acting U.S. Attorney Steven Muldrow. “These guilty verdicts underscore our Office’s resolve in holding public officials at all levels of government accountable for their actions. In this case, former Congresswoman Brown stole money that was donated on the false premise of helping further the educational goals of underprivileged children.”

How the Brown verdict is playing: Florida Times-Union, Corrine Brown convicted of 18 felonies, faces decades in prison – “The verdict came three days after closing arguments in a trial where Brown was painted as living the high life on cash that aides secretly deposited in her bank account after passing it through other accounts.” CNN, Former Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown convicted of fraud scheme – “The Justice Department said Brown and two co-conspirators solicited more than $800,000 in donations for the One Door for Education — Amy Anderson Scholarship Fund … frequently from individuals and companies Brown knew through her congressional position. One Door was not a registered nonprofit and most of the money went to their own pockets or was spent on lavish events in Brown’s honor.” Orlando Sentinel, Corrine Brown found guilty on fraud and tax-evasion charges – “’Brown violated the public trust, the honor of her position, and the integrity of the American system of government when she abused one of the most powerful positions in the nation for her own personal gain,’ Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco said in a statement.” First Coast News, Corrine Brown stoic leaving court after being found guilty of fraud, corruption charges – “Brown kept uncharacteristically silent … she respected the justice system and the jury, but intended to file motions to begin the appeal process. She maintains her innocence.” POLITICO, Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown convicted of federal fraud charges – “As reporters shouted a few questions at her, she kept silent as she kept moving arm-in-arm with her pastor and family members toward the car. Some yelled ‘we love you Corrine.’” News 4 Jax, Lawmakers, supporters react to Brown’s conviction – “They couldn’t give her the courtesy or decency to come out the back door. Come on, she built this place. She named it. It’s a damn shame in Jacksonville today we have no decency, no respect for black life in this city.” NPR, Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown Convicted Of Stealing From Phony Charity – “Attorney James Smith told reporters, ‘I still have a lot of work to do on this case,’ referring to the sentencing phase and the motion he plans to file for a new trial … sentencing phase could take 90 days or longer.”

Tallahassee Democrat editorial board questioning vindicated by Brown convictions via Florida PoliticsSkip Foster, the newspaper’s publisher, tweeted on Thursday: “Looks like, Ms. Brown, it was appropriate for us to ask you about that at our editorial board meeting after all.” Last August, “the indictments were the first question when the three Democratic candidates for the 5th Congressional District met with the Tallahassee Democrat editorial board,” the paper explained in a story about the meeting. Brown rose “from her chair, approached the camera recording the interview and stopped in front of her questioner. ‘These are the things that Congresswoman Corrine Brown did. I gave 22 scholarships. It’s important you know that. I gave 22 scholarships. So don’t ask me something that I don’t have any control over. Ask me what Corrine Brown has done,’ ” she said, according to the story. Brown lost the race to current Congressman Al Lawson of Tallahassee.

Class:

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— CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Rick Scott-led PAC tackles education, economy in digital videos — New Republican launched two videos this week when it announced Gov. Rick Scott would head up the organization. The first ad, dubbed “If You Open Education,” addresses ways to change the education system. “Our old, closed education system is failing our children, and our country is falling behind” a woman is heard saying in the minute-long video. “It’s time to open up education, to open up opportunity for everyone.” The second video talks about opening up the economy, by getting rid of outdated regulations. Click on the images below to watch the videos.


First on #FlaPol – “Airbnb opens Florida political committee” via Florida Politics – Airbnb, the online marketplace that allows people to find and rent vacation homes, has formed a political committee in Florida, state campaign finance records show. “People versus the Powerful” was formed April 6 for the purpose of  “supporting or opposing statewide, legislative, multi-county and local candidates,” according to its statement of organization. … For the committee’s first month of existence, the San Francisco-based company seeded it with $1 million. It has yet to make any expenditure, save for about $30 in bank fees, according to reports.

“Adam Putnam fundraising panel notches over $800,000 for April” via Florida PoliticsThe political committee of Republican gubernatorial candidate Putnam posted more than $800,000 in contributions for the month of April, the state’s campaign finance website shows. Florida Grown reported $809,156 in fundraising and $276,479 in expenditures for the month. That brings the committee’s total take since its February 2015 formation to $11.3 million in contributions. It also spent nearly $3.1 million, records show, for a cash-on-hand amount of about $8.2 million. Putnam, the sitting Agriculture Commissioner, announced his candidacy Wednesday in his home of Polk County.

– “Why Adam Putnam starts his campaign as a big favorite” via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times

Assignment editors: Putnam will attend a firefighter appreciation breakfast at 10 a.m. at Greater Naples Fire Rescue Station 73, 14575 Collier Blvd. in Naples. From there, he’ll head up to Fort Myers to take part in a grassroots meet-and-greet at Buckingham Farms, 12931 Orange River Boulevard. Putnam will continue his 10-day, statewide bus tour Saturday with an “Up & Adam” Breakfast at 9 a.m. at the Royal Palm Room at the Inn on the Lakes, 3101 Golf View Road in Sebring. From there, he’ll go to Okeechobee REC Shotgun Shoot and Lincoln Day Dinner at 2 p.m. at the OK Corral Gun Club, 9449 NE 48 th Street in Okeechobee. Media interested in attending the events on Saturday must email amanda@adamputnam.com by 8 p.m. Friday to register.

— Not that our writing isn’t riddled with misspelings (get it?), but for a campaign that is spending $80K a month on consultants, shouldn’t Putnam’s first message have been perfect?

Jack Latvala ‘month or two away’ from deciding on Republican bid for governor” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – A day after Putnam kicked off his Republican bid for governor with a large rally that underscored his front runner status, state Sen. Latvala, said he’s “leaning” toward entering the race for governor but won’t make a final decision until June or July. “We’re still a month or two away” from a decision, Latvala said. “I’m leaning in the direction of doing it but I just got out of a very intense job for the last 10 weeks.” Latvala, the Senate Appropriations chairman, was a key figure in the legislature’s crafting of an $83 billion budget that was approved Monday night. He faces term limits in 2018. If he decides to run for governor, Latvala’s Florida Leadership political committee has about $3 million in cash on hand.

Possible gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine engaged and awaiting child” via Joey Flechas of the Miami HeraldLevine recently got engaged to Caro Murciano, a real estate agent and younger sister of television actor Enrique Murciano. Levine has never been married before. The couple are expecting. The mayor [said] these changes in his personal life only bolster his motivation as he considers a run. “Becoming a husband and father will be one of the greatest highlights of my life and reinforces my determination to make our children’s future secure and bright,” he said. Levine has yet to commit to a run [for governor].

— MORE FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Larry Sabato moves Carlos Curbelo’s CD 26 race to ‘Toss-up’” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Bad news for Curbelo, Brian Mast, and other Florida Republicans in vulnerable congressional districts in 2018 who voted for the American Health Care Act. Sabato‘s “Crystal Ball” ratings downgraded Curbelo’s chances … Sabato had CD 26 as “leaning Republican,” but now shifted it to “Toss-up.” Mario Diaz-Balart‘s position in Florida’s 25th Congressional District was also downgraded slightly, going from “likely Republican” to “leaning Republican.” Diaz-Balart also voted for the AHCA. On the Democratic side … three congressional seats maintain a “leans Democratic” outlook — Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 27th District, and Charlie Crist in Florida’s 13th District. The other seat is Ileana Ros-Lehtinen‘s seat in Florida’s 27th District.

Quelling candidacy chatter, Alberto Carvalho vows to remain Miami-Dade schools’ chief” via Patricia Mazzei and Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald – Speaking at an awards ceremony for the Education Fund, a local schools nonprofit, Carvalho vowed to remain schools chief this year, next year and for years to come … The comment seemed to address his own acknowledgment last week that he was being courted to replace Miami Republican Rep. Ros-Lehtinen. Carvalho, an independent who has never run for public office, could have mounted a formidable candidacy, given his broad popularity and name recognition. But he sounded reluctant to run even last week, when Florida Democrats were abuzz about his potential candidacy. And he has since spoken to school board members, including one, Lubby Navarro, who said Carvalho was clear he wasn’t running … Carvalho’s promise to stick to his job was met with resounding applause.

“After strong start, Ed Hooper raises just $640 in April for Senate bid” via Florida PoliticsHooper, the former Republican state representative and Clearwater city commissioner, posted just over $600 in April after two consecutive months of five-digit fundraising. Hooper, aiming to replace term-limited Jack Latvala in Senate District 16, put up only $640 in contributions and showed $20 in expenditures for the month. That’s after bringing in more than $25,000 and $24,000 for February and March, respectively. Hooper, however, still has no opposition for the seat, which covers much of north Pinellas County.

Ana Rivas Logan is in for Frank Artiles’ Florida Senate seat” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Former state rep. Rivas Logan is the third Hispanic Democratic woman to announce her candidacy, after state Rep. Daisy Baez of Coral Gables and businesswoman Annette Taddeo. The difference, Rivas Logan said, is that she’s already won elections in parts of Artiles’ Southwest Miami-Dade County district. Her name recognition will help her in the quick-turnaround special election, she said. “It’s not about who can win a primary,” she said. “It’s about who can flip the seat blue.”

Dwight Bullard backs Annette Taddeo in SD 40 — The former state Senator has thrown his support behind Taddeo in her Senate District 40 bid. “Annette is someone that has been a part of our greater South Dade community for many years; she has stood up for us and will stand up for the community and it’s interest in Tallahassee,” he said in a statement. “I’ve seen elders, pastors and stalwarts of the community encourage Annette to run.  I join them in my support of Annette as the candidate we want to represent our community in the Florida Senate.” Taddeo announced she was running for the seat earlier this week, and the Division of Elections said it received her paperwork Thursday and was processing it.

Annette Taddeo, seen here with former state Sen. Dwight Bullard, announced Thursday she had gotten Bullard’s endorsement to run for Frank Artiles’ now vacant Senate seat. Artiles resigned last month after his profanity- and racial-epithet filled tirade against two sitting black senators at Tallahassee’s Governors Club.

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“Race to replace Jim Boyd gins up big numbers” via Florida PoliticsContributions for candidates in the race to replace House District 71’s Boyd topped $115,000 for April. Will Robinson, a Bradenton Republican, bested Sarasota Republican James Buchanan for the month, pulling in a whopping $97,600 to Buchanan’s $15,300, records show. And Bradenton Democrat Randy Cooper put up $2,210. Boyd, a Bradenton Republican, is term-limited, having been first elected in 2010.

Miami Republican Vance Aloupis hoists $31,150 in April via Florida Politics Aloupis’ second finance report shows a fundraising slowdown to $31,150 in April from just over $103,000 in March. But the Miami Republican, vying to replace the term-limited Mike Bileca in House District 115, still eclipses the competition for the seat, which has raised a total of $250 among three candidates. All of Aloupis’ reported contributions for April are $1,000 or under, including $500 from Florida East Coast Industries.

“Jose Mallea raises over $34,000 in April for HD 116 seat” via Florida PoliticsMallea, a Miami Republican, is running to replace current Rep. Jose Felix Diaz. Campaign finance records show he posted $34,240 in contributions for April, coming off a $55,276 haul for March. Mallea, the owner of JM Global consulting, ran Sen. Marco Rubio’s successful U.S. Senate campaign in 2010. He also was chief of staff to former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz. Republican Daniel Anthony Perez, the only other declared candidate in the race, raised $17,325 in April, for a total of $89,516.

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Rick Scott wraps up latest visit to Washington” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – … with a visit to the Department of Homeland Security, part of his embrace of the Trumpadministration. Scott popped in for a visit with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to talk water issues. But Scott’s visit to Washington — the latest in a series since Trump was elected — also had political aims. Scott yesterday attended a Republican Governors Association breakfast. That evening he hosted a dinner with political reporters to unveil a national Super PAC. Afterward, Scott went on Fox Business.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will ceremonially sign a bill (SB 10) that helps protect the environment by authorizing the building of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee at 10 a.m. at the Miami Canal-John Stretch Park, 47000 State Road 80 in Lake Harbor.

— “Everglades activists worry new reservoir deal doesn’t go far enough via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times 

“Joe Negron seeks guidance on medical marijuana” via Florida PoliticsWithout using the words “Special Session,” Senate President Negron is seeking “ideas” from fellow senators after the 2017 Legislative Session ended without a bill to implement the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment. Negron sent a memo Thursday, released by his office, saying he “believe(s) we should consider the best way to meet our constitutional obligation to implement Amendment 2.” Lawmakers failed to come to agreement on a bill that would implement the medical cannabis constitutional amendment passed in 2016 … “It was our mutual obligation to work together in good faith to find a principled middle ground on this important issue,” Negron wrote. “…Please feel free to contact me with your ideas on how to achieve this objective.”

Florida for Care: Urge lawmakers to support special session — Florida for Care, the advocacy group pushing for the implementation of the medical marijuana constitutional amendment, is encouraging supporters to call and email senators and representatives to tell them to “urge leadership to call a special session that implements Amendment 2, provides strong patient access, and allows competitive, free market to serve patients.” “Pick up the phone,” wrote Ben Pollara, in the email to supporters. “Your elected officials are listening.”

Editorial: Legislature needs special session on medical marijuana” via the Tampa Bay Times – Amendment 2 … is considerably less popular with state lawmakers. That explains why the legislative session ended with no agreement on implementing the amendment, leaving sick Floridians in limbo and major policy decisions to be hashed out in court. House Speaker Corcoran and Senate President Negron — or Gov. Scott — should call lawmakers back to Tallahassee for a special session to pass a comprehensive bill making medical pot reasonably accessible to patients across Florida. By failing to pass a bill, the Legislature abdicated its duty to the Department of Health and the courts. With no law on the books, implementation falls next to department regulators, which does not bode well for patient access. Medical marijuana could soon become a billion-dollar industry in Florida affecting hundreds of thousands of patients.

“Budget line item only for Jewish schools raises some questions” via The Miami Herald – Legislators — both Republicans and Democrats — were eager to comply with a request to help secure Jewish schools following months of news reports showing children and adults evacuating from schools and other places in response to threats in Florida and other states. But the line-item in the budget has raised some questions about government dollars earmarked to help schools serving just one religion. Kara Gross, ACLU of Florida’s legislative counsel, told the Miami Herald that while responding to violent threats made against religious minorities is extremely important, the budget item raises constitutional questions.

Misunderstanding, panic show importance of water storage funds to landowner lobbyists” via Bruce Ritchie and Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – In the hours immediately after talks between House and Senate negotiators over environmental spending broke down, one lobbyist sent a text message to a House appropriations subcommittee chairman saying, “Tell me I shouldn’t be panicking.” At the root of the lobbyists’ fear was the mistaken idea that the program was being zeroed out. But the misunderstanding and panicked text messages show how important the program is to agricultural corporations and their lobbyists who must shepherd millions of dollars in taxpayer spending to a program that benefits their clients. It also shows how lobbyists and lawmakers were still very much working behind the scenes in a session that was supposed to be more open and transparent under House Speaker Corcoran.

New and renewed lobby registrations: Leslie Dughi, Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: Oliver Wyman

ICYMI: Lori Berman announces Palm Beach County Commission bid — The Lantana Democrat announced Thursday that she filed the necessary paperwork to run for District 2 of the Palm Beach County Commission. “I know the district and I know the issues,” said Berman, “I’ve made it a point to know what is going on locally on a variety of issues from homelessness to sober homes, from economic development to the agricultural reserve.  I can be a consensus builder on the commission and focus on helping our residents be successful.” First elected in 2010, Berman can’t run again in 2018 because of term limits. She will continue to serve in the Florida House until the end of her term.

— STATEWIDE —

FPL’s offer: $185 million to get Vero Beach out of the electric business” via Colleen Wixon of TC Palm –  Florida Power & Light Co. has offered $185 million for the city’s entire electric system … The offer includes paying the city $36.6 million — $20 million in cash; money toward employee pension liabilities and to rent the Vero Beach power-plant substation; and an additional $20.4 million to release the lien on the city’s utility bonds. FPL would pay $108 million to the Florida Municipal Power Agency to get Vero Beach out of the statewide electric cooperative of municipalities. FPL also would pay $20 million to cut the city’s ties with the Orlando Utilities Commission, which sells Vero most of its electrical power. Mayor Laura Moss declined to comment on FPL’s offer, adding that she has asked other City Council members to avoid discussing specifics before a special City Council meeting at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Orlando is the No. 1 destination in the U.S.” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Visit Orlando announced that a record 68 million visitors came to Orlando last year, making it the No. 1 destination in the United States. “Orlando’s visitation number represents the emotional connections we make with millions all over the world,” said George Aguel, president and CEO of Visit Orlando. “The love they show us never ceases to inspire us and led us to launch a yearlong campaign about two important words: thank you.” To mark the occasion, Visit Orlando achieved a Guinness World Records title by gathering 3,144 handwritten thank you notes from local attractions and hotels to mail to visitors that supported the Orlando destination. The cards will be mailed to visitors that used Visit Orlando’s social media channels, destination websites and member programs.

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Publix ties for No. 1 in customer loyalty survey” via Bill Bortzfield of the Florida Times-Union — Lakeland-based Publix, and Wegmans, based in Rochester, N.Y., tied for No. 1, with each receiving a 77 percent score in the survey’s customer loyalty index. Trader Joe’s came in second with 76 percent. Publix was found to have the cleanest stores and fastest checkouts. It was ranked highest for specialty department service and was a close second to Trader Joe’s for cashier courtesy. Wal-Mart landed at the bottom of all categories in the survey but one.

What Taylor Biehl and Jeff Sharkey are reading –Tesla opens Florida pre-orders for solar roof” via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times – The Palo Alto, California, company opened Florida pre-orders for its residential solar energy material called “Solar Roof,” as well as a cost estimator. The roofing material will cost a hefty $21.85 per square foot, perhaps five to six times the cost of putting on an asphalt shingle roof. The tiles are made of tempered glass and take about a week to install. Tesla is also offering what it says is the industry’s best warranty: “The lifetime of your house or infinity, whichever comes first.” A $1,000 deposit is required to pre-order.

— ALOE —

Florida retailers expect record breaking Mother’s Day in 2017” via Florida Politics – According to the Florida Retail Federation (FRF), consumers will spend more than ever on gifts for Mother’s Day this year, reaching $23.6 billion. The state’s leading retailer trade association expect a whopping $186.39 per mom on average this year, up from last year’s $172.22 average. A review from the National Retail Federation, conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, show per-person spending in 2017 will be the highest in the survey’s 14-year history. Estimates say shoppers will spend $5 billion on jewelry, $4.2 billion on special outings such as dinner or brunch, $2.6 billion on flowers, $2.5 billion on gift cards, $2.1 billion on clothing, $2 billion on consumer electronics, and $1.9 billion on personal services. The most significant increases from last year are in jewelry spending, which is up 19 percent, and personal services, up 15 percent.

Disneyland was born on paper over a marathon weekend in 1953” via Sandy Cohen of The Associated Press — Tomorrowland was originally going to be called World of Tomorrow. Frontierland was Frontier Country. Lilliputian Land never became a reality at Disneyland. And no one could have foreseen a “Star Wars” land opening in 2019. Walt Disney spent a marathon weekend in 1953 brainstorming ideas for the new family amusement park he envisioned called Disneyland. There would be a train station and an old-fashioned Main Street square. The park would have a princess castle and a pirate ship, maybe even a rocket. Disney wanted to get investors on board, so he described the various elements he imagined to artist Herb Ryman, who translated them into a hand-drawn map — Disneyland’s first. That original concept art could fetch as much as $1 million when it goes up for auction next month, auctioneer Mike Van Eaton said.

In this April 28, 2017 photo, art dealer Mike Van Eaton stands next to a hand-drawn map from 1953 that shows Walt Disney’s original ideas for Disneyland. Photo credit: AP.

“Universal booking rooms for its newest value resort” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising — Universal Orlando is taking reservations for its new Aventura Hotel, which offers views of Islands of Adventure and its new Volcano Bay water park. Although the hotel doesn’t open until August 1, 2018, Universal is enticing guests with prices as low as $97 a night, along with a $100 dining credit, if seven nights are booked. There’s a $50 dining credit available for stays of four to six nights. Prices start at $116 a night. … Aventura guests will get early park admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but they won’t be on the water taxi line or get the Universal Express Unlimited access that is restricted to the resort’s original three hotels: the Portofino Bay, Hard Rock, and Royal Pacific. Bus transportation will be available to the parks or guests can walk on the resort walkway to CityWalk and the parks.

Universal Orlando is now taking reservations for Aventura Hotel, scheduled to open August 1, 2018, Universal is enticing guests with prices as low as $97 a night. The hotel will offer a view of Islands of Adventure and the new Volcano Bay waterpark.

Happy birthday to our friend, Brad Swanson.

Airbnb opens Florida political committee with $1 million

Airbnb, the online marketplace that allows people to find and rent vacation homes, has formed a political committee in Florida, state campaign finance records show.

“People versus the Powerful” was formed April 6 for the purpose of  “supporting or opposing statewide, legislative, multi-county and local candidates,” according to its statement of organization.

Its chairman is Tomas Martinelli of Miami, Airbnb’s Florida director of public policy and a former Florida Department of Transportation official.

For the committee’s first month of existence, the San Francisco-based company seeded it with $1 million. It has yet to make any expenditure, save for about $30 in bank fees, according to reports.

In December 2015, Airbnb began collecting and remitting the transient and sales taxes, including county-level tourist taxes in 22 counties, which are administered by the state. The company also started collecting and remitting the taxes in Pinellas County.

Last year, Airbnb began collecting taxes in more Florida counties, including Lee, Orange and Brevard.

Much like other “disruptive technologies,” state and local lawmakers will likely continue to discuss how to regulate these types of services.

The Delegation for 05.11.2017 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Democrats up in arms about Comey firing; Republicans mostly silent

It was supposed to be a rather quiet week on Capitol Hill. With the House and Senate in recess following the noisy passage of the American Health Care Act in the House, no breaking news or dueling press statements were expected for another week.

When President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday, the silence was shattered. Statements from elected officials filled the airwaves and the digital inboxes of the media.

The biggest difference from last week’s hysteria is that this week, only Democrats are doing the overwhelming majority of the talking. For every Republican declining to comment on the stunning dismissal of Comey, at least 10 Democrats could be counted on to fill the void. Trump, Comey, Russia and Nixonian were universal key words.

Democrats, including members of the Florida delegation, expressed outrage this week after President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

Several delegation members who offered comments were mostly of like mind.

“Not since President Nixon have we seen such a disgraceful abuse of power and attack on the integrity of our system of justice,” said Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch, who then maintained the theme of the day with the final line of his statement. “We need a special prosecutor and an independent commission to continue this investigation without the whiff of political oversight or interference.”

One Republican who did weigh in was Carlos Curbelo of Kendall, who stated the action “raises many questions, all of which must be answered.” He repeated an earlier call for Congress to “establish a select committee” to look into the matter, similar to the Benghazi committee from two years ago.

Sen. Bill Nelson was short and to the point. “Now it is more clear than ever that we need an independent commission to get to the truth of Russia’s interference with our election,” he said.

Sen. Marco Rubio would not immediately comment when approached by reporters, saying “I honestly don’t have any information on the circumstances.” Rubio had been presiding over the Senate when news broke.

Ponte Vedra Republican Ron DeSantis gave one of the few supporting statements of the firing, saying “President Trump made the right decision to relieve FBI Director James Comey of his duties” and that DeSantis looked for a new director that will “keep the FBI focused on its core mission.”

“We need a special prosecutor to take over the Russia investigation, and the Senate must drill down to a degree like never before on whoever is nominated to replace Director Comey,” said St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist.

#Comeygate is officially underway.

Meanwhile, here are this week’s insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State.

Delegation first-termers weigh in after their first big vote

One week after the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed the House 217-213, most of the talk on Capitol Hill this week was supposed to be about what the Senate would do with it. With Congress away, it was still the hottest topic.

The firing of FBI Director Comey earlier this week changed the subject in a big way.

Once the bill passed late last week, the delegation and most members had plenty of quotable sound bites to offer. Their themes have continued this week while home in their districts and they will continue for the next 18 months up to Election Day.

For 10 members of the delegation, it was the first big vote of their careers. What did they say to the media and what can we expect to hear from them going forward?

— “The long nightmare of Obamacare is ending. I am proud to have voted for the American Health Care Act – a step forward for all Americans,” said Republican Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach.

— “I do this today, as a doctor, for the good of my patients,” said Panama City Republican Dr. Neal Dunn.

— “The American Health Care Act repeals Obamacare, its mandates, taxes, and rules, which will lower consumer costs,” said Jacksonville Republican John Rutherford.

— “This abomination of a health care disaster will raise health care premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for hard-working Americans while at the very same time, giving $600 billion in tax breaks to big corporations,” said Democrat Al Lawson of Tallahassee.

— “This bill offends my conscience and hurts my constituents, so I voted no,” said Democrat Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park.

— “They all want to repeal it (Obamacare), but didn’t have a good replacement and so they rushed this through without even giving our Congressional Budget Office time to score it,” said Orlando Democrat Darren Soto.

— “The Republican Party has ignored the voices of millions of Americans by pushing through this disastrous bill that leaves millions of Americans behind. If and when the Senate tweaks or overhauls the bill and sends it back to the House for final approval, all will have the opportunity to fine tune their message and join their colleagues to weigh in again,” said Orlando Democrat Val Demings.

— “We’re not listening to the people who have made clear they want us to work together, fix healthcare – not destroy it – and follow the physicians’ principle of ‘first, do no harm,’” said St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist.

Rep. Charlie Crist was among those members of Florida’s congressional delegation who voted against the American Health Care Act.  (Photo by Larry Marano/WireImage)

— “The American Health Care Act delivers relief for families by ensuring you get to choose your coverage and the federal government can’t tax you based on what you think is best for your family,” said Hutchinson Island Republican Brian Mast.

— “Repealing and replacing the failing and unsustainable social experiment of Obamacare is a necessity for southwest Floridians that have seen choices dwindling and premiums skyrocketing,” said Naples Republican Francis Rooney.

Health care ad blitz

Following their vote in support of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), Rep. Curbelo, a Kendall Republican and freshman Republican Rep. Mast of Hutchinson Island were the immediate targets of attack ads from two sources.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) went after 30 Republicans with social media ads while the liberal group Save My Care began airing television and digital ads against Curbelo and Mast along with 22 other Republicans.

“We are going to work tirelessly to make sure that every ‘yes’ vote that was cast today has a great opponent waiting for them in November of ’18,” said Massachusetts Democrat Katherine M. Clark, the DCCC’s vice-chairwoman of the party recruitment team.

Unlike the two Floridians, some of those targeted voted against the bill.

Both Floridians, along with several colleagues, have some cover fire for their votes. The conservative American Action Network (AAN), strong allies of Speaker Paul Ryan, has begun a $2 million television ad buy thanking Republicans like Mast and Curbelo for “keeping their promise” to repeal and replace Obamacare.

A total of 21 districts will see the ad, which also includes the districts of Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. In addition, AAN is spending another $250,000 on digital ads supporting Curbelo, Mast, Ryan, McCarthy and 21 others.

“This is a critical time for Americans to learn the truth about the new health care bill,” said AAN Executive Director Corry Bliss.

The group is also spending another $500,000 on a national ad buy that thanks Ryan and the Republicans.

NRCC launches ad thanking Mast for healthcare vote — The committee released a new web ad, called “Promise Made, Promise Kept,” to highlight the passage of the American Health Care Act. The 50-second spot thanks Republicans for their support, and targets Democrats for their support of the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare.

“The NRCC plans to remind voters through 2018 that Democrats were happy to continue to condemn them to a rapidly failing health care system that was in a death spiral. The status quo was insufficient, and Republicans took action,” said Maddie Anderson, a spokeswoman for the NRCC, in a statement. “Delivering on promises to Americans should not be a groundbreaking concept, but somehow the Democrats are unable to wrap their minds around it.”

Bill Nelson puts airlines on notice

The Orlando Democrat delivered a message to airlines across the nation: Get your act together, or else.

“I have no trouble in putting the airlines on notice if they can’t get their act together and start treating the flying public with respect rather than making them think that they are self-loading cargo, then this congress is going to be forced to act,” he said during a floor speech Tuesday. “And that time is going to come soon as the Senate begins work this year on what will be a bipartisan, long-term bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration.”

Nelson’s comments came one day after irate passengers swarmed ticket counters at Fort Lauderdale’s airport after Spirit Airlines canceled nine flights Monday. The discount airline blamed the decision on pilots’ failure to show up, according to Josh Replogle and Terry Spencer with The Associate Press.

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office said about 500 people were crowded into Spirit’s terminal at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport late Monday night after the airline canceled the flights because there were no pilots. Video posted online showed deputies grappling with screaming passengers and breaking up fights.

Deputies arrested three people from New York in the Fort Lauderdale airport, charging them with inciting a riot, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and trespassing.

The incident is just the latest in a series of incidents involving airlines. Last month, cellphone video captured a passenger being dragged off a United Airlines flight. Other horror stories from customers later surfaced involving flights on Delta and American airlines.

“Now, what happened … in Fort Lauderdale is just another example of passengers becoming sick and tired of what they perceive as mistreatment by airlines, be it that circumstance in Chicago, the forcible removal of a passenger or be it failing airline IT systems and airline fees run amok,” said Nelson. “And so the airlines better start paying attention to this. It appears that airlines are giving the impression that they have forgotten that their customers must come first. So what is it? I know the airlines, the companies don’t intend to do this, but it’s happening, it’s being recorded on video, and it is all the more causing people to express their frustrations.”

Nelson said his heart goes out to CEOs who are trying to “change a culture of treating with disrespect or ignorance of passengers.”

“It’s important they change that culture because we will continue to see these kind of circumstances arise if passengers do not feel like that they are getting the proper respect that they deserve,” he said. “After all, they are customers. They are paying customers of the airlines.”

Rubio-world

Marco Rubio, GOP colleagues want answers on Iranian prisoner releases — Florida’s junior senator wants some answers on the side deals surrounding the U.S. and Iran nuclear deal of 2016. According to an expose published by Politico on April 24, prosecutions of individuals supposedly assisting Iran’s nuclear program were dropped while others had their sentences commuted.

Rubio was joined by several Republican colleagues seeking more information. Late last week, the 13 senators wrote to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, asking them to look into the matter.

“Based on new reports, we are concerned that President Obama and certain previous administration officials intentionally suppressed the seriousness of the charges against these individuals in order to garner public support for the nuclear deal with Iran, and we fear that these individuals may still pose a threat to the national security of the United States,” they wrote.

“Given that much of this information was previously kept from the American public, we respectfully request a report or an in-person briefing to Congress on this investigation at your earliest convenience,” wrote the senators.

Rubio files legislation to extend ban on drilling in eastern gulf — The Miami Republican introduced legislation last week to extend the ban on oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico to 2027, joining Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and a bipartisan group of House members who have already made a similar request.

But Rubio also wants Florida to receive a share of revenue generated by drilling in the central and western portions of the Gulf. That’s a significant departure from the current policy, reports Alex Leary with the Tampa Bay Times.

The proposal, according to Leary’s report, lacks specifics, and will likely draw questions from states in favor of drilling that share in revenues and have fought the federal government for a bigger portion.

In an op-ed piece for the Pensacola News-Journal on May 4, Rubio wrote while “Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama receive a direct flow of money they can use on conservation and environmental efforts, restoring their coasts, hurricane protection, flood control, mitigation measures for wildlife and approved federal projects, Florida is losing out.”

“This is unfair. As the tragic Deepwater Horizon disaster demonstrated, Florida’s environment and economies are in danger of being affected by rare but major drilling accidents in the Gulf—even with the 125-mile ban in the current moratorium,” he wrote. “The 2010 spill happened during a busy time for Florida’s coastal communities, where small business workers rely on the valuable tourism dollars generated by hotels, restaurants, fishing, and families on vacation. Cancellations after Deepwater significantly harmed our state’s workers and economy.”

Rubio said in his op-ed it is his hope that the legislation will start a “much-needed conversation about commonsense, bipartisan solutions that will benefit Florida’s environment and workers, and ensure our state is treated fairly.”

Paulson’s Principles: Will Florida’s congressional districts turn blue?

After the 2016 elections, Florida elected eight new members of Congress, almost a third of its Congressional delegation. Florida has the third largest Congressional delegation, but is a political weakling in DC. Florida is a mega-state with mini-power. The recently announced retirement of Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the senior member of the Florida delegation, will continue Florida’s declining power ranking.

The Ros-Lehtinen retirement gives Democrats a great opportunity to flip a seat. Congressional District 27, which she represents, is a +5 Democratic district which Hillary Clinton won by 20 points.

Democrats will have a great chance to flip neighboring District 26 (+6 Dem.) held by Carlos Curbelo. Also at risk is Mario Diaz-Balart in District 25 (+4 Rep.) and recently elected Brian Mast in District 18 (+5 Rep.). The potential loss of three Republican Cuban-American seats would signal a real change in south Florida politics.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has already targeted the Curbelo and Mast seats as two of their thirty top priorities to flip in 2018. That was before Ros-Lehtinen’s retirement announcement, and her District 27 seat will move to the top of potential seats to flip.

A crowded field of Republican and Democratic candidates has already emerged to run for Ros-Lehtinen’s seat. The district has become heavily Democrat and will be difficult for Republicans to retain.

On paper, Republicans have fewer target districts to recapture. Former Republican state senator, Education Commissioner, Attorney General and Governor Charlie Crist won the District 13 seat as a Democrat. The seat was the first congressional district to elect a Republican from Florida in 1954, and three Republicans held the seat for 58 years.

District 13 was redrawn after the Florida Supreme Court threw out the boundaries drawn by the Republican legislature and used the map drawn by the League of Woman Voters. The district moved from a slightly Republican district (+1 Rep.) to a slightly Democratic district (+2 Dem.). The demographics are trending Democrat and Crist has raised a million dollars for his upcoming campaign.

Perhaps the most vulnerable Democratic district is District 7 won by political newcomer Stephanie Murphy. Murphy defeated long-time incumbent John Mica in a district that is evenly split between the parties. Republicans will do everything they can to try to recapture this seat. A Democratic flip of only three seats would give the Democrats a 14-13 advantage in the Florida congressional delegation and would be a major morale booster for the party.

State Sen. David Simmons has met with representatives of the National Republican Congressional Committee and is “98% certain” that he will run against Murphy. Simmons has strong name recognition in the district due to many years of service in the Legislature.

Republicans did very well in the midterm elections of 2010 and 2014, but Barack Obama was the sitting president. The party not occupying the White House generally does well in midterm elections.

Democrats may be helped in more ways than one with Donald Trump in the White House. Then again, almost everyone was surprised by Trump’s performance in the 2016 elections.

 Gaetz, colleagues urge Navy to fix oxygen problems with training jets

The cause of “psychological episodes” suffered by pilots of the Navy’s T-45 fighter aircraft is still not known, but the Fort Walton Beach Republican is pressing the Navy to get to the bottom of it. In a letter to Admiral John Richardson, the Chief of Naval Operations, Gaetz and fellow members of the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee are giving a respectful nudge to step it up and to let Congress know what is happening.

“We ask that you provide the Subcommittee with the current schedule or timeline for all test and evaluations of equipment associated with T-45 aircraft to include the specific equipment being tested, the location of where testing is being conducted, the frequency of those tests, and how the results of these tests are informing the Navy’s way forward,” the letter said.

Other signers of the letter included Subcommittee Chairman Michael Turner, an Ohio Republican, and Niki Tsongas, a Massachusetts Democrat. The T-45s are used for pilot training at the Pensacola Naval Air Station.

Earlier, all training flights were grounded as the Navy sought answers. They were later resumed in mid-April, but at lower altitudes where the oxygen systems are not needed.

“I’m grateful for that accommodation that the Navy has made,” said Gaetz. “But I remain very concerned that we have not yet diagnosed why the oxygen systems in T-45 aircrafts are literally poisoning the pilots.”

Health care costs dominate Murphy round table

Rep. Murphy is still getting an earful on the woes of health care, hearing from members of the Sanford Chamber of Commerce this week about health care concerns reports Scott Powers with Florida Politics.

Several people at the round table expressed little concern for coverage for all, or pre-existing conditions, or for refugees, but argued that the costs must be contained and brought down. One called the other issues “lipstick on a pig” when people cannot get health insurance they can afford.

Citing her husband’s small business, Murphy agreed that the costs “are prohibitive,” but mostly listened as members of the chamber relayed their concerns.

One member said she and her husband are spending $2,200 a month, for a $5,000 deductible, contending the costs of insurance have “gone out of control.” Another said he knows small business owners unwilling to hire a 50th employee for fear they’ll be required to provide insurance. Another spoke of how he believes uncovered procedures, such as laser eye surgery, have fallen dramatically in price because the free market has driven down costs, something that does not happen for insured procedures.

Murphy responded by applauding the diversity of perspectives.

“While we may not agree on everything, I think the important thing is we continue to have these conversations,” she said.

Roll Call series features Demings

The freshman Orlando Democrat was this week’s featured legislator in Roll Call newspaper’s regular series called Take 5. First-year members are often the subjects of these pieces.

She recalled her 27-year career in law enforcement, capped by her appointment as the first female Chief of the Orlando Police Department. Demings had a ready answer for how her earlier career helped prepare for a new role in Congress.

“We really needed to form relationships with the community and work with the community to solve problems,” she said. “And so, those are the great skills I learned and that I bring over.”

Demings revealed the last book she read (Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life”) and her role models were her mother and Rosa Parks. In Congress, she is closest to Nevada

Democrat Jacky Rosen and Republican John Rutherford, the former Jacksonville Sheriff.

Take 5 has featured other freshman members of the delegation including Tallahassee Democrat Al Lawson, St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist, and Hutchinson Island Republican Brian Mast.

Mast files bill to speed up Lake O reservoir project

Rep. Mast unveiled a proposal that would speed up the completion of Everglades restoration projects, including a massive reservoir system south of Lake Okeechobee approved by the Florida Legislature this year.

Dubbed the Everglades FIRST (Flow Increased Rely on Storage Treatment) Act, the bill prioritizes projects designed to fix water reservoir storage capacity issues around Lake Okeechobee to minimize future discharges into the the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.

“We cannot afford to wait another eight to ten years to begin construction on a southern reservoir.  Every summer with toxic algal blooms means more businesses are forced to close, more people lose their jobs and more children get sick,” said Mast in a statement. “Now that the Florida legislature has passed S.B. 10, the federal government needs to step up and do its part to get this project done as quickly as possible.”

Ana Ceballos with the Associated Press reports the bill will be formally introduced Thursday, and would expedite the ambitious plan by a top Florida Republican to build a $1.5 billion reservoir system on state land. Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill this week.

Mast’s bill would instruct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the federal timeline for reports that will ensure Everglades projects are finished on time.

— “Congressman Mast has demonstrated impressive leadership for America’s Everglades and the majestic St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. By expediting the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir project, the Everglades FIRST Act answers the call of countless advocates who refused to stand by as toxic algae lapped at their coasts. On the heels of Florida legislation that also advances this water storage project south of Lake Okeechobee, this bill demonstrates the federal commitment to moving forward together on this crucial restoration project,” said Julie Hill-Gabriel, the deputy director of Audubon Florida.

— “By focusing on supporting the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and the Central Everglades Planning Project, Congressman Mast’s Everglades FIRST Act can bring attention to the Congressionally-authorized projects and inspire more efficient efforts between the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District,” said Temperince Morgan, executive director of The Nature Conservancy’s Florida Chapter.

–“We greatly appreciate Congressman Mast’s leadership toward fixing Florida’s water quality challenges. Florida is the ‘Fishing Capital of the World’, and the future of our industry is dependent on clean waters and abundant fisheries. The Everglades FIRST Act will help ensure Everglades restoration is completed in an expedited and comprehensive fashion” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association.

High praise for F. Rooney

 Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had nothing but good things to say about the Naples Republican during a stop in Southwest Florida.

McCarthy, a California Republican, joined Rooney, a freshman congressman, on a helicopter tour of the Everglades and the Lake Okeechobee Watershed on Tuesday. The tour was meant to highlight the importance of funding projects that have already been approved, and in some cases designed, within the watershed.

“He’s been telling me about this since before he was elected and he invited me before even getting sworn in,” said McCarthy. “This is a natural treasure.”

Rep. Francis Rooney and Majority Kevin McCarthy during a tour of the Everglades this week. (Photo via Twitter)

McCarthy praised Rooney for the work he has been doing on behalf of his constituents, saying it is hard to believe he is just in his first term.

“I have watched Francis from the beginning, it’s hard to imagine he’s a freshman congressman,” he said. “It seems like he knows how to work for his constituents.”

McCarthy said Rooney’s constituents should “be excited to have an individual like Francis Rooney as their member of Congress.”

“He’s not going to sit back and wait to make the voices heard of what’s needed in this area,” he said. “He knows what needs to be built, and he’s making the argument very strongly. Take for instance, I’m the majority leader, but I’m here seeing this, and this is the most important thing he asked me to do.”

Rooney was elected to serve in Florida’s 19th Congressional District in 2016, replacing Rep. Curt Clawson. While this marks his first elected position, Rooney is no stranger to politics. He served as the ambassador to the Holy See under President George W. Bush, and was a top GOP donor.

Fundraiser set for Diaz-Balart re-election

Rep. Diaz-Balart appears to be gearing up for 2018, with a $1,000 a person fundraiser scheduled for later this month in Washington, D.C.

The fundraiser is scheduled for May 22 at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, D.C., reports Dave Levinthal with The Center for Public Integrity. The fundraiser is hosted by lobbyist Gene Moran.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Moran’s clients include the Florida Defense Contractors Association, Global Ocean Security Technologies, Howell Laboratories, and Kongsberg Maritime.

Currently serving in his eighth term in Congress, Diaz-Balart is the chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee. In an interview with Florida Politics in April, Diaz-Balart said he tries not to worry about re-election.

“I’m a firm believe you do good things, and good things happen,” he said at the time. “I don’t worry about that. I just work, and good things happen.”

Announced candidates for Ros-Lehtinen seat beginning to grow

The number of those officially seeking to run for the District 27 seat held by the veteran Miami Republican for the past 28 years is growing. Within the past week, two more have announced their intention to run, including the first Republican.

Already in was Democrat Scott Fuhrman, a South Miami businessman, who announced last month he would give it another shot after a 10-point loss to Ros-Lehtinen last year.

Just days later, Miami Beach City Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez announced she would also mount a challenge. Another Democrat is University of Miami academic advisor Michael Hepburn while Mark Anthony Person has filed with the Division of elections.

The game dramatically changed with Ros-Lehtinen’s announcement of her impending retirement from Congress. A virtual Who’s Who of Miami-Dade politics are lining up their ducks to run.  

On the Republican side, Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, who has represented much of the district while on the commission, has announced his candidacy. Hialeah GOP State Sen. Rene Garcia is looking at it and, reportedly, so is Republican Sen. Anitere Flores. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has reportedly reached out to Jeb Bush, Jr. and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera, who is “discussing it with my family.”

Prominent Democrats include state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez of Miami, who has already said he will run. Also mulling things over is state Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, and Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales.

Independent Miami-Dade County Commissioner and former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez, who says “there is definitely room for someone who is independent,” is also taking a look.

Scott to chair New Republican super PAC

Rick Scott appears to be laying the groundwork for a future Senate bid.

The Naples Republican will chair the NewRepublican.org, a super PAC aimed at changing the way the Republican Party approaches the future. Scott also announced Melissa Stone, who served as his chief of staff and ran his 2014 re-election campaign, will serve as the organization’s executive director; while Taylor Teepel, who has served in the Scott administration, will serve as the PAC’s finance director.

“New Republican’s goal is to make the Republican Party Great Again. Both political parties are hopelessly stuck in WWI style trench warfare. Both political parties are failing us,” said Scott in a statement. “There is nothing new, it’s the same thing every day – lob some grenades over the ditch and then brace for incoming. The goal of New Republican is to break out of this trench warfare. We have to get rid of all our tired old political jargon and clichés.”

Scott, who can’t run for re-election because of term limits, is believed to be considering a run for Senate in 2018. He’s made several trips to Washington, D.C., including this week where he met with national reports to talk about the super PAC.

Sen. Bill Nelson plans to run for re-election. In April, the Orlando Democrat announced he raised more than $2 million in the first quarter of the 2017.

Recent polls have shown Nelson would lead Scott in a hypothetical head-to-head match-up. A poll from the Florida Chamber of Commerce released in March showed Nelson had a 6-point lead over Scott, 48 percent to 42 percent.

That margin was similar to one predicted in a UNF Public Opinion Research Laboratory survey released earlier in the month that found Nelson would take 44 percent to Scott’s 38 percent. A Mason-Dixon survey showed Nelson with a 5-point edge over Scott, 46 percent to 41 percent.

Son of former Congressman, nephew of current House member, joins DC lobbying effort

Another Diaz-Balart is trying to make a splash in Washington. Daniel Diaz-Balart, son of former Congressman Lincoln and nephew of 25th District Republican Mario, is getting into the DC lobbying “swamp.”

In February, Daniel DB established Biscayne Strategies LLC based in Miami. Biscayne’s disclosure form indicates he will lobby on tax issues for DC-based Cloakroom Advisors LLC.  One of Cloakroom’s team members is former Jacksonville Republican Ander Crenshaw’s Chief of Staff, John Ariale.

Diaz-Balart is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and the Florida State University College of Law.

Apple looks to restore Carnegie Library, convert to store

As the technology giant looks to turn its stores into places for things like concerts, art exhibitions and photography classes, Apples has its sights set on the Carnegie Library in Mount Vernon Square.

Jonathan O’Connell with The Washington Post reports Apple officials plan to restore the building and turn the library into a place to hold “free, open-to-the-public concerts, art exhibitions, workshops for teachers and coding classes for children.”

The goal, however, will still be to sell more iPhones and iPads. O’Connell reports that Apple plans to put a “Genius Grove,” a tree-lined sales floor, where the Carnegie Library once housed the book collection. Reading rooms will become places to browse products.

“This is a way of creating a reason to come to the store, to touch and feel our products, but also to have an engaging experience with someone who is passionate about the same thing,” said B.J. Siegel, Apple Retail’s senior design director, according to the report.

Apple has picked up a historic preservation award for its work in restoring buildings in New York.

The company opened stores in a former restaurant bay in a Depression-era brick storefront in Brooklyn, a 130-year-old former back in Paris, and a former restaurant bay in New York’s Grand Central Terminal.

 

Sunburn for 5.11.17 – Adam Putnam’s hometown launch; Rick Scott forms super PAC; David Richardson eyeing CD 27; Betsy Devos booed; Happy birthday, Alan Suskey!

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

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

Happy birthday, A-Susk. I have the honor to be … Your Obedient Servant, the real A-Ham.

Also belated birthday wishes to Tom DiGiacomo, America’s friend.

ADAM PUTNAM’S HOMETOWN KICK-OFF

Standing in front of a huge Florida flag covering the stately pillars of a century-old county courthouse with orange crates on the steps, Putnam on Wednesday used a combination of small-town nostalgia, conservative politics and a deep knowledge of his home state to launch his gubernatorial campaign, reports Tamara Lush of the Associated Press.

Hundreds of supporters turn out for Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s kick off to his 2018 campaign for governor at the Polk County Courthouse.

— Putnam says he wants to encourage young people to come to Florida for high-tech agribusiness and science jobs. Setting aside money for research for citrus greening — the disease that’s devastating the orange and grapefruit groves — is one example of how to draw smart, young professionals here, he said.

— On Thursday, Putnam starts a 10-day bus tour of the state that will take him to 22 communities.

— Putnam begins his campaign with about $7 million in the bank

Here are excerpts from Putnam’s speech:

— “I’m fortunate – I have been a Floridian all my life. I grew up in my family’s citrus and cattle business. Like any small business, workdays were not nine-to-five. And there were no holidays. That life taught me responsibility. Hard work. Perseverance. Responsibility. These are common values. And too often in our society, they are forgotten.

— “It has been an honor to serve my community, my friends, my neighbors, my state, and my country. But for me, it’s always been Florida first.

— “We’ve got to put Florida first to make sure that it isn’t only the place where people come after a life well-lived somewhere else; it’s where they come to launch their own American Dream.

— “Our state can be the launch pad for the American Dream. The state that is the fishing capital of the world can also be the state that builds the boats and trains the craftsmen. The state that trained millions of soldiers and sailors and airmen can retrain our citizens with the skills that allow them to compete in a rapidly changing world – and win. The state that put a man on the moon can build the tools for the next giant leap for mankind.

— “American exceptionalism is real. If you ever doubt that… Look at the grocery clerk in Lakeland who revolutionized the supermarket industry… Or the cashier on I-Drive who now owns the souvenir shop… It’s the truck driver hauling fruit who saved up to buy an orange grove, and then another… It’s the hotel maid who now runs her own bed and breakfast.

— “Hard-working folks like these have been able to achieve their American Dream right here in Florida. I want every single Floridian to be able to tell a similar story. I want people around the country to know this is where it happens.

— “It’s why we have more work to do. It’s why we’ve got to keep fighting to put Florida first and make our state the launch pad for the American Dream.

Thank you, Captain Obvious:

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— OUT ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Rick Scott to chair federal super PAC — The Naples Republican will chair the New Republican, a super PAC aimed at changing the way the Republican Party approaches the future. Scott announced Melissa Stone, who served as his chief of staff and ran his 2014 re-election campaign, will serve as the organization’s executive director; while Taylor Teepel, who has served in the Scott administration, will serve as the PAC’s finance director. “New Republican’s goal is to make the Republican Party Great Again. Both political parties are hopelessly stuck in WWI style trench warfare. Both political parties are failing us,” said Scott in a statement. “There is nothing new, it’s the same thing every day – lob some grenades over the ditch and then brace for incoming. The goal of New Republican is to break out of this trench warfare. We have to get rid of all our tired old political jargon and clichés.” The political committee was founded by Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist and advertising legend. He will stay on as the super PAC’s senior advisor. Scott, who can’t run for re-election because of term limits, is believed to be considering a run for Senate in 2018.

Gov. Rick Scott, seen here in Washington, tells news media how his “New Republican” super-PAC will remodel the GOP the way he did in Florida. Photo credit: Ledyard King.

First in Sunburn – Gwen Graham’s first campaign video: ‘I care about making a difference’” – The Democratic candidate for governor is releasing her first campaign video to share her love for Florida and aspirations for the state’s future. “My love for Florida runs deep, but my patience — my patience for inaction in the state I love has run out,” Graham says in the video which features scenes of her announcement speech and Workdays across Florida teaching, installing solar panels and restoring wetlands. Click on the image below to watch the video.

Graham works with ex-offenders at Operation New Hope — The former congresswoman and 2018 gubernatorial hopeful joined Operation New Hope in Jacksonville for a workday Wednesday to learn more about the efforts to develop affordable housing and help ex-offenders with workforce training. “The ex-offenders I met today are working to put their lives back on track. They just want a second chance at becoming contributing members of their community — and Operation New Hope is giving them that chance,” she said in a statement. “Operation New Hope serves as an example for reintegration programs throughout our state and nation. Jacksonville is fortunate to have such a great organization, and I am fortunate to have spent the day working with them.” Founded in 1999, Operation New Hope has successfully placed more than 2,500 ex-offenders in the workforce. The organization has indirectly served 7,200 children and helped build or restore 80 homes.

— “Gwen Graham takes page from father’s campaign playbook in race for Governor” via Ryan Benk of WJCT

Jarvis Guthrie, an ex-offender who now works with Operation New Hope, talks with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham at a campaign stop in Jacksonville.

Andrew Gillum camp brackets Graham’s fundraising numbers per a source within the Tallahassee mayor’s team: “Congresswoman Graham’s total is pretty heavily padded with the $1.2 million she rolled over from not running in 2016. When you roll over 75% of your total, are you really “surging” to the front of the money chase? I don’t think so. When we’re talking about dollars raised for the Governor’s race, it’s a different story – with her thus far at $400K for her PC in April, coupled with $1.2M of Congressional money. Gillum is at $1M raised. Different story altogether.”

Shevrin Jones endorses Andrew Gillum — The West Park Democrat and ranking member on the House Education Committee announced Wednesday he was throwing his support behind Andrew Gillum in race to replace Gov. Scott. “His focus on public education as a way to lift up people in every corner of this state is what our state needs to transition into an economy that works for everyone,” said Jones in a statement. “He is working on so many key aspects of public education: “SHOP 2.0,” a renewed focus on skills and trades education; being the first person in this field to call for an end to high-stakes testing; standing up for public school students and teachers’ funding; and rejecting the harsh rhetoric that has blamed teachers for the persistent challenges our students face. Mayor Gillum rightfully views public education as our best way to move this state forward, and I’m so thrilled to endorse him.”

Assignment editors: Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine will speak at the Tiger Bay Club of Volusia County meeting at 11 a.m. at the LPGA Clubhouse, 1000 Champions Drive in Daytona Beach.

“Matt Caldwell to kick-off Ag Commissioner campaign Monday in Fort Myers” via Florida Politics — The North Fort Myers Republican will officially kick-off his campaign with an event at Sun Harvest Citrus, 14601 Six Mile Cypress Parkway in Fort Myers at 11:15 a.m., Monday. Caldwell, who had been expected to throw his hat in the race to replace Putnam, filed to run for the seat earlier this month. Since January, Caldwell has raised $702,825 for his political committee Friends of Matt Caldwell. State records show his February 2017 fundraising haul of $412,075 was the largest single month haul since August 2016, when the committee was started. The committee ended March with more than $650,000 cash on hand, according to state records.

“Daniel Sohn withdraws from 2018 Agriculture Commissioner’s race” via Florida PoliticsSohn, a Democratic candidate for Agriculture Commissioner in 2018, announced on his Facebook page Wednesday that he is withdrawing from the race. Sohn, district aide to Palm Beach Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor Pat Edmonson, confirmed the post in a phone call. “There are some serious re-occurring health issues that need my immediate attention,” Sohn said in the post. “Over the next couple of months, I will be undergoing procedures that will require much recovery time. I promise during that time to get myself stronger and ready to continue to resist … In the future I hope to count on your support again.”

Scoop –David Richardson preparing for run in CD 27” via Scott Powers of Florida PoliticsRichardson is preparing for a run now that Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros–Lehtinen is retiring. Richardson, of Miami Beach, who won his last re-election with 65 percent in his House District 113 entirely inside CD 27, said he is traveling to Washington D.C. in the next week or so to discuss a candidacy with potential donors and supporters, including leaders of The Victory Fund and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He has not committed to running for Congress in CD 27, but he is making all the preparations. “I’m taking a strong look at it,” Richardson told FloridaPolitics.com.

Miami-Dade commissioner launches Republican candidacy for Congress” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Commissioner Bruno Barreiro formally became a candidate for Congress, after he said he filed paperwork to begin fundraising and campaigning for the seat held by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring next year. “Throughout my years as a public servant, I have witnessed firsthand how my efforts can positively contribute to the growth and well-being of our residents in South Florida,” Barreiro, a Republican, said in a statement. “I have a pulse for the needs of our community, and understand the importance of having a strong advocate for South Floridians in Washington D.C.” Barreiro is the first well-known Republican to enter the race for the Democratic-leaning 27th District, after announcing his plans to the Miami Herald last week. Former Miami-Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado is also interested in running, and national Republicans have reached out to Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Jeb Bush Jr.

Disney writes big check to anti-gambling committee”– Disney Worldwide Services, Inc. gave $250,000 to a political committee behind a proposed constitutional amendment to slow down the expansion of gambling in Florida. “Voters in Charge” is seeking to put an amendment on the November 2018 ballot, with language approved by the Florida Supreme Court last month. If passed, voters would have the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling” in Florida. Any future casino-style games would need voter approval. In April, Charge raised $287,675 with $250,000 of that from Disney Worldwide Services. Another $30,000 came from the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, state records show.

Florida Dems take shot at Jose Felix Diaz — The state Democratic Party took a shot at the Miami Republican Wednesday, one day after he filed to run in the Senate District 40 special election. In a statement, Johanna Cervone, a FDP spokeswoman, called Diaz “another Trump wannabe since he was fired from Trump’s show ‘The Apprentice’ for failing to get the job done and lead his team.” The state party also took a swipe at Diaz, saying he wasn’t “enough of a leader to denounce his friend and roommate Frank Artiles’ racist and sexist comments.”

Daisy Baez racks up endorsements in SD 40 — The Coral Gables Democrat has scored the backing of several current and former members of the Florida Legislature, as well as at least a half dozen South Florida Democratic leaders. Her campaign announced Wednesday she has received the backing of former Sen. Arthenia Joyner; Sen. Victor Torres; Reps. John Cortes, Tracie Davis, Sean Shaw, Emily Slosberg, Richard Stark, Barbara Watson, and Clovis Watson; former state Rep. Annie Betancourt; Broward County Commissioner & former state Sen. Nan Rich; South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard;  Pinecrest Councilmember Anna Hochkamer; Coral Gables Commissioner Patricia Keon; former Doral Councilmember Sandra Ruiz; Hector Caraballo, a Democratic Party leader; Arthur Costa, a Democratic Party leader; and Millie Herrera, the SE regional representative for former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

Kim Daniels files for re-election” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics –Daniels’ filing means that every member of the Duval Delegation has filed for some 2018 office … Daniels’ major legislative accomplishment this term was close to her heart, as a Charismatic evangelistic preacher with a global following. She filed the House version of the “Religious Expression in Public Schools” bill, which cleared the Florida Legislature this session. Though groups such as the Human Rights Campaign object to the legislation as blurring the lines between church and state, that’s not a position Daniels or the Florida Legislature shares.

Save the Date: The Florida Foundation for Liberty will host a fundraiser for Rep. Paul Renner at 5:30 p.m., May 25 at The River Club, 1 Independent Drive in Jacksonville. According to a copy of the invitation, former Ambassador John Rood, Mori Hosseini, Howard Korman and Tom Petway are listed as the co-chairs of the $1,000 a person fundraising reception.

“As HD 44 special election candidates’ watch begins, Bobby Olszewski nabs Steve Crisafulli’s backing” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Republican Bobby Olszewski has grabbed another endorsement – former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli – in his campaign to win election in Florida House District 44, now heading for a special election this summer with the resignation of incumbent state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle of Windermere. His endorsements, which include numerous local officials from west Orange County, and his fundraising, which brought in $21,000 last month, may be hedging not against current opponents so much as against other Republicans contemplating jumping into the now short race. No special election dates have been set yet, but an announcement from the Florida Division of Elections, through Gov. Scott, is expected to set a primary in mid-summer and a general election soon after, creating the opportunity for a quick campaign.

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

“ ‘Lack of transparency’ causes calls for Scott budget veto” via Florida PoliticsBoth citing a “lack of transparency,” the heads of the League of Women Voters of Florida and the First Amendment Foundation are calling for Gov. Scott to veto the just-passed state budget for 2017-18. But with the House of Representatives passing the budget 98-14 and the Senate approving 34-4 on Monday, there are enough votes there to override a veto, assuming no votes change. League President Pamela S. Goodman and FAF President Barbara A. Petersen alerted their members in separate emails this week.

The final budget arrives in the Florida HouseRepresentativesMonday, May 8, 2017, at the state Capitol in Tallahassee. Photo credit: Mark Wallheiser.

What the Gov’s Office is reading –Chief Executive magazine survey of best business states again names Florida No. 2, but raises concerns” via the Tampa Bay Times – For the fifth straight year Florida was ranked as the No. 2 state for business in Chief Executive magazine’s 13th annual “Best & Worst States for Business” survey. The state consistently ranks among the leaders since the survey’s inception — in part, the magazine states, because CEOs find it one of the top living environments. The rankings appear in the magazine’s May/June issue and reflect CEO perceptions of best and worst states based on a range of key measures. Florida trailed only Texas, which has held a grip on the top ranking every year the survey has been conducted. But not all of the survey feedback on Florida was good. “CEOs ranked its workforce quality a relatively low No. 18,” the magazine states. “And the state’s economic development efforts are in question due to infighting between Republican Gov. Scott and the Republican-controlled legislature.” Florida’s new legislative budget, which still faces the governor’s review, would sharply cut the use of state funds to recruit businesses and market the state’s tourism industry.

“Barahona claim bill, ‘whiskey & Wheaties’ measure go to Gov” – The first bill would pay $3.75 million to Victor Barahona, now 16, who survived physical and mental abuse, torture, and attempted murder, and to other beneficiaries including blood relatives of his and his twin sister Nubia Barahona, then 10, whose life ended in murder at the hands of her adoptive father in 2011. The children were charges of the state’s Department of Children and Families The second bill would allow retailers to remove the ‘wall of separation’ between hard liquor and other goods. A veto campaign has already begun, with opponents—including independent liquor stores—calling the proposal a job-killer. The governor has till May 24 to sign the bills into law, veto them or allow them to become law without a signature.

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“Richard Corcoran joins calls for medical marijuana special session” via Florida PoliticsHouse Speaker Corcoran has added his voice to those calling for a special legislative session on medical marijuana. Corcoran spoke Wednesday on “The Morning Show with Preston Scott” on WFLA-FM radio in Tallahassee. Lawmakers failed to come to agreement this Legislative Session on a bill that would implement the medical cannabis constitutional amendment passed in 2016 … “I do believe and support the notion that we should come back and address and finalize dealing with medical marijuana,” he (said). “Does that mean a special session?” Scott asked. “It would, absolutely,” Corcoran said.

— Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers told The News Service of Florida on Wednesday her company has sold whole-leaf products in different forms — all designed to be ingested by vaporizers — for nearly a year. Those products, however, were ground up, unlike the new bud-like product that can be smoked. Quincy-based Trulieve’s new product, first sold on Tuesday, comes in canisters designed for use with vaporizer pens. But patients can easily use the substance in other ways, such as in joints, bongs or pipes — consumption methods off-limits under state law.

Tweet, tweet: @JaredEMoskowitz: Nor should we leave gaming to the courts #ExpandTheCall

A literal backroom meeting helped yield last week’s compromise on testing reforms” via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times –With the Senate in daily floor session last week — a scheduled public meeting — at some point, six senators stepped away from the floor to convene around a conference table in a separate room at the back of the Senate chamber. Confined in that small space, no member of the public could have observed or overheard what the three Republicans and three Democrats discussed, even though the chamber was in open session just outside. The conversations and negotiating that took place in that room helped yield a 72-page rewrite to a House education bill (HB 549), which senators later approved unanimously … Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, of Miami Gardens, revealed the existence of the meeting while speaking with his caucus at a public breakfast the final day of the 2017 session. While discussing a 278-page K-12 budget bill (HB 7069) House Republicans had produced late Friday — which incorporated most of, but not all, of the testing bill the Senate passed and myriad other policies — Braynon complained that input provided by Democrats wasn’t reflected in the final product.

Carlos Guillermo Smith talks about guns, PTSD funding, the Speaker’s love” via Orlando Rising — As a progressive, what do you think was the most important thing the Florida Legislature did or didn’t do this year? Smith: Forming the first-ever Legislative Progressive Caucus or LPC. This year, we launched the LPC to begin organizing progressive voices within the legislature as a voting bloc to impact policy and work together toward a progressive agenda. OR: Post-Pulse, Democrats’ efforts to limit assault weapons and high-capacity magazines didn’t get any further in this session than before that terrible tragedy galvanized many people on the issues. Is it a lost cause for supporters of restrictions on high-powered weapons? Smith: NOT TRUE. Until now, lawmakers weren’t even filing proactive legislation to address the epidemic of gun violence. OR: What did Orlando get out of this session? Smith: After all the tragedy our community has endured, I am disappointed at how the legislature treated Orlando. SILVER LINING: Luckily, I worked with Rep. Mike Miller and Sen. Linda Stewart to secure $2.5 million in funding for the PTSD clinic at UCF helping veterans, first responders and Pulse survivors.

Jeff Atwater sticking around as CFO until state budget is nailed down” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — Atwater will remain in office as state chief financial officer until the state budget is completely settled, his office confirmed … Atwater has announced plans to leave Tallahassee to become CFO at Florida Atlantic University upon the conclusion of the Legislative Session. That came Friday, although the Legislature required another three days to pass an $83 billion state budget. That budget — plus conforming bills spelling out some of the spending — is now in Gov. Scott’s hands. He could veto individual line items or the entire spending plan. That latter option would force the Legislature to return to the Capitol to attempt an override or, theoretically, give the Governor more of what he wants. As for    replacing Atwater, Scott seems in no particular hurry.

— STATEWIDE — 

“Trump-fighting Miami billionaire Mike Fernandez founds group, gives $1M for deportation-fighting lawyers” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Mike Fernandez, the billionaire former Republican donor who left the party due to President Donald Trump, is fighting the administration’s hardline immigration policies with a frontline weapon: lawyers for the undocumented facing deportation. As more illegal immigrants are swept up, detained or deported, Fernandez founded a fundraising group called the Immigration Partnership and Coalition to underwrite groups that provide legal counsel for detained illegal immigrants who don’t have felony records Fernandez announced Wednesday he was giving $1 million of his own fortune to the effort, pledged $4 million more and was spending an additional $250,000 for the staff and infrastructure for the coalition, called IMPAC. Fernandez, a Miami-area resident, said he’s hoping to get friends like Latin Grammy winners Gloria and Emilio Estefan and former Miami Heat basketball stars Alonzo Mourning, Shane Battier and Ray Allen to lend their celebrity to IMPAC. The coalition has a who’s who of local Republicans on board, including CNN contributor Ana Navarro.

Graduating seniors boo Betsy DeVos at commencement in Florida via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO FloridaHundreds of graduating seniors of a historically black university in Florida booed and turned their backs on Education Secretary DeVos as she stood up to deliver a commencement speech. “Let’s choose to hear each other out,” DeVos said, straining to be heard above the crowd at Bethune-Cookman University’s graduation in Daytona Beach. “We can choose to listen, be respectful and continue to learn from each other’s experience.” But most of the students remained with their backs turned as the crowd applauded. University President Edison O. Jackson took the podium and tried to quiet the crowd, threatening to end the graduation. “Your degrees will be mailed to you. Choose which way you want to go.”

Tweet, tweet: @MarcACaputo: Daytona Beach News Journal headline writer misleadingly tried to *balance* the boos with cheers– therby underplaying the jeering of DeVos

Tweet, tweet: @THolt74: Bethune-Cookman University kicked reporters from @dbnewsjournal, @BuzzFeed off its property as they tried to cover Devos’ campus visit

Child abuse tips silenced for months by DCF computer glitch” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay TimesAbout 1,500 tips to the Florida Abuse Hotline – the state’s front line for child protection — were not sent electronically to law enforcement agencies between February and April because of a software problem, DCF officials said. That included roughly 230 cases in the Tampa Bay region. Reports of abuse or neglect by parents, which are handled by child welfare investigators, were not affected. But tips on abuse by others, including neighbors, teachers or strangers, stalled in the DCF’s computers. Some of those cases may still have been investigated, DCF officials said. Even though the software failed, abuse hotline operators were still able to transfer calls to 911. But local law enforcement agencies received notice of some reports only when the backlog was resolved May 3. In some cases, agencies are still wading through them to determine if an investigation is warranted.

Wife of mass gunman loses appeal; stays in jail” via The Associated Press — A panel of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled last week that Noor Salman should remain in jail until her trial next March. Salman is charged with obstruction and aiding and abetting her husband, Omar Mateen, who opened fire at the Pulse gay nightclub … A magistrate judge in Oakland, California, said in March that Salman could be released from jail, but that decision was reversed by a federal judge in Orlando. Salman appealed to the appellate panel, which said her release would pose an unacceptable risk of flight and danger to the community.

Federal judge dismisses counties’ challenge to All Aboard Florida” via Lisa Broadt of TCPalm — U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper’s ruling comes after a two-year legal battle that has cost the counties more than $6 million. It’s unclear whether the decision would affect All Aboard Florida’s construction timetable: The company is to begin service between West Palm Beach and Miami this summer, but a date for expansion through the Treasure Coast and Space Coast, and on to Orlando International Airport, has been less clear. The counties’ lawsuits were dealt a fatal blow when All Aboard Florida late last year abandoned the financing plan at the heart of their case, according to Cooper’s decision.

“Reversal of fortune: Citrus forecast says oranges up, grapefruit down” via Florida PoliticsAnother bag of mixed news for Florida’s signature crops: Orange production actually increased while grapefruit production has declined. That’s according to the latest forecast released Wednesday from the the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, or NASS. “The May report projects the state’s orange crop to increase to 68 million boxes for the 2016-17 season,” said a press release from the Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC). “The grapefruit crop dipped to 7.8 million boxes.” … “It is heartbreaking to watch an industry you love work so hard to survive,” said Shannon Shepp, the department’s executive director.

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“More fun with summer jai alai permits: Dania looking to sell” via Florida PoliticsSaying it will be good for “tourism and tax revenue,” a South Florida gambling permitholder is asking state regulators to OK the permit’s sale and allow the next operator to build on a new location in Broward County. Dania Entertainment Center, which operates The Casino @ Dania Beach, last Monday asked for a declaratory judgment from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation on its “converted summer jai alai” permit. The department regulates gambling in the state. The company has a tentative deal with an unnamed buyer that wants to build a casino at a new location, the filing explains, even though it argues under current law the department’s “approval of the relocation … is not required.” The terms of the sale require the ability to set up shop elsewhere in the county.

SeaWorld attendance, revenue take dive in first quarter” via Sandra Pedicini of the Orlando Sentinel – Even after turning in a disappointing earnings report and warning investors about a drop in British tourists, SeaWorld Entertainment presented a hopeful picture of its future. The company has “a solid base from which to grow in 2017 as we introduce our strong lineup of new rides and attractions this summer,” CEO Joel Manby told analysts. In Orlando, those include a virtual-reality makeover of the Kraken roller coaster, an Electric Ocean nighttime show and a refurbished dolphin nursery. The Orlando-based theme park company’s attendance and revenue both dropped 15 percent, as it generated $186.4 million in sales.

— MOVEMENTS — 

Actual email: “Peter, (t)hank you for being willing to come to our conference. Unfortunately, our annual conference committee decided to bump our media panel for active shooter training.”

Appointed Maryke Lee, Rodney Talbot, Dr. Denise Carter and Dr. Peter Taylor to the West Orange Healthcare District. Donna Elam to the Florida Commission on Human Relations.

Governor names 12 to judicial nominating commissions” via Florida Politics – Gov. Scott made six appointments and six reappointments Wednesday to the commissions that nominate state trial judges in the event of a death, departure, or elevation to a higher court.

Normally, the voters elect these judges, but the governor holds the authority to fill vacancies:

— In the First Circuit, Robert “Alex” Andrade, 27, of Gulf Breeze, an attorney with Moore, Hill & Westmoreland, will fill a vacant seat through July 1, 2019. Scott reappointed Pamela Langham, 52, a solo practitioner from Gulf Breeze, to a new term ending on July 1, 2020. Baker solo practitioner Wanda Morgan, 51, will serve through July 1, 2020.

— In the Third Circuit, solo practitioner James Willingham Jr., 64, of Jasper, gets a new term, ending on July 1, 2020.

— In the Seventh Circuit, Katherine Miller, 35, of Daytona Beach, an attorney with Wright & Casey, was reappointed through July 1, 2020.

— In the Tenth Circuit, Richard Straughn, 58, of Straughn & Turner in Winter Haven, was reappointed through July 1, 2020.

— In the 13th Circuit, Assistant Attorney General Elba Martin, 44, of Tampa, fills a vacancy through July 1, 2019.

— In the 14th Circuit, Gregory Wilson, 45, of Greg Wilson Law in Panama City, was reappointed through July 1, 2020.

— In the 17th Circuit, Kenneth Joyce, 50, of Coral Springs, a partner with Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, will serve through July 1, 2020. Pembroke Pines solo Christina McKinnon, 42, will serve through July 1, 2020.

— In the 20th Circuit, solo practitioner Carlo Zampogna, 38, of Naples, will serve through July 1, 2020. Finally, Assistant Public Defender Kathleen Fitzgeorge, 56, of Fort Myers, was reappointed through July 1, 2020.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Toni Large, Uhlfelder & Associates: Florida Medical Horticulture LLC

Herschel Vinyard, Foley & Lardner: Rayonier

“Tournament raising funds for education and to honor Phil Galvano, father of Bill Galvano, scheduled for this week” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — Six months cooped up in the Florida Capitol might put a damper on Sen. Bill Galvano’s golf game, but the Bradenton Republican isn’t too worried about it. He’s hopeful his skills will come back to him when he hits the links later this week during the 21st annual Phil Galvano Classic at the Legacy Golf Club at Lakewood Ranch. And even if they don’t, he’s confident the annual event in memory of his father — golf pro Phil Galvano — will once again raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Manatee Education Foundation. … Last year’s tournament raised about $400,000, and he expects to surpass that this year. In addition to the Manatee Education Foundation, Galvano said a portion of funds raised will go to The Malala Fund, a nonprofit inspired by Malala Yousafzai that works to secure girls’ right to a minimum of 12 years of quality education. … Galvano, who is in line to be the next Senate President, said he gets a lot of support from his colleagues in Tallahassee and expects eight senators and several House members will be in attendance this year. … Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino has attended the event for the past three years, and will be in attendance again this year. … Sponsors will get a chance to mix and mingle with Marino and Galvano during a private lunch and round of golf at the Longboat Key Club on Thursday, before the main event kicks off Friday at the Legacy Golf Club at Lakewood Ranch.

– ALOE – 

Iconic Magic Kingdom fireworks show ends tonight” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – The newest show, “Happily Ever After,” will take its place Friday by becoming the third nighttime fireworks spectacular to ever blast off at Magic Kingdom Park. For those who cannot afford admission to the park or don’t want to fight Friday night traffic, the show’s grand debut will be live streamed at 8:55 p.m. on #DisneyParksLIVE. Tune in five minutes early to watch a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of “Happily Ever After.” To follow along on Twitter, use the hashtags #DisneyParksLIVE and #HappilyEverAfter.

It’s last call for “Wishes” at Walt Disney World, to be replaced Friday by “Happily Ever After” at Magic Kingdom Park. The show’s debut will be live streamed at 8:55 p.m. on #DisneyParksLIVE.

‘Make brunch great again’: Orange County allows restaurant alcohol sales beginning at 7 a.m. via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel – The mimosas are ready to be poured after the Orange County Commission approved alcohol sales in all restaurants beginning at 7 a.m. The change was one of two liquor-related measures discussed by the commission at its Tuesday meeting, along with the possibility of removing the rule requiring a 5,000-foot barrier between liquor stores in the unincorporated parts of the county.

Spotted – On HBO’s Vice News: Burmese python hunters in the Florida Everglades.

Happy birthday to Franco Ripple‘s better half, Ashley Ligas and Democratic activist Alison Morano.

Sunburn for 5.10.17 – Adam Putnam launches; … so does Jay Fant; Session epilogue; Med. marijuana special session?; Parks boost Disney revenue

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

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

Session ended at 8:52 p.m. Monday. By Tuesday morning, the 2018 election cycle had begun in earnest.

Rep. Jay Fant launched his 2018 Attorney General run at the Florida Capitol, before kicking off a day-long, three-city swing to discuss issues like commerce, homeland security, and immigration.

While Fant’s the first person to jump into the race to replace Attorney General Pam Bondi, the race to replace Gov. Rick Scott is already heating up.

Democrats Andrew Gillum, Chris King, and Gwen Graham already launched their bids, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who filed to run for governor earlier this month, is scheduled to officially launch his with a speech on the steps the Old Polk County Courthouse in Bartow at 11 a.m. From there, he’ll embark on a 10-day, 22-city bus tour.

Candidates aren’t just jumping into statewide races. Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez announced he plans to run for Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat in 2018. And with a special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles scheduled for later this summer, you can expect several more candidates to hit the campaign trail in the weeks and months to come.

ADAM PUTNAM HITS THE TRAIL

As Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam prepares to embark on a 10-day statewide bus tour, beginning with an expected announcement Wednesday in Bartow that, yes, he’s running for Governor in 2018, let’s harken back to January.

Putnam was speaking at The Associated Press’ annual Legislative Session planning session at the Capitol. Afterward, we asked him about what could be considered as a dig at the career politician.

Gov. Scott, just days before in an interview, said the next Governor needs to have experience in the business world. The 42-year-old Putnam, also a Republican, was first elected state Agriculture Commissioner in 2010 after serving 10 years in Congress.

“I think someone having business experience that they bring to public life is very helpful,” Putnam answered without missing a step. “As a guy who is part of a small business, I get it.”

Therein lies the bother. Yes, the Putnam family owns Putnam Groves in Bartow, but it will be a hard sell to many Floridians that Putnam is a “businessman” when he’s been in office since he was legally old enough to drink.

“You have a better feel for what regulations mean, what the paperwork translates to, and things that often sound like a good idea in Tallahassee, by the time they get to Main Street businesses, they’re a hot mess,” he added. “It’s helpful to know what it means to create jobs in this state.”

Perhaps, but oh, if ever there was a statement ripe for PolitiFact.

It’s also funny how Putnam kept telegraphing his political aspirations without ever acknowledging that he wants to keep climbing the elective ladder.

Florida “needs to be the kind of place that attracts people four decades sooner,” he said at the AP event, “so that they raise their families here, and they start their businesses here and grow those businesses here, because that’s a very different emotional investment for the long-term good of Florida.”

That was a near repetition of remarks he made at his political committee’s “Friends of Florida Agriculture Barbecue” the previous April at Peace River Valley Ranch in Zolfo Springs.

“I want Florida to be the place where people come as a young person, graduate from our universities, raise their families here — start, build and grow their businesses here, so that they are passionately, emotionally invested in the long-term good of Florida, where Florida’s going, how Florida got to be what it is, and what makes Florida special,” Putnam said then.

Putnam may soon say, “get on the bus,” but skeptical voters will need convincing before they take that ride.

“Putnam lines up top tier campaign team” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – The operatives on Putnam’s team include veterans of Putnam’s two decade political career, including Mac Stevenson of Sarasota-based Political Insights, and Justin Hollis, handling fundraising. Amanda Bevis, Putnam’s former deputy chief of staff at the state Department of Agriculture, is handling communications. … The Tarrance Group … is the pollster. … Helping lead the campaign is Kristin Davison, who has worked with on the campaigns of Sens. Marco Rubio and Roy Blunt and as chief of staff at Karl Rove and Co. A senior adviser is former 2010 Rick Scott senior campaign adviser Ward Baker, fresh off a widely praised run as executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Flashback – “Did ‘Putnam for Governor’ Twitter flub break election law?” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO FloridaPutnam appeared to skirt state election law when his Twitter account mistakenly posted a message that bore an “Adam Putnam for Governor” logo — even though he (wasn’t) an official candidate yet. But Putnam’s top consultant said the Twitter message wasn’t the fault of the Republican or his political committee, Florida Grown. So, he says no law was broken. “The image was inadvertently posted by our digital partner. We immediately asked for it to be removed,” consultant Justin Hollis told POLITICO Florida. He declined to name the vendor. Under state election law, people can’t make a campaign expenditure until they become a candidate.

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— MORE FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL — 

“Andrew Gillum calls for ‘strengthening’ Obamacare in Florida” via Florida PoliticsA day after the end of the 2017 Legislative Session, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum on Monday called on state lawmakers to pass a bill “strengthening insurance protections for those with pre-existing conditions.” Gillum, the sitting mayor of Tallahassee, appeared at the Florida Press Center with two local women who told of their family members’ troubles getting coverage and treatment … Gillum’s proposal, a priority if he’s elected in 2018, has three goals: Prohibit insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions; charge them the same premiums as those without such conditions; and “end the discriminatory practice of charging women higher premiums than men.” The first two already are part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Jay Fant launches Attorney General bid” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – Fant made his opening pitch, calling for government to get out of the way of free enterprise. “I am running because I believe so strongly in defending our constitutional rights and protecting Floridians from the excesses of the federal government … But that can only happen if we make sure government is on the side of the people.  We will fight to keep our business climate free and fair so entrepreneurs can pursue their dreams and create jobs. We will stand by our law enforcement community that works so hard to keep us safe.”  Fant also tried to claim the mantle of current state Attorney General Bondi … “I will continue Attorney General Bondi’s fight against prescription drug abuse, human trafficking, and predators who target seniors and children … I will keep pushing back against the federal overreach that chokes our small businesses. And the most vulnerable members of our society can count on me.”

Mayor Jack Seiler continues to mull Attorney General bid” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald Seiler said he is in no rush to decide whether to run in 2018 and will make up his mind at some point this year … he initially thought he would have to reach a decision by the spring but doesn’t feel pressure to do so now that no one has announced on the Democratic side. “The campaign starts the day you announce your decision — I don’t need to have a 15, 16, 17-month campaign if I don’t have to,” Seiler said. “I have time to make a more educated and informed decision. I am looking at all the factors: Can a Democrat win statewide? Can a Democrat win in an off-year?”

— SOUTH FLORIDA SCRAMBLE —

José Javier Rodriguez hops into Miami congressional race” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Rodriguez of Miami announced he will run for Florida’s 27th Congressional District now that longtime U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is calling it quits after next year. Rodriguez joins a crowded Democratic primary field, but party insiders are abuzz about his chances because of his record and because 65 percent of the voters in the congressional district are registered to vote in Florida’s 37th Senate District, which Rodriguez currently represents. “It’s the right time to run and to represent this district in Congress,” said Rodriguez … “A lot of the issues of my district are relevant to the congressional seat: health care, tax policy and the environment, especially sea-level rise.”

Tweet, tweet:

— Democrats had tried to recruit Miami-Dade County schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho to run for the seat, but he was noncommittal. Former school board member Raquel Regalado, a moderate Republican in the mold of Ros-Lehtinen, is eying the seat. The Miami Herald reports that Republican Maria Peiro has filed to run and that Republican Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro said Friday he will seek the seat.

— Horse before cart alert: “Unless there’s some huge problem, Jose is the next congressman from the district. He checks all the boxes,” said one top Florida Democrat, summing up the mood of other consultants and insiders.

“Obama Democrats buzz about Miami lawyer’s possible bid for Ros-Lehtinen’s seat” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Francisco Cerezo, a top Latin America attorney and son of a former Puerto Rican leader and judge, is seriously considering a run for outgoing U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat at the urging of former Obama campaign fundraisers from Miami. … Freddy Balsera, a fundraiser for former President Barack Obama who led his 2008 campaign’s Hispanic outreach, said Cerezo is a friend as well as a dream candidate because he’s a new face who’s well-respected in top legal circles and might be able to self-fund some of his campaign if need be. Balsera said Cerezo also served as a Spanish-language surrogate for President Obama.

Could race for Ros-Lehtinen’s seat hurt Democrats seeking Carlos Curbelo challenger?” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald— In this week’s episode of “Beyond the Bubble,” McClatchy newspaper’ weekly political podcast … asked Florida Democratic political consultant Steve Schale about the race to replace Rep. Ros-Lehtinen — specifically, whether it might hurt Democrats hunting for someone to challenge Rep. Carlos Curbelo. “I worry about that,” Schale said. “Good candidates for any elected office tend to be very rational actors,” Schale said. “If you look at history, it’s always easier to win an open seat.” Ros-Lehtinen’s 27th district “is probably four to five points better for a Democrat” than Curbelo’s 26th district, Schale added. “I do think that a lot of your top-tier candidates are going to look at this seat first.”

is Daisy Baez Democrats’ consensus pick to replace Frank Artiles?” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Here’s a sign Florida Democrats might be coalescing around state Baez to run for former Sen. Artiles‘ seat: Baez won the backing of not one but two contenders for Florida governor. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum endorsed Baez within minutes of each other.

 — SOUL OF THE PARTY —

In our annual list of who emerged from the Legislative Session as a Winner or a Loser, we wrote about how Gary Fineout’s bosses at the Associated Press need to find a better way (or several) to utilize ace reporter Gary Fineout. And on Monday morning, the big man roved our point with a must-read entry for his blog, The Fine Print. In the post, Fineout drills down on the titanic battle being waged by Speaker Corcoran and his allies versus Gov. Scott.

— “There’s a war going on for the soul of the party,” Corcoran said. “Are we going to be who we say we are?”

— [Corcoran] also mentioned politicians who campaign saying they want to crack down on illegal immigration and are opposed to “the liberal socialistic health care policy called Obamacare” but then change their position when they get into office. Without using his name directly, it was clear that Corcoran was taking aim at Scott.

— “I think what we need to do is elect leaders who say what they mean and mean what they say,” Corcoran said.

— His exchange with reporters showed Corcoran … finishing the 60-day session with the same provocative, confrontational stance he had before it started. Given everything that has happened over the last two months of the session it’s not really surprising.

— Along the way, he pushed back against anyone – whether they were in media, his own party, or whomever – who challenged his statements or positions. Sometimes he did it in a lawyerly fashion … But other times it was through sheer force.

— In one way, (Corcoran and Negron) have given Scott an easier path to a budget veto.

— The main general appropriations act is $82.4 billion, but it doesn’t include many key elements. Legislators have placed more than $700 million worth of spending for Negron’s Lake Okeechobee plan, Schools of Hope, VISIT FLORIDA and the state employee pay raise OUTSIDE the main budget bill.

— Of course, if Scott does veto the entire budget (a rare occurrence in recent Florida history) then we get to watch Round 2 between the Speaker and the Governor. And the war for the “soul of the party” will rage on.

Time to say goodbye — The House Speaker’s Office, which has produced video after video this Legislative Session, it closed out 2017 Session with a 3-minute video narrated by House Speaker Richard Corcoran. “I’m often asked, where are the leaders worthy of the title and I tell them they’re right here, in the Florida House,” he says in the video. In an email to members, Corcoran said while every member isn’t featured “the sentiment applies to all” of them.

Scoop – “House GOP freshmen fail to adopt rules for Speaker’s race, putting leadership battle into chaos” via Florida Politics– A caucus to ratify rules — drafted by Reps. Ralph Massullo and Michael Grant — to guide the freshman class’s decision-making process met during a break in the House. Only 23 members of the freshman class were present, and neither Rep. Jamie Grant nor Rep. Paul Renner, both in the running to be Speaker in 2022, were present at the meeting. The rules had been debated at length by within the class. The most recent version of the rules called for an organizational meeting to be held June 30 to select their leader. Under those rules, if more than two candidates are running, the lowest vote-getters would be eliminated from consideration. The caucus needed 18 votes to ratify the rules, a tall order with only 23 of the 27 caucus members present. But ahead of the vote, Rep. Joe Gruters made a proposal for secret balloting on the rules. Secret balloting on rules and all future votes is in theoretically in place, but the rules were voted down. A copy of new rules was provided to members, but were marked by Rep. Randy Fine so the caucus could know which member leaked the rules to the media, according to a House member who attended the meeting. The failure to adopt new rules means the Speaker’s race is still governed by House Caucus rules, which means no June 30 conclave to pick a leader. It also means the “survivor” rule proposed under the Massullo-Grant rules aren’t in effect.

Hillsborough County enacts hiring freeze after Tallahassee moves property tax cut” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times – Administrator Mike Merrill has enacted a hiring freeze for government departments, effective May 2. That’s the same day the Legislature gave the greenlight to a 2018 voter referendum that would increase the homestead exemption by another $25,000, which would effectively cut local property taxes. The hit to Hillsborough’s coffers would be roughly $30 million a year … Merrill told department directors the freeze was necessary “to allow greater flexibility and options” for the 2018 and 2019 budgets. The freeze applies to all positions, excluding season employees, like lifeguards, and instances when a job offer was made and accepted before the May 2 memo.

— SCOTT WORLD —

Rick Scott has a friend in White House and foes back home” via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – For years, Scott complained and criticized President Barack Obama and contended he wasn’t helping Florida. Now with Trump in office, Scott has worked out a deal with federal officials to provide at least $1 billion for the state’s hospitals and he obtained a promise to move forward with repairs to a federally-operated dike that surrounds the state largest freshwater lake. But that didn’t help him with the Republican-controlled Legislature. Instead by the end of this year’s session, Scott’s legislative agenda was in tatters, ignored by GOP legislators he has feuded with for months and criticized during visits to the lawmakers’ hometowns … he bashed the newly-passed $83 billion budget, giving his strongest sign that he may veto the spending plan and force the state House and Senate to reconvene in a special session. He criticized legislators for assembling most of the budget — which covers spending from July of this year to June 2018 — in secret and for refusing to set aside money for his top priorities including money for business incentives.

Scott will make veto decision ‘based on what’s best’ for Florida families” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics Scott took a swing at state lawmakers, saying the Legislature turned its back on economic incentive deals that have helped Florida “out compete … top competitors for important jobs.” … Scolding legislative leaders for passing a budget that “was done largely behind closed doors.” Scott said he has begun the process of reviewing the budget, and said he will make a decision about whether he vetoes the entire budget “based on what’s best for our families.” “I ran for Governor to fight career politicians and it’s backroom deals like this that make families think politics is nothing more than a game,” said Scott in a statement. “I am beginning to review the budget and I have the option of vetoing the entire budget or vetoing the items that circumvented the transparent process and do not have an acceptable return on investment for hardworking taxpayers. Just like I do every year, I will make my decisions based on what’s best for our families because my job is to wake up every day and fight for Floridians.”

“Scott signs SB 10, the Lake Okeechobee restoration plan, into law” via Florida Politics — Gov. Scott signed legislation Tuesday pledging $800 million toward Senate President Joe Negron’s signature project — a $1.5 billion plan to restore Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades by building a reservoir south of the lake. Scott had signaled his intention to sign the legislation earlier in the week, calling Everglades restoration “a top priority.” SB 10 did not include Scott’s call to invest $200 million in the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding the lake. Still, the governor said President Donald Trump had pledged federal money to the project and that “Florida cannot miss this opportunity to partner with the Trump Administration for a project that will significantly benefit Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades and our environment.”

Gov signs landmark ride-sharing legislation into law” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida PoliticsScott signed a bill that creates statewide regulations for ride-booking companies, like Uber and Lyft. “I’m proud to sign this legislation today to make it easier for ridesharing companies to thrive in Florida and help ensure the safety of our families,” said Scott in a statement. “Florida is one of the most business-friendly states in the nation because of our efforts to reduce burdensome regulations and encourage innovation and job creation across all industries, including transportation.” The legislation, among other things, requires ride-booking companies, like Uber and Lyft, to carry $100,000 of insurance for bodily injury of death and $25,000 for property damage while a driver is logged on to their app, but hasn’t secured a passenger. While with a passenger, drivers would be required to have $1 million in coverage. Sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes in the Senate and Reps. Chris Sprowls and Jamie Grant, it also requires companies to have third parties conduct local and national criminal background checks on drivers. The law pre-empts local ordinances and rules on transportation network companies.

Other bills signed into law Monday include:

HB 111: Public Records/Identity of Witness to a MurderThis bill creates a public records exemption for criminal intelligence or criminal investigative information that reveals personal identifying information of a witness to a murder.

HB 151: “Therapy Dog for Children Bill”This bill allows children, victims, and individuals with intellectual disabilities to use therapy animals and facility dogs in legal proceedings.

HB 239: Public Records/Protective Injunction PetitionsThis bill creates a public records exemption for petitions for protection against domestic violence, stalking or cyberstalking if it is dismissed.

HB 305: Law Enforcement Body CamerasThis bill allows a law enforcement officer using a body camera to review the recorded footage before writing a report or providing a statement.

HB 399: GuardianshipThis bill revises procedures relating to incapacity hearings and the circumstances under which the court may approve divorce for persons under the protection of a guardianship.

HB 401: Notaries PublicThis bill allows public notaries to accept a veteran health information card issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a valid form of I.D.

HB 671: Reemployment Assistance Fraud This bill authorizes the Department of Economic Opportunity to access digital records maintained by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to prevent reemployment assistance claims fraud.

HB 805: Relating to Insurance Policy TransfersThis bill allows an insurer to transfer a residential or commercial residential property insurance policy to an authorized insurer of the same group or owned by the same holding company.

HB 6533: Relief of Jennifer WohlgemuthThis bill directs Pasco County and the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office to compensate the family of Jennifer Wohlgemuth for injuries sustained in a 2005 accident involving the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.

— SPECIAL SESSION? — 

Joe Negron says he’ll ‘look at’ a special session on medical marijuana” via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – “We’ll confer with the House and with the governor and then make a decision on whether that’s something we should do,” Negron told reporters following the end of the legislative session … “I think the Legislature does have a responsibility to be involved in that implementation, so I think that’s an option we’ll look at.” House Speaker Richard Corcoran was standing next to Negron at the time, and smiled and nodded. A wide-ranging bill to implement a constitutional amendment passed by 71 percent of voters blew up in the final hours of the regular session … The main sticking point: Whether or not to place caps on the number of dispensaries each licensed grower could open. Now, it’s up to the Florida Department of Health to create a medical marijuana infrastructure in the state. On Saturday, activists including John Morgan, the Orlando trial lawyer who bankrolled the medical marijuana campaign last year, called on Gov. Scott to call a special session of the Legislature. Scott’s spokeswoman said in a statement that they were “reviewing our options.”

— Gwen Graham wants a special session – “I watched my husband battle cancer and the sickening effects of chemotherapy. So many patients with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other debilitating diseases could use medical marijuana as a way to treat their pain. Floridians spent years begging the Legislature to take action before taking their case to the voters, but once again, the legislature is ignoring them. If the people of Florida give me the honor of serving as governor, their voices will be heard.”

Ben Pollara’s emotional mea culpa on John Morgan split, marijuana bill failure” via Florida Politics – In a lengthy, emotional email Pollara explained some of the motives behind what happened, and why the bill ultimately died — taking some (qualified) responsibility. Much of the friction behind the final approval of the bill came in part from disagreement over the number of allowable medical marijuana treatment centers under the law. Lawmakers could not agree on how to best balance the needs of patients with that of licensees — refer to by some as “cartels” — authorized by the state to produce and distribute medical pot. “The initial bill out of the House was horrendous,” Pollara wrote. “Partially drafted by Mel Sembler and Drug-Free America, it was severely restrictive and not only banned smokable, edible, and vapable forms of marijuana, but it also added onerous restrictions on patients, such as a 90- day waiting period and recertification period.” “I advocated strongly for the Senate position, believing — as I still do — that it would result in better access for patients,” Pollara said. Unfortunately, it set off a “very intense lobbying battle on both sides” leading to neither side coming to terms in the end. “Morgan is livid over this and blames me entirely for the failure to pass legislation this session … I accept that I deserve some of that blame … However, the choices we faced were ‘bad,’ ‘worse’ and ‘the worst.’” What happened, Pollara wrote, was “the worst.” … Signed “with love and sorrow,” Pollara concludes his letter by apologizing to all those he let down. “And I want to — from the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of everyone at Florida for Care — thank you for everything you’ve done and continue to do to advance this cause.”

Meanwhile, Morgan responded with this video…

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— STATEWIDE —

Kevin McCarthy says he sees a ‘great opportunity to get the money’ for Everglades restoration projects” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Rep. Francis Rooneytook House Majority Leader McCarthy on a tour of the Everglades and the Lake Okeechobee Watershed … The tour — similar to one the Naples Republican took Rep. Ken Calvert, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment on back in March — was meant to highlight the importance of funding projects that have already been approved, and in some cases designed, within the watershed. “He’s been telling me about this since before he was elected and he invited me before even getting sworn in,” said McCarthy, a California Republican. “This is a natural treasure … I see what we’re going in Congress right now, when we go to tax reform and when we go to infrastructure, I see the funding already coming now,” said McCarthy. “But I see opportunities that we can speed it up to save the taxpayers money, finish some of these projects earlier. And I see a great opportunity to get the money.”

State appeals court upholds 14.5 percent workers’ comp premium increase” via Florida Politics – A state appeals court has upheld a 14.5 percent increase in workers’ compensation insurance premiums, rejecting legal arguments that it was approved in violation of Florida’s open-government laws. … The ruling followed adjournment of a Legislative Session that failed to address attorney involvement and other factors driving increases in insurance premiums. … “NCCI is pleased with this outcome, as the court validated that our rate filing process is in full compliance with the law,” the Boca Raton company said in a written statement. … The court found no evidence that the insurance office had delegated its rate-approval authority to NCCI in a way that justified coverage by the open-government laws.

— Associated Industries of Florida says today’s ruling is reminder solid reforms needed for works’ comp via AIF President and CEO Tom Feeney: “At AIF, we support restoring a stable, self-executing and affordable workers’ compensation system for Florida’s injured employees.”

“Constitutional review panel will meet” via Florida Politics – The Constitution Revision Commission meets Wednesday, 5-8 p.m. at Florida SouthWestern State College’s Suncoast Credit Union Arena, 13351 FSW Parkway in Fort Myers. The commission is a 37-member appointed body that meets every 20 years to review and suggest changes to Florida’s governing document. We’re the only state that has one. It has been holding public hearings throughout the state before considering any constitutional amendments.

Florida Supreme Court suspends former lawmaker’s attorney license” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Former state Rep. Phillip Brutus’ alleged negligence in managing a trust account has led to a yearlong suspension from practicing law and two years of probation, Florida’s Supreme Court ruled last week. Brutus, who served as a Democrat in the state House from 2000 to 2006, called the ruling extreme and theorized the court may want to send a message to other attorneys by making an example of a public figure. “I agree it’s wrong, but one year?” he said, adding he was unsure how he would remain financially afloat without his job. The suspension stems from a 2014 complaint from the Florida Bar alleging Brutus violated Bar rules by disbursing funds to his client in a divorce proceeding without court approval. After learning his client’s ex-husband had taken out a $100,000 home-equity loan against their home and spent $40,000 of it, Brutus filed a motion to preserve the assets. The presiding judge issued an order directing the remaining money, about $60,000, into Brutus’ trust account. That money was deposited March 3, 2008, without a court order or settlement regarding how the money would be distributed. Brutus said he wasn’t motivated by self-gain but by the “dire” circumstances his client faced, including being temporarily forced out from her home.

Ouch column – “Judge Pop Tart: Rep. Eric Eisnaugle attacks judiciary for years, now named judge” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel – (T)his week, Gov. Scott elevated Eisnaugle from the legions of lightweight legislators to one of Central Florida’s top judges as a member of the 5th District Court of Appeal … as an attorney, he has never actually taken a single trial to a jury verdict. … has rarely set foot in a courtroom. Despite all that — and despite the fact that gobs of other experienced judges and attorneys applied for that post — Eisnaugle will soon be Judge Pop Tart. His bench will be the last stop before the state Supreme Court. The appointment was a reward for a legislator who reliably backed Scott’s agenda, including pushing to protect Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, even when other Republicans did not. It was a way of ensuring that a relatively young pick will remain on the bench for many years.

Violence erupts at a Florida airport after Spirit Airlines cancellations” via Jonah Engel Bromwich of The New York Times – According to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, the arrests were made after customers screamed at and threatened Spirit Airline employees, inciting unrest in a crowd of about 500 people at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Their anger was set off by the flight cancellations … and deputies were sent in to calm the crowd … 11 Spirit Airlines flights were canceled at the airport Monday and that 30 were delayed. Arrest reports assert that those detained were threatening bodily harm to the airline employees and challenging them to fights. All three of the people who were arrested were charged with disorderly conduct, inciting a riot and resisting arrest. Paul Berry, a spokesman for the airline, said that Spirit was “shocked and saddened” by the violence. He blamed the cancellations on airline pilots who he said were engaged in “unlawful labor activity” that was “designed to disrupt Spirit operations.” But the pilots’ union disputed that statement.

With Betsy DeVos slated to speak at black university’s graduation, Trump foes sound the protest alarms” via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO Florida – In the days since DeVos was invited to speak at Bethune-Cookman University’s graduation, the NAACP chapter in Florida has called on the institution’s president to resign and teachers unions have helped gather petition signatures in opposition. Adding to the outcry are the voices of graduating seniors and alumni, who in interviews, petitions, open letters and social media posts have denounced DeVos and detailed why they don’t want the billionaire GOP donor and prominent proponent of private-school vouchers to enjoy the honor of addressing the class of 2017. Some, though, are afraid they’ll get in trouble if they protest. Protesters argue her policies would hurt students’ ability to access financial aid or pay back student loans. They see her focus on vouchers and charter schools as an effort to defund public schools like the ones where many of them were educated. And they accuse her of representing the privileged wealthy class rather than all Americans, as evidenced by her controversial characterization of black institutions that were founded during racial segregation as “pioneers” of “school choice.”

— MOVEMENTS —

New and renewed lobby registrations

Larry Overton, Joel Overton, Larry J. Overton & Associates: CleanSlate Centers, Inc.

Amy Bisceglia, The Rubin Group: Children First Specialty Plan, LLC; Elite DNA Therapy Services; Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority; Weedmaps

Christopher Finkbeiner, The Rubin Group: Fluor Enterprises, Inc.

Bill Rubin, The Rubin Group: Blue Cloud Pediatric Surgery Centers, LLC; Elite DNA Therapy Services; Fluor Enterprises, Inc.; Weedmaps

Matthew Sacco, The Rubin Group: Orthodox Union

Alan Suskey, Suskey Consulting: Great Explorations Children’s Museum; Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority; Tampa Bay Innovation Center

Steven Uhlfelder, Uhlfelder & Associates: Florida Medical Horticulture LLC

Tampa-based Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick law firm launches Shumaker Advisors Florida” via Florida Politics – The group will offer legislation advocacy, issue management and business-to-government and business-to-business services. Heading the new Shumaker Advisors is partner Ronald Christaldi as president and CEO. Christaldi said in a statement: “Shumaker Advisors will allow us to better serve our clients from an advocacy perspective and help them navigate challenging regulatory policies and legislative matters. We have assembled a top-notch team to begin working for clients immediately and are actively adding new members to it.” Joining Christaldi on the newly created Shumaker Advisors team are public affairs specialists Patrick BasketteEd Miyagashima and Carlye Morgan.

On this week’s edition of The Rotunda — Did Gov. Scott send a kiss of death to Florida’s budget? On Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda, a recap of the tumultuous remaining days of the legislative session. Did Speaker Corcoran live up to his promises of transparency? Citizen advocate Gary Stein explains why Florida for Care Executive Director is “swimming with the fishes” after a breakdown in negotiations over the medical marijuana bill. Also, Florida Times-Union reporter Nate Monroe gives a heaping scoop on the fraud trial of former Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who also served up ice cream before her court hearing.

— ALOE —

Firework Oreos feature popping candy cream, but a better Oreo flavor idea could win you $500,000” via the Tampa Bay Times — Oreo is the latest brand getting in on the whole let-your-customers-invent-a–flavor trend, launching the $500,000 “My Oreo Creation” contest today to create a new cookie flavor. To get the ball rolling, Oreo introduced a wild new flavor of their own making called Firework Oreos, featuring its traditional cookies around a cream center flecked with rainbow-colored bits of “popping candy” (just don’t call them Pop Rocks). The limited edition Firework Oreos are set to hit stores nationwide (Monday). If you’re feeling like you have a better idea, you can submit your own flavor ideas to Oreo through text, or by using #MyOreoCreation and #Contest on Instagram or Twitter. Submissions will be taken through July 14, and finalists will be determined in AugustDetails on the contest are here.

Disney parks and resorts boost company revenues in 2017” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – The Walt Disney Co. today reported a 3 percent increase in revenues over last year during its quarterly earnings report. Parks and Resorts revenues for the quarter increased 9 percent to $4.3 billion and segment operating income increased 20 percent to $750 million. Operating income growth was due to the opening of Shanghai Disney Resort in the third quarter of the prior year and an increase at Disney’s domestic parks and resorts. Disney’s domestic parks and resorts showed increased attendance and guest spending on food and beverage, as well as higher operating income from Disney Springs. These increases were partially offset by higher costs like labor and higher expenses for new guest offerings.

A look at Disney World’s new Pandora-World of Avatar land” via Mike Schneider of the Associated Press — It’s not a movie set, but visitors to Disney World’s new Pandora-World of Avatar land are in for a cinematic experience. The 12-acre land, inspired by the “Avatar” movie, opens in Florida in late May at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom. It cost a half-billion dollars to build. The marquee attraction is Flight of Passage, where a 3-D simulator plunges riders into a cinematic world. You feel like you’re riding on the back of a banshee, a bluish, gigantic, winged predator that resembles something out of the Jurassic era. Wearing 3-D glasses and straddling what resembles a stationary motorcycle, you’re strapped in, then the lights go out, a screen in front lights up and you’re swooped into a world of blue, gigantic aliens called Na’vi, with moon-filled skies, plunging waterfalls, jumping marine animals and towering ocean waves. The ride provides an enchanting and intoxicating five minutes that touches all the senses. Blasts of air and spritzes of mist hit your face, and as you fly through a lush forest, a woodsy aroma wafts through your nostrils. A visitor could go on the ride 20 times and not catch half the visual details. Disney designers are quick to say the new land is the star of the action, not the backdrop.

Shaq For Sheriff? Shaquille O’Neal wants to run In 2020” via Briana Koeneman and Katherine Biek of WFTS – The NBA legend told Atlanta station WXIA he plans to run in 2020. It’s unclear exactly where Shaq would enter the race for sheriff. He’s currently a resident of both Florida and Georgia, so he could run in either state. But no matter where he runs, O’Neal has one goal. “When I was coming up, people love and respected the police, the deputies. And I want to be the one to bring that back,” O’Neal said. He’s been sworn in as a deputy city marshal in Lafayette, Louisiana, and a sheriff’s deputy in Clayton County, Georgia. And, last year, he paid a surprise visit to the Gainesville Police Department to play a game of basketball with officers and local kids.

Happy birthday to the pride of the Panhandle, Ryan Wiggins.

Rick Kriseman needs to respond forcefully to Rick Baker’s Trumpian ‘St. Petersburg carnage’

It’s been seven years since Rick Baker exited City Hall as its most powerful, successful mayor. Hardly a day has gone by that someone — perhaps this site more so than anywhere else — has wondered whether he’d have to, like Cincinnatus, come in from the fields to save the city he loves.

Today, St. Petersburg received Baker’s response, as he forcefully declared that he would challenge Rick Kriseman in what wrestling promoters would call a loser-leaves-town match.

Before I analyze what I thought was a semi-dystopian speech by Baker, I need to make it clear that SaintPetersBlog, both the site and the publisher behind it, are neutral in this race.

That may be hard to believe given my extensive history with Baker, but I owe it to the readers of SPB — which basically launched in 2009 to improve upon the lackluster coverage by the local media of that year’s mayoral race — to provide the best, most even-handed analysis of this race.

So, for now, my heart may be with Rick Baker, but my mind and keyboard have no allegiance.

It’s with that declaration that I can say today’s launch by Baker was good but not great.

Baker and his fledgling campaign — still building a campaign website, repurposing old logos and slogans, making sure the phone lines don’t go to other candidate’s voicemails — did a solid job building a crowd for the speech. (It deserves extra points for making sure the launch took place early enough in the day so as to avoid the warm Florida sun.)

It was reassuring to see local campaign veterans Nick Hansen and Brigitta Shouppe circulating behind the scenes. Jim Rimes‘ presence means Baker has one of the best in the consulting business to offer strategic guidance.

It’s hard not to chuckle at media consultant Adam Goodman‘s inexhaustible repertoire of making sure everyone knows he is attached to a candidate. But he’s also a pro who knows how to cut a sharp commercial.

Functioning as one part crowd-builder and one part carnival barker, Amscot executive and former mayoral candidate Deveron Gibbons never stopped moving as he glad-handed almost everyone at the event. He even tried to be kind to me.

Gibbons: “I hear we’re getting together soon.”

Me: “No, I don’t think so.”

Gibbons: “But <name redacted> mentioned we’d be getting together.”

Me: “No. That won’t be happening.”

Gibbons: “Um … OK.”

Me: “Exactly.”

Standing behind Baker was a coalition as diverse as a big-city parade.

“Look, there’s Wengay Newton!”

“That’s Minister So-and-so!”

“Why is the guy who sells OxyClean standing behind Rick?”

As for Baker’s speech … I really don’t know where to begin other than to say it’s exactly not what I would have wanted Baker to say.

First of all, it was mercilessly too long. By minute thirty, people were done looking at their watches. By minute forty-five, people started worrying about being late to work.

Second, the former mayor employed too many sentences that only served to remind people of his former mayorishness.

Mind you, no one in the crowd was unfamiliar with the encyclopedia of Baker’s many, many accomplishments.

Baker could have had everything done in 20 minutes, just saying: “I got sh-t done.” Not even the most loyal supporter of Rick Kriseman would disagree.

But it was Baker’s view of the present St. Pete that was more alarming than his insistence on focusing on the past.

Like Donald Trump, who stood on the National Mall and bemoaned the “American carnage,” Baker did everything but describe the St. Petersburg carnage.

“They have no successes,” Baker said, before blasting Kriseman for failing to build a new Pier.

City Hall is bleeding money, Baker added. The baseball team is leaving, Baker warned. The black community is ignored, Baker opined.

And running the Sunshine City into the ground, Baker contends, is Kriseman and a coterie of overpaid political appointees accountable to no one.

Oh, and by the way, the entire town is covered in sh-t because Kriseman broke the sewer system.

Not that this isn’t a compelling argument. Undoubtedly, it’s the kind of thing I know Baker has heard, including from me, every day since Kriseman entered City Hall.

But the truth is, St. Pete is doing fine. It has big ticket issues it must solve. And Rick Baker is probably the better executive to solve those issues.

But little about St. Pete is, as Baker said today, “disastrous.”

That’s why, if he wants to win, Kriseman needs to double-down on his criticism of Baker.

Don’t, as John Romano seems to want, keep the race a low-key affair.

Blast, and blast away. Nonstop.

The message is simple. Just as it was simple for Joe Biden when articulating the rationale for Barack Obama‘s re-election in 2012.

“Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive,” the Vice President said throughout the 2012 campaign.

“The Rays are still here and a new Pier and sewer system are on the way,” is what Kriseman surrogates should say every day between now and the election.

Meantime, they should knock it off about Baker being against black people because he didn’t support Obama. Didn’t Baker endorse Herman Cain for president? Yes he did, proving that Baker has no issues with a black man in the White House.

As for my advice for Baker, it’s the same as it ever was. Don’t let your candidacy be about you “saving” the city. Again, the city is fine. It can be better, but to return to my Roman Republic reference above, the barbarians are not at the gate.

Voters want a vision of St. Petersburg in 2021, not a nostalgia tour of the city from 2001.

Florida Realtors legislative recap shows what successful Session looks like

Florida Realtors really want you to know what a successful Legislative Session looks like.

To celebrate the close of a “triumphant” 2017 Session – including passage of the state’s $82.4 billion budget – Florida Realtors released a recap of its major victories, bills and budgetary items of interest to real estate professionals statewide.

Florida Realtors 2017 president Maria Wells says: “Your investment in the Florida Realtors PAC ensured Realtor-friendly legislators were elected. During committee weeks and session, you made your voices heard in the public policy process, making the difference for Realtors to celebrate a victorious year on our key issues in Tallahassee.

“Thank you, Gov. Scott, members of the Legislature and our incredible Tallahassee staff for listening to our concerns and turning our feedback into action.”

The 2017 Legislative Victories document conveniently concentrates the group’s productive 60-day-plus Session into a simple, easy-to-read format, outlining important property rights wins such as a cap on estoppel certificate fees, the first-ever reduction in business rent taxes, added homestead tax exemptions and a 10 percent cap on non-homestead property taxes.

Realtors also congratulate the Florida Capitol for passing bills to fine tune condominium termination laws and provide additional oversight for condo boards. Lawmakers also funded affordable housing workshops, and offered up to $500,000 to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to combat unlicensed real estate activity.

Other triumphs include tax exemptions for disabled first responders, providing a 100 percent homestead tax exemption for those totally and permanently disabled in the line of duty, tax breaks for businesses using rooftop solar and other renewable energy devices, and a push to grow the private flood insurance market.

And in some cases, when bills fail, Realtors see it as a win anyway, as in the case of the establishment of mandatory time-of-sale septic tanks inspections. HB 285 from state Rep. Randy Fine and SB 1748 from Sen. Linda Stewart were amended to require just disclosure instead of an inspection, later changing them to shorten disclosure language. Nonetheless, both bills did not garner sufficient support before Session’s end.

Realtors were also disappointed by the failure of lawmakers to restrict local regulation of vacation rentals. In 2014, the Florida legislature gave municipalities the ability to regulate vacation rentals. While cities and towns cannot prohibit vacation rentals, or regulate duration or frequency, they are free to impose new ordinances. In cities and counties around the state, these ordinances have resulted in unreasonable burdens on vacation homeowners.

HB 425, from St. Cloud Republican Rep. Mike La Rosa, would have mandated that if a municipality adopts a new restrictive ordinance, it must apply to all residential properties; vacation rentals could not be singled out. While HB 425 passed the House, it died on the Senate floor.

John Morgan wrong to insult Mayernicks, lobbying profession

The he-said, he-said-what? between medical marijuana proponents Ben Pollara and John Morgan has captivated political aficionados during the epilogue phase of the 2017 Legislative Session.

On Friday night, the Legislature killed HB 1397, a bill to enact the medical marijuana amendment approved by 71 percent of voters in November. Morgan, who spearheaded and bankrolled much of Amendment 2 in both 2014 and 2016, puts blame for the bill’s failures squarely on Pollara’s shoulders.

“Ben Pollara fucked the patients,” Morgan told FloridaPolitics.com bluntly Saturday morning. “The person who strengthened the cartels (the seven existing licenses permitted to cultivate and distribute medical marijuana in Florida and opposed Florida for Care as the Legislature debated implementing Amendment 2) the most is Ben Pollara.”

In a subsequent interview with POLITICO Florida, Morgan continued to dish out blame. In addition to Pollara, Morgan also blames lobbyists Tracy and Frank Mayernick for the medical marijuana legislation going up in smoke.

“I blame [Joe] Negron, and I blame the Mayernicks for this. And Ben hired the Mayernicks,” Morgan said. “You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.”

It’s that criticism of the Mayernicks where Morgan really crossed the line.

Lobbyists are not the issue. Rarely, if ever, are they the issue.

Some bills pass. Many bills die. Lobbyists play a role in this process. But what lobbyists do — what the Mayernicks do — is not a “lay down with dogs, get up with fleas” situation.

Morgan should know better. He is a lawyer. Doubtless, he (or lawyers in his firm) have argued for clients they know to be guilty or wrong. But advocating for them does not make the lawyers guilty or wrong.

As with lawyering, lobbyists are not guilty by association.

And that’s if you begin with the erroneous presumption that the Mayernicks did anything other than advocate for their clients’ position at their clients’ instruction.

“It is disingenuous for anyone involved in this issue to suggest that one group or any lobbyists were able to stop this legislation, in fact, anyone following this process closely knows that both chambers struggled all session to reach agreement on many other major policy issues,” Mayernick told POLITICO Florida in a statement. “Our hope from day one and continues to be that the legislature implements legislation that will ensure access coupled with low prices, variety and a quality product to suffering patients.”

I asked Mayernick, a soft-spoken but intense veteran of The Process, if he wanted to respond to Morgan’s comments. He didn’t. Not because he’s afraid of going toe-to-toe with a heavyweight like Morgan, but because it’s not he or his wife’s style to peacock about what they do.

There is probably no boutique firm closer to Senate President Joe Negron than The Mayernick Group. While this has brought the firm many new clients, it’s also brought its share of criticism and jealousy.

This comes with the territory.

I’m also not sure if it was best for The Mayernick Group to represent Arizona Facilities Supply, a prospective licensee, before the Legislature while repping Florida For Care. That may not have been a direct conflict of interest, but critics of The Mayernick Group will suggest it’s bad optics.

Still, what Morgan said is out of line. It’s really an attack on the entire lobbying profession.

The reality is, even though the bill failed, it would never have got as far as it did without the Mayernicks. Even the Mayernick’s critics will concede that.

Fortunately for the Mayernicks, Morgan has had so much so to say lately that the value of his comments has deflated like Venezuelan currency.

He’d do better to talk more about something he knows better, like mesothelioma or slip-and-falls.

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