Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 of 214

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,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

Florida ‘crossover’ congressional districts give Democrats glimmer of hope in 2018

Democrats could be in for more election woes in 2018, according to a new post from political blog Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

In the post, author Kyle Kondik gives a rundown of the 2016 cycle’s “crossover” congressional seats – districts that voted for one party on the congressional level, and another for president.

There were 26 such seats in the 2012 cycle, and 2016 saw an increase to 35.

A dozen of the crossover seats sent a Democrat to Congress and backed Republican Donald Trump for president, while the remainder, including Florida’s 26th and 27th Congressional Districts, voted a Republican into Congress while backing Democrat Hillary Clinton for president.

Despite the jump in crossover seats, Kondik writes that the Clinton versus Trump election may not be an “accurate gauge” of these seats true partisan leans, and says most of the districts are “more competitive on paper than in practice.”

On the whole, the crossover seats picked up by Democrats had a much narrower vote than the seats picked up by Republicans, and one Democrat, Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind, didn’t even face a major party opponent.

When it comes to Florida’s two crossover seats, CD 26 Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo had the benefit of running against “scandal-tarred” former Rep. Joe Garcia, while and CD 27 Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen consistently polled ahead of Trump throughout the election cycle.

Kondik called Ros-Lehtinen one of the GOP’s “most skilled incumbents” and noted that she is the incumbent in the most Democratic-leaning seat any Republican holds, which bodes well for the Republican Party.

Kondik also said the GOP has a much firmer grasp on their Congressional seats than Democrats did in 2010, when Republicans won the midterm election by a landslide. Democrats lost 48 House seats, and their majority, in that cycle.

“Republicans today are only about half as overextended, and it’s an open question as to whether Democrats can legitimately contend for many of these Clinton-Republican seats,” Kondik said.

Tallahassee entrepreneur Rick Kearney boosts Florida Competes campaign with $100K

Rick Kearney

Florida’s effort to create statewide anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity received a substantial boost.

On Thursday, Tallahassee tech entrepreneur and philanthropist Rick Kearney gave $100,000 to Florida Competes, the coalition of businesses working to pass the Florida Competitive Workforce Act.

Kearney’s check is the largest single donation to Florida Competes so far.

The bipartisan Workforce Act is once again in the Florida Legislature, filed earlier this month in the House (HB 623) by Democrat Ben Diamond of St. Petersburg and Rene Plasencia, a Titusville Republican. Lake Worth Democrat Jeff Clemens filed the Senate version (SB 666).

Both bills seek to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, which bars such discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex national origin, age, handicap, pregnancy or marital status. Supporters of the Workforce Act say it will make the state more competitive both nationally and globally by attracting the best workers through statewide anti-discrimination protections.

Kearney, who serves as chairman and CEO of the Tallahassee-based Mainline Information Systems, said in a statement the donation represents a “longstanding commitment to LGBT equality” and is an investment in improving Florida’s reputation as a place of equality and inclusion.

“I’m proud to stand with Florida’s business leaders to advocate for equality for all,” he said, “by adding these overdue protections to Florida’s civil rights statute.”

In thanking Kearney, Florida Competes representative Christina Johnson said the group appreciates anyone who “embrace corporate policies of inclusion and respect for all people.”

Kearney is a longtime supporter of community economic development and is a chair of ITFlorida, a nonprofit established to promote technology throughout the Sunshine State. Kearny has received several awards, including Tallahassee Distinguished Leader of the Year and Jim Moran Enterprises 2000 Entrepreneur of the Year, as well as the inaugural Ethics in Business award from the Tallahassee Rotary Club. He has also been named Entrepreneur of the Decade by the Jim Moran Institute; and Philanthropist of the Year by the Northwest Florida Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Previously known as the Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce coalition, Florida Competes consists of more than 450 small and dozens large businesses throughout Florida, in addition to Fortune 500 Companies such as AT&T, CSX, Darden Restaurants, Marriott, NextEra Energy, Office Depot, Raymond James, Tech Data, Walt Disney World Resort and Wells Fargo.

For more information on the Florida Competes coalition visit, Twitter or Facebook.

Ben Albritton launches campaign for Denise Grimsley’s Senate seat

Four-term state Rep. Ben Albritton is launching a bid for Florida Senate.

Albritton, the Wauchula Republican who represents House District 56, filed Wednesday for the Senate District 26 seat.

SD 26 covers a wide swath of Central Florida from Charlotte and Glades counties through southern Polk County. Currently holding the seat is Denise Grimsley, the Lake Placid Republican who recently filed as a candidate for Agriculture Commissioner.

“It has truly been an honor to serve Florida’s Heartland for the past seven years,” Albritton said in a statement. “If given the opportunity, I want to continue the fight for the conservative reforms that protect and grow jobs here at home, that make our communities safer, and that value the lives of all Floridians.”

First elected in 2010 to the Republican-leaning district, Albritton is a citrus grower and businessman known for his conservative record. In HD 56, Republicans outnumber Democrats 43 to 34 percent.

In announcing his Senate bid, Albritton discussed his House record, which he said is one of staunch support for “entrepreneurs, Second Amendment rights and the unborn.” He also spoke of his work on behalf of children in Florida’s foster care system.

Albritton chairs the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee and serves as vice chair of the Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee. He also sits on the Appropriations Committee, the Agriculture and Property Rights Subcommittee, and the Government Accountability Committee and currently chairs the Polk County Legislative Delegation.

Albritton is married with three children.

Charlie Crist, Stephanie Murphy among top GOP targets for 2018

National Republicans, in an effort to boost their majority for the midterms, are targeting top House Democrats over the next two years – including Florida’s Charlie Crist and Stephanie Murphy.

POLITICO first reported on the list of 36 lawmakers coming from the National Republican Congressional Committee, with a particular focus on “blue-collar parts of the country where President Donald Trump is popular.”

Nearly one-third of the districts on the NRCC spreadsheet were taken by President Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton and won by a Democratic House member. Many of those are heavily blue-collar districts in the Midwest, a region Republicans believe see as winnable territory in the Trump era.

Florida’s 13th Congressional District, the district Democrat Crist won in November over incumbent Republican David Jolly, covers much of Pinellas County, which also elected Trump by a single percentage point.

POLITICO notes that there are two Democrats who were not key GOP targets in 2016: Reps. Dave Loebsack of Iowa and Ron Kind from Wisconsin. In 2016, Kind ran unopposed in the West Central Wisconsin district that Trump by more than four points.

“The success of our government depends on Republicans maintaining a strong majority in the House,” NRCC chair Steve Stivers said in a news release. “We owe the American people assurance that the agenda we were elected on — health care reform, a stronger national defense, and more good-paying jobs – is fulfilled.”

Democrats have issued their own list of 59 Republicans, released last month by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Democrats need a gain of 24 seats in 2018 to take back the House.

Florida Sugar Union blasts Joe Negron’s ‘job killing’ Lake O reservoir plan

Florida sugar workers are the latest to come out strongly against Joe Negron’s Senate proposal to create a $2.4-billion, 60,000-acre reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee for Everglades water storage.

In a joint letter sent Wednesday from Sugar Labor Management Committee, IAMAW District 166, Florida State Council of Machinists, and Local 2152 (Osceola & Okeelanta), union representatives expressed “strong opposition” to Senate Bill 10, which seeks to purchase private sugar industry land for storing Lake O runoff.

On Tuesday, the Florida Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation unanimously passed the bill, one of Negron’s top priorities, which gives the South Florida Water Management District until Dec. 2018 to purchase land from “willing sellers” in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) for a water storage reservoir.

The union letter was addressed to SB 10 sponsor Sen. Rob Bradley, signed by Frank Ortis of the Sugar Labor Management Committee; John Walker, representing IAMAW District 166; Florida State Council of Machinists president John Gall; and Edward Garcia, president of Local 2152.

About the land grab, union reps say: “Simply put, this bill is a job killer which would put hardworking men and women in our union on the unemployment line and is a serious threat to the economic health of the Glades-area communities where they live.”

If the state cannot find enough willing sellers, SB 10 provides for the exercise of a 2010 option to buy 153,000 acres of U.S. Sugar land.

That option, the union letter says, “would have devastating impacts on our members, who are employees of both U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals, among other agricultural companies.”

The union letter also comes on the heels of another objection from 14 EAA landowners — U.S. Sugar, Florida Crystals among others — which firmly stated they are “not willing sellers of their property to the government.”

The 6-0 committee vote — the bill’s first Senate stop — also drew the ire of former North Florida Congressman Steve Southerland, chair of Stand Up North Florida, a group vocal in its opposition to the Bradley-Negron plan.

“Today’s committee meeting made clear that the interests of North and Central Florida are being ignored. There is no way that the Negron-Bradley Plan outlined in SB 10 does not negatively impact North and Central Florida, as it sets up for billions of dollars to be spent in South Florida on a single project while leaving North and Central Florida’s taxpayers holding the bag,” Southerland said in a statement.

Southerland, a Panhandle Republican, notes that as a fellow North Florida lawmaker, Bradley “should have firsthand knowledge of the needs we have for important restoration of our lakes, rivers, springs and beaches that will be hampered by sending even more of our limited conservation funds South.”

The Bradley-Negron plan would take money for the land purchase from a $100 million bond of the Land Acquisition Trust Fund — created in 2014 through amendment one — which comes from state real estate transactions. The plan will require $1.2 million between 2017-19. According to South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Pete Antonacci, current land values in the EAA are an estimated $11,000 to $13,000 per acre.

Southerland said that South Florida received more than 94 percent of Land Acquisition Trust Funds allocated for water projects last year.

“In order to protect the waters of North and Central Florida,” Southerland says, “these and other dollars should be equitably shared across the state, rather than having a majority of funds dedicated to one region or area.”

The union letter concluded with an urge for Bradley to visit Everglades communities and “speak directly to our members and others who would be harmed by your bill.”

And if the Bradley can’t fit in such a visit on a schedule, union members — angry that EAA farmers are being made “scapegoats” in a “self-serving political agenda” — would be happy to travel to Tallahassee for a face-to-face meeting.

Sunburn for 2.8.17 – Scott vs. Corcoran showdown; Member projects pile up; red-light cameras still alive; Get well, Carol Dover!

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

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


… now the fight begins in earnest.

The House Careers & Competition Subcommittee will discuss a proposed bill today to get rid of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. The discussion comes just one week after House leadership unveiled the proposal, and marks the latest in a quickly escalating fight between Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran over incentives.

Here’s a refresher, in case you’ve been living under a rock: Scott wants $85 million for economic incentives, even including it in his 2017-18 budget. Corcoran has compared incentives to corporate welfare, and has said they won’t be in the House budget.

And if the Florida House has its way, Enterprise Florida might not be around much longer. The proposed committee bill would eliminate, among other things, Enterprise Florida, Visit Florida, the Office of Film & Entertainment and entertainment tax incentive programs, quick response training programs, and the quick action closing fund.

The Florida House has Americans for Prosperity-Florida in its corner. The organization led the charge during the 2016 Legislative Session to quash Scott’s proposal for $250 million for Enterprise Florida.

The group is poised to do the same this year, encouraging supporters to sign a petition asking their representatives to support the proposed committee bill so “we can finally stop corporate welfare in Florida.”

“The Florida House has the opportunity to put an end to this corporate welfare by eliminating special tax carve outs and handouts for big businesses,” reads the petition. “Our government should not be using our hard-earned tax dollars to fund big corporations who don’t need or deserve handouts.”

And Americans for Prosperity isn’t just asking for supporters to sign a petition. On Monday, Brian Burgess with The Capitolist reported the organization was urging members to show up at the committee meeting, even “offering free food, lodging, transportation and t-shirts, all paid for by AFP.”

“The time has come to eliminate corporate welfare in Florida,” said Chris Hudson, the state director of AFP-Florida in a statement last week. “Floridians don’t deserve for their tax dollars to be used to recruit businesses to compete against them. They don’t deserve the millions of dollars in waste that produced an abysmal return on investment which is contrary to what politicians of the past promised would come.”

But don’t expect “Team Incentive” to go down without a fight. Scott has spent weeks talking up the need for money for incentives. Heck, he even held a jobs summit, where business leaders spent two days talking about what would happen if incentives weren’t part of the economic development toolbox.

“This all comes to down to … whether you care about people’s jobs or not,” said Scott to reporters during his 2017 Jobs Summit in Orlando last week. “It’s a choice between whether you believe in helping the poorest family in our state get to work or you don’t.”

Committee members will also likely expect to hear from supporters of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida — including local chambers of commerce, business leaders, and local visitor and convention bureaus — to talk about what eliminating the programs could mean.

Want to weigh in? The House Careers & Competition Subcommittee meets at 1 p.m. in 212 Knott. But you better get there early, it’s sure to be a packed house.

HEARING that top lobbyists are being contacted by the Governor’s Office and urged to bring their clients to the House committee to speak against the House bill.

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RICK SCOTT LASHES OUT AT RICHARD CORCORAN OVER JOBS MONEY via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – Scott … suggested that Corcoran … and other House Republicans are turning their backs on residents who need jobs. He said that House Republicans should stop “lecturing” him since they didn’t know what it was like to struggle for a paycheck or run a business. Scott also suggested Corcoran’s opposition was based more on politics. “We’re seeing people that just want to run for higher office; they’re not concerned about what happens to other people,” Scott said. “They just think it’s a nice soundbite. I’m extremely disappointed in the House’s action. They are not thinking about the future of this state.” (Click on the image below to watch video of Scott’s comments.) Corcoran wasted little time in responding forcefully to the governor’s comments – and raised questions as to whether the state’s support of business incentives has produced substantive results as Scott contends. “We were elected to do what is right and clean up government, put an end to the waste of taxpayer money, and end the culture of corruption,” Corcoran said in a statement. “The governor cannot be surprised that we will do the right thing regardless of the consequences.”

A CORDIAL HOUSE RECEPTION FOR SCOTT’S BUDGET, DESPITE OFF-STAGE RANCOR via Florida Politics – The House Appropriations Committee gave a respectful reception Tuesday to Gov. Rick Scott’s $83.5 billion state budget, with chairman Carlos Trujillo praising the spending plan as “conservative.” … Of proposed legislation that would spike Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida … Trujillo said a hearing Wednesday before the Careers and Competition Subcommittee would be telling. “If the bill goes down in flames tomorrow in committee, we know there’s probably not an appetite for the membership. But if that’s not the case, the appropriations will follow the policy,” Trujillo said. “I’m assuming it will be reported favorably.”

HOUSE TARGETS 23 ‘FLAWED’ INCENTIVES FOR PERMANENT ELIMINATION via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – (A) House analysis says the incentives Scott supports are “impediments to normal market forces, operating in a manner where government selects winners and losers.” One incentive on the House chopping block is the Urban High-Crime Area Job Credit, with tax breaks to businesses that create jobs in areas of high crime and poverty. Corporate giants Publix, Wal-Mart and Universal have benefited from it, and Miami-Dade has three job credit pockets, the most of any county. Through 2012, the state awarded $21.9 million in such tax credits to businesses in 13 areas, including Tampa, St. Petersburg, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. The bulk of the credits, about $10.6 million, went to Orlando, where Universal Studios got a tax break for a Harry Potter attraction, the Orlando Sentinel reported, and Publix and Wal-Mart got tax breaks for distribution centers.

— “The case against spending tax money on job incentives, tourism promotion” via Paul Renner for the Tampa Bay Times

HOUSE MEMBERS’ PROJECT BILLS ADD UP TO $708 MILLION via Florida Politics – House members had filed 319 bills seeking money for local projects as the deadline for such legislation fell Monday. They would cost more than $708 million if enacted. Under rules approved when Richard Corcoran assumed the speakership, members must file a specific bill describing each project they hope to insert into the state budget. … According to a Lobby Tools tally, the most expensive item is HB 2503 by Cary Pigman, a Sebring Republican. He would spend nearly $62 million to tear down and replace the aging Okeechobee High School. The least expensive is HB 2003, by Deltona Republican David Santiago, to install a virtual reality lab for STEM students at Edgewater Public Elementary School in Volusia County. The price tag is $25,000.

MEANWHILE … VISIT TAMPA BAY WILL RESPOND TO SPEAKER’S DEMAND FOR FINANCIAL DETAILS BY DEADLINE via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times – Patrick Harrison, chief marketing officer for Visit Tampa Bay, said the agency is planning to comply with a Wednesday [today] deadline to turn over more details, but he wouldn’t say what that will entail. “We will respond to the letters we have received by Wednesday,” Harrison said. Last month, 13 local tourism marketing agencies were asked to provide Corcoran … with detailed financial statements, including a list of employee names and salaries and itemized spending on travel and food.

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DAYS UNTIL: The Batman Lego Movie opens – 2; Pitchers & catchers report for Spring Training – 4; Valentine’s Day – 6; Start of 2017 Legislative Session – 27; Florida Capitol Press Corps Press Skits – 34; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die – 86; FSU vs. Alabama – 206; Election Day 2017 – 271; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 309.

WILL THERE EVER BE ENOUGH $ TO KEEP FLORIDIANS COMPLETELY SAFE, ASKS GOP STATE SENATOR via Florida Politics – For the coming year, the state of Florida is asking Washington D.C. to give more than $41 million for domestic security. “Is this the attitude of the American people and Floridians, that we’re willing to spend whatever it takes to be safe in a free society? And can we really do that to make us completely safe?” asked freshman state Sen. Doug Broxson. “Is there any amount of money that will make us completely safe?” Broxson aimed his question to Bryan Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management and Mark Glass, an intelligence officer with the FDLE … They said that the more than $41 million requested is more than the state actually needs going into next year, and ensures not having to hit the state Legislature up for additional funds.

BILL TO KILL RED-LIGHT CAMERAS DOESN’T GET THE VOTES IN SENATE via Florida Politics – Lawmakers are once again debating this year whether the state should stop using red light cameras — but the conversation may not be long. The House Appropriations Committee voted favorably on HB 6007 by Rep. Bryan Avila which would scrap red-light cameras in Florida. Meanwhile, the Senate Transportation Committee failed to pass a similar red-light repeal bill by Sen. Frank Artiles on a 2-2 vote. Saying he agreed with both sides, committee Chairman George Gainer said he believes it should be up to individual counties to decide on whether to keep or jettison the red-light cameras … Artiles blasted the leading vendor of the cameras in Florida, American Traffic Solutions, for having 24 lobbyists working in Tallahassee to kill his bill. The House bill has one of three committees of reference left. The Senate bill failed in its first committee, and would have had four to pass through.

JEFF BRANDES, DARRYL ROUSON DRIVER’S LICENSE SUSPENSION BILL ADVANCES IN SENATE via Florida Politics – The Senate Transportation Committee unanimously passed legislation to reduce the number of driver’s licenses suspended annually in Florida. The bipartisan bill (SB 302), sponsored by Brandes and Rouson, would end the suspension of licenses for non-driving-related offenses. If passed, it could dramatically reduce a large number of suspensions taking place statewide each year. Right now, one can lose driving privileges in Florida over a number of nondriving offenses: truancy, writing graffiti, theft, vandalism, writing worthless checks and a minor’s possession of tobacco.

PUBLIC RECORDS BILL SQUEAKS THROUGH SENATE PANEL via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – A bill that open government advocates say will  place a “chilling effect” on citizens and media outlets attempting to get public records narrowly moved through a Senate panel Tuesday. The bill, SB 80, would require public records requests to be submitted in writing five days before filing a lawsuit and leave it up to the judge to decide whether to award attorneys’ fees. It passed the Senate Government Oversight and Accountability Committee on a 4-3 party line vote, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. Sen. Greg Steube is sponsoring the bill and said he only wants to target the cottage industry of lawyers and law firms taking advantage of public records laws. He cited cases of lawyers filing records requests against small local governments and non-profits with government contracts, then “shaking down” the groups for payments to avoid a lawsuit.

REDISTRICTING OVERHAUL CLEARS FIRST SENATE PANEL via Florida Politics – A bill aimed at speeding up the handling of political redistricting court cases breezed through its first Senate committee … The legislation (SB 352) was OK’d by the Senate Judiciary Committee with only state Sen. Bobby Powell … voting against it. “I do believe it’s initially incumbent on us to be transparent so we don’t wind up in these situations,” Powell said. “This is something that basically we brought on ourselves.” Representatives for both the League and Common Cause, plaintiffs in the redistricting actions, opposed the bill. It next heads to the Senate’s Ethics and Elections Committee.

SENATE PANEL OKS BILL TO CREATE CHIEF DATA OFFICER via Florida Politics – The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee OK’d the legislation (SB 362) unanimously … It also establishes a “Geographic Information Office” within the agency. “GIS activities are fragmented across the state with duplication of data collection and storage,” a staff analysis said. “Standards are followed inconsistently, and information is not immediately accessible when needed by law enforcement, emergency management and the State Fire Marshal.” The bill also comes after an audit of the agency laid out a laundry list of security and other problems at the relatively new agency, created in 2014.

DIRECT PRIMARY CARE BILL EASILY PASSES FIRST HURDLE via Kate Payne of WFSU – An effort to expand direct primary care sailed through its first committee meeting Tuesday in the Florida statehouse. The healthcare model allows patients to pay doctors monthly fees in exchange for basic services. Proponents say the system cuts out insurers, and lowers costs and wait times. … Similar measures failed in the past two legislative sessions, but the bill filed this year by Senator Tom Lee of Brandon does carry the support of various physician associations. The measure specifies that direct primary care is not insurance, and does not meet statutory requirements for insurance. But at a time when the future of Obamacare is uncertain, supporters say direct primary care could be a safety net for the poor and underinsured.

PLAN WOULD SCRAP LIMITS ON TRAUMA CENTERS IN FLORIDA via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – SB 746, by Sen. Travis Hutson, came two weeks after Gov. Scott called for getting rid of a limit of 44 trauma centers statewide … In addition to eliminating the overall cap, Hutson’s bill also would end limits on the numbers of trauma centers in each of 19 regions — limits that have prompted much of the legal wrangling in recent years among hospitals. Most recently, an administrative law judge ruled last week that the Department of Health had improperly allowed Orange Park Medical Center in Clay County to open a trauma center in 2016. That ruling stemmed, at least in part, from a regulation allocating one trauma center to a five-county region of Northeast Florida.

JACK LATVALA, JASON BRODEUR AIM TO PROTECT FRANCHISEES via Florida Politics – Legislation that would protect small business owners who enter into franchise agreements was filed Tuesday in the Florida Legislature. (Latvala, a state senator, and Brodeur, who is in the House,) announced their support of the “Protect Florida Small Business Act” … The bill’s intent “is to promote fair business relations between franchisees and franchisors and to protect franchisees against unfair treatment by franchisors,” it says. “Therefore, it is necessary to regulate the conduct of franchisors and their representatives in order to prevent fraud, unfair business practices, unfair methods of competition … and other abuses upon franchisees in this state.”

TWEET, TWEET: @Fineout: State Sen. @ClemensFL has proposed an amendment to Senate higher ed package that makes Fla private college stipends needs based

CINDY GRUDEN AT CAPITOL TO SUPPORT MORE MONEY FOR MOFFITT via Florida Politics With former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden sick at home, wife Cindy stepped in to stump for Moffitt Cancer Center’s request for increased funding at the Capitol Tuesday. The center, located in Tampa, is asking lawmakers this year for an additional $8 million from the state’s tobacco tax to build a new research facility. “If he were here, (Jon) would tell you Moffitt is all about teamwork,” she said.


REGGIE FULLWOOD AVOIDS PRISON AFTER WIRE FRAUD PLEA via Florida Politics –Fullwood pleaded guilty to two counts last year, and it turned out that, rather than facing two centuries in prison, his sentence was no prison time At  all. Fullwood got time served, plus three years of house arrest for the wire fraud count, and one year for failure to file: those house arrest sentences will be served concurrently. Fullwood also is responsible for $60,500 in forfeiture, and an additional $42,500 in IRS penalties.

JUDGES QUESTION PARENT POSITIONS IN CHALLENGE TO FLORIDA’S THIRD-GRADE RETENTION LAW via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – The judges from the 1st District Court of Appeal have yet to make a ruling, but through questioning they suggested that the parents’ lawsuit might have been more appropriately handled in local courts or through an administrative procedures complaint. One of the panel said the parents seemed intent on subverting Florida law when they told their children last spring to sign their names to the reading exam but answer no questions. “This is self-inflicted harm,” Judge T. Kent Wetherell II said during the hourlong proceeding. Parents from seven counties filed suit in Leon County — where the Department of Education is based — in August. They sought emergency action to prevent their children from repeating third grade after refusing to complete a state reading test, and argued state law didn’t require a passing score. Leon County Judge Karen Gievers agreed. The department and districts appealed.

STATE OFFICIALS GET AN EARFUL FROM BROWARD MEDICAL MARIJUANA ACTIVISTS via Dan Sweeney of the Sun-Sentinel – At the Broward County Health Department on Tuesday, 200 people packed a room set up for about 70, crowding down the aisles, pouring out the door. … Doctors were especially adamant about ending the 90-day rule and the Florida Board of Medicine’s role. The board is a 15-member administrative body whose members are appointed by the Governor. … But mostly, advocates, doctors and would-be patients want the system to work faster. … Christian Bax, Director of the Office of Compassionate Use, said little throughout the proceedings and took no questions afterward.

FLORIDA TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY APPLICATION DEADLINE – March 20 is the application deadline for individuals looking to be secretary of Florida’s Department of Transportation. The deadline appeared in an online job description for the position. Former Secretary Jim Boxold exited the $141,001-a-year state job to join Tallahassee-based Capital City Consulting. Rachel Cone, the department’s assistant secretary for finance and administration, is serving as acting secretary. The Florida Transportation Commission will interview applicants and send the top three names to Gov. Scott, who will make the final appointment. The agency has an annual budget of $10.8 billion, with nearly 6,000 employees.

INSURANCE OFFICE GOING AFTER ONE-WAY ATTORNEY FEES IN AOB FIGHT via Florida Politics – Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier laid out his office’s solution to the insurance assignment-of-benefits problem to Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet Tuesday, and it includes limiting contractors’ ability to recover attorney fees in litigation against insurance companies. … Florida’s one-way attorney fee statute is intended to shield policyholders against legal bills if they want to sue their insurers for failure to pay or low-balling claims. … Draft legislation circulating within the Office of Insurance Regulation would specify that only policyholders can take advantage of the law — not third parties, such as contractors, Altmaier said.

MIKE CARROLL: “WE AREN’T ALWAYS ABLE” TO SAVE “BROKEN” CHILDREN via Florida Politics – Carroll, secretary of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), spoke to the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee this week. Naika Venant, a 14-year-old Miami-Dade County girl who was in and out of foster care starting in 2009, killed herself during a Facebook Live video she titled, “I Don’t Wanna Live No More” … “I can tell you what happened to Naika was horrific on many levels,” Carroll said, including that her death was live-streamed “to a largely unsympathetic audience … This case is kind of symptomatic of what we deal with,” he said. In Naika’s case, “where issues were in place for most, if not all, of this young lady’s life. These issues predated her birth; they were generational.” Carroll said his department’s job is to protect such children “from the inside out” … “But many of these kids have cracks … they’re broken, they’re in pieces,” he told senators. “It doesn’t always show.”

MULTIMILLION-DOLLAR FLORIDA TAX BATTLE HEADS TO COURT via Florida Politics – The current owners of two Kraft Foods companies are going to court over a disputed $25 million in Florida corporate income tax. Intercontinental Brands LLC, which now owns Kraft Foods Global Brands, and Intercontinental Great Brands LLC, which owns Kraft Foods Holdings … sued the state Department of Revenue in Leon County Circuit Civil court. The state claims the companies respectively owe $16.3 million for 2008-12 and $8.8 million for 2006-11 in back corporate tax, penalties and interest … The revenue department says the companies owe because they had “intellectual property … licensees” who did business in Florida and paid them royalties. But the firms themselves say they “had no offices, employees or operations located in Florida,” had no property, contracts or other agreements here, and generally “did not conduct any business” in the state.

STORM COSTS LEAD TO A HIKE ON FP&L BILL via The Associated Press – The Florida Public Service Commission on Tuesday approved a $318.5 million request by the state’s largest power company. The money will used to cover storm-related damage from Hurricane Matthew and to replenish the company’s storm reserve fund. The PSC maintained that there was substantial damage caused by the storm in FPL’s service territory.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will highlight transportation investments during a press conference at 8:30 a.m. in front of the PortMiami administration building 1015 N. America Way in Miami. The event will be held in a restricted of the port terminal. Transportation to the event will be provided, but will not be available after 9:15 a.m. For questions, please contact Andria Muniz-Amador at 786-299-2410.

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — Telehealth and health care workforce is on the agenda when the House Health Quality Subcommittee meets at 9 a.m. in 306 House Office Building; while the House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee is expected to settle in for a discussion about the “Future of Telecommunication Technologies” during its 9 a.m. meeting in 212 Knott. The House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee is set to take up Rep. Chris Sprowls’ ridesharing bill during its 1 p.m. meeting in 102 House Office Building. The Senate Transportation, Tourism & Economic Appropriations Subcommittee will get a presentation on economic development incentive programs during its meeting at 10 a.m. in 110 Senate Office Building. The “Excellence in Higher Education Act” will get a hearing during the 2 p.m. meeting of the Senate Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meeting. The Senate Regulated Industries Committee will discuss a bill that would loosen craft distillery laws when it meets at 2 p.m. in 301 Senate Office Building.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Sen. Brandes will hold a press conference at 1:30 p.m. in front of the Senate Chamber on the 4th floor Rotunda to discuss new legislation focused on innovations in healthcare data accessibility. He’ll be joined by several members of the Florida Legislature and the Florida Medical Association.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Florida Health Care Association will give a presentation on the managed long term care component of Statewide Medicaid Managed Care during the Senate Health & Human Service Appropriations Subcommittee meeting at 2 p.m. in 401 Knott.

GOING PURPLE FOR ALZHEIMER’S RALLY IN TALLY via Michelle Branham of the Tallahassee Democrat – The Old Capitol [turned] purple … at sundown (around 6 p.m.) to celebrate the Annual “Rally in Tally” Alzheimer’s Association State Advocacy Day – with over 140 delegates joining forces from across the state. The Rally in Tally begins at 9 a.m. … Advocates from all over the state of Florida – including caregivers and those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s — will be visiting their legislators throughout the day to advocate for increased state research funding, support services, education programs, cultural outreach and increased respite care services.


POLL FINDS FLORIDIANS DISAPPROVE OF DONALD TRUMP’S PERFORMANCE via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – A poll by Florida Atlantic University found 66 percent disapproving of Trump’s job performance. He has approval of 34 percent. Trump’s national approval rating is 45 percent, according to a Real Clear Politics compilation. The FAU survey showed the partisan differences that marked the election season continue as strong as ever. Among Republicans, an overwhelming 73 percent approve of the president’s job performance and 27 percent disapprove. Among Democrats, just 8 percent approve of the job he’s doing so far, with 92 percent disapproving. Among no party affiliation/independent voters, 32 percent approved and 68 percent disapproved.

PAM BONDI: DONALD TRUMP’S TRAVEL BAN ‘ABSOLUTELY’ LEGAL via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – “I absolutely think it’s constitutional,” Bondi said echoing the Trump administration. “It’s not about religion, it’s about the safety of our country.” Bondi said she does not agree with the temporary restraining order, but will “respect the ruling.” She did say it could have been rolled out “smoother.”

SCHOOL CHOICE SUPPORTERS REJOICE AS SENATE CONFIRMS BETSY DEVOS via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News – School choice advocates in Florida had high hopes for DeVos as the nation’s next education secretary, blaming opposition to her confirmation on teachers unions mobilizing against her. Jeb Bush, a longtime advocate of education issues in Florida, praised Tuesday’s result. “Millions of families share Secretary DeVos’s vision for disrupting a failed status quo that has denied too many children access to a quality education,” he said. “It’s time to upend the entrenched special interests that put adults above genuine reforms that will raise student achievement.” Senators received millions of calls opposing DeVos’ nomination, jamming up phone lines on Capitol Hill as the vote drew closer. The NEA vowed to keep a close eye on DeVos as she navigates through her new position.

RONNIE SIMMONS, LONGTIME AIDE TO FORMER U.S. REP. CORRINE BROWN, CHANGING PLEA IN FRAUD CASE via Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-Union – Simmons, is apparently changing his not-guilty plea in the fraud case that helped end Brown’s long political career. Simmons is scheduled to face U.S. Magistrate James R. Klindt … about the new plea, according to an entry posted on Simmons’ court docket. Simmons, whose given first name is Elias, faced the possibility of a prison sentence exceeding 350 years if he were convicted of all 18 charges brought against him in a July indictment.

MULTIMILLIONAIRE GLADESMAN ‘ALLIGATOR RON’ BERGERON MULLING GOVERNOR CAMPAIGN via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – “I’ve had an awful lot of people approach me,” said Bergeron, 73, a rodeo champ, alligator wrestler, and eighth generation Floridian who grew up swimming in the Everglades and made a fortune in the development, road construction and cattle business. “I think I have to first of all look at my family and how it would effect my family and make the decision after that.” A Republican who describes himself as a “moderate conservative,” Bergeron says private sector experience is critical in government, as is building consensus, listening and bringing people together. He is a big fan of Gov. Rick Scott, but also is complimentary of Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, and likely Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam. “We’d have to have a hitchin’ post at the governor’s mansion for my horse,” mused Bergeron, who expects to make a decision within four months or so.

GWEN GRAHAM: WOMEN’S RIGHTS MUST BE UNDERSTOOD TO BE NONNEGOTIABLE for the Palm Beach Post — More than 10,000 marchers descended on Tallahassee for a political fight. They chanted slogans, sang songs and waved signs in support of women’s rights. My father, former Gov. Bob Graham, and mother, Adele, marched with them for more than a mile to the steps of Florida’s State Capitol. The green sashes they wore were reminiscent of earlier trailblazers, women marching for the right to vote. Once they reached the rally point, Dad called for equal rights now, and the crowd responded with thunderous applause. This scene didn’t occur at last month’s Women’s March — it was in 1982, when women organized marches across the country to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. … I did not imagine I would still have to fight for those same rights three decades later as a member of Congress. I never imagined in 2017, we’d have a president threatening to undo all the progress we’ve made.

Today, we stand at a crossroads on women’s rights. One path takes us backward. A new Supreme Court rules against women. The next generation of women doesn’t have access to family planning. Their options in school are limited. Their fellow students, teachers and bosses again find it acceptable to harass them. They have fewer opportunities to become lawyers or doctors — and if they do make it, they’re still paid less than their male counterparts.

The other takes us forward. We elect more women to public office. We break barriers. We shatter glass ceilings. …The next generation of leaders in all fields – from engineering to business, public service to medicine – will be women. I believe there are always opportunities to work together — but we cannot negotiate on women’s rights.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by The Personal Insurance Federation of Florida (PIFF). PIFF was formed in late 2010 with three charter members: Allstate and Castle Key Insurance Companies, The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies, and State Farm Insurance Companies, to create a dynamic, efficient, and competitive marketplace for personal insurance products for the benefit of all Floridians.  PIFF charter members serve forty-five percent (45%) of the automobile insurance market and more than twenty percent (20%) of the homeowners’ property insurance market. The association is the leading voice for personal lines property and casualty insurers in Florida. Learn more.***

RAMON ALEXANDER RESIGNS FROM MINORITY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat – Alexander resigned as the president and CEO for the Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce after only a month on the job. The freshman state legislator was selected out of seven applicants for the position with a base salary of $50,000 plus benefits. “After very thoughtful consideration via fully evaluating my leadership roles and responsibilities throughout the region, it is absolutely necessary that I am not limited or restricted in any way to effectively carry out the critical role of serving as a duly elected member of the Florida House of Representatives,” Alexander said in his resignation letter. “I firmly believe that the intentions and core mission of BBMC is a much needed and a noble cause. I look forward to supporting the growth of the BBMC and its myriad community impact initiatives in my capacity as State Representative.” Tallahassee attorney and Minority Chamber founder Sean Pittman said he was disappointed to lose Alexander. The chamber had been without a president for 14 months before Alexander’s hire.


Taylor Patrick Biehl, Capitol Alliance Group: City of St. Petersburg

Marsha Bowen, Robert M. Levy & Associates: Miami-Dade County Clerk of Courts

Ed Briggs, RSA Consulting: H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute

Kimberly Case, Holland & Knight: Osceola County

Mark Delegal, Holland & Knight: Florida Academic Cancer Center Alliance

John Forehand, Kurkin Brandes: Florida Automobile Dealers Association

Eddie Gonzalez, Sun City Strategies, The Everglades Foundation

Armando Ibarra, Ai Advisory: Greater Miami & The Beaches Hotel Association

Dean Izzo, Capital City Consulting: GDKN Corporation; SHI International Corp.

Timothy Meenan, Meenan: Brookdale Senior Living, Inc.

Michelle McKay, T.B. Consultants: Stratum Health System Inc.

Foyt Ralston, Bryant Miller Olive PA: City of Gretna

Laura Reynolds, Conservation Concepts LLC: Friends of the Everglades

Sydney Ridley, Southern Strategy Group: Altria Client Services LLC and its Affiliates

Steven Schale, Schale Communications: State Farm Florida Insurance Company

Robert Schenck, The Legis Group: Duke Energy

Clark Smith, Southern Strategy Group: Nopetro Management

Robert Wilson, Wilson & Associates: Florida Energy Pipeline Association; Florida Gas Transmission Company; Sunoco LP

PERSONNEL NOTE: JAVIER FERNÁNDEZ JOINS HOLLAND & KNIGHT IN MIAMI via Florida Politics – Fernández, who served as chief of staff to former Miami Mayor Manuel A. Diaz, has joined Holland & Knight as a partner in the firm’s South Florida Government Advocacy & Development Group. “His political background and understanding of the nuances of politics and policy will assist him in crafting effective solutions to achieve our clients’ goals,” said Miguel De Grandy, leader of the group. Fernández represents clients in all aspects of the land use and zoning entitlement process.

PERSONNEL NOTE: KEVIN MARINO CABRERA JOINS SSG’S MIAMI LOBBYING TEAM via Florida Politics – Marino Cabrera joins Southern Strategy Group after managing campaigns on both the state and federal levels. He also was a Council member on Miami-Dade County Community Council 11. He began his political career as the Field Director for Congressman Carlos Curbelo’s campaign, later serving as Director of Constituent Services. Marino Cabrera then was recruited to join Jeb Bush’s Presidential campaign as the South Florida Director. He was recently appointed by Commissioner Juan Zapata as a Councilman for West Kendall’s Community Council in Miami Dade County, a local land use and zoning board. He was subsequently elected to a full-term in 2016.

WEDNESDAY GOVERNORS CLUB LUNCH MENU – It’s Pacific Northwest buffet day with smoked tomato soup; apple pear salad; seasonal green salad; smoked salmon & penne pasta salad; rosemary peppered beef; chicken thigh yakitori; BBQ grilled salmon; white & wild rice with apples & raisin; roasted root vegetables; beans with lardon & sage and chef’s choice dessert.

***The 2017 Florida Blue Foundation Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards are coming to Kissimmee April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. The two-day event — with the theme “Creating a Culture of Health” — will feature several Florida-based, regional and national health professionals. The symposium will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about health care culture, purpose built communities and communities of health. Discussions will center on health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Network with 400+ executives from a range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more. To view agenda and register, click here***

PANDORA: THE WORLD OF AVATAR OPENS MAY 27 via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – The CEO of the Walt Disney World Company … hinted that ticket prices would be going up. Pandora – The World of Avatar will be in the southwest portion of Animal Kingdom. It is expected to increase attendance and make Animal Kingdom a full day adventure. “We really believe in the coming years that the interest in Avatar will only increase,” said Disney CEO Robert Iger. “We think it has big potential.” When asked if the new attraction would bring higher admission prices, Iger said that Disney increases its ticket prices annually, but he was not ready to comment on the amount.

PUBLIX NO LONGER OFFERS YOU THAT FREE SLICE OF MEAT AT THE DELI COUNTER via Laura Reiley of the Tampa Bay Times – What gives? “We are piloting a change in a few dozen delis in Central and southwest Florida to create a more natural exchange between our deli clerks and our customers,” says Brian West, media relations manager at Publix, which has more than 1,000 stores in the Southeast. Translation: “Natural exchange” means no free deli samples. Publix says this is not a cost-cutting measure, and it doesn’t give out sales figures. But my mesquite turkey was $5.40 for a half-pound, 14 slices in the bag, plus meat crumbs. That means each slice is about 38 cents. Now, times that slice by all the free slices we have chomped at Publix deli counters and that’s $38 trillion zillion. Thereabouts.

TWITTER ROLLS OUT THREE NEW WAYS TO FIGHT ABUSE via Joseph Lichterman of – Twitter said it will prevent previously suspended users from creating new abusive accounts; it’s developing a “safe search” that lets users avoid searching for hateful or abusive tweets, and it’s tweaking the timeline with a new feature that will collapse “potentially abusive or low-quality tweets. Twitter said the collapsible tweets will ensure the “most relevant conversations are brought forward.” The “safe search,” meanwhile, will remove tweets “that contain potentially sensitive content and Tweets from blocked and muted accounts from search results.”

GET WELL to Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association chief and INFLUENCE 100 alum Carol Dover, who fractured her leg over the weekend.

Charlie Crist named to influential House Science, Space committee; hires 2 constituent staffers

Charlie Crist announced Tuesday he would be serving on the influential House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Also, the first-year Democratic congressman from St. Petersburg hired two new constituent service representatives — Michael Batista and Dillion Stafford — who will help assist Crist’s constituents of Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

Since Crist was recently named to the House Committee on Financial Services, which is considered an exclusive committee, he required a waiver from the Democratic Caucus to serve on multiple panels.

Science, Space, and Technology have oversight on issues that directly impact both CD 13 and the entire state of Florida. The committee has authority over National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), including the National Weather Service (NWS).

Among the committee’s jurisdictions is the space industry, hurricane preparedness, and response efforts as well as climate change policy. It also oversees nonmilitary research from the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security.

“In this role, I will be a fighter for the scientific consensus that climate change is real, happening and caused by humans. I will work to maintain robust support for NOAA and the National Hurricane Center to keep our communities safe,” Crist said in a statement. “And when it comes to investment in the aerospace industry — critical to our state’s economy and our country’s continued leadership in space exploration — I will be a vocal advocate.”

Hiring Batista and Stafford is to give Crist’s constituents better access to Social Security, Medicare, and Veterans benefits and outreach services. The two will be based out of the congressman’s flagship district office in downtown St. Petersburg, 696 1st Avenue North, Suite 203.

Also, Batista will serve as the congressman’s LGBTQ community liaison.

“I am thrilled to have Michael and Dillion join our team, helping provide constituent assistance and community outreach — vital roles to carry out our No. 1 job: serving the people of Florida’s 13th District,” Crist said. “Both Michael and Dillion are committed to serving our community, and their experience and understanding of the needs of Pinellas County residents will be an asset to our office’s commitment to excellent, responsive constituent service.”

In thanking the congressman, Batista said: “As a Floridian and a fellow resident of St. Petersburg, I am honored and overjoyed to have the opportunity to work alongside such a distinguished public servant as congressman Crist, now representing my home and the 13th District of Florida. It is also my pleasure to be assisting my friends and neighbors in Pinellas County.”

Batista also applauded Crist’s work to protect St. Petersburg waters and his dedication to equal rights in Florida, calling the opportunity to work with him “an honor and privilege.”

A Florida native, Batista is a graduate of the University of South Florida with several years’ experience in community outreach, volunteer work, and nonprofit lobbying for human rights issues. Before joining Crist’s office, he worked with the Florida Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign as a Voter Protection Assistant, and was a congressional intern for Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor.

Stafford, another University of South Florida graduate who began his career as a field intern for Crist’s 2014 gubernatorial bid, also had high praise for the former governor turned congressman.

“Congressman Crist exemplifies strong leadership and has dedicated his life to not only St. Petersburg, but the entire State of Florida,” Stafford said. “I am both proud and excited for the opportunity to work alongside him in serving the people of Pinellas County.”

Stafford also brings a broad community experience to Crist’s office: former field organizer for State Rep. Mark Danish in Florida House District 63; community organizer with Floridians for Solar Choice; campaign manager for Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione‘s bid for HD 63; and as a member of the research team for U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy‘s 2016 Senate campaign.

Just fix the damn sewers, Rick

Last week, Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin revealed details of a new short story set in his Westeros universe, focused on the bloody and incestuous Targaryen family history.

To fans of Martin’s work, this latest announcement is both welcome and dreaded news. Any time Martin writes about the characters from the rich universe of A Song Of Ice And Fire, it’s good news. However, if the time it takes to write about these characters takes away from him finishing the next book in the ASOIAF series, it drives his fans nuts.

Over 22 years, Martin has now published five books and has struggled openly with writers block; the last book A Dance with Dragons was published in 2011.

The author says he missed a Dec. 31 deadline to finish “The Winds of Winter,” the sixth book in his popular fantasy series.

“Finish the (damn) book,” is a popular refrain among Game of Thrones fans who have grown tired with Martin’s slow writing pace — and his willingness to be distracted by side projects, like, say a short story about the events that happened 250 years before what takes place on Game of Thrones.

The impatience with Martin came to mind last week when Rick Kriseman took to Medium to “declare” St. Petersburg a sanctuary city.

“While our county sheriff’s office is ultimately responsible for notifying the federal government about individuals who are here illegally, I have no hesitation in declaring St. Petersburg a sanctuary from harmful federal immigration laws,” Kriseman wrote on Medium on Saturday.

As much as I sympathize with Kriseman on this issue, or at least oppose President Donald Trump‘s travel ban on those entering the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries, what I (and apparently many others) want to say to Kriseman is…

Fix the damn sewers, Rick.

Stop writing blogs about declaring St. Pete a sanctuary city, when you don’t even have the power to do so (it’s the Sheriff’s decision how to enforce immigration laws)

Stop thinking of spending millions of dollars on public art for a pier that is increasingly not wanted by city residents.

Just fix the damn sewers, Rick.

Heavy rain last year during Hurricane Hermine overloaded the city’s sewer systems, sending millions of gallons of sewage to flow into streets and waterways. Since then, it’s been one headline after another about how City Hall underestimated the possible issues with the sewage system. Perhaps worse, the sewage system crisis has exposed serious faultlines in the Kriseman administration’s ability to manage the city bureaucracy.

It was not clear whether the problems with the sewage system would impact Kriseman politically. After all, the sewage dumped in the Bay was difficult to see. Residents and voters typically react to issues they can wrap their arms around, like failing schools or rising crime.

Certainly, a politician of Kriseman’s caliber should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Meaning, he can spend part of his day working on the sewage system crisis, then spend other parts of the day on his many other responsibilities.

But when residents see tweets like the one the mayor posted last week in which he trolled President Trump during a working visit to New York City, many wonder why he’s not singularly focused on the city’s problems.

Kriseman says he’ll continue to tweet at Trump and that we can expect to see his next tweet when the issue hits close to home.

“If I ever stop saying what I believe in, then I probably shouldn’t be in office,” Kriseman told News Channel 8.

Residents, however, want Kriseman to focus on issues close to home.

Polling indicates the sewage system crisis has damaged Kriseman’s brand. And while Kriseman’s administration has laid out a plan for accelerating improvements and repairs to the system, that does not seem good enough to many residents.

Of the 59 comments posted under Kriseman’s blog post declaring St. Petersburg a sanctuary city, only four are positive. Not that online commenting is a scientific barometer of public sentiment, but, in this case, it’s eye-opening that so many commenters are critical of Kriseman.

On Facebook, Kriseman is facing a wave of criticism.

“Kriseman should be figuring out how to keep sewage out of the streets, working on the Pier and consolidating garbage services with the county so the resident aren’t getting shafted with the stupid blue bins instead of grandstanding with a standoff that will simply cost residents more when the Feds withhold money for his boneheadedness,” resident Dorine McKinnon posted as one of more than 60 comments, mostly critical, about Kriseman’s priorities.

Almost all of the commenters on the Facebook page of and the Tampa Bay Times have a similar theme:

Fix the damn sewers, Rick.

Contra White House assertion, Florida Gov. Rick Scott describes media coverage of Orlando shooting as “extensive”

Last Monday night, the White House released a list of 78 attacks over two years that it says did not receive “the media attention they deserve.”

The list included attacks that got worldwide blanket coverage, such as the Bataclan theater bombing in Paris, the Nice truck attack, and the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando.

“All over Europe it’s happening,” said President Donald Trump. “It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.”

Trump made this claim before a broad audience on live television, while speaking at Central Command headquarters in Tampa.

On Air Force One, before a smaller audience, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump did not really mean that terrorist attacks received no coverage. Trump’s actual complaint, he said, was that such acts don’t get enough attention.

“He felt that members of media don’t always cover some of those events to the extent that other events might get covered,” Spicer said. “Like a protest gets blown out of the water, and yet an attack or a foiled attack doesn’t necessarily get the same coverage.”

That’s when The White House later released the list of 78 worldwide attacks it described as “executed or inspired by” IS. Most on the list did not get sufficient media attention, the White House said, without specifying which ones it considered underreported.

Contrary to President Trump’s possible assertions, Florida Gov. Rick Scott believes the Orlando shooting received “extensive” coverage from the media.

After The White House released its list of attacks which may have been underreported, asked the Governor’s Office if it agreed with Trump’s position.

“Governor Scott appreciates that the President is focused on the security of all Americans and that he came to Tampa today to honor our military,” said Jackie Schutz, a spokesperson for Scott, who she said, “appreciates the extensive coverage the media provided following the horrific terrorist attack at Pulse, especially their coverage on the families who lost a loved one.”

Scott’s verdict on the media’s coverage of the Pulse Nightclub shooting?

“He believes the media did a great job sharing the stories of the people we lost way too soon,” said Schutz.

As for the other attacks on The White House’s list, an Associated Press fact check says they were given blanket coverage, such as the Brussels bombings in March, the San Bernadino, California, shootings in December 2015, and the Paris attacks in November 2015. Some with a smaller death toll, such as two attacks in Canada that killed one soldier each, also were covered at the time and well known.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this post. 

Sunburn for 2.7.17 – Trump hearts Florida; First CRC picks; Dana Young is upset; New Starbucks!!!

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

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

DONALD TRUMP IN TAMPA: LET IN PEOPLE WHO WANT TO ‘LOVE OUR COUNTRY’ via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News –The visit was Trump’s first to the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base since he became president … The president addressed the energetic troops, vowing to put “America first” by focusing on the military. Trump told troops he would “load up” the Air Force base with new airplanes and equipment as president. National security, Trump said, is one of his top considerations — and keeping ill-intentioned people out of the country is part of the journey to keeping America safe. “We need strong programs … so that people that love us and want to love our country and will end up loving our country are allowed in … not people that want to destroy us and destroy our country,” Trump said.

TRUMP SAYS HE’LL BE ‘LOADING UP’ MACDILL WITH NEW PLANES via Howard Altman of the Tampa Bay Times – In his speech … Trump praised the leadership at MacDill Air Force Base, the troops and families there, and reiterated his support for the military. He said he will be “loading up” the base “with beautiful new planes” and equipment. He offered no specifics. MacDill, home to 16 K -135 aerial refueling tankers, is not on the short list to get the next wave of KC46 jets to replace the Eisenhower-era planes.

DURING TAMPA TRIP, RICK SCOTT AND TRUMP DISCUSS OBAMACARE, CUBA via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – During the stop, Trump met privately with Scott, who has been one of his most vocal supporters … the two discussed Cuba and the Affordable Care Act. “The governor reiterated he wanted to be helpful in any way he can in bringing democracy and freedom to Cuba,” said Jackie Schutz, Scott’s communications director. “America needs a better deal that does not coddle a dictatorship.” Scott has been vocally opposed to former President Obama’s push to normalize relations with the island nation. In his most recent comments on the issue last month, Scott warned state ports that he would push to cut funding if they began trading with Cuba.


TRUMP HEADED BACK TO FLORIDA TO GOLF WITH JAPANESE PM SHINZO ABE via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – First, Abe will meet with Trump in Washington Friday. “He’s coming to the White House and then he’d like to play golf, and we’re going to come down to Florida, Palm Beach, and we’re going to play golf,” Trump said … “We’re going to have a round of golf, which is a great thing. That’s the one thing about golf — you get to know somebody better on a golf course than you will over lunch.” No telling if Trump will play with the $3,700 driver Abe gifted him after the election.

— “The felonious Palm Beach socialite who partied with Donald Trump” via Jose Gambiet’s Gossip Extra

WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE IS READING:  WHAT TRUMP CAN LEARN FROM FLORIDA’S JOB BOOM via Jared Meyer of Forbes – On Jan. 4, 2011, Scott was sworn in as Florida’s governor and immediately launched deregulation efforts by signing Executive Order 11-01, which he later reinforced with Executive Order 11-211. Since then, Florida has repealed over 4,700 individual rules and regulations that directly affected businesses—a reduction of more than 20 percent. First … it required all agencies under the direction of the governor to “immediately suspend all rulemaking” and requested the suspension of rulemaking by all other agencies. Second, it created the Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform (OFARR) to oversee the state’s deregulation efforts. Following these actions, Florida led the United States in job creation. Florida’s experience in reining in bureaucracy, cutting job-killing regulations, and unleashing over 1 million private-sector jobs provides a replicable strategy for promoting economic prosperity. Based on the state’s experience, here are three key things other governors can do to reverse the tide of regulatory overreach.

HOT TAKE – PRESIDENT CHAOS COLLIDES WITH REALITY via Rick Wilson for the Daily Beast – His leadership rests on showmanship over substance, fear of the “other” over faith in our fellow Americans, and a revanchist politics like that puts the bully in bully pulpit like we’ve rarely seen. That’s a problem; the world is coming at Trump‘s White House, and fast. For those who have opposed Trump from the start, or those on both the right and left who still find him ideologically, politically and morally repugnant, take heart. No Administration can run at this pace for long, and the Cat 5 Chaos Hurricane of the first two weeks is unsustainable … as President he faces something to which he’s never been accustomed to in his personal, business or political life; accountability. That accountability comes not only in the awesome power to send men and women into war, but to the promises he made, to the people he now leads, and to the oath he swore. We know he’s not good with promises, and we know he’s not good with commitments, but he’s not just Donald Trump, alleged-billionaire playboy and smack-talker. He’s now the President of the United States.

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DAYS UNTIL: The Batman Lego Movie opens – 3; Pitchers & catchers report for Spring Training – 5; Valentine’s Day – 7; Start of 2017 Legislative Session – 28; Florida Capitol Press Corps Press Skits – 35; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die – 87; FSU vs. Alabama – 207; Election Day 2017 – 272; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 310.

ACTIVISTS MARCH AT MARCO RUBIO’S TAMPA OFFICE, CALLING TO REJECT BETSY DEVOS AS EDUCATION SECRETARY via Florida Politics –More than two dozen activists gathered in front of Rubio’s Tampa district office … urging him to reject DeVos as the next Secretary of Education when her name comes up for a vote … But they are not expecting him to do so. “Betsy DeVos is totally uneducated, and she’s totally biased,” said Sue Jenkins, a former Wisconsin schoolteacher who spends winters in Port Richey and summers back in the Midwest. She blasted DeVos for her dedication toward vouchers and privatizing education. “We privatize the schools; we pay them money. Somebody’s going to make a profit.” Many of those at the protest want Rubio to recuse himself from the vote because he received campaign contributions from DeVos. Then again, so have a lot of other Republicans in Washington.

JOHN MORGAN, CANDIDATE OR NOT, IS RESHAPING FLORIDA POLITICS via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Morgan … wasn’t joking when he said it’s a travesty that so many people make so little money in Florida, where the minimum wage just went up a nickel — to $8.10 an hour. He said he will consult with Jon Mills, the University of Florida law school professor and former House speaker, about crafting a ballot measure to give voters the chance in 2018 to put a higher minimum wage — at least $12 an hour — in the state constitution. That’s a potential political game-changer in Florida on at least three levels. First, if such a proposal reached the ballot, it could greatly increase voter turnout in a midterm election where Democrats have a dismal track record of getting their base out to vote. Second, as the ultimate pocketbook issue, a “living wage” campaign would force every candidate for every office to take a position that could cost them votes. Third, it would force the business community to spend millions of dollars on ads opposing Morgan’s crusade, and that’s money that otherwise would be lavished on pro-business candidates for statewide office and the Legislature.

JORGE LABARGA APPOINTS TO CRC THREE CANDIDATES WHO WILL WATCH THE COURT’S BACK via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court … named three people who value “judicial independence” to serve on the powerful panel to revise the Florida Constitution. Labarga appointed Miami lawyer Roberto Martinez, Jacksonville defense attorney Henry Coxe III and former Democratic leader of the Florida Senate Arthenia Joyner to serve as his appointees to the Constitution Revision Commission, the 37-member panel assembled every 20 years to review the constitution and put proposals directly before voters in 2018. They each were chosen because they value an independent judiciary, Labarga told reporters … “extremely qualified people who care about our state” and said he looked for candidates with “wide-ranging knowledge about our system and appreciation for separation of powers and the independence of the judicial branch of government.”

— “Arthenia Joyner truly honored to be named to Commission” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics


While speculation hums along on the membership on the Constitution Revision Commission, there’s been not much buzz on who will be its executive director.

But there’s been quite a bit of interest in the Capitol, at least on the south side of the Plaza level, to put it back in the hands of an old pro: Billy Buzzett, who had the job back in 1997-98.

Don’t ask why. Ask: Why not?

Most importantly, Gov. Rick Scott likes the guy. He tapped the now 58-year-old lawyer – a fifth-generation Floridian – back in 2011 to head the Department of Community Affairs, the state’s growth management agency, just before it was made defunct.

“Billy is focused on helping me make government smaller, less intrusive and consistent with efforts to increase investments in Florida and spur job creation,” Scott said in a press release upon his appointment.

High praise from this governor.

Buzzett graduated from Tulane University with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and practiced for several years before getting his law degree from Florida State University, his bio says.

His other bona fides include being assistant general counsel to then-Gov. Bob Martinez, staff attorney to the House Judiciary Committee, an administrative law judge, and vice president of the St. Joe Co. He’s an FSU trustee, and liked and respected on both sides of the aisle.

“He’s a smooth operator, say both friends and enemies, totally unflappable,” the Tampa Bay Times wrote of him in 2011, quoting Manley Fuller of the Florida Wildlife Federation that Buzzett “could sell snow to the Eskimos.”

The commission’s E.D. job is part-dealmaker, part-peacemaker and full time on managing personalities and keeping the trains running on time.

All the more reason why Buzzett is – again – the right man for the job. And judging from the Capitol cognoscenti, it’s practically his to take or turn down.

***The Florida Health Care Association knows how legislators can save taxpayers $68.2 million per year in unnecessary spending, while safeguarding the highest level of care for Florida’s frailest residents. They’ll share the plan on Wednesday with the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health & Human Services. Learn more at***

GOV VISITS JAXPORT LOOKING FOR SUPPORT via Kent Justice of News4Jax – Scott gathered business and union leaders at the Jacksonville Port Authority Monday afternoon to talk about the $10 billion investment he proposes for transportation, including $178 million targeted for Florida’s 15 seaports … Calling this his “Fighting for Florida budget,” Scott told people that if they agreed with supporting the port, they should contact their state lawmakers.

WHAT HAPPENS TO THE GRETNA RULING NOW THAT JUSTICE JAMES E.C. PERRY’S WORK IS DONE? via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – So now what happens to cases like the Gretna ruling on which the court, including Perry, hear oral arguments last June but which has not yet been released? The court must decide of the Florida Legislature intended to allow counties to expand slot machines anywhere in the state in 2010 when it modified a statute that was initially intended to allow Hialeah Park to operate slot machines. “I haven’t thought about that yet,” [Chief Justice JorgeLabarga said … “I’m pretty sure most of those questions are done and whatever he signed will be released soon. As far as new cases that are going to be heard — tomorrow and from here on, that will be Justice Lawson.” Labarga responded that there are “going to be some” cases from Perry “that he voted on — but I’m not sure.” If Perry has written his ruling but it is now being jettisoned because his retirement was cut short, what happens next? If Perry’s ruling had resulted in a 3-3 split, the court could ask [Justice C. AlanLawson to break the tie … As with any tie, the court could also call for a rehearing of the issue, or Lawson could review the arguments in the file and the videotape of the oral arguments and then render an opinion.

AFTER MASS SHOOTINGS, LITTLE CHANGES IN FLORIDA ON MENTAL ILLNESS AND ACCESS TO GUNS via Michael Auslen and Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – Despite years connecting mental illness and mass shootings, lawmakers in both parties have been reluctant to pass major legislation taking firearms out of the hands of people diagnosed with severe disorders … Gov. Scott showed how quickly politicians can retreat after a call to action. “One thing we have to think about is if someone is adjudicated mentally ill, it just doesn’t make any sense that they should have access to a gun,” he told reporters a week after the Fort Lauderdale shooting. Scott, who often lobbies the Legislature on priorities like tax cuts, could weigh in on guns if he wants, but he’s right that it’s ultimately up to lawmakers to act. And there’s much they can do.

DOH HOLDS FIRST MEDICINAL MARIJUANA WORKSHOP IN JACKSONVILLE via Drew Dixon of the Florida Times-Union – Many complained not only about limited access to the drug, but also criticized the state for limiting the number of state-licensed cultivation centers to only seven facilities in the state. Some speakers at the workshop said they’re concerned about what they see as a state-sanctioned monopoly that could become a “cannabis cartel in Florida.” There were also multiple medical professionals on hand during the workshop and they implored the state to take steps to lower the cost of the drug. The public meetings are designed to get feedback from residents “regarding the implementation of Amendment 2,” the referendum overwhelming approved by Florida voters Nov. 8 that legalized the use of medical cannabis.

INSURANCE OFFICE, NCCI REFUTE SUNSHINE LAW CLAIMS IN WORKERS’ COMP APPEAL via Florida Politics – The Office of Insurance Regulation and an organization that proposes workers’ compensation premium rates have filed legal briefs refuting arguments that they calculated Florida’s recent 14.5 percent rate hike in violation of the Sunshine Law. James Fee, a Miami workers’ compensation attorney fighting the increase, and a group of press and press freedom organizations, had argued … that the National Council on Compensation Insurance, or NCCI, was obliged to open its internal deliberations to public scrutiny. “Just because an entity can create a collegial body that would be subject to the Sunshine Law, does not mean an entity is required to create a collegial body that is subject to the Sunshine Law,” the council’s attorneys wrote.

LAWYERS MARRIED TO MILITARY COULD BYPASS BAR EXAM IN FLORIDA via Florida Politics –The Florida Bar wants lawyer-spouses of military members stationed in Florida to be able to practice law here without having to take the state bar exam. The Bar, which regulates the state’s 100,000-plus licensed attorneys, filed its request with the Florida Supreme Court last week. The change would require court approval. Twenty-three other states, including Texas and New York, “have adopted a military spouse rule,” the Bar’s petition says. “Due to the unique mobility requirements of military families, lawyers licensed in a jurisdiction other than Florida often have to relocate to Florida with their spouse who is in the military,” the petition explains. “Currently, that lawyer is unable to engage in the practice of law in Florida” without passing the state bar exam.

FGCU DECLINES TO INTERVIEW FORMER TALLAHASSEE LAWMAKER via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat – Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda won’t be interviewed for the vacant president position at Florida Gulf Coast University … [She] failed to garner 10 votes from a search committee reviewing 129 applications to replace Wilson Bradshaw, who is stepping down June 30 … Rehwinkel Vasilinda is an attorney and has been a professor of Legal Studies and Applied Ethics at Tallahassee Community College since 1989. She represented Tallahassee in the state house 2008 to 2016 as a Democrat but bucked her party with her support of a bill to allow guns on college campuses. Within the first hour of a meeting to select up to 10 candidates for further examination Rehwinkel Vasilinda and another former Florida House member, Fort Myers’ Keith Arnold, were eliminated from further consideration.

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DANA YOUNG SAYS TALLAHASSEE’S ANGRY TONE DOESN’T HELP; OPPOSES KILLING ENTERPRISE FLORIDA, VISIT FLORIDA via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida’s constitution gives the Legislature one job — passing a balanced budget — so it shouldn’t be that hard, right? “Sounds pretty easy, but this year it doesn’t feel that way,” Young told about 70 people at Café con Tampa … “There is this angry, shrill tone tone coming out of Tallahassee and I truly don’t understand why, because I feel like we’re all on the same team and should be working together to get a budget passed. But this shrill screaming is discouraging.” Asked whether she supports the idea of killing Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, something the leadership in the House proposed this week, Young said no.

SENATE PANEL BEGINS WORK ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING PROBLEM via Florida Politics – A Senate committee got a preview of what a coordinated statewide campaign against human trafficking might look at Monday, when a prosecutor detailed Miami’s “victim-centered” attack on the scourge. Esther Jacobo, who runs the program for State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, said prosecutors … identify services gaps that make it more difficult to deliver children and young women and men from human traffickers. … The Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs gave her a sympathetic hearing. “At the end of the day, we know there’s a crisis in the state of Florida — not only here, but across the nation — when it comes to human trafficking,” said Rene Garcia, the Hialeah Republican who chairs the panel.

BILL ON UNANIMOUS JURY FOR DEATH SENTENCE CLEARS FIRST PANEL via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The legislation (SB 280) was cleared unanimously by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. It’s sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Randolph Bracy of Ocoee, the panel’s chair … a staff analysis said death penalty cases in Florida “have essentially ground to a halt.” In 2016, the Legislature passed and Gov. Scott signed a bill requiring at least 10 of the 12 members of a jury to recommend the death penalty. But the Florida Supreme Court in October ruled 5-2 that jury recommendations must be unanimous for capital punishment to be imposed. Significantly, the court said the law can’t be applied to pending prosecutions.

SUGAR GROWERS PLAY HARD BALL: TELL LEGISLATORS THEY WON’T WILLINGLY SELL THEIR LAND via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Sugar cane growers and other farmers who own some of the largest parcels of land in the Everglades Agricultural Area told the Florida Senate … they will not willingly sell their land to build a water-holding reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, setting up a possible standoff in the power struggle over the future of Everglades cleanup. The owners, which include sugar giants U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals, said in a letter delivered to the Florida Legislature Tuesday, that they “do not support any governmental acquisition of additional farm lands south of Lake Okeechobee to solve issues that are being caused north of Lake Okeechobee and in Martin County. The letter is signed by 12 individuals representing 14 companies who farm in the EAA. Their argument: any attempt to buy land to store water south of Lake Okeechobee “simply cannot store enough water to stop the discharges from Lake Okeechobee when our region is inundated from heavy rains.”

REGGIE FULLWOOD FACES LIGHT SENTENCE, BUT WANTS TO AVOID PRISON via Florida Politics – In 2016, former Jacksonville state Rep. Fullwood was arrested and charged with using campaign funds for personal expenses: 10 counts of wire fraud and four counts of failure to file federal tax returns. He pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of failure to file. Guidelines, assert Fullwood’s lawyer in a sentencing memorandum, call for a 15- to 21-month stretch. However, Fullwood seeks a “non-custodial” sentence in Tuesday’s sentencing hearing. Fullwood has suffered because of the trial, according to his lawyer. His wife is divorcing him. Despite this setback, and a family history of alcohol and drug abuse, Fullwood is back on the straight and narrow. If allowed to serve a non-custodial sentence, the former state representative would be installed as associate editor of the Jacksonville Free Press.

ST. PETE CHAMBER RELEASES LEGISLATIVE WISH LIST FOR 2017 SESSION via Florida Politics – Among the leading matters for the Chamber are transportation, the unification of PSTA-HART, tourism, and state regulation of vehicles for hire — including a bill (SB 340) from state Sen. Jeff Brandes setting rules to promote the growth of transportation network companies (TNC) such as Uber and Lyft. However, at the top of the wish list is a call for greater diversity, with the Chamber supporting the Florida Competitive Workforce Act … The Chamber also wants to keep Enterprise Florida – as is or with some modifications … As for education, the Chamber gives thumbs-up to several local proposals, including $10 million For the St. Petersburg College Student Success Center, and $2.5 million for “STEM academic programming” … The University of South Florida St. Petersburg gets a pair of requests, with $1.5 million for the USF College of Marine Science Coastal Ocean Initiative … There’s also $2 million for the USF College of Marine Science Biogeochemical Laboratory Renovation … The Chamber asks lawmakers to pass the funding request from Kathleen Peters (HB 2005) for $3 million to smoke test the city’s sewer pipes for leaks, remodel lateral clean-outs with removable plugs, and install and seal manholes. The Chamber also opposes any efforts to prohibit a professional sports franchise from leasing public land to build stadiums or renovate stadiums already on public lands.

TAMPA BAY PARTNERSHIP ASSERTS NEW LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES WITH A STRONG MESSAGE ON TRANSPORTATION via Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal – The group’s 2017 policy agenda emphasizes regionalism as a key to connecting citizens and reducing traffic congestion. The Partnership is putting its corporate might behind creating a multicounty Metropolitan Planning Organization rather than the existing patchwork of individual county-based MPOs. “A regional MPO would make Tampa Bay more competitive in pursuing state and federal transportation funding, and facilitate in the process of making regional decisions about long-range transportation plans,” the group’s agenda explains in a recent white paper …The group also supports creating a regional structure for transit operations.

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will discuss direct primary care legislation at 10 a.m. in 110 Senate Office Building. At 2 p.m., the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee will discuss Sen. Rob Bradley’s bill to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee in 412 Knott; while the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee will discuss making texting while driving a primary offense for minors during its meeting at the same time in 301 Senate Office Building. Also happening at 2 p.m., the Senate Transportation Committee meets in 401 Senate Office Building to discuss red-light cameras. The House Appropriations Committee meets at 3 p.m. in 212 Knott to review the governor’s proposed 2017-18 budget. House members also have until 5 p.m. to submit appropriation project request forms.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur will announce the introduction of the “Protect Florida Small Business Act,” which aims to protect small business owners who operate franchises in Florida, during a press conference at 10 a.m. on the 4th floor of the Capitol outside of the Senate Chambers.

ASSINGMENT EDITORS: The Florida Association of Community Health Centers will hold a press conference at 11:30 a.m. on the 4th floor of the Capitol to discuss the role its members serve in providing quality health care to local communities across the state. Participants will include FACHC President Andy Behrman, House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, and Sen. Aaron Bean.

ASSINGMENT EDITORS: Moffitt Cancer Center will hold a press conference at noon at the Florida capital, 400 S. Monroe Street in Tallahassee to announce expansion plans to help the cancer center better meet needs of its patients continue to make scientific advances in the fight against cancer. Dr. Tom Sellers, Moffitt EVP and center director; Jon Gruden, ESPN analyst and Moffitt supporter; Barbara Popoli, breast cancer patient; Rep. Jamie Grant, and Sen. Dana Young are expected to attend.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Florida leaders will detail their concerns with the legal record of Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee during a press conference at 12:15 p.m. the 4th floor of the Capitol.

HAPPENING WEDNESDAY – INDUSTRY LEADERS DISCUSS FUTURE OF TRANSPORTATION — The Charles Koch Institute, The James Madison Institute and Lyft will host a discussion at 6 p.m. Wednesday at The James Madison Institute, 100 North Duval Street in Tallahassee, to discuss the future of transportation in Florida and around the country. Sen. Jeff Brandes is scheduled to give the keynote address. The event will also include a panel discussion moderated by Jesse Blumenthal, manager of technology and innovation at the Charles Koch Institute, and featuring panelists Eli Dourado, director of technology policy program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University; Rob Grant, the director of government relations at Lyft, and Adrian Moore, the vice president of policy at the Reason Foundation.

GOVERNORS CLUB TUESDAY BUFFET MENU – Tuesday’s Governors club buffet takes a delicious Southern turn with she crab soup; remoulade slaw; seasonal green salad; traditional potato salad with bacon; fried chicken with whiskey BBQ sauce; herb roasted pork loin macaroni & cheese; mashed potatoes; succotash; broccoli & cauliflower casserole and finished with a chef’s choice dessert.


DONKEY STATUE LEADS TO ALLEGED INJURY, LAWSUIT IN TALLAHASSEE via Florida Politics – A Tallahassee woman is suing a Mexican restaurant after she fell off its donkey statue and broke her back, according to a lawsuit. Kimberly Bonn‘s complaint, filed last week in Leon County Circuit Civil court, said she was having dinner at El Jalisco Southwood restaurant … Afterward, she got up on a “life-size statue of a donkey” … (but) where Bonn sat “was smooth and slick” and she slipped off. She fell “hard to the floor” and sustained a “fractured spine,” the suit said.

ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA — On Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda, a new bill sets up a major battle between Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida House over plans to kill Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida. Trump’s pick for Education Secretary is in jeopardy with a possible tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence. Florida’s former Education Commissioner tells Gomes he believes Devos is the right person for the job and Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson should vote in favor. Also, Gomes looks back with Florida’s former jobs chief, Jesse Panuccio, as he joins the Trump administration to serve as Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General at the Department of Justice.

SPOTTED in downtown Tallahassee: Blogger and provocateur Jacob Engels.

***The 2017 Florida Blue Foundation Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards are coming to Kissimmee April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. The two-day event — with the theme “Creating a Culture of Health” — will feature several Florida-based, regional and national health professionals. The symposium will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about health care culture, purpose built communities and communities of health. Discussions will center on health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Network with 400+ executives from a range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more. To view agenda and register, click here***

DESPITE THRILLING FINISH, SUPER BOWL OVERNIGHT RATING DOWN FOR SECOND CONSECUTIVE YEAR via Joe DePaolo of Mediaite – Super Bowl LI between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons pulled down a 48.8 overnight rating and 72 share, down from the previous two editions of the big game. Super Bowl XLIX in 2015 between the Pats and the Seattle Seahawks notched a 49.7 overnight. While last year’s game between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers got a 49.0 overnight. It is likely that the Falcons running out to a seemingly insurmountable 28-3 lead did not help the final numbers. Social media buzz certainly helped bring some people back to their sets for the game’s dramatic conclusion. But apparently, it was not enough to top the last two Super Bowls.

AIRBNB FOLLOWS SUPER BOWL AD WITH CALL TO HOUSE 100K IN NEED via The Associated Press – An announcement on the rental service’s website said it plans to start with refugees, disaster survivors and relief workers, but wants “to accommodate many more types of displaced people over time.” The company also said it will donate $4 million over four years to the International Rescue Committee. Airbnb also touched on discrimination experienced by some renters. The company said it’s looking to achieve “greater acceptance in our community.” Airbnb’s Super Bowl spot showed faces of people of different races and included the line, “the world is more beautiful the more you accept.”

TOM BRADY SUSPECTS SUPER BOWL JERSEY WAS STOLEN AFTER GAME via Martin Rogers of USA TODAY – Brady looked flustered as he searched his locker area at NRG Stadium but was unable to locate the game-worn jersey that he donned in leading the Patriots to a 34-28 overtime victory. “It was right here. I know exactly where I put it,” Brady said as he called the security staff and team equipment managers to assist in the search. Brady, who was named the Super Bowl MVP for the record fourth time in his career, frantically looked through several bags and told nearby players that the iconic No. 12 was missing. Backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo told other players to look for the jersey, but the longer he searched, the more Brady seemed to grow concerned it had been stolen. “This is not good,” he said. “It was right here and now I don’t have it. Not good.”

SUPER BOWL GENERATES MIXED RESULTS FOR ODDS MAKERS via Regina Garcia Cano of The Associated Press – Gamblers wagered a record $138.5 million at Nevada casinos on the big game, almost $6 million more than last year. The unaudited tallies released by the Nevada Gaming Control Board showed sports books made a profit of more than $10.9 million on the action, about $2.4 million less than in 2016 and a far cry from the $19.6 the casinos cleared in 2014. Caesars Palace sportsbook director Frank Kunovic said the hotel-casino raked in a decent amount of money from bettors, but would have had a much better day if the Patriots missed the two-point conversion that tied the game. The play resulted in a seven-figure swing for Caesars’ bottom line when MVP quarterback Tom Brady‘s favored Patriots went on to beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28. Most bettors wagered for the Patriots to win by more than 3 points and the game’s total points to exceed 59. “Our saving grace was that we had a lot of people on the under,” Kunovic said, referring to the people who bet that the total points scored by the two teams would remain under 59.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rep. Brad Drake and our friends Josh Burgin and Rachel Pienta.

GATORS REWARDED, SEMINOLES DISSED IN AP TOP 25 POLL via Bob Sparks of Florida Politics – The Gators had two huge wins over the week. A 39-point win over Missouri and a 22-point blowout of former No. 8 Kentucky facilitated Florida’s seven position climb in the poll. They are still two spots behind the Wildcats. Florida is on an incredible run of four straight wins of at least 22 points, three of which were by more than 30. They are playing like a strong NCAA Tournament contender. Florida State, on the other hand, was not rewarded for an impressive week. An 18-point blowout at Miami, followed by a nearly-perfect 48-point dismantling of Clemson, apparently made the voters yawn. Despite having a better conference record (8-3 versus 7-3), overall record (20-4 versus 19-5) and a victory over Louisville, the Seminoles are ranked 10 spots below the Cardinals! Despite having a better conference record (8-3 versus 7-3), overall record (20-4 versus 17-5) AND a victory at Virginia, the Seminoles are ranked two spots below the Cavaliers!

SPOTTED: Florida State fan Ron Sachs congratulates Florida State center Chatrice White (50), who had 19 points, after a game against Miami in Tallahassee Monday. Photo credit Phil Sears/AP.

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