Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 307

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, Florida Politics, Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of the quarterly INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, SaintPetersBlog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 12.11.17

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

Coming in January: The biennial INFLUENCE 100 — the top influencers in Florida politics.

The 100 most influential Floridians in state politics will be revealed in the forthcoming edition of INFLUENCE Magazine.

Set to debut during the week of January 22, the winter edition of INFLUENCE Magazine will profile the 100 people who leave the biggest footprints in Florida politics, but are not in elected office.

From lobbyists and major donors to academics and journalists, the INFLUENCE 100 has become the benchmark for recognizing Florida’s political elite.

Think Fortune 500 just for Florida’s influence industry.

Right now, we are accepting nominations for who should be considered for inclusion in the INFLUENCE 100. We also are looking for panelists to serve on an ad hoc selection committee.

The bar has been set pretty high for this list. We’re talking about Shad Khan … John Morgan … Melissa Stone … Jeff Vinik territory here, so aim high with your suggestions.

Again, this is a list of influencers, not elected officials, so you won’t see Rick Scott or Buddy Dyer. But it could include politicians out of office such as, say, Dean Cannon.

Please email me at Peter@FloridaPolitics.com with your suggestions.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***

— FROM THE WEEKEND: TERRIE RIZZO WINS FLA. DEM. CHAIR RACE —

Terrie Rizzo elected Florida Democratic Party chairman, replacing Stephen Bittel via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Rizzo, 70, who chairs the Palm Beach County Democratic Party, was the favorite headed into the vote, a position bolstered by Sen. Bill Nelson‘s endorsement … Because he’s the Democrat’s only statewide elected official and has a tough 2018 re-election fight, he was seen as having a tremendous amount of influence over the results. Despite the slight drama, though, Rizzo ended up beating [StaceyPatel 830-291, a margin that grew during the vote in Orlando after Alma Gonzalez, a chair candidate and Hillsborough County State Committeewoman, dropped out of the race and threw her support behind Rizzo. “Florida Democrats are organized, energized and taking on Donald TrumpRick Scott and the GOP,” said FDP spokeswoman Johanna Cervone in a statement.

Behind the scenes, Bill Nelson team pressured FDP chair candidate out of race via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Monica Russo, president of the SEIU Florida, said she was contacted by Pete Mitchell, a longtime Nelson operative, and pressured to leave the race. Mitchell has worked as chief-of-staff in Nelson’s Senate office and has helped lead the senior senator’s political team. “He called, and it was a somewhat aggressive tone,” Russo [said]. “I’ve known Pete for a long time. So, it kind of caught me off guard.” Mitchell denies that the call was used to dissuade Russo from getting out of the race. He said he was trying to explain to her the difficulties of running because, though she is a longtime Democratic activist, she is not an elected party leader, which is a requirement for running. “The only think I was trying to communicate to her in the experience I have had, when you have not met that eligibility requirement it can get pretty messy,” Mitchell said. “I wanted her to just be aware.” As part of her campaign, said Russo, she wanted to change party rules to make candidates like her eligible to receive votes. That effort failed, so she withdrew from the race.

Scoop — “Johanna Cervone to leave Florida Democratic Party for University of Miami” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — The state party’s communications director is leaving her post to work at the University of Miami, where she will be the executive director of communications at the Office of President Julio Frenk. Cervone was hired in March to expand the state party’s press outreach, soon after ousted Chair Stephen Bittel was elected to lead the party.

— L’ AFFAIRE LATVALA —

Senate President: Sexual misconduct inquiry not slowing down process” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Joe Negron stuck closely to comments he’s already made about the investigation and the charges, which have rocked the Capitol and caused what one Republican senator called “paralysis” in the upper chamber. Negron, headed into his second and final legislative session as the man with the gavel in the Senate, disagreed that the drama has eclipsed all other business in the Senate. “That’s not what I see. I’m visiting with senators constantly and talking about projects. There are bills being referenced,” he said. “A lot of bills have been filed. Committee meetings are moving forward. Some bills have been voted down. Some bills have been voted up. So, I think that the people’s business is being done. And we’re going to let the process that’s set forth in our rules move forward and then there will be a resolution.” Negron reiterated that he wants individuals who’ve been the victim of sexual harassment to come forward.

Matt Gaetz won’t be witness in state Senate’s ‘sham’ sex-harassment investigation via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Gaetz has refused to speak with an independent investigator examining sexual harassment complaints against a fellow Republican, Florida Sen. Jack Latvala, because he doesn’t believe it’s being conducted in good faith. “The Florida Senate’s ‘investigation’ into Senator Latvala is a sham. I will not validate it by participating,” Gaetz wrote in a Nov. 30 letter, obtained by POLITICO, to Gail Holtzman, the independent investigator hired by Sen. Joe Negron. “The Florida Senate isn’t serious about investigating Senator Latvala or protecting those he has harmed,” Gaetz said. “Accusers know it. Senators I’ve spoken with know it. And so do I. Sad!” A spokeswoman for Negron, who launched the investigation, did not respond to questions for comment.

Latvala accuser sued by former colleague for defamation” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — A witness for Sen. Latvala in a sexual harassment case against him sued his accuser for defamation Friday. Lily Tysinger, a 22-year-old Senate staffer, claims Perrin Rogers spread lies about her having sex with colleagues and that she was mentally ill, which Tysinger says damaged her reputation. Perrin Rogers’ lawyer called the claims against her client a “complete lie.”

Latvala’s star witness in sex-harassment case is a campaign supporter via Alexandra Glorioso and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — … who attended one of his gubernatorial campaign kickoff events in potential violation, his accuser’s attorney says, of Senate employment policy. Latvala denied that his supporter, Tysinger, was a campaign volunteer and said she didn’t break Senate rules that limit an employee from attending campaign functions because his Aug. 16 Panama City kickoff event occurred after regular work hours. Tysinger’s attorney also denied wrongdoing.

Andrew Gillum questions Senate Democrats’ silence on Latvala” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — Gillum says that may be because of the institutional structure and the nature of relationships in the Senate, but he says that Latvala’s “attack dog” tactics are why he should resign. “What you have in the Florida Senate is a lot of close relationships, a lot of folks who know each other, and a real unwillingness to enter into the divisive fray of having a colleague step down,” said the Tallahassee mayor, following an appearance at Tampa’s Oxford Exchange. “These are uncomfortable positions all the way around for everybody, but it does require leadership … I’ve been most disheartened by what appears to have been a full-on intimidation and attack dog approach when it comes to the victim.”

Brian Hughes dropped a dime” via Peter Schorsch

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Joe Negron backs aid for agriculture industry” via the News Service of Florida — Without putting a price tag on the state’s contribution, Senate President Negron appeared to favor tax cuts and mitigation measures rather than loans. He pointed to major damage sustained by citrus growers but also said assistance should go to other parts of the agriculture industry. “I do think the effect of the hurricane was so catastrophic to the citrus industry that it merits the government, the state government, partnering with the industry to make sure that they can continue to thrive,” Negron said during an interview. Negron said Sen. Bill Galvano, who is slated to become the next Senate president, and Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Denise Grimsley, are expected to work on the issue.

Legislators continue to battle with state colleges over local control” via Ali Schmitz of TCPalm.com — “State” colleges could become “community” colleges once again, and only 20 percent of their students could pursue four-year bachelor’s degrees, under a 2018 session bill. The bill (SB 540) also would shift oversight to a new 13-member, governor-appointed panel that could lessen local control. The proposed enrollment cap is even more restrictive than a bill that failed in the 2017 session, which would have imposed a 15 percent limit on baccalaureate students. Gov. Scott sided with state colleges when he vetoed that bill earlier this year. He said he thought it would “impede” progress at state colleges. President Negron supports the new bill as part of his plan to make Florida universities a “destination” for high-performing students across the country. It isn’t an attack on state colleges. The goal is to make sure state colleges aren’t straying too far from their core mission of providing vocational education and associate degrees, Negron said, noting state colleges don’t have the same resources as universities.

Obscure Florida law prompts need for fantasy sports legislation” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Fantasy sports advocates have said their hobby is a game of skill and shouldn’t be considered gambling. There’s one sticking point with that position in Florida: A state law prohibits betting on games of skill, making it a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail. But a state senator backing a bill to exempt fantasy sports from state gambling regulation says “the ambiguity and breadth of that statute is the whole reason we need a bill in the first place.” Three fantasy sports bills so far have been filed for the 2018 Legislative Session.

Bill would punish car theft victims” via Lisa Gartner and Zachary Sampson of the Tampa Bay Times — State Rep. Wengay Newton filed House Bill 927, which would make it a second-degree misdemeanor to leave your car unattended without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition and taking the key from the car. Sen. Perry Thurston Jr. filed matching Senate Bill 1112. Under Florida statute, a second-degree misdemeanor is punishable with a fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail. “Juveniles are crashing into people, killing themselves,” said Newton. “I look back at the beginning and say, but for the keys being left in the vehicle and this crime of opportunity prevailing itself, we wouldn’t have stolen cars and these crashes.” Newton said his proposal would go beyond running cars to include unlocked cars with the keys left inside, something the current statute doesn’t cover. “What I’m trying to do is close this floodgate of a crime of opportunity that is permitting these juveniles to get access to cars,” Newton said. He said he did not include adult thieves as part of the bill because more thefts are committed by teens — a belief that is true locally, but not necessarily elsewhere in the state. But Newton’s proposal was not received well by local law enforcement. “No,” was St. Petersburg police Chief Anthony Holloway’s reaction to the text of the bill. “They’re already a victim, and we’re going to charge you now? People won’t report it, or they’ll lie to us.”

House bill says train conductors, passengers cannot be auto accident witnesses” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A new Florida House bill says that train conductors and passengers are not, for the purposes of crash reports, auto accident witnesses. While that may seem obvious, current statute leaves that concept open for interpretation. HB 959, filed by Jacksonville Republican Jason Fischer, revises current law to make explicit that people on trains are not considered passengers for purpose of making crash reports. To that end, a conductor of a train is not a driver of a motor vehicle. A passenger of a train is not a passenger of a motor vehicle. And a train is not a motor vehicle.

Assignment editors — Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat, will hold a news conference on SB 56, a bill to make diapers and adult incontinence products exempt from state and local sales tax. “The average child uses around 2,800 diapers in their first year, costing nearly $1,000,” according to a news release. “Exempting diapers from sales tax will save the average parent $50-$70 per year. Twelve other states have enacted similar legislation.” The event is at 10 a.m., Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center, Multipurpose Room, 1401 S. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Richard Corcoran steps into sanctuary city ‘dust up’ ” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — House Speaker Richard Corcoran elbowed into a social media “spat” between Adam Putnam and Andrew Gillum about immigration, saying they’re both on the wrong side of the amnesty debate. “Ironic to see a dust up between these two on immigration, since they’ve both supported #amnesty for illegal immigrants. Call it amnesty or sanctuary cities, both defy our rule of law and make the nation (and Florida) less safe. #TwoSidesOfTheSameCoin,” Corcoran tweeted last week. Corcoran is widely expected to jump into the governor’s race after the 2018 Legislative Session.

Tweet shot and chaser:

First in Sunburn — Ashley Moody announces statewide finance team — Moody’s campaign for Attorney General released its finance committee consisting of nearly three dozen leaders from throughout the state. “It’s humbling to have the support of so many business, civic and legal leaders from around Florida. Each and every individual on our finance team is not just accomplished professionally, but well-respected in their community,” Moody said. On the team: Carlos Alfonso, Brian Ballard, Rodney Barreto, Bennett Barrow, Glen Blauch, Dean Cannon, Doug Cone, Mike Corcoran, Bill Edwards, Elizabeth Marie Fago, Blake Fletcher, George Gainer, Robert Gidel, David Heekin, Jim Holton, Bill Horne, Jim Horne, Justin Kaplan, Cody Khan, Frank Kruppenbacher, Ron LaFace, Rhea Law, George LeMieux, Roberto Martinez, Randall McElheney, Paul Mitchell, Paul Perez, Ed Pozzuoli, Wayne Rosen, Domingo Sanchez, William Merrill Stainton, Trey Traviesa, Dr. Peter A. Wish, Jordan Zimmerman.

Did Democrat for Congress split with campaign manager over #MAGA posts or strategy?” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Democratic congressional candidate and Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez says she and her Republican campaign manager quietly parted ways after he trolled liberals on social media and continued working for a man whom she accused of unwanted sexual advances. Citing philosophical differences, Rosen Gonzalez, who is running for the 27th Congressional District seat held by retiring Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, says Pedro Diaz resigned last month from her campaign. She said they split “because he would not step down” from the Miami Beach Commission campaign of Rafael Velasquez, though Diaz said their dispute was over campaign strategy. “The only reason we parted ways was really strategic differences. I don’t think it had anything to do with Rafael or anything else,” Diaz said. Rosen Gonzalez accused Velasquez in late October of exposing his penis to her, and said Diaz resigned about a week later, just before Velasquez lost his election.

First in Sunburn — A key endorsement in HD 66 primary — Republican Nick DiCeglie will announce today that City of Seminole Mayor and former Speaker Pro- Tempore of the Florida House of Representatives, Leslie Waters has endorsed his campaign for state Representative.

Wait, what? — “Blogger challenging Nick Duran wants her online handle on the ballot” via Florida Politics — Duran is facing a primary challenger, Nancy Lee, in his re-election bid for House District 112, but that name is merely a front for her true identity: “GENIUS OF DESPAIR.” In a letter sent to the Florida Division of Elections late last month Lee, who also ran for HD 112 in 2016, requested that her blogging handle be added as her official nickname in the state’s database of candidates. And consistent with all true geniuses, especially those on the internet, Lee made sure her request was in all caps. “I HAVE BEEN USING THE NAME GENIUSOFDESPAIR ON MY BLOG EYEONMIAMI.BLOGSPOT.COM FOR AT LEAST 11 YEARS. 16,215 PEOPLE HAVE VIEWED BY PROFILE AND SEVEN AND ONE-HALF PEOPLE HAVE LOOKED AT OUR BLOG WITH MY NAME BEING GENIUSOFDESPAIR/NANCY LEE. SO, I REQUEST THAT “GENIUS OF DESPAIR” BE INCLUDED AS MY NICKNAME WHEN RUNNING FOR STATE REP. DISTRICT 112,” Lee wrote. Notable by its absence, however, was any evidence showing seven and one-half people had looked at “GENIUSOFDESPAIR/NANCY LEE.” It remains unclear how Lee would know a half person had viewed the webpage.

Deadline for campaign finance reports — Financial reports for state political candidates and committees through Nov. 30 are due today.

— STATEWIDE —

Three months after Irma, counties and cities pick up the last of the storm’s debris” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Monday marks three months since Hurricane Irma blew into Central Florida on Sept. 11 with gusty winds that toppled trees and shook loose several million cubic yards of branches and limbs. The taxpayer-funded cleanup, hampered initially by a shortage of emergency debris-removal crews, is nearly done, area officials say. Once hopeful of finishing the job by Thanksgiving, “we’re now shooting for Dec. 15,” said Frank Yokiel, project manager for Orange County Public Works. The city hopes to be reimbursed for most of its pick up and disposal expenses by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which announced in September it would repay 90 percent of eligible expenses. But most county governments in Central Florida, all of which have spent millions more than Orlando, worry it could take years for FEMA to repay them.

Ex-rep. Dwayne Taylor sentenced to 13 months prison, 18 months supervision” via Frank Fernandez of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — Saying he had dishonored the state and fueled skeptics who doubted the honesty of politicians, a judge sentenced former Florida representative and ex-Daytona Beach city Commissioner Taylor to 13 months in federal prison, followed by 18 months supervised release for using campaign money for personal expenses. Because of its location, the judge suggested that Taylor do his time at Coleman, a low security prison in Sumterville … U.S. District Judge Carlos Mendoza also ordered Taylor to begin paying $62,834 in $300 monthly installments once he is released from prison. Mendoza said the evidence was overwhelming against Taylor and even included videos, including video showing Taylor withdrawing money from ATMs with his campaign debit card and depositing it into a personal account with a personal debit card. The judge also said that Taylor took “extraordinary steps” to try to conceal his crime in actions that could have formed the basis for additional charges. “This is a sad day for all of Florida and certainly for those who believed in you,” Mendoza told Taylor.

Nonpartisan elections rejected for Orange County officials” via the News Service of Florida — Ruling that such issues are governed by state law, an appeals court rejected a voter-approved change that called for Orange County constitutional officers to be chosen in nonpartisan elections. Voters in 2014 supported revamping the Orange County charter to include nonpartisan elections for the clerk of circuit court, comptroller, property appraiser, sheriff, supervisor of elections and tax collector. Constitutional officers filed a lawsuit, and a circuit judge rejected the change, concluding that the issue was “pre-empted” to the Legislature. A three-judge panel of the 5th District Court of Appeal said the circuit judge correctly struck down the change to nonpartisan elections.

Mysterious ‘white plague’ threatens South Florida coral reefs via The Associated Press — Called white plague, white blotch and other names, depending on the pattern of damaged or destroyed tissue, the disease has infected more than 20 South Florida coral species from the Middle Keys through Palm Beach County, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection … On the reefs running from mid-Miami-Dade County through Martin County, scientists have observed a 35 percent loss of reef-building coral. “The reef is in a state of emergency,” said Jennifer Stein, South Florida marine conservation coordinator for the Nature Conservancy. “It needs a lot of attention, a lot of research, a lot of focus, especially with this disease.” The disease arose during a worldwide, three-year coral catastrophe called bleaching, in which unusually warm ocean water led many corals to expel the piece of algae that provided them with color and gave them a source of nutrition through photosynthesis. Although coral can recover from bleaching, the ordeal weakens them and makes them vulnerable to disease.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Arrests of undocumented immigrants rise in Florida amid Donald Trump crackdown” via Aric Chokey of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — After declining for years, arrests of undocumented immigrants have nearly doubled in a region overseen by federal immigration officials in South Florida. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Miami office reported taking 6,192 people into custody this year across Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. That’s up from 3,524 last year, according to agency figures … Deportations also swelled by 20 percent. According to the data, the Miami office reported 7,100 removals this year compared with 5,600 last year. The Miami office’s Acting Field Director Michael Meade pointed to a Jan. 25 order from Trump as the driving force behind the uptick. The order rolled back the Obamaadministration’s directives that said ICE should prioritize apprehending undocumented immigrants with criminal histories and those who came to the U.S. after January 2014.

No surprise Bill Nelson not among early stampede calling for Al Franken to leave Senate” via Ledyard King of USA TODAY — The three-term senator from Florida has always been proud of the deliberative nature of the Senate and the sense of camaraderie, even between members of rival parties. And he respected Franken enough to have him as the headliner for a November fundraiser at the Tampa-area home of former gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink to bolster Nelson‘s 2018 re-election bid. Franken’s appearance at the fundraiser was promptly canceled when the sexual misconduct allegations against him began surfacing. The two also had teamed up on various bills in past years, including measures aimed at expanding agricultural aid, improving veterans’ benefits and, last year, speeding up the development of vaccines and treatments against the Zika virus, a key issue for Florida.

Taxpayers paid $220K to settle case involving Alcee Hastings” via Stephanie Akin of Roll Call — Winsome Packer, a former staff member of a congressional commission that promotes international human rights, said in documents that the congressman touched her, made unwanted sexual advances, and threatened her job. At the time, Hastings was the chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, where Packer worked. Hastings has called Packer’s charges “ludicrous” and in documents said he never sexually harassed her. The 2014 payment to settle the case involving Hastings was not apparently included in a breakdown of payouts to settle discrimination complaints against House lawmakers from the past five years released last month by the Office of Compliance, which approves the payouts. That total included only one payment to resolve a sexual harassment claim — $84,000 paid to settle a complaint against Texas GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold.

Assignment editors — Congressman Matt Gaetz will deliver remarks at the grand opening of the new Sunterra Wellness medical marijuana dispensary in Pensacola. Event begins 10 a.m. at Sunterra’s Pensacola Wellness Center, 5046 Bayou Boulevard, Unit A, in Pensacola.

Assignment editors —  U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist and Kathy Castor will hold a media availability at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa to remind constituents the open enrollment period for healthcare.gov ends Friday, Dec. 15. Event begins 10 a.m. at St. Joseph’s Hospital (BayCare Health System), Medical Arts Building Auditorium (Room 3), 3001 W. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Tampa.

— OPINIONS —

A ‘Fight Club’ grand jury is right call via the Miami Herald editorial board — A grand jury is being asked to investigate conditions and practices in the state’s juvenile lockups. That’s a welcome action from Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle. In the past, grand juries have shed light on horrible injustices in our community and across the state. Let’s hope this sets the course for a similar resolution. The decision comes two months after the Herald published its six-part series, Fight Club, which documented abuses within Department of Juvenile Justice detention centers and residential programs. This probe should end the careers of abusive employees — unwittingly financed by taxpayers — who are supposed to be caretakers but turn into state-paid abusers. The Miami Herald series will give them plenty of fodder. Let’s hope it translate to substantive changes in the state’s juvenile justice system.

Nursing home bill of rights deserves support” via Sun-Sentinel editorial doard — This time the battleground is at the Constitution Revision Commission … Proposal 88, by Commissioner Brecht Heuchan, belongs on the November 2018 ballot. It guarantees the right of nursing home and assisted living residents “to be treated courteously, fairly and with the fullest measure of dignity.” It mandates “a safe clean, comfortable and homelike environment that protects residents from harm and takes into account this state’s challenges with respect to climate and natural disasters.” It guarantees “the right to access courts and a jury system that allow for a speedy trial and relief and remedies, without limitations.” It also forbids facilities from asking patients, or others acting on their behalf, to waive those rights. Proposition 88 is meritorious. It’s open to question — a proper issue before the Revision Commission — whether there should be reasonable limits on lawsuit recoveries from nursing homes. But there’s nothing to be said for allowing the industry to continue to try to close the courthouse doors.

— MOVEMENTS —

Ethics panel approves settlement in Doug Holder case” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The Florida Commission on Ethics has approved a settlement with former state Rep. Holder to resolve an ethics complaint that he filed “inaccurate” financial disclosures in 2010-14. A spokeswoman said the panel OK’d the agreement unanimously at its Friday meeting. Holder, a Sarasota County Republican, will pay $6,500 in civil penalties. The 50-year-old Holder, now a lobbyist, served in the House 2006-14. He ran unsuccessfully in 2016 to succeed GOP state Sen. Nancy Detert, losing to fellow Republican Greg Steube. Holder had admitted to filing inaccurate financial disclosures and later filed corrected disclosures, according to documents filed with the commission.

Strategic Digital Services is hiring — After a new rebranding, adding staff and moving to a 3,000 square-foot office in 2017, Strategic Digital Services (SDS) — the Tallahassee-based political data modeling and analytics shop run by co-founders Joe Clements and Matt Farrar — is launching a nationwide search for a new graphic designer. The company offers a competitive salary, a great company culture and the ability to work on some “really cool” projects. According to the call for applications: “The trust and confidence of our colleagues and clients is the secret sauce of our business, and we are grateful for your support.” To apply, visit strategicdigital.services/graphic-designer.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Joshua AubuchonMark DelegalAndrew Marcus, Holland & Knight: Applied Underwriters

Paul Bradshaw, Southern Strategy Group: M H Corbi

Ron Pierce, Edward BriggsNatalie King, RSA Consulting Group: Barnes&Noble Education, National Association of College Store

Dean CannonMary Kim McDougalChris SpencerTodd SteiblyRobert Stuart, GrayRobinson: Pasco County Schools, School Board of Levy County

Christopher Carmody, GrayRobinson: Lake Monroe Waterfront Downtown Sanford CRA

Sharon Jean MerchantMichelle Damone, The Merchant Strategy: Palm Beach Point Property Owners Association

SpottedTanya and Gus Corbella at the Renaissance Vinoy in St. Petersburg. They were in town for the Florida Orchestra’s 50th Anniversary Gala celebration, which featured a performance by Sting.

— FIRST LOOK: THE SSG XMAS CARD —

Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without the highly awaited holiday greetings from Southern Strategy Group. Every year, the SSG Christmas card offers a fun take on the year’s biggest political stories, something always guaranteed to bring a buzz — not to mention a few snickers — throughout Florida’s Capitol.

This year’s card is as subtle as it is funny:

— ALOE —

Congrats to Brooke and Drew Heffley on their gorgeous wedding at Pebble Hill Plantation in Thomasville, Georgia.

More congratulations to Cory Guzzo and Libby Whitley on their nuptials.

Happy birthday belatedly to our great friend, Richard Reeves, as well as Garrett BlantonJustin HollisNicole Krassner, and Beth Lerner. Celebrating today are Houston Barnes and our man in Compass Lake, Sven Davis.

Blogger challenging Nick Duran wants her online handle on the ballot

Democrat Nick Duran is facing a primary challenger, Nancy Lee, in his re-election bid for House District 112, but that name is merely a front for her true identity: “GENIUS OF DESPAIR.”

In a letter sent to the Florida Division of Elections late last month Lee, who also ran for HD 112 in 2016, requested that her blogging handle be added as her official nickname in the state’s database of candidates. And consistent with all true geniuses, especially those on the internet, Lee made sure her request was in all caps.

“I HAVE BEEN USING THE NAME GENIUSOFDESPAIR ON MY BLOG EYEONMIAMI.BLOGSPOT.COM FOR AT LEAST 11 YEARS. 16,215 PEOPLE HAVE VIEWED BY PROFILE AND SEVEN AND ONE HALF PEOPLE HAVE LOOKED AT OUR BLOG WITH MY NAME BEING GENIUSOFDESPAIR/NANCY LEE. SO I REQUEST THAT “GENIUS OF DESPAIR” BE INCLUDED AS MY NICKNAME WHEN RUNNING FOR STATE REP. DISTRICT 112. (SEE A AND B) ATTACHED,” Lee wrote.

The affidavit was signed and notarized on Nov. 21, marked received by the Division of Elections on Nov. 28, and includes a couple pieces of evidence. Namely, a printout of her profile page showing the previously mentioned 16,215 views.

Notable by its absence, however, was any evidence showing seven and one half people had looked at “GENIUSOFDESPAIR/NANCY LEE.” It remains unclear how Lee would know a half person had viewed the web page.

Lee’s candidacy was acknowledged by the Division of Elections on Dec. 5, but as of Friday her name in the database is still just Nancy Lee, which seems somewhat unfair considering Republican candidate Rosa Maria Palomino got away with getting her nickname – the much less intimidating “Rosy” – put in the database.

Despite name recognition from somewhere between 7.5 and 16,215 people, Lee wrote in a Friday blog post that she agreed with a “mean comment” that her “campaign is going to crash and burn.”

“Why wouldn’t it? I probably have more baggage than Nick Duran my opponent BUT it is different baggage. None of relates to getting public money or influencing anyone. I am just a civic minded person that has written a good government blog since 2006 for no money. That adds up to 5,454 blog posts I have written and I am not even a good writer,” she said.

Lee went on to criticize Duran for serving as executive director for the The Florida Association of Free and Charitable Clinics by citing a POLITICO article from before he was in the Florida House about the non-profit’s funding the 2015-16 state budget.

HD 112 covers part of coastal Miami Dade County, including Key Biscayne and Coral Gables. The district leans Democratic but is somewhat competitive. After beating Lee in the Democratic Primary, Duran won his 2016 contest against Palomino 53-47.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — A ‘travesty’ in Tallahassee?

A coalition of progressive and open government organizations is again taking the state’s Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) to task, this time for “glaring examples of rule violations” and calling the panel’s conduct “a travesty.”

Leaders of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, the Florida First Amendment Foundation, the League of Women Voters Florida and others wrote a letter to CRC Chairman Carlos Beruff, an appointee of Gov. Rick Scott, this week.

“Commissioners seem to be working to advance proposals that impact their own interests or those of paying clients,” it said. “Also, open meeting rules are simply being ignored. And basic meeting procedures established by the CRC have been violated.”

Commissioner Brecht Heuchan faces criticism over the CRC process.

For example, the letter says “one commissioner who is a paid lobbyist for a law firm has filed a proposal that — while highly beneficial for the people of Florida — could create an economic benefit for that law firm.”

Commissioner Brecht Heuchan has lobbied for Wilkes & McHugh, “a law firm that makes its living suing nursing homes,” as the Florida Health Care Association, a nursing-home advocacy group, put it. Heuchan filed a proposed amendment creating a “bill of rights” for nursing home and assisted living facility residents.

The groups also took issue with apparent wheeling and dealing to save a proposal in the commission’s Education Committee, saying “discussions behind the scenes … outside of public view” violated the commission’s openness rules.

“The message the CRC is sending to the citizens of Florida is coming through loud and clear,” the letter says. “If rules of procedures and codes of conduct get in the way of proposals that are part of a preordained outcome of this commission — they will be ignored.

“Floridians deserve better,” it added. The full letter is here.

“Commissioners are hard at work holding open and transparent public meetings to consider proposals, the majority of which represent ideas submitted by the public,” said CRC spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice in an email. “Commissioners hold themselves to a high standard and are following the same rules as the previous commission in 1997-1998.”

The commission will meet again in committees next week in the Capitol.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Ana Ceballos, Jim Rosica, Danny McAuliffe, Andrew Wilson and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Democrats in the red — Ahead of what is expected to be a busy 2018 election year, the account Florida Democrats use to fund federal campaigns is out of money, according to Federal Elections Commission records. At the beginning of the year, the Florida Democratic Party’s federal account had $383,439 in the bank. By late October, it was more than $18,490 in the red. The federal account started hemorrhaging money during the brief tenure of now ousted Stephen Bittel, a millionaire Democratic donor selected under the promise of boosting the Party’s fundraising efforts and finances.

Down goes Ritch Workman — After Republican state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto publicly accused Ritch Workman, a Gov. Rick Scott appointee to the Public Service Commission, of making vulgar and inappropriate comments to her at a charity event last year, he said he is no longer pursuing the post. “I found his conduct to be abhorrent. As such, I will not agenda his appointment to the Public Service Commission for a hearing in the Senate Committee on Rules,” Benacquisto said. Workman told POLITICO he does not remember the incident, but offered his resignation and an apology to Scott. The governor said he supports his decision to resign, adding that “any misconduct cannot be tolerated.”

Book files Latvala complaint Lauren Book, a Democratic state senator and child sexual abuse survivor who founded “Lauren’s Kids,”  filed a formal complaint against Sen. Jack Latvala, the Clearwater Republican facing a sexual harassment probe in the Senate. She alleged that Latvala violated Senate rules by aggressively going after one of his accuser who went public, Senate aide Rachel Perrin Rogers. She has accused Latvala of groping her and using degrading language to describe her body over a four-year period.

Florida top ‘judicial hellhole’ — Florida takes the top spot among the states in more than a few lists, but it earned a “distinction” from the American Tort Reform Association which said the Sunshine State was the No. 1 “Judicial Hellhole” in the country. Florida was one of eight states or judicial districts getting a write up in 2017-2018 Judicial Hellholes, earning the top spot in the ring of dishonor alongside courts in California, St. Louis, New York City, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Illinois and Louisiana.

Holiday display season starts — An “educational display of the astronomy causing the winter solstice” is the first holiday display to gain approval this year for the Florida Capitol rotunda. A poster sponsored by the First Coast Freethought Society of Jacksonville, is approved for display Dec. 15-22. Nina Ashley, spokeswoman for the Department of Management Services, the state’s real estate manager, said it was the only request for a display received thus far for the 2017 holiday season. Every year, groups have sought to place various exhibits in the plaza-level rotunda of the Capitol during the holiday season.

House Democrats keeping track

The House Democratic Caucus gave a rundown of bills making committee agendas during the committee weeks ahead of the 2018 Legislative Session and found, unsurprisingly, Republican-sponsored bills have been booked more often than bipartisan or Democrat-sponsored bills.

The data, complete with an infogram-made doughnut chart, shows that of the 85 bills placed on House committee agendas by Dec. 4, 58 were sponsored by Republicans, 14 have bipartisan co-sponsors and 13 were sponsored by Democrats.

The committee week starting Nov. 6 was the least successful for Dems, with just 2 bills making committee agendas. The second and fourth committee weeks were the minority party’s most successful, with 4 measures making schedules each week.

House Democrats kept count last year and said they will continue updating the data as more bills are heard — or not heard — during the 60-day session, which starts Jan. 9.

Joe Abruzzo, Kevin Rader want drug czar

Boca Raton Sen. Rader and Boynton Beach Rep. Abruzzo filed bills this week — SB 1068 and HB 865 — to re-establish the Jeb Bush-era Office of Drug Control under the governor as a way to curb substance abuse and combat the opioid crisis.

“We’ve made strides in the fight, but with nearly 6,000 Floridians losing their lives last year due to opioid overdoses, it is clear that more must be done,” Abruzzo said. “If this epidemic is going to end, we must continue to take strong and decisive action to battle the harmful effects these drugs are having on neighborhoods throughout our state.”

Boca Raton Sen. Kevin Rader and Boynton Beach Rep. Joe Abruzzo.

Rader added that “opioid abuse is crippling Florida’s communities. Reinstating a Drug czar to lead the charge in creating better drug oversight is a step toward what our state needs to battle this ongoing epidemic.”

Before it got the ax due to budget cuts in 2011, ODC cost the state about $500,000 a year. The office was responsible for setting drug control policies, compiling and reporting statistics and providing the public with information on substance abuse and services.

Instagram of the Week 

It’s the holiday season in the #FloridaHouse and the #FloridaSenate.

A post shared by kevin sweeny (@djmia00) on

Nick Duran on ‘road to ruin’

Florida Department of Transportation construction projects can wreak havoc on small businesses, and Miami Democratic Rep. Duran filed a bill that would help them get on the road to recovery.

“While upgrading our state’s infrastructure and roadways would have a positive economical long-term impact, these construction projects can take months and years, and can dramatically hurt businesses who see access blocked, reduced parking, increased car traffic, reduced foot traffic and generally negative aesthetic impacts,” Duran said.

Nick Duran takes on the ‘road to ruin’ for Florida small businesses.

“Ensuring our small businesses are not negatively impacted by the work of their state government is common-sense and a sound way to continue to grow Florida’s economy in the future.”

Duran’s bill, HB 561, would set up the “Small Business Roadway Construction Mitigation Grant Program” under FDOT which would, on a case-by-case basis, give businesses a cash infusion to help with construction-related losses. The bill also would require the FDOT to study best practices to reduce damages to businesses’ bottom lines.

Kathleen Peters, water groups demand fracking ban

Treasure Island Republican Rep. Peters is crossing into Tampa Saturday to join a gathering of clean water groups pushing for House Speaker Richard Corcoran to prioritize bans on fracking and offshore drilling.

The meeting at Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park will mark the “largest group of clean water organizations to date” meeting up to support a ban on the controversial drilling practices. Among the expected crowd of 100 will be representatives of Floridians Against Fracking, National Nurses United, the Sierra Club and others.

Kathleen Peters again is seeking a Florida fracking ban.

“Fracking is a dangerous practice that threatens public health on a massive scale and would be an environmental catastrophe for Florida,” Food and Water Watch said in an email. “The practice is a particularly severe threat to Florida, where karst geology, paired with risky drilling practices, would put water at an even greater risk of contamination, leaving over 10 million people without access to water.”

The group poked at Corcoran by equating fracking to corporate welfare.

“Big Oil and Gas has benefited from subsidies paid for by tax paying citizens for decades. It’s time for Speaker Corcoran to truly end corporate welfare by joining Peters in supporting a fracking ban,” the email said.

Bob Rommel praised for bill to squash free speech zones

Republican Rep. Bob Rommel got some praise this week from right-leaning group Generation Opportunity over a bill that would put an end to “free speech zones” on Florida’s public college and university campuses.

The group pointed to a report that found a sixth of American universities relegate demonstrations and protests to specific zones of campus and another report contending one out of five said using violence against a speaker known for making offensive statements was acceptable.

Bob Rommel is getting praise for a plan to squelch ‘free speech zones.’

“So-called free speech zones actually harm free speech and free expression on college campuses by restricting where students can exercise their First Amendment rights. Instead of limiting free speech, colleges and universities should be encouraging students to speak freely, exchange different ideas and learn from each other,” said Generation Opportunity Director Carrie Sheffield. “We applaud Rep. Rommel for introducing this important legislation and urge his colleagues to follow in support.”

The group is pointing college students to a website where they can fill out an email form to thank Rommell for filing the bill and derides public campuses that “restrict the free speech rights of students in the name of ‘tolerance’ or ‘diversity’” — a practice it equates to censorship.

Carlos Guillermo Smith nabs Victory Institute award

Orlando Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith won an award this week named after Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin to recognize “an up-and-coming LGBTQ elected official who is driving equality forward.”

Smith beat out five other nominees in online voting to win the inaugural Tammy Baldwin Breakthrough Award, which he accepted in Washington D.C. before getting a one-on-one meeting with Baldwin, the first openly LGBTQ member of the United States Senate.

Carlos Guillermo Smith is being honored as “an up-and-coming LGBTQ elected official who is driving equality forward.”

“I am incredibly grateful to the Victory Institute for recognizing my work to advance equality for all Floridians. Senator Baldwin is an incredible inspiration to LGBTQ leaders and activists around the world, and I am humbled to have been able to receive this award named after her,” Smith said.

Smith dedicated his award to the Pulse nightclub shooting survivors and first responders, explicitly naming Eatonville Police Corporal Omar Delgado, who is set to be dismissed effective Dec. 31 due to Pulse-related PTSD.

Smith and other state lawmakers, many from the Orlando area, are pushing bills in the 2018 Legislative Session that would expand workers’ compensation benefits to cover first responder PTSD cases.

The week in appointments

Sutton promoted at FWCEric Sutton, assistant executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), moved up to executive director of the agency, effective Friday.

Nick Wiley, the current executive director, retires later this month. Sutton has been an assistant executive director since May 2013.

He received both his bachelor’s and master’s degree in zoology from the University of South Florida. The emphasis of his work was on endangered species population biology.

His appointment will now go to the Florida Senate for confirmation.

FWC chooses new leadership — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Thursday selected Bo Rivard, of Panama City, to serve as its chairman, effective immediately. He replaces Chairman Brian Yablonski of Tallahassee. The term is one year.

Rivard, who has served on the Commission since March 2013, is a partner with Harrison, Rivard, Duncan & Buzzett in Panama City.

Robert Spottswood of Key West was elected vice chair. Spottswood, who has served on the Commission since 2015, is chief executive officer of Spottswood Companies. He takes over for Aliese P. “Liesa” Priddy of Immokalee.

Contractors on skilled worker shortage

Florida construction firms have a grim outlook on filling open jobs, and Associated Builders and Contractors said it’s likely to get worse before it gets better.

According to the third quarter Construction Confidence Index, produced by ABC, nearly 69 percent of contractors expect to make new hires over the next six months to be either “slightly more difficult” or “significantly more difficult,” and about 75 percent of companies added that they are pumping more money into workforce development now than they did a year ago.

Skilled construction labor shortages in Florida are likely to become even more dramatic in late 2017 and into early 2018.

“Given the onset of rebuilding after summer storms, skilled labor shortages are likely to become even more dramatic in late 2017 and into early 2018,” ABC said in the report.

Still, nearly three-quarters of companies polled say they’ll have more employees six months from now than they do today, while 24 percent expect no change and 2 percent expect a slight staffing cut.

The index wasn’t all bad news, however, as nearly four-fifths of firms believe sales will jump over the next six months, including about a quarter of companies which said they expected a better than 5 percent boost in gross revenue. Only one in 10 firms polled expected sales to drop in the near term.

UnitedHealthcare ‘stepping up’ for students

Health insurer UnitedHealthcare kicked off the giving season with a record-setting $15 million contribution to Step Up For Students, one of two nonprofit that administer the needs-based Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program.

“Step Up provides hope for Florida’s children to access a quality education that best fits their needs, and we are glad to support such a worthy initiative,” said Nicholas Zaffiris, CEO of UnitedHealthcare of South Florida.

Step Up celebrated its partnership with UnitedHealthcare by helping disadvantaged students receive the education they deserve. Since 2009, the Minnetonka, MN-based company has chipped in more than $88 million for Step Up, providing the nonprofit with the resources to support scholarships for nearly 17,000 Sunshine State students so they can attend a private school or secure transportation to attend an out-of-district public school.

“None of this would be possible without the support of the community and contributions of organizations like UnitedHealthcare,” said Step Up President Doug Tuthill.

The typical pupil served by Step Up comes from a single-parent household where the average income is $25,353. A recent study shows that Step Up scholarship recipients are 40 percent more likely to attend college than their public-school counterparts, and 29 percent more likely to earn an associate degree.

Seat filled on Tallahassee ethics panel

Tallahassee city commissioners appointed Bill Hollimon to fill an opening on the city’s Independent Ethics Board.

He’s the husband of state Rep. Loranne Ausley, a Tallahassee Democrat elected to the House last year and who previously served 2000-08.

Bill Hollimon with state Rep. Loranne Ausley and their son Will.

Hollimon’s 3-year term in Seat 1, the only position filled by the City Commission, begins Jan. 1.

The mission of the Independent Ethics Board “is to promote the actual and perceived integrity of City government and to prevent unethical conduct before it occurs,” a city news release says.

“Hollimon has been a practicing lawyer for more than 20 years, focusing on patent, trademark, and copyright prosecution and litigation; mediation of complex litigation; strategic planning and guidance for technology-related businesses,” it adds.

He joins Ethics Board members Cecil Davis, the State Attorney appointee; Richard Herring, the Florida State University appointee; Bryan Smith, the Florida A&M University appointee; Bruce D. Grant, the board’s own appointee; and Renee McNeill, another board appointee.

The next meeting is 4 p.m. Dec. 19 in the City Commission Chambers, City Hall, 300 S. Adams St., Tallahassee.

Latest statistics show crime is down

Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo this week told city commissioners that crime continues to go down, according to the latest statistics.

In October, Tallahassee experienced an 8.6 percent decrease in violent crime and a 6.7 percent decrease in property crime. Year to date, overall crime in Tallahassee/Leon County is down by 13 percent over last year.

Crime is down in Tallahassee, says Police Chief Michael DeLeo.

To further support the efforts of TPD, the Commission voted to approve more than $315,000 for equipment upgrades and enhanced technology, including purchasing safety cameras. A list of camera locations can be found at Talgov.com/TPD.

Currently, TPD is reviewing citizen complaint data and crime statistics to determine where 10 additional cameras may prove beneficial and will continue discussions related to potential locations with neighborhood residents.

To stay informed about public safety initiatives and to get information on incidents, visit Talgov.com/TPD.

Bike share comes to Tallahassee

A new “dockless” bike share service called Pace has come to the capital.

“Tallahassee is the first in a wave of cities to embrace smarter, dockless bike sharing,” a city news release said. “Albuquerque, New Mexico, Rochester, New York, Knoxville, Tennessee and Huntsville, Alabama are also committed to join Pace, with each launch scheduled before April 1, 2018.”

Pace bike share is coming to Tallahassee.

With its inaugural launch, Pace will make 300 shared bikes available in Tallahassee. Riders can rent and return bikes from any of Pace’s 50 dedicated bike parking racks, or from any of the hundreds of public bike racks available throughout the city.

“We are very proud that the City of Tallahassee has become a true multi-modal community, including being named one of the most bike-friendly cities in the nation,” Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum said. “The new bike share service is another step toward ensuring that all of our residents have easy access to bicycles for commuting, exercising and touring our great city.”

Riders download a free Pace Bike Share app, available in the Apple App Store or Google Play. Available bikes and parking locations are in the app, and users can unlock bikes at the touch of a button to get rolling in seconds. There is no membership fee to join Pace, and rides start at just $1 per half-hour.

Fire safety tips for the holiday season

It’s just a couple of weeks before Christmas, and many Florida families already went through the process of dragging their holiday décor from the attic and trekking down to the local tree lot in search of the perfect Fraser Fir.

Still, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and the men and women of the Florida Forest Service want to make sure Floridians get a refresher on the dos and don’ts of when it comes to holiday fire safety.

First and foremost, keep that tree away from the fireplace and the space heater. Christmas trees, especially water-starved ones, would love nothing more than to be a 6-foot fire starter.

Also be sure to take a look at those holiday lights to make sure they were tested at facilities, such as UL or ETL. If they were, they’d bear the mark given lab-tested electronics. While you look under a microscope for the safety mark, make sure to double-check for frayed wires, cracked sockets or crushed bulbs. It’s easier to do it before you staple them to your house or drape them over the shrubbery anyway.

If you’re getting out in the yard or on the roof to get those lights up, it’s a perfect time to check for debris. According to the Florida Forest Service, even a small amount dried up yard waste on a roof could be the catalyst for a wildfire turning into a home fire.

Putnam and Co.’s final tip is one that’s good year-round: Blow out the candles and turn off the string lights before you go to bed. A good balsam and cedar candle can put anyone in the holiday spirit, but there are few things worse than waking up to a burning home.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

The Delegation for 12.8.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

President’s big announcement trumps all other news of the week

We are now 46 weeks into the Trump administration and 48 weeks into the 115th Congress. Each week it seems there are constant breathless reports, leaks, fake news, real news, or just enough fodder to keep the talking heads talking.

This week, however, may have been the most momentous five days of all. On Wednesday, the House took an actual vote on a call for impeachment proceedings (see below), but that wasn’t even in the top two of the week’s happenings.

The rising voices of women wronged by sexual harassment grew louder with the resignations of the longest-serving member of the House (Michigan Democrat John Conyers), Trent Franks of Arizona, and Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken. In announcing his resignation, which would come in the “coming weeks,” Franken wondered aloud about Tuesday’s election in Alabama involving GOP candidate Roy Moore as well as President Donald Trump, who has also been accused of impropriety.

In a busy week, Donald Trump’s Jerusalem speech trumped it all.

A once-in-a-generation tax cut is now being brokered by House and Senate negotiators. The House is on the verge of seeking a contempt citation against the FBI Director and the Deputy Attorney General (see Two Florida Republicans).

But in a week of big news, the biggest came from President Donald Trump with a move that will have long-lasting ramifications. Wednesday’s announcement of the U.S. intention to move its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem brought nearly universal condemnation around the world, but a good measure of bipartisan support at home.

Republicans and Democrats alike hailed the move.

Lakeland Republican Dennis Ross said the U.S. needed to “send a clear message to the world that we support Israel and recognize Jerusalem as its eternal capital. Ponte Vedra Republican Ron DeSantis, who pointedly criticized Trump for putting off the move a few months ago, tweeted “With President Trump’s announcement, the U.S. is finally following through with what Congress enacted in the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act.”

Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch and Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen issued a joint statement. Ros-Lehtinen is the chair and Deutch is the ranking member of the subcommittee overseeing Middle East affairs.

“The President’s decision today is a recognition of existing U.S. law that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that the U.S. Embassy should be located in the capital,” the statement said. “There is no debate that the Jewish people have a deep-rooted religious, cultural and historic tie to Jerusalem, and today’s decision reaffirms that connection.”

West Palm Beach Democrat Lois Frankel said Trump’s decision “is consistent with current U.S. law and reaffirms what we already know: Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.” Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz fully agreed with Trump’s move while adding Jerusalem “should remain accessible to people of all faiths.”

Not everyone in Congress agrees, fearing terror attacks or hurting the Israeli/Palestinian peace process. But when the actions of a U.S. President become the story of the week just by following the letter of a law passed 22 years ago, then we know it’s a big deal. 

Government funding issue comes down to the wire

With the government set to run out of funding on Friday, word of a two-week extension rattled through the halls of Congress earlier in the week. Achieving that seemingly simple goal was turning out to be more difficult than expected for Republicans.

Speaker Paul Ryan believes he will have the votes to pass the two-week continuing resolution, but as of late Thursday afternoon, nothing was certain. All the GOP would say was “we will get this done, with or without the Democrats.”

Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence meet with bipartisan congressional leaders — Speaker Paul Ryan, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and Sen. Chuck Schumer — at the White House to discuss averting a government shutdown.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate would pass a two-week extension “if and when the House acts.”

Meanwhile, Trump was meeting with leaders of both parties trying to work out a two-year budget deal. Trump does not want to tie the fix to the younger undocumented immigrants to the budget deal.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer was positive about progress being made on a budget deal in the Congress, but is setting the stage to blame Trump if a shutdown occurs.

“Unfortunately, the progress here in Congress is in stark contrast to the rhetoric coming from the White House,” said Schumer. “President Trump again suggested yesterday that ‘a shutdown could happen.’ If a shutdown happens, as the president seemed to be rooting for in a tweet earlier this year, it will fall on his shoulders. His party controls the Senate, the House, and the presidency.”

Late Thursday afternoon, the House passed the two-week extension by a vote of 235-193.

Nelson seeks more solar for Sunshine State

Florida’s senior senator is trying to solve a riddle. Why does the Sunshine State rank below 11 other states in terms of using solar energy?

That is something he is trying to rectify through legislation he launched this week. If enacted, Bill Nelson’s bill would allow banks to hold 20 percent ownership in non-banking industries, such as renewable energy companies.

Current Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) regulations allow only 5 percent ownership. Nelson’s legislation would also allow banks to provide more financing to individuals seeking to make the change to solar.

Bill Nelson is pushing for more solar energy. 

“Florida is the nation’s Sunshine State but ranks twelfth when it comes to solar production,” Nelson said in a release. “That needs to change. This bill will make it easier for homeowners to invest in their own solar installations while, at the same time, making it easier for larger renewable energy companies to access the capital they need to expand and create more jobs in Florida.”

Jobs are also a target of the bill. With nearly 500,000 people employed in the solar industry nationwide, only 15,000 work in Florida.

Rubio sees four bills move to Senate floor

The two-term GOP Senator had a productive week in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Marco Rubio, the chairman of the subcommittee overseeing transnational crime, human rights and democracy, saw four bills he sponsored or co-sponsored advance through the full committee at Tuesday’s meeting.

Rubio was the lead sponsor of the North Korea Human Rights Reauthorization Act of 2004, which updated the 2004 law calling for greater human rights and freedom in North Korea. He co-sponsored, along with a bipartisan group of 20 colleagues, the Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act, which seeks restitution for assets stolen from Holocaust victims or their families.

Two resolutions co-sponsored by Rubio also moved forward. The World Press Freedom Day Resolution recognizes threats to freedom of the press and expression around the world, while the Resolution Condemning Iranian persecution of the Baha’i Community calls out the religious persecution of 300,000 members of the Baha’i faith.

“I applaud committee passage of these important bipartisan bills and resolutions, and urge my colleagues to support them on the Senate floor,” Rubio said in a statement. “From advancing human rights to protecting religious freedom, and promoting press freedom to facilitating the return of stolen Holocaust-era property to their rightful owners, the United States should continue to lead on these issues.”

Trump in Pensacola on Friday

While Trump often spends time in South Florida at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach County, North Florida has not been on the agenda. That changes on Friday when he stops in Pensacola for a rally.

The rally will take place at Pensacola Bay Center at 7 p.m. Rep. Matt Gaetz, the GOP Congressman from Florida’s 1st Congressional District, will travel on Air Force One with Trump and speak at the event.

Matt Gaetz will be traveling to Pensacola with Donald Trump on Air Force One.

Pensacola is close enough to Alabama for some to speculate Trump chose the location to not only talk to Panhandle residents, but for those considering their vote in the Alabama special election for the U.S. Senate. Trump has endorsed the Republican candidate, Judge Roy Moore, who has been accused of improprieties involving teenage girls nearly 40 years ago.

“I think they’ll be able to hear us in Alabama from the Bay Center,” Gaetz told the Pensacola News-Journal. “In the other three Trump rallies we’ve had in Pensacola, thousands of people from Alabama have attended, and this likely will be no different.”

The Alabama election between Moore and Democrat Doug Jones is Tuesday.

Three Florida Democrats vote to pursue Trump impeachment

Despite pleas from House Democratic leadership not to pursue impeachment against President Trump at this time, 58 members voted to do just that. With 364 voting to table the measure, the effort died.

Three Florida Democrats, Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens, Alcee Hastings of Delray Beach and Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, voted to pursue impeachment proceedings. Frankel explained her vote.

Al Green of Texas introduced a resolution to impeach President Donald Trump.

“(Wednesday), I voted against a motion to table, or in other words stop, a resolution calling for the impeachment of Donald Trump,” she said on Facebook. It is my opinion that many of the actions of Mr. Trump during his presidency, including many of his numerous tweets, reflect unfitness for office and violation of the United States Constitution. I believe that it is in the best interest of the American people that the matter be taken up by the appropriate committees with an opportunity for full debate by the entire Congress.”

Texas Democrat Al Green’s articles of impeachment did not allege Trump has specifically committed a crime. Instead, Green argued that Trump has “brought disrepute, contempt, ridicule and disgrace on the presidency” and “sown discord among the people of the United States.”

Among several stated reasons for impeachment was the disparate treatment of hurricane victims in Puerto Rico, as opposed to Florida and Texas; Trump’s response to the NFL kneeling protests and “personal attacks” against Wilson.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland both voted to table Green’s effort, saying the time is not right. They said ongoing investigations by Congressional committees and the Russia investigation led by special counsel and former FBI Director Robert Mueller needs to play out.

House passes concealed carry bill largely along party lines

This week the House of Representatives passed a controversial bill that will allow those with concealed carry weapons permit to do likewise in other states. The vote was 231-198.

The passage of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 earned high praise among Congressional Republicans, including Neal Dunn of Panama City. In his remarks supporting the measure, Dunn brought up the case of a Pennsylvania woman, who was licensed to carry in her state, but spent 40 days in a New Jersey jail for having a concealed weapon in her vehicle.

John Rutherford, a former sheriff, praised the concealed weapon reciprocity bill.

“This bill ensures valid concealed carry permits in one state are valid in all states that permit residents to do so,” Dunn said. “This bill creates legal protections for law abiding gun owners against states that violate this statute.”

Jacksonville Republican John Rutherford praised the bill on the House floor saying that as a former sheriff “I want good people carrying firearms.”

On the other side, Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schulz said: “This NRA-backed lunacy threatens the safety of our communities, our families, and our friends.”

Miami Gardens Democrat Frederica Wilson claimed the bill “will surely exacerbate already tense situations and create major challenges for law enforcement officers. Why is giving the NRA a win more important to (Republicans) than the potential loss of life — and lives already lost — to gun violence? Shame on them!”

All Florida Democrats voted against the bill, joined by Republicans Carlos Curbelo of Kendall and Ros-Lehtinen of Miami. Every other Florida Republican, except Palm City’s Brian Mast, was among the bill’s 213 co-sponsors.

Two North Florida Republicans frequent critics of FBI leadership

The leadership of the FBI is taking on an increased amount of incoming fire from Republicans who believe the investigations into Hillary Clinton’s email server and possible collusion with Russia involving President Trump and associates are unbalanced. Two Floridians have become familiar faces in that and additional scrutiny of the country’s top law enforcement agency.

Rep. Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach has been a national leader in changing the narrative toward Democrats. He has called for special counsel Robert Mueller to recuse himself over conflicts and, demanded a special counsel to investigate the circumstances that led to the Uranium One deal, and called for an investigation to look into what he describes are two unbalanced investigations.

Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona.

Gaetz stood with several Republicans Wednesday calling for increased scrutiny on the way the FBI conducted the Clinton email probe and the Trump investigation. Recent revelations that a lead investigator on both matters was demoted for anti-Trump bias prompted the pushback.

“We are here today calling for an investigation into FBI systems and procedures that have allowed special treatment and bias to run rampant,” Gaetz said at the Capitol Hill news conference. “The law demands equal treatment for all, not ‘special’ treatment for some. There is a clear and consistent pattern of treating the Clinton investigation differently than other investigations.”

Gaetz joined his GOP colleague, Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, to lament the “special treatment” of Clinton in an op-ed posted on FoxNews.com.

Rep. DeSantis of Ponte Vedra has also become a familiar face on television as well as print and online media. This week he made news by revealing what he claims was more evidence of political bias at the FBI.

Both DeSantis and Gaetz are members of the House Judiciary Committee, who heard from new FBI Director Christopher Wray on Thursday. They had several questions of their own concerning an outside investigation into the reports of bias at the agency.

Next week, the committee will have some questions for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller and has come under fire from Republicans for not being responsive to requests for documents. Both Wray and Rosenstein are under threat of contempt of Congress for the slow response.

Spotted

Gaetz on the Fox News Channel’s Hannity, with U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, to discuss their call for an investigation into the FBI’s “special” treatment of former Secretary of State Clinton.

Democrats lining up behind Murphy’s CHIP extension bill

The stature of the first-term Democrat from Winter Park is rising in her party as she plays a leading role on a high priority issue. With the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and other health programs expiring, Murphy has introduced a reauthorization bill that is becoming the Democrats’ favored vehicle facing Republican alternative measures.

On Tuesday Murphy introduced House Resolution 4541, which would reauthorize CHIP, community health centers funding, and other critical public health initiatives like the Special Diabetes program, the National Health Service Corps, and Family-to-Family Health Information Centers.

Congress has missed a September 30 deadline to reauthorize these programs.

Stephanie Murphy’s CHIP reauthorization bill has Democrats lining up.

The bill offsets its costs by tweaking the timing, not the amount, of Medicare Advantage and prescription drug benefits payments. It also addresses issues confronting Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands following Hurricane Maria.

“A healthy nation is a strong and resilient nation,” Murphy said in a release. “My fiscally-responsible bill provides support for children and families, invests in the prevention and treatment of serious diseases, helps our fellow U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico and other territories, and strengthens the health care systems in states like Florida that are welcoming Americans displaced by Hurricane Maria. It’s vital that we work across party lines to help the tens of millions of Americans, including millions of children, who depend on these public health initiatives.”

There are several Republican and Democratic alternatives addressing CHIP and the other health programs. Murphy’s office said her bill has become the favorite among Democrats, drawing numerous Democratic co-sponsors already, including Darren Soto of Orlando.

Webster files bipartisan disaster preparedness bill for care facilities

The Republican from Orlando has joined with Michigan Democrat Debbie Dingell to file legislation that ensures disaster preparedness for hospitals and long-term care facilities. The Worst-Case Scenario Hospital Preparedness Act comes in the aftermath of the 2017 hurricane season, which ravaged portions of Florida and most of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The storms caused flooding and power outages at medical and care facilities in Florida, Texas and the Caribbean. A significant loss of life resulted, including 14 residents of a Hollywood, Fla. nursing home.

Daniel Webster files a hurricane preparedness ‘worst-case’ bill for nursing homes.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security lists health care as one of 16 critical infrastructure sectors. The bill seeks to improve emergency preparedness in the health care sector by directing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to engage with the National Academy of Medicine to conduct a comprehensive study into the future threats impacting emergency preparedness procedures for hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other health care facilities.

“Disaster preparedness is critical for protecting lives, improving resiliency and being good stewards of disaster relief dollars,” Webster said in a release. “The bill is a practical approach to ensuring that hospitals and long-term care facilities across the nation are more resilient against natural disasters.”

Tax bill conference underway; Castor one of House conferees

The House and Senate have named their representatives to the conference committee that will attempt to create a final bill for consideration. Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor was appointed to join the group by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“During my years representing the Tampa Bay area in Congress, I haven’t seen a bill that is more unfair and unwise,” Castor said in an email to constituents. “The battle earlier this year over health care and narrow focus on the huge tax giveaway have crowded out action on other important legislation so the GOP must cram everything into the last few weeks of the year.”

Neither Democratic Sen. Nelson, nor GOP Sen. Rubio was appointed by Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, or Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. While both Florida Senators would have been pleased to serve as a conferee, Rubio likely relished the chance to further solidify the expanded Child Tax Credit for which he and Utah Republican Mike Lee have so strongly advocated.

GOP leadership has targeted a final bill be brought to both chambers before the end of the year.

Trump honors survivors, victims of Pearl Harbor attack

Thursday was the 76th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. To honor those who perished that day, Trump signed a proclamation signifying Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

Donald Trump signs proclamation for Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

A half-dozen veterans of the attack joined the president at the White House, including 98-year-old Mickey Ganitch, who was about to play in a football game for his ship’s team when the attack came on that Sunday.

“We had a war to fight,” Ganitch told Trump.

“Today our entire nation pauses to remember Pearl Harbor and the brave warriors, who on that day stood tall and fought for America,” Trump said.

Tweet, tweet

 

Republican Chip LaMarca starts strong, over $110K raised for HD 93 bid

Chip LaMarca, the only Republican on the Broward County Commission, raised more than $110,000 in less than two months in his bid for House District 93.

LaMarca is seeking to succeed state Rep. George Moraitis, a Fort Lauderdale Republican who is term-limited for 2018. HD 93 covers northeast Broward along the coast – including Deerfield Beach, Hillsboro Beach, Lighthouse Point, Pompano Beach, Lauderdale by the Sea and Fort Lauderdale – and is one of the reliably Republican areas in a mostly Democratic county.

The breakdown of HD 93 registered voters are 35 percent Democrats, 36 percent Republicans and 29 percent other/independent/no party affiliation.

“We are overwhelmed by the support that we have received for our campaign,” LaMarca said in a statement Friday. “For years I have fought hard to bring jobs to our community, reduce the cost of doing business, protect our beaches and expand our economic engines like Port Everglades and the Fort Lauderdale Airport. Now, I want to take that fight to Tallahassee as our next state representative.”

The fundraising announcement is in advance of official numbers posted on the Florida Division of Elections website.

Moraitis – the sole Republican lawmaker in a county dominated by Democrats – has come out strongly in support of LaMarca: “It has been an honor to work with Commissioner LaMarca on the critical issues facing our community. As I prepare to leave office next November, I know that Chip will continue to make sure that Broward County is heard loud and clear in Tallahassee. I am proud to support Chip for the Florida House because of the work he will continue to do to fight for our community.”

Currently serving his second term on the Broward Commission, LaMarca – a lifelong resident of HD 93 – previously served two terms as a Lighthouse Point City Commissioner, as well as Commission president and as a former chair of the Broward Republican Party.

Two Democrats are also seeking the HD 93 seat: Emma Collum of Fort Lauderdale and Stephanie Myers of Fort Lauderdale.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 12.8.17

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

A day away from electing their new state party leader, Democrats are tangled in a bit of in-house fighting.

First, some members are pushing for Sally Boynton Brown to be reinstated as president. They intend to do so by asking the new chair Saturday to rehire her nearly three weeks after she resigned.

Sally Boynton Brown is among the many ‘entanglements’ facing the Florida Democratic Party in its search for a new chair.

Some members found the effort “insulting” to the “brave women” who have complained about her enabling the behavior of Stephen Bittel. Conduct, they say, included him systematically asking female staffers about their sex lives.

As that gets sorted out, Bruce Jacobs, who sued Bittel in January charging his path to the chairmanship was rigged, is expected to take the local party to court this morning to try and ensure it’s a “fair and aboveboard election.”

Jacobs filed an emergency injunction in Miami court motion because he said he fears Bittel, who has the largest share of votes in the state to elect his successor, will use them in favor of Palm Beach County Chair Terrie Rizzo rather than on what the majority of the membership wants.

While that happens, the Miami-Dade Democrats are expected to start voting electronically today. The results of what the majority wants are to be published early Saturday morning, according to Juan Cuba, the chairman of the local party.

Voting members will take their pick from an all-female cast in the race: Rizzo, Hillsborough County Democrat Alma Gonzalez and Stacey Patel, the chair of the Brevard Democratic Executive Committee. Monica Russo is officially out of the race, even though she was never really eligible to run under party rules.

Amid all the uncertainty in this race, one thing is for sure: come next week there will be a woman leading Democrats into one busy election year.

Some FDP members find recent push to rehire Sally Boynton Brown ‘insulting’” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – Some Florida Democratic Party members intend to ask the newly-elected chair to reinstate Boynton Brown as their president … “The fact a resolution of this nature is currently being considered proves the lack of commitment that some leaders in the Florida Democratic Party have for addressing sexual harassment and a hostile work environment that obviously exists within our Party,” James Deininger, of Duval County Democrat, wrote in an email to members. Deininger’s email was in response to a petition that began to circulate last week, garnering support for Boynton Brown to come back. In an email, Jim Gangitano, a Volusia County committeeman, told members that a “non-binding motion” would be made to ask the new party chair “to ask Sally to stay.”

Democrats’ federal account out of cash as 2018 approaches” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – At the beginning of the year, the Florida Democratic Party’s federal account had $383,439 in the bank, but as of late October, it is more than $18,490 in the red. Beyond that, the Party owes more than $18,000 in audio and visual services to Production Resource Group. Johanna Cervone, a FDP spokesperson, said the Party is “confident” in its economic status as a whole. One of the most prominent vendors in the federal account this year was Markham Productions. The FDP spent more than $550,000 in audio and visual services with that company. The Party also transferred $150,000 in federal money to the Ohio Democratic Party in return for cash that the FDP was able to us through its state account. The federal account started hemorrhaging money during the brief tenure of now ousted Stephen Bittel, a longtime, millionaire Democratic donor chosen under the promise of boosting the FDP’s fundraising efforts and finances.

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— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Republicans are leaving the Florida House. Is Richard Corcoran the reason why?” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – This year, nine Republican members of the Florida House of Representatives eligible for re-election have either left the House or plan to run for another office. Several have cited conflicts with House Speaker Corcoran, objecting to what they call his dictatorial leadership style. Some say that relationship with Corcoran factored in their decisions to leave. Several of the departing legislators were among those who voted against top Corcoran priorities in the 2017 legislative session, including a bill to allow liquor sales in grocery stores and another to slash business recruiting and tourism promotions programs. “Corcoran’s leadership style is just oppressive. It’s as simple as that,” said former Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned from his seat in July in the middle of his third term.

Property tax money could be key in education budget” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said funding could be “woefully short” next year if lawmakers do not raise property taxes. “Should property taxes increase as we expect they will, that allows us to be able to increase this budget to historic levels of state funding, total funding and per-student funding,” Stewart said. Gov. Scott wants to increase the overall K-12 budget by $770 million, which includes a $450 million increase in “required local effort” property taxes. As of last week, Stewart said districts had reported 8,960 students enrolling from Puerto Rico and 820 from the Virgin Islands. Overall, Florida has more than 2.8 million students in its 67 districts. Orange County had the most enrollments with 2,396 students from Puerto Rico and 321 from the Virgin Islands.

House projects might get chilly reception” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida – Heading into the 2018 legislative session, Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley says the House and Senate are not as far apart as casual observers, lobbyists and the media might believe. “We agree on so much more than we disagree on,” the Fleming Island Republican told reporters after an Appropriations Committee meeting that featured an overview of Gov. Scott‘s proposed $87.4 billion budget. “We’re all committed to having a fiscally conservative budget. We’re all committed to tax cuts. We’re all committed to the environment being pristine and education world class.” But that “we’re all” doesn’t apparently extend to a plethora of budget projects proposed by House members. In the House, unlike the Senate, members are required to file individual bills for their spending proposals. “I did notice that there is a high amount, the House members want to spend a lot on local member projects,” Bradley said. “I think we need to be very careful in this budget year to … be very judicious in these House requests for local projects, because they have requested a bunch.”

Senate indifferent to Rick Scott infrastructure budget ask Scott is asking for an additional $85 million for infrastructure and workforce development fund created in the previous Session. But the Scott administration has not spent any of the original $85 million allotted, causing concern among senators over the additional request. “You expect us to grant this request before we have any information on the outcome from what you’re proposing,” Democratic state Sen. Perry Thurston asked Cissy Proctor, director of the Department of Economic Opportunity. Proctor is Scott’s top economic development official, and was speaking to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development to convince lawmakers to provide more money despite not spending any of the original fund. “The program was set up in special Session and we obviously have early Session”” this year, Proctor said. “So, we have had a short time between the Sessions. But we are working very hard to make sure we have strong proposals.”

Fantasy sports bill moves after one high-profile ‘no’ vote” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A proposal to exempt fantasy sports from state gambling regulation cleared a Senate committee Thursday — but with one notable opponent. “I don’t think the issues raised are clear,” said Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican and vice-chair of the Regulated Industries Committee, which handles gambling policy. Aside from Hukill’s ‘no’ vote, that committee otherwise moved the bill (SB 374) by Dana Young, a Tampa Republican, on an 8-1 vote. Similar measures (SB 840, HB 223) have been filed for the upcoming Legislative Session. In the online games, players pick teams of real-life athletes and vie for cash and other prizes based on how those athletes do in actual games. Asked to clarify her position after the meeting, Hukill said, “Is this a game of skill or not? I don’t think that’s clear, at least for now.”

Forever Florida, St. Johns proposals get Senate backing” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida – Measures that would double Gov. Scott‘s spending request for the Florida Forever conservation program and earmark money to improve the St. Johns River continued to move easily through the Senate … the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously backed a proposal (SB 370) to designate $100 million a year for Florida Forever. Also, it approved a bill (SB 204) that would increase annual funding for springs projects from $50 million to $75 million and set aside $50 million a year for the restoration of the St. Johns River, its tributaries and the Keystone Heights lake region in North Florida. Both proposals are sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will hear the bills next. Neither proposal has a companion bill in the House. Scott requested spending $50 million on Florida Forever as part of his proposed 2018-2019 budget released last month.

Bill to review government efficiency sails through committee” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics – Jeff Brandes’ SB 368 cleared the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government with a unanimous and undebated yes vote. Brandes’ bill — which is accompanied in the House by Wauchula Republican Rep. Ben Albritton’s similar HB 111 — would create a task force within the Department of Management Services for the “purpose of evaluating the effectiveness and value of state and local procurement laws and policies to the taxpayers in this state and determining where inconsistencies in such laws and policies exist.” The secretary of DMS, currently Erin Rock, would be given the option to appoint someone to chair the task force or chair it themselves. Gov. Scott would be given seven appointments. The Senate President and Speaker would be given two each, consisting of a member of their respective chambers and a lawyer proficient in procurement law.

Annette Taddeo, Lori Berman press for Medicaid expansion by ballot” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — In what is likely a dead-on-arrival proposal, two South Florida lawmakers said they will push for a legislatively-initiated state constitutional amendment approving Medicaid expansion in Florida. Sen. Annette Taddeo of Miami and Rep. Lori Berman of Lantana, both Democrats, announced their resolutions at a Thursday news conference in the Capitol … “It is time for the Legislature to listen,” Taddeo said Thursday. The House’s Republican leadership, however, has been vehemently opposed to Medicaid expansion for years, virtually ensuring the measure won’t survive that chamber in the 2018 Legislative Session. That’s despite some polls showing support for such a ballot initiative at nearly 70 percent.

Tweet, tweet: @ChristineSexton: @AHCA_FL is @ Capitol touting its transparency efforts yet the agency makes reporters wait weeks — and months — for information. Where’s the transparency in that? … I have never seen an administration withhold information from the media and the public the way this one has. Makes my head spin to hear secretary heads tout “transparency” as if it’s something they actually believe in.

— L’AFFAIRE LATVALA —

Most Senate Democrats silent in calling for Jack Latvala’s resignation” via Alexandra Glorioso and Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – To date, only two of 15 Senate Democrats, Annette Taddeo and José Javier Rodríguez, have called outright for Latvala’s resignation. Taddeo said this week that he had created a “hostile environment” in his fight against the allegations first raised Nov. 3 when POLITICO reported that six women anonymously accused the Pinellas County lawmaker of sexual harassment. On Thursday, incoming Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson dodged questions about calling for Latvala to leave the Senate, responding “no comment” to questions from a POLITICO reporter. Earlier in the week, she said “Senator Latvala and/or Republican Leadership are the determinants on resignation matters.” Top Republicans have been more vocal and critical in condemning a very powerful member of their own party.

Latvala’s star witness in sex-harassment case is a campaign supporter” via Alexandra Glorioso and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – A star witness for Latvala in his sexual harassment case is a political supporter who attended one of his gubernatorial campaign kickoff events in potential violation, his accuser’s attorney says, of Senate employment policy. Latvala denied that his supporter, Lillian Tysinger, was a campaign volunteer and said she didn’t break Senate rules that limit an employee from attending campaign functions because his Aug. 16 Panama City kickoff event occurred after regular work hours. Tysinger’s attorney also denied wrongdoing.

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— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Donald Trump expected to campaign in Pensacola days ahead of Alabama Senate election” via The Associated Press – Trump will appear at a campaign-style rally in Pensacola a move that brings the president less than 20 miles from the Alabama border just four days before a special election that will decide the fate of embattled Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. The president will appear at a “Make America Great Again” rally at the Pensacola Bay Center … The city is roughly an hour’s drive from Mobile, Alabama, one of the state’s largest cities.

Gwen Graham to ‘chummy’ politicians: ‘When I’m Governor, the party is over” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — After saying that politicians in Tallahassee treat Session and committee weeks like it’s “spring break,” Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham said Thursday that if she becomes governor “the party is over.” The former congresswoman said that should start with Latvala, who is facing multiple sexual harassment allegations. She called on him to resign, again. If Latvala does not step down, Graham said, the Senate should expel him. Graham vowed to take steps to combat sexual harassment across all state agencies. Her plan includes appointing an independent investigator to oversee complaints about workplace harassment who could refer cases to the attorney general for full prosecution under the law.

Chris King calls for sexual misconduct victims’ advocacy in ethics office” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – In a video he launched on his campaign’s Facebook page, King declared it is time to end “the abuse of power against women in politics in Florida.” He did not name any names, but King decried the state of affairs that has resulted in several recent reports of sexual misconduct against public officials, and expressed awe of the courage of the women coming forward. King said his plan is intended to make it easier for women to come forward.

Philip Levine tops $1 million in November for campaign and political committee” via Florida Politics – “In a big state like Florida, with over 20 million residents and 10 media markets, resources are a key benchmark for running a successful statewide campaign. In his first month as a declared candidate for Governor, Philip Levine has shown he will aggressively meet those benchmarks,” senior adviser Christian Ulvert said … Levine hadn’t uploaded his November finance report to the Florida Division of Elections, nor had his political committee, All About Florida, though the campaign said the two accounts “brought in over $1 million in November, with over $800,000 raised by the campaign and political committee.” The difference could be made up through checks from Levine himself, who through October had already dumped $2.8 million of his personal fortune into his committee account. November marks Levine’s second million-dollar month in a row, and he has now raised somewhere in the ballpark of $7 million for his gubernatorial bid.

Shot:

Chaser:

ABC of Florida endorses Matt Caldwell for Agriculture Commissioner – The Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of Florida, which stands for 2,500 Florida businesses and an estimated 50,000 employees statewide, is endorsing Caldwell …  Mary Tappouni, Board Chair for ABC Florida said, “We are thrilled to announce that we are endorsing Matt Caldwell for Commissioner of Agriculture. Matt is a principled conservative who will fight to ensure that every Florida resident and business has the opportunity to succeed in the Sunshine State and grow our economy.”

Maggie’s List endorses Ashley Moody for Attorney General – Maggie’s List is a federal political action committee dedicated to electing conservative women to office. “Ashley Moody is a proven leader who brings so much to the State of Florida,” states Sandra B. Mortham, Chairman of Maggie’s List and former Florida Secretary of State. “Her service in Florida, coupled with her relentless leadership and desire to work on issues that directly impact citizens and businesses in the Sunshine State, make her the right choice. We know she is the right candidate to serve as Florida Attorney General because she respects the need for increased personal responsibility, fiscal conservatism, and fairly upholding law and order for the citizens of Florida.”

Judge refuses to speed up special elections” via the News Service of Florida – Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson rejected arguments by the Florida Democratic Party that special elections in two legislative districts should be held more quickly so the seats don’t remain vacant through the upcoming legislative session. Dodson said the timing of the resignations of former Sen. Jeff Clemens in Senate District 31 and former Rep. Daisy Baez in House District 114 is “unfortunate.” But he said moving up special election dates set by Gov. Scott could lead to an argument that shorter windows for absentee voting would prevent people from casting ballots. “I wish I could do something,” Dodson said. “But there really isn’t time to do it.”

Lori Berman adds 31 local endorsements for SD 31 campaign” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics – Democratic Rep. Lori Berman announced 31 endorsements for Senate District 31 special election bid Thursday, all of whom are current or former elected officials within the boundaries of the Palm Beach County district… The list backing the Lantana lawmaker included 10 county level officials, including Mayor Melissa McKinlay, and another 21 city officials … “As a member of the Senate, I will work hand in hand with our local leaders so that Palm Beach County is a place where our kids can raise a family with exceptional public schools, good paying jobs, access to quality healthcare, and a pristine local environment.” Berman faces Arthur Morrison in a Jan. 30 special primary for the seat, and the winner will move on to an April 10special general election against Republican Tami Donnally.

David Smith nabs three city endorsements in HD 28 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Oviedo City Commissioner and Deputy Vice-Mayor Steve Henken, Oviedo Commissioner Bob Pollack, and Winter Springs Commissioner Geoff Kendrick all threw their support behind Smith. Smith, a business consultant and retired U.S. Marines Corps colonel from Winter Springs, faces Democratic businessman Lee Mangold of Casselberry in the contest to succeed state Rep. Jason Brodeur, who is not seeking re-election.

Jerry Demings raises $109K in Orange County mayor’s race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Demings’ November campaign finance reports are only for his official campaign fund. He also has an independent political committee, United for Orange County, which has not yet reported its November activity. The November haul in his campaign fund brings its total to $305,603 in contributions. With expenses, Demings’ campaign had $277,130 left Dec. 1.

Ex-state attorney Jeff Ashton to run for circuit judge” via Stephen Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel – Ashton, who lost his position as Orange Osceola state attorney last year to Aramis Ayala, filed to run for a seat as a judge on the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court in 2018. He is one of two candidates who have filed to run for the open seat along with attorney David Hamilton Harris. Marc Lubet, the judge serving in the seat, is retiring at the end of his six-year term. Ashton was elected state attorney in 2012 after defeating his former boss and fellow Democrat, Lawson Lamar, in an open primary after making his name as the prosecutor in the 2011 Casey Anthony murder trial.

— STATEWIDE —

Carol Marbin Miller gets results: “Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses” via the Miami Herald – Disturbed by stories about the rape of teens by supervisory staff, a pandemic of sometimes savage force, brutal beatdowns ordered by youth care workers and policies that permit the hiring of violent offenders, Miami-Dade’s state attorney wants to know more about what is going on in the Florida juvenile justice system. She is asking a grand jury to investigate. State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle’s resolve comes two months after the Miami Herald published a six-part series, called Fight Club, which documented abuses within Department of Juvenile Justice detention centers and residential programs. The grand jury inquiry will be the third such investigation since 2003, when the preventable death of a Miami detainee from a burst appendix convulsed DJJ, ending the career of the agency’s top administrator, as well as another two dozen employees.

Puerto Rican population growth reshapes Central Florida” via Mary Shanklin and Adelaide Chen of the Orlando Sentinel – Orange and Osceola counties led the United States with the largest increases in numbers of new residents from Puerto Rico, according to the latest 2016 census data compared with 2010. Hillsborough County ranked third. The Orlando area’s percentage of Puerto Rican residents grew from 12 percent of the region’s residents in 2010 to 14 percent by the end of last year. For years, the Puerto Rican economy has been struggling, but at least one former resident of the island said that is only part of the reason for Central Florida’s latest population shift. “They came here because of the education system here. They say, ‘I am here because these public schools are like the private schools in Puerto Rico,’” said Orlando real estate consultant Jose Hoyos, a former trustee for Valencia College. “They don’t mind working here for $10 an hour because their children are getting a good education.” Now Central Florida has enough Puerto Rican influence that businesses are opening to appeal to that population, and those newcomers are beginning to influence politics, he added.

All Aboard Florida receives $2B of bids for tax-free bonds, Wall Street Journal reports” via Lisa Broadt of TCPalm – All Aboard Florida last week appeared to have raised the $600 million it sought to finance part of its passenger railroad, the Wall Street Journal reported … The company received $2 billion in bids for the $600 million in private-activity bonds it was selling, leading to prices “a little better than we thought,” Wes Edens, chairman of Fortress Investment Group, All Aboard Florida’s parent company, told the Journal. Brightline has said it plans to begin limited passenger service between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach this month, with service between West Palm and Miami beginning early next year. Full service through the Treasure Coast, which largely has opposed the project, and on to Orlando International Airport is still several years away, according to Brightline.

Uber paid 20-year-old Florida man to keep data breach secret” via Joseph Menn and Dustin Volz of Reuters – A 20-year-old Florida man was responsible for the large data breach at Uber last year and was paid by Uber to destroy the data through a so-called “bug bounty” program normally used to identify small code vulnerabilities … Uber made the payment last year through a program designed to reward security researchers who report flaws in a company’s software, these people said. Uber’s bug bounty service – as such a program is known in the industry – is hosted by a company called HackerOne, which offers its platform to a number of tech companies. It remains unclear who made the final decision to authorize the payment to the hacker and to keep the breach secret, though the sources said then-CEO Travis Kalanick was aware of the breach and bug bounty payment in November of last year.

— FOR YOUR RADAR —

Report says loss of health care mandate would hit South, Central Florida hard

If Obamacare’s individual mandate is repealed, three Republican South Florida congressional districts could see a major uptick in uninsured citizens.

A report from left-leaning Center for American Progress calculated the prospects of people dropping insurance across the country should the mandate be repealed, a stipulation in the U.S. Senate’s version of the GOP tax plan but not the House’s.

Districts of Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo would be among the top seven in the country in uninsured numbers, according to the report, which used CBO data.

— Districts of Democratic U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Val Demings, Alcee Hastings, Darren Soto, Ted Deutch and Frederica Wilson would not be far behind.

—Florida could see 873,000 people — third largest in the country — drop health care coverage by 2025. Eighteen of Florida’s 27 congressional districts would exceed the national average.

— The CBO projected 5 million of those people dropping health care coverage would be dropping from Medicaid, another 5 million from the individuals’ market and about 3 million from employer-sponsored health insurance.

— Rep. Demings: “After much debate, the facts are in: the president’s tax bill will raise your health care costs, putting your right to manage your own health further out of reach. Without a second thought, donors came first.”

— Rep. Soto: “Florida’s hardworking families should be troubled by the current GOP Tax bill.”

— Reps. Diaz-Balart, Ros-Lehtinen and Curbelo did not respond Thursday for comment.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Will Marco Rubio go to the mat this time?” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Rubio is laying down another marker. As the tax package goes to conference, he’s called on colleagues to improve the child tax credit, again positioning himself as a champion of the little guy. “I remain surprised that there is not more consensus to support the reality that we do need to do more to help working people in the this country and the child tax credit is one of the best tools to do it,” the Florida Republican said Wednesday on the Senate floor. “And I sure hope that what comes back from that conference committee is as good or better than what we’ve put out from the Senate because if it’s worse, there’s going to be problems I imagine.” Does that mean he would oppose the final version of the bill? Rubio isn’t saying.

— MOVEMENTS —

FWC commissioners elect new chairman, vice chair — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) on Thursday elected Bo Rivard, of Panama City, to serve as its chairman, effective immediately. He replaces Chairman Brian Yablonski of Tallahassee. The term is one year. Rivard, who has served on the Commission since March 2013, is a partner with Harrison, Rivard, Duncan & Buzzett in Panama City. Robert Spottswood of Key West was elected vice chair. Spottswood, who has served on the Commission since 2015, is chief executive officer of Spottswood Companies. He takes over for Aliese P. “Liesa” Priddy of Immokalee.

Personnel note: Eric Sutton tapped as new FWC directorvia Florida Politics — Eric Sutton, assistant executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), will move up to executive director of the agency, effective Friday. The commission announced the move Thursday. Nick Wiley, the current executive director, retires later this month. In a news release, commissioners touted Sutton’s extensive experience with challenging conservation issues and his positive relationships with fellow FWC staff. “We have received many accolades for the agency under the leadership of Chairman Brian Yablonski and Executive Director Wiley,” Commissioner Bo Rivard said. “They have been at the tip of the spear, but it’s the whole family who supports the conservation efforts.” Sutton has been the assistant executive director since May 2013.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

James Daughton, Stephen Metz, Andy Palmer, William Schuessler, Metz Husband & Daughton: Florida Energy Freedom

Mike Haridopolos, Dean Mead: First Choice Healthcare Solutions, Health First

Tracy Mayernick, Frank MayernickRobert Johnson, The Mayernick Group: GTI Florida

Iraida Mendez-Cartaya: Miami-Dade County Public Schools

Timothy Parson, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: Dayspring Village

— WEEKEND TV —

Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: “What’s next in the Russian Investigation after Mike Flynn’s guilty plea” with political analyst Dr. Lawrence A. Miller.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues that affect the area’s citizens.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: A panel of journalists, academics, local officials and political insiders discuss local stories and issues.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: Part 2 in a discussion of Florida’s legislative process, lawmaking and the legislative hierarchy at the state-level in Tallahassee with Orlando Democratic Rep. Amy Mercado and former Senate President Andy Gardiner, an Orlando Republican.

Former Senate President Andy Gardiner will talk The Process with Allison Walker-Torres.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke talks about his campaign for Orange County Mayor; the latest on the death penalty debate between Gov. Scott and State Attorney Aramis Ayala; PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter rates The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration’s claim that under Scott’s leadership, Florida has had much success in lowering the rate of uninsured children.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon speaks with Dr. Ed Moore.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests: St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman; Jason Harrah, Project Manager, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Rick Mullaney, director of the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg will speak with U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, and a roundtable of the week’s news.

— ALOE —

Former Burrito Bros. site to become Florida’s first Taco Bell cantina” via the Tampa Bay Times – The space on Gainesville’s University Avenue that for decades housed the beloved, late-night University of Florida munchies hangout Burrito Bros. will soon become Florida’s first cantina-style Taco Bell … The cantina-style Taco Bell concept made a splash when the company announced it in September. The cantina restaurants eschew the typical Taco Bell drive-thru format for an open layout with digital menus, better music and fancier decor, plus beer, sangria and frozen liquor drinks. Gainesville’s cantina-style Taco Bell is reportedly set to open in January 2018, though it may not be serving alcohol right away.

Goal met: Every Miami Dolphins player has registered to vote” via The Associated Press – The Dolphins met their goal of 100 percent registration set in June with the help of Martin Luther King III and Bill Wachtel, co-founder of the Drum Major Institute, a community action group founded during the Civil Rights movement. “This is very positive,” King said. “If athletes and NFL players are engaged, there are more people that will want to be engaged, because they see them as role models.” Wachtel said he’s not aware of any other team with 100 percent registration, but the signup effort is expanding to other teams in the NFL, NBA and other leagues. The effort is being supported by the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, an alliance created by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to improve race relations.

Flake out: light snow could fall in some Gulf states Friday” via The Associated Press – National Weather Service meteorologists say rain might get cold and heavy enough to become snow before dawn in a band beginning west of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Snow mixed with rain is predicted across Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and into western South Carolina. No snow is expected in New Orleans or coastal areas south of Interstate 10. Some roads and overpasses could see spotty icing, but warm ground temperatures probably mean snow accumulating only on grass. Somewhat heavier snow is predicted in a few north Georgia areas. Some areas of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle could see a second snow chance Friday night.

Happy birthday to Allison Ager, our friend Mike Deeson, and MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid.

Jacksonville Bold for 12.8.17 — Progress report

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry took a victory lap on Facebook this week.

“2.5 years in office. Much done- pension reform, public safety investments, board reforms, reforms on how we serve kids, storm prep & relief, infrastructure, etc. The list goes on. However, that’s yesterday. I’m focused on winning today. Big things ahead. Love y’all Duval. We are just getting started.”

 

None of this was a given.

Pension reform was a heavy lift both in Tallahassee and locally, with unions and the city council.

Board reforms saw Curry castigated by former Alvin Brown supporters, who charged him with politicizing the boards.

Public safety — the new hires are being trained up and integrated into the force. However, that is still clearly a work in progress.

But still, Curry can take credit for a lot in just over half a term.

In a time when Tallahassee is mired in the Jack Latvala drama and Washington D.C. struggles to get what passes for tax “reform” through, it’s telling that Jacksonville’s Mayor is positioned to take a victory lap.

Though there are rivals to the Mayor who say that perhaps he gets too much credit — both in Jacksonville and Tallahassee — thus far he hasn’t had many missteps.

Could JEA privatization be a bridge too far? Or the proposed $18M+ purchase of land for a Peter Rummell development.

Time will tell. And so will Jacksonville Bold.

One Door to the slammer

After a legal ordeal lasting the better part of two years, Corrine Brown and her two co-conspirators in the One Door for Education case — former chief of staff Ronnie Simmons and the former CEO of the charity, Carla Wiley — were sentenced.

No one got off easy.

“A sentence of probation for a member of Congress convicted of 18 counts would not be sufficient,” Judge Timothy Corrigan said.

No one got off easy.

Brown got 60 months in prison, three years of supervised release, $62,650 to the IRS, and $452,000 of additional restitution, and $664,000 of forfeiture.

Brown will appeal, though attorney James Smith has yet to determine if he will see that appeal through.

Simmons and Wiley, meanwhile, got lesser sentences.

Wiley got 21 months in prison, three years of supervised release, $452,515 in restitution is also owed, along with a $654,000 forfeiture judgment.

Simmons, meanwhile, got 48 months in prison, three years of supervised release, $452,000 of restitution and an additional $91,000 to the House of Representatives for pay for a phony employee of Brown’s staff. An additional $721,000 of forfeiture is due.

Travis Hutson on Jack Latvala: ‘Napalm and matches’

It was inevitable that Republican senators would have to weigh in on the ongoing war between Republican Sen. Latvala and Rachel Perrin Rogers, a Senate aide accusing him of serial sexual harassment.

Via POLITICO, one of the first was from Northeast Florida: Sen. Hutson of St. Johns County.

Republican senators are joining calls for Sen. Jack Latvala to resign in light of scandal.

“This highly respected and regarded establishment is being burnt to the ground, and I feel Senator Latvala is running around with the Napalm and the matches,” Hutson told POLITICO.

“This is only going to get worse. And the best thing for everyone — every senator, every staffer, every accuser and/or accused — would be a resignation so that we do not have to deal with this problem anymore,” Hutson said.

Hutson also told POLITICO that donors to Latvala’s political committee should ask for refunds.

There is a school of thought that Latvala may use his committee to exact revenge against clients of Brian Hughes — Perrin Rogers’ husband. Hutson’s comments seem to indicate that strategy could be undermined by a wave of refunds and a bipartisan condemnation of Latvala.

Meanwhile, Sen. Audrey Gibson — a Democrat — was somewhat more circumspect than Latvala.

 “First,” Gibson said, “I have continually maintained my sensitivity and support of women who believe they have been harassed in any way by anyone, being able to come forward and file a complaint. Secondly, Senator Latvala and/or Republican Leadership are the determinants on resignation matters.”

Cord Byrd’s fix for a ‘broken system’

A new bill in the Florida House would offer a vehicle for people with “legal disabilities” a road via circuit courts to the restoration of civil rights.

HB 903, filed by Jacksonville Beach Rep. Byrd, would offer remedies for those whose civil rights were suspended after felony convictions.

Cord Byrd introduced this bill Wednesday, holding a presser to push it.

“Currently,” Byrd wrote on Facebook, “the average wait time for Restoration of Rights is over nine years, with some as long as 11 years. Over 22,000 applications are pending, with only a few hundred being processed each year. Clearly, the system is broken.”

The Byrd bill allows those seeking restoration of rights to petition their county’s circuit court; exceptions to this rule would be registered sexual predators or sexual offenders.

Appeals are possible, and those petitioners who find their bids rejected have the right to file anew a year after said rejection.

Some people wait decades to get their rights back, long after they have proved that the threat they once posed to society has been removed.

Byrd’s bill would be a potential corrective to these onerous delays.

Jay Fant challenge to HRO?

Rep. Fant, a Jacksonville Republican who is also running for Attorney General, filed Tuesday what he calls the “Free Enterprise Protection Act.”

Jay Fant, in the AG race, may have to enforce his law should it pass, and should he win.

HB 871 would prevent “discriminatory action” by any governmental entity in the state against businesses.

Said discriminatory action would include attempts by government to “alter the tax treatment” of businesses, which would include imposing penalties against them for crimes unlisted in the legislation as filed.

It would also include attempts to deny or revoke a business’s exemption from taxation, as well as withholding or denying a business’s “access or entitlement” to property, including “speech forums.”

The bill would also prohibit governments in Florida from discriminating against “internal policies” of businesses, as well as the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion.

Fant’s bill, if passed, could be used as a springboard to challenge local laws that conflict with rights enumerated in the bill, including Jacksonville’s own Human Rights Ordinance.

The HRO, as it is called locally, was expanded in 2016 to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, protecting their rights in the workplace, in the housing market, and in public accommodations, such as restrooms and locker rooms.

Fant told Jacksonville Republicans earlier this year that Mayor Curry could have done more to stop that bill, which was approved by 2/3 of the City Council, from becoming law.

Plea deals for child deaths draw scrutiny in House bill

Legislation filed in the Florida House Monday would compel state attorneys to explain why they cut plea deals in cases where children were killed.

Rep. Tracie Davis’ bill is designed to provide more clarity in deaths from childhood abuse.

HB 867, filed by Jacksonville Democrat Tracie Davis, would require state attorneys to explain in writing why they accepted a plea deal to lesser charges and penalties than originally filed in the case of the death of a child.

On Tuesday morning, Davis told us that there are many cases in which children die at the hands of abusers, and that drove her to file this bill.

“The number of children dying by abuse is alarming and steadily increasing through our communities. As I worked with families, it was [disturbing] to discover that many perpetrators are given a plea deal to a lesser crime in order for them to reveal the details of the crime,” Davis said.

Often families are unaware of changes to the charges. Davis added.

“I strongly feel that families have the right to know when a charge involving a child killed in an abusive situation deserve to know why the charge was decreased,” Davis noted.

JYDs roll out ‘cocktails with a candidate’ series

The Democratic race for Governor is beginning to heat up, and the Jacksonville Young Democrats are offering chances to meet with candidates via cocktail mixers in the coming months.

Libations and orations: Democratic gubernatorial candidates this winter in Jax.

Democratic candidates thus far have largely concentrated their efforts south of I-4, but Jacksonville’s young Democrats are clearly looking to change that.

The “Cocktails with a Candidate” series kicks off Dec. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at downtown’s Zodiac Bar and Grill, with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who appeared already at a JYD event in February.

Gillum — a pre-candidate at that point — discussed what his campaign would do to reach out to minority voters and young voters, as part of what he called an “18-month view of engagement” that would mobilize voters.

2018 brings — at least tentatively — two of Gillum’s opponents: Gwen Graham and Chris King to town.

Brian Hughes moves to Curry’s chief of staff

Comms specialist Hughes is — effective Jan. 2 — chief of staff for Mayor Curry, in a classic example of building something that lasts.

“To me and dozens of other elected officials, Brian Hughes has been a senior adviser on important matters of public policy and communications,” said Curry.

Brian Hughes, Lenny Curry’s new chief of staff.

“Working with me, Brian has already put a powerful imprint on our city’s future. From the pension solution to restructuring how we serve Jacksonville’s children with the Kids Hope Alliance, Brian applied his strengths to benefit this great city. I am honored to have him join my administration in a leadership role to help manage this successful team as we continue to accomplish big things,” Curry added.

City Council members — who will now have to work with Hughes in a different capacity — had a reaction.

Council President Anna Brosche said that “it’s my understanding that this is just formalizing how things have functioned for quite some time.”

Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, often the sole voice of opposition to Curry’s initiatives, expected a different hire.

“I thought Ali Korman Shelton was a shoo-in for the job. She has served the mayor and our city well. As a council member, I look forward to working with Mr. Hughes,” Dennis said.

That’s entertainment

Curry is closer to the big reveal of what his proposed downtown “entertainment district” will look like, per WJXT.

Ambitious plans from Lenny Curry.

“(The) riverfront. That’s where the Shipyards are. But also begin to think about an entire entertainment district moving a little bit north, between the football and baseball fields,” Curry said. “Just kind of a little teaser there. Big things could be coming.”

With a key rhetorical assist: Alan Verlander of the JaxSports Council.

“We need that fan district. We need a plug-and-play kind of place that people can go to. That’s the missing link here. You look at Nashville, look at Atlanta, you look at Dallas. Those places, they have destination points for their fans,” Verlander said. “We don’t have that here.”

“If they walk out the door and they see there’s things to do, they’re going to extend their stays for weekends around their conferences, and they’re going to have a great representation of Jacksonville,” added Visit Jacksonville VP Katie Mitura. “And when they leave, they are going to talk about the great time they had.”

Privatize, don’t criticize

The groundswell no one really predicted a month ago to privatize JEA continues to swell, per a Florida Times-Union dispatch.

Board chair Alan Howard gave CEO Paul McElroy 60-90 days to complete a report on such.

Outgoing board member Tom Petway made the pitch. Can Lenny Curry hit a home run?

“If, after what I anticipate will be a healthy debate, a decision is ultimately made to pursue privatization, that process will be open to all bidders so that we can achieve the best result possible for the citizens of Jacksonville and JEA’s customers,” Howard wrote.

T-U reported Nate Monroe notes that ratepayers may see savings: “The utility’s October survey of what other utilities charge showed a JEA residential customer pays $111.76 for 1,000 kilowatt-hours compared to $103.07 for a Florida Power & Light customer.”

We will see how it goes. The Mayor’s political operation is working this story hard, as a friendly dispatch in Sunshine State News indicated this week.

Kids Hope picks all but confirmed

To quote the departed Jim Nabors, “Surprise, surprise, surprise.”

The Jacksonville City Council Rules Committee did their best impression of Mayor’s Office staffers Tuesday, confirming six picks to the seven-person board of the nascent Kids Hope Alliance … with a seventh pick (Gary Chartrand?) held in abeyance.

Jacksonville City Council Rules Committee confirmed six picks to the seven-person board of Lenny Curry’s Kids Hope Alliance.

Rebekah Davis, a former member of the Jacksonville Children’s Commission board of directors; Kevin Gay, an earlier Jacksonville Journey board member; former Jacksonville Sheriff and current Edward Waters College President Nat Glover; Iraq War Bronze Star recipient Joe Peppers; and Tyra Tutor, a senior vice president at The Adecco Group North America.

The controversial (to some) choice: Marvin Wells, the first African-American graduate of the UF College of Dentistry. But not for reasons of qualifications.

Wells doesn’t live in Duval County — a clear requirement of the ordinance.

But rules are made to be broken, and the Rules Committee was happy to accommodate. Despite protestations from Councilman Garrett Dennis, who is not on Rules but was visiting the committee, Wells joined the rest on Tuesday’s Consent Agenda.

Shazam!

No more room at the morgue

The opioid overdose crisis in Jacksonville has taxed city resources on a number of fronts, including those not visible to the public, such as the Medical Examiner’s office.

Numerous city hall conversations this year have spotlighted the pressures created by the unnatural and unbudgeted deaths of the overdose crisis.

Bodies on top of bodies in the Duval County Medical Examiner’s office.

Tuesday saw the Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee discuss facilities, including short-term and long-term solutions.

The short-term fix would be cooling trailers, but Medical Examiner Valerie Rao is angling for a new building.

That concept has support from Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, who believes the project should be prioritized in the city’s capital improvement plan.

However, Rao nettled other Finance members by not having outlined the business case for the new building with specifics.

The building she suggested as a model — in Orlando — cost $16 million to build in 2010.

Jax Council candidate blames sexual harassment on female ‘libido’

Jacksonville City Council candidate Earl Testy may be losing the money race to fellow Republican opponent Randy DeFoor in District 14; however, he certainly is garnering earned media.

But not for reasons any sane person would want.

Testy took a provocative position on the current tsunami of sexual harassment charges Monday.

Testy took women to task, asserting “they have themselves and their libidos to blame for much of their own abuse by men.”

“Feminists have no more call to be proud of their abuse of sex than men do, albeit seemingly passive,” Testy asserted.

Testy equated the current spate of revelations with “Gay Pride logic.”

“Sin is sin,” Testy asserted, “regardless of male, female, homosexual or heterosexual orientation.”

Testy advanced his insights in reaction to an article on National Review Online by longtime conservative pundit Mona Charen, a woman who has never asserted that the female libido is “to blame.”

Terror plot foiled

In custody right now: A Filipino national who was willing to die to kill as many people as possible at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida.

Per CBS News, 69-year-old Bernandino Gawala “Nandie” Bolatete was arrested this week for possessing an unregistered silencer, a federal crime.

Bernandino Bolatete, a foreign national, was stateside on a green card.

Bolatete, a gun enthusiast, had a purpose in mind.

“I just want to give these freaking people a taste of their own medicine, you know,” the foreign national told an undercover detective.

“The suppressor is not really that ‘quiet’ but it can be used on the 4th of July or New Year (sic) time, it can easily blend with the sound of fireworks,” Bolatete added.

Per Action News Jax, Bolatete’s lawyer argued that this was just “talk,” but as one might expect when a foreign national travels to the states to kill a bunch of Americans, his bond request was rejected, and he’s still in lockdown.

Sixty Days for 12.7.17 — A prime-time look at the 2018 Legislative Session

Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2018 Legislative Session

The Last 24

Sen. Annette Taddeo of Miami and Rep. Lori Berman of Lantana said they will push for a legislatively-initiated state constitutional amendment approving Medicaid expansion in Florida.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources approved two priority environmental projects of full Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley.

A proposal to exempt fantasy sports from state gambling regulation cleared a Senate committee Thursday — but with one notable opponent.

A bill from Sen. Jeff Brandes, providing for a review of efficiency in government procurement, cleared a Senate panel with a unanimous ‘yes’ vote.

Brandes also saw a bill of his move to repeal restrictions on wine bottle sizes and tweak a state law that allows restaurant patrons to bring home opened but still-partly filled bottles of wine.

Quote of the Day

“I have no comment on the Latvala situation right now, but I would be very honored to be able to join the Senate as a member.” — Rep. Lori Berman, a Lantana Democrat running for state Senate, asked if Sen. Jack Latvala should resign amid a sexual harassment investigation.

Bill Day’s Latest

3 Questions

Sometimes, “3 Questions” writes itself. On Thursday, we listened in to a post-committee meeting exchange at the dais between intrepid reporter and sports fan Gary Fineout of The Associated Press, and state Sen. Dana Young, the Tampa Republican behind a bill to exempt fantasy sports from being regulated as gambling in Florida.

GF: How are fantasy sports games of skill?

DY: You have to know what these players are doing, you have to be able to understand who’s performing well.

GF: But what if you had (Green Bay Packers quarterback) Aaron Rodgers the day that he broke his collarbone … and was unable to complete the game? And so you lose as a result. Would that be considered an example of ‘skill’ or of ‘luck’?

DY: But Aaron Rodgers is not the only player on your team. These are fantasy teams. Have you ever played fantasy sports? Do you know how it works?

GF: Oh, I am intimately familiar with fantasy sports, which is why I can (ask) the question about Aaron Rodgers going down in the first quarter.

DY: OK (chuckling). So you’re pulling players from various teams and combining them … based on the performance of those individual players. So if you have Aaron Rodgers, but you’re particularly skillful at mixing the attributes of various athletes, then you might be able to overcome an injury (like that).

Lobby Up

Slater Bayliss, who works at The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners (TAG), has signed a quartet of clients in the last couple of months, records show.

In October, he registered to lobby for Plexos Group, “a full-service business consulting, program management and third party administration firm,” and Ygrene Energy Fund Florida, “a national leader in residential and commercial clean energy financing.”

In November, he took on Centennial Management Corp. of Miami Lakes, “a full-service real estate management company,” and InState Partners, a St. Louis-based national government relations consultancy.

Bayliss previously has worked for Gov. Jeb Bush, on the George W. Bush campaign, and for the Republican Governors Association.

He also serves as Florida Co-Chair of Maverick PAC, “a political committee that promotes next generation leaders and the principles of personal and fiscal responsibility in public service.”

TAG’s other pros include Al Cardenas, the former head of the state’s Republican Party, as well as Sarah Busk, Chris Chaney, Justin Day, and Stephen Shiver.

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

The Florida Commission on Ethics will take up a series of issues, including a proposed settlement that calls for former state Rep. Doug Holder to pay $6,500 in fines because of inaccurate financial-disclosure reports. That’s at 8:30 a.m., 1st District Court of Appeal, 2000 Drayton Dr., Tallahassee.

Former state Rep. Dwayne Taylor, a Daytona Beach Democrat, will be sentenced after being convicted on wire-fraud charges stemming from allegations that he improperly used campaign money. That’s at 9 a.m., U.S. Courthouse, 401 West Central Blvd., Orlando.

The Florida Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association is scheduled to meet. That’s at 10 a.m., Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport, 9300 Jeff Fuqua Blvd., Orlando.

Orlando attorney John Morgan, who led an effort last year that broadly legalized medical marijuana in Florida, will speak to the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida. That’s at noon, Country Club of Orlando, 1601 Country Club Dr., Orlando.

The Education Estimating Conference will analyze issues related to student financial aid at 2 p.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

The right stuff: Randy Enwright, Jim Rimes embrace change

After nearly two decades, business partners Randy Enwright and Jim Rimes decided change is good.

Enwright Consulting Group is changing its name to Enwright Rimes Consulting, to better reflect the longtime business relationship of the two men.

A sister company that provides political services — EM Campaigns, in business since 2003 — also is switching names to Election Management Solutions. Clay Barker, who joined the firm in 2016, will take on a leading role as Project Manager and Consultant.

And they’re launching a brand-new company called Supernova Digital Communications, a full-service digital shop that can design digital ad campaigns, manage social media, help with email marketing and build websites. Zach Monahan has come on board to manage it.

From left: Randy Enwright, Jim Rimes, Clay Barker, Zach Monahan.

These evolutions are as natural as the bond that kick-started their partnership, Rimes says. They’re both St. Petersburg natives who connected because their relatives were on the St. Pete High football team in the 1940s, he explains.

Enwright started the original company in 1999 shortly after leaving the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF). Rimes joined him about a year later. “We have been working together essentially ever since,” Rimes says.

Enwright has a long history in Republican politics and played a pivotal role in the 2000 presidential election recount that played out in Tallahassee where he was a senior adviser to James Baker.

Both Enwright and Rimes are former executive directors of the RPOF, and Enwright also served as Regional Political Director for the Republican National Committee. Rimes has experience in politics and policy, having worked as a Deputy Chief of Staff for Gov. Charlie Crist and Staff Director in the Senate Majority Office under then-Senate President Don Gaetz and then-Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto.

“I have had the privilege to work for and with Jim and Randy over the past 10 years. I consider both friends and mentors,” said Nick Hansen, a St. Petersburg-based political consultant. “Aside from being amazingly talented at their craft they are both phenomenal human beings who deserve all the success this world has to give.”

Enwright Rimes Consulting will continue to provide government relations, as well as grassroots, political, digital and telemarketing services. They’ve long served AT&T, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform and No Casinos.

More recently, they’ve been advising the group behind Marsy’s Law for Florida, which aims to amend the Florida constitution with a crime victims’ bill of rights.

“This is exciting news. Randy, Jim and Clay bring decades of combined legislative and campaign experience to help clients achieve their goals of getting elected to office, or to advocate for their clients before the legislature,” said Paul Seago of No Casinos. “They bring honor and dignity to professions of campaign consulting and lobbying, and that is no easy task these days.”

The political shop now known as Election Management Solutions has won some big races, including Kathleen PassidomoJeff Brandes and Matt Gaetz.  

Their political skills were also important parts of the teams that helped Jeb Bush become governor and his brother George W. Bush become president.

The team now advises, among others, the campaigns of Jay Fant for Attorney General, and Nick DiCeglie and David Smith for the Florida House, and they continue to help Matt Gaetz and Gus Bilirakis for Congress.

Supernova is taking off, counting now-Congressman Gaetz, state Rep. Dane Eagle, state Sen. Jeff Brandes and state Sen. Dana Young as clients, boosting their respective online followings.

The companies all have new respective websites; visit them at enwrightrimes.comelectionmgmt.com and supernovadigital.com.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 12.7.17

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

Let’s begin this morning with a major announcement from one of Florida’s top political consulting firms.

Enwright Consulting Group is changing its name to Enwright Rimes Consulting, to better reflect the longtime business relationship of Randy Enwright and Jim Rimes.

A sister company that provides political services—EM Campaigns, in business since 2003—also is switching names to Election Management Solutions. Clay Barker is joining the firm as Project Manager and Consultant.

And they’re launching a brand new company called Supernova Digital Communications, a full service digital shop that can design digital ad campaigns, manage social media, start email marketing and build websites. Zach Monahan has come on board to manage it.

Randy Enwright and Jim Rimes saw the times changing and adapted, changing the names of their ongoing business efforts and even creating a new one.

Enwright Rimes Consulting will continue to provide government relations, as well as grassroots, political, digital and telemarketing services. They’ve long served AT&T, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform and No Casinos. More recently, they’ve been advising the group behind Marsy’s Law for Florida, which aims to create a crime victims’ bill of rights in the state.

The political shop now known as Election Management Solutions won some big races in the last primary, including Jeff Brandes and Kathleen Passidomo, and were part of the teams that helped Jeb Bush become governor and his brother George W. Bush become president. Supernova is taking off, counting now-Congressman Gaetz, state Rep. Dane Eagle, and state Sen. Dana Young as clients, boosting their respective online followings.  

The companies all have new respective websites; visit them at Enwrightrimes.com, Electionmgmt.com and Supernovadigital.com.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***

— L’AFFAIRE LATVALA —

Et tu, Lauren Book” via Peter Schorsch for Florida Politics

Bill Galvano says Jack Latvala case likely won’t be resolved until January, cites Ray Sansom as precedent” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – “I believe that the special master’s report will come out before too long – maybe not this week but the next eight to 10 days,” Galvano, the incoming Senate President, said. “That’s not because I have official knowledge that’s because of the timing in this process. Of course, we’ll be out of committee” … “It’s within the president’s prerogative to call a special Rules Committee meeting but, based on my experience I would think it would be more in January, after everybody’s had a chance to adjust what the special master has come up with,” he said. Galvano said the precedent they will follow mirrors that of former House Speaker Ray Sansom, who faced a complaint from a Clearwater Democrat and ultimately resigned as speaker in February 2009 amid misconduct allegations. Galvano was the House Rules Committee chair at the time, and led the House Committee on Official Standards and Conduct which was prepared to investigate and potentially oust Sansom before he resigned.

Tweet, tweet:

Rob Bradley says ‘zero tolerance’ for sexual misconduct, intimidation’ ” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – “There is zero tolerance for sexual misconduct and verbal abuse,” said Bradley, following a meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “But there is also zero tolerance for any behaviors leaving one feeling like they should not come forward.” Bradley also spoke to the broader issues the facing the Senate, which has been engulfed in sex scandal allegations and rumors because of Latvala and state Sen. Jeff Clemens, who resigned after POLITICO reported his affair with a lobbyist. “I am encouraged that fundamental change is occurring in the capitol,” Bradley said.

Annette Taddeo becomes first Senate Democrat to call for Latvala’s resignation” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – … for creating a “hostile environment” as he fights a sexual harassment complaint filed by a longtime Republican staffer. “I believe Senator Jack Latvala has an opportunity to put service and people first — and that starts by resigning his seat, so we can get back to the business of Floridians,” Taddeo said in a written statement. The senator from Miami said she, too, had been harassed when she was younger. “While speaking out is never easy, I know in my heart I cannot stay silent any longer,” Taddeo said. “Without going into details, I have been subjected to inappropriate behavior as a young woman by a religious leader,” she said. “While I did not speak out publicly then, I know today, I have an opportunity to add my voice to a movement that I hope reshapes our society. We cannot tolerate anything less than respect from any individual — period.”

Tweet, tweet: @Fineout: Sen. Latvala continues to assert he didn’t do anything and that he’s fighting becaus he’s innocent. But the question is which other senators will join this chorus. And this question will get asked again and again and again by media outlets the closer #FLLeg gets to session.

Assignment editors – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham will announce a package of new ethics proposals to restore integrity to Florida’s Capitol. News conference begins noon at the Florida Press Center, 336 E. College Ave. in Tallahassee.

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Senate president’s priority university bill passes final committee” via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – A packed education bill passed its third and final committee with a unanimous vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee. SB 4, filed by Sen. Bill Galvano, would create the “Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2018” and expand the Bright Futures Scholarship to allow for use during summer enrollment. It would also expand coverage of the Benacquisto Scholarship Program, and establish the State University Professional and Graduate Degree Excellence Program. The bill, a priority of Senate President Joe Negron, can now be heard on the Senate floor during the 2018 session.

House Speakers backs stricter texting-while-driving proposal” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – The push to make texting while driving a primary offense under state law has gained a powerful advocate: House Speaker Corcoran. “The data is overwhelming and the need to act is equally compelling,” Corcoran said in a statement. State Rep. Jackie Toledo on Wednesday filed legislation that would strengthen the ban on texting and emailing while driving by bolstering citation fees. Under the proposal, a first violation would carry a fine plus court fees that cost up to $108. If a second offense is committed within five years, a driver would face a $60 fine plus court expenses that could total up to $158. Under the bill, law enforcement officers who stop a driver on suspicion of texting and driving would have to have a warrant to access a driver’s phone. They would also be required to inform the driver of their rights to decline a search of the phone.

Lawmakers question increased tourism funding” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida – Gov. Scott‘s request for lawmakers to boost tourism marketing by $24 million next year might be a tough sell in the House. Members of the House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee said VISIT FLORIDA would have to justify the proposed increase by showing how many of the 112.3 million visitors last year, and 88.2 million so far this year, came to Florida because of the agency’s marketing efforts. “Throwing out $75 million and 112 million visitors is just not compelling,” Rep. Randy Fine said after the meeting. “If you can show the incrementality (of marketing to tourism growth), it’s easier to justify the money.” Other members of the panel questioned if the state has the money available to spend.

Shot: “Seminole Tribe fires warning letter to Legislature over fantasy sports” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The Seminole Tribe of Florida’s top in-house lawyer told lawmakers this week that their fantasy sports bills are a dealbreaker. A $200 million dealbreaker. The Tribe now says fantasy sports bills filed for the 2018 Legislative Session, if passed, would violate the Seminole Compact. That’s the 2010 gambling agreement struck by the state and the Seminoles that, among other things, promises them exclusive rights to certain games. In return, the Tribe pays the state hundreds of millions per year. Break that deal, the Tribe says, and it’s entitled to pay not one more dime. Around 3 million Floridians say they play some sort of fantasy sports.

Chaser: “Tribe criticism of fantasy sports is ‘off point,’ Dana Young says” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – State Sen. Dana Young is defending her fantasy sports bill for 2018, saying the Seminole Tribe’s criticism of her measure and related legislation is “off point.” On Wednesday, the Tampa Republican referred to a February legal opinion by former Florida Supreme Court Justice Ken Bell for DraftKings, a leading fantasy sports website. The day before, the Tribe sent a letter warning lawmakers that fantasy sports bills filed for the 2018 Legislative Session, if approved, would violate the Seminole Compact, the gambling agreement with the state. In sum, Bell said “the passage of legislation authorizing online fantasy sports should have no effect on the payments due to the State of Florida under the Compact.”

Sarasota Republican Rep. Joe Gruters discusses his newly filed legislation to ban the practice of committees transferring “dark money” to other committees, which make it difficult to figure out which lawmaker receives contributions.

Bobby Olszewski files bill to protect pets during emergencies” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics –After hearing what he called “horrible” stories of pets being left chained outside during Hurricane Irma, Olszewski has filed a bill that would make that against the law in Florida, requiring owners to do all they can to get shelter for their animal companions. House Bill 907 would kick in anytime an emergency evacuation is ordered, requiring pet owners to take their pets with them or find safe and secure places for the pets. State Sen. Victor Torres, an Orlando Democrat, intends to introduce a companion bill in the Senate. Violators would be subject to civil fines.

Tweet, tweet:

Today’s key legislative committee meetings:

— Criminal justice budget on Senate agenda – The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee will hear a presentation on Gov. Rick Scott‘s proposed 2018-2019 budget. Presentations begin 9 a.m. in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— Senate discusses education budget – The Senate Pre-K-12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee will hear a presentation on Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed 2018-2019 budget. Presentations begin 9 a.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— Senate looks at transportation budget – The Senate Transportation, Tourism & Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee will hear a presentation on Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget. Presentations begin 9 a.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— Senate debates fantasy sports exemption – The Senate Regulated Industries Committee examines SB 374, filed by Dana Young of Tampa, to clarify that fantasy sports contests our exempt from Florida gambling laws.meeting begins 12:30 p.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— Senate looks at general governent appropriations – The Senate General Government Appropriations Subcommittee will hear a presentation on Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget. Presentations begin 12:30 p.m. in Room 301 of the Senate Office Building.

— Senate talks Health and Human Services budget – The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee will hear a presentation on Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget. Presentations begin 12:30 p.m. in Room 401 of the Senate Office Building.

— Senate discusses higher education budget – The Senate Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee will hear a presentation on Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget. Presentations begin 12:30 p.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— Lawmakers talk gambling, medical marijuana – The Joint Administrative Procedures Committee will hear presentations on gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the 2016 constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana. Presentations begin 3:45 p.m. in Room 301 of the Senate Office Building.

— LATEST ON FLA. DEMS. CHAIR RACE —

SEIU Prez Monica Russo drops bid for Florida Democratic chair” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post –  “The Florida Democratic Party needs to step out of the past and rigorously rejuvenate and empower grassroots leaders and give them the tools, support, and recognition they need for their organizing,” Russo said. “We need to be more intentional about being open, inclusive and cross-generational, a Party where Floridians from every community in all 67 counties feel like they belong. We have to take the time to do this and not only listen, but learn. As soon as I sought election, I learned that the Democratic Party’s rules and structures are closed and exclusive. The rules do not make those who have fought alongside the Democratic Party feel welcome. This holds progress back, and changes are clearly needed. Though I am not eligible to run for Chair, I still plan on continuing my push for these commonsense reforms.” Russo also said she’ll continue to work on union and Democratic priorities such as raising the minimum wage to $15 and expanding Medicaid.

Miami-Dade Democrats in ‘legal jeopardy’ over Stephen Bittel election votes” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – Bruce Jacobs, a longtime Democratic activist, claims the Miami-Dade local party is violating its bylaws by trying to “pre-determine the outcome” of the upcoming Florida Democratic Party chair election in favor of Terrie Rizzo. “He is basing that on nothing, it is preposterous,” Juan Cuba, the chair of the county party, said. Jacobs filed a motion in Miami-Dade court late last week, claiming there is a “calculated effort” to elect the next chair, and is asking the court to prohibit ousted chairman Stephen Bittel — who plans to keep his Miami committeeman post until after the election — from “voting, by proxy or otherwise.” The motion will be heard Friday, a day before the next party leader is chosen. But the legalities have already had a consequence: Cuba is no longer casting Bittel’s 62 votes. Bittel and Committeewoman Francesca Menes have the largest share of votes in the state.

– “Janet Cruz backs Alma Gonzalez in race for Florida Democratic chair” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Assignment editors – Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democratic candidate for Governor, will campaign across Central Florida to highlight issues such as the economy, affordable and accessible health care and protecting public education. Tour begins with the Surly Feminist Holiday Party, 8 p.m. at 1235 21st Ave. N. in St. Petersburg. On Friday, Gillum will speak at Café con Tampa, 7:45 a.m. at the Oxford Exchange, 420 W. Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa. Next, he will attend the Florida Association for The Education of Young Children Advocacy Awards Luncheon, noon at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, 9939 Universal Blvd. in Orlando. Finally, Gillum will appear at the Brevard County Democratic Executive Committee WINterfest, 6 p.m. at Rockledge Garden, 2153 US-1 in Rockledge.

Assignment editors – Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam will join supporters in Palm Beach Gardens for an “Up & Adam” breakfast beginning 8 a.m. at the Boulevard Restaurant & Deli, 10961 N. Military Trail in Palm Beach Gardens.

ICYMI: Anti-gambling initiative notches 1,000,000 signers – A proposed constitutional amendment aimed at limiting gambling’s expansion in the state now has more than 1 million signatures, its backers said Wednesday. Voters in Charge, the political committee behind the amendment, said it’s still aiming for 1.1 million signatures to reach the required 766,000-plus number to appear on the 2018 general election ballot. The amendment would “ensure that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling,” the ballot summary says. John Sowinski, chairman of Voters in Charge, said they collected over 237,000 petitions in November.

Three qualify for Senate District 31 special election” via Florida Politics – Democrats Lori Berman, currently in the Florida House, and Arthur Morrison will face off in a primary race, while Republican Tami Donnally will face the victor in the general election for Senate District 31. Last month, Gov. Scott set the special primary election for Jan. 30, 2018, with a special general election to follow April 10.

Judge to consider special election dates – Circuit Judge Charles Dodson will hold a Thursday hearing in Tallahassee on a request by Florida Democratic Party leaders for a temporary injunction to speed up special elections in two legislative districts. Attorneys filed a motion for a temporary injunction as part of a lawsuit filed Nov. 6. The request says special elections in Senate District 31 and House District 114 should be held in time for newly elected members to serve during all or part the 2018 legislative session, which starts Jan. 9. Lake Worth Democrat Jeff Clemens resigned from the Senate District 31 seat in late October after disclosures about an extramarital affair with a lobbyist, while Coral Gables Democrat Daisy Baez resigned from the House District 114 seat in early November after agreeing to plead guilty to a perjury charge in an investigation about her residency. In the Palm Beach County Senate district, Gov. Rick Scott has scheduled a special primary election Jan. 30 and a special general election April 10. In the Miami-Dade County House district, he has scheduled a special primary election Feb. 20 and a special general election May 1. The hearing is in the Leon County Courthouse, courtroom 3C, at 4 p.m.

— STATEWIDE —

Israel—the ‘photo op’ gift that keeps on giving: Gov. Scott recognized the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the University of Miami School of Medicine and the Israeli Trauma Society, continuing an ongoing partnership for training approximately 90 percent of Israel’s trauma surgeons.

Florida bond deals could take hit in tax overhaul” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida – Florida taxpayers could lose billions of dollars in future savings under part of pending federal tax-reform legislation that would limit the ability of states and local governments to refinance bonds. “This is down in the weeds, but it is extraordinarily important,” said Ben Watkins, director of the state Division of Bond Finance, after briefing aides to Gov. Scott and Cabinet members … Sweeping tax bills have passed the U.S. House and Senate, and the final version will have to be worked out in negotiations between the two chambers. But Watkins said both bills contain a provision that would prohibit the “advance refunding” of tax-exempt bonds. The ability to refinance bonds during a period of low interest rates allowed the state to save $2.5 billion in a 6 ½-year period that ended in December 2016, according to the Division of Bond Finance. In the 2015-2016 fiscal year alone, the state executed 13 refundings, totaling about $3 billion in debt that resulted in $619 million in savings.

At Disney, battles over $10 wages and 50-cent raises help tell Orlando’s economic tale” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel – Disney’s Unite Here reported that 11,046 of full-time union members make between $10 and $10.99 an hour. That’s not “survival” level income, according to the United Way of Florida. Another 4,184 make between $11 and $11.99. That’s still sub-survival. Many employees make more. Certainly, the executives. Disney says tipped employees can make $35 or more. But Disney says its own numbers show that the average hourly wage for its 30,000-plus front-line union workers is $13.34. That’s the average for full-time workers, many of whom love their employer … $27,747 a year. This is a big part of why Orlando is one of the lowest-wage metros in America. And here’s the starker, bigger-picture point: Nothing that happens in this contract negotiation will really change that. Even if Disney gives minimum raises of 80 cents or even $2, wages will still be low. This is the reality of our community.

Justices agree to weigh damages in smoker’s death” via the News Service of Florida – A divided Florida Supreme Court has decided to take up a case that focuses on the amount of damages an adult child should be able to receive in the smoking-related death of her mother. Justices, in a 4-3 decision, agreed to consider an appeal in a case filed against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. by Gwendolyn Odom, whose mother, Juanita Thurston, died of lung cancer after smoking cigarettes. In the Palm Beach County case, a jury found R.J. Reynolds at fault and awarded $6 million in compensatory damages. That amount was reduced to $4.5 million, because Thurston was held to be 25 percent responsible for her illness, according to court documents. The jury also awarded $14 million in punitive damages. But the 4th District Court of Appeal last year said the compensatory-damage award was excessive for a case brought by the adult child of a dead smoker. It rejected the compensatory-damage award and, as an extension, the amount of punitive damages. In asking the Supreme Court to take up the case, Odom’s attorneys wrote, in part, that the 4th District Court of Appeal ruling failed to recognize the “unique role” adult children can play in caring for their parents.

Regulators approve citizens insurance rate hikes” via the News service of Florida – State regulators have approved a series of rate increases for Citizens Property Insurance customers, now that a 90-day rate freeze due to Hurricane Irma has been lifted. The Office of Insurance Regulation said it has approved an average 6.6 percent increase for homeowners’ multi-peril policies, slightly lower than a 6.7 percent hike requested by Citizens. The average wind-only homeowners’ policy will go up 0.9 percent, rather than the 1.7 percent sought by the state-backed Citizens. Regulators approved Citizens’ request for a 4.8 percent increase in multi-peril coverage for condominium associations, while wind-only condominium association policies will see a 10.1 percent hike.

Trauma center approved for Children’s Hospital” via the News Service of Florida – The Florida Department of Health has signed off on a plan by Wolfson Children’s Hospital to open a pediatric trauma center. State Surgeon General Celeste Philip signed a final order approving what is known as a “provisional” trauma center at the Jacksonville hospital. The move came three weeks after an administrative law judge recommended approval of the trauma center. Wolfson had filed the administrative challenge after an earlier decision by the Department of Health to reject the proposal. Approval of a “provisional” trauma center is a kind of temporary status, though hospitals then can go through a process to get more-permanent approval.

FBI again interviews city employee about CNG project” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat – The FBI interviewed David Ging, an energy resource administrator, on Monday for the second time about the city’s planned but later abandoned the project to build its own Compressed Natural Gas station, instead opting to continue purchasing CNG from Nopetro at a discounted price… Ging said the FBI wanted to take a deep look at the project, including how it started and ended. The FBI in October first interviewed Ging and, separately, Terry Lowe, a longtime city fleet director who retired a short time later. City officials have said the FBI has given no indication the staff members themselves were the focus of their interest… Paige Carter-Smith, executive director of the Downtown Improvement Authority, was a Nopetro consultant when city officials were debating the CNG project… He has been named in all three subpoenas that have been served on City Hall and the Community Redevelopment Agency since June.

Mayor accused of using dead people’s parking permits” via The Associated Press – The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said Davenport Mayor Darlene Bradley was arrested and faces felony charges of using a deceased person’s identification. She also was charged with possessing an altered or counterfeit decal. The sheriff’s office says Bradley was videotaped parking in the disabled spot recently, and that a search of her home led to the discovery of permits issued to two people who have died. The mayor was booked into the Polk County Jail and released after posting $2,250 bond.

PSC teacher installs anti-Trump art exhibit ahead of president’s Pensacola rally” via Jake Newby of the Pensacola News-Journal – Since the 2016 election, an art teacher at Pensacola State College has worn his homemade, airbrushed anti-Donald Trump T-shirts around town. Now Douglas Reiser is taking his peaceful stance against the president a step further by putting those shirts, along with other handcrafted anti-Trump creations, on display in PSC’s art department. Campaign-style shirts slapped with not-so-subtle slogans like “WTF? 2016,” “Unapologetic Racist Enabler 2017” and “The Emperor Has No Clothes 2017” line … four racks of T-shirts, three to a rack, with small gold plaques hanging in front of each one. Engraved into each plaque are Trump quotes from the past couple of years that Reiser said he has found interesting, particularly “I alone can fix it,” a statement Trump made during the 2016 Republican National Convention. “I left some empty space on each plaque for future inexplicable quotes,” Reiser said.

UCF drops theater performance after playwright allegations” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – UCF scrapped preparations for a February student theater production of the play The Day Before Yesterday now that playwright Israel Horovitz has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct … officials announced The Day Before Yesterday is being replaced in the theater schedule this winter with Rebecca Gilman’s Boy Gets Girl, now set to run Feb. 22-March 4. According to a New York Times story, Horovitz is the subject of sexual misconduct allegations from nine different women, that range from unwanted forceful kissing to rape. “As an educational institution, it is our job to instruct students how to produce and participate in theater. However, it is also our duty to teach them to do so with integrity and respect. Upon evaluation of the situation, we have decided to replace the performance with Boy Gets Girl,” Julia Listengarten, artistic director for Theatre UCF, stated in a news release issue by UCF.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Matt Gaetz, Ron DeSantis, Ted Yoho: FBI must investigate Hillary Clinton” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – “In advance of the Dec. 7 testimony of FBI Director Christopher Wray before the House Judiciary Committee,” reads a news release, “the Congressmen are specifically calling for information about former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe‘s statement that the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton‘s misuse of a personal email server was referred to as ‘special’ and that ‘the decision was made to investigate it at HQ with a small team.’ ” Florida Reps. Gaetz, DeSantis and Yoho appeared at the event with several other conservatives, including Jim Jordan of Ohio, Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Louie Gohmert of Texas. “We are here today calling for an investigation into FBI systems and procedures that have allowed special treatment and bias to run rampant,” said Gaetz. “The law demands equal treatment for all, not ‘special’ treatment for some. There is a clear and consistent pattern of treating the Clinton investigation differently than other investigations. At least some of this ‘special’ treatment seems to have been motivated by political bias.”

Stephanie Murphy CHIP reauthorization bill lining up as Democrats’ offering” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Murphy introduced House Resolution 4541, which would reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) community health centers funding, and other critical public health initiatives like the Special Diabetes program, the National Health Service Corps, and Family-to-Family Health Information Centers. All of those programs had Sept. 30 reauthorization deadlines, which Congress missed. The bill also provides funding to support the under-resourced Medicaid system in Puerto Rico and the other U.S. territories, and to support the Medicaid system in states like Florida that enroll displaced individuals from hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The cost of the bill is fully offset by modifying the timing, but not the amount, of federal payments to Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans, a move supported by numerous independent experts, according to a press release issued by Murphy’s office.

— MOVEMENTS —

Lenny Curry turns to top political operative as chief of staff” via Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union – Curry named Brian Hughes his chief of staff, a move that formally installs a key figure in Curry’s political world into the machinery of city government. Hughes, who has been a Tallahassee-based political operative since Curry’s election, was already operating as a kind of unofficial chief of staff: A common sight in City Hall, oft-advising Curry on a range of policy and political issues and sometimes meeting with City Council members. Curry has been without a chief of staff since May, when Kerri Stewart, a City Hall veteran, resigned in May to take a job as one of JEA’s executives. Hughes has made thousands of dollars since Curry’s election in consulting fees — paid out of the mayor’s political committee — as well as having represented clients interested in running for City Council long before the 2019 elections take place. He is a registered city lobbyist for Buckeye Partners LP, an energy distribution company, and also signed up to work with the Jacksonville Port Authority.

Spotted at the Cardenas Partners holiday party –  Sens. Aaron Bean, Jeff Brandes, Audrey Gibson, Debbie Mayfield, Keith Perry, Perry Thurston, Reps. Halsey Beshears, Jason Brodeur, Brad Drake, Jason Fischer, Erin Grall, Jeanette Nunez, Mel Ponder, Paul Renner, Holly Raschein, Ray Rodrigues, Chris Sprowls, Jennifer Sullivan, Jackie Toledo,  Jay Trumbull, Jayer Williamson, Al Cardenas, Slater Bayliss, Brewster Bevis, Brad Burleson, Cameron Cooper, Mike Dew, J.C. Flores, Craig Hansen, Jose Gonzalez, Ed Moore, Stephen Shiver, Toby Philpot, John Zachem.

Happy birthday to a slew of great Florida politicos: Jane Castor, Anna Alexopoulos Farrar (now with the CFO’s office), Mark Ferrulo, former Rep. John Wood, and Jon Yapo.

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