Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Ana Ceballos, Daniel McAuliffe, and Jim Rosica.
Nobody expected a tragedy like Parkland to suck all the oxygen out of the Legislature’s 2018 Regular Session. Lobbyists were left scrambling to save their clients’ priorities as lawmakers hustled to rejigger the budget to accommodate hundreds of millions of dollars for school safety and mental health initiatives.
Some survived, many did not; although that’s no different from any other 60-day tumble in the Capitol.
So who enjoyed the thrill of victory in 2018? Who suffered the agony of defeat? And who got out by the skin of their teeth to try again next year?
Read our 10,000 words on who are the winners and losers emerging from the 2018 Legislative Session by clicking here.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— @NateSilver538: Stating the hopefully-obvious, but the fact that PA-18 is competitive is a really bad sign for Republicans. It voted for Trump by 20 points and Romney by 17. The previous Republican incumbent there (Tim Murphy) didn’t even have a Democratic challenger in 2014 or 2016 & won by 28 points the last time he did, in 2012.
— @Fineout: Asked @about the idea of letting 2 non-government organizations that provide vouchers get a list of confidential tax information so they can ask them for money. Scott’s answer – “I believe in transparency.”
— @JaredEMoskowitz: Dare ya to debate me on this one. If you can’t handle me how can you be governor? (to Ron DeSantis)
— @ShevrinJones: Earlier this week my colleague, Rep. Porter said that “young people don’t have the wisdom or experience to make laws”. Let me introduce you to @#.-she’s done more in 1 month than the FL legislature has done in 20 yrs on
— @SShawFL: I just voted NO on the state budget…I don’t think it reflects an adequate commitment to environment, public education, mental health, etc…
— @MiamiSup: Inexplicably, this year’s Ed budget is historically disappointing for South FL schools. How can anyone justify per-student increases of $65.06 and $52.35 for Miami-Dade and Broward, respectively, with significantly higher costs of living, compared to the state average of $101.50?
— @JimRosicaFL: Democratic Sen. Bill Montford says he’s “taking a few days off” now that Session is over to think about a run for Tallahassee mayor. Did not say when he’ll decide. He and his wife are “on the fence” about it.
— @SenatorAbruzzo: As Democratic Whip, had incredible working relationship with Republican Whip @built on trust and respect. Thank you my friend.
— @FrankWhiteFL: I just cast the final vote of my final regular session as a member of the Florida House. Serving our state has been the honor of a lifetime. I’ll always appreciate my constituents in Pensacola and Gulf Breeze for the privilege to serve
— @LawrenceKS_PD: Please do not call 911 to complain about the format of the NCAA tournament selection show. We can’t do anything about it, no matter how bad it is.
— DAYS UNTIL —
St. Patrick’s Day – 5; March For Our Lives/#NeverAgain gun violence protest – 12; Major League Baseball Opening Day — 17; Easter – 20; NFL Draft begins – 45; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office – 52; Mother’s Day – 62; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 74; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 102; Primary Election Day — 169; College Football opening weekend – 173; General Election Day — 239; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 339; 2019 Legislative Session – 358.
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— TOP STORY —
“Rick Scott signs gun limits into law, breaking with the NRA” via Patricia Mazzei of the New York Times – In a dramatic turnaround in one of the most gun-friendly states in America, Gov. Scott signed into law an array of gun limits that included raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 and extending the waiting period to three days. It was the most aggressive action on gun control taken in the state in decades and the first time Scott, who had an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association, had broken so significantly from the group … The law imposes new restrictions on firearm purchases and the possession of “bump stocks,” funds more school police officers and mental health services, broadens law enforcement’s power to seize weapons, and allows certain staff members to carry guns in schools. Florida’s action gave hope to gun control proponents and sent the NRA scrambling to contain the damage. Outside of Tallahassee, the law might not look that groundbreaking: It does not go as far as laws enacted by other more Democratic-leaning states after deadly shootings. But this is Florida, a laboratory for the NRA and a state that has become recognized for its consistent efforts under legislative Republican control since 1996 to expand gun rights. That such a gun-friendly state adopted any firearm restrictions represents a sea change, even more so as the restrictions were drafted and approved in a matter of three weeks, after a bipartisan vote and the signature of a Republican governor likely to be on the ballot later this year as a Senate candidate.
“NRA sues Florida over gun bill same day” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – “We filed a lawsuit against the state for violating the constitutional rights of 18- to 21-year-olds,” said Marion Hammer, lobbyist for the NRA in Florida. NRA lawyers in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., were working on the complaint Friday afternoon, and filed the complaint moments before the court’s deadline. The suit was filed just over an hour after Scott signed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act into law. He expected opposition from the gun lobby. “I’m an NRA member, and I was an NRA member when I became governor. I’m going to be an NRA member when I’m not governor,” Scott said at the bill signing. “I’m sure there are NRA members that agree with this bill, some that don’t agree with this bill.” The lawsuit names Attorney General Pam Bondi and Rick Swearingen, Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. “This blanket ban violates the fundamental rights of thousands of responsible, law-abiding Florida citizens and is thus invalid under the Second and Fourteenth Amendments,” it says. “Females between the ages of 18 and 21 pose a relatively slight risk of perpetrating a school shooting such as the one that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, or, for that matter, a violent crime of any kind.”
“Critics across partisan lines assail new gun law” via Gary Fineout and Kelli Kennedy of The Associated Press – Ron DeSantis … went on Fox News to criticize the law, which raises the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to 21; extends a three-day waiting period for handgun purchases to include long guns; and bans bump stocks, which allow guns to mimic fully automatic fire. “I think when you start getting into some of the blanket restrictions on people’s Second Amendment rights, I think that that is constitutionally vulnerable. … I mean think about it, you have an enumerated right in the Bill of Rights, there’s really no precedent to just do a blanket ban on certain adults,” DeSantis said on the show. The new law fell short of achieving a ban on assault-style weapons, but it creates a so-called guardian program enabling some teachers and other school employees to carry guns. Five legislators seeking statewide office voted against it, as did the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.
“After Parkland, how the #NeverAgain movement proved Tallahassee wrong” via Mary Ellen Klas and Kyra Gurney of the Tampa Bay Times – Jared Moskowitz seethed in anger as he met with the families of students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on the evening of Feb. 14 … “My colleagues will do nothing,” he predicted, a jaded and discouraged response informed by the Republican-led Legislature’s lack of action after the 49 murders at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub 19 months earlier. But Parkland proved him wrong. Within 12 hours of the massacre, a group of student government, journalism and drama students gathered at North Community Park near the school and turned media interviews into calls for action. Students David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, Jaclyn Corin and Cameron Kasky became instant celebrities, recruited as the newest voices of activism on television shows like “Dr. Phil,” “Ellen,” “Real Time with Bill Mahrer” and on cable news. At a CNN Town Hall, they went head-to-head with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. Before a week had passed, when their nights were still tormented by fear and their days filled with funerals, more than 100 of them traveled to Tallahassee to demand new laws. What their community accomplished is now being touted as a model for other states — and Washington, D.C.
“New gun restrictions a start, but not nearly enough, Parkland students say” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald – One day after Scott signed into law a sweeping school safety bill, student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas vowed to continue pressuring lawmakers to pass stricter gun laws, staging a rally down the street from the school … Organized by students Angelina Lazo and Sarah Cummings, the rally served in many ways as a prelude to a planned march on Washington, D.C., at the end of the month. At least 50 sister marches are also scheduled across the country and globally, according to student organizers with the #NeverAgain anti-gun violence group. Although Lazo admitted she was not well-versed in the guns and school safety bill passed by the state Legislature last week, she nevertheless said it did not go far enough. “We must keep going — a week, a month, a year from now. We need to continue to fight for everyone’s safety,” she said, her voice strained. “They say we’re just kids. Not only are we just kids, but we are tomorrow’s future.”
“How a Republican teacher groomed Parkland teens for the fight of their lives” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald – Jeff Foster doesn’t think Rubio is a “child murderer.” And he doesn’t think a ban on assault weapons is likely to pass. Unlike many of the students he advises, the Advanced Placement government teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School sees “merit” in both arming faculty members and tightening gun laws. Foster, who is far from the liberal teacher stereotype, has been credited nonetheless for grooming students like González, Hogg, and Delaney Tarr for their new roles as teenage activists leading a nationwide push for stricter gun laws. A longtime Republican — but also a Hillary Clinton voter whose views are “almost Libertarian to a degree” — Foster admits he catches himself wincing at some of the more inflammatory rhetoric his students and other members of the #NeverAgain movement have unleashed, especially when they attack the right. But he admires their passion and how quickly and effectively they’ve mobilized. “When it gets a little extreme… I cringe a little at times,” Foster said. “I think their hearts are in the right place.”
“Thrust into gun debate, freshman Sarasota lawmaker grapples with tough choices” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – On the same day Margaret Good arrived in Tallahassee to be sworn in as Florida’s newest state House member, a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and killed 17 people. During her first day on the job — Valentine’s Day — Good was thrust into one of the most passionate political debates to descend on the Capitol in decades. In the end, Good faced a tough choice. For the first time since seizing control of the Legislature two decades ago, Republican leaders advanced a series of meaningful gun control measures. The gun control proposals were paired with a plan to allow school districts to arm certain school personnel, including some classroom teachers. Good liked the gun control ideas and was deeply opposed to the proposal to arm school personnel. Good joined with 31 House Democrats and 19 Republicans to vote against the bill in the House. There were 10 House Democrats who supported the bill. “In the end I felt like I needed to vote my values and I could not stomach voting for a bill that provided a pathway to arm teachers and school personnel,” Good said.
“How would you vote on age limit, 3-day wait for gun purchases? It might be on ballot” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – With the first gun control measure signed into law in decades, a key Republican member of the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission has drafted a proposal to make sure the age limits and waiting period stand up to any constitutional challenge from opponents. The proposal, by Miami attorney and CRC member Roberto Martinez, was filed with the CRC on Friday, just moments after Gov. Scott signed SB 7026 into law … “I think the law is constitutional,” said Martinez, a partner at Colson Hicks Edison and former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. “Can lawyers come up with arguments against it? Of course. To the extent this eliminates any constitutional challenges, we should adopt it.” Martinez said he has spoken with individual members of the 37-member CRC to discuss his proposal and “everybody has said they are open to considering it. There has been strong support from some,” he said.
— SIGNED INTO LAW —
“Scott signs major education bills, including controversial K-12 measure” via Daniel Ducassi of Florida Politics – The more popular of the two measures, FL SB4 (18R), restores the top and second-level awards in the state’s broad, merit-based Bright Futures scholarship program to once again cover 100 percent and 75 percent of tuition and fees, respectively, along with other sweeping changes aimed at boosting the university system and promoting four-year graduation rates. But the real controversy centers on FL HB 7055 (18R) … The bill includes sweeping changes to the K-12 system. The governor touted that the newly signed law “expands school choice.” However, the state’s largest teachers’ union has been up in arms over a provision they describe as “union-busting” that requires solely teachers unions to go through a recertification process if their dues-paying membership falls below 50 percent of eligible employees. The Florida Democratic Party blasted Scott for “gutting” the state’s education system in a statement issued after the governor signed the bills into law. “Just like he’s done for years, Rick Scott is draining funding from our public schools in order to give his political donors and cronies another taxpayer funded handout — it’s just the latest demonstration that Scott puts his own self-serving politics over Florida’s schools, teachers and students,” said FDP spokeswoman Caroline Rowland.
“Email insights: Gwen Graham blasts ‘devastating cuts to schools’” via Florida Politics – “Scott‘s first priority as governor was to cut more than $1 billion from public schools — and in 8 years, while the governor and Legislature have spent our tax dollars on their pet projects and special interests, they have failed to fully restore funding for Florida’s schools and students,” Graham said … Graham said if she is elected in the fall that “change is coming.” “This will be the last Florida budget to underfund public schools. As governor, I will restore our promise to public schools by ending high-stakes testing, ending the degrading system of school grades, and ending the lottery shell game,” she wrote.
First on #FlaPol – “Pinellas County superintendent slams proposed funding for public education” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – “It’s clear that the additional safe schools and mental health funding has come on the backs of teachers and students,” Michael Grego wrote in an open letter. The $88.7 billion state budget proposed for the 2018-19 fiscal year includes a significant funding boost for mental health services and school security in response to the Valentine’s Day school shooting in Parkland that left 17 dead. Gov. Scott signed the $400 million “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Act” into law … Grego is in favor of the Legislature excluding most teachers from being armed, but has yet to determine if Pinellas County will participate in the program. And while he has been for expanding mental health services and safety measures, Grego said the money allotted to public education is not enough to cover operational costs like utilities, health care coverage for employees and other areas impacted by inflation.
— CAPITOL INSIGHT —
“Lawmakers pass $88.7 billion budget to end Session” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida – Florida lawmakers ended their 2018 session Sunday by passing an $88.7 billion budget … The votes concluded an annual session that ran two days into overtime … Republican leaders touted increases money for the education system. Funding in the kindergarten-through-high-school system increased by $101.50 per student, while performance funding for state universities was increased by $20 million. … The budget continues expansion of the state’s main need-based aid program, Florida Student Assistance Grants … Lawmakers also backed a $53 million initiative to deal with the state’s opioid crisis … pay raises in the state budget for law enforcement officers, including the Florida Highway Patrol, and workers at the Department of Juvenile Justice.
“Legislature approves tax cut package” via Florida Politics – The Legislature on Sunday gave the final OK of a negotiated tax relief package that would, among other things, allow Floridians to buy tax-free clothes and school supplies during three days in August and tax-free hurricane gear at the start of June. The roughly $171 million package (HB 7087) was passed by the Senate 31-5, then approved by the House 95-12 at an extended legislative session Sunday to also vote on the state budget … The House and Senate scaled back tax cuts as money was shifted after the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Money had to come “from everywhere, from tax cuts, from member projects, the K-12 budget,” Rep. Paul Renner of Palm Coast, chair of the Ways & Means Committee, told reporters Sunday. “We did the best we could with available dollars.”
“Lawmakers agree on plan to battle opioids” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida – The Legislature approved tough new restrictions Friday on prescription drugs and agreed to spend more than $53 million on treatment and prevention to battle the state’s opioid crisis. Despite the issue being a top priority for the 2018 session, the final vote on the measure (HB 21) almost didn’t come as the Senate and House were at odds for hours over whether the bill should include dedicated funding for Vivitrol, which is a monthly shot that has been successful in helping people with opioid addictions. The House and Senate passed a compromise that sets aside money but makes clear that it shouldn’t be used only for naltrexone, which is sold under the brand name Vivitrol. The bill passed both chambers unanimously and is headed to Gov. Scott’s desk.
“Trujillo accuses Senate of handout to Negron’s favored lobbyists in opioid bill” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida – Trujillo is accusing the Senate of giving a handout to President Negron’s close friends and lobbyists, Frank and Tracy Mayernick, by inserting an amendment to Gov. k Scott’s $54 million opioid bill to benefit the lobbyists’ clients. Trujillo says the Senate added a provision to [the bill] that specifically requires that $5.3 million be spent year over year on extended-release injectable naltrexone. Naltrexone is a generic drug, but only one company — Alkermes — makes an injectable form. That company is represented by the Mayernicks. … “Holding up the passage of vital addiction services legislation while demanding one company receive over $5.3 million of taxpayer money every year puts profits before people,” Trujillo (R-Miami) said. “Provider-specific appropriations are unheard of in the budget.”
“Snake eyes: Gambling bill dies for 2018” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The Legislature’s last best chance to pass comprehensive legislation on gambling came up a bad beat on Friday, with a conference committee calling it quits. President Negron and Speaker Corcoran released a joint statement Friday night. “Despite the good faith efforts of both the House and Senate, a gaming bill will not pass the Legislature this session,” they said. That means the status quo abides, and no renewed deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida that would have guaranteed $3 billion into state coffers over seven years. Tribe spokesman Gary Bitner declined comment. It’s not clear when lawmakers will get another shot: A proposed “voter control of gambling” constitutional amendment will be on November’s ballot. If that’s approved by 60 percent, it would give statewide voters sole power to approve future expansions of gambling in Florida.
— Worth the click – “Sunshine State gambling #fails: A short history (updated for 2018)” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics
“Lauren Book calls Legislature ‘old boys club’ after Senate kills sex-harassment reform bill” via Marc Caputo and Alexandra Glorioso – After believing they’d reached a compromise, lawmakers failed to reform the state government’s sexual harassment policy, which became a victim of last-minute disputes between the House and Senate. “It’s no secret that I’ve said time and time again that Tallahassee is an old boys club and the old boys club is alive and well,” said state Sen. Lauren Book, who carried the bill in the Senate. State Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, the bill’s House sponsor, accused Senate leadership of killing the bill, FL SB1628 (18R). She said Senate leaders reneged on a deal to pass the measure after it was adjusted on the House floor and sent back to the Senate. … President Negron called the bill cumbersome and blamed the House for its failure to get to the Senate floor for a vote. He said all state agencies have the right to terminate staff once allegations of sexual harassment have been proven.
“Human trafficking bill dies on a technicality” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times – It was killed after Republicans grilled the bill sponsor, Sen. Book and protested the bill on a technicality. Sen. René Garcia who was breathing heavily after running back to his desk, so he could speak against the bill, said he supported Book’s effort. But because the House didn’t take up a separate portion of the bill – one that would have created a trust fund for trafficking victims – Garcia urged fellow lawmakers to vote it down. The Senate already passed a separate trust fund bill. “I have to stand up today and ask you to vote down this amendment … because our friends in the House did not do the right thing,” Garcia said.
— EPILOGUE —
“Post-Hurricane Irma, lawmakers require generators for assisted living facilities” via Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times – House lawmakers voted with almost no discussion to require that assisted living facilities have generators, ratifying a rule pushed by Gov. Scott in the days after Hurricane Irma. The Department of Elder Affairs rule … passed in the Senate through SB 7028 but was waiting on action from the House. Lawmakers in both chambers had already passed a similar rule for nursing homes from the state Agency for Health Care Administration earlier this week. But the assisted living facilities rule — unlike the nursing home rule — was not heard by any House committee before it was brought to the floor from the Senate. The pair of rules require backup power sources that could continue to maintain cooling systems in the event of an outage and require power sources that can be portable but must provide at least 30 square feet of cool space for each resident. Nursing homes and larger assisted living facilities must have 72 hours of fuel at those locations. Smaller assisted living facilities with fewer than 17 beds would only be required to have 48 hours of fuel on-site. Nursing homes will also be required to have equipment that can control indoor temperatures for 96 hours after an outage and maintain an ambient temperature of no more than 81 degrees.
“Legislature slashing Health Dep’t pay because of medical marijuana delays” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Lawmakers included a provision to withhold more than $1.9 million in Department of Health salaries and benefits in the final 2018-19 state budget until regulators fully implement medical marijuana. The proviso language… means certain Health officials will get a pay and benefits cut until they “implement” medical cannabis … House Republican Jason Brodeur of Sanford, who first submitted the budget provision, on Friday clarified that the withheld pay applies to the department’s “executive direction entity.” He defined that as including Health Secretary and state Surgeon General Celeste Philip, her chief of staff, legislative affairs director, and the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, including its director, Christian Bax. The withheld pay is effective July 1, the start of the next fiscal year, but “wouldn’t have an impact until later in the year so it won’t cripple them right away,” Brodeur said.
“New College gets big funding increase in state budget” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – The funding is boosting university budgets across the state, from large institutions such as the University of Florida to the smallest one, New College of Florida in Sarasota. The University of Florida is getting a $14 million boost in recurring general revenue as lawmakers try to push it from a Top 10 public university into the Top 5 nationwide. New College of Florida will receive an additional $4.2 million in recurring general revenue and other funds to help grow the tiny liberal arts college. The school is in the second phase of a growth plan that will bring hundreds of additional students and dozens of new faculty to the campus. Next year’s state budget will provide a 14 percent increase in funding for New College. “Gee whiz, we very much appreciate the confidence they have in New College to fund us this way,” said John Martin, the college’s vice president for finance and administration. “The depth and breadth of the academic offerings, the student support services — everything from careers to counseling to student life is going to be immensely enhanced because of this.”
“Legislature adds to the more than 1,000 exceptions to Florida’s public records law” via Elizabeth Koh and Emily Mahoney of the Miami Herald – At least two of those exemptions — crafted as part of the state’s response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last month — have already been approved by Gov. Scott after he signed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Act … One of the two exemptions, SB 7024, shields the home addresses of victims of mass violence. The other, SB 1940, withholds the identities of armed school staff who are trained as part of the state’s new “guardian” program. That last one has open government activists particularly concerned. Not all exemptions are created equal, but they are part of a years-long trend in the Legislature to whittle down identifying information for certain groups. Among the exemptions lawmakers voted to add this year to the state’s public records law: Home addresses for public guardians, employees of child advocacy centers and addiction treatment facilities, and members of child protection teams — and that of their immediate family members … Construction documents for some health care facilities, such as building plans and blueprints … Some United States Census address data.
“Bill changing write-in rules clears Legislature” via Florida Politics – A bill that would allow write-in candidates to run for districts they do not live in cleared the Legislature in the closing days of session and is now ready for a signature from Gov. Scott. HB 6009, sponsored by Dania Beach Democratic Rep. Joe Geller, fixes some inconsistencies in the law when it comes to candidate residency. The law on the books requires write-in candidates to live in the district by the time the candidate qualifying period ends … The write-in rule was declared unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court in 2016 since it put a separate limitation on candidacy than what was laid out in the Florida Constitution.
“Municipal elections bill dies in Senate” via Florida Politics – A bill that would have changed election dates for municipal offices died in the closing days of the 2018 Legislative Session. HB 7037, sponsored by Lehigh Acres Republican Rep. Matt Caldwell, aimed to narrow the choices for when municipal governments could set elections to either the third Tuesday in March, or the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, when general elections are held. … HB 7037 would have impacted dozens of cities that hold elections outside of those dates, and was sharply opposed by the Florida League of Cities on the grounds that it preempts local governments. “For over half of cities that provide for runoff elections, municipal campaigns [would] be in full swing during summer and winter holidays – when voters are highly distracted or absent, and media access exceedingly expensive,” the League said.
“Ballard snags last-minute tax package tweak to help web-based client” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – The lobbying powerhouse Ballard Partners swayed lawmakers to add a new section to the state’s labor law that mirrors the exact business model of one of its online-based clients. Handy Technologies, Inc., which hired Ballard Partners, will directly benefit from a last-minute add on to the tax cut package championed by Senate Budget Chair Rob Bradley. The amendment language clarifies that those hired to do work through an online-based or mobile-app company are treated as independent contractors and not employees, and lists the exact household and handyman work services offered by Handy Technologies. The change will not change workers’ compensation or healthcare requirements for those who currently receive them. It would just clarify that if an online-company is not paying those now to a contract worker, it doesn’t have to pay them in the future. “We are pleased the Legislature continued to support the emerging marketplace contractor economy,” said Chris Dorworth, who is representing Handy Technologies as a registered lobbyist for Ballard Partners.
“Jeff Vinik scores legislative win with passage of Water Street Tampa bill” via Florida Politics – The special improvement district created by HB 1393 would allow an appointed board to levy assessments on commercial properties and charge property tax of up to one mil – $1 per $1,000 of assessed value – on property within in the district. Water Street Tampa, a private development, seeks to bring the first new office towers to Tampa in a quarter century, as well as retail, educational and entertainment space. The building project will clock in at 9 million square feet once completed. The measure cleared the House and the Senate passed it with a pair of amendments cleaning up the language before kicking it back to the House with a 37-1 vote. Sarasota Sen. Greg Steube was the lone no-vote on the bill.
“Parents of student killed at Conniston in 1997 finally win claims bill” via Kenya Woodard of the Palm Beach Post – Ashraf Kamel’s 14-year-old son, Jean Pierre Kamel, was killed 21 years ago when a classmate shot him dead at Conniston Middle School in West Palm Beach. Five years after their son’s death, Kamel and his ex-wife, Marguerite Dimitri, won a $1.6 million judgment against the Palm Beach County School Board in a lawsuit alleging negligence by district and school officials. But the school board paid only the $200,000 maximum that governments are allowed to pay in legal actions in Florida. And almost every year since 2004, Kamel and Dimitri have gone to the Florida Legislature to seek passage of a special type of bill known as a claims bill that would allow the school district to pay at least some of the remainder of the judgment … they finally won, when the Senate voted 34-1 to pass a House bill (HB 6523) approved by that chamber on a 112-3 vote March 1. The legislation would award Kamel and Dimitri $180,000 each for $360,000, the same balance they agreed to in a previous legislative session.
“Free market fights end in wins for 2018, group says” via Florida Politics – Americans for Prosperity-Florida, the free market fighters, are celebrating a long list of legislative accomplishments as the 2018 Legislative Session comes to an end. Among their top priorities this year was a bill to allow direct primary care contracts, SB 80, and the House education package which includes a requirement that teacher unions to have at least 50 percent of eligible members pay dues. “As Floridians continue to suffer under the restrictions of Obamacare, the passage of Direct Primary Care will expand access to quality care by removing third parties from the doctor-patient relationship. This will ensure Floridians receive the care they need from the providers of their choice,” said AFP-FL state director Chris Hudson. The group also celebrated the lack of a funding increase for state economic incentives arm Enterprise Florida and the defeat of “corporate welfare” proposals, such as the bills to create a new film and television program funding pool (HB 341/SB 1606).
— FAREWELL —
The House Media Team has one last blockbuster for the Legislative Session: A farewell to the class of 2018. “Senior representatives reflect upon their time in the Florida House of Representatives,” says the video’s description, now on YouTube. Republican Tom Goodson and Democrats Lori Berman and Janet Cruz make appearances.
Click on the image below to watch the video:
“Lake Okeechobee reservoir is Senate President Joe Negron’s legacy as he reflects on tenure” via Ali Schmitz of TCPalm – The Stuart Republican said his greatest local accomplishment is a reservoir to reduce Lake Okeechobee discharges to coastal estuaries. SB 10, which secured funding and set deadlines for the project, was approved in 2017, the year after toxic algae closed the St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon and — for the first time — Atlantic beaches. Treasure Coast residents like Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, a former Sewall’s Point mayor and longtime Martin County environmental advocate, agreed. “The reservoir is his legacy. He looked around and saw how important this reservoir is to our area and the people in our area, and he put that gorilla on his back and carried it for two years,” she said. “I challenge anyone to do what Joe Negron did.”
“Making an exit: Capitol character retires after guarding Senate chamber doors for 33 years” via Hali Tauxe of the Tallahassee Democrat – Tommy Hunt is retiring at the end of session from a 33-year career with the Senate Sergeant at Arm’s Office. During Session, Hunt’s official duties include guarding the doors to the Senate chambers. He must make sure no one gets in who shouldn’t be there. Hunt says he’s memorized thousands of faces – every senator, every representative and Cabinet member — since Bob Graham was in the Governor’s Mansion. Unofficially, he sees his job as a chance to make everyone’s day just a little bit better. “I’ve had fun over the years at the front door, mostly making people laugh and smile –especially the ones that come in with a bad mood or are down, I can usually make ‘em smile.” Why? “I don’t know. I guess it’s just me.”
— FIRST LOOK AT NEW POLL SHOWING SCOTT LEADING NELSON —
A new poll of the 2018 U.S. Senate race shows Gov. Scott with a two-point lead over Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
The Clearview Research poll contacted 750 likely voters by phone between March 1 and March 7 and found Scott with a 43-41 advantage with 15 percent undecided.
The poll shows Scott leading among white and Cuban Hispanic voters, while Nelson leads among black and non-Cuban Hispanic voters.
Scott also holds the edge among voters aged 35 and older, while Nelson wins the 18-34 bracket by 7 percentage points.
Scott’s edge falls within the margin of error for poll, which is one a very few to show Scott with a lead over Nelson.
Where the poll differs with other recent head-to-heads is the turnout model, which estimates Republicans will make up 41 percent of the electorate, while Democrats take a 39 percent share.
Clearview says the two-point advantage for Republicans is consistent with the past few election cycles.
In 2016, Republicans outpaced Democrats at the polls by 0.6 points, a first in modern history for a presidential race, and in 2014 there was a four-point turnout margin on election day.
— MORE NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
C’mon Jamie Jodoin – “Richard Corcoran fined by Division of Elections” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Corcoran‘s Watchdog PAC was only a day late in filing the report, and its treasurer received just a $50 fine. But it’s ironic that a Republican leader who constantly touts his commitment to transparency failed to comply with disclosure requirements. And it’s not the only part of his political committee that is opaque about its campaign finances … try to be a watchdog on the campaign finances of Corcoran’s watchdog-pac.com. The information is virtually hidden in a reference to “State of Florida Reporting Requirements.” Nor does Corcoran’s committee list the addresses of his campaign donors, which is required under Florida law.
“Fox News is helping Ron DeSantis catch up in governor race” via Mark Harper of the Daytona Beach News-Journal – DeSantis has stayed away from the media circuses in Parkland and Tallahassee, releasing only a written statement critical of the FBI and Broward County sheriff, calling for more funding for mental health services, defending efforts to harden school security and criticizing lawmakers’ move to raise the legal age for the purchase of semi-automatic weapons from 18 to 21. DeSantis appeared on Fox News 29 times from 2012 to 2016, according to researcher Gregory Martin of Emory University. By contrast, Putnam appeared just once during that time and Corcoran hadn’t been on at all … the politically progressive Media Matters for America nonprofit notes that DeSantis had appeared on Fox News 15 times during the first two months of 2018, while Putnam hadn’t been on once. Following the Feb. 14 South Florida school shooting, Corcoran made four appearances.
“Ronda Storms announces HD 59 bid” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics – Storms announced on her Facebook page that she will run for the seat currently held by Ross Spano, who is running for the Republican nomination for Attorney General. “After much prayerful consideration, my family and I have decided to step forward and make the personal sacrifice necessary to run for public office,” she said. Storms frequently made headlines during her eight years on the County Commission. She advocated sterilization for men or women convicted of child abuse and led a movement to cut off county funding for Planned Parenthood. Her most controversial moment came when she took the forefront of a commission decision to abstain from any involvement with Gay Pride parades or celebrations. She even stipulated the ordinance would be labeled “little g, little p.”
— STATEWIDE —
“Gov, Scott tells Tampa Bay CareerSource boards to make leadership changes” via Mark Puente of the Tampa Bay Times – His message came after board members for CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay in Hillsborough rescinded votes to fire their president and CEO Edward Peachey. “With multiple ongoing investigations currently being conducted … including potential criminal charges, it’s unbelievable that the proper steps to protect taxpayers have still not been taken,” said Scott’s communications director John Tupps. Peachey was fired last week, but only for a short period of time before board members pulled back the decision. Small executive committees of CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay had voted to terminate him without cause at the end of last month, electing to give him five months severance in exchange for him not suing the agencies. Within days of the firings, board members in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties invoked a rule to void the decisions until the matter could be brought before the full boards.
“Florida Virtual School wasn’t hacked, it left the door open, Leon County schools says” via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida – Florida Virtual School, which insists it was hacked, refused to answer questions about the claims that its data was leaking online. But Leon County Schools, which was the first public entity to find out about the data breach, confirmed that a privacy advocate who runs a blog about data breaches called databreaches.net was indeed the person who tipped them off about the data leak. To find a trove of personal data on thousands of Leon County teachers and students, essentially all one had to do was go to the right website and download the files. Leon County Schools spokesman Chris Petley said it “was not a hack, it was a server left open” by Florida Virtual Schools. He also said, that contrary to FLVS’ claim that it “contacted” Leon County Schools and state law enforcement about the breach, LCS was the one — along with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement — that contacted FLVS to notify the digital quasi-school district that its data was leaking.
“Lake Okeechobee reservoir to cut discharges approved by SFWMD; heads to Army Corps” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm – The South Florida Water Management District board unanimously approved a design for the project developed over the last several months by district scientists and engineers. The project’s plans are to be given to Ryan Fisher, who heads the Corps as acting assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, by March 30. The Corps is scheduled to review and forward the plans to Congress for inclusion in the upcoming Water Resources and Development Act by Oct. 1. “We’ll push hard for congressional approval and appropriation,” said Matt Morrison, the district’s head of federal policy and coordination who led the design and planning for the project.
“More manatees died from cold stress this winter” via Jim Waymer of Florida Today – Florida is on pace for another cold, harsh record year for manatee deaths, according to an environmental watchdog group. Already, 166 manatees have died statewide, state statistics through March 2 show. … More than 150 manatees died in just the first seven weeks of 2018, putting Florida on pace to set an annual record for manatee deaths, according to the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a nonprofit government watchdog group. “Florida’s manatees are one big freeze away from an ecological disaster and need more, not less, protection,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. … Florida’s annual manatee counts have more than doubled in the past 20 years, to more than 6,600 animals, according to statewide yearly aerial and ground counts. As a result, the federal government reclassified the manatee from an endangered to a threatened species … But the statewide annual counts are only a minimum count of the manatee population, so there could be thousands more.
“Answer or ignore? Robocall ‘epidemic’ worsens, and Florida’s a prime target” via Jessica Saggio of FLORIDA TODAY – Data collected by the Federal Trade Commission, which monitors complaints, show Florida has always been among the worst states in sheer volume. Last year, 588,021 formal complaints were filed to the FTC, second only to California, which reported 823,692 spam or scam telemarketing calls — and those are just the calls actually reported. “We accurately define it as an epidemic,” said Ethan Garr, co-creator of RoboKiller, an app made to stop the calls. “What drives this is basic economics. Making these phone calls is so inexpensive for scammers. It costs them less than a penny per minute.” Many of the calls are run by small companies or even large overseas call centers that are looking for leads. They aim to refer people to different health care companies or loan agents who then pay them for the referral … They key is to find out who is calling, he said, and if it’s a legitimate company a person can sue if they’re being harassed.
— MOVEMENTS —
“Governor surprises Larry Metz: He’s a judge” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – In a surprise announcement Sunday from the dais of the Florida House, Gov. Scott said he had appointed Republican Rep. Metz as a circuit judge. Metz, a Yalaha Republican and 62-year-old lawyer in private practice, applied for a judgeship in the 5th Judicial Circuit, covering Lake, Marion, and Sumter counties. He’s term-limited in the House this year. “This caught me clearly off guard,” he said Sunday. “… It shows that (Scott) has very special trust and confidence in me … I’ll never forget this day and I look forward to being able to uphold the rule of law as a member of the judiciary.”
“Corrine Brown appeals conviction citing juror’s visit from Holy Spirit” via Griffin Connolly of Roll Call –Brown’s attorney filed a 76-page appeal to her conviction on fraud and tax evasion charges Thursday, saying the judge in the case wrongfully removed a juror who claimed a “higher power” told him Brown was not guilty … “The district court reversibly erred when it questioned a juror who had voted to acquit Congresswoman Brown,” the appeal states, “and then dismissed the juror over [a] defense objection based on nothing more that the juror having prayed for guidance and [believing] that he received guidance from the Holy Spirit that Congresswoman Brown was not guilty.”
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Jim Boxold, Nicholas Iarossi, Ashley Kalifeh, Ronald LaFace, Daniel Newman, Scott Ross, Christopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: Provado Mobile Health
Chip Case, Capitol Advocates: Global Shield, LLC
Martin Fiorentino, Joseph Mobley, Mark Pinto, The Fiorentino Group: Estuary
Paul Hawkes, James Magill, Kimberly McGlynn, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Guardian Group
Jim Horne, Strategos Public Affairs: Education Corporation of America
Frank Mayernick, Tracy Hogan Mayernick, The Mayernick Group: FTRB Holdings
William Rubin, Heather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: Fisherman’s Community Hospital
Stephanie Grutman Zauder, Ballard Partners: Alma Advertising Agency
— ALOE —
Florida teams picked for the Big Dance – Florida, Florida State and Miami have each earned a spot in the NCAA “March Madness” Tournament among the 68-team field announced Sunday. The Gators (20-12) were named as No. 6 seed in the East Region and will play the first round Thursday in Dallas as the favorite against the No. 11 seed opponent, either St. Bonaventure (25-7) or UCLA (21-11). Florida is 2-0 all-time against St. Bonaventure, and last faced them Nov. 17, 2016. UF is also 4-0 against UCLA – winning the NCAA Tournament games against them in 2006, 2007, 2011 and 2014. The Florida State Seminoles (20-11) is ranked No. 9 seed in the West Region, facing No. 8 seed Missouri (20-12) in the first round Friday in Nashville. In the last 10 years, the Seminoles made the tournament six times, the best record in Florida State history. The Hurricanes (22-9) are No. 6 seed in the South Region, opening Thursday against No. 11 seed Loyola-Chicago (28-5).
Happy birthday to a slew of Florida politicos, including Sen. Alan Hays, Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times, Brian Franklin, Frank Mayernick, Sarah Revell, and Jeff Ryan.