Peter Schorsch – Page 5 – Florida Politics

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, Florida Politics, Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of the quarterly INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, SaintPetersBlog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 3.12.18

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Ana Ceballos, Daniel McAuliffe, and Jim Rosica.

Nobody expected a tragedy like Parkland to suck all the oxygen out of the Legislature’s 2018 Regular Session. Lobbyists were left scrambling to save their clients’ priorities as lawmakers hustled to rejigger the budget to accommodate hundreds of millions of dollars for school safety and mental health initiatives.

Some survived, many did not; although that’s no different from any other 60-day tumble in the Capitol.

So who enjoyed the thrill of victory in 2018? Who suffered the agony of defeat? And who got out by the skin of their teeth to try again next year?

Read our 10,000 words on who are the winners and losers emerging from the 2018 Legislative Session by clicking here.


— @NateSilver538: Stating the hopefully-obvious, but the fact that PA-18 is competitive is a really bad sign for Republicans. It voted for Trump by 20 points and Romney by 17. The previous Republican incumbent there (Tim Murphy) didn’t even have a Democratic challenger in 2014 or 2016 & won by 28 points the last time he did, in 2012.

— @Fineout: Asked @FLGovScott about the idea of letting 2 non-government organizations that provide vouchers get a list of confidential tax information so they can ask them for money. Scott’s answer – “I believe in transparency.”

@JaredEMoskowitz: Dare ya to debate me on this one. If you can’t handle me how can you be governor? (to Ron DeSantis)

— @ShevrinJones: Earlier this week my colleague, Rep. Porter said that “young people don’t have the wisdom or experience to make laws”. Let me introduce you to @Emma4Change -she’s done more in 1 month than the FL legislature has done in 20 yrs on #gunreform.

— @SShawFL: I just voted NO on the state budget…I don’t think it reflects an adequate commitment to environment, public education, mental health, etc…

— @MiamiSup: Inexplicably, this year’s Ed budget is historically disappointing for South FL schools. How can anyone justify per-student increases of $65.06 and $52.35 for Miami-Dade and Broward, respectively, with significantly higher costs of living, compared to the state average of $101.50?

— @JimRosicaFL: Democratic Sen. Bill Montford says he’s “taking a few days off” now that Session is over to think about a run for Tallahassee mayor. Did not say when he’ll decide. He and his wife are “on the fence” about it.

— @SenatorAbruzzo: As Democratic Whip, had incredible working relationship with Republican Whip @DaneEagle built on trust and respect. Thank you my friend.

— @FrankWhiteFL: I just cast the final vote of my final regular session as a member of the Florida House. Serving our state has been the honor of a lifetime. I’ll always appreciate my constituents in Pensacola and Gulf Breeze for the privilege to serve

— @LawrenceKS_PD: Please do not call 911 to complain about the format of the NCAA tournament selection show. We can’t do anything about it, no matter how bad it is.


St. Patrick’s Day – 5; March For Our Lives/#NeverAgain gun violence protest – 12; Major League Baseball Opening Day — 17; Easter – 20; NFL Draft begins – 45; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office – 52; Mother’s Day – 62; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 74; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 102; Primary Election Day — 169; College Football opening weekend – 173; General Election Day — 239; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 339; 2019 Legislative Session – 358.

***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. #NeverStopReaching***


Rick Scott signs gun limits into law, breaking with the NRA” via Patricia Mazzei of the New York Times – In a dramatic turnaround in one of the most gun-friendly states in America, Gov. Scott signed into law an array of gun limits that included raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 and extending the waiting period to three days. It was the most aggressive action on gun control taken in the state in decades and the first time Scott, who had an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association, had broken so significantly from the group … The law imposes new restrictions on firearm purchases and the possession of “bump stocks,” funds more school police officers and mental health services, broadens law enforcement’s power to seize weapons, and allows certain staff members to carry guns in schools. Florida’s action gave hope to gun control proponents and sent the NRA scrambling to contain the damage. Outside of Tallahassee, the law might not look that groundbreaking: It does not go as far as laws enacted by other more Democratic-leaning states after deadly shootings. But this is Florida, a laboratory for the NRA and a state that has become recognized for its consistent efforts under legislative Republican control since 1996 to expand gun rights. That such a gun-friendly state adopted any firearm restrictions represents a sea change, even more so as the restrictions were drafted and approved in a matter of three weeks, after a bipartisan vote and the signature of a Republican governor likely to be on the ballot later this year as a Senate candidate.

#ParklandStrong: Family members of victims, lawmakers & others look on as Gov. Scott on Friday signed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

NRA sues Florida over gun bill same day” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – “We filed a lawsuit against the state for violating the constitutional rights of 18- to 21-year-olds,” said Marion Hammer, lobbyist for the NRA in Florida. NRA lawyers in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., were working on the complaint Friday afternoon, and filed the complaint moments before the court’s deadline. The suit was filed just over an hour after Scott signed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act into law. He expected opposition from the gun lobby. “I’m an NRA member, and I was an NRA member when I became governor. I’m going to be an NRA member when I’m not governor,” Scott said at the bill signing. “I’m sure there are NRA members that agree with this bill, some that don’t agree with this bill.” The lawsuit names Attorney General Pam Bondi and Rick Swearingen, Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. “This blanket ban violates the fundamental rights of thousands of responsible, law-abiding Florida citizens and is thus invalid under the Second and Fourteenth Amendments,” it says. “Females between the ages of 18 and 21 pose a relatively slight risk of perpetrating a school shooting such as the one that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, or, for that matter, a violent crime of any kind.”

Critics across partisan lines assail new gun law” via Gary Fineout and Kelli Kennedy of The Associated Press – Ron DeSantis … went on Fox News to criticize the law, which raises the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to 21; extends a three-day waiting period for handgun purchases to include long guns; and bans bump stocks, which allow guns to mimic fully automatic fire. “I think when you start getting into some of the blanket restrictions on people’s Second Amendment rights, I think that that is constitutionally vulnerable. … I mean think about it, you have an enumerated right in the Bill of Rights, there’s really no precedent to just do a blanket ban on certain adults,” DeSantis said on the show. The new law fell short of achieving a ban on assault-style weapons, but it creates a so-called guardian program enabling some teachers and other school employees to carry guns. Five legislators seeking statewide office voted against it, as did the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

After Parkland, how the #NeverAgain movement proved Tallahassee wrong” via Mary Ellen Klas and Kyra Gurney of the Tampa Bay Times – Jared Moskowitz seethed in anger as he met with the families of students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on the evening of Feb. 14 … “My colleagues will do nothing,” he predicted, a jaded and discouraged response informed by the Republican-led Legislature’s lack of action after the 49 murders at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub 19 months earlier. But Parkland proved him wrong. Within 12 hours of the massacre, a group of student government, journalism and drama students gathered at North Community Park near the school and turned media interviews into calls for action. Students David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, Jaclyn Corin and Cameron Kasky became instant celebrities, recruited as the newest voices of activism on television shows like “Dr. Phil,” “Ellen,” “Real Time with Bill Mahrer” and on cable news. At a CNN Town Hall, they went head-to-head with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. Before a week had passed, when their nights were still tormented by fear and their days filled with funerals, more than 100 of them traveled to Tallahassee to demand new laws. What their community accomplished is now being touted as a model for other states — and Washington, D.C.

New gun restrictions a start, but not nearly enough, Parkland students say” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald – One day after Scott signed into law a sweeping school safety bill, student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas vowed to continue pressuring lawmakers to pass stricter gun laws, staging a rally down the street from the school … Organized by students Angelina Lazo and Sarah Cummings, the rally served in many ways as a prelude to a planned march on Washington, D.C., at the end of the month. At least 50 sister marches are also scheduled across the country and globally, according to student organizers with the #NeverAgain anti-gun violence group. Although Lazo admitted she was not well-versed in the guns and school safety bill passed by the state Legislature last week, she nevertheless said it did not go far enough. “We must keep going — a week, a month, a year from now. We need to continue to fight for everyone’s safety,” she said, her voice strained. “They say we’re just kids. Not only are we just kids, but we are tomorrow’s future.”

How a Republican teacher groomed Parkland teens for the fight of their lives” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald – Jeff Foster doesn’t think Rubio is a “child murderer.” And he doesn’t think a ban on assault weapons is likely to pass. Unlike many of the students he advises, the Advanced Placement government teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School sees “merit” in both arming faculty members and tightening gun laws. Foster, who is far from the liberal teacher stereotype, has been credited nonetheless for grooming students like González, Hogg, and Delaney Tarr for their new roles as teenage activists leading a nationwide push for stricter gun laws. A longtime Republican — but also a Hillary Clinton voter whose views are “almost Libertarian to a degree” — Foster admits he catches himself wincing at some of the more inflammatory rhetoric his students and other members of the #NeverAgain movement have unleashed, especially when they attack the right. But he admires their passion and how quickly and effectively they’ve mobilized. “When it gets a little extreme… I cringe a little at times,” Foster said. “I think their hearts are in the right place.”

Thrust into gun debate, freshman Sarasota lawmaker grapples with tough choices” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – On the same day Margaret Good arrived in Tallahassee to be sworn in as Florida’s newest state House member, a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and killed 17 people. During her first day on the job — Valentine’s Day — Good was thrust into one of the most passionate political debates to descend on the Capitol in decades. In the end, Good faced a tough choice. For the first time since seizing control of the Legislature two decades ago, Republican leaders advanced a series of meaningful gun control measures. The gun control proposals were paired with a plan to allow school districts to arm certain school personnel, including some classroom teachers. Good liked the gun control ideas and was deeply opposed to the proposal to arm school personnel. Good joined with 31 House Democrats and 19 Republicans to vote against the bill in the House. There were 10 House Democrats who supported the bill. “In the end I felt like I needed to vote my values and I could not stomach voting for a bill that provided a pathway to arm teachers and school personnel,” Good said.

How would you vote on age limit, 3-day wait for gun purchases? It might be on ballot” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – With the first gun control measure signed into law in decades, a key Republican member of the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission has drafted a proposal to make sure the age limits and waiting period stand up to any constitutional challenge from opponents. The proposal, by Miami attorney and CRC member Roberto Martinez, was filed with the CRC on Friday, just moments after Gov. Scott signed SB 7026 into law … “I think the law is constitutional,” said Martinez, a partner at Colson Hicks Edison and former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. “Can lawyers come up with arguments against it? Of course. To the extent this eliminates any constitutional challenges, we should adopt it.” Martinez said he has spoken with individual members of the 37-member CRC to discuss his proposal and “everybody has said they are open to considering it. There has been strong support from some,” he said.


Scott signs major education bills, including controversial K-12 measure” via Daniel Ducassi of Florida Politics – The more popular of the two measures, FL SB4 (18R), restores the top and second-level awards in the state’s broad, merit-based Bright Futures scholarship program to once again cover 100 percent and 75 percent of tuition and fees, respectively, along with other sweeping changes aimed at boosting the university system and promoting four-year graduation rates. But the real controversy centers on FL HB 7055 (18R) … The bill includes sweeping changes to the K-12 system. The governor touted that the newly signed law “expands school choice.” However, the state’s largest teachers’ union has been up in arms over a provision they describe as “union-busting” that requires solely teachers unions to go through a recertification process if their dues-paying membership falls below 50 percent of eligible employees. The Florida Democratic Party blasted Scott for “gutting” the state’s education system in a statement issued after the governor signed the bills into law. “Just like he’s done for years, Rick Scott is draining funding from our public schools in order to give his political donors and cronies another taxpayer funded handout — it’s just the latest demonstration that Scott puts his own self-serving politics over Florida’s schools, teachers and students,” said FDP spokeswoman Caroline Rowland.

Blue pens for everyone: Gov. Scott signed HB 7055, which increases scholarship opportunities and expands school choice in Florida’s K-12 education system.

Email insights: Gwen Graham blasts ‘devastating cuts to schools’” via Florida Politics – “Scott‘s first priority as governor was to cut more than $1 billion from public schools — and in 8 years, while the governor and Legislature have spent our tax dollars on their pet projects and special interests, they have failed to fully restore funding for Florida’s schools and students,” Graham said … Graham said if she is elected in the fall that “change is coming.” “This will be the last Florida budget to underfund public schools. As governor, I will restore our promise to public schools by ending high-stakes testing, ending the degrading system of school grades, and ending the lottery shell game,” she wrote.

First on #FlaPol –Pinellas County superintendent slams proposed funding for public education” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – “It’s clear that the additional safe schools and mental health funding has come on the backs of teachers and students,” Michael Grego wrote in an open letter. The $88.7 billion state budget proposed for the 2018-19 fiscal year includes a significant funding boost for mental health services and school security in response to the Valentine’s Day school shooting in Parkland that left 17 dead. Gov. Scott signed the $400 million “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Act” into law … Grego is in favor of the Legislature excluding most teachers from being armed, but has yet to determine if Pinellas County will participate in the program. And while he has been for expanding mental health services and safety measures, Grego said the money allotted to public education is not enough to cover operational costs like utilities, health care coverage for employees and other areas impacted by inflation.


Lawmakers pass $88.7 billion budget to end Session” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida – Florida lawmakers ended their 2018 session Sunday by passing an $88.7 billion budget … The votes concluded an annual session that ran two days into overtime … Republican leaders touted increases money for the education system. Funding in the kindergarten-through-high-school system increased by $101.50 per student, while performance funding for state universities was increased by $20 million. … The budget continues expansion of the state’s main need-based aid program, Florida Student Assistance Grants … Lawmakers also backed a $53 million initiative to deal with the state’s opioid crisis … pay raises in the state budget for law enforcement officers, including the Florida Highway Patrol, and workers at the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Legislature approves tax cut package” via Florida Politics – The Legislature on Sunday gave the final OK of a negotiated tax relief package that would, among other things, allow Floridians to buy tax-free clothes and school supplies during three days in August and tax-free hurricane gear at the start of June. The roughly $171 million package (HB 7087) was passed by the Senate 31-5, then approved by the House 95-12 at an extended legislative session Sunday to also vote on the state budget … The House and Senate scaled back tax cuts as money was shifted after the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Money had to come “from everywhere, from tax cuts, from member projects, the K-12 budget,” Rep. Paul Renner of Palm Coast, chair of the Ways & Means Committee, told reporters Sunday. “We did the best we could with available dollars.”

House Sergeant at Arms Russell Hosford and Senate Sergeant at Arms Tim Hay drop their hankies at 4:17 p.m. Sunday in the Capitol rotunda during the annual Sie Die ritual that marks the end of the legislative session. Photo credit: Hali Tauxe of the Tallahassee Democrat.

Lawmakers agree on plan to battle opioids” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida – The Legislature approved tough new restrictions Friday on prescription drugs and agreed to spend more than $53 million on treatment and prevention to battle the state’s opioid crisis. Despite the issue being a top priority for the 2018 session, the final vote on the measure (HB 21) almost didn’t come as the Senate and House were at odds for hours over whether the bill should include dedicated funding for Vivitrol, which is a monthly shot that has been successful in helping people with opioid addictions. The House and Senate passed a compromise that sets aside money but makes clear that it shouldn’t be used only for naltrexone, which is sold under the brand name Vivitrol. The bill passed both chambers unanimously and is headed to Gov. Scott’s desk.

Trujillo accuses Senate of handout to Negron’s favored lobbyists in opioid bill” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida – Trujillo is accusing the Senate of giving a handout to President Negron’s close friends and lobbyists, Frank and Tracy Mayernick, by inserting an amendment to Gov. k Scott’s $54 million opioid bill to benefit the lobbyists’ clients. Trujillo says the Senate added a provision to [the bill] that specifically requires that $5.3 million be spent year over year on extended-release injectable naltrexone. Naltrexone is a generic drug, but only one company — Alkermes — makes an injectable form. That company is represented by the Mayernicks. … “Holding up the passage of vital addiction services legislation while demanding one company receive over $5.3 million of taxpayer money every year puts profits before people,” Trujillo (R-Miami) said. “Provider-specific appropriations are unheard of in the budget.”

Snake eyes: Gambling bill dies for 2018” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The Legislature’s last best chance to pass comprehensive legislation on gambling came up a bad beat on Friday, with a conference committee calling it quits. President Negron and Speaker Corcoran released a joint statement Friday night. “Despite the good faith efforts of both the House and Senate, a gaming bill will not pass the Legislature this session,” they said. That means the status quo abides, and no renewed deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida that would have guaranteed $3 billion into state coffers over seven years. Tribe spokesman Gary Bitner declined comment. It’s not clear when lawmakers will get another shot: A proposed “voter control of gambling” constitutional amendment will be on November’s ballot. If that’s approved by 60 percent, it would give statewide voters sole power to approve future expansions of gambling in Florida.

Worth the click –Sunshine State gambling #fails: A short history (updated for 2018)” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics 

Lauren Book calls Legislature ‘old boys club’ after Senate kills sex-harassment reform bill” via Marc Caputo and Alexandra Glorioso – After believing they’d reached a compromise, lawmakers failed to reform the state government’s sexual harassment policy, which became a victim of last-minute disputes between the House and Senate. “It’s no secret that I’ve said time and time again that Tallahassee is an old boys club and the old boys club is alive and well,” said state Sen. Lauren Book, who carried the bill in the Senate. State Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, the bill’s House sponsor, accused Senate leadership of killing the bill, FL SB1628 (18R). She said Senate leaders reneged on a deal to pass the measure after it was adjusted on the House floor and sent back to the Senate. … President Negron called the bill cumbersome and blamed the House for its failure to get to the Senate floor for a vote. He said all state agencies have the right to terminate staff once allegations of sexual harassment have been proven.

Human trafficking bill dies on a technicality” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times – It was killed after Republicans grilled the bill sponsor, Sen. Book and protested the bill on a technicality. Sen. René Garcia who was breathing heavily after running back to his desk, so he could speak against the bill, said he supported Book’s effort. But because the House didn’t take up a separate portion of the bill – one that would have created a trust fund for trafficking victims – Garcia urged fellow lawmakers to vote it down. The Senate already passed a separate trust fund bill. “I have to stand up today and ask you to vote down this amendment … because our friends in the House did not do the right thing,” Garcia said.


Post-Hurricane Irma, lawmakers require generators for assisted living facilities” via Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times – House lawmakers voted with almost no discussion to require that assisted living facilities have generators, ratifying a rule pushed by Gov. Scott in the days after Hurricane Irma. The Department of Elder Affairs rule … passed in the Senate through SB 7028 but was waiting on action from the House. Lawmakers in both chambers had already passed a similar rule for nursing homes from the state Agency for Health Care Administration earlier this week. But the assisted living facilities rule — unlike the nursing home rule — was not heard by any House committee before it was brought to the floor from the Senate. The pair of rules require backup power sources that could continue to maintain cooling systems in the event of an outage and require power sources that can be portable but must provide at least 30 square feet of cool space for each resident. Nursing homes and larger assisted living facilities must have 72 hours of fuel at those locations. Smaller assisted living facilities with fewer than 17 beds would only be required to have 48 hours of fuel on-site. Nursing homes will also be required to have equipment that can control indoor temperatures for 96 hours after an outage and maintain an ambient temperature of no more than 81 degrees.

Legislature slashing Health Dep’t pay because of medical marijuana delays” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Lawmakers included a provision to withhold more than $1.9 million in Department of Health salaries and benefits in the final 2018-19 state budget until regulators fully implement medical marijuana. The proviso language… means certain Health officials will get a pay and benefits cut until they “implement” medical cannabis … House Republican Jason Brodeur of Sanford, who first submitted the budget provision, on Friday clarified that the withheld pay applies to the department’s “executive direction entity.” He defined that as including Health Secretary and state Surgeon General Celeste Philip, her chief of staff, legislative affairs director, and the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, including its director, Christian Bax. The withheld pay is effective July 1, the start of the next fiscal year, but “wouldn’t have an impact until later in the year so it won’t cripple them right away,” Brodeur said.

New College gets big funding increase in state budget” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – The funding is boosting university budgets across the state, from large institutions such as the University of Florida to the smallest one, New College of Florida in Sarasota. The University of Florida is getting a $14 million boost in recurring general revenue as lawmakers try to push it from a Top 10 public university into the Top 5 nationwide. New College of Florida will receive an additional $4.2 million in recurring general revenue and other funds to help grow the tiny liberal arts college. The school is in the second phase of a growth plan that will bring hundreds of additional students and dozens of new faculty to the campus. Next year’s state budget will provide a 14 percent increase in funding for New College. “Gee whiz, we very much appreciate the confidence they have in New College to fund us this way,” said John Martin, the college’s vice president for finance and administration. “The depth and breadth of the academic offerings, the student support services — everything from careers to counseling to student life is going to be immensely enhanced because of this.”

Legislature adds to the more than 1,000 exceptions to Florida’s public records law” via Elizabeth Koh and Emily Mahoney of the Miami Herald – At least two of those exemptions — crafted as part of the state’s response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last month — have already been approved by Gov. Scott after he signed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Act … One of the two exemptions, SB 7024, shields the home addresses of victims of mass violence. The other, SB 1940, withholds the identities of armed school staff who are trained as part of the state’s new “guardian” program. That last one has open government activists particularly concerned. Not all exemptions are created equal, but they are part of a years-long trend in the Legislature to whittle down identifying information for certain groups. Among the exemptions lawmakers voted to add this year to the state’s public records law: Home addresses for public guardians, employees of child advocacy centers and addiction treatment facilities, and members of child protection teams — and that of their immediate family members … Construction documents for some health care facilities, such as building plans and blueprints … Some United States Census address data.

Bill changing write-in rules clears Legislature” via Florida Politics – A bill that would allow write-in candidates to run for districts they do not live in cleared the Legislature in the closing days of session and is now ready for a signature from Gov. Scott. HB 6009, sponsored by Dania Beach Democratic Rep. Joe Geller, fixes some inconsistencies in the law when it comes to candidate residency. The law on the books requires write-in candidates to live in the district by the time the candidate qualifying period ends … The write-in rule was declared unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court in 2016 since it put a separate limitation on candidacy than what was laid out in the Florida Constitution.

Municipal elections bill dies in Senate” via Florida Politics – A bill that would have changed election dates for municipal offices died in the closing days of the 2018 Legislative Session. HB 7037, sponsored by Lehigh Acres Republican Rep. Matt Caldwell, aimed to narrow the choices for when municipal governments could set elections to either the third Tuesday in March, or the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, when general elections are held. … HB 7037 would have impacted dozens of cities that hold elections outside of those dates, and was sharply opposed by the Florida League of Cities on the grounds that it preempts local governments. “For over half of cities that provide for runoff elections, municipal campaigns [would] be in full swing during summer and winter holidays – when voters are highly distracted or absent, and media access exceedingly expensive,” the League said.

Ballard snags last-minute tax package tweak to help web-based client” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – The lobbying powerhouse Ballard Partners swayed lawmakers to add a new section to the state’s labor law that mirrors the exact business model of one of its online-based clients. Handy Technologies, Inc., which hired Ballard Partners, will directly benefit from a last-minute add on to the tax cut package championed by Senate Budget Chair Rob Bradley. The amendment language clarifies that those hired to do work through an online-based or mobile-app company are treated as independent contractors and not employees, and lists the exact household and handyman work services offered by Handy Technologies. The change will not change workers’ compensation or healthcare requirements for those who currently receive them. It would just clarify that if an online-company is not paying those now to a contract worker, it doesn’t have to pay them in the future. “We are pleased the Legislature continued to support the emerging marketplace contractor economy,” said Chris Dorworth, who is representing Handy Technologies as a registered lobbyist for Ballard Partners.

Jeff Vinik scores legislative win with passage of Water Street Tampa bill” via Florida Politics – The special improvement district created by HB 1393 would allow an appointed board to levy assessments on commercial properties and charge property tax of up to one mil – $1 per $1,000 of assessed value – on property within in the district. Water Street Tampa, a private development, seeks to bring the first new office towers to Tampa in a quarter century, as well as retail, educational and entertainment space. The building project will clock in at 9 million square feet once completed. The measure cleared the House and the Senate passed it with a pair of amendments cleaning up the language before kicking it back to the House with a 37-1 vote. Sarasota Sen. Greg Steube was the lone no-vote on the bill.

Parents of student killed at Conniston in 1997 finally win claims bill” via Kenya Woodard of the Palm Beach Post – Ashraf Kamel’s 14-year-old son, Jean Pierre Kamel, was killed 21 years ago when a classmate shot him dead at Conniston Middle School in West Palm Beach. Five years after their son’s death, Kamel and his ex-wife, Marguerite Dimitri, won a $1.6 million judgment against the Palm Beach County School Board in a lawsuit alleging negligence by district and school officials. But the school board paid only the $200,000 maximum that governments are allowed to pay in legal actions in Florida. And almost every year since 2004, Kamel and Dimitri have gone to the Florida Legislature to seek passage of a special type of bill known as a claims bill that would allow the school district to pay at least some of the remainder of the judgment … they finally won, when the Senate voted 34-1 to pass a House bill (HB 6523) approved by that chamber on a 112-3 vote March 1. The legislation would award Kamel and Dimitri $180,000 each for $360,000, the same balance they agreed to in a previous legislative session.

Free market fights end in wins for 2018, group says” via Florida Politics – Americans for Prosperity-Florida, the free market fighters, are celebrating a long list of legislative accomplishments as the 2018 Legislative Session comes to an end. Among their top priorities this year was a bill to allow direct primary care contracts, SB 80, and the House education package which includes a requirement that teacher unions to have at least 50 percent of eligible members pay dues. “As Floridians continue to suffer under the restrictions of Obamacare, the passage of Direct Primary Care will expand access to quality care by removing third parties from the doctor-patient relationship. This will ensure Floridians receive the care they need from the providers of their choice,” said AFP-FL state director Chris Hudson. The group also celebrated the lack of a funding increase for state economic incentives arm Enterprise Florida and the defeat of “corporate welfare” proposals, such as the bills to create a new film and television program funding pool (HB 341/SB 1606).


The House Media Team has one last blockbuster for the Legislative Session: A farewell to the class of 2018. “Senior representatives reflect upon their time in the Florida House of Representatives,” says the video’s description, now on YouTube. Republican Tom Goodson and Democrats Lori Berman and Janet Cruz make appearances.

Click on the image below to watch the video:

Lake Okeechobee reservoir is Senate President Joe Negron’s legacy as he reflects on tenure” via Ali Schmitz of TCPalm – The Stuart Republican said his greatest local accomplishment is a reservoir to reduce Lake Okeechobee discharges to coastal estuaries. SB 10, which secured funding and set deadlines for the project, was approved in 2017, the year after toxic algae closed the St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon and — for the first time — Atlantic beaches. Treasure Coast residents like Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, a former Sewall’s Point mayor and longtime Martin County environmental advocate, agreed. “The reservoir is his legacy. He looked around and saw how important this reservoir is to our area and the people in our area, and he put that gorilla on his back and carried it for two years,” she said. “I challenge anyone to do what Joe Negron did.”

Making an exit: Capitol character retires after guarding Senate chamber doors for 33 years” via Hali Tauxe of the Tallahassee Democrat – Tommy Hunt is retiring at the end of session from a 33-year career with the Senate Sergeant at Arm’s Office. During Session, Hunt’s official duties include guarding the doors to the Senate chambers. He must make sure no one gets in who shouldn’t be there. Hunt says he’s memorized thousands of faces – every senator, every representative and Cabinet member — since Bob Graham was in the Governor’s Mansion. Unofficially, he sees his job as a chance to make everyone’s day just a little bit better. “I’ve had fun over the years at the front door, mostly making people laugh and smile –especially the ones that come in with a bad mood or are down, I can usually make ‘em smile.” Why? “I don’t know. I guess it’s just me.”


A new poll of the 2018 U.S. Senate race shows Gov. Scott with a two-point lead over Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

The Clearview Research poll contacted 750 likely voters by phone between March 1 and March 7 and found Scott with a 43-41 advantage with 15 percent undecided.

The poll shows Scott leading among white and Cuban Hispanic voters, while Nelson leads among black and non-Cuban Hispanic voters.

Scott also holds the edge among voters aged 35 and older, while Nelson wins the 18-34 bracket by 7 percentage points.

Scott’s edge falls within the margin of error for poll, which is one a very few to show Scott with a lead over Nelson.

Where the poll differs with other recent head-to-heads is the turnout model, which estimates Republicans will make up 41 percent of the electorate, while Democrats take a 39 percent share.

Clearview says the two-point advantage for Republicans is consistent with the past few election cycles.

In 2016, Republicans outpaced Democrats at the polls by 0.6 points, a first in modern history for a presidential race, and in 2014 there was a four-point turnout margin on election day.

Read more about the poll here.


C’mon Jamie Jodoin –Richard Corcoran fined by Division of Elections” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Corcoran‘s Watchdog PAC was only a day late in filing the report, and its treasurer received just a $50 fine. But it’s ironic that a Republican leader who constantly touts his commitment to transparency failed to comply with disclosure requirements. And it’s not the only part of his political committee that is opaque about its campaign finances … try to be a watchdog on the campaign finances of Corcoran’s The information is virtually hidden in a reference to “State of Florida Reporting Requirements.” Nor does Corcoran’s committee list the addresses of his campaign donors, which is required under Florida law.

Fox News is helping Ron DeSantis catch up in governor race” via Mark Harper of the Daytona Beach News-Journal – DeSantis has stayed away from the media circuses in Parkland and Tallahassee, releasing only a written statement critical of the FBI and Broward County sheriff, calling for more funding for mental health services, defending efforts to harden school security and criticizing lawmakers’ move to raise the legal age for the purchase of semi-automatic weapons from 18 to 21. DeSantis appeared on Fox News 29 times from 2012 to 2016, according to researcher Gregory Martin of Emory University. By contrast, Putnam appeared just once during that time and Corcoran hadn’t been on at all … the politically progressive Media Matters for America nonprofit notes that DeSantis had appeared on Fox News 15 times during the first two months of 2018, while Putnam hadn’t been on once. Following the Feb. 14 South Florida school shooting, Corcoran made four appearances.

Ronda Storms announces HD 59 bid” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics – Storms announced on her Facebook page that she will run for the seat currently held by Ross Spano, who is running for the Republican nomination for Attorney General. “After much prayerful consideration, my family and I have decided to step forward and make the personal sacrifice necessary to run for public office,” she said. Storms frequently made headlines during her eight years on the County Commission. She advocated sterilization for men or women convicted of child abuse and led a movement to cut off county funding for Planned Parenthood. Her most controversial moment came when she took the forefront of a commission decision to abstain from any involvement with Gay Pride parades or celebrations. She even stipulated the ordinance would be labeled “little g, little p.”


Gov, Scott tells Tampa Bay CareerSource boards to make leadership changes” via Mark Puente of the Tampa Bay Times – His message came after board members for CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay in Hillsborough rescinded votes to fire their president and CEO Edward Peachey. “With multiple ongoing investigations currently being conducted … including potential criminal charges, it’s unbelievable that the proper steps to protect taxpayers have still not been taken,” said Scott’s communications director John Tupps. Peachey was fired last week, but only for a short period of time before board members pulled back the decision. Small executive committees of CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay had voted to terminate him without cause at the end of last month, electing to give him five months severance in exchange for him not suing the agencies. Within days of the firings, board members in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties invoked a rule to void the decisions until the matter could be brought before the full boards.

Florida Virtual School wasn’t hacked, it left the door open, Leon County schools says” via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida – Florida Virtual School, which insists it was hacked, refused to answer questions about the claims that its data was leaking online. But Leon County Schools, which was the first public entity to find out about the data breach, confirmed that a privacy advocate who runs a blog about data breaches called was indeed the person who tipped them off about the data leak. To find a trove of personal data on thousands of Leon County teachers and students, essentially all one had to do was go to the right website and download the files. Leon County Schools spokesman Chris Petley said it “was not a hack, it was a server left open” by Florida Virtual Schools. He also said, that contrary to FLVS’ claim that it “contacted” Leon County Schools and state law enforcement about the breach, LCS was the one — along with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement — that contacted FLVS to notify the digital quasi-school district that its data was leaking.

Lake Okeechobee reservoir to cut discharges approved by SFWMD; heads to Army Corps” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm – The South Florida Water Management District board unanimously approved a design for the project developed over the last several months by district scientists and engineers. The project’s plans are to be given to Ryan Fisher, who heads the Corps as acting assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, by March 30. The Corps is scheduled to review and forward the plans to Congress for inclusion in the upcoming Water Resources and Development Act by Oct. 1. “We’ll push hard for congressional approval and appropriation,” said Matt Morrison, the district’s head of federal policy and coordination who led the design and planning for the project.

More manatees died from cold stress this winter” via Jim Waymer of Florida Today – Florida is on pace for another cold, harsh record year for manatee deaths, according to an environmental watchdog group. Already, 166 manatees have died statewide, state statistics through March 2 show. … More than 150 manatees died in just the first seven weeks of 2018, putting Florida on pace to set an annual record for manatee deaths, according to the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a nonprofit government watchdog group. “Florida’s manatees are one big freeze away from an ecological disaster and need more, not less, protection,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. … Florida’s annual manatee counts have more than doubled in the past 20 years, to more than 6,600 animals, according to statewide yearly aerial and ground counts. As a result, the federal government reclassified the manatee from an endangered to a threatened species … But the statewide annual counts are only a minimum count of the manatee population, so there could be thousands more.

Answer or ignore? Robocall ‘epidemic’ worsens, and Florida’s a prime target” via Jessica Saggio of FLORIDA TODAY – Data collected by the Federal Trade Commission, which monitors complaints, show Florida has always been among the worst states in sheer volume. Last year, 588,021 formal complaints were filed to the FTC, second only to California, which reported 823,692 spam or scam telemarketing calls — and those are just the calls actually reported. “We accurately define it as an epidemic,” said Ethan Garr, co-creator of RoboKiller, an app made to stop the calls. “What drives this is basic economics. Making these phone calls is so inexpensive for scammers. It costs them less than a penny per minute.” Many of the calls are run by small companies or even large overseas call centers that are looking for leads. They aim to refer people to different health care companies or loan agents who then pay them for the referral … They key is to find out who is calling, he said, and if it’s a legitimate company a person can sue if they’re being harassed.


Governor surprises Larry Metz: He’s a judge” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – In a surprise announcement Sunday from the dais of the Florida House, Gov. Scott said he had appointed Republican Rep. Metz as a circuit judge. Metz, a Yalaha Republican and 62-year-old lawyer in private practice, applied for a judgeship in the 5th Judicial Circuit, covering Lake, Marion, and Sumter counties. He’s term-limited in the House this year. “This caught me clearly off guard,” he said Sunday. “… It shows that (Scott) has very special trust and confidence in me … I’ll never forget this day and I look forward to being able to uphold the rule of law as a member of the judiciary.”

Corrine Brown appeals conviction citing juror’s visit from Holy Spirit” via Griffin Connolly of Roll Call –Brown’s attorney filed a 76-page appeal to her conviction on fraud and tax evasion charges Thursday, saying the judge in the case wrongfully removed a juror who claimed a “higher power” told him Brown was not guilty … “The district court reversibly erred when it questioned a juror who had voted to acquit Congresswoman Brown,” the appeal states, “and then dismissed the juror over [a] defense objection based on nothing more that the juror having prayed for guidance and [believing] that he received guidance from the Holy Spirit that Congresswoman Brown was not guilty.”

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Jim Boxold, Nicholas Iarossi, Ashley Kalifeh, Ronald LaFace, Daniel Newman, Scott Ross, Christopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: Provado Mobile Health

Chip Case, Capitol Advocates: Global Shield, LLC

Martin Fiorentino, Joseph Mobley, Mark Pinto, The Fiorentino Group: Estuary

Paul Hawkes, James Magill, Kimberly McGlynn, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Guardian Group

Jim Horne, Strategos Public Affairs: Education Corporation of America

Frank Mayernick, Tracy Hogan Mayernick, The Mayernick Group: FTRB Holdings

William Rubin, Heather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: Fisherman’s Community Hospital

Stephanie Grutman Zauder, Ballard Partners: Alma Advertising Agency

— ALOE —

Florida teams picked for the Big Dance – Florida, Florida State and Miami have each earned a spot in the NCAA “March Madness” Tournament among the 68-team field announced Sunday. The Gators (20-12) were named as No. 6 seed in the East Region and will play the first round Thursday in Dallas as the favorite against the No. 11 seed opponent, either St. Bonaventure (25-7) or UCLA (21-11). Florida is 2-0 all-time against St. Bonaventure, and last faced them Nov. 17, 2016. UF is also 4-0 against UCLA – winning the NCAA Tournament games against them in 2006, 2007, 2011 and 2014. The Florida State Seminoles (20-11) is ranked No. 9 seed in the West Region, facing No. 8 seed Missouri (20-12) in the first round Friday in Nashville. In the last 10 years, the Seminoles made the tournament six times, the best record in Florida State history. The Hurricanes (22-9) are No. 6 seed in the South Region, opening Thursday against No. 11 seed Loyola-Chicago (28-5).

Happy birthday to a slew of Florida politicos, including Sen. Alan Hays, Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times, Brian Franklin, Frank Mayernick, Sarah Revell, and Jeff Ryan.

Winners and losers emerging from the 2018 Legislative Session

Nobody expected a tragedy like Parkland to suck all the oxygen out of the Legislature’s 2018 Regular Session. Lobbyists were left scrambling to save their clients’ priorities as lawmakers hustled to rejigger the budget to accommodate hundreds of millions of dollars for school safety and mental health initiatives.

Some survived, many did not; although that’s no different from any other 60-day tumble in the Capitol.

So who enjoyed the thrill of victory in 2018? Who suffered the agony of defeat? And who got out by the skin of their teeth to try again next year?

2018 Legislative Session: Some win, some lose. 

Without further ado, here are this Session’s Winners and Losers, with an additional section below for our friends and frenemies in the news media.

Oh, one more note, we’re going to reserve judgment on Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and Senate President Joe Negron until the end of the gubernatorial bill signing period.

Biggest winner

The kids from Douglas High — Much hay has been made over the teens, how they go to a school in a “white, affluent community,” and were able to get way more of a response than that to the Pulse shooting in Orlando. Did it make a difference that the MSD tragedy happened in the middle of a legislative session? Sure. But these teens and their parents forced real conversations and action when many would rather have run and hide.

In a sense, students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas are the biggest “winners” in the 2018 Session.


Bill Galvano — Maybe you want to admit it. Maybe you don’t. But the Senate President-designate has displayed great poise and gravitas, i.e., leadership, while purposely not overshadowing President Negron. He may not have gotten gambling legislation over the finish line before the gambling control amendment this November, but don’t be surprised if the Bradenton lawyer — president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States — has a trick up his sleeve in 2019.

Wilton Simpson — Who woulda thunk a quiet egg farmer from Trilby would rise to become Senate President in waiting. As Majority Leader, he’s never lost a floor vote Negron needed him to win. He stood by his chief aide, Rachel Perrin Rogers, as she weathered the Jack Latvala sexual harassment saga. And he’s a genuinely nice guy: He paid for the Parkland’s pizza and breakfast when they were in Tallahassee.

Aaron Bean — The northeast Florida Republican has three bills on their way to the Governor: the “Pro Bono Matters” Act, which pays pro bono attorneys to represent special needs children; a bill to continue the Guardian ad Litem Foundation; and a measure to help children of parents in prison.

Jeff Brandes — The senator from St. Petersburg continues the legacy of late Senate President Jim King by pushing through a fix to the Merlot-to-go law (aka “Take away Chardonnay” for you white wine drinkers). Before, you had to have ordered a whole meal; the 2018 change removes that requirement. King‘s 2005 measure first legalized carryout wine.

Lauren Book — She has displayed to everyone why Lauren’s Kids has been a success. The way she has been instrumental in organizing and advising the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School cannot and should not be ignored. Remember, she’s only a freshman. Imagine a world with “Book for Governor 2022” yard signs. It could happen.

Lauren Book proves why she is a success in 2018.

Denise Grimsley — She concluded her legislative career with quiet and thoughtful effectiveness, passing an important Call Blocking Bill that will work to protect everyone in Florida with a phone from crooks, scammers and spammers. She’ll never admit it, but her behind the scenes efforts moved the agriculture disaster relief package, getting it out of the Senate ditch. And her speech on the floor during the SB 7026 debate was a thoughtful reminder that Florida has broken children being raised by broken people, and that is the root cause of societal breakdown. Well done, Nurse Grimsley.

Debbie Mayfield — Along with Reps. Erin Grall and MaryLynn Magar, she stood up to political heavyweight All Aboard Florida and shined a light on the lack of high-speed rail safety measures in Florida. They took this on before and after Brightline related deaths and injuries and grabbed major headlines.

Kathleen Passidomo — As a 2nd-year Senator, she steered the largest portion of the budget (education), and, even before the tragic massacre in Parkland, had been championing for additional mental health dollars. She was tasked with maneuvering HB 7055 through the Senate. All of this, while handling her own appropriations requests and the 28 bills she filed this year. That’s a pretty impressive resume for a Senate President candidate.

Bobby Dubose — He can be seen walking the floor, helping members with their bills, serving as a de facto floor leader and chief negotiator for both the Black Caucus and, at times, the House Democrats. You can see him moving from a private conversation with Speaker-designate Jose Oliva and over to a group of Democrats. Insiders credit Dubose with stand-your-ground language in the MSD school safety/gun bill. That alone is a BFD in our book.

Bobby Dubose wins with Stand Your Ground in the MSD school safety bill.

Katie Edwards-Walpole — Leaving her seat early to focus on her new priorities of a new family, Katie Edwards-Walpole leaves a smart legacy of bipartisan legislation and real accomplishment. She’s whip-smart, and more than one Republican consultant would tell you she would have been the Democrats most formidable nominee for Agriculture Commissioner. Let’s hope Katie stays engaged in a process that needs her intellect, passion and reason.

Randy Fine — His second session was a coming out for this freshmanHe went six-for-six in bringing his bills to the House floor and six-for-six with his appropriations requests.  Fine literally received a terrorist threat while presenting his pro-Israel bill to committee, and successfully battled for both a tourist development tax transformation and utility accountability bill against more than 100 lobbyists. And he rendered CNN’s Alison Camerota speechless in his first-ever live national interview. He’ll be a force of nature in the next session.

Kristin Jacobs — She authored the sexual harassment bill that passed unanimously, got all her projects funded, was lead House sponsor on the coral reefs conservation area, took over the top CERP project and quietly got it passed (the C-51 bill), got DEP to include $3.6 million for her resilient coastline initiative and didn’t even have to fight it in the budget. Scott took that fight for her and, to boot, got another million to remove tires from the Broward coastline.

Scott Plakon — He may not feel like it, considering the daily fight he’s watching wife Susie endure, but many are now reading, researching, listening, and desiring to help in the fight against Alzheimer’s. His trademark dry sense of humor has not abated. And nice tattoo by the way.

Holly Raschein — She’s been serving her district for nearly 14 years, as an aide to Republican Ken Sorensen and Democrat Ron Saunders, and as the rep in 120 since 2012. There was no bigger challenge for Holly in all those years than the devastation that Irma did to the Keys, and she’s fought long and hard first to recover, and this session for dollars — and probably when the final totals are up, no one will take more home than Holly did to help continue to recover and rebuild our Florida Keys.

Paul Renner — With a determined style of ‘3 yards and a cloud of dust,’ Renner effectively managed the House tax packages and worked in support of D-1 Oliva and D-2 Sprowls. He managed to unify members in his class in his first session since becoming Speaker-D3 after that bruising election just last summer. Renner is the fullback that gains the yards you need and makes vital first downs, and now he transitions to campaign for his teammates in the elections this fall.

Carlos G. Smith — The progressive Orlando Democrat did not accomplish by way of legislation, but he is one of the fiercest advocates for gun control, among many other issues. He also wasn’t shy about asking why more wasn’t done after the shooting at the Pulse nightclub. He’s young, he’s media savvy, he’s got a heart three times the size of his body. All eyes on Rep. Smith going forward.

Chris Sprowls — He was Mister “Behind the Scenes” this Session. When many bills found success, his name was quietly mentioned as the reason. He’s a steadying force among many in his party. But with a divide growing between the controlling R’s and a more radicalized Democratic caucus, and with an ever more conservative worldview among his fellow Republicans, his leadership will be tested in the next couple of years.

Behind the scenes, Chris Sprowls proved a force to be reckoned.

Jimmy Patronis — After the Equifax data breach, and other data breaches at major companies, the CFO found that in Florida, credit reporting agencies could charge a fee of up to $10 to freeze your credit, and those who were victims of a data breach were required to submitted tons of paperwork just to get this fee waived. Considering that recent reports indicate that Florida is the top state for consumer fraud and ranks second for identity theft reports, it’s ridiculous that a fee would be imposed on Floridians. This bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously and made it easier for Floridians to protect themselves from fraud.

Noah Valenstein — The DEP boss proved you could demonstrate a commitment to the environment, while also actively serving Florida’s communities. DEP’s budget includes just over $100M for Florida Forever, increased funding for state parks, and support for the Everglades and the EAA reservoir. The Department’s leadership was also on display this Session as they led discussions around enhancing Florida’s wetlands protection program through the assumption of the federal “404” permitting program.

Mat Bahl — Mat should get the award for the person least likely to ever lobby to be on this list. Anyone who knows Mat knows that he is the master strategist and ardent negotiator, all of which have benefited the House and Speaker as the gavel comes down on Corcoran’s final session. But what many people may not know is that Mat has every proposed move, turn and counter-turn planned out months in advance for his principal and leadership to consider. If you have wondered why the House has consistently been one step ahead of the Senate for the last two years — Bahl is the reason. A loyal adviser who stays behind the curtain, never seeking or wanting the spotlight is a rare animal in politics — but even more unusual is how many speakers Mat has advised and how many futures ones he undoubtedly will.

Katie Betta and Fred Piccolo — The chief spokespeople for the Senate and House deserve a medal dealing with an irascible Capitol Press Corps. They’ve done an admirable job distilling complicated policy to readable text in a hurricane of news releases, and defended their principals when needed. We don’t know what the future holds as leadership changes after this session, but their stars are bright.

Kevin Reilly — Scott’s legislative affairs guru batted them out and over this Session, with hits and home runs on opioids, guns, supermajority tax requirement, Venezuela, budget-related items, nursing home rule.

Airlines – Flying into Florida have come in for a smooth landing via the tax package, with a reduction in the state’s airline fuel tax. Lower fueling taxes will mean more airlines will assign more planes to come to Florida, bringing more flights, passengers and economic growth to the state. Legislative leaders have signaled a desire for a complete phase-out of the fuel tax in the coming years, making airlines and airline passengers big winners for sessions to come.

Americans For Prosperity-Florida — The Koch brothers-backed pro-free market organization couldn’t quite finish the job on Enterprise Florida, but Chris Hudson and his high-powered team did outmuscle a former Senate President and passed the “union-busting bill,” which notched a sweet victory for them. Also, an effort to create a funding source for Hollywood it opposed had a quiet death.

Anti-drug community — Kudos to substance abuse providers, county sheriffs, the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association for recommending and working to protect funding for medication-assisted treatment and mental health counseling programs. They’re vital in addressing the opioid epidemic (remember that?).

Associated Industries of Florida — Led by Tom Feeney and Brewster Bevis, the AIF team was successful in delivering several pro-business and pro-consumer measures in their fight to protect Florida’s business community. From helping to pass branded glassware, deferred presentment transactions, out-of-country foreign money judgments, state assumption of federal 404 dredges and fill permitting authority to defeat retroactive claim denial and defeating efforts to repeal PIP, AIF was instrumental in the halls of the Capitol on behalf of Florida employers and employees.  As eyes turn toward election season, I look forward to seeing what’s to come from their political operations.

Tom Feeney and Brewster Bevis bring home the wins for the Associated Industries of Florida.

Babies — It was touch and go, but efforts to reduce infant mortality were able to keep funding at last year’s level, instead of a 30 percent haircut. The Senate receded on a plan to shave $19 million from the programs; they said providers were duplicating help elsewhere. The House came to the rescue. New moms and moms-to-be will benefit.

Beekeepers — They didn’t get a new license plate, but they did get enhanced penalties for the theft of a beehive. The legislation will double the fine from $5,000 to $10,000 for the felony theft of a bee colony of a registered beekeeper. This stuff actually happens: The Miami Herald recently reported the charging of a Miami Lakes pastor (!) for the heist of thousands of bees.

Booze delivery — Dana Young pushed through a bill, on its way to Scott, that would expressly authorize alcohol delivery services accessed via a smartphone app. Delivery through apps such as Drizly and Shipt is already available in the state, but “current law does not address orders received via the internet or other electronic forms of communication.” Guess who else supported the measure? Yep, Uber.

Bail bond agents — The industry lobbied hard against a sweeping criminal justice reform would have cost taxpayers $10 million to fund and would have authorized counties to create supervised bond release programs. It would have allowed qualifying inmates to be moved from prison to county jails in cases when they are terminally ill and given less than a year to live. Guess what? Rob Bradley, the Senate budget chair who was behind it, killed his own bill in light of all the late-Session priorities. But he said he’ll address it next year. As Bob Marley sang, “He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day …”

Beer drinkers — Bars and restaurants are now allowed to accept branded glassware from vendors for free which will reduce costs for retailers. Studies have shown having the appropriate style of glass available to consumers enhances the overall image of beer. This legislation will help retailers provide the best beer drinking experience to customers.

Beer glassware finds success in the 2018 Session.

Businesses that rent — The reduction of the commercial lease tax is another cost-saving win for thousands of retailers across the state. Florida remains the only state in the nation that charges this burdensome tax.

Chris Nocco — The Pasco Sheriff brought home the bacon for the Thomas Varnadoe Forensic Center for Research and Education, a forensic research and training facility in Pasco County. It was a priority for him.

College kids — Students with excess credits (over 120) are catching a break. The bill by Amber Mariano and Aaron Bean will alleviate certain surcharges currently charged to students. The measure will provide refunds of excess charges for students that finish their degree within four years. Carrot, instead of a stick.

Community college presidents — Take Sarasota-Manatee president Carol Probstfeld. She appeared to have fended off a bill which would provide for enrollment caps for baccalaureate degrees and a new state board. While funding for state colleges decreased, protecting their kingdoms from greater oversight won out over allocations.

Corcoran & Johnston — Although the lobbying firm’s business indeed did not suffer over the last two years, won’t it be nice for Michael Corcoran to stop being asked, “Excuse me, is Richard your brother?” (We kid. Everyone knows they’re related.)

Crusade against child marriages — An issue that many in The Process were unaware was even happening in Florida jumped to the forefront. But the bill that passed was watered down, some said, from an outright ban on minors getting married to an exception for 17-year-olds. Still, this should help the extreme examples from happening, such as very young teens getting hitched to older men. Nice work Sen. Benacqusto. And a shoutout to Gus Corbella and Ryan Wiggins for their work behind the scenes.

FHCA — It was yet another successful year for the Florida Health Care Association. Representing more than 80 percent of Florida’s nursing homes, FHCA’s highest priority focused on the health, well-being and comfort of the residents under their care. With strong support from President Negron, the Legislature provided nursing home residents with their first Medicaid funding increase in many years, $138 million that will help maintain quality care for some of our state’s most frail residents. Those residents will also see their personal needs allowance increased to $130; that’s an additional $25 per month to help them pay for personal items that will improve their quality of life. The association also worked closely with leaders to ensure that new generator rules stayed focused on what’s best for long-term care residents during disasters.

First responders — Those who serve selflessly and are in need of help got a boost from lawmakers, in no small part due to CFO Patronis. He carried the flag for police, firefighters, paramedics and others who seek treatment for job-related PTSD through their workers’ comp benefit. The League of Cities initially fought it tooth and nail, saying their members would suffer the burden of added costs. They backed down; the heroes won.

Firefighters — Bills passed that would create a public records exemption for fire plans (SB 738); make it a crime to bribe a fire marshal (SB 820), and another was killed that would have gutted a high-rise sprinkler retrofit bill (SB 1432). Also, the “trash valet” bill (SB 746) was amended to ensure compliance with national regulations and sunset provision in 2021.

Farm Share — It’s always nice when a good-guy organization comes out ahead in the legislative process, and there aren’t many causes better than Farm Share. Thanks to a partnership with the Legislature, Farm Share reclaims fresh, healthy produce that’s not pretty enough for stores and provides it, free of charge, to needy Floridians. Farm Share recently surpassed 500 million pounds of food donated to Floridians, and last year was an indispensable part of Florida’s recovery from Hurricane Irma — distributing more than 2 million pounds of food and supplies in just the first 10 days after the storm devastated the state. Given Farm Share’s nimble disaster response and return on investment, the nonprofit saw an increase of nearly $1 million in its state funding.

Florida Gulf Coast U. — The school got $13.7 million for operational funding, $10 million for a coastal studies building, $500,000 for an academic achievement initiative. Shoutout to Floridian Partners for shepherding all that through The Process.

Florida Gulf Coast University scored some serious cash in Session.

Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association — Carol Dover’s organization can claim major victories on navigating the state’s regulation of the hospitality industry. When legislation was filed to support short-term rentals, FRLA was the leader in those negotiations. Additionally, FRLA was a key player in ensuring that the franchise legislation did not pass. Furthermore, the association claimed a significant victory in the tourism development tax reform by requiring a minimum of 40 percent of that tax revenue is used for marketing before any expanded use — for many counties, it will equal an increase in tourism marketing expenditures.

Shawn Frost, Florida Coalition of School Board Members — Took wins as education policy in HB 7055 and HB 1279 had most of the issues identified by the FCSBM, including sustainable fix and funding for charter school capital outlay, district transparency and accountability, funding and expansion of parental choice, such as the Hope Scholarship, Struggling Reader Scholarship, and $25 million to address the waitlist for Gardiner Scholarships. Frost, of MVP Strategy and Policy, was a constant presence this session and was instrumental in delivering for his client.

Governors Club — The morning breakfast during the committee weeks and Legislative Session has been tastefully understated winners. The addition of the custom omelet station the final week packed the joint. The outdoor patio is enchanting. Winner, winner … but hey, could you do it every morning during Session and not just Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday?

Glades Communities south of Lake Okeechobee — The Florida Legislature is putting $50 million toward speeding up repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike for the second straight year. Gov. Scott has personally made the pitch for this funding, and has made four trips to the Glades to discuss the financing over the past year. Coupled with South Florida lawmakers delivering on a promise for additional workforce training dollars for the Glades communities, the people from “Muck City” fared well this year.

HCA — After nearly a decade of close legislative calls and legal wrangling, HCA scored a huge victory when the Legislature unanimously passed an overhaul of rules governing trauma centers, with the result allowing HCA to continue operating several trauma centers previously in dispute. Lawmakers also corrected the company’s EAPG reimbursement rates moving forward and will provide retroactive payments from last year. Finally, even though the agreed-upon state budget used the House’s rate enhancement framework, which favored the so-called “Safety Net” hospitals, legislators are now asking tough questions about public hospitals’ profits and acknowledging how Medicaid dollars should reimburse hospitals for the care they provide, rather than their corporate status. That alone is a huge win for HCA moving forward.

Institutes for Commercialization — The last bill passed by the House. It overhauled the Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research and replaced it with the Institute for Commercialization of Florida Technology, a privately managed investment arm focusing on tech and startups in this state and leveraging seed and angel investment from the private sector. It’s being called a game-changer for Florida’s innovation economy.

Insurance industry — They successfully prevented policy they didn’t like from seeing daylight, blocked the trial bar, tackled Uber, you name it. PIP repeal? Nope. But one low point: there was no movement on AOB reform, a signature issue for the industry. It will be front and center next year, as the companies are fed up and ready for a change.

Lennar — The largest homebuilder in the U.S. did pretty good in Florida this Session. An obscure, technical provision made it that extends the statute of limitations to sue on a “construction defect” to allow counterclaims, cross-claims, and third-party claims up to one year after a pleading is filed. It also specifies that “punch list” items and warranty work do not extend the statute of repose. A mini-law lesson from “A statute of limitations sets a lawsuit-filing time limit based on when the potential plaintiff suffered harm, while a statute of repose sets a deadline based on the mere passage of time or the occurrence of a certain event that doesn’t itself cause harm or give rise to a potential lawsuit.”

Lennar, one of the nation’s top homebuilders, did pretty good in 2018.

Mary Brogan Early Detection Program  There’s actually a program everyone can get behind — and they did. All of us have been affected by cancer in one way or another, and there are more than 19,000 breast cancer stories in Florida every year. The Mary Brogan Early Detection Program provides cancer screenings to medically underserved women, and this dedicated program won strong support in the form of a switch to recurring dollars to continue its important quest to save lives. The Early Detection Program treats patients like they’re family, with a network of doctors and advocates who have helped women get the attention and care they need. Recurring dollars make planning so much easier for crucial programs like this so kudos to the admirable Mary Brogan Early Detection Program — and you can bet I’ll be rocking my pink shirt.

Mental health advocates — It’s a shame that a tragedy like Parkland has to occur to cause winners in the legislative process. That said, mental health advocates are finally counting a big win after years of spotty, unpredictable funding. Schools and increased safety measures will also come out as big winners. “Winner” is a difficult designation to assign to this sad chapter in our history, however. Maybe the win will be the change and good that comes from it all.

Alisa LaPolt — A former Gannett news reporter and nurses’ lobbyist, now leading NAMI-Florida, she gained new visibility at the Capitol in the face of a statewide tragedy as the voice of individuals and families affected by mental illness. NAMI-Florida under her leadership was instrumental in getting provisions in legislation requiring schools to have mental health public awareness programs for teachers and students, for one. She’s sure to press the issue in 2019 as well.

Newspapers — The digital powers couldn’t force a change in public notice laws, meaning legacy “print” media gets another reprieve from losing their monopoly. Florida law ensures Old Media an in by requiring meeting notices and other legal notices, to be in print. Under state law, such ads must run in a newspaper published at least once a week and considered a county’s publication of record. So Gannett and others can count on that revenue stream for at least another year.

Northeast Florida — The last year has been an eventful one for the area: Rob Bradley became Appropriations Chairman and performed like a seasoned professional. Future House Speaker Paul Renner capably handled his chamber’s tax package. Sen. Travis Hutson took some major steps toward becoming a future presiding officer. And don’t forget Senator Audrey Gibson, who ascended to the role of Leader-designate of the Senate Democrats. If only there were a Jacksonville-based lobbying firm that works with them all … oh wait, there are: The Fiorentino Group, as well as Southern Strategy Group’s Matt Brockelman and Deno Hicks.

Rob Bradley is among the lawmakers making a difference for Northeast Florida. 

Nurses — A piece of legislation brings Florida Advanced Practice Nurses in closer alignment with the National Council of State Boards of Nursing Consensus Model. It changes the title from Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) to Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) and adding Clinical Nurse Specialists to the APRN role, as well as clarifying certification. Credit lobbyist Allison Carvajal on this one.

Orlando — Lawmakers approved a measure allowing smaller restaurants downtown to serve liquor. If signed, eateries with smaller floor space and fewer seats could get special licenses to offer booze. Mayor Buddy Dyer pushed the legislation, saying it’d be a boost to business and would increase foot traffic. Hoist one for us.

Physicians — The Florida Academy of Family Physicians picked up a win with legislation that allows doctors to sign direct-primary care agreements with patients. This is sometimes referred to as “concierge care” for the masses. It’s a new patient-centered model that allows doctors to contract directly with small businesses and patients without involving insurance companies. (Not that insurers are happy about this movement.)

“Pre-eminent” universities — Gobs of money were thrown at Florida State and UF for construction projects, including atmospheric sciences, an interdisciplinary research commercialization building and College of Business. Not to focus on FSU, but how much did it also help to have the heft of John Thrasher and Kathy Mears? Just a little? Sure. And credit assists to The Mayernick Group and Paul Hawkes.

Residents of the not-so Sunshine State  With the passage of the disaster preparedness sales-tax holiday, citizens of Florida are winners because they have more time to get prepared for all of Florida’s natural disasters while also saving money. Thanks to the Florida Retail Federation’s advocacy efforts, this year’s holiday was extended from three days to seven days. With more time to purchase generators and other vital supplies, residents and visitors in our state will already be prepared when the storm comes, rather than last-minute rushing to the store.

Red light cameras — Efforts to get rid of them failed again this year, as they have in recent years. Who wins? American Traffic Solutions, the vendor that supplies and maintains many of the systems, and makes a pretty penny from them. Supporters say the cameras save lives and allow law enforcement to get a grip on more serious crime. Opponents counter that red-light cameras are just a way to shake down motorists for money through fines.

Retailers and consumers — Every year, there are attempts to raise the felony threshold for retail theft. This year was no different — the proposed new threshold was $1,000. After a Session-long fight, the Florida Retail Federation was successful in making sure criminals didn’t get a cost-of-living increase on the back of retailers. By keeping the threshold as is at $300, the group says it will help deter retail theft and organized retail crime, which the FRF says will keep small businesses from raising their prices to compensate for stolen merchandise.

“Safety net” hospitals — Shouts out to Tony Carvalho and Lindy Kennedy of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida. The Legislature agreed to fund another $319 million — including the federal share — in the upcoming year’s budget, as they did for this year (2017-18). They honestly need the help: “Safety net hospitals ensure the highest level of care to all Floridians, regardless of their ability to pay,” they say. Here, here.

Short-term lenders — Critics have had a field day blasting payday lenders, but the industry worked relentlessly to show legislators how valuable their products are to Floridians who need quick funds but can’t walk into a bank or credit union and leave with cash. Energized by a heavy-handed federal regulation that would have hammered their industry, short-term lenders pushed harder than ever to ensure that Floridians have access to the credit options they need. Sponsored by Reps. Janet Cruz and Jamie Grant in the House with Sens. Rob Bradley and Oscar Braynon in the Senate, HB 857 and SB 920 made winners of companies like Amscot and Advance America, which were absolutely relentless in their work to retain important consumer protections. Overwhelmingly passing through all committee meetings and on the floor, the legislation is a huge win for consumers who use these services and the companies that provide them.

Payday lenders, like Amscot, also took home a W.

Supreme Court justices — It’s good to be a top jurist. The budget includes pay boosts for all seven justices, hiking their paychecks 36 percent to $220,000 a year. They’re not alone. Other state judges get a raise, as do prosecutors and public defenders. And state law enforcement officers will get more, either 7 or 10 percent, depending. Even state-employed firefighters get a $2,500 raise. Finally, some respect. Let’s see Gov. Scott try to line-item veto these.

Tech industry — Major wins: The adoption of proviso language that shows a preference for cloud solutions in procurement; state data and information will have increased protection, security and analytic capabilities. Moreover, with the passage of HB 495, Florida students will have greater access to computer science and coding. Studying these disciplines gives students computational thinking, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, advocates say.

Teye Reeves — Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum! The “sea piracy” bill, also known as “vessel salvage” (HB 469), foundered this year thanks to a mutiny led by Reeves, of Floridian Partners. The oh-so-heavily-lobbied bill successfully passed seven committees of reference, but never walked the plank all the way to the Senate floor. (We have mixed some metaphors here …)

Jeff Vinik — The Legislature sent to the governor a proposal to create a special district to fund some features of a proposed $3 billion development in the city’s Channelside neighborhood. The proposal is backed by Strategic Property Partners, a partnership of Bill Gates’ investment arm, Cascade Investment, and Vinik, a billionaire developer. Water Street Tampa has become one of the most eagerly awaited private developments in Tampa.

Volusia County’s beach access — A measure by Katie Edwards-Walpole now creates requirements for “customary use” ordinances, including court approval. It was drafted based on and around Volusia County. The bill, if signed, will leave intact Volusia’s beach access ordinance. The issue was lobbied by GrayRobinson’s Chris Carmody and Robert Stuart.

Greg Evers’ legacy — A measure to create a road in the late state senator’s name passed the Legislature. SB 382 will designate a “Greg Evers Memorial Highway” in the Panhandle, where Evers was from. He died in single-car accident near his home last year.

A Greg Evers memorial passed the Legislature this Session.

Mixed Bag

Joe Abruzzo — The state Senator-turned-state Representative has suffered a lot of ignominies seeing his private life dragged out in the press in recent years. Now he’s leaving the House early. It seems to us like he could have done more as a lawmaker, but we never begrudge anyone exiting the Legislature for personal reasons. Good luck, Joe.

Janet Cruz — What legislative issue did she carry across the line this Session? Well, there was that vote-by-mail fix. But when it came to the gun debate, she spoke loudly but said nothing. She couldn’t keep her caucus in order during meetings, and couldn’t hold caucus votes in line when it mattered most. Maybe she was saving her powder for her county commission race.

Janet Cruz’s record was a mixed bag this year.

Boaters — You hear the word “pirates,” and you immediately think of Johnny Depp movies, Gasparilla marauders, or Tampa Bay’s football team. Despite those cuddly images, an organization of Florida boaters used pirate images to brand maritime salvage and towing services as cutthroat brigands. In just its first year, the bill cleared seven separate committees and was passed overwhelmingly by the House, but got caught up in the end-of-session crunch and died in the Senate amid effective lobbying on both sides. Supporters shrewdly branded the salvage companies as “modern-day pirates” taking advantage of innocent boat owners, while the salvors pushed back by pointing out that they were saving lives and preventing loss. Rough seas ahead for any pirates looking for a bigger paycheck, because there may be no stopping the power of unyielding Florida boaters.

Drug addicts  An FRF-backed proposal would’ve required doctors to use e-prescribing software when doling out prescriptions instead of the old-fashioned and easily-manipulated paper tablets, making it much tougher for patients to forge a prescription. Since the Governor’s office wouldn’t accept it in the opioid package, the forging will remain, and addicts will continue to gain access to dangerous drugs helping to fuel our state’s opiate epidemic.

Dunkin’ Donuts, 7-Eleven, et al. — Corporate brands scored a victory but had to beat back a determined effort by Florida entrepreneurs who own franchise operations and wanted to level the playing field. The Florida Retail Federation and others, representing brands from McDonald’s to UPS, helped fight off the franchise operators for the second year, as they worked for greater legal protections in the business relationship. Franchise owners wanted protections to stop the corporations from dominating their activities, and the corporations like things the way they are. This effort is likely to come up again, so we’ll see how that plays out.

Environmental funding — Lawmakers couldn’t agree on the broad outlines of a deal to pay for future purchases of land for conservation. Part of the reason: Activists fought each other’s interests by backing competing bills this year. Remember that the Florida Forever program got zero money in the current state budget. That means, yep, gird your loins for next year. Even though Rob Bradley otherwise called this Session “a home run for the environment.”

Florida Chamber of Commerce — Got a hit with elements of tax cut package, but struck out on AOB and ‘bad faith’ reform, workers’ comp changes, etc. Hard to put them in the mixed bag with more losses than wins this year, but they’re still pushing the cost of living reductions for Floridians, and they haven’t forgotten the importance of infrastructure investment.

Florida Justice Association — The trial lawyers land in the mixed bag again this year. It’s a tad surprising Jeff Porter’s team did not see many bills pass, including a priority PIP insurance redo. But give ‘em credit for beating back AOB, bad faith and workers’ comp changes. They also helped shed new light on human trafficking and, like their AIF counterparts, quietly embedded amendments throughout legislation. Plus, Kevin Sweeny continued an unprecedented political winning-streak throughout Session for the trial bar — even if his hand was sometimes unseen.

Fracking — This is another one of this issues that seems like a no-brainer, yet it fails to cross the finish line every year. A ban on fracking, the pumping of water and chemicals into the ground to flush out oil and gas deposits, was carried by Dana Young this year. It got some hearings but ultimately didn’t go anywhere in the House. But fracking’s not gonna happen in Florida anytime soon anyway, so …

Hospitals — Another Session draws to a conclusion and the House’s attempts at reform the “certificate of need” process, ambulatory recovery centers, and the other priorities of the current leadership. The celebration, however, shouldn’t last long because all should expect the pursuit to continue under Speaker Jose Oliva’s tenure. They got whacked on rural hospitals and funding formula, but they won the priority bills by the fails of CON repeal, Recovery Care Centers/Ambulatory Surgical Center Overnight Stays, PIP, workers comp payment cuts and advanced birthing centers. All passed the House, then died in the Senate … even without Latvala there.

Hotel industry — OK, so they won the vacation rental battle. But they looked ugly “winning” on human trafficking. A provision that would have allowed young victims of prostitution rings to sue hotels where they were forced to “work” failed this Session. And it would have created a trust fund from civil penalties. But the lodging lobby made sure it went down.

League of Cities — We’re starting to think they’re not the “white hats” everyone thinks they are. The group opposed helping first responders with PTSD (though it later backed away from that opposition). Then they opposed a bill that would block lawsuits against people who request public records. Then they pitched a fit over another bill to require uniform elections to increase turnout. We get it: They’re advocating for cities and being able to keep cities’ costs down. But their negativity is starting to be a bad look.

Pat Roberts — The Tallahassee-based TV producer took a win when a judge quashed subpoenas for his financial and tax records related to shows he made featuring star chef Emeril Lagasse for VISIT FLORIDA. But even though Speaker Corcoran, who pursued this case, is headed out the door, don’t assume Speaker-in-waiting Jose Oliva and the GOP House is just going to drop this.

Pat Roberts faced down subpoenas this year from the Florida House on video deals with VISIT FLORIDA.

Policyholders — While PIP was put to the test this session, it ended up getting TP’d and was never brought up again.  Lobbyists say that’s a win for Florida motorists: A measure being pushed by the trial bar would have wiped away years of cost-saving reforms.  But policyholders will have to wait to see savings from Assignment of Benefits (AOB) reform.

The Seminole Tribe — As gambling bill dies, one wonders how much more money will they have to contribute to state coffers before they finally get some respect? The failure of a bill to pass means no renewed deal for blackjack, though they still have it at least through 2030. Still, with the jet gassed and ready Friday, another year of nothing has to grind Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen’s gears.

Trees — Greg Steube’s tree-trimming bill itself got pruned this Session, after it aimed initially at pre-empting all tree regulation to the state, bypassing locals. It would have required utilities to get permits to work on the right of way if interfered with power lines. Then an amendment freed the utilities to perform trimming as they please. Oh well.

Biggest Loser

Gary Farmer — He filed more than half a dozen bills to unpin the insurance industry, and none of them were heard in committee. Farmer also appears headed for defeat in his race to become the Senate Democratic Leader. How tin-eared do you have to be to tell a woman that “small children” would hamper her duty to be a leader? Tell it to Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo. Or Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. Or Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors.

Gary Farmer: 2018’s biggest loser.


Randolph Bracy — He was given a chance to be chairman of a prominent policy committee as a freshman Democrat. What does he do? Flagrantly denied requests by those on his own committee to hear their bills. Don’t fool yourself that Bill Galvano wasn’t paying attention. Bracy’s heavy-handedness will make it that much harder for his colleagues to secure chairmanships under future GOP leadership in the Senate.

Anitere Flores — Where do we begin? She couldn’t get her committees to successfully pass PIP repeal for Tom Lee, the trial bar, even President Joe Negron. The high-priority bill could not even make it through a confused and sloppy meeting of the committee she chairs. Let’s not forget the painfully awkward disclosure and acknowledgment of her marital infidelity at Session’s beginning.

Jose Javier Rodriguez — The Herald put it nicely: If Scott approves this, it “forces nearly a half-dozen local and state lawmakers to choose between holding onto a sure thing and taking the risk of running for the congressional seat that Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is giving up in order to retire.” State Sen. Rodriguez is among them.  Sorry, JJR. On a side note, who really wants to pay for all those special elections?

Matt Caldwell — Nobody told him running to the cameras immediately after Parkland to say why he was pro-gun was just too craven. When MSD students were at the Capitol, he tried too hard, pointing to his lapel ribbon to support them, while he continually Politifact’ed himself into false talking points. A string of legislative failures preceded that: Don’t get us started on “Florida ForNever” under his watch. Then the odd zoning amendments in the HB 883 meltdown.

Matt Caldwell’s televised misstep on guns puts him on the loser list.

Kim Daniels — She pushed an unneeded bill to require that “In God We Trust” be posted in all public schools.  In the wake of Hurricane Irma, she distinguished herself by asserting that “prophets” saw the storm coming. Then she used the storm as an excuse to hold off her foreclosure. She’s faced ethics and elections complaints. In the name of the Lord, indeed.

Bobby Payne — He backed a bill to inject treated sewage water into the aquifer. Where we, you know, get our drinking water. Really?

Christian Bax — The state’s top medical marijuana regulator, who got his job through his rich dad, arguably took Jesse Panuccio’s place (remember him?) as the Legislature’s favorite punching bag. As one lawmaker privately told a reporter, “I would not be surprised if this guy were unable to find his (orifice) with a funnel.” He has taken drubbing after drubbing for delays in getting medicinal cannabis to more qualified patients, all the while blaming an admittedly large number of lawsuits and administrative challenges. With Scott out of office early next year, MMJ advocates say they can hardly wait for a change.

Marion Hammer — Parkland made both her and the NRA run for cover, cowering under criticism for what many believe has been grossly undue influence over the process. The fact Republican leadership has stepped forward with packages they both deem unacceptable shows how far they may have fallen in the process.

Constituents — Residents of Senate District 16 and 31, and House Districts 33, 39, and 114 had no or little representation this Session, as those seats went vacant, pending special elections.

#MeToo — Real sexual harassment and ethical behavior — no one should assume things have gotten better just because the articles have ceased and the hallway conversations have changed. It is how the process goes. Something more significant has occurred, and all attention is focused elsewhere. Until the root is plucked, branches will continue to grow.

Airbnb — The vacation rental website really wanted the state to pre-empt local regulation of their services. The Legislature tried but didn’t pass anything. Casey Cook from the League of Cities led the fight and herded the cats. Even in the pre-emption loving House, the first committee approval took two meetings and a lot of whipping to get a narrow victory. Later efforts to put VR friendly amendments on the condo bills was also thwarted.

Affordable housing — As Rep. Bob Cortes tweeted Friday: “After a very long session and many hours of work, HB 987 on Affordable Housing died because @FLSenate would not take it up and no reason why. #disappointed”

Auburn fans — That license plate bill finally died, bringing agony to proponents Rep. Jamie Grant and Kevin Cate. As Grant tweeted Friday: “So much good stuff in that bill that was the product of colleagues working across the aisle to empower some really great nonprofits and causes in FL Reforms to the program died too …”

Bicyclists — Chris Moya of Jones Walker successfully killed bicycle “ride share” legislation that would pre-empt cities’ and counties’ ability to prevent companies from putting a bunch of bikes in their communities. Moya represents several bike companies that opposed the legislation: Decco Bike and Cycle Hop. Too bad: We had our helmets and skin-hugging bike pants ready to go.

Fantasy sports fans — Also dying with gaming legislation this year were efforts to clarify that fantasy sports play is not gambling and should not be regulated as such. It really isn’t a loss per se, but means fantasy players in Florida will continue their hobby in a legal gray area. Not that we expect police to start breaking down doors over this.

Flu sufferers — Had a tough time getting in to see your primary care doctor for your flu symptoms? Unable to get your hands on a box of Tamiflu? Having pharmacists around the state test and treat for the flu would’ve made life a lot easier for thousands of Floridians. But this bill was denied by the Legislature, forcing sick patients and their children to suffer instead of receiving treatment.

Fight against distracted driving — A bill that would have made texting while driving a primary enforcement law went all the way through the House and three committees in the Senate but stalled on the Senate Appropriations desk after a hard push by Florida families and organizations to pass this lifesaving measure and protect Florida families.  It will be back next year if Emily Slosberg has anything to do with it.

Felons’ voting rights — Despite a federal judge saying the state clemency process is unconstitutional, legislators didn’t pony up money to handle the backlog of ex-cons who just want to vote. Black lawmakers called foul, but the zero line didn’t budge. And Gov. Scott and the Cabinet are declining to hear dozens of cases as they appeal the ruling.

Greyhounds — The Senate passed a ban on using steroids in racing greyhounds, only to see it sit untouched in the House. The language isn’t getting any play in the gaming conference, either. Dog trainers say small amounts of steroids are used only for birth control, not to enhance performance. But dog-racing opponents, including Dana Young, call it “doping.”

Home rule — Cities and counties have been under constant barrage by legislative leadership, raising the question as to whether the Republican principle of “the government closest to the people is best” is being traded for “do as I say, not as I do.”

Injured immigrants — A bill intended to stop companies from dodging workers’ compensation benefit payouts to undocumented workers who are injured on the job died. The effort was born in the wake of two news investigations last year that showed how a change in the law enabled some companies to deny benefits to undocumented workers after they were hired and injured at work. The injured workers would be reported to state law enforcement for using fake IDs or Social Security numbers.

New World School of the Arts — The Miami performing arts school, whose grads include Oscar-winning Tarrell Alvin McCraney of “Moonlight” fame, lost added state funding. The school gives teens the opportunity to train in music, theater, dance and visual arts. The reduction means programs may be cut. So goes showbiz.

Panhandle drivers — The controversial bridge known as Bo’s Bridge was named after former House Speaker Bolley “Bo” Johnson. Sadly, the bridge ended up in default because not enough motorists use it. An effort to get money for it went nowhere. Can you blame them?

Bo’s Bridge goes nowhere with lawmakers.

Public schools — While the Legislature touts the record “$101 increase in student funding,” in truth this funding is almost all taken up with the mandates to provide mental health services and pay for school resource officers.  Districts must also pay for increased FRS rates to the tune of $53 million statewide. In the end, the real increase in student funding to provide additional programs and services to students is a paltry 0.47 cents.

Rural cities — Rural cities and counties in the Big Bend and Panhandle got hosed. Once again, the budget priorities, especially water projects, appear to be going South.

Sanctuary cities — The Corcoran-Gillum debate, substantial statewide media buy, and it still didn’t go anywhere. Plenty of pushback, including IMPAC Fund’s Mike Fernandez letter signed by more than 120 bipartisan leaders calling on the Governor, Corcoran and Negron to kill the bill. Well, it made for a terrifying (and somewhat disingenuous) ad, anyway.

St. Pete Chamber of Commerce — No longer able to depend on Jack Latvala, the group lost the USF consolidation battle. President Chris Steinocher and Advocacy Manager Matt Lettelier badly misplayed their hand on this issue.

Theme parks — The combined team of Florida Brewers Guild, the state’s craft beer group; Beer Industry of Florida, the Miller and craft beer distributors; and Miller-Coors itself won this year’s fight against the “theme park” legislation, which would have allowed Universal Orlando, SeaWorld and others to start pumping alcohol beverage manufacturers for an additional revenue stream, or was it called “cooperative advertising?”

TIKD — The Florida Supreme Court ordered the Miami-Dade firm that helps customers fight traffic tickets to show why it isn’t practicing law without a license.

Water projects — Another area that became a funding casualty because of the late-Session focus on responding to the Parkland tragedy and redirecting money to school safety and mental health programs. So, things like better treating stormwater and improving sewer lines will be on hold again.

Write-in candidates — This could have finally addressed the whole problem of write-ins filing and closing a primary. The Supreme Court even told lawmakers this is an area they needed to fix. And again, no action.

EXTRA EDITION — The media’s winners and losers (by Peter Schorsch alone so don’t blame anyone else.)


POLITICO Florida — Even if Matt Dixon’s bureau had not written a single story during the past 60 days, PF would still be in the winners’ column because of its coverage of the sexual harassment scandals. However, with its strong-throughout-the-lineup roster of silo’ed reporters, it’s clearly the top outfit in Tally.

Florida Politics — I’ll spare you the false humility and just state that I think this was #FlaPol’s best Session to date. From first thing in the morning with “Sunburn” until “60 Days” hits inboxes in the evening, this, um, bureau covers more ground than any other outlet.

News Service of Florida — The revitalized NSF, now under the helm of Will Galloway, had one of its best Sessions this decade. Christine Sexton is still the best-specialized reporter in the Capitol, and we really dig Dara Kam’s blog.

Matt Dixon – Forget about how many scoops he scores or about how accessible he is as a reporter and just think about how much solid content he pumps out. If you are a Pro subscriber you know that he often bylines four or five stories a day. And now he’s co-writing Playbook!

Marc Caputo – I like complimenting Caputo as much as I enjoy splashing lemon juice in my eye, but when he’s focused and not engaging with the trolls on Twitter, he’s one of the best. His recent coverage of the politics of Parkland was superb.

Mary Ellen Klas — The Miami Herald veteran wore her heart — and her disdain for much of The Process — on her sleeve this Session, especially during the last few weeks when the gun control debate took over the narrative. The quality of her writing is almost unrivaled.

Honorable mentions

Brian Burgess – A welcome addition to the new media column, Burgess is already expanding his micro-empire by hiring reporters and producing a TV show. My only complaint with Burgess is that he doesn’t write enough. And when he does write (like for his occasionally brilliant Monday Mailbag) it feels like an afterthought. Slow down, buddy, Rome was not built in a day.

Ana Ceballos — The newest addition to Extensive Enterprises is a star in the making. She undoubtedly will be working in D.C. or NYC soon enough. Until then, she will have worked tirelessly for Florida Politics and will soon join the Naples Daily News, where she’ll work the big stories that are the strong suit of traditional media.

Bill Day – They say editorial cartooning is so last century, but the gifted talent that is Bill Day turned out one masterpiece after another during Session. This is how you know he’s doing it right: when the lawmakers he zings end up requesting an original copy of one of his cartoons.

Jim DeFede – There is no hotter seat than the one opposite the South Florida TV man during one of his interviews. No, he’s not a presence in Tallahassee, but he’s a force to be reckoned with nonetheless when he’s reporting on a statewide issue.

John Kennedy — One of the best developments in the Capitol Press Corps was this veteran newspaperman’s return to print media. He instantly improved the coverage at GateHouse’s many Florida properties.

Tia Mitchell – I can’t believe I am writing this, but I genuinely missed the former Times-Union reporter’s coverage of Session. You know who else missed it? Many black lawmakers who looked to Mitchell as their go-to to get their already-buried stories into the press. Her absence is a reminder that it is the #PressCorpsSoWhite.

The newcomers – There’s been so much turnover in the Capitol Press Corps that one needs a scorecard to keep all the names straight. Yet the rookies, like Elizabeth Koh of the T/H and Dan McAuliffe of #FlaPol offer hope for the future.

Brad Swanson – He’s an association president, not a journalist, so how is he on this list? Because he’s built Florida Internet & Television into a force with its interviews of the key players and those who cover them.

Dan Sweeney – The Sun Sentinel’s man in Tallahassee was already one of the hardest working scribes in The Process. Then Parkland happened and he found a sixth gear. His Twitter feed has been essential reading as the gun control debate has unfolded. How soon until he gets scooped up by the T/H or POLITICO?

Mike Vasilinda – To paraphrase Paul Simon, Vasalinda is still great after all these years … still great after all these years. Of all the talking heads in front of a camera, he still has the best presence.

Mixed bag

Gary Fineout – It seems like every year I write the same thing: There’s reporter more knowledgeable about the process than Fine(d)out, yet so much of that institutional knowledge is wasted because the AP doesn’t have a use for it. The only difference this year was Fineout seemed more cranky than usual, especially when he was deriding the “influence media.”

Alexandra Glorioso — Don’t get me wrong, Glorioso is a star in the making, as exemplified by her dogged reporting of the Jack Latvala scandal. But her coverage of health care politics was not at the same level. It didn’t help that it was a quiet year for that issue.

Arek Sarkissian — Again, here’s a POLITICO reporter who is part of its strong team, but his coverage of the vice beat was mostly good, but not great, especially on gambling issues (where Jim Rosica set the pace). The Pat Roberts story also slipped off the line.

Florida Channel — Hey, we really appreciate the wall-to-wall coverage of Session, including the press avails and conference meeting (thereby allowing some reporters to, you know, spend a moment or two with their kid(s) while watching the action from home. But the drops! Oh, my goodness, is it frustrating how often the signal from FC drops.

Tallahassee Democrat — You can’t even put the local paper in the losers’ category because it doesn’t really compete, although James Call’s reporting was the best its been in some time. If only the Democrat paid attention to the Capitol as much as it did the local beat, which it is crushing.

Times/Herald — The one-time leader of the pack entered Session with a slew of holes in its roster. As capable as the new folks are — especially Lawrence Mower — it was too much of a rebuilding year for the T/H.


Jason Garcia — Don’t get me wrong, when Garcia is engaged, the Florida Trend writer is — surprisingly given his platform — one of the best in the game. But he was mostly absent this Session. Come back to the Twitters, Jason!

Florida Times-Union — The Jacksonville daily did not replace Tia Mitchell going into Session, leaving one of the state’s most essential communities (represented by a powerful delegation) with wire coverage the past two months.

Sunshine State News — Allison Nielsen leaving for a job in D.C. left the conservative site without a day-to-day reporter, rendering the site all but irrelevant during one of the most critical times of the year. Nancy Smith needs to reload quickly.

Adam Smith – What is a column from me about the media without a dig at the political editor at the Tampa Bay Times. He does realize that the Legislature is about politics and, therefore, he should be writing about what happens in Tallahassee? Yet he can barely get his Winner/Loser of the Week column straight (only a week ago he mixed up whether or not Paul Renner was backing a tax break). Why the Times has not made a change at this position is beyond me.

Jeff Vinik scores legislative win with passage of Water Street Tampa bill

A bill that would create a special taxing district for the Water Street Tampa development in Hillsborough County made it through the Legislature Friday with near-unanimous votes in the House and Senate.

The special improvement district created by HB 1393 would allow an appointed board to levy assessments on commercial properties and charge property tax of up to one mil – $1 per $1,000 of assessed value – on property within in the district.

Water Street Tampa, a private development, seeks to bring the first new office towers to Tampa in a quarter century, as well as retail, educational and entertainment space.

The building project will clock in at 9 million square feet once completed.

The measure cleared the House Monday and the Senate passed it with a pair of amendments cleaning up the language before kicking it back to the House with a 37-1 vote on Thursday. Sarasota Sen. Greg Steube was the lone no-vote on the bill.

The House concurred with the amendments and greenlit the bill with a unanimous vote on Friday evening.

It now heads to Gov. Rick Scott for a signature.

The bill was sponsored by Tampa Republican Rep. Jamie Grant and was a priority of the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation.

When the delegation discussed the bill ahead of the 2018 Legislative Session, Tampa Sen. Dana Young said Water Street Tampa developers could use the taxes they levy to “install and operate and maintain upscale amenities and infrastructure within the district that are far above and beyond what the city of Tampa would be able to do.”

Young added that the amenities would come at no cost to Tampa taxpayers, and said they could include bus shelters, enhanced landscaping and bike paths.

Kevin Rader no longer backing Gary Farmer for Democratic leader after ‘mansplaining’ comments

Kevin Rader has pulled his support of Gary Farmer for Senate Democratic Leader-designate, saying the Broward Democrat’s derogatory comments about their colleague, Lauren Book, are “obnoxious.”

As Florida Politics first reported in “Sunburn,” all hell is breaking loose within the Senate Democratic Caucus in the run-up to voting on who will lead the members during the next four years.

Last night, during what was supposed to be a routine vote to coronate Audrey Gibson, a movement against Farmer becoming Gibson’s successor began to develop.

That’s when Randolph Bracy unexpectedly nominated Book as Leader-designate. After she accepted the nomination, that’s when things really got heated. In an effort to unify the caucus, current leader Oscar Braynon pulled both Farmer and Book into a private meeting.

That’s where Farmer mansplained to Book about her limits as a legislative leader because she has two young children.

That was too much for Rader, who wrote his colleagues late Thursday night (something he says he had never done before and hopes to never do again) “because I am so upset by Senator Gary Farmer’s comments to Senator Lauren Book that we all have heard by now.”

“I just can’t believe that we have a member in our caucus that would insult another member by using sexist and antiquated comments about her children being a hindrance for her to be the Leader of our caucus,” writes Rader.

Because of his comments, Rader, who said he entered yesterday’s caucus meeting with the intention of voting for Farmer, says he can no longer do so.

Rader is now calling on Farmer to apologize to both Book and their Democratic colleagues.

Here is the full text of Rader’s letter to his Democratic colleagues.

I am writing you this evening — something I have never done before and hope to never do again — because I am so upset by Senator Gary Farmer’s comments to Senator Lauren Book that we all have heard by now.

I just can’t believe that we have a member in our caucus that would insult another member by using sexist and antiquated comments about her children being a hindrance for her to be the Leader of our caucus.

This is so obnoxious & I just can’t sit by while a fellow member makes these sorts of comments.

I couldn’t imagine not speaking up if someone said comments about Senator Rodriguez having 2 young children and not being able to run for Leader.

Senator Book hasn’t missed a beat and has been as effective of a Senator as we have in our caucus and indeed the entire Florida Senate.

Elected officials find a way to do their official duties in combination with their personal lives and their families.  It’s tough for all families, but members make it work.

I think at the minimum Senator Farmer must apologize publicly to both Senator Book and to the Caucus.

I know that things get heated while we’re here in Tallahassee and it’s the last week of session and sometimes tempers flare up, but there is no room in our caucus for sexist, discriminatory comments!

I entered yesterday’s Caucus meeting with the intention of voting for Senator Farmer, but I can no longer do so.

Two days of Donna Shalala: A review

In what has been the longest tease of a campaign rollout in South Florida political history, Donna Shalala finally announced Wednesday she was officially running in the CD 27 Democratic primary — but not before beating herself to her own punch when her campaign’s filing paperwork was spotted on the FEC website Monday night.

But despite the Miami Herald’s breathless, blow-by-blow coverage* of Shalala’s not-so-grand entrance into the already crowded primary, the actual rollout of Donna Shalala, candidate for Congress, has been somewhere between a snooze and a head-scratcher.

(*Three stories over two days bests even Marc Caputo’s recent Shalala obsession — which also seems to have waned as Shalala’s been giving the good stuff to the Herald’s David Smiley instead of Caputo.)

Team Donna was caught so flat-footed by the fact that their planned Wednesday announcement was pre-empted by a tweet from Bloomberg’s Greg Giroux that for two days she was a filed candidate (whose filing was made very public in the Miami Herald late Monday night) without a website or any statement from the candidate herself.

As she bided her time until Wednesday, each and every other filed Democrat in the race took the opportunity to say they’re staying in the race. Most took a swipe at Shalala while doing so (except for Kristen Rosen Gonzalez who inexplicably declared that the “pundits having already started to call this race for [Shalala]”).

And then announcement day comes, and finally, a “website” is up, which initially consists only of a contribute button, sign-up box, and a sprawling bio that is hagiographic even relative to your standard piece of campaign hagiography.

And in the head scratching-column, the first graph of her bio claims that she has “advocated tirelessly for … a living wage.”

Is this the same Shalala who played a mix of Nurse Ratchet, and the mean, fun-hating, Dean in Animal House when University of Miami janitors went on a literal hunger strike in 2006 over her refusal to pay them more, give them health care or allow them to unionize?

Perhaps that whole, nationally-watched episode just slipped the mind of the wannabe second* oldest freshman in the history of the U.S. House? Because in her “exclusive” first televised interview with CBS Miami’s Jim DeFede, she says: “I’ve always been on the side of janitors.”

(*James Bowler of Illinois holds the No. 1 designation at just a few months older than Shalala would be sworn in at when he took office in 1953.)

So the hunger strike was what? A “thank you, Donna” hunger strike?

There’s more head-scratching gold in the DeFede interview: She proclaimed “zero tolerance” for sexual harassment, right before defending her decision to stay in Bill Clinton’s Cabinet throughout the entire Monica Lewinsky scandal. She added that even today (post-#MeToo) Clinton should not have resigned.

But I can only expend so many words on this campaign before I put myself to sleep, and can’t close without discussing Shalala’s actual announcement video.

So … the video.

Like the rest of her still-in-its-infancy campaign was an odd froth of boring and bonkers.

The Shalala, direct-to-camera portions of the video were shot in what one must/is supposed to assume is her living room, in which she stands, wearing a red, Chairman Mao-esque kimono, against a red (Red! Isn’t this a Democratic primary?) and white backdrop that includes … a framed photo of Donna Shalala … wearing the same red kimono.

Is this some weird anti-Dorian Gray kind of voodoo? Does she have a different photo of herself, wearing a differently colored kimono, for each day of the week? Does she have a whole closet-full of that SAME red kimono, like that episode of Seinfeld?

And who has framed 8x10s of themselves in their living room?

After two days of this annoying weirdness, I’m exhausted. But I continue to be glad I don’t live in Miami, which seems to breed this sort of bizarro politics.

And if I was one of Shalala’s opponents in this Democratic primary, I’m definitely breathing a sigh of relief that the supposed 800 lb. gorilla in this race is a weird old lady running a pretty basic campaign for an office she seems only vaguely excited about seeking.

Jacksonville Bold for 3.9.18 — Cheat sheet

Jacksonville Bold for 3.9.18 — Cheat sheet

The Legislative Session is ending; hopefully, sooner than later.

And campaign season is heating up.

New candidates in state House races … and old back stories.

And Mayor Lenny Curry  — “Our Mayor,” per the branding — is seeking four more years.

Former City Council members seek a return to the dais.

And so on.

The next 14 months are going to be wild in Duval County.

Consider Bold your cheat sheet.

Rutherford pushes school safety bill

Schools should not be gun free zones, says U.S. Rep. John Rutherford.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” Rutherford said last week.

John Rutherford took to Fox News, touting his Stop School Violence Act.

Rutherford believes his Stop School Violence Act  offers security measures, including having teachers look for “warning signs” of “potential mass casualty shooters.”

Rutherford also dodged questions on divergences between him and Donald Trump that came to the fore during a televised White House meeting last week.

Additionally, he said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had a “unique opportunity” to change the culture in the Department of Justice. He didn’t offer much detail on that point, however.

Lawson plans Jacksonville roundtable

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson will host a House Small Business Committee hearing Monday, March 12, at 10 a.m. at the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Al Lawson will be in Jacksonville next week.

“Disparities in Access to Capital: What the Federal Government Is Doing to Increase Support for Minority-Owned Firms,” per Lawson’s office, will “examine the unique challenges minorities and women-owned businesses face when seeking funding from the Small Business Administration, traditional banks, private investment capital and additional financing mechanisms.”

The hearing will explore ways to overcome difficulties in securing financing by minority-owned businesses.

Davis’ parents back Brown

Alvin Brown was Jacksonville mayor when Jordan Davis was gunned down in 2012 at a gas station on the Southside.

Jordan Davis’ death is still memorable in Jacksonville.

In the years since, Brown has demonstrated support and friendship to Davis’ parents, and that support was reciprocated, via an official endorsement for Congress Wednesday.

Ron Davis and Lucy McBath, offered a joint statement, one that invoked both the Parkland massacre and the National Rifle Association.

“Nearly six years ago, our 17-year-old son Jordan was gunned down at a gas station in Jacksonville for simply playing music too loudly. The recent tragedy in Parkland shows just how little progress we’ve made, and how much more we still have to do, to keep our communities and kids safe from gun violence. This issue is truly one of life or death, and the stakes are too high for more excuses from do-nothing lawmakers, with our children’s blood on their hands, who ignore what’s in their heart to focus on what’s in their pocket. They readily support ‘Stand Your Ground’ and side with the NRA. Alvin Brown is a dedicated public servant with the courage to stand up to the gun lobby, and we know he will help make our country a safer, better place. We are proud to support his campaign.”

St. Johns Sheriff backs Johns in CD 6

St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns scored a significant endorsement Wednesday, from St. Johns Sheriff David Shoar, in the crowded GOP primary in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

David Shoar stayed close to home with his Congressional endorsement.

Shoar cited Johns’ “track record of supporting our public safety officers. He has done so on the St. Johns County Commission and will do so in Washington.”

Shoar pivoted from that track record to asserting that Johns was “someone that understands what it takes to keep our country safe, not only at home but at our border.”

Johns said it was “always humbling when such a highly respected law enforcement officer steps up to endorse.”

Shoar “has been on the front lines and knows what it takes to keep us safe,” Johns said. “I will rely on him and the public safety communities to make sure that the laws passed in Washington protect citizens against murderous foreign gangs and solving the nation’s opioid crisis. We need to listen to those tasked with protecting us for solutions to these issues.”

The GOP field in the district, one that runs from St. Johns County south to Volusia, has some candidates already, including former Ormond Beach state Rep. Fred Costello, businessman John Ward, and former Green Beret and current Fox News commentator Michael Waltz.

One of these Republicans will emerge from the primary to face likely Democratic nominee Nancy Soderberg in the general election.

Hogan knows best?

The race to succeed outgoing Rep. Jay Fant, an Attorney General hopeful, in Jacksonville’s House District 15 got more crowded on the Republican side Wednesday.

Joseph Hogan, the son of Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan, entered the GOP scrum.

Family feud, redux: will bad blood between Mike Hogan and Lenny Curry play into HD 15 scrap?

Hogan will face attorney Wyman Duggan and yacht broker Mark Zeigler in the primary.

Hogan made an audacious play during the Mayor’s race three years ago. He endorsed Democrat Alvin Brown over Republican Lenny Curry, crossing party lines despite what he called Brown’s “failed administration.”

“I didn’t make my decision lightly,” related Hogan in a series of text messages. “I plan to run for City Council one day, and I know that supporting Alvin could hurt me with the Party folk, but I think it’s the right thing to do.”

“I don’t look forward to Lenny losing, but someone has to win, and I think the people of Jacksonville are better off with Mayor Alvin Brown,” Hogan added.

The seeds for that endorsement, Hogan related, were planted four years prior, in the aftermath of his father’s narrow defeat at the hands of the Brown operation, upon which Curry said that “excuses are for serial losers,” a shot across the bow of the Hogan campaign that Joe took personally.

Interestingly, Hogan filed for the race just hours after Curry filed to run again for Mayor.

Curry’s chief political strategist, Tim Baker, is running the Wyman Duggan campaign, suggesting that there may be intrigue through August in this race.

Daniels’ NPA opponent touts fundraising

State Rep. Kim Daniels, an iconoclastic Jacksonville Democrat, has the Jacksonville political establishment behind her.

Among her January donors: members of the Rummell family, the Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters, and local dog track interests.

Rep. Kim Daniels’ NPA opponent thinks he has a shot; time will tell.

Daniels has nearly $16,000 cash on hand; however, her NPA opponent, Darcy Richardson, believes that he can be competitive in the November election.

Richardson claims to have raised “more than $6,100 as of yesterday. Most of those contributions will appear on my initial campaign finance filing covering the 12-13 days since opening my campaign account on Feb. 16. The balance — approximately $1,400 — will be reflected in the month of March.”

“That’s more than Republican Christian Whitfield raised during the entire 2016 election cycle. I haven’t begun to do any serious fundraising yet — that’ll happen over the next couple of months. And despite the district’s unfavorable demographics, I’m confident that I’ll be able to raise enough to put up a fight against arguably one of the most reprehensible and outlandish state lawmakers in the country,” Richardson adds.

Jacksonville Democrats have discussed primarying Daniels, but any expectations of that should be tempered by the incumbent’s strong community support.

It remains to be seen if Daniels can also be capsized by an NPA candidate.

Former Duval Dem chair running for state House

Neil Henrichsen, a former chair of the Duval County Democratic Party, is running for a state House seat in Volusia County.

He will face Republican incumbent state Rep. David Santiago of Deltona.

Former Duval County Democratic Party chair Neil Henrichsen is running for a State House seat in Volusia County.

Henrichsen, 55, of Deltona, is the second Democrat in the race. But the other, Tyran Rayaad Basil, has raised little money and shows minimal campaign activity — especially given his early start in April.

“Volusia County has always been a big home … and that’s a seat that should be Democratic,” he said. “It has a handful more registered Democrats and a representative in Santiago who has not done a lot for the district or the state.”

Henrichsen said he expects Santiago to be vulnerable for one vote. Two weeks ago, with survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre looking on, Santiago voted against allowing floor debate on House Bill 219, which would prohibit the sale, transfer or possession of assault weapons or large-capacity ammunition magazines.

Curry files for re-election

Surprise, surprise, surprise.

Except for a brief period when Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was discussed as a possible chief financial officer appointment, there has been little doubt that he would run for re-election.

The first inkling of that effort’s branding emerged Wednesday morning, via a new cover photo on his campaign Facebook page.

Lenny Curry is running for re-election. Not a surprise, but worthy of note.

The second, more definitive nugget: Curry filing for re-election Wednesday morning.

The third indication: a new political committee, Jacksonville On the Rise, which launched a six-figure TV and digital ad campaign Wednesday.

As was the case during his original campaign, the logo incorporates a bridge motif; the message is minimalistic: “Our mayor.”

For those familiar with the “One City, One Jacksonville” slogan, it’s clear that candidate Curry will run as a uniter, not a divider, in his re-election bid.

Will anyone serious jump into this race against him?

New Curry ad touts first-term accomplishments

Jacksonville on the Rise, a new local political committee designed to boost Mayor Lenny Curry‘s re-election bid, released its first ad this week: a six-figure buy.

To see the ad, click the image below:

As one would expect, the ad extols Curry’s first term accomplishments, framing them in a holistic, big picture narrative that makes the case that the mayor has kept the city safe and has instituted meaningful reforms.

The ad trumpets investments in technology, such as ShotSpotter, and Curry adding 180 positions to the Sheriff’s Office and 225 Fire and Rescue workers, a fulfillment of a campaign promise to remedy public safety staffing shortages.

Additionally, the spot mentions children’s program reforms, via the Kids Hope Alliance: “a partnership with teachers and community leaders who help our children see their dreams become reality.”

The ad also discusses “balancing the budget without raising taxes” and “increased transparency” and “accountability” to the “taxpayers.”

Toward the close, the spot describes the city’s reaction to the hurricanes that came through in back to back years.

“We came together as a city,” Curry says in the voice-over.

Re-election bids for Brown, Ferraro

Let the “four more years” chants begin for two first-term Jacksonville City Council members.

On Tuesday, Democratic Councilwoman Katrina Brown launched her bid for re-election in District 8. Days before that, Republican Al Ferraro launched his re-election bid in District 2.

Al Ferraro and Katrina Brown will run for re-election. Of the two, Ferraro has the clearer path.

Brown and Ferraro face different paths to re-election.

Brown has issues other incumbents don’t. She has run afoul of the police union and has gotten tough coverage for a failed economic development deal from her family businesses.

Because of these perceived vulnerabilities, Brown faces a bevy of challengers: Diallo SekouSeabrooks, Michael Sell, Brandon Byers, Joenetta Dixon, Tameka Gaines Holly, and Albert Wilcox are all in the race against her.

Jacksonville municipal elections involve a “first election” in March, a blanket primary that sees the top two finishers move on to the May election, assuming no one clears 50 percent + 1 in March.

Expect the District 8 race to go the distance.

In Ferraro’s race, one can expect much less drama.

Ferraro has been a steady presence for his district in Council, advocating for issues such as drainage and other infrastructure.

His district is heavily Republican, and he is so far unopposed.

Redman seeks Council return

Of all the candidates in the 2019 Jacksonville City Council races, veteran Republican politician Matt Carlucci has the most impressive fundraising: $221,150 raised, with over $208,000 on hand.

Carlucci was alone on the ballot for at-large Group 4; however, that has changed with the filing of another man looking to return to City Council: Don Redman.

Redman, a Republican who represented a Southside Jacksonville district from 2007 to 2015, has been noted for a certain brand of social conservatism.

Don Redman has a certain conservative ‘charm.’

As the Florida Times-Union reported, he was best known on Council for asking a Muslim to “pray to his God” at the podium during a Council meeting, and for asking a lesbian at a different Council meeting if she considered herself male or female.

Redman ran most recently in the Republican primary in House District 12, a seat won by Clay Yarborough.

Redman’s fundraising was lackluster; he didn’t even raise $30,000 in the 17-month duration of his campaign. He garnered under 13 percent of the vote for a seat that encompasses his old City Council district.

It remains to be seen if Redman has broad appeal in a citywide race.

Salem clears $150K raised-mark

The money chase in the Jacksonville City Council at-large group 2 race continues to go Republican Ron Salem‘s way.

Ron Salem hits a fundraising milestone.

February saw Salem clear $150,000 cash on hand between hard money and lucre in his “Moving Jacksonville Forward” political committee.

Salem brought in $6,800 in new money to his campaign account in February, despite a $1,000 refund to Gate Petroleum.

The vast majority of the new money came from the energy sector and nursing home interests.

All told, Salem has over $143,500 on hand in his campaign account and an additional $8,000 in his committee.

Salem is well ahead of his two opponents.

Former Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Bishop has not filed February numbers yet, but had just over $13,000 at the end of January.

And Democrat Darren Mason just launched his campaign in March.

Toxic proposal

Per the Jacksonville Daily Record, plans to develop an entertainment district on a stadium parking lot may be complicated by unremediated environmental issues.

“Jaguars President Mark Lamping said in January the organization plans to turn Parking Lot J, an almost 10-acre plot west of the Daily’s Place amphitheater and a nearby retention pond, into a 250,000-square-foot entertainment district,” the Record asserts.

A planned entertainment center for Parking Lot J hits a toxic speed bump.

However, there is oil under the pavement, rendering the property usable only for industrial purposes, per the city.

Remediation would be a must. What is uncertain (at this time) is who will pay for it.

And the timetable thus far is uncertain; the Jaguars will address this matter next in April, at the annual State of the Franchise address.

Party foul

The internecine battles continue in the Republican Party of Duval County. The latest involves the county chair looking to purge the statewide chair of the Young Republicans.

County chair Karyn Morton wrote Florida Federation of Young Republicans chair Robbie Foster March 3, informing him of a motion to vote him out March 19.

A nasty note will go on Robbie Foster’s permanent record.

The cause: “highly disruptive outbursts” at the January meeting of the Duval County Republican Executive Committee. These were, per Morton, “the culmination of a pattern of disruptions over the past year … very loud outbursts and vulgar language … erratic behavior” that “frightened” REC stalwarts.

Morton offered Foster the chance to “avoid further embarrassment” by resigning before the March meeting.

Foster has no intention of resigning, he told Florida Politics Tuesday afternoon.

In fact, he sees the putsch as symbolic of rating Morton a broader issue with Morton’s leadership.

Read more here.

WJXT touts ratings win

In the world of Jacksonville television news, the February sweeps showed it was WJXT first … then everyone else.

All they do is win, win, win. No matter what.

The station cleaned up in morning news ratings, even against national competition. Evening and nighttime ratings told the same story, pointing to “THE Local Station” dominating the market.

Also worth noting: WJXT is the only one of the three local news operations with a dedicated city hall reporter, Jim Piggott.

Their operation often comes off as more old-school than the others, but at least in the Jacksonville market, that has worked up until now.

Times-Union sheds readership again

The group of those reading the Florida Times-Union in print continues to shrink, per the Jacksonville Daily Record.

Just 40,555 take the paper daily, down from over 44,000 just months ago.

Despite branding campaigns, subscription attrition continues.

Sundays also show attrition: down to 59,275 from 68.591.

Despite these drops, New Media (the parent company of GateHouse, which owns and operates the Times-Union and many other papers nationwide), sees a reason for optimism.

The belief is that the changes will start to show benefit in the next year.

Five Points: Will gentrification kill the vibe?

One recurrent storyline in Jacksonville development was revisited this week by the Florida Times-Union.

Is gentrification turning “funky” into “fancy” in Five Points?

Is the Five Points vibe dead?

Rent hikes have driven independent businesses out, with the replacements being “micro chains” with higher price points, per the article.

For those who have seen Five Points over the decades, the discussion is nothing new.

One might recall the rumors of American Apparel — back in the aughts (when that was a thing) — taking real estate in the neighborhood.

Over the years, Five Points has seen booms and busts — predicated on macroeconomic changes.

Those changes have included the rises and falls of nightclubs, coffee bars and so on.

Will gentrification hold this time?

That is the question: one that is not at all a new one.

Muckraker’s posthumous honor

Of all the journalists to work the Jacksonville market, none had a more enduring scope than recently departed Marvin Edwards.

Edwards, who died at 95 years old, wrote bristling exposes of local boondoggles almost until the end. He Was a columnist, an essayist, and a quote machine.

Longtime Jacksonville gadfly Marvin Edwards, who died at 95.

Consider these lines from a 2001 article in Florida Trend.

“This city will take a beating on the Super Bowl,” Edwards predicted. And after the national articles maligning the city’s lack of cabs and hotels and first-rate entertainment options, he was right.

“The No. 1 job of government is to serve the general public, not special interests,” Edwards said. “Jacksonville has a reputation of serving the special interests first. It’s worse now than ever.”

Spoiler alert: it never got better.

He called the donor class the “syndicate,” and it’s only for lack of gumption among his peers that phrase didn’t stick.

Edwards’ ultimate target, at least this century, was spending on the Jacksonville Jaguars; he maligned the lack of accountability of expenditures on matters ranging from bringing the team to Jacksonville to the aforementioned ill-fated Super Bowl.

“The city pledged some $3 million to the event, and ultimately spent $11 million. But despite requests from several local papers and auditors to the Jacksonville City Council for detailed financial accounting, city officials and the committee refused to provide receipts, contracts or other documentation. Although the committee was subsidized with city funds, staffed with several city employees and tasked with providing a public function on behalf of the city both the city and the committee claimed the agency’s records were not public.”

He was a gadfly. A muckraker. And the kind of journalist that doesn’t exist in this market anymore.

Now that he has passed on, it’s safe for the Jacksonville City Council to admit that he was right all along.

Read more here.


— Councilman Scott Wilson is the third person in the Jacksonville City Council VP race, joining Sam Newby and Danny Becton. Both Newby and Becton have one pledged supporter; the race is wide-open.

Rory Diamond, running to replace termed-out Bill Gulliford in Council District 13, has already banked $100,000 and has an all-star fundraiser for next week.

Rory Diamond is strong out of the gate in his bid to replace termed-out Bill Gulliford in Council District 13.

Lobbyists (Marty Fiorentino, Paul Harden, Steve Diebenow, Deno Hicks and Susie Wiles) are on board. Former Mayors (John Peyton and John Delaney) and Council Presidents-in-waiting (Aaron Bowman) are there also.

Diamond, a Tim Baker client, thus far is unopposed.

One wonders if Councilman Gulliford will endorse him … or will wait it out.

JAXPORT closer to Carnival deal

JAXPORT is eyeing its first multiyear contract with Carnival Cruise Lines.

This week, CEO Eric Green told the JAXPORT board he has been actively pursuing the agreement, and assured board members that negotiations are going well.

JAXPORT is close to inking its first multiyear deal with Carnival Cruise Lines.

As reported by the Jacksonville Business Journal, chief operating officer Fred Wong has been a critical part of the dialogue with Carnival. Wong worked with Carnival often as an assistant director at the Port of Miami before joining JAXPORT.

“It seemed as though we will go from a year-to-year contractual agreement to a multiyear contractual agreement,” said Green.

Carnival’s current contract expires May 1, Green said, and if the issue is not settled by then, an emergency board session could be called to provide an extension.

JAXPORT is continuing its strong first quarter, said CFO Michael Poole, with better-then-predicted vessel calls, container counts and revenue in January.

As the Port Authority looks toward the second phase of its harbor deepening project, JAXPORT is currently A rated by Moody’s and Fitch, essential in keeping interest rates low on its debt

With $193 million outstanding, JAXPORT is estimating liability to rise to $252 million by 2020 — bolstered by its share of the harbor deepening project, berth enhancements among other debts.

Despite that, Poole told board members he is confident JAXPORT can keep its A rating.

Crowley to open new Jacksonville cold-storage facility

Crowley Logistics is expanding its distribution capability in Florida with a second CrowleyFresh cold-storage facility.

The company is a division of Jacksonville-based Crowley Maritime Corp.

Crowley Logistics expands cold storage operations into Jacksonville with the opening of a second, temperature-controlled Florida warehouse.

Crowley’s second humidity and temperature-controlled facility will be located at its West 30th Street distribution center in Jacksonville. It will help boost cold-chain services between South Florida and Northeast Florida.

Crowley senior Vice President Frank Larkin said in a statement: “This second cold storage facility in Florida represents the latest in a series of service enhancements designed to increase the velocity of our customers’ supply chains, decrease total landed costs and offer seamless and reliable collaboration among the varying components of transport.”

The facility will handle perishables moving between the U.S., South America and the Caribbean and is designed for maximum food safety and avoid cross-contamination.

According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, CrowleyFresh is a partnership of Crowley Logistics and Miami-based Customized Brokers, which already have a facility in Miami; the new addition will expand the capability to 400,000 cubic feet of total refrigerated space and 117,000 square feet of dry storage space for non-perishables.

Customers love JAX

For the second year in a row, Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) ranked first among North American Airports for customer service.

The Airports Council International (ACI), the global airport trade association, named JAX among the leaders of the 2017 Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards. JAX tied for first with Indianapolis International Airport.

ASQ is the industry’s only global benchmarking program to measure overall airport passenger satisfaction. The survey covers 34 performance indicators of the customer service experience: check-in; security; wayfinding; food/beverage and more.

Customers love JAX: The airport ranked first in the latest customer satisfaction survey.

The result is a comprehensive database of customer service experiences at each participating airport.

Jacksonville Aviation Authority CEO Steve Grossman said: “Whether an airline employee, custodial staff or a restaurant server, everyone plays an integral role ensuring a world-class airport experience. None more so than input from our travelers. Their insight lets us know when we’re doing well while also providing a roadmap for future improvements.”

ASQ is the only comprehensive program to survey passengers at the airport on their day of travel. Nearly three-quarters of the world’s top 100 busiest airports are part of the ASQ network; the program served 343 airports in 2017.

“Objective measurement and benchmarking are critical in driving performance in any business especially in such a competitive and dynamic one as an airport,” said Angela Gittens, Director General, ACI World. “These winning airports have dedicated themselves to delivering a stellar customer experience.”

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.9.18

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Ana Ceballos, Daniel McAuliffe, and Jim Rosica.

Last call for “Winners and Losers,” the Session-end list of who’s swimming and who’s underwater.

We need your suggestions by noon today. Our first draft will go live when the hanky drops, and then updated.

Keep sending us your suggestions and inside juice, driven by schadenfreude or not.

The usual disclaimer: Don’t send stuff on big-ticket items like the Governor or the budget. We’re looking for specific people and issues.

Your answers will remain confidential and can be sent to


— @MarcACaputo: A poll having Sen. Bill Nelson leading Gov. Rick Scott by 10 in FL is, charitably, a pretty big outlier

— @RepCharlieCrist: If FL legislature can pass #gunsafety legislation, Congress can too. Disappointed no #AssaultWeaponsBan and more guns allowed in schools, but this is meaningful progress improving public safety. Our work is far from over! #MSDStrong

— @Fineout: So a little process 101 for national/international media — the clock doesn’t start ticking for @FLGovScott until the gun/school safety bill is actually signed and presented to his office. That’s important to know because much of the bill takes effect upon becoming law

— @MDixon55: Budget closed out before @richardcorcoran or @joenegronfl had a meeting. Usually presiding officers have to do at least one brief pow wow

— @MaryEllenKlas: Here’s a follow up Q for @richardcorcoran, if the House really believed in passing sexual harassment, why not pass the stand-alone bill by @Kristin_Jacobs, instead attaching it to an ethics bill you knew the @FLSenate wasn’t going to accept?

— @Daniel_Sweeney: But it just goes to show the old saying’s true — nothing’s dead till the hanky drops.

— @JoseFelixDiaz: Ambassador @RepCTrujillo gave his farewell today. He proudly spoke of his true priorities; God, family and Country. Our speaker referred to him as the “most fearless amongst us.” Which is true. What he didn’t say was that he was also the most talented and the most loyal

— @TroyKinsey: A funny thing happened on the road to sine die: it appears the #flleg‘s legendary joint Black-Hispanic Caucus sine die gala at The Moon is now no more. @FLBlkCaucus is doing its own thing (last night)

— @AustinMKnipper: Big thank you to Senator @JeffreyBrandes for taking the time out his busy end-of-session schedule to speak with us UF Tallahassee Fellows last night. His honest and substantive words were both enlightening and inspiring. I wish him the best.


Sine Die (maybe) — 2; St. Patrick’s Day — 8; March For Our Lives/#NeverAgain gun violence protest — 15; Major League Baseball Opening Day — 20; Easter — 23; NFL Draft begins — 48; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 55; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 75; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 105; Primary Election Day — 172; College Football opening weekend — 176; General Election Day — 242; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 340.

***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. #NeverStopReaching***


Last night, in the Senate bubble, during what was supposed to be a routine vote for the next Democratic leaders (the presumptive winner here is Audrey Gibson and the next-in-line was thought to be Gary Farmer), all hell broke out.

As an anti-Farmer movement began to develop, members began publicly voicing their disapproval. At that point, Randolph Bracy unexpectedly nominated Lauren Book. After she accepted the nomination, that’s when things got heated. In an effort to calm down and unify the caucus, Oscar Braynon pulled both Farmer and Book into a private meeting.

Gary Farmer is causing a ruckus at the caucus.

We are hearing that during the negotiations Farmer mansplained to Book that she could not possibly fulfill the duties of Leader-designate because she has two young children.

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, by the way.

This comment was not well-received by the current Pro-tem, who also serves as chair of an appropriations subcommittee and has had quite a first term in the upper chamber, despite the fact that said impediments to job fulfillment were ever-present throughout her first term.

So where does that leave things?

As of this morning, Book is now holding enough pledge cards to defeat Farmer.

… if the Democrats hold the vote today.


Florida legislators finish work on budget” via The Associated Press — Legislators agreed on a long line of last minute changes on Thursday. The final $88.7 billion budget was delivered to legislators by midafternoon. Florida has a 72-hour “cooling off period” to make sure everyone can read the budget before the final vote. Legislative leaders said they plan to vote on the budget on Sunday. Legislators got bogged down in budget negotiations while they spent hours debating and working on a comprehensive gun and school safety bill. The new budget includes boosts in money for public schools and universities and sets aside $100 million for Florida’s land preservation program.

#Sprinkle details” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — As the House and Senate finalized differences on the roughly $89 billion 2018-19 budget, the supplemental funding — informally known as the “sprinkle fund” — was unveiled in a 10 a.m. budget meeting. The 21 last-minute spending list includes $30 million for charter school maintenance projects, $20 million for performance-based incentive in the state university system and $3.3 million for the University of South Florida. From that list, a dozen items are hurricane-related costs and contingent on reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Education budget increases amid shadow of shooting” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — A new $88.7 billion state budget, expected to be approved Sunday, includes a $21.1 billion spending plan for the 67 school districts. It would boost per-student funding by $101.50 during 2018-2019 to $7,408 and represents a $485 million increase in state funding and local property taxes. A significant increase in school spending is tied to the Feb. 14 tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The annual school funding formula would include a new category for mental-health funding with $69 million. It would increase the “safe schools” program, which helps pay for school resource officers, to $162 million, a $97.5 million increase. Outside of the funding formula, the school districts also could apply for grants to improve the security of their campuses in a $98.9 million program. But lawmakers pared Gov. Scott’s request for an $18 million increase in funding for classroom supplies for teachers. Lawmakers backed an $8.8 million increase, which should boost the annual payments by about $50 to $300.

Legislature slashing Health Dep’t pay because of medical marijuana delays” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Lawmakers on Thursday included a provision to withhold more than $1.9 million in Department of Health salaries and benefits in the final 2018-19 state budget until regulators fully implement medical marijuana. The proviso language, which “qualifies or restricts a specific appropriation,” means Health officials will get a 7.75 percent pay and benefits cut until they “implement” medical cannabis as authorized under the state constitution and statute. The full budget was released midday Thursday. The money will be “held in reserve,” with its release “contingent upon implementation,” the language says. That means “solely and exclusively by adopting all rules required by statute and any other rules necessary to implement this constitutional provision.”

Safety net hospitals take a win in 2018-19 budget” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Hospitals serving large numbers of the state’s Medicaid patients “applauded” funding in the 2018-19 budget they say “puts patients before profits.” In a Thursday news release, the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida thanked budget writers for maintaining funding. The Legislature agreed to fund another $319 million — including the federal share — in the upcoming year’s budget, as they did for this year (2017-18). “Safety net hospitals ensure the highest level of care to all Floridians, regardless of their ability to pay,” it said. “By leaving intact this important funding policy, legislators showed compassion for the needs of low-income elderly, pregnant women, critically ill children and fragile newborns.”

Florida judges in line to get large raises” via The Associated Press — The new budget has a 36 percent pay raise for the seven justices on the Florida Supreme Court. It also raises the salaries of all judges, as well as prosecutors and public defenders. State law enforcement officers are in line for a seven-percent or 10 percent pay raise. State firefighters would receive a $2,500 pay raise. The Republican-controlled Legislature is scheduled to vote on the budget on Sunday and then send it to Gov. Scott.

Lawmakers give juvenile officers pay raises” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics ﹘ There is good news for juvenile detention and probation officers. They are getting a pay raise. The House and Senate agreed Wednesday to set aside $8 million in pay raises for the more than 2,000 detention and probation officers who work with at-risk youth in the state. That amount goes hand in hand with Gov. Scott’s spending plan proposal was before the Legislative Session began. The money commitment will amount to a 10-percent pay raise, which Scott hopes will help recruit and retain better detention and probation officers to work in the Department of Juvenile Justice.

‘It’s silly’: Senate won’t punish Enterprise Rent-a-Car for NRA move” Senate Budget Chief Rob Bradley said it would set “bad precedent” to go along with a House plan that would have financially punished Enterprise Rent-A-Car for cutting ties with the National Rifle Association. “I think that it’s silly to get involved in rebidding contracts … because you’re mad at a temporary moment in time about something that they have or haven’t done politically,” Bradley said. House members, mirroring what Georgia lawmakers were doing, tried to target an aviation fuel tax reduction benefiting Delta and a statewide rental car contract held by Enterprise after the companies severed ties with the NRA, according to a POLITICO Florida report. The rental car company’s contract expires in 2020. The House quietly proposed a plan that would have hurt Delta and Enterprise after the companies decided not to give NRA members discounts following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

It’s ‘silly’ to want to punish Enterprise Rent-A-Car for its stance on the NRA, says Rob Bradley.

Legislative leaders increase funding for UF project” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — Dozens of member projects were zeroed out as legislative leaders reached a deal on an $89 billion budget deal, but one University of Florida project was not only salvaged, it got double of what the House and Senate had initially agreed to. “It was about making sure that the projects that we chose had the greatest impact on the economy and greatest return on investments,” Senate Budget Chair Bradley told reporters after budget conference Wednesday night. The House and the Senate had initially agreed to fund the Data Science and Information Center at the University of Florida at $25 million, but on Wednesday once the budget deal had been agreed to, it got $50 million in funds.

Oscar winner’s Miami alma mater on the chopping block — again” via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida — The Legislature’s Republican leadership formally agreed to cut $500,000 in state grant funding to a Miami arts high school with a string of famous alumni, including 2017 Oscar winner Tarell Alvin McCraney. Last year, lawmakers had considered but abruptly reversed course on eliminating entirely a $650,000 recurring annual grant to New World School of the Arts after an outcry from McCraney and other graduates of the high school. McCraney, who won an Oscar for writing “Moonlight” together with Barry Jenkins, led a social media campaign decrying the cut to his innovative alma mater. The grant supports the school’s art programs through things like equipment and supplies, while money for the academic programs comes from the K-12 funding formula in the state budget. Other notable alumni include Alex Lacamoire, who served as music director and orchestrator for the Broadway shows “Hamilton” and “In the Heights,” and “Cocaine Cowboys” director Billy Corben. But it’s likely too late this year to put the money back in.


Standing with victims’ families, Scott expected to sign into law gun control, school safety billvia Marc Caputo of POLITICOGov. Scott is expected to sign or signal support for an unprecedented $400 million school safety and gun control bill on Friday when families of the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre meet with him in Florida’s Capitol, according to state lawmakers who worked on the legislation. Scott’s office would neither confirm nor deny the governor’s intentions and instead pointed to his public statements pledging to study the bill in depth and to listen to the 17 families of those killed in the state’s worst school shooting in history. Those families banded together and urged the Florida House on Wednesday to approve the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, FL SB7026 (18R), which is now on Scott’s desk and awaits his approval or veto. The legislators who helped craft and push the bill — which passed the Florida Senate by just one vote on Monday — said they’ve been told or been given strong hints that Scott will approve the legislation, which closely mirrors a proposal he put forward after the Feb. 14 shootings in Parkland, Fla. State Sen. Lauren Book, a Broward County Democrat who helped organize and pay for Stoneman Douglas students to travel to Tallahassee to meet legislators, said she was being told on good authority that the Republican governor is “going to sign it. That’s my understanding.”

Largest school districts may skip armed ‘guardians’ program, even if Governor signs it” via Emily Mahoney and Jeffrey Solochek of the Miami Herald — The Broward, Duval and Hillsborough county school boards adopted formal statements opposing the idea of arming school personnel, and calling for adequate funding to support sworn officers in the schools instead. A day earlier, Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho made clear his district’s position, saying anyone who thinks arming educators is a solution is “absolutely out of their mind.” Also, a majority of Pasco County board members have signaled their dissent, as have officials in Pinellas County. “What’s the liability on that?” Pinellas board chair Renee Flowers asked … “We’re here to educate our students. Everyone has their own area of expertise. Cafeteria workers, maintenance people, librarians. … That’s not what they were hired for.” Among the state’s 12 biggest districts, only Brevard County leaders are seriously considering a proposal to arm school staff, though district spokeswoman Jennifer Wolfinger noted, “We haven’t agreed to it.” Lee County district leaders have not taken any public position.

Miami-Dade Schools chief Alberto Carvalho is one of the school leaders against arming teachers.

Donald Trump says Florida lawmakers were ‘listening to me’ on arming school personnel” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — “I want to congratulate the state of Florida and your representatives on some very good legislation that’s been passed,” Trump said at a Cabinet meeting. “I guess they’ve been listening to me a lot more because, unexpectedly, they passed concealed-carry for some very special teachers that have a great ability with weapons and with guns.” Trump added: “I guess they liked what I said. … A lot of people were surprised. I wasn’t so surprised. I think they did a great job in many respects.”

Lauren Book revives human trafficking legislation” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Sen. Book made headlines last week when she unexpectedly tabled a bill that would give victims of human trafficking the right to sue hotels that are complicit in the illicit activity. Only a few days later, the same provision is back — this time as an amendment Book sponsored and successfully tacked onto a House-backed bill that expands control and monitoring of sex offenders and predators in the state. The amended bill, HB 1301, was primed for a Senate floor vote on Thursday and could be voted on by the chamber as soon as Friday’s floor session. If approved, it would be sent back to the House for another vote. Though some in the chamber could have unspoken reservations for the otherwise popular measure. SB 1044 had stalled in a committee chaired by Republican Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, who also objected to Book’s attempt to bring the amendment onto HB 1301. Because Book’s amendment language already is provided in other legislation, Benacquisto argued the amendment was out of order.

House makes modest offer toward gambling compromise” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The House’s first stab on comprehensive gambling legislation this year includes a Spartan offer to the Senate of only three new slot machine licenses for pari-mutuels in counties that OK’d slots in local referendums. The Conference Committee on Gaming met for the first time Thursday evening; Rep. Mike La Rosa was elected chair. The proposal on the table would also require the selected counties to conduct a second referendum to confirm the first, to be held after July 1, the offer says.


Teachers union urges Scott to veto funds for arming school staff” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — The Florida Education Association wrote to the governor the day after the Legislature approved a gun-control and school-safety package that aims to improve school security in the wake of last month’s deadly shootings at a high school in Parkland. The union’s letter did not suggest Scott veto the bill but instead asked him to use his line-item power to cut from the state budget funding for the “Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program.” That program would allow some school employees, with training, to carry guns on campus. That section of the bill (HB 7026) was one of the most controversial and has prompted lots of debate.

’Thoughts and prayers’ bring pushback” via Dara Kam and Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Sen. Kelli Stargel said she’s been inundated with angry and hateful messages after she said “thoughts and prayers” were the best way to stop the evil behind mass shootings like the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. “The pushback has been incredible. As my daughter called it, it was the quote heard ‘round the world.” Stargel said her son, who lives in Chile, told her it showed up in his news feeds. The senator called the reaction “unfortunate” … “So we’re not just thinking and praying. But I think the pushback is indicative of the hate and anger that’s going on in our culture,” Stargel said. Stargel remains unapologetic for her comments, delivered during debate on the school-safety measure this week.

Legislature backs bill removing black farmer medical marijuana requirement” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — The Senate passed a bill (HB 6049) that would delete a provision from statutes requiring a black farmer to be a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association Florida Chapter to be eligible for one of the state’s medical marijuana growing licenses. The House passed the bill earlier, meaning it now awaits Gov. Scott’s approval to become law. The move comes in the wake of an ongoing lawsuit filed by Columbus Smith, a black farmer from Panama City who argued that the BFAA stipulation barred him from receiving a growing license.

Legislature backs PBMS, drug pricing legislation” via Lobby Tools —  Legislation revising requirements for pharmacy benefit managers and pharmacists heads to Gov. Scott’s desk after getting unanimous backing from the Florida Senate … HB 351 requires PBMs to register with the Office of Insurance Regulation if they do business in Florida. It also compels pharmacists in the state to relay the availability of lower cost, generic prescription drugs to patients. Scott will also receive a health care measure (HB 283) intended to allow the Lower Keys Medical Center to qualify for a Level I adult cardiovascular services license and better recruit cardiac physicians.

Lawmakers give boost to health care ‘ministries’” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — A bill that could increase enrollment in health care sharing ministries was passed by the Florida House and is headed to Gov. Scott. The House passed the measure (SB 660) by an 89-27 vote, with opposition coming from Democrats who expressed concerns that the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation doesn’t regulate the sharing arrangements. The Senate voted unanimously to pass the bill earlier in the session. Health care sharing ministries have been exempt from Florida’s insurance code since 2008 and limit participation to people who share the same religious beliefs. The bill would broaden the current law to include people with the same set of ethical or religious beliefs. The bill, if signed by Scott, would benefit some large health care ministries, including Melbourne-based Christian Care Ministries and its health care cost-sharing program known as Medi-Share.

Legislature wants to move up date of 2020 session” via The Associated Press — The Senate voted 34-3 to move the date of that year’s annual session from March to January. The House has already approved the bill and it now goes to Gov. Scott. Florida’s Constitution requires that legislators hold a session in March during odd-numbered years but legislators can move the date in even-numbered years. Sen. Oscar Braynon voted against the bill, saying that Tallahassee was “too cold” in January. Sen. Bill Galvano retorted that it was too hot later in the year.

Soon, troubled Pinellas construction board will lose independence” via Mark Puente of the Tampa Bay Times — County commissioners have been calling for the Legislature to reform the licensing board since January 2017. The coming reforms will reduce the number of licensing board members from 21 to 15. It also would subject the agency to annual financial audits and make commissioners responsible for appointing board members, instead of just approving recommendations made by the former executive director. The agency and its employees currently report to a board of mostly private contractors appointed by trade associations, not elected officials. Some current board members have served for decades. But the new rules will prevent board members from serving more than two consecutive four-year terms. The agency will also have to produce annual reports on how it serves contractors and taxpayers. A provision in the new law says the agency will be eligible for state funding for three years as it transitions to county government. But that doesn’t automatically mean the agency will become taxpayer-funded.

Governors Club special Friday lunch buffet menu — As Session extends (for a few more days), the Governors Club will offer a special Friday lunch menu with mixed green salad and assorted dressings; antipasto salad; egg salad; potato salad; macaroni salad; beefsteak; sausage and peppers; wild mushroom ravioli Bolognese; herb buttered orzo; Italian zucchini casserole; corn on the cob; strawberry cheesecake for dessert.


State Sen. Aaron Bean announced the winners of the Florida Legislature’s Annual Biggest Loser Weight Loss Competition. The eight-week contest is open to members of the legislature and Capitol employees who compete to lose the most weight during the legislative session.

“Session is a stressful time for everyone at the Capitol, and it is easy to put on a few pounds if you’re not careful,” Bean said.

The 2018 Biggest Loser Weight Loss Competition winners are:

— Men: Rep. Clovis Watson (27.5 lbs.); Gary Austin of the Sergeant’s Office (22 lbs.) and Kurt Schrader of Bill Drafting (16.5 lbs.).

— Women: Mary Cowart, an aide to Rep. Cynthia Stafford (17.5 lbs.); Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (16 lbs.) and House Policy Chief Heather Bishop (12 lbs.).

Honorable mentions: Reps. Larry Ahern, Tracie Davis and Bob Cortes, as well as Bean, Kevin Rader and Daphne Campbell. Rep. Bobby Payne won the “Steady Eddy” award by staying the same weight.


Chris King raises $265,441 in February” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The campaign raised $201,091 during the month and his political committee Rise and Lead raised $64,350, according to his campaign. Through the end of January, the campaign had raised just over $2 million and through Feb. 15 Rise and Lead had raised just over $1.2 million. King’s campaign and the political committee have now raised a grand total of $3,492,133 and have a combined total of $1,760,061 left in the bank.

Assignment editors — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine will speak at two events in Lee County, starting with a 7 p.m. speech at the Lee County Democratic Party Annual Gala at the La Venezia Ballroom, 4646 SE. 10th Pl. in Cape Coral. At 8 p.m., Levine will speak at the 2018 Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus Winter Conference at the Holiday Inn Fort Myers airport at town Center, 9931 Interstate Commerce Dr. in Fort Myers.

Crystal Ball updates Florida congressional seats to favor Democrats Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball made several updates in predictions for Congressional seats across the country, nearly all favoring Democrats. In Florida, Sarasota Republican Vern Buchanan’s 16th Congressional District moved from “safe Republican” to “likely Republican.” For Orlando Democrat Stephanie Murphy, her 7th Congressional District has been updated from “leans” to “likely Democratic.”

Larry Sabato made some ‘Crystal Ball’ changes, all good for Democrats.

Democratic super PAC reserves $1.1 million in Miami TV time” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — House Majority PAC has reserved just over $43 million for television ads in the final weeks of the 2018 election cycle nationwide. The outlay includes $1,119,500 in Miami and $420,000 in West Palm Beach. “The Republicans are panicking about losing their majority in the House, because they know that across the country Democrats have top-notch candidates running, and there’s a surge in grassroots participation,” House Majority PAC Executive Director Charlie Kelly said in a statement. “2018 will bring a barrage of frantic negative attack ads from GOP outside groups, but HMP is ensuring we’re prepared early-on to fight back. Momentum is on our side, and with smart, strategic investments, we will help Democrats win across the country.” The most competitive House election in Miami is expected to be incumbent Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo‘s race against Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

Donna Shalala seeks to fight Trump if elected to Congress” via Adriana Gomez Licon of The Associated Press — Former Bill Clinton cabinet member Shalala is vying to win the Democratic nomination to flip a Florida district long held by a popular Republican congresswoman, but her sights are already set on Trump. President Clinton’s former Health and Human Services secretary is 77, a decade older than the retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and she’s never run for elective office before. But she told The Associated Press that Trump is an “embarrassment” and Democrats must stop him “from making terrible decisions.” Shalala says it will be no easy feat to replace Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring after 30 years in Congress and is well loved among Miami’s Cuban-American voters. … a poll in late January showed her ahead in a crowded Democratic field that includes Florida Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell, former federal judge Mary Barzee Flores and four other contenders. At least two Republicans also are running.

Joe Gruters is running for the state Senate” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Gruters will run for Florida’s Senate District 23, which covers Sarasota County and part of Charlotte. The seat is being vacated by Sen. Greg Steube, who is resigning to run for Congress. “This campaign is about fighting every waking hour for a community that has given me so much,” Gruters said in his announcement. After losing two state House races at a young age, Gruters worked for U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan and eventually took over as Sarasota GOP chairman, a position that brought him in contact with Trump. With Gruters hinting for weeks that he will run for the Senate, a number of potential candidates have been exploring running for his state House seat, including Lakewood Ranch Republican Club President Steve Vernon and Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh. Democrat Liv Coleman, a college professor from Bradenton, already has filed to run for the House seat.


Parkland shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz withdraws not guilty plea, stands mute on 34 counts” via Elliot Kleinberg of the Palm Beach Post — Nikolas Cruz withdrew his not guilty plea Thursday and instead chose to “stand mute,” according to a court motion. A grand jury in Broward County has formally indicted Nikolas Cruz in the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High … The panel charged the 19-year-old with 17 counts of premeditated first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder in the mass shooting.

— “Nikolas Cruz handcuffed over Xbox fight with mom; reports reveal years of turmoil” via David Fleshler of the Sun-Sentinel

Audio files detail response in Parkland school shooting” via Linda Trischitta of the Sun Sentinel — It had been 11 minutes since Cruz unleashed his deadly barrage of gunfire inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. That’s when four Coral Springs police officers and two Broward Sheriff’s deputies entered the 1200 building, according to a timeline and radio calls released Thursday by the sheriff’s office. Responders didn’t know where the gunman was or whether there were more shooters. … “Analysis of the audiotapes indicates that there was not a lot of accurate information, it was a rapidly evolving scene and the sounds of gunfire were difficult to pinpoint,” Broward Sheriff Colonel Jack Dale said Thursday. … Coral Springs fire dispatchers got the first 911 call about a shooting a minute after it started. Cell calls made to 911 in Parkland go to Coral Springs’ communications center.

Anthony Borges, Stoneman Douglas student shot five times, returns to intensive care” via David Fleshler, Wells Dusenbury and David Lyons of the Sun-Sentinel — Anthony Borges is a tough, well-conditioned student-athlete who is defying the odds. Doctors operated on Borges on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, and he is now in stable condition … During the shooting last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, the 15-year-old used his body to block a classroom door, saving the lives of numerous students. Shot five times, he was among the most seriously wounded of the survivors … “He’s doing OK now,” the lawyer, Alex Arreaza, said Thursday afternoon. … Doctors detected a possible abdominal infection and an ulcer in his small intestine from the impact of one of the bullets, his father, Royer Borges, wrote on Facebook. “So they decided to intervene and cut that section of the small intestine so that my son’s life wasn’t further compromised,” he wrote.

Hillary Clinton gives Emma Gonzalez a shout-out on International Women’s Day” via the Sun-Sentinel — Parkland student Emma Gonzalez has been an inspiration to many — including Hillary Clinton. The former presidential candidate tweeted about who inspires her on International Women’s Day. She listed Gonzalez among a group “whose righteous voices have pushed us to see possibility and a path forward on gun violence prevention.” With her tweet, Clinton included a photo of Gonzalez speaking at the emotional town hall at the BB&T Center following the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Bill Nelson takes Twitter to task, says hoax ‘scares me to death’” via Tim Johnson for the Miami Herald — Nelson said Twitter is taking steps to guard against the kind of fake tweets that hit The Miami Herald last month, but that “a lot more has got to be done.” Nelson called for a technical summit, led perhaps the Federal Trade Commission, to “get all of the relevant companies in the same room and talk about this problem with a collective sense of urgency and come up with some solutions.” Such a summit should include social media platforms, digital content companies, software developers, news organizations and government agencies, he said. However, the Twitter executives who met with Nelson declined to identify those behind the hoax, which came shortly after the Feb. 14 high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead. In the aftermath of the school massacre, a perpetrator sent out tweets containing manipulated images purporting to tweet from a reporter at the Herald … The fake tweets appeared intended to rile the public, asking the race of the gunman and seeking photos from the scene.


Scott, Cabinet delay dozens of voting rights cases after legal setback” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Dozens of people who lost the right to vote from long-ago felony convictions remain in limbo because a federal judge has struck down Florida’s civil rights restoration process as unconstitutional. After waiting for years for their petitions to be considered, they traveled to Tallahassee to seek mercy from Scott and the three Cabinet members, who meet quarterly as the board of clemency. But with the restoration process discredited by the courts, the cases weren’t considered. “Several cases that were scheduled to be heard have been continued because a federal judge has objected to our system for restoring civil rights,” Scott said as the meeting began. “Although we strongly disagree with the judge’s ruling, we will respect his order not to consider applications for restoration of civil rights while we appeal his decision.”

Gun falls out of Florida kindergartner’s backpack in class” via The Associated Press — A gun fell out of a kindergartner’s backpack in a Florida charter school classroom, but it didn’t fire and it is unclear how it got there. Somerset Academy Lakes Elementary spokeswoman Lynn Norman-Teck said the child’s teacher immediately picked up the gun after it fell Thursday morning and no students were endangered. Principal Clint Duvo informed parents about the incident on the West Palm Beach school’s Facebook page. He wrote that the child didn’t know how the gun got into the backpack and had no intention of bringing it to school.

Noor Salman trial: ‘I would view her as a terrorist,’ man says in jury selection for Pulse gunman’s widow” via Krista Torralva of the Orlando Sentinel — A retired Air Force veteran considered for the jury in the federal trial of Noor Salman served a harsh opinion of Pulse gunman Omar Mateen’s widow. “I would view her as a terrorist,” he said Thursday, day six of jury selection. “I question why she’s being tried in [civilian] court versus a military tribunal.” The man, whose work since 2001 has included involvement in the War on Terror, was excused. By the end of the day, lawyers had approved 46 potential jurors. … U.S. District Judge Paul Byron has said he wants to get 60 for the lawyers to pick from. During questioning, some potential jurors admitted their judgment might be influenced by media coverage; their proximity to the club, which has been a makeshift memorial since the June 12, 2016, shooting that killed 49; and relationships with survivors.

Worst story of the day — “At Florida home for the disabled, scathing report comes on heels of bizarre death” via Monique Madan of the Miami Herald — Carlton Palms Educational Center in Mount Dora is a gorgeous place … the only one in the state that’s licensed to care for intellectually disabled Floridians with severe behavioral challenges … It’s also the place where 26-year-old William James Lamson died last week after beating his head against objects in his bedroom …  Five years before that, it was where a nonverbal Broward girl succumbed to dehydration days after her arrival at her new home. In 1997, it was where Jon Henley, 14, was found dead in his bed with low levels of anti-seizure medicine in his system. Most recently, it was where a man was beaten up by his caregivers. The young man’s death — currently being investigated by the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Children & Families — came days before a federally funded advocacy group released a 33-page report detailing “abuse or neglect” at the long-troubled complex for disabled people with complex behavioral problems.

Carlton Palms facility for mentally disabled in Mount Dora.

Pinellas sheriff: Former investigator lied about protecting kids” via Kathryn Varn of the Tampa Bay Times — Steven Urban, 29, faces 10 counts of falsifying records, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said. An internal review found that his conduct spans many more cases: Out of 142 child welfare cases over a year period, Urban lied or reported misleading information in 75 of them, the review found. In one recent case, he reported that he had interviewed a family member who died in 2014. “This guy needs to go to prison,” Gualtieri said during a news conference. “He needs the harshest of consequences … because he put kids in harm’s way.” Urban, who had worked at the sheriff’s office for six years, resigned Jan. 17 soon after he was confronted with the allegations, Gualtieri said. He made about $47,500 a year.


Scott should veto school safety bill, demand better” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — To be sure, there are positive provisions in this $400 million package. Yet those improvements are outweighed by a dangerous plan to secretly arm school personnel such as counselors, librarians, coaches — and some teachers. Allowing more guns in schools held by anyone other than uniformed law enforcement officers is opposed by teachers, Tampa Bay school districts and most voters. It’s also opposed by black lawmakers who legitimately fear children of color could be particularly at risk in a violent situation. A last-minute revision that renames this program and exempts many teachers from participating may help solve a political problem for the governor, who has opposed arming teachers. In practice, it would be just as risky and unacceptable. The scope of the reforms should match the magnitude of the challenge of protecting our children. Scott should veto this bill, call the Legislature into special session later this month and insist on a more vigorous approach.


Fish and Wildlife picks spark Senate debate” via the News Service of Florida — Senate Democrats objected to three of Gov. Scott’s appointees to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission — though the appointees were ultimately confirmed. Sen. Gary Farmer questioned the qualifications of Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission appointees Gary Nicklaus, Sonya Rood and Gary Lester. That led Republicans to defend the governor’s choices. “These people are of honor and integrity and deserve our vote,” Sen. Aaron Bean said. Senators then voted 23-14 to approve the nomination of Nicklaus; 25-12 to approve the nomination of Rood, and 24-13 to approve the nomination of Lester.

UCF poised to choose its next president” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — The Board of Trustees is expected to select the University of Central Florida’s next President Friday from a pool of four finalists who have visited the campus for interviews and meetings with students, staff and the public. All of the finalists, which include UCF Provost Dale Whittaker, are high-level administrators at research universities. The others vying for the post are Suresh Garimella, executive vice president for research and partnerships at Purdue University; Mark Kennedy, president at the University of North Dakota; and Matt Wilson, president of the University of Akron.

Former El Nuevo Herald editor is Miami-Dade mayor’s new spokeswoman” via Doug Hanks of the Miami Herald — Myriam Marquez, the former El Nuevo Herald editor, will take on the top communications job in Miami-Dade County as the new spokeswoman for Mayor Carlos Gimenez. The veteran editor and columnist takes on the $175,000-a-year county post with the title of senior adviser and communications director for the county. That puts her in charge of all press shops across the bureaucracy. Marquez, who left the Spanish-language paper last summer, also used to be the Miami Herald’s Editorial Page. Marquez replaces Mike Hernández, a political consultant hired in 2014 as Gimenez revved up for what was a successful 2016 reelection campaign. Term limits require Gimenez to exit the mayor’s office in 2020. In a news release, Marquez said: “I share the Mayor’s vision of improving our residents’ quality of life in cost-efficient ways that protect their pockets, and I am excited about all the innovations underway.”


Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues that affect the area’s citizens.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion of domestic violence, the rise in reported cases and the need for dedicated detectives on these types of cases. Joining Walker-Torres are Clara Reynolds, president and CEO, Crisis Center of Tampa Bay; Carolina Cassedy, senior at Robinson High School, Get Loud Program; Roseanne Cupoli, chief program officer, The Spring of Tampa Bay; Michelle Sperzel, CEO, Harbor House; Judge Alice L. Blackwell, Ninth Judicial Circuit Court.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A look back at the 2018 Legislative Session. Anchors Ybeth Bruzual and Al Ruechel along with reporter Troy Kinsey will break down the legislative session and discuss which bills were passed and failed. Allison Graves with PolitiFact Florida will use the Truth-O-Meter to rate claims that came out of Session.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests: Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute Director Rick Mullaney.

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

— ALOE —

Landmark restaurant Andrew’s completes major renovations” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Dressed in a loose black T-shirt and jeans, Andrew Reiss is a casual contrast to the army of suits at Andrew’s. He spoke about how $300,000 in renovations offered an overdue face-lift to his landmark restaurant … The interior, a museum of downtown images, was dated. Two years ago, Reiss stepped down as the owner and took on a supervisory role as longtime General Manager Jack Penrod took ownership of Epicurean Partners Inc., the company that owns Andrew’s Grill and Bar, Andrew’s 228 and Andrew’s Catering. Now, trendy garage doors replaced windows. The pergola’s wood slots allow sunshine to poke through in the fall and winter and provide protection in the warmer months. At night, gas lamps burn bright. Remodeling also included fresh paint, indoor furniture (outdoor furniture to come), refreshed bathrooms and a timeline of Andrew’s history through its various logos since the restaurant opened as The Deli in 1972.

How pink became sine die tradition in Tallahassee” via Florida Politics — Pink is the tradition for Capitol veterans to pay tribute to the late lobbyist Marvin Arrington. “Marvin was here for a long time, and he had a tradition of wearing a pink sports coat on the last day of Session,” said Wayne Malaney, who lobbies for newspaper publishers. In 2002, Arrington succumbed to a heart attack in a parking lot a block north of the Capitol. It was the Monday of the last week of session for that year. By the time people realized he was in crisis, smoke from the spinning of his car tires filled the downtown area. “Marvin wore pink carnations and no one serving today was here when Marvin was, but those who remembered him by wearing pink,” said Keith Arnold, who served in the House in the 1980s and 1990s and now lobbies. The last day of the 2002 session, Arrington’s son, Reynolds, and nephew, Patrick, showed up at the Capitol wearing Arrington’s trademark pink jackets. Joining them are more than 100 lobbyists sporting pink: carnations, jackets, shirts, all responding to Reynolds’ request to remember his dad with a display of pink.

Lobbyists wear their pink, in honor of Marvin Arrington, an insurance lobbyist with an affinity for pink who died during the last week of the 2002 Session, on the fourth floor Friday, May 5, 2017, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. Photo by Phil Sears

Tallahassee not the only town with ‘sine die’ traditions” via Florida Politics — In Idaho, capital reporters wear ugly ties near session’s end to “encourage legislators to finish their business quickly and go home” …  In the Magnolia State, Mississippi State University lobbyists put tomato seedlings “on the desks of legislators, staff members and sometimes statehouse reporters.” In Georgia, lawmakers toss ripped paper into the air above their desks, and in Alabama, legislators give a “shroud” award to the bill deemed least likely to pass.

Watch out: Daylight Saving Time may cause heart attack spike” via Laura Geggel of Live Science — As people set their clocks forward an hour for daylight saving time this Sunday (March 8), they may also want to take extra care of their heart. That’s because people tend to have more heart attacks on the Monday following spring’s daylight saving time … In fact, the number of heart attacks increased 24 percent on the Monday following a daylight saving time, compared with the daily average for the weeks surrounding the start of daylight saving time, according to a 2014 study in the journal Open Heart. With this in mind, people who are at risk of a heart attack — such as those who smoke, have a strong family history of heart attack or have high cholesterol or high blood pressure — shouldn’t delay a trip to the emergency room if they feel chest pain, said senior researcher Dr. Hitinder Gurm an interventional cardiologist and an associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Health System. “If you start to get some chest pain and indigestion that doesn’t want to go away, please get it checked out,” Gurm said.

Happy birthday to the great Kristy Campbell, Melissa Akeson of The Rubin Group, David Bennett, former state House candidate J.B. Bensmihen, Vanessa Thompson, and Jamie Van Pelt. Celebrating this weekend are Sen. Doug Broxson and Arek Whatshisface with Tiger Beat on the Potomac.

Sixty Days for 3.8.18 — A prime-time look at the 2018 Legislative Session

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

The Last 24

Good Thursday evening. And ta-ta for now. We may be going into overtime for the budget, but this is the last edition of Sixty Days. Last Call returns Monday. Sixty Days will be back next year (or sooner, if a Special Session is called. Hey, who knows?) Here’s your nightly rundown.

Map lines moved? A late-session amendment would redraw the boundary between Duval and St. Johns counties to accommodate land owned by members of the family that founded Winn-Dixie Stores.

‘It’s silly’: Senate Approps chair Rob Bradley said it would set “bad precedent” to go along with a House plan to punish Enterprise Rent-A-Car for cutting ties with the National Rifle Association.

Hate mail: Sen. Kelli Stargel said she’s been inundated with angry messages after she said “thoughts and prayers” were the best way to prevent mass shootings like that at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

UF love: Dozens of member projects were zeroed out, but one University of Florida project was not only salvaged, it got double of what the House and Senate had initially agreed to.

Black farmers: The state is one step closer to removing a barrier for a black farmer to receive a medical marijuana growing license.

Less money: Lawmakers withheld more than $1.9 million in Department of Health salaries and benefits in the final 2018-19 state budget until regulators fully implement medical marijuana.

Early bird: Continuing a trend, the Florida Senate gave final approval to a bill that would start the 2020 Legislative Session in January.

Safety nets salvaged: Hospitals serving large numbers of the state’s Medicaid patients applauded funding in the 2018-19 budget they say “puts patients before profits.”

Canady chosen: Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady will become chief justice on July 1, the second time he has led the state courts system.

Quote of the Day

It’s too cold in Tallahassee during the winter, so I cannot support this bill.” — Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon II, explaining his opposition to moving the 2020 Legislative Session to January and February.

“Yes, but it’s too hot later here, so …” — Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, in reply.

Bill Day’s Latest

3 Questions

Americans for Prosperity-Florida (AFP-FL) Thursday said it had “launched a series of digital campaigns aimed at encouraging Gov. Rick Scott to sign HB 7055.” The sweeping K-12 policy bill, including a new tax-credit scholarship — the Hope Scholarship — for students who say they’re bullied in their public school.

Chris Hudson, the organization’s state director, explains.

Q: What, besides digital ads, are you doing?

Hudson: Last week, AFP-FL launched a direct mail effort aimed at thanking members of the legislature for supporting HB 7055 throughout the committee process. The mailers called on citizens to thank their lawmakers for expanding education freedom options and transparency requirements for government unions.

Q: Why does your group support the bill?

Hudson: Florida lawmakers took a principled vote to pass win-win legislation that will help students achieve their education goals, and help teachers take control over their representation. We hope Gov. Scott puts those students and teachers first by signing HB 7055 into law as soon as possible.

Q: What else will you do to hold them accountable?

Hudson: As Session comes to a close, we’ll be tabulating votes on all of the priority legislation we’ve followed and advocated for all session, and will deliver their grades to their constituents.

Lobby Up

Their phones were the vanguard of the mobile revolution, and now Nokia has lobbyists in Tallahassee.

Nokia of America Corporation is represented by Douglas Bell, James Daughton, Patricia Greene, Warren Husband, Allison Liby-Schoonover, Aimee Diaz Lyon, Andrew Palmer, William (Pierce) Schuessler, according to registration records.  

The Finnish multinational has operated an array of industries in its over 150-year history.

We don’t like quoting Wikipedia, but this sentence is a gem: “It was founded as a pulp mill and had long been associated with rubber and cables, but since the 1990s focuses on large-scale telecommunications infrastructures, technology development and licensing.”

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

The Florida Commission on Ethics will hold a regular meeting. That’s at 8:30 a.m., 1st District Court of Appeal, third-floor courtroom, 2000 Drayton Drive, Tallahassee.

The Senate Democratic Caucus will meet. That’s at 9 a.m., 200 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.

As of press time, the Senate is scheduled to hold a floor session at 10 a.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.

As of press time, the House is scheduled to hold a floor session at 10:30 a.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.

Aakash Patel adds another $25K in Hillsborough Commission race

Aakash Patel kept his foot on the pedal last month, tacking on nearly $25,000 for his Hillsborough County Commission campaign.

“I am extremely humbled by the outpouring of support and I am very excited about moving forward as our outreach to donors continues to bring diverse participation from our community,” Patel said.

“It is an honor to meet so many interested, caring, and concerned citizens across District 1. Our #Patel2018 campaign team is reaching out to voters daily, consistently picking up new supporters.”

The new numbers bring Patel’s total fundraising to $378,751, including $288,601 for his campaign account and $90,150 for his political committee, Elevate Tampa.

The bulk of the February money, $19,886, came in through the campaign, which received donations from 60 contributors last month. February spending came in at $8,773, leaving the account with $157,222 on hand heading into March.

Elevate Tampa brought in an even $5,000, including a $500 check from Jeff Vinik’s Strategic Property Partners. The committee didn’t burn any money last month and has more than $90,000 on hand.

The first-time candidate is far ahead of his competition in the District 1 race, which includes fellow Republican Todd Marks and Tampa Democratic Rep. Janet Cruz, neither of whom have posted their February reports.

Through the end of January, Cruz had about $61,000 on hand in her campaign account while Marks had $49,275.

The trio are running for the District 1 seat being vacated prematurely by Commissioner Sandy Murman.

Murman intends to leave the seat she won re-election to in 2016 so she can run in the countywide District 7 in 2018. Since Murman’s decision is not official yet, the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections office lists Patel, Cruz and Marks as running in  the 2020 cycle.

Clewiston hosting 32nd annual Sugar Festival on March 17

Country music and sweet treats are headed to Clewiston next week for the 32nd annual Sugar Festival.

“This community event will have plenty of music, sweet food, arts and crafts and activities to offer people of all ages,” said Hillary Hyslope, executive director of the Clewiston Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Clewiston Sugar Festival committee. “Sugar Festival is Clewiston at its best: good music, food and people.”

Among the visitors for the March 17 event in “America’s Sweetest Town” are music acts Big & Rich, Easton Corbin, Brooke Eden, Doug Stone and the Cody Williams Band.

Music isn’t the only draw for the all-day event at the Civic Park on U.S. Hwy 27.

The agenda also includes the Sugar Fest 5K Run, the Sweet Taste of Sugar baking contest, and plenty of food vendors, arts and craft booths, tractor displays and a car show.

Those looking for some competition can put their name down for pickle ball, horseshoe and cornhole tournaments. The Seminole Tribe of Florida is sponsoring a free Kids Park with bounce houses, inflatable slides and other activities. Additionally, the festival will feature an alligator wrestling show provided by Billie Swamp Safari.

“The Clewiston Sugar Festival is a special time for our entire community to get together and recognize another successful season,” said Judy Sanchez, senior director of corporate communication and public affairs for U.S. Sugar. “We look forward to hosting guests from near and far and showing why Clewiston truly is ‘America’s Sweetest Town.’”

The festival coincides with the region’s annual sugarcane harvest and celebrates the harvest’s economic significance within the Glades region.

U.S. Sugar is the main backer of this year’s festival. The Seminole Tribe of Florida, FPL and the Hendry County Tourist Development Council are also sponsoring the event.

More information on the Clewiston Sugar Festival, including a complete schedule of events, is available at and on Facebook.

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