Peter Schorsch – Page 6 – Florida Politics

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, Florida Politics, Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of the quarterly INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, SaintPetersBlog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.29.18

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

We hope you had a relaxing, reflective Memorial Day Weekend. As hard as we tried, we just could not not produce today’s edition of Sunburn. There’s just too much water flowing from the never-ending fire hose that is Florida politics.

With summer unofficially here and less than a month to go before candidate qualifying closes, the jockeying and maneuvering by candidates, announced and potential, has to be tracked by the hour.

That’s why in today’s burn, we have new, exclusive poll numbers in the Democratic primary for Governor, insights on a potential new candidate for Agriculture Commissioner, and several other notes from the trail. We also have the scoop on a major personnel move taking place within the lobby corps.

Let’s get to it …

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

—@MarcoRubio: Mistake to view #ZTE or any other issue that touches on #China in a vacuum. They are executing on a comprehensive plan to achieve world domination. Use trade, commerce, debt, military, immigration, technology, science & propaganda as tools. We need to wake up!

—@Carl_Hiassen: With Alberto looming, Gov. Scott declares a state of emergency for all of Florida. This is hilarious. A “state of emergency” in all 67 counties for a glorified squall that’s going to nick the Panhandle. Somebody in charge must be running for the Senate.

—@NWSTallahassee#Alberto makes landfall near Laguna Beach in Bay County Florida.

—@MarcACaputo: My 9 y/o walked in as I was watching CNN report on the Indiana school shooter. I paused it because it pains me she has to grow up w/this reality. She looked at the TV, read the chyron and said “anther one? There was just one in Texas.” Then she walked out as if nothing happened

—@JohnMorganEsq: When I start something I finish it. Truth prevails!! The voters will be done!! #BELIEVE #ForThePeople #NoSmokeIsAJoke

—@RepMoraitis: Please join me as we mourn the unexpected loss of Plantation Councilman Jerry Fadgen — a great family man, patriot and leader in our community. Our prayers go out to Kathy and his entire family.

@LaVendrickSmith: This man has been to eight straight finals. A full presidential term of finals appearances. I was a sophomore in high school the last time LeBron wasn’t in the finals. This is wild.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in St. Petersburg — 11; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Miramar — 13; Time Warner/AT&T merger ruling — 14; 2018 FIFA World Cup begins — 16; Father’s Day — 19; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 24; Florida GOP Sunshine Summit starts — 30; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 40; MLB All-Star Game — 49; Deadline for filing claim bills — 64; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 64; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 65; Start of the U.S. Open — 90; Primary Election Day — 91; College Football opening weekend — 93; NFL season starts — 100; Future of Florida Forum — 120; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 147; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 148; General Election Day — 161; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 261; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 280.

— TOP STORY —

Alberto strikes Gulf Coast with dangerous surf, heavy rains” via Jennifer Kay of The Associated Press — Subtropical Storm Alberto lumbered ashore Monday on the U.S. Gulf Coast, pelting white sand beaches with blustery winds and stinging rain that kept the usual Memorial Day crowds away. … Rough conditions were whipping up big waves off the eastern and northern Gulf Coast, and authorities warned swimmers to stay out of the surf because of life-threatening swells and rip currents. Between four and eight inches (10-25 centimeters) of rain could pummel Florida Panhandle, eastern and central Alabama, and western Georgia before the storm moves on. Isolated deluges of 12 inches (30 centimeters) also were possible as the storm heads inland, threatening heavy rains around the Southeast in the coming hours and days.

Subtropical Storm Alberto makes landfall on Florida Panhandle. (Image via Los Angeles Times)

How does an inexperienced 30-year-old become hurricane chief? Win Rick Scott’s trust” via Elizabeth Koh of the Miami Herald — If you judge Wes Maul by his online résumé, his tenure at the state Division of Emergency Management has seen the full spectrum of natural and human disasters: hurricanes, mass shootings, public health emergencies. … Maul, who recently turned 30, has officially been the division’s permanent director only since Dec. 13, 2017. After catapulting from a job fresh out of law school as the governor’s travel aide, Maul spent a year and a half as the emergency division’s chief of staff before being appointed the interim director, then permanent director, after Hurricane Irma. But as storm season approaches — with early forecasts suggesting a near-normal or above-normal storm season — the state’s disaster preparedness lies in the hands of a political newcomer whose first official job experience with emergency management began two years ago.

A forecast bust: What happened to Alberto?” via Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — Forecasters worried that as Subtropical Storm Alberto spun north through the Gulf of Mexico this weekend, it would fling moisture from the south toward Tampa Bay, assaulting the area with an endless barrage of rain that could lead to dangerous river flooding. … Instead, the low-pressure vacuum driving Alberto sucked up some dry air, choking its rain engine. Most of the bay area saw only spurts of heavy rain, with overcast and at times even sunny skies. Rivers have stayed in their banks, and any flooding has remained localized.

Assignment editors — Gov. Rick Scott will visit the Walton County Emergency Operations Center to thank workers for their support during Sub-Tropical Storm Alberto, 9:30 a.m. Central time, 75 S. Davis Ln., Defuniak Springs

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Bill Nelson releases first digital ad in 2018 race – “Stars,” narrated by Nelson, focuses on his fight for Florida values in the U.S. Senate. “Bill Nelson has worked his entire career to put the people of Florida first,” Nelson campaign manager Marley Wilkes said in a statement. “He stands up for the values that make Florida great, and in the U.S. Senate he puts politics aside and focuses on doing what’s right for the people of our state because that is who he cares about. That’s why Floridians know Bill has their back and that he’ll keep fighting every single day to help create a future that works for every family and every child.”  The 47-second ad will reach Florida voters through several digital platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. To watch the full ad, click the image below:

Nelson says he intends on holding back from spending on TV until the fall” via Mitch Perry of WMNF — It’s early. Most people are going to make up their minds as we get much closer to the election,” Nelson told this reporter on Sunday morning in Tampa, shortly before participating in a Memorial Day Remembrance ceremony that took place at Veterans Memorial Park. While not commenting on the sheer quantity of ads ran against him, he did play the critic on their quality. “People tell me that Rick Scott’s ads are not very effective,” he said. … Those ads have gone relatively unchallenged until now, with Nelson getting some much-needed air support via a $2.2 million buy from the Senate Majority PAC that was in heavy rotation over the weekend, including an airing on Fox News Sunday that was being broadcast inside the Veterans Resource Center just as Nelson entered the building. … “I’m grateful that somebody has come up on an ad to my defense,” he said, adding that he likely won’t be airing any of his own TV ads until the fall.

— “Nelson says he’s not fazed by Scott’s campaign. Some Democrats say he should be” via Ledyard King of the USA Today

Sen. Bill Nelson said Sunday: “My nickels and dimes I’m saving until much closer to the election.” (Image via Mitch Perry)

Assignment editors — Nelson hosts a roundtable discussion with Orange County community health leaders about the importance of expanding access to health care, 10:30 a.m., Pan-American Behavioral Health Services of Florida, 6000 S. Rio Grande Ave., Suite 102, Orlando. Later, Nelson will meet with local community and business leaders, 12:30 p.m., Northwest Volusia County Democratic Club, 855 W. New York Ave., DeLand.

As Scott hammers Venezuela, his campaign takes contribution from biggest buyer of its oil” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — As Scott hits the campaign trail trashing Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, he is accepting contributions from Valero Energy Corporation, a Texas oil refiner that is the biggest buyer of the country’s oil. Scott’s campaign took $5,000 last month from the company, which in recent months has purchased 200,000 barrels-a-day from Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., the country’s state-run oil company. The company boosted its purchases from Venezuela ahead of U.S. sanctions that were imposed earlier this week after Maduro was reelected, according to Reuters. The donations have not been previously reported. Valero is the biggest buyer of Venezuelan oil, but Scott’s team says that any company giving to his campaign supports his platform, which includes ousting the Venezuelan president. A Valero representative didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Actual news release sent from the Florida Democratic Party at 9:30 p.m. on the Sunday before Memorial Day — “Self-Serving Scott’s Week in Review: Cronies Still …” — forget it, we’re not reading a news release sent on the Sunday evening of a holiday weekend.

— LATEST POLL OF DEM. PRIMARY —

Philip Levine has surged to a double-digit lead statewide, a new poll shows.

The Public Policy Polling survey, conducted May 21-22, gives Levine 30 percent to Graham’s 20 percent, with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum taking 12 percent and Orlando businessman Chris King with 6 percent.

— Among key demographics surveyed, Levine holds a 20-point lead among Hispanics, 8-point lead among African-Americans, and 13-point lead among women.

— Levine is also best known among Florida Democrats, having 55-percent Name ID across the state — a 12-point advantage over Graham and 30-points across the field.

— Levine also leads in favorability (42 percent for women; 40 percent for men), although slightly more are unsure (47 percent women, 43 percent men). Graham is 25 percent favorable with women, 35 percent with men, but a majority says they are unsure (63 percent of women, 50 percent of men).

— More than half of respondents (52 percent) say they have seen Levine’s television ads.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

This is a national story; is it accurate about Florida? — “Democrats are running a smart, populist campaign via David Leonhardt of The New York Times — Democratic candidates aren’t obsessed with President Donald Trump, and they aren’t giving up on the white working class as irredeemably racist. They are running pocketbook campaigns that blast Republicans for trying to take health insurance from the middle class while bestowing tax cuts on the rich. … Americans really are divided on abortion, guns, race and other cultural issues, but they’re remarkably progressive on economics. When Democrats talk about health care, education and jobs, they can focus the white working class on the working-class part of its identity rather than the white part. And Democrats can fire up their base at the same time.

Tweet, tweet:

Why nobody is winning the John Morgan primary?” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post — The four Democrats running for Florida governor all favor some degree of legalizing or decriminalizing recreational marijuana use. But Morgan is not impressed. Morgan … says Democratic front-runners Graham and Levine are too timid on the issue of full legalization. And he’s dismissive of the legalize/regulate/tax stances of Gillum and King.

Greyhound-racing ban supporters plan grassroots meetings across the state” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Supporters of the proposed constitutional ban on greyhound racing say they will hold 13 “grassroots meetings” across the state to officially launch the “Protect Dogs-Yes on 13” campaign. The meetings, which start June 4, will be held in Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Sarasota, Naples, Gainesville, Merritt Island, Vero Beach, Largo, Lakeland, and Palm Coast. Details will be forthcoming. “This will be a true grassroots campaign,” said Joyce Carta, the campaign’s co-chair, in a statement.

New polling shows Mike Miller advantage in CD 7” via the Orlando Political Observer — Recent polling of the Republican race to challenge Stephanie Murphy shows state Representative Miller leads Scott Sturgill among Republican primary voters. Two recent polls by Gravis Marketing and McLaughlin & Associates both mirrored a Miller edge among Seminole County voters and among those who identify as conservative. In the McLaughlin and Associates poll, Miller leads Sturgill 27-16 percent overall with most voters still undecided. … The polling data also showed geographic advantages for Mike Miller, whose vote share rose to 48 percent within the boundaries of his Orange County state house district and whose lead in Seminole County was 21-17 percent in the McLaughlin poll. 

Ross Spano leads CD 15 GOP primary, one-third undecided — State Rep. Spano leads the pack in the Republican primary for Florida’s 15th Congressional District. A new St. Pete Polls survey conducted May 25-27 gives the Dover Republican a 6-point lead over fellow state Rep. Neil Combee, 29-23 percent. Also in the single digits are Sean Harper (4 percent), Danny Kushmer (4 percent), Curt Rogers (2 percent) and Ed Shoemaker (4 percent). The poll had a sample size of 494 with a 4.4 percent margin of error and a 95 percent confidence level. Nearly 34 percent are undecided.

Big get (at least in terms of lending credibility) — Pam Bondi endorses Javier Manjarres for Congress — “I have known Javier for many years and can attest to his indisputable commitment to preserving our American way of life. He is one of the strongest conservatives on the political playing field today, and I am confident that when elected to the U.S. Congress, his unique approach of addressing issues facing our nation will serve his constituents — and all Americans well.”

Pam Bondi joins state Sens. Aaron Bean and Dennis Baxley, and state Reps. Byron Donald, Bob Rommell, and Jason Fischer, who have already backed Javier Manjarres’ bid for Congress.

Tampa Democrats say they’re unified to win key state Senate race” via Mitch Perry of WMNF — If the Florida Democratic Party is ever going to end up being competitive when it comes to gaining parity with Republicans in the state Legislature, there are certain races that they have to win, such as the state Senate District 18 seat in Hillsborough County this fall. … Democrats felt that (Bob) Buesing could have won the contest without Joe Redner siphoning away votes from him the last time around, and were happy when Redner bowed out of a 2018 run and endorsed Buesing. … Buesing … eschewed offering platitudes about his decision to drop out of the race after (Janet) Cruz opted in. Buesing also acknowledged previous bitter and divisive Democratic races at the presidential level, and said a replay on a more local level could similarly result in (Dana) Young’s re-election.

Bob Buesing formally endorses Janet Cruz Thursday night during a fundraiser in Tampa.

— NIKKI FRIED’S PLANS —

Fried has kept the Florida political class guessing for months about a possible statewide run for office.

Florida Politics first reported back in February that the attorney, lobbyist and medical marijuana advocate was considering a late entry into the gubernatorial race. More recently, rumors circulated about Fried mounting a bid for Attorney General — a rumor that has caused heartburn for a Democratic establishment that has all but coalesced around state Rep. Sean Shaw’s candidacy.

Nicole “Nikki” Fried is dropping hints as to her political future.

Now a newly formed state political committee may put to rest questions about Fried’s future.

Sources close to Fried have confirmed that the Broward County-based political committee, Florida Consumers First, could likely to be the first step toward a bid for Agriculture Commissioner.

If she ultimately runs, Fried would face a nominal Democratic primary with two declared, but poorly funded candidates already running. Insiders expect Fried to be a tenacious fundraiser, drawing on relationships in the medical marijuana industry, the lobby corp, the Broward County business and political establishment, and the Florida Bar, where Fried is a longtime leader of the Young Lawyers Division.

“Nikki doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘no’,” said one Tallahassee insider. “She’s going to be a monster fundraiser.”

If Fried files to run before the June 22 state qualifying deadline, it would mark the first time in two decades that Democrats have managed to field credible candidates for all three cabinet seats, with Shaw running for Attorney General, and former state Sen. Jeremy Ring for CFO.

— STATEWIDE —

Mary Ellen Klas believes this may be Scott’s legacy — “Florida’s slashed drug programs will result in hundreds of layoffs” — Scott and leaders of the Florida House rejected appeals to save $28 million in prison programs Friday, choosing instead to allow hundreds of layoffs at inmate transition and treatment programs throughout the state when the programs close at the end of June. The cuts offered up by the Florida Department of Corrections will reduce access to dozens of privately run programs that had a proven track record of preventing offenders from returning to crime and drugs. They will also achieve what FDC Secretary Julie Jones has tried and failed to do since 2016: sever the state’s dependence on nonprofit community providers, allowing the state to develop its own yet-to-be-created programs at what Jones believes will be less cost behind the prison gates.

‘It’s a disgrace:’ Parkland parent condemn video game that simulates school shooting” via Martin Vassalo of the Miami Herald — An upcoming computer video game that would allow players to re-create school shootings by stalking school hallways and racking up kills has been condemned as insensitive and inappropriate by the parents of students who were shot to death during the school massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. The game — titled “Active Shooter” and slated for a June 6 release via the digital video game marketplace Steam — is branded as a “SWAT simulator” that lets players choose between being an active shooter terrorizing a school or the SWAT team responding to the shooting. It was developed by Revived Games and published by the company Acid, which has said it plans on selling the game for $5 to $10 on Steam and releasing an alternate “civilian” mode.

‘Active Shooter’ video game simulates a school shooting, outraging Parkland parents.

Daphne Campbell had lobbied to help official who gave her purse full of cash” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Campbell worked for years to push legislation sought by an organization whose president handed her a purse stuffed with cash during a 2017 birthday party that doubled as a political fundraiser, according to public records and interviews with those familiar with the bill. The Miami Democrat had been lobbying for years to pass the bill to make it easier for foreign doctors to get licensed in the United States. But she never told legislative colleagues what organizations were behind the effort. Lawmakers contacted by POLITICO were “shocked” when they discovered the bill was for a man seen in a 2017 video handing Campbell a purse stuffed with cash. The video, which was taken at a birthday held for Campbell, was first reported last month by the Miami Herald. “She has been pushing that bill for years but members had no idea it was for the cash purse guy,” said one Republican consultant familiar with the bill, which never got to the floor of either chamber for a vote. The bill is the brainchild of Solidaridad Sin Fronteras, a Hialeah-based group that helps health care professionals trained in other countries get licensed to work in the U.S. health care system. During the May 24 party celebrating Campbell’s birthday, which was held at the Miami Shores Country Club, group president Julio Alfonso gave Campbell a Kate Spade purse, shoving a visible wad of cash in it after she opened it, according to the video.

Court rejects new hospice in ‘certificate of need’ fight” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Though describing it as a “close call,” an appeals court Friday upheld a decision by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration to turn down approval of new hospice provider in Sarasota County. A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal pointed to discretion the agency has in deciding whether to approve a “certificate of need” for the provider. The case involved an application by Compassionate Care Hospice of the Gulf Coast, Inc., to establish a hospice program. The ruling said Sarasota County’s hospice market is now “monopolized” by Tidewell Hospice, Inc. The Agency for Health Care Administration denied the proposal “based on its determination that CCH (Compassionate Care Hospice) failed to overcome a presumption that no need existed for a new hospice program,” the appeals court ruling said. The court, however, said its decision to back the agency decision was a “close call,” in part because of Tidewell’s monopoly and that Compassionate Care Hospice is economically viable and would create competition.

Koger Center landlord files lawsuit over state’s ‘she’ deal, plan to vacate building” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Nearly a half-dozen state agencies and more than 2,000 employees are planning to vacate the Koger Center along Apalachee Parkway when leases expire next year. Most of the workers will be reassigned to buildings under construction in an office park going up at Blairstone Road and Capitol Circle SW. Eight agencies’ leases expire in October 2019 and so far, only one, the Department of Juvenile Justice, has said it will stay at Koger. Two have yet to decide. The Koger owner has filed suit in Leon County Circuit Court to reopen lease negotiations. Todd Hakimi said the Department of Management Services was wrong when it waived a requirement for the agencies to negotiate with its current landlord before seeking new space. Hakimi said DMS violated the open meeting law and allowed negotiations to take place in the “shade.” In court documents his attorneys call into questions leases the Fish and Wildlife Commission and Department of Health awarded to two other companies.

Potential Gulf Power sale may affect contract negotiation” via Maddie Rowley of the Northwest Florida Daily News — The City of Destin recently voted to extend its current contract with Gulf Power until Sept. 21 in order to continue negotiations with the utility company. The contract, which took effect 30 years ago, was set to expire this month. Destin confirmed that the city is still in a contract extension with Gulf Power despite the change in parent companies from Southern Company to NextEra Energy. “It’s really just a changing of the guard,” said Destin. “Representatives from Gulf Power called me and said nothing will change when it comes to the negotiations.” Destin reiterated that his main goal is to provide the best utility deal possible for Destin residents, and said that the acquisition could possibly open up doors to lower utility rates.

— D.C. MATTERS —

What happens if Republicans keep control of the House and the Senate” via Perry Bacon of FiveThirtyEight.com — Imagine this scenario: In November’s elections for the U.S. House, Democrats win the national House vote by a few percentage points and gain nearly 20 additional House seats, by both winning open seats and defeating some longtime GOP incumbents. In the Senate, Democrats pick up Nevada; win races in states Trump carried in 2016, including in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and West Virginia; and only narrowly lose in the GOP strongholds of Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee. That sounds like a pretty good night for Democrats. But it wouldn’t be. That scenario would leave Republicans with a majority of, say, 222-213 in the House and a 51-49 advantage in the Senate. … That potential outcome didn’t get enough coverage in the run-up to the 2016 election. So let’s avoid repeating that mistake in 2018. How would the political world react if Republicans maintained control of Congress in November?

So what if Republicans kept control of Congress in 2018?

Marco Rubio, in challenge to Trump, suggests Congress will act against ZTE” via Haroun Demirjian of The Washington Post — Trump had announced last week that he would allow the telecom giant to ”reopen,” in a stunning reversal after the United States had imposed crippling penalties on the company for sanctions violations. In an appearance on CBS News’s “Face the Nation,” Rubio said there is “a growing commitment in Congress to do something about what China is trying to do to the United States” and that “one of the things that Congress will do is … not even allow Chinese telecom companies to operate in the United States.” “None of these companies should be operating in this country,” he said, also naming the Chinese telecom firm Huawei. “None of them.” … The senator did not go into specifics about what kind of legislative measure Congress might pursue to block the president. The annual defense authorization bills being considered in Congress already contain a prohibition on the federal government using Huawei and ZTE products. Rubio has also proposed legislation that would do the same, as well as ban sales of intellectual property and “national security sensitive technology” to China.

Assignment editors: U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney is expected to speak to the Cape Coral Republican Club. Personal Touch Banquet & Catering, 1530 Santa Barbara Blvd., Cape Coral. 7 p.m.

This is so incredibly shortsighted —Homeland Security has formally proposed to rescind the so-called startup visa” by Sara Ashley O’Brien 0f CNNMoney — “The rule aimed to help keep foreign entrepreneurs in the US by giving them a workaround to existing visas. … The government [now] believes the program is “inadvisable, impracticable, and an unwarranted use of limited agency resources.”

— WISH WE COULD ATTEND —

Presidential historian and author Jon Meacham will speak to the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches noon today. Meacham’s latest book is “The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels.” Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, Cohen Pavilion, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach.

— OPINION —

Searching for the real Adam Putnam” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — What happened to the Putnam who talks to anybody, knows public policy cold and still seems like the earnest young man next door even in his early 40s? It’s understandable Putnam feels pulled to the far right, given that Ron DeSantis has benefited from a favorable nod from Trump and the U.S. House member is a regular on Fox News. But there will be a general election in November. Being a proud NRA sellout, dismissing the value of higher education, dividing Floridians and schmoozing with a dog shooter is not the road to the Governor’s Mansion. So keep an eye out for the real Adam Putnam. He better show up fast, perhaps in the produce aisle at Publix.

Joe Henderson: is all this noise really America? Actually, it is” via Florida Politics – A lot of people wonder how in the hell did we get so mean and distrustful. Maybe it’s a clash of values, styles, religions, or maybe it’s just good old-fashioned fear. Maybe it’s always been there, and the 2016 election just popped the cork. I hoped that wouldn’t carry over to Florida elections this year, but it has. We get a president who used Twitter on Memorial Day, where we especially honor those who paid the highest cost, to pat himself on the back, noting, “Those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud at how well our country is doing today.” Ridiculous, but expected. Is that what we stand to honor and pledge allegiance? Or don’t stand and don’t pledge? And what so many fought to protect? Yeah. Actually, it is.

— MAJOR PERSONNEL MOVE —

Big news in the influence industry: After almost 10 years leading fertilizer giant Mosaic’s lobbying efforts in Tallahassee and Washington, Eileen Stuart is moving on to a new role.

She’s joining the Tallahassee law firm of Hopping Green & Sams (HGS) in June to helm its government affairs practice.

Big move: Eileen Stuart joins Hopping Green & Sams.

Stuart will be a shareholder of the firm, though her practice will center largely on state and federal government and regulatory affairs.

“Her expertise in environmental, energy, permitting and tax issues will complement HGS’ deep roster of professionals,” a news release said.

The firm “is a powerful combination of the state’s top environmental and land development lawyers, along with a robust and loyal client base,” Stuart said in a statement.

“HGS’ widely recognized expertise and reputation provide an unparalleled platform, and I am excited to work alongside the exceptional team there to help our clients achieve their objectives.”

Added HGS shareholder Gary Hunter: “We are thrilled to welcome Eileen to the firm. Having worked closely with her over the last decade, we appreciate firsthand Eileen’s substantial talents.”

Read more about Stuart’s big move here.

— ALOE —

Cheers! SeaWorld visitors enjoy free beer, a return of a longtime tradition” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — The giveaway is a nod to SeaWorld’s history, back when the company was owned by Anheuser-Busch, makers of Budweiser. At one point, the Orlando park also operated a hitching barn that was home to the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales that paraded through the theme park twice a day. … Last call came in January 2009 when SeaWorld Orlando and the other parks stopped serving free beer, a move that angered annual passholders and thirsty visitors. … Now known as SeaWorld Entertainment, the company has faced challenges with declining attendance, although it’s still ranked the ninth biggest theme park operator in the world … The start of 2018 has brought an uptick in revenue, attendance and people spending more at the park — which is something SeaWorld executives likely hope the free beer can help continue to grow. But if you want the free beer, you’ll have to visit SeaWorld Orlando by Sept. 2. The company does not have plans to make the two-per-customer 7-ounce pours permanent, a spokeswoman said.

Free beer is back at SeaWorld Orlando.

Defending champ Gators top seed in NCAA baseball tournament” via Eric Olson of The Associated Press — Losses in six of its last seven games didn’t diminish defending national champion Florida’s overall body of work when it came to seeding the NCAA baseball tournament. The Gators (42-17) are No. 1, and there never was much doubt, NCAA Division I Baseball Committee chairman Ray Tanner said Monday after the 64-team field was unveiled. Kevin O’Sullivan’s program is the first to earn the No. 1 overall seed three times since the tournament went to its current structure in 1999. The Gators also were top seeds in 2012 and 2016.

—”Florida State earns No. 7 national seed” via Wayne McGhee of the Tallahassee Democrat

—”As Hurricanes miss NCAA Tournament, coach Jim Morris’ career at Miami ends” via Christy Chorinos of the Miami Herald

Happy birthday from the extended weekend to state Reps. Julio Rodriguez and Mel Ponder, Richard DeNapoli, Stafford Jones, Tammy Perdue, Southern Strategy Group’s Clark Smith, Sydnie Tiseo, Florida Supreme Court spokesman Craig Waters, and Christian Ziegler. Celebrating today are Bascom Communications’ Sarah Proctor Demont, Arron Gober, USF St. Pete’s Helen Levine, and Alex Setzer.

And on a final note, happy belated birthday to my friend of nearly two decades, Scott Ross. He’s one of the best dads and husbands I know (and a pretty decent lobbyist).

Compilation of Florida elected officials’ and politicians’ tributes for Memorial Day

This weekend Floridians throughout our state will remember the men and women of the United States Armed Forces who have lost their lives while serving our country throughout our nation’s history. As we come together with family and friends to honor our fallen military and veterans, let us also bring to mind the tremendous sacrifice they have made for our benefit.

The following is a compilation of the messages and tributes put forth by Florida’s elected officials and politicians in honor of Memorial Day:

CFO Jimmy Patronis:

“Freedom isn’t free. As Americans, these three words are part of who we are. They are words we say on patriotic holidays, but have you stopped to think about what these words mean? They represent the men and women who won’t be with their families and friends at the next barbecue, Thanksgiving, or holiday dinner.These words stand in place of the embrace from a young wife, husband, mother or father. If you’ve ever been to Arlington National Cemetery or the final resting place of a member of our armed forces, you know how overwhelmingly sad and beautiful seeing row after row of headstones jutting out of the ground, standing at attention, is. They are stark visual markers of the cost of freedom. This Memorial Day, remember those men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who laid down their lives so we could live ours. And remember the people they left behind. The cost of freedom is great, and we can never forget that.”

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto:

“As you gather with friends and family this Memorial Day, I hope you will stand with me in honoring the brave men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice in protection of the fundamental freedoms we enjoy.  These fallen heroes surrendered their lives to protect our families, our future, and the country we both love. We are forever grateful for their dedication, bravery, and selflessness as they so courageously defended this great nation to preserve our liberty. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of service members who lost their lives while protecting our freedoms. We are forever thankful for your loved one’s courage and sacrifice. This Memorial Day, we commit to always remember our country’s heroes, and their faithful and dutiful service.”

Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen:

“Warm wishes to you and your family on Memorial Day. Our deepest gratitude goes to our fallen heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States of America.  May their courage and dedication never be forgotten.”

Rep. Bill Hager:

“Memorial Day is about more than just picnics and barbecues at the beach. It is a day to remember the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Please join me in remembering and thanking our fallen heroes, as well as their families.”

Rep. Jake Raburn:

“This Memorial Day weekend, our family will pause to remember and honor the sacrifice made by so many women and men to keep our nation free, protect our liberty and ensure the safety and protection of our land.  Melissa and I extend our heartfelt thanks and gratitude to each who have served, and are awed and overwhelmed as we remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.”

Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum:

“Memorial Day is dedicated to the memory of those who have fallen to protect our freedoms. And today, we stop and remember the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe, as well as their families and their loved ones. R. Jai and I are thinking of all those who are carrying the memory of a loved one today — we will never forget you or your loved ones’ sacrifices. Wishing everyone a safe Memorial Day.”

Congressional candidate Alvin Brown:

“Memorial Day is a powerful reminder of the brave men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice as they served our country and fought to secure peace in the world. As a nation, we are eternally indebted to them and grateful for their service and selfless courage. We can never repay the sacrifice our fallen service members have paid, but must strive to be a nation worthy of their sacrifice. On Memorial Day and everyday, let us honor their service through steadfast support for all of our men and women in uniform, veterans and their families. Let us resolve to give them the resources, healthcare and economic opportunities they’ve earned. And May God bless our fallen heroes, their families, and all who still serve and put their lives on the line for all of us.”

Congressional candidate David Shapiro:

My dad was a veteran of World War II. In 1945 he fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima, one of the bloodiest battles of the war.

My dad came home — but many of the young men who fought by his side did not.

Today we remember those brave soldiers, Marines, and more than 1.1 million of their fellow Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom.

Memorial Day is personal to me because my father would often speak of the good friends he lost in the service to the country. He would constantly remind me that we should honor all veterans and never take for granted the freedom we enjoy and cherish.

When my father enlisted, he knew that he would be fighting for freedom and equality — for Americans and for all citizens of the world.

I’m proud to live and run for office in a nation where we stand for those values. When we win this election in November and go to Washington, I’ll work to ensure that the sacrifices of our men and women in the service and the ideals they fought for are not forgotten.

My best wishes for you and your family on this Memorial Day weekend.

Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee:

“Monday is Memorial Day, a time to honor the many brave men and women in our military who paid the ultimate price while serving our country. They gave their lives in the call of duty so that we can continue to enjoy the freedoms many of us sometimes take for granted. In times of armed conflicts and declared wars, the selfless acts of our service members deserve honor and reverence. Take a moment to remember, no matter how you choose to spend the day. Never forget the true purpose of Memorial Day and the people who sacrificed so much to make this holiday possible. We stand together with resolve, and with an appreciation for the men and women who wear the uniforms of our armed services.”

Florida for Care:

“Today is a day that we remember all of those that gave the ultimate sacrifice fighting for the freedoms that we have every day in this great country. Many brave men and women gave their lives, to make sure every person in America could enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They secured our ability to have freedom of speech, and to petition our government when we want to change laws we see unfit. Let us all remember, as many enjoy this time with friends and families, those who served and died for us. They have left behind loved ones, those that don’t have their best friend or family member to share that life with them anymore because of their sacrifice. Keep them close in your heart and honor all of those that have and are serving today in everything you do. Many have thankfully made it back home, but are still dealing with damages to their body and minds. Make sure you honor them not just today, but every day.”

Uber and Governors Highway Safety Association - Make It Click campaign

Uber, GHSA remind drivers and passengers to buckle up this holiday weekend

Ride-hailing company Uber and the Governors Highway Safety Association are launching an awareness campaign reminding travelers to fasten their seatbelts ahead of Memorial Day weekend, when nearly 42 million Americans are expected to celebrate the unofficial start of summer with a road trip.

Make It Click: Every seat. Every ride” aims to educate the public on the dangers of riding unbuckled, whether they’re behind the wheel or being chauffeured by an Uber driver, and even if the trip is just down the street.

Uber and GHSA pointed to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showing that more than 900 back seat passengers age eight and older died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016, and about half of them could still be alive if they had used a seat belt.

NHTSA also estimates that seat belts saved up 14,668 lives in 2016 alone, the same year that it found nearly 27.5 million people still don’t buckle up.

“Studies have shown that adults who admit to not buckling up in the back seat, also overwhelmingly admit to not buckling during short trips,” said Kasra Moshkani, general manager of Uber Florida. “People have a false sense of security that the back seat is safer, and we plan to harness the power of technology to help change those behaviors. Our partnership with the GHSA is a first step.”

The awareness campaign is timed to coincide with the NHTSA’s “Click It or Ticket” enforcement period.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Uber on this effort,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “Increasing belt use – particularly in the backseat – is one of the most persistent challenges for states. This campaign is a rare opportunity to reach millions of riders with the message that belt use is critical, no matter the vehicle or seat.”

Newly formed political committee offers clues to Nikki Fried’s plans

Democratic Nikki Fried has kept the Florida political class guessing for months about a possible statewide run for office.

Florida Politics first reported back in February that the attorney, lobbyist and medical marijuana advocate was considering a late entry into the gubernatorial race. More recently, rumors circulated about Fried mounting a bid for Attorney General — a rumor that has caused heartburn for a Democratic establishment that has all but coalesced around state Rep. Sean Shaw’s candidacy.

Now a newly formed state political committee may put to rest questions about Fried’s future.

Sources close to Fried have confirmed that the Broward County-based political committee, Florida Consumers First, could likely to be the first step toward a bid for Agriculture Commissioner.

Fried’s already said that “Florida Democrats are tired of losing and are looking for a new voice: Someone different, someone who isn’t afraid to speak the truth and is willing to turn the political status quo on its head.”

Fried’s experience working with the medicinal cannabis industry could be the ticket to garnering support from millennials, ag interests and other sectors in her deep-blue South Florida home base.

If she ultimately runs, Fried would face a nominal Democratic primary with two declared, but poorly funded candidates already running. Insiders expect Fried to be a tenacious fundraiser, drawing on relationships in the medical marijuana industry, the lobby corp, the Broward County business and political establishment, and the Florida Bar, where Fried is a longtime leader of the Young Lawyers Division.

“Nikki doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘no’,” said one Tallahassee insider. “She’s going to be a monster fundraiser.”

The Republican primary for Ag Commissioner is fluid, and likely to get nasty before Election Day. Three current or former members of the legislature — Reps. Baxter Troutman and Matt Caldwell, and Sen. Denise Grimsley — as well as retired Army Col. Mike McCalister are all vying for the nomination, without a clear front-runner.

If Fried files to run before the June 22 state qualifying deadline, it would mark the first time in two decades that Democrats have managed to field credible candidates for all three cabinet seats, with Shaw running for Attorney General, and former Sen. Jeremy Ring for CFO.

It would also mark the first time in recent memory that Democrats have felt like something approaching bullish on their chances of making a dent in Republican hegemony on the cabinet.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — When it rains …

Our expectations of a three-day weekend filled with backyard barbecues and relaxation have been met with the reality of the precocious 2018 Hurricane Season.

As of Friday afternoon, it appears the Sunshine State will get a soaking over the holiday, thanks to the untimely formation of now-Subtropical Storm Alberto — six days ahead of the ‘official start’ to the hurricane season.

Say holá to Sub-Tropical Storm Alberto, Florida!

Per The Weather Channel, Alberto is expected to track north through the Gulf of Mexico toward the most-western portion of the panhandle. It will, however, bring strong rains across the state, particularly the bottom half of Florida, along with its panhandle and even around the capital city.

At the local level, Tallahassee has opened two sandbag locations, James Messer Park South at 2830 Jackson Bluff Road and Winthrop Park. The county also has opened four other locations expected to remain operating until the threat of a storm has passed. City officials have advised Tallahasseeans to download the Digitally app, which keeps citizens in the loop on local developments, including downed power lines and incidences of flooding.

At the state level, Gov. Rick Scott traveled to Panama City Beach Friday to warn citizens to take necessary precautions and to speak with local officials.

As far as development goes, The Weather Channel predicts that especially warm waters for May could result in Alberto strengthening to a full-fledged tropical storm later this weekend.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Drew Wilson, Danny McAuliffe, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Special Session chances quelled — A Democrat-backed push to reconvene the Legislature this week stopped short of receiving enough support. The Republican-led Legislature voted overwhelmingly to keep lawmakers home and to operate under the budget passed during the 2018 Legislative Session. The Democrats wanted to call the Special Session to increase K-12 education funding. The move was spearheaded by Democratic Reps. Shevrin Jones, of West Park, Nicholas Duran, of Miami and Carlos Guillermo Smith, of Orlando. The lawmakers claimed that base allocations to school funding amounted to 47 cents, while Republican leadership has touted a $101.5 increase. The support threshold of three-fifths of Legislature was not met. The Senate voted 16-13 in favor, with some Republican lawmakers abstaining, and the House voted 64-41 against the concept.

Election security money uncertain — Gov. Scott this week directed Secretary of State Ken Detzner to help counties unlock more than $19 million worth of federal funds available to beef up voting security ahead of the 2018 election. That order, however, came after Detzner announced that counties would not get the money ahead of November, citing the need for legislative approval to unlock the funds. If made available, the funds would be used to prevent breaches of election security, such as those unearthed during the 2016 presidential election by Russians. The money would accompany the state’s recent announcement it will hire five cybersecurity consultants to work with elections offices across the state.

State sued over campus early voting ban — A lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters of Florida and six students from the University of Florida and Florida State University challenges a 2014 decision made by Secretary Detzner to prevent early voting on college campuses. Detzner had interpreted a prior determination that a ban on early voting at the University of Florida’s Student Union was cause to prevent early voting on all public college facilities across the state, according to the lawsuit. John Tupps, Scott’s spokesman, dismissed the lawsuit as an election-year gimmick, according to The Associated Press. “This political group waited four years to challenge this interpretation,” Tupps told the AP. “This is obviously an election-year gimmick to distort the facts.”

Statute could jam gun lawsuit — A 2001 Florida law prevents government entities from suing businesses for producing weapons that are later used unlawfully, though it’s not clear whether the law also bars members of the public. The families of two slain victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting, Jaime Guttenberg and Alex Schachter, “seek to hold defendants legally responsible for their complicity in the entirely foreseeable, deadly use of the assault-style weapons that they place on the market,” according to a lawsuit filed this week in Broward County. It seeks damages from gunmaker American Outdoor Brands, formerly known as Smith & Wesson, and Sunrise Tactical Supply, where confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz purchased the weapon he used to take 17 lives Feb. 14.

Storm tax holiday on horizon — Monday marks the beginning of a weeklong sales-tax holiday for disaster-preparedness supplies. Notes Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida, that “means about 90 cents to $1.05 in sales taxes will not be applied to a $15 package of batteries or $45 to $52 is left off the purchase of a generator that costs $750.” As the state was still reeling from the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma, lawmakers opted to extend the duration of the annual holiday during the 2018 Legislative Session. The seven-day break, beginning June 1, is more than twice as long as last year’s. According to Turner, the break could cut “state revenue by $4.6 million. Local governments will experience a $1.2 million reduction in revenue, according to state economists.”

Scott, DEO invest in military bases

Recognizing the economic impact military installations have in the Sunshine State, Scott and the state’s jobs agency announced this week a $3.5 million plan to support projects in nearby communities.

The military complexes are estimated to contribute close to $85 billion yearly to Florida’s economy, supporting nearly 800,000 jobs in the Sunshine State. Florida bases will use the new money to improve local infrastructure and acquire land, as well as assist nearby areas and diversify local economies.

Navy veteran Rick Scott announced more spending for military bases.

“Florida is the most military-friendly state in the nation, and as a Navy Veteran myself, I am proud to announce our state will be providing nearly $3.5 million in additional defense grants dedicated to supporting Florida’s military communities,” Scott said. “Our military installations are the backbone of many great Florida communities.”

The money will arrive to communities via Defense Infrastructure Grants and Defense Reinvestment Grants, which both are administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The former was awarded to defense partners in Bay, Brevard, Clay, Duval, Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, and the latter were disseminated across Bay, Brevard, Clay, Duval, Escambia, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Okaloosa, Orange, Santa Rosa and Walton counties.

“Defense communities play a large role in Florida’s robust economy,” DEO Executive Director Cissy Proctor said. “We are proud to invest in our military installations and the local communities they support.”

Avoid gas pump ‘skimmers’ on Memorial Day Weekend, Putnam says

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose job includes regulating gas pumps, is warning of the potential to be ripped off at the pump this holiday weekend.

Namely, he’s concerned about “identity-stealing card skimmers placed on gas pumps.”

Floridians need to stay alert for card skimmers, Adam Putnam says.

“Floridians and visitors shouldn’t have to worry about losing their hard-earned money to scammers who prey on victims at gas pumps,” he said.

Some tips to defend yourself:

— Use a gas pump closer to the store because thieves often place skimmers farther away so they are not noticed as quickly.

— Check to make sure the gas pump dispenser cabinet is closed and has not been tampered with.

— Use a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit cards have better fraud protection.

— Better yet, pay in cash inside the store.

If you think a gas pump has been tampered with, talk with the gas station manager, local law enforcement or call the department’s consumer protection and information hotline at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or, for Spanish speakers, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832).

Patronis: Report suspicious hurricane damage repair offers

As the 2018 Hurricane Season approaches, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis reminds Floridians to contact his Disaster Fraud Action Strike Team (DFAST) if they suspect they may have fallen victim to insurance fraud during their recovery after a hurricane.

Jimmy Patronis warns about bogus hurricane repair offers.

“As recovery efforts continue from last year, and the 2018 Hurricane Season quickly approaches, we must continue to look out for our families, friends and neighbors by reporting suspicious activity as soon as possible,” he said in a statement.

Possible indicators of post-storm fraud include a contractor or restoration professional who:

— Offered to waive or discount your insurance deductible.

— Received payment and failed to provide any repairs to your home.

— Offered to provide repairs at a cash-only discounted rate and has failed to provide repairs to your home.

— Pressured you to sign an AOB and failed to provide any repairs to your home or stopped responding to your contact attempts.

Consumers who have experienced or witnessed these types of activity are encouraged to reach out to CFO Patronis’ Fraud Tip Hotline by calling 1-800-378-0445. Callers can choose to remain anonymous.

Instagram of the week

The week in appointments

1st Judicial Circuit

Stephen Pitre, 46, of Gulf Breeze, is a shareholder at Clark, Partington, Hart, Larry, Bond, & Stackhouse, P.A. He previously served as an Assistant State Attorney for the 1st Judicial Circuit. Gov. Scott appointed him to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Edward P. Nickinson III.

Okaloosa County Court

Angela Mason, 41, of Fort Walton Beach, is currently an Assistant State Attorney for the 1st Judicial Circuit, and previously served as an Assistant State Attorney for the 4th Judicial Circuit. Gov. Scott appointed her to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge T. Patterson Maney.

Miami-Dade County Court

Ramiro Christen Areces, 35, of Coral Gables, fills the vacancy created by the death of Judge Shelley J. Kravitz. Elijah A. Levitt, 39, of Miami, fills the vacancy created by the appointment of Judge Spencer J. Multack to the 11th Judicial Circuit Court.

Florida Citrus Commission

Pat Schirard, 57, of Vero Beach, is the president of GEM Indian River Select, a premium juice company that prides itself on solely using Florida citrus for production. He fills a vacancy on the nine-member Citrus Commission for a term ending May 31, 2019.

Duran delivers big for anti-human trafficking program

State Rep. Nicholas X. Duran, a Miami Democrat, this week presented a $400,000 check to a South Florida effort aimed at serving youth victims of human trafficking.

The money was given to Citrus Helping Adolescents Negatively Impacted by Commercial Exploitation (CHANCE) in Miami-Dade. It will support the development of a Campus for Commercially Sexually Exploited Youth program.

Nick Duran awards $400K to the fight against human trafficking.

Securing the funds was a legislative victory for Duran during the 2018 Session. He had submitted a request for the money during the appropriations process.

“The rights and best interests of sexually exploited children should be at the forefront of priorities in Florida. We should be taking bold measures to ensure the safety and protection of our children from violence and abuse,” stated Representative Duran. “By providing services designed to help children cope with traumatic events, we can turn negative experiences into empowerment and inner transformation. Programs like CHANCE not only treat these youths, but they provide a foundation of support that children carry with them for a lifetime.”

The new program includes integrated health services. As well, it will support a continuum of care, with statewide inpatient psychiatric programs, therapeutic group homes, foster homes and an education facility.

Hukill to be recognized by art-based nonprofit

For her many years in public service, state Sen. Dorothy Hukill will be honored at an event hosted by the ArtHaus Foundation.

On June 6 the Port Orange Republican will be recognized at ArtHaus’ 20th Annual Fun & Funky Dinner. Dubbed “Volusia — There’s No Place Like Home,” the Wizard of Oz-themed event starts at 5:30 p.m. at Root Hall at the Museum of Arts & Sciences in Daytona Beach.

Dorothy Hukill is recognized for her service to Volusia County arts education.

Established in 1996, the ArtHaus Foundation is a boutique nonprofit dedicated to enhancing arts education in Volusia County schools and communities. To do so, it showcases student art in Hukill’s district, provides after-school, art-focused programs, and supports art educators while also promoting cultural enrichment for the community.

An invitation reads, “Senator Hukill has dedicated her years serving and being a voice for those who call Volusia County home. In the Florida Legislature, Dorothy has been a steadfast supporter of the arts and believes in the importance of nurturing our children’s creativity and inspiring them to be true to themselves and their visions.”

Tickets for the event are $100, though sponsorship levels range between $500 and $5,000, spanning “Yellow Brick Road” to “Ruby Slippers” levels. Proceeds from the event will support ArtHaus’ mission: “Instilling the spirit of creativity & self expression in our youth & our community.”

Tournaments aid in lionfish removal

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is once again employing a unique way to incentivize lionfish removal: fishing tournaments.

The series, dubbed the 2018 Lionfish Challenge, started May 19 — or Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day — and has directly resulted in the removal of 15,000 lionfish from Florida waters so far. FWC considers the species invasive, and encourages removal due to its negative impact on Florida’s underwater ecosystems.

Tournaments begin to help control an invasive species of lionfish. (Image via Florida Sportsman)

The challenge runs through Sept. 3. Already more than 200 people have signed up to participate.

This year, some fish are tagged at artificial reefs across the state. Reeling in a tagged lionfish could net the angler a cash prize of up to $5,000. Last weekend five tagged fish were caught off Escambia County.

The area with the most lionfish action last weekend was Pensacola, where more than 9,000 of the venomous-spined creatures were hooked.

DCF, local communities join forces for foster care

The Florida Department of Children and Families announced this week that it will alongside community partners recognize and celebrate foster families and those who support them.

The news comes as May, National Foster Care Month, draws to a close. DCF said it is working with the state’s community-based care (CBC) agencies to recruit, license, and match children with foster homes.

The Department of Children and Families is celebrating Florida foster families.

“When you choose to invest in and enhance the lives of children and youth currently in foster care, you are giving them an opportunity to be successful; ultimately strengthening our communities,” DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said. “Opening your heart and home to a child in a time of critical need is one of the most rewarding roles you can fulfill within your community.”

According to DCF, there are nearly 25,000 children in foster care in the Sunshine State. “Each child needs love, security, and a strong foundation to build their life around,” a news release from the agency said.

DCF isn’t the only entity in the capital city celebrating foster care. The Tallahassee Democrat has published throughout the month special guest columns from foster parents.

Pratt & Whitney brings 215 more jobs to Palm Beach

It was announced this week by Gov. Scott that manufacturing powerhouse Pratt & Whitney would be expanding its site, creating 215 additional jobs at its Palm Beach County location.

Since 2012, the aircraft engine and auxiliary power unit maker created 300 Sunshine State jobs, according to a news release from Scott’s office. The term-limited Governor, who’s made a point to secure his job growth legacy before leaving office next year, chimed in on the company’s expansion plans.

Pratt & Whitney expands in Palm Beach County. (Image via the Sun-Sentinel)

“I am proud to announce 215 new jobs for families in Palm Beach County. As Governor, one of the best parts of my job is meeting families across our state and over the past seven years, I’ve heard firsthand from them just how important our focus on job growth is to their success,” Scott said in a prepared statement Wednesday. “Today’s exciting announcement shows why Florida is leading the nation in job growth and why we will never stop fighting to make sure that hardworking companies, like Pratt & Whitney, can grow and create jobs.”

Executives of the manufacturing firm gave credit to the state for its commitment to pro-business initiatives. The project was made possible through strong partnerships between Enterprise Florida, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and Palm Beach County’s Business Development Board, according to the news release.

And to DEO head Proctor, the expansion “is another sign that employers are benefiting from Florida’s pro-business policies and finding the talent they need to grow in the Sunshine State.”

TaxWatch taps longtime lobbyist to Board of Trustees

Fausto Gomez, president of Gomez Barker Advisors, joined this week the Board of Trustees for the Sunshine State’s premier taxpayer research institute and watchdog organization.

With his addition, TaxWatch is bringing one of Florida’s most-respected government relations counselors onboard.

TaxWatch taps Gomez Barker Advisors President Fausto Gomez for its Board of Trustees.

“We are thrilled to welcome Fausto Gomez to our esteemed Board of Trustees,” said Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic M. Calabro. “Florida TaxWatch was built on the idea of bringing the business community to the Legislature. Mr. Gomez’s background with both businesses and government makes him an excellent addition to the board.”

Gomez is bilingual and has significant experience in the art of government relations. He has represented clients skillfully before the Legislature, agencies and local governments in South Florida.

By joining TaxWatch, Gomez hopes to contribute to its central mission of making government more efficient.

“Now more than ever, there is a need for a nonpartisan watchdog to monitor waste and inefficiency in government,” said Gomez. “I am not only excited but honored to join Florida TaxWatch in forwarding their important mission to improve taxpayer value, government accountability and citizen understanding.”

Greenberg Traurig employee honored for advocacy

Liz Dudek, Director of Health Care Affairs to Tallahassee Greenberg Traurig (GT) location, was recognized this week for her dedication to advocating on behalf of the elderly and disabled.

At an annual dinner honoring late U.S. Senator and Representative Claude Pepper at Jungle Island in Key Biscayne, Dudek was awarded the United HomeCare Claude Pepper Award for Lifetime Achievement. It pays tribute to Pepper’s care advocacy and “honors exceptional individuals and organizations from the private and public sector who exemplify the spirit and ideals of the award’s namesake,” according to a news release from GT. United Homecare is a long-running nonprofit home health and community group in South Florida.

Kudos to Liz Dudek for her advocacy work.

“I am honored to receive the United HomeCare Claude Pepper Award and to share this recognition with the other honorees,” said Dudek. “Having spent much of my career in health care, I appreciate the importance of providing seniors in our community with the quality care that they deserve. We all have to work together to champion for the elderly to ensure that they are treated with compassion and dignity.”

Before joining GT, Dudek had served as the Secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration and Deputy Secretary of Health Quality Assurance. Now at the firm, she helps “clients navigate the health care system, interact with agencies, and better understand legislative affairs and their accompanying issues,” according to the news release.

GT is an international law practice with more than 2,000 attorneys in the U.S., Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Law360 named it the largest law firm in the country in 2017.

Leon County closures, service changes for Memorial Day

Closed Monday, May 28: Leon County offices, libraries, community centers, Animal Control, Solid Waste and Rural Waste Service Centers, Household Hazardous Waste Center.

Remaining open for the holiday: Leon County parks and recreation facilities (including boat landings).

There will be a number of closures around Leon County for Memorial Day.

The LeRoy Collins Leon County Branch Libraries will close Saturday, May 26, at 4 p.m. The LeRoy Collins Leon County Main Library will close at 6 p.m. Sunday, May 27. The LeRoy Collins Leon County Main Library and branch libraries will resume normal operating hours Tuesday, May 29.

The Woodville, Ft. Braden and Miccosukee Rural Waste Service Centers will close at 5 p.m. Sunday, May 27. All Leon County Solid Waste and Rural Waste Service Centers and Household Hazardous Waste Center will resume normal operating hours Tuesday, May 29.

In the event of an animal-related emergency, service is available by calling the Consolidated Dispatch Agency at (850) 606-5800. Leon County Animal Control encourages residents to only use this service to report dangerous or aggressive dogs, sick or injured domestic animals and animal cruelty. Injured wildlife calls will be forwarded to the St. Francis Wildlife Association at (850) 627-4151.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

On soccer’s biggest stage, the biggest loser this weekend will be Florida (thanks Speaker Corcoran!)

On Saturday, Birmingham’s Aston Villa F.C. and London’s Fulham F.C. will go head-to-head in what is considered the most valuable match in world soccer. The winner will secure the last remaining spot for the right to play in the English Premier League next season, the world’s top soccer league, and will receive at least $210 million, which could rise to $370 million if either team manages to survive one season after reaching the top league.

Aston Villa will be looking to return to the league after only two seasons outside the top tier of European football, while Fulham will be looking to make a comeback since being relegated in 2014.

So, to break it down for you colonists, that’s as epic as the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team defeating the heavily favored Soviet Union in the Miracle on Ice. Or when an undersized kid from Joliet, Illinois named Rudy made the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team. Or as unlikely as UCF winning a national championship … oh wait.

So what does European football have to do with Florida politics?

While hundreds of millions of eyes will be watching the epic matchup this weekend on screens around the world – and buying team merchandise and plastering the town with team logos and sponsorships – the only headlines the state will be generating is what path Subtropical Storm Alberto might take toward the Florida coastline. That’s thanks in large part to the short-sighted policies of the outgoing House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

A couple of years ago through, Visit Florida, the state was a title sponsor for Fulham, the popular London-based club who had recently been relegated to the lower league after more than a decade of respectable finishes in top league. Corcoran saw sponsorships such as the one with the European Football League as an opportunity to curry favor on a then-potential gubernatorial run and threatened to defund the state’s tourism marketing arm. The agency backed off such contracts and ended agreements with sports franchises from soccer to NASCAR to the National Football League.

But unfortunately for Floridians – who rely on tourism to maintain a healthy economy – Corcoran’s populist politics cost the state dearly. In the last two years, Florida has lost significant market share in many international locations. Visitors from the United Kingdom are down 9 percent in 2017 from the year before. It’s worse in places like Argentina (-14 percent) and Mexico (-13 percent). Canada was the only country that registered an increase in market share (4 percent or 133,000 visitors).

Now that hoards have descended on London, and Florida has all but shuttered their marketing efforts on some of the world’s largest stages, we can likely expect more of the same. This is what happens when politicians endlessly talk about advancing Florida’s brand but refuse to actually take the steps necessary to strengthen the brand here and abroad. No brand manager in the private sector would consider standing down on this type of productive advertising, but when politicians who know nothing about brand management get involved, you can watch Florida’s marketing profile slowly fade to black.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 5.25.18

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

Memorial Day weekend means hot dogs, the beach and a Monday off to many. But to Florida’s politicians, it’s a working holiday.

“Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military,” according to History.com. “Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.

“…Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.”

And high campaign season.

John Tupps, spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott, said the governor – also in the running for U.S. Senate – “will be monitoring the storm forming in the Gulf of Mexico.” “He’s planning on honoring our nation’s troops in Miami on Friday and again on Monday,” Tupps added. “He’s already awarded hundreds of Veteran’s Service Medals to Florida veterans this week.”

— CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “I’ll be spending my weekend at home with my two boys and wonderful wife. My family is incredibly grateful for the freedoms we have because of the sacrifices of our fallen soldiers.” His office also noted that he would be monitoring the storm brewing in the Gulf, providing any immediate assistance needed for Floridians.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who also happens to be running for Governor, “will be in Florida, monitoring the weather system moving into the state, celebrating the end of another school year with his family, and honoring the sacrifices made by our fallen veterans that make these moments even possible,” said campaign spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice.

— U.S. Rep Ron DeSantis did not directly respond to our injury, but a blast email from his campaign notes that he will be in Pinellas County on Saturday for a Meet-and-Greet at Quaker Steak & Lube. That event begins at 3:45 p.m.

The Democratic candidates for governor are similarly booked.

— Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum will attend Saturday’s Florida A&M University National Alumni Association Gubernatorial Candidates Forum, 9-11 a.m., at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando.  On Sunday, he’ll be at the St. Pete Democratic Club’s 10th Annual Memorial Day Picnic, 2:30-4 p.m. at War Memorial Park in St. Petersburg.  And on Monday, he plans to be at the American Legion Memorial Day Observance and Flag Retirement Ceremony, Seminole Post 111, 10:30-12:30 p.m. in Tampa.

— Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham of Tallahassee reports she is “looking forward to spending this weekend with my husband Steve and recognizing the sacrifices of the men and women who gave their lives serving our country at the Tallahassee National Cemetery Memorial Day observance ceremony.  “Each year, as families enjoy the long weekend together, I deeply appreciate all the Floridians who take time to attend services across our state honoring those we have lost.”

Orlando-area businessman Chris King “and his wife Kristen will be attending a family wedding in Fort Myers and spending the weekend with his family after completing his 10-day, 11-county ‘Turning the Tide’ tour on criminal justice reform,” his campaign said.

— Former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine says he “will join Floridians in honoring the brave men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation and allow freedom to reign in the US and all over the world. “Like many, I will be with my family and encourage everyone to reflect on the meaningful purpose behind Memorial Day.”

Sunburn asked the other candidates running statewide what their plans for. Among their responses:

AG candidate Sean Shaw: “I will be attending a ceremony on Sunday at the Tallahassee National Cemetery honoring the brave women & men who have given their lives in service to our state & our nation. After the ceremony, I’ll be taking the rest of the long weekend off the trail to relax by grilling & fishing at my childhood home in Tallahassee.”

Ag. Commissioner candidate Denise Grimsley said, ““I will be with family this Memorial Day, ever so grateful for those who gave all that we may live in freedom.”

“I Will Vote” weekend of action planned by Florida Democrats – With less than 100 days until the Aug. 28 primary, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and the Florida Democratic Party are hosting joint “Nelson’s Neighbors” events across the state.  It’s all part of what they are calling a “I Will Vote” weekend of action this Memorial Day weekend.

It “marks the kick-off to a summer of activism, where Democrats are committed to registering thousands of Floridians to vote-by-mail, knocking on doors in all 67 counties, registering thousands of new voters and communicating in new ways about our candidates,” according to a statement.

“The momentum we are seeing in our Democratic clubs and progressive groups across the state has been outstanding,” Democratic Party chair Terrie Rizzo said. “There is tremendous enthusiasm about our candidates, and it shows by the engagement we are seeing in this weekend of action, and beyond.”

Nelson is scheduled to join volunteers in Orange County, and his wife Grace Nelson will be in Duval County with volunteers making phone calls and knocking on doors. “Sen. Nelson has been fighting day in and day out to protect the people of Florida and we will do everything we can to elect Democrats up and down the ticket,” Rizzo said.

Programming note: Sunburn will definitely be taking Monday off to commemorate Memorial Day. It may also take Tuesday off because, well, it doesn’t want to work on a holiday to produce an edition on Tuesday. For the latest news, be sure to check out FloridaPolitics.com.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

–@politiCOHEN_: @willripleyCNN on phone from north korea now. says he was the first person to read to the north korean officials he was with trump’s letter. they had all just been together seeing a nuclear site dismantled. he said they were in shocked, got up, left and are all on the phone.

–@ScottforFlorida: It’s unfortunate Congress failed to pass a bill to protect Florida’s coast. It’s also disappointing to see politicians who have been in DC for decades only try to take action when it’s an election year. As governor I have fought to invest in our beaches

@JKennedyReport: Hearing reports that G’ville Publix stores have put @GainesvilleSun out of sight cuz of front page story on boycott

–@ShevrinJones: We may have fallen short of the numbers for a special session, but we will continue to stand, ready and willing to work to ensure that our public schools have the adequate resources to provide students with a high quality education. We live to FIGHT another day!

@Fineout: When’s my deadline? Every moment, every minute, every hour, every day….

@SchmitzMedia: Just got an email from someone concerned that a politician was lying about their endorsements, so I’m very ready for a three-day weekend.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Memorial Day — 3; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in St. Petersburg — 15; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Miramar — 17; Time Warner/AT&T merger ruling — 18; 2018 FIFA World Cup begins — 20; Father’s Day — 23; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 28; Florida GOP Sunshine Summit starts — 34; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 44; MLB All-Star Game — 53; Deadline for filing claim bills — 68; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 68; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 69; Start of the U.S. Open — 94; Primary Election Day — 95; College Football opening weekend — 97; NFL season starts — 104; Future of Florida Forum — 124; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 151; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 152; General Election Day — 165; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 265; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 284.

— TOP STORY —

Group files suit to show whether offshore drilling announcement was supposed to boost Rick Scott” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida — A left-leaning group based in Washington filed a lawsuit against the Interior Department seeking records related to Secretary Ryan Zinke‘s decision to exempt Florida from a federal offshore drilling proposal. American Oversight said it was suing for records to shed light on the department’s decision to exempt Florida. The lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington seeks emails and other records related to offshore drilling in 14 coastal states, including Florida. Zinke’s decision to exclude Florida as Scott was preparing an election bid for the Senate “looks like more than a coincidence,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight … “Given the detrimental effect that offshore drilling can have on states’ environments and economies, the public deserves to know how DOI is making drilling-related decisions,” Evers said. “We need to find out if Secretary Zinke is conducting agency business with an eye to boosting Republicans’ electoral chances.”

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

First on #FlaPol – Gwen Graham expands campaign staff — Graham’s gubernatorial campaign has added Monica RodriguesEd Rodriguez, and Jenny Busby to its political, policy and operations teams. Joining as political director, Rodrigues, of Miami Beach, previously served as the communication director and development director for Enroll America she helped with the enrollment of 1.9 million Floridians in Obamacare. Rodriguez joins the Graham campaign as Deputy Policy Director. A University of Florida graduate, Rodriguez previously worked for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America as a Legislative Associate in the organization’s Washington, D.C. policy team. He has experience as a legislative staffer in the U.S. Senate and as a political consultant for Solidarity Strategies. Busby joins as the Operations Director. She comes to the campaign from Congressman Al Lawson‘s office. A Jacksonville native, she previously worked for City Councilman Tommy Hazouri, the Florida Democratic Party, and former Broward County Sen. Nan Rich.

Philip Levine is basing his run for governor on his climate change record — which is complicated” via the Miami Herald — Last week, amid questions about planning under Levine‘s tenure, angst about the city’s climate change efforts effectively torpedoed the next steps of the former mayor’s agenda. Because of fierce opposition to a $24 million project that includes raising roads, a divided city commission punted on nearly $90 million of roadway and stormwater improvements in a residential swath of the city. Following the vote, one elected official referred to the delayed project as “ill-conceived.” The criticism follows frustrations from business owners who’ve seen the city’s pumps fail during power outages and faced warnings from scientists who’ve documented evidence that those same pumps are polluting Biscayne Bay. “I think Philip Levine helped wake everybody up. I love him for that. This is an elected official who said, ‘We don’t have time to wait,” said Caroline Lewis, executive director of the climate change nonprofit CLEO Institute. “But I’m not so sure everything was so well thought out.”

Ron Bergeron decides not to run for governor” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — One of Broward’s most colorful figures — developer, conservationist and sometimes alligator wrestler — Bergeron had spent much of 2017 thinking about running, consulting with political professionals and talking to friends about the idea. As the months went on, and the two parties’ primary contests developed, the idea of a Bergeron candidacy looked less likely … with a month until the deadline for candidate qualifying, Bergeron told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that his name won’t be on the ballot this year. “It was the most difficult decision I’ve ever made, truthfully, to be honest with you. Very, very difficult. I have gotten calls and emails across this state, so positive,” he said. Bergeron said he’d be concentrating on his passion, restoration of the Everglades, and on charitable work, which recently won national recognition when he received a Horatio Alger Award. “Our family has been here for eight generations. I love this state. I love the people, and that’s why I’m so passionate.”

Matt Caldwell campaign announces finance committee — State Rep. Caldwell announced nearly 70 members of his statewide, finance committee in his bid for Agriculture Commissioner. The announcement follows the news that Caldwell’s campaign and political committee has raised nearly $2 million to date — leading in funds raised from supporters across the state. “I am proud to be running the only statewide race for Commissioner of Agriculture and see that hard work pay off as we announce our statewide finance committee,” Caldwell said in a statement.

Denise Grimsley rolls out more law enforcement endorsements — State Sen. Grimsley continues to add endorsements from the law enforcement community, with four more Florida sheriffs supporting her bid for Agriculture Commissioner. The total number of sheriffs backing her now stands at 18. New names include Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast, Liberty County Sheriff Eddie Joe White, Madison County Sheriff Ben Stewart and Okeechobee County Sheriff Noel Stephen.

Less than a month into his candidacy, David Straz shakes up campaign staff” via Mitch Perry of WMNF — Less than three weeks after philanthropist and former banker Straz announced his candidacy for mayor of Tampa, he is already shaking up his campaign staff, naming Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee executive director Mark Hanisee to replace Susan Clary as his campaign manager. Hanisee has spent the last three and a half years as executive director of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee, where he’s been responsible for a major uptick in fundraising for the local party. The change comes a little more than three weeks after Straz officially announced his candidacy for mayor, a debut that some dubbed shaky. Among his initial stumbles was a comment … where he said that he believed that the city of Tampa should fund $100 million for a potential stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays. A spokesperson later [said] that Straz hadn’t settled on a precise amount that the city should spend on a proposed ballpark.

— FOR YOUR RADAR —

Democratic analytics firm launches new ad-testing service” via Scott Bland of POLITICO — Civis Analytics, a Democratic firm that grew out of former President Barack Obama‘s re-election campaign, is launching new ad-testing software that lets campaigns up and down the ballot inject a little science into a famously subjective process. The application, called ‘Creative Focus,’ uses controlled experiments to test the efficacy of ads in online surveys. Users upload their ads and choose the audience they want to test against, from national down to the congressional district level. Civis then runs an online survey of that audience — randomly showing some respondents the ad test while a control group does not see the ad, and then delivering back results that show how the ad affected the treatment group. … “We’ve been doing large-scale ad testing … about one-third of the ads we tested don’t work — we mean they actively cause backlash and make people more likely to vote for Republicans,” said [DavidShor. “We noticed that the more people in the office liked the ad, the worse it tested. … How much people said they liked an ad was basically uncorrelated to how effective it ended up being.”

Twitter to verify election candidates in the midterms” via Nancy Scola of POLITICO — Twitter will begin verifying political candidates running for the House, Senate and governor in general elections, another sign of the company’s scramble to put new controls in place after the controversy over social media’s role in the 2016 campaign. The company will affix a label to candidates consisting of a small icon of a columned government-style building and details on which position the candidate is seeking. Using information from Ballotpedia, the platform will identify the legitimate accounts of those who’ve qualified for the ballot.

— STATEWIDE —

Second ‘stand your ground’ case filed at Supreme Court” via the News Service of Florida — Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office is asking the Florida Supreme Court to take up a Hillsborough County case that deals with how courts should carry out a controversial 2017 change to the state’s “stand your ground” self-defense law. The notice does not detail the arguments Bondi’s office will make, but the issue centers on a 2017 decision by lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott to shift a key burden of proof in “stand your ground” cases from defendants to prosecutors. The 2nd District Court of Appeal agreed … that the change should be retroactively applied to his case. Also pending before the Supreme Court is a request to take up the retroactivity issue in a Miami-Dade County case.

Medical marijuana regulator: We’ll change our rules—or not” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Despite lawmakers’ concerns, the Department of Health has final say over how medical marijuana plays out in Florida, the state’s top regulator suggested. The agency regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use. The office’s director, Christian Bax, spoke with reporters Thursday after a rulemaking hearing in Tallahassee. A legislative panel took Bax’s office to task in a letter sent earlier this month, asking whether staff there is “refusing to modify the rules” governing the drug … He said department staff is still “reviewing” the 2 ½-page letter. “If the Department believes that we need to make changes, we’ll make the change. If not, we’re going to continue to move forward with the process,” Bax told reporters. 

Worst story you’ll read today –Report faults many, from judge to investigators, in tot’s cruel scalding death” via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald – When the stresses of parenting five ungovernable youngsters became most acute, Christina Hurt reacted predictably, child welfare administrators say: She lashed out at her children. Sometimes violently. Multiple members of the child protection system knew this in the winter of 2016 when a decision was to be made on whether to allow Hurt to regain custody of the five kids, or to get custody of her then-newborn son, Ethan Coley. The system failed him, a report released Thursday says: the rookie therapist whose forceful insistence that Hurt’s family be united at almost any cost seemed to bulldoze any doubters; abuse investigators who obsessed over one tree but missed the forest; and, perhaps most tragically, the Miami-Dade judge who ignored the concerns of the the professionals who warned prophetically against returning Hurt’s children. Ethan died on Jan. 18. Though medical examiners haven’t yet released a cause of death, it is believed his death was the result of a severe bathtub scalding for which Hurt failed to seek treatment. The day the 1-year-old died, Hurt drove past a hospital on her way to the older siblings’ school. When a friend later asked her why she refused to get help for her suffering child, the report said, she replied: “They are going to take my kids.”

She’s starving to death — and public health agencies can’t or won’t stop it” via Elizabeth Koh and Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald — Three weeks ago, a doctor told Katrina Howard she had two choices: find medical care out-of-state — or move into a personal care home and prepare to die. She chose the former. As Howard withered away from the effects of a life-threatening eating disorder, her mother drove the 200 miles from Americus, Ga., to Tallahassee, hoping to keep death in the rear-view mirror. When 25-year-old Howard arrived at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, her doctor was not sure there was much he could do to save her. He’s still not sure. And if it’s true that Howard has been the victim for more than half her life of anorexia nervosa, she also has fallen prey to a public health system that has failed to comprehend the gravity of the condition’s grip — and, as a consequence, to pay for comprehensive treatment. Anorexia is the third most common chronic disease among young people, behind asthma and type-1 diabetes.

Nursing home fined after probe of resident’s care” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — A Sarasota nursing home has agreed to pay $26,000 in fines and increased licensure fees after the facility failed to notify the daughter of a resident that her mother’s health was deteriorating. The state Agency for Health Care Administration issued a final order this month citing Beneva Lakes Healthcare and Rehabilitation for failing to inform a resident or a resident’s representative about a serious medical condition and for failing to have adequate programs to ensure quality of care and quality of life in nursing homes. The facility will be on the state’s nursing-home watch list until about February 2020 … The final order imposed a $6,000 fine to cover costs of increased surveying, which is required for protection of public health, safety and welfare. AHCA’s order essentially implemented a settlement agreement. The nursing home, part of the Consulate Health Care chain, did not acknowledge fault or admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

Tampa Electric to shut down Big Bend coal unit that killed 5” via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times — Tampa Electric Co. is taking a big step away from coal. The Tampa-based utility is converting its coal-fired Unit 1 at its Big Bend Power Station to natural gas and retiring coal-fired Unit 2 in 2021. Five workers died in June 2017 after performing a known-to-be-dangerous maintenance procedure on Unit 2. The incident resulted in a fine from federal regulators and a “willful” designation for safety violations found following an investigation. Tampa Electric is currently appealing the designation. “Coupled with our significant increase in solar power, these changes will make Tampa Electric substantially cleaner and greener than it is today,” Nancy Tower, CEO of Tampa Electric, said in a release. “This investment in cleaner generation will also provide significant savings to customers through lower expenses for fuel and maintenance of the existing units.” Revamping the Apollo Beach facility will cost $853 million. Tampa Electric expects to complete the project by 2023.

Erin Grall charges All Aboard Florida with ‘misrepresentations’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Grall is charging that an All Aboard Florida representative made “misrepresentations” in congressional testimony supporting the department’s approval of tax-exempt bonds to finance the company’s Brightline higher-speed passenger train proposal to connect Miami and Orlando. Grall, among Florida lawmakers from the Treasure Coast who are opposed to the train, sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican who chaired an April 19 hearing before the House Subcommittee on Government Operations examining Brightline’s planned use of $1.15 billion in federally-approved, private activity bonds to finance the proposed railroad leg from West Palm Beach to Orlando. “During the subcommittee hearing, and later in correspondence dated April 30, 2018, AAF made several misrepresentations related to its ownership interest, its past interactions with local governments, and the overall financial burden this proposed project will have on my constituents,” wrote Grall, who represents Indian River County and part of St. Lucie County, which lay along the planned Brightline route.

Flags at half-staff to honor Daytona Beach police officer via Florida Politics – Flags will fly at half-staff on Friday to honor a Daytona Beach police officer who died after a training exercise. Thomas Coulter, 25, had been with the Daytona Beach Police Department for only one week. He “suffered a heart attack while conducting physical training in front of Police Department headquarters” last Friday, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. He died the following Monday.

— SMARTER THAN A THIRD GRADER? —

A majority of school districts in the Sunshine State will wrap the year Friday — just a day after the third-grade required reading test results were released. 

Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times reports, “The Florida Department of Education, under pressure from parents and educators to get the scores out before classes conclude this week, quietly released the results just before 5 p.m. Thursday.”

For third graders, it’s the determining factor to whether the summer kicks off to a good or bad start.

Early assessment: The results are similar to a year ago, notes Solochek. Roughly 20 percent of third graders scored below a passing threshold, setting them up to repeat the grade. 

But: “Those students have other opportunities to earn promotion, including passing an alternate test and submitting a portfolio of class work that demonstrates they can read at an entering fourth grade level.”

The good news: Some low-performing schools in the Tampa Bay area made gains. St. Petersburg’s Melrose Elementary saw an 8 percent drop in the amount of non-passing scores. Likewise with B.T. Washington Elementary in Tampa. 

— D.C. MATTERS –

Sarasota protest targets Donald Trump plan to cut funding for abortion providers” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Protesters gathered in downtown Sarasota to denounce a new rule put forward by Trump’s administration that cuts off federal family planning funding for clinics that share space with abortion providers or refer patients to those providers. The Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates helped organize a protest outside the office of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan. Many of the protesters wore pink shirts and carried pink signs reading “I stand with Planned Parenthood.” Planned Parenthood regional organizer Sarah Scully said her organization wants to “spread the word in the community, making sure there’s outrage.” About 30 people joined the protest, including Sarasota attorney Jan Schneider, a Democrat who is running for Buchanan’s seat.

How a Miami Republican is leading a last-gasp shot at an immigration vote in Congress” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo is leading a last-gasp shot to change the nation’s immigration laws after years of inaction, and he’s been furiously trying to rally dissatisfied Republicans over the past three weeks to bypass House Speaker Paul Ryan and force a series of votes on the House floor on immigration in the next few days. Here’s what you need to know. On May 9, Curbelo introduced a petition to change the rules in the House of Representatives to allow votes on four immigration-related bills. The bill that receives the most support beyond a simple majority passes the House and heads to the Senate for consideration. Within hours, 17 Republicans signed Curbelo’s petition, including Miami Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Curbelo and California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham have led an arm-twisting effort over the past two weeks to get more Republicans on board, and now they are two Republican signatures short of the 25 GOP votes they need to reach a majority if every single Democrat signs the petition.

— MOVEMENTS —

Appointed — Carlos Diaz and Melanie Peterson (reappointed) to the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board; Pat Schirard to the Florida Citrus Commission.

Personnel note – New College of Florida names Kristie Harris as VP for Administration The college made Harris the College’s first associate vice president for administration. Harris began work at New College on Monday. She previously served as director of university budgets for the State University System of Florida, beginning in 2008, after joining the SUS as senior budget analyst in 2005. Before joining the university system, she held accounting and budget positions at Florida State University and the Leon County Office of Management and Budget in 2000-05. At New College, Harris will be responsible for oversight of the College’s budgets, including preparation and administration of the College’s annual operating budget throughout the year and preparation of legislative budget requests.  

Earnings:

—“Johnson & Blanton clears $1.25M in first quarter” via Florida Politics

–“Jones Walker earns $500K-plus in Q1” via Florida Politics

—“Larry J. Overton & Associates maintains top-20 status in Q1” via Florida Politics

—“Lewis Longman & Walker starts 2018 with $380K haul” via Florida Politics

—“Liberty Partners trio banks at least $150K in Q1” via Florida Politics

—“Louis Betz & Associates snags up to $230K in first-quarter earnings” via Florida Politics

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Cara Suzanne Martin: Southwest Florida Water Management District

— WEEKEND TV —

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: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable with Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith, political consultant Ron Pierce, University of South Florida Government and International Affairs professor Dr. Susan MacManus; and Susan Smith, president of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion on mental health services for students and what programs community leaders believe should be in place at schools. Joining Walker-Torres are state Rep. Jason Brodeur; Pasco County Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning; and Dr. Kathleen McHugh, psychologist.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: House Minority Leader Janet Cruz will discuss her run for state Senate. PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate a claim made by Gov. Scott about U.S. Sen. Nelson.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon speaks with pollster Steve Vancore and Dr. Ed Moore.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guest is Former Jacksonville Mayor and University of North Florida President John Delaney.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Is taking Sunday off for the Memorial Day weekend and will return next week.

— ALOE —

Amazon Map Tracker lets you follow your package delivery in real time” via Nick Statt and Thuy Ong of The Verge — The feature gives you a real-time map of your Amazon package delivery as it’s in transit, letting you watch a dot on the screen similar to monitoring an incoming Uber or Lyft driver. It was given a soft launch last year. The feature is great for anyone who obsesses over the exact moment an Amazon delivery is slated to arrive. It’s also handy because it allows you to pop out for an errand by showing how many stops or deliveries the driver will make before reaching you. “The Amazon Map Tracking feature is another delivery innovation we are working on to improve convenience for our customers and provide them greater visibility into their deliveries,” Amazon spokeswoman Alana Broadbent told CNET.

AC hotels by Marriott coming to Cascades Project” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — AC Hotels by Marriott is building a $30-million, seven-story hotel with more than 5,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, which would be suitable for conventions, a longtime request of the business community. It also will have 154 rooms, a rooftop bar serving craft beers, signature drinks, tapas and an observation deck overlooking the 24-acre Cascades Park … members of the Community Redevelopment Agency heard details about the hotel and an update on Cascades Project from developer Shawn McIntrye, North American Properties’ managing partner for Florida. “I think that as Tallahassee grows, and now that we are the third largest state by population in the country, that the population of Tallahassee’s workforce and business force is changing,” said McIntyre. “This hotel is going to meet those needs in both aesthetics and its design with the ballroom and dining facilities.”

Florida State’s MagLab is chosen venue for exclusive summit of G-7 science leaders” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — The National MagLab, located in Innovation Park, was the host site for a delegation of high-level science officials representing the G-7, the group of seven nations with the most advanced economies in the world. Top science decision makers — the equivalent of key National Science Foundation officials in the United States — started arriving in Tallahassee Saturday and began their conference Monday at the MagLab. It marks the first time the U.S. hosted the meeting. The MagLab was selected as the venue by the National Science Foundation, which organized the meeting in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science. The sessions were closed to the public.

Spotted – Lobbyist Chris Moya at Lutheran Church of the Cross in St. Petersburg to celebrate his daughter’s graduation from eighth grade.

Happy birthday to one of the best in The Process, as well as a great mom and wife, Ashley Ross. Celebrating on Memorial Day is state Rep. Mel Ponder.

Last Call for 5.24.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

The effort to call a Special Session on education funding has failed. House Democrats at least forced a legislative poll on the question, but couldn’t get the 60 percent affirmative vote of both chambers to call a Special Session.

The final tally was 57 ‘yes’ votes to 77 ‘no’ votes. Members had until noon Thursday to cast a ballot.

Not all did. In fact, 22 out of 156 lawmakers never responded, according to the Department of State. (Four seats are vacant.)

Surprise: They’re all Republicans.

In the House, they are Ben Allbritton, a Wauchula Republican; Halsey Beshears, a Monticello Republican; Mike Bileca, a Miami Republican; Jay Fant, a Jacksonville Republican; Mike Grant, a Port Charlotte Republican; Gayle Harrell, a Stuart Republican; Mike La Rosa, a St. Cloud Republican; Mike Miller, a Winter Park Republican; Jose Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican and Speaker-designate; Elizabeth Porter, a Lake City Republican; Ross Spano, a Dover Republican; and Cyndi Stevenson, a St. Johns Republican.

In the Senate: Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican; Doug Broxson, a Gulf Breeze Republican; Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican; George Gainer, a Panama City Republican; Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican; Travis Hutson, a St. Augustine Republican; Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican; Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican; Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican and expected to be Senate President in 2020-22; and Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican.

Evening Reads

Could Roger Stone spill Donald Trump’s secrets to Robert Mueller?” via Darren Samuelson of POLITICO

Donald Trump Jr. to campaign in Florida for Matt Gaetz, Ron DeSantis” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

House GOP holds last-ditch immigration talks as showdown looms” via Mike Debones of The Washington Post

Sixteen states apply for election security money. Florida? Not yet.” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Families of 2 students killed in Parkland sue gun maker” via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press

Gun control support fades three months after Florida massacre: Reuters/Ipsos poll” via Daniel Trotta of Reuters

Andrew Gillum nabs endorsements from two national progressive groups” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times

Nursing home fined after probe of resident’s care” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida

Tampa Electric to shut down Big Bend coal unit that killed 5” via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times

Space station accepts special delivery from Virginia” via Marcia Dunn of The Associated Press

Quote of the Day

“The cancellation of this summit reveals the lack of preparation on the part of President Trump in dealing with a totalitarian dictator like Kim Jong Un.” — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, on the president calling off the Singapore summit between North Korea and the United States.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights 

Editor’s note

Last Call is taking Memorial Day off and will return to inboxes Tuesday.

Thank you to all those who served and sacrificed for our country.

“The patriot’s blood is the seed of freedom’s tree.”

Speaking of dogs … Philip Levine should be more careful before blasting Adam Putnam

Democratic candidate for Governor Philip Levine blasted his Republican opponent, Adam Putnam, for scheduling a fundraiser at the home of a man who a decade ago shot two dogs that wandered into a pasture.

While murdering dogs is abhorrent, the former mayor of Miami Beach probably should have thought twice before attacking Putnam on the issue.

On Thursday morning, Levine tweeted: “Disgusting! Silence is not an option, @adamputnam. @HumaneSociety @peta @petallianceGO @petstrustmiami #sayfie #flapol”

After the outcry, and with little explanation, Putnam’s campaign canceled the event Thursday at the home of Christopher Comins.

Comins, an Orlando businessman, caused a stir in 2008 after a video became public showing him shooting two pet huskies that wandered into a cow pasture.

As reported by the Tampa Bay Times, a judge acquitted Comins of animal cruelty charges in 2011; he argued the property owner gave him authority to shoot the dogs to protect cattle.

It’s clear Levine respects animal welfare (a really good thing), but as Miami Beach mMayor, he was not quite as observant with his own canine companions (or the laws of Miami Beach).

According to the Miami-Dade Clerk of the Court, Levine received more than a dozen citations for various animal-related infractions, including failure to vaccinate against rabies (2011, 2013 and 2018) and failing to obtain a license for both intact and sterilized dogs (2013, 2014 and 2018).

One of the violations — failure to vaccinate — occurred in November 2013, the same month Levine was elected mayor.

The violations, 13 in all, are as follows:

— Failure to Vaccinate Animal Against Rabies (November 3, 2011)

— Failure to Obtain License Tag for Intact Dog (October 24, 2011)

— Failure to Vaccinate Animal Against Rabies; failure to obtain license tag for intact dog (January 21, 2013)

— Failure to Vaccinate Animal Against Rabies (August 19, 2013)

— Failure to Vaccinate Animal Against Rabies (November 18, 2013)

— Failure to obtain license tag for sterilized dog; failure to obtain license tag for intact dog (February 3, 2014)

— Failure to obtain license tag for sterilized dog (March 13, 2014)

— Failure to vaccinate animal against rabies (September 25, 2017)

— Failure to obtain license tag for sterilized dog (January 16, 2018)

— Failure to vaccinate animal against rabies; failure to obtain license for sterilized dog (February 5, 2018)

It is indeed praiseworthy to champion animal welfare, but it may not have been the wisest thing for Levine to tag the Humane Society (and other organizations) — especially when his own history on the subject is somewhat lax.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 5.24.18

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

Congress is spending too much, and Americans for Prosperity is crying out for help with an S.O.S. — “Stop Overspending” — campaign that launches today. 

Both sides of the aisle are catching heat; the campaign will target Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney and Democratic Reps. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Stephanie Murphy, according to AFP. They’re all targeted for voting for the $1.3 trillion March omnibus package. 

SOS: Debbie Wasserman Schultz ‘spends too much,’ says a new ad.

“Our country faces a large and growing fiscal problem, but this does not mean lawmakers should try to spend its way out of Washington’s dysfunction,” Florida AFP Director Chris Hudson said.  

Details: The six-figure buy includes radio, print, digital and direct mail efforts. It will kick off during the Memorial Day congressional recess. Also included: ‘Thank you’ mailers for members who opposed the spending plan. 

Example: One radio ad leads with, “Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has a spending problem.” 

Foreshadowing: A warning from AFP reads, “Fiscal year 2019 spending legislation, which will be considered later this year, will be the last chance for members of Congress to prove before the midterm elections that they can be trusted stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@SenBillNelson: In March, Congress passed a bill that authorized $19 million to help Florida election officials strengthen their security and update equipment. At least 12 other states have applied for and received funding, but the state of FL hasn’t even applied for one single dollar. Not one.

@ElonMusk: Problem is journos are under constant pressure to get max clicks & earn advertising dollars or get fired. Tricky situation, as Tesla doesn’t advertise, but fossil fuel companies & gas/diesel car companies are among world’s biggest advertisers.

—@ErinGaetz: Funny how someone who describes himself as an “unapologetic liberal” in his twitter bio also thinks calling someone a woman is the ultimate insult. Get some new material, my dude.

@ArekSarkissian: @UF charges students an extra $13.43 to pay thousands of dollars in tuition every semester. Even Comcast charges less for late payments, let alone on time. Not everyone has a scholarship or comes from wealth. This makes it HARDER to get an education

—@DanaYoungFL: Our @TBLightning played their hearts out tonight. Here’s to a great Season guys! Now go home for a bit and rest and enjoy time with your families!

@BrentSobleski: Hard to overlook the irony of the NFL adopting the new anthem policy to show “appropriate respect” when the idea of kneeling — which came from a retired Green Beret — was a way to show more respect during its playing.

— DAYS UNTIL — 

Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 1; Memorial Day — 4; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in St. Petersburg — 16; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Miramar — 18; Time Warner/AT&T merger ruling — 19; 2018 FIFA World Cup begins — 21; Father’s Day — 24; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 29; Florida GOP Sunshine Summit starts — 35; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 45; MLB All-Star Game — 54; Deadline for filing claim bills — 69; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 69; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 70; Start of the U.S. Open — 95; Primary Election Day — 96; College Football opening weekend — 98; NFL season starts — 105; Future of Florida Forum — 125; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 152; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 153; General Election Day — 166; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 266; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 285.

— TOP STORY —

Rick Scott overules electiosn chief, directs Florida to seek cyber-security money” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott’s intervention came hours after the official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, was quoted as saying the federal money would not be available before November because accepting it requires approval by the Legislature — even though that step is a formality that could be done at a brief meeting. … But Scott’s reversal, in a statement issued at noon Wednesday, gave the issue added urgency and underscores a heightened sense of political sensitivity in a year in which the governor is seeking a U.S. Senate seat. It also revealed Detzner to be off-message in an administration known for being highly disciplined in its communications. “The integrity of our elections is paramount, and we’ll keep fighting to ensure that every Floridian continues to have confidence in our elections process,” Scott said in his statement. “By directing DOS (the Department of State) to draw down more federal funding, we are providing the resources our local elections officials need to keep our elections secure.”

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Rick Scott has awarded more than 14,500 veterans medals since 2013” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — In the midst of a U.S. Senate race in which both he and his opponent, Sen. Bill Nelson, are emphasizing their military service, Gov. Scott did something Wednesday he’s done more than 60 times, roughly once a month, since August, 2013 — he handed out medals on red, white and blue ribbons to veterans. Scott, who has a political committee called “Let’s Get to Work,” has given about 14,500 of the medals since he started the program in 2013. Florida Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman Steve Murray confirmed that Scott has personally conferred the medals on all those recipients, in ceremonies that have at times taken more than three hours and involved more than 600 people, like one in Sun City Center recently. The medals don’t recognize valor — the only requirement for them is for a veteran to have served honorably.

Gov. Rick Scott has awarded nearly 15,000 Governor’s Veterans Service Medals, all of them personally.

Scott, Bill Nelson spar over federal funding for cybersecurity” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Nelson and Scott … sparred over $19 million in federal funding the Scott administration had not requested for election cybersecurity. Congress made the money available as part of $380 million in nationwide cybersecurity funding, but Florida didn’t apply for it. The issue spilled over into the heated Senate race, when Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who is the state election chief appointed by Scott, told reporters that the money would not be in place ahead of this year’s elections. That statement prompted Scott to issue a news release “directing” the Florida Department of State to draw down the federal funding. Scott’s statement, which came more than two months after the federal funding became available, prompted Nelson to take to the Senate floor to stress the importance of election safeguards, and to hammer election decisions made by Scott and the GOP-led Legislature, including a 2011 bill that cut early voting hours and helped lead to long lines at the polls in 2012. “We’ve seen a lot of voter suppression,” Nelson said in his speech.

New Republican PAC spends more in race to beat Nelson — A new report shows the outside political action committee, which benefits term-limited GOP Gov. Scott’s U.S. Senate ambitions, most recently spent over $566,000 on ads against incumbent U.S. Sen. Nelson. He’s the Democrat who has held the seat since 2001. As of this month, the PAC spent more than $2.2 million on the Senate race. The PAC is run by Scott confidante and former chief of staff Melissa Stone. “As Floridians learn more about career politician Bill Nelson’s decades of failure, the conclusion is clear — it’s time to term limit Bill Nelson,” she said in a statement.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Publix to evaluate donation process after Adam Putnam political backlash” via Sara DiNatale of the Tampa Bay Times — Amid a growing backlash for its sizable donation to pro-NRA gubernatorial candidate Putnam, Publix has said it will evaluate its processes for giving to ensure it better reflects the chain’s “intended desire.” Publix says it regrets the donation has caused “unintentional customer divide instead of (a) desire to support a growing economy in Florida.” Parkland school shooting survivor David Hogg added to the fervor of the Publix boycott by announcing plans to stage a “die in” at his city’s two grocery stores on Friday. Via Twitter, he said protesters will lie down in the aisles for 12 minutes beginning at 4 p.m.

Publix is reconsidering its campaign donation policy after uproar over Adam Putnam support.

Assignment editors — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King continues his statewide “Turning the Tide” tour on criminal justice reform, 3:15 p.m., Mount Sinai Baptist Church, 2036 Silver St., Jacksonville and 6:30 p.m., Florida Coastal School of Law Atrium, 8787 Baypine Road, Jacksonville.

Philip Levine campaign adds data coordinator — The Levine for Governor campaign added Dylan Sellers as the campaign’s new Data Coordinator. Said Levine campaign manager Matthew Van Name: “With Dylan’s analytical aptitude, Team Levine is more equipped than ever to implement a strategic field program and connect with voters in all of Florida’s 67 counties.” Sellers, a Florida native, previously worked at the Florida Democratic Party as a VAN Support Specialist, providing organizational support and assisting all 67 counties’ local parties with technical training.

South Florida toy exec ready to pony up thousands for Patrick Murphy-David Jolly run” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — Politics can be a nightmarish place: Attack ads. Dark money. Political “boogeymen.” Then there are the days when My Little Pony enters the fray … The man whose company produces your favorite classic, rainbow toy horses is getting involved in the 2018 Florida election and has pledged to back the potential bipartisan ticket of former Congressmen Murphy and Jolly for governor and lieutenant governor. “I think it’s a great idea and a great opportunity for Florida, which is a swing state in so many ways, to show the country that this model works, said Jay Foreman, CEO of Basic Fun!, a Boca Raton-based toy company that, along with its conglomerates, also makes Lite-Brites and K’nex. Foreman said he will likely start with a small $2,500 donation then possibly work his way up to a maximum of $20,000 to $40,000 and another hosted fundraiser.

Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s insurance overseer, once sanctioned in apparent insurance glitch” by Scott Powers of Florida Politics — An apparent glitch in how the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles tracks and responds to drivers’ insurance coverage once led the department to suspend the driver’s license of the state’s top insurance regulator. Through staff, Patronis said he was unaware there had been any problems or missed notifications with his auto insurance, or that the department had taken action that led, at least on paper, to his driver’s license being suspended for nearly a year … In 2011 he changed insurance carriers, and the state apparently was notified of his termination of his previous insurance, but did not receive notice that he replaced it … The department suspended his license for 11 months on May 18, 2011, according to driver records — and that suspension has since been wiped from his record.

Alan Grayson up with TV ad featuring Martin Sheen, Michael Moore” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The new ad “Progressive Warrior,” which begins airing in the Orlando TV market, features actor Sheen, documentary movie maker Moore, and political commentators Chris Hayes and Ed Schultz, among others, extolling Grayson for courage, leadership, and effectiveness in Congress. “Alan Grayson is, undoubtedly, the progressive warrior,” Schultz declares from some past broadcast of his MSNBC show, as pictures of Grayson and short clips of video roll out. “People have told me, over and over again, that I’m saying what they’re thinking but nobody else is saying,” the Grayson says at one point in the commercial.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

New ad highlights Vern Buchanan’s record on the opioid epidemic” via Florida Politics – Buchanan is rolling out another TV ad for his re-election campaign in Florida’s 16th Congressional District. The 30-second spot, “Fighting Chance,” highlights the sixth-term congressman’s record on the opioid epidemic. The campaign said it will begin airing online immediately and will hit TV next week as part of $200,000-plus ad buy.

To view Buchanan’s new ad, click the image below:

Hitting the ground collecting in CD 15” via Bill Rufty of Florida Politics — Kristen Carlson of Lakeland entered the Democratic primary for Florida’s 15th Congressional District just over two weeks ago and has reported campaign donations of more than $100,000 already. Her staff said most of it came in during the first 13 days. “I am humbled by the outpouring of support we have received in this early stage,” Carlson said in an emailed quote. “Voters know that we need a Representative who will work for the people of the 15th District to lower health care costs, create good paying jobs, and cut taxes for the middle class, and I am honored so many believe I am that person.”

Assignment editors — House Minority Leader Janet CruzBob Buesing and community leaders will hold a campaign event in the Senate District 18 race, 5:30 p.m., Pane Rustica, 3225 S. McDill Avenue in Tampa.

Miami Mayor backs SD 36 candidates Manny Diaz” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics Current state Rep. Manny Diaz continues his charge to the Florida Senate after pulling in another endorsement from a Miami-Dade County mayor. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is the latest to back Diaz, announcing his support for Diaz’s Senate District 36 bid. “I’m honored to have Mayor Suarez’s support,” Diaz, a Republican, said. “He is an outstanding leader and public servant, and I’m grateful to have him join the other local leaders from across Miami-Dade who have joined our team. I look forward to continuing a strong partnership with them as we serve the best interests of our communities together.”

José Oliva draws second Democratic foe” via the News Service of Florida — Hialeah Democrat Julian Eduardo Santos opened a campaign account Wednesday in Miami-Dade County’s House District 110 … Santos joined Democrat Duysevi Miyar, who opened an account last month to run in the district. Oliva is poised to become House speaker in November if he wins re-election in his district. Oliva had raised $118,600 for his campaign account as of April 30, a finance report shows. A political committee he leads, known as Conservative Principles for Florida, had about $715,000 in cash on hand.

— STATEWIDE —

Ethics commission staff says MSD Public Safety commissioners must file financial disclosures — Florida Commission on Ethics staff issued an advisory opinion recommending members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission be required to file the same type of financial disclosures as other state officials, such as lawmakers. Many members of the commission are elected officials already required to file such disclosures, though some, such as the parents of MSD shooting victims, have not previously been subjected to the requirement. The recommendation is consistent with rules for other advisory panels that receive more than $100,000 in state funds. The ethics commission will vote on the staff recommendation in June.

State challenges ruling on life insurance law — The state is challenging a ruling by a Leon County circuit judge that part of a 2016 law imposing new requirements on life insurers is unconstitutional. State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and the Florida Department of Financial Services filed a notice this week in the 1st District Court of Appeal that they will fight the ruling by Circuit Judge Terry Lewis in a case brought by four life-insurance companies. The case stems from a 2016 law that, in part, placed new requirements on insurers to try to determine if policyholders had died and to contact beneficiaries. The law was designed to spur insurers to pay benefits or to turn over unclaimed money to the state. But Lewis ruled that part of the law requiring insurers to apply the changes retroactively to policies dating back as far as 1992 violated the companies’ constitutional due-process rights. In a seven-page order issued April 20, Lewis issued an injunction against applying the changes retroactively.

Jimmy Patronis is challenging a ruling that strikes down new regulations on life insurance.

Advocacy groups say Florida parks at risk by offshore drilling” via the News Service of Florida — Eleven national parks in Florida are threatened by White House proposals to open to oil drilling currently protected parts of the nation’s outer continental shelf and to revise the 2016 Well Control Rule, according to a report by environmental conservation groups. Nicholas Lund, co-author of the report issued by the National Parks Conservation Association and the Natural Resources Defense Council, told reporters that the proposed changes put more than 9,000 Florida jobs at Risk.. The proposals could also cost Florida $876 million in annual economic output, according to Lund, a senior manager with parks association. “The economic output from the national parks and monuments in Florida is a significant force in the coastal economy of the state,” the 38-page report states. “The economic output measure goes far beyond just visitors’ spending and includes the ripples of activity their visits generate: the spending of both the businesses they patronize and the communities their tourism supports.”

FAU tries to even score with Palm Beach Post after critical story” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics Call it “I’m rubber, you’re glue” media criticism. Florida Atlantic University is hitting back at Palm Beach Post reporter Kenny Jacoby for what the university calls “inaccurate and misleading” coverage of the school’s own erroneous reporting of its number of female athletes. That’s after the Post caught FAU filing a false report with the Department of Education. Here’s the rub: The public university is complaining the story included “knowingly inaccurate data,” even though “the article was ABOUT ‘knowingly inaccurate data,’ ” as fellow Post reporter Andrew Marra later tweeted. “Revealing the false numbers was the entire point of the article.”

Fort Pierce breaks 112-year-old rainfall record early Tuesday morning” via TCPalm — Fort Pierce has gotten 1.77 inches of rain … Tuesday, shattering a 112-year old daily rainfall record. On May 22, 1906, the National Weather Service said Fort Pierce got 1.55 inches of precipitation. Rain gauges east of Port St. Lucie recorded 4 to 6 inches of rain in the past 24 hours, with Stuart getting 2.52 inches and Nettles Island seeing 2.71 inches. Vero Beach has received about 0.67 inches of rain … Another 1 to 3 inches is possible. Some locations that will experience flooding include Port Saint Lucie, Walton, Fort Pierce, Stuart and Jupiter Island.

Happening today — Florida Power & Light host a breakfast/tour of the FPL Coral Farms Solar Energy Center, one of two FPL solar plants in Putnam County. Breakfast begins 9 a.m.; media tour at 10:30 a.m., Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, 1100 Reid St., Palatka.

Flags at half-staff for JSO officer killed in wreck” via Florida Politics — Gov. Scott has ordered flags at half-staff to honor Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Police Officer Lance C. Whitaker, a 17-year veteran. Scott ordered the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff at the Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville, City Hall in Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in Jacksonville, and the Capitol in Tallahassee, from sunrise to sunset on Wednesday. Whitaker, 48, “was killed in a single-vehicle crash on northbound I-295, near Alta Drive, at approximately 4:30 a.m.” last Tuesday, May 15, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. “He was responding to another accident scene on the interstate when his vehicle left the roadway and struck a tree.”

— PARKLAND PERSPECTIVES —

Between 2006 and 2016, Florida saw 1,284 firearm youth homicides. 

As the Sun Sentinel’s Erika Pesantes and Ben Crandell write, that’s “the equivalent of nearly 100 Parkland massacres” during a time that prefaced the nation’s deadliest high school shooting. 

What’s more, the Sentinel found, is that the vital statistics show that two-thirds of the state’s young victims were black children and adolescents, ranging up to 19 years old. 

County-concentrated: The Broward County-based paper notes that 43 percent of all the youth killings occurred in South Florida. That’s 343 in Miami-Dade — the most in the state — and 124 and 86 in Palm Beach and Broward, respectively. 

Solution?: Dr. Judy Schaechter, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and director of the Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Miami, said gun violence should be treated as a “health care issue,” one that could be in part stemmed if guns were less prevalent. 

Names and faces: Making the story a must-read are the anecdotes of children killed during the timespan, like Martavious Carn, 3, who was killed by a gunman targeting a grown man.

— ARMED AND CURIOUS —

It’s almost summer for the kids, but it’s crunch time for school districts and counties. 

Across the state, local governing bodies are trying to figure out how they’ll comply with new public school safety mandates imposed by the Legislature and Gov. Scott. That includes deciding whether to implement the controversial Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, which would arm nonteacher personnel, or a variation of it so that an armed guard is present at every campus. 

Here’s a county-by-county glimpse. 

In Pasco: A U.S. Marine vet will lead the district’s school safety effort upon school board confirmation, reports Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times. 

In Brevard: Area state Rep. Randy Fine has issued a warning to his district to adopt the Guardian program, though members will not reconsider it, reports Caroline Glenn of Florida Today. 

— D.C. MATTERS —

Marco Rubio emerges as one of Donald Trump administration’s loudest critics on China” via Sean Sullivan and John Wagner of The Washington Post — Sen. Rubio has emerged as one of the loudest Republican critics of President Trump’s policies on China, the latest in a series of splits with party leadership by the Florida lawmaker, who might eventually run for president again. For the fourth day in a row, Rubio took to Twitter on Wednesday to argue that China was besting the Trump administration in critical negotiations. He has used an assortment of hashtags to take aim at a developing deal to free a Chinese telecommunications firm from punitive action. Some, such as “#NotWinning,” play off the president’s signature catchphrases. During Trump’s presidency, Rubio has strayed from party leaders a few times … But he has backed down from many of those challenges and fallen in line, raising questions about where his latest show of defiance will lead. Rubio is looking for a way to craft his own, distinct image and sphere of influence in the party. Friends and associates say they believe the 46-year-old Rubio might wage a second presidential bid.

Marco Rubio is becoming the loudest voice in the room in regards to China.

Lake Okeechobee reservoir ‘placeholder’ OK’d by U.S. House committee” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm — The placeholder language inserted into the Water Resources and Development Act passed by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will be replaced by full authorization of the Lake O reservoir once the Army Corps of Engineers gives a favorable review of the project. The bill includes other provisions inserted by U.S. Rep. Brian Mast that would: Authorize a St. Lucie County project to restore beaches eroded by storms and establish a maintenance plan to re-nourish the beach every two to five years. Direct the Army Corps to update the process used to decide when to discharge Lake Okeechobee water to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers based on improvements to the dike surrounding the lake scheduled to be finished in 2022. Authorize a five-year, $3 million-per-year program for the Corps to develop large filters to clean water heading to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee and prevent algae blooms.

Video: Guard threatens to arrest activists recording conditions at Miami ICE facility” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times — After activists have published multiple videos of the horrid conditions outside the facility, security guards have begun threatening to “detain” activists documenting the problems. Yesterday local organizer Maria Asuncion Bilbao was trying to post a Facebook Live stream of the line of immigrants forced to stand in the rain when a guard whipped out a pair of handcuffs and threatened to arrest her. “This is not the first time they’ve done that,” Bilbao tells New Times. “but it is the first time he showed me handcuffs, so I was scared. But they aren’t going to intimidate us. We were on the sidewalk, and the ACLU has told us that’s public and we have a right to be there.” Nestor Yglesias, ICE’s spokesperson in Miami, says his agency doesn’t control security at the facility; Federal Protective Services hires out independent security contractors.

Stoneman Douglas student urges House leaders: Put America first and the gun lobbies second” via Tonya Alanez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Juniors Charlie Mirsky and Alfonso Calderon had four minutes each to address the House Democratic Task Force on Gun Violence. They were among a panel of eight student leaders also coming from Hallandale Beach, Miami, Chicago and Rockville, Md., to bear witness to the firsthand effects of gun violence. The reason for the assembly was a “despicable” one, Calderon said. “There’s been a lot of talk, especially around here, about putting America first. I agree, let’s put America first and put the gun lobbies and the NRA second. I don’t understand why this is such a difficult conversation to have.” Mirsky used his time to call for universal background checks and plead for lawmakers to resist letting “outside groups” affect their opinions and votes.

— OPINIONS —

Publix and Putnam won’t be affected by anti-gun protest” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — These things happen, especially in election years. Righteous indignation over a political issue or candidate, magnified by media attention, quickly flares into economic retaliation. Then it flickers out. Publix will still be Florida’s biggest grocery chain and growing. Personally, I’m more confident predicting Publix’s continued dominance of Florida’s grocery business than the agriculture commissioner’s political success. He is the front-runner at the moment, but so was Attorney General Bill McCollum at this point eight years ago. Social media make it easier to spread the word and stir anger against a company that gets identified with an unpopular political position. But boycotts blow over. The vast majority of voters probably don’t even know about the anti-Publix protest, and most who do hear about it either don’t care — or won’t in a week or two.

Publix will survive this, but Adam Putnam? We’ll see” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — The Tampa Bay Times reported top officials at the beloved Florida grocery chain Publix had donated more than $670,000 to Putnam in the last three years — far more support than it had given any other candidate. Publix tried to explain it was just supporting a pro-business candidate, but a lot of people couldn’t get past “Proud NRA Sellout.” Just a few days after that story appeared, 10 people were murdered at Santa Fe High School in Texas. That focused more attention on Publix and, by extension, Putnam. Calls for a boycott of Publix for its support of gun-loving Putnam quickly grew loud throughout the state, and it has had an impact. Putnam’s candidacy remains strong though, and he still bashing the so-called “liberal elite” at every opportunity. I can’t see him losing the GOP nomination to an even more strident Ron DeSantis, and Democrats have yet to prove they have a winning formula. But it’s not the sure thing it used to look like.

— LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS —

Earnings:

—“First quarter brings Hopping Green & Sams up to $300K” via Florida Politics

—“Holland & Knight lands up to $740K in Q1 pay” via Florida Politics

—“Heffley & Associates nets $390K in Legislative Session earnings” via Florida Politics

—“Gunster Yoakley & Stewart earns up to $750K in Q1” via Florida Politics

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Gus Corbella, Elizabeth Dudek, Greenberg Traurig: Diana Food Group

Justin Day, Megan Fay, Capital City Consulting: Citigroup Washington, Florida Association of Health Plans, TransPro Consulting, Larkin Community Hospital

Kim McDougal, Kirk Pepper, GrayRobinson: Kologik

— ALOE —

Lee Roy Selmon’s original Tampa restaurant is closing, marking the end of an era” via Ernest Hooper of the Tampa Bay Times — Employees learned of the closing on Wednesday morning. Owner MVP Holdings has converted a number of Selmon’s locations into Glory Days restaurants, but it won’t do so with the Boy Scout spot. The property is owned by Bloomin’ Brands, the Tampa-based company that owns Outback Steakhouse and Bonefish Grill among other restaurants. Bloomin’ will build a new Outback Steakhouse at the location. The closure moves the chain closer to being completely phased out, a desire of the Selmon family. Most of its locations have been converted to Glory Days family-friendly sports bars in recent years. Since Selmon’s death in 2011, said Selmon’s widow Claybra Selmon, it has been difficult for the family to maintain its affiliation. “Lee Roy’s spirit will live on in this great city forever.”

With the closure of its original Tampa location, Lee Roy Selmon’s restaurants soon becoming extinct.

Planning a Disney trip? Disney Parks Moms Panel can help” via Beth Harpaz of The Associated Press — The 40 panelists provide customized, free answers to questions about Disney vacations (including parks, Disney Cruise Line, Disney resorts and more). Emailed questions are answered in about a week. A member of the Disney Parks Moms Panel, Lindsey P. of Georgia, recently spoke to AP’s weekly travel podcast “Get Outta Here!” Q: How far in advance should I book a Disney park trip? A: The sweet spot for most guests is the seven- or eight-month window. You can choose your home resort, make your hotel reservation then. When the 60 days before check-in window rolls around, you’ll be able to make your FastPass reservations. Q: What’s the ideal number of days for a Disney World visit? A: I like to go for five “sleeps” (overnights) as my kids call it. That allows us to get in one park (per day) for the four main parks.

Royal Caribbean ship gets first new Sky Pad attraction” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Royal Caribbean’s new bungee-jumping, trampolining, virtual reality attraction has made its debut on Independence of the Seas. The feature was installed on the top deck during a dry dock for the 3,858-passenger ship that will spend the summer based in Southampton, England before returning to Fort Lauderdale in November. Riders who choose to don VR glasses can simulate bouncing over moon craters and compete in intergalactic games. Open to all ages, the ride will also be available in real life, as in you don’t have to wear the VR glasses.

Happy birthday to a great family man (and a pretty decent lobbyist) Rob Johnson of The Mayernick Group.

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