Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 of 264

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — A billion-dollar fight over bonds

A federal court’s ruling this week in Kansas has bolstered Florida’s lawsuit against the feds over U.S. savings bonds it holds as unclaimed property.

In 2016, then-Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater sued the feds for over $1 billion — the amount of all the bonds he held as unclaimed property.

He said the U.S. Treasury refused to make good on those bonds; current CFO Jimmy Patronis this week added it “has prevented (us) from securing full access to the bonds or owner information so that we could attempt to inform original owners.”

It isn’t just a Florida problem—it’s nationwide, with an estimated $19 billion in savings bonds being unclaimed.

In his weekly newsletter, Patronis said a judge of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, which adjudicates demands for payment from the federal government, “denied the federal government’s attempts to dismiss” a similar case in Kansas.

“In that ruling, the court also found that the Treasury had breached its contractual obligations with Kansas, and ordered the Treasury to give the state the information it needed to further its demands for Kansas bonds,” he said.

“It’s a victory for Kansas and for Florida because the ruling addressed several of the same arguments that we have made, and it allows us to finally move forward,” Patronis added.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, shown here meeting with a Department of Financial Service law enforcement officer back in July, said a recent federal court ruling bolsters Florida’s lawsuit over U.S. savings bonds it holds as unclaimed property. (Photo via Jimmy Patronis’ Twitter)

The Department of Financial Services, which Patronis leads, did notch a victory earlier this year when the Treasury agreed to redeem just over 1,000 bonds, worth a little more than half a million dollars, excluding accrued interest.

The original complaint said the state is holding thousands of “unclaimed, matured savings bonds that were originally registered to individuals with last-known addresses in the State of Florida.” Some of the bonds date back to the 1930s.

“However, even though the state of Florida now has title to these bonds, the federal government has refused to redeem their value, preventing Florida … from working to return the funds back into the hands of the rightful owners,” it said.

In 2015, lawmakers passed a measure, signed by Gov. Rick Scott, that allows the state to take ownership of unclaimed saving bonds, though “the original bond owner may still recover the bond proceeds,” according to a bill summary.

“Know that while it will take time, as does everything involving our federal government, we won’t stop fighting for our fellow Floridians,” Patronis said in the newsletter. “As the case continues, I encourage you to look in your files and in your family’s files for bonds that may have been purchased years ago. The money is yours, and you should have it.”

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Jim Rosica, Peter Schorsch and Andrew Wilson.

The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Ticket masters — Drivers, beware: More speeding tickets could be coming your way. Maj. Mark Welch, a top official with the Florida Highway Patrol, told troopers under his command that they weren’t writing enough speeding tickets. In an email recently, Welch said the patrol would like to see “two citations each hour.” Welch said the number wasn’t a quota, but asked troopers to “support this important initiative.” That request left at least one state lawmaker miffed. Sen. Jeff Brandes, who serves as chairman of the Senate’s Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee, said the Legislature should be concerned about the FHP memo, and said quotas aren’t something he could support. “That is against everything the Florida Highway Patrol should be doing,” he told the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau. “The FHP is about safety. It’s not about meeting quotas.”

Sen. Jeff Brandes, shown here in June in Tallahassee, expressed concern this week over reports that Florida Highway Patrol troopers told they were not writing enough tickets. (Photo by Phil Sears)

Cleared — A Leon County grand jury cleared Tallahassee Mayor (and 2018 Democratic gubernatorial hopeful) Andrew Gillum in his office’s use of city-funded software, which was used to send politically tinged emails to constituents. The grand jury found Gillum never personally used the software from NGP VAN, which provides technology to Democratic campaigns. It also found his chief of staff, not the mayor, ordered the payment of $5,000 in city funds for the software. That’s good news for Gillum’s gubernatorial bid because the issue has hung over his campaign since its early days. But it’s unlikely that’s the last Floridians will hear of the issue. The grand jury called three emails about political events questionable, and Evan Power, the chairman of the Leon County Republican Party, told Sunshine State News he planned to request the full investigation report with the intent of filing a complaint with the Florida Ethics Commission.

A Leon County grand jury this week cleared Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in an investigation into his office’s use of city-funded software, which was used to send politically tinged emails to constituents.

Crisis under a microscope — As the opioid crisis continues to grow in Florida, and nationwide, Florida lawmakers allowed more than $20 million in federal money – which was used for services like beds in crisis units, detox and residential drug treatment programs – to expire. The loss of the federal dollars came as a shock to several state lawmakers, many who said they were unaware they would be losing millions of dollars for frontline services. The news came as Sen. Jack Latvala, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee (and now 2018 GOP gubernatorial hopeful), held a roundtable in Palm Beach County to discuss the opioid crisis. Latvala said he hoped to work to restore funding, and indicated he thought Florida needed more beds for treatment. But opioid abuse isn’t just an issue in the Sunshine State. Former Gov. Jeb Bush, Dr. Mehmet Oz and other advocates penned an op-ed calling on President Donald Trump to take action. Trump appeared to heed those calls, declaring it a national emergency Thursday and saying the nation will “spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis.”

Education text-gate — A wide-sweeping education bill (HB 7069) might be the law of the land, but the controversy surrounding its passage and eventual signing doesn’t seem to be going away. Text messages obtained by POLTICO Florida revealed last week the behind-the-scenes drama as lawmakers sprinted toward the end of session. And this week, there was another chapter in the unfolding drama over the legislation, which could benefit charter schools. According to the text messages, Sen. Latvala appears to have talked with Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer about a plan to sink the bill. Farmer was a staunch opponent of the measure, and filed a series of amendments that would have cut funding to the bill. They all failed.

Sen. Jack Latvala reacts as Sen. Gary Farmer tries to make a point in a back corner of the Senate on June 8, 2017 in Tallahassee, Fla. Text messages released this week Latvala and Farmer might have spoken about ways to sink a wide-sweeping education bill in the final days of session. (Photo by Phil Sears)

Give ‘em more — Agriculture Commissioner (and 2018 GOP gubernatorial hopeful) Adam Putnam said this week he was “pretty disappointed” that funding for Florida Forever was zeroed out, and said $50 million a year might not be enough going forward. Putnam said he wasn’t ready to put a number to how much he’d suggest, but said it would be significantly higher than $50 million to “accomplish what we want to accomplish, to have connected corridors in Florida, and protect the things and serve the things that make Florida Florida.” Putnam talked about the state’s land buying programs during the Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2017 Military Defense and Veterans Opportunity Summit. The Bartow Republican also used his speech to talk up his efforts to support of the military and veterans, including waiving application fees for veterans and military personnel for concealed weapons permits.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam addresses Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2017 Military, Defense and Veterans Opportunities Summit at Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld. Putnam, a 2018 gubernatorial hopeful, said he was disappointed Florida Forever wasn’t funded this year. (Photo via Benjamin Todd.)

Farewell to Ashley Spicola

Ashley Spicola, the education policy coordinator for Gov. Scott, tendered her resignation effective Friday.

She did not mention where she was going in her letter, dated Aug. 1.

“Thank you so much for seven years of excellent work in your office,” wrote Spicola, wife of William Spicola, formerly Scott’s general counsel and now lawyer for the Constitution Revision Commission.

She called it “professionally (and) personally rewarding knowing that my work has in part helped make Florida a better place to get a job, raise a family, and pursue the American dream”—echoing language that Scott often uses.

“Gov. Scott appreciates Ashley’s years of service and wishes her the best in her next endeavor,” spokeswoman Kerri Wyland said.

Hukill will ‘try again’ on financial literacy

Dorothy Hukill will once more push for a “financial literacy” requirement for the state’s high schoolers in the upcoming 2018 Session.

Hukill, a Republican state senator from Port Orange, filed a bill (SB 88) this week to replace a half-credit in electives with a half-credit of “personal financial literacy instruction.” It would apply to high school students who start in 2018-19.

Sen. Dorothy Hukill will once again push for a “financial literacy” requirement for the state’s high schoolers, filing a bill to require a financial literacy course ahead of the 2018 Legislative Session. (Photo via The Associated Press.)

A similar bill passed the Senate unanimously last year, and her colleagues named it the “Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Education Act” in her honor. She missed the 2017 Legislative Session while she recovered from cancer treatment.

This year’s bill was sent to the House, where it died in messages.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” she joked in a phone interview. “But seriously, this bill will help so many students succeed and achieve economic security and independence.”

VISIT FLORIDA on the move

Agency CEO Ken Lawson this week announced the “first round of cooperative marketing programs for our partners” in a post on “Sunshine Matters,” its official blog.

“The co-op marketing programs are designed to allow any partner to buy into a larger VISIT FLORIDA marketing campaign and promote their specific destination (to) allow a business of any size to reach a larger audience,” he wrote.

Lawson has been touring the state, trying to mend relations with local tourism boards after the public-private tourism marketing agency’s bruising budget battle this year.

The programs include opportunities for international, social media, trade meetings and events, and other kinds of marketing.

In coming weeks, Lawson said he will roll out “more international programs, media opportunities focused on impulse getaways and winter sun seekers, and new ventures with Air Canada, Allegiant Airlines, JetBlue, Google, Expedia and Pandora.”

“We are working every day with over 12,000 industry businesses to aggressively market our state and reach our goal of 120 million visitors this year,” he wrote. “Together, we will fulfill our mission of making Florida the number one global destination.”

DCF asks feds for $6 million to fight opioid epidemic

The Florida Department of Children and Families applied for a federal grant this week that would give them up to $6 million to help combat prescription drug and opioid addiction in Florida.

The money would be used to wean users off the highly addictive drugs through medication-assisted treatment, or MAT. If awarded, the state would get $2 million a year for up to 3 years.

“We are committed to using every available tool to help those in need as we continue to aggressively fight the national opioid epidemic in Florida,” said DCF Secretary Mike Carroll. “This grant will provide critical funding to obtain additional resources which provide further support to communities in need of vital treatment for individuals and families.”

Florida is one of 17 states eligible for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant, which will be awarded to up to five states in the fall.

FAC honors Sean Shaw for defending home rule

Rep. Sean Shaw is a champion, at least according to the Florida Association of Counties.

FAC said the Tampa Democrat was named a 2017 County Champion for “his deep commitment to protecting home rule and dedication to working with local officials on their issues.”

The Florida Association of Counties has named Rep. Sean Shaw a 2017 County Champion for “his deep commitment to protecting home rule” (Photo via the Florida House.)

The first-term lawmaker and former Florida insurance consumer advocate said he was “deeply grateful” for the award and will continue the fight to keep government local in the 2018 legislative session.

“I truly believe in the concept of the best government being that which is closest to the people,” Shaw said. “Rather than more top-down edicts from Tallahassee that may not address the individual needs of a certain community, we must listen to our local officials who are best positioned to have the strongest grasp of the issues facing their constituents.”

Scott credits tax cuts for high consumer confidence

Gov. Scott said Florida’s economic and job growth are being reflected in home prices and consumer confidence, which hit a 15-year high last month.

“I am proud to announce that Florida’s consumer confidence and housing market continues to strengthen, which is another positive outcome of our focus on making Florida the number one location for job creators and families to succeed,” he said.

Scott credited tax cuts and slashed regulations for the growth, and said the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund – an $85 million bucket of money under his direct control – gives Florida “the resources needed to grow more jobs for families across the state.

A UF survey pegged consumer confidence at 97.7 in July, mainly due to a stronger job market in the first half of the year, while the median sales price for single-family existing homes has risen $20,000 year-over-year to $245,000.

40 springs projects to receive funding as part of 2017-18 budget

Forty projects … $50 million in funding.

Gov. Scott this week highlighted the 40 springs projects the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the state’s water management districts identified to receive the $50 million included in the state’s fiscal 2017-18 budget.

The money, which was included in Scott’s initial budget proposal and OK’d by the Legislature, will be used to help improve water quality, recharge water flow and protect habitat in Florida’s spring systems.

“Florida is home to some of the most beautiful springs in the world, and protecting these natural treasures is incredibly important for our state’s families, environment and economy,” Scott said in a statement. “Springs protection will remain a priority so that Florida’s future generations will continue to enjoy these unique natural treasures.”

Scott also announced this week the launch of three new springs protection land acquisition initiatives, as part of the springs projects. The state has set aside more than $6 million to acquire land to protect Wakulla Springs, Econfina Springs and springs along the Suwannee and Santa Fe rivers.

“Our springs provide beauty, drinking water, jobs, and an identity for many communities,” House Speaker Richard Corcoran said. “We will continue to fight, along with the Governor, for the protection of this distinctly Floridian natural resource.”

Appointed

Scott appoints three county, circuit judges — There’s a few new judges on the bench.

Gov. Scott announced this week he appointed Jamie Rutland Grosshans to the Orange County Court; Kristine Van Vorst to the Alachua County Court; and Jennifer Gabbard to the 13th Judicial Circuit Court.

Grosshans, a 38-year-old Winter Garden resident, is a sole practitioner for Plant Street Law. She previously served as an assistant state attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, and received her bachelor’s degree from Thomas Edison State College and her law degree from the University of Mississippi.

Grosshans fills the vacancy created by the elevation of Judge Tanya Wilson to the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court.

Van Vorst, a 40-year-old Gainesville resident, is currently a general magistrate and judicial hearing officer for the 8th Judicial Circuit. She previously served as a solo practitioner in private practice, and received both her bachelor and law degrees from the University of Florida.

Van Vorst fills a vacancy created by the elevation of Judge Susanne Wilson Bullard to the 8th Judicial Circuit Court.

Gabbard, a 45-year-old Tampa resident, currently serves as a Hillsborough County judge, and previously served as an assistant state attorney for the 13th Judicial Circuit. She received her bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Florida.

Gabbard fills a vacancy created by Judge Ashley Moody, who resigned earlier this year to run for Attorney General.

Scott reappoints, appoints three to hospital boardsHoward Phillips is keeping his seat.

Gov. Scott announced this week he was reappointing the 69-year-old to the Madison County Health and Hospital Board. The Madison resident is the chief financial officer of Madison County Community Bank, and was reappointed to a term ending June 30, 2019.

The governor also announced Keith Williams would be joining the Jackson County Hospital District board. Williams, a 49-year-old Marianna resident, is the owner of Keith Williams State Farm Agency. He succeeds Arthur Kimbrough, and was appointed to a term ending July 31, 2020.

The DeSoto County Hospital Board will welcome Pamela Vowels to the board, the governor announced this week. Vowels, a 53-year-old Arcadia resident, is the owner of Vowels, Inc.—McDonalds. She succeeds Lewis Ambler, and was appointed to a term ending July 1, 2019.

Negron taps Capps for Citizens board — Senate President Joe Negron has appointed Blake Capps to serve on the Citizens Property Insurance Board of Governors.

Capps is a graduate of the University of Florida and Mercer University of Law. He is the founding partner of Capps and Huff Roofing, now known as Capps Roofing. The Treasure Coast-based company has been family owned and operated since 1993, and operates in Martin, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties.

“I am confident Blake will protect the rights of the nearly half-million Floridians whose homes and property are insured by Citizens,” Negron said in a statement. “Blake’s legal training and business experience will be an extraordinary asset to the Citizens Board of Governors as Citizens serves its customers and policyholders.”

For the grapefruit — There’s two more Floridians watching out for Florida’s citrus community.

Gov. Scott announced this week Lee Bouldin and Carlos Martinez will be joining the Florida Citrus Commission. The governor also reappointed Jonathan “Ned” Hancock to the board.

Bouldin, a 62-year-old Vero Beach resident, is a citrus shipper at DNE World Fruit, and replaces Michael Garavaglia. Martinez, a 51-year-old Orlando resident, is a procurement manager at the Coca-Cola Company, and was appointed to fill a vacant seat. Both men were appointed to terms ending May 31, 2019.

Hancock, a 59-year-old Sebring resident, is owner and president of Hancock Citrus, Inc. He was reappointed to a term ending May 31, 2019.

All of the appointments are subject to confirmation.

Tech firm to create 20 new jobs in Tampa

You might call it a mini-growth spurt.

Think Anew, an information technology managed services provider, announced this week it was creating 20 new jobs in Tampa, its first location in Florida. The small business, according to the Governor’s Office, considered several locations—including Mississippi—before opening shop in Florida.

“Think Anew, LLC is a great example of our pro-growth policies coming to fruition and helping Floridians find jobs,” said Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity. “The company will find a talented workforce in Hillsborough to fill its high-skill, high-wage STEM job openings. I am proud that Florida has created an environment ideal for business expansion and job creation.”

Gov. Rick Scott was on hand to announce ThinkAnew was creating 20 new jobs in Tampa. (Photo via the Governor’s Office.)

Founded in 2007, Think Anew provides information technology services that enable efficient interaction between hardware and software for the healthcare, education and government sectors. The company, according to the Governor’s Office, offers full technical support services, including help desk, and wireless cloud and connectivity solutions.

“I’m proud to highlight small business Think Anew, which chose Florida as the best place to expand and create 20 new jobs for families,” Scott said.

Bondi reaches settlement over nationwide data breach

Attorney General Pam Bondi announced this week she and 31 other attorneys general reached a $5.5 million settlement with Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company over an October 2012 data breach.

The data breach resulted in the loss of personal information — including Social Security numbers, drivers’ license numbers and credit scoring information — belonging to nearly 1.3 million consumers. The insurance company collected the information to provide insurance quotes, and the failure to apply a security patch led to the loss of consumer’s personal information.

Attorney General Pam Bondi and 31 other attorneys general announced they reached a settlement with Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company over a 2012 massive data breach. The settlement calls for the company to, among other things, take a series of steps to update security practices. (Photo via the Associated Press.)

Under the settlement, Nationwide will be required to take a series of steps to update security practices and ensure the timely applications of patches and updates to security software. The company must also hire a technology officer responsible for monitoring and managing software and security updates, and supervise employees responsible for evaluating and coordinating maintenance.

According to Bondi’s office, many of the consumers impacted never became insured by Nationwide, but the company retained the consumer data to more easily provide requotes at a later date. The settlement requires the company to be more transparent about data collection practices.

Florida Chamber Foundation focuses on military, vets

When it comes to Florida’s future, making sure the Sunshine State remains one of the most military and veteran friendly states in the nation will be key.

And just how to achieve that was the focus of the Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2017 Military Defense and Veterans Opportunity Summit at the the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld this week. The annual conference brought together leaders from Florida’s military and defense industries, economic development experts and business leaders, and policymakers to address the challenges facing Florida in the coming years.

“Think of the millions of soldiers, sailors and airmen whose first introduction to Florida is through training here. All the pilots in Pensacola and folks who are stationed here. Folks who end up at one of our combatant commands, and they fall in love with Florida,” said Agriculture Commissioner Putnam, one of the event’s speakers. “They resolve that, at some point, they’re going to end up back here with their families to begin the next chapter of their lives in the Sunshine State.”

Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity, moderates a discussion on the how the military and defense community acts as an economic driver during the Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2017 Military Defense and Veterans Opportunity Summit. (Photo via The Florida Chamber Foundation.)

The day-long event included discussions about how federal discussions could impact Florida’s bases; the role the business community plays in transitioning veterans from active community to the workforce; and how the military and defense community acts as an economic driver.

According to the Florida Chamber Foundation, the military and defense industries account for about 10 percent of the state’s economy. The state’s military and defense industries help support nearly 775,000 Florida jobs.

Other speakers included Mark Wilson, the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce; Wayne Peacock, the president of USAA Property and Casualty Insurance Group; Kellie Jo Kilberg, the chair of the Florida Defense Alliance; and Bobby Carbonell, the executive director of Veterans Florida.

Bar to honor ‘good’ work

The Florida Bar seeks nominations for its annual pro bono awards, “which honor lawyers, judges, law firms and associations that have contributed extraordinary pro bono service,” it said in a news release.

“Pro bono publico means ‘for the public good,’ and pro bono service (free legal help) is just one way that attorneys do their part to help make their communities better,” the Bar said.

In 2015-16, the last year reported, Florida Bar members collectively contributed nearly $5.4 million to legal aid organizations and donated more than 1.6 million hours of free legal service.

The deadline for most nominations is Nov. 8, while nominations for the The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Service Award is Aug. 31. Nomination forms are available at http://www.floridabar.org/ProBonoAwards.

A 2018 pro bono service awards ceremony will be held at the Florida Supreme Court on Jan. 25.

Lawmakers take part in MAP Future Summit

Florida lawmakers are doing their darnedest to break the millennial stereotypes.

Senate President pro tempore Anitere Flores, Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon and state Rep. Shevrin Jones recently traveled to Boston to take part in the Millennial Action Project’s 2017 Future Summit.

The annual event, held at Tufts University School of Medicine, gave young state legislators a chance to network with their peers from across the country, discuss practices and strategies for bipartisan leadership, and chat with policy experts on future-focused issues.

Rep. Shevrin Jones, Sen. Anitere Flores, and Sen. Oscar Braynon represented Florida at the Millennial Action Project’s 2017 Future Summit in Boston. (Photo via Rep. Shevrin Jones’ Twitter)

“I was honored to spend the weekend with a group of young leaders from around the country who are on the frontlines of preparing positive public policy for generations to come,” Jones said in a statement. “As a member of the bipartisan Florida Future Caucus, I’ve seen firsthand how much we can accomplish when we focus on innovative and forward-looking solutions to the problems our state is facing. I’m exciting to build on some of the ideas we heard and apply them to Florida!”

The Florida Future Caucus was launched in April, and is made up of a bipartisan group of state lawmakers under the age of 40. Similar caucuses have been established in 18 states, including Texas and California.

Case over Florida Medicaid headed to appeals court

A legal battle over whether the state’s Medicaid program has provided proper services to children with severe medical conditions is headed to appeals court, Jim Saunders with The News Service of Florida reported this week.

Attorneys for children and the Department of Justice gave notices this week that they plan to take the case to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. That comes after a federal district judge dismissed the case, siding with the state Agency for Health Care Administration and Department of Health.

The five-year battle centers around allegations the state violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as other laws, by failing to provide services that allow “medically complex” children to stay in their homes and communities. The children in the case, according to the News Service of Florida, need intense medical attention because of issues like tracheotomy tubes or cerebral palsy.

Katopodis named FMA president

There’s a new doctor at the helm of the Florida Medical Association.

The FMA announced this week that Dr. John Katopodis has been installed as the 141st president of the organization, and will serve during the 2017-18 year.

“Dr. Katopodis has served organized medicine and the FMA at every level, and he is a tireless advocate for Florida physicians and their patients,” said FMA CEO Timothy Stapleton in a statement. “His dedicated leadership and passion for helping physicians practice medicine will further strengthen the FMA as Florida’s premier voice of medicine.”

Katopodis earned his medical degree from the New York University School of Medicine, and completed a fellowship in cardiology at Shands Hospital/University of Florida School of Medicine in Gainesville. He also completed a cardiology fellowship at Jackson Memorial Hospital/University of Miami School of Medicine in Miami; and interventional cardiology fellowship at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor.

He succeeds Dr. David Becker, who served as the 140th president from 2016-17. The Florida Medical Association also announced Dr. Corey Howard will serve as the president-elect; Dr. Ronald Giffler will serve as the vice president; Dr. Michael Patete will serve as secretary; Dr. Jason Goldman will serve as treasurer; Dr. Joshua Lenchus will serve as speaker; and Dr. Ashley Booth will serve as vice speaker during 2017-18.

Department of State celebrates 50 years of preserving history

Happy birthday, Florida Archives and History Act!

The Florida Department of State is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Act. Signed into law in 1967 by Gov. Claude Kirk, the law created the Museum of Florida History, the Division of Historical Resources, and the State Archives of Florida.

The Florida Department of State is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Florida Florida Archives and History Act with events throughout the year, including at The Grove Museum.

“Florida has an incredibly rich history and for the last 50 years, the Museum of Florida History, Division of Historical Resources and the State Archives of Florida have been at the very core of the department’s efforts to preserve and showcase our state’s past,” Secretary of State Ken Detzner said. “I am thrilled to celebrate this milestone anniversary and I encourage all Floridians to join us at one of our exciting upcoming events.”

The department is spending this year to host a variety of educational programs and events to celebrate history. Those events include “second Saturday” family programs at the Museum of Florida History, summer Saturday research hours, and events at The Grove Museum.

One for the record books

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is adding a new category to the state’s all-tackle record books.

Any whopper from the Menticirrhus family caught after June 30, 2017, can be submitted to FWC to claim the new record, just make sure to include a photo along with line or tippet samples.

If going after Kingfish isn’t in the cards, FWC said there are still a couple unclaimed saltwater fishing records in the conventional tackle category and 26 vacancies in the fly-fishing category.

Visit CatchaFloridaMemory.com to learn more about breakin’ a Florida record.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

Gwen Graham spends ‘workday’ at camp for sick children

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham spent a campaign “workday” this week helping out at a Eustis summer camp for children with serious illnesses.

“The children of our state are so fortunate to have Camp Boggy Creek. Every child deserves to experience the love, joy and growth I saw here, today.” Graham said. “I am thankful for the amazing staff and volunteers who dedicate their time giving back to our community. Camp Boggy Creek is a great example of all we can achieve when we work together to serve others.”

Graham’s workdays were a staple of her successful ouster of former Republican Rep. Steve Southerland when she ran for congress in 2014. Her father, former governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, also held workdays during his many successful campaigns.

Graham spent the day helping out the counselors and volunteers at the camp, which was founded by actor Paul Newman and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf in 1996 based on a premise “that every child, no matter their illness, could experience the transformational spirit and friendships that go hand in hand with camp.”

One of the counselors Graham worked with, Leia Schwartz, first went to Camp Boggy Creek as a camper after severe asthma caused her lungs to collapse and severely limited the physical activities she could participate in.

“Camp Boggy Creek gave me the opportunity to experience the same fun other children had. For the first time, I felt like I wasn’t so different, after all. Now, I give back to help other children laugh, play and grow,” said Schwartz, now a student at Stetson University.

Camp CEO June Clark said she was grateful Graham spent one of her workdays at the camp.

“She learned firsthand about the fulfilling experiences we provide to seriously ill children in Florida. I encourage everyone learn more about Camp Boggy Creek and our mission to help children and families,” Clark said.

It’s official: Jack Latvala opens up campaign account to run for Florida governor

As if we should be surprised, state Sen. Jack Latvala on Friday opened a new campaign account and filed paperwork with the state’s Division of Elections to run for Florida governor.

“My papers were filed by 5-year-old Rays fan Cooper Bishop!” the newly minted candidate tweeted shortly after noon, including a picture of a smiling boy wearing a Tampa Bay Rays uniform holding Latvala’s paperwork.

Latvala still plans to make an official announcement about his 2018 plans next Wednesday. Still, these filings are necessary first steps under Florida law for him to launch a gubernatorial campaign.

The Clearwater Republican, who chairs the Senate’s influential Appropriations Committee, had said he would announce his future political plans on Aug. 16. He’s term-limited in his Senate District 16 seat next year; Latvala was previously in the Senate 1994-2002.

“As a small-business owner and public servant, I have a track record of getting things done and solving problems,” Latvala has said. “One thing you can always expect from me too is when I give you my word, I will keep it.”

The announcement was certainly expected. A clear signal of a gubernatorial run came when FloridaPolitics.com reported that Latvala’s “Florida Leadership Committee” retained prominent GOP ad maker Fred Davis.

Last week, Latvala sharply criticized House Speaker Richard Corcoran, particularly over the House’s efforts to overhaul VISIT Florida, the state’s tourism marketing arm, say9ing it was “all about making political points, all about trying to make headlines, trying to raise your name identification, whatever.”

Corcoran defended the legislation as an effort to bring “more transparency and accountability” to the marketing program.

Although Latvala is a fixture in Tampa Bay politics, he has never run a statewide race, and first must overcome a relative lack of name recognition throughout Florida.

Moreover, Latvala’s “Florida Leadership Committee,” has about $3.85 million on hand for the same period. But since he wasn’t actively running for office in 2018, Latvala had no on-hand campaign funds.

The only major Republican now officially running for governor is Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Between his campaign account and fundraising committee “Florida Grown,” Putnam finished July with a little under $12 million on hand.

Also considering a gubernatorial run are Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who has a supporting committee that raised nearly $1.3 million through the end of July.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post, with permission.

Jacksonville Bold for 8.11.17 — Now we go to school

Those who work at Jacksonville City Hall have received a political education of late, demonstrated by a recent City Council bill on funding after-school programs.

With apologies to Ric Flair, but his famous catchphrase “now we go to school” applies here … and not just because this bill was education-related.

Finance Chair Garrett Dennis wanted to tap into general fund reserves for one-time money to fund after-school program expansion — a position at odds with that of Mayor Lenny Curry, on yet another issue.

In a statement, Curry said that would not be “prudent” and would send the wrong message to ratings agencies, and if the bill passed with that condition, “the mayor would evaluate it when it lands on his desk.”

Instead, here’s what happened. The Finance Chair’s amendments got turfed, with the old guard of the Council — Bill Gulliford, John Crescimbeni and others — again controlling the discourse at the expense of Dennis and Council President Anna Brosche.

As with previous conflicts between Dennis and Curry (see: swimming lessons money), the battle took a familiar track. Dennis got out in front of consensus on an issue, and Team Curry picked off potential supporters in quiet conversations after that.

With budget discussions beginning this week in Dennis’ committee, we are reminded of another famous Flair phrase.

“To be the man,” the Nature Boy often said when defending his world title, “you’ve got to beat the man.”

Does Dennis have the juice? We’ll watch that this month, along with all kinds of other excitement in state and federal politics, some of which you will see below.

John Rutherford heads to Israel

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford has settled in quickly to his role in Congress and this recess week found the Jacksonville Republican burnishing his foreign policy chops with a trip to the Middle East.

John Rutherford is making his first trip to Israel as a congressman.

Per a news release from Rutherford’s office, the congressman left for Israel Monday “as part of a delegation of Members of Congress to meet with various leaders in the region including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas.”

The delegation discussed “US relations in the region including economic, military and security cooperation.”

Rutherford met “with Nafatali Bennet, the Minister of Education and Diaspora Affairs, IDF Soldiers, as well as Israeli military leaders, professors and business leaders. The group will also tour Israeli military bases, as well as visit historic and holy sites.”

Guilt is a ‘myth,’ says Corrine Brown lawyer

Rep. Brown was in court this week fighting guilty convictions on 18 counts, contending that she should a] get a new trial and/or b] be acquitted.

The arguments had been rehearsed in the written motions and during the trial, as the prosecution noted.

One man’s wire fraud is another man’s mythology.

“The defense is not saying anything different today than it did [during] the proceedings,” one of the prosecutors asserted, hammering in on repeated instances of “fraudulent omissions” regarding pitches to donors, statements on tax returns, and so on — with Brown’s word being the only evidence to the contrary.

Evidentiary points, such as Brown holding blank checks from One Door, loomed large as evidence of Brown’s involvement.

“She had hijacked the charity, had her chief of staff take control of the finances, and was bleeding it dry,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Coolican said.

Rev. Jesse Jackson was there in support — yet another nostalgia act on this never-ending road show that is the end of Corrine Brown’s political career.

Quiet July for Paul Renner committees

July was the first month of fundraising for future Florida House Speaker Renner‘s political committees since he won the honor in late June.

Paul Renner did not have much committee-level financial activity in July.

Some observers may have anticipated an avalanche of activity, but in reality, the committees had modest contributions and spends.

“Florida Foundation for Liberty,” Renner’s primary committee, brought in just $25,500 in July (spending $20,383 of that), pushing the committee just over $240,000 on hand.

Donations came in from political committees, including the Realtors, Surgi-PAC, and the Florida Credit Union’s political action committee.

The biggest donation: $10,000 from MHK of Volusia County.

Of the over $20,000 spent, $4,000 went to Ballard Consulting, $2,685 went to Renner’s campaign account for reimbursements, $10,000 went to another Renner committee, “Conservatives for Principled Leadership.”

Meanwhile, there were just two external donations, and both were in the Jacksonville metro area.

The committee gave $1,000 to Clay Yarborough‘s campaign, and $2,500 to “A Safe Jacksonville,” the political committee of Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams.

The aforementioned “Conservatives for Principled Leadership,” meanwhile, has just under $18,000 on hand after a $12,500 July.

Beyond the $10,000 from Renner’s other committee, the other $2,500 came from the “Florida Prosperity Fund” committee.

Yarborough continues strong fundraising

Rep. Yarborough, the Jacksonville Republican representing State House District 12, hauled in $7,500 in July fundraising.

Among the bigger names from the nine donors: Foley and Lardner and Florida Foundation for Liberty (the committee of future House Speaker Renner).

Yarborough has raised nearly $49,000 this cycle, and has just under $41,000 of that on hand, as he prepares for a general election challenge in the deep red district.

Yarborough is slated to face a general election opponent: Tim Yost, a local college instructor running as a Democrat.

Yost filed for this race in the middle of July and has raised $2,215, largely from small-dollar donors, with a few bearing the surname of Yost.

Bobby Payne draws competition in HD 19

GOP state Rep. Payne, whose district encompasses parts of Union, Clay, Bradford and Putnam counties, has drawn both primary and general election opposition in recent days.

Green Cove Springs Republican Boyce Royal filed July 31 to run against Payne in the GOP primary.

Royal is a real estate agent by trade.

The winner of that primary will go on to face a Libertarian, Ryan Russell Ramsey, in the general election.

Bobby Payne will be harder to beat in the re-elect than some might think.

Payne, a Palatka native, has just under $23,000 on hand after a $6,500 July comprised of donations from Jacksonville’s power elite — Peter Rummell, the Fiorentino Group, Jacksonville Kennel Club and so on.

Expect that war chest to grow.

Despite being a rookie legislator, Payne will be a tough out; he has a strong working relationship with Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Travis Cummings of the Clay Delegation, and with Gov. Rick Scott.

In the contested GOP primary in 2016, Payne won his native Putnam with 55 percent of the vote, but he held his own — and then some — elsewhere. He got 47 percent of the vote in Union, 31 percent in Clay, and 35 percent in Bradford.

Curry fundraising machine churns on

Jacksonville Mayor Curry hasn’t officially launched his re-election campaign, but the donor class is all in.

Already this month, Curry raised over $100K at an event at the JAX Chamber.

Lenny Curry looks poised for re-election. Will anyone bother challenging him?

Chamber CEO Daniel Davis tweeted out an understatement: “looks like JAX Chamber wants to see Lenny Curry re-elected.”

Curry’s committee continues the momentum one would expect from a popular incumbent.

July saw Curry’s committee raise $52.5K, and disperse $19,647 — including $5,000 to “Seamless Florida,” the committee of St. Petersburg Republican mayoral candidate Rick Baker.

The big donor: Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who ponied up $25K.

There was no invoicing of the trip that Curry took on Khan’s private jet for an economic development trip last week to Baltimore, St. Louis, and Kansas City.

That trip explored, among other concepts, development ideas for future development of the area around Jacksonville’s football stadium and other athletic facilities.

Happy Consolidation anniversary

Jacksonville’s Consolidation (as in the city and the county became one) is 50 years old. And this week, the Florida Times-Union took a walk down memory lane, via an interesting piece from Matt Soergel that dug into the archives and looked at the debate at the time.

The Jacksonville Journal, which used to be the afternoon paper in Jacksonville, noted that “the people [won]” with “Floridians now know[ing] that the sleeping giant who sat at one of the most enviable spots in the state now means to shake off the slumber of years.”

Former Mayor Hans Tanzler in an iconic image after Consolidation.

Did that happen?

Depends on who you ask.

As we saw in July in Jacksonville’s City Council, a resolution in favor of a celebration of Consolidation didn’t muster unanimous support.

A movement for full Council sponsorship of the resolution was spiked by Councilman Reggie Brown, who spoke at length about infrastructural failings and broken promises.

Brown noted that JEA, for example, isn’t committed to sewer and water expansion in his district.

“Until we have a plan to say that if you live inside the Beltway, we will focus on installing sewer and water, there is no celebration,” Brown said.

Likewise, Councilwoman Katrina Brown would not sign on, citing “the same issues,” even as she lauded the Council and JEA for committing $30M over five years for septic tank phase out.

Consolidation conundrum, part 2

More discussion of the future of Consolidation occurred Tuesday in Jacksonville City Council offices.

There is plenty to do, of course.

Fifty years in, and Consolidation is still a work in progress.

One ongoing initiative: a task force to deal with public health issues.

Employee health: another matter to be addressed. Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa suggested Mayor Curry may want to deal with that task force.

And changes in health care could be contemplated.

“The county hospital model is becoming a thing of the past in most cities,” Councilwoman Lori Boyer remarked.

The expansion of CPACs — Citizen Planning Advisory Committees — also was up for discussion.

“When we consolidated, we became a big bureaucratic entity,” Boyer said, with CPACs serving an important role to bring localism to the larger government.

And bringing the discussion back full circle, a discussion of allocating a fixed amount of the capital improvement program budget to the promises made before Consolidation happened.

“Part of the argument for Consolidation,” Boyer said, was standardizing city services.

“Much of [the work] hasn’t been done.”

JAXPORT dredge frustrates City Council

While JAXPORT and the state and federal governments are full steam ahead regarding dredging the St. Johns River to 47 feet, City Councilors wonder how much the city will be soaked for, per the Florida Times-Union.

“They’ve orchestrated it in a way that we’re not engaged until some point in the future,” Councilman Bill Gulliford said. “We don’t know what the actual number will be.”

“At this point, I’m probably in the category of one confused council member,” Councilman John Crescimbeni said. “My comfort level is not great, and it’s a very complicated issue because of all the different numbers and figures that are being bandied about by a variety of sources. I think I need to hire my own forensic accountant to try to reconcile everything down to two files — fact and fiction.”

A disappointed Lori Boyer is not optimal when selling a city commitment.

“I am disappointed that they have chosen to phase this process in such a way that they’re not coming to the city for any approval prior to starting the project,” Councilwoman Boyer said. “That’s clearly the frustrating part.”

While some are on board, the reality is JAXPORT has more selling to do — and probably in noticed meetings.

Jax LGBT advocates laud HRO protections

With uncertainty now the watchword regarding federal protections for LGBT people, Jacksonville advocates are happy that the local Human Rights Ordinance protects them locally, reports the Florida Times-Union.

Despite theistic agitprop, the HRO is now law, reassuring LGBT locals.

Jimmy Midyette, legislative director of the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality, described what the bill actually means in the new context.

“We had to make the point again and again and again that we’re not covered [and] we’re not doing a ‘feel-good’ bill to make people think we’re doing something,” Midyette said. “I think it just shows with so much uncertainty on the national level it’s more important than ever to have these local protections in place.”

Jacksonville General Counsel Jason Gabriel notes that no matter what happens on the federal level, the local protections are still actionable.

Since the HRO expansion became law in February, no claims have been filed that the law was broken.

St. Johns Republican Chair takes on transgender high schooler

Just across the county line from Jacksonville, the argument for HRO protections was made by a local GOP member going in on a transgender high-school student.

A new low for the St. Johns County GOP: trashing a high-school student.

Action News Jax reports that “Drew Adams, 16, is suing the school district to use the boy’s restroom. The Republican Party recently sent a letter to neighbors, saying it disagrees with the lawsuit, and so does a school board member.”

GOP Chairman Bill Korach said the “girl” is “confused,” saying that the student “ought to use the girl’s restroom” and “ought to get counseling.”

Adams has sued the school district, charging discrimination and petitioning to use the boys’ restroom.

Web.com coy on buyout rumors

If you’re looking for details on the future of Web.com, you might think CEO David Brown would give a hot quote. But you’d be mistaken.

The Jax Daily Record quoted his word salad from a quarterly call with investors, in which Brown was asked to address the rumor directly.

The future of Web.com is up in the air.

“Happy to comment on it and that comment is we don’t comment on market rumors about this type of topic,” he said.

“I think it’s worth noting that we’ve always been open to whatever would build long-term shareholder value, whatever maximizes our shareholders’ interests and we’ve said numerous times and continue to say that we talk to lots of people from strategic to financial players in the market. There are many reasons to talk to them,” Brown added.

As with another local business, CSX, lots of tea leaves are being read right now regarding the future.

Times-Union sells out

Morris Communications sold the Florida Times-Union to yet another big media company, Gatehouse, this week.

Morris billed the sale as “a strategic restructuring to focus its business on lifestyle publications, property development and new business.”

The T-U isn’t alone: some Morris properties were also sold this week.

For T-U staffers, this ends a conflicted relationship with the parent company, which compelled the local paper to endorse President Donald Trump last year, and which also had introduced a more corporate feel in recent months, including electronic time card punches for reporters.

It’s going to get more corporate going forward. As the T-U reports, Gatehouse owns “more than 130 daily newspapers and more than 500 non-daily publications across the United States.”

T-U reporters who want to talk about this are welcome to get a beer sometime with our Jacksonville correspondent. He’s happy to listen.

JAXBIZ endorses Atlantic Beach incumbents

BeachesBIZ, a JAXBIZ subcommittee, is supporting incumbents in the races for Mayor of Atlantic Beach and Atlantic Beach City Commission.

The status quo will continue, with Mitch Reeves as the Mayoral pick, and Jimmy Hill and Mitch Harding getting commission nods.

Atlantic Beach Mayor Mitch Reeves

“All of these candidates have proven their commitment to Atlantic Beach, focusing on a thriving local economy while continuing to improve the unmatched quality of life at the beach,” JAXBIZ Chair Denise Wallace said.

Happening Wednesday

Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) launches a first-of-its-kind digital Manufacturers Marketplace at 3 p.m. EST at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, 111 Busch Drive in Jacksonville. A reception will follow the announcement.

The Manufacturers Marketplace is a web-based, searchable buyer/seller network featuring listings of hundreds of thousands of manufacturers in the United States, including Puerto Rico.  Created in partnership with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and other leading state manufacturing associations, the Manufacturers Marketplace is designed to bolster manufacturers in the United States by helping them find, get found and advance their businesses. Register at AIF.com/marketplace.

Pay to play

College football for students at Keiser University? While that may sound counterintuitive, it is happening, reports the Florida Times-Union.

As with the NFL Seahawks, the Keiser variety expects the 12th Man Advantage

How to field a team with students from campuses across the state? Here’s what the new coach had to say.

“There’s just a lot going on. We’ve got to fill a roster, we’ve got to recruit the state, fill a coaching staff … have daily conversations about facilities, where we’re going to play and where we’re going to put these kids.”

On a positive note, the new athletic director expects robust road support. The students are already commuters.

“We have the advantage in that we have faculty and students [from other campuses around the state] that can come to games while we’re on the road,” the AD said.

PLAYERS back to March

The PLAYERS Championship may be moving back to its more traditional March place on the calendar, after years of taking place in May, the T-U reports.

“The Associated Press reported on Monday, citing unnamed sources, that the PGA will be played at the Bethpage State Park Black Course on Long Island in New York in May of 2019, clearing the way for The Players to move back to the March date it held from 1977 to 2006,” per the T-U.

PLAYERS Championship returns to a March tee-off

“The Players, contested at the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, will be held in May one more year under the expected schedule changes. The Tour has held a tournament on the First Coast since 1965, but was in March until Phil Mickelson won the 2007 Players in May,” the T-U adds.

Armada struggle in Puerto Rico

The Jacksonville Armada FC traveled to the Caribbean to take on Puerto Rico FC this past Saturday night for the first road trip of the Fall Season and the first trip under the new ownership of Robert Palm.

Puerto Rico claimed a 1-0 victory after what could only be described as a difficult 90 minutes for Jacksonville.

The Armada have been slumping of late, so Head Coach Mark Lowry boasted some changes in his starting lineup to show that eagerness. New forwards Brian Shriver and Tony Taylor received their first starts with the team, as well as defender Peabo Doue. Shriver and Taylor are both newcomers with Florida pedigree. Shriver is from Clearwater and previously played for Miami FC, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Tampa Bay Rowdies. He led the NASL in playoff goals while playing for Fort Lauderdale in 2011. Taylor played for Jacksonville University and Lynch’s FC in 2009 an amateur Jacksonville club. He signed for Fort Lauderdale the next year and spent several years on loan in Europe before returning to North America to play in MLS.

The changes didn’t make much of a difference early as Puerto Rico was able to create opportunities and recorded 10 first half shots.

Armada endures first fall season loss in Puerto Rico

Jacksonville answered Puerto Rico’s offensive effort with a tough and resourceful defense, however. Mechack Jérôme cleared four chances, with Caleb Patterson-Sewell staying firm in front of the goal.

Puerto Rico’s effort was rewarded late in the first half. In the 43rd minute, Conor Doyle received a cross from Giuseppe Gentile to put the ball past Patterson-Sewell, and Puerto Rico took the 1-0 lead.

Jacksonville returned in the second half showing some initiative, but Puerto Rico continued to fire shots toward Patterson-Sewell.

Second half substitutions by the Armada FC brought some intensity to the side on the hot and humid Puerto Rico pitch.

Charles Eloundou was subbed in the 61st minute to give the Armada FC much-needed speed. He used it to motor up and around Puerto Rico’s defense and created a great chance in the 75th minute. He took a shot from a distance after receiving the ball from Zach Steinberger but Puerto Rico’s goalkeeper, Trevor Spangenberg, launched upward to knock it up and over the net. Doue received his second yellow card in the 85th minute and was ejected from the match. Although now only having 10 men, the Armada FC kept consistent defense to keep Puerto Rico from tallying another goal.

Jérôme attempted some late-match heroics with his effort just two minutes after Doue left the field. He launched a free kick straight toward the net, 550but it bounced off the crossbar and goal post to keep Puerto Rico in the lead.

Jacksonville could not find the net before the final whistle, so Puerto Rico took all three points at home. This marks the first loss of the Fall Season for the Armada FC and extends the Armada’s current winless streak to five.

Preparation is key as Joe Negron remains a force heading into 2018 Session

Halfway between legislative sessions, Florida Senate President Joe Negron is not standing still.

There he is joining Gov. Rick Scott at a ceremonial bill signing in the fight against opioid abuse in Palm Beach County July 11, along with Wellington Democrat Matt Willette and a group of Palm Beach County Sheriff deputies.

About a week later, both Negron and Scott turned up again at a job-growth news conference July 19 at Orangetheory Fitness, the Boca Raton-based national fitness franchise chain.

“I enjoy the opportunity to take classes at Orangetheory Fitness studios, both at home and in Tallahassee,” Negron said. Orangetheory Fitness, which was recently ranked as the No. 1 fastest growing women-owned business in the U.S., has created more than 1300 Florida jobs.

Later, the Stuart Republican was spotted smiling alongside Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala in a tweet from United Way Broward applauding the two for “leadership in finding solutions to the opioid epidemic.”

While it is nice to know the President has the energy to exercise regularly, what exactly is Joe Negron up to?

The answer is in a quote by Alexander Graham Bell: “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”

Busy meeting with various colleagues, Negron is intent on advancing their top issues, especially since his own priority – a $1.5 billion storage reservoir of 240,000-360,000 acre-feet of water south of Lake Okeechobee – successfully passed in 2017.

Negron is also mentoring the incoming leadership team, specifically Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson, the nexts-in-line for the Senate presidency. While Galvano takes the lead on the special election in Senate District 40, Negron brainstorms on planning, issues, strategy and other adjustments ahead of the quickly approaching committee schedule and the Legislative Session beginning Jan. 9.

As with most of his accomplishments, it may not have been a sure bet that Negron would succeed, at least at first. But invariably, the President has won more than he lost..

And as proved by his frequent appearances with Scott – who turned down Negron’s wide-ranging higher education bill in June, but preserved the oh-so-important Bright Futures scholarships for now – all is good post-veto.

With that, a man who needs nothing, and holds his cards close to the vest, Negron remains a force heading into the 2018 Session.

Jack Latvala adds two stops for Aug. 16 announcement

To outline his future political plans, Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala added two more stops to his Aug. 16 announcement – turning what was to be a single event into something of a tour.

Last week, the Pinellas County Republican said he would publicly announce whether he will enter the race for governor with a news conference at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. While that stop is still on the docket, attendees at the event will not be the first to hear of Latvala’s plans.

Preceding the 1 p.m. Aquarium appearance is a 9 a.m. announcement outside Fire Station 7 on 24th Avenue in Hialeah. Then, at 5 p.m. Panama City time (6 p.m. Eastern), Latvala is hosting another event at the Sun Harbor Arena.

“As a small-business owner and public servant, I have a track record of getting things done and solving problems,” Latvala said. “One thing you can always expect from me too is when I give you my word, I will keep it.”

“And on Wednesday, I give you my word, you will know what my future plans entail.”

As for which other public officials will be at each event, Latvala said more details will be released in the coming days.

A three-stop tour — covering more than 600 miles by car — would normally be quite an unusual production, particularly if the longtime lawmaker does not announce a bid for governor.

And if he declares another statewide seat, it would come as a shock to many.

Another clear signal of a gubernatorial run came Wednesday when FloridaPolitics.com reported that Latvala’s “Florida Leadership Committee” retained prominent GOP ad maker Fred Davis.

Currently, the only major Republican running for governor is Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Between his campaign account and fundraising committee “Florida Grown,” Putnam finished July with a little under $12 million on hand.

Comparatively, Latvala’s “Florida Leadership Committee,” has about $3.85 million on hand for the same period. But since he is not (yet) running for office in 2018, Latvala has no on-hand campaign funds.

 

Daily Kos wildly off the mark trashing Phil Levine as ‘Trump-praising Democrat’

On Tuesday, the left-leaning Daily Kos trashed Phil Levine, calling the Miami Beach mayor a “Trump-praising Democrat” who could “hurt the party’s chance” to win the Florida Governor race.

This is not only misleading, but it is also inaccurate.

Apart from the unlikelihood that any Democrat would actually praise Trump, the accompanying article limited its focus a comment by Levine on FOX Radio’s Brian Kilmeade Show (another ill-advised move for a Democrat seeking higher office): “So far the president has done a very good job.”

What the Daily Kos took out of context was that Levine – a friend and surrogate of both Bill and Hillary Clinton who frequently blasted Trump in the campaign – was discussing the president’s well-received recent speech in Poland, and not his overall performance.

Also going unmentioned: Levine’s established Democratic positions, particularly on issues such as Medicaid expansion, climate change, minimum wage increase and more.

Indeed, Kilmeade even cut him off when Levine said: “It’s the funniest thing in the world to be an economic adviser to Donald Trump. That’s kind of like letting the arsonist run the fire department.”

Nevertheless, over the course of his political career, Levine has made many enemies, meaning he will have an uphill battle if he decides to run for governor, which he has not.

One thing Levine does have, if he should choose to run, is a lot of money.

“Levine is certainly fundraising like he’s running for higher office,” Kos writes. “Reportedly worth $100 million, the mayor raised $225,000 from donors in July and gave his own campaign another $275,000, bringing his total self-funding to $2.6 million this cycle.”

“That pace already puts Levine at the front of the pack financially,” the piece concludes, “ahead of every top-tier Democrat who’s announced already.”

Now would again be an appropriate time to repeat that Levine has not announced any further ambition, political or otherwise, beyond his recent SiriusXM “real Florida” listening tour. And if he does, it certainly wouldn’t be at the expense of the party’s chances of winning the Florida governors’ race.

HD 69 candidate Ray Blacklidge has raised over $73,000 since launching campaign in June

Today, the Ray Blacklidge campaign announced that it has raised over $73,000 since he filed to run for the District 69 seat in the Florida House two months ago.

Eighty-five donors have contributed over $52,000 to his campaign, with Blacklidge’s political committee, Friends of Ray Blacklidge, raising another $21,000.

“I am very heartened by the very strong, early support we are receiving,” said Blacklidge. “I’m so grateful that so many people are stepping up to make sure we have the resources needed to take our conservative vision to Tallahassee. I will keep working hard to get our message out to voters across the district.”

Blacklidge, a Republican, currently works as an attorney in the management of a Florida-based insurance company.

He is the first candidate to file for the seat since Representative Kathleen Peters announced she would not seek re-election in order to run for the Pinellas County Commission.

House District 69 covers the south Pinellas beach communities from Redington Shores to Fort DeSoto, as well as portions of St. Petersburg, Gulfport, Kenneth City, and Pinellas Park.

With 36 percent of the district’s voter registration, Republicans maintain a slight lead over the Democrats’ 35 percent. Independents and minor parties make up 29 percent of the district.

The Delegation for 8.9.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Add immigration reform to August town halls agenda

As the House and Senate prepared to head out for the month of August, another topic for town halls was thrown into the mix. Thanks to a bill proposed by Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton and Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue, legal immigration reform was back on the table.

The bill, called the RAISE Act, would limit the amount of family members legal immigrants could sponsor to only spouses and young children. This would end a practice known as “chain immigration.”

Instead, preferences would go to a “merit” system focusing on skilled workers and those already proficient in English. President Donald Trump quickly announced his support with Cotton and Perdue standing next to him.

With just a couple of exceptions, the proposal mirrored the ideas expressed by Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick (now an Arizona Supreme Court Justice) in their book Immigration Wars. There is no daylight between the main thrusts of the Cotton/Perdue/Trump plan – chain immigration – than the policy advocated by Bush.

Republican Sens. David Perdue and Sen. Tom Cotton have proposed cutting legal immigration by half. (Photo via The Associated Press.)

“We propose limiting guaranteed admissions to spouses and minor children of US citizens,” they wrote on pages 18-21. “Reuniting married couples and their children is the essence of family reunification.”

Trying to get a sense of his constituents, Sarasota Republican Vern Buchanan conducted an online poll asking how they felt about “cutting legal immigration” and supporting a “merit” system. While unscientific, 36 percent approve of both ideas while 18 percent support just the merit system and 8 percent advocate cutting the number of immigrants, as of Tuesday. A total of 38 percent are opposed to both.

Orlando Democrat Darren Soto, echoing the sentiments of several in his party, held nothing back in his condemnation of the legislation.

“The RAISE Act is a flagrant attack on legal immigration; it goes against American values and does not put ‘America First,” said Soto in a statement. “By eliminating all family-based legal immigration categories (except for spouses and minor children), adult U.S. citizens would now be unable to reunite with their loved ones in the country they call home.”

Republicans are far from united on the proposal to cut the number of immigrants and another to require English proficiency upon arrival. Bush did not propose either, nor did GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the 2013 “Gang of 8” that tried to pass legal immigration reform in 2013.

“I don’t think there should be an arbitrary cap,” he told CBS4 Miami. “That number should be driven by demand.”

Businesses small and large depend upon cheap labor unskilled immigrants can provide, creating a clash between Republicans demanding reform and others in their party who depend on the support of business interests. Asked about the bill’s chances of passing, Rubio had a simple response.

“That bill’s not going to pass,” he said. “I think the White House knows that you don’t have 60 votes for that in the Senate.”

Meanwhile, here are this week’s insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State.

Boca Raton man sets the stage for Trump

Modern day politics is a continuous election cycle. Last week, President Trump’s 2020 re-election bid quietly moved forward with the hiring of a Boca Raton man.

George Gigicos resigned his position as the White House Director of Advance and will now work toward helping Trump earn another term. Gigicos is expected to perform a similar role to that he carried out for Trump in 2016 as well as the last 5 GOP presidential nominees.

“I’m going back to the campaign…I’m going to continue serving the president, but I can serve him better from the outside,” he told the Palm Beach Post.

Gigicos’s specialty is logistics. Campaign rallies and events require careful planning, which is why he was a valued member of Trump’s campaign as well as those of Mitt Romney, George W. Bush, Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush.

Hope Hicks and George Gigicos during a campaign event in New York in July 2016. Gigicos recently resigned his position as the White House director of advance to begin working toward helping Trump earn second term. (Photo via The Associated Press.)

In the meantime, the New York Times reported Gigicos may join Lewandowski Strategic Advisors, a new firm headed up by Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, until Trump is ready to make his re-election campaign official.

While the bare-bones Trump campaign was often second-guessed, the large crowds and staging of his rallies were not. While the 50-year-old Gigicos played a major role in that portion of the campaign, he takes no credit.

“It was all (Trump) – the right man with the right message,” Gigicos said. “I just built the stages.”

Floridians set to serve in Trump’s diplomatic corps

Two Floridians of note will serve as ambassadors in the Trump administration.

Sharon Day of Fort Lauderdale was confirmed by the Senate last week to be the next Ambassador to Costa Rica, while Duke Buchan of Palm Beach was nominated to serve as Ambassador to Spain.

Day is a long-time GOP activist and party leader. With more than two decades on the executive committee for the Republican Party of Florida and the Republican National Committee, Day recently concluded a 6-year run as the elected Co-Chair of the RNC. Her confirmation was one of 68 approved by the Senate prior to the August recess.

The U.S. Senate recently confirmed Fort Lauderdale resident Sharon Day to be the next Ambassador to Costa Rica. (Photo via The Associated Press.)

Buchan runs a private investment firm that donated heavily to Trump’s campaign. He and his wife, Heather, contributed nearly $900,000 to the effort. While in college at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Buchan earned degrees in both Spanish and business.

A date for Day’s swearing in was not announced, nor was one for Buchan’s confirmation hearing.

7 new VA health facilities coming to Florida

Florida veterans will soon have more medical centers where they can go for mental health and outpatient services, after the U.S. Senate unanimously approved legislation Aug. 1 that authorizes seven new major VA medical facilities in the state, reports Daniel Chang with the Miami Herald.

“We have a duty to care for the brave men and women who have served in our nation’s military,” said Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, a co-sponsor. “Getting these 7 new VA clinics opened here in Florida will make it easier for some of our veterans to access the care that they need.”

All seven clinics will be in North Florida and Central Florida. A total of $72 million is appropriated to construct the facilities in Daytona Beach, Jacksonville, Ocala, Tampa, Gainesville, and another to serve the Tampa/Lakeland area. An additional Gainesville mental health clinic is also authorized.

“Our veterans have fought selflessly to defend our country and protect our freedoms, and they deserve easy and convenient access to quality health care,” said Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, also a co-sponsor. “These outpatient clinics will allow them to receive outpatient care close to home, and I’m glad we were able to get these projects started in our state.”

Florida is home to nearly 1.55 million veterans, half of whom receive health care through the VA. The bill now heads to the president’s desk. The House passed the measure 414-0 on July 28.

Rubio-world

Senate passes Rubio’s pediatric cancer bill — Sen. Rubio joined with three other co-sponsors to tout the Senate’s passage of a bill that will provide children battling cancer “with more innovative and promising treatment options.”

The RACE for Children Act, passed overwhelmingly in the Senate, requires the pharmaceutical industry to expend more resources on treatment for childhood cancers.

The Florida Republican introduced the legislation on February 27 along with fellow Republican Cory Gardner of Colorado and Democrats Michael Bennet of Colorado and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. The House already passed the measure, meaning it now hands to President Trump’s desk for signature.

“The RACE for Children Act is an important measure that will provide children battling cancer with more promising treatment options,” Rubio said. “Pediatric cancer is a leading cause of death by disease among children and yet children do not have the same treatment options as adults.”

Prior to the Senate passing the bill, Rubio took to the Senate floor to tout its many benefits. During his remarks he offered multiple examples of children who lost their battles with cancer.

“We live in a society where oftentimes good news doesn’t draw ratings and good news doesn’t drive eyeballs and clicks to a website,” he said. “It doesn’t make it unimportant. It doesn’t make it insignificant. This is significant.”

Rubio, Trump meet with Bay of Pigs veterans — Six Cuban-American Bay of Pig veterans attended a private Oval Office gathering with Sen. Rubio and President Trump last week, reports Patricia Mazzei with the Miami Herald.

Sen. Marco Rubio and Bay of Pigs veterans attended a private Oval Office meeting with President Donald Trump recently. (Photo via Sen. Marco Rubio’s Office.)

The men got their photo snapped with Rubio and the president, who was seated behind the Resolute desk. Trump has been outspoken about the need to tighten U.S. policy toward Cuba, and met with Brigade 2506 veterans for a few minutes backstage at the Manuel Artime Theater in East Little Havana during his last visit to Miami.

Mazzei reports the brigade issued its first-ever presidential endorsement, for Trump, last year.

In a tweet, Rubio’s office said he was honored to visit with the Bay of Pig veterans at the White House, calling them “true heroes and great Americans.”

Rubio: U.S. must act on genocide of Christians in Iraq In a Friday op-ed, Rubio called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to follow in the footsteps of the previous administration and take a stand against the killing of Iraqi Christians by ISIS militants.

Last year, then-Secretary of State John Kerry declared ISIS “responsible for genocide” against Christians, Yezidis and other religious minorities. The declaration was only the second of its kind in American history, with former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s early 2000s declaration of genocide in Darfur being the first.

“Unfortunately, it is unclear whether the current administration maintains this determination,” Rubio wrote.

Rubio said if the U.S. fails to take “meaningful steps” to help religious minorities in lraq, many more will be forced out of their homes, which would constitute a “deathblow to the vision of a diverse, pluralistic, Iraq that respects religious freedom.”

The second-term senator then called on Tillerson to appoint a special coordinator in northern Iraq to oversee U.S. assistance in the region rather than letting the United Nations Development Fund handle the work.

“President Obama’s misguided foreign policy did real damage to Iraq’s minorities, but these ancient communities could disappear completely on President Trump’s watch if his administration fails to help them,” Rubio said.

Save the date:

Israel welcomes second round of congressional travelers

With Congress away for the August recess, quality time with constituents and perhaps a little Congressional travel is on the menu. Israel is a popular destination.

Freshman Charlie Crist from St. Petersburg, along with 19 other Democrats, is returning from their trip, while three of his first-term Republican colleagues from Florida are there this week. Brian Mast of Palm City, Neal Dunn of Panama City and John Rutherford of Jacksonville will meet with Israeli military and political leaders along with U.S. Ambassador Michael Oren and Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“This trip is a great opportunity to hear directly from the Israeli government and military leaders about how our two nations can work together to further advance these values,” said Mast in a statement.

Dunn said he is “looking forward to learning more about Israel’s efforts to combat terrorism on a daily basis, and how we can continue to work with them to root out radical terrorists throughout the Middle East.”

The trips for both Democrats and Republicans are sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, which is under the umbrella of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), America’s pro-Israel lobby.

The lawmakers are scheduled to return to the U.S. on August 14.

Tweet, tweet:

Gaetz will spend full day with constituents

Rep. Matt Gaetz will again spend an entire day with constituents from District 1.

With Congress in its August recess, the Fort Walton Beach Republican has announced the next Open Gaetz Day will take place in South Walton and Freeport on August 22.

It begins with a town hall at the Ocean Club Restaurant in Miramar Beach and ends with another town hall at Hammock Bay Lake Club in Freeport. In between are school visits to South Walton High School and the Seaside Neighborhood School, followed by a law enforcement roundtable and Mobile Office Hours at the South Walton Courthouse Annex.

Gaetz has hosted several similar events throughout the district during his first seven months in Congress.

Murphy seeks additional funding for English-language learning programs

Rep. Stephanie Murphy has introduced legislation designed to ensure Florida “receives its fair share of federal funding for English-language learning programs.”

The Ensuring Linguistic Excellence and Vocational Aptitude by Teaching English (ELEVATE) Act, would provide more funds to the state to sufficient resources are going toward providing instruction to students and their families.

The bill seeks to address a flaw in the funding formula that does not give credit for those moving to Florida and other states from Puerto Rico. Immigrants from the other four U.S. Territories (U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands) are included in the formula.

Immigrants from Puerto Rico continue to arrive in Florida with large portions settling in the Orlando metropolitan area, which includes Murphy’s district. The state’s share of funding has remained constant despite a 120 percent rise in the Puerto Rican population in Florida since 2000.

“I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan bill to give Florida its fair share of federal resources to improve English-language instruction,” Murphy said in a statement. “I grew up in an immigrant household where my parents spoke only Vietnamese. I learned English in school, and I know how challenging it can be, but also how important it is.”

Joining Murphy as co-sponsors are Democrats Darren Soto of Orlando, Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Weston, Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens, and Alcee Hastings of Miramar. Republican Carlos Curbelo of Kendall is also a co-sponsor.

Buchanan chides Senate for inaction

Rep. Buchanan is growing impatient with the U.S. Senate. In a constituent email titled “You Can’t Make This Up,” the Sarasota Republican calls out Senators for the slow pace in passing legislation covering illegal immigration and mocks them for a resolution they did pass.

“Both parties in the upper chamber valiantly joined forces to unanimously pass a resolution designating September 25, 2017 as…National Lobster Day,” Buchanan wrote. “You read that right.”

He then jabbed the Senate for not passing two bills targeting criminal illegal aliens, Kate’s Law and the No Sanctuaries for Criminals Act. Both bills, co-sponsored by Buchanan, passed the House in late June.

Rep. Vern Buchanan recently called out the Senate for the slow pace in passing legislation covering illegal immigration and mocks them for a resolution they did pass. (Photo via The Associated Press)​

Buchanan cited the recent case in Portland, Oregon as evidence of the need for both bills. The Oregon case involved an illegal alien deported 20 times, only to come back and sexually assault a 65-year-old grandmother. The accused was released earlier from local custody under Portland’s sanctuary city policy.

“It’s time the Senate acts to allow federal law enforcement officials to protect the public and enforce existing laws,” said Buchanan.

Paulson’s Principles: Some congressional districts are more vulnerable than others

There are 435 congressional districts in the United States. Florida, which started with one district when it joined the union in 1845, now has 27 House members. There are two truisms about congressional districts. First, some districts are more vulnerable than others. Second, few districts are truly at risk and that is a bad thing for American politics.

Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia identifies 276 of the 435 districts, or 63%, as safe. Republicans hold 141 of the safe seats and Democrats 135. 159 districts, or 37%, are competitive, although few of these “competitive” districts will change hands.

Virtually every political analyst in America agrees that the most vulnerable district in the nation is congressional District 27 in Florida. That seat has been held for 28 years by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican and senior member of the Florida delegation. Ros-Lehtinen has announced she will not run for reelection in 2018.

So, why should a district held by a Republican for 28 years and won by Ros-Lehtinen by 10% in the 2016 election, be considered the most vulnerable district in America? The district is a +5 Democratic district which was carried by 19 points by Hillary Clinton in 2016. It is one of the two most Democratic districts in America held by a Republican.

As soon as Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement, Sabato switched his rating of the district in 2018 from “likely Republican” to “leans Democrat.”

The other district that is even slightly more Democratic than District 27 is neighboring District 26 held by Republican Carlos Curbelo. District 26 is a +6 Democratic district won by Clinton by 16 points. Even though Curbelo is an incumbent, the district is rated a “toss-up” because of its left-leaning makeup.

The third most vulnerable district in Florida is District 18 held by first-term Republican Brian Mast. Mast won in a district formerly held by Democrat Patrick Murphy, who gave up his seat to run for the U. S. Senate.

Mast was an ex-army bomb disposal expert who lost both legs in Afghanistan. His main Democratic rival at this point is Pam Keith, who did better than expected in the 2016 U. S. Democratic Senate primary. Democrats are hoping that former state senator and states’ attorney Dave Aronberg will enter the race.

Only two Democrats in the Florida delegation are considered potentially vulnerable, Stephanie Murphy in District 7 and Charlie Crist in District 13. Both defeated incumbent Republicans in 2016. Both seem secure at this point.

Other potentially vulnerable candidates include Republicans Ron DeSantis in District 6, Mario Diaz-Balart in District 25 and Dennis Ross in District 15. All three Republicans are favored to win re-election, but could be defeated if Democrats find quality candidates.

If everything falls in place for Democrats, or falls apart for Republicans, then Republicans Ted Yoho in District 3, Bill Posey in District 8 and Gus Bilirakis in District 12 could be in jeopardy.

The most vulnerable seat in Florida and the nation is District 27. With no Republican incumbent and one of the most Democratic districts in the state, Democrats are under pressure to win in District 27. A defeat would deflate Democratic aspirations and demonstrate that Republicans can still win in Democratic districts.

One final point. With few really competitive districts, the real losers are the American public. If members of Congress don’t fear defeat, they are free to vote however they want, including support of more extreme positions. Close elections force elected officials to listen closely to the voters.

Poll: Democrats lead Republicans in generic ballot

Democrats have a 7-percentage point lead over Republicans on a generic congressional ballot, reports Steven Shepard with POLITICO.

According to a recent POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, the survey showed a generic Democratic candidate leads a generic Republican candidate, 44 percent to 37 percent. The survey found 19 percent of registered voters were undecided. The most recent survey came after the GOP’s effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, failed and President Trump’s chief of staff abruptly left the White House.

According to poll, Democratic voters back Democratic candidates by “an almost-unanimous margin, 90 percent to 2 percent.” Republicans, however, are less unified, 85 percent to 5 percent. Shepard also reported that the president’s approval ratings have held steady, even as the GOP dipped on the generic ballot test. The new poll found 42 percent of voters approve of the job he is doing, while 53 percent disapprove. That’s compared to a poll a week earlier, which showed 43 percent approved, and 52 percent disapproved of Trump.

The poll, which was conducted from July 27 through July 29, surveyed 1,972 registered voters and had a margin of error of 2 percent.

#FloridaWoman named RNC spokeswoman

The Republican National Committee announced Monday that Kayleigh McEnany, who until last week was a frequent fixture on news network CNN, will be the party’s new spokeswoman.

“I am excited to be joining the RNC at such an important and historic time in our country,” McEnany said. “I’m eager to talk about Republican ideas and values and have important discussions about issues affecting Americans across this country.”

Tampa native Kayleigh McEnany was recently named the spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. (Photo via Kayleigh McEnany/Instagram)

McEnany, who grew up in Tampa and went to the Academy of Holy Names private school, was an early backer of then-candidate Trump during the 2016 Republican Primary and saw her airtime grow as the 17-candidate field dwindled and Trump eventually secured the GOP nomination.

The Harvard Law School alumna will serve as the RNC spokesperson on TV and radio and will be joined by a National Press Secretary and Deputy National Press Secretary, the RNC said.

Party Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel added that McEnany’s “experience will be invaluable to the RNC as we continue to support President Trump and build on our majorities in Congress as we head into 2018.”

Florida donors dump $1 million into Senate Leadership Fund

Florida donors doled out $1 million so far this year to a GOP political committee that’s likely to spend big bucks to knock out incumbent Democratic Sen. Nelson in 2018.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund took in $500K from FPL parent company NextEra, $300K from Walter Buckley, $100K from private prison company the GEO Group, $50K from Newsmax Media CEO Christopher Ruddy, $25K from Fairholme Capital Management’s Bruce Berkowitz and $25K from retiree Alfred Hoffman. Those half-dozen Florida donors made up one eighth of the PAC’s total receipts for 2017.

Last year, the Senate Leadership Fund spent $11 million attacking former Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy when he ran against incumbent Republican Sen. Rubio, and the committee will likely have to lay down a lot more dough to turn Nelson’s seat red.

The third-term Democrat’s likely opponent is Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who also has millions on hand in his “Let’s Get to Work” committee, a state political committee.

DCCC calls House Republicans agenda a “spectacular failure”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee blasted House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republicans Monday for their failure to pass any of the measures announced in Ryan’s agenda six months ago.

The political committee went down the list of the Speaker’s agenda items, noting no healthcare, infrastructure, budget, tax reform or debt ceiling legislation has passed into law even though they were included in Ryan’s “bold” 200-day plan.

“‘Republicans lament an agenda in ‘quicksand’’ is the perfect summation of the last 200-days. Of course, House Republicans have also failed on every level of holding President Trump accountable, from his conflicts of interest and ethical issues, to tax returns, and more,” the DCCC press release said.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee blasted House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republicans for their failure to pass any of the measures announced in Ryan’s agenda six months ago.

Of course, the DCCC made clear they don’t mind that Ryan’s agenda has had limited success, since they say his policies are “out to benefit the very rich and largest corporations, while devastating hardworking people’s health care, cost of living, jobs and wages.”

“At least temporarily, Ryan’s ineptitude has saved tens of millions of Americans their healthcare,” the DCCC said.

The DCCC also gloated over Ryan’s slipping public approval ratings and, gave airtime to some of House Republican’s political in-fighting over the failed Obamacare repeal, saying “it’s clear that conservatives are not going to stomach failure for much longer.”

Curbelo the subject of Spanish-language ads seeking tax reform

Rep. Carlos Curbelo is once again the subject of advertising from the American Action Network (AAN). While others before have provided support to the second-term Congressman in a swing district, the latest ad is asking for something in return.

The AAN’s Middle Growth Initiative is targeting the U.S. Tax Code and is asking “conservative lawmakers to make middle-class tax relief a priority.” The 60-second, Spanish language ad asks constituents to call Curbelo and “tell him to keep fighting for real tax cuts.”

“It’s time to reform America’s outdated, unfair, and complicated tax code,” said AAN Executive Director Corry Bliss. “Hispanic middle-class families have seen less opportunity and stagnant wages for too long. Their voice in this debate is critical; we urge them to contact their representative and ask for a tax code that prioritizes more jobs and higher wages for hard-working families.”

Curbelo is one of six members from California, Texas, Arizona or Florida targeted by the ads. The group has pledged $6 million in ad buys.

Last week, AAN and the Middle Growth Initiative announced English-language ads in 34 Congressional Districts, including Curbelo and Palm City Republican Brian Mast.

Former Tampa Tribune reporter new chief of White House correspondents

Margaret Talev, the White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, is the new President of the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA). She succeeds Jeff Mason of Reuters.

Talev was a political reporter for the Tampa Tribune from 1995 to 1999, before moving to the Los Angeles Times, the Sacramento Bee, and McClathchy Newspapers before joining Bloomberg in 2011.

Among the responsibilities of the WHCA is organizing the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. Last year’s event gained more notoriety surrounding who was not attending than any of those who did attend. She was asked by the Poynter Institute whether President Trump might attend in 2018.

Former Tampa Tribune reporter Margaret Talev, shown here with former White House Correspondents Association President Jeff Mason, was recently named the president of the White House Correspondents Association. (Photo via the White House Correspondents Association.)

“The dinner honors the First Amendment, the best work of journalists who cover the White House and scholarship recipients we hope will go on to cover the White House,” she said. “WHCA will celebrate its 104th anniversary next April and it’s been a proud tradition of ours – one we intend to continue – to welcome U.S. Presidents as our guests to break bread with us in recognition of the principles being honored.”

Talev is married to Ray Locker, who worked for the Tribune from 1987-2000 as a reporter, columnist and editor. Locker is the current Washington enterprise editor for USA Today.

U.S. Senate salutes Gators’ national baseball championship

With immigration, health care, tax cuts and North Korea rightfully having the attention of Capitol Hill, the Senate took a brief time out for recognizing outstanding athletic achievement. A resolution from Republican Sen. Rubio and co-sponsored by Sen. Nelson saluted the Florida Gators, who won the NCAA Baseball College World Series in June.

Among the “whereas” statements, was the fact that the Gators became only the sixth school to win NCAA titles in football, basketball and baseball. Another pointed out Florida has won 39 national titles in all sports.

Sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio and co-sponsored by Sen. Bill Nelson, the U.S. Senate adopted a resolution congratulating the Florida Gators on their NCAA Baseball College World Series win in June. (Photo via The Associated Press.)

Rubio is a graduate of the University of Miami, who has won the baseball championship four times. Nelson attended Florida before later transferring to Yale.

The Gators defeated Louisiana State University in the finals. Since the resolution was approved without a roll call vote, no definitive evidence exists that Louisiana Republican Senators John Neely Kennedy or Bill Cassidy uttered the words “aye.”

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