Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 286

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.

Joe Negron: ‘Nothing nefarious’ in Gary Farmer’s reassignment

State Sen. Gary Farmer was taken off the chamber’s Banking and Insurance Committee, but Senate President Joe Negron told Florida Politics there was “nothing nefarious” about the removal.

Capitol insiders buzzed that Senate leadership was looking to exact revenge on the trial bar because of its financial support of Annette Taddeo, the Democratic opponent of popular Republican Jose Felix Diaz, in a special election. Farmer, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, is  a trial lawyer.

Negron says that’s not the case.

Indeed, newly elected Sen. Taddeo made a “compelling” case that she should be added to the committee, Negron said.

Committee chair Anitere Flores, also the Senate President pro tempore, said B&I “is one of the top committees in the Senate.”

“Sen. Taddeo’s district has a history of being hard hit by hurricanes and other insurance issues in her community,” said Flores, a Miami-Dade Republican. “I understand she made a compelling case (but) when a new senator joins the Senate, some of the committee have to be shuffled.”

Bill Nelson fundraises off Irma again, Republicans say it’s ‘disgusting’

Bill Nelson just cannot help himself.

After Republicans blasted a “tone deaf” email last month that sought to raise funds off Hurricane Irma, Florida’s senior U.S. Senator is at it again.

Nelson writes: “There’s been a lot going on in Washington recently, from finding ways to fund these massive hurricane recovery efforts to prevent the passage of yet another disastrous GOP health care bill.”

The senator then proclaims his focus on “one thing,” which is doing everything he can to fight for constituents, adding that it is his job to “make sure your voice is heard in the Senate.”

Since Hurricane Irma happened over a month ago (supposedly past its disaster expiration date), Nelson seems to think now would be the right time to “survey” Floridians on how he’s doing.

Along with a money pitch, of course.

And once again, national Republicans are quick to this point out, saying it’s time he answers for his “disgusting” move.

Memories of Irma are still fresh in the minds of many Floridians, and Hurricane Maria continues to be an active disaster for the people of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and their families and loved ones in Florida. Republicans feel any extra money and resources should be used to help those suffering, not for a campaign more than a year away.

“Bill Nelson needs to explain why he continues to fundraise off Hurricane Irma,” said NRSC Communications Director Katie Martin in an email Thursday. “Floridians are still struggling to clean up from this devastating storm, yet all Bill Nelson cares about is filling his own campaign coffers.”

Politics can wait, says the GOP, calling for Nelson to resist the urge to raise money. There will always be time to fundraise later.

Joe Negron’s class act: ‘Here, Dorothy Hukill, take my spot’

Session hasn’t even started, and we already have a winner for “Legislative Nice Guy of 2018″—Senate President Joe Negron.

Negron, who we’ve already reported as having found a new gear as he enters his last year in leadership, gave up his primo parking spot in the Capitol garage so that his colleague, Dorothy Hukill, can use it.

Hukill missed the entire 2017 Legislative Session due to cancer treatments. But she returned this week to a round of applause from her colleagues during roll call in the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee.

The Port Orange Republican spent the 2017 Session watching the session on a pair of screens — a home computer and an iPad — at her home while recovering from cervical cancer. Radiation treatments ended just as the 2017 Session was coming to a close.

“It’s very exciting to be in the (committee) room,” Hukill told Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida. “It’s lovely to watch it on the wonderful Florida Channel, which I was very, very happy to have. But I’d rather be here.”

Undoubtedly, Hukill still is recovering from her treatments. And because every extra step walked can be a chore, a few hundred feet saved by having the Senate President’s parking spot has to be a relief.

Still, Hukill told reporters she expects the welcome-backs and hugs from her colleagues to quickly give way to legislative normalcy.

“It’s exciting to be back,” she said. “People are giving give me a breather for a day or two.”

The Delegation for 10.12.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Delegation at the forefront of gun control debate

Members of the Florida delegation are taking a lead role in the most recent discussion on gun control following the tragedy in Las Vegas. While pleas for “reasonable” gun control measures are always part of the discussion, the specific targeting of devices such as “bump stocks,” which turn semi-automatic weapons basically into automatic rifles, is gaining steam.

Bill Nelson joined fellow Democrat Dianne Feinstein from California and others, to launch a Senate bill that would make it unlawful to add devices which “functions to accelerate the rate of fire of a semi-automatic rifle, but not convert the semi-automatic rifle into a machine gun.”

The bill has a military and National Guard carve-out.

Republican Carlos Curbelo joined Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton to introduce a bill banning “Bump Stocks.”

“I’m a hunter and have owned guns my whole life,” Nelson said in a news release. “But these automatic weapons are not for hunting; they’re for killing.”

Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo is teaming with Massachusetts Democrat Seth Moulton to craft a House bill, but with a twist. While developing the proposal, the duo is seeking co-sponsors to make it a “perfectly bipartisan effort.”

To join this bill, co-sponsors must sign on in tandem with a member of the other party. Curbelo and Moulton describe this as the “Noah’s Ark” approach.

“For the first time, there is growing bipartisan consensus for firearm reform, a polarizing issue that has deeply divided Republicans and Democrats,” Curbelo said in a news release. “Common sense legislation that does not restrict Second Amendment rights is an important step in addressing gun violence in our country.”

“It’s time for Members of Congress to find the courage to come together and finally do something to help stop the epidemic of mass shootings,” Moulton said. “As Members of Congress, it is our responsibility to protect the American people.”

This action appears to be an idea whose time has come. President Trump essentially gave his thumbs-up, while the National Rifle Association (NRA) said: “Devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.”

It will be sometime in 2018, at the earliest, before any action would take effect. Even if the legislation somehow quickly moves through Congress, the Nelson/Feinstein bill states that the ban on any outlawed device takes place “180 days after the date of enactment.” The Curbelo/Moulton bill would likely have the same provision.

In other words, perhaps the time has almost come.

Rubio, commission to Trump: Engage China on human rights

With President Donald Trump set to go to Beijing in November, North Korea will undoubtedly be a significant topic of discussion between the president and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. The second-term Republican Senator wants to add human rights to the agenda.

Last week the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which Rubio chairs along with GOP Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, released its 2017 annual report. Among the detailed report’s recommendations (the executive summary alone is 65 pages), is for the Trump administration to embark on a policy “that challenges China to abide by its international commitments, adhere to universal standards and embrace the rule of law.”

Marco Rubio is calling for the Trump administration to embark on a policy “that challenges China to abide by its international commitments, adhere to universal standards and embrace the rule of law.”

Rubio, Smith and the committee detailed a regression on freedom of expression in China, as well as infringements on religious liberties. In an op-ed, they cited Xi’s continuing efforts to consolidate his power.

“Over the past year, Chinese authorities targeted labor and environmental activists; demanded loyalty from scholars and intellectuals; and clamped down on foreign nongovernmental organizations, media outlets, think tanks and internet companies,” they wrote.

They also offered a reminder to Trump.

“President Trump would do well to remember, even in the midst of heightened diplomacy on North Korea, that governments which trample the basic rights of their own citizens are unreliable international partners.”

Comprising the bipartisan Commission is nine senators and seven representatives. Also, five executive branch commissioners are provided, which have not yet been appointed.

Nelson proposes gasoline supply reserve in Florida

The three-term Democrat, who has seen numerous hurricanes come through Florida during his 17 years in the Senate, is calling on the federal government to make it easier for residents to evacuate. He is proposing a “Florida Gasoline Supply Reserve” that would store at least 1 million barrels of gasoline for distribution when disaster-related evacuations are required.

Stories of Florida residents remaining in place as Hurricane Irma approached due to limited fuel access, prompted the call for the reserve. He filed a bill last week that would require the U.S. Department of Energy to create the reserve.

“When a major storm is heading toward our state, we have to make sure people have access to the gas they need to get out of harm’s way, Nelson said. “A Florida gas reserve would not only help prevent some of the gas shortages we saw ahead of Hurricane Irma but would also help ensure that our first responders have the fuel they need to help people during and after the storm.”

Nelson will likely gain bipartisan support for his bill, especially within the delegation. Republican Richard Corcoran, Speaker of the Florida House, had recently made a similar suggestion.

Rubio: Told you so

As the U.S. military took over the Puerto Rico relief efforts, Florida’s junior senator pointed out that the federal government was doing what he called for almost two weeks ago. As some of the smaller-town mayors “stumble on the job” of getting relief to their constituents, the military is now charged with ensuring lifesaving supplies are distributed to those in need in the island’s more remote areas.

Soon after his visit to the island shortly after Hurricane Maria had left, Rubio pledged the federal government would not forget them. Militarizing the relief effort was one of his recommendations.

“We need to push it directly to the barrio to ensure that everyone’s getting it,” Brig. Gen. Jose J. Reyes told the Miami Herald.

After visiting Puerto Rico shortly after Hurricane Maria, Marco Rubio pledged the federal government would not forget them.

Between 10-20 soldiers will be placed in the communities with the responsibility of delivering supplies.

“They will have some vehicles. They will have radio communications, as well as logistics support … they are going to be living there,” said Reyes. “They are going to be operating 24/7.”

On Sunday, Rubio tweeted “12 days ago said @DeptofDefense must take over @PuertoRicoRelief appears they have finally reached same conclusion.”

Delegation calls for $27 billion in additional hurricane recovery funding

In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, both U.S. Senators from Florida, along with 26 delegation members from the House, submitted Friday a line-item list of budget requests totaling $26.945 billion worth of federal hurricane recovery funding.

In a letter penned to members of the House Committee on Appropriations, nearly the entire Florida delegation outlined specific recovery funding requests in addition to the $29 billion requested this week from the White House.

“Three hurricanes have hit U.S. soil in a short time, stretching our federal agencies, first responders and community resources thin,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “With more than a month left in the 2017 hurricane season and another storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, Americans need to know that the federal government is ready to respond.”

Daniel Webster’s name is noticeably absent in a letter from the Florida delegation urging $27 billion in additional hurricane recovery funding.

The letter stresses that additional funding will likely be needed once a more thorough damage assessment is complete and the funding sought will probably cover only part of the state’s overall recovery costs.

The largest of the requests include $10 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers to help repair and sustain port and river functionality, along with repairing any damage to ongoing projects like the Herbert Hoover Dike. There is also $7 billion for the Community Development Block Grant to fund any unmet needs, including seawall restoration in South Florida; and $5 billion for the Department of Agriculture to assist with crop and livestock losses from Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

Congressman Daniel Webster, a Republican from Florida’s 11th District, was the only Florida delegation signature absent from the letter Friday.

Good news/bad news on GOP passing 2018 budget resolution

The good news, depending on one’s point of view, is the House passed a budget for the next fiscal year. The bad news, depending on one’s point of view, is the House passed a budget for the next fiscal year.

The vote of 219-206 represents complete unity against the resolution by Democrats with 18 Republicans crossing over to vote with them. Delegation members were only too happy to provide the good news and bad news for constituents and the media.

“It’s time to put Washington on a responsible fiscal path, and this budget is a step in the right direction,” said Panama City Republican Neal Dunn. Dunn pointed to estimates the budget would achieve $6.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years and produce a budget surplus of $9 billion in fiscal year 2027.

“Budgeting is about setting priorities, and the FY 2018 budget does just that,” said Lakeland Republican Dennis Ross. “From funding America’s defense to balancing the budget in 10 years, and rolling back regulations that hinder our economy, we are getting American back on track.”

Democrats had a different, but familiar reaction.

Al Lawson blasted the Republican 2018 budget resolution that includes $5.4 trillion in spending cuts to programs “critically important” to his constituents.

“I voted against the Republican budget resolution that includes $5.4 trillion in spending cuts to programs critically important to my constituents,” said Democrat Al Lawson of Tallahassee. “This devastating budget included cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security and education assistance, all while cutting taxes for the wealthy.”

For those expecting a fiery response from Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch, he did not disappoint.

“The House Republican budget is a callous proposal to shut down essential programs like Medicare, steal billions of dollars from middle-class Americans’ wallets and funnel it to billionaires, and undermine key national priorities by cutting infrastructure funding and wreaking havoc on our health care system,” he said.

In September, the national debt topped $20 trillion. At that time, Congress approved stopgap funding until Dec. 8, when the debt ceiling will again need to be raised.

Water Wars headed for U.S. Supreme Court

The legal fight between Florida and Georgia over water flow into the Apalachicola River (aka “Water Wars”) will move before the full U.S. Supreme Court.

The nation’s highest court announced Tuesday that it will set a date for oral arguments in the case during its current term, which runs through June.

“The exceptions to the special master’s report are set for oral argument in due course,” the court said in a one-sentence announcement.

“We are pleased the Supreme Court granted oral argument and look forward to presenting our arguments in court,” said Kylie Mason, the press secretary for Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Neal Dunn weighs in on Florida’s water wars, saying the state has “suffered harm from low water flows upriver and that stopping implementation of the revised water manual is necessary to right this wrong.”

Florida filed a lawsuit in 2013, alleging Georgia diverts too much water from the river system and that the diversions have damaged Apalachicola Bay and Franklin County’s seafood industry. Earlier this year, a special master appointed by the Court recommended that Georgia’s position prevail.

“The key finding in the special master’s decision is that Florida has suffered harm from low water flows upriver and that stopping implementation of the revised water manual is necessary to right this wrong,” Panama City Republican Neal Dunn said in a news release.

Dunn, “with support from several of my Florida colleagues in Congress,” sought to halt “implementation of the water control practices” laid out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Both Florida senators and Congressmen representing the Panhandle area have been fighting the uphill battle. Earlier this year, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson filed a bill in the Senate that would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers send more freshwater into Florida.

“The oystermen whose livelihood depends on having enough fresh water in the bay are relying on us to get this fixed,” he said.

Speaker appoints Gaetz to debt ceiling group

The first-term Republican from Fort Walton Beach will now be watching the nation’s debt ceiling much more closely. Last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan appointed Gaetz to the House Debt Ceiling Working Group.

He brings a history of fiscal conservatism with him to the post. In a release announcing his appointment, his office reminded those watching the issue that Gaetz “has never voted to raise the debt ceiling.”

That includes last month, when he was among 90 House Republicans voting against both raising the debt ceiling until December and emergency Federal Emergency Management Agency funding to deal with hurricanes. Gaetz later stood by that vote.

“I am honored to have been chosen by the Speaker to work in the debt ceiling group,” Gaetz said. “In the past month, our government debt finally exceeded 20 trillion dollars. This is not only generational theft, but morally repugnant.”

Though they were on the opposite sides of the September debt ceiling increase, Ryan praised Gaetz for his fiscal responsibility.

“This is exactly why we wanted Matt Gaetz on the Budget Committee; because of how serious he is about getting our fiscal house in order,” said Ryan in a statement. “He brings to this working group the kind of fresh approach and long-term thinking taxpayers deserve right now. I appreciate his willingness to take on this responsibility at this critical time.”

The group’s first meeting was Tuesday.

Murphy, Demings, Soto announce transportation grant

The three Central Florida Democrats announced the Federal Highway Administration will provide the region with a $12 million grant to develop “intelligent transportation technologies.” Recipients are the Florida Department of Transportation, MetroPlan Orlando, and the University of Central Florida.

The specific purpose is to use technology to make transportation safer and more accessible for drivers, transit riders, pedestrians, and bicyclists in the Orlando area. Generally, it is intended to help central Florida ease traffic congestion and promote traffic safety.

In March, the three Members of Congress wrote to White House Budget Director Nick Mulvaney, with a copy to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, providing a list of more than a dozen projects that would benefit from the funds. The letter respectfully reminded Mulvaney of President Trump’s repeated pledge to invest in infrastructure.

Murphy said the grant “will help make Orlando’s roads safer and less congested, and give residents a wider range of transportation options.” Soto called it “great news for Central Florida! We all know firsthand the problems of traffic congestion and lack of cyclist safety in the Orlando area.”

“This grant will help residents and our 68 million annual visitors get from place to place quicker, faster, safer and with less fuel usage and air pollution,” Demings said.

Soto: Congress has come to terms with Puerto Rico, USVI devastation

The Orlando Democrat spent the early part of the week touring Puerto Rico and then Thursday met with the House Natural Resources Committee, leaving convinced that the island is in desperate straits, that the Trump administration still has not come to terms, but that Congress has.

“We’ve had much better success in getting Congress to understand the devastation than we have in getting the Trump administration to do so,” Soto told Florida Politics.

Darren Soto says there is some good news in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria … Congress has finally come to terms with the massive devastation in Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands.

“That’s the good news in all this,” Soto said, noting that he expects Congress to pass an emergency $29 billion Federal Emergency Management Agency package for hurricane relief to Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, with Puerto Rico getting $10 billion of that.

Soto also called attention to the U.S. Virgin Islands, which he did not visit, but about which, he said, has been briefed on numerous times. Soto said the Virgin Islands were in as bad of shape, with no schools or hospitals standing, and, he said, the additional burden of a local government that was not responding well.

“One of the big things we [on the Natural Resources Committee] all agreed to do is we need to stand united for both Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on this because we’re worried that the Virgin Islands will be left out. But everything needs to be rebuilt,” Soto said.

Orlando Republican Daniel Webster is also a member of the Committee.

Het he said he remains convinced that the Trump administration does not understand the “damage or the heightened sense of the urgency of the need.”

“If President Trump said today, ‘Bring down 500 helicopters and get them out to all these towns immediately,’ it will happen,” Soto added. “But to the best of my knowledge, unless something has changed over the last day or so, it still hasn’t.”

Upon his return from Puerto Rico, Soto filed a report of his findings.

Agents from the Department of Financial Services’ Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico with personnel from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Highway Patrol and Florida Department of Law Enforcement to assist with recovery efforts following Hurricane Maria.

Bilirakis bill clears committee

The Republican from Palm Harbor is working his legislation, named the Community CARE Act, through the House of Representatives. The bill, co-sponsored by New York Republican Elise Stefanik, reauthorizes funding for community health centers for the next two years.

Bilirakis announced the bill passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The centers provided health and dental care for underserved populations.

“This important bill reauthorizes funding for community health centers for the next two years at a level of $3.6 billion per year,” Bilirakis said in a newsletter to constituents. “Community health centers provide high quality, comprehensive health care to over 25 million Americans, including 7 million children and 300,000 veterans.”

Democrat Kathy Castor of Tampa also serves on the committee with Bilirakis.

Buchanan calls out California “Governor Moonbeam”

It is safe to say the Sarasota Republican is not a fan of California in general, and their governor, in particular. In an email message titled “Governor Moonbeam Strikes Again,” Buchanan lamented to his district that California is now a “sanctuary state.”

“There’s a reason I’m leading the fight in Congress to crack down on sanctuary cities,” Buchanan wrote. “It’s because of people like (Gov.) Jerry Brown.

Brown was given that moniker in the 1970s by Chicago columnist Mike Royko.

Buchanan was responding to Brown signing a bill which will “vastly limit local law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.” The U.S. Department of Justice agrees with Buchanan.

In a new email, Vern Buchanan calls out “Governor Moonbeam,” Jerry Brown of California.

“The state of California has now codified a commitment to returning criminal aliens back onto our streets, which undermines public safety, national security and law enforcement,” said department spokesman Devin O’Malley.

In response, California Senate President Kevin de León said the bill “will not provide full sanctuary,” but would prevent local police from being “commandeered” into doing immigration enforcement.

Buchanan called on U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Senate to approve two bills Congressional Republicans support, Kate’s Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, immediately. Both bills, co-sponsored by Buchanan and GOP colleague Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach, passed the House in July.

Deutch leads 180+ Democrats asking Trump not to nix Iran deal

The Democrat from Boca Raton has joined with his Democratic colleague from North Carolina, David Price, in writing to President Trump asking him not to decertify the nuclear materials agreement with Iran negotiated by the Obama administration. Reports are circulating Trump may do just that as early as Thursday or Friday.

“The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act requires the president to provide to Congress credible evidence of Iranian noncompliance should violations of (the agreement) occur,” they wrote. “We have received no such information to date.”

Decertifying the agreement would not come as a total surprise. Throughout the 2016 campaign, Trump pledged to “get rid” of it or “tear it up.” According to POLITICO, he may decertify it, but not reimpose sanctions on Iran, thereby preserving the opportunity to “save” it.

“If President Trump decertifies Iranian compliance without clear evidence of Iranian violations, it will jeopardize this united front against Iran,” Deutch said in a news release. “The (agreement) is an imperfect agreement, but to address the problematic provisions, including the sunset clauses, we will need to stay in lockstep with our global partners.”

Joining the U.S. in negotiating the agreement was China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany.

According to the list provided by Deutch, all Florida Democrats signed on to the letter except Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park.

DCCC launches Spanish-language ads targeting “vulnerable” Republicans

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is stepping up its attacks in three South Florida congressional districts. Digital advertisements, focusing on Medicare, targets Mario Diaz-Balart from the 25th District and Carlos Curbelo in the 26th. They will also run in the 27th District, currently held by the retiring Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

The boogeyman in these ads is House Speaker Paul Ryan and Republicans for their attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. Democrats say the GOP legislation would take $500 billion from Medicare.

“Ryan and the Republicans in Washington,” the ad says. “Medicare is yours, not theirs.”

“Medicare has allowed millions of hardworking Latino families across the country to receive quality and affordable health care coverage,” said DCCC spokesman Javier Gamboa. “House Republicans will stop at nothing to rip away affordable health care coverage from their constituents, and we are all at risk as long as they’re in office.”

The ad, “No Pueden Parar,” (They Can’t Stop), is the first Spanish-language digital ad of the 2018 election cycle from the DCCC. The 15-second advertisement is targeted through Facebook and Google to those living in the three districts that have set their computer and phone settings to Spanish.

In addition to the three districts in Florida, another 16 heavily Latino areas in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas will see the ads. No dollar figure on the cost of the ad buy was provided.

Floridians honored in Washington for work on mental illness

This week, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) recognized two Florida advocates for their work. Judge Steven Leifman and Peggy Symons of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Orlando were presented with two of PhRMA’s 2017 Research & Hope Awards.

Leifman is a Miami-Dade County judge who spends considerable time outside the courtroom working on the issue of mental health. For more than seven years he has chaired the Florida Supreme Court Task Force on Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues in the Court.

He tirelessly works to improve the broken system and has developed groundbreaking resources within the 11th Judicial Circuit.

Symons is a diagnosed schizophrenic with bipolar disorder. After failing for more than 30 years to find the right medication to control her disease, she discovered two that worked. After enduring the struggle dealing with insurance companies, she found herself on the right path and committed herself to work on behalf of others similarly afflicted.

“The award recipients are inspirational leaders in mental health research, support and advocacy,” said PhRMA President and CEO Stephen J. Ubl. “We are grateful for their extraordinary commitment to helping patients build better and healthier lives.”

Award recipients were honored at a Tuesday ceremony in Washington that featured keynote speaker Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in U.S. history.

Paulson’s Principles: The more things change, the more they stay the same

We are nine months into President Donald Trump’s first term, and many Republicans and Democrats are anxiously looking forward to the 2018 midterm elections.

As is often the case, both parties see a reason for optimism.

Republicans are optimistic because they hold the White House, they control 35 of the 50 governorships, 67 of the 98 partisan state legislative bodies, and they gained almost 1,000 new state legislators during the eight years of the Obama administration.

Democratic optimism is based on Trump’s abysmal approval ratings which they believe will help drag down Republican candidates. Democrats also believe that the special election victory of Democrat Annette Taddeo in a state senate race will help Democrats attract better candidates, raise more money and boost enthusiasm.

Democrats believe they have nowhere to go but up. After Republican control of the Florida congressional delegation since 1990, Democrats and believe they have the opportunity to flip three additional seats and take control of the congressional delegation for the first time in almost three decades.

Democratic optimism is based on Trump’s low approval ratings, the electorates desire for political change after three decades of Republican dominance in Florida, and based on demographic changes occurring in Florida.

Two hundred thousand Puerto Ricans have moved to Florida since 2012 and most reside in the Orlando metropolitan area. Because of hurricane Maria and its devastation of Puerto Rico, another 100,000 island residents could migrate to Florida. They would bring with them their strong ties to the Democratic Party. Orlando-area Hispanics are now 54 percent Democrat and only 14 percent Republican.

But, as Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times has recently noted, not all demographic changes favor the Democrats. The Villages, an area northwest of Orlando, has been the fastest growing metro area for the past four years. Its residents are overwhelmingly Republican and pro-Trump. Just as the in-migration of Puerto Ricans has benefited Democrats, the growth of the 98 percent white Villages will help Republican candidates.

The cleansing of voter rolls is another factor benefiting Republicans. Hillsborough County, which moved 46,264 voters to the inactive roll, more than twice the number of any other county, resulted in 18,514 Democrats and 9,140 Republicans being moved to inactive status.

Statewide, 114,000 voters were moved to the inactive status. 27,000 were Republicans, but 82,000 were Democrats.

As Tim Russert said on election night 2000, everything came down to “Florida, Florida, Florida.” As we know, it is almost impossible to predict anything in Florida other than close elections.

Statewide, Democrats now make up 37.6 percent of the electorate, Republicans are 35 percent and No Party Affiliation is 27 percent. This gives Democrats a lead of 275,330 voters out of 13 million registered voters.

As political guru Steve Schale has noted, since 1992, over 50 votes have been cast in Florida presidential elections and Republicans lead by 12,000 votes or 0.02 percent. It can’t get closer than that.

Who wins in Florida in 2018 will come down to candidate quality, money and political organization.

Double duty for Scalise?

Recently, Louisiana Republican Congressman Steve Scalise returned to Capitol Hill to resume his duties as he still recovers from his near-fatal shooting. In addition to representing his state’s 1st Congressional District, he also serves as the House Majority Whip; otherwise known as the guy responsible for rounding up votes on the side desired by leadership.

By most accounts, Scalise has been successful in his Whip post. With all of the division among House Republicans, that chamber was able to at least get a “repeal and replace” Obamacare bill across the finish line.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise throws out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 1 of the NLDS between the Cubs and Nationals.

The Senate is a different story, where a GOP majority experienced multiple failures. This prompted first-term Republican Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach to joke about expanding Scalise’s duties.

“Maybe we’ll send him over to the Senate to whip them into shape,” he quipped.

While the Constitution does not permit that, a Senate run may be a part of Scalise’s future.

Voting restoration amendment clears 200,000 signatures

A proposed ballot initiative that would automatically restore some felons’ voting rights after they complete their sentences now has more than 210,000 confirmed petition signatures, according to the Florida Division of Elections.

And while that’s just the number of confirmed petition, Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, says 600,000 signed petitions have been gathered and that he expects the organization to have all the petitions it needs by December.

The Voting Restoration Amendment wouldn’t apply in the case of murder convictions or sex crimes, but all other Florida felons would be eligible once they exit state custody and finish out parole or probation and pay any restitution owed.

To make the ballot, initiatives need to have 766,200 confirmed signatures. Rules require those signatures be spread across Florida’s 27 congressional districts, with the total number due pegged to voter turnout in the most recent presidential election. Former state Senate Democratic leaders Arthenia Joyner and Chris Smith have also filed the proposal with the Constitution Revision Commission, which has the power to put it on the ballot.

During his term as Florida governor, then-Republican Charlie Crist worked with Cabinet members Alex Sink and Charles Bronson to push through restoration of rights for more than 150,000 non-violent felons. That process was quickly halted by Gov. Rick Scott when he took office in 2011.

Crist was elected to Florida’s 13th Congressional District last year as a Democrat, and as of Wednesday evening his Pinellas County district was the only one in the state that had hit its signature quota.

Current law requires Florida convicts to wait years after they complete their sentences to apply for restoration through the Board of Executive Clemency, made up of Scott and the Cabinet.

Once they complete an application, they have to play the waiting game. The line to go before the board is thousands of cases long, and it rarely hands down a decision in more than 100 cases during one of its four annual meetings.

The committee backing the measure, Floridians for a Fair Democracy, has been paying out substantial sums to petition gatherers pounding the pavement to get those signatures.

Last month alone saw Calabassas, Calif.-based petition gathering company PCI Consultants pick up more than $400,000 from the committee, while a significant amount of money also went to county supervisors of elections for signature verification fees.

At the end of the month, Floridians for a Fair Democracy had about $180,000 on hand, thanks in large part to the American Civil Liberties Union chipping in more than $1.4 million in the past four months.

Sunburn for 10.12.17 — Richard Corcoran warming up; State budget already being crunched; Rick Scott criticized; Janet Cruz delivers PR aid; SpaceX goes 3-for-3

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

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

Richard Corcoran has “planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway.”

Yes, he does it his way.

The House Speaker is on a tear this week, going Sinatra on Visit Orlando after it disclosed, among other things, that it spent over $76,000 “to advertise on a traffic and weather camera,” the Sentinel reported.

Moreover, a House committee could decide on Thursday “whether to subpoena a TV producer who declined to detail how he spent $14.4 million he received from VISIT FLORIDA,” according to the Naples Daily News.

Pat Roberts, owner of Tallahassee-based MAT Media, refused to cooperate in a House investigation into his cooking show starring celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse and a fishing show,” the paper said.

Corcoran, whom we’ll bet will announce a run for governor after the 2018 Legislative Session, vilified VISIT FLORIDA earlier this year, seeking to defund it and Enterprise Florida because they were dispensers of “corporate welfare.”

Corcoran later agreed with Senate President Joe Negron and Gov. Rick Scott to fund the tourism marketing agency with $76 million. Also created was an $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund.

In return, Corcoran got Scott’s signature on a still-controversial education bill creating “Schools of Hope” that will benefit charter schools.

To think he did all that—and may we say, not in a shy way—yep, he does it his way.

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— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

— @MarcoRubio: Richard Spencer craves publicity.Desperate to incite outrage b/c terrified of @UF speech no one shows up for.

— @TiffanaySalameh: Racially disturbing video allegedly features a UNF student mocking those who attended a BLM rally.

— @MaryEllenKlas: Ophelia becomes a hurricane, tying century-old record

— @Scott_Maxwell: Rick Scott says Congress should make citrus/Ag whole for $2.5B in losses – while also saying farmers don’t want “government handouts.”

— @VentureTampaBay: Yes, grandkids, I remember when oranges grew by the millions in Florida… Quit pulling our legs, grandpa.

— @MDixon55: Sen. Gibson does not sugar coat it. Says Senate got “sucker punched” when house tied Scott’s funding pot to Visit Florida money

@Fineout: City of Tallahassee says it handed 150,000 electronic records to FBI today & 1.500 more will be turned over in coming weeks

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

‘LIP’ money falls short of initial estimates” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida – At the height of a budget showdown earlier this year, Gov. Scott boasted that his friendship with President Trump‘s administration would result in Florida getting $1.5 billion to help the state’s hospitals. But months later, the final amount will be considerably smaller, a top state Medicaid official said. Instead the state will have about $790.4 million in supplemental Medicaid funds to spend this year. Beth Kidder, a deputy secretary at the state Agency for Health Care Administration, told the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee that the agency has $303 million in funding commitments from counties to help fund the Low-Income Pool. The money will be used to draw down $487 million in federal Medicaid dollars bringing the total available to just more than $790 million for the supplemental program widely known as LIP. “The $1.5 billion is not $1.5 billion,” Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Chairwoman Anitere Flores said. Kidder told the panel that the size of the Low-Income Pool has always been contingent on the receipt of matching local dollars to fund it.

Senate may tap reserves to plug $1.6 billion budget hole” via Arek Sarkissian of the USA Today Network-Florida – With Medicaid costs rising and tax revenue socked by Hurricane Irma, Senate President Joe Negron says next year’s legislative session may include tapping into the state’s $3.8 billion in cash reserves … “It’s called the rainy day fund and it’s raining,” he said in a one-on-one interview. “I think we will also let the appropriations process look into some of the issues in that base budget so we’re not continuing to fund the priorities of lawmakers from the past.” State economic reports show lawmakers need to trim the budget or face a $1.6 billion hole created by the state’s $26.2 billion Medicaid program and an increase in student enrollment.

Senators sound skeptical of new state jobs fund” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Lawmakers asked lots of questions but didn’t get the answers they wanted Wednesday as a Senate panel tried to get a handle on the state’s new $85 million jobs fund. The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee heard from Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) head Cissy Proctor on the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund … Senators soon started peppering Proctor with questions: “It’s a lot of money … we want to understand what the parameters are,” said subcommittee chair Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican.

Jeff Brandes calls for juvenile justice review in wake of Herald series” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The lawmaker who oversees a powerful criminal justice committee said he will spearhead a much-needed reform of the state’s juvenile justice system in the wake of a Miami Herald series that detailed the existence of a mercenary system in which detainees are given honey buns and other treats as a reward for pounding other youths. Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who is the new chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice, said he believes the state is ripe for reform. “It gives me pause. There is a lot of work that can be done,” Brandes said at a meeting of the committee Wednesday. “There are going to be many tough questions that we’re going to be going through in the next committee weeks.”

Fireworks bill clears first Senate panel” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The latest attempt to end a decades-old prohibition on fireworks sales in Florida received its first hearing in the state Senate Wednesday, and it was a bit bumpy. The bill cleared the Senate Regulated Industries Committee on a 8-2 vote, but bill sponsor Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, admits it still needs some work. For more than half a century, Florida law on fireworks has been banned, but there is a loophole that allows fireworks to be used “solely and exclusively in frightening birds from agricultural works and fish hatcheries.” Floridians who buy fireworks from roadside stands sign a form that they fall under one of the exemptions. Like, yes, scaring birds.

Bullied students could get state scholarships to private schools” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – Speaker Corcoran said he’ll push legislation to give scholarships to children abused at school, allowing them to attend another public school or a private school of their choice, if their parents opt to remove them. “Children who are subjected to violence and abuse at school deserve hope, dignity, and a real opportunity to succeed,” Corcoran said. “No child should ever be afraid to go to school and no child should have to continually suffer abuse. They deserve a way out.” Corcoran said total funding for the scholarships was yet to be determined, but would likely be structured similarly to the state’s other three voucher programs for low-income and disabled students, which are funded with tax credits. He said the money would not come out of the Florida Education Finance Program, the main funding source for public schools. About 47,000 incidents of bullying, abuse, physical and sexual assault and hazing reported by schools during the 2015-2016 year, Corcoran said.

Robert Olszewski gets committee assignmentsOlszewski, also known as “Bobby O,” a Winter Garden Republican elected to the House this week in a special election, has been assigned to the following panels, according to the House website: Careers & Competition Subcommittee, Government Accountability Committee, Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee. Olszewski now represents House District 44, replacing former Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, a Republican who stepped down to become an appellate judge. Olszewski won by a 56-44 margin over Democratic businessman Eddy Dominguez of Dr. Phillips.

Great read –I got rejected from Harvard. then I won a state election” by Rep. Amber Mariano via Cosmopolitan – “I worked really hard in high school because it was my dream to go to Harvard. I remember when I got the Harvard email. I was at Chili’s, which is my favorite restaurant. I had a friend with me who also really, really wanted to go to Harvard. She opened hers and she started crying, and then I opened mine and I started crying. We didn’t get in and it just felt like disaster. I decided to go to UCF [University of Central Florida] in Orlando.” Regarding her election last year: “People were encouraged and excited because, obviously, with Trump’s election, they wanted something new and different than what they’re used to seeing, so for them, I fit that bill.”

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— DAMAGES —

Frustrations boil over in D.C. as Rick Scott meets with Florida representatives” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz pointedly challenged the Republican governor over debris removal and alleged he was unresponsive to her personal calls and requests for help. “I have tried to reach you and I have gotten no response from you,” Wasserman Schultz said, charging that Scott’s administration has hindered cities from paying contractors more than pre-negotiated rates, by refusing to submit contracts to FEMA. “If you’ve contacted me, I don’t have any evidence that you contacted me,” Scott said. “I have your cellphone number, governor, and I’ve called you on it. And I’ve also contacted your office,” Wasserman Schultz replied. Scott said that existing contracts must be honored. “I’m always going to stand on the side of taxpayers and consumers, not on the side of somebody who wants to make extra money after a disaster.” Finally, Rep. Vern Buchanan, co-chair of the delegation, broke it up. “Let’s work all that out a little later,” he said.

Lawmaker questions cause of nursing home deaths” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – “We keep getting new deaths attributed to the storm, because they came from the nursing home, when in fact, look at the population you’re dealing with: they’re 90-somethings,” Baxley said. “Some of these deaths would have naturally occurred, storm or no storm. So to automatically pushing these over to the medical examiner as part of this case that they’re are studying, I think could be a bit unfair on the other side of the equation “There need to be some evaluation of are these natural deaths or storm deaths, because, that makes a difference in policy, what kind of policy we set. I think we can face the reality that some of these are naturally occurring deaths,” Baxley said. “The more the time clicks off, the more of them there will be, until eventually everyone who was in that nursing home will die. OK? We don’t need to attribute all those to the storm, or we’re in bad policy.”

Republicans see Irma as an opportunity to review energy regulations” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The issue came up during hearings before the Energy & Utilities Subcommittee. “Are there any regulations, whether laws that we’ve passed or administrative procedures the PSC might have put in place, that might be slowing down the recovery time or restoration time?” Republican Jason Fischer asked Florida Power & Light’s Bryan Olnick. “And if there are, could you identify what some of those might be? I’d be willing to work with you to pull some of those back.” Olnick thought not. “Right now, I really don’t think that there are necessarily any rules or regulations I would say are a major hindrance when it comes to restoration strategy, restoration philosophy, prioritizing how we restore. I wouldn’t really say there are any major roadblocks,” Olnick said.

Citrus industry feels squeeze from Irma, waits for help” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News – The massive storm walloped citrus crops in Florida’s five top-producing citrus counties: DeSoto, Polk, Hendry, Highlands and Hardee. Groves in Hendry and Collier were especially hard hit. Before Irma, the citrus industry’s impact on the state’s economy was estimated at $8.6 billion a year. Last season, nearly 437,000 acres of citrus were grown in Florida, generating roughly 45,000 full-time and part-time jobs, according to Florida Citrus Mutual. A preliminary damage estimates Hurricane Irma’s toll on the state’s agricultural industry at more than $2.5 billion. Florida’s orange crop suffered the most, taking a more than $760 million hit. The damage from Irma — estimated to have taken out as much as 70 percent of Florida’s orange crop this year — will have a ripple effect. Less work for farmers means less work for pickers, processors and others — from the caretakers who fertilize their trees to the accountants who keep their books. With less money in their pockets, farmers will tighten their belts in other ways, spending less at local stores and restaurants.

Debris hauler touts post-Irma prices as potential savings for taxpayers” via Lisa Huriash of the Sun-Sentinel – Randy Perkins, the founder and chairman of AshBritt Environmental Inc., said his Deerfield Beach-based company won’t collect extra fees from eight South Florida cities after all. The cities had agreed to pay higher amounts in taxpayer money for cleanup service from AshBritt, concerned they were left with debris-strewn streets after Irma left a mess. Perkins said he was forced to increase the fees to keep his subcontractors from leaving town for more lucrative jobs. Those higher costs remain, but Perkins said he’ll eat the difference. He declined to say what that will be, only saying, “It is what it is.”

Long lines greet those seeking disaster food aid” via Ashley Harding of News 4 Jax – The line at the Food for Florida disaster benefits center at Regency Square Mall in Jacksonville formed well before opened at 7 a.m. By 10 a.m., officials with the Florida Department of Children and Families announced that the event had reached capacity for the day and no one else should come out … The Regency location, which is for residents of Duval and Nassau counties, will be open for six days, and each day is prioritized by the first letter of the applicant’s last name. Wednesday was for people with last names beginning with letters A through D. Residents with those names who didn’t make it out Wednesday can attend a makeup day Tuesday. People were strongly encouraged to pre-register online at least one day in advance to allow for faster processing of applications on-site.

Mark Zuckerberg sorry for virtual tour of devastated Puerto Rico” via The Associated Press –Zuckerberg has apologized for showcasing Facebook’s virtual reality capability with a tour of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. The Facebook founder and another executive discussed the platform’s virtual reality project through avatars in a video recorded live Monday. The video begins with the avatars pictured on the roof of Facebook’s Mountain View, California, headquarters before heading to Puerto Rico by using a 360-degree video recorded by National Public Radio as a backdrop. Zuckerberg later responded to critics, writing that his goal of showing “how VR can raise awareness and help us see what’s happening in different parts of the world” wasn’t clear. He says he’s sorry to anyone who was offended.

— “Puerto Rico’s health care is in dire condition, three weeks after Maria” via Frances Robles of the New York Times

Janet Cruz heads to Puerto Rico on aid trip” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa traveled to Puerto Rico Wednesday “to deliver 30,000 pounds of much-needed relief supplies, including food, water, and medical necessities,” her spokesman said. Cruz is working with “Major League Baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays, and the Moffitt Cancer Center,” according to Anders Croy, communications director for the House Democratic Office. “Additionally, the group will also be bringing back tissue samples currently on the verge of spoiling that represent years of critical medical research, cancer patients seeking care on the mainland here in Florida, and a group of nuns displaced by the storm,” he added.

Janet Cruz with Evelio Otero, on Oct. 4. Otero collected more than 2 million pounds of goods for Puerto Ricans. Photo credit: NSF.

— STATEWIDE —

Florida trims Medicaid HMO payments” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida – Florida has reduced by 3.7 percent the rates it pays HMOs and provider-sponsored networks in the biggest part of the Medicaid managed-care system but has given a 2.4 percent hike to plans that offer managed long-term care.  The net result: The state is projected to spend $16 billion-plus on premiums to Medicaid HMOs to care for the poor, elderly and disabled between October 2017 and October 2018. That’s about a $300 million premium reduction from what they were paid last year, according to Milliman, an accounting firm that helps state Medicaid officials establish actuarially sound HMO rates. The hospital cuts accounted for 94 percent of the reduction in rates. Meanwhile, the Legislature’s decision to add nearly 14,300 people to the Medicaid managed long-term care program in the coming months helped lower a potential rate increase from 3.3 percent to 2.4 percent.

Appeals court upholds major tobacco verdict” via the News Service of Florida – Though it raised concerns about a jury instruction, a state appeals court upheld a nearly $35 million verdict against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in the death of a longtime smoker. A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with Colette O’Hara, who filed the lawsuit in Escambia County after the death of her husband, Garry O’Hara. A jury awarded $14.7 million in compensatory damages and $20 million in punitive damages. R.J. Reynolds appealed on a series of grounds, but the ruling focused heavily on the propriety of a jury instruction sought by Colette O’Hara’s attorneys. The instruction involved an issue about whether Garry O’Hara relied on tobacco-company advertisements. The appeals court found problems with the instruction but concluded it couldn’t determine whether the instruction affected the jury’s decision … Garry O’Hara was a 30-year Air Force veteran who started smoking at age 14 and was diagnosed with fatal lung cancer at age 49.

Regulators shoot down medical marijuana payment proposalvia Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – State regulators have rejected a California bank’s proposal to operate in Florida as a financial middleman for medical marijuana-related transactions. The Office of Financial Regulation denied a request from PayQwick for a declaratory statement so it could operate here. Christian Bax, director of the Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use, gave a presentation Wednesday to the House Health Quality Subcommittee on the state’s regulation of medicinal cannabis. Though he did not mention the PayQwick case, decided in late August, Bax did say there has been “reticence” on the part of the banking industry to get involved with marijuana sales. Florida has more or less legalized medical marijuana, through statute and constitutional amendment, but selling marijuana still is a federal crime. And banking, by its nature as “interstate commerce,” falls under federal law.

Poll finds Floridian’s want ‘Marsy’s Law’” via Florida Politics – The survey found 85 percent of the 700 likely voters polled agreed with the proposed ballot language being tossed around by Marsy’s Law for Florida, the major backer of the measure which also commissioned the poll. The ballot language played well with voters from both major parties, with 83 percent of Democrats, 88 percent of Republicans and 87 percent of Independents saying they would vote for the amendment. Marsy’s Law establishes a “Victim Bill of Rights” which would require victims to be told about their rights as well as services available to them, and would add updates on criminal proceedings, meetings with state attorneys before plea deals are handed out, and the ability to be attend and speak during court proceedings to the list of rights crime victims have. The proposal is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983

FDLE seeking $29M for new Pensacola regional office” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is asking for an additional $29.3 million in the 2018-19 state budget to build a local office in Pensacola. An FDLE representative told a meeting of the Florida Cabinet Aides on Wednesday that the budget request was being moved from the Department of Management Services (DMS), the state’s real estate manager. “The total estimated cost is $32.3 million for design and construction,” according to a Cabinet meeting agenda item. “An additional $4.8 million will be required for fixtures, furniture and equipment in (fiscal year 2019-20).” If the agency doesn’t get the building money, it says it “will be forced to re-sign a new lease agreement with the same owner despite the building condition,” the agenda says.

Polluted stormwater pouring into St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon, Florida beaches” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm – The water is a combination of rainfall runoff from western Martin and St. Lucie counties and Lake Okeechobee discharges since Hurricane Irma struck in September. Farther north, about 20 billion gallons of post-Irma rainwater runoff has poured out the C-54 Canal along the Indian River-Brevard county line and into the lagoon. In between, a plume of brown water from western farmland extends into the lagoon from the mouth of Taylor Creek north of Fort Pierce. “What’s worse than the color of the water is what’s in the water,” said Grant Gilmore, a marine biologist who’s studied life in the lagoon for more than 40 years … with the silt-laden brown water comes “all the chemicals we put on our crops and our lawns,” Gilmore said. “The chemicals kill the plankton in the river and lagoon that all the fish depend on for food.”

UF security costs top $500,000 for Richard Spencer’s talk on white ‘separation’” via Claire McNeill of the Tampa Bay Times – UF will be the first school to host the notorious white nationalist since his “Unite the Right” rally brought torches, Nazi chants and bloodshed to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Still, his speech will center on his primary concern: what he calls the necessity of white identity, and a white homeland, in a multiracial era … Yet the university, bound by the First Amendment, has found itself playing host to his contentious talk with an estimated security price tag for UF, and taxpayers, of more than $500,000. Spencer and his National Policy Institute, which advocates for European heritage, know well that targeting large, public universities like UF is a win-win. They get free speech protections and a built-in audience. Whether students cheer or protest, headlines follow. And for the most part, universities pay the bill. That’s because the Supreme Court has ruled that speakers can’t be made to pay the costs for whatever hostile audience may appear, just like a university can’t ban a speaker in anticipation of protesters.

Tweet, tweet:

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

South Florida leaders endorse Gwen Graham – The Graham campaign on Wednesday said she had received the support of four more local South Florida Democratic leaders: West Palm Beach Commissioner Shanon L. Materio, Pompano Beach Commissioner Barry Moss, former Miami-Dade Commissioner Katy Sorenson, and state Rep. Matt Willhite. “After 20 years of one-party rule in Tallahassee, our state is out of time. I’m honored to have the support of these South Florida leaders and look forward to fighting with them to renew our promise to public schools, protect our clean land and water, and to build an economy that works for every Floridian,” Graham said.

Another state attorney endorses Ashley Moody for AG – State Attorney Phil Archer of Florida’s 18th Judicial Circuit is the latest to endorse Moody to succeed Attorney General Pam Bondi. “As a career prosecutor and the top attorney for my circuit, I can say without reservation Ashley Moody is the kind of leader Florida needs right now. Her extensive legal background, temperament, and energy will help us make headway on some of Florida’s most critical issues such as mental health in our court system and elder abuse,” Archer said in a statement.

U.S. Sugar drops $1.5 million into legislative committees; biggest check goes to Jose Oliva” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Oliva was designated as the Republican’s choice to be their next speaker if the GOP retains the majority in the Florida House. On Aug. 18, his political committee, Conservative Principles for Florida, received a single $100,000 check from U.S. Sugar — more money than any single contributor had ever given Oliva’s PC. It far exceeded the $5,000 the company had given the committee previously in 2015. What does U.S. Sugar expect in return for this investment? Sugar has aggressively fought Senate President Joe Negron‘s push to force agricultural interests to relinquish some of their land to build a water-storage reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area. It relied on the House and the governor to weaken the proposal last session, and succeeded.

Bill Galvano leads Senate campaign arm to record-breaking Q3 haul” via Florida Politics – The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee raised more than $3.2 million from July through the end of September. Those numbers are way up from the April to June reporting period, when FRSCC took in $720,000. Over the same three-month stretch in 2011, FRSCC brought in a little over $2.1 million. Two years later, the committee had a $1.85 million third quarter, while Q3 2015 saw a little more than $2 million head to the committee’s coffers. The special election in Miami-Dade’s SD 40 can claim credit for the some of that boost, same as the 2015 special in SD 6 and the 2011 contest for the old SD 1, but those quarters still fall short of Q3 2017. The only other difference maker is Bradenton Sen. Bill Galvano, who took over fundraising duties for the committee in the summer.

Rebekah Bydlak adds $14K for HD 1 bid, as Mike Hill struggles out of the gate” via Florida Politics –Former Rep. Hill opened a campaign account to return to the House last month, but his first three weeks on the trail haven’t put much of a dent into Bydlak’s lead in Escambia County-based HD 1, where current Rep. Clay Ingram faces term limits in 2018. Hill’s effort brought in just $5,900, including $1,000 from a committee tied to Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, $1,000 a piece from Pensacola flight instructor Mark Freymiller and his wife, Mia, and another $1,000 from Gulf Breeze chiropractor John Newlin. Bydlak, for her part, piled on another $14,272 for her campaign account in September, a respectable follow up to her banner opening month, which saw her pull in $50,000 for her campaign and another $10,000 for her political committee.

Spotted: Hill in a story out of the McClatchy D.C. Bureau on “The Steve Bannon primary.” Hill, a “Trump backer who is running again in 2018, displays a picture of himself with Bannon on his campaign website.”

Berny Jacques fundraising slows as Nick DiCeglie enters race” via Florida Politics – DiCeglie has been in the race for House District 66 for a month and his first campaign finance report signals a momentum shift in the GOP primary between him and Jacques. Jacques filed March 3 and was the first-in candidate for the Pinellas County-based seat. Since showing $30,000 raised in his initial report, his contributions have slowed. April brought him about $11,000 in campaign cash, and after the dog days of summer, he posted another five-figure report in August. His September report, though, brought about a new low: just $1,875 in new money came in, while about $5,500 went out the door. His lone $1,000 check for the month came in from Sarasota attorney Patrick McCardle, while the remainder came from a smattering of small-dollar donors most of whom gave $50 or less. In all, Jacques has raised $67,344 over the past six months and has about $52,000 in the bank.

Happening tonight – A kickoff fundraiser for DiCeglie’s bid for House District 66 will be from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Belleair Country Club, 1 Country Club Lane.

Fmr Rep. Jim Waldman “actively looking” at county commission race” via Buddy Nevins of BrowardBeat.com – If Waldman runs, the contest for the seat now held by Commissioner Chip LaMarca could become a freewheeling donnybrook. There are two candidates already running: Pompano Beach Mayor Lamar Fisher, a Democrat. Former Oakland Park Commissioner Shari McCartney, a Republican. Both campaigns expect to be well funded. A well-to-do lawyer and real estate investor, Waldman’s entrance would shake up the race. He pledges to kick-start his campaign with $250,000 from his own pocket. A House member from 2006 to 2014, Waldman was the Democratic floor leader in 2006-2008. LaMarca’s Commission District 4 overlays the northern part of the district that Waldman lost in an expensive, three-way scorch-and-burn race for state Senate last year.

— OPINION —

Matt Kiessling: Florida needs commonsense short-term rental policies” via Florida Politics – Short-term rentals have been available across the nation for decades, but have become more popular as technology has helped make them more accessible and affordable. Technology innovators have helped to create a vibrant marketplace for travelers and property owners, expanding the travel landscape by making it easier for travelers to find and book short-term rental accommodations and providing economic benefits to communities around the world. It is important for public policy to reflect the changing travel dynamics brought on by the popularity of short-term rentals, allowing both travelers and residents the ability to benefit from the options and flexibility that short-term rentals provide. Destructive short-term rental regulations being pushed by the hotel lobby can have the unintended consequence of limiting those benefits for both the residents and economy in Florida. Whether the hotel lobby likes it or not, the sharing economy is here to stay. For everyone’s benefit, it is critical for local municipalities in Florida to develop reasonable, efficient policy frameworks that ensure short-term rentals continue to thrive, protect property rights, and promotes economic growth throughout the state.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: Joe Garcia to join global strategy firm Mercury” via Florida Politics – Mercury, a leading global, bipartisan public strategy firm, is adding former U.S. Congressman Garcia to expand its Miami team and capabilities both in Florida and across the firm’s national offices. Garcia, who served Florida’s 26th Congressional District, joins the team at Mercury as co-chairman based in the Miami office. “We are excited to welcome Joe Garcia to the Mercury family. His extensive policy experience will be invaluable as we expand our footprint in Miami, and across the Sunshine State,” said Mercury Partner Ashley Walker.

Reappointed Bob Davis and Mary Ann Haas to the District Board of Trustees of Daytona State College.

New and renewed lobbying registrations

Robert Beck, Bryan Cherry, Tanya Jackson, PinPoint Results: Broward County

Ron Book, Rana Brown, Kelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: City of Coral Gables

Jim Boxold, Ron LaFace, Jr., Capital City Consulting: Florida Fuel Connection, LLC

David Browning, Mercer Fearington, Jim Smith, Southern Strategy Group: MMI Development

Nelson Diaz, Southern Strategy Group: City Year, Inc.

Candice Ericks, Lauren Jackson, Ericks Advocacy Group: Town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea

Griffin Finan: DraftKings, Inc.

Allison Flanagan: Department of Education

Nicole Graganella, Colodny Fass: Broward Teachers Union

Timothy Meenan, Meenan: WebCE.com

Joe Mobley, Mark Pinto, The Fiorentino Group: Mattamy Homes

Alan Suskey, Suskey Consulting: TmaxSoft, WeatherSTEM

— ALOE —

SpaceX launches communications satellite, lands booster” via Marcia Dunn of the Associated Press – SpaceX has launched and landed its second rocket in three days, this time from the U.S. East Coast. The unmanned Falcon – recycled following a February flight – blasted off with a communications satellite Wednesday evening from Kennedy Space Center. Minutes later, the leftover booster landed on an offshore barge. The booster launched Wednesday was previously used to deliver supplies to the International Space Station for NASA. It’s only the third time SpaceX has reflown a rocket on an orbital mission.

The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from pad 39A at the Florida spaceport at 6:53 p.m.

Halloween haunts Disney Springs” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Four Halloween-themed backdrops are scattered through the shopping district including the iconic Mickey pumpkin and a “Shopped ‘Til I Dropped” photo location. PhotoPass photographers will also roam the property with fall-themed props. Once the sun goes down, Halloween music haunts the Disney Springs promenade. A family-friendly DJ Dance Party occurs nightly near Once Upon a Toy. Stilt walkers will join the festivities with daily appearances from Oct. 20-31. The area’s restaurants and shops will also offer seasonal indulgences, like the Pumpkin at Midnight Cocktail with smoked rum and pumpkin liqueur at Paddlefish and caramel apple, black velvet and pumpkin cupcakes at Sprinkles Cupcakes.

Two new attractions to open next year at Legoland” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – The Ninjago action continues with the Jan. 20 opening of the 4D theatrical attraction starring the cast of TV’s “LEGO NINJAGO: Masters of Spinjitzu.” Lego Ninjago: Master of the 4th Dimension combines 3D computer animation with 4D effects in the Wells Fargo Fun Town Theater. Lego Ninjago Days will let kids become ninjas and battle against famous Lego foes on three consecutive weekends: Jan. 20-21, Jan. 27-28 and Feb. 3-4. The Winter Haven theme park announced its new virtual-reality roller coaster, The Great Lego Race, will open next spring. The new attraction that will transform the existing Project X ride into a virtual adventure starring a wacky cast of LEGO minifigures. In May, the park will unveil the newest addition to LEGO Star Wars MINILAND Model Display.

Happy birthday to future Governor Lauren Book, former Rep. Jimmie Smith, Allyce Heflin of Southern Strategy Group, and Doug Kaplan of Gravis Marketing.

Sixty Days for 10.11.17 — A prime-time look at the 2018 Legislative Session

Sixty Days — A prime-time read of what’s going down for Florida’s 2018 Legislative Session.

The Last 24

A Senate panel asked lots of questions but didn’t get the answers they wanted as members tried to get a handle on the state’s new $85 million jobs fund.

An ethics committee cleared a bill that would clarify that “local officials can meet and socialize outside of publicly noticed meetings as long as no official business or shop talk takes place.”

The House of Representatives GOP caucus formally named Jose Oliva as the next House Speaker, after Richard Corcoran, for 2018-20.

House leaders unveiled a plan to file a bill for a scholarship program to give students who’ve faced violence and abuse in their school a way out.

Legislation to establish a slavery memorial at the state Capitol passed its first committee.

Gov. Rick Scott and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam met with members of Florida’s congressional delegation to discuss the state’s citrus industry. Florida’s orange crop has reached a 76-year low in production after being crushed by Hurricane Irma.  

House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa traveled to Puerto Rico “to deliver 30,000 pounds of much-needed relief supplies, including food, water, and medical necessities.”

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) asked for an additional $29 million in the 2018-19 state budget to build a local office in Pensacola.

Quote of the Day

“A couple of us can’t ‘beard up’ for appropriations.” — Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto at a Senate committee meeting on Wednesday, referring to fellow Sen. Rob Bradley’s joke earlier this week about the reason for his new facial topiary.

Bill Day’s Latest

3 Questions

Rep. Nicholas Duran and Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, both of Miami-Dade County, and other Democratic members of the Legislature held a press conference today in the Capitol to discuss this year’s open enrollment period, Nov. 1-Dec. 15, for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Democrats have pledged their help to save Obamacare and make sure people can still sign up for coverage for the coming year.

FP: What are you planning to do to help people sign up?

ND: Many of us have pledged to assist and coordinate with our Navigators and trusted brokers to host in-person enrollment events in our communities and in our districts. The Senator and I are working to host two events in our (area) this fall.

FP: Why is this so important to you?

ND: We know how important the policy has been to create more healthy, more economically secure families and individuals … Florida has the largest (ACA) marketplace in the country.

FP: What’s your main message to constituents?

JJR: We want people to know that despite everything they’re hearing, they can still go sign up on the exchange. Financial assistance is still available … Florida led the way in signups. But a lot of the public is only hearing the rhetoric coming out of Washington, the negative side of this. That’s why there’s so much urgency for us to get the word out. The Trump administration has actively said they want to put Obamacare in a death spiral. They want premiums to go up. They want people to not enroll. That’s why we’re so intent on making people know about open enrollment.

Lobby Up

The Pew Charitable Trusts is one of the biggest names in using data to push meaningful policy reform, and ahead of the 2018 Legislative Session the Washington, DC-based nonprofit has teamed up with Ballard Partners.

The partnership hasn’t sussed out any specific policy to push yet, but Wansley Waters is among the lobbyists working with Pew and their “results first initiative,” and she’s optimistic the partnership could lead to some reforms at the state’s corrections and juvenile justice departments.

The timing is right, too, according to Waters, who once headed up the DJJ and is a recognized leader in all things juvenile justice. Waters sees the current chiefs at both departments as reformers amenable to some real solutions backed by Pew’s data-driven approach to policy reform. Pew does, too.

“Right now DOC and DJJ are very open to reform,” she said. “Believe me, if they weren’t open to it, Pew wouldn’t be here.”

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

Administrative Law Judge G.W. Chisenhall is scheduled to start a two-day hearing in a challenge to emergency rules by Gov. Rick Scott‘s administration that would require nursing homes and assisted living facilities to install generators within 60 days to power air-conditioning systems. Industry groups LeadingAge Florida, the Florida Assisted Living Association and Florida Argentum challenged the rules, which were issued after the deaths of Broward County nursing-home residents following Hurricane Irma. The hearing begins at 9 a.m., DeSoto Building, 1230 Apalachee Parkway, Tallahassee.

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

House Democratic Leader-Designate Kionne McGhee and Reps. Robert Asencio, John Cortes, Amy Mercado and Carlos Guillermo Smith will hold a press conference to discuss relief efforts for those affected by Hurricane Maria. They will also outline proposals to ease the transition process for evacuees to Florida. That’s at 12:45 p.m. outside the House Chamber, 4th Floor Rotunda, the Capitol, Tallahassee.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel are expected to take part in the Jackson County Democratic Party Blues & Boots BBQ and Dance. Also expected to attend are gubernatorial candidates Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham and Chris King. It’s at 6 p.m., National Guard Armory, 3645 U.S. 90 West, Marianna.

Bill Galvano leads Senate campaign arm to record-breaking Q3 haul

The main committee supporting GOP state Senate campaigns went into overdrive last quarter according to new fundraising reports filed with the Florida Division of Elections.

The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee raised more than $3.2 million from July through the end of September.

Those numbers are way up from the April to June reporting period when FRSCC took in $720,000.

Putting the new numbers side by side with the past three off-cycle Q3 reports, however, shows there is a bit more pep in the committee’s step of late.

Over the same three month stretch in 2011, FRSCC brought in a little over $2.1 million. Two years later, the committee had a $1.85 million third quarter, while Q3 2015 saw a little more than $2 million head to the committee’s coffers.

The special election in Miami-Dade’s SD 40 can claim credit for the some of that boost, same as the 2015 special in SD 6 and the 2011 contest for the old SD 1, but those quarters still fall short of Q3 2017.

The only other difference maker is Bradenton Sen. Bill Galvano, who took over fundraising duties for the committee in the summer.

His own committee, “Innovate Florida,” brought in about $650,000 over the past few months, including $218,500 in September alone, and handed $150,000 of that haul over to FRSCC.

The exceptional quarter hasn’t gone unnoticed by top Senate Republicans, either.

“The record fundraising levels reached over the last few months reflect the strength of our Republican leadership and the faith donors place in our commitment to proven and effective policy that benefits all Floridians,” said Majority Leader Wilton Simpson.

Simpson is set to take over the Senate presidency after the 2020 elections, and his committee, “Jobs for Florida” also handed over quite a bit to FRSCC this summer. It sent over $160,000 in August and threw in another $100,000 last month.

Poll finds Floridian’s want ‘Marsy’s Law’

More than eight out of ten Floridians say they would vote for a ballot initiative putting victims’ rights into the state constitution according to a new poll put out Wednesday.

The survey found 85 percent of the 700 likely voters polled agreed with the proposed ballot language being tossed around by Marsy’s Law for Florida, the major backer of the measure which also commissioned the poll.

The ballot language played well with voters from both major parties, with 83 percent of Democrats, 88 percent of Republicans and 87 percent of Independents saying they would vote for the amendment.

Marsy’s Law establishes a “Victim Bill of Rights” which would require victims to be told about their rights as well as services available to them, and would add updates on criminal proceedings, meetings with state attorneys before plea deals are handed out, and the ability to be attend and speak during court proceedings to the list of rights crime victims have.

The proposal is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Her case eventually led to California’s passage of the Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008, with Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Illinois adopting the measure in the years since.

Proposal backers say Florida is one of only 15 that doesn’t explicitly spell out victims’ rights in its state constitution, but Marsy’s Law for Florida State Director Greg Ungru said the poll shows Floridians are ready to make the change.

“The Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights is a true bipartisan effort that brings together law enforcement, civic leaders, elected officials and citizens from every walk of life. I believe, if approved by the CRC and placed on the ballot, victims’ will finally have their constitutional rights established in Florida,” he said.

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) will have a look at the measure, Proposal 5, over the coming weeks and has the support of CRC Commissioner Chris Nocco, who filed it with the CRC. If cleared by commissioners, it will appear on the 2018 ballot.

“The Victims’ Bill of Rights empowers victims within the state of Florida,” Nocco said. “We had no doubt that citizens would be very supportive of this proposal to give these once voiceless victims the ability to be heard.”

The most popular angle among Florida voters was asking whether victims should have the same rights as those accused of crimes, which 92 percent of Republicans supported, with well over 80 percent of Democrats and Independents saying they were on board as well.

Voters were agreeable, but a little less enthusiastic for some of the other poll questions.

When asked whether the constitution should force state attorneys to consult with victims before plea bargains are made, 77 percent said yes. Likewise, 70 percent agreed that they would rather have victims rights guaranteed by the state constitution than protected by local state attorneys.

OnMessage conducted the poll between Oct. 1 and Oct. 3. It has a +/- 3.7 percent margin of error.

Berny Jacques fundraising slows as Nick DiCeglie enters race

Nick DiCeglie has been in the race for House District 66 for a month and his first campaign finance report, released Tuesday, signals a momentum shift in the GOP primary between him and Berny Jacques.

Jacques filed March 3 and was the first-in candidate for the Pinellas County-based seat. Since showing $30,000 raised in his initial report, his contributions have slowed.

April brought him about $11,000 in campaign cash, and after the dog days of summer, he posted another five-figure report in August. His September report, though, brought about a new low: just $1,875 in new money came in, while about $5,500 went out the door.

His lone $1,000 check for the month came in from Sarasota attorney Patrick McCardle, while the remainder came from a smattering of small-dollar donors most of whom gave $50 or less.

In all, Jacques has raised $67,344 over the past six months and has about $52,000 in the bank.

DiCeglie, who entered the race at the start of last month, raised $30,751 in 30 days. All of that money that came in before his official campaign kickoff event, too. That event is set for Thursday evening in Bellair and features more than 50 names on the host committee that no other first-time candidate could dream of getting in the same room anywhere outside the Governor’s Club.

The abbreviated list: St. Pete Sen. Jeff Brandes, Clearwater Sen. Jack Latvala and his son Rep. Chris Latvala, and Pinellas County Commissioners Dave Eggers, John Morroni and Karen Seel, as well as Commission candidate and current HD 69 Rep. Kathleen Peters.

His pull with local Republican rock stars isn’t a surprise. In addition to owning and operating the lauded waste management company Solar Sanitation, Inc., for over decade, he spent two terms chairing the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce and earned a gubernatorial appointment to the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.

Being the current chair of the Pinellas County Republican Party certainly doesn’t hurt, either.

Among his September donors were renowned attorney Brian Aungst Jr., Clearwater City Council Member Doreen Caudell, former Pinellas GOP Chair Jay Beyrouti, and lobbyist Alan Suskey.

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