Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 286

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.

VP Pence leaves NFL game after players protest during anthem

Vice President Mike Pence has left the 49ers-Colts game after about a dozen San Francisco players took a knee during the national anthem.

The former Indiana governor flew in so he could watch Peyton Manning’s jersey retirement ceremony on Sunday. But Pence didn’t stick around long.

Pence said on Twitter: “I left today’s Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.”

The White House also issued a statement from Pence, in which he says Americans should rally around the flag. Pence said: “I don’t think it’s too much to ask NFL players to respect the Flag and our National Anthem.”

Pence is a noted sports fan and it’s second major event he’s attended in his home state since taking office in January. He also attended May’s Indianapolis 500, a family tradition.

Manning will become the first Indianapolis-era player in Colts history to have his number retired and will also be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor.

Pence flew in on Saturday after a statue of Manning was unveiled, an event attended by a number of luminaries including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Instead, Pence spent most of Saturday honoring victims of the Las Vegas shooting before returning to his home state.

Rick Baker, Rick Kriseman reload campaign coffers for St. Pete mayoral race

If there was any doubt about the interest level in the ‘battle of the two Ricks,’ check the latest campaign finance reports for Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker, both of whom raised substantial money during the last two weeks of September.

Baker, the former mayor seeking a third term in City Hall, added $66,853 to his campaign account. He’s now raised more than $516,000.

That amount would easily set the record for the most money raised by a candidate running in St. Petersburg. However, Rick Kriseman continues to break his own fundraising record.

The incumbent raised $59,527 during the most recent reporting period, pushing his overall total to $534,617.

These totals do not reflect what either Baker or Kriseman have raised for their individual political committees whose reports were not available Saturday morning.

Baker spent $29,611 during the most recent reporting period, including $9,250 to Skyway Media Solutions for a new website and social media consulting. Since not meeting the expectation of winning the mayoral race outright during the primary election, Baker has retooled his brand, pushing what some have described as a “hipster” vibe.

Baker’s campaign currently has more than $67,000 cash-on-hand heading into the final month of the campaign.

Kriseman has nearly the same amount (about $62K) left in his account after spending $22,497 during the final two weeks of September. The campaign’s largest expense was for polling.

St. Petersburg’s mayoral race concludes November 7.

 

Takeaways from Tallahassee — FSU takes on campus names, markers

Florida State University President John Thrasher announced the members of the President’s Advisory Panel on University Namings and Recognitions, according to a news release.

“I want to thank the members of this panel for their willingness to take on this important matter,” Thrasher said in a statement. “I expect them to be deliberate, to be thoughtful and to seek input from the entire Florida State community as they do their work.”

FSU President John Thrasher takes on naming and recognition rules in light of the controversy over Confederate monuments.

(The full release with names of the members is here.)

The panel was created in the wake of ongoing controversy about Confederate memorials in Florida and across the nation, and white nationalist rallies, including one in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a car last month plowed into a group of counter-protesters, killing one woman and injuring dozens of others.

“The creation of the panel follows Thrasher’s condemnation of last month’s hateful and violent acts by white supremacists in Charlottesville, and his pledge to the FSU community to protect free speech while ensuring the safety and well-being of students, faculty and staff,” the university has previously said.

“The 15-member panel of university students, faculty, staff and alumni will examine and review current university policies concerning campus names and markers, including statues and other recognitions,” the latest release said. The university’s chief diversity officer, Renisha Gibbs, will chair the panel.

Last October, the Tallahassee Democrat reported that FSU students “overwhelmingly defeated a proposal seeking the removal of a statue honoring former Leon County slave owner Francis Eppes from campus and the removal of his name from a campus building.”

The statue is on the campus’ Westcott Plaza. Eppes was the grandson of Thomas Jefferson, who also owned slaves.

“The panel has been asked to complete its work with all deliberate speed,” Thrasher said. The date and time of its first meeting will be announced next week.

“Panel meetings will be noticed, open to the public and will include opportunities for public comment,” according to the release. The university will also “launch a website to provide additional information and updates on the panel’s progress.”

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jim RosicaPeter Schorsch and Andrew Wilson.

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

Here comes Nate — As of Friday, a hurricane warning was issued for a stretch of the U.S. Gulf Coast from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to the Alabama-Florida border. The National Hurricane Center said residents in those areas should brace for possible storm surges amid the expected strengthening of Tropical Storm Nate. The storm battered Central America with rain this week, killing at least 21 people. The center says the storm is likely to strengthen Friday over the northwestern Caribbean Sea before a possible near-hurricane-strength hit in the Cancun region at the tip of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Forecasters warn that the storm, after crossing open water, could then smash into the northern rim of the U.S. Gulf Coast as a hurricane.

Nursing home expands lawsuit — A Broward County nursing home has amended a lawsuit challenging moves by Gov. Scott‘s administration that effectively shut down the facility after residents died following Hurricane Irma. The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills filed a lawsuit last month in Leon County circuit court challenging state orders that placed a moratorium on patient admissions and suspended the facility from the Medicaid program. It filed an amended complaint this week that challenged a Sept. 20 emergency order that suspended the facility’s license. The state Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) acted after eight residents of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills died Sept. 13, three days after Hurricane Irma knocked out the facility’s air conditioning. Four other residents who were evacuated died later.

Annette Taddeo’s plum assignments — With a swearing-in ceremony scheduled Tuesday, newly elected Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo will serve on five Senate panels, including committees that play crucial roles in insurance and environmental issues. Taddeo won a closely watched special election Sept. 26 to replace former Sen. Frank Artiles, a Miami Republican who resigned in April from the Senate District 40 seat. Senate President Joe Negron appointed Taddeo to serve on the Banking and Insurance Committee; the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee; the Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee; the Transportation Committee; and the General Government Appropriations Subcommittee.

Brian Ballard rolls on — Ballard Partners, which has close ties with the Trump White House, inked a $600,000 one-year contract to promote “free and fair elections” in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Brian Ballard, a top Republican fundraiser, chaired the Trump Victory organization in Florida during the 2016 presidential campaign. Ballard Partners, which opened a D.C. office earlier this year, is to provide “strategic consulting and advocacy services” to the Group of Seven political coalitions regarding its pitch to Washington. DRC President Joseph Kabila, who has been in power since 2001, booted G-7 representatives from the government for voicing opposition to his continued rule. Ballard also this week formed an international strategic alliance with Alber & Geiger, a political lobbying powerhouse in the European Union, in efforts to leverage both firms’ governmental expertise.

Fundraising stops and starts — GOP candidate for Attorney General Jay Fant said this week he loaned his campaign $750,000 toward his election. The loan brings his total campaign funds raised to just over $958,000. “I am investing my own funds because Floridians deserve an alternative to the establishment candidates in the field,” Fant said in a statement. “We have over a year until the election, and we are just getting started.” Meantime, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine attributed his political committee’s lack of fundraising in September to his focus on the recent hurricanes. Levine, a Democrat, is widely expected to jump into next year’s race for governor. “When others are struggling to survive massive hurricanes and rebuild their lives, it is not a time for fundraising but a time for lifesaving,” a spokesman said. And Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democratic candidate for governor, added new finance director Akilah Ensley this week to spark fundraising after losing ground to opponents Gwen Graham and Chris King.

Irma looks to make her mark in Tallahassee

The first interim committee week ahead of the 2018 Legislative Session was canceled due to Hurricane Irma last month, and it seems like the fallout from the superstorm will dominate the conversation when lawmakers head to Tallahassee next week.

Not only are state legislators shorted one of their handful of planning periods, but Irma brought up some policy issues that lawmakers are looking to tackle during the 60-day Legislative Session, which starts in January.

Fallout from Hurricane Irma is still being felt in Florida’s Capitol.

According to the Senate calendar, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will get a presentation on hurricane insurance issues; the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee will get an Irma update from utility companies; the Senate Agriculture Committee will discuss Irma’s impact on agriculture, which has been called the most significant crop-loss event in state history.

Also on the docket is a meeting of the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee, which will discuss emergency rules to force assisted living facilities and nursing homes to have enough generator power to keep the A/C running for several days in the event of a storm-related outage.

That issue spawned the hottest debates post-Irma due to an outage at a Hollywood nursing home directly leading to heat-related deaths for a dozen residents, ranging from 57 to 99 years old. The body temperatures of some of the deceased were as high as 109.9 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rick Scott activates citrus grower emergency loan program

Gov. Scott activated a $25 million Florida Citrus Emergency Loan Program to support citrus growers impacted by Hurricane Irma. The bridge loan program, managed by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), will provide interest-free loans to citrus growers that experienced physical or economic damage during the storm. The application period will begin next week and be open through November 30, 2017.

DEO will administer the Florida Citrus Emergency Loan Program in partnership with the Florida SBDC Network to provide cash flow to businesses affected by a disaster. The interest-free loans will help bridge the gap between the time damage occurs and when a business secures other financial resources, such as crop insurance payments or federal disaster recovery appropriations.

Rick Scott activates a $25 million emergency loan program for citrus growers affected by Hurricane Irma.

Citrus growers maintaining groves in any of Florida’s 67 counties affected by Hurricane Irma can apply for interest-free loans up to $150,000 in terms of up to one year. To be eligible, a grower must have been set up prior to September 4, 2017, and demonstrate economic injury or physical damage from Hurricane Irma.

To complete an application by the deadline of Nov. 30, or for more information on the program, visit floridadisasterloan.org. For questions, contact the Florida Small Business Development Center Network at 850-898-3489 or email Disaster@FloridaSBDC.org.

Jimmy Patronis helps out in Puerto Rico

Chief Financial Officer Patronis said law enforcement personnel from the Department of Financial Services will join the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), the Florida Highway Patrol, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and others to offer aid in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

CFO Jimmy Patronis is sending a joint team taken from several state agencies to aid Puerto Rico hurricane recovery.

“Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, leaving many families with nothing but the few belongings they could carry as they fled their homes,” he said in a statement. “As Florida continues to rebuild after Irma, I know that disaster recovery requires an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach, and I’m proud to make resources available to help Puerto Rico get back on its feet. The needs are great, and we’ll do what we can to assist during this difficult time.”

The Department is deploying Major Karl Morgan from the Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations to join an eight-person incident management team. Additional resources, including heavy land-clearing equipment used during Hurricane Irma recovery efforts, remain on standby.

While in Puerto Rico, a joint law enforcement team coordinated by FDLE will conduct recovery missions and offer security resources to protect relief materials being shipped or flown into the coastal country. Florida-based personnel and resources are made available to Puerto Rico through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.

Trial lawyers establish Hurricane Irma task force

The Florida Justice Association has formed a task force to answer policyholders’ questions about their rights when pursuing insurance claims arising from Hurricane Irma.

The FJA Insurance Emergency Response Task Force will comprise experts in property insurance hailing from the areas of the state hit hardest. Stephen Marino of Ver Ploeg & Lumpkin in Miami will chair the task force.

Stephen Marino of Ver Ploeg & Lumpkin.

“Consumers need straight answers about how they should proceed with their claims, things they can do to expedite the claim process, and their rights and obligations under their insurance policies,” FJA President Dale Swope of Tampa said.

“The task force members are available to attend town halls and other events where constituents can raise questions related to insurance claims in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma,” he said.

Members also are available to brief legislators on how to help constituents with claims.

Puerto Rico family response centers launched

With up to 100,000 evacuees from Puerto Rico expected in Florida and the U.S. mainland, the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (FSHCC) and Orlando-based nonprofit Latino Leadership have partnered to create the Puerto Rico Family Response Center (PRFRC), they said in a news release.

“Currently operating in Orlando, PRFRC is assisting thousands of Puerto Rican evacuees every day. FSHCC plans to open PRFRCs in Tampa, Jacksonville and South Florida,” the release said. Current offerings include housing counseling, a 10-person computer lab, special needs services and a referral services network.

Florida is bracing for a wave of Puerto Rico evacuees displaced by Hurricane Maria.

FSHCC President Julio Fuentes announced that he will be holding a news conference in Tallahassee next week to call on Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers “to send a clear and unified message to Puerto Ricans that they’re welcomed to the Sunshine State.”

“Florida is going to become the new home for tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans who’ve had to flee from the devastation left behind by Hurricane Maria,” Fuentes said. “Corporate leaders, elected officials and good Samaritans are lending their support, and with their help, we’ll transform lives for the better.”

For more information, visit the initiative’s website at www.PRFamilyResponse.com.

Florida insurers prepare for Nate

With recovery efforts still underway for Hurricanes Irma and Floridians now preparing for Tropical Storm Nate to hit Florida as early as this weekend, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) offers advice on filing an insurance claim.

“Following storms, like Irma, we generally get questions about the insurance claims process,” said Logan McFaddin, PCI Florida regional manager. “If you haven’t already, it is important to reach out to your insurance company or agent right away to start the claims process, especially with Tropical Storm Nate now in our sights.”

Next up, Tropical Storm Nate.

Insurers are also working with state and federal disaster-response agencies to help families recover as quickly as possible. Local and national call centers are available to process claims. Moreover, insurers are using the latest technology to allow claims to be reported online or through mobile apps.

“We would also caution consumers to be careful of any bad actors who are looking to prey on storm victims. These unscrupulous third-party contractors come in all varieties — and can lure in unsuspecting families with deals and offers that seem too good to be true,” McFaddin added.

Progress Florida unveils ‘People First’ report card

The report card, by the progressive organization, grades every lawmaker on the votes they cast this past session across a broad spectrum of issues relevant to Floridians. All 158 current legislators were graded based on floor votes taken in their respective chambers — 20 votes in the House and 12 in the Senate.

To achieve an “A” grade on the Report Card, lawmakers had to consistently vote to put ‘People First’ instead of powerful interests.

Key votes scored include opposing a reckless state budget that rewards wealthy corporations at the expense of hardworking Floridians, standing up for our local public schools, protecting our land and water including the Everglades and rejecting the ‘Shoot First’ expansion of the misguided Stand Your Ground law.

“Floridians deserve to know where their legislators stand on major issues from gun safety and environmental protection to the economy and local schools,” Progress Florida Executive Director Mark Ferrulo said in a statement. “We scored our senators and representatives based not on what they say, but on how they actually voted on issues important to Floridians.”

The 2017 Progress Florida “People First” Report Card for all legislators can be found at www.FloridaReportCard.com.

Tracie Davis throws ‘community baby shower’

State Rep. Tracie Davis, a Jacksonville Democrat, will co-host a “Community Baby Shower” for expectant or new mothers in Duval County, Saturday, Oct. 7, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., with The Magnolia Project, at 5300 N. Pearl St. in Jacksonville.

The Project is a part of Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition.

Tracie Davis helps new mothers by hosting a ‘community baby shower.’

“The event will provide mothers with the tools necessary to raise a happy and healthy baby,” a news release said. “Classes on breast-feeding, safe sleep, nutrition, and yoga will be offered throughout the event. There will also be raffles and smoothies available.”

“Teaching new mothers these important skills is absolutely critical in building strong communities,” Davis said in a statement. The event is aimed at raising awareness for high infant mortality rates in Duval.

“I’m proud to help host our first community baby shower. I hope these events are a beneficial experience for the women in Duval County and help our families to raise happy and healthy children.”

Rising lobbyist has praise for mentors

On his way out the door from FCCI Insurance Group, James Kotas had kind words for legislative affairs director Bob Hawken and chief legal officer Tom Koval.

“It was the hardest decision to go and sit in front of Hawk and Tom and tell them that I had this opportunity in front of me,” Kotas said. “They could not have been more supportive. They said, ‘You need to do this. These kinds of jobs  come around not that often, and this could be even more of a launching pad for your career and your life.’”

Rising lobbyist James Kotas.

Kotas is off to become a manager for state and local government relations for 23 eastern states for Darden Concepts Inc., a national restaurant chain with brands including The Capital Grille, LongHorn Steakhouse and Olive Garden.

Hawken and Koval were keen mentors, Kotas said.

“What I learned from them was, look down the road. What’s the best thing for everybody,” he said. “It was very hard to leave.”

DACS nabs $135K back from schemers in September

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said it recovered nearly $135,000 last month for Sunshine State customers who were scammed or defrauded by Florida businesses.

DACS said it helped 18,740 consumers through its phone hotlines last month, including taking down 2,403 complaints and adding nearly 17,000 phone numbers to the to Florida’s Do Not Call List.

The department said those phone leads sparked 177 new investigations into unscrupulous businesses. The month also saw DACS arrest 10 people accused of ripping off customers.

All in all, the department helped those consumers recoup $134,640 from shady movers, mechanics, pawnbrokers, travel sales schemers and telemarketers. Consumers who believe fraud has taken place can contact the department’s hotline at 1-800-HELP-FLA, or 1-800-FL-AYUDA for Spanish speakers.

FHP names new deputy director

Gene Spaulding, director of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), this week announced that Troy Thompson became deputy director of the Florida Highway Patrol.

Thompson is a 24-year law enforcement veteran who most recently served as Chief of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement with the FHP.

“Thompson is a forward-thinking leader who is dedicated to accomplishing the mission of the Patrol,” Spaulding said in a statement. He “will help secure the agency’s vision of ‘A Safer Florida and carry on its proud traditions.”

Policy Pub talks medical pot over pints

A professor at FSU’s College of Social Sciences and Public Policy will go over Florida medical marijuana and same-sex marriage laws during happy hour Tuesday evening.

The event is the next in the “Policy Pub” series put on by the college and hosted in the bar area of Backwoods Bistro on the corner of Gadsden and Tennessee streets.

Dr. Tim Chapin speaks at an FSU Policy Pub event in January (Photo: Codi Cain/FSView)

Each edition features a faculty member giving a plain-language talk on a public policy topic before opening up the floor for discussion and questions. Professor Frances Berry will lead off the event, which runs Tuesday from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Berry’s presentation, “Medical Marijuana and Same-Sex Marriage: Understanding State Choices,” will cover how states determine laws that are sometimes at odds with federal regulations and policy, including an overview of how state laws differ and the roles the courts played in both policy areas.

The event is free and open to the public, though attendees are encouraged to get there early to snag a parking spot and a seat at the bar.

Bring out your hazardous waste

Leon County holds its next Household Hazardous Waste & Electronics Collection today (Saturday), 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Public Works Operations Center, 2280 Miccosukee Road.

You can bring up to 50 pounds of hazardous waste, in addition to electronics. Only one large-screen television per vehicle will be accepted.

Propane tanks must weigh less than 40 pounds, and there is a limit of one tire per participant. There is also a limit of 25 fluorescent tubes per vehicle at the collection event.

Medical sharps, medicines and radioactive waste cannot be accepted. Also, bulky items such as appliances (refrigerators, stoves/ovens, washing machines, dryers, etc.), as well as furniture, yard waste, construction and demolition debris, household garbage and Styrofoam won’t be taken.

Again, these collections are for residents; businesses and others should call (850) 606-1816 to make an appointment, Monday through Friday, to drop off their items at the Leon County Hazardous Waste Center, 7550 Apalachee Parkway. Fees will apply.

For more information, call the Leon County Hazardous Waste Center at (850) 606-1803 or visit LeonCountyFL.gov/HHW/collection/ for the complete collection schedule and safe packing guide.

Leon County goes pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

During October, Leon County Government will recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a news release said. To show support, Leon County will host activities and educational opportunities as part of “Paint the Town Pink” initiative.

Leon County goes pink for Breast Cancer Awareness.

The county will ‘Paint the Town Pink’ in several ways:

— The LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library System, including the County Main Library and its branch libraries, will feature select books related to breast cancer awareness.

— Leon County Parks and Recreation will use pink chalk to chalk boundaries on county athletic fields.

— Leon County EMS paramedics will wear pink medical gloves for all service calls during October.

— The Leon County website will feature a unique pink County seal.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a partnership of national public service organizations, professional medical associations and government agencies working together to promote breast cancer awareness and share information on the disease.

To view photos of Leon County’s Pink Initiative during October, visit www.LeonPhotos.org.

Leon County hosts ‘Fire Truck Roundup’

Leon County will host the 20th Annual Fire Truck Roundup this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Growing Room Child Development Center, 1271 Metropolitan Blvd. in Tallahassee.

The event is in honor of Leon County’s volunteer firefighters. Children will be able to explore fire truck equipment and enjoy family-friendly music. Volunteers will offer free food and drinks, face painting, a ‘bounce house’ and other giveaways.

Information on how to become a volunteer firefighter will be available, along with the opportunity to speak one-on-one with a volunteer firefighter. For more information, call or email Jeri Bush, Director of Volunteer Services, at (850) 606-1970 or BushJ@LeonCountyFL.gov.

Tallahassee Alzheimer’s group aims for $97K in annual walk

The Tallahassee edition of the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” is seeking to raise $97,000 to fight the debilitating disease during the Oct. 14 event.

More than 522,000 — or about 1 in 40 — Floridians have the neurodegenerative disease known for causing memory loss and dementia, giving the Sunshine State the second highest incidence rate in the country. Around 6,000 of those individuals live in the Tallahassee/Big Bend region.

WCTV anchor Ben Kaplan serves as emcee of the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual ‘Walk to End Alzheimer’s.’

Money raised through the Tallahassee walk will go toward community programs and research efforts in the region as well as care for area patients to help lift some of the burden brought on by the insidious disease for them and their caregivers.

WCTV anchor Ben Kaplan will emcee the event, which is expected to draw in 600 walkers. Registration opens at 8 a.m. at 1001 South Gadsden St., followed by a 9 a.m. ceremony before the three-mile walk kicks off at 9:30 a.m. in Cascades Park.

Those who can’t make the hike can celebrate without walking in the on-site pavilion area, and walkers can also bring along their furry friends, strollers and wheelchairs. While there is no fee to participate all are encouraged to pitch in with a personal donation.

To sign up ahead of time, or to start a team, head to the event’s website.

Stone crabs up for grabs next weekend

Stone crab claw season opens Oct. 15 in state and federal waters, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a couple tips and a rules refresher for those looking to take part.

First and foremost, go set your traps. Recreational crab catchers can set up to five baited traps 10 days before the season starts, but leave traps with round entrances (also called “throats” or “funnels”) at home if they’re going off the coast of Collier, Monroe or Miami-Dade.

Bring a measuring tape when you check your haul, too and no cheating —  claws have to be at least 2.75 inches measured from the elbow to the tip of the lower, fixed place part of the claw. It’s illegal to use anything that could puncture, crush or injure your catch. Though it’s not a rule, FWC said taking both claws leaves the crab defenseless and is unsustainable.

You’ll also have to familiarize yourself with, ahem, the female crab anatomy since egg-bearing crabs are off limits. Don’t worry, it’s strictly PG: just flip the crab over and if there’s an orange or brown egg mass, also known as a “sponge,” leave the claws and let her go.

If you grab a legal crab, FWC put out a video showing would-be fishermen how to properly harvest the claws. Fair warning to crustacean lovers, there’s a loud crack when the claws are removed even though the crab doesn’t seem to mind.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

 

Some material in this week’s “Takeaways from Tallahassee” was also provided by The News Service of Florida and The Associated Press, republished with permission.

 

Jay Fant lends campaign $750K toward AG bid

State Rep. Jay Fant, a Jacksonville Republican vying to become Florida’s next attorney general, Friday said he had personally put in $750,000 toward his election.

The loan to his campaign, made last month, brings his total campaign funds raised to just over $958,000, his campaign told Florida Politics.

Without it, Fant’s campaign account shows just over $179,000 in contributions, according to campaign finance records as of Friday morning. That doesn’t include other September fundraising.

“I am investing my own funds because Floridians deserve an alternative to the establishment candidates in the field,” Fant said in a statement.

“As the only conservative and the only candidate who has signed the front of a paycheck, I will protect individual liberties and free enterprise,” he added. “We have over a year until the election and we are just getting started.

“Our donor and grassroots support are strong and we are looking forward to the next 13 months on the campaign trail.”

Fant, whose legislative record “includes advocacy of 1st and 2nd Amendment issues and limited government,” also said he has “pledged to commit additional personal campaign funds from time to time.”

For now, Fant faces only former Hillsborough County circuit judge Ashley Moody in the GOP primary for the seat. The winner will face Ryan Torrens, the lone declared Democrat, in the general election.

Moody, who’s gotten a series of high-profile endorsements, has raised nearly $756,000, not including September numbers—with none of that from loans, records show. She has roughly $733,500 in cash-on-hand.

Fant, however, bucked House Speaker Richard Corcoran and backed Republican Gov. Rick Scott—a deep-pocketed, likely candidate against Democrat Bill Nelson next year for the U.S. Senate—in Scott’s effort to save Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA from virtual gutting last session.

Incumbent Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi is term-limited next year.

Last Call for 10.5.17 – 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

A proposed Florida Commission on Ethics opinion says Tony Glover, formerly the state’s top gambling regulator, can lobby his former department as long as he doesn’t do it for the specific divisions he once worked for.

Glover had requested the staff-written advisory opinion, released Thursday, which will be considered for approval at the commission’s Oct. 20 meeting.

Glover, who now has his own law firm, was deputy director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT) and later of the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering (DPMW), which regulates gambling. Both are under the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).

State law says certain state employees “may not personally represent another person or entity for compensation before the agency with which he or she was employed for a period of two years following vacation of position, unless employed by another agency of state government.”

But the ethics commission has interpreted that to mean “one’s agency is not necessarily one’s entire department, but rather the lowest departmental unit within which one’s influence would exist.”

Therefore, the lobbying ban applies to Glover as to ABT for two years after he left April 29, 2016, and two years after he quit DPMW this Sept. 5, the opinion says. Other parts of DBPR are fair game.

The opinion adds that Glover is not prohibited “from providing advice concerning a particular subject matter with which you were involved while in public employment,” as long as it doesn’t violate the ban as applies to him.

An update on last night’s ‘First Shot’: Yesterday, we told you about an elevator certificate in a downtown Tallahassee parking garage that listed “Graf Orlok” as the governor of Florida.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which issues such certificates, Thursday said an official visited the elevator, removed the prank one, and replaced it with a real one.

The fake one appeared to be, yes, a cheap, doctored photocopy.

As explained previously, “Graf Orlok” is the name of the main character, based on Dracula, in the 1922 silent film “Nosferatu.” (“Graf” is German for “Count.”)

So somebody really doesn’t like Gov. Rick Scott—and is a connoisseur of Expressionist horror films. Go figure.

Evening Reads

FEMA removes statistics about drinking water access and electricity in Puerto Rico from website” via Jenna Johnson of The Washington Post

Still booming with retirees, The Villages gives Donald Trump, GOP edge in Florida” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Yes, Florida’s pool of voters is shrinking. Here’s why.” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Repealing the Jones Act would help Puerto Rico. But it could hurt Florida.” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald

Hurricane Irma’s lawsuit chasers” via the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board

Multiple Democrats raise over six figures in race to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald

After Irma, state doesn’t waive fees for KidCare insurance” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

Fearing Nate, state of emergency declared in North Florida” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald

Workers’ comp drops off legislative map” via the News Service of Florida

Last shelter used for Hurricane Irma evacuees closes” via The Associated Press

Hulk actor wants to smash fracking in Florida” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat

Filmed near Disney, ‘Florida Project’ shines bright light on hidden homeless” via Jake Coyle of The Associated Press

Quote of the Day

He has never voted to support things like Obamacare expansion, the Charlie Crist tax increases, and Big Brother-style red light cameras.” — U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of northwest Florida, explaining why he endorsed fellow Republican Matt Caldwell for agriculture commissioner in 2018. They also served together in the Florida House.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights 

Wake Up Early

The state Board of Respiratory Care is scheduled to meet in Central Florida. That’s at 8:30 a.m., Sheraton Lake Buena Vista, 12205 South Apopka Vineland, Orlando.

Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, is expected to tour a Rayonier Advanced Materials plant in Nassau County. The tour begins at 9 a.m., Rayonier Fernandina Plant, 10 Gum St., Fernandina Beach.

The state Revenue Estimating Conference will hold what is known as an “impact” conference. It begins at 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol, Tallahassee.

The Florida Board of Orthotists and Prosthetists will hold a conference call. That’s at 9 a.m. The call-in number is (888) 670-3525 and the participant code is 7342425515.

Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican, is scheduled to speak about legislative issues during an annual conference of the Property Appraisers’ Association of Florida. It’s at 10 a.m., Courtyard by Marriott Cocoa Beach-Cape Canaveral, 3435 North Atlantic Ave., Cocoa Beach.

Campaign-finance reports are due for candidates in special elections in state House District 44 and House District 58. Former Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, an Orlando Republican, left the District 44 seat this spring after being appointed a judge on the 5th District Court of Appeal. The candidates in an Oct. 10 special general election are Republican Bobby Olszewski and Democrat Eddy Dominguez. Former Rep. Dan Raulerson, a Plant City Republican, resigned from the District 58 seat because of health issues. Republicans Yvonne Fry and Lawrence McClure are battling in an Oct. 10 GOP primary, with the winner advancing to a Dec. 19 general election.

The Delegation for 10.5.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Las Vegas tragedy reawakens calls for gun control

The horrific mass murder that took place in Las Vegas late Sunday night will not soon be forgotten. Like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, this one will long remain in the minds of most Americans, mostly for its random cruelty.

The Florida delegation reacted like most Americans, expressing shock, horror and gratitude. Like most Americans, Democrats and Republicans are divided on the cause of the rampage and what to do going forward.

Panama City Republican Neal Dunn exemplified the GOP response by expressing feelings of being “heartbroken” while thanking the police and first responders “who took immediate action.” Republican Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach and Daniel Webster of Orlando, among others, also praised first responders “and the brave men and women who risked their own lives,” whom Webster described as “good Samaritans.’

In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, praise for first responders, renewed calls for gun control.

Not one from the GOP mentioned guns, but Democrats from across the country made access to guns an important part of their responses together with condolences and thanks to first responders.

Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach tweeted a photo of her colleagues gathering on the steps of the Capitol saying “Prayers & moments of silence are not enough — we need action NOW.” Ted Deutch of Boca Raton said when loved ones “die of cancer, we vow to eradicate cancer. Today, we must vow to eradicate gun violence. And mean it.”

Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy said to Las Vegas “From one community touched by senseless gun violence to another — we’re here for you.” She pointed to her bill in the House of Representatives that would facilitate research into gun violence.

In calling for a ban on assault weapons, Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens said: “I cannot think of a single justification for allowing civilian individuals to own semi-automatic assault weapons.”

Alcee Hastings of Miramar said, “Republican Members of Congress have a bad habit of ignoring the devastation brought by gun violence, siding instead with the extreme voices of their party.”

The public pronouncements show that even on an issue such as the senseless murders of 58 of their fellow Americans, opportunities for division are not wasted. Calls to just “do something” are not likely to bear fruit, while Wilson’s request to ban assault weapons will have some bipartisan support, at least while the tragedy is at the forefront of conversation.

On Wednesday, Sen. Bill Nelson introduced a bill banning “bump stocks,” the device used by the Las Vegas killer which, in effect, turned a semi-automatic rifle into a machine gun. Frankel indicated she would announce a similar bill in the House Friday, while news reports indicated Republican Carlos Curbelo of Kendall was also working on a bipartisan bill to do the same.

Until then, all we have is shock, horror and gratitude.

Rubio, Nelson push legislation to provide more emergency responders

The second term Republican, along with several of his colleagues who have seen firsthand the enormous damage left behind by hurricanes and natural disasters, is looking to get quickly obtain further assistance from the federal government. He has proposed bipartisan legislation to allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to fill vacant emergency response positions temporarily.

“With two months left of hurricane season and ongoing threats from regimes overseas, we cannot afford to be ill-prepared to quickly and efficiently respond to another emergency,” said Rubio. “Due to natural attrition and devastating hurricanes this year, our emergency response personnel are exhausted and stretched thin, and there are worries that we would have difficulty deploying the medical response teams necessary to adequately aid Americans should the need occur in the near future.”

The bill would give HHS direct hiring authority, for a limited amount of time, to fill the vacant positions. Rubio points out Congress gave HHS similar power last year to respond to the Zika virus.

Ironically, with last week’s resignation of Tom Price, the position of Secretary of HHS is also vacant.

The bill is co-sponsored by Democrat and fellow Floridian Bill Nelson, Texas Republican John Cornyn, and Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy.

Rubio not looking to be next Foreign Relations chair

Florida’s junior senator is not looking to leapfrog over a GOP colleague to become the new Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. With the announced retirement of Tennessee Republican Bob Corker, the current chairman, the committee will see a new leader in January 2019.

Rubio is the third-ranking Republican on the committee by service. Immediately behind Corker is Idaho’s Jim Risch.

Rubio’s name was mentioned as a possible successor to the chairman after Corker announced his plans not to seek re-election. No one would be surprised if Rubio expressed an interest in the post, but said he would not be part of an effort to shuffle Risch aside.

Marco Rubio has no interest in leapfrogging to be the next Foreign Relations chair.

“If Jim Risch wants to be chairman, I’ll support him,” Rubio told reporters last week.

For his part, Risch is noncommittal.

“Right now, I’m a committee chairman of another committee. I’ve got 15 months left to serve there,” Risch told Capitol Hill reporters. “I’m totally focused on that. When we’re done with this, you all will know exactly where this is going.”

There is a recent precedent for leapfrogging. When Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz recently left Congress and his role as Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the most senior member was not chosen.

South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy was handed the gavel over Ohio Republican and Freedom Caucus stalwart Jim Jordan.

Nelson asks Senate committee to look into nursing home deaths

The three-term Democrat wants the Senate Finance Committee to investigate the deaths of 12 residents of a Hollywood nursing home. The tragedy occurred when the facility lost air conditioning during Hurricane Irma.

While the state is also looking into the tragedy, Nelson is asking the Senate panel to look into the facility’s certification and if the state properly monitored its emergency plan.

Bill Nelson is calling the Senate to investigate deaths of 12 Florida seniors due to Hurricane Irma.

“Because the certification for a skilled nursing facility is subject to CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) approval, and the Senate Committee on Finance has jurisdiction over the Medicare and Medicaid programs, I urge the committee to use its authority to conduct a complete investigation into the State of Florida’s certification of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills to determine what led to the death of 12 seniors there in the wake of Hurricane Irma,” Nelson said in a letter to committee chairman Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican and ranking member Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat.

“The findings of such an investigation by your committee will help us understand what went so terribly wrong in Hollywood and what needs to be done to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again,” he wrote.

Nelson is a member of the committee.

Instagram of the week

 

Delegation splits on House late-term abortion ban bill

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, mainly along party lines. H.R. 36 would ban abortions after 20 weeks, stating “an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain at least 20 weeks after fertilization, if not earlier.”

“By passing the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and banning late-term abortion, we stand to protect the innocent and defenseless,” said Republican Neal Dunn of Panama City. “As a doctor, I believe in science, and a substantial body of research has found that unborn babies can feel pain at 20 weeks and that late-term abortions pose significant health risks to the life of the mother.”

The bill contains exceptions to protect the life and physical health of the mother as well as an exception for victims of rape.

Arizona Republican Trent Franks sponsored H.R. 36, co-sponsored by 182 colleagues, including 9 Florida Republicans. Delegation co-sponsors included Dunn, Matt Gaetz from Ft. Walton Beach, John Rutherford from Jacksonville, Ted Yoho from Gainesville, Daniel Webster of Orlando, Gus Bilirakis from New Port Richey, Dennis Ross of Lakeland, Tom Rooney of Okeechobee and Francis Rooney of Naples.

“Today, I was proud to cast a vote for life,” said Rutherford. “The United States is one of only seven countries worldwide who allow elective abortions after 20 weeks; we should lead when it comes to life.”

Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman-Schultz tweeted that the bill is “the latest attack on a woman’s right to chooseIt’s dangerous, unconstitutional and cruel.”

The final vote was 237-179 with three Democrats voting in favor and two Republicans voting against. All delegation Republicans voted in favor, and all Democrats voted “no.”

 The bill now moves to the Senate, where it faces an uphill climb.

Mast, Curbelo to receive another round of GOP-friendly ads

The American Action Network, who has run numerous advertisements supporting the positions of endangered GOP incumbents, is back with another round. This time, the six-figure buy continues their full-throated support for tax reform, including the recently introduced Republican bill.

The ads will run on a number of digital platforms including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. The districts of Floridians Brian Mast and Carlos Curbelo will be among the 42 targets.

“For too long, middle-class families have been living paycheck to paycheck and have struggled to make ends meet,” said AAN Executive Director Corry Bliss. “It’s time for working families to see tax cuts that will give them peace of mind and help them save for the future.”

Mast and Curbelo have been frequent beneficiaries of AAN’s activities. Both are considered to be in highly-competitive districts for the 2018 election.

In addition to GOP moderates like Mast and Curbelo, other targeted districts include those of Speaker Paul Ryan and conservative Freedom Caucus members Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Dave Brat of Virginia, Jim Jordan of Ohio, and Mark Sanford of South Carolina.

Lawson proposes ‘Feed America’ initiative

The first-term Democrat from Tallahassee has launched a campaign designed to combat hunger. By launching the Let’s Feed America Campaign, Lawson seeks to “address and alleviate hunger in North Florida, and America, through several proposals and initiatives.”

Lawson launched the initiative on the 40th anniversary of the 1977 Food Stamp Act. Food stamps are now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“Hunger and food insecurity is a huge problem in our area,” Lawson said. “One in every four citizens in Florida’s 5th Congressional District has been on SNAP benefits at some point over the past 12 months. “This is nearly twice the national average and the second highest rate among Florida’s 27 congressional districts.”

The 5th District stretches from Gadsden County west of Tallahassee to Duval County and Jacksonville.

Last week, Lawson joined with New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to introduce the SNAP Standard Medical Deduction Act of 2017. Gillibrand submitted a similar bill in the Senate.

This bill offers seniors a medical expense deduction when applying for SNAP benefits, among other things. Among Lawson’s House co-sponsors are fellow Democrats Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens, Alcee Hastings of Miramar, and Darren Soto of Orlando.

Lawson is a member of the House Agriculture Committee, which, along with the Department of Agriculture, has jurisdiction on the SNAP program.

Soto visits Puerto Rico, assesses needs and federal government performance

The first-term Democrat from Orlando visited Puerto Rico this week to meet with Commonwealth officials and FEMA representatives. Soto, the son of a Puerto Rican father and who represents a district containing a large block of Puerto Rico natives, prepared a report of his findings.

While he witnessed “numerous personnel from FEMA, US military, as well as other federal and Puerto Rico agencies,” reports of an inadequate response by the Trump Administration were in the background of the report.

After touring Puerto Rico, Darren Soto declared the island is in emergency need of robust emergency federal funding,

FEMA briefed Soto on difficulties they encountered while providing emergency response. Soto listed each of those problems preceded by the word “alleged.” He reported that Puerto Rico’s Senate President told him “the federal response had been far more robust after Hurricane George(s),” a Category 3 storm that hit the island in 1998 causing $2 billion in damages.

Governor Ricardo Rossello shared with Soto estimates the island sustained damages totaling somewhere between $40 billion and $70 billion. The Congressman also visited mountainous rural areas, including a tour by helicopter.

“While in the air, I saw no other helicopters flying, no military vehicles driving around, and no federal personnel,” he wrote. “Rural towns will continue to suffer if resources and personnel are not dispatched to these areas.”

In an interview on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal Tuesday, Soto was blunter:

“The Trump Administration has been slow off the mark, and now we’re paying for it.”

FEMA Director Brock Long defends the relief effort, claiming the devastation is so vast, even the most basic services are being ramped up daily as the military becomes more involved in relief operations.

“We’re basically reconstituting local government in Puerto Rico,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “The local governments were at a much-diminished capacity. The people they would normally rely on to drive trucks were victims or disaster survivors.”

Webster touts tax House reform plan

With storm damage and the Las Vegas tragedy rightfully dominating the news, the Republican from the 11th District talked to his constituents about the recently unveiled plan for tax reform. While it contains provisions that Democrats hate and some Republicans will need to explain, Webster is all-in on the idea.

“The past eight years have given us nothing but a crawling economic recovery, stagnant wages, and slow growth that has hindered our families and our businesses from achieving their potential,” Webster wrote in an email to constituents. “The plan released last week emphasizes small businesses and working families, which are the drivers of our economy.”

Super-investor Warren Buffett calls it a “tax cut act” and “not a tax reform act.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer brings out the usual Democratic line of “tax cuts for the rich,” while urging Speaker Paul Ryan to “get real.”

Perhaps fortifying Buffett’s claim, the title of Webster’s email message was “Proposed tax relief.” However, Webster still spoke of reform.

“America’s economic competitiveness depends on getting this right, which is why I am excited to work with President Trump toward overhauling our tax code for the betterment of our small businesses, individuals, families and our nation’s economy,” he said.

T. Rooney, Crist team up on child protection program

The first-term Democrat from St. Petersburg and the Republican from Okeechobee have teamed to introduce a bill empowering parents to protect their children’s sensitive information. Last week, they launched the National Child Identification Assistance Act which would provide parents and guardians with ID kits to be stored at home for use should that child go missing.

“The National Child Identification Assistance Act highlights the importance of the National Child Identification Program, a national community service initiative which provides inkless, in-home fingerprinting kits to parents so they can proactively collect and store their child’s vital identification in the privacy of their own homes,” said Rooney. “It also decentralizes the process for law enforcement agencies that may lack the resources to collect and centrally store information related to individual children.”

The issue is not new to Crist. While governor, he joined with the American (College) Football Coaches Association to promote the program.

“We must do all we can to protect our children,” said Crist“I am proud to join my friend, Congressman Rooney, in introducing the common-sense bill to do just that, promoting a proactive approach to address the growing issue of missing and exploited children.”

The National Child Identity Program was officially recognized by Congress in 2001 for its dedication toward protecting children. It has long partnered with college football programs.

“I am so proud that Congressman Rooney and Crist are leading the effort to help protect our greatest asset, our nation’s’ children,” said Florida State’s legendary former coach Bobby Bowden. “I was one of the coaches that helped start this program, and to date with 57 million ID kits distributed, it is the largest child ID program in the world. What a blessing,”

NFL teams are also part of the program’s support group.

“It is a great initiative that I have been involved with since 1997,” said Jim Caldwell, coach of the Detroit Lions and longtime program board member. “This is another positive way that we can protect one of our most important natural resources that we have, and that’s our children.”

Buchanan polls constituents on Gaetz bill to strip NFL of tax breaks

Last week, Republican Matt Gaetz of the 1st Congressional District became lead sponsor of the Pro Sports Act, which would strip away tax exemptions currently enjoyed by the headquarters of the National Football League. In response to the leaguewide protests, condoned by the NFL, Gaetz wishes to strip those exemptions.

“It’s just ludicrous that the NFL league office gets tax breaks and special exemptions and loopholes that aren’t available to regular businesses on Main Street in my district,” Gaetz said in an interview on One America Network. “So, now we’ve got an NFL that is embracing unpatriotic behavior and at the same time not allowing players to express support for breast cancer awareness or other patriotic activities going on in this country.”

Vern Buchanan is polling constituents online, asking “should the tax-exempt status of the National Football League be revoked in response to players refusing to stand for the national anthem?”

It is no secret that NFL telecasts are losing viewers over the past year and the protests are drawing significant signs of displeasure – otherwise known as booing – from fans in the stands. What do people think of Gaetz’ goal of stripping the NFL of their tax exemptions?

While not scientific, his GOP colleague and delegation co-chairman, Vern Buchanan polled his constituents online. He asked them “should the tax-exempt status of the National Football League be revoked in response to players refusing to stand for the national anthem?

As of Wednesday, 63 percent of respondents answered “yes,” while 37 answered “no.”

“If players want to protest, they have that right,” Gaetz said, “but they should do it on their own time and on their own dime.”

Second Democrat announces run against Mast; Aronberg out

The first-term Republican from the 18th District always knew his re-election would be difficult. On Monday, former Obama Administration official Lauren Baer became the second Democrat to announce she wanted to take on Mast next November.

From 2011 and 2017, Baer served as senior adviser to Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, as well as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power. Human rights and international law were her specialties.

Former Obama Administration official Lauren Baer became the second Democrat to announce she wanted to take on Brian Mast next November.

“America’s ability to project strength around the world begins with a strong foundation at home,” Baer said in a statement Monday. “That means focusing on job creation and economic policies that preserve and expand the middle class; protecting our environment and our coastline; ensuring that all children have access to first-rate public schools; and guaranteeing that all people have quality, affordable health care.”

The Palm Beach Gardens native raised over $250,000 since launching an exploratory committee in August, with more than $200,000 in the 21 days since she filed her candidacy statement Sept. 12.

Baer’s extended family owns and operates Baer’s Furniture, founded by her great-grandparents in the late 1960s. After spending time in the family business, her father founded a commercial real estate company based in Palm Beach Gardens.

One potential opponent said he is not running for the seat. Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg, a moderate Democrat, said he would not run for the seat.

“I’m focused on the opioid epidemic and a number of important issues as State Attorney, and so I have no intention of running for any other office in 2018,” Aronberg told the Palm Beach Post.

Attorney and U.S. Navy veteran Pam Keith is the other announced Democratic candidate. Keith sought the nomination for U.S. Senate in 2016, losing to eventual nominee Rep. Patrick Murphy.

F. Rooney talks Irma recovery with local business leaders

As Florida communities continue rebuilding after Hurricane Irma, the first-term Republican from the 19th District joined a roundtable of 25 business leaders from Collier County last week to discuss impact and recovery. Representatives from the hospitality, health care, agriculture and nonprofit industries addressed the next steps with Rooney.

“The small business community is the cornerstone of our southwest Florida economy,” Rooney said. “As our area prepares for tourist season, we want to ensure that we are open for business in Collier County.”

Francis Rooney, background right, meets with Dunbar High School officials, left, as they open the school to shelter evacuees after Irma. Photo via Naples Daily News.

The group discussed areas where the community was bouncing back from wind and flood damage to the area. They also recognized that areas including Immokalee and Everglades City continue to face challenges.

“It was beneficial to hear feedback not only from our chamber members, but from our community members,” said Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Michael Dalby. “Our discussion spurred great ideas on how we can rebuild and support one another through this time.”

Deutch: Gerrymandering a ‘national scandal’

The Democrat from Boca Raton weighed in on a highly-anticipated U.S. Supreme Court case this week involving the redistricting practice known as “gerrymandering.” Deutch co-authored an op-ed with Common Cause Florida State Chair Liza McClenaghan urging the Court to “end this national scandal once and for all.”

The case, Gill v. Whitford, involves a federal court in Wisconsin ruling the state’s legislature drew unconstitutional Congressional district maps. The high court will determine, among other things, if the lower court’s intervention was permissible.

Deutch and McClenaghan begin the op-ed by quoting former President Ronald Reagan, who also referred to gerrymandering as “a national scandal” in 1987 when it was the GOP who was in the minority.

They opine that the case “could have a significant impact in Florida,” offering the example where the legislature was found to have violated the Florida Constitution when redrawing maps in 2012. While the district court and the Florida Supreme Court stepped in, Deutch and McClenaghan argue that a favorable opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court would hold legislatures “accountable for delivering district maps without the need for court orders.”

“We hope President Reagan’s words will ring loudly and clearly in the Court,” they wrote.

Diaz-Balart praises designation of Collier County to help fight drug trafficking

The Republican from the 25th District announced that Collier County was recently designated as part of South Florida’s High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). Diaz-Balart wrote to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in November in support of local requests for the designation.

Diaz-Balart praised the efforts of local officials to combat drug trafficking and for their pursuit of additional resources.

“Collier County has some of the finest law enforcement officers in the country, and I am grateful for their service,” he said in a statement. “I thank Sheriff Kevin Rambosk and Captain Tom Storrar for their commitment to acquiring this designation. I also want to thank Mr. Ed Morton for his leadership and assistance on this issue.”

“Drug trafficking is a national problem that has to be addressed on the local level, and adding these counties to the HIDTA program is a critical part of this effort,” said Richard Baum, Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy.

Paulson’s Principles: Will the Supreme Court turn the political world upside-down?

Every few years, a Supreme Court Case comes along that has the potential to completely alter the political world. The Court heard oral arguments Oct. 3, 2017, on Gill v. Whitford, a case directed at Wisconsin’s political gerrymandering. If the court strikes down partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin, it will strike down similar gerrymanders in one-third of the states, including Florida.

Both Republican and Democratic States will be impacted.

Gerrymandering has been around for over 200 years and, although the courts have ruled racial gerrymandering violates the constitution, they have never struck down a partisan gerrymander. They came close in 2004, when the court split 4-4 on a case involving a Pennsylvania political gerrymander.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voted not to overturn the gerrymander, said he “would not foreclose” the possibility of relief “if some limited and precise rationale were found to correct an established violation of the Constitution in some redistricting cases.”

Since the Pennsylvania case, University of Chicago law professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos and political scientist Eric McGhee have developed the “efficiency gap,” that they believe does what Justice Kennedy requested.

The “efficiency gap” purports to measure “wasted votes” in elections. All the votes of the losing candidate are considered wasted votes, as well as all votes over 50 percent plus 1 for the winning candidate.

Stephanopoulos and McGhee argue that Republicans are advantaged by 25-30 seats in the 435 House seats in the 2012 congressional election and 11 to 17 seats in the 2016 election. In Florida, the Republican advantage was 2.6 seats in 2012 and 1.5 seats in the 2016 election in the 27-member Florida delegation. The smaller gap in 2016 was due to court redraws of districts in 2016.

For over 200 years, gerrymandering has been viewed as a “political question,” beyond the reach of the courts. More recently, increasing numbers of judges believe the courts should intervene if they find that partisan gerrymanders result in “equal protection” violations, preventing voters from having an effective choice in elections.

Democrats have argued that the fact that 49 percent of Wisconsin voters could elect 59 of the 99 members of the legislature was proof of a constitutional violation.

Republicans argue that the fact that Democrats controlled the assembly for 40 years and never proposed a change in partisan gerrymandering, simply proves their complaint is simply sour grapes.

Plus, the fact that Republicans won after 40 years of Democratic control shows the limitation of partisan gerrymanders. The Republican National Committee, in their brief to the Supreme Court, argues that the “efficiency gap” was merely “a tool that advances the partisan interests of Democrats.”

In Florida, Democrats dominated the state for 120 years and drew district lines after the 1990 census, but Republicans were in complete control of the state within a few years.

Will the Supreme Court throw out partisan gerrymanders after over 200 years, or will the court find that, in the digital age, the precision in drawing legislative district lines impedes the will of the voters?

There is an old saying in politics: “Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.” Have both parties become such political hogs concerning drawing political district lines that they need to be slaughtered?

Wasserman-Schultz part of a good news statistic

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. During their lifetime, women living in the United States have a 12.4 percent, or one-in-eight, chance of being diagnosed.

Just recently, actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who currently stars in HBO’s “Veep,” was diagnosed, prompting former Vice-President Joe Biden to tweet his support saying “We Veeps stick together.”

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Democrat from the 23rd Congressional District and a breast cancer survivor, is a leader in the fight against the disease.

HBO’s “Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus recently announced her diagnosis of breast cancer.

“As a breast cancer survivor, I consider it my responsibility to share my story,” she said in a statement. “As a legislator and Member of the Appropriations Committee, I consider it my obligation to help make lifesaving resources and information available to those battling this disease.”

There is good news to report. According to the recently released semiannual report from the American Cancer Society, deaths due to breast cancer decreased by 39 percent over the last quarter century.

Awareness and action appear to be paying off.

Ballard Partners joins forces with European firm

First, it was Washington, D.C.; now it’s Europe.

Ballard Partners, the Florida-based government affairs firm with strong ties to President Donald Trump, has formed an international strategic alliance with Alber & Geiger, a political lobbying powerhouse in the European Union, in efforts to leverage both firms’ governmental expertise in their respective countries.

Brian Ballard leads Ballard Partners. He was an early supporter of Trump who is also a regional vice chair of the Republican National Committee, where he helps leads the party’s fundraising.

Brian Ballard’s influential firm is expanding its reach to Europe.

Seeking to do more business with European interests is likely why Ballard has struck a partnership with Alber & Geiger, which has offices in Berlin, Brussels, London and Washington, D.C.

“Ballard Partners and Alber & Geiger share an unwavering dedication to the needs of our clients and a proven ability to influence top governmental decision makers, so our new strategic alliance is a natural next step for our firms,” said Ballard. “Our clients with international interests will benefit significantly from Alber & Geiger’s expertise and contacts in the EU, and we are pleased to form this mutually-beneficial partnership with such a reputable company.”

Alber & Geiger’s team combines former top EU officials, leading EU politicians and high-profile EU attorneys to represent clients’ interests on the highest diplomatic and political levels in Brussels and member states’ capitals.

“By aligning our two firms, we will be further equipped to continue helping our clients achieve their legislative and diplomatic goals,” added Dr. Andreas Geiger, the firm’s managing partner.

Former Ros-Lehtinen Chief of Staff joins D.C. lobbying firm

Art Estopinan, the former Chief of Staff for the retiring Miami Republican, has joined the Washington, D.C. lobbying firm Avenue Strategies Global as a partner. Estopinan will lobby for Qatar, which is involved in a five-month diplomatic standoff with other Middle East countries, including Saudi Arabia.

Estopinan’s former boss is a one-time chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the current chair of the subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.

“Right now, it’s just the Qatar project, but my guess is we’ll be fully integrating him into the firm,” Barry Bennett, the firm’s co-founder, told POLITICO. Bennett’s other co-founder was former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who has since left the firm.

Estopinan will continue to run his own firm, the Estopinan Group. According to POLITICO, Qatar is paying Avenue Strategies Global $500,000 per month.

Critical Puerto Rico infrastructure contractor lacks history of results

Whitefish Energy Holdings, the Montana-based company charged with the critical task of rebuilding Puerto Rico’s decimated power transmission lines, has little history demonstrating its ability to complete the Herculean task for which it was hired.

Nevertheless, the company has made significant promises of performance in its brief, two-year lifespan.

Based on reporting uncovered by FloridaPolitics.com, what Whitefish has failed to do is deliver on those promises, raising further questions about the wisdom of the decision by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) — following the guidance of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) — to trust the two-employee subsidiary of a Brazilian transformer manufacturer with such a critical project in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico.

Founded in 2015, Whitefish is a tiny, untested company with merely two employees and a paltry $1 million in annual revenue. Since its inception, the firm has been awarded three meager federal contracts, one of which was valued below $40,000.

Despite the company’s brief and unproven track record, the USACE and PREPA have chosen Whitefish to repair some of the most critical components of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid, an immense task that is central to the island’s overall recovery efforts. In addition to its remarkable inexperience, Whitefish’s history of empty promises and unseen results prompts questions about its ability to carry out such crucial work.

In 2016, Whitefish made much of its lofty plans to construct a transformer-manufacturing facility in Montana’s Flathead Valley. The plant, CEO Andy Techmanski held, would create 1,000 new jobs and produce quality large-scale transformers for the U.S. market. Ultimately, despite the company’s talk and claims, Whitefish failed to deliver on its hollow promise, due mainly to its inability to obtain financial backing for its project.

Whitefish, which shifted its focus to the production of transformers after being acquired by Brazil-based Comtrafo, was unable to secure the local and regional utility contracts and preorders needed to justify and fund the construction of its proposed facility. To date, it seems, there has been no mention of or progress on the Montana plant.

So, while Whitefish Energy cannot secure regional contracts for its primary line of work — producing large-scale transformers — the USACE and PREPA have charged the company with, arguably, the most important aspect of Puerto Rico’s recovery. Such a decision should raise concerns about the federal government’s commitment to Puerto Rico and its people.

An obscure, inexperienced company — one that cannot even find work and deliver results in its own backyard — should not be tasked with such a pivotal role on the Caribbean territory. Puerto Rico, an island of 3.4 million U.S. citizens, cannot afford empty promises at such an urgent time.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.5.17

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

Barring a last-minute reprieve, which almost certainly won’t happen, Florida will execute Michael Ray Lambrix at 6 p.m. tonight.

The 57-year-old, also known as Cary Michael Lambrix, was convicted of the 1983 killings of Clarence Moore Jr. and Aleisha Bryant.

Prosecutors say he killed them with tire-iron and by strangling after an evening of drinking at his trailer near LaBelle, about 30 miles from Fort Myers.

He met them at a bar, then invited them home for dinner.

This week, he asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt his execution because Florida’s death penalty sentencing method was found to be unconstitutional, according to The Associated Press. The state has since required a unanimous jury vote in death cases.

The jury was not unanimous in either of Lambrix’s death sentence decisions, but Florida’s Supreme Court has said the new rules do not apply to cases as old as his.

Lambrix has been on the state’s Death Row for 33 years

 — “Florida Death Row inmate gives rare interview before execution” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@MaggieNYT: The five living former POTUSes will take part in a hurricane relief concert, per inbox. Striking how it’s separate from White House efforts

— @GBennettPost: .@VP in Orlando Thursday…

@FEMA_Brock: Spoke w/ @LouisianaGov @PhilBryantMS @kayiveyforgov and @FLGovScott each about our shared interests in track of this storm

@GrayRohrer: .@FLGovScott spent his morning telling tourists to come back to the Keys. This afternoon he’s warning Panhandle/Gulf residents of new storm

— @TroyKinsey: As for @FLGovScott‘s Navy cap, word is it’s currently down for its 100-hour inspection but should be ready in time for #Nate‘s arrival.

— @Swampette: Tallahassee status: already tuned into The Weather Channel 24/7

@SkipFoster: Great news for Tallahassee — 0z Euro shifts way west — takes weaker Nate over La./Miss.

@JebBush: Puerto Ricans deserve consistency and compassion in both action and tone from the Trump Administration. It’s about them, not about @POTUS.

@TheFLBar: Several U.S. law schools — inc. 8 from FL — will help P.R. law students transition to cooperating mainland school & continue their legal ed.

— @JimRosicaFL: Can’t take any more bad Press Corps news. @fineout is in my prayers, wishing him speedy recovery

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— CRISES —

A tale of two Puerto Ricos: What Donald Trump saw — and what he didn’t” via Arelis Hernández and Jenna Johnson of The Washington Post — The Puerto Rico that Trump saw during his four-hour visit Tuesday afternoon was that of Angel Pérez Otero, the mayor of Guaynabo, a wealthy San Juan suburb known for its amenity-driven gated communities that was largely spared … where high-speed winds had blown out some second-story windows and knocked over a few trees — but where life seemed to be returning to normal, thanks to assistance from the government. If the president had traveled a little deeper into the island, to the communities that sustained some of the heaviest damage, he would have witnessed a very different Puerto Rico. Just 10 miles southeast of Guaynabo is this mountainous city of Caguas, nestled in a valley ringed by steep sierras and narrow mountain passes, with homes built densely on the edges of gravity-defying slopes. These hills were stripped naked by Maria’s malicious winds, leaving the trees without leaves and fruit, their bare branches contorted in painful postures. Houses that withstood tropical rain and wind for decades were blown off their foundations and destroyed by toppled vegetation. Twisted metal roofs landed in creeks all over the once-lush region.

Donald Trump hands out food to people affected by Hurricane Maria at a disaster relief distribution center at the wealthy Puerto Rican town of Guaynabo.

Jeb Bush criticizes Trump on Puerto Rico” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay TimesBush criticized Trump’s words and actions toward Puerto Rico, effectively saying his former rival has not shown enough compassion: “Puerto Ricans deserve consistency and compassion in both action and tone from the Trump Administration. It’s about them, not about @POTUS.”

Darren Soto: Congress must quickly approve robust relief package for Puerto Rico” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — … not just to assure full federal relief efforts from Hurricanes Maria and Irma, but to keep the commonwealth’s government operating in a place where almost no one can work. “The stories that you’re reading and seeing from Puerto Rico are all true,” the Orlando Democrat, who is of Puerto Rican descent, stated in a release. “Our fellow American citizens are facing unthinkable tragedies. I saw people all over the city waiting in long lines for groceries and gas, most areas lacked electricity, cellphone service and functioning traffic lights. Debris still covered many roads. Most buildings sustained minor or major damage. Hopefully, President Trump’s visit will tell him what I already saw firsthand: the damage is real and people need our help.” Soto issued a lengthy report on his findings that ranged from the obvious widespread problems [an island without electricity, cellphone service and massive destruction]; to pending issues, such as the government’s anticipation that it will run out of operating money in two to three weeks; to minor issues that could result in public health matters, such as ad hoc trash dumps appearing everywhere because there is no refuge service.

Major Puerto Rico power restoration project awarded to small, untested vendor” via Florida Politics — The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) — per the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) guidance — has selected a tiny, two-man company with fewer than two years of experience and merely $1 million in annual revenue to repair its massive and critical 230KV electricity transmission line. Whitefish, Montana-based, Whitefish Holdings, LLC lists two employees and $1 million in annual revenue … Founded in 2015, the firm has previously been awarded three Department of Energy contracts for amounts ranging from under $40,000 to a little over $1,000,000. That’s hardly the sort of track record one might expect for the firm responsible for a project so critical to the Puerto Rican recovery and rebuilding efforts. While it is important for governments to contract with small-and-minority-owned-businesses, Whitefish Energy Holdings does not appear equipped to address Puerto Rico’s unprecedented energy catastrophe quickly, efficiently and effectively.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will visit Florida and the Everglades this week.

Assignment editors — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will travel to Florida to “conduct on-the-ground assessments of hurricane damage at National Park Service locations and to receive a briefing on Everglades Restoration.” He will be in the state through Saturday. On Friday, Hill tour hurricane damage at Big Cypress National Preserve. Saturday, Zinke will hold a media event with Sen. Marco Rubio and members of the state’s congressional delegation.

Hurricane Irma causes $2.5B in damage to Florida crops” via The Associated Press — Irma dealt Florida’s iconic orange crop the most devastating blow causing more than $760 million in damage. Beef cattle and dairy were next with $237 million and nearly $12 million respectively. Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam released the preliminary assessment. The powerful hurricane damaged nearly all the citrus fruit in some Southwest Florida groves and seriously damaging groves in Central Florida. Growers talked of trees standing in 3 feet of water, which is a death sentence for a crop already under a decade-long siege by citrus greening disease. Much of the fruit was young, and it’s too late in the season for a new crop.

— “Debris cleanup still a slow slog across Tampa Bay” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott says Florida’s ready to help Puerto Rico, but critics see little action so far” via Steve Bousquet and Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott’s six-hour tour Thursday was dismissed as a photo opportunity by state Sen. Victor Torres, a Democrat whose Orlando-area district will soon welcome tens of thousands of hurricane evacuees. “Talk is cheap,” said Torres, who finds Scott’s response long on platitudes and skimpy on specifics. “I don’t have the power. If I was the governor, I would move, I would make things happen. We need to step up our game.” Torres, a former Marine and New York City police officer, said that if Scott had access to a state aircraft to fly to Puerto Rico, he should have packed the plane with relief supplies.

Rick Scott tours JAXPORT to view supplies being loaded onto ships to assist response recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.

Trailers to house storm victims are here, but no one’s in them” via Larry Kahn of FLKeysNews.com — A week after the first travel trailers to house displaced hurricane victims arrived in the Keys, they remain in storage in Key West with no apparent immediate plan to get people in them. The Florida Division of Emergency Management said that “the temporary housing units in Monroe County are staged in Key West for just-in-time delivery to ensure that empty units are not sitting in the public eye. As for a timetable, it is ongoing. As pads become available and survivors are approved by FEMA, we are then able to match them.” … “It’s not like anyone can get on a list and sign up for a travel trailer,” FEMA spokesman Nate Custer said. “Rental housing is the preferred option, then we put people in hotels.” For trailers, “We have callers managing applications from the Joint Field Office that are reaching out to registrants as quickly as possible,” state Emergency Management said. Trailers are “a last resort, it’s the best way to describe it,” Custer said. “It’s not always easy to place these units. You need to have electricity, you need to have utilities.”

FEMA trailers in the Florida Keys waiting to be occupied.

After Irma, pummeled Everglades shows signs of resilience” via Maddie Stone of Earther.com — After doing an aerial flyover of Florida Bay after the storm and spotting enormous racks of dead seagrass, Everglades Foundation wetland ecologist Steve Davis was worried. The scene reminded him of a seagrass die-off that occurred in the summer of 2015, when the bay — a shallow estuary bounded by the Everglades wetlands to the north and Keys to the south — became too salty, owing to high temperatures and a dearth of rainfall. The die-off precipitated enormous algae blooms, triggering fish kills and dealing a major blow to Florida’s commercial and recreational fishing economies. But when Davis went out on the bay with some fishing guides and a handful of reporters last week, what he saw was quite different. “We did see some large floating mats of grass, like we saw a few weeks prior in overflight,” he said. But, rather than creating a vast dead-zone, all that detritus appears to have triggered a feasting frenzy. “You’re seeing lots of things like shrimp and crabs associated with those [dead seagrass] mats,” Davis said. “The fish,” particularly tarpon, “were just in heaven eating the shrimp.”

Florida fishing villages, famed for smugglers and stone crabs, dig out from Irma’s mud” via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald — Three weeks after Hurricane Irma lashed Chokoloskee and Everglades City, the small fishing villages as well-known for stone crabs as their outlaw past are still digging out from a blow that brought powerful winds but also something much worse — a storm surge awash in deep, foul mud … when the skies ominously darkened and sent another round of pounding rain last week, a carpet of mud surrounding the RV now serving as Everglades City’s temporary town hall turned slick again, sending the mayor slipping and sliding in his crabber boots. While the damage from Irma’s landfall in the Lower Keys was severe, the impact in this isolated pocket of Southwest Florida may be worse. So far, about 100 homes have been condemned, but countless others are barely habitable, their sodden insides stripped by owners or sprouting mold and mildew as damaging as any hurricane.

Miami School District will request delay to state testing due to Irma” via Jessica Bakeman of WLRN Miami — In a letter to Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho asked if the district could get an extra week before state English language arts and math tests take place this spring. Under Carvalho’s proposed schedule, third grade English tests would begin April 16 and run through April 23. Fourth through eighth-grade tests would be administered April 23 through May 18. Tests are later this school year because of a new state law that recently went into effect. “It certainly makes sense to delay it one week to afford those additional days of academic exposure,” Carvalho said during a school board committee meeting.

Miami Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is asking for more time for testing.

Polk veteran awaiting FEMA help still lives without power weeks after Irma” via Corey Davis of WFLA — Hurricane Irma sent a massive tree through Jonathan Bonney’s roof that knocked out the power. The Army veteran, whose wife died a few years ago, said he has nowhere to go. It’s just him and his dog living in the house at 1250 Fairview Avenue. Bonney doesn’t have insurance, but he applied for financial assistance from FEMA a couple of weeks ago. He needs help paying the security deposit along with first and last month rent at an apartment he found. Right now, he’s waiting for an inspector to come to his home. Bonney lives less than five minutes from the FEMA Disaster Recovery Center at the Stuart Center in Bartow. A FEMA official tells me that the waits for assistance are long, but they’re trying to get to everyone as quickly as possible.

Assignment editors — Gov. Scott will provide updates on Tropical Depression 16 and its potential impact on Florida beginning 9 a.m. CDT At the Escambia County emergency management offices, 6575 North W St. in Pensacola.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Is Adam Putnam indirectly in bed with Germany’s far-right?” via Florida Politics — According to recent campaign finance reports, Putnam paid Austin-based Harris Media more than $76,000 for advertising … Harris — founded in 2008 by Vincent Harris — was on board with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which entered Parliament after the nation’s Sept. 24 elections. Harris was in charge of the populist group’s successful online advertising blitz. As a result, AfD became Germany’s third biggest party, taking 13.3 percent of the total vote … a “seismic shock” … Moving to the right may be understandable for a primary race. But getting in bed with Harris Media and Germany’s radical far right? Say it ain’t so, Adam Putnam.

Save the date:

Matt Caldwell snags endorsement from Matt Gaetz” via Florida Politics — … for his campaign for Agriculture Commissioner … Gaetz said was backing Caldwell “because he is a consistent conservative.” The first term congressman represents likely the most conservative U.S. House district in Florida and his endorsement looks to drum up Caldwell’s right-wing bona fides in what is shaping up to be a hard-fought GOP primary in the Cabinet race. “He has never voted to support things like Obamacare expansion, the Charlie Crist tax increases, and Big Brother-style red light cameras,” Gaetz said. “And, he’s the only candidate in this race who has refused to take public tax dollars to finance his campaign.” Some of those jabs seem to be directed at Caldwell’s primary opponents: Sen. Denise Grimsley, Paul Paulson and former state Rep. Baxter Troutman — all three of whom are leading him on the fundraising trail.

— “Pam Keith gets backing of VoteVets in CD 18 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Carlos Curbelo claims Democrat ‘demanded I be deported’ from immigration event” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay TimesCurbelo claims a top Democrat “demanded I be deported” from an immigration event and activists fired back that he was grandstanding. The event focuses on Senate legislation to help Dreamers, young immigrants brought to the country illegally by their parents. Curbelo is sponsoring a different version and claims Sen. Dick Durbin, of Illinois, tried to block him from attending. “Attempting to exclude someone with a long history of supporting Dreamers is petty, counterproductive and selfish,” Curbelo told The Hill. On Twitter, Curbelo said Durbin “demanded I be deported” from the news conference but he‘d attend anyway. Durbin’s office denied the allegations and some immigration activists said Curbelo’s use of “deported” was self-serving and offensive given real people face the threat of being thrown out of the country. In the Hill, organizers with FWD.us backed up Durbin, saying there was a miscommunication with Curbelo’s office.

Carlos Curbelo claims a top Democrat “demanded I be deported” from an immigration event this afternoon and activists fired back that he was grandstanding.

Keith Perry challenger boasts $73K September haul” via Florida PoliticsKayser Enneking, M.D., filed for SD 8 on Sept. 1 after mulling a run for Florida’s 3rd Congressional District, which is much more favorable to GOP candidates than SD 8. “I’m honored by the outpouring of support since announcing my candidacy less than a month ago. Voters are ready for a leader who understands the importance of access to health care and public education. We need thoughtful solutions in Tallahassee. The legislature should be working on problems faced by their constituents not the issues of special interests. Our campaign is about giving a voice to every family and making Tallahassee finally work for us,” Enneking said. Enneking’s first report is not yet available through the Florida Division of Elections, but her campaign touted the $72,900 haul, as well as Enneking’s Gainesville roots in an email.

Ed Hooper nabs Mike Fasano endorsement for SD 16” via Florida Politics — Pasco County Tax Collector Fasano, a former Republican state lawmaker, has been a longtime political force in West Pasco County. Hooper, who served in the House from 2006 to 2014, is running in Senate District 16, covering parts of Pinellas and Pasco counties. “I know Ed Hooper to be an honest and thoughtful person who cared about how laws affect the people he represents,” Fasano said. “Hooper has my full support and endorsement for state Senate.”

Save the date:

Grand theft charges against Winter Haven candidate for state House dropped” via The Ledger — Democrat Carmelo Garcia was arrested May 26, the same day he filed to run for office … Charges were dropped by the Osceola County State Attorney’s Office Aug. 31. Winter Haven police arrested Garcia on a Kissimmee police warrant from a 2016 case, police reported. Kissimmee police accused Garcia of writing bad checks totaling $800 in July 2016. Garcia filed to run for the District 41 state House seat against Republican incumbent Sam Killebrew.

***AGRiMED Industries is a leading medical cannabis company committed to improving the health and wellness of ailing patients. With state-of-the-art greenhouse facilities and over 200 years of collective experience in the agricultural and health care fields, AGRiMED produces high-quality agricultural medicine with tremendous health benefits. Learn more at AGRiMEDIndustries.com.***

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

“Constitution review panel could tackle ‘write-in loophole’ ” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A Constitution Revision Commission committee on Wednesday began considering whether to change Florida’s primary election system, including buttoning up what’s known as the “write-in loophole.” That allows a write-in candidate to close a primary. The commission’s Ethics and Elections Committee heard from advocates and some of the state’s elections supervisors, but took no action. Here’s how it works now: A Florida primary is open to all voters if candidates from other parties don’t qualify to run. But state elections officials have opined that a write-in candidate qualifying for a general election in a race keeps a primary closed. And here’s how political parties and others have gamed the system: They’ve been known to line up a political novice to file as a write-in to close a primary, which usually benefits the incumbent.

Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee plans hurricane talk” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — … Chairman Bill Montford announced … That is assuming the committee’s hearing is not postponed because of a hurricane. Very early projections of Tropical Depression 16 forming off the coast of Central America have it becoming Hurricane Nate and hitting Florida — right near Tallahassee — Sunday. Montford … set the discussion with Hurricane Irma in mind, taking place roughly a month after that storm hit Florida. “Hurricane Irma was a catastrophic storm, the likes of which Florida has never seen,” Montford stated in a news release issued by the Senate Democrats’ office. “We continue to face the long and complicated process of recovery statewide, from our businesses and tourist industry, the school systems, to agriculture and infrastructure, there was not an entity left untouched.”

Sen. Bill Montford will hold a meeting of the Commerce and Tourism Committee, weather permitting.

“Ben Albritton, Jeff Brandes again push for a review of government procurement” via LobbyTools — Rep. Albritton, a Wauchula Republican, and Sen. Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, will team up again in 2018 to create a task force that would evaluate state and local procurement laws and policies. HB 111 would create a 14 member group headed by the secretary of the Department of Management Services, joined by seven local government and industry leaders appointed by the governor, two each from the Senate president and House speaker, the CFO and the state’s chief information officer. A similar bill (SB 368) does not include a CFO or CIO and gives the governor six appointees. Both require the task force to submit final recommendations by July 1, 2019. Albritton’s identical bill last session unanimously passed the House and a comparable measure by Brandes died in its last committee of reference after passing the first two unanimously.

“Bill would rein in community redevelopment agencies” via Florida Politics — A measure to overhaul community redevelopment agencies (CRAs), a priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, has been filed for the 2018 Legislative Session. Rep. Jake Raburn, a Lithia Republican, is sponsoring the bill (HB 17) … Under the bill, CRAs would have to conduct ethics training, open competitive bids, and file annual performance reports … Most recently, the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office sent subpoenas to the city of Tallahassee and the City/County Community Redevelopment Agency over deals that body has made, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. “The subjects of the subpoenas included prominent business people and financial documents and communication with city officials,” it said.

Al Jacquet files repeal of chastity defamation via Florida Politics — The Lantana Democrat filed legislation in the House Wednesday to repeal state law making it a crime to defame a woman on the grounds of she’s unchaste. Current law, passed in 1883, makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to “falsely and maliciously imput(e) … a want of chastity” to any woman. The same bill (HB 6019) also would repeal a law, first passed in 1915, that created a first-degree misdemeanor of “willfully and maliciously” making a false statement or suggestion affecting the “solvency or financial standing” of a bank or “building and loan association.”

Assignment editors — Medical cannabis dispensary Surterra Wellness will celebrate the grand opening of its Tallahassee Wellness Center with a “Party for the Patients” starting 10:30 a.m. at 1639 Village Square Boulevard in Tallahassee.

— STATEWIDE —

Survey says Floridians feeling financial stress” via the News Service of Florida — With many people worried about a lack of high-paying jobs, 60 percent of Floridians say they feel financial stress in their households, according to results of the 2017 USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey … six in 10 Floridians feel at least some financial stress, though that is down from 71 percent in 2015. The most financial stress was found among unemployed people, households with incomes under $35,000, African-Americans, people without college educations and women. The survey also found the most stress in South Florida, where costs of living are higher than in other parts of the state.

Florida to seek death penalty against killer clown suspect” via The Associated Press — Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg issued a statement saying the death penalty is the appropriate punishment for 54-year-old Sheila Keen Warren, who was ordered held without bail at a court hearing. She was extradited from Abingdon, Virginia, where she lived with her husband Michael Warren for years. Defense attorney Richard Lubin told reporters Sheila Warren “vehemently denies” killing Marleen Warren and will plead not guilty. She was arrested last week after a grand jury issued a first-degree murder indictment. Investigators say new DNA testing gave them what they needed to make an arrest. Michael Warren, 65, has not been charged, but detectives and prosecutors have refused to rule him out as a suspect. He has not responded to phone messages left at his home. He and Sheila Warren married in 2002. Marlene Warren was killed in May 1990 by person dressed as a clown who handed her carnations and two foil balloons. Her son, who witnessed the killing, said she replied, “How pretty!” The clown then pulled a handgun, shot her in the face and drove away. Marlene Warren died two days later.

Sheila Keen Warren (left) is accused of dressing as a clown to kill Marlene Warren in 1990.

Court overturns state board on charter schools” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida  — The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal was a victory for the Indian River County School Board, which in 2015 denied two charter-school applications filed by Somerset Academy, Inc. Backers of the charter schools took the issue to the State Board of Education, which rejected the decision of the Indian River board and said Somerset Academy should be allowed to move forward with the schools. The ruling by the appeals court said the Indian River board had “clear and convincing evidence” on a series of issues that supported the denial of the proposed charter schools. As an example, the appeals court said the Indian River board showed that the applications failed to meet financial requirements included in state law. “The School Board painstakingly pointed out how Somerset’s applications patently showed that Somerset’s intended budget was financially unrealistic and untenable,” said the 10-page ruling, written by appeals-court Judge Carole Taylor and joined by judges Melanie May and Cory Ciklin.

— MOVEMENTS —

Avenue Strategies adds former top staffer for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen” via POLITICO — Avenue Strategies Global, started by Corey Lewandowski and Barry Bennett, is adding Art Estopinan as a partner. Estopinan, a former chief of staff to Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, will help Avenue lobby for Qatar, which is paying Avenue $500,000 a month as it tries to win friends in Washington as its diplomatic standoff with Saudi Arabia and its allies enter the fifth month. “Right now, it’s just the Qatar project, but my guess is we’ll be fully integrating him into the firm,” Bennett said in an interview.

New and renewed lobbying registrations

Brian Ballard, Carol Bracy, Ballard Partners: Enchanted Rock

Amy Bisceglia, The Rubin Group: AECOM Technical Services

Hayden Dempsey, Greenberg Traurig: Solix

Tanya Jackson, PinPoint Results: The Presidio Corporation

Kim McDougal, GrayRobinson: IMG College

Richard Pinsky, Akerman: Affordable Bio Feedstock, Affordable Bio Feedstock of Jacksonville, Affordable Bio Feedstock of Port Charlotte, Florida Biodiesel Fuel

Jason Unger, GrayRobinson: National Lightning Protection Corporation

— ALOE —

SpaceX’s next rocket could see Florida’s Space Coast add activity” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel — A component of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s plan to establish spaceflight to Mars gained a critical component recently when he announced how he intends to pay for it — and part of the plan involves more frequent flights that can use smaller rockets. By developing a smaller vehicle, with a booster and ship that could replace the company’s Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Dragon spacecraft, SpaceX could more frequently launch into low-earth orbit, increasing revenue opportunities. That money could then be poured into the development of the BFR. Musk’s plans could bring more work to Central Florida and the Space Coast, a state official said … “This location remains the spot in the U.S. that makes the most sense to do any serious deep-space exploration from,” said Dale Ketcham, Space Florida’s chief of strategic alliances.

Elon Musk is developing smaller SpaceX rockets for more frequent travel, which could benefit the Space Coast.

Universal Orlando to hire 3,000 employees” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising — The full-time, part-time and seasonal positions include openings in attractions, operations, culinary, food services and merchandise. The employees are needed at Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay and CityWalk. Universal will hold multiple hiring events with the first one from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Universal Orlando Human Resources office. Hiring events are by appointment only. Candidates should apply online at www.UniversalOrlandoJobs.com.

Happy birthday early to Sachs Media Group’s Jon Peck, a gifted writer and one of most enjoyable individuals to work with. Celebrating today are Chris Hart, Trey Price, the brilliant Gregory Wilson, and Joe York, who has been working non-stop directing AT&T’s response to the hurricanes.

Last Call for 10.4.17 – 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

For a second, ‘Last Call’ thought it had teleported into a parallel universe, where everything is the same—except that Florida’s governor is “Graf Orlok.”

An elevator certificate seen Wednesday in Tallahassee’s Calhoun Street parking garage clearly listed “Graf Orlok, Governor.” It was in the same font as the rest of the text, stuck behind a piece of clear plastic.

Graf Orlok, Governor
Heeeeere’s Graf

It gets more interesting when one learns who “Graf Orlok” is: The name of the main character, based on Dracula, in the 1922 silent film “Nosferatu.” (“Graf” is German for “Count.”)

For the record, the real governor, Rick Scott, has most often been derisively referred to as “Voldemort,” the bald bad man in the Harry Potter books and movies.

The fake paper led to speculation: Did some prankster really go through all the trouble of removing the plastic barrier and replacing the certificate with a doctored document?

Does the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which issues such certificates, have a wiseacre in its midsts?

And – oooh – are there more of these in town?

Requests for comment are pending with the department and the Governor’s Office.

Republic Parking manages the garage for the city. “I had no idea,” general manager Derrick Dunlavy said. “But we’ll get a new one.”

Evening Reads

Jeb Bush criticizes Trump on Puerto Rico” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida tourism destinations examine security in wake of Las Vegas” via Katie Warren of NBC Miami

After Irma, pummeled Everglades shows signs of resilience” via Maddie Stone of Earther

Florida to seek death penalty against killer clown suspect” via The Associated Press

Court overturns state board on charter schools” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida

Pythons are eating everything in the Everglades, so now mosquitos are forced to feed off diseased rats” via Colin Wolf of Orlando Weekly

Quote of the Day

“And now I’m having the same feedback: ‘Oh, it’s just too early to talk about this.’ It’s not too early. It’s too late.” —Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart of Orlando on Wednesday, on a bill banning sales of semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines in Florida.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights 

Wake Up Early

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is scheduled to visit Florida Thursday through Saturday to review hurricane-related damage in the state’s national parks and get updated on Everglades restoration. A detailed schedule wasn’t available, but includes a Thursday briefing on Lake Okeechobee.

The Education Committee of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, the Capitol, Tallahassee.

The Florida Retirement System’s Actuarial Assumption Conference will meet at 10 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol, Tallahassee.

Staff members for Sen. Denise Grimsley, a Sebring Republican, will hold “mobile” office hours in Lee County. That’s at 10:30 a.m., The Shell Factory, Chamber of Commerce office, 2787 N. Tamiami Trail, North Fort Myers.

The Florida Supreme Court is expected to release weekly opinions at 11 a.m.

Rep. Loranne Ausley, a Tallahassee Democrat, will hold “mobile” office hours in Leon County. They open at 11 a.m., Tallahassee Senior Center, 1400 N. Monroe St., Tallahassee.

Todd Jones, president and CEO of Publix Super Markets, is set to speak to the Economic Club of Florida. Doors open at 11 a.m., FSU Alumni Center, 1030 W. Tennessee St., Tallahassee.

Death Row inmate Cary Michael Lambrix is scheduled to be put to death for the 1983 murders of Aleisha Bryant and Clarence Moore near LaBelle. The execution is set for 6 p.m., Florida State Prison, Raiford.

Major Puerto Rico power restoration project awarded to small, untested vendor 

Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, FloridaPolitics.com learned the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) — per the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) guidance — has selected a tiny, two-man company with fewer than two years of experience and merely $1 million in annual revenue to repair its massive and critical 230KV electricity transmission line.

After hitting Puerto Rico Sept. 20, the powerful Category 4 storm – the most powerful to reach the island in nearly 100 years – left nearly 3.4 million U.S. citizens without electrical power, with many still waiting for the lights to go back on. As of Tuesday night, Maria’s official death toll on the island is 34.

To date, 125MW of generation online – and about 5 percent of PREPA’s customers — have had power restored. On Wednesday, PREPA released a statement saying it anticipates 15 percent of clients to have electricity restored within the next two weeks.

Industry experts expect repairs to the line, which is one of the primary backbones of the island’s power grid, to exceed $50 million.

The vendor, Whitefish, Montana-based, Whitefish Holdings, LLC lists two employees and $1 million in annual revenue on GovTribe.com (kind of a LinkedIn for federal contractors). Founded in 2015, the privately held firm has previously been awarded three Department of Energy contracts for amounts ranging from under $40,000 to a little over $1,000,000.

That’s hardly the sort of track record one might expect from a firm responsible for a project so critical to the Puerto Rican recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Given the magnitude and importance of the work to be done, the USACE’s and PREPA’s decision to contract with such a small, inexperienced firm raises questions about the federal government’s commitment to Puerto Rico’s quick and successful recovery.

Back-to-back hits by Hurricanes Irma and Maria completely devastated Puerto Rico’s electrical infrastructure, a system which was already plagued by poor maintenance and insufficient capital investments.

Before 2014, Puerto Rico’s crumbling infrastructure, blackouts and rising unemployment have resulted in a massive population flight, leaving the island more than $72 billion in debt. The average per capita median income in the territory is about $20,000.

Most notably, Maria’s destructive winds devastated a vital 230KV transmission line that serves as one of the vital arteries of the island’s power system, and the resulting collapse of the territory’s grid has trickled down the infrastructure chain, hampering, among other things, the distribution of water and restoration of communications systems.

As a result, distributing essential supplies to those in need, emergency management experts explain, has proved particularly challenging, and many on the island remain isolated and in short supply of much-needed food, water, medications and fuel.

According to CNN: “The Port of San Juan, where much of the humanitarian aid is arriving, doesn’t have enough truck drivers. Even if it did, many trucks don’t have enough diesel fuel to deliver food, water and other essentials.”

Hampering recovery efforts is the lack of cell service for communications and a limited number of armored trucks to carry cash to banks.

Repairing the island’s transmission and the aforementioned 230KV line is a mammoth project that is central to Puerto Rico’s speedy, successful and complete recovery.

Following direction from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE), PREPA, however, contracted with a remarkably small company that seems unqualified to carry out such vital work.

Whitefish Energy Holding, which will serve as the USACE’s and PREPA’s primary contractor as Puerto Rico focuses on restoring the 230KV transmission line and distribution circuits across the island, is a novice company with merely two employees and a meager $1 million in annual revenue, which lacks the experience necessary to take on such an important and vital task.

While it is important for governments to contract with small-and-minority-owned-businesses, Whitefish Energy Holdings does not appear equipped to address Puerto Rico’s unprecedented energy catastrophe quickly, efficiently and effectively.

Restoring the island’s electrical infrastructure is indispensable to its overall recovery efforts, and therefore, such a task is likely best left to a larger, more experienced company that can, and has, tackled crises of this magnitude.

This is not a time to take risks. The people of Puerto Rico depend on it.

FloridaPolitics.com will continue covering this story as it develops.

 

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