Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 of 237

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

Richard Corcoran insists he’s not getting in the middle of Scientology vs. Clearwater Aquarium

Ever since he was able to put a leash on rapper Pitbull‘s contract with VISIT Florida, Richard Corcoran has been the patron saint of those hoping to ferret out egregious government spending.

Hospitals paying too much to their executives and lobbyists? Call Speaker Corcoran.

Lottery makes a deal with a vendor which encumbers future legislative bodies? Call Speaker Corcoran.

Tourist development councils spending money on frivolous activities? Call Speaker Corcoran.

By now, you get the point. If you think some shady spending is going on, it’s “Better Call Corcoran” time.

That said, for a moment there, it appeared like Corcoran was going to insert himself into a nasty local spending issue he would do better avoiding.

According to Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, Corcoran is considering stepping into an ongoing battle between the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the Church of Scientology.

Corcoran is eyeing a recent decision by the Pinellas County Commission to give $26 million in tourism development taxes to the aquarium. The money is being doled out over three years to help fund an expansion.

The issue has been a long stewing local fight as the Church of Scientology, which has a huge presence in Clearwater, lobbied commissioners hard to not give the green light to the funding.

The issue came to Corcoran’s attention after attorneys for the church circulated hundreds of pages of documents outlining what it says is a misuse of funds, a contention the aquarium has fought. The church sent the packet of documents to both local and state officials, including Corcoran, Senate President Joe Negron and Attorney General Pam Bondi.

As soon as Dixon’s story broke, this website cautioned the Speaker to avoid appearing as if it were coming down on the side of Scientology.

As a matter of fact, Dixon’s story broke the day after the Tampa Bay Times reported how the FBI conducted a criminal investigation of the Church of Scientology in 2009 and 2010 that focused on allegations of human trafficking. Although the investigation never led to charges being filed, the documents buttress a 2013 report by the Times detailing a sustained and methodical FBI investigation of the church, with agents traveling to several states, questioning dozens of former Scientologists, obtaining surveillance video of the church’s remote headquarters in the mountains east of Los Angeles, and even contemplating a raid on that facility.

Fortunately, the Speaker’s Office insists it is not taking sides in the Scientology vs. CMA scrum.

“This has nothing to do with Scientology,” said Fred Piccolo, Corcoran’s communications director. “This is about the stewardship of public dollars.”

Piccolo reiterated the comments he provided to POLITICO Florida.

“We’ve received information that raises some questions,” Piccolo said Wednesday. “The Speaker will be briefed after budget negotiations are complete and we will determine further action at that time.”

“He remains fully committed to ensuring all tax dollars — including tourist taxes — are spent appropriately,” he said.

Part of the issue here, if you know the history of the funding for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, is that it is a pet project of Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala. 

In 2013, Latvala and other local lawmakers directed $5 million dollars the aquarium’s way to pay for production and marketing associated with filming “Dolphin Tale 2.”

In 2014, the aquarium received another dollop of state money. Dixon reports that there is another $1 million slated for the facility in next year’s budget.

Additionally, in 2013, Latvala tweaked the state’s Tourist Development Tax law to allow county bed tax dollars to be used for aquariums, opening the door for Clearwater Marine Aquarium to seek additional funds through the county.

Money from that fund is what Scientology is asking Corcoran to examine.

“It is the duty of the board to every citizen of Pinellas County to weigh this information before it embarks on [a] handout of this magnitude of taxpayer’s funds,” wrote Monique Yingling, a church attorney, in a seven-page letter that accompanied the documents, according to Dixon

An economic impact study conducted earlier this year concluded that the aquarium had pumped $2 billion into the local economy since 2011.

Still, there’s nothing wrong with the Speaker keeping close tabs on taxpayers’ money, especially since he has assured us he’s not playing favorites.

After all, Richard Corcoran would hate to be accused of picking winners and losers.

Sunburn for 5.5.17 – It’s sorta Sine Die

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

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

— WINNERS & LOSERS — 

Readers: We’re asking for your suggestions for who are the “Winners and Losers of the 2017 Legislative Session.” Your recommendations are needed by Sine Die. All submissions will remain anonymous. Whose and which bills came out on top? Whose disappeared in committee, or worse, never got heard? Let us know soon!

NEW POLLING SHOWS ALARMING TREND: MANY FLORIDIANS UNAWARE HOW GOVERNMENT WORKS

Many Floridians are unable to answer simple questions about how government works, says a new survey of residents by Florida Southern College.

— Even those with college degree missed some of the answers from questions included on exams administered to those becoming new citizens of the nation. For example, only 65 percent could name Rick Scott as Governor of Florida.

— While only 65 percent were able to name Scott as Governor, even fewer (45 percent) knew Paul Ryan was Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

— Asked why some states have more members of the U.S. House than others: Only 68 percent correctly said it was based on population; 20 percent did not know; seven percent said other reasons. Five percent gave no answer.

— For the name of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, only 53 percent knew it was “Bill of Rights.” Thirty-nine percent didn’t Know; 8 percent gave no answer.

— Many commentaries address the falling use of the printed newspapers, but results of the Florida Southern poll would suggest it is greater than previously reported. Asked what they would say is their main source of news, 41 percent of those agreeing to participate in the random sample telephone survey said television. Forty percent said the internet while 7 percent said newspapers, the same percentage who said their main source of news is radio. Another 2 percent listed other sources and 3 percent gave no answer.

Read the full polling memo here.

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

LEGISLATURE NOT MAKING SENSE TO RICK SCOTT 

Gov. Scott chastised state lawmakers for being unable to complete the 2017-18 budget on time, but once again stopped short of saying whether he would veto the entire spending plan once it reaches his desk.

“You would expect that when people have a job to do they’d get it done. I’ve been in business all my life, and that’s what you expect if you have a deadline,” said Scott following a stop in Naples on Thursday morning. “It doesn’t make any sense to me.’”

Gov. Scott visited PropLogix during his “Fighting for Florida’s Future” tour. PropLogix is a Florida-based company that does business with home buyers across the nation. Over the past two years, the company has grown from eight to more than 90 employees.

“They’re supposed to vote on this budget on Monday, and I have no earthly idea what’s in this budget,” said Scott. “Remember what Nancy Pelosi said about … Obamacare a few years ago: ‘You won’t know until you vote for it.’ It’s similar to this. I don’t know anyone is going to know (what’s in it).”

“On an annual basis, there’s 4,000 lines in the budget. It takes us a long time to review them,” he continued. “How is someone going to vote on Monday on a budget, 4,000 lines in a budget, that they haven’t seen?”

“Scott: Legislature’s inaction on gambling ‘doesn’t make any sense’” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics Scott doesn’t understand lawmakers’ inability to pass comprehensive gambling legislation this year—especially when he gave them a head start. “I don’t understand why they didn’t take that and try to work with it,” Scott said. “I know you have to work with both the Seminoles and the pari-mutuels. But there was a great framework there to get something done.” Part of the continual tug-of-war that ultimately kills gambling bills is the tension between pari-mutuels who want more games to offer—meaning slots and cards—and the Seminoles, who want to limit the competition against them. “I don’t get it. It’s more money for the state,” the governor said. “It stops this constant thinking about what we’re going to do, and it would solve a lot of problems … It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

– “Scott calls out Sarasota, Manatee representatives” via Zach Murdock of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will wrap up his “Fighting for Florida’s Future” tour with a stop at 8 a.m. (CDT) at the Holley Academic Center at Florida State University Panama City, 4750 Collegiate Drive in Panama City.

— DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO — 

Gov. Scott has been fighting to keep Visit Florida funded through the state budget, going as far as filming an ad to push jobs in the state. That ad, though, wasn’t shot in Florida, reports WFTV Channel 9’s Chris Heath.

— When first asked, Scott did not recall where the ad had been shot. Scott told Heath that he shot the ad in Washington D.C. because he was on the road and it was easier.

— Rollins College political science professor Dr. Rick Foglesong said the ad sends mixed messages. ‘It’s certainly contradictory,’ he said. ‘I would say, in this case, the governor doesn’t practice what he preaches. ‘He could have selected someone in our state to create that ad, but instead he took the work out of state.

— The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is pouncing; spox Dave Bergstein: “Each day brings a fresh revelation confirming why Floridians despise self-serving Tallahassee politicians like Rick Scott — instead of creating good paying jobs in Florida, Scott takes his own business out-of-state. It’s just more proof that Scott will say and do anything to help himself, while Floridians who work for a living pay the price.”

— Meanwhile, Scott’s political committee, “Let’s Get to Work,” raised at least $485,100 in April. Among the big checks: 100K from UnitedHealth Group, $50K from a Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC and Florida Blue. The committee has approximately $2.53 million cash-on-hand.

CORCORAN’S CALENDAR

Yesterday’s edition of Sunburn had barely begun to hit inboxes — and with it, an urging of Speaker Corcoran to consider also running for the U.S. Senate — when the Tampa Bay Times revealed the Pasco County Republican’s timetable for 2018.

— As the Speaker has told us privately, he won’t make a final; decision about a gubernatorial bid until after the 2018 Legislative Session, which ends in March of that year.

— What an interesting timetable that sets up. Adam Putnam is already in the race. Jack Latvala has told us and others he will make a decision and announce his plans in July. That leaves a big gap between those two and Corcoran’s decision.

— Corcoran says he won’t consider a bid for the U.S. Senate; it’s Tallahassee or bust: “Those are the only two choices — Governor or not run for office.”

Speaker  Richard Corcoran drops in the press room overlooking the House of Representatives chamber at the Florida Capitol.

— He’ll create a new political committee this summer (no word on what he will do with his current vehicle) but not just to raise cash for a gubernatorial run. (I)f I raise the money and I don’t want to run for Governor, I don’t run for Governor. I’ll use it for constitutional amendments, I’ll use it for helping real conservatives, or I’ll turn it over to the (Republican) party.”

— Although this story is bylined by Adam Smith, we’re told that the quotes were provided to Steve Bousquet.

Worth a read: “In begrudging praise of Speaker Richard Corcoran …” via Kartik Krishnaiyer of the Florida Squeeze

And speaking of 2018 – “Andrew Gillum’s campaign money boxes top $1 million” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – The Gillum for Governor campaign and its aligned political committee, Forward Florida, have raised a combined $1,051,473 through the end of April, from more than 5,600 individual donors, and have $743,827 cash on hand … That means he had a combined income of just over $200,00 in April … “Floridians are excited about the Gillum for Governor campaign, and our monthly fundraising report underscores their enthusiasm,” chief strategist Scott Arceneaux stated in a news release. “We’re on track to have the resources necessary to compete in all 67 counties and continue sharing Andrew Gillum’s fresh vision of a clean break from the old ways of governing Florida.” The early money certainly assures an early campaign infrastructure, including Arceneaux, former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party. Yet the statewide campaign is likely to cost several tens of millions of dollars.

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***

— BUDGET NOTEBOOK —

The House and Senate budget conferees resolved their final differences Thursday and added nearly $2.5 million in last minute projects, including a rodeo facility in Arcadia, canal improvements in Florida City, and the Urban League.

“The budget is closed,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala said. “It should be on the desk tomorrow morning. No more. No more. The budget is closed.” Later, he announced on the floor that the budget was being printed.

Sprinkle by the numbers: Total Senate supplemental funding initiatives: $47,243,461; Total House supplemental funding initiatives: $11,498,825. Overall total: $58,742,286

— The health and human services budget was the last big roadblock to a compromise $83 billion budget. Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida estimated that hospitals took a cut of $250 million in recurring general revenue in their Medicaid payments … with legislators agreeing — for the upcoming year only —to reduce those cuts by $50 million. Because state dollars are matched by federal Medicaid dollars, the cuts amount to a $520 million reduction in hospital spending this fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Jack Latvala: House bill on conservation funding looks ‘very political’” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – A House bill that would restructure funding for conservation land programs may not get a hearing in the Senate if appropriations chair Latvala has a say. HB 7119 would revise the Florida Forever formula to provide funding only for three conservation programs: Agricultural conservation easements, a local parks grant program and the Florida Forever acquisition list at the Department of Environmental Protection. Latvala … said the bill “came out of nowhere the last week of session” and has no Senate companion. “The optics on it would look very political to me,” Latvala told reporters.

Also raising Latvala’s ire, per @Fineout who asked legislators about putting language into a conforming bill taken from a bill not in conference … Because what the House/Senate did was take provisions from state worker insurance bill & place it in bill in budget conference … And there are rumblings that the Legislature may do the same and add education policy into 2 education conforming bills … So why is this important? Because conforming bills with budget can’t be amended – can only be voted up or down … And if anyone cares – they can consult Senate Rules 2.19 – paragraphs 2 and 3 – and decide if a point can be raised

— “House agrees to budget language hammering Miami housing developer” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Superintendents ‘gravely concerned’ by proposed K-12 funding” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – The organization representing Florida’s 67 county school district superintendents says the Legislature’s small funding increase for K-12 public schools next year is “not sufficient to meet the basic funding needs of Florida’s 2.8 million public school students.” The Florida Association of District School Superintendents says that “many school districts in Florida will receive less student funding next year” under the levels that House and Senate leaders set … after private negotiations. Under lawmakers’ compromise proposal, per-student spending would rise slightly to $7,221 — an increase of only 0.34 percent, or about $24.49 per student. The impact on each district’s state funding varies greatly in some cases. “Considering the overall economic strength of our state, it is alarming that the basic funding needs of Florida public school students could go unaddressed,” said Malcolm Thomas, president of the superintendents’ association and Escambia County schools’ superintendent.

— IT’S SORTA SINE DIE —

“Insurance bills fail to attract AOB, PIP amendments; workers’ comp still pending” via Florida Politics – The Senate retired Thursday night without taking up its workers’ compensation reform package. But Sen. Jeff Brandes’ insurance housekeeping bill survived without attracting unwanted amendments such as assignment of benefits reform. There was speculation it might after Rules Chairwoman Lizbeth Benaquisto pulled it from her committee Wednesday. Brandes wanted to keep the bill clean. “My deal to pull that from committee was to take only things that were in the House bill or were in the Senate bill, plus one or two other issues that leadership of the Senate agreed would go on that bill,” Brandes said. “AOB, PIP, workers’ comp are not any issues that are authorized to go on that bill, nor has the president asked me to put that on there,” he said. The House version — which would prevent third parties from collecting attorney fees — is favored by Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier, the industry, and business lobbies.

Trial attorneys and chamber both pushing to kill workers’ compensation compromise bill” via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – In an unusual display of unity, lobbyists for the Chamber and the Florida Justice Association (literally sitting side by side even) sent the same message to Florida senators: kill a compromise bill related to workers’ compensation. While the two groups have very different reasons why, the message was the same, an attempt to strike a compromise on workers’ compensation issues has made it unacceptable to both.

“Renewable-energy tax break bill heads to Rick Scott” via Florida Politics — The bill (SB 90) cleared the Senate unanimously. If signed into law, businesses that install solar panels wouldn’t have to pay additional property taxes from the increased value of adding such devices. “The voters of Florida spoke loud and clear in support of an expanded solar market in the sunshine state,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes in a statement. “Reducing property taxes on solar and renewable energy devices will bring more solar energy to Florida. The unanimous support of the legislature shows that we are dedicated to expanding the share of renewables in our energy portfolio, and I am excited to continue to advocate for energy reform.”

Senate approves amended House medical marijuana bill” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Senators approved the House proposal by a vote of 31-7. The measure now goes back to the House. The Senate bill sponsor, Sen. Bradley, late-filed a 70-page amendment to the House bill … just hours before that chamber took up the measure. Among the proposed changes in Bradley’s amendment: limiting growers to opening up five retail facilities, an alteration from the House version, which previously allowed medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs) to open unlimited facilities. The delete-all amendment would allow the Department of Health to grant 10 new licenses before Oct. 1 and would add five new licenses for every 75,000 patients.

Ben Pollara with Florida for Care reacts: “The implementing bill approved this evening by the Senate is not perfect but its passage is necessary. Hundreds of thousands of sick and suffering Floridians are counting on legislative action to provide access and relief — the amended HB 1397 would do so. The House should act quickly tomorrow to send this critical legislation to Gov. Scott.”

But – SIREN – Ray Rodrigues is saying he won’t accept the Senate’s latest proposal. “There were things included in the [amendment] that appeared to be different from what was agreed to in our previous negotiations,” Rodriguez told Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida.

— Bradley said he’s “surprised” by Rodriguez’ posture.

— Ducassi reports that Speaker Corcoran is now involved in negotiations after they hit a snag. And Corcoran seems to be really opposed to the idea of caps on dispensaries.

Sen. Rob Bradley listens to colleague during a Senate recess at the Florida Capitol. Photo credit: Mark Wallheiser.

House rejects compromise in fentanyl trafficking bill” via The Associated Press – A bill that toughens penalties for certain synthetic drug traffickers hit a roadblock after the Florida House rejected a Senate-added provision that would have allowed judges to break from mandatory minimum sentences in certain fentanyl cases. State Rep. Jim Boyd, a Republican sponsoring the measure (HB 477), said that not having minimum mandatory sentences for “scumbag” drug dealers would defeat the purpose of the bill. The bill now heads back to the Senate for reconsideration. But time could put the effort to combat opioid abuse in jeopardy.

Sober homes bill heads to governor” via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel –The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Bill Hager in the House and state Sen. Jeff Clemens in the Senate, represents a bipartisan attempt by lawmakers to target bad actors in the sober-home industry. Sober homes — halfway houses for people fresh out of rehab — have inundated South Florida. Officials estimate there are more than a thousand, with hundreds in Delray Beach, which has seen the most significant problem with them. The bill adds patient brokering to the list of crimes to be investigated by Florida’s Office of Statewide Prosecution. It also bans sober homes from lying in advertising, and tightens background screenings for workers at licensed rehab centers that refer patients to sober homes. Scott has not said whether he will sign the bill, but he is almost certain to do so. At a news conference last month, he cited the bill as a top priority in fighting the state’s opioid epidemic.

“Tom Lee quietly files amendment affecting Uber, Lyft” via Florida PoliticsState Sen. Lee on Wednesday filed an amendment for the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles bill that would regulate the operations of ridebooking services like Uber and Lyft. The language would prohibit local governments and governmental bodies, including airport authorities, from cutting deal with “transportation network companies” (TNCs) to operate exclusively in their jurisdictions. The amendment for the bill (HB 545) also prohibits agreements “that provides disparate treatment” to any TNC. The bill was discussed on the floor later Thursday, but was postponed.“

More Tom Lee magic: “Controversial fee for private auto tag vendors springs back to life” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – An optional new fee on licenses and tags renewed through private vendors sprang back to life in the Senate … at the urging of Hillsborough County’s elected tax collector. The new fee is being sought by several county tax collectors and a lobbyist for for-profit vendors that want to issue licenses and tags to a growing universe of motorists. “We have a lot of people who don’t have time during the day to get this done,” said Hillsborough Tax Collector Doug Belden, whose offices often have two-hour wait times. “I can reduce wait times during the week. Our core concept is customer service.” Other tax collectors oppose the idea. The change would give private vendors power to charge motorists an undetermined “convenience fee,” subject to approval of tax collectors or by county commissions in Miami-Dade, Broward and Volusia, which do not have tax collectors but which allow private vendors to sell tags and issue car titles and registrations.

– “It’s the end of the road for the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Steve Andrews getting involved in Kevin Rader’s crusade against lobbyist” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Could someone in the Senate please ask Rader to knock it off? That’s the gist of a letter Tallahassee attorney Andrews wrote to Senate general counsel Dawn Roberts last week. “Would you kindly ask Sen. Rader to stop disseminating my client’s picture around the Capitol on stationery that bears the Senate’s seal?” Andrews wrote. “The last week has been bad enough without this nonsense,” Andrews continued … This was after the Democrat from Boca Raton had plastered in Capitol elevators posters bearing a pixelated image strongly resembling insurance lobbyist Lisa Miller. Rader has been on Miller’s case ever since another insurance lobbyist wrote on his blog that Miller had impersonated that “concerned citizen” during a conference call with the Demotech Inc. ratings agency.

Gary Farmer’s sneakers get him in trouble (sorta) on Senate floor” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – State Sen. Gary Farmer was sent to the back of the Florida Senate chamber for a brief timeout — because of his shoes. The Broward Democrat’s apparent faux pas: He was wearing sneakers. In the middle of legislative debate, Senate President Pro Tempore Anitere Flores … interrupted the proceedings to point out Farmer’s choice of footwear. She called on Rules Chairwoman Lizbeth Benacquisto of Fort Myers to take up the attire matter and instructed the sergeant to keep Farmer near the chamber’s back wall. “I’m not kidding,” a straight-faced Flores said, amid grins and chuckles around her. Farmer, too, was laughing — clad in his black sneakers with white soles. Flores later clarified that she was, in fact, joking. “Senator Farmer has been exonerated,” she said.

A Senate Sergeant of Arms taps Sen. Gary Farmer on the shoulder as he is called out during Senate debate for wearing tennis shoes on the Senate floor as Sen. Randolph Bracy, left, looks on at the Florida Capitol. Photo credit: Mark Wallheiser.

“Craft distillery bill set up for final Senate vote” via Florida PoliticsA bill to allow craft distillers to sell more product directly to customers was set for a final vote late Thursday. Sen. Greg Steube substituted the House version (HB 141) of his bill, which was set for third reading. The measure would let distillers sell up to six bottles of spirits per customer in a given year. Now, they may sell two bottles. If passed in the Senate, the bill would next head to Gov. Rick Scott.

Senate refuses House change on ‘Stand Your Ground’ burden of proof” via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby ToolsThe Senate refused to accept the House’s amendment to the “stand your ground” burden of proof standard the lower chamber OK’d in early April. The House amendment on SB 128 said prosecutors must overcome “clear and convincing evidence” claimed in “stand your ground” immunity cases, a more lenient standard that the Senate’s wording: “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The bill has been returned to the House with a request to remove the amendment.

House argues prosecutors have no discretion on death penalties” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – In a friend of the court brief bound to raise state attorneys’ eyebrows throughout Florida, the Florida House is arguing that prosecutors have no discretion with regard to capital punishment, that the state Legislature’s intent was to rest all discretion with juries. The House filed the brief in the Florida Supreme Court case of Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala versus Gov. Scott. The issues, in that case, are whether prosecutorial discretion gives Ayala the power to refuse all capital punishment prosecutions, as she’s done; and whether the governor has the right to strip capital cases away from her, as he’s consequently done. The brief … argues that a state attorney is not the one to decide on death penalties. It contends the state attorney’s role is more clerical, to review facts of a case to determine if aggravating circumstances exist that could merit a death penalty, and then leave the decision of death or life in prison entirely up to the jury.

School testing reform faces pass/fail exam in House” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – After several days of private collaboration among lawmakers, one major late-night rewrite and some last-minute tweaks, senators unanimously passed a sweeping education bill — the main feature of which is to address excessive testing in Florida’s public schools. HB 549 eliminates only a single test — the Algebra 2 end-of-course exam — and it requires the state Department of Education to study by Jan. 1 whether national exams, like the SAT or ACT, can be used as alternatives to the Florida Standards Assessments and other statewide tests. The results of that study could spur further action by lawmakers in the 2018 session to curb duplicative testing, which several senators had hoped to accomplish this year. “Is this bill what I wanted? No. I wanted more, but … I know that, at least, this is a good beginning,” said Tallahassee Democratic Sen. Bill Montford, a former Leon County schools superintendent whose opinion on education policy is well-respected by the chamber.

— HOW PINK BECAME A SINE DIE TRADITION — 

Pink is what distinguishes the last day of Florida’s Legislative Sessions.

Lobbyists, consultants, former lawmakers and observers, clad in pink outfits, roam the Capitol hallways during the session’s final hours.

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 were more than 100 lobbyists sporting pink: carnations, jackets, shirts, all responding to Reynolds’ request to remember his dad with a display of pink.

“We respected him greatly for his intellect and honesty,” said Steve Schale, who knew Arrington while working for Rep. Doug Wiles. “And my way of paying homage to the way I think we are supposed to treat this business as advocates is to wear pink for Marvin Arrington.”

Seeing pink at the Capitol on Session’s final day, to paraphrase Artis Whitman, is a visual reminder of how each generation takes nourishment from earlier ones, giving knowledge to those who comes after.

Meanwhile, look for Pepi Diaz to give his farewell speech today, reports Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald. The Miami Republican has asked to say good-bye because he expects to be gone from the House one way or another before the 2018 session.Diaz, a lawyer, is a finalist for the Miami U.S. attorney job under President Donald Trump. But even if he doesn’t get appointed to the high-profile e gig, he intends to run for the state Senate seat vacated by former Republican Sen. Frank Artiles.

AP INVESTIGATION: FLORIDA’S BUILDING BOOM THREATENS THE INDIAN RIVER LAGOON

The Indian River Lagoon is repeatedly being choked with oxygen-robbing algae, its surface increasingly dotted with thousands of dead fish, manatees, birds and other creatures.

The culprits: farm runoff and a huge influx of people that has sent lawn fertilizer and other pollutants into the lagoon, which runs 156 miles along Florida’s Atlantic Coast, almost to Palm Beach, and includes the Cape Canaveral area, reports Jason Dearen and Mike Schneider of the Associated Press.

— Although the federal and state governments have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to heal the lagoon in recent years, an examination found that pollution spiked, algae blooms spread and fish kills worsened over the past decade and a half as central Florida’s population swelled faster than that of anywhere else in the state.

— Since 2000, more than 1.5 million people moved into the six counties along the lagoon and three Orlando-area counties that drain into Lake Okeechobee or directly into the lagoon. More than 500,000 new homes were built in those counties over the same time period. Paved-over expanses such as roads, driveways and parking lots have allowed runoff to make its way into the lagoon more easily. It has also been fouled by wastewater treatment plants that discharge into the lagoon, sewage spills from the plants during heavy rains, and leaky septic tanks.

— The reported number of marine creatures that have died spiked to 1.2 million in 2011, compared with 7,000 in 2000, and experts blame the algae.

— In the past 20 years, the annual value of the clams, oysters, crabs and shrimp caught along the lagoon has dropped from more than $20 million to $4.3 million, according to regional planners. The lagoon’s problems, along with a voter-approved ban on large nets, played a big role in the disappearance of commercial fishermen.

— In Brevard County, which stretches along nearly half of the lagoon, the fish kill in March 2016 prompted voters to approve a sales tax to raise more than $300 million over 10 years for cleanup efforts, including upgrading wastewater treatment plants and removing thousands of old septic tanks. Florida environmental officials say they are pitching in $24 million in grants.

Dead fish clog the Banana River in Cocoa Beach. Photo credit: AP.

***A Prospective Payment System for nursing center reimbursement gives more value to Floridians’ Medicaid spending by putting it toward what matters most — the quality of our loved one. Learn more here.***

PAGING PAM BONDI 

Congressman Tom Marino is no longer in the running to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy. That means the possibility of Attorney General Pam Bondi as the nation’s next drug czar is still alive.

Roll Call reports Thursday that the Pennsylvania Republican had been in the final steps of completing paperwork necessary ahead of official nomination. The job requires Senate confirmation.

A brief statement from Marino’s office only said he had withdrawn, citing a family illness. Chief of Staff Sarah Rogers would not comment on whether Marino failed a background check. Marino will remain in Congress.

Marino’s departure is reviving speculation that Bondi may still take a role in the Donald Trump administration. Last month, a state prosecutor cleared Bondi and Trump of wrongdoing in connection with a $25,000 contribution to a political action committee supporting her 2014 re-election campaign.

— ACROSS THE STATE —

CFO Jeff Atwater gives big raises on way out” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando SentinelAtwater … has given six top-level staffers in his office substantial raises backdated to January, according to state records. Smaller raises also were given to 10 division directors at the Department of Financial Services. In total the pay hikes will cost taxpayers $96,977 over the course of a year. The raises for the top-level staffers were approved in April and made retroactive to January. Most state workers haven’t received an increase in pay since 2013, but the current state budget allows agency chiefs to issue bonuses and raises “to address retention, pay inequities or other staffing issues.”

“Carlos Lopez-Cantera to head federal judicial nominating panel” via Florida PoliticsLt. Gov. Lopez-Cantera will be the next statewide chair of the panel that vets candidates for federal judges, according to a Thursday statement from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s office. The purpose of the Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission is “to identify highly qualified individuals as finalists to become U.S. district judges in each of the three judicial districts in Florida,” the release said. “Carlos is well-suited for this position and I am confident he is dedicated to this important process and will successfully lead the commission in identifying exceptional candidates to serve on the federal bench in Florida,” Rubio said.

PSC OKs rate hike under Gulf Power settlement via Florida Politics –– The Florida Public Service Commission signed off a rate increase of $6.20 cents per 1,000 kilowatt hours for Gulf Power Co. Bills would increase from $131.43 to $137.63. The increase comes under the $62 million settlement agreement the utility reached April 4 with the Office of Public Counsel and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. Gulf Power originally sought to charge its customers in Northwest Florida an additional $106.8 million. The deal guarantees the utility a return on investment to Gulf Power’s stockholders averaging 10.25 percent — more than the public counsel’s office, which represents consumers before the PSC, had argued was justified.

***Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) reduce prescription drug costs and protect Florida consumers, employers, unions, and government programs from high drug prices. PBMs will save Floridians $43.4 billion over the next decade. Learn more at DrugBenefitSolutions.com.***

Publix taps former Delta staffer to manage political spending” via Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business JournalJohn Provenzano will oversee the Lakeland-based company’s local, state and federal government affairs as well as manage the company’s political action committee. The company has given more than $6 million to various campaigns over the past two decades … Most of those contributions favor Republicans, with the company’s largest gift going to the Republican Party of Florida. Provenzano is currently the executive director of the National Association of State Treasurers. He starts with Publix June 12.

New and renewed lobby registration

Brian Bautista, Impact GR: ofo US Limited

Paul Bradshaw, Nelson Diaz, Southern Strategy Group: ofo US Limited

Matt Brockelman, Jonathan Setzer, Southern Strategy Group: Modern Health Concepts

Christopher Dudley, Paul Mitchell, , Southern Strategy Group: Auto Club Group (AAA)

Mike Haridopolos: Astronauts Memorial Foundation

Joy Ryan, Meenan PA: Pringle Lane Farm, LLC

Monte Stevens, Southern Strategy Group: Auto Club Group (AAA); Modern Health Concepts

Miami-Dade mayor’s son leaves Trump-linked lobbying firm that represented Venezuelan-owned company” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami HeraldC.J. Gimenez, a son of Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, is leaving the lobbying firm Avenue Strategies, in part because the company took on as a client Citgo, the Venezuelan-government owned oil company. Avenue Strategies’ founder, former Donald Trump presidential campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, also announced his exit from the firm after a spate of negative publicity. The younger Gimenez, who had joined Avenue just last month, characterized the Citgo representation as the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and said he and Lewandowski will now focus solely on domestic lobbying clients. “I will personally never represent the interests of the Maduro regime, which reflects the worst there is of all humanity,” Gimenez, who was traveling, told the Miami Herald in a text message.

“Orlando-area judge ordered suspended for campaign ad” via Orlando RisingThe Florida Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a 90-day unpaid suspension and public reprimand for an Orlando-area judge who “circulated a deceptive, misleading advertisement.” The court’s hearing panel also suggested paranoia on the part of Circuit Judge Kimberly Shepard, who believed “sinister forces (were) at work” trying to defeat her, they said … During the campaign, she handed out fliers that “implied that the Orlando Sentinel had endorsed Ms. Shepard, when it had, in fact, endorsed her opponent,” Norberto Katz, according to a report by a hearing panel of the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Barbara Poma, foundation to develop national memorial, museum at Pulse site” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The owner of the Pulse nightclub announced her newly formed foundation will seek to develop a national-caliber memorial and museum campus on the site of America’s worst recorded mass shooting. Poma pushed through the pain of last year’s tragedy to declare her new foundation’s motto, “We will not let hate win,” and announced the creation of the OnePulse Foundation, which will raise money and work with the community to plan, develop, build, operate, and maintain the memorial in Orlando. “We have come so far in these 11 months. I can say finally that I am finding hope and inspiration by being back here at Pulse,” Poma said. “Pulse has become part of you, and you a part of Pulse. What was once our little corner at Kaley [Street] and Orange [Avenue] is now shared with the world. Together, we are all part of Pulse’s future, right here on this property.”

“Busted: Cocaine found in 5 greyhounds at Derby Lane” via Associated PressState officials revoked a racing greyhound trainer’s license after five dogs tested positive for cocaine after a race in January. According to records from the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Malcolm McAllister’s racing license was permanently revoked April 24. Urine samples for the dogs were taken by state employees following races at the St. Petersburg Kennel Club — known as Derby Lane — in January. McAllister didn’t dispute the findings and waived his right to a hearing. He wrote in a note to the agency that someone he’d hired either dropped or administered the drug, and that it wasn’t him.

Happy birthday to our wonderful friends, Laura Jolly and Jim Magill as well as Paul Flemming and Susannah Randolph.

Florida politicians react to GOP vote to repeal Obamacare

Relieved Republicans have pushed their prized health care bill through the House. The mostly party-line 217-213 vote advances a bill that addresses their longtime pledge to erase the 2010 Obama health care law.

Thursday’s vote sends the measure to the Senate. Many senators consider the House bill too harsh and it’s expected to undergo substantial changes.

Here is a compilation of reactions to the vote:

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz:

“Today, I voted in favor of The American Health Care Act — a bill that will make health insurance more accessible and more affordable for people across America.

“For too many Americans, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has been anything but affordable. Premiums have soared, coverage has plummeted, and insurers are leaving the market in droves, making a dire situation even worse. States have been robbed of their rights, and the economy has been smothered: small businesses cannot afford to grow, large businesses cannot afford to expand, and it continues to expand our out-of-control national debt with alarming speed.

“Obamacare is heading off a cliff. If we did nothing, disaster would have been imminent. I voted for The American Health Care Act because I do not want to see hard working Americans unable to afford coverage. I do not want our elderly and our sick to struggle under the burden of unaffordable, low-quality coverage. I do not want to crush our small businesses — the engine of American economic growth. What I want is freedom: freedom for individuals to pick the policies they want, freedom for states to operate with flexibility, and freedom of choice — because when people can choose between many different insurance providers, costs will be lower and quality will be higher. Under The American Health Care Act, insurance coverage will be better and less expensive — not just for the young and healthy, but for the elderly, and for people with pre-existing conditions as well.

“The long nightmare of Obamacare is ending. I am proud to have voted for The American Health Care Act, which is a step forward for all Americans.”

U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn:

“I do this today, as a doctor, for the good of my patients. We are following through on our promise to repeal Obamacare and replace it with reforms that lower heath care costs and expand access. Right now, Obamacare is failing. In one-third of the counties in the country, there is only one Obamacare insurance provider. Despite President Obama’s promises, the law has increased premiums and deductibles, and hardworking taxpayers have lost access to the doctors and health plans they preferred. For many Americans, deductibles are so high that it is like not even having health insurance at all.”

“The American Health Care Act fixes our broken health care system. Without Washington mandates that drive-up costs and limit access, Americans will have the freedom to obtain quality health plans that fit their needs at a cost they can afford.”

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson:

“Republicans have lost sight of why constituents sent us to Washington D.C. – and it wasn’t to score political points with President Donald Trump. This abomination of a health care disaster will raise health care premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for hard-working Americans while at the very same time, giving $600 billion in tax breaks to big corporations.

“Some estimated 24 million Americans could lose their health care coverage under this new bill, while those with pre-existing conditions will be at the mercy of their state leadership, which could opt out of guaranteeing them access to affordable health care. Trumpcare will allow insurance companies to charge people 50 and over five times more than they charge other people and it weakens the life of the Medicare trust fund.

“None of us can choose when and where we will need emergency care, or when we might join the millions of Americans who already have pre-existing conditions. No one should live in fear of not being able to seek medical care because it might lead to higher premiums they cannot afford.

“We need to make it easier to access and afford health care in our country, and Republicans have not put us on the path to do that. Rather they have taken us back in time and created more obstacles for those who need it most to get the health care they need.”

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy:

“TrumpCare takes health care away from 24 million Americans, while the rest of us pay more for fewer benefits. Older Americans will be especially hurt, and people with pre-existing conditions will be put at risk. This bill offends my conscience and hurts my constituents, and so I voted no.

“I want every American to have access to quality, affordable health care, but this bill falls far short of that goal. We should work in a bipartisan way to strengthen what works in the Affordable Care Act and fix what doesn’t – not dismantle our health care system with a hyper-partisan bill negotiated behind closed doors and passed without a single public hearing or cost analysis.

“Virtually all patient advocates, physicians, hospitals, and independent health care experts, including the AARP, opposed this bill. Moving forward, I will do everything I can to protect our health care in a way that reduces premiums and increases benefits for families, seniors, and small businesses in central Florida.”

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis:

“With the House passage of the American Health Care Act, we are moving forward with a health care system that lowers costs and increases choices. Like many Americans, I live with a pre-existing condition, as do many of my family members and loved ones. I would not have voted for the bill if I thought protections for those with pre-existing conditions were in jeopardy, as I promised my constituents during three town hall meetings. Today’s vote is the beginning of health care reform, not the be-all-end-all, and we cannot allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. I look forward to continuing work to ensure health care is affordable and accessible for all.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney:

“I gave my word to my constituents who lost their coverage under Obamacare and were forced to work several part-time jobs to pay for plans on the exchanges they couldn’t afford. I gave my word to my constituents who for the first time were able to obtain coverage, regardless of their health status. Under the status quo, Obamacare will continue to fail, premiums will increase by 17% in Florida this year and my constituents living in these six counties – Desoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands, Lee, and Okeechobee – will still be stuck with only one health insurance provider to choose from. The American Health Care Act is not perfect, but passing this bill out of the House is the critical first step in the process of reforming our broken health care system and making health care for all Americans better. The AHCA will now go to the Senate, where my colleagues will have the opportunity to make changes to and improve the bill.”

“As President Trump has said time and time again, this bill maintains the current protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions. I promised my constituents at my town hall in Englewood that I would only support a bill that keeps these important protections for people with pre-existing conditions. This bill provides states with funding to help cover the costs of enrollees with expensive medical conditions in the individual market. And let me be clear, because this is important, insurers in states that set up their own systems are still expressly prohibited from denying coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions. This bill may allow the system to operate differently than the top-down, federal government approach of Obamacare, but I believe it will create a market that offers people of all ages and incomes the opportunity to choose from a diverse array of specialized, affordable health care options that work best for their family.”

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch:

“There is a lot that Congress could work on to improve health care in America. Instead, Republicans forced a partisan bill through the House that will rip away health care from 24 million people. This bill will eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions. From cancer to pregnancy and diabetes to heart disease, half the population will face price gouging based on their health history. The American people want better health care; they don’t want higher costs, less coverage, and cuts that will jeopardize Medicare and Medicaid.

“TrumpCare will allow insurance companies to discriminate against women, charge seniors five times more than younger consumers, hinder our fight against drug overdoses and addiction, and end requirements for essential health benefits like emergency room and mental health care in all health plans. With this vote, Republicans have chosen to put health care out of reach for millions.

“But beyond the substance, the process has been entirely undemocratic. Republicans locked the American people out of the process, drafting this proposal behind closed doors, holding hearings in the middle of the night, and refusing to wait for an updated report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office so that we know even more about the terrible damage this bill will do.

“I hope the American people are watching and will hold Congress accountable. I voted no, and I will continue to fight for expanded coverage and reduced costs so that all Americans have the right to access the care they need.”

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart:

“Whether we like it or not, Obamacare is collapsing and on its way out. Already, in two of the three counties I represent, the Affordable Care Act only offers one provider, with no choice or competition for consumers. In 2016, Miami-Dade County had six providers and next year, will drop to three providers. Collier and Hendry Counties are worse off; they, like forty-five other Florida counties, are left with just one provider. Knowing the people I represent could very well lose their coverage, just like Iowa residents did yesterday when their state marketplace collapsed, is disturbing. It would be irresponsible for Congress not to act in order to prevent this from happening.

“I will work with our colleagues in the Senate as they consider the legislation. I will also continue working with HHS Secretary Price and members of the administration to provide relief from the disastrous effects of Obamacare and ensure the AHCA truly serves the needs of my constituents and the American people.”

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast:

“The Affordable Care Act has failed its promises to lower costs, to let people keep their doctor and to let people keep their plans.  As a result, Martin and St. Lucie counties have only one insurer on the individual exchange.  Premiums and deductibles have become beyond unaffordable for people throughout our community, and I’ve heard from countless families just like Debbie’s from Jensen Beach who saw their premiums double and their deductible balloon to more than $12,000 under the Affordable Care Act.

“The American Health Care Act delivers relief for families by ensuring that you get to choose your coverage and the federal government can’t tax you based on what you think is best for your family. The bill returns control of health care from Washington back to you and restores access to quality, affordable options that are tailored to your individual needs.  The bill does all this while also increasing Medicaid funding for Florida by $400 to $500 million dollars that will go to help the most at-risk people in our community get potentially life-saving coverage and treatment.

“Like millions of Americans, I have a pre-existing condition.  As a result of my time in the military, I lost both of my legs and sustained other internal injuries that continue to impact my health care to this day.  I care about this issue.  I believe it is my responsibility to be the staunchest advocate for people out there that also have pre-existing conditions, and I will be.  This bill mandates that people cannot be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions and allocates almost $140 billion in additional funding that will subsidize coverage for people with pre-existing conditions to ensure their costs are low, while driving down costs for everybody else as well.  Those claiming otherwise are the same people who said ‘if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor’ and they’re putting partisan politics ahead of the people in our community.”

U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney:

“Repealing and replacing the failing and unsustainable social experiment of Obamacare is a necessity for Southwest Floridians that have seen choices dwindling and premiums skyrocketing. Currently, one-third of U.S. counties and almost half of all counties in Florida, including Collier and Lee Counties, have only one insurer offering exchange plans. Eighteen of twenty-three exchanges have failed and less than half of the expected exchange sign-ups have occurred. The plan being voted on today in the House of Representatives is a conservative, patient-centric, free enterprise healthcare solution that provides choice and competition. Despite what some on the left are contending, coverage for pre-existing conditions will remain. The ability for individual states to tailor their guidelines to meet the needs of their residents is a critical element of reforming our health care system, and it is what our Constitution intends for powers not expressly delegated to the federal government.”

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross:

“After seven long years, Americans across Florida and the entire nation can breathe a sigh of relief today because we fulfilled our promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. By working with President Trump and uniting to pass the AHCA, we are putting patients first and ending an era of skyrocketing premiums, massive tax hikes and burdensome mandates and penalties.

“Obamacare has kicked 4.7 million Americans off of their healthcare plans, and in Florida alone, premiums are expected to increase by 19 percent this year. Insurance providers are fleeing the exchange left and right, with major providers, like Medica and Aetna, announcing just this week they are withdrawing from Iowa and Virginia, leaving families with little to no choices. This death spiral is hitting hard nationwide, but we put an end to it today.

“The AHCA will kick bureaucrats out of doctors’ offices and put patients back in charge of their own healthcare decisions. It will lower premiums and eliminate the individual and employer mandates that are crushing small businesses and families. My vote today prevents insurers from denying patients coverage for pre-existing conditions, allows children up to 26 years old to stay on their parents’ healthcare plans, and provides a seamless transition so no one has the rug pulled out from under them.

“Additionally, as a Christian, father and staunch defender of life, I am proud the AHCA defunds Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the country, by blocking more than $500 million of taxpayer dollars. This has the strong support of the National Right to Life Committee, which has awarded me a perfect 100 percent rating.

“We will continue to work with the Trump Administration to further stabilize the health insurance market, increase choices, and lower costs for all Americans and families. I encourage the Senate to quickly take up and pass the AHCA so President Trump can finally sign into law the repeal of Obamacare, and we can provide Americans relief and access to affordable plans they need and prefer. After seven years, we are finally putting patients first.”

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford:

“After seven years of broken promises, it is clear that Obamacare is on the path to collapse and the American people are paying the price. Just this week, we saw two more announcements of insurance carriers leaving the marketplace, leaving consumers with few or even no choices for coverage. Obamacare has given us fewer choices, skyrocketing premiums, higher deductibles, and higher taxes. It is not working and we must act. I promised the people of Northeast Florida that we would protect them from this misguided law, and today we have voted to do just that.

“The American Health Care Act repeals Obamacare, its mandates, taxes, and rules, which will lower consumer costs. It replaces it with a system that empowers individuals and families to obtain affordable, quality health care coverage. No longer will Americans be mandated to buy a plan they cannot afford, do not want, and cannot even use. The legislation maintains the guarantee that Americans with pre-existing conditions will have affordable coverage, and it continues to allow children to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26.

“While this represents a big step toward the market-based reforms needed to make health care more affordable and accessible for all, we must continue to drive down the cost of health care. I will continue working to increase access to quality, affordable health care for every Northeast Florida family.”

U.S. Rep. Dan Webster:

“Today, I voted to end the nightmare that has been the [un]Affordable Care Act (ACA) and to provide Americans with the care they need, at a price they can afford, from the doctor they choose. For six years, I have been an advocate for repealing the failed Obamacare and replacing it with real health care reform. ACA has is collapsing across the country — currently 4.7 million people are without an insurer.  This failed policy is raising costs for patients and forcing insurers out of the marketplace, which leaves patients and families with nowhere to go.

“I have been very concerned about Florida’s Medicaid-funded nursing home beds.  These are critical to the access some of our senior population has to our nursing homes.

“President Trump, Vice President Pence, Center for Medicaid Services and House leadership have committed to find a solution to ensure Florida is equipped to serve one of our most vulnerable. With these assurances and Chairman Walden’s comments that are now in the official record, I voted for the bill today.”

Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham:

“By advancing Trumpcare 2.0, Congress is completely ignoring what’s going on in the real lives of every American family. Instead of focusing on real solutions to lower the cost of health care, they’ve passed a bill that will eliminate coverage for more than 20 million Americans, tax seniors and force working families to pay more out of pocket. In Congress, I fought in support of Obamcare because it has allowed children to stay on their parents’ plans, ended discrimination against women and helped millions of Americans who have a pre-existing condition. We must now redouble our efforts and fight to stop Trumpcare in the Senate. I’m picking up my phone to call Senator Rubio’s office now — I hope you’ll join me in telling him to kill this bill.”

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum:

“I am sickened by today’s vote, and the waves of attacks that led to it. The House of Representatives’ vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act was foretold by years of attacks aimed at questioning its foundation and weakening its core provisions like employer-based coverage and protections for pre-existing conditions. Republicans certainly bear the brunt of responsibility for the harsh consequences of repeal, but so do all Washington politicians who aided and abetted their efforts to undercut Obamacare, making it harder for workers to gain access to health insurance for political expediency. As Governor, Floridians can count on me to protect and expand affordable health care coverage as a right, not a luxury.”

Democratic candidate for governor Chris King:

“The Trumpcare bill being rammed through Congress would allow states to remove protections for people with pre-existing conditions and subject them to unconscionable premiums. One of the most horrendous aspects of this bill is that it attacks women through increased premiums on those who have been pregnant, had a c-section, or had postpartum depression. It even categorizes victims of sexual assault and domestic violence as having pre-existing conditions.

“So, I pledge that if I’m given the honor of being our next governor, Florida will not ask for or exercise any waiver that takes away protections against pre-existing conditions. On my watch, Floridians who are battling illness and disease, will have the confidence of knowing that they will not be punished for getting sick.

“There’s nothing scarier than being told you or someone you love is sick. Trumpcare only adds to that anxiety by saying once you get sick you won’t be able to afford insurance. Government should help us be free from fear, not the cause of it.

“So, I call on all my fellow candidates – including Commissioner Putnam – to join me in saying they too will not ask for, or take, any waiver that removes protections for Floridans with pre-existing conditions. Let’s be united in saying that whomever is Governor, we aren’t going to punish our sick family members. We will not punish women. And we won’t live with fear.”

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee:

“Just like they self-serving Tallahassee politician that he is, Governor Scott bragged about his leading role in helping craft this toxic health care proposal — and now he owns this horrific Plan that strips coverage and spikes costs for Floridians. Scott has broken his promise to voters — his plan makes older Americans pay five times more for care, strips away coverage for pre-existing conditions and threatens vital drug abuse prevention and women’s healthcare services, all to give big insurance companies another handout. Floridians of every political persuasion are united in opposition to these proposals, and if Scott chooses to run for Senate he will be held accountable for his toxic health care agenda.”

Florida Democratic Party:

“This “revised” version of the bill hurts Floridians even more than the original. The 7.8 million Floridians with pre-existing conditions whose coverage would be jeopardized under this bill have much to worry about, considering that Rick Scott has supported Trumpcare and refused to fully implement the Affordable Care Act in Florida by expanding Medicaid and giving coverage to nearly 1 million Floridians. We must hold the elected officials who supported this inhumane bill accountable and vote them out in 2018.”

Progress Florida:

“Florida’s U.S. Representatives who voted to repeal critical patient and consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act and replace it with Trumpcare have ignored condemnation by health professionals and turned their backs on Florida families. In doing so, they’re shamelessly doling out $600 billion in tax cuts for the very wealthy and big insurance and drug companies.

“Trumpcare will increase health care costs, reduce quality of care, strip coverage from an estimated 24 million Americans and gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Adding insult to injury, Trumpcare would exempt Members of Congress from the law.

“Trumpcare is a disaster in the making and literally a death sentence for some Floridians.”

Tom Marino out, is Pam Bondi in?

Pennsylvania Republican Tom Marino

Congressman Tom Marino is no longer in the running to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy. That means the possibility of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi becoming be the nation’s next drug czar may still be in play.

Roll Call reports Thursday that the Pennsylvania Republican had been in the final steps of completing the paperwork necessary ahead of an official nomination. The job requires Senate confirmation.

A brief statement from Marino’s office only said he had withdrawn, citing a family illness. Chief of Staff Sarah Rogers would not comment on whether Marino failed a background check. Marino will remain in Congress.

Marino’s departure is reviving speculation that Bondi may still take a role in the Donald Trump administration.

Last month, a state prosecutor cleared Bondi and Trump of wrongdoing in connection with a $25,000 contribution to a political action committee supporting her 2014 re-election campaign.

 

The Delegation for 5.4.17 – Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Delegation unites around oil drilling

Who can argue that Washington is highly polarized? That is one thing on which there is broad agreement.

But over the past few days, two newsworthy events have occurred that, for a while, brought some unity to the delegation.

President Donald Trump recently issued an executive that would open up areas of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans oil and gas exploration The bipartisan concern, bordering on outrage, came to the surface like a gusher.

“I urge the Trump Administration to reverse course and put the well-being of our coastal communities above oil industry profits,” said St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist, who dealt with the BP/Deepwater Horizon disaster while serving as governor.

“Florida’s beaches are vital to our economy and way of life,” said Sarasota Republican Vern Buchanan.

Buchanan and Broward Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz have teamed to file a bill, the Marine Oil Spill Prevention Act,” that would extend the current drilling ban within 125 miles of Florida’s coast until 2027.

Reps. Wasserman Schultz and Buchanan filed a bill to extend the current drilling ban until 2027.

“It would be malpractice and colossally irresponsible to allow oil drilling activities to jeopardize all of that,” said Wasserman Schultz.

Sen. Bill Nelson earlier filed the same bill in the Senate. He is gratified by the policy-driven approach of his colleagues, saying “almost all, in a bipartisan way, of the congressional delegation wants to keep oil drilling off the coast of Florida.”

Nelson, joined by 16 members of the delegation, wrote to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke urging the administration to maintain the current ban in the eastern Gulf of Mexico for the next five years.

Even before the executive order, Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz Panama City Republican Neal Dunn wrote to Defense Secretary James Mattis on the negative impacts lifting the moratorium could have on Panhandle military bases. Fifteen bipartisan members of the delegation signed the letter.

“We fear that combat training and advanced test and evaluation missions would be unable to continue if the moratorium was lifted,” they wrote.

One of the signers of both letters was Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. She offered strong commentary.

“The potential damage to our world-renowned coral reefs, robust fisheries, pristine beaches, and tourism-supported small businesses should far outweigh any short-term benefit anticipated in the Administration’s plan,” she said in a statement.

Delegation heaps praise on Ros-Lehtinen

The plaudits quickly came in from members of both parties after Rep. Ros-Lehtinen announced she was retiring at the end of her term.

“From the moment I arrived in Congress, Ileana has been a friend and a partner,” said Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch in a long, glowing statement. “Every member of Congress should learn something from the way Ileana has conducted herself for the past 28 years.”

Deutch and Ros-Lehtinen after bipartisan delegation visit to Israel in July 2014. (Photo courtesy Ted Deutch)

“To say Ileana is a trusted friend and mentor to me is an understatement; she is a part of my family, and I will dearly miss ‘mi hermana legislativa’ in the halls of Congress,” said Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart.

“Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is an incredible public servant and a close friend,” said Broward Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who also called Ros-Lehtinen a great friend of Israel.

“Not only is @RosLehtinen a tireless activist for freedom and human rights, she is my friend. Florida will miss her,” said Sen. Marco Rubio on Twitter.

“I’ll miss having my friend in Congress with me, but I’m very grateful for her long, bipartisan service to our country,” said St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist.

For those who believe she will quietly fade away over the next two years, think again.

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

Gearing up for 2020

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is out with a new ad focusing on his first few months in office.

The ad, called “First 100 Days,” highlights the president’s first 100 days and his “uncompromising dedication to the American people, just as he promised throughout the campaign,” according to a news release.

“In his first 100 days, President Donald J. Trump has taken bold actions to restore prosperity, keep Americans safe and secure, and hold the government accountable,” the campaign said in a news release. “The campaign is continuing President Trump’s approach of reaching out to the American people directly by highlighting his work over the first 100 days and fighting back against the continued media bias.”

The $1.5 million ad buy focuses on the president’s first 100 days in office, and includes a television ad and digital ads

Nelson wants second passport agency in Florida

Sen. Bill Nelson is calling on the Department of State to open a second passport agency in the Sunshine State.

“While states like California and Texas have three passport offices and New York has two, Florida — the third most populous state in the nation — has only one,” said Nelson in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “To better serve the people of Florida and the millions of travelers who come to our state each year, I strongly urge you to open a second passport agency in Florida as soon as possible.”

The Orlando’s ask comes after extensive water damage forced the Miami Passport Agency to close its doors last week. As a result, travelers were told to visit offices in Atlanta or New Orleans to tackle address their needs.

“At the time of the accident, there were more than 7,000 applications in process and 177 passports printed and ready to be picked up at the Miami Passport Agency,” said Nelson. “And now, because Florida has only one passport agency in the state, Floridians are forced to travel – on short notice and at their own personal expense – to the next nearest agencies in Atlanta and New Orleans.”

The flooding occurred on April 23. According to the State Department, temporary locations opened in the Miami area on May 1 to serve customers traveling “in 8 to 20 days.” Customers traveling in 7 days or less still must apply at another passport agency.

 

Marco Rubio’s busy week

Rubio part of political Odd Couple tackling human trafficking — The conservative Republican and progressive Democrat Elizabeth Warren have teamed up on a bill designed to help cut off funds for human traffickers. They have introduced the End Banking for Human Traffickers Act, which would help financial institutions identify and report instances of human trafficking. The end result would be prosecution of offenders and protection for victims.

While this would seem to constitute a political Odd Couple, the purpose of the legislation molds their strengths together to help victims of a horrible crime. Rubio earns high marks for his commitment to human rights, while Warren is a committed overseer of financial institutions.

“Human trafficking is a human rights violation that can happen in our own backyards without us even knowing it,” Rubio said in a joint release. “That’s why we must encourage the development and implementation of effective tools to detect and stop criminals from profiting from this heinous crime.”

Statistics reveal traffickers earn about $99 billion each year in profits from the exploitation of victims. Such large sums must all enter banks or financial institutions at some point and the bill seeks to stop the traffickers’ access to the institutions.

“We have an obligation to end human trafficking to ensure that every person can live with freedom and dignity,” said Warren. “To stop this terrible crime, we need to cut off the trafficker’s access to the banking system, and this bipartisan bill will give financial institutions and regulators better tools to do so.”

Rubio wants Russian sanctions — Florida’s junior senator is unhappy with the decision of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to forego sanctions against Russia for their meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. According to Politico, the committee will be moving on sanctions against Iran.

“The ranking member (Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin) and I are in strong agreement on a pathway forward and that’s what we are going to do,” said Chairman Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican. “We’re going to do an Iran sanctions bill.”

While few would be opposed to sanctioning the rogue regime, Rubio strongly believes there should be some consequences for Russia’s activities.

Corker indicated he wishes to see the results of an ongoing investigation of Russian activities by the Senate Intelligence Committee before pursuing sanctions against them.

“I think anytime is a good time for Russia sanctions given everything they’ve done,” Rubio said.

Rubio announces promotions, new hires — The Miami Republican announced Lauren Reamy, a member of Rubio’s staff since 2015, has been promoted to legislative director. Robert “Bobby” Zarate will lead Rubio’s foreign policy team after joining the staff as senior foreign policy advisor in December; while Matt Wolking has been promoted to senior communications advisor and press secretary. Rubio also announced Olivia Perz-Cubas will be rejoining his Senate Office as communications director, after serving as Press Secretary on Senate Staff; and Wes Brook is joining as a legislative assistant for energy, environment, agriculture and trade issues.

“I’m grateful for everything Sara Decker, Alex Burgos, and Jamie Fly helped us accomplish in my first term, and for all of their hard work. I wish them the very best in their new endeavors and know they will be very successful,” said Rubio. “I’m proud to welcome the new staff and look forward to the work our new team will be doing to help serve the people of Florida and pursue an important and meaningful legislative agenda in my second term.”

— Kevin Derby with Sunshine State News reports “Marco Rubio, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen call out UN’s bias against Israel

— Alex Leary with the Tampa Bay Times reports “Rick Scott, Marco Rubio avoid comment on Trump’s oil drilling push

Paulson’s Principles: Will Ros-Lehtinen’s Retirement Turn Florida Blue?

The surprise announcement that Ileana Ros-Lehtinen would not seek reelection in 2018 has bolstered Democratic hopes of gaining control of the Florida congressional delegation. A flip of three seats would give the Democrats a 14-13 majority.

Just weeks ago, Ros-Lehtinen’s husband and campaign manager Dexter Lehtinen declared that “Ileana is committed to continuing to work hard for South Florida and deliver results. Her opponent, who will be running a second time for this seat, is a candidate in search of a purpose.” This didn’t sound like a candidate about to retire.

Why Ros-Lehtinen changed her mind remains unclear. Ros-Lehtinen argued she was confident of winning reelection, but stated that “to everything there is a season, and time to every purpose under heaven.”

Ros-Lehtinen was born in Havana in 1952 and fled with her parents to Miami in 1960. She received a doctorate at the University of Miami before launching her political career. Ros-Lehtinen was the first Cuban American elected to the Florida legislature in 1982, and was the co-sponsor of the Florida Prepaid College Program.

In 1989, Ros-Lehtinen was elected to the U.S. Congress and is now the longest-serving member of the Florida delegation. Ros-Lehtinen’s political views are hard to categorize. She has been a steadfast opponent of the Castro regime and supported the trade embargo even after Rual Castro assumed leadership. She has been one of the most pro-Israel members of Congress.

On social issues, Ros-Lehtinen leans moderate to liberal. She is a strong supporter of LGBTQ rights, including same-sex marriage. Her son, Rodrigo, is transgender. Ros-Lehtinen opposed Republican efforts to “repeal and replace” Obamacare with their American Health Care Act. Finally, Ros-Lehtinen strongly opposed the candidacy of Donald Trump.

Ros-Lehtinen has seldom faced a strong challenger in her 28 years in Congress even though the district has become progressively more Democratic. The Cook Partisan Voting Index rates her district as +5 Democrat and Hillary Clinton beat Trump by almost 20 points. Despite Clinton’s trouncing of Trump, Ros-Lehtinen carried the District by 10 points.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee targeted Ros-Lehtinen’s District for 2018 because it is +5 Democrat, because the district trended Democrat by 6.2 points in the past four years and because Ros-Lehtinen’s 10 point margin of victory in 2016 was one of her closest races.

Scott Fuhrman, her 2016 opponent, has already announced his intent to run again. His 2016 campaign was hurt when it was found that Fuhrman was arrested in Colorado for DUI and carrying a loaded gun in his car.

Other potential Democratic candidates include educator Michael Hepburn, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, state representatives David Richardson and Jose Javier Rodriguez and former Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff.

Potential Republican candidates include Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Miami Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and state Sen. Rene Garcia.

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball has changed the rating on District 27 from “likely Republican” to “leans Democrat” based on Ros-Lehtinen’s retirement announcement. Ros-Lehtinen won the District for years in spite of its growing Democratic numbers, but she will no longer be on the ballot.

Can a less well-known Republican carry a Democratic District? It’s possible, but the odds favor the Democrats.

Survey: Most delegation members score well in Bipartisan Index

With the announcement of the impending retirement of Rep. Ros-Lehtinen next year, it is likely the delegation and the entire Congress will inch closer toward more partisanship. According to the Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, the House’s 6th most bipartisan member will be leaving.

Using the Lugar Center’s proprietary “Bipartisan Index,” 427 members of the House and 98 Senators from the 114th Congress were ranked. The formula was based on sponsorships and co-sponsorships of bills proposed by the other party and the frequency in which their bills attract co-sponsors from the other party.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo, with his mother at his 2014 victory in Miami, was the 11th most bipartisan member of Congress, according to the Bipartisan Index. (AP Photo)

Miami Republican Carlos Curbelo was next highest among his party members at number 11, while the 17th district’s Tom Rooney was at 52. The lowest GOP score was awarded to former Rep. John Mica at 342 with Dan Webster earning the lowest score for current Republican members with 326.

The highest Florida Democrat was former Rep. Gwen Graham, who was 9th. Earning the highest bipartisan score among current Democrats was Broward County’s Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who was Chair of the Democratic National Committee when the index was compiled. The Democrats’ lowest score was awarded to Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens, who came in at number 377.

A full 18 of Florida’s 27 members finished in the upper half. New York Republican Peter King was ranked first and Kansas Republican Tim Huelskamp was ranked 427th and last. He was defeated for re-election in a 2016 primary.

Both of Florida’s senators finished in the upper third of those ranked. The Majority Leader and Minority Leader were not rated.

Democrat Bill Nelson came in at number 20, while Republican Marco Rubio was rated 33rd.  Republican Susan Collins of Maine was ranked the most bipartisan while Bernie Sanders of Vermont (Independent who caucuses with Democrats) was last at number 98.

Delegation lukewarm to health care version 2.0; Billboards urge Floridians to call lawmakers 

The ongoing effort by House Republican leadership to pass a new health care statute is still a work in progress. After the first fiasco, where enough conservatives banded together to kill the American Health Care Act (AHCA), version 2.0 is only in slightly better health.

Proponents can afford only 22 Republican defections (forget about any Democratic votes). According to The Hill newspaper, the count stands at 21 no votes, including two from the Florida delegation. Among the Florida delegation there are 8 in support, 13 against and 6 undecideds.

Both the retiring Miami moderate Rep. Ros-Lehtinen and central Florida conservative Daniel Webster join all 11 delegation Democrats in the “no” category. Both voted against the AHCA in March.

Ros-Lehtinen is in a district that Hillary Clinton won by 20 points in November and Webster needs to see more Medicaid funding for nursing homes. Along with North Carolina’s Walter Jones, the two Floridians represent the only no votes among the GOP from traditional Southern states.

The undecideds, of which there are reportedly 57, include Brian Mast of Hutchinson Island, Carlos Curbelo of Miami, Ron DeSantis of New Smyrna Beach, Neal Dunn of Panama City, Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami, and Bill Posey of Melbourne.

Coming on board with a “yes, under duress,” was Gainesville’s Ted Yoho, who voted against the AHCA.

The GOP still has plenty of work to do.

Mobile billboards circled the in-district offices of two members of Florida’s congressional delegation this week, urging lawmakers to oppose plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

The billboards, commissioned by MoveOn.org, circled Rep. Dan Webster’s Winter Garden office and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s Doral office on Tuesday. The two men were among Republicans in 17 key districts the progressive organization targeted. The billboards, according to MoveOn.org, read “Tell Congress – Not to Take Away Our Health Care. Call Now to #ProtectOurCare.”

“Republicans are scrambling to resurrect their train wreck of a health care bill and push it through Congress—and now it’s even worse. Not only are they again trying to kick 24 million Americans off of their health care, they’re also trying to end protections for pre-existing conditions,” said Jo Comerford, campaign director at MoveOn.org. “This plan would be a disaster. The American people spoke out and stopped the Republican health care law before, and we can do it again. So MoveOn members are getting the word out that health care is under attack again—and now is the time to call your member of Congress and demand they protect our health care.”

Dunn legislation seeks to reduce size of federal government

The Panama City Republican has introduced legislation with the premise the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution literally means what it says. The 10th Amendment Restoration Act of 2017 would establish a Constitutional Government Review Commission that would determine which current federal functions should be returned to the states.

“The Constitution guarantees our liberty, and its defense requires constant vigilance,” Dunn said in a release. “In Federalist 45, Madison wrote that the federal government’s powers are ‘few and defined,’ but the states’ are ‘numerous and definite.’”

According to Dunn, the Commission would be modeled after the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC), charging the group with providing recommendations for federal activities that could be returned to the states. Besides the constitutional component, Dunn’s bill contains the secondary goal of reducing the size of the federal government by sending more responsibility to the states.

“I am proud to support Dr. Dunn’s 10th Amendment Restoration Act,” said Gainesville Republican Ted Yoho, the bill’s first co-sponsor. “For far too long our federal government has been allowed to grow bigger than our Founding Fathers intended.”

The 10th Amendment states “The powers not delegated to the United States to the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Upcoming Events

Happening this week — Rubio, Buchanan to host Sarasota fundraiser for Darrell Issa — The California congressman is headed to the Sunshine State for a fundraiser hosted by Sen. Rubio and Rep. Vern Buchanan.

Billed as a private reception, the event will be held at the home of William Isaac, the managing director of FTI Consulting, and his wife Christine. The host committee also includes former Sen. Pat Neal, who has been mentioned as a possible contender for CFO, and his wife Charlene, philanthropists Dennis and Graci McGillicuddy, and Dr. Peter Wish.

Issa, a member of the House Judiciary Committee and House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, is running for re-election.

Happening May 15 —  Soto announces town hall — U.S. Rep. Darren Soto wants a chance to try out his environmental chops in his third town hall this year.

The freshman Democrat has announced a town hall meeting in Orlando for May 15 to talk about environmental issues, particularly about banning fracking on public lands, and protecting the environment, according to his Facebook page.

Soto already has held town halls to talk about health care and issues relating to Central Florida’s Muslim community.

This will be the first of his town halls held in Orlando, at the Acacia venue on Econlockhatchee Road.

Soto serves on both the Agriculture and Natural Resource committees in the House of Representatives.

Buchanan challenger going from one circus to another

Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Zac Anderson reports on Calen Cristiani, a 27-year-old Manatee County Democrat and trampoline performer who spent nearly two decades touring with his family’s circus act.

Cristiani is now looking toward a second act “in a profession where his skills as showman could come in handy – challenging Sarasota Republican Buchanan in the 16th Congressional District.

While it will be Cristiani’s first run for public office, he does bring some campaign experience – as a volunteer for President Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008 between circus tours. Economic inequality is Cristiani’s central concern, as well as promoting progressive economic policies, a $15 minimum wage and free tuition at public colleges and universities.

T. Rooney’s big idea to fix Congress; bring back earmarks

Rep. Tom Rooney floated the idea that if Republicans had restored a limited form of earmarks just after the election, a health care bill would have passed the House and tax reform would be on its way. When Republicans gained control of the House In 2010, they ended the much-abused practice of members of Congress setting aside projects in their districts.

Rooney told Jon Ward of Yahoo! News that by November there had been enough votes to revive earmarks. But the Okeechobee Republican resisted filing a vote at the request of House Speaker Paul Ryan.

“I was asked to sort of let this percolate for a while. We would address it in the first quarter,” Rooney said. “And then Paul asked if we could push it to the second quarter because we had health care and everything going on.” Rooney is still hopeful that the issue will return in the next few months, and he regrets he didn’t push harder last year.

Mast wants to award Congressional Gold Medal to Americans killed in Benghazi

Rep. Brian Mast introduced legislation this week to posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to four Americans who were killed during the September 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.

Mast — who filed the bipartisan legislation with Reps. Stephen Lynch, Duncan Hunter, and Susan Davis — said he hoped to honor the legacies of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods, and Sean Smith.

“These four Americans worked daily to advance the ideals our nation was founded on and lost their lives in the service of our country during the attack on our diplomatic mission in Libya,” he said in a statement. “Our bipartisan legislation recognizes their bravery and sacrifice with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor that Congress has to bestow.”

Lynch, the lead sponsor of the legislation, said in a statement the country owes it the men’s “families to honor their legacy, courage and selfless sacrifices with the Congressional Gold Medal.”

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor bestowed by Congress to express public gratitude for distinguished patriotism and heroism.

Deutch co-introduces LGBT Equality Act

Rep. Ted Deutch joined 193 of his colleagues this week to introduce legislation guaranteeing equal protections for the LGBT community.

The Equality Act amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity education, employment, housing, credit, federal jury service, public accommodations and use of federal funds.

“From Stonewall to Pulse, the LGBT community has endured decades of intolerance, violence, and repression. But this inspiring community has always turned moments of darkness into hope and activism. As the American people embrace equality and our courts rule in favor of justice, it’s time for Congress to lift the last legal barriers to full equality,” said Deutch, the vice chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and the chair of the LGBT Aging Issues Task Force, in a statement.

“Whether you’re a student struggling with identity questions or a homeless LGBT person seeking support just to get by, you should be able to look to your government for equal protections, not fear state-sanctioned persecution,” he continued.” As a proud friend and ally, I pledge to use my voice and vote to demand full equality for the LGBT community.”

Want a friend in Washington? Get a dog

It’s a tip that every aspiring politico has heard once or twice in their career, and now Alex Gangitano with Roll Call introduces you to some of the pups who have made the House and Senate their homes away from home.

Maya, an 11-year-old mutt, has been Rep. Ros-Lehtinen’s office dog since 2008. Ros-Lehtinen, who recently announced she was retiring at the end of her term, said the pooch was an “instant hit” with her South Florida constituents.

“Maya is a people person and greets everyone, from constituents to other members of Congress, excitedly and pleasantly,” the South Florida Republican told Roll Call. “When we do have long days, Maya’s easy smile and playful nature is a great boost to everyone’s mood! She even has her own hashtag, #MayaAndFriends!”

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen & her office dog Maya. (Photo via Roll Call)

Rep. Deutch brings his West Highland white terrier to work with him to play with staffers’ dogs who frequent the office. He takes pride in having a pet-friendly office, and said there’s “nothing quite like the excitement and unconditional love of a pet.”

“Our canine co-workers keep our entire office energized,” he told Roll Call.

Over in the Senate, Matt Wolking, press secretary Sen. Marco Rubio, has brought his Pembroke Welsh corgi to the office few times over the past few months during district work weeks. Wolking said Oskar, who has his own Instagram page, brings smiles to everyone who sees him.

Don’t read on an empty stomach

Tom Sietsema with The Washington Post is out with his annual spring guide to the dining scene in D.C. He calls it a “collection of highs, lows, and in-betweens on the dining scene;” we call it droll inducing.

Sietsema placed Mirabelle, the restaurant from restauranteur Hakan Ilhan, in the No. 1 spot on his list of the year’s 10 best new restaurants. According to Sietsema, “former White House chef Frank Ruta spares no expense on his guests.” Also on the Top 10 list: Sfoglina (No. 2); Himitsu (No. 3), which the WaPo called a “modern Japanese Jewel worth lining up for;” and Fish by Jose Andres (No. 8).

Hungry yet?

Sunburn for 5.4.17 – May The Fourth Be With You

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

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

— CORCORAN VS. SCOTT IN 2016; WHAT ABOUT 2018? —

While it’s clear what Gov. Rick Scott hopes to accomplish with his barnstorming tour of the state over the next few days, it almost certainly won’t make any difference.

He calls it the “Fighting For Florida’s Future” tour because he wants to fully fund Enterprise Florida so it can continue providing $85 million in taxpayer “incentives” for out-of-state businesses to bring jobs here.

Businesses will come to Florida if they believe they can make money. They don’t need what House Speaker Richard Corcoran has mocked as “corporate welfare” to do that.

Scott’s hope for his speaking tour is that people will get riled up enough to call their legislators and demand they approve his agenda.

Yeah. That’ll happen.

He also wants the Legislature to spend $200 million to help fix the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee. That dam was considered a culprit in last summer’s polluted water runoff that led to the disastrous algae bloom.

Pushing for that money makes the governor look like he cares for the environment. A better time to show that might have been before that runoff and while his administration was gutting environmental laws left and right, but I digress.

The bigger picture is that Scott was essentially neutered during this Legislative Session by Corcoran. The Governor is now the lamest of ducks, and that won’t help him as he casts a longing eye toward Bill Nelson’s U.S. Senate seat in 2018.

Corcoran outfoxed the governor at every budgetary turn this year and was very public about it. It goes to Corcoran’s core belief that Tallahassee spends too much money and needs to go on a fiscal diet.

It has been assumed the Speaker has considered running for Scott’s soon-to-be vacant governor’s chair, but what if there is something bigger afoot?

While Corcoran would have a tough time breaking through against fellow Republican Adam Putnam to win the Republican nomination for governor, he could draw a strong contrast between himself and Scott if he decided to go for the Senate seat instead.

Hummmmm.

FINAL BUDGET DEAL REACHED; PRESS CORPS OUTRAGED —

Legislature crafts secret budget deal to end Session” via the Associated Press – Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced that the Legislature will extend its annual session to next Monday. The session was supposed to end on Friday. Legislative leaders also said that they will only consider the budget and budget-related bills during the three-day extension. Negron and Corcoran and other top Republicans worked out the details of the budget in secret. They announced that a deal had been worked out before anything was released to the public.

— This new timeline contrasts with the Speaker’s comment to reporters Tuesday that he was “90 percent” sure the session would end on time, which would have been this Friday. The announcement also means that millions of dollars in spending differences were worked out behind closed doors, out of public view and participation … The state constitution provides that a “regular session of the Legislature shall not exceed (60) consecutive days, and a special session shall not exceed twenty consecutive days, unless extended beyond such limit by a three-fifths vote” of each chamber.

— The President insisted the process has been “very open and transparent.” For example, the House and Senate agreed not to insert projects into the budget during conference committee meetings. “That’s a dramatic change from how the budget process was done before.”

As for the Capitol Press Corps, it reacted something like this…

@BylineBrandon: Yes, deals were often cut behind the scenes. But there’s a difference for public, reporters between incremental and wholesale agreements. It’s easier to scrutinize a couple of 15-page offers at a time than a complete package that runs over 100 pages late in the process

@MDixon55: Can’t be said enough: presiding officers did not hold one public meeting.

@SteveBousquet: This year is the first time in memory that so much of the budget negotiations were conducted in private.

@TiaReports: So surprised. No public comment on offers no one has seen? That we didn’t know about until an hour ago? Who would think it.

Of course, the real reason lawmakers will meet Monday instead of Saturday:

BUDGET NOTEBOOK

At first, it appeared that Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran had forged a closed-door agreement, but they acknowledged that a dispute over cuts to hospitals and changes in reimbursements to nursing homes delayed final resolution.

Some additional details did emerge Wednesday, including agreements on environmental programs, spending on beach restoration and a decision to cut $1.3 million from the budget of an Orlando prosecutor who has come under fire for her decision to stop prosecuting death penalty cases.

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

— “Budget deal includes no money for Florida Forever” via Florida Politics — The Senate accepted the House offer on the agriculture and natural resources portion of the budget, agreeing not to set aside any money for Florida Forever in 2017-18. The $3.6 billion plan zeros out funding for land acquisition. According to LobbyTools, the agreed upon budget sets aside $2 million for St. Johns River and Keystone Heights projects, significantly less than the $20 million the Senate initially requested. The offer also included $13.3 million for beach recovery and $39.9 million for beach projects, on top of the $10 million base budget. But the offer zeroed out funding for land acquisition. “By zeroing out Florida Forever and Florida Communities Trust, this is now the third year in a row that politicians in Tallahassee have thumbed their noses at voters,” said Aliki Moncrief, the executive director of Florida Conservation Voters, in a statement.

— “House accepts Senate AST reorganization language, ends government ops budget negotiations” via Legislative IQ powered by LobbyTools The House accepted Senate budget language on reorganizing the Agency for State Technology Wednesday. The House initially pushed for a complete overhaul of the state’s IT services, which included replacing the agency, but late in the budget negotiations a deal to keep the agency while making changes emerged. Proviso language includes the appointment of a “chief data officer” by the state’s chief information officer.

— “The (budget deal) would eliminate a $1 million recurring appropriation to fund a program provided by Florida Psychological Associates, based in Fernandina Beach,” reports Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News. The business owners received state money with the help of their friend, state Sen. Aaron Bean and failed to meet goals outlined in its contract with Florida State University

– “’Corrected’ PECO list moves $2M between UF projects” via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO Florida

— “Late provision takes aim at embattled Miami housing developer via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

— The Pasco Sheriff’s Office says the House and Senate have agreed to fund the $4.3 million USF forensics center/body farm. Background on that issue here.

— “USF’s downtown Tampa medical school takes $2 million haircut in final budget offer” via Florida Politics

WHEN’S THAT INSURANCE TRAIN A’COMING?

“One element of the workers’ compensation fix headed to Governor” via Florida Politics — It’s not the big banana, but a small piece of workers’ compensation reform is on its way to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk. The bill is CS/CS/HB 1107, shielding personally identifying information about workers’ comp claimants under Florida’s public records laws. It passed the House on a 120-0 vote Wednesday, having cleared the Senate, 37-0, on Tuesday. The information at issue was shielded until 2003, when the Legislature allowed a public records exemption to lapse. Advocates of the exemption argued it allows trial attorneys to identify possible claimants, encouraging costly claims appeals.

— Just as sponsor Danny Burgess said, “I’m very hopeful and guardedly confident that we will have an agreement we can put before the membership of both the House and the Senate and that both houses can support” …  this popped

— “Amendment would move Senate’s fix closer to House language” via Florida Politics – The sponsor of the Senate workers’ compensation bill has edged toward the House position regarding the maximum attorney fees payable in claims litigation. Sen. Rob Bradley filed an amendment to his bill Wednesday trimming the maximum hourly fee to $200 — down from $250 in his original bill, but more than the $150 contemplated in the House. The amendment also would require the Department of Financial Services to engage an independent consultant to study the system for reimbursing medical providers through the workers’ compensation system. … The amendment is drawn to the House language, HB 7085. The Senate version has been awaiting action on the Senate’s special order calendar, but has not yet been debated.

Trial lawyers not happy, per Mark Touby, president of Florida Workers’ Advocates“On top of being potentially unconstitutional, the strike-all amendment would have a devastating and chilling effect on Florida’s businesses and the workers they employ. The amendment proposed by Sen. Bradley removes any element of competition from the ratemaking process and would severely limit an injured worker’s ability to achieve the goal of Florida’s workers’ compensation system: To help the injured worker get well quickly and return to their job. The only people smiling about this amendment are the insurance special interests who will continue to profit at the expense of businesses. It is our hope that Florida lawmakers will recognize the detrimental consequences this language would have on the workers’ comp system in Florida and vote no on this amendment.”

The Wall Street Journal weighs in on the Assignment of Benefits issue, asking “Does Florida’s legislature exist to enrich plaintiffs attorneys or to serve the Sunshine State’s voters? We’re about to find out, courtesy of a renewed political effort to stop a trial-bar scheme that scores insurance paydays at the expense of Sunshine State homeowners.”

— BILLS FLYING, BILLS DYING — 

Pollution notice bill inspired by sinkhole passes Legislature” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times – A bill requiring industry and government to notify the public quickly of any pollution problems has passed both houses of the Legislature and is headed for Gov. Scott … who called for the change in the law, will definitely sign it.

Bad condo boards, beware: Legislature passes new laws unanimously” via Brenda Medina of the Miami Herald – The Florida Senate gave unanimous and final approval to a bill that imposes criminal penalties on condominium violations such as electoral fraud, theft of funds and conflicts of interests — all significant problems in Miami-Dade County. The 37-0 vote on the bill, already endorsed by the House last week in another unanimous vote, now goes to Gov. Scott for his signature. Under the new law, fraud in the election of condo association directors, the falsification of signatures on ballots, the manipulation of condo records and the theft or disappearance of ballots will be considered serious violations that could be punished with prison terms. Condo associations with 150 or more units will publish financial reports on a webpage, accessible with passwords. Directors will be limited to eight years on the board of homeowner’s associations. But they will be able to continue in office if they win a super-majority of the votes from owners in subsequent elections. Directors are forbidden from receiving payments from the association or hiring their relatives.

Deceased FSU player’s brother says bill provides closure” via The Associated PressDevard Darling said his family can finally feel closure after the Florida Legislature passed a bill to compensate his parents $1.8 million for the death of his twin brother, Devaughn Darling, a Florida State football player who died during team drills. The bill’s passage comes more than 16 years after Devaughn Darling’s death. “It is something we have been looking forward to for a long time,” Devard Darling said. “My mom has wanted to see this all the way through. Finally, we can move on.” The House approved the bill 112-4, and it passed the Senate by a 34-2 vote … The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Scott.

Dems’ guarantee of swift vote on water bill killed Republicans’ last-minute gun bill” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – House Republicans quietly agreed to pull from the floor a gun bill not yet considered at all by the chamber, after trading with Democrats to ensure a priority of the Senate president — also not previously vetted by the House — would be voted out that same day. It’s a prime example of the type of deal-making and horse-trading that’s commonplace in the Florida Legislature during the final days of session. Had SB 616 been heard on the House floor Tuesday as planned, the Republican-led chamber likely would have easily approved it. But instead, Democrats were able to use the power of their 41-member caucus — something they can’t often do — to convince House Speaker Richard Corcoran not to hear the bill, after all.

Bryan Desloge: Bill Montford ‘sacrificed’ Leon County for pay raise” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat – The Leon County Commissioner said Sen. Montford “sacrificed” when he voted to put a constitutional amendment cutting property taxes on the 2018 ballot. Montford suggests that the criticism is a bit hypocritical given Desloge’s support for home rule and complaints about the state preempting local control. “He sacrificed Leon County. Bill will get in-theory state pay raises – it has to run the gauntlet with the governor,” said Desloge. “But this is a body blow to the county. We’re left with two choices, cut services or raise taxes.” The House and Senate approved a resolution enabling voters to decide to add another $25,000 homestead exemption to the state constitution … The measure is a priority of Speaker Corcoran and is part of the budget agreement struck between legislative leaders. “I sacrificed no counties, including Leon County,” said Montford, moving back in his chair when told of Desloge’s criticism.

“Legislature agrees to pay millions for lost citrus” via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – Florida legislators have agreed to pay millions to homeowners in two counties whose healthy citrus trees were torn down in a failed attempt to eradicate citrus canker. Republicans announced that as part of a secret budget deal they would set aside $37.4 million on behalf of homeowners in Broward and Lee counties. But the money won’t cover homeowners in Miami-Dade, Orange and Palm Beach counties who have also sued the state over lost citrus trees. The Florida House initially proposed paying homeowners in Palm Beach County, but that county was dropped during closed-door negotiations. “We couldn’t afford to pay all three of them,” said Rep. Carlos Trujillo, House budget chairman.

“Legislature passes bill on compensating wrongfully imprisoned” via The Associated Press – A law that allows compensation to people wrongfully convicted and imprisoned in Florida could be revised to make some felons eligible under a bill going to Gov. Scott. The House unanimously passed the bill … a week after the Senate did the same. It would change the so-called “clean hands” requirement of the compensation law. Florida now allows compensation up to $50,000 annually for people who are proven innocent of a crime for which they were imprisoned. But anyone who committed a felony before or after the wrongful incarceration isn’t eligible. Under the bill, a prior felony wouldn’t preclude someone from being compensated if they were imprisoned for an unrelated crime of which they were later proven innocent.

Solar backers support measure to carry out Florida voters-approved tax break” via the Orlando Sentinel – After the measure (SB 90) got unanimous support from the House, the Senate is expected to approve the bill, which outlines implementation of a constitutional amendment approved in August. If approved by the Senate, the bill would then go to Gov. Scott. The constitutional amendment, which received support from 72.6 percent of voters during the August primary elections, calls for extending a renewable-energy tax break to commercial and industrial properties. The tax break would be in place for 20 years and is an extension of a break already provided to residential properties. A selling point of the constitutional amendment was that it said all renewable-energy equipment would be exempt from state tangible personal property taxes. Some solar-energy backers initially were concerned about the House’s approach to carrying out the constitutional amendment and favored a proposal by Sen. Jeff Brandes. To bring the House and Senate bills closer together, Brandes added a provision that would allow local governments to tax up to 20 percent of the property attributable to a renewable energy source device. He said allowing governments to collect any amount of taxes could help rural counties pursue large solar farms.

Assignment editors: The National Day of Prayer Task Force will host its annual National Day of Prayer State Capitol Rally from 11:30 a.m. until 1:15 p.m. on the 22nd floor of the Capitol. Attendees are expected to include the Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, members of the Florida Cabinet, Speaker Corcoran, and other legislative leaders.

***A Prospective Payment System for nursing center reimbursement gives more value to Floridians’ Medicaid spending by putting it toward what matters most — the quality of our loved one. Learn more here.***

FANTASYLAND

Legislators are reviving a push to clear up the murky legal status of fantasy sports in the state, reports the Associated Press. The Senate on Wednesday voted unanimously for a bill that says fantasy sports are legal and not subject to regulation.

The move was a surprise. The provision was added at the last moment to a bill repealing the regulation of several different types of jobs in the state.

The legislation heads to the Florida House.

“Senate adds slot machine provision onto House bill” via Florida PoliticsThe Senate on Wednesday tacked language onto the professional deregulation bill that could lead to the expansion of certain kinds of slot machines. The provision came under the above-mentioned guise of trying to move fantasy sports into the non-gambling realm before the end of the Legislative Session. … (T)he second part of the amendment also authorizes certain veterans’ organizations to “conduct instant bingo.” The language includes an allowance for “electronic tickets in lieu of … instant bingo paper tickets.” And that refers to what are known as “Class II gambling” bingo-style slot machines.

— “Jackpot? Judge could reconsider ‘pre-reveal’ slot machine ruling” via Florida PoliticsA Tallahassee judge has agreed to hear arguments on why he should reconsider his ruling that stand-alone consoles known as “pre-reveal” games are not illegal slot machines. Judge John Cooper set a hearing for June 19 in the Leon County Courthouse, court dockets show, after the Seminole Tribe of Florida asked to intervene. The move also puts a hold on an appeal filed in the 1st District Court of Appeal by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), which regulates gambling. The Tribe will argue that Cooper’s decision “upends the Compact,” the 2010 agreement between the Tribe and the state for exclusive rights to offer certain gambling in return for a cut of the revenue. That could cost the state “multi-billions of dollars.”

— “The specter of a slot machine decision looms” via Florida Politics – Let’s repeat what we said Wednesday morning: “…wouldn’t it be deliciously funny, wouldn’t it be side-splittingly ironic, if the Supreme Court of Florida finally released its Gretna Racing decision on Thursday, the day it usually issues its opinions for the week? (OK, maybe not this week, but one veteran of The Process guesses at least ‘within the next few weeks.’) At issue in the Gretna case is the same issue that deep-sixed this year’s effort [to pass an omnibus gambling bill]: Whether counties that said ‘yes’ to slots in voter referendums should be constitutionally allowed to have them. If the court rules favorably, it could means expanding slot machines to all eight counties where voters passed slots referendums: Brevard, Duval, Gadsden, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Washington. That could result in the single biggest gambling expansion in the state, including the other counties that will hustle to run their own referendums.”

RICK SCOTT TOURS STATE, SAYS HE’LL SIGN LAKE O PLAN; LIQUOR WALL BILL VETO CAMPAIGN BEGINS 

Gov. Scott made the first of 10 stops on his three-day “Fighting for Florida’s Future whirlwind tour of Florida at PowerGrid Engineering in Lake Mary and delivered much the same presentation he’s been making for a couple of months, pushing for support of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, and urging people to call lawmakers who oppose full funding for them.

In this tour he’s adding a push for money for refurbishment of the Herbert Hoover Dike on Lake Okeechobee, but otherwise sticking to a script he used in numerous appearances around the state since March: crediting his economic development corporations with driving Florida’s growing economy, and warning of economic and tourism stagnation without them.

Governor Rick Scott visited CWU Inc. during his “Fighting for Florida’s Future” tour.

Yet as the Legislature struggled to complete its annual budget bill in time, Scott said he still wants and expects a budget this week.

And if he doesn’t get what he wants, $200 million for the dike, $100 million for Visit Florida and $85 million for Enterprise Florida?

“As Governor you have a lot of options. As you know, I have the option to veto the entire budget, and I can go through every line and try to veto that. So I have a lot of options. I’m going to go through and make sure we do the right thing for our families,” Scott said.

Tweet, tweet:

Speaker not particularly worried about a Scott veto“The governor has that right,” Corcoran said Wednesday. “Shoot, there’s only been two vetoes that I can recall in modern history. One was overridden overwhelmingly. The other one wasn’t overridden because the Republicans wouldn’t go along with the Democrats who were in charge.” His first example happened during the tumultuous term of Republican Gov. Claude Kirk, who served from 1967-71 and clashed often with the Legislature’s Democratic majority. The second instance took place in 1992 under Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles.

Sen. Pres doesn’t want a wholesale veto either via Florida Politics – Faced with the prospect of a gubernatorial budget veto, Senate President Negron said Wednesday that he hopes it doesn’t come to that. “I hope the governor doesn’t veto the budget, because I think it’s a strong budget. He certainly has every right to look at particular items,” Negron told reporters following the day’s Senate session. … “The governor always has that option,” Negron said of a veto. “I don’t see anything unique about this budget that would make it more or less likely to be vetoed.”

Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reported early Wednesday that “Scott will sign the bill containing President Negron’s Everglades reservoir proposal,” per a spokesman for the Governor.

But “… this is only part of the solution,” Scott spokesman McKinley P. Lewis said via email Tuesday. “The Legislature should include $200 million in the budget to help fix the Herbert Hoover Dike, a project which President Trump has already committed federal funding to.”

— Meanwhile, the Governor’s Office now has received nearly 500 emails asking Gov. Scott to veto a contentious bill that allows retailers to sell distilled spirits in the same store as other goods. A tally shows 491 emails urging a veto and none in support of the measure (SB 106), according to Lewis.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott continues his “Fighting for Florida’s Future” tour at 9 a.m. at Best Home Services, 1455 Rail Head Blvd. in Naples. From there, he’ll head Sarasota where he’ll hold an event at 11 a.m. at PropLogix, 1651 Whifield Ave in Sarasota. At 1:45 p.m., Scott will be at Boston Whaler, 100 Whaler Way in Edgewater; before heading to Jacksonville for a 4 p.m. event at Novolex, 400 Ellis Road N. He’ll end the day at 5:45 p.m. (CDT) at Sanders Beach-Corrine Jones Resource Center, 913 South I Street in Pensacola.

GOV. DECLARES HEALTH EMERGENCY OVER OPIOiD EPIDEMIC

Today, I issued an executive order which allows the state to immediately draw down more than $27 million in federal grant funding which will immediately be distributed to communities across the state to deal with the opioid epidemic. HHS Secretary Dr. Tom Price awarded the Opioid State Targeted Response Grant to Florida and I want to thank the Trump Administration for their focus on this national epidemic. I have also directed State Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip to declare a Public Health Emergency and issue a standing order for Naloxone in response to the opioid epidemic in Florida.

“Last month, I directed the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the Department of Health (DOH) and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to meet with communities in Palm Beach, Manatee, Duval and Orange Counties to identify additional strategies to fight the rising opioid usage cases in Florida. They have gotten a lot of feedback this week and we will continue to look at additional ways we can fight this national epidemic which has taken the lives of many Floridians.

“I know firsthand how heartbreaking substance abuse can be to a family because it impacted my own family growing up. The individuals struggling with drug use are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends and each tragic case leaves loved ones searching for answers and praying for help. Families across our nation are fighting the opioid epidemic and Florida is going to do everything possible to help our communities.”

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***

— “As recently as last month, Scott declined to declare a public health energy to address the opioid epidemic,” Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

— In February, Senate Democratic leader Oscar Braynon called on the Governor to declare a state of emergency. “There is no family, no race, no ethnicity, no income level this epidemic cannot touch — and no effective state bulwark in place to stop it,” Braynon wrote in a letter.

“Senate sends amended version of opioid crackdown bill back to House” via Florida Politics – The Senate approved legislation Wednesday increasing penalties for trafficking in synthetic opioids including fentanyl. The vote was 37-0 to send the measure back to the House. HB 477  targets fentanyl and related substances that, when administered by themselves or in combination with other drugs, can prove deadly, for tougher sentencing. For example, it would add fentanyl and derivatives to the list of Schedule I drugs and provides that trafficking in them resulting in death constitutes murder.

— An amendment the Senate adopted Tuesday on a voice vote removes mandatory-minimum sentences from the bill, setting up a clash with the House. The Tampa Bay Times Jeremy Wallace explains: The Senate stripped out a provision that would required a mandatory minimum 3 year prison sentence for anyone charged with having 4 grams or the drug. A person caught with 14 grams would face 15 years in prison. And a person who is caught with 28 grams would face a minimum of 25 years in prison. … That provision remains in the House bill and … state Rep. Jim Boyd said he’s determined to keep that language in because the “dealers preying on addicts should be behind bars for a long time.”

This leaves the House – which doesn’t meet again until after 1 p.m. on Thursday – with options: pass Steube’s version without mandatory minimums and send it to the governor or re-add the mandatory minimum language and send it back to the Senate and force them to have to accept it.

— “Sober home bill not moving” via South Florida Sun-Sentinel A bill (that would) prevent sober homes — the halfway houses for people fresh out of rehab that have spread rapidly in South Florida — from making false statements in marketing themselves … passed the House a week ago, but the Senate version has languished since April 20, when it passed its last committee. “There’s still three days left in session,” said bill sponsor state Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth. “I feel like it’s good legislation and it’s something that the entire South Florida community is crying for, so I have confidence in the process.”

— OPINIONS —

Medical marijuana: The good, the bad and the ugly” via Barney Bishop for Sunshine State News – The good is that the House has passed a bill that can be compromised with the Senate bill so the Legislature can fulfill its obligation to reasonably implement Amendment 2. The bad is that the House has given in to the proponents, and has agreed to allowing up to 10 more growers by next year about this time. The ugly is that the House also agreed to allow an unlimited number of dispensaries for each of the current growers, and any new growers in the future. This doesn’t make any sense. The Senate has limited retail shops to three for each grower, and Sen. Rob Bradley has acknowledged in previous testimony in committee that three is probably too low — but it was acceptable as a number to start with.

Jamey Richardson: Proposed nursing home reimbursement plan will make Florida senior care even better” via Florida Politics – As the president of a multifacility company with arguably the highest quality rating in the State of Florida, I feel compelled to respond to the misguided comments about the proposed Prospective Payment System (PPS). The current proposal, for the first time in Florida Medicaid history, will create a true incentive for long-term care centers to provide higher quality care to our residents … at a time when our country is trying to simplify government programs, the current system is overly complicated and overly burdensome on state agencies. The PPS proposal for nursing home reimbursement is both complicated and challenging, and critics certainly don’t help the public understand it when they introduce false information to scare the Legislature away. Many of the opponents of PPS are content with the current system because they benefit from the inefficiencies of the system and have learned how to “game” the program. The bottom line is that this PPS plan will, for the first time ever, link the payment system to quality outcomes. How could anyone oppose paying for quality?

Please don’t go there, Adam Putnam” via Peter Schorsch Florida Politics – One minor way Putnam attempts to protect his right flank rings false. Putnam asked Twitter followers their thoughts on sanctuary cities in Florida. Perhaps Putnam’s tweet was an honest attempt to gauge his followers. What I fear is that this was more likely an attempt, albeit a small one, by Putnam to burnish his right-wing credentials with GOP voters … someone with Putnam’s agricultural background, it is hypocritical to cast doubt on sanctuary cities. Every farmer in Florida knows firsthand that the state’s bountiful crops wouldn’t be so bountiful were it not for the thousands of undocumented workers picking fruit and tending fields. While Putnam may not be my first choice for Florida governor, I would be satisfied seeing him in the Governor’s Mansion. But I don’t want to see him get there by leaning so far to the right that common-sense Republicanism gets lost in the shuffle.

Stock up on popcorn because the governor’s race is getting real via Joe Henderson for Florida Politics – If the last governor’s race was bland vs. bland, the one shaping up for 2018 should get voters worked up a lot more. This is getting real … Adam Putnam just made official what everyone already knew … He is smart, great on the stump, popular, well-known, and, as my wife noted this morning when his picture flashed on the TV, “He looks so young.” Gwen Graham officially joins the Democratic field … and that changes everything. The panhandle has been the exclusive property of Republicans in recent elections, but Graham puts it back in play for her party. Compared to Putnam, Graham is a fiery liberal. It’s too soon to predict an outcome, given variables that include President Trump’s popularity (or lack) on the next Election Day. Here is one safe prediction, though. Compared to recent governor’s races, this one is going to be entertaining. Better stock up on popcorn.

— MOVEMENTS —

Beth Matuga exits Gwen Graham’s campaign – The Democratic operative who left the Florida Democratic Party’s Senate Victory arm to work for Graham, is no longer part of the north Florida Democrat’s gubernatorial efforts. “We are thankful for Beth’s role in helping set up Our Florida PC and wish her the best of luck in the future,” a spokesperson for Our Florida, Graham’s political committee, said Wednesday evening. Although Matuga had yet to take on a defined role with Graham’s campaign, she did leave her position with the FDP to work at some level for the former U.S. Representative.

Christian Ulvert announced he would not run for SD 40, but Alex Diaz de la Portilla has filed for the seat, per the Miami Dade Supervisor of Electoon.

Former DCF chief, AG candidate George Sheldon could be heading back to Florida” via Lynn Hatter of WFSUSheldon has reportedly been offered a job at a troubled Miami-based organization. Our Kids Miami has a five-year, billion-dollar contract with the state … It’s the organization contracted by the Florida Department of Children of Families for adoption and foster care services. Recently its top administers quit following the suicides of two girls in the agency’s care. The Chicago Tribune reports Sheldon is considering a job offer from Our Kids, in addition to another position in California. Sheldon previously led the Florida Department of Children and Families from 2008 to 2011.

New and renewed lobbying registrations

George Oscar Anderson, Southern Strategy Group: National Rental Home Council

Ron Book, Ronald L. Book PA: Solemia

Eduardo Gonzalez, Sun City Strategies: Pringle Lane Farm, LLC

Nicole Graganella, Colodny Fass: HCA Healthcare

Paul Hawkes, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Elite DNA Therapy Services

Timothy Meenan, Meenan PA: Pringle Lane Farm, LLC

“Veteran journalist John Lucas joins The Capitolist” via Florida PoliticsLucas, a former Associated Press and Florida News Network broadcast reporter, has joined Brian Burgess’ Capitol-focused news site. Lucas has covered the Danny Rolling murder spree in Gainesville, the 1988 Republican National Convention, NASA’s return to flight after the space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986, and Hurricane Katrina. “I couldn’t be more excited about the scope of coverage we’ll be able to provide with him aboard,” Burgess said. Lucas also did communications stints in state government, including for Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Lucas joins Ann Howard, a former WCTV-TV reporter in Tallahassee and a past Department of Corrections spokeswoman.

“Governors Club Thursday lunch buffet menu” – It’s Italian Day again at the Governors Club with avocado & tomato salad; cilantro dressing; egg salad; Caesar salad – crouton, Parmesan cheese, Caesar dressing; crawfish bisque; chicken scarpareillo; penne pasta pesto; spaghetti Bolognese with meatballs; Italian style green beans; seafood crepes and Mornay sauce.

MAY THE 4th BE WITH YOU —

 What started as pun warmly shared by fans has become a full-fledged Star Wars holiday: Star Wars Day, a special once-a-year celebration of the galaxy far, far away.

One of the earliest known records of “May the 4th” used in popular culture is in 1979, as described here by author Alan Arnold while he was chronicling the making of The Empire Strikes Back for Lucasfilm: “Margaret Thatcher has won the election and become Britain’s first woman prime minister. To celebrate their victory her party took a half page of advertising space in the London Evening News. This message, referring to the day of victory, was ‘May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations,’ further proof of the extent to which Star Wars has influenced us all.”

Once the Internet allowed Star Wars fans around the world to connect with one another, May the 4th soon became a grassroots tradition each year, with fans online and offline proclaiming it “Star Wars Day.”

Star Wars Day is a time to celebrate 40 years of the beloved sci-fi saga.

Here are six ways to celebrate #MayThe4th” via Brian Truitt of USA TODAY – Watch the movies. Or, more likely, watch them again … Binge out on various Star Wars animation. Six seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars are on Netflix … Let the blue milk flow. Luke Skywalker’s Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru had blue milk on their breakfast table back on Tatooine, and you can enjoy it as well with these recipes … Read the further adventures of Han, Luke and Leia. Han Solo is always in trouble, even in the comics … Buy something fun and extremely nerdy. Lots of places discount their Star Wars merch May 4, and StarWars.com has a roundup of all the coolest stuff … Mark your calendars for Sept. 1. That’s the day when all the new action figures, Lego sets and other toys arrive for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Places will have their stuff on sale at 12:01 a.m.

Tune into TBS for a sure to be epic Star Wars marathon” via Josh Wilding of Wegotthiscovered.comTBS … will be broadcasting the prequel and original trilogies all in one go, an event which looks set to take upward of 16 hours. The perfect way to spend Star Wars Day, right? Kicking off at 6:40 a.m. with Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and closing at 8:15 p.m. with Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, the movies will reportedly be presented with limited commercial interruption, something which is sure to come as a relief for those of you who don’t want to spend the day battling constant ad breaks.

***Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) reduce prescription drug costs and protect Florida consumers, employers, unions, and government programs from high drug prices. PBMs will save Floridians $43.4 billion over the next decade. Learn more at DrugBenefitSolutions.com.***

’Star Wars Day’ sales, deals and freebies aplenty” via Laura Woods of the Las Vegas Review-Journal –Amazon Video: Get the six-movie digital collection — including Episode I through Episode VI — for $79.99 on Amazon.com. Barnes & Noble: Take 20 percent off one item — obviously, something from the “Star Wars” collection — with code C8EGU431TVN57 through May 14. Great American Ballpark: Take advantage of the “Star Wars” ticket package and get an exclusive Stormtrooper bobblehead with your ticket to the May 5 or May 6 game featuring the Cincinnati Reds vs. San Francisco Giants. Shop and save on a variety of “Star Wars” merchandise with these offers from Sphero, Toys “R” Us and more. Toys “R” Us: All “Star Wars: Rogue One” figures, role play and vehicles are 25 percent off from now through May 20. Toys “R” Us is also offering a $10 savings on all LEGO Star Wars purchases of $50 or more from May 4 to May 6 (some exclusions apply). Plus, all stores will host a Nationwide LEGO Star Wars Building Event May 6 from noon to 2 p.m., where you can build and take home a Micro Princess Leia.

Star Wars Day parties in Tampa Bay” via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times – And since May 4 falls on a Thursday, the Cantina will be open this weekend as well for both adults and kids. Marci Richter, a St. Petersburg claims examiner by day, Boba Fett bounty hunter at many a party, is organizing two parties this week with her partner Chris Spires, a software developer who is currently growing his hair shaggy for his Han Solo costume. They had been doing this for six years when they realized no one in the bay area was observing this special holiday. They draw at least 100 people to their annual parties at local clubs, which they do for the love of it. “We’re just big old Star Wars nerds,” Richter said. This year they are throwing an adults-only party at the C. 1949 Bar and Beer Garden in Tampa with a Star Wars burlesque show by Vita DeVoid, who combines cosplay with striptease, though no nudity. There’s also a costume contest, movies and a Jedi joke contest.

May the 4th be with you at Orlandoattractions” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – In honor of Star Wars Day, Disney is celebrating low key this year in preparation for the opening of its new Star Wars land in 2019 … This is the first year Disney has not posted a full schedule of events but Star Wars aficionados can visit Hollywood Studios to get their fix by riding the 3D adventure Star Tours, viewing the “Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Show,” or having an up-close encounter with Kylo Ren or Chewbacca. An exclusive BB-8 pin will be released on Star Wars Day and sold at Disney stores for $8 with any purchase, rather than the regular price of $14.95. It’s not on the 4th, but LEGOLAND Florida Resort is holding a Star Wars Days celebration May 6-7 and May 13-14 … Featuring Star Wars scenes recreated with 1.5 million LEGO bricks and offer Star Wars building activities. There will be appearances by costumed Star Wars fans and a Star Wars themed costume parade for kids.

— “8 Star Wars cocktail recipes to make for May the Fourth” via Emily Young of the Tampa Bay Times

— Happy birthday on this Star Wars Day to our friend Dave Aronberg and Candice Ericks.

There’s already a staff shake-up in Gwen Graham’s gubernatorial bid

Beth Matuga, the Democratic operative who left the Florida Democratic Party’s Senate Victory arm to work for Gwen Graham, is no longer part of the north Florida Democrat’s gubernatorial efforts.

Graham launched her bid for the Governor’s Mansion in Miami Lakes on Tuesday.

“We are thankful for Beth’s role in helping set up Our Florida PC and wish her the best of luck in the future,” a spokesperson for Our Florida, Graham’s political committee, said Wednesday evening.

An earlier report said Matuga had been let go, but the committee denied that.

Although Matuga had yet to take on a defined role with Graham’s campaign, she did leave her position with the FDP to work at some level for the former U.S. Representative.

Matuga is highly regarded in Democratic circles, although at least one well-regarded Democratic operative says they did not want to work for Graham because they did not want to report to Matuga.

Matuga has worked in politics for more than two decades, advising numerous campaigns and advocacy organizations, including Project New Florida and the League of Women Voters. Before working of the FDP, she worked for former congressman Allen Boyd.

Please don’t go there, Adam Putnam

“Nobody roots for Goliath.”

The immortal words of Wilt Chamberlin were on my mind Monday after Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam (at long last) announced that he is running for Florida governor.

Chamberlain, the All-World center and only NBA player to ever score 100 points in a game, was talking about the belief that he did not receive the respect and appreciation he deserved vis-à-vis his rival, Bill Russell. Fans had the impression Chamberlain’s size and physical gifts made the game come easier to him than to others.

The knock on Putnam — he is Jeb Bush 2.0.

In a more political environment, a comparison to the two-term former governor would be high praise indeed. But in the era of Donald Trump, when folks compare Putnam to Bush, they might as well say: “Please clap.”

As POLITICO Florida’s Marc Caputo wrote of the announcement, Putnam enters the race as Goliath of the field, just like Bush’s entry in the 2016 GOP presidential primary.

“With more than $4 million in his political committee account, statewide name ID among Republicans and longtime Florida roots,” Caputo said. “Putnam should become his party’s nominee in the eyes of Tallahassee insiders and Republican Party activists.”

And yet, there is a sort of weariness about Putnam’s candidacy, especially since many of his key supporters are the same people who witnessed Bush’s collapse.

I’d make the argument that Bush’s 2016 loss might the best thing that could have possibly happened to Putnam’s 2018 aspirations. Were I among Putnam’s chief consultants, pinned to the campaign office’s bulletin board would be every newspaper front page headlining Bush’s poor showing in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.

I’d make everyone look at pictures of Bush on stage after his last stand in South Carolina.

Let all that burn deep into their hearts and minds.

As for Putnam himself, he should wake up each day with a poster of Trump and Bush next to each other (this image may be best), serving as a reminder to never let what happened to Bush happen to him.

Perhaps Putnam already recognizes the danger of being Jeb 2.0. However, one minor way Putnam attempts to protect his right flank rings false.

On Friday, Putnam — or more likely his campaign/communications team — asked Twitter followers their thoughts on sanctuary cities in Florida. These are municipalities which limit cooperation with the national government effort to enforce immigration law. Cutting off funding to sanctuary cities is a top priority for many Republican primary voters.

That same day, the Florida House voted to outlaw sanctuary cities, imposing harsh penalties on any elected official or community seeking to thwart the ban.

Opponents of sanctuary cities argue the bill seeks to target undocumented immigrants and impose an unfunded mandate on local law enforcement agencies. The measure is offensive to immigrants and minority populations, they say.

Perhaps Putnam’s tweet was an honest attempt to gauge his followers. What I fear is that this was more likely an attempt, albeit a small one, by Putnam to burnish his right-wing credentials with GOP voters.

There’s nothing wrong with tacking to the right in advance of a bruising GOP primary. In fact, in doing so, Putnam proves he may not suffer the same fate as Bush (who was outflanked on the right).

But someone with Putnam’s agricultural background, it is hypocritical to cast doubt on sanctuary cities. Every farmer in Florida knows firsthand that the state’s bountiful crops wouldn’t be so bountiful were it not for the thousands of undocumented workers picking fruit and tending fields.

It may be an upsetting reality for Putnam (or not), but when researching his position on this particular issue, you wouldn’t know it. Although they would not be quoted on the record, the legislators who shepherded this bill say they heard very little — if at all — about the issue.

Furthermore, a cursory search of “Adam Putnam + sanctuary cities” turns up scant, if any, news articles.

While Putnam may not be my first choice for Florida governor, I would be satisfied seeing him in the Governor’s Mansion. But I don’t want to see him get there by leaning so far to the right that common-sense Republicanism gets lost in the shuffle.

We’re rooting for the best version of Adam Putnam, whether it be as a David or Goliath.

Hmmm… does budget proposal boost – or cut – student funding?

Much has been made about the increase in K-12 funding, but a deeper dive into the numbers shows an actual cut in base student allocations.

Overall, the increase in total funds for K-12 FEFP funding in FY 2017-2018 budget is $241,293,414 or 1.2%. These dollars fund an additional 23,919 students who will be entering Florida’s public school system in the upcoming school year.

However, when you take the time to look at additional dollars available per student, the budget provides for a mere $24.44 or .34 percent increase over last year’s budget. This increase can be found only in the categorical funds, which, by law, are designated for specific uses, such as Transportation, Instructional Materials and ESE Guaranteed Allocation (services for disabled students).

Moreover, and this is also key, the increase in funds cannot be used for general operating expenses or to increase teacher pay, these funds may only be used for specific purposes.

The only flexible funds school districts have access to are those in the Base Student Allocation (BSA), which decreases in this year’s budget by $25.97 from $4,160.71 to $4,137.74 dollars per student.

Money in the BSA is those used to fund teacher’s salaries and benefits or to add new programs for students.

This will be the first time since the great recession the Base Student Allocation has been cut in the state of Florida.

Sunburn for 5.3.17 – Snake eyes for gambling bill; Session heads to overtime; Lake O, homestead exemption head to Gov.; Gwen Graham hearts Florida; Consumer sentiment dips

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

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

SNAKE EYES: 2017 GAMBLING BILL DEAD —

With Tuesday’s death of this year’s gambling bill, reporters got to write the same story they did last year, and the year before that, and the year before that.  

As this website once put it, an “effort to revisit the state’s gambling laws bloated and sank in the waning days of this year’s Legislative Session.”

It’s not the story that writes itself—it’s the story that’s already been written.

This year, a gambling bill tanked because the House and Senate wouldn’t compromise on expanding slots to referendum counties.

In years past, it’s been any one of a number of reasons, like a fight over destination casinos in South Florida.

And once again, by failing to act, lawmakers allow the very thing they proclaim to hate the most: Letting the courts make gambling policy.

They’ve just done it recently, allowing those “pre-reveal” slot machine-like entertainment devices.

So wouldn’t it be deliciously funny, wouldn’t it be side-splittingly ironic, if the Supreme Court of Florida finally released its Gretna Racing decision on Thursday, the day it usually issues its opinions for the week?

(OK, maybe not this week, but one veteran of The Process guesses at least “within the next few weeks.”)

Indeed, at issue in the Gretna case is the same issue that deep-sixed this year’s effort: Whether counties that said ‘yes’ to slots in voter referendums should be constitutionally allowed to have them.

If the court rules favorably, it could expand slot machines to all eight counties where voters passed slots referendums: Brevard, Duval, Gadsden, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Washington.

That could result in the single biggest gambling expansion in the state, including the other counties that will hustle to run their own referendums.

Here’s another thought: When legislators ignore a problem or fail to address it, it has a tendency to blow up in their faces. Recall the “Internet cafe” meltdown of 2013, for example.

And when will the Seminole Tribe finally get fed up and stop its “good faith” paying of gambling revenue share to the state? The Tribe wasn’t talking, but smart money says its leaders are approaching the boiling point.

We’re not gloating over the Legislature’s history of failure to make a dent in betting policy. We are boggling over what the next disaster will be because this current Capitol crew doesn’t know when to dig out its heels.

Jose Feliz Diaz: ‘We were too far apart’ from Senate via Florida Politics State Rep. Diaz, the House’s point man on gambling, said an impossibility of compromise over slot machines killed the 2017 gambling bill. “We were too far apart and the Senate wanted to bring it in for a landing during budget conference, and we were not going to be able to do that,” he told reporters after Tuesday’s House floor session. “The timing was off.” The sticking point was an offer to expand slot machines to pari-mutuels in counties that approved them in referendum votes. Such an expansion still needs legislative approval. The House opposed it; the Senate wanted it.

Lawyer: Seminole Tribe ‘will react accordingly’ to bill’s death” via Florida PoliticsThe Seminole Tribe of Florida “will react accordingly” to the demise of a gambling bill this Legislative Session, the Tribe’s top outside lawyer said Tuesday. Chief negotiators for the House and Senate said earlier Tuesday they wouldn’t resolve their differences over the legislation before the scheduled end of the 2017 Legislative Session on Friday. When asked whether the Tribe plans to stop paying the state, attorney Barry Richard of the Greenberg Traurig law firm said, “I can’t answer that question,” adding such a decision requires a vote by the Tribal Council. Gary Bitner, the Tribe’s spokesman, declined comment.

Bill’s death leaves fantasy sports in limbo via Florida Politics – The death of gambling legislation this year throws into doubt whether lawmakers can act on daily fantasy sports. A provision for it was in the Senate’s gambling bill, and a separate bill (HB 149) to declare fantasy sports play as games of skill, and therefore not gambling, had been filed in the House by Sanford Republican Jason Brodeur. When asked Tuesday if his bill was dead, Brodeur said, “Not as long as we are still in session.” But Rep. Diaz said he thought although Brodeur’s bill could be amended onto another bill in the House, because its companion wasn’t heard at all in the Senate, “I think it’s in trouble.”

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

— LEGISLATURE HEADED TO OVERTIME —

Siren: A final budget deal was reached late Tuesday night, according to a senior legislator close to the negotiations.

Legislature won’t finish it’s work on time” via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – Legislators won’t be able to wrap up their work on time. Bogged down in a dispute over money for hospitals and nursing homes, top Republicans were unable to reach an agreement on a new $83 billion state budget by the Tuesday deadline. Legislators can extend the session by a supermajority vote in both chambers, or legislative leaders can announce a special session.

— “You know the timetable as well as I do, with the 72-hour requirement.” Senate President Joe Negron said late Tuesday. “We will definitely not complete the budget work prior to the end of Friday.”

“Why the budget is in a stalemate? Hospital cuts” via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – While the House and Senate came to an agreement last week that would cut $650 million from hospitals’ payments through Medicaid, they still haven’t agreed on how to put those cuts — or a potential $1.5 billion boon in Low Income Pool funds approved by the federal government — into effect. “The health care budget is the biggest one left, some issues tied to that,” Speaker Corcoran said. “LIP, hospital cuts, all of those things.” House and Senate budget negotiators have not met publicly about the health care budget since Saturday afternoon, while they have moved closer toward agreement in other areas of the budget. At that weekend meeting, neither chamber ceded ground on the formula to use to determine the cuts.

Ace health care reporter Christine Sexton offers an example of how the differences between the House and Senate play out: “…how the cuts are applied is a $40 million plus issue to Miami’s Jackson Memorial. The Senate plan would reduce Medicaid payments to Jackson by $85.6 million compared to $40 million under the House proposal. Cuts to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in the Senate is more than double the cuts in the House, $39.3 million versus 18.7 million, respectively.”

— “Key senator says money will be in budget for land conservation” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida Rob Bradley said he’s confident that a 2017-18 state budget will include money for the Florida Forever conservation lands program. “This is going to be a budget that those who care about the environment are going to be very proud of,” Bradley told reporters. He is chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources. He said the budget would include spending Florida Forever, for Florida Keys wastewater projects, his proposed projects along the St. Johns River and President Negron‘s proposed Everglades reservoir. The Senate’s proposed budget had $15.2 million for the Florida Forever projects at the Department of Environmental Protection and $5.4 million for the Florida Communities Trust local parks grant program.

This quote has come back to bite Richard Corcoran, who otherwise is dominating Session: “I know all of you wrote that it was going to be a train-wreck, we’re going to go into 18 special sessions, we’re never going to get done, but now that we have come together, we’ve worked out our differences and now we’re having a conference, I think it’s going to be a spectacular session. There’ll be no crashes, despite your reporting, and I think it’s going to be a good day for the state of Florida.”

— DESPITE BUDGET STALEMATE, KEY PRIORITIES MOVING —

“Lake O Reservoir proposal heads to Governor” via Ana Ceballos of the Associated Press – The House and Senate both passed the measure (SB 10) on Tuesday, sending it to Gov. Scott. The bill had previously gone through some Senate-approved changes in the House. Some of those changes included reducing the state’s annual debt service from $100 million to $64 million. In an effort to minimize impacts on agricultural workers, the measure also prohibits the state from taking private property to build the reservoir. The sugar and agricultural industries have welcomed this change.

Water full of algae laps along the Sewell’s Point shore on the St. Lucie River under an Ocean Boulevard bridge. Photo credit: AP.

More details on the plan via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald: The plan will create at least 240,000 acre feet of storage — about 78 billion gallons — south of the lake by converting 14,000 acres of state land now used as a shallow reservoir to build a deep-water reservoir. The measure will set in motion negotiations for the state to purchase land for the project from willing sellers, while prohibiting the use of eminent domain to force the sale. Beginning in the 2017-18 fiscal year, the state will use $34 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire land or negotiate leases in the Everglades Agricultural Area. Another $30 million from the LATF will be used for the C51 reservoir project. In 2018-19, and every year thereafter, $100 million from the LATF will be used for the project.

— Everglades Foundation hails passage via CEO Erik Eikenberg: “Today is a momentous event. The many voices that came to the table this session – anglers, realtors, business and community leaders, and people who want the best for their state – were heard with the final bipartisan passage of SB 10, a positive and science-based step toward the restoration of America’s Everglades.”

— Even U.S. Sugar is happy via spox Judy Sanchez: “Senate Bill 10 has been greatly improved, takes essentially no privately owned farmland, and even removes the threat of eminent domain. The House deserves credit for quickly passing legislation that can provide some protection for our water resources while also protecting our farming communities and vital food production. U.S. Sugar always supports solutions that are based on science, which, in this case shows the source of the water significantly impacting the coastal estuaries flows from north of Lake Okeechobee, not the south. Obviously, you’re going to have to build some solutions north of the lake to finally fix the discharge problem. We look forward to working with legislators in the future to get that done.”

Bruce Ritchie reports that a veto of the Lake O. plan is “unlikely.”

Homestead exemption ready for voters – The House on Tuesday voted 83-35 to put a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot that would allow homeowners to shield an additional $25,000 of the value of their home from most property taxes. The additional exemption would not apply to taxes charged by school districts. The Senate approved the measure (HB 7105) earlier this week. If 60 percent of voters say yes, the amendment would take effect in 2019.

Speaker Corcoran very proud of this effort: “Today’s vote is a big win for all Floridians. If passed by the voters, this additional exemption will be one of, if not the largest, tax cut in the history of Florida at $645 million. An additional $25,000 exemption means real money in the pockets of Florida families. For just the third time in state history the people will see real tax relief in homeownership. The average family will save enough to purchase clothes or school supplies for their children or grandchildren, catch up on bills or make another car payment, pay for healthcare or childcare, and so much more. Real savings, real money, and real relief. Today’s massive tax cut proves, once again, the Florida House will continue to fight for, and stand with, every day Floridians.”

Tweet, tweet:

@NickensFL: Big loss for businesses, renters, second-home owners and local governments. Expect local tax increases and program cuts.

@Stipanovich: The latest and one of the most egregious examples of the legislature’s utter disdain for local officials and the voters who elect them

— LEGISLATIVE MANEUVERING —

“House beats back shroud over Florida’s open meeting law” via Florida Politics A change that critics said will neuter the state’s Sunshine Laws by allowing any two elected officials of a local governing body to meet without notice in private failed in the House on Tuesday. The bill (HB 843), filed by Naples Republican Byron Donalds, received a vote of 68-48—less than the two-thirds required to change the state’s open meetings law … It would have let two members of a board of five or more members to “discuss public business” without it being an official public meeting.

Tweet, tweet:

“Senate passes compensation for deceased FSU player’s family” via The Associated Press – A bill to compensate the family of a freshman Florida State football player who died after a workout 16 years ago is heading to the desk of Gov. Scott. The Florida Senate voted 34-2 for a claims bill (HB 6515) paying $1.8 million to the family of Devaughn Darling. Florida State agreed to settle the case in 2004 after a lawsuit alleging negligence by trainers in Darling’s death. But state law prohibits the university from paying more than $200,000 without legislative authorization. Darling, who had the sickle-cell trait, died after doing indoor drills during off-season training in February of 2001. The trait can make people vulnerable to illness from exertion.

“TBARTA bill one step closer to going to Rick Scott’s desk” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – One more vote in the House, and the bill goes to Gov. Scott’s desk. Sponsored in the House by Plant City Republican Dan Raulerson, HB 1243 would downsize TBARTA from seven counties to five (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Manatee and Hernando), and change the TBARTA’s focus to transit (and not simply transportation). Two weeks ago, an amendment filed by Tampa Bay-area Republicans Tom Lee and Jeff Brandes made it much harder for the region to push for light-rail, but Senate sponsor Jack Latvala was able to make changes to that amendment last week, which appeared to have satisfied supporters of the bill. There was little discussion about the bill on the House floor. The bill now goes to the full House for a third and final reading. The Senate bill passed last week.

House approves computer coding bill” via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – HB 265 would instruct the Articulation Coordinating Committee to identify high school courses that could satisfy university admission requirements for math and science and require the education commissioner to establish academic standards for computer science, was passed unanimously. A similar bill (SB 104) stalled in committee, but the House bill will now head to the Senate.

House passes Florida Forever bill” via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – HB 7119 reorganizes the Florida Forever land conservation program but its fate, along with the entire environment budget, remains unclear. The bill would restructure the Florida Forever funding formula to provide 40 percent for conservation easements at the state agriculture department, 35 percent to the Department of Environmental Protection for the priority acquisition list and 25 percent to the Florida Communities Trust grant program … in addition, Rep. Matt Caldwell filed an amendment that would provide $57 million annually for three years to Florida Forever — starting in fiscal year 2018-19 — and increasing amounts after that.

***A Prospective Payment System for nursing center reimbursement gives more value to Floridians’ Medicaid spending by putting it toward what matters most – the quality of our loved one. Learn more here.***

“Must-pass workers’ compensation, AOB reform languishing in Legislature” via Florida Politics – With House and Senate leaders caught up with budget negotiations ahead of Friday’sdeadline for adjournment, advocates for legislative fixes for assignment of benefits and workers’ compensation reform confronted this possibility: Their must-pass legislation might not pass. There’s a workers’ compensation bill on the Senate calendar, but it differs in significant respects from the version the House adopted, and it was unclear whether those differences could be reconciled in the time left. Meanwhile, the House has adopted assignment of benefits, or AOB, reforms. But Senate version languished in the Rules Committee. “The problem we have right now is a bandwidth issue, with leaders being so involved in these (budget) numbers that they can’t really focus on these policies or strategies, or how we would do it — which bill, this and that,” said Sen. Gary Farmer … sponsor of the Senate AOB bill.

Senate expected to take up marijuana bill today – The Senate will likely take up the House’s version of the medical marijuana implementing bill (HB 1397) when it meets to begin discussion on implementing the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment. The upper chamber is currently slated to discuss its version of the bill (SB 406) when it convenes for session at 10 a.m. today, but records show the House bill has been received by the Senate. Amended Tuesday, the House bill, among other things, quickens the pace by which the state issues licenses for medical marijuana treatment centers. The bill calls on the DOH to issue 10more licenses “as soon as practicable, but no later than July 1, 2018.” The measure does not, however, include caps on the number of retail locations growers can have, something the Senate bill includes. House Majority Ray Rodrigues told members Tuesday that “95 percent” of the changed adopted had been negotiated with the Senate. Sen. Rob Bradley, the Senate sponsor, said he would let the process work when asked by reporters about whether the Senate would hold the line on caps

— RICK SCOTT TAKING TO THE ROAD —

Scott announced his “Fighting for Florida’s Future” campaign, taking him on a whirlwind tour of home cities of lawmakers who might feel pressure to support full funding for Enterprise Florida and VISIT Florida. And now, with the Legislature hammering out the final details of a budget that dismisses some of Scott’s priorities, the governor is adding a third priority to his tour’s message: $200 million to help fix the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee. “There are still a few days left of the Regular Session which means that there is still time for the politicians to do the right thing and fund priorities to protect our environment and keep our economy growing,” Scott stated in a news release … On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Scott plans stops in Tampa, Orlando, Palm Beach, Miami, Pensacola, Panama City, Naples, Sarasota, Jacksonville, and the Space Coast.

The details: Gov. Scott kicks off his “Fighting for Florida’s Future” tour at 9 a.m. at Power Grid Engineering, 100 Colonial Center Pkwy Suite 400 in Lake Mary. From there, he’ll head to Tampa for an event at 11:15 a.m. at CWU, 5402 W Laurel St. Unit 1B. Scott will then make his way to Riviera Beach for an event at 2:30 p.m. at RGF Environmental Group, 1101 West 13th Street. He’ll end the day at 4:45 p.m. at Rick Case Kia – Sunrise, 14500 W Sunrise Blvd. in Sunrise.

This is also on the road, so watch out: ‘Flu bug’ raises awareness about proposal to allow pharmacists to test for flu — Don’t be alarmed, this bug won’t give you the flu. Instead, the purple and pink VW bug parked outside the Governor’s Inn is meant to raise awareness about a proposal to allow Florida pharmacists to test customers for the flu. A bill (SB 1180), sponsored by Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, would have allowed pharmacists to test and treat Floridians for the flu. Under the proposal, pharmacists who were trained and certified to give a flu shot would have been authorized to give tests and provide an anti-viral medication, like Tamiflu, to patients.

The bill, which was backed by the Florida Pharmacy Association, did not receive a hearing in the Senate; however, a House bill (HB 7011) was amended to allow pharmacists to order tests. That bill is on the House’s second reading calendar. “It creates a conversation and debate about why wouldn’t we want to support a pretty simple concept,” said Claudia Davant, the association’s long-time lobbyist. “It’s all about access to care.”

— OPINIONS — 

“Jason Pye, Sal Nuzzo: Mandatory minimum reform needed in overdose epidemic” for Florida Politics – Facing yet another drug overdose epidemic, the Florida Legislature has an opportunity to move the needle in the right policy direction — finally … the heat is on to include policies that have failed Florida – every single time they’ve been tried. Current law already provides harsh mandatory sentences for trafficking in heroin laced with fentanyl. This should trouble anyone who believes mandatory minimums will deter fentanyl trafficking. If that’s true, what are they waiting on? The truth is mandatory minimums don’t reduce drug trafficking. Mandatory minimums have also failed to reduce drug abuse. In fact, since adopting mandatory minimums to reduce overdose deaths, Florida’s overall drug-induced death rate has increased nearly 150 percent. Incarcerating thousands of low-level addicts who don’t pose a risk to public safety is expensive. One such reform – a practical, reasonable and moderate one – would give judges, under compelling circumstances, a degree of flexibility to sentence drug offenders appropriately.

“Medical marijuana: OK, it is time to drop caps on dispensaries” for Florida Politics – As competing bills to implement Amendment 2 get bogged down mid-Session, the hot-button flashpoints began: The number of new medical marijuana licensees, as well as the process to award those highly-valued “Willy Wonka” golden tickets … caps on dispensaries means less access, fewer available products and fewer licensees. But when it comes to cost, less is more — medical weed prices would skyrocket, that is. To be clear, pro-Amendment 2 folks are really not looking for limited access and higher prices — it seems obvious they were pushing this notion simply to upset the game. But now the dust has settled, and the Senate bill still has caps in it. With only three full days left, it may just be time to back off. Caps on dispensaries — at any number — helps nobody. What it does is hurts those who took a chance, making an investment in medical cannabis. It also hurts those who live in rural (and even some suburban) areas. Also, dispensary caps hurt patients — particularly those who are very sick or need to travel. And, most of all, it hurts the 71 percent who supported medical marijuana for severely ill patients. It’s time to drop the caps and move on.

GWEN GRAHAM MAKES IT OFFICIAL

“Daughter of ex-Florida governor seeks his same seat” via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press – Graham made her announcement in Miami-Dade County, where she lived until she moved into the governor’s mansion at age 15 when her father, Bob Graham, took office.

“I’m so proud of Dad, but I stand on my own two feet. I’ve certainly learned from him, but I would never expect anyone to support me simply because I am Dad’s daughter,” Graham told The Associated Press before her announcement.

“I will be a governor that does focus on what he focused on, which is making the right decisions for Florida again.”

“At announcement, Graham promises a love for Florida” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Standing before Miami Carrol City High School, where she said she spent a “workday” Monday, Graham spent much of her speech blasting the past 20 years of education reform efforts in Tallahassee as degrading students, turning over the schools to what she called the “education industry” intent on making money off high-stakes student tests.

“And as governor, I will not just criticize this culture of teaching to the tests, I will end it,” she said, even if she needs to use a line-veto to do so.

Graham also vowed to commit to technical and career-based training for students beginning in middle school; investing in roads, bridges and mass transit; and pushing to diversify the economy away from tourism and agriculture, and toward new economies, technology, robotics, health care and solar energy, with a new focus on entrepreneurs and home businesses.

“Out of the gate, Emily’s List backing Graham” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – “Gwen Graham doesn’t need to tell Floridians that she’s a champion for women and families in her state — her record proves that beyond a doubt,” EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock stated in a news release. “While serving in one of the most divisive Congresses in memory, Gwen fought to ensure Florida’s veterans received the health care they deserved, to end gender discrimination in pay, and for affordable college education for Floridians and all Americans.”

“Republicans quickly attack Graham as non-achieving, non-transparent” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Republicans wasted little time … In separate releases, the Republican Party of Florida said she lacks accomplishments to run on; the Republican Governors Association said the former congresswoman did not release her congressional records before leaving office at the end of December. The pair of responses may indicate a level of concern the Republicans could have for a Graham candidacy, as neither party organization quickly attacked the announced candidacies of the other two Democrats running for governor. Graham’s campaign dismissed the charges as typical partisan responses: “These predictable, partisan attacks are about as standardized and one-dimensional as the high-stakes tests Florida Republicans keep heaping on our schools and kids. Let’s focus on Florida — that’s certainly what Gwen Graham is doing.”

Assignment editorsGraham will join ESA Renewables for a Workday monitoring and installing solar panels. Event and interview opportunities with Graham as she installs solar panels at the home of an Orange County Solar Co-Pp member in Orlando at 2 p.m. All press interested in attending are asked to please RSVP to Matt Harringer at press@gwengraham.com.

— CONSUMER SENTIMENT DIPS FROM RECORD HIGH IN APRIL —

Consumer confidence in Florida dropped in the last month, but researchers say Floridians seem more optimistic than they were a year ago.

The monthly University of Florida consumer survey released Tuesday measured confidence at 95.7, which is 3.5 points lower than it was in March. The lowest index possible is a 2, and the highest is 150.

Hector Sandoval of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research said that while the numbers have shifted somewhat that the perceptions are relatively stable reflecting “favorable economic conditions in the state.

Sandoval said the decline in the April numbers was due to “unfavorable expectations” about the economy in the future. He noted, however, that those with incomes over $50,000 have favorable perceptions.

***Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) reduce prescription drug costs and protect Florida consumers, employers, unions, and government programs from high drug prices. PBMs will save Floridians $43.4 billion over the next decade. Learn more at DrugBenefitSolutions.com.***

“Rick Scott appointed water management official resigns after inappropriate Facebook post” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – In his resignation letter, John Browning officially said he was leaving the St. Johns River Water Management District because of the workload. He had served on the board since Scott appointed him in late 2015. “I understand the important job water management does; however, I did not realize the amount of time and commitment it required,” he wrote … The letter makes no mention of a Facebook post he wrote in November when he commented on a man who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent and was wearing a red and white headscarf. “Ever want to get off a plane when loading,” read the post, which showed a picture of the man.

“Back to business as usual for Erik Fresen” via Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald – … speaking at an education event in Miami less than a week after pleading guilty to failing to file a tax return for 2011. The former House education budget chair was a panelist at an event organized by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce on education options in the downtown area. Fresen advocated for charter schools and discussed the need to better promote the strength of Miami-Dade schools to business interests and families in the downtown area. Fresen … has ties to the charter school industry. He has worked as a land-use consultant for Miami architecture firm Civica, which has done work for charter school management company Academica, whose founder is Fresen’s brother-in-law. One topic Fresen did not discuss at Monday’s event: his tax troubles.

State Supreme Court publicly reprimands North Florida judge via Florida Politics – Calling it a “sad occasion, sad for you, sad for us,” Chief Justice Jorge Labarga on Tuesday publicly dressed down 3rd Circuit Judge Andrew Decker for alleged attorney-ethical lapses before his election as judge in 2012. He also made false statements during his campaign, the court found. “No one can undo what you have done,” Labarga told Decker in open court. “This is not a task I enjoy; indeed, I hate it.” The court also ordered him suspended for six months without pay. Decker was used a case study by a House ethics panel this Legislative Session as it looked into exercising its constitutionally-granted impeachment power. Labarga said Decker showed a “baffling inability” to understand what he’d done wrong, adding that the reprimand would be the court’s “last admonition” to him.

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***

Assignment editors: The Constitution Revision Commission continues its statewide listening tour with a public hearing at 4 p.m. (central time) at the Amelia Center Auditorium at Gulf Coast State College, 5320 West Highway 98 in Panama City.

Governors Club Wednesday lunch buffet menu –  With only days left in the 2017 Regular Session, the Governors Club Wednesday lunch buffet features three bean & pepper salad; macaroni & ham salad; mixed green salad; three assorted dressings; New England clam chowder; honey baked ham; roasted sweet potatoes; pan-blackened redfish; red beans & Rice; green beans almandine; black beans & blue sugar flank steak.

Happening today – FAPL hosts May Madness social — The Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists will host a May Madness Social with live music and networking at 5:30 p.m. at Southern Public House, 224 E. College Ave.

New and renewed lobbying registrations

Jodi Brock Davidson, Colodny Fass: Broward Teachers Union

Jeffrey Greene, Jeff Greene & Associates: Green Roads West, LLC

Will McKinley, PooleMcKinley: NIC, Inc.; Sunshine State Towing Association

Samuel Verghese, One Eighty Consulting: Column Technologies, Inc.

Happy birthday to one of the nicest guys in The Process and a great dad, Donovan Brown. Also celebrating today is Gershom Faulkner (now in U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist‘s office) and Mr. Janet Zink, Tom Scherberger.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons