Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 of 223

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.

Sunburn for 3.13.17 – The FDP’s next ED? A must-read on Steve Bannon; Voter fraud in Palm Beach?; Magic in the Capitol

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

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

THE TOUGHEST JOB IN FLORIDA POLITICS

The choice to succeed Scott Arceneaux as executive director of the Florida Democratic Party is between Jonathan Ducote and Josh Wolf, sources close to the decision-making process tell FloridaPolitics.

Political consultant Jackie Lee and operative Reggie Cardozo were also in the mix, but reportedly are now out of contention.

Ducote has served as political director for the Florida Justice Association since 2014. He previously served as campaign manager for Loranne Ausley’s unsuccessful 2010 bid for CFO, as financial director for Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown’s 2011 election victory, and as campaign manager for Barbara Buono’s unsuccessful challenge to Chris Christie in the 2013 New Jersey gubernatorial election.

Wolf most recently served as campaign manager for Patrick Murphy’s U.S. Senate bid. Prior to that, he served as campaign manger for Steve Grossman’s unsuccessful 2014 campaign for governor in Massachusetts. In 2012, he managed U.S. Rep. Ami Bera’s successful campaign in California.

Arceneaux’s departure after more than seven years as Executive Director was announced in January, shortly after Coconut Grove developer and fundraiser Stephen Bittel was elected as chairman.

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DAYS UNTIL: Florida Capitol Press Corps Press Skits – 1; Major League Baseball Opening Day – 20; NFL Draft – 45; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 52; Debut of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 52; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 173; Election Day 2017 – 238; Debut of Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 276.

DONALD TRUMP’S LABOR NOMINEE LIKELY TO BE ASKED ABOUT FLORIDA CASE via Curt Anderson and Laurie Kellman of The Associated Press – Alexander Acosta is expected to face questions at his Senate confirmation hearing about an unusual plea deal he oversaw for a billionaire sex offender while U.S. attorney in Miami. Acosta has won confirmation for federal posts three times previously, but he has never faced scrutiny on Capitol Hill for his time as U.S. attorney. Critics, including attorneys for some underage victims of financier Jeffrey Epstein, say the plea agreement was a “sweetheart deal” made possible only by Epstein’s wealth, connections and high-powered lawyers. Acosta has defended his decisions as the best outcome given evidence available at the time. “Some may feel that the prosecution should have been tougher. Evidence that has come to light since 2007 may encourage that view,” Acosta wrote in a March 2011 letter to media outlets after leaving the U.S. attorney’s office. “Had these additional statements and evidence been known, the outcome may have been different. But they were not known to us at the time.”

MUST READ – LONG BEFORE TRUMP HIRED HIM, STEVE BANNON WAS MAKING DEALS AND KINDLING POLITICAL FIRES IN FLORIDA via Alex Leary and Adam mith of the Tampa Bay Times — Chief adviser Steve Bannon — the rumpled former executive of Breitbart News, revered as a brilliant strategist and reviled as a xenophobic champion of the extreme right — was shopping for a home in Sarasota last year before Trump enlisted him to fix the campaign. Bannon, 63, surfaced in Sarasota more than a decade earlier for the most unlikeliest of reasons: nasal spray. He was part of a team formed to guide a startup named SinoFresh. But the deal got bogged down in lawsuits, the inventor ejecting Bannon from the board. Years later, Bannon formed a film company in Sarasota that made an effusive documentary about Sarah Palin. He set up a research outfit in Tallahassee that churned out investigations on Hillary Clinton and, along with Breitbart News, went after two of Florida’s top Republicans, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. …Still, the Florida footprint of one of the most powerful men in the country, is sprinkled with mystery. When Bannon’s voter registration was discovered last year, the collective reaction was: Really?

ABOUT THAT MIAMI-DADE STATE ATTORNEY’S INVESTIGATION INTO STEVE BANNON via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Prosecutors began looking into whether Bannon was a Florida resident in August, after The Guardian reported Bannon was once registered to vote in Miami, where he had leased a home in Coconut Grove … The Miami-Dade elections department confirmed the investigation to WTVJ-NBC 6 Aug. 31 after prosecutors had requested records from elections staff. The Washington Post reported investigators had questioned Bannon’s landlords, gardener and handyman. But the most explosive detail seemed to be that the state attorney’s office, run by Democrat Katherine Fernández Rundle, still considers its Bannon case an “active criminal” investigation. That’s true because the review hasn’t been closed yet. But local prosecutors are notoriously slow in closing out investigations that lead nowhere. And, six months later, it appears that little has come from the Bannon case. The Post’s confirmation of the still-open investigation, however, might actually pressure prosecutors to complete it. Bannon, it should be noted, never actually voted in Florida.

TRUMP’S MAR-A-LAGO IS HEAVEN — FOR SPIES via Darren Samuelsohn of POLITICO – While Trump’s private club in South Florida has been transformed into a fortress of armed guards, military-grade radar, bomb sniffing dogs and metal-detection checkpoints, there are still notable vulnerabilities, namely the stream of guests who can enter the property without a background check. And security experts warn that the commander in chief’s frequent visits — four since he took office in January — afford an unprecedented opportunity for eavesdropping and building dossiers on the president’s routines and habits, as well as those of the inner circle around him. They add that with each repeat visit, the security risk escalates. Former Secret Service agents said the setup at Mar-a-Lago and the president’s other regular clubs presents challenges that their agency wasn’t built to deal with. The Service’s main job is to protect the president from physical threats and monitoring for wiretaps and other listening devices — but not from the kinds of counterespionage challenges presented by the president’s choice to eat, sleep and work at a club accessible to anyone who can get a member to invite them in.

FAMILY OF FLORIDA MAN HELD CAPTIVE ABROAD SEEKS TRUMP’S HELP via The Associated Press – Former FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared from the Iranian island of Kish in 2007 while trying to cultivate an informant for the CIA. Now, his family is calling on Trump to finish what two prior presidential administrations did not. “We have gone through this for 10 years and every time we have been disappointed over and over and over again,” said Levinson’s youngest son Doug, now 23. “We believe that President Trump has the ability to get this done.” The family’s remarks came on the 10th anniversary of Levinson’s disappearance. As part of the anniversary … the State Department, FBI and White House renewed a pledge to do all they can to retrieve him. If still alive, Levinson has been held captive longer than any other American, including Terry Anderson, a then-journalist for The Associated Press who was held for more than six years in Beirut in the 1980s.

FLORIDA’S NAT’L LAWMAKERS RUN THE GAMUT ON FRUGALITY via Ledyard King of News-Press.com – LegiStorm, which analyzes various government expenses, listed GOP Rep. Daniel Webster of Winter Garden as the House member who spent the smallest portion of his $1,292,579 office budget: 61.5 percent. On the other side of the ledger, former GOP Rep. David Jolly spent almost his entire allotment — 99.1 percent — of his $1,310,892 budget. House members are given a set amount of year to spend — usually between $1.2 million and $1.4 million — and can spend pretty much as they see fit to represent their district. Expenses typically include staff pay, rent for district offices, equipment and supplies, communications and travel. Members spent an average of 91.1 percent of their allotted budgets in 2016.

WHAT MATT GAETZ IS READING – BRAC COULD AID REGION IF NWWEST FLORIDA IS PREPARED via Joseph Baucum of the Pensacola News-Journal – Although uncertain when it will occur, another round of military base closings from the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission could transpire at some point in the next four years, risking the loss of jobs and tax revenues for communities reliant on the military as an economic driver — such as those across Northwest Florida. But with many convinced of its inevitability, the possibility also exists for the region to prepare so well for the next BRAC that the Panhandle’s military installations not only resist downsizing, but add new missions from other states. “BRAC should be viewed as an opportunity to attract more missions,” said U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who predicted the next BRAC would ensue during the Trump administration.

TWEET, TWEET: @MarcoRubio: NW Florida plays critical role in natl security. Will work to mare sure any future BRAC won’t hurt region

NEW VA SECRETARY VISITS BUSY MIAMI HOSPITAL via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin visited the Miami VA Healthcare System … less than a month after he was unanimously confirmed to lead the Veterans Affairs Department in February. He is the only member of Trump’s Cabinet to have served in the Obama administration, having previously spent 18 months as undersecretary for health in charge of the sprawling VA medical system, which serves 9 million veterans a year. The 57-year-old internist and longtime healthcare executive is the first non-veteran to serve as VA secretary. Shulkin was president and CEO of New York City-based Beth Israel Medical Center from 2005 to 2009 and he supports integrating the VA system with private-sector healthcare. The Miami VA Healthcare System is among Florida’s busiest, serving about 58,000 patients a year, with an annual budget of $537 million and about 2,800 employees.

TRUMP COULD BE FORCING OUT U.S. ATTORNEY A. LEE BENTLEY via Florida Politics – Trump has asked for resignations from 46 U.S. Attorneys appointed by former President Barack Obama, possibly including Bentley of the Middle District of Florida. Bentley was sworn in to the position just a year ago, and was appointed based on the recommendation of U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio. Before becoming U.S. Attorney, Bentley spent 15 years as an assistant U.S. Attorney in the same district. U.S. Attorneys generally step aside when the presidential administration changes parties, but the process usually takes place gradually to ensure replacements are lined up for a smooth transition.

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SPOTTED: Jon Adrabi with LSN Partners in New York Post story about rumblings Gov. Andrew Cuomo is gearing up for a 2020 run.

INVADE CUBA? ONLY IN SOUTH FLORIDA WOULD THAT COME UP IN A BUSINESS ETHICS DISCUSSION via Patricia Mazzei and Mimi Whitefield of the Miami Herald – The panel of three local mayors discussing how the United States should approach doing business with Cuba was going predictably Friday until Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a likely Democratic candidate for Florida governor, brought up a word that, once upon a time in Miami, might have caused a political maelstrom: invasion. “Why aren’t we discussing the invasion of the island?” Levine asked facetiously during a daylong conference at Barry University that was organized by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust. Levine wasn’t actually endorsing the idea of a military incursion. A few moments earlier, he had argued that the best way to help Cubans themselves was to engage in open commerce with the island.

ANDREW GILLUM APPEALS TO NEWTOWN JUST ONE WEEK INTO CAMPAIGN via Zach Murdoch of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – The young, black Democrat is counting on historically black neighborhoods across the state, just like north Sarasota and Newtown, to help carry him to the party’s nomination in 2018, he told about 250 attendees of a gospel service at Booker High School. “If the news coming out of Florida is … that the Democratic nominee for governor of the third-largest state in America happens to be a 38-year-old mayor of Florida’s capital city who just so happens to be a brother, I think this race takes on national proportion,” he said. “It could propel us to November, where the last four gubernatorial elections have been won by less than one point — desperately close,” he continued. “I think we may have a real chance of taking it all the way.”

WHAT GWEN GRAHAM IS READING – GOVERNORS RACES TEST DEMOCRATS’ RIFT via Gabriel Debenedetti of POLITICO – With 27 GOP-controlled governorships up for election in 2018, national Democrats envision the midterm elections as a chance to rebalance the scales at the state level, where there are currently twice as many Republican governors than Democrats. But already, party leaders are running into a complication – unresolved issues left over from the Hillary ClintonBernie Sanders presidential primary. Far from defeated, Sanders-aligned progressives are nationalizing their fight, showing less patience than ever for Democrats who don’t agree with them. And that’s generating fear and nervousness in the South … where some promising Democratic candidates who are looking at running statewide in 2018 could face resistance from the left.

IN TAMPA, POTENTIAL CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER CANDIDATE JEREMY RING TELLS HIS STORY via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Ring isn’t officially a candidate for chief financial officer, but he talked the part during a stop in Tampa … Speaking at the Oxford Exchange as part of the Cafe Con Tampa weekly event, the former Yahoo executive introduced himself to the audience by humble-bragging about his private sector background, describing himself as the first salesman for the internet search engine company when he started there as a 24-year-old (he’s 46 now). Ring says that Florida has one of the most complete innovation “ecosystems” in the country, not that it’s something that many lawmakers know or understand. “Most elected officials in Tallahassee will inspire you instead of becoming the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, they’ll inspire you to be the next homebuilder or land use attorneys,” he said. “The biggest thing that we’re lacking in this state to build an innovation economy is not the pieces. The pieces exist. It’s the culture. We don’t have the culture.”

ELECTED OFFICIALS HELPED VOTERS FILL OUT THEIR BALLOTS via Lawrence Mower, Lulu Ramadan , Alexandra Seltzer and Justin Price of the Palm Beach Post – Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard and Rep. Al Jacquet, both Democrats running in the August primary, took advantage of gaping holes in Florida’s vote-by-mail laws to pressure and cajole voters in their living rooms … In one case, a blind voter said Bernard filled out and signed his ballot. His vote counted, but … the signature on the ballot envelope after the fact … didn’t match the one on file. Florida law requires that absentee voters sign their own ballot … In other cases, residents said candidates watched over their shoulders, telling them who to vote for. Voters said they received mail-in ballots but didn’t know why. One woman said she felt pressured by a persistent candidate who talked his way into her home and dug out her ballot from a stack of discarded mail. Whether their tactics were allowed under Florida law is unclear. Elections experts had never heard of candidates filling out ballots and found the practice disturbing. For years, campaigns have targeted absentee voters and collected their ballots, but former prosecutors and judges, election lawyers and campaign strategists — even a former Florida Supreme Court chief justice — roundly condemned helping people fill out their ballots.

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will announce jobs numbers at 10 a.m. at Herc Rentals, 27500 Riverview Center Blvd. in Bonita Springs. From there, the Governor will head to Tallahassee where he’ll hold a “Fighting for Florida Jobs Roundtable” at 3 p.m. at Danfoss Turbocor Compressors, 1769 East Paul Dirac Drive.

DEATH PENALTY FIX HEADS TO RICK SCOTT via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press – Lawmakers rushed to get the bill passed … in hopes of fixing a death penalty law that’s been found unconstitutional twice since January 2016. The effort has been a better-than-nothing option for both proponents and opponents of the death penalty. The House approved the measure 112-3 the day after the Senate unanimously passed it, a rare case of a death penalty issue receiving bipartisan support. Not that everyone was pleased with it. Many Republicans prefer allowing the jury to have a simple majority to condemn a murder convict, while many Democrats would like to abolish the death penalty altogether. But Republican lawmakers believe the unanimous jury bill is better than risking the death penalty’s abolition, and Democrats believe it will lead to fewer executions.

LATE FRIDAY NEWS DUMP BUT WE CAUGHT IT – DEP RESPONDS TO HOUSE RECORDS REQUEST, DEFENDS PAYMENT OF LEGAL BILLS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The state’s Department of Environmental Protection … released its response to the House of Representatives’ request for documentation of the legal billing in a longstanding river water use fight against Georgia. Interim DEP Secretary Ryan Matthews also sent a letter, saying his agency had “denied more than $3 million in expenses and hourly charges submitted by outside counsel.” A cursory review of the records shows not only invoices for legal fees but also, for example, a $272,000 contract between DEP and the University of South Florida for oyster reef research. Another file showed a Nebraska company was paid $49,000 for “video production in support of (the) litigation.” The 16-year long court fight centers around upstream water use from the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers in Georgia. They meet at the Florida border to form the Apalachicola River, which empties into the Apalachicola Bay, on which oystermen have depended for decades for their catch.

GUN INJURIES AND DEATHS AMONG FLORIDA KIDS HAVE SPIKED. ONE CHILD IS SHOT EVERY 17 HOURS  via Kathleen Mcgrory and Connie Humburg of the Tampa Bay Times – Between 2010 and 2015, nearly 3,200 kids 17 and younger were killed or injured by firearms. Put another way, a child in Florida was shot, on average, every 17 hours. From 2010 through 2015, the number of kids killed in gun-related incidents rose nearly 20 percent. Injuries from guns jumped 26 percent from 2014 to 2015 alone. “That’s a very rapid increase,” said Dr. Garen J. Wintemute, who runs the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California Davis School of Medicine. Firearms killed 475 kids during that six-year span — slightly less than cancer, but more than cardiovascular, infectious or respiratory diseases. Meanwhile, hospitals statewide billed more than $100 million for pediatric gun injuries. More than $75 million of that was billed to a publicly subsidized insurance provider such as Medicaid or Florida KidCare.

SHOULD POLICE GET A SNEAK PEAK AT BODY-CAMERA FOOTAGE? via William Patrick of FloridaWatchdog.org – A bill that would allow police officers to review body camera footage before making an official statement in an officer-involved shooting is making its way through the Florida Legislature. But not without reservations. Lawmakers on the Senate Criminal Justice Committee heard the proposal for the first time last week. It was initially characterized as a “common sense” measure to help law enforcement ensure minor details would be accurately documented in police reports, such as the color of a suspect’s shirt. When several lawmakers pressed further, they revealed some possible objections. “This isn’t only for minor issues, this is for essentially everything,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes … “This isn’t just to make sure that I’m correct in my statements, it’s to be able to watch everything, and essentially watch the whole episode play out again before a formal written report.”

FLORIDA AMONG SEVERAL STATES CONFRONTING DRUG FORMULARY QUESTIONS via Erin Clark of FloridaWatchdog.org – In Florida, HB 95 was introduced by state Rep. Ralph Massullo to prevent a drug being dropped from a formulary, or moved to a higher-priced tier, in the middle of the insurance plan year. Similar bans are under consideration in Illinois and New York, among other states. A formulary is a set of drugs that insurers and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) arrange in different cost and coverage tiers. Patients can expect their direct costs to reflect a drug’s formulary designation. However, insurers and PBMs have the ability to adjust a drug formulary midyear. “This bill is not a mandate. It doesn’t require any particular drug to be covered. All it requires is for the health providers to meet the obligation that we believe they have to the consumer when they listed the original formulary to begin with,” said Massullo.

LAWMAKERS SEEK TO REPEAL, BUT NOT REPLACE, PARTS OF SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY LAW via Lane Wright of The Capitolist – “This is not a retreat on accountability.” Sen. Bill Montford repeated three different times during a news conference … The stated goals are to remove the high-stakes nature of testing in Florida and respond to over-testing concerns. People upset with too much testing come from all over the political spectrum, but the push to detach student tests from teacher evaluations, school grades, and staffing decisions has primarily been an issue of Florida’s teachers’ union, and aligned groups like the Florida Association of School Superintendents, where Montfordserves as CEO. To reach those goals, the bill (SB 964) would change a number of things in Florida’s education law, but most notably, it would reduce “duplicative” state-required exams and repeal the research-based testing system that shows how much teachers help their students grow without offering any type of replacement. If it passes, it could become radically more difficult for Floridians to know how well schools are meeting their students’ needs.

LEGISLATURE POSTPONES VOTE ON RACIAL BIAS IN SENTENCING via Josh Salman and Emily Le Coz of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Sen. Audrey Gibson … opened the bill for debate in the Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee. The legislation calls for the state’s a good doing good how it yourself hold on one second, one second now sorry about that well I just know I did put my and put my headphones on so I can hear you better while in doing this and I pressed the wrong button so is that it was user error is a say they’ll to review sentencing data already collected by the government to check for racial discrepancies in each Florida circuit. The judicial accountability bill garnered support from civic and legal organizations, which maintained that the measure would help bring fairness through bolstered transparency. But it also drew scrutiny from judges, who argued they should not be blamed for potential bias. “This is not an attack on judges,” Gibson told other members of the committee. “It’s not an attack on anybody. It’s an attack on what could be perceived an injustice … This bill is data. And it is data that none of us should fear.”

LGBT RIGHTS GROUPS GROW OPTIMISTIC AS MORE REPUBLICANS JOIN THEIR CAUSE via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Fifteen GOP lawmakers have publicly signed onto legislation this session that would ban discrimination against LGBT people in employment, housing, restaurants and other businesses, bucking a party whose national platform in 2016 opposed gay marriage. Among the 15 who have signed on this year is Dana Young. As House majority leader last year, the Tampa Republican became one of the most prominent Republicans to back protections for the LGBT community. Now a state senator, she’s signed on as a co-sponsor to similar legislation (SB 666/HB 623) this year. Though her support for greater protections came five years into her legislative service, at a time she was considering a run for a swing Senate district, Young said her support is personal, not political. “I’m a mother of two teenage daughters with a lot of friends in the LGBT community, and I want to support not only my children but their friends and the community as a whole,” Young said. “Tampa is a vibrant, urban community with a large, involved and vibrant LGBT community. I’m doing my job by representing their interests along with everyone else.”

ICYMI: SUPREME COURT CASE REPORTING BILL PASSED BY HOUSE via Florida Politics – The bill, by Republican state Rep. Frank White … would require the court to tally in detail “each case on the court’s docket … for which a decision or disposition has not been rendered within 180 days.” The Republican-controlled House has long been antagonized by Supreme Court rulings its leaders have characterized as “judicial overreach.” White’s bill also requires a “detailed explanation of the court’s failure to render a decision or disposition” in pending cases older than six months. It instructs the court to tally cases it decided in the previous year but took longer than six months. The report “shall be submitted in an electronic spreadsheet format capable of being sorted” and sent to “the Governor, the Attorney General, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.”

STATE DENIES BESTBET REQUEST TO INSTALL 2,000 SLOTS AT JACKSONVILLE POKER ROOM via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – … a change In law is required. The state sent a denial letter to Bestbet President Jamie Shelton … citing three reasons why the Jacksonville facility is not eligible for slots. First, it said state law does not authorize slots in counties that approved a voter referendum unless the referendum itself was authorized by law or in the state constitution. Second, it said the Florida Constitution only allows for slots referenda to occur in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Third, state law only allows slots in buildings that are “contiguous and connected to the live gaming facility.” Bestbet spokesman Brian Hughes said for now no action will be taken.

Speaking of gambling…

***There are two gambling bills in the Florida Legislature. One holds the line; One is a massive expansion. Watch the video below to learn more.***

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee will consider a proposed constitutional amendment that would make the the Secretary of State an elected member of the Florida Cabinet when it meets at 1 p.m. in Morris Hall. The House Civil Justice & Claims Subcommittee is set to discuss a bill to crack down on so-called “sanctuary cities” when it meets at 1:30 p.m. in 404 House Office Building. At 2 p.m., the House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee will consider a proposal requiring drug tests for public assistance applicants with drug-related criminal records when it meets in 12 House Office Building. Over in the Senate, the Commerce and Tourism Committee will discuss a bill to repeal the program offering incentives for stadium projects when it meets at 4 p.m. in 110 Senate Office Building. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee is expected to discuss a bill to create a criminal justice reform task for when it meets at 4 p.m. in 37 Senate Office Building. The Senate Children, Families & Elder Affairs Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Jeffrey Bragg, the Elder Affairs Secretary.

MAGIC JOHNSON VISITING WITH FLORIDA SENATE MEMBERS via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – L.A. Lakers great Earvin “Magic” Johnson will be at the Florida Capitol to promote HIV/AIDS awareness. The Senate Democratic caucus announced Johnson will meet with Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon and other members of the caucus at a 9 a.m. meeting … Johnson — who represents a Medicaid managed-care company known as Anthem in Florida — would also be at a “meet and greet” with Senate Republicans.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: House Democrats will meet at 6:30 p.m. in the House Democratic Office, room 316, to hold Democratic Leadership elections for the 2018-20 term.

SUNSHINE WEEK: THE MEDIA ARE YOUR ALLIES, NOT YOUR ENEMIES via the Miami Herald – These are challenging times for the media, which are considered “the enemy of the people” by President Trump and his administration enablers. The president has made clear his hatred for the media by barring certain journalists from White House press briefings. However, this is the start of Sunshine Week, a nationwide initiative to educate the public about the importance of transparent government. And it is the perfect time to declare that the president’s tactics won’t work. The tagline explaining Sunshine Week’s mission is, “It’s Your Right to Know.” Banning reporters from the White House, “the people’s house,” is only firing up the people to unequivocally claim that right. It’s a principle in which the Miami Herald and so many of its media peers across the country resolutely believe — and deliver on.

THE WORST STORY YOU’LL READ TODAY – FLORIDA COUPLE FACE ‘SHOCKING’ 700+ COUNTS OF ABUSE AGAINST FOSTERED, ADOPTED CHILDREN via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics – A couple living in southwest Florida have been charged in Alabama with 727 counts of sexual crimes and physical abuses against their 11 adopted and foster children … Police in both states are calling it the most shocking case they’ve ever seen … Daniel and Jenise Spurgeon, 47 and 53, respectively, are being held without bond in the Lee County Jail in Fort Myers … None of the children in the Spurgeon’s care came from Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) … Police originally learned of the case when they responded to a tip of two minors at a Cape Coral bar who were inebriated July, claiming their parents had forced them to drink alcohol … Cape Coral Police investigators learned that four girls under the Spurgeon’s care were claiming they’d been sexually abused and were from Alabama.

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

HOUSE PASSES SIX YEAR BAN ON LOBBYING FOR FORMER LAWMAKERS, ELECTED OFFICIALS via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Nearly all House members voted in favor of HB 7003, approving the measure by a vote of 110-3. Under the proposal, former legislators and elected officials would not be allowed to lobby in Florida for any person, entity or state government agency for six years. The ban would only apply to lawmakers and elected officials who were members of the legislature or who were statewide elected officials after Nov. 8, 2016. HB 7003 is just one part of a set of more restrictive measures the House has taken up to promote “transparency” in state government this year. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Larry Metz … says the bill wasn’t created to imply any wrongdoing by elected officials, but to slam the “revolving door” in the legislative process.

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

Albert Balido, Anfield Consulting: Krkuc Work Inc.

Brian BallardBrady BenfordChris Dorworth, Ballard Partners: Seminole County Tax Collector

Amy Bisceglia, The Rubin Group: City of Deerfield Beach

Kevin Marino Cabrera, Southern Strategy Group: Mark Anthony Brands Inc.

Dave Ramba, Allison Carvajal, Evan Power, Ramba Consulting: Bancomer Transfer Services, Inc.

Jennifer Green, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: 8Minute Energy Renewables, LLC

Angelina Gonzalez, Panza Maurer & Maynard PA: Automated Healthcare Solutions; Nova Southeastern University; Public Health Trust

James Harris, Jr.: Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters

J.D. Hicks, J.D. Hicks & Associates: Hunt Development Group

Lisa Hurley, Smith Bryan & Myers: Glades County Board of Commissioners

Rob Johnson, The Mayernick Group: Excellence in Education in Action

Greg BlackJim Daughton, Andy PalmerAllison Liby-Schoonover, Metz Husband & Daughton: ACT Aspire, LLC

Paul Lowell, Foley & Lardner: Weston Insurance Holdings Corporation

Bob Martinez, Holland & Knight: Florida Chamber of Commerce

Corinne Mixon, Mixon & Associates: Citizens for Judicial Process, Inc.

Steve Schale, Schale Communications: Florida Distillers Guild, Inc.

Ron Watson, Watson Strategies: Spectra Laboratories, Inc

Derek Whitis, Whitis Consulting LLC: State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company

APPOINTEDSam Himmel to Florida’s Children and Youth Cabinet.

APPOINTED: Latanya Peterson, Dianne Goldenberg, Gilbert Singer, Rebecca Steele, and Tony Jenkins to the Florida Commission on Human Relations.

THE GROVE, A WITNESS TO SLAVERY, WAR AND CIVIL RIGHTS OPENS via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – State officials swung open the doors to The Grove, a state-owned mansion that was once the residence to Gov. LeRoy Collins. Secretary of State Ken Detzner was joined at a ribbon-cutting by members of the extended Collins family. The grand opening, which came after extensive renovations that cost taxpayers nearly $6 million, came one day and 108 years after Collins was born. State officials said more than 2,500 people visited the museum and the grounds on opening day. Built by one of Florida’s early territorial governors using slave labor, the Grove would later serve as home to Collins as he tried to shepherd the state through the civil rights era. The museum includes exhibits and artifacts that stretch over its lengthy history, including rarely heard passages from a diary kept by Ellen Call Long during the Civil War. Long was the daughter of Richard Keith Call, an officer on Gen. Andrew Jackson’s personal staff, who modeled the home after Jackson’s Hermitage in Tennessee and is believed to have finished building it by 1831.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner (front center right) and Johnathan Grandage, Executive Director of The Grove Museum (front center left), joined by members of the Call and Collins families, members of the Friends of Florida History (the Department’s citizen support organization), and former and current Department of State staff who were critical to the project. Photo credit: Sara Brockman.

VOLUNTEER FLORIDA PARTNERING WITH NIC’S TOGGERY, NARCISSUS, AND SILVERFOX FOR #SUITSFORSESSION – Volunteer Florida is announcing that those who visit the Capitol March 15 and drop off an item for #SuitsForSession will be entered into a contest to win a suit from Nic’s Toggery, a women’s business outfit from Narcissus, and a custom sports coat from Florida-based SilverFox Label. Volunteer Florida and Uber are hosting the second annual #SuitsForSession event on the third-floor Rotunda March 15 from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. to collect attire for job seekers statewide. Nic’s Toggery (downtown location) will also have a #SuitsForSession collection box for donations from Monday, March 13-Wednesday, March 15, and will provide a $100 credit toward a new suit for each individual who brings in a donation of men’s clothing. For those who can’t make it to the Capitol to drop off their donations, Uber will pick up clothing from homes across Leon County for free all day March 15. Volunteer Florida will donate the professional attire to the Chapman Partnership (Miami); Dress for Success Tampa Bay; ECHO Outreach Ministries (Leon County); Bridges of America (statewide); and the Florida State University Unconquered Scholars program (Tallahassee). More here.

***Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur are fighting to protect Florida’s small business owners by leveling the playing field for owners of franchise establishments. This will lead to more economic growth and jobs for our communities. Tell Sen. Latvala and Rep. Brodeur that you support them and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at ProtectFLBusiness.com.***

SPOTTED at the 2017 Gasparilla Music Festival at Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park – Attorney General Pam Bondi, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Tampa City Attorney Julia Mandell, City of Tampa Director of Public Affairs Ashley Bauman, and Kyle Simon, Government Affairs Director for the Home Care Association of Florida.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our friend, Rep. Scott Plakon. Belated wishes to Steve Bousquet, Brian Franklin, Sen. Alan Hays, Allison Nielsen and Frank Mayernick.

WHAT MICHELLE TODD IS READING – ON ‘BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER,’ WE FELL FOR THE SLAYER ALONG WITH ANGEL, RILEY AND SPIKE via Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post – The love longtime fans of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” feel for Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and her friends isn’t the same as the romantic ardor that men such as Angel (David Boreanaz), Riley (Marc Blucas) and Spike (James Marsters) felt for Buffy herself. Buffy isn’t necessarily everyone’s favorite character. And we all respond to different things in each character’s arc, from Willow’s (Alyson Hannigan) nervous humor and slow unfolding as her magic develops; to Xander’s (Nicholas Brendan) slow maturation into a reliable, dependable and capable adult; to vengeance demon Anya’s (Emma Caulfield) blunt, funny perspective on the human world; to Giles’s (Anthony Head) tender, largely unflappable stewardship of Buffy’s abilities. But Buffy’s most significant relationships do offer fascinating insights into what we responded to about her character and the complicated ways even men who love strong women can react to that strength.

WONDER WOMAN TRAILER SHOWS HOW THE GIRL BECAME A LEGEND via io9.com – This latest trailer introduces us to the younger version of Diana, watching her grow in her strength and abilities over the years. The trailer’s definitely more focused on her personal journey, showing how she overcame the doubt imposed by others and learned to embrace her true destiny. Looks like one exciting ride. Wonder Woman opens June 2.

The Delegation for 3.10.17 – Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Poll finds key 2018 voters turned off by Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks — A survey commissioned by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) and conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) found that 59 percent of voters in seven battleground states said they were “somewhat” or “very” concerned that President Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks would “result in conflicts of interest that benefit big business at the expense of regular people.”

The poll question noted that Trump has named “numerous bankers and Wall Street billionaires” that could “result in conflicts of interest,” and then asked if participants were “very concerned, somewhat concerned or not at all concerned.”

Democrats were the most concerned, with 90 percent of those polled in Florida saying they were “very” or “somewhat” concerned. Independents averaged 57 percent, while just 35 percent of GOP voters in the seven states were concerned.

Gov. Rick Scott and his grandson, Auguste, greet President Donald Trump in Orlando on March 3. Trump visited St. Andrew Catholic School and hailed the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program.

For Trump and DeVos, a Florida private school is a model for choice via Michael D. Shear of the New York Times — The president and Ms. DeVos, who for years championed school vouchers as an antidote to failing schools and falling test scores, met with parents, teachers and students at St. Andrew Catholic School, which has embraced a Florida program that uses public money to allow low-income students to attend private schools.

Tuition at the school, just outside Orlando, is normally $6,260 per year, according to the school’s website. The Florida scholarship program allows businesses in the state to receive tax credits for donating to nonprofit scholarship organizations that give tuition assistance for students to attend schools like St. Andrew. The families’ portion of the tuition bill varies.

The program’s goals, according to the website, are to “expand education opportunities for children from families that have limited financial resources; and to enable children to achieve a greater level of excellence in their education.”

Such programs are at the heart of the promised changes that Ms. DeVos and Mr. Trump have said they will bring to federal education policy.

New American Bridge digital campaign highlights Trump’s Florida job losses – The liberal Super PAC is launching a new digital campaign highlighting layoffs and outsourced jobs in Florida since Trump took office, attempting to expose a “harsh reality” behind the president’s “we’re going to bring back jobs” promises.

According to American Bridge, for every job Trump says he either “saved” or “created,” he glossed over others being lost as American workers nationwide are laid off or lose jobs to outsourcing — jobs they say Trump did nothing to protect and keep in the U.S. The ads will appear across social media platforms, and attempt to sway voters of the “real job losses that have continued to happen, even as Trump trumpets the successes of an economy he inherited from President Obama.”

The group is also launching TrumpEconomy.com — a new website to track job losses due to layoffs and foreign trade on Trump’s watch. The site argues that that 1,038 jobs lost have been lost in Florida alone through layoffs and foreign trade since Trump took office.

Federal Aviation Administration reports 27 airspace violations near Trump’s Florida estate via CBS NewsIn one instance, Air Force jets speeding to intercept an aircraft caused a sonic boom that rattled Palm Beach and Broward counties.

The names of the pilots who received the violations weren’t released. Agency officials told the newspaper they’re investigating each case. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago trips cost taxpayers about $10M so far

The Federal Aviation Administration said it would reach out to South Florida pilots to educate them about the restrictions activated within 30 miles of the estate when Trump visits. The agency recently held briefings for pilots at airports in Boca Raton and Palm Beach.

Trump administration hires Florida’s John Konkus — Veteran Florida politico John Konkus is bringing his communications expertise to the Trump Administration. Konkus is joining the communications team of recently confirmed Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Konkus says goodbye to Jamestown Associates, where he started and ran the firm’s Florida office out of Tallahassee. He is credited with playing an important role in Trump’s victory in Florida.

“During the final stretch of the election, John worked on the ground tirelessly to help President Trump win Florida,” Jamestown said in a release announcing the appointment. Jamestown billed itself as “the lead agency in the general election.”

Konkus and Pruitt will not start their relationship together as strangers. Konkus handled the Administrator’s media relations during the transition period.

Before joining Jamestown, Konkus served as Chief of Staff to former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll and current Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. He was reluctantly in the news in 2011 when a secret recording surfaced of him privately whispering that Gov. Rick Scott was showing a lack of leadership.

Konkus also served as district director for Congressman Cliff Stearns for more than four years. He is married to Mary Thomas, who ran for the Republican nomination for Florida’s 2nd Congressional District, but defeated by the eventual winner, Dr. Neal Dunn.

Days until the 2018 Election: 606

Nelson holds lead over Scott in early 2018 polls — Two polls released this week show the Orlando Democrat could be in a good position going into 2018. Surveys from both the UNF Public Opinion Research Laboratory and Mason-Dixon Polling & Research show Nelson holds small leads over Gov. Scott in a hypothetical head-to-head general election match up.

According to the UNF survey, Nelson would take 44 percent to Scott’s 38 percent of the vote. Michael Binder, the survey’s director, said even though it’s early in the election cycle the “six-point lead is meaningful.”

“The race is going to going to get national attention and Rick Scott’s alliance with Donald Trump will likely factor into this election’s outcome next year,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Mason-Dixon survey gives Nelson a 46-41 edge over Scott. That poll showed Nelson Nelson is “undefined or unrecognized” by 33 percent. Nelson’s opponent will “likely be shaped by the political fortunes of President Donald Trump.”

Mayors write Nelson and Thune over air traffic control privatization — U.S. Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune and Nelson, the ranking Democrat on the committee, received letters from more than 100 mayors asking lawmakers to reject any proposal to separate air traffic control operations from the Federal Aviation Administration. The list includes seven Florida mayors: Kent Guinn of Ocala, Eugene Fultz of Lake Wales, Robert F. Apgar of DeLand, Lauren Poe of Gainesville, John A. Miller of Fernandina Beach, Bill Barnett of Naples and Gene Whitfield of Zephyrhills. The mayors are rallying against an effort to privatize air traffic control, which they say would drive up ticket prices and give private enterprise control over infrastructure funding as well as taxes and fees.

GOP group targets Nelson in radio ad — Republican group One Nation is pressuring Nelson to vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in a 60-second radio ad.

“We’re paying more and getting less,” the ads say. “It’s time to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

Nelson has been an opponent of the GOP plan to dismantle the ACA, and has openly questioned what congressional Republicans intend to use as a replacement for the health care bill.

“What exactly are you going to replace?” he said at an Orlando rally last month. “Are you going to replace the ACA that saved Medicare? That made Medicare more efficient? Do you want to privatize Medicare? Maybe increase the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. Now they’ve got a new name. They say they want to ‘repair’ it. They are uncomfortable.”

The Nelson ad is part of a $3 million ad buy by the group targeting Democrats who are vulnerable in the 2018 election cycle. They are also putting out ads backing Republicans, asking listeners to tell their GOP representatives and senators “to keep fighting to repeal and replace the Obamacare mess.”

A recent poll shows Nelson with a 6-point lead over his expected opponent for the U.S. Senate in 2018, Republican Gov. Scott.

SpottedSusie Quinn, Nelson’s chief of staff, in a POLITICO Influence piece about the DSCC “Women on the Hill” fundraiser for female chiefs of staff and lobbyists at Covington & Burling’s Washington office.

Rubio picks a side in Georgia’s Sixth District race via Greg Bluestein of The Atlanta Journal-Constitutio — Rubio endorsed former state Sen. Judson Hill Monday in his campaign for Georgia’s wide-open 6th District seat, giving the Marietta Republican a high-profile supporter who was popular in Atlanta’s northern suburbs.

Hill was the first candidate to enter the race in November, shortly after Rep. Tom Price was tapped as Trump’s health secretary. He’s one of 11 Republicans — and 18 contenders overall — who will share the ballot in the April 18 special election. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, square off in a June 20 runoff.

The Florida Republican, who won Fulton, DeKalb and Cobb in last year’s (presidential primary) vote, said Hill knows how to “cut taxes while balancing a budget because he’s done it in Georgia.” He also praised Hill’s opposition to abortion and support for “patient-centered” health care reforms.

Hit the slopes with Rubio — Still trying to think of a spring break getaway? How about a ski trip with Rubio? According to the Montana Cowgirl Blog, the Miami Republican is one of the several federal lawmakers taking part in a two-day fundraiser at Big Sky Resort in Montana to benefit Daines Big Sky Committee, a joint fundraising committee that benefits Sen. Steve Daines and Big Sky Opportunity PAC. The $3,000 a person fundraiser is billed as a “weekend in the Montana mountains” with Daines, Rubio, and Sens. John Hoeven, and Lisa Murkowski, and Rep. Luke Messer. The fundraiser is scheduled for March 17 through March. 19.

Scott loves D.C. — The Governor jetted off to Washington, D.C. this week to talk to federal lawmakers about health care.

Gov. Rick Scott & Rep. Francis Rooney in Rooney’s D.C. office

According to his official scheduled, Scott meet with Rep. Todd Rokita and Rep. Neal Dunn on Wednesday, before an afternoon chat with House Speaker Paul Ryan. The governor’s whirlwind trip to D.C. continued on Thursday, when he started his day with a meeting with Sen. Marco Rubio. The rest of his day was filled with meetings with Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Francis Rooney, Vern Buchanan, and Brian Mast.

The trip marked the second time in just as many weeks Scott traveled to the nation’s capital.

Foes outnumber supporters for “Repeal and Replace” – Some in the Florida delegation were quick to weigh in once House Republican leadership released their long-awaited proposal to replace Obamacare. The cons outweighed the pros.

Kathy Castor said the plan “institutes huge cuts to families who rely on Medicaid,” and “shortens the life of the Medicare Trust Fund.” She also told her constituents the replacement “eliminates the marketplace where over 1.7 million Floridians have found affordable coverage options.”

Charlie Crist was also unimpressed. “The plan Republicans have put forward falls far short of current law — driving up health care costs, stripping away important protections, and leaving millions without coverage.”

Al Lawson described it as “an exercise in smoke and mirrors,” while Lois Frankel lamented it “will make America sick again.”

Outside of leadership, few Republicans came forward in support. Gus Bilirakis claimed on the House floor “our bill will lower costs, increase choices, and give patients greater control of their health care.

Rubio said: “It’s got some things I’ve been supportive of in the past and it’s got some things I’ve been concerned about.”

Some in the conservative House Freedom Caucus joined Democrats in panning the bill, but for far different reasons. “This legislation is not a repeal, it is an amendment to Obamacare,” said Alabama’s Mo BrooksTed YohoRon DeSantis, and Bill Posey are part of the caucus.

A long night (and day) for four delegation members  – Carlos Curbelo and Vern Buchanan had a long, long Wednesday. For Kathy Castor and Gus Bilirakis, it was even longer.

Curbelo and Buchanan are members of the House Committee on Ways and Means, which took up the American Health Care Act, the House Republican proposal designed to replace Obamacare. After 18 hours, the measure emerged on a party line vote of 23-16.

“The fact that the far left and the far right have come together to viciously attack this proposal is likely a good indicator this it is sound, sensible policy,” Curbelo said in a statement after the vote. “The consideration of this legislation in our committee this week is only the first step in finding a better healthcare solution for our country.”

Not to be outdone, the House Energy and Commerce Committee forwarded their portion of the bill on a 31-23 party line vote. Bilirakis and Castor, along with their fellow committee members, were in and out of the meeting room for 27 hours.

“We stayed up through the night and forced (Republicans) to debate and go on the record opposing measures that address the concerns that we all have been hearing about from our neighbors at town halls throughout the country,” said Castor.

The next stop is the House Committee on the Budget before heading to the House floor. Among the 36 members of that committee are Mario Diaz-Balart and Castor.

Hopefully, she will catch up on some sleep between now and then.

Ad blitz in support to support American Health Care Act — The American Action Network launched a new ad campaign urging conservative lawmakers to unite behind the push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, with the newly unveiled American Health Care Act.

The $500,000 ad buy will air on FOX News and in 30 congressional districts, including in Reps. Ted YohoRon DeSantis, and Bill Posey’s districts. The campaign is meant to juxtapose the new plan with Obamacare on key elements, and urges lawmakers to stand with President Trump on replacing former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.

“It’s time for conservatives to unite behind President Trump and Speaker Ryan to pass the American Health Care Act. This bill gives conservatives the opportunity to deliver on their promise to repeal and replace the disaster that is Obamacare,” said Corry Bliss, AAN executive director, said in a statement. “This bill is about empowering patients and doctors, eliminating job-crushing mandates, and making health care affordable again for all Americans.”

AARP, other organizations, join opposition to GOP health care proposal — The American Health Care Act is taking criticism on Capitol Hill from all Democrats, some Republicans, and organizations involved in the industry. AARP is one of those groups lining up against it.

In a Thursday conference call with media from around the country, the largest seniors’ advocacy organization in the country ticked off some problems with the draft legislation. The thrust of the opposition is financial.

Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer admitted “no one believes the current system is perfect,” but premiums for the elderly would skyrocket. According to AARP, premiums would rise for the elderly in certain age and income brackets between $3,600 to $8,400.

The fate of those covered through Medicaid expansion is a major concern, but Florida is one of the states where expansion did not occur. As for Medicare, LeaMond called the proposal “a windfall to the drug manufacturers at the expense of Medicare.”

LeaMond pledged to have AARP representatives in all 50 states talking with their members and legislators to “educate” when they are in their districts.

Veterans group targets Crist and Murphy in web ad — Conservative group Concerned Veterans for America released a web ad Tuesday urging first-term Democratic U.S. Reps. Stephanie Murphy and Crist to vote for the VA Accountability First Act of 2017.

“Fraud. Abuse. Veterans dying on wait lists. American heroes deserve better, but our veterans are suffering at the hands of bad VA employees,” the ad narrator says. “Congress can change it by passing the VA Accountability First Act of 2017. New reforms that will hold bad employees accountable and cut undeserved bonuses. Reforms that get bad VA employees out — for good.”

The ad then urges viewers to contact their representative. In addition to Crist and Murphy, CVA has created versions of the ad for Reps. Ann KusterScott PetersTim WalzKrysten SinemaTulsi Gabbard and Ami Bera, all Democrats.

The VA Accountability First Act of 2017 would give the VA secretary more flexibility to remove, demote or suspend any VA employee, including Senior Executive Service employees, for performance or misconduct.

Mast, Murphy, and Crist labeled “vulnerable” by their own parties — What do MastMurphy, and Crist have in common? In addition to being first-term Members of Congress, they have also been labeled as vulnerable in 2018 by their own parties.

Democrats Murphy and Crist are part of a group of 19 incumbents called the Frontline Program established by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). Each won close elections in 2016, a presidential election year where Democrats tend to do better.

Crist won by only four percentage points over Congressman David Jolly in a district reshaped to favor Democrats, while Murphy defeated incumbent John Mica, who ran an ineffective campaign. Both are targets for defeat by national Republicans

Mast is one of 10 Republican incumbents set to receive help from the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). He won by 11 points in the district formerly held by Patrick Murphy, which Trump carried by nine points.

Yoho town hall may have set the standard for fellow Republicans — Yoho used a novel approach to take part in a town hall Saturday. The event was held in a Gainesville church, and the moderator was someone who previously ran against him for Congress.

While the town hall was “a boisterous, but largely polite exchange” of views, it did not resemble the chaos of other recent events involving some of Yoho’s Republican colleagues from Florida. Moderator Marihelen Wheeler, who opposed Yoho in the 2014 elections, and the local anti-Trump group Indivisible Gainesville kept the process orderly.

“I hope this town hall sets the standard,”  Yoho said. “I thank you for being here, and I thank you for letting me be your representative, even though I know most of you didn’t vote for me.”

Those who disapproved of Yoho’s responses and positions, and there were plenty, were instructed to fold their arms over their heads or give thumbs down instead of shouting. While things were mostly civil inside, a Trump supporter was punched in the face outside the venue.

DeSantis makes bold prediction — DeSantis made a provocative prognostication that, if true, will rock the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy in the immediate future, and maybe longer. He was recently in Jerusalem leading an American delegation that, among other things, looked at sites for a future embassy.

In an exclusive interview from Jerusalem with Breitbart News, the third-term Congressman believes Trump will announce the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem before the end of May.

Current law requires the U.S. to locate the embassy in Jerusalem, but successive waivers signed by Trump’s predecessors have kept the embassy in Tel Aviv. The latest waiver expires June 1.

“I think President Trump has proven he is a man of his word,” DeSantis told Breitbart. “And (by May) we will already have our Ambassador, David Friedman, in place. So I think this is going to happen.”

DeSantis believes the United States already has a workable site in Jerusalem — the building holding the current U.S. Consulate. He said all this means “literally just changing the sign to the U.S. Embassy.”

DeSantis announces “discussions” with constituents events — DeSantis is not officially conducting any “town halls,” but he will interact with constituents. On Saturday, he will host three “Discussions with DeSantis” around Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

All three events look like town halls, but perhaps using the term “discussion” within the title will attract more who seek conversations rather than shouting confrontations. DeSantis is part of the House Freedom Caucus, the conservative alliance whose members have expressed skepticism about the recently released GOP health care plan.

“Congress is tackling many challenges at the moment: repealing and replacing President Obama’s failed health care law, protecting our national security and jump-starting economic growth so that we can bring back American jobs,” DeSantis said in announcing the events. “But I need your input.”

The “discussions” will take place at 9:00 a.m. in St. Augustine, 1:00 p.m. in Daytona Beach, and 5:00 p.m. in Mt. Dora.

Spotted: Rep. Crist in a New York Times article talking about compromise, party pressure and campaign memories.

Ross asks VA Secretary to help Agent Orange-Stricken veterans — The CD 15 Republican sent a letter to Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin Wednesday, asking the group to help veterans with diseases caused by exposure to the toxic chemical Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

Currently, the Department of Defense acknowledges using the chemical in Thailand and Vietnam, but not Guam, making veterans stationed on the island during that era ineligible for expanded VA benefits due to Agent Orange exposure.

Ross has filed legislation to give veterans who were stationed in Guam the same level of care, though until it passes, he asked Shulkin what the VA can do in the meantime to help the affected veterans.

“It is an absolute shame that we have veterans who sacrificed their lives for us but are unable to receive any help for their suffering as a result of that sacrifice,” Ross said in a statement.

Ross wins award from Family Research Council — Ross received an award from the Family Research Council for his pro-life voting record, the fourth-term congressman announced Tuesday.

Ross won the “True Blue” award based on his votes on a variety of subjects, including votes to defund Planned Parenthood, repeal sections of the Affordable Care Act, authorize school choice in Washington, D.C. and against VA physicians recommending medical marijuana.

“As Americans, we have a moral obligation to protect the rights of the unborn, who are the most helpless of victims,” Ross said in a press release. “As a Christian, a father and a Member of the Pro-Life Congressional Caucus, I am deeply committed to preserving our nation’s traditional family values and will always be a strong advocate for policies valuing and protecting the sanctity of life.”

FRC Action President Tony Perkins said members of Congress such as Ross “deserve praise for their unwavering commitment to stand for life, family, marriage, and religious liberty.”

Buchanan meets with Florida hospital leaders to discuss heroin epidemic — The congressman met with leaders from Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, Doctors Hospital in Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch Medical Center and St. Joseph’s Hospital-South Friday to discuss how to confront the opioid and heroin crisis in Florida.

“The drug crisis is taking too many of our loved ones from us each day,” Buchanan said. “Doctors, nurses and first responders need help to fight the mounting number of overdoses. I’m committed to pushing for additional resources here in Southwest Florida to address this public health emergency.”

Vern Buchanan holds a roundtable discussion with Suncoast hospital leaders on how to confront Florida’s opioid and heroin crisis. (Photo via Vern Buchanan’s office)

Heroin deaths in Florida went up 80 percent in 2015 compared to 2014, according to the latest data from the state’s medical examiners commission. The same report also found that statewide, deaths from synthetic opioid fentanyl increased by more than 77 percent from 2014 to 2015.

Buchanan schedules town hall for March 18 — Buchanan announced Wednesday that he would hold a town hall in Sarasota March 18.

According to a press release, the sixth term representative had initially discussed a town hall in early April but decided to move the date up to get constituents’ input on the American Health Care Act before it comes to a vote.

“With Congress moving quicker than expected on health care I wanted to make sure my constituents had a chance to be heard and voice their opinion,” Buchanan said. “I’ve held 74 town halls over the years and look forward to hearing what people have to say.”

The town hall meeting will start at 11 am at the Sudakoff Center auditorium.

Rooney faces raucous crowd at town hall meeting via Tamara Lush of The Associated Press — “You are supporting an appropriations bill to help clean up the Everglades. You recently voted to repeal a rule that allows coal companies to dump toxic ash in waterways throughout the whole country. Would you care to explain?” one man asked.

“We don’t live in a perfect world,” said the Republican congressman, standing alone in front of a podium on stage at the Englewood Event Center. And that’s when the shouting started.

“That was quick,” quipped Rooney … “So you want Trump to fail?” The crowd screamed and clapped. One person yelled, “Yes, he already is failing!” A Trump supporter shouted a response from the back: “You people suck!” … In the end, everyone agreed on one thing: Rooney showed guts, standing up in front of a room full of angry voters.

Rooney files bill to curb illegal drug trafficking — Rooney also teamed up with Ohio Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan on a bill that would up penalties for trafficking in the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

The Stop Trafficking in Fentanyl Act would reduce the amount of fentanyl needed to invoke the most serious trafficking penalties for an individual trafficking and manufacturing the drug from 400 grams to 20 grams.

“My concern is that without action, these overdose figures are only going to get worse,” Rooney said. “The opioid epidemic has been tearing communities apart across the country. Congressman Ryan and I continually hear about fentanyl from our local law enforcement officers and prosecutors, and this bill will help give them the tools they need to get those who traffic this dangerous synthetic opioid off the street.”

Frankel leads colleagues in Congressional “walkout” — Wednesday’s “Day Without a Woman” featured events in several cities including Washington, D.C. Frankel was among the leaders of a Congressional “walkout.”

Around 12:30 p.m. several Democratic members, both men and women, descended the Capitol steps to lend their support to the strike. Frankel, who chairs the Democratic Women’s Working Group in Congress, expressed concern about rolling back women’s rights.

“I join millions of women in recognizing the important economic power of women in the United States and around the globe,” she said in a news release. “In Congress Democrats will resist efforts to take us back from hard earned gains.”

No votes or roll calls were missed due to the walkout.

Deutch again calls for investigation into Trump’s ties with Russia — Ted Deutch is repeating calls for a bipartisan investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia and other issues surrounding his campaign and business interests. Deutch made the request during a Thursday meeting of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs concerning “Russian disinformation aims.”

Deutch, the ranking member of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee ticked off a list of questions directed toward committee Chairman Ed Royce of California.

“Seventeen American intelligence agencies concluded that Russia executed a cyber-attack against the United States,” he said. “How can we proceed with a hearing on Russia’s involvement in Europe while ignoring the unresolved questions around this attack?”

He concluded by asking for a “full investigation into the Trump campaign, the Trump White House, and the Kremlin” as well as “the President’s tax returns” to get the full picture of Trump’s “business relationship with Russia”.

Diaz-Balart gets nod from National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials — Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart received the 2017 Edward R. Roybal Award for Outstanding Public Service from the organization this week.

The Miami Republican was recognized alongside his brother, former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

“I am grateful to NALEO for this prestigious award. Your organization is comprised of Latino elected and appointed officials, and to be recognized by my peers from all over the country is truly an honor,” he said in a statement. “This award is especially humbling because I am receiving it alongside my role model and mentor — my brother, Lincoln.”

The award honors individuals who distinguish themselves as devoted public servants to the nation and pays tribute to the organization’s founder and President Emeritus, the late Rep. Edward Roybal.

Photo Credit: Office of Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart

First elected in 2003, Diaz-Balart is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee and the chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

First elected in 1992, Lincoln Diaz-Balart made history as the first Latino be named to the powerful Rules Committee in 1994. He retired in 2011.

“Both Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart have set the bar for what it means to use public office as an avenue to make positive, meaningful change in the lives of immigrants, Latinos and all Americans, exemplifying the true spirit of service demonstrated by the late Congressman Roybal,” said Pauline Medrano, NALEO President and Dallas County Treasurer.

Curbelo files new DREAM Act in Congress via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald

The “Recognizing America’s Children Act,” or RACA, would offer an eventual path to U.S. citizenship to immigrants who entered illegally before Jan. 1, 2012, and were 16 years old or younger. The legislation is essentially a new version of the DREAM Act, which failed in the Senate in 2010.

Curbelo is bringing it back because President Trump, in his executive order on immigration, left in place the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — known as DACA — which shields so-called DREAMers from deportation.

“This White House has sent a very strong message by preserving the executive order that protects these young people,” Curbelo said in an interview … “We know that they’ve been very aggressive when it comes to immigration policy, so it certainly stands out that they have left the DACA executive order untouched.”

FDP slams Curbelo for vote to advance ‘TrumpCare’ — The Florida Democratic Party slammed Rep. Curbelo for his vote on the House Ways & Means Committee, saying it shows “how misguided his D.C. priorities are.”

“Congressman Curbelo’s support of TrumpCare, despite not knowing how many Americans will lose coverage, how much more Americans will be forced to pay in premiums, and what the bill will cost taxpayers, shows how misguided his D.C. priorities are,” said Scott Arceneaux, the executive director of the FDP in a statement. “With groups representing doctors, nurses, hospitals, and seniors strongly opposing TrumpCare, it seems Washington Republicans like Curbelo are the only ones in favor of it.”

Arceneaux said Democrats spent years crafting and debating a bill that covered 20 million Americans and saved taxpayers money.

“Now, with Congressman Curbelo’s help, Republicans are attempting to jam through a taxpayer giveaway to the wealthy while forcing millions of Americans to pay more for less coverage,” he said. “TrumpCare is unacceptable and Congressman Curbelo’s constituents deserve better.”

Floridians ranked among highest and lowest of congressional office expenditures — Two members of the Florida delegation were on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to spending their allotments for Congressional offices in 2016. According to an analysis by LegiStorm, former delegation member Jolly was second only to Texas Republican John Carter in office spending.

Jolly used more than 99 percent of his budget which was slightly less than Carter’s 99.5 percent. The analysis mentioned Jolly and some other members who were “engaged in contentious re-election battles,” used portions of their budgets on “franked mailings” to “reach constituents before Election Day.”

Ranking 435th, and last, in office spending was Daniel Webster. The Orlando Republican “led the penny pinchers by far, spending only 61.5 percent” of his roughly $1.25 million budget. The next-lowest spent nearly 75 percent of his budget.

On average, Democrats spent 92.59 percent of their budgets while Republicans used 90.77 of theirs. Overall, members used 91.13 percent of authorized funds.

SCOTUS to consider Florida-Georgia water war — The U.S. Supreme Court will consider adopting a report from the court-appointed special master who rejected Florida’s lawsuit against Georgia over water use in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system. The closed-door meeting will take place March 17, and the court is expected to adopt the ruling, though it is unclear when they will announce the decision. After the initial decision, Florida’s congressional delegation has worked on legislation that would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to modify its plan for the region and cap Georgia’s water use.

Congress shorts Collier and others on compensation for wildlife refuges via John Ferro of the Naples Daily News  — A federal program intended to compensate local governments for property tax revenue lost by the creation of national wildlife refuges shortchanged Collier County almost $500,000 in 2016, a review of payments data shows.

More than 1,000 U.S. territories, counties, cities, towns, and villages — from northernmost Alaska to the Florida Keys, from Guam to the Virgin Islands — receive payments through the National Wildlife Refuge Fund. But almost all of them get far less than they are due.

The federal formula used to calculate the annual payments to local governments put Collier County’s payment at $659,0000 for 2016, but the county received only $164,000, a shortfall of $495,0000, payment data shows.

Crenshaw moves on to D.C. law firm King And Spalding via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics  — Crenshaw, who represented the Jacksonville area from 1993 to 2016, will serve as senior counsel in the Government Advocacy and Public Policy practice in King & Spalding’s Washington, D.C., office.

“King & Spalding’s roster of former government officials—elected and nonelected, both Democrat and Republican—was a compelling platform as I contemplated life after Congress,” said Crenshaw.

Officers from the firm noted Crenshaw’s knowledge and affinity for consensus-oriented solutions as unique value adds for its newest hire.

Jolly launches non-profit policy committee — The former Rep. announced this week he launched Brighter Future Florida, a non-profit organization meant to continue his work on issues important to Pinellas County.

“I am committed to continuing the work I started in Congress,” said Jolly. “Brighter Future provides a vehicle to serve our community and to work with people of all political leanings on smart public policy solutions.”

The program is initially funded with unused money from the 2016 campaign cycle, something Jolly said he hoped showed a “commitment to real campaign finance reform.”

“Instead of using unspent money on endless campaign cycles for other candidates, I felt the right thing to do was to pour the money back into the community,” he said.

Jolly has directed funds to I Support Youth, a youth development non-profit in south St. Petersburg; Drug Free America Foundation; and the Jim West Prostate Foundation supporting prostate cancer screenings.

Brighter Future Florida will focus on veterans’ issues, early childhood education and literacy, community healthcare solutions, and issues impacting local fisheries and the environment. Jolly has tapped Vito Sheely to serve as the organization’s as the non-profit’s senior policy advisor, and John David White, his former chief of staff, as the group’s director.

FWD.us taps former White House official Peter Boogaard as senior Communications Director

Boogaard is a former White House and National Security Council Spokesman and Department of Homeland Security Deputy Assistant Secretary. He joins the growing bipartisan team at FWD.us, an organization formed within the tech community to advocate immigration reform.

Before FWD.us, Boogaard served as Director of Communications and Assistant Press Secretary at the White House, where he held a dual role with the National Security Office and White House Press Office. There, he focused on a range of domestic security issues, including immigration and border security, refugee policy, disaster response, and Western Hemisphere affairs including Central American migration and Cuba policy.

Boogaard previously worked for the Department of Homeland Security, where he served as Press Secretary and ultimately Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs. He began his career on Capitol Hill as Press Secretary for U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper.

Home care advocates march on Washington — The Home Care Association of Florida and the National Association for Home Care will hold its annual March on Washington on March 20 and March 21 to advocate for Medicare home health care. The annual event gives supporters a chance to meet with the congressional delegation, receive advocacy training and take advantage of networking opportunities.

Spotted: Venice Mayor John Holic, who was in town to attend American Shores and Beach Preservation Association annual conference. Holic, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, was scheduled to meet with aides for Sens. Nelson and Rubio, and Rep. Tom Rooney, but instead scored meetings with all three elected officials, including the “first-ever meeting with Rubio and an unprecedented 25 minutes with Nelson.”

Goldmeier gets praise in a Cheshire Academy feature — Prestigious Connecticut boarding school Cheshire Academy highlighted alumnus and South Florida fundraiser Brian Goldmeier in a recent feature.

The article gives an excellent background on Goldmeier, from his early days at the school, through his internship with Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, and on to his current stage as a highly successful fundraiser.

“When asked about what makes him successful at his job, it wasn’t the total amount of money raised that Goldmeier touted,” the article reads. “In fact, it was the invaluable contacts he’s created.”

In addition to his political work, the article highlights Goldmeier’s charity fundraising for the local United Way, and former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning’s charity, the Mourning Family Foundation.

“The relationships I’ve created has allowed me to really help Miami, which I truly love,” Goldmeier said. “I have a number of charities I help fundraise for using my relationships.”

Mitchell Berger, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer and national Democratic fundraiser; U.S. Rep. Alcee Hasting, and Eric Johnson, a Fort Lauderdale political consultant and former chief of staff for two members of Congress before the Broward Democratic Party held its annual fundraising dinner at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale. Photo credit: the Sun-Sentinel.

Brevard cook dishes on politics in ‘Food for Thought’ TV show via Suzy Fleming Leonard of FLORIDA TODAYLori Halbert wants to bring civility back to politics, one meal at a time.

After five years of cooking up tempting topics on her “Political Food for Thought” for Florida television audiences, she’s ready to take the show to Washington … Lori cooked with Rubio in the pilot for the new season. Other people from the national political arena have expressed an interest in participating. The show’s producers are working on sponsors and hope to make a deal with PBS to get the show before a national audience.

By combining two of her loves — cooking and politics — Lori wants to open the kitchen to delicious meals as well as bipartisan conversations about issues that affect us all, regardless of party affiliations. “The last few years have been very contentious in this country,” the Indialantic woman said. “Us versus them. … It’s really hard to be mad at somebody when you’re eating really good food.”

FMA leaders in Washington, D.C. last week to discuss health care policy with one of their own, U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, M.D., the only physician in the Florida Congressional Delegation.

Top Rubio aide to lead PR for major GOP digital firm via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — One of the Republican Party’s biggest players in digital campaigning is launching a new public-affairs division under the leadership of a top adviser to Rubio, his former chief of staff Alberto Martinez.

In naming Martinez executive vice president, Targeted Victory’s expansion comes months after it had to reorganize and downsize some of its operations in the wake of Trump’s surprise win in November.

The Alexandria, Va.-based firm grew out of the shambles of Mitt Romney’s failed 2012 presidential campaign, becoming a de facto symbol of the Republican establishment — loathed by some Trump supporters — as a go-to firm for the GOP. The company handles strategic consulting for House Speaker Ryan, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a bevy of Senate and House candidates.

Winter’s revenge? Snow possible this coming weekend via Wes Junker and Jason Samenow of The Washington Post

Computer models are suggesting a winter storm could develop and bring snow or cold rain to the region. The most likely timing for any storminess would be Saturday night into Sunday — although that could shift some. Forecast uncertainty is very high, and there still is no clear consensus on whether the storm will provide us with accumulating snow, plain old rain or miss us to the south.

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Jacksonville Bold for 3.10.17 — Dialing down expectations

First Coast Delegation dials down expectations

Earlier this week (and last week), we detailed a few reasons Northeast Florida legislators may not have the best Session in 2017; among them, inexperience and lack of stroke.

In the Florida Times-Union, Tia Mitchell offered some more examples of diminished expectations this week.

Much of this you read already with different formatting. Jay Fant wants to save Enterprise Florida. Kim Daniels wants money for an NW Jax YMCA. Tracie Davis intends to work across the aisle. And Clay Yarborough wants to learn the process.

The Duval Delegation is a paradox: temperamentally conservative, it doesn’t line up with other urban delegations. But it is very much an urban delegation, expected to carry water for the city as efficiently as delegations in Tampa, Orlando and Miami.

The delegation’s two Democrats – Daniels and Davis – go out of their way to cross the aisle and embrace Republicans. Will that help with their priorities?

The Republicans are all cut from the same cloth: Red-meat conservatism of the type that made Fant’s stance on Enterprise Florida notable for deviating from the position taken by House Speaker Richard Corcoran’.

Ultimately, proof of the delegation’s effectiveness will be the bacon brought home. How much of that will there be?

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Lenny Curry, Rob Bradley committees score big in February fundraising

Among the clubhouse leaders in February fundraising: the political committees of Jacksonville Mayor Curry and state Sen. Bradley.

Both committees cleared the $100K mark in February, as speculation mounts about Curry potentially leaving Jacksonville for a statewide run.

Of the area’s state representatives, Orange Park’s Travis Cummings brought in $34,000, outperforming Jacksonville representatives.

With no Jacksonville candidate looking at a competitive re-election race in 2018, amassing a war chest may not be a present-tense concern.

Still, the money is always worth watching.

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JAXPORT in the news

The Florida Times-Union also reported this week that the JAXPORT Board approved a $457,000 allocation to buy 53 acres of land necessary for dredging the St. Johns River.

The land, owned in part by JEA and in part by JEA and Florida Power and Light, is “lined up” so it can be purchased before the dredging commences.

The goal: a 47-foot depth.

Throughout the dredging process, expect tons of sand to be displaced … in a way that could be likened to the JAXPORT Board throwing over CEO Brian Taylor this week.

First Coast News reports on the unrest of the board about Taylor, going on since last year.

At a time when the port seeks federal and state money for the long-delayed dredging project, the next few months will tell a tale of the wisdom over this latest shake-up.

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A beautiful friendship

The Jacksonville Jaguars offered a presentation on the State of the Franchise highlighted by conceptual renderings (hosted here by Action News Jax) of Shad Khan’s proposal to transform the area near the stadium.

While Khan’s Iguana Investments is just one of three groups bidding for the project, expect the Downtown Investment Authority to make the right call and allow Khan to execute his vision.

Since buying the Jaguars, Khan parlayed his own personal branding (remember the novelty mustaches that were big a few years ago?) into an effort to symbiotically brand the city and the team as one In the same.

Khan was able to sell skeptical locals on the provenance of playing in London. Then he sold wavering local politicians on the wisdom of bringing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights to Jacksonville … perhaps (if you believe insiders in the debate) in response to the urging of our own A.G. Gancarski, a lonely voice insisting Khan – and his chief lobbyist, Paul Harden – could close the deal.

Khan is perhaps the ultimate pragmatist. He knows his market. And he also has a vision 4 what the city can be.

The other proposals: great. Give them a hearing. Let’s pretend we care about Sea Glass by the Shipyards. But downtown is Shad Khan’s to transform. He has an equity stake that no outside concept can match.

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Body camera discussion gets candid

A Tuesday town hall hosted by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at Jacksonville’s HBCU, Edward Waters College, dealt with the rollout of the JSO body camera pilot program.

Sheriff Mike Williams, who was not present, has moved from a John Rutherford-styled skepticism on the issue in 2015 to embracing the concept fully in 2017.

The discussion was raucous at times, straightforward all the time, with activists having their say on cameras and what they see as insufficient citizen review of footage.

Some council members appeared; some did not.

Among those who showed, Council VP John Crescimbeni, who at this writing is just three pledges away from locking up the presidency.

Among those who no-showed: Finance Chair Anna Brosche, Crescimbeni’s opponent.

With body cameras a priority in the African-American community, it would have been advisable for Brosche to have shown up to this particular town hall, as there are four unpledged council members from the so-called “minority access districts” [7 through 10], and she will need them if she has any chance of upsetting Crescimbeni.

Currently, Brosche lags behind Crescimbeni 7-3 in pledge count.

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State Attorney’s ‘human rights’ focus gets pushback

The Florida Times-Union reports that 4th Circuit State Attorney Melissa Nelson is instituting the first human rights division of any Florida SAO — in yet another radical departure from her predecessor, Angela Corey.

“The attorneys will work closely with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s integrity squad, which handles criminal investigations of officers,” writes Andrew Pantazi.

Controversially (to some), the SAO seeks comments from defense lawyers on when officers should get charged.

Fraternal Order of Police head Steve Zona called the development “chilling.”

“Activists and defense attorneys will decide when police officers should be charged. Nothing to see here folks, move along,” Zona said.

The police union backed Nelson’s opponent, leading to an interesting back and forth between Zona and the police union, and Brian Hughes, a political operative for Mayor Curry who was working on Nelson’s campaign.

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D.C. law firm ‘compelling platform’ for Ander Crenshaw

Florida Politics reported Monday on the next move for Ander Crenshaw.

The former congressman has moved on from Capitol Hill to a prominent D.C. law and lobbying firm: King & Spalding.

“King & Spalding’s roster of former government officials — elected and unelected, both Democrat and Republican — was a compelling platform as I contemplated life after Congress,” said Crenshaw.

Crenshaw was fond of saying, while preparing to leave Congress, that he “won’t miss the circus, but will miss the clowns.”

It appears that the Jacksonville Republican won’t get too far from the circus after all, as senior counsel in the firm’s Government Advocacy and Public Policy practice.

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DUIs down in Jacksonville

According to a report by Jacksonville ABC affiliate First Coast News, the number of DUI arrests in Jacksonville had fallen 25 percent since 2013, when ride-sharing companies came to town.

From 2011 to 2013, there was an average of 1,655 DUI arrests a year, but Sheriff’s Office data show that average dropped to 1,236 for the three years beginning in 2014. Alcohol-related crashes also went down by about 14 percent during the same stretch.

Whether the drop can be credited to companies such as Uber and Lyft is debatable, with some pointing to a study done by American Journal of Epidemiology that refutes some of Uber’s claims. Still, the rise in awareness has helped.

“We have free rides in Fleming Island, Tow to Go that has a schedule, Farah and Farah has constantly gone out on new year’s eve and paid for your taxi to go home,” said Carl Harms of JaxImpact. “There are other options here, there is a raise of awareness, but the problem still is that one [DUI] is too many.”

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Jacksonville Zoo Manatee Care Center is almost ready 

The Jacksonville Zoo’s Manatee Critical Care Center, which came with a $2 million price tag, is almost ready for its first patient.

The center can hold up to six manatees at a time and has two large freshwater pools, one for treatment, the other for recovery. The treatment pool features a special platform that can be raised for a manatee to be examined and receive medications and then lowered down into the water.

When complete, the center will be the only state and federally approved site in North Florida to provide temporary housing and urgent care for manatees.

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JAXPORT opening jobs program for ex-cons

JAXPORT announced a new program Tuesday to give non-violent former offenders an opportunity to re-enter the workforce.

“JAXPORT’s success hinges greatly upon a viable and sustainable workforce,” said Eric Green, JAXPORT senior director of government and external affairs. “The training and on-going support provided by the Jacksonville Port Academy will create real economic stability for those who deserve a second chance.”

The Jacksonville Port Academy will start with later this month with an inaugural class of 15 students. Program participants will learn from a curriculum developed by the University of North Florida and Jacksonville University.

JAXPORT says more than 10 companies doing business at the port have pledged to make hires out of the program.

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UF Health North awarded advanced certification for stroke care

UF Health North announced Monday that it has been earned an advanced certification as an “Acute Stroke Ready” facility by independent health care accreditation group Joint Commission.

“We are incredibly proud of this recognition from the Joint Commission because it once again shows just how dedicated we are when it comes to our patients,” said Russ Armistead, CEO of UF Health Jacksonville. “Thanks to UF Health North, that care now extends into Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia.”

To get the certification, a hospital needs to have a dedicated stroke program, staff trained in stroke care, and access to stroke expertise around the clock, among other requirements.

Joint Commission CEO Mark Pelletier said accreditation from the organization “provides hospitals with the processes needed to improve in a variety of areas from the enhancement of staff education to the improvement of daily business operations.”

“We commend UF Health North for its efforts to become a quality improvement organization,” he added.

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JIA takes the top spot in airport customer service rankings

Jacksonville International Airport earned the top spot among North American airports in customer service last year, according to the Airports Council International.

The ranking was part of the trade group’s Airport Service Quality Awards. JIA also took the No. 3 spot in “Best Airport by Size” for the 5 million to 15 million passengers a year category.

“These awards validate our team approach to customer service where the entire airport community has a stake in our travelers’ experience,” Jacksonville Aviation Authority CEO Steve Grossman said. “It also confirms the value of listening to our travelers and adapting to their needs.”

The ranking is based on a survey conducted by ACI that covers 30 customer service areas, including check-in, security and food options. JIA tied with the Indianapolis and Toronto airports for the top spot.

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Mayo Clinic announces $70.5 million in projects

The Jacksonville Mayo Clinic announced Tuesday that it will spend $70.5 million to add four floors the Mayo South building and renovate the Davis Building.

The projects are part of CEO Gianrico Farrugia’s 2015 commitment to spend $300 million on upgrades and expansions to turn the clinic into a destination medical center for the Southeast.

“This gets us closer,” Farrugia said. “We’re not done yet. But this is a big step.”

The projects announced Tuesday will provide new space for cardiovascular, cardiology and cardio-thoracic surgery; expand the spine center and pain rehabilitation programs; develop available laboratories, and provide space and equipment for a molecular imaging center for radiology.

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JTA gets three national marketing awards

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority took home three awards from an annual advertising competition held by the American Public Transportation Association. JTA won first place for its monthly television program Making Moves, and took the first-place spot in the education and partnership and electronic media categories for its Pocket Pledge Safety Campaign and its Skyway Economics Video, respectively. “I am so proud of the talented team of professionals at the JTA,” said JTA Chief Executive Officer Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. “We have an amazing group of creative individuals who come up with these outstanding marketing campaigns.”

The Pocket Pledge Safety Campaign aims to discourage distracted driving, and the Skyway Economics video covers maintenance of the iconic people mover.

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Couple donates $3 million to JU nursing school

The Jacksonville University nursing school is now named the Keigwin School of Nursing due to a $3 million gift from Beverly and Jack Keigwin. The couple said the donation was one of the most meaningful gifts they had ever given. Jack is a trustee and executive-in-residence at JU, while Beverly is a former nurse who serves on the external advisory board of JU’s Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences.

 

Sunburn for 3.10.17 – On Bob Buckhorn’s no; Andrew Gillum’s emails probed; Denise Grimley’s $$$; The Bandit speaks; Happy b’day Shawn Foster

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

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

BOB BUCKHORN SAYS NO

Buckhorn is a gregarious, ambitious and determined man, and we think he would have made a fine governor for the state of Florida. He certainly ranks among the best mayors the city of Tampa has ever had.

But we also believe he made the right call when he announced in an email to supporters Thursday morning that “I am not planning to be a candidate for Governor in 2018.”

Now, saying “I am not planning …” does leave a little wiggle room in case Democrats come storming to his door, but that is not likely to happen.

But Buckhorn wasn’t kidding in that email when he said, “I have a job I love.” In his case, that was not the usual politician-speak for “I’ve sized up the field and decided I have no chance.”

Tampa has had some fine mayors dating back more than 40 years – people like Dick Greco, Bill Poe, Sandy Freedman, Bob Martinez, Pam Iorio – and none of them wanted the job more than Buckhorn. He loved saying that Tampa had its “swagger” back. Trust me on this; no one has more swagger than he does.

And Buckhorn came along at the right time, too. When he assumed office in 2011, the city’s knees were buckling from the Great Recession (Iorio deserves credit for how she guided Tampa during that time). But Buckhorn moved ahead with an ambitious plan to reshape downtown from a dead place where the streets didn’t wait until 5 p.m. to roll up.

There are so many things going on now that the biggest downtown problem is a lack of parking.

Buckhorn was an out-front supporter of Hillary Clinton for president, so there was speculation that he would have been off to Washington had she won. We’ll never know that for sure, just as we’ll never know if as Governor he could have successfully worked with what likely will remain a Republican legislative majority in Tallahassee.

Here is what we can say, though. This decision not to run clears a lot of things off his plate and allows him to concentrate on the city he loves.

And barring something unforeseen that can’t be controlled, he will hand the next mayor a city that has changed for the better. Not a bad legacy, eh?

TWEET, TWEET

— @GwenGraham: @BobBuckhorn is an extraordinary leader who has transformed one of Florida’s and America’s great cities.

— @EricJotkoff: @BobBuckhorn is a good man and a great leader, who has transformed Tampa into a world class city & economic powerhouse.

— @MikeGriffinFL: One thing is certain – @BobBuckhorn statement was from his heart. He loves his family and city. We are lucky to have him finish strong!

— @KyleSimon: Is it just me or has @BobBuckhorn’s roll ‘out’ of the 2018 #Florida Governor race been better than anyone’s roll in so far?

— @CommBranchSays: This problem for FLA Dems persists: our best candidates are big city mayors, but it’s better to be king of their castle.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***

— MORE FROM THE 2018 TRAIL —

STATE ATTORNEY WILL INVESTIGATE ANDREW GILLUM EMAILS via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat – The Leon County Sheriff’s Office will investigate whether Mayor Gillum’s office broke the law when it used taxpayer funded software to send emails with political messages. It was a bombshell development in a story that could have implications for both City Hall and the Florida governor’s race. “We are going to review it, investigate it and see if it has sufficient probable cause,” Sheriff McNeil said. “And once we’ve completed an investigation, (we’ll) submit it back to the State Attorney’s Office to see if there is sufficient probable cause to indicate that a crime has occurred.” Gillum responded by saying the state attorney has a duty to follow up on complaints his office receives.

SUGAR LOADS UP ADAM PUTNAM’S POLITICAL COMMITTEE via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – U.S. Sugar and a railroad the company runs called South Central Florida Express, Inc. sent $200,000 in donations in late February to a political committee that Putnam runs called Florida Grown. U.S. Sugar has now given Florida Grown $465,000 since 2015, making it among the top 5 givers to Putnam’s committee. His top donor is The Voice of Florida Business, a political action committee run by Associated Industries of Florida. They have given $605,000. That doesn’t count $525,000 that AIF has given Putnam’s committee through another committee called Associated Industries of Florida PAC. Yet another committee with ties to AIF called Floridians for a Stronger Democracy gave $150,000 to Putnam’s committee since 2015. Each of those AIF PACs get lots of support from the sugar industries. Since the start of 2016 those three PACs have raised $4.2 million. But nearly $1.3 million of that comes from donations by U.S. Sugar, based in Clewiston, and Florida Crystals, a sugar producer based in Palm Beach County.

FORMER LAKE COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD CHAIR RANDY WISEMAN TO RUN AS LIBERTARIAN CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Wiseman, a small-business owner from Mount Dora and the former chairman of the Lake County School Board, will formally announce his run for governor on the Libertarian ticket in 2018 this Saturday in Lakeland. Wiseman served as the Lake County School Board chairman from 1994 to 1998, while also running for Mayor of Mount Dora and Florida State House. He changed his party affiliation from Republican to Libertarian (LPF) in 2016.

DENISE GRIMSLEY POSTS BIG FUNDRAISING NUMBERS FOR AG COMMISSIONER BID – Between her announcement February 1 to the March 7 opening day of the Legislative Session, the Sebring Republican brought in more than $735,000 – with $295,000 to her campaign and $440,000 for her political committee, Saving Florida’s Heartland. “Denise is so very honored by the support she received in these first 35 days, and while she is working during the Session to represent her constituents and work for a greater Florida, her campaign team will focus on the road ahead to the primary,” said David Johnson, who is serving as the general consultant to Grimley’s campaign.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will hold a press conference to discuss the wildfire in Collier County at 9 a.m. at the Collier County Emergency Management Office, 8075 Lely Cultural Parkway in Naples.

RICK SCOTT DEMANDS MEDICAID FAIRNESS UNDER HOUSE GOP PLAN via Rachana Pradhan of POLITICO Florida – Scott is worried about Florida being treated unfairly under the Obamacare repeal bill, which phases out the expansion of Medicaid but gives a funding bump to the 19 mostly Republican-led states that shunned it. Scott … didn’t say he opposed the House bill. But he raised the issue of financial fairness for states like his and the need to give governors new flexibility to run their Medicaid programs, an issue the bill is nearly silent on. “States like Florida which didn’t expand [Medicaid] can’t get treated unfairly,” he said. “I think it’s a work in progress,” Scott said of the House bill. “It’s just the beginning.”

SCOTT NOT TAKING STAND ON POLLUTION NOTIFICATION BILL NOW MOVING IN SENATE via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – A Senate bill that passed its first committee stop this week requires DEP to issue the notification rather than those responsible for the spills. That’s what Associated Industries of Florida and other industry groups along with utilities pushed for last fall during DEP workshops on the proposed rule. … A spokeswoman for the governor’s office didn’t say whether Scott is supporting the bill. “The governor will review any legislation that makes it to his desk,” spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said.

THE BANDIT SPEAKS – BURT REYNOLDS BLAMES GOV. FOR FLORIDA’S FLOUNDERING FILM INDUSTRY via Peter Burke of Local10.com – The 81-year-old “Smokey and the Bandit” star was critical of Gov. Scott when he met with the media before a March 3 Florida Music Awards kickoff party in Fort Lauderdale. Reynolds … criticized Scott for not doing more for Florida’s struggling film industry, which has faltered since the state’s tax incentive program was allowed to sunset last year. “More films should be shot here,” Reynolds said. “It’s not Florida’s fault, because Florida’s got everything, you know? It’s the governor. I remember I went in to see him and I said, ‘You know, we ought to be shooting more movies down here.’ And he said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘How did you get to be governor?’ He’s dumber than a peach orchard sow.” His last line drew laughter from the crowd, but he was only half-joking.

JAY FANT IS DOWN ON BILL THAT WOULD END ENTERPRISE FLORIDA via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – He said he doesn’t “like going against leadership on a vote, and I stick with them on just about everything, but this just isn’t one of those things.” The Jacksonville Republican had asked critical questions of bill sponsor Paul Renner, a former political rival, in the floor session. Fant … said killing Enterprise Florida “will hinder our ability to bring businesses to Florida.” He instead favors heightened scrutiny of the agency, which is funded mainly with public dollars. The entity is “the right thing at the right time,” he said.

BIG TROUBLE ON CAMPUS: RICHARD CORCORAN TARGETS FLORIDA UNIVERSITIES FOR FOUNDATION SPENDING via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – He’s raising questions about how the foundations that grow endowments for the universities pay for worldwide travel, spend on lavish salaries and use public money to raise donations. Corcoran‘s chief budget-writer, Rep. Carlos Trujillo, invited officials of all 12 universities to the Capitol to justify their spending, laying the groundwork for what’s expected to be a bipartisan House strategy to slash their spending — a year after giving them tens of millions of dollars for new projects. The House is going in the opposite direction of the Senate, which wants to increase university spending by $1 billion next year to make them more prestigious. A three-hour hearing by Trujillo’s House Appropriations Committee followed his demand in January for records showing that universities spend taxpayer money to hire people who in turn raise money for the schools’ foundations.

SENATE SAYS YES TO MORE HELP FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS via The Associated Press –  The Florida Senate voted 35-1 for an overhaul of the state’s higher education system that is a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron. The bill (SB 2) would require the state to cover 100 percent of tuition costs for top performing high school students who attend a state university or college. Florida used to pay 100 percent of tuition for those eligible for the top Bright Futures scholarship, but it was scaled back during the Great Recession. It’s not clear, however, if the Florida House will pass the bill.

OOPS! JOE NEGRON INITIALLY DIDN’T VOTE FOR HIS HALLMARK HIGHER ED LEGISLATION via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – When the final Senate floor vote was announced for SB 2 at 1:22 p.m., there was no vote recorded for Negron, even though he was present and overseeing the chamber at the time. The result was announced by the Senate secretary as 35-1 …  But when the vote was first recorded and uploaded to the official Senate website, it changed. The result was time-stamped as the same time of the vote but it was published as 36-1 with Negron’s “yes” vote included. “He voted after the roll call,” Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta said … there was “miscommunication” between Negron and the Senate secretary and the voting “board locked before he could record his vote.” Senate rules specifically state “an original roll call shall not be altered,” but senators can change their votes or cast their votes afterward and, if no senator objects that same day, the official daily Journal can reflect that revised vote.

PARENTS, ADVOCATES BEG LAWMAKERS NOT TO CUT MENTAL HEALTH FUNDING via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel – While Gov. Scott’s budget has proposed adding $25 million to the annual base budget for mental health, Senate leaders are weighing a $50 million cut in those funds, which could wipe out most of the gains in community-based programs made in the past two years. … In 2016, the Legislature pushed through an additional $58 million — a 6 percent increase — for some of the state’s most pressing needs, including staffing for state mental hospitals and programs that divert nonviolent offenders with mental illness to treatment instead of jail. Still, Florida lags far behind the nation’s top states, which spend over $300 per person in mental health funding, Marzullo said. The average state spends $127 per person. Currently, Florida spends $37 per person.

SENATE RULES PANEL TEMPORARILY POSTPONES PREJUDGMENT INTEREST BILL via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A Senate bill that would allow plaintiffs to recover prejudgment interest on noneconomic claims, including pain and suffering, was suddenly postponed during its final review panel …  Sen. Rob Bradley moved to yank the bill (SB 334) from consideration during its public comment period before the Rules Committee. When done during a hearing, such a move suggests a lawmaker has counted votes and determined a measure isn’t going to pass. The bill is being pushed by Sarasota Republican Greg Steube. A companion bill is in the House.

DANA YOUNG LOOKING FOR ‘SWEET SPOT’ WITH POT BILLS via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Senate Health Policy Committee Chairwoman Young will hold a workshop to try to reach consensus on how to implement a constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana for a broad swath of patients. Young said she’s hoping to find the “sweet spot” between patient access and appropriate regulation to use as the basis for the ultimate proposal. Five separate marijuana measures (SB 406, SB 614, SB 1388, SB 1758, SB 1666) now are floating in the Senate, including one co-sponsored by Young (SB 406), and the House released its version of the implementation bill (HB 1397) on the opening day of session.

— “Medical marijuana plans stacking up in Legislature” via Dan Sweeney of the Sun-Sentinel

DARRYL ROUSON, LORI BERMAN URGE FLORIDA TO BECOME A ‘TOBACCO 21’ STATE via Florida Politics — Two Florida lawmakers want to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco in the Sunshine State. The proposals (SB 1138 and HB 1093), lawmakers said, would help lower the number of young adults who become addicted to tobacco and cut down on the state’s leading cause of preventable death. “I’ve seen many struggles with addiction and its consequences,” said Rouson. “I believe we should firmly protect the youth and teens of this state from the dangerous addictive properties … in tobacco. Protecting them, their welfare, and their health is essential.”

— “Democrats Tracie Davis, Darryl Rouson file Dozier School apology bill” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

DWAYNE TAYLOR, FORMER HOUSE REP FROM DAYTONA BEACH, INDICTED via Seth Robbins of the Daytona Beach News-Journal – Taylor, a former Daytona Beach city commissioner and four-term member of the Florida House of Representatives, was charged with nine counts of wire fraud, according to the nine-page indictment. The indictment accuses Taylor of withdrawing thousands of dollars from his campaign accounts and then depositing the cash, within minutes or hours, into his personal account. According to the indictment, he withdrew money eight times from ATM machines and cashed one check in Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach and Tampa. The withdrawals, which ranged from $100 to $400, came to $2,440, and prosecutors are seeking a forfeiture $62,834 from the entire scheme, officials said. He also faces 20 years in prison on each count of wire fraud, according to a news release.

FLORIDA ASSOCIATION OF HEALTH PLANS LAUNCHES VIDEO SERIES via Florida Politics – … to highlight how help plans help Floridians. “As the 2017 Legislative Session gets underway and discussion and debate on the health care environment in our state continues, FAHP is launching the ‘Florida Patients Matter’ campaign and video series to showcase how health plans truly have a positive impact on the lives of their patients,” said Audrey Brown, president and CEO of FAHP. “In the midst of debate, policy questions are often the focal point, but health plans understand that what is really of critical importance is ensuring Florida patients get the best quality health care that is both accessible and affordable.” FAHP membership includes more than a dozen health insurance providers, though the first part of the ‘Florida Patients Matter’ campaign will feature Community Care Plan, Molina Healthcare and Sunshine Health.

STATE LAWMAKERS APPLAUD FLORIDA TAXWATCH DURING ANNUAL STATE OF TAXPAYER DINNER via Florida Politics — The taxpayer advocacy group hosted its State of the Taxpayer dinner Wednesday. The annual event is meant to highlight issues affecting the average taxpayer, and features speeches from Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Attorney General Bondi, Sen. Jack Latvala, Rep. Jim Boyd and Rep. Manny Diaz.  While speakers used the event as a chance to promote the work they’re doing, some took a few moments to show their support for Enterprise Florida, one of Gov. Rick Scott’s top priorities. … “I believe the way we do that, just like the governor believes, is by growing the economy organically,” said Latvala. “We need to bring in high paid employees and get them in to the Florida economy, get them buying homes. And that’s been a function that’s been performed admirably by Enterprise Florida.”

***The Florida Health Care Association knows how legislators can save taxpayers $68.2 million per year in unnecessary spending, while safeguarding the highest level of care for Florida’s frailest residents. Learn more here.***

FLORIDA MAKING PROGRESS ON LATEST FIX TO DEATH PENALTY LAW via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press – The proposal – the second attempt in two years to address court decisions that found the state’s capital punishment law unconstitutional – is expected to go to Gov. Scott after the House votes on it. It’s a fix that people on both sides of the death penalty issue see as needed, but few on either side are entirely happy with. Many death penalty proponents were OK with a majority jury vote determining a death sentence and are frustrated the courts forced them to move to a unanimous decision. Opponents would prefer to abolish the practice altogether. “I still think there is work to be done on the death penalty,” said Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy, the bill’s sponsor. “One of them is that the death penalty has been unevenly applied. Depending on where you are in this state – (and) sometimes unfortunately, the color of your skin – it can determine whether you get the death penalty or not.” But he called the measure a good first step.

PAM BONDI TOUTS $165 MILLION RECOVERED BY STATE’S MEDICAID FRAUD UNIT via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics – A report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services revealed Florida recovered more than $165 million in otherwise lost funds through fraudulent Medicaid cases during fiscal year 2015-2016 … The report shows Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) is working, according to the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services. “My Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigators work tirelessly to stop Medicaid fraud and recover stolen funds for taxpayers,” Bondi said in the statement. “This report sends the strong message that we will continue to aggressively pursue anyone trying to defraud Florida’s Medicaid program.” Florida ranked only second in the nation in total funds recovered for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, with New York raking in the most at nearly $229,000,000.

FDLE CONSULTANT ARRESTED IN FRAUD SCHEME via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics – John Leland Goelz, a non-sworn technical consultant to the FDLE for 23 years, oversaw the cellphones used by agents and employees throughout the agency, said FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Pessinger. Investigators believe Goelz purchased cellphones for himself and his family using FDLE’s mobile device contract, a violation of ethics … FDLE began examining Goelz after a member reported not being able to get an older cellphone upgraded, and went to a supervisor about it. As part of its mobile device contract, FDLE is eligible for a certain number of mobile device upgrades at discounted rates each year. Goelz purchased 10 mobile devices for his personal use that should have been used to upgrade FDLE member phones … By using FDLE’s contract, he could receive steep discounts on the phones he purchased. The value lost to the agency was nearly $5,000.

ENGINEERS GIVE FLORIDA A “C” GRADE FOR INFRASTRUCTURE via The Associated Press – That’s still better than the grade of “D+” given to the nation overall. An American Society of Civil Engineers report card says investing in infrastructure must be a top priority in Florida given its growing population. Florida’s best score was on bridges, for which it received a “B.” The report card says only 1.7 percent of Florida’s bridges are structurally deficient. Florida’s worst scores were for coastal areas because of beach erosion and schools. The report card faulted Florida schools for not keeping pace with a growing student population, as well as its aging school buildings.

ORANGE, GRAPEFRUIT CROP FORECASTS TAKE ANOTHER HIT via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The forecast for Florida orange production has dropped again, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, down a whopping 3 million boxes. The March report projects a reduction in the state’s orange crop to 67 million boxes. “2 million of that comes from the early and mid-season varieties, which are now fully harvested,” it said. In more bad news, grapefruit crop expectations were “reduced by 100,000 to 8.9 million boxes.”

***Sen. Jack Latvala is fighting to protect Florida’s small business owners by leveling the playing field for owners of franchise establishments. This will lead to more economic growth and jobs for our communities. Tell Sen. Latvala you support him and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at ProtectFLBusiness.com.***

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

Stacy AriasJerry McDaniel, Southern Strategy Group: Jacksonville Multispecialty Group, LLC

Keith ArnoldBrett Bacot, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: City of Fort Myers

Slater BaylissChris Chaney, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: American Board of Medical Specialties

Amy Bisceglia, Matthew Sacco, The Rubin Group: Caregiver Services, Inc; The Corradino Group; Patients for Fair Compensation, Inc

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Venetian Condominium, Inc.

Melanie Shaanks BostickTimothy Parson, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: 8Minute Energy Renewables, LLC

Dave Ramba, Allison CarvajalEvan Power Ramba Consulting Group: Smart, LLC

Mike Haridopolos: Floridians for Access to Health Care Inc

Douglas Mannheimer, Broad and Cassel: George Hackney, Inc d/b/a Trulieve

Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: City of Tampa

Jon Steverson, Foley & Lardner: Florida East Coast Industries LLC

Robert Stuart, GrayRobinson: Dewberry Engineering

Herschel Vinyard, Foley & Lardner: EH Mitigation Management, LLC; Florida East Coast Industries LLC

‘GAME OF THRONES’ LITERALLY ENCASED ITS SEASON 7 PREMIERE DATE IN A BLOCK OF ICE via Chelsea Tatham of the Tampa Bay Times – Apparently, someone in the Game of Thrones PR department thought freezing an object (A long brick? A really thick piece of cardboard?) with the show’s premiere date on it would be a good idea … the Game of Thrones Facebook page posted a live feed of a very large block of ice sitting in a stone chamber surrounding by flames. Inside was a dark object with the premiere date etched on it. Viewers were supposed to comment FIRE on the feed so phantom blow torches would appear to help the ice along. At any point, there were more than 100,000 people watching a block of ice melt. Creative? Yes. Weird? For sure. Punny? Most definitely. The seventh season of Game of Thrones comes back July 16 on HBO.

HAPPENING SATURDAYThe Tallahassee Irish Society is hosting the eighth annual St. Patrick’s Festival and Jack Madden Memorial Parade from noon to 9 p.m. at Kleman Plaza, 306 South Duval Street in Tallahassee.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Sen. Doug Broxson, as well two pretty good dudes, Shawn Foster and Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News.

Scott, Corcoran, Negron play Rochambeau with picks to the Constitution Revision Commission

Rock breaks scissors, but scissors cut paper, which, of course, covers rock.

Neither Rick Scott, Richard Corcoran nor Joe Negron knew they were playing a game of Rochambeau when making their appointments to the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).

But the way final picks played out, they may well have.

The CRC meets every 20 years to review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document. It has convened twice before, in 1977-78 and 1997-98, but this is the first to be selected by a majority of Republicans, virtually ensuring it will propose more conservative changes than previous panels.

Scott’s selections — just by the sheer fact that he had 6 more picks than either of the two legislative leaders — could trump Corcoran’s and Negron’s choices.

But if ideological allies join forces, they could overwhelm the Governor’s slate. That is unless some of Scott’s appointees create a bloc with some of Corcoran’s or Negron’s commissioners.

Rock breaks scissors. Scissors cuts paper. Paper covers rock.

Also certain to play roles are automatic appointee Pam Bondi (because she holds the office of Attorney General), and Chief Justice Jorge Labarga‘s three accomplished choices.

Of the three state leaders, it was, not surprisingly, Corcoran who made the boldest selections (although one pick is all but unjustifiable except for political reasons).

Corcoran understands the enormous potential the CRC has to shape the direction of the state for two decades, and his picks reflect that.

Of Negron’s nine picks, former Senate President Don Gaetz and former Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith are the most notable. Undoubtedly, the great orator Gaetz will be one of the most listened-to voices on the CRC.

Yet, for the most part, most of the capital crowd greeted Negron’s selections with shrugged shoulders. As the names were read, ‘Who?’ was asked more than once.

Scott, as his nature, tapped mostly loyalists for the Commission. He also made a disastrous decision by selecting Carlos Beruff as chair. Unless Scott’s not really interested in having the Commission accomplish much, that is.

So now that all 37 Commissioners have been identified, and Jeff Woodburn has been tapped as Executive Director, here are a few things I think about these selections.

— Again, Beruff chairing the Commission will likely end in disaster. Yes, he is a capable man with an extensive CV marked by selection to numerous blue ribbon panels. But all of that came before he decided to run for U.S. Senate. Now, he’s seen as the guy who was hoodwinked by political consultants into spending millions of dollars of his own money so he could finish just ahead of the margin of error. He’s also been exposed as a far-right ideologue who makes Marie Le Pen look soft on immigration. Even if he builds consensus and can get a majority of the alphas on the Commission to propose amendments to the Constitution, Beruff is one of the last people you’d want campaigning for passing initiatives. Sandy D’Alemberte or Dexter Douglass he ain’t.

— With Beruff as Chair and other Scott loyalists, including Tim Cerio and Brecht Heuchan, on board, the unnamed 38th member of the Commission is Scott’s former Chief of Staff, Melissa Sellers.

— If you are Joanne McCall, the president of the Florida Education Association, and you see this list, you should be panicking. A near supermajority of these Commissioners, from The Foundation for Excellence in Education’s Patricia Levesque to Democrat state Sen. Darryl Rouson, are school choice advocates. And they’d like nothing more than to see the repeal of the 132-year-old Blaine Amendment, which says state funds may not go to support religious institutions. Of course, an initiative to do just that was rejected by Florida voters in 2012. Still, with Marva JohnsonPam StewartErika DonaldsSherry Plymale, and so many other proponents of greater choice for students, you can expect the CRC to spend considerable time on education issues.

— In addition to education, expect the CRC to focus on overhauling the redistricting process created by the Fair Districts amendments, adding a (tiebreaking) member to the Florida Cabinet and strengthening private property rights.

— Back to the boldness of Corcoran’s selections; the ultimate power play was rewarding Tom Lee with a spot on the CRC. With that pick, he’s not playing checkers. He’s not playing chess. He’s playing three-dimensional chess. The move makes it clear that he has a powerful ally in Negron’s own house, even if he’s not in leadership. Clearly, all the Cabernet the two men enjoyed while serving as their respective chamber’s appropriations chairs led to a strong relationship.

— If there’s a downside to Lee being picked by Corcoran to sit on the CRC, it’s that he probably just took him out of the running to be appointed by Scott as chief financial officer. With tensions running as high as they are between Scott and Corcoran, there’s no way the Governor puts somebody now perceived as one of the Speaker’s allies on the Cabinet.

— Arthenia Joyner probably won’t win many important votes while serving on the CRC, but she gets a microphone and a soapbox to talk about the liberal issues she cares most about. Same goes for Sen. Smith. As for the other Democratic state Senator on the panel — Rouson — that guy is the Swiss Army Knife of appointees because he does so much: He’s African-American (check!) He’s a Democrat (check!) He’s from Tampa Bay (check!) But – and this certainly did not escape Corcoran – Rouson is an outspoken proponent of school choice and charter schools. During his Senate campaign, Rouson benefited from the support of the Florida Children’s Federation, the political arm of the Florida movement for private school tuition vouchers.

— Legislators know how to build coalitions. That’s why you should expect Jose Felix Diaz and Jeanette Nunez to star while on the CRC. For Diaz, it’s also a chance to audition before a statewide audience in the event he wants to run for Attorney General in 2018.

— It should not be overlooked that some really smart, good folks are on this Commission. Heuchan, Rich Newsome (one of the Speaker’s best friends and one of the best trial lawyers in the state), Jimmy Patronis … each have the potential to be consensus builders on this board.

— If there is one pick from any of the leaders that is meeting with derision, it’s Corcoran’s selection of John Stemberger, the self-appointed leader of Florida’s religious right. It’s not just progressives like Equality Florida and state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith who have a problem with Stemberger on the CRC, but also a rash of Republicans and conservatives who, albeit privately, think poorly of Stemberger. His selection by Corcoran is being described as a sop to the right wing of the GOP, particularly if Corcoran runs for Governor in 2018.

— Won’t it be interesting to see what Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco does on a statewide stage? I know many people who are hoping he does another news conference like this:

Proposals approved by the CRC will move forward as ballot issues in the November 2018 general election. Amendments need 60 percent of the vote to become part of the state Constitution.

In 1998, eight of the nine ballot proposals advanced by the Commission were approved by voters, although they only required a majority vote at that time.

Bob Buckhorn will not run for Governor in 2018

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced Thursday morning that would forego running for Florida governor in 2018.

“I am not planning to be a candidate for Governor in 2018,” Buckhorn, 58, wrote in an email to supporters. “While I absolutely believe that the State of Florida needs a course correction and a new direction, the timing for me and my family would be a challenge. As the father of two daughters who are 15 and 11, the all consuming task of running for Governor would cause me to miss the milestones in their lives that I could never get back.”

For several years, it’s been a given that Buckhorn would try to take his brand of leadership to a new level by seeking the Democratic nomination for Governor.

Facing just token opposition in his re-election bid, Buckhorn won with nearly 96 percent of the vote, setting himself up perfectly for a presumptive run for higher office.

But, as Jeb Bush said after his failed presidential bid, stuff happens.

It began when the Tampa Bay Times reported that his police department, led by departing “rock star” Chief Jane Castor, had disproportionately cited black bicyclists at an alarming rate in comparison with the rest of the city’s general population. That led to the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the TPD, with a report slated for the end of the year.

Then came a tough investigative report by WTSP Channel 10’s Noah Pransky in early September on the influence of Beth Leytham, one of the mayor’s closest advisers, including a video exchange between Pransky and the mayor that nobody would call one of Buckhorn’s finest moments. Then there was the lackluster fundraising for his political action committee, One Florida. This all led La Gaceta editor/publisher Patrick Mantegia to speculate that it appeared the Mayor had packed in the idea of running in 2018.

Still, Buckhorn continued to flirt with the idea of running. But as other candidates jumped into the race and Buckhorn not showing any signs of wanting to pursue a statewide bid, political observers like this blog declared that was “on the clock” and needed to make a decision.

In his email, Buckhorn made it clear he will finish his second term as Mayor of Tampa.

“For me, finishing Tampa’s next chapter is more important than starting mine. Absent extenuating circumstances, I intend to finish the job I was hired to do and prepare Tampa for the great things that are about to occur.”

Buckhorn is term-limited from seeking another term in City Hall.

Even with Buckhorn not entering the race, the Democratic primary remains crowded with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park businessman Chris King already in the race. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine are also expected to run, while trial lawyer John Morgan is testing the waters on a potential bid.

In a statement, Graham saluted Buckhorn:

“Bob Buckhorn is an extraordinary leader who has transformed one of Florida’s and America’s great cities,” Graham said. “His successful service in Tampa shows what Florida can accomplish if we work together and focus on creating economic opportunity and improving quality of life for families. I am fortunate to call Bob a good friend and look forward to his continued leadership in the Tampa Bay region and all of Florida.”

Here is the full text of Buckhorn’s statement:

I can not tell you how honored I have been by the hundreds of people who have encouraged me to run for Governor. Your kind words and offers of support inspired me throughout this process and I am forever grateful for your willingness to join me on this journey.

That being said, I am not planning to be a candidate for Governor in 2018. While I absolutely believe that the State of Florida needs a course correction and a new direction, the timing for me and my family would be a challenge. As the father of two daughters who are 15 and 11, the all consuming task of running for Governor would cause me to miss the milestones in their lives that I could never get back.

Furthermore, I have a job that I love. A job unlike many jobs in politics requires that I show up and do what I was hired to do. As the CEO of 4400 great city employees, we are focused on furthering the amazing transformation of Tampa that has occurred over the last 6 years. It is a job that I trained for, aspired to and am eternally grateful to the citizens of Tampa who gave me this opportunity.

For me, finishing Tampa’s next chapter is more important than starting mine. Absent extenuating circumstances, I intend to finish the job I was hired to do and prepare Tampa for the great things that are about to occur.

I am confident that there will be a number of good candidates on the Democratic side that can speak to the hopes and aspirations of our fellow Floridians. This is a pivotal election for our state and I stand ready to lend my voice to those who would articulate a message that would unite us as a state behind a common vision that ensures that we leave Florida to our children, not a state of diminished possibilities, but a state of unlimited opportunities.

 Reporter Mitch Perry contributed to this story.

Senate president Jim King

Sunburn for 3.9.17 – Buckhorn out; King remembered; Negron’s priorities vetted; Akerman lobbyists gone; Lyft in Tally

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

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

BREAKING OVERNIGHT – Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has decided not to seek the Democratic nomination for Florida governor. The Mayor made the announcement on his social media accounts early Thursday.

REMEMBERING JIM KING

The late state Sen. Jim King, who would have turned 78 this year, was remembered at an annual happy hour in his honor last night in Tallahassee.

The Jacksonville Republican, who died from pancreatic cancer in 2009, was first elected to the House in 1986 and became one of the most powerful politicians in the state, serving as Senate President from 2002-04.

After serving as President, King stayed in the Senate as an elder statesman, a jovial mentor to new members or for that matter anyone interested in the legislative process.

Though he didn’t attend, former Sen. Garrett Richter, a Naples Republican, offered a toast to King for the gathering:

The Florida legislature just ain’t the same

Without the man we’re about to name

A man with wit, humor and control

A man that made a difference… he was nobody’s fool

He’d speak his mind …. would drive Sarah crazy

Lots of energy at night …. but in the morning, a bit lazy

Not really lazy, just tired from the night before

He’d take your watch if you tried to head for the door

Nobody was leaving when this fine man held court at night

He’d drink with the left and drink with the right

Yes, fun times, good humor and Bacardi 8 was his thing

Three cheers and God bless our friend Senator Jim King!!!

Hold up your glass … prepare to toast…

Here’s to Jim King …. he was the most

The most fun, the most effective …. yes, he was quite a delight

Yes drink down your drinks …. cheers to Jim King tonight!

Hosting the event were  Ken Cashin, Claudia Davant, Dave Ericks, Scott Dick, Christine Knepper, and the entire Bascom Communications & Consulting team.

“We had some laughs, a drink or two and remembered him as he asked us to do,” said Sarah Bascom, a protégé of King.

Seriously, how many people do you know can still have a room laughing six years after leaving?

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***

JOE NEGRON’S WATER BILL EXPANDS TO $3.3 BILLION AND CLEARS ANOTHER COMMITTEE, AS OPPOSITION CONTINUES via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Despite modifications, the 5-1 vote of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee is closer than it appeared because many supporters expressed reservations that the expensive plan to store water is the most cost-effective solution to address Negron‘s goal of preventing discharges of polluted water from the lake into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries that led to toxic algae blooms and a state emergency. Voting against the bill was Sen. Oscar Braynon … who said the Glades area is “a place that’s hemorrhaging” and he wants to see an economic development bill for the impoverished Glades region, regardless of whether this water bill is passed or not. “I visited Haiti, which is a Third World country, and I would compare some of the areas in the Glades to the conditions of a ravaged Third World country,” he said before opposing the bill.

SENATE CONSIDERS NEGRON’S HIGHER EDUCATION LEGISLATION via Florida Politics – The Excellence in Higher Education Act, a top priority for President Negron, has been set up for a vote by the full Senate. The bill (SB 2), carried by Bradenton Republican Bill Galvano, was discussed Wednesday on the floor. Achieving many of the bill’s goals, which could cost up to $161 million, depend on funding getting approved in the 2017-18 state budget. The legislation, among other things, increases certain scholarship benefits, overhauls how colleges and universities measure progress and attract top professors, and mandates block tuition—a flat rate per semester—rather than by credit hour.

HOUSE FAULTS UNIVERSITIES OVER SALARIES AND SPENDING via The Associated Press – State Rep. Carlos Trujillo suggested that legislators may need to look at how much university presidents are paid, as well as even how much football and basketball coaches are paid. The Miami Republican and House budget chief said too many people work for universities or university foundations who earn more than $200,000 a year. The House is scrutinizing university spending at the same time that the Florida Senate is poised to approve a major overhaul of colleges and universities that includes spending more.

SENATE PANEL ADVANCES BILL ON JUVENILE PUNISHMENT via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Legislation advanced through a second state Senate committee that would make civil citations mandatory for first-time offenders accused of 12 minor crimes, such as possession of alcohol or less than 20 grams of marijuana. The bill is a top priority for President Negron, and is receiving considerable attention in the Legislature this year. But mandatory civil citations are strongly opposed by the state’s two main law enforcement associations and the proposal has run into trouble in the House. At the same time the Senate was advancing the mandatory civil citations bill, the language was being stripped from House legislation dealing with the issue. Instead, the House bill now focuses on automatically expunging the criminal records of first-time misdemeanor juvenile offenders if they complete a diversion program.

RICHARD CORCORAN TELLS DEMOCRATS HE NEEDS THEM TO OVERRIDE EXPECTED RICK SCOTT VETOES via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – If Democrats join with his Republican majority, Corcoran said, the House will be able to override Gov. Rick Scott’s expected veto of legislation to abolish Enterprise Florida, the embattled economic development agency, and another that would place tight restrictions on Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing entity.  “The bill is going to pass,” Corcoran told the Democrats in a closed-door meeting attended by POLITICO Florida. “I’m asking you to help me get a veto-proof majority.”

FDLE COMMISSIONER: ‘WE KNOW THAT TERRORISTS ARE HERE’ via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – “We know that terrorists are here, either plotting against Florida or using our state as a location to train, raise money and plan attacks in other areas of the country,” FDLE commissioner Richard Swearingen told a Senate committee. Swearingen said FDLE does not currently possess sufficient resources to dedicate adequate personnel to fighting terrorism and needs the $6.4 million to fix that. “What happened in Orlando on June 12, 2016, shook us all,” Swearingen told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice. “But it did not break us. And it convinced all of us in public safety that we can and we must do more to protect our state.”

HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE PASSES STATE EMPLOYEE HEALTH INSURANCE CHANGE via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The House Appropriations Committee passed HB 7007, which gives state employees a health insurance plan offering four different “benefit levels” to choose from starting in 2020. If the state’s contribution exceeds the cost of the selected plan selected, employees could put that money toward health savings accounts, purchase additional benefits or increase their salary. The bill, previously PCB HHS 17-01, will now head to the chamber floor.

SENATE PANEL OUTLINES $7M IN BUDGET CUTS – The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development unveiled $7.7 million in budget cuts in the senate’s transportation and economic development bill. Departments getting money shaved off their budgets include the Departments of Economic Opportunity, Transportation, State, Military Affairs, Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the Division of Emergency Management. DOT would get the biggest cut at $2.5 million, mainly through reducing management positions, followed by a $1.8 million cut in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The plan would also take $500,000 out of Initial Skills Review, which are housed under the DEO. The committee said that cut was due to improving jobs numbers, which it says has left the program with unspent money at the end of each year. Each senate appropriations subcommittee will be announcing cuts to programs under their purview due to an expected drop in state revenue from prior estimates.

SENATE PANEL VOTES TO BAN TEXTING AND DRIVING via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – A bill put forward by Sen. Rene Garcia … would make texting and driving a primary offense in Florida passed 6-1 in the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee, the first of four committee stops. Dubbed the “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law,” SB 144, originally drafted to stop minors from texting while operating a vehicle, was OK’d with an amendment extending the ban to all drivers in Florida. But Sen. Jeff Clemens … who down-voted the bill, voiced concerns over the effectiveness of the legislation. A similar bill (HB 69) by Rep. Emily Slosberg … does not yet have an amendment extending the provision past minors. It has not been heard in committee.

MANDATORY RECESS BILL SAILS THROUGH SECOND SENATE COMMITTEE via Florida Politics – The Senate PreK-12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously approved a bill (SB 78) requiring school districts to provide at least 100 minutes of supervised, unstructured free play each week — or 20 minutes of free play each week — to students in kindergarten through fifth grade. While the bill received strong support from the committee, some members expressed concern they were issuing a mandate to local school districts. “Who can be against recess? I loved it. It was one of my favorite portions of the day, and I was pretty good (at it),” said Sen. Doug Broxson. “However, this is a mandate and we are telling our 67 school districts that they must do this. I would’ve preferred to make a strong suggestion and see if they could work it out themselves, but it appears we’re not going to do that.”

SENATE ADVANCES BILL TO WEAKEN CITIZENS’ LEVERAGE IN PUBLIC RECORDS DISPUTES via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The bill, SB 80 by Sen. Greg Steube would give judges more discretion in deciding whether or not to award attorney’s fees in public-records lawsuits. Florida law allows for citizens to be awarded attorney fees to encourage people to pursue their right to access government records and prevent public agencies from violating the public records laws. The bill would remove the requirement that the legal fees be paid by agencies by changing the requirement that judges “shall” award attorney’s fees to “may award the fees.” The Senate Community Affairs Committee adopted an amendment … to require attorney’s fees only if a complainant can show by a preponderance of evidence that “an agency willfully or intentionally violated the public records act.” If the complainant cannot show that, then the judge would have the discretion to not award the fees … open-government watchdogs and First Amendment advocates say that even with the changes, the proposal will still have a chilling effect on people who face obstacles to their efforts to get access to public records.

— “House subcommittee OKs bill aimed at PSC, utilities despite concerns” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida

— “Lawmakers look to phase out community redevelopment Agencies” via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida

— “Senate committee signs off on pollution notification rule” via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union

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

WANT RENE GARCIA’S VOTE? START TALKING MENTAL HEALTH. via Michael Auslen and Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – “I can’t find myself voting for any bill that does not have a mental health component to it,” he said. “Making sure that we invest more money into the system, making sure that people have access and treatment abilities. That is my main focus.” Garcia, the Senate’s Children, Families and Elder Affairs chairman who has advocated to improve Florida’s mental health system, often finds himself a swing vote in hearings over issues like gun access. A more moderate Republican from an urban district, he has bucked the party line before. In the wake of mass shootings at Pulse, an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, and the Ft. Lauderdale airport, Garcia has become even more concerned about widespread gun access, particularly among people in a mental health or substance abuse crisis who might be more likely to commit a violent crime.

BIPARTISAN GROUP OF SENATORS TOUTS BENEFITS OF CUTTING STATE TESTS via Leslie Postal and Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – The group wants the Legislature to pass their bill (SB 964), a far-reaching proposal that would eliminate some tests, push back testing dates to the end of the school year and allow schools to use paper-and-pencil exams rather than online ones. The proposals are backed by many school superintendents, who say existing testing requirements eat up too much instructional time. “There is far too much testing and not enough teaching,” said Sen. Bill Montford, the bill’s sponsor. “We have tied the hands of teachers and stressed out our kids.”

BLOCK TUITION COULD BE COSTLY FOR UNIVERSITIES via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – Block tuition — a flat rate for undergraduates whether they take 12 or 15 credit hours a semester — has been bandied about Florida’s halls of higher education for years. Saying it’s time has come, Bradenton Republican Sen. Bill Galvano wants to flip the switch from optional to mandatory on block tuition. His omnibus education package, the Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act, would require the state’s 12 universities to come up with block tuition plans by October to roll out in time for the fall 2018 academic year. How they would do that will be up to the universities, their boards of trustees and the state Board of Governors. Such a plan could cost Florida State University as much as $40 million, Sen. Jeff Clemens said when introducing an amendment to require a fiscal impact study to find out how much it will cost each university to implement block tuition. “It’s a $40 million hit to the bottom line of your university to do this,” Clemens said. He withdrew the amendment.

CARLOS SMITH, JEFF CLEMENS INTRODUCE DECRIMINALIZE POT BILLS via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The pair of lawmakers introduced bills this week that would make possession of 1 ounce or less of cannabis – described as a “personal use quantity” to be a civil violation, rather than a misdemeanor. Punishment would come in the form of fines and community service, rather than jail time. Smith filed House Bill 1443 and Clemens Senate Bill 1662. Unlike a similar ordinance enacted by Orlando last summer, in these bills police would not have the option of the civil penalty or a misdemeanor. When Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orlando Police Chief John Mina declared support for that ordinance Mina pointed out that extenuating circumstances, such as a belligerent violator, could lead police to choose an arrest over a ticket.

CHARTER VS. PUBLIC SCHOOLS: WILL STATE FUND CONSTRUCTION OR IS LOCAL TAX HIKE COMING? via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – A complicated and controversial measure to change how Florida’s 4,300 public schools get taxpayer money for construction and maintenance projects is limping through the Florida Senate, advancing even as lawmakers agree it needs a lot more work before it might become law. Senators behind the measure (SB 376) envision the final bill would have two main elements: It would require school districts to share local tax dollars with charter schools, and it would give school boards the freedom to raise local tax rates back to pre-recession levels, so that they could collect more revenue to address the backlog of maintenance needs in traditional public schools.

PINELLAS LAW ENFORCEMENT PROJECT HAS HIGHWAY PATROL UP IN ARMS via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – The FHP testified in “stark opposition” to a House plan to shift the handling of car crashes on all state roads and unincorporated areas from the FHP to sheriffs in Pinellas and Polk counties. The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee’s bill also would require the patrol to transfer about $6 million of its budget to those two counties for the next two years. “This would be a stark change to our business model,” Lt. Col. Mike Thomas of the patrol testified … In many counties, state troopers are responsible for investigating car crashes on state roads and in unincorporated areas. But sheriffs say that there are so few troopers on the roads that sheriffs end up working those crashes, or staying with traumatized motorists and directing traffic until a trooper arrives. “We’re already doing it,” Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri [said]. “I believe we can do it faster, better, cheaper … The citizen doesn’t understand why the guy in the green uniform goes by five times while they’re sitting there waiting for the guy in the brown uniform.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rep. Lori Berman and Sen. Darryl Rouson will hold a press conference to discuss their proposal to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21 at 11 a.m. outside the Senate Chamber on the fourth floor of the Capitol.

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

FLORIDA DOESN’T NEED AN ELECTED SECRETARY OF STATE, OR AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER via Martin Dyckman of Florida Politics – It would tax the imagination to come up with anything that Florida needs less than to elect a secretary of state once again. Why would the Legislature even consider that? Sen. Aaron Bean, the sponsor … told the Senate ethics committee that in the main he wants a fifth position on the Cabinet to avoid tie votes that require the governor to be on the prevailing side or the motion fails. Actually, he and nearly everyone else are incorrect when they refer to that group of four as “the Cabinet.” Article IV Section 4 of the Constitution provides for the Cabinet to consist of an attorney general, a chief financial officer, and a commissioner of agriculture. The governor is NOT — I repeat, NOT — a member of the Cabinet. And because they are elected, it’s not “his” Cabinet even though the members too often vote as if it were. They oversee 12 agencies in their collective role as — to put it accurately — “the governor and Cabinet.”

FLORIDA NEEDS TO SAY YES TO AMERICAN ENERGY INDEPENDENCE, NO TO PROPOSED FRACKING BAN via Jason Fischer for Florida Politics – Thanks to technological advancements and remarkable improvements in extraction techniques, we no longer have to choose between having a stable and affordable supply of energy resources and being good stewards of the environment, no matter what the naysayers suggest. And record-setting upticks and enhancements in hydraulic fracturing is the biggest reason why. Just look at the numbers, economically and environmentally. It’s not a coincidence. The two go together. Yet come the next legislative session, Florida lawmakers will again take another look at a regulatory curveball they’re better off not swinging at. It’s that outdated one-or-the-other thing rearing its ugly head again.

FCTA CAPTIAL DATELINE ONLINE LEGISLATIVE PREVIEW FEATURES PETER SCHORSCH — FCTA President Brad Swanson chats with EEM President Peter Schorsch about the 2017 Legislative Session. The two chat about the fight over economic incentives, medical marijuana, gambling, and workers’ compensation and other insurance issues. The interview can be found on the Florida Cable and Telecommunications Association’s YouTube site or on its Facebook page, Capital Dateline Online.

ERIC EISNAUGLE A FINALIST FOR APPEALS COURT BENCH via Rene Stutzman of the Orlando Sentinel – Eisnaugle was named one of six finalists for an open job on the 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach. The Republican lawmaker from Windermere has no judicial experience, but he was one of six people nominated for the job by a local committee of the Florida Bar … The list includes four circuit judges – two from Orlando: Alice Blackwell, who’s been on the bench for 26 years, and Lisa Munyon, who’s been a judge for 14. The other judge-finalists are Circuit Judge John M. Harris, former chief judge of the 18th Judicial Circuit who’s been a judge for 15 years and works in Titusville, and Circuit Randell Rowe III, who works in DeLand and has been a judge for 12 years. The other finalist is Winter Park attorney Margaret “Amie” Kozan, who specializes in appeals.

AKERMAN LAW FIRM, LOBBYISTS ELI NORTELUS, DAVID ROBERTS PART WAYS AFTER ‘WHISKEY & WHEATIES’ ISSUE POSTPONED via Florida Politics – A spokesperson for Akerman said Nortelus and Roberts “have resigned from the firm to pursue other interests.” Sources close to the two lobbyists and the legislative issue told FloridaPolitics.com that Nortelus and Roberts were fired on the first day of the 2017 Legislative Session after Wal-Mart, which Akerman counts as one of its largest clients, insisted the lobbyists be given their walking papers. In a statement, Akerman said that “Wal-Mart was not part of this decision.” … Nortelus and Roberts had represented the Florida Independent Spirits Association, a trade group opposed to ‘tearing down the wall’ separating the proverbial whiskey from the Wheaties. The FISA is on the opposite side of Wal-Mart and other retailers, which support legislation sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores and Rep. Bryan Avila that would repeal the Prohibition-era law requiring liquor be separated from groceries and other retail goods, an issue commonly referred to as the “liquor wall.”

MAGIC JOHNSON TO LOBBY FLORIDA LAWMAKERS ON HIV/AIDS via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News – Johnson, who represents a Medicaid managed-care company known as Anthem in Florida, contracted HIV more than two decades ago and has since been outspoken on treatment for the illness. In an email to Florida Senate Republicans, Sen. William Galvano announced Johnson’s presence as a “meet and greet.” Johnson isn’t lobbying on a specific bill, Galvano said, but he is advocating that “when we make a decision with regard to managed care, that we continue to recognize the importance of covering illnesses like HIV/AIDS.”

PERSONNEL NOTE: FLORIDA STATE HIRES NEW FEDERAL RELATIONS DIRECTOR via Florida Politics – D.C. veteran Jonathan Nurse has joined Florida State University as the new director of federal relations, Vice President for Research Gary K. Ostrander announced Wednesday. Nurse will serve as the university’s liaison to federal funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation as well as the state’s congressional delegation. He will be based out of Washington, D.C., and travel to Tallahassee monthly.

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

Ivette O’DoskiBrett BacottMichael Harrell Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Florida League of Cities

Brian Ballard, Ballard Partners: Lemonade Inc

Slater Bayliss, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: U.S. Submergent Technologies, LLC

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Galt Towers Condominium Association, Inc.

Kimberly Case, Holland & Knight: Pensacola Christian College

Jorge ChamizoCharles Dudley, Floridian Partners: HP Inc

Jacob Cremer, Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler: Collier Resources

Daniel Diaz Leyva, Daniel J. Diaz, P.A.: AT&T.

Candice Ericks, Ericks Advocacy Group: TrakWagon

Marnie GeorgeJim MagillTimothy Stanfield, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Coalition of Ignition Interlock Manufacturers

Jeff Kottkamp, Jeff Kotkamp: GA Zero, LLC

Jim McFaddin, Southern Strategy Group: Asad W. Qamar/Institute of Cardiovascular Excellence (ICE)

Travis Mitchell, Louis Betz & Associates: Ygrene Energy Fund Florida, LLC

Edward Pozzuoli, Tripp Scott: TrakWagon, LLC

Jon Steverson, Foley & Lardner: EH Mitigation Management, LLC

Larry Williams, Larry Williams Consulting: PowerSchool Group

***Sen. Jack Latvala is fighting to protect Florida’s small business owners by leveling the playing field for owners of franchise establishments. This will lead to more economic growth and jobs for our communities. Tell Sen. Latvala you support him and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at ProtectFLBusiness.com.***

SCHOOL BOARD VOTES TO PROTECT KIDS FROM IMMIGRATION RAIDS via The Associated Press – A South Florida school board is taking steps to protect the children of undocumented immigrants who face deportation. The School Board of Broward County approved the resolution in response to increasing fears of more aggressive immigration enforcement polices implemented by the Trump administration. School Board member Robin Bartleman says immigrant families “wanted to know that we had their backs.” Any requests to access schools or get information about a student will be directed to the district’s attorney. The board also agreed to have schools work with parents and community organizations to come up with a plan in case a student’s parents are deported.

JUST HERE FOR THE ARTICLES: CITY’S OLD WEBSITE USED FOR PORN via The Associated Press –  the city of Springfield began receiving complaints last week from citizens who were visiting the city’s old website … Mayor Ralph Hammond said the city apparently let the old domain name expire, and the site now contains pornography. Springfield switched its website to a .gov domain about three years ago. The city’s information technology department is seeking to buy back the old domain and any domains names similar to the city’s current website, springfield.fl.gov.

PHILIP LEVINE TO AIRBNB IN TRUMP-LIKE TIRADE: ‘MIAMI BEACH DOESN’T WANT WHAT YOU’RE SELLING’ via Chabeli Herrera of the Miami Herald – In other words, “You’re fired!” The exchange between the platform and Levine on Twitter was sparked by an article in Sunshine State News … critical of Levine’s push for hefty fines against short-term rental sites. Per the city’s code, short-term rentals are banned in the city except for in some multifamily buildings in specified areas. When Airbnb Citizen, the company’s policy and communications arm, posted the article, Levine fired back. “Against destroying neighborhoods/buildings [with] short-term rentals in Miami Beach! LOVE Airbnb but not in [Miami Beach],” Levine tweeted at about noon Saturday.

WHAT JONATHAN KILMAN IS READING – LYFT EXPANDS TO THE CAPITAL CITY – Lawmakers, lobbyists, and other politicos should feel “upLyfted” with the introduction of a new transportation option available in the Capital City starting today. The ridesharing service Lyft today expands into the Tallahassee market, providing convenient and affordable rides for the area’s residents and visitors. New passengers can use a special code LYFTLOVE17 to receive $5 off their first Lyft ride. Now, let’s see if this is the year Florida finally passes statewide ridesharing legislation.

***The Florida Health Care Association knows how legislators can save taxpayers $68.2 million per year in unnecessary spending, while safeguarding the highest level of care for Florida’s frailest residents. Learn more here.***

GOVERNORS CLUB THURSDAY BUFFET MENU – Thursday’s buffet at the Governors Club offers an Italian flair with tomato basil soup, roasted eggplant salad, seasonal greens, three dressing sections, Caesar salad, hearts of romaine, Parmesan cheese, Kalamata olives, shrimp Bucatini Pomodoro, roasted garlic chicken, parmesan garlic risotto, cauliflower & plum tomatoes, and eggplant parmesan.

DISNEY REVEALS NEW DETAILS ABOUT PANDORA via Terry Roen of Florida Politics – Pandora – The World of Avatar will share the same core values as Animal Kingdom – the value of nature, discovery through adventure and giving back to the planet earth … the new attraction opens May 27 … “Visitors will walk away from Pandora with information they can apply to the real world of earth,” said Joe Rohde, a Disney Imagineer best known for serving as the leader of the creative team behind Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Flight of Passage, the flying theater ride on the backs of mountain banshees, with have a 44-inch height restriction. All ages can take a tour on the Na’vi River Journey indoor boat ride. A walk-through attraction, called Valley of Mo’ara, will give visitors an up-close look at bioluminescent flora, as well as see Na’vi totems and cultural artifacts.

HEY, ROOKIE! METS’ TIM TEBOW TAKES PRACTICE SWINGS ON WRONG SIDE via The Associated Press – Tebow made his first rookie mistake even before stepping into the batter’s box. The New York Mets newcomer walked behind home plate and took his practice swings near Boston’s on-deck circle. “I didn’t know who that was back there. I thought it was the ball boy,” AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello said. Tebow’s debut as a big leaguer didn’t go much better.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Melissa Akeson of The Rubin Group and Kristy Campbell of, well, Jeb’s group.

Akerman law firm, lobbyists Eli Nortelus, David Roberts part ways after ‘whiskey & Wheaties’ issue postponed

Akerman, one of the state’s largest law firms, and lobbyists Eliakim Nortelus and David Roberts have parted ways after a vote in a legislative committee to repeal the state law requiring businesses to have separate stores to sell liquor was postponed.

Marisa Serrano, a spokesperson for Akerman said Nortelus and Roberts “have resigned from the firm to pursue other interests.”

Sources close to the two lobbyists and the legislative issue told FloridaPolitics.com Tuesday night that Nortelus and Roberts were fired on the first day of the 2017 Legislative Session after Walmart, which Akerman counts as one of its largest clients, insisted the lobbyists be given their walking papers.

In a statement, Akerman said that “Wal-Mart was not part of this decision.”

Before yesterday, Nortelus and Roberts had represented the Florida Independent Spirits Association, a trade group opposed to ‘tearing down the wall’ separating the proverbial whiskey from the Wheaties.

State records indicate that Tuesday Nortelus and Roberts canceled their representation of the FISA. As of Wednesday afternoon, they are still registered to represent their other clients.

The FISA is on the opposite side of Wal-Mart and other retailers, which support legislation sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores and Rep. Bryan Avila that would repeal the Prohibition-era law requiring liquor be separated from groceries and other retail goods, an issue commonly referred to as the “liquor wall.”

In Tuesday’s meeting of the House Government Operations and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee, Avila’s HB 81 was temporarily postponed because, apparently, it didn’t have the votes to pass. The same scenario almost happened last month when the bill narrowly escaped the Careers & Competition Subcommittee with an 8-7 vote.

After three years of defeat, hopes had been high for the bill with the Senate’s second-in-command backing the proposal, but the bill has failed even when watered down to simply allow a door in the wall between a main store and an attached liquor store.

The initiative was first sponsored in 2014 by state Sen. Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican in line to become Senate president in 2018-20.

State Rep. (now state Sen.) Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, and state Sen. Denise Grimsley, a Sebring Republican, pushed the proposal the following session.

Last Session, it was carried by Republicans Carlos Trujillo of Miami in the House and Lizbeth Benacquisto of Fort Myers in the Senate.

Did Charlie Crist pull an oopsie naming his PAC after himself?

We’re not campaign finance experts, but we think Charlie Crist pulled an oopsie when he named his new Political Action Committee after himself. Simple reason: Federal law doesn’t allow it.

Former Republican Gov. and now Democratic Congressman Crist opened “Charlie Crist PAC” Monday, calling it “a Leadership PAC.”

In doing so, Crist – or his money people – forgot the distinction in federal campaign finance law between “authorized” and “unauthorized” committees.

“No unauthorized committee shall include the name of any candidate in its name,” the law says, and unauthorized committees are PACs which raise funds primarily to make contributions to other candidates.

That’s typically the purpose of so-called “leadership” PACs.

So watch for the letter from the Federal Election Commission telling Crist to change the name.

Charlie Crist PAC has also captured the attention of nonpartisan watchdog group Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a nonprofit organization promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency in government and civic life.

Matthew Whitaker, FACT’s Executive Director, says: “Congressman Crist is no stranger to ethical problems, and this blatant campaign finance violation further demonstrates that he thinks he operates by one set of rules while asking his constituents to abide by another. We are calling on Representative Crist to immediately fix this violation, and failure to do so in a timely fashion will result in a FACT complaint to the FEC.  Campaign finance laws exist to ensure that our elected officials are serving the people’s interests, not using politics to promote their own self-interests.”

Sunburn for 3.8.17 – Governor gets personal; Speaker gets joyful; Bills get moving; Don Gaetz’ next run?; It’s Space Day!

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

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

#HUMBLEBRAG

It’s that time of year when everyone in the process emails around CATECOMM’s annual legislative aide study — even the clients he’s working against. It’s a must-read perennial reminder for advocacy groups and coalitions to not send spam form emails or do other dumb things that don’t work.

Here is the Medium post everyone is sharing.

But this year, something special happened and Kevin Cate gave me the heads up — FloridaPolitics.com is about to overtake SayfieReview.com as the most-read political news website by lawmakers. We tied Justin’s aggregator this year, and we’ve been on a huge curve up since the study began five years ago.

The top five overall go-to news outlets for lawmakers goes like this:

— Local TV News

— Local Print Newspapers

— Local Print Newspapers Online

— FloridaPolitics.com, Sayfie Review, and POLITICO Florida (tied)

— News Service of Florida

To give you an idea of how far we’ve come, compare the 2013 survey results…

… with this year’s results:

And we get our numbers without the benefit of receiving direct links from Marc Caputo‘s POLITICO Playbook or Sayfie Review.

The full results are now available on the Medium post.

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RICK SCOTT GETS PERSONAL IN 2017 ‘STATE OF THE STATE’ ADDRESS via Florida Politics – The Governor … told a joint session of the state’s House and Senate that he knew “what it’s like to be poor” … “I have lived in poverty …  I watched my parents struggle to put food on the table. When most kids were playing Little League or riding bikes, I had a job … I went from delivering papers, to opening a small business so my mom could have a job, to running the nation’s largest health care company.” … “It’s easy to throw out catch phrases like ‘picking winners and losers’ and ‘corporate welfare,’ ” he said. “(T)hat’s not what we are doing. We are competing with 49 other states and hundreds of countries for jobs. When we bring new jobs to Florida, there are only winners … I will admit it is probably more difficult for people who have never gone hungry, or gone through foreclosure, or seen their family car repossessed, to understand this.”

— “Scott sets off for D.C. to meet with GOP leaders on ACA overhaul” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO

ANDREW GILLUM CRITICIZES  SCOTT FOR NOT MENTIONING GUNS OR LGBT IN PULSE COMMENTS via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – “No mention of common sense gun law reforms, nor the continued discrimination against the LGBTQ community in @FLGovScott’s State of the State,” Gillum tweeted after the speech. Potential Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham also weighed in, criticizing Scott and other notable Republican leaders – led by House Speaker Corcoran, though she did not mention names – for fighting with each other rather than working together for Florida. Before the speech, Gillum anticipated that with a prebuttal statement that said Floridians are looking for someone to champion “the issues and values that matter to us, and sadly Governor Scott will not and cannot rise to that level.”

MORE REAX: “He made a pretty vigorous sales pitch for a lot of his ideas — Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida; also keeping that alive. We expected him to lay out his vision for Florida. We expected him to lay out his priorities. The House in special order calendar, I believe on Thursday or Friday, is going to take up those bills and I’m sure we’ll have a very robust debate.” – Rep. Carlos Trujillo, House Appropriations Chairman; “It was a good one. He played it on the line in terms of the need for EFI and Visit Florida. The governor’s very passionate about helping those who need some help. That’s been his trademark since he got here, and I appreciate that and respect that.” – Sen. Bill Montford; “It was great. He set out his goals for the session and what he wants to accomplish and we’re ready to go.” – Senate President Joe Negron; “Obviously we have some points we have disagreements on. I thought it was encouraging. He did a good job of building some consensus around things that we all believe in — Republican and Democrat, different branches of the government. You can take out a couple of the points of contention that we have, but overall, I didn’t leave with a bad feeling after the speech.” – Rep. Clay Ingram; “It’s opening day, so I expected them both to do what they did. They set the tone. They laid out their plans.” – Rep. Cynthia Stafford; “There were a couple of hot-button issues, obviously, with the House. I think there was some truth for some members, but I think it’s probably a little bit of an exaggeration for some. … I know that there are real concerns here in the House about some of the ways state money has been spent. We’re taking a good, hard look at it. I don’t think the outcome is 100 percent clear of what’s going to end up at the conclusion of session.” – Rep. Joseph Geller.

RICHARD CORCORAN: ‘LET’S FIGHT … JOYFULLY CRASHING AGAINST THE SPECIAL INTERESTS AND STATUS QUO’ via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Corcoran opened the legislative session Tuesday with a defiant tone, urging his flock to “keep fighting” and “joyfully crashing against the special interests” that control Tallahassee. …. Corcoran did not mention Gov. Scott by name — but he left no doubt that his remarks were directed mostly at his fellow Republican. … He also has accused Scott of trying to impose a half-billion dollar property tax increase on Floridians, the result of higher property values, to pay for a per-pupil increase in public school spending. Scott and the Senate disagree with Corcoran and say it’s not a tax hike.

JOSE OLIVA TALKS DOUGHNUTS AND INCENTIVES AFTER RICK SCOTT SPEECH via Florida Politics – Oliva, a cigar company executive, said Scott underestimated House members’ experience. “Very many of us in that chamber know what it’s like to be poor,” said Oliva, who remains as CEO of Oliva Cigar Co. after selling the company last year to a European concern. “We know what it’s like to have a car repossessed, to have the power cut in your house. “We also know what it’s like to start a business … I don’t know that when I was building my business I would have liked some of my tax dollars to go to help a competitor.” Scott, who didn’t mention it specifically … often has spoken of a doughnut shop he ran in the 1970s. “Imagine if the governor, while he had that same doughnut shop, had his tax dollars go to Dunkin’ Donuts so they could come across the street and compete against him?” Oliva said.

ADVOCATES CALL ON LEG. TO FOCUS ON WORKING FLORIDIANS DURING ANNUAL ‘AWAKE THE STATE’ EVENT via Florida Politics – “In 2010, Rick Scott said ‘let’s get to work.’ In 2014, he said ‘let’s keep working,’” said Rich Templin, the legislative and political director for the Florida AFL-CIO. “The problem is, Florida is not working for most of our families and nobody in the building is fighting for them.” Templin was one of several advocates who spoke out during the “Awake the State” event at the Florida Capitol. The annual event generally serves as a response to the governor’s State of the State speech, and this year speakers touched on a variety of issues, including poverty, the environment and immigrant rights. Citing the United Way of Florida’s 2017 ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) report, Templin said millions of Floridians are struggling. “They’re doing everything they’re supposed to do, working a job, working two jobs, working three jobs, but they still have to make decisions between food and rent, medicine and child care, decisions no worker should have to make in this state,” he said. “Millions of Floridians are suffering, and the state is doing very little to support (them).”

— “Isn’t it time Florida progressive put the ‘Awake the State’ mantra to bed?” via Peter Schorsch

AFP-FL ENCOURAGES LEGISLATURE TO CONTINUE TO SUPPORT BILL TO ELIMINATE ENTERPRISE FLORIDA via Florida Politics – “There is no question that Governor Scott and the Florida legislature have helped Florida endure the recent recession, and through their effective leadership the state of our state is strong,” said Chris Hudson, the state director for AFP-FL … “But make no mistake, the positive strides and gains we’ve made together are not because of top-down big-government programs. Because Florida entrepreneurs are the best investors of their dollars, they are thriving in the low tax, low regulatory environment which are among the most critical reasons millions of Americans from across the country have migrated to the Sunshine State.” … It’s also out in full force in support of a bill (HB 7005) that would eliminate Enterprise Florida and a slew of other incentive programs.

NEW HOUSE VIDEO ASKS: WHO’S YOUR FAVORITE MEMBER ACROSS THE AISLE — The Florida House didn’t waste much time after the “State of the State” to try and show unity among its members, releasing a video showing Republicans and Democrats talking about their favorite representative across the aisle. The 2-minute video includes Reps. Chris Sprowls, Carlos Guillermo SmithByron DonaldsRandy FineJackie ToledoEmily SlosbergAmy Mariano, and Dane Eagle. Several Republican picked Rep. Tracie Davis, with Rep. Cyndi Stevenson even saying she seemed “delightful.” Davis response when asked her favorite member across the aisle: “I don’t have any. I don’t like any of them.” (Don’t worry, she was teasing).

AS TENSE SESSION OPENS, SOME SAGE WORDS FROM A ‘HAS-BEEN’ via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Former House Speaker Allan Bense is home in Panama City, tending to his businesses and mostly watching from a safe distance. “There’s clearly room for improvement in Tallahassee,” Bense said. “He (Corcoran) has unveiled things that really weren’t working very well … Clearly, he’s aggressive, and I respect him for that.” He said Corcoran is right to call for a stricter six-year revolving-door restriction before ex-lawmakers can become lobbyists. It’s hard to believe Bense was eight speakers ago … “Remember, I’m a has-been. A nobody,” Bense said over coffee at a Panama City diner. “I was, at best, a C as speaker. Probably a C-minus.” On that, few would agree. Bense was viewed as evenhanded and unpretentious … His advice to Scott, Corcoran and Negron is to keep the line of communication open, which now is not the case. “Communicate,” Bense said. “It’s like a marriage. The more you talk, the more you learn.”

ANTI-POVERTY LOBBYIST SKEPTICAL AS SESSION OPENS via Florida Politics – Karen Woodall … at the Florida Center for Economic and Fiscal Policy …  spent 37 years lobbying in Tallahassee on behalf of the poor … wasn’t impressed. Unfortunately, particularly this year, it seems that the conversations about poverty have to do with attacking poor people. We have bills to cut people off food stamps where the staff analysis says the majority of the people impacted will be children. We have bills to cut people’s temporary cash assistance the first time they commit some violation, without ever asking what are those violations — it could be missing a meeting, or not filling out a form. We’re talking about evictions. We have bills filed to block grant Medicaid, which is going to severely impact not only very, very low income and vulnerable people in this state, but it’s going to cripple the health care industry. There are a lot of other areas of poverty. So many people are working, yet still struggling. There just seems to be, over and over and over again, a denial. It’s like don’t ask, don’t tell. We want to talk about the symptoms without digging really deep into the causes.

FOLKS COME FROM AFAR TO SEE LEGISLATURE BEGIN via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – About 20 minutes after the House convened at 9:30 a.m.Jon Karl Kuykendall sat outside the Capitol next to his backpack. The former Eastside High student from Gainesville and freshman at the University of Florida spent the first two days of spring break hiking with his friend Oscar Psychas from St. Marks Lighthouse to Tallahassee, to demonstrate their commitment to the environment … Tom Hunt, a long-serving member of the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms office, celebrated his 32nd legislative session with a Happy Face tie. He’s got 98 funny ties and each year he starts the first day of session wearing one of them … Mark Byington had the important job: holding a box of sandwiches and snacks for the covey of fourth-graders from Community Leadership Academy. The Tallahassee school was started by Peter Boulware, a Florida State University football all-star who spent his professional career with the Baltimore Ravens.

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JUDGE SIDES WITH HOUSE SPEAKER IN LOTTERY LAWSUIT via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – Circuit Judge Karen Gievers on Tuesday ruled the Florida Lottery lacked the legal authority to sign off on more than $700 million contract with IGT Global Solutions to run lottery games. Gievers declared the contract, which is supposed to run until 2031, “void and unenforceable.” … During a daylong hearing on the lawsuit held this week, top aides who work for the Florida House also testified that the contract also was structured in a way to sidestep legislative oversight. They noted that lottery officials last fall asked legislators for more money to pay for the contract. … Gievers said the Florida Lottery did not follow state law and that the contingency clause did not give lottery officials the authority to approve the contract.

SCOTT COMMITTEE ROLLS OUT MORE ROBOCALLS via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Scott is again targeting members of his own party for their votes against a bill that would abolish Enterprise Florida, the mostly-taxpayer funded economic development entity that Scott chairs, and place tight restrictions on Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing arm. Scott’s political committee, Let’s Get to Work, sent the messages, including emails, to the voters in districts of 17 House Republicans, each of whom backed the measure. “Unfortunately, your state representative … is playing politics with Florida’s jobs,” the ad says to voters. “He voted to decimate Florida’s tourism and jobs programs. And that will destroy our economy and lead to higher taxes.”

2017 SESSION BRINGS A RECORD NUMBER OF BILLS via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Legislators have been busy this session … House and Senate members filed 2,905 bills before the noon bill filing deadline … That makes 2017 the session with the most bills filed, eclipsing the 2004 session’s previous record of 2,691 bills. The trend in recent years has been toward fewer individual pieces of legislation filed. However, House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s new process for member’s appropriations project requests is largely responsible for the increased number of bills, with 1,210 member projects filed in total. The total number could increase even more, as legislation in the form of proposed committee bills, or PCBs, may continue to be filed after the deadline.

HOUSE MEMBER PROJECTS TOTAL $2.58 BILLION via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Members of the Florida House have filed 1,205 active appropriations projects bills, totaling $2.58 billion. The largest appropriation project filed is the $100 million requested in HB 3767 by Rep. Jose Felix Diaz for Florida Residential Citrus Canker Litigation Judgments. In all, 74 bills request appropriations that were vetoed in previous budgets including the $15 million for HB 2521, funding the Center for Innovative Technology Education (CITE) at Eastern Florida State College. Who filed the most member projects? That is Rep. Brad Drake with 46. He’s followed by Rep. Halsey Beshears with 42 and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz with 33. Members had to file their appropriations project bill request forms by Feb. 7, 2017, and bills had to be filed by the opening day deadline of noon March 7, 2017.

SENATE ADOPTS COMPROMISE BUDGET RULES via Florida Politics – Senators convened at 9:30 with a prayer and the traditional singing of the national anthem. “They need wisdom, direction, and understanding,” Pam Olsen, president of the Florida Prayer Network said during the invocation. … “I know I’m asking for a miracle, but make this session end on time.” … One of the first orders of business was approval of rules changes designed to prevent a meltdown over the House’s strict new rules for member projects in the state budget while respecting the Senate’s prerogatives. In reaching the agreement with the House Friday, “potentially we dodged a bullet that could have stopped our appropriations process in about the fifth week,” budget chairman Jack Latvala said.

CABINET MEMBERS UNAWARE OF PROPOSED PROVISION EXEMPTING THEM FROM ‘GUN-FREE ZONES’ via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – Among many gun bills Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube has filed for the 2017 session, one proposal being considered for the first time Tuesday calls for letting the three members of the Florida Cabinet carry guns virtually anywhere — so long as they have a concealed weapons permit and federal law doesn’t prohibit guns in that location. Each of the Cabinet members … said they were unaware until contacted by the Herald/Times this week that Steube had proposed exempting them from the state’s “gun-free zones.” But only one Cabinet member – Jeff Atwater – would say whether they themselves might be affected by the potential law change. A spokeswoman for Atwater confirmed he has a concealed weapons permit, but also said Atwater did not seek out the provision.

SENATE COMMITTEE REVERSES YEARS OF OPPOSITION AND PASSES FRACKING BAN via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation voted unanimously to prohibit  “advanced well stimulation treatment,” specifically hydraulic fracturing, acid fracturing and matrix acidizing — the high pressure process that is used to inject water into rock formations to extract oil and gas. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Dana Young … who reversed her opposition to a fracking ban last year, promising voters in her newly-drawn Senate seat that she would make passage of the ban a top priority.  “This has been a wonderful journey,” Young said, acknowledging the shift in position since she voted for a House bill lasts year that would have regulated and authorize fracking beginning in 2017, after a state study.

WHY THE LONG FACES?

HOUSE RELEASES PLAN FOR MEDICAL POT, WHICH ACTIVISTS CRITICIZE via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The bill (HB 1397) gives the existing seven growers licensed under more limited cannabis statutes the first crack at selling the drug. It automatically adds five second-place growers that applied for regionally awarded licenses previously but were rejected after 150,000 patients have registered with the state. Beyond that, it bans edible cannabis products and smoking. It limits “vaping” — using vaporizer devices with a cartridge of the drug — to only terminal patients, though vape pens and cartridges are currently being sold under the existing state laws. Ben Pollara, executive director of advocacy group Florida for Care, said in a statement that the House’s proposal is “moving backward.” … “HB 1397 also offers only a modest expansion of the marketplace for medical marijuana treatment centers and again takes a step backward in doing so,” he said.

HMMM… HOUSE’S WHISKEY & WHEATIES BILL STUMBLES IN SECOND COMMITTEE via Florida Politics – The Walmart-backed HB 81, sponsored by Hialeah Republican Rep. Bryan Avila, would allow grocery stores and other retailers to sell liquor, rather than keeping up the so-called “liquor wall.” The issue is a top priority for Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores and a boatload of retailers, but conservatives in the House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee wanted nothing to do with it. The bill was temporarily postponed … because, apparently, it didn’t have the votes to pass, which almost happened last month when it narrowly escaped the Careers & Competition Subcommittee with an 8-7 vote. Pulling up that vote record might give an indication of which lawmakers are squares.

BILL TO CLOSE PENSION PLAN OPTION FOR CITIES STARTS TO MOVE IN SENATE via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The Senate Community Affairs Committee agreed to legislation (SB 0428) that would close enrollment in the Florida Retirement System’s defined benefit or “pension” plan to any city not currently involved on a 5-2 vote … Employees would instead have to enroll in a defined contribution or “investment” program. The legislation is being carried by Sen., Jeff Brandes and Rep. Jason Fischer with HB 353, who described his hometown as being “crippled” by unfunded liabilities.

HOUSE PANEL BACKS PRIVATE SCHOOL CHOICE BILL via Travis Pillow of redefinEd.com – The House K-12 Innovation Subcommittee passed HB 15 on a 12-3 vote. The measure by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan … would triple the size of Florida’s Gardiner Scholarship program, which offers education savings accounts to children with special needs. It would also broaden eligibility for special needs vouchers, known as McKay scholarships, and increase per-student funding for tax credit scholarships, with help low-income and working-class students pay private school tuition. A bill in the state Senate would match the House’s Gardiner scholarship funding proposal, and a separate measure mirrors its tax credit scholarship changes.

SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE PASSES RELIGIOUS LIBERTIES ACT via Sunshine State News – Senate Bill 436 by Sen. Dennis Baxley … Senate President Negron emphasized during his Opening Day speech as a bill he favors … creates the “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act,” and specifies that a school district may not discriminate against a student, parent, or school personnel on the basis of a religious viewpoint or religious expression. Senate Bill 436 authorizes students to express religious beliefs in written and oral assignments, free from discrimination. Students may also wear clothing, accessories, and jewelry that display a religious message or symbol to the same extent secular types of clothing, accessories, and jewelry that display messages or symbols are permitted in public school dress codes. Further, students may pray, or engage in and organize religious activities before, during and after the school day, to the same extent student engagement in secular activity or expression, and the organization of secular activities and groups are permitted.

LEGISLATION THAT WOULD MAKE SECRETARY OF STATE AN ELECTED POSITION ADVANCES via Florida Politics – Historically, the Secretary of State in Florida was elected by the public, but that changed in 1998 … Fernandina Beach Republican Aaron Bean wants to bring that position back into the Cabinet. At the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections committee meeting … Bean told his colleagues that the main motivation for his joint resolution (SB 882) is to add another member to the Cabinet, which currently consists of four members – the governor, attorney general, chief financial officer and agriculture commissioner. “I always felt that it’s been odd,” Bean said. “We have some strange rules when it comes to voting with our cabinet,” referring specifically on the state rule that in two-two ties on the Cabinet, the governor must be on the prevailing side.

— “Bill to fund a $1M in-state marketing campaign clears House committee” via Florida Politics

— “Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously OK’s claim bill for man injured in bus accident as teen” via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics

BILL WOULD REQUIRE LEOS TO WEAR BODY CAMERAS DURING TRAFFIC STOPS via Florida Politics – State Rep. Al Jacquet filed HB 513 … The bill would, if enacted, require officers to wear and use body cameras while conducting routine traffic stops every time. “Body cameras are a tool to increase public safety that help protect both officers and the citizens they serve,” Jacquet said in a statement. “Dashboard cameras have helped to protect people for years and this builds off that idea. It’s our responsibility to do all we can to increase accountability, safety and trust for both officers and their communities.” HB 513 is a companion proposal is SB 828, proposed by Sen. Bobby Powell.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rep. Jacquet and Sen. Powell will hold a press conference to discuss legislation require police to wear and use body cameras when conducting traffic stops at 11:30 a.m. outside the House Chambers on the Fourth Floor Rotunda.

‘SPILL BILL’ APPROVED BY SENATE COMMITTEE – Senate Bill 532 “Public Notice of Pollution Act” passed its first committee – the Environmental Preservation and Conservation – by a unanimous vote. Its next stop is the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources. SB 532 will require companies to notify the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) about the release of any dangerous substance within 24 hours of discovery, and DEP must then publish a public notice within 24 hours. This legislation comes in the aftermath of multiple high-profile incidents over the past year that resulted in chemical contaminants possibly being leaked into local drinking water supplies – without the public being made aware of the situation.

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IT’S SPACE DAY IN THE CAPITOL!

Time for lawmakers and others in Tallahassee to put on their space geek hats.

Space Florida is leading the charge to Tallahassee for the annual Space Day tour, with representatives of three dozen space companies and other institutions, including two astronauts, in the invasion.

The state’s space industry development corporation has virtually missed battles being fought over Enterprise Florida Inc., VISIT Florida, and wants to keep it that way.

They’ll be touting 150,000 jobs, bringing $20 billion in annual sales and revenues into all 67 Florida counties. Yet much of the focus is on the Space Coast, where Space Florida and others are seeking to transform the space economy from government-sponsored to entrepreneurial driven.

Space Florida gets almost $20 million a year from the state, and arranges business incentive grants and tax deferments, through other agencies, that have totaled  tens of millions of collars in recent years.

The space business invaders will include rocket companies such as United Launch Alliance, SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Orbital ATK.

And, for celebrity power, those reps will include former NASA space shuttle astronauts Chris Ferguson and Sam Durrance.

BILL GALVANO TELLS SEMINOLE TRIBE HIS GAMBLING BILL “WILL MOVE FORWARD” via Florida PoliticsGalvano, the Florida Senate’s point man on gambling, has told the Seminole Tribe of Florida “inaction … is not an option” this year. Galvano, the Bradenton Republican in line to be Senate President in 2018-20, responded this week to a letter sent by Tribal Chairman Marcellus Osceola to legislative leaders and Gov. Rick Scott. Both chambers have gambling legislation filed this year with competing priorities, but both contemplate a new agreement, or “compact,” with the Tribe offering exclusive rights to keep offering blackjack in return for $3 billion in revenue share over seven years.

FILM FLORIDA GIVES UP THE FIGHT FOR INCENTIVES THIS YEAR via Florida Politics – The president of Film Florida, the state’s nonprofit “entertainment production association,” says her group is taking a “step back” from fighting for film and TV show incentives this year. “For the first time since 2004, Florida does not have a statewide program to entice film, television and digital media projects and companies to our state,” wrote Film Florida President Kelly Paige in a Tuesday email to supporters. As part of a plan to get rid of business incentives deemed “corporate welfare” by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, legislation would “close the Florida Office of Film and Entertainment (the State Film Office)” and “also end the Entertainment Industry Sales Tax Exemption program,” Paige said.

HOUSE CHAIRMAN SEEKS ‘GOOD FAITH’ AS HEARINGS OPEN ON WORKERS’ COMP DRAFT BILL via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee opened hearings on a 28-page draft bill on workers’ compensation reform, as Chairman Danny Burgess urged members and interest groups to “conduct ourselves in good faith — that we not plant our flags on one side or the other and be absolutely inflexible.” Burgess said the draft represents a “fair, comprehensive approach to fixing this problem.” He also conceded: “It’s by no means perfect … The draft bill achieves four overarching goals … We have addressed and implemented case law by the Supreme Court. We have increased opportunities for competition. We are offering measured changes based on workers’ compensation cost drivers. And we are looking to protect the injured workers’ personal information through a separate (bill).”

HOW LEGISLATORS PLAN TO OPEN THE DOOR FOR FPL TO CHARGE ITS CUSTOMERS FOR EXPLORATORY FRACKING via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The bill, HB 1043 by Rep. Jason Brodeur, is titled “Prudent Utility Investments in Natural Gas Reserves,” and the Senate companion is SB 1248 by Sen. Aaron Bean … “Natural gas is a proven commodity that brings rates down and so we are going to allow FPL to go forward with a proven technology to have these reserves so that we pay down the road,” Bean said. The bill would essentially overturn a Florida Supreme Court ruling last year that said that Florida regulators exceeded their authority when they allowed FPL to become the first utility in the nation to be allowed to charge its customers, not its shareholders, for its speculative investment in fracking operations.

‘STAND UP FOR NORTH FLROIDA’ RELEASES TV AD CRITICAL OF LAKE O LAND BUY via Florida Politics — The group released a television ad Tuesday designed to call attention to what it calls “the threat of the South Florida land buy, proposed by Senators Joe Negron and Rob Bradley, to the limited conservation funding resources available to the North Florida region.” The group objects to Senate Bill 10 which would bond money backed with Amendment 1 funds to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee for water storage. “North Florida has precious water resources – lakes, rivers, springs and beaches – that desperately need protecting. There are limited funds available and it is imperative we receive our fair share,” said former Rep. Steve Southerland, chairman of the group. “Yet South Florida received more than 90 percent of the Amendment 1 funding for water projects last year.”

COURT: SCHOOL CHILDREN MUST TAKE STANDARDIZED TEST via The Associated Press – A Florida appeals court says school districts have a right to hold third-graders back when they score badly on a mandated standardized reading test. A three-judge panel threw out a ruling by a lower court judge who said school districts must consider options other than students’ performances on the Florida Standards Assessment test when deciding whether to promote a student. The decision is a blow to parents who try to “opt out” on standardized tests. Parents in six counties instructed their children to fill their name in on the test and not answer any questions. School officials then told the children they’d have to repeat third grade.

DON GAETZ PENSACOLA’S NEXT MAYOR? via Duwayne Escobedo of Rick’s Blog – A recent survey commissioned by Inweekly found Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward, a two-term incumbent, could be vulnerable in the 2018 election should he run a third time. Among likely voters, Hayward garnered just 27.9 percent of the vote, setting up room for other candidates to run. Might one of those be former Florida Senate President Gaetz, a Republican from Niceville? Gaetz did point out he owns property in Pensacola, runs a business in Pensacola, TLC Caregivers, and has paid taxes in Pensacola for 20 years. “I see that Mayor Hayward is vulnerable,” Gaetz said in an exclusive interview with Inweekly. But he added he will “probably not run for mayor.” Throughout his 10 years in the Senate, his wife of 35-plus years, Vicki, was right there with him in Tallahassee by his side. Gaetz said it was “very much a partnership in politics” … “Every time I say, ‘No,’ my wife reminds me that I run for office,” Gaetz said. “My wife says never say, ‘No.’”

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LEGISLATIVE STAFFING MERRY-GO-ROUND via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools

On: House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee has brought on budget analyst Bryan Mielke, formerly a legislative assistant for Sebring Republican Rep. Cary Pigman.

On: Brandon Miller is replacing Mielke as Pigman’s legislative assistant.

On: Daniel Brackett is a new attorney for the House Careers & Competition Subcommittee.

On: Angelique Rinaldi is the new legislative assistant for Port Orange Republican Sen. Dorothy Hukill.

On: Jervonte Edmonds is the new district secretary for West Palm Beach Democratic Rep. Al Jacquet.

Off: Andrew Green is no longer a district secretary for Orlando Republican Rep. Mike Miller.

On: Charles Martin is the news district secretary for St. Petersburg Democratic Rep. Wengay Newton.

Off: Nathan Klein is no longer a district secretary for Cape Coral Republican Rep. Dane Eagle.

On: Samantha Surdin is the new district secretary for Orlando Republican Rep. Eric Eisnaugle.

Off: Elizabeth Casimir is no longer a district secretary for Fort Lauderdale Democratic Rep. Patricia Williams.

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

Albert Balido, Anfield Consulting: Florida Education Association

Brian BallardMonica Rodriguez, Ballard Partners: K9s for Warriors

Erin Daly BallasJack CoryKenya Cory, Public Affairs Consultants: Stiles Corporation

Slater Bayliss, Christopher Chaney, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Florida MEDS, LLC

Laura Boehmer, Southern Strategy Group: Locust Branch, LLC

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Galt Mile Apartments, Inc.; Southpoint Condominium Association, Inc.; The Lands of the President Condominium Seven Association, Inc.

Brittany Dover, Hopping Green & Sams: Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council

Angela Drzewiecki, Peebles & Smith, Inc.: City of Tampa; InVesta Services

Rob Fields, Suskey Consulting, LLC: VIMRO

Richard Heffley, Heffley & Associates: Florida Community Services Corp of Walton Co (dba Regional

Utilities); Humane Society of the United States,

Jeff Kotkamp, Sunshine State Consultants: Florida Distribution Association; Mint Organics

Bruce May Jr., Holland & Knight: Florida Society of Ophthalmology

Frank MayernickTracy Mayernick, The Mayernick Group: State Farm Florida Insurance Co.; State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company

Timothy Parson, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: AAA Scholarship Foundation, Inc.; Auto Care Association

William Peeples, John Wayne Smith, Peebles & Smith, Inc.: InVesta Services

Bob Pritt, Roetzel & Andress: City of Naples; Matlacha Pine Island Fire Control District; Port Labelle Community Development District; Sanibel Public Library District; Upper Captiva Fire Protection and Rescue Service District

Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: Lincoln Memorial University

PERSONNEL NOTE: NEW DEPUTIES APPOINTED AT OFFICE OF INSURANCE REGULATION via Florida Politics – The new deputy commissioner for property and casualty insurance in the Office of Insurance regulation is Susanne Murphy, Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier announced … Eric Johnson becomes deputy for life and health insurance. [Murphy’s] job will include oversight of a new Property & Casualty Market Conduct unit. Johnson joined the office in 2011, “and since that time has been a nationally recognized thought leader on issues from the Affordable Care Act to long-term care,” Altmaier said.

#SUITSFORSESSION IS COMING – A week from today, Wednesday, March 15, lawmakers, agency heads, aides, and lobbyists will be carrying something extra to the Capitol: new or gently-used professional attire for job-seekers. Volunteer Florida and Uber are hosting the second annual #SuitsForSession event on the third-floor Rotunda from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. to collect attire for job seekers statewide. For those who can’t make it to the Capitol, Uber will pick up clothing from individuals across Leon County for free all day March 15. #SuitsForSession has quickly grown into a can’t-miss Capitol event, and for a good cause: the new or gently-used professional attire will be donated to the Chapman Partnership (Miami); Dress for Success Tampa Bay; ECHO Outreach Ministries (Leon County); Bridges of America (statewide); and the Florida State University Unconquered Scholars program (Tallahassee). More here.

WORTH THE CLICK — “Brian Goldmeier: The man behind the money” via Cheshire Academy|1794

GOVERNORS CLUB WEDNESDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU – Wednesday’s Governors club menu hails from the Caribbean: conch chowder soup; yucca salad; seasonal greens; three dressing sections; tomato salad; carne asada- beef; chicken ala planca; BBQ grilled salmon; arroz con gandules and black beans.

FLORIDA STATE BEGINS REPLACEMENT SEARCH FOR RB DALVIN COOK via Joe Reedy of The Associated Press – With Cook leaving early for the NFL draft, coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff began spring practices seeing who can replace the school’s career rushing leader. Cook is still a big fixture around the school’s football facilities, and not just from the 20-foot mural of him that adorns the player’s lounge. Fisher said that he saw Cook working out in the weight room after he returned from the NFL scouting combine. Fisher believes it may take more than one player to replace Cook’s contributions. “You would always love to have that one guy, but you also know at that position that you are going to need to have a stable of guys,” Fisher said. “That’s just something we will constantly be continuing to grow in.”

LEGOLAND TO CELEBRATE THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE WITH SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEKEND via Terry Roen of Florida Politics – Fans can meet Gotham City’s iconic superhero –  in LEGO form – at the Winter Garden theme park. LEGO Batman Movie Days will include a photo op with LEGO Batman, a Batman-themed scavenger hunt throughout MINILAND USA and a variety of hands-on LEGO building activities inspired by the movie. Guests can also watch master builders create a 7-foot tall LEGO Joker. The Big Shop and LEGO Studio Store will have LEGO building sets, limited-edition LEGO mini figures, costumes, accessories and more from the Batman movie. Regular admission and annual passes will apply for the LEGO Batman Movie Days. No extra ticket is required.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rep. Michael Bileca and to Ryan Smithapalooza.

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