Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 214

Peter Schorsch

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

Everglades landowners ‘not willing sellers’ for Joe Negron’s Lake O reservoir

A group of landowners in the Everglades Agricultural Area are telling the state officials that selling land south of lake Okeechobee do nothing to fix problems they believe are caused north of the lake.

Senate President Joe Negron is pushing a Senate proposal seeks to create a $2.4-billion, 60,000-acre reservoir for Everglades water storage.

If there aren’t enough willing sellers, SB 10 says then 153,000 acres of U.S. Sugar land can be purchased under an option entered in 2010.

In a letter signed by 14 EAA landowners — including U.S. Sugar, Florida Crystals and others — the landowners say just that: they are “not willing sellers of their property to the government.”

Each one of the names on the letter own more than 2,500 acres apiece: Robert Buker Jr. of both U.S. Sugar and SBG Farms; Robert Underbrink of Big B Sugar; James Shine Jr. of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, Raymond “Rick” Roth Jr. of Roth Farms; Alfonso and J. Pepe Fanjul of Florida Crystals Corp.; Alex Tiedkte of Eastgate Farms; John Hundley of Hundley Farms; Justin Soble of Star Ranch Enterprises and Star Farms; Alonso Azqueta of Trucane Sugar; private landowners Frances and Homer Hand; and Dennis Wedgworth of Wedgworth Farms.

“Water reservoirs south of Lake Okeechobee simply cannot store enough water to stop the discharges from lake Okeechobee when our region is inundated from harry rains,” they write. “Buying more land does not fix the problem.”

Additional publicly owned land, the landowners point out, would not have prevented the algae outbreak in Martin County to coastal estuaries.

No local, state or federal agency that seriously studied South Florida’s water issues have determined any land purchased in the EAA would “solve the region’s water challenges.”

Farmers in the EAA have been working for more than two decades to help restore the Everglades, the letter says and in that time, they have seen over 120,000 acres of farmland south of Lake O purchased by the state.

“Plans to buy land with little to no benefit to environmental restoration only serve as a distraction,” the letter concludes. “By staying focused on the science, we can ensure reaching the goal we started more than two decades ago can become a reality.”

The Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation is scheduled to hear SB 10 at a meeting 2-4 p.m. Tuesday in Room 412 of the Knott Building.


Should Floridians be worried the state’s law enforcement radio partner is conducting a fire sale?

As predicted in this space in December, the Melbourne-based Harris Corporation recently announced the sale of one of its government technology divisions. No, it wasn’t Harris’ radio business as rumored, but the company did sell off its government IT services division to Veritas Capital for $690 million.

While the sale of this division is being spun as a way for Harris to focus on existing and new contracts, it will do little to quiet those who have long speculated that Harris’ radio division may not actually be profitable and its long-term outlook remains bleak. According to several industry  sources, the future of Harris Corp as a provider of law enforcement communications may well hinge on whether it wins the pending Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS) contract with the State of Florida.

The worst kept secret in Florida procurement circles is that Harris’ current contract managing the SLERS is one of the worst contracts ever negotiated in state history. That’s because the cost of the radio system as originally designed in the early 2000s has steadily creeped up with the addition of towers necessary for covering “dead zones” and new equipment Harris Corp has introduced over the life of the contract.

On top of these costs, Harris Corp lobbyists have made a play for $7 million in additional funding for Project 25 radios the past two legislative sessions. These are radios that didn’t exist when the current SLERS system was first conceived – radios that will conveniently work on the new system should Harris win the estimated $1 billion contract.

Keep in mind: the SLERS contract currently held by Harris was originally awarded to Com-Net Ericsson in 2000. In 2001, the radio company was sold to M/A-Com, which changed its name to Tyco Electronics in 2008. In 2009, Tyco Electronics was sold to Harris, which inherited the contract as it stands today.

Some law enforcement insiders have speculated that Harris Corp has not, in fact, invested enough company dollars into the system throughout its life. That means the system is entirely funded on the taxpayer’s dime, with you and me having to absorb the cost overruns, equipment upgrades, and anything else deemed necessary to keeping the system up and running.

Harris Corp has suffered setbacks in building other statewide law enforcement radio systems. According to at least one Florida-based report, “cities such as Las Vegas that claim Harris-built systems have led to failure during critical moments, such as officer-involved shootings.” In Pennsylvania, state leaders recently dumped Harris from managing the statewide system after repeated system failures.

With the Florida Department of Management Services soliciting bids to build the new SLERS system, only time will tell if Harris’ setbacks in the radio business will matter in the end. The contract is expected to be awarded in August.

Don’t forget about Shawn Harrison as a possible candidate for Tampa mayor

In his “As We Heard It” column, Patrick Manteiga writes that candidates of all stripes are starting to measure their strengths for a potential run for Mayor of Tampa.

Among the names the plugged-in Manteiga mentions are the obvious contenders, like former police chief Jane Castor and current City Councilman Mike Suarez, as well as Councilmembers Yolie Capin and Harry Cohen. Also in the mix, Manteiga says, are Hillsborough Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez, Public Defender Julie Holt, former state Rep. Ed Narain, and Republican County Commissioners Ken Hagan and Sandy Murman.

That so many local heavyweights are interested in running for Tampa Mayor speaks to what kind of exciting race this will be.

Of course, there are several people not mentioned in Manteiga’s column who are probably interested in running. First among them has to be state Rep. Shawn Harrison, who previously served on City Council.

Yes, Harrison would be a Republican running in a Democratic town, but in a multi-way race, might he be able consolidate much of the GOP vote — or at least enough to propel him into a run-off where all bets would be off?

Harrison also has the advantages of knowing how to win tough races (his legislative district is the very definition of a battleground seat), being able to transfer whatever he has in his legislative campaign account to a municipal bid, and a smart political team around him (master strategists Anthony Pedicini and Tom Piccolo advise Harrison.)

We’re not ready to predict Harrison will be Bob Buckhorn’s successor, but with his experience and capabilities, he certainly merits keeping an eye on as the race unfolds.

Some hoping Billy Buzzett takes the reins at Constitutional Revision Commission once again

While speculation hums along on the membership on the Constitution Revision Commission, there’s been not much buzz on who will be its executive director.


But there’s been quite a bit of interest in the Capitol, at least on the south side of the Plaza level, to put it back in the hands of an old pro: Billy Buzzett, who had the job back in 1997-98.

Don’t ask why. Ask: Why not?

Most importantly, Gov. Rick Scott likes the guy. He tapped the now 58-year-old lawyer – a fifth-generation Floridian – back in 2011 to head the Department of Community Affairs, the state’s growth management agency, just before it was made defunct.

“Billy is focused on helping me make government smaller, less intrusive and consistent with efforts to increase investments in Florida and spur job creation,” Scott said in a press release upon his appointment.

High praise from this governor.

Buzzett “graduated from Tulane University with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and practiced for several years” before getting his law degree from Florida State University, his bio says.

His other bona fides include being assistant general counsel to then-Gov. Bob Martinez, staff attorney to the House Judiciary Committee, an administrative law judge, and vice president of the St. Joe Co. He’s an FSU trustee, and liked and respected on both sides of the aisle.

“He’s a smooth operator, say both friends and enemies, totally unflappable,” the Tampa Bay Times wrote of him in 2011, quoting Manley Fuller of the Florida Wildlife Federation that Buzzett “could sell snow to the Eskimos.”

The commission’s E.D. job is part-dealmaker, part-peacemaker and full time on managing personalities and keeping the trains running on time.

All the more reason why Buzzett is – again – the right man for the job. And judging from the Capitol cognoscenti, it’s practically his to take or turn down.

Super Bowl ads go political in a big way

Messages about America, inclusiveness — and, yes, even “four years of awful hair” — kept bubbling up in Super Bowl 51 ads from Airbnb, the NFL and a line of personal care products. But there was still plenty of escapism and light humor for those who weren’t into the politics.

As the New England Patriots edged out the Atlantic Falcons on the field in Houston, Airbnb touted inclusiveness with an ad showing faces of different ethnicities and the copy: “We all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept.”

Coca-Cola aired a previously run ad during the pregame show in which people sing “America the Beautiful” in different languages. And Budweiser ran a 60-second spot chronicling co-founder Adolphus Busch’s migration from Germany to St. Louis in 1857, prompting some critics to start a boycott campaign on Twitter.

 Even a hair care brand dipped into politics: The “It’s a 10” hair brand indirectly referenced President Donald Trump‘s famously unruly do in its Super Bowl spot.

It’s tough to be a Super Bowl advertiser, period. But this year, a divisive political climate has roiled the nation since Trump took office in January, making it even tougher for advertisers.

Advertisers who paid $5 million for 30 seconds had to walk the line with ads that appealed to everyone and didn’t offend. Some were more successful than others.

“Anxiety and politics just loom over this game, so anybody who gives us the blessed relief of entertaining with a real Super Bowl commercial wins,” said Mark DiMassimo, CEO of the ad agency DiMassimo Goldstein.

Several ads aimed for just that. Tide, for instance, offered a humorous ad showing announcer Terry Bradshaw trying frantically to remedy a stain while his antics go “viral” online, with the help of New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski and actor Jeffrey Tambor.


“Brands used to worry about whether their ad could be interpreted as right or wrong,” said Kelly O’Keefe, a marketing professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. “Now they have to worry about whether it will be interpreted as right or left.”

Plenty of ads walked that line.

An NFL spot conveyed what all advertisers hope the Super Bowl becomes: a place where Americans can come together. “Inside these lines, we may have our differences, but recognize there’s more that unites us,” Forest Whitaker intoned in a voiceover as workers prepped a football field and gridiron scenes played.

“The Super Bowl is shaping up as a counterpoint to the divisiveness in the United States,” said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University.

Airbnb’s ad was one of the more overtly political, showing a variety of different faces with the tagline “We accept.”

Some thought the ad was a hit. “Kudos to them for making a strong statement,” said O’Keefe. But others, such as Villanova University marketing professor Charles Taylor, thought it didn’t have a clear enough link to the brand and risked coming off as a “purely political statement.”

Budweiser drew some criticism for the immigration theme of its ad, including calls on Twitter to boycott the brewer. That fostered debate — and banter — online, particularly over one hashtag that misspelled the company’s name, #boycottbudwiser.

Other advertisers took the safest route possible by re-airing ads they’ve used before — an unusual, though not unprecedented, move. Coca-Cola, Google and Fiji water all aired rerun ads.

During the pre-game show, Coca-Cola ran “It’s Beautiful,” an ad featuring people around the country drinking the fizzy beverage and singing “America the Beautiful” in different languages.


A debut Super Bowl spot by the “It’s a 10” hair care brand introduced its line of men’s products by joking about Donald Trump‘s hair.

“America, we’re in for four years of awful hair, so it’s up to you to do your part by making up for it with great hair,” went a voiceover state as black-and-white photos of people with a wide array of hairstyles flashed by. “Do your part. … Let’s make sure these next four years are ‘It’s a 10.'”

Snickers got press by airing a live ad In the third quarter. On a Wild West set, actor Adam Driver seemed not to know the ad was live — and then the set fell apart (on purpose). “You ruin live Super Bowl commercials when you’re hungry,” the ad’s tagline read.

“It went by so fast, I almost missed it,” DiMassimo said. “Not sure it was worth the trouble of doing it live.”


Ads with light humor and stuffed with celebrities were popular. Honda’s ad made a splash by animating the yearbook photos of nine celebrities ranging from Tina Fey to Viola Davis. They make fun of their photos — Jimmy Kimmel is dressed in a blue tux and holding a clarinet, for example — and talk about “The Power of Dreams,” Honda’s ad slogan.

“It was a really good message and it was entertaining,” said Mirta Desir, a New Orleans native who works in education and was watching the game on Long Island.

The Tide ad with Terry Bradshaw was a hit with some viewers because of the way it tricked viewers into thinking it was part of the broadcast. “It made you think twice,” said Pablo Rochat, watching in Atlanta. “There was funny dialogue and good storytelling.”

T-Mobile’s spots — which featured Justin Bieber and Rob Gronkowski dancing , Kristen Schaal in a “50 Shades of Grey” parody and Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg mixing talk about T-Mobile’s unlimited data plan with innuendo about Snoop’s marijuana habit, won raves from some — as did an ad from antioxidant drink maker Bai featuring Justin Timberlake and Christopher Walken.

Sunburn for 2.6.17 – Politics at the Super Bowl; Trump to MacDill; Jesse Panuccio to D.C.; Bentina Terry to Georgia

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

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

TOM BRADY LEADS BIGGEST COMEBACK, PATRIOTS WIN 34-28 IN OT via Barry Wilner of the Associated Press – Brady led one of the greatest comebacks in sports, let alone Super Bowl history, lifting New England from a 25-point hole to the Patriots’ fifth NFL championship in the game’s first overtime finish. The Patriots scored 19 points in the final quarter, including a pair of 2-point conversions, then marched relentlessly to James White‘s 2-yard touchdown run in overtime beating the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 Sunday night.

Brady, the first quarterback with five Super Bowl rings, guided the Patriots (17-2) through a tiring Atlanta defense for fourth-quarter touchdowns on a 6-yard pass to Danny Amendola and a 1-yard run by White, which came with 57 seconds remaining in regulation. White ran for the first 2-pointer and Amendola did the deed with a reception on the second. Brady finished 43 for 62, the most attempts in Super Bowl history, for 466 yards and two touchdowns.


‘HAMILTON’ STARS TWEAK ‘AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL’ LYRICS TO INCLUDE WOMEN BEFORE SUPER BOWL via Greg Hadley of the Bradenton Herald – The Schuyler sisters have made their mark on the Super Bowl. Actresses Renne Elise GoldsberryJasmine Cephas Jones and Phillipa Soo, most known for their roles in the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton,” sang “America the Beautiful” before the Super Bowl in Houston … and they made a slight adjustment to the lyrics. In addition to the line, “and crown thy good with brotherhood,” the women added in “and sisterhood.”

GEORGE AND BARBARA BUSH’S EMOTIONAL COIN TOSS WAS THE PERFECT WAY TO START SUPER BOWL 51 via Adi Joseph of USA TODAY – George H. W. Bush, the oldest living president, was in the hospital a week ago in Houston. But he recovered from pneumonia and gave us the rare memorable Super Bowl coin toss. Bush was rolled out by a military member in a wheelchair while wife Barbara took a golf cart to center field. The beauty was the combination of unified appreciation from the fans — something so rare in politics these days — and the knowledge of everything it took for Bush to be out there at NRG Stadium for this moment. He’s 92 — a few months older than Jimmy Carter.

LADY GAGA PREACHES UNITY DURING HIGH-FLYING SUPER BOWL SET via Maeve McDermott of USA Today – After last year’s politically charged statement from Beyoncé during her cameo in Coldplay’s halftime show, where she performed Formation flanked by background dancers in Black Panther-referencing costumes, many predicted that Gaga would unleash a Trump statement during her show. But a political protest never arrived, as Gaga opted for patriotism and unity over making a divisive proclamation, which she hinted at during her pre-Super Bowl news conference Thursday.

THE 84 LUMBER SUPER BOWL AD’S CREATIVE DIRECTOR EXPLAINS THE THINKING BEHIND THE MEXICAN IMMIGRATION-THEMED SPOT via Lara O’Reilly of Business Insider – The 90-second ad that aired on TV during the Super Bowl depicted a Mexican a Mexican mother and daughter embarking on an arduous journey to leave their country of origin and find a better life in the U.S. The ad then invited viewers to watch the conclusion of the ad online. However, the dedicated website appeared to be down during the game with the rush of people looking to find out how the ad ends. Rob Schapiro, chief creative officer of 84 Lumber’s ad agency Brunner [said] the ad intended to make a “patriotic” statement as aimed to make the company a household name throughout the country as it expands and opens more stores in the U.S. The choice to depict Mexican characters was deliberate.

IN AIRBNB’S SUPER BOWL AD, IMPLIED CRITICISM OF TRAVEL BAN via Katie Benner of the New York Times – Airbnb, one of the most aggressive corporate critics of Trump’s policy, took its opposition to the Super Bowl. Airbnb created a Super Bowl advertisement showing a diverse group of people and text that read: “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept.”

TWEET, TWEET: @Timodc: Weird that not one brand has tried to pander to Trump voter in commercials. Seems like a no brainer

TWEET, TWEET: @RealDonaldTrump: What an amazing comeback and win by the Patriots. Tom Brady, Bob Kraft and Coach B are total winners. Wow!

DONALD TRUMP TO VISIT MACDILL AFB TODAY – Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump will visit MacDill Air Force Base today. The president will visit U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill. Trump is expected to be briefed by military leaders during his visit. Spicer said the president will have lunch with enlisted troops and will also address the troops afterwards. General Dunford and Flynn are expected to attend as well.

TWEET, TWEET: @LearyReports: .@FLGovScott will be with @realDonaldTrump at MacDill AFB tomorrow.

APPEALS COURT DENIES TRUMP REQUEST TO IMMEDIATELY RESTORE TRAVEL BAN via The Associated Press – A federal appeals court denied early Sunday the Justice Department’s request for an immediate reinstatement of Trump’s ban on accepting certain travelers and all refugees. The Trump administration appealed a temporary order restraining the ban nationwide, saying late Saturday night that the federal judge in Seattle overreached by “second-guessing” the president on a matter of national security. Now the higher court’s denial of an immediate stay means the legal battles over the ban will continue for days at least. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco asked challengers of the ban respond to the appeal, and for the Justice Department to file a counter-response by Monday afternoon. Acting Solicitor General Noel Francisco forcefully argued Saturday night that the president alone has the power to decide who can enter or stay in the United States — an assertion that appeared to invoke the wider battle to come over illegal immigration.

— “The Trump travel ban as seen from abroad” via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union

ANTI-TRUMP PROTESTS APLENTY IN SOUTH FLORIDA ON SATURDAY via Sergio Bustos of POLITICO – Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz [hosted] a rally in her South Florida district Saturday afternoon “to combat President Trump and the Republican-led Congress,” the same day a bigger protest is planned at the president’s “winter White House” in West Palm Beach. In West Palm Beach, Trump demonstrators [marched] in opposition to Trump’s executive order on immigrant vetting, just as Trump heads to the annual International Red Cross Ball at Mar-a-Lago. The organization is scrambling to help refugees that the president has temporarily banned from entering the United States.

ACTIVISTS: CHARITIES MUST MOVE GALAS FROM MAR-A-LAGO via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press – With Trump placing a moratorium on refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries and his promises to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, activists are pressuring charities such as the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Cleveland Clinic to move or cancel their galas this month. As the American Red Cross held a gala fundraiser Saturday at Mar-a-Lago, about three thousand demonstrators marched nearby to protest Trump’s now-blocked executive order temporarily limiting immigration. The event ended peacefully, and there were no arrests. So far, no known Mar-a-Lago charity events have been moved or canceled. Both Dana-Farber and the Cleveland Clinic said they won’t move or cancel their events, but added that it doesn’t mean they support the president’s policies.

THERE’S A FLORIDA ANGLE TO THIS: BUZZFEED SUED OVER ITS PUBLICATION OF UNCORROBORATED TRUMP DOSSIER via Kevin Hall, David Goldstein and Greg Gordon of McClatchy – The lawsuits were brought by XBT Holdings, a Cyprus-based company owned by Russian tech magnate Aleksej Gubarev. Lawyers for his firm filed complaints in London against the former spy and his company, and against BuzzFeed and its editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, in Broward County Circuit Court in Fort Lauderdale … where XBT’s subsidiary Webzilla is headquartered. The Florida lawsuit says that neither defendant – BuzzFeed or Ben Smith – had contacted the plaintiffs to determine whether the allegations had “any basis in fact.” Nor have they since, it alleges.

TRUMP’S FACE PRINTED ON HEROIN PACKAGES IN FLORIDA BUST via Adrian Crawford of the Palm Beach Post – A Florida sheriff’s department that netted a record haul of heroin late last month found familiar faces emblazoned on the packages: drug lord El Chapo, infamous cocaine trafficker Pablo Escobar and Trump … the bust, which could be the largest in Hernando County history, saw sheriff’s deputies seize about 5,500 individual packets of the drug, including dozens with Trump’s likeness printed on them. The suspect, Kelvin Scott Johnson, faces multiple charges stemming from the bust, which came about when a Postal Service employee informed Hernando County authorities that a package containing heroin had been intercepted heading for an address in the area from the northeastern United States.

MUST-WATCH: MELISSA MCCARTHY SKEWERS SEAN SPCIER ON SNL via NBC News – In a surprise cameo, McCarthy mimicked Spicer’s famously combative first appearance with the White House press corps, where he angrily took issue with reports about the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration. …. McCarty screamed, poured an entire pot of gum down her throat, and literally used her lectern as a bully pulpit, pushing troublesome reporters back into their seats during the sketch.

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DAYS UNTIL: The Batman Lego Movie opens – 4; Pitchers & catchers report for Spring Training – 6; Valentine’s Day – 8; Start of 2017 Legislative Session – 29; Florida Capitol Press Corps Press Skits – 36; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die – 88; FSU vs. Alabama – 208; Election Day 2017 – 273; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 311.

BILL NELSON DIDN’T OBJECT TO NEIL GORSUCH A DECADE AGO, BUT THIS MAY BE DIFFERENT via Ledyard King of USA TODAY – After a bland, non-committal statement Tuesday night minutes after Trump unveiled GorsuchNelson turned more negative on the Colorado judge Thursday. “Of course, I’m going to talk to him and listen to the Judiciary Committee hearing,” Nelson said in the more recent statement issued by his office. “But I have real concerns about what I believe are two of the most fundamental rights in our democracy: the right to vote and the right to know who you are voting for,” he continued. “And I specifically want to know how the judge feels about the suppression of voting rights and about the amount of undisclosed, unlimited money in campaigns.”

TRUMP’S ARMY SECRETARY — THE OWNER OF THE FLORIDA PANTHERS — NOMINEE WITHDRAWING via Cyra Master of The Hill – Vincent Viola, Trump’s choice to be Secretary of the Army, is withdrawing himself from consideration for the post. Viola, who is reportedly worth $1.8 billion, is the founder of electronic trading firm Virtu Financial and was previously the chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange from 2001 to 2004. He also owns the NHL’s Florida Panthers. Viola told Trump that he would be unable to accept the nomination because separating himself from his businesses has proven insurmountable.

FIRST ON @FLA_POL – JESSE PANUCCIO TAKING JOB WITH DONALD TRUMP ADMINISTRATION via Florida Politics – Panuccio, now with the Foley & Lardner law firm, accepted an offer to become Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General. The position is “the third-highest ranking official at the Department of Justice,” according to the department’s website. That role “supervises the work of five of DOJ’s large litigating components – the Antitrust, Civil, Civil Rights, Tax, and Environment and Natural Resources Divisions – as well as DOJ’s grant-making components,” the site says.

WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO FLORIDA IF THE EPA REALLY DID GO AWAY? via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times – Perhaps the greatest impact the EPA has on Florida is in funding. Since 2002, for instance, the agency has been footing the bill for Florida health workers to check the beaches of 30 coastal counties for the types of bacteria that will make people sick. If the Florida Healthy Beaches Program finds too much fecal coliform bacteria or enterococci bacteria, the beach is closed until the risk declines. The EPA also gives the DEP money — $110.7 million in the 2015-2016 fiscal year — that the state then lends to local governments for building and maintaining their sewer and water plants and transmission lines. Without the federal agency, local and state governments would have to come up with that money on their own.

CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION ASKS PRESIDENT TO SUPPORT EVERGLADES RESTORATION via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Francis Rooney is calling on Trump to support Everglades restoration, with a letter to the president saying that Everglades restoration “has far-ranging impacts to the entire state of Florida and the rest of the country.” … signed by the entire Florida delegation … The letter asks that Trump prepares his fiscal 2018 budget, the “strong support Everglades restoration projects, especially those within the Central Everglades Restoration Program (CERP).” It also notes the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016 Act authorized two projects that now needs further action from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Interior. The projects include the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEEP) and additional authorizations to complete the Picayune Strand project, both which are important to achieving “optimal water flow” … “The Everglades deserve your attention and support, and we ask that you provide the necessary resources to restore the region,” the delegation wrote.

GUS BILIRAKIS GATHERING TURNS OUT TO BE STRONGLY PRO-OBAMACARE via Kathleen McGrory of the Tampa Bay Times – More than 200 people … packing a Palm Harbor community center Saturday morning so tightly that late-comers had to park down the street. Despite the demographics of the district, which includes all of Pasco and parts of Pinellas and Hills- borough counties, nearly all the guests came to support the Affordable Care Act, the Obama-era health law now on the chopping block. Only a handful supported efforts by congressional Republicans to repeal and replace the health law — and one was a Bilirakis employee, case work director Kristen Sellas. The crowd got rowdy, booing a 77-year-old speaker who said former President Barack Obama played politics to ram the Affordable Care Act through Congress in 2010.


BOB CORTES ‘EXPLORING’ POSSIBLE CONGRESSIONAL RUN IN CD 7 via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Cortes confirmed reports he was in Washington D.C. for a couple of days early this week talking to officials at the National Republican Congressional Committee and others about a possible run in CD 7 in 2018. If he does run, Cortes would be seeking a seat Republicans held for generations before U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy won it in November. “I’ve been asked,” to consider such a run … “I have not made a decision, yes or no,” he added.

SPOTTED on Friday’s airing of “Real Time with Bill Maher”: Rick Wilson

***The Florida Health Care Association knows how legislators can save taxpayers $68.2 million per year in unnecessary spending, while safeguarding the highest level of care for Florida’s frailest residents. They’ll share the plan on Wednesday with the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health & Human Services. Learn more by clicking here.***

GWENDREW: IS 2018 THE YEAR OF THE TALLAHASSEE GOVERNOR? via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat – Two of Tallahassee’s most notable politicians, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and Mayor Andrew Gillum, are positioning themselves for a possible run for governor, a post no Democrat has been able to win since Lawton Chiles beat Jeb Bush back in 1994. Graham … has all but declared she’s running. Gillum declined to comment about his political plans. But he’s shown obvious signs he’s still eyeing higher office after passing last year on a congressional run. Voters have a chance to make history with either of the two Tallahassee hopefuls. If Graham were elected, she’d become Florida’s first female governor. If Gillum were elected, he’d become the state’s first African-American governor. If either were elected, they’d be the first person from Tallahassee to take up residence in the Governor’s Mansion since LeRoy Collins more than a half-century ago.

BOB BUCKHORN TO TAMPA MUSLIMS: ‘WE WILL STAND WITH YOU FOREVER’ via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times – [At the] Islamic Society of Tampa Bay Area … Buckhorn spoke to more than 3,000 in the mosque and an annex. “I came here for a simple reason . . . to tell you this city has your back,” Buckhorn said. “We will never demonize anybody based on your race or your creed or your color or your ethnicity (or) the god you worship. All of us came from somewhere else … I want the children to hear me more than anybody: We love you. We honor you. You are a part of who we are. We celebrate your faith. We want you to be a part of this community and give back. We treasure the fact that you chose to come here. You are us.”

RICK KRISEMAN STATEMENT ON ST. PETERSBURG’S SANCTUARY CITY STATUS LEADS TO CONFUSION via Kathryn Varn of the Tampa Bay Times – Kriseman … sought to clarify confusion surrounding his statement about St. Petersburg’s status as a sanctuary city, including pushback from Sheriff Bob Gualtieri over cooperation with federal immigration authorities. In a blog post published … Kriseman wrote that fear within the Muslim community stoked by Trump‘s strict immigration policies led to his decision to declare St. Petersburg as a city that will protect immigrants from “harmful federal immigration laws,” a stance that was widely interpreted as an official “sanctuary city” designation. “We will not expend resources to help enforce such laws,” he wrote, “nor will our police officers stop, question or arrest an individual solely on the basis that they may have unlawfully entered the United States.” In an interview, Kriseman clarified his post, saying the city is philosophically, not literally, a sanctuary city that supports other governments that have taken that route. He said the Sheriff’s Office decides whether to notify federal agents of an accused criminal’s immigration status. Gualtieri said Sunday that he has no intention of ceasing cooperation with federal authorities and called Kriseman’s statement misleading.

***The 2017 Florida Blue Foundation Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards are coming to Kissimmee April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. The two-day event — with the theme “Creating a Culture of Health” — will feature several Florida-based, regional and national health professionals. The symposium will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about health care culture, purpose built communities and communities of health. Discussions will center on health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Network with 400+ executives from a range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more. To view agenda and register, click here***

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will be talking about transportation investments in his 2017-18 “Fighting for Florida’s Future” budget starting at a 10 a.m. news conference at the parking lot of Milliken’s Reef restaurant, 683 Dave Nisbet Dr. in Cape Canaveral. Then, at 4 p.m., the governor will be holding a press availability at JAXPORT Blount Island Marine terminal, 9620 Dave Rawls Boulevard in Jacksonville.

FLORIDA EDUCATION FUNDING HIGH; SCHOOLS STILL RECOVERING FROM RECESSION CUT via Andrew Atterbury of USA TODAY – The state would have to spend an additional $1.86 billion over the next three years to offset inflation and cuts that have ravaged education funding since the Great Recession, according to the Florida School Finance Council …  “School revenue is back to where it was in 2007, (but) does anybody believe costs are the same?” asked Malcolm Thomas, superintendent of the Escambia County School District. “I think where we’re feeling the pinch now is just the operational costs to really support and educate your kids.” School funding in the upcoming state budget is anticipated to increase for a fifth straight year, yet it still won’t be enough, education officials say. Lawmakers set aside $19.7 billion for K-12 education in 2015-16, a record for Florida at the time and almost $1 billion more than what was spent in 2007 … But even then, the funding school districts received per student — which pays for items such as salaries, transportation, utilities and textbooks — still was below the 2007 level for an eighth consecutive year.

HAPPENING TODAY – FLORIDA DOH TO HOLD MEDICAL MARIJUANA WORKSHOP — The Florida Department of Health’s Office of Compassionate Use will host the first in a series of workshops to begin discussions about implementing the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment at 2 p.m. at the Duval County Health Department, 900 University Blvd. in Jacksonville.

— “Richard Corcoran threatens to sue visit Tampa Bay over financial records” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

— “UNF capital improvements among appropriations asks by northeast Florida lawmakers” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

FARMERS GEAR UP TO FIGHT PROPOSED LAND BUY SOUTH OF LAKE O via Susan Salisbury of the Palm Beach Post – EAA Farmers Inc. says there’s misinformation being circulated about the land grab they say would not solve problems plaguing the estuaries to the north, such as toxic blue-green algae. They point to a 2015 University of Florida study that found that, on average, 70 to 80 percent of the freshwater discharge and 65 percent to 80 percent of the nutrients in the estuaries comes from the local basins, not Lake O. They assert there is also a lack of understanding about the food and jobs they provide, and opposes taking any more EAA farmland out of production. The coalition formed in January includes more than 60 mostly family-owned farms and related businesses located in the Everglades Agricultural Area.

JEFF BRANDES: LEGISLATURE NEEDS EDUCATING ABOUT FLOOD RISK via Florida Politics – “I think my colleagues in the Legislature don’t quite understand the gravity of the situation — much like Congress,” said Brandes … “They do not understand how serious the risk is.” But that’s understandable, Brandes said — their constituents don’t, either. “Most folks don’t understand how important the issue of flood insurance is. Most Floridian think flood is part of their homeowner’s insurance. It isn’t. They also think, ‘Oh, I don’t live in a flood zone — I don’t have to buy it.’“

CERTIFICATE OF NEED PROGRAM IN SENATE’S CROSSHAIRS via Florida Politics – Rob Bradley filed a bill to repeal the state’s controversial Certificate of Need program. And Gov. Scott supports the measure. Senate Bill 676 would eliminate the Certificate of Need (CON) Program at the Agency for Health Care Administration. Currently, health care providers require a certificate of need prior before building or converting hospitals, nursing homes and hospices. Under Bradley’s bill, the Agency for Health Care Administration would develop licensure rules for new providers, and sets guidelines for the licensure of hospitals and hospice facilities. Bradley, a traditional free-market conservative, believes that competition will help reduce health care costs for consumers.

OUCH — GREG STEUBE STEPS UP WITH RIDICULOUS PROPOSALS via Andy Marlette of the Pensacola News-Journal – Another Steube … would let conceal-carry permit-holders potentially sue gun-banning private businesses in the case of a mass shooting or terrorist attack or zombie stampede in which a gunless permit-holder was harmed. So much for Republican sanctity of private property rights. Forget that such an overreaching law is a gross betrayal of conservative principles. Forget that if a business bans guns, a permit holder retains the right not to frequent that business … Forget, too, just how plain stupid it is. You know what business bans guns in Florida? Disney World. And if you think some clown from Sarasota is going to force such a law upon the Grand Mouse-eared Godfather of the Magic Kingdom, you belong in the circus sideshow with Steube.

BILLS PUSH LEGAL LIMITS via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – One bill would ban local governments from enacting any business regulations. Another would allow people to sue businesses that ban guns if they get hurt. And a third would ban all “obscene material” from the internet. For example, Rep. Ross Spano … filed HB 337 last month and named it the “Human Trafficking Prevention Act.” Much of it is aimed at combating human trafficking and child pornography, but it also looks to restrict regular pornography or other sexual content. A measure from Rep. Randy Fine … filed HB 17 … which would bar local governments from passing new regulations on businesses, professions or occupations. Any regulation on those issues passed by a city or county after Jan. 1 would be null and void.

COMPUTER CODING AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE? LAWMAKERS AGAIN PUSH THE IDEA via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Aimed at preparing students for high-tech jobs … in a modern digital economy, the legislation (SB 104) has the backing of such influential powerhouses as Disney and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “I love this idea. This is the future,” said Sen. Brandes who is driving the Senate bill this year. “Employers are valuing the skill of coding, and we should ensure that the education market is geared toward what employers want.” But the idea is drawing renewed criticism from educators and Hispanic advocacy groups — particularly in South Florida, which has the most diverse population in the state.

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The Senate Criminal Justice committee is set to discuss a bill (SB 280) that requires unanimous jury recommendations before defendants can be sentenced to death. In 2016, the Legislature passed a bill requiring at least 10 of the 12 juries recommend the death penalty, but the Supreme Court in October ruled jury recommendations must be unanimous for the death penalty to be imposed. The hearing is scheduled for 4 p.m. in 37 Senate Office Building. Meanwhile, the Senate Education committee is scheduled to discuss a bill (SB 374) that would make several changes to the state college system, including putting it under a new governing board and implementing new restrictions on baccalaureate degrees. That meeting is also scheduled for 4 p.m. in 412 Knott.

SPOTTED at last week’s fundraiser for Jeff Brandes at the JW Marriott in downtown Miami: CFO Jeff Atwater, Doug Bell, Raymond Blacklidge, Christian Camara, Mark Delegal, Logan Mcfadden, Tim Meenan, Danielle Scoggins, Ashley Kalifeh, Robert Reyes, Derrick McGhee, William Large, Chris Spencer, Rick Porter, Joy Ryan, Monte StevensKatie Webb.

SPOTTED celebrating Sen. Oscar Braynon‘s 40th birthday at the Confidante hotel in South Beach: President Negron, Anitere Flores and her husband Dustin Anderson, Tracy and Frank Mayernick.


SPEAKING OF FUNDRAISERS … HERE’S AN UPDATE ON NANCY TEXERIA via close friend Ron Sachs – “Texeira is considering civil legal action after her bogus arrest last October by overzealous Manatee County Sheriff’s deputies led to an appropriate decision by the Manatee County State Attorney’s Office to drop all charges, refusing to prosecute. The State Attorney’s office action reflects impartial analysis of the absence of probable cause for Texeira to ever have been arrested during a nightmare evening. She steadfastly claimed she was victimized twice: first, by a man posing as an Uber driver; second, by a man at the gas station where she sought help, who rifled through her pocketbook despite her protests. The third time was the groundless arrest. Texeira, whose highly regarded Ground Game Solutions consulting business provides fundraising and strategic counseling to top Florida politicos, is reviewing her options with legal counsel to pursue potential civil action against the deputies and Sheriff’s Department involved in her arrest. Since the ordeal began and now has ended, Texeira has been offering pro bono services to various criminal justice reform organizations. She also looks forward to sharing insights from her experience with legislative policymakers.”

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by The Personal Insurance Federation of Florida (PIFF). PIFF was formed in late 2010 with three charter members: Allstate and Castle Key Insurance Companies, The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies, and State Farm Insurance Companies, to create a dynamic, efficient, and competitive marketplace for personal insurance products for the benefit of all Floridians.  PIFF charter members serve forty-five percent (45%) of the automobile insurance market and more than twenty percent (20%) of the homeowners’ property insurance market. The association is the leading voice for personal lines property and casualty insurers in Florida. Learn more.***

BIG LOSS – BENTINA TERRY LEAVING PENSACOLA FOR GEORGIA via the Pensacola News-Journal – Terry, Gulf Power’s Customer Service and Sales vice president, has been selected as senior vice president of the Metro Atlanta Region for Georgia Power. “My time in Pensacola has been an incredible part of my life,” Terry said. “I’ve met and become close with so many special people who will continue to have a big impact on who I am.” In 2013 Terry received the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce’s Community Leader of the Year award. And, in 2016 she was named No. 1 on the InWeekly Power List of the top 100 most powerful and influential people in greater Pensacola. Her active participation across the state of Florida was recognized in 2015 when she was named one of Influence Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in Florida Politics. She also served our region and our state as chair of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation from 2012-14 and as chair of Leadership Florida from 2014-15.

PROPOSED 6-YEAR LOBBYING BAN WOULD BE STRICTEST OF ANY STATE via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times –The National Conference of State Legislatures has published an informative report of post-employment lobbying restrictions in all 50 states, which shows that at least 34 states have a form of a cooling-off period but none is more than two years, which is what’s in current Florida law and the Constitution. Some states have no restrictions. Passage of the six-year lobbying ban in Florida is a top priority of House Speaker  Corcoran … The two bills, HB 7001 and 7003, passed the House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee on 18-0 votes — making this is an excellent example of a legislative proposal that few if any lawmakers will be able to vote against.


Melissa AkesonWiliam Rubin, The Rubin Group: Florida East Coast Railway, LLC; Teach Florida

Ron Book, Ronald L. Book PA: New Horizons Community Mental Health Center, Inc.

Jeff Johnston, Anita Berry, Matt BlairAmanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: PBA Holdings, Inc.; Surterra Holdings, LLC.

Amy Bisceglia, The Rubin Group: Florida East Coast Railway, LLC.; Hartman & Tyner, Inc.; South Florida Regional Transportation Authority

Matt BryanJeff HartleyLisa Hurley, Jim Naff, Smith Bryan & Myers: Polk County, Florida; Syn-tech Systems, Inc.

Kevin Marino Cabrera, Southern Strategy Group: Fairness in Taxation; The Florida Bar, Family Law Section

Kimberly Case, Holland & Knight: Park Place Behavioral Healthcare

Michael Cantens, Flagler Strategies: Organization for Safe Cannabis Regulation

Chris CarmodyChristopher Dawson, GrayRobinson: Lake County School Board

Jack CoryKenya Cory, Erin Daly Ballas, Public Affairs Consultants: Medical Solutions of Florida LLC.

Carlos Cruz, Cruz & Company: Generic Pharmaceutical Association

David DanielThomas Griffin, Smith Bryan & Myers: Polk County, Florida

Claudia Davant, Adams St. Advocates: Quidel Corporation

Jose Diaz, Robert M. Levy & Associates: Professional Wrecker Operators of Florida

Nelson Diaz, Southern Strategy Group: Fairness in Taxation

Pete DunbarMartha EdenfieldBrittany FinkbeinerCari Roth, Dean Mead: Florida Institute of Technology

Marty FiorentinoJoseph MobleyMark Pinto, The Fiorentino Group: Crowley Maritime

Katie Flury, GrayRobinson: Coronal Energy; Lake County School Board

Jason Gonzalez, Shutts & Bowen: U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

Kenneth Granger, Capital City Consulting: SPDS, Inc.

Lauren Claire Henderson, Cynergy Consulting: AECOM

Calvin Holton, The Holton Group: Pharmacists Who Care

Gary Hunter, Timothy Riley, Hopping Green & Sams: Sklar Exploration Company

Jessica Janasiewicz, Mixon & Associates: Data Recognition Corp.; Santa Rosa County School District; School Board of Alachua County; School Board of Leon County

Natalie Kato, Lori KillingerTerry Lewis, Marin Christopher Lyon, Lewis Longman & Walker: Pace Fire Rescue District

Jessica Love, GrayRobinson: Santa Fe College Foundation

Kelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: Equifax; Woolpert, Inc.

Darrick McGhee Sr., Johnson & Blanton: Ladies Learning to Lead, Inc.

David Ramba, Allison CarvajalSue MullinsEvan Power, Ramba Consulting Group: Northwest Florida State College

Scott Remington, Clark Partington Hart Larry Bond & Stackhouse: Peaden Brothers Distillery of Florida

Jeff Sharkey, Capitol Alliance Group: City of St. Peterburg

Timothy Stanfield, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Conference of County Court Judges

Robert Stuart, GrayRobinson: Coronal Energy; Lake County School Board, Accelerated Learning Solutions of Florida

Alan Suskey, Suskey Consulting: The Everglades Foundation

Heather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: South Florida Regional Transportation Authority; Teach Florida

WHAT CHRIS TURNER IS READING – NEW GEORGE RR MARTIN STORY THE SONS OF THE DRAGON DUE OUT THIS OCTOBER via Sian Cain of The Guardian –The Sons of the Dragon will be published in a fantasy anthology called The Book of Swords in October. Chronicling the reigns of the second and third Targaryen kings, Aenys I and Maegor the Cruel, the story will also explore what happened to their families, friends and enemies during their time in power. In the world of Westeros, both kings reigned roughly 250 years before the main storyline of Game of Thrones begins, when their descendent Daenerys begins her attempt to reclaim power.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to my friend Rep. Clay Ingram. Celebrating today are Reps. Eric Eisnaugle and Greenberg Traurig’s Fred Karlinsky.

Takeaways from Tallahassee – Put out of their misery

A horsemen’s group is out of business for now in Florida after an administrative law judge’s decision in a battle over representation at Hialeah Park.

A final order out earlier this week ruled against the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA), which had represented horsemen at the South Florida track.

The case is about “who controls the money,” as we wrote about it in Takeaways back in October. For 2015-16, Hialeah reported a “total handle,” all money wagered on races, of nearly $1.9 million, but also $8.5 million in “total gross receipts” from cards and “net slot machine revenue” of $68.3 million.

Having “a valid horsemen’s agreement on file is a requirement for purposes of processing (a pari-mutuel facility’s) cardroom application and for issuing (an) operating license,” according to the order from Administrative Law Judge Lawrence P. Stevenson.

As of now, “we do not have a horsemen’s agreement at any other track,” said FQHRA president Ron Smith.

In Florida, tracks have to run a certain number of “live races” to also offer other forms of gambling. Hialeah’s website shows it offers slots, poker and “electronic table games.”

FQHRA, which “governs quarter horse permit holders’ payments of purses,” cried foul when the track instead recognized an upstart group, the South Florida Quarter Horse Association (SFQHA). The FQHRA called it “a sham organization established and controlled by Hialeah,” the order says.  

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which oversees the state’s pari-mutuel facilities, processed the track’s annual paperwork based on the FQHRA agreement.

But Hialeah then switched its affiliation to SFQHA, the upstart group, the order says. That deal allowed for 36 live races, less than the “full schedule of 40 performances during the racing season.”

The FQHRA argued that “allows pari-mutuel permitholders to unilaterally control racing dates and purse decisions without the involvement of an independent horsemen’s association,” the order says, “effectively authoriz(ing) ‘decoupling’ by allowing pari-mutuel permitholders to unilaterally control racing dates and purse agreements.”

(The “purse” is the money paid to the top 5 finishers in a race; last year, tracks paid out in excess of $100 million in all types of horse-racing purses, according to DBPR’s annual report. Hialeah paid out $5.6 million.)

While Stevenson agreed that the number of races was too low, he didn’t buy the FQHRA’s “sham” argument: “The only novel aspect of this licensing determination is that Hialeah has changed horsemen’s associations, an event clearly contemplated by” state law.

“Acceptance of the FQHRA’s position would make it difficult, if not impossible, for a quarter horse permitholder to ever dislodge an incumbent horsemen’s association,” Stevenson wrote.

“Our attorneys are looking at (the order),” the FQHRA’s Smith said. “We hope we can work something out.”

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Michael Moline, Jim Rosica, and Peter Schorsch.

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

Big money — After weeks of teasers, Gov. Rick Scott officially unveiled his fiscal 2017-18 budget proposal this week during the Associated Press’ annual legislative planning session. The $83.5 billion spending plan includes $618 million in tax cuts, $85 million in economic incentives, nearly $4 billion for environmental protection, and nearly $5.1 million for public safety. The budget cuts taxpayer payments to hospitals by nearly $1 billion in Medicaid spending that helps care for the poor; and it doesn’t include money for Senate President Joe Negron’s water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.

Pest control — House Speaker Richard Corcoran probably didn’t endear himself to Gov. Scott this week, saying spending problems at Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida was like turning on the light at 3 a.m. and seeing creepy crawlers scatter. “I don’t mean this in a disparaging way to anybody, but there’s cockroaches everywhere,” he said. “Bonuses, severance packages, furniture, trips.” Corcoran continued to use his remarks at the Associated Press legislative planning session this week to rip into the governor’s priorities, saying there was no chance the House would approve Scott’s request for $85 million for economic incentives or $76 million to promote tourism.

This means war — If the back-and-forth between Gov. Scott and Speaker Corcoran during the legislative session was a warning shot (and who are we kidding, this has been going on for a while), the feud escalated when Scott issued some of his strongest criticism to-date of the House position on incentives. During the Enterprise Florida meeting this week, Naples Republican criticized the House for refusing to support incentives, saying the decision will hurt Floridians. He tried to drive that point home throughout his two-day 2017 Jobs Summit, which focused on economic and business development, even encouraging attendees to call their House members to encourage them to support funding for incentives. But those calls may fall on deaf ears: The Florida House this week rolled out legislation that would completely eliminate Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. The bill would fold the agencies into the Department of Economic Opportunity. The bill dropped just hours before Scott’s jobs summit was set to begin. Coincidence? We think not.

More (medical) marijuana — Sen. Jeff Brandes filed his own medical marijuana implementation bill this week. A well-known critic of the current system, Brandes’ bill has the potential to blow open the market to allow far more medical marijuana licenses than currently allowed under state law. Under the proposal, vertical integration of medical marijuana treatment centers is not required. Instead, the bill creates four different function licenses — cultivation, processing, transportation, and retail — that a medical marijuana treatment center can obtain. It also opens the door for future growth by removing current requirements, like how long a company needs to be in business or how much of the product they can grow. Brandes is the second Senate Republican to file an implementing bill, and the Florida House is believed to be in the process of crafting its own proposal. His bill comes as the Florida Association of Counties is holding a conference in the Orlando area this weekend to talk about the implementation of the medical marijuana constitutional amendment.

640 Days — That’s how many days until the 2018 election, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to talk contenders. Sen. Denise Grimsley officially made it official this week, filing paperwork to run for Agriculture Commissioner. Current Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam hasn’t officially made his 2018 gubernatorial plans known yet, but he does sound like a candidate. He said he agreed with Gov. Scott that business experience is essential for the governor’s job, then went on to tout his involvement in the family business, Putnam Groves in Bartow. “As a guy who is part of a small business, I get it,” said Putnam, who was elected agriculture commissioner after serving 10 years in Congress. Attorney John Morgan stopped by Tallahassee this week, where he talked about the things he would do if —yes we said if, not when — he runs for governor in 2018. And now we can add “possible 2018 gubernatorial candidate” to the list of qualifiers for Sen. Jack Latvala, who this week said he is considering a 2018 bid.

Anglers are united behind Gov. Scott and Senate President Joe Negron.

Keep Florida Fishing, the advocacy arm of the American Sportfishing Association, applauded Scott and Negron for their commitment to Everglades restoration, both through budget recommendations and legislation, this week.

Among other things, Scott’s budget included $60 million for an Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatchee River clean-up initiative. And Negron has backed a proposal (SB 10), which calls on the South Florida Water Management District to identify landowners in the Everglades Agricultural Area willing to sell land to the state for a 60,000-acre reservoir.

“Clean waters are imperative to the continued success of our industry,” said Kellie Ralston, the ASA’s Florida Fishery policy director. “Keep Florida Fishing looks forward to working with the Governor and legislative leaders to find comprehensive solutions that will expedite the Everglades restoration process in the weeks and months ahead, so Florida will remain the ‘Fishing Capital of the World.”

The state’s fishermen (and women) aren’t the only ones who think Gov. Scott did a fine job when he rolled out his budget this week.

Florida Water Advocates gave Scott a thumbs up  for including $120 million for “alternative water supply development” in his proposed 2017-18 budget. The nonprofit organization aims to promote the development of alternative water resources, supplies and infrastructure.

“Gov. Scott’s budget shows forward thinking and leadership, making a significant investment in water for the State of Florida,” said Florida Water board of directors member Irela Bagué. “As a former water manager, I am pleased that the Governor has taken proactive steps to ensuring that adequate funding goes toward water. These funds will not only help grow our economy but will ensure a sustainable and affordable supply of water for future generations. Investing in our most valuable resource makes good business sense.”

Get out there and do something

That was Enterprise Florida CEO Chris Hart IV’s ask at the end of the 2017 Jobs Summit this week. Hart told to the crowd to take what they learned from the two-day conference to improve their communities.

“We’ve had some amazing conversations. We’ve heard from panels that educated us on everything from how the state of Florida responds to emergency situations to entrepreneurs to how we drive business and utilize talent,” he said. “But you know what, it’s just a conversation. And nothing much will happen unless we take action. Please take what you learned here and file it away, but file it away to take action.”

He encouraged them to call their lawmakers to ask them to support Gov. Scott’s request for $85 million for economic incentives for his agency.

Hart moderated a panel discussion on entrepreneurship and innovation during the conference, and also used the conference as a chance to make a pitch for his public-private jobs agency. Hart, who was hired as president and CEO of the organization in November, celebrated one month on the job this week.

The future is coming.

Well, actually it’s here. And the Charles Koch Institute —along with the James Madison Institute and Lyft — want to give Floridians a chance to learn a bit more about ridesharing, autonomous vehicles and other technological advances during an event next week in Tallahassee.

The event — called “By Ground and By Air: Ridesharing, Autonomous Vehicles, and Drones in the Sunshine State” — is meant to offer an evening of “engaging conversation with industry leaders and policy experts on the future of transportation in Florida and around the country.”

The event, scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, includes a panel discussion featuring Eli Dourado, the director of technology policy program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University; Rob Grant, the director of government relations at Lyft; and Adrian Moore, the vice president of policy at the Reason Foundation. Sen. Jeff Brandes, a lover of all things autonomous, is the keynote speaker.

Hoorah for Team Recycling!

The Florida Recycling Partnership announced its 2017 leadership team this week. Elizabeth Castro DeWitt, the executive director of the Florida Beverage Association, will take over as chair of the partnership; while Kim Brunson, the recycle and solid waste manager for Publix will continue to serve on the board as past chair.

Dawn McCormick, director of communications & community relations for Waste Management Inc. of Florida, was elected as chair-elect. Samantha Padgett, general counsel for the Florida Retail Federation will serve as secretary and treasurer. Chuck Dees with Waste Management; Steve Lezman with PepsiCo, and J.P. Toner, with the International Bottled Water Association will remain on the board.

Kenya Cory will continue as the executive director of the partnership.

Thinking of getting hitched this year? Head to Orlando.

According to WalletHub, the City Beautiful is the second best place to get married. The personal finance website recently took a look at 2017’s Best Places to Get Married, and ranked Orlando No. 2 overall.

Analysts compared 150 of the country’s biggest cities, looking at 20 key indicators from cost-effectiveness, convenience and enjoyment. Orlando received a total score of 74.04, and was second only to Las Vegas. Orlando ranked No. 1 when it comes to “facilities and services” and No. 3 when it came “activities and attractions.” The Central Florida community was ranked No. 57 when it came to costs.

Fort Lauderdale landed in the No. 8 spot, while Miami rounded out the Top 10. St. Petersburg found itself in the No. 38 spot, while Tallahassee was ranked No. 49 and Jacksonville was ranked No. 96.

The worst place to have a wedding, according to WalletHub: Newark, New Jersey.

Congratulations, Lisa Hall!

The League of Women Voters of Florida announced this week that Hall will be joining the state board of directors.

“Lisa represents the professionalism and expertise that is the hallmark of the League of Women Voters. It is a pleasure to be able to work alongside her,” said Pamela Goodman, president of LWV Florida.

Hall spent 17 years as a broadcast new producer, before launching a career in public relations in 2000. She served as the senior vice president of Salter>Mitchell until July 2013, leading the company’s public affairs practice. While she continues her work with Salter>Mitchell clients as a senior consultant, she launched Hall+Media to pursue additional opportunities to advocate on behalf of judicial branches.

Gov. Scott wants Florida to get to work — on Zika research and a vaccine, that is.

Scott announced this week the winners of 34 grant awards to research the Zika virus and work toward developing a vaccine. The announcement came several months after the governor earmarked funds to pay for the development of a vaccine, and allow researchers to understand and mitigate the virus’ effects on children.

“While we are currently in winter months when Zika is not as prevalent, we must remain vigilant and continue to do everything we can to help protect pregnant women and their developing babies,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to seeing the innovation and progress of Florida’s world-class research institutions as we continue to work together in the fight against Zika and to find a vaccine.”

Organizations that received grant funding are: Florida Atlantic University ($199,280); Florida International University ($2.18 million); Florida State University ($2.16 million); Moffitt Cancer Center ($199,280); Nova Southeastern University ($198,886); The Scripps Research Institute ($199,280); University of Central Florida ($1.29 million); University of Florida ($2.92 million); University of Miami ($13.17 million); and the University of South Florida ($2.45 million).

Can you hear me now?

If you get a call from an unknown number asking that question, just say no.

Callers claiming to be from the IRS are asking that question, recording consumers when their responses are yes. Those scammers then use that “yes” recording to manipulate phone records to show false proof of consumers acknowledging and agreeing to provide payment for a service they never actually agreed to.

That’s just one scam CFO Jeff Atwater wants Floridians to be on the lookout for as tax season looms ahead of them. Recent reports show consumers lose about $50 billion each year to scammers, and phone scams targeting seniors make up a large percentage of that total.

“Tax season has arrived and for some of us, filing our taxes may not be the most burdensome of tasks, but that can quickly change as scammers and fraudsters are more active now than any other time of the year,” said Atwater in his weekly newsletter. “Unfortunately, Floridians are often targeted by scammers as our high number of senior residents are among the most likely to be targeted.”

CFO Atwater administered some tough love to the insurance industry during the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Insurance Summit in Miami.

The state’s Chief Financial Officer called for “honesty and transparency with an abundance of data that makes the case that a legislator, when weighing the evidence, can make a solid choice between what is out there today and where we go forward.”

He told insurance representatives that their industry has not always helped itself — as when, two years ago, it resisted his Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights.

“I’m not crying crocodile tears for anybody in here,” he elaborated to reporters following his remarks to the gathering.

“The industry has created its own perceptions — slow walking, not getting a repair done on time, lowballing with a contractor. Over a long period of time, this created conditions where there’s a tremendous suspicion of what could really be the motivations of the insurance industry.”

Republican Jose Felix Diaz, chairman of the House Commerce Committee, appearing on a panel of legislators at the Insurance Summit, said he believes the insurance industry is beginning to cotton on.

Speaking of assignment of benefits reform, he said:

“That’s something the industry has started to realize — that it’s no longer about loss of profits, so much as the pushing on of costs to consumers, and the additional expenses they’re having to incur. I think that’s very intelligent. I also think it’s very smart that the industry has gotten together this early in the session.”

That will be important with so many insurance priorities on the agenda. “We’re noticing that there’s not a lot of traction from the membership” for AOB reform, Diaz said. “It’s very easy for the body to go off to the next thing that’s not going to bog us down. We only have 60 days to do the work of the people.”

Rep. Richard Stark, a Democratic insurance broker from Broward County, argued that when the industry is perceived as beating up on consumers, the courts are going to side with the little guy.

He noted that the Florida Supreme Court’s Castellanos ruling, holding that the workers’ compensation system deprived injured workers of their constitutional right of access to the courts, involved denial of around $800 in benefits. The court approved an attorney fee of more than $30,000.

“Are we not smart enough to see what may be coming here?” Stark wondered. “We need to present a better face, that we’re really looking out for that employee and trying to get him back to work.”

“Frankly, the court was correct,” Sen. Kathleen Passidomo said. “When you have a claim that little, there’s no lawyer that’s going to take that case. That was one of those issues that was handling out there, and the trial lawyers were waiting for that one case. And they got it.”

She suspects there are a lot of small claims that workers don’t bother to pursue. “Now everybody who has an $800 claim can feel comfortable that they can get a lawyer who can pursue that,” she said. Now, “they can take that to a $30,000 legal fee. That’s why rates are going up.”

Welcome to the board!

Gov. Scott appointed three members— Darryl Fales, Michael Armbruster, and Jay Snyder — to the Florida Concrete Masonry Education Council this week. Scott also reappointed Kelly Curtis and Robert Carlton to the board.

Fales, a 46-year-old Estero resident, is the president of Preferred Materials-Concrete Division. He succeeds Bernardo Diaz and was appointed to a term ending June 30, 2019.

Armbruster is an educator with the Orange County Public Schools. The 54-year-old Winter Garden resident fills a vacant seat and was appointed to a term ending June 30, 2017. Snyder also fills a vacant seat. The 56-year-old Orlando resident is the president of Masonry Accessories, Inc. and was appointed to a term ending June 30, 2018.

Curtis, a 47-year-old Windermere resident, is the vice president and general manager of Prestige Concrete Products VCNA. He was reappointed to a term ending June 30, 2019. Carlton, a 43-year-old from St. Augustine, was also reappointed to a term ending June 30, 2019. He is the general manager of Capital Concrete and Masonry, Inc.

Legal aid for low-income Floridians provides big returns to the state.

In 2015, $83 million was spent through 33 Florida nonprofit civil legal aid organizations. And according to a new report from the Florida Bar Foundation, $7 went back to the state’s economy – nearly $600 million. The most significant impact from civil legal aid came through helping low-income Floridians obtain federal benefits, child support, wages and unemployment compensation — money which then gets spent in Florida.

“Equal justice under law is not only a basic underpinning of our democracy; it’s also good economic policy,” said Florida Bar Foundation President Matthew G. Brenner. “This study adds to a large body of empirical data – from Florida as well as other states – that clearly demonstrates that society at large benefits when the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable among us are protected.”

Funding for civil legal aid came from several sources: The Foundation, the Legal Services Corporation, local governments, donors and others. Federal benefits for legal aid clients included $120.6 million in Social Security benefits, $70.7 million in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements, and $2.7 million in veterans’ benefits.

Know an excellent retailer? The Florida Retail Federation wants to hear about them.

The trade association is now accepting nominations for the 2017 Florida Retailer of the Year award. The award recognizes outstanding retailers for sound business practices and a commitment to their employees, customers and communities.

“As FRF celebrates its 80th year in advocating and supporting Florida’s retailers, we are excited about recognizing the best our industry offers with our annual Retailer of the Year award,” said Randy Miller, the president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation. “We ask all consumers to support their favorite retailer by nominating them for this prestigious award.”

Eligible retailers work for, own or operate a Florida retail business with a sales volume of $5 million or less and have a physical presence in operation or management of the retail business. Nominations can be submitted online by visiting Nominations are due March 20.

Call it a $300,000 month.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recovered $312,205 on behalf of Florida consumers in January, according to the office. During the same month, the state agency received 3,653 complaints, initiated 231 investigations and arrested 10 individuals. T

The agency added 281,138 telephone numbers to Florida’s Do Not Call List in January.

All told, the department recovered nearly $3 million for Florida consumers from moving companies, vehicle repair shops, pawn shops, health studios, and telemarketers.

The recommendations are out.

The Florida Construction Workforce Task Force released its legislative recommendations recently. Established during the 2016 legislative session thanks to the help of Sen. Travis Hutson and Rep. Dane Eagle, the task force was asked to look at how Florida responds to workforce development needs.

“The work of this Task Force is critical to helping Florida determine how we can attract the next generation of workers to the industry.  Construction is ready to hire, train, and employ, but the workforce isn’t returning at rates necessary to respond to the current demand,” said Peter Dyga, chairman of the Construction Workforce Task Force and President of Associated Builders and Contractors Florida East Coast Chapter.

The recommendations included setting aside funding for construction training programs; allow for alternative instructor certification process; and create a legislative study to consider moving apprenticeship programs to the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Could the new Florida Department of Transportation chief get more cash? Maybe.

A 2015 report commissioned by the Florida Transportation Commission found the top department state — including the Secretary of Transportation — make less than similar positions in other states and the private sectors. The report found the secretary’s salary lags behind other positions.

FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold announced his resignation last month. He makes $141,000. The report found similar positions in the private sector make $208,205.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Scott told POLTICO Florida they would look at the report when they consider a salary for the next FDOT chief.

Here’s something no one tells you to put in your hurricane preparedness kit: Strawberry Pop-Tarts.

Bryan Koon, the director of the state Division of Emergency Management, said one of the most common things sold ahead of a disaster is strawberry Pop-Tarts. That tasty tidbit of information dates back to Koon’s time as the operations manager and director of emergency management for Wal-Mart Stores.

“They come in a foil package. They can get wet. They last forever. They taste good. They’re sugary and they’re cheap,” explained Koon. “If you want to stock up your preparedness kit for the next hurricane season, buy strawberry Pop-Tarts.”

Gov. Rick Scott talks disaster response with Bryan Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, and Harry Sideris, CEO of Duke Energy, during the 2017 Jobs Summit. (Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office)

Koon joined Harry Sideris, the CEO of Duke Energy, in a panel discussion about disaster response during Gov. Scott’s 2017 Jobs Summit in Orlando this week. While much of the conversation focused on the work the serious side of emergency response, there were a few lighthearted moments — including when Sideris told the crowd about a North Carolina woman who called to complain when lights were out in the middle of a storm.

“I was manning the phones when I got an emergency call from a woman who was upset that her light in her backyard, her spot light, was out. She had power in her house, (and) she was adamant that we should be out there … right now fixing her backyard light,” said Sideris. “I was like, ma’am, you understand that 1.1 million people have no power and you’re one of the few people that does? We’ll get to your light in a little bit.”

So how did she react, asked Scott.

“She understood,” chuckled Sideris. “She thought everyone had lights and it was just her backyard light that was out.”

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is already thinking about summer break.

Putnam announced this week his office will begin offering optional regional workshops for the Florida Summer BreakSpot program. Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the program works with non-profits, schools and summer camps to serve nutritional meals to underserved children across the state.

In 2015, more than 4,200 sites helped serve nearly 16 million meals to Florida children. According to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the number of Summer BreakSpot meals served each summer has increased 46 percent since 2012.

Training will be offered online for prospective and returning sponsors. Optional workshops provide more in-depth guidance will be held in each region beginning this month.

For more information about the summer food program, visit

Need more proof Agriculture Commissioner Putnam is yearning for summer?

Putnam announced this week the Florida Forest Service will host a summer learning opportunity for Sunshine State teacher.

The Florida Forestry Teachers’ Tour will bring 45 teachers from across the state to Fernandina Beach to learn how forestry works, while giving teacher a chance to earn 30 continuing education units. Putnam said the four-day event is meant to immerse “teachers in the collaborative forestry effort to keep Florida’s forests healthy, renewable and sustainable for future generations.”

Teachers will learn how the forestry industry address environmental concerns and how foresters work to meet the needs of Florida communities and the environment. All lodging, meals and tour transportation is included.

Applications are due March 10, and the event is scheduled for June 20 through June 23. And don’t worry kiddos, your teachers will definitely make it back in time for the first day of school.

Throwing a Super Bowl party this weekend? Get ready to spend some big money.

Florida families are expected to spend an average of $75 per person on their Super Bowl LI parties Sunday, according to the Florida Retail Federation. Total spending nationwide is expected to be about $14.1 billion.

In 2015, people spent an average of $82 per person on a Super Bowl party and total spending reached about $15.5 billion.

“Floridians love their football more than just about any other state, and with the Super Bowl being the final game of the year, we expect fans to celebrate the end to great seasons in both professional and college football,” said Randy Miller, the president and CEO of Florida Retail Federation, in a statement. “The Super Bowl is truly a must-see event for Floridians whether they follow the sport closely or not, and we expect local consumers to load up on food, drinks and decorations for their game watching parties.”

An estimated 188.5 million people are expected to watch the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots square off Sunday. The National Retail Federation survey found 43 percent of viewers said the game is the most important part of the Super Bowl; while 24 percent said the commercials were the most important part. About 12 percent of respondents said they tune in for the half-time show.

If you’re one of the millions of folks throwing a part this weekend,  Agriculture Commissioner Putnam has a few snack suggestions for you.

Putnam shared a few “Fresh from Florida” recipes ahead of the Super Bowl this week. The recipes feature seafood and fresh fruits and vegetables produced in Florida.

“If you’re looking for a few quick and simple recipes for Sunday’s big game, these ‘Fresh From Florida’ recipes are real winners, and they feature produce grown by Florida’s farmers and seafood caught in Florida’s waters,” he said.

Putnam suggests making Florida corn, tomato and avocado salsa; sweet corn and black bean enchiladas; a Florida pink shrimp boil; or taco stuffed Florida bell peppers.

Here’s this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:










Jesse Panuccio taking job with Donald Trump administration

Jesse Panuccio, the former head of the state’s jobs agency, is taking a job with President Donald Trump‘s administration at the Department of Justice, according to sources familiar with the hire.

Panuccio, reached as he was boarding a plane to Washington, D.C., declined comment. However, a third source, close to Panuccio and the Trump administration, says that Panuccio will begin work as early as Monday.

But sources tell that Panuccio, now with the Foley & Lardner law firm, accepted an offer to become Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General.

The job was most recently filled by Bill Baer, who left at the end of the Obama Administration.

Before his recent stint in private practice, Panuccio was head of the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), starting in 2013 under Gov. Rick Scott.

He also served as Scott’s general counsel. He quit in December 2015, telling Scott it was “time to begin a new chapter in my career and life.”

At Foley & Lardner, the magna cum laude Harvard Law grad has a regulatory and appellate practice consisting of high-stakes litigation.

Jacksonville Bold for 2.03.17 – Movin’ on up!

The Big Payback: For locals, SaintPetersBlog buried the lede of this story: Ballard Partners is opening an office in Washington, D.C.

And Jacksonville managing partner Susie Wiles, one of Jacksonville’s leading political strategists, will be there at least part-time, providing clients with what she calls “critical access to the happenings at the federal level.”

The political world would look different in the 904, and beyond, without Wiles, who had a fantastic 2016.

She led the Donald Trump campaign to a Florida win.

She also helped (bigly) with the sale of the Jacksonville pension reform referendum.

And she also showed Rep. Al Lawson around Jacksonville, which helped him get local support and buy-in to blunt the home field advantage of Rep. Corrine Brown.

Will Wiles help advance Jacksonville’s priorities with the White House? Reasonable bet … especially since Ballard already has a city of Jacksonville contract in Tallahassee.

Those frustrated with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry for supporting the Trump Administration may need to develop some perspective.

Curry has a unique opportunity, as a GOP mayor, to get White House buy in on federal largess.

He has a president who will commit to creating liquidity to rebuild infrastructure.

The window is open for Jacksonville to get serious money for its priorities.

Don’t expect this mayor to ignore that.

As he likes to say, it’s a “relationship business.”

Orange Jumpsuit Apparatus: Those who have missed Corrine Brown and Reggie Fullwood will have opportunities to catch them in separate engagements at Jacksonville’s federal courthouse next week.

Brown and her former chief of staff Ronnie Simmons have a motion hearing Thursday at 2 p.m.

The co-defendants in the One Door for Education trial looked poised to have separate trials for a few days last year.

Simmons had filed for it then changed his mind, but not before expressing qualms about Brown’s notoriety prejudicing a jury against him.

We are curious about when Simmons completes his turn against his former boss.

Fullwood, meanwhile, faces a sentencing Tuesday, having pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud for misappropriation of campaign funds.

Fullwood spent the money on personal expenses.

In the plea deal struck in late September in his fraud case involving the Jacksonville Democrat using campaign funds for personal expenses, Fullwood agreed to a forfeiture money judgment of $60,000.

Fullwood could face 21 years in prison — 20 for a count of wire fraud, and another year for failure to properly report income.

The sentencing judge — Henry Lee Adams — is new to the case, as former judge Marcia Morales Howard recused herself last year before the sentencing phase began.

***Southern Strategy Group is Florida’s powerhouse lobbying firm with a dedicated Jacksonville office, as well as locations in Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Tallahassee. Our nearly 25 lobbyists work daily to get our clients and their issues in front of key local and state elected officials. Whether in City Hall, the State Capitol or somewhere in between, we’ll work with you to create and execute a strategy that moves your agenda from the starting point through the finish line. Every industry. Every interest. Powerful advocacy begins here. Call us today at 904-425-8765 or visit to learn more.***

It’s Free Speech, Man: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry walks a tightrope from news cycle to news cycle, balancing his partisan Republican inclinations with the realities of running a city in which party label often doesn’t matter.

Curry took a position for Donald Trump’s refugee-and-travel moratorium from seven destabilized majority-Muslim countries earlier this week.

“When the federal government moves to protect [American citizens], that’s the right move. The Trump administration is trying to protect [Americans] from terrorism,” Curry told

On Tuesday, roughly 200 protesters marched to City Hall to voice their disagreement with Curry’s position and to offer support for Muslim refugees.

Curry addressed that opposition Wednesday, defending their right to make their positions known.

“Free speech, man. That’s the beauty of our country — exercised right here in our city. People have the right to express themselves and their views. That’s how we operate in civilized democratic society,” Curry said.

“I don’t know how they organized. I don’t know how they got here. Regardless,” Curry said, “it’s free speech. I always encourage people to exercise their right to express themselves in a peaceful manner.”

HRO Update: The proposed expansion of Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance hits committees Monday.

And that first committee stop, in the Neighborhoods, Community Investments and Services Committee, could bear watching.

Councilman Bill Gulliford is in the Neighborhoods, Community Investments and Services Committee.

And he has been floating the idea of introducing a measure calling for a referendum on the bill.

It “could be,” he said, an amendment to the currently proposed ordinance.

The proposed ordinance adds protections on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in the realm of public accommodations, housing and the workplace.

NCIS is generally a back burner committee.

However, Monday will ensure it’s must-see TV.

Magical Realism: There has been some quiet criticism of particular big asks from Jacksonville lately.

We saw it with the hot shotted attempt to get the Duval County Legislative Delegation to go all in on a Shad Khan friendly proposal to tear down the Hart Bridge off-ramps.

Mayor Curry said it was public safety. No one bought that. The ramps look like something out of a Kraftwerk video: barely utilitarian, ugly-as-sin slopes that hail from a different era. But the ramps still worked, and the idea of asking a bunch of rookies with no stroke to get the $50M Curry wanted was fanciful at best.

Now the mayor’s office wants money for septic tank removal: an ask that the city estimates needing anywhere from $300M to $1B for.

Jumping on the bandwagon: Councilman Matt Schellenberg.

WJCT reported on Schellenberg’s visit to the Duval Delegation meeting this week (for more on that whole meeting, including local bills and what Melissa Nelson had to say about reforms in her office, go here).

Schellenberg just wants a “little bit of money” to help with removal.

“The biggest one right now is cleanup on Hogan’s Creek, as well as the bill for the septic tanks is close to $400 million and I think that would help substantially getting us moving,” he said. “You can’t do it every year, but a little bit of money — $20, $30, and $40 million — to help remove contaminated septic tanks.”

$40 million here, $40 million there, then you might have a big bit of money.

State money won’t come for this purpose in the sums Schellenberg wants — not this year, not next.

Richard Corcoran is one reason. Another reason: the state’s budget forecast is clouding up with each passing quarter.

The delegation is better off filing school prayer bills, a la Kim Daniels, than trying to get sums like Schellenberg’s ask in this climate.

Intentional Grounding: As Andrew Pantazi notes in the Florida Times-Union, the “Stand Your Ground” debate is back in the Legislature, with Sen. Rob Bradley looking to shift the burden of proving self-defense to the prosecution.

That’s a hard sell for some.

Opposed to the Bradley change: Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, who was gunned down at a Jacksonville gas station in a purported act of self-defense by Michael Dunn.

McBath, a prominent Democratic political activist, believes a specious claim of self-defense was used to justify the murder of her son.

An open question: what would happen the next time a man killed another man in the street, and he could successfully invoke a claim of self-defense, rooted in reasonable doubt?

Sen. Bradley told us this week, before the Clay County Legislative Delegation meeting, that’s not what his bill would allow

“If I thought that by filing this bill an individual who was otherwise guilty would go free, I would never have filed the bill,” Bradley said.

Bradley understands McBath’s “passion,” especially as a father of three himself, and “can’t imagine the grief [she’s] had to experience.”

Bradley noted even if his current bill were law, Michael Dunn would “still be convicted and spend his life in prison.”

“This bill corrects a decision in the 2015 Breathritt case that held, in an immunity hearing, that the burden of proof is with the defendant, not the government,” Bradley said.

“The Constitution has protections,” said Bradley, for “self-defense,” and the “burden of proof should be with the government.”

No News Is No News: Last weekend, Tia Mitchell offered a “read the tea leaves” look at the race for the 2022 Florida House Speaker in the Florida Times-Union.

The race isn’t exactly coverable by traditional means – new rules from House Speaker Richard Corcoran have created conditions where the principals won’t talk to the press about their interest in the job.

The bright hope locally: Paul Renner, the Palm Coast Republican with Jacksonville ties.

We interviewed him last month at a county delegation meeting. He wasn’t able to talk about the Speaker’s race.

Unfortunate, given the currents undermining his candidacy.

Quietly, some Jacksonville people grouse Renner wasn’t as aggressive as he could have been in helping out allies and potential allies in the 2016 primary.

Will that factor into the race?

It’s one of those scenarios where even the people who are willing to speak off the record insist their comments are received on background.

If Renner is serious about a bid for speaker, it follows he’s going to have to wear out some tires traveling the state, and maybe wear out a pen or two writing some checks.

Matthew’s Backwash: Much of the coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in St. Augustine has revolved around flooding, devastated buildings, and other FEMA-worthy damage.

Less covered, but still salient: A hit the city took in parking revenues.

Sheldon Gardner of the St. Augustine Record reports year over year declines in parking and marina fees totaling $177,000, when comparing October 2016 to October 2015.

Fee collections recovered in the months since October, more or less.

An upcoming concern, though: lost ad valorem from the 30 or so severely damaged properties in the storm.

Reassessments of these properties are underway.

Meanwhile, a bill from State Sen. Travis Hutson would compel reassessment of properties Matthew rendered uninhabitable.

Academy Fight Song: Speaking of Hutson, the St. Augustine Record reports the Elkton Republican would like to export the career academy model used in St. Johns County to the rest of the state.

“This is ground zero for how to do things right,” Hutson said during his visit to the district Tuesday.

Hutson toured 12 Career Academies in five high schools, offering engineering, architecture, hospitality, media and various other career-structured elective courses to 14,000 students.

Hutson sees SJC as a model for the entire state with its academies and may file a bill to incentivize roll outs of similar models in other smaller counties.

Though with 200,000 people in St. Johns, can we still call it smaller?

Huguenot Park Re-Opens: After substantial damage from Hurricane Matthew forced a four-month closure, Huguenot Memorial Park has reopened to day visitors.

As of 8 a.m. Jan. 31, Huguenot Memorial Park – 10980 Heckscher Drive – opened to the public. While the park is open, ongoing repairs require modified hours. Currently, the park will be open daily, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Camping and shelter rentals are not available at this time.

During the storm, the park sustained damage to its main access road, office building, dunes and shelters. Initially, the park was scheduled to reopen by spring, diligent work by park officials to address immediate needs led to an earlier than expected opening. Further repairs will continue through the next several months. For more current information on park access, call (904) 255-4255.

Night for Heroes at UF Health: Brian Lynn, the patient honoree at the 2017 A Night for Heroes gala, is the subject of an article for University of Florida Health Jacksonville, which he credits for saving his life after a traumatic brain injury.

Lynn doesn’t remember the helicopter ride to UF Health Jacksonville April 24, 2016. He has no memory of the trauma surgeons or nurses who rushed to stabilize him after he arrived. He can’t recall having his brain scanned or being prepped for the emergency surgeries that would ultimately save his life.

The 43-year-old father spent 17 days in the Neuro Intensive Care Unit, but can only remember the last six. Brian relies on his family to fill in the blanks. Although he can’t account for a single second of his blackout, he believes the lifesaving care he received immediately following his traumatic brain injury is the only reason he is alive today.

“It is not lost on me that had it not been for UF Health Jacksonville, I wouldn’t be here right now,” Brian said. “I owe my recovery, I owe my existence to UF Health.”

A Night for Heroes is the annual event benefiting UF Health TraumaOne, the region’s only adult and pediatric Level I trauma center.

Get registered: Registration is now open for the 2017 JAXPORT Logistics Intermodal Conference. The biennial conference, which attracts logistics and transportation professionals from around the world, gives industry officials a unique change to network with leaders in the field of logistics, shipping and port management.

Speakers this year include former Speaker Tom Feeney; Heather Gilhuly, the senior manager of port operations and metrics at the Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.; Anthony McAuley, director of global logistics for Wal-Mart; and Matt Tillman, the founder and CEO of Haven.

The conference will also feature a session called “The Shake Out from Shifting Ocean Carrier Alliances.” The panel will be moderated by Jim Prior, the division vice president, transportation at Coach, and panelists will be Fabio Santucci, president of Mediterranean Shipping Co.; Dick Craig, president and CEO of MOL; Charlie Cunnion, the director of global transportation at International Forest Products; and Carter Noland, director of supply chain at GP Cellulose.

The conference is scheduled for March 20-22 at the World Golf Village Renaissance St. Augustine Resort.

Jack Latvala should be pissed at his friends

In these troubled times, Jack Latvala‘s word is about as solid as it gets. It’s not “my word as a Biden,” but it’s certainly stronger than “My word, it’s stronger than oak,” from the movie Jerry Maguire. So I believe him when he tells me that he doesn’t know who leaked to the Tampa Bay Times‘ Steve Bousquet details of an informal bull session about him possibly running for Florida governor in 2018.

Among the suspects: Curt KiserSandy MorthamDale Patchett and Ron Richmond, as well as Joel and Diana PadgettSandy Safely and lobbyists Jennifer Green and Missy Timmins.

Were I Latvala, I’d be pissed.

Because the timing of this Latvala-for-governor trial balloon could not have been floated at a worse time.

That Latvala wants to occupy the Governor’s Mansion comes as no surprise to those of whom know of his  love for the state of Florida and his desire to continue to serve the public.

The plan, at least the plan I knew about, was for Latvala to wait until after the 2017 Legislative Session before actively discussing/exploring a run for governor. This way, not everything Latvala does during the annual lawmaking session is viewed through the prism of his ambitions.

Yesterday, Latvala was just, “Jack Latvala, the Republican state Senator from Pinellas County.”

Today, Latvala is “Jack Latvala, the Republican state Senator who is widely expected to run for governor in 2018.”

Yesterday, Latvala was the Chairman of the all-powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

Today, Latvala is a rival of Adam Putnam and Gwen Graham and Richard Corcoran and Phil Levine.

Yesterday, Latvala could walk around however he wanted.

Today, Latvala must prepare for a marathon he may not even want to run.

Going forward, everything Latvala does — and he does a lot in politics he doesn’t exactly want light shined upon — comes under new and intense scrutiny.

If Latvala files a bill to appropriate money to, say, a community center in Palm Beach County, no matter how worthwhile the project may be, it will be viewed as chessboarding for 2018.

Were I Latvala, I’d be pissed.

Even the day the Bousquet story ran was not good for Latvala. His waters-testing coincided with a speech by John Morgan at Tallahassee’s Tiger Bay club, so Latvala had to split the press coverage with the Orlando trial lawyer (see, for example, this News Service of Florida story about how Latvala shared the day with Morgan.)

Here’s another complication for Latvala this roll-out now presents: every dollar he raises for his political committee should now, rightly or wrongly, be viewed as a donation to his statewide run. That’s obvious, right? What’s not so obvious is that some will now view these donations as a sign that you’re not with Putnam or Corcoran.

This Bousquet roll-out just put many lobbyists and interest groups — one leg of Latvala’s base — in a difficult position. Of course, they have to contribute to the Senate’s chief budget writer. But don’t think for one second Justin Hollis (Putnam’s man) or James Blair (Corcoran’s right hand) won’t be keeping a list of who ponies up.

On this week’s edition of The Usual Suspects, the public affairs show airing in north Florida, I suggest that during the upcoming Legislative Session Latvala could be the “peacemaker” between Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron and Corcoran. 

The triumvirate running state government is getting along as well as Marc Antony, Lepidus, and Octavian did. Enter Latvala, the ultimate political veteran who is philosophically aligned with Scott, is loyal to Negron’s Senate, and capable of going head-to-head with Corcoran. When the 2017 Session falls apart, as it appears headed to do, it could be Latvala who brokers the grand bargain.

That’s the kind of legacy Latvala wants to burnish.

But how difficult will this be to accomplish now that he’s just another guy with a pocket full of bumper stickers?

Were I Latvala, I’d be pissed.

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