Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, 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.
“I’m going to campaign for this job. I know there are going to be people that like what I’m saying. There are going to be people who don’t like what I’m saying,” Scott told POLITICO Florida. “Let’s go back to 2010. No one, I don’t believe hardly anybody, endorsed me in 2010. Did that phase me? No. Whether they do or whether they don’t, I’m doing what I believe in.”
It’s a sign of the times that Scott granted POLITICO Florida the exclusive rather than the Tampa Bay Times or one of the state’s larger television stations. The decision reflects, in part, PF’s deep, dual reach into both Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. Also, Scott’s chief campaign adviser, Curt Anderson of On Message, routinely dishes to Caputo. It just makes sense that POLITICO Florida break this news.
The idea of the Tampa Bay Times, the state’s largest newspaper, NOT being the launch pad for a statewide campaign would have been unthinkable eight years ago. Now its a rarity when the Times breaks the news about any candidate making their plans official.
I almost expected the Associated Press’ Gary Fineout to get the first bite at the apple. The AP has been Scott World’s go-to outlet for several years now, especially because the venerated news organization tends to avoid putting any mustard on the hot dog, so to speak.
I knew there was zero chance that this outlet would break the news about Scott’s 2018 plans, although it was not for a lack of trying. We had a few of the details first, but there will always be lingering bad feelings between some of Scott’s people and myself because of my attacks on him, which began in 2011 with the first organized protest of Scott as governor and continued through the 2014 Charlie Crist campaign to unseat Scott. I understand and respect why Rick Scott won’t sit down with me.
Fortunately or unfortunately, this lack of access to Scott forces me into the role of the “loyal opposition.” Hence Florida Politics is loaded up with scoops and stories about the Democrats – the Florida Democratic Party, Senate Majority PAC, American Bridge, etc. – bracketing of Scott.
Of course, the big news out of Tallahassee is not about Scott running for the U.S. Senate, it’s this(if I know my audience, that will be our most-read story today).
Day now will open a new office in the Tampa Bay area with CCC partner Dan Newman.
It’s the first satellite office for INFLUENCE Magazine’s 2016 Lobbying Firm of the Year, which is looking to have a greater statewide presence and will continue to grow in other local markets.
“With CCC’s strong growth over the few years, a local office in Tampa is a natural progression,” said NickIarossi, the firm’s founding partner. “In fact, we have an eye toward future offices in key local markets to expand the services we can provide clients.”
Added RonLaFace Jr., another founding partner: “Local market expansion has always been a goal to enhance our client services, but finding the right people is paramount.
“Justin is a great fit for our firm’s culture, and to enhance our capabilities,” LaFace said. “We are excited to have him and Dan representing us in the Tampa Bay market.”
Day’s departure from The Advocacy Group was an amicable one and the two firms will continue to partner on local and state work, they said.
“We wish Justin the best of luck with CCC’s new Tampa Bay Office,” The Advocacy Group’s SlaterBayliss said. “We look forward to a mutually beneficial strategic relationship with CCC to better serve current and future clients.”
Day said, “I enjoyed my time at TAG and appreciate the smooth transition the great professionals provided me. Opening CCC’s first local office in Tampa Bay with Dan is an exciting endeavor and I’m very happy to be part of such a well-established and growing organization.”
And Newman said, “With our combination of public affairs, campaign and lobbying experience, Justin and I will bring an impactful team to Tampa Bay.”
Day has over 15 years of experience in the political and governmental fields to the firm. He provides guidance to clients that perform business with state, county, and municipal governments, as well as public-private partnerships, public transit, airports, and seaports.
He also assists clients in all aspects of government affairs and business development including: procurement, regulations, legislation, solicitations, negotiations, teaming, and strategic planning. Day’s clients have interests in the areas of transportation, construction, education, public works, technology, consulting, affordable housing, and the environment.
Prior to joining CCC, Day worked with several Tampa Bay based public entities and private businesses.
He also worked in senior finance roles on various political campaigns in Florida including U.S. Senate, Governor, Attorney General, and various local campaigns. Day has raised over $13 million dollars for local, state, and federal candidates.
He is active in national Democratic politics serving on Secretary HillaryClinton and President BarackObama’s National Finance Committees, and as the Tampa Bay Regional Finance Chairman for President Obama’s re-election campaign.
In addition, he was a National Co-Chair for the Democratic National Committee’s Gen44 program. Currently, Day is the Deputy Treasurer for the Democratic Governors Association.
Day has an undergraduate degree in International Affairs and a Masters Degree in Applied American Politics and Policy from Florida State University.
He is a graduate of Leadership Tallahassee, and sits on numerous community boards including, Hillsborough Community College Foundation Board of Trustees, the Greater Tampa Chamber Board of Directors, AMIkids Inc, Board of Trustees. Additionally, Day serves as an Advisor to Avant-Garde Growth Capital, LLC. He resides in Tampa with wife Elena.
Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s Rick Scott Day. And we’ll get to that in a moment.
But first, a reminder for politicos in the Tampa Bay area that there is a Quorum — the not-too-political happy hour — tonight at Cassis American Brasserie on Beach Drive. It is a special occasion, as we are celebrating the engagement of Sarah Busk and Alan Suskey.
Please join us at 5:30 p.m.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— @JonathanVSwan: We can’t overstate the severity of President [Donald] Trump’s buyer’s remorse from signing last month’s spending bill. It could even be a turning point in his presidency, on the issue of immigration and his level of cooperation with Republican leaders.
— @CBSMiami: Roger Stone accuses @DeFede of playing gotcha w/him when Jim points out a letter he sent to US Sen. Judiciary Cmte offered a non-denial denial abt allegations he discussed [James] Comey’s firing w/Trump
— @SenBillNelson: Glad to see that the FBI shut down the Backpage website today — though it took far too long to happen. That website promoted the modern day slavery of women and children, including in Florida.
— @RepCurbelo: As another U.S. election approaches, it’s important to keep the pressure on Vladimir Putin and his thugs. New sanctions from @USTreasury send a clear message to #Russia their efforts to undermine Western democracies and their malicious cyberattacks will not be tolerated.
— @RepTedDeuch: Deerfield, Illinois’ assault weapon ban is the latest victory in our movement to end gun violence. Local leaders across the country are recognizing that the safety of their communities is too important and are compelled to get weapons of war off their streets.
— @Fineout: A teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas said during town hall that there was supposed to be FHP and other security at school — but this past week he arrived at 6:30 a.m. and no one was there.
— @AdamSmithTimes: .@adamputnam made big tax announcement today in Tampa: He won’t raise taxezzzzzzzzzz
— @FLChamber: DYK: Data from the Florida Chamber Legislative Report Card shows the average GPA for both legislative chambers was 78 percent, compared to 73 percent in 2017.
— @Mike_Miller_FL: Really enjoyed seeing @marcorubio stump for me yesterday. His message was compelling and inspirational for the times we are living in
— @OAS_official: New Permanent Representative of #USA, @AmbCTrujillo, presented credentials to the #OAS Secretary-General
— DAYS UNTIL —
Reporting deadline for Q1 fundraising — 6; NFL Draft begins — 17; Avengers: Infinity War opens — 18; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 24; Mother’s Day — 34; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 46; Memorial Day — 49; Father’s Day — 69; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 74; Deadline for filing claim bills — 114; Start of the U.S. Open — 140; Primary Election Day — 141; College Football opening weekend — 145; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 197; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 198; General Election Day — 211; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 311; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 330.
— TOP STORY —
After months of speculation, Gov. Scott is expected to announce today that he will run for the U.S. Senate.
“Scott running for U.S. Senate in epic showdown with Nelson, test of Trump’s popularity“via Matt Dixon and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida –Gov. Rick Scott makes his long-awaited U.S. Senate candidacy official today, setting up an epic battle against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and testing the limits of whether a close alliance with President Donald Trump is political poison or a pathway to success in the nation’s biggest swing state. Scott has never shied away from his friendship with Trump – who repeatedly urged him to run against Nelson, Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat. And regardless of the constant string of White House controversies, Scott has only distanced himself from the president to the mildest of degrees. But the self-made Scott, who was born poor, raised in public housing and then won the Florida governor’s mansion as a political novice, wants everyone to know that he’s his own man. “I consider myself Rick Scott. I don’t consider myself any type of anything,” the governor told POLITICO in an exclusive interview Sunday when asked if he considers himself a “Donald Trump Republican.” “I run on what I believe in. I’ve been very clear,” he said. “People ask me that a bunch of times, about ‘are you this or are you that?’ No. I’m Rick Scott. I grew up poor. I believe in jobs.”
“And just like that, Scott cuts ties to Let’s Get To Work” via Gary Fineout for his blog, The Fine Print – So a funny thing happened on Sunday. Scott’s image and his name and videos disappeared from the Let’s Get to Work website. (The problem with the committee for Scott is that it relied on large corporate donations, taking checks in from various groups whose business can be affected by Scott and the Legislature. Private prison providers, health care providers, utilities, business associations are among the long list of those who gave money.) So in order to remain complaint under federal election law while he runs for U.S. Senate, Scott needed to distance himself from his creation. Hence the makeover of the website this weekend. While Scott’s name and image have vanished from the website, it now states that “Let’s Get to Work is supported by Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera. Its chair, Abby Dupree, is also associated with this organization.
“Scott expected in Washington to raise money for Senate run” via San Sullivan of the Washington Post – Scott is expected to travel to Washington next week to raise money for the Senate campaign he is poised to begin Monday, said three Republicans familiar with his plans. Party power brokers have been in contact in recent days to make arrangements for the Republican governor to raise money in Washington. The Republicans said Scott is expected to be in the nation’s capital on April 19.
Democrats lining up to speak against Scott’s expected Senate run – The Florida Democratic Party began blasting in-boxes Sunday night, in advance of Gov. Scott‘s “big announcement,” including a message that “local leaders, state lawmakers and a survivor of the Pulse tragedy (would) be available to speak about how Scott has prioritized his self-serving politics at Floridians’ expense.” It also touted an oppo website, SelfServingScott.com. Those making themselves available to talk smack about the Naples Republican include former Florida Democratic Party Chair and state Sen. Rod Smith, incoming Senate Democratic Leader AudreyGibson, Miami Beach Mayor DanGelber, state Rep. CarlosGuillermoSmith, St. Petersburg Mayor RickKriseman, Pinellas County Commissioner KenWelch, former Florida Democratic Party Executive Director AnaCruz, and Pulse survivor and ‘No NRA Money’ advocate BrandonWolf.
“Hours before campaign launch, Senate Democratic PAC blasts ‘self-serving’ Rick Scott” via Florida Politics – Part of a six-figure digital campaign throughout the state, Senate Majority PAC produced a 30-second spot — “Won’t Look out for You” — outlining Scott’s track record, which began as a CEO of Columbia/HCA, a hospital company where he made millions while committing “Medicare fraud.” The ad then discusses touches on Scott’s seven years as Governor, where he “raised Floridians property taxes and/education funding while giving massive tax breaks to corporations and multimillionaires like himself.”
First in Sunburn – the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s Executive Director Mindy Myers has written her first memo in response to a candidate announcement this cycle. In it, she offers what the DSCC is describing as “Fast Facts About Rick Scott & The Florida Senate Race.” It offers a lot of the same these the DSCC pushed last week when it started pre-butting Scott’s announcement. The three key points per Myers are “Self-serving and dishonest, Scott’s looking out for himself at Floridians’ expense”; “Scott’s record as governor is a liability for his campaign”; and “In two of the best GOP years in modern political history, Scott never won by more than a point.”
“Democrats aim new website at Scott” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee launched a new website “SelfServingScott.com.” The site lays out several attacks on Scott, claiming he will say and do anything to help himself at Floridians’ expense. Among the Democrats’ allegations: That he personally made lots of money on investments as wages remained low in Florida; his business holdings make him a walking conflict of interest; his offer for nursing home directors to call his cellphone in a crisis, combined with his alleged failure to respond to such calls, may put some blame on him for the tragic deaths at Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills after Hurricane Irma in September. Scott supported drilling near shores and beaches even as he has claimed to oppose it in more recent times, and he let 612 days pass between the Pulse and Parkland mass murders without taking any action regarding gun violence.
“American Bridge lays out weaknesses for Democrats to aim at in Scott’s U.S. Senate bid” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — American Bridge contends that public opinion on current hot issues, the anticipated Democratic political wave, Scott’s tendency to underperform compared with other Republicans, the dramatic increase in Puerto Rican voters in Florida, and personal financial disclosure laws all are going to make it far more difficult for Scott to beat Nelson in November than it was for him to win two Governor’s elections. “Rick Scott’s decision to run for U.S. Senate will go down as one of the biggest mistakes in recent Florida political history,” American Bridge 21st Century predicted in a campaign strategy memorandum which argues in detail that Scott’s 2010 and 2014 victories came in years of Republican waves, while a Democratic wave is being projected this year. Even within those GOP waves, the group states Scott underperformed other Republicans on the ballot.
Assignment editors — Community organizations — including Organize Florida, Center for American Islamic Relations, Service Employees International Union of Florida, among others — will hold a rally to speak out against Scott’s announcement for U.S. Senate. The event begins 4:30 p.m. at Curtis Hixon Park near Ashley Dr. in Tampa.
“Tensions between Scott and Marco Rubio strain GOP relations” via Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post — Rubio will not appear at the kickoff. He also has said he does not plan to “campaign against” Nelson, whom he has praised as a partner. Rubio’s stance, which could burnish Nelson’s bipartisan credentials, has struck a nerve with some Scott allies. They say the Republican senator is still nursing grudges from the 2016 campaign. “Rubio should tread carefully regarding his budding friendship with Nelson … because Rubio and Scott share a donor base and a voter base,” said Dan Eberhart, an oil industry executive and top Scott fundraiser. “If Rubio refuses to endorse and Scott were to narrowly lose, Rubio’s detente with Nelson might backfire.” Rubio said in a written statement that he is supporting Scott, but strategists and donors wonder how enthusiastically.
Meanwhile … “Court fight continues on Scott’s blind trust. Tallahassee lawyer argues for disclosure.” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — The lawyer who has sued Scott alleging that he is violating state law by using his wife to shield his financial assets from public disclosure asked a court to throw out the governor’s appeal, arguing that he should stop fighting the case because he will have to disclose his assets if he announces he is running for U.S. Senate … “Procedurally and substantively his petition is unfounded, it is a delaying tactic as he seeks to run out the clock on having to disclose how much money he has made being governor of Florida,” wrote Don Hinkle, a Tallahassee lawyer and major Democratic fundraiser in a response to an appeal filed by the governor with the First District Court of Appeal. Scott spokesman John Tupps dismissed Hinkle’s lawsuit as “nothing more than a publicity stunt.” He noted that a court and the Florida Commission on Ethics rejected a previous complaint.
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“Nelson, in campaign mode, talks guns at St. Pete town hall” via Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — He told the crowd of roughly 75 at the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority headquarters not to hold their breath waiting for Washington to pass tough gun reform. “Not much more is going to be done because the votes are not there to address the issue of massacres,” he said. The senator also tried to distinguish himself and … Scott … Last month, Scott signed a guns and school safety package that has garnered him some praise among those who support gun control for bucking the powerful pro-gun lobby, the National Rifle Association. But Nelson characterized the bill, which implements some gun control measures but also allows schools to arm teachers and staff, as a gift for the NRA. “They wanted to sell more guns by arming teachers,” Nelson told reporters after the meeting.
“Adam Putnam rally at Manatee County ranch draws hundreds” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A few hundred people came out to eat BBQ and swamp cabbage, listen to country music and hear Putnam speak … Gathered under an open-air chickee hut with expansive views of cow pastures and woodlands, the crowd applauded as Putnam talked about “putting Florida first.” … He took a subtle jab at (Ron) DeSantis, who has made infrequent public appearances, in talking up his busy campaign schedule. “What you see here, this is the foundation of my campaign,” Putnam told the crowd. “Everybody talks about grassroots. We live it.”
Assignment editors — Putnam will join supporters in Charlotte County for an 11:30 a.m. luncheon at the Laishley Crab House, 150 Laishley Court in Punta Gorda.
Assignment editors — Republican gubernatorial candidate DeSantis and Attorney-General candidate Jay Fant will appear at a meeting of the Palm Beach County Trump Club beginning 7 p.m., Palm Beach Kennel Club, 1111 North Congress Ave. in West Palm Beach.
First in Sunburn — “Chris King adds $610K in March to his gubernatorial campaign account” via Florida Politics — The total puts King at $4.1 million in total fundraising between his campaign and political committee since he entered the race in March 2017. An announcement said the two accounts combined to more than $2.1 million on hand heading into April. “Democrats want a real progressive who rejects conventional politics and Chris continues to impress voters across Florida as he introduces himself to the electorate,” said Omar Khan, senior adviser to King’s campaign. “As other candidates from the political establishment struggle to break through to the voters, Chris is amassing the resources that any candidate will need to compete in this wide-open race.”
Happening Tuesday — King will open a new Orlando headquarters in his bid for Governor; ceremony begins 5:30 p.m. at 1612 E. Colonial Dr., Second Floor, in Orlando.
Assignment editors — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine will host a meet-and-greet with Broward Democrats beginning 7 p.m. at the Deicke Auditorium at Hoffman Park, 5701 Cypress Road in Plantation.
“So … will Tom Lee or won’t he run for CFO?” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Lee has announced he intends to run for chief financial officer in a primary against appointed incumbent Jimmy Patronis, but hasn’t yet filed, and also hasn’t yet restarted fundraising after having to shut down for the legislative session. That has allowed Patronis to edge ahead of Lee in fundraising. Patronis has announced raising $463,000 during March — $178,585 in his campaign and $285,200 in his political committee, Treasure Florida. That gives him a total of roughly $2.5 million cash on hand in both funds. Lee, meanwhile, reported raising no money for the month for either his committee, The Conservative, or his campaign — he’s still technically filed for re-election to his Senate seat. He already had about $2.3 million cash in his accounts before he stopped fundraising during the legislative session.
“Navy veteran leads in fundraising race to challenge Dennis Ross” via John Chambliss of the Lakeland Ledger — Andrew Learned, of Valrico, will compete in a primary on Aug. 28. Through Dec. 31, 2017, Learned had raised $64,065 and spent $41,526. Learned said the most recent figures from the end of March would show that he’s raised more than $100,000 since filing to run in May 2017. He’s contributed $2,000 to his campaign. Learned’s nearest primary competitor in the financial race is Greg Pilkington, of Indian Lake Estates. Through Dec. 31, Pilkington has raised $46,709 but contributed $42,590 to his own campaign. Also running from the Democrat side are Phil Hornback of Brandon, Cameron Magnuson of Brandon, and Ray Pena of Lakeland. Ross had raised $662,388 through December 31.
Spotted at a Thursday fundraiser for CD 17 candidate Greg Steube held at Pepin Distributing in Tampa: Tom Pepin, Kent Bailey, Steve Cona, Randy Garcia, Andy Graham, Shawn Harrison, and Joe Wicker, as well as the team from RSA Consulting, Ron Pierce, Natalie King, Ed Briggs, Kaitlyn Bailey,and Kaitlyn Gardner.
Spotted last week in Nashville as part of a two-day fundraising trip for the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee: Sens. Bill Galvano, Lizbeth Benacquisto, Rob Bradley, and Jeff Brandes, Robert Coker, Brady Benford, Greg Black, Gaston Cantens, Jorge Dominicis, Jeff and Sonya Dean Hartley. The itinerary included a private concert with Phil Vassar.
Happening tonight – State Sen. Kelli Stargel kicks off her re-election campaign with an event beginning 5:30 p.m. at Sunny Acres Lodge, 7290 Hacienda Trail in Polk City. Host committee includes Attorney General Pam Bondi, Senate President Joe Negron, President-Designate Bill Galvano, Majority Leader Wilton Simpson and Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
“Democrat Katie Tripp to challenge Tom Leek for House District 25 seat” via Mark Harper of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — For months, no one had filed on the Democratic side for Leek’s Florida House District 25 seat. That changed dramatically last week when not one, but two Democrats turned in paperwork to challenge. But then the suddenly complicated picture became clearer when Brandon Schwedes said he intends to step aside, leaving Tripp as the lone Democrat in the race and allowing her to concentrate efforts on defeating Leek and Libertarian Joseph Hannoush in November. She has a doctorate in veterinary medical sciences from the University of Florida and has worked as a biologist with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. Tripp is a supervisor with the Volusia County Soil & Water Conservation District and is an appointee to the Indian River Lagoon Citizens’ Advisory Committee.
First on #FlaPol — “Field clears for Jennifer Webb in HD 69 Dem. Primary” via Florida Politics — Javier Centonzio is dropping out of the race for House District 69 and endorsing fellow Democrat Webb for the open seat. The St. Petersburg attorney filed for HD 69 at the beginning of the year, and after his first campaign finance report, it seemed a contentious Democratic Primary could be on the horizon. Webb has added bulk endorsements from local leaders, a nod from St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, and the endorsement of the LGBTQ Victory Fund — if elected Webb would be the fourth openly LGBTQ member of the Florida Legislature, and the first LGBTQ woman. Her fundraising operation has also remained competitive with the two Republicans in the race, Jeremy Bailie and Raymond Blacklidge. In the face of this, Centonzio is living to fight another day.
“Florida GOP says it can fend off ‘blue wave’” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Florida Republican leaders who gathered in Tampa believe they can hold back a Democratic wave in November to keep the “Trump agenda alive.” But to retain congressional and legislative majorities and to unseat Nelson, that means ramping up messaging about economic growth, boosting turnout, particularly among voters who request absentee ballots, and countering what the GOP describes as “mainstream media” narratives of looming Democratic victories. “It’s going to be very hard for them to keep that energy up,” Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said during a quarterly party meeting at a DoubleTree hotel. Ingoglia also said Democrats would have to spread resources to campaigns across the country, unlike during their recent special-election victories for a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama and a congressional seat in Pennsylvania. “They’re very good at winning one race at a time,” Ingoglia said.
— STATEWIDE —
“Scott vetoes ‘toilet to tap’ bill” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — Gov. Scott sided with environmentalists by vetoing a bill that would have allowed treated wastewater to be pumped back into the state’s groundwater. With that pen stroke, Scott avoided the epithet “Governor Poopy Water,” something environmentalists had vowed to call him if he let the bill become law. “Protecting Florida’s environment has been a top priority during my time as governor,” Scott said in the veto letter. “Florida has stringent water quality standards, and we are going to keep it that way.” Scott hasn’t always been popular with environmental groups, and the decision will head off criticism as he prepares a run for U.S. Senate. A group calling itself Citizens Against Contaminated Aquifer Water, or CACA Water for short, canceled a news conference in a last-minute effort to persuade Scott to veto the bill.
“No Casinos won’t fold ‘em: Letter skirmish with lobbyist continues” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The war of words between gaming industry lobbyist Marc Dunbar and No Casinos head John Sowinski continues … Sowinski released an “open letter” admonishing Dunbar that he won’t “fool Florida voters” about a gambling-related constitutional amendment on November’s ballot. Sowinski also chairs Voters In Charge, the political committee behind the proposed “Voter Control of Gambling” constitutional amendment, also known as “Amendment 3.” Its aim is to give statewide voters sole authority to approve future expansions of gambling in the state. Dunbar started it with his own “open letter” to Sowinski, saying he had “declared war on (the gambling) industry,” was a “bully,” and “lack(ed) candor.” At issue was a legal opinion that, if passed, the amendment would retroactively undo, or “de-authorize,” any gambling expansion approved by state lawmakers between now and then. Lawmakers recently considered — but are now silent — on a Special Session on gambling after they failed to pass any related legislation this past Regular Session.
“Parkland hero blames sheriff, superintendent” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — An attorney for 15-year-old Anthony Borges read a statement from him during a news conference criticizing Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel and Superintendent Robert Runcie for the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland … Borges was shot five times, suffering wounds to the lungs, abdomen and legs. He was released from a Fort Lauderdale hospital Wednesday morning, the last of the 17 wounded to go home. Borges, too weak to talk, sat silently in a wheelchair with his right leg propped up. His statement specifically attacked the Promise program, a school district and sheriff office initiative that allows students who commit minor crimes on campus to avoid arrest if they complete rehabilitation. Runcie and Israel “failed us students, teachers and parents alike on so many levels,” Arreaza read for Borges, who sat next to his father, Roger. “I want all of us to move forward to end the environment that allowed people like Nikolas Cruz to fall through the cracks. You knew he was a problem years ago and you did nothing. He should have never been in school with us.”
“Cops, lawyers say questions remain about how to use Florida’s ‘red flag’ gun law” via Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Orlando Sentinel — Law enforcement agencies and legal professionals are still scrambling to address the challenges of the so-called “red flag” law — developing consistent protocols and procedures to serve the orders, getting appropriate training and interpreting terms not explicitly defined in the law. “There’s still issues,” said Leonard Dietzen, an attorney who represents the Florida Police Chiefs Association. “It was put together very fast because the [Parkland] incident happened on Valentine’s Day and a couple of weeks later we have a new law. That’s never happened in Tallahassee.” Under the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, law enforcement officials can obtain a temporary risk protection order by showing evidence that people are a danger to themselves or others in the near future. Authorities also can seek a longer-term order, which lasts 12 months. Dietzen said he developed a 10-page “tutorial” document to help police departments train their staff, but there are still concerns among police officers about liability, and the potential danger of serving the injunctions to people with mental illnesses and access to weapons.
“Parents, lawmakers fear arming school staff puts black students at risk” via J.D. Gallop and Caroline Glenn of FLORIDA TODAY — Though popular among many people, Florida’s school marshal problem is proving to be a source of high anxiety for families of color. Minority families have struggled for years to draw attention to the disproportionate discipline of minority students, and the high-profile killings of unarmed black men by white police officers across the country. Now, the growing concern among some black parents, students, and activists is that in the best-case scenario, more guns in schools are only going to add to the atmosphere of fear and intimidation many minority teens already feel. And, in the worst case, they fear their children could become potential victims of undercover, armed school staff. Many of the large school districts in Florida have already taken a hard stance against the program. But the Brevard school board has not rejected it outright, and Sheriff Wayne Ivey is making a hard sell, pushing it as a critical component to better protect schools.
“As Parkland victims get national attention, a black community wonders, ‘what about our children?’” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — In a different context, Shevrin Jones might have sounded like a spokesman for the National Rifle Association. Just two days after hundreds of Parkland families cheered on Florida’s new gun restrictions, the West Park Democrat stood in front of nodding parents and children in a rec center and called the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act deeply flawed. After all, what good are extended waiting periods to South Florida’s minority communities when the shooters who terrorize their neighborhoods are often stealing weapons and buying them on the street? “Our communities don’t care about whether you do a background check,” said Jones, a state Representative. “Because we’re not going to the store to buy a gun. We’re going to buy them illegally.” As South Florida lawmakers hosted a series of town hall events coordinated across the country this week in the hopes of furthering a renewed gun control movement, the tenor and tone of the gatherings — much like their relationship with guns — has varied from community to community. Less than 30 miles and 48 hours apart, events near Parkland and in Miami Gardens illustrated just how complex the problem of gun violence is, and why answers have been so elusive even among communities supporting the same party.
“Man killed by Brightline train in Delray Beach – and it’s the fifth death this year” via Monique Madan of the Miami Herald – A man died after being hit by a Brightline train Sunday in Delray Beach, according to police. The crash happened at 12:47 p.m. on the northbound tracks, about 100 feet south of the Southeast Fourth Street crossing, Delray Beach police confirmed. The pedestrian died immediately from the impact, police said.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Trump in Palm Beach: FAA notice hints at April 15-22 Mar-a-Lago visit” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post — The FAA notice says there will be “VIP Temporary Flight Restrictions” in the Palm Beach area from April 15 to April 22. Such notices, while subject to change, are usually the first indicator of a presidential visit. Trump is scheduled to attend the April 13-14 Summit of the Americas in Peru — his first visit to Latin America as president. The White House has also announced Trump will host Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago on April 17-18.
“Irma agriculture aid slated to start in summer” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — A program to distribute federal disaster aid to Florida farmers hit by Hurricane Irma will be set up within the next 100 days, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced … “USDA (the U.S. Department of Agriculture) is working as quickly as possible to develop procedures and a system by which affected producers can access disaster assistance,” Perdue said in a prepared statement. The announcement added that “sign-up for the new program, authorized by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, will begin no later than July 16,” about 100 days from now. It remains unknown how claims can be filed or how money will be distributed.
— OPINIONS —
“Joe Henderson: Guns and Trump form backdrop of Rick Scott” via Florida Politics — Let’s just cut to what figures to be the essence of a showdown between Nelson and Scott for a Florida U.S. Senate seat. Scott’s entry into the race, long a foregone conclusion, signals the start of what could the most expensive and nasty race in the country … two things that matter most in this campaign: Guns and Trump. Scott has been joined at the hip to Trump, which Nelson’s camp will exploit to the max. It may not matter as much as Democrats would like, though. While Trump’s approval is hovering around 40 percent, and perhaps a little higher in Florida, his people will turn out and vote no matter what. In a midterm election, turnout is the key and Democrats have fallen short there in the past. The X Factor is whether the slaughter of innocents at Parkland brings out thousands of new voters. If so, it could turn the election in Nelson’s favor. Scott likely will be a tougher opponent, but by how much? He won both his gubernatorial races by about 1 percentage point. A win is a win, but wins like that are hardly an overwhelming mandate.
“Don’t gamble on special session” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — The main reason legislators have struggled to pass legislation on gambling is that multiple players with competing interests always seem to get involved. That group includes not only the Seminole [Tribe of Florida] but also the pari-mutuel operators of the state’s horse and dog tracks and jai-alai frontons. While the Seminoles want to maintain or expand their exclusive right to offer games at their casinos, the pari-mutuels’ wish list includes adding slot machines in counties where voters have approved them and reducing the taxes they owe the state. Legislators tend to dig in on competing sides and run out of time to settle their differences. Here’s where the unsavory part comes in: The players in the gambling debate — the rivals in the industry, and the opponents of any expanded wagering in the state — have deep pockets, and don’t hesitate to seek influence with legislators through hefty campaign contributions. Legislators can’t collect those contributions when they’re in session, but the prospect of a special session on gambling could generate a flood of cash for them in weeks leading up to it. That’s a boon in an election year — especially for legislators who are ramping up statewide campaigns. But it’s an utterly self-serving and irresponsible way to make public policy.
“A vote for Marsy’s Law helps protect vulnerable victims of crime” via Chip LaMarca for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A proposal before the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) called Marsy’s Law would amend our state constitution to give equal rights to crime victims. Quite simply, Proposal 96 is good public policy and I am proud to offer my support. National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, commemorated this year April 8-14, is the perfect time to reflect on how our state treats innocent victims of crime and their families. Until a violent crime happens to us or someone we love, we can only imagine how it feels to be victimized — and, how scary it is to seek justice. Marsy’s Law would not take away any of the rights of the accused. Instead, it would ensure crime victims and their families are no longer silenced in the criminal justice process.
— MOVEMENTS —
“Personnel note: Justin Day heads to Capital City Consulting” via Florida Politics — Day now will open a new office in the Tampa Bay area with CCC partner Dan Newman. It’s the first satellite office for INFLUENCE Magazine’s 2016 Lobbying Firm of the Year, which is looking to have a greater statewide presence and will continue to grow in other local markets. “With CCC’s strong growth over the few years, a local office in Tampa is a natural progression,” said Nick Iarossi, the firm’s founding partner. “In fact, we have an eye toward future offices in key local markets to expand the services we can provide clients.” Added Ron LaFace Jr., another founding partner: “Local market expansion has always been a goal to enhance our client services, but finding the right people is paramount.”
Jonathan Paul Steverson, Foley & Lardner: Dewberry Engineers
Appointed — Alissa Ellison to the Hillsborough County Court.
Reappointed — Eduardo Almeyda, Robert Dietz, Iliana Forte, David Langham, Neal Pitts and Margaret Sojourner as Judges of Compensation Claims.
— ALOE —
“The mystery behind why a beautiful movie theater in the town created by Disney World has been closed for almost a decade” via Jason Guerrasio of Business Insider — The two-screen movie theater in Celebration is one of the crown jewels of the Town Center downtown area. Like the entire downtown, it was built in 1994 to entice people to buy the condos above storefronts or the surrounding farmland that would soon be transformed into quaint homes. But in 2004, Disney sold its stake in the Town Center to the private-equity firm Lexin Capital. The theater, operated by the AMC theater chain, closed its doors in 2010, but AMC still owns its lease … after years of public outcry, AMC began turning on the lights in the evenings. When AMC started work on a massive 24-screen multiplex at Walt Disney World Resort’s Pleasure Island in 1997 — now renamed Disney Springs — the park had one stipulation: If AMC wanted the 24 screens, it also had to take on the existing two-screen theater in Celebration … AMC has kept the Celebration theater empty for close to a decade because it’s cheaper to take the loss on the theater than to pay staff and operate it.
“Sarasota Film Festival: 20 years of stars, screenings and parties” via Jimmy Geurts of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The 10-day event remains a popular destination for anyone interested in seeing Oscar-winning and nominated actors, directors and movies at downtown venues such as Regal Hollywood, Florida Studio Theatre and the Sarasota Opera House. The festival celebrates its 20th anniversary when it returns April 13-22. Oscar-nominated actress Virginia Madsen and actor Steve Guttenberg, who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, will be in Sarasota to receive career achievement awards, as Sophia Loren and Richard Dreyfuss have in the past. Other scheduled guests this year include actor and director Eric Stoltz, Oscar-nominated documentarian Rory Kennedy and comedian Bo Burnham, attending with his acclaimed directorial debut “Eighth Grade.” There will be nearly 100 features and more than 100 short films playing, with parties, talks and other events, compared with just eight films in its first year.
Happy birthday from the weekend to the St. Louis Cardinals #1 fan, Jeff Atwater, as well as Lori Costantino-Brown, Jesse Phillips, and Chris Turner. Celebrating today are Emily Duda Buckley, Matt Carlucci, and Alli Liby-Schoonover (ciao!).
— Scott will make a “major announcement” at a 10:00 a.m. press conference at ODC Construction in Orlando, followed by a 2:30 p.m. press conference at Sun Harvest Citrus in Ft. Myers.
— Scott World alumni have received an email asking them if they “have interest in joining Governor Scott for his major announcement.” If they do and reply to the email, announcement details “will be provided back to you ASAP.” The follow-up emails have not yet been sent.
— The Lee County Republican Party emailed its members with an alert that Scott would be in Fort Myers at 2:15 p.m. on Monday.
— Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Scott will be ending Monday at a $10,000 per person fundraiser at the St. Petersburg residence of Ambassador Mel and Betty Sembler.
Republican Christian Ziegler this week announced he was endorsed by Gov. Rick Scott in his campaign for the District 2 seat on the Sarasota County Commission.
“I’m proud to endorse Christian Ziegler for the Sarasota County Commission. Christian is a friend, a life-long principled conservative, tireless advocate for Sarasota County and he is committed to championing an economic environment in Sarasota County that is focused on creating good paying jobs” Scott said.
“I have no doubt that with his past business experience and as a small business owner himself, Christian understands the importance of a strong local economy, and the residents of Sarasota County would benefit greatly from his service on the Sarasota County Commission. I have also had the opportunity to get to know Christian’s family and they are truly devoted to Sarasota County.”
Ziegler is running to replace Paul Caragiulo on the commission, who said earlier this year he would not run for re-election.
He currently faces Republican Alexandra Coe and Democrat Ruta Jouniari in the race. Both candidates tried their hand in the recent HD 72 special election, though Coe did not qualify for the ballot.
Ziegler, a GOP state committeeman and former aide to U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, leads in the early phase of the race with about $23,000 raised for his campaign (and remember this race limits contributions to $200)
“I’m incredibly honored and humbled to have received the endorsement from Florida Governor Rick Scott. Under Governor Scott’s leadership, the economy in the State of Florida has achieved an impressive economic turnaround and our state is much better off because of his service,” Ziegler said.
“If elected, I will work each day to ensure that Sarasota County becomes the #1 county in Florida for taxpayers to keep more of their hard-earned money, workers to secure a good paying job, entrepreneurs to launch their own venture, business owners to expand their business and residents to achieve their American Dream.”
The primary election is Aug. 28, and the general election is Nov. 6.
Waterfront communities across the state are reeling from a new law that makes it harder for the public to access Florida’s most popular attractions — its beaches.
But some legal experts believe it is not as bad as it first appears.
Signed last month by Gov. Rick Scott, HB 631 “blocks local governments from adopting ordinances to allow continued public entry to privately owned beaches even when property owners may want to block off their land,” writes Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times.
Any city or county wanting to protect public access to private beaches must first get approval by a judge — which means taking landowners to court.
Despite how bad HB 631 seems for advocates of “home rule,” the law may not be so dire for local governments.
“The public has a right of access along Florida’s beaches and shorelines below the mean high-water line,” writes attorney Diana Ferguson of the Tallahassee-based law firm Rutledge Ecenia. “Article X, Section 11 of the Florida Constitution provides that the state holds the land seaward of the mean high-water line (MHWL) in trust for the people.”
In a letter Friday to the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association, Ferguson points to the long-established principle known as “Public Trust Doctrine,” where certain natural resources are reserved for “customary use.” As such, the government is obligated to preserve and protect these resources — beaches and land under navigable waters, to name a few.
Over the years, the doctrine applied to fishing, commerce, and navigation for public access; but as time went on, public use was expanded to include recreational purposes such as bathing and swimming.
Advocates have also called for state land “held in the public trust” over wet sand be sued for dry sand as well.
Indeed, common law dictates that public use of dry sandy areas of a beach that has been used for a long time without interruption will continue.
“Some states, such as Oregon, Texas, and Hawaii, have applied the doctrine of custom broadly to the entire shoreline of the state,” Ferguson writes.
In 1974, Florida courts recognized the Public Use Doctrine, which can also be applied to specific areas of individual beaches.
And in the same year, the Florida Supreme Court ruled: “The general public may continue to use the dry sand area for their usual recreational activities, not because the public has any interest in the land itself, but because of a right gained through custom to use this particular area of the beach as they have without dispute and without interruption for many years.”
Later, 5th District Court of Appeal added even more clarity to the issue, saying: “courts [must] ascertain in each case the degree of customary and ancient use the beach has been subjected to and, in addition, to balance whether the proposed use of the land by the fee owners will interfere with such use enjoyed by the public in the past.”
HB 631 prohibits local governments from adopting or keeping an ordinance or rule establishing the customary use of privately owned dry-sand areas — those areas about the mean high-tide levels — without complying with the procedures of the new law. Municipalities seeking to set up the customary use of privately owned lands must first adopt, through a public hearing, a formal notice of intent, provide notice to owners, and file a complaint with a circuit court.
The court would then have to decide if the land is subject to the customary use doctrine.
However, the bill does not apply to existing ordinances or rules adopted and in effect before Jan. 1, 2016. And any governmental body can use this affirmative defense based on laws or regulation enacted before July 1, 2018.
Also, the new law will not affect current beach management, nourishment and erosion control programs.
This provision is especially important since many of these programs set up an erosion control line (ECL), which (for purposes of the law) replaces the high-water line and requires “the provision of upland access to the beach.”
In other words, for many beaches in Florida — especially those under a beach nourishment or similar projects — access to the “wet areas” are already baked-in, so to speak, and will not be impacted by HB 631.
This should offer some small comfort to opponents of the bill — which bombarded Scott’s office in an avalanche of appeals to veto the bill — including the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Surfrider Foundation, as well as coastal businesses that feared turning away the public from neighboring beaches.
Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office Friday asked a federal appeals court to block a judge’s order that would require the state to quickly revamp its process for restoring the voting rights of ex-felons.
Bondi’s office filed a 24-page motion at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals seeking a stay of the March 27 order by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker while a broader legal battle about the rights-restoration process plays out.
Walker gave the state until April 26 to overhaul the controversial process after finding that the current system for restoring ex-felons’ voting rights was unconstitutional.
The Governor’s Office supported Bondi’s actions.
“Judge Walker haphazardly ordered elected officials to change decades of practice in a matter of weeks,” said John Tupps, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott. “This is completely reckless and does not give the victims of crimes the voice they deserve.”
Continued Tupps “The Governor will always stand with victims of crimes, not the criminals that commit heinous acts. Let’s remember, these criminals include those convicted of crimes like murder, violence against children and domestic violence. The Court of Appeals should issue a stay immediately.”
The state this week gave notice that it was appealing Walker’s underlying ruling about the constitutionality of the system to the Atlanta-based appeals court. At the time, it also asked Walker for a stay of his order that the system be revamped by April 26. Walker flatly rejected the request, leading to the motion Friday.
“(A) stay of the district court’s order would serve any number of compelling public interests: allowing continued effectuation of longstanding state law authorizing restoration of voting rights to convicted felons; ensuring proper consultation and careful deliberation before making major changes to the state’s voter-eligibility requirements; and preserving the autonomy of the states in our federal system,” the motion said.
In rejecting the request for a stay Wednesday, Walker reiterated his view that the current rights-restoration system is unconstitutional.
“Rather than comply with the requirements of the United States Constitution, defendants (the state) continue to insist they can do whatever they want with hundreds of thousands of Floridians’ voting rights and absolutely zero standards,” Walker wrote. “They ask this court to stay its prior orders. No.”
Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post.
Predictions of bad weather are befouling plans for the annual Springtime Tallahassee festivities in the capital.
Organizers on Friday canceled the Jubilee in the Park, which usually features arts and crafts booths from hundreds of vendors, and rescheduled the parade for 10 a.m., the Tallahassee Democrat reported late Friday.
The National Weather Service was forecasting “showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 2 p.m.,” adding that “some of the storms could be severe.”
Before the bad weather reports, city officials had been expecting a crowd of more than 150,000 to celebrate the event’s 50th anniversary.
The celebration will affect traffic, a news release said. Below are the planned road closures for Saturday:
6:30 a.m.-12 p.m. for Parade Staging Area
— First Avenue eastbound at Duval Street.
— Thomasville Road between Monroe Street and Seventh Avenue.
— Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh avenues between Adams Street and Thomasville Road.
6:30-10:30 a.m. for Springtime Tallahassee 10K (if it still goes on as planned)
— Monroe Street between Apalachee Parkway and Seventh Avenue.
— Call Street, Franklin Boulevard, Lafayette Street and various roads surrounding the Capital City Country Club and within the Myers Park and Woodland Drive neighborhoods will have staggered closures during the race.
9:30 a.m.-12 p.m. for Parade Route
— Monroe Street between Gaines Street and Seventh Avenue.
— Jefferson Street, College Avenue, Park Avenue, Call Street, Virginia Street, Carolina Street, Georgia Street, Brevard Street and Tennessee Street between Adams Street and Calhoun Street.
— Madison Street between Macomb Street and Monroe Street.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Andrew Wilson, Danny McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
State appeals ex-felon order — Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet are appealing U.S. District Judge Mark Walker’s ruling that the state must devise a new system for restoring voting rights to ex-felons. Attorney General Pam Bondi has promised to continue to appeal Walker’s order to the highest court. Walker permanently blocked the state’s clemency system in March calling it “fatally flawed.” He then gave Scott and the Cabinet a monthlong deadline to revamp the system. Scott’s office contends that felon voting rights restoration should be determined by elected officials. Florida is one of few states that disenfranchise felons after they’ve completed their sentences and is home to roughly 1.5 million ex-cons whose voting rights are pending.
CRC ‘style’ committee wraps — The influential Style & Drafting Committee of the Constitution Revision Commission has drafted and approved 12 ballot items for consideration of the full commission. To appear on the ballot in November, each proposed amendment must win the approval of 22 members of the 37-person panel. The 12 items are a consolidation of 24 proposals that met the initial approval of the CRC. Six proposals were not combined with others, including four that did not meet the 22-vote threshold in the preliminary approval phase. Five other amendments already have reached the ballot, meaning Floridians could potentially consider 17 amendments in the general election. Sixty-percent voter approval is required for each to pass.
Leaders pressure feds for farm aid — Gov. Scott, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson have recently ramped up efforts to get much-needed funding distributed to Florida farmers affected by Hurricane Irma. Tailing off Scott’s and Putnam’s talks with the federal government, Rubio and Nelson joined other senators in penning a letter this week to encourage timely distribution of a $2.3 billion disaster-relief package signed by President Donald Trump in February. The letter was addressed to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Perdue’s office announced this week that sign-up and eligibility information should be available to affected farmers in the coming weeks. In total, it’s estimated that Hurricane Irma caused a $2.5 billion loss to Florida agriculture.
Gaming special session uncertain — Legislative leaders this week began zeroing in on a possible date for a special session to iron out gambling issues left unresolved during the 2018 Legislative Session — but the overtime might not be necessary. House Speaker Richard Corcoran alerted the possible need to reconvene legislators because of the potential loss of gambling revenue from the Seminole Tribe of Florida. However, the Tribe this week said it will continue paying its share to the state, which totaled a little more than $290 million last year. No Casinos, an anti-gambling organization, is asserting that the Tribe’s commitment should end further talks of a special session.
Scott ramps up exposure — Ahead of his widely expected entrance into the U.S. Senate race, Gov. Scott is appearing across the state for public bill signings. Scott this week visited Ponce Inlet to ceremoniously sign Ponce’s Law. The bill was crafted following the death of a nine-month-old Labrador, Ponce, in Ponce Inlet last year. The dog’s owner, Travis Archer, allegedly beat the animal to death, but under Florida’s current animal cruelty laws, Archer does not face a mandatory prison sentence if convicted. Ponce’s Law bumps animal cruelty to a level 5 offense up from level 3, meaning convicted offenders are more likely to serve prison time. The Governor also signed a bill in Orlando that prohibits the state from doing business with Venezuelan Dictator Nicolas Maduro’s regime and a bill at Fort Walton-based software company Bit-Wizards that is expected to benefit military, veterans, and their families.
Scott touts Florida building codes
Florida took the top spot in a recent report ranking the residential building codes of hurricane-prone states, much to the delight of Gov. Scott.
“In Florida, we know how important it is to be prepared for hurricanes while doing everything possible to keep families safe. Florida’s building codes have consistently ranked among the strongest in the nation and I’m proud that we have now been ranked first for building code strength by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety,” Scott said.
Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Jonathan Zachem also praised the ranking, adding that “the importance of effective, well-enforced building codes was demonstrated in our state during the 2017 hurricane season. I’m extremely pleased that the state of Florida was ranked first in this landmark report.”
The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety report gave Florida’s codes a score of 95 out of 100, an improvement of one point over its score in the last iteration of the report, released in 2015. The bump was enough to move Florida past Virginia, which topped the rankings three years ago.
Scott vetoes ‘toilet-to-tap’
Clearing the final batch of bills off his desk this week, Gov. Scottvetoed a measure that would have, in part, encouraged the use of purified reclaimed water to replenish the aquifer — a provision that has led environmental groups to dub the measure the “toilet-to-tap” bill.
Citing potential creation of “confusion in our water quality and aquifer protection regulatory structure,” Scott said the “worthwhile provisions” in the bill do not outweigh his concerns of “protecting Florida’s aquifer.”
“Florida has stringent water quality standards, and we are going to keep it that way,” Scott wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner.
The bill, HB 1149, was ushered by Palatka Republican Rep. Bobby Payne, who along with WateReuse argued that critics of the legislation overlooked that there is no such thing as “new water.”
Those against the measure, which included the lobbying force of the Sierra Club and other environmentalists, claimed it was tailored to benefit development interests.
The bill cleared the House with an 86-21 vote and the Senate with a 27-10 vote in the final week of the 2018 Legislative Session.
Board of Optometry — Dr. David Rouse, of Cooper City, is an optometrist with Rouse Family Eyecare. He succeeds Dr. Tamara Mule and is appointed for a term ending October 31, 2021. Dr. Katie Spear, of Pensacola, is a practicing optometrist. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending October 31, 2018. Both appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Palm Beach State College District Board of Trustees — DarcyDavis, of Palm Beach Gardens, is the chief executive officer of the Health Care District of Palm Beach County. She received her bachelor’s degree from Mercer University and her master’s degree from Troy State University. Davis succeeds Charles Cross Jr. and is appointed for a term ending May 31, 2021. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governors — MarcDunbar, of Tallahassee, is a partner at national law firm Jones Walker. He was appointed by CFO Jimmy Patronis. Gov. Scott also appointed Dunbar to the Northwest Florida Water Management District, where he served from 2015 to 2018. He also serves as an adjunct professor at the Florida State University College of Law. Dunbar succeeds Don Glisson and his term begins immediately, expiring on July 31, 2019.
Graham welcomes ‘overdue’ opioid suit
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham offered some tepid praise for Attorney General Bondi’s decision to go after pharmaceutical companies for their role in the opioid epidemic.
“After months of inaction and years of sticking her head in the sand — I am glad that Pam Bondi is finally heeding my call to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable,” the former congresswoman said Friday.
“As governor, I will hold the drug companies accountable and use all the powers of the office to address the opioid epidemic. I will ensure that this case gets the proper support and resources — building a legal dream team like Governor Lawton Chiles and Bob Butterworth did to take down tobacco.”
Bondi announced the decision this week, saying it was important Florida file its own case rather than join another. She did not give a timetable for filing the suit.
League lauds lawmakers
The Florida League of Cities this week gave awards to 20 lawmakers in recognition of their “tireless efforts” to protect home rule.
“On behalf of Florida’s 412 cities and thousands of municipal officials, both elected and appointed, the Florida League of Cities and its advocacy team are proud to recognize these Home Rule advocates for their continued support,” said Florida League of Cities Legislative Director Scott Dudley.
“We believe the government closest to the people should make the decisions that affect the quality of life of the citizens they have been elected to represent. These hardworking legislators continually supported that ideal, and we owe them a great deal of thanks.”
Melbourne Republican Sen. Debbie Mayfield, Fort Lauderdale Democratic Rep. Bobby DuBose and Fort Walton Beach Republican Rep. Mel Ponder were named “defenders of home rule,” while the remaining lawmakers received appreciation awards.
The following lawmakers received Legislative Appreciation Awards: Sens. Daphne Campbell, George Gainer, Bobby Powell, Jose Javier Rodriguez, Darryl Rouson, Wilton Simpson, Linda Stewart, and Perry Thurston as well as Reps. Joe Geller, Kristin Jacobs, Evan Jenne, Sam Killebrew, Larry Lee, Robert “Bobby O” Olszewski, Paul Renner, Richard Stark, and Wengay “Newt” Newton.
Shaw highlights failing grade from Florida Chamber
With an ironic spin and almost certainly in jest, Democratic state House Rep. Sean Shaw via Twitter touted an F grade on his Legislative Report Card from the Florida Chamber.
Over an image of his poor mark, Shaw tweeted, “Incredibly excited to be recognized as the top consumer advocate & fighter for workers this year by the Florida Chamber of Commerce!”
The Chamber released its annual rankings on Thursday. Each year the pro-business group arrives at scores for lawmakers after tabulating their votes on measures expected to make Florida a more competitive marketplace.
Shaw, who’s vying for the Attorney General seat this year, interpreted his grade as meaning he’s on the side of consumers and workers, rather than job creators.
Republican state legislators performed well in the eyes of the Chamber. Of the 15 “Distinguished Advocates,” recognized this Session, just one is a Democrat: St. Petersburg Rep. Ben Diamond. He was honored for championing a lawsuit-limiting amendment — but he earned a C overall.
A panel charged with overseeing pharmacy professionals went a bit off script this week when its chair suggested that there should be more of a “concerted effort” for pharmacist-backed legislative initiatives.
“If we’re really interested in moving things through the Legislature, I honestly think that there has to be a better process to achieve a consensus,” said Jeenu Philip, chair of the Florida Board of Pharmacy. He said it seems like legislators hear one thing from a pharmacist or association, and the opposite from a different pharmacist.
In recapping pharmacy-related bills, Philip spoke a bit about legislation that would’ve provided patients more access to flu remedies. Sponsored this year by St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes and Orlando Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia, the bills (SB 524 and HB 431) would have let some pharmacies, under the guidance of a physician, test for and treat influenza.
Both pieces of legislation died in committee, something Philip questioned given the severity and uptick of recent influenza cases.
“In light of the past flu season, if there was any year that this bill should’ve passed, this was the year,” Philip said.
Volunteers spotlighted during April
The start of April may bring pranks for some, but for the state, it marks the start of Volunteer Month — and this year, it’s no joke.
Volunteer Florida, the lead service agency in the Sunshine State, is highlighting a Floridian volunteer every day this month as part of its newly launched #VF30in30 initiative.
In announcing the outreach campaign, Gov. Scott pointed to the public’s altruistic efforts to help the state bounce back from Hurricane Irma.
“I’m glad to recognize the service of volunteers across Florida who dedicate their time to make a difference in their communities,” Scott said in a statement. “Floridians dedicated millions of hours during last year’s devastating hurricane season, and we are proud to honor them in April.”
Each day a new volunteer is spotlighted by Volunteer Florida. Kicking off the month was Steve O’Brien, a legendary history teacher in Miami who founded Castaways Against Cancer. The organization raises money each month by kayaking 160 miles from Miami to Key West.
Florida Council of 100 releases educational ‘beacons’
In an ongoing education-focused project tailored to “light the way” for America’s future, the Florida Council of 100 unveiled a research-backed set of values for grades 4-8 over the next 25 years.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan group comprised of business, civic, and academic leaders is throwing its weight behind four pivotal topics, or ‘beacons’: nurturing adolescents’ academic growth, personalizing education to meet the unique needs of each adolescent student; minimizing the disruption caused by school transitions; and making the school like a second family.
“Adolescent students are unique — physically, intellectually, morally, psychologically, and especially social-emotionally,” said David Dyer, project leader and former chair of the Council’s PreK-12 Education Committee. “It takes a special kind of teacher to successfully reach these kids.”
The value-based approach intended for schools to model is the result of a culmination of studies, which included touring successful schools such as Miami’s inner-city Kingdom Academy, where fourth-grade students are learning how to budget, apply for jobs and maintain a bank account.
John Kirtley, chair of the Council’s PreK-12 Education Committee, noted that student success often declines in middle grades. “To reverse this, it is vital that we tailor instruction to the special needs of each adolescent, providing them with a portfolio of educational options,” Kirtley said.
Desloge tours areas still recovering from Irma, Maria
Leon County Commissioner BryanDesloge was among a small delegation of National Association of Counties (NACo) leaders who recently toured parts of Florida and Puerto Rico ravaged by some of the worst natural disasters in the nation’s history.
The delegation visited communities in Monroe and Miami-Dade Counties, Florida and San Juan, Puerto Rico that experienced loss of life, property and critical infrastructure as a result of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“It’s important that we learn from one another and strengthen our capacity to prepare for and respond to natural disasters,” said Desloge, also Immediate Past President of NACo. “There is no higher priority than keeping our residents safe, especially in the face of devastating natural disasters.”
As communities across the country continue recovering from the historic 2017 hurricane season, NACo continues to work with local governments to ensure critical funding and assistance to help communities rebuild. As immediate past President, Desloge serves on the NACo Executive Committee and represents more than 3,000 countries across the nation.
NSF re-ups MagLab grant
The National Science Foundation is renewing its support for the FSU-based National High Magnetic Field Laboratory — the world’s most powerful magnet lab — with a $184 million grant.
The funding will head to National MagLab facilities over the next five years, bringing NSF’s total investment in the project to $867 million. In addition to the lab HQ at FSU, satellite facilities at the UF and Los Alamos National Laboratory will also get some support.
“This announcement means that the world’s most prestigious magnet lab will remain headquartered right here at FSU in Tallahassee, anchoring our university’s pre-eminent science and research efforts and facilitating discoveries that could change our world,” said Gary Ostrander, FSU VP of research.
Anne Kinney, an NSF assistant director, added that the foundation “is proud to support a facility that has broken — and holds — many world records in magnet technology.”
MagLab’s unique instruments include the world’s strongest continuous high-field magnet, which produces a magnetic field 2 million times stronger than the Earth’s. More than 1,700 researchers a year use MagLab to advance their research.
FSU Great Give sets records
The Great Give, Florida State University’s 36-hour online giving campaign, recorded its most successful campaign to date, raising $413,147 for academic programs, student activities and scholarships, the school said this week.
The 7th annual event, which took place March 22-23, drew support from 3,376 donors, including 1,791 Florida State alumni.
“We are overwhelmed by the amount of support that was displayed during this year’s Great Give,” said RobynBertram, donor engagement officer for the Florida State University Foundation Office of Annual Giving. “This event has grown consistently since its inception, and the incredible response we received demonstrates a shared dedication toward advancing our university.”
Throughout the campaign, 12 incentive challenges totaling more than $23,000 fostered a friendly competition among FSU’s donors to give back and boost their chosen project’s chances to receive cash prizes. Departments and units could win incentives for meeting specific criteria such as most donors during a certain time period.
The FSU Marching Chiefs took the $7,500 grand prize with the most alumni donors (299) during the 36-hour campaign. The Student Veterans Center, Home Stretch Microgrants and the colleges of Music, Education and Communication & Information also claimed incentive wins.
Donors may still make a gift to Florida State by visiting give.fsu.edu or calling (850) 644-6000.
Tallahassee dubbed ‘Solar Star’
A new national report shows that the Sunshine State’s capital city is making good use of one its most prevalent resources.
Environment Florida released this week a new report, “Shining Cities 2018: How Smart Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America,” that highlights Tallahassee as a leading “Solar Star” for its commitment to harnessing the sun’s energy.
In terms of megawatts of solar energy per capita, the capital city edged ahead of Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville and Orlando.
“Tallahassee stands out as an example for other cities to follow in Florida and throughout the South. The city is listening to local customers like me who want solar energy in their homes and their communities, and it’s giving different types of solar room to grow,” said Scott Thomasson, the southeast director with Vote Solar.
The ranking stems in large part from the 28-megawatt solar farm contracted by the city. The Tallahassee Solar program provided 20,000 slots for businesses and residents to purchase solar electricity at a fixed rate for the next 20 years.
“Cities like Tallahassee are leading the way to a future powered by clean, renewable energy,” said Jennifer Rubiello, director of Environment Florida Research & Policy Center.
Tallahassee Earth Day plans
Tallahassee announced a list of planned activities this week to celebrate “Earth Month,” most of which will be held when Earth Day hits on April 22.
“As we observe Earth Month in the City of Tallahassee, I encourage everyone in our community to make the commitment to reduce our negative impacts on the environment,” Mayor Andrew Gillum said. “If we are all more environmentally-conscious, we can ensure that our children and grandchildren will have a clean, healthy community to grow up in.”
Planned events include “Cash for Trash,” where those with bulky items, electronic waste, paint, or batteries can drop it off at the Solid Waste Services facility, located at 2727 Municipal Way for a $5 credit on their utility bill.
The docket also includes the city’s Earth Day celebration to be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Thomas P. Smith Water Reclamation Facility, and the “In-Home Edition of Longest Table,” where at 6 p.m. over 100 dinners, each including six to eight guests, will take place simultaneously in homes, restaurants and public spaces throughout the community.
In recognition of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 8-14, Marsy’s Law for Florida will light Florida’s Historic Capitol in purple lights all week “as a reminder that victims should be entitled to equal rights and protections under the law.”
Marsy’s Law for Florida is “an effort to place clear, enforceable rights and protections for victims in Florida’s constitution,” the group said.
The old Capitol is at 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee.
Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:
I subscribe to a service called “Baylawsuits,” which provides tip sheets on the most newsworthy lawsuits coming out of the Pinellas and Hillsborough county courthouses.
Last week, a tip came in that read “Police seized guns from two men last month.” Because of all the attention surrounding the gun-control debate after the massacre in Parkland, this particular tip caught my interest.
A new, statewide “risk prevention” policy allows courts and law enforcement officers to seize weapons from certain individuals who pose a danger to themselves or others due to mental illness.
The statute was one of the many safety laws rolled into the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, albeit one that was largely overshadowed by more controversial policies such as those allowing some school personnel to carry guns and raising the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21.
The statute creates a process for law enforcement officers or agencies to petition a court for a “risk protection order” to temporarily prevent people who are at high risk of harming themselves or others from accessing firearms.
Under this heading, St. Petersburg Police responded to two perceived threats, including those of a 36-year-old St. Petersburg resident who had told police:
— His parents were responsible for the 9/11 attacks;
— His neighbor was a Nazi trying to break into his house;
— He was under surveillance by Russian authorities;
— He had murdered people in St. Petersburg;
— He wanted officers to kill him.
In March, the police sought a court order requiring this St. Petersburg man to surrender all firearms and ammunition or else face charges of a third-degree felony. Judge Anthony Rondolino approved the request via a final risk protection order.
The SPPD recovered a 12-gauge shotgun and a semi-automatic handgun.
Normally, I don’t even read these kinds of stories, much less write about them. I try my best to block out the evils of the outside world while fooling myself into thinking that nothing bad will ever happen to my family or me.
But this time I happened to notice where this St. Petersburg man lived.
Google Maps says he’s just three minutes away by car.
That’s right … someone who believes he has a Nazi for a neighbor and is under surveillance by Russian authorities lives along the path I travel when driving my daughter to school in our golf cart (you’ll notice this man is just minutes away from her school, too).
I understand that many other people live in environments much, much worse than mine. But this privilege provides little comfort when someone so unstable lives so close to you.
Thank God the police have seized his guns.
Thank God the Florida Legislature passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.
Material from USA Today — Florida network was used in this post.
Former House District 72 lawmaker Ray Pilonis holding a fundraiser next month for his comeback campaign.
The April 12 event will be held at Gold Coast Eagle Distributing in Sarasota, 7051 Wireless Court from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
The host committee for the event lists more than two dozen names, including several business leaders, Fort Myers Republican Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, Sarasota Republican Rep. Joe Gruters, who is running for state Senate in 2018, and St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, who Pilon recently endorsed for re-election over his daughter-in-law, Democrat Carrie Pilon.
Pilon represented HD 72 from its creation until 2016, opting to run for state Senate rather than re-election to the Sarasota County district.
His successor, Alex Miller, held the seat for less than a year before stepping down to “spend more time at home.” The seat flipped to Democrat Margaret Good in the ensuing special election.
So far Pilon is the only Republican who has filed for the seat. Buchanan opted to run in neighboring HD 74, which is opening up due to Republican Rep. Julio Gonzalez’ congressional bid, rather than give District 72 another shot.
Also running against Good is Libertarian Alison Foxall, she, too, ran in the special election and pulled about 3 percent of the vote.
Pilon ran up the score in past elections to HD 72, but it remains to be seen whether the so-called “blue wave” that pushed Good past Buchanan will be present come November.