Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 of 286

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including, Florida Politics, Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of the quarterly INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, SaintPetersBlog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.
Rick Kriseman, Kerry Kriseman, GOTV Oct. 9, 2017

Rick Kriseman pounds the pavement as ballots hit the streets

Mail ballots have started to hit the streets in St. Pete cend incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman has started to pound the pavement again ahead of the second round of his re-election battle against former two-term Mayor Rick Baker.

Kriseman and his wife, Kerry, joined their corps of volunteers and staffers kicking off their get-out-the-vote efforts ahead of the Nov. 7 election.

Kriseman and co. knocked on doors across the city and talked one-on-one with voters to plead their case for another four years. The mayor also pitched in at the phone bank to give voters a heads up that the first mail ballots are on the way.

“We’ve come a long way in 4 years. Crime is down, big projects are moving forward, and our city is preparing for climate change,” Kriseman said in a Monday press release. “This November’s election is going to come down to conversations between neighbors in their front yards and living rooms. August turnout was record high, and we’re here to earn every vote to keep St. Pete moving forward.”

Despite polls showing him behind by as much as 7 points three days before the election, Kriseman edged out Baker by a hair in the August primary, which saw the field whittled from six candidates down to two. The slim win wasn’t lost on Kriseman, whose campaign acknowledged it was indeed a “come-from-behind” victory.

That doesn’t mean they see it as a meaningless win, either.

Even though both candidates had to turn around and fund raise their hearts out to reload for the what’s become the most expensive mayoral election in city history, the mayor’s campaign said Monday that the primary win brought forth “a surge in grassroots enthusiasm with volunteers from all over the bay area committing their time and energy to re-electing Mayor Kriseman.”

While the St. Petersburg mayor position is officially non-partisan, Kriseman was a Democrat in the Florida House before becoming mayor. He has picked up endorsements from top elected Dems, including U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and Congressman Charlie Crist.

The Florida Democratic Party has also been in his corner and treated the city election as a bellwether for 2018, while multiple left-leaning groups such as the Sierra Club have also flocked to his side.

One of the deciders in the August election was undoubtedly the 11th hour endorsement he received from former President Barack Obama.

Kriseman is historically an underachiever with black voters, who make up 15 percent of the city’s electorate. Baker, on the other hand, is one of the rare Republicans who excells at making inroads with the community. The Obama nod put a thumb on the scales, though, and may have been what shunted Baker’s chances of winning it all in the primary.

The Kriseman camp also pointed out Monday that the mayor bested every pre-primary poll in his 69-vote August win, and he may have to do it again in the general election. A St. Pete Polls survey released last week showed Baker with a 1-point advantage over Kriseman, 46-45 with about 9 percent undecided.

All St. Petersburg voters will get a chance to pick one of the Ricks on Election Day, set for Nov. 7, but voters in City Council District 2 and District 6 will also pick the replacements for Jim Kennedy and Karl Nurse, respectively, while District 4 voters will decide whether to give Darden Rice another term.

Sunburn for 10.10.17 — Election Day in HD 44 & 58; Jack Latvala tees off; Andrew Gillum’s walkback; AHCA eyes $ cuts; Andrew Marcus’ new gig

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

In Florida, it seems like every other Tuesday is an Election Day, as it is today in House Districts 44 and 58.

Bobby Olszewski and Democrat Eddy Dominguez are competing to replace former Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, a Republican who resigned this spring to become a judge on the 5th District Court of Appeal. Dominguez entered the race last month after Democratic candidate Paul Chandler withdrew amid questions about his eligibility for the seat.

Yvonne Fry and Lawrence McClure are seeking to replace former Rep. Dan Raulerson, a Plant City Republican who resigned this summer for health reasons. The winner of Tuesday’s Republican primary will move on to a Dec. 19 special general election in House District 58.

Special Election time: Republicans Yvonne Fry and Lawrence McClure face off Tuesday in HD 58; Republican Bobby Olszewski and Democrat Eddy Dominguez battle for HD 44.

The last-minute changes:

— Precinct 753 will vote at Bruton Memorial Library, 302 McClendon St., Plant City, according to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office. It is a change from the mailed notice recently sent to voters. Precinct 763 will vote at Faith Temple Assembly of God, 4240 N. Frontage Road. This move was made necessary this week by long lines of people signing up for Food for Florida benefits at Plant City Stadium in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

The latest fundraising:

— Olszewski raised $21,201 between Sept. 8 and Thursday, according to a newly filed finance report. That brought his overall campaign total to $127,530, with that amount also including money raised for an August Republican primary. Dominguez raised $6,507 from Sept. 19 through Thursday.

— Fry and McClure have each raised more than $100,000, according to newly filed finance reports. Fry raised $44,025 between Sept. 8 and Thursday, bringing her overall total to $112,790, according to her new report. Contributions to Fry during the period included $3,000 from Realtors political-action committees. McClure, meanwhile, raised $28,280 during the period, bringing his total to $135,485. Contributions to McClure during the period included $3,000 from political committees linked to the health care firm HCA.

The latest polling:

— An automated phone poll on election eve of 358 registered voters in HD 58 gave McClure an 18-point lead, 54 to 36 percent.

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Bill to permanently expand Bright Futures passes first legislative hurdle” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News — … when the Senate Education Committee gave it the green light. SB 4, sponsored by Sen. Bill Galvano would expand the amount of financial aid and scholarship money Florida students could receive under the program, which began in 1997 and is expected to serve nearly 100,000 students this year. Galvano’s proposal would secure full funding for the Academic Scholar award, the top tier of scholarships in the program. Receiving the top award for the scholarship requires students to have at least a 3.5 GPA as well as a score of 1290 on the SAT or a 29 on the ACT. At least 41,000 students qualified for the top scholarship tier this year. Funding would also be reinstated for the Bright Futures Medallion Scholar award, which awards 75 percent of tuition and fees for the fall and spring semesters.

Lawmakers look at limits for opioid prescriptions” via Dan Sweeney of the Sun-Sentinel — Patients would only get a week’s supply of opioids on their initial prescription for the drugs under a bill filed by state Sen. Aaron Bean … meant to limit the oversupply of opiates for temporary pain. It would allow for 30-day renewals of opioid prescriptions after the initial seven-day prescription. It includes a requirement that doctors consult the state’s prescription drug monitoring database before prescribing controlled substances. Doctors would also be required to complete a two-hour continuing education course on prescribing opioids for their biennial license renewal. No similar measure has been filed in the state House.

“Water bills already on the move in the Senate” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee OK’d the measure (SB 204) … The bill, by committee chair Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, would approve spending at least $75 million a year on springs projects and $50 million annually on projects related to the restoration of the St. Johns River — the longest entirely within Florida — and its tributaries, as well as the Keystone Heights Lake Region. Bradley said it’s “incredibly important” that the river remain healthy: “It really defines the character of so much of our state” … The committee also took up a bill (SB 174), filed by Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala. It would set aside at least $50 million a year to help address issues such as beach erosion … The bill, supported by the affected coastal counties, cleared the committee without opposition.

Not one to hold back, Jack Latvala tees off on tourism. business and electric utilities.

Jack Latvala tees off on business and tourism groups during Hurricane Irma hearing” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Latvala’s sometimes gruff personality was on display as he teed off on business and tourism officials who were giving an update on the state’s efforts following Hurricane Irma. The panel was assembled by the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee as part of a weeklong look at the storm and its impact on the state. Among the officials he targeted was Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. During his presentation, Wilson said one of the biggest reasons power was knocked out by the storm was that trees tumbled into power lines. “One thing we need to look at is local policies on tree removal,” Wilson told the committee. “I don’t know whose responsibility it is, but it’s something we need to look into.” Afterward, Latvala asked him about those comments. Wilson again continued to stress he was not sure who was responsible for tree removal. “Let me help you with that,” Latvala said pointedly. “The responsibility is with the utility companies.” Latvala has been publicly feuding with utility companies for weeks. During the meeting, he also was critical of Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Cissy Proctor, for her department’s decision to set up a $25 million bridge loan program for the citrus industry hammered by the storm, but not other areas of the agriculture industry. “You could have just as easily set it up for watermelons, beans, corn, tomatoes or any other industry,” Latvala said.

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“Senate committee passes on search bill for now” via Florida Politics — Should Florida law enforcement be required to inform subjects of their right to refuse a search? A Senate panel says that’s a question for another day. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee Monday postponed a bill (SB 262), filed by Sen. Gary Farmer, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, that seeks to prevent police from conducting searches without first informing subjects they have a right to decline. The bill’s language will need to be revised before the committee reconsiders it — Farmer intended to have the requirement apply strictly to consent searches, but the language doesn’t quite specify that enough. The measure says an officer would have to inform the subject of their right to refuse “unless the law enforcement officer is carrying out a valid search warrant or the search is based upon another legally sufficient justification.”

Today’s fundraiser lineup State Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. and Senate candidate Ed Hooper are hosting a joint fundraising event beginning 5 p.m. at the Florida Retail Federation, 227 S. Adams St. in Tallahassee. Diaz, a Hialeah Republican, is seeking re-election to House District 103; Hooper is seeking to replace term-limited Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater in SD 16. Also at 5 p.m., Republican Reps. Byron Donalds and Jayer Williamson hold a joint fundraiser at the Governors Club Capitol Room; Sen. Dana Young will also be at the Club’s Board Room. At 6 p.m., Republican Reps. Byron Donalds and Bob Rommel join HD 89 candidate Matt Spritz to raise funds at the Club’s Plantation Room. At 6:30 p.m., newly elected Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo will hold an event at the Club’s Capitol Room. Also at 6 p.m., Democratic Reps. Ramon AlexanderLoranne AusleyBen DiamondSean Shaw and David Silvers will be fundraising at the Ology Brewing Company, 118 East 6th Avenue in Tallahassee.

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Andrew Gillum campaign rethinks environmental claim” via Allison Graves of the Tampa Bay Times — In his bid for governor, Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Gillum once took responsibility for reducing the city’s carbon footprint in a short period. “Under his leadership, Tallahassee reduced its carbon intensity by roughly 40 percent,” his campaign website said. This was an exaggeration. PolitiFact Florida did not find evidence that supported a carbon cut of that size under Gillum’s watch. But if you check the website now, you won’t find that claim … “You brought it to our attention, and we wanted to make sure it was accurate, so we made the change when you reached out,” said campaign spokesman Geoff Burgan said. “We’re trying to get people the accurate information they need.”

— “In Tampa, Gillum speaks frankly about race” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

“Gillum raises $78,000 in September via Florida PoliticsGillum for Governor raised $72,000, and the aligned-political committee “Forward Florida” raised $6,000, the campaign and committee announced Tuesday. Spokesman Geoff Burgan said Gillum, a Democrat running for governor, had “paused” fundraising emails and activity. That was so Gillum, also mayor of Tallahassee, “could focus on Tallahassee’s robust response to Hurricane Irma.” Despite that, “we are pleased that grassroots and small-dollar donors continue showing Mayor Gillum strong support throughout Florida,” Burgan said. “These regular people are the ones funding and powering our campaign, not wealthy corporate donors.”

Gwen Graham vows to enact clean power plan” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — With President Trump‘s announcement he would be ending the federal clean-power plan initiated by his predecessor, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Graham vowed she would enact a “Florida clean power plan” to continue to seek carbon reductions and increase renewable energy. Graham says she’ll specifically stick to the goals former President Barack Obama had set with his federal order, to work toward a 32 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, compared with what Florida was producing in 2005. That would require significant decreases in coal-fired power. She said that would save the average consumer $85 a year in power bills. Arguing that an aggressive and comprehensive renewable energy policy would combat climate change, protect clean air, create jobs and lower energy prices, she added, “Florida can’t afford to wait for the federal government to act. As governor, I will implement a renewable energy standard, cut carbon emissions and create clean energy jobs.”

Gwen Graham installs solar panel during one of her recent campaign ‘Workdays.’

Hiring fundraiser, Phil Levine takes big step in deciding gubernatorial run” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Levine brought on veteran Democratic fundraiser Courtney Whitney ahead of what he intends to be an intensive month of fundraising for his All About Florida political committee. Levine, in a previous interview, told POLITICO that he intends to make an official decision in November on whether to join the crowded Democratic primary for governor in 2018. “Mayor Levine possesses a unique entrepreneurial background, with a robust network of international business leaders,” Whitney said in a written statement that foreshadows the likely themes Levine will stress as a candidate. “This won’t be a traditional fundraising operation, and I am thrilled to be a part of the team at All About Florida for this one-of-a-kind opportunity.”

“Ashley Moody breaks the $1M fundraising mark” via Florida Politics — Moody, a former Hillsborough circuit judge running as a Republican for Attorney General in 2018, reported on Monday she had raised more than $1 million in contributions. “We’re proud and excited to hit this important fundraising milestone, particularly in the first four months of our campaign,” she said in a statement. “It is a testament to our statewide network of grassroots supporters, community leaders, and well-respected law enforcement professionals who’ve enthusiastically embraced our message of strong, conservative leadership.” Moody said she’d collected over 950 contributions, “outpacing her Republican opponent by a margin of over 5 to 1 in both numbers of contributors and total contributions,” according to a release. Moody also enters October endorsed by over a dozen of Florida’s Republican sheriffs as well as state attorneys from throughout Florida.

September slog in House fundraising for northeast Florida” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — The leader among state House hopefuls: Wyman Duggan with $10,650 for HD 15. HD 11 Republican Cord Byrd raised $400 in September, against $2,549 spent; Clay Yarborough continued his consistent fundraising in his HD 12 re-election … $7,500 he brought in last month pushed Yarborough up to $63,675 raised. In HD 16, $4,000 brought Jason Fischer over $55,000 cash on hand. In HD 17, Republican Cyndi Stevenson raised $3,603 and spent $1,052; all told, she has just over $44,000 on hand. HD 18 incumbent Republican Travis Cummings added $2,500 … roughly $52,000 on hand. HD 19 incumbent Republican Bobby Payne raised $2,500, pushing him over $28,000 on hand.

Kionne McGhee backs Emma Collum in three-way HD 93 primary” via Florida Politics — Minority Leader Designate McGee weighed in on the three-way Democratic Primary in House District 93 with an endorsement for Women’s March FL founder Collum. “She is the ideal candidate for Broward County and today’s political environment,” McGhee said in a news release “Floridians urgently need more women in leadership, especially with experience in both business and civic engagement. Emma is a staunch advocate for Democratic values, and I look forward to working alongside her to fight for the interests of working families in South Florida and across the state.” In addition to running the 20-chapter Women’s March group in Florida, the City University of New York law school alumna works as the in-house counsel for JL Audio, a family owned business based in Miramar.

Orlando mayor endorses Robert Stuart” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising — Buddy Dyer has endorsed District 3 Commissioner Stuart, asking voters to continue the strong leadership to ensure the city’s future remains bright. The plea was made as voters received their absentee ballots in the mail. “Robert has been an effective advocate and champion for safe neighborhoods, fiscally responsible budgeting, for finding solutions to Orlando’s homelessness challenge, and for increasing and renewing our parks and green spaces,” Dyer said. “As a supporter of Orlando’s Main Street programs, Robert has helped us renew and revitalize neighborhood commercial districts and create thousands of new jobs.” Dyer also talked about Stuart’s lifetime of service to Orlando in the letter. “Even before he was elected to the city council, Robert has been serving people and building community,” Dyer said. “For 46 years, he has been a volunteer coach and umpire for Little League Baseball.” Stuart has worked closely with Dyer during the past 12 years.


Gov. Rick Scott toured the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee on Monday. Earlier this year, President Trump committed to providing federal support to fix the federally-operated dike and Scott worked with lawmakers to set aside $50 million to speed up needed repairs.

Assignment editors — Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will visit Broward County to help serve lunch to elementary school students for National School Lunch Week. Event begins 10:30 a.m. at Discovery Elementary School, 8800 NW. 54th Court in Sunrise.

AHCA eyes hospitals for budget cuts” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Gov. Scott‘s administration continues to target hospitals for potential Medicaid spending reductions in the coming year. The Agency for Health Care Administration’s top four proposed budget cuts for the Legislature to consider during the 2018 session would reduce Medicaid payments to hospitals by nearly $1 billion. Those reductions would be on top of nearly $500 million in recurring cuts made to hospitals during the 2017 session. “It would be devastating, for goodness sakes,” said Jan Gorrie, a hospital lobbyist and managing partner of the Tampa office of Ballard Partners. “I’m surprised to see the magnitude of the cut. It’s mind-blowing. It’s like, whoa.” In addition to a list of proposed reductions for the Legislature to consider, AHCA also submitted its proposed budget requests for the upcoming year. It includes a request for an additional $66 million to cover a deficit in the Children’s Medical Services managed-care plan for the current year. The gap is a result of lower enrollment in the Medicaid specialty plan than anticipated.

“Mega Millions email is a scam, Florida Lottery says” via Florida Politics — If you got an email saying you won $1 million in Mega Millions, it’s a scam, the Florida Lottery said Monday. Scammers are behind the email, seeking “to obtain personal and financial information,” the Lottery said in a news release. “Do not respond to these emails. If you have not purchased a ticket, you cannot win a prize,” it said. “Individuals are asked to provide general information about themselves in order to participate.” But Lottery players “will never be required to transfer funds to secure their winnings for … any Florida Lottery game,” it said.


White House lets Jones Act waiver expire for Puerto Rico” via Melanie Zanona of The Hill — The White House has let a 10-day shipping waiver expire for Puerto Rico, meaning foreign ships can no longer bring aid to the hurricane-ravaged island from U.S. ports. A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that the Jones Act waiver, which expired Sunday, will not be extended. U.S. lawmakers and Puerto Rican officials had been pushing the administration for an exemption from the Jones Act, a century-old law that only allows American-built and -operated vessels to make cargo shipments between U.S. ports … the White House did not initially lift the shipping restrictions for Puerto Rico, sparking widespread public outcry and fueling accusations that Trump is treating the U.S. territory differently than the states hit by hurricanes … officials have warned that the biggest challenge for relief efforts is getting supplies distributed around Puerto Rico once they arrive, while the U.S. shipping industry maintains that there are adequate domestic companies available to assist with Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts.

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If Puerto Rico were a state, its health care system would recover faster from Maria” via Anna Maria Barry-Jester of — The problem for Puerto Rico is not only that it’s in debt, but also that it is responsible for paying a much larger share of Medicaid costs than it would if it were a state. Across the U.S. — in both the territories and the states — the federal government reimburses a share of the cost of the program. In poorer states, the federal government pays more — Mississippi, the poorest state, is reimbursed for 75.7 percent of the cost of providing care, while 14 states are reimbursed for 50 percent, the lowest level allowed. But in the territories, the amount is set at 55 percent. If Puerto Rico were reimbursed using the same poverty formula as the states, the federal government would cover 82 percent of the cost, according to the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, a nonpartisan agency that provides policy recommendations to Congress. There’s also a limit on how much the federal government spends each year in the territories. Their reimbursement comes from a block grant and, at less than $400 million, the amount is far below 55 percent of the current annual cost of running the program.

Agents from the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico with personnel from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Highway Patrol and Florida Department of Law Enforcement to assist with hurricane recovery efforts following Hurricane Maria.

Irma insurance claims near $4.6 billion” via the News Service of Florida — 703,671 claims, totaling $4,571,183,588 in insured losses, had been filed … Of the claims filed, payments had been made on 103,994, while 69,432 had been closed without any compensation for policyholders. The Office of Insurance Regulation website does not break down the numbers by the insurer. Claims had been filed in all 67 counties, with Miami-Dade County having the largest number, 87,334. There had been 57,670 claims filed in Orange County and 52,821 in Lee County.

They were married 61 years. They died weeks apart after their nursing home overheated” via David Neal of the Miami Herald — Cecilia Franco, 90, died at 3:45 a.m. Monday, becoming the 13th Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills resident to die from ailments suffered when the nursing home turned into a hotbox following Hurricane Irma. Franco lived only 26 days after her husband of 61 years, Miguel Antonio Franco, was among the eight Sept. 13 deaths at the overheated Hollywood Hills facility across a parking lot from Hollywood Memorial Regional Hospital. Cecilia Franco, one of the residents evacuated hours after residents began dying, was described by family lawyers as being in serious condition. She died at St. Catherine’s Rehab Hospital in Hialeah. “The Franco and Navarro families are now mourning the passing of their mother and grandmother Cecilia Franco, this on the heels of losing her husband of 62 years, their father and grandfather Miguel Franco, both of whom perished in a horrific avoidable tragedy which should never have occurred,” read a statement from Albert Levin, attorney for daughter Margarita Navarro. “Their pain cuts deeply having lost not one but two loved ones.” Navarro filed a wrongful death and negligence suit against Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills Sept. 22.

Irma assistance deadline extended” via the News Service of Florida — Cissy Proctor, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, said a deadline for the Disaster Unemployment Assistance Program had been extended to Oct. 31. The original deadline had been Oct. 16. The assistance is available for weeks of unemployment beginning Sept. 10, when Hurricane Irma first made landfall in Florida, until March 17, 2018, so long as the unemployment continues to be a result of the storm. More than 27,000 claims have been filed; Proctor told members of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee. The program offers assistance to employees or self-employed people who are temporarily or permanently out of work because of the hurricane. The money is supposed to cover the costs of food, clothing, shelter and other assistance.

Audit warned Florida’s hurricane response system was ‘ill-prepared’ for disaster” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Long before Florida entered the deadliest hurricane season in a decade, auditors at the state’s Division of Emergency Management sent out a warning: the state was ill-prepared for a major disaster. A 23-page annual audit completed in December 2016 by the agency’s inspector general detailed a lengthy list of deficiencies needed to prepare and respond to a hurricane. Among them: Food and water supplies at the distribution center in Orlando were inadequate; contracts with companies that would supply cots to shelters had expired; the agreements many trucking companies had signed with the state’s emergency management agency to distribute supplies had lapsed; the agency was using “a spreadsheet created in the 1980s to help predict the amount of supplies and equipment that may be needed after a storm makes landfall,” as the state’s giant storage facility remained half empty. What’s worse, auditors warned, the state’s emergency managers didn’t know what they didn’t know. The report concluded: “The division’s ability to respond to disasters may be impaired.”


Eldercare watchdog referring fewer complaints for investigation” via Dan Sweeney of the Sun-Sentinel

— The state office charged with inspecting and investigating complaints against nursing homes has become less of a watchdog under Gov. Scott.

— Once well regarded as a patient advocate, the office of Elder Care Ombudsman has referred an average of 3 percent of complaints to investigative agencies annually since Scott came into office in 2011, a Sun Sentinel records review shows. Under the previous administrations, between 6 percent and 10 percent of complaints were referred each year going back to 2001.

— The quality of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities had come to the forefront after 12 residents at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills died when Hurricane Irma knocked out the air conditioning. No complaints to the ombudsman’s office about nursing homes in Broward County have been referred for investigation in the past two years.

— But Brian Lee, who was ombudsman from 2003 to 2011 under governors Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist and is now executive director of an elder advocacy organization, doubts that the drop in complaints is due to an overall improvement in the nursing home industry.

***In the face of Hurricane Irma, Florida Health Care Association’s members successfully cared for more than 68,000 residents. Learn more about how FHCA member nursing centers’ emergency plans protect Florida’s most vulnerable citizens before, during, and after disaster situations.***


Florida lawmakers seek $27 billion for hurricane recovery” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — The request covers the gamut, from money for citrus and livestock losses to funds for the Herbert Hoover Dike to the need for schools that could see migration from the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The lawmakers, led by Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, laid out the request in a letter to the top Republican and Democratic members of the Senate and House appropriations committees. Congress has already approved $15 billion to respond to Hurricane Harvey and Irma. The White House last week requested an additional $29 billion, including $16 billion in debt forgiveness for the National Flood Insurance Program.

Marco Rubio went to Arizona to raise money for Jeff Flake” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Tickets for the lunch were $100 and VIP went for $500. Rubio and Flake were part of the Gang of 8 that produced the 2013 immigration bill, and they serve together on the Foreign Relations Committee. Flake, unlike Rubio, has been a proponent for the diplomatic thaw with Cuba. Flake has drawn the wrath of conservatives who see him as too moderate, and he’s also battled with President Trump. But Democrats think they can be competitive should Flake emerge from the primary with Rubio’s help.

Marco Rubio headed to Arizona to help raise money for Sen. Jeff Flake.

National Democrats launch Spanish-language campaign targeting Florida congressional Republicans via a news release from the DCCC — Claiming access to affordable health care is at risk as long as Republicans control Congress, the DCCC launched a bilingual ad campaign — the first of this election cycle — warning Spanish-speaking voters that Medicare is on the chopping block under the GOP. The 15-second ad will appear on Google and Facebook targeting the Florida congressional districts of U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (CD 25), Carlos Curbelo (CD 27) and the open seat formerly held by Ileana Ross-Lehtinen (CD 27).

Click on the image below to watch the ads.


Steve Schale: Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico and Florida politics” via Florida Politics — Like so many things, the answer to the Maria question lies in history. First, it is important to keep in mind just how much has changed in the last 15 years for Puerto Ricans. In 2000, the community was emerging, as was the community’s social and political infrastructure. Today is quite different. Puerto Ricans who come to Orlando now will find a ready-made community, with a social structure solidly in place, a growing job market, and in many cases, friends and family already here. In other words, while moving is never easy, migrating to Orlando following Maria will be a far easier adjustment than it was 15 or 20 years ago. And far more than a Hispanic immigrant, the Puerto Rican impact on the politics is acute. As long as a Puerto Rican migrates and takes up residence in Florida more than 30 days before a given election, they can vote. So while a significant migration from Maria will absolutely impact Central Florida politics, and those impacts will help Democrats statewide — it won’t “tip” the state any more than any other population shift that could occur, because well, Florida is gonna Florida.

An influx of refugees from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria could tip the political scales, but as Steve Schale says: “Florida’s gonna Florida.”

John Simmons: Florida’s nursing centers — setting the record straight on quality care” via Florida Politics — I always thought journalists were trained to avoid reaching a broad conclusion from just one specific example, no matter how shocking it may be. Yet in his guest commentary in the Tallahassee Democrat, opinion columnist Carl Hiaasen unfairly slammed Florida’s entire long-term care profession based on the shameful and inexcusable actions of a single nursing home. In Hiaasen’s view, the tragic deaths of 12 residents at a Hollywood Hills nursing home were the inevitable result of years of neglect, and worse, by a powerful industry that imposed its will on the Florida Legislature. While I certainly agree that the deaths at this facility are intolerable and need to be properly investigated, the assertion that this somehow represents the entire long-term care profession couldn’t be further from the truth. It also does a great injustice to the thousands of highly skilled professionals who dedicate themselves to caring for some of our state’s most fragile residents. I wish to be very clear about this: Nothing is a higher priority for our centers than the well-being of those entrusted to our care.


Lisa Edgar case could be headed to trial via Florida Politics — A pretrial conference has been set for next Wednesday on charges against Edgar, a former Public Service Commissioner and state parks director, who was arrested in Tallahassee after an alleged drunk-driving hit and run. The hearing will be before Leon County Judge J. Layne Smith, court records show. In June, local prosecutors filed an information, or formal criminal charges, against Edgar for the April 15 incident. Edgar, 53, is charged with driving under the influence causing damage to person or property, a first-degree misdemeanor, and leaving the scene of a crash with damage, a second-degree misdemeanor, court records show. She waived arraignment and pleaded “not guilty” in April.

Personnel note: Andrew Marcus, former insurance regulator, joins Holland & Knight government advocacy team” via Florida Politics — Marcus, a former senior attorney and deputy director of Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR), has joined it’s Tallahassee office as a member of the firm’s government advocacy team. “We are thrilled to have Andrew, a talented lawyer who is highly regarded at the OIR, join our team,” said Mark Delegal, co-chair of the firm’s government advocacy team in Florida. “Our clients will be well served by Andrew’s experience and insight as they navigate Florida’s insurance regulatory process.” Marcus was deputy director of Life and Health Product Review and assistant general counsel at the Florida OIR from 2013 to 2016, during the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Veteran Florida journalist, AP courts stringer dies at 88” via The Associated Press — Mort Lucoff, a longtime Florida journalist and Miami courts stringer for The Associated Press, has died. Joel Lucoff said his father died in his sleep Sunday. He had recently suffered from pneumonia and other ailments. A New York native, Lucoff grew up in Miami and earned journalism and history degrees from the University of Missouri and University of Florida. He worked for newspapers in Hartford, Connecticut and Buffalo, New York, where his son said Lucoff interviewed both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Lucoff covered local government for the Miami News from 1963-1988 and had a column, “Ins and Outs.” After that, he worked for the Miami-Dade County court clerk until 2000, when he began stringing for the AP until recently.

— ALOE —

Florida State finds itself playing for pride, not titles” via Joe Reedy of The Associated Press — With Florida State off to its worst start in 41 years, coach Jimbo Fisher is left doing something he could hardly fathom two months ago. The coach is fielding questions about what is left to play for the rest of the season. Florida State fell out of the rankings following its loss to North Carolina State on Sept. 16. This week’s poll is the first time since 2011 that Fisher’s program did not receive a vote. “No matter what your record is, you play,” Fisher said. “We’ve got everything to play for. What if you’re a junior-eligible draft guy or senior-eligible draft guy? What’s the NFL looking at?” Fisher is also dealing with increased scrutiny as the Seminoles are headed for their second straight disappointing season. Instead of contending for a conference title and a spot in the College Football Playoff, the Seminoles find themselves barely above .500 in their last 15 ACC games (8-7). They have also dropped their first two home games for the first time since 1974 and are 3-4 at Doak Campbell Stadium since having a 22-game home winning streak snapped.

Nobel Prizes are great, but college football is why American universities dominate the globe” via David Labaree of Quartz —Consider, for the moment, that football may help explain how the American system of higher education has become so successful. According to rankings computed by Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, American institutions account for 32 of the top 50 and 16 of the top 20 universities in the world. Also, between 2000 and 2014, 49 percent of all Nobel recipients were scholars at US universities … In order to support a large number of high-powered professors, US universities need to attract a huge number of tuition-paying students, and they need to turn those students into loyal lifelong donors. In order to draw state appropriations, they also need to extend their reach beyond their own alumni by attracting the political support of citizens in the immediate community and in the state at large. And they need to do so within an extremely competitive higher education market consisting of nearly 5,000 degree-granting institutions. Thus, one advantage that football brings to the American university is financial. It’s not that intercollegiate sports turn a large profit; in fact, the large majority lose money. Instead, it’s that they help mobilize a stream of public and private funding.

Happy birthday to Dave Mica and Jared Ross.

Sixty Days for 10.9.17 — A prime-time look at the 2018 Legislative Session

Sixty Days – A prime-time read of what’s going down for Florida’s 2018 Legislative Session.

The Last 24

​Gov. Rick Scott toured the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee.

A 90-year-old woman named Cecilia Franco became the 13th victim of the Hollywood nursing home tragedy. 95-year-old Francesca Andrade became the home’s 14th fatality.

Sen. Aaron Bean filed a bill meant to limit the oversupply of opioids for temporary pain.

Sen. Linda Stewart proposed a statewide ban on bump stocks, the device law enforcement authorities said the killer in the Las Vegas massacre.

The Senate Education Committee cleared a bill, the Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2018, to expand state university and student financial aid, as well as Bright Futures Academic Scholar award and Bright Futures Medallion Scholar award.

Sen. Daphne Campbell and Rep. Al Jacquet filed legislation aimed at ‘holding President Trump accountable to campaign promises to protect Haitian-Americans.’

Rep. Patricia Williams proposed designating a stretch of road in Broward County as “President Barack Obama Highway,” reports the News Service of Florida.

Quote of the Day

“Everybody needs to beard up for appropriations this year.” — Sen. Rob Bradley at a Monday Senate committee hearing, explaining his new facial topiary with a nod to bearded Senate budget chief Jack Latvala, who added that “imitation is the highest form of flattery.”

Bill Day’s Latest

3 Questions

In case you missed it (and really, how could you?), the fall edition of INFLUENCE magazine hit the virtual newsstands earlier today. Among other features, Jim Rosica, our man in Tallahassee, sat down with Lori Killinger, an executive shareholder in the law firm of Lewis, Longman & Walker. She chairs the firm’s Legislative, Lobbying and Governmental Affairs practice in the state capital. Here’s a teaser:

FP: Are you treated differently than male counterparts?

LK: I don’t think there is overt discrimination. I never felt looked down upon in The Process because I was a woman. However, there are significant barriers because you’re a woman. The most obvious barrier is the way in which men and women relate to each other generally. For me to reach out to a male (lawmaker) and say “Hey, want to meet for a drink? Want to have dinner?” can easily be taken out of context.

FP: If not overt, what kind of subtle discrimination is there?

LK: I have had incidents over the years where a male lobbyist will try to correct me or tell me a different way to act (I’m often told to “smile” even in the most serious of situations) or even how to be “nicer” at the podium. I just had someone do this to me this past session.

FP: What else would you be doing now if you weren’t lobbying?

LK: I have not thought about what else I would want to do. I love this job. It’s changed a lot over the years, mostly due to term limits, the gift ban and just because politics has gotten really divisive. However, the job remains incredibly dynamic … just being this close to really heady policies that affect our state still fascinates and excites me to this very day.

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and Keep Florida Fishing will gather for its annual Sportfishing Summit taking place Tuesday through Friday. The four-day meeting will include guest speakers from across the country, along with Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican. It’s at the Opal Sands Resort, 430 S. Gulfview Blvd., Clearwater Beach.

Two special elections will be held Tuesday:

— A special general election will be held in Orange County’s House District 44 The candidates are Republican Bobby Olszewski and Democrat Eddy Dominguez. Former Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, an Orlando Republican, left the seat after being appointed a judge on the 5th District Court of Appeal.

— A special GOP primary will be held in Hillsborough County’s House District 58. Republicans Yvonne Fry and Lawrence McClure are battling it out, with the winner advancing to a Dec. 19 special general election. Former Rep. Dan Raulerson, a Plant City Republican, resigned from the seat because of health issues.

The state Elections Canvassing Commission will certify the results of a Sept. 26 special election in which Democrat Annette Taddeo was elected in Miami-Dade County’s Senate District 40. That’s at 9 a.m., Cabinet meeting room, the Capitol, Tallahassee. At the same time, Taddeo will be sworn in during a ceremony in the Senate chamber.

Julio Fuentes, President of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, holds a press conference with state Rep. Rene “Coach P” Plasencia, an Orlando Republican, and others on Puerto Rican evacuees coming to Florida. The event will be 10 a.m. in the 4th floor rotunda of The Capitol, Tallahassee.

Staff members for Sen. Denise Grimsley will hold “mobile” office hours in DeSoto County. They begin at 10:30 a.m., County Administration Building, 201 East Oak St., Arcadia.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will visit Discovery Elementary in Broward County to help serve lunch to students for National School Lunch Week and highlight support available for Puerto Rican student-evacuees, including free school meals. He’ll be there 10:30-11:30 a.m., 8800 NW 54th Ct., Sunrise.

Sen. Dana Young, a Tampa Republican, and Rep. Kathleen Peters, a South Pasadena Republican, will debut legislation imposing a statewide ban on fracking. That’s at 1:30 p.m., in front of the Senate Chamber.

The Agency for Health Care Administration is scheduled to hold a administrative workshop about outpatient hospital services. It begins at 2 p.m., AHCA headquarters, 2727 Mahan Dr., Tallahassee.

James Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican running in a special election in Sarasota County’s House District 72, is scheduled to speak to the Gulf Coast Republican Women’s Federated Club. That’s set for 5:30 p.m., Cafe Baci, 4001 South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.

Program note: State candidates, political committees and parties face a midnight Tuesday deadline for filing reports showing finance activity through Sept. 30.

Get Out Your Checkbooks Dep’t

Lawmakers are prohibited from raising campaign cash during legislative sessions but can do so during committee weeks. A bevy of fundraisers is set for Tuesday, all in Tallahassee.

— 5-6 p.m.: Reps. Byron Donalds, Jayer Williamson, at Governors Club, Capitol Room.
— 5-7 p.m.: Rep. Manny Diaz, former Rep. Ed Hooper, at Florida Retail Federation.
— 5-7 p.m.: Sen. Dana Young at Governors Club, Board Room.
— 6-8 p.m.: Reps. Ramon Alexander, Loranne Ausley, Ben Diamond, Sean Shaw, David Silvers, at Ology Brewing Company, 118 East 6th Ave. in Midtown.
— 6-7:30 p.m.: Reps. Byron Donalds, Bob Rommel, hopeful Matt Spritz (running for term-limited Rep. Bill Hager’s seat) at Governors Club, Plantation Room.
— 6:30-8:30 p.m.: Sen. Annette Taddeo at Governors Club, Capitol Room.

Get your checkbooks ready for this week’s legislative fundraisers

Get your checkbooks ready, PAC chairs and Tallahassee uber-lobbyists, there are a handful of fundraisers for legislative candidates planned for this week, the first committee week in advance of the Legislative Session.

On Monday, state Rep. Jim Boyd is hosting a fundraiser supporting the “Building on Your Dreams” committee. The event begins 5 p.m. at the Governors Club Board Room, 202 S. Adams St. in Tallahassee. Boyd represents HD 71, which covers parts of Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Senate Republican leaders are hosting a reception on Tuesday for their colleague Dana Young.

Other events include:

State Reps. David Santiago, Thomas Leek and Bob Cortes will hold a fundraiser beginning 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11, at the Governors Club, 202 S. Adams St. in Tallahassee. RSVP with Derek Falcon, Leek is seeking re-election to the Volusia County HD 25; Santiago is running for HD 25, also in Volusia, and Cortes is running in HD 30, which covers parts of Orange and Seminole counties.

Also at the Governors Club, State Rep. Rick Roth will hold a luncheon fundraiser Wednesday beginning 12 p.m. Roth is seeking re-election to HD 85, which covers parts of Palm Beach County.

Also Wednesday:

Later, the Governors Club will be where state Rep. Sam Killebrew, Randy Fine, Ralph Massullo and Rene Plasencia will hold a joint fundraising event beginning 5 p.m. Massullo is running for HD 34 in Hernando County; Killebrew is seeking re-election in Polk County’s HD 41; Plasencia is looking for another round in HD 50, which covers parts of Brevard and Orange counties; Fine is seeking a second term in Brevard’s HD 53.

Also Wednesday:

Personnel note: Andrew Marcus, former insurance regulator, joins Holland & Knight government advocacy team

With so many known unknowns in the regulatory markets, it can’t hurt a law firm’s governmental affairs practice to have as many former insurance regulators on staff.

That has to be part of the thinking at Holland & Knight, which on Monday announced that Andrew Marcus, a former senior attorney and deputy director with Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR), has joined its Tallahassee office as a member of the firm’s government advocacy team.

“We are thrilled to have Andrew, a talented lawyer who is highly regarded at the OIR, join our team,” said Mark Delegal, co-chair of the firm’s government advocacy team in Florida. “Our clients will be well served by Andrew’s experience and insight as they navigate Florida’s insurance regulatory process.”

Marcus was deputy director of Life and Health Product Review and assistant general counsel at the Florida OIR from 2013 to 2016, during the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Most recently, Marcus was a co-partner in the St. Petersburg-based firm of Marcus & Manning, P.A.

In his new position, Marcus will advise insurers, health care providers, third party administrators and other related clients in the areas of insurance, health and administrative law.

A press release from the firm states that Marcus has experience with product filings, market conduct examinations, financial examinations, and licensing and merger applications. He also served as an assistant state attorney in the Twelfth Judicial Circuit of Florida, where he litigated more than 40 jury trials.

The latest edition of INFLUENCE Magazine features the 2017 Golden Rotunda award winners

GrayRobinson, the mammoth legal-lobbying firm whose governmental affairs practice is headed by former House Speaker Dean Cannon, has won the Golden Rotunda for Lobbying Firm of the Year.

Brian Ballard, the Florida-based lobbyist with deep connections to the Trump administration, was named Lobbyist of the Year.

The award for Boutique Lobbying Firm of the Year went to The Mayernick Group, the firm headed by husband-wife duo Frank and Tracy Mayernick.


This is the second year of awarding the Golden Rotundas, given by INFLUENCE Magazine to recognize the best in the governmental affairs profession. Winners are determined by voting within the profession.

To determine the Lobbying Firm of the Year and the Boutique Lobbying firm of the Year, each of the 30 largest governmental affairs firms (by reported compensation) were give one ballot and asked to submit a weighted ballot what they are the top three firms.

A first place vote earned three point, while a third-place vote earned one.

GrayRobinson saw its staff size and client list grow faster this past year than almost any other major firm. It also landed one of the key recruits coming out of the Scott administration when it hired Kim McDougald, the former chief of staff to the governor.

From left, Jason Unger, Kim McDougal, Katie Flury, Jessica Love and Dean Cannon from Gray/Robinson gather in downtown Tallahassee to celebrate being named Lobbying Firm of the Year.

“It’s an honor for our firm to win this prestigious award,” said Cannon. “It speaks to the hard work of every member of governmental affairs team as well as to the deserved successes of the clients we represent.”

For the second year in a row, Southern Strategy Group finished second in Firm of the Year voting. Sean Pittman‘s practice was the runner-up in the Boutique category.

A note here about one firm that did not finish first or second, yet deserves recognition. Smith Bryan & Myers landed in the Top 5 in final voting for Firm of the Year. This is noteworthy because, year after year, the same four or five firms finish at the top of rankings based solely on compensation reports. While SBM certainly does well in compensation, it doesn’t earn as much as a Ballard or a SSG. What it does earn, clearly, is the respect of its peers since it is other lobbyists — most of whom are the managing partners of a firm’s governmental affairs practice — who voted on the Firm of the Year awards. Kudos to the entire team at Smith Bryan & Myers.

In addition to the firm awards, more than a dozen lobbyists won individual Golden Rotundas.

After ride-sharing legislation was finally signed into law, Uber’s Stephanie Smith was the runaway winner in the In-house Lobbyist of the Year category. Eileen Stuart, who helped Mosaic Company navigate a difficult situation when a sinkhole opened at its New Wales plant, is the runner-up.

Smith and Stuart are among several female lobbyists who won Golden Rotundas, setting a new benchmark within the governmental affairs profession.

Stacy Arias (Law Enforcement), Jennifer Green (Disruption), Ashley Kalifeh (Insurance) and Heather Turnbull (a runner-up in two categories) are among this year’s recipients.

Other noteworthy award winners were:

— Bill Rubin, in the new category of Lobbying Play of the Year. Rubin, who is closely aligned with the Scott administration, finished second to Ballard in Lobbyist of the Year voting.

Allison Liby-Schoonover and husband Chris Schoonover, were recognized for their work on education industry issues.

Personnel note: Paul Jess becomes FJA executive director

Paul Jess has become executive director of the Florida Justice Association (FJA), the group announced Monday.

Jess, a veteran attorney and association executive, had been acting as FJA’s interim executive director since January.

“Paul has been with FJA for almost three decades, during which time he served in just about every professional capacity at the association, including general counsel, deputy executive director, and most recently, interim executive director,” said FJA President Dale Swope of Tampa.

“Our mission, our principles, and our calling have not changed,” he added. “With Paul as FJA’s Executive Director, the modes by which we defend and enhance the civil justice system for the afflicted in our state are about to be more effective and powerful than they have been in the history of our organization.”

Jess received his undergraduate degree in social work from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

He served on active duty in the U.S. Navy as an intelligence officer. After that, he received a law degree with high honors from Florida State University College of Law in Tallahassee.

While with FJA, Jess continued to serve in the U.S. Naval Reserve as an intelligence officer, eventually serving three tours as Commanding Officer of various commands before retiring at the rank of Captain.

He has decades of experience lobbying the Florida Legislature and executive branch, has testified before legislative committees,  and drafted countless pieces of proposed and adopted legislation.

“I have always been committed to the philosophy, principles and mission of the Florida Justice Association, and I am honored and humbled by this opportunity,” said Jess, after a unanimous vote by the FJA Board of Directors to select him as executive director.

“We are dedicated to serving individuals and families. People who have been injured or damaged by wrongdoers, including corporations and insurance companies. We are about to begin a new era of greatness and I look forward to helping lead us into this new era.”

Spencer, Chris

Personnel note: Chris Spencer heads to GrayRobinson

Chris Spencer, longtime aide to Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, is leaving the Legislature to become a lobbyist at the Tampa office of GrayRobinson, the law firm announced Monday.

“Spencer has nearly a decade of experience working with Florida’s legislative and executive branches,” a press release said. “Prior to joining GrayRobinson, he managed successful campaigns for multiple legislators, including Brandes and Sen. Dana Young,” a Tampa Republican.

“We are thrilled for Chris to join our Tampa office,” Tampa managing shareholder David L. Smith said. “He will be an asset to our Tampa-area clients in addition to supporting the Firm’s statewide lobbying practice.”

As chief legislative assistant to Brandes, he “directed all legislative priorities and focused on a wide range of policy and appropriations issues, including transportation, economic development, energy, insurance and financial regulation,” the release said.

Spencer, 29, also served as legislative assistant to state Rep. Clay Ingram, a Pensacola Republican.

“Chris comes to us with invaluable relationships inside the Capitol and around the state,” said GrayRobinson executive vice president and statewide chair of government affairs Dean Cannon, a former House Speaker. “His experience working with legislators, staff, campaign offices and grassroots organizations will be a great resource for our clients.”

Spencer will focus his lobbying efforts in policy and appropriations matters throughout the Tampa and Tallahassee markets. He received bachelor’s degrees in economics, political science and international affairs from Florida State University.

Sunburn for 10.9.17 — INFLUENCE Mag debuts; Fla. still counting the dead from Irma; Joe Negron’s 2018 priorities; EFI doles out raises; Chris Spencer’s new gig

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

Ending an eight year run that included the publishing of more than 51,000 blog posts, I will no longer publish original content to (the site will remain up as an archive for the extensive work produced since 2009).

Going forward, I am devoting my full energies to the Florida Politics brand, whether it be the website, email programs like this and “Last Call,” or our gorgeous, award-winning INFLUENCE Magazine.

2018 promises to be the busiest election cycle in Florida’s modern history. If you love politics as much as I do, I can think of no better platform to watch it all than as publisher of a site dedicated just to that.

You can read the entire post about the end of SaintPetersBlog here. However, you may want to do that later and first enjoy…


This is not a special women’s edition.

There’s no list of the top female lobbyists.

This edition is about some of the best lobbyists in the industry. Period.

What I hope to accomplish with this edition is to show that the industry is changing, albeit slowly. It’s still male-dominated, but increasingly, women do rule. This is especially true within the youngest cohort of professionals.

As many of you, I am the proud father of a young girl, Ella Joyce. This edition is for her.

Few things about parenthood have been more frustrating than the institutionalized effort to limit opportunities for girls. (Why, exactly, are the toys about science in the boys section, but not the girls?)

I want Ella Joyce to grow up in a world where no door is closed to her.

On the pages of this quarter’s edition are features, interviews and stories about the kind of woman Ella’s mother and I hope she grows up to be. Intelligent. Strong. Fierce. Considerate. Ambitious. Empathetic.

Many of these women are recipients of a Golden Rotunda — our award for being among the best in the business. This is the second year of the Golden Rotundas and we received hundreds of nominations and votes. Congratulations to all of the winners.

One final note: in the next edition of INFLUENCE, we’ll unveil who made the INFLUENCE 100 — our list of the most influential people in Florida politics.

I have a feeling there won’t be as many dudes on it as there was on the first list.

Click here to read a digital version of INFLUENCE Magazine.

Click here to subscribe to the print edition of the magazine (the Fall 2017 edition will be in print by October 23.)

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Gov. Rick Scott said Sunday the federal government has issued an emergency declaration for Escambia and Santa Rosa counties in the Panhandle following Hurricane Nate. A similar declaration was issued for the state of Alabama.

Scott said that will allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide any needed disaster assistance in the two counties, although there are no reports of major damage or deaths in the area.

As of midday about 6,800 electric customers were without power in Florida, the governor said.

Nate was a Category 1 hurricane when it came ashore outside Biloxi, Mississippi, early Sunday, its second landfall after initially hitting southeastern Louisiana on Saturday evening. The storm was downgraded to a tropical depression by midday Sunday.


As legislative session looms, lawmakers get to work” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat – Tallahassee Sen. Bill Montford wants to know what it means to have billions of dollars of hurricane damage. Hurricane Irma hit Florida hard in the gut, disrupting two of the state’s economic engines, agriculture and tourism. And as chair of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, Montford has a role to play in how the Legislature responds to Irma’s economic damage. “The consequences are far reaching, financially and from a human point of view as well,” said Montford. “Unemployment? If Irma scared off the tourists, if there’s nothing in the field to harvest, the consequences grow for all aspects of government.” Montford has assembled a panel of business leaders and experts for Monday’s Commerce meeting. The meeting is the first of nine the Senate will hold in the coming week to understand how damaging of a hit Irma delivered to Florida. The Health Committee will hear about nursing homes and emergencies. The Environment Committee will receive reports on freshwater storage and beaches. Energy has scheduled a presentation on investor-owned utilities. “It’s uppermost in most people’s minds,” said Montford. “It could easily have an effect on the state budget.”

Bright Futures is Joe Negron’s top priority for 2018 Session” via Ali Schmitz of TCPalm – In his second — and last — year as senate president, Negron aims to boost state university scholarships and cement the funding into state law … Negron said he wants to make sure any student who’s accepted to the Florida university of their choice can afford to attend. The Republican’s aim isn’t free education for all, just financial aid for the needy. “What I don’t want to happen is that a student would be admitted to Florida Atlantic University or the University of Central Florida and they would have to sit down with their parents at the kitchen table and say, ‘I’ve been admitted, I’m qualified and I can get a degree. But we can’t financially make it work, even when we’re all pitching in in good faith,’” said Negron, whose daughter attended the University of Florida. “I want everybody to have the opportunity to pursue their educational goals.” Lawmakers last year committed over $300 million so top-tier Bright Futures awards included 100 percent of tuition and a $300 book stipend each semester. But it was temporary, for this year only.

Workers’ comp drops off the legislative map” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida – Just a year after dire predictions that the state’s economy was in peril due to rising insurance costs, Florida businesses could see an average 9.3 percent reduction in workers’ compensation premiums in the coming year … If approved, manufacturing businesses could see a 10.3 percent reduction in their workers’ compensation rates, and rates for office and clerical businesses could decrease by 11.3 percent … the proposed reduction filed by the National Council on Compensation Insurance presents a hurdle for business lobbyists and special interests who have warned lawmakers for more than a year that a pair of 2016 Florida Supreme Court rulings would drive workers’ compensation rates so high that employers would be forced to slash jobs. Bill Herrle, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business in Florida, acknowledged that after traveling the state in the summer of 2016 discussing the issue and spending the majority of the 2017 session unsuccessfully pushing a workers’ compensation bill, it’s not a priority this year. Enthusiasm to tackle the complicated issue has waned since the proposed 9.3 percent reduction was filed in August, he said.

Today in the Capitol:

— Senate committee considers St. Johns restoration, beach nourishment projects – The Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee will meet to consider SB 174, filed by Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala, which seeks to invest $50 million a year on beach erosion in other issues. Also on the agenda is SB 204, from Environmental Preservation and Conservation Chairman Rob Bradley that looks to spend at least $75 million a year on springs projects and $50 million annually on restoration projects for the St. Johns River and its tributaries and Keystone Heights Lake Region. Meeting begins 1 p.m. at Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— Human trafficking examined – A meeting of the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee will consider SB 96, filed by Sen. Greg Steube, allowing schools to teach about identifying signs of human trafficking as part of a health-education curriculum. Meeting begins 3:30 p.m. in Room 401 of the Senate Office Building.

— Hurricane Irma consequences discussed – A panel discussion on Hurricane Irma and its “consequences and responses” is on the schedule for the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, beginning 3:30 p.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— Senate looks at police searches – The Senate Criminal Justice Committee will consider SB 262, from Sen. Gary Farmer, which prohibits law-enforcement officers from searches without first informing the individual that they the right to decline such searches. Meeting begins 3:30 p.m. in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— Higher education proposal moves through Senate – A higher education bill in front of the Senate Education Committee would, in part, require universities to develop “block” tuition plans, expand Bright Futures scholarships and other need-based aid programs. Sponsored by Sen. Bill Galvano, chair of the Higher Education Appropriations committee, SB 4 is a priority of Senate President Joe Negron. Meeting begins 3:30 p.m. in Room 412 of the Capitol’s Knott Building.

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Closing Florida’s write-in loophole is right thing to do” via Sherry Plymale for TCPalm – There currently exists a dubious “loophole” in the Florida Constitution that has allowed individuals across the political spectrum to manipulate state and local elections. Florida, like many other states, has a closed primary system. This means that during primary elections, registered voters can only vote in their own party’s primary. In 1998, Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment to open primary elections to all voters, regardless of political affiliation, when the winner of that primary election would face no opposition in the upcoming general election. In 2000, a state agency issued an advisory opinion stating “a write-in candidate constitutes opposition in a general election” as it related to Article VI, Section 5(b) of the Florida Constitution. In other words, the advisory opinion concluded a write-in candidate was enough to close a primary election in Florida, even if the winner would not face a major party rival in the general election. It’s important to note that a write-in candidate has never won any major election in Florida, and they don’t pay filing fees or collect petitions when qualifying for office. This makes it all too easy for individuals to close primary elections by propping up write-in candidates to create an unfair political advantage.

“Lawmakers must protect tourism by addressing illegal rentals” via Troy Flanagan for Florida Politics – On behalf of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), I am honored to go before the Senate Community Affairs Committee to discuss short-term rentals — an important topic of concern in recent years given the emergence of online rental platforms. While these platforms provide people with a new method to access and advertise short-term rentals, there have also been many unintended side effects. Alarmingly, these platforms are being exploited by commercial operators who run illegal hotels without adhering to Florida’s commercial rental laws — putting legal hotels at an unfair competitive disadvantage, and tourists and residential neighborhoods at risk from a health and safety perspective. Countless Floridians have even felt the effects of this platform manipulation on their basic peace of mind — ask anyone who has found themselves living next door to something akin to a year-round spring break party house. Florida is a mecca for tourism, continually inviting new and innovative industry endeavors. But with any new business development — like online short-term rental platforms — there comes a time when that change must be reviewed to ensure operations are occurring fairly and soundly, in order to protect consumers who choose to utilize that new business offering, as well as those who may be unintentionally impacted by it.


Weeks after Irma, Florida is still counting the dead” via Dan Scanlan of the Florida Times-Union – They are the final victims of Hurricane Irma: 66 people whose deaths across Florida are officially tied to the storm’s high winds, flooding rains and lasting effects on roads, emergency services and power grids … Other deaths that seem storm-related are not attributed to Irma, while some on the state list appear to have little connection. Medical examiners’ offices statewide handle all death investigations, and only they can officially attribute any deaths to the storm that ran up the peninsula last month, said Florida Division of Emergency Management spokesman Alberto Moscoso. Those causes of death are as varied as heat exhaustion and diabetic issues. About 20 are attributed to a blunt-force injury or some kind of impact, including people killed in traffic crashes or crushed by a fallen tree or collapsed structure. Eight people died from drowning, and 13 died from carbon monoxide poisoning caused in some cases by running generators indoors. The most deaths listed are in Broward County but don’t include the 12 victims, ages 57 to 99, who died after the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills lost its air conditioning for three days post-Irma. As of the Wednesday tally — the numbers are revised weekly — only one of Broward’s deaths is even heat-related.

Nursing home that had 12 people die lays off all workers” via The Associated Press –  The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills … was evacuated last month, several days after the storm damaged the electric transformer that powered the facility’s air conditioning. State officials later suspended their license, and owners eventually closed the facility permanently. The layoffs include 79 certified nursing assistants, 37 licensed practical nurses, 23 occupational or physical therapists, 18 registered nurses, 25 environmental or laundry workers, 10 administrative assistants, five doctors, and others who worked in activities, dietary aid, engineering and supplies.

Fed up residents haul storm debris themselves” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel – Fed up with the turtle pace of government-funded, storm-debris cleanup, thousands of Central Florida residents are tackling the task. Others are hiring junk crews, landscapers with trailers or ambitious teens with shovels, muscles and a truck to take it away to free drop-off locations. Most “convenience centers” — the name given to the sites — opened a few days after Hurricane Irma hit Central Florida on Sept. 11, when it became clear the chore was overwhelming local governments, some of which were abandoned by professional removal contractors. Orange County has 11 locations, Lake has five plus its landfill, while Seminole and Osceola counties created four each. More than 35,000 people have taken debris to the sites since the first one opened Sept. 13 — some have taken more than one load. They’ve dumped more than 75,000 cubic yards. That’s enough logs and limbs to fill more than 5,000 dump trucks, which would form a bumper-to-bumber convoy stretching about 23 miles — longer than Lake Mary to downtown Orlando on Interstate 4.

A case for underground power lines” via Marcia Heroux Pounds of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel – So what if power lines were underground — and not above ground where poles and lines were knocked out by high winds and fallen trees? In a post-storm survey of South Florida cities and other communities … many are either undertaking or considering burying power lines. Even Florida Power & Light Co., which historically supported overhead construction because it’s easier to fix, says it is now evaluating underground projects in the next phase of “hardening” its electric grid, which powers half the state. James Robo, chairman and CEO of NextEra Energy, the utility company’s parent … said that burying more lines was a “potential” part of a corporate plan to harden the system. FPL has spent $3 billion since 2006, and plans to spend another $17 million to $19 million through 2020 to improve reliability, he said. Robo’s statements followed comments by FPL CEO Eric Silagy, who said that “we’re big fans of undergrounding.” Currently, 40 percent of Florida Power & Light Co.’s distribution system is underground, according to FPL spokesman Bryan Garner. And there are several underground installation projects underway, including one on the island of Palm Beach. But burying lines is expensive. And below-ground networks offer no guarantees of outage-free storms. It costs an average of $1 million a mile to move power lines to subterranean levels, according to FPL.

— D.C.  MATTERS — 

Donald Trump lists immigration demands that could derail ‘dreamers’ deal” via Seung Min Kim of POLITICO – “The priority for Congress ought to be to save American lives, protect American jobs and improve the well-being of American communities. These reforms accomplish that,” a senior administration official told reporters … “They live up to the president’s campaign commitment to have an immigration system that puts the needs of hardworking Americans first.” The broad parameters of the immigration wish list have been telegraphed in recent days. But some of the key provisions run counter to an agreement Democratic leaders believed they’d struck with Trump during a White House dinner last month. Trump announced in September that he would wind down the Obama-era immigration executive action starting in March, throwing the onus to Congress to codify DACA into law and launching in earnest an immigration battle in Washington. The list will certainly turn off Democrats and even Republicans — many of whom have endorsed providing a pathway to legal status for “Dreamers,” or undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors.

’The New Washington’: Once racing to flee the Senate, Marco Rubio now digs in” via Carl Hulse of The New York Times – As the Florida Republican settles into a second term in a Senate that he once couldn’t leave fast enough, Rubio is aggressively pursuing his legislative interests in ways he did not while chasing the presidency. “We just have more time than we perhaps didn’t have the last couple of years when I ran for president,” Rubio said in an interview … “We were still doing our job, but you can’t be in two places at once sometimes.” Rubio seems determined to shrug off the disappointment of a presidential race that didn’t go his way and show he is serious about the Senate, making up for lost time. Given his personal ties to Puerto Rico, as well as the substantial Puerto Rican population in his state, Mr. Rubio has been engaged in ensuring that the relief effort there gets on track and stays there. He has flexed his influence on American policy toward Cuba and Venezuela. He has worked with Ivanka Trump, the president’s elder daughter, on a proposal to expand the child tax credit that could become an important element of the coming tax debate. He has helped push to passage a bill to help the Department of Veterans Affairs hold employees more accountable. He was part of a bipartisan group behind a new law directing drug companies to pursue more pediatric cancer treatments. He is an important party voice on immigration. Whether this is all a prelude to a future presidential run for Rubio, 46, is hard to gauge.

Rubio and Lin-Manuel Miranda tussle over Puerto Rico” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – “As much as anyone else, I have called out the shortcomings in the initial response to #HurricaneMaria in #PuertoRico,” Rubio wrote on Twitter. “But to say entertainers doing more for #PuertoRico than military @FEMA & local responders is inaccurate & unfair.” He was referring to this Herald story, whose headline originally read: Lin-Manuel Miranda says he is doing more for Puerto Rico than the government. But as Miranda points out the story does not hold up that headline, and he pushed back at Rubio: “Sir, in no UNIVERSE did or would I say that. And certainly nowhere in that article. False headline, @MiamiHerald.” The headline has been changed. It now reads: Lin-Manuel Miranda hopes new Puerto Rico song will inspire a stronger federal response.

Darren Soto: Congress understands Puerto Rico plight” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics Soto spent the early part of the week touring Puerto Rico and then met with the House Natural Resources Committee, leaving convinced that the island is in desperate straits, that the administration of President Trump still has not come to terms, but that Congress has … Soto said many parts in the island still have not seen any federal officials, let alone airdrops of food, water and supplies. And he expects it to be many months before the society is even minimally functional again in many parts of the island outside of San Juan. “We’ve had much better success in getting Congress to understand the devastation than we have in getting the Trump administration to do so,” Soto said. “That’s the good news in all this,” Soto said, noting that he expects Congress to pass an emergency $29 billion FEMA package for hurricane relief to Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, with Puerto Rico getting $10 billion of that. “Keep in mind it took over 90 days for the tristate area [New Jersey, New York, Connecticut] to get their FEMA relief from Hurricane Sandy, and it took more than that for Louisiana to get relief from Hurricane Katrina. So the fact that we’re getting this hurricane relief package out in an expedited manner is the positive news in all of this,” he said.

Trump campaign Florida chief Karen Giorno seeks national Republican post” via Scott Powers of Florida PoliticsGiorno, a former Trump campaign senior adviser and Florida campaign director, announced she is a candidate to be the state’s National Republican committeewoman for the Republican National Committee. Giorno’s candidacy comes after the Republican Party of Florida’s previous national committeewoman, Sharon Day, stepped down in August to serve as U. S. ambassador to Costa Rica. Giorno’s career has spanned three decades in the political world, as a consultant and operative working with presidential candidates and campaigns, four American presidents, and the governor of Florida. She was the first female state director for the Donald J. Trump for President Campaign, serving that role in Florida from October 2015 to March 2016.

Scientists call on Florida’s senators to oppose Trump nominee for NASA” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times – Last month Trump nominated an Oklahoma congressman, U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, to run NASA, marking the first time in history that any president picked a politician to run the scientific agency. Prior NASA administrators have almost all been scientists, engineers or former astronauts. The sole exception: James Webb, a former Treasury Department and State Department official who had served as vice president of the company that manufactured radar and navigation systems during World War II. Both Nelson and Rubio have blasted Trump’s choice, but neither has said whether they will vote against Bridenstine. In their letter, the scientists pointed out that Bridenstine has no formal science education. And while he serves on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, he has no experience running such a large agency and no experience with scientific research. A former Navy pilot, he once ran Tulsa’s Air and Space Museum. They were also critical of his stance on climate change. Bridenstine has been openly skeptical of whether climate change exists and has questioned why the United States has to do anything to combat it.


Assignment editors – Gov. Scott will tour the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee starting at 11 a.m., 709 Hoover Dike Road in Clewiston. Later, the governor will attend the grand reopening of Tin City, a historic marketplace and tourism destination in Naples which had closed from Hurricane Irma. Event begins 2 p.m. at 1200 Fifth Ave. S. in Naples.

Enterprise Florida gives raises, ditches bonuses” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida – Raises will be provided to 16 upper-level and mid-level employees of Enterprise Florida, as the state’s business-recruitment agency does away with a controversial bonus program. The Enterprise Florida Executive Committee voted unanimously to approve a recommendation – supported by Gov. Scott – to replace the bonus program. The pay increases are seen by committee members as a way to maintain Enterprise Florida without causing an exodus of employees. The public-private agency has faced heavy scrutiny during the past year, with House leaders even seeking to eliminate it. The raises – retroactive to July 1 range from $3,000 to $25,000 and will increase payroll by $118,000 for the year, under the plan outlined for the committee. The bonus program, which officials promoted as coming from money pooled by private contributions rather than tax dollars, was tied to a series of recruitment and hiring objectives for each year.

Medical pot has learning curve” via Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times – More than 39,000 Floridians have signed up through the Florida Department of Health to receive medical marijuana as a form of treatment for a list of qualifying illnesses since the registry opened in 2016. And more than 1,000 physicians have taken the state-mandated course that officially qualifies them to examine those patients and recommend products that might help. But some patients are finding themselves in the unsettling position of being in the examining room with physicians who seem tentative, unable to speak with much authority about medical marijuana. One issue may be the state course, which doesn’t go into great detail about dosages, common side effects and other information doctors should have when recommending the substance to patients — at least not to the degree the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does with legal prescription drugs. And the course, initially eight hours long at a cost to doctors of $1,000, now lasts only two hours under a new Florida law. The cost has been slashed to $250. The Florida Medical Association and Florida Osteopathic Medical Association oversee the required course for Florida physicians interested in recommending cannabis. Doctors, many of whom took the original eight-hour course, are expected to retake the newer two-hour program and exam when they renew their medical license each year.

New report details Florida airport shooting that killed 5” via The Associated Press – A 30-page report released by a sheriff’s office in the aftermath of a mass shooting at a Florida airport details how an Alaska man waited at a baggage carousel for several minutes January before being paged to pick up the bag containing his gun, which officials said he used to kill five people and injure six others. Delta Airlines was paging Esteban Santiago, 27, to retrieve the bag after his flight arrived at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Jan. 6. Minutes after he picked up the bag, the shooting began … the document is the Broward Sheriff’s Office’s final review of its actions following the mass shooting. The page by Delta is a new detail in the airport shooting. The report didn’t disclose whether airline officials knew what was in the bag.

Altamonte Springs forms its own utility as it moves toward renewable energy” via Martin Comas of the Orlando Sentinel – Hoping to slash the city’s annual $2 million power bill, Altamonte Springs soon will launch its own municipal utility with the goal of providing electricity from solar, wind and other renewable energy sources to government facilities, including City Hall and police and fire stations. Residents and commercial properties — such as the Altamonte Mall on State Road 436 — will continue receiving power from Duke Energy as part of the city’s franchise agreement with the North Carolina-based power company. The plan, approved by Altamonte Springs commissioners last week, is unique in Central Florida and comes after St. Petersburg officials voted last year to move toward having its entire city — not just its municipal facilities — operate with renewable energy in the coming years. “We’re not taking over from Duke Energy,” City Manager Frank Martz said. “We formed a municipal electric utility in order to explore alternative energy in the new millennium and save our taxpayers money.”

Water farm on ex-citrus grove reduces Lake O discharges into estuaries” via Susan Salisbury of the Palm Beach Post – For decades, thousands of orange trees thrived at Caulkins Citrus Company’s 3,200-acre grove in Palm City, producing a bountiful crop each year. But now another “crop” is being harvested — polluted water from Lake Okeechobee. On Tuesday, the Martin County water farm’s expansion from a 413-acre pilot project to a 2-mile by 3-mile reservoir that stores dirty water from the C-44 Canal linked to Lake O was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting event attended by more than 100 people. The goal is to store up to 35 billion gallons of water every year to keep the dirty water from heading to fragile estuaries, rivers and the coast, causing fish kills and harming marine and tourism industries. Even George Caulkins III, the company’s president, admits that water farming can be a difficult concept. The expansion’s construction cost $7.5 million, and Caulkins is being paid $5.5 million a year under a 10-year agreement. It’s not a lease; it’s for a service provided, said Ansley Marr, the water management district’s section administrator for the Northern Everglades. While water farming has been done in other places, Marr said that in terms of scale, the SFWMD is at the forefront.


Old news – “Tom Lee says he’s running for CFO” via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times; “Joe Henderson wrote this on August 17: Tom Lee gets closer to formally entering CFO race

Matt Haggman appears to top CD 27 field with $512K haul in third quarter via Scott Powers of Florida Politics Haggman, a Coconut Grove resident who is a former program director at Miami’s Knight Foundation and a former award-winning investigative reporter at the Miami Herald, appears to have topped the field in fundraising for the third quarter of 2017 in the CD 27 contest. He and a bevy of other candidates seek to succeed Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring. His campaign is reporting that Haggman raised $512,000 in just two months, August and September, and he entered October with $469,000 in the bank. That includes no loans from the candidate, and all the money was raised through individual donations, the campaign reported. That’s the most reported by any of the candidates in that race so far, even though the field includes some high-profile political veterans.

Jason Brodeur spends $18K on 2020 SD 9 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics Brodeur, who’s aiming to succeed Republican state Sen. Dave Simmons after the 2020 election, reported raising $1,000 and spending nearly $19,000, mostly on messaging … He has raised more than $160,000 so far, including in-kind contributions, and has spent more than $67,000, leaving him with about $92,000. The biggest expenditure in the latest report, through the end of September, was $15,000 to a New Jersey company, which allowed him to send — via texts to cell phones — public service updates on power and hurricane response information to 66,000 people of Seminole County following Hurricane Irma, which knocked out more than half the county’s power on Sept. 10-11.

Happening tonight – Rep. Jim Boyd is hosting a fundraiser supporting the “Building on Your Dreams” committee. Event begins 5 p.m. at the Governors Club Board Room, 202 S. Adams St. in Tallahassee.

Financial disclosure forms raise questions about candidates’ business savvy” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – One of the candidates for a state House seat covering much of northern Sarasota County is amending his financial disclosure … while another is declining to offer documentation to support her claim that her business is doing well despite losing $24,000 last year. Republican James Buchanan, 35, touted his “small business background” in launching his campaign for the state Legislature. The real estate company owner lists a net worth of $1.2 million, and earned $22,712 last year from his firm, Amerestate Global, LLC. The sum Buchanan collected from Amerestate originally was listed as his only income in 2016. After the Herald-Tribune questioned his campaign about the disclosure form, Buchanan submitted an amendment to the form listing another $164,053 in income from the sale of his personal residence. Democratic candidate Ruta Jouniari’s business lost money in 2016. Jouniari said last year’s income is not indicative of the health of her business. She said her staffing company is cyclical and that “every three years I take a loss.” Jouniari recruits former U.S. military members to help service military vehicles and other equipment in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which purchases large amounts of military equipment from the United States. “On the third year they freeze because they don’t know who’s going to be awarded the contract,” she said of the Saudi agencies doing the hiring.


Ballard Partners signs the Democratic Republic of Congo” via Kevin McCauley of – Ballard Partners, which has close ties with the Trump White House, has inked a $600K one-year contract to promote “free and fair elections” in the Democratic Republic of Congo … to provide “strategic consulting and advocacy services” to the Group of Seven political coalition regarding its pitch to Washington. DRC president Joseph Kabila, who has been in power since 2001, booted G-7 representatives from the government for voicing opposition to his continued rule. Kabila was supposed to leave office by the end of 2016, but a new election date has not been set for the nation of more than 70M people. BP also will make G-7’s case before the United Nations about its return to the Congo and ability to participate in the electoral process.

New and renewed lobbying registrations

Michael Abrams, Ballard Partners: The Pew Charitable Trusts

Natalie King, RSA Consulting Group: Community Champions

Anthony Monaco: KPMG

Chris Moya, Jones Walker: Aptim Environmental & Infrastructure, Leon Medical Centers

Patrick Shortell: Renovate America

John White, Mercury Public Affiars: International Institute of Orthotics and Prosthetics

“Personnel note: Paul Jess becomes FJA executive director” via Florida Politics – Paul Jess has become executive director of the Florida Justice Association (FJA), the group announced Monday. Jess, a veteran attorney and association executive, had been acting as FJA’s interim executive director since January. “Paul has been with FJA for almost three decades, during which time he served in just about every professional capacity at the association,” said FJA President Dale Swope of Tampa … “With Paul as FJA’s Executive Director, the modes by which we defend and enhance the civil justice system for the afflicted in our state are about to be more effective and powerful than they have been in the history of our organization” … While with FJA, Jess continued to serve in the U.S. Naval Reserve as an intelligence officer, eventually serving three tours as Commanding Officer of various commands before retiring at the rank of Captain … He has decades of experience lobbying the Florida Legislature and executive branch, has testified before legislative committees, and drafted countless pieces of proposed and adopted legislation.

“Personnel note: Chris Spencer heads to GrayRobinson” via Florida PoliticsSpencer, longtime aide to Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, is leaving the Legislature to become a lobbyist at the Tampa office of GrayRobinson, the law firm announced Monday. “Spencer has nearly a decade of experience working with Florida’s legislative and executive branches,” a press release said. “Prior to joining GrayRobinson, he managed successful campaigns for multiple legislators, including Brandes and Sen. Dana Young,” a Tampa Republican. “We are thrilled for Chris to join our Tampa office,” Tampa managing shareholder David L. Smith said. “He will be an asset to our Tampa-area clients in addition to supporting the Firm’s statewide lobbying practice.”

— ALOE —

“Beer, wine from vending machines? Fla. company says ‘yes’ ” via Florida Politics – A newly-formed Miami-Dade company is seeking an OK from state regulators to install what it calls “self-checkout micro marts” with beer and wine … La Galere Markets of Coral Gables, which filed articles of incorporation with the state in August, submitted its request with the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco on Sept. 27, records show. The company asked the agency for a declaratory statement that the machines would be legal under existing law and regulations … But Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who sits on the Senate’s Regulated Industries committee, said he’d “be shocked if that’s legal.” … “Look, I’m open to considering all kinds of options, but (as a state) I don’t think that’s where we heading,” he said, referring to La Galere’s business idea.

Indigenous Peoples Day? Italians say stick with Columbus” via Deepti Hajela and Dake Kang of The Associated Press – A movement to abolish Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day has gained momentum in some parts of the U.S., with Los Angeles in August becoming the biggest city yet to decide to stop honoring the Italian explorer and instead recognize victims of colonialism. But the gesture to recognize indigenous people rather than the man who opened the Americas to European domination also has prompted howls of outrage from some Italian-Americans, who say eliminating their festival of ethnic pride is culturally insensitive, too. “We had a very difficult time in this country for well over a hundred years,” said Basil Russo, president of the Order Italian Sons and Daughters of America. “Columbus Day is a day that we’ve chosen to celebrate who we are. And we’re entitled to do that just as they are entitled to celebrate who they are.” It’s not about taking anything away from Italian-Americans, said Cliff Matias, cultural director of the Redhawk Native American Arts Council, which is hosting a Re-Thinking Columbus Day event Sunday and Monday in New York.

Mystery: Where’s the sign that welcomes visitors to Key West” via The Associated Press – Officials in Key West have a mystery on their hands. They want to know who took the sign that welcomed visitors to “Paradise U.S.A. Residents say they last saw the “Welcome to Key West” sign on the ground after it was presumably knocked down by Hurricane Irma on Sept. 10. The sign at the island’s entrance off U.S. 1 features a painted sunset. It was an $8,000 gift from the local Rotary Club, whose members just want the sign back, no questions asked. For now, a hand-painted sign marks its spot at the busy intersection. “Welcome to Paradise,” it says.

’The Florida Project’ is probably the best movie you’ll see this year” via Glenn Whipp of the Orlando Sentinel – Let’s just say that “The Florida Project,” an unforgettable, immersive film about itinerant families (particularly their mischievous children) living in the cheap motels in Disney World’s shadow, has set the bar very, very high. Directed and co-written by Sean Baker(“Tangerine”), the movie is also, as my colleague Justin Chang points out in his rave review, as rousing and vivid a portrait of childhood as you’ll ever see on the big screen. “A dazzling neorealist sugar rush of a movie,” Justin writes in his review … And, yes, I think the sky’s the limit with this one in terms of awards potential. “The Florida Project” is the kind of movie that critics groups will wholeheartedly embrace with the academy following suit.

Happy birthday to Senate President Joe Negron, Rep. Ben Diamond and former Rep. Janet Atkins, as well as our dear friend Keyna Cory, Tia Mitchell and our frenemy Mike Grissom. Belated wishes to Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen.

In St. Pete Council race, Gina Driscoll calls on Justin Bean to ‘stop lying’ about criminal past

While the past may be prologue, in the race for St. Petersburg City Council, Justin Bean’s history is something he just cannot shake.

On Monday, the 30-year-old St. Petersburg entrepreneur is again facing calls to “come clean” with voters on a 2010 run-in with the law, which first came to light last month, as well as a previously disclosed 2013 misdemeanor DUI charge.

Gina Driscoll, Bean’s opponent in the District 6 race, is arguing that his initial explanation simply doesn’t add up. With that, the 46-year-old sales manager accuses Bean of lying to both voters and reporters.

Driscoll is most bothered most by the “confusing and conflicting” accounts coming from Bean and his campaign team, which she said has been working overtime to conceal the candidate’s past.

After initially vowing to stick to the issues on the campaign trail, Driscoll is now pushing for the race to be more “transparent and honest.” Also, she demands Bean apologize to voters.

While Tampa Bay Times learned in April of Bean’s arrest on a misdemeanor DUI charge, the paper found no account of the 2010 incident in three Florida Department of Law Enforcement criminal databases.

Lakeland Police Department records show officers responding to a complaint of trespassing On Oct. 8, 2010, in a parking lot of Florida Southern College. When an officer asked Bean several times to give identification, the 23-year-old future candidate refused, arguing that he was not a student.

Campus security then asked the police to order Bean to leave.

Bean was neither arrested nor booked; he did, though, receive a citation order to appear in court. Bean’s campaign said the since the charge was later “expunged,” it was not in FDLE records, although it was found in Polk County court archives.

According to the county, on Dec. 14, 2010, Bean entered a plea of no contest. The judge withheld adjudication and assessed a fine of $320.50. By March 2011, the Times notes Bean paid $385.50 in all, including court costs.

Bean, who said he was in town that night to attend a concert, admitted he should have obeyed the officer.

“I was young, and I made a mistake and should have just given him my identification, and I chose to question why and that was the wrong decision,” he told the Times.

However, after the 2010 incident became public – as well as a backlash on the 2013 DUI arrest – Bean and his campaign have been in damage-control mode.

In an interview with last month, Bean admitted he did not reveal the resisting arrest charge because “it wasn’t something [he] was thinking about.” Despite that, he refused to apologize.

Driscoll is not buying that excuse. She said Bean’s campaign team immediately contradicted that account when they said the very next day the candidate didn’t bring it up because the charge was “expunged.”

“That turned out to be a lie,” Driscoll said. “I understand why Justin doesn’t want to talk about this issue – but the voters deserve honesty and transparency.”

Driscoll also does not accept Bean’s claim of forgetfulness over the resisting arrest charge: “Justin can’t really expect people to believe an explanation like that; give the voters some credit.”

As proof, Driscoll’s campaign gave a timeline of so-called inconsistencies:

On April 12, Bean acknowledged the 2013 DUI, without a full disclosure of the other charge, something voters were unaware of when he advanced through the Aug. 29 primary when he became the top vote-getter.

“Would Bean have advanced if voters knew he’d hidden his resisting arrest charge?” Driscoll asked. “Why hasn’t Bean apologized to the voters he wants to represent?”

On Sept. 26, Tampa Bay Beat first reports on the resisting arrest charge.

Why did Bean not come clean at once to voters, Driscoll wondered.

After Bean explained to on Sept. 28 that he didn’t disclose resisting arrest because “it wasn’t something that I was thinking about,” a senior member of Bean’s campaign team said that day didn’t disclose resisting arrest charge because the record was “expunged.”

But using the term “expunged” is disingenuous, according to Driscoll.

If the trespassing incident was truly expunged – a court-ordered process by which a legal record is erased in the eyes of the law – it would have also been removed from Polk County records. It wasn’t since the records were later discovered by the Times.

Driscoll also notes that as of Monday morning, Bean still has not expressed regret for not promptly admitting to his past indiscretions.

“St. Pete needs a leader,” Driscoll said. “To me, that means transparency, honesty, and owning up to your mistakes. I’m calling on Justin to apologize to voters and release his full criminal record.”

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