Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 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 for 12.5.17 – #LoveMyNewspaper Day!

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

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

First, some good news about a great person – Lobbyist Donovan Brown moving to Suskey Consulting – Insurance industry expert Brown has now become the newest vice president at Florida government affairs firm Suskey Consulting. Brown, who lobbied for GDB Group in Tallahassee, is a former partner at Colodny Fass and Southeast state government relations counsel for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. “I am excited to join the growing team at Suskey Consulting,” Brown said. “I look forward to continuing my regulatory and legislative work with such a respected and vibrant group of leaders.” Before joining PCI, Brown served as an associate at Foley & Lardner, where he stood for clients in matters before the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation and the Florida Department of Financial Services. Before that, he was an associate at Akerman Senterfitt. Brown was also a special assistant and deputy chief of counterdrug law enforcement under Gov. Jeb Bush.

And before we dive back into the scandalized politics of Tallahassee, a reminder that today is #LoveMyNewspaper Day!

So, please, stop what you are doing and post something on social media about your favorite newspaper, reporters, stories, etc. using the hashtag #LoveMyNewspaper.

Back in 2015, public relations guru Kevin Cate – whose father is Tampa Bay news anchor Keith Cate – was tired of hearing the unending criticism of journalists and journalism. That’s when he sent a message to subscribers of “Above the Fold,” the daily newsletter he puts out that features front pages from across Florida.

“Newspapers are worth defending,” Cate declared, asking readers to say a few kind words about reporters and reporting.

And #LoveMyNewspaper was born.

This is the third #LoveMyNewspaper Day. Last year, the hashtag trended all day nationally with nearly 40 million impressions seen by more than 22 million people on Twitter and Facebook.

And that all started in Florida, where it always trends first.

So, go ahead and #LoveMyNewspaper.

Oh, and just one more thing before we talk politics:

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— L’AFFAIRE LATVALA —

Request denied: Rick Scott won’t (yet) appoint special prosecutor in Jack Latvala casevia Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Gov. Scott‘s top lawyer has – at least for now – rejected a request to appoint a special prosecutor from the attorney representing Rachel Perrin Rogers, a Senate staffer who has accused Sen. Latvala of sexual harassment. The reason: Scott doesn’t yet have “the legal authority” to appoint a prosecutor. “This morning, the Governor’s General Counsel, Daniel Nordby, reached out to (Tiffany R.) Cruz,” said Lauren Schenone, a Scott spokeswoman, on Monday. “Our office clarified that the Governor does not have authority to act until a matter is pending before a state attorney and following an investigation by local law enforcement. Additionally, a conflict of interest must also be identified.” Earlier in the day, Cruz asked Scott’s office to appoint a special prosecutor, saying Latvala may have committed crimes.

Affidavit: Latvala accuser boasted about sabotaging people’s career” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – Before she filed a sexual harassment complaint against Sen. Latvala, Perrin Rogers allegedly engaged in a pattern of raising claims against fellow staffers at the Senate Majority Office, according to a sworn affidavit released Monday. Lily Tysinger, a 22-year-old former staffer to Simpson, said Perrin Rogers made claims about her that includes her having “numerous affairs with people involved in the political process” and that she was transferred out of Senate Majority Office a couple days after a POLITICO Florida report came out without any reason given as to why that was. Tysinger suspects Perrin Rogers was behind that transfer based on the allegations she raised about other staffers in the office that she claims led to their terminations or them being “re-homed.” Tiffany Cruz, Perrin Rogers’ attorney, said the allegations were a “complete lie” and threatened to sue Florida Politics if “uncorroborated” claims in the affidavit were published.

Rachel Perrin Rogers refutes Senate staffer’s claims of trying to ‘sabotage’ her career” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida – Perrin Rogers … accused Tysinger of retaliating against her by submitting fake text messages to combat Latvala’s sexual harassment allegations.

Wilton Simpson: ‘smear campaign’ against Perrin Rogers must end” via Alexandra Glorioso and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Senate Majority Leader Simpson said what he called a “smear campaign” against his top aide, Perrin Rogers, must end. Simpson’s statement is the first serious indication that the Republican-controlled Legislature is turning against Latvala … Simpson … is both the future Senate president and a member of the chamber’s Rules committee, which will ultimately vote on whether Latvala should be punished for the accusations.  … “Rachel has been a trusted and valued member of my team for more than five years. Her tireless work ethic has served the people of my district and the state of Florida well. The incidents alleged in the media are disgusting. Since mid-last week there has been a smear campaign launched against Rachel. It must end immediately,” Simpson told POLITICO Florida.

Why should I quit, leave town, when I didn’t do it?” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Latvala called the circumstances “unfortunate” but said he had no choice but to ask people to sign affidavits attesting to his character and contradicting Rogers’ claims because many of her allegations rest on her word against his. “I’m in my 16th year here, and I’ve got to protect my own reputation,” Latvala said, adding that damage to his nascent campaign for governor “is done” but “I’m not going to admit to something I didn’t do.”

First GOP calls for Latvala resignation surface in Senate” via Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – “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,” state Sen. Travis Hutson said. “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 said that donors to Latvala’s political committee should ask for their money back. State Sen. Debbie Mayfield stopped short of Hutson’s full-blown call for a resignation, but said “it might be better for him, and his family and the Senate if he considered stepping down. That’s a choice he has to make. It’s not my choice. I’m not pre-judging the facts.”

State Senator says Latvala is making ‘mockery out of serious allegations” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – As he advocates for specific changes to the Senate’s sexual harassment policy currently under review, Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez said Monday “serious rules” are needed to make sure powerful senators like Latvala stop making a “mockery of serious allegations.” “Without independent investigation or serious rules, persons in power will game the system, intimidate victims and make a mockery of serious allegations, exactly as Senator Latvala is doing,” the Miami Democrat said in a statement. Among his suggestions, Rodriguez wants to see the Senate implement mandatory anti-sexual harassment training for all staffers, and also create an outreach program that would facilitate victims to come forward and an automatic independent review outside of the Senate when allegations come to light.

— “John Romano: Forget the accusers, Latvala is taking himself down” via the Tampa Bay Times

Meanwhile … Rick Scott appointee steps down after state Senator accuses him of ‘abhorrent’ behavior” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics After Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto publicly accused Ritch Workman, a Scott appointee to the Public Service Commission, of making vulgar and inappropriate comments to her at a charity event last year, he said Monday he is no longer pursuing his nomination. Scott said he supports his decision, adding that “any misconduct cannot be tolerated.” In a statement, Benacquisto said: “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.”

– “Jacksonville City Council hopeful blames women’s ‘libidos’ for sexual harassment” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Sales tax holiday takes first step in Senate” via the News Service of Florida – With little discussion, a Senate committee Monday approved a bill that would create a sales-tax “holiday” for back-to-school shoppers during 10 days in late July and early August. The vote by the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee was a first step that ultimately could lead to a sales-tax holiday being included in a tax-cut package during the 2018 legislative session, which starts Jan. 9. Lawmakers usually approve such tax holidays, though the number of tax-free shopping days has varied widely. Under the Senate bill (SB 686), filed by Sen. Keith Perry shoppers would be able to avoid paying sales taxes from July 27 through Aug. 5 on clothes costing $100 or less; school supplies costing $15 or less; and personal computers and accessories costing $1,000 or less. A staff analysis said state economists have not determined how much tax revenue would be lost with such a holiday.

House hurricane panel tackles storm reforms” via Dan Sweeney of the Sun-Sentinel – With ideas ranging from helping nursing homes during power outages to abandoning development in high-risk coastal areas entirely, a Florida House panel is considering which of 141 proposals to present during the upcoming legislative session. “I didn’t think we’d get through this,” said Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness chairwoman Jeanette Núñez after Monday’s hearing. “I was like, ‘Oh God, we only have three hours.’” The panel covered dozens of ideas in 10 topic areas, from evacuation to education. These proposals will be winnowed down by Dec. 15, after which the committee, established to suggest reforms following Hurricane Irma, will bring some of them into the legislative session, which begins Jan. 8.

Rene Plasencia bill seeks to turn teacher evaluations back to school boards” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Plasencia, of Orlando, is rallying support for his  House Bill 427, introduced in late October and referred to the House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee, PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee and Education Committee. The bill would allow local school districts to opt out of the statewide teacher evaluation and merit-pay plan approved in 2011, which essentially made assessments of teachers, and their prospects for raises, contingent on their students’ performances on state assessment tests. Instead, the districts would have the option to create their own teacher performance evaluation systems, and could eliminate the need for many of the year-end student tests. “It would return the authority back to the local school board, which I think is very important,” said Orange County School Board Member Linda Kobert. “This single bill also would have, as far as I’m concerned, the most impact as far as reduced testing. The reason we have an end-of-course exam in every single required subject is simply to evaluate teachers.”

Daphne Campbell appointed chair of Haitian Temporary Relief Task Force” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – State Sen. Campbell has been appointed Chair of the Haitian Temporary Relief Task Force. The Miami Democrat, elected to the Senate last year after serving six years in the House, announced the appointment Monday. It was made by state Rep. Kionne McGhee, a Democrat who leads the Miami-Dade County Legislative Delegation. The task force is an organization formed to “advocate on behalf of tens of thousands of Haitian refugees in Florida who fled their native country but now face deportation in the near future,” according to a Senate Democratic Caucus news release. Campbell seeks for “Haitians and other refugees (to) receive permanent residence,” she said.

Assignment Editors: House Democrats will ceremonially designate Rep. Kionne McGhee as the incoming House Democratic Leader, succeeding Rep. Janet Cruz. That’s at 9 a.m., House chamber, The Capitol.

Assignment editors – The “No Place for a Child” coalition will join state Sen. Bobby Powell, state Reps. Kamia Brown and Miguel Rodriguez and Scott McCoy of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Tallahassee to announce support for proposed legislation that would change how children are prosecuted as adults in Florida. News conference begins 9 a.m. at the Fourth-floor Rotunda, Senate Chamber, 400 S. Monroe St. in Tallahassee.

GOP House members to hold holiday toy drive – Reps. Bob Cortes, David Santiago, Rene Plasencia, and Mike La Rosa will host a toy drive 5-6:30 p.m. today in The Governor’s Inn Lobby, 209 South Adams St., in downtown Tallahassee. “We are asking for new, unwrapped toys worth a maximum of $10 to be dropped off,” they said. The toy drive will benefit children who are the victims of hurricanes, including those in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

T’is the season: First Capitol holiday display approvedvia Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – 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 “triptych 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 … Aside from traditional Hanukkah menorahs and Christian Nativity scenes, other past displays have included two variations of a six-foot “Festivus” pole: One was made of empty Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans; another was a rainbow-colored “Gay Pride” version topped with a disco ball.

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— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Assignment editors – Agriculture Commissioner and Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam will address the Clewiston Chamber of Commerce beginning 7 p.m. at 1200 S W C Owen Ave. in Clewiston.

Gulf County Sheriff endorses Ashley Moody for AG – Sheriff Mike Harrison becomes the latest Sheriff to endorse Republican Moody for Attorney General. “Florida Sheriffs need an Attorney General who has prosecuted criminals, Ashley Moody has the experience in our criminal justice system that makes her uniquely qualified for this important job. As a prosecutor and judge, she earned the respect of the law enforcement community and has a proven track record of combating crime. I’m honored to endorse Ashley Moody and know that she will serve us well as Florida’s ‘top cop,’” Harrison said.

Irv Slosberg withdraws from SD 31 special election, supports Lori Berman” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – “You know, Lori and I were always good friends; she was always on the side of road safety. She was right by my side. I think she’s going to make a great senator,” Slosberg said. Slosberg, of Boca Raton, entered the race just a month ago, joining Lantana Democrats Berman and Arthur Morrison and Republican Tami Donnally of Lake Worth. Slosberg said he’ll be happy keeping his focus on the work of his Dori Saves Lives foundation, set up in memory of his daughter who died in a car crash, and dedicated to improving road safety, especially for young drivers.

Margaret Good, James Buchanan lead HD 72 fundraising” via the News Service of Florida – Democrat Good and Republican Buchanan have dominated fundraising in the campaign to replace former Rep. Alex Miller. Good, who is competing with Ruta Jouniari in the Democratic primary, raised $32,613 from Oct. 20 through Thursday, bringing her overall total to $120,483, according to newly filed finance reports. Good had $51,171 in cash on hand as of Thursday. Jouniari raised $15,950 from Oct. 20 through Thursday, bringing her overall total to $23,429. Jouniari had $14,168 on hand. Buchanan, who does not have a Republican primary opponent, raised $32,000 during the most-recent period, bringing his overall total to $227,130. He had $169,399 in cash on hand, according to the reports. The winner of the Democratic primary will face Buchanan and Libertarian Alison Foxall in a Feb. 13 special general election. Foxall raised $6,600 from Oct. 20 through Thursday.

— STATEWIDE —

As part of his trade mission in Israel, Gov. Scott recognized the first class of graduates from the Florida Israel Business Accelerator (FIBA), a “technology accelerator” launched last year to establish and grow Israeli and Florida tech ventures in the Tampa Bay region.

Assignment editors – CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis will make an announcement regarding Florida firefighter cancer and PTSD benefits. News conference begins 2 p.m. at the Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Station No. 23, 5471 Okeechobee Blvd. in West Palm Beach.

First in Sunburn – “Florida takes No. 1 spot in ‘Judicial Hellholes’ list” via Florida Politics –  The American Tort Reform Association says the Sunshine State was the No. 1 “Judicial Hellhole” in the country, putting it in the same league as courts in California, St. Louis, New York City, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Illinois and Louisiana. Judicial Hellholes gave Florida the top spot in the ring of dishonor for the first time in its 16-year history, and enumerated several problems starting with the Florida Supreme Court. The report said the high court’s “liability-expanding decisions and barely contained contempt for the lawmaking authority of legislators and the governor has repeatedly led to its inclusion in this report. And though the high court’s plaintiff-friendly majority this year shrunk from 5-2 to 4-3, a hushed discus­sion between two majority justices recently caught by an open microphone suggests that this majority is as partisan as ever and brazenly determined to influence the judicial selection process as three like-minded col­leagues face mandatory retirement in early 2019.” The report cites Justice C. Alan Lawson replacing retired Justice James E.C. Perry as a move in the right direction, but the report blasted the court for allowing Perry to help decide cases he had started to hear before his mandatory retirement date, which the report described as “contrary to the Florida Constitution.”

Removal of Irma-damaged boats continues” via the News Service of Florida – More than 2,000 vessels damaged or grounded by Hurricane Irma have been removed from state waters since the September storm, the U.S. Coast Guard announced Monday. Nearly three-fourths of the 2,069 boats were in the Florida Keys. The Coast Guard, which is working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is prioritizing vessels based on potential environmental impacts. Boat owners are encouraged to hire salvage companies. The state has estimated that each vessel costs $25,000 to $40,000 to remove.

Court rules against insurer on ‘assignment of benefits’” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida – An appeals court has ruled against a property insurer’s effort to place restrictions on a controversial practice known as “assignment of benefits.” The 5th District Court of Appeal, in an eight-page ruling Friday, upheld a decision by the state Office of Insurance Regulation to reject restrictions proposed by Security First Insurance Co. The ruling was another blow to the insurance industry, which has blamed assignment of benefits for driving up property-insurance premiums – but has been unable to persuade lawmakers to make changes to the longstanding practice. A three-judge panel of the appeals court pointed to past legal rulings about assignment of benefits and said it was up to the Legislature to decide whether to make changes.

Airbnb takes to Tallahassee TV to promote vacation rentals” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The new commercial running this week in the Tallahassee market, “Airbnb citizen,” features Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward talking about how vacation rental homes give visitors the “authentic experience” of tourism in Florida. As video shows some of the more quaint of Pensacola neighborhoods, screen text notes the average Airbnb host makes $67,000 a year in rentals, and that Airbnb vacation rental homes hosted 2.5 million visitors this year. “Our visitors have stayed in these neighborhoods and it makes the experience far more unique,” Hayward says.

Gas prices slowly dropping across Florida” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – AAA released a study which found gas prices averaged $2.44 per gallon in Florida Sunday, down 2 cents from last week but 26 cents higher than the start of December last year. The national average stood at $2.48 per gallon Sunday. At this time last year, the national average was at $2.18 per gallon. Mark Jenkins, a spokesman for AAA and the Auto Club group, noted that the average price per gallon in Florida has dropped nine cents across the past three weeks. South Florida continues to have the most expensive gas in the Sunshine State. Drivers in West Palm Beach paid, on average, $2.56 per gallon Sunday while motorists in Miami saw prices at $2.55 per gallon and the Naples market saw prices at $2.50 per gallon. Pensacola had the least expensive gas in Florida with an average of $2.36 per gallon followed by Jacksonville and Orlando where prices averaged $2.38 per gallon.

Lakeland to move 107-year-old Confederate monument” via The Ledger – The Lakeland City Commission voted 4-3 on Monday to remove the statue of a Confederate soldier that was erected in 1910 to honor those who died in the Civil War. The commission directed the city manager to begin the removal process and to analyze potential sites for the statue. The commission rejected a proposal to leave the statue where it is, but build other monuments near it to create a “heritage trail.”

— OPINIONS —

Joe Henderson: Rick Scott poll numbers should concern Dems” via Florida Politics – My eyebrows arched a bit when reading the Saint Leo University poll that showed Scott with a 10-point lead over incumbent Democrat Nelson in next year’s election for the U.S. Senate. It’s a cautionary tale for Democrats, for multiple reasons. Nelson isn’t the most charismatic candidate either. He was front and center with Republican counterpart Marco Rubio when Hurricane Irma was approaching this year, but a poll in October from the University of North Florida carried a serious warning for Nelson. That survey showed an astonishing 49 percent of Floridians say they don’t know how Nelson is doing as their senator. That led Michael Binder, faculty director of the Public Opinion Research Lab at UNF, to note: “When a three-term sitting U.S. senator has almost half of the sample unable to assess his job approval, you have a problem.” Scott might not really be ahead by 10 points, but by now Democrats should know better than to take any comfort in that.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: Stephanie Owens to lobby for LWVF – The League of Women Voters of Florida on Monday announced that Owens was selected as its lobbyist for the 2018 Legislative Session. Owens resigned from the League’s board effective immediately; Michele Levy assumes the role of Voter Advocacy Chair. Owens spent over 20 years in public service, as an appointee of both President Barack Obama and President Bill Clinton, holding “senior official positions in the White House” and at various federal agencies. “During her tenure, she created the strategy and policies for implementation of the Affordable Care Act; citizen participation in the community restoration process after the Deep Horizon oil disaster; and improving federal procurement policy for small and disadvantaged businesses,” the League said. Since then, Owens founded St. Petersburg’s Dolphin Strategies consulting firm.

Personnel note: Niki McKinnell joins Florida Association of Counties McKinnell will serve as the new marketing manager at FAC, working on business development and marketing for their enterprise partners program.

Happy birthday to The Edwards Group’s Beth Herendeen.

Florida takes No. 1 spot on ‘Judicial Hellholes’ list

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.

“The Florida Supreme Court’s liability-expanding decisions and barely contained contempt for the lawmaking authority of legislators and the governor has repeatedly led to its inclusion in this report. And though the high court’s plaintiff-friendly majority this year shrunk from 5-2 to 4-3, a hushed discus­sion between two majority justices recently caught by an open microphone suggests that this majority is as partisan as ever and brazenly determined to influence the judicial selection process as three like-minded col­leagues face mandatory retirement in early 2019,” the report said.

“Meanwhile, an aggressive personal injury bar’s fraudulent and abusive practices in South Florida and elsewhere have also tarnished the state’s reputation. Encouragingly, at least some plaintiffs’ lawyers who’ve crossed the line are being held accountable, either with stiff court sanctions or criminal prosecutions. But with the help of some lawmakers, too many are still get­ting away with too much, and for the first time in this report’s 16-year history, enough shade has been cast on the Sunshine State to rank it as the nation’s worst Judicial Hellhole.”

The 2017-2018 report is the first in the 16-year history of the “Judicial Hellholes” series to name Florida the worst.

The report cites Justice C. Alan Lawson replacing retired Justice James E.C. Perry as a move in the right direction, but the report blasted the court for allowing Perry to help decide cases he had started to hear before his retirement date.

The ATRA cited a memo from Edward Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in calling that practice “contrary to the Florida Constitution.”

“It’s one thing to decide already-argued cases without the new member. It’s quite another thing to allow the retired justice to displace the new member in those cases. This elementary distinction seems to have escaped the Florida Supreme Court,” the snippet from Whelan said.

The report also blasted Florida Supreme Court rulings in medical liability cases that it said are detrimental to both patients and healthcare providers, while also making it more difficult to solve disputes disputes without litigation. It also warned that Florida attorneys are bracing for the court’s anticipated rejection of higher standards for expert testimony used in all federal and most state courts.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce pointed to the report as vindication for what it has been saying all along – that Florida’s legal system is one of the worst out there.

“Lawsuit abuse in Florida is an increasingly serious and expensive problem, and it just keeps getting worse. On average, it translates into a $3,400 ‘tax’ for Florida’s families each year, due to increased lawsuit abuse costs,” said Florida Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson.

“There have been five Wall Street Journal articles this year alone talking about Florida’s horrendous lawsuit abuse, the national Institute for Legal Reform named Florida the fifth worst state for legal climate, and now the American Tort Reform Association ranks Florida as the worst Judicial Hellhole, how much more evidence do lawmakers need to take action,” Wilson continued.

Sixty Days for 12.4.17 — A prime-time look at the 2018 Legislative Session

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

The Last 24

Gov. Rick Scott’s top lawyer turned down a request to appoint a special prosecutor from the attorney representing the Senate staffer accusing Sen. Jack Latvala of sexual harassment.

Ritch Workman, a former House member and Scott appointee to the Public Service Commission, said he’s no longer pursuing the seat after Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto said he made vulgar and inappropriate comments to her at a charity event last year.

Airbnb is launching a television commercial this week in Tallahassee to convince legislators of the back-home support for vacation rentals.

Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia is pushing a bill that would return control to local school boards to decide how to evaluate teachers.

An appeals court ruled against a property insurer’s effort to place restrictions on a controversial practice known as “assignment of benefits.”

Quote of the Day

“At best, this suggests negligence – and at worst, willful disregard – in the faithful performance of the duties of your constitutional office.” – Daniel Nordby, general counsel for Gov. Rick Scott, putting pressure on State Attorney Aramis Ayala for missing deadlines to file death penalty cases.

Bill Day’s Latest

3 Questions

With a seemingly endless shoreline to enjoy, it’s no surprise Floridians love boating. In fact, Florida is home to almost 1 million registered boat owners.

That’s why Sen. Dana Young and Rep. Shawn Harrison have filed SB 664 and HB 469, a measure designed to give consumer protections, so Florida boaters aren’t victimized by predatory maritime salvage companies.

Young answered three questions about the legislation.

Q: What issues are Florida boaters experiencing?

A: I’m a boat owner and love being out on the water. But we’re finding that numerous Floridians have been victimized by predatory maritime salvage and towing companies — some would even liken it to a form of modern-day piracy. Your average boater isn’t aware of the complexities of federal admiralty law, and you can’t expect them to realize that what seems like relatively minor assistance might actually end up carrying an undisclosed price tag of tens of thousands of dollars.

Q: What examples of this “piracy” issue have you seen in Florida?

A: Over the past several months, I’ve spoken with people who have received outrageous claims from companies. One boater got a bill for $30,000, even though the salvor only spent a few minutes providing assistance. Another person was charged more than $10,000 for a couple of hours of service that took place while the boat was safely docked at a marina. Yet another boater received a bill for almost $4,000, even though the salvage operator never even stepped foot on his boat. I was shocked at the fees these unsuspecting boaters were charged, and I look forward to advocating for these consumer protections as they make their way through the legislative process.

Q: How will this legislation combat this form of modern-day piracy?

A: Our legislation simply requires that salvage operators give boaters a written estimate before providing service — that’s it. We basically are applying common sense consumer protections Floridians have come to expect on land — from auto mechanics, for example — and extend them to our state’s boaters. While I’m sure many salvors operate with a high level of professional integrity, the situations I’ve heard about underscore the fact that there needs to be added transparency in this industry. It’s a simple and straightforward requirement that will provide boaters with added peace of mind knowing they’ll have the option to see how much the service will cost before any assistance is actually provided.

Lobby Up

Victoria Vangalis Zepp tells Florida Politics she’s accepted a position as Executive Vice President and Chief Policy and Research Officer for the Florida Coalition for Children.

The Coalition, based in Tallahassee, “advocates on behalf of Florida’s abused, abandoned and neglected children and supports the agencies and individuals who work on their behalf,” according to its Facebook page.

Zepp had her own lobbying firm for nearly two decades after working as a corporate telecommunications government affairs executive.

Over the years, “I’ve represented IBM, UPS, MCI, Pearson Education, Tenet, etc., and did pro bono child and developmental disabilities advocacy,” she writes.

“After decades in The Process, I decided to focus my power for good on those who need it most.”

The new job also will take her back to Washington, D.C., “helping to shape policy that enables all children a chance to reach their human potential,” Zepp told us.

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

Sen. Bobby Powell of West Palm Beach and Rep. Kamia Brown of Ocoee, both Democrats, are expected to take part in a news conference held by the “No Place for a Child” coalition to support changes in how children are prosecuted as adults. That’s at 9 a.m., fourth floor rotunda, the Capitol.

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will take up a bill (SB 150), filed by GOP Sen. Tom Lee, that would end the state’s no-fault auto insurance system. That’s at 10 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.

The Senate Health Policy Committee will consider a bill (SB 250), filed by Sen. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, that would allow patients to stay up to 24 hours in ambulatory-surgical centers. That’s at 10 a.m., 412 Knott Building, the Capitol.

The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee will consider a proposal (SB 286), filed by Sen. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat, that would lead to creation of a slavery memorial at the Capitol. That’s at 10 a.m., 401 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.

The House Government Accountability Committee will consider a proposal (HB 25), filed by Rep. Scott Plakon, a Longwood Republican, that would make changes in the certification of public labor unions and increase the information unions are required to submit each year. That’s at 10:30 a.m., 17 House Office Building, the Capitol.

The Senate Democratic Caucus is scheduled to meet at 12:15 p.m., 200 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.

The House Health & Human Services Committee will take up a bill (HB 27), filed by Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, a Fort Myers Republican, that would eliminate the “certificate of need” regulatory process for hospitals. That’s at 1:30 p.m., 17 House Office Building, the Capitol.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will take up a proposal (SB 134), filed by Chairman Greg Steube, that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to store firearms with security officers at courthouses. That’s at 2 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.

The House Ways & Means Committee will consider a proposal (HB 359), filed by GOP Reps. Jeanette Nunez of Miami and Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. of Hialeah, that would bar state investments in companies doing business with the government of Venezuela. That’s 4 p.m., 17 House Office Building, the Capitol.

The House Appropriations Committee will receive a presentation about Gov. Rick Scott‘s proposed $87.4 billion budget for next fiscal year. That’s at 4 p.m., 212 Knott Building, the Capitol.

Reps. Bob Cortes, David Santiago, Rene Plasencia, and Mike La Rosa will host a toy drive for children who are the victims of hurricanes, including those in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. “We are asking for new, unwrapped toys worth a maximum of $10 to be dropped off,” they said. That’s at 5-6:30 p.m., The Governor’s Inn Lobby, 209 South Adams St., Tallahassee.

Agriculture Commissioner and GOP candidate for Governor Adam Putnam is scheduled to address the Clewiston Chamber of Commerce. That’s at 7 p.m., 1200 S W C Owen Ave., Clewiston.

Early poll of CFO race shows Jeremy Ring with slight lead over Jimmy Patronis

An early poll of the Chief Financial Officer race shows Margate Democrat Jeremy Ring with a slim lead over Republican Jimmy Patronis, who was appointed earlier this year to the CFO spot.

The EMC Research poll shows Ring with 37 percent support among voters and Patronis with 35 percent, with 28 percent undecided. The 2-point spread, though encouraging for Ring, falls well within poll’s the 3.7 percentage point margin of error.

The polling group said it used a turnout model that assumed GOP voters would have a six-point turnout advantage over Democrats, 44 percent to 38 percent.

“Jeremy Ring’s lead over Jimmy Patronis in an uninformed, head-to-head matchup shows Ring has a path to victory on Election Day next November with a well-funded campaign that has the resources to communicate his unique qualifications for the position of Chief Financial Officer,” the polling group said in news release.

The poll also showed Ring, a former Yahoo! executive, had stronger support from Democrats than Patronis had among Republican voters.

More than three-quarters of Democrats support Ring, while 4 percent support Patronis. Conversely, two-thirds of Republicans back Patronis while 7 percent back Ring. Among independents, Ring leads Patronis 25-23.

The poll did not take into account Brandon Sen. Tom Lee’s likely entry into the race.

Lee, a former Senate President, ran unsuccessfully for CFO in 2006 and has said he plans to take another stab at the job in 2018 though he is in no rush to officially announce his candidacy.

If Lee entered the race, he would be in the first-place spot in fundraising as he has more than $2 million socked away in his political committee, The Conservative.

Ring’s only primary opponent so far is Antoanet Iotova, who lost to Democrat Gary Farmer in the SD 34 race last year and is surely outmatched in this race – especially considering she was arrested last fall and charged with two counts of grand theft.

Ring served in the Florida Senate from 2008 through 2016 and was the first-in candidate for the Cabinet post. Through the end of October, he had about $193,000 on hand in his campaign account. He also has another $135,723 on hand in his political committee, Florida Action Fund, for a combined total of $328,723.

Patronis was appointed to the job by Gov. Rick Scott earlier this year after CFO Jeff Atwater resigned the position to take a job at Florida Atlantic University. Scott has said Patronis is his pick for the job in 2018.

Though Patronis, a former member of the Florida House, didn’t officially file for election until Nov. 1, he had raised $653,850 for his political committee, Treasure Florida, as of the end of October.

The EMC Research poll was conducted from Nov. 12 through Nov. 16 and received responses from 705 likely general election voters.

Personnel note: Nicole Hagerty on board at FRSCC

Nicole Hagerty is joining the 2018 Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee’s (FRSCC) in-house Finance Team as Director of Finance, Senate President-designate Bill Galvano said in an email.

The FRSCC is the main fundraising panel supporting GOP state Senate campaigns.

Also, Kelly Schmidt is becoming Deputy Director of Finance and Matthew Yost will be Director of Member Fundraising, Galvano said.

They will work with Nancy Ann Texeira, the Campaign Committee’s chief fundraising consultant.

“Individually, these team members have all been key to the successes of our caucus,” said Galvano, a Bradenton Republican expected to head the chamber in 2018-20. “I know that together they will ensure FRSCC will continue to be successful. I am very confident in the great team we have assembled.”

Hagerty began with FRSCC under Senate President Don Gaetz and continued as Deputy Finance Director under Senate President Andy Gardiner, he added.

“During the 2016 cycle, Nicole transitioned to Innovate Florida, where she ran a successful member fundraising operation and has continued raising resources for the caucus,” Galvano said. Innovate Florida is Galvano’s political committee.

Schmidt “first arrived at FRSCC as a college intern and quickly proved herself to be a valuable and trusted member of the team. Kelly was first named FRSCC Deputy Director of Finance under Senate President Joe Negron.”

Yost “previously served in several roles at Innovate Florida for nearly two years prior to joining FRSCC’s finance team,” Galvano said. “He worked as a legislative assistant in the Florida House and managed a successful re-election campaign.”

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 12.4.17

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

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

Good morning from The Essex House in New York City, where the weather is crisp, but not cold. It’s the end of the first week of the holiday season and Manhattan is glittering with its Christmas finest. The president was in town Saturday morning, as are millions of tourists, like us, here to see the tree at Rockefeller Center and the windows outside of Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square.

After showing The Fearless Girl statue in Wall Street to our fearless girl, Ella, we took in a matinee of “Hamilton.” Although the politics of Tallahassee will remind no one of the efforts of the Founding Fathers, the portion of “Hamilton” that deals with American politics’ first sex scandal is as timely as ever.

No sooner had we left the Richard Rodgers Theatre did my phone start blowing up with the latest developments from the scandal consuming Tallahassee. Oh well, it was nice for 48 hours to be in a city where no one cares about Jack Latvala.

Latvala accuser seeks armed security in Capitol” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida – Rachel Perrin Rogers, the high-ranking Senate aide who accused Sen. Latvala of groping her and making lewd comments about her physical appearance, has asked for security guards when she returns to the Capitol (Monday).

>>>The request does not have anything to do with Rogers v. Latvala, but is in response to a separate situation involving former Senate staffer, Lily Tysinger, a former Senate Majority staffer who’s backed Latvala in the increasingly toxic sexual harassment investigation. Tysinger filed a whistleblower complaint Friday accusing Perrin Rogers of numerous workplace violations, including “engaging in a pattern of conduct” designed to “intimidate me due to my status as a witness” in the Senate investigation into Latvala’s alleged sexual misconduct.

Perrin Rogers “does not feel safe with Lily Tysinger in the building and having access to her and her office in light of Ms. Tysinger’s past and present conduct,” her attorney, Tiffany Cruz wrote. “If this is not an option, please advise so we can independently retain a law enforcement officer to be present.”

’My heart breaks for her’: Pam Bondi backs woman who accused Jack Latvala of sexual harassment via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – “Yesterday, I was astonished to learn that one of the victims of the recent allegations in Tallahassee is a woman who I’ve known and respected for years,” Bondi said in a written statement that conspicuously omitted the names Latvala and his accuser. “My heart breaks for her. We must respect the investigation by the Florida Senate and the privacy of all parties involved,” Bondi said.

With Jimmy Patronis ‘disappointed,’ Jack Latvala is isolated from governor, Cabinet in sexual harassment case” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Chief Financial Officer Patronis, the last to break his silence of the four statewide elected officials since his accuser went public, said he’s “disappointed in this entire situation.” … “Sexual harassment by anyone — in a public or private position — is wrong,” Patronis said. “Any claims should be investigated fully and those found guilty should lose their jobs. I’ve known Sen. Latvala for more than two decades and I am disappointed in this entire situation. The ongoing investigation should be done thoroughly and quickly. The people’s business must come first.”

Rob Bradley on Jack Latvala investigation: ‘There is a process in place’” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – “Regarding the Latvala matter,” Bradley says, “there is a process in place and we need to let it work” … “The process may include the Rules Committee and full Senate considering evidence and arguments, and then making judgments. As a member of the Rules Committee … it’s appropriate for me to refrain from responding to these questions at this time.”

– “Senate leaders remain silent as Jack Latvala trashes accuser, intimidates witnesses” via Brian Burgess of The  Capitolist

How 1997 sexual harassment case may be a warning to Senate” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – A court-ordered $165,000 payment went to a former staffer in the now-defunct Joint Legislative Management Committee, which oversaw House and Senate operations, and her lawyers in 1997. Linda Phelps, an assistant purchasing administrator for the committee, complained about unwanted sexual advances by her boss, Bobby Hinson, from 1992 to 1994, but “no one would believe me,” she told a federal court. Phelps and Hinson continued to work together in the office that handled all legislative purchases until what she described as a “violent sexual assault” June 30, 1994. After a late night of work and pizza, Phelps testified that when other staff had left, Hinson exposed himself, pushed her head down and tried to force her to perform oral sex. She hit him and managed to run away. “His words to me were, ‘I’m going to have you the way I want you’,” Phelps, now 68 and retired from the state since 2011 recalled. “His lips were white. He had his shirt open. He tried to choke me as he held me down.” In 1994, Hinson was fired from the Joint Legislative Management Committee after Phelps made the allegations. While legislative leaders couldn’t prove what happened, they concluded based on interviews with several women that Hinson had fostered a hostile work environment. He later got jobs at two other state agencies with the help of glowing references from his supervisor at the joint committee, Pete Ratowski, who later was fired because of the references.

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— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Bill tweaks state law on theme parks’ ‘lost and found’ ” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A change to the state’s “lost and found” law could help needy Floridians, its sponsor says. State Rep. Bobby Olszewski, a Winter Garden Republican, filed a bill (HB 851) to allow “lost or abandoned personal property” at a “theme park or entertainment complex” to be donated to charity. Specifically, his measure—which also includes zoos, museums and aquariums—allows the facilities to give unclaimed items to “a charitable institution” without having to first turn them over to law enforcement, he says. And there’s lots of stuff. “There’s rooms and rooms, I mean warehouse-sized spaces, to store this stuff,” Olszewski said.

Lawmakers want soda pop banned as SNAP purchase” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics – Should the United States Congress bar people from using food stamps to buy soft drinks? Two Florida lawmakers contend just that. Fernandina Beach Republican Sen. Aaron Bean and Lecanto Republican Rep. Ralph Massullo filed “memorial” legislation that would urge the feds to disqualify soda and related beverages from being purchased with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds … The New York Times reported in January that soft drinks are the top purchase of SNAP households, accounting for 5 percent of money spent; “sweetened beverages,” which include sweet tea and energy drinks with soft drinks, are 10 percent.

Today’s key legislative committee meetings:

— Senate debates veterans care – The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee will discuss SB 326, filed by Tampa Republican Dana Young, to establish a program for mental-health and substance-abuse services for veterans and their families. Meeting begins 4 p.m. in Room 401 of the Senate Office Building

— Back-to-school sales tax holidays in Senate – On the agenda of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee is SB 686, filed by Gainesville Republican Keith Perry, that seeks a back-to-school sales tax “holiday” for 10 days in late July and early August on clothes and shoes costing up to $100 per item, school supplies that cost $15 or less, and personal computers and related accessories priced at $1,000 or less. Meeting begins 4 p.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— Senate examines suspended license penalties – The Senate Criminal Justice Committee will debate SB 482, filed by Chairman Randolph Bracy of Orlando, deck seeks to eliminate felony charges for motorists convicted a third or subsequent time of driving with licenses that are either suspended, canceled or revoked. Meeting begins 4 p.m. in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— Human trafficking bill in Senate – The Senate Education Committee will consider SB 96, filed by Sarasota Republican Greg Steube, which requires schools to teach about the dangers and signs of human trafficking as part of health-education courses. Meeting begins 4 p.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

Also … Arrrggh! Stop piracy on Florida’s waters – Florida boaters will come one step closer to enjoying more price transparency when they’re out on our state’s waters if SB 644 is approved today. Sen. Young will present the bill at 4pm in the Senate Commerce and Tourism committee. The legislation would require maritime salvage and towing companies to provide boaters with a written cost estimate before providing assistance. Learn more about the issue at StopSeaPiracy.com.

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— RING VS. PATRONIS —

First in Sunburn – Early poll of CFO race shows Jeremy Ring with slight lead over Jimmy Patronis

The EMC Research poll shows Ring with 37 percent support among voters and Patronis with 35 percent, with 28 percent undecided. The 2-point spread, though encouraging for Ring, falls well within poll’s the 3.7 percentage point margin of error.

– More than three-quarters of Democrats support Ring, while 4 percent support Patronis. Conversely, two-thirds of Republicans back Patronis while 7 percent back Ring.

– Among independents, Ring leads Patronis 25-23.

– The poll did not take into account Brandon Sen. Tom Lee’s likely entry into the race.

– Ring was the first-in candidate for the Cabinet post. Through the end of October, he had about $193,000 on hand in his campaign account. He also has another $135,723 on hand in his political committee, Florida Action Fund, for a combined total of $328,723.

– Though Patronis, a former member of the Florida House, didn’t officially file for election until Nov. 1, he had raised $653,850 for his political committee, Treasure Florida, as of the end of October.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Poll shows Rick Scott with 10-point lead over Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate seat” via Florida Politics – The St. Leo University poll, conducted online between Nov. 19 and Nov. 24, showed Scott with a double-digit lead over Nelson in the matchup, 42-32, with 8 percent preferring another candidate and 18 percent undecided. Eight months ago, Nelson held a 5-point lead over Scott, 39-34, and in September the Scott took a slim 35-33 lead. Back in March, about 56 percent of Florida voters said they had a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of the second-term governor, while about 39 percent said they viewed Scott, a Republican, in a “somewhat unfavorable” or “not at all favorable” light. Last month, the positive view climbed to about 61 percent while the negatives had dwindled to about 31 percent. The other 8 percent said they were unsure how they felt about Scott.

Tweet, tweet: @SteveSchale: Reminder about Florida. Last four major contested races (2 Gov + 2 Pres) all decided by 0.8-1.1%. There is absolutely no reality where it’s a 10 point race, or even a 5 point race, either way.

Tweet, tweet:

Gary McKechnie riding into SD 12 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – McKechnie, 55, of Mount Dora, is promising a platform that will be heavy on Florida-centric advocacy and perhaps lighter on Democratic ideology, in a district that is heavily Republican, covering parts of Lake, Sumter and Marion counties, including The Villages. Calling himself a “motojournalist,” he has made most of his career riding the backroads of Florida, as well as all of America, then writing about it. He and his wife Nancy also have a bed-and-breakfastand some other small businesses, he said. For years, McKechnie was VISIT FLORIDA’s “Off the Beaten Path Insider.” And for decades he has published his writings in magazines, newspapers and books, including a series of books published by National Geographic, as well as a top motorcyclist touring book, winning two major national travel writing awards. He also leads school student tours in Washington D.C., lectures to international audiences on America’s history and cultural heritage aboard on Cunard cruise ships, and is frequently interviewed on television and radio talk shows about travel and American culture and history.

Lisa King will resign FDP committeewoman post if elected Duval Dems chair” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics – Controversy has emerged between Hazel Gillis and Lisa King in the race for Duval Democratic Party Chairwoman. Some members of the local party have raised issue with King running for the chair while serving as a committeewoman in the Florida Democratic Party. Florida Politics talked to King about it Friday, and she says that if she is elected chair on Monday evening, she will resign the state post—but not immediately. She doesn’t have to resign at all, she notes; bylaws permit serving in both roles, and that happens elsewhere in the state.

— STATEWIDE —

Rick Scott in Israel for trade mission” via The Associated Press – Scott is on a trip that will take him to both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. He will be joined by nearly 70 business and education leaders, including the president and CEO of Florida Power & Light. First lady Ann Scott as well as Scott’s chief of staff will also accompany the governor. This is Scott’s 15th trip abroad since he became governor in 2011. This is Scott’s second trip to Israel.

Marco Rubio votes for tax bill that lacks the full child credit he said was critical to his support Senate tax bill” via Ledyard King of News-Press.com – For weeks, Rubio has been telling anyone who would listen that the Republican tax bill could not be called a cut for the middle class unless it included a $2,000 per-child tax credit fully refundable against the payroll tax. He helped get the Senate to double the credit to $2,000 but could not convince his colleagues to add the refundability portion, which means many working-class families would not be able to take full advantage of the credit. Despite that, Rubio was among the 51 Republican senators who voted for passage … The bill now must be reconciled with the House’s version of tax relief which only increased the credit to $1,600.

Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown to learn her punishment” via Christopher Hong of the Florida Times-Union – Brown, 71, will enter the courtroom without a clear sense of what the future holds for her, though a pre-sentencing report indicated she could face up to nine years behind bars. Brown’s attorneys have argued that she’s built enough goodwill through her years of public service and constituent advocacy to keep her out of jail. She has stridently maintained her innocence, at times lashing out at prosecutors and calling the case against her a racially motivated witch hunt. She has characterized herself as the victim of a criminal conspiracy run without her knowledge by her longtime confidant, Ronnie Simmons and his ex-girlfriend, Carla Wiley. In court recently for her sentencing hearing, Brown moderated her tone, asking U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan for mercy and apologizing for having misplaced her trust in others. Prosecutors — as well as federal sentencing guidelines — recommend that she serve years behind bars.

Assignment editors – Former Congressman Steve Southerland, Chairman of Stand Up for North Florida, will host a news conference at 2 p.m. to announce the group’s expanded mission as a 501(c)(4) organization ahead of the 2018 legislative session. Event will be at the Capitol, fourth floor, outside the House chamber.

Commission: Florida judge should be suspended for favoritism” via The Associated Press – The Judicial Qualifications Commission made the recommendation regarding Broward County Judge Claudia Robinson to the Florida Supreme Court, which has final say … Robinson accepted the findings that concluded she showed favoritism. The commission found Robinson sent nearly 300 civil and small claims cases into mediation between April 2015 and March 2017. More than 80 percent were assigned to Michael Ahearn, who worked on Robinson’s 2014 campaign. Ahearn says he has handled thousands of mediation cases over 15 years and did nothing wrong. The commission did not find wrongdoing on his part.

Traffic ticket-fighting firm says Florida Bar trying to put it out of business” via Susan Taylor Martin of the Tampa Bay Times – A company called TIKD came up with a way to help motorists challenge their tickets without ever leaving their homes. More than 8,000 drivers in Tampa Bay and other areas have used TIKD’s services. Now, the company, says, the Florida Bar and a South Florida law firm are conspiring to shut it down. “Unfortunately, not everyone welcomes innovation and competition,” TIKD says in a suit filed in November in federal court in Miami. “From the moment TIKD received publicity, it has been subject to a coordinated attack by the Florida Bar and a competitor in an effort to drive it out of business and prevent lawyers from representing TIKD’s customers.” The “attack” has cost TIKD an estimated $3.8 million in lost revenues, the suit says. According to its lawsuit, TIKD’s problems a year ago when the Florida Bar said it was opening “an unlicensed practice of law” investigation into the company after it was featured in a Miami Herald story. A few months later, attorneys with The Ticket Clinic, a Miami firm that also handles traffic tickets, threatened to report two of TIKD’s lawyers to the Bar if they continued to work with the new company.

What Kelly Cohen is reading – “Enterprise Florida backs Orlando City soccer plate” via the News Service of Florida – “There is one professional sports franchise in the state of Florida that does not have a license plate: the Orlando City Soccer team,” Mike Grissom, Enterprise Florida executive vice president, said during a meeting in Jacksonville. “We are advocating that we get a license plate that they can sell.” Sen. Randolph Bracy filed a proposal (SB 1050) that would require the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to develop an Orlando City Soccer Club plate. Money from sales of license plates of professional teams goes to the Florida Sports Foundation, a nonprofit corporation that serves as the Sports Industry Development Division of Enterprise Florida.

— MOVEMENTS — 

Personnel note: Lobbyist David Griffin departs GrayRobinsonGriffin, once Florida Lottery Secretary under Gov. Jeb Bush, is departing the law firm’s Tallahassee office to return to solo practice. “It’s bittersweet to see David leave the firm, however, we thank him for his many contributions and wish him nothing but the best,” said Dean Cannon, GrayRobinson’s Executive Vice President and Statewide Chair of Government Affairs. After his state government service, Griffin operated a successful solo consulting firm before joining GrayRobinson in mid-2014. In addition to heading the state Lottery, he was assistant executive director and interim executive director of the Ohio Lottery Commission, executive director of the Bush/Brogan 2002 transition office, and a Florida A&M University trustee in 2005. His recent clients include Florida Association of Broadcasters and St. John and Partners. Griffin also has served on the boards of the Florida Retail Federation, Volunteer Florida Foundation, Florida Tax Watch, and Boys and Girls Clubs of the Big Bend. 

Personnel note: Nicole Hagerty on board at FRSCC” via Florida Politics – Hagerty is joining the 2018 Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee’s (FRSCC) in-house Finance Team as Director of Finance, Senate President-designate Bill Galvano said in an email. The FRSCC is the main fundraising panel supporting GOP state Senate campaigns. Also, Kelly Schmidt is becoming Deputy Director of Finance and Matthew Yost will be Director of Member Fundraising, Galvano said. They will work with Nancy Ann Texeira, the Campaign Committee’s chief fundraising consultant. “Individually, these team members have all been key to the successes of our caucus,” said Galvano, a Bradenton Republican expected to head the chamber in 2018-20. “I know that together they will ensure FRSCC will continue to be successful.”

Two new appointees join FWC – Gov. Rick Scott late Friday announced the appointment of Sonya Rood and Gary Nicklaus to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Rood, 53, of St. Augustine, succeeds Aliese “Liesa” Priddy and is appointed for a term ending Jan. 2, 2022. Nicklaus, 48, of Jupiter, succeeds Ronald Bergeron and is appointed for a term ending Aug. 1, 2022. “It is because of the hard work of Floridians like Liesa and Ron that residents and visitors can safely enjoy our natural resources now and for generations to come,” Scott said in a statement. “I am confident that Gary Nicklaus and Sonya Rood will continue their great work and proudly serve Florida families.” These appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

Appointed – Richard Montgomery, Dr. Jonathan HickmanJeenu Philip and Dr. Mark Mikhael to the Florida Board of Pharmacy; Andre Perez to the Board of Medicine; Ray Dubuque to the Housing Finance Corporation; Michael Yormark to the State Boxing Commission; Michael DeNeveMervin Dale and Stanley Warden to the Board of Professional Geologists; Amy Lockhart to the Seminole State College District board of trustees; Robert Gidel to the Florida Virtual School board of trustees; Nancy Gregoire to the North Broward Hospital District Board of Commissioners; Phyllis Choy to the Palm Beach County Housing Authority; Trent Morgan and Tod Schwingel to the Highlands County Housing Authority; Ryan Neves and Nicholas Popp to the Florida film and Entertainment Advisory Council; Sonya Rood and Gary Nicklaus to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Lee Hansen to the School Board of Escambia County.

Spotted at the 4th annual Senate Majority Sarasota Spa & Golf Event hosted by Senate President-designate Bill Galvano: Brad BurlesonDean Cannon, Eric Criss, Shawn Foster, USAA’s Rob HendersonNick Iarossi, Andrew Ketchel, Tracy and Frank Mayernick, David Ramba, Richard Reeves, Chris Schoonover, Danielle Scoggins, Alan Suskey, Delta Airlines’ David Werner, Gerald Wester.

Spotted at the grand opening of Anthony Pedicini and Tom Piccolo‘s Strategic Image Management’s offices in Ybor City: Reps. Larry Ahern, Erin Grall, Mike Grant, Shawn Harrison, Heather Fitzenhagen, Amber Mariano, Bobby Olszewski, Pasco County Commissioner Todd Dantzler, Ballard Partners’ Todd Josko, David Millner, the Florida Justice Association’s Jeff Porter, Steve Hickey, Andy Scaglione, Josie Tomkow, Joe Wicker, Nancy Watkins, Ryan Wiggins.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Scott Arden, Hodes Weill & Associates: Dune Real Estate Partners
Ivette Arango O’DoskiMarnie George, Michael Harrell, Paul Hawkes, Jim Magill, Kimberly McGlynnTimothy Stanfield, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Autolotto
Brian Ballard, Ballard Partners: TIKD Holdings
Ron Pierce, Edward Briggs, Natalie King RSA Consulting Group: Barnes & Noble Education, National Association of College Stores
Rosanna Manuela Catalano, Capitol Energy Florida: Florida Smoke Free Association
Kloee Ciuperger: Martin County Board of County Commissioners
Gus Corbella, Hayden Dempsey, Greenberg Traurig: The Nemours Foundation
Michael Corcoran, Jeffrey Johnston, Anita Berry, Matt BlairAmanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: Florida’s Children First
Kevin Andrew Doyle, Wexford Strategies: Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Gary Hunter, Hopping Green & Sams: Stop the Beach Renourishment
Steven Lezman: Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Pepsi Bottling Company, Pepsi Cola North America, Quaker Foods & Beverages
Jessica LoveJoseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: College of Central Florida Foundation
Spencer Pylant: Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce
Katherine San Pedro, Ballard Partners: Food Group International
John Wayne Smith, Peebles & Smith: Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District
Lane Stephens, SCG Governmental Affairs: City of Quincy

— ALOE —

ICYMI: “Takeaways from Tallahassee — Stuck in TLH with you” via Florida Politics staff – If you fly in and out of Tallahassee International Airport (TLH) this holiday season, you may have cause to panic. A staffing snafu has left thousands of American Airlines flights without pilots and in danger of cancellation. But the airline is reassuring passengers that their holiday season travel plans are still good to go. While the airline said only hundreds of flights are without a full cockpit crew, the Allied Pilots Association said thousands of flights are listed as unassigned. (The association is the labor union that stands for American Airlines pilots.) … It’s still not clear how AA flights at TLH will be affected. Airport officials said the airline has not yet reached out to say how their flight schedules could change.

Tweet, tweet:

Happy birthday belatedly to Sen. Lauren Book‘s dad, Ron, as well as Sen. Keith Perry, the Florida Realtors’ Carrie O’Rourke and POLITICO Florida’s Bruce Ritchie. Celebrating today is Jason Rodriguez.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Stuck in TLH with you?

If you fly in and out of Tallahassee International Airport (TLH) this holiday season, you may have cause to panic.

A staffing snafu has left thousands of American Airlines flights without pilots and in danger of cancellation. But the airline is reassuring passengers that their holiday season travel plans are still good to go.

While the airline said only hundreds of flights are without a full cockpit crew, the Allied Pilots Association said thousands of flights are listed as unassigned. (The association is the labor union that stands for American Airlines pilots.)

American Airlines’ staffing snafu is giving Tallahassee flyers a cause to panic.

American acknowledged this week that a computer glitch in its pilot scheduling system was to blame for the error. The mix-up is during the second half of December, a period chock-full of travel.

It’s still not clear how AA flights at TLH will be affected. Airport officials said the airline has not yet reached out to say how their flight schedules could change.

“Out of the 200,000 flights American will operate in December, only a few hundred are currently unassigned to pilots,” airline spokesman Matt Miller said in a statement.

“That number of open flights continues to decrease thanks to our pilots who are stepping up to the plate and picking up trips to ensure customers are taken care of.”

But whether you have a ticket to go home or on vacation, or have family flying in, the union is warning that there is still serious concern about “significant schedule disruption.”

According to The Washington Post, the bulk of flights affected are at one of the airline’s biggest hubs in Dallas-Fort Worth.

But also affected are Miami International, New York’s LaGuardia, Philadelphia International, and Charlotte Douglas International airports. Some of those airports are common flight connections for outbound and inbound Tallahassee flights with the airline. Stay tuned …

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:

Latvala accuser outs herself Rachel Perrin Rogers, a 35-year-old legislative aide to Republican Sen. Wilton Simpson, revealed she had accused GOP state Sen. Jack Latvala of sexual harassment. Later, Latvala’s legal team released text messages between the two, showing a cordial working relationship. But she claims the unwanted sexual advances occurred over several Legislative Sessions, starting in 2013. The text messages, though, include jokes, memes featuring the Clearwater Republican, and encouraging words like, “smile, somebody loves you!” followed by a heart emoji. They also include her asking Latvala for a favor to get her stepdad out of jury duty (which he did) and asking him to meet privately to discuss policy.

Harassment cost state millions — In a story first broken by the AP’s Gary Fineout, taxpayers were found to have paid more than $11 million in the past 30 years to settle more than 300 cases that alleged state workers were sexually harassed, or forced to work in a hostile work environment. Amounts ranged in size from a $5,500 payment to a Florida State University student who alleged harassment from a supervisor to a $1.3 million payment to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by nurses who worked at state prisons. Since 1987 the state has paid more than $74 million to settle nearly 2,100 employment-related claims including the more than 300 sexual harassment claims.

Democrats’ day in court? — Florida Democrats had requested a court order to move up the dates for a pair of South Florida special elections. Now, they’ll be heard on that ask in court Dec. 7. The motion, filed in Leon County circuit court, aims to get new dates for special elections in House District 114 and Senate District 31 so new lawmakers can be in place for at least a portion of the 2018 Legislative Session, which runs for 60 days beginning Jan. 9. Senate District 31 was vacated by Lake Worth Democrat Jeff Clemens Oct. 27 after he acknowledged an extramarital affair with a lobbyist, while House District 114 was quit by Coral Gables Democrat Daisy Baez at the beginning of November after she agreed to plead guilty to perjury in a case related to her residency.

Pariente stays on case — In a one-sentence order, the Florida Supreme Court denied Gov. Scotts request to disqualify Justice Barbara Pariente from a pending case over his judicial appointment power. “The respondent’s motion to disqualify Justice Pariente is hereby denied,” it said, without elaboration. Scott’s request stemmed from a conversation between Pariente and Chief Justice Jorge Labarga that was caught on a ‘hot mic’ immediately after a Nov. 1 oral argument in the case. The League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida are challenging Scott’s authority to appoint three new Supreme Court justices on the last day of his term in 2019. They say he can’t name successors to the court’s liberal-leaning triumvirate of Justices Pariente, Peggy A. Quince and R. Fred Lewis — only the governor elected after Scott can.

Public school enrollment rises — Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said the tally of new pupils includes 7,212 Puerto Rican children and 710 from the Virgin Islands and elsewhere. Puerto Ricans and Virgin Islanders are U.S. citizens, and Stewart did not say how many pupils hailed from outside the U.S. territories. The bulk of the new students settled into the I-4 corridor, among the most popular destinations for Puerto Ricans migrating to the mainland. Orange County saw the largest bump when it comes to raw numbers with 1,793 new students, which accounts for a 0.8 percent bump in total enrollment, while neighboring Osceola County saw the biggest spike proportionally with 1,218 students causing a 2.2 percent jump in total enrollment.

‘Champions of the Community’ award winners

The Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce announced this week that it had selected two Hispanic-led groups for its “Campeon de la Comunidad” award.

“The Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is pleased to confer our Champion of Community awards to Our Children PSN of Florida and Live Like Bella Childhood Cancer Foundation for their dedication to the caring for our most vulnerable children in Florida,” said FHSCC President Julio Fuentes.

Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Julio Fuentes.

“Innovation and initiative go together, and the Hispanic Chamber wants to reward organizations that exhibit the entrepreneurial spirit in helping our community. These award winners are impacting the lives of thousands of children and the Hispanic business community is grateful for their respective missions,” he continued.

Our Children PSN of Florida, founded by Miami attorney and businessman Jesus JayTome, is a provider service network geared toward child Medicaid recipients who are diagnosed as medically fragile and medically complex.

Live Like Bella Childhood Cancer Foundation, founded in by Raymond Rodriguez-Torres, provides compassionate care services for childhood cancer patients and is active in funding pediatric cancer research. Rodriguez-Torres daughter, Bella, died from an aggressive form of cancer when she was 10 years old.

Is naming a building ‘free speech’?

A proposed constitutional amendment to ban naming new buildings and programs after sitting public officials cleared its committee this week — with one notable “no” vote.

The Constitution Revision Commission’s General Provisions Committee OK’d the plan (P37), filed by Commissioner John Stemberger.

More precisely, it would “prohibit state or local governments from naming government buildings, facilities, land or a government-administered program after an elected state or local official, until after that official has vacated office,” a summary says.

CRC Commissioner John Stemberger is seeking a constitutional amendment to ban naming new buildings and programs after sitting public officials.

For instance, the state Senate named a scholarship program for disabled students after then-President Andy Gardiner, an Orlando Republican whose son has Down syndrome.

But Stemberger wants to avoid the example of California lawmakers in 1971. They named a freeway after President Richard Nixon, who resigned after Watergate in 1974. That Legislature then took Nixon’s name off the highway in 1976.

All on the committee voted for Stemberger’s proposal, save for Committee Chair Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, a former mayor and commissioner of the Town of Sewall’s Point in Martin County.

“For me, it’s a free-speech issue,” Thurlow-Lippisch said later. “I think it’s our most protected right.”

For an elected body to honor one of its own “is kind of a form of expression,” she added.

As for later embarrassments, Thurlow-Lippisch said “people are allowed to mess up. You can’t keep people from making mistakes. But I just think we should have the right to name a building.”

Commissioner Don Gaetz, a former senator and Senate President (2012-14), later got a laugh line out of the debate.

“I’m becoming increasingly concerned about the fate of the proposed ‘Don Gaetz Wastewater Treatment Plant,’ ” he said. “There were a number of people who said if I left the Senate, they would promise to name something fitting after me.”

Jimmy Patronis: Torch fees to freeze credit reports

In the wake of several high-profile data breaches, including one from major credit reporting agency Equifax earlier this year, state CFO Jimmy Patronis said he wants Floridians to be able to freeze their credit reports free of charge.

“Recent widespread data breaches at major companies have huge implications for our 20 million residents. Every Floridian should have the power to easily protect themselves and their families,” Patronis said. “No one should have to jump through hoops to prove their identity was compromised just to get a fee waived.”

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis believes Floridians should be able to freeze credit reports for free.

Patronis, who is running for election in 2018, said he will work with Ag Commissioner and GOP gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam to zero out the fees for Floridians in the 2018 Legislative Session.

“There shouldn’t be a fee, in any case, for credit report freezes. These fees serve one purpose: to generate more money for reporting agencies,” Patronis said.

Current law allows credit reporting agencies to charge up to $10 to lock down an individual’s credit, and the fee can only be bypassed if an applicant can prove identity theft or that other personal information has been compromised to get a fee waiver.

If successful, Florida would be the fifth state after Indiana, South Carolina, Maine and North Carolina to nix the freeze fees.

A DACA prayer circle comes to the Capitol

As pressure builds at Capitol Hill to figure out what to do with the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program before it goes away in March, proponents of it are coming to Tallahassee to hold a prayer circle.

The Florida Coalition for FWD.us, a Mark Zuckerberg-backed immigration advocacy group, is forming a Dreamer prayer circle Dec. 8 to pray for local and congressional legislators to protect DACA recipients.

Supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program plan to go to Tallahassee for a prayer circle.

If Congress does not pass a replacement for the program by March, approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children and are protected from immediate deportation under the program, could lose those protections and their legal working permits. Thousands of DACA recipients live in Florida.

The event will take place at 2 p.m. at the Capitol Courtyard, between the Capitol building and the Historic Capitol.

Instagram of the Week

We had a packed house in Jacksonville tonight! Thank you to everyone who joined us.

A post shared by Adam Putnam (@adam.putnam) on

Bob Cortes’ toy drive for Puerto Rico

State Rep. Bob Cortes, an Altamonte Springs Republican, writes us: “Hurricane Maria tore a path of devastation through the U.S. Virgin Islands and (left) Puerto Rico in its wake.

“While we have been working tirelessly together to bring relief to these islands, many of my fellow legislators have reached out to me asking how they can be of assistance in this tough time.

Bob Cortes is hosting a toy drive for Puerto Rico.

“There will be thousands of children impacted by this storm this holiday season. To bring some relief to their families, Representatives (Rene) Plasencia, (David) Santiago, (Mike) La Rosa, and myself are partnering with XL 106.7 and Rumba 100.3 and their Baby DJ program to provide gifts to brighten their holidays.

“We will be hosting a toy drive during the next committee week (Dec. 4-7) to donate to the Baby DJ program. Please consider bringing small (unwrapped) toys for both boys and girls next Monday through Friday to my office, 319C.

“It will no doubt bring joy to hurricane-affected children in this season of giving. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to my staff or visit my office. Thank you.”

Sarasota academy lands $250K grant from The Able Trust

The Able Trust this week awarded a Sarasota vocational training center with a $250,000 grant that will allow it to start up a program to help disabled Floridians land jobs.

The three-year grant will allow the Vincent Academy to establish and develop relationships with the Sarasota business community and give individual members a chance to join or rejoin their chosen careers.

The grant was presented to the Vincent Academy at an event attended by Republican Sen. Greg Steube and Republican Rep. Joe Gruters, both of whom represent the area in the legislature. Also attending were many business and community leaders from the area.

“The Vincent Academy does an excellent job of ensuring adults with mental health challenges are prepared for the workplace, and we are pleased to support them with this strategic grant,” said Able Trust chief Dr. Susanne Homant.

Vincent Academy director William McKeever said the training center was “truly grateful” for the generous community and partners such as The Able Trust.

“At the Vincent Academy, we equip adults with mental illnesses with the tools they need to have a productive, engaging workday,” he said. “We take great pride in our members and want to give them the best experience we possibly can, and the support we receive from The Able Trust helps us accomplish this goal.

The week in appointments

McNeill becomes Jefferson County sheriff — Gov. Rick Scott appointed Alfred “Mac” McNeill as the interim Sheriff of Jefferson County after the death of David Hobbs.

McNeill, “a military veteran with 20 years of law enforcement experience, … will serve and protect the families of Jefferson County exceptionally and with the utmost integrity,” Scott said in a statement. He’ll serve until Nov. 13, 2018.

The 46-year-old served with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as supervisor of the protection detail for Govs. Scott, Charlie Crist and Jeb Bush.

He also served in the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office 1997-2004 in various roles, including on the office’s SWAT team.

He got his undergraduate degree in criminal justice from Saint Leo University and is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.

Williams moves to circuit court — Scott appointed Michael Scott Williams to the 13th Judicial Circuit Court for Hillsborough County.

Williams, 45, of Valrico, has been a Hillsborough County Judge. He previously served as Special Counsel to the Office of Statewide Prosecution.

He got his undergraduate degree from Moravian College and a law degree from Villanova University School of Law.

Williams fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Daniel L. Perry.

Henderson promoted to circuit judge — Scott appointed Steven Henderson to the 7th Judicial Circuit Court.

Henderson, 45, of Port Orange, has been a Volusia County Judge. He previously was an Assistant State Attorney for the 7th Judicial Circuit, which includes Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns and Volusia counties.

He got his undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University and a law degree from Florida State University College of Law.

Henderson fills the vacancy created by the death of Judge Kellie J. Miles.

Inman to Manatee County Court — The governor appointed Renee L. Inman to the Manatee County Court.

Inman, 44, of Parrish, is currently a General Magistrate for the 12th Judicial Circuit (DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties), and previously acted as Court Counsel.

Before that, she practiced with Gross, Minsky, & Mogul, P.A.

She got her undergraduate degree from Indiana University and a law degree from Western New England College School of Law.

Inman fills the vacancy created by the appointment of Judge Charles Sniffen to the 12th Judicial Circuit Court.

Oster to Hillsborough County Court — Scott appointed Cynthia Sullivan Oster to the Hillsborough County Court.

Oster, 47, of Tampa, is currently a Senior Assistant County Attorney for Hillsborough County.

She previously was an Assistant State Attorney for the 13th Judicial Circuit (Hillsborough County) and an Assistant Public Defender for the 10th Judicial Circuit (Hardee, Highlands and Polk counties).

She got her undergraduate degree from the University of Florida and a law degree from Stetson University College of Law.

Oster fills the vacancy created by the appointment of Judge Jennifer X. Gabbard to the 13th Judicial Circuit Court.

Nominations sought for Lucy Morgan Award

The First Amendment Foundation (FAF) is accepting nominations for its “Lucy Morgan Award for Open Government Reporting,” named after the legendary Pulitzer Prize winner and retired St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times) Tallahassee bureau reporter.

The award is intended to honor a Florida journalist who “smartly uses public records to report stories exposing corruption, revealing government conflicts of interest or otherwise serving the public interest.”

Lucy Morgan, the grande dame of Florida investigative journalism.

The contest is open to all Florida journalists and there is no fee for entries. Journalists can nominate their own work. Nominations can also be made by supervisors or editors.

Entries must be submitted to the First Amendment Foundation at info@floridafaf.org by Dec. 15. The award will be presented at FAF’s annual Sunshine Luncheon Jan. 23, 2018, at the Governors Club in Tallahassee. For more info, contact rachel@floridafaf.org.

December brings an end to snook season in the Gulf

Florida fishermen have to move on to a new target when they voyage into the Gulf as the annual harvest for snook ended Dec. 1, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said.

Those looking to snag some snook still have a couple of weeks left so long as they make their way over to the Atlantic coast, or drop a line in Lake Okeechobee or the Kissimmee River. Just be sure the catch is over 28 inches long.

December brings an end to snook season.

It’d be hard to blame them as snook, also known as sergeant fish or robalo, is considered an excellent food fish so long as the skin is removed, otherwise anglers can become intimately familiar with its other nickname: “soap fish.”

FWC said the closure is designed to protect the snook population during vulnerable times, such as cold weather. The season reopens in the Gulf March 1, and in other waters Feb. 1.

Old Xmas lights? Recycle ‘em in Leon County

Making the switch to energy-efficient LED holiday lights? Don’t know what to do with those old or no-longer-working strings of holiday lights? Either way, recycle unwanted light strings with Leon County, which accepts holiday lights for recycling year-round.

Lights are accepted at the next Household Hazardous Waste & Electronics Collection today from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Public Works Operations Center, 2280 Miccosukee Road. (Businesses and other agencies must call (850) 606-1816 to make an appointment to drop off their items.)

Leon County is calling residents to recycle old Christmas lights.

Residents also may bring up to 50 pounds of hazardous waste, in addition to electronics. Only one large-screen television per vehicle will be accepted. Propane tanks must weigh less than 40 pounds and there is a limit of one tire per participant. There is also a limit of 25 fluorescent tubes per vehicle at the collection event.

Medical sharps, medicines and radioactive waste cannot be accepted. The division also cannot accept bulky wastes such as appliances — refrigerators, stoves/ovens, washing machines, dryers, etc. — furniture, yard waste, construction and demolition debris, household garbage or Styrofoam.

For more information, call the Leon County Hazardous Waste Center at (850) 606-1803 or visit LeonCountyFL.gov/HHW for the complete collection schedule and safe packing guide.

Winter Festival sets up shop in capital

This is out of our usual order because it’s BIG news in Tally: Yes, the Winter Festival is here.

Give the city’s copywriters credit, they tried: “This weekend, flurries of fun will be floating through downtown as the 31st annual ‘Winter Festival — A Celebration of Lights, Music and the Arts’ takes place.”

From 3-10 p.m. today, downtown Tallahassee will be transformed into a winter wonderland complete with holiday wreaths, merry music and sparkling lights.

Tally’s Winter Festival has arrived!

The festival includes the lighting ceremony (6 p.m.), Capital Health Plan Jingle Bell Run (6:15 p.m.), Nighttime Holiday Parade (7:15 p.m.) and lots more.

It also features five stages of local live entertainment, a “Candy Cane Lane” exhibit with special live candy-making demonstrations by Lofty Pursuits, a children’s activity area on Kleman Plaza, food vendors, arts and crafts merchants and holiday illumination displays.

The holiday fun continues past Winter Festival. This year, the Candy Cane Lane exhibit in McCarty Park will be open the week following Winter Festival Saturday, Dec. 2.

From Sunday, Dec. 3, to Sunday, Dec. 10, Candy Cane Lane will be open nightly from 6-9 p.m. Bring the whole family to see the fun, festive displays.

For more information, visit Talgov.com or call at 891-FUNN (3866).

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

 

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.1.17

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

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

Gwen Graham is moving to Orlando.

At least her gubernatorial campaign is doing so. The campaign confirmed Thursday that it’s moving its headquarters from Tallahassee, her home for decades, to settle into the City Beautiful, taking advantage of its centralized location to better accommodate campaigning and putting a focus on the I-4 corridor battle.

The campaign expects to open an Orlando-area headquarters “in coming months” while keeping its Tallahassee office open, according to a statement.

Gwen Graham is moving to Orlando.

“Gwen learned in 2014 to win in Florida you have to talk to every voter in every community. From day one of her gubernatorial campaign, we have been dedicated to building a statewide operation,” campaign manager Julia Woodward said in the statement. “Opening an Orlando area headquarters will allow us to reach even more voters along the I-4 corridor and easily travel to any corner of this state.”

She is not, her campaign implied, giving up on North Florida, where her father, former U.S. Sen. and former Gov. Bob Graham, always fared well, and where she was elected to Congress.

Graham will be moving her campaign from sharing a town with rival Democratic candidate Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, to sharing a town with fellow Democratic candidate Chris King, a Winter Park businessman.

King sent a welcome basket, of sorts.

“Kristen & I are pleased to welcome @GwenGraham to Central FL,” King tweeted. “This community raised me, educated me & has lifted my candidacy to serve as the next #FlGov. I Trust Gwen will find my hometown a diverse, dynamic & welcoming place.”

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— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Warring websites offer preview of 2018 Senate race via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Welcome to the website wars of Florida’s 2018 U.S. Senate race. The latest salvo is being fired off Friday by Republicans who established “Back Bench Bill,” a website that draws heavily on a post-Thanksgiving rant from Democratic donor John Morgan, who told POLITICO that Nelson should run for governor and not for reelection because “in the Senate he accomplishes nothing. As governor, he could have a legacy.” … Earlier this week, Florida Democrats launched their own website, “Rick’s Recession,” targeting Scott, who is facing term limits and is widely expected to announce a bid against Nelson by spring. The website, established by the liberal For Our Future Action Fund super PAC, hits Scott at a perceived strength of his: job creation.

BBQ and politics: More than 450 supporters joined Republican candidate for Governor Adam Putnam in the barn of the Diamond D Ranch outside Jacksonville on Thursday evening.

Philip Levine not as generous as Democratic rivals on minimum wage” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — Levine has made raising the minimum wage a central part of his campaign for the Democratic nomination, but in contrast to Democratic rivals Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham and Chris King, Levine is not endorsing a statewide minimum wage of $15 an hour. “What I’m proposing is this — come up with a number that’s fair across the state, but let the local communities decide what’s right,” Levine said on This Week in South Florida … “Remember something — In Miami Beach, it costs a lot more to buy a hamburger than it does up in Tallahassee, so why should we have the same minimum living wage? So, we should let our communities decide. “

Assignment editorsLevine will speak at the West Palm Beach Democratic Club Holiday Party, 6:45 p.m., McMow Art Glass, 701 N. Dixie Highway, Lake Worth.

Mario Diaz-Balart’s district now rated ‘safe Republican’” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Diaz-Balart hasn’t drawn a big-name challenger in 2018 yet, prompting Sabato’s Crystal Ball managing editor Kyle Kondik to move Diaz-Balart’s re-election chances from “likely Republican” to “safe Republican” … Currently, Diaz-Balart faces nominal Democratic opposition from Alina Valdes, who handily lost to Diaz-Balart in 2016. She has raised barely over $1000 in her bid to take on the longtime Republican. Kondik rates Rep. Carlos Curbelo‘s re-election chances as a “toss-up,” though he referred to the Miami Republican as one of the party’s “best incumbents.”

Chris Anderson withdraws from HD 28 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Anderson’s withdrawal … clears the Republican field for front-runner David Smith of Winter Springs for a showdown with Democrat Lee Mangold for a seat vacated by Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur. Anderson, a Seminole County deputy sheriff, entered the race in June and came in with almost $10,000 raised that first month, but has raised no money since then.

Happening Sunday — HD 93 hopeful Emma Collum will be holding a meet-and-greet fundraiser in Lighthouse Point from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Address provided upon RSVP at Lindsaypollard1@gmail.com.

Florida Democrats request for earlier special election dates to get day in court” via Florida Politics — Florida Democrats last week requested an injunction to move up the dates for a pair of South Florida special elections and the motion is set to get its day in court Dec. 7 … The motion, filed in Leon County circuit court, aims to get new dates for special elections in House District 114 and Senate District 31 so new lawmakers can be in place for at least a portion of the 2018 Legislative Session, which runs for 60 days beginning Jan. 9. SD 31 was vacated by Lake Worth Democrat Jeff Clemens on Oct. 27 after he acknowledged an affair with a lobbyist, while HD 114 was vacated by Coral Gables Democrat Daisy Baez at the beginning of November after she agreed to plead guilty to perjury in a case related to her legal residency.

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— CRC —

Brecht Heuchan says ethics complaint is part of ‘smear campaign’ ” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A member of the Constitution Revision Commission says he’s become the victim of a “smear campaign” after proposing a constitutional amendment creating a “bill of rights” for nursing home and assisted living facility residents. On Wednesday, Conwell Hooper, head of an Atlanta-based group called the American Senior Alliance, issued a news release that he had filed a state ethics complaint against Commissioner Brecht Heuchan for filing a “special interest proposal designed to boost the bottom line of one law firm” … Hooper explained that Heuchan “is a paid, registered lobbyist for Wilkes & McHugh, a law firm that specializes in personal injury cases against nursing homes” … Heuchan suggested American Senior Alliance is what’s known as an AstroTurf group working with the Florida Health Care Association, a nursing-home advocacy group that has slammed his proposal.

— L’AFFAIRE LATVALA —

Sexual harassment complaint against Jack Latvala released” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — A three-page sexual harassment complaint against Sen. Jack Latvala by Rachel Perrin Rogers earlier this month was released Thursday. She lists six grievances from her interactions with the Clearwater Republican that stretch back four years. In them, she alleges he made unwelcome sexual comments about her clothes, breasts and legs, and that the weeks leading to filing the complaint he “assaulted” her in a state Capitol elevator. Steve Andrews, one of Latvala’s attorneys, denies all the claims in the complaint, adding that if the verbal harassment occurred as she says, Latvala did not do so with intent. Her attorney, Tiffany Cruz, said that is not a valid defense. With the release of the complaint, the name of the accuser and text message exchanges between the two in just one day, Andrews said there is a sense of “urgency” to conclude the Senate probe. He said it could be resolved as soon as next week.

Rick Scott: Jack Latvala a ‘distraction’ in state Senate over ‘absolutely disgusting’ sexual harassment claims” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — “Any allegation of sexual harassment is absolutely disgusting, and behavior like this is not acceptable. It is obvious that Senator Latvala remaining in the Senate is a distraction,” Scott told POLITICO. “It seems that everyone in Tallahassee is talking about this and not how to make Florida better,” Scott said. Latvala could face a range of consequences — including expulsion — from his fellow senators as the case proceeds. Scott, who has swiftly condemned wrongdoing from other public officials in other cases, made it clear that he could weigh in as the investigation continues. “It is my understanding that there’s an investigation underway, and when that is complete, the Senate will have a decision to make,” Scott said. “As I have said all along, if these allegations are true, he must resign immediately. Last year, I championed a bill to protect state employees who were victims of sexual harassment at work, and my office is working on additional actions to continue to fight for victims.”

Tweet, tweet:

“Richard Corcoran blasts Latvala via Jim DeFede of CBS Miami — Richard Corcoran reiterated his call for [Jack] Latvala to resign saying “the reports are grotesque.” DeFede asked Corcoran if he has any relationship with Rogers, [her husband Brian] Hughes, or if he played any role in the complaint against Latvala. “The answer is none,” Corcoran said. “But I want to address that point. The answer is zero, none, never hired them, never participated with them, never worked with them, on any level, past, present or future. None. But the question and that argument is so offensive, Jim. It’s so offensive. So you are telling me that had that been true, had I had a relationship with Brian Hughes, a relationship with his wife, somehow, someway in a work capacity, you are telling me that because of that relationship it disqualifies a woman from being sexually harassed and groped. That’s just offensive. I don’t care if it was my sister, my mother, my campaign manager, nobody – nobody – should be subject to sexual harassment and disqualified because of relationships. It’s offensive at the highest level.” Corcoran said Latvala should resign because “there’s been an admission he kissed a lobbyist.” That kiss, filmed by a private investigator, was reportedly consensual. Corcoran said whether it was consensual or not wasn’t the issue.

State settled 11 sexual harassment cases without payout agreement” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — While the state has paid $11 million to settle sexual harassment workplace disputes over 30 years, records released Thursday show it also settled nearly a dozen cases that resulted in a zero-dollar payout. Florida Politics requested documents from the state Department of Financial Services, which list 11 state workers — both men and women — alleging sexual harassment, sexual assault and battery, or exposed to a hostile work environment in a state prison. The cases range from a woman claiming sexual harassment, assault and battery while working at the Department of Transportation to a man and a woman reporting sexual harassment and retaliation while at the Collateral Regional Counsel for the Middle Region.

Meanwhile … “Ron DeSantis seeks to end secret sex suit settlements in Congress” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — “What does it say about the sincerity of Congress in combating harassment when members and staff can have taxpayers cover for their misconduct while keeping it all secret?” DeSantis said in a news release … The Ponte Vedra Republican was joined by Tennessee Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Democratic U.S. Reps. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Jim Cooper of Tennessee, and Kathleen Rice of New York in announcing late Wednesday they are introducing a bill that would ban tax dollars paying sexual misconduct lawsuit settlements, and ban the requirement of nondisclosure agreements in such settlements involving members or staff of Congress. The bill also seeks to nullify existing nondisclosure agreements, so that alleged victims of sexual misconduct by members of Congress or their staff members would become free to talk about it.

— STATEWIDE —

Correction: We inadvertently repeated a mistake in Thursday’s edition of an item from The Capitolist, which mistakenly referred to McKinley Lewis as Gov. Scott’s “spokeswoman.” Mr. Lewis is a man. On behalf of Capitolist publisher Brian Burgess and ourselves, we regret the error.

We apologize to McKinley Lewis, who is definitely not a woman.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will visit Highlands Elementary School in Collier County to “highlight record K-12 education investments in his Securing Florida’s Future budget,” according to a release. Highlands Elementary School, 1101 Lake Trafford Road, Immokalee. 9:30 a.m.

Over 200,000 Puerto Ricans have arrived in Florida since Hurricane Maria” via Carmen Sesin of NBC News — … obliterating initial conservative estimates that had put the number at 100,000. According to the Florida Division of Emergency Management, over 204,000 people from Puerto Rico have landed at airports in Miami, Orlando and Tampa since Oct. 3. A total of 7,756 Puerto Rican students have enrolled in Florida public schools during the same period. The most significant number of enrollments are in Orange and Osceola counties in Central Florida, which has the densest concentration of Puerto Ricans. Many universities in the state have also waived out-of-state tuition fees for Puerto Rican students.

Citizens paid premiums to entice adjusters after Hurricane Irma” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — Pay rates for insurance adjusters jumped by up to 30 percent as Citizens Property Insurance Corp. scrambled to respond to claims following Hurricane Irma, the carrier’s Consumer Service Committee learned … The hikes were prompted by competition for trained adjusters with Texas, still recovering from Hurricane Harvey when Irma hit Florida. Texas had boosted payments to adjusters, including bonuses, chief claims officer Jay Adams said. “We were trying to equal the market rate they were paying in Texas, so that we could get adjusters … to come to Florida to work for Citizens,” he said. Rates have since returned to their pre-Irma baseline.

Florida Supreme Court justice Barbara Pariente.

NRA lobbyist targets Barbara Pariente” via Dara Kam and Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Marion Hammer launched a campaign this week to purge Florida Supreme Court Justice Pariente from a case that could have far-reaching implications for the makeup of the court. Hammer sent an email alert to NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida “members and friends” urging them to tell Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and Pariente that “she must recuse or resign” from her post. “Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente has been caught in an act of what we believe is clear judicial misconduct and must recuse herself,” Hammer wrote, attaching an editorial penned by conservative political consultant Justin Sayfie. In the email, Hammer wrote there “is no other appropriate option” for Pariente than recusal or resignation. Hammer’s alert went out just as the court issued an order rejecting Scott’s request that Pariente is disqualified from the case. The presiding law in similar cases says that justices, not the entire court, get to decide whether to recuse themselves. Hammer said the court’s decision didn’t matter: “She can recuse or resign at any time, and those are the only realistic options that are available.”

Tweet, tweet:

— THE LATEST MUST-READ FROM CAROL MARBIN MILLER — 

A recent report by the Miami Herald unveiled a dark glimpse of living environments inside Florida’s juvenile justice facilities.

The report, which follows “Fight Club,” the Herald’s six-part investigative series on state juvenile detention centers, details poor conditions in Bradenton, Miami-Dade and Broward County facilities.

— An overflow of sewage occurred in Manatee Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Youths in the Bradenton facility said they could not take showers due to the structural problems. Records show DJJ spent $227 on lice shampoo at around the same time.

— Two girls showed Ft. Lauderdale Rep. Bobby B. DuBose a rash of ant bites during his tour of a Broward detention center.

— Records from the Miami-Dade lockup showed exposed plumbing fixtures, widespread graffiti, peeling paint, moldy bathroom floors, dirt and grime on the concrete slabs where youths sleep and filthy living areas.

Vincent Schiraldi, a senior research scientist and social work adjunct professor at Columbia, said the Miami records “depict how routinized deplorable conditions have become in Florida’s youth prisons.”

— Child welfare court judges were refusing to work at the Miami juvenile justice lockup due to its poor condition.

— Department of Health Spox Brad Dalton said DOH inspects the kitchen and pharmacy at the centers, but not living quarters or bathrooms and their amenities — same goes for adult prisons.

— Democratic Miami Rep. David Richardson to DJJ Secretary Christina K. Daly: “You haven’t been given the money you need to do the work. You were given a tube of glue and some yarn and paper clips and rubber bands, and told to build a mausoleum.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

AFP slams Marco Rubio-backed amendment to GOP tax bill” via Florida Politics — Americans for Prosperity blasted an amendment to the Republican tax reform bill put forward by U.S. Sens. Rubio and Mike Lee, saying it would “undermine” the plan’s supposed benefit to families. The Rubio-Lee amendment sets the corporate tax rate at 22 percent, compared to the 20 percent rate in the current GOP tax bill. The group said 20 percent is the line for a “pro-growth, competitive” rate. “The Rubio-Lee Amendment breaks the promise of the unified framework at the eleventh hour by raising the corporate tax rate to an unacceptable level. Worse, it does so in exchange for a tax credit that doesn’t directly achieve the economic growth that families need. American families would reap greater economic benefits from a level playing field, cutting of special-interest handouts, and low, flat rates for individuals and businesses alike,” said AFP President Tim Phillips.

— OPINIONS —

Bill Cotterell: Are the parties and politicians all the same?” via the Tallahassee Democrat — John Morgan’s decision not to seek the Democratic nomination for governor next year was not surprising, but it was disappointing for those of us who were hoping he would bring some entertainment to the race. In announcing his decision, Morgan made one observation that, unfortunately, speaks for millions. “And I can’t muster enthusiasm for any of today’s politicians. They are all the same. Both parties,” he wrote. “I plan to register as an Independent and when I vote, vote for the lesser of two evils. And I if ever ran, run as an Independent.” It’s sad that such an intelligent and accomplished man, one with ideas and the resources to actively advance them, feels the same malaise afflicting so many voters. So, is Morgan right? Is there really “not a dime’s worth of difference,” between the parties? There are disagreements on wedge issues, used for tactical advantage, but not great principle differences. Morgan’s “they are all the same” disillusionment is correct, in that candidates align with the party that fits them best. Maybe we should copy some European countries that have Conservative and Liberal parties. Then, aspiring candidates could decide what they believe, and voters would know what they’re getting.

George Will: The Supreme Court should let states set their own sports gambling laws via The Washington Post — On Monday, the Supreme Court will listen — with, one hopes, a mixture of bemusement and amusement — to arguments concerning another prohibition. This one concerns a law banning what many millions of Americans do anyway — illegally betting between $150 billion and $400 billion annually on sports events. Illegality prevents precise knowledge, but if the sum is just $150 billion, that sum exceeds the combined revenue of Microsoft, Goldman Sachs and McDonald’s. The court’s nine fine minds need not, and should not, trouble themselves with the question of whether this particular prohibition is sensible. They should, however, defend federalism by telling the national government to stop telling state governments what laws they cannot change. An amicus brief supporting New Jersey argues that federalism precludes the national government from forbidding a state to pass a law “that neither violates the Constitution nor addresses any matter pre-empted by federal law.” Congress has not chosen, as it could, to prohibit sports betting; instead, Congress has paralyzed states, preventing them from changing laws that such betting violates and effectively commandeering state resources to enforce a policy that the state dislikes. The brief also says: “Depriving the body that enacted a law of the ability to repeal or amend that law defeats the purpose of representative democracy.” Congress may not prevent the state from repealing such prohibition. In either case, the state is being forced to regulate behavior it would prefer to deregulate or to regulate in its own manner.

— MOVEMENTS —

Facebook status of the day:

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Daphnie Bercher, GrayRobinson: Lee County Board of County Commissioners

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Galt Plaza Apartments d/b/a Coral Ridge Towers North

Allison Carter, The Fiorentino Group: Florida Electric Cooperatives Association

Rosanna Manuela Catalano, Capitol Energy Florida: Florida Smoke-Free Association

Jose Fuentes, Becker & Poliakoff: Florida Delegation, Southeast U.S./Japan Association

Dean Izzo, Capital City Consulting: Express Food Mart

Yolanda Cash Jackson, Karen Skyers, Becker & Poliakoff: Heart Gallery of Broward

Nicholas Matthews, Becker & Poliakoff: Florida Association of Local Housing Finance Authorities

David Ramba, Allison Carvajal, Evan Power, Ramba Consulting Group: Academica

Alex Villalobos, Florida Legislative Research: Cuban Museum

— WEEKEND TV —

Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: “Young, gifted and black” with millennial entrepreneurs Beatrice Sims and Forrest Jonston.

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: Panelists this week include Founder and CEO of ARC Capital Rita Ferrandino; Tampa Bay Times reporter Chris O’Donnell; Kathleen McGrory of the Tampa Bay Times and Pasco County GOP State Committee member Bill Bunting.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion on Florida’s legislative process, lawmaking and the legislative hierarchy at the state-level in Tallahassee with Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur of Sanford and professor Aubrey Jewett of the University of Central Florida.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida’s 11th Congressional District will discuss the Republican tax plan currently under consideration in Washington, D.C.; U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson talks tax reform legislation; PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter rates a claim by House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin about the House GOP tax plan, and whether it would save a typical family around $1200 a year on taxes.

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

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests: Florida Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville; foreign policy expert Dr. Michael Desch of Notre Dame University; Rick Mullaney of the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute; Kathleen Schofield, Director, Programs and Policy, Northeast Florida Regional STEM2 Hub; Alexandra Vlachakis, Career and Technical Education director for Duval County Public Schools and Dr. Betina Malhotra, program manager for FSCJ’s regional partnership with Code.org.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg hold a weekly roundtable with newsmakers.

— ALOE —

Upside down Christmas trees for $1,000 baffle the internet” via WFLA — One of the Christmas crazes this year is the upside down holiday tree. It’s selling over the internet for up to $1,000. Twitter users are expressing surprise and confusion when they discovered stores such as Target, Home Depot, Walmart and Kohl’s offering artificial Christmas trees designed to look like an upside-down conifer. Apparently, the upside-down Christmas tree is nothing new. They’ve existed for centuries in Slavic countries, including Poland. A spruce tree hung upside down from the ceiling is considered a religious symbol. Plus, they do a better job of displaying ornaments.

It’s a thing now.

Happy birthday to Brian Bautista of Southern Strategy Group, Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times, Mitch Wertheimer, and Amy Young.

Last Call for 11.30.17 – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

As another committee week of the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) comes to a close, members are looking ahead at the heavy workload, with just under 100 substantive proposals to consider.

The commission’s Rules Committee has laid out a course to get to the May 10 finish line, when members must wrap up all work.

But that includes continued committee meetings on Jan. 11-12, Jan. 18-19, Jan. 25-26 and Feb. 1-2.

Capitol insiders know well that overlaps with the 2018 Legislative Session, which takes place earlier than usual this year—over January and February, rather than March and April.

That also creates a potential space conflict with the Florida Senate, which is hosting the commission. The full CRC has met in the Senate chambers, with committees taking up various rooms in the Senate Office Building.

CRC Executive Director Jeff Woodburn told commissioners he’s looking at alternate locations in Tallahassee during session, including Florida State University’s Turnbull Conference Center and the 1st District Court of Appeal courthouse on the southeast side of town.

Commissioners also plan to hit the road once again for a public comment tour across the state in the weeks of Feb. 5, Feb. 19, Feb. 26 and March 12.

Evening Reads

Florida ranks near top of business tax climate ranking” via Andrew Burger of Florida Watchdog

Ron DeSantis seeks to end secret sex suit settlements in Congress” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Phillip Levine not as generous as Democratic rivals on minimum wage” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Busted toilets, peeling paint, sewage backups, lice: a peek inside juvenile lockups” via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald

Citizens paid premiums to entice adjusters after Hurricane Irma” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics

Prominent Republicans say Scott killed CFO proposal to help political ally” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Greyhound racing ban clears first CRC committee” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

Florida A&M University picks familiar face as president” via the Associated Press

Officer who punched Miami fan on video cleared of wrongdoing” via The Miami Herald

Quote of the Day

“You haven’t heard from the industry today. And that too should be a lesson. They’re not here because they knew they could not win today. But they’re not gone. They operate in the shadows.” —Sen. Tom Lee, speaking Thursday at a Constitution Revision Commission meeting on his plan to ban greyhound racing.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

The Florida Board of Medicine will meet in Orange County and take up numerous disciplinary issues from across the state. That’s at 8 a.m., Rosen Plaza Hotel, 9700 International Dr., Orlando.

The Florida Historical Commission is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m., R.A. Gray Building, 500 South Bronough St., Tallahassee.

The Florida Board of Veterinary Medicine is scheduled to meet in Nassau County at 9 a.m., Residence Inn Amelia Island, 2301 Sadler Road, Fernandina Beach.

The state Board of Acupuncture is slated to meet in Duval County at 9 a.m., Embassy Suites Jacksonville, Baymeadows, 9300 Baymeadows Road, Jacksonville.

The State Consumer Health Information and Policy Advisory Council, which discusses issues related to the public reporting of health-care data, will meet at 1 p.m., Agency for Health Care Administration, 2727 Mahan Dr., Tallahassee.

Marc Caputo and me; how a bromance turned into a blood feud

“This is the day I begin to say ‘Yes’ to working with you.”

Those were the magical words of reporter Marc Caputo.

By late 2014, Caputo was so fed up with his bosses at the Miami Herald that he was willing to entertain the idea of working for me, the publisher of a controversial, Tampa Bay-centric blog (SaintPetersBlog.com) and a fledgling, statewide political news website (FloridaPolitics.com).

Caputo had previously said rejected working for me on multiple occasions, but I was persistent. I first proposed the idea to him at a South Florida hotel bar, which we had enlisted to cover better the unsurprising result of the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary (Charlie Crist beat Nan Rich  shocking).

During the several discussions I had with Caputo, it was never an issue for him about this incredibly talented reporter coming to work for a pirate ship of a news organization. No, it was about the money and, explicitly, how he would remain financially protected even if something happened to me.

So I went to my investor pool, explaining Caputo was on the line; if we wanted to reel him in, not only would I need money for his outsized salary (he was seeking approximately $120,000 annually), but to make Caputo comfortable, I would also need a chunk of that immediately.

Caputo wanted six months of salary placed in a sort of escrow account, available in the event my company folded (or something happened to me politically) that would disrupt my ability to pay him.

It was a lot to ask, but the chance to get a reporter of Caputo’s stature, we would have paid Alex Rodriguez money.

That’s why I was a little nervous that day when he called and said he’d work for me. I was about to be responsible for a big monthly nut.

Caputo was also talking about wanting to bring along rising star reporter Patricia Mazzei — for another sizable chunk of change.

My courtship of Caputo was becoming very expensive. But here he was, telling me I had the inside track on landing, arguably, the best political reporter in the state.

He told me both Huffington Post and POLITICO was also in the mix, but if I could meet his salary needs and make him feel secure about that salary, he was ready to pull the trigger.

I was so excited; I began sharing the news with some advertising and strategic partners. Some already knew because Caputo had reached out to them to gauge their reaction to him working for me.

I took that as a positive sign.

“Caputo’s coming to work for me!” I kept saying to myself.

Imagine my surprise the morning the first edition of Florida Playbook landed in my email inbox — with Caputo’s name emblazoned across the top.

Not only was he NOT going to work for me, but he was to produce a product which directly challenged my Sunburn email program.

Thanks for the heads-up, Marc.

However,  I am a devout Catholic (like Marc, I believe), and — somehow — what he did falls under the heading of “turning-the-other-cheek.”

And, as much as I was heartbroken that Marc would not be joining my enterprises, I was genuinely happy for him — he had escaped a horrible situation at the Herald.

And that’s how we started to become genuine friends.

Instead of making Caputo a rival or an enemy — I have enough of them already — I did my best befriend him. I would offer advice on how to survive the life-changing rigor of producing a morning email (there’s a reason why Andrew Sullivan quit blogging), while he would rewrite my pedestrian ledes. We would exchange news tips and hyperlinks for each other’s newsletters, while still competing on breaking news (one of my favorite memories of Marc was the groan he made when I called him to tell him I was about to beat him on the Ritch Workman working for Uber story).

When one of us would get into a Twitter fight (something that happened almost daily), we backed each other up. We’d appear at panels together. We’d drink together whenever we were both in Tallahassee.

On a couple of occasions, I even brought Caputo, clad in his trademark dirty white T-shirt, into the members-only Governors Club. (Trust me when I say that did not go over well with some members.)

Everything was going along swimmingly. That is until Jeb and Marco.

During the second-half of 2015, both Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio were running to be president of the United States. In Florida politics, it divided many loyalties, including, as it turns out, Caputo and me.

It was no secret I was a bannerman to House Bush, and loyal and protective of those who worked for him. Caputo, meanwhile, was primarily a house organ for the Rubio campaign.

As the bad blood between Bush and Rubio made civil hands unclean, the tension between Caputo and I increased, if for no other reason than we were competing for some of the same stories about the presidential campaign.

I’m not exactly sure what happened, but at some point in late 2015 Caputo got cross-wired with the Bush campaign. So Caputo did what Caputo does: He bit the hands which previously fed him.

Of course, the Bush campaign did itself no favors, making mistake after mistake on the campaign trail, while getting beat at the polls by a former reality television star who would eventually win the White House.

Unfortunately for all involved, there seemed to be some direct relationship between how poorly the Bush campaign was faring with how aggressive Caputo would be with his coverage. There was no doubt Caputo was acting the bully.

In January of 2016, I decided to wrap my fist around a rolled-up sleeve of quarters and punch the bully in the nose. So I took Caputo to task after he attacked Bush staffers David Kochel, who was battling cancer, and Paul Lindsay, whom Caputo called a “catamite.”

All I did in that post — which I gave Marc a heads-up — was simply to ask him to take it down a notch.

Little did I know that, by hitting the publish button, I would be starting a blood feud.

At first, Caputo was only mildly upset with me calling him out. Over the next 24 hours after publication, we spoke several times. But then the post began to go semi-viral, making its way out of Florida and into the D.C. echo chamber.

It’s been hell ever since.

Caputo has attacked my staff and me viciously via Twitter, labeling me a “pay-to-play” liar, as well as many other choice descriptors. We have screamed at each other offline. We’ve exchanged nasty emails and texts. We’ve fought proxy wars through various news stories. All the while we’ve made several mutual friends — from POLITICO Florida bureau chief Matt Dixon to the public relations professionals who have to work with us — very uncomfortable.

I expected Caputo to be upset with me for writing the post, but I thought his anger would last a week, maybe two.

I did not expect him to become a lifelong enemy.

Unfortunately, Caputo’s demons have sat on his shoulders long enough that they have convinced him that my entire befriending of him was part of some Rube Goldbergesque plot to trap him in a controversy — as some way to help the Bush campaign.

I kid you not; this is what he tells people, only with more detail and many more curse words.

In my reaction to Caputo’s attacks, I’ve been no angel. When he hits me on Twitter, I fire back on my blog. If we saw each other on the street, it’s likely one of us would be on the ground by the time the other reached the end of the block.

But what’s really making this rivalry toxic is our coverage of the scandal surrounding state Sen. Jack Latvala.

Even though I was the person who first wrote “the Harvey Weinsteins of Florida politics are hiding in plain sight,” Caputo has portrayed me as the “villain in your history.” He accused me of “soliciting” women to come forward with stories of sexual harassment by lawmakers only to launch a “counteroffensive” on Latvala’s behalf.

I’ve rarely been as proud of something I’ve written as I am that “hiding in plain sight” column, yet Caputo has turned my stance on the issue into yet another weapon of attack.

Throughout the last month, Caputo has, again and again, called me a liar. He’s blocked me on Twitter, so I only learn about his attacks secondhand. However, Caputo made a fateful mistake last month when he decided to unblock me and respond directly to one of my tweets.

Caputo said directly I was lying when I wrote about how he had accepted an under-the-table payment from me to write a story for INFLUENCE Magazine about the South Florida lobbying industry.

Because I can prove this to be the truth, I’ve instructed my lawyers to pursue a retraction from POLITICO and, possibly, a defamation suit against Caputo.

Because Marc very much took $1,000 from me to write the story on page 82 of the Spring edition of INFLUENCE Magazine.

Well, I shouldn’t say Marc took the $1,000 to write the story; bravely, Marc actually had me send the money to his wife just to avoid the exact situation we are currently in.

Here’s a screen grab where Caputo acknowledges the overnight shipment of the payment:

In addition to ghostwriting that story, Caputo also wrote this attack on Tampa Bay Times editor Adam Smith. Read that piece about Smith and any longtime reader of Caputo will recognize his craftsmanship.

Does it make me look good to admit that Caputo ghostwrote for me? No, of course. But the point here is that Caputo swims in the same end of the pool as I do.

Caputo can lie just as well I can. He can also be paid-to-play just as easily as I can.

In fact, some may wonder: If Caputo took a $1,000 from me to write about lobbyists, did he take money from anyone else to write about something else? After all, what can Caputo say, “I only took money from Schorsch that one time?”

Well … he’s consistently lied about taking the money from me, why believe him now?

A better question may be this: What would Caputo’s bosses at POLITICO think about his previous moonlighting. Would The Associated Press tolerate it? Would the Times/Herald?

It’s doubtful.

I take no pleasure in outing Marc like this, but as long as he continues to call my ethics into question, this is a matter of the pot calling the kettle scumbag.

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