Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 237

Peter Schorsch

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

Joe Henderson: Stock up on popcorn because the governor’s race is getting real

Set controls for the Wayback Machine to 2013, when the race (such as it was) to be Florida’s governor was taking shape.

Incumbent Republican Rick Scott was still battling the perception that he was one of the least popular governors in the country. And Republican-turned-Independent-turned Democrat Charlie Crist was, to put it discreetly, an uninspiring choice to oppose him.

Barely half of registered voters bothered to cast a ballot. Yes, that was an off-year election when turnout is always lower; it was 75 percent in last November’s presidential election. But if the last governor’s race was bland vs. bland, the one shaping up for 2018 should get voters worked up a lot more.

This is getting real.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam just made official what everyone already knew, namely that he is running for the Republican nomination. He is smart, great on the stump, popular, well known, and, as my wife noted this morning when his picture flashed on the TV, “He looks so young.”

In past elections, that combination would likely have guaranteed about 60 percent of the vote. But as has been noted here in recent weeks, this is not the Democratic party that gave us Recycled Charlie.

Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham officially joins the Democratic field today, and that changes everything. The panhandle has been the exclusive property of Republicans in recent elections, but Graham puts it back in play for her party.

As a member of Congress, she did a 14-county farm tour in northern Florida back in 2016, listening to issues and building alliances with community leaders.

Compared to Putnam, Graham is a fiery liberal. Her voting record in Congress, though, shows an independent streak and a willingness to go against her party bosses when she believed it was the right thing to do.

That will play well on the trail.

This might be the biggest thing she has going though (other than the fact she is Bob Graham’s daughter) – she really wants this job. I always suspected Charlie Crist campaigned partly out of revenge for the way Republicans treated him, but mostly because it’s a sweet gig and Charlie craves the spotlight.

I think Graham is running because she is on a mission and being governor is the best way she can accomplish that. She is a ferocious advocate for the environment, strongly opposing fracking and off-shore oil drilling.

She has been building support with state seniors on issues like Medicare and Social Security.

Graham will have a fight on her hands for the nomination. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Christopher King have already declared, and Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine might jump in too. It’s too soon to predict an outcome, given variables that include President Trump’s popularity (or lack) on the next election day.

Here is one safe prediction, though. Compared to recent governor’s races, this one is going to be entertaining. Better stock up on popcorn.

Florida Democrats jump on 100-day bandwagon, outline list of initial ‘successes’

For much of the past century, the first 100 days of a new presidency has become a traditional benchmark for success, a standard first set by Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

With Republican Donald Trump’s administration, the first three months were — according to many — a mixed bag, at best.

Similarly, the Florida Democratic Party is also jumping on the 100-day bandwagon, offering its own list of successes in the campaign to turn the Sunshine State blue.

In a statement from newly elected Chair Stephen Bittel, the FDP — unlike Trump, supposedly — has successfully met several of its 100-day goals, while keeping his commitment to “major progress” toward rebuilding the state Party.

“During my campaign for Chair, I promised to implement much-needed reforms and secure resources that would rebuild the Florida Democratic Party’s grassroots infrastructure,” Bittel said Tuesday. “I am proud to announce an impressive list of accomplishments, including the hiring of Sally Boynton Brown as our new president, expanding the FDP political, field and communications staff, winning local elections and investing in the growth of our DEC clubs and caucuses. We are only getting started and will launch additional new initiatives soon.”

After receiving more than 50 percent of the vote for chair, Bittel said he “wasted no time” delivering on campaign promises to expand the party.

According to Bittel, the first 100 days for the FDP included:

— Raising over $1 million to fund an expanded party and grassroots support.

— Nearly doubled online fundraising (compared to the first 100 days of 2016).

— Brought national Democratic leaders to the state to engage the grassroots — including visits from Sen. Corey Booker, New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio, Sen. Bernie Sanders and DNC Chair Tom Perez. Organized a rally with Perez and Sanders. Former Vice President Joe Biden was recently announced as the keynote speaker for June’s annual Leadership Blue Gala.

— Immediately called for state Sen. Frank Artiles to resign after making racist and sexist remarks to two African-American colleagues. Pressure from the community and Democrats across the state resulted in his resignation and a special election in Senate District 40.

— Won four hotly contested municipal elections and is currently participating in three more elections, including the special election in SD 40 (a result of pressuring Artiles to resign).

— Concluded a national search for new FDP President and hired Boynton Brown.

— Expanded key FDP staff to provide more resources throughout the state. New hires include Johanna Cervone as Deputy Communications Director and Hispanic Press Secretary; Giovanna Salucci as Deputy Digital Director; Nabilah Islam as Finance Director; and Steve Jackson as Statewide Field Director.

— Completed the newly created Janet Reno Challenge Grant and awarded $100,000 to 30 Democratic clubs and caucuses to increase engagement and rebuild grassroots activism in all 67 counties.

— Bittel visited at least one county per week throughout the state and vows to visit an additional 12 counties throughout the month of May.

— Established a charter and bylaws revision committee to draft a new, more inclusive governing structure for the Party.

— Established regular training programs for local DEC’s, clubs and caucuses including communications and social media training to ensure Florida families hear our message of economic security, job creation, and equal opportunity.

— Expanded Florida Democratic Party presence and offices in South Florida.

Medical marijuana: OK, it time to drop caps on dispensaries

To be frank, it was a pretty smart move, in retrospect.

As competing bills to implement Amendment 2 get bogged down mid-Session, the hot-button flashpoints began: The number of new medical marijuana licensees, as well as the process to award those highly-valued “Willy Wonka” golden tickets.

Current license holders have a point: “We invested millions (at your statutory direction) in anticipation of Amendment 2 passing to become operational.”

And, in case anyone forgot, investors are losing their shirts waiting for the number of patients to grow to the point where they can start recouping investments.

Not bad.

The pro-Amendment 2 folks also have a pretty good argument. Not so much an argument; more like a threat.

Essentially, it’s this: “71 percent of voters supported this. They are going to be mad if they can’t get cheap medical weed.”

“And, by the way, did we mention that 71 percent of voters supported it?”

You see, things are starting to get bogged down.

To compel current medical cannabis licensees to back off their position, somebody (with some strategy smarts) said: “OK, let’s show them. Let them keep their licenses, but make those licenses nearly worthless.”

Then, former Sen. Frank Artiles introduced an amendment limiting licensees to three dispensaries each.

What would that mean if the bill’s amendment to cap dispensaries (which had been adopted) became law? The current crop of more than a half-dozen entities — those that already went through the legal/financial/statutory gauntlet to become a fully-functional and legal medical marijuana grower/producer/sellers — would be limited to just three outlets. (They can also secure home delivery — in limited amounts.)

That would result in either severely restricting access to medical marijuana to anyone living around a major metropolitan area, or make the cost of the product would be extremely expensive. Or both.

And considering that local municipalities are proactively limiting those numbers through local zoning ordinances, this is piling on to a level that could put medical marijuana out of reach for most patients — particularly those who really need it.

Let us step back, shall we?

At first, these caps, from what I have heard from many sources, were not meant to be something to become law. Even pro-Amendment 2 folks supported it. They were doing such — and this is a vital point — only as a means of leveraging to acquire more licenses, with fewer restrictions.

After all, they were looking for more access, fewer hurdles, and lower prices.

In short, less would be more — or at least that was the theory.

But it’s not.

In the present circumstance, less is less. And caps on dispensaries means less access, fewer available products, and fewer licensees. But when it comes to cost, less is more — medical weed prices would skyrocket, that is.

To be clear, pro-Amendment 2 folks are really not looking for limited access and higher prices — it seems obvious they were pushing this notion simply to upset the game.

They are seeking more product at a lower price; this was a way (they hoped) to get to that end.

That is what they did, and succeeded.

But now the dust has settled, and the Senate bill still has caps in it.

With only three full days left, it may just be time to back off.

Caps on dispensaries — at any number — helps nobody. What it does is hurts those who took a chance, making an investment in medical cannabis. It also hurts those who live in rural (and even some suburban) areas.

Also, dispensary caps hurt patients — particularly those who are very sick or need to travel.

And, most of all, it hurts the 71 percent who supported medical marijuana for severely ill patients.

It’s time to drop the caps and move on.

Sunburn for 5.2.17 – Gwen Graham’s ready to launch; Adam Putnam, Matt Caldwell make 2018 plans official; Joe Negron optimistic on budget, gambling legislation; Mike Dew to FDOT? Mama Wiggins last Session

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

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


Graham is ready to make it official.

The former Democratic congresswoman from Tallahassee is expected to announce her 2018 gubernatorial bid on Tuesday. The announcement will make Graham, the daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham, the third Democrat to enter the race to replace Gov. Rick Scott.

Her entry has long-been expected. When she announced she wouldn’t run for re-election in 2016, she told supporters in a video announcement that she was “seriously considering running for governor in 2018.”

Since then she has dropped plenty of hints about her plan, even saying she would be poised to run a 67-county strategy. And she’s been slowly building the framework, traveling the state meeting with Democratic clubs and chatting with voters about their priorities.

Then-Congresswoman Gwen Graham spent one of her “work days” last year at Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City.

In February, she launched Our Florida, a state political committee expected to fund her 2018 gubernatorial run, and transferred $250,000 from her congressional coffers to the state committee. The committee is chaired by Stephanie Toothaker, an attorney with Tripp Scott who served as special counsel to her father.

The committee had about $186,903 cash on hand at the end of March, state records show.

Her federal campaign coffers aren’t completely empty. According to federal campaign finance records, Graham had about $1 million left in her federal account at the end of the first quarter.

The Democratic field is becoming more crowded by the minute. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King have already announced their runs, while Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando attorney John Morgan are still considering a run.

State records show Gillum has raised $569,940 for his political committee, Forward Florida, since February 2016. The political committee had more than $105,000 cash on hand at the end March.

Gillum raised $241,736 in March for his official campaign, state records show.

King, who filed to run in March, brought in nearly $1.2 million in March. However, that sum includes $1 million King gave his own campaign.

State records show Levine put $2 million of his own money into his political committee, All About Florida, in March.

LOOK FOR EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics, to be an early endorser of Graham’s campaign.

GRAHAM’S POLITICS MOLDED BY FATHER, FLORIDA LIFE via Scott Powers of Florida PoliticsGraham is a woman who grew up in politics, daughter of legendary Democrat Bob Graham who served as governor when she was in junior high and high school, and as U.S. Senator through much of her adulthood. It’s as close to Florida gets to a Democratic royal family: Her grandfather was a state senator; her uncle, publisher of The Washington Post. The Grahams have been established in South Florida for generations, though she has spent most of her life in Tallahassee. From her father, she shares moderate positions on many economic issues and deeply-held liberal viewpoints on Florida’s environment and justice, and a strong alliance with organized labor. The National Journal rated her the most independent member of the Florida delegation.

Her voting record in Congress showed that mix of moderate economic and foreign affairs politics. And she cast some votes progressive Democrats hold against her, supporting new leadership against U.S. House Speaker. Nancy Pelosi, and for the Keystone XL Pipeline, keeping the military prison open at Guantánamo Bay, and for an attempt to suspend debt relief to Iran. But on other issues such as her efforts to help restore Apalachicola Bay and the Everglades, to support veterans seeking jobs, women’s rights, children’s issues, she’s been reliable for Democrats. Consequently, only a handful of the strongest right-wing or left-wing groups scored her exceptionally well or horribly bad on their respective political agendas, while others often crossed over to give her at least a little, but restrained love.


— Orlando Sentinel – Graham’s daughter steps into politics“Her grandfather once ran for governor. She was 13 when her father told her that he was going to run for governor. She graduated from high school in Tallahassee and raised her own children there. She considered running for School Board recently … She may not be forever 39, but a new political generation of Grahams is born.”

— New York Times, In Florida, a chance for Democrats to win one back – “Graham, a self-described ‘glass half-full’ person and mother of two sons and a daughter, said she decided to run last year after she got fed up with Congress’s inability to function. She contrasted that with what she described as her father’s ability to find common ground with Republicans and not demonize his opponents.”

— POLITICO’s profile: Gwen Graham – “Graham knows a thing or two about politics … Echoing the typical mantra of congressional challengers, she is calling Washington dysfunctional and pledging to be an outsider and agent of change … while this is Graham’s first run for office, she’s no stranger to the campaign trail.”

— Tallahassee Democrat, Gwendrew: Is 2018 the year of the Tallahassee governor? – “Voters have a chance to make history with either of the two Tallahassee hopefuls. If Graham were elected, she’d become Florida’s first female governor. If Gillum were elected, he’d become the state’s first African-American governor. If either were elected, they’d be the first person from Tallahassee to take up residence in the Governor’s Mansion since LeRoy Collins more than a half-century ago.”

— Tampa Bay Times, Gwen Graham’s husband has cancer, delaying her decision on governor’s race“Every part of me wants to run for governor, that’s what I feel passionate about, that’s what I know I need to do for the state of Florida, but things happen in life that could take me off that path. I hope not.”

HOW CONSERVATIVE WAS GRAHAM IN CONGRESS? NOT VERY ACCORDING TO A LEADING CONSERVATIVE GROUP via Kartik Krishnaiyer of The Florida Squeeze – The American Conservative Union (ACU) … used the Americans for Conservative Action (ACA) to rate individual legislative voting record. The assumption to this point has been that Graham represents the establishment mainstream position, while Gillum represents an establishment, progressive position. Potential candidate John Morgan represents an insurgent progressive position while \King, an announced candidate doesn’t register ideologically. Graham voted with the “conservative” position just twice in 24 scored votes – granted those two (the closing of Guantanamo and the Iran Nuclear Deal) were high-profile pieces of legislation where opposition had ramifications for the ability of the United States to engage in productive diplomacy abroad. But on domestic issues, Graham’s score was perfect from a liberal perspective based on the ACU’s votes. This is something to ponder no doubt, but inconclusive until we see the 2016 scores.

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PUTNAM ENTERS 2018 GOVERNOR’S RACE AS ODDS-ON FAVORITE TO WIN GOP NOMINATION via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – “I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world because I get to call Florida home,” Putnam, 42, said in a written statement. “It’s our responsibility as Floridians to keep our economy at work, to increase access to high quality education, to fiercely protect our personal freedoms, to keep our state safe, and to welcome our veterans home with open arms.” With more than $4 million in his political committee account, statewide name ID among Republicans and longtime Florida roots, Putnam is the odds-on favorite to become his party’s nominee in the eyes of Tallahassee insiders and Republican Party activists. The expectation of Putnam’s candidacy has kept other top-name Republicans from seeking the seat that Gov. Scott is leaving due to term limits.

AMANDA BEVIS MOVES TO CAMPAIGN: An email announcing Putnam’s candidacy on Monday came from Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida confirmed that Bevis, who has been a Deputy Chief of Staff in Putnam’s Ag. Commissioner office, has transitioned to the campaign. Bevis is also the wife of Associated Industries of Florida honcho Brewster Bevis and the mother of two adorable young boys.

Adam Putnam, seen here with the flag of Florida behind him, brings name ID and government experience to the race — which in the Age of Trump could come back to bite him.

EMAIL I DIDN’T OPEN: “The paperwork is in…” via Putnam campaign consultant, Justin Hollis. Really, “the paperwork is in…,” that’s how you tell supporters you’re running for Florida governor? Why not “Please clap!”


ANDREW GILLUM LAYS OUT THE WELCOME MAT via Geoff Burgan, Communciations Director, Gillum for Governor: “The Gillum for Governor campaign welcomes two former Members of Congress to this race – Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and former Congresswoman Gwen Graham. We’re excited to offer our different approach to solving the challenges Florida faces on healthcare, the economy, public education, protecting our environment, and commonsense gun safety reforms. At this critical time, Florida needs a new, fresh direction and we look forward to debating the best way to achieve that. In fact, we’re especially excited to contrast our ideas with Mr. Putnam, who is essentially running to continue Governor Rick Scott’s seven years of failed policies that have hurt Florida families and created an economy that has left too many behind.”



MATT CALDWELL FILES TO RUN FOR AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida PoliticsCaldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican, had long been expected to enter the race … he had “every intention of filing to run in August.” But with the 2017 Legislative Session nearing an end and a special session becoming more unlikely, Caldwell decided to pull the trigger sooner, so he can start focusing on the statewide campaign. “We’re just going to get out of session and start focusing on grassroots,” said Caldwell.

MIAMI GOP SEEKS UNICORN CANDIDATE TO SAVE DEM-TRENDING ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN SEAT via Marc Caputo of POLITICO FloridaLehtinen’s surprise announcement that she’s quitting Congress has left the GOP with a needle-in-the-haystack problem: finding a socially moderate Republican in a party where they’re in short supply. And even if Republicans find the right candidate for Ros-Lehtinen’s seat next year, there’s no guarantee he or she will run … On the Republican side, few generated buzz among GOP insiders like former Miami-Dade school board member Raquel Regalado, a social moderate like the retiring congresswoman. Many of the other big name Miami Republicans considering a bid — Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, state Rep. Jeanette Núñez and state Sen. Anitere Flores — are more conservative than Regalado. And they all sound slightly less enthusiastic than she when it comes musing about a potential bid so early. On Sunday, Florida Democratic insiders quickly began talking up the chances of state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, who has a record of winning tough races. Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez — who had been courted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and met with its political director recently in Miami — as well as University of Miami academic adviser Michael A. Hepburn and businessman Scott Fuhrman, who lost to Ros-Lehtinen last year.

RENE GARCIA ‘SERIOUSLY CONSIDERING’ RUNNING TO REPLACE ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN IN CONGRESS via Kevin Derby and Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State NewsGarcia kept the door open to running, saying he was taking a look at the job after Ros-Lehtinen announced she would not run again in 2018. Garcia said he would make a final decision after the Legislature adjourns at the end of the week. The South Florida Republican interned in Ros-Lehtinen’s office from 1993-1997. The experience … greatly shaped how he legislates and runs his own office in Tallahassee. “I’m waiting for this session to be over with, but I interned at Ileana’s office for quite some time,” Garcia said. “I modeled my office exactly after hers. She has done an excellent job in constituent services and has been a true voice for so many. To follow in her footsteps would be an honor for me but, to this point, I have to wait until session is over with to make a decision.

DCCC PUTS VERN BUCHANAN AND MARIO DIAZ-BALART NEAR THE TOP OF ITS ‘2018 RETIREMENT WATCH LIST’ via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Sarasota’s Buchanan and Miami-Dade’s Diaz Balart are listed second and third, respectively. “Given the negative national environment for the Republican Party, the DCCC knows that there are more retirements to come, particularly in districts that tend to vote for Democrats in other elected positions,” says Tyler Law, national press secretary at the DCCC. While Buchanan barely survived to win his very first run for his seat in 2006 against Democrat Christine Jennings, he has not since faced a serious challenge. He crushed Democrat Jan Schneider last fall, winning by almost 20 percentage points. In response to the DCCC, Buchanan spokesperson Gretchen Anderson quipped, “Good to see they still have a sense of humor over there.”

DAISY BAEZ FILES TO RUN TO REPLACE FRANK ARTILES IN SD 40 via Florida Politics — Baez, who was elected to the Florida House in November, filed her paperwork to run for Senate District 40, her campaign announced Monday. Baez will likely compete in a special election for the newly vacated seat. “I’m running for State Senate which is where I believe the most good can be accomplished on behalf of Floridians,” she said in a statement. “The people of Miami-Dade deserve to have high quality public schools for their children, good-paying jobs that provide economic security for working families, and access to quality, affordable healthcare. I look forward to continuing my steadfast advocacy on behalf of Florida families in the State Senate.”

THIRD REPUBLICAN FILES FOR HOUSE DISTRICT 51 via Orlando Rising – Republican Tim Tumulty announced he would run again for House District 51, where he unsuccessfully challenged Republican Rep. Tom Goodson last year. “I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had over the years to develop a deep understanding of our community,” said Tumulty. “As the former Mayor of Cocoa Beach, I saw firsthand how the decisions made in Tallahassee have a direct impact on our community and our way of life.” Goodson switched to the reliably Republican HD 51 from HD 50 last year after former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli termed out of the Legislature. He beat Tumulty with 61.7 percent of the vote in the August 2016 Republican Primary. Goodson is now termed out, making way for Tumulty and a pair of other Republicans to duke it out for the Space Coast seat. So far, Thomas O’Neill and Taylor Sirois are the only other candidates to enter the race.

LEGISLATIVE HOPEFULS FILE — Dozens of candidates have already thrown their hat in the race for House and Senate races in 2018. Democrat Preston Bartholomew Anderson is challenging Republican Rep. Jayer Williamson in House District 3. Republican Brigittee Smith is challenging Republican Rep. Charlie Stone in House District 22. Libertarian Joseph Hannoush filed to run in House District 25, challenging Republican Rep. Thomas Leek. Democrat Tryan Rayaad Basil filed to run against Republicans William McBride and Rep. David Santiago in House District 27. Democrat Lee Vernon Mangold have filed to run in House District 28. Democrat Paul Chandler and Republican Bobby Olszewski have filed to run in House District 44; both are vying to replace Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, who is not running again. Republicans Thomas Patrick O’Neill, Tyler Isaac Sirois, and Tim Tumulty have filed to run in House District 41. Democrat Carlos Frontela has filed to replace House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz in House District 62. Democrat Stephanie April Myers has joined the House District 93 race. Republicans Luis M. Rolle and Anthoy Rodriguez have filed to run in House District 118.

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JOE NEGRON SEES ‘GOOD PROGRESS’ TOWARD BUDGET DEAL AS SESSION ENTERS FINAL WEEK via Florida Politics – Senate President Joe Negron held out hope Monday evening that he and House Speaker Richard Corcoran could resolve lingering disagreements about the state budget in time to present a bill Tuesday and adjourn as scheduled on Friday. “I know there was some real good progress made today on a number of issues, particularly in the environmental budget. If we work diligently through the rest of the afternoon and evening, I’m still optimistic that we can get it done,” Negron told reporters following Monday’s floor session. “I think it’s more important to get it done right than to get it done quickly,” he said. “But my goal is to be able to have a budget on the desk sometime tomorrow.”

NEGRON: LAWMAKERS ‘GETTING CLOSE’ TO AGREEMENT ON GAMBLING via Florida Politics Senate President Negron on Monday said lawmakers are “getting close” to a deal on a gambling overhaul bill for the year. The same day, however, a House Democrat who’s on the Conference Committee on Gaming tweeted “Nope” about the same thing … When asked how close, Negron said, “I don’t want to give you odds,” smiling. The 2017 Legislative Session is scheduled to end on Friday … Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat on the conference committee, (was) asked specifically whether there was any chance of a bill this year (and) said “no,” adding that “obviously the Senate President may know things I do not.”

NEGRON’S TOP PRIORITY HEADED TO HOUSE FLOOR — One day after the Senate OK’d a top priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran it appears Senate President Joe Negron’s top priority will get a hearing in the House. The House placed a bill (SB 10) that would build a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee on the Special Order calendar Tuesday. The decision comes one day after the Senate approved a joint resolution to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would allow voters to decide whether to increase the homestead tax exemption.

HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION EXPANSION WINS SUPERMAJORITY VOTE IN SENATE via Florida Politics – The Senate approved a proposed ballot measure Monday to raise the value of Florida’s homestead exemption, improving chances that separate legislation to expand gambling would survive the Legislative Session. The vote was 28-10, within the required three-fifths majority. House leaders, who have been reluctant to open Florida to additional gambling options, have made approval of legislation to do that contingent on passage of the homestead exemption increase. Several senators referred to those stakes, but sponsor Tom Lee maintained that the resolution was about keeping people in their homes. “Let’s respect property rights. Let’s give the people the opportunity to make this decision,” Lee said. “They will make the right call.”

NOT THE SMOOTHEST QUOTE OF THE DAY: “If you give red meat to animals, they will take it.” — Ft. Lauderdale Democrat Perry Thurston on how voters would say ‘yes’ to a homestead exemption amendment without understanding the brunt the initiative could bring with it.

TAX BREAKS CLEAR SENATE APPROPRIATIONS AS SESSION ENTERS FINAL SCHEDULED WEEK via Florida Politics – The Senate Appropriations Committee approved some $75 million in tax breaks Monday, including repeal of Florida’s tampon tax, considered central to passing an $83 billion budget and ending the Legislative Session on time Friday. The committee also approved across-the-board pay raises for state workers, with extra money for high-risk employees, plus an option to participate in a defined-contribution retirement plan instead of a traditional pension. … The House approved some $300 million in tax breaks and holidays, but would go along with the Senate version, Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala said. “I believe that’s an agreed-upon bill,” he said. “I think all together that’s $75 or $80 million.”
He’s not himself when he’s hungry: Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala makes a point with a Snickers bar in response to a question from AP reporter Gary Fineout on Monday.

ASSOCIATED INDUSTRIES SAYS TAX CUTS WILL HELP STATE FLOURISH via CEO and President Tom Feeney: “AIF supports reducing taxes, such as the business rent tax, to attract new businesses to the Sunshine State. With Florida being the only state in the nation to charge taxes on the lease of commercial property, AIF supports a gradual reduction and eventual elimination of the business rent tax to the benefit of Florida small and large businesses.”

RETAILERS UPSET DISASTER PREPAREDNESS TAX CUT IN JEOPARDY via FRF President & CEO R. Scott Shalley: “The entire State of Florida was affected by hurricanes in 2016. This Tax Holiday provides an extra incentive to consumers to ensure that Floridians are prepared and protected from dangerous storms. Proper preparation saves money and lives. We strongly encourage legislative leaders to reconsider this decision and include the Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday in their final tax package.”

CHILDREN’S HOSPITALS FACING CUTS via FACH president Daniel Armstrong: “Florida’s children’s hospitals and their parent facilities simply cannot sustain Medicaid rate cuts of this magnitude. Across Florida, hundreds of thousands of children and their parents depend on the highly specialized and advanced medical treatment provided by our hospitals every day.”

$1.5 BILLION TRIUMPH BILL PASSES SENATE via John Henderson of the Northwest Florida Daily News – The Senate vote was 35-0. The final House vote on the bill is scheduled … and state Sen. George Gainer and Rep. Jay Trumbull … said they expect it to pass that chamber, as well. “It is great news,” Trumbull said. The bill frees up money BP has agreed to pay out for economic restoration of the eight most affected counties — Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf, Franklin and Wakulla — from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The state has the first payment — $300 million — in its coffers, waiting to be released to the Panhandle counties. Another $1.2 billion is proposed to be paid out through yearly installment through 2033.

PANHANDLE LEADERS GRATEFUL via Florida’s Great Northwest CEO Kim Wilmes: “After years of economic harm and months of legislative discussions, the Florida Senate has delivered good news to the communities of Northwest Florida. After collaborating positively with the House, the Senate has approved a Triumph Gulf Coast process that will transform the economy of the counties that were so devastated by the BP oil spill, pointing the way to a much brighter economic future for the region.”

USF COULD LAND ANOTHER $14M FROM STATE FOR DOWNTOWN PROJECT via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – While much of the state budget for next year remains unresolved, House and Senate leaders are closing in on a plan to give at least $14 million for the new downtown Tampa medical education and research center that the University of South Florida is expected to begin construction on this fall. USF had sought almost $17 million, but if it gets at least the $14 million, the project will remain on track, said Lara Wade-Martinez, director of media affairs at USF. The plan is for a building on Channelside Drive that would give USF a downtown presence and generate $73 million annually in local economic activity, according to USF officials. The total price tag on the project is nearly $153 million. Already the state has already given about $79 million to the project, including $22.5 million last year.

AFTER RESIGNATION, MOST OF ARTILES’ PENDING BILLS WERE WITHDRAWN via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – After Artiles abruptly resigned from the Senate in the wake of scandal, his 36 bills fell to his co-sponsors for them to handle, if they chose to. Only five senators did that — salvaging only 11 of those bills. Among the rest, 20 of Artiles’ pending bills were pulled Monday from getting any further consideration, including one of his top priorities — a measure that would require Miami-Dade residents to elect a county sheriff, a job Artiles was said to have had his eye on. Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta said Senate rules dictate that after Artiles resigned, “a co-sponsor has seven days to transfer the bill to his or her name. If the bills are not transferred, they are withdrawn from consideration.”

SENATE GUN BILL GOES STRAIGHT TO HOUSE FLOOR — AFTER ZERO CONSIDERATION via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Lawmakers in the House will take up SB 616 — a Senate-approved proposal that would allow concealed weapons permit-holders to store their guns with security while visiting state courthouses. The Rules & Policy Committee, chaired by future House speaker and Miami Lakes Republican Rep. Jose Oliva, put the bill on the daily floor calendar after senators passed it on … And at least one House member already sought to use the bill as a vehicle for other changes in Florida’s gun laws. Because the bill did not have a House companion, it’s brand-new to lawmakers in that chamber, and they won’t have a chance to first vet it in a policy committee. The scheduling move is highly unusual and also deprives members of the public a chance to address their representatives at a public meeting before the floor vote.

SENATE ADDS CIVIL CITATIONS, PASSES SUPREME COURT REPORTING BILL via Florida Politics The Senate on Monday passed the House’s Supreme Court reporting bill, but after Sen. Anitere Flores had tacked on as an amendment her plan to expand the use of juvenile civil citations. Without debate, senators passed the measure (HB 301) on a 35-1 vote. Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, was the lone ‘no’ vote. Because of the change, the bill will return to the House … “I’m pleased to hear about the Senate’s support for timely justice for Floridians,” (House sponsor Frank) White said later Monday afternoon. “I hope to have the opportunity to discuss Sen. Flores’ civil citations language with my House colleagues on the floor this week.”

SHOULD ZIP CODES DETERMINE JUVENILE ARREST RECORDS? THE SENATE DOESN’T THINK SO via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – When a juvenile gets caught shoplifting or trespassing or smoking marijuana in Florida, what happens next depends on their ZIP code. In some parts of the state, the child is automatically put into a program that diverts first-time offenders from arrest so that they can avoid a criminal record that could follow them the rest of their lives. In other areas, however, they face arrest — and a record. “We don’t think that’s fair,” said Rev. Bernice Powell Jackson, pastor of the First United Church of Tampa and an activist in Hillsborough County. “We don’t think that’s equal justice.” … the Florida Senate voted 35-1 to require law enforcement agencies to use pre-arrest diversion programs instead of arresting first-time offenders younger than 18 accused of low-level crimes, including underage drinking, disorderly conduct, theft and battery other than domestic violence.

GREYHOUND STEROID BAN DIES IN SENATE via Florida PoliticsA bipartisan bill banning the use of steroids on greyhound racing dogs is likely dead for the 2017 Legislative Session. The last committee of reference for the Senate bill (SB 512) had been Appropriations, which did not hear it Monday at its last meeting. The House version (HB 743) passed earlier this month on an 84-32 vote. “We had the votes to pass it,” said Senate bill sponsor Dana Young. The Senate bill cleared two previous committees on 8-2 and 9-2 margins. “Unfortunately, we were not able to get it on the last agenda.”

HOUSE, SENATE APPROVE CAMERON MAYHEW ACT — The Senate voted 28-6 on Monday to approve a bill (HB 1239) that would stiffen penalties for drivers who fail to stop for school buses and cause serious bodily injury or death. The bill — named after Cameron Mayhew, a Fort Myers High School sophomore who died in June 2016 after being struck by a driver who didn’t stop for a school bus — heads to the governor, after the House voted unanimously to approve the bill last week. “No parent should have to endure the loss of a child, especially in such a heartbreaking manner as the Mayhew family lost Cameron,” said Rep. Dane Eagle, who sponsored the bill in the House. “In this case, it is clear our laws were insufficient to appropriately address the circumstances of this tragic incident. I am hopeful the stiffer penalties provided in this legislation, and by making them mandatory, we can prevent this from happening again.”

Two victims of cystic fibrosis, Taylor Chesney, left, of Tallahassee and Brian Callanan, founder and executive director of the Cystic Fibrosis Lifestyle Foundation, from Miami, both pose for photos during the Light Up CF event by the Cystic Fibrosis Lifestyle Foundation at the Florida Capitol.

AFTER YEARS OF WORK, ESTOPPEL BILL HEADS TO GOVERNOR via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The House passed the Senate’s bill (SB 398) on a 117-0 vote, sending it to Gov. Scott … Estoppel letters, or estoppel certificates, are an obscure part of some real estate closings. They’re legal documents sent by a homeowner’s association, detailing any amount owed to the association. Usually, that’s unpaid fines or association fees left by owners who defaulted on their mortgage. Title agents and Realtors have wanted to shift the cost of preparing such letters from themselves back to the associations … preparing estoppel letters takes time and research, costing anywhere from $15 to $400. Among other things, the bill going would allow an association “to charge a maximum fee of $250 for the preparation and delivery of an estoppel certificate, if there are no delinquent amounts owed to the association (and) an additional maximum fee of $150, if there is a delinquent amount owed to the association.”

RICK SCOTT SIGNS TWO BILLS, INCLUDING ONE TO HELP FOSTER KIDS GET LICENSES via Kristina Webb of the Palm Beach Post – Senate Bill 60, known as the “Keys to Independence Act,” cements a pilot program Scott signed into law three years ago and expands it to children in settings outside foster homes, including children living with relatives or non-relative caregivers … Under the law, which went into effect with Scott’s signature, teens in foster care in Florida could be eligible for help from the state to pay for a driver education course “for up to six months after the date the child reaches permanency status or six months after the date the child turns 18 years of age” … The program also could pay for “the costs of licensure and costs incidental to licensure” for children in foster care who are able to show that those costs are preventing them from staying employed or attending school. Scott also signed SB 7004, retains the public record exemptions for biomedical and cancer research programs within the Department of Health.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS:  Gov. Scott will highlight job growth during a press conference at 10 a.m. at SunteckTTS, 4500 Salisbury Road in Jacksonville. Scott will then head to Clearwater to announce jobs at 2:30 p.m. at Vology, 15950 Bay Vista Drive.

HAPPENING TODAY – AGENCIES HOLD WORKSHOPS TO DISCUSS OPIOID CRISIS — The Department of Children and Families, Department of Health, and the Department of Law Enforcement will hold workshops to discuss the opioid crisis. The agencies will hold a workshop at 9 a.m. in the Longboat Key Room of the Bradenton Area Convention Center, 1 Haben Blvd in Palmetto. A second workshop is scheduled for 3 p.m. in the Orange County Board of County Commission Chambers, 201 South Rosalind Ave. in Orlando.

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

JOE HENDERSON: HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION INCREASE WOULD BE GREAT POLITICS, LOUSY GOVERNING via Florida Politics – If the measure gets past the legislative hoops and on the 2018 ballot as a constitutional amendment, I imagine it would easily break the 60 percent threshold required for passage … Homeowners would have more cash. And local governments, where the real heavy-lifting is done to provide needed services to the home folks, would have a meltdown. One estimate said it could reduce property tax proceeds by about $700 million overall. Bigger cities would likely be affected more. Something would have to give. In Hillsborough County, property taxes help pay for things like public libraries, water management, special lighting districts, stormwater drainage and basic services like firefighters. Tallahassee responds with something that, if passed, could make it harder for local leaders to provide the services people expect. But hey, Republicans would celebrate the fact that they cut taxes. It’s great politics, but lousy governing.

MARTIN DYCKMAN: ELIAN GONZALEZ, A PAINFUL CHAPTER IN CUBAN-AMERICAN HISTORY via Florida Politics – Some things in life ought to be above politics, none more so than a parent’s relationship to a child. How this truth was sorely tested in Florida not so long ago is the subject of a new documentary that we should all want to see. CNN reportedly will air it sometime after it begins to appear in theaters later this month. As described in the Miami Herald, it relates the “painful chapter in Cuban-American history” that began early on Thanksgiving morning 1999 when two South Florida fishermen found 5-year Elian Gonzalez tied to an inner tube in the ocean. His mother and 10 others who were trying to flee Cuba had drowned two days before when their boat swamped. His father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, was still in Cuba, where Elian had frequently stayed with him after his parents’ divorce. He had not consented to his ex-wife removing the boy from the island. Relatives in Miami took custody of the child and refused the demands of his father and the Cuban government to send him home, turning a human saga of death and survival into an international incident.

TYLER TECH’S TROUBLES IN SOUTH FLORIDA RAISE SEVERAL RED FLAGS via Peter Schorsch for Florida Politics – Tyler Technologies has had a bumpy road in various South Florida cities. Last year alone, both the Village of Key Biscayne and the City of Hollywood terminated contracts with Tyler Tech. In Key Biscayne, officials tried to work with the company to get its online permitting software to function properly. After three years, they eventually gave up. Now, the City of Miami Beach is experiencing the same problems. Residents, contractors, and even city officials complained that the functionality they expected is simply not there. On April 26, the Miami Beach Commission decided to set up a task force to compile a list of all the unresolved issues they are experiencing. That way, the can present they findings to Tyler Technologies, and demand an explanation on how they intend to fix all these problems. Having two (and possibly three) contracts terminated for inefficiency over the last year — and in the same region — should probably disqualify a company from being awarded another multimillion-dollar contract to provide the same services. It behooves governments to do their homework before spending millions of taxpayer dollars and awarding future contracts to Tyler Technologies, in light of its negative track record in South Florida and across the U.S.

CHARITY HEAD SAYS SHE GAVE CORRINE BROWN’S STAFF BANK ACCESS via Jason Dearen of The Associated Press – The head of a purported charity for poor children that federal prosecutors say former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown used as a personal slush fund testified that she gave the congresswoman’s chief of staff unfettered access to the organization’s bank accounts. Former One Door for Education Foundation President Carla Wiley has pleaded guilty to fraud for using the charity’s money for her own personal expenses amounting to about $140,000. After reaching a plea agreement, she testified at Brown’s federal fraud trial in Jacksonville. Wiley said she started One Door to help fund education for the poorest children, but that it instead turned into a money source for Brown’s events. Prosecutors say Brown and her chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, financed lavish trips and other personal expenses with funds donated to One Door. Brown, who has pleaded not guilty, has defended herself saying Simmons spent the money without her knowledge. Simmons has also pleaded guilty, and is expected to testify against Brown. Wiley said shortly after starting her charity it had fundraising problems, so she closed its bank account. She reopened it after she met Simmons.

COURT SETS ORAL ARGUMENT IN FSU ‘GAME DAY’ GUIDE CASE via Florida Politics – A firearms-rights organization appealing a trial judge’s ruling involving a Florida State University game day guide will get its day in appellate court. The 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee set oral argument in the case for June 13, dockets show. Florida Carry appealed a lower court decision last year. The university had printed and distributed a college football pamphlet to be distributed before games, It said campus visitors were not allowed to store guns in cars parked in university lots. But that violates a court decision that said another school in Florida was wrong to ban guns in cars on campus. FSU changed the information in the guide to comport with the ruling and a circuit judge dismissed the case as moot.

AS ORANGE COUNTY MAYOR’S RACE AWAITS MAJOR CANDIDATES, CAN RICH CROTTY RUN AGAIN? via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising Crotty, who served two-plus terms leading the county’s administration over the past decade, is considering running again. No major candidates have entered the race yet. The Orange County Charter has untested language about whether someone can run for a third term as mayor, and no one has ever tried. Current Orange County Attorney Jeffrey Newton, and the lawyer who wrote that language in the late 1980s, Linda Weinberg, both said they believe the door is open to a third term because it is nonconsecutive. Others who might not want to see Crotty in the race, might challenge that, arguing that the language seems to limit the mayor to two full terms. “The county mayor shall be elected for a term of four years and shall be limited to two full consecutive terms,” is how the Orange County Charter states it. That is distinctly different from the language written on the term limits of county commissioners, and commissioners have run for three nonconsecutive terms

MIKE DEW NOW VYING FOR TOP SPOT AT DEP’T OF TRANSPORTATION via Florida Politics Dew, the Florida Department of Transportation‘s chief of staff, now has applied to be Secretary of the department, according to a list of applicants released Monday. As of Monday’s deadline, 125 people had applied for the open position, created when former Secretary Jim Boxold resigned in January to join Tallahassee’s Capital City Consulting firm. Dew applied Monday morning … The Florida Transportation Commission, the department’s advisory board, will interview some applicants and nominate three candidates for Gov. Scott’s consideration.

PERSONNEL NOTE: AMANDA BOWEN NAMED VP AT NDS & ASSOCIATES via Florida Politics – nancy d. Stephens & Associates (NDS), an association management company based in Tallahassee, named Bowen vice-president. She joined the company in 2015 as communications director. She was given more responsibility, including executive director of the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists and Manufacturers Association of Florida. With her new title will come a leadership role, assisting with client relations and business growth, in addition to her current roles. “She has the perfect skill sets and demeanor to help our clients achieve their goals in the most professional way and help our company grow in the coming decades,” said Stephens, president of the firm.

APPOINTED: Charlotte Heston and Ashley Coone to the Early Learning Coalition of Florida’s Heartland, Inc.

APPOINTED: Robert Colen to Early Learning Coalition of Marion County, Inc.

APPOINTED: Robert Arthur and Carol Stephenson as Judges of Compensation Claims.


Nathan Adams, Joshua Aubuchon, Mark Delegal, Holland & Knight: Efficiency Energy, LLC

Brian Ballard, Ana Cruz,  Ballard Partners: BioSpine Institute

David Bishop, Solaris Consulting: Jackson County Board of County Commissioners; Jackson County School Board

Dean Cannon, GrayRobinson: Bayfield Mitigation LLC

Edgar Fernandez, Anfield Consulting: Gentry & Associates LLC

Brett Heuchan, The Labrador Company: Tarpon Towers II, LLC

Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: Transamerica Life Insurance Company

Liz Dudek, Greenberg Traurig: Promise Healthcare, Inc

Lila Jaber, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Q Link Wireless LLC

Mike Rogers, Southern Advocacy Group: Florida Green Building Coalition; Florida Home Partnership; Florida Weatherization Network; St. Johns Housing Partnership, Inc

Timothy Stanfield, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Marsy’s Law for All


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

On and off: Charlotte Jones has replaced Roshanda Jackson as district secretary for Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Kimberly Daniels.

On: Joshua Winograd is a new legislative assistant for Delray Beach Democratic Rep. Emily Slosberg.

Off: Karol Molinares is no longer Slosberg’s legislative assistant.

Off: Alison Roldan is no longer a district secretary for Miami Democratic Rep. Robert Asencio.

Off: Rachel Wise is no longer a district secretary for Jonesville Republican Rep. Chuck Clemons.

Off: Beau Giles is no longer legislative assistant for Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young.

Off and on: Lydia Claire Brooks is no longer a legislative assistant for Tallahassee Democratic Rep. Loranne Ausley, who now has three district secretaries: Jessica LambShane Roerk, and Mark Hodges.

Off: Skylar Swanson is no longer district secretary for Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry.

On: Nancy Bernier has become legislative assistant for Indialantic Republican Rep. Thad Altman.

On and off: GeeDee Kerr replaced Tyler Teresa as Sarasota Republican Rep. Joe Gruters’ district secretary.

On: Jeremy Stein is a new district secretary for Fort Walton Beach Republican Rep. Mel Ponder.

Off: Nicole Pontello is no longer district secretary for palm coast Republican Rep. Paul Renner.

On and off: Robert Moore has replaced Elizabeth Casimir as district secretary for Fort Lauderdale Democratic Rep. Patricia Williams.

TALLAHASSEE SEEKS TO END ‘ROAM TOWING,’ OKS OVERNIGHT TOWING BANS via Florida Politics – Tallahassee city officials are considering overnight towing bans, targeting tow trucks drivers praying on bar-goers who leave cars behind when they are too drunk to drive … the push to prevent so-called “roam towing” is an idea gaining support in Florida’s Capitol. After a WTSP series examining the benefits of overnight towing bans in the Tampa Bay region, the Tallahassee City Commission unanimously enacted similar consumer protections. While the overnight towing ban in Tallahassee is like the Tampa ordinance, its grace period is shorter. Tampa prevents tow truck drivers from taking cars before noon outside establishments serving alcohol. Tallahassee’s ordinance allows property owners to remove individual vehicles before that, if necessary, as long as property managers are on the scene to give the order. Tow truck drivers cannot make the call on their own overnight.

GOVERNORS CLUB TUESDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU – The Governors club kicks off final week of Session with an All-American menu including traditional potato salad; spinach salad – onion, mushroom, cauliflower, sunflower seeds, raisin, Parmesan cheese, peppercorn ranch dressing; mixed green salad, three assorted dressings, potato leek soup, fried chicken, chicken gravy, mashed potatoes, seafood Creole, steamed rice and grilled lime asparagus.

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

GET EXCITED FOR JEB+MARLINS — Southpaw Content, founded by Erin Gaetz, released a hype video Monday on Twitter to get folks excited about rumors that has former Gov. Jeb Bush(and retired Yankees legend Derek Jeter) are in talks to buy the Miami Marlins. The 27-second video features footage of the Marlins on the field and Bush on the campaign trial. “You could say we’re excited for @JebBush + @Marlins #LetsGoFish,” the company tweeted out Monday. Gaetz, the daughter of former Senate President Don Gaetz and sister of U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, is an alumna of Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign. She said in an email the video was a “passion project born out of pure fandom. No one paid for it.” Click the image below to see the video.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to one of Pinellas’ best, Brian Aungst, Jr., (one of these days we’ll all talk you into running for office.) Celebrating today is Keaton Alexander and, my paisan, Adam Giery.

Senate’s proposed hospital budget cuts, unlike House, spreads pain equally

With the end of the Legislative Session mercifully (hopefully?) in sight, the discrepancies between Senate and House budgets on various issues are becoming more heightened.

At times like these, the two sides need to learn how to swallow their pride when it’s clear one chamber has the better plan.

This lesson would serve them — and the people of Florida, the ones they are supposed to be serving — when the subject turns to funding of our state’s hospitals. The Senate and House have agreed on a whopping $651 million in cuts for hospitals, but they differ significantly on how those cuts should occur.

It really seems this is an issue where the House needs to step aside and make room for the Senate’s entirely more reasonable approach.

The Senate has proposed a comprehensive budget model that applies cuts to supplemental fees across the board, phasing the $651 million in cuts evenly. The House plan, on the other hand, complicates the budget cuts with a four-tier system that favors safety net hospitals.

With the House plan, hospitals in the first two tiers would receive the least cuts, based on their higher percentages of Medicaid and charity care. While this may initially seem like a reasonable idea, it actually creates redundancy in the funding process — and that means a waste of taxpayer money.

The House’s tier structure for Medicaid and charity care made a lot more sense before Gov. Rick Scott and AHCA received a commitment from the federal government for $1.5 billion in Low Income Pool (LIP) funding. The whole point of LIP funding is to reimburse hospitals for Medicaid and charity care.

It makes no sense to do the same thing through the House plan.

These same hospitals being spared the full impact of the cuts because of their Medicaid and charity services will receive reimbursement for those same services through the Low Income Pool (LIP). This means these hospitals, but only these hospitals, would receive both an exemption from cuts AND additional funding for the same reason.

Just as these hospitals are doubling up on benefits, hospitals in the lower two tiers would be doubled up on punishments in the House plan. These hospitals wouldn’t receive the same amount of reimbursement for patient care from LIP and would also experience the most burdensome cuts, leaving them and the patients they care for to make up the costs. This threatens the care of patients, as the hospital they depend on for treatment suffer a disproportionate level of cuts to funding.

The Senate plan, while still painful, at least spreads the pain around equally. If hospitals are going to be cut no matter what, it’s better for them to share the burden and buffer the effects of the cuts, rather than having it all dumped on only select hospitals and their patients.

The Senate’s plan takes into account the well-being of the patient and as well as the efficiency of the cuts, two factors that are missing in the House proposal.

As the session careens toward a conclusion, it’s inevitable that there will be plenty of issues where the House has the better plan. When that happens, the Senate should recognize it and act accordingly. But on the issue of hospital funding cuts, the Senate budget is clearly the way to go.

It’s time the House agreed.

Tyler Tech’s troubles in South Florida raise several red flags

At a time when everything seems to be done online, it comes as little surprise that states and cities across the U.S. are moving their permitting and licensing systems online to maximize efficiency and serve constituents more effectively.

Many counties and municipalities in Florida are following suit, replacing obsolete systems with new, user-friendly technology.

Unfortunately, a company claiming to be the best in software solutions for government organizations has been ousted from two local cities, and by the end of this year can possibly have its contract canceled in a third.

Tyler Technologies has had a bumpy road in various South Florida cities. Last year alone, both the Village of Key Biscayne and the City of Hollywood terminated contracts with Tyler Tech.

In Key Biscayne, officials tried to work with the company to get its online permitting software to function properly. After three years, they eventually gave up.

Now, the City of Miami Beach is experiencing the same problems.

Tyler Technologies is Miami Beach’s current vendor for both the Enterprise Resource Planning System used by city employees and the online permitting software used by residents and businesses. As in Key Biscayne, numerous issues have been raised over the city’s permitting system.

Residents, contractors, and even city officials complained that the functionality they expected is simply not there.

On April 26, the Miami Beach Commission decided to set up a task force to compile a list of all the unresolved issues they are experiencing. That way, the can present they findings to Tyler Technologies, and demand an explanation on how they intend to fix all these problems.

According to commissioners, if the issues are not resolved by December 2017, the Commission will re-evaluate the contract and consider termination. Then they can look for more qualified vendors.

Having two (and possibly three) contracts terminated for inefficiency over the last year — and in the same region — should probably disqualify a company from being awarded another multimillion-dollar contract to provide the same services.

It behooves governments to do their homework before spending millions of taxpayer dollars and awarding future contracts to Tyler Technologies, in light of its negative track record in South Florida and across the U.S.

Hospitality marketing money still in play, lawmakers say

Money to help smaller communities market themselves during the off-season could still be in play as legislative leaders continue to negotiate the 2017-18 budget.

The Senate has proposed language to move a state-funded marketing program run by the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation from Visit Florida.

The House did not include the language in its proposal.

The state’s tourism marketing has annually contracted with the FRLA to “develop a coordinated marketing, media, and events program to promote the Florida hospitality industry by residents of the state.” The events are typically smaller ones, and the Great Florida Events Program aims to promote in-state tourism.

The marketing campaign could receive $1 million under the Senate proposal, less than the $2 million it has previously received.

During a budget meeting Sunday, House and Senate negotiators briefly discussed the General Government Operations and Technology budget language. But negotiators did not appear to come to an agreement, with both Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala and House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo saying there were still some differences needed to be worked out.

“We’re very close on the general government,” said Latvala during the meeting. “I think there’s just two issues that we’re going to have to work on.”

Trujillo echoed those sentiments during a post-meeting press conference, telling reporters that “government ops is right there, it’s just small clean-up language.”

According to Rep. Blaise Inoglia, the pot of money for the FRLA was one of the issues Latvala was referencing when he there were sill issues to be resolved.

Issues not resolved during Sunday’s budget meeting were “bumped” to presiding officers hammer out the differences. Those budget conference meetings could take place today.

Sunburn for 5.1.17 – Ros-Lehtinen’s domino; Budget notes galore; FPL f’d on fracking bill; Sharon Day’s new job

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

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

Before we dive into the still-up-in-the-air state of budget negotiations, we have to acknowledge the domino which fell in South Florida Sunday…

ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN TO RETIRE FROM CONGRESS via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami HeraldRos-Lehtinen, the dean of the Florida legislative delegation and the first Cuban American elected to Congress, is retiring at the end of her term next year, saying it’s time to move on after more than 35 years in elected office. “It’s been such a delight and a high honor to serve our community for so many years and help constituents every day of the week,” the Miami Republican told the Miami Herald … “We just said, ‘It’s time to take a new step.’” Ros-Lehtinen, 64, was elected November to Florida’s redrawn 27th District, a stretch of Southeast Miami-Dade County that leans so Democratic that Hillary Clinton won it over Donald Trump by 20 percentage points. It was Clinton’s biggest margin of any Republican-held seat in the country.

WHY I’M RETIRING FROM CONGRESS. A MESSAGE FROM ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN on Florida Politics – After more than three-quarters of my adult life in elected public service more than 38 years by the next election — I am confident that my constituents would extend my term of service further should I seek to do so. But, we must recall that to everything there is a season, and time to every purpose under the heaven. The most difficult challenge is not to simply keep winning elections; but rather the more difficult challenge is to not let the ability to win define my seasons. This is a personal decision based on personal considerations; I will not allow my season in elected office be extended beyond my personal view of its season, simply because I have a continuing ability to win. We all know, or should know, that winning isn’t everything. My seasons are defined, instead, by seeking out new challenges, being there as our grandchildren grow up, interacting with and influencing public issues in new and exciting ways.

TWEET, TWEET: @KKondik: RATINGS CHANGE: FL-27 goes from Likely R all the way to Leans D now that Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) is retiring


In: Scott Fuhrman, Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, Michael Hepburn

Mentioned: Bruno Barreiro, Jose Felix Diaz, Rene Garcia, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Jimmy Morales, David Richardson, Jose Javier Rodriguez, Ken Russell, Marc Sarnoff

SUNBURN FACT OF LIFE: With CD 27 open in 2018 and a special election for SD 40 to occur later this year, it’s the Christmas season for South Florida politician consultants.

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


The fate of this year’s gambling bill is being held hostage to passage of a homestead exemption increase, sources told Sunday night.

Publicly, lawmakers have been saying that progress on omnibus gambling legislation was taking a backseat to the 2017-18 state budget talks.

The Conference Committee on Gaming hasn’t met since last Thursday. The Senate is largely for some expansion of gambling in the state; the House wants to hold the line.

Behind the scenes, however, House leadership made a conscious decision to put gambling on hold until the Senate moved on the House’s priority bill, an increase in the state’s homestead exemption that would effectively result in a property tax reduction.

Even if passed, the measure creates a constitutional amendment that still has to be approved by 60 percent of voters on the 2018 statewide ballot.

It’s on the Senate floor for a vote Monday afternoon.

“Everyone is on pins and needles on lots of issues waiting for that vote,” said one veteran lobbyist. “Everything melts down if the Senate doesn’t pass it.”

But the measure is bitterly opposed by many Democrats and local governments, who say cutting taxes means less money to fund critical local services like police and fire. It wouldn’t affect taxes to fund local public schools.

But House Speaker Richard Corcoran and his lieutenants made clear that the gambling bill “and a whole lot of other stuff” will suffocate and die without passage of the exemption measure.

“Session comes to a halt without the homestead bill,” one consultant said.

Signals from the Senate of how badly it wants a gambling bill this year have been mixed.

Sen. Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican and likely Senate President for 2018-10, has long been the chamber’s point man on gambling.

At the first conference meeting, Galvano said he did not “want to raise anybody’s expectations,” at the same time adding that “inaction (on gambling) is not an option.”

Neither he nor state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, a Miami-Dade Republican and Galvano’s House counterpart in the Gaming conference, responded to a request for comment.

The night before the Monday vote, a gambling lobbyist sent a text, saying things were “scary … I’m nervous.”


It was a roller-coaster ride of a budget conference this weekend, culminating with AP reporter Gary Fineout doing his best impression of running hurdles to get to House budget chair Carlos Trujillo.

And more unanswered questions percolated earlier Sunday.

Will further budget negotiations, which needs to be hammered out by Tuesday to be voted on Friday, be open to the public (and reporters and lobbyists)?

“You would have to ask the presiding officers,” Trujillo said Sunday night.

Um, ‘k. So much for the most transformative and transparent Legislative Session ever.

Perhaps Speaker Corcoran will lock Senate President Negron in a cigar smoke-filled room to get what he wants.

(We kid. But Corcoran does like a good cigar.)

Still, what about a multiplicity of other issues going into the last week of the 2017 Legislative Session?

On environmental funding, Trujillo said Sunday, “There’s still a lot of work to be done … We were struggling through it in the subcommittees.” There was some breakthrough with the Senate accepting the House’s offer on water projects.

But that left, well, pretty much the rest of the agriculture and natural resources budget up to the leaders of each chamber. “We’ve spent two days on what in essence is a fool’s errand,” Sen. Rob Bradley said in disgust the day before.

And Rep. Jamie Grant slogged into one budget conference this weekend with a dejected look. “I’m just trying to keep AOB from blowing up,” he said. His assignment of benefits bill passed the House but faces a rocky road in the Senate.

It would tighten requirements for contractors to report claims to insurance companies and establish a graduated scale for determining whether contractors holding these agreements qualify to recover litigation expenses from carriers.

Monday’s schedule holds a three-hour Senate Appropriations meeting in the morning and a five-hour floor session in the afternoon. Welcome to Day 55.


HOSPITALITY MONEY STILL IN PLAY, CONTRA REPORTING – We don’t want to quibble with our friend Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, but his reporting that “House and Senate budget writers have agreed not to move a marketing program from Visit Florida to the state’s top regulatory agency” is not accurate. According to Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, this is one of the issues that is being bumped to legislative leaders. See video of those comments here. We’re not saying that the $1 million for the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association for a “coordinated marketing, media and events program to promote the Florida hospitality industry” will make it into the budget, but the issue is not closed out.

LEGISLATORS AGREE TO SMALL BOOST FOR SCHOOLS via The Associated Press – House and Senate budget negotiators agreed to increase regular public school spending by $241 million. That amounts to about a 1.2 percent increase in money for each student. Republicans have defended the small increase by pointing out that they are setting aside money in other education programs, such as one aimed at helping students in failing schools, or giving bonuses to select teachers. House Speaker Corcoran and Senate President Negronreached a sweeping budget deal behind closed doors that includes spending $200 million on “Schools of Hope.” That’s Corcoran’s ambitious plan to shift students from chronically failing schools to charter schools run by private organizations.

AFTER OUTCRY, LAWMAKERS SCRAP PLANS TO FULLY SLASH GRANT AID TO ‘MOONLIGHT’ ALUMNI’S SCHOOL via Kristen Clark and Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald – After continued budget talks, House and Senate leaders agreed late in the day to give $500,000 to New World School of the Arts in the 2017-18 budget. That would still represent a cut of $150,000 in funding from this year — about a 23 percent deduction — but it’s drastically more than what could have happened: Losing the grant entirely. Lawmakers said the school failed to tell the Legislature how the grant dollars were spent, which was why the House and Senate both originally proposed eliminating the grant. Later, the Senate — through an amendment by Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores — proposed giving New World $20,000, resuscitating the project for budget negotiations. Threats to the school’s state grant funding sparked public outcry when news of the Legislature’s plans spread Friday. But House and Senate chairmen in charge of K-12 public school spending said Saturday morning those complaints had little to do with their change of heart.

CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW PANEL MONEY BECOMES A ‘BUMP ISSUE’ via Florida PoliticsThe House and Senate is seemingly at odds over whether to pay for the Constitution Revision Commission. A Sunday spreadsheet that came out of the first 2017-18 state budget conference chairs meeting of the day had a line item for the commission, which meets every 20 years to review and revise the state’s governing document … The spreadsheet shows that the Senate offered to fund the commission with $2 million; the House offers nothing … “We are continuing to watch this and support what the governor included in his budget,” Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said.

DURING BUDGET TALKS HOUSE, SENATE AGREE TO ADD MEDICAL MARIJUANA STAFF — The Office of Compassionate Use will get nine more positions under a budget agreement reached over the weekend. House and Senate budget negotiators agreed to fully fund the Department of Health’s request for $785,000 to add more personnel. The request would provide funding for three environmental specialists, four government operations consultants, a senior attorney and an administrative assistant. The Health Care Appropriations conference committee could not, however, reach an agreement on how much to set aside to fund the agency’s request for increased litigation costs. The House funded the entirety of the $2.8 million request, while the Senate’s offer was $800,00. The question of litigation funding was “bumped” to the full budget conference committee.

BUDGET CHAIRMEN SAY THEY ARE CLOSE ON GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS BUDGET via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The main budget chairs both said they were very close to an agreement on the government operations segment of the budget at their final meeting Sunday afternoon. The House made an offer on the budget spreadsheet that includes funding line-items for the Agency for State Technology, while the Senate made an offer on language for technology reorganization.

HOUSE ACCEPTS SENATE’S HIGHER ED BUMP OFFER WITH OPERATIONAL SUPPORT FOR COLLEGES via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Rep. Trujillo Sunday afternoon accepted the “bump” offer on college and university project funding presented by Sen. Latvala. The offer included operational support for several state colleges Latvala earlier Sunday identified as “sticking points” in negotiations. Latvala Saturday made an offer for capital outlay funding for universities and colleges that was not agreed upon by the budget chairs. That list will now go to Senate President Negron and House Speaker Corcoran.

— “UCF clinic for PTSD cut as lawmakers close in on budget” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel

LORANNE AUSLEY BLASTS RICHARD CORCORAN FOR ‘EMPTY PROMISES’ ON BUDGET TRANSPARENCY via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – She’s joining Gov. Scott and some news media in criticizing the budget process and budget agreements being struck behind closed doors by Corcoran and Senate President Negron. During the environmental conference subcommittee meeting, Ausley … asked for an explanation of the differences between the House and Senate budget offers. But she was told by state Sen. Rob Bradley, who was the subcommittee chairman, that an explanation would be provided at the next meeting, which has not been scheduled. The House and Senate agreed during the meetings to provide no funding to the Florida Forever conservation lands program. Ausley, who served in the House from 2000 to 2008, told reporters afterward that the lack of explanation during the meeting was different from when she previously was a legislator. And she later issued a statement quoting Corcoran as saying, “No longer will we have to tolerate last-minute appropriations being stuck into our budget with little or no public scrutiny.”


CORCORAN’S LATE-NIGHT TWEET ABOUT SCHOOL RECESS BILL POINTS FINGER AT RICK SCOTT via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald Corcoran offered a curious statement shortly after midnight Saturday: It’s not lawmakers who have a “problem with recess” — it’s Gov. Scott. Corcoran made the remark in a tweet with no additional explanation, and he wouldn’t explain himself … “Recess moms” were immediately perplexed by Corcoran’s mystery tweet, which was in direct response to a question from a parent advocating for daily school recess. Scott has not declared a public position on the recess bill, nor as he done so on most other bills pending before the Legislature. “I have no idea what that tweet means,” Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz told the Herald/Times Saturday morning. “We have continued to say that we will review it if it passes.”

CORCORAN PULLS PLUG ON FPL FRACKING BILL FOR SESSION via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – “After thorough vetting and discussion, we just had  too many reservations about the issue and the potential consequences,” Corcoran said in an email. “In addition, the notion that Florida ratepayers would pay for out-of-state energy production was not in the best interests of the people of Florida.”

MIAMI FIRM INVOLVED IN ANTI-HAZING PROGRAM DID NOT DETAIL USE OF $1 MILLION FROM STATE via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News – Records provided by Educational Management Services of Miami show the company’s use of more than $645,000, including payments to lobbying firms, airfare for trips around the state and a stay at an Orlando resort hotel. Educational Management Services was created by Fausto Gomez, a lobbyist, and is run by his wife, Alina Gomez, out of the Miami office that also is used by the lobbying firm … Fausto Gomez resigned from the company in February …  The EMS documents were provided in response to a demand by House Speaker Corcoran, who sought details about how the taxpayer money was spent after lawmakers placed it inside Florida Polytechnic University’s budget. Corcoran asked the university and the company to submit invoices, emails, contracts and audits. Lawmakers gave the anti-hazing program $3 million. In 2015, FPU received a $1.5 million line-item clearly outlined in the state budget. The next year, lawmakers added another $1.5 million inside the university’s budget without identifying it specifically but informed FPU that the program should receive the hidden money tacked on to its budget.

A SENATOR SAID A FLORIDA SLAVERY MEMORIAL WOULD ‘CELEBRATE DEFEAT.’ LAWMAKERS ARE FURIOUS via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – House Democrats and members of the legislative black caucus are offended and irate after a conservative Senate committee chairman said the reason he didn’t hear a bill to create the first slavery memorial in Florida was because he didn’t want to “celebrate defeat” … “I would rather celebrate overcoming the heartbreak of slavery. I wouldn’t want to build a memorial to child abuse; I wouldn’t want to build a memorial to sexual abuse,” Ocala Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley [said] … “I have a discomfort about memorializing slavery. … I would like to take it in a more positive direction than a memorial to slavery.” His comments came as the House voted unanimously that day — with roaring applause — to build the Florida Slavery Memorial near the Capitol in Tallahassee. Despite the House support, the proposal stalled in the Senate because Baxley had what another senator described as a “philosophical objection” to the concept. Baxley — the chairman of the Senate Government Oversight & Accountability Committee who is known for his conservative positions and supporting symbols of the Confederacy — never scheduled a hearing because he said a memorial recognizing slavery would be too negative.

HOUSE VOTES TO PUNISH ‘SANCTUARY CITY’ OFFICIALS via The Associated Press – The House approved a strict ban on so-called sanctuary cities that punishes local officials who resist federal efforts to deport immigrants living in the country illegally. Republican lawmakers supported the proposed legislation, which passed on a 76-41 party-line vote, over the objections of Democrats who called the bill an “anti-immigrant” effort beset by constitutional hurdles … Under the proposed ban (HB 697), local officials would be fined up to $5,000 for each day the “sanctuary city” policy remains in effect. Also, any county elected official, such as a sheriff, would face suspension or potential removal from office for supporting such policies. Under the bill, it would be a violation to not honor a federal immigration request, which entails local jails holding detainees past their scheduled release to give immigration authorities more time to pick them up and deport them. Opponents argue this could open the state up to litigation.

SENATE COMMITTEE STYMIES BILL TO LIMIT JOB GUARANTEES TO HIGHLY-RATED FLORIDA TEACHERS ON ANNUAL CONTRACT via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – A bill to bar Florida school districts from guaranteeing teachers on annual contract an additional year of employment if they earn a strong evaluation unexpectedly stumbled Friday in its final committee before full Senate consideration. The Senate Rules Committee voted 6-6 against the measure, casting doubt on SB 856 as it otherwise appeared headed to approval. The Florida House adopted a companion measure (HB 373) three weeks ago. Proponents cast the initiative as a simple clarification to 2011 law, in which the Legislature said any teacher hired after July 1 of that year could receive only a one-year contract. That ended the practice of professional services contracts, which some likened to tenured job protection. Dozens of districts negotiated around the rule by agreeing to extend by one year the employment of any annual contract teacher who gets a rating of “effective” or better, and has no disciplinary issues.

BILL SEALING CRIMINAL RECORDS HEADING TO GOVERNOR via The Associated Press – The House voted 118-0 to pass SB 118 … sponsored by Republican Sen. Greg Steube, sets up a process where certain records are sealed once the opportunity for appeals has expired. Automatic administrative sealing of records of adults and minors charged with felonies or misdemeanors can occur if a prosecutor or state attorney decline to file charges, all charges were dismissed before trial or the person charged was acquitted or found not guilty. The First Amendment Foundation opposed the bill and said it would apply to cases like Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman. It passed the Senate 34-0.

POLICE LINEUP STANDARDS BILL HEADED TO GOV. SCOTT via The Associated Press – The House voted 117-1 for a bill (SB 312) that would require law enforcement agencies to use the lineup standards to avoid eyewitness mistakes that could lead to wrongful convictions. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement encouraged agencies to adopt the standards, but agencies aren’t required to do so. The current guidelines suggest lineups be conducted by an administrator who does not know the suspect in order to ensure impartiality. Also, witnesses should be told that suspects may or may not be in a photo or in-person lineup and that they are not required to make an identification.

LEGISLATURE APPROVES WIRELESS DEREGULATION BILL via Florida Politics – The Legislature last week sent a bill to Gov. Rick Scott to free the proliferation of 5G wireless technology from local government interference. The bill (HB 687) says local governments “may not prohibit, regulate, or charge for the collocation of small wireless facilities in the public rights-of-way,” except as otherwise specified. The measure was supported by telecommunications concerns. Others, including the Florida League of Cities, raised concerns about taking away control from municipalities. It would apply to antennas “inside an enclosure of no more than 6 cubic feet,” a staff analysis said.

HOUSE VOTES TO STRIP AWAY LOCAL REGULATIONS OF VACATION RENTAL HOMES via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The House approved House Bill 425 63-56, essentially re-instituting a 2011 ban on cities or counties imposing any ordinances that would treat vacation rental homes any differently from any other house, condominium unit or apartment in their communities. The vote came after more than an hour of passionate debate between those who, like the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike La Rosa, believe that the heart of the matter is property rights, a person’s freedom to make money off his property; and those who, like Rep. Sam Killebrew, believe it’s a matter of home rule, for cities and counties to decide what is best for their communities. “I think we’ve heard enough of hypothetical circumstances, of ridiculous ordinances. I just want to close with a very simple question, a very simple thought: Is it possible to have too much freedom?” La Rosa inquired in closing. “Is this a referendum on that freedom? If it is, then I’m OK with that.” The companion measure, Senate Bill 188, has cleared all its committees.

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HAPPENING TODAY – SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE MEETS — The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to consider the House’s nearly $300 million tax cut proposal when it meets at 8 a.m. in 412 Knott. The proposal, among other things, creates a sales tax exemption for diapers and feminine hygiene products; provides an annual sales tax holiday for veterans; creates a 10-day back to school sales take holiday; and reduces the sales tax on commercial real estate. The committee is also expected to consider a bill aimed at making changes to the state employee health insurance plan.

​ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will attend Fleet Week at Port Everglades at 8:45 a.m. at Port Everglades Berth 21, 1833 17th Street in Fort Lauderdale

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: At 10:45 a.m., First Lady Ann Scott will kick off the Seventh Annual Summer Literacy Adventure at the Florida Governor’s Mansion, 700 N. Adams St. in Tallahassee.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Florida Department of Children and Families, the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will hold the first in a series of workshops about opioid use in the state. Workshops begin 3 p.m. at the West Palm Beach Police Department, 600 Banyan Blvd. in West Palm Beach.


AS EYEBALL WARS PEAK, OPTOMETRISTS SEEK DESPERATE, LAST-MINUTE BUZZER BEATER via Peter Schorsch for Florida Politics – Last week, HB 1037 stalled in the House Health and Human Services Committee after it had appeared there were not enough votes to pass. The companion bill, SB 1168, has never been heard in the Senate. Now, lobbyists for optometrists – numbering an even dozen – may be looking to get the controversial bill passed by attaching it to some sort of health care legislative train. HB 1037 met with widespread condemnation by more than two dozen high-profile health organizations, as well as receiving somewhat tepid support in the House – struggling with slim margins in each committee stop – taking the shot may not be worth the risk. This bill should rightfully face death in committee – as it should be for something so unpopular – instead of making a part of a larger health care train, only to have the whole thing die in the Senate anyway. The clock is ticking, why waste everyone’s time? Best to pick another battle, one with a better chance of success. Hopefully, as sine die approaches, so will the end of this horrible, dangerous train wreck of an idea.

MARTIN DYCKMAN: FLORIDA NEEDS ANSWERS ON DEATH PENALTY DISCRETION via Florida Politics – The courtroom at the Florida Supreme Court seats 164, which may not be enough for all the attorneys, organizations and individuals who have intervened in the unprecedented case of Aramis Ayala v. Rick Scott. Despite the extraordinary interest, this case is not going to decide whether the death penalty is as error-prone, financially wasteful and as altogether counter-productive as Ayala correctly insists. Florida needs answers to those questions, but capital punishment is one of those issues where precious few politicians care to be confused by facts. It’s one of the most significant arguments the court will ever hear. Florida prosecutors make perhaps tens of thousands of judgment calls every year: What crime to charge? What crime not to charge? What plea to accept? They have even more power than the judges in deciding who goes to prison and for how long. Should a governor be able to supersede one of those decisions simply because he doesn’t agree with it? Carried to an extreme, that makes him a dictator.

PAUL DAVIDSON: FLORIDA SENATE NEEDS TO ACT ON AUTO INSURANCE REFORM via Florida Politics – One year ago, I was riding my bicycle down A1A. Out of nowhere, a woman driving a 1988 LTD hit me going 45 miles per hour. The force of the collision sent me flying 60 feet … The driver who hit me carried the mandated minimum $10,000 in bare-bones PIP insurance. Unlike 48 other states, Florida has no requirement for drivers to carry bodily injury coverage. What did that mean for me, the victim? It meant I had to figure out how to pay the $350,000 health care bill created by an accident I didn’t cause … What upsets me is there were no consequences for the woman who hit me. It’s as if carrying bare-bones PIP insurance provides a free pass for irresponsible drivers who hurt other people. It’s really a policy change that’s needed to help people like us who could become victims of Florida’s outdated PIP insurance system and have to pay dearly because of the irresponsibility of others. Lawmakers have an opportunity to change this by passing legislation to repeal PIP and replace it with a requirement that drivers carry bodily injury insurance at $25,000 per person/$50,000 per incident. The Florida House has already passed a good proposal to make this happen. The ball is now in the Florida Senate’s court.

PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS WINS THE DAY IN HOUSE SHORT-TERM RENTALS DEBATE via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – In the end, in a House of Representatives where Republicans dominate, private property rights were always going to win. But the vote that passed HB 425 was close … 63-56, and will stop local governments from cracking down on short-term vacation rentals because they don’t like them. The win was a victory for online companies like Airbnb and HomeAway, which contract with homeowners to rent out their vacant homes in mostly resort locales. Under HB 425, only cities with vacation rental ordinances on the books before 2011 would be allowed to keep them. Bill sponsor Rep. Mike LaRosa pressed his conservative advantage: “Is it possible to have too much freedom?” he asked. “And is this a referendum on that freedom? If it is, I’m OK with that.” He said local governments shouldn’t be punishing the responsible majority of property owners for the potential wrongs of a few.

DARRYL PAULSON: GROVELAND — FLORIDA’S LEGACY OF HATE via Florida Politics – On July 16, 1949, seventeen-year-old Norma Padgett claimed that her husband Willie was assaulted and she was raped by four black males near Groveland, Florida. Groveland is located in Lake County in central Florida. The Padgett’s told Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall that they had left a dance and their car stalled. The four blacks — Walter Irvin, Sam Shepherd, Charles Greenlee and Ernest Thomas — supposedly offered to help, but then assaulted Willie Padgett and kidnapped and raped his wife, Norma. In Groveland, there were doubts that Norma Padgett had been raped. Only 17, she had fled to her parents after several beatings by her husband, Willie. On the morning after the rape, Norma was seen outside a restaurant near Groveland. The restaurant owner’s son drove her into town and said she did not seem upset and never mentioned being raped. In April 1950, the St. Petersburg Times published an investigative report concluding that it was physically impossible for Greenlee to have been at the crime scene … The U. S. Supreme Court overturned the convictions in 1950 … Four innocent black men suffered grievously for a crime they never committed. Thomas was killed by a vigilante posse, and Shepherd was killed by Sheriff McCall. Greenlee also spent a decade in prison, and Irvin also spent two decades in prison for a crime they did not commit. On April 27, the Florida Senate passed a resolution apologizing to the families of the four black men who the Senate said were “victims of racial hatred.” I am sure they are comforted in their graves.

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SHARON DAY SAYS DONALD TRUMP OFFERED HER A JOB IN WHITE HOUSE, MUM ON DETAILS via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Republican Party of Florida National Committeewoman Day, who has been with the Florida GOP since 2004, said she would provide more information about the job “at a later date.” … “I have been offered a position within the White House administration,” Day told the audience at the RPOF spring quarterly meeting at the Tampa DoubleTree Hotel. Although she was not at liberty to divulge any details about the position, Day did elaborate, quipping: “We have gone through more vetting, and they know more about me than I know about me.” Day recently stepped down from her role as co-chair of the Republican National Committee, a position she had held since 2011. She’s served on the Executive Committee of the Broward County Republican Party since 1994, and in 1996 was elected as state committeewoman for the county party.

ADAM PUTNAM PROMISES AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM THROUGH FOCUS ON FLORIDA TO RPOF IN TAMPA via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State NewsPutnam hasn’t said he’s running for governor — yet — but he continued to stoke the fire of his rumored gubernatorial bid to a group of Republican Party faithful … Florida, Putnam said, was the apple of conservatives’ eyes, with a Republican governor, Cabinet and GOP-controlled state legislature. “We are the envy of the nation for conservative values and a conservative approach to governing the third largest state in the nation,” he said. Around the room, orange and green koozies emblazoned with Putnam’s political committee name and the signature Florida orange filled the tables. Despite Florida’s successes, Putnam said there was no room to let up. “Complacency is not a part of our vocabulary,” he told the crowd. “Candidates matter. Values matter. Grassroots is king.”

BUDGET GROUP DEMANDS ACTION ON ANDREW GILLUM’S EMAILS via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – A conservative budget watchdog group has asked City Manager Rick Fernandez to take disciplinary action over Mayor Gillum’s use of city staff and city resources for campaign and political activities. Recent published reports “clearly and unambiguously show that the Mayor’s office staff has violated many provisions” of the city’s personnel policy, J. Russell Price of Budget Hawks said in an email to Fernandez and forwarded to Gillum and the four city commissioners. “Unfortunately, the office has become an entity that more resembles a political sweatshop narrowly focused on promoting the Mayor’s personal political ambitions,” Price said. Budget Hawks is a group of fiscally conservative residents who have fought against city budget and tax increases.

DAVID RIVERA IS HANGING OUT IN FRANK ARTILES’ OLD SENATE OFFICE via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Former U.S. Rep. Rivera appears to be testing out the digs of a state legislative office that he might seek to occupy one day soon. Rivera, a Republican, was seen casually hanging out in the Capitol office of former Sen. Artiles — socializing and bantering with a handful of people who appeared to be Artiles’ remaining legislative staff and others. One of Artiles’ legislative aides, Alina Garcia, used to work for Rivera when he was a state House member from 2000-2008. Rivera’s name has been floated as a potential candidate to fill Artiles’ vacant seat, representing District 40 in Miami-Dade County.

FORMER CIRCUS PERFORMER CHALLENGING VERN BUCHANAN via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-TribuneCalen Cristiani can do some remarkable things on a trampoline … It was a tough life, though, and Cristiani gave it up a few years ago after nearly two decades of touring with his family’s circus act. Now he’s hoping to have a second act in a profession where his skills as a showman could come in handy. Cristiani, a 27-year-old Manatee County Democrat, is challenging U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan … in Florida’s 16th Congressional District … This is Cristiani’s first run for public office, but he has some campaign experience; he volunteered for former President Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008 during a break between circus tours. Addressing economic inequality is Cristiani’s central concern. He supports progressive economic policies, such as a $15 minimum wage and free tuition at public colleges and universities.

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DEADLINE TO APPLY FOR TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY IS MONDAY via FloridaPolitics: The department seeks a replacement for former Secretary Jim Boxold, who resigned in January to join Tallahassee’s Capital City Consulting firm. Among those who previously submitted applications is Richard Biter, one of two unsuccessful finalists for the top job at Enterprise Florida. He’s also a former assistant secretary of the department, and has been an administrator with the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Florida Transportation Commission, the department’s advisory board, will interview applicants and nominate three candidates for Gov. Scott’s consideration.


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Edgar Fernandez, Anfield Consulting: Gentry & Associates LLC

Nicole Graganella, Colodny Fass: Property and Casualty Insurers Association of America

Mike Haridopolos, Mike Haridopolos: Real Property, Probate & Trust Law Section of the Florida Bar

Jonathan Kilman, Paul Lowell, Foley & Lardner: Preferred Medical Plan, Inc

Erik Kirk, PooleMcKinley: Studer Community Institute, Inc

TOASTING RICK WATSON — The Construction Coalition will host a cocktails to honor Watson, the long-time lobbyist for Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida, from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Governor’s Club. Watson, who first came to Tallahassee as a lobbyist in 1983 for what he “thought would be two months,” is retiring from lobbying at the end of the 2017 Legislative Session. “It’s been a great run and I’ve enjoyed working with you in the process,” he said in an email. Watson won’t be retiring completely, though. Gov. Rick Scottrecently appointed him as the Franklin County Tax Collector, and Watson has said he plans to run for the post in 2018.

— ETC. —

FLORIDA STATE RB DALVIN COOK ENTICES VIKES TO ‘TAKE A SWING’ via Dave Campbell of The Associated Press – The Vikings traded up seven spots to the 41st overall pick Friday night and snagged Cook, the Florida State star whose stellar college career came with off-the-field questions. They sent one of their fourth-round selections to Cincinnati to move ahead in the second round and get Cook, Adrian Peterson‘s long-term replacement. “He was just too talented of a player not to take a swing,” general manager Rick Spielman said … The 5-foot-11, 213-pound Cook was an All-American last season as a junior and totaled 38 touchdowns over the last two years for the Seminoles. He averaged more than 138 yards rushing per game over his final two seasons. “You’ve got to accept things as a man, and I just was waiting my turn,” Cook said.

WALT DISNEY WORLD PLANS TO DEPLOY DRIVERLESS SHUTTLES IN FLORIDA via Russ Mitchell of the Los Angeles Times – The company is in late-stage negotiation with at least two manufacturers of autonomous shuttles – Local Motors, based in Phoenixand Navya, based in Paris …  the company plans a pilot program later this year to transport employees in the electric-drive robot vehicles. If that goes well, they said, the shuttles would begin transporting park visitors sometime next year. Currently, there are no plans for driverless shuttles at Disneyland in Anaheim … The reason is unclear, but Florida puts few restrictions on driverless vehicle deployment, while California is overhauling regulations that have been criticized by industry as unnecessarily heavy handed.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Rep. Don Hahnfeldt and Sen. Gary Farmer. Celebrating today is Stephen Lawson and Sarah Rumpf.

As Eyeball Wars peak, optometrists seek desperate, last-minute buzzer beater

After suffering a significant setback last week in the Eyeball Wars, optometrists may be mounting a last-ditch effort to get their bill rolling in the House.

When will this bad bill just die? It has long past time to put an end to the Eyeball Wars in 2017, perhaps for good.

Last week, HB 1037 stalled in the House Health and Human Services Committee after it had appeared there were not enough votes to pass. The companion bill, SB 1168, has never been heard in the Senate.

Now, lobbyists for optometrists – numbering an even dozen – may be looking to get the controversial bill passed by attaching it to some sort of health care legislative train.


HB 1037, sponsored by Rep. Manny Diaz, seeks to expand the practice of optometry to include performing surgery and prescribing opiates, a move vehemently opposed by ophthalmologists, the American Medical Association, and other professional medical groups. Each group raised concerns about patient safety and optometrists’ relative lack of education, knowledge and experience.

As per Florida rules, before Day 55 of the Regular Legislative Session: “Main floor amendments must be submitted to the House Bill Drafting Service by 3 p.m. and approved for filing with the Clerk by 4 p.m. on the first day a bill appears on the Special-Order Calendar in the Calendar of the House.”

However, after Day 55, things get a little more complicated: Main floor amendments must be approved for filing with the Clerk not later than two hours before Session is scheduled to convene on the day a bill appears on the Special-Order Calendar in the House.

That said, this week will become a make-it-or-break-it moment for optometrists, looking to piggyback HB 1037 on a health care bill – or any bill, for that matter – for a fourth quarter buzzer-beater in the Eyeball Wars.

Nevertheless, as HB 1037 met with widespread condemnation by more than two dozen high-profile health organizations, as well as receiving somewhat tepid support in the House – struggling with slim margins in each committee stop – taking the shot may not be worth the risk.

This bill should rightfully face death in committee – as it should be for something so unpopular – instead of making a part of a larger health care train, only to have the whole thing die in the Senate anyway.

The clock is ticking, why waste everyone’s time? Best to pick another battle, one with a better chance of success.

Hopefully, as sine die approaches, so will the end of this horrible, dangerous train wreck of an idea.

Tributes pour in for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen after she announces her retirement

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the first Cuban-American elected to Congress, is retiring at the end of her term next year, saying it’s time to move on after 38 years in office.

Politicians and pundits across Florida and the nation lauded the Miami Republican. Here is a compilation of those reactions:

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, via Twitter:

Not only is @RosLehtinen a tireless advocate for freedom & human rights – she is my friend. Florida will miss her.

Gov. Rick Scott, via Twitter:

Congresswoman @RosLehtinen has fought hard for FL families throughout her service in D.C. Her strong leadership will be greatly missed!

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers:

“Her tireless work ethic was only matched by her charismatic personality. She represented her South Florida district well and she will be dearly missed in Washington. I wish her and her family the best. I am confident we will keep this seat red in 2018.”

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist:

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

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch:

“Ileana Ros Lehtinen’s retirement is a tremendous loss for South Florida and for the entire country. As a public servant, she has worked tirelessly for her constituents for over three decades. Hardly a day goes by where Ileana isn’t on the House floor celebrating a remarkable person or event in her district.

“Ileana broke barriers as the first Hispanic woman elected to Congress and the first female Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She has been a stalwart champion for human rights around the world, a voice for the oppressed, an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ equality, and one of the most steadfast defenders of Israel. Her legislative contributions have led to some of the toughest international sanctions against Iran, North Korea and Venezuela, and the promotion of democracy worldwide.

“From the moment I arrived in Congress, Ileana has been a friend and a partner. We have worked together countless times from championing equality to strengthening the U.S. – Israel relationship. It has been a pleasure and an honor to serve with her as Ranking Member of the Middle East Subcommittee. Her humor and good nature (see photo!) provides a welcome respite from the partisan challenges we face each day. Every Member of Congress should learn something from the way Ileana has conducted herself over the past 28 years. She has crossed the aisle to stand up for what she believes is right. She has stood firm in her convictions and stood up for those she represents even when it meant making tough political choices.

“As she finishes out her current term, I know that Ileana will work just as hard as she always has for the people of South Florida and on behalf of our country. I look forward to continuing to work alongside her for the next year and a half, and I will miss working with her when she is gone.”

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart:

“Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is one of the most respected and admired Members of Congress. For almost four decades, Ileana has served our community with honor and integrity. From her days as an educator, to the Florida Legislature, and now ending her tenure in Congress, Ileana truly exemplifies what it means to be a public servant. She never seeks political expediency and always puts the interests of her constituents first. From one corner of the globe to another, she is tireless in her crusade for human rights and democracy.

“To say Ileana is a trusted friend and mentor to me is an understatement; she is a part of my family, and I will dearly miss ‘mi hermana legislativa’ in the halls of Congress. I wish nothing but the best for Ileana, her husband Dexter, their children, and their grandchildren as she begins this next chapter in her life.”

The Florida Democratic Party didn’t offer a tribute; instead it commented on the challenge facing Republicans in the 2018 election cycle:

“It’s not surprising that moderate Republicans are retiring as their party no longer represents American families, but a Trump-style political platform that is divisive and only benefits the politically connected or the very wealthy. In the upcoming special elections and on into the 2018 general elections, Democrats are looking forward to a massive turnover in Congress. We are putting forth candidates that will present a better way forward in which a prosperous America means prosperity and good jobs for all of us. Democrats will resist Trump’s Republican Party, their secret backroom deals and will stand against Republican plans to build an American economy that only benefits those at the very top.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz:

“Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is an incredible public servant and a dear friend. She has served South Florida for 38 years with honor and distinction, and unfailingly defended the unbreakable bond between Israel and the United States; she is easily one of Israel’s strongest allies in Congress. The irony is that Washington today is castigated for being too partisan, and a place where no one can get along. But Ileana’s warmth and love for life is infectious, and friendship and finding common ground were her calling cards.

“I was proud to call her a close friend and to work with her on tough issues as varied as protecting Florida’s roads and beaches, to teaming up on Haitian policy and LGBTQ rights. She’s always been willing to take the tough stand, and sought to do what was right. It’s been an honor to serve with her in Congress, and play alongside her on a softball field in the Congressional Women’s Softball Game, where we served as co-captains. She will be sorely missed, not just around Florida, but throughout Congress and the rest of the country. Mis mejores deseos mi companera y mi amiga.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this post.

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