Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 246

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.

Sugar growers: We were not involved ‘in any way’ with medical marijuana implementation

Florida sugar growers are pushing back hard on accusations that “Big Sugar and Big Citrus” had a hand in writing legislation to expand access to medical marijuana.

On Thursday, the Tampa Bay Times reported that that tucked into sweeping legislation on medical marijuana is “preferential treatment to companies that promise to convert orange juice factories and other citrus-processing facilities into marijuana grow sites.”

According to the Times, lawmakers want to replenish Florida’s citrus industry, which has been struggling after seasons of devastating citrus greening affecting crops and the rural communities that rely on oranges and grapefruits.

“It’s clear the language is written to benefit specific groups and specific companies,” Lake Worth Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens told the Times. “They know who is going to benefit. We don’t. And they are writing a bill that benefits these groups.”

Winter Park Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith chimed in on Twitter: “Big Sugar getting special perks + incentives in cannabis bill! Why am I not surprised? Biz as usual here!” Smith represents House District 49, which covers parts of Orlando.

However, growers are aggressively fighting back on the claim, asserting there is absolutely no connection between the sugar industry and the issue of medical marijuana.

In a statement Friday, U.S. Sugar representative Judy Sanchez called the accusations “completely inaccurate.”

“A recent report from the Tampa Bay Times suggesting medical marijuana legislation was written to benefit U.S. Sugar is completely inaccurate,” Sanchez said. “Our company has NOT been engaged in any way with any member of the Florida Legislature regarding medical marijuana.”

The state Senate passed its version of medical marijuana implementation bill Friday, on the last scheduled day of the three-day Special Session. The bill is now headed to the house.

Is there a deal to get out of Tallahassee on time?

Quick hit: With hours left in the Special Session, rumors of a final deal abound.

Details are scarce, but one Senator close to negotiations said “there could be a path to get our work completed today,” putting it at a 60 percent probability.

The Senate could get its money for hospitals, but the House will dictate how to spend it.

Moreover, medical marijuana implementation is expected to pass without incident.

A deal on education funding is all but signed off on by Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

What we don’t know: The fate of the Senate’s veto overrides.

As the AP’s Gary Fineout tweeted, “One possible out – but risky – is to add the higher ed vetoes the Senate wants to the school funding bill. But Scott could veto again … Unless of course @FLSenate can get @FLGovScott office to assure them that he won’t veto the higher ed projects a 2nd time.”

Day after Comey hearing, Donald Trump claims ‘total and complete vindication’

President Donald Trump is asserting that fired FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to Congress represents “total and complete vindication” in the Russia case.

Trump, who did not post on his Twitter account as Comey appeared before the Senate intelligence committee Thursday, sent a tweet at daybreak Friday. In the post, the president said: “Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindcaiton … and WOW, Comey is a leaker.”

Trump was referring to Comey’s revelation that he had passed on to a friend a written memo he’d made detailing a meeting with Trump at the White House — and had asked a friend to give it to a reporter for the New York Times.

During much of the increasingly heated debate surrounding the FBI’s investigation of Russia’s role in the election, Trump has chafed over news leaks, arguing that news organizations had not given them proper attention.

Session on verge of collapse as Florida GOP leaders feud

Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature, which has been wracked by feuds among its top leaders for the last several years, is in danger of ending a three-day special session without restoring billions in money that public schools use to pay for day-to-day operations.

The session is scheduled to end Friday, but after two days there remained a divide over spending that appears to have been partially spurred on by Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to veto more than $400 million in projects, including tens of millions in programs for the state’s 12 public universities.

If legislators don’t act then public schools will lose out on more than $11.4 billion in state funding that it supposed to start trickling down later this summer. A few days ago it appeared that Scott had worked out an agreement with GOP leaders, but Senate President Joe Negron insisted he never signed off on the deal.

“We’re not just going to rubber stamp an agreement that two parties made without our priorities being taken into account,” Negron said.

The Senate wants to restore $75 million worth of university-related projects that Scott vetoed last week – and they also want to restore some cuts to hospitals that legislators agreed to when they passed a new state budget.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has so far refused to go along with an override of Scott’s vetoes or set aside more money for hospitals.

“We would be the first Republican Legislature that overrode a Republican governor on pork-barrel spending. Find me that example. I don’t think it exists,” Corcoran said.

The drama unfolding in the Capitol was put in motion last week after Scott vetoed more than $11.4 billion for public schools on top of the $400 million in projects.

Scott called legislators back to the state Capitol to pass a new school budget that would increase overall funding by an additional $215 million. He also asked them to set aside money for his top priorities, including money for the state’s tourism marketing agency. Pushed by House Republicans, the Legislature had initially proposed slashing money for Visit Florida by two-thirds. Scott had warned for weeks that the House proposals would kill jobs.

Scott put together a hastily-arranged press conference last week in Miami to announce what he called an “agreement” and both Corcoran and Negron joined the governor for the announcement. Negron said that while he supports giving the governor what he wants, he said he warned him ahead of time that the Senate would not support the governor using money from projects put in the budget by senators to pay for it.

Despite the ongoing discord over spending, legislators are poised to pass this week a bill that would put in place rules for medical marijuana, which voters in the state approved last November. Legislators failed to pass any legislation during their regular session that ended in early May. Scott agreed to add the issue to the agenda for the special session after a compromise was worked out.

But the compromise put together by legislators would ban the smoking of medical marijuana. Instead sick patients eligible to use the drug would have to consume it by vaping, or ingest it in a pill form or in something edible.

Legislators in both the House and Senate on Thursday tried to eliminate the ban, saying it went against what voters envisioned when they approved the amendment. Supporters of the smoking ban insisted it made sense because smoking in general is not healthy.

John Morgan, who was the driving force behind getting the amendment on the ballot, said he will sue if smoking is not allowed. Morgan has said that the only place where the amendment does not allow smoking is public spaces.

Sunburn for 6.9.17 – Session collapsing; Pot bill rolling; Supreme Court dishing; Grimsley raising coin; Airbnb booming; Shark biting

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

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

— SESSION ON VERGE OF COLLAPSE AS GOP LEADERS FEUD —

Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature, which has been wracked by feuds among its top leaders for the last several years, is in danger of ending a three-day special session without restoring billions in money that public schools use to pay for day-to-day operations, reports Gary Fineout and Joe Reedy of the Associated Press.

A few days ago it appeared that Scott had worked out an agreement with GOP leaders, but Senate President Joe Negron insisted he never signed off on the deal.

“We’re not just going to rubber stamp an agreement that two parties made without our priorities being taken into account,” Negron said.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has so far refused to go along with an override of Scott’s vetoes or set aside more money for hospitals.

House Speaker Rep. Richard Corcoran listens to Rep. Ralph Massullo on the floor of the House of Representatives Thursday. Photo credit: Phil Sears.

“We would be the first Republican Legislature that overrode a Republican governor on pork-barrel spending. Find me that example. I don’t think it exists,” Corcoran said.

If legislators don’t act then public schools will lose out on more than $11.4 billion in state funding that it supposed to start trickling down later this summer.

“Negron teed off on ‘fake narrative’ that Senate signed off on Scott-Corcoran budget deal” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – In a stunning departure from his calm demeanor, an irritated Negron on Thursday denounced the “fake narrative” that he struck a deal over the now-imploding special session to fix school funding. Negron didn’t name names, but those close to him say he started to grow irate once Corcoran suggested that the Senate leader wasn’t holding up his end of the bargain …

— Part of Negron’s frustration is rooted in the way he runs the Senate. He doesn’t apply too much pressure to members and often lets them vote their will. As a result, it’s hard to promise votes for any deal — especially one involving Corcoran, whom many senators have begun to despise because they think he has ridden roughshod over the upper chamber.

— In uncharacteristic fashion, Negron pulled back the curtain on how the Senate works internally. He mentioned, for instance, that his office did not approve Senate quotes for the Scott’s press release last Friday announcing the key issues of the special session. More remarkably, he said he wanted to keep the Senate’s name off the special session proclamation.

— “The mood of the [Senate] is that we want to do what we think is right for the people we represent, and we are not going to be told what to do,” Senate budget chief Jack Latvala said Wednesday.

Sen. Jack Latvala reacts as Sen. Gary Farmer tries to make a point in a back corner on the floor of the Senate Thursday. Photo credit: Phil Sears.

Was there a strategy behind the Senate vetoes of $75 million in higher education overrides?” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Sen. Bill Galvano, the head of the Senate higher education budget, said that the governor’s vetoes seemed to be “an inordinate amount of vetoes” to universities and colleges that betray the Senate’s goal of shoring up universities and colleges this session. The move appears destined to be essentially ignored by the House at this point. So, was there a rhyme or reason for which projects were chosen? Were they targeted projects, intended to put pressure on the House to persuade Speaker Corcoran to reconsider his opposition to overriding vetoes? The answer is “not really,” according to Senate sources. The selection of projects was handled by Senate President Negron‘s office and appear to be based on “whoever had juice.” “We’re feeling left out in Jacksonville,” said Sen. Aaron Bean, whose district was left off the override list.

Funding for HB 7069 left alone after Senate backs off” via The Miami Herald – Florida senators wanting a second crack at stopping a contentious $419 million education reform bill that narrowly passed the Legislature last month were unsuccessful on Thursday in defunding it to redirect the dollars to general K-12 public school spending. Broward County Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer led the charge to undo HB 7069, after Senate Pre-K-12 education budget chairman David Simmons — earlier passionately defiant — backed off his plans to force lawmakers to revisit the legislation during a three-day special session, even though it’s not on the Legislature’s restricted agenda.

– “Deal or no deal? Senate fundraiser makes session extension—complicated” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

— POT BILL ON FAST TRACK DESPITE ‘DYNAMITE’ —

The Special Session’s medical marijuana legislation is speeding toward passage.

For example, the Senate has managed to keep the bill clear of all but technical amendments.

It rejected, on a 15-21 vote, a proposal by St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes to take a more laissez-faire approach, abandoning the vertical integration required under the proposed legislation, and allowing people to smoke their medicine.

“This bill allows specialization. This bill allows the market to work. It works in everything else,” Brandes said.

Bill sponsor Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, opposed the amendment, arguing patients are more concerned with safety and efficacy than free-market principles.

In addition, it could blow up the legislative effort.

“If we were to accept this amendment, we would be throwing dynamite into the middle of the entire process,” Bradley said.

Another amendment by Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat, to allow patients to smoke failed on a 14-20 vote.

Sen. Jeff Clemens questions Sen. Rob Bradley about his medical marijuana implementation bill on the floor of the Senate. Photo credit: Phil Sears.

Clemens said he’s never gotten a good explanation from county sheriffs who oppose allowing patients to smoke.

“Their response in public was, ‘We just think it’s unhealthy’ ” — an “absurd” response, he said.

The real reason?

“All I can surmise is that, when you see somebody walking down the street, and they’re smoking marijuana, you don’t want to determine whether they have a (ID) card. It’s just easier to bust them for it,” Clemens said.

Both chambers should vote out their respective bills today (Friday).

“Senate sets up its medical marijuana bill for a vote” via Florida Politics – Sen. Bradley returned to the floor to explain the bill and take questions from fellow senators. The legislation allows “edibles,” “vaping,” drops and pills but not smoking. The issue of whether to allow smoking continues to pit Republicans, who oppose it, against Democrats, who support it. Bradley said he was unmoved by arguments that the constitutional amendment passed by voters last year allows smoking. The amendment’s language refers to smoking but does not explicitly permit it. “If the drafters (of the amendment) wanted smoking to be a constitutional right, they should have said ‘smoking is a constitutional right,’” Bradley told colleagues. He added that medical professionals agree “the taking of smoke into your lungs is an inherently unhealthy act.” For now, the Special Session is still scheduled to end Friday.

“House beats back effort to allow smoking of medical marijuana” via Florida Politics A change to the Special Session’s medical marijuana legislation that would have allowed patients to smoke it was handily defeated Thursday. The amendment offered by Rep. Evan Jenne, a Dania Beach Democrat, was killed on the House floor by a vote of 37-71. “If a doctor and a patient determine that (smoking) is the best way to alleviate pain, or whatever it might be, then that should be left up to them,” he told reporters after the House’s daily session. “In any doctor-patient relationship, there is no one-size-fits-all.”

At left, Rep. Ray Rodrigues confers with Rep. Brad Drake before introducing his medical marijuana implementing bill on the floor of the House of Representatives. Photo credit: Phil Sears.

Former lawmaker’s connections raise questions about marijuana bill” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Critics worry that the Legislature is on track to lock in place a system composed of a small number of politically connected companies, so it’s noteworthy that the bill includes a provision awarding one of those new licenses to a grower tied to lobbyist and former Sarasota lawmaker Doug Holder. Sources say Holder has told them that he is trying to position himself – or an entity he controls – to have an ownership interest in a company that would profit off the medical marijuana industry. A company Holder has been consulting for, Sun Bulb, would obtain a medical marijuana license under the bill before the Legislature right now. Holder asked to have any questions submitted in writing. Responding through text message, he said that, “I do not have an ownership interest with any nursery that has or is seeking a license to grow medical marijuana” and added that “my relationship with SunBulb is in the area of business development seeking interested investors or partners.”

“Whodunit? or, How did citrus get into Special Session medical marijuana bill?” via Florida PoliticsEveryone loves a mystery, so how did a provision to help concerns with underused or shuttered citrus factories get into this year’s medical marijuana legislation? Language in both bills (SB 8-A, HB 5A) would give preferential treatment for up to two growing licenses to applicants who can show “they own one or more facilities that are, or were, used for the canning, concentrating, or otherwise processing of citrus fruit or citrus molasses, and will use or convert the facility or facilities for the processing of marijuana.” Most recently, the Senate bill was approved by the Health Policy Committee on Thursday morning. Bill sponsor Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, said he didn’t know where the verbiage came from. “I’m not aware of any specific companies,” he told reporters after the meeting.

Sen. Perry Thurston and Sen. Darryl Rouson confer during a Senate Health Policy Committee meeting to take up a medical marijuana implementing bill Thursday in the Knott Building in Tallahassee. The senators are concerned that none of the original seven licensees are black farmers. Photo credit: Phil Sears

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— STATEWIDE — 

Supreme Court sends Bessman Okafor sentence back, Scott reassigns it from Aramis Ayala” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The move came with swift intervention from state Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs, who asked the governor to keep the case from going back to Ayala, who has vowed to not prosecute death penalties. The governor concurred, reassigning it to neighboring State Attorney Brad King in the 5th Judicial Circuit, as he has done with 23 previous first-degree murder cases in the past three months. “I am grateful,” said Cortes, a Republican who has been a stern critic of Ayala’s declaration and how she arrived at her decision. Okafor’s murder conviction stands, according to the Supreme Court. The court threw out his death penalty and ordered another penalty phase trial.

“Supreme Court strikes down limit on medical malpractice awards” via Florida PoliticsIn a 4-3 decision, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday agreed with a lower court and said limiting certain damages in personal-injury medical malpractice lawsuits is unconstitutional. The ruling split along the usual lines, with the progressive-leaning justices concurring, and the conservatives—now including new Justice C. Alan Lawson—in dissent. The Legislature established $500,000 limits, or caps, on what are called “non­-economic” damages for such cases. The Supreme Court previously ruled they don’t apply in medical malpractice cases involving wrongful death. The 4th District Court of Appeal had extended that decision to personal injury cases.

The Florida Medical Association is disappointed with the ruling, says FMA president David Becker, “but given past decisions, it was not unexpected. The FMA will continue to do all it can to ensure that the costs of the medical liability system do not unfairly impact physicians ability to practice medicine.”

Corrine Brown’s attorney files motion for new trial” via Lynnsey Gardner of News 4 JaxJames Smith had also talked about filing a motion to interview Juror No. 3, the juror who told the I-TEAM that the verdicts might not have been reached if one of the jurors hadn’t told Judge Timothy Corrigan something that got juror No. 13 removed from the panel. But Smith said after reviewing case law, nothing juror No. 3 could tell his team would be admissible in court to invalidate the verdict, but he continued to call the comments from juror No. 3 “disturbing.” “It just doesn’t look like we have a legal avenue to be able to get it in,” Smith said. “So rather than filing a motion where we know we have no chance of winning, we’ll simply move on and pursue the motions that we have that are viable.” Brown is having financial difficulties and hasn’t paid a chunk of her legal bills, sources tell the I-TEAM. Those bills will continue to climb as Brown goes through the appeals process.

“State athletics panel wins case over football field prayer” via Florida Politics – A federal judge ruled this week for the Florida High School Athletic Association, which was sued by Cambridge Christian School in Tampa. Association officials didn’t allow a spoken prayer over the public address system before a 2015 game at an Orlando stadium. The judge disagreed with the school that its constitutional free-speech rights had been violated. To have allowed the prayer would have amounted to a state endorsement, since the Association controlled the loudspeakers, of a religious message. Noting that players gathered on the field for unbroadcast praying, the ruling added that the school was “not denied alternate means of engaging in communal prayer.”

State year-end test results show small fluctuations, with strongest growth in math” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – The percentages of students passing the tests remained overall stable in language arts, math and science. But there was notable improvement among high school students passing the Algebra I end-of-course exam, which is a graduation requirement, and the Algebra II end-of course exam, which lawmakers have slated to eliminate beginning next year. The Algebra I exam has always had high success rates in middle schools, where the students who take the course are advanced. This year, 89 percent of younger children taking the test passed it, up from 88 percent a year ago. The students who remain to take Algebra I in high school have always lagged behind, and this year proved no different. Just 42 percent of high schoolers passed the exam this year. However, that’s up from 36 percent a year earlier, indicating that high schools are working to overcome that gap and improve the course.

Miami Beach voters will decide whether to limit alcohol sales on Ocean Drive” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald – Following shootings during Memorial Day weekend, Miami Beach commissioners unanimously agreed to let voters decide whether to limit alcohol sales at outdoor venues along Ocean Drive. A question will appear on the November ballot asking voters if the city should adopt an ordinance ending alcohol sales in outdoor venues at 2 a.m.instead of 5 a.m. Indoor establishments that are completely enclosed and located entirely within hotels would be exempt. The vote came after last week’s shootings in South Beach, including the fatal shooting of Miami-Dade resident Ladarian T. Phillips during an argument over a parking space. The violence reignited a debate about the state of the South Beach’s entertainment district.

Zika concerns arise after heavy rainstorms” via Caitlin Randle of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel – … leading to more mosquito spraying in four Broward cities. The county’s mosquito control division will spray portions of Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, Sunrise and Lauderhill for the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which is the variety known to carry and transmit the Zika virus. The spraying is a preventative measure as there are no active cases of Zika in Broward County. One local case of Zika was reported in August of last year.

— WHAT MANY PEOPLE GET WRONG ABOUT FLOODING IN SOUTH FLORIDA —

As South Florida experienced torrential rain this week, with more to come, many communities surrounding Lake Okeechobee watched the big lake rise. From drought conditions Last week, the lake was down to 10 feet. Rains pushed that number up to 11.2 feet. That leaves what Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News calls “breathing room” in Lake O.

It’s unlikely the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is will open lock gates before lake level reaches 15-foot-6.

“But something else has begun to happen,” Smith writes. “In some easily flooded areas, canals have risen farther above sea level than the lake.”

What the water table shows are inflows to Lake O from the Martin County side — the St. Lucie Canal — because the lake level is lower than the canal water flowing in the from the east.

During periods of discharges, the number would be positive, but because water is actually flowing INTO Lake O, it’s negative.

The point is, many in the media got it wrong. They followed the Sierra Club’s lead, claiming – as they did in an NBC2 story – farmers were back pumping polluted stormwater into the lake to save flooded crops.

As Smith notes: Farmers have no say in the decision to back pump; they have no authority to turn on the pumps themselves and the South Florida Water Management District, which is in charge of flood control, isn’t concerned with keeping agricultural fields dry — they back pump when communities south of Lake Okeechobee — and the people in them — are flooded.

— DENISE GRIMSLEY TOPS $875K IN BID FOR AG. COMMISSIONER —

Sen. Denise Grimsley has more than $800,000 for her bid to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Grimsley’s campaign announced it raised a total of $71,000 in the days following the end of the regular 2017 Legislative Session through May 31. That brings her total raised to $875,000 — $386,600 for her official campaign and $488,500 for Saving Florida’s Heartland, her political committee.

“I am honored by the support our campaign has received from Floridians all over the state. We are working hard every day talking to voters about the vital importance of agriculture to our state’s economic health and the need for continued conservative leadership from our next Commissioner,” she said in a statement.

“With over two million Florida agriculture-related jobs, we need a proven fighter to carry the Republican banner next November and hold this seat,” she continued. “With over 600 donors and more joining our campaign every day, our message of supporting farmers and ranchers, defending our Second Amendment rights, and fighting to protect families and seniors is resonating with Floridians from the Panhandle to the Keys.”

Grimsley faces Rep. Matt Caldwell and Paul Paulson in the Republican race to replace Putnam, who can’t run again because of term limits.

— MORE NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Gwen Graham calls for gun safety measures in advance of Pulse anniversary” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Graham proposed new gun safety measures in the wake of Monday’s mass shooting outside Orlando and the approaching one-year anniversary of the Pulse shooting. “A year after the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history — after the murder of 49 young people — Governor Rick Scott and the Legislature haven’t done a thing to curb gun violence in our state,” she said in a statement. Graham called for comprehensive universal background checks on all gun sales “to stop criminals and terrorists from purchasing guns.” She also proposed: a ban on large-capacity magazines; a requirement that abusers surrender firearms when a protective order is issued against them; and giving law enforcement “the tools they need to prevent those with serious mental illness from purchasing or keeping firearms.”

First on #FlaPol – “Baxter Troutman entering competitive Ag. Commissioner race” via Bill Rufty of SaintPetersBlogThe grandson of the late citrus baron and one-time gubernatorial candidate, Ben Hill Griffin Jr., Troutman will enter the competitive race to succeed Putnam. “I will file either Friday or Monday at the latest,” Troutman said. “This isn’t a decision I came to lightly and it isn’t a step to advance to a higher position up the career ladder.” 

Assignment editors: Jeremy Ring is scheduled to address annual convention of the Florida Professional Firefighters at 11:30 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota, 1000 Boulevard of the Arts in Sarasota.

Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell weighing bid for Carlos Curbelo’s seat” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami HeraldDebbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores in 2016, was in Washington on Thursday to meet with party leaders and members of Congress. “I met with various members of Congress who are extremely concerned about the direction our country is in, they are encouraging me to take a serious look at it,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “One of the reasons I’m considering it is that I’m fully committed to the people in the district. The horrible healthcare vote that Curbelo took a few weeks ago shows that they don’t have a member in Congress. He doesn’t represent the district.” Mucarsel-Powell met with Florida Reps. Stephanie Murphy, Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel along with Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell and Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark.

Equality Florida backs Annette Taddeo in SD 40 — Equality Florida Action PAC announced Thursday it was throwing its support behind Taddeo, a Miami-Dade Democrat, in the race to replace Sen. Frank Artiles in Senate District 40. “We are proud to endorse a true champion for equality in Senate District 40, replacing one of the most anti-LGBTQ legislators in Florida’s history,” said Hannah Willard, public policy director for Equality Florida. “We are eager to work with our ally and friend Annette Taddeo in Tallahassee, and we know she will tirelessly advocate for the best interest of all her constituents, including LGBTQ Floridians.” Taddeo said she was honored by the early support of Equality Florida Action PAC. “I am a longtime Ally of the LGBTQ community, not only because it’s the right thing to be, but because it’s personal to me,” she said in a statement. “As a teenager, I witnessed the injustices my sister confronted as she came out, and saw some in the family I love be ashamed, more worried about appearances than my sister’s happiness or love. I stood up for her then and will continue fighting for equality until everyone understands that love is love. I look forward to taking this fight to the Florida Senate.”

Republican attacking opponent for Cuba travel has himself worked with Cuban exporter” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New TimesJose Mallea once worked as a lobbyist for (Ariel) Pereda and later chaired a fundraising group founded by the businessman who regularly deals with Havana. Mallea’s work for Pereda was perfectly legal, but it raises a serious question of just how strongly Mallea believes that traveling to Cuba or spending money on the island “feeds the dictatorship.” After all, Pereda’s work has a much bigger impact on the Cuban economy than a 29-year-old who took some engagement photos there.

Rick Baker raises more than half-a-million dollars in May for mayoral bid” via Florida Politics – After just three weeks on the campaign trail, Baker‘s campaign is reporting that it raised an eye-opening $553,174 in contributions to his campaign and Seamless Florida, an affiliated political committee. Baker’s haul is a record-breaking amount for any campaign during the six elections the city of St. Petersburg has conducted under its current strong-mayor form of government. Baker’s campaign says it received money from 651 contributors, of which nearly half gave $25 of less.

— MOVEMENTS —

How Brian Ballard is turning close ties to Trump into big business” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Trump pledged to “drain the swamp,” but Ballard is flourishing in a city where access is the ultimate commodity. “It’s luck,” he said in an interview from his new office on a recent afternoon, a Diet Coke before him and the TV tuned to Fox News. … Having already opened offices across Florida, including Miami, Orlando and Tampa, Ballard now is has formed partnerships with firms in New York and Chicago and is exploring Austin and Los Angeles.

Personnel note: Jennifer Hinson joins Rutledge Ecenia – Most recently, Hinson served as Senior Director of Hospital Contracting for WellCare Health Plans, where she had overall responsibility for WellCare’s Florida hospital network. She brings extensive knowledge in health care law and policy through private and public-sector experience. Throughout her career, Hinson has worked on a wide range of issues in health care law, and policy and litigation.

Personnel note: Zoe Linafelt joins Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers Linafelt leaves Sachs Media Group to become the statewide organization’s communications manager, reporting to Chief Communications Officer Molly Kellogg-Schmauch. Linafelt has over seven years of experience in communications. “We are thrilled to have someone of Zoe’s skill and background join us at FCCC,” Kellogg-Schmauch said. “She brings a wealth of experience in strategic planning, writing and campaign measurement, and will be a strong addition to the team.” Linafelt received her undergraduate degree in English from Florida State University. She is an active member of the Capital Chapter of FPRA, currently serving as the director of membership.

New and renewed lobby registrations: Rebecca Roman, Adams St. Advocates: Unisys Corporation

— WEEKEND TV —

Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: James will discuss “1967 Tampa Race Riots & The Taking of The Central Ave. Community” with documentary filmmaker Travis R. Bell, professor at the University of South Florida Zimmerman School of Mass Communications & Marketing.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues that affect the area’s citizens.

Florida This Week  on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Panelists this week include Dr. Susan MacManus, USF professor of Government and International Affairs; reporter Joe Henderson; Democratic National Committee Member Alan Clendenin and Republican Party activist Leonard Mead.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion on current and proposed gun legislation with Democratic State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando, Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon of Longwood and Pulse nightclub shooting survivor Angel Santiago, Jr.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto talks proposed gun legislation and reform introduced in Congress. PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter rates a claim about mass shootings and current gun legislation.

Orlando Democrat Darren Soto talks guns and gun control bills in Congress on Spectrum’s Sunday talker Political Connections.

Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO: Friday night guests include author and activist Michael Eric Dyson; performer Ice Cube; former NBC’s Meet the Press host David Gregory; former Pinellas County Congressman David Jolly, and Symone Sanders, who served as national press secretary for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Hosts Gary Yordon and Steve Vancore will be speaking with Feeding Florida director Robin Safley.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week, Justice speaks with Jacksonville City Council member Danny Becton, Duval County Public School Chair Paula Wright and School Board member Becki Couch. Also appearing is Teri Chenot, associate professor at the Keigwin School of Nursing /Brooks Rehabilitation College of Health Care Sciences at Jacksonville University.

— GRADUATION SEASON MEANS BIG BUCKS FOR AIRBNB —

Floridians traveling for the college graduation took advantage of vacation rental options in a big way, according to new data from Airbnb.

The data showed local Airbnb host communities expanded lodging capacities and offered affordable rental rates for visiting families. The report found guests booking rooms in Airbnb-marketed vacation rental homes more than doubled the Gainesville and Tallahassee around University of Florida and Florida A&M graduations.

“Home sharing provides significant economic value by expanding lodging capacity during commencement weekends for Florida communities that are home to large universities,” Tom Martinelli, policy director of Airbnb Florida, stated in a news release.

“As a Gator alumnus, I can certainly relate to my family having to book Gainesville hotel rooms a year in advance of my graduation, as is the case in college communities throughout the state,” he recalled. “We’re very encouraged to see how our platform has been utilized to provide affordable lodging accommodations for college families during stretches when hotels traditionally reach peak occupancy.”

The report noted 290 Airbnb-marketed vacation rental homes hosted 752 guests during the week of UF’s late April commencement. That’s 136 percent more than rental activity than the previous week.

In Tallahassee, 290 Airbnb vacation rental homes hosted 444 guests during FAMU’s graduation week, a 138 percent increase. The following week they hosted 637 guests for FSU’s commencement week, but since the previous week was FAMU’s graduation, the increase was just 35 percent. Tallahassee also was hosting the last two weeks of the Florida Legislative Session during those weeks.

Jacksonville’s 350 vacation rental home hosts saw 759 guests during the University of North Florida’s graduation in late April, a 59 percent increase over the previous week.

In Pensacola, 230 hosts had 433 guests during University of West Florida’s commencement week in early May, a 43 percent increase over the previous week; while 230 hosts had 433 guests during UWF’s commencement week in early May, a 43 percent increase over the previous week.

— ALOE —

Man attacked by shark while spearfishing” via Timothy O’Hara of the Florida Keys News – Despite being bit by a shark and treated at the hospital, Key West resident Parker Simpson will return to spearfishing off the Florida Keys as soon as possible. Simpson was spearfishing some 6 miles off Stock Island when he was bit in the leg by a reef shark, Simpson said. Simpson and friends were freediving and shooting fish in roughly 50 feet of water. Simpson lost more than two pints of blood. He later said he spent four hours at a hospital.

 Happy birthday to the Ambassador of Tallahassee, Jay Revell. Celebrating this weekend are Nick Iarossi, Amy Farrington, and Mike Fasano.

Jacksonville Bold for 6.9.17 — Thrills, spills and bills

As Special Session continues in Tallahassee, local stories continued apace, as you will see below.

For a U.S. Representative and a state Senator, we see some campaign intrigue.

For state Representatives, some bills were signed into law — and some were vetoed.

On the city level, we saw a power struggle between Jacksonville’s Mayor and a City Councilman. Guess how that went.

As well, a couple of city agencies dealt with audits, CSX paid off their CEO, and the Jaguars again pointed out that they need a London game to make this market viable.

A lot of news and some views; in the words of M.C. Hammer: “Let’s get it started.”

Competitive primary for John Rutherford?

It looks like Rep. John Rutherford will face a primary challenge in 2018. Sort of.

Palatka petition collector Rob Ficker filed as a Republican in Florida’s 4th Congressional District race — a neat trick for an NPA living outside the district.

Gov. Rick Scott and Rob Ficker exchange ideas.

Ficker hasn’t consulted donors yet. Nor has he considered what committees to which he’d be best equipped to start strong on Day One.

Nor could he recall who he voted for in the 2014 gubernatorial or 2016 presidential races.

However, when asked if he’s ready to challenge the sitting Congressman to debate, Ficker spit fire.

“Sure. Always.”

Related: Ficker’s father’s Wikipedia entry. Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

‘Nothing sinister’ about Audrey Gibson Special Session fundraising email

Sen. Audrey Gibson turned some heads on her email list as Special Session began, with an email from her campaign account promoting a South Florida fundraiser this week.

Senators are prohibited from fundraising or solicitations thereof during Special Session, but Gibson pins the blame on a wayward staffer.

“I didn’t send this out,” she said at first.

Audrey Gibson’s email problem wasn’t her fault, she said, pinning the blame on a staffer.

When we noted the campaign account email, Gibson said: “I don’t have an email for my campaign. Perhaps the person I’m working with emailed not knowing not to.”

“Thanks to you I sent them a text just now not to email anymore,” Gibson added.

When we asked what would happen if someone did call to RSVP or contribute, Gibson said: “I follow the rules.”

Big win for craft distilleries

Gov. Scott signed 33 bills into law last Friday, including Northeast Florida State Rep. Cyndi Stevenson’s bill (HB 141) to remove some restrictions from craft distilleries.

Cyndi Stevenson carried a bill with benefit to a local distillery … and distilleries statewide.

Among the highlights of the legislation: Increasing production caps from 75,000 to 250,000 gallons; allowing for off-site distribution points; and relaxing limits on how many bottles a consumer could buy in a given year.

More remains to be done, Stevenson told us.

“I had hoped to get the ability for distilleries to have unlimited bottle sales to the end consumer,” the St. Johns Republican said, yet a “compromise of six bottles” was reached.

“I know there was support in the industry and in the House and the Senate for a more robust bill, but going for more placed the entire bill at risk,” Stevenson added.

Shot, chaser: Jax liquor bills signed into law

While Republican Cord Byrd is meeting the wrath of the veto pen, Democratic Rep. Tracie Davis scored two big wins for the city of Jacksonville Tuesday.

Tracie Davis carried a double shot of drinking bills for Dirty Duval.

Scott signed into law Tuesday two “local bills” regarding alcohol sales and consumption.

Both bills, carried at the request of the Jacksonville City Council, make it easier to drink in public places. One bill: Near the stadium. The other: At smaller restaurants in older neighborhoods.

HB 1291 waives the open container restrictions on alcoholic beverage consumption within and contiguous to the A. Philip Randolph Entertainment District, “during 15 designated ‘special events’ and any other event designated as ‘special’ by the City Council.”

HB 1293 creates “special zones” in older neighborhoods with smaller commercial buildings, such as Murray Hill, Springfield and San Marco, to lower the required seating for a restaurant serving liquor from 150 to 100.

New recourse for terror victims

Stronger civil penalties for terrorism in the Sunshine State are imminent, as Gov. Scott signed Rep. Jason Fischer‘s “Civil Remedies for Terrorism” bill into law last Friday.

HB 65 was Fischer’s first bill, filed November.

Jason Fischer got one of his priority bills signed into law.

Previously, under Florida law, there had not been a civil cause of action for terrorism. This bill changes that, allowing a person injured as a victim of terrorism to collect minimum damages of $1,000, along with legal fees, from the assailant or assailants.

Kim Daniels takes ‘glass half-full’ approach to Legislative Session

Though much of the narrative this week has been an evaluation of what Scott’s vetoes mean for local priorities, HD 14 Rep. Kim Daniels is looking at the positive: $1M brought home to the Jacksonville Democrat’s district.

Kim Daniels, here with Benny Hinn, has been an adherent of the prosperity gospel for years.

“Despite difficult political circumstances, I am bringing back almost 1 million dollars back to District 14 as a freshman,” Daniels said in a news release this week.

Daniels cites four big approps victories: HB 3307 (Veterans’ Villa Training), HB 3509 (No One Left Behind Initiative), HB 2203 (ShotSpotter Pilot Program), and HB 2869 (Wayman Community Development).

Of those four, ShotSpotter may have been the biggest for Jacksonville; the pilot program will identify where bullets came from in high-crime neighborhoods.

“I am encouraged by these important recent budget developments,” Daniels continued. “My legislative glass is half full, not empty.”

$400K mistake for Cord Byrd?

Every budget process has winners and losers. Reports First Coast News this week, Neptune Beach lost after the gubernatorial veto pen X’d out $400,000 for stormwater culvert improvements.

“We’ll keep fighting for it. I think it’s an important and worthwhile project,” said State Rep. Byrd.

“That’s an evacuation route for hurricanes and storms,” Byrd, who initially wanted $950,000, added. “Obviously the beaches where that’s important for people to be able to leave in case there’s a bad storm. But also for general flooding in the area.”

Tough round of vetoes for Cord Byrd, but adversity builds character.

Byrd was on the wrong side of Gov. Scott in the fight for economic incentives during the Legislative Session. One can speculate as to whether or not that was a $400K mistake.

That speculation would only be augmented by another Scott veto Tuesday: a proposed expansion of the purview of the Ocean Highway and Port Authority of Nassau County get the ax.

Scott’s objection was that the bill authorized construction of infrastructure outside of FDOT Work Program’s scope, pushes for infrastructure in Georgia, and allows the Authority the ability to issue bonds.

Lenny Curry wins again

Jacksonville City Councilman Danny Becton wanted to push a bill mandating extra payments on the city’s pension debt. But Mayor Curry didn’t want it. And the Finance Committee voted it down 4-1.

Becton had hectored, both personally and through proxies, media to cover his grandstand play — but once he got the coverage, the Southside Republican melted in the spotlight.

Danny Becton wanted the spotlight, but his bill wasn’t ready for prime time.

Red-faced as his bill got shelled in Finance Committee Wednesday, Becton laid into his colleagues before leaving the room.

The bill “made too much common sense” for them to vote for, he said.

Becton, who has been at cross-purposes with Curry’s office before, started a fight he never had a chance to win, via a poorly-timed bill out of step with legislators.

Visit Jacksonville’s big record-keeping fail

The Jacksonville City Council Auditor stung local tourism agency Visit Jacksonville with an audit this week that showed real issues with record-keeping, as WOKV reports.

“The audit couldn’t find adequate support for $22,474.24 in payroll, because of insufficient documentation on time off requests, pay rates and similar areas. As an example, auditors found 39 payments for cellphone allowances in the time studied, but in 69 percent of those cases, they couldn’t find documents to support the employee was entitled to a cellphone allowance at all,” the WOKV report notes.

The audit presented the dark side of good times at Visit Jacksonville.

And regarding “the organization’s incentives program,” auditors found “payments, but not documents detailing the goals of the program, meaning they couldn’t verify the incentive payouts were proper. “

Other issues: duplicated reimbursements, checks authorized by past members of the board, and timecard management problems.

Visit Jacksonville wasn’t the only audit this week; as we reported, the Police and Fire Pension Fund also got dinged for botched bookkeeping.

Skateboarding is not a crime

This week, Councilman Bill Gulliford quietly withdrew a bill he filed a year ago that would have made skateboarding a crime on certain downtown sidewalks.

Gulliford’s beef: Skaters were destroying property, via sick moves better suited to street skate videos than the public policy sphere.

Expect more of this in Downtown Jacksonville soon.

Gulliford had taken a lot of heat from members of the skateboarding community, as well as from one or two overage hipster types; however, he notes that there has been progress made toward dedicated skate parks downtown and elsewhere in the city, which could at least alleviate the problem.

ShotSpotter on schedule, sez Sheriff’s Office

The city of Jacksonville places a lot of stock in its new ShotSpotter program, and a Sheriff’s Office representative noted that training for officers will start in July, presaging deployment of the anti-gunshot technology before the end of the summer.

ShotSpotter had an IPO this week, in response to a heavy debt load.

The pilot program will encompass 5 square miles in Jacksonville that, despite being a small fraction of the city’s over 800 miles of land mass, account for over 10 percent of gun shots.

ShotSpotter will help with investigations initially but will become part of a more holistic surveillance portfolio.

License plate readers, NIBIN (a federal database that identifies bullets from casings), and ShotSpotter: all parts of a larger JSO strategy to fight old crime patterns with new technology and techniques.

ShotSpotter and NIBIN can be married to video surveillance, leading the JSO rep to observe that “the sky’s the limit as far as the technology goes.”

Now, if they can only compel people to use turn signals in traffic.

CSX gives $84M to Oxygen Tank CEO

Life is good for CSX CEO Hunter Harrison — except for needing an oxygen tank to breathe.

Hunter Harrison got his money. Now what?

The Jax Daily Record reports that the shareholders OK’d $84M for the man who came in and gutted much of the company.

Did the shareholders have a choice? The alternative was a hostile takeover.

A CSX VP notes that needing assistance breathing doesn’t slow Harrison down, saying the man in charge “brings a lot of energy from 9 o’clock in the morning to 9 o’clock at night.”

London calling for Jaguars

This week, the Jax Daily Record became the latest local publication to cover the cash cow that London is for the local NFL franchise.

“The reason we’re interested in London is maximizing our local revenue,” Jags’ President Mark Lamping said. “Just maximizing Jacksonville is not going to get where we want to be.”

No London Fog for Jacksonville Jaguars; expat games clear liquidity uncertainty.

“Lamping said the Jaguars generated about 15 percent of their local revenue from the London game, although that percentage dropped to 12 percent last year because of a less favorable foreign exchange rate … With the help of the revenue stream from London, the Jaguars’ local revenue rank has increased into the mid-20s among NFL teams,” the Record report continued. 

Mark Hulsey replacement named

Disgraced and resigned Judge Mark Hulsey has finally been replaced on the 4th Judicial Circuit Court.

From the Governor’s Office this week: “Eric Roberson, 37, of Jacksonville, is currently a county judge for Duval County. He previously worked in private practice, and as an Assistant State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit.”

Eric Roberson and his wife, Helen.

Roberson’s ASA stint went from 2005 to 2007. From there, he moved onto McGuireWoods, Jason Porter, and then his own firm before becoming a county judge in 2015.

Those familiar with the selection process asserted that Roberson had the inside track all along. Whether that’s the case or not, the rumor mill was accurate in this case.

Armada’s Kevan George called up to national team for big clash versus USA

Jacksonville Armada FC midfielder Kevan George has been called up to the Trinidad and Tobago national team for the 2018 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier against the United States and Costa Rica.

George, who has started all 10 games in the NASL with the Armada FC this season, left to train with the Soca Warriors ahead of the two qualifying matches earlier this week.

Kevan George said the USA clash had been on his mind well in advance of his arrival in Colorado.

Trinidad and Tobago faced the United States Thursday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Denver. The team will then leave for Costa Rica to play at Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica San Jose Tuesday, June 13. Trinidad and Tobago now sit just one point behind the U.S. in the final World Cup qualifying spot from CONCACAF.

The Armada FC vice-captain has appeared in 32 games for the Trinidad and Tobago national soccer team. George’s most recent appearances for Trinidad and Tobago came in March when he was called up to play in two Round Five games of the CONCACAF Qualifying Competition for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. George started in both games at Hasley Crawford Stadium in Trinidad. The team won 1-0 against Panama March 24, but then lost to Mexico March 28.

George will return to the Jacksonville Armada FC in time for its away match against the Miami FC Saturday, June 17, in Miami.

Father’s Day at Jacksonville Zoo

On Sunday, June 18, the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens celebrates Father’s Day with a buy-one, get-one free general admission ticket offer. The downloadable coupon is available here.

Coupon is good for one free general admission ticket for dad, with the purchase of a child or adult ticket. Cannot be applied to value tickets or already discounted admissions.

 

Rick Baker raises more than half-a-million dollars in May for mayoral bid

After just three weeks on the campaign trail, former Mayor Rick Baker‘s campaign is reporting that it raised an eye-opening $553,174 in contributions to his campaign and Seamless Florida, an affiliated political committee.

Baker is challenging incumbent Rick Kriseman, who is seeking a second term as the Sunshine City’s mayor.

Baker’s haul is a record-breaking amount for any campaign during the six elections the city of St. Petersburg has conducted under its current strong-mayor form of government.

Baker’s campaign says it received money from 651 contributors, of which nearly half gave $25 dollars of less.

“Whether it’s five dollars or five hundred dollars, I’m honored to have the support of so many of my neighbors,” said Baker. “The overwhelming support from contributors is an endorsement of our vision for a seamless city and our laser-like focus on fixing things right here in St. Petersburg.”

Kriseman’s camp had yet to report its fundraising efforts for May, but last month the campaign and an associated Committee combined to raise over $100,000 in April, bringing the total Kriseman for Mayor has raised to nearly $400,000.

Kriseman’s camp reported Thursday that it and an associated committee raised over $110,000 fin May, bringing the total Kriseman for Mayor has raised to over $500,000.

“We’ve raised money at a comparative level,” said Kriseman campaign manager Jacob Smith. “St. Pete deserves better than Rick Baker being silent on climate change while spending so much time raising money. But his silence on climate change is fine with his extremely partisan, right-wing donors.”

According to a release from Baker’s campaign, roughly half of all individual contributors to Baker’s campaign, who are registered Florida voters, were registered Democrats and independents.

Joe Henderson: GOP still thumb-sucking about Obamacare, but where’s a real plan to fix it?

A tweet Wednesday from U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross of Florida’s 15th Congressional District repeated the dutiful Republican yada-yada about the Affordable Care Act.

“Another insurer pulls out of Obamacare. Now 18 counties in Ohio have zero insurance options. Missouri facing same situation,” Ross wrote.

Yeah, OK. Been there, heard that.

Over and over and over again.

With nothing better to say, Republican leaders sound like they’re back on the campaign trail. Judging by the responses to Ross’ tweet though, I think people know well who to blame for the health care morass. It was best summarized by one person who noted, “And, YOU are part of the problem.”

Some respondents basically told Ross and his fellow GOP lawmakers to shut up and do something about it. Others were a tad more, um … colorful.

While it wouldn’t surprise me to learn those folks were part of a Democrat-inspired Twitter response team, their point nonetheless seems reasonable. Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House.

Yet, what Republicans served up as a replacement for Obamacare was a mess that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said would leave 23 million people without coverage.

Ross voted in favor of that plan, by the way. He also issued a statement that read in part that Floridians “breathe a sigh of relief today because we fulfilled our promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

People are sighing, all right, but it doesn’t sound like relief. Republicans were met with a terse backlash in town hall meetings and such around the country, to which GOP lawmakers resorted to their oft-repeated mantra: Obamacare. Bad!

It’s the political equivalent of thumb-sucking.

They do that because they have nothing to replace it and they don’t dare repeal it. They seem to be hoping that the system will collapse, so they can say, “Told you so!” People are seeing through that political ploy, though, because the Republican ideas so far have nothing to do with health care and everything to do with spending priorities.

The situation in Ohio that Ross referenced involves insurance giant Anthem, which operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield in that state. It will leave about 10,000 in 18 mostly rural counties without coverage. Previously, United Health Care and Aetna also stopped participating in Obamacare.

Donald Trump won all but seven of Ohio’s 88 counties, including each of the 18 that will be left without coverage. Another 56,000 people in Ohio who signed up with Anthem will have to find another policy.

Could this happen in Florida?

Well, let’s not wait to find out.

We get it. There are problems with Obamacare, although it can be argued that some of that is related to Republican threats to drastically reduce or eliminate subsidies. Giant companies don’t like uncertainty.

See the situation as it is now, though. Republicans are in charge and it can be argued that their promise to “repeal and replace” Obamacare with something better was a reason why they won the election.

They’ve got the “repeal” thing down.

Replace? Not so much.

It’s time for them to stop complaining and start doing what they were elected to do. And I don’t mean coming up with cockamamie plan that leaves millions without coverage. People have spoken loudly against that.

This is hard, isn’t it?

Too bad.

They wanted the job. They got the job.

They should do their job.

The Delegation for 6.8.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

This week’s biggest news events could have long-term effects

Much has happened since our last publication. While our team took a break, events in Washington and around the world did not.

Tops among the serious events was London suffering yet another terrorist attack (not long after The Delegation publisher and his family had walked on the London Bridge). Also creating a firestorm was Kathy Griffin’s attempt at humor featuring the head of President Donald Trump, and Bill Maher’s use of the n-word during an interview with Republican Senator Ben Sasse.

Dominating this week’s national news is Thursday’s much-anticipated appearance of former FBI Director James Comey before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Beginning early in the week, breathless cable news outlets ran countdown clocks until the moment Comey would put his right hand in the air and take the oath pledging to tell the truth. Washington bars are open for Comey hearing happy hours.

Comey’s answers will be parsed into succinct messages that both parties will turn into talking points supporting or condemning the president. Democrats want Comey to say Trump obstructed justice while Republicans want him to say whether or not Trump himself is under investigation.

Speaking of the leader of the free world, Trump’s detractors often shake their head at the way he operates, while supporters nod in the affirmative most of the same time (the Twitter missives are beginning to wear thin on conservatives). The president did not disappoint when, on the eve of Comey’s testimony, he chose that moment to nominate Comey’s successor, Christopher A. Wray.

As Comey was testifying on Thursday, across the pond, Great Britain was voting on whether to fire the Conservative Party and Prime Minister Theresa May. Thursday’s elections were called before the recent terror attacks, but they loom as events that could boost the Labour Party’s (progressive) chances for an upset. A Labour victory would affect U.S. and Great Britain foreign policy in a big way.

Whatever happens, Thursday will be a huge news day with long-term ramifications.

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

Sugar talks might hint at Trump’s NAFTA renegotiation strategy

Florida Crystals sugar barons Alfonso and José Fanjul, who contributed half a million dollars to the Trump inauguration, are hoping the new administration will take on one piece of President Barack Obama’s unfinished business – controlling imports of Mexican sugar.

As the New York Times reports, sugar interests have become a centerpiece of a contentious trade issue between the U.S. and Mexico. With the approaching deadline on a sugar import agreement, many looking at the negotiations for any hints of Washington’s approach to renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“In Mexico everybody is looking at the sugar agreement because it’s a thermometer of how things are going to be managed,” Mexico sugar chamber president Juan Cortina Gallardo told the Times. “It’s a politically sensitive and charged issue.”

The extended battle over a single product raises questions about how NAFTA negotiations could bog down if the Trump administration takes on too much at once. While talks with Mexico and Canada could begin by August, the administration has been silent about its long-term plans.

Airbnb hopes Trump leaves Americans free to travel to Cuba

With President Trump’s policy toward Cuba still unknown, the home-booking website Airbnb is taking pro-active measures to extoll the virtues of traveling to the island nation. Airbnb recently published a report showing Americans are joining other worldwide tourists in finding their way to Cuba in rather large numbers since President Obama began the process of normalizing relations in 2015.

According to the report, more than 560,000 guest arrivals into Cuban homes were recorded since April, 2015, when Airbnb launched in Cuba. Just in 2017, the average number of arrivals totals 70,000.

Over the past 25 months, guests paid more than $40 million to Cuban individuals for home rentals. Any change making travel more difficult would certainly affect the company’s bottom line.

“We’ve spoken with Democrats and Republicans and hope any policy changes support people-to-people diplomacy and the individual Cubans and their families who have been empowered by the chance to earn money and share their space, culture and community with travelers from around the world,” said Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas.

Hurricane season is here

Rubio asks Trump to relax regulations that hinder hurricane relief — With hurricane season officially underway, Sen. Marco Rubio is urging President Trump to make it easier to speed up hurricane relief efforts. Last week he wrote to the president asking for a thorough review of regulations that could be relaxed when disaster strikes in the name of helping victims.

“It is intolerable that in addition to confronting a natural disaster, people also need to navigate a complex web of excessive and overly burdensome federal regulations in the disaster’s wake,” wrote the Florida Republican. “Floridians are eager to see Washington, D.C. refocus and refine the government’s disaster relieve mission to ensure that meeting victims’ needs is always the immediate priority.”

Rubio provided examples including requiring the Veterans Administration “to fully enact the Veterans Choice Program reforms so that veterans living in rural areas” would have full access to medical care. He also mentioned areas where inter-agency cooperation can be improved and stressed the need for temporarily waiving “well-intentioned” rules that hinder relief efforts.

Rubio also asked Trump to “work with my office and the State of Florida” to address “any other regulatory burdens associated with federal disaster relief.”

Ross welcomes hurricane hunters to new home in Lakeland — With hurricane season officially underway, there was no better time for the Republican from Lakeland to welcome the hurricane hunter air operations to his hometown. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) new Aircraft Operation Center (AOC) facility is now officially a part of Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.

Lakeland Linder won out over other suitors, including the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport. Lakeland, behind an aggressive presentation led by airport manager, Gene Conrad, and supported by Ross, was named the winner when NOAA made the final decision in November.

Members of the official party cut the ribbon on the new NOAA Aircraft Operation Center. (Photo via NOAA)

 “It is critically important to stay in our local area,” said Capt. Michael Silah, commanding officer of the air operations section. “They were aggressive and crazy, but they’re our kind of crazy.”

The move was necessitated by the need for NOAA to vacate its former headquarters, a hangar at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. The agency was pleased to stay in central Florida.

“I know the men and women of the NOAA Corps and AOC will continue to brace their selfless mission and never hesitate to respond to unforeseen, and often dangerous, events,” Ross said at the ribbon cutting. “You can rest assured that my colleagues and I will fight to ensure you have the necessary tools and resources to conduct your important work.”

Buchanan urges Trump to fill top positions at FEMA, NOAA — The Sarasota Republican is concerned the slow pace of staffing up the Trump Administration could hurt Florida in the near future. With hurricane season officially underway, Rep. Vern Buchanan is most concerned about the lack of leadership in two critical agencies.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) still have vacancies not only at the top posts, but other jobs remain unfilled.

“These agencies are critical in keeping Floridians safe,” Buchanan said in a release. “I’m a big proponent of hurricane preparedness and part of being prepared is having key personnel in place. The Trump Administration needs to get their NOAA and FEMA chiefs on the job quickly because we don’t know when the next big storm is going to hit.”

Buchanan reminds that Florida ranks second only behind California for overall risk of natural disasters. That state has 6.7 million homes listed in high or very high risk categories, with Florida leading the nation for homes at risk for hurricane damage.

Both agencies are under interim administrators until replacements are named. Florida’s Craig Fugate led FEMA during the Obama Administration.

Rubio visits Naval Air Station Pensacola

Sailors at Naval Air Station Pensacola and Corry Station got a chance to share lunch with a senator recently.

Sen. Rubio joined enlisted sailors for lunch recently, using the visit as a chance to talk with enlisted military members about the Northwest Florida installation. Rubio met with sailors, and had lunch a group of men and women.

“It was an honor to see these sailors at two of the Navy’s most important installations in Northwest Florida working to ensure our cyber defense capabilities and the future of naval aviation,” said Rubio. ‎ “As Florida’s senator, I will continue to support a strong national defense and care for our military personnel and veterans’ communities across the state‎.”

Sen. Marco Rubio visited Naval Air Station Pensacola and Corry Station,where he joined enlisted sailors for lunch. (Photo via Sen. Marco Rubio’s Office).

Located in Escambia County, Naval Air Station Pensacola employs more than 16,000 military and 7,400 civilian personnel. It is home to, among other things, the Naval Aviation Schools Command, Naval Air Training Technical Training Center, and the Blue Angels.

“It was great to spend the day in the Pensacola area to tour NAS Pensacola, the cradle of naval aviation, and Corry Station, the Navy’s premiere cyber and information warfare training center,” said Rubio.

Nelson and Rubio want Cuba to finally pay up for rip offs of Americans

Florida’s senators are joining forces to help force Cuba pay back a nearly 60-year-old debt to Americans. Politico writes Rubio and Nelson “want the Communist government to fork over $8 billion to compensate Americans whose property was ‘stolen’ when the Castro regime nationalized utilities and industries” shortly after the 1959 coup.

In a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the senators urge the Trump Administration to take action.

“While the Cuban Government has manufactured ridiculous counter-claims to avoid responsibility, we urge you to seek fair compensation on behalf of these Americans as soon as possible,” they wrote.

Those counter-claims include Cuba’s contention the U.S. owes that nation $300 billion from the 56-year trade embargo imposed by the U.S. and the costs of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.

A bill in Congress sponsored by Arkansas Republican Congressman Rick Crawford calls for a tax on the sellers of goods to Cuba with proceeds going to those whose assets were taken by the Castro regime. Among those “backing the concept of the bill” is Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo, a Cuban-American.

Rubio and Nelson did not speak to Crawford’s bill, but John Kavulich, president of the U.S. Trade and Economic Council, had plenty to say.

“Cuba pays nothing, and it’s a transfer of money within the U.S.,” he said. “These two members of the United States Congress are establishing a treacherous precedent for resolving issues of expropriation not only with the Republic of Cuba, but with other countries which may take similar actions.”

Nelson, most Democrats opposed to Trump air traffic control privatization idea

Florida’s senior senator is not at all enamored with President Trump’s call to privatize air traffic control in the U.S. At a Monday White House event, the president touted the merits of such a change by saying “this new entity will not need taxpayer money, which is very shocking when people hear that.”

As the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which oversees airport operations, Nelson had plenty to say about the President’s news-making proposal.

“The safety of the flying public should not be for sale,” Nelson said. “Handing air traffic control over to a private entity partly governed by the airlines is both a risk and a liability we can’t afford to take.”

Nelson has long opposed privatization, arguing that smaller airports in mostly rural states and recreational aviation could suffer. Last year, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican, offered a privatization bill that did not make it out of committee. Shuster was at Trump’s side on Monday.

One of Shuster’s committee members, Miami Gardens Democrat Frederica Wilson, is also strongly opposed.

“I do not believe that giving the airlines control of the system from which they will benefit economically, complete with the power to institute higher fees and taxes, is the answer,” she said in a statement.

Hutchinson Island Republican Brian Mast, also a committee member, voiced support for the privatization effort. West Palm Beach Democrat Lois Frankel and Winter Garden Republican Daniel Webster also serve on the committee.

Spotted

— Sen. Rubio and Rep. Francis Rooney at the White House attended a dinner at the White House with President Trump and several other members of Congress. Rooney, a Naples Republican, used the opportunity to stress the need to include Everglades restoration as a key part of any infrastructure package brought forward.

“Everglades restoration is important to not only the State of Florida but also the entire country. Our economy has been decimated, and local businesses have closed. We all have a vested interest,” said Rooney, who also spoke to Trump about his recent visit to Saudi Arabia. “Our mission at the federal level must be to earn the support necessary to secure federal funding already approved through the Water Resource Development Acts (WRDA) of 2007, 2014, 2016.”

Sens. Cory Gardner, Tom Cotton and Todd Young, and Rep. Lee Zeldin also attended the dinner. According to the White House pool report, the menu included ten herb ravioli with lemon ricotta and a roasted tomato ragout; American wagyu beef tenderloin with sauce choron, glazed market vegetables and pomme soufflé; and a chocolate candy bar nougat glace for dessert.

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POLITCO reported that Sen. Nelson was one of several people who attended Sen. Al Franken’s book party this week in Georgetown. Also in attendance, according to POLITICO, were Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Maggie Hassan, Richard Blumenthal, and Sheldon Whitehouse; Andrea Mitchell, Kasie Hunt, and Mark Leibovich. Franken’s book “Al Franken, Giant of the Senate” was released May 30.

Rick Wilson, a Florida media consultant, in a Vanity Fair article about “the #NeverTrumpers still waging war on Twitter.” Here’s how Vanity Fair contributing editor James Wolcott described Wilson: “A Republican political consultant and media strategist based in Florida, where they play extra not-nice, Wilson goes for the jugular and the groin, once describing some Trump supporters as “childless single men who masturbate to anime.”

Paulson’s Principles: Dems face the best congressional prospects ever!

If Democrats do not make substantial congressional gains both nationally and in Florida in 2018, they may never be likely to win back control of congress.

Conditions have seldom been better for Democrats to pickup many seats in Congress, especially in the House. Let me run down the factors favoring Democrats in 2018.

First is President Trump. Presidents can either unify or divide the nation, and Trump clearly falls in the latter category. Yes, he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 when virtually no one thought he had a chance to win. Nevertheless, he has galvanized Democrats unlike any other person or issue.

President Trump’s approval rate has dropped to 34%, historically low for an incoming president. Democrats by the thousands have turned out to protest Trump and his policies.

One of those unpopular policies is the Republican American Health Care Act (AHCA), passed by the House to “repeal and Replace” Obamacare. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 55% of Americans have a negative view of the AHCA.

Two, President Trump and the AHCA have unified Democrats like never before. Turnout at Republican town halls have been filled with enormous crowds of angry voters. Almost every Republican House member has faced the wrath of large crowds of angry constituents.

In Florida, Republican Congressmen Gus Bilirakis and Brian Mast are just two of the many Republicans to confront voters who promise to oppose them for voting to repeal Obamacare. Over 5,000 individuals RSVP’d to attend Congressman Vern Buchanan’s town hall at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center. 1700 packed the Center and 800 more listened from outside. Another 2,500 were turned away.

Three, because of Trump, the AHCA and angry voters, the genetic ballot leans heavily in favor of Democrats. When asked in the most recent survey which party they would support in the 2018 congressional election, 44% said Democrats and 37% said Republicans. Going into the 2016 election, Democrats led by a single point.

The genetic ballot is one of the best predictors of election outcomes. Controlling for the party that controls the White House, the genetic ballot strongly correlates (+.78) with House election results.

Harry Enten of the FiveThirtyEight, recently wrote that the current genetic ballot “shows the Democrats in a stronger position at this point in a midterm election cycle than any party without control of the House since 1942.” It is hard to imagine a more positive scenario for Democrats.

Two additional factors favor Democrats. First, by the time the 2018 election occurs, Republicans will have controlled the House for eight years and the Florida delegation for a quarter century. At a time where the public demands change, that’s a long time for any party to have political control.

Second, just as Democrats are united, Republicans are divided by their president and his policies. In many southern states, including Florida, the Republican Party is torn apart by intra-party disputes.

One unknown factor going into the 2018 election is how many Republicans will run for reelection and how many will retire. If many Republicans decide to retire, this will greatly benefit the Democrats.

Do Republicans have anything working in their favor? Yes, they are running against Democrats. If the Democratic Party lost the presidency in 2016, in spite of all their advantages and, if the Democrats could only pick up two Senate seats when Republicans had to defend 24 of the 34 seats, then we can never underestimate the ability of Democrats to screw things up.

Gaetz to host another “Open Gaetz Day”

The Republican from the 1st Congressional District will soon be spending a full day with constituents and community leaders. Gaetz will have the “Open Gaetz Day” on Saturday, June 17 in his hometown of Fort Walton Beach.

The day opens with a town hall at 9:00 a.m. followed by a visit with residents of a center housing retired enlisted military members. Following tours of health care facilities, the day concludes with a military roundtable and an appearance at a constituent information booth at a local Latin festival.

“I always look forward to interacting with my constituents and hearing their comments, concerns and even criticisms,” Gaetz said. “I feel it is very important that as their Congressman I remain accessible and open to listening to their ideas. It should be a great day full of events and I hope to see a lot of people out participating.”

Bilirakis hears plea from conservative groups to block hearing aid regulation

A group of Tea Party organizations are calling for Bilirakis’ support against excessive government regulation over hearing aids.

Elizabeth Warren, working with a handful of Senate Republicans, is writing legislation to create an over-the-counter category of a type hearing aids known as personal sound amplification products (PSAPs). The hearing aid industry has come out strongly against the bill, as well as more than a dozen Tea Party-aligned organizations such as Frontiers of Freedom, Conservative Leadership PAC, 60 Plus Association, Tea Party Nation and the Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

In a letter to Bilirakis, the coalition says PSAPs simply amplify sound; they are not medical hearing aids and should not be regulated as such.

Among the reasons the group chose Bilirakis to garner support – as one of the estimated 30 million Americans with some degree of hearing loss, the Tarpon Springs Republican relies on a hearing aid.

Crist, T. Rooney team up to help small business

The St. Petersburg Democrat and Okeechobee Republican are working together to help small businesses with a bill aimed at tax relief that would provide incentives to hire more people and improve wages. The Small Business Tax Relief and Jobs Act of 2017 would allow small businesses to receive an annual tax credit of 3.825 percent.

This amount is significant because it equals half of an employer’s payroll tax obligation. The tax break is for up to three employees and totaling $100,000 in wages.

“The lingering impact of the Great Recession continues to make it difficult for many small businesses to obtain bank loans in order to grow,” said Crist. “I look forward to working with Congressman Rooney to promote this common-sense, bipartisan effort to help our small businesses grow and improve communities across America.”

“This common-sense bill rewards small business for creating jobs in our communities,” said Rooney. “Promoting local businesses and encouraging job growth is not a partisan issue.”

Buchanan, bipartisan delegation briefed on anti-terror measures in Europe, Africa

The Sarasota Republican and a bipartisan Congressional delegation recently returned from a trip to Europe and the Middle East. Buchanan and the group visited Bahrain, Germany and Kuwait to meet with military leaders, foreign officials and military officers and enlisted personnel.

He met with the Commander of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain and spent some time with

Florida troops and sailors, including Navy Master Chief Deborah Mack of Sarasota.

“Deborah and the other troops I met with are true patriots who leave family and friends for months on end to fight for our country,” Buchanan said. “It was a privilege to meet service members from Florida and witness firsthand their love of country.”

Rep. Vern Buchanan meets with Master Chief Deborah Mack, naval analyst from Sarasota. (Photo via Rep. Buchanan’s Office.)

In Stuttgart, Germany, Buchanan and the group met with Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, head of AFRICOM, for a briefing on terror activity on the African continent. AFRICOM is an arm of the Department of Defense and is responsible for the military relationships with 54 African nations.

“Jihadists in North Africa continue to pose a serious threat to global piece,” Buchanan said. “As we saw with Manchester, Africa remains a hot spot for the recruitment and training of terrorists.”

The remainder of the trip to Germany and to Kuwait involved discussions on intelligence operations, threats posed to NATO and efforts to eradicate ISIS.

DCCC tries to rile up Mast town hall crowd with ad buy

The Hutchinson Island Republican fielded questions from a largely hostile crowd at a Stuart town hall on Monday night. To help ensure passions were inflamed, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) “launched a significant digital ad buy” accusing Mast of lying about “his campaign’s use of data from Russian hackers.” The ad came complete with a sinister Vladimir Putin looking over Mast’s right shoulder.

Media estimates pegged the town hall attendance at between 350 to 400. Mast briefly addressed Russia and any possible ties to President Trump, saying he believed the president’s denials and would wait for Congressional investigations and the work of special counsel Robert Mueller. He called any talk of impeachment “irresponsible.”

Health care, specifically Mast’s vote for the American Health Care Act was on the minds of attendees far more than Russia. One said “You’re going to kill me. I’m going to die.”

Another accused Mast of not caring “about the lives of those who would lose their health care.”

“Ma’am, if I didn’t care about you, I wouldn’t have offered my life on the battlefield,” answered Mast, a double-amputee following an explosion in Afghanistan.

Mast had some supporters there as well, but the already agitated, or those inspired by the DCCC, were clearly the noisiest.

Keys activists leave hundreds of ‘coconut telegraphs’ at Curbelo’s office 

In a self-described “coconut caravan,” 10 members of the Upper Keys Action Network (UKAN) left about 300 coconuts at the Miami office of Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

As reported by WLRN’s Holly Pretsky, UKAN was formed after the 2016 election to keep Keys residents politically engaged. The Miami Republican’s district includes the Keys.

The coconuts’ message – calling on Curbelo to hold a town hall in the Keys — were painted with phrases like “Save ACA [the Affordable Care Act],” “country over party,” and “Climate change is real.”

Members of UKAN dropped off 300 coconut messages at Rep. Carlos Curbelo’s office this week. (Photo via Upper Keys Action Network Facebook.)

“The overall message is ‘Hey, come to the Keys. Come meet with us. Come hear what your constituents have to say,’” UKAN organizer Lindsey Crews told WLRN. She said this wasn’t the only time coconuts have been used to send a message to elected officials.

Curbelo didn’t see the “telegrams” in person, however, since he is in Washington D.C. this week.

Race to replace Ros-Lethtinen: Fuhrman out, Richardson in

South Miami Democrat Scott Fuhrman announced this week he won’t run for the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

The Miami Herald reported Fuhram, who lost to Ros-Lehtinen in 2016, suspended his campaign. He cited a lack of support from donors as the primary reason for his decision to bow out.

A slew of Democrats have announced they are running for the seat, including state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez. And this week, state Rep. David Richardson formally announced he was running for the seat.

Mary Ellen Klas with the Miami Herald reported the 60-year-old Miami Beach Democrat said the “most important thing is that anyone working in Washington has got to work in a bipartisan way and, for the last five years, I’ve demonstrated I’ve been able to get things done in the minority.”

Richardson had been considering a run for weeks, telling Scott Powers with Florida Politics in May that he was “taking a strong look at it.”

Ros-Lehtinen announced earlier this year she planned to retire in 2018 at the end of her term.

Murphy cleared of campaign finance violation complaint

The Federal Elections Commission found U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy did not violate campaign finance laws as claimed in a complaint filed against him in 2016, reports Isadora Rangel with TC Palm.

The FEC found “the “the statute of limitations has run on all of the activity at issue and the available record does not support an inference that Ibrahim Al-Rashid made the purported contributions in the names of the alleged conduits,” according to the report.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC affiliated with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, filed a complaint against Murphy in 2016. The complaint alleged Al-Rashid, Murphy’s friend, skirted campaign contribution limits by funneling donations through his then-wife, members of his family and other individuals. The donations totaled nearly $30,000.

The complaint came as Murphy, a Treasure Coast Democrat, was running for the U.S. Senate.

Scott, Lenny Curry D.C. bound

Gov. Rick Scott and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry are expected to attend a “listening session” on infrastructure with President Trump on Thursday, reports Alex Leary with the Tampa Bay Times.

Leary reported a White House spokesman said Scott will join several governors and state, local and private sector leaders interested in “working together to improve our nation’s infrastructure.” Leary reported Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge is also expected to attend.

According to A.G. Gancarski with Florida Politics, Curry’s office said the mayor will be participating in meetings “on the Hill and with the administration to discuss Jacksonville needs” during his visit to D.C.

Bondi joins Trump for bill signing

Attorney General Pam Bondi was back in D.C., attending a bill signing ceremony for two bills that aim to help military veterans, law enforcement officers and their families.

Bondi was one of several people who attended a ceremony at the White House recently as President Trump signed the American Law Enforcement Heroes Act of 2017 and the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2017.

“These are much needed bills to help those who sacrifice so much to keep us safe, and I am honored to join the President as he signs this important legislation in support of our military and law enforcement heroes,” she said in a statement.

The first bill, the American Law Enforcement Heroes Act of 2017, encourages police departments that receive federal grants to hire military veterans; while the second bill, the Public Safety Officers Benefits Improvement Act of 2017, changes reporting requirements for the federal office in charge of giving benefits to injured officers and first responders and to the families of those who die on the job, reported Michael Auslen with the Tampa Bay Times.

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Delegation has made key contributions in Congressional Baseball Game

One night each year, Republicans and Democrats take their rivalries outside the halls of Congress and onto the baseball field. Next week, the annual Congressional Baseball Game is slated for Nationals’ Park in Washington.

The Florida delegation has played some important roles in recent years. Last year, Okeechobee Republican Tom Rooney stroked a walk-off single to give Republicans an 8-7 victory and breaking a losing streak dating back to 2008.

Rooney’s game-winner came off former Congressman Patrick Murphy of Jupiter. As Murphy entered the game in relief, he was greeted with taunts of “MAR-CO, RU-BIO,” (the campaign for Senate was fully underway) from GOP rooters.

The game, began in 1909, benefits Washington, DC charities. Throughout the game’s long history, congresswomen were not in the lineup, but that changed in 1993 when three women, including Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, broke into the starting lineup. One former congressman, Orlando Republican Lou Frey, was inducted into the Congressional Baseball Game Hall of Fame in 2008.

This year’s game, to be played on June 15, features four Florida Republicans on the roster. In addition to Rooney, Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach, Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, and Dennis Ross of Lakeland are set to play. No Florida Democrats will suit up.

After last year’s GOP win, the all-time series is tied with 39 wins each, plus one tie

Andrew Gillum posting a goose egg? Say it ain’t so

May was a busy month for Andrew Gillum.

Like his opponents, he racked up several key endorsements; former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Senate Democratic Leader-designate Jeff Clemens, Sen. Perry Thurston, state Rep. Joe Abruzzo and Palm Beach County Tax Collector for life, Anne Gannon.

Gillum spoke at Tiger Bay and his campaign sent out numerous press releases on various topics, he held two big-name fundraisers (former party chair Allison Tant and uber-lobbyist Sean Pittman) and blasted out, by my count, more than 18 fundraising emails and literally scores of tweets. He is seemingly all over the state — even today he is in voter-rich Palm County.

Sounds like a candidate in full swing.

But let’s hold on a minute.

Is it possible that during and despite all that activity, Gillum posted a goose egg from his political committee, Forward Florida? (Lots of expenditures but no contributions.)

Click here to see NO MONEY raised during May.

“While Mayor Gillum took time off the trail this month for the birth of his third child, we’re confident that we’ll have the resources to compete all across Florida,” said Geoff Burgan, the communications director for Gillum’s campaign. “We’ve raised more than $1 million from more than 7,000 contributors — by far the most in the Governor’s Race.”

We’d be the last people to ding Gillum for spending time with his family after welcoming a new child, but the idea that he “took time off the trail” doesn’t mesh with the flurry of activity coming out of Gillum’s camp.

Look, all this press is great. He is clearly keeping pace on the endorsement front. Plus, the positions and his assertions on legislation and issues of the day touch right into the heartbeat of his party. And he has plenty of them.

But no money?

Not one single dollar?

If you are running a statewide race and against some formidable opponents, you simply cannot let that happen. Florida is a big state and it takes tens of millions of dollars to reach voters.

And with only 14 months until voters actually start casting ballots, every single month is precious. It’s like putting a lot of people on base but having none of them — not one — touch the only base that really matters:  home plate.

Gillum’s fond of saying, “Bring it home.” In fact, it is his campaign slogan.

Bring it home man, or the only scoreboard that really matters will show that you are not in this game.

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