Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 223

Peter Schorsch

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

Charlie Crist opens political action committee

First-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist opened a political action committee Monday that he can use for his own re-election and help other candidates.

The former Florida governor is listed as the chair of Charlie Crist PAC, with Peggy Gagnon serving as custodian of records and Joseph Saunders taking the treasurer job.

The FEC filing reads that the “committee supports/opposes more than one Federal candidate and is NOT a separate segregated fund or a party committee.”

“In addition, this committee is a Leadership PAC,” the filing concludes.

Saunders is hosting a fundraiser for Crist at his and his wife Kathy’s home in St. Petersburg on March 26. The event is from 4:30 -6 p.m. at 4916 62nd Ave S.

Crist beat former Republican Rep. David Jolly in the race for Florida’s 13th Congressional district, which covers southern Pinellas County, last year.

Since his swearing-in January 3, Crist has been regularly fundraising for his 2018 re-election bid.

Hmmm… House’s whiskey & Wheaties bill stumbles in second committee

The House version of the “whiskey and Wheaties” bill stumbled and then face planted in its second committee hearing Tuesday afternoon.

The Walmart-backed HB 81, sponsored by Hialeah Republican Rep. Bryan Avila, would allow grocery stores and other retailers to sell liquor, rather than keeping up the so-called “liquor wall.”

The issue is a top priority for Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores and a boatload of retailers, but conservatives in the House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee wanted nothing to do with it.

Their message to Walmart and Avila: no whiskey and Wheaties this year. Or vodka and veggies, or cachaça and chicken.

They were also unamenable to a simple scotch and soda.

The bill was temporarily postponed during the committee’s 1 p.m. meeting Tuesday because, apparently, it didn’t have the votes to pass, which almost happened last month when it narrowly escaped the Careers & Competition Subcommittee with an 8-7 vote. Pulling up that vote record might give an indication of which lawmakers are squares.

Compared to the House, the Senate seems to be looking forward to some one-stop shopping for all their food and booze needs. Flores’ bill, SB 106, has already cleared both of its committees and is ready for a floor vote in the Senate.

It might not matter though if the House doesn’t clear Avila’s bill.

Isn’t it time Florida progressive put the ‘Awake the State’ mantra to bed?

Later this morning, Gov. Rick Scott will give his seventh State of the State address as lawmakers kick off their annual 60-day legislative session.

After the applause from his fellow Republicans dies down, Florida Democrats and progressives will offer a response to the GOP’s agenda.

“Labor leaders, legislators and advocates for access to health care, quality public schools, reproductive and immigration rights will provide a counterpoint to Gov. Rick Scott and his legislative allies’ agenda that rewards their corporate backers while ignoring the needs of everyday Floridians,” reads a press release from Damien Flier of Progress Florida.

In addition to the press conference in Tallahassee, there will be events in other cities across Florida, including Miami, Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa.

Organizers of this progressive response describe this effort as “Awake the State.

To which I must reply, “Zzzzz.”

It’s been going on six years that Florida progressives have been trying to awake the state, yet, clearly, Florida voters seem to enjoy sleeping in.

Scott was re-elected in 2014. So, too, was Marco Rubio in 2016. Florida went for Donald Trump for President, while also returning to the Florida House every Republican incumbent.

This is not to suggest Democrats and progressives should just roll over and die. In fact, a vocal opposition is probably needed now more than ever.

But, since the slogan Florida progressives have employed during three losing campaign cycle obviously isn’t working, maybe they should go back to the drawing board and update their branding efforts.

What do you do after you quit Enterprise Florida? Enjoy a glass of red wine, of course!

On Monday, Chris Hart IV abruptly resigned as Enterprise Florida CEO.

Hart cited an ongoing conflict with Gov. Rick Scott over the future of the outfit responsible for recruiting companies to the state.

Hart’s departure comes during a critical time. House Speaker Richard Corcoran is pushing a bill to scuttle the organization and strip it of all state money. The legislation could reach the House floor this week.

So how did Hart end such a tumultuous day?

With a glass of red wine, of course.

The former legislator posted to Facebook late Monday a simple, albeit telling photograph from, presumably, his back yard.  A glass of wine is in the foreground.

Hart’s message, “Tonight…ahhhh!”

After Hart published his post, capital insiders fervently speculated about whether the wine’s varietal. Was it a Cabernet or a Pinot Noir?

Asked about what really went down between him and Scott, Hart said he would let the letter he sent the governor speak for itself. However, he did want to make it clear that his resignation did not have anything to do with his compensation, as I speculated.

Cheers!

Material from the Associated Press was used in this post. 

Sunburn for 3.7.17 – Scott’s SoS; Curtain raises on Leg.; Cruz is ready; Brodeur’s haul; Ander’s new gig

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

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

TAILSPIN

A stall, it is said, “can best be described as the situation where there is not enough air flowing over the wings to create the amount of lift needed to hold up the airplane.”

“If pilots can recognize an impending stall,” one website explains it, “they can take corrective action to either avoid the stall altogether or to recover as quickly as possible.”

Based on the events of Monday, the administration of Gov. Rick Scott is now in a stall. Indeed, by later in the day it seemed there was “not enough air … to hold up the airplane.”

Case in point: The day before the 2017 Legislative Session was set to begin, this Governor’s hand-picked CEO for Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development organization, quit with no warning. Chris Hart IV had been in the position for little more than two months. 

Why? Hart and this governor “do not share a common vision or understanding” for the organization going forward, he wrote in a resignation letter—a disconnect apparently so bracing Hart believed he could “no longer be effective.”

What was this governor’s reaction? An astounding puzzlement. This Governor never knew of “any differences of opinion or vision” until he read Hart’s resignation, spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said. 

No matter—the nose of the aircraft had dipped. 

Later in the day, the House Rules committee slaughtered 23 of this Governor’s prized business incentive programs, which House Speaker Richard Corcoran has framed as “corporate welfare.” 

That panel also voted to abolish Enterprise Florida and saved VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing agency, though hobbling it like Annie Wilkes did to Paul SheldonThose measures could go to the full House as early as this week. 

“What you see is gathering momentum – bipartisan momentum, with only a couple of no votes – for what we’re trying to do,” Palm Coast Republican Paul Renner said, virtually standing over the carcasses. 

This Governor now will walk into a Legislature Tuesday to deliver a State of the State address that, at least according to the snippets his press shop has released, is backward-looking. 

He will mention the tragedies of the Pulse nightclub and Fort Lauderdale airport shootings, the fight against the Zika virus, Hurricanes Hermine and Matthew. He will mention his ongoing feel-good commitment to tax cuts. 

But after the speech, what then? What “corrective action” will he take “to recover as quickly as possible”? It may be that the Senate will arrest the House’s assault in the weeks ahead. But in the air show of public opinion, this governor is in a tailspin.

— “Why did Chris Hart eject from Enterprise Florida?” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist

EXCERPTS FROM RICK SCOTT’S SOS

Over the coming weeks, we will have many debates over bills and policies, but what unites us will always be stronger than what divides us – and what unites us is the resiliency of our great state. After every challenge, every heartbreak and every tragedy, Florida comes back stronger and better any time we are knocked down.

Since I last stood here to address you, Florida has endured many heartbreaks. I have prayed for families around our state who have been impacted by tragedy, and my own heart has been broken for their losses. Our state has been rocked by the gruesome terrorist attack at the Pulse Nightclub, in Orlando. We endured two hurricanes, fought against the rapid spread of the Zika Virus, and were devastated by the deadly Ft. Lauderdale Airport shooting.

And, if there is one thing you remember from this speech today, I hope it is this: Florida is a state full of fighters, and I will never stop fighting for our families.

Nothing could have prepared me for the horror we saw on June 12, 2016 when a terrorist inspired by ISIS stormed into Pulse and senselessly killed 49 innocent people.

This was a terrorist attack and 49 brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends and spouses were murdered.

The days I spent in Orlando following the shooting will always be with me.

This year, I am fighting to cut taxes by $618 million to cut costs for small businesses, students, veterans, teachers and families.

Our Fighting for Florida’s Future tax cut package will boost our economy and encourage businesses of all sizes to create jobs and build opportunities for generations of Floridians.   Let’s remember, when jobs are created, it helps the poorest, most disadvantaged families who need a job the most…families just like mine when I was growing up.

One of the taxes we are fighting to cut is the commercial lease tax, which unfairly targets small businesses.

Even more important than continuing to cut taxes in our state is that we prevent against unfair tax increases in the future so our progress is not undone. My goal before I leave office is that we work together on a solution to make it harder for any future legislature – even one not as conservative as we have here today – to raise taxes.

START OF SESSION BRINGS PROCEDURAL CHANGES via LobbyTools Legislative IQ — The Senate will convene Tuesday morning at 9:30 a.m. while the House will go into session at 10 a.m. At 11 a.m.Gov.  Scott will deliver the “State of the State” address during the Joint Session in the House Chamber. Ahead of the chambers convening, members are required to submit all bills to be considered during session. Members face a noon deadline on Tuesday for filing bills for introduction, but committees can continue to propose legislation throughout session as PCBs, or “Proposed Committee Bills.”

… Committee meeting notice deadlines also change during Session. Instead of the seven days notice that must be given before meetings during interim committee weeks, Senate meeting notices must be given three weekdays in advance of the meeting and House meeting notices must be given by 4:30 p.m. two days before the meeting. Committee amendments must be filed by 6 p.m. the day before a House committee meeting and 24 hours in advance of a Senate committee meeting.

The start of Session also affects campaign fundraising — according to both House and Senate rules, members cannot accept contributions during any regular or special session.

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HOUSE RULES COMMITTEE VOTES TO KILL MOST ECONOMIC-DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS via Florida Politics – The House Rules committee voted, 15-3, Monday to kill state support for 23 economics development programs worth around $200 million, including Enterprise Florida, but spared Visit Florida, the state’s tourism promotion organization. The members then voted, 15-2, to subject Visit Florida to stringent oversight, comparable to contract, pay, and disclosure requirements that apply to state agencies. “They could come to the floor soon — perhaps as early as this week,” sponsor Paul Renner said of the bills. “What you see is gathering momentum — bipartisan momentum, with only a couple of no votes — for what we’re trying to do,” the Palm Coast Republican said.

CONTROVERSIAL PUBLIC RECORDS BILL CLEARS SECOND SENATE PANEL via Florida Politics — The bill (SB 80), sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube, aims to give judges discretion in whether they should award fees to the plaintiff and requires request be made in writing in order to be eligible to collect attorney fees. The committee amended the bill Tuesday to add provisions that allow the court to consider “if the request to inspect or copy the public record was made in bad faith or was made to harass the agency or to cause a violation … and if the responsible agency responded in good faith to request to inspect or copy the records.” … But the amendment did not appear to alleviate concerns. Barbara Petersen, the president of the First Amendment Foundation, spoke out in opposition of the bill. … The bill now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Steube said he is prepared to “work with anybody to try to bring it in for a landing.”

CITING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST CHRISTIANS, SENATE PANEL PASSES SCHOOL RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION PROTECTIONS via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO Florida – The Senate education committee approved a bill broadening protections for religious expression in public schools that appears to be fast-tracked for passage despite critics’ contentions that it would be unconstitutional and carry unintended consequences. The bill would explicitly allow public school students to express their religious beliefs in assignments without being discriminated against. It protects students’ ability to pray before, during or after the school day. It requires school boards to adopt policies allowing students to discuss religion at any school event in which they are allowed to speak publicly. Under the bill, the state department of education would be directed to design a model policy school boards could adopt.

— “Bill to allow law enforcement officers who wear body cameras to review footage advances in Senate committee” via Florida Politics

— “Democrats file bills that would allow citizens to directly propose legislation” via Florida Politics

— “Jack Latvala files bill to create regional transit authority for Tampa Bay” via Florida Politics

— “Med Mal exempt from CAT fund assessments under bill approved by Senate panel” via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida

— “Parenting plan bill that skip courts, lift court overload gets unilateral support in Senate committee via Florida Politics

— “Paul Renner elections bill affects filing fees, extended polling hours” via Florida Politics

— “Victor Torres seeks to save call-center jobs” via Florida Politics

“DON’T FEAR THE DEBATE?” – Anders Croy, the Communications Director for the House Democrats, emails: “In the spirit of transparency, the House Democratic Caucus would like to provide you with a quick update on the breakdown of bills that have been heard in committee as we kick off Session tomorrow morning. We’ll be keeping a running count each week as we proceed through Session. To this point, there have been 131 bills heard in committee in the Florida House. Of those 131 bills, 117 are sponsored by Republicans, 13 are sponsored by Democrats, and 1 bill has bipartisan prime co-sponsors. To put that in a percentage, 89.3% of the bills that have been heard are Republican bills, 9.9% are Democratic, and .8% are bipartisan. As former Senate President Andy Gardiner liked to say, ‘Don’t fear the debate.’ “

BUSINESS GROUPS OPPOSE TAX BREAK SWAP via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A coalition of Florida business groups is giving the thumbs-down to state Sen. Anitere Flores’ proposal to pay for a cut in the state’s tax on mobile phone and satellite and cable TV service by repealing a tax break to insurers. The legislation (SB 378) would swap the insurance break for a 2 percent reduction in the state’s communications services tax (CST). The proposal is a priority of Senate President Joe Negron … But the coalition – including Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and the Florida Insurance Council (FIC) – suggested the move would be a net neutral.

LEGISLATION WOULD REQUIRE REPORTING ON RACE DISPARITIES IN CRIMINAL SENTENCING via Florida Politics – Sponsors of legislation requiring the state to produce a report each year on criminal sentencing disparities based on race said Monday that they don’t mean an attack on judges but need to know what the data show. “I’ve heard there’s been some consternation from some judges,” said Sen. Audrey Gibson, a Democrat from Jacksonville. “The bill is not about judges. It’s justice, and it’s about data. Nobody should fear data,” she said.

***The State of the Taxpayer Dinner — March 8 (6-9 p.m.) — The one event in 2017 you can’t afford to miss. While the annual State of the State address and opening statements of each legislative chamber cover the accomplishments and future of our elected leadership, none specifically highlight the issues affecting taxpayers. This unique event puts the spotlight back on the taxpayers. Florida TaxWatch and Host Committee Chairman Gov. Bob Martinez present the 2017 State of the Taxpayer, the premier event for Florida’s elected leaders to discuss the issues that will impact taxpayers over the next year. The 2017 event welcomes speakers Lt. Gov. Carlos López-Cantera, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Commissioner Adam Putnam, Speaker Richard Corcoran, Sen. Jack Latvala, and Rep. Jim Boyd. Last year’s event sold out and just a few tickets remain for next week’s event – visit Floridataxwatch.org/sotd for more info or to purchase tickets.***

RICHARD CORCORAN NAMES NINE APPOINTEES TO CONSTITUTION REVISION COMMISSION via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Among Corcoran’s appointees are school board members, state lawmakers and lawyers, with a heavy significance on Corcoran’s home base of Tampa Bay. Corcoran tapped two Miami-Dade lawmakers in his selection: Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Speaker pro tempore Jeanette Nunez. From the Tampa Bay region, Corcoran chose Rep. Chris Sprowls, Sen. Darryl Rouson, and Sen. Tom Lee … Sheriff Chris Nocco of Pasco County … School boards and charter schools will also have a friend in the CRC: Collier County School Board member Erika Donalds. Donalds has been a longtime advocate of the charter school movement and is a founding member and past President of a nonprofit organization focused on representing parents and students in Florida, Parents Rights Of Choice for Kids (R.O.C.K).

LOTTERY CASE NOW IN JUDGE’S HANDS; AGENCY SAYS IT DID NO WRONG via Florida Politics – The Florida Lottery went on an illegal spending spree when it inked a multiple-year, $700 million contract for new equipment and “blew up” the state’s budget process, a lawyer for Speaker Corcoran argued Monday. The Lottery’s lawyer countered that it takes money to make money, and the agency simply did what lawmakers told it to do: Maximizing its revenue for education, Barry Richard said. Lottery proceeds go to the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund. Both sides gave closing arguments after a one-day, non-jury trial over Corcoran’s contention that the contract with International Game Technology (IGT) went “beyond existing budget limitations,” as House general counsel Adam Tanenbaum told Circuit Judge Karen Gievers … Gievers did not rule immediately from the bench, saying she would … issue a decision “as quickly as I can.”

JANET CRUZ IS READY TO LEAD HER CAUCUS DURING WHAT’S EXPECTED TO BE A RAUCOUS SESSION via Florida Politics – Tallahassee has a “priority problem,” the House District 62 representative said. “The Republicans have continued to focus on massive handouts for the ultrawealthy and the large corporations at the expense of our public education, at the expense of our hospitals, at the expense of our environment, and at the expense of small businesses, which in my opinion is the backbone of this country,” Cruz said. While acknowledging that the Scott versus Corcoran contretemps will entertain Capitol observers this spring, she supports Corcoran’s attempts to kill Enterprise Florida, the public-private agency that entices companies to add jobs in the state.

‘DRAMATIC’ REFORMS IN PLAY FOR ALL LEVELS OF PUBLIC EDUCATION via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Just some of what’s on the table: “Dramatic” expansions of school choice alternatives in K-12 public schools and the state’s voucher-like scholarship programs are a top priority of Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran. The operations of Florida’s 28 public colleges could be reined in over what some senators see as unnecessary competition with the state’s public universities, sparking a need for more oversight. And the State University System itself faces a changed future as Republican Senate President Joe Negron seeks to make Florida’s 12 public universities globally competitive with the likes of the University of Virginia or the University of Michigan.

RANGE OF DCF OVERSIGHT ISSUES, BILLS TO BE DEBATED BY LAWMAKERS THIS SESSION via Florida Politics – Hot-button subjects with bipartisan support in the Senate and House include improvements in mental health and substance abuse treatment programs, working toward identifying and reducing human trafficking, better child protection and a funding shift from the federal level … The agency has had a string of high-profile incidents drawing negative attention beyond the state’s borders … In a few instances, historically, lying on such reports led the agency to lose track of where children are located … Worse yet are the deaths of minor children continuing under the department’s care or in instances where the agency had been alerted to a situation but didn’t act in a time appropriate manner. Among the most sensationalist stories making headlines around the country — shocking Florida residents — were the deaths of Naika Venant in Miami Gardens and Phoebe Jonchuck in St. Petersburg. DCF had been warned or involved in both cases.

— “A look ahead at the Florida 2017 Session: What to expect” via USA TODAY

— “Florida reporters to See how lawmakers stand on open records via Eliot Kleinberg of the Palm Beach Post

— “Legislative Session highlights local impacts of statewide issues” via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union

— “Republicans ready to ‘duke it out’ over budget, ideological differences” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

— “Top education issues to watch in 2017 Legislative Session” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News

LAWMAKERS GEAR UP TO HEAR COURTROOM CARRY, OPEN CARRY BILLS via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear two bills, SB 616 and SB 646, both sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube … SB 616, dubbed “courthouse carry,” would give courthouses permission to temporarily store firearms carried by concealed weapons permit holders while they are conducting business at Florida courthouses. The bill aims to reassure permit holders that they’ll be able to carry their firearms always rather than be unarmed while going to places like a courthouse. The second bill, SB 646, would decriminalize temporarily exposing one’s firearm for concealed carry permit license holders. The proposal would also law enforcement from arresting CCW permit holders who are lawfully carrying their concealed weapons and whose firearms become temporarily visible.

***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.***

HAPPENING TODAY – DENISE GRIMSLEY HOSTS BREAKFAST FUNDRAISER — It’s never too early in the day to start fundraising. Sen. Grimsley will hold a fundraising reception for her 2018 bid for Agriculture Commissioner at 7:30 a.m. at Florida Finance Strategies, 111-B East College Avenue in Tallahassee. The reception is hosted by Sens. Aaron BeanDennis BaxleyRob BradleyAnitere FloresGeorge GainerBill GalvanoRene GarciaJack LatvalaTom LeeDebbie MayfieldDavid SimmonsWilton SimpsonKelli Stargel, and Greg Steube.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rep. Shevrin JonesAliki Moncrief, the executive director of Florida Conservation Voters; Rich Templin, the legislative and political director of the Florida AFL-CIO, and others will hold a press conference to unveil the “Awake the State” progressive agenda at noon on the fourth floor Rotunda.

ON3 PUBLIC RELATIONS RELEASES COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF LEGISLATOR EMAILS, TWITTER HANDLES — Want to give a certain a lawmaker a shout-out, but don’t know their Twitter handle? Don’t worry, On3 Public Relations has Florida covered. “We put in the work, so you don’t have to,” wrote Christina Johnson. The firm released its updated guide to the emails and Twitter handles of members of the 2017 House and Senate members. We hope you find it a useful tool in connecting with our elected leaders,” she said.

SPOTTED: Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon on Travel Channel’s “Big Time RV.”

TWEET, TWEET:

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FLORIDA SUPREME COURT CONSIDERS VOTING RIGHTS AMENDMENT via The Associated Press – The Florida Supreme Court is being asked to approve the wording of a proposed amendment that could allow convicted criminals to vote … Justices must decide whether the amendment is misleading. The amendment would allow most convicts to have their rights automatically restored after they have completed their prison sentence. Felons convicted of murder or a sexual offense would not be eligible. Amendment supporters still must gather more than 700,000 signatures to place the amendment on the 2018 ballot.

BAD NURSING HOMES BENEFIT FROM AHCA’S PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE WAR ON #TRANSPARENCY via Florence Snyder of Florida Politics – The Agency for Health Care Administration’s (AHCA) high profile flack works hard duty playing hardball with some of Florida’s best reporters, but makes tens of thousands of dollars less than men paid by taxpayers to tell tall tales about #Transparency … Taking up the cause of families who love their grandparents, reporter Kate Santich asked AHCA to explain why inspection reports are being scrubbed of “dates, places and pivotal words” that make it possible to gauge the quality and safety of Florida’s nursing homes. People who pay attention to Transparency and Accountability (T&A) in Florida had no trouble believing the attorney who told Santich “I’ve been looking at these reports for 20 years, and I know what they used to look like and what they look like now. It has become arbitrary and inconsistent what they redact — but I think it’s all part of a bigger purpose to confuse people and make the reports useless.”

POLICE RADIO PANDEMONIUM: IS THE HARRIS CORP. IN OVER ITS HEAD? ASK PENNSYLVANIA via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – Floridians should feel relieved Gov. Scott and the Florida Legislature insisted on open and competitive bidding for a new Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS) … After what happened in Pennsylvania, Florida will want a chance to look beyond the dollar figure of each bid for P25 equipment and consider the bidder’s performance. Pennsylvania had such a bad experience with their police-radio contract that after two decades, hundreds of millions of wasted dollars, and problems that never did get fixed, the state kicked the contractor off the job. Fired him. It’s a vendor Florida knows well … it’s the Harris Corp. of Melbourne — Florida’s current vendor, the vendor trying occupy the catbird’s seat in the process — that was just bounced out of Pennsylvania.

WITH ROLE ON THE LINE, NCCI INSISTS: WE’RE NOT ‘AN EVIL EMPIRE UNTO ITSELF’ via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The National Council on Compensation Insurance will take no position on a Senate bill that would require workers’ compensation carriers to propose their own rates to the Office of Insurance Regulation. “We don’t have an opinion in it. We operate in both environments,” Susan Donegan, chief regulatory services officer for NCCI, said in a telephone interview. SB 1582 would shift Florida from a “fully administered” state to a “loss cost” system. That means that instead of proposing premium levels for most of the carriers in the state, as NCCI does now, the companies would compete on rates. NCCI would have a role under either system, Donegan said. In fact, of the 36 states in which it operates, only four — including Florida — are fully administered. In the others, the company crunches numbers for individual carriers.

ANDREW GILLUM’S GET via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Tallahassee Mayor Gillum, who announced his bid for governor last week, is counting cash and endorsements. From a campaign source email: “Former Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant, who raised over $350K for President Obama in 2012 and $250K for Secretary Clinton in 2016, is hosting a private finance dinner for Andrew’s core supporters Tuesday evening. Big name donors who have contributed … include Chris Findlater & Howard Wolfson. Gillum raised more than $110K in the last week with over 1,500 donors contributing online.”

GILLUM COURTS BERNIE SANDERS WING OF DEMOCRATIC PARTY via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Gillum will be the keynote speaker at the annual conference of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida … which last year endorsed Bernie Sanders for president … Said it is “inspired by (Tallahassee) Mayor Gillum’s leadership on gun safety, education, criminal justice reform, immigration, marriage equality, and making Florida’s economy work for everyone.” In a crowded field of Democratic candidates being seen as the most passionate advocate for working class Floridians could be a significant help for Gillum, who is also widely expected to earn the support of the influential Service Employees International Union.

TRUMP’S VICTORY IN FLORIDA WASN’T BECAUSE OF HIS NEWFOUND HARDLINE CUBA POLICY via Latin America Goes Global – At a meeting at The White House in the final days of the Obama Administration, a senior adviser to the 44th president shared a remarkable observation: members of the incoming Republican administration believed that Donald Trump won Florida’s 29 electoral votes because of his 180° turn on U.S.-Cuba policy. Apparently, even President Trump believes it. Problem is: it isn’t true. Not even close. […] The reality, though, is that all of the empirical evidence—both polling and actual election results—points in the opposite direction. Not only did Trump not perform well with Cuban-American voters, his changing position on the issue did not help him one bit. And one more thing: the Cuban-American vote did not determine the winner in Florida.

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JASON BRODEUR RAISES $405K IN FEBRUARY FOR STATE SD 9 BID via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer – Brodeur has raised about $405K for his State Senate District 9 bid in February according to state campaign finance reports. Brodeur’s personal campaign finance account brought in about $87.5K, which brings him over the century mark when added to his January totals which began later that month. He has essentially all of it on hand. The “Friends of Jason Brodeur” PAC brought in about $318K, with $282K on hand when the other figures are totaled in since the PAC was established almost a year ago.

APPOINTED: Major General Michael Calhoun as Representative on Florida Defense Support Task Force.

ANDER CRENSHAW MOVES ON TO D.C. LAW FIRM KING AND SPALDING via Florida Politics – Crenshaw, who represented the Jacksonville area from 1993 to 2016, will serve as senior counsel in the Government Advocacy and Public Policy practice in King & Spalding’s Washington, D.C., office. “King & Spalding’s roster of former government officials—elected and non-elected, both Democrat and Republican—was a compelling platform as I contemplated life after Congress,” said Crenshaw. Officers from the firm noted Crenshaw’s knowledge and affinity for consensus-oriented solutions as unique value adds for its newest hire.

CHIP IGLESIAS NAMED MANAGING PARTNER OF BALLARD PARTNERS MIAMI OFFICE — Ballard Partners announced Monday Genaro “Chip” Iglesias has been promoted to managing partner of the Miami office. “As the chair of our Local Government Practice, Chip has been an integral part of our Miami team and we are pleased to promote him to this new leadership role,” said Brian Ballard, the firm’s president, in a statement. “His keen insight into the Miami-Dade government affairs landscape and the wealth of contacts in the area will continue to help our clients achieve their policy goals, while allowing us to grow our business in South Florida.” Iglesias joined Ballard Partners as a seasoned public affairs expert in 2014. His resume touts several key senior level positions, from deputy mayor/chief of staff of Miami-Dade County and chief executive officer of the Village of Key Biscayne, to chief of staff to then-City of Miami Manager Carlos Gimenez and a 24-year stint as a firefighter and paramedic at the City of Miami Fire Department. Iglesias will take over the position previously held by Sylvester Lukis, who moved to Washington, D.C., to lead the firm’s newly-opened office.

KIM BERFIELD NAMED CHIEF LOBBYIST FOR ALL CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL via Florida Politics – Berfield, a former deputy secretary of the Florida Department of Health and state Representative from Clearwater, has been appointed Vice President of Government and Community Affairs for Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. Following her work for the state, Berfield served as Business Strategy and Development Contractor for the Florida branch of Primerica and Director of Government Affairs for Tampa-based Wellcare Health Plans. Her duties included developing and implementing multiyear business plans, building and maintaining collaborative relationships and providing strategic counsel in the government relations arena.

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Brian BallardChristopher Hansen, Ballard Partners: Eastern Florida State College Foundation

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Town of Lake Park

Chr CarmodyRobert Stuart, GrayRobinson: RB Jai-alai, LLC

Jon CostelloGary Rutledge, Rutledge Ecenia: Neurology Diagnosis & Applied Solutions, Inc.

Pete Dunbar, Martha EdenfieldBrittany FinkbeinerCari Roth, Dean Mead: City of Holmes Beach

Kimberly Fernandes, Kelly Kronenberg: Florida Justice Reform Institute

Chris Finkbeiner, The Rubin Group: Patients for Fair Compensation, Inc

Eduardo Gonzalez, Sun City Strategies: Transdev North America, Inc

Brecht Heuchan, The Labrador Companies: Waterford Institute

Kari Hicks, Sunshine State Consultants: Mint Organics

Rob Johnson, The Mayernick Group: Florida Power & Light Company

Douglas Mannheimer, Broad and Cassel: U.S. Submergent Technologies, LLC

Robert Spottswood, Baker & Hostetler LLP: American Resort Development Association

Herschel Vinyard, Foley & Lardner: GCM Contracting Solutions, Inc.

***Sen. Jack Latvala is fighting to protect Florida’s small business owners by leveling the playing field for owners of franchise establishments. This will lead to more economic growth and jobs for our communities. Tell Sen. Latvala you support him and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at ProtectFLBusiness.com.***

GOVERNORS CLUB TUESDAY BUFFET MENU – For first day of Session, the Governors Club offers an All-American buffet menu: KC steak soup, egg salad, macaroni salad, seasonal greens, three dressing sections, fried chicken, meatloaf with brown gravy, garlic Yukon mashed potatoes, glazed carrots and green beans.

THE GROVE MUSEUM SET TO OPEN via Gerald Ensley of the Tallahassee Democrat – It’s taken nearly eight years in the 21st century to turn the antebellum mansion into a state-operated museum. But visitors should find the wait worthwhile. Following a thoughtful and assiduous restoration, The Grove, opens this week to the public – fulfilling the intention of its longtime owners, the late Florida Gov. LeRoy Collins and his wife, Mary Call Collins. The Grove’s grand opening is this coming Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be guided tours of the two-story brick mansion, music performances, children’s games and food trucks. Following the grand opening, The Grove will be open to the public four days a week (Wed-Sat). Admission is free.

‘HAMILTON’ THE MUSICAL COMING TO TAMPA via Francis McMorris of the Tampa Bay Business Journal – The much-heralded Broadway production is coming to the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts for the 2018-2019 season. Season ticket holders for this year’s Best of Broadway Tampa Bay season are guaranteed seats to the musical when renewing for the 2018-2019 season. However, they must renew their subscription by the deadline in order to guarantee those seats. “Even though we’ve had big shows like ‘Wicked’ and ‘Phantom of the Opera,’ this is by far the biggest,” said Straz Center CEO and President Judy Lisi of the show. “It is absolutely a phenomenon.”

AFTER NEARLY 50 YEARS IN NEWS, MIKE DEESON ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT via Florida Politics – “I know this will come as a surprise to many of my friends in Tampa Bay,” Deeson says in a Facebook post, “but I have decided to retire from Channel 10 effective today.” Deeson, named one of the INFLUENCE Magazine’s top 100 Florida influencers in 2015, will use the time to “put more effort into many of other projects I have been trying to juggle while working full time … Maybe I’ll even improve my golf game.” He explains that he had been thinking about retiring for a while “especially because of the changing landscape of TV news.” As for his seemingly sudden announcement, Deeson says he “didn’t want the long goodbye tour,” instead “ripping off the bandage” and go forward immediately. “My nature is to come to a conclusion and act on it quickly without looking back,” he says.

ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA — As the Florida Legislature begins its 60-day session, Trimmel Gomes previews some of the controversial issues on the latest episode of The Rotunda. As the White House conducts its review of America’s foreign policy towards Cuba, Gomes documents his travels to the Communist-run Island as Cubans share their views on proposed policy changes. Plus, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum sits down for a one-on-one interview about his bid for governor in 2018. Plus, University of South Florida Political Scientist Susan McManus provides analysis on Gillum’s early start in what is expected to be a crowded field of candidates.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rep. Joe Geller and Rochelle Koff, who writes about food and dining for INFLUENCE Magazine and on her blog, Tallahassee Table.

Joe Gruters voices support for incentives programs in op-ed

Sarasota Republican Rep. Joe Gruters voiced his support for state economic development arms Enterprise Florida and VISIT Florida in an op-ed published Tuesday.

Gruters said the two organizations are “effective tools helping us to compete with other states to bring jobs and investments home to benefit our communities,” and that he “cannot support a proposal to slash funding for these organizations that would cripple our state’s ability to compete for jobs.”

“We cannot unilaterally disarm,” he said. “Thousands of Florida jobs depend on us doing the right thing.”

The two organizations, along with a slew of other incentive programs, have been targeted by House Speaker Richard Corcoran and other lawmakers during the ramp up to the 2017 Legislative Session, with the top House Republican calling the programs little more than “corporate welfare.”

The House has advanced a bill, HB 7005, that would kill Enterprise Florida and strip the VISIT Florida budget down to $25 million. That bill is currently ready for a floor vote in the House.

Gruters, currently in his first term, is on a different track.

Last month he filed HB 889, which he says calls for “strict transparency and accountability requirements” for state economic development programs and “ensures that Florida’s tax dollars are spent efficiently and effectively, without hamstringing our vital job-creating organizations.”

“As long as I have a voice in the Florida House, I will continue to fight for jobs for Florida families, using every tool at our disposal,” he wrote. “All Floridians deserve a good paying job and the opportunity to support their families. Embracing the strong value our economic development organizations provide is an essential step toward making that a reality.”

Gruters’ bill would impose tougher ethics requirements, such as disallowing board members in economic development organizations drawing up deals that would directly benefit them or a family member. The bill would also apply more stringent public records requirements on incentives deals.

Why does Florida use pass/fail for health inspections, not actual grades?

After a local news outlet reported seven Tampa Bay-area Publix grocery stores failed health inspections, the Department of Agriculture pulled all pass/fail grades and inspections from the online database.

“I believe that the pass/fail system is unclear because if it’s a failure, why is it still open?” Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam explained to WFTS-TV.

Which raises the question: Why is the state using a pass/fail instead of a simple grading system?

Most regions use either a letter or number grade for restaurant and other health department ratings; restaurants in California and New York are often seen posting “A” scores in full view of patrons and passersby.

Putnam finally decided to kill pass/fail for grocery stores, bakeries and convenience store, which Wendy Ryan of WFTS suggests could be linked to $354,000 in campaign contributions he received from Publix over the past two decades, including flying on the Publix personal jet in 2015.

“Of course not,” Putnam said when asked if the two were connected, “any more than anyone else’s contributions influence. You have to follow the law and do what’s right by the people.”

“I think we need to have a grading scale that is more reflective of the conditions in that store,” he said, “so that the consumers are aware and can make their shopping decisions accordingly.”

It doesn’t help that a transition to a new system will make it difficult for the average consumer to know exactly what is happening at a location. For example, if there happens to be a serious violation, re-inspection or some other discipline, Ryan says, there is now way to know since the state posts no grades anymore.

Nevertheless, Putnam promises the new system will be better. How could it be any worse?

“That’s why the pass/fail system is a failure because an industry leader [which Putnam openly admits is Publix], who has highly trained and highly qualified, nationally renowned food safety standards ought not be mislabeled based on minor infractions.”

The problem is, under the pass/fail system, those Publix violations were not simply “minor infractions.” A grade score could give a better idea of what is going on.

In November, WFTS found through state inspection records that the Publix stores failing in 2016 had significant “priority violations” – including rodent droppings, dangerous food temperatures and other food safety issues.

So how soon will this new (and hopefully improved) grading system be in place?

Putnam’s response: “I’m very aggressive about this, and I’m pushing them to come up with something very quickly.”

Just be glad we aren’t grading Putnam’s performance here – pass, fail or somewhere in between.

Florida For Care ‘web of influence’ raises questions, concerns about recreational marijuana

Florida for Care, the group that led the effort to pass Amendment 2 last year, continues to insist its support for expanding medical marijuana in Florida is in no way related to recreational use.

For marijuana opponents, however, that simply doesn’t cut it.

Their claim is that Florida for Care is trying to find a pathway to recreational use instead of helping those patients who need medical marijuana.

And as justification for their concerns, some point to the Florida for Care website, which features several sponsors looking to encourage marijuana beyond just medical purposes.

Businesses, industry groups, and individuals seeking to expand medical marijuana laws in Florida are all linked to organizations supporting recreational use of marijuana, and all are looking to profit from the industry or make access to cannabis easier.

And at the center of this “web of influence” is Florida for Care, as the main organizing group pushing for expanded marijuana access, including legalization for recreational use, in Florida.

As such, critics of expanding medical marijuana in the state have three questions for Florida For Care.

The first: If Florida for Care has no interest in promoting recreational marijuana, why would the group actively promote a social media platform devoted to just that?

On the Florida for Care website is MassRoots, listed as one of the organization’s “best sponsors.”

MassRoots is a social media platform for marijuana users and was founded for the purpose of allowing individuals to advocate for recreational use in a “semi-anonymous” fashion.

MassRoots had been removed from the Apple app store for violating the company’s policy prohibiting all cannabis apps, only later to be reinstated after pressure from the National Cannabis Association and The ArcView Group.

The next question concerns the Drug Policy Alliance, also considered one of Florida for Care’s best supporters.

The Alliance has actively publicized its involvement in the campaign to legalize recreational use in California. On the Alliance website, the group claims its efforts “paved the way” for “recent victories” in legalization in Washington, Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington D.C.

This leads critics to ask: is a connection between the Alliance and Florida for Care actually a vehicle for efforts to, once again, promote recreational use in Florida?

Finally, another of Florida for Care’s chief supporters is Greenspoon Marder, a South Florida law firm with a burgeoning cannabis practice.

With a primary office in Fort Lauderdale, Greenspoon Marder has expanded in the past year to include locations in Denver, San Diego and Las Vegas, all key areas in the expanding cannabis industry.

On its own website, Greenspoon Marder highlights recreational use becoming a major part of its practice. Firm co-founder Gerry Greenspoon has even launched the Organization for Safe Cannabis Regulation (OSCR), a separate group aimed at expanding the marijuana industry in Florida.

This tacit endorsement begs the third question: If Greenspoon Marder stands to profit from recreational marijuana use — beyond that of simply expanding medical marijuana — and it already supports recreational use in other states, isn’t it reasonable to assume they would push licensing to open the door for recreational use?

While the Florida for Care effort has been primarily geared toward helping those suffering from debilitating illnesses, these three questions about its web of influence raise eyebrows as to what is the real end game for marijuana in Florida.

Personnel note: Former lawmaker Kim Berfield named chief lobbyist for All Children’s Hospital

Kimberly Berfield, a former deputy secretary of the Florida Department of Health and state Representative from Clearwater, has been appointed Vice President of Government and Community Affairs for Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.

The hospital hopes the move will strengthen the 90-year-old hospital’s community outreach as well as increase its visibility in Tallahassee’s corridors of influence.

“Kimberly is a proven leader, coalition builder, and long-range strategist who will spearhead our community mission-based initiatives. Her addition stretches our capacity to fulfill our mission of providing child health through treatment, education, advocacy, and research, locally and beyond,” said Jonathan Ellen, M.D., Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital president and vice dean. “Due to Kimberly’s invaluable experience and expertise in both the private and public sectors, she hit the ground running when she joined our team on February 20.”

Following her work for the state, Berfield served as Business Strategy and Development Contractor for the Florida branch of Primerica and Director of Government Affairs for Tampa-based Wellcare Health Plans. Her duties included developing and implementing multi-year business plans, building and maintaining collaborative relationships and providing strategic counsel in the government relations arena.

St. Petersburg-based Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital offers a wide variety of community programs and classes designed to promote child health and safety through education, injury prevention, advocacy and research.

These initiatives, which include Safe Kids, Healthy Start, Fit4Allkids and Safe Routes to School, will benefit from Berfield’s track record as a collaborative leader in the community, Ellen noted.

FloridaPolitics.com now the top online-first source for where Florida lawmakers get their news

It’s that time of year when everyone in the process emails around CATECOMM’s annual legislative aide study — even the clients he’s working against. It’s a must-read perennial reminder for advocacy groups and coalitions to not send spam form emails or do other dumb things that don’t work.

Here is the Medium post everyone will be sharing.

But this year, something special happened and Kevin Cate gave me the heads up last night — FloridaPolitics.com is about to overtake SayfieReview.com as the most-read political news website by lawmakers. We tied Justin’s aggregator this year, and we’ve been on a huge curve up since the study began five years ago.

The top five overall go-to news outlets for lawmakers goes like this:

— Local TV News

— Local Print Newspapers

— Local Print Newspapers Online

— FloridaPolitics.com, Sayfie Review, and POLITICO Florida (tied)

— News Service of Florida

To give you an idea of how far we’ve come, compare the 2013 survey results…

… with this year’s results:

And we get our numbers without the benefit of being linked to by Marc Caputo‘s Playbook or Sayfie Review.

The full results will be released Tuesday. Stay tuned for a full recap.

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